Hell's Angel
by Paradoqz

A tall, slender woman shrugs off her cloak. It is black. In fact, the color dominates the room. Upholstery, furniture, materials, clothes -- all is black. Usually such would produce a depressing effect but instead this room shines with a dark beauty. Much like the lady herself. Her delicate features are pensive, as she absently raises a goblet to her lips. The darkly red contents of the cup reflect the odd sunrays into a pattern that is as intricate as it is fleeting. Finally she sighs and puts the goblet down, turning her gaze to her... guest.

"Oh, stop struggling. It's really quite hopeless, I learned that knot from my father a long, long time ago. And besides, while I appreciate a good sporting struggle, I'm afraid you're going to have to admit you've lost. Oh, do be quiet, child. Your tears are just ruining your complexion.

Now honestly, what were you really expecting when you accepted my invitation to dine this evening? Judging by your actions, you thought you could seduce me, tumble me into my own bed, to be yours to take your pleasure upon.

Hardly. Really now, you should have expected no differently. Doesn't anyone bother to do any basic intelligence gathering anymore? A pity. If you had, you might not be bound here now on my little display rack.

Oh, it was power you sought, was it? You wanted for me to become your teacher share my knowledge? Child, your puny mind could not come anywhere near close to holding the amount of information I've merely forgotten, let alone what I hold dear. You see, you made a very big mistake. You took me for a twenty-something little dabbler in the Black Arts.

Now you know differently. I'm far, far older than you could possibly comprehend.

You doubt me? Silly child. You really have no idea of what you've tangled with, do you? I should just leave you here, like this, for a few decades. Give you some time to contemplate your mistakes. Maybe then you'll have some respect for your elders.

Oh, I see now. You're sorry. Well, I'm just overcome with joy at your remorse. Thrilled, I am. Oh, stop mumbling child, it's demeaning. And besides, that cantrip won't work. Honestly.

Oh, all right, go ahead and try it. I'm telling you it won't work. You claim to have wanted to learn, so there's your first lesson.

See? It didn't work. I told you it wouldn't. That cantrip depends on there being no magical disturbances in the weave, and if you'd bothered to take a moment and feel the weave, you'd know that it's a little choppy right now. Not very conducive at all to a smooth, steady weaving.

"What? You can't feel the weave? Cthon save me from amateurs. How do you expect to ever really be a sorcerer if you can't even SEE what you're working with?

Yes, I can see the weave. It's the first thing I ever learned. Took me ten years and innumerable beatings from the Master of the Art before I could even see the roughest, most coarse weaves. At the time, it seemed like an eternity. But when you're 16 when you master it, and you started at age 6...

Oh, don't look so surprised. Once you pass your thousandth year of life, the years start to blur together. What's a year when you've lived for centuries, anyway?

Second lesson, child. You've heard stories about how those who practice the Black Arts can damn your soul to Hell for all Eternity? You're about to get a practical demonstration. But since I won't be using my own soul, and I don't happen to have another lying around, I'm forced to use yours.

Really, now. Of course I have a soul. I can see it. Can't you? Oh, I forgot. This Age has produced nothing but barely trained children with no idea of what they do. I'm surprised they even let you outside without a Keeper.

Stop your blubbering. And that God won't help you. No, He won't either. I believe you've violated a few too many of His Commandments to be calling on Him. I don't have much traffic with Him and His followers. Insufferable lot, the only real good they've done is turned Shem and the Southern Kingdoms into a fetid squalling desert filled with barbaric savages who think their Gods of Peace and Love has commanded them to kill each other.

I'm talking about what you'd call the Middle East, silly boy. It's a festering ball of Chaos over there, and if they're not careful, they're going to trip over something rather ... unpleasant ... that will probably

devour both their flesh and their souls. Should be a lot of fun to watch. From a distance, of course

Of course I know what it is. And no, I won't warn them. Live or die by their own stupidity, I want no part of it. Besides, the last time I took a bunch of unspeakable primitives under my wing and gave them a home, the ungrateful wretches tried to kill me for it.

You know, you've really got a fine form here. Strong, young, quick, and reasonably intelligent by the standards of this Age. It's a shame it's going into the Pits, but that's just the way it goes.

Hm? No, nothing so crude. It doesn't become a Lady to be wasteful. My stepmother taught me that. She was quite an accomplished courtesan in her time. I learned much from her. Pity she decided to cheat me out of my inheritance...

Don't be so impatient, boy. It doesn't become you. Yes, you are indeed going to die, how does that that give you any leverage here? Oh all right. I'm in such a generous mood today... See? This is really one of the simplest pentagrams. The Gate. You don't? Why, I'm positively mortified.Flabbergasted. Amazed beyond belief, I am. Fools. Even the Pict shamans, could do this. And those savages had trouble writing their own names.

