Deofel II. – The Temple of Satan

A Symphonic Allegory

mousa_of_swords2
“Baphomet is a goddess of violent aspect
who washes in the blood of her foes. She
is the bride of Lucifer a Gate to the Dark
Gods beyond this Earth.

Traditionally, Baphomet is associated with
the magickal grade of Mistress of Earth
the fifth of the seven stages that mark the
Satanic path. Her daughters are Power,
Vengeance and Lust, but the only Earth
based living child to be born from these
children is the Demon named Love.

Herein are truths to set against the lies
and distortions of Elisphas Levi and others.”

Book Of Recalling

Prologue

Melanie was a beautiful woman, and she had grown used to using her beauty for her advantage. Her crimson robes, her amber necklace and her dark hair all enhanced it, and she smiled without kindness at the overweight man prostrate before her.

The black candles gave the only light but she could still see the parchment paleness of his naked skin as the dancers chanted while they danced sun- wise in the temple to the beat of the tabors.

Beside her, a man cloaked in black declaimed in a loud voice words of Initiation.
“Do you bind yourself, with word, deed, and oath to us, the seed of Satan?”

“I do,” the nervous, prostrate man replied.

“Then understand that breaking your word is the beginning of our wroth!” He clapped his hands, and the dancers gathered round. “Hear him! See him! Know him!”

Seven beats from a tabor and the dancers broke their enclosing circle, sighing as Melanie raised her whip. The sweating men knew it was a formality, a ritual gesture without pain. But Melanie smiled, and beat him till he bled.

Then she was laughing. “Dance!” she commanded, and they obeyed, completing the ritual to its end. And when it was over and the bloated man with the freshly bloodied skin drew some pleasure as he slumped by the altar in the climax of a whore’s sexual embrace, Melanie left to swim naked in the sensuous warmth of her pool.

Soon, only the chief celebrant remained, waiting for her in the small study by her hall. He was a tall man of gaunt face whose eyes brought to some a remembrance of the image of someone who was mad. For years, in a monastery and fed his body and tried to break his spirit but he had given way to temptation and sought the road of sin.

Melanie dress hid little of her flesh, and she sat on the edge of the desk beside him, smiling as he turned his eyes away. He wanted her body, and she knew it and the reason why he would do nothing.

“You are going bored with us, ” he said.

“And you are afraid.”

“Of where you might be leading us?”

“The Ceremony of Recalling.”

“But no one, for a long time, has dared-”

She leaned over him, caressing his lips with her finger. “If I find you sacrifice, have you faith enough to do the ritual and slit his throat?”

I

Thurstan’s past seemed to him to consist of a series of disconnected memories and, as he sat above the stream while hot sun drew sweat from his body and a light breeze carried it away from the summit of the hill, tears filled his eyes.

His memories were of women. There was a beauty, and ecstasy about their recalling as there was about his gestures of love and as he remembered he experienced again the intensity of life that those gestures had brought him.

He remembered walking one late perfume-filled Spring evening to see, for just a few minutes, the woman he loved before she left for the company of another man. It was, he remembered, a long walk begun with the sun of afternoon was warm and the bridge that joined the banks of the river Cam where they in Cambridge would meet only an image-distance and hopeful-in his mind. He remembered, years later, a cycling 15 miles through a winter blizzard to take his letter to the house of the woman he then loved while she slept, unaware of his dreams. He remembered t the exhilaration of running through the streets of the city to catch the last train and the long walk in the early morning cold to a
house to apologize to the woman he loved.

Yet the tears, which came to him, were not the tears of sorrow. Everything around him seemed suddenly more real and more alive – the larks which sang high above the heather- covered hills, the sun, the sky, the very Earth itself. They, and he himself, seemed to almost to possess the divine.

He sensed the promise of his own life – as if in some way he and the woman he loved were, or could be, the instrument of a divine love, a means to reveal divinity to the world. Yet the divinity he sensed was not the stark god of religion, or even to one omniscient God, and the more he experienced and the more he thought he realize it was not god all. It was a goddess.

This thought pleased him. He felt he had re-discovered an important meaning, maybe even the ultimate meaning, about his life, and he walked slowly down the from the hill to wash his face in the cold water of the stream.

The loss of his wife held no sorrow for him now and the sad resignation of yet another loss began to fade. Like a little boy, he took off his shoes and socks and paddled along in the stream.

There was no Natalie to share this with him as he might have wished, and his meeting with her seemed a dream. Was it a week since you come upon her, sitting by the bank of the river Severn in tree-full Quarry Park while, around, the town of Shrewsbury became drier for the hot sun of summer?

He could remember almost every word of their conversation she had smiled as he had passed and he, shy and blushing, spoke of the weather, of how the long heat had lowered the level of the water. On her delicate fingers a ring with a symbol of the Tao. So he had asked, and had sat beside her. For two hours they talk, revealing their pasts like two friends.

“Without my dreams,” she had said, “I would be nothing” and he hid his tears.

There is a beauty in her words, in her eyes, sadness in the softness of her voice and by the time she rose to leave he was in love, although he did not realize it then. “Can I see again?” yet asked. She was unsure, but agreed and he gave for his address, named a day and time and watched her walk away wanting but not daring to run and embraced her.
.
And then she was gone, lost to his world. A day only was over before he found her address and sent her flowers. Next day her long, sad letter. “I have nothing to give,” she had written. “You were my random audience.”

He sent more flowers, but sat alone by the river at the appointed time before the dying sun dried away and the foolish vapor of his dreams.

The cold water of the stream refreshed him and he bathed his face again the slowly his sadness returned, only muted by his ecstasy. No one passed him as he walked along the paths that wound down of among the hills. There was no one to welcome him home, and the sat by the window in his small cottage wondering what he should do. The hills of south Shropshire, the isolation, the garden – all had lost their charm. Somewhere, beyond the valley, the hills, the villages and the town, his wife would be happy within the arms of another man.

It was not a long walk from his cottage to the town and it’s station, but the heat of the day oppressed him as it made up their other passengers in the stuffy, noisy train sit silent and still throughout the short journey.

Variegated people mingled over the sun-shadowed platforms of the Shrewsbury station and Thurstan followed two young girls as they walked along the concrete above the sun-glinting lines of steel, which carried a diesel engine through the humid air that vibrated with it’s power the ground and buildings around. A wooden barrier siphoned the arrivals down dirty stone steps and ultramodern doors to the traffic-filled streets of Shrewsbury.

It was the streets the Thurstan realized he was afraid. He believed he could sense the feelings behind the faces of the people passed in the streets and not only sense them, but feel them as if they were his own. He felt the nervous of vulnerability of a young girl as she waited, half-afraid by the frontage of a shop where people jostled, and an intimation of her gentle innocence being destroyed troubled him. He felt the anger of a young mother as she scolded her screaming child while cars passed, noisy, in the street: the pain of an old man as he hobbled supported by a stick toward the pedestrian precinct where youths gathered, waiting.

Thurstan fled from the people, their feelings, the noise, and the latent tension he could feel in the air to sit by the river in Quarry Park. The sun, the flowing water, the warm grass all calmed him. He sat for over an hour, occasionally turning to watch a few people who passed along the paths. The sense of an affinity, perhaps a love, for the individuals around him an empathy that he could not, even if he had wished, formulate into words. But this insight was destroyed by a woman.

She was beautiful, the woman who passed him as she walked along the path near where he sat vaguely wondering about love. She seemed to smile at him, but he could not be sure for she passed under the shadow of a tree while sunlight narrowed his eyes. His feelings in that moment or not mystical but rather a strange mixture of gentle sexual desire, expectation and a burgeoning vitality mixed with the anguish of shyness, and he was resigned to simply remembering the moment as he had remembered such moments before when the woman turned around and smiled.

Thurstan felt as though he had been punched in the stomach. The woman turned, past a tree to walk under the bridge that fed a road over the river, and up toward the town along a narrow, stone-lined passage, leaving Thurstan to his turmoil. Then he was on his feet, and following.

He wanted to run, but dared not. So he followed, quickening his step. He would catch her when the lane met the road ahead between High School and Hospital. Perhaps she sensed him lurking behind and was afraid, for she seemed to Thurstan to quicken her step and he was left to follow her not knowing what he would do. She crossed the road. Thurstan saw nothing except her and decided not to follow her anymore, when she turned, almost stopped, and smiled at him again. He felt she was waiting for him and this feeling made him follow her along the empty pavement and down a narrow cobbled street towards the empty market of an empty town.

He was within yards of her when she vanished into one of the many small shops that lined the street. ‘J. Apted Antiquarian Books the sign above the door read.

No bells sounded when the Thurstan entered and in the musty dimness he peered around the shelves. A portly gentleman with a genial face stared back at him.

“Can I help you at all, sir?” he asked.

In this small room beyond the shelves Thurstan could see no one. “A woman did woman just come in here?” Thurstan asked shyly, and blushed.

“A woman?”

“Yes – long red hair, green eyes, wearing a long dress.”

The man smiled, kindly. “No one but yourself as entered here this last hour.”

Fear of having mistaken the shop, which he saw her enter, made Thurstan rush towards the door when he saw her portrait, in oils, upon the wall.

It was only several minutes later, after questioning the bookseller, that Thurstan realized he is seen a ghost. The woman had been dead for 50 years.

II

Fifty years, the bookseller and said.

“Is sad business, yes indeed. Murdered she was. In here – in this very house. I was a school then, you see.

“You saw her, you said?” And the old man’s eyes seemed to brighten.

The Thurstan had thanked him and fled through the humid people the streets to find a train to take him toward his home. He could not sleep that night and the next day, at the same time, he was in the park again, but she did not appear and he walked away to stand for nearly an hour near the bookshop trying to find the courage to go in.

The bookseller was not surprised to see him. “She is beautiful, yes?” he said as Thurstan stood staring at the painting.

“Where did you see her first?”, the old man asked directly.

Thurstan turned towards him, and shyly shuffled his feet. “I -” he began.

The man smiled kindly. “I have always felt this place is still her home but, alas, I have myself never have never met her, as you have done.”

“I didn’t realize -”

“That what you saw was an apparition? They appear so real, you see. I myself a small interest in such matters. Would you like some tea?”

The invitation was still unexpected and so kindly meant to the without thinking Thurstan said, “Yes – that would be rather nice.”

“Shall we retire-to somewhere more comfortable?” the man smiled and wrung his hands.
“I shall close early, today!”

The room beyond the shop was, like the shop itself, lined from floor to ceilings by books and like the books the table, chairs and desks were antiquarian. There is a large and oddly shaped specimen a rock crystal on the table and Thurstan bent down to examine it. A face – the face of a beautiful woman -was within it but Thurstan had barely recognized it when it vanished.

“Help me!” he thought he heard a sad, distant voice, say.

The bookseller brought a tray, offered a mug of tea, some biscuits and cake while
Thurstan waited, half -watching the crystal and half -expecting to hear the distant voice. He ate and drank, and listened to the words of the old man without really understanding them. Somewhere, in a nearby recess or room, a large clock struck the quarter hour.

His nervous expectancy, the heat, the man’s slow but consistent voice, all combined to make Thurstan disposed towards sleep and he felt himself drifting into to embrace the temptation when a lot and persistent wrapping awoke him.

“I’m sorry,” the booksellers said. “Would you excuse me?”

The Thurstan heard a brief curse, the door being unlocked and a few words of a hurried conversation that followed. He was staring into the crystal when the bookseller returned alone. Nearby, the hidden clock marked the passing of half an hour.

The old man did not smile but stared, nervously, at the floor while he said: “I must go. An appointment, you understand. You will not be offended I hope?”

“No, of course not”.

“Perhaps -“, but he looked up and cast his eyes down again before leading Thurstan towards the door. He saw Thurstan look again at the woman’s portrait but pretended not to notice.

“Well, good-bye,” Thurstan said, perplexed by the sudden change a man’s aura.

“It was nice meeting you, Mr. Jebb.”

Thurstan held out his hand, but the bookseller shuffled away, leaving Thurstan to stumble down the step and awkwardly close the door. He had almost reached Quarry Park where a warm sun cast cool tree shadows over the grass when he realized he’d never told the man his name. But this strangeness did not concern him for long as he walked down to the river to sit on a bench, trying to remember what the bookseller had said.

It had been about apparitions, but not in general and not about the ghost of Thurstan and seen, as he sat watching the strong river flow silently by, he felt his sadness returning. He would never meet her. Never be able to share his dreams, visions and love. He tried hard to wish himself back in time – 50 years before. He would walk to her house and wait. He would not care how long he waited. But he would be ready and somehow save her.

It was childish fantasy and he knew it was, but still he had to control himself to prevent the tears. “There’s so much I don’t understand”, he said to himself aloud and a young girl, prettily dressed, moved away from him, fearful, as she passed by his bench.

His tiredness returned, slowly, brought by sun and his sadness and he closes his eyes to briefly sleep. No sound woke him from the dream about his wife – only a beautiful scent, nearby. A woman had sat beside him on the bench and for almost a minute he feared to look at her. But then she seemed about to leave and he turned, in desperation.

Her dark hair was cut gracefully to fall just above her shoulders and she wore a necklace of polished amber.

“Do you often gawp like that at a strange woman?”, she said as he sat open mouth and unbelieving. Only the color of her hair and manner of dress was different.

“I”, Then: “I’m sorry, but you are so beautiful,” he said without thinking as he let out his breath.

She smiled but stood up to leave.

“Please- “, Thurstan stood beside her, unable to control himself, and held her arm as she turned.

She was alive, and in his joy at this he forgot his fear of her reaction. But only for an instant. He jerked his hand away.

“Yes?”

He struggled to find words would make sense but his thoughts were fastly moving water breaking over the weir of dread.

She’s saved him from this turmoil. “You may invite me to share a pot of tea with you at the cafe around corner.”

“What? Yes, of course.”

He walked beside her, awkward and blushing, for many yards before she spoke again.

“You are an interesting man.”

“Do you live in Shrewsbury?” he managed to say.

“Nearby.”

“Do you often walk along here?” The banality of his questions pained him – but she would think him a fool or mad, if he formed his chaos of feelings into words. And did not want to lose her.

“Sometimes.”

It was a strange sensation for Thurstan walking beside the beautiful woman. Was she a vision sent to haunt him-or was his dream the ghost of yesterday? But he knew she was real as the seemed to know the she was interested in him. In him, Thurstan Jebb. Perhaps she was intrigued. Was it something in his eyes, he wondered, that gave him away? For a long time he had believed he was different – a mystic perhaps, who felt and saw more than others. This secret knowledge give him security in the outer barrenness of his life as he eked out a type of living as a gardener, content to have forgotten his past.

“You are an interesting man”, he heard in his head like an echo, and he smiled.

“May I ask your name? ” he said, feeling his mouth go dry.

She turned and smiled. “Melanie.”

“Melanie, ” he repeated, like a fool.

“Yes. I believe it comes from the Greek for black.”

“Hence your black dress.”

“Not really. I think the color suits me, don’t you?”

Unexpectedly, she twirled around, laughing.

“I think most colors would suit you.” she smiled at him again and Thurstan wanted to from embrace her-more from sexual desire than from any nobler feeling. This sudden desire surprised him with its intensity and he began to tremble. It seemed to him natural that he should be walking with her, for she was not like a stranger to him. He wanted to hold her hand as they walked away from the river up a narrow street to were an almost empty cafe lay, renovated and waiting beside the boarded up windows and doors of a once notorious Inn. “Barrick Passage”, the street sign read.

They sat in silence for a long time as their Darjeeling tea cooled. “I don’t”, Thurstan said and blushed, “make a habit of this.”

“What? Drinking tea on a half a hot afternoon, ” she teased.

“No-I mean inviting strange ladies. ”

“Am I strange then?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”

“Don’t worry,” Melanie laughed. “Anyway, I invited you!”

Her smile made Thurstan’s desire return. She seemed to be waiting-expectant. There was warmth and her eyes, in her smile, even in a way that she leaned her body slightly towards him. Her dress to emphasized her breasts as her necklace emphasize her green eyes and Thurstan greedily sucked in her beauty through his eyes as he sucked in her perfume through his nose. Her skin was tanned and he found it impossible to judge her age. He wanted to tell her of the ghost he seen-of his dreams and hopes and visions about life. But all he did, trembling of limbs and with straining heart, was reach across the table and hold her hand.

She did not flinch nor move away as half of him expected, but slowly stroked the back of his hand with her thumb. He was elated with his success, and closed his eyes in delight.

“You are trembling, ” she said, gently.

Slowly, he shook his head. “I can’t believe this. There are so many things I want to say.”

“Don’t say them. Let’s just enjoy this moment.”

“You are so beautiful.” he reached up and stroked her face with his fingers.

“Will you walk with me to my car? ”

Dazed, he followed her out of the building to walk beside her. She did not seem to mind when he held her hand.

Several men turned to stare at her as they descended the shop-strewn steepness of Wyle
Cop, to cross the busy road. Thurstan was oblivious to it all.

The luxury of her car surprise him and he stood beside it under a hot sun, tongue-tied and embarrassed and feeling lost. Only the wealthy could afford such a car.

“You seem surprised, ” she said, breaking free her hand to find the keys in the pocket of her dress.

Their slow but short walk from the cafe had unsettled Thurstan, for the magick of the moment they had shared it appeared to him to of drifted away to another world, and he had convinced himself that he had been mistaken. There would be nothing more-except perhaps the future possibility of him trying somehow trying to painfully recapture her those moments: to draw her on toward the fulfillment of desire. But she held passenger door of the car open for him, saying, “Come on.” Obedient, he sat beside her, while chaos returned to his head.

Skillfully she drove through the streets to take a road westerly from the town while Thurstan watched and waited, so full of anticipation that he could not speak. She turned to smile several times as a miles lay numberless because uncounted behind them and a strong summer sun colored the sky deep blue, he found his desire increasing. He knew she sensed this, and drove faster as if intoxicated both by the power of the car and his feelings toward her. The road rose steadily through small village, past cottage and house, to turn and returned between the Stiperstone rocks and the growing hills that became Wales, leading up from a tree-lined valley to the desolate wastes of marshlands were abandoned mine-workings lay.

Melanie left the main road before drop slowly between Corndon and Black Rhadley hills to follow a low hedged-hemmed lane over the border to Wales. The lane rose and fell to rise again between fields worn for centuries only by sheep and sparse of tree. Then, quite suddenly, Melanie stopped.

Thurstan felt her anger before he saw it in her eyes. She was staring at him, but he only smiled. For a moment, she did not seem quite human and when he reached out for her hand and she snatched it away.

He was perplexed by this change in her rather than afraid and sat, quietly waiting and smiling. When she looked away, he said, “I can walk back if you wish.”

She did not turn around. “It might be best.”

“I’m sorry if I have upset to you in any way. I thought-”

“I know what you thought!” she said savagely.

“No-not just that.” he closed his eyes to see within the fleeting impression of his dreams. The days, hours, minutes shared: the moments of intuitive closeness – sharing a sunset, a snowy day in Spring, laughter, tears, and physical joy. The look, touch, feeling of lovers.

Thurstan did not want to lose his dreams. “You are a rare, precious and beautiful woman. There is something about you – I don’t know what it is.” he felt so much love within him that wanted to share that his words could not be stopped. “I sensed something about you when we sat by the river. Call me mad – or a fool, or both. I don’t care. You sensed it too, I know.”

Angry still, she said, “What did you sense then?”

“Then maybe you are my Destiny.” gently, he stroked her face.

“Your dreams are not real.”

