Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.


Everyday Heroics

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a New Moon

No, this isn’t a news story.
Nor is it an appeal to the “hero in the grey flannel suit”, either. Rather, just an article on MSN about the value of fantasy. The author claims, and I think rightly so, that because we don’t have to exhibit physical heroism on a regular basis in our modern society, we learn about bravery and heroism through our stories, specifically, fantasy stories. Examples sited included the Lord of the Rings series and Harry Potter, and, in an earlier age, Icelandic Sagas. The claim is that all three examples serve the same purpose, namely, to teach us about how to “act right” and find that little bit of courage inside us when we need it. I’d say the entire article, short as it was, spoke very highly to the need for good, heroic, fantasy fiction.
In a sometimes bleak market for writing in general, and fantasy and science-fiction in particular, I found the sentiments uplifting and hopeful. Now, all I need to do is find more time to write…


Review: Industrial Magic

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

I finished reading Industrial Magic this week.
It wasn’t my usual fare, but it wasn’t bad. Probably not good enough to hunt down more of the series, but not bad. Honestly, the title is what got me. If I’d actually read the back cover, I probably wouldn’t have bought the book at all. I categorize this type of book as, basically, “chick lit fantasy romance”. But, again, that being said, it still wasn’t as bad as some of the stuff out there. For instance, I liked it better than Obsidian Butterfly, which I couldn’t even read past the first two chapters. When I read trashy fiction, I don’t want to read endless conversations with the main character’s old boyfriends, or potential boyfriends, or whatever. I want action. Plain and simple. I want something to be happening. I want plot based on events going on, not semi-romantic thoughts and feelings. In that regard, Industrial Magic delivered.
The basic plot is that a killer is stalking the heads of semi-secret magical Cabals, who are the sorcerous rivals of the more feminine, and witch-run, Covens and must be stopped. (So, yes, this really could have been a simple murder mystery without the magic, but, well, I guess that wouldn’t be as fun or sell as well.) The main character is a witch, Paige Winterbourne, who used to run a big Coven, but, in an earlier book, lost that position. Her love interest is Lucas Cortez, heir to the Cortez Cabal, but who is a crusading lawyer that fights the Cabals. It’s that connection that gets them drawn into the plot. They’re trying to find, and stop, the killer. And, to avoid spoilers, I’ll stop describing the plot there.
There’s magic all over the book, but, mainly, as a prop. Light spells being used instead of a handy pocket flashlight. Binding spells instead of a stun gun. Necromantic conversations instead of a CSI-type crime lab. Everything they used magic for could have been replaced with modern technology fairly easily without impacting the story. Except for one point when they “cross over” to the realms of death. Other than that, everything else could have been avoided by simply planning ahead. In other words, it was a wasted metaphor.
The other thing that bothered me was the Cabals. Sure, they were obviously some kind of metaphor for corporate America and/or organized crime, but at no time was the source of the Cortez Cabal’s fabulous wealth ever explained. They just were really organized and had a lot of money. Period. Ignore the writer behind the curtain. Frankly, I thought that was a shame. It could have been a really neat sub-plot. And, with the title, it was what I was hoping to see more about! Ah, well, at least I can still write my own take on that without worrying about repeating something that’s already been done.
All in all, Industrial Magic was a decent book, but not great. If you can find it at a discount book store, it’s worth getting.


Chocalypse Now

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Ever wonder what happened to Charlie?
You know, after the whole Chocolate Factory incident? Well, wonder no more! Behold, through the wonders of web-based Wonkavision, Chocalypse Now! A web-comic based on a mashup of the aftermath of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Apocalypse Now. Surreal and chocolatey at the same time. What more can you ask for on a Friday?

Go ahead, no one’s looking, click the link!


The Spiders

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

No, this is not a bad acid trip.
Actually, it’s a pretty interesting web comic set in the not too distant future. What’s even more interesting is that it takes place in an Islamic-centric desert country torn by war and terrorism. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought it might. And, trust me, this is a very different look at how that dynamic works. Very thought provoking.
So, check out The Spiders and get ready to be blown away.

