He nods. "Promoting Words is something I get, sure. I just don't understand it without responsibility."


"Responsibility? Hey, I'm responsible for whatever I do that I wasn't geased to. What's the matter with doing something because you want to? Besides, some of it is one of Mom's Rites."


"We're not designed to do things because we want to, contrary to the propaganda. Freedom has a way of spinning itself out of control without some sort of qualitative limits. We can find ourselves paralyzed in indecision because any choice we make will lock us into a series of events which will deprive us of that essential Freedom that we claimed we held in such high opinion in the first place.

"Intellectually, it's a sham. Freedom without clearly defined limits is just as much of a prison as being Bound into a choiceless existence, and breaks down any possibility of truly being able to coexist with other equal creatures who enjoy similar boundaries on their terms. It is in our nature to attempt to find some sort of perfect balance between the two. I do not wantonly murder, because I like my friends and my reputation, and am bound by the responsibilities of my own actions, and I respect the general limits of any society, even an anarchistic demonic one, even if it is something I 'want' to do. Believing in absolute freedom is living with blinders on. Sorry about the rant."


Ellen would giggle. "Freedom is about having choices. Every step you take locks you into some choices, and locks you away from others. But you're choosing which ones will open and which will close. You're choosing, not some Prince or Archangel, not your friends. Friends and lovers, they're still possible, but you know that you're paying a price to have them. The price of loving someone is loving them, and all that implies. If they're sad, I'm sad. If they're happy, then I may be cheered. It's a little loss of freedom, yes, but I chose it. I could unchoose it if I wanted. I choose to be happier when others have choices as well -- the greatest amount of freedom for the greatest number of people. Yes, it's a balancing act, but freedom's not really about always being able to do anything, without consequences. That would make the choices meaningless, because nothing could happen. It just means being able to have something besides, 'obey or die.' The Word of Freedom encompasses anarchy and the choice to co-exist with equals and allow them their own freedom. So, what's wrong with ranting? Mind you, you get into discussions with Elohim, and things get really weird. They can almost understand."


"The few Elohim I've run into have expressed an interest in sending me home sans vessel, so I don't get into too many philosophical debates with them.

"I think you've got your definitions backwards. The ability to make any choice you wish within your conception and accept the responsibility for the results of the action is free will, which is not freedom in toto, and a stronger concept. The ability to say or have any action you wish is liberty, not freedom. Freedom is only the absence of the necessity, constraint, or coercion of action. One can say that one who is enslaved and Bound to a Demon Prince is in fact exercising a certain brand of freedom, because they have been given the freedom from the necessary need to make choices for themselves, and to accept the results of those actions. It is, in fact, no longer their problem, they are no longer locked in a pattern of choices which will lead to a certain lack of freedom. They are intellectually free, if they are not making their own choices, but choice doesn't enter into it.

"Freedom from relationships, freedom from love, freedom from responsibility, freedom from making choices, this is the dark side of the Word. Everyone wants to exercise choice, no one wants to embrace it completely with all the negatives. So we take what we want, and pretend we accept it all, and wave our hands. I'm feeling the sudden urge to go picking through Hume, but he bores me to tears, so I'll continue to fight."


"Fight? Who's fighting? Yeah, there's a dark side to Freedom, there's irresponsibility. I still think choice is in there -- Freedom, free will, they're just facets of each other. Without free will, there can be no Freedom. Without Freedom to act from one's own self-motivations, there's no truly Free will. You can choose slavery, yeah. I mean, I could wear Teri's cuffs if it were something I very much wanted and the idea didn't make me sick to my stomach. If a Superior shows up, then it is most definitely my free will to do the bow and scrape thing until requested otherwise. I have the freedom, the free will, to choose to focus on the bright side of the Word. And you really ought to meet some Creationer Elohim. They're much less likely to pound you, unless it's the most expedient way to get rid of someone working for Lust. Mine's rather sweet. And very, mmm, thorough."


"I find the concept of Freedom to be more complex then just an issue of self motivations. Freedom is the ability to move without coming into contact with some sort of impediment to my movement. I can move my finger forward and side to side, I am free to do so, but I cannot move my finger backwards over my hand without something breaking and dealing with the results. This is considered the boundary at which I no longer have any freedom. We can sometimes say from here that we work within our own self interest until we hit impassable boundaries, but I don't think it's a fair assessment.

"There are two forms of freedom, the freedom to want, and the freedom to act. Both are motivated by enlightened self-interest, that is, working for what will essentially be good for the individual or those outside the individual. But being able to think of what you want to do is not always freedom, and being able to act is not freedom either, in a Geas we are free to act, but only within the bounds of the order. It requires the desire to want to take an action which frames free will, and even then, it's a tenuous connection at best.

"Irresponsibility is not a factor of slavery, it's the choice to not accept the consequences of one's duty. It's a selfish act of someone under their own free will, and that is what happens.

"Point is, we cannot attain perfect Freedom, or even some forms of a dim shadow. Because of our selfish based society, we can't even attain our own goals, or sometimes see past our own wants and desires. We are trapped in our own selfish little worldview, which professes we have all this freedom to act however we want in our own power. This has, in fact, become our own constraints on our possible movement. We are free thinking, free wanting creatures of flesh and blood, but we do not enjoy freedom as such. So it's a lie, a sham. We live in a prison and never notice."


Ellen shakes her head. "No, you're looking on the dark side here. Maybe you can't bend your finger back, but hop into Limbo for a while, if you've the taste for that, and get a vessel that can. We set our own boundaries, within ourselves -- and if we don't like them, we can change them. We can go far enough that the only way to go farther is to have something break -- but we're not angels or broken angels. Our natures aren't the same as theirs, and we don't break the way they do. Truth, lies, objectivity, subjectivity, protection, destruction, violence, peace -- they all lie within our grasp, because we are the Daughters of Freedom. Mother was human, and their range is ours, if we work at it.

"Geasa -- they aren't 'freedom to act.' They're compulsions, and you should know that as well as I. Freedom and Free Will can only co-exist and merge when there's self-motivation. The ability to want, and the ability to act, joined. That's the perfection... Irresponsibility... Yes, there's a form of freedom in it, but I don't have to promote that one if I don't want to. Though you might say I do it by existing, hiding from the Game...

"As for living in a prison... I know the cage, I know the hunters. I know what's going to happen to me sooner or later, even if Terian and Dariel say that they'll help me. But better to go out trying, go out spitting in the face of Fate, than to let the shackles close without resistance. I have things I want to do, and there are people who would stop me if they found out. So I don't let them find out, if I can."

Ellen pauses. "It's not the doing. It's the trying. It's the refusal to accept the limits. Humans managed it -- cars and planes and spacecraft and such. Humans do it all the time. They keep trying and trying, until finally one of them gets lucky. It's like the dissonance that comes with Mother's rites. It's not dissonant to be beaten and imprisoned, but it's dissonant to give up, to accept the prison. Maybe I can never truly get free of the politics and games and problems. But I can try.

"Yeesh. I've been talking with Destiny and Lightning Servitors too much. They're rubbing off on me. Or getting off. Creationers are like that..."


"Creationers, hmmm? I'm toxic death to Creationers."

He mulls over the words. "But... we are not human. We're not even creatures who are capable of individual creativity, which is the concept which drives the human spirit. The Humans have a word for the creative

spirit, in Greek it's Logos, and they have gone so far as in several religious traditions to make it a part of God. But down in Hell we're demons, and we have no access to the Logos, we can only ruthlessly do 'whatever we want' without direction, and hope we don't get killed by someone else doing 'whatever they want'.

