PART THREE – THE LINK
Chapter 2 – The Watchers
Superstitions are, for the most part, but the shadows of great truths. ~ Tryon Edwards
January 20, 2006, Cairo, Egypt
“Hadrian, I am telling you the priest turned into a beast unlike anything I have ever seen.” Vanskiiver exclaimed as he paced the tiles of Hadrian’s Gezira Villa’s living room. He looked like hell. A shower and change of clothes would do him wonders. His beard was days past his characteristic five o’clock shadow. Bloodshot eyes and haggard, all but conveyed his lack of sleep; if one were to check him more closely, they would notice the genuine signs of fear in his eyes.
Hadrian took a seat, placidly sat in his tan rattan lounge chair, dressed casually: white linen pants, rose-colored linen polo, and wicker sandals. He put his feet up on a matching rattan ottoman and crossed his feet. His elbows rested on the arms of the lounge. His hands to his face, which held an impervious glance, he steepled his fingers taunt to his lips. His remaining fingers folded together as his eyes observed Vanskiiver – a deeply troubled soul. As the man spoke, Hadrian’s eyebrow rose, intrigued.
Slowly, deliberately, Hadrian lowered his hands folding his arms neatly across the barrel of his chest. His head cocked. “Most unbelievable.” He paused. “You really should cut back on the booze, Erric. You look like hell!”
“Well, unbelievable or not I was there. You would look like hell if your eyes gazed into the likes of the very beast.” Vanskiiver replied wild-eyed, his voice raised in annoyance mixed with fear.
“Hum…it is not that I doubt you Erric. I have heard rumors of such creatures. But in truth, never have I laid eyes on one.” Hadrian responded, intrigued. The expression he wore wasn’t curiosity or intrigue now. His demeanor changed long ago to that of alarm. He squirmed in his chair changing position, both arms now held fast on the side arms of his chair. He gripped tightly. The deep blue of his veins in his hands and arms protruded enough to prove his unease. His knuckles turned as white as his face, which under more pleasant circumstances was a deep golden bronze.
“Seriously, you knew of their existence and you failed to alert me of the possibility that I might meet such a beast? My God Hadrian, I was completely blindsided, and nearly killed! It would have been useful to have known what I was up against before nearly getting my head chewed off.” Vanskiiver shouted. His bloodshot eyes burned red with anger.
“Well, yes, hindsight. I suppose.” Hadrian paused, and nearly smirked. “However, you were successful and we now have our hands on the gems do we not?” He raised his eyebrow in question.
“You have your fucking gems.” He tossed the boxes down on the table. “At what price? They nearly cost me my life? What the hell was that creature, anyway?”
“You needn’t worry yourself about the creature, unless of course you were unable to destroy it?” Hadrian eyes, piqued. His eyes torn between Vanskiiver and the gems.
“I assure you I did not fail. The creature is dead. I need a drink. Do you mind if I help myself, since you apparently seem un-phased by my near death experience?”
“As you wish.” Hadrian gestured toward the wall. He leaned toward the three golden boxes and opened each box one at a time, examining each stone. The light refracted an array of rainbow colors across the room. Then he replaced the stones in their respective boxes.
Meanwhile, Vanskiiver marched toward the side-wall. He placed his hand on the tile panel and lightly pushed. The tile slid open revealing fully stocked bar. He pulled open the door of the refrigerator and seized a tall decanter full of crimson liquid. Grabbing a pewter chalice he poured the cup to the rim with fluid and swiftly consumed its contents. He poured another then slammed the door before joining Hadrian on a similar rattan chair.
Hadrian nodded. “Yes, about the creature.” He paused for effect. “I am afraid my memory has all but forgotten about such things.
“If you saw one, trust me you wouldn’t forget.”
“Perhaps not.” He replied, slowly, his tone cold.
“So, what the hell was it or are they? The nun she was vile as well. Her blood tainted. She thankfully, didn’t put up a fight.”
“Interesting.” Hadrian mumbled. “I do not know why the Nun did not fight you. Perhaps she realized she was no match for a vampire as old as yourself. You should count your blessings for that and the fact you were able to defeat the beast. I believe that if I recall correctly, your priest was Benandanti.”
“What the fuck is a Benandanti?” He didn’t wait for a response as his mind recollected the priest said something similar. “Actually, the priest called himself something like that when he was trying to rip my head off!” Vanskiiver spat. His voice tightened as he spoke, becoming louder with each word until at last he was shouting.
