“Building Upon, Inspired by the Man’yoshu”, poetry from the 8th century Japan

February 26, 2015

Savannah Birds

Cover painting for “The Nightingale’s Song”, by Jane Kohut-Bartels, watercolor

In March, 2015, I will publish  “The Nightingale’s Song” a saga in twelve episodes.  I present here on the blog a short section of poems that inspired my  writing of “Nightingale”.  The Man’yoshu is such a passionate work of 4,515 poems from the 8th century that one can not read and not be inspired in a ‘call and answer’ form.

Lady Nyo

-

“Building Upon, Inspired by the Man’yoshu”

 

(Some of these poems, both from the Man’yoshu, and those of my own, will appear in “The Nightingale’s Song”)

 

It is right and proper to draw inspiration from other poetry. It pulls your own poetic voice into the mystery of love and passion. Therefore I have taken the words from poems from the great 8th century Man’yoshu and either fashioned an answer…or a continuation of the top poem. What I believe to be termed “call and answer”.

The Man’yoshu poems are in bold type. All my poetry continuing are in italics.  These poems are a small part of poems I am working in this fashion. Some of these poems, both from the Man’yoshu and my own are used to head up the 12 sections of “The Nightingale’s Song”.

The last section was poetry written for the plot of “The Nightingale’s Song”.

Lady Nyo

“My heart,

like my clothing

Is saturated with your fragrance.

Your vows of fidelity

Were made to our pillow and not to me.”

—-

 

Oh my wife!

My feet take me over mountains

In the service to our lord

But my heart stays tucked in the bosom

Of your robe.

Does he know?

Does he know?

Does he know about the letters? –

 

“I stay here waiting

for him In the autumn wind,

my sash untied,

Wondering,

is he coming now, Is he coming now?

And the moon is low in the sky.

The only company I have tonight,

Now near dawn, is the paling Milky Way,

And Oh, my husband!

There are not stars enough in the heavens

To equal my sorrowful tears.”

 

Strong man as I am,

Who force my way

even through the rocks,

In love I rue in misery.

—Man’yoshu

 

Perhaps a strong man

Should not offer love without

Having love returned

But this grieving ugly warrior

Still finds his love is growing

–Man’yoshu

 

“The cicada cries

Everyday at the same hour

But I’m a woman much in love

and very weak

And can cry anytime”

—Man’yoshu

 

My thoughts these days

Come thick like the summer grass

Which soon cut and raked

Grows wild again.

Oh, I wish these

Obsessive love-thoughts

Would disappear!

As they fill my head

They empty my sleep!

I who have counted me

For a strong man

Only a little less than heaven and earth,

How short of manliness that I love!

On this earth and even heaven

This weakness in love

Turns my sword Into a blade of grass. —

Come to me

If even only in my dreams

Where my head rests upon my arm- not yours.

Let this veiled moon

Above and these dark, brooding pines below

Be witness to our love, my man.”

Come to me,

When the rocks have disappeared

Under sheets of snow,

The moon appears through tattered clouds.

I will be listening

For the sound of

Your footfall in the dark.

Come to me, my man,

Part the blinds and come into my arms,

Snuggle against my warm breast

And let my belly

Warm your soul.

And a few of a more random nature….

Otomo no Sakanoe no iratsume:

I swore not to love you,

But my heart is as changeable

As cloth of hanezu dye.

Have I ever stopped?

Have I ever begun?

My tears tell you

The truth of the matter.”

Lady Ukon:

I am forgotten now.

I do not care about myself,

But I pity him

For the oaths he swore,

And his forsworn life.

His words were fire

To my belly.

When he withdrew

His warmth

My heart withered.

Murasaki Shikibu:

This life of ours

would not cause you sorrow

If you thought of it as like

The mountain cherry blossoms

Which bloom and fade in a day.

But each year

The mountain cherry

Renews itself.

Am I to suffer forever?

Akazome Emon:

It would have been better that I slept

The whole night through

Without waiting for him

Than to have watched

Until the setting of the moon.

My heart raced

All night on the ghostly Clouds.

In the morning

My spirit was wan.

Sei Shonagon:

Since our relations

Are like the crumbling Of Mount Imo and Mount Se,

They, like the Yoshino River

In that ravine

Shall never flow smoothly again.

Too many boulders

To climb over

And the waters within

Run too cold.

Daini no Sanmi (daughter of Murasaki)

From Mt. Arima,

Over the bamboo plains of Ina,

The wind blows

Rustling the leaves.

How shall I ever forget him?

It would have been

Better for me never

To have met.

The wind blew a bad kami

That season.

 

Lady Suwo:

Pillowed on your arm

Only for the dream of a spring night,

I have become the subject of gossip,

Although nothing happened.

It was all in my mind!

Only a waking dream

Full of ecstasy and torment

Offered up by a ghost!

 

Yokobue:

How can I complain

That you have shaved your hair?

Since I can never again

Pull your heartstrings

Like a catalpa wood bow,

I have become a nun

Following your Way.

Your interest dried up

Over the course of three seasons.

Winter came too soon.

I was left shivering in the cold.


Lady Horikawa:

How long will it last?

I do not know’

His heart.

This morning my thoughts are as tangled with

Anxiety As my black hair.

How long did it last?

Only until love became

Difficulty.

 

The Daughter of Minamoto no Toshitaka

For the sake of a night of little sleep

By Naiwa bay,

Must I live on longing for him,

Exhausting my flesh?

In my dreams and waking dreams

Opening the bamboo blinds

I see his face over and over

For the first time.

Imazizumi Sogetsu-Ni

How beautiful the Buddhist statues At Saga.

Half hidden in falling leaves.

Fractured and split in two

I entered a Shinto Temple

Unsure I would be welcome

With round eyes and graceless ways

But the priests were wise

Thinking me a bit worthy,

And with kindness and humor

Helped knit back my parts

And taught me to pray.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

 

“Via Negativa”, from ‘Pitcher of Moon’

February 24, 2015

Winter Scene, 3

-

great room 4

-

Winter still drags on, and most of the country has been hit with deep snowstorms.  In the South, we have received almost nothing of snow, the most beautiful element of Winter.  Right now, as I write this, I look out my window with blurry eyes (it is early) and it is either rain or a very light snow falling. It is rain, the snow an illusion brought on by aging eyes.

Probably because Atlanta isn’t Boston with over 100 inches of snow this year, I look toward the solitude of being quieted in a snow fall.  The air is muffled, the greys and black of the trees stand out in sharp contrast to everything around them, the traffic halts, only the birds, cardinals and wrens and whatever attacks the bird feeders in the yards are going about their business of survival.  Inside, thanks to the labor of this fall, with a good stack of dried wood, the woodstove heats most of this old house, which is a miracle in of itself. My husband has redesigned and remodeled this 1880’s house with  a more open floor plan.  It’s not the quaint Victorians with their turrets and gingerbread, but a solid English farmhouse, built 3 miles south of downtown Atlanta, an oddity now and probably back then.  The original owners and builders were the Ragsdales, out from Lancaster, England in the 1860’s, owners of West End Horse and Mule, a carriage company. 

This poem is about the trials of Winter.  We have not experienced the continuous raw weather, the dangerous snows, the complete interruptions of power, nor the isolation where you can’t travel or even get out of your house. But this particular season changes much, gives a breather in the usual activities and within that particular space, can nudge forth a deeper creativity.  It certainly is a cessation in the usual activity of humankind and beast.

Lady Nyo

-

Via Negativa

Winter is the perfect channel

To carry Via Negativa,

No static

Just Silence, Stillness

And the Dark.

-

On this path,

We sit in contemplation,

No answers,

No struggle,

We are as empty as an eggshell.

-

This time is colored by little outside;

A flash of darting cardinal

Like a stream of blood

racing past our eyes,

The sound of a falling limb

makes us search the skies,

The moaning of the wind

bustling around limbs,

And the rattle of the skeleton-bones

Of attic haunts.

-

And yes, Death,

As Winter brings

To those who succumb to frigid winds,

And those lost from shelter.

-

We spiral into the Darkness,

Where we barely draw breath,

Conserve our energy,

And stare outside at such

A blank palette.

-

Stilling ourselves,

We draw closer to low fires,

Scratch our dried skin

Like a monk in a hair shirt,

And, with time and patience–

Spiral back into

the light of Spring.

-

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

originally published in “Pitcher Of Moon”, Createspace, Amazon.com, 2014

“Winter Into Spring”, poetry

February 22, 2015

0403Whe-R01-009

Geese at Winter’s End, wc. Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2006

WINTER INTO SPRING

-

-

Mysterious, unfathomable, muted season,

where life and reason are suspended

upon a cold metal wire.

The wind a sharp razor of clipper glass

sailing through glassine air

slicing the pallid sun’s rays–

an attempt to warm a frigid earth

to a remembered fertility.

Solemn seasonal palette,

white, gray, black,

cut with a flash of blood-red–

Kamikaze cardinal!

like the demon wind bearing its name,

dares the thin and paling air

to brighten for a flashing moment–

A witness to recurring life.

