The Black Crown


The Progenitor of Sorrow

The sky was dark with pain the day we lost The First.
My, how Serah loved him. It was a sight to behold. The way she knelt in devotion, the sheer magnificence of Syzal’s chosen one who bent to the will of a mortal. A human whose name has since been erased from history, forgotten as Serah demanded. His life hardly a whisper in the thousands of years that have passed… but I remember. It is my duty, to remember it all.
When he came to us out of Syzal’s careful hands, he fell to Materia and where he first set foot, life began to bloom. The world erupted with trees and fields, filled with flowers and beasts of Syzal’s careful design. We were careful, perhaps too much so with The First Man. Perhaps, had we been more careful, then Serah would not have gone. Syzal worked tirelessly as he built the man from earth and flame, perhaps the purpose was not what we saw in him but what he allowed us to see within ourselves. My siblings turned our noses at the human, unwilling to find him on Materia, all of us but Serah. Still, even if we consider the vile lives of the humans in comparison, the First, Ran’anan was different. Remarkably so.
He radiated from within, created with skin from our father himself. The First Man was given Ether so that he could feel like we felt, he could believe as we believed, and from that Ether, he went on to live out his long days on Materia. It was only a matter of time before he met Serah, my eldest sister, and the two fell in love.
Oh dear Serah, Syzal’s first angel. Though we didn’t know then, it was fate that had sewn them together. Syzal feared their love, so much so that he wrought a plan of blood to separate them. His first angel and dearest child, he yearned to break her free from the only thing she loved in all of creation.


The First Love

The first human who was birthed from within himself was precious to our father but he was not the first creation that saw the glowing love of the young god. No, Syzal’s first love truly was Serah, and it was the first purity we’d known. She was the daughter that he never knew he needed. The creature whose entire existence was a mystery, even to her.
She had taken fondly to the first and loved him wholly. They spent their days together in the gardens of Materia. They danced and sang and made a life together that was precious to them, and we all watched from beyond the veil as each night she would take to his home and each morning she would return to the trees and the leaves, by his side. Even still, we noticed something that she did not. Each passing day The First would wake ever so slower than the day before. His mind began to slog through memory and found them hard to summon, his bones began to ache and pop. Yet he remained beside her. As the days continued, Syzal remained locked in his workshop, intending on crafting the perfect human being.
When he finally emerged, he found Serah was down on his precious rock, dancing with the one she loved. Sometimes I wonder still if his jealousy was honest, or spiteful. He worked tirelessly while his first children of our bloodlines danced and loved beneath the sunlight. He toiled away to craft a second, more perfect vision to carry out his grand plan. Each new day began with his work, and each new day Serah remained beside The First. There was no one this bothered more than father, so he took to crafting the second as a woman. He pulled her from his flesh, to be the perfect mate for The First. Her body made desirable to him and her mind to intertwine with his own. Her heart yearned for his love, and Syzal’s second human was born with goodwill in his mind. He had great plans for Serah…
But goodwill can so often be poison.


