Book of Shadows, Part One
18 January 2005
We stood facing the base of the mountain as we waited for dusk, Akshainie pacing around and idly kicking at rocks and snow.
"I do not see why I need legs now," she muttered, crossing her arms and sending a small puff of snow into the air, "no one can even see us."
"And will you have time to change if they arrive?"
"I do not know! But why can the humans not just know what I am, anyway?"
"It isn't that they can't. It's that they won't. They pride themselves on their very enlightened understanding of the world, and that which disagrees with it will either be dismissed or met with disdain. Besides, our work calls for a certain amount of finesse."
"I'll show you finesse, as soon as you fulfill your promise of letting me fight the Brood."
"I am working on it." She slumped down onto the seat next to me.
"Oh, yes, very important work, sitting outside some mountain you spent a week trying to convince yourself was worth the trouble. Why are you so concerned about this place, anyway?"
"It...I had planned to never return." She went to speak, but as the shadow of night fell over the rest of the mountain a distant singing drifted out on the breeze. She stopped and turned to face it.
"What is that?"
"Time to go," I answered, rising. I took a deep breath, gave a quick nod, and walked toward the mountain. The ladies greeted me as always, attempting to seduce me into staying with them, but soon took notice of Akshainie. Some asked if I had finally succumbed to the temptations of man, while others took to enticing Akshainie to stay. I tried my best to ignore the words and touches as I continued walking.
"This one's friendly," she said with a wry smirk, pointing at the succubus attempting to wrap her arms around Akshainie's bust.
"That is one way to describe them."
"Is this what you're so concerned about here? Oh! It is bad memories? Have you already-"
"I have chosen to turn my back on this place, but they are not the primary reason. And no, I know the price for entertaining their invitation; besides, my vow of celibacy would not allow it."
"Your father made a similar vow," one succubus said, seductively, as she ran her fingers along my jaw, "and yet, here-" I snapped my fingers and she fell to the ground with a yelp, clutching her head and whining softly as Akshainie stepped over her.
"How'd you do that?!" she demanded, pointing at the now-recovering succubus.
"They are mine. They were given to me, and as long as I am in this place they do whatever I desire. I desired for her to shut up." Akshainie glanced at the others, who had all backed away from us and fallen silent, and followed me into the mouth of the Venusberg.
Inside, the mistress of the mountain sat at the far end of a massive table overflowing with food and drink, surrounded by spirits and probably humans engaged in drunken, orgasmic revelry. She gasped and rose when she saw me enter, then ran over and gave me a hug.
"Oh, you've come back! I always knew you would. Has been a while, though, is it so hard to send a message once in a while telling me how you're doing? And you!" She proclaimed, turning to Akshainie and reaching out to embrace her. Akshainie growled and rested her hand on the hilt of one of her swords, and the goddess stopped. "Feisty," she said to me, "a perfect match."
"I'm not here for niceties," I said.
"Oh, no, of course not. You never are," she sighed, as she laid back on the table. She looked to Akshainie. "It's always business with this one. The humans have done a real number on him."
"I have noticed," Akshainie replied, giving me a sideways glance.
"I've come for the book," I said, stepping forward and attempting to cut off the line of that conversation. The goddess rolled her eyes and groaned, picking up a goblet of wine and taking a drink before she answered.
"The Book of Shadows."
"Oh, that dusty old thing? My dear, you didn't seem to want it, and it didn't exactly fit the aesthetic here." She waved her hand dismissively. "I sent it to Yggdrasil." I removed my glasses and rubbed the bridge of my nose.
"I have come all this way to collect my book, which you gave me, and you don't even have it?"
"Well it serves you right!" she announced, jumping to her feet and tossing the goblet aside. A throng of naked beings flocked over to lap up the spilled wine as she stepped forward. "I have offered you everything, would give you the world! You were destined for a kingdom, and power, and all the joys that flesh of yours can ever hope to know, and all you have ever done is repay me with disrespect and derision! You take such great care to keep your little vows and commandments, but ignore the one about honoring me! Is this what it takes to have a simple conversation with you? If I'd known you would care about it so much, do you not think I would have kept it here waiting for you?"
"I know what you want from me, and how well you will dress up your offer to get it. But, I suppose, I have an appointment with Yggdrasil." I turned and began to walk away.
"Wait! Here," she said, turning around. I glanced back, and she produced from the table a platter of perfect shepherd's pie, "I'm sorry I yelled at you. For the road, perhaps?"
"I know better than to eat food from this realm. Goodbye, mother." With that, Akshainie and I left.
