Magnum Opus' Muse Arcane

Magnum Opus Herself

The Day the Angels Fell

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When you've read as much mythology as I have, you'll have noticed that things really do come in rings. (You're also welcome to come and work for me here in my Musée, but that's another story). Call it one of the unbreakable laws of the multiverse if you like perhaps cutter, and sure enough it's true in this case too. By 'rings' I mean that the same fables crop up again and again, not just in the same Pantheon, but all across the spectrum of beliefs.

Take for example the Flood Myth. Most (if not all) of the major religious groups believe that at one time there was a terrible ravaging flood. Some place this on the Prime, some on all the Primes, and others on the Great Ring itself. The Norse believe this was actually a destructive fire on the Prime, which Odin regretted lighting because he then realised the flames might rise and set fire to the Outer Planes. The Chinese record a great flood, and tell a story of how a family was prepared for it and floated away in a tin bath, escaping the destruction. Merman mythology claims the flood on the Prime was due to the barriers between it and Elemental Water rupturing (variously at the command of some power or by natural causes). Whoever you speak to has a different story but they've all got the main elements in common.

Does this necessarily make them true? It could be claimed that these stories all stem from different eyewitness accounts of an actual event, and over the millennia the details have diverged between cultures. Or you could equally reckon that these tales are apocryphal, playing on the inherent fear of mortals of destruction and retribution by the powers. There are myths involving plagues, locust swarms, thunderbolts, gods dropping mountains from the sky (a fictional tale, surely!) and more recently powers walking the prime. Some are probably true, others less likely. The events on Toril of late, where the deities were banished from the Outer Planes by an overpower, will surely be the stuff of mythology in a thousand years...I wonder what they'll be saying about it then?

Another engaging and enduring myth I call The Day the Angels Fell. In ancient tomes there are often references to "Angels". These beings, apparently no longer on the planes (though see the discussion later), I believe to have been some sort of perfect race; the first to be created by whatever power you care to believe in.

My evidence draws heavily upon the Mystery Plays, a long tradition of Arborean society. For those clueless reading, I'll elaborate. The Eladrin, Elven and Seelie pantheons have long kept their mythologies alive by use of plays and festivals. Every year, a procession of caravans winds its way through the major areas of Arborean civilisation, stopping at each burg and setting up a medieval sort of fayre. Each caravan becomes a podium, and holds a Mystery Play several times a day. They're usually boisterous affairs which each tell a small portion of the important history of Arborea and the planes themselves.

These plays have often been criticised by planar churches for "grossly misrepresenting the truth by weaving a web of fabrications" (to quote the late Bishop Bral of Saint Cuthbert), but then priests are known for their stuffiness and resentment of challenges to their perceived authority. It seems that by embellishing the tales and getting the audience involved in the spectacle, the Arboreans can relate the moralistic part of the tales without preaching to or patronising the audience. On free-spirited Arborea, that's a prized trait indeed. Priests probably see this as undermining their own jobs, but the Arboreans have never been a people bent on conformity, have they?

Anyway, there are several traditions of each story, and my hypotheses particularly concern the eladrin version. Their race is ancient indeed and, I believe, the most likely to tell the stories in as unbiased a manner as can be expected. The race was, after all, almost there at the time. But I've digressed.

In the Gates of the Moon edition of The Betrayal, a mystery play in the eladrin tradition, the creation of mortals is described: "through the might and the myrth of the majesty, man was made". Note first the alliterative nature of the line (again, for the clueless, this means that most words start with the same letter). This, rather than rhyme, is a common feature of ancient poetry, and a clue that this tale may have been passed down over millennia rather than recently penned.

Myrth of course is divine pleasure (the rational behind the reason for creation), and the majesty refers to the First Mover; whichever power or powers you care to paint as the Creator figure. For the purposes of this essay I shall refer to the Creator as "he" purely for my own convenience. While patriarchal pantheons are the most common, there's no evidence to suggest the Creator was male, female, neuter or plural. And any planar knows that most powers change their sexes when they please anyway. I ain't about to discuss theology with you, so I'll leave the Mover's identity as nebulous as that. Besides, I don't want more trouble from the Hardheads!

