Mammon, Angel of Greed
There is one great city in hell and it dominates this entire world of Mammon. The wastes of Mulcarn’s realm lead down into it and eventually the souls will be drawn to the city. As they get closer to the city they are transformed from ethereal spirits to a physical manifestation similar to their body in life.
As each petitioner enters the city he is given a coin, and the only way to progress through the city is to give seven coins to the Balors that guard the gateway at the cities heart. As such the entire plane is a trial to gather the seven coins needed to escape (little do they know that only worse lays beyond). Balors guard the city and maintain some illusion of order. This keeps wars from breaking out and makes for some safe areas where you can’t simply attack people to take their coins.
The point of this realm isn’t to teach the petitioners how to effectively get the coins, but to have them spend years, decades and centuries wanting them. Getting them to the point where they are completely subject to their greed and unbound by any morale constraints in their quest for the coins. They will lie, they will steal, but mostly they will become ruled by their desire in a city full of lies, false hope, and degradation.
Some few never leave this stage of hell and intentionally become permanent citizens of this city. They occasionally rise into powerful positions, slave traders, dream merchants, cult leaders, etc. Mammon may take those that seem stuck and wipe their memories, forcing them to restart their entry into the city, but sometimes he leaves them be. Mammon is quite proud of his city, and one of the few (along with Esus) who views it as something more than just a part of a great machine.
Oddly the city features a long street full of various temples. There are hundreds of gods represented, and temples are regularly switched from one religion to another. Most of the “religions” are unique to this city. Some worship various demons that may or may not be in the city, some worship petitioners pretending to be gods. All of the gods are represented except one, though most are blatant parodies. There is a temple to Lugus, for example, that claims Lugus is dead. Worshippers abase themselves before a hideously disfigured statues of their fallen god.
The only god without a temple is Mammon. Mammon believes that the entire city is his temple.
The Fall of Mammon
Mammon sat in the shadow of a great mountain. He liked creation, the smells of fresh earth and growing things, the mix of warm sunlight and cool breezes. But a world is more than the material and his mind was exploring one of his own creations, mathematics.
The One had removed the power of creation from them, but the gods were still powerful. Though the laws of creation were set, they could easily bend them. But in time they would return to their natural state. Mammon wished he could remake some of the laws he had applied, and even now played with changing them and watched the impact of his changes on the clouds that drifted overhead. The way the clouds split, funneled, dispersed and moved were minutely changed by the slightest of his adjustments.
As the god of foresight Mammon watched the world play out due to his tiny changes. The clouds’ shadow that uncovered a mother mouse a second sooner. The hawk that spotted the now uncovered mouse. The mouse that would die in the hawk’s claws. The mouse babies that would starve without their mother. The seeds that would not be eaten by the mice. The plants that would now grow from those seeds.
The clouds rolled towards the west, they were bone white and hung low in the sky. All except a single cloud that traveled east, seemingly ignoring all natural laws. Mammon considered the futures changed by the defiant cloud. Weather patterns changed, storms that would and wouldn’t occur now. The changed world that existed because of that cloud.
“Would you be so quick to change everything if you knew the implications of your actions?” Mammon asked the sky.
Tali, god of the air, smiled down at the serious god, “I suspect that everything turns out the same no matter what we do.”
Mammon frowned, “That is not true.”
But secretly Mammon wondered if Tali was right.
A distant ceremony beckoned to both the gods. All the gods gathered around a shallow pool and with a thought Mammon and Tali joined them.
Within the pool a woman floated, perfect of form with smooth, pale skin and long, black hair. She was to be Gabella, formed by Aeron into the first woman and she was receiving a blessing from each of the gods.
Bhall, Goddess of Fire, floated in the pool with Gabella and fire danced across the pool’s surface and shimmered in its depths. Bhall held the sleeping Gabella and whispered into her ear, “I give you the capacity for passion and love, that you can give these gifts to others and can receive them to yourself.”
At that she kissed Gabella gently on the forehead. Gabella continued to float as Bhall let go and stepped out of the pool. Ceridwen came next, floating above the pool she allowed the long tendrils of her gown to reach down and lift Gabella gently to her.
