3LBE #16
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A Thorn in Nevelshelle’s Side

by Jason Hauser

 

March 21, 1856
Wolfsberg, Austria

I, Wilhelm Stauf, swear that the following account is true, and now pen the full details for the sake of occult conservation. I am too old and near death’s door to fear prosecution for our ghastly deeds. Besides, most of the participants are deceased, even my dear Ms. Chevier. This is what transpired and the reasons why. If I have neglected certain facts, you can blame the failing memory of an author and magician ravaged by decades of chemical and spiritual abuse.

I first learned of the whole, sordid affair in 1826 at a remodeled repository in Valence, France, called — innocently enough — the House of Mercy. But names can be misconstrued, to conceal the truth or mislead the curious, and that is what happened here.

Theronius Nevelshelle, age fifty-five that same year, was a defrocked Catholic priest happy to no longer be affiliated with the Church. Sporting a handlebar mustache and a pentagram inked at the corner of his left eye, he had been inducted as leader of the Mercy House upon the demise of its former patriarch, Pierre Cavendish, a man whom I never met. Nevelshelle said that he encountered resistance from the sect at first, but eventually allayed their hesitation. I know that he employed a tongue as honeyed as the Devil’s, and the few members that refused to comply simply left.

Nevelshelle credited his passion to his mother, an unfortunate witch from Lyon who had been hung by his father, an Englishman. The memory, Nevelshelle told me, had been keenly impressed since age five: her bloated purple face, blackened lips, the slack tongue. His mother’s callous murder had actually fueled his lifelong journey into the Mysteries rather than forcing him away.

When younger, during a stint with organized religion, Nevelshelle had acted as a spiritual advisor to a nun named Adele Chevier, who claimed to hear the susurrus of spirits — even the Virgin Mary once! — begging her attendance in unwholesome acts. Her Mother Superior said that she was oft heard screaming in her room, but was always found alone, naked and incoherent. Instructed to exorcise her, Nevelshelle found Adele to be young, impressionable, and not without admirable looks. First intrigued by her condition, then consumed by his lust, he interpreted her psychic affliction as a sign from Above, and himself as her virile deliverer.

Nevelshelle banished her unpleasant visitors (via an equally unpleasant ritual involving feces), and together they formed their own society, the Salvation of Souls, which despite its high-sounding name, was really devoted to sex magic and at least one ritual murder of twins born to Nevelshelle and Adele in 1824. They sacrificed the infants and drank their blood at the high point of Mass, in the name of sacred holiness, for Nevelshelle adhered to a calling that could not abide weakness.

He and Adele carried this dogma to their new home in Valence after the Church expelled the Salvation of Souls from Paris in 1825, and they were quick to familiarize the order with their unique form of spirituality. There, Nevelshelle revealed himself as a reincarnation of John the Baptist, and insisted that copulation with a Christ-figure and one’s own astral body was the surest way to reach Heaven. Twelve men and women clung to the order after his rise, and their orgasmic inductions served to deepen the communal faith.

Theronius Nevelshelle was very, very pleased.

 

The Fateful Introduction - A Sultry Day In August - New Moon

All would have gone well if not for the chance visitation by another occultist, Francois Bardot, who had heard of the association much as I did. Among the proper circles, such practices are discreetly acknowledged. A French magician of small fame and somewhat larger ego, Bardot at the time was thoroughly immersed in the study of All Things Hidden, and sought to heighten his already considerable knowledge. So, with great anticipation, as he claimed later, in the summer of 1826 he joined the House of Mercy and settled down for what he hoped would be the learning experience of a lifetime.

Nevelshelle said he left the House five days later, thoroughly, sorely disgusted.

“This is not magic!” the Frenchman had squealed. “It is depravity! The man promotes relations with succubi! Ritual orgy! Incest and bestiality! Pregnant goats are not human mates! I am tainted from even stepping foot inside. Oh, how loathsome…”

Perhaps if Bardot had kept silent the matter would have passed, as Nevelshelle hoped. But nay, the Frenchman was vocal about his disgust, having taken personal affront to the order’s doctrine, which I admit, was slightly controversial. But therein lay the charm.

