Deofel I. – Falcifer: Lord of Darkness

05-master-atazoth
Prologue

The chant rose towards its demonic climax:

Agios o Atazoth! Suscipe, Satanas, munus quod tibi offerimus…

There was no wind on the high hill to snatch the chanted words away, and the naked dancers twirled faster and faster around the altar under the moonlit sky of night, frenzied from their dance and by the insistent beat of the tabors.

The two red-robed cantors sang their Satanic chant to its end while, nearby, Tanith the Mistress, as the elder prophetess, uttered words for her Grand Master to hear: “From the Circle of Arcadia he shall come bearing the gift of his youth as sacrifice and key to open the Gate to our gods…”

Swiftly then to the ground the circling dancers fell almost exhausted: ruddied by Bacchus the Great and the force of the dance as, around the altar on which Tanith writhed, the orgy of lust began…

I

The room was dark, although the candles on the altar had been lit, and Conrad could dimly see the witches preparing for the ritual. Their High Priestess wore a scarlet robe and came toward him, her bare feet avoiding the circle painted on the floor and the bowls of incense which not only filled the room with a sweet smelling perfume but also added to its darkness.

“Please”, she said to him, pressing his hand with hers before re-arranging her long hair so it fell around her shoulders, “do try and relax.”

Then she was moving around the room, dispensing final directions to the members of her coven. It all seemed rather boring and devoid of real magick to Conrad and he began to regret his acceptance. He felt uncomfortable dressed in a suit while the other wore robes.

“Nigel!” he heard the Priestess shout, please do not place our book on the floor!” She retrieved her copy of the Book of Shadows and placed it on the altar before ringing the small altar bell. “Let us begin.” she said.

She stood in the centre of the circle, the four men and two women around her, raising her hands dramatically before intoning her chant.

“Darksome night and shining moon, harken to our Wiccan rune. East then South then West then North, harken to our calling forth…”

She was twirling round, and beneath her thin robe, Conrad could see her breasts. He found her sexually alluring, and followed her movements intently. Perhaps, he thought, it would not be so boring after all… suddenly, the candles flickered and spluttered. There was no breeze as cause and the sudden darkness was unexpected. Conrad could sense the High Priestess near him but his groping hand could not find her body.

“What is it?” he heard a nervous male voice ask.

The incense became thicker, and several of the coven coughed.

“There is nothing wrong – really!” came the confident voice of the Priestess. “Nigel – do light the candles again.”

Nobody moved. A light appeared above the altar, red and circular. It began to pulse before moving up to swoop down and burn one of the coven. The victim fell screaming to the ground while the light moved to rest above Conrad’s head, suffusing him with its glow.

He could see the High Priestess frantically making passes in the air with her hands and mumbling “Avante Satanas!” as she did so. But her words and gestures had no effect on him, for she was only an ineffectual Priestess of the Right Hand Path while he knew in that moment he was chosen.

Then the pulsing light was gone, and the candles once more lit the room.

“The lights! Will someone turn on the lights!” Her voice was strained, and Conrad smiled.

The coven gathered behind her in their protective circle as if for comfort. “Go, please go,” she asked him. “You are no longer welcome here. I sense evil.”

“Yes,” Conrad replied, “I will go. But I will return.” He stepped toward her and kissed her lips but she drew away. “You are very beautiful,” he said, “and are wasted here.”

The coldness outside the house refreshed him so that he remembered he had forgotten his coat and that a number 65C bus would bus would take him back to his University. The sodium lit streets seemed to possess an eerie beauty in the darkness if winter and he walked slowly along them, his sense of the power he had felt was a vague yet disturbing unease.

A bus disgorged him near the campus and he wandered along the concrete paths that entwined the University without noticing the man following him. He recalled Neil’s challenge to his skepticism about witchcraft and magick, the invitation his friend had quickly arranged to the coven meeting and his own laughter. It would be interesting, he had thought, and he would watch with scientific detachment while the simple souls indulged their sexual fantasies under cover of the Occult.

Several times he stopped as he remembered the sensual beauty of the High Priestess, the rich fragrance of the incense, his kiss, and several times he turned around, intent on returning to her house. But the power, the arrogant assurance, he had felt in her house as the strange light suffused him with it’s glow was gone, and he was only a first year Undergraduate studying science, awkward and shy with women.

Instead, he walked to the house near the campus which Neil shared with some other students. Neil was pleased to see him. They sat in his room while in the house loud music played.

“You’re back early,” Neil said, and smiled.

Conrad wasted no time on trivialities. “I want you to tell me about magick.”

“You’re seriously interested, then?”

Conrad thought of the High Priestess, her voluptuous body, and said, “Yes!”

“Well, as you know, I have some little interest in, and knowledge of, the subject.”

“So – the aim of the sorcerer is to control those forces or powers which are Occult or hidden from our everyday perception?”

Neil seemed surprised. “Yes, exactly. Have you been reading up on the subject?”

“No.”

“Then how – “

Conrad shrugged his shoulders. “It was an obvious and logical deduction.”

Neil smiled. His own background was artistic, his home the city and port from which the University derived its name, and he had met the gaunt-faced Conrad a month before while distributing leaflets on campus. Conrad had read the proffered document and, in the discussion that followed, demolished its content logically and effectively. The earnest young man, dressed in a suit in contrast to the casual clothes of all the other students, had impressed him.

“Basically,” Neil said, “magick symbolizes the various forces, sometimes in terms of gods, goddesses or demons, and sometimes in purely symbolic forms. Knowledge of such symbolism forms the basis of controlling them – according to the desire or will of the sorcerer.”

“I see.”

“Of course, some people believe such entities – gods, demons and so on – exist in reality, external to us. Others believe such forms are really only part of our sub-conscious and our unconscious. In practical terms, it does not matter which: the means of gaining control are essentially the same.”

“So, where is all this symbolism?” He pointed at the rows of books in the room.

Neil handed him one. “That gives the essentials of ceremonial magick. It is based on what most Occultists believe is the Western tradition of magick.”

Conrad glanced through the book. “Which is?”

“The Qabalistic. The Occult world and the forces within it are represented by what is called the Tree of Life which consists of ten stages or sephira. Each sephira corresponds to certain things in the world – human, divine, and of course demonic.”

Conrad looked directly at him. “Most Occultists, you say? Then what do you believe?”

Neil was not surprised by Conrad’s insight. “There is another tradition – a secret one.”

“Which is?”

“It has many names.”

“I’m sure. Are you going to tell me or not?”

“I have only heard of it second-hand so to speak. It is a sinister tradition – some would say Satanic. It is based on a division of seven as against the qabalistic ten. Hence one of it’s names – the septenary system.”

“And you have details of this system?”

“I know some people who know a group who use it.”

“And through such a magickal system one could obtain one’s desire?”

“It is possible, yes.”

“Then when can I meet them – these Black Magickians?”

 

II

“So you are the Black Magickian I have heard so much about?” Conrad gave the man a disdainful look before sitting in the proffered chair.

The room, like them, was not impressive. Dreary paintings hung from drab walls and a human skull lay atop a pile of paperback books containing horror stories.

“Some call me a Black Magickian.” The man was dressed in black and wore a medallion around his neck bearing the symbol of the inverted pentagram. “Your friend Mr. Stanford informed me of your interest in the Black Arts. There are rumours about you.”

“Is that so?”

“Why have you come here?” the man asked.

“You hold certain meetings.”

“Possibly.”

“Meetings which attract a good many people.”

“Sometimes.”

“One of which will be held here, tonight.”

“For a neophyte you are exceptionally well informed.”

Conrad smiled it had taken Neil only a week to arrange the meeting, and he used the time well. “I wish to attend the ritual.”

“You must understand,” the man said, “we have certain procedures. For those who want to become Initiates. A testing period.”

“Quite so. But you would not have agreed to see me this evening at this hour if it was not your intention to allow me to attend.”

As if to reflect on his answer, the man lit a small cigar, allowing its smoke to billow round him. “You may attend the first part of the ritual. The second is, I’m afraid, for Initiates only. And then, afterwards, should you wish, we shall talk further about the matter.” He stood up. “Come, you must meet some of our members.”

He was led into a back-room of the spacious house. The windows were covered with long black drapes and the walls were painted red. A large wooden table, covered with a black cloth, served as the altar upon which were lighted black candles, a sword, several daggers, silver cups and chalices. In one corner of the room stood an almost life-size statue of a naked woman in an indecent posture, reminding him of a Sheila-na-gig. Around the altar the members had gathered in black robes, but they did not speak to him and he was left to stand in his suit by the door while the magickian walked toward the altar. He took up the sword, struck it against the dagger, saying ‘Hail Satan, Prince of Darkness!’

The congregation echoed his words, raising their arms dramatically while he removed the robe from a young woman before helping her to lie naked on the altar. She was smiling as she lay, her taut conical breasts rising and falling in rhythm with her breathing and Conrad watched her intently.

One by one the congregation came forwards to kiss her lips.

The magickian kissed her last, turning to face his congregation saying. “I will go down to the altars in Hell.”

They responded. “To Satan, the giver of ecstasy.”

“Let us praise our Prince.”

“Our Father which wert in heaven, hallowed be thy name, in heaven as it is here on Earth. Give us this day our ecstasy and desires and deliver us to evil as well as temptation for we are your kingdom for aeons and aeons!”

The magickian inscribed in the air with his left forefinger the sign of the inverted pentagram, before saying, “May Satan be with you.”

“As he is with you.”

“Let us affirm our faith.”

In union, they pronounced their Satanic creed. “I believe in one Prince, Satan, who reigns over this Earth and in one Law, Chaos, which triumphs over all. And I believe in one Temple, our Temple to Satan, and in one Word which triumphs over all: the Word of Ecstasy! And I believe in the Law of this Aeon which is Sacrifice, and in the letting of blood for which I shed no tears. Since I give praise to my Prince the fire-giver and provider as I look forward to his reign and the pleasures to come in this life!”

The congregation continued their litanies in a similar vein while the magickian made passes in the air with his hands over the body of the woman upon the altar. He was chanting something, but Conrad could not hear what it was, and he watched as the magickian raised a chalice over the woman, deliberately spilling some of the wine it contained over her body. He showed the chalice to the congregation before placing it between the woman’s thighs. Then one of the congregation came forward to stand by the altar and chant.

“I who am mother of harlots and queen of the Earth: whose name is written by the agony of the falsifier Yeshua upon the cross, I am come to pay homage to thee!” She kissed the woman upon the altar.

Then there was something in her hand which Conrad could not see, but she too made passes with her hands over the naked woman, chanting while she did so. She held up to the congregation what Conrad assumed to be a host.

“Behold,” she said, “the dirt of the Earth which the humble shall eat!”

She laughed, the congregation laughed, and then she threw the host, and others which she held, at the congregation who trampled them under their feet. “Give me,” she said to the woman upon the altar, “your body and your blood which I shall give to him as a gift to our Prince!”

The magickian was beside her as the woman on the altar raised her legs into the air. But two of the congregation ushered Conrad from the room. Outside a woman waited.

“I am called Tanith – at least here!”

Conrad stared at her. Her grey hair was cut short, accentuating her features and her clothes were a stunning blend of indigo and violet. There was beauty in her mature features and a sexuality evident in her eyes. “I’m sorry?” Conrad said.

“Come, let us talk.”

She led him to a comfortable room where a warming fire had been lit, deliberately sitting close to him.

“Your impressions of the ritual,” she asked directly.

He had recovered sufficient to say, “Too much pomp and not enough circumstance.”

“Humour, as well. A most pleasing combination! What is it that you seek?”

“Knowledge.”

“Like Faust? Do you also wish to sell your soul to the Devil?”

“I do not believe there is a soul or a Devil to sell it to.”

“And what you have seen, here tonight? Is it what you are seeking?”

He had felt there was no real magickal power in the ritual, no mystery to enthrall, nothing numinous to attract him. There had been only the trappings of sex and what had seemed almost a boredom in the satanic invokations, and he had begun to realize as he watched and waited that he wanted something more than sex. He desired a return of the power he had felt a week ago at the beginning of the wiccan rite. The satanic ritual had disappointed him – but Tanith intrigued him.

“I must admit,” he said, “I was disappointed.”

“But I interest you.”

“I – “

“Why be embarrassed? It is a perfectly natural feeling.” She smiled, and moistened her lips with her tongue. “But first to other matters. I could introduce you to a Master who could instruct you. For you, like everyone need to learn. Are you prepared to learn?”

“From someone I can respect.”

“Unlike our friend Sanders tonight.”

“Yes – unlike him.” It was Conrad’s turn to smile. Tanith’s perfume seemed exotic to him, and he found it difficult to avoid looking at her breasts, partly exposed by the folds of her unusual clothes. “So this evening’s entertainment was just a charade?”

“How acute of you! And such hidden talents. But not a charade, exactly.”

“An inducement?”

“For some: those lacking your talents.” She leant toward him. “Tomorrow, you shall meet the person you are seeking. There will be a price to pay, though.”

Conrad was dismayed. “I have no money.”

“I was not thinking of money.”

“What then?”

“Such innocence!” She leant closer, so close he could feel her breath upon his face and see the fine lines around her eyes. Then she was kissing him. He was so surprised he moved away.

Suddenly, she understood. “You’ve never done this before, have you?” She touched his face gently with her hand. “Well, I’d better make it memorable then.”

Outside, in the darkness, it had begun to snow.

 

III

Conrad lay in his bed a long time. Dawn was breaking, but he possessed no desire roe rise quickly and run, as had been his habit for years, five or more miles before his breakfast whatever the weather. Neither did the prospect of lectures excite him any more. Instead, he felt languid and satiated. Tanith had taken him to a bedroom in the house wherein their passion had flowed to ebb slowly in the hours after midnight. Her departure was sudden, the house empty, and he was left to walk back to his own college room through the snow-covered streets of the city, happy and pleased with himself.

He was still thinking about Tanith when someone knocked on the door of his room. He dressed hastily.

“Conrad Robury?” asked the tall well-dressed man.

Conrad was suspicious, for the man kept nervously glancing around. “Who wants to know?”

“I’m Fitten. Paul Fitten. You are in danger. Grave danger!” He gestured toward the briefcase in his hand. “It’s all in here. If only you will listen. Please, I must talk with you.”

“About what?”

“Those Satanists! They want to make you their opfer! You are in danger! I do not have much time. Look,” and he opened the briefcase, “study these books, please. Take them.”

Reluctantly, Conrad took them.

“They are after me,” Fitten said, glancing around. “They want to stop me, you see. Read the books, it is all in there. I shall call again. But they are coming – I sense them coming near. I must go now! Here, my address.” He gave Conrad a printed card. “We must talk soon.”

Fitten rushed along the corridor and down the stairs.

Alone again, Conrad sat at his desk to study the books, curious about them. The first book was entitled ‘Falcifer – The Curse of Our Age’ and was printed on shoddy paper in a small and unusual typeface. The title page bore no details of the publisher only the words ‘Benares, Year of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Twenty Three’ and the author’s name, R. Mehta.

‘Falcifer,’ the book began, ‘is the name they have chosen. Working in secret, even now they are planning his coming. He is the spawn of Chaos, the leader of those dark gods which even Satan himself fears. For centuries his secret disciples have deceived us and are deceiving us still, for he is not the Beast…’

“Darling,” Conrad heard a voice behind him say, “are you ready?”

Tanith came forward and kissed him. “Come, leave your books – I have need of you.”

The invitation pleased Conrad, and he forgot about the books, Fitten and everything else. Only Tanith was real, and he surrendered himself to his passion. Afterwards, she dressed herself quickly saying, “We must go. The Master is waiting.”

“Of course.”

She touched the three books Fitten had bought and, one after the other, they disintegrated into dust.

“The books! – ” Conrad began.

“They are not important. We must go now.” She threw him his clothes.

He walked beside her, surprised but pleased when a chauffeur ushered them into the luxury of the waiting car. Several students turned to look, and Conrad was secretly proud.

The car took them from the city and along country roads to the tree-lined and long driveway of an impressive house. A fierce looking and very tall man with the build of a wrestler opened the car door, and Conrad followed Tanith up the steps of the house and into the hall. He was led through doors and elegantly furnished passageways to a verandah where a man sat reading.

“Welcome,” the man said, and indicated the chair beside him. “Welcome Conrad Robury. You are most welcome in my house.”

Tanith shut the door to leave them in the cold outside air.

“Come, sit beside me,” the man said

His beard was neatly trimmed, his dark clothes thin and seemingly unsuitable to the weather. His voice had a musical quality with a veiled accent that Conrad could not identify, but it was his eyes which impressed Conrad most.

“You wish to learn?”

“Yes,” Conrad replied, shivering from the cold, although he tried not to show it.

The man smiled. “I am called Aris – at least here! Tell me, Conrad, is it a return of the feeling which you felt after a certain – how shall we say? – well-endowed lady began her wiccan ritual?”

Conrad was amazed at the man’s knowledge of his inner feelings.

“Perhaps,” Aris continued, “you are beginning to understand that it was not change that brought you here. Perhaps, also, you are beginning to realize that you may have found what – or should I say whom – you are seeking. Do you, then, wish to learn from me the Art whose secrets you believe I know?”

“Yes.”

“And you wish Initiation?”

“Yes I do.”

“You have a special Destiny to fulfill – and I shall guide you toward the fulfillment of that Destiny. Are you then prepared to accept whatever conditions I may make?”

“Yes.”

“You appear unsure – which is good. It is only fitting that you are apprehensive. Our path is difficult and is only for those who dare. The ritual of your Initiation will take place soon, and afterwards you will begin to study our way. but you should understand that, as from yesterday, your experiences are formative and part of your quest – it is for you to understand them.”

It had begun to snow again, and Conrad was shivering from the cold despite the elation he felt at being accepted. There was a knock on the door that led to the verandah, and Aris the Master smiled.

“Enter!” he said.

Tanith entered and Aris rose to greet her with a kiss. “You have met my wife, of course.” he said to Conrad.

“Your wife?” Conrad said as he also stood, suddenly warmed by the shock.

“Yes, darling!” Tanith said, and kissed Conrad’s face.

Conrad was perplexed but the Master said, “See, how profitably you have spent the last twelve hours. Already you are beginning to learn. You see, I know what has occurred between you and Tanith.” He laughed. “There are no Nazarene ethics here!”

“In fact,” Tanith added, “no ethics at all!”

“Come, Conrad, I have a present for you: a gift of your Initiation.”

It was a somewhat dazed Conrad who followed Aris to another room. On a couch, a dwarf with a pugnacious face was apparently asleep.

“Conrad Robury, meet Mador your guide.”

At the sound of his name, Mador sprang up, did a somersault and landed near Conrad where he gave a mock bow.

“Charmed, I’m sure!” he said.

“A word of warning – he is a fool,” Aris said.

“Bah!” Mador replied. “Ignore him – he’s a liar!”

“Show Conrad the house,” Aris said.

“Yes, Master,” replied Mador, bowing and winking at Conrad.

Aris left them alone. “You are Conrad,” Mador said. “Well, I shall call you – Professor! Come!”

The passage that led away from the room was long, adorned with oil paintings and antique furniture. He was shown a small laboratory, the library, the many bedrooms on the floor above, each decorated and furnished differently. Some seemed luxurious, others austere and a few quite bizarre with walls like trapezoids and no windows. The gardens around the house were large with well-tended lawns and Mador pointed to the dense wood that formed their boundary at the rear.

“Not at night,” he said breaking the silence between them and shaking his head, “not alone.”

“Why not?”

Mador ignored the question. “The cellars! I forgot the cellars!” And he hit himself on the head.

The door to the cellars was locked, and Mador kicked it in anger.

“What does Aris do?” Conrad asked.

“The Master? Do?” replied Mador perplexed. “Why, he is a Magickian!” he cupped his hand to his ear, listening. “Come Professor. It is time. Yes, it is time!”

“For what?”

“For the Professor. She is calling me.”

Mador led him to a dining room. “She waits,” he said indicating the door, and left him. Tanith was in the room, seated at the table where only two places were laid.

“Sit, here beside me,” she said to him.

“Won’t your husband be joining us?”

“The Master? Why, no!” She rang the silver hand bell.

A maid came to serve the hors d’oeurve. Conrad thought her very pretty, but she refused to look at him.

“Did you enjoy your tour?” Tanith asked him as she elegantly devoured her melon.

“Yes – and no.”

“Why no?”

“I was still thinking – about you and me and your husband.”

“We are different, as you are learning.”

“So he does not mind?”

She smiled. “What do you think?”

“I think I’m beginning to understand.”

“Excellent! You will be staying here, with us, of course for the next week, few weeks or whatever.”

“I had not though about it. My studies – “

“They are more important to you than the goal you seek? Than the pleasure you find with me?”

“Of course not.”

“Whatever belongings you wish to have around you will of course be brought here from your present lodgings.”

“And if I didn’t want to stay?”

