How Quaint the Ways of Paradox
Part 2: Promises,promises,promises
"How quaint the ways of paradox; At common sense she gaily mocks"
(Gilbert and Sullivan. Pirates of Penzance)
Francesca orbed into the house in the
Corinthian gulf on an early January afternoon more than six months after the
vanquishing of the Seer, the Great Immolation as it was known in the underworld.
The Greek winter which turned the trees bare was slipping in, and there was snow
on the hills but the gulf shone blue below the house. Along the valley leading
up to the ruins of Delphi the roads was slippery and icy.
In spite of the cold Arturo was
sitting on his balcony watching the view of the ships in the gulf, taking
comfort in the beauty of the seasons. He saw the warning crystals change colour
into a blinding blue white light before he heard the orbs.
Francesca materialised beside him.
“Such a surprise“ Arturo said
blandly “Its been a while my dear.”
“There’s been no need“ she said.
She walked into his house and helped herself to his best and oldest port and
poured a glass for him as herself, while he stood in the doorway watching in
amusement. They had been together a very long time. He returned to the balcony.
cold out there“ Francesca said “Come inside.” Arturo reluctantly left the
peace he found in the view of the Corinthian Gulf.
“Am I going to be pleased to see
you?” Arturo asked taking the port from her.
“I think so“ she said “I’m
inclined to believe so. I had a calling“ she said, “On the spirit winds, one
I have not had in a two hundred and fifty years.”
Arturo froze, glass at his lips.
“From those whose concern is for the
Great Plan and the Guardianship of the dominions.”
Francesca said “It seems a demon, a half breed demon has walked through
the fire of his own making , or almost and is not far from finding the light.”
Arturo shook his head, as relief
surged through him.
“I should have known“ he said.
“I should have recognised it. Why didn’t I know?” He said concerned.
“Who is it? How did it slip through?”
“It appears, as always in the way of
the Great Plan, you did know.” Francesca drained her glass. She hated having
to tell Arturo he was right. He was always so pleased with himself. Sighing she
said “Its Belthezor Arturo.”
“Belthezor was vanquished“ Arturo
said almost sadly “I think you misread the winds my dear.”
“I did no such thing Arturo.”
Francesca answered firmly. “I have had the message on the winds. He found a
Arturo shook his head. “There was no
Francesca helped herself to more port.
“He found a way. It was, as you thought, not a plot to be the Source, it was,
as you thought, a good soul untouched by evil. A half demon, trying to find his
humanity who got caught in the way of the power and essence of the Old Source
and good souls as we both know can’t be destroyed by demon vanquishes. It , he
found a way out of the wasteland, complete with demon power. It appears he
managed to find a way to great power through his humanity. So as alway“ she
mused, “against the odds, against reason against all sense the Great Plan
succeeds. Perhaps.” She added. They had walked this far before and lost.
“But that could only even be
remotely possible if he, if it was.. “ Arturo
Francesca nodded “Yes magic"
she said. “It appears true to form the demon Belthezor, the Great Betrayer
himself has been able to hide some very deep secrets.”
“So I was right“ Arturo all but
smirked “What of those who know about Guardians?” Arturo said ““Do they
“I heard the call on the winds and
the call was for me alone“ Francesca answered. “Belthezor has made no
choices, there is no Guardian yet.”
“Belthezor“ Arturo said
“You’re sure?” And for a second he dared hope that at some time in the
future his own calling might end, but he put the hope to one side.
“He is not in a good place as I
understand it“ Francesca said “but he has walked through the fire and nearly
found himself and now he needs help and I need to give it.”
“We need to be careful“ Arturo
said. “If Belthezor does not have a demon spirit, Evil would not recognise him
if he walked into the coronation chamber and sat on the throne but“ and he
smiled grimly “as its Belthezor I am not entirely sure the news would be
greeted with.. alacrity in certain quarters of Good. It may be better if none of
them Good, Evil and Guardians here, know just yet that another has been
“I was told on the spirit winds and
I made the choice to tell you“ Francesca said.
“You were right Arturo. I bow to
you“ Francesca said wryly “You
were right. To let the fates take the courses“ Francesca said.
“Its more than fifty years since
Janko passed over“ Arturo mused. “It has never gone that long before, its
always nearly.. I always felt I was missing something, somewhere there was a
soul, graving to serve, hiding, I never thought …why wait for Belthezor the
demon of the century?
“Perhaps his is a great destiny.”
“Are you sure?” Arturo asked
“I know the spirit winds“ she
“Where is he now?” Arturo asked.
“Suffering if I understand the
spirit winds. The message was cryptic“ Francesca said.
“No great tragedy“ Arturo said
“Except perhaps for him.”
“At least I know my immediate
destiny“ Francesca said not happy. “Babysitting a demon.”
And Francesca sighed because in the
long years of service she found this the hardest, dealing with and advising and
supporting these creatures of darkness struggling with conscience and
realization of what they were and the shock and utter despair of their eternity.
