|Long before Dante Aleghari wrote The Inferno to placate the powerful church that had exiled him from his native land and ages before John Milton penned Paradise Lost for a quick profit, the archangel Samiel was known by the early Christian church to be a handsome archangel of awesome power. He was also amember of The Creator's inner circle, the Court of Heaven. When it was decided that there was to be a counterpart to Heaven called Hell for punishment of the wicked, the Creator decided that it was to be ruled by one of his archangels. This chosen administrator would have it as his task to tempt mankind and test the moral strength of the strongest-willed human, even the son of the Creator himself.
Needless to say, none of the archangels stepped forward to accept the challenge. The eternal discomfort and inevitable destruction of their reputations was more than any one of them could accept. In making that decision, they failed their own test. All failed the Creator's test except Samiel who was a gadfly from the start, always questioning the Creator's decisions. Samiel reasoned that this 'Hell project' was a great opportunity for some progressive corrections to the Grand Plan.
Satan, or Lucifer as he would come to be known by mankind, took on the awesome burden of being the Dark Lord. He ruled the underworld of Hell on the orders of The Creator to test humanity's moral fiber and piety under the rules of Free Will, and punish the wicked. Satan became Heaven's Dirty Harry and, in time, all humans from the Pope to the shepherds in the smallest hamlets, were terrified of this Dark Lord who preyed upon their inner moral weaknesses.
To fight back, the clergy distorted Satan's image and reputation, twisting and vilifying the archangels history, and giving him worse publicity than any modern day tabloid. Fueled by a politically charged church controlled not by pious clergymen, but by rich and ambitious nobles, Satan's notorious place in society was assured.
Just saying "No" has always been mankind's biggest problem.
Shortly after the Romans retreated from Britain, it was rumored by the local bishops that the mysterious, dark forest near Blackbridge Village, was possessed by the Devil. Since the beginning of recorded history of the British Isles, no one had ever been known to have returned from this forest of shadows and mystery. It was already legend by the local populace since Druid times and before the Romans built the paved road into the woods, that the bowels of the forest held oblivion for anyone foolish enough to take a stroll into its verdant, lightless depths. That was not the whole truth, however. There was something much more terrible and bizarre at the heart of Blackbridge Forest. It was something that even th Dark Lord of Hell was in no hurry to confront.
For ages, Lucifer was content to manipulate the weak and evil of the human race, and to mete out punishment to those who broke the sacred Ten Commandments. In his off-hours, Satan was content to lounge about a small pond in the Eastern part of the cursed forest and augury the future in the flowing, black waters of the pond called the Pool of Dark Visions. This locale was his retreat on Earth, but soon a new shadow of evil befell this tranquil, mystic place.
It was an evil that caused even the Dark Lord himself considerable concern. This incarnate of treachery was six feet tall, had hazel eyes and long, graying auburn hair. Naturally, it was a woman.
German Countess Jocelyn Elizabeth Von Hagen was an internationally wanted fugitive; a black widow who had poisoned three wealthy husbands on the Continent and one in Scotland. She was fleeing Scottish sheriffs from Aberdeen,when she met a traveling troubadour at The Wette Spotte Inn who introduced himself as Nick Nut-Tree. Nick showed her his horns, bedazzled her with supernatural feats of legerdemain and began to instruct her in the ways of Black Magic in exchange for her frequent, weekly horizontal companionship. But everything has a price tag, and oft times a sweet deal turns out to be no bargain. So it was on a balmy Sunday night in June, 1078, A.D. at the Pool of Dark Visions.
You forgot our anniversary," Jocelyn taunted her lover in a stern voice.
"It was eighteen years ago tonight that I met you at The Hellfyre Inn . You hid me from the sheriffs and we made our pact. Don't you think it's time for a small sign of commitment, some precious trinket, perhaps, to bind us together forever?"
"Yes, like that pentagram ring on your finger," Jocelyn replied as she ran her hands seductively from top to bottom over her sweaty, naked torso.
"You wouldn't want this ring," Satan replied. "It's more than you could comprehend. If you really have to have some material object to remind you of my pledge to you, I can have something created special just for you, like a dragon's blood amulet. Such a bauble would be good for amplifying your spells."
"Such as they are. You've taught me next to nothing in these eighteen years."
"What! You can change yourself into a beautiful black raven. That's no tavern trickery."
"True, but what use is it? Can I thwart armies with it? Multiply my wealth with it? Will being a molting bird give me immortality and social position?"
But you can fly over the countryside. The view is worth the power. What babe in the meadow would not give its soul to fly high and strong from London to Sussex in an hour."
"One mediocre feat. What else have I gained? I can recite ancient spells, true, but if I awake with a sore throat or laryngitis and can't speak. Then what? And the ingredients for many of the potions are rare and expensive. You mentioneddragon's blood. It costs fifty crowns a drop IF you can find it.