Have a fun freaky Friday!


NationStates Revisited

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Remember this game?
I’ve talked about it here before. I am the Holy Empire of Megaria in the NationStates game. I saw this months ago, played for a bit, and then quit. Well, I went back recently and tried to sign into my country’s account, but was told that it was deleted. So, naturally, I tried to revive Megaria, but, alas, I could not. But, then, I saw that I could have the old gal brought back from the dead! And, so I have.
In any case, if you haven’t played with this, go check it out. It’s really sort of fun, in a geeky way. And, if you come, look for the “Ghyll” region. I thought I’d go ahead and create that space for all my fellow Ghyll scholars to join, should they start to play.


Death from Above

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

That was me, allright, “death from above.”

I wanna’ be an Airborne Ranger. I wanna’ live a life of danger. Death from above! Hell, that was me all over. Only, I was never even a regular ground-pounder, much less Airborne. But, when we were ass-deep in greenies, nobody cared. Yeah, when those goblins came pouring out of whatever hell they came from, everyone was glad to see the North Glenview Irregulars show up. We weren’t much to look at, but the boys an’ I could kill the hell out of goblins. After that first skirmish, they elected me leader. They even called me Captain and saluted. I woulda’ been real proud of that, if I’d had time.

I was home from college the Summer the first goblins showed up. Nobody really knows where they came from. Some people say they were a government experiment to make the “ultimate soldier”. Some people say they came from some “alternate dimension”. Hell, some people say they came from Mars. Who knows? All I know is hearing the woman on the TV news start screaming about invaders and fires in the streets. That was downtown. We were out in the suburbs then. Before they built the walls.
Anyway, it was on every channel. These nasty, big-eyed, green-skinned bastards with sharp teeth and claws chattering away in some hell-only-knows gibberish, swinging meat cleavers and torches. That was bad enough, but then they figured out guns. Didn’t take long either. That’s when they started to really move. First, they followed the sewers from building to building, but soon they started up the river. Right toward us.

Well, I didn’t know where anyone was. Mom and Dad were both at work still and half the phones were out, so I didn’t even bother to call. I went right for Dad’s old .22 rifle. I loaded up that old thing with as many .22 long as I could, then I went looking for more. I found his shotgun, a box of shells for it, and his .38. I was still looking for the .38 shells when the sirens started to go off. I remember as a kid listening to ’em, but I never thought they’d use ’em for anything real. Damn near made me piss myself.
Our house was only two blocks from the river, so I knew they’d be coming right up it for us. We were between them and the Naval Air Station, so I figured we were gonna’ get hit hard. I was a pretty good shot, so I decided to hide up on the second floor and pick off as many as I could manage. At the time, I figured I might be able to hold ’em off until the Army could get there. I don’t know how long it was before I started to see other people in the street with guns. Just a couple of minutes, I guess. Well, I figured two stood a better chance of surviving than one, so I started calling people over to the house. Pretty soon there were about thirty of us with all kinds of guns and ammo. Hell, there was even a kid with bottle rockets and roman candles.
Well, it was about dusk when we could hear something weird. At first, I thought it was some kind of engine, but as it got closer I could hear that it was the goblins. They were singing. I couldn’t see the river, but I’d guess it helped ’em keep time when they were rowing. Anyway, we could see the glow from their torches go right over to the local park. It was as good a place as any to get out of the river and regroup. But, like I said, we were right dead in the middle of the shortest path from the river to the base, so it wasn’t long before they started marching right toward us. The chanting had died down while they were getting out of the water, but they started up again when they started to march. We were all scared, but I could smell that someone had pissed themselves out of fright. Hell, I was so scared it might have even been me.
It was really bizarre to see these things marching down the street like some kind of freak parade. It all seemed so unreal that I almost forgot to start killing ’em! By the time I snapped out of it, the head of the column had marched a block past us and the streets were filled with the green bastards. I went around to the far side of the house looking for their leader, but I think he’d passed by already, so I just picked one that looked dangerous and squeezed off a shot at him. Popped him right in the ear. He dropped like a stone.
I’d never killed anything bigger than a squirrel before and it kind of made me a little sick. In that smoky twilight, the greenie almost looked human. But, then, one of them noticed what had happened and started gibbering and pointing at the house and all hell broke loose.