“You are free to go any time.” She rang the bell, waiting until the maid completed her duties before speaking again. “However, should you leave – there can be no returning.”

“I see.”

For some time they ate in silence. “How long might my stay be?” he finally asked.

“However long it takes.”

“A test of my desire for Initiation?”

Tanith smiled. “Possibly. Do try the wine, an excellent year. Or so I am told.”

“I don’t drink alcoholic substances.”

“Really? How extraordinary!” She drank from her own glass. “Judging by last night and this morning you do not seem like a Buddhist to me.”

“It be-clouds the senses?”

“Buddhism?”

“No – wine and other such beverages.”

“Or relaxes them!” She raised her own glass. “To Bacchus the Great!” The glass was soon empty. “I suppose,” she said lasciviously, “the cultivation by you of one vice at a time is sufficient – for the moment!”

Conrad sighed. He felt he was being manipulated to some extent; but he also felt he did not care. His memory of his passion with Tanith was strong.

“Can I see you tonight?” he asked. “I mean – “

“I know what you mean,” she said softly. “I’m sure it can be arranged. Such youthful vigour!” She closed her eyes. “To paraphrase a certain French author – ‘The pleasures of vice must not be restrained.’” She rang the bell again. “You will have a rather full afternoon and evening, I understand.”

“Doing what?”

“Oh, various things. You have not eaten very much.”

“Bit excited, I suppose.”

“Coffee?”

“Yes, please.”

The maid returned to whisper into Tanith’s ear. “Come,” Tanith said to him.

By the outside door in the hall, the wrestler stood holding a man by the arms. Conrad recognized him. It was Fitten.

“Alright, Gedor,” Tanith said.

The wrestler nodded his head and released Fitten.

“You must get away!” Fitten shouted at Conrad. “They are cursed! They want you as their – “

Tanith gestured with her hand and Gedor’s fist knocked Fitten over, bloodying his face. Conrad saw Tanith smile.

“Escort him away,” she said to Gedor, “and lock the gates.”

She closed the door. “Fitten will not bother us again.”

“You know him then?” Conrad asked, surprised.

“Yes, we know him. He calls himself a White Magickian. Runs a group of sorts in the city. You are in demand, it seems.”

“Must be my natural charm!”

She did not respond. Instead her eyes betrayed no emotion.

“The Master awaits you. In the library. Go now.” She turned and walked away.

In the library Conrad could see no one. The room was dim, and he was about to open one of the shutters that had been closed over the windows when he heard a voice behind him.

“Be seated,” it said.

He saw no one, but sat at the table. Behind him he heard footsteps.

“Do not look round,” the voice like that of the Master said.

“Your Initiation will be tonight. Are you prepared?”

He was not, but did not want to say so. “Yes,” he lied, trying to convince himself.

“After the ritual of your Initiation there will be a task for you to complete. But now you must meditate”.

The sudden blow enfolded Conrad in darkness.

 

IV

Conrad awoke in darkness. His neck ached, and he was lying on a hard surface. on both sides he felt a cold, rough wall. The mortar between the bricks crumbles as his fingers touched it. No sounds reached him, and the steel door that sealed him in the cell would not open.

He lay for a long time, thinking about his life, Tanith, the Master and the Satanic group to which he assumed they belonged. Once and once only he felt afraid, but the fear soon passed as he remembered how Neil has spoken of the tests of Initiation. The darkness and the silence soon worked their magick upon him, and he fell asleep.

The loud click awoke him, and he rose to see the door swing slowly open, spreading a diffuse light into he cell. He waited, but no one came. Outside, stone steps led up along a narrow passageway and he climbed them slowly. The passage led to a circular room whose light was emanating from a sphere upon a plinth in the centre and, as he stood watching the light pulse in intensity and change slightly in colour, he felt the room begin to turn. Was he being deceived – or was the room really turning? He could hear a distant, sombre chant and smell a rich incense, and was surprised when the movement stopped and what he thought had been a wall part to reveal a large chamber below.

Steps led down to where black robed figures stood around a stone altar. The Master was there, and Tanith, clothed in white, and she gestured to him. Somewhere, drums beat and cantors sand a mesmeric chant in a language unknown to Conrad. Tanith was smiling, and he walked down and toward her.

“You,” Aris the Master said to him in a voice that was almost chanting, “have come here, nameless, to receive that Initiation given to all who desire the greatness of gods!”

Two figures whose faces were hidden by the hoods of their robes came forward to hold Conrad and roughly strip him until he was naked.

“You have come,” Aris was saying, “to seal with an oath your allegiance to me, your Mistress here, and all the members of this our Satanic Temple.”

Tanith came toward him, and kissed him on the lips. “I greet you,” she said, “in the name of our Prince! Let the Dark Gods and His legions witness this rite!” She turned to the congregation. “Dance, I command you!! And with the beating of your feet raise the legions of our lord!”

The Master was chanting something, but Conrad could not understand it.

“Drink!” Tanith said to Conrad, offering him a silver chalice.

He did, draining the wine until the chalice was empty.

“Gather round, my children,” Tanith said, and the congregation obeyed to enclose Conrad in their circle, “and feel the flesh of our gift!”

They came towards him, smiling, and ran their hands over his flesh. Conrad was embarrassed, but tried not to show it. One of the congregation was a young woman and she stood for what seemed a long time in front of him so he could see her face enclosed within the hood of her robe. He thought her beautiful, and she ran her hands over his shoulders, chest and thighs before caressing his penis, smiling as he became erect. Then she was gone, enclosed again within the circle of dancers and he found himself held by strong hands and blindfolded.

He could hear Tanith’s voice, the chant, and the dancers as they moved around him.

“We rejoice,” Tanith was saying, “that another one comes to seed us with his blood and his gifts. We, kin of Chaos, welcome you the nameless. You are the riddle and I an answer and a beginning of your quest. For in the beginning was sacrifice. We have words to bind you through all time to us for in your beginnings, we were. Before you – we have been. After you – we will be. Before us – They who are never named. After us – They will still be. And you, through this rite, shall be of us, bound, as we are bound by Them. We the fair who garb ourselves in black through Them possess this rock we call this Earth.”

Then the Master was before him. “Do you accept the law as decreed by us?”

“Yes, I do,” Conrad answered.

“Do you bind yourself, with word and deed and thoughts to us the seed of Satan without fear or dread?”

“Yes”

“Then understand that the breaking of your word is the beginning of our wrath! See him! Hear him! Know him!”

The dancers stopped, and gathered again round Conrad to briefly touch him.

“So you,” the Master said “renounce the Nazarene, Yeshua, the great deceiver, and all his works?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Say it!”

“I renounce the Nazarene, Yeshua, the great deceiver and all his works!”

“Do you affirm Satan?”

“I do affirm Satan.”

“Satan – whose word is Chaos?”

“Satan – whose word is Chaos!”

“Then break this symbol which we detest!”

A wooden cross was thrust into his hands, and he broke it before throwing the pieces to the ground.

“Now receive,” the Master continued, “as a symbol of your faith and a sign of your oath this sigil of Satan.”

Tanith gave the Master a small phial of aromatic oil, and with the oil Aris traced the sign of the inverted pentagram on Conrad’s forehead, chanting ‘Agios o Satanas!’ as he did so. Aris held Conrad’s arm while with a sharp knife Tanith cut Conrad’s thumb, drawing blood which she spread over her forefinger to draw the sigil of the Temple over his hear.

“By the powers we as Master and Mistress wield, these signs shall always be a part of you: an auric symbol to mark you as a disciple of our Prince!”

“Now you must be taught,” he heard Tanith’s voice say, “the wisdom of our way!”

Two of the congregation came forward and forced him to kneel in front of her.

“See,” she said, laughing, “all you gather now in my Temple: here is he who thought he knew our secret – he who secretly admired himself for his cunning! See how our strength over-comes him!”

The congregation laughed, and he felt his hands being bound behind his back. For a second he felt fear, but it was soon gone, replaced by anger and he tried to wriggle free from his bonds.

“A spirited one, this!” he heard Tanith’s voice mock. “Listen!” she said to him. “Listen and learn! Keep your silence and be still!”

Conrad strained to hear. There was a rustling, a sound which might have been made by bare feet walking over stone, the chant ending, and then finally silence. He lay still even when he heard someone approaching him as he lay on the floor of the Temple. He felt a warm hand softly touching his skin, felt a woman’s naked softness next to him and smelt a beautiful perfume. He did not resist when soft arms moved him to lie beside her, and he began to respond to her kisses and touch.

“Receive from me,” the woman whispered, “the gift of your initiation.”

Bound and still blindfolded, he surrendered himself to the physical passion she aroused and controlled, and his climax of ecstasy did not take long to reach. When it was over, she removed the cord which bound his hands and then his blindfolded. Conrad recognized the young woman who had caressed him earlier. On the altar lay a black robe and she gave it to him before ringing the Temple bell.

The sound was signal for the congregation to return, and each member greeted Conrad, their new Initiate, with a kiss. Chalices of wine were handed round and he was given one. He sipped it while around him an orgy began.

“Come,” Tanith said to him, “we have other duties.”

She led him out of the chamber, through a passage and up well-worn stone stairs to a wooden door. The door was a concealed one and led into a hut. Outside, it was night, but the snow-scattered light illuminated the woods, and he followed Tanith through the snow, shivering from the cold. She did not speak, and he did not, and it seemed to him a long walk back to the house. Inside, it was warm and smelt vaguely of incense.

“Rest now,” Tanith said, and kissed him.

He held her and caressed her breasts.

“I have to go,” she said without smiling. “Gedor will show you to your room.”

Conrad was surprised when out of the shadows Gedor stepped forward, grim-faced.

The room he was led to was unfurnished except for a bed, but it was warm and Conrad soon settled himself under the duvet to read the book that lay upon the pillow. ‘The Black Book of Satan’ the title read.

The first chapter was called ‘What is Satanism’ and he was reading it when he heard strange, almost unearthly, sounds outside. He drew back the curtains and to his surprise found they concealed not a window but an oil painting. It was a portrait of a young man dressed in medieval clothes and he stared at it for some time before realizing it was a portrait of himself. It bore a signature he could not read, and a date which he could: MDCXLII. “1642″ he said to himself. The colours of the painting seemed dulled a little with age, the canvas itself cracked as if to confirm the antiquity of the portrait.

The strange sounds had stopped, and were replaced by loud laughter outside the door. He went to it, but it was locked.

V

Baynes was a quiet, almost shy man in his late forties. His handsome features, his neatly trimmed bear – black with streaks of grey – his wealth and the soft, mellow tones of his voice made him attractive to many women. He was well aware of this, and made efforts to avoid being left alone with them. A bachelor, his only interest outside his work was the Occult and he had acquired the reputation of regarding women as distant objects of chivalry. His abstemiousness in this matter gave rise to rumours that he was a homosexual but he did nothing to dispel them except explain when pressed on the matter by some of his friends in the Occult and magickal groups he frequented that he regarded women as a hindrance in the attainment of the highest grades of Initiation.

Dressed in an expensive suit, he sat in the lounge of one of his comfortable city houses listening to Fitten talk about the group of Satanists. It was after midnight, and uncharacteristically he was becoming bored. Several members from his own Temple of Isis sat around him in the subdued light, and some of them were trying to resist the temptation of sleep. Fitten had been talking, in his own disjointed way, for nearly an hour, explaining his theory about the origins of the Satanist group.

“It is an old tradition,” Fitten was saying, “a very old tradition. A racial memory, perhaps, of beings who once long ago came to this Earth. For we have been deceived. They are not of the Beast, not of those Others about whom one writer has written, decades ago. We need to understand this, you see: need to finally understand the truth. We have been deceived about them.”

Fitten paused to wipe seat from his forehead with his coloured handkerchief and Baynes took the opportunity to interject.

“I have taken the liberty,” he said, “of contacting a colleague of mine in London who is well-known as a leading authority on Satanism and he has agreed to come and talk to us. The Satanist group to which the gentleman to whom Mr. Fitten referred to belongs – “

“Conrad Robury,” interrupted Fitten.

“The group to which Mr. Robury now, apparently belongs,” continued Baynes, “has interested us for some time. Since the murder of Maria Torrens, in fact. You will all, no doubt, recall the brutal facts of that case.”

He could see his audience now paying attention.

“As you will remember, her naked and mutilated body was found on the Moors, her head resting on what the Police assumed to be a Black Magick altar. An inverted pentagram had been cut on her skin by a sharp knife – a surgical scalpel, I was told. Discreetly of course, I was asked for my opinion.

“At first I and the Police investigating the matter were of the opinion that the killing was a motiveless one with no genuine Occult connections, the murderer or murderers providing the ‘Occult’ evidence to confuse. For, as you will recall, some rather scurrilous newspapers ascertained and published details regarding the lady’s rather unfortunate background. She was a ‘Lady of the Night’ – “

“A prostitute,” someone said, and giggled.

Baynes ignored the remark. ” – who frequented the area around this city’s dockland. She was last seen apparently accepting a lift in a vehicle driven by an attractive middle- aged lady. Shortly after the newspapers published their story, the Police received an anonymous call, naming a suspect. The man was quickly traced, and interviewed and then arrested when he confessed to the crime. He himself had a rather dubious reputation, and said that he had driven Miss Torrens to the scene of the crime and persuaded her to adorn herself in an Occult manner. Apparently, he had been to the motion-pictures and seen some scenes in a film.

“He later retracted this confession and claimed to have been forced to give it by a man whom he continually referred to as ‘The Master’ whom he claimed had himself committed the brutal murder. He further alleged that this ‘Master’ was the leader of a group of Satanist’s here, in this city and had killed Miss Torrens during a ritual for his own diabolic ends. He made a statement to the Police to this effect, but shortly afterwards began acting rather strangely, and withdrew that statement. During subsequent weeks before his trial he made several other statements, each more ludicrous than the other – for instance, one referred to beings from another planet landing in a ’space-ship’, abducting him and Maria.

“It was at the trial, you may well remember, that the Prosecution proved by the testimony of a very respectable witness that Maria and the defendant had been seen together on the Moor only a few hours before her death. The defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment, and was found, some weeks later, hanged in his prison cell. After the trial, I began my own quiet investigation into Satanist groups in this area – and subsequently uncovered one organized by a certain gentleman whom his followers call ‘The Master’. This group uses and has used several different names, and has Temples in various other cities. Among its names are ‘The Temple of Satan’, ‘The Noctulians’ and ‘Friends of Lucifer’.”

Fitten was slumped in a chair, apparently asleep, and Baynes smiled at him, in his gentle was, before continuing. “The group is very selective regarding members, and tests all the candidates for Initiation. These tests are sometimes quite severe and sometimes involve the candidate undertaking criminal acts – this of course serving to bind the candidate to the group as well as giving the group evidence to blackmail the candidate with should he or she later prove uncooperative. Unlike most so-called Satanist and Black Magick groups which are usually only a cover for one or more persons criminal or sexual activities, this particular group does work genuine magick, and seems to possess quite an advanced understanding of the subject. Apparently, they follow their own sinister magickal tradition based on the septenary system – or Hebdomadry as it is called.

“Since the Maria Torrens case we, acting with a number of other ‘Right Hand Path’ groups in this and other areas, have tried to infiltrate this Satanist group, always without success. Until recently, that is.”

Smiling, he waited for the exclamations of surprise to subside before he continued. “This member – whom I shall for obvious reasons call only Frater Achad – has given us valuable information, and he is shortly to be initiated into the sect. What we are hoping is that he can provide us with details regarding members, their magickal workings as well as information regarding their activities which we can pass onto the Police. As I have said, some of their activities verge on the criminal kind of which we are at present unaware, and of course there is always the possibility that Frater Achad can provide us with evidence regarding the Maria Torrens case.

“Naturally, I have told you this in the strictest confidence. Frater Achad is in a delicate – not to say dangerous – position.”

Suddenly, Fitten was on his feet, pointing at Baynes. “We must act now! Don’t you understand?” He turned and faced the other people present. “Don’t any of you understand? We cannot afford to wait! We must act now to destroy them! Soon, their power will grow – so great we, and others, can do nothing. Listen! They will do a ritual to open the gate to the Abyss. An opfer – they need an opfer to do this, and offering of human blood. Do you want another death on your hands? Once the Gate is opened they will possess the power of the Abyss itself!”

“Mr. Fitten,” Baynes said gently, “I – we all – share your concern about them. But we must plan and act carefully in this matter.”

“I shall show you!” Fitten shouted. “I shall stop them! Me! Because I know their secrets! I don’t need any of you!”

No one followed him as he left the room and the house.

“Our brother,” Baynes said, “needs our help. Let us meditate for a while and send him healing and helpful vibrations.”

As they closed their eyes to begin, laughter invaded the room. All present heard it, but no one could see its source. But it was soon gone, and Baynes and his followers of the white path of magick soon resumed their own form of meditation, praying to and invoking their one or many gods according to the many and varied beliefs. The laughter was only one incident and did not undermine their security of faith.

Outside, in the cold and above the snow which covered the ground deeply, an owl screeched in the darkness and silence of the large ornamental garden. The cry startled them more than the demonic laughter.

 

VI

The voice awoke Conrad, and he roused himself from his troubled sleep to see Mador standing beside his bed.

“Breakfast, Professor?” the dwarf asked again.

“What?”

“Breakfast?”

“What time is it?”

“Time to rise and eat!” He handed Conrad a neat pile of clothes. “Hurry! Rise and eat”

“Leave me alone,” Conrad said. His dreams had been disturbing, his sleep broken, and he felt in need of rest.

“The Master sent me,” Mador replied, and smiled.

Wearily, Conrad sat up in his warm bed. The room itself felt cold. “Alright. I won’t be long.”

“I wait for you – outside.”

Conrad dressed slowly in the black clothes someone had selected for him before following Mador to the dining room. The maid was waiting, ready to serve him from the many dishes and he was not surprised when Mador left him. He was surprised when the young lady who had sexually initiated him entered the room to sit beside him.

“Did you sleep well?” she asked him, and smiled.

“Er, yes thank you,” Conrad replied in his surprise.

“Do try the kippers,” she said to him. “From Loch Fyne. Delicious!” she gestured toward the maid who began to serve them both.

“Do you live here?” Conrad cautiously asked her.

“You are sweet!” she chided him. “I suppose you could say that. I’m Susan, by the way.”

“Conrad,” he said unnecessarily and held out his hand.

She did not take it and he was left to awkwardly shuffle in his chair.

“Did you like your room?” She asked.

“Well, it was unusual.”

“They all say that!”

” ‘They?’ ” he asked.

She ignored his question. “Has the Master explained what you will be doing today?”

“No.”

“I’m sure he will want to see you – after you have eaten.” She gestured toward the kipper with which the maid had served him.

“I’m not very hungry, actually.”

She laughed. “You’re not a vegetarian by any chance, are you?”

“No, of course not.”

“After all the energy you expended last night,” she smiled at him, “I would have thought you’d be ravenous!”

Conrad blushed at this reminder of the passion they as strangers had shared.

“Such innocence!” she said,

“There is a painting in my room,” he said to cover his embarrassment. “Is it very old?”

“Have you read any of the book that was left in your room?”

“A little. It’s very interesting.”

“It’s a beginning,” she shrugged. “Just a beginning.”

“Have you been involved with this group long?”

“That’s a quaint way of putting it! ‘This group!’ You mean, have I been a Satanist a long time?”

The woman’s self-assurance, his own discomfort at being a guest in an unusual and luxurious house, and his shyness with women all combined to make Conrad wish he was elsewhere – at his lectures, preferably, learning about the mysteries and beauties of physics. But as he sat looking at the young and quite beautiful woman beside him and as he remembered the bliss they had shared, he began to feel a confidence in himself. It was as though some of the power he had felt during the wiccan ritual over a week ago had returned.

“Yes,” he said smiling at her, “how long have you been a Satanist?” He said the last word with relish, as though consciously and proudly committing a sin.

“I was brought up with it – baptised into it.”

“Really?”

“Naturally, there was a time when I began to question it, and was given the freedom to do so. In fact even encouraged.”

“By your parents?”

“But once you have tasted paradise on Earth, it is irresistible!”

“Why do you evade some of my questions?” Conrad asked, his confidence growing.

Her eyes seemed to him to sparkle as she answered. “Because I am a woman and like to be mysterious!”

Without quite realizing what he was doing he leant toward her and kissed her lips. She did not draw away, and out of the corner of his eye he could see the maid pretending to look out of the window at the garden. Across the room, he heard a discreet and almost gentlemanly cough.

Aris stood by the door. “If you have finished,” he said almost smiling, “perhaps we can talk.”

“Of course!” Conrad said, surprised.

“In the library.” He turned around and left.

“Can I see you – later?” Conrad asked Susan.

“Do you really want to?” She teased.

“Yes!”

“Perhaps. You’d better not keep him waiting.”

“No.” He stood up, bent down to kiss her, then decided against it.