Season of bountiful snow,

brings a thirst to the land

where hoar-frost leaches

moisture with a crystallized withering-

hands to crack, bark to shatter,

and all dries and curls about

in a perverse furnace of freeze

-.

One day, a pale day

a southern breeze

breaks through the bonds of Winter

brushes up, slides up

upon the ice

and a crack like a thump is felt in the gut

a slow drip-drip of water

signals the end of this harsh season,

as icicles emit a hesitant stream,

and then the ice dam down in the brook

cracks with a louder sound

and the rush to Spring

is heralded with these natural sounds.

A blind movement

felt deep in the soil-

a careful stirring,

barely a rumble in the gut of the Earth

as birth beneath replaces death above

pushing through the Great Womb

to a pallid sun above,

And the tyranny of Winter is broken.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011-2015, published in “Pitcher of Moon:”, published 2014, available at Amazon.com,

A Sonnet: “When Cu Chulainn Courts Emer”, and Chapter 26 of “Devil’s Revenge”, and a bit of Celtic Mythology.

February 18, 2015
"Viriditas", wc, janekohut-bartels, 2000

“Viriditas”, wc, janekohut-bartels, 2000

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"Winter Into Spring", watercolor, janekohutbartels, 2006

“Irish Shore”, 2007, Jane Kohut-Bartels, wc.

-

The  sonnet below was written when I was doing research into Celtic mythology for “Devil’s Revenge”.  Though the chapters posted haven’t spoken to this element, Celtic mythology is deeply part of the middle of this novel. And also it gives a push to the discovery of various issues in this book.  Celtic mythology can be overwhelming, and I will post only a few parts of this history as I go here.

Lady Nyo

-

When Cu Chulainn Courts Emer

-

“In that sweet country, I’ll rest my weapon”

Said Cu Chulainn to beauteous Emer

And a war spasm came upon him fast

With face distorting, hair stood upended

Teeth barred in anger, cock a rigid mast

His body whipped around, his knees unbended,

And sweet Emer prayed his luck would last.

-

Her father, King Lug, Celtic God of Light

Set her swain to tasks and toil unending,

While Bricru the Poison Tongue cries in fright:

“The Hound of Ulster, Irish unbending,

Leads in battle for comes he in his might!

And Emer waits with patient love the day

When Cu Chulainn comes near and claims his right!

-

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010

-

“Devil’s Revenge”, Chapter 26

-.

Madame Gormosy has made herself scarce. This is welcome because I can spend just so many hours playing faro and waving a fan. The Demon disappears behind his books during the day, and frequently leaves the house, returning by dusk. I am left to myself.  I fill my hours trying to finish the novel, the event that brought me to this place.

We have an unspoken agreement. I will not trespass on his time with his books. He will not bother me when I am writing. I now see that regardless how I end the book, things have spiraled out of control, and there are forces at work far beyond what I have imagined.

This dream of Cernunnos bothers me for more than what is obvious. Perhaps this ‘fancy’ was not so random. Perhaps it has a deeper meaning, unrevealed, and it was ‘placed’ there by some unknown force, hopefully leading somewhere. Although the Demon claims control, I think he is unaware of what it portends.

Madame is a tricky devil. She claims the demon comes from a royal line, and is no common demon. I have called him a ‘demon’ because I have no other way to define him, my knowledge of mythology scant. Of course, magic confuses the picture, and devils are known for their trickery. Perhaps that is the seat of the confusion?

As the Demon left the house, I went into the library and looked for some clues. There are enough books, all of them old. I thought about the libraries at Alexandria, destroyed by barbarian hordes. There, surely, with the combined knowledge and wisdom of Persian and so many cultures, would be the answers I seek. But that is dust and this is just dusty, and I am left to find what answers I can.

As I removed books from a high shelf over my head, one large book was unbalanced, and fell at my feet. I stooped to pick it up. It was of Celtic Mythology. I was not one who was superstitious, but this seemed as good a place as any to start.   The dream of Cernunnos ran parallel to this book in my hand. Upon opening it, the first words I read expressed a dichotomy that was alive in my present life.

 

 

It seems to Bran a wondrous beauty

In his curragh on a clear sea

While to me in my chariot from afar

It is a flowery plain on which I ride

 

What is a clear sea

For the prowed craft in which Bran is,

Is a Plain of Delights with profusion of flowers

For me in my two-wheeled chariot

 

Bran sees

A host of waves breaking across a clear sea

I myself see in Magh Mon

Red-tipped flowers without blemish

 

Sea-horses glisten in the summer

As far as Bran’s eye can stretch

Flowers pour forth a stream of honey

In the land of Manannan son of Ler

 

Speckled salmon leap forth from the womb

Of the white sea upon which you look;

They are calves, bright-coloured lambs

At peace, without mutual hostility

 

It is along the top of a wood

That your tiny craft has sailed along the ridges,

A beautiful wood with its harvest of fruit,

Under the prow of your tiny boat.

 

Here is my confusion. Here is an answer, though only a piece of it. The Demon and I came from separate worlds, but now occupy the same. He floated through mine, and I stepped into his. This poem was spoken by the Otherworldly Manannan, attempting to explain to the mortal Bran how their differences in perception lie at the root of their divergent realities.

This spoke to the bafflement that ran through our life together. This spoke to my frustration.

As I read on, I began to understand the symbolism of the dream, as it was reflected in the world of the Celts. The natural world surrounded these people on all sides. They were aware of its presence and their dependence on its balance and fertility for their basic nurture and comfort.   Nothing bypassed this dependence, whether the soil, their crops or the animals. The hunters went out to the forest, to bring food for their families. The wolves and bears stalked the settlements for their own. Nature, in fang and claw, in blood and gore, would have shaped days and nights and filled dreams. It would have seeped into every hope and fear. The satyrs were symbols of the fusion of humankind and animals, and part of the magic and religious system that they carried in belief. And Cernunnos? He was the embodiment of the fertility that was necessary for the seasons to turn and mankind and all else to survive. I was, in that dream, very much part of that ritual of life. I could have been a vessel for that seed, from Cernunnos’ loins, planted into the soil, to be fruitful and nourish new life.

There was much more of this same theme as I read on. The foundation, the building stones of what I was reading, and this Celtic culture, was called animistic thinking.   I came across a dramatic example of this in the poem Cad Coddeu, or “The Battle of the Trees”. A mythical battle between two forces, one mortal against the forces of the chthonic deities, dwelling beneath the earth, where a wizard Gwyddion transformed a forest of trees into a writhing, hostile army.

“…Alder, pre-eminant in lineage, attacked first

     Willow and rowan were late to the battle

   Thorny plum greedy for slaughter,

   Powerful dogwood, resisting prince….

…Swift and mighty oak, before him trembled heaven and earth…”

 

Perhaps the Demon, though, at times I could no longer think of him such, would call forth a similar army.

This was a time, a period, and a culture, where shape-shifting was part of it all. It was part of the ‘DNA’ if you will, of a culture remembering the totemistic myths of previous ancestors. Clans seemed to arise around a particular animal. There might be bird-people, or wolf-people, oak-people or river people. Each clan would feel a strong kinship to a particular animal or element. It would be taboo to violate these totem creatures in any way. These spirits, these ancestral spirits protected the clan from disease and violence. To harm any member of the clan would provoke the wrath of this daemonic spirit. I thought perhaps, considering his courting manners, that the demon Garrett, …was part of the Goat Clan.

The more I read, the more I became convinced what I was witnessing here, between Garrett and Obadiah, was a magical conflict that battled though out an early history. In the myth/song, Tain Bo Cuailgne, the rivalry of two bulls, in separate regions, became a war of many transformations for the bulls. In fact (if that word can be used in mythology!) the two bulls were rival druid priests. They transformed themselves for their conflict into ravens, otters, and ‘screeching spectres’ and many other creatures, before they transformed themselves into grains of wheat, to be devoured by cattle and reborn as the two great bulls, Finn, The Light One, and Dub, The Dark. I could find no termination in their feud. But it was a story of kidnapping of each other’s consorts, mates, and enslavement for revenge. All within an animistic frame of reference.

There is comfort in knowing your dreams and illusions are shared by others. Small comfort, but not to be ignored. But why had I framed Garrett and Obadiah in the Christian mythology? Because it was the only one I knew. Though not a practicing Christian, and for a few years interested in pagan religions, I had Christian culture surrounding me from birth. It seeped into the brain and consciousness and formed my only reference for myth. But here, within the Celtic myths, was a culture with dark and light, perhaps good and bad, and this was easy to understand.   Religion stripped of its saints and devils harkened back to the first companions of mankind, the animals. This I could embrace. It felt natural.

I read further. There seemed to be three consistent parts to the Celtic mythology. The conception by magical means, the divine descent through amours of a divinity, and finally, rebirth.