The play continues, to state the act of creation involved "making chaos into cosmos". These lines are probably to be expected in a play from Arborea and the eladrin. The ideals of myrth and chaos are close to the hearts of the chaotic and good Arboreans, so we should expect this bias. Doubtless if the baatezu had a similar tradition of plays we would find the exact opposite. But I suppose if the baatezu started putting on plays we should all start worrying about them!

But this sets the scene for a Creation based around the concept of goodness. Some sort of Lawful structure has been created from the original Chaos. Interestingly, none of the creation myths of the celestials really specify how lawful or chaotic the First Mover was, suggesting to me that their tales might have sprung from the same source. Perhaps this makes them more plausible...?

The first words of the First Mover are these:


"Ego sum alpha et o [omega]
Primus et nobilissimus
It is my will, yt sholde be soe
Yt is, it was, yt shall be thus."

It is interesting here how the Greek letters alpha and are used in an eladrin play. Perhaps this suggests the Greek pantheon is closer to the Creation than most, or perhaps the writer just has a particular bias. It's also peculiar that the First Mover names itself as "Primus". I'm sure the rorty modrons would have a field day if they read that! I offer no interpretation of this; I'm sure you're more than capable of drawing your own conclusions...

During the Creation, the worlds of mortal (the Prime) and angel (the Outer Planes) are made. There's no mention of the Inner Planes here at all, curiously, but then many myths of the Great Ring neglect that part of the multiverse, just as elemental myths ignore the Outer Planes. A hangover from a more hostile era, perhaps?

It seems all in the Outer Planes was happy with the Creator and the angels...again I'll state my belief that the angels were not a pure force of goodness as they have often been portrayed (by the churches of good powers, naturally!); they were simply the first planeborne race of all. Their spirits were unsullied by worries of moral or ethical issues -- vice and sin, as such, had not been invented, so their behaviour was not good by choice, as they had no alternative but to behave in the way they were intended to behave. Without 'evil', as such, there simply cannot be 'good'.

This is illustrated beautifully in a text I have managed to acquire from a self-confessed fallen archon, in exchange for a little, shall we say, writing of names in the dead-book favour. If it's a personal diary I know not, only that it's a highly cherished and rare example of the Archonic legend of the Day the Angels Fell...

 

The First to Fall
Let me tell you a story. Sit down.
I have seen an angel die.
She was the perfect essence of divinity.

She was me.

When I was first earning my wings, I walked amongst the evil and corrupt on the mortal worlds and brought them to the light and love. My compassion and sympathy was a bottomless well, and all I met drank freely of it. It was part of my job. We all had jobs, tasks, missions, fates and destinies. Our Source set our path, and so we followed it.

There is a city. It came first in Creation. It was beautiful -- I can still remember it. Everything was white and silver and pearl, quartz and marble and gold. At that time, those substances held no value, they were only beautiful. That was all they could be. There was no one else in all of Creation to put a value to them.

Before I walked the primes Creation set us to building the foundations of the multiverse -- rules to the order, for that was our primary source of existence, in order. Even the random is dependably, happily irreverent, down to the point of being completely predictable for months on end. I knew that. I knew why, and how, being part of the force that set Creation to order. It's no good without a little difference.

Around the edges of the city, there was darkness. That was known later, when darkness became associated with being evil. That was much later, because the concept of evil had yet to be developed. Ancient, older than almost anything, the darkness made a contrast on the bright light of the city, and it was decided that all within the city was good. Good was also a new idea, that came at the same time as evil, when a discrepancy between morals and the strange creatures who walked the edges of the fair city became apparent.

"What is evil, and why does it infringe upon us?" was the collective question. Did we Create it? Did it exist before we did? It became an obsession. Every now and then, someone would fly close enough to see the darkness a little more clearly.

