Sunday 30 September 2012

Radiance 32 - He gave the sea its boundary

    “What’s the plan?” Li asked, flexing every muscle in her hand, sending tiny flames into the air.
    The Leviathan roared and lashed its tail - the ground shook violently, sending lampposts and traffic lights crashing to the asphalt. The last three of the Seven barely kept their feet.
    “The Leviathan can’t be killed,” said Virgo, as she tossed the Staff of Moses from hand to hand, “the best we can hope is to contain it.”
    “The Palace has restored much of my energy, but even with a full Seven I don’t know if we would have the strength,” said Li with a frown.
    “There isn’t any choice,” said Asher. The mere presence of the Leviathan was playing havoc with his restored powers, the creature seemed to transcend all boundaries, overrun all borders. “Virgo, it’s up to you to weave the verses together to send this creature back to the pit, Li and I will keep it busy, try to keep it from going too far.”
    Virgo looked at him quizzically for a moment, as if she didn’t quite recognise him, but swiftly nodded. “I have some verses in mind,” she said, “but I will need both of you to help. Perhaps the three of us in concert have enough power from the left side to contain the waters.”
    “We’ll do what we can,” Asher said, Li nodded her assent.
    Slamming her staff deep into the ground, anchoring herself in the crumbling cement, Virgo began to shout the words of scripture, sending them forth from her lips like arrows:
    “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in days of old, in the generations of old. Are you not he who cut Rahab in pieces and wounded the dragon?"
    This seemed to catch the attention of the Leviathan, as a titanic head snaked down towards Virgo, oily teeth gnashing and chomping. Li jumped into the air on a pillar of flames, raising a wall of fire and hurling it at their enemy.
    Asher felt the power deep within himself once more, the feeling of peace and oneness he had known his whole life, the feeling he had no come to call God. He touched this power and gave it a channel, reaching out into the surrounding city to find the edges, as Mercury had taught him so long ago. At the push of his mind, the divide between the molecules in the air strengthened and hardened, turning the air itself thick like mire. The Leviathan sluggishly crashed against the fire and recoiled, shaking its snake-like head.
    “Are you not he who dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; who made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?”
    It wasn’t exactly a victory, but they had slowed the creature’s assault, and forced it to take notice. Asher’s heart began to swell - they could really do this.
    The earth shook all around them, bricks fell from nearby buildings - Asher pushed them aside - but the tremor did not subside. Huge cracks appeared in the earth as the land tore itself to pieces. Two heads of the Leviathan, snaking at the end of mile long scaled necks, twisted away from the water and smashed into Manhattan. Turning to watch, Asher saw a tail, or a tentacle, suddenly join the skyline, bursting out of the earth what must be several miles away. Screams reached his ears once more as the reach of the Leviathan spread across the city.
    “We have a problem,” muttered Li.
    Virgo’s knuckles turned white as she gripped the Staff of Moses ever tighter. “Why do you withdraw your hand, your right hand? Take it out of your bosom! For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.” Her chanting was feverish now, like a soul possessed, she stared at the devastation unblinking as the air around her began to hum with eldritch power.
    “We need to get its attention,” Asher shouted to Li over the sounds of panic.
    Spreading her hands wide, Li unleashed a barrage of fire. Round after round of flames crashed into the Leviathans burnished hide and face.
     “You parted the sea by your strength; you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters.”
    A ball of rage burned inside Asher, as he felt the pain of his city. With a cry, he leapt on the back of one of the creature’s sinuous necks - wrapping his arms around the black spines, he held on with all his strength and reached into the Leviathan itself, seeking to divide it from the inside. The chaos of the beast threatened to overwhelm him - it was like trying to hold on to a raging storm, but Asher would not let go. Virgo’s chanting resonated deep within him and he fought back the raging torrent, dividing and dividing again.
    Seeing his plan, Li surrounded him with a ring of blue flames that burrowed into the sea monster’s iron-hard scales, cutting and smouldering.