“They are if I make them real.” He sighed and stared out the window. A raven flew nearby, but it did not interest him. “Maybe it was the goddess I saw in you, I don’t know. I’ve certainly made a fool of myself this time, haven’t I?”

“You interest me, ” she said, her anger gone.

“And you perplexed me.” Since he felt he ought to be honest he added, and it arouses my desire. But you know that. As you know that basically I’m just a romantic fool with a headpiece filled with dreams.”

“You do not know anything about me.”

“I have always found the beginnings of relationships difficult. The tentative steps, the gradual of unraveling of lives. It always seemed such a waste-there are so many more important things. And I’m not talking about the physical aspect either. I always plunge straight in – rather bad choice of phrase – the grand passion every time. Never seem to learn either.

“So, it’s not important for you to know me. I sense things about you. I see your beauty, smell your perfume, and am intoxicated. You offer the choice of existence, meaning, bliss, sorrows, tears. Whenever. It does not matter – I am alive again! Really living. Full of energy, anticipation. You are music, poetry, dance – even religion.”

He laughed. “Now you know that I am mad!”

Slowly, she drove on to where a cottage with a sagging roofs and decaying walls grew beside the road, sheltered from sheep by a small garden where a rusty dismembered tractor lay dead. Incongruous beside it was a new car, spreading bright sun. Melanie stopped, and entered the cottage without knocking on its paint-peeling door. Less than a minute later she returned.

“I must see you again,” she said she started her car. “Now I have other matters that must be attended to. “Joel,” she indicated the men who emerge from the cottage “shall take you back.”

Thurstan look perplexed so she said, “Don’t worry,” and touched his face. “You were not mistaken. Meet me tomorrow night at nine where we met today. Can you do that?”

“Of course!”

“Good. Now I must go.”

To Thurstan surprise, she leaned over and kissed him on the lips. Then he was outside the metal womb of the car. She did not wave, but drove quickly away to leave him standing beside the ugly man with a madman’s grin.

Over the cottage, a raven flew to shadow him briefly from the sun.

IIIThey were waiting for her, in the small wood near the circle of ancient stones. Algar, Master of her Temple, smiled as he watched her walk alone towards them.”So,” he said, “he was not to be our chosen.” In the light of the wood, his dark gaunt features were sinister.
.
“There shall be other times.” Melanie did not take she offered robe. “Tomorrow when dark comes, we shall gather here again.””For the sacrifice?” Algar asked.”Perhaps.” She addressed her followers directly. “Go now. And tomorrow we shall feast and rejoice!”She did not wait but turned back along the track toward he car. Almost obsequious, Algar walked beside her.”But he was receptive?” he asked.”Yes.””You do a particularly fetching in that dress if I may say so.” Then, seeing her
indifference, he said, “Shall you lure him tomorrow?””He may not be suitable.””Oh? Why would that be then?”Melanie stopped and stared at him and he visibly cowered. “What do you mean?””I meant nothing,” he said truthfully. But her anger aroused suspicion.”The new candidate?”Algar smiled. “He is healed well. He would like to see you, privately of course.””Of course. Tonight?””I could arrange it, if you wish.””Arrange it!”The humid heat of the evening annoyed her while she waited, and when he did come, brought forth from the darkness outside her house by Algar, she was impatient to begin. Algar took the man’s money before leading him into the candle-lit incensed Temple where he stripped and bound him to the frame.But the frenzied whipping of the fat man with bulging eyes and pale skin did not bring forth the joy of pleasure she anticipated – only a hatred that quickly passed as the men groaned and sighed, taking his own dark pleasure from his pain. There was little blood upon the back and buttocks of the man and Algar, leering in the shadows, was surprised when she stopped. The bound man turned to look up at her, his eyes pleading for the pleasure her pain and dominance brought him. He to see her breasts clearly through her thin sweat-stained robe, but his hands were bound by leather thongs to the cold aluminum frame and he could not reach out and touch them as he wished.There was a strange desire within Melanie and appalled her. She tried to destroy it by fulfilling her role as Satanic whip queen and surrendering again to the joy she found in dominating and debasing the men she despised. But did not work and the lashes she gave became softer until they stopped completely. In disgust at herself she threw the leather scourge upon the altar to let Algar disrobe and take his own selfish pleasure upon the man whom he unbound and pushed roughly to the floor.

Her swim in the warm water of her pool settled some of her feelings, a little, so she was able to plan how best Algar could kill her chosen sacrifice. She and she alone would dare to call the Dark Gods back to Earth. The chosen would be easy to entice to their sacred circle of stones as he had been easy to capture, and the more she thought of the deed to come, the more at the anticipated pleasure covered and obscured her remembrances of his gentle dreams.

She was Melanie, Mistress of the Earth in the Temple of Darkness: ruler of a coven of fifty. No man would mold her feelings. For years she had schemed, cheated, manipulated and lied, building from the foundations of her beauty and sexuality the wealth and power he craved as a girl. She was fifteen when her parents died when the plane they were in crashed. A teacher befriended her and was not long before she realized the power her innocents and beauty gave her. He was her first victim, but she soon tired of him and his small gifts and sought more wealthy prey. But she despised them all, is man who lusted after her – they would sell their souls, most of them had, for short pleasure she sometimes allowed them to find her body. Thurstan would be no exception.

It would be good, she felt, to sacrifice him at the moment he achieved his desire. This thought pleased her and she swam slowly, allowing the physical exertion and the warmth of all of water to gently excite her.

Algar watched the rear lights the man’s car fade on the long driveway from the house before he shut the door. Melanie was upstairs, asleep, and he did not creep but walked boldly through the hall to her secret Temple. It was a small room, windowless and black, containing only a chair and a wooden plinth on which stood a large quartz tetrahedron.

A diffuse light, reddish in hue, was thrown upward from the opaque floor and for many minutes Algar sat in the chair amid the warm and perfumed air. He felt powerful, sitting there instead of a kneeling on the floor while she sat smiling and forming her thoughts into the crystal to become the chains, which bound him.

“With a look or smile,” he remembered she had said, “I can strike you dead!”. He did not doubt it. Three years ago she had stolen his power.

For ten years he had followed the way of his Prince gathering allies and power. Even as a boy he’d followed some of these ways, but his teachers and superiors had mistaken his hatred for intellectual sophistry, his dark interior life for spirituality and his ruthless ambition for spiritual gifts. The world of monastic schooling was all he had ever known or wanted and it was natural that it should lead him to a novitiate and the Order of his teachers.

For one year, and one year only, he tried to follow their way until Bruno the elder novice had one night seduced them as he lay in his cold monastic cell.

For weeks afterwards he had prayed to the Prince, “Our Father, which wert in heaven hallowed be thy name in heaven as it is on Earth. Give us this day our desire and delivers us to evil as well as temptation for we are your kingdom for aeons and aeons. Prince of Darkness, hear me.”

Bruno died soon after, in his sleep, an expression of stark terror on his face. “Heart attack” a doctor had said, but Algar knew his humiliation had been avenged.

He was a Priest, his dark life hidden and the source of satisfaction, when he first met her. It was a cold morning in Spring and she stood outside his little church, radiantly beautiful in the light of the sun. “I have come, ” she said, “to ask you to say a Mass for us”. She held out her left hand and he saw the strange symbol on her ring. Obedient, he knelt down to kiss it. “How did you know?” he asked. She smiled, not kindly despite her beauty. “I have seen you at night to pray to our Prince.”

The crystal guided her. That very night he presided as priest and a Black Mass and afterwards, with only her servant Lois remaining in her large house, she had bound his will with her own. He had been standing by the crystal when Lois had stripped him bare and offered her body. Then Melanie the dark witch was laughing but his sudden anger was no match for her power and she stared at him before binding him by curse.

Her eyes seemed to suck as will away and she unthreaded an amber bead from many she wore around her neck. “In this bead I bind you by the power of our Prince! Binan ath ga wath am!” she chanted. “Nythra!” He watched silent and paralyzed while she counted the fifty beads she wore around her neck. The crystal gave power to and magnified her thoughts and when she released him he stared at it for several minutes. But it was useless – he could do nothing with it and calmly allowed himself to be led by Lois to his room. And when he awoke, worn and feeling old, there was a beautiful boy, waiting naked, by his bed. “I am her gift” the burgeoning man had said.”

Algar sighed as he remembered. Even after three years he did not know the secret of her crystal but he did know the Satanic organization she had created to keep her power and wealth, and as he walked from her temple to find a telephone, he was smiling.

“Rathbone?” he said into the telephone receiver. “This is Algar. I believe you owe us a favor .I have a job for you.”

Upstairs, unknown to or her High Priest, Melanie was awake and watching him on the monitor screen of her discretely installed surveillance system.

 IV

Thurstan was early. It was a humid evening and he sat by the river enjoying the twilight. The new clothes he had bought for the occasion made him feel self-conscious and every few minutes he would look around. But the few people who wandered by did not – or pretended they did not – notice him and he would be left to rehearse again in his head what he would say to Melanie when they met.

It was not a sudden decision, but the planning of the night before, that made Melanie watch him silently from a distance. She did not watch for long.

Darkness was upon the hill as in silence the worshipers prepared, guided only by the diffuse light from the candles in their red lanterns. Carefully Algar laid out the sacrificial knife upon the woven cloth inside the circle of stones. The thongs were strong and would bind the victim while the cloth would soak up the blood. Satisfied he whispered commands.

“She is here!” Lois said seeing the signal from one of the men guarding the track that led to the stones.

There was a sigh from thirteen throats and then the slow dance and has chant began. “Suscipe Satanas munus quod tibi offerimus Soon the hissing became like the sound of a thousand demons chattering as they rose gleefully from the pits of Hell. In the center, Algar waited with his muscular helper to bind the victim’s arms and legs.

Then Melanie was before him. One bead of her amber necklace appeared to
Algar to be glowing, pulsing in rhythm with the beat of his heart. He was becoming mesmerized with this when occurred to him that Melanie was alone.

Before he could move he was held from behind. He felt thongs being tied around is wrists, heard Melanie whisper mockingly in his ear, “We have our sacrifice!

“No! No!” he screamed. But she was laughing as someone gave her the knife.

Around them, the sibilant chant rose towards its climax, the dancers feel it fleetingly caught in the red glow from the candles.

With a sudden burst of energy Algar screamed. “Jebb dies if I do!” but a gag silenced him.

Melanie held the sharp knife to his throat before loosening the gag. “Tell me what you mean!” she demanded.

“He dies if I do not return,” Algar said, flinchingly.

“Is that so? ”

“Rathbone shall-”

Melanie clapped hands twice and from the darkness around the track a man stepped into the dim circle of light. Someone held a lantern near his face.

“I had no choice,” Rathbone’s said, his face, like a weasel, twitching.

Then Algar was on his knees, crying. “Spare me, spare me!” he pleaded

“And if I do?” demanded Melanie.

“I shall always be your slave.”

Three times Melanie clapped her hands as a signal for the dancers to gather around. “See” she said, “all you who dwell in my temple. Here is Algar, the High Priest who thought he knew my secret, admired and envied for his fortune by you all see now how he begs before me! Shall I spare him?”

“Kill him! Kill him!” they demanded.

Melanie laughed. Algar was brought to his feet. “For a year I shall spare your life.”

The dancers, as if signaled silently, dispersed to return to their dance. “Now,” she
whispered to Algar, “you shall see my power – brought without the gift of blood!”

She did not speak, or move, but slowly raised her hands as, many miles away, the crystal within her secret temple began to glow. “Atazoth! Atazoth!”, the dancing dancers hissed. The sky above and around them was clear, speckled by stars but a ragged darkness came to cover a part of the sky as a putrid stench filled the air and a circle of cold fell around the worshipers. No one moved, chanted or spoke but all stared up at the sky. The darkness grew slowly before withdrawing into a sphere that darted across sky. And it was gone.

“Tomorrow, ” Melanie said, “you shall see the chaos I have caused. Now feast and rejoice and take your pleasure as you will!”

Around her, the orgy began a she unbound Algar’s hands and led him from the revelry toward her car.

“There is much you do not know, ” she said she drove toward her house.

Algar did not speak during their journey and slunk away like a broken man into his room on their arrival, while Melanie watched him on a monitor screen. But it was not long before she began thinking about Thurstan. She had reached out to him while she had watched him sitting by the river and even had not Algar’s intended treachery changed her plans she knew that she could not have hurt him.

She had even lost her lust for Algar’s blood and let him live. Somewhere, around the world, the dark power she unleashed would be causing disaster and death. It was small beginning, the prelude to the opening of the Star Gate, which would return her Dark Gods to earth. It was not fulfilling, and she thought it might be.

Unsettled, she went down to her temple. The warmth of the gentle light, the perfume but most of all the crystal brought here reassurance about her power and role, and she forgot about Thurstan and a burgeoning dichotomy he was causing in her head. Perhaps her dark gods and guided her to the crystal – she did not know. But only four years ago she had found it, in a Satanic Temple she had visited. The group not impressed her, but the High Priest was easy to do manipulate and her given her the crystal is a gift. Only when she first touched it did she discover its power.

The High Priest was the first person whose soul she bound within the beads around her neck. He still brought her money from his schemes, and sometimes a new member. She was content to leave him to bask in his little power, knowing she only had to summon him for him to fall prostrate at her feet. And when his schemes failed or he ceased to be of use, she would remove his bead and grind it into dusk, for then he would surely die.

For weeks after the gift of the crystal should shut herself away in the small house she then shared with Lois. The crystal brought knowledge and she had learned how to use it to travel among the hidden dimensions were the Dark Gods slept, waiting for someone to break the seal that bound them in sleep. She learned of Earth’s past, of how the Dark Gods had come bringing terror and much that was strange. Of how her Prince was their Guardian, given the earth as his domain. Her shape-changing Prince was her guide to the Abyss beyond, and she explored the Abyss without fear, trembling or dread. She would be ready, she knew, when the stars were a aligned aright, to call and summon the Dark
Gods from sleep.

Her temple, the men she held in thrall in her beads, were but a means to this call, for the crystal was the key to the Star Gate. She, and she alone of all those who over the centuries had tried to bring the dark terrors forth, would succeed – of that she was sure.

So had she played her games of power and joy, feeling herself the equal of gods. There were few crimes that she had not sanctioned or sent men, in their lust, to commit, few pleasures she had not enjoyed. Yet she was not maddened and by either pleasure or power, and kept her empire small, sufficient for her needs, and herself anonymous. Many small firms headed by small men, a brothel or two, a number of temples in the cities beyond – such were the gifts of her Prince and she tended them all, as a wise woman should.

Slowly, and contended once again, she left for temple to climb the stairs to her bed.

Algar waited, quite patiently, until he was sure she was asleep and knocked, not too loudly, on Lois’ door. She had returned alone, as he knew she must, and was not surprised see him.

“Yes!” she asked and smiled, leaning against frame of her door. Sometimes, Algar like to talk with her, as one servant to another.

Algar did not smile, nor speak but moved towards her to stab her in the throat. She rasped, staring in disbelief, and staggered back towards the bed. Not content, he followed and stabbed her through the heart. The beauty that had pleased Melanie would please her no more and, smiling at this thought,
Algar wiped the handle of the knife clean on the satin sheet. Soon, he was running away from the house under the shimmering bright stars of humid night.

Melanie awoke slowly. She sensed a change in the aura of house and had walked towards her door before realizing what it was. She was alone. But there was no fear in her
and she wandered barefoot and naked along long corridor, as there was no shock when she entered Lois’ room.

It was then she knelt down to gently close the eyes of her dead lover the reaction came. Her cold hatred toward Algar for his deed was soon gone, and in the silence of her house for the first time in her life, she began to cry.

Outside, a stray, fierce dog howled.

VAlgar heard the howling as he ran down the narrow lane away from the house and in terror he scrambled through the hedge to run faster across the fields. The dog, sent by the dark force of Melanies will, had picked up his scent and Algar ran, desperate and stumbling, toward the valley stream.The house lay alone on a track below the hiss that held Billings Ring, the fields around sheep-strewn and rough, overlooked by the southerly slopes of the Mynd that turned the waters of the Onny River south then almost north until a softer rock fed them eastward again. The sound of water was clear amid the silence of the night and Algar stood beside the stream in an effort to slow his straining breath. The lights of a car on the road above and a field away from him shone ragged through the high hedge, and Algar crept down, fearing to be seen.But his fear of the pursuing beast was stronger and he waded into the stream to walk along it for several yards and hide under the bridge. He could hear the dog but could not see it and waited, cold and shaking, for nearly half an hour. The bridge swept a narrow lane away and up for the valley road to a hamlet of a few houses. There would be no safety for him there in the farm workers houses less than a mile from Melanies home.For some time he listened intently, and, hearing nothing, crawled slowly and scared from the stream. He was on the lane, almost and the junction of the road when the stalking dog attacked. It leapt snarling to try and sink its teeth into his throat. But Algar shielded his face with his hands and the dog bit deeply into his arm, knocking him over. It bit him again as Algar struggled with it on the ground. There was a large stone by his hand and Algar used it to smash at the dogs skull. In a frenzy, he struck the dog until it was dead. But even then he kicked it several times and threw the stone at its face before staggering to the road.The first car that passed him did not stop and nearly knocked him over as he stood in the road waving his bloodied arms, but the second one, a long time after, did stop and Algar pretended to faint. The driver was near when Algar leapt up to push the man away before stealing his car.The pain was excruciating but he tried to ignore it and the dizziness that threatened to overwhelm him. He had one hope and one hope only and drove fastly toward Shrewsbury to seek sanctuary from Melanies curse. The roads were empty, the streets of the town deserted in the silent hours before dawn and he abandoned the car to walk the last quarter mile to the church.No light shown in the Presbytery windows until his insistent knocking on its doors awoke its occupant from his sleep.Cautious, but not afraid, the old Priest opened the door.Help me, Father! Please, help me! Algar pleaded.He did not see the bats that flew silently away from the church.There was no choice, as Melanie knew. The two members of her Temple, summoned from their sleep, carried the body to their van. Melanie had cleaned and bathed it, using her own black satin sheets for a shroud, and she stayed beside it during the hours it took them to dig the grave.Dawn came, with no wind to break the silence of the forest, but its beautiful colors did not interest he as she stood, dressed in white, in the still air to watch the two men lower the body into the Earth. There were no prayers to her to say, no lament for her to sing only an unvoiced oath to avenge the death of her friend. The Earth was returned, the covering of grass and small bush neatly replaced, the debris of leaves and broken twig scattered again. There was no sign of the grave and, satisfied, Melanie allowed the men to return to her home.There shall be gifts for you both, she said as they bowed slightly before taking their leave.Slowly, in her secret Temple, she unthreaded from her necklace Algars bead. There was no frenzy of anger within her but a desire for Algar to suffer a slow, painful death as she squeezed the amber bead several times between her fingers. To her surprise the crystal did show her Algar contorted in pain. Yet she knew that even though for some reason she could not see him and thus discover his location, she was still causing him pain, and as she danced around her crystal she increased the pressure on the bead before stopping to visualize the time and place of his death, two weeks hence in the center of her circle of stones.Slowly, and deliberately she cut the threads, which bound his life to this Earth, and, although still living, he was imprisoned in her web of death. It was not difficult for her to move the plinth upon which the crystal stood, for she had done it many times before and the mechanism which she had installed many years before did not fail her. The plinth, and the stone and which it rested, moved quietly aside to reveal a dark pit that sank deep into Earth. She did not smile, or feel anything, as she let the bead drop to join the scattered human remains.The remains were the work of the sinister woman who had in the weeks of her dying given Melanie the house. I have waited for you, as she remembered the old woman had said, waited as our Prince said I should. My coven and books and house are yours. She never spoke again, but signed her name on her will, and Melanie was left to find the old womans secrets from the Black Book of workings she had kept. I, Eulalia, Priestess of the forgotten gods, descended from those who kept the faith, here set forth for she who is to come after me, the dark secrets of my craft The book was Melanies most treasured possession, after her crystal and her beads. It was the crystal that first showed her the house.She let the crystal guide here again and sat in her chair while the plinth slid silently back into place. At first, the tetrahedron showed nothing, but its inner clearness gradually vanished to reveal a mans face. Thurstan was in his cottage, reading as he sat hunched on the wide inside sill of a window, framed by the rising sun. He looked up, briefly, and smiled as if aware of being observed. He seemed to Melanie to be staring at her. Then he was gone as the crystal cleared.His smile, that gentle look in his eyes, her sensation of herself being observed all confused her, and she left her Temple to walk under the warm sun in the walled garden at the rear of her house. It was not long before she returned to her crystal.