What did I mean by "wasteful" comment? Oh dear me... It appears I was mistaken. You are not the brightest match in the box after all, are you? Hmm... Let us see.

Taunting me is not the wisest course of action in your current position, child. It's been some time since I summoned a Spectre, some difficulty is to be expected...

Painful, is it not? Don't worry, remember, what I said. I shall not consume all of your soul today... just a portion. Aaaah... exquisite as always, no? I realize that you are seeing it for the first time, boy. 'Twas a rhetorical question. Watch and marvel,child.

That was a nice try. A trifle distracting however. If you persist I shall be forced to gag you. Hm? No, but you mispronounced 'taashpengo' and that threw the whole spell off... I'd imagine someone in the neighborhood shall be most surprised finding a gnome in their bed. Well... let us depart."

The duo makes their way slowly through the rolling mists of the Sheol. Each breeze seems to carry a moan of pain. The air itself seems to tell of unimaginable sufferings. The woman takes the atmosphere of dread in stride. Her spirit form appears hardly changed from her corporeal on, as she gracefully glides through the blood red fog. Her reluctant companion fares less well. Eventually the lady addresses the concerns of the youth.

"Stop your simpering. It's quite irritating. If you are trying to appeal to my emotions you are wasting your breath. Besides I'm well aware that by now the process is perfectly painless. How? I would know because it was done to me, of course... Don't touch that! Do you want to stay in Hell forever? Really, such an amateur mistake. Even such as those who call themselves Mages today should have taught you better. I do not, in point of fact, care. You are quite free to eat that later, I still need you however... for now.

Please stop shaking, you are simply amusing them and attracting more of the Damned. They quite intangible at this stage of the journey, I assure you.

Please. Don't make me laugh. This so-called Vishanti school of Mages is just so many apprentices full of hot air. Squabbling over scraps from Masters' table. Even junior member of the Black Circle would laugh himself silly if they tried to match wits with him...

Of course you don't. Mitra forbid you should learn a bit of the history of the craft before meddling with it. You heard of Stygia at least, I presume?

Of course. I should have known. The victors write the history after all.

"The second 'evil empire' of the West" indeed. Please. Evil is so subjective... Do NOT pet the Gorkh demons! Honestly to look at you it is as if you'd never traversed the Underworld before.

Yes. Now they are very tangible. Didn't you notice when we passed the third Circle? Really now. Stop complaining, I assure you will have some of your soul left. As I said I know from experience. Who? Why two of the best, of course.

My father and Thoth Amon. It was quite an experience... as you are finding out currently. I was, regrettably, much too young to appreciate the wonders of the Dark Realm when I visited it the first time. No matter. My father wasn't worthy to lick Amon's boots.

Those were interesting times indeed... No, young man, it is not a Chinese curse. 'Tis a Khari one. Of course not. Why would you know of people that laid foundation for this... this... so-called civilization. My ancestors were, to steal a phrase,'great with knowledge while yours were still hide-clad savages... where you are about still.' Yes, MY people. Their greatness destroyed by hordes of the unwashed.

The glory and dark beauty of Khitai, Acheron and Stygia turned to dust. I trace my ancestry to Akivasha and Giant Kings, boy, and to Serpent People of Valusia. I was born to greatness. I'm Selene of the Nehekba House.

Blessed by Father Set's dark magic when I was born. Apprenticed to Thoth Amon. You sought to learn from me?! Fool. Thrice the fool.

I saw civilizations rise and fall. I saw the magics of Elder Gods fritter away forgotten and this Vishanti abomination take their place. I saw great wizards of old disappear one by one. Defeated by savages and lucky fools. Like this... Merlin. Great Mage indeed... Finding a stone of power by chance. Pathetic.

You think I'm ranting, boy? You think me senile? Wait... wait and watch and learn. We are here."

The ancient man appearing before them doesn't seem to be very happy upon being "summoned." Shifting uncomfortably in the confines of the pentagram, he sniffs disdainfully at the delicate artwork. The strength of the mind, shining through his eyes, belies the man's decrepit appearance. Apparently his hearing is also quite efficient, as the query that boy sends, more or less, to himself or whatever God might be listening, diverts the man attention to his visitors.

"Why are you here, boy? Why it's simple, of course. Your leash holder wants to gloat. Isn't that right, Selene? Please. Spare me. Wounded innocence looks as innocuous on you as modesty on me. We know each other too well to waste time on little tricks. What, boy? You are surprised that someone has the temerity to speak so to "Powerful Sorceress"? Hah... I am in Hell. What's more I am Kulan Gath of the Black Ring. I do as I wish.

