The Life and Times

Part 4: The truth will set them free. More or less.

Chapter 37

"To expostulate why day is day, night night, and time is time, 
were nothing but to waste night, day, and time"
Hamlet, Act ii, Sc.2

The highest of the high priestesses of Evil stood in the cavernous flame lit throne room of the Underworld far enough apart from the red robed highest rank lore master to indicate a certain level of consolidation without, she hoped giving the Source the demon once known as Tempus , any reason to suspect collusion.

The upper hierarchy of evil had was meeting in the throne room of the Underworld , so Tempus who was a short demon could sit on the throne and look down on his minions. The priestess wearing uncomfortable high heels remembered stories colleagues had told of Belthezor's brief reign. A tall demon he had simply invited demons of lower rank to sit while he prowled and stood towering above them.

"Was that the great weakness of Belthezor?" the priestess wondered rubbing one foot on the other. An empathy for the feelings of others. Was that the weakness that had brought him down? Along with his obsession for a cursed witch.

The priestess shuffled from one foot to another as the demons talked of the recent attack of the warlock king Willem on demondom itself, Proof that Willem really had taken on the personae of the gone and by some lamented legendary Belthezor. She shuffled again as they discussed and discussed the subject.

Tempus was no more willing to go after Willem than he had been during past discussions. He was adamant he was leaving the Charmed Ones alone. Even though Willem had struck Brotherhood minions with a lightening power and reckless plan of attack that was the hallmark of Belthezor. Even though the Underworld was shuddering with fear and anticipation that the legend was coming back and even secretly gloating that the legend was greater than Tempus.

After all Tempus in his pres-source days, with all his powers had failed to get the Charmed Ones.

Belthezor had been able to get them and it was only his reckless human nature that had stopped him taking the final step. All he had to do was finish the job. But he was flawed and couldn't use the knife on a witch he loved. So the stories said. The High Priestess shuffled from foot to foot. At least the legend of Belthezor was about romance, tragic thought it was. Belthezor's legend was not, and the priestess glanced at her lover the lore master, not about expediency.

Tempus was a cautious leader; one who would wait and always said Time was on his side. Cautious was not a word associated with the legendary Belthezor. Belthezor had been reckless, anxious to act, impatient. Belthezor...was a legend.

Tempus held back and wise or not, those demons like the High Priestess who worshipped strength found him wanting, vacillating, wavering even when she knew tat her lover the red robed lore master standing just far enough away had advised, waiting. Belthezor had never listened to advice.

"The warlock Willem is no Belthezor" said Tempus. "Belthezor is vanquished. Willem is an illusionist a freak a minor bird mimicking. Belthezor. A warlock. A power thief" he added scornfully.

"If Belthezor is gone, where did he get the powers of Belthezor?" asked a demon hiding in a group of zoltars" "No warlock could steal them from Belthezor so he must be Belthezor incarnated."

"He is a warlock power thief, subverting some powers of good in an illusion" roared Tempus pulling himself to his feet. "The Charmed Ones will get him, because such a creature is only worthy of...witches as foes."

"Can you get him?" asked a voice hidden in the red robed masters behind their leader."

Tempus focused on the voice and the red robed brethren parted as another demon was sent to the mores of Hell. The red robed lore master leader smirked slightly, as he glanced at its priestess lover. Another rival gone.

"Why aren't they?' demanded a black robed brotherhood leader "We lost brothers in that attack."

Tempus curled his lip and smirked "Are you sure that you wish to declare that?" he asked lifting his hand. "As I understand it, Willem was only able to attack a group of traitors plotting against an anointed Source."

The red robed lore master who was planning on making his rise in demon based on his advice to Tempus to leave the Willem to the Charmed Ones fate, smirked.

"What did you get from the warlocks that were captured" Tempus asked the priestess remembering he needed the black robed brotherhood leader for the moment."

"That the warlocks are convinced their time has come under the sovereign Willem?" replied the priestess, "That Willem is convinced one of the sycophants of the Charmed Ones is Belthezor."