It did not respond to her commands of thought. There was no Thurstan for her to see, not even an outside view of his cottage. Faint images seemed to be forming, but the were intrusive bats flying away from a church at night, a raven plucking the eye from a dead dog and her failure angered her. Her anger was the catalyst, and transformed the flickering images into a clear vision of Algar writhing in agony upon a bed. Above him on the wall, was the symbol of the Nazarene. By the bed an old Priest spoke silent words as he read from a leather breviary.

Melanies laugh erased all thoughts of Thurstan from her mind.

 VI

Exorcizamus te, omnis immunde spiritus, omnia Satanica potestas omnis incursio infernalis adversarii .

The old Priest continued is prayer of exorcism while Algar writhed in pain on the bed. But then the pain eased. Algar however, did not attribute this to the Priest but to Melanies curse. She would want him to die slowly, and as he lay smiling inwardly at the antics of the old man who had earlier cleaned and dressed the wounds the vicious dog had caused, Algar sensed a chance for life.

It would not arise from the exorcism for he had no belief in the religion of the Priest which once and briefly he himself had embraced inwardly. The old man had been kind, listening intently as Algar had told him a tale composed mainly of lies. He had been given sanctuary, clothes and medical aid which was all he wanted and let the Priest play out his farce of a role. His chance for life would come from his own hands by his breaking of Melanies curse. For that, she herself would have to die, and he began to think of stratagems by which he could lure her to her death.

Thurstan Jebb held some fascination for her, or some future potential which she planned somehow to draw out for her own advantage and although he did not know nor particularly care which, if any of these was correct, he knew enough to realize Jebb might provide his bait. The plan he thought pleased him, bringing a resurgence of some of the power he had felt as High Priest and he allowed the old man to finish his prayers before explaining he would have to leave.

He thanked the Priest for the exorcism, lyingly said it was effective and thanked the man for saving his life. He even suggested they go into the church to say a prayer of thanksgiving. Algar, offering his wounds as an excuse not to kneel, sat to say aloud in Latin a suitable prayer. The Priest was impressed, as Algar knew he would be, and did not say no when Algar asked for some money.

Just a small loan, Father, the lying High Priest said.

A few hours later, he was safely in Leeds. The pain, which came to him during his journey by train, was not intense or prolonged.

Ray Vitek was not pleased to see him and it showed on his face. But in deference to Algars position he asked him politely inside the seedy terraced house along the sloping streets between the traffic noise of Hyde Park Corner and te tree lined peace of Meanwood Ridge.

So, Vitek said suspiciously as they sat among the books within a mould-filled room, she has sent you for another favor. Nervously, with thin fingers, he stroked his pointed beard.

A favor, yes. But not for her.

I see. So it has come to that.

Will you join me against her?

Years ago I forget exactly when it was I had a Priestess. Perhaps you remember her? No, well I was young then, as you were. I loved her. Linda was her name. Then she came to entice her away. She died in a brothel.

Then you will help?

Me once in love! I have never loved anyone or anything since.

I did not know, Algar said, acting concerned.

Who cares I dont care not any more. Then, his mood changed, he added, what has she done to you then?

Algar took off the coat that the Priest had given him and showed his bloodstained bandages.

So? Vitek said. Why come to me?

Because you have friends. Desperate friends who need a little something every now and then. What would you do for a years supply?

She would have you killed before you did anything.

Algar laughed. It was not pleasant to hear. She does not know about my how shall I say my little side-line!

Vitek was surprised but his lethargy soon returned. So what can I do?

Your friends Algars imitation of a gargoyle suited him, shall keep a little something of mine. To lure her. She come and they how shall I say entertain her?

Viteks brief laugh was broken by a spasm of coughing. He spat into the fireplace. Then, remembering: but her power

When they take her they bring you the necklace she wears. You shall bring it to me.

But I remember

The crystal? Yes, I shall smash it while she is away and her power will be gone!

A years supply, you say? For them all?

For them all!

It shall be done as you wish. When?

Tomorrow!

So soon?

It must be! When she arrives surprise her. Take her by force, tear the necklace away! Without it she has no power. And when your friends have finished with their games with her he shrugged an overdose perhaps.

When do you deliver?

After the deed is done.

I may need something

To offer them? Of course! You shall have it, my friend! This very day. Give me two hours. His torment was beginning again, and as he strove to control the pain, sweat began to dribble down his face. I shall return here.

He did not wait but rushed to flee outside where he stood under a cloudy sky while his body contorted in pain. I shall kill you! He repeated. You shall die a horrible death.

He imagined that the death Melanie would find tomorrow and although this brought a little satisfaction it did nothing to lessen his pain. He felt like he was being crushed. Then, as suddenly as it had before, it stopped. He walked on toward the summit of the road, dreading its return.

He worked slyly and quickly in the anonymity of the city while thunderclouds covered the sky and the humidity grew. A few telephone calls, a meeting with a man whose expensive car drove him along the crowded streets to a small warehouse by the river. Promises made, a briefcase given to him, another journey by car and he was handing Vitek the promised goods small packets containing white death.

His pain did not return, but his dread of its returning never left him, becoming during the growing cloud darkness of the daylight hours a demon to haunt him. He was always two footsteps behind, this demon.

The Satanic underworld did not fail him. For two years he had used his influence as Melanies High Priest to spin his webs in the temple of the empire she had built. Money diverted, a few small schemes of his own. He had been waiting for here weakness, and had found it. Soon, her empire would be his.

This pleased him. He was given help in her name, but in a few days it would be his name it would be his name, which commanded respect. He had used her name before and she never knew. He used it again, and a young man collected him in a new car and ferried him toward her home.

The demon of dread followed. Several times while lightning struck and nearby thunder crashed, he feared Viteks betrayal. You know how she feels about these, he had said to Vitek while he gave the white death away. And Viteks sunken eyes had bulged. She does not like them. Warn her, Vitek and there shall be no more. Viteks thin, grasping hands said he understood. Your friends, Vitek I should have to tell them, you understand, if you betrayed me.

His fears grew like the darkness that brought the day to its end until he became a madman pretending he was sane. He had procured a revolver, and caressed it repeatedly.

Apted was in his shop, as Algar hoped he would be. As soon as Apted unlocked the door he pushed past him.

Is all well with you? Apted asked cheerfully.

Algar pressed the barrel of the revolver into a flabby cheek. Give me Jebbs address!

But she

Give me the address! He eased back the hammer of the gun with his thumb.

But I gave it to Rathbone.

He is no use to me now! The address!

Apted gave it.

Tell her, fat man, and I shall carve the fat from you, slice by slice! Understand? Good! She is finished! As a gesture of his defiance he spat at her portrait, which hung on Apteds wall.

The storms, which had followed him from Leeds, fell upon the town to wash the heat and dust away, stealing, for a few brief minutes, the lights that kept the night at bay. Somewhere below the thunder, a young child screamed.

VIIThe storm pleased Melanie and she danced naked in her garden while the rain washed her body as she sucked the storms health in.She was inside, allowing the warm air in her secret Temple to dry her when she heard the telephone ring. The call was brief and she dressed slowly before saying goodbye to her house.Apted was in a corner of his shop, jibbering, the telephone in his hand, his door open as Algar had left it. She smiled at him and touched his forehead with her hand. Soon, he was almost smiling.I had to tell him. I am sorry, he said and meant it.You are safe now. He cannot harm you. Do you believe me?Yes, my princess. Happiness returned to his face.Is Jane still in your care?Why, yes! But they have threatened to take her away from me.May I borrow her for a few days?She is yours now a gift from an old and grateful man.Melanies brief kiss surprised him, but when he opened his eyes again, she was gone.The sky had cleared by the time she drove along the narrow track that led to Thurstans cottage among the hills of south Shropshire, and as she left her car to walk the few yards to his door bat swooped around her. She greeted them, as a queen should, laughing as she pushed the door open.Thurstan was gone, as she half expected him to be, and she felt and smelt the traces that Algar had left. There was a note, stuck to the table by a knife and she read it without emotion. Come alone, it read, giving a date, time and place, or he shall die like Lois. It demanded a large sum of money.She burned the note in the fireplace before examining the cottage. There were few books and all of those were in Greek. Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles Few clothes, furniture or possessions. In the bedroom she found a neat pile of translations but they did not interest her, as the cottage seemed to hold few clues to Thurstan himself. It was damp if clean, austere but full of memories. The memories, spectral forms and sound, seeped out of the walls, the floor, the beams which held the roof, to greet Melanie. Sighs, laughter, the pain of childbirth, an old man dying his bed while his spirit wandered the hills above.
Two centuries of life, struggle, love and death.But however intently she listened, however still she held her gaze, neither sights nor sounds from Thurstans past seeped to her through the gates of time. Behind the only in the cottage she found her answer. It was a good painting of a pretty woman, curiously hung above the long narrow windows where Melanie had seen Thurstan sitting. Behind it, totally obscured, was a niche carved from the rough stone that made up the walls. It contained a large quartz crystal. Stored in the crystal was Thurstans life, in images only a Mistress of Earth or a Magus could see.The child that Algar had abducted near Apteds shop during the storm had lain silent and terrified in the car while the young man drove through the night, obedient to Algars commands because he believed he was acting in Melanies name.

The young man had said nothing when Algar told him to stop and took the child into the darkness of trees by the road. He kept his silence when Algar returned alone fastening the belt of his trousers. He said nothing as the stood waiting for Thurstan to answer the knocks that Algar made upon his door. Kept his silence as he bound and gagged the man at whose head Algar aimed the revolver. Said nothing as he drove his silent passenger to the city of Leeds and the rotting, broken houses that were Algars destination. The human shadows that surrounded his car and who dragged the bound man away repulsed him, and he was glad when Algar gave him money and dismissed him.

There was much mute laughter and hissing glee as Thurstan was hauled from room to smelly room whose denizens lay supinely on floors or leaned, festering, against walls while loud music played. Vitek was lashing Thurstan to a chair in an upper room when Algars demon of dread leapt and sunk its rows of teeth into the flesh of its prey. Algar did not scream but cowered in a corner, his whole body convulsed. Thurstan was smiling or seemed to Algar to be smiling at him and he leapt up to punch Thurstan several times in the face. Instantly, his torment ceased. Then Thurstan winked.

Raging, Algar held the revolver to his head, but Vitek calmed him and led him away, saying, He is our bait, our money. Leave him.

Daylight brought no sun or light through the boarded windows and Algar slept, twitching from nightmares, on the floor of a suppurating room where three men took turns copulating with a young girl too tired and drugged to care. But their energy did not last and soon only Thurstan was awake, dreaming of the woman he had loved.

A few high cirrus clouds flecked the beautiful blue of the sky as Melanie drove slowly under the warm sun through the busy streets of Leeds. She was not late, and parked her car in the narrow rubble filled street of boarded up houses. Two men with long greasy hair wearing chains for belts watched her, showing rotten teeth as they smiled.

Swaggering, they walked toward her as she got out of her car. Behind her, another man emerged from the shadowed alley beside a house. He was within feet of her when she opened the back door of her car. Gracefully, the leopard leapt into the sun.

She stood leaning against her car while the leopard sat beside her. Respectfully and silently, the men moved away. He did not speak and she did not but as he passed her he bowed his head while she stared into his eyes. There was a scream as he, obedient to her will, entered the house, then the sound of breaking glass and wood. A shout. Dont come any closer! And then a single shot, dull but echoing.

Another man walked toward her and he too bowed his head, a little, as she stared into his eyes. Kill him! a voice like Algars screamed, as he too entered the house.

The third and last man came forward to wait with her beside her car. For a long time silence broken by a shout from within the house.

We must kill her

Three men carrying clubs and knives came forth from the house but the single man was no match for them and was soon beaten unconscious. Triumphant, the three moved sneering and leering toward Melanie.

Kill her! Kill her! the demented Algar screamed from the safety of the house.

Come on! laughed one of the men, hypnotize me!

She is making me tremble! jeered another.

Lets strip her, hey? Laughed the third.

Melanie did not see but rather sensed Algar aim his gun and she stared toward the shadows in the doorway. There was no shot, only Algar cursing as the revolver jammed, while the leopard stood and kept the shouting men away.

Their obscenities were irrelevant to Melanie as he was content to wait in the heat of the sun for her full magickal powers to return. Her control of the three men had weakened her, a little, but she knew her weakness would not last. Perhaps the jeering men sensed her weakness or perhaps Algar had told them to try to drain her power away, but it was not important and she hid her strength for Algars expected attack.
It was Vitek who came running from the house, carrying an axe. He slowed, as her power touched him, then stopped to stand harmless and silent. But his appearance broke the spell that kept the others at a distance they rushed toward her howling with drug courage. The leopard snatched one, her power slowed another but the third was not stopped. The knife he carried reflected the sun and Melanie side stepped gracefully to strike the rushing man as he passed, his momentum conveying him into her car. He bounced, slightly, before her blow to his neck sent him falling unconscious onto the road.

Her absorption freed Vitek who fled into the house.

Leave! she commanded and the leopard obeyed, leaving the uninjured man to help his sobbing and bloodied companion away.

Behind the house she heard shouting, and a car being driven away. Thurstan, Algar and Vitek were gone, and as she stepped over bodies near the door, the house burst into flames. She could almost hear Algar laughing.

VIII

The coven was gathered, dressed in crimson robes, in the large Satanic Temple to give honor to Melanie as Mistress of Earth. A man lay on the altar, naked, while a young woman in white robes kissed his body in the light of the candles to the insistent beat of the tabors.

A masked figure dressed in black came to lift the man from the altar and place him at the feet of the green robed Mistress of Earth.

What do you wish? the Mistress asked.

It is the protection and milk of your breasts that I seek. The naked Priest reached up as the Mistress bared her breasts, but she kicked him away with her foot.

I pour my kisses at your feet and kneel before you who crushes your enemies and washes in a basin full of their blood. He stared at her body. I lift up my eyes to gaze upon your beauty of body: you who are the daughter and Gate to our Gods. I lift my voice to stand before you, my sister, and offer myself so that my mages seed may feed your virgin flesh.

Kiss me, she taunted, and I will 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 me 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 that opens to our Gods!

Slowly, she led him to the Priestess whom she kissed on the lips and caressed before removing her white robe.

Take her, she said to the Priest, for she is me and I am yours!

Around them the coven gathered, clapping their hands to the rhythm of the tabors as the ritual copulation began. And when it was over and the Priest lay sweating and still upon the Priestess, the masked Guardian of the Temple came to lift him up and forced him to kneel at the feet of his Mistress.

So you have sown, she said, and from your seeding gifts may come if you are obedient hear these words I speak. I know you, my children, you are dark and yet none of you is as dark or as deadly as I. I know you and the thoughts within all your hearts: yet none of you is as hateful or as loving as I. With a glance I can strike you dead!

The Guardian brought her a large silver chalice, which she offered to her coven in turn. The Priestess was the last to receive the gift of wine and the Mistress kissed her to receive the wine from her mouth.

She threw the remains of the wine over the Priest, saying, No guilt shall bind you, no thought restrict you here! Feast and enjoy the ecstasy of this life. But ever remember, I am the darkness that lives in your soul!

She did not wait for the orgy of lust to begin, but left alone. No sounds of Satanic revelry reached her as she sat in her own small Temple, waiting. But the crystal showed nothing.

For hours, Melanie sat still and alone. She did not think of the flames that only yesterday had engulfed her and from which she had escaped unharmed, nor of Algar, fleeing now from those who sought to collect bounty she offered for his death. The ritual had bored her, and she did not miss the pleasure that she had obtained in the past through having a man groveling while she whipped his naked flesh. Instead, she thought of Thurstan and his strange life that she had seen in the crystal. There was a quality about this Thurstan that both pleased and disturbed her, as if he was someone from a dream she had just awoke from and could not quite remember. She wanted to forget the dream and concentrate on the pleasures of her own world, but she was lonely. Thurstans intrusion into her planned and orderly life, Lois sudden death, both combined to become a catalyst and change her emotions. Her feelings of loneliness surprised her. For years, she ruled her coven and small empire through her magickal charisma, power and the fear she inspired. She could be charming, subtle, scheming and brutal as the moment and the person required, never losing her belief in herself and her Destiny. For a long time during the years of her growing she had felt herself chosen and different from others. Gradually, awareness of her Destiny came as Mistress of Earth, ruler of covens, who would dare to return the Dark Gods to Earth.

She still felt her Destiny but it was the distant beat of her pulse in her ear, not the yearning she now felt to share with someone a moment of life, like the strange moment she had shared with Thurstan while they sat in te café and he, trembling, had first held her hand. She had been playing a role, but somewhere and somehow the role had become real to her and for an instant she had become the woman she was pretending to be gentle, sensitive and vulnerable. This woman had returned, unexpected, when she had held the dead Lois in her arms. Her tears had been real tears of love and loss but they did not last.

Now this woman sat in Melanies secret Temple, thinking of Thurstan and the moment they had shared. This woman knew she was alone.

Melanie, in anger, walked slowly from her Temple, her eyes glowing, to seek the comfort of her car. Her speed was an attempt to express her anger and she drove westward along narrow lanes and wider roads for nearly an hour before returning east to stop near the stone circle. The twilight of closing cloud and strong wind colored the sky near the descending sun, and Melanie stood in the circles center calling on the storms to break. Thunder cloud rushed toward her, killing the color, as the wind graved strong and heavy around. There was no thunder, only a sudden and prolonged burst of rain, which Melanie laughing let soak through her thin dress to the warm flesh beneath. She became intoxicated by the power of wind and rain, and danced around the circle calling on the names of here gods. She was Baphomet dark goddess who held the severed head of a man; she was Aosoth worker of passion and death. Circe charmer of man; Darket bride of Dagon. She felt her crystal, many miles distant, begin to respond and draw power from the Abyss beyond. The power came to her, slowly, through the gate in the fabric of space-time, a chaos of energies from the dimensions of darkness. Her consciousness was beginning to transcend to the acausal spaces where the Dark Gods waited and she sensed their longing to return, to fill again the spaces of her causal time. They were there, chattering in lipsed words she could not understand, roused from sleep by the power of her previous rites, ready to seep past the gate to feast upon the blood of humans.

But they could not break through from beyond the stars. The two universes, rent together by her will and crystal, were drifting apart again and she was left to walk along the track from the stones while the wind lost its power and the clouds left with their rain.

