How Quaint the Ways of Paradox
Part 3: The more things change
"How quaint the ways of paradox; At common sense she gaily mocks"
(Gilbert and Sullivan. Pirates of Penzance)
Cole shimmered away from Arturo’s house feeling lost and ill at ease not knowing what to do with himself. After a little time he found himself on the Caribbean beach where just a week ago, a life time ago, Arturo had told him of his destiny. And as he sat on the white sanded beach he could not helping thinking back over the long path that had lead him to accepting that destiny, reluctantly, which inevitably lead him to thinking of the witch who he knew as Flip.
Cole had come across her in early 1947. He had been trolling around San Francisco, which was not one of his usual haunts, really just looking for mischief, as much as anything, just wanting a break from the world of dark. The years of the war and the after effects had offered plenty of scope for evil but its defeat and the blood bath that had happened had left him feeling discontent and restless almost, although at the time he would not admit it, repelled by what had happened. It had been out of proportion, it had not been a game.
Cole had found his way to a local community dance in one of the older bay side suburbs, to watch the mortals play and see what damage he could do. He had been there for an hour or so when he had noticed a girl standing on the edge of the crowd. She was quite young and dressed in a floral dress that was to old for her. She was dark haired and dark eyed and quite pretty but he would not have described her as beautiful. She wore to much make up, like a little girl who had raided her mother’s dresser. She was watching the dancers and swaying in time to the music, eyes darting around, as if praying for some one to ask her to dance. Cole decided to give her a thrill. He went up to her and asked her to dance. She glanced behind her as if she could not believe that this tall handsome man was asking her.
She was not very tall. Even in high heels, he could look straight over her head and he had had to dismiss a quite unfamiliar protective instinct. She had melted into his arms and with very little encouragement proceeded to tell him in a most unsophisticated manner, how she had slipped out from home when her family had forbidden her to come out.
It had taken very little persuasion to get her to slip outside with him and he had swept her into a passionate kiss that was calculated to frighten the daylights out of her. Only her reaction had been to totally respond to him and for a few seconds he had given into something very sweet. It was only when they stopped for breath that his senses had started to tingle with the warning he always felt when he was near witches and other minions of light. His hands on her arms had squeezed a little to hard and she yelped.
The next kiss he held back a little trying to assess her and it took only moments to recognise her as a very low level witch with very few powers. He could have killed her then and there but it was not his way to kill low level witches just for the sake of killing. There was no challenge and he enjoyed a worthy opponent. Belthezor who could kill without conscience somehow always managed to find ways not to do it for a reason that made him seem more evil and powerful. Deep inside he worried that this reluctance might one day be recognised by Raynor or the Source for the weakness he knew it to be.
But for a little while at least this little witch was safe from him killing her. He kissed her some more and made a pact to meet her the dance next week where he had every intention of seducing her. He walked her back up the hills in San Francisco to a large red Manor house where she kissed him passionately goodbye and ran up the side way, while he became very aware that weak as the little witch was, the house itself had a huge aurora of magic and Belthezor knew that here was a very powerful protection.
He hung around the area that week. He barely had a glimpse of the little witch and when he did she was accompanied by other women who had no doubt were witches. Belthezor had the definite impression that she was very well protected normally and her presence at the dance alone was unusual. The idea of playing around with magic in the house and the witches appealed to him greatly.
Belthezor arrived at the dance the next week and stood back and waited. The witch arrive quite late with her clothes a little awry, as if she had slipped away in a hurry. He watched as she glanced anxiously around the room looking for him, and stood in places where she would be most visible. He let her wait for nearly an hour before he walked up to her. She was turning to the door when he stood in front of her and to his great amusement watched her face light up as she saw him. He made light chat to her while her tongue was just about hanging out. He got her a glass of lemonade, to his disgust the dance was dry and then he danced with her for nearly an hour. He only had to pull her toward him little and she pressed herself hard against him. He felt her body hot through her clothes and started to enjoy himself greatly at the idea of the seduction to come.
