Title: An Invention, In Parts
Author: the Grynne
Written for: Serenissima
Character: Mazikeen (Sandman, Lucifer)

This Being of mine, whatever it really is, consists of a little flesh, a little breath, and the part which governs.
-- MARCUS AURELIUS

1.

The flesh is unimportant. An unfilled cup. Dying, every instant, and reborn a thousand times. No philosophy, only fact.

She does not need books to tell her about her being; and no vague intuition of life hereafter stands to muddle her thoughts, as with the stripling get of Adam. She only knows: nothing is simpler than pain, sure and real in its austerity. Stronger than the network of veins and bones that hold her flesh together, she is beautiful cold stone against him, body barren and unresisting like dry sand. No, he could not hurt her. The burden of the offence lay always in the abstract, thinks Mazikeen; in the fragile.

"It is an abominable thing," said the Artificer Scoria, come the twelfth day of their bargain. (The fabric of time extends, like words of the Creator, into every place; to Hell even, and to here, the Realms of Pain.) "These somatic, carnal selves we are beholden to, and to which we perforce acquiesce." How her fingers longed to try the quickness of her knife and pare his bristly coal-black rump. Spill his seed like the stinking innards of rotten fruit.

Then, without notice, it began.

"No greater knowledge than self-knowledge. No greater power than the power over self. In a limited sense, wife - that is what an alembic would do, you know. Syphon your thoughts, your desires, however great or small, your entire being into pure, refractable parts. So compartmentalised. So . . . efficient." He thinks like an engineer, towards an ideal composed solely of totalities and absolutes.

Mazikeen did not press him. Banking on further encouragement and hearing none, Scoria said no more until the twentieth day, when he revealed how the alembic could be disguised beneath the flesh.

"Wilfulness is most unbecoming; unfit even on that incomplete structure you call a face. If I thought I could trust you with the details, I would fashion a device to rid you of it entirely. Or rather, stow the ugliness behind that silver mask you wear, where you may never even know it existed. A moiety like that, you can hide, but not destroy."

Scoria's glowing yellow eyes looked as if he was thinking how much he wished otherwise. Then he laughed: a loud, grunting sound. "It is an exceedingly straightforward procedure, my dear."

All the time she filed this knowledge of his art away, as deeply as she was able within the still and the unknowable: that same labyrinthine place that keeps and shelters all her secrets, all her shame, and all her love. Contradictions and doubts.

None of them things she can confront with her sword.

She knows what she wants to be. To dare, to have the conviction to make it so, was the hardest part. At this, Mazikeen almost smiles: never before did she see herself as lacking in will.

The forty-eighth day brought a sudden, unmistakable warning: "The result could be unpredictable, capricious. When all is laid out in front of you, when aspects invisible from even yourself are made clear, who can say how your intentions might change. Do not be fooled: this body, those thoughts, are your own, and though the flesh is divisible, you are not. It will not help you to objectify yourself."

This was so unlike Scoria's usual imperious temerity that Mazikeen wanted only to dismiss it. But the alembic could only ever be a crude amputation, she knew.

And already there was the fear, for what else might be lost.

She must choose, act before she can falter.

On this day, the fiftieth day, she takes off all her clothes, redresses in the tatters that she came to him in. She leaves Scoria's house and walks towards Effrul. Her bare feet tread a pattern of blood-flesh.

2.

Come, the Lilim.

Let the horror sear your lungs as you swallow the air; smell the sulphur, the blood and bile and sweat. Drink up and enjoy it, brothers and sisters. For this is Hell. Below burn a thousand million human souls in mortal agony. Their screams resound in every spire; echo nightmarishly in every wood; every plain and moor is buffeted by those screams. The view, you must agree, is most excellent. Although you are ill-served here - it is one more place where you do not belong - most of the Lilim who come to Hell come for just this ambiance of their enemies' suffering.

With mixed feelings, Mazikeen remembers what Lucifer said unto their gathering in that time not long after the fall: "Your war on the Host is over, Children of Lilith. You lost.

"We do not want your petty grievances here. Either cast it aside. Or leave."

How pathetic they must look to him; like scrabbling dogs licking their wounds, nursing their grudges in his realm. They remind him too much, she muses sadly, of his own failed rebellion against Heaven.

The Adversary. Others have always regarded him as defined through opposition. They see his arrogance, his power, his will that brings a million stars to shine. Only she sees how utterly alone he is.

Her greatest wish: to be Lucifer's companion. Stay with him forever. To love him, she needs only to be Mazikeen. Yet the old feeling, the loyalty, being born in her, bred into her cursed features, will not go away; unable to be expressed, she does not understand it entirely herself. The Lilim is more than a family, it is a nation. How can she betray them, knowing that she is in no small way responsible for their state of exile?

She allows a tear for that burden, and then quashes it.

She can. She will.

To stay with him, she must be just Mazikeen, nothing more. She shall forget her mother, forget her father, forget her own. When a limb is hindering you, cut it off; that is what the mind and the will decides. She is a soldier. She shall be his soldier, scour the Lilim from her memory and her concern, and forsake all others to never leave his side. And if there is pain, the phantom ache of what she will have renounced, she will bear it. As she will all other consequences.

Half flawless. Half decayed. Her face stares back at her from the inside of the vessel. Exceedingly straightforward. Once the initial concept has been grasped.

She gives no throwaway promises; she guards her emotions too dearly for that. Yet her spirit she will shatter and reassemble. The only name her heart shall breathe will be his.

So she draws out her knife to wet the copper with a trickle of her blood.

3.

A single direction. A single purpose. Anew.

Some of the demons of the inferno watch her as she passes. They raise muzzles and halt whips. The sounds of gnashing are subdued in her wake. (Not all the dead souls - for whose benefit these mechanisms of torments plough steadily on - are lucid, but those that are feel something akin to disappointment at experiencing this unceremonious, brief respite.) Some of the immortals even know her as Mazikeen, daughter of Ophur. One of the Lilim.

She does not spare them a look or thought; she continues on.

The tower, the tower is where she finds him this time. This time she will not be turned away.

(The End)