She sat in her car for a long time, No power, not even a trace of power, had come down to here over the abyss that divided the causal and the acausal realms of existence. No chaos for her will to form and direct as it had many times before. Her magick was weakened. The cause of her failure became clear to her slowly, like the low autumn mist of a valley becomes cleared by the sun as it heats the cold air of morning. She was in love with Thurstan, and her feelings of love had begun to brighten the darkness that was the source of her power.

IX

The Police have released the names and photographs of the two men they wish to question in connection with the murders in Leeds

Vitek turned the radio off. Algar was beside him in the van they had stolen in Leeds, waiting for the last glimmer of light to conduct the ritual, which he hoped, would free him from Melanies curse.

She arranged things well, Vitek said while in the rear of the van Thurstan worked silently to try and free his bound hands.

Of course! Algar shouted, what did you expect? Her influential friends! When she is dead they will be mine!

Must we? asked Vitek, indicating Thurstan.

It is the only way. The force cannot be invoked without a sacrifice. Her power is weakening! I sense it!

The forest Algar had chosen lay in a small valley between the haunted rocks of the Stiperstones and Squilver mound, and had in times past been used by the darker covens which once had abounded in the area. He would invoke the Great Demon, Gaubni, through sacrifice and imbue himself with power before setting forth to kill Melanie herself. His ritual would strip her of magick, her death would end her curse.

Come, let us prepare, he said.

Trees were creeking in the breeze and the smell of stinking fungi mingled with the damp the heavy rain had brought as Algar walked carefully the path to the small clearing. Vitek followed, stooping and afraid, listening to Algar mumble incantations. Veni, omnipotens aeterne diabolus! Agios O Gaubni

The incantation became louder until Algar was shouting the name. Gaubni! Gaubni! Then a silence that startled Vitek. He could not see Algars face as he stopped and turned in the clearing but he heard the hissing and saw the hands raised like claws. The long, bony fingers grasped Viteks neck and the strength of the arms pushed Vitek to the ground. Algar sat on Viteks chest, slobbering and laughing while his nails tore the flesh on Viteks face. The spasm of struggle did not last long as the fingers snapped the neck.

Possessed, Algar loped awkwardly out of the wood. Thurstan sat hunched in the back of the van and Algar stared at him, dribbling like an idiot while in the distance a dog howled.

Algar was struggling to control the chaos, which had possessed him and direct it to bring another death when he heard the voice behind him.

Come to me, come to me! the melodious voice said.

Algar turned to see the leering face of a multitude of witches. Then they vanished. But another voice came from the trees behind him.

You are my gift!

He did not look, but the power of the demon he had invoked sucked from within him to form a hideous face whose rows of teeth gnashed before the mouth opens to spray Algar with fetid breath. Then it was gone, sucked into the trees and down into Earth by the power of the long-dead leering witches.

You are my gift! the voice repeated.

There was no longer any magick in Algar and he became a man who was half-mad. His madness made him move toward Thurstan, but the High Priest was afraid, and all he could do was turn and watch as Vitek with a ruptured face and dead eyes walked toward him.

You are his gift, a chorus of voices behind him said.

Desperate, Algar performed a banished ritual, inscribing a pentagram in the air before him with his hand, saying, The sign of the Earth, protect! Agios O Shugara!

The dead body of Vitek still came toward him. He invoked more gods, drew a pentagram, called on the Prince he had followed in secret from youth, but Vitek moved ever nearer while behind him the ghostly chorus laughed.

He tried a hexagram, but his gesture and words had no power and, in abject terror, he began to pray fervently in Latin to the god he had scorned.

In nominee Patris, et Filli, et Spritus Sancti. In nominee Jesu Chisti. he mumbled.

But Vitek did not stop instead, the dead eyes swiveled down to stare at him and the mouth opened in a leer. Algar fled, crazed and stumbling, along the track, over a fence and field, to run up the side of the steep hill. He did not stop when he reached the summit, but ran on down the steep bank and over another hill to drop exhausted into a ditch. Terror brought recovery and he ran on for many miles over fields, fences and hills, his clothes and flesh torn by stone, wire and thorn. We he could run no longer, he crawled among the heather that grew on the side of the Mynd, clawing his way to the slopes summit. He rested then, staring down into the silent blackness below, fearful and afraid of something following and praying for the light of dawn. He made a kind of cross from stems of heather which he pulled with bleeding fingers from the ground. Around him, nothing stirred.

Thurstan had freed his hands from the cord, which bound then when he saw Algar run away. Cautiously, after unbinding his feet and removing the gage, he left the van.

Twilight had almost ended, but sufficient light remained for him to follow the path into the woods. He walked for sometime but could find nothing no one. The place seemed peaceful and calm to him.

A large dog was sitting by the van when he returned. It did not bark, but sprang up to run for a few yards along the track before stopping.

Your guide! a soft voice beside Thurstan said. When, he turned, he could see nothing.

There was no moon, only the lingering glow of the sun that was now below the horizon. The clear sky soon showed the brighter stars and in the pleasant warmth of the early night Thurstan followed his guide along the track to paths and narrow lanes that kept a southerly course until he was led eastwards by the stream and up to where a large house lay darkened and silent.

He knew why he followed the dog, as he knew whose house it was, but he still stood nervously in the driveway. The evening was dark by the time he walked toward the house, and as he did so a soft light shone through the half-opened door.

Hello! he called like a jester to a court of fools as he stepped onto the mosaic tiles of the hall. He did not see the door behind him close.

Somewhere he could hear a harpsichord being played. He followed the sound, along the hall and up the stairs whose walls were lined with paintings depicting lust, greed and joy, to where a door was open. A voluptuous perfume reached out to him and he closed his eyes, listening to the gentle music. It seemed a long time to him that he waited, listening and trembling. But it was only a few heartbeats of his life that passed.

He took several steps into the candle-lit room. Melanie sat at her harpsichord in a long flowing dress and looked up briefly before playing the fugue to its end.

The room was beautiful, graceful in its few furnishings, the music was beautiful, the light itself was beautiful, casting subtle hues that only a painter, a musician or a poet might recall. But most of all, to Thurstan, Melanie was beautiful. He senses, subdued by his captivity, were overwhelmed and he began to cry, not loudly or for very long, as a mystic or an artist might cry when overwhelmed by such splendor.

She smiled at him again when her fingers ceased to work their magick upon the keyboard, and held out her hand. He could see her breasts, uplifted and partly exposed by her dress, rise and fall with the rhythm with her breathing: the way her amber necklace seemed to glow a little in the light from the candles around her, and he walked forward, hardly able to breathe.

It was unreal to him, an idle dream, perhaps, of a hot insect-filled summers day as he sat by the stream near his cottage. But their fingers touched, bringing reality. He felt shy and foolish as she stood to face him, gently smiling. No words would reveal themselves into the world through his mouth, and he embraced her, stroking her hair with his hand while she molded her body to his so he could feel the heat of her flesh through the thin dress.

Stretched were the moments of their embraced until she kissed him, pressing her tongue to his lips in supplication. He let her in, smelled the fragrance of her breath and felt with his hand the warmth of her breast and the erection of her nipple as her tongue sought his. He did not see the door of the room close silently, nor the strange shadow that seemed to stand beside it, but let himself be let to the circular bed in the adjoining, darkened room.

She was gentle with him as she removed his clothes and then her own, kissing his body as he kissed hers in return. He tried to speak of his love and her beauty but she pressed a slender finger to his lips as they lay naked together on the sensuous softness of the bed while perfumed incense caressed them. He felt the softness of her breasts and kissed them in worship as he kissed her lips, shoulders, face and thighs in worship before tasting her moistness. She pulled him gently upon her, opening herself in invitation, and he did not need his hand to guide him to her hidden cleft.

He moved slowly, and for a long time the gentle intimacy continued while the warm humid night brought sweat to him and a gradual urgency to her until a frenzy of passion possessed them both, rising to issue forth into loud ecstasy mutually achieved before the natural fall left limbs loose and a pleasing exhaustion.

He slept then, although he did not wish to, holding her as if he feared she might go, softly breathing the words of his love. He dreamed he was walking on a strange planet whose two bright suns lit the purple sky. There was a city nearby, but it lay in ruins, and as he approached over the warm sand, he could see the desolation of centuries. He wandered the empty streets made of strange steel where above twisting walkways hung or soared to meet the towering pyramids of buildings whose entrails of floor and room had been cut away cleanly and left dangling from tendons of wire. He felt a sadness at the desolation, for the world was abandoned and quite dead.

When he awoke from his dream, Melanie was gone.

XPart of her wanted to kill him. His death would make her free again; restore to her the power she had lost.She sat in her Temple wondering what to do. The years of her life had been bereft of love and only Lois had shown her kindness unexpectedly, for kindness was something she had never wanted or sought. But she had been too proud, too confirmed in here role and quest for power to let the kindness of Lois matter, and their relationship had become, for her at least, a simple affair to satisfy her lust and turn her momentarily from the hatred she felt for the many men who sold their souls and gave their wealth and power away to satisfy themselves with her body.For a year she had withheld her favors from all men, using her magick as a snare and a weapon to keep her dominance and power. She let them lust, and satisfy themselves with the whores she gave them. But she had enticed Thurstan, sending a wraith to guide him to her house after she had found him through her crystal waiting bound in the van. Other forces had gathered round, surprising here, but she had fought them and gained control, molding them to her will to bring the dead body of Vitek back and send Algar in terror to the hills.She had sensed the other powers were trying to help Thurstan and keep him from her for some reason she did not understand, but she wanted him and would have her way.Her crystal reached out to him upstairs where an elemental spirit, born from one of her rituals, waited to work her will, hovering by the bed she had left. The spirit was guarding him, shielding him from other powers, but she had only to transform her thought through the crystal for the elemental to cause Thurstans death and break the heavy chains that now seemed to bind her to his Earth.But she did nothing. She was intrigued by the other powers she felt and by his crystal that she had found. There was also, for her, a promise in the feelings she felt for him there seemed to be new pleasures awaiting, new experiences to enhance her life. She began to think of what these might be of what it would be like to talk with someone, just to be with someone, who seemed to love her, not her power, wealth or influence. Someone whose lust, though real and strong, was bound with sensitivity and who sought through it an ecstasy of sharing beyond the physical; someone who gave, and did not just take. She had captivated him at first, but not as she had expected: not as she had captivated all the merely lustful men before him. He had seen beyond them to another world.These thought please and disturbed her, but she sensed he had awoken from his dream and waited, strangely tense, for him to find her. When he did, and stood in the doorway of her Temple, she hid her feelings before trying to destroy them.She did not succeed. The crystal began to glow, betraying her as it pulsed to the beat of her heart. He walked past it, drew the glow onto his hand and offered it to her. She stared at his as he stood before her smiling. Then, before she could open her hand to receive his gift, the light in the Temple faded, and them was gone, leaving only the glow he held before her.A multitude of babbling, hissing voices broke the silence.He is ours! one clear voice said.Ours! a second and third repeated.The powers she had felt before were stronger now and she strove to cast them away by casting her thoughts into her crystal, but the glow on Thurstans hand dimmed, then died.

There was laughter in the Temple, the smell of rotting flesh as, slowly, a luminous shape began to form in a corner. It began to resemble a bearded man with green skin who held in his hands a crook and a whip, and from whose eyes fine filaments emerged to move toward where Melanie sat. She knew they would form a web to imprison her. She formed her own will into purple strands to form a wall before her but the filaments snaked easily around it before writhing toward her. She cast an inverted seven-pointed star at them, but the star shattered and was obliterated. Sweating from the effort, she held her hands outstretched before her in readiness to absorb the power that came toward her, tensing her body to try to cast it into her crystal and send it out into the acausal space where it would die.

She felt Thurstan beside her and the heat of his hand as he touched her shoulder. In the instant of his touch the mocking laughter stopped. She did not know what was happening but Thurstans face had become a dark void filled with stars, but she felt herself becoming stronger. A chaos of energies rushed from the void to be transferred to her by Thurstans touch, but the energies were not hostile and she shaped them by her will into an auric demon before casting them at her foe. The demon greedily ate the filaments before devouring the green bearded man. Then it too vanished, leaving Melanie and Thurstan standing naked beside each other in the soft light of the perfumed Temple.

When she looked at Thurstan, she realized he was in a trance. She sat him down gently and stroked his face until he awoke.

He was surprised to find himself in the Temple and embarrassed by his nakedness.

Are you alright? Melanie asked.

Yes, thanks, said Thurstan blushing and covering his genitals with his hands. I must have been dreaming!

What did you dream?

I was on this dead planet in a city. Alone. Then I saw you. There was a shadow near you, which I seemed to think was threatening you, so I came to you and held your hand. Strange thought I thought I woke up.

There was no guile in Thurstans face as Melanie looked: and in that instant he seemed an innocent child. He sought to hold her hand as if for reassurance and she did not refuse. She looked at him, as he sat smiling and embarrassed, then at her crystal and then at Thurstan again, realizing as she did so that in some way she did not yet understand Thurstan was a gate to her gods, a medium, perhaps, that anyone might use. It was not thought of using him and his psychic gifts that made her kneel down beside him and kiss his lips, but a strange desire to somehow share again the moment when he had first touched her hand and trembled to discover again the joy that his body had brought her, the feeling she had felt when she had examined his face and found a curious trust.

He responded readily to her kiss and they made slow, tender love on the floor of her Temple. Melanie was receptive to him through her burgeoning feelings of love, and felt herself drawing power from him. She let this power build within her before trying to transfer it by an act of will to her crystal but even she was surprised at the ease of this and the extent of the power she had stored. The crystal began to glow, and in her orgasm she felt possessed of the power of a goddess. But she did nothing with her new found power, and let it rest safely in the crystal in her Temple before realizing, as Thurstan breathed in her ear the works of his love, that it was her own feelings of love that were the key.

She lay for a long time while Thurstan caressed her and their sweat dried slow, wondering about the meaning of this in the context of her Satanic life. But only vague feelings, need and desires suffused her and she led him from her Temple in the quiet house to her own bed. He was soon asleep, entwined around her warm body, while she inwardly watched the shadows that gathered outside her house, held away by the power she had stored in her crystal. They beat down, screaming, leering and threatening, upon the auric protective sphere that enclosed her and her new lover, desiring her death or at least a chance to lead Thurstan away. These shades of the dead and dying were like rain to her, and she listened, safe and warm, while they beat noisily down.

In the morning, they were gone. But they had sucked her crystal dry. Melanie slept on, her body pressed close to Thurstans, while in her garden Algar waited, ready to kill her with the billhook he held in his hand.

XIEzra Pead lived surrounded by mold and mites. The mold rose up the feet of the furniture in his small, dark cottage at the end of a muddy track between two high hills that shielded him from most of the sun, while the mites could be seen scurrying away from anything he touched.The wood burning stove in his kitchen lay broken and unrepaired, letting damp seep up the walls and wood lice to cover the floor, and he cooked his soups on a small gas-burning ring. He was not an old man, but bore himself like one and dressed like a tramp, his beard matted and long. The large sums of money his father had left him he left unused in a bank, and he walked the three miles to the small town of Stretton once a week to withdraw the few pounds he needed to keep himself alive.Like his cottage, Ezra Pead was slowly falling into decay. His cottage smelled and was like an overgrown, wild forest whose floor is alive and where green fungi crept slowly up trees and where strangling ivy thickens and hardens as it grows round trunks, branches and stems seeking the canopy of leaves. What falls to the ground is captured by the myriad creatures who live mostly unseeing in the dampness, or covered by mold and by mites, or stolen to be eaten or stored away by insects. The roof did not leak, but Ezra Pead would not have cared if it did. He had plenty of buckets. He never opened the windows which were covered by thickly spreading grime.He spent his days reading the many books and manuscripts that surrounded him everywhere in the chaos, or writing in one of the large vellum bound volumes that covered one of his three scriptorium desks. Unlike his features or dwelling, his handwriting was beautiful, and he used a quill pen and ink that he made himself.All his books and all his writings were about alchemy or magick. When darkness came, he would light a candle and retire to the room where he slept. There, where no windows relieved the dampness of the walls and where only a rusting metal bed stood upon the floor, he would cast his spells into the night. All his reading, spells and writing were directed toward one end: to discover the secret of life and so make himself immortal. Every night he invoked demons from the pages of the medieval Grimoires he possessed, for he had read once and long ago when young that some of these demons knew the secret. So he invoked, and questioned them, night after night and year after year. Baratchial, Zamradiel, Niantiel, Belphegor, Lucifuge he knew the legions of hell well, and although the answers they gave him he did not often understand, he wrote them all down in his book after the conjuration was over and his ritual banishing complete. A demon named Shulgin he invoked most of all using his ceremonial circle, names of power and sword but the demon spoke backwards in a numbered code and transcribing the messages took many hours of his day, as breaking the original code had taken over a year of his life.But the years of his work wore down his body, and he began to wish for a better means to find the answers that he sought. He possessed an insane faith in demons he invoked, and it did not seem to matter to him that most of the information he obtained was meaningless or wrong. He checked and re-checked the answers, searching patiently among his books and manuscripts. There were enough answers over the years, which could be corroborated with the little he already knew or could find in his books to keep his faith in the quest, and it never once occurred to him that this quest was destroying the life which he hoped to prolong.Sometimes, he would venture from his cottage in search of herbs to grind and make into incense or oils to aid his invocations, talking to himself while he walked. All his original ideas and expectations had been eroded over the years there was no stone for him to make by alchemical means, no potion for him to drink. He had tried both ways, led by manuscripts and demons, but his alchemical apparatus lay dismantled in his shed together with the rare juices of plants and bizarre ingredients he had used. His apparatus and ingredients had come from a dealer only too eager to indulge his expensive needs, but the cost made little difference in the money that he kept in the bank.For almost a year, following the ten years of his alchemical work, an idea had come to possess him. Something was happening that was threatening his quest. His demons were becoming increasingly disturbed or disoriented. Sometimes his invocations did not succeed or he obtained a jumble of form as if someone or something was disrupting the energies. He felt something himself a force darker than the demons he knew. An ancient manuscript have him the clue the cosmic tides were changing, or rather being changed by someone. The very balance of the hidden universe was threatened.Minor ripples in these tides were no stranger to him, but these did nothing to change in any significant way the current of Osirian energies that he worked with and which for centuries had passed over the Earth, partly due to the rites of the Church of the Nazarene and those who followed its faith, for they belonged to the same world as him. He was only part of its darker side. He knew a change was coming, symbolized by the son of Osiris as a child, but this was a natural progression that would not affect his own work or alter in any meaningful manner the balances of power on the Earth, despite the rhetoric of some of its adherents.But this new distortion was different. If it succeeded, it would bring a new Aeon, which had no magickal Word to describe it an Aeon of Chaos. He spent months searching his manuscripts and books for answers. Parcels of books arrived regularly from his dealer they were read, then discarded, to suck more mold from the floor.He began to realize that he was near the center of the disruption, but the demons he invoked to question were incoherent or would not appear. He needed the blood of sacrifices. The dealer brought him a dog, which he kept chained outside. He began using necromancy to bring him the spirits of the dead, sacrificing often by sending the dog out to bring a victim back. Sheep were not a problem, for they roamed the hills around cottage, and he would sever their necks letting the blood pour to his floor while he chanted his invocations. And when it was over, he would burn the body in a pit outside while the spirits he had raised gathered round.

He found his answers. He did not know the identity of the person who was trying to break through the causal dimensions and draw to Earth the energies of Chaos, but he knew the area form where the forces were being drawn down and sent his reluctant spirits to guard it. His ancient manuscript told of dark entities that were waiting to be returned to Earth to drink their fill of human blood. Atazoth, Dagon, Athushir, Darkat such were some of their names. Once summoned, they could not be returned. To be summoned they needed human sacrifice of special kind.