I know, because I was the first. I looked down from where I flew on the border and saw all the Creational work turned and twisted and warped. I saw fighting between two distinct kinds of the evil. I was fascinated. Now I knew, for I had seen it, there was more to the life Creation had made than what was selfishly contained within the pristine walls of the city.

For any hope, I went to the Source and made my case. I was given power, enough to walk amongst the darkness and survive, if I could use the power skilfully. And so I learned. I practised. I raised an army by the name of the Source, a thousand angels like I, imbued with the divine to route the darkness from the edges of our city. For this, we could expand. Push the evil back, and move the good away.

Out of the gates we poured, and we cut the darkness like a white-hot knife, and the creatures flinched away. Some were very powerful, and others were merely larger representations of the lice and fleas we had sent to pester the mortals.

I realised then that we had created this darkness in contrast to the light, perhaps even unintentionally. It was so vast, full of things that would have been ideas no one I knew had ever worked on, that they were part of the Source. That was the only explanation, that the Source could have done this.

Why? I felt betrayed. A few of my army had already perished in an assault against one of the larger kind. Just one of the big ones! I felt my own power flux and wane and wax and lessen along side my faith.

Why?

We were spread thinly now, down amongst the evil, pushing back at the edges, gaining a few acres of land. What they lacked in power was made up in sheer numbers, and my army was dwindling terribly fast. And so went my faith.

Five hundred of our ranks left. And then, we heard the gates close behind us. I turned briefly, and saw the brightness on the outside as these fiends would have been seeing it for eternity: distant, cold white marble walls, and just with that thought, we were distanced. I felt the shift in body, mind and soul as the city disappeared.

Had we won? No, I knew, but neither had we lost. I looked at my wings, and saw them dull to grey, and then black. A bloody orb rose in the sky, an awful parody of a sun mirrored on a prime world. A thick, ragged cheer erupted from the thousands of fiends massed, and I realised this war had only just begun.

Behind me, the moans of my fallen angels reached my ears. Today, we had a new purpose. The light, the white, and the goodness had only used us to distance themselves further, and at our sacrifice. That was a blow even I could not stand, and as I rallied my friends and comrades, we joined the ranks of the fiends as a part of the elite, that we could have a special purpose to bring to good back down and show it just how close it had come to merging with us.

There is something immortal in vengeance, so I have found. It serves me well.

 

Like any good myth, of course, there's more than one version floating around, It wouldn't be mythic otherwise, would it cutter? Anyway, I'd be depriving you if I didn't share this at least...this particular version stems from a Rilmani tome which was left to me in the will of a very dear friend, Daaras Intwood. Fortunately I'm on good terms with Marchosias Chou, the executor of the will (though some rumours would have you believe he's executed more than just the will...), and managed to claim my inheritance before the likes of Tripicus could get his paws on it.

The story goes that after some time with the Multiverse in this state of perfection the Creator left the throne of the Heavens on some business or other. While the throne was vacant, one angel (who shall remain nameless -- I have no desire to be Visited!), attempted to fill the vacuum that the Creator's absence had left behind. The angel sat on the throne and demanded allegiance from the rest of the angels, in a symbolic takeover.

When the Creator returned, he learned of what had transpired. Enraged, he threw the angel from the Heavens, along with any of the other angels who had given oaths to the one who had betrayed his word. The casting out of the fallen angels is a theme adopted by many artists, such as this example, from the ceiling of the Temple of Shining Faith, on Mercuria, Mount Celestia:


And Suddenly, the Angels Fell


Now here's something that the priests of light won't tell you: When the First Mover cast down the fallen angels, what had they actually done? Nothing evil, that's for sure; sin had not been invented. In fact, it could be argued (and it is, by some observers) that the 'Great Betrayal' was actually nothing of the sort. All that happened was that one angel tried to keep things running smoothly in the absence of the Creator, and when the Creator discovered he was not so indispensable as he'd led the angels to believe, he grew jealous and angry. This was the real reason the angels fell, they claim. Who am I to argue with that?