All the while he danced with her he tried to understand what powers she may have but he could sense nothing clearly and knew that she was quite weak. She bit him slightly on the neck and he responded with a quick gasp and a thought that this witch could be quite a wild thing in bed. To his surprise almost as he thought it, she whispered in his ear that she really wanted to be with him alone because she wanted some real fun and it crossed his mind the witch’s powers were low level telepathy. He knew it for certain when he deliberately made himself think about leaving and she tensed and pulled closer to him whispering the word “Stay”.
In a little while the two slipped outside and into a dark lane beside the hall. There was another couple up the end of the lane. Belthezor kissed the witch long and rough and she responded by arching into him and clinging. He kissed her again more gently and suddenly felt an overwhelming need to protect her that was quite at odds with what he was doing
“You ought to be careful about who you meet “he whispered “You never know what you could be getting yourself into “
She giggled a little as her tongue moved around his ear. “I’m safe with you” she said “I know things about people.”
“Maybe not as much as you think“ he said gripping her arms but she just arched against him
“I know about you“ she whispered “I know you are very dangerous, but not to me. I know you are some one with many dark secrets, and many guilty thoughts. You are some one standing at a crossroad and suffering and I think I’m in love with you.”
He held her away from him his hands digging into her arms but she looked up and he could sense the smile rather than see it in the dark. She lifted her hands to his face and touched him gently around his mouth “You’re a demon aren’t you?“ she asked.
He gasped “You’re in danger“.
“No I am not“ she laughed “Did you come to kill me or seduce me? Who are you?“
He breathed “I am Belthezor“ Then he relented a little and said “Seduce you.”
“Go ahead“ she answered.
Belthezor bent his head to kiss her again when he heard a woman’s voice shriek Flip
He looked up to see a woman at the entrance to the lane against the light. Flip called Penny
And Belthezor saw the woman raise her hand and he was flung with a mighty force against the wall. As he struggled to move, he became aware of two things, that the witch was very pregnant and that he was receiving an urgent call from the brotherhood. He raised his hand as if to throw a fireball and then changed the action to blow a kiss in Flip’s direction before he shimmered out.
He arrived in front of Raynor who was far from pleased with him. “Where have you been?“ Raynor demanded angrily.
“I found a low level witch unprotected around San Francisco and thought I would have some fun“ he smirked.
Raynor glared at him “You are Belthezor“ he snarled “You have no need to take risks violating and killing non threatening witches just to get a few rungs on the ladder. Do it by fighting the light, do something worth while, something worthy of you. I need you“ Raynor snapped. He ran his hand over Belthezor’s face and instilled an order to dispose of a powerful sage in England who was standing in the way of a demonic intervention in Eastern Europe. Belthezor also felt a pull against his recent thoughts and tried to dismiss the witch but he could not help wondering what Raynor pulled out about her. He hoped nothing about her reading of his character.
Belthezor arrived back in the caverns nearly a month later by earth time having successfully disposed of the sage so much that the isolation of Eastern Europe was almost certain. Raynor was pleased enough with him to tell him that he had forgiven his earlier stupidity chasing witches. Only harmless fun Belthezor had insisted
“You never know how harmless these witches are“ Raynor admonished him “Anyway she is out of your reach now. I gave her details to Kurtan and he needs to violate and kill low level witches to make his way.”
“He’s killed her then?“ Belthezor asked casually.
“Soon enough“ answered Raynor “He’s had her a few weeks now and there won’t be much left.”
Belthezor nodded. “What do you want me to do now“ he asked “I can go on to Europe and finish what I started up there. That sage had some connections in Prague who need finishing.”
“Just go away and lie low“ snapped Raynor “You have to learn the secret of moderation, of leaving well enough alone. Let evil consolidate and recognise the worthy work you have done. When will you learn?“
Belthezor smiled a little grimly and shimmered to a museum in a small town in Scotland. There was a very old realm map set in crystal on display there and the mortals had no idea the map was a portal for scrying throughout the earth and other realms. It was night when he shimmered into the museum and pulled from his pocket a scrying crystal he had stolen from a witch. The ability to scry was one of the many secrets he kept from the brotherhood. It was not a demonic power but a part of his small and deeply hidden human magic inheritance.
Scrying for him did not come easily. The magic clashed with his demonic half and caused him great pain. The concentration he required to use it made it something he very rarely did but now. He scryed the crystal over the map, concentrating, his forehead furrowed with pain.
