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Guardians of Prophecy
The car pulled to the gate guarding the grounds of an immaculate estate. His sources confirmed its recent acquisition by the Smith Foundation when its owner extended the invitation to come today.

Their car was admitted entrance, and swung smoothly around the circular drive. When they came to the front steps, Armande emerged without waiting for his door to be opened for him. He viewed himself a servant first and foremost. He was no more king of the Atharim than the Holy Father was of the Church.

The ignorant would confuse him for a cleric, but he was confident Mr. Smith would not. It was a common misconception forwarded by his position over the Vatican Historical Society and some of his more conservative clothing such as what he wore today. Armande abstained from any color but the most pilgrim and penitent, but the muted selection of his current attire, a stylized cassock, similar to the ankle-length robes of the Roman Catholic church, was the shade of spent ash and his high-necked collar was of the warm blanket of desert sand. Together with Armande's white-flecked hair, his luminous blue eyes were all the brighter and piercing with the knowledge of the Age. None could say he was a drab man.

He held his hands behind his back while waiting at the door.
"Mr. Smith, your guest has arrived."

John took one last look around the room before Armande arrived. This was where their meeting would take place. John's staff clearly did the impossible when they transformed this vacant mansion into a home in 48 short hours. His loft had never been home. It served as a library, office, study, workshop, and crash-pad but it was never home.

The room was somewhat plainly furnished today. Two nice chairs facing each other with a coffee table in between them. Two display stands shared the room, each stand had two stone tablets on them.

On the first table stood the two tablets that John had already translated. Both of these two tablets were in Egyptian hieroglyphics, Sumerian cuneiform, Greek, an obscure Hebrew dialect, and a language that John had never encountered. Written over 2000 years before either Greek or Hebrew were supposed to exist as a languages.

One of the tablets on the second table was written entirely in this unknown language. On the top of the tablet was a picture of an ouroboros. John couldn't help but think that the picture had an ominous meaning in itself. The second tablet looked to be a map of a planet. Could it have been what our world used to look like before some catastrophic event from the past?

When the door knocked, John answered it personally. He had no misconceptions about this meeting. He was not here to impress nor to be impressed. This meeting was to access either a future ally or a future enemy. The only reason that John could believe for this meeting was his recent discovery, so John made these tablets the centerpiece of the room.

"Good morning, Armande. Welcome to my home."
John offered his guest his hand and led him into the meeting room. John was somewhat surpised by Armande. The man was maybe 20 years John's senior but appeared to be in perfect shape. The man had a presence that one would expect on a world leader or a seasoned general. He had a focus about him. The man seemed to notice everything around him at the merest glance. Armande was like a specialized tool forged to accomplish a specific purpose and furthermore, that tool seemed exceptionally honed with use.

John prayed that this meeting would end amicably. Armande seemed to be the kind of man who would make either the staunchest of allies or the bitterest of enemies.

"Can I offer you anything to drink? I assume that these are the purpose of our meeting?"

Edited by doulou, Nov 4 2013, 02:28 PM.
Armande appreciated the austerity of Mr. Smith's home. Any evidence of recent habitation was overlooked by his all-seeing study. He had little reason to suspect Mr. Smith of a duplicitous nature, therefore he need not waste the magnitude of his thoughts on dissecting the man's backstory.

He was led to an likewise grand, if ascetic room. By far the most dynamic point in view was the man that greeted him. Mr. Smith was young, but commanding of himself and those around him. But the man's first impression countered his informal greeting. He was American. An impressive education could not strip a man of uncouth upbringing, but the familiar use of his name did not bother Armande. It was merely a passing thought.

Derision was the cut of Armande's coat. Snobbery the scent of his cologne. It was he who dealt the young Mr. Smith a favor by attending the man's home this autumn day.

He entered, hands remaining clasped behind his back. His stride was purposeful yet leisurely as he was immediately drawn toward the tablets already on display.

