How many times had the clock struck midnight? By Woland's count, it was no less than four. Once for a Tsar who had lost his way, once for a General Secretary who let his world die, once for a Regent who believed in a lie, and once for the Devil who had come to collect. Woland tried not to think of the details.
He was a young man with a strong chin and brown hair. Once, he had a cocky look in his eyes, as though he could rule the world. That was long ago, though, back when the world made sense and God looked upon his people instead of the Adversary. That was back when there was a God. That was back when he believed in a lie.
Woland sighed and adjusted his tie. The sigil of Lucifer was pinned to his lapel, marking him as one of the Devil's Own. Was this how far he had fallen? A man of God. Where had God brought them? A dead child and an undead country. He looked at the ceremonial dagger on his desk next to the paperwork. Recently cleaned. He raised a glass of German whiskey. The Devil's Accountant had access to such things.
He remembered a friend who had misguided dreams and a friend full of rage. He remembered when he believed in anything. He slumped into his office chair as he heard a knock at the door. A woman in robes with a face full of knife scars—self-inflicted, the agony and the hedonistic enlightenment—entered. Her head was shaved.
"Woland." She eyed him. "What are you doing?"
"I don't know how you stand it."
"Someone has to make sure that Abaddon's Kingdom of the Hellborn functions. Without me and the Church's Silver Circle we'd all be stuck in Omsk. The money has to be managed by someone and Mammon is as much of a demon as Baphomet," he gently reminded her.
The woman, who Woland knew as Roksana, rolled her eyes. "Aren't you a coward?" she asked, rhetorically. "What, are you afraid to spill some blood?"
"If I don't make sure we're importing enough food and guns, we won't be able to serve Him. Besides, economics is a complicated but important thing."
"You sound like a Jew."
He stopped at that, eyes narrowing. "Don't you dare accuse me of that. I'm as much of a Russian as you are. I just do the little things that help the rest of you with your dismembering and autocannibalism."
Roksana shrugged. "Well, next time you have to fulfill your duty to Abaddon, you'd better do it. We both know he only tolerates you."
Woland rubbed his temples. What fools these Satanists were. "I'll remember that while I'm single-handedly keeping the Kingdom alive."
"Damn straight." She flipped the hood of the robe down and left the room. Woland returned to his work. Once the door was closed to his office, he drew a small Bible from a drawer, under a false bottom.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:3-4
"What horseshit," he mumbled. What good had those blessings and gifts to the needy done? He had a copy of Abbadon's Bible on his desk, but he never read it. It was just for show.
The Devil had proven his strength over God. The Christian had followed the trends, replaced the name of Jesus for Lucifer. He wished he could cry. Men didn't cry. Brothers of Cain didn't cry.
He heard a knock at the door again along with the same woman's voice. "Woland, Abbadon has summoned you to the Maw. Get going, you gutless wretch."
He sighed. Was this what he had gone into exile for? Changed his name twice over for?
He followed the scarred woman, noticing a decapitated Mary's head and neck cut into the back of her own neck. It was still red, still oozing with pus and half-healed skin. Woland followed. The walk was long and he swallowed his pride.
Finally, they made it to what was once called Plan Hydra Bunker 33-L, now simply called the Maw. He opened up the steel door and descended deep into the complex. He had done this before.
He saw a captive with a Star of David cut into his chest. It covered him in rich red. He took his dagger in hand. "You may do with him as He demands" the robed woman said.
"In the name of Lucifer, may His blessings be bountiful..." he chanted, knowing it by heart. He took the knife and started with the Achilles tendon. He sawed back and forth. The screams echoed in the concrete room.
He kept his eyes open, if only to show that he wasn't disturbed. That was the truth. He'd done it enough. Once, he kept his hatred of small nations to political speeches. Once, he was a man named Shafarevich, not a demon named Woland. How times had changed. He jammed the knife into the Jew's stomach. He'd start with removing the intestines.