“Indeed.” Hadrian’s eyebrows peeked. “Benandanti, to my knowledge, were believed to be merely mythical creatures.” He caught Vanskiiver’s gaze.
“Well, I can assure you what I saw was no myth.”
“I reiterate you are alive. Be thankful of that, as most stories I recall of these creatures is that once having an encounter with such a creature in their darkest form does not live to tell the tale.”
“Yea well, I’m barely alive to tell my tale. And believe me, when I say: he was the vilest creature I have ever laid my eyes upon. And trust me, I’ve seen my share.” Vanskiiver took another long swig of his beverage.
“So it would seem.” Hadrian’s gaze was pensive. “It is indeed most interesting that they do in fact exist. I suppose I am not all that surprised. For we are somewhat mythical creatures ourselves, are we not?” he chortled.
“Yeah, well whatever, I know what I am and what my limitations are. By no means am I capable of meeting one again. What the fuck is a Benanan… whatever, doing posing as a priest? Or was the priest possessed?”
“Well if memory serves right, legends of their existence state these creatures began as a race of divine beings, sons of the gods or something. Sent from the heavens to watch over mortals – overseers of good and protectors of evil, angelic creatures of some sort, I believe.”
“Angels, you have to be fucking kidding me?”
“I ensure you, I am not.
“There are truly angels in this world? Next you will be telling me demons rule the world. Oh wait, we do?” he laughed.
“Erric, as much as I would like to take credit for such things, I am not so creative to assume a story such as this. I assure you. If you do a bit of research you will find ample chronicles about the Benandanti. Most, of course are derived of myth but perhaps if you search our archives you will find various accounts of such creatures thorough out history.”
“Right, well I’m not about to go digging in our archives so why don’t you just enlighten me.”
“Very well. I will do my best to recall what I can of the legends. It seems had something to do with Lilith, goddess of the underworld, who sought the souls of these immortal beings, the Watchers or angels as you have referred to them, to gain an even greater power for herself, which would enable her to rein terror and destruction on both the heavens and the earth.
The legends say she would use her seductress wiles to entice the Watchers with great wealth, drink, and even made arrangements for them to bed the very mortals they were sent to protect – all in exchange – for their souls, of course. I’m not quite certain if those are facts or legend. But, I do find the story intriguing. As the myth continues some mortals apparently bore witness to Lilith’s reign; for the Watchers, so inebriated they willingly complied with her desires. Imagine having such control over man. How delectable to have woman lining up willing to serve. Oh, wait, we have experienced that in times past; how very wrong of me to have forgotten.” Hadrian chuckled.
Erric scooted to the edge of the chair and held his elbows on his knees, anticipating his next words. ‘Hadrian, get on with it!”
“Right, well when the gods learned of Lilith’s antics and were angered, for they realized they had been deceived. You see the sole purpose of the Watchers was to serve the gods in the name of goodness. As payment for their deceit, the gods cast them down from the heavens to live out their lives on Earth, as mortals. Lilith was said to have hailed the victory knowing she had succeeding in acquiring their souls.
What neither the gods, nor even Lilith accounted for was that the unions between the immortal Watchers and those of the mortal woman for which they had bedded, resulted in offspring. Furious, the gods rose up vying that the infants be destroyed upon their birth. Lilith scoffed, for she was no fool. She had placed a curse upon the unborn children; while they appeared to be human at birth they in fact immortal born half human, half beast. The gods were powerless to the curse that Lilith spawned, the guards when sent to destroy these creatures altered forms into the very beast like creature you encountered.
The offspring grew to posses this skill, to alter forms at will. They consumed all those who dared cross their paths. In their beastly form, they ravenously feasted on the blood of living beings.” Hadrian pursed a smile.
“Kindred spirits.” Vanskiiver mused.
“They were the epitome of raw evil; viciously vile creatures who, first stripped the flesh from the bones of their victims then and sated their thirst in the mass rivers of blood, which flowed from their bodies. Eventually these watcher spawns, were said to have slaughtered all the living creatures of the land to satisfy their enormous appetites. A cornucopia feast to be sure.”
That particular thought aroused Hadrian. Forcibly he paused to gain composure. He required a stiff drink of raw blood himself. “All of this talk of blood and carnage has made me incredible thirsty,” he exclaimed. “Perhaps you were correct in your assessment of these beasts, kindred spirits indeed!”