No one has seen a dragon in three hundred years. An unhatched egg is priceless. Magick as you would have me perform it is a financial nightmare."
"You can afford it," the Devil replied in a clear and very authoritative voice. "Your profit from those marriages is considerable. Your first, Baron Lichtensein, left you almost half a million kroner in silver when he fell from the parapet. The second marriage, the one that ended in a spectacular head over heels down the grand staircase at four in the morning transferred almost as much in gold from Count Morath's coffers to yours. Then, Count Von Hagen's mortal encounter with a
spider in his bed made you one of the richest women on the Continent. We won't include the Laird of Loch Gilmore because the sheriffs confiscated the loot before you could physically get it out of the country after the poisoned tea party. Yes, Jocelyn, you can afford anything you need except a clean soul."
"Are you threatening me?"
"No, just reminding you that all that stands between a four time commandment felon and eternal Hellfire is - me. Now, be a good girl and take the dragon's blood amulet," Satan continued as he dangled the jewelry in front of Jocelyn's eyes. "It's gold and silver and has two drops of that precious fluid in the hand-blown ampoule."
The Countess glared in contempt at her lover and, thinking for a moment, did not snatch it from his clawed hand but gently opened her palm and let him drop the gift into it."
"A trifle tossed as a bone to a dog!" she muttered.
"What was that?" the angry retort echoed throughout the forest.
"Am I the consort of the King of the Underworld or the whore of a fallen archangel, reviled by all mankind and fit only to wallow in the misery of the dregs of humanity as they fall into the cesspool of creation?" Jocelyn snapped back with a snarl.
"Watch your mouth, woman! I''ll not be treated as one of your exterminated, doddering, ex-husbands, Lucifer bellowed as he arose from the pile of furs that had cradled their embraces a scant half hour before.
With a flourish he flung his robe over his head and draped his naked form, pulling up the hood over his head for added effecthe added, "Take what is offered in the spirit that it is given or get out! I would no sooner trust you with the great power of the Occult than give a loaded crossbow to a five year old child!"
Over the years, it had become evident even to Satan that Jocelyn was not to be trusted with access to the Powers of Darkness and he determined she was only to be allowed to become a low-level practitioner of basic incantation magic and his Sunday playmate until some more worthy pupil came along. And displays of temper and irreverence, such as she now made, were much the reason. But, this one was the last straw.
"You're nothing but a big bully!" Jocelyn blared at the top of her lungs. "I could get better man flesh than you in any tavern in Bristol."
"Get out, Trollope!" the Dark Lord commanded. I've had enough of your disrespect. Show your face in these woods.
With a gesture of his mighty arm, there was a huge wave of energy that blasted the former object of his affections out of the woods. Jocelyn awoke an hour later in the wide meadow outside the forest.
"That bastard will be sorry! I''ll have the ring and his whole realm as well! she vowed under the pink-tinted, full moon. With that pledge to the Heavens, she wrapped herself in her flowing black garments and morphed into a large black raven, her only impressive trick, and immediately took to the skies and winged her way north to the Viking camp north of Stratford.
Back at the Pool of Dark Visions, Beelzebub, Satan's major Domo expressed his feelings at the news at Jocelyn was history.
"Master, I cannot hold my tongue any longer, but I am relieved that that Teutonic abomination has gone forever," said the scaly-hided assistant as he gathered the remnants of the night's frolic, empty bottles, food scraps and such.
"That woman made my skin crawl."
"I concur," the Horned One nodded, "The Countess spent too little time engaged in lovemaking and too much time in plotting and thinking. Such women are dangerous. If I were human I would be dead by now no doubt, poisoned by her hand, and my fortune joined to those of her former victims, tortured souls that they came to be. That woman planned and executed four poisonings, four breaches of our Creator's commandment. She'd be skin and bones on a Scot's gibbet by now if it were not for me. Her destiny is sealed, but how and when I have not decided. Yet, banished as she is, I am most apprehensive that we have not seen or heard the last of her ambitions. So, I say to you that her fate lies not in anythingI do, but in her own actions and decisions. The best laid plans for revenge have a way of rebounding upon one."
The Devil walked to the edge of the Pool of Dark Visions, pricked his finger with his claw, dripped three drops of blood into the water and took a quick peek into the watery depths.
"Even as we speak, she creates that very fate for herself. The executor of that fate shall come here to this pool in fine form and blessed innocence from the target of her wrath. Go now, I have little time enough to think before the tapestry of destiny has an inch added to its length, spun in silk and flax by that evil, ambitious bitch."
Beelzebub finished his custodial tasks and disappeared into the foliage as his master knelt at the edge of the great pool and pondered the future. It was by this method that he could dictate a format for the ages to come and plan destiny's true path.