Lyse stood in the middle of the stone labyrinth. It was just concentric circles of stones with paths laid off in it into a maze, but it had been named the labyrinth by the Disciples of the Way. The Disciples of the Way were once a small cult who grew into a major Order.
The Way was to follow the light. Their origins began with worshiping Maykapal, but they split away, later on, to simply do good and serve others. The wrote the Book of Servants to outline exactly how they were meant to follow the Way. They grew into large Order when many people started turning from various faiths, disheartened by the lack of true leadership and the ever-present power hungry corrupt.
Lyse always felt peaceful here. It was in a very large clearing surrounded by large Balsam Firs. The Disciples of the way came daily to tend to the labyrinth, but mostly, it was left alone and so were those who visited.
The air was slightly chilled as Lyse stuck her hands in the front pockets of her hoodie. She wandered through the paths of the labyrinth and focused on the stones, the patterns, the walking.
She wasn’t crying as much anymore, and that was a good thing. She was headed back to work tomorrow after taking two weeks off for herself and to mourn.
She was very much ready to be back to a normal routine. Her mind distracted, she started thinking about why she was drawn here. She didn’t serve or follow the Way. This place was sacred to them, but they turned no one away.
It occurred to her that she didn’t really follow any religions, and that was odd, honestly. She was the granddaughter of Death or former Death. Shouldn’t she worship and follow the tenets of the various Orders dedicated to her grandfather?
She stopped walking and looked up, and not far away was a huge fir tree filled with ravens. She’d been on the outer edge of the labyrinth so she stepped out and walked towards the tree. Something about it was odd, and then, right before her, the silhouette of a man emerged from the depths of the shadows the tree and birds cast. As he came forward, a bright light surrounded him, glowing in a rainbow of colors that then flashed to pure white. As the light faded, there stood a man in a white t-shirt, jeans and a pair of black boots. His hair was long and a burnt chestnut brown.
His eyes, those piercing eyes, were a deep blue like ice reflecting the blue sky on a cold clear day. He looked right at her and looked confused.
“You are not Kevorach.”
She was startled at the mention of her brother.
“No…no, I’m not. What do you want with my brother?”
“This is not right. You should not be here. It was meant to be Kevorach!”
Lyse was more than confused now. She couldn’t understand what was going on. And then, just as he had appeared, he vanished.
What do you say about the woman who changed everything?
I’m reminded of that Zach Brown Band song:
She’s got whatever it is It blows me away She’s everything I wanted to say to a woman But couldn’t find the words to say She’s got whatever it is I don’t know what to do Because every time I try and tell her how I feel It comes out “I love you” You got whatever it is
And it’s true. I love you seems to pale in how in comparison to how I feel about you.
You are amazing in every way. I love that we can tell each other absolutely anything and it’s okay.
We make some of the dumbest jokes and laugh until it hurts.
I can’t imagine not having you in my life, and I don’t want to.
I don’t about telling everyone I’m in love with my soulmate. You are the one who completes me and makes me into a better person.
I have changed so much since we met, and I’m still changing everyday.
I’ve been told I was odd. My boss, once, told me so. I’m a devout Christian and I’m not afraid to voice it. I also have an interest in the occult and the paranormal/supernatural. In fact, when we get older books on those subjects in the library, I usually end up with them. Witches, magic, demons, angels. I have a pretty big reference section now, thanks to my job at the library.
My interest in the supernatural/paranormal started at a very early age. As a child, I often played alone and had a very active imagination. So much so that I created a thing known as a twitcher to help me focus, to help me burn excess energy and to help me tell stories in my head.
My earliest memory of the paranormal though happened in my own home. Was it simply the overactive imagination of a child? Perhaps, but some clues point to it being a different option.
I used to see a Native American Indian in our house. He ran from my mother and father’s bedroom to my older brothers room and what later became my room. I saw him all the time. So much so I commented on it and my mom can still remember me talking about it as a kid. I’m now 32.
Native American culture became a huge interest in my life, and still is to this very day. I never really thought about the Indian much until much later when I was an adult. With the ease of access to information, I decided to research Native Americans that would have been local to my area.
First search result had a painting of Natives for my area and there, standing in full color, was my Indian. Same clothes, same hair. I was shocked. Unfortunately, I’ve lost my copy of that painting and I’ve also forgotten which tribe it was. I plan on doing research to relocate the information and that painting, though.
