Prologue: Glib, Snivel, and Staunch
“Any time now,” said Glib, the weakest of the three demons. Staunch was leaning against the far wall, arms folded as if he might not care at all about what was about to happen. Which was enough to fool Snivel, wringing his hands and fidgeting with flickers of fire springing from his palms, but it didn’t fool Glib. Staunch wanted what was coming as badly as the other two.
Snivel, who was skinny as a twig underneath his blue robes, began making a ball of yellow light orbit his impish head, which was capped with a blue wizard’s hat. This was how he dealt with apprehension. “Mine will surely cause the most damage. Just you wait and see,” he said in his mousy voice.
“We work together, you sniveling fool,” said Staunch, who was thick-set for a lesser demon. The three of them were all lesser demons: Snivel, an Imp of Sorcery. Staunch, an Imp of Rage. And Glib, small and almost cute, an Imp of Lies. Glib didn’t honestly think that, even though they were working together, Snivel’s gift would cause the most damage. Staunch and Snivel’s gifts of corruption were too straightforward. They could only do so much on their own— Glib’s gift had a little thing called subtlety. It had the power to do untold damage, maybe even overthrow Heaven itself. Glib might have been the weakest, physically, but he had the most ambition.
“I know, I know,” said Snivel. “It’s just that I’m excited about all the possibilities. To think we have the honor of having a hand in real infernal miracles! It’s going to make everything Pandemonium has done so far look like child’s play.”
Though the forces of evil usually could do little in the way of miracles, times were a-changing. Earth would soon become a feast of turmoil for demonkind. Normally, lesser demons such as themselves could not hope to enjoy opportunities like this. They were about to be players, rather than pieces of the game.
Staunch growled. “Heaven sure is taking its time,” he said, annoyed.
“Not true,” said Glib. “You’re just anxious. God is slow, but never late, as they say.”
“That’s why Pandemonium is the wave of the future,” said Snivel, “We will work with the speed of demons.”
Pandemonium, the immense fortress complex where most demons lived, could make nothing on its own. Although the design of Pandemonium Fortress was customized by demonkind, the power to shape it had come exclusively from Heaven. In like manner, the miraculous gifts they awaited had to be made in Heaven as well— the appeal to have the gifts created for them meant going through all the right channels in the supernatural world. Pandemonium’s best legal team had been sent to secure these miraculous gifts for demonic use. It had been no small thing to get permission to use them. There were miles of red tape involved. But in the end, Heaven was characteristically generous.
Glib, Snivel, and Staunch were demons that were due a certain amount of favor. More than most, actually. They had been working a lot of hard graft in the mortal world and in Pandemonium itself, always delaying their reward until later. But now, later had arrived... this was a special occasion. Delaying gratification was not a common practice with demons, especially lesser ones.
The items that were due to them arrived through a chute; an innovation that, like everything else, was allowed to them by Heaven. Eventually, if the forces of Heaven won the ultimate victory, demonkind would lose their home in Pandemonium and be forced to live in Hell, where they would have no conveniences. In the meantime, they used their resources as best they could.
The chute deposited three items that looked like marbles. One was blue, for Snivel. Another was red, for Staunch. And one was yellow, for the cleverest one of all. That one was Glib’s. Each emitted a faint glow, a hint at the power within.
Staunch took his in hand while his cruel, toothy grin spread across his face.
“O! It is wondrous, to have a giant’s strength,” he said gleefully. Brute strength was Staunch’s department. The joy of dominating others with violence— that was the name of his game. Abusive husbands, sadistic soldiers and warlords, brutal police, thugs and bullies. That was the sort of thing he was into.
Snivel took his gift in hand and laughed in an irritatingly high pitch. “I think you’ll find that power is also strength,” he said. Snivel was more about the lust for power rather than direct strength. He usually worked with government employees, clerks, bosses, and people in low-ranking positions of authority, persuading them to be as petty as possible.
Glib took his gift and examined it like an expert in precious jewels.
“I still can’t believe you chose such a feeble gift,” said Staunch.
“Indeed?” said Glib, “Care to make a gentleman’s bet? I bet my gift causes the most damage.”
Snivel laughed another irritating laugh. “Impossible,” he said.
“I thought you were doing some weird experiment,” said Staunch. “I never took your idea seriously.”
“But is it a bet?” said Glib.
Staunch spat on the ground, and his saliva sizzled. “I’m not making a gentleman’s bet. Let’s have some real stakes.”
“Ah, a wager,” said Snivel, and the ball of light spun excitedly around his head. “How about the losers must address the winner as ‘your lordship’ for all eternity?”
“Look at Snivel, talking as if he’s going to win. You forget that might makes right.”
“Might is just one facet of power. Besides, the idea is to corrupt people, not simply cause pain,” said Snivel.
“Corruption is only useful for spreading pain,” said Staunch, punching his own palm for emphasis.
“Glib, what do you think?” said Snivel.
“I think it’s a worthy bet,” said Glib. “Shall we bind it?” Glib extended a claw.
Snivel reached out his spindly claw, grasping beefy Staunch’s claw and Glib’s child-sized claw. They then let magical energy flow through them, performing a spell of Binding. Their spirits reached a soul-binding agreement. “So be it,” they said in unison.
“Well then,” said Staunch, spreading his wings, “To Earth?”
Glib spread his much smaller wings. “To Earth,” he said. Snivel spread his own. “To Earth,” he said.
They took flight, swooping through the corridors of Pandemonium Fortress and out one of the many windows. They were soon seen in the skies, departing their world and on their way to Earth, seeking some likely targets.