Garrett had no knowledge of his parentage. Like Etain, who forgot her former existence as a goddess, new and mortal now. So it was with Cuchulainn, of great significance in Celtic myth, reborn as his father Lug. From the Father Lug, to the son, Cuchulainn, to be reborn again as the Father, Lug. It sounded like the Christian Trinity to me. But what was the Christian Trinity in Ireland, but Christianity covering the myths and religions of thousands of years before? Garrett had no knowledge of his parentage. He was like Etain, Cuchulainn, and so many others caught up and born in the fog of myths. But I had the clue he was of royal blood. His powers were too significant to auger mere magic. There was something of the supernatural to him. Perhaps these Celtic myths pointed the way, as readily as a compass held in the palm of the hand did.

And as I read further, I found more of interest. As mankind in his settlements achieves greater ascendancy over his environments, the gods and goddesses change to reflect his powers, mortal though he be. The gods showed more increasingly human characteristics. They had fallacies, weaknesses, had a connection with mankind. They bred with mortals, populated the earth with their seed. These half mortals have powers, and they are the heroes of their tribes and regions. They are represented by their fathers as numerous as the stars in the heavens. For different tribes had different Gods and Goddesses. There are tremendous parallels with what I know of the Greeks and other similar cultures.

I came across the experiences of the bard Taliesin in the Cad Goddeu :

 

I was in many shapes before I was released: I was a slender, enchanted sword – I believe it was done,

 

I was a rain drop in air, I was a star’s beam,

I was a word of letters, I was a book in origin,

I was lanterns of light for a year and a half;

I was a bridge that stretched over sixty estuaries,

I was a path, I was an eagle, I was a coracle in the seas…

 

 

Shape-shifting among these immortals seems to be of two powers. One that was applied to oneself only, and other higher power, where it was possible with self and others. Garrett had shown his ability with the second. I remember the ride in the carriage, where he had transformed my face and form to an elderly, repugnant woman. I thought of his powers of flight, where he transformed distance into mere seconds. Even this snapping of his fingers and his ale appears, and my tea. He calls it ‘common, vulgar magic’. To me, there is wonder and awe in it. He talks vaguely of many transformations, and I have come to well believe him. He is arrogant with the power of knowledge and experience. He seems some sort of god to me. Or close enough.

Something that intrigued me, that focused my attention sharply, was the reading of relationship of king (god) to queen (goddess) to the land. In the embrace of a true king, the land would be fertile, for the role of goddess (queen) would be to do so. In the embrace of a false king, the land would suffer, the seasons harsh and long, the harvests thin, and births were either deformed or infrequent in both humans and animals. The queen, the goddess, would languish, until a proper consort was found. Until the false king was overthrown, was sacrificed either through war or death. Vanquished so the land could become fecund again. I thought about Garrett and Obadiah, such opposite forces. Surely they would represent the true and false kings. And I? I was to remain the constant, though I believed myself barren. Already, my Demon has stirred my womb and I bleed. He protects my ripening fertility, he says, from all others. And yet, did he have control over Cernunnos? If I bred, would I carry Cernunnos’ seed or was that seed on my thigh Garrett’s? And if Obadiah would kidnap me away, would I breed to him for the same purpose? Is this what Garrett hinted in his words to me? I would have ‘power’ in his dimension…I would have prestige besides him as his consort.

There were no answers here, only pointers in many directions. But enough to start me to construct my own dimension with what I had read. Perhaps the dream gave a hint where Garrett was from. Perhaps this book, heavy and dusty and almost crushing my foot, had fallen for a purpose. Perhaps it was as much of a compass sitting in my lap as if I had held one in the small of my palm.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

 

.

“Turkey Vulture”, from “Pitcher of Moon”…..

February 16, 2015

fed0b-turkey_vultureontree

“Frank”

Turkey vulture

-

I once knew a woman

living in a trailer park

down in the scrub pines of Florida.

Poor as a church mouse,

half–crazed by life,

she fed all strays-

was the pariah of the neighborhood.

Every evening a flock of vultures,

like fixed-wing aircraft,

skimmed the pines,

landing in a muddle of feathers,

awkward birds out of their element

and with a group waddle

came to the cat food offered in pans.

They were patient guests,

waited for the strays to finish.

There was a natural decorum

among them,

these fierce looking birds.

Perhaps they sensed

the charity offered

humbled their nature,

or perhaps they had reformed,

I don’t know.

They had a leader named “Frank”

who held back until

the others were done.

Frank would never face you,

he sat sideways

though I believe he peeked.

Perhaps he was ashamed

A Lord of the Sky

brought to this station,

filling his crop with kibble

from a dented metal pan.

Come sit with me.

Extend a feather,

I promise not to stare.

Your warty red neck,

your hang-dog countenance

does not disturb me.

Come sit beside me.

Let our talons dig into the sand

let the ocean cleanse our feathers.

I will call you friend, brother

for the gift of humility

you have brought on your wings.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014, from “Pitcher of Moon”, published by Amazon.com, 2014

“Devil’s Revenge”, Chapter 24

February 15, 2015

 imagesOWARHI3U

imagesLKSBGNCS

“La! You have not remembered a thing!”

Madame Gormosy passed into the room and gave a deep curtsey to Garrett, who was just leaving.

“Good Morning to you, ‘Madame’ Gormosy.”   He obviously knew Madame by another title. His address and bow to her was rather mocking.

Madame Gormosy did not take up his challenge. She was oblivious to all except what was before her. And I unluckily, was standing in her line of vision.

What is it with devils?

“Your lady, M. Garrett, dresses again dishabille. How am I to transform her if she denies my commands? She would scare away her cicisbeo with such a face! Ah! Surely some powder and a bit of rouge before breakfast! Quell dommage!”

I caught Garrett staring at me over Madame’s head. His face is unreadable, but there was a bit of a warning in his eyes. Ah! This Demon feels his own  challenge!  And from what appears to be a woman in petticoats! What a delicious bit of play!

He left, a grimace on his face, and I gave Madame my prettiest curtsey.

“Well, at least you do that well enough. Now, back into that corset, ma chérie. Hold on to the bedpost.”

Madame grabbed up the corset I begged the Demon to loosen last night. I could not breathe! After relaxing the laces, it was easy to slip down over my hips.   The Chinese bound foot has nothing over a full corset of the 18th century. Madame this time did not use her magic to undress me, but undressed me in the usual way. That is to say, she pulled the sash of my gown, and without ceremony, dropped it to the floor. Again, I stood naked before her. (I must remember the gender of ‘Madame’ here.) If I forgot, a glance into her eyes reminded me Madame took some pleasure. And since she is such an obliging tutor, I could not deny her. Her eyes took in the fullness of my bosom and without any shame on her part, lingered upon my body. It was like being caressed with the eyes of a lover. She glanced up into mine, and for one short second, in a flash, I knew: I was opposite a man. No woman could ever look at a woman’s body in such a way.

She whirled me around, and with surprising strength, pulled the lacing tight. I was more prepared this time, and remembered to fill my lungs with air. She saw me do this and pushed a knee in my back, making me exhale sharply. My horse used to do this when I pulled the cinch on the saddle, and it seemed to me a well-placed trick. Once again the petticoats and stockings. This time she procured a dress from the wardrobe. It was a heavy blue brocade, plain of decoration, fitting tightly across the bodice. The skirt was full from the hips to floor. Surely Madame clothed me in the fashion of her times.

She looked me over and decided a lace cap would do well. My hair disappeared under the ruffle, and at least she didn’t spend her time pulling it out of my head. Madame may look like a woman, but had the strength of a man.

“Let’s work on your ornamental talents today. Ah! A woman should grace the arm of her husband in public, and her lovers in private. Let us walk through the house and see what we can find to entertain ourselves.”

Madame and I walked through the downstairs hall, each fluttering a fan. She used hers as punctuation to her charming voice and very prettily she was able to use it. A flutter here, a graceful extension of the fan sideways, a coy smile hidden by the uplifting to her face, all these motions were a language. A fascinating and intriguing language foreign to me. I was reminded of the usage of zils, the small finger cymbals of Turkish and Egyptian dancers used in such expressive, emphatic ways. This, the language of the fan, was as seductive and intriguing as anything.

Madame decided to walk into the front sitting room, a room I avoided since Obadiah’s rape. There must have been some sort of energy still present for I saw Madame’s dress rise at her groin. I would guess this was some sort of spirit challenge, for the sexual energy of what happened in that room had not completely dissipated. Though the room only gave me uneasiness, for Madame the invisible sensation was much stronger. ‘She’ looked at me sharply, as if to assess its effect, and I saw her eyes turn cruel. She was, after all, a devil. What right did I have to expect compassion from her?

“La! There is a harpsichord in the corner. Let’s see what accomplishments you have musically.”

Madame moved gracefully to the instrument and opened the keyboard. She motioned me to sit, and I did, as gracefully as I could manage in my skirts. I had played, badly, on a piano at home, but a harpsichord! My fingers were stiff and I could only think of one piece to play, and haltingly I did so. It was “The Prince of Denmark’s March.”

Madame had little patience with my playing. “Enough. Let us see if you have anything of a voice.”

