1 “The Devil, You Say” [The Lightbearer]

Lucy Morgen had a secret. She was living a mundane life working at a mundane job typing up legal documents. It didn’t pay well, but it was enough to get by. It paid the rent for a comfortable one-bedroom apartment with access to an indoor pool. It paid for her cable bill and movies on demand. It didn’t cover food or health care, but Lucy didn’t need either of those. She was quite deliberately unattractive, being a slightly pudgy woman in her mid-forties who refused to wear makeup and rarely smiled. Her hair was already greying, highlighting her hazel eyes by contrast.

Lucy also didn’t want to be dragged into the drama of saving humanity yet again. They were a thankless lot. The last time she had saved them, they declared her a demon and dragged her and her reputation through the mud. She almost regretted saving them, almost. Had she been any of her brethren, she would have stayed out of the fight. But her father loved these little monkeys despite their foibles.

It started out as a perfectly ordinary Wednesday. Lucy had several contracts to prepare and a will to complete by the end of the day. The contracts were fairly standard employment and real estate arrangements. The will was oddly familiar. It followed a form that she had used many times in the past. The client was an immortal and after the will was finished, she and the attorney would meet with the client to finalize the will. Lucy hated dealing with immortals. The last one had tried to kill her, but she had managed to banish him to another dimension.

She sat staring at her screen while she reread the will trying to parse the complicated arrangements to ensure that the client’s wealth would pass on to his new identity. Part of her concern was for her job, part for the safety of her employer. Decent lawyers were hard to find and finding employment in the current economy was always a challenge. She was settled and not looking forward to having to move again.

The client arrived early, just as the will was hitting the printer. There would be three copies – one for the client, one for the lawyer, and one to be filed with the Register of Wills office at the local county courthouse. Lucy would serve as the official witness to the client signing of the will. She would also be tasked with running the document over to the courthouse before the offices closed. The office receptionist led the client to a small conference room, while Lucy stapled the collated papers together. The client copy received a cover, but not the other two. As she pushed each staple through the papers, she would get flashes of something dark, evil, and ancient throwing fire and chunks of rock at her. She shook each vision off and finished the stapling, refusing to let the foreboding get in the way.

The client was a young man dressed in Chinos and a Lacoste polo shirt, not at all what Lucy expected. He looked like he was somewhere in the mid-thirties in age, but still quite lean for his age. Clean shaven, short black hair, and an odd juxtaposition of bright blue eyes greeted Lucy as she shook his hand. His name was John Smith. “How unoriginal,” Lucy thought. He smiled and replied to her thought, “glass houses, Ms. Morgen.” Lucy smiled back and then took back her hand.

“Let’s get down to business, shall we,” Attorney Levin gestured to John and Lucy to take a seat at the table. Lucy passed copies of the will to Levin and John while holding on to the third copy. Levin would read the will aloud and any errors found would be corrected before anything was signed. There would be nothing to change unless the client wanted to change any of the terms of the will. Lucy watched Mr. Smith during the reading. He followed along most of the time, but occasionally he would glance around the room as if expecting a sudden interruption. After Levin read through the last paragraph, he asked his usual question, “Are there any last-minute changes that you would like made before we sign?” John Smith shook his head, “no, it’s fine. Where do I sign?” Lucy showed him the line for his signature and waited for him to pass his copy to the attorney. Lucy as witness and notary public always signed last.

Lucy watched John sign and pass the document to Levin. When his first signed will came to her, she studied his signature. It was rather elegant and ornate for a signature, and he had taken his time scribing it. Lucy looked for hidden messages or runes in his signature, but all she saw were florid lines. The ink itself from his fountain pen was unremarkable. It was expensive ink, but your off-the-shelf variety of expensive ink and not some customized magical blood-in-the-water variety. She signed the document and placed her raised seal on the page in the space allotted for it. She did the same for the other two copies before distributing a copy to the client.