Oghma was watching Mammon closely. The two were as close as their precepts, Oghma was knowledge of everything that was and Mammon was the god of knowledge of everything that will be. The thin line of the present separated their dominions and because of that the gods had a close affinity for each other.
Deciding that something had changed Oghma whispered to Mammon, “You seem bothered.”
Nemed spoke to all the gathered gods before Mammon could respond.
“I mean to give her eternal life. That mankind can share our immortality and live without death.”
The gods considered, all life in creation was meant to be temporary. They were not making gods, but a world with seasons and cycles. Arawn was the first to respond.
“They have not known heaven, but they will yearn for it. Are you sure that our creation is so perfect that it should be unending?”
At that the gods all began speaking at once. Only Agares, who watched without comment, and Mammon stayed out of the conversation. Mammon already knew the outcome. It was the same as any major decision they had to make, they would ask him. It was Nemed who asked.
“Mammon, what do you foresee for Gabella and her children? Should she live eternal, or live only for a time within creation?”
For the first time Mammon was afraid to answer. Something was wrong, and for one who always knew the future being blind to it terrified him. Mammon could see the creation of Gabella, could see her rebellion and refusal to submit to the plan of the gods. Beyond that he saw the rebellion of Agares, and his attempt to challenge the One. He saw the One standing in creation, judging the world. But he couldn’t see anything beyond that moment. If there was any future beyond that he was blind to it. Mammon suspected that the One unmade them and creation. He suspected that he was seeing his own death.
In regards to Gabella’s immortality, for the time that Mammon could see there was no difference. With or without eternal life Gabella would refuse to become the mother of humanity. With either option she would live until Mammon’s vision failed him. She would live as long as Mammon would.
Rather than admit that his vision was gone, rather than tell the gods that Agares would betray them, that they would all die, Mammon pretended to know and for the first time gave advice without knowing if it was correct.
“Allow them to be immortal, they should not fear death.” Mammon was beginning to know that fear too well himself.
Arawn seemed bothered by the response but said nothing. Nemed entered the pool, embraced Gabella and whispered into her ear. From that moment she was as immortal as a single god could make her.
Mammon was next. He walked across the surface of the pool and sat down at Gabella’s side.
“Wake child.” He said softly.
Gabella sat up and her eyes fluttered open. She was still in the daze of birth and likely wouldn’t see or remember him, but he wanted to see her eyes. Aeron had fashioned her body perfectly, she was beautiful, strong and unique in feature.
“I give you…” Mammon leaned close, so that no one could overhear, “I give you nothing, so that you might always wonder and won’t know the pleasures and the pains of the future.”
Gabella lay back down in the pool and returned to her sleep. Agares was the last to give his blessing and he stepped into the pool. At his touch the water changed to a blend of black and gold, a beautiful labyrinth of bright gold veins appearing and disappearing into emptiness. The gold strands caressed Gabella’s body and again her eyes fluttered open to meet Agares’s gaze.
“I give you hope, a belief in what can be, that you will not know despair.”
Oghma was watching Mammon closely, he would be the only one who knew that Mammon didn’t give a gift to Gabella. Similarly Mammon watched Agares, searching unsuccessfully for some hint of his future betrayal.
Nemed was reborn a man. He gave the precept of life to Arawn and now he marveled at the slightest sensations of creation. The way the grass tickled his feet, the goose bumps on his back from the cool air, and the weight of his own body.
Gabella stood watching a distant storm. The grasslands swayed around her and the scattered copses of trees turned their leaves skyward in expectation of the coming rain. Though she was just a few hours old Oghma had given her not only the capacity to learn but an understanding of creation that made her the equal of any scholar in later ages.
As Nemed approached she raised one hand to stop him then she turned to consider him. He had expected to see an expression of a swan to its mate, or a baby bear to its mother. But instead he saw the calm, dangerous look of a predator, of a lioness surveying her land.
“I am Nemed, I am to be your husband. We will populate this world with our children.”
This was the first pickup line in creation, and it was a colossal failure. Gabella turned to reveal a sharpened stick she held in her left hand, in a smooth motion she leapt at him, knocking Nemed to the ground and placing the spear’s tip against his penis.