"Which one?" asked the brotherhood leader, suddenly nervous. It remembered Belthezor in their days as minions of Raynor. Belthezor had not cared for him. Tempus did not miss the slight tremor in its voice.

"The priestess warily glanced at Tempus."The witch that used to be Belthezor's mortal husband," she whispered.

The demon hierarchy turned nervously to Tempus and who in turn glared in the direction of the red robed lore master. The lore master barely trembled. It knew it was in control. It smirked and then made a gesture that was only just short of source like.

"Warlocks are foolish creatures" he said, knowing he was in control. The priestess and the brotherhood leader nodded. The red robed lore master openly laughed. It pulled a large list from his sleeves, with some deliberation, to stretch the moment.

"I have ah.. contacts... agents who have some understanding of the…deliberations of Good" it said" The situation of Belthezor and Willem's belief in his resurrection is not without concern to the Elders. I can assure you from the mouths of the Elder are that the mortal husband of the witch is just that, and this is also from the mouths of the Elders and Good" he sneered "does not lie. The connection is that the mortal was the one that Belthezor took over when he and the last source…merged in spirit, after the first vanquish of both of them. When those accursed witches separated their spirits but could not damn them with their miserable spells."

"You are certain" enquired the priestess, set to ask the question by her lover. "The warlock was insistent that Willem had the power to recognise the mortal form of demons."

"Can you ask it again?" said the brotherhood leader.

"Warlocks are weak and foolish creatures" smirked the priestess. "This was the advice of our late priestess leader Katasha and she was a wise leader. We have a vengeance on the Charmed Ones" she said, causing her lover to wince slightly at this unplanned self-interest in the name of the honoured Katasha.

"Leave the Charmed Ones alone" snapped Tempus "leave them to their fate. You are certain that it is true?" he asked with a slight hesitation.

"This is the. words of the Elders." replied the lore master smugly "My sources are certain. Warlocks are gullible foolish and have far to much belief in the accuracy of their own powers."

"I was.. occupied elsewhere. Wasn't the destruction of the priestess Katasha the first indication that Belthezor was predisposed to Good," Tempus asked.

"It was the first time he indicated that he was ambitious beyond the calling of any half breed" snarled the brotherhood leader. "The first time he indicated that he was willing to betray all those who had once supported him in the face of his own ambition."

"Belthezor was willing to betray any thing and any-one who go in his way" said the priestess. "Belthezor was a great demon" she sighed. "He died the legend he was, the great…" She suddenly caught the expression on Tempus' face" " he is gone dying as the legend he lived. This is the order of things. It is the order that decrees warlock power thieves, witch catchers, bow before demons and in the last years of the old Source they lost an understanding of their place. That aborted attempt to control muses by Devlin."

"They will learn it" Tempus answered in the quiet confident voice of a leader. "And they will lose all that they thought they had gained They will learn their place, the one they had forgotten under my... not lamented predecessor and what they learn the Source of all Evil surveyed his minions.

The high priestess nodded, smiling sagely because she knew exactly what he was doing, because her lover he lore master had told her. She had only seen Belthezor as Source twice but she thought he did the "I'm in control" better." She recalled even from the distance he had a certain charisma that Tempus did not.

"It is the fortune of evil that we have a leader who will revive that what was lost in the foolishness of the last Source's quest to defeat the prophesy of his doom at the hands of the Charmed Ones " said the priestess.

"There is no such prophesy for me" said Tempus grandly. "My ending is not envisioned and I have no fate to hunt down the perpetrators in futile attempt to avoid it." He waved the priestess and the brotherhood leader to move away and then turned to the red robe lore master. "You are certain that this is what Willem is seeing? The mortal husband of Belthezor's witch."