The Second’s Love

Syzal, thinking himself quite clever, placed The Second in the fields under the cover of night. He departed from Materia by sunrise as The First rose from his slumber beside Serah and stepped out into the morning dew. There he found a woman whose beauty could only be battled by Serah’s own lying naked in the fields.
Syzal watched as Serah woke and found her, and he saw her eyes fall dark as she looked through the veil at him with scorn. He knew then the mistake he had made but believed that it couldn’t be undone. Perhaps he wished Serah a different life for her. Perhaps, he wished to remind her that she was a servant, not a child. He once said that he wished her joy in the purest form, but was unwilling to force her hand. Yet he’d forced her hand that day to turn away from us.
Syzal’s decision was final, as they always were. He had placed The Second in the fertile grass, her body ripe and willing to meet The First. He watched as Serah struggled to pull her mind from the realm of impossibility, The First still loved her so, and Syzal could see it in his eyes.
The days after her creation, Syzal returned to tell the Second of Ran’anan’s greatest weakness, afraid that Serah would come to vanquish her in fury, he blessed The Second with a crown of his own bone which she wore with grace. She offered this crown to Ran’anan upon their next meeting, and Serah was furious. She left in her anger back to Aghartha where she confronted Syzal as The Second took the First, yearning to please him, into the wilderness where they remained until she returned.
Serah never knew pain or fear before then. She remained faithful to The First despite Syzal’s desires. She loved him from the bottom of her heart, and that love would be the very thing to undo the lives of all of them. She bore a secret that she had brought to Aghartha with her, and when The First had returned without the Second, she descended with joy in her heart.
They were to have children, she told her lover. They were to spurn forth a new generation that would one day populate his dream just as Syzal intended. The First, racked with guilt and conflicted joy, took her back to his home where they remained for the rest of the night.
The Second stood outside their hut and watched, quietly, with her crown atop her head as the sun fell from the sky and rose again.
As the morning sun rose, Serah danced below having fled from Syzal’s throne, and the young god looked down from above knowing that he had hurt his beloved child so fiercely without her knowledge. Before the day was over, Serah would soon discover that The Second was with child.


The Dark Children…

Serah’s pregnancy was blessed ultimately by her angelic heritage. The days counted down as the host of Aghartha watched with wonder, discovering new life within themselves as well. Days passed as Serah came to term and then birthed seven children. Half breeds of man and angel that came to be known as Nephilim.
Syzal, who had not left his halls since the announcement of her pregnancy, arrived on the day of their birth to take Serah home with a firm hand, he commanded her to leave the First and Second to care for her children as he locked her inside the city, disallowing her free return to Materia. Day and night passed as Serah’s pleas to return to her children fell upon deaf ears.
As Syzal locked her within the White Tower, she was greeted by another angel. Ibnos, a good friend of Serah’s since her creation vowed to watch over the children until she could return. She agreed only when he slipped her a key to the gates, and secured her free passage back to the man she loved.
Serah waited until the time was right before she left, and when the day came she escaped Aghartha and snapped the key in two, throwing it back to the worlds below. She fled from Syzal’s wrath, and he pursued as they descended to Materia and Serah found The Second ready to give birth.


…of Holy Death

Syzal shackled Serah to The Second and commanded that she aid the woman in her labor, and fearing what would come of her if she disobeyed, she did as she was told. When the human child was born, Syzal was overcome with glee that in this perfect world he had created, he had managed to create a life that would replicate itself. He shouted and danced in victory as Serah sat motionless beside the man she’d once loved so dearly. Her children gathered around her and broke her free of the shackles, and as they fell away from her wrist she left the presence of the young god and his frail creation. Syzal did not see her leave but instead rejoiced in the birth of the human boy.
As the Seven Nephilim watched their mother vanish into the dark night, their doting uncle Ibnos approached and scooped them up. He promised that night that they would forever be safe, even if their mother was gone.
It was some time before Serah returned to the sight of the Agharthans, or even to The First. When she returned to him she met her children who had grown quite well and offered what remained of her love to each of them.
The sudden appearance of their mother sent the Nephilim into an overjoyed frenzy, and they turned to the human boy to celebrate. They threw him and tossed him into the air as they cheered, and their frenzy overcame them as they clamped their horrid jaws around the human and tore his meat from his bones. The Nephilim gleefully cheered as they licked the blood from between the blades of grass and Serah’s eyes fell upon them. She was overcome with an emotion she had never known before.
Fear.