“Its possible you could like
him““ Arturo said because he knew her well.
"Anything is possible“
Francesca said “But I would be surprised.”
“You were once before“ Arturo
smiled. “Be careful Francesca.”
“I know how to guard demons
Arturo“ Francesca said. “I don’t like demons you know.” She said for no
reason. Then suddenly she laughed “And
so there really are five“ and the relief sounded in her voice.
“He has not chosen yet, they have
been known to chose differently“ said Arturo who had honoured their choices.
“It would be a tragedy to come this
far and chose against the calling wouldn’t it?” Francesca said.
“And so it begins“ said Arturo
sadly as Francesca orbed away to spend the next year guarding a very annoying ex
demon who fought her every step of the way and for whom, despite a thousand
years of guiding and disliking demons, Francesca developed a great fondness.
Almost a year from the day Francesca
told him a half-breed demon had walked through the fire. Arturo shimmered back
to his house in a time fold above the Corinthian Gulf near the ancient ruins of
Delphi. The months had been difficult for Arturo. His time to act to ensure the
balance had been upon him since the Old Source had been vanquished, but in truth
all he could do was ensure that the fracturing he felt around him as Good began
to rupture under the faltering of the seriously weakened Evil, was kept to a
minimum and hope that somewhere in the future of which to his great relief,
Arturo had no vision, the Great Plan would prevail. Or Therold as he pondered
over his manuscripts, and the lore of Good and Evil would find the answer to the
Arturo had just visited San Francisco
and he had to be careful because Guardians with their Great Power did not
congregate except in the sacred time folds to ensure and verify their number and
that had not happened for 250 years give or take some years.
They met in twos and passed messages along but their callings were
different and varied and they followed their own paths but more than two
together and the balance seemed to move. Belthezor had not answered his calling
but the power was there and Arturo needed to be very certain that the other
three Guardians were a far distance.
On a Saturday afternoon he found
Francesca near the cable car terminal by the bay, sitting quietly on a bench
sketching. Arturo knew Francesca’s fascination for faces, because they had
worked together a very long time. But he sometimes wondered when he looked at
her real face which he had long since decided was the second most beautiful face
he had ever seen in a woman, why she had such a fascination for sketching the
faces of others. He sat down beside her on the bench and she took a little while
to look up.
“Such a simple mortal life“ he
said smiling “It makes me very envious. Not even guarding Belthezor?” Arturo
“I can forgive Cole a great deal for
his determination to screw those damned lawyers he insists on working for and
make sure both of us have a weekend off.” Francesca said.
Arturo laughed “I would not mind
getting a look at what Belthezor is doing" he said "Where is he?”
Francesca shrugged “Either wandering
around Europe some where with Phoebe" she said "Staying in some old
hotel where they do whatever they like to do with each other or at home
bickering with his family. He seems to get a great deal of pleasure from both
“You’re very fond of Belthezor
aren’t you?” Arturo said quietly.
"I came to the conclusion about 9
months ago" Francesca smiled “that he is the most annoying demon I have
Arturo just sat there looking down at
her with a bemused expression on his face.
“Stop looking at me like that
Arturo“ Francesca said “You’re right as usual. Sooner or later there had
to be another one of you that I liked.” She shrugged “He’s a dear boy
Arturo“ she said because only a whitelighter who had served for a thousand
years could call a demon who had existed for more than a hundred years a boy.
“Will he choose wisely?” Arturo
“I don’t know“ Francesca
answered sadly “I pray. He
understands wisdom, he can be very wise, but he fights it all the way.”
“The time is coming very soon“
“I know“ Francesca said.
Francesca and Arturo walked down to
the bay. Arturo glanced at Alcatraz across the bay “That’s a very evil
place“ he said “I can feel it.”
“It never changes, does it?”
Francesca answered quietly “Evil versus good. Good versus Evil, on and
on and always the same.”
“An old story retold“ Arturo
answered just as quietly.
They found a small café out of sight
of Alcatraz.. “I’m tired Francesca“ Arturo said “I’m tired and I miss
Marie-Jeanne.” He sighed “I see her face wherever I look. She’s calling me
and I want to be with her. Badly. Hope can be very cruel Francesca“ he said.
“But in the end it is all we have“
she answered “It saves us.”
“I know“ Arturo said. “Hope and
the desire to do good.”
In the mundane world of the centre of
the San Francisco tourist precinct a thousand year old Demon Guardian and his
whitelighter sat and watched the justification of their existence, the mortal
life around them existing in its fulfilment untouched
by the Great Evil, unaware.
went to Greater Powers of the Realm, the ones who have a small understanding of
the Great Plan and the Role of Guardians“ Francesca told Arturo “I explored
the possibility of Belthezor turning.”
“You didn’t tell them?” he said
“No it was more in the nature of a
purely hypothetical discussion of the least likely candidate to claim the fifth
place“ she said.
