MAY 27, 1969; MONTREAL, CANADA . . . Belthazor found his prey emerging from a three-story building that faced the Rue du St. Michel. He recognized the man as another daemon named Balmung. Only this daemon happened to be a member of the Gimle Order - an organization dedicated to protecting all beings from supernatural evil. The half-daemon could tell from Balmung's furtive manner that the latter had discovered the object of his desire before he could.
The Gimle daemon turned into a nearby alley. Belthazor shimmered away from his spot and re-materialized into the alley - and right behind Balmung. Taking the other daemon by surprise, the half-daemon punched Balmung in the kidneys. The latter cried out in pain, as he sunk to his knees. Then Belthazor jerked the other daemon, wrapped a red hand around the latter's neck and shoved him against the wall. A dagger appeared in the half-daemon's free hand.
"Sorry Balmung, but I cannot allow you to live." The Gimle daemon's eyes grew wide in fear before the half-daemon plunged the dagger into Balmung's heart. A gurgle left the other daemon's mouth, before he sunk to the ground for the second time and died. The dagger disappeared from Belthazor's grip. He knelt beside the corpse and removed a tan, leather-bound book from inside Balmung's jacket.
Belthazor glanced briefly through the book. Satisfied of his prize, he transformed back into his human form - that of Cole Turner. He shot the dead daemon one last disparaging glance and murmured, "Adieu, Balmung." Then he shimmered out of the alley.
He ended up in the wide, yet empty corridor, on the 26th floor of a commercial high-rise in the middle of Manhattan Island. The building served as the East Coast headquarters of Acheron International, the business front for the Thorn Brotherhood, here in the mortal world. Cole walked along the corridor until he came upon a pair of double doors. Beyond was a spacious room filled with elegant, Art Deco-style furnishings and a sprinkling of antiquities. A stocky man of medium height and brown, shoulder-length hair strode toward the half-daemon. "Greetings Brother," he said, holding out a hand. "How was Canada?"
"Not bad," Cole murmured. He shook the other demon's hand. Then he removed a tan book from inside his jacket and waved it in the air. "In fact, very satisfying."
The other daemon, whose name happened to be Tarkin, smiled. "I believe that the proper word should be successful. Is that . . .?"
"Lambert's grimoire?" Cole nodded. "A Gimle daemon named Balmung had managed to retrieve it, first. Fortunately," a cold smile curved his lips, "I got to him, before he could return the grimoire to Lambert's granddaughter." For the second time, he peeked inside the book. It had originally belonged to a powerful French wizard named Thierry Lambert. Following the wizard's death over twenty years ago, the book disappeared, which set off a two-decade search that finally ended in Montreal. The Brotherhood of the Thorn also sought possession of the grimoire. And once the order's leader had received word of its appearance at a Montreal occult shop, Cole received the assignment to retrieve the grimoire and . . . kill anyone who got his way.
Tarkin snarled, "Damn Gimle daemons! They and others like them are an affront to our kind. Death is too good for them." He glanced at Cole, who immediately stiffened at his words. Looking slightly contrite, Tarkin added, "Oh. Sorry about that, Belthazor. I had forgotten about your uncle."
Cole collected himself and responded with a cool shrug. "No need to apologize. Uncle or not, Marbus was a traitor. He got what he had deserved." He gave his friend a tight smile.
"A very admirable attitude, Belthazor." A tall, middle-aged looking male approached the two younger daemons. He projected an imposing appearance with his pale and fleshy countenance, pale blue eyes and thinning dark-blond hair. "Raynor was right to assign you to kill Marbus. He knew that you would have never allowed family connections to impede your objective."
A flash of anxiety jolted Cole. He knew that Marbus - who had turned against the Source over a century ago - remained alive, thanks to him and his mother. And for the past year, the half-daemon has feared that one of his colleagues would eventually learn the truth. Good or evil, blood came first before any other loyalty in Cole's demonic family. Including the Source. "Thanks, Vornac," the half-daemon murmured to his sect's leader. He nodded at the imposing, yet exotic-looking woman who had appeared by Vornac's side. "Klea."
The demoness returned his nod. "Belthazor."
Cole glanced around the room and noticed something odd. "Unless I'm imagining things, the entire order seems to be here. Does anyone know why?"
Vornac took a sip from a glass of yellow liqueur. "It seems that Raynor has an important announcement to make." A door swung open and a tall, dark-haired and dark-eyed man, dressed in black, emerged from a private office. "Ah, here he is."
