Our tale begins in Heaven's bright abode; three angels sing their praises to their lord. Beneath them lies the vast expanse named the cosmos, wherein myriad balls of rock and gas revolve around furnaces bright and hot, hurtling through empty space. Though the very nothingness is alive with improbable fluctuations there sits one globe unlike the rest; one jade and azure sphere three planets from its sun. It is she the angels eulogise; to her creator do they extol her virtues. Oh, do not ask, "What is it?" Let us go and make our visit.
"The sun bathes it in its light," spake the archangel Raphael, the great healer, bedecked in golden robes. "The seas shimmer, the grasses gleam with glorious luminescence, and when the clouds draw close does tumultuous thunder mark the falling of the rains, which give life unto to the plains."
"Yea, and oft they are the curtains which draw to mark the end of day and beckon forth the night, whence the sky becomes a canvas for the stars and the darkness smothers all man's plight. Their senses give them wonder, o Lord, and when they behold Earth's splendour, then do they know your might," declared the empyrean envoy, the messenger angel Gabriel, who once foretold the coming of the lord's own son to the sacred lands of Bethlehem. From his back two wings did sprout, large and magnificent, as white as freshly fallen snow.
And then Michael spake, the protector prince, and his voice was sweet with reverence.
"The spheres do race from place to place but always on their course, and when man shall come to know their pace, they then too shall know your force. We too marvel at Earth's turning, your paradise created, and those who you crafted in your likeness. It is a wonder, o Lord, as ever has it been."
Then all three joined in one voice, a choir of the like which man could not conceive.
"The sight of it gives angels power, though none can understand the way. All your noble work is ours, as bright as on the primal day."
All the while one stood bemused, his robes as black as soot. Delegate of the fallen angel he was and on his face was drawn a grin sardonic. Mephistopheles was his name and he beheld the lord God with less favour than the rest. His back was bare, his profile trim, and centuries in Pandemonium had paled his skin.
"Forgive me Lord, my tongue is not as honeyed as these others; too oft I have communed with those reviled. I confess too that my eyes see not the sweetness upon the Earth as much as I see the beastial nature of man. All this you gave him," he gestured down below, "and more. Reason you gave him, yet what purpose has it served but to act as a yoke upon the weak and a pedestal for the strong? Reason lies in the mind, yet they reason with arms and veiled threats, misdirection and sickly corruption. In passions and intoxication do they proclaim Earth's beauty but when pleasure fades they damn life and with it damn each other."
"Oh you do so like to moan," replied the Lord. "Tell me, is nothing right on Earth?"
"To tell it true, my Lord, I fear they are getting worse. Every day their understanding grows, yet every day they repeat their own mistakes and find new ways to spread misery amongst their ranks. They fancy themselves as gods but have not the strength to love unconditionally; their fear is too great."
"And what do they fear, pray tell me?"
"Uncertainty. Each other. At times, even themselves," said Mephistopheles with a smirk. "We may need another Sodom, if not today... perhaps Gomorrah."
The Lord met him with a tolerant smile and his eyes betrayed a pleasant thought.
"Do you know Faust?" he asked.
"The young Doctor?"
"My servant, first," corrected the Almighty.
"But of course," came the reply with a curt nod. "Though he serves you in a peculiar manner. He does not exhibit much devoutness; his curiosities lead him into darkest depths and at times, so far does he plunge into despair that I fear he might not see the morrow."
"He is ever searching - searching for his true path - and he shall find it. Fruit and flowers shall revere his arrival into glory."
"Perhaps..." drawled the Dark Prince's emissary, and a sparkle came upon his eye. "But would you care to wager?"
"My sweet Mephisto," replied the Lord with humour, "you I've never hated, though through you I speak to one whose face shall never again see the glory of Heaven's divine expanse. What do you propose?"
Gracefully Mephistopheles drew his hands together, his palms apart, his fingers straight and pressed lightly tip to tip.
"Simply this: allow me
to draw his path and we shall see if his devoutness is as unbending as you claim."
The Lord was not unfazed and met the would-be devil with a smile assured.
"As my Faust does breathe, so you may test him, for while man strives he errs," he proclaimed, and Mephistopheles replied:
"Good! My thanks," he bowed. "I shall tempt him but not precipitate his demise, though should he fall... Sin shall have another hellhound in her womb."
"Yes, yes; you've said your part and won your wager. Now go. Tempt him, test him, do as you will but do not break your word. And when the time comes, stand in amazement. Even in their darkest hour the good know virtue's way."
And so it was that beneath the brilliant arches of Heaven's splendid dome the wager was forged, for even God seeks validation, and pranksters victims.