Ah! Here perhaps I would not disappoint her. I could sing, and in fact, had years of vocal training. I could sing German lieder and some 18th century Italian art songs. The art songs perhaps she would tolerate. The German she would not. Of course, I was singing from memory, and Madame did not have the music in front of her. It was a bit of a challenge for both of us.

“Well, that went badly, n’est ce pas? Let us see how you do with the dance. M. Garrett informs me that you do dance?”

Madame moved to the little settee and plied her fan.

Ah! Madame, you will be disappointed, I fear. The dancing she had in mind and the dancing I did, were divided by cultures.

“I do dance, Madame, but it is something that is not familiar to your elegant French culture. Are you acquainted with ‘harem’ dancing?” Madame’s face fell in shock.

“Mon Dieu!” she said with a gasp. “Mahomet’s harem” Her eyes stared a hole into my face.

“Wherever did M. Garrett find you?” She looked as if I had crawled out of a crater.

“Well, actually, I found him. I..I was writing a book. He was just a character in it.”   I grinned. “ He is a product of a fertile imagination.”

Madame Gormosy looked at me curiously, her head tilted. She looked like an inquisitive owl.   “How well do you know M. Garrett?”
How I should answer this question?   “Not very well, but in some parts, intimately.” I smiled coyly.

Madame Gormosy reached out and rapped my hand sharply with her fan.

“Stupid girl! I am not asking what he does under your petticoats, I am asking if you have any idea who diddles you?”

I sucked on my fingers as I looked at her in surprise.

“Do I know he is a Devil?” I said around my fingers in my mouth. “Well, I would suppose so.”

“Ah, my poor, stupid girl. He is hardly a Devil. His status is much more exalted.” She appeared agitated and fanned herself with vigor.

“M. Abigor would not notice if he was just a common devil. No, not at all.” Madame sat back on the sofa and continued to fan herself.

“M. Garrett descends from a royal bloodline. A very royal bloodline.

“You are talking then about the Nephilim, no?”

Madame Gormosy looked surprised. “And how would you know about that?”

“Ah Madame!” I threw back a sting of my own. “Women of my generation research and know languages. We read about science and some of us actually read more languages than a smattering of Latin and French.” There.

I would continue, though I saw the gathering thunder in Madame’s face. “And some of us have far more extensive skills than dancing or embroidery. Or pouring tea.”

“And some of us do not write ourselves into such a fine mess.”

She had me there. I nodded my head in acquiescence. She had won this round.

Lowering her voice, she stared straight into my eyes.

“I would be cautious, my dear lady, what interests and education you parade before demons. You might find yourself obligated to one or the other.”

I sat down beside her, thinking of Abigor and my upcoming meeting. I would try to appease her.

“Madame. Please guide me in the proper decorum with M. Abigor. I have never had tea with an Arch Duke of Hell. I do not want to aggravate M. Garrett’s condition by blunders of my own.”

Madame Gormosy sat back and sighed.

“Sensible woman. Good. You appeal to what I can do for you. Bien. You should know M. Abigor is of the old school of Hell. He has been around since the earliest of days and is a bit jaded. That is why, I believe, his current interest in you.”

“I would think that M. Abigor has had his interests filled again and again. Nothing new under the sun?”

“Hah! Everything is new, in the eyes of someone you have not met before. M. Abigor is known for his gallant behavior, especially to mortal women. You know he has had many mortal wives?”

 

And just how did that work? Were they revived bits of charcoal in Hell?

“Don’t let your wit run away with you, ma chérie.”

(Sigh. Again with the mind-reading.)

“M. Abigor is able to visit his women as easily as the fog in the morning, and with more lasting results. M. Abigor has had his own harem on earth.”

Anticipating my thoughts, Madame continued. “And yes, my girl. If he took it into his head, he would put horns on M. Garrett’s head. You must proceed very cautiously with M. Abigor. I have known him to do much worse to a marriage.”

That was reassuring! “So, Madame, what do you suggest I do with M. Abigor? I certainly do not want to bring the wrath of M. Garrett down on my head. Nor do I want to stumble with M. Abigor. Any suggestions?”

“Ah! Try to divine his mood that day, and humor him. All men, or Devils, will respond to the flattering attentions of an attractive woman. I would talk philosophy, but do not try to top his knowledge here. Be ornamental to the tea table. Be submissive, and play the great art of seduction.”

I was getting confused. “Tell me, Madame. What is your definition of this word ‘seduction’?

“Ah! The art of seduction is gaining a woman’s affections, under the pretence of being deeply enamoured, when at the same time despising the woman for her vanity and weakness.” That was it in a nutshell.

Comment cynique! Of course. What could I expect from a devil!

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

Happy Valentine’s Day! “Poem Of My Husband”

February 13, 2015

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fred

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POEM OF MY HUSBAND

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“You’re all I have”

Heard in the dark

Heart almost stopping

In an inattentive breast.

I dare not look at him

Too bald a sentiment

And too true to bear

A light, comforting answer.

What would occasion such words

Such a piteous sentiment?

When one has lived

Within another’s hours, days, years,

The fabric of this making

Can be frayed.

The warp and weave,

the very thread

That appears as if out of air (and it does.)

becomes substantial, it covers and clothes

more than the body

and the life blood of sentiment, Love-

Becomes the river within, unending,

Even transcending the pulse of life.

“You’re all I have,”

A whispered refrain

That echoes in the heart

And burrows deep.

11_18_3

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Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015, this poem published in “Pitcher of Moon” 2014, Createspace/Amazon, by the author.

“Devil’s Revenge”, Chapter 23 WITH A WARNING

February 12, 2015

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(Madame Gormosy, the transgender Demon of Lust…with her camel)

This chapter of “Devil’s Revenge” has a sex scene that I have deleted (mostly) from this posting.  The original scene will appear in the book. But still, there is a whiff of sexual behavior in this posting.  Don’t read if you are easily offended.

The fun of this chapter for me was the research I had to do in the behavior  of mid 18th century manners.  Women were controlled by strict rules of etiquette.  Of course, in Madame’s society, the rules are bent to a particular extreme and design. Her attempts to impart these to modern day Bess will be shown to be a folly and Bess has her own ideas of decorum.

Lady Nyo 

When Garrett returned from his visit with Abigor, he said nothing. It was only two days later I knew his whereabouts. Another day before I heard of this Madame Gormosy.

“And what is her purpose with me?” Better to know these things early.

“Ah! She is sent from Abigor. She will teach you some manners.” He did not meet my eye but kept his on the fire.

“I didn’t know I was lacking, Demon.”

“Oh, I beg your pardon! I was not talking about mortal manners. The manners you will need as my…ah… consort.”

“So, Abigor knows what I am to you?” I wondered why he had been so quiet for the past few days. Perhaps he escaped his interview by the skin of his teeth.

“He knows, he knows.” He was whittling a piece of wood with a small knife, feeding the fire with his strokes. “That is why he is sending Gormosy. A Duchess of Hell. You’ll like him.”

“Him? I thought you said Duchess of Hell.”

“I did. Gormosy is a male Devil. He likes to appear as a woman riding a camel.”

A camel. In the middle of winter.

“Well, what skill does this transvestite demon have that would make Abigor think of him as a tutor?” Curious business, this Madame Gormosy.

Waving his hand vaguely in the air, he said, “Decorum, manners, an engaging address, you know, womanly skills.”

So, this demon from Hell was to teach me the rules of social behavior among devils.

“And what is it again this Demon is known for?”

“If you must know, he’s a ‘procurer’.”

“He’s a pimp?”

“Not exactly. He promotes lust and love in women. For men and…..demons.”

I started to laugh, then I saw his face. He was serious.

The next morning, at 9 o’clock sharp, I heard a light knock at the bedroom door. I had been up for an hour, and I was dressed in a loose muslin dress, my hair quickly brushed from my face. I had just finished my tea and Garrett was quietly reading downstairs.

Before I could think, the door opened and a small and elderly woman entered the room, giving a deep curtsy. I rose from my chair, and stood looking at her, my mouth open in shock.

This was Madame Gormosy.   The cross- dressing demon from Hell. Without her camel. I could no longer think of this creature before me as ‘he’, for ‘she’ was an elegantly coiffed woman, who was dressed in a style of the mid 1750’s. She stood before me in a dark maroon velvet dress. Her hair was powdered white and piled high. She had a cap with long lappets that perched on the top of her head. Upon that was a chip straw hat with ribbons. I thought the straw better for warmer weather, but again, I suppose her apartments in Hell were warm enough to support her choice. She had a moue near her eye on one side, and another one on her opposite cheek. She was an elegant woman, whose bright smile was immediately engaging.

She swept into the room, and laid aside her fan. She unpinned her straw bonnet, and put it on the table. Putting her hands on her hips, she observed me closely. I remembered to close my mouth and give her a nod, but she continued to look at me.

“Well! This won’t do at all, ma chérie. She came close to me and placed her hands under my bosom, hoisting them like two melons. I was not wearing stays.

“Ah! Mon Dieu! That hair! Well, we will have to do something with all of you.” She continued to circle me and pick and prod at my figure. As she went around me, the scent of perfume spilled out from her. Her bosom was heavily laden with powder, and was very white. And wrinkled. After she finished her assessment, she sat down in the other chair, usually occupied by the Demon.