"Yes" said the lore master. "Good is very sure, although they are concerned that Belthezor or some vestige of Belthezor exists around her but my spies think that the paranoia about him existing at all is because of Willem's mistake. Warlocks are stupid. Although the irony that all this...fuss is happening because a warlock mistook the accursed witch's latest bed mate for Belthezor is not lost."

"I am relieved bedding the witch is not a prerequisite of power in demondom" said Tempus curling his lips "And the demons who were lost because of Willem's attack" he asked.

"Strategically calculated to diminish the power and influence of the brotherhood" said the lore master "But not their usefulness. We have it on authority that Good's fear of Willem and the belief in his attack on demondom has something to do with Belthezor has prompted their efforts to destroy the cursed" and the lore master smiled evilly at the promise in the word" warlock."

"And we watch closely?" asked Tempus.

"We checked the mortal husband. Nothing sinister. A lawyer connection Belthezor used to slip into the mortal world when the Triad sent him to get the Charmed Ones. Curse him. And used again when he needed a mortal reincarnation to hide after the supposed vanquish of the old Source.

"Nothing demonic" asked Tempus.

"Nothing worse than a lawyer" smirked the lore master. "There is nothing supernaturally evil there" said the lore master, knowing his time was coming. "Just a lawyer who likes interfering. Good has no indication that he is not what he is supposed to be and they after all should know." smirked the lore master "They have certainly looked."

Tempus nodded "Just another weak fool who bedded that accursed witch."

"That is the opinion of Good" murmured the lore master, and bowed a little less low than it should have. "The actuary is coming" the lore master told Tempus.

"Stay" he ordered as his actuary appeared at the entrance of the throne room, because the time of accounting always validated Tempus' leadership, Tempus summoned the high priestess and the Brotherhood leader forward.

The actuary move slowly across the room, knowing it was its moment to shine or fail and with a controlled movement rolled out his list of the deeds of the world of demons during the last week.

Tempus listened to the long list of world leaders, company CEO's and executives, politicians, sports heroes, actors, entrepreneurs and influence pedlars who had traded their souls to evil for power, money and vengeance. Occasionally Tempus narrowed his eyes and once stopped the actuary reading the list. "That one" he said allowing is amusement to show.

"I enjoy hypocrisy" said the lore master." Especially when it is embraced by role models."

The High Priestess nodded" The preaching of good while sowing the seeds of evil has probably been the single most effective use that bought souls have been put too."

The actuary droned on, listing success big and small, corruption in government and international agencies, dealing and profit in world commodities, influence in youth organisations, and corporations, control of medical facilities and funding, and aid agencies. The leader of the brotherhood nodded at the long list.

"I do not understand how manipulating oil prices in the mortal realm brings us success in the hidden realms, the mystic plane." Tempus muttered.

The brotherhood leader carefully took breath. "The price of oil leads to the breaking of borders with global monopoly that can be used to…open those places where realms touch, leave the portals between realms that are hidden in ocean and forests and deserted plains weak and easily invaded." He explained. "The temptation of profit not only supports the coffers evil needs to deal in mortal realms, it tempts mortals into more complex deals to keep control of that profit then we control them and the economy of nations, and the world and the realms that touch it."

"And we have the means to ensure that the control of this economy is rationalised to justify the dismantling of ethics, social conscience and morality." Tempus asked.

"There is much success in this area" said the actuary droning out a long list of managers and government representatives and leaders who had destroyed communities, lives and environments while gaining plaudits for good economic management.

"The expansion of evil through human economic processes will be the crowning achievement of your reign" the priestess told Tempus who wryly acknowledged her.

"What else? he asked the actuary.

The actuary read slowly "The banking industry is now securely in the hands of evil in most of Europe and the western world. " it announced in a careful neutral voice. "The profits from this industry both in lost souls, destruction of realm portals and contamination of good have been... the actuary, looked at its list "Satisfactory" it said.

"They have been outstanding" inserted the brotherhood leader. "The decreasing of interest rates has been one of our, one of the most brilliant ideas, of the late lamented Raynor" and then as Tempus pursed his lips the Brotherhood leader winced. "That and using our government.. stooge.. representatives to allow deregulation."

