The subterranean space in which Malakh performed the Art was ingeniously hidden. His homes basement, to those who entered, appeared quite normala typical cellar with boiler, fuse box, woodpile, and a hodgepodge of storage. This visible cellar, however, was only a portion of Malakhs underground space. A sizable area had been walled off for his clandestine practices.
Malakhs private work space was a suite of small rooms, each with a specialized purpose. The areas sole entrance was a steep ramp secretly accessible through his living room, making the areas discovery virtually impossible.
Tonight, as Malakh descended the ramp, the tattooed sigils and signs on his flesh seemed to come alive in the cerulean glow of his basements specialized lighting. Moving into the bluish haze, he walked past several closed doors and headed directly for the largest room at the end of the corridor.
The sanctum sanctorum, as Malakh liked to call it, was a perfect twelve-foot square. Twelve
are the signs of the zodiac. Twelve are the hours of the day. Twelve are the gates of heaven. In the center of the chamber was a stone table, a seven-by-seven square. Seven are the seals of Revelation. Seven are the steps of the Temple. Centered over the table hung a carefully calibrated light source that cycled through a spectrum of preordained colors, completing its cycle every six hours in accordance with the sacred Table of Planetary Hours. The hour of Yanor is blue. The hour of Nasnia is red. The hour of Salam is white.
Now was the hour of Caerra, meaning the light in the room had modulated to a soft purplish hue. Wearing only a silken loincloth wrapped around his buttocks and neutered sex organ, Malakh began his preparations.
He carefully combined the suffumigation chemicals that he would later ignite to sanctify the air. Then he folded the virgin silk robe that he would eventually don in place of his loincloth. And finally, he purified a flask of water for the anointing of his offering. When he was done, he placed all of these prepared ingredients on a side table.
Next he went to a shelf and retrieved a small ivory box, which he carried to the side table and placed with the other items. Although he was not yet ready to use it, he could not resist opening the lid and admiring this treasure.
Inside the ivory box, nestled in a cradle of black velvet, shone the sacrificial knife that Malakh had been saving for tonight. He had purchased it for $1.6 million on the Middle Eastern antiquities black market last year.
The most famous knife in history.
Unimaginably old and believed lost, this precious blade was made of iron, attached to a bone handle. Over the ages, it had been in the possession of countless powerful individuals. In recent decades, however, it had disappeared, languishing in a secret private collection. Malakh had gone to enormous lengths to obtain it. The knife, he suspected, had not drawn blood for decades . . . possibly centuries. Tonight, this blade would again taste the power of the sacrifice for which it was honed.
Malakh gently lifted the knife from its cushioned compartment and reverently polished the blade with a silk cloth soaked in purified water. His skills had progressed greatly since his first rudimentary experiments in New York. The dark Art that Malakh practiced had been known by many names in many languages, but by any name, it was a precise science. This primeval technology had once held the key to the portals of power, but it had been banished long ago, relegated to the shadows of occultism and magic. Those few who still practiced this Art were considered madmen, but Malakh knew better. This is not work for those with dull faculties. The ancient dark Art, like modern science, was a discipline involving precise formulas, specific ingredients, and meticulous timing.
This Art was not the impotent black magic of today, often practiced halfheartedly by curious
souls. This Art, like nuclear physics, had the potential to unleash enormous power. The warnings were dire: The unskilled practitioner runs the risk of being struck by a reflux current and destroyed.
Malakh finished admiring the sacred blade and turned his attention to a lone sheet of thick vellum lying on the table before him. He had made this vellum himself from the skin of a baby lamb. As was the protocol, the lamb was pure, having not yet reached sexual maturity. Beside the vellum was a quill pen he had made from the feather of a crow, a silver saucer, and three glimmering candles arranged around a solid-brass bowl. The bowl contained one inch of thick crimson liquid.
The liquid was Peter Solomons blood.
Blood is the tincture of eternity.
Malakh picked up the quill pen, placed his left hand on the vellum, and dipping the quill tip in the blood, he carefully traced the outline of his open palm. When he was done, he added the five symbols of the Ancient Mysteries, one on each fingertip of the drawing.
The crown . . . to represent the king I shall become.
The star . . . to represent the heavens which have ordained my destiny.
The sun . . . to represent the illumination of my soul.
The lantern . . . to represent the feeble light of human understanding.
And the key . . . to represent the missing piece, that which tonight I shall at last possess.
Malakh completed his blood tracing and held up the vellum, admiring his work in the light of the three candles. He waited until the blood was dry and then folded the thick vellum three times. While chanting an ethereal ancient incantation, Malakh touched the vellum to the third candle, and it burst into flames. He set the flaming vellum on the silver saucer and let it burn. As it did, the carbon in the animal skin dissolved to a powdery black char. When the flame went out, Malakh carefully tapped the ashes into the brass bowl of blood. Then he stirred the mixture with the crows feather.
The liquid turned a deeper crimson, nearly black.
Holding the bowl in both palms, Malakh raised it over his head and gave thanks, intoning the blood eukharistos of the ancients. Then he carefully poured the blackened mixture into a glass vial and corked it. This would be the ink with which Malakh would inscribe the untattooed flesh atop his head and complete his masterpiece.