Lucifer's Last Laugh

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Chapter 17: The Erinyes’ Tale

I decide to make good use of the few hours remaining before I meet with Our Father and visit the rather cramped office of François Trévenée, professor of Antiquated Studies at the Sorbonne. For reasons unknown to me, we converse in Romanian.

“Yes, the Erinyes. Bad news, Very bad news indeed,” the prof says cheerfully. “Tisiphone the Avenging, for example, wears nothing but a robe stained with blood. She likes to drive people bonkers. Megaera the Grudging may be the nastiest of the three, evidently gulping gallons of human blood at a single sitting. And with considerable relish (generally mustard-based.) Alecto the Unceasing is known for her indefatigability. Don’t get in her way because you can’t stop her. All three are uncommonly ugly with dogs’ heads and snakes for hair. And beadswomen at that. Why do you ask?”

“Oh just idle curiosity. Where did they come from?”

“You remember Cronos and Uranus?”

I shake my head.

“Well, Uranus was the skookum creator and first ruler of the universe but Cronos, one of his Titan sons, decided to do away with him so he ambushed Uranus and, with a dull sickle, sliced off his nuts. Uranus’ blood fertilized Gaia and she gave birth to a whole bunch of baddies including the Giants, the Meliad and, of course, the Erinyes.”

“Wait a minute. I thought Necessity was their mother.”

The prof grins in undisguised delight. “That’s another story. But in my opinion Necessity is the mother of nothing, including invention.”

“OK, OK, please don’t go into it. I know they did something to Orestes.”

“Oh yes, they drove him so crazy that he bit off one of his fingers. Just before that, they appeared to him completely black. But just after Orestes’ finger fell to the ground, the Erinyes turned dazzlingly white so he mistook them for the Eumenides, recovered his sanity and dedicated an offering of thanks to them. Some nasty old dead goat, I imagine.”

“Since all of that took place in the mists of pre-time or mythic time or whatever you Antiquated Knowledge experts call it, I wonder if anything has been heard from the Erinyes recently, say in the past three thousand years or so.”

The prof rolls his expressively elliptic eyes. “Well, my goodness, yes. I mean, maybe not under the specific Greek rubric but vengeance is always with us, isn’t it? The biblical phrase, “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord” has always struck me as especially loopy. Vengeance is everyone’s. Petty or cosmic. So the Erinyes are always with us in one way or another I like to think of them, in accordance with the poet, as the Weird Sisters: Stop. Look, and Listen.”

Failing all three admonitions, I thank the good professor and return to my suite at the Ritz where I teleport to Lucifer’s Palace. As always, Our Father looms over me in a terrifying, yet curiously benign fashion, His gigantic wings rustle gently against the sides of His shimmering golden throne.

“You require advice, Loki, on how to deal with Alecto.”

“Indeed, Father. Will the powers you have granted me suffice to defeat her?”

’The Erinyes cannot be defeated. Vengeance is implacable. But they can be thwarted. And you have power enough to accomplish that.”

“But how? This is an enemy with whom I am completely unfamiliar.”

“For one thing, the Erinyes are not very smart. Single minded, yes. But smart? They are, in fact, clodpated, doltish pillocks.”

“Well, that’s good to know.”

“But dangerous. Unlike any enemy you have confronted before, they have the power to destroy you.”

(If I have left you, my darling, with the impression that we devils are invulnerable I must hasten to add that this is not entirely so. For example, when we choose to incarnate as a being with ears, the very tip of the left earlobe can be attacked in such a way as to cause us immense suffering, even loss of consciousness. But I sense that Lucifer is referring to something more serious).

“Destroy, as in kill? But I have always thought that we are immortal.”

“In some vague metaphysical sense, all living beings are immortal. But not in the sense you mean. No, we are very long-lived but we do not live forever. The universe, after all, does not last forever. Alecto is extremely powerful. If she senses you are pursuing her, she will not hesitate to dismember you with a nasty explosion. But that is unimportant.”

I wish vehemently to disagree but sense that discord at this point will not be well received.

“But you do expect me to, in your words, thwart her?”

“Oh yes. I have every confidence in you, Loki. You have one of the wiliest, most duplicitous imaginations that I have ever created. My money (if I had any) is on you (at odds of five to four).”

“You will excuse me, Father, if I don’t find that to be an overwhelmingly unambiguous endorsement.”

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