"By living in Hell, we accept the prison, unconditionally. When one is restrained by bars, then one realizes that one's liberty is infringed upon, but when restrained by ideals and conceptual reality, those bars become no more then these limits which we accept as a day to day fact of our culture. And how many really know of these limits, even among the Sisters? How many really want to escape and join the humans on Earth, in their short lived lives filled with frantic hope and mad dreams and a knowledge that it's all over quickly so they can come down here and join the rest of us in misery? Why even endeavor to leave, when one can experience their own selfish form of Freedom upon the others, where the only restraints are not to work for others, and to look after one's own self without ever worrying about the consequences?

"On a point that is less finger pointing, true freedom is being able to come to terms with what one wants, form the desire to have that want, and to finally act on it. We have that illusion, but what if what we want is not to have no boundaries at all?"


"To have no boundaries that we have not chosen for ourselves," Ellen says, fires of Freedom in her words. "To see beyond what the Princes would have us think ourselves to be. To see what limits our nature might have, and see if we want to surpass them, and then to try if that's what drives us."

She pauses. "And, perhaps, the option to play the angels' game if we want to. It's their nature, to move to the Symphony. For our kind, if we choose that, it means so much more, I've always thought. Sort of like when humans do it. They aren't being Selfless because it's their nature, but because they choose it. And we may not be human, but Mother was. We're the next best thing.

"Why do you think I'm not living in Shal-Mari? It's depressing there. There are so few real choices, so few ways to make a difference one way or the other. Maybe it's just hubris, but I'd rather be up here, doing things that matter to someone. Bailing kids out of situations they can't handle, say. Giving them back their choices..."

She pauses, then smiles. "And why do you think that we're not capable of creativity? Maybe humans can surpass us, but I can try to talk Teri into showing the video that we did, the time she decided that maybe it would be okay for me to play with claws and her at the same time..."


"I didn't say that we weren't imaginative creatures, or that we weren't capable of innovation. Vapula's realm demonstrates that we can take something of the humans and corrupt it absolutely in new and interesting

ways, or that the Media goons can churn out admittedly entertaining garbage.

"I do believe, on the other hand, as Celestials, that we are lacking a certain sort of selfless creativity which transcends the spirit to bring about that divine spark of inspiration, which the humans possess. It is what essentially separates us from them, and when it comes down to it, makes them superior. We have a culture driven by free will that is several thousand years old, and we have manifested no art forms, no music, and no philosophy past 'I want to be in good with my Prince'. It's an appalling state of affairs that we've degenerated from what was once probably an extremely idealistic culture motivated in being better then their peers to sort of a stagnate stalemate in which nothing of worth has ever been created. I cannot speak for the Angels, but I highly suspect that this is the case there as well, a stagnate culture from which nothing has come forth since the Dawn of Man. We're pathetic creatures. We deserve mankind's pity, not their fear."

He straightens his tie unconsciously. "My standpoint is that we have no real Freedom, we only have a form of Free Will. There can't be any true Freedom in Hell, as greed and selfishness override any positive overtones, leading down to a self serving mediocrity which is no better then serving any Prince and their own Words. We have no boundaries, but that is just as much of a prison as being confined behind bars. Infinite freedom leads to nothing at all. The energy being generated is wasted into the ether, channeled into nothing more then a force which preserves those lack of boundaries with no real result.

"Basically, though, I agree with you about Shal-Mari. It's a city which tantalizes, but never really delivers, sort of like the last Batman movie or Brad Pitt. What needs to happen..." he trails off. "What needs to happen is for someone to enlighten the Sisters that where they do live is a Prison, bring them out of captivity, and nothing more. Hell itself, despite a rather large marketing campaign, never really delivers on a whole, and is simply a large cage with nebulous bars of cultural restrictions. Neither does, I think, Heaven, deliver what it advertises. Where we belong is on Earth, enjoying our Birthright as free willed creatures with the right to generate our own destinies without being caught up in the give and take of a pointless War. But to do so would be a major undertaking, and few would be willing to give up their current gains for happiness, myself probably included."


"Pity versus fear? Nah. Both. We're stronger, faster, often smarter. We're dangerous. We can do things they can't even comprehend. And I don't know if it's stagnate up there as well, but they've got Creationers up there, and there are none in Hell. Who knows, maybe they listen to their humans more, too. Mind you, they're mostly hierarchical too, and hidebound most of the time, from what I can see, but at least they can cooperate without backstabbing, most of the time.

"And I agree with you utterly about the 'Gray' side. I'm happy being like I am, even if I am confused about it most of the time. You're right -- there isn't any true Freedom in Hell. But that doesn't mean there's no Freedom anywhere. That doesn't mean there's no point in reaching for Freedom. And it also doesn't mean that true Freedom has to be wasted. It's not... It's not the doing, it's the potential to do that's most important for Freedom." She waves her hands helplessly. "I'm not explaining this right. I don't have the words. I'm used to Teri doing the Seraph thing of picking out stuff with the Symphony turned up.

"Here, lemme go back... Freedom isn't just about doing what you want and stamping on anything in your way and never loving or doing anything for someone else. It can be like that, sure, but that's not all there is to it.

"Freedom is about having the potential to do what you want, and the choices. It's about being able to say, 'I'm going to do this thing, and I'm going to keep making the choice to do it until it no longer rewards me the way I want.' That can be doing something until you can't get any more money from it, or doing something 'cause you like seeing people smile when you do, or doing something 'cause it's spitting in the eye of Fate behind Kronos' back.

"It's about the potential to do things. It's about being self-directed, not other-directed. I go around rescuing kids from dens of Lust because I want to, not because Bezekiel or Jean told me to. Heck, I got asked how that hobby helped the Word of Lightning.

"So yeah, Freedom is inherently gray. And we should be able to have a nice neutral third side, and who knows -- Uriel got yanked away, and maybe it was for messing with the neutrals... But it'll take something big to get everyone out of thinking like good little Hellborn, and fretting about the Game. Thing about being neutral, you'd have to be a third side. You'd have to be powerful enough not to get swamped when the big boys on the block gang up on you.

She shrugs. "I dunno. They've got my head turned around, maybe after I get the Geasa loose, I might go Bright... Just to see what it's like to go coiling with a Seraph, y'know? And they'd be really thrilled about it. But I wouldn't go begging to serve. I'd try offering the life-price -- a week per Force, and all -- and see if I could sucker somebody into letting me try to be Free."


"I don't think you can sucker someone into letting you be Bright and Free at the same time. Just the concept of suckering someone into getting them to do what you want seems to run against the grain of being Angelic in the first place." He grins. "Although, if you could pull it off, it would be a neat trick. I'm sure many of our kind would rather live in a nice gray wash then hide in the Prison with the rest of the convicts.

"Actually, I stand corrected. Hell is not a prison, Hell is more like a giant Asylum, where the inmates are all psychopathic killers who are allowed to roam and mingle together. Every once in a long while, someone

gets better, but the other inmates don't like their own kind to leave the Asylum, so they slaughter them like feed animals. And this, if you think about it, exactly what happens.