It took him sometime but he finally located the little witch in a realm demons used to hid many of their trysts from the world of light and other demons. He shimmered straight to where the she was. The scene that greeted him was sickening, the little witch was naked on a rock alter and her body beaten and bleeding in places that made her unrecognisable. Kutan was a demon who lived on the edge of the upper level. He had a form that was almost human but could morph into a black and green body that slimmed across rooms and left a silver sludge. His powers were poison and slim darts and shimmering, but he was obviously using the witch to push himself into the upper levels because he was standing over the witch with a brotherhood athame.
Belthezor called softly Kurtan He raised his arm to send a fireball at the demon, but the demon shimmered out and tried to come behind Belthezor. He caught hold of Belthezor and tried to raise a finger with a long nail to scratch into his skin. Belthezor morphed into his demon form and knocked Kutan against the wall. He swung to spin the other demon against the wall again and left him gasping for breath. Belthezor picked up the athame to use it. Death from an athame meant everlasting torture rather than the resurrection other forms of vanquishment offered.
Kutan seeing what was coming shimmered away. Belthezor without morphing from his demon form, picked up the naked and trembling witch and shimmered away with her. He took her to a place in the middle east that was seemingly a cave hidden in time fold in the joining realms where he was protected from scrying light witches and demons sensory checks.
The cave had a rough bed and table in it. He put the girl on the bed . She screamed as he touched her. Belthezor put his hand on her throat and applied a pressure until she fainted. He then placed an energy field over the cave which he knew would hold her there and keep her warm and then shimmered off to get some supplies and blankets.
She was still unconscious when he returned. He covered her with the blankets and waited until she came too. She tried to cower away from him. She was not able to speak and for several days Belthezor thought she would die anyway. He had to leave her several times to satisfy Raynor he was not up to some mischief and each time she looked at him with such fear at being alone. She did not ask him to take her back to her family, he suspected she was to ashamed of her condition , although she was barely able to talk to him.
For nearly two weeks she was unable to do anything but lie on the bed and he found himself compelled to look after her which was a situation that he had never found himself before, taking responsibility for looking after the well being of a mortal. She showed no fear of him. He told her she should fear him, that he was dangerous to her and he was only holding her for his pleasure. “Are you going to rape me“ she asked.
“No“ he had answered with a sly smile “ but I am going to seduce you.”
“Please“ she said.
Later he had wondered if she needed him to want her, to make her feel complete again. He had not intended to hurt her but she had flung herself toward him and it had got out of control. She had cried a little and he had to his horror found himself desperately apologising to her and comforting her. Her reaction was always to demand more.
He had kept her there for nearly three months. Sometimes he wondered why or how it had all lead to this. He had to leave her often, left on her own held captive by demon magic. Raynor fortunately never suspected that he had stolen the witch back and although he had been in Belthezor’s head, Belthezor was able to hide the thoughts of her the way he had hid so many of his doubts over the years.
The little witch, Flip, left Belthezor amazed and surprised. The sex with her was wild. She liked rough at times, she was passionate and had no sense of proportion. She wanted what she wanted, and when she wanted it. Almost as if she dared not wait for anything. She had no defences against him. Her powers were very weak. She had nothing more than low level telepathy.
Belthezor tried to tell her he was just using her but she always laughed and said she knew better. She told him he had a good soul, that she could feel it. He had become quite angry at that, and threatened her .
She just smiled. “It isn’t in you to hurt me.”
Nothing he could do or say would convince her otherwise. At first he had thought it was because she was so innocent and naïve but he came to the slow conclusion as her telepathic powers reached out and touched a part of him that he had always kept hidden from all around him, knowing that evil would destroy him if they ever realised he had some non demonic empathic powers himself, that this girl had an old soul and one of the reason that she had no real fear of him was that it was a soul that had been very close to evil in some recent life. It stunned him when he first recognised it in her and it amazed him how this innocent could actually be feeling more of a battle between darkness and light than the one he kept hidden.