Several days later, he wrote a letter to Nevelshelle, and here the situation escalated.

I judge thee, the note read, and continued with Bardot’s flowery verbosity. You are a scoundrel, sir. An adversary to natural law. An opponent of acceptable behavior. You do not practice an ounce of honor. Not a shred of decency. Not a whiff of normalcy. I condemn you for the practices you spread. You are not invincible behind your charade of good intentions and noble exterior. I shall reveal you for the fraud you are. This I swear, with God as my witness!

And so on and so forth. Nevelshelle, infuriated, ripped the letter to shreds.

“Did you hear his tone?” he asked Adele. She nodded of course, always eager to please. “He fears your genius,” she had whispered, sidling closer. “He fears truth. The weak always do.”

“He means to kill me!” Nevelshelle had shouted, his mustache surely quivering with rage. “Why else his brutish note? He is a fledgling conjurer at best. An alchemical anomaly at worst. One cannot flinch from the myriad wonders of Heaven and Hell. Is that not what I preach? Adele insists that these were his exact words, and I have refrained from embellishment.”

“Yes, Nevel,” she said, reaching for his loins, having learned many methods to sooth his anger, only a few of which she thought actively unpleasant. She tried to teach me these techniques later, but I kindly refused, preferring to just deal with his wrath.

“Away from me, woman!” he had moaned. “By Christ, my very life is at stake. That sorcerer means to lie me low!”

A Short Week Later A Muggy August Morn Waxing Moon

Despite Bardot’s intentions, whether public humiliation, or truly a mystical judge, jury and executioner, Nevelshelle considered himself the brunt of an impending onslaught and sought immediately to thwart it. Gathering his servants and apprentices, he shut and bolted the doors to the Mercy House, locked and shuttered the windows, chained the gates, and in the shadowed basement, a fervent magical race ensued.

Fat black candles were lit, Egyptian rugs unrolled, barnyard animals roped and shaved. They bundled sprigs of elderberry and buckthorn for wish fulfillment; dandelion and wormwood for spirit coercion; bloodroot and bladderwrack for protection, and sundry other herbs you’ve never imagined, culled from every shelf and box, sifted, sorted, and dispensed with haste. They even studied the phases of the moon, hoping to coincide with days of maximum lunar bewitchery.

• • •

“Strip the sheets and burn them!” snarled Nevelshelle. “He must not find a drop of fluid. Not a strand of hair! Speak to no one. Bathe yourselves twice. Nay, thrice! Chant the Recitation of Agrippa thirteen times. Now do as I say!”

By the Law of Contagion, Bardot could influence him with even a meager clipping of nail, a drop of blood or splash of semen. So, sheets were gathered and burned; ceremonial pillows stripped and incinerated; crusted phalluses smashed and stomped, and the remains of all strained through rainwater and buried in the root cellar.

As for Bardot, he contemplated his agenda twenty miles away in a bungalow outside of Lyon, verified later when his story reached public distribution. Initially inclined to just embarrass and discredit Nevelshelle, Bardot began to feel it was his duty to do more. Despite his air of superiority and pointed criticism and even his own hidden sins the man possessed talent, and hoped to saddle Nevelshelle with exactly the magical discomforts from which he desperately sought defense. He later admitted it was the least he could do to stop a monster, and honestly, I understood his reasoning. Nevelshelle could be quite difficult.

And by then, their battle was well underway.

 

Three Weeks Since The Start - Late August - Full Moon

With no provocation other than Bardot’s blunt letter, Nevelshelle resorted to numerous magical tricks. They opened more dusty tomes, sparked more candles, skewered more cats and read more entrails until the basement resembled a slippery slaughterhouse. With his very existence in jeopardy, no life was too small.