She stared at me, her eyes flickering over my face, to my bosom and then back to my hair. She reminded me of one of my favorite characters in history, Madame d’Epinay. Madame was of the French aristocracy and married a count at fourteen. She was known for her salons and letters and this tiny woman before me was of the same age and period.

“You, ma chérie, will follow in all I say. I teach you manners and behavior. You will meet with many famous and fine creatures, and you will become a treasure to M. Garrett the Demon. Give me your leave to take charge, and I make you a different creature. Ah!”

She threw up her hands in a very theatrical way, and I almost laughed in her face. I caught myself, wondering about the devil before me.

“How am I to address you?”

“You may call me “Madame”. I have many names. But “Madame” is sufficient pour maintenant. Did Monsieur prepare you for my coming?”

“Madame, he only told me that you were to come. On Abigor’s suggestion.”

“Ah! My friend, M. Abigor! He has reason enough to know of my skills. First, dear girl, we will talk what a consort does in our worlds.   You are ambassador, wife, mistress of him and his household, and you will share in the good and bad of it all.”

As in being turned into charcoal at the whim of some cranky devil?

“You will charm the spark out of the pyre they would throw you and your demon on top of,” she said sharply.

I shivered. She, too, could read my mind. It seems there is no escaping from this in his world.

“Nor in many others, ma chérie. She grinned and it was a bit wolfish. “So, let me list what you are expected to know in the beginning, and we will work on harder lessons as we go.”

“What” I was expected to know, and this seemed the most important to Madame, was best put in her words: “I was to present an extraordinary appearance of personal beauty, joined to a gentleness of manners, and an engaging address.” These ‘traits’ would be supplemented with lessons in household management, a little arithmetic, French, musical training on the harpsichord, dancing the minuet, drawing and fancy needlework. I was to follow all up with a special eye to ‘polished’ manners. There was the proper way to pour and serve tea, and amongst others, sweetening and lowering my voice when I spoke to the Demon. She listed ‘a proper submissiveness when demanded by my husband as key to it all.

“I know it is too much to remember.” She clicked her tongue a number of times and shook her head in disbelief.   “Think of it all in three bites.”

“And those being?” I asked grimly.

“You need to develop practical, literary and ornamental skills. How you appear to the others will be very important to the future of your husband.”

Ah! How I appear to a pack of devils will determine whether I am made into burnt toast, is what she means.

“That, ma chérie, and how to get the most out of your husband. Your life will be made more pleasant if you control him well. Mortal women are endlessly inventive in such things.” Again, she waved her hand elegantly in the air.

She smiled, and I smiled back. Though we were separated by more than two centuries, women always had similar thoughts about men.

“Let us start with your dressing. Come and let us see.” She walked to the wardrobe on one wall, and flinging open the doors, she stood before the contents with her hands on her hips. I followed her, and stood behind her. She turned, and snapping her fingers, I found my clothes had vanished.

“Ah! So much better to see what I have to work with.”   I flushed red, naked as a blue jay before her..

“Well, we can’t do much for your height, but we can find a good, tight bit of stays to contain that bosom! Turn around, let me see your derriere.”

I turned around, feeling my humiliation. “Put your arms out, like a cross.” I did, and Madame came up behind me and put her hands around to my breasts. I shivered as she touched me. She pulled them back suddenly, flattening them to my chest. I felt her body press into mine.

“There! You will need a tight corset to start. Come here and let me lace you.”

She had picked up a long, boned corset from the bottom of the wardrobe. It looked evil. “Here, stand by the bed post and hang on.” She slipped the corset up my hips and around my breasts. She began to lace me tightly.

“I can’t breathe!” I yelled out, holding on the bedpost with both hands as she tugged at the lacing.

“You are supposed to faint. Much more feminine. You need some womanly charms here, you act too masculine.” I took short breaths adjusting to the corset. Finally she was done and from under my arms to below my waist, I was laced tightly.

“What am I to wear on my butt? Pantaloons?”

“Ah, ma chérie! That is part of your problem. No, you are to be accessible to your husband at all times. Your vulnerability will make him value you more.”

It seemed to me Madame had been reading “The Story of O” and was applying the ‘rules’ to this dimension. Or perhaps there was more to this issue of ‘consort’ than I had been told.

On went the usual petticoats, stockings, garters and satin mules. Madame allowed me the freedom of sitting in my corset without pulling further garments over my head. She busied herself with a brush and pins and combed and teased my hair into various styles. She wasn’t gentle in her handling my head and hair, either. She seemed to enjoy herself. I thought about all the gay hairdressers I had had in my past. There was a common thread here. Gossip and hair.

She snapped her fingers and an elaborate tea service appeared. Plates of cakes, petit fours and other desserts. I was to follow her pouring of tea, the handling of the pot, the graceful hand over hand, never flinging them out, but gracefully extending them from my elbows tight at my side. Small and delicate movements. How I handed the saucer and cup was another test. I thought of the geisha, but she corrected me. Simpering was not appealing to the demon.   We poured and served each other for an hour, and she demonstrated what she called ‘engaging address’. Ah! The artificiality of it all! Illusion and sham, but such elegant illusion. I could see how subtle movements and the way one sat, maintaining a ramrod posture because of the corset and clothes, the handling of the hands, delicate small movements, eyes downcast when questioned, the slight smile, still with eyes not meeting, all these worked into a system of seduction. How oblique was modern woman to it all. This was a lot to remember.

She produced two fans from out of the air, and handed me one, snapping open the other before her face. There was a system and meaning in the waving of fans, the casting of eyes at your lover. I learned a silent language, of “don’t come close, I am being observed”, and “I am impatient to feel your sword”, and “Your wife is cuckolding you with your servant.” I was laughing at her witty remarks, and even though she was nothing but a devil, she charmed me with her femininity. How much we would never know about such manners. In a way, modern woman was impoverished for the lacking of these arts, as restrictive and controlling as they were.

When darkness fell in the late afternoon, Garrett came upstairs.   Madame Gormosy and I were laughing at some gossip when he saw us at the tea table. His face was a study of confusion, for he was lost in his books and had forgotten Madame.   She laughed a musical sound in his direction, and gracefully poured him a cup of tea. He crossed the room and bowed politely.

“Ah! M. Garrett! Your charge here had so much to learn! But she is a good girl and can be trained. Look now, at her bosom! Isn’t lovely to see a well corseted woman with all that promise peeking up from her stays? She hasn’t fainted yet, so tomorrow we will tighten the laces. Soon will make her a lady and you will be so proud of the result.”   Madame Gormosy curtsied to him and passed out of the room.

“You have been busy, I see. I forgot about Gormosy.” He grinned, his mouth full of cake. “I like the corset. I like you laced up like that. Gives me ideas.” He ate the remaining petit fours and drank the rest of the tea.

I rose to get a shawl to put over my naked shoulders. He came up behind and put his hands around my breasts, pulling me back to his chest.

“Take off everything except the corset, dear woman.” His voice was a bit hoarse.

I started to laugh, because I would need his help getting the damn thing off. (Madame Gormosy had made some fierce knots and there was no way I could do this myself, short of cutting the strings….)  He slipped his hands around the tapes that tied the petticoats, and dropped them from my hips. He stood with his hands around my waist, my butt  exposed, and except for the silk stockings and mules, the corset was the only piece of clothing on me.

”’

”’

”’

”’

“I see Madame’s lessons are not lost on you”.   He blew his breath onto my neck, under my hair. “I’ll have to watch ‘Madame Devil’ closely. Somewhere under those petticoats, she still has a sword. Despite powder and wig, you remember there’s a man under those skirts.”

Oh God! I had forgotten! He seemed such an elegant woman that all knowledge of his original gender passed out of my mind. Perhaps there was more than persuasion in his manner. Obviously, Monsieur was using his own brand of magic.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

“Devil’s Revenge”, Chapter 22

February 8, 2015

 images (4)

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I have wanted to introduce Madame Gormosy, a favorite character of this novel.  However, the introduction comes from Lord Abigor, who knows her better than I.  Madame Gormosy is also M. Gormosy, the Arch Demon of Lust in Hell.  He/she is a devil who occupies both genders:  With a shake of her well-coiffed head, she becomes M. Gormosy. She, like her title, occupies not only both genders but creates lust and destroys it.  She is  a familiar of both conflict and comedy.

CHAPTER 22

“Abigor? Are you there? I can’t see for the fog.”

“Walk to the north, Garrett. It is heavy today.”

Abigor’s voice floated on the thickened air like molasses.

Garrett walked to what he hoped was the north, the fog disorienting him. It finally cleared. Abigor was perched on a stump, smoking a long, white clay pipe in a clearing of the woods. He seemed to be alone, but one can never tell with Devils.

Garrett bowed to him, and sat upon another stump. He took his own pipe out from his coat and started to smoke.

