The Chamber of Virtues
In the catacombs under Laurence’s cathedral, a Malakite stands continuous guard outside a room that is seldom used. It is here that the Virtues come together to reaffirm their oaths in the presence of Laurence and their brethren.
The room itself is the creation of both Laurence and David, although David is seldom present at the ceremonies. It is made of a single piece of shaped stone, and when the doors are shut, it is as if there had never been doors at all. The air is cold and still, and there is a feeling of great age. Sword rosettes on the vaulted ceiling give off a cool light. Huge swords hang on the side walls between tapestries depicting great battles. Opposite the doors is a carved niche containg a bookshelf filled with volumes, some of which are quite ancient. Over the bookcase are inscribed the two oaths that every Malakim must swear:
I will never suffer an evil to live, when it is my choice.
I will never surrender in a fight, nor allow myself to be captured by the armies of Lucifer.
Laurence holds Oathtaking ceremonies here at irregular intervals. All Malakim currently in Heaven are invited. Attendance is not mandatory, as a Malakite’s oaths are binding regardless of whether there are witnesses. However, most Malakim go willingly. It is a ceremony of brotherhood, a ceremony that affirms a Malakite’s place among his peers.
“The Malakim are the most feared choir in Heaven, and with good cause.” A low murmur of assent, like the faraway rumble of thunder, rose from the assembled Virtues. “Our loyalty is given to our Superiors, but with our oaths we prove our loyalty to our essential nature.” Laurence lifted his Sword above them all, its blade seeming to cut the light that played along it. “Let us now swear.”
During the ceremony, all Malakim swear the first two oaths together. Then, one by one, each Malakite comes forward and speaks his remaining oaths while touching Laurence’s Sword. All oaths are recorded by Tarshish, Angel of Wisdom, in one of the many volumes on the bookshelf.
“I will never desert a comrade in battle.” “I will always give my opponent fair warning before attacking.” “I will always aid an angel who asks for my help.” As each repeated their vows, the others bore silent witness. “I will never use the same weapon in more than one battle.” “I will volunteer my services to a tether of my Superior at least one month out of every year.” “I will…”
Zenaniel was invited to an Oathtaking ceremony soon after he was fledged. At that time, there were perhaps a hundred Malakim present. Most swore four oaths, some five or six. One, his Discords showing plainly in his twisted frame, recited his eight oaths in a loud clear voice, with no hint of shame or regret.
The last oaths had been spoken. Laurence surveyed the ranks of black-winged forms a final time, and said, “I hope never to meet you again, unless it be in battle.” There was a momemt of silence, and then the whisper of wings as the Malakim turned to leave.