An elegant, chestnut-haired woman accompanied the Thorn Brotherhood's leader. Tarkin nodded at the pair. "Isn't that Avara of the Noldor Dimension with Raynor? What . . . what's going on?"
"You'll find out within a few mintues."
Several minutes later, the entire order faced their leader, as he began to address them with a speech. From the corner of his eye, Cole spotted his mother - along with her faithful assistant - looking slightly bored. Nimue glanced away from Raynor and acknowledged her son with a slight nod. Instead of acknowledging her nod, he simply turned away.
Raynor finished off his speech with a grand announcement. "And that is why," he concluded, "I would like to introduce you to my future wife and the future mistress of the Thorn Brotherhood - my fiancée , Avara of the Noldor Dimension!"
Applause filled the large room. When it finally died down, the order's members lined up to offer their congratulations to the newly engaged couple. Tarkin whispered to Cole, "This is a surprise. Raynor is getting married? Again? Avara will be his . . . what?"
Cole added, "Third wife. I can only wonder what Avara will contribute to the marriage." The two friends finally approached their leader and politely offered their congratulations.
"Thank you," Raynor responded with a smile. "By the way Belthazor, I would like to see you inside my office in another fifteen minutes from now. I would like to discuss Montreal."
"Of course, Raynor," Cole said with a smile. He and Tarkin moved on, allowing the next Thorn daemon to greet their leader.
Fifteen minutes later, Cole knocked on the door to Raynor's office. Once inside the luxurious room, the older daemon said to the younger one, "Well, Belthazor. I understand from Vornac that your trip to Montreal was a success."
Cole handed the leather book to Raynor. "Here it is - Thierry Lambert's grimoire.
Raynor's dark eyes lit up with excitement. "At last!" He turned the book over in his hands. "Do you have any idea how long I've longed to get my hands on this book?"
"Considering Lambert's age when he died, I can only assume for at least half a century."
"Longer," Raynor murmured. "Since you were a child. An adolescent. For over seventy years, as a matter of fact." He sighed. "Excellent work, Belthazor. I understand that you had to kill a Gimle daemon to acquire this. Good riddance, as far as I'm concerned." He placed the grimoire on his desk. "Now, on to another matter. In light of your recent work, I believe that you are entitled to a vacation. What do you say?"
Cole smiled. "I say . . . that I have no problem with that idea. I had considered asking Vornac for a vacation. I suppose you'll be taking one yourself, soon. At least a honeymoon."
Raynor nodded. "Yes. Avara and I intend to spend our honeymoon in the Melora dimension. We haven't decided how long." He paused. "By the way, have you ever considered . . . getting married? How old are you?"
"At least eighty-four," Cole answered.
A sigh left Raynor's mouth. "Still young. Yet, old enough to consider matrimony."
The idea of marriage churned Cole's stomach. "Uh, to be honest Raynor, I don't think I'm ready for marriage, yet. In fact, I might not be the marrying kind."
"Really?" Raynor regarded the half-daemon with an appraising look. "I've always believed otherwise. I'm sure that you've . . . indulged in the usual flings over the years. But I've always thought you were the type who would eventually settle down. Start a dynasty of your own. I've been trying since before you were born. Hopefully, I'll have better luck with Avara."
Wondering what Raynor was up to, Cole frowned. "Are you . . . ordering me to get married?"
Raynor threw back his head and chuckled. "Of course not, Belthazor! Where did you get such an idea? I could never order you to do such a thing. Even if I wanted to." He quickly sobered. "Neither could the Source, for that matter. It was merely a suggestion." Was it? Cole wondered.
On that note, the senior demon finally dismissed the half-daemon. Much to the latter's relief. Cole felt more than happy to escape his mentor's presence and any further discussion on his matrimonial prospects. As Cole opened the office door, he nearly collided with a dark-haired beauty with hazel-brown eyes, and a theatrical-looking outfit that emphasized her voluptuous figure. Cole stared at her longer than he had intended. She looked very familiar.
"Do you mind?" the female retorted. "I don't plan to stand here, all day."
Cole stepped aside. "Sorry." He continued to stare. "Pardon me, but do I know you?"
"I don't think so." Then the beauty swept by. Cole's body hardened, as one of her breasts brushed against his arm. Hoping that no one would notice his arousal, the half-daemon quickly headed for the bar.
Tarkin appeared by his side. "How did it go? With Raynor?" he asked.
"Fine," Cole murmured. He ordered a glass of Scotch whiskey and faced his companion. "Did you see that that woman who had entered Raynor's office? The one I had bumped into?"
One of Tarkin's brows rose questioningly. "Woman?" A sly smile curved his lips, as Cole glared at him. "Oh yes. That was Idril. She's part of Melkora's sect."
Cole continued, "For some reason she looked familiar to me. And I don't know why."
Tarkin ordered a glass of absinthe. "She should. Idril is a movie star. Well . . . not really. She's produced and starred in a couple of Hollywood B-movies over the past few years. Really cheap stuff, but she's managed to make a profit from them. And a little fame as a sex symbol."
The memory of a rather bad beach movie flashed in Cole's mind. Along with images of a dark-haired beauty, who happened to be the leading lady. Idril, he realized, seemed a lot like her movies - colorful, yet cheap. On that note, he quickly dismissed the demoness from his mind.
"So that was Belthazor." An image of the tall, dark-haired daemon lingered in Idril's mind. "Very handsome. Was there a reason why you wanted me to meet him?"
Raynor closed the office door with a wave of his hand. "As you know, Avara and I will be married within a week."
Dismay overwhelmed Idril. "So soon?" She had been Raynor's mistress for nearly a decade.
"I'm afraid so, my dear." Raynor gathered the demoness into his arms. "Avara insists. Apparently, she's looking forward to becoming first lady of the Thorn Brotherhood."
Idril jerked out of her lover's arms. "And you couldn't consider me for the position?" she demanded peevishly.
Raynor sighed. "Really, Idril. Must you be childish? Avara is the leader of a small, but very powerful demonic faction. And she can provide a connection to another one from a dimension outside the Source's Realm. This marriage is purely political." He paused, as he drew Idril back into his arms. "And as you should recall, I had suggested that you form a marriage of convenience, as well. Remember?"
Of course she remembered. Idril also recalled being appalled by Raynor's suggestion. The idea of being married to some daemon other than her lover seemed repugnant to her. Then she recalled the half-daemon she had just met. "Is that why you wanted me to meet Belthazor? You want me to . . .?"
"To consider him as a prospective husband," Raynor finished.
"But he's only a half-daemon!"
Raynor rolled his eyes in contempt. "My dear Idril! Must you be so close-minded? Despite his human blood, Belthazor is very powerful."
Idril pouted. "And?"
An impatient sigh escaped from Raynor's mouth. "And he is also very intelligent. Think . . . Idril. I'm Belthazor's mentor. With his brains and power, he has a very prominent future ahead of him." He added surreptiously, "And he's also very wealthy. In his own right."
A beautiful and aristocratic demoness with auburn hair appeared in Idril's thoughts. Nimue. "Human wealth. And isn't his mother, Nimue? The leader of one of the order's sects? I've met her a few times, and I have a feeling that she doesn't care for me, very much."
"She's irrelevant!" Raynor snapped impatiently. "Belthazor's relationship with his mother barely exists. They haven't exchanged a civil word with each other in nearly thirty years. Belthazor hasn't bothered to touch his father's money. And he also has quite a fortune within the Source's Realm, as well. "
"Oh." Idril decided that she could deal with that situation.
A smile curved Raynor's lips. He added, "As Belthazor's wife, you will be in a position to move through the top echelon within the Source's Realm. He is very popular with our . . . great leader. Especially since he had killed his traitorous uncle, last year. And . . ." the daemon planted a light kiss on Idril's exposed neck. She sighed. ". . . you will be in a position to spend time in my company, without arousing Avara's suspicions."
Idril slowly slid her arms around Raynor's neck and smiled. "Hmmm, now that's very appealing," she said. "You are a very clever daemon."
Her smile disappeared. "If this works, I only hope that neither Belthazor or Avara will find out about us."
"Oh, don't worry, my dear. They won't. I'll make sure of that. All you have to do is make sure that Belthazor finds you attractive enough to want to consider matrimony. That's all. And he would be an idiot if he doesn't." Raynor lowered his mouth upon Idril's and passionately kissed her.
PRESENT DAY . . . Idril sighed, as she shook her head in disbelief. Poor Raynor, she thought. Over-confident, as usual. Her former mentor and lover had never considered that Belthazor had other plans. Recalling the half-daemon's last words, Idril realized that neither did she, for that matter.
Inside her posh Bel-Air home, the demoness walked over to her living-room bar and poured herself a drink. She needed to drown her memories of that disastrous and humiliating affair with Belthazor. As she climbed the stairs to her bedroom, Idril could only wonder if Belthazor now harbored any memories, as well.
End of Part 1