    The Leviathan bucked and twisted in his grip but Asher would not be shaken. He had lost too much, far too much - no more - this was where the line had to be held. The black tide, the essence of the beast, burst through his mind but still he divided, forming boundaries where none had been before. Then, with a final push, he severed the last link holding the neck together. An instant later, Asher was just holding onto clear water, and then nothing at all.
    “Well, that certainly got its attention,” said Li, helping Asher up from where he had fallen. Three heads were converging on their position, smoke curling from their nostrils and black ichor dripping from a million fangs.
    “You crushed the heads of Leviathan, and gave him for food to the people inhabiting the wilderness.”
    Hebrew letters, pale as smoke, began to form in the air, flickering in and out of reality, solidifying as Virgo’s chant rose ever louder.
    Moving inhumanly fast, the Leviathan’s heads came crashing down. With a flick of her hands Li raised a sphere of flame and Asher lent it his strength. For what seemed an eternity, they strained to hold back the wave of boundless energy that beat against the shield, but the flames began to waver.
    “Can’t… hold it…” grunted Li, sweat pouring down her skin. Asher couldn’t speak.
    And then Asher felt himself being dragged away as foot long fangs punctured his legs. An instant later he was flung high into the air, searing pain wracking his body, and it was only with a colossal effort of will that he avoided losing consciousness.
    The air whistled past his ears and the sky and ground whirled around him, as Asher tumbled through the air struggling to breathe. He felt rather than saw the gaping maw, open and ready to receive him - a wordless prayer rose in his heart.
    He caught himself on one of the serpent’s teeth, using his feet to prevent the mouth from closing around him. The heat was immeasurable, and Asher could feel the very cells of his body shake and begin to dissolve as the beast’s relentless jaws. Every ounce of strength was focussed to the borders of his body, trying to hold back the inexorable tide washing over him, but he was losing blood rapidly and knew that he couldn’t hold out much longer.
    With a shock, Asher felt his right hand melt away, dissolving into water and trickling away down the Leviathan’s throat - only a stump remained. He looked at it uncomprehendingly, even as he felt his other hand begin to give way.
    Suddenly he was free of the death grip as the head melted to nothing.
    He lay on the ground breathing quickly, his head spinning. A soothing heat burned across the injuries in his legs, and he looked up to see Li waving her hands over his wounds.
    “It’s not pretty, I’m afraid,” she said, “but it should do the job. Sorry I can’t help with the hand.”
    “How…?” Asher managed.
    “We have company,” Li answered, nodding to her left.
    Pale and bruised, shivering slightly, stood Mercury, her hair blowing in the wind, the Sword that Cuts gleaming in her hands.
    “Mercury!” said Asher.
    “Heads up,” she whispered and danced into a defensive pose, sweeping her sword in a flashing arc.
    As they watched, the Leviathan grew and grew, each head split into two, or three or more. Buildings quivered and collapsed into water across the skyline as the coils of the serpent wound about the city.
    “If we’re going to do this it had better be now,” Asher said, “or there won’t be anything left of the city to save.”
    Virgo seemed to hear and began a new verse, the Hebrew letters growing stronger all the time: “On that day the Lord with His hard, great and strong sword shall punish Leviathan the Elusive serpent…”
    Li sliced the air with perfect strokes, dividing the stream of letters into words and consonants.
    “…Leviathan that Twisting serpent…”
    With a blink of her eyes, Li added her fire to the swirling words, precisely woven black fire on white fire.
    “…and He shall slay the Dragon that is in the sea.”
    Asher added a counterpoint, a melody of pain and loss and hope.
    In a final burst of light and energy, the words spread from the last of the Seven, spreading across the world in a wave of language, binding and constraining. The Staff of Moses shook and glowed red hot as the energy spread towards the Leviathan, wrapping itself around limbs and heads and jaws.
    The Leviathan’s final roar, echoing from a thousand throats at once, was for the first time tinged with confusion and pain, an almost plaintive cry, whose final notes were finally swallowed by the enveloping words that bound it like chains. Ever constricting, they bit deep into the sea serpent’s skin, forcing it back into the water and down into the earth.
    A few moments later, all that remained were smouldering cracks and trickle of water. The Leviathan was contained once more.

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