In a very short while he knew she loved him and a little while after that he knew very well that he loved her, her laughter, her naivety, her wisdom, her passion and her blindness to his own darkness. Never before had he been loved for being something better than the world in which he lived, never before had he taken the risk of letting some one see all the hidden doubts, the deep canyons of his soul and found he was loved for it. In that time she taught him about love and to love. She very nearly taught him to step into the light but he could not quite find the courage to go with her she asked him when he was going to take her home. Openly confident that he would and he would be with her. The demon in him had somehow emerged and he had laughed with malice and said he would take her home when she begged him to keep her.
And keep her he knew he could not because by that stage he was very sure that she would go anywhere with him if he asked and he was also sure that he could not bear to watch the purity of her love, the innate goodness of her fall away to evil. The truth was that their love could only survive in the world of light and he could not find the courage to cross.
The time came when she begged him to keep her and he kept his promise. Three months after he had taken her from Kutan Belthezor shimmered Flip to the front porch of the Manor naked under a jacket of his and cursing him. He left her there with one last kiss and she was angry enough to send him on his way with a bleeding lip. The last he saw of her was outlined in the porch light, wrapped in his jacket as her stunned family dragged her into the Manor.
He had returned to the realm below and become involve in some particularly nasty work for Raynor which helped pit the nations in eastern Europe against the world, keeping Raynor’s promises of demonic intervention to further corrupt leaders ambition. It had been nearly six months when he had been able to return from his work for Raynor and even then it was only when he had criticised Raynor’s interventions that Raynor had let slip that Kutan had killed the witch who had enamoured Belthezor.
Belthezor laughed pretending to Raynor that he did not care, rejoicing in knowing he had stolen Flip away from Kutan. Raynor had shown Belthezor the evidence of her death. It had taken Belthezor several weeks to find out how Kutan had tracked the witch down again to finish what he started. He had taken Flip again and he had killed her, the way he had intended. The violation and death of a low level witch had not helped Kutan. Belthezor had found him and killed him, tearing him to pieces with an athame that he knew would ensure Kutan’s everlasting torment.
That had been it. The demon Belthezor had followed his calling, killing for Raynor or the Source when asked, creating his legend in the dark world in which he lived, hiding deep within his soul that he had once touched the light, that he had known real love and had been tempted to follow its course into light. Often he had convinced himself but sometimes as he had worked on his dark deeds, he had felt the calling and almost saw himself through Flip’s eyes and his soul had trembled at the realisation of what he did. From the time she died, he had lived with the intense conflict in his soul between light and dark. He had managed to hide it from those around him, convincing them through deeds of legendary evil that he was the epitome of their calling. But the light seemed to come to him in ways he never expected and every now and again he acted on the light. They called him the great betrayer because Belthezor managed to betray almost all those he worked with, but they never discovered it was the light in his soul that made him betray evil and until the day the Triad sent him to kill the Charmed Ones, he had hidden his secret under a pretence of totally embracing his demonic heritage.
Cole was sitting on piece of driftwood on the Caribbean beach. A white sanded cove far away from people, accessible only by boat, warm clear crustal sea barely registering as he sat with his arms resting on his knees staring at the horizon, but seeing nothing. He became aware of the shadow falling over him and slowly looked up to see Francesca had orbed beside him. She was wearing a whitelighter robe with the hood back and the sleeves pushed way up her arms. She was barefoot.
“Mind if I sit down“ she asked gravely. Cole shrugged but moved along the driftwood to give her room. “Your predecessor used to like high mountains, very cold very high mountains“ she commented conversationally She shook the sand from her robe. “I’m not sure I like the sand but it’s better than the cold“ she added
“Thinking“ she asked.
He smiled “About Flip“ he said. “You know about Flip.”
“Regretting it“ she asked.
“I failed“ he said. “I lacked courage.”
“Its okay to fail you know“. She said “Those who have never failed, never learn a damned thing. Very annoying “
“Do you regret Flip?“ Francesca asked.
“Regret“ Cole interrupted His eyes lit up “if you are asking me at this moment. I don’t have one damn regret….about Flip, A great many about how she died. I.. mostly guilt “he said.
Francesca was quiet for a few minutes, then she found himself compelled to ask “Cole“ she said, “When did you know?“
Cole sighed “When did I know?“ he said “or when did I know I knew?“ He stared ahead “I knew as soon as I met her again. I knew I knew when, when she found out about Belthezor, she could not vanquish me saved me from a zoltar, lied about me to her sisters that night. I saw the understanding of evil, the nativity, the incredible wisdom and I knew.”