"You have made a fine home, Mr. Smith. Yes, I will accept a drink" No smile accompanied the polite words, yet somehow Armande managed to not seem unlikable. His presence was soothing as in the way of a beloved protector who calms the anxiety of his soldiers before battle. He bowed his head as he was led to the object of his recent thoughts.

He circled each table bearing the pairs of tablets. The first set was in a surprising combination of languages. Five, to be exact. None of which were unknown to Armande. Including the mysterious fifth language.

The second pair of tablets were studied with the same silent interest as the first. The map he dismissed. The tablet with the ouroboros, however, struck him instantly.

Done with his initial browsing, he met Mr. Smith in the center near the coffee tables. He swept back the long folds of his cassock to sit, posture straight and formal. He regarded Mr. Smith with a well-controlled excitement. "What are your thoughts on these unusual findings? Another fraud?" He did not think so, yet Armande referenced Mr. Smith's recent discoveries. In doing so, he shared his skepticism and his knowledge at the same time, but the true reason was to hear Mr. Smith's opinion. For Armande was truly interested in it.

Which was why the man was still alive.

Edited by Regus, Nov 5 2013, 02:41 PM.
It was immediately clear to John that Armande was not what he seemed to the casual observer. Diplomacy, dissemination, and intrigue must have been bred into the man. Armande knew what the fifth language was. But how? John had no delusions as to who was the master here when it came to ancient languages. Armande was better educated and far more experienced. The man was in perfect control of his emotions and body language. He gave no sign of recognizing the language nor of his keen interest in the forth tablet.

No sign unless you could smell his scent of satisfaction and confirmation both at the first sight of the fifth language. Confirmation of what? Armande's heart rate increased fractionally at the fourth tablet. Just as quickly as it spiked it was back under control. The smelled like a cat who had just caught a mouse and trying to decide if he should let it go so he could catch it again or just kill it. Shitty part was there was no malice. It reminded John of a time when in mid-thesis he had an epiphany and completely changed the direction of his paper. Do I edit this one or scrap it and start over? The man wasn't evil. He just didn't seem to hold human life in very high esteem. Not a very endearing thought.

Then Armande displayed the mind of a true tactician. He asked John's opinion on the findings. he also worded the question in such a way that John knew that Armande had recognized the inconsistencies and still believed them to be authentic. He also worded it in a way that was reminiscent of classic Greek by using a negative statement to mean a positive acceptance of said statement. John wasn't just intrigued, he was impressed. So he gave Armande his head.

"One would assume them to be fraudulent, but I seriously doubt that is the case here. At first glance it would appear to be an elaborate hoax. Too much effort was put into these tablets. So much so that it screams forgery. I have concluded that each tablet has was made at roughly the same time and that all the writing on each tablet was done together. None of the inscriptions were added at a later date."

"I authenticated the date of the tablets to be just over 5000 years old. Which as you know should be impossible. Hebrew and Greek are thought to be only 3000 years old. But my findings are conclusive. I did not oversee the discovery, but I was intimately involved in the recovery of the tablets. I am confident that more of such writing are onboard, but the weather has hindered our recovery efforts."

Since Armande so graciously accepted John's invitation and although not treating John as an equal he didn't treat John as the inferior even though that was obviously how the man saw things, John gave him a bone.

"The fifth language is peculiar in many ways. The text appears to be very repetitive with no obvious punctuation. The lettering resembles many European alphabets and it appears to be an actual language and not a cypher. By using the other four languages on the first two tablets, I have began translating the fourth tablet."

John locked eyes with Armande. He wanted to make sure that the man herd and understood what he was about to say with complete clarity. "I believe that the first two tablets are about Nikolai Brandon. They state that the Ascendency is Harbinger of Doom, The Man of Perdition. He is, in the Biblical sense, the Anti Christ."