Gabella smiled at his look of surprise, “I suspect this may happen exactly opposite of how you intended.”
Nemed tried to throw her off but she was stronger, and faster, than the once god. In one motion she stabbed him, tearing through his scrotum and ripping his penis off in one meaty chunk. Gabella admired it briefly before flipping it off into the grass. Nemed screamed in pain.
The gods appeared around the two. Sirona was at Nemed’s side, and even though he quickly healed from the wound the memory of pain and fear left him shaken. Gabella was held fast in Dagda’s power, frozen under the consideration of the gods.
“Have we failed, should we remove Gabella from creation?” Dagda asked.
No one answered.
Nantosuelta approached Gabella, she brushed Gabella’s long black hair back away from her face. “Child, couldn’t you see the results of your actions? Why did you fear the advances of Nemed so? Don’t you long for the generations before you?”
It was Lugus who answered, “She is without foresight. Her fear consumes her, making her little more than a beast despite our gifts. Why was the future hidden from her?”
This last question was directed at Mammon.
“Rebellion is inherent in creation,” Mammon answered. “Her actions were the same regardless. The only difference was I saved her from the knowledge of what will be done to her in response. Do you want her to act in fear of our punishment or according to her desires? The desires that we gave her.”
“Her obedience can be compelled,” Junil offered.
At this the gods broke into arguing. Esus was the most adamant that Gabella should be free to choose her own course, and Junil argued that this disobedience must be removed from creation. Aeron, who had fashioned her form and considered her the greatest of his creations, fought to allow her freedom. As did Ceridwen, Camulos (who only wanted peace) and Agares. Mulcarn only offered that creation was better off without men at all.
“Should we free her or unmake her?” Dagda asked Mammon. Once again they turned to him.
“It doesn’t matter, whatever you decide she will be freed.” At that Arawn stepped forward. His right hand shone with the pure white light of birth, his left with the gray power of ending. He raised his left hand over Gabella but before he lowered it Ceridwen appeared behind the trapped Gabella. The flowing tendrils of Ceridwen’s gown surrounded Gabella, completely blocking her from the sight of the other gods. Arawn brushed the gown easily aside, but Gabella was gone.
They argued again and eventually agreed to create another wife for Nemed. This time the gifts were to be less than those given to Gabella, so she wouldn’t be pulled in different directions by each of their aspects. And she would be mortal in form so that whatever she chose, she would not have a permanent impact on creation. Her soul was to remain immortal, and Arawn agreed to tend to her soul, and those of the mortal generations that would follow her.
They named her Anesidora and she was as gentle as Gabella was fierce. Nemed built a farm on the edge of a great river for them to share. It was bordered by seven great pine trees and the gods frequently visited the farm. It was a favorite place for squirrels to play and they could often be seen chasing each other along the buildings and trees, or chattering noisily at anyone who passed, god or man.
One day Agares and Mammon stood by the river’s edge and the squirrels chattered at them. One even came to Agares’s foot, looking up at the powerful god and squeaking as if laying out all the world’s problems for him. Agares simply smiled at the tiny creature and offered him a small nut, which the squirrel happily accepted before hopping away.
“The One will return to creation soon,” Mammon commented.
“When he does, you will rebel against him.”
Agares stayed silent to this. The two gods sat and watched the squirrels battle, the nut Agares had given one had caused them to start quarreling with each other over it.
Finally Agares asked, “How does it end?”
“I don’t know” Mammon answered, “I see you rebel, I see him considering creation and then nothing. I can’t see a future for anyone beyond that moment. I believe he kills us all and unmakes creation.”
Agares nodded, then asked “What do you think we should have done with Gabella?”
“You mean, what should the One do with you?”
Agares simply responded, “Yes.”
“I don’t know. I love creation, I don’t want to see it lost. But questions of morality are better suited for the dominions of other gods.” Then after a pause Mammon added, “I’m afraid of dying. Were we ever not alive?”
Agares shrugged. “I will speak to those that defended Gabella. If they value life and freedom over obedience then they may be allies.”