Fortunately for Nevelshelle, Adele was not only attractive, but a competent psychic, and had been hand-groomed ever since leaving the convent. Their housemaid Julie Vibault, a timid woman with modest looks, was a clairvoyant as well. The early stages of their defense relegated the two women to the cellar, encircled by rock salt, strummed by chanting, swooning in a miasma of incense and prayer that occasionally ended in a groping denouement and a profusion of unwholesome entities that repulsed me. I’ve never liked Succubi, but they have followed me for ages now.

Their first objective was to spy upon Bardot, and in the depths of trance, Adele and Julie witnessed the cowardly Frenchman already allied with two defectors from the Mercy House, a gullible married couple. By the Law of Imitative Magic, these workers of iniquity had built a crude straw mannequin with a wide horsehair moustache and waxy blue eyes, stuffed it in a cheap coffin, and chiseled Nevelshelle’s name on the exterior. After lowering the thing below ground in a fetid swampland, they had hoped to taint their target with associated doom and decrepitude. A commendable tactic, and I was surprised they had carried it out so quickly. Bardot feared retribution, and hoped to kill his opponent as soon as possible. The entire ordeal followed this pattern of uneven escalation.

• • •

Nevelshelle needed a counter-spell to nullify the curse, so gathering his disciples, they focused on a single, clear goal, and ritually copulated for an effusion of power. The working was strenuous, as I discovered later, but they pressed on, despite blisters and pain, until they had frothed a catalyst of magical energy into motion and released it in unison.

Francois Bardot, despite his condemnation of Nevelshelle’s nefarious practices, would apparently resort to questionable ethics himself. To him, only fire could fight fire, but the marsh coffin merely inconvenienced Nevelshelle with irritable bowels and a mild case of diarrhea, hardly the gut-churning demise Bardot had hoped for.

Death from a distance required something more radical, and the man truly tried.

 

Week Four - August Dwindles Away - Waning Crescent Moon       

Nevelshelle, realizing the import of boosting his ranks, invited who I like to think was a well-known Austrian author dabbling in the black arts: Wilhelm Stauf. Myself, your humble historian.

Already pudgy and portly by that time, I was offered the ostensible position as chronicler of events, as well as supplying my own menial brand of sorcerous assistance. I accepted the invitation and counted myself among Nevelshelle’s partisans, although I was careful to keep an emotional distance. These feuds could be dangerous, inflammatory, and I was interested mostly in the opportunity for experience. And…well…the orgies, too. But I digress.

Fearing for his life more than ever, Nevelshelle resorted to drastic measures: the potent Sacrifice of Malchezedek. The ritual lasted six hours, required six contributors, and six ounces of fresh goat blood. Given the conflict’s recent escalations, the goat and cat population of Valence had been noticeably thinned, which somewhat saddened me. The spell, meant to deal holy retribution against Bardot with angelic wrath, must have either been resisted or incorrectly cast, for the next day Nevelshelle was seized in bed as if by unseen hands. Nevelshelle says he stripped open his nightshirt to see his ribs pummeled until they visibly bruised.

His antagonist, obviously, was still at large.

In truth, we later learned that Bardot had unleashed a secret weapon: a spirit familiar acquired when visiting the East Indies that he now kept locked in a mahogany cabinet. It was a rather stupid cacodemon that nevertheless followed its master’s will to the letter; in this case, finding Theronius Nevelshelle and beating him bloody. But given the amorphous fluxation of ethereal entities, and the lack of an adequate material focus, Nevelshelle soon dispelled it with a cabalistic curse.

With assistance from Adele and Julie, Nevelshelle ascertained that Bardot hid a morphine addiction. In blurry reverie, Adele saw him injecting a needle into a forearm bloated like a veined sausage, and they decided that this would be the time to strike, when the man was muddled. However, Bardot became aware of their psychic surveillance, and took unknown precautions that made him increasingly difficult to scry.

