How Quaint the Ways of Paradox

Part 2: Promises,promises,promises

Chapter 18


"How quaint the ways of paradox;  At common sense she gaily mocks"

(Gilbert and Sullivan. Pirates of Penzance)

For Francesca it was a simple thing, in all the history of the eons the universe dominions and the realms, there was the Great Plan, the one that defined the order of Good and Evil and the Great Plan said that all must be in balance to the proper order. And the proper order to the realms that Francesca knew and beyond, was that Good should prevail in balance with Evil and Good prevailed when and only when it was countered and tested and held to account by Evil. And if Evil was not strong, then Good faltered and failed until it perverted and collapsed. The balance must be maintained and it was because in the realms and dominions and the universe itself, Good was held to account by its eternal battle with Evil. On its simplest level Good fought Evil and for the balance to remain Good must win. Just.


And at each level, realms and dominions and universe and beyond, there were the Guardians, those who protected the balance, ensured the supremacy of Good, protected the innocents caught in the battles and held the great powers of Good and Evil to account. And at every level, the Guardians of the Great Plan, the protectors of the innocents caught in its realisation, the arbitrators of the wisdom were always, always the fallen angels, the followers of the dark calling, who found their way back to the path of light. Because they and they alone had the knowledge, the understanding, to withstand the temptation to evil. Only those who had walked away from the darkness were safely immune from its allure. Only those who had walked through the fire of their own making to find the path to the light, were able to resist the pull of the insidious pleasure of evil. Only those who understood Evil and rejected it could resist the seduction of the great power needed to maintain the balance.


And because in the Great Plan, at all levels, in realms and dominions and the universe itself there was the need for balance, the protectors, the Guardians, the dark angels who found their way back to the light were advised by the creatures of pure Good, at all levels, called by the name they chose, angel, archangel whitelighter, and the flaw of the Great Plan was that because it was held in balance, the failure of Good or Evil, the shifting of balance at any level in all the realms and dominions and Universe was the shifting of the whole plan, played out over and over again in far realms or higher dominions or the universal stage. Good Fought Evil and Guardians dark angels ensured that Good won. Just..




Those who were called to serve in the Great Battle, to ensure the Great Plan unfolded as it should, came to their calling in many ways. There were the fallen Angels who battled their way through the fire of their own making through pain and tragedy, there were those who shone strong and bright answering the call to Good in a short and spectacular mortality, proving themselves in the conflicts and battle and wars by their good deeds, and there were those who came to their calling simply because they endured.


Francesca had endured, by the standards of her time, a long and hard life before she found relief in her calling to serve. She had been born during the rule of Charlemagne by the time of the earth realms, demon realm below and the realm of light above, 783, the time that was known in the history of the earth realm as the Dark Ages.  The 5th daughter and 8th child of peasant farmer who lived and worked in a village south of Rome, close enough to know of its existence and far enough away not to care.


Francesca had been born under a holy star, other children born in the village that year died from all the things that children died of in those far away times, but she was a child healthy and happy, loved, admired, beautiful. At fifteen Francesca had been the prize of the village desired, fought over, provocative, beautiful. It was not to last. She caught the pox, smallpox, badly, and it left her marked, scared and ugly and worse, rejected by those who had sought her beauty.


She had tried to hide away, only to be struck down by a stone thrown by a child, a boy who probably never intended the harm he caused. Her cheek bone was shattered and her face paralysed, and the use of her left arm and leg limited so before her 16th year the girl who had been a great beauty was now the crone of the village. She never married, to ugly, to misshapen, she served her family and the children ran from her, as her body warped and her face contorted and the ravages of time and starvation and hard work tore her body apart and she endured, as in long, long years the fragile body survived and the words hag and crone were hurled at her.


It was a long life for her time and a hard, loveless one and she was saved only because it was not just her body that had been beautiful, it was her soul and neither pox nor starvation nor stones nor age could destroy that beauty, She served her family and her calling, the art of healing and magic, and it was with relief and no regret she finally gave up on that calling at the age in earth years of 72.