"Decreasing?" sneered the Lore master with all the scorn of the traditionalist for this new evil. "Deregulation."

"Because of decreasing interest rates banks no longer have to pay anything but the most minute interest on money deposited and can now charge totally out of proportion fees for every time one of the few employees they have left touches a keyboard" said the leader of the brotherhood ,admiration for the departed Raynor still evident. "This leads mortals, human and magic to economic desperation which leads to deals with evil. Belthezor's destruction of the great Raynor was perhaps his worst betrayal to evil?" mourned the Brotherhood leader.

"The seeds sown in economic control by our late lamented Raynor" intoned Tempus "Are reflected by the great gain of demondom. We understand the heritage of economic... rationalism and the possibilities and causes for the expansion of evil. Belthezor did not destroy that" said Tempus his lip curling at the acknowledgement "Africa?" he asked curtly changing the subject.

The actuary read from his list a long list of the successes of Africa. Civil war, family strife, resources being stolen, food shortages, religious strife, good magic subverted to evil, disease. He droned out the list of souls won, the profit, the power gained to evil, the good magic failed.

The priestess and the lore maser exchanged concerned glances.

Tempus sat upright "It should be more" he said." We have a plan of empowering evil through economic rationalism and control. It was the way forward, the symbol of evil's expansion. Africa is the focal of that expansion, it is a portal to the magic realms, and the way the rest of the world, the realms respond is a barometer of our success.

"Africa is not always easy to predict" said the actuary carefully.

"You have no trouble predicting the profitability and likelihood of success in glowing terms" snarled Tempus "When we make out plans."

"The prediction of profitability is not the business of the accounting section" said the Brotherhood leader "It is the responsibility of the action planning section."

'Are you trying to tell me that the predictions and outcomes have no relationship" demanded Tempus.

The brotherhood leader nodded and explained carefully "That is why economic rationalism is such a perfect tool for evil my lord. Action is always chosen based on information pruned for the purpose of demonstrating the action is required. Whether it succeeds for the purpose is irrelevant and whether the predicted results are achieved is irrelevant because the profit and gain for evil is in the action not in the predicted results.

The High priestess and lore master leader glance at each other.

"How many gains have we made in Africa" demanded Tempus petulantly. "How many successes have we had?"

"Many" answered the actuary "many successes."

"How many has good had?" Tempus persisted." Are we winning in Africa?"

The actuary looked at his list and glanced nervously at where Tempus hands were. "It's hard to tell sometimes" it said. "Africa is an enigma. Sometimes what seems a great gain turns to a great loss and vice versa. Sometime that which looks profitable can ultimately fail on the whim of a child or a witch or a nymph."

The brotherhood leader who had staked his career and his eternal doom on convincing Tempus that Africa was the place to assert his power swallowed. "Africa has great promise but other sources have never had the wisdom to fully utilise it themselves."

"Souls from Africa have divided loyalties" explained the priestess. "And sometimes when one of those loyalties is tempted a contradictory one resists." She hesitated, then spoke as if she could not help herself "there are stories of Ogres involved, a rising of a different Ogre to the myths we have had before."

The lore master, his fury at betrayal showing on his face said firmly "Ogres are a myth, manufactured by demons as an excuse of their own failure. Who has seen an Ogre? Who has seen mythical warriors walking amongst us to arbitrate battles and change the course of demondom? Who has answered to monsters of myth and fable, more powerful than demondom itself? Ogres are myths created as an excuse for failure" he insisted.

"Exactly" snorted Tempus" why wasn't I told the problems in dealing with Africa when we planned to make use it as the basis of the expansion of evil in my reign, for the future" he asked then he sneered. "Because the profit is in the action and not in the outcome" he answered his own question. "The Charmed Ones?" he asked changing the subject. "We have gained control of the Charmed Ones finances by controlling the profitability of their club."

The actuary which was starting to believe it would survive this accounting showed a small shudder of emotion. "The sister witch, the one who owns the club failed to accept our offer to lease to restaurant they are setting up." it whimpered.

The Brotherhood leader could not believe what it was hearing "Wasn't it an offer that solved all their financial problems, an offer that was perfectly tailored to the needs of the club."

The actuary consulted his lists. "The witch refused the offer saying that she had consulted her family and they decided it would be more in their interest to maintain the business on smaller scale. We have always accepted" the actuary added "the phrase consulted my family when used by a Charmed One means listening to one of Belethe…. The middle sister witch's accursed irrational premonitions. Took notice of her damnable habit of." it hesitated "Blurting out truth." The actuary nervously looked at the disbelieving expressions of the High priestess and the Lore master and Tempus anger.

"The bitch blurts out the truth" it said glancing desperately at its mentor the Brotherhood leader. "She is uncontrollable."

The Brotherhood leader intervened "In our research for putting the restaurant proposal together we have discovered much of the financial success of the club depends on a couple of employees, the manager and the music manager we have sent representatives to... entice them to more... rewarding…jobs"

"Will they accept" Tempus asked sharply.

"Loyalty" and the priestess sneered at the word "is not a common trait in the club or music business." she sneered, "so as long as Belthezor... The middle witch sister stumbles on no truth which will discourage common sense."

Tempus nodded "Fix it" he ordered "Belthezor's accursed witch needs to suffer" cursed Tempus.

"There has been some accounting a small way" The actuary read not quite keeping the relief out of its voice that it could provide the information. "Manin a relative of Cryto paid a Blight demon to put a suspicion spell on the witch's office at her workplace as the nexus they hid in seems impenetrable.

"Why is it impenetrable?" asked the priestess.

"They are powerful witches who are not above stealing magic" said the lore master who would not admit he did not know.

"How well is the suspicion spell working?" asked Tempus.

"My agents at the newspaper where she works advise the witch's employer who is vulnerable to such spells is disinclined to believe the witch is happily married" read the actuary.

"How does this help?" asked Tempus suspiciously.

"Her employment depends on her "the actuary read "credibility in the relationship area, so its continuance is now unlikely."

Tempus narrowed his eyes.

"And" said the actuary "we have reason to believe that some of the financial depravations we have been able to level at the Charmed Ones have worked enough for them to be dependent on her employment."

"I see" said Tempus "Can we tempt the mortal husband to ensure this?"

"He's a lawyer" said the lore master raising his eyes. "There is a reason why we send demons in lawyer guise when infiltrating the mortal world."

Tempus waved his hand and the actuary cringed before realising it was a gesture of dismissal. Tempus turned to his advisors.

"Are we gaining?" he asked bluntly.

"The Brotherhood Leader bowed" Compared to where evil was when the old Source was lost." It said" we have gained. We are stronger. Not all has gone our way but, we are winning."

Tempus nodded and dismissed them.

The red robed lore master stopped "And when we gain back the powers Willem has stolen and ensure warlocks are never again tempted beyond their position. We will have gained much more. Demondom my lord" he bowed "is about to achieve its destiny of the greatest power in the realm. There is no power of Good strong enough to stop us. Even the Charmed Ones if we act…responsibly in our dealings with them, as we are now." he warned.

Tempus regretted he was a wise demon nodded.

Cole had gone to work the morning after Rodik outed him with a little relief. Phoebe had spent the night in her 'I want sex, I'm pissed at you I want you.' mood Then she had spent the early morning hours all teary and declaring how much she loved him. Then as it was time to get up asking him suspiciously why he wasn't frightened at the consequences of Rodik outing him.

"I told you because its guardian business and not even this guardian's business " he replied.

"That's only half true " she stormed at Cole and he was only saved from further arguments by Phoebe's cell ringing with a message from Elise about an early meeting which sent Phoebe off into an even more a furious temper.

"It's just as well I don't love your mother for being perfect." Cole told Whosit seriously as he dressed him. Whosit put his head on the side muttering dada which put an end to any anger Cole was feeling at Phoebe because she gave him his son.

Rodik was in the kitchen stuffing his face with expensive cereal and not talking to Paige who had her nose stuck in the Book of Shadows. Patsy toddled ahead of Cole into the kitchen singing wahwah at the top of his voice. Rodik started to complain about the noise and then saw Patsy's father and blanched. Cole smiled and said "Boo" and Rodik half choked on the cereal and got up and ran, pushing past Cole in an act of desperation.

"Maybe we should have told him you were Belthezor two weeks ago" Paige commented without looking up. As orbs sounded she added sanctimoniously and loudly "Even if it isn't true."

Kitchener AKA Not-Casper came out of the orb laughing a little in his slightly prissy manner. "It was worth coming to watch the little bastard run" he said un-angelically. He acknowledged Cole with a nodded of his head, and told Paige he would not stay, that he just came to tell the Charmed Ones with the scare mongering going on about Belthezor things were getting very heated in Elder discussions and he wanted to ask them to find a way to get Willem as fast a possible.

Paige moaned.

"Preferably without getting any more witches killed" Kitchener added.

Paige hissed the breath.

"Its " he said "loosing charges" he softened it a little."I don't like it." and he orbed.

"Yes" said Paige to the air.

Cole met her concern "He's right you know. Get Willem" he told her as he put Patsy in his high chair and gave him his cereal.

"And maybe Rodik at the same time, muttered Paige" just lose him. I'm not saying kill him." She added hastily.

"Good" aid Cole in his Guardian voice. "Just eat it Patsy" he ordered as Patsy swished cereal around.

"I'm not saying save him either" Paige muttered, then stuck her tongue out at Cole as he glared.

"I didn't ask you too," he snipped.

Piper came in behind them, Melinda running way ahead for a big hug from Unca Cole , which she achieved by levitating from 5 feet away, knocking over a kitchen chair and Rodik's cereal as she put a hand out to balance herself.

"Melinda said Paige.

"Melinda" said Piper.

Melinda looking over Unca Cole's shoulder stuck her tongue out at Patsy who hit his cereal bowl as hard as he could with his spoon, sending cereal and milk all over the floor and Paige's dark green second best I'm in control work dress.

"Shit" she said "Patsy."

Melinda grinned happily as Patsy pouted.

Paige went to the sink and dried to dab milk and cereal off the dress. "Not-Casper says we have to get Willem pronto." She told Piper.

"Bugga Not-Casper " said Piper " what are you still doing here" she demanded from Cole.

"Going to work now" said Cole.

"I mean living here" demanded Piper. "I heard some of that…conversation last night."

"What conversation?" asked Paige.

"Phoebe told Cole to get out last night " Piper sighed.

"Like no-one saw that coming," said Paige. "She isn't pregnant is she?"

"I'm not going anywhere" Cole said "My family and wife live here" he muttered.

"Good" snarked Piper.

"I have to go to work, he said. "Get Willem " he added.

"How?" demanded Piper, hands on hips.

"Don't you think I would tell you if I knew " Cole snapped managing to kiss all three kids goodbye while running.

Melinda feeling she was being ignored, because he didn't stop especially for her, realised Patsy was imprisoned in his high chair. She sent a magic flick that pinched him really hard. He let out a loud waahh and Melinda smiled happily.

"Melinda" said Piper and Paige.

Paige picked up Patsy who finished any chance the green dress had of getting to the employment centre by throwing up over it and himself when Melinda jealously pinched him again."

"Melinda ," roared Piper. " We have to get Willem and get rid of Rodik. She's out of control with him here."

"Mean Wodik" said Melinda pouting.

Paige cleaned Patsy up and pulled off his once clean sweater and t shirt and vest finding another outfit in the laundry and then surveyed her dress, "What can we do to Rodik that is worse than killing him" she asked Piper bitterly.