The door to the library was open, and Aris was already sitting in a chair by the desk.

“Come!” The Master said in greeting.

Conrad sat opposite trying not to appear nervous.

“The power you felt before,” Aris said, “is returning to you. As you hoped it would. This is one result of your Initiation. For you must understand, Initiation into our way is similar to opening a channel, a link, to those hidden or Occult powers which form the real essence of magick.”

Conrad was impressed, but Aris continues in his unemotional way. “Those powers you may use for whatever you desire. For sexual gratification, should you so wish. Such power as you feel and have felt will grow, steadily, with your own Occult and magickal development. What occurred last night is but the first of many stages in that development. Are you then prepared to go further?”

“Yes. Yes, I am.”

“There is a task I wish you to undertake, a task connected to your Initiation. But you must understand that you have been chosen for more than just this and such other tasks as may be necessary for your own magickal development. For remembered I have said that you have a special Destiny to fulfil. What this Destiny is, will become clear when the time is right. You are important to us, as we to you. Because of this you are more to me and my comrades in magick than a mere Initiate, a beginner in the ways of our dark gods. Remember this, Conrad Robury. I extend my hospitality to you and not just of my house, as you know, because you are more than another novice.

“Now to your task. It will, for a short while, take you away from the house.”

Conrad sensed that, whatever the test was, it would partly be a test of fidelity to Aris and his Satanic group.

“You are familiar with someone called Paul Fitten,” Aris said.

It was not a question, but Conrad still answered, “Yes.”

“You are to go to him and persuade him that you wish to help him. Then you must endeavour to undertake a magickal ritual with him. It will be a qabalistic ritual, but never mind. During this ritual you are to redirect the power brought forth – which you must help to generate – so that it takes control of Fitten, harms him in some way. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

Aris stared at him, then smiled. “You understand part of it – yes. For you believe I aim to test your morals by asking you to harm by magickal means another individual. But there is more, as you will discover. Now, I have a gift for you – a gift of your Initiation.” He placed a silver ring with an ornamental stone on the desk. “Wear it always from this day as a sign of your desire to follow our ways.”

Without thinking Conrad began to place the ring on the third finger on his right hand.

“The other hand,” Aris said.

Conrad obeyed. The ring was a perfect fit.

“Now, Conrad Robury, you must go to accomplish your task. Susan, as my Priestess, will go with you.”

Conrad was at the door when Aris said, “Do not let them – or anyone – try to remove your ring.”

 

VII

Susan, obviously prepared, had driven him straight to Fitten’s house. It was a small house, bordering a quiet road near the edge of the city and a dog ran out toward them, barking, as they walked along the path to the door. Susan stared at the dog, and it whimpered away.

Conrad knocked loudly on the door, as a Policeman might. Fitten bore no visible scars of his ordeal at the hands of Gedor and greeted them warmly.

“Come in!” he said. “Please come in! I knew you would come! It was in the chart, you see!”

He led them into a room crowded with books and dimly lit but where a coal fire burned warmly.

“Please, be seated!” he enthused. “I have so much to tell you!”

“This is Susan,” Conrad said.

“Yes, yes! How did you escape?”

“Escape?” asked Conrad.

“From the house of the Satanists? You were there, yesterday.”

“Oh, them. They seemed only too anxious,” lied Conrad, “to let me go after you appeared. One of them mentioned something about ‘magickal attack. Perhaps they thought I would be a burden to them in that case.”

“As you would, as you would my son!”

Conrad winced.

“Did you read the books I gave you?” Fitten asked.

“They destroyed them.”

“Ah! They are evil, evil incarnate!”

“But who are they?”

“You do not know?” Fitten looked amazed.

“No. Should I?”

“Perhaps not. It is not important. You are here, now, that’s what important.”

“I wish,” Conrad said and sighed, “someone would tell me what this is all about. I get invited to this party at a house, meet a right bunch of weird characters. Then you appear and are thrown out. Then one of them shows me this Temple they use. I’m a bit out of my depth, here.”

“They need an opfer, you see. For their Mass. Not a Black Mass – no, something far worse, something more vile and sinister. You had all the right qualities. Just what they needed. They knew that after you attended that meeting of the Circle of Arcadia. They know. They have spies – agents – infiltrators in most groups.”

A slim, young woman appeared in the doorway of the room. “Would you like some tea, dear?” she asked her older husband.

“What?” said Fitten.

“Tea. Would you like some?” She innocently returned Conrad’s smile.

“Why not! Why not indeed!”

She had gone when Conrad spoke. “You said they needed an opfer – a sacrifice.”

“I did? Quite! They needed – still need – someone young. They have a tradition, you see, of sacrificing a young man aged twenty one. But only for this important ritual. The time of this ritual is near. They will have power from it. Not just Occult power. No, real power! They channel the magickal forces, you see, into a practical form – sometimes a person, sometimes an institution, a company, or something like that. Such use of magick is real black magick, real evil! They fermented, these worshippers of the darkest of dark forces, the French Revolution – the blood spilled was a sacrifice, an offering to their strange alien gods. They brought about with their magick the Third Reich. Now they prepare again!” He wiped the sweat from his forehead with his hand.

“But why me?” Conrad asked, trying to appear serious.

“You were a key to open the gate to the powers, the dark powers of the Abyss. Their Black Magick rites would use this power! I have sent for help.”

“Sent for help?”

“A Magus. The most powerful White Lodge has been alerted. They will send a Magus.”

“You do not want to deal with it yourself?” Conrad asked.

“I? I have no authority! A council must be convened: all the Magister Temple must be invited.”

“But if the situation is as serious as you believe,” Conrad resisted the temptation to smile, “can you afford to wait. Surely you must do something yourself.”

“Well,” Fitten sighed, “I did a little ritual. Last night.”

“And it worked. I am here.”

“I am thankful to the Lord for that. They might try and get you back – or find another opfer.” He slumped in his chair, looking pale and tired.

Suddenly, Conrad conceived an idea. “Will you excuse me a moment,” he said, “I must go to the toilet.”

Fitten said nothing, and stared into the fire. Conrad left. He found Fitten’s wife in the kitchen of the house.

“Making tea?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Any special kind?”

“No, just ordinary tea.”

“I prefer Formosa Oolong myself.” He closed the door.

“I wouldn’t know!”

“There’s a lovely tea shop in the city centre which serves a good selection. Perhaps you’ve been there?”

“No,” she said and turned away from him.

“It’s really lovely sitting there of a winter’s evening watching people pass in the street. You must try it sometime.”

“Maybe.”

“You look very tired,” he said, softly.

“It’s been a hectic week.”

“Perhaps you need a break – away from the house.”

“Maybe,” she said dully.

“Please don’t be offended, but perhaps I could take you out to dinner one evening?”

“I’m sorry?” she said with genuine surprise.

“You looked so sad, standing there,” he said with kindness in his voice.

“I’m just tired.”

“Would you like to come to dinner with me one evening? I know a rather nice restaurant.”

“It’s very kind of you to ask,” she said formally.

“I’m not being kind. It would give me great pleasure to have the company of a beautiful woman for an evening. And you are beautiful.”

“I’m a married woman.”

“And a beautiful one. When did you last dine out?” He could see that the question pained her although she did not answer.

“Would he really miss you for one evening?”

She looked at him briefly then lowered her eyes. He moved toward her and held her hand, gently caressing it with his fingers. She closed her eyes, and he was surprised by her reaction as he was by his own confidence. It was as though he had become another person. He bent forward to kiss her but she moved away.

“Please,” she pleaded, but made no move to free her hand from his.

“Tonight,” he said, “About eight o’clock?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’ll collect you about a quarter to eight, then.”

“The lady who came with you – ” she asked.

“My sister?” he lied. “She wants to talk to your husband about witchcraft, I think. Can’t say I find the subject of interest, myself. I’m studying Physics at the moment.”

She finally withdrew her hand from his. “At the University?”

“Yes. Do you know it?”

“I went there,” she said shyly.

“Really? What did you study?”

“Geology.”

“I’ve always been fascinated by that subject. You must tell me about it – tonight.”

“I didn’t complete my course.”

“To get married?”

“No. Well, not exactly.” She turned away to complete her preparation of the tea. She gave him the tray. “Would you mind?” she asked.

“Not at all! Tonight, then?”

She smiled and held the door open for him. “We’ll see!” she said.

Down the dark hallway of the house he could hear Fitten’s agitated voice.

“Tea?” he said, entering the warm room.

“Mr. Fitten,” Susan said, “is thinking of performing a ritual here tonight.”

“Oh? Why?”

“Well,” Susan continued, “I suggested it would be a good idea at this moment in time. To strike now, when they are unprepared.”

“I don’t know, I don’t know!” said Fitten, shaking his head.

“I have explained” Susan said to Conrad, “that I myself am a Second Degree Witch, so I can assist.”

 

Suddenly, Fitten stood up. “Yes! We must act! I feel it is right! The time is right! You are right.”

“If it would help,” Susan said to him, “I have something taken from the house of the Satanists.” She fumbled in her handbag.

Fitten took the silver medallion inscribed with an inverted pentagram and the word ‘Atazoth’.

“Atazoth. Atazoth,” he mumbled. “Yes, this would be very suitable; very suitable indeed. Where did you get it?”

“Conrad found it in the house.”

“Yes. I gave it to her. All this Occult stuff does not really interest me. Not any more.”

“But you are, ” Susan asked him “prepared to partake in a ritual with us.”

“Of course. As I explained to my sister,” he said to Fitten, “although I don’t understand all of this, I’m prepared to help. I trust her judgment.”

“Good! Good!” Fitten said. “Tonight, you say?” he asked Susan.

“It would be best. You could get assistance? For I have heard you have many contacts. I would of course leave the type of ritual up to you – since you have far more knowledge and experience of ceremonial than I.”

Fitten was pleased by Susan’s praise. “I would have to make some telephone calls.”

“Naturally. What time would you suggest?” Susan asked.

“Eight o’clock. The hour of Saturn!”

“Surely,” Conrad said, “the sooner we begin the better. How about now?”

“Now? Now?” Fitten looked amazed.

“There is you, me, my sister – your wife.”

“My wife?”

“Such a ritual as we need to do may be dangerous.”

“But surely she has assisted you before?”

“Of course! Many times, in fact. We need more time to prepare.”

“But we have the medallion,” Susan suggested.

“Even so – “

“Do you intend,” Susan asked, “to conjure force and send it against the Satanists?”

“Yes. Yes, I had thought in such terms. Psychic attack! I can remember the face of that evil woman!”

“What woman?” Conrad asked.

“That evil woman who was with you in their house!”

“Tanith is her name.”

“I thought so! The spirits speak to me, you see. The Lord is with us!” He stared at them both as if possessed. “Yes! We will act now!” Then he was quiet again and softly spoken. “I will make a few telephone calls – perhaps some friends of mine can come at short notice.”

As soon as he left the room, Susan asked, “You have a plan?”

“Indeed! It should be interesting!”

“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” Susan asked, smiling.

“Yes! I feel really alive! Bursting with energy!”

***

Fitten was not away long. “Three others!” he announced on his return. “Three have agreed to come!”

“It bodes well, then,” Conrad said.

“My temple – we will wait for them in my Temple.”

“Your wife will be participating?”

“Yes, she will. Come, I will show you my Temple.”

The Temple was a converted bedroom. There was no altar, only a large circle inscribed on the floor around which were magical names and signs. IHVH, AHIH, ALIVN and ALH. The name Adonai was the most prominent and various Hebrew letters completed the circle’s adornment, The walls of the room were grey and white, and inside the circle on the floor stood a small table covered with a sword, several knives, candles and bowls of incense. The sword and knives were inscribed with writing the Conrad, from even his cursory study during the last week of the qabalistic ceremonial tradition, recognized as the magickal script called ‘Passing the River’.

“We must meditate while we wait for the others,” Fitten said as he lit several candles scattered around the floor.

“Bring good vibrations to assist us.”

Following Susan, Conrad sat on the floor. He closed his eyes and imagined the room filling with demons and imps. He was almost asleep when Fitten’s wife brought the remainder of the participants, two rather plump men and a woman with an unsmiling sallow face.

“Let us begin!” Fitten announced dramatically. He gave his congregation white robes and offered some to Susan and Conrad who declined. “Let us stand within the circle!” he announced.

Conrad deliberately stood next to Fitten’s wife with Susan beside him. Then Fitten was pointing the tip of the sword at the painted circle on the circle on the floor.

“I exhort you,” he shouted, “by the powerful and Holy names which are written around this circle, protect us!”

He put down his sword, held a piece of parchment up and then sprinkled incense over the floor. “Let the divine white brilliance descend. Before me Raphael, behind me Gabriel, at my right hand Michael, and at my left hand Auriel. For before me flames the pentagram and behind me stands our Lords six pointed star. Elohim! Elohim Gibor! Eloath Va-Daath! Adonai Tzabaoth! City of Light, open your radiance to us. We command you and your guardians, by the Holy Names – Elohim Tzabaoth! Elohim Tzabaoth! Elohim Tzabaoth! Twelve is our number.”

“Twelve,” repeated the others present, with the exception of Susan and Conrad.

“There are twelve,” Fitten continued, “twelve signs of the Zodiac.”

“Twelve signs of the Zodiac.”

“Twelve labours of Hercules.”

“Twelve labours of Hercules.”

“Twelve disciples of our Lord!”

“Twelve disciples of our Lord.”

“Twelve months in the year!”

“Twelve months in the year.”

“Let us adore,” Fitten chanted, “the Lord and the King of Hosts. Holy art thou Lord, thee who hast formed Nature. Holy art thou, the vast and the mighty one, Lord of Light and of the Darkness. Holy art thou, Lord! By the word of Paroketh, and by the sign of the rending of the Veil, I declare that the Portal of the Adepts is open! Hear the words! These are the words – Elohim Tzabaoth! Elohim! Tzabaoth!”

He bent down to scribble a sign on the parchment, then held it up, circling round sun-wise as he did so. “Come!” he shouted. “Come to me! To me!”

Conrad assumed the sign was of a demon, taken from the Lessor Key of Solomon.

“Behold the sign!” Fitten was saying. “Behold the Holy Name and my power! EIO! EIO! EIO! Tzabaoth! I command you! Appear! EIO! Tzabaoth!”

The candles began to dim, and Conrad could sense the anticipation of the participants. He saw Susan close her eyes. She, too, was speaking, but softly so the others might not hear. He caught the words ‘Agios o Satanas’ as she exhaled but heard nothing more.

Then a vague, ill-defined and almost luminescent shape appeared in the corner of the room.

“Yod He Vau Heh!” Fitten shouted.

Almost immediately, Conrad took the hand of Fitten’s wife in his own. She seemed to grasp it eagerly, and he stepped back, placing his foot over the painted circle. He could feel a force pulling him, and he closed his eyes to concentrate, willing the force into Fitten’s wife.

She screamed, and fell to the floor. Then was she standing, her hair disheveled, his face contorted and almost leering. She raised her hands like claws and began to walk slowly to where Fitten stood. Hurriedly, Fitten tried to burn the parchment he was holding in the flame of one of the candles, but he burnt his fingers instead. His wife was laughing and had ripped open her blouse to reveal her breasts.

Suddenly, as if realizing what had happened, Fitten stared at Conrad. He held the medallion Susan had given him over the flame of the candle and as he did so his wife stopped, her hands held motionless before her, her lips bared in a silent snarl. Susan gripped Conrad’s arm, and he turned to see her face contorted in pain.

There was a demonic strength in Conrad as he saw this, and his body tensed as he willed Fitten’s wife nearer and nearer to her husband. He could sense the elemental force within the room and tried to shape it by his own will to make Fitten’s wife take the medallion from his hand. She touched the chain, and then the medallion, but did not scream as the heat from the candle burnt her flesh, its smell invading the darkening room. She threw it to the ground to turn to face her husband, her hands reaching up towards his bare neck.

Then, quite suddenly, she stopped. Conrad felt another force within the confines of the room. It was a powerful force, opposed to him and he watched as Fitten’s aura became visible, flaming upwards in patterns of red and yellow and curling up over his head before it turned to inch closer and closer toward him. Fitten’s wife turned to walk in pace with the advancing colour-changing aura toward where Conrad stood. There was something Conrad did not understand about all this as he strove to try and will the advancing force away. Two names suddenly entered his mind. Baynes; Togbare an inner almost laughing voice said, and he was wondering what to do next when he remembered the last words of Aris his Master.

He held out his left hand to show Fitten his ring.

“The ring! We must get his ring!” one of Fitten’s followers shouted.

They moved toward Conrad, slowly it seemed as if in slow motion, and as they did so Fitten’s aural light was sucked into the ring. Then all magickal power in the room was gone, and he could see Fitten, his mouth open, his eyes staring, his face white. Fitten’s wife had stopped again and was slowly falling to the floor.

They reached her, but she was dead.

 

VIII

An exhausted Conrad had slept in Susan’s car on their return journey to Aris’ house. The death of Fitten’s wife had ended the ritual and a crazed Fitten had lunged at Conrad who had time only to raise his arms in self-defence before Susan knocked Fitten unconscious using Martial Arts techniques.

“Go, please go” one of Fitten’s group had said, and they had left unmolested.

The Master was waiting for them in the hall, and he ushered Conrad into the library where a log fire had been lit.

“I gather there were certain complications,” Aris said.

“Unfortunately.”

“Tell me, then, what transpired – exactly as you remember it.”

Conrad told his story – Fitten’s wife, how he planned to use her during the ritual. The qabalistic conjuration of Fitten. His own breaking of the circle. The aura and the presence. Finally, he spoke of the ring which had drained the hostile magick away.

“Oh,” concluded Conrad, “I remember two names. They just came into my mind before I was remembered about the ring.”

“Are you certain it was before?”

“Yes.”

“Certainly, that is interesting. And the names?”

“Baynes and Togbare.”

Conrad thought he detected a look of surprise on Aris’ face.

“You know them?” he asked.

“I have heard of them.”

“Are they important?”

“You spoke of Fitten mentioning the White Lodge. Do you know what that means?”

“Only that it is supposed to be a group of Occultists who follow the Right Hand Path.”

“It is a loose term used to describe a group of followers of that path who are dedicated to counteracting the activities of groups such as ours. Most are also followers of the Nazarene. This White Lodge fears that we will unite to use our powers against them. There are some who believe a ‘Black Lodge’ exists for just this purpose. Paranoia, naturally.” He smiled, and the sinister nature of his appearance in that moment became evident to Conrad. “Or at least it was.”

“This White Lodge,” Aris continued, “tries to infiltrate Satanist groups, disrupt them, and so on. They conduct rituals for just such a purpose. The Council of this Lodge – an extremely secret organization – oversees all these activities, and its present head is a certain Frater Togbare.”

“I see,” quipped Conrad, nervously.

“Then perhaps you will explain what you see.”

“It was not Fitten I was struggling with toward the end of the ritual but this White Lodge.”

“Probably.”

“But how – how did they know?”

“Through Fitten himself. You said he had claimed to be in contact with them before the ritual.”

“Yes.” Earnestly, he looked at Aris. “If this White Lodge is so powerful why did they allow Fitten’s wife to die?”

Aris smiled. It was not a pleasing smile. “Once brought, such power has to be used, directed. It was dissipated, one could say, through the woman’s death.”

“They could not have saved her?”

“Yes, they could have, but they were unprepared for the ring.”

“The ring?” Conrad stared at it. It looked ordinary, now in the light of the room and the fire.

“It was a link – between you and Susan.”

“Susan? I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”

“You will.”

His tone precluded, it seemed to Conrad, any further discussion of the matter. “But the woman’s death,” Conrad asked, “surely there will be complications? The Police – “

“Will not be involved,” completed Aris. “The White Lodge – or rather the individuals composing it – are quite influential. Death by natural causes, I am sure will be the verdict.”

“But surely I – I mean, what occurred during the ritual – will have started something? Fitten and the others will surely not let the matter stop there.”

“What occurred was a warning to them – a prelude. There will shortly be a ritual undertaken by us in which you will figure. Recall the mention I made of your Destiny. The time for fulfillment is near . Now they know our strength and our power, as I wished!”

“So it was more than just a test for me – of my Initiation?”

“Yes! As your Initiation was more than just another Initiation. But you are tired, and in need of sustenance. Go then, and feast yourself. We will meet again, and soon.”

He walked to a shelf and took down a book before opening it and beginning to read. Conrad left the library to find Susan waiting.

“Shall we eat first?” she asked him quizzically.

“I’m sorry?” he said obtusely, still suffering from his contact with Aris.

“Which appetite do you want to satisfy first?”

He smiled, and she took his hand leading him toward the stairs and her room. It was luxurious, warm and vaguely perfumed, and he was surprised by her eagerness for she had soon stripped him and herself of clothes. She was remembering the ritual, the momentary exhilaration of rendering Fitten unconscious but most of all the death they had induced as she sought through Conrad to satisfy her lust.