And because she endured, there was another calling as a whitelighter and guide to witches and warriors, creatures of magic and light brought about to fight to keep a realm in balance, and let it evolve. And she served with the wisdom of her own pain and endurance, and the ever growing knowledge of the way of light.


There was a girl Marie-Jeanne born a witch in the year of 992 in France in a village near the Mediterranean Sea when Francesca had served as a whitelighter for a century and more, and Marie-Jeanne became her charge. 


In the millennium Francesca had answered her calling as a whitelighter, she guided many of those whose stories became legends of romance and tragedy but Marie-Jeanne was the first. Marie–Jeanne was beautiful, of soul and body. She had blue eyes, light blond hair and an earthy figure and was graceful of movement and wise. She was not perfect, a witch who had a great power of mind manipulation, she was also cursed with a temper that would have been excessive had it been shared by three witches. Marie-Jeanne married young, gave birth to 4 children, witch of her village, this girl was something else to Francesca. In a long history as a whitelighter this girl, Marie-Jeanne was one of her few charges who was a true friend.


The legends on the side of Good and Evil were never quite right about Marie-Jeanne. They always called her a beautiful girl. Strange how the mythmakers never remembered she was not a girl when the legendary half human demon warrior Arturo seduced her and in his quest to convert her to the dark had walked through the fire of his own making and found the path of light. She was a beautiful woman, grandmother and widow, nearly 40 years old. Strange how they never remembered that Marie-Jeanne was 40 years old when the legend was born but she was beautiful. The legends always told of the great love affair between Marie-Jeanne and Arturo. Francesca remembered it as ongoing passionate battle between two dominating powerful beings, who could not find a way to live apart. They undoubtedly loved each other but as much as their passion brought out the best of them, it also bought out the worst, as Francesca remembered it.


Arturo had hated Francesca, ugly misshapen servant of good, thorn in his side, conscience, and Francesca had for a very long time blamed him and hated him. She lost Marie-Jeanne because of him. Francesca had nearly fallen herself because of that hatred. Marie-Jeanne had not survived the legend. Two children and ten years later she was lost, protecting the demon she loved from the vengeance of evil, leaving him to face an eternity alone as a consequence of his love for a beautiful witch, and all Francesca could do was mourn Marie-Jeanne’s passing to the light and guide her demon lover and protect him because even if Francesca had hated him, he was the beloved of a witch who was beautiful of body and soul and had been Francesca’s friend.


Francesca’s only intention as whitelighter was to serve her charges well. She was frightened of demons, hated them and had never found a reason not to destroy them on sight. But Arturo was the lover of her friend and for the sake of her friend, Francesca the Whitelighter who had never questioned the wisdom of the Elders had made some choices which lead her to walk down the path to light with Arturo as he found his way to his destiny as a Guardian and protector of the Great Plan.


The leaders of Good knew something of the higher callings but most resented and misunderstood them, or were just frightened of this great secret, and as far as Francesca knew, and she knew a great deal, so to were the leaders of the underworld. Over the millennium she had served, protected and advised the Demon Guardians she never noticed any changes in the attitudes of the leaders of Good and Evil. Perhaps the secret of the balance decreed by the Great Plan was that the Leaders of Good and Evil never really understood it. Secure in the importance of their own small roles in the realms, they rarely looked beyond.


Francesca knew little about the other realms but in the one she served, there were, had always been, five demon Guardians, and all of them had been half breed human demons who had found great power when they recognised their humanity. And in all the time she had served and guided she had never know a demon who was not a half breed human to try and cross to the light. And she had never known one of these half breed demons who crossed who had been able refuse the call to serve and survive.


 And in the millennium she had served there had only been twelve half breed demons who had been able to answer the call to serve. They did not stay forever, Arturo had served for a thousand years, before him Evald served for far more before passing on shortly after the Old Source came to power. For others it was shorter.  Janko served for only two hundred odd years before passing over. To peace Francesca hoped, to serve a higher cause perhaps.


And the story was always the same, if a half breed demon turned to the path of light, a Guardian passed on, if a Guardian did not pass on then the demon failed to walk through the fire, to find the light. They all had a destiny.