"My point is that Freedom is, in it's pure essence, a greedy, selfish Word, the meaning of which is simply the ability to move freely without being bound by constraint. It is sort of a blanket over all the other concepts, including the potential to make choices. Below it are the things we cherish, free will, liberty, defiance, and choice, but all of these come at some sort of limitation to our Freedom. We choose liberty, the best of the lot, to define our version of Gray Freedom, where we are allowed to enjoy certain protected rights which we can exercise to the best of our ability. This is where we have the choice to help people, or work with people, or have friendships, or manipulate shamelessly until we're bored. It is exercising our given freedoms, true, but it isn't pure freedom, it comes as a result of accepting certain boundaries. We are

free to have friendships, because we know in the relationship of a friendship there are things we can or cannot do. We are free to live in a free society, but only as long as we accept that we cannot murder, steal, rape, commit fraud, or anything else that is against the boundaries given to us in return for our rights.

"George Bernard Shaw said, 'Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.' And I agree. It's that threat of accountability which keeps people in the Pit. Naturally, through the word of Freedom, by your reasoning, they would simply have the right and the liberty to leave. I could, if I so wished, pick up and walk right out the door out into the big wide world without any worries. That is true Freedom, or liberty, or free choice, or anything else of that vein. But no one does, either being trapped by the Game or their own sense of duty or need or being. Theoretically, we could all just go work for the Angels if we wished, no strings attached, but we cannot. We're bound by their rules and our rules and every other sort of rule imaginable.

"We're gray inside and out. We want to be good, we want to be evil, we want to serve ourselves, we want to serve the people we love. But is there really a place in this universe for a neutral creature? Not with our current trappings, not with the laws we abide by. We could leave, we could ignore the laws. But lawlessness means being paralyzed by our own take on Freedoms, and it is much of a prison then the laws we are currently bound by. It's a paradox, one I don't think we can escape."


Ellen shakes her head. "You're thinking of Freedom like the angels do when I'm not correcting them. Or in some perfect abstract that not even Archangels can achieve, maybe. Look at Gabriel and Belial -- Fire is destruction for destruction's sake, and destruction to clear the way for new things, and can be used to torture or punish. Get into the symbology, and it can be inspiration or passion or needs that consume and don't give anything back. It's warm comfort and flickering unreliability. There are a couple of Word-bound Cherubim following the Bright Lady herself around, to try to keep her from doing too much of the dark side of her Word, I think.

"Freedom is like that. There are bright aspects, and dark aspects, and gray aspects. The Word is what you make of it, sort of. We can seek to promote the Word through its aspects -- knowing that we're promoting it because we *want* to! -- and even if we never gain the purest, ultimate Freedom... We can still hold to it as an ideal, just as you can hold to Fire as an ideal, or Trade, or War, or even Judgment.

"Yes, to function together, personal freedom has to be limited, though it often comes back to self-interest in the end. Do enough favors for people, and eventually the web comes out so that somebody does something nice for you, without prompting. There are consequences for everything. If you go around exercising the freedom to kill, then other people will probably gang up on you eventually. If you go around exercising the freedom to be nice...it makes Malakim look at you like you're going to explode in their faces.

"But I've never, ever, said that we'd be *supported* in exercising our Freedom. If all Free Lilim decided en masse to leave Hell... Well, I'd like to have a photograph of Asmodeus' and Dominic's faces. But there'd be panic, and we'd all be Renegade, and our Bound sisters would probably suffer for it, too. It would get us killed. And if we want to hang out with angels, we have to play by their rules, too. Though that's a choice, again.

"There's no such thing as Freedom from responsibility. Freedom from feelings of responsibility, sure, fine, whatever. That's a personal choice, and one a lot of us take. But the consequences are always with us. If God has free will, then even Its actions have consequences.

"As for bribing someone to do a Redemption without binding the newbie... I don't know if that's selfish enough to get me killed or not. But I don't want to betray Mother's Word. It's not that I don't want to help out, it's that I don't want to be *Bound*. I mean, I'd be glad to help out where I was needed, I think. Even take a tour of duty with some of the poker-spines, so long as I knew it was temporary. It might be interesting. Of course, I still don't understand them. I guess there's a chance I might change my mind if I *did* go Bright."

She pauses, then hugs herself and admits slowly, "And... Well... It's not going to happen, so I don't talk about it much. But if the Bright Lady, if she ever...ever really *wanted* me, even a little... I'm afraid -- all she'd have to do is beckon, and I'd go. I-I'd do anything to see her smile at me, to have her call me a good Daughter again..." She drops to a whisper. "That scares me so much."


"Hmmm." He seems to be digesting all the information in one big lump, and filing it all away in his brain for future research. Then he gets a look like he's putting on the intellectual hat, which means he's going to be whipping out the big words with lots of syllables. "I myself have had a similar experience with an Archangel. In the middle of some long conversation about Existential philosophy or middle 20th century jazz, I've felt the temptation to go ahead and pursue my artistic urges permanently, but I'm afraid that when the intellectual interest wears off, I'll find myself in an untenable position of being bound and trapped in a position in which I cannot just get up and walk out the door. As a Lilim, the eternity of the position seems like standing on the top of a tall cliff, and jumping, while fun in the short exciting free fall, will end up with just a big messy splat at the bottom. I mean, it's certainly tempting time and again, but I have no real proof of permanence, and such happiness, in my life, seems rather fly by night. I have reason to doubt it. I assure you, being Bound, while it seems like a fairly good idea at the time, turns out to be sort of a let down in the long run. It's really not all that great, I don't recommend it to anyone to take just lightly, or frankly, at all.

"I had considered Brightness for the experience time and again, to be able to well appreciate both sides of the argument when it comes to, admittedly rare, rational conversations about the War and why the servitors and the Princes do what they do. Analysis is interesting, but it's the interaction of the people which interests me most. Being Hellborn, I don't believe we have a fair range of experience with all the possibilities of Celestial, although a fair number of our Sisters have had some unfortunately run-ins with the wrong end of a Malakite's Sword, and their experiences, over all, have not been overly pleasant or the type which are recalled wistfully in a coffee shop. The problem is that Brightness is also an impossibly permanent position, which bothers me on some base level with the rest of my irrational fears and the horrors which live under the bed. The concept of going Bright is to me like the concept of going into extensive cosmetic surgery. Sure, I'll have the same organs when I come out, technically, but how much of my original being will be preserved in the transition, and will I even like myself when all is said and done? Will I even be recognizable as *me* when I emerge into the sunlight after being under the knife for several hours?"

He leans back. "But never mind my fears. I've constructed a rather bizarre hypothesis, given the arguments that there is a light and dark side to Freedom, and that there has to exist both for their to be either. Granted the Lilim cannot just leave Hell. I'll take that as a given. But my question stands, what happens if the multitudes of the Frees just come to some sort of mass decision to support only the light side of Lilith's

Word? It's not a realistic possibility, I realize, but the question is, do the Superior's Words rely on their own personal propagation of them, or do their flavor rely on the method in which the servitors spread them to humanity? If, say, there was a massive campaign among the Lilim to support and spread only the bright side of Freedom, would this change the Word, or even Lilith herself, in any meaningful way? Not to say it would, my opinion is still that a hellbound Word is a hellbound Word, and there has to be some base selfishness to keep it there. But the concept of the experiment is at least interesting."


Ellen grins. "I think you may have just put your finger on why Jean bought my Geas, and why Dariel and Terian are so adamant about being nice to me. Besides that they're crazy angels. That sounds so very much like something an Elohite would wonder... I don't know. I have no idea how it would change our Mother if we started going around and boosting the Bright Freedom. It seems logical that it might - at least externally, if it were a good source of power to the Word as a whole. Mother is not stupid; she'd have been dead long before I was created if she were.

