The Life and Times

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

Chapter 41

"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

Cole shimmered into the hidden realm and because he knew where he was going, he was able to track the warlocks into their lair. The lair was large and cavernous and seemed something like a large cathedral lit by a dull purple light clearly designed to be easy on warlock's sensitive blinking.

It had a grandness and opulence about it that was clearly lacking in the Source's far less impressive throne room and underground realm.

It also had and a peculiar absurdity.

Cole did not understand it why it struck him as false. Leo did. It was something like Hollywood movie's idea of the opulence of a European court, grander , more elaborate, bigger and dysfunctional compared to real thing. What Cole did know was that as warlocks were not noted for their willingness to work and as good magic rarely invested itself in such useful powers as creating abodes, because it was claimed to be personal gain, the warlocks must have been trading evil powers on a grand scale over the years to create such a place.

The area appeared to be the outer court. It had no seats and a number of small chapels like caverns on either side. Toward one end, bathed in purple light a misty structure separated the hall from what Belthezor assumed was the inner sanctum.

Warlocks stood about in groups, wearing some travesty of medieval clothing, males in either tights or longish robes, and females wore some form of elaborate flowing gowns that must have been hideously uncomfortable. As Belthezor watched it appeared the more ornate the clothing the higher placed the warlock, as the more outrageously dressed ones swept the less elaborate ones out their way.

It amused Belthezor to realise that warlocks, creatures who snuck around in the mortal realms, hunting in packs, trying to slip in and appear mortal in nondescript clothing that hid their evil, were in their own world vain peacocks who had a ritualised, and extravagant ceremonies. Warlocks, slighted and belittled by demons as inferior power thieves, saw themselves as a superior and more developed hierarchy.

Who knew?

Belthezor slipped into a corner not far from a band creaking out screeching music that offended both Belthezor's mortal and demonic hearing as much as it offended Leo's angelic one. He watched the mockery of a court, as warlocks bowed to each other, stepped around each other in elaborate movements that suggested their status and boasted of the witches they had killed and the powers they had harvested, apparently a conversation that was an acceptable form of communication, combined with boasting of conquests to come.

Almost as if the boasting dared them into finding the courage to hunt witches, Leo thought, not quite as amused as Belthezor.

In the middle of the cathedral like cavern, a large group of warlocks were milling, shouting and yelling with a blood curling glee that was in complete contrast to the ritualistic behaviour from the others. It was very similar to the screaming crowd Belthezor had seen watching the cock fighting when he collected Rastus, only far, far cruder, excited and vicious in its jostling. This too seemed to be accepted.

The demon in Belthezor became interest and as he moved closer, he understood the similarity to the cock fighting was not just in the noise and behaviour. At the centre of the warlock's  amusement were two sludges bound and being tortured in a cat and mouse game while the warlocks bet each other on their life expectancy and reactions to various actions administered by what looked like an opposing team of warlocks whose extravagant clothes were topped by different coloured cloaks.

Leo through Belthezor's eyes watched the warlocks torture the sludges with mounting disgust. However because he expected evil to be evil he was not shocked. Something in Cole was dismayed and it took a few seconds before Leo realised it was because Cole was being confronted by the evidence of the pettiness of evil, that in his contempt for the malicious evil of the warlocks, he was seeing his own evil through the eyes of those who were not, and was sickened by it.

Cole watched for a few seconds before, with a carelessness, which proved to Leo evil or not evil Cole was still a reckless bastard, he shimmered into the centre of the sport and blasted the doomed sludges to smithereens.

The warlocks all jumped at this invasion of their world, this desecration of their realm by a hated demon. They glanced at each other, one or two half stepping forward, the rest slowly backing off uncertain of how to behave, uncertain of their chances, waiting for a leader, waiting for a plan.

One or two finally decided to try their witch powers on the demon, and with no effort Belthezor blasted their powers back at them blowing up three warlocks. This caused the warlock crowd it to stop worrying about Belthezor and despite their cumbersome clothing flock in a power feeding frenzy as they reached for floating powers of the lost warlocks. Belthezor and Leo both noted it was the evil powers of the departed warlocks the remaining ones sucked first.

Belthezor waited until the frenzy had stopped and the warlocks all returned to glare at him

"Take me to your leader" he smirked.

The warlocks glanced at each other clearly uncertain.