So as these angels fell from the Light into the Darkness, new planes opened up beneath them...at least, so say the Mystery Plays. Original sin had been finally invented, not by the angels, but by the Creator! The ones who fell ceased to be innocent, and out of the presence of their Creator, their shapes changed and mutated. They were no longer angels: they became fiends. They weren't the only ones who changed. See, the angels who remained were no longer innocent either. They now had a choice: to follow their Creator (generally assumed in these myths to be what we now call "good") or to turn away from it, to "evil". They made their choice by remaining in the Light, and became celestials.

By his own actions the Creator had split his minions into good and evil, and had himself defined what good and evil meant: Obeying his word was good, disobeying it was evil. Note that at this point evil was not as we understand it now. That happens later.

So what became of the Fallen Angels? Well, depending on who you speak to, these First Fiends were one of several things. One school of thought reckons that as they fell they became baatezu, tanar'ri or yugoloth depending upon where they landed. Others claim that only one race appeared, and the others are corruptions of this one form. Another possibility is that only baatezu and tanar'ri were formed, and at this early time they had not yet discovered hate for each other; they bred, and the yugoloths were born. A last possibility might be that an entirely different fourth race was formed, presumably now extinct, and the fiends of today were born from them. Interestingly, bloods who've stumbled across that hard-to-come-by tome Faces of Evil often agree with me on this last point.

And the 'angels'? Opinion is divided on this issue. There are some historians who postulate that the mysterious rilmani are in fact all that remains of the angels...somehow these beings were not transformed during the fall, and still have not chosen to follow or turn away from the First Mover. There is little evidence for this theory, but then there is precious little evidence for anything where the rilmani are concerned...

But let us not paint the First Mover in an entirely unfavourable light. You might start to think that I'm a Sinker or something, and we couldn't have that! No, in many plays there is the suggestion that the First Mover made some sort of attempt at reconciliation with those whom he had cast out. The Wotan Wood edition of The Choice says


Ynd the Mover said unto those he had loste:
"I have done ye wronge, ynd I apologeise
I was quicke to judhge, I shal yt rectifiye
Return to my folde from whence ye came,
I forgive ye all, ful absolv'de from blayme."

This was an attempt to make up for the perceived misdeed, and restore the angelic race to its innocence. However, it was too late. In the absence of light, the fiends had discovered the freedom of evil, and they apparently enjoyed it more than good. They refused the apology, their leader saying:

"Begonne thou blinker'd beaste of thy own brilliance
Thou hast wronged us ful well, ynd we do not repent
Return to thy chariot, thy blackliver'd sod!"
Ynd the Mover turned, bow'd weeping ynd went,
Ynd the fiendes knewe nevermore God.

Strong words from the fiends to their own Creator! In any case, this interpretation tallies with the situation we see today, though it would appear the fiends quickly fragmented into several warring races. Evil cannot unite for longer than its own temper, as they say.

The Creator apparently regretted his bounteous action of creation, for it was shortly after this time that the first myths of the great floods enter the records, from many sources. Could the First Mover have been trying to destroy the fiends? Were the floods aimed at the mortals who had also fallen from a state of innocence? Perhaps the aim was to destroy all of the multiverse so creation could begin afresh and not make the same mistakes as before? (We shall explore this theme in another lecture, no doubt...)

Or perhaps all of this is barmy flam, speculation and pure screed. For alas, I cannot prove a word.

Magnum Opus

Special Thanks to Rob Clifford, who taught me all about the real English Medieval Mystery Plays;
the York players who staged re-enactments in July 1998;
Keri Rodgers, who crafted the story insert, inspired by "Murder Mysteries" by Neil Gaiman,
which tells the story of the angel Raguel, angel of Vengeance, and the first murder of an angel;
Colin McComb, for giving away nothing in the excellent Faces of Evil that spoils Magnum's fun ;-)
and Dr. Felicity Currie, who inspired this article with a fascinating lecture.

 Consult the Mimir Again