“I want you!” she almost pleaded and screamed, and Conrad in his inexperience believed her. But his own physical experience was growing along with his magickal-inspired confidence, and he sought, and succeeded, to prolong his own pleasure and hers. In the bliss of his satiation he fell asleep, his limbs entwined around her body, and it was in the deep of night he awoke, to find himself alone.

Thirst and hunger roused him from her bed, and he dressed to wander from the room. The house was lit but with subdued and warming light, and he walked cautiously down the stairs, hoping to find someone awake. The silence unnerved him, a little, and he stood by the open door to the dining room for some minutes before going in.

The table was laid for one. The servers’ door still swayed, a little, and he was about to push it open to peer into the serving room and kitchen’s beyond, when the maid opened it.

She indicated the chair, and he obediently sat at the table. Several times he tried to engage her in conversation, and each time she turned away. Her expression never changed, and twice he asked her after Susan but she continued with her duties, mute and efficient. He was served soup, a course containing fillet steak, and he was sitting shrouded in silence and replete from the food drinking his coffee alone when he saw a light in the garden through the window.

It was a torch, wavering in the distance. Vaguely, he could discern a person running. Intrigued, he extinguished the lights in the room to watch the figure weave closer toward the house. The snow was bright, and as the figure passed by, Conrad recognized Fitten. He soon had the window open.

He clambered through, surprised by the intense cold outside. Fitten must have heard him, for he turned around and shone the light from the torch into Conrad’s face.

Then Fitten was screaming and running toward him. “You killed her! Devil!” he shouted.

Fitten swung the torch at Conrad’s face, but Conrad parried the blow as Fitten tried to grapple. Then, they were both on the ground, rolling over and over in the snow with Fitten trying to pummel Conrad’s face with his fists. Desperate, but determined, Conrad butted Fitten’s head with his own. Dazed, Fitten rolled away and Conrad was about to stand and drag him to his feet when Aris and Gedor walked out of the house toward them.

“How pleasing!” Aris said. “He has arrived just in time to join our little celebration. Bring him!” he commanded Gedor, and Gedor obeyed, lifting Fitten easily.

They were returning toward the house when Aris said, “We have other unwelcome guests, I sense.” He appeared to be listening to something no one else could hear, then turned to Gedor. “Release him!”

Gedor dropped Fitten into the snow. Aris bent over him, gripping his neck in his hand and saying, “He is dead already! Give him to them if they wish it!”

He released Fitten, who fell dazed. Then Aris was gone, in to the shadows of the trees beside one side of the house, and as he did so two mean appeared, walking over the snow from the front of the house.

“I’m sorry to intrude,” the tallest of them said to Conrad, “but we have come for him.”

“What do you want?” Conrad asked aggressively.

“My name is Baynes – ” the tall man said.

“Baynes?” Conrad repeated, and then remembered.

“Yes. Now, about Mr. Fitten – “

“You are not welcome here,” Conrad said.

“That is no surprise to me. We have come to escort Mr. Fitten home. I am very much afraid the recent death of his wife has unsettled him.”

Fitten had stood up, his head bowed and he appeared to be crying.

“Take him,” Conrad said.

“Thank you Mr. Robury.”

Conrad was surprised at the use of his name. “Go, now,” he said. “This is private property.”

“This place and that attitude,” Baynes said gently, “do not suit you. If at any time you wish to come and talk with me – “

Conrad was beginning to get angry. “Push off!”

“You do not realize what is happening to you, do you?”

“Gedor – ” Conrad said, gesturing toward Baynes. He was half-surprised when Gedor, obeying him, moved forward menacingly.

“We shall take our leave,” Baynes said, holding Fitten’s arm.

Conrad watched them go. Someone was walking toward him from the house, and he turned to see Susan.

“Our ritual will begin soon,” she said. “Come, I must prepare you – for the fulfillment of your Destiny is near.”

His anger had left him by the time they reached the libation chamber, beside the hidden Temple, with its sunken pool. He stood watching Susan as she stripped naked to bathe. The sight aroused him, while nearby in the Temple, he could hear that Satanic chanting had begun.

 

IX

Only once did Conrad think about the death of Fitten’s wife – but he did not care. He hand and did feel the pure exhilaration of life, the joy – the blissful ecstasy of living totally without planning and almost without thought. There was an exuberance within him which he felt he was beginning to need.

Events were happening to him, rather than being controlled by him, but h e possessed a strong sense of his own importance, a strong belief that life had chosen him for something, and he drifted into the events with wonder but little fear. His life, since the light suffused him during the wiccan rite, had been enhanced. Was what he felt, he briefly thought, the ecstasy that warriors found in war and which they sought again and again? That bliss of being so near oblivion that there was a pure joy in the ordinary moments of living? Was this, he wondered, the true meaning of Satanism?

He did not know, nor particularly care, so far had magick re-made him, he followed Susan down the steps into the Temple with greedy anticipation, proud of his robe which had been waiting for him beside the waters of libation, and proud that he had physically possessed Susan, the beautiful Satanic priestess.

Near the altar on which Tanith lay naked, a crystal tetrahedron glowed, adding to the light from the candles. The congregation were gathered round the altar and their Master stood nearby, holding up the wax effigy which had lain on Tanith’s womb.

“I who delivered you in birth now name you,” he said, but Conrad could not hear the name Aris pronounced and blessed with the sign of the inverted pentagram.

Susan took the effigy, and dressed it while the Master raised his arms.

“I will go down to the altars in Hell,” he said.

“To Satan, the giver of life,” responded the congregation.

Conrad stood within their circle, raising his voice in the Satanic prayers that followed. He knew the Satanist ‘Our Father’ and Creed by heart.

Aris began the chanting which followed. ‘Agios o Satanas!’ he sang. It was then that Conrad noticed the small coffin beside the altar, and a black shroud, ready. The chanting continued as Susan assisted Tanith from the altar before clothing her in a crimson robe.

“We” Tanith said to them all, “curse Paul Fitten.”

“We curse Paul Fitten.”

“He,” she said, with glee, “will writhe and die.”

“He will writhe and die.”

“By our curse, destroyed!”

“By our curse, destroyed!”

“We shall kill him!” she laughed.

“We shall kill him!” the congregation, Susan, Aris and Conrad laughed.

In the shadows, someone beat a hand-drum, capturing the rhythm of the chant.

“We shall glory in his death!” Tanith, as Mistress of Earth, said.

“We shall glory in his death!”

Tanith made passes with her hands over the effigy, chanting as she did so, before picking it up and showing it to the worshippers gathered around her.

“The Earth rejects him,” she said.

“You reject him,” the responded.

“I who gave you birth, now lay you down to die!” She placed the effigy in the coffin, secured the lid, and wrapped the shroud around it.

“He is dead!” She said.

“He is dead! By our curse, destroyed!”

Slowly, Susan led the dance and the chant. “Dies irae, dies illa, solvet saeclum in favilla teste Satan cum sibylla. Quantos tremor est futurus quando Vindex est venturus, cuncta stricte discussurus. Dies irae, dies illa!”

The chant was strange to Conrad, almost unearthly, but he quickly learnt it as he danced and chanted with the others, counter sun-wise around the altar. The dance and the chant were becoming quicker with every revolution, and he was almost glad when Susan pulled him away. She did not speak, but took him down with her to the floor while Tanith stood over the, saying “Frates, ut meum vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat apud Satanas!”

Susan kissed him as they lay on the ground and Tanith kneeled beside them to caress Conrad’s buttocks and back. In the excitement of the ritual and Tanith’s touch, Conrad’s task was soon over, and he slumped over Susan, temporarily exhausted from his ecstasy. He did not resist when Tanith rolled him over, and watched, as the dancers danced around them still chanting and the light pulsed with the beat of the drum, while Tanith buried her head between Susan’s thighs. Then she was kissing him with her wet mouth before she stood to kiss each member of the congregation in salutation.

“You who gave him his birth,” Susan was chanting as she walked toward the shrouded coffin, “and with my power I have killed him who dared to stand against us! See!” she said, laughing as she faced the congregation who had gathered around her to listen, “how my magick destroys him! He died in agony and we rejoiced!”

“He died in agony and we rejoiced!” they responded.

She took the coffin, placed it on the floor of the Temple and held a lighted candle to the shroud. It burst into flames. “Our curse, by my will,” she said, “has destroyed him! Dignum et justum est!”

She laughed, Conrad laughed, the congregation laughed as the shroud and the coffin burnt fiercely.

“Feast now, and rejoice,” Tanith commanded them, “for we have killed and shown the power of our Prince!”

Near Conrad, the orgy of lust began as two naked men walked down the steps to the Temple carrying large trays full of food and wine. A woman came toward Conrad, smiled, and removed her robe, but Susan took his hand and led him back up the steps.

She did not speak, and he did not, but bathed with him in the libation chamber, to dress herself and wait while he dressed, and take him back to the house. The room to which she took him was dark and empty.

“You felt no power in the ritual?” she suddenly asked as they stood beside each other in the coldness.

“Yes” he lied.

“You must be honest with me,” he heard Aris’ voice say. Light came slowly – a soft light to reveal only the bare walls of the room and Susan standing and smiling beside him. There were no windows, and the door was closed.

“Do not be afraid,” Susan said in her own voice.

“I am not afraid,” he answered honestly.

“Tell me, then, about the ritual,” Susan asked softly.

“There was something,” he said, “but not what I expected.”

“Am I what you expect?” she said with Aris’ voice. She was watching him, waiting.

Momentarily, Conrad had the impression that Susan was not human at all – she was something unearthly which was using her form and Aris’ voice, something from another time and space. But he had touched her, kissed her, felt the soft warmth of her body. Confused, he stood watching her. She was not the young woman he had known: her eyes became full of stars, her face the void of space. She became Aris, a nebulous chaos that was incomprehensible to him.

He could feel within him her longing for the vastness of space. There was a sadness within this longing, for it had existed before him and would exist after his own death, thousands of years upon thousands of years. He would have to understand, he suddenly knew – he would have to understand and help before this sad longing, this waiting would be over.

Then she was Susan again, standing next to him and holding his hand, caressing his face with her fingers. Gentle and warm.

“You are beginning to understand,” she was saying.

Her touch re-assured him. “Yes” he said, I am yours.”

The door opened, and Aris came toward him.

“Your life,” Aris the Master said, “will break the seal which binds Them.”

“I have no choice,” Conrad said as if hypnotized.

“You have no choice,” Aris and Susan said together.

Aris smiled, and kissed Susan. “You have done well, my daughter. Now you must prepare him.”

It was time, Conrad understood. Yes, it was time. Susan touched his forehead, and he fell unconscious to the floor.

 

X

Fitten was mumbling to himself as he sat against the wall of Baynes’ house. He seemed harmless, and Baynes left him alone.

“He has been like this since you returned from that house? The speaker was an old man whose white beard terminated in a point. He sat on a comfortable chair, his ornately carved walking stick beside him.

“Yes,” replied Baynes. Frater Togbare was his honoured guest.

“I spoke with the Council, last night,” Togbare said. “We are agreed the situation is serious. You have had no recent news from Frater Achad?”

“Unfortunately, no.”

“His Initiation in the Satanic group is due, you said?”

“Yes. Sometime during the next few days. He should be able to provide us with more information then.”

“Excellent. We shall need it. I only hope we have enough time.”

Fitten began to gibber, jumping up and down as he watched the guests Baynes and Togbare had invited arrive in their cars. Togbare went to him, and touched his shoulder. The gentle touch of the Old Magus seemed to comfort Fitten, for he sat quietly in the corner, tracing shapes on his palm with his finger.

It was not long before all the guests had arrived and were settled in the room. They had been quietly told about Fitten, and could ignore him.

Baynes rose to address them. “Ladies and gentlemen. You are all, I know, familiar with the reasons why Frater Togbare and myself have called this meeting. You come here – some I know from far away – as representatives of many and different organizations. All of us, however, have a common aim – to prevent the Satanists succeeding in their plan.” He sat down, and Togbare whispered in his ear.

“Er, yes of course,” he agreed in answer to Togbare’s whispered question. He stood up again. “Frater Togbare has suggested I briefly outline the facts of the matter to you, so that everything is in perspective – before we begin our magickal tasks.” He surveyed the eager, expectant and occasional anxious faces before him. Six men, and four women of varying ages and manner of dress. “We believe that the Satanist group responsible for the death by magick of Mr Fitten’s wife, the present state of Mr Fitten himself, and the murder of, among others, Maria Torrens, are acting in concert with a number of other Satanic groups in this and other countries to perform a powerful and very sinister ritual. This ritual has as one of it’s aims, the Opening of the Gates to the Abyss – releasing thus the psychic energy that has been stored over the ages on various astral levels as well as drawing into the ordinary world of our waking consciousness evil entities. This opening will release powerful forces, and change the world. It will be the beginning of an age of darkness.

“As you all know, Satanists – and her of course I refer to genuine practitioners of the Black Arts and not the showman type – have used their magickal powers for centuries to bring about chaos, to increase the evil in this world. Perhaps there exist some centuries old Satanic plan – I do not know. But what is clear, what has become evident to us over the past decade of so, is that some groups are about to perform this particular ritual which to our knowledge no one has attempted before.”

He smiled, a little. “Or perhaps I should say – no one has attempted and succeeded. The power of the most important group involved in this is immense – as I am sure you all have realized. It is not easy, in magick, as you all know. to kill another by ritual – but they possess this power, claimed by many others, but rarely proven.

“When this power is released by their ritual there will be immediate effects as well as more long term ones. An increase in evil deeds – resulting from weak individuals becoming possessed by the demonic forces unleashed. That is only one example. You all share, I know, my concern and that of the Council which Frater Togbare represents.

“Thus we have called you here to use our combined abilities to nullify this plan and the ritual. You all are accomplished and experienced Occultists: some working within your own groups, others, alone. I have myself prepared a site for you.” He indicated a woman seated near him, resplendent in colourful clothes and jewelry. “Denise here will go with you, and explain the details of the ritual we propose to undertake.”

A man rose, respectfully, from his chair. “You will not be accompanying us?” he asked.

“No. Neither will Frater Togbare. Perhaps I should explain. We recently infiltrated the main Satanist group with one of our members. We are waiting for him to contact us with important details – the time, place of the ritual and so on. As you will appreciate this is a delicate matter, and we need to be available as the information could be received at any time. We will both, of course, at the appointed time of your ritual, perform one of our own, joining you on the astral. I hope this answers your question, Martin.”

“Yes. Yes, of course,” the now embarrassed man agreed.

“It only remains, therefore, for me to hand you over into the very capable hands of Denise.”

Denise smiled affectionately at him, and he looked away.

As they stood to leave, Togbare addressed them. “I am most pleased,” he said, “that you have responded to our call so readily at no small sacrifice to yourselves. If I may be allowed to add a codicil to our learned friends remarks, I would remind you that the ritual which the Satanists plan here in this city or nearby, requires at least one – possibly more – human sacrifice. Thank you all, most sincerely.”

He beamed with delight, and shook the hands of several of the guests who came to greet him.

“Shall I light the fire?” Baynes asked him when all the guests were gone.

“That would be most kind,” Togbare replied. “Most kind of you. Then we must begin.”

“I suppose,” Baynes said as he knelt down before the hearth to light the fire, already prepared. “We could liken this opening of the gates to the return of Satan himself – Armageddon, and the beginning of the reign of the Anti-Christ.”

“Yes, possibly.”

Suddenly, Fitten jumped up. “No! No!” he screamed. “He lies!” he shouted at Togbare. “He lies! I know! Me! For I have been given the understanding!”

He moved toward Togbare, and Baynes went to restrain him.

“Leave me alone!” screamed Fitten. “You are cursed! He must know!” He pushed Baynes away. Togbare smiled at him.

“Listen!” Fitten said to Togbare. “We will all be opfers. Not Satan! Not Satan! Do you understand? It is THEM! The spawn of Chaos. They have lied to us, you see. Lied to us! Oh, how they have lied and deceived us. The Master will bring Them – They need us, you see. From the stars They will come. The seal that holds Them in Their own dimensions will be broken! Don’t you understand? They are not the Old Ones! They have lied about that, also! The Nine Angles are the key – “

Fitten stopped, his hands raised, his face red. Then he was coughing and choking, spitting blood before he fell to writhe and scream on the floor. Frothy blood oozed from his mouth, and his bones could be heard breaking. His face went blue, his eyes bulged and then he was still. Baynes went to him, but he was dead, Having swallowed his own tongue.

“We must be calm,” Togbare said as sudden laughter filled the darkening room. “Concentrate, with me.” Baynes came to stand beside him. “There is evil in this room. Concentrate, with me,” Togbare repeated. “The flaming pentagram and the four-fold breathing.”

Gradually, the laughter and the darkness subsided.

“He is dead,” said Baynes unnecessarily. He covered Fitten’s contorted face with his coat.

Eerily, the telephone began to ring. “Baynes here,” he said. He listened, then gave the receiver to Togbare. “It’s Frater Achad. He wants to speak with you.”

“Hello!” Togbare said. “Yes, we are alone. Mr Fitten? He was here, yes. But listen, my son. Just now he died. Here, in this room. Are you still there? Evil magick – dark powers came to us, here. Yes, I understand. I shall pray for you, my son. Goodbye.” He returned the telephone receiver to Baynes. “He could not speak for long.”

“Of course. Did he mention anything? About the ritual?”

“Only a manuscript which might be relevant. Sloane MS 3189.”

“I am not familiar with it, myself. British Museum?”

“Yes. Now, about poor Mr Fitten – “

“I shall take care of everything. The Police will have to be informed, of course.”

“Naturally.”

“I have some influence,” Baynes said, shrugging his shoulders. “I do not like to use it, but in the circumstances – “

“I quite understand,” said Togbare sympathetically.

“There will be no need for the Occult connection to become known. If you will excuse me, for a moment. I have some telephone calls to make.”

“Yes, of course.”

The fire was burning brightly when Baynes returned to find Togbare still sitting in the chair and Fitten’s body still nearby on the floor. Baynes admired Togbare’s calm detachment.

“His notes and papers,” Togbare asked. “It might help if we perused them.”

“Possibly. I have a key to his house.”

“Indeed?” Togbare was surprised.

“A few weeks ago,” Baynes explained, “he came to see me. He gave me the key with the instructions to burn all his notes, papers and books should anything happen to him.”

“He was expecting something to happen?”

“Apparently. But he was always liable to get excited. It was just his way.”

“You did not believe him?” asked Togbare without censure.

“To be honest, no. I wish I had done. Perhaps I could have done something.”

“There is nothing anyone of us could have done. You have informed the Police?”

“Yes. Someone will be arriving shortly.”

Togbare smiled. “Just as Denise and the others begin their ritual.”

“Of course!” said Baynes, suddenly understanding. “The Master has timed this well.”

Togbare sighed. “He is powerful. Yet there is something else. Our every effort to neutralize the magickal power of this group over the years has come tonight. I have long suspected they have infiltrated us. The Council itself. These most recent events only confirm my suspicions.”

“You believe there is a traitor?” asked Baynes with incredulity.

“I do not believe,” Togbare answered quietly, “I know.” He sighed again. “For this knowledge I will die. Perhaps my death will stop them – I do not know. But I know that beyond death this Satanic Master will try and claim my soul.”

Gently, Baynes held the old man’s hand. It was cold, like the room.

“It will be dawn in a few hours,” Baynes said.

Then the laughter returned to haunt them – damning, demonic laughter. But it was soon gone as, outside, they heard an owl, screeking.

XI

Around him, Conrad sensed many people. He could not see them directly, for he was held as if paralysed on the floor of a small chamber near the Temple. There was a pillow supporting his head, and he looked down to see himself dressed in a black robe, the septagon sigil of the Order embroidered in red over the place of his heart.

He could hear chanting, smell incense and burning wax. Then a voice, speaking words he remembered from his own Initiation: “Gather round, my children, and feel the flesh of our gift!” It was Tanith’s voice, but it seemed to become very distant. Then he was asleep again, dreaming of being in space above the Earth as it turned in its orbit around the sun. Then he was among alien but humanoid beings as they descended to Earth from the cold prison of space. Time rushed on, in a fluxion of images. Primitive tribes gathered in awe and greeting for the beings who taught, guided, controlled and destroyed among the forests and the ice. Others opposed to them came forth from space, seeking them out to kill or capture, taking their prisoners away, back into the cold, vast prison in space from which they had escaped, sealing them in forever in a vortex. He was there, in the dimensions and time beyond the causal, and felt their longing to escape, to explore the vastness and the beauty of the stars.

He awoke feeling a sense of loss. For minutes he lay still, scarcely breathing, and then he saw – or thought he saw – Tanith enter the chamber leading a man, blindfolded and bound. She lay with him on the floor to complete his Initiation before removing the blindfold.

