My host was by every measure a nobleman, both in title and in deportment. He appreciated fine wine, such as he served at dinner, and enjoyed a well-read and intelligent guest, which is precisely how I fancied myself. But for all of my hosts myriad accomplishments it was his curious hobby that had brought us together.
There had been a time in my life when I had fancied taking the path of a clergyman. I envisioned myself as a grand curator of sorts for manner of written work that might be in the library of some grand cathedral or in the private collection of one of the Bishops or Archbishops of the Empire. However, it would seem that I was not wholly suited to such a career and instead I became the head librarian for a social club comprised entirely of elderly patricians who had set about spending their twilight years napping in overstuffed chairs amid shelves of tomes and manuals that gathered more dust than attention. It was in this dismal setting several years ago that I first made acquaintance with my host for this evening. As it should happen we both shared a love for delving into those scattered and nearly forgotten “profane and taboo” writings that had centuries ago been excised from the Holy Scriptures. These missives had been determined by no less authority than the Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Imperium Church to be dangerous to both the souls of the sinful in need of a redeemer and to the authority and power of the Church itself. It goes without saying that a prohibition against seeking out and reading these writings did nothing but spur on our shared curiosity. Is there any more delicious knowledge than that which is strictly forbidden?
My host was not the kind of man to shirk his considerable responsibilities even though his erstwhile hobby might afford him far more intellectual reward than the duties he was routinely expected to perform. Regardless of this it had become clear in the last few weeks that he had made a monumental discovery. Even though he was a respected man and would have been considered above reproach should anyone make an idle accusation my host was also a careful man to never give so much as a hint at being involved in anything unsavory. He certainly would not let it be known that he had been poking about in sacrilegious texts and demonic scribblings. He had made sure that only the bare minimum of his house servants were on hand during our dinner and upon its conclusion he had let those retire for the evening before ushering me into his own private study. He even took the precaution of locking the door before finally letting me in on his secret.
His eyes gleamed with delight as he rubbed his hands together. “I’ve found it!” he said. “I’ve discovered the devil’s true name!”
I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant so I decided to ask, “Which devil would that be, sir? Are not the lower planes filled with devils and demons?”
My host laughed and then lowered his voice as he replied, “No, no! Not these lesser monsters that feed on the souls of departed sinners. I mean the devil himself, the great trickster, the deceiver of men and the originator of sin itself! The one that served first as the chief of all angels, lord of the heavenly host and chief steward before God.” He lowered his voice still further until it was but a mere whisper. “He who allowed his jealousy of divinity to cause him to fall not only from grace but from all possible redemption. I speak of that immortal entity that seeks the ruin of all creation in revenge for his own failings. I speak of Betapsi.”
This name immediately caused me concern, and my heart raced with excitement. I paid rapt attention as my host revealed ancient, crumbling scrolls and books that seemed to yawn back across the expanse of all time in languages long dead and forgotten. Step by step he led me through the series of connections he had made in these abominable volumes to discover the identity and alleged powers of this fearsome and diabolical entity. Until dawn we poured over the manuscripts and shared our thoughts. My host had only begun to scratch the surface of something awful, something so gargantuanly terrible as to shake the foundation of the Church and yes, even society to its core. Up until this point the afflictions suffered by the righteous had been attributed to witchcraft or ill luck. Could it be that there was a master planner for all of the wickedness in our world? Might it be that our divine and worshipful God had a true nemesis capable of giving his very creation the kind of torment that would cause us mere mortals to turn away from our Savior and cast our lot wholly in the fires of eternal destruction? If the tale of Betapsi is true, then yes. We do not have merely a kind and loving God. We also have a cruel and ruinous enemy.
Before the servants could return to the home of my host I bade him farewell and slipped away as the dawn began to break. I found no solace in the light, and I doubt now that I ever shall again. My thirst for knowledge has left me a broken man. I fear I shall never awaken without an unquenchable desire for ignorance lost in hubris. Woe is me!