Before Agares left Mammon stopped him, “Did you curse Gabella? Were you the reason she wouldn’t submit?”
“No” he answered, “I thought it was you. But maybe Aeron didn’t want another taking his perfect creation. Or maybe it was Ceridwen, who is always incomprehensible.”
“Maybe” Mammon echoed, but Agares was already gone. Alone, Mammon sat and watched the squirrels continue to fight over the nut.
Os-Gabella, Gabella the unbound, crept through the forest. It was a few days since her birth but she was already the greatest predator in creation and hunted without fear. It was spring and the sun, filtered through the leaves, created a net of light on the forest floor. There was no night in this world, it was caught in permanent day and made any time equally good for hunting.
Then two gods surrounded her. They held a thousand forms, and the world reacted to their thoughts. In one vision Junil seemed to swing a brilliant white sword at her only to have it blocked by the shield of Camulos. In another a tree broke and collapsed on her, but a wolf leapt and knocked her out of the way. In another the gods simply stood on each side of her, considering their possible actions.
Os-Gabella suspected this last vision was the true one, but the world seemed to ripple out form the gods as if it was only smoke someone had passed their hand through. Not only did the hand change the direction of the smoke, but the wind that followed it. Even the most minor thoughts of the gods changed the world, and these weren’t minor thoughts.
Junil wanted her dead and Camulos stood protectively over her, and the power of his dominion held Junil at bay.
Os-Gabella fled into the trees, running from shadow to shadow back to the place of safety that Ceridwen had provided her, the Bair of Lacuna. She briefly came out of the shadows to cross a small glade and almost ran into a figure standing in the shadows on the other side. He was massive and well muscled, more so than any other god and he radiated an aura of virility and masculinity. It was Aeron.
“Calm child,” he said, “I do not wish you harm.”
Os-Gabella adjusted quickly, cutting around the opposite side of a massive oak and sprinting on. But she wasn’t fast enough, Aeron was instantly on the other side of the tree waiting for her. He reached for her, grabbing her left wrist.
Os-Gabella attacked, hitting Aeron in the nose with an open palm. Her blow was like a breeze against a mountain and Aeron only smiled.
“I have not given up my divinity, though you are perfectly fashioned, I am a god.”
Os-Gabella struggled but Aeron wrapped a thick arm around her waist and pulled her close to him. She could feel the heat of his body against her and was helpless in his grip.
“What do you want of me?” she screamed.
“I mean to enjoy my creation, and that you would know the affections of a god. That you would have children devoted to me that are strong, cunning, and immortal.”
In that moment the One entered creation. For a brief second Os-Gabella felt like she was every part of creation. She was the sunlight filtering through the leaves, the patchwork of grass it fell upon, the river that flowed past Nemed’s farm, the clouds in the sky. She was the god that was about to rape her, and the woman about to be raped. She was everything in creation at once. And creation was only her alone.
In that moment she knew the mind of every god, and she felt their fear, mistrust and jealousy. She knew their strength and weaknesses. And she loved and hated each of them.
The One stood on a white stone slab looking out across creation. The 21 gods appeared around him, each afraid and ashamed for different reasons.
Mammon was consumed with his own dwindling time. He had only a precious fewmoments of life left and he watched them slip uselessly through his fingers.
Agares rushed the One, wings unfurled he leapt into the air before him, sword raised high. The One simply caught the charging angel in one hand and threw him down. The force of the blow shattered the angel and left him laying broken in the dirt.
The One raised one hand toward Mammon. The arm raised like an hourglass with only a few remaining grains of sand. When it was fully raised Mammon’s vision would end, he
would be no more.
Then Mammon heard Agares’s voice, “Flee, rebel, forget.”
And in that moment he did. He betrayed his dominion, turned against the One and felt a new power within him. A great desire that could never be filled. Blind to the future he became ruled by the need to control and possess. And he fled from the One.
Aeron, Mulcarn, Esus, Ceridwen and Camulos fled as well. But destruction did not follow them. The One remained briefly in creation, meeting with the gods that remained loyal to him. Then he returned to the true heaven and sundered that path between heaven and creation.