Malakh stood in his hallway and surveyed the carnage around him. His home looked like a battlefield.
Robert Langdon lay unconscious at his feet.
Katherine Solomon was bound and gagged on the dining-room floor.
The corpse of a female security guard lay crumpled nearby, having toppled off the chair where she was propped. This female guard, eager to save her own life, had done exactly as Malakh commanded. With a knife to her throat, she had answered Malakhs cell phone and told the lie that had coaxed Langdon and Katherine to come racing out here. She had no partner, and Peter Solomon was certainly not okay. As soon as the woman had given her performance, Malakh had quietly strangled her.
To complete the illusion that Malakh was not home, he had phoned Bellamy using the hands-free speaker in one of his cars. Im on the road, he had told Bellamy and whoever else had been listening. Peter is in my trunk. In fact, Malakh was driving only between his garage and his front yard, where he had left several of his myriad cars parked askew with the headlights on and the engines running.
The deception had worked perfectly.
The only wrinkle was the bloody black-clad heap in the foyer with a screwdriver protruding from his neck. Malakh searched the corpse and had to chuckle when he found a high-tech transceiver and cell phone with a CIA logo. It seems even they are aware of my power. He removed the batteries and crushed both devices with a heavy bronze doorstop.
Malakh knew he had to move quickly now, especially if the CIA was involved. He strode back over to Langdon. The professor was out cold and would be for a while. Malakhs eyes moved with trepidation now to the stone pyramid on the floor beside the professors open bag. His breath caught, and his heart pounded.
I have waited for years . . .
His hands trembled slightly as he reached down and picked up the Masonic Pyramid. As he ran his fingers slowly across the engravings, he felt awed by their promise. Before he became too entranced, he put the pyramid back in Langdons bag with the capstone and zipped it up.
I will assemble the pyramid soon . . . in a much safer location.
He threw Langdons bag over his shoulder and then tried to hoist Langdon himself, but the professors toned physique weighed much more than anticipated. Malakh settled on grabbing him beneath the armpits and dragging him across the floor. Hes not going to like where he ends up, Malakh thought.
As he dragged Langdon off, the television in the kitchen blared. The sound of voices from the TV had been part of the deception, and Malakh had yet to turn it off. The station was now broadcasting a televangelist leading his congregation in the Lords Prayer. Malakh wondered if any of his hypnotized viewers had any idea where this prayer really came from.
. . . On earth as it is in heaven . . . the group intoned.
Yes, Malakh thought. As above, so below.
. . . And lead us not into temptation . . .
Help us master the weakness of our flesh.
. . . Deliver us from evil . . . they all beseeched.
Malakh smiled. That could be difficult. The darkness is growing. Even so, he had to give them credit for trying. Humans who spoke to invisible forces and requested help were a dying breed in this modern world.
Malakh was dragging Langdon across the living room when the congregation declared, Amen!
Amon, Malakh corrected. Egypt is the cradle of your religion. The god Amon was the prototype for Zeus . . . for Jupiter . . . and for every modern face of God. To this day, every religion on earth shouted out a variation of his name. Amen! Amin! Aum!
The televangelist began quoting verses from the Bible describing hierarchies of angels, demons, and spirits that ruled in heaven and hell. Protect your souls from evil forces! he warned them. Lift your hearts in prayer! God and his angels will hear you!
Hes right, Malakh knew. But so will the demons.
Malakh had learned long ago that through proper application of the Art, a practitioner could open a portal to the spiritual realm. The invisible forces that existed there, much like man himself, came in many forms, both good and evil. Those of Light healed, protected, and sought to bring order to the universe. Those of Dark functioned oppositely . . . bringing destruction and chaos.
If properly summoned, the invisible forces could be persuaded to do a practitioners bidding on earth . . . thus instilling him with seemingly supernatural power. In exchange for helping the summoner, these forces required offeringsprayers and praise for those of Light . . . and the spilling of blood for those of Dark.
The greater the sacrifice, the greater the power that is transferred. Malakh had begun his practice with the blood of inconsequential animals. Over time, however, his choices for sacrifice had become more bold. Tonight, I take the final step.
Beware! the preacher shouted, warning of the coming Apocalypse. The final battle for the souls of man will soon be fought!
Indeed, Malakh thought. And I shall become its greatest warrior.
This battle, of course, had begun long, long ago. In ancient Egypt, those who perfected the Art had become the great Adepts of history, evolving beyond the masses to become true practitioners of Light. They moved as gods on earth. They built great temples of initiation to which neophytes traveled from around the world to partake of the wisdom. There arose a race of golden men. For a brief span of time, mankind seemed poised to elevate himself and transcend his earthly bonds.
The golden age of the Ancient Mysteries.
And yet man, being of the flesh, was susceptible to the sins of hubris, hatred, impatience, and greed. Over time, there were those who corrupted the Art, perverting it and abusing its power for personal gain. They began using this perverted version to summon dark forces. A different Art evolved . . . a more potent, immediate, and intoxicating influence.
Such is my Art.
Such is my Great Work.
The illuminated Adepts and their esoteric fraternities witnessed the rising evil and saw that man was not using his newfound knowledge for the good of his species. And so they hid their wisdom to keep it from the eyes of the unworthy. Eventually, it was lost to history.
With this came the Great Fall of Man.
And a lasting darkness.
To this day, the noble descendants of the Adepts soldiered on, grasping blindly for the Light, trying to recapture the lost power of their past, trying to keep the darkness at bay. They were the priests and priestesses of the churches, temples, and shrines of all the religions on earth. Time had erased the memories . . . detached them from their past. They no longer knew the Source from which their potent wisdom had once flowed. When they were asked about the divine mysteries of their forebears, the new custodians of faith vociferously disowned them, condemning them as heresy.
Have they truly forgotten? Malakh wondered.
Echoes of the ancient Art still resonated in every corner of the globe, from the mystical Kabbalists of Judaism to the esoteric Sufis of Islam. Vestiges remained in the arcane rituals of Christianity, in its god-eating rites of Holy Communion, its hierarchies of saints, angels, and demons, its chanting and incantation, its holy calendars astrological underpinnings, its consecrated robes, and in its promise of everlasting life. Even now, its priests dispelled evil spirits by swinging smoke-filled censers, ringing sacred bells, and sprinkling holy water. Christians still practiced the supernatural craft of exorcisman early practice of their faith that required the ability not only to cast out demons but to summon them.
And yet they cannot see their past?
Nowhere was the churchs mystical past more evident than at her epicenter. In Vatican City, at the heart of St. Peters Square, stood the great Egyptian obelisk. Carved thirteen hundred years before Jesus took his first breaththis numinous monolith had no relevance there, no link to modern Christianity. And yet there it was. At the core of Christs church. A stone beacon, screaming to be heard. A reminder to those few sages who remembered where it all began. This church, born of the womb of the Ancient Mysteries, still bore her rites and symbols.
One symbol above all.
Adorning her altars, vestments, spires, and Scripture was the singular image of Christianitythat of a precious, sacrificed human being. Christianity, more than any other faith, understood the transformative power of sacrifice. Even now, to honor the sacrifice made by Jesus, his followers proffered their own feeble gestures of personal sacrifice . . . fasting, Lenten renunciation, tithing.
All of those offerings are impotent, of course. Without blood . . . there is no true sacrifice.
The powers of darkness had long embraced blood sacrifice, and in doing so, they had grown so strong that the powers of goodness now struggled to keep them in check. Soon the Light would be entirely consumed, and the practitioners of darkness would move freely through the minds of men.