I imagine that Bardot regretted his addiction. I later learned that it resulted from a hunting injury that nearly left him crippled, but not before a reliance on painkillers enthralled him. It was a terrible weakness, and I’m sure he tried to refrain, knowing full-well it could be his undoing. But he often lapsed, and his opponents, myself included, later used this to our advantage.

 

Two Months From The Beginning - September Breezes Through - A Quarter Moon

Francois Bardot and his accomplices (neither the husband nor wife especially useful) employed a rare technique against Nevelshelle’s lascivious society. They ethereally dispensed toxins, this time aimed toward the clairvoyant women who hounded Bardot. But the substance and his delivery were somehow flawed, and only subjected Adele to stomach cramps, although Julie suffered heavy menstrual bleeding greater than she had ever known. We thought one night she might even be dying, but she recovered. It distressed them though, and served to curtail their enthusiasm.

By the Law of Return, Nevelshelle tried to reverse even a partially failed casting and toss it back on the responsible party. To our credit, we perhaps succeeded in inflaming Bardot’s drug-spiked veins with a painful pus-spurting infection, which could have easily entered his bloodstream and slain him. He was bedridden for some time; feverish, wallowing in misery, but he survived. He was a resilient bastard, that one. Let it be known that I never harbored a personal dislike for the man, and I obliged my mentor merely for the opportunity for growth, which I feel he adequately provided. Their rivalry climbed to the next level, with the unexpected side-effect of bolstering Bardot’s willpower against the drug.

 

Unwelcome Week Twelve - A Blustery October - Full Moon

At this point, their struggle had endured for nearly three months, although it felt much longer to those involved.

Autumn blew in cold, squally, and bleak, when I realized that I myself was under attack! I should have expected as much, with the company I kept. One night I awoke to ethereal fingers skittering across my face, coldness fluffing and ruffling my sheets, striking me about the head and shoulders, even thumping my tabby cat with fluidic fisticuffs! The entity that plagued me appeared only as a wisp of smoke in the mirror’s reflection. Once again, that stubborn cacodemon had returned to exert its particular brand of annoyance on an easier target too fat to run away.

Nevelshelle promised me a paste of myrrh, camphor, and cloves, sanctified in blood and prayer, to be burned in the hearth. It was during the brief interim while Nevelshelle prepared the concoction that he warned me away from my residence, a small house I had rented, due to a niggling premonition that something terrible might happen. As feared, the heavy mirror collapsed that very eve over my study table, and would have surely crushed anyone beneath it. In that respect, I have always owed Nevelshelle my life.

Nevelshelle used me as bait soon thereafter despite my boisterous objections and this time he utilized the ensorcelled incense and a brass urn. The cacodemon, unsuspecting of the trap, was struck silly and rendered inert. I m sure that the loss disappointed Bardot, but he was untrained and probably unwilling to use evocations and summon another. He was forced to write it off as a casualty of war, which is exactly what this debacle resembled.

 

Week Sixteen - A Turbulent November -
Waxing Gibbous Moon

The increasing stress finally took its toll on Adele’s relationship with Nevelshelle. Bardot and company had managed to smother Valence with flyers, naming everyone associated with the House of Mercy, and detailing their crude practices. They could not stroll anywhere without caustic scrutiny. Nevelshelle masterfully raised smokescreens, discrediting the news as outright lies, but the embarrassment wounded Adele the same thing had happened in Paris. It seemed incomprehensible that others could condemn their devotion when they understood so little of life’s nuances. I understood her concerns; after all, I was an accomplice, but I also sympathized with the clueless common Man who trusted in nothing but what religion asked of him.

• • •

“Why?” I heard her beg him one night through the thin walls of their bedroom. “Should we stay? Or leave? Start anew elsewhere? I cannot suffer this indignity again, Nevel! I cannot! I cannot! I cannot!”

“And I will not surrender!” retorted Nevelshelle. His voice had always intimidated me, even through plaster walls and especially a conversation I was not meant to hear. “I refuse to tiptoe from city to city, hiding in shadows for fear of persecution! Do you trust me or not, Adele? Have I not offered you delights beyond your wildest imagination? Woman! Do you trust me?”