Lucy excused herself to place the lawyer’s copy in the filing cabinet. As she shook John’s hand a second time, she saw the impending mêlée in greater detail. It wasn’t much of a contest as she bested the small demon easily. She smiled at the minor revelation that the clash would not involve her employer or place of employment. She stopped to grab her coat and bag from her desk before heading toward the door. John had waited there and held open the door for her. He accompanied her the six blocks to the courthouse. From her point of view, it was the most annoying six blocks that she had ever walked as he prattled on about immortality and demons and angels and whatever topic he could come up with. He silenced himself within range of the courthouse cameras, but followed her inside and through security.

“Well,” thought Lucy, “he didn’t set off any alarms. That’s a relief.”

John kept his distance while Lucy submitted his will to the Registrar’s office and presented the check for the registration fee. When she left the office, he followed her to the exit. One of the Deputies pulled her aside and asked if she knew she had a stalker and if he should detain the guy. She smiled at the Deputy and replied, “no, I can handle things. He’s harmless anyway.”

John caught up to her a block away from the courthouse. “Would you like to go for a drink?” he asked.

“I don’t drink,” Lucy replied as they traversed another block.

“Coffee then?” he proposed stopping mid-block. “I know a place that makes excellent coffee.

Lucy shook her head. “Don’t you have a home to go to?” Lucy inquired.

A flash of panic crossed his face at the suggestion. “I can’t,” he replied.

“Why not?” she asked, staring him down. “Or, let me rephrase that, who did you piss off?”

“I don’t know,” he replied rather calmly. “It was some big nasty demon,” he confessed. “I summoned him and now I can’t get rid of him.”

“And he’s waiting for you at your house?” Lucy asked.

John nodded.

“Where’s your car?” Lucy demanded staring John in the face. “Don’t ask questions, just drive me to your house.”

They were standing by an obsidian black Tesla that had parked next to a fire hydrant. “It’s right here,” he said as he pulled the fob from his pocket and went around to the driver side door. John Smith tossed aside the parking ticket and slid inside. Lucy stared for a moment and then joined him. He was less talkative while driving than he had been while walking.

About an hour later, they pulled up a long unpaved road off the main highway. Breaking through the trees, they arrived at an old stone mansion. Lucy had a soft spot for old stone buildings. She had spent some time in an old Abbey back in the Middle Ages. Or was that the Victorian Era? Either way, it didn’t compare to the elegance of this stone mansion. It stood at least four stories tall and had two massive wings attached, each with their own entry. His car pulled into a stall in what had once been the carriage house of the old stone manor. “John Smith must be sitting on a considerable amount of cash to afford to live here,” Lucy mused. “Or perhaps he had made one too many bad deals to have pissed off a major demon.”

“House keys,” Lucy demanded. “You had better wait here while the demon and I have a chat.”

“You won’t be able to defeat him alone,” John insisted as he bounded up the stairs to the main portico. Lucy shook her head and followed him up the stairs.

Lucy noted that the old iron house keys had been dipped in plastic insulation. She shook her head at his pretense at being a foolish young man. John unlocked the front door and led her into a large ballroom. The stone was ancient and resonating from the ley lines that ran beneath it. The entry hall had been lined with gilded furnishings. Marble stairs led up to the second floor. Inside the ballroom, there were elegantly carved ebony-framed mirrors beside the entry doors. Four large tapestries were draped along each wall. “So, this is our battlefield,” she thought. “And such beautiful tapestries. It would be a shame to destroy them.”

“Who are you really?” she asked aloud. “John Smith is such a pathetically lame alias, and you are no ordinary immortal.”

“I am the Devil, the Prince of Darkness, Satan himself,” he thundered in reply. “I am Lucifer.”

“The Devil, you say?” Lucy huffed. “I seriously doubt that you are Lucifer, the light-bringer, the morning star who fell to Earth.” Lucy paused briefly before asking, ‘Who are you really, demon?”