“Neil, Neil!” he tried to say as he recognized the man. But the words would not be formed by his mouth and he lay helpless and still until the image vanished. He saw Susan walking toward him, and he closed his eyes, refusing to believe them. But she touched him, washing his face and hands with the warm water she carried in a bowl. She was smiling at him as she gently caressed him.

“I…” he began to say.

“Don’t try to move too quickly,” she said. “You will take some time to recover.”

Slowly, he became aware he could move his fingers, his hands, his feet and as he did so he realized he loved her.

She kissed him, as if understanding his thought. “You understand now?”

Her eyes were beautiful, and it did not matter to Conrad that they had seemed full of stars.

“I think so,” he replied.

“Together, we are a key which opens the gate, breaking the seal which binds Them.”

He did not think it a strange thing for her to say.

“Now,” she said, “you are prepared. Come – for the Master awaits us.”

It was as he stood up that he remembered that she was the Masters’ daughter. She led him from the chamber into the dimness of the Temple. There were no candles on the altar, no naked priestess, no congregation gathered to greet them, indeed nothing magickal except the crystal tetrahedron, glowing as it stood on a plinth. Only the Master and Tanith awaited them.

“The season and time being right,” intoned the Master, “the stars being aligned as it is written they be aligned, this Temple conforming to the precepts of our Dark Gods, let us heed the angles of the nine!”

He gestured toward the crystal, chanting “Nythra Kthunae Atazoth!” as he did so. The light that seemed to emanate from within it darkened and then began to slowly change colour until only a dim blue glow remained.

“So it has been,” the Master intoned, “so it is and so shall it be again. Agarthi has known Them, the Nameless who came forth before we dreamed. And Bron Wrgon, our twin Gate, Here,” and he gestured toward Susan and Conrad, “a Key to the dimensions beyond time: a key to the nine angles and the trapezohedron! From their crasis will come the power to break the seal which binds!”

“They exist,” Tanith chanted as Aris began to vibrate with his voice the words of power – “Nii! Ny’thra Kthunae Atazoth. Ny’thra! Nii! Zod das Ny’thra!” – “in the angles of those dimensions that cannot be perceived, waiting for us to call and begin again a new cycle. They have trod the blackness between the stars and they found us, huddled in sleep and cold. But the Sirians came, to seal us and them again in our prisons and our sleep. Soon shall we both become free!”

The Master stood with his hands on the tetrahedron, as Tanith did, and they both began to vibrate a fourth and an octave apart, the words that were the key to the Abyss.

Susan stood beside Conrad, but she did not pull him down with her to the floor as he expected. Instead, she held his hands with hers and stood before him. Her hands were cold, icy cold, and he could feel the coldness invading him. Her eyes became again full of stars which spread to enclose her face. The Temple itself became black, and all he could hear was the insistent and deep chanting of the words which would open the Abyss. It was a strange sound, as the two voices chanted an octave fourth apart. Conrad began to feel dizzy, and felt he was falling. A profusion of stars rushed toward him as if he was traveling incredibly fast in space itself. He passed a coloured, broken grid made of pulsing lights and world upon alien world. Peoples with strange faces and bodies upon strange worlds, beautiful and disgusting scenes: a sunset on a world with three moons, red, orange and blue; a heap of mangled corpses, spaked and being eaten by small animals with rows of sharp teeth while, nearby, a starship lay crashed and mangled in yellow sand… The impressions were fleeting but powerful and came and went in profusion. And then they suddenly ended. He was alone, totally alone in stark and cold blackness. Faintly, he could hear a rustling. It was the wind, and as he listened and waited, faint images, growing slowly and changing in colour – violet to blue to orange then red. Brightness came with the swift dawn, and he found himself standing amid barren rocks beneath an orange sky. A figure was walking toward him, and Conrad recognized it. It was himself.

The figure spoke, in Conrad’s voice. “The seal that bound us is no more. Soon, we shall be with you.”

The man smiled, but it was a sinister smile which both pleased and disquieted Conrad.

“Now I must depart,” the image of Conrad said. “But before I go I give you a reward. See me as I have been known to those on your world with little understanding.”

The figure contorted, was Satan, and was gone.

XII

“You consider it important?” Baynes asked Togbare as they stood beside Fitten’s desk in the study of his house.

Togbare read the tattered manuscript again. “It could be. It well could be.”

“Anything interesting?” Neil asked. He had met them at Baynes’ house as they were preparing to leave in the dawn light. He was fresh from his Initiation ceremony, but they wasted no time discussing it.

“Does it mean anything to you?” Togbare asked Neil.

Neil took the manuscript – several pages of handwritten sheets. He read it carefully. “Not really,” he finally said, passing it to Baynes. “They told me very little – other than to be prepared for an important ritual very soon.”

Baynes read the writing. “The ancient and secret rite of the nine angles is a call to the Dark Gods who exist beyond Time in the acausal dimensions, where that power which is behind the form of Satan resides, and waits. The rite is the blackest act of black magick, for it brings to Earth Those who are never named.” He put the manuscript back on the desk. “Sounds like Lovecraft to me,” said Baynes dismissively.

“Of that,” replied Togbare, “I am aware. Yet I gain the impression, from what I have read of Mr Fitten’s notes and the little I already know, that he himself – and I am inclined to support him – that he regarded the mythos that Lovecraft invented, or which more correctly was given to him by his dreaming-true, as a corruption of a secret tradition. He made his Old Ones loathsome and repulsive. I myself am inclined to believe that if such entities as these so-called ‘Dark Gods’ exist they might be shape-changers, like the Prince of Darkness himself.”

“What do these qabalistic attributions mean?” asked Neil, pointing to a page of the manuscript Fitten had written. “About 418 not being 13?”

“Alas,” admitted Togbare, “I do not know.”

“Do you think he copied this from somewhere?” Neil asked.

“Possibly. You said they mentioned books and manuscripts in their possession?”

“Yes. ‘The Master’ said I might see some of them, soon. All their Initiates, apparently, have to study them.”

“We shall have to wait, then,” said Baynes.

“Possibly, possibly,” mumbled Togbare. He began to search among the files that cluttered the desk and the room itself. “There is a tradition,” he muttered as he searched, “that Shambhala and Agharti have their origin in a real conflict between cosmic forces at the dawn of Man. It is a persistent tradition, in all Occult schools, and this may point to the tradition having at least some basis in fact.” He sat in the chair at the desk. “I am old,” he said, shaking his head, “and the Inner Light that guides our Council has been my strength for many, many years. Even as a young man I saught the mysteries. Yet, here I am, many years later, and still I lack understanding. There is evil around, even here – in this room. I sense it. What is happening and has been happening for years is distorting the Astral Light. We seem to be about to face a new, darker, era. We seem no nearer a solution. Perhaps we have looked in the wrong areas. We believed the Satanists who have caused the distortion to be literal worshippers of the Devil. Then they became for us followers of To Mega Therion, their word Thelema. Now, when it is almost too late, we discover they have no Word, except perhaps Chaos – that what they plan is perhaps even more sinister and terrible than we imagined.”

“But there is time,” Neil tried to say, helpfully, “I am aware there is. Conrad Robury – “

“Ah!” Togbare’s eyes brightened.

“If he is important to them in what they plan, then why has he appeared only now? Surely more preparation is required.”

“You know the gentleman, I believe?” Togbare asked.

“Yes,” said Neil. “I introduced him to the wiccan group.”

“And arranged an introduction with Mr Sanders,” added Baynes.

“Yes I did.”

“Even though,” said Baynes quietly, “you knew Sanders to recruit for the Master and his group.”

“Well, when you suggested I infiltrate them myself, I thought it would be a good ploy. Show my intent, so to speak, to introduce someone who might be useful to them.”

“And so it has proved,” said Togbare.

“What are you suggesting?” Neil asked Baynes, as though he had not heard what Togbare said.

“I am not suggesting anything,” replied Baynes, softly.

“Come! Come!” chided Togbare, “let us not quarrel. There are elementals about, trying to divide us and disrupt our plans.”

“I am sorry,” Baynes said sincerely. “I’m just tired. You must forgive me.”

Togbare looked at him with kindness. “When did you last sleep?”

“I don’t know. A few days ago, perhaps. There has not been time.”

“May I suggest,” said Togbare, “that you return to your home for a few hours rest?”

“But surely, I can help here?”

“Yes, of course In a few hours time. It will not take all three of us to search these files.” He indicated a small pile on the desk, awaiting their attention. “Please, do go and get some rest.”

“If you are sure,” said Baynes.

“Yes, of course. We shall return to your home within the next few hours.”

“Will you be alright?” Baynes turned to leave.

“Do not worry!”

Togbare waved to him through the window. The snow still lay heavy upon the ground, but the sky was clear. “He works very hard,” he mumbled to himself before returning to sit by the desk. “This Conrad Robury,” he asked Neil.

“Yes?”

“He had no previous interest?”

“No. None. He was a friend, studying science. It all started out as a bit of a joke, actually. He thought all of the Occult was nonsense. So I suggested that as a scientist he should study the subject at first hand. But there was always something about him. I don’t quite know what – perhaps his eyes. Sometimes when he looked at me I felt uneasy. He was a very intense young man. I know it may sound funny, but he was very earnest in an almost puritanical way.”

“He could be the sacrifice they need.”

Neil sighed. “I know” His eyes showed the sadness and the guilt he felt at the possibility.

“Do not worry,” said Togbare sincerely. “If that is what is planned, we shall save your Conrad Robury.”

“Did I hear,” a voice from the doorway said, “someone call my name?” Conrad stepped into the room.

“Conrad!” Neil said with pleasant surprise. He started to walk toward his friend, but Togbare restrained him by grasping his arm.

“Wait,” Togbare advised. He looked at Conrad. “By what right do you dare to enter here?”

Conrad smiled. “By the right of my Word – Chaos!”

“Conrad,” Neil said, “what’s happened?”

“You thought,” Conrad said hatefully to him, “to betray us! You will not stop us! Neither of you will. You!” he pointed at Neil, “are coming with me!”

“He is staying,” said Togbare, using his stick to help himself stand.

“You do not frighten me, old man!” Conrad said. He moved toward Neil, but Togbare raised his stick. Conrad felt a sudden and severe pain in his stomach. He tried to move forward, but the pain increased, and he placed his hands on his abdomen, grimacing with pain.

Silently, Susan came into the room to stand beside him. She touched his hand, and the pain vanished. He stared at Togbare, concentrating on shaping his own aura into a weapon. He formed it using his will into an inverted septagon which he aimed at Togbare.

The effect was minimal, for Togbare still smiled and raised his stick. From it’s tip white filaments flowed to form a flaming pentagram above the Mage’s head. The pentagram came closer and closer, sending purple filaments toward Conrad who held up his ring to absorb them. But however hard Conrad tried he could not will any force to oppose the filaments. The ring simply kept absorbing them. For every one filament absorbed, three new ones arose until both he and Susan were enclosed in a purple web. Desperate and determined, Conrad concentrated on his ring, remembering the chant he had heard in the Temple. The concentration and visualization seemed to work, for a bright red bolt broke forth from his ring, hurtling toward Togbare. But the Magus simply held out his palm which harmlessly absorbed the light. Conrad could feel his power being slowly drained away. Then he remembered.

Susan’s hand was near and he grasped it tightly. She leant against him and he felt a force rush through him. She was laughing, the power she gave him was strong and he had time only to fashion its primal chaos into the sign of the inverted pentagram before it sped across the room in accordance with his desire. It touched Togbare’s stick, knocking it from his hand as the purple web which enclosed the Satanists shattered, then disappeared.

Togbare was unharmed, but his power was gone.”You have powerful friends, I see,” he said.

“You cannot stop us!” Conrad laughed.

Togbare smiled, and bent down to retrieve his stick. Cautiously, Conrad stepped back. “Do not worry,” Togbare said. “My power – like yours – is for the moment gone. But it will return, and soon.”

Conrad went toward him and tried to grasp the stick. He wanted to break it over his knee. But some force around Togbare kept him away. It was as if when he got within a few feet of the Magus he became paralysed.

“It is your evil intent,” Togbare said, and smiled, “which holds you back.”

Conrad ignored him. Instead, he caught hold of Neil, twisting his arm behind his back. “You’re coming with us!”

“He will be of no use to you,” said Togbare. “As your Master will soon realize.”

“We shall see!”

“Please,” Neil pleaded, “don’t let them take me!”

“They cannot harm you, my son,” Togbare said. “Trust me. Now I have seen their power, I know what to do.”

Neil was unsure, and struggled to be free. Conrad held him round the throat. “So much for his power, eh?” he said as he pushed Neil toward the door.

“Conrad, Conrad!” Neil pleaded. “What’s happened to you?”

“You’re to be our sacrifice!” Conrad said, and laughed.

“Help me! For God’s sake help me!” Neil cried out.

“It’s too late!” gloated Conrad. “We need your blood!”

Susan had her car waiting outside the front door of the house, and Conrad pushed Neil into it, holding him down as she drove away toward their Satanist Temple.

 

XIII

For several hours Togbare stayed in Fitten’s house. At first, following the departure of Conrad and Susan with Neil, he sat at the desk and meditated, gradually restoring to himself, by breath control and mantra, the power he had lost during the astral combat.

Afterwards, he studied Fitten’s manuscripts, notes and books, and it was almost noon when he stood up from the desk. In his absorption, he had not noticed the cold of the room, and he shivered, a little, as he walked to the door. Outside, the sun was warming, and he walked slowly and steadily like the old man he was, the miles to Baynes’ house, glad of the exercise and the snowy coldness of the Winter air.

Baynes was in his large study when Togbare arrived. The room was warm, and Togbare sat by the coal fire as he related the events leading to the taking of Neil. Baynes was clearly perturbed.

“I am sure,” Baynes said, “they will sacrifice him. He has betrayed them – broken the oath of his Initiation. This is disturbing news, it really is. I do not believe we can wait any longer. I think the time has come for us to act – swiftly and decisively.”

“You have a suggestion?”

“Yes. Since this Conrad Robury is important to then – or so it seems – I suggest we entice him away from their house, and hold him, here if necessary, for a few days as our guest. We can then arrange for him to be exchanged with Mr Stanford.”

Togbare’s surprise showed on his face. “It would not be right.”

“To save Mr Stanford’s life? It is the only way, for I do not believe that we can succeed by magick alone. Not now.”

For a long time Togbare did not speak. He sat staring into the flames of the fire.

“You are right,” he finally said, and sighed. “I do not like it, but it appears to be our only hope. The situation is desperate.”

“May I,” Baynes said, “therefore suggest that we – you and I – undertake a simple rite with the intention of enticing Robury from the house. I could arrange for some people to be waiting. He would not be harmed, of course.”

“You could arrange all this?”

“Yes. It should not take long – a few hours, no more.” He turned toward Togbare and smiled. “Wealth has its uses – occasionally!”

“Those good people who were with us, yesterday?”

“Yes?”

“If you could arrange for some of them to come here, you need not be detained. We, then, could do the ritual you suggested.”

“Splendid! I shall contact them at once. I told them, this morning, to be prepared as we might need them at short notice.”

“You spoke to them all this morning?” Togbare was amazed.

“Well, when I returned here, I could not sleep. I thought I would do something useful. They all felt the ritual they undertook went well.”

“It has bought us some time, I think. Some little time. This Mr Robury – I have realized that his apparent Occult ability depends on a certain young lady. She was with him, this morning. It is the same woman, I am sure, who was with him at the ritual at Mr Fitten’s house when that unfortunate lady, his wife, passed over to the other side. So, alone and with us, he should have no power. Yes,” he mused, “the more I think on this – on this plan of yours – the more I am inclined to believe it will succeed.”

“Then,” said Baynes, “I shall go and make the necessary arrangements.”

***

Baynes stood staring out of his office window watching the traffic in the city street below. He liked his office on the top floor of one of the tallest buildings in the city centre as much for the splendid view as for its relative quiet amid his busy business empire which he controlled from his building.

His desk intercom buzzed. “Yes?” he asked.

“A Mr Sanders to see you, sir.”

“Excellent! Send him in!” He seated himself in his leather chair behind his uncluttered desk.

“Mr Sanders,” his Secretary announced.

“Please,” he said, indicating a chair, “be seated.”

“I’d rather stand,” Sanders said. He was dressed in black as was his habit. “You wanted to see me?” he asked, warily.

“I have a proposition for you – a business proposition.”

“So your flunky said on the ‘phone.”

“You operate what some might describe as a ‘Black Magick’ temple, do you not?”

Sanders sat in the chair. “Let’s cut the crap! I know you, Baynes, and you know me.”

“I would like you to do me a favour – for a substantial sum of money.”

Suspicious, Sanders looked around the room. “Are you taping this?”

“Of course not!”

“So what’s your offer – and how much?”

“Fifty thousand pounds.”

Sanders hid his surprise. “To do what?”

“Not long ago, a certain young gentleman – a student – came to visit you. You introduced him, I believe, to a certain group. Well, I would like this gentleman brought from where he is to my house. With the minimal use of force, of course.”

Sanders stood up. “I can’t say it was a pleasure meeting you. Goodbye.”

“You have a very lucrative side-line, I believe.”

Sander was nearly at the door when Baynes added, “I’m sure the Police would be very interested in your – what shall I call it? – your import business. A Mr Osterman is your contact in Hamburg, I understand.”

Sanders stopped. “You’re bluffing.”

“I assure you I’m not. You last assignment arrived last Tuesday. Estimated value – I believe the term used is ‘on the street’ – two million pounds, at least. Of course, if my figures are correct, your profit is somewhat smaller. Much smaller in fact. So many overheads.”

Sanders walked back to the desk. He sat down again, and smiled. “You’re very well informed.”

“Of course,” Baynes said, “we both know who takes most of the profit. You are familiar, I understand, with the house where this Mr Robury is currently residing.”

Sanders shrugged. “Possibly.”

“Toward dusk, he will be walking in the garden. You are to bring him to me. At this address.” He gave Sanders a printed card.

“And the money?”

Baynes opened a draw in his desk. He laid out several piles of ten-pound notes. “A small advance. The rest will await your arrival at the house.”

“And if he is not where you said?”

“He will be. But should some unforeseen circumstance arise and he is not there, telephone me and I shall arrange another time.”

Sanders scooped up the money and stuffed it into his pockets.

“And,” Baynes added as Sanders stood up to leave, “if you are worried about your ‘Master’ finding out about our little arrangement, I’m sure you have experience enough to work some plan out so as not to implicate yourself.”

Sanders was already thinking along similar lines. “You’ve missed your calling!” he smiled before walking to the door.

Baynes waited until Sanders had left before he used the telephone.

“Hello?” he asked as his caller answered. “Frater Togbare?”

“Yes?” came the quiet and somewhat nervous reply.

“Baynes here!” he said cheerfully, pleased with his success with Sanders. “It went well. All is arranged as planned.”

When Togbare did not speak, Baynes said, “Did everything go alright with you?”

“Er, no, not really. You’d better come here – I’ll explain.”

“I’ll be there as quick as I can!”

 

XIV

It did not take Togbare long to fall asleep. He was sitting by the fire as Baynes left for his office, wondering about the events of the past few days and the events to come. He too was tired, and slept soundly by the warmth of the fire.

The doorbell awoke him, and he walked slowly to answer its call, leaning on his stick, and expecting some of the guests of the night before. The cabinet clock in the hallway of Baynes’ house showed him he had been asleep for nearly an hour. He did not recognize the woman who waited outside, but her expensive car, waiting with its chauffeur, did not surprise him, for he knew of Baynes’ own wealth.

“Is Oswald in?” a smiling and alluringly dressed Tanith asked.

“Oswald?” repeated Togbare, averting his eyes from her breasts, amply exposed by her dress.

“Mr. Baynes. Is he at home?”

“Er, no. Not at the moment. Can I help?”

“I’ve come for your little ritual – or whatever it is you’ve planned.”

“I’m sorry?” For some reason Togbare felt confused, a fact which he attributed to having just woken from a deep and needful sleep.

“May I come in?” Tanith asked and proceeded to walk past him, making sure their bodies touched. She walked into the study, and stood by the fire. “Dear Oswald,” she said, “such a charming gentleman, but so frightfully forgetful sometimes. He forget to tell you I would be coming, didn’t he?”

“Well – “

“Do be seated,” she said affably.

Togbare obeyed.

“Any idea what this ritual thing is about?” she asked standing near him. “If it is anything like the one’s he’s invited me to before, we are in for some jolly good fun!” She laughed.

“Fun?” said Togbare, perturbed.

“Why yes! Don’t say he hasn’t told you? My word! Would you like a drink – to get into the mood?”

“A drink?” Togbare felt distinctly uncomfortable.

She went straight to a bookcase, pushed a hidden button, and waited until a shelf revolved to reveal decanters and glasses. “Whisky?” she said. “You look like a Whisky man to me. He has some very fines malts.”

I myself,” Togbare said, rather stuffily, “do not imbibe.”