In the third grade, something odd happened to me. There was a thunderstorm while I was sitting in class. Outside, the thunder boomed as if it was right beside the school. I leaped from my seat and yelled really loud. Which my classmates and teacher found hilarious. I did not.
I rubbed my right hand and for two weeks had a red welt on the back of my hand. I tried telling people that, somehow, I’d be hit by the lightning. Of course, no one believed the boy who screamed during a thunderclap.
It wasn’t too long after that instance that I could no longer wear a watch. I drained the batteries dead in hours. Replace the batteries, same thing. New Watch, same thing. I tried to wear a watch all the way up to high school and then finally gave up because I was tired of having a dead watch by the time I got home.
As time moved on, I could feel people’s emotions. I could even feel..well it’s hard to explain but I could feel good and evil in places and around them. I don’t mention it much because, inevitably, someone will think I’m nuts, but at one point the intuition was so strong that I could pick up on stuff when talking to people online. Even complete strangers in chat rooms. If they lied to me, I just knew it was a lie instinctually.
There was a trailer that my Uncle and his family lived in that was by my house. It sat where we played baseball and football. I was always scared of that place. Then, one night, I saw two bright red eyes in the window and felt the most intense hatred one could feel. That trailer is gone now, thank God.
I rarely experience those types of things now, though. And it could have just been my mind convinced of something that had a plausible explanation, but it doesn’t explain what happened on Sunday, September the 9th, 2001.
I was 16 years old. We attended Church that Sunday morning and in the afternoon we had the sermon. During prayer, an intense feeling of dread came over me and I knew, beyond a doubt, something bad was coming. So much so that when prayer was over, I told my parents something bad was going to happen this week. Of course, at the time, we wall just dismissed it, until Tuesday morning came and the Twin Towers fell.
My heart broke watching the planes hit the towers, watching people jump from windows, the smoke pouring forth.
I’d known something was coming and….did nothing. I dismissed it. We all did. I think back on that and wonder if I was meant to do something else. I’ll never know now, though.
After that day I tried very hard to just ignore any feelings of a premonition. It was around that time that I started having my panic attacks too, which distracted me even further. I stopped going to Church. I became a hermit for the most part. I had friends I’d go stay with to get away, but otherwise, I didn’t do much.
Then came the second to worst time in my life. I was attending college and one day when I got home. My father came home and told us several female students had accused him of inappropriate touching and behavior and he was on paid suspension pending an investigation.
Now, you have to understand that my father was a good man. No, a great man. He was a teacher who taught Vo. Tech. at the high school Vo.Tech. Center. (Vocational-Technical) He worked with Special Ed kids all the time and had both male and female students all the years he’d taught with absolutely no issues ever.
He was also, at one point, a preacher and continued to be a Lay Speaker when churches would ask him to come speak.
The story of how my father became a Christian is dramatic. I’ve still not really met anyone who has had as dramatic a conversion as he did.
My father was an alcoholic and drug addict before he was saved. One night he was drunk driving coming home and was in a car accident. a bad one. Totaled his truck to pieces. Our cousin comes by and sees him standing in the road and asks him what happened. He told her a man dragged him from the wreckage and fire and that he was looking for him. Brenda said, “There is no one here, Sonny. Just me.” That “man” saved my father’s life. The next night he went to church at a revival and was saved.
Nearly everyone in the community knew my dad and they were as shocked as we were to hear the allegations. In fact, a relative of one of the families attended our church and refused to believe my dad would have done such a thing.
He was eventually acquitted in a court of law with a trial that lasts only a few hours, but in that courtroom and later and a meeting about his job, I could see shadowy figures crawling along the walls and ceiling. It was eerie, but by this time, I’d learned no one would believe me if I said anything so I ignored them.
They were super creepy and felt alien in presence. Jagged feelings of intense hatred and other things. I chose to say a prayer and remain silent.
Were these things real? Or were they just my imagination?
I’ve told people I’m a skeptic who wants to believe and a believer who is skeptical. I believe in the devil, demons, and that they exist in our world today. I also believe in God and angels, too. I believe in spiritual gifts that are God-given. I believe there are things we can’t explain in the world, but boy do I want to explore them and see it for myself.