“And“ Arturo said sipping at his
cappuccino coffee, turned his nose up and wondered why the secrets of 300 years
of European civilisation had been lost to the New World.
just say the thought of Belthezor regenerating 18 months after the Charmed Ones
vanquished him as the Source of all Evil caused much jocularity.” Francesca
“Although“ continued Francesca
“It was considered that stranger things have happened than the Greatest Evil
of the century regenerating and it would be wise to have contingency plans.”
“Could they find a way Arturo?”
Francesca asked “Would Durand, could Durand perhaps listen to them?”
“No“ Arturo said “The Guardians
know their path. Durand has no wisdom but he has understanding. He knows right
from wrong. That is his gift." He smiled almost demonically. "But all
told it would be better if perhaps the secret of Belthezor remained a secret in
“I trust your wisdom“ Francesca
said “But they claim him to be the evil of the century.”
“It’s a small way into the century
my dear.” Arturo said “Time is on our side.”
Arturo saw Belthezor the next day. He
was with his witch and her family, at a visit to the house of a friend, a
policeman and his wife who seemed to be celebrating some important event and had
asked the witch’s family to join in. Arturo in half a shimmer watched while
Belthezor played in a very small and presumably heated swimming pool with the
children of the policeman Darryl, and encouraged them to take some risks
underwater, then argued with the policeman’s wife and the dark haired sister
of his witch about some consequences of children taking risks to find their way.
Later Belthezor sat on a chair inside
the policeman’s house with his witch curled on his lap while the witch’s
dark haired sister sat on a sofa with her whitelighter husband holding her hand
and the red headed sister and the policeman’s wife lay on the floor in front
of a fire. The policeman took a place in a chair opposite and they all talked a
little of Good and Evil, and politics and families into the early hours.
It was a small obscure and mortal life
that Belthezor shared with his witch and it made Arturo sad because he knew that
such lives must pass and sooner or later, immortal beings who indulged in such
luxuries were left living in regret and alone.
Arturo returned to his house on the
Corinthian Gulf and as he shimmered in he noticed the crystals in his cabinet
deep dark blood red. He walked out to his balcony and in the cold twilight he
was not at all surprised to find the demon Guardian Proctor sitting on his
balcony, drinking his port and watching his view.
Arturo wordlessly poured himself a
port and joined Proctor on the balcony.
Proctor looked up and said “Pretty
view but I still prefer the mountains in Nepal.”
Arturo knew that Francesca found
Proctor unnerving and disliked him but sometimes he found the confusion of the
mortals distressing and the virtue of Good suffocating and there was relief in
the familiarity of the demon spirit.
Proctor was tall and thin and dark. He
habitually wore the black of demondom and his words were few and well chosen.
“Therold has found the spells“ he
“That is good“ said Arturo.
“The balance is failing Arturo“
Proctor said “We need to decide.”
“We have time“ Arturo said.
“Very little“ answered Proctor
“Your port is ..good, my friend.”
“If the Grimoire was destroyed“
Arturo nodded “That is the word the
Elders gave to Francesca.”
“How was it done“ said Proctor.
Arturo shrugged “I do not have
visions and you who watch did not see it.”
“If we can’t retrieve it we must
reconstitute it“ Proctor said. “I prefer the mountains to the sea.”
“Yes“ said Arturo “soon but we
need to wait until we understand how to keep the balance for us, as well as
between Evil and Good.”
“The balance is there Arturo“
Proctor said. He reached to the decanter he had beside him “Your port is
“Why do you think so?” Arturo
“I think nothing“ said Proctor
whose gift was to watch. “I have no wisdom in such matters. Therold has
wisdom; I accept his wisdom. He says there must be five so there are five.
Because we do not see the life of an ant does not mean it is any less real.
There must be five. There are five. That is Therold’s wisdom. I have no wisdom
of my own“ said Proctor the demon Guardian who watched.
“It’s Belthezor“ Arturo told
Proctor the watcher.
There was silence as Proctor sipped
“Your port is good Arturo“ Proctor
said “Belthezor found a way did he? Belthezor always did keep his secrets.”
He nodded “That should cause consternation to those who follow the light and
“You have no doubts?” Arturo
“I have no wisdom in these things“
Proctor said “I take the wisdom of those who do. But“ he said cryptically
“if it is Belthezor it explains much that I have seen.” He sipped the port
“Your port is good Arturo. Has he , has Belthezor chosen yet?”
“Not yet“ Arturo answered “But
there is time, a little. Proctor I need to know more of Belthezor.”
“If I can find it you willl know
it“ Proctor answered swallowing the last drops of Arturo’s port and stood
up. “Don’t tell Belthezor about Durand“ he said “Had I known of Durand I
may have chosen differently. Your port is good Arturo“ he said and shimmered
Arturo, demon that he was, smiled. He
had spent many life times with the confusion of mortals and the virtue of Beings
of Light. There was comfort in the nature of demons.