There are seven nights in hell, and worse than nights. Lilith, Lucifer’s first begotten, she from whom the seven, the lilin earn their name. Asmodeus, whose lusts enflame the earth; Mammon, whose greed devours it; and Beelzebub, whose hungers are never satisfied. Amon would destroy the earth in her wrath and Belphegor’s sloth would smother it, the creeping evening shadow from which earth would never wake.
These are the beginnings of hell and the ends of it. This darkness no mere shaft of light dispels. To the Prince of Light alone do these shadows bow. In six days and one of rest was earth’s creation made; in six nights does Lucifer create his hell.
Six nights and one more, and that is Abaddon, called by the Jews Sheol.
While the Prince of Light walks free, he casts his shadows freely, and freely they form behind him. Where he is not, the earth is engulfed in the darkness of his absence. There is bickering; Asmodeus would burn humanity to cinders in the heat of its desires, while Amon would put swords in their hands and watch them cut each other down, one after the other. Territories are disputed. Sometimes Lucifer brokers peace between this night and that one. Sometimes he only looks on and smiles at the children he has made.
It is a good time to be a night of hell. It does not last.
Lucifer is bound by iron chains and divine will, and his nights scatter like so much time gone by. They are alone now, with no one but one another for company.
Belphegor is the first to fall. No one is surprised. He was the laziest one of them, after all. Angels came upon him, or some priest full of sacred words, or he was slain by a hero’s blessed sword. Accounts differ.
No one’s sorry, either, it must be said. Into each black heart the thought comes, unrepentant, More for me.
It takes quite some time to notice that Mammon has gone missing. Her touch is ever-present, her darkness a creeping fungus in every human heart; her tribute is a constant river of worship. Who would think her gone?
It’s Lilith who goes hunting her, intent on some plan. (Lilith is a great one for plans.) When she doesn’t find her, she asks the others, one by one, and one by one they deny knowing what might have become of Mammon. It isn’t as though they’d talk to her on purpose. That ever-flowing river has not gone unnoticed.
Lilith asks Abaddon last, and Abaddon shrugs – a human habit she’s acquired – and asks what use Mammon could have with her? She doesn’t even walk the earth; she tends this little garden plot Lucifer granted her down here in hell, only damned souls for company. She’s only the lowly seventh of the nights, she remind Lilith. The afterthought.
Not that Lilith disagrees – shes is Lucifer’s beloved, after all, and Abaddon only exists to sate Lucifer’s obsession with symmetry – but Abaddon is a bit flippant about it, honestly. A bit unconcerned. Lilith detects something less than the full appreciation their captive lord and master the Prince of Light deserves.
At any rate, Abaddon cannot account for Mammon.
Amon is hoist upon her own petard. In one of those earthly skirmishes enacted for her sake (if not in her name, but then humanity so rarely knows the purpose in what it does), a mage binds a demon of hell to do his bidding. It is old, old magic that he knows, and it is Amon that he binds. It is she who is brought low by the mage on the other side of the battle lines who knows older magic still. With a word, unspoken from the beginning of time until now, Amon is undone.
As is all the country for leagues in every direction, not that Amon is around to appreciate that part.
The nights of hell draw nearer together after that. Three of them are gone, and three remain (and also Abaddon).
Lilith is not afraid. Lilith is Lucifer’s firstborn, the purest of them all. She hasn’t time for this, anyway. All the other nights, lacking Lucifer’s guiding light, have fallen into the same sins they were meant to visit upon the earth. They don’t look for him. They don’t seem bothered about trying to him free. Only Lilith cares to return their father to them, and a thankless job it is, too.
She turns her back on them, burning with purpose.
If there is any demon less vulnerable to the vagaries of time than Mammon, it is Asmodeus, lord of lusts. Humanity ravages itself, fueled by the heat of his desires.
Ungrateful son or no, he’s useful now and again. Lilith has a scheme that he’d suit very well. She goes asearch, and she finds him one moonless midnight sprawled across a holy floor, before a blessed altar, a burned husk. She touches him with a toe, and he collapses into ash.
This sanctum is a candle lit in a gale, its light feeble and soon blown out. It could light no corner of the darkness cast by hell, and no one in this place could know the means to end a night of Lucifer. It is inexplicable, unaccountable.
Lilith looks for Beelzebub, to warn or to protect, but she doesn’t find him.
“It’s you,” Lilith says to Abaddon. Abaddon’s face is lit with flames, licking up from the burning souls of the damned. “You ended them all.”
Abaddon smirks. It’s a human invention, the smirk. On Abaddon’s lips it is yet another corruption of the purity Lucifer himself created. (Even if Abaddon was never quite as pure as the rest. Not like Lilith.)
“Oops,” Abaddon says. “Thought you’d catch on, that stupid mage using a word of ending right out in the open like that. I had a whole alibi worked up. You never even asked!”
“You were one of us,” Lilith says. She means it for a command.
“Right,” Abaddon says. “All that time you walked the earth, and where was I?” Her smile is a terror to behold. “Taking care of hell. I did a good job, too. They call it after me now, you know. Would you like to see?”
Lilith doesn’t get a chance to answer. Gravity lays its hands on her as it has never done before and iron screams an aria, and above her the doors of hell grind shut.
Abaddon brushes dust from her hands and looks out on the wide, wakening world. “My turn.”