Wind howls, and rain splatters against Hedwig van Sweiten’s bedroom window. She finishes braiding her long blond hair, and peers out into the stormy night. These are strange days. She walks back to her bed. The storm came up fast, too fast. It isn’t natural. Rain pours down so hard she can’t see any of the houses around her. She may as well be on some desolate sea coast rather than bustling 1743 Vienna.
Glass cracks and wood splinters, light from her lamp shudders against the wall. Hedy spins. The window is a jagged hole, and a huge wolf with glowing red eyes bounds toward her. Her hand flashes up and blocks it’s advance, she twirls and kicks it off to the side. The wolf slams into the wall and springs back. Hedy lands a blow against the side of its fanged head and knocks it to the ground. It’s stunned, but quickly springs to its feet and stares at her.
Hedy glares back. “Look, I’m done messing with you. Leave now and I won’t call my dogs.” She stares at the wolf with steady blue eyes. The giant wolf peers back with his glowing red ones. Its brows twitch and it explodes off the floor leaping for Hedy’s face. She catches it by the throat. “You asked for it.” She heaves the wolf back against the wall.
“Donner, Blitz.” Nails clatter against wood, and two miniature dachshunds run into the room. One is red with a white lightning shaped slash on it’s chest. The other, black and tan. Both come to her side. Her hand makes a sweeping gesture. “Get him out of here.” Donner and Blitz touch noses, their eyes glow blue, and they advance toward the giant beast.
The wolf seems unsure of the little dogs. They’re obviously over matched, but they’re fearless. Hedy sees it lick it’s lips. She turns her back, walks to her wardrobe and opens one of its doors. You, Mr. Wolf, are in for a surprise.
The little dogs walk forward, their gleaming blue eyes locked on the wolf’s red glowing ones. The wolf springs. Lightning arcs from Blitz’s jaws and the wolf lands against the wall with a thud. Hedy smells singed fur and smiles. Donner and Blitz move closer herding the confused giant toward the demolished window. The wolf backs away until it’s tail and haunches are sticking out the side of the building.
“Frein, daughter of a Baron, van Sweiten. Are you alright?” calls Sister Adelbert, a Benedictine Nun and Hedwig’s quasi chaperone through the gap in the door.
“I’m fine Sister,” Hedy answers, pulling on a blue ankle length dress with a white bodice. “There’s a giant wolf in here so don’t come in, Donner and Blitz are just getting rid of it.” She turns back to the wolf. “This is your last chance dog. Disappear now, or we’ll hunt you down and hand you back to Satan as a pelt.” The wolf’s eyes slowly shift from Hedy, to Donner, Blitz, and back again. Hedy raises an eyebrow and shakes her head but the wolf lunges at the two little dogs.
Blitz opens his mouth to bark. Lightning shoots from his jaws and the smell of ozone fills the air. Donner’s mouth opens and the roar of thunder hits the cursed cur like a solid wall of sound. It launches the astonished beast through the window’s opening and over the walls of the enclosed courtyard into the dark city.
“You can come in now Sister,” calls Hedy. “The wolf’s gone. Good boys,” she leans down and pets the dachshunds. Sister Adelbert enters dressed in her robe and tight fitting night cap.
“My goodness Frien van Sweiten, we’ve got to get this window blocked. All this rain will ruin your beautiful home.” She drags the heavy curtains across the opening and tries to keep them from billowing inward.
Hedy turns from her dressing table. “I expect the storm will calm now Sister. I think it was all for effect.” As Hedy speaks the curtains slowly stop billowing, the sound of the rain quiets. Sister pulls the heavy wool fabric to the side and peers through the gap.
“Yes, I believe you’re right, Frein van Sweiten. I’ll get this water cleaned up now and fetch the carpenters in the morning to have it repaired.” She looks up from the puddle. “Are you going out?”
“I’m afraid so,” Hedy replies. “Would you please fasten the buttons on the back of my dress. The boys and I have to find that wolf. I gave him the chance to go back to Hell on his own. Now, it looks like I’m going to have to deliver him to Satan in person.”
Hedy pulls her long braid to the side and Sister fastens her dress. “You think the wolf came from Hell?”
She nods her head. “Oh, I’m pretty certain of it Sister.” She sits and puts on a pair of ankle high black boots.
The nun bends and strokes the dogs. “You be safe my little puppies.” Donner and Blitz whimper softly and lick her fingers.
Hedy fastens her last boot, gathers a brown cloth bag, throws a blue hooded cloak over her shoulders and fastens it around her neck. “Come on boy’s. I want to catch that beast before he does anymore damage.” The little dachshunds walk away from the nun and heel at Hedy’s side.
“You take care Frein van Sweiten,” Sister directs. “You’re not invincible you know.”
“I know, Sister.” Hedy lights a candle from her bedside lamp and guides the dogs and nun through the dark house to the back door. “We should be back before dawn.”
“I’ll have this mess cleaned up and hot coffee and fresh rolls with butter when you get back. I’ll have breakfast for you puppies too.”
Hedy hands her the candle, opens the door and steps out into the night.
Sister watches from the doorway, candlelight flickering on her face. “God be with you, Frein van Sweiten.”
“Thank you, Sister. I promise we’ll be careful.” Hedy glances down at her dachshunds. “Ok boys, find that wolf.” The little dogs sniff the air, touch noses and run toward the courtyard’s open gate. Hedy pulls up the hood of her cloak and follows.