"All this I believe, by both your reaction and lack thereof, is common knowledge to you."
John sat back and waited. He couldn't help but feel as there was either a bullet from a rooftop or a knife in the dark waiting for him.
"Lex parsimoniae," Occam's Razor Armande uttered. His tone was flat, yet his intention was leading. In the Regus was bred the soul of a teacher, a leader. He was going to participate in the conversation with Mr. Smith as both. The principle he was demonstrating preceded William of Ockham's death by philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle and all the way back to Ptolemy in the first century. Occam's razor was, of course, not an arbitrary rule nor one justified by its practical success. It simply said that unnecessary elements in a symbolism mean nothing. Signs which serve one purpose were logically equivalent, signs which serve no purpose were logically meaningless.

The simplest hypothesis to explain the existence of what cannot logically exist was that the tablets were fraud, however Armande knew of hundreds of beasts, signs, portals, and spirits which existed despite their inconsistency with logic. The question was, did Mr. Smith? Was he the sort of man to believe in the existence of what lived beyond the farthest reaches of human logic? Beyond faith. Could he accept reality when it was in utter contradiction with his definition of realism? He was currently engaged in conversation with the Regus of the Vatican Historical Society, after all. Would he be able to accept that the Vicar of Iscariot was a brother equally burdened with responsibility as the Vicar of Christ?

"You will never be able to translate the fourth tablet." Armande said, then upon Mr. Smith's shocked expression, he explained farther.
"You are correct, it is no cypher. It is glossolalia: verbal behavior resembling human speech intonation, rhythm, and melody but is only a string of sounds the speaker understood. A façade of a language." A knowing look hinted in the planes of his face. Yes, he recognized it. Question was whether the Regus UNDERSTOOD it. He was impressed with Mr. Smith so far. They continued to hold one another's gaze. Each bearing cards they had yet to reveal.

Mr. Smith was correct to assume Armande's reaction to the naming of an anti-christ.
"What evidence have you of such a claim?" He asked, however, he neither substantiated nor refuted the claim itself, for his enlightened mind was filled with many grave doubts that the Ascendancy was the anti-christ, but he had not ruled out the possibility. More likely, if anything, he was something else altogether: the angel of the bottomless pit.

Instead, he only continued to ask questions, drawing out the inner recesses of Mr. Smith's mind: thoughts he'd not dared suggest to anyone else yet he was now going to share with a representative of the Vatican. A disassociated member of the Holy See, separate enough to entertain the outrageous without drawing the controversy of the world's billions of believers, but nonetheless, a man burning with all the Church's secrets inside him that he could assimilate the claims across the entire span of what was, what is, and what was yet to come.

If Mr. Smith proved to be an asset, he might view a glimpse of the larger picture the Regus studied daily. Things known only between he and His Holiness, himself.
John skipped a beat. Armande had more layers than an onion. Each one being infinitely more complex than the previous. Nothing shook the man. Even when surprised his recovery was almost immediate. Armande might be associated with the Church, but it was now obvious that we was in fact separate from it as well.

So he didn't take much stock in the Anti Christ possibility, but he did have his own assumptions as to who Brandon was. If Brandon wasn't Armande's enemy, Armande was clearly Brandon's enemy. John was very close to the mark.

Armande's scent changed ever so slightly as he asked John "What evidence have you of such a claim?"
Gone was the 'do I kill it now or later' scent (well, suppressed more than gone). What replaced is was more of approval mixed with contemplation. Like a master evaluating the progress of his apprentice; trying to decide if the boy was fit to be let of apron strings. In any other circumstance John might have been flattered.

John did what any Padawan would do when faced with a question from a Jedi Master. He answered. "The strongest evidence is the man himself. By using the name Ascendancy he is proclaiming himself as a 'god'. His actions and persona are of a man who believes that he is at the very least divinely guided but more likely the physically manifestation of a divine being. Although the writing call him the 'angel of the abyss he fits more into the description of the 'man of perdition'. "

"The prophetic writings in front of us all easily fit him.
The bloodless conqueror, who will conquer not with armies and machines of war, but with gold and guile.
Is a good description of his rise to power.
He will move into the East and dominate the land.
His origin simply explained
and the world will crumble with his coming.
Where he walks, the Earth shall crumble at his feet.
Both of these two lines can be applied to the annexation of half of the world by the CCD in such a short span of time.