"That may be part of why Darry hasn't been trying to shove me in the Bright Lady's direction. He may want to know if there can be a Free Bright." Ellen bites her lower lip. "Elohim are sneaky and manipulative little dears."

She changes topics, sort of... "And you're right about redemption. Sometimes our kind doesn't survive, and it's sure that it changes people. I guess I'm not as nervous as I should be, thinking about it, because... Well, several reasons. First, Teri once got full volume TRUTH and said that I'd survive it, so that's one thing down, 'cause I really do trust that crazy Seraph. Second, I make Malakim nervous. They keep asking if I'm *sure* I got my last Essence at dusk. And third...." She shrugs. "Third, I've got eight more years of Geasa. I doubt I'll survive having them called in entirely, and I won't allow myself to be stripped of them by some Archangel, because I made a deal for these, and Mother's honored her side, so it would be wrong to try to cheat her.

"You're also right about the binding thing. That's why it scares me so much, to know that there's a part of me that has no sense whatsoever, that would gladly drown in the flames. I wish that she wanted me, and I'm glad that she's probably forgotten me by now, all at once...."

Again, she pauses and bites her lip. "You know, if I did somehow manage to be a Free Bright -- I think I see what Darry was talking about, as a symbol. Just think of the propaganda angle, if it worked, to our sisters."


He looks momentarily troubled. "I assure you, if I'm anything, I'm not an Elohite. The way I am, I would have Fallen long before now. I'm just thinking out loud... I know sometimes I sound like it a bit. It's a habit, I think. A bad one I need to work on.

"Oddly enough, it is not the Geasa that bother me about going Bright. I worked myself into a good sized hole, and it will be years before I bail myself out, and that's if I work on them consecutively. I see them more as a fact of life then as a barrier. Granted, it doesn't look particularly good when an Angel runs around and does jobs for, say, Prince Haagenti. But we're Lilim, and I assume Superior's talk. If it isn't one Prince or Archangel calling them in, then it's another, and it's something that we are forced to live with. What bothers me the most is the change in the personality. I'm happy with myself as I am right now, angst, madness, and the entire package. I don't really want to change, even if it's 'Good for me'. Even if it's 'For the best'. Is it worth it in the long run? I don't know, I have no qualitative evidence to support either way, other then the reports that people seem to be happier when it's all said and done.

"I don't know if I'd so easily give my entire personality up to satisfy my artistic urges. I feel I can somewhat achieve that now on my own, and the concept of someone wanting me around, annoying them forever seems to be quite a stretch. I mean, forever is a long time. I would think I would get boring after a few millenia. That keeps me dragging my feet, and the disbelief that anything so unselfish exists in the universe, of which I have my serious doubts. I have seen no evidence which clearly convinces me of otherwise.

"But if you do manage, somehow, to go Bright and to stay Free, I would be extremely careful about the Propaganda aspect of it. Although it's idealistic - you can 'Save' many of the Sisters at once my proving they don't have to be self serving bastards and still retain their autonomy - there's a certain danger that comes along with attempting to push an ideal down one's throat. 'The one who is fancy they are sure of themselves are the ones who are truly unsure.' It's much like Fundamentalism, where there comes a point where you are no longer following the ideals which brought you to your hallowed state in the first place, in the spirit of attempting to convince others that where you are is the best possible place to be. It's a dangerously thin line to walk, and leaves yourself open to the creeping doubt when things take a turn for the difficult.

"And propaganda can always be turned against you, or twisted in such a way that your original message is not always the one conveyed."


"Well, I'm not going to be the one propagandizing. It'd make me no better than a Balseraph. I'd just mention it occasionally, get word to the Guildhall, and see what they thought. Maybe. I mean, trying to shove something down someone's throat, trying to force siblings to see Brightness... That'd be untrue to Mother's Word. I'd probably leave any propaganda to the Elohim. Ruthless bunch of manipulative space aliens."

She smiles kindly, "By the way, I don't think you're an Elohite. But I think we Lilim understand them better than any other Band can. They're Geas-bound to the Symphony, forever. They have to do this 'what's the best outcome?' kind of thing with everything, according to the side and Words they serve. But once you figure out what they think is Right, you can usually sit back and count on them to do it, and if you happen to be in the way, it's nothing personal. They'd never hurt anyone more than they thought necessary.

"They're very relaxing, really. You don't have to worry about influencing them or not. Mind you, if Lord Jean ever shows up around me, I'm probably going to have a heart attack."

Back to the topic... "Personality shifts. I should ask Teri about that. And Dariel. And probably the next Malakite I meet who gets that poleaxed expression. Maybe even the next triad, just to bug them. Because I don't know. I don't want to rearrange myself all in one big fireworks bash either. I got this far on my own, from my own sense of, um, well, ethics I guess." She makes a face. "Dirty word. But that and Mother's Word, that's what's got me here. I don't *need* to change into some flitter-head. And if I'm Free... I don't need to be Needed indefinitely by any one Superior."

She frowns thoughtfully. "I... I think it's possible, though. Maybe. Barely. I think it would break Teri's heart -- figuratively -- if she weren't loved, if she were just in some scutwork job. And she seems pretty happy most of the time when she's not weeping on my shoulder for how awful my life's been.

"But yeah, that's the other half of why I hope the Bright Lady's forgotten me. 'Cause I would do anything, if she only asked, just to please her. And I'd keep trying, and trying, and trying, even if I were no good at it." She shudders again. "And the triads boggle that I don't want Dariel to Fall. He'd make mincemeat of me, as a Habbie. He'd tear my soul open, without even using his resonance. Terian thinks it's that love stuff. Blessed scary, that's what it is."


He waves a dismissing hand. "The question that needs to be asked is, do the change in personality come about in the process of Redemption, or does it occur when Redemption occurs? If the change is during the process, then we're both doomed to giving up a certain amount of our individualization for the greater good, we've already aligned our way of thinking to that of those we wish to emulate, and it will take a conscious change to pull us back down to our former selves. As we learn more information we tend to change in subtle ways. We can't put back the wheel of time, we have to continue to live, and that is the price of existing a continuously changing world.

"My problem, the root of my fears about Heaven and change, comes from my own fierce grip on my individual self, and the knowledge that I am an individual separate from the whole at large. I'm not willing to give up parts of my own soul for the good of Mankind, regardless if it is considered the right thing to do or not, and that is the root of my own personal selfishness. To be able to accept the Binding of an Archangel, one must be ready to give up a certain amount of the self over to a cause or a Word, something I deeply fear, and am not willing to do at this current time without some sort of further justification. The conception of Freedom is that we are only influenced by our conscious and unconscious minds, we have not given a piece of ourselves, freely and with forethought, to some unknown cause, to be dragged into some collective consciousness which drives a certain principle.

"Even my own intellectualism is selfishness within itself, there's no way to escape it, or Hell for that matter, without some profound psychological change in opinion or outlook. The essence of Heaven is selflessness, a willingness to give one's self over to the greater good of the whole, and my particular evil is that I require certain liberties to be able to exist with myself. The concept of the passiveness which goes along with acceptance of the good of the all shakes me to the core, I'll never passively accept anything in my existence.

"I am not, in fact, a passive person who believes in stagnation as the correct method of maintaining a certain amount of control over the current situation. Passivism, an unwillingness to change, is essentially what drives the Heavenly outlook. If this wasn't true, then Gabriel and Islam would have been readily accepted, Laurence would no longer feel the driving need to continue to support a hopelessly flagging Christianity or hide his head in shame when Martin Luther nailed his proclamation, Jean would not feel the need to fight the rising tide of changing technology. And it can go on, Heaven exists to return the universe to it's original

pristine starting state. Pandora's Box and all that.