“Shame. I’m partial to Gin, myself.” She poured herself a full glassful and drank it immediately. “Splendid! Best on an empty stomach. Straight into the blood!” She poured herself another glass before saying, “Shall I draw the blinds so we are prepared?”

“Pardon?”

She pressed another button and the window-blinds descended to silently close.

Togbare stood up. “You seem to know this house rather well.”

“I should say so! All the hours of fun I’ve had here! Oswald has the most marvellous parties!” She came toward Togbare who was standing by the light of the fire. “Hot in her, isn’t it?” she said, beginning to remove her dress.

As she reached Togbare it fell around her ankles. She was naked and an unbelieving Togbare stared at her.

“Your spirit,” she said, “is younger than your body.”

She took his hand and placed it on her breast.

Togbare snatched it away and almost ran to the door. It was locked, but there was no key.

Tanith stepped out of her dress and moved toward him, laughing. “You will enjoy the pleasure I offer,” she said.

Suddenly, Togbare understood. “Harlot!” he shouted. “The Master sent you!”

“Yes!”

She was closing upon him, and to Togbare she became a Satanic curse. He held up his stick, but she laughed at him.

“You are weak!” she sneered. “Look at me! Look at my body!”

Togbare turned away, mumbling words as he did so.

“Your god cannot help you now!” she mocked.

He turned to face her and as he did so she began to change form before his very eyes.

“My God!” he cried with genuine surprise, “you are his wife!”

It was a pitying laugh she gave him before gesturing behind her with her hand. Her dress disappeared, briefly before re-appearing on her body. She gestured again, and the blinds rose to flood the room with daylight.

“You cannot harm me,” Togbare said, holding his stick in front of him for protection.

“I have achieved what I came for!”

He stood aside to let her leave. The doors opened for her and she walked out into the sunlight. Through the window, she saw the Magus kneeling on the floor and saying his prayers.

“Home, Gedor!” she commanded as she got into her car.

Togbare prayed for almost an hour. He was calm then, but dismayed, and stoked and re-built the fire in his study. He sat by it, sighing and shaking his head in consternation, for a long time, rising only to answer the doorbell twice. Each time he half-expected the satanic mistress to return but each time it was only a group of Baynes’s guests from the night before, summoned for a new ritual. Each time he apologized and told them to await another call. He did not explain why and they did not ask, but it took him a long time to remove the traces of the woman’s presence from the house and the room/

Her mocking, lustful satanic presence seemed to have invaded every corner, and he cast pentagram after pentagram after hexagram to remove it. He only just completed his task when the telephone rang.

‘I’ll be there as quick as I can!’ Baynes had said, and Togbare sat by the fire to wait.

He was almost asleep again when Baynes returned.

“Well,” Baynes said after Togbare had explained about Tanith’s visit, “it matters little. We can do the ritual ourselves, as I originally thought. That is,” he paused, “if you yourself feel able to continue as planned.”

“I fear we have no choice,” he said sadly. “It will tire us, even more. I just hope we can recover sufficiently.”

“In time for when the Satanists attempt to Open the Gates you mean?”

“Yes. Shall we begin?”

Together, they sat by the fire in the last hours of daylight, trying through their powers of visualization and will to entice Conrad away from the safety of the Master’s house and into the open where Sanders would, hopefully, be waiting. After several minutes effort, Togbare withdrew from one of his pockets one of the small squares of parchment he always carried. Taking his pen, he began to write, first Conrad’s name, and then several sigils, upon it. For several minutes he stared at the completed charm before casting it into the flames of the fire to be consumed.

“So mote it be!” he said as the parchment burned.

Near the window, a raven cried, loudly in the snowful silence that surrounded the house.

 

XV

Conrad, as Aris had instructed, was reading in the library as the twilight came. The manuscript Aris had left out for him was interesting, telling as it did of the Dark Gods. But the more he read, the more dissatisfied he became.

The work was full of signs, symbols and words – and yet he felt it was insubstantial, as if the author or authors had glimpsed at best only part of the reality. His memory of the recent ritual was vivid, and as he stared at the manuscript he realized what was lacking. The work lacked the stars – the haunting beauty he himself had experienced; the numinous beauty which he felt was waiting for him. He wanted to reach out again and again and capture that beauty, that eerie essence, that nebulosity. He had felt free, drifting through space and other dimensions; free and powerful like a god – free of his own dense body which bound him to Earth.

“Having fun?” a voice unexpectedly asked.

It was Susan, and she walked toward him.

“Not really.”

She wore Tanith’s exotic perfume and her clothes were thin, moulded to the contours of her body. In that instant of his watching – full as it was of sensual memories and sensual anticipation – he remembered the bliss that a body could bring.

She stood by the French windows looking up at the darkening sky. “Shall we go outside,” she suggested, “and watch the stars?”

“You been reading my thoughts again?” he asked, half seriously, and half in jest.

He rose from the desk to stand beside her and was pleased when she placed her hand around his waist before opening the windows.

“I’ll just get a coat,” she said and kissed him. “I’ll join you outside.”

The air was cold, but Conrad did not care as he walked out into the snow. The stars were becoming clearer, and he wandered away from the lights of the house to watch them as they shone, unshimmering in the cold air of Winter.

They came upon him swiftly, the three men waiting in the shadows. One carried a gun and pointed it at Conrad while the others grabbed his arms.

“Quiet!” the man with the gun said, “or you’re dead.”

Conrad struggled, and succeeded in knocking one of the men over. He tried to punch the other man in the face, but a blow to the neck felled him, and he was unconscious as he hit the snow.

“Bring him!” the man with the gun said.

Conrad awoke as he was being bundled into a car, but his hands were bound and he was roughly thrown onto the back seat.

“Bastards!” he screamed, and kicked at the door.

A knife was held to his throat. “Calm down, stupid,” it’s holder said, and smiled. “Or I’ll make a mess of your face!”

Yards away, Sanders sat waiting in his own car. No one had followed the men as they had dragged the unconscious Conrad toward the gate and the waiting cars, and he sighed with relief. He followed the car containing Conrad and they were soon far away from the house.

As he had instructed, Conrad was blindfolded, and he stood behind two men as they stood outside Baynes’ house holding Conrad between them. Baynes had been watching from his window, and strode out to meet them.

“As promised,” Sanders said.

“Excellent!” replied Baynes. He gave Sanders a briefcase. Sanders opened it and then pushed Conrad toward Baynes.

“He’s all yours.”

Baynes led Conrad into the house. Once in the study, he locked the door before removing Conrad’s blindfold and bonds. It took Conrad only a few moments to adjust to his new surroundings.

“Please,” Togbare said, indicating a chair by the fire, “sit down.”

Conrad ignored him. Instead, he turned to Baynes who stood by the door.

“Resorting to armed violence now, I see,” Conrad quipped.

“An unfortunate necessity.”

“How very satanic of you,” Conrad smiled. “Well, great Mage,” he said mockingly to Togbare, “what is your plan?”

“You will remain here – for a short while.”

“I suppose you in your stupidity think they will exchange Neil for me.”

Togbare looked at Baynes. Conrad sneered at both of them. “You won’t be able,” he said, “to hold me. Not once they find out where I am. They will come – are you ready for the violence they will use?”

“What makes you think,” said Baynes, “that you are that important to them? You are just another Initiate. They have plenty more. You’ll be easy to replace.”

“Is that so?” Conrad laughed, but Baynes’ words made him feel uneasy.

“We have taken certain precautions,” Togbare said.

“Oh, yes?” Conrad sneered. “You have drawn a magick circle thrice around the house – and I stand trembling and abashed at its centre! Sint mihi dei Acherontis propitii!”

“Well, well!” said Baynes, “a scholar as well as a comedian.”

Suddenly, Conrad rushed at Baynes, intending to punch at his face, but Baynes was too quick and easily avoided the intended blow. His own counter was quick, as he caught Conrad off balance, tripping him to the floor.

Baynes bowed slightly as Conrad slowly got to his feet.

“He studied in Taiwan,” Togbare said by way of explanation.

“Oh well,” Conrad said, shrugging his shoulders, “so much for that idea then.” He looked around the room. “I suppose I’d better make myself comfortable.”

“A wise decision,” Togbare said.

“Do you not wish,” Baynes said to Conrad, “to complete your studies at university?”

“What’s it to you?” Conrad looked at him briefly, then at the window. He sat in an upright chair as near to it as possible.

“I believe you have an interest in Spaceflight?”

“No need to guess who told you that.”

“Mr Stanford, of course. I have some contacts in the aerospace industry in the States.”

“Bully for you.”

“I could arrange for you to continue your studies at an American university at the end of which you would be guaranteed work with one of the leading companies in the aerospace industry. You would, of course, be provided with a large capital sum – say fifty thousand pounds – for incidental expenses over the years.”

“Are you trying to bribe me?” Conrad asked, amazed – and interested – by the offer.

“Yes.” said Baynes without hesitation.

“What would you want in exchange?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?” asked Conrad incredulously.

“Except your immediate departure for America. I would, of course, make the necessary arrangements.”

“I don’t believe it,” Conrad said, amazed.

“Money has no interest for me – beyond what good I can do with it.”

“And the Master?” Conrad asked. “What of him if I betrayed him by leaving?”

“As I said before, you are a mere Initiate to him. He can easily find someone to take your place. But if you wish, I could provide you with a new identity. I have certain contacts who could arrange matters. You would soon be forgotten.”

“It’s very tempting. But the Master – “

“All you have to do,” said Baynes, “is stay here with us for a few days. You will see when nobody is sent to fetch you, when they show no interest in you whatsoever, that what I say is true.”

“How do I know this isn’t just some ploy to get me to stay here?”

“You have my word. Should you wish, you can be with me when I make the necessary arrangements. I can have the money here within a few hours, the airline ticket likewise. Your passport and new identity will take a little longer – a day, perhaps. You yourself can speak to the American university I have in mind.”

“When do I have to decide?”

“The sooner you decide, the sooner I can make the arrangements.”

For several minutes Conrad stared at the fire. Then he rose slowly from his chair to yawn and stretch his limbs. “Any chance of some tea?” he asked casually.

“Have you reached a decision?” Baynes asked.

“Yes.” Taking several deep breaths, Conrad grasped the back of the chair, swiftly lifting it and smashing it into the window. The glass shattered, and he threw the chair at Baynes before diving through the broken glass. He landed awkwardly in the snow, his hands cut and bloodied by the glass. Something warm was running down his neck, and he extracted a splinter of glass that had embedded itself in his arm before leaping up to run down the driveway and away from the house. He could hear Baynes shouting behind him, but did not look back, concentrating on running as fast as he could down the street. He ran and ran, past houses, over roads, on pavements, verges and roads, stopping for breath once by a busy main road. Then he was away, out into the dark lanes beyond the lights of the city.

He stopped to hide behind a tree, nauseous and shaking, and it was some time before his breathing returned to normal. His hands, neck and face were covered in blood, but it was dried or drying, and he took off his jacket to tear of his shirt for a bandage for his arm. Soon, the cloth was soaked, and he lay still, pressing his hand over his bandaged wound to try and stop the bleeding. As he did so, he began to feel pain in his hands and face. He felt very tired.

No one had followed him down the dark narrow lane. He dreamed he was in the Satanic Temple. Neil was on the altar, tied down by thongs, and Tanith bent over him, a knife in her hand.

‘It is your deed,’ Tanith said to Conrad.

‘Your deed,’ Aris and Susan repeated as they stood beside him.

‘We require his blood,’ all three of them said.

Tanith gave him the knife and he walked toward Neil.

‘Please,’ his former friend pleaded, ’spare me! I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!’

‘We require his blood,’ Conrad heard as a chant behind him. ‘His blood to complete your Initiation. We must have his blood!’

Conrad hesitated.

‘Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!’ the insistent voices said.

He raised the knife to strike, but could not find the strength, and as he lowered it in failure the bound figure on the altar was no longer Neil, but himself. Then Aris, Tanith, Susan and his double on the altar were laughing.

‘See how close to failure you came!’ Aris said and kissed him on the lips. He made to move away, but it was Susan kissing hum until she, too, changed – into Tanith.

Suddenly he was awake again, lying on the cold snow stained by his own blood. Such a waste, he thought, to die here, cold and alone. He tried to sit, up against the tree, but lacked the strength. Then he smiled. ‘I would do it all again,’ he muttered to the tree, the snow, the stars. ‘Susan’, he said to himself as his eyes closed of their own accord, ‘I love you.’

The last thing he heard was the cry of a hungry owl.

 

XVI

Denise sat on and surrounded by cushions as brightly coloured as her clothes, two green candles in tall ornate holders alight beside her. He house was otherwise unlit, and quiet except for the nearby rumble of traffic which passed along the main road less than fifty yards away. She was looking with half-closed eyes into her large crystal scrying sphere and her friend Miranda – High Priestess of the Circle of Arcadia – sat beside her, awaiting her description of her visions.

“I have found him,” Denise said as if in trance. “He suffers, and will die.”

Slowly, she placed a black cloth over her crystal. “Come,” she said to her friend, “I shall need your help.”

Her zest was evident in her driving, and it did not take them long to drive away from the city to dark, narrow lane she had seen in her vision.

“There, by the tree,” she said.

Conrad was unconscious. “We must hurry,” Denise said as she bent over him. “Others – the evil ones – will soon be here. I feel they are near.”

Together they lifted and carried Conrad into the car.

“You drive,” Denise almost commanded her friend. “I must begin, now.”

Her hands were warm and she gently placed them on Conrad’s cold and almost lifeless face before raising them a few inches to make passes with them over his arms, hands and body. She imagined energy flowing to her from the Earth through her fingers and down through his aura into the vital meridians of his wounded body, stopping only when they reached their destination.

Her house was warm, and they laid Conrad on the cushions between the candles.

“Will he be alright?” an anxious Miranda asked.

“I don’t know – yet.”

“Shall I let Mr. Baynes know?”

Denise turned toward her, her eyes intense. “No!”

“But I thought – “

“Nobody must know!” And she added, in a softer voice: “Not yet, anyway.” She kissed Miranda, saying “Trust me, my love.”

Then she knelt over Conrad to renew her healing with her hands.

“Can I do anything?” Miranda asked.

“Be a darling and make some tea.” Denise did not turn around or look up.

The pot of tea was cold by the time Denise stood up, tired from her efforts, and she went to her kitchen to hold her hands against the cold tap, earthing the energies, before drinking several cups of the cold brew.

“Do you want me to stay?” Miranda asked hopefully.

“No – I’ll be alright. I’ll call you if there is any change,”

“Well, if you’re sure.”

“Yes. And,” Denise said, embracing her, “please not a word – to anyone.”

They kissed, briefly, and then Miranda left the room and the house. Denise sat beside Conrad, and gently stroked his face. Slowly, he opened his eyes.

“Back with us, then?” she said and smiled.

“What?” Conrad said, confused.

“You had a bit of an accident. And before you say anything, you’re in my house.”

Conrad sat up. “And you are?”

“Let’s just say someone who likes helping waifs and strays!”

Conrad looked around the room. He saw the crystal with its black cover for ‘closing down’, the incense burner upon the fireplace. There were no furnishings other than the many cushions of varying size strewn over the carpet and the long, heavy drapes covering the window; no light other than that from the candles.

“Whose side are you on?” he asked cautiously.

“Does one have to be ‘on a side’?” she countered with a smile.

“You know who I am?”

“Yes. How are you feeling?”

“Alright. I must have passed out.” He found the woman strangely attractive. although her features were not beautiful in the conventional sense. But he suppressed his feelings, remembering Susan. “I really ought to go,” he said and tried to stand up.

He failed, and slumped back into the cushions.

“Rest, now,” Denise said,

“I must telephone someone,” he said as he lay down to close his eyes to try and stop the dizziness he felt.

“In a while. But first you must rest.”

She left him for a short time, returning with a silver bowl, cloths, phials of lotions and a mug containing a hot infusion of herbs, all carried on a silver tray.

“Here,” she said, “drink this.”

He sat up and smelt the contents of the mug. It smelt horrible. “What is it?”

“Just an infusion – of herbs and things. My mother showed me how to make it. It will bring back some of your strength.”

Cautiously, Conrad sipped the drink. She removed the bandage he had made to cover the wound on his arm and began to clean the area using the liquid in the bowl. When she has finished, she made a clean covering using a cloth richly suffused with lotion. Soon, she had washed, cleaned and covered all his injuries with her lotions.

“It tasted better,” Conrad said after finishing her potion, “than it smelt.”

Her nearness, her gentle touch and her bodily fragrance all combined to sexually arouse him, and he held her hand before leaning to kiss her.

She moved away, saying, “I’m sorry to disappoint you – but I’m not that way inclined.”

“I hope I didn’t offend you,” he said sincerely.

She laughed as she collected her lotions. “For an alleged Satanist you are rather innocent. Your aura marks you as different from them.”

“Oh, yes?” Conrad was intrigued.

“What is your aim in all this?” she asked. “What do you hope to find?”

He felt his strength returning with every breath he took. Even the throbbing in his arm had begun subside. “Knowledge,” he said.

Denise sat down beside him as she did so he felt there was a calmness within her. He felt good, just being near her, as if in some way she was giving him energy. At first, he had felt this as her sexual interest in him, but the more he looked at her and the more he thought about it, the more he realized it was nothing of the sort. It was just beneficent energy flowing from her. He did not know, nor particularly care, why – he just felt relaxed and comfortable in her nearness.

“What is it?” she asked again, smiling, her eyes radiant, “that you hope to find. Why did you join them?”

“I wanted knowledge.” It was only partly true, he remembered. Most of all he had wanted to experience sexual passion.

“Is that all?”

He sensed she knew the answer already. “Well, sex as well.”

“And then what?”

“What do you mean?” he asked, perplexed.

“Think of it – in a few years time, if you continue along your present path, you will have had many women, learnt many Occult truths. Perhaps you will have acquired some skill in magick. But life is – for most people – quite long: many decades, in fact. What do you do with all this time? The same pleasures and delights over and over again? Someone of your intelligence would surely find that boring?”

“There will be other goals, I’m sure. Other things to achieve.”

“Perhaps. Your youth will go, and with its going will come tiredness of both body and spirit.”

“So what? It is the present that’s important. Why worry about what might never be?”

“And if I said you were giving up your chance of immortality what would you say?”

“I don’t believe there is a chance. It’s superstition. When we die, that’s it.”

“Is that what you believe Satanism as all about – the pleasure of the moment?”

“Yes.” Then, with less certainty, he added, “Well, at least, I think so.”

“There is no belief in something beyond?”

“Not as far as I know.” He smiled. “But as you must know, I’m only a new Initiate.”

“Would you kill your friend Neil?” she suddenly asked.

“Pardon?”

“Neil Stanford. Would you kill him if your Master demanded it?”

“What do you know about Neil?”

“He came to see me once. For a reading. But you haven’t answered my question. Would you – could you – kill him, or anyone?”

Conrad remembered his dream. But there was within him a desire to deny that part of himself which would not kill. For a few moments he felt compelled to boast, to answer her question in the affirmative – depicting himself to her as someone ruthless and unafraid. But she was sitting near him, calm and smiling, and it seemed to him that her eyes saw into his thoughts. She would know it was just a boast, the nervous arrogance of naivety.

“I don’t know,” he said honestly.

“See,” she said with a slight tone of censure, “to you all this Satanism is at present a game. An enjoyable one, to be sure, but still a game. Your aura tells a different story. They are serious – they kill, without mercy. They corrupt. Are you ready for all that?”

“You make them sound vile,” he said, thinking of Susan, and the bliss he had shared with Tanith. “They are not like that.”

“Don’t you understand what is happening to you? Of course, now all is pleasure – all is passion and enjoyment. You are being courted, drawn into their web. But soon the perversity will begin. It will start in a small way – something perhaps only a little morally degrading. But soon you will be so involved there will be no escape.”

“No, I don’t believe it. You’re just trying to turn me against them, aren’t you?”

“Am I?” she smiled. “I have something to show you.”

She fetched her crystal sphere and set it down between them. Carefully she removed the black cloth before making passes over the sphere with her hands.

“Look,” she said to him, “and see!”

Conrad peered into the sphere. At first he saw nothing except the reflection of the lights from the candles, but then a blackness appeared within which cleared. He saw the Temple in Aris’ house. Susan was there, naked upon the altar, and around her the congregation danced. Then a man went to her, fondling her body before he removed his robe to lay and move upon her. Then the scene changed. Aris was with several other people whose faces Conrad could not see. They were on what looked like a moor, and on the ground a young woman lay, naked and bound. She was struggling, but Aris laughed – Conrad could not hear the laughter, only see the Master as his mouth opened and he rocked from side to side. Then there was a knife in his hand and he bent down to calmly and efficiently slit the woman’s throat. Conrad turned away.

“There is more,” Denise said,

“So what?” Conrad said, affecting unconcern. “Every war has its casualties. Anyway, what I saw was not real.”

“It was. The woman whom you saw murdered was called Maria Torrens. I can show you the newspaper reports of her death if you wish.”