His own work had wrought changes in the astral planes, drawing to his cottage another Adept. Ezra Pead did not like the man who arrived at his cottage. Jukes did not like Ezra Pead either, nor the squalor he found. But a vision by his Priestess had brought him, and her trance warnings made him stay, offering his help and that of his Temple of Maat, to prevent the Dark Gods from returning.

We have a common aim, he said, and Pead, reluctant, had agreed. They cannot be allowed to break the Current of Aiwaz.

Jukes, stocky and squat, sincerely believed what he said. For over a year he had run his small Temple in London, helping by his acts of magick to further the Aeon of Maat. By day, he worked in an office, but at night, in his basement flat, he became High Priest for his gods. He had read widely on the subject of the Occult, made many contacts during the years of his searching, but he was surprised by the books and manuscripts the Pead possessed.

Avarice was a stranger to Jukes, but the rare books and manuscripts introduced them.

They need a human sacrifice, Pead said in his lipsing voice.

Can we prevent it?

If we knew who it was.

Your manuscripts

They are silent.

May I?

Pead smiled. Study them here? Of course.

For two days he studied, while at night, he stayed in a hotel in the nearby town, slightly fearful of the obsessive Pead and the savage dog, which strained on its chain snarling every time he entered and left. The filth and squalor oppressed him while he worked, as avarice whispered cunning words in his ear, but he ignored them. On the third day he rose from the stool by a scriptorium desk, triumphant.

So they need a psychic, eh? Pead said.

There is a ritual the Ceremony of Recalling to which he is brought. The sacrifice, and it must be a man, is killed and the High Priestess washes in a basin full of his blood before calling the Dark Gods back to Earth.

So, you found all of this there?

Jukes held the vellum manuscript carefully. Yes. The first few pages are a blind and the last few. Quotations from the Fathers of the Church. The real text begins here He pointed with his finger.

Pead shrugged. I cannot read Coptic.

Jukes spent a day copying the manuscript while Pead watched over him. He was glad to leave and, returned to his flat, he burned all his clothes before scrubbing himself clean in the bath. That night he summoned his Temple. The ritual began at the time he had agreed with Pead. He did not know what ritual Pead himself would do, but he had his suspicions and he did not want to ask.

Jukes Temple was the room where he lived, lit by candles and perfumed by thick incense and his members sat on the floor touching hands. It was not long before his Priestess was in a trance, guided by the sigil that Pead had inscribed on parchment. She spoke of being in a forest where two men walked, leaving one who was bound. Of how spirits had gathered to help her. Above his eyes the one who sits waiting and bound there glows a tattvic sign. He is the one we seek but there are horrors of which I cannot speak! Another will opposed with mine. Stronger it casts me away and back

All night they tried, until, pale and exhausted, the Priestess slept, severing the astral link that had bound her to Pead and his spirits of death. And in the morning while a few rays of sun brightened for a few minutes the top of the basement window, she told of battles on the night that had drained their power away to leave the one who was chosen in the sanctuary of the Dark Gods Temple.

Jukes knew that where magick had failed, physical force might succeed.

We must stop them! he had said, his eyes bright with the fervor of his strange faith.

Outside a solitary bid sung, unheard amid the early traffic that chuntered along the narrow London street.

XIIMelanie did not sleep for long. But there was no desire within her to rise and breakfast before using her telephones and telex to establish the well being of her world. She had done so for years, and it was a new experience for her to lie watching a man sleep in her bed. The few who in previous times had been granted her favors for reasons of Satanic or financial power, she had told to leave after the conquest of them was complete.She watched until he awoke, roused by her gentle caress of his face. She left him them, to dress and walk in her bare feet across the lawn of her walled garden. The sun was warm as she walked, intrigued by her own feelings. There was a beauty about the world that she had never seen before. She felt this beauty in the blue of the sky, in the delicate colors of the flowers that bordered her lawn, in the sound of the wind as it rushed through the trees nearby. It was the warmth of the sun, the dampness of the grass, the silence that surrounded her. She understood that there were many worlds within the one on which she lived, brought to reality perhaps by a mood or a circumstance.This world of beauty was real to her in a way that brought unusual feelings to her, but the world that she had left yesterday was still there still full of the feelings she felt: contempt for the members of her coven while she played her role as Mistress of Earth, hatred and love of strife. Each year, each day of her life was a world into which she projected meanings, interpretations and from which she sought to wrest for herself money and power.There were worlds beyond alien worlds, which she hoped to join with hers, bringing chaos and much that was strange. But she found happiness in walking around her garden in the warming sun and thinking about Thurstan. She wanted to make him her High Priest, share her power and wealth with him and enjoy the pleasure that she felt such a sharing would bring, ending the years of her lonelinessShe did not see, nor even sense such was her preoccupation, Algar creeping toward her and when she did her attempt to stop him by her magick power failed. She had no power. This startled her, and she could only watch in silence as Algar, grinning like the madman he had become, raised the billhook to slash at her throat.She raised her arm to deflect the blow when Thurstan, sprinting across the lawn, jumped on Algar, knocking both of them over. Algar was screaming, trying to slash at Thurstan but Thurstan grappled and held his arm round Algars neck. They rolled over the dewy grass until Algars body went limp.Ive killed him! Ive killed him! Thurstan said.Melanies inspection of the body was brief. Come on, she said. Lets go inside.But Ive killed him.The beauty she had felt was destroyed. He deserved it.

I didnt mean to, Thurstan tried to explain. The Police

Melanie smiled. There is no need to involve them.

But I killed him.

Melanie turned to face him. He was now quite calm, but perplexed. There are some things you should know about me.

All I know is that I love you.

With his words and the look on his face part of the beauty returned. She had been defenseless against Algar, and now she felt defenseless against Thurstan. She did not like either of the forms of this defenselessness took, and walked with Thurstan into her house to arrange the removal and disposal of Algars body.

Thurstan followed her from room to room, listening amazed while she made her telephone calls. And when they were done and they sat eating breakfast he cooked, Melanie explained about her life. Thurstan listened, intently and gently smiling.

So now you know the person you think you are in love with.

Why did you tell me?

Because She turned away, appalled at herself. In your cottage I found a crystal sphere.

I love you.

Her feelings for Thurstan seemed to her to have stolen the personal power she had over people, and she was uncertain as to whether she cared about this. You are not appalled by what I have told you? she asked.

No. Nor about the chap lying in your garden. He was going to harm you. I love you, so I stopped him. Simple really. The Police would ask too many questions. He shrugged. Considering what you have said, that is very understandable!

It will bind you to me.

Why do you think I have agreed? he said directly.

You are not afraid?

Of what?

That I might use this to control you?

No.

Even after what you know about me?

No because I sense you love me even though you are afraid to say the words.

She did not answer, but stared out of the window. They should be here soon to dispose of the body.

And then?

We shall go to your cottage.

The two men who had taken Lois body arrived and Melanie talked to them briefly before they went to carry the dead High Priest to the van. Thurstan was in her secret Temple when she returned, having seen them depart.

What do you feel? she asked.

About this crystal? That it shall take us to the stars!

Intrigued, she asked, What do you mean?

I dont know. Just a feeling. I remember you were a dream of my youth. Maybe I am your Destiny as you are mine.

Melanie perceived forces gathering around them, as if a rent had appeared again but without her will in the metric of causal space and acausal energies were surrounding them. The Temple darkened while she stood breathless beside Thurstan watching her crystal become filled with stars. She touched him then, drawing his hand into hers, to feel the power tense her body as it would be tensed before and orgasm relaxed it. But she did not feel the intoxication of power, nor the sensuous bliss that her many and varied pleasures had brought her over the years of her reign. Instead, there was the quiet ecstasy of gentle and suffusing love couple with an expectation, a promise of vistas yet to be explored but waiting. But it was soon over, this tantalizing glimpse, as light returned to her Temple, leaving only a dim glow to suffuse her crystal.

Her house, drained by the demon battles of the night, was alive again, and she let her own spirit wander from room to room. The early oppression she had felt was gone, as if somewhere and somehow a storm had broken.

A vague memory came to her, like details of a landscape seen through thin mist, and she let Thurstan out of her house and into her car. She did not speak, and he did not as she drove the narrow, hilly lanes, in the warmth of the early morning, that lead to his cottage. The crystal was in its niche, where she had left it, and she took it down. She tried to read it, as she had done before when it gave up its images to her mind, but it was empty.

You seem surprised, Thurstan said.

Where did you obtain this? she asked.

An old man gave it to me.

She sensed he was not lying, for she could almost see the image that formed in his mind as he spoke the words. Why?

A gift, he said. He was insistent. How could I refuse?

When was this?

Oh, not long ago. A few months. I forget exactly when. He came here to beg a little food. I suppose he wanted to give something in return.

You do not know what this is? she asked.

A crystal ball? He might have been, once, a teller of fortunes.

For a long time, Melanie had controlled her life, guiding herself toward the goals she sought. She was always the Mistress, the Satanic queen who ruled, never possessed of fear. No one she had ever met had disturbed her belief in herself or shown in any way an inner power greater than her own. Satanist, criminal, businessman or people of wealth she had mastered them all through her wiles, will and beauty. She found their weakness, and used it to her own advantage. Thurstan had disturbed her because he was so transparent there was nothing in him that was hidden, neither to her or himself. His feelings, thoughts and pleasures seemed spontaneous and enthusiastic like those of a child. Yet he possessed a fatalism that no child possessed or could possess: an inner belief in the necessity of change, which far from negating his own life, seemed to enhance it by making each moment of life unique.

But it was not Thurstan who disturbed her now. The control she had in life was ebbing away. The loss of her personal power, evident in her failure to control Algar as he attacked, was only a part of this. Events were happening to her, rather than being controlled by her, and she did not like this. What she had seen in Thurstans crystal had sent her in pursuit to Leeds, drawing outward her burgeoning feelings of love. Something had and was happening to her because of Thurstan, and she began to believe because of his crystal that forces she did not understand or even know about were trying in some way to manipulate her.

It was simpler for her to believe that her love for Thurstan was changing her life, and she tried to believe this. But a suspicion remained.

You are a strange man, she said to Thurstan as she gave him the crystal.

Not really. I live or did live a quite simple and somewhat boring life.

You know nothing about this crystal or my own?

No. Only what I feel.

And what do you feel now?

That there are forces trying to keep us together and other forces that are trying to break us apart.

And you are not afraid of where we might be going?

All I know is that I love you and want to be with you!

He embraced her then, kissing her, and she did not push him away. She felt again, as they stood in the room of his cottage, swaying slightly in their embrace, that with him and through him she possessed a greater, if different, power that made her own past and even her dreams, seem tawdry.

There is a gathering tonight, she said, which I would like you to come to.

Oh? What?

Just a simple ritual called the Ceremony of Recalling.

To what purpose?

She walked away from him to watch a few ragged cumulus clouds straggle from the horizon toward the sun that rainbowed in places the old, worn glass of the window. To draw down to Earth a certain power.

Why? he asked in innocence.

To bring change.

Why?

To hasten our evolution.

Toward what?

A higher consciousness, she said, a little exasperated.

Such is the aim of the covens that you rule?

Not really. They are a means to provide me with things.

Enjoyment? Pleasure? Power?

Yes!

Urwroth showed in her eyes but she quickly controlled her feelings.

Come, he said smiling and taking her hand, I would like to show you something.

His cottage lay in a fold of small hills between the steep slopes of bare Caer Caradoc and the road, which rose from the Stretton valley to track eastwards through field and village toward the wooded ridge of Wenlock Edge. All around, springs began small brooks among the slopes where sheep mostly grazed and few trees grew, and Thurstan took a path to one of these. Yards from where the water issued forth as a trickle, a small pool had formed on a slight piece of level ground, and Thurstan knelt beside it while Melanie stood, bemused, watching and listening to a kestrel as it flew between the bare hills that made a little valley for the brook. The kestrel flew toward her, circling three times overhead before calling its woeful call and flying away.

Look! Thurstan said, rising and showing her the palm of his hand.

On it, no larger than the nail of his thumb, sat a frog. Isnt it wonderful? he said enthusiastically.

Melanie looked at it but without much interest.

I come here often, Thurstan said as he placed the frog in the water. Every time it is different. In one day the light may change so much. In March the frogs come. Last year there was thick snow, but they still came. There is always change even in this little spot as the seasons change. Snow, ice, frost, mud, scorching sun that bleeds the green from the grass and brittles the fern. At night perhaps a moon or only the starts, which change too. No day in its weather and light is ever the same as any other day.

He stood up to stand beside her. And I do nothing. Yet everything changes. Even I change, a little with the passing of each year. There, he pointed, miles away is a road where fast cars carry people. They seldom see the change around them, only that which lives in their head. A few miles – and another world where those small specimens of life, he gestured toward the frog, are never seen and become squashed without thought.

You are beautiful slightly wild, perhaps, like that kestrel which flew overhead and your world is strange to me. These hills, that cottage, the farm over there where I work, are my world. There is so much in so little so much beauty to share. I make love with you kill someone to protect you and our two worlds join, for a little while. But they are still two worlds. You want me to step into yours as I wish you to enter mine. The change you seek to bring may destroy my world and I not ready for that.

Melanie had felt the warmth in Thurstan as he talked.

It was a strange warmth to her, a kind of supra-personal love which she did not understand and which she could not relate to the pleasures of her own life or the goals that she had sought. Yet she liked being beside him as he talked, watching his face and eyes. He could have crushed the frog in his hand as she might have done in her youth or as she had crushed people that opposed her he did not seek to mold it or destroy it according to his will. He accepted it as it was at that moment in Earths history.

I have seen in you, Thurstan was saying, the same beauty I see in this small piece of land, as if you were natural to it in a way I cannot describe. More natural, more real and living than most other people. Yet the world in which you live and have lived and in which you possess power, is not where you should be. I fear it will destroy you, and I dont want that.

I know no other world.

But you have begun to discover mine. I touch you, hold you, make love to you.

His world possessed a fascination for Melanie, as if he had divined what she had felt and as she stood beside him she was no longer a Satanic queen, ruler of a coven of fifty, but a woman in love.

I would like you to share my world as well, she said.

Thurstan smiled. Then I shall come to your ritual.

The kestrel returned to swoop down toward them before veering away, calling, as it flew toward the sun.

XIIIThe wood where Algar had been buried was not silent for long. The sun had set, leaving a nebulous light, when the sibulation began, muffled by earth. Algar had awoken in his grave.The Priestess screamed, and fell unconscious into the circle of worshippers in Jukes Temple. Jukes held her, and she awoke to wail before crying in terror at the vision she had seen. She could not speak aloud but described the horror in a slow sobbing whisper.It did not take them long to prepare and they left London in three cars as the sky darkness became complete, to travel toward the hills of Shropshire and the house the Priestess had described before the horror had ended her trance. The eight were silent and subdued in spirit during the hours of their journey, nervous when they left the warmth of the cars parked on the verge of a narrow lane almost a mile from Melanies house. Around them and dark, the countryside was silent and still.Jukes let them, walking slowly and beginning to doubt. With every step he seemed to become more tired. He stopped before the driveway of the house, listening, while the Priestess, shaking and sweating, held his hand.It will be soon, she whispered, touching the silver scarab she wore as an amulet around her neck.The driveway was full of cars, and a warm glow of light spread around the house. Jukes thought he could hear the beat of drums. His Priestess sensed it first, and turned toward the blackness beyond the hedge where they stood, huddled together in the increasing cold. There was a rustling in the field beyond, the sound of wood being broken sharply by force.Algar smashed the gate apart with his torn and bloodied hands and came toward them. Only Jukes and his Priestess did not flee at the harrowing sight, but hid, pressing themselves into the thorns and leaves of the hedge. They were not seen and watched, trembling and afraid, as Algar walked lumbering like the living dead he was toward the house.XIV

Thurstan waited in her secret Temple, feeling embarrassed by the luxurious crimson robe he wore. He could not hear them, but knew that many of Melanies members had arrived and were preparing for the ritual.

She prepared him well, returning him to her house in her car whose telephone she used to summon her willing servants. He had bathed, been massaged, his body relaxed by gently hands of a pretty woman who caressed perfumed oils into his skin, been served food, manicured, his hair attended to. Dressed in silken clothes. No one had spoken to him, but he was treated with deference, and by the end of the afternoon had begun to appreciate in a way that was not real to him before, Melanies power. When she finally came to him, hauntingly beautiful like an ancient queen, part of him had already begun to accept her world and enjoy it. She was corrupting him with luxury and he knew it.

Melanie, in a green robe almost transparent and which emphasized the contours of her body, came to guide him to where her Satanic worshippers were gathered. The large Temple was lit only by candles and a naked woman lay on the altar beside which a young girl dressed in white with a garland of flowers in her hair swung a thurible. Somewhere, among the shadows, hooded red-robed figures beat their shaman drums.

Hail to he who comes in the name of our gods! the worshippers chanted as a greeting for Thurstan.

Two men with the physique of wrestlers whose faces were covered by black masks and who wore very little, closed the doors of the Temple as Thurstan followed Melanie to the altar. Melanie kissed the temples, lips, breasts, womb and pubic hair or the altar Priestess before kissing Thurstan who turned to receive a kiss from all of the congregation.

Now shall we, Melanie chanted, with feet
Faster than storms horses
Seek to bring she who with fire
And cutting sword leaps plunging
Upon her foe while the fates of dread
Unerring gather round!

Agios O Baphomet! came the shouted response.

See! Melanie pointed at Thurstan, before twirling round, building her feelings into a temple to frenzy while the congregation sighed and the beat of the drums sounded loud,

Here is he
Who shall this night
Be her consort and pour forth
As libation his seed of life!
Dance I command you
And with the beating of your feet
Raise the dead!
I shall take him down into Earth
And let her with her teeth
Suck him dry!
Dance! I command you!
And I, Mistress of this Earth
Shall raise him up and feed him
With the fragrance between my thighs!
So shall he unlamenting
Become the Gate that opens
To our gods!

The congregation began to dance, slowly at first, chanting loudly as they did so. Melanie stood in the center of the circle they were tracing with their bare feet, raising her arms as the power was invoked. The chant of Ba-pho-met pulsed to the beat of the drums as the dancers danced faster and faster, throwing off their robes as quietly the altar-Priestess arose to climb down from her altar.

Her eyes were closed, but she walked within the circle of the enclosing dancers toward Thurstan. She embraced him, lightly, before pulling his robe open and revealing his nakedness. The she kissed his lips and opened her eyes.

Her eyes did not seem human to Thurstan, but he was not afraid. The young woman with the slender body had become Melanie the power with Melanie and the greater power beyond her. She was lover, mistress, wife, mother, daughter and sister goddess and demoness, and Thurstan let himself be pulled to the floor of the Temple. He had no will to resist as he looked into her eyes. She was not gentle with him, but tore off his robe before wrapping her legs around him and digging her nails into his back. There was pain, but it seemed to enhance the delight that came to him. The drumbeats, the chanting, the naked whirling dancers, the incense, the writhing woman beneath him all ravished his senses. The pain brought frenzied desire, and sweat soon bathed their naked bodies. Then she was screaming in ecstasy as he was while around them the dancers stopped to turn inward, clapping their hands as they watched and shouted the name of their goddess. And when it was over and Thurstan lay breathless upon the relaxing body, the two men by the door came to lift him and place his still naked upon the altar.