Belthezor did not wait for them to decide. He shimmered to the other side of the misty purple wall and stood just behind it to watch the proceedings in this chamber. The Chamber was far more intimate than the great cathedral area  but far more elaborate. It was lit in streams of purple light giving it what Leo assumed was supposed to be a supernatural ambience. There were purple furniture, purple hangings and purple floor coverings.

"Purple, mommy purple. Purple " thought Leo quoting his daughter and something of the same thought must have occurred to Belthezor or perhaps he was just listening to Leo as his soul shared Belthezor's body. Because he muttered under his breath "To much bloody purple."

There were about 15 warlock courtiers standing around in costumes so extreme, blinking would have been about the only way they could have moved more than a few yards.

In the front of the chamber was a raised throne with two slightly smaller ones on either side. Two warlocks, a male and a female, in rich white robes that stood out against the purple light sat on the smaller thrones, and in the centre was the warlock King. Belthezor did not recognise the warlock but Leo did. It cackled a breathy bad actor Dracula accent, swirling its cape over-dramatically as it spoke. The black costume and great cape that in the other realms looked like a Bella Lugosi Dracula costume had a purpose. It stood the warlock king out from the elaborate costumes of the courtiers.

"Who new?" thought Leo.

A ritual was happening where a warlock on its knees in front of the three on the thrones, seemed involved in some complicated ritual of power exchange where it was begging the Warlock King to exchange some good powers stolen from witches for an evil power. Leo started and almost made Belthezor jump as the warlock was addressed as Nicholas and he realised in about 20 years, he would be powerful enough to challenge Patty and the Charmed Ones. The evil power seemed to be one of soul branding, that was a power usually associated with demons just below the upper level.

"A high level power for warlocks to steal " Belthezor thought.

Warning bells in Belthezor's head and Leo heard them. Why would the warlock pass on good powers in exchange for demonic evil powers make a difference. Leo asked the same question. Why contrary to all beliefs that places in warlock hierarchy depended on the witch powers stolen, the main currency was about evil powers.

The negotiations for the exchange were highly ritualistic and intricate. The warlock Nicholas, kneeling before Willem , appeared desperate for the evil power and it was only after some complicated exchanges, which seemed to Leo ended in the three warlocks on the thrones getting extra evil powers, that Nicholas got the evil power.

The ritual was barely finished when a warlock from the cathedral chamber apparently decided to be brave and blinked in bowing low, wasted time in ritual before pointing out Belthezor at the back of the chamber watching the whole performance.

Willem came to his feet followed by the two warlocks on either side of him. Warlock courtiers spun around and then scattered nervously apart as Belthezor move forward.

The three warlocks in front of the throne watched him come, insolent smirk on his face. The male warlock beside Willem calmly, for a warlock, flicked his hand and produced something like a dark Book of Shadows. Both Leo and Belthezor were highly suspicious that the warlocks were not in frenzy or state of shock at the presence of a demon in their midst.

"Belthezor " the white robed male warlock informed King Willem .

"Thank You Brother Fleischer" said Willem in a voice that was across between a cackle and a croak.

"Part human" said the female white robed warlock in a throaty hiss.

Leo wondered if she was the consort.

"Very pretty mortal form" she added with a sexy sigh in Belthezor's direction.

Willem had a slightly disgusted expression. "Thank you sister Vala" he answered in a voice that did not hide his jealousy.

"Eek" thought Leo" and then remembered the intricacies of ancient Egyptians when brothers and sisters ruled as consorts. "Eeeeeeeeeeek" thought Leo.

"Belthezor" Willem sneered as Belthezor stood head thrown back, pulling himself up to his full height which from the gasping disgust behind him was an horrific insult to the warlock King.

"Such a surprise to see a demon in our humble realm" croaked Willem in a voice that indicated it was not. "We are so honoured at the attention paid to us by demons. Especially Raynor and your Brotherhood."

Belthezor shrugged. "Just a casual visit … to get to know you." he said wickedly.

"Raynor must be anxious to know us" croaked the warlock King "Sending another minion so soon after the last one. Seems our humble court will never be short of visitors while Brother Raynor wants to know what our powers are."

"Shit" thought Leo feeling a sense of panic.

"Damn " thought Belthezor not panicked as the demon spirit in him readied for action.

The warlock sycophants bowed low and started to move forward apparently deciding there was safety in numbers and deciding it was worth the risk to be close to the power if  the demon was destroyed.