And this was the tragedy. Because in finding their humanity the half breed demons found great power, far greater than their demon origin, but they could not, must not exist, outside the Great Plan because they would be outside the order of Good and Evil.


Usually Evil found out about their secret doubts and destroyed them before they could consider turning. Arturo in the last 500 years had vanquished a number of the sad creatures, who having found the great power of their humanity were unable to find the light and turned to avatars or back to evil. That was the secret of avatars, their role in the Great Plan was to ensure the powers collected when demons failed to turn were lost to both Good and Evil. It was part of the ritual, the fire, all demons who turned were tempted with unlimited power and no consequence and those who gave into temptation were lost.


Those in the world of Good and Evil who knew a little of the power and consequences of a demon turning were usually reduced to panic when word reached of one trying. Several of the half breed demons had been lost when Good frightened at the evil of which these creatures were capable if they were unable to turn, vanquished them before it was necessary, before they discovered their humanity and reached their full powers.


When the ones who found their humanity became to powerful to be destroyed by Good or Evil it was Arturo’s mission to ensure only those demons who answered the calling of Destiny existed but it was also his great responsibility to listen to his conscience and wait until all hope and all other choices were lost. Arturo would not, and never could, be induced to act until, evil had completely consumed the creatures of tragedy or they by their own choice rejected their destiny.


Occasionally a demon half breed who had found their way to the light could not face the pain and hardship of the calling to serve but feared the inevitable return to Evil and Arturo and before him Evald had in each case, with great sadness, honoured their choice.


In the world of Evil no admission was ever made that a demon turned. In the world of Good many of those who had a small understanding of the secret of the Guardians feared the calling of the Dark Angels who had once been a demons , who had been born evil incarnate. So bad was the fear in the side of Good, to protect it from a gross error, to protect him from protecting himself, when the demon Janko turned in 1738, Arturo and Francesca had had to hide him from Good for nearly 50 years.


But always there was the hope that one would survive to answer its destiny Arturo watched the demon half breeds, wondering and hoping. Mostly he could guess the choices and their paths. He had only ever been wrong once when in 1523 Evald passed over and two demons half breeds tried to turn. One was the succubus Hilma, concubine of the recently defeated Source and the other was a warrior called Kemper.


Arturo watched Hilma turn away from each choice, look every where else to find a path, resist the light, fight her calling all the way and he watched Kemper fight the fire, face and defeat his own demons one by one. Arturo thought it would be Kemper who found the path to light but Kemper had given into the temptation to go back and fight the new incumbent of the throne of Evil. In the ensuring battle the new Source had lost half his face and Arturo had with great regret vanquished Kemper. Hilma resisting every step of the way, fighting her destiny with everything she had, had found the path to the light. For a short while by Guardian time, only two hundred years she had served her calling, with a tongue as sharp as the swords she wielded, a manner so insolent and arrogant it rivalled any demon before or since and a wicked sense of humour which made all who knew her love her. She passed on in 1738 when the demon Janko turned and both Francesca and Arturo sincerely missed her.


Francesca often thought of Hilma. Because Francesca, as an ex demon lawyer would one day tell her, like all innocents had a guilty secret. Well not so secret, Arturo knew it. She answered her call to serve the Great Plan, and for a millennium, she had advised the Demon Guardians; intervened between the higher powers of Good, protected them and served them, but she did not like them. She no longer hated them, because in those early years she had walked though her own fires and learned the dangers of obsession and hate, but she feared their capacity for evil before they answered their calling and sometimes she had to fight down the desire to side with powers of Good to swat demons who tried to cross, before they became a danger.


And of those that crossed with the exception of Arturo and Hilma, she did not like. Arturo, Arturo Francesca had learned to love and finally like because of the calling to the cause, because they had both loved Marie-Jeanne, and in their shared remembrance of her, they kept her that memory alive. In the years they served, they had come to respect and care for each other. Arturo was arrogant and high handed and impossible to convince he did not know best but then he usually did. And neither time, nor tragedy nor loss had dimmed his passion and his great courage.