"Anyway," he says, noticing he's drifting off topic into a rant. "So one is faced with a certain dilemma, how is one to act and be essentially good without being completely good, and without being forced to accept a fundamental change in outlook and existence? It sounds like you wish to solve this problem by attempting to combine two together, preserving your selfish autonomy while still working to keep yourself essentially Good. That's why I don't believe that a Free Bright is possible. You haven't taken that last step in eliminating your own core evil, still clinging to the concepts of the past, to actually make it into Heaven. And that's why I believe many of our Sisters fry when then go up there for the first, and last, time. I realize that Freedom does not seem like an evil, selfish word, but in return to the original discussion, there is a reason it dwells in Hell and not in Heaven."


She sniffs. "Yeah. Lucifer offered a sanctuary to Mother, and nobody wants to see what would happen to an Angel of Freedom. I don't think you're quite right about me, though. I want to aid Freedom in the Bright sense. But I wouldn't mind working for other Words. I mean, when I'm in service to one of the bright side Superiors, I'm serving them. I just don't want to be stuck in one place forever, whether or not I was needed there.

"Besides," she adds, with a little finger-poke, "I got a Seraph listening to the Symphony with the volume up all the way, and she thinks I'd survive. Maybe that means I'd figure out I had to bind ASAP during the process, maybe not."

Back to topic... "About the passivity, stagnation thing. That's not what Lightning is about. I got it explained to me by Bezekiel. It's not 'holding back', or fighting anything but the Vapulan approach to tech. It's about asking the questions that get humans to come to the blinding flash of insight themselves, instead of handing it to them on a platter. And it's blessed harder than Bezekiel made it sound, drat his little Kyrio hide. But I think that's another thing that maybe the Balseraph propaganda doesn't always have right.

"Some of the Superiors are stick-in-the-muds, no kidding. Triads are walking examples. They twitch so hard when they hear me say I don't want anything bad to happen to my friends. But they do go away after subtle. I think you're right, they don't like change -- or at least don't like it to happen quickly -- but with all those Creationers up there? I don't know. I'm curious to know. Might be the case. Might not."

She thinks. "I don't understand how you can Bind to a Prince, and not contemplate the same for an Archangel. I couldn't stand to do either. I don't see how there's that much difference. Serve a Word, and you're serving a Word.

"But... you're probably right about the collective thing. The full Symphony... It drowns out the individual themes. If Darry had told me what that white chocolate stuff would do to me before he gave it to me -- no way I would have tried it. No way. But with friends, people I was finally admitting I trusted and liked, who liked me...

"It wasn't that bad. It was rather nice. I might be able to live with that. If I were free."

She finally shrugs again. "And if nobody will go for the experiment, then I'll stick like this. I make Malakim go pale, I'll be fine. Maybe it will mean more, that I'm doing this stuff because I choose to, instead of because I'm bound to a Word."


"That," he says, "is the entire problem. You cannot be an angel and then act because you 'choose' to. You cannot be an angel and act because you 'want' to. Both of those conceptions revolve around you as the person and the individual, and have nothing to serving the Good of Heaven as a whole. It all has to do with making you as a person feel good inside. Although your motivations may be noble and the outcome of your actions are positive, your entire outlook is revolving around you personally, a selfish needing you who only listens to the beat of her own Symphony, her own wants and desires. As an angel, your own personality or what you feel is not of consequence, you share a greater Symphony and that is what you serve. Without making that fundamental change in your personality, you will never, ever go Bright. The only way to do it and survive is to move past that and make the realization that you are not the only one who exists in the Universe. I am not arguing with your Seraph friend, I will assume that what she told you was true about your chances of survival, but I doubt she told you a time frame. Next week? Next year? Next millenia?

"And," he continues, "I do not believe you can get away with serving an Infernal Word, and Freedom is an Infernal Word, and still be Angelic. It just doesn't work that way. I wish it would, but it simply doesn't. That's simply the rules of the game. I didn't make them. Angels simply do not work on contract."

He frowns. "I can't get away from the need to keep my autonomy. I need my Individuality. I'm not even that busy craving Freedom, as much as the concept of my own consciousness being drowned out by the greater Symphony terrifies me. It's not something I like to think about, sort of like the 'Total Perspective Vortex'. I would make a terrible Buddhist."


Ellen waves her hands around, possibly thumping a table gently if one is available... "You're not understanding, you're still not understanding. I want to be free because I don't want to be bound, and because I do not want to betray Mother's Word. It was my hate of slavery that got me this far. It's why I ran from Fate, it's why I bought promises that there would be Words I need never serve again, it's why I went looking for trouble and found myself rescuing a proto-Soldier of Fire from Lust-demons! Because using others against their will is wrong. And I'll put my life on the line to fix it.

"I would no more bind myself and betray the Word of Freedom than I would do something to mess with Barb or the Bright Lady of Fire. It's not in me. I... I admire and respect Mother greatly, even knowing that she probably doesn't see me as anything more than a curiosity who might get her more Archangel deals later.

"There's some amount of autonomy left in angels. If there weren't, the triads wouldn't be wandering around so paranoid and worried. Yeah, I know that I can't possibly see what the future is. I know that I'd probably get a different perspective afterwards, assuming I survived. But I don't think it's impossible."

She pauses, rubs her forehead. "The thing is, when I think about serving different Words, sometimes I get this funny warm feeling about being useful to the Halos in general. Like if I bound, I'd be restricted from helping other people who might need it. I don't want to be stuck with all those politics.

"Or maybe what I really need is to flitter around like a reliever for a while, till I find some place that really works for me, where I could *understand* the Word and how to serve it. I don't know...

"The Word-concept shouldn't matter. There's Fire on both sides, you know. And Baal and Michael are pretty close, ditto Jean and Vapula. And we won't even talk about Janus and Valefor...

"That might be what would happen, I guess. If Mother's Rites became dissonant within me, I probably wouldn't feel like I do now, as much. Something like that, I guess I'd wind up binding to someone, learning how to serve that Word intuitively."

She sets her jaw stubbornly. "But as long as Mother's Word is strong inside me, I have to try. Just because she's the only holder of the Word doesn't mean that there's nothing good about it. And if that means that I'm stuck in this uncomfortable halfway state, then so be it. At least I'll be useful as a translator of Helltongue. It's not being angel that matters, anyway -- it's keeping people free of Hell-slavery."


Daimon, who has made a fine art out of looking stricken, looks stricken. "I, uh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you any, really.

"Far be it from me to attempt to impose some sort of social cookie cutter on your own personal divine fire, burning deep inside. We live in some sort of strange Celestial societal prison, and far be it from we to do anything besides assert our natural urge for Freedom and attempt to transcend its boundaries. It's our jobs to reject the sense of social responsibility and those roles, and turn our actions into individual self reflection. We need to look at things differently, to cure the blindness which reigns within the Celestial hierarchies and more importantly to find ourselves.

"We need to push boundaries, and if the way that you will do so is to support Mother's Word come hell or high water while saving as many people from Hell as you can, more power to you. It may disappoint your friends hat you will not go Bright this week, and I think you are simply exercising your nature and attempting to discover all possible modes of existence. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as you realize that acceptance into Angelic society will require you play by their rules. But far be it from me or you to play by anyone's rules, really. To be normal, to just be acceptant, for them, is fine. For us it is no more then an insufferable bore of hell-borne sterility."