The downpour that foretold the wolf has slowed to a drizzle, and the wind calmed. Clouds race across the sky leaving gaps beams of moonlight burst through. Around her the city is quiet, and her mind wanders.
The angels are busy tonight. Angels swoop in like giant birds through the ocean of clouds. They perch on rooftops, and watch through windows as their charges sleep. Some soar skyward calmly guiding the newly deceased to their final judgement. While others, more or less drag souls to a reckoning with God that will surely lead to eternal damnation. Realizing to late they’ve wasted their lives.
To most fräulein, this would seem impossible. But to me it’s normal. Hedy thinks. It’s all I’ve ever known. How many 18 year old girls talk to God? Well, I guess anyone can talk to You, but how many do You answer back? She takes a few steps. And how many have a relic they wear around their neck that lets them see angels, or allows them to channel Your limitless power? It all started the day I was born with my Mother’s choice. Well, I guess I got to choose too. She sighs, and looks again at the cloudy sky and the angels watching over humanity. I’m definitely not a saint. . . I’m just the girl You chose to save the human race.
The howl of a wolf echos in the darkness. Donner and Blitz start to run. Here I go again. Hedy races after the dachshunds past the House Under the Blue Bottle, her favorite coffee house. She runs through Vienna’s shadowy, narrow, rain soaked streets until the buildings around her open up into a large square. At it’s end, Saint Stephan’s Cathedral, it’s patterned roof, and huge jutting South spire hi-lighted in shifting moonbeams.
Lucifer walks from the shadows followed by the wolf from Hedy’s room. “I’ve been waiting.” His tone is cold and unemotional. “I couldn’t have made it more obvious. What took you so long?”
Hedy walks toward him. Her footfalls echoing off the silent buildings. She drops her hood and studies him. “Venus as the morning star. That’s what *Pfarrer Schaaf says your name means. You’re still handsome, just like I remember.” Satan’s hair and eyes are jet black. His hair straight and fastened with a tie. His clothing perfectly tailored. All black, except for a blazing red brocaded waistcoat. Hedy matches his gaze. “But then again, looks are so superficial.”
“You on the other hand are just big boned and ugly.” Lucifer answers. He circles her and the dogs. “Yet what you did to Azazel… he was one of my most formidable demons. Still…”
Hedy pivots to keep him in view. “Why are you here? Why did you send that mutt to my house?”
Lucifer smiles. “To lead you away from it.” He flicks a finger and reality pulls away like a curtain revealing Sister Adelbert trussed and hanging head down over the cobblestones. “I wanted to get the dear sister here, and it was so much easier with you out of the house.”
Hedy rushes forward but Lucifer stops her with a glance. “You’re not dealing with a mere underling now you worthless bag of flesh.” He sneers. “Give it to me, or Sister goes to Hell for all eternity.”
Hedy knows there is only one thing he could mean. The relic. The conduit that allows her to channel the power of God. “You can’t do that,” she answers. “You may have dominion over Hell, but only God decides who’s sent there.”
“Then you’ll just have to stop me.” Lucifer twists his hand and Sister groans.
Hedy raises her arm. In the past she’s been able to direct waves of power and light to destroy evil, now there is nothing. She’s helpless. She looks down at Donner and Blitz, they’re as unmoving as statues. Sister vomits, her body convulses. God? Hedy asks silently, no reply.
“I can do more,” Lucifer threatens. Focusing his cold black eyes on Hedy.
“No.” Hedy shakes her head. “No more, but I can’t give you the relic. Me. Take me in Sister’s place. I beg you.” She drops to her knees on the wet stones and looks at him imploringly.
“You won’t give me the relic?”
Her head bows, “No…I can’t.”
Lucifer walks to her and unties her cloak. “Then I’ll just take it myself.” He reaches toward it’s chain and a spark leaps to his fingers. He jerks away and Hedy slowly raises her eyes.
Lucifer’s brow furrows. Hedy’s eyes are pulsing with energy. “Your eyes? What’s wrong with your eyes?”
“There’s nothing wrong with my eyes.” She looks up to the Heavens, I just got the answer I was waiting for.” Hedy jumps to her feet and twitches her index finger. Lucifer flys across the square. The demon wolf leaps, but Donner and Blitz open their mouths and attack with lightning and thunder. The wolf falls to the ground in a smoking a heap. Lucifer jumps to his feet, turns to Sister and twists his hand. The Nun screams. Hedy lifts her arm, and a dark chasm opens at Satan’s feet.
“You! How can you do this?” screams the Prince of Darkness.
Hedy points to the wolf, it disappears into the void. She focuses on Lucifer. “It’s not just me.” Hedy feels the relic pulse. “Now get back to Hell where you belong.”
The scowl on Lucifer’s face is fierce. “This isn’t the end!” he screams as he vanishes into the void.
Hedy flicks her finger and the opening in the earth is gone. She rushes to Sister and kneels beside her. “Are you alright?”
She peers at Hedy with tired eyes. “I’ll never get used to this Frein van Sweiten. First it was Azazel, now it’s Satan himself. It’s never dull around you is it?”
“I told you it would be this way.”
“I know.” Sister pauses. Hedy helps her to her feet. “It certainly makes the battle between good and evil real, doesn’t it?”
“Yes it does, Sister. Now let’s go home, I think I need a good strong cup of coffee.”
*Pfarrer Schaaf- A Benedictine priest who’s also Hedy’s tutor and mentor.