The worshippers formed an aisle to the altar down which Melanie came to kiss Thurstan and rekindle his fire with her lips. It did not take her long to succeed and she leaned over Thurstans face to brush his lips with hers before whispering as her eyes became the eyes of the altar-Priestess: Now you are mine forever!

She signaled with her hand, and her dancers moved slowly in a circle around her and her altar, calling down with a dirgeful but powerful chant the Dark Gods beyond the Gate that was Earth.

Nythra Kthunae Atazoth! they chanted.

Melanie did not remove her robe, only lifted it as she lowered herself upon him. The beat of the drums had slowed to match the slowness of the chant, and she moved upon him slowly. Somewhere, in the Temple, two cantors began to chant, a fifth apart, above the chanting drone of the slow circling dancers.

Agios Rotanev, sang the cantors, their powerful, clear voices making the complicated plainchant flow like a high crested wave toward shore, rising, falling slowly with grace but always moving on.

The slow moving organum of the cantors, the chant of the slow moving dancers who had linked hands, the energy brought by sexual frenzy, the shamans drums and wild dance, all conspired to push open the Gates to the Abyss. The slowness was a counter-part to the earlier frenzy, and Melanie used it to gather the energies to herself. She showed no outward sign of the ecstasy within and was smiling as she transferred the energy to her crystal while Thurstans body spasmed and then relaxed. She kissed him before climbing down from the altar.

She signaled the dancers to stop and gather round her in preparation for the climax of the rite when she would release the stored energy to bring her Dark Gods to Earth. They would still their minds, as she had shown them, to become parts of a mirror that would focus the energy.

But the doors of the Temple burst open. No one screamed as Algar stood, hideous, in the light of the candles, but they seemed to gather closer to Melanie. The two men by the door moved upon him but he easily knocked them to the side and they fell away unconscious. He was snarling, staring at Melanie as he walked toward her in silence. She did not move except to hold up her hand to restrain Thurstan who had risen to stand beside her. Then she smiled.

Algar stopped, his body twisting forward as if he wanted to move but could not. Melanie raised her hand toward him and he fell upon his knees, oozing blood as his already torn flesh, festering, split further. She raised her hand again, and he screamed as if tortured, before crawling face down on the floor. She dropped her hand, and his screaming stopped. He looked up at her then, not as a madman and not as one of the possessed that had returned, briefly, to life. Instead, his look was that of a mute child who could not the pain that it felt. But Melanie raised her hand again and the specter that had once been Algar lowered its head and died.  

 XV

Join us! Melanie said as she stepped past the body.

Jukes and his Priestess stood in her hall, awed by what they had seen. They had followed Algar, and were still trembling.

Come to me! said Melanie softly.

Jukes stared at the floor while the Priestess looked upon Melanies face. She was smiling, her dread gone, as she walked forward to kneel at Melanies feet.

No! shouted Jukes. He tried to move toward her, but could not.

Gently Melanie raised the Priestess to her feet and kissed her on the lips. The Priestess understood her thought and went on the touch the masked Guardians who lay unconscious in the Temple. They awoke and followed her to stand on either side of Melanie.

Will you be mine, Melanie said to Jukes, as she is?

Never!

Then I shall make you mine!

She was about to raise her hand to force his head up so she could see into his eyes when she saw an old man dressed up like a peddler walk through the open door of her house.

He is mine, I believe, he said as he tapped Jukes on the shoulder to free him from the bonds Melanie had placed around him. He is no use to you. But if you object

There was great magickal power in the old man, hidden even in his eyes, but Melanie perceived it.

Who are you? she asked.

He bowed deeply, like a jester. I am Saer.

Saer?

He looked around the hall and peered briefly into the Temple. You have made great changes, I see. Then smiling, be bowed again before escorting Jukes away.

She let him go. Feast! Rejoice! she said, turning to greet her coven and they felt happiness spread among them as the drums began to beat again.

She detailed her Guardians to carry the body and let them into her secret Temple where they threw it into the pit beneath the plinth that held her crystal. There was laughter and lust among the worshippers when she returned, servants carrying trays of food and chalices of wine. She thanked her Guardians, bid them join the feast, and watched Thurstan as he stood, covered by the robe he had discarded, beside the Priestess from Jukes Temple. She did not mind the hidden desire between them and went to walk alone in the hazy darkness of the garden.

Forces opposed to her own were present, returned from the night before and sent forth against her by the shedding of blood, but they did not affect her or the guests in her house, kept away by the power in her crystal, and she walked slowly in her bare feet over the cooling grass, idly looking up toward the stars.

It was not long before Thurstan joined her. He was followed by Jukes Priestess.

You knew, didnt you? Thurstan said, a little shyly. He too had been awed.

That it was Saer who gave you the crystal? Yes, I knew it as soon as I saw him.

Then you know who he is?

Perhaps! she laughed. What is your name? She asked the Priestess.

Claudia.

Yes it suits you. I shall not change it. Do you wish to stay with me, Claudia?

Oh, yes!

You are free to go.

I dont want to go. She looked down at the ground. Not now I have found you.

I shall never harm you unless you turn against me. She took Claudias hand and held it to her own breast. You are mine now and I shall always protect you. As a sign of my trust I shall give you a gift. She placed Claudias hand in Thurstans, kissed them both and left them standing together in the mild night air.

They were still standing in her garden holding hands when she looked upon them from a high window in the house. She knew Thurstan did not know what to do and Claudia was too shy to initiate anything. Melanie wanted, through the ritual and her gift of him to Claudia, to draw out Thurstans darker self, and as she watched while a bright large moon began to rise quickly above the distant hills an owl screeched nearby, she felt she had found the means to achieve her goals.

The ritual had returned both her power and her role. She was stronger that she ever had been and, with Thurstan as her willing High Priest, she would make herself stronger still by uniting his world with hers. Together, they might wander among the starts. The prospect excited her, as her desire to watch Thurstan and Claudia have sexual intercourse excited her, and she remembered words from the Black book of the witch queen before her: The secret of the Moira who lies beyond our Grade of Mistress of Earth, is a simple unity of two common things. This unity is greater than but built upon the double pelican being inward yet like the stage of Sol, outward though in a lesser degree. Here is the living water, azoth, which falls upon Earth nurturing it, and from which the seed flowers brighter than the sun. The flower, properly prepared, splits the Heavens it is the great elixir which comes from this which when taken into the body dissolves both Sol and Luna. Whoever takes of this elixir will live immortal among the stars.

Melanie believed that she had found the secret, brought forth from within her by her feelings for Thurstan and the power of ritual. She was preparing Thurstan for first she had to return the Dark Gods to Earth.

Excited, she saw Thurstan briefly kiss Claudia before leading her toward the house, and she retreated to her room to follow them on her monitor. They seemed uncertain what to do as they stood in the hall, but the naked worshippers who rushed past them to run up the stairs gave them their clue. Suitable rooms lay open and waiting on the first floor of the house, as they always did. No one ever dared violate the floor above, reserved for Melanie and her special guests, and Thurstan did not as he slowly led Claudia to an empty room.

Nothing in the house was hidden from the surveillance system but Melanie did not often use it as she used it now to watch and listen to Thurstan and Claudia, for there were a multitude of pleasures that gave her satisfaction. In her desire to make Thurstan part of her world she pressed a switch to record images and sounds in the room on the floor below.

Melanie became aroused by watching them. Thurstan undressed Claudia slowly and as her naked body appeared, Melanie realized she desired it also. Claudia responded to Thurstans kisses by pulling him down with her onto the softness of the low bed in the luxurious room and it was not long before Thurstans tentative slowness of delight gave way to sexual frenzy. But this was not prolonged and there was no scream, nor even sigh of ecstasy from Claudia only Thurstans groan as he slumped fulfilled upon her voluptuous body.

This pleased Melanie and she lay listening to them talk.

Who is she? Claudia asked.

You dont know? an exhausted Thurstan said.

I saw her in a vision in this house. We came to stop her.

But you didnt.

I couldnt. When I came near to her I felt

Thurstan smiled. An overpowering love?

Maybe, she said and blushed. And you?

She is the most remarkable woman I have ever met.

You serve her then? I mean as High Priest?

Thurstan laughed. I know little of her world. I only met her a few days ago.

Claudia was surprised. But are you an Initiate?

Of what?

Her Temple.

Not as far as I know. She told me she was involved in something

Satanism?

Yes. But I assumed it was some kind of game. You know what I mean? Then, he sighed, this ritual. There is real power in her, real magick. She casts a spell with just a look.

You love her then?

Yes. Because, I suppose, like you I am sensitive to things and people. When I saw you I felt a warmth in me, a happiness. I dont normally do this sort of thing.

What?

Leap into bed with women I have only just met.

Neither do I! I think she overwhelmed us both.

Do you mind? asked Thurstan softly.

No, she whispered. I feel I have found what I have always been seeking here in this house. It is exciting and yet I feel protected. Before I came I assumed it was evil in some way that she was evil and must be stopped. But now

Stopped from what?

Changing the cosmic tides that wash upon the Earth and give to people a certain energy.

I understand nothing of such things.

I saw that man in his grave.

The one who died?

Yes. He was her High Priest wasnt he?

Yes.

I assumed you had taken his place, she gestured to his robe, discarded on the floor.

I know little of her beliefs.

It is a new beginning, then, for us both.

Perhaps we can learn things together?

I sense that is what she wishes.

And the man you came with?

High Priest of my Temple in London. She laughed. I suppose he will be thinking I have been abducted against my will and forced to indulge in hideous Satanic rites! Or be offered as a sacrifice to Satan.

You are not afraid that you will be?

No as Im sure you feel. I know nothing about her except what I feel, and I feel she will not harm me. Quite the reverse, in fact.

Thurstan leaned on his elbow to look at her. It may seem like a trite thing to say, but you are not like a stranger to me.

She touched his face with her hand. I know what you mean. She is not a stranger to me either.

What shall we do?

Apart from the obvious, you mean? They both laughed. Wait, I suppose for her to tell us.

It could be an enjoyable wait.

I hope so.

Melanie had seen and heard enough. It did not take her long to reach their room and she stood in the doorway while they sat up from the bed, nervously smiling.

She gave Thurstan his robe. Leave us, she said to him.

He left, obedient to her word, and she closed and locked the door before sitting beside Claudia on the bed.

You are beautiful, she said, caressing Claudias neck.

Her soft kiss was returned, shyly, and she took off her robe before drawing Claudia toward her in an embrace.

I have never done this before, Claudia whispered.

Melanie kissed her neck and breasts. Do you want to? she asked gently.

Oh, yes.

The tender caresses, the perfumed softness of Melanies body, the slow intimate kisses and movements, her own feelings of warmth, the sensuous pleasure that Melanie brought to her gently through touch and tongue, all combined to stimulate Claudia to an ecstasy both physical and emotional and of a kind she had never experienced before.

She lay beside Melanie, embracing her and softly crying, drawing comfort from the strange woman who kissed away the tears, feeling in that moment that all the confusion, doubts and sorrow that her sensitivity had brought her over the years, was no more. Her past, with its broken relationships its traumas and dreams, was forgotten. Her future was unreal only the present was meaningful to her. She sensed forces outside the house that wish to harm the woman who kissed her and whose body heat reassured, but she was protected for the moment from those forces as Claudia felt protected. The harmful forces, which were waiting for weakness, drew more emotion from Claudia until she felt a genuine love.

Jukes had stolen her love when they first met and through him she had learned to use her powerful psychic gifts. But his passion for her had just been a passion, fleeting like the brightness of a meteor in the sky of night, and she had learned to live again and alone with her dreams while he filled and emptied his bed with the women in the Temple in the name of the magick he invoked. Her gifts brought empathy and vision, but never the love she needed.

Melanie to her, in that moment, became all her dreams and it did not matter to her then that she gave her love to another woman. It felt natural to her as it had seemed natural when she and Thurstan had made love, and she understood, as she lay warm and relaxed, that she had given her body to him because it was what Melanie had wanted.

To Melanie, she had given her body also, but now she gave up her soul as well.

I think I love you, she said, and Melanie, in the humid room, felt a confusion of love that she did not need nor desire grow within her heart.

XVIThrust forth from the room, Thurstan wandered around the house. The Temple was full of naked bodies and the incense of sex, and when he tried the door that he knew led to the crystal, it would not open.Other doors were locked to him as to other worshippers, and the one that did open led him to a library. He heard the door closing behind him, but it did not open when he tried the handle and he contented himself with trying to see out of the window. He could see nothing, for the outside shutters had been closed. The room was large, with high ceiling and books rose in shelves on all the walls, darkly lit. A chair stood waiting beside a table whereon a single book lay open. The Book of Wyrd, the gilt spine read.She planned this, he thought to himself and sat down to read.Satanism is the philosophy of the noble and strong. It is the antithesis of the religion of Yeshua, that worship of decaying fish. To the cowards and the followers of the Nazarene belong the meekness of the weak, the rapid utterances about pity and the vileness of the bully. Above all, Satanism is the enjoyment of this life.The most fundamental principle of Satanism is that we as individuals are gods. The goal of Satanism is simple to make an individual an Immortal, to produce a new species. To Satanists, magick is a means, a path, to this goal. We walk toward the Abyss and dare to pass through to the cold spaces beyond where CHAOS reigns. There is ecstasy in us and much that is strange. Vitality, health, laughter and defiance we challenge everything, and the greatest challenge is ourselves.There was music filling the room as he read. He knew it was real even if he could not see its source, but it was faint an unearthly sound that he found beautiful and brought a vision of stars and a remembrance of his strange dream after he had first made love to Melanie. His body tensed as he listened, carried to another plane of existence, and he experienced in that moment, a possession of feeling surpassing the ecstasy of physical passion. There was no room, only a rushing of stars, the exhilaration of phenomenal speed and then a silent slowing that brought him to the planet of his dreams. The music was a slow chant of words he did not understand combined with sounds from instruments he had never heard before, and it expressed the desolation of the dead planet as well as his longing for Melanie and Claudia.

Then the vision and the music ended and he was simply sitting alone in a library staring down at a book. He tried, but could not recapture what he had seen and heard and he felt a longing that strained his breathing and brought tears to his eyes. Melanie was the woman he had always sought to bring meaning into his life, the reality behind his insight of days before when he had stood by the stream near his cottage and made his divinity a goddess. Her power, charisma and promise made his own life and expectations seem dull, as his vision mad ethe world around him seem ponderous.

He experienced a sudden need to express his feeling through the frenzy of his body and was not surprised to find door unlocked. He began to understand the house itself was alive, an extension of Melanies will, and he let it guide him. Lights brightened to show him the way, or dimmed when he went wrong. He was led to a room where all that he needed, and more, lay waiting. He dressed quickly, his heart beating fast and ran along the corridor and down the stairs to leave the house.

He was not alone. Something was with him as he ran along the driveway in the cooling air under the stars with the light of the moon to guide him. He sensed the presence as he sensed that it was protective of him, and he ran fastly down the narrow lane allowing the freedom of physical exertion to suffuse his body. His running brought some of the vision back to him and he left eh road to follow a track that led alongside the sloped of the Long Mynd. He was soon tired and breathing heavily but he ran on to become a little detached from his body, defying it. He ran for miles before turning and running only a little slower back to the house, suffused with a desire to learn, to be master and equal of Melanie. Her world had become real for him, and he did not want to leave it.

The house seemed to welcome him on his return. There were no cars in the driveway, for all the worshippers had gone, and he followed the lights to a bathroom where he soaked himself for a longtime in a deep bath, please and expectant. His love for Melanie, his hope of their affinity, the passion they had already shared, the ritual, her sharing of him with Claudia, even the killing he thought he had done for her – all had liberated him, releasing the inner energies that his normal life had kept under control. He felt there was no challenge that he could not overcome, nothing that he would not do. Life was before him a large canvas on which he would paint a masterpiece. He wanted to make his own life a work of Art.

Satan was the name he have to the energy that made both his body and his mind vivid with life, he dried himself vigorously, covered himself with the silk robe that hung from a hook on the door and let the lights guide him to Melanies room.

The door opened for him and we walked over the soft carpet in the azure light to find Melanie was not alone and the door closing behind him. Claudia was beside her in the bed, asleep. He was not shocked by this, only momentarily confused. They were both naked.

Come, his Mistress said, sit beside me. And he obeyed.

She kissed him, before stroking Claudias hair. She is lovely, isnt she?

Yes.

Can you share me?

The directness of the question startled him. I think so.

Come then and take off your robe.

He obeyed, and lay beside her. She was pleased with his arousal, and the reasons behind it, but she teased him saying, Trying for four in a row, then?

Im sorry I didnt

Dont be sorry, my darling.

The endearment made him happy, lessening the awe he felt and which came upon him as soon as he had entered her room.

You are pleased with things?

Their bodies were touching as they lay together and he felt his awe ebbing away. I want to learn. Share your world with you.

It is good that you inner strength returns. I want us to share.

But I feel a little lost sometimes.

Because of what I own?

Partly. But also

Do not say anymore. She pressed her finger to his lips I shall tell you something. You have made me realize how lonely I was. How much I need love. She laughed, self-mockingly. I, with all that I have, all the power you have seen, need you. I am human after all, even though I dont want to be.

Thurstan kissed her, and Melanie felt like crying. But she mastered her feelings. Thurstan had changed, as she had hoped and planned he would, but she herself was changing. Never before had she displayed her feeling and she felt vulnerable. She knew Thurstan sensed this, as Claudia had when they walked hand in her hand to her room. She was not afraid of them, only herself, and when Thurstan spoke she was composed.

And Claudia? he asked gently.

I need you both, it seems.

You have enough love to give.

You must be tired after all of your exertions!

I am.

She kissed his eyelids and he smiled, languid, before relaxing into sleep. She watched him for some time. Her feelings of love, born by Thurstan and suckled by Claudia, now enhanced her power and did not destroy it, and she drew down energies while her lovers slept beside her, storing them in her crystal below. Words from the Black Book kept returning to her. She had never understood them before, knowing only that they described the process of change necessary before a Magus or a Mousa was born in the coldness that lay beyond the Abyss where Satan reigned. She did not know what awaited for her and in her if this change was successful, for all her books were silent about it and there was no one whom she could ask. She had believed with a certainty that her own power had confirmed, that no one living in her time had passed that way toward the final stage of the seven that marked the Satanic path.

This belief, however, troubled her now more than the changes within her wrought by love more than the duality that love has assumed in the past hours of her life. More even than the persistent hostile forced which still surrounded her house and came with the night like hail. She was troubled by Saer, and tried to cast an image of him into her crystal, but some barrier beyond her own power to breach prevented her, and she lay awake between her two lovers pondering instead the patterns which the Dark Gods might assume when, tomorrow as she had planned, they would be returned finally to spread their chaos upon Earth.

Only Saer, she felt, might prevent her – and if he tried, she would have the power of two lovers to help her.

 XVIIThe old man who had rescued him from the Satanists left Jukes as he had arrived without greeting or explanation and Jukes walked toward the cars and the shivering members of his Temple who had fled from Algar.He did not speak to them and they asked no questions of him, and they sat huddled together while the moon rose and their sense of reality returned. Then, in whispered words Jukes told his tale and how he wished them to join him in the battle that was to come when, with Pead, they would conjure from the Abyss, a destructive force to send against the witch queen and her house.They gave their assent, and in all the cars drove along the moonlit roads over and down hills and through turning valleys to Peads unlit cottage. The dog snarled, straining on its chain, while a voice from the darkness said, Why do you come?Jukes shown a torch on Peads face, then turned it away. We failed, he said and explained.This man, asked Pead, did he say his name?