Sabbatical, Part Three
7 february 1990
I arrived in the early afternoon, the sun still high and fighting against the late winter chill. Hörselberg Hill would be safe this time of day; the Ladies never sought prey in daylight, rarely even by moonlight. They liked the darkness, fog if they could get it, anything that made a weary traveler eager for company. They needed little help to draw in their victims, but seemed to only enjoy it that way. I knew they would emerge tonight, though, whatever the weather was. They would always come when I call. Having bought a late lunch, I found a nice place to sit and read as I waited for evening.
I had been back three times that I could remember. In the midst of puberty, Father brought me to the mountain to find out if I would still choose his path when I was vulnerable. He brought me again, another test, before I left for seminary. We barely avoided capture by the Soviets on that trip. Finally, when I was accepted into the priesthood, I came alone to see if the Ladies would view me differently. If anything, they seemed more hungry. It was my fear of another encounter with the East German police that prompted me to learn for the first time that I could step into the spiritual realm to avoid notice.
I don't know what I expected to accomplish tonight. But I had the nagging sense that I needed to find out.
As dusk began to fall on the town and I had finished my dinner, I set out toward the hill. There was no need to hurry, and it was dark by the time I stepped foot on the hill. A cleft in the rock glowed, as the open door of a house does at night, and four women stood before me. Each was more beautiful than humans can really match, barely clothed, and singing a song of welcome. I muttered a prayer as I walked toward them, steeling myself against what I knew lie ahead.
To say the Ladies move quickly would be inaccurate, but not because they move slow. They do not seem to move, they simply are wherever they desire to be, always when you're not quite watching them well enough to know how they did it. It's distracting, disorienting, designed to prevent their target from really processing who they are or what they're offering. The first time you encounter it, it's just enough to make you question your own observation, make you wonder if you were just wrong about where that one was standing just a moment ago, make you wonder if you really know anything, make you question yourself just enough that whatever resistance you think you have will be weakened.
The fourth time you see it, it feels like a cheap circus.
They began speaking to me, the voice traveling from one to another in no apparent sequence, one at a time in succession. Another of their little tricks. I began to wonder if they knew how to do anything differently when on the hillside.
"You've returned," they said, "have you finally come for us?" I fixed my eyes on the doorway as I felt their hands and bodies brush against me outside my field of vision.
"I've come to speak with your mistress." I blinked and one of them was directly in front of me, so close I could feel her breath as she rested her hand on my chest. It was enough to pull my eyes away from the doorway.
"There's no rush, my love. You have time to enjoy one of us."
"You have time to enjoy all of us," a voice whispered into one ear.
"You know our Mistress has promised us to you," another voice whispered in my other ear. Their smell was intoxicating. I fixed my eyes on the doorway again and took a step forward. The lady ahead of me pressed hard against my body.
"You're wasting your time. I'll do what I came to do and nothing more," I said, pushing past her. "You must realize that."
"On the contrary," they replied, "we are very patient, and you are your father's son." I tried to block out the scent, the sound of them singing again, and the feel of their hands on me as I continued forward into the doorway. When I entered, the Ladies were there, lounging on cushions along the wall. Their mistress stood in the center of the room, smiling at me.
"Benedict! It's been some time, look at you!" she called out, walking toward me with her arms out. She grabbed my shoulders, as if testing their strength, then touched at my face. "Nice strong jawline, just like your father. Oh, they must love you out there."
"I have no such attachments out there."
"You are welcome to find them here! The Ladies are so eager to know you, can't say I blame them."
"I am not interested in your Ladies."
"I have men, as well." She touched my collar, as if noticing it for the first time. "Or boys, if you prefer."
"I'm sure you do."
"Come, eat, relax! Tell me all about your life in the human world." She made her way over to a banquet table laid out with a feast. "What's new with you? How is your father?"
"He's dead. I've come from the funeral." She smiled, leaning on the table.
"So that's why you've returned? Are you ready to come home without his influence?" The Ladies perked up on their cushions. I thought for a moment, looking between them and her.
"You didn't know he was gone."
"You can't honestly blame me. I have my own matters to address."
"He spent his whole life fearing he'd never really gotten free of you, of this place. Always afraid you still had a hold of his soul. But you didn't. You don't have any claim on him, not even enough to know when he was dead." She waved her hand dismissively.
"Yes, yes. You always have a speech. What's your point this time?" I smiled.
"If he can be free of you, then maybe, someday, so can I." I turned and began walking back toward the doorway.
"It's not the same for you, Benedict," she yelled after me. "He was a visitor, but you belong here! You'll always come back!"
"Don't wait up, mother," I said, before stepping back out into the night.
Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.
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