DISCLAIMER: IF YOU HAVEN’T LISTENED TO THE BLACK TAPES, YOU MAY NOT WANT TO READ FURTHER. I WILL BE DISCUSSING PLOT POINTS AND OTHER INFORMATION.
So, Like Alex Reagan says:
Alex: From Pacific Northwest Stories and Minnow Beats Whale, it’s season two of The Black Tapes Podcast. I’m Alex Reagan. We’re continuing our exploration of the Strand Institute’s enigmatic president and founder, Dr. Richard Strand. We’re telling the story of the black tapes in order, every two weeks. So if you haven’t listened to the first few episodes, go back and start there. We’ll be here when you get back.
The Black Tapes is a podcast I stumbled upon when looking into the podcast Lore. I was excited to listen to Lore but found it kind of boring. I plan on giving it a try again, though because my expectations were set in the wrong direction.
I thought Lore would be about fictional accounts of monsters from folklore. Though I was disappointed, it did lead me to The Black Tapes, and I’m grateful for that.
For just under 3 weeks I’ve been listening to the podcast in my spare time. I was intrigued from the beginning as the blurb for the podcast said the story was about a journalist investigating the paranormal and the founder of an Institute dedicated to debunking claims of the paranormal.
She, Alex Reagan, out intrepid journalist, meets Dr. Richard Strand and learns he has these cases called The Black Tapes. Named by Alex because the info, footage, photo evidence or otherwise were in black VHS cases.
Strand claims they are all cases he can’t debunk for one reason or another.
I was hooked from the beginning.
As time goes on, we start to see little connection between the different cases, which ends up as a major plot point in the future.
Eventually, we bol the plot down to this. Demons, secret orders wanting to release demons, the theory that math and music play a part in all of the universe and will play a part in releasing demons into the world and that this conspiracy stretches through the centuries and spans the globe.
I finished the podcast tonight. The first two seasons had 12 episodes that varied in length from 30 to 50 minutes long.
Season three, however, ended up with only six episodes.
I wasn’t sure how I felt after the final episode. The entire series was building to a grand finale, a crescendo of math, music, and major conspiracies, but we didn’t get that.
We got a very rushed finale episode with a giant cliffhanger that leaves it up to you to decide.
So, I think I am going to decide. I’m going to work on two end scenarios from the choices the cliffhanger gives. I’ll be posting those in another post, however.
The Black Tapes built a lot of steam up and added mystery upon mystery, so the last season of only six episodes was kind of a letdown.
I could see where they were headed, and it would have been an amazing thing to see it go down in the last six episodes of season three.
Let’s talk about the lore behind the podcast.
Essentially, it ends up talking about cults that exist and that they want to release demons upon the world. We learn they are into everything and anyone could end up connected.
It starts with the very first case. We are told about two videos, at different places and different times of the same person as a child, and then as an adult.
The strange figure in both videos is what kicks off the podcast and the investigation into a plausible explanation.
Soon the thing in the videos is being called a demon and we start to learn that other cases with The Black Tapes are connected to this demon and to more.
Sacred Geometry, math, music, and demons become the major plot. That gateways for demons to enter our world can be created with music and sound. To make these sounds, one needs to use math as the component to compose the right acoustics.
It’s very intriguing and starts connecting old cults that still operate today, a sound supposedly made by the devil himself and a symphony that will end the world as we know it and release the demons upon the earth to devour it in darkness.
The amount of research that had to go into this plot was amazing. Each tape seemingly leads to another tape that connected back to the previous one. And sometimes it took several episodes before you even found a connection.
The amount of history, mathematics, music and folklore used to connect all of this is staggering.
Every piece of the puzzle made the bigger picture more clear, until a new puzzle piece was added and changed the picture drastically. Something you thought was figured out would be cast back into the light and found to be the wrong puzzle piece in the wrong area of the bigger picture.
I’m hoping that, at some point, we might get a sequel or a one-off special that goes into what happened next.
I’d still recommend the podcast to people, because even without all the answers, it is still an intriguing story worth listening to.
Ardath sat on his throne of bones, onyx, obsidian and darkness. He ruled the Abyss, a place of his own creation, and he smiled.
Ardath had once been a God. He had been the God of Darkness and the guardian of the souls lost in it, but he had found it tedious. He was one of many brothers who served with the Death family, but he felt they were wasted in their place. They were Immortal yet they chose to protect, to guard, to guide mortals. MORTALS!