O’Death

From that day onward, the Second disappeared and remained hidden to all but the wisest of Agharthans, and Serah remained in Materia, knowing what would happen if she returned home. Years passed as The First began to change before her, surrounded by their children who watched in awe, his flesh began to turn grey and weak. His skin wrinkled as his bones grew brittle. His hair grew strands of fine silver with each loving kiss that Serah had offered him, and yet she remained as youthful and vibrant as she had the day they’d first met.
Syzal watched this from his throne in silence, knowing the mistake she had made would soon return to haunt him. Serah was his first creation, the first piece in a grand puzzle he had dreamed of creating. The humans were his children, the angels their siblings. Each one was given a task and among the Seven Seraphim, each was charged with a greater duty than the rest. Serah, my dear sister, was one of the Hallowed like myself, the Aspect of Death. She was wholly and truly the essence of death, all who were near her were overcome by the stench of rot and ruin and yet, she was luminous. She did not know what her charge truly meant, that one day her very presence would kill the man she so loved, but it did.
The First died in her arms with their children watching her, and the first of the Agharthans to come to her aid was Ibnos. As the body of The First fell to the ground and turned cold, Ibnos came to care for the Nephilim in Serah’s time of need. The angel took her children to a secret place and allowed them the freedom to grow while Serah mourned the only thing she’d truly ever loved.
She called out to Syzal, denying his order to reap the soul of Ran’anan. Instead, she forced the soul out of her own and left it on the Earth to live that she might still find him to love. Syzal in return begged for her forgiveness, as his intricate dream would never come true without her. She ignored him for centuries as he begged and pleaded until he offered her a promise…


The Only Certainty

Syzal came down to Serah on the day of the promise and took the body of The First for unknown days. He promised her with his parting breath that The First would heal, far away from where they were. Then he would return to her one day when he could. He left her then in the field where she’d twice been betrayed, as she wept for ten days.
Syzal returned on the dawn of the eleventh with a small crown, entirely black and fitted with beautiful jewels of his creation. He placed it on her head and whispered to her that he would make good on his promise so long as she took care of her appointed duty to him. He promised her that The First would be safe forever, that they would be reunited one day in the far future when he had recovered from his grave wounds.
Serah demanded to know what Syzal had done with him and felt his soul nudging at her from within the very crown atop her head. She could hear him begging to be reunited with her, but he could not hear her calling back to him. Syzal then departed, believing his work to be finished.
That night, he took to crafting a new being. A new human whose body contained only traces of the Ether that makes up so much of the Agharthans. One who couldn’t mate with a citizen of Aghartha, nor who would be inclined to fall in love with one. He worked diligently through the night as he recreated The First with incredible care, but he left out what made Ran’anan who he was. The following morning when he awoke to show Serah, he found her place in Materia empty and the black crown resting on Ran’anan’s bed. On the walls with her own blood, she had left a message.
“Death is a certainty, forgiveness is not.”


The Red Hand of Death

Syzal took the crown from Serah’s home in a fury and scoured all of existence for her, but she had gone and hidden away from even him. Somewhere outside the light of Aghartha. She remained there for some time but Syzal didn’t relent, he didn’t give up. Even after he’d cast his new humanity to the spheres, he searched for her. Centuries passed until he eventually looked down upon Materia and saw that death had overcome his land. The perfect copy of The First and Second lived to the end of their days and withered away as nations rose beneath their graves.
He knew that he must heal the body of The First, so he took the Black Crown and descended to Materia where he met a man and offered it to him with a charge from the heavens.
As this man donned the haunted crown, he felt the soul of The First emerge from within. Fog wrapped around his body and dressed him in worn grey bandages. He stood in awe as his right hand began to bleed profusely, but no pain emerged from the hidden wound. He opened his mouth to question Syzal, but The First spoke before he could.
The man went on to serve the duties that Serah had once held, and Syzal returned to Aghartha to continue his feverish building, to find a place to hoard the souls of the living upon their death.
He left Aghartha years later, to check on The First who hung suspended in the eternal darkness beyond the light of our home. As he departed The White Tower that day he wept for his darling Serah and how much pain he’d caused her from his own selfishness. He left in hopes that he might cross her path, but he didn’t…
Instead, in the sprawling blackness between his creations, he found the body of The First, no longer crippled or weak. It had evolved in the depths of the lonely Void and had become something else entirely. What was once a man had become a beast whose size overshadowed Aghartha, who could swallow Materia whole. Syzal looked on in fear of the creature as The Void laughed behind their new child. As it awoke, Syzal watched it hum to life and growl before him as The Void disappeared into the darkness. Before him, the beast roared.
It was alive, and it was starving.


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