I don’t remember much after that, really. It was just chaos. We just kept on shooting and killing through the night while the bodies started to pile up around us. Before it was all over, we had an embankment of green bodies that they had to crawl over to get at us. Good thing, too, ’cause if it weren’t for that, we’d all died. The only thing that sticks out for me was that kid with the roman candles. Some of the guys made fun of the kid, at first, but we used those bottle rockets to show the Army where we were so they could come help out. Turns out, they didn’t even know that this group of greenies had come North out of the city! Those rockets and roman candles were the only way the 101st Airborne found us. I’m not sure we woulda’ made it through the night if not for that kid.
Course, that was just the begining of it all and I was in the thick of most of it. Hell, they needed everybody they could get.

Well, now it’s mostly over. Oh, there are still some green bastards out in the hills, but we got most of them. Doesn’t mean I’m comin’ out from behind the city walls, though! Hell, no! I know those things are out there, just waitin’ for me to slip. Not me, though. I’m nice an’ safe here. With Dad’s old .22.


The Chrome Girl

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Sheep which is mid-afternoon.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I remember the Chrome Girl.
She was a Gift-Giver and I was a Quester. She had magic and I wanted it, no matter the price.

It was the Summer between my Freshman and Sophomore year of college and the Magic Plague was still new. People were changing as fast as the times. Magic was everywhere. There weren’t any laws to limit it yet, so anyone who had any magic threw it around pretty carelessly. But, it was something that mankind had dreamed for for centuries, so we embraced the changes with out thinking of the dangers.
I was no different. I grew up reading comic books. When I was in the lower grades, having super powers was all I thought about. I always wanted to fly. Wings, no wings. It didn’t matter. I just wanted to fly like a superhero.
No one can remember when the first sorcerer showed up, but I can remember the first time I saw magic in person. It wasn’t the Chrome Girl. She came later. The first was a guy juggling fire on the library quad at college. He didn’t even move his hands. Just held them there and the balls of fire danced around in a circle.
I was hooked.

By that time, everyone knew how you got the magic. It was like the Clap or herpes. I guess you’d call it a down-side, but it didn’t seem that way to a college kid. Magic as an STD? Hey, that was just a bonus. Get lucky one night and you might walk away with the power to read minds.
Of course, no one talked about the guy who was always on fire. Or, Mister Midas who, like his mythological namesake, turned everything to gold. His heirs didn’t even end up with much, since it wasn’t even real gold. Just pyrite. Fool’s gold.
In the end, I guess that’s all it was for any of us.

But, I was young and stupid, so I started hanging around with some of the Changed. I got to know some, but none that wanted to share the Gift. They tolerated me, though, as long as I bought more than my share of the drinks. Then, the Chrome Girl showed up. She didn’t seem to mind that I was just a Quester. That’s what they called guys like me back then. Those fools who chased magic thinking we understood the risks. Hell, back then, no one understood the risks.
But, the Chrome Girl didn’t care. She was willing to share the Gift. We had sex three times before I caught it and started to change. She didn’t even mind that I wasn’t very good in bed. After I caught the Plague, she told me about her life before she changed. She even showed me a picture of herself taken at her prom the night before she caught it. Her date had blue fire instead of hair and his eyes were silver. She was sort of plain, though. Just another mousy brunette. Nothing all that outstanding about her. Not bad looking or homely or anything, but not spectacular, either.
“My God, if that’s how she started out then what’s going to happen to me?” That’s the last thing I remember thinking before the pain started.