“Are you going to tell her?“ Francesca asked.
“No Mrs Rinaldi, I‘m not“ Cole said with some asperity “How the hell do I tell her that. That because in a previous life I let her get ..killed like that because I lacked the courage to cross to the light. And it was not exactly unrequited love with Flip you know. Hell she was pissed at me because I, I kept the relationship going when it was her in a different timeline. That. She wouldn't speak to me for a year.”
“I think you should“ said Francesca said slowly “Not now but later. When she is older. In future when she needs hope?“
“The future is a long way off“ Cole answered. “But I have a strong suspicion she won’t understand.”
Doesn't Phoebe say you're her soulmate?" Francesca asked.
"What Phoebe says an what Phoebe means are not always the same thing" Cole replied.
“She’ll be wiser then“ Francesca said “and you may be too. A little.”
“We’ve been through a great deal to be together Phoebe and I. Good, Evil, Life Death“, he smiled “Her sister’s temper. What ends it?“ he asked “Part of her destiny was to get me… here. It took her fifty years. What now?“
“I have no gift of vision“ said Francesca “Maybe Phoebe does. Ask her? Purely as a personal opinion you understand, I would not underestimate Phoebe’s ability to get what she wants, regardless of any obstacles. My personal opinion is the only thing she wants is you. Purely a personal opinion you understand“ Francesca said.
Cole smiled “What now?“ he asked.
“What you want“ Francesca said. “Stay quiet. Do what you have to do, discretely. No need to announce your calling“ she said “We have time on our side.”
“What changes?“ he asked.
“Not much“ she said. “Live . You’ll feel your way. The Guardians seem always to have a calling. It seems as needed.”
“Do I?“ he said wryly.
“You seem to have a calling for justice“ she said. “You seem to understand the difference between justice and vengeance, a need to find justice.”
He didn’t deny it. Then he smiled “I doubt Raynor or Kutan would agree?“
“Was it justice?“ she asked.
“I thought it was?“ he said.
“There are those who have a great fear of justice“ she said.
“I know“ he answered hearing the spirit winds. “I take it I need a new assistant“ he asked snippily.
“Yes" she said “but if you want some advice“
“What?“ he said slowly.
“Try not to strangle the next one or let Phoebe fry her“ Francesca said.
Cole laughed but stared down at the sand at his feet.
“I never escape what I am do I?“ he said.
“No one, demon human witch ever does that“ said Francesca calmly “We just have to be the best of what we are. Your best is pretty good you know“ she said “You do what you do well.”
“What “he said “to betray. Its what I do so bloody well.”
“It was necessary“ Francesca said evenly.
"I doubt whether my.. Phoebe’s family see it that way“ he asked grimly. “They were not that understanding of.. “ he stopped, not wanting to rat on Leo, not talking of things outside the family. “Problems in other timelines.”
“They will understand if they have a brain between them“ Francesca said bluntly. “Anyway some things are not the same in this timeline. They were missing something in the other timelines.”
“What?” he said falling for it.
She laughed, golden. “Belthezor“ she answered. “Don’t under estimate the path you have shown your family.”
He smiled disbelieving.
“I wonder if they would have preferred your brother in law to had taken the Grimoire?“ Francesca asked.
“No“ Cole answered with a ghost of a smile “Better me betray. As I do it so well.”
“For you it was a means to end“ Francesca answerd “For him it would have been ..not so good.” When Cole still continued to stare at the sand between his feet, she continued “How many times have I heard you argue its not the act that defines the guilt it’s the intent. “
“I’m just a smart arse lawyer“ Cole muttered.
“Stop judging yourself“ Francesca ordered getting annoyed “Leave that to me. I’m much better at it than you Cole“ she added in a school marm voice.
“Why don’t you call me Belthezor?“ he asked.
“I prefer Cole“ she answered serenely. Cole looked up at her hood thrown back salt and pepper coloured hair in a neat pony tail, pock marked, bitterly scarred face watching the sea. He took in her face as if he really was seeing it for the first time.
