The Seven Demons
"Always remember: Desire is much like a flame. If not properly contained, it may ultimately consume you..."
Sky Tower – Vestibule of Darkness
Anubris held the journal in his hands. It was a plain thing, tattered and unadorned, soiled by the grime that had accumulated upon it over the decades. Yet to him it as precious as his own life; it was a way to control the curse, to stave off the encroaching darkness for a few more years or days or hours. It was a way out.
He flipped open the cover. "Zieg" was scrawled across the front page, the only thing that distinguished the book as something more than a memoire of a dead man. Anubris exhaled and gouged his katana into the cold stone floor; then he leaned against it and began to read.
Well met, Soul Reaper.
Surprised? Don't be. Only a Soul Reaper would dare to open my personal journal. Either he, or an insane man—but there is no difference between the two. We are, after all, cursed with insanity; such is the price we pay to control the Demons to what little extent we can.
You tread a fine line between the light and the dark. Between, I should also say, life and death. I doubt I will still be alive by the time you pick up this book. In fact, I doubt I will stay alive long enough to finish writing this passage. But, I have surprised myself before...so we shall see.
History shall name me as the very first and the most powerful of all Soul Benders, that I could command the Seven Demon Ghosts in any way I wished. I damn history; nothing can be gleaned from it except violence and lies. My testament within these pages will be the only thing that stands the test of time and tongue. I shall say this now: I may be the first Soul Reaper, but I will never be the strongest.
You may balk at this statement. Feel free to do so; I won't be able to see your reaction anyway. But what I can do is answer the question that follows such a harsh confession:
It is simple. No matter what history may say, I cannot control the Demons.
Oh, yes, I can summon them to do my bidding—but I cannot control them. I am as much their slave as they are mine. The gods know that I have tried; I have done my best to subdue them, to save myself from the flame. But I am not strong enough, and you can only try to suppress them once. I have failed and therefore condemned myself to an early death.
If you should be so bold, Soul Reaper, then you can find that answer out for yourself. And I shall tell you how, as my last parting gift to this world. To give to it—through impossible odds—a Soul Bender who deserves to be called the most powerful. Listen and learn wisely from my failure...
We must always begin with the basics: A time and place of contemplation. Anywhere that is quiet, more or less safe—whether by your hand or another's—and potent in dark magics will suffice. I personally chose the Crying Cave, but I have heard of other places...the Catacombs, the Purgatorium, great fortresses forged of pure hellkarium or towers paved with floating marble that drift across the sky. It matters not; demons do not discriminate.
It should remain unsaid that you are familiar with the Seven Demon Ghosts. What is more debatable is your knowledge of the Seven Mortal Sins: Sloth, Pride, Lust, Gluttony, Envy, Wrath, and Greed.
No doubt your next question would be, Why should any of this matter? Why should I care about some dithering texts from the Blue Bible?
My answer shall rely on the strength of your will. If you falter and would rather spare yourself the truth—and, for that matter, avoid spiritual suicide—I would recommend stopping here.
...Still reading? Good.
The answer is far more complex and at once far simpler than you may think. Every Soul Reaper is aware that Blache is the God of Wrath, but what is more esoteric knowledge is the fact that each of the Demons is a god itself.
Do you see now?
This is why every Soul Bender is sentenced to a premature death: We are mortals clinging desperately to the strength of deities. Moreover, they are aware of this unfortunate truth.
There is a way to force the Demons into submission, a way to control their hunger as well as their power. It is, naturally, not without great risk: Should you fail to defeat them or escape their clutches, they will consume you a few years ahead of your assumed expiration date.
As I said: It is spiritual suicide.
But, of course, you've opened my journal and made it this far to test your mettle against the Demon Gods, have you not? So! Let us begin.
There are two things that you must always carry once you pass into the realm of Demons: The Blade, and the Chalice.
The Blade, of course, is self-explanatory: It is your weapon. Regardless of your affinity with the darkness, you are still a swordsman at heart. To wander into the otherworld unarmed is to invite oblivion.
The Chalice, on the other hand, is your passageway—a vessel molded from pure iron and forged within heat generated by cubes of light and flame. Such an object—symbolic, as it is, of the living—will intrigue the Demons; but to guarantee their appearance, you must fill the Chalice with your blood before inviting them forth.
Simple, no? However, wounding yourself will remain the least of your concerns.
If you intend to challenge the Seven Ghosts, you must release them from the protective pentacles that bind them to your will. This alone is a dangerous feat: If you are unable to resist their temptations, they will be more than happy to consume you—minus a free trip into the otherworld.
But if you can resist them—if you can retain your soul, your identity, in their unbridled presence—then they will take notice. Or more precisely, they will take offense—and drag you down into the cold badlands of their world. It is there that you will face their trials, one by one.
There will be no rest. There will be no mercy. Whether you have defeated or fled its predecessor makes no difference to any of them. They will lie, tempt, torture and seduce—for you are their plaything, and they hunger for your soul.
It is not a peaceful way to die.
But that doesn't concern you in the slightest, does it?
Now, I have one last thing to note before I am done: Keep in mind the Seven Mortal Sins. Knowing them will prepare you for what lies ahead.
Fare you well, Soul Reaper. Remember why you came to embrace the darkness.
Anubris closed the journal and stared at it for a few moments. Then—quickly, decisively, before doubts could crowd his mind—he pulled out a Chalice and wrenched his katana from the ground.
The Demons came swiftly.
He had called to them, demanding their audience, promising them a feast beyond their wildest desires. He had unshackled the binds and erased the runes and they came, swirling around him, pulling at his hair, whispering soft promises in his ears, making him drunk with power and fear.
"No!" he shouted, fighting back. They sensed his resistance and pressed in relentlessly. Still they tugged, and he swatted their fingers away; still they whispered, and he yelled over their voices.
Then—suddenly—they yielded, screaming their hatred and disbelief.
Anubris smiled grimly. He knew they had accepted his challenge.
The Demons circled him, moving faster and faster, cloaking him in a veil of shadows. Their hands, once velvety and soft, clawed at his soul. Coldness washed over him and his vision swam until all he could see was black.