"And the great Belthezor" continued Fleischer in a more normal middle European accent than his brother. "Not just any demon. Raynor must want our powers very badly."

"Or be very frightened of us to send such a famous demon" said Vala throatily "And such a pretty one."

"Whatever" said Belthezor unconcerned enough not to bother lying. "We ought to talk."

"We appear to be talking" said Fleischer in a patronising tone.

"Alone" said Belthezor noticing the warlocks pressing forward "Your brother and sister can stay." He added because Leo noted Belthezor was quick enough to realise he would get no answers without them.

"Our terms" insisted the warlock king, in a mockery of regal hauteur. "Not alone."

"Alone" said Belthezor who raised his hand and a fireball formed.

"Your powers cannot harm us" said the warlock king grandly.

"Us no" said Belthezor "Them...suffer" and he with an amused and insolent smile let the fire ball go and it split into 10 small parts and the 10 warlocks in direct line realised and fell over each other trying to get out the way. Five were hit with a rewarding explosion of purplish/black powder. The other bolted and the air was filled with the sound of blinking and powers good and evil hissing out of the departed warlocks.

To Leo's amazement, and Belthezor's amusement, Fleischer and Vala dived after the powers, far more concerned about the black swirling evil ones the good. They even allowed a couple of the remaining warlocks to try for the good ones.

"My terms" said Belthezor "Now we talk?"

Willem apparently satisfied with his brother and sister's actions. He waited until they returned to the throne.

"What do you want" creaked Willem , the Dracula smile and pale face somehow making a travesty of the royal air of command.

"Everything" said Belthezor brazenly and Leo was surprised that Cole was lying; the demon wanted power, Cole wanted...escape."

"You're a demon. We know you want everything" crackled Willem not unamused "What do you want to talk about?"

"Raynor is working with the Triad. Triad sent me to find you " said Belthezor" I found you. They are willing to pay for my knowledge. I saw you suck up those powers ."What are you willing to pay for me not to tell them I found your little….hideaway."

"That is not what...." Fleischer started to say.

"This is why they call Belthezor the Great Betrayer" said Vala.

"Blackmail" said the warlock king sneering.

"It's as good a currency as any "Cole said. "Power scavengers should understand that."

" You judge us Belthezor " cackled Willem " "you clearly have the soul of a moralistic minion of good. "

Leo hoped the last was just an insult and Willem had no power to see into Cole 's soul, although the expression on Vala's face was of some concern.

"You are clearly not a devotee of our calling to evil, or you would understand that this is the way it ought to be. Trading powers is our religion and our pleasure." Vala told Belthezor.

"He has another demon following him somewhere. He wouldn't come alone." Fleischer warned.

Belthezor shrugged "I prefer the enemy to my front than the friend at my back " he said truthfully.

"Why shouldn't I kill you?" Willem asked cackling unimpressed.

"Because you can't" Belthezor answered with a mocking and amused sneer.

The warlock king raise his hand and sent a number of fire and witch liked vanquish powers in his direction.

"I'm unvanquishable by witch powers" Cole scoffed. "So what's worth not to tell the Triad just how many demon powers are... floating around down here."

"I think I preferred the offer of the last demon Raynor sent in here" said Fleischer.

"Or was it the Triad?" asked Vala smugly.

Leo was not too surprised to realise the lie about who sent him had a foundation in truth. The demon in Belthezor was considering the value of what he knew to the Triad. "Didn't Cole always say lies worked best if they were based on truth." Leo mused.

"That demon. What was its name?" Willem asked his brother Fleischer in a crackling voice. ."

"Troxa " replied Fleischer.

"Troxa " Willem said " Troxa offered us a whole cult of demon powers to share our wealth with him."

"It was cheap at twice the price" said Willem cackling again.

"What was the price?" Belthezor asked interested.

"Nothing" cackled Willem . "We will obtain the powers at the new moon and it cost us nothing."

"You couldn't kill a demon as powerful as Troxa" said Belthezor calmly. "Sometimes you never know the real cost until after you are asked to pay, and then it's too late to renege

"Perhaps I chose not to kill Troxa" said Willem "But he can't harm us and, he never will, or demand payment. We are that powerful" he told Belthezor.

"Prove it" said Belthezor shifting on his feet in a way Leo recognised, was getting ready for action.