He sits back and thinks out loud. "Baal and Michael. Jean and Vapula. Janus and Valefor. Hmmm..."


She waves a hand. "I'm not upset, just stubborn. Passionate." She looks perplexed, and muses out loud, "I wonder if the Bright Lady did something else when she gave me that Rite... Fire and Freedom. It's gotta mix strangely.... No, I was like this mostly before. I think."

"But yeah, you could be right. This could just be a stage I'm going through, and I'm not seeing Dariel manipulating me through it yet. Still, if it's not a stage... I can live with this. I don't hate my very nature. I'm useful as well as ornamental. I can translate Helltongue and make a nice case study in Lilim Psychology. I don't think they're going to be upset that I'm not about to bind to an Archangel -- they know I've got years more of Geasa to work off, and it's better I'm able to manifest green and speaking Helltongue."

A pause. "Why Hmmm on the Word-reflections?"


"I was just thinking out loud. The way you talk of passions does remind me of a Bright servitor of Fire in an academic way. It just made me start thinking of Symmetry, and wondering where everything fits. You and I, who really opposes whom, how the universe works. I just started thinking a bit too much. That's all. It's an unhealthy preoccupation with the makeup of the universe.

"I was imagining how other Bright words mix with Freedom. Judgment and Freedom don't work, and neither does Freedom and the Sword, but Wind and Freedom certainly do. Flowers and Freedom to a point, if you can imagine a large field of wildflowers, beautiful yet untamed. Dreams and Freedom give rise to wild streaks of creativity and bursts of hope. Fire and Freedom create wild passions, unchecked by any boundaries. War and Freedom will create the revolutionary, the thinker who fights against the norms for the good of the people. Some of the Archangel Words I can't see mixing properly, but some I.. can. I can see how this would really unbalance the War, or at least put something in favor of the Archangels. It's interesting, to say the least.

"Even not completely Bright, you're more then just a translator or an ornament or a study in Lilim Psychology, I would bet."


She shrugs and smiles. "Flattery will get you almost anywhere. Hm. Don't forget Free Trade, or Freedom and Destiny, maybe Animals. Dunno about Lightning. I can almost get it... Creation, that's another easy one to mesh with.

"Eeep. Now you've got me thinking. I hate thinking. I always wind up being confused.

"But you're probably right. If there were more Brights, things would get very interesting... No wonder the Game makes such examples of us if we try it."


"Thinking is good for you. It clears out your soul, and puts all your problems in perspective. Every once in a while, sitting back and just thinking instead of acting will do you more good in the long run then simply acting on instinct. Then again, if you think too much you'll get yourself into all sorts of trouble.

"Take, for instance, the conclusion I came to that the combination of Freedom and Creation brings rise to atheism. By themselves they are innocent as far as that goes, but together, one feels the needs to throw off the shackles of any sort of impairment to one's creativity, and this includes the laws and bounds given to the belief in one's personal God. Not even the ethics in the eyes of God Himself will stop you from your act of exploring creation, and the logical conclusion to come to is to get rid of him altogether, like He never existed, simply because religion is one of the many factors which contrains one's imagination and progression of thought. One ends up with Lilim which possess Sartre's God-sized hole in their consciousness, something which is both good and bad, depending on one's views on that sort of thing. So certain combinations are extremely dangerous.

"Maybe the Archangels and the Demon Princes understand the danger of lifting a Lilim out of the clouded lie of Hell and giving them a little bit of revelation. It's dangerous, because we'll rock the boat, overturn the status quo, scream and yell until things change. We're worse then Ofanim, we're not just filled with energy and need to move around like some insane pinball. We're catalysts, we need to poke and prod people until they see past their boundaries as well, and that is true Freedom. And that's extremely dangerous to them, their power bases, their very existence. We can be so annoying in so many fun ways.

"So the Game hunts us down when we think too much. They make examples of us. And like brilliant martyrs, we die. Because there is Freedom in martyrdom, as well as some sort of self serving masochism to prove to everyone that they were wrong - we were right."


"I, for one, have no intent of being made an example of. If I'm going to die, it will be by my own will, suiciding in an angel-Tether and thumbing my nose at the Game while they watch with a Geas on me shattering in their hands.

"And that's the sort of thing that I come up with when I think, along with other little twitchy thoughts about how I'd be so much safer if I ran the instant the Geas binding me here was up.

"You're weird, though, you know that? Get rid of the high mucky muck of Heaven? Wouldn't that be like turning off the Symphony or something? Wouldn't that break things?"


He gets this weird sort of grin. "I hear that alot. I'm very... weird. Which is why I don't vocalize my opinions very much anymore. I kept attracting the wrong kind of attention. You know, the kind of attention that doesn't like questions, and likes answers even less. The kind of attention which leaves your head mysteriously bashed in or your body impaled on the high spikes of an iron fence in one of those weird freak accidents. And I'm not referring to Hell, either."

He gets sort of a spooky look in his eyes, and then it passes. "Heretical concepts are fun. They either bother people deeply, or they make people stop and think. It's just as funny to have people go off the deep end just because you've shown them something they don't want to see, as it is to get them riled up over something small, like a minor case of death.

"I remember a story. In Auschwitz, 1943, I think, there was a worker camp in the back, away from the furnaces. One day, the guards of the camp decided it would be fun to kill a small child. So they made everyone come out, and forced them to watch was they paraded a child, maybe six or seven, out to a makeshift gallows. The child was incredibly calm, I would figure probably in shock. And the child took a half an hour to die.

"Later, the prisoners went in and put God on trial. How could he have let something so horrible occur? If He is omnipotent and all powerful, he should have reached down and prevented the death. If He is not omnipotent, then he's a weak God who is ineffective or simply doesn't hold up to being 'Creator of the Universe' any more then the next shmoe. If He is omnipotent, and he knew what would happen, and he choose to allow it to happen, then God is just as evil and malicious as those men who hung the child. They found him guilty of not being what He claimed to be, and then the Rabbi held sundown service."

He sighs. "So what is God? The fact that Hell, and ourselves, actually exist lead me to wonder if God really exists. Archangels have used His innate 'goodness' as a sort of bat to use as a method of pounding their own versions of the universe into us, and into Humanity in general. But if God is so powerful, why didn't He just reach down and stop the meaningless, pointless, painful death of one child? Why doesn't He just lean down and destroy Hell? Why doesn't he simply take everything that is seen as Evil and remove it from the question? Is it because He just doesn't care? Or is He just some mindless entity who isn't even conscious? Why in the hell does He let me live, after all of the horrible things I have done in my life?

"We have no conclusive proof that God is the Symphony, or without him that the universe would end. But the so-called God is what keeps us in our place. We must do what God demands to get into Heaven. We must live our lives in the way god wants us to. For thousands of years, the War has been held over our heads as a way to keep us in our place. We cannot create because we're trapped in these boundaries. We cannot be free because we're always so afraid of God."

He spreads his hands out in front of him. "I advocate a freedom of thought, but we cannot hypothesize. I advocate a freedom to create, but we're so busy being demons we don't have time to sit down and do so. I can preach that the War is nothing more then a prison for us, the angels, Humanity, everyone, but no one wants to listen.

"I'm a heretic, but a harmless one. As far as I know."


"No heretics are harmless," Ellen objects thoughtfully. "You have a point there. I guess I'm not old enough to think of God as anything more than some entity who's even less involved than Lucifer. But you know, I'm not sure the nature of God matters to me that much. Maybe it's because I'm still a demon, but I'm doing nice stuff for people 'cause I want to, not 'cause it's gonna get me into Heaven.