The two devils smoked on in silence. Abigor stretched his legs out before him.   All around, except in this small clearing, the trees were dappled with a combination of fog and sunlight dancing among the limbs. It was like an “aurora borealis” flitting along the ground and trees. There were no bird calls, or rustlings of small animals on the forest floor. This place was betwixt heaven and hell, a place of neutrality among spirits. The lights sparking between trees were alien energies, for this was a magical place, inhabited by many dimensions.

“How do you fare in your present work, son?” Abigor blew a long stream of smoke in Garrett’s direction.

“It goes, father. In fits and starts.” Garrett answered him honestly, a sentiment not known among devils but appropriate in this quiet place.

“Have you procured Andras’ support to your claim?”

“Ah! That is one issue I seek your wisdom. But of the Others, I have the support of Forcas and Leraie. Forcas’ brawn and Leraie’ strength in archery.”

“A good start, but only a start.”

Abigor puffed on his pipe in contemplation of the issue.

“I would suggest Aamon.”

Aamon was the demon who reconciled problems between foes and friends. Garrett grimaced and spat on the ground.

“You could at least seek his council.”

“Father,” said Garrett slowly, “what stands between Obadiah and me has a sharp and annoying history. I would as settle it now instead of having to endure his pinpricks for eternity.”

Abigor laughed heartily. “What stands between you and Obadiah is that be-witching mortal woman.”

He chuckled, in a good mood this morning for a demon. “Get rid of her, and you and Obadiah will settle.   ‘Sharp and annoying’, indeed.”

“Ah! That is a problem. What to do with her.”

“And what do you intend?”

“Oh, to breed her, eventually.”

Garrett’s voice sounded casual to Abigor’s ears, but Abigor knew the devil opposite him a bit better than the other supposed.

“There’s much pleasure in the breeding part. It’s what comes after that is annoying.”

“Yes, but the bitter must be taken with the good.”

“Ah! You have actually learned something from my teachings! Or better, you have remembered!”

Abigor was a dispenser of herbal lore and teachings. He was powerful in the usage of medicinal magic.

Abigor smoked his pipe with a scowl on his face. “You know, even that sentiment expressed before the wrong devil could make you…ah…”

“Toast?”

“I was thinking more charcoal.”

He spat on the ground.

“You must cover your heart better, my son. Betwixt thee and me, I can well understand. I have had mortal women before, even your mother. I can remember my youth.”

“You knew my father, Abigor, what would he have done with her?” Garrett spat on the ground. It seemed to be a ritual among devils.

“Who? Your mother or your….ah…consort?”

“Bess.” Garrett blurted her name before thinking. He looked up at Abigor in surprise.

Abigor was laughing quietly.

“I forget you are half mortal. The weaker half. So, you have named her. Surely once you name a pet, you know you keep it.”

Abigor continued to chuckle to himself.   “Or, at least you don’t eat it.”

“Well, I couldn’t keep fetching her with ‘woman’.”

“Yes, well woman will have a name. Eve, Lilith, Mary, Gormosy…they get stubborn and surly if you don’t name them.”

“And…they don’t put out.”

“Hah! That should be no problem for you! Just charm them still. No nonsense then.”

Garrett smiled. The sweetness in her manner made the act more wholesome. Something Abigor would not know.

“I have been thinking of a familiar to train her. She is headstrong for a mortal woman, so the spirit will have to be strong.” Garrett knew Abigor would have a suggestion for him.

“Well, there are a number of spirits that come to mind. What is it you want her to learn? To obey? Better that come from you. These mortal women, they follow so easily. You want her to follow you. I wouldn’t introduce Leraie to a woman to learn archery. He is too winsome. Woman are easily impressed with a broad chest and handsome face.”

Abigor thought for a moment.

“Ah! I have the very devil! Gormosy would do well here. A respected Duchess of Hell.”

Abigor puffed on his pipe, his face wreathed with smoke which looked curiously like little snakes.

Abigor continued. “What else does a mortal woman need to be bound for? Procure this and the other issues follow.”

Abigor’s suggestion was good. Garrett thought Gormosy could teach her things of importance. At least to him. What she was famous for in Hell would work nicely on earth.

“Thank you, Father. That is one thing resolved.” Garrett placed his hand over his heart, and bowed from his stump.

“But I have another request to tax you.” Abigor nodded. Garrett was to proceed.

“Andras. I fear to expose her to him. It is not that I can’t control her in the presence of Andras, I can put all sorts of spells upon her for that.”     (Abigor thought this hardly a show of confidence in her obedience to him.) “I know how ‘touchy’ Andras is. The woman would drive any devil to violence.”

“Perhaps the solution here, my son, is to keep them apart.”

“Knowing that Andras is brother to Bucon, Obadiah’s father, can I do that without disrespect to him?” It was a question of protocol, with deadly results if he guessed wrong.

“Andras will be looking for a fight. He is, after all, Demon of Quarrels. He doesn’t have a ‘good’ side to him at all. I would not provoke him further with a moral woman. Especially if you can’t control her.”

Those last words were meant to slash at Demon Garrett. They were, after all, devils.

“I would dangle something else in front of Obadiah than my consort. Like my sword.”

“Ah! Flesh or steel. Either the same to you young bucks.” Abigor chuckled heartily.

“So, you have given her a title? A name and then, shortly, a title? My, you stick your head in the trap fast. I would have thought, as the son of your father, you would have some of his..ah… ‘polish.’”

“About my father, Abigor. How would he approach Andras? I can make the woman disappear, or not appear, as is called for, but what right do I have to ask Obadiah’s uncle for a boon?”

“About a snowball’s life in hell.”

Abigor looked at the younger demon through a haze of smoke. As they talked, it seemed they recreated the fires of hell with their pipes.

This Young Turk, thought Abigor, part god though he be, had no standing in Hell. He was unaware of the name of his father, but he had most of his traits. And he couldn’t, as powerful as Abigor was, he couldn’t reveal the name of Garrett’s father. It was something this Young Turk would have to find out for himself.

 

Abigor pulled deeply on his pipe and thought: He was tolerated by the Others because he came by his powers through royal blood. The demons had reason enough to fear him, though Devil Garrett was unaware of his breeding.

 

“You answer me in riddles, Lord Abigor. If I am to be my father’s son, I need know what he would do.”

Garrett took liberty with this Arch Duke of Hell, but threw caution to the wind. It was good Abigor was feeling tender towards the young devil this day.

“Your father would do as you do. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Abigor puffed languidly at his pipe. He was enjoying his morning. Riddles were a pleasant part of eternity.

“Is your consort too fearful to have me to tea?” Abigor smiled around the stem of his pipe. He looked…well, rather devilish.

“Not fearful enough.” Garrett smiled, thinking of what her reaction would be.

“Ah! I remember the brio of some mortal women. The Latins were good for it, though they were always calling the name of Christ and their infernal Pope down upon heads. I would advise you to rip out her tongue early.”

Garrett smiled at Abigor. “I would rather work a charm on her. She can use that tongue for better things.”

Ah. These half mortal devils have such patience with their women, thought Abigor. They don’t know a minute of peace because of it, either.

“I would approach Andras with courage. And caution. It will not be easy to gauge his moods. Dangle a gift before him. A pillow of lavender for sweet dreams, an axe to chop his foot off, you figure it out. But know that Bucon will have already approached him for support. The only angle I can see is that Obadiah has been a pain in the butt before to Andras. Bucon’s son comes by his hatred through blood. Quarrels are fueled either by love or hate, and Andras has had his docket filled with Obadiah’s sins. Other than that, you could be toast with him.”

“Thank you, Father. I will remember your wise words.”

Garrett appeared and been answered. He knew not to take up Abigor’s valuable time. This Arch Duke had many activities and the docket of Hell was just one of them all.

He had secured Abigor to his side, and was glad of this. Obadiah, backed by his father Bucon, was no easy fight. There would be battles aplenty before the dust settled. He just hoped he could keep all his demons in a row here. He knew he was playing with Hell’s hottest fires.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2007-2015

“Devil’s Revenge”, Chapter 20

February 6, 2015

I am thankful for those who are reading this story.  It’s been a labor of love and research for many years, though I dropped it hard on its head when it got confusing.  And that is the usual path of writing: we grow, mature with all the attempts but we have to go back and clean up our messes.  We have to reform and rewrite hard.  I am still in the stage of learning the ins and outs of writing long, and there will be further messes in this long novel to clean up.  However, for those that dare to read this, and there are a lot of people who have read my poetry and are aghast that I would write such stuff…well, there is no accounting for taste, mine included.  And that perhaps is the lesson I am learning with this novel:  to find the courage to write, to think, to research into topics and themes that are alien and strange.  To not be afraid of the  criticism which is bound to come, especially from the prudes of the world, most of them in my  family and circle of ‘friends’.  Hah!

This chapter is heavy with research into the (mythical) Demonology and the cuties that I try to post pictures of.  In many cases, they stand in for generic Devils.

Lady Nyo

images (4)

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The ground was wet with dew, the morning still very young. I walked through the fields that stretched out before me, with the dull glaze of late fall upon the weeds and grasses that expanded to the mountains far in the distance. The ground was boggy but it wasn’t with peat. It seemed blood came up around my boots as I walked. How many men died here at Culloden? There was a weak sun, covered with swift moving clouds. Even the blue of the sky was brittle this morning, broken by the passing of the light. There was a stone cottage near at hand and I went to the door. It was open, or pushed open with my hand, and I entered a low ceilinged dwelling. There were no luxuries here, only a rough wooden table and a few chairs. The fire was dead. The cottage was cold, as cold as death. I wrapped myself deep in my cloak, and sat in the brief, fleeting sunshine in the doorway. The sound of men in battle, of them clashing with swords and musket, sounded faintly in my ears. The sounds of men dying are stronger, but this place is the place of Death. I have passed the infamous spring where British slaughtered the Highland men and stuffed them down the rock lined spring.   It pours out water from underground, still mixed with the blood after almost 300 years. The MacDonalds came late, so most of their clan lived into the future. So many of the other clans died, wiped out by the British and fate. Bad leadership on the Scots side too. Bonny Prince Charlie, my ass! He was dancing in France when these clansmen died by the thousands. The British put to the sword and fire all the towns and villages, women, children and elderly they found. So it is in history, ever and again. The Butcher Cumberland! His seed spread over the continents.

 

I finally awoke, this dream disturbing and making me mumble in my sleep. The Demon was sitting at the fire, silent, puffing on his pipe again.

 

“Why didn’t you wake me? I was having a nightmare!”

“I like history. I walked with you through the fields, still a bloody place.”

So he can invade my dreams as well as my thoughts. I have little privacy.

“Seems so.” He smiles. “Good Morning, good woman. Do you want your tea?”

“Yes, please. And make it strong.” I shake the sleep from my head. This dream was so real. I was in Scotland, Culloden in 1990 with my husband. We were there on a late fall day, early in the morning, with the sun and clouds just like my dream. There was no one else on the battlefield, the visitor center deserted except for a young woman behind the counter. It was a sad memorial.  I went in the cottage and saw how primitively they lived in the Highlands. Barely above the animals outside.

“Why do you think I am dreaming of a battle? And walking a battlefield, Garrett?”

“Seems simple enough. You are worried about the battle to come. What you have called ‘projecting’ before.”

I slid out of bed, my nightgown around my waist. I pull it down as I walked to my chair before the fire.

“It was quite a slaughter, that battle,” I said, sipping my tea that appears when he snaps his fingers.

“It will be quite the slaughter again.” He puffed on his pipe and stared into the flames.

The weather has broken, at least the snow had stopped. It is deep on the ground, and there is no activity outside. All is silent, and the days are gray. Today the sun is struggling to break through the clouds. It might clear and be pretty outside. I was wandering the house of late, disgruntled, a version of cabin fever.

“Are you going to work over your books, today?” I asked him, watching the smoke rise from his pipe.

“Have to. Have to see what forces there are to be tapped.”

I can tell he is preoccupied this morning, for he usually is more talkative. He has much on his mind, as I well know.

“Might have a meeting here, soon. You though, will remain in this room. Don’t want to complicate issues.”

“What? In this house? Are you crazy?” I can’t believe him.

“It will be neutral territory enough for these demons. I’ll have one to stand guard on this room. Just in case there’s a stray spirit around.”

“Oh! Let me understand all this. You invite a bunch of demons into this house, and you set another one at my door for safety? Are you daft?”

“Ah! Beyond daft. That’s how I survived. Acting crazy. Impresses the spirits.”

He takes his pipe out of his mouth and gives me a grin that makes me shiver. It’s as if the temperature of the room had dropped ten degrees. I can well believe him. The crazy part.

“You, good woman, at least until my plans are set still have the run of the house. But don’t even open a window. I see that our hawk, Arachula has been joined by another. Probably Lanithro.”

“Who’s Lanithro? Another demon?”

“An important one. The chief Demon of the Air. I’ll get more worried it they are joined by Ascaroth.”

“Who’s he?” This is worrying me now.

“Demon of spies and informers. If he shows up, I’m way behind the ball.” He got up from his chair, and put his pipe on the mantel.

“Sweetheart, you will have to entertain yourself.   I have much work downstairs. If I leave the house, I’ll be back before nightfall. Don’t go outside. And remember, don’t open a window or any door to the outside.”

“Will you at least let me know when you are going?” I don’t like being in the house alone. Especially when Obadiah and his mounting forces might be close outside. He stops at the door and nods his head.

I dressed in my petticoats and pull the green, wool dress on. There still was a trace of mud on the hem from when we looked at Van Doren’s pups and I stepped in the muck. The dress was warm enough, but added a shawl over my shoulders. The house was cold, for he doesn’t lay fires except in the room we use. Even in the library, he lets it burn out, but perhaps being some sort of devil, he doesn’t feel the cold like I.

The morning I spent straightening up the room, putting clothes away in the wardrobe, making the bed and then settled down for a while in embroidering the new vest. I would have liked to make him a heavy linen shirt, but would have to examine his for a pattern. He told me, one night, as he pulled his shirt over his head, that at that instant, all men were most vunderable.   I had laughed, but thought that in another time, he was probably right.

Around noon, I heard his boots in the hall and he entered the door of the bedroom. He was dressed in a black overcoat, and a tricorn hat, something that was worn during the time of the Revolutionary War. He looked serious enough, and stooping to kiss me on the forehead, he left, saying he would be back before dusk. I know not to cling to him, but all this is unsettling. I fear for him. I fear for us both.

I decided to go downstairs later that afternoon, and make myself a pot of tea. Coming out of the kitchen, it seemed a good idea to head for the library and look for a book. I spied the stack of large and old books on his desk, but didn’t think it was a good idea to open them. Whether they were magic, history or what, perhaps demonology, I didn’t really want to know. The built-in cabinets circled the room on three walls, and there were plenty of books to choose from. Some were familiar to me, names at least that I had read or heard of in past history. Addison, Boswell, Johnson, Chaucer, Richardson, and my favorite author, Fielding. These were represented by their novels I had in some cases, already read. But most of the books on the shelves were alien to me. There was a portion of Greek and Latin writers, and I recognized some of the names, like Plato, and Aristotle, and Latin authors, like Seneca and my favorite, Ovid. I had read the Metamorphoses early, looking for the ‘dirty’ parts as a preteen. I found much more value in the same text when I was in my 40’s. A lot of the books were in Greek, a language I could not read. I could speak a few phrases in modern Greek, but the written word was completely alien. There was a very old copy of Beowulf and Piers Plowman, the last a 14th century work I hated in school. There was a collection of philosophy works, by authors I had missed in life: Boethius: The Consolation of Philosophy, and the eternal Dante.   After all, Dante should apply here…the Inferno especially.

There were shelves of some authors and titles that I didn’t at all recognize. Mostly with the Latin word “demonology” in it. There were books on the different “Demons of Hell”, with their talents or charges, whatever you call their expertise

.

I took a couple off the shelf, perhaps there would be some insight into what was whirling around me with my Demon. The ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’…such things like that. I needed some answers. I was losing touch with reality faced with the latest cast of characters, and, well, I really needed some answers.

By opening just one of these books, very old and dusty in my lap, I found there were categories of demons: Royal and Common Demons. Greater and Lesser. I read text from Canaanites and Phoenicians, Egyptian and Sumerian writings on demons and evil. They attributed all sorts of illnesses and misfortune and weather to demons. Epilepsy and piles and indigestion and childbirth were rules by demons or complicated by such. Sacrifices or some sort of appeasement was demanded by the demons and this was what these cultures called medicine. I would suppose that plagues and pox were also in this listing. Also corns, cramps and crazy people. All controlled by demons.

In another book, as old looking as the first, I read of Cento, the Fire Demon.   There was Aspetus for vison, Encensio for teleporting, Capito for illusion, Opacus for shadow, Defigo for time. Oh, then I came across Cedo who was the Demon of shape changers. Early transvestites?   I wondered if Garrett, my busy Demon of late, had thought of these devils. They were something called ‘hybrid’ demons. Apparently, these were demons that had mated with mortal women, hence these powers. Seemed pretty powerful to me, even if they were classed as “lessor”.

In another book, the last I lifted from the shelf, was a dark black book, very old, again of leather, with only one word on it: it was “Watchers” but the language was Aramaic. The only reason I understood this word was because when I opened it, it had a strange English and Latin translation of the facing page. This was a very old text. It quoted the Hebrew Masoretic Text, and it centered on the Psalm 82:1. ‘God condemns the Divine Council who are the Watchers’. In Ephesius 6:12, they were called ‘kosmokratours, which was Greek for ‘world rulers’. They were evil spirits.