Three hours later, I was in a coma that lasted a week. When I woke up the first clue I had that I was “different” was the forced smile on the nurse’s face. Underneath her smile, I could see the fear. Hell, I could smell it. Literally. I tried to reach up and touch my face, but my arms were in restraints. My hands had changed into claws. I had paws like some kind of demonic monkey.
Once the nurse understood that I was still human, she tried to talk to me. It was hard for me to talk, at first, but I got used to the extra teeth and the jutting jaw pretty quick. It took me a few minutes to get her to understand that I wanted to see my face. She hesitated, so I knew it had to be bad, but she got me a mirror anyway.
While she was away, I found that my back hurt. Like there were too many muscles knotted up under my shoulders. I started to panic a little wondering how horrible I really looked. Was I going to be like the Elephant Man? What had I done to myself? What she showed me in the mirror was better than that. And, worse, too.
I was a demon. At least, that’s how I looked. Horns on my forehead. Sharp teeth forcing themselves out of my mouth. The whole thing. It was pretty bad. Then, I saw the wings.

Well, I got my wish. I can fly now. Of course, I usually only fly at night, thanks to the fundamentalists. They use my picture all the time. The horrors of the Magic Plague, they say. They point to me as the Anti-Christ. Idiots. My lawyers are always busy suing one group of them or another. Defamation of character, slander, or whatever else they can make stick.
So, I take my little night flights and I remember the Chrome Girl who made me what I am today. You know, she joined one of those fundie churches. Every so often they show her screaming for my blood. I try not to be bitter, but it’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? She gave me the Gift, but now she calls me evil.



Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
– John 1:5

Night. The stars glittered in the velvet sky. The smoke of a small cigar swirled in the air like a serpent. The thin knife glinted in Paul Black’s hand as he turned it around and around.

Nietzsche thought that suicide was a comforting alternative, he thought. Why ? Why do I think of that now ? A chill wind passed over him and he shuddered in the sudden cold. A nighthawk cried in the distance like a mournful Arab at a funeral on the six o’clock news.

It’s not comforting at all. He drew deep on his cigarillo and coughed the bile-bitter smoke back out. The knife lay in his hand. An invitation to oblivion. Blissful oblivion. It’s frightening, but it brings release. I could finally be out from under. He spat on the uneven stones of the patio under his feet and slouched back in his blue and white lawn-chair. He tossed the knife on to the short, wooden table in front of him with a backhanded flip. It skittered and bounced off the far side of the table, clanging and sparking on the patio stones when it fell.

Aw, Phoebe, why ? Why couldn’t you just say yes ? He sucked in on his small cigar and blew the smoke out his nose. It burned, but he managed not to cough and choke. I’ll never come out on top. Never get out from under. You were my last chance, and now it’ll never happen. He felt the tears start to well up in his eyes, again. This time he didn’t try and stop them. He just let them flow. Why not me, Phoebe ? I’d have done anything for you. Given anything.

“I believe that you dropped your knife, Mr. Black,” Ismail Ibn-Narr said smooth as silk with a voice like a dry desert wind.

“What the Hell!” Black shouted as he snapped upright in the chair. “Where’d you come from ?” Black jabbed at Ismail across the table with his cigar. “And who are you ?”

Ismail gave Black a sad, almost mournful, look and offered him the small, ivory-handled knife which had fallen to the ground. When Black didn’t take the knife, he placed it very carefully on the table. Ismail was dressed in a dark, gray suit of conservative cut. His neck tie was the color of dried blood and on his head was a dirty-dark crimson fez with a silver tassel. His face was still in deep shadow as he spoke.

“You called me,” he said, his sandy voice almost a whisper. He stepped forward into a patch of light reflected from a neighbor’s house so that Black could see his face. It was a swarthy, weathered face the color of old, worn-out leather and was partly concealed beneath an oily, black mustache and goatee. Ismail’s face would have been dominated by his hawk-like hook of a nose had it not been for his intense, sea-water-blue eyes staring steadily out from under his bushy eyebrows. “You may call me what you wish, but my name is Ismail.” He folded his hands in front of himself like a mourner, or a security guard.

“I ‘called’ you ? I don’t think I understand.”

“You had a need. A desire.” Ismail shrugged as if he thought that explained the entire Cosmos. “You said that you were willing to do anything. There was a power behind your words.” He waved at the knife. “So, I came to you.”