"It might be that Free Will thing. Or a Destiny-Fate thing. It was the fate of the guards to kill the kid, to use their Free Will that way. To take it away would make everything meaningless. They meant to do it, but is the road to Hell paved with only *intentions*?

"If there is a God, he's not really nice. Maybe he just is, like Mother. Or maybe he doesn't care anymore, and the Archangels are left doing careful propaganda to conceal that. I don't know. Why does it matter?" she asks, innocently.


"It matters only because I like to pry into mysteries, and the Universe is the biggest mystery there is. So maybe He just is, and all this stuff about God's benevolence is just a bunch of bunk. If He's not conscious, why should we believe in Him? Why should anyone care? He takes no notice of us, we are fully separated from him in all respects, including understanding.

"I just like evoking thoughts and emotions. A poem, a painting, a particularly interesting piece of philosophy fascinates me. Now, I know I will never know everything about the universe, but we only learn if we pry. Now I don't understand everything about God, and I doubt His existence, but I won't learn if I don't ask. And that's really the only reason to care. That and faith is a very personal thing that is worth exploring."


"Hm. Me, I'd rather not think about the stuff that makes my head hurt. I do enough of that, trying to do self-analysis. I suppose that it's something useful to know in the long run, but in the short run... I just want to survive today, tomorrow, and maybe the day after. Will knowing the nature of God help me do that? Really?"


"Well... realistically? Not really. It won't help you survive today, tomorrow, or for a thousand years in the future. But if you do think about it, and you do ponder the philosophical questions, you can in turn ask them of someone else. And maybe you'll kindle those passions within another, and they'll go off and explore and write the world's most important novel, or paint the world's most important painting. Without contemplation of the deeper questions, we'd have no passion, no poetry, no beauty. Just survival day in and day out.

"Me, I have to ask the questions. They say ignorance is bliss. I say that ignorance is a prison. Without questions we get no answers. Without answers we have only acceptance. And with acceptance, we have only the walls of prison. There is no freedom there. And I know you want freedom, and part of that is the freedom to explore any part of the universe, even the heretical parts that don't make any difference in the long run."


Ellen tilts her head. "You sound like a Creationer, my sib. Or maybe a Jeanite who's fixated on the 'eureka' trip and not the 'anti-Vapulans' aspects. You're right. You make my head hurt, but I think you're right. Ow. I didn't want to get to the 'Why?' ad infinitum stage yet, really I didn't. I wanted to start with the little 'whys' -- like the 'Why are there no Free Brights?' and 'Why don't Judgment triads act nicer so people will like them more' and little stuff... The stuff that affects me. Then I could work up to the bigger stuff.

"I guess I don't really believe in a sentient God. That's weird. The Archangels, sure, I believe in them, but..." She holds her head in her hands. "If I asked for an ibuprofin, would you give me something safe?"


He fishes around in a pocket, and comes up with a little baggie of pills. He shakes out two and passes them across. "Advil. Take them with a little milk, and they'll take care of the headache. And I also prescribe a good rest, and some time watching a few low quality sitcoms to clean your head. Deepness is only good for you taken in small doses.

"I think dealing with the small problems one at a time is an admirable goal. The universe is filled with small problems which need solving. Triads are one of them. If you ask me, if they all were a little bit more understanding the universe would be a better place.

"Or you can just go for the gusto, and concentrate on the big mysteries all at once. Does God exist? And if He does, how come there is a hair in my sandwich?"


Ellen takes the Advil, regards it for a moment, then shrugs and scarfs 'em -- probably with a big glass of water. "I don't think I can do the low quality sitcom stuff. Terian would have a fit. Maybe I'll web-surf some...

"And I'm definitely going to work up to the big stuff gradually. Maybe it's an angel-thing, and being a demon while trying to deal with that stuff just fries our little green brains."


"Hardly. Either that, or I like my brain nicely fried. If we decide that we have to become Bright to learn how to think, then we've simply come to the conclusion that demons are incapable of anything more then superficial thought. While this may explain why Hell has produced nearly nothing of worth in the millenia it has existed, it simply isn't true. The problem is that the thought processes are viable, but they are so turned inward into analyzing the self that they cannot realize that there is anything else out there in the universe. It's possible that contemplating God is simply one of the steps required to contemplate the world outside of one's own mind, and questioning His validity is questioning one's own rational for acting. The Big Theological questions are a vehicle for examining the world around oneself, without having to focus on the problems of the present."

He shrugs. "I dunno. I don't believe it's valid to say one has to be an angel to be allowed to philosophize. The angels have too many corners on too many markets, if you ask me."


"Yeah, but one of them holds the *Word*-concept. I mean, you ever talk any of this over with a Destiny angel? And that's what I mean about it being an angel-thing -- wondering about God. My brain feels fried. Of course, I've heard Redemption may be sort of like that. So this is like standing in a Heaven-Tether and thinking about shedding the vessel, right?

"To be allowed to philosophize, no problem. But I wonder if the concepts are just going to be painful... We need to find a Bright Sister and ask."


"I've never talked any of this over with a Destiny angel, actually. Right now, I don't have too much motivation to find one and try it, since with my luck it'll be a Malakite and then I'll find myself shopping for a new vessel. No offense, but no thanks. I don't trust them enough to sit down and have a cup of coffee and philosophize with them. I don't trust them enough to make helpful comments about my shoes, even.

"If discussing philosophy and religion is going to be painful in Heaven, then count me out. I'm simply not going then, and now I have to go find some puppies to kick, and some candy to take from babies. I'd prefer my personality doesn't change to preserve my own sense of identity, then to give in, make myself nicer and less offensive to their delicate sensibilities. I'd rather stay in Hell. Pain is fine, agony is understandable, but being persecuted for heresy I'm not going to stand for, for too long."


"Oh, I doubt it's painful up there. But we're not up there. And I don't know. That's what we need the Bright sister for. To tell us whether or not the concepts are bad."

<pause> "Hm. Would a Destiny Malakite get dissonant for offing a curious demon? I mean, isn't that pretty well pushing us towards being demons more? And don't they consider that Fate?"


"They ah, uh, um..." He finally looks confused. "I don't know. They need to kill the curious demon because they took an oath 'suffer no evil to live', and if you want an example of evil, there you go. That's what a demon is, right? A paragon of evil, a testament to pure selfishness, a being who is torn in such a dissassociative neurosis that it literally manifests as a darkening of the soul. On the other hand, killing a demon who is curious sort of answers their questions the hard way - it's a big no and sends them right to the pit to go look at their Hearts and think about death for a while, which basically is just part of the entire neurotic cycle, and reinforces whatever beliefs have set in - a disbelief in Heaven, the lack of faith, all that other good stuff.

"I think the Malakite would end up dissonant. Either it avoids the oaths or it avoids the problem of causing a being to go further toward it's Fate. There's no way to avoid it, and I think the Malakite would have a better argument for getting the dissonance removed for killing the demon."


"But if the curious demon is redeemed, because the Malakite didn't vessel-kill it, then the evil is no longer extant, right? So the Malakite hasn't suffered an evil to live. I mean, most demons, after getting vessel-killed, just pop back after a few weeks, right? So which is the more permanent killing of evil -- redemption, or Trauma?" Ellen crosses her arms. "I bet that not only would the Malakite end up dissonant, for killing a curious demon, but that the Archangel of Destiny would make it scrub toilets for a while instead of removing that dissonance."