It was a waste of their power. They should take, consume and rule the mortals, not be glorified servants to them.
He devised a plan and soon he began amassing an army of souls, stashing them in the darkness rather than guiding them out. Soon, he took the elements and corrupted them, most especially fire, and used it to torture and scorch the souls he held imprisoned. As he formed energy from the souls, he molded the darkness to his desires and built the Abyss. His kingdom.
He made the souls into warriors and started a battle with Death, if he won, he could claim Death his and would have all the souls of the dead to empower him.
With Gods, there were two main ways for them to be empowered. The faith of their followers and the souls amassed within the light. Within the Lightlands Beyond the Veil, there were many, many lands. Each faithful follower of a God resided in the place reserved for them.
That was what Death and his family did escorted the souls Beyond the Veil and their trials to be sure they made it to their proper place in the Lightlands.
Ardath violated all those rules and began a war against the Gods, especially Grimmear and his family. Grimmear was the name Death originally held, but as time passed his followers imply called him Death and the name Grimmear faded into obscurity.
Ardath was beaten back, unable to overcome Grimmear and his brothers. Mortis and Khaeron were chief in stopping Ardath in his first assault.
He retreated, leaving the tortured soul behind as fodder. Twisted and evil they were nothing more than fire and darkness screaming in agony, wanting nothing but blood and gore to feed on and stop the pain.
Ardath, back in his new kingdom, knew he needed more. He devised a plan to make an even greater army. The souls he held in reserve, he took things from all of creation and he combined them with the souls. And thus he created demons.
He knew he would need more souls, but he had been cut off access from the lost souls in the darkness.
So he devised a new plan. He would release magic, the power of the God’s, into the world. He released the power of the darkness and his corruption of it, and he guided the corruption of the elements in the real world.
He released the power to control the dead, to reanimate them, to make more of them. As he did, he made witches, sorcerers and those who could serve him. He gained followers and he rewarded them. Their faith fed his power and they helped him gain souls and those souls became soldiers.
The second assault was made when a gate to the Veil was opened. This war was bloody and long.
Those who opposed to Ardath were Solariel; God of the Sun and the Light, Protector of the Lightlands, Chief of the Angels. His brother, Elestiel, God of Protection, Protector and Guardian of Mortals, Chief of the Guardian Angels. And Ahriman, Protector of the Celestial Bodies.
They fought long and hard and pushed back Ardath and his abominations. Ardath even released monsters upon the land to kill, consume and cover the world in darkness.
The war took its toll on them all, but Ahriman was affected the worst. Ardath lead an attack against Ahriman and his angels and soon he convinced Ahriman that Maykapal and his brothers weren’t fighting. They were using Ahriman to fight the entire war. Ahriman became angry and was convinced to turn on his brothers.
He fought against Solariel and Elestiel, but they were more than Ahriman could fight, even allied with Ardath. Ahriman knew what he could do to defeat them, and released the power from the Void of the Cosmos.
He fought them and was winning until Maykapal himself stepped in to stop him. Maykapal was injured in the battle, but Ahriman was destroyed and the Void closed. Though many unknown horrors escaped into the known universes.
The Ahrimanes, the name given to the angels that joined Ardath but failed, retreated to the Abyss.
Now Ardath plotted and ruled from the Abyss and from the Hellfire pits where he tortured his souls.
Before him, the first witch, Tabitha, fed the heart of an angel to Talamar. Talamar knelt in a circle of glowing red sigils and groaned in ecstasy.
“Good, Talamar. You have done well. Soon you will join Anbiru and Tabitha as some of my most powerful agents.”
Tabitha then had him drink from a black chalice, and fed him another heart.
Lyse looked in the broken mirror and all she saw was the vision she had had earlier that day.
The beautiful round mirror had sat in a gold gilded frame. It had been a wedding gift to her parents from Satibah, former God of Death and her paternal grandfather. The mirror had magic and would allow the family to travel to Beyond the Veil. A gateway to the realm where Death ruled.
Lyse had taken the mirror out of its frame and was going to use it to go visit her father. It had only been a week since his death and it had only been several days since the funeral and the burning of her father’s body on the pyre.
The dagger used on her father had been enchanted to provide final death when used. No second chances.
