Chapter Twenty-Three: The Book of Balaaton

     “The Book of Balaaton” was the name of the exquisitely rotted tome, and it seemed more fit to turn to dust than sooner be read. I carefully turned its pages lest it fall to fine, powdery silt in my very hands.
     The name of the author was Clemence d’Argent, and the book was written in a painfully detailed and flowering script.
     “Book One,” it began, “The Secrets of Bhaalzim: The Things You Should Not Know are Often More Real Than Reality . . .” I skimmed its pages hence . . .

I have heard from some that the highly insidious queen Ravena, one of the accursed line of the malefactors of Malaak, has left for the far-away land in the desert made of ice and snow.  Good riddance.  We hope to God the others follow suit.

. . . We have been plagued for years by the curses of the Malaak.  ‘Tis true not all of them are evil, but for the most part, Ravena and her brother Shaltax, with whom it is said she bore an illicit child, fled to many years ago before hand to the southernmost ends of the old continent, leaving behind the accursed child.  Her name, Lynoria . . .”

Lynoria . . . so here was one of the keys of knowledge I had been seeking!  I read on . . .

From Book Two:  A Royal Prince of Darkness, or, The Midnight Hour’s Own Master . . .

I have heard henceforth from my cousin Myrise, who is set on following these monsters and destroying them, that the accursed two (Ravena and Shaltax), have traveled from their forlorn and barren, snowy desert, and have returned to our land.  There, by a much fabled lake, the incestuous lovers, I was told, were wed . . .”

From here on, Myrise’s narrative began . . .

I saw this myself . . . a Prince, more awful than darkness and devilish than any demon, sprang out of this infernal body of water, and and seemingly summoned, wed the two sinners in unholy union.

They called this great demonic prince Balaaton, and he wore on his head a lofty bejeweled crown, with a crest of a jade dragon, with red eyes . . . and in his hand he held a scepter, dotted with red-blood rubies.  A most scoundrel-like sage with great green orbs for eyes – jadeite – and chiseled features of some dark god.  But, the worst was yet to come . . .

The mistress of this dark prince then came forth.  She looked bled white, and her eyes had a most peculiar crimson glow.  On her head she wore no crown, but her long black hair was like a deathly veil that everywhere dragged death with it, leaving all living things to die in its wake.

The miscreants of Malaak referred to her as Inanna, and blessed be, she did look every bit the whore demoness of an eastern race once spoken of by humans, if she ever did.

Laughing, she emerged from the mists, enveloped only in silk tatters of gold, her bared body voluptuous in a horrid way, dangerous . . . breasts that seemed be specked by serpents, and coiled there, she smiled, a true creature of depravity.

And as she did, lightning flashes and I swear then she saw me.  I fled, fearing not only for my life, but my soul.

As it started to rain I looked back and saw her face, with a slight smile that lured me, Inanna almost stole my soul.  And the mysterious prince only looked on, coldly . . .

I swear that what I write is completely true.  Inanna lives.  The demon consort too.  Which is more powerful is hard to say, but I did seem to detect that both were actually, well, one and the same . . . like entities . . .”

     The rest of the book was an account of the author’s search to destroy the pestilent members of Malaak, without much success.  He wrote in the last chapter, “sorrily I could not defeat them. I only pray now that they are never to return.  As for the wicked brood they left behind, we shall observe what becomes of that . . .”

     And in an Epilogue to his stories, a few pages were updated with a tale of Lynoria.

     He wrote . . .

This girl-woman possesses my dreams.  She lingers in my nightmares.  She comes to me more frequent now, and sometimes is accompanied by the spirit of Innana, whom Myrise warned of.  What this demoness has to do with her now is a mystery.  I can only infer that Inanna is a Queen of the Undead, and had a stranglehold on the family . . . and her consort, the green-eyed, tall, fearsome devil, is bound to her somehow by these numbers:  twelve and twenty-two, for the night I saw Inanna and Lynoria, the old clock struck – and read 12:22, and ever since I have not been able to look at a clock or any grouping of numbers without the numbers continually appearing . . .”

     I thought about this, but could not fathom a meaning either . . . perhaps the old man had grown deranged by the end of his book?  The rest of his tale became more incoherent, as if he had lost his mind from the shock of these encounters.  So I shut the book and slept that night for hours, uninterrupted.  Dreams and nightmares of Lynoria no longer bothered me, but I did fear still, the fact that Inanna and Balaaton were most likely, as — put it, more real than real.
     The rain increased all night, and sleeping on a chaise downstairs, I smiled at Raven, who woke once, laying across the room from me; and Leon, who passed out on the rug.
     I closed my eyes and continued to sleep, a dreamless sleep.

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