“In every period there are victims and masters. The weak perish and the strong survive.”

“Do you really believe that?” she asked.

“What if I do?” Conrad said defensively. “Will you try and convert me?”

“You must make your own decisions – and take the consequences that result from your actions, both in this life and the next.”

“Belief in an afterlife,” Conrad said scornfully, “is merely blackmail to prevent us from fulfilling ourselves – from achieving god-head – in this life.”

“You seem set to continue along the dark path you have chosen – despite what I sense about your inner feelings.”

“I’ve made my choice.”

“I know,” she said softly.

“Tell me, then, why you have helped me?”

Denise smiled, and her smile disconcerted Conrad. “I have no right to judge. I simply help those in need.”

“But even so -”

“You should rest now.” She covered the crystal with the black cloth.

Suddenly, Conrad felt tired. He lay down among the softness of the cushions and, in the warm room with its gentle candlelight, he was soon asleep. His sleep was dreamless, and when he awoke he was astonished to find Susan sitting beside him.

 

XVII

The repair of the window Conrad had shattered was almost complete, and Baynes watched the workmen while Togbare sat, wrapped in a cloak, by the bright fire. Slowly as first, and then heavily, it began to snow again.

When the work was over, Baynes thanked the men, gave them a large gratuity in cash, and stood outside to watch them leave. He was about to return to the warmth of his house when a motor-cycle entered his driveway. It was a powerful machine, ridden by someone clad in red leathers, and he stood in the bright security lights which adorned his dwelling while the rider dismounted and began to remove the tinted visored helmet.

Miranda shook her long hair free. “I have some news for you,” she said.

“Shall we go in?” Baynes asked. He gestured gallantly toward the door, and held it open for her.

“You have not met Frater Togbare, have you?” he asked her as he showed her into the study.

Togbare stood to offer Miranda his hand. “Hi!” she said, smiling, but not shaking his hand.

“Please, do sit,” Baynes said.

“Denise found him,” Miranda said, “and I think she’ll need your help!” She looked anxiously at Baynes.

“Found who?” he asked.

“Robury! He’s at her house. She didn’t want me to tell you – but I had to.” Miranda sighed. For over an hour she had sat at her house, wondering what to do. At first, she had thought of going back to Denise. But her memory of Denise’s firm insistence persuaded her otherwise. She had tried to forget her own worries about Denise’s safety, and had almost succeeded – for an hour, trusting as she had in Denise’s psychic ability.

“They are sure to find him,” she continued. “She’ll be in danger! We must do something!”

“You mean,” Baynes said calmly, “Mr. Robury is at present in her house?”

“Yes!” It was an affirmation of her impatience.

“Did he go there himself?” Baynes raised his eyebrows as he glanced at Togbare.

“No – she found him. And we brought him back. He was injured – quite badly, it seemed.”

I see.” Baynes stroked his beard with his hand. “You took him to her house? Why?”

“She wanted to help him.” Then, realizing what she had said, and seeing the exchange of looks between Togbare and Baynes, she added, “It’s not like that!”

“You said,” Togbare asked her, “she found him. Was she therefore looking for him?”

“Well – in a manner of speaking, yes.” The room was hot, and she unzipped the front of her leather suit.

Baynes looked at her as she did so, as if suddenly realizing she was a woman. She noticed his attention and smiled at him, shaking her head so that her long hair framed her face. Suddenly, she saw him as a challenge, for she knew of his avoidance of women. Her own liaison with Denise was only for her a brief interlude in her bisexual life, and she smiled enchantingly at Baynes.

Hastily, Baynes turned away.

“Did she say,” Togbare asked her, “why she was looking for him?”

“No. And I didn’t ask. You know about her, don’t you Oswald?” she said to Baynes, smiling at him again and deliberately using his first name. “About her abilities.”

“She is rather gifted in certain psychic matters, yes.” He looked briefly at her, then turned away.

“Do you know of recent events,” Togbare asked Miranda, “involving Mr Robury and the Satanist group?”

“Only that there was to be some sort of ritual. Denise said something about Robury being important.”

“You know of the death of Mr. Fitten and his wife?”

“Yes. She mentioned them.”

“You were among the first to know of this Conrad Robury, were you not?”

“Actually, yes. He came to attend one of our meetings.”

“Introduced by a certain Neil Stanford?”

“Yes.” She turned to look at Baynes, but he staring into the flames of the fire.

“I think it is right and fitting,” Togbare pompously said to her, “that we take you into our confidence. Mr Stanford, I am grieved to say, has fallen into the hands of the Satanists – he had, on our instructions, infiltrated the group. However, he was betrayed. We did not know by whom. As you probably are aware, such groups do not take kindly to anyone who betrays them, and therefore since Mr Stanford was kidnapped by Mr Robury and taken to the house of the so-called ‘Master’, we have been concerned for his safety.

“Yet for some time I myself, and the Council, have suspected that we ourselves have been infiltrated by the Satanists.”

Miranda looked first at Baynes and then at Togbare. “And you now suspect Denise?” she asked with astonishment.

It was Baynes who answered. “It is logical – considering what you have just told us.”

“I don’t believe it! Not Denise!”

“Of course,” Togbare said, “we cannot be sure. But Mr Baynes is right – it is logical to presume she may be implicated.”

“So you see, Miranda,” Baynes said, and smiled at her, “if it is true then she is unlikely to be in danger from them, as you believed.”

Miranda sat in a chair, confused by the accusation against her lover yet pleased that Baynes had apparently shown an interest in her. He had used her first name – something he had never done before – and his smile seemed to convey a warmth toward her. Suddenly, it occurred to her that if the accusation was true, Denise had been cruelly using her. The thought saddened her.

“But if you’re wrong about her,” she said, still unconvinced, “then she will be in danger?”

“For helping Robury?” Baynes said. “I doubt it. You did say she intended to help him?”

“Yes. She was going to use her healing powers.”

“Which, to my knowledge, are quite remarkable. Quite remarkable.”

“But surely – ” Miranda began to say.

“Why did she wish to find him in the first place? And, more importantly, why did she then wish to heal him? For she knew, being with me a member of the Council itself, that he was important to them – to their ritual.”

“She was on the Council?” Miranda asked with surprise.

“Why, yes. Did she never tell you? I knew you two were very close friends.” Baynes smiled at her.

Miranda blushed, and shuffled in her chair. “No,” she said softly, “she never told me.” She sighed in sadness, for she remembered what Denise had once said: ‘There shall be no secrets between us…’

“He was badly injured, you said?” Togbare asked her.

“Covered in blood.”

“Well,” Baynes said, “he did jump through that window.”

“He was here?” Miranda asked with surprise.

“We had hoped to – how shall I say? – exchange him for Stanford. Now we are back to where we were before.”

“But surely the Police – they can help. If Neil has been abducted – “

Baynes shrugged his shoulders and made a gesture of obeisance with has hands. “What evidence have we? What could we say about this conflict which such people would understand?”

“But surely they would listen to someone as well respected as you?”

“Possibly. Even if I sent them to the house of the Master, would they find Stanford there? Of course not. How would I explain why he should have been abducted? What reason – what motive – could I give without appearing as some sort of crank? They would listen, make some routine enquiries, find nothing and decide I was rather strange. No, it is not as easy as that.”

“I fear, my child,” Togbare said to Miranda, who cringed at his endearment, “that Mr Baynes is right. There have been two deaths, two unfortunate deaths, already. It is due to Mr Baynes’ resourcefulness and indeed influence that those deaths have been registered by the authorities as natural ones, unconnected with any suspicious circumstances. And this I myself accepted – for how does one explain t an unbelieving world the true cause of such deaths? If we had tried, then we would now, I am sure, have all manner of journalists intruding upon our affairs, impeding our investigations and preventing us from achieving our goal – that of ending for once and for all this Satanist threat to our world.”

Togbare seemed pleased with his speech, and rubbed his hands together.

Miranda turned to Baynes. “I would like to help,” she said.

“Then I suggest we go and see Denise. I shall ask her, directly, where she stands on the matter.”

“And if Mr Robury is with her?” Togbare asked.

“I shall persuade him to return with us.” He walked to the desk and from a drawer took a revolver which he placed in his jacket pocket.

“Please,” Togbare said, “surely we can avoid such complications?”

“There is no choice now,” Baynes replied. “Do you wish,” he asked Miranda, “to travel with me or use your own transport?”

“With you,” she smiled and began to remove her leather suit.

Even Togbare glanced at her fulsome figure. “If,” Togbare said, clearing his throat, “Mr Robury is not there – what then, my friend?”

“Sanders – he will know how to enter their Temple. He can be persuaded to tell us. We shall then go to them. You ready?” he asked Miranda.

“Yes.”

“Excellent!” He turned toward Togbare. “If we’re not back within the hour inform the Police.”

“But – ” mumbled Togbare. “what shall I say?”

“I’m sure you can think of something!”

“But – “

Baynes did not wait to hear the Mage’s words.

 

XVIII

“She has done well!” Susan said as Conrad sat up. “You are better than we thought.”

“How did you get here?” Conrad asked her. He looked around the room, but they were alone. “The woman – “

“Denise?” Susan said. “You will see her in a while. The Master is pleased to see you.”

She helped him to stand.

“Ah! Conrad!” Arise said as he entered the room. “Such determination! You rejected a most tempting offer, I hear.”

“Sorry?” Conrad looked at Susan, and then at the Master whose black cloak and clothes seemed to Conrad appropriately suited the Master’s gleeful yet sinister countenance.

“An offer – from Baynes,” Aris the Master said.

“You talked in your sleep,” Susan said before Conrad could ask the obvious question.

“Come,” Aris said, gesturing toward the door.

Conrad followed him up the stairs of the house and into a bedroom where Denise lay on a bed, apparently asleep.

“She is yours,” Aris whispered to him.

“I’m sorry?”

“It is for you to decide her fate. Take her – possess her if you wish. She has never been with a man. You can be the first.”

Aris walked to Denise, touched her forehead with his hand and she awoke. Then there was a knife in his hand and he held it as if ready to strike.

“Your wish?” Aris asked him, and smiled.

Conrad went to her, took her hand in his and kissed it. “Thank you,” he said to her sincerely.

The fear that had ben in her eyes disappeared.

“And her fate?” Aris said, still holding the knife.

“I don’t want her harmed.,”

“As you wish.” Aris touched her forehead with his hand, and she closed her eyes in sleep. “You must go now,” he said to Conrad.

“Are you alright?” Susan asked him as he reached the bottom of the stairs.

The face of the Master had shown no emotion as Conrad had expressed his wish, and he was wondering whether the Master disapproved.

“Are you alright?” Susan asked him again.

“Just a little tired,” he replied.

“We must go now.” She held the front door of the house open as a gesture of her intent, and, in the snowful street outside, he saw her expensive car.

He walked with her out into the coldness to seat himself beside her, and was soon warm in the cocoon of the car watching the snow covered streets and houses as Susan drove almost recklessly in the dangerous conditions.

The music she chose as an accompaniment to their journey seemed to Conrad to reflect his mood and the almost demonic aspirations which underlay it, and he listened intently to Liszt’s B Minor Sonata. As he listened, he began to realize that his decision regarding Denise was correct, and they were approaching the Master’s dwelling when he concluded it made no difference to him what Aris his Master – or indeed what anyone – thought about it. He would do the same again.

Gedor awaited them at the steps of the house, and held Conrad’s door open for him in a gesture which pleased Conrad. The very house itself seemed to welcome him, and he was not surprised when Tanith greeted him in the hall with a kiss.

“They will soon heal,” she said as she caressed the dried cuts on his face.

Even Mador came to greet him.

“Welcome Professor!” the dwarf said. “Welcome!”

“The Master will see you soon. But first, you should bathe and change. Mador will show you your room.”

As Conrad turned to follow Mador, she added, “And Conrad, from this day forth this house is yours as your home.”

Her words pleased him, and he followed Mador, proud of himself. Susan was beautiful, wealthy and powerful, and together they would return the Dark Gods to Earth.

The room Mador led him to was on the top floor of the house. It was large and luxurious and he was surprised to find the cupboards full of new clothes, all in his size. He selected some, and was relaxing in a bath of warm water when the maid entered the room, pushing a trolley replete with food.

She did not speak, but smiled at him through the open bathroom door as he lay, blushing at the unexpected intrusion.

“Thank you!” he said unnecessarily as she left.

It was almost an hour later when he too left, cleaned and fed, to find his was to the library where he assumed the Master would be waiting. It took him a long time, for the house was large and mostly unknown to him.

“Do you find,” the Master said to him as he entered the library, “your house pleasing?” He smiled as he sat at the desk, indicating a chair.

Conrad sat down.

“From tonight, all this,” Aris continued, “shall be yours.”

Conrad could only stare in amazement. Was it a jest?

“There shall be a ritual,” Aris said, “whose success will begin that new aeon which we seek. Recall that I said you had a Destiny. Your Destiny is to continue the work which I and others like me have begun. Every Grand Master such as I chooses, when the time is right, someone to success him. And I have chosen you. My daughter shall be your guide as your own power develops. She shall be your Mistress, just as Tanith has been mine.”

Aris smiled benignly at him. “It is right you are amazed. You have proved yourself fitting for this honour. As to myself, I have other tasks to perform, other places to visit where you at present cannot go. We have tested you, and you have not found wanting. I shall reveal to you secret of our beliefs. We represent balance – we restore what is lacking in any particular time or society. We challenge the accepted. We encourage through our novices, our acts of magick and the through the spread of our ideas that desire to know which religions, sects and political dogmatists all wish to suppress because it undermines their authority. Think on this, in relation to our history, and remember that we are seldom what we seem to others.

“Our way is all about, in its beginnings, and for those daring individual who join us, liberating the dark or shadow aspect of the personality. To achieve this, we sometimes encourage individuals to undergo formative experiences of a kind which more conventional societies and individuals frown upon or are afraid of. Some of these experiences may well involve acts which are considered ‘illegal’. But the strong survive, the weak perish. All this – and the other directly magickal experiences like those you yourself have experienced – develop both the character of the individual and their magickal abilities. In short, from the Satanic novice, the Satanic Adept is produced.”

He smiled again at Conrad before continuing his Satanic discourse. “We tread a narrow path, as perhaps you yourself are becoming aware. There is danger, there is ecstasy – but above all there is an exhilaration, a more intense and interesting way of loving. We aim to change this world – yes, But we aim to change individuals within it – to produce a new type of person, a race of beings truly representative of our foremost symbol, Satan. Only a few can belong to this new race, this coming race – to the Satanic elect. To this elite, I welcome you.”

He passed over to Conrad a small book bound in black leather.

“All this I have said, and more, much more, is written of in here,” Aris said. “Read and learn and understand. We shall not speak together again.”

He bowed his head, as if respectfully, toward Conrad before rising and taking his leave. Alone in the silence which followed, Conrad though he could hear a woman’s voice.

“I am coming for you, I am coming!’ it seemed to sing and for an instant he glimpsed a ghostly face, It was Fitten’s wife.

Then Conrad was laughing, loudly, at the thought, as he basked in the glory of being chosen by the Master.

“I am the power, I am the glory!” he shouted aloud in his demonic possession as, behind him, the ghostly face cried,

 
Several times during their short journey Miranda tried to engage Baynes in conversation and each time she failed. He did not speak even as they left the car near their destination to walk the last few hundred yards.

Only as they approached Denise’s house did he relent.

“I fear,” he said, pointing to where a car had left its imprint in the snow, “we are too late.”

The door was unlocked, and he entered the house cautiously. No sounds came from within the house, and with Miranda in tow he slowly checked every room. The house was empty.

“Has she gone with them?” Miranda asked as they returned to the front door.

“Or been abducted.”

“Why would they do that?”

“She would be a prize, I presume. A lady of her – how shall I say? – persuasion would be regarded in some respects as an ideal sacrifice.”

“It’s my fault,” Miranda said sadly.

“Not at all. We still do not know if she is involved with them.” He ushered her outside.

“I feel so responsible,” she said.

“There is no need,” he said kindly.

She took advantage of his tone and his nearness by resting her head on his shoulder. He held her, feebly and briefly, and then drew away.

“Here,” he said, giving her the keys to his car, “can you tell Frater Togbare what had occurred?”

“Yes, I will.”

“Good. I will make some necessary arrangements.”

“To get into their Temple?”

“Exactly. I shall be – say – an hour at most. Tell Frater Togbare to be ready to leave at once.”

“Will three of us be enough?”

He looked at her for some seconds before replying. “I cannot allow you to go,” he said somewhat pompously.

“Tough! I’m going!” she said with determination.

“No you’re not.”

She held her head slightly to one side, resting her hands on her hips. “Because I’m a woman?” she demanded, a touch of anger in her voice.

“Actually, yes.”

“Oh I see!” she mocked. “It’s strictly a job for the boys, is it?”

“It could be dangerous.”

“Oh I see! And we weak women, cannot cope with danger, is that what you mean?” By now, she was angry.

“I didn’t say that,” he protested.

“But you meant it!”

“Look – there are more important things at the moment than this stupid argument!” He himself was beginning uncharecteristically, to become annoyed.

She smiled at him, as if satisfied to have aroused some emotion within him. “We’ll be ready when you get back,” she said. She did not wait for his reply and walked back toward his car.

Baynes watched her drive away in the falling snow before he returned to the house. The telephone was working, and he dialled Sanders’ number.

“Baynes here. Can you meet me? Or should I say – meet me in fifteen minutes.”

‘Leave me alone! he heard Sander say, ‘One favour is – ‘

“Listen! There will be more money, this time.”

‘I’m not interested.’

“Just meet me. It will be to your long term advantage. You know what I mean?”

Sanders sighed, and Baynes smiled. ‘Where?’ he asked.

Baynes gave him the address, and sat in the stairs to wait, Sanders was late.

“That you car?” Baynes asked.

“Yeah.”

“Let’s go, then.”

As they drove away, Sanders asked “Where to?”

“My house. Now – you’ve been in the Masters’ Temple I imagine.”

“Possibly.”

“Excellent.”

Baynes did not speak again until they were inside his house.

“Some friends of mine,” Baynes said as he led Sanders into the study where Miranda and Togbare were waiting.

“Hello Miranda,” Sanders said.

“You know each other?” Baynes asked, surprised.

Sanders raised his eyebrows and gave a lascivious smile. “I’ve hear of her. It’s a small world, the Occult.” He stared at her breasts.

Miranda stared back, and nervously, Sanders looked away.

“You said,” Baynes asked him, “you’d been in the Satanist Temple.”

“It’s a free country,” he shrugged.

“Can you lead us there?”

“You’re serious?” When Baynes did not answer, he added, “You are serious!”

“Naturally, I would make it worth your while. Financially, of course.”

“How much?” he whispered to Baynes.

“Sixty thousand.”

“That’s a lot of money!” He thought for a minute. “And all I have to do is lead you there, right?”

“Correct.”

“When?”

“Now.”

“Now?” Sanders said with surprise.

“Yes. And not tricks. I know the Temple is below the house, but I also know there is a secret entrance somewhere, nearby.”

“You’re well informed,” Sanders said with surprise.

“I have my sources of information.”

“don’t I know it!” Sanders said like an aside. “And the money?”

“Tomorrow. When the Banks open.”

“Let’s get this straight,” Sanders said, twirling the inverted pentagram he wore around his neck. “I lead you there, then I’m free to go right?”

“Correct. Provided, of course, you do not inform anyone of our presence.”

“What do you take me for? I know you’ve got your pet Policemen.”

“Shall we go then?”

“You car or mine?” Sanders quipped.

“Please,” Togbare said quietly to Baynes, “may I talk with you? Alone?”

“As you wish,” Baynes replied. “Please, excuse us for a moment,” he said to Miranda.

Outside, in the hallway, he firmly shut the door to the study.

“This plan of yours,” Togbare said, “are we not being too hasty?”

“I don’t believe so.”

“But to go to their Temple – “

“What choice do we have? They will sacrifice Standford and for all we know Denise as well. Did Miranda not say that Denise was ‘virge intacta’?”

“No.”

“Don’t you see? I am sure their ritual will be tonight.”

“The blood of a virgin – yes, yes,” Togbare mumbled.

“Your actual presence at the ritual will I am sure suffice to disrupt it.”

“It is possible, yes. But the physical danger – “

“I shall of course leave a message with a friend of mine, a Police Officer. Should we not return, he will investigate. Believe me, there will be no second chance for us. Can we afford to wait? What if we do nothing and tonight they complete their sacrifices and open the gates to the Abyss? What then? The evil they will release will spread like a poison. Large scale demonic possession will occur – madness, crime committed by those weak of will …”

“Yes, yes of course,” Togbare said abstractly, “you are right.”

“Their success,” Baynes continued, “would give them magickal power – Satanic magickal power – beyond imagining. We would be powerless. And their Dark Gods would return, to haunt the Earth.”

