“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…” Genesis 6:5 KJV
Tom-tom . . . tom-tom . . . Pulsing . . . throbbing . . . the earth reverberated. Dancers leapt to the ancient rhythm, their half-naked bodies, glistening with sweat in the firelight, twisted and arched, as the primal beat called to the pulse within. Overhead, the display case of heaven sparkled, the diamonds large and brilliant against their black velvet nest. Accompanying this was a symphony of sound; a full choir of heavenly voices carried on the solar winds through the crystalline canopy of heaven to the sons of earth below.
The heavy scent of giant orchids which bloomed along the outer perimeter of the temple gardens mingled with the spices and perfumes that were thrown into the fire by the temple priestesses. It had all been set in place for his honor; soon to be absolute ruler and son of the gods himself.
High above the ornate alter, around which the dancers poured their carnal worship, a handsome, young, would-be king watched from his seat of honor. His heart beat quickened, for he knew what was coming next. He had once before witnessed the ancient ritual, as a child, when his own father had been crowned king; had become god.
Abruptly, the drum ceased. A hush swept through the crowd of onlookers who circled the stone platform. The dancers and priestesses scattered. From out of the shadows marched twelve beasts. They were human in appearance except for the gigantic wings, leathery like those of a bat, which were folded across their backs and whose tips nearly touched the ground. Each man was tall and well-muscled - the finest and bravest in the kingdom. They were the king's guard, especially chosen and groomed from boyhood; a privilege for only the strongest and bravest. They would accompany the king wherever he went – even to the grave. As descendants of the Nephilim - the race of giants born from the union of the gods and mortal women - they feared nothing; not even death.
The guards lined up on the large platform, facing the king, as the chief among them solemnly ascended the flight of stone steps that led from the platform and alter to the king's throne. From here he would have a good view of every spectacle. The guard saluted, turned, and gave the signal to the others.
With precision, the guards stepped back to form a corridor. The here to fore silent crowd could not help but murmur. A wave of „oohs‟ rippled through the masses as six burly slaves led the captive forward, shackled, hobbled, and muzzled. Even then, it was a struggle to get the huge beast prostrate upon the altar of sacrifice. Its beady eyes glistened as its leather wings twitched.
A priest came forward, gilded knife held high over the creature's heart. A slave released
the muzzle that had kept the creature silent and the knife plunged directly into the heart of the animal as a piercing scream echoed through the forest, seeming to rebound from the canopy of the brilliant sky.
Other skilled workers moved quickly into place, and with a few precise cuts, the huge leather wings were removed. Next the head was severed, the brains neatly extracted, leaving only the long pointed beak, majestic red crest, and beady eyes intact.
Blood dripped from the newly hewn crown as it was placed reverently in the hands of the chief guard. With dignified solemnity, he carried the grisly trophy up the long stairway to the king. The priest followed closely on his heels. The prized headpiece was placed on the king's head, even as blood continued to drip from its depths onto his hair and beard. The priest, who had brought with him a goblet of the animal's blood rendered from its jugular vein, presented it to the sovereign. He whispered the ancient words of the deity into the king's bloody ear; an incantation meant only for the gods, not mortal ears. Slowly the new sovereign raised the goblet to his lips. Without wavering he took a swallow from the cup, letting the blood trickle from the corners of his mouth. Lowering the goblet, his handsome face was suddenly spoiled by a malicious grin.
The priest stepped back as four others came bearing the wings, still attached as one piece by the skin of the creatures back. They were strong men, but even they let out a grunt as the heavy cape was settled onto the shoulders of the monarch. He thought for a moment he would not be able to bear the weight of it. Once the wings were properly cleaned and
tanned, they would weight much less and he would be expected to wear them for all public ceremonies. But for this night, he must bear the full weight of the mantle, blood and all.
The blood, which the priest had mixed with some special herbs, was giving him new strength, however. And the words...those secret words passed down from the outer world of his ancestors . . . words which no human could hear . . . these also gave him power. He was one of them, now. A god among men. He straightened majestically in his seat, as if the weight on his shoulders was nothing more than an ordinary cloak made of woven material. He smiled his bloody smile again, flashes of white peeking through the glistening red, and raised his hand in salute.