“You telling me you came to help me kill myself ?” Black’s cigarillo fell from numb and forgotten hands. It dropped toward his waiting lap with an anxious speed. Ismail waved his hand again and the little cigar stopped for a moment, extinguished itself, and shifted forward before continuing its flight. It landed between Black’s feet with an unnaturally loud “plop.”

Black looked at his feet with astonishment. He had not been aware of the falling cigarillo until it was too late, but he realized that it should have burnt his lap instead of dropping safely on the stone patio. He looked up at Ismail with an open-mouthed look of complete astonishment.

“If that is what you truly desire, then, yes, that is what I will help you do.” Ismail reached into his jacket and pulled out a thin cigar, longer than what Black had been smoking, and put it to his lips. He cupped his hands around the tip and light from an unseen flame lit his face quite clearly. As smoke began to curl from the cigar, Black noticed that Ismail’s hair was an unusual kind of black. It wasn’t blue-black like a Greek’s or an Italian’s, but rather it was red-black in a way that Black himself had never seen before. It reminded him of the dying embers of a campfire. His hands were once again in the reserved position of a funeral attendee. “But, I do not think that is what you truly desire.”

“Then, by all means, Mr. Ismail, tell me what I do truly desire,” Black said sarcastically. This guy must be one Hell of a stage magician. Or maybe, stage hypnotist, Black thought. Wonder who sent him ? Parents ? He sat back to await the reply, secretly hoping for the right answer, but not believing that this hokey Arab with his magic act could pull it off. After all, not even my parents know how much I want Phoebe.

“My name is not Mr. Ismail. It is simply Ismail.” He paused to stroke his beard in a contemplative manner. “I believe that you desire a bright star.” He gestured toward the night sky with his cigar. “But, she is not in the heavens. Her name is Phoebe, no ?” He sighed like a cool breeze across a desert oasis and shook his head like a teacher who is disappointed in his favorite student. “Does not your own Bible tell you,’Give not thy soul unto a woman’?”

“How ?” Black exclaimed. “How could you possibly know ?”

“It is no secret.” Ismail shrugged as if to say that there were no secrets from him. “Anyone may read your Bible.”

“No, the other thing.” Black leaned forward resting his elbows on his knees. “How did you know that I asked Phoebe to marry me and she said ‘no’ ?” His left hand strayed to the small, silver charm which he wore around his neck and ran it slowly back and forth on the simple chain from which it hung. “Did she put you up to this ?” He smiled rather like the Cheshire cat and added,”How much is she paying you ?”

“She pays nothing.” Ismail sighed again like the wind from the desert sliding through an Arabian bazaar. “Perhaps I have misjudged you, Mr. Black. I was under the impression that you were more open to some of the more, shall we say, unusual possibilities which the Cosmos presents to us.” Again the all-knowing shrug which also seemed a sort of challenge. “But, it seems that I have been misled. Thank you for your time.” He paused to draw a deep breath of smoke from his cigar and started to turn away from Black. “Good evening.”

“No, wait !” Black said, as he dropped the sterling trinket and gestured for Ismail to stop. “Tell me what you have in mind. Maybe I’m interested.”

“Indeed,” Ismail replied as he turned back to face Black. “It is as I said. You want Phoebe.” He shrugged in a way that suggested a small victory casually dismissed and waved his cigar in a circle at Black. “I will give her to you.”

“Just like that. You’ll give her to me.” Black laughed a bone dry rattling laugh and shook his head. “You’ll give her to me.” His hands hung limp between his knees. “Of all the crazy, outrageous, bizarre things to say ! ‘I’ll give her to you.’ You, sir, are a nut.”

“No, I am a djinn.”

“A what ?”

“Brought forth from a smokeless flame by the Almighty Himself, I am a djinn.” His voice grew steadily louder as he spoke and gained a rhythm not unlike a prayer. “Given power over creation and the Earth and sky and fire by the Great Creator. Set to walk about the world long before Man raised himself out of the mud and spoke his first word. I am of the first of Allah’s creations. I am of the First People. I am Djinn !” And with that last word, thunder boomed and lightning cracked the velvet black night sky.

“Oh, well, I see,” Black said. “And because you