“You have only voiced me own fears. I shall prepare myself as we journey to our destination. May God protect us.”

Baynes left Togbare mumbling prayers. In the study he found Sanders kneeling on the floor, clutching his genitals, his face contorted with pain. “See,” Miranda said to Baynes in triumph, “we women can take care of ourselves! Shall I drive then?”

Both Baynes and Sanders watched her as she left the room.

XX

“Your marriage to our daughter,” Conrad remember Tanith had said, “shall be first.”

A prelude, he thought to the fugue that would be the opening of the gates to the Abyss.

He stood in the candlelit Temple, resplendent in the crimson robe Tanith had given him for the ceremony. The congregation formed an aisle to the alter upon which the tetrahedron glowed, and he stood in front of it with the Master and Tanith to await his Satanic bride.

There was a beating of drums, and Gedor, with Susan beside him, walked down the stone steps and into the chamber of the Temple. She wore a black veil and a black flowing gown and walked alone past the congregation as Gedor stood guard by the door which marked the hidden entrance.

Tanith’s viridian robe seemed iridescent in the fluxing light, and she greeted her daughter with a kiss before joining Susan’s hand with Conrad’s.

“We, Master and Mistress of this Temple,” Aris and Tanith said together, “greet you who have gathered to witness this rite. Let the ceremony begin!”

There was a chant from the many voices of the congregation.

“Agios o Satanas! Agios o Satanas!”

We are gathered here, ” the Master said, “to join in oath and through our dark magick this man and this woman, so that hence forward they shall as inner sanctuaries to our gods!”

“Hail to they,” Tanith chanted, “who come in the names of our gods! We speak the forbidden names!”

The Master raised his hands and began to vibrate the name Atazoth followed by Vindex while Tanith led the congregation in chanting ‘Agios o Satanas! Agios o Satanas! Agios o Baphomet! Agios o Baphomet! while the drums beat ever louder and more insistent. In Tanith’s sign, they stopped.

The sudden silence startled Conrad, a little.

“Do you,” the Master said to Conrad, “known in this world as Conrad Robury accept as your Satanic Mistress this lady, Amilichus, known as Susan Aris, according to the precepts of our faith and to the glory of our dark gods?”

“I do,” Conrad replied.

“Then give me as a sign of your oath this ring.”

Conrad accepted the silver ring, and placed it on Susan’s finger.

Aris turned to his daughter. “Do you Ambilichus, accept as your Satan Master this man, known in this world as Conrad Robury and whom we now honour as Falcifer in name, according to the precepts of our faith and to the glory of our dark gods?”

“I do,” Susan replied.

“Then give as a sign of your oath this ring.”

She took the silver ring, and placed it on Conrad’s finger.

“See them!” Aris said, “Hear them! Know them! Let it be known among you and others of our kind, that should anyone here assembled or dwelling elsewhere seek to render asunder this Master and Mistress against the desire of this Master and Mistress, then shall that person or persons be cursed, cast our and made by our magick to die a miserable death! Hear my words and heed them! Hear me, all you gathered in my Temple! Hear me, all you bound by the magick of our faith! Hear me you dark gods of Chaos gathering to witness this rite!”

Tanith unbound their hands to swiftly cut with a sharp knife their thumbs. She pressed Conrad’s bleeding thumb onto Susan’s forehead, leaving a mark in blood, before marking Conrad in the same manner and pressing the two thumbs together to mingle the blood. Then she pressed a few drops of blood from each onto a triangle of parchment. There was a silver bowl on the altar containing liquid which Aris lit before Tanith cast the parchment into the flames.

“By this burning,” she said, “I declare this couple wed! Let their children be numerous and become as eagles who swoop upon their prey!”

“But ever remember,” Aris said, “you who in joining find a magick which creates, never love so much that you cannot see your partner die when their dying-time has come.”

“Let us greet,” Tanith said, “the new lord and lady of the dark!”

Tanith’s kiss was signal for the congregation to greet the spaeman and his wife.

***

No traffic came along the narrow lane that led past the neglected woods near the Master’s house, and Miranda parked the car partly on the snow-covered verge. The snow had stopped , and there was an almost unearthly beauty about the scene: the snow-capped trees, the virgin white of the fields, the cold quiet stillness of the night air.

But the horizon around the fields began to change, as if the sky itself was full of fury. Red, indigo and thunder purple vied for mastery. Each passing moment brought a change, a subtle shift in colour or intensity. Yet there was no sound, as there might have been if an Earth-bred storm had existed as cause.

Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the spectacle ceased, to leave Miranda and the others staring at a night sky full-brimming with stars.

“This way,” Sanders said as he walked in among the trees.

There was a fence yards within the wood, and he climbed it easily while Baynes gave assistance to Togbare and Miranda. Soon, the undergrowth became thick, but Sanders followed a narrow path deep into the stillness, stopping frequently to wait for his companions. Baynes kept close behind him, one hand in his jacket pocket and holding the revolver.

The snow was deep in places over the path that snaked around trees, bushes, dead bracken and entwining undergrowth, and Togbare stumbled and fell.

“Are you alright?” Miranda asked him.

“Yes, thank you.” Slowly, he raised himself to his feet using his stick.

He tried to sense the power of the rituals being undertaken that night on his instructions to try and counter the magick of the Satanists, but he could sense nothing, however hard he strained and however he listened to the emanations from the astral aether. There was nothing, and it took him some minutes as he walked along the path to realise why. The wood was like a vortex in the fabric of space-time, absorbing all the psychic energies that radiated upon it. He sighed, then, at this realization, for he knew it meant they would be alone in the magickal battle to come.

He could see a clearing ahead where the others had stopped to wait for him. As he reached its edge, he was startled by the strange cry of an Eagle Owl. He had heard the cry before, in the forests of Scandinavia, and looked up to see the large ominous predator swooping down toward Sanders face, its hooked claws ready to strike.

Sanders shielded his face with his arm. Quickly, Togbare raised his stick and the huge owl veered spectacularly away, up and over the trees. It was not long before they hears its harsh call break the silence that shrouded the wood.

“Come,” Togbare said, “we must hurry. They will know now that we are here.”

 

XXI

Denise awoke to find herself in a cell. It was small, brightly lit and warm. There was a thong around her neck, and she was still struggling to remove it when her cell door opened.

Neil, dressed in the black robe of the Satanic order, stood outside and motioned her to come forward.

“Listen to me,” he whispered, glancing behind him at the stone stairs, “I don’t have much time. You must go and warn the others. It’s a trap. Here,” he handed her a bunch of keys, “take one of their cars. Come on.”

When Denise made no move to leave, he said, “Please, you’ve got to trust me. Frater Togbare will explain.”

She looked into his eyes, then smiled. “How do I get out?” she asked, taking the keys.

“I’ll show you.”

He led her up the stairs and through an archway. “Through that door,” he said, “are some stairs. You’ll come to another door which leads to a passage. Follow the passage and you’ll be in the hall, near the front door of the house. And don’t worry, no one is around – they are all in the Temple. Good luck!”

He watched her go before returning to the top of the stairs. He stood in the circular chamber and waited. It was not a long wait, for soon the floor began to turn. The wall parted, revealing the Temple, and he walked down the steps to join the worshippers.

Conrad greeted him. “The Master has just told me,” he said, “that you were one of us all along! Sorry if I used too much force.”

“You weren’t to know,” said a relieved Neil.

Aris, Tanith and Susan were standing in front of the altar, the congregation before them, and they waited until Neil and Conrad joined them.

A proud Conrad held up his wedding ring for Neil to see, and Conrad joined them.

“Let the rite of sacrifice begin!” The Master intoned.

Slowly, the congregation began to chant.

“Suscipe, Satanas, munos quod tibi offerimus memoriam recolentes Atazoth,” they chanted.

Then they began their dance around the altar, singing a dirge as they danced counter to the direction of the sun.

“Dies irae, dies illa, solvet saeclum in favilla teste Satan cum sybilla. Quantos tremor est futurus, quando Vindex est venturus, cuncta stricte discussurus. Dies irae, dies illa!”

Then the Master was vibrating the words of a chant, Agios o Baphomet, as one of the congregation came away from the dance to kneel before Tanith who bared her breasts in greeting.

“It is the protection,” the kneeling man said as he removed the hood which covered his head, “and milk of your breasts that I seek.”

Tanith bent down, and he suckled. Then she pushed him away, laughing, and saying, “I reject you!”

The man knelt before her, while around them the dancers whirled ever faster, still singing their chant.

“I pour my kisses at your feet,” the kneeling man said, “and kneel before you who crushes your enemies and who washes in a basin full of their blood. I lift up my eyes to gaze upon your beauty of body: you who are the daughter of and a gate to our Dark Gods. I lift up my voice to you, dark demoness Baphomet, so that my mage’s seed may feed your whoring flesh!”

Tanith touched his head with her hand. “Kiss me, and I shall make you as an eagle to its prey. Touch me and I shall make you as a strong sword that severs and stains my Earth with blood. Taste my fragrance and I shall make you as a seed of corn which grows toward the sun and never dies. Plough me and plant me with your seed and I shall make you as a gate which opens to our gods!”

She clapped her hands twice, and the dancers ceased their dance to gather round as she lay down beside the man, stripping him naked. Then she was upon him, fulfilling her lust as the congregation clapped their hands in rhythm to he rising and falling body.

“Agios o Baphomet! Agios o Baphomet!” Aris the Master was chanting.

Tanith screamed in ecstasy, and for a moment lay still. Then she was standing, intoning the words of her role.

“So you have sown and from your seeding gifts may come if you obedient hear these words I speak.” She looked smiling upon the congregation. “I know you, my children, you are dark yet none of you is as dark or as deadly as I. With a curse I can strike you dead! Hear me, then, and obey! Gather for me the gift we shall offer in sacrifice to our gods!”

She gestured with her hand and two of the congregation ascended the stairs as drum beats began in the Temple. It was not long before one of the men returned, aghast.

“She’s gone!” he shouted.

Aris turned toward Neil, and smiled.

“You will do instead,” he said.

***

By the far edge of the clearing lay a wooden hut, and Sanders led them toward it.

“Inside,” he said to Baynes, “there’s a trap-door in the floor.”

He made to move away, but Baynes said, “Show me.”

Reluctantly Sanders went inside and lifted the floor covering in a corner. The hut itself was bare.

“There,” he said in a whisper.

“Open it then,” answered Baynes.

Sanders did so and light from the stairs suffused the hut. “They’re all yours!” Sanders said with relief and walked toward the still open door where Miranda stood beside Togbare,

He was about to step outside when he saw them. Three large dogs snarling and running toward him. Hastily he slammed the flimsy door shut. They jumped against it, fiercely barking. Only his weight against it held it firm. They jumped again and again as if possessed and the wood began to splinter.

“Quick!” Baynes said, indicating the stairs.

He helped Miranda and Togbare down and descended the several steps himself.

“Follow me quickly!” he shouted to Sanders who stood, his eyes wide with terror, with his back and arms against the breaking door.

Baynes had gone, and he ran across the floor of the hut, almost stumbling. The door shattered and he was fumbling with the trap-door ring when the first dog attacked. But he succeeded just in time in closing the door, and leant back against the steps, breathing hard as above him the dogs tried to dig around and through the door.

“Come on,” Baynes said to him as he stood, stooping, in the narrow tunnel that led away from the stairs.

Sanders said nothing. His eyes and face betrayed his fear.

“You don’t have any choice,” Baynes said unsympathetically.

Above them, the dogs could be heard howling. Miranda edged past Baynes to take Sanders hand in her own.

The gesture worked, and he followed them as they walked along the tunnel. Soon, it began to slope gently downward, but it seemed a long time before they could not hear the barking and the baying of the dogs.

Gradually, the light began to change in intensity, and it was only a faint glow sufficient for them to dimly see by when Baynes reached the door that sealed off the exit to the tunnel

“Yes, my friend.” He felt in his pocket for his crucifix. Dramatically, Baynes withdrew the gun from his pocket before opening the door that led to the Temple. It swung silently on it’s hinges.

“She’s gone!” they hear a man’s voice shout.

XXII

Denise was sitting in Susan’s car outside the house when she experienced her vision. She saw the wood, the country lane where Miranda had parked Baynes’ car, and she drove toward it, followed her instinct and intuition.

When she arrived, she sensed the woods were a place of danger, both physical and magickal, and she walked cautiously in the snow-steps Baynes and his two companions had left behind, stopping every few minutes to stand and listen. The deep into the wood she went., the more did she become aware of elemental forces. The wood was alive to her – and she had to shut her psychic senses against the myriad images and sensations: a primitive far urging her to flee back to the road and safety; leering and laughing demonic faces and shapes peering out from behind the trees and bushes…

She knew as she walked that the Master and his followers had built with their sinister magick psychic barrier to shield the woods, the house and the Temple. But she was also aware that there were other forces outside this barrier trying to break it down. She saw in her mind groups sitting in a circle within a room within a house… They were focusing their powers upon Togbare: he was their symbol, his stick a magical sword trying like a magnet to attract the energies of their rituals. Her awareness of these rituals, of Togbare’s foresightful planning of them, pleased her as she walked in the silence of the wood.

The clearing she entered caused her to stop and stand still for many minutes, and she with her heightened psychic ability sensed the owl before she saw it. And when she did see it, swooping silently toward her, she spoke to it in words like gentle music. It seemed to hover above her head as if listening to her voice before flying silently away.

She was approaching the hut when she heard the dogs. She did not shorten her pace but walked toward the door to see them crouched in a corner as if ready to pounce.

“Hello, little ones!” she said gently and unafraid.

They snarled at her, but did not attack. But they would not let her near. When she moved toward them, they would bare their teeth and growl as if ready to leap at her. But when she moved back toward the door, they sat down on the trap-door watching her.

Several times she tried to edge near, but the response was always the same. She could not seem to break with her gentle magick the barrier which surrounded them.

With a sigh, she settled down to wait, consciously trying to break a hole in the magickal barrier shielding the woods and the Temple, hoping that the white magick outside might break through to aid Togbare in his battle.

As she spun her mantric spells she experienced a vision of Baynes and his companions entering the Satanic Temple.

***

Baynes was the first to step into the Temple, but Miranda and Togbare soon followed.

The Master turned toward them, as if he had expected them.

“Welcome!” he said.

Conrad saw Gedor go through the door and return carrying Sanders whom he carried toward the altar.

“You have betrayed us!” The Master said to him.

“No! No!” Sanders feebly protested.

“Prepare him!”

“Stop!” Togbare shouted, and raised his stick.

The congregation parted, making an aisle to the Master.

“We must begin,” Susan whispered into Conrad’s ear.

She was standing in front of him, holding his hands as she had often done before, and Conrad understood. Then Neil was attempting to come between them but Conrad knocked him away. Dazed, Neil retreated to stand beside Togbare.

Gedor was stripping Sanders of his clothes while Tanith stood nearby, holding two knives.

“Stop!” Togbare said again.

The Master held out his hand, his ring glowing. A bolt of energy sprang from it toward Togbare, but it was harmlessly absorbed by the Mage’s stick. The tetrahedron on the altar had begun to pulse with varying intensities of light and the Master went to it and laid his hands upon it. As he did so he became engulfed in golden flames. Togbare raised his magickal staff and he too became surrounded by light.

Susan tightened her grip on Conrad’s hands and he suddenly felt the primal power of the Abyss within him. He was not Conrad, but a vortex of energy. Then he was in the darkness of space again, sensing other presences around him. There was an echo of the sadness he had felt before, and then the vistas of stars and alien worlds, world upon world upon world. He became, briefly, the crystal upon the altar, the Master standing beside it. But there were other forces present and around him, trying to send him back into his earthly body and seal the rent that had appeared and which joined the causal universe to the acausal where his Dark Gods waited. He became two beings because of this opposition – a pure detached consciousness caught in the vortex of the Abyss, surrounded by stars, and Conrad, standing holding the hands of his Satanic Mistress in the Temple. His earthly self saw the astral clash between Togbare and the Master as their radiance was transformed by their wills and sent forth, transforming the colourful aura of their opponent. He saw Tanith give Sanders a knife. Saw Gedor approaching him, brandishing his own. Saw the congregation gather around the fight as they lusted for the kill – Sanders tried several times to get away, but the encircling congregation always pushed him back toward Gedor. Baynes, Neil and Miranda were beside Togbare and partly enclosed in the luminescence of his aura.

Then Conrad seemed free again to wander through the barriers that kept the two universes apart. He and Susan, together, had been a key to the gate of the Abyss, his own consciousness freed by the power of the crystal and the Master’s magick. He was free, and would break the one and only seal that remained.

In the Temple, the fight did not take long to reach its conclusion. Sanders seemed to have become possessed by the demonic atmosphere in the Temple and attacked several times, slashing at Gedor with his knife. But each time Gedor had moved away. Sanders tried again, and harder, after Gedor cut his arm. He caught Gedor’s hand and turned to be stabbed by Gedor in the throat.

“The third key!” Tanith shouted in triumph.

The spurting blood seemed to vaporise and then form an ill-defined image above the altar. It became the face of the Master, of Conrad, of a demon, of Satan himself.

Suddenly, Neil snatched the gun from Baynes. The shot missed the Master, and Baynes knocked Neil over.

Togbare, distracted, looked at Baynes and then at the Master. He felt in that instant the Satanic barrier protecting the Temple break, and renewed magickal power flowing down toward him, energizing his staff and his own aura. He pointed the staff at the Master, sending bolts of magickal energy. They reached him, and the auric energy around the Master, and the shape above the altar, vanished. But Baynes leapt forward to snatch the staff and break it over his knee.

As he did so, the aura around Togbare flickered, and then disappeared. But the old man was too quick for Baynes, and bent down to retrieve part of his stick which he threw at the crystal, hitting it. As it struck, the crystal exploded, plunging the Temple into darkness.

There was then no magickal energy left, and Togbare calmly led Miranda and Neil back along the tunnel to the hut. The dogs departed quietly the instant the crystal shattered, leaving Denise free to open the trap-door. When Togbare and the others reached her, she realized Neil had gone insane.

Togbare smiled at her as she closed the trap-door, and then he quietly fell to the floor. She did not need to check his pulse, but did so nevertheless as Neil stood over her, dribbling.

Togbare was dead, and over the trees the Eagle Owl sent its call.

***

The darkness in the Temple lasted less that a minute, and when it was over both the Master and Tanith had vanished. Conrad looked around and saw Baynes walking toward him. The congregation still stood around the body of Sanders, looking at Conrad and waiting, as Susan looked and waited.

Without speaking, Baynes took hold of Conrad’s left hand and bent down to kiss the ring in a gesture of obeisance. Suddenly, Conrad understood. He was not just Conrad but a channel, a like, between the worlds. He would be, because of this, the Anti-Christ and had only to develop and extend his already burgeoning magickal powers for the Earth to become his domain. For by dark ritual a new beast had been born, ready and willing to haunt the Earth. A few more rituals, and his invading legions would be ready.

His laugh reverberated around the Temple.

***

Epilogue

Barred windows? Neil shook his head as if he could not remember before returning to his seat. The television was on, as it always was during the day, and he watched it in the smoky, grimy room. He did not know what he watched, but it passed a few hours.

Occasionally he would rise from his chair to stare around the room or out of the window. Once, someone brought him some tablets and he took them without speaking, and, once he wandered across the room to watch two of his fellow patients play a game of snooker on the worn table with cues that were not quite straight. But neither the game nor they themselves interested him, and he resumed his chair, sunk into his stupor.

Baynes watched him briefly as he sat with the psychiatrist in the small almost airless room at the end of the ward.

“Yes, indeed,” the man was saying, “a perplexing case.”

“And, he mentioned my name?”

“Once, a few days ago, when he was admitted. He said something about an Eagle Owl, but it didn’t really make much sense. You met once I believe?”

“Yes. He was a student, at the University. Into drugs, I understand. And the Occult – that sort of thing. He wanted to borrow some money. Rambled on about some conspiracy or other.”

“Well,” he fumbled with the folder that contained Neil’s psychiatric case notes, “I won’t keep you any longer.”

“He is receiving treatment, then?”

“Of course. Medication at the moment – although tomorrow we shall start ECT.”

“Electroconvulsive therapy?” Baynes asked.

“Yes.”

Baynes looked at Neil, and smiled. “If there is anything I can do to help – ” he said formally to the Doctor as he stood to leave.

“We have a note of your address.”

“Good bye, then.”

Neil did not even look at Baynes as he walked through the ward to the door that led down the stairs and out into the bright sunlight.

The sun warmed the air, a little, but insufficient to melt any of the snow, and Denise stood by a large Beech tree in the grounds of the hospital, watching Baynes leave. She knew better than to try and follow him, and went back to her car where Miranda waited, asleep.

Miranda could remember nothing of the events in the Temple, but by using her own psychic skills, Denise was beginning to understand them. She did not know what, if anything, she could do. All she knew was that she had to try.
*******

 

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