Between concern for Nevelshelle, fear for her own future, and the pressure of unrelenting supernatural experiments, Adele exploded, frazzled, and near-psychotic. She threatened to leave Nevelshelle and the Mercy House altogether, and their ensuing arguments over the next hour, and then days, grew so volatile, so discordant, that the others were actually frightened.

He hurt her badly that first night, and I have never forgotten her screams.

I refrained from recording further details out of respect for their privacy, and not a small amount of consternation, lest I become a target of his ire. Nevelshelle was a man I did not wish to cross.

 

The Twentieth Week - The Year’s End Attends -
Full Moon

Five months after its inception, their battle reached an unusual climax.

According to Nevelshelle’s calculations, the impending New Year bore ominous tidings. Numerologically, fate would hinder his endeavors, and for this he was spiteful. Adele told me she even dreamt of him drowning one night, and woke to the raucous caw of blackbirds outside a window aglow in moonlight. Possibly the herald of an attack, Nevelshelle indeed found incorporeal hands later throttling him. He lost consciousness at one point, the last thought buzzing through his benumbed brain being that of his mother swinging in the tree, her neck cracked like an ear of black corn, her face squirming with maggots. We were able to deflect the influence by casting an impromptu ward, but by this point, our benefactor had had enough.

The next day, Nevelshelle girded himself in a leather vest and oiled boots, honored the Powers That Be, and stalked into the streets, sensing that his foe would do the same. A confrontation was inevitable. I wobbled behind with a pen and parchment, scribbling furiously to record every detail for posterity.

No sooner had Nevelshelle trudged into the square, Adele desperately trying to draw him back, than Francois Bardot appeared nearby, likewise fully garbed, stabbing the ground with an ashwood staff. It was the first time I had seen him in the flesh, and for the most part, I was unimpressed. He was skinny. A typical Frenchman in some respects. A flop of black hair, a hawk nose. He stank of witchery, by whichever path he deigned to call holy.

“Callous sorcerer,” sneered Nevelshelle in the pre-dawn gloom.

“Satanic pawn,” Bardot barked in return. “Only your grisly Master would bother to save you.”

“My own expertise saves me, despite your tricks. Amateur!”

“Devil!”

“Hedge mage!”

The insults were flung across a narrowing gulf until they stood not ten feet apart, flushed, as proponents of both parties peered from the shadows. I struggled to dictate their barbed words. Bardot pointed a narrow finger.

“Tomorrow. Dawn. The field by the orchards. Pistols at twenty paces. We settle this like gentleman, if you are one. I doubt it.”

“Done!” growled Nevelshelle. He retreated, as did his foe, each percolating plans and validating visions of the other s demise.

But neither faction waited patiently for dawn.

The atmosphere was thick with conjurations that night, anything to push the odds of victory one way or another. Nevelshelle enshrouded himself in a hasty cloak of protection, drank three vials of blessed rosemary water, and ritually mated with a mule while his acolytes watched and waited with curvy daggers. I had never enjoyed the bestiality, and admit that I only partook once, with a dog, and it was a wholly uncomfortable experience that both the canine and I regretted.

• • •

Bardot probably laid out his pistol and accessories, disassembled the gun, cleaned the components, arranged the powder in neat piles, dipped the bullets in a bath of herbs, and prayed that Nevelshelle would suffer extreme misfortune, as Divine Providence desired. One wonders how that influenced what happened next, and how much was uncanny coincidence.

The next morn while en route to the duel site, Nevelshelle’s mount halted as if it had seen the Devil himself. The poor beast trembled for nearly half an hour until we could coax it onward, but even then, it faltered, dazed and drunken. Every few yards it would jolt, spooked again, as if fearing a monster behind every tree, shrub and stump.