"I suppose..." He furrows his brow. "That's a plausible argument, but does the Malakite have that kind of patience? They may be working on the redemption for months, or even years, and it may never happen. Do they get frustrated after a while and just kill the demon? Does it start to look dishonorable to themselves that they are putting off fulfilling their oaths for an extended period of time? I think that Yves may be annoyed, but a Malakite is a Malakite, and they can't fight their nature any more then we can resist a geas when it's called in."


"I suppose it depends on the Malakite. We'd probably have to ask an angel. Or a Malakite. If we could find one who wouldn't toast us instantly. Hm. What if a Destiny Malakite had a vow not to whack people if that would send 'em to their Fate?"


"They cannot do that, because whenever they come in contact with a demon they would become dissonant, and end up as big Malakite bombs. See... they have to take the oath to slay evil, and killing a demon sends them back to Hell, which is technically their Fate. If they don't slay the demon, then they become dissonant. If they do slay the demon, they become dissonant. It's a Catch-22, and they'd probably just end up screaming.

"That's the problem with being a demon who wants a little more out of life then Hell has to offer. You can't get it from Angels, because Angels are motivated to kill you. And you can't get it from Humans, because they don't know. So you just end up frustrated and angry."


"Frustrated, yeah. I dunno about the Malakite thing. You'd think they'd take a little time to see if one was redeemable." <pause> "We need to find someone to ask."


"I suppose. It sounds like one of those things where you just leave them a list to look over, and run. Maybe leave a forwarding address or a post box if they seem friendly enough, get a human to pick up the answers if they don't.

"The problem with angels is that they have a bad habit of stabbing you first, and asking questions later."


"That's what Elohim are for," Ellen says. "Hm. A list. But we need to get a Seraph to look it over, afters, 'cause the Virtues can lie to us. Fortunately, I have just the Seraph..."


"Well, there you go. If you're friendly enough with a Seraph, I suppose you can bundle up all the questions about life and the universe into one package, sit the angel down, and ask it all the questions. Maybe, if you're really lucky, you'll walk away with a few answers that you can understand. Who knows."


"It takes weeks to get understandable answers out of a Seraph," Ellen sighs. "Especially one working for Destiny. But she gets good ice cream to discuss things over."


"Well, ice cream is a definite bonus. If you have to wait and they feed you, you won't see me complaining too often. As long as they aren't dragging anyone in to kill you as you dig into the Rocky Road, I'm fairly happy."


"Teri likes me. She wouldn't want me dead. It would get blood all over her kitchen. She hugs me and cries over my unhappy childhood. Even though it's nothing to get excited about. Maybe we should go see if she's got some time. Or else we can write out a note and give it to her...?"


"Oh, your childhood couldn't have been that bad, really." He grins. "So she's what, a Seraph? She's friendly? We can just sit her down, and pick her brains, and see what she knows about answers to life, the universe, and everything? I figure Seraph aren't too dangerous, just annoying. If she has the time, sitting down would be fun if she could take my certain brand of cynicism for any length of time. Otherwise, I'd go for a note."


"Yeah, well, I don't think my childhood was that bad, but I did buy this vessel from Lust, and she seems to think that was the next best thing to nonconsensual." Ellen shrugs. "And Teri's really quite fun. She's a lot like Mercurians, from what I hear of them. I don't know about your cynicism, though. If she decided she liked you, she'd start hugging you and crying on your shoulder and telling you how sad she was that you believed all those awful things.

"And then she might seduce you. Dunno."

He shrugs. "Lust is lust. At least the price is obvious from Andre, most of the time. Is it our fault that he likes to take vessels out for a test drive? It could certainly be worse, and at least the vessels function properly."

"That's my take on it."

He furrows his brow. "There's nothing wrong with being seduced. I'll take that over all the crying and hearing how sad she is. If that's what is required for finding out Angelic views on things, it's not exactly a bad or uncomfortable price to pay."


"It's a little startling, since she's a Seraph, for crying out loud. But it's okay. She's really very sweet. Has a vessel that was reminding me of a Habbie I knew, so it was a little discomfiting for a while, but I got over that mostly."


"Hmmm. I don't know about all this crying and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Did you explain to her that nothing really all that bad happens to us? That we're Lilim, and this is just how the universe functions around us, and that we're not beaten or anything like that? Well, not usually, but these things happen. I mean, it's nothing to cry about. It's just life."


"Then she cries about how we believe that. So I just say 'There there' and pat her on the shoulder and explain that I'm doing much better now, and wouldn't she like some ice cream? It seems to work."


"Mmmmmm." He perses his lips together in a tight frown. "Why do I have this feeling that I would get irritated rather quickly with this kind of behavior? I understand angelic compassion, and welcome it. But crying over our past does not _change_ it. What we've done is what we've done, there's no reason to dwell on it any more then strictly necessary. As I've said, skipping the crying and going right to the tastee snack seems like a good course to follow." He shrugs. "I'm old and cynical. That's all."


Ellen shrugs. "If you're irritated, you can tell her. And then tell her what sort of comforting you'd prefer. I think it's at least partly an excuse to hug people, personally."


"So the question stands, what if you don't want comforting? I dunno."


Ellen blinks. "Um. I don't know. I suppose she'd probably control herself, if you told her that, and it were True. The weeping on the shoulder stuff I can live without, but the cuddling is nice."


"Hmmm." He ponders, and knows that cuddling will besmirch his carefully crafted angstmonkey image. "Well, far be it from me to impinge on someone's freedom to cuddle. I suppose I can endure through such arduous torture. And maybe cuddle back."


"She'll like being cuddled back. Oh, and she's a, well... She likes being tied up. If she trusts you enough."


"Oh boy." His eyes get a little wider. "Consensual bondage in a Seraph? That's pretty.... well, interesting. A little weird, but interesting. On my list of 'odd facts and trivia'."


"Consensual bondage, consensual, um, pain-play a little. Yeah. Teri is a weird Seraph."


"That is a weird Seraph. And she does this because it's good for the Truth or something? Or just miswired? Or into complete love?"


"It's a trust thing. She likes... giving herself into someone's hands. And it's pleasant enough, for her. She's very... trusting, when she loves someone."


"I would think that the entire concept would bother any truly Free Lilim. There's something a little upsetting about being... bound, although I dunno. If it works for her, then more power to her."


"It bugs me no end, frankly. It would bug me more, but she's got these relic cuffs -- if she's not having fun, if she wants out, they unfasten. They turn gray if she's getting a little unhappy. I tried 'em on once. Turned gray instantly. Didn't stay on more than half a breath, either. So I knew they worked. It's still difficult to deal with."


"Well.... I suppose you must remember that Seraphim are not Lilim, and are not subject to our same restrictions, or prejudices. I would suggest that, to her, the entire concept of Bondage may be, in a way, liberating. She has absolute trust, and doesn't have to worry that the person she is with is going to hurt her. We just have a different mindset on the whole business."


Ellen nods. "Yeah, that's about right. Of course, then she does it to *me* and I don't deal with it well, usually. I mostly go along with that because I know she needs it, sort of. And sometimes it's okay, if I'm trusting myself. But sometimes it gets to me." She sighs. "I guess I kind of think about her almost like a sister, sometimes."


grin "Little green sparkly ones, on a string. You know, the kind you can buy from costume shops for Halloween. Tell her that it'll help her to understand the Lilim Experience."


"I'll do it!"


He just grins.