“I know indeed what evil I intend to do.”
France, October 1913
It was going to be one hell of a celebration.
The board of entertainment Down Below had decided to host a grand ball at the chateau of Louis XIV that Hallow’s Eve, by exclusive invitation-only, to celebrate the thirteenth year of the Adversary’s new century*. All of the biggest celebrities of the Pit would be there, and even a few of the particularly evil mortals would be granted leave from eternal torment and damnation to attend. Only very successful and important demons were to be allowed into the ball, which was why Anthony J. Crowley was so surprised when he received an invitation in early October. *No one was really sure just why the 20th century was supposed to belong to Him, but nobody was about to ask.
He opened the black envelope, read the letter, stood riveted in shock for a few moments, and then immediately sat down at his desk to write a telegram to a certain friend of his.
A, Versailles. October 31. Party. Hell on Earth. Big wigs in attendance. Get agents out, keep head down. Will RSVP when all clear. Be safe. C.
Chateau de Versailles
All Hallow’s Eve
Crowley was nervous. He hadn’t been around this many demons since his last visit to the Pit to get a new corporation in 1910, nor this many officials since he had pulled a stunt with some purloined fruit a very long time ago.
Maybe I am going native, he thought uneasily, tossing back an infernal brew which guaranteed no acts of instant sobriety at preferred convenience.
Marquis de Sade was there; he and Vlad Dracula were quite the life of the party, inciting a few acts of sexual deviousness and casual violence until the guests got excited and turned the ball into a blood-soaked orgy before eleven o’clock.
Crowley was feeling forgotten and moody, and found a nice dark room away from the carnal excitement where Edgar Allen Poe was recounting macabre tales of death to a small gathering of demons; Crowley proceeded to get himself quietly devastated on absinthe, opium, and wine from Hell’s vilest vineyards.
How Dukes Hastur and Ligur managed to find him was anyone’s guess.
“Well, Crowley, so this is where you got to, eh?” Hastur crooned as he tossed an arm about the demon’s shoulder.
“Wot you doin’ hangin’ about with these block’eads?” Ligur chimed. “They’s ain’t no fun. C’mon, we’s take you to some real action.”
And poor Crowley was too inebriated to decline.
Anthony Crowley awoke in a dark, warm place with a skull-splitting headache as a man with a deep, monotonous voice droned from somewhere nearby. It took the demon a moment to register the smooth, flowing French and what it was translating to, and then, with a sense of sheer and utter horror, he knew exactly what had happened and where he was. And he had to get out now.
He lurched upward blindly and smashed his forehead into something hard. Cursing, he reached above himself, tossed open the narrow hinged door, and sat up.
Blinding light from stained glass windows lambasted him head on, and he clapped his hands over his eyes, hissing like a steaming kettle. A lady to his right shrieked. Then silence fell.
Wincing, Crowley gazed out at the petrified congregation sitting in the church pews, then he turned his head to look at the blanched priest on the altar.
“Aheh,” he smiled nervously, and crawled from the coffin with drunken clumsiness. He reeled, tipped it over like a canoe, and crashed to the floor with a groan. He heard a collective gasp, and as he crawled to his feet he realised that it was probably because he was stark naked and had “666” painted down his chest and torso in fresh blood. And he had the single. Worst. Hangover in all of history.
“Par’on mwa, everybody,” Crowley muttered lowly, stumbling down the aisle as horrified people crossed themselves and mouthed prayers. “I hadda helluva night.”
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