"Where I draw a blank is with the lines
He will be marked with the slain beast
The Great Serpent shall be torn from his flesh
. I believe that they are related to one another, but I don't know how. Is there anything about it that you are willing to share with me? I am not sure how closely you and I are in purpose, but I don't think that we are in opposition. The fact that I am still breathing confirms to me that you haven't decided that I am an enemy as of yet. I am not trying to be rude or disrespectful, but I believe that time is in short supply.

"In closing,
his worm does not die and his fire is unquenched
could refer to his longevity. He is at least sixty years old and yet appears no more than a day over thirty."

Edited by doulou, Nov 6 2013, 03:59 PM.
Most men think they are gods, and it appeared the Ascendancy just happened to be right. It was a sobering thought. Dozens of attempts had been made against the man's life. Atharim assassins spent months infiltrating the husk of security surrounding the CCD's leader and were never seen again. The Regus had to assume their demise. One by one, flicked away like flies swarming horseflesh.

As Mr. Smith outlined his evidence - which was well analyzed for being the basis off which to hurl the world's most ominious title the antichrist based on a single passage from an ill-translated prophecy twisted by oral tradition - the Regus folded his hands across his lap and absorbed the man's countenance during the delivery rather than the words themselves. The passage quoted was as prosaic to Armande's position as was WWJD stamped on a rubber bracelet. It was meaningless hype unless considered in the full tapestry of prophetic events. The Regus, any Regus, was the world's foremost expert on the End Times', not only described by the Catholic religion, but by all religions, including the Atharim's own. In fact, the anomaly presented in Mr. Smith's tablets were explained by a very simple truth, the one alluded to by William of Ockham's razor.

They were Atharim writings. Dated long before the reorganization beneath their first Regus, Iudas Sicarius - a Man of The Dagger in Latin, one of a cadre of assassins defined in the Arabic as Atharii, and today, the Atharim. They were popularized as Hebrew resistance fighters standing up to Rome, but their true cause was the same two-thousand years ago as it was now. As it was when those tablets were inscribed.

The true legacy of Iudas Sicarius would be unknown to Mr. Smith. The Regus and the Pope worked closely for the last two-thousand years to conceal this great matter. An assassin's mistaking the Jewish Messiah - who in the man's defense, actually claimed to BE God - for the godly Apollyon, would unhinge the balance of the world as was known at the time. In hindsight, it did not matter. If anything, it brought together two pillars of the world, the church and the Atharim, to working toward the same goal: preventing armageddon. 'At least in theory.'

One implication was not overlooked by Armande. The suggestion that his presence meant Mr. Smith's life was in danger. It was true, for Armande could snap the man's spine as soon as shake the man's hand. He was an assassin, a metaphysical servant of what NEEDED TO BE rather than any one institution. Certainly, if man or beast needed slain, he would immediately tend the task, but Armande was not needlessly violent.

His tone was not offended, merely rebuking in a neutral manner. Just because Mr. Smith respected the truth, did not mean he should speak it. Some things should NOT be uttered aloud.

"I do not appreciate the overtone you suggest, sir. The Vatican Historical Society serves the Church, and murder is a cardinal sin. If men 'ceased breathing' as you so brutally described every time I disagreed with their academic perspective, few men would remain."

He quickly moved on. As far as he was concerned, the issue was cleared and never to be brought up in his presence again. In response to Mr. Smith's arguments, Armande delved into one of the many deep pockets of his robes and retrieved a Personal Wallet.

"I will show you something."

The image of a scroll appeared between them, Words scrolled on the air between them. The language was that of Sumarian cuneiform, but beneath followed a tranlsation into Akkadian, transcribed by one known as a scribe of the kingship of Bad-tibira, a city located in what was now southern DV, previously known as Iraq, and identified by the modern name of Tell-al-Madineh. Or later called Pantibiblos by the Greek author Apollodorus of Athens.

Armande did not explain this history to Mr. Smith, but let the man study the image at his leisure. Again, he wanted to ascertain the breadth of Mr. Smith's knowledge while yet showing him how little he actually knew. Humility was the foundation on which devotion was built.