She had cried for days after she learned of the news, and then, the Death Dragon came. A Death Dragon served one purpose, to pass on and protect the magic of a demigod and provide comfort to the one grieving as they inherit the power. Lyse inherited her father’s powers, which would not make life easier. The dragon would teach her to use them and then, he would lurk in the darkness until he was needed again.
This particular dragon, Darterius, had seen many die. He’d passed power on, some centuries old. Old Gods, new Gods, demi-gods. He’d seen them come and go and return, but always there would be those who died and did not come back.
He could remember Elcar, God of Giants. His story was one of caution.
Elcar had stood nearly 10 feet tall and weighed 900 pounds. He was the strongest of all to ever exist and became the father of the giants. His children grew even bigger than he was and he grew jealous. Elcar, like all gods, was immortal, so he did not fear death.
His anger and his jealousy drove him mad and he began to kill any of his children larger than himself. Soon, he believed he needed to kill all giants and start over again. He called all his children to a certain place and held a feast. Though the giants were considered demi-gods, they were not immortal, just large in size and strength. The food was drugged and soon each and everyone of Elcar’s children were fast asleep and unable to wake.
He took his ax and slew them one by one. As he did, the place became soaked in their blood. Maykapal, the Creator, was told of this atrocity and found Elcar slaying the last of his children.
His voice boomed across the land, startling Elcar.
“You dare kill that which you are to protect! To Guide! TO LOVE!”
A bolt of light flared and ignited Elcar, vaporizing him where he stood. Maykapal cursed Elcar’s name and allowed the God’s power to settle on that piece of land, and in its place now stands glorious Red Wood trees, the tallest, strongest and most beautiful trees. Maykapal made a promise that these trees would stand forever to honor those slain and to remind everyone of Elcar’s sin. Legend says, deep among the Red Woods, that some of those trees can speak, and move. They became an ancient race devoted to the forest. Legend also claims they are the wisest of beings.
Lyse had carried the mirror to the middle of the room but as she did she caught a glimpse of her reflection and screamed at it. It was not her, but of a woman who was very old, broken and bent. You could see the sadness in her eyes and could feel the weariness of life wafting from her, and you could feel it like an ache in your bones.
She had dropped the mirror screaming and it shattered in the middle of the floor.
Now, she sat, sad and lonely, staring into that mirror, seeing herself as a broken and lonely person, whose emotions had bent her and bowed her spirit, and she could feel that ache in her bones.
Emmett and Roscoe came. They could feel her sadness and they leaned against her, one on each side. It was comforting, and the loneliness and the feeling of loss began to fade.
The Death Dragon, Darterius, slid behind her and held her as she began to sob.
“And this too shall pass away, the sorrow replaced by happiness, the loneliness with companionship.”
She cried harder and knew she would be okay, but her grief and mourning time was not yet up.
Berodach rose up in his saddle and held out his right arm. His falcon, Gyr, landed on his gloved hand. The skull-faced mask worn by most of the Black Guard was like that of bleached bone. The shadow of Gyr fell across it making it more sinister in appearance.
Gyr was his familiar and though Berodach was an elite and high ranking member of the Black Guard, he was still bound by the rules and laws of the land. Like most people within his family, none admitted that they were descended from the first god of Death. This meant appearing as far from Demi-God status as possible.
Taking on a familiar made it appear less like Berodachs powers were of divine providence and more like just plain magic.
His magic did lend itself heavily to dealing with spirits and the dead, though. Especially in banishing the undead and unholy creatures raised by Necromancers and Sorcerers. So any and all misdirection to keep people from assuming he was closely related to the God of Death, the better.
Gyr screeched for a moment and Berodach listened, then Gyr took back to flight.
“He is just ahead in the swamp. Move swiftly before he evades us again.”
He and his men, as well as a contingent of Sentinels, were hunting the Sorcerer, Talamar, a very dangerous Sorcerer who had broken nearly every law regarding magic.
Berodach lifted his mace from his belt on his ride side, holding it aloft. He urged his horse, General, forward and he, as well as his men, moved swiftly.
Gyr flew down amongst the trees as solid footing gave way to spongy earth that would then be swallowed by the mire and muck of the swamp.