Saer.

Saer? I thought he was dead!

You know him?

No, but there are stories. Come in, my friends!

Inside, Pead lit a single candle.

We must act! Jukes said while his followers adjusted themselves to the stench and the flickering shadows.

This night I have sent a fetch against them.

Perhaps Saer

If indeed he lives, I do not know where to find him.

She had no power over him. If

He would acts if he wished. If he does not, them maybe it is for us to do nothing also.

But we must do something! shouted Jukes. Several members of his Temple, standing behind him, were already scratching themselves.

I see you do not understand.

I understand, persisted Jukes, enough to know this planet is threatened. By her and the forces she wants to bring.

If Saer

Saer this! Saer that! Who is this bloody Saer anyway? said Jukes in anger, his body trembling in reaction to the events of the night.

He is an old man, older than me much older than me who in his youth sought the secret of the alchemical Stone. Some say he found it. Myself I do not know. It is said of him that he understands and can control should he wish, the cosmic tides themselves. He had a pupil once, a young woman. But she abused his trust and they parted he to live alone and she to follow the sinister path. But that was a long time ago. No one has heard of him or seen him for what? – maybe thirty years.

Then he is a Magus? asked Jukes.

Indeed. The only one this century although there have been many who claimed the title but lacked the understanding and the power.

Even in the dim light, Jukes could see Peads sly smile. He ignored the slight at the man whose teachings he followed. But surely them he must do something.

Pead shrugged his hunched shoulders. Maybe he is.

I feel nothing.

As I.

But surely, persisted Jukes, his very appearance his saving of me means something.

Perhaps.

For years, Jukes had absorbed diverse Occult theories, and he quickly made an assumption. Perhaps is was a sign for us to act? Perhaps he has chosen us to act?

I do not know.

I saw and felt the power he had. He must have wanted me to do something. We could summon Shugara.

Do you know what you ask?

Yes! There is enough of us to invoke such power.

It is dangerous. Pead rested against one of his desks as if seeking comfort from the books upon it.

We cannot allow her to succeed. Shugara would destroy her and all of her followers.

And maybe us, also. He moved to where a pile of small, bound manuscripts lay on the floor. Extracting one, he began to read aloud. Shugara is one of the most dangerous to invoke. Manifestations may be accompanied by the smell of rotting corpses. Symbolized by the Tarot card The Moon Shugara is the great Beast that comes from the dark pool under the Moon. His call is to be chanted in the key of G major

It is the only way! said Jukes with messianic zeal.

In all my workings I have never dared

We must dare it now! Listen to me! Do you believe in evil?

Evil?

Yes, evil. Do you believe that there is a dark power at work on this Earth?

I know that there are dark forces that we as magickians can use.

Yes, yes. But what about innocence? He reached behind him and drew forward a young female member of his Temple. See her? And the young woman blushed. I would call her innocent someone who trusts and believes in the good. Now, he continued, intoxicated by his eloquence, If I for whatever reason threw her to the ground and raped he, I would destroy that trust, that innocence, wouldnt I?

Maybe.

I would be imposing my will on hers, to fulfill my own desire. Well, I should really respect her her own desires, for every man and woman is a star and love is the law, love under will. My act would be an evil one. Something obscure occurred in his mind, but he could not define it and passed on. Our magick the Osirian current and that of the child who comes after is to bring love into this world, to bring a New Aeon. Yet she he spat out the word wants to break our magickal current and impose her own. We would become possessed by the power she brought invaded in our minds. There would be evil the ending of love!

With his strong words, Jukes seemed to have invoked a presence in the damp, shadowed room. They all sensed it and Pead most of all.

Yes, youre right, Pead said, glancing behind him. We shall do as you say.

Then let us prepare, said Jukes confidently.

Pead took the candle and let them to the room where he slept. They could not see the bloodstains that covered the floor and he set the candle by the window to fetch his ceremonial equipment. The magickal circle, inscribed with sigils and words of power, almost filled the room when joined together, and Jukes and his followers stood within it while Pead brought candles, incense, a sword, parchment and pen. The burner was lit, incense burned, the circle purified by the sprinkling of salt and sealed by the passing along it of the tip of the sword.

Jukes and Pead stood in the center while the others linked hands and began to walk, slowly at first, sun-wise around the circle. Pead drew a sigil on parchment, showed it to the four corners of the room and began his chant.

You I invoke, Shugara, who lurks waiting in the pits of the Abyss! You are Fury and the bringer of Death! Hear me! And hearing hearken to my call! For I am the Lord of Powers in this circle hear me! And hearing harken to my call!

Shu-ga-ra! chanted the circling dancer as the incense filled the room and the candles flickered. Shu-ga-ra!

Shugara! commanded Pead. With this my seal and sword I conjure you! Attend to the words of my voice! Exarp! Bitom! Nanta! Hcoma! I rule over you all: Gil ol nonci zamran! Micma! Come Shugara! To me! To me!

Jukes felt the frenzy and began to chant the demons name in the key of G major while Pead continued with his invocation and the dancers, circling fast, chanted their own chant.

First the smell choked them, and then the laughter stopped their chants. The dried blood on the floor seemed to boil, and then seeped away into the room to form an ill-defined shape that hung near the ceiling. Pead began to speak, but the shape swooped down to engulf his face and vanished.

You fools! he hissed before turning and walking from the room.

Outside, the dog growled, yelped and then was silent. When Jukes found it, it was dead. Jukes waited a long time, but could hear nothing. He left the implements of magick, the candles and the incense burning, but performed a banishing for himself and his followers before leading them to their cars. The felt sick and oppressed and, in silence, drove slowly through the night knowing Pead was possessed and would probably die. There was nothing they could do except hope that in some way he would fulfill the purpose of the ritual.

There was little traffic as they drove down the roads toward London, sensing that they might have failed. In his depressive state, Jukes did not care about leaving Claudia and as the time of the journey turned into hours and clouds came to cover the moon, he had come to believe his own beliefs were an illusion. Nothing was threatened, there were no powers trying to break through the dimensions, no magick only hallucinations and dread. He found comfort in these thoughts, a sense of reality returning, and all he wanted to do was return to his flat, throw away his books and begin a normal life. He could forget the terrors of the night. He was like a person suddenly and unexpectedly locked in a prison cell first, there was the loss of his will, a disbelief, the slow depression of shock, and then the gradual adjustment to the reality of the surroundings. But there would be no anger, no sudden resentment at this fate as there might have been for one unjustly imprisoned. The terror had burned that from his soul as a flash of lightning burns out the bark of trees.

For the first time in his life, Jukes felt the need of a personal love. His need was not for the love that was an idea that he carried in his head, nor for that which was only a word in someone elses faith used to bring a little self-importance to his life, as when he used a woman in a magick ritual or real life. Instead, his need was for the comfort and gentle joy that personal love could sometimes bring, and as he drove carefully and slowly toward the lights of London, he held out his hand for the young woman beside him. She did not refuse, for she loved his charisma as High Priest and in her gentle, trusting way held his fingers tight.

The simple gesture destroyed all the demons of Jukes past.

XVIII

It was dawn when Thurstan awoke to find Claudia still asleep beside him. It was her hand, which rested on his shoulder, her warm breath against his faced, and for some time he thought the memory of Melanie being between them was the memory of a dream.

A thin duvet covered them, but their closeness, Claudias bare shoulder and his memory of her body, aroused Thurstans passion and he was about to let his hand stroke her breast when she awoke. For a moment there was fear in her eyes, which he saw, destroying his passion. She smiled at him and in her smile was an awkward vulnerable trust, which brought to Thurstan a remembrance of all the women he had loved and the reason why he loved them.

He kissed her, as a brother might, before leaving the room to find his clothes. Dressed, he wandered around the house but could not find Melanie. The air of late summer was mild and hazy and he sat on the grass in the walled garden, listening. A contemplative calm came to him and he might have been a Taoist monk meditating in the still air of dawn. He was at peace, within himself, and felt in a way stronger than he had ever done before that the world, and he himself, unfolded in its own natural way. It was also beautiful, in a strange, calm way and he sat, very still but without effort, while the gentle euphoria suffused him.

The mood drifted from him, slowly. His fervor of the night was unreal a memory of another person. The calm he felt now was real and he realized with a sudden insight that it was this feeling that he wished above all else to share with Melanie. It was the beauty, the calm he found when he looked into a womans eyes the gentleness he experienced sometimes when he lay naked beside the woman he loved and she showed by a caress or a kiss or a smile that she cared for him. It was the longing he felt to be with a sensitive woman the soft desire to make slow, gentle love to her. All the sharing moments, all the experiences of two people in love would be a remembrance of such moments, a giving and returning, a mutual embrace and breaking of barriers, that he knew no words might describe.

The energy of the night, even the magick, was alien to him. He wanted his vulnerable love to lead himself and the woman he loved to another existence, and he began to feel that such a love might in a way he did not understand, affect the world, as once he had believed that prayer to a god might. He knew this was as ideal but it was an attainable one, if the love was mutual and without reservation. He began to think of how a monk or a nun, pledged to contemplation, might seek to love God he wanted and needed to love a woman in such a way: a woman of flesh and blood who responded to his kisses, who laughed, cried, danced, became angry or sad, but who, whatever the emotions and whatever the experience loved him faithfully as he would love her. There would be a sacred quality about such a love.

He did not need the energy of power or magick or money, for he sensed the beauty of life lay hidden in its simplicity, in a kind of detachment, and as he sat in the still warming air of early morning only the sound of bird-song around him, his body and mind languid, he felt it east to believe in a god who might have made it all – or some force, perhaps named Fate, which governed the workings of the cosmos. He was aware, as he sat, of the suffering and misery in the world, as he was aware that he himself was not God not even a god. He did not understand the suffering, or the misery, but felt that all he could do was try and change himself, re-orientate in some way his own consciousness so as not to add to those burdens.

All the threads of his life were gathered together in the moments of his sitting: the memories, sometimes painful and intense, of the women he had loved; the lessons of his own past, his feelings and thoughts of and about others. He drew them to himself by a quiet process of thought to make his feelings and memories conscious and part of a whole, and by the time he had completed the task, his view of the world had profoundly changed. He felt he had at last discovered the reality of his own self, buried for so long in a confusion of feelings, moods and desires.

Perhaps his intuitive awareness of Claudias vulnerability or the strange things of magick he had seen caused this. He did not know or particularly care. There was a happiness within him, which was gentle and made him smile. He felt in love with the world and possessed and awareness of meaning. He sensed there was something beyond his own life, which a particular way of living would create which a sharing of love with another person would make possible. Perhaps this was another life in another plane of existence. It was a nebulous sensation, this belief, which he could not formulate directly into ideas expressed by the words of his thoughts, but nonetheless real to him and he added it to his view of the world before rising from the grass and walking, in the sunlight, toward the house.

A man was by the door, leaning on a stick. It was Saer and he was smiling. Thurstan blinked in surprise and Saer was gone. Thurstan felt he had seen a ghost, and did not bother to look for the old man.

Melanie sat by the crystal in her Temple and he stood beside her.

Will you marry me? he asked.

What?

Will you marry me? Leave all of this and come and live with me in my cottage?

Are you serious?

Yes.

There are many things that I must do.

Forget them. Forget all this.

She smiled at him. And Claudia?

He sighed. And Claudia. I cannot share you.

All that I have is from this day yours and hers.

I want nothing except you.

Nothing?

Nothing. No money, power whatever. I earn enough to support us both, if we live simply.

You need never work again.

But I need to.

She laughed, and touched his face. It is a lovely, romantic ideal! But not possible.

Why not?

She gestured toward her crystal. This is my life.

I can be your life.

But for how long?

Thurstan flinched, and in that moment part of his hope was extinguished. We can try.

Why this sudden change?

All this really isnt me. You have power, money, charisma and magick to bind people to you, to control. I love what is beyond all that in you. My real world is outside, sitting in the sun listening to the songs of the birds or watching clouds or waiting for the frogs to return in Spring. I do not belong here in a Temple, doing strange rituals.

You are tempting me, she said smiling.

As you tempted me?

Perhaps.

They stood in silence for a long time until Thurstan said, You could use your power to bind me, but

I no longer have any power over you, Melanie said softly. I knew that when you entered here.

You still love me then?

It is not my love that makes me powerless to bind you. There is something else.

What?

Would you like to take Claudia some breakfast? There are many things to do this morning.

Marry me. When she did not answer, Thurstan said, well at least come away with me.

And if I want you to stay here with me? Share my world?

I dont think it would work, Thurstan said, sadly.

You could try.

It would be a game. What would be the point?

To enjoy the game, perhaps.

I want to go straight to what is beyond all that.

Our bridge is in danger.

Thurstan looked at her and began to cry. He made no sound and Melanie wiped the tears away with her hand.

Go now, she said. Before I do something I will regret.

The sunlight seemed painful to him as he walked along her driveway toward the lane. He had not looked back and she did not run after him, and he walked slowly shuffling like and old man along the lane and down toward the road. He stopped for several minutes to stand and lean on the bridge toward the bottom of the lane, watching and listening to the fastly flowing stream of water. A cyclist, brightly clad and whose bicycle was laden with panniers, passed and wished him good-day.

Lovely day! Thurstan said.

Yes, splendid! replied the traveler before changing down into a lower gear and riding up the hill.

The scenery, the weather, the brief human contact charmed Thurstan, bringing the world around him alive. Melanie the Satanic witch queen was not of this world where he himself belonged, and as Thurstan walked away to take the Neolithic track that rose up the slopes of the Mynd a mile distant, his sadness was relieved by a presentiment of joy. 

XIX

The house seemed, to Melanie, to sigh as Thurstan left. Her own grief was longer, and it was nearly an hour later that she went to her bedroom to find Claudia asleep.

For several minutes she stood, watching the sleeping woman. There was a gentleness and trust in Claudia that brought to Melanie an intimation of a type of love she did not know nor even perhaps understand, and she allowed her grief at losing Thurstan to sharpen this intimation. But she could not hold in her consciousness this insight and left, imbued again with her role and Destiny, to make arrangements for the evening ritual.

There would be no sacrifice, only a calling down of dark power through her crystal a breaking of the gates by the directed frenzy of the members of her Temple and the guests she had invited from around the world. The hours of the day passed quickly for her, Claudia was happy, receiving guests, preparing the Temple and food for the feast, which would follow the recalling, directing the servants that morning had drawn to the house on Melanies command.

Fifty-four people were gathered in the Temple as darkness came slow to cover the lard around. Melanie left them as her cantors began their discordant chant and her dancers began to dance, slowly, drawing forth from themselves a rising pyramid of power. Claudia waited for her in the secret Temple, her hands on the crystal and soon the diffusing light from the floor began to change in color until a purple aura surrounded them.

There was a yearning in Melanie as she stood beside her Priestess and lover. But it was not a yearning for love – only a cold desire to alter the living patterns in the world and so fulfill her Destiny by returning the Dark Gods to Earth. She was suspended between her past with all its charisma and power and the future that might have been possible if she had surrendered to Thurstans love. She was aware of herself only through the images of the past and her barely formed feelings for Claudia: detached from the realness of her body and personal emotions. The power being invoked seemed to be drawing her toward the Abyss and the spaces beyond the Abyss where she had never been.

The Abyss was within her, within Claudia, within all those in the Temple and all those outside it. It was primal awe, terror and intoxication and she entered it she felt its energies forming into shapes ready to ascend to Earth through her crystal and Temple. She was not conscious of the world around her and so did not see the door of the secret Temple open or the leering man who entered.

The darkness of the Abyss had attracted the darkness, which had possessed Pead, as it made him sense the vulnerability of Claudia. He was growling like the animal he had become as he fastened his hands around her neck. Melanie heard the scream but she was paralyzed by the Abyss and could only return slowly to the world of the living as inadvertently Claudia operated the mechanism, which opened the pit beneath the crystal. She and Pead stood on its ledge as the plinth with its crystal slid aside.

Take me! Melanie screamed. But she was too late and as she moved toward them they stumbled and fell into the pit.

Silently the plinth returned to seal them in deep darkness. Melanie could not make it move and bloodied her hands trying. And when it did, no answer came to her repeated calls, only silence rising from the rotting blackness below.

The power in the crystal had gone and she hid her tears as she walked toward the Temple and it worshippers. They were still chanting and dancing, unaware that the real power was gone from the crystal, the house and its Mistress they all held in awe. Melanie watched and listened, aware as she did so that what they felt as they chanted and danced was only a flickering shadow. She left them to seal herself in her room.

She sat for a long time, vaguely aware of the passing hours and the people who drifted away from the house, perplexed. They had danced, chanted and waited for her to appear, but when she had not come forth to carry them to the Abyss they had waited again until the realization of failure made them shuffle and slink away.

Dawn drew her to her garden and in the long moments of her walking barefoot in the dewy grass she found an answer to her grief. It was an answer without words a feeling that drew her beyond the cold Abyss to where a new universe waited. She was drifting in this universe, floating among the stars and galaxies of love, sadness, sorrow and joy, and as she consciously drifted, her body tensed and tears came to her eyes.

Images and feelings rushed through her as a whirling system of planets and stars forms from chaos and rushes through a galaxy past other starts when time itself is compressed. The images were of her past but the feelings attached to them were not the original feelings. There was sadness instead of exultation, love instead of anger, grief instead of joy. They had changed because her perspective had changed for she was seeing herself and her past not as before through her own eyes but from beyond herself where other people were part of her in a way that brought an awareness of their sorrow, passion, hurt, narrowness, love and stupidity. She was Thurstan as he sat in the café holding her hand and trembling with the expectation of love; she was Claudia as she lay being kissed for the first time by a woman the possessed man who in blindness and unthinking hate had killed Claudia.

The images and feelings rushed through her and when they were gone she was left feeling both sorrow and love. Her sorrow was in her lack of vision she had drawn forces form within herself and beyond herself and used them to fulfill her will and desires: nothing had been real for her except those powers and herself. Here love was in a yearning to try and understand by giving herself, by sharing what she felt with someone who understood.

The sorrow that burst upon her broke her free of her past: it was a storm which smashed her mooring and snapped the anchorage of her self so she became a ship sailing free blown by winds she did not understand. Her feelings for Thurstan, her brief sorrow at Lois death, her brief love of Claudia were distant heralds of the storm, which had come.

Gradually, her yearning became a yearning for love. She felt the blue of the sky above pour down upon her as the warmth of the sun, felt the wholeness of the patterns of Nature before her as if they were all notes in a beautiful piece of music Vivaldi, perhaps, exulting in song the god of his faith, or Bach transforming a fugue to its end. She received the emanations that broke upon her with a joy seldom before known except in brief moments of physical passion, and she became happy, sad, compassion, ecstatic and afraid until a vision calmed her. Her vision was of the vital, ineffable mechanism of the cosmos itself the eternal beyond the transient forms that life assumed through the process of slow evolution to something beyond itself.

This something she felt to be a vast, calm ocean where evolution ended, and began, in an indescribable transcendent bliss. But the vision was soon over, and she found herself lying on the grass of her garden in the chilly air of morning.

For over an hour she lay, calm and gently breathing while physical senses returned to her body and an awareness of self brought need. She did not want to move as she did not want the calm, her perception of the whole of which she was a part, to end, and when she did move it was to slowly walk toward her car to drive away from her house, hoping, as she did so, that Thurstan would still love her.

 XXThe past came back to Jukes. The day had barely gone after the night of his return before his insight faded. He was in bed with his new and gentle lover when they called.I hope you do not mind us calling, the nervous young man said.