"This is merely a translation of an older record easily ten thousand years old." How Armande knew that, he did not reveal. The original was gone, and like so many prophecies, only remnants remained.

He flipped the screen, and the words dissolved into English:

“..and a new god shall rise, an abomination born in the newest of lands, essence of evil divine, he shall be the over thrower and destroyer of the human race. — And evil Power will be given him to desolate the whole earth with authority which thou hast not seen before.”

One word, again, appeared: Destroyer. Common to so many of these passages.

He transformed the selection into a table he'd spent a lifetime constructing, highlighting similar phrases across the breadth of ancient languages:

pasāsu - Akkadian, referencing the razing of a government
habāt - proto-Semitic, to be overthrown and destroyed

and so on.

He spoke while Mr. Smith studied the work.

"Your question about slain beast and great serpent is valid, and I have an answer for you. These are the signs which mark the Destroyer. They confirm what you conjecture as accusation toward the Ascendancy. However, take care, Jesus Christ himself may have fulfilled some of those other criteria as easily as Christopher Columbus. It is a dangerous matter to allow preconceived notions define your truths. For once the suggestion is made, you will seek and over-inflate evidence to substantiate your suspicion, while dismissing the evidence against as trivialities. The Ascendancy is a dangerous man. Of this there is no debate, however the man bearing a Mark of the Slain Beast ripped from torn flesh has yet to be found."
Annoyed. The man was annoyed by John's comment. Annoyed but not offended. He almost appeared pleased that John had rightly assessed the situation, but displeased that John voiced it a loud. A many layered man indeed.

A prophetic writing that was over 10,000 years old? Armende was in possession of 'merely a translation of an older record easily ten thousand years old'
? He said it in such a matter-of-fact manner that John believed him. Even if this was the only piece known to be that old John was sure that Armande was in possession of many works older than the ones that John had uncovered. John wondered if Armande had the original pieces or just transcriptions. No, John wondered what else Armande might be willing to share. And at what cost.

Cuneiform script was the oldest writing system known to exist, but it is generally believed to be only 5500 years old or so. Sumerian being the oldest form commonly known to exist followed by Akkadian. "Was it originally in cuneiform script or something older?"
John had the feeling that Armande was baiting him, but it didn't matter. The hook was set.

"The Great Serpent. More accurately, it is ouroboros. The ouroboros is what is torn from his flesh. The first part of the translation you shared also seems to lead to Brandon. Evil Power? That seem to suggest a Good Power. Is it safe to assume that the Ascendancy can do... things?"

Edited by doulou, Nov 11 2013, 12:44 PM.
Their conversation was beginning to take a turn toward the darker spectrum of what was known by the lay public. Armande's authority was uncontested in these matters. He could disseminate the collection of his knowledge at will, none would stop him. However, a mere man who lived on the dark side of the moon was not prone to trust what was illuminated by giants. Not when he was aware of what lay waiting in the black beyond filling the gap between worlds.

"The beginning and the end of time," Armande uttered reverently the description of the ouroboros' symbolism, followed by a definition in the Latin provided by the philosopher Maurus Servius Honoratus. "Annus secundum Aegyptios indicabatur ante inventas litteras picto dracone caudam suam mordente, quia in se recurrit."

According to the Egyptians, before the invention of the alphabet the year was symbolized by a picture, a serpent biting its own tail, because it recurs on itself

He continued with thorough depth, yet still concealed the full breadth of all he could say. "Voces magicae," he answered. "The original script is lost, and only translations remain. Yet references are made that appeal to an older civilization than the Sumerian and Akkadian. Stories come from somewhere, Mr. Smith. Ἀτλαντὶς νῆσος was to have been the great naval power during the tenth millennium BC for instance. The Antediluvian world is largely unknown to us, but the pillars of the church uphold tenants of a fearsome and powerful humanity that out of catastrophe crawled our pitiful cave-dwelling ancestors that had to rediscover the use of fire to char their very food." The Regus crossed his legs, looking unimpressed by the tale.

