It has been quite a while since we have gathered once again to hear the story of Dennis and Lily. I will give you a moment to remember our story so far, or make yet another cup of tea before settling in a hopefully comfortable, cushion-covered armchair or sofa.
Dennis, we heard last time, was one of the Better Angels in the Beginning. Yet he was unrecognised, for the angels as a group had rather forgotten their nature as a result of the altering effects of having won the First War against Evil.
This better angelic nature being paired with unfortunate looks and spectacular clumsiness, Dennis was isolated from his kind by dint of exclusion and choice. He spent his time alone, or surrounded by the imps he felt compelled to aid. This, of course, was equivalent to or worse than being alone because imps, due to their nature, taunted the poor unfortunate at every turn.
We agree, I think, that Imps had not come out of the War very favourably. They were defeated and given the choice of wandering the forests, swamps and deserts of this young planet or working in the Angels’ castle. Imps, as I have previously remarked upon, are lazy. This was a difficult choice and yet… Surviving Nature requires resourcefulness and constant hard work. In truth, jobs in a clean and cosy castle were a far easier option and so all bar one or two joined Population Castle.
Of the few imps who left to find their fortune elsewhere was Adramelech. Having been in charge of Lucifer’s exuberant and glamorous dress, he felt far too superior to do such things as sweep floors and dig dirt in the gardens. He strode away into the forest at the end of the War, swearing to raise a new order based on Beauty, Glamour and Glitter. Sadly, he was not followed, and within days was seen looking brow-beaten, his once glorious clothes now mere rags. His pride (for Imps have much pride) would never let him return, and it had been many centuries since he had last been seen.
The three Furies also left (in a huff, I might add). This did not surprise anyone. A trio of witches if ever there was one, these female Imps were always in a foul mood, be it day or night. I would love to tell you what became of them, but everyone was so relieved by their absence that any sign of their presence was studiously avoided.
In fact, the new life at the castle settled remarkably quickly. This was mostly due to the fact that the Imps’ quality of life improved dramatically in spite of having become essentially indentured servants. Life in a castle, with running water and central heating, with food always available was infinitely preferable to the nomadic existence that had preceded their defeat. Tents had been a luxury, but were rarely maintained enough to keep the weather out. Food was mostly foraged, and usually consisted of animal carcasses left behind by larger predators. Cooking was too much effort so you can imagine that any thought of flavour or pleasure related to food was non-existent. All in all, life at the castle was luxury.
Imps will be Imps, however, and contentment was not in their nature. Not a day went by without formal complaints being lodged with the Angels about the quality of accommodation, childcare, food, work hours, drug use (or its ban). The duty of managing these complaints was cycled regularly among the Angels as it was the most frustrating of all their tasks.
Food was often deliberately burned. Fires were left untended or chimneys were slyly stuffed with moss to ensure an Angel’s bedroom filled with smoke at bedtime. One particularly enterprising Imp had taken the time to harvest over one hundred slugs and spread them among the cabbage beds one Spring. He later explained that he did not like cabbage, but would not be drawn on what else everyone might eat if the harvest failed.
I would like to say that the Angels in charge of managing the Imps and ensuring that they did their work was one that was feared and dreaded by most of our angelic host, but that would not be true. I am afraid to say that most Angels had come to quite enjoy the sense of power and control they felt on performing such a duty. While using their angelic powers was strictly speaking forbidden, over time there had been a laxity shown by superiors and several Imps could frequently be seen with singed bottoms, or behaving in rather unnatural ways. One Angel in particular enjoyed using his ability to manipulate minds to have Imps walking on their hands for the duration of their shifts.
In summation, the Imps were Imps despite enjoying a better level of comfort and pleasure than at any time in their history. The Angels were holding on to some of their angelic qualities, but the inequalities inherent in life at the castle were having rather troubling effects on Angelic Goodness.
Change was afoot, and nowhere was it more obvious (if discrete and as yet unnoticed) than in the person of Lily. Because while the Angels were slowly being corrupted, Lily, an Imp, was discovering Empathy. And Empathy leads to Kindness… which is Everything as we have previously mentioned.
Lily was really rather pretty. In common with all Imps, her skin had a reddish tone, but her dark wavy hair complimented it very nicely. Her horns were small, two sweet stubby little things protruding gently from her hair, conveniently keeping the locks out of her face. She enjoyed keeping herself clean and fresh, and enjoyed sewing clothes in the spare time that each Imp was given. Those clothes were not flamboyant, but nor were they drab. She had more than a little flair for the dramatic and glamorous, and the outlet she had chosen was fashion. To that end, she often found herself being asked (well told) to make outfits for her fellow Imps, which she did without rancour. It made her smile to think that more and more of her designs were seeing the light of day, and she particularly liked matching style to personality. In her wildest dreams, she thought that the right clothes could make an Imp feel so good about themselves that they would stop being angry and frustrated and maybe say thank you, or even simply smile.
Lily’s tail was slightly shorter than average, but its slender nature paired with a spectacularly pointy tip. The arrow shape was exquisite and she had been the recipient of more jealous and spiteful comments than she could count or remember. In fact, Lily’s beauty and fashion sense incurred a great deal of jealousy and she most often found herself alone and without companionship.
Lily longed for a friend. She longed to share her dreams with someone who would reciprocate. She longed to share her life! But Imps did not have friends, nor did they share. Nor indeed did they have dreams, being creatures of the moment for whom instant gratification was the only kind. So while Lily longed for a friend, she had long given up on every finding one and was resigned to a lonely, if fairly pleasant, existence.
I’m sure you can see where this is going… an angel snubbed by his kind for being awkward and kind, and an imp spurned for her beauty and affinity for good. Never has a love story been so fore-ordained as that of Dennis and Lily in the Beginning. As yet, they had never met… the castle, you see, is rather larger than you might have thought.