Not at all. He gestured to the sofa and watched keenly as they sat. The young woman with short hair was pretty, dressed in a purple dress while the young man with a straggly beard seemed weak-willed and shy.

We heard about your group, the man said, and are very interested.

How did you hear? Jukes asked.

Oh the chap in the Occult Bookshop.

Actually Jukes began.

He said you were an Adept and we would very much like to learn from you.

How do you mean?

Be one of your pupils.

Jukes was flattered and when he looked at the woman she turned her eyes away and blushed. His new Priestess entered bearing a pot of tea on a tray she smiled at him with love, but his own smile was brief and she sat down in a corner, quiet and trusting, while Jukes began to manipulate.

He talked of the Occult path, the difficulties and the sacrifice that was needed, and the importance of being willing to learn. He drew them to him, talking of the Aeon to come when truly free individuals would change the world forever. He talked of the magick within, which could be drawn out and help each individual find their True Will, and as he talked he drew nearer to the subject of Initiation and acts of sexual magick. His desire for the woman who sat opposite him grew as he talked, molding his will through words which seeped into his new followers as a parasite seeps into the intestine of the host.

You are very sensitive to certain forces, he said to the woman.

I dont think I am, she said softly.

It seem to me you have a natural gift. He sensed the compliment was well received. It can be developed by certain means, should you wish to do so.

For hours, he talked while they listened. He felt a power talking to them about magick, a mastery that made him confident. He was an Adept, and would guide them toward magickal understanding. Part of him was sincere as well, and over the years he had covered his desires with lovely names as his assumption of having attained Adeptship made all that he did or chose to do seem right for both the cosmos and him. His names were Destiny, free love and the Chosen.

As the hours passed he became his role there was no dichotomy within him. His pupils would be a means, sent by his gods, whereby he himself and they could attain further magickal understanding.

Darkness came early, shielding, and his Priestess lit some candles to shed some light and add to the atmosphere of magick that he was building with his words. The terrors of his recent past became rationalized as he talked Pead had brought misfortune on himself by his past deeds of sacrifice, and the terrors at the Satanist house were the result of a battle between Saer and the woman who had enticed Claudia away. It was not his battle, and his only mistake had been to become involved. That involvement was Claudias doing, she was obviously being manipulated by other powers emanating from the Satanist house.

Jukes was pleased with his understanding. He described to his new pupils the ritual Pead had done and explained how the magickian became possessed.

So you see, there is always danger present. We must learn to master our wills!

His two pupils looked at each other, and the woman nodded.

When, asked the man, can we be Initiated?

Jukes pretended to consider the matter carefully. We have a meeting next week at which Initiation could take place.

Really? As soon as that? The man was surprised.

Of course, if you wish to delay

No, no. What you suggest is fine. We are only too keen to begin our quest.

Good. I shall arrange everything.

May I ask you something? For the first time the woman spoke.

Why yes!

What happened to the man in that ritual?

Jukes laughed. He is probably wandering around still, quite mad!

Jukes was pleased to see them go, knowing the woman would soon be his and knowing that his Priestess would be only too willing to please him when they returned to his bed. He slept well that night, tired from his bodily exertions and safe again within the world he had created. He did not hear his Priestess crying, a little, toward dawn as she sensed what next week would bring. But she would accept it, for she was only a Priestess and he was her teacher.

Outside, two Blackbirds sung her to sleep.

XXI

Therefore, let every mortal see that last day
When they die not considering themselves fortunate
Until without suffering they cross the boundary of this life.

Thurstan wrote the words slowly, savoring them, before collecting together the scattered pages of his translation. He glanced through it, satisfied at the labor of months, but sad because he would have to think of something else to do in the long hours to be spent alone as summer changed to autumn and brought the dark of night to cover the evening hours.

A premonition of dawn came to him as he looked out from his window to the eastern hills, and he snuffed out the candles by which he liked to work. The air outside was fresh like that of early autumn and he stood by the door of the cottage slowly breathing it in. There was no wind to break the silence and he walked into his small garden, riddled by weed and long of grass, to watch the haze of Aurora grow. Definition of fence, tree, fields and hills came slowly in rhythm with the song of birds as if those very songs were calling Eos from her sleep. The growing light though without warmth still drew the cold sadness from Thurstan as he stood waiting for the sun god to rise. And when he did, climbing steadily between the cleft in hills on the horizon, Thurstan smiled in reverence.

Phrases from his translation repeated themselves in his mind and it did not seem to him a long span of time since Sophocles had seen or imagined the sun rising over the mountains of Phocis: Bright as a flame from the snows of Parnassus comes a voice Who, Thurstan wondered, had in the intervening centuries understood the message? Would his own attempt to present it in his own language fail should it ever be printed and read? Would hubris defiance that broke the balance in the cosmos increase? Could the balance ever be restored?

He did not know the answers to these questions as he did not know any answers that were solutions to the problems of his own life, and he contented himself with enjoying the beautiful world around him; the sights, sounds, smells of sky god and Earth mother. The Earth around him was real in a way that his memories and dreams were not and as he stood, experiencing the dawn of day, he forgot his love of Melanie and his dreams of sharing his life, making himself content by his work in the gardens of mother Earth and by his night time toil of translations.

He became at peace again with himself and sat upon the step to his next translation. The turning of Earth brought the sun higher into his sky while he sat, enjoying the warmth of his last day free from his work. Tomorrow, his brief holiday over, he would return to the farm to strain and stretch his muscles and delight in his simple tasks.

The sun was warm when he heard a vehicle approaching, but he did not rise even when he recognized the car, which was screechingly braked to a halt. Melanie came toward him and his peace vanished like darkness by lightning. For minutes they stood, pressed close together by their arms.

I love you. Melanies words were a spell, which bound her to him. She knew they would be and had never used them before.

You seem changed, Thurstan said as she began to cry, gently.

Claudia is dead.

He kissed her, sat her in a garden chair in the sun, made and brought her a pot of tea and sat beside her to listen while she talked. She spoke of the man who came rushing into her house, drawn somehow by the power she was invoking, of how he seemed to sense, as she had, Claudias innocence. She described the pit into which they fell where Algars disfigured body lay rotting: of how she had let her grief walk her to her garden and how the burgeoning light of a new day had brought to her an understanding of the tragedy of her past.

Your simple love, she said, broke through the shield around me. I dont know how or why but it did.

What will you do?

She laughed. Did you mean what you said?

Yes.

Then I want to stay here with you.

Clouds began to gather around the eastern horizon of hills as they spoke, growing as a wind arose to shape and move them across the sky to cover, briefly, the sun. Other, darker clouds followed.

But your house your plans?

I shall forget them.

Can you?

Yes. My perspective may have changed but not my will!

Thurstan was delighted, both by the answer and the spirit, which sent it forth from her lips. Will you marry me, then? he asked.

Yes!

They kissed like new lovers while clouds covered the whole of the sky.

Shall we go in? Thurstan asked.

I would like that.

Inside Melanie said; You know what I wish?

He was attuned to her and answered, I think so.

It may be possible, for I no protection and my cycle is right.

This new desire enhanced he closeness they found as naked body lay upon naked body. Rain fell around the cottage in where they lay, sweating. It beat down as a storm upon the roof and windows, a counter-point to their passionate ecstasy and love, and when it was over and they lay entwined together while the sun sent shafts of light through a window, Melanie began to cry. She softly cried for a long time as if the tears purged her of her past. Thurstan felt this, and brushed them away as she lay resting her head on his chest.

The knocking on his door startled them both. Hastily Thurstan covered part of his nakedness.

Yes? he asked as he opened the door.

The old man was in ragged clothes and it was some seconds before Thurstan recognized Saer.

I am sorry to intrude at such a time, smiled Saer. May I enter?

Thurstan was reluctant, for he sensed the Saer was more than an intrusion. Id rather you didnt.

Her power is gone.

Please go. Thurstan did not understand what was happening but Saer seemed a threat to him in some way.

I cannot leave without her.

The words struck Thurstan like blows. We are to marry.

It cannot be, said Saer quietly.

Leave us alone! shouted Thurstan and in anger shut the door. He bolted it before returning to Melanie.

Saer stood by the bed. It cannot be, he repeated.

Thurstans wroth made him move toward Saer who raised his hand. Thurstans body became paralyzed and he could only watch as Saer gave Melanie her clothes.

I shall kill you! Thurstan screamed.

Saer smiled.

Why are you doing this? Thurstan asked, realizing his rage was useless. Melanie did not look at him and seemed to be in a trance.

Saer smiled and Thurstans rage return. He channeled it to his body. Trembling with effort he could only manage to move his feet a little forward.

Sleep now.

Thurstans eyes were closing and he could not stop them. The last thing he saw was Melanies pleading but helpless eyes. Then he was dreaming. He was in his garden under a searing sun but his garden was different: full of beautiful flowers and luxurious grass. Claudia, radiantly beautiful, was beside him and held his arm. He felt peaceful with her and listened almost rapturously as she spoke.

You were part of his plan. He could do nothing until your love broke her power.

Help me, Thurstan asked.

We can do nothing here.

Thurstan awoke to find himself lying on his bed. Moonlight reached his room and he lay trying to unravel dream from reality and reality from dream. It was a slow process, but helped by Melanies perfume, which still lay on his pillow and when it was over he remembered her car.

It was still outside his cottage. He felt uncomfortable with its power and drove carefully along he moonlit lanes and roads to her house, which he found empty and cold. Nervous, he switched on all the lights as he journeyed from room to room and floor to floor avoiding the temple of her crystal. But he felt and saw nothing except the shadows and fears of his own mind. And the memories of their brief time together.

Only the library possessed some warmth as if in indication of the answers he hoped to find, and he shut its door before browsing among the books. All of them, and the manuscripts bound like books, were about alchemy, magick or the Occult. He could read the Latin of the medieval manuscripts and books, but what it related did not interest him as the later books brought forth no desire to read further. Even the Black Book of Satan, resting on the table, seemed irrelevant to him. They were all compilations of shadow words, appearing to Thurstan to fall short of the aim that the searchers who had written them should have aimed for. His instinctive feeling was to observe in a contemplative way some facet of the cosmos to stand outside in the dark of the night and listen for the faint music that traveled down to Earth from the stars rather the enclose himself in the warm womb of a house to read the writings of others. Demons, spells, hidden powers, the changing of base metal to gold, even the promises of power and change for himself, were not important to Thurstan, and he left the library with its stored knowledge and forbidden secrets and lurking gods, to walk in the moonlit garden.

The stars were not singing for him or he could not hear them above the turmoil of him thought but his slow moon-wise walking brought a calm. His dreams of sharing life with Melanie were still vivid, but he realized that if such sharing was not to be, it would not be. He might try, through force or even magick to win her back. But is he succeeded, his dreams would only become real if she wished to make them real for him, and all he could do was give her the freedom of choice. Saer was using her for what purpose he did not know and he would try and find her, somehow, to give the promise of choice. He was not afraid of Saer, not worried about the magickal powers he possessed, for as he walked with a calm that deepened and brought awareness of the rhythms of the cosmos, he felt that it was his fate to try and find her. What happened when and if he did, would happen, as Spring happens after the cold darkness of Winter.

XXII

It was not a long wait. Thurstan did not enter the secret Temple and use the crystal nor any magickal means. His way was not the way of magick but of sensitive thought and he sat on the damp, cold grass to close his eyes and think of Melanie.

What he saw guided him and he walked in the moonlight along the narrow turning hilly lanes singing softly to himself. His songs were from his translations and he invented the music to match the rhythum of his walking feet. There was joy in him then, a simpleness that gave him the strength of water and its ability to follow any channel or shape itself while still being itself to any vessel or container. His goal was a small cottage of stone with a sagging roof and tiny windows beside an unmarked track that weaved among the mamelons between the western slopes of the Mynd and the tress of Linley Hill. No one passed him as he walked and the fields were quite silent and quite still. His chosen track let him for a hundred yards through a wood, past a stream flowing down between two hills to curve eastwards and rise north among the rocky barren land. As its sudden end lay the cottage but briefly home to the short sun of Winter. Dawn was almost rising behind him as he knocked upon studded oak door.

No one came to answer his call and he opened the door. Inside in the flickering light of a fire, he saw Saer hunched on a stool before the hearth while against the wall in the recessed bed, Melanie lay sleeping. The large room comprised all of the cottage and it smelled of burnt hazel mingled with pine. Saer, though surprised, did not move.

You are persistent. Saer did not look toward Thurstan but still stared into the large flames that ate, with sporadic breaking of tree-limbs and fingers, the wood.

Thurstan did not close the door but began to walk toward Melanie. Suddenly, Saer rose.

Leave her, he said quietly and raised his left hand.

For an instant Saers features seemed, to Thurstan, to be lacertilian but the impression soon vanished to leave only an old man with the impression soon vanished to leave only an old man with white hair standing before a fire. As soon as Thurstan touched Melanie she awoke. She is mine, he said, almost sadly.

It is not for you or for me but for Melanie to decide, Saer said, and smiled. It was a kindly smile and he raised him hand again.

Thurstan signed and held Melanies hand.

I can see, Saer said to Thurstan, what powers you now represent.

I have no power only me love for her.

Even now you do not understand. Saer turned toward Melanie. It is written: Baphomet is a goddess of violent aspect who washes in the blood of her foes. She is the bride of Lucifer a Gate to the Dark Gods beyond this Earth. Her daughters are Power, Vengeance and Lust, but the only Earth-based live child born from these children is the Demon named Love,

So I, said Melanie, as Mistress of Earth passed beyond the Abyss.

To bring into this world what must be.

And now I must choose?

Yes.

For a long time Melanie looked at Thurstan. I must go with Saer, she finally said. In that instant, she felt her magickal powers return.

But I

Say nothing. She pressed her forefinger to his lips.

I dont understand, said Thurstan, almost crying with emotion.

Melanie smiled, sadly. There will be enough time for understanding in old age. What lives now and grows within me will always be a part of you.

She kissed his cheek and he became too full of emotion to do anything but watch her and Saer walk into the burgeoning dawn. Then, suddenly, they vanished. He ran outside, but he could not find them.

He walked slowly away from the cottage. The light of dawn seemed to be sucking mist from the ground, but he did not care. He moved, like an old man pained by his limbs, through the cold and sometimes swirling mist along a path that took him toward the Mynd and up, steeply, to its level summit where he stood, high above the mist, to watch the mist-clotted valleys below. The heather was beginning to show the glory of its color, and he walked through it northbound along the cracked and stony road stopping often to turn around and wait. But no one and nothing came to him no voices, song or sigh. There was hope within him as he walked as he had often walked along the almost level top of the long and beautiful low mountain. But it did not last. He sensed he would never see her again never know their child. The very Earth itself seemed to be whispering to him the words of this truth. He began to sense, slowly, that there was for him real magick here where moorland fell to form deep hollows home to those daughter of Earth known as springs and streams, and where the Neolithic pathway had heard perhaps ten million stories. No wisps of clouds came to spoil the glory of the sun as it rose over the mottled wavy hills beyond the Stretton valley miles distant and below. No noise to break the almost sacred silence heard. For an instant it seemed as if some divinity, strange but pure, came into the world, and smiled.

The smile might have been one of understanding, but Thurstan sat down in the heather and cried.

XXIII

It was raining still and dull of day when Jukes arrived at Peads cottage, summoned by avarice. His fear began to ebb away as he saw it was empty, unchanged since the night of the ritual except for the stench of the dismembered, half-eaten and rotting dog.

He selected his goods carefully, selecting only the rarest of books and manuscripts to his car wherein his Priestess waited, soothed by his words of charm: He said if anything happened to him, I was to keep his books
So he worked while she, in trust, waited. And when, to his satisfaction, the collection was complete, he drove in curiosity to see from a safe distance the house wherein Claudia had left him and where he thought she lived in bondage to her Satanic mistress.

An old tramp was walking away from the direction of the house and Jukes stopped him, saying: Do you know who lives there?

In that house? Said the old man before spitting on the ground. Empty it is has been for weeks if you ask me. No mug of tea for me there, thats for sure.

Jukes did not thank him or even watch him walk away. He was excited, and led his Priestess along the driveway to the house. Behind them, Saer turned in the rain, and smiled.

Jukes tried the door, and to his surprise found it open. The house was warm, comforting after the cold rain, and they ambled along the hallway with Jukes calling Hello?

No one came. Jukes left his Priestess for he felt strangely aroused. The house, he felt, was a woman of beauty and he was violating her. He was full of physical lust and felt powerful and began to explore all the aspects or her warm and scented body hoping vaguely he might find a real woman whom he could rape. He eagerly sought the bedrooms caressing the silken sheets as he eagerly sought items of clothing, which he hoped by their texture, and smell might bring nearer to him the woman he was searching for. Night came from outside while he wandered, bringing light and increased warmth within the house. But Jukes did not notice this. His arousal became stronger until he became a man intent only on rape. He did not see the shadows from his own Abyss as they gathered around him lipsing words of encouragement, as he did not find in his search the woman he wanted. But he remembered a woman, waiting for him below.

He found her asleep in a chair fluxed in the glow of a large crystal before her. He did not care about the strange room nor wonder about the crystal. He cared only for satisfying his lust he wanted, as he had never wanted before, to abuse her cruelly, to beat her and rape her savagely. He was strong in body and would use his strength to satisfy himself by forcing her beneath him.

He moved toward her, leering. Then she opened her eyes and smiled.

Jukes found he could not move, and did not see the door behind him close. You are mine now, the woman who had once been his willing lover said. With a look I can strike you dead!

Jukes did not doubt it. Reality for him returned quickly. She was no longer his Priestess, but a woman, mistress of him, who by magick bound his will. Beside the crystal where he stood watching helplessly, an amber necklace lay and she rose from the chair to take it for herself. She was still smiling as she unthreaded one bead, which began to glow in her fingers. She showed it to him, mockingly, and laughed before re-threading it and placing the beads around her neck.

You are mine, she repeated and smiled. Through Them whom we never name, we who garb ourselves in black possess this rock we call this Earth.

She did not yet know what she would do with her new power, but there was plenty of time for her to think of something, plenty of secret books to be read. The old man who had led her from the hallway to this chamber would return, one day, to instruct her, she remembered he had said.

Thurstan saw the lights in Melanies house, and waited. He waited for a long time in the cold and the darkness, trying to forget his hunger, his tiredness and the rain. At last the lights became fewer, until all were gone, and he walked, trusting in his love and hopeful still, toward the door. It was not locked.

There was a woman sleeping in Melanies bed. He did not wake her, nor the man he found sleeping in another room, but left them and the house to walk along the dark road that would take him to the Mynd, down into the valley and back to his cottage.

I am an old man in a young mans body, he said to himself as he walked amid the rain. Maybe some day he would love again, but the shattering of his dreams had changed him, making him to wish to live alone, content with his translations. He did not fully understand his recent past but he felt that Melanies child, when born, would be important in some way to the world a kind of channel for the forces which both she and Saer represented.

He had seen enough of the hidden dimensions of the world to realize his lack of knowledge, but this lack did not bother him. He would go his own way, slowly as perhaps befitted a hermit-scholar, seeking through the slowness of the years a kind of inner peace in the little piece of Earth that was his home. Change would come as it always had and always would and he would sigh, while he treasured what he knew.

In the rain he thought he heard a strange creator star-god sigh, but walked on shaking his head at the perplexity that was human life and the sadness that was the breaking of his dreams.

Incipit Vitriol.. 

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