He faced Vanskiiver. Enthusiasm tinted his face. He went to the wall. Placing his palm onto the tile, he gave a push. Releasing the hidden panel, he grabbed a glass carafe from the contents of the refrigerator. He inhaled the lush scent of fresh blood as he poured himself a tall glass of the crimson liquid.
Vanskiiver only stared. His hands quivered as he realized he was indeed only too lucky to have lived to tell his tale, kindred spirits or not.
Hadrian returned, balancing a tall pewter canister and two large chalices in his hands. He sat them on the coffee table and quickly poured the thick viscous fluid of blood into each chalice. Not waiting to hand off the glass to his guest he gulped down the entire contents. He smiled wryly. “That is better.”
Vanskiiver grabbed the fresh chalice and took a heavy swig. The velvety liquid was warm, sweet, and sent a wave or euphoria through his veins. He pulled his thoughts away from the beverage and smiled. “Well that still doesn’t explain how or why the Watcher was a priest?” Vanskiiver inquired.
“My memories of the legends are rather vague Vankiiver and nearly forgotten. I am surprised that I was able to remember any of this, as they, like my memories of them, were all but forgotten, I must admit. I need a moment to think.” He placed his index finger to his head and his elbow rested on the arm of the chair as he tried to think.
“From my nearest recollection the curse was unable to be reversed. The gods were left with no alternative but to seek assistance to eradicate them. I believe they called upon Lilith’s sister, HeKet. It was said that HeKet abhorred Lilith and would stop at nothing to facilitate control of her sister’s wrath. Although HeKet herself also served her father Haides in the Underworld, she served as the balance of good and evil. For you see, my young nephew, without goodness in this world evil could not exist.
HeKet pleaded with Lilith to relinquish the souls of the children in exchange for control of the fallen Watchers. She of course refused. She told her sister she was too late, for she already had consumed their souls.
It was then HeKet informed her sister of her vision – a prophecy. In time, Lilith would own the souls of many more than the mere children of fallen Watchers. Ones with souls so pure, so superior, yet cursed, she would be unable to resist.
Lilith was well aware the accuracy of her sister’s prophesies, and was intrigued. Her curiosity led to her release her hold of the children’s soul. But, the curse, she informed HeKet, could not be broke. The children would be cursed to live a life as half human, half beast – Benandanti.
HeKet agreed to take the children under her wing and raise them. She taught them to control their beastly urges, until such time they could return to the heavens to serve out eternity alongside the remaining Watchers. The gods and Lilith agreed.
When the time came for children to return to the heavens, the gods refused their entrance; they had no assurances the beastly side of these immortal beasts would never wreck havoc on the earth again. HeKet pleaded but her pleas were unheard. The gods had terminated their agreement. HeKet assured the gods as retribution for the acts of their fathers and of those of the children’s, the children would serve as Watchers like the fathers. Not over mankind as you may have thought, rather, over those cursed souls of her prophecies – those who drank the blood of the living, us, and the other daemons and witches which walked on the earth. This HeKet explained would make sure the balance of goodness and evil and guarantee mankind never gained knowledge of their existence or their great secrets with which they would all bestowed. The gods agreed to her terms.
Who would believe the Watchers, would be so cunning as to ensure the balance of good and evil, than to infiltrate with the Christians. This is indeed what they did. For you see as the Christian religion evolved, and Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire the Benandanti permeated the church and eventually the entire Vatican. The Benandati, as one might believe, were busy during the era of the Roman Catholic Church as it was full of scandal and lascivious acts of corruption. The political ambitions of the church were high their desire to set up a monopoly of faith was no exception.
I believe, I recall the legend stating that some of the Benandanti spun off from the original goals of the Watchers. While most remained loyal to their mission, others befriended many of the higher authorities within the church and those of evil sorcerers and witches; of course never alluding to the fact of who or what they were – Benandanti – all as means to rid the world of beings who would rival their own powers and those of the alchemical sources of the times. The Benandanti were rumored to have been behind the initial phases of inquisition.
I am sure there is more to the myths. If you have more interest I am sure you can conduct your own research in our archives. Bear in mind, when you scour the ancient archives of the Vatican, much of what you may discover will likely all stem from a mythological perspective as even we blood drinkers did not fully understand the Benandanti, it is doubtful our scribes included discussions of the churches involvement.
But in any event, to infiltrate the Vatican regardless of which side the Benandanti represented was simply brilliant! A brilliant ruse to develop such a strategy, not even I could ever have envisioned. And to think you saw one of these mythical creatures with your own eyes. Fascinating, simply, fascinating.” Hadrian crackled with laughter.