"You ask about the word, 'power.' It is unknown the original intent of the word. However, the translation we just viewed links the word to similar contexts as described in Papryi Graecae Magicae - a cache of papyryi of magical spells collected in the 1800's Egypt. Such as the word 'heku'," meaning magic or more specifically, the aspect of a deity possessing magic, in the ancient Egyptian. Of course, as a master of the language, surely Mr. Smith would appreciate the subtle difference in definition.

However, Armande assumed the contents of the PGM were outside Mr. Smith's field of expertise, therefore he explained for his sake, more of their significance. The context of the writings were written in the voces magicae, which was a convoluted way to go about answering Mr. Smith's question: what was the prophecy's original script?

"The PGM spells run the gamut of magical practices from initiatory rites for immortality to love spells and healing rites. Most of the papyri are in Greek and Demotic with glosses in Old Coptic and are dated between the 2nd century BC and the 5th century AD. The spells call upon Greek, Egyptian, Jewish, Gnostic and Christian deities. Most of the actual words are untranslatable, consisting of strings of vowel sounds or incantations invoking the names of daimons and deities, often in palindromes and thirty to forty characters in length with many possible utterances."

Could the Ascendancy do things? While Armande was aware of what Mr. Smith implied, the man needed to learn to assume less and clarify more. For his assumptions, Armande was not going to enable him by playing along. Instead, he went to great lengths to explain a concept with all he shared these last few minutes. However, while extremely obscure, the knowledge he shared was not completely unique to his position as Regus. He had yet to share any specific Atharim or church secrets. He was still testing the waters.

"And what exactly do you mean by, things, Mr. Smith?"
There was something in the way that Armande asked his question. His emotions seemed to waiver. s if he were at the cusp of a decision What was Armande thinking? It most be something important to momentarily shift the man's focus.

John as not about to divulge too much of his mission to this man. Especially not his 'abilities'. "You are well aware of the fact that I am a collector of ... unconventional artifacts?"
Armande just looked at John, waiting for him to continue. "I am about to have a few things brought into the room. They would seem bizarre and out of place for a career student such as myself, but for some reason I doubt that any thing would surprise you."

John hit a button built into his chair, "Joab will please bring in the table. And the refer cabinet."
As soon as the words were out of John's mouth, the door opened with a man wheeling in a small table and another man wheeling in a sizeable steel and glass cabinet. "Thank you gentlemen, I will call you shortly to replace these things."

The small table held a wide assortment of tactical firearms and close quarters weapons, all of which were in immaculate condition. The 'cabinet' contained a few bodies. Autopsies were obviously done by highly qualified individuals. In the case was a rougarou, a chupakabra, a human, and a dreyken. John looked at Armande and began to tell him a story that began about 10 years ago.

"10 years ago, I went on a hunting trip in Central Texas. I went with two other people who failed to identify our objective properly to me. We encountered a creature that also resembled a human a distance. As you can see, it was quite resilient and not easily killed. I had it preserved and the organs studied. I can't prove that it was human, but I believe that was originally. Whether the change was from design or mutation, I have not been able to verify. It is not the sort of thing that one can go ask medical professionals. At least not the legitimate ones."

"The 'goat sucker' we killed in the Rio Grande valley. That is the Mexicans believe to be a chupakabra. Nasty little bastard. And fast. We got the 'man in the same valley. He, I know, was a man. The physiological changes seem to have been caused by a chemical reaction in the brain. It is related some how to the chupakabra."

"The other 'human-like' creature was nearly impossible to bring down. It was hit over thirty times with a .45 caliber bullet. I didn't think that I was going to survive that encounter. I decapitated after it was killed. We fought it on three separate occasions before finally bringing it down. I wasn't taking any chances."

"We live in an age of darkness. Things that should not be walk this earth, and they prey on mankind. You ask what I mean by my question as to whether the Ascendancy can do 'things'? The answer is I am not sure what I know exactly what means in truth. But I suspect that it could be anything from the manipulation of matter, light, or even the human mind. Power that is the thing of legends."

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