For Francesca the other demons who had turned to the path of light, had souls that were dark ands haunted. There was no power in the realm that could punish them for the crimes of their service to evil but all were driven as they found the path to the light by a strong sense of atonement and their greatest challenge was to understand the danger of letting the need obsess them.


It was their tragedy that they had to be born to a dark heritage and in order to achieve their destiny in the world of light they needed to recognise the  evil of their deeds before they turned. Some of Francesca’s hardest tasks had been to convince Demon Guardians to judge themselves less harshly. But to some extent they all carried the darkness, they had no light in their souls, their only humour was a dark demonic cynicism. These things combined with the intensity of their demon nature a to make them very difficult and depressing creatures to work with and guide. Francesca did not like them.


Of the present Guardians, other than Arturo, Therold, who turned 400 years ago former dark priest and lore master, was the least difficult, retiring, finicky, dull he spent literally years searching obscure lore of Good and Evil so he could understand it and ensuring the laws of battle were respected. Recently he had been called to deal with the way both Good and Evil had begun to invade and destroy and act their roles within the acknowledged territory of the other side. It was Therold who was exploring the consequences of the Charmed One witches stealing the sacred Grimoire, from the Underworld.


Durand, famed warrior demon, who had crossed over 700 years ago was as far as Francesca was concerned, plain crude. He had no tact, no subtlety and no manners. From him though Francesca had learnt the meaning of every vulgarity, crudity and obscenity of all the people’s of the realm. It was a knowledge that served her well at times.  Durand’s calling was to enforce the peace and where creatures of all types pondered the possibility of ignoring Arturo’s charm, they never questioned the force of Durand’s persuasion. He was so blunt and offensive Francesca sometimes feared that he did not quite understand the nature of the light but his unyielding vision of right and wrong, was often the answer to questions and doubts, the conscience of the Guardians.


Proctor who had turned nearly 500 years ago was a demon had always been a difficult to understand, a quiet demon, who had only just slipped into the upper levels of demondom before he turned, he was a watcher by nature, his demonic powers were as protective as his powers of observation were fearful. It was Proctor who watched the realm. Proctor who saw and understood the paths that Good and Evil followed, Proctor who knew when to move and when to wait,  And the difficulty for Francesca was that she knew Proctor watched and he saw more than he ever said, and she never quite knew how much he noticed and what he saw and what he believed and felt about what he saw.


And therein lay the problem because there were only four Guardians. The demon Janko, sly, crafty, knowing had passed on after only two hundred years in 1947 by the time of the earth realm and every time before that happened there had been another called to answer there destiny.


But although Arturo searched and Proctor watched, Durand cursed and Therold explored all the hidden lore to find out what happened, there were only 4. When Janko crossed over two hundred and fifty years ago, he had managed to hide from both demons and Guardians and Good for 10 years but the Guardians had felt the balance and knew a demon hiding from destiny had crossed. Arturo had in watching all the demon half-breeds hoped and Francesca listened for the message on the spirit winds, one that announced a demon had walked through fire but for more than fifty years no message came.


In the time since Janko’s passing 3 demons had tried to cross and all had failed and returned to evil.  The four Guardians waited for the balance to fail and although it faltered it never quite fell, although since the Charmed Ones had removed the Grimoire, evil was fracturing at a level that was becoming alarming.


And all Therold could conclude was that the balance was there, there would be five and somewhere a destiny was yet to be answered and sooner or later the call would come.


When Belthezor had tried to turn Arturo for the first time in 50 years hoped, even wondered if Belthezor’s calling was so strong, the wait was to give him time to find a way, to make a choice. When Arturo had watched Belthezor and his witch he had been so sure it was Belthezor. It had felt right and balanced so when Belthezor fell Arturo had grieved, felt the loss, not only for the loss to Good and the continuance of the Great Plan but because his own lost hopes.


Until Francesca, on a day, some six months after the fall of the fall of Belthezor and the events of the Great Immolation received a message on the spirit winds.