A Letter

Disclaimer: Angel and associated players are all the property of His Infernal Majesty (Joss Whedon) and the Prince of Pain (David Greenwalt). Screwtape is the property of C.S. Lewis. I'm just borrowing.

Note: Screwtape, for those of you who don't know, is the central character in the book The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (there's a wonderful edition available from Touchstone Books, ISBN 0684831171). If you haven't read it, you need to. I'm borrowing Screwtape with all due humility; Lewis' insight, clarity of thought, and sheer brilliance in writing far outstrip anything I possess.

Note II: This letter was posted sometime post-"Blind Date" and pre-"To Shanshu in L.A."

A Letter from Screwtape to Mr. Holland Manners, Esq.



"The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid 'dens of crime' that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see the final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice."—from the Preface to The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Dear Mr. Manners,

You were right to come to me for advice on how to deal with this Angel creature. Such a being—essentially demonic, yet with a human soul—requires exceptionally delicate handling. That he is important in the grand scheme is known to all; however, just how important he might be to the Enemy is quite unknown. Therefore, the safest route is to remove him from the grasp of the Powers That Be and bring him back to being the sadistic, murdering psychotic we were all so fond of.

But how best to do so? Shall we remove his soul, or turn that soul against Them? Either option presents difficulties. Removing his soul is not easy, and we have all reason to believe that the Powers That Be would intervene should an attempt be made to strip him of it by force. They have before; you can be assured They would do so again. That leaves only the happiness clause. Shall we attempt to make him happy?

Well, there's no use speculating about that. We cannot make him happy. Thus far, all our research in the Infernal Realms has failed to produce anything resembling true happiness. All pleasures, all joys, are essentially the domain of the Enemy, and we must corrupt them in order to make them work for us. Unfortunately, the best we could induce in him would be nowhere near the pure happiness he needs in order to lose his soul.

Removing his soul, then, is not an option. Sorcerous means would most likely be circumvented, and pure happiness is beyond our capabilities. Despair, however—that is a weapon we can use against him. Think on this: what does this creature seek?

The creature Angel (a splendidly ironic name at one time, which has now become uncomfortably apropos) struggles to find redemption. The Enemy has often said that all creatures with souls can be redeemed; indeed, redemption is available to all who seek it, and at a scandalously low price. However, for such a being as Angel, it is more of a matter of being able to accept that redemption. The Powers That Be have offered him an opportunity to atone for his past misdeeds, victim for victim, crime for crime, and he has accepted the duty They have laid out for him with what seems to me to be perfectly appalling humility.

His humility bears careful consideration. He believes himself to be deserving of his pain. Every wound, every insult, every difficulty, is accepted by him without bitterness, every love, every friendship, every kindness and gratitude with a kind of awe and sense of unworthiness that we cannot even begin to comprehend. Breaking down that humility would be a step in the right direction. For that reason, I find myself almost glad he found the Scroll of Aberjian.

Such an admission startles you, no doubt. One would think that the information contained therein would give him hope, which is essentially a bad thing. Certainly, once his former Watcher friend finishes translating it, Angel will find hope in the promise of his prospective humanity. However, in that hope, there is a chance for us to slip in. Happiness, we cannot manage. Smugness, we can. Witness the Watchers' Council: once a fortress defying the incursion of the demonic realms, it has over the last few centuries been reduced to a coterie of Smug Gits trading esoteric knowledge. We can even now start working a sense of self-satisfaction into Angel's atonement, as well as a feeling of entitlement as concerns the possibility of becoming human. The Powers That Be will not allow this to go far; they will no doubt yank the rug out from under him at some point, and that will be our opportunity to slip in and start spreading doubts in his mind.

Now for the other part of the plan. You have within your grasp the means for invoking Vocah's physical presence; use it. I have already spoken with him, and he will enlarge our plans to you. It is too delicate a matter for this correspondence. I will say that the point of this exercise will be to bring something resembling his own redemption within Angel's grasp, then to take it away just as he grasps it. If I understand him right (and I have his dossier up on my laptop at this moment), he will then focus his energy entirely on fighting you at Wolfram & Hart.

This will have several good effects. First, should Vocah prove unsuccessful in killing them outright, it will effectively separate Angel from his friends, most notably that irritating Seer the Powers have gifted him with. As those friends keep him grounded in humanity, this will have a detrimental effect upon his soul. Secondly, because of the very nature of your firm, he will become focused upon The Big Picture.

The Big Picture has been romanticized by humans, even some loyal to the Enemy's camp. It is something we always encourage. For, you see, once a human, or this soul-bearing hybrid Angel, gets it into his head that the war must be fought, not simply the current battle, it is almost embarrassingly simple for us to slip in Despair. When Angel is confronted by a war he cannot possibly win, one that must be fought by eternal forces, not temporal, he will ask the fatal question: "What's the use of me?"

This is always a question we encourage, primarily because temporal beings don't often understand the answer. The answer, of course, being that they are called only to this battle—this day, this hour, this act of kindness, this pride to be swallowed, this peace to be made. In these actions lie the seeds of eternity. If once they understand this, we have been dealt a serious blow. Fortunately, not many do. They focus, as you know, upon The Big Picture.

Angel being the noble sort he is, this should be an entertaining exercise. Be prepared to lose some personnel.

On to other subjects. I applaud your work with young Lindsey MacDonald. It is so difficult to get the young to apply themselves steadily to worldly advancement, but you have succeeded admirably with him. Sending him a crisis of conscience at the point you did was a masterstroke. He took a hard look at the road to redemption, with its discomforts, difficulties, the distinct lack of glory, the fact that you may feel nothing but pain, and that not everyone will be mightily impressed with one small gesture. Then he took a look at the power and comforts you offered him, and of his own free will, with all options open, he made his choice. I myself could have done no better with him in my heyday.

Two things, however: the boy is not yet out of the woods. He still has a soul of his own, one that has not been promised to us (have you even shown him that contract yet?), and therefore, he is still redeemable, according to the Enemy's definition. Keep a close watch on him. Secondly, while I understand how fond you have become of the boy, watch your feelings. I myself am not immune to such fondness; indeed, the lad reminds me strongly of my own nephew, Wormwood, for whom I felt great affection even as I devoured him. But do remember the fatal error of our late friend Richard Wilkins: under no circumstances should you love the child.

Perhaps in this I am worrying without cause. After all, you were willing to sacrifice your beloved first wife on the altar of ambition. Fancy, too, that in some circles, that would have been a figure of speech.

Finally, do keep me apprised of the situation as regards Angel. I shall attempt to advise you as things go. If Vocah becomes difficult, mention my name; he and I have a longer history than any human could imagine.

Your Good Friend,


P.S. Do keep this letter under lock and key. I cannot begin to tell you the difficulties I was thrown into when that pestilential Lewis fellow went and published another correspondence of mine.