“I am Lucifer,” he blustered.

Lucy laughed. “You are merely a pretender,” Lucy replied.

“You dare mock me?” he boomed, his voice filling the room. “I am Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness, the Great Satan.”

“You are a fool,” she replied. “Lucifer does not suffer fools.” Her voice seemed to come from everywhere. “You have fallen for the lies told by your kind to estrange humanity from their guardian. You are merely a young wolf who has strayed too far from home and dares to challenge the lion in its den.”

“I am Lucifer,” he insisted as his true form revealed itself. He appeared rather squat and somewhat reminiscent of a toad with horns. The blue-eyed toad with horns rose up before her looking less like an escapee from a bad children’s fairy tale and more like a demon prince.

“He doesn’t look half bad for a demon,” Lucy thought. Lucy laughed and called out a name, “Mammon.”

The Prince of Darkness glared at her. “How dare you call upon an old one? He will not answer you, immortal.”

“Mammon, come rescue your child before I am forced to destroy him,” Lucy called out. And before the Prince of Darkness could object again, Mammon appeared. The elder demon towered above the Prince of Darkness at twice the younger demon’s height. His jet-black horns twisted down around his head, circling his ears. His white tusks ended just short of his eyes. His bright red eyes lit the room against the encroaching nightfall. His beard fell down to his waist, pinned to his chest by a multitude of gold chains.

“Lucifer, I am here,” Mammon announced, nodding slightly towards Lucy. Looking over the blue-eyed toad, Mammon declared, “This child is not mine. Do with him what you will.”

“This is a beautiful ballroom, don’t you think? I’d hate to bloody the tapestries or worse, burn them,” Lucy explained.

Mammon looked around the room and sighed. “You have a point, Lucifer. They are priceless artifacts. I could roll them up and donate them to a museum. Except for that one.” Mammon pointed to a tapestry on a far wall depicting an angel and a demon in battle for a mortal soul. “That one I want for my personal collection.”

Lucy studied the tapestry. “I remember that battle,” Lucy mused. “I remember you losing your sight from it.” Lucy turned to face Mammon. “How long did it take for you to recover?”

“I lost my eyes in that battle. They took nearly a millennium to grow back. And whatever happened to that soul we were fighting over?” Mammon scratched his chin.

“I had to destroy it, as had been my father’s command.” Lucy spoke sadly. “I hate destroying souls, unlike Michael or Gabriel who relish the task.”

“A pity. He would have made a great minion.” Mammon turned to the Prince of Darkness, “What is your name, child?”

“Luc…,” he started to say, but then corrected himself. “Asmodeal, child of Asmodeus, my Lord Mammon,” he said as he knelt before the elder demon.

“And you thought to challenge this immortal female over her use of the name Lucy Morgen?” Mammon asked.

Asmodeal kept his eyes upon the floor and answered, “Yes, my Lord Mammon.”

“And you did not think to ask if it was a good idea to go around challenging mortals over the use of a name that does not belong to our kind?” Mammon’s face had broken into a wide grin revealing his gold-capped teeth.

“No, my Lord Mammon, I did not ask anyone,” Asmodeal replied.

“I should kill you myself for the foolish risk you took. Had you angered Lucifer, she would have raged through Hell. We would all be licking our wounds and burning our dead in the aftermath.” The volume on Mammon’s voice raised with each sentence until the walls shook.

Asmodeal shrank away from Mammon’s admonitions. Mammon stared down at the small demon and declared, “I am done here. What you choose to do next determines your fate. Heed the warning, or not.” With those final words, Mammon vanished, leaving behind the tapestries.

“Would you like to consult with your father?” Lucy asked Asmodeal as he slipped back into human form. “I could summon him for you,” she offered.

“No,” John Smith replied. “He really would kill me for challenging you. I’m so sorry.”

“Well, now that that’s settled, I have a question,” Lucy spoke in a normal human voice. “What are the taxes like on a place this big?”


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