Forty-Minute Story: Haggling at the Pit

Lanna the wizard felt older than her sixty-two years as she strode toward the pit. The old pains in her left knee tempted her to slow down, to favor that side, but she was determined not to limp.

The weaker she felt, the more important it was to seem strong.

Creeping glowbeetles far overhead gave the only light in the vast cavern, casting a ghostly blue on her fingers as she stretched them out, reaching for the pit, beckoning. The words came easily to her dry lips. She had forgotten many things, but the words, at least, remained.

“Rictus whispers in the dark,
Tow’ring tumults on the bark –
Master of the starless deep:
Azmodel, arise from sleep!”

The rock walls quivered and the startled glowbeetles extinguished, plunging her vision to blackness. Only a moment. A blinding new light shot from the abyss, the color of the moon but midday-bright. Bathed in its radiance, Azmodel ascended.

White smoke preceded and surrounded him, but she could see his face clearly. The pearly scales, the bald head crowned with eight ram-like horns. The ocean color of his careful eyes, watching her, measuring.

“Well?” he rumbled. “What noble task do you have for me this week? A pile of dirty laundry? A squeaky hinge?”

Of course she had never asked him for any such trivialities, but this was part of his game.

She scowled. This wasn’t a night for games.

“I’ll keep this short,” said Lanna. “Azmodel. I want you to kill me.”

The cave shook again with Azmodel’s laughter. “Oh, Lanna,” he cackled. “Do our talks bore you so much? Are you ready to end it so soon?”

“I didn’t say kill me right now,” she snapped, impatient with his antics. “Only when I ask you to.”

His laughter fell away, save for the occasional aftershock. He saw she was serious. At last only the remains of an amused smile were left on his face.

“But why?”

To be continued…

a.k.a., sometimes a forty-minute story takes more than forty minutes. Whoops! The second half is coming on Monday.

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