Ah, I thought so. I knew you would throw that in my face again, Selene. Well...you were wrong. Overconfidence, did not after all, proved to be the death of me. I am quite alive. Yes. But in Hell. Yes, indeed I would say that it is a significant "but." See, boy? I was correct. She came to gloat. You were always a hateful little thing, Selene. Even when we served Thoth Amon.

Of course not. Of course, not you. Spare me. You can play with semantics on days on end but we both now what our status was. Do we not? Hmm... Yes, I remember. You were forever whining about you ancestry. Forever complaining about being denied membership in the Black Ring because you were a woman. I enjoyed that immensely, I must admit.

You had it all! Family, wealth, power, status. But no.... You had to have the Art, too. I had to claw my way from the gutters of Sukhmet. Beg and fight my way into the Temple apprenticeship. When you came to Kheshatta, I was already there for five years! Five years in the City of Magicians! I alone survived the Caverns of Kesherik. I was the best. And yet I was denied admittance into Khemi. The priestly capital of Stygia was too good for the street rat from Sukhmet... but not for the scion of Nehekba. You went on to study with the Black Robes and I had to listen to crazed ravings of the madmen and second raters. But in the end I was welcomed into the Black Ring and you were turned away.

Hahahahaha. I remember your face, Selene. Ohhh, I do indeed. The fact that you were more than worthy, made it all the more delicious... Ahhhh, yes. It was my time then... My time. Until they exiled me. Fools! How dared they! "Dabbling with the dark forces"! We were Stygians, the last spark of civilization among the primitives and barbarians. Heirs of the Thurians and the Khari! And they bound us by morals! The Black Ring... the ones who were supposed to be the elite of the nation. Blind


No, Selene, I was no more sorry to see Amon go, than you were. That is the way of things. Weak give the way to the strong. I was.... somewhat disappointed that he lost to some Cimmerian of all things. Ah well, such is life. As Villagro whom he cast into the Abyss, he himself was cast.

Yes. On that we do agree. It was the Golden Age. Until the Cataclysm.

I longed for the temples of Stygia, but still... I remember fondly my time wandering the world. I hunted the Book of Skelos, as you know. With limited success...

Ah... I knew you would ask for it eventually. Do you think me foolish, woman? Do you truly believe that I would reveal to you the location of N'Garai Talisman? Ah... Old race. But so foolish. So easily enslaved, when one has the tools. Gloating again, Selene? Really, it doesn't become you.

Yes, I was defeated by that... barbarian. Sonja, yes. Youth... it has a magic all of it's own. We are old, Selene. Indeed? I envy you than. I do feel old. Ancient. I long for the rest. I suppose... I will give you a hint.

It amuses me to think that you will spend ages trying to find it. Look for it in the land of the first pharaohs. No, of course not the Gift of the Nile. Yes. Yes, I knew you'd glean that truth easily. We'll see how long it will take you to locate the Talisman. And now if you will pardon me, I'm late for my evening torment.

Please release me from the Binding, before Abbadon becomes unduly... incensed.

Good bye, Selene. And you, pup."

The road back is hardly less strenuous or terrifying, but it is the road back . It seems easier. Or mayhaps the youth is too weary to care. Even his reply as to what his impression was of the man he met, hardly does credit to his full feeling. The lady however doesn't seem to mind his terseness.

Well? Yes... impressive. He was a worthy enemy. Once. Too frail of mind and spirit now. Allowing himself to grow old. To the Abyss with him. The world smells fresher without the old madman. What? Ah... yes, indeed. That is a dilemma. What do I intend to do with you... Indeed. I could leave you to the Pits... That was my original intention, after all. It never hurts to build up a little good will with the Netherworld.

I could be merciful and slay you quickly...or even let you go. Hmm... it doesn't become lady to be wasteful. Yes. I think that would be the best... Let us see if I remember the weave correctly.

I do. Well. It's been some time since I last had a familiar. Do try not to disappoint me. I've always held a rather high opinion of cats. I would be most upset if I was forced to revise it on your account. Good night and welcome to your new life, boy."

The room plunges into sudden darkness as the woman extinguishes the candles upon her departure. Surprisingly enough the boy's eyes adapt quickly. With

strange feeling of lightness and grace he moves. Discovering the absence of bonds he makes an uncertain step toward the door, only to catch his reflection in the mirror.

If any of the servants were foolish enough to brave the grounds of the spacious apartment in which the Black Queen made her residence, without her permission on that day they would perhaps be less surprised then an average visitor. But even experienced domestics of the Hellfire Club would perhaps find it unsettling to encounter a speaking black cat.

Even if his analysis of the situation was rather accurate.

"Oh. Shit."


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