Beliefnet

Chapter One

My dear Scardagger,

According to the report just handed me from Temptation University, you are quite the fiend—or rather, one day, under the lash and spur of my ceaseless vigilance, you will be. It is a great joy to be handed such an accomplished pupil to fashion and mould in my own flawlessly accomplished Image and Likeness. And high time, too!

My Elder Brother wanted you for himself. I can hardly blame him. As this year's Commencement Speaker and Guest of Honour at the Tempt U graduation ceremony, he was entitled to certain privileges, but the Board of Governors did not deem that match appropriate. Having seen your Dreaded Uncle devour with such becoming gusto the choicest cuts of your incompetent little cousin, as his final shrieks resonated against the walls of the banquet hall (always an effective light ceremonial touch to remind you youngsters of the wages of failing the cause of Hell), the Board thought that pairing you with the same Mentor might prove a distraction to you both. This decision did not sit well with him. Your Uncle's satanic selfishness and complete lack of mercy have always been an inspiration to me, but as my brother he might have relinquished you to me with better grace, especially after receiving the Golden Thorns Award. That should be enough to slake the thirst for recognition in any Devil, at least for a time.

Certainly he has served His Infernal Majesty's battle against the Adversary's earthly siege with glorious distinction. I have learned more of the Black and Subtle Art of Temptation at his side than anywhere else. It is through his ceaseless efforts, and those of countless other highly accomplished Devils, such as myself, that the Earth remains in our hands. Our utter defiance of the Adversary and our steadfast refusal even to consider His ridiculous gibberish about Redemption and Grace will, I trust, be an inspiration to you.

I have noticed that your diabolical Chancellor, Dr. Glitchtwist, has been sending me superb material since his recent stay in our Institute of Reeducation. There is nothing like a little holiday to clarify one's vision and renew one's drive and sense of purpose. You no doubt found among your cousin's effects the profusely illustrated booklet of the delights that await one in The Schoolhouse, as we all affectionately call it, as reward for substandard performance. The Staff do so enjoy their work. You need have no fear of their company—at least, not yet—provided you follow explicitly the instructions of your betters.

You have no idea of the stress and aggravation your Dreaded Uncle and I have endured at the hands of in competent tempters. He, at least, was modestly compensated for the pang of sharpened famine he endured as the result of the loss of your cousin's final client. The erstwhile tempter made a lovely meal at your graduation ceremony, did he not? Even though you were Class Valedictorian, you should have remembered that, as the Guest of Honour, your Uncle was entitled to the choicest cuts. I quite understand that the bite you administered to his person in the heat of the festivities was unintended, merely the result of the exhilaration of the moment and youthful high spirits, though as your new Mentor I would advise you to act with greater forethought in the future. Your enthusiasm is less pleasing than you might think. It was only the laughter of the Chancellor that saved you from the consequences of your folly. Patience, my boy, patience. I understand this is a quality invented by the Adversary; but like much of what He has created, it can be twisted to our purposes.

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