Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another thrill – packed evening of funfunfun here at the Hellfire Club! I am your host, Choronzon, High Duke of the
It has been long since I was forced to play such games with Demons. I rise slowly, approach the stage. Around me a soft susurrus of sound, and a large languorous, ironic applause. “The Hellfire Club”. It feels like a bad joke. And like everything else in Hell, it is deadly serious.
‘So, you know the rules, Dreamlord? If you win, I will return your helm. If you lose, you will serve as a plaything of Hell, for eternity. Our slave.’
‘Very well, I have the first move.’
The Oldest game
Choronzon: I am a dire wolf, prey – stalking, lethal prowler.
Dream: “I’m a hunter, horse – mounted, wolf – stabbing.”
I smell spilt alcohol, stale smoke and cheap sex, perfume and mold. And I feel grass beneath my hooves, the flanks between my legs. All is real. Nothing is real. Choronzon’s move.
Choronzon: ‘I am a horsefly, horse – stinging, hunter – throwing.’
There are many ways to lose the oldest game. Failure of nerve, hesitation. Being unable to shift into a defensive shape. Lack of imagination.
Dream: “I am a spider, fly – consuming, eight legged.”
Choronzon: ‘I am a snake, spider – devouring, poison – toothed.’
Dream: “I am an ox, snake – crushing, heavy footed.”
I feel the snake writhe beneath my hoof, its spine crushed.
Choronzon: ‘I am an anthrax, butcher bacterium, warm – life destroying.’
A change in direction, but still an old gambit. I think I understand how Choronzon plays. How I can turn it against him. I think I will abandon the offensive.
Dream: “I am a world, space – floating, life nurturing.”
Choronzon: ‘I am a nova, all – exploding, planet – cremating.’
Dream: “I am the universe, all things encompassing, all life embracing.”
Choronzon: ‘I am anti – life, the beast of judgement. I am the dark at the end of everything. The end of universes, gods, worlds. Of everything.’ And what will you be then, Dreamlord?
Dream: “I am Hope.”
Excerpt from The Sandman Volume 1 ‘Preludes and Nocturnes’ by Neil Gaiman