As a familiar, Gyr and Berodachs bond, formed by magic, was strong. Each bond a magician had with their familiar was always different and in this case, Gyr could shift from his form as a falcon, to that of a human.
As he darted toward the earth, he changed forms and landed in a crouch in his human form. Berodach dismounted from his horse.
They were now in the Swamps of Anbiru.
The story of Anbiru claimed that he had once been a great magician favored by many. The King at that time called on Anbiru to do him a favor and travel to what was now a large area of swamp. At that time, though, it had been a forest, but something evil lurked within. Anbiru was charged with finding and expelling the malevolent being so the King could hunt in the forest without fear.
When Anbiru arrived, he immediately could feel the evil oozing forth from the forest. He knew immediately what was lurking within. It was a demon. And a powerful one.
Demons and other fell creatures can be harmed by several things. Silver was always at the top of the list. Blades enchanted with sigils of power from certain deities, or channeling the natural elements. Elemental powers themselves worked quite well, too.
As a magician, Anbiru had been trained to channel the elements into his power and wield them with devastating accuracy. He also served Maykapal, the Creator, who formed the Universes and then proceeded to populate them. It is said that he created Chronus, also called Father Time and Gaia, who is called Mother Earth. From them most of the Gods were spawned.
Anbiru fought the demon, using all of his power, but the devastation to the forest would scar it permanently. Weakened, Anbiru still fought, but could not beat the beat the demon, and thus, became possessed.
The natural elements, Terra, Ventus, Ignis and Aqua were corrupted by the now possessed Anbiru and the result was the Swamps of Anbiru.
The story contends that Anbiru never left the swamp and is somewhere at its heart, possessed and full of power.
Berodach moved quickly as he spotted Talamar. His men laid sprawled out some in the murky water, others on spongy moss covered ground. All seemed to be alive still. Talamar was weak from the days of chase.
He threw lightning tinged in bright green hellfire at Berodach, but he caught it with the head of his mace. The mace was reinforced with sigils of power, warding against nearly all creatures and attacks from them.
He swung the mace at Talamar, who lost his footing and fell to the ground. Berodach was knocked off balance from the sudden disappearance of his target and the head of the mace imbedded in a tree.
Talamar sneered as his next blast of hellish lightning sent Berodach into the quagmire. At that moment, Captain Arnhast came into the clearing, his cutlass held forward. He spared no time in attacking Talamar. This gave berodach enough time to right himself and charge at Talamar, knocking him to the ground. Arnhast held the cutlass to the throat of Talamar as Gyr appeared from nowhere and quickly clasped manacles to the wrists and ankles of the Sorcerer.
The infamous Talamar was now in custody.
Soon, the men who had been knocked down and leveled unconscious began to awake and climbed to their feet. Despite the hard chase and fight, all of them seemed more or less unharmed.
“Good Job, men. We have done the kingdom well today.”
As Talamar was taken away, to be delivered to Blackbow Prison to be held there until the time of his trial, the other men walked to the edge of the swamp and each began to move forward, escorting Talamar.
Captain Arnhast approached Berodach.
“Twas a pleasure to serve with the legendary Berodach of the Black Guard. I do hope we never meet like this again, though.”
They both chuckled. Serving as a member of the Black Guard in service to the kingdom was an honor, but it was also one most Sentinels would rather avoid.
“I hope so, as well. You’ve served well, Arnhast. You do the Sentinels proud as a very talented Captain.” As the last of the men moved just out of sight around a bend in the road, Captain Arnhast placed his hand on his dagger.
“By the way, Talamar sends you the greatest of regards.” Arnhast then drew the dagger and sunk it between the gaps on Berodachs armor at his armpit. He twisted the twelve-inch blade as it entered and struck the man’s heart.
Berodachs eyes widened as he realized Talamar had, without a doubt, used magic to take control of the minds of the Sentinels and Black Guardsmen.
Gyr flew down from the tree tops, screeching. He landed beside Berodach just as Captain Arnhast slit his own throat. The screeches changed into wails of pain. Berodach, his master, and friend, died in his arms.
Slowly, a look of confusion fell on Gyr’s face. He looked at Berodach, his head tilting to the side. He stood and looked around then transformed back into a Falcon. Gyr took flight and headed towards the mountains, his name, and his memories as a familiar fading to black.
The falcon flew until moved below caught its eye. Field mice. It dove downward.