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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) (02/19/09)

TITLE: Screwtape’s Wager
By Josiah Kane


Dear Wormy,

Just a quick note to remind you never to underestimate the Enemy. If you dislike this tenet, here’s a little anecdote just to show that we fight to defend the lost of the world. If a man is in the church he is an agent for the Enemy. By all means try to regain recent converts, but never underestimate their power. My story begins in our Father Below’s great office, during a game of poker…

Lucifer puffed gently and a stream of smoke carried five cards into my talons. Sixteen simple sinners’ souls writhed in the simmering pot, to be devoured by whosoever won this hand. After six cards were exchanged and more souls were added to the cauldron, Lucifer casually flipped three Kings onto the table. He admired the artwork for a moment—perfect renditions of Charles VIII, Fredrick III, and Lorenzo de Medici. Each had been taken from contemporary human artwork. How Lucifer wished that he could have these humans as slaves—but his Enemy would never allow that!

Then I, his humble scribe, set down my hand. They were Queens, modelled on Botticelli’s paintings of Venus, Diana, Minerva and Juno, four of them. Before I could reach the pot, a fiery pitchfork swung under the cards, and hurled them as sachets of ash into the filthy, sulphurous air. I sighed but did not complain. Even before I could refill the stakes in the poker pot from my depleted pile of souls, Satan motioned with the trident to a scene unfolding on Earth.

Girolamo Savonarola stood before half the population of Florence, Italy. Lucifer, I knew, considered Savonarola to be the most annoying of men. He had practically destroyed the entire Florentine Renaissance single-handedly. He was turning the entire city away from greed and gambling, from its fascination with Greek and Roman idols, from the proud pope and luxurious leaders— from all the pleasures we had so painstakingly perverted. The Devil obviously longed to fly down in a column of hellish blaze and turn that man to dust. But we both could see Michael’s elite guard patrolling the square, and we knew the pain in those scimitars. Demons are not alone in fighting with fire.

So we watched, intrigued, as this infuriating monk preached in indignant rage against the evils of Florentine society. He told off the citizens for their venial sins. Then he preached against the city leaders for dragging the people into these errors. He screamed at the artists and scientists who so symbolised the evil days in which he found himself. He chastised the fathers of his own Dominican order. And he even dared reprimand Pope Alexander himself; rebuking him for bribery, for sexual immorality, for misusing his power and his holy title, and for his bloodthirsty militancy. The preacher amassed enemies, but he knew that God was on his side. He knew that God could protect him.

Suddenly men from Florence’s small army marched up to the preacher, swords glistening greedily for blood. The troops grabbed Savonarola and kicked his legs until they buckled. They dragged him and his two aides from his street corner to the town square. His protests availed him nothing. To the state he was a traitor. To the Church, a heretic. To the people, a simple killjoy. No one came to his aid when he and his two helpers were lashed to a pole and firewood was heaped around their feet. A raging conflagration hurried three souls to heaven, before they could convince any of their fellow men to join them.

In our spiritual dimension, Lucifer drained his ornately engraved goblet and handed me the poker pot. I was almost too busy mentally filing away the story for my next manual to hear him remark, “After all, you seem to have fives—all ashes it seems!” He reckoned that he could afford to lose this bet, having just regained the entire city of Florence.

But the Enemy, it is worth remembering, has an infinite supply of Aces. When a German Augustinian monk named Martin Luther reformed all of Europe…well, simply put, Satan decided that five ashes wasn’t a valid hand after all.

So, dear Wormy, we may have armies of foul creatures but we can rarely pilfer those firm in the faith. Rather we must work to net as many unconverted humans as possible, assassinating where possible the proselytizing agents of the Enemy.

Your Affectionate Uncle Screwtape

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 02/27/09
Clever approach to the topic, and a cool way of getting some history across in a non-teachy way.

Maybe a nod of acknowledgement to C. S. Lewis would be in order?

Fantastic writing chops!
Dee Yoder 03/01/09
Wow, what a unique take on the topic. Thanks for the interesting lesson within this story, too!
Joshua Janoski03/04/09
Very skilled writing. I agree that a dedication to C.S. Lewis would be in order, since his Screwtape Letters inspired this, but I like how you took inspiration from him and crafted a great story all your own. There was a lot of good history inserted in here too. Thanks for sharing! I enjoyed this.
Lyn Churchyard03/05/09
Congratulations Josiah, on your 1st Place! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Your writing is coming along in leaps and bounds. Fantastic!
Judy Meyers03/06/09
Well, Josiah, I believe you are rising to a wonderful level of creativity. As God is the ultimate CREATOR, He gives us an ability to see where only HE can see. And, you have magnificent sight.