“You really are a vain woman aren’t you Francesca?“ he commented.
She did not fail to understand him. “I’m human. We have our flaws it makes us endearing“ she answered smugly “What are going to do?“
“Go back and try and talk to Phoebe’s .. my family “ he said. “Hope they can understand.”
“Good“ Francesca said.
He stood up.
“Cole“ she said. He did not respond “Cole“ she ordered he looked up “Call me if.. call me, when you need me“ he nodded and he shimmered away.
Francesca looked at the space where he stood, She thought of her own immediate future. After the long, long wait and worry to find the fifth Guardian now it was simple. All she had to worry about was Durand’s crudity, Proctor’s satanic sarcasm. Therold’s , fussy prim priggishness, Arturo’s arrogance and Cole’s ability to be annoying. That and the balance between good and evil.
She laughed out loud, golden, an angel and she disappeared in a cloud of orbs.
Hidden away in his cavern, the Dark Priest had examined his treasure, scouring its pages for the secrets of evil and the Great Lore of the Old Source, searching for the lore that would make him powerful, that would perhaps enable him to take the role of the Source. At first he searched with eager anticipation, slowly turning each page and then he began flicking through the pages, and then leafing through in anger. It was not there; search though he did, all that was the old lore of time, the lore that made a Source. All the whispered secrets, of the higher priests, all the hushed promises of Power and destruction of Good. And nothing, none of it existed.
The Dark Priest slammed his fist on the Grimoire and cursed it.
Only one choice was left to the Dark Priest. With regret and concern, he sought out Tempus in his chamber and kneeling told his master how he had returned the Grimoire, told his master how he had caught and tortured an Elder of the cause of Good who in the agony of passing betrayed the miserable secret of Good. The Elder had revealed that they were unable to destroy the Grimoire and where it was hidden.
Tempus regarded the kneeling Priest and he did not miss the quick glance up.
"I promise you will receive your just reward fro your loyalty" he said.
Tempus looked at the Book, smaller than he remembered and for a second wondered if it was the Grimoire then as he touched it, felt a surge of power and for a second a deep surge of contentment and fulfilment settled on him.
At the hour of the joining of the days, midnight the ceremony to coronate Tempus as the new Source of the Underworld took place. The Grimoire was placed high on a podium in the coronation chamber, placed so all the Upper Levels of demondom, would know that Tempus had achieved his destiny.
“How will I feel“ Tempus asked the Dark Priest before he was lead to where the Grimoire awaited his oath.
“Those who have gone before have been aware of a deep sense of completion so I have been told“ the Dark Priest answered.
Tempus swore the oath in the Grimoire and felt the Great Power of Demondom surge through him
As he accepted, the charge of blue light caught him and he soared above the Chamber, to return secure in the knowledge he was indeed the Source. Those in the Chamber who watched knelt and acknowledged that the order was restored. When the ceremony was over the minions filed past bowing to their master. The Dark Priest knelt in front of Tempus.
“I am in your debt“ murmured Tempus. “Whatever you desire is yours.”
“My honour to serve“ answered the priest head power. “I desire nothing more than my just reward.”
Tempus smiled, raised his hands and using the lightening power of the Source disintegrated the priest.
“As you wish my friend“ he murmured.
And a great sense of completeness overwhelmed him. He surveyed his court and the demons below him knelt and then he froze, because as he used the gifts of the Source to touch their auras what he found himself surrounded by was betrayal, distrust and blinding ambition. Everywhere he looked minions contemplated the existence of the Grimoire and what it meant to their own ambitions. Tempus had achieved his Destiny and everything he ever wanted or desired. And it was not enough. Not enough to control demondom, not enough to destroy Good and not enough to protect himself against the evil of his minions.
Then he learnt the most evil secret of demondom, the one all Sources carried to their final defeat. In that Chamber no word of truth had ever been spoken, there was no fulfilment, no satisfaction, no completion. He, as all Sources before him, needed, craved more.
Tempus in that moment knew from the lowliest sludge to the Source, no demon ever achieved what they wanted, ever found fulfilment or ease. Nothing changed, they were all consumed by a great almost unbearable need for more and it was a need that could never be satisfied.