Bardot, departing by carriage, suffered a more sinister mishap when his horse convulsed from what appeared to be a stroke, and then collapsed dead. Supplied with a fresh horse, this new beast soon careened off the side of the road, overturning the coach into a ditch and nearly killing Bardot in the second closest brush with death he had experienced yet.

Both men finally arrived at the predetermined field, quite late and somewhat addled, as respective onlookers and supporters crowded close. They stepped into the open grounds, curtly shook hands, and then stood back-to-back, pistols cocked. They began the count to twenty, stalking away from each other until reaching the final beat, when both whirled, weapons raising, and they fired!

Smoke filled the chilly air, but Nevelshelle had missed, and Bardot’s bullet remained lodged in the barrel, obviously to him, a side-effect of brazen bewitchery. Perhaps he was right. Regardless, these men had failed in every attempt to annihilate the other. It seems comical now, although quite horrendous at the time.

Not to be defeated so easily, but forced to adhere to the tenets of dueling, they agreed to continue the following morning, this time with swords.

However, the planned second duel never occurred.

Late that night, January 1st, Nevelshelle arose feeling quite ill. He puttered about, complaining, and finally returned to bed, irritated that his rest had been disturbed, and he would be groggy for the looming battle. But upon sunrise, when Adele tried to rouse him, the man would not budge.

He had died in his sleep. Naturally, we assumed that Francois Bardot had somehow drawn forth his soul in a final act of retribution. Bardot claimed otherwise. He had fully intended to extract his soul on the point of a blade, but either way, he was pleased with the news. And either way as well, I was glad the ordeal had finally ended.

No, what had sent Nevelshelle spiraling to the netherworld was nothing more than fate. Perhaps the strain of the trial had been too much. Perhaps a congenital heart palpitation had seized his breath, or a burst aneurism had bathed his brain in sanguinary muck. After all, he had seen it in the stars and the moons. This was a year of impending failure, and death put a sure stop to all mortal endeavors.

With Theronius Nevelshelle departed, the House of Mercy soon folded under its own insidious weight. As foreseen in a prophetic vision, to my delight, I took Adele under wing, and together we happily abandoned Valence for the havens of Austria where we continued our secretive lifestyle. Julie Vibault tried to reestablish herself in Valence, but her credibility had been ruined, and she was forced to leave. The others melted away too, never to be seen again, and I honestly did not care.

As for Francois Bardot, I think he had accomplished his goal. It was a victory for righteousness, and he eventually established a spiritual temple of his own, the Order of the Rosy Cross. He departed Valence and his bungalow near Lyon and returned to Paris, although his morphine habit returned shortly thereafter, a callous fiend in its own fickle right.

It was quite some time before Bardot learned that his former pet, the stupid cacodemon, had actually been severed and re-bound by Nevelshelle during its last clumsy assault, seething within the bronze urn inherited by Adele. It wasn’t until after her lover’s death that we considered the implications — we owned a contemptible creature with intimate knowledge of Bardot, provided it could remember him, and a modicum of control over it. I found Adele to be a warm woman of considerable patience and ever-growing knowledge of the dark arts. In fact, we learned much from each other, and I could not have asked for a more suitable soul mate.

• • •

She waited for nineteen years, until Francois Bardot forgot that she even existed, almost two whole decades of agitating that loathsome urn-bound creature, until she unleashed the embittered little demon in a surge of vengeance. By the Law of Cause and Effect, it finished one night what her late lover had begun so long ago, and tore Bardot to bloody pieces as he knelt for his evening prayers.

Nevelshelle, I’m sure, would have been proud.

 

 

Jason Hauser works at the University of North Carolina where he assists the Breast Imaging Section and maintains the Radiology website, but writing weird stuff is his true passion that is squeezed in when he can. He loves horror movies and stories, and has a great appreciation for H.P. Lovecraft and the Mythos. He runs a regular Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game and loves introducing others to the genre… so that their characters can then go crazy and die in awful ways.


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ISSUE #16

January 2007

FICTION