In another text they were called Nephilim, and they were born of Watchers and mortal women. They were a race of giants, Goliath was one of the last in the Bible, and they dated from the ‘preflood’ age.   In one text they were angels that married human woman and produced children on the earth. What caught my eye was one of their traits: their offspring, like the fathers, were voracious eaters and drinkers. I thought about my Demon’s appetite. He also was a giant of a man, or appeared to be with all that magic. God apparently got pissed off at them, the Watchers and at their rebellion, this rampant mating with mortal women, and tried to imprison them all underground until the Day of Judgement in something called ‘The Abyss”. In another text, this place was called a desert. In the Book of Enoch, there was more of this kind of ‘creature’, a hybrid demon. One was “Azazel” the Goat God, the teacher at the First Gate of Hell. He taught the Infernal Armies. I wondered if this was the name of Garrett’s father, since Garrett himself had seemed to inherit the manners of a goat. Especially around women, or at least me. One interesting fact I learned the Greek word daemon was demon, meaning intelligent. My demon certainly was that. Besides having the manners of a goat.

I read for a couple of hours, until my eyes tired of the dust and the print. It was hard enough to fashion a sentence from what I was writing for such was the language and translation. I closed the books, with much food for my mind, and went looking for something to eat for dinner. The kitchen had little except a small piece of pie. I was surprised the demon had not finished that off. He ate the full pie hot from the oven. That was after he finished the full pot of stew. His appetite certainly fitted the definition of the Nephilim. I found only bread and some cheese in a half round. It had some mold, but that wouldn’t dismiss it. A paring knife would do for the mold. Some butter, some honey and another pot of tea, this should make enough for both of us.

I went back upstairs to the bedroom to watch out the window. The day was darkening, and I wanted to see Garrett return. The thought of being in this house alone in the night made me uneasy. I heard him enter the front door, and ran to the balcony. He was taking off his overcoat and hat, and came up the stairs. I met him at the top of the stairs and he threw his arm around me, as he headed to the bedroom.

“Did you entertain yourself well, or did you miss me too much to do anything else?”

Ah! He was in a good mood. Perhaps whatever infernal business he had been at this day would soothe his manners tonight. I could see for the past week, or if you can call that time a week, I wasn’t sure, but I could see that the weight of his concerns were pressing on him.

“Come down to the kitchen, I have collected some dinner. It is all cold, but enough of a feast.”

“Better yet, good woman, I will bring it upstairs by the fire. You must be cold. Even I can tell this house is cold and I am not bothered by it.”

He brought the food up on a large tray and we ate by the fire. I asked him if he could talk about his afternoon, and he shook his head.

“Rather eat this food. Am hungry again. You need to cook more for me, Bess. I have battles to fight.”

“Ah! I’m not cooking for a legion of demons, now, am I?” I grinned at him.

“No, they have their own kitchens or use magic. I have come to like your earthly food better than my paltry magic.” He stuffed his mouth with a huge chunk of bread and cheese which he cut with large knife. “Your cooking lasts longer in my stomach than my magic. Am hungry again too soon left to myself.”

He didn’t seem less of a mortal man here. They all wanted to be fed. I wondered a bit at my own husband. He would subside on junk food and beer if I staged a strike. I hoped that his habits had changed for the better. Other than hope, there was little I could do for him.

I ventured to tell him what I had done with my afternoon.

“Garrett, I went into the library and found some books that I read for a few hours. I found information that might be helpful to you, if you don’t know it already.” I didn’t tell him anything about the Nephilim or my suspicions of his father. His face darkened and I could see that he struggled to control himself.

“You are delving into something that you can not understand, woman. The powers of the supernatural are dangerous enough to those who are. For a mortal, and a woman at that, it could be fatal before you know what strikes at you.”

“So! I am to sit here and see you threatened by all that is unnatural and mind my own business?”

“I say to you, woman, do not mettle in that which you know nothing. Even reading such words can leave you open to danger.”

His words angered me, for again, I was just a mortal woman to him. A breeder, a cook, a woman to bed. He could sense my upset, and he stubbornly withheld any words of appeasement.

We sat there, silence between us for a long while. I thought unwittingly of that which I read, and forgot my thoughts were easily exposed to him.

“So, you have occupied your time in that which you shouldn’t. Tell me then, what you have found that you think is of value to me.” This was as much as he would bend to my labors.

“Something called hybrid demons, though they are less in powers.” I started to list them and their values. “Cento, the fire demon could be of worth here.”

“Better Andesco”, he replied. “He can shoot fire from his fingertips. He can make a ball of fire and throw it far. Could come in handy.” He packed down his pipe with his thumb, and blowing on it, produced a high flame. More of his magic, but I would not be impressed.

“Then there is Capito, demon of Illusion,” I went on, ignoring the smoke that he shot my way in an attempt to annoy me.

“Go on.” He shifted his weight in his chair and stretching his long legs, he almost touched the logs with his boots.

“There is Opacus, the demon of Shadow. I don’t know how his would be handy, but then again, I am just a mortal woman, as you say.”

I saw him grin around the stem of his pipe. He was softening a bit.

“Don’t bet on it. Give me another.”

“Defigo, demon of Time. Surely you can figure that out. Oh! And I learned that the Greek ‘daimon’ means ‘intelligent’, not wicked.

“It means both, if you consider the behavior.”

“Then there’s Escensio, demon of Teleport. Surely another that could be of value to you.”

“Any more?”

“Finally, there’s Cedo…demon of shape changers.”

“Now that one is useful.”

“Well, thank you for that!” Little praise I got from him….

“You have brought me demons of a minor court. They can be easily fooled. That is why they are called ‘common demons.’ I need those from the Royal lines, of greater powers. Find any of those?”

“Well, what I found was something called the ‘Watchers.’” He looked startled and suddenly I had his full attention.

“The Nephilim. The Watchers over Mankind. A dangerous and royal line. That is possibly to be my line.”

That was a surprise to me. So he did know something more of his ‘parentage’.

“Why do you think that I have survived so long? Abigor dare not kill me only because of this. Otherwise, I would be ‘toast’ as you say.” He grinned, now more a grimace.

“Any of this you can use?”

“What, my ancestor line? I intend to. It is my first defense here. And the only reason that I have access to the Others.”

“The others being demons?” I ask.

“Oh Bess! I told you before that there are many cultures of Others. There are cultures here on this earth, that supply “Others”, there are dimensions out there, (here he waved his pipe in front of himself, I guess implying everything other) that have their own “Others”, everything that exists has its “Others”.

“So, these ‘Others” that you refer to, they are rulers?”

“More so than that. They have all the combined wisdom, intelligence, evil and good of their species. They are like a Pandora’s Box. But this box has all the jewels of the universes.

“More than one universe?”

“Many more. More than there are grains of sand on this earth.”

“I read that the Watchers pissed off God and He had them thrown into the Abyss forever.”

“Ah! That is what comes from a mortal woman reading these texts! Did you not read further? Was it in Greek or Aramaic?”

“Aramaic, I think.”

“Well, had you been able to read it, you would have found out that eight of the Watchers were placed in an ark, and survived the flood.” He drew on his pipe, letting a stream of smoke from his mouth.

“That’s from the Bible for your information.”

I was surprised that he had even bothered to read it. Didn’t sit well with him being some sort of demon.

“I am told I was descended from one of those Watchers. That is why I have been around a long time, unchallenged.”

In this short moment, I found out more about this Devil than I had guessed before. He was, what we would call in our pagan cultures, a “Wise One.”

“Your Wise Ones are paltry in powers compared to my breed.”

“Tell me, then. Are there Watchers or Nephilim of your breed that you can call upon now?”

“Ah! There’s the rub. They don’t reveal themselves easily. I have to search in various ways. That is why I am collecting a bunch of devils here soon, to parley something into agreement.”

This issue of devils on the furniture again. My God.

“Only dangerous if you get curious and come out of your room. Perhaps a few spells on you that day will make you less troubling for me.”

“Oh! Is that how you see me? As nothing but ‘trouble’?”

“Oh, much more than that. But trouble nevertheless.”

I decided not to push. I had enough to think about, and the fact that a passel of demons were to be in the house was not comforting.

“Can you control their behavior? Do you trust them together?”

“There is a certain code, or honor if you will.   If you can use the word ‘honor’ among demons.” He grinned a devilish grin. “My status is enough, I am betting, to control them. Abigor’s command is better.”

“And have you Abigor’s approval here?”

“Ah! That was the nature of my business today. Abigor has his own reasons to back me against Obadiah. Abigor will be here with the others. He has requested an interview with you, and I must oblige him in this.”

“Why? I am just a ‘mortal woman’ as you say.”

“Abigor has his own reasons. He has taken a ‘shine’ to you. He saw how you handled the demons that tempted you in the woods that night. Took some courage of you.”

So. I am to have tea with an Arch Duke of Hell. How my world has expanded!

“It grows late, good woman. We have more work on the morrow. You can continue to read and find devils for me. It’s helpful a bit.”

“Oh! Thank you, Demon of mine. I have the same objectives here. To keep us both alive for a while.”

The Devil looked at me, and though the smoke from his pipe and the darkening of the room did not allow me to see clearly, I thought I saw some tenderness pass over his face.

I am now caught up in his world. If I thought of any escape, I would not know where to run. Better stay and make a stand. Even though my allies were some of the worst demons of Hell.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015


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