"You are so scornful of my powers." croaked Willem with a sneer. "I have the power to burn with my eyes,. I have he power to communicate telepathically. I have the power to mediate great powers to my will. I have great telekinesis, I have the power to absorb great knowledge. I have the power to smell evil. I have the power to…"

"Harmless powers to demons" said Belthezor and Leo cursed him for interrupting because he wanted to know what powers Willem had "Warlocks must be weak if that is all it takes to be king. Just a few dead witches."

"Brother Troxa lives because has been very useful to our cause" smiled Vala evilly. "Such a pretty demon." she breathed to her brother's irritation. She became business like "We are not interested in your blackmail Belthezor. What powers will you part with to let you out of here… unimpaired. That is our currency?"

Belthezor fully recognised the threat, Willem and triumvirate had no intention of falling to blackmail. "I have other powers.. Belthezor" cackled Willem from the throne, while his brother stood beside him, superior sneer.

"Use it," Fleischer ordered his brother."

And Belthezor knew for certain that the warlocks thought they could kill him.

"I think I like my currency best" said Belthezor prepared to bluff" stealing powers, plotting against the source consorting with witches." he taunted "Each one punishable by death but what sort of death. You think I won't tell him exactly where to find you."

"I thought you were dealing with the Triad" mused Fleischer.

"This is looking better every minute" shrugged Belthezor calmly.

"Use it" Fleischer ordered.

"Nothing there, he is not worried or frightened" said Willem regretfully and Leo was wondering if he was talking about the transmergence power " We don't like you Belthezor." he said "We don't like your currency. It has no value to us."

"Use something" ordered Fleischer.

Willem hesitated then used the memory power in blinding flash of green light that sent the warlock, including his brother ands sister backing away blinking eyes madly, almost frenzied,.

He waited for Belthezor to show some reaction but it bounced off the amulet that Raynor had given Belthezor. It was then that Willem knew he was in trouble. And pulled a head splitting demon laser which was no danger to Belthezor.

Vala then came at him with a great glass sword, she pulled from near the throne"

 "Oh hell" Belthezor thought "when in doubt keep a few cursed knives and athames and swords about to finish your opponents."

He thought about just finishing it but knew what to expect from Raynor if he killed the warlocks so he took what he knew, and shimmered just as Willem apparently called to seal the realm, making it with a second to spare, to where Rastus guarded the opening and the path way.

"What did you find out ?" Rastus asked him as they both shimmered back on the earth realm the spirit winds blowing wild behind them as the path to Willem 's realm was closed.

"I found out I don't like I warlocks" Belthezor told him viciously "sinking selfish coward bastards."

Leo agreed with him.

Rastus snorted agreement.

"Cursed warlock is hunting demons?" Rastus asked.

Belthezor nodded.

"We need to find out where Willem will surface looking for demons then. Cursed fucking warlocks" said Rastus " I keep hearing the old Source is losing his way. When warlocks openly attack demons, you know the order is changing" he added watching Belthezor's reaction to see what he did.

I guess the Source is just waiting on us to get enough to justify wiping out warlocks. Always politics going on, who aligns with who" Belthezor he said blandly and not meaning a word of it but wise enough, smart enough never to give another demon one ounce of believable evidence he was not fully loyal to the demon hierarchy.

"Hell of a way to live " thought Leo.

Cole started to shimmer.

"Where are you going?" asked Rastus, suspicious because it was his nature.

"To visit " answered Belthezor with an evil grin. " a… friend."

"Now" sneered Rastus.

"My 'friend' can help " said Belthezor calmly. "

Rastus with a growl went to report to Raynor and Belthezor was left alone. There was enough cynical amusement going on in the demon for Leo to be concerned he was going looking for mischief.  Some things about Cole did not change.

And it seemed an odd time to choose do it. Leo could get no sense of what was about to happen. Cole was so obviously used to his dual personality and his demon life, he was able to compartmentalise his thoughts so Leo and the demon had trouble understanding what the hell he was up to but he had enough experience of Cole 's rashness to be apprehensive.

Cole took the trouble to change his dark slacks and jacket he wore into tight blue jeans, a black T shirt and a leather biker jacket, and worried Leo even more. Leo kept telling himself he was only living Belthezor's life. He couldn't change it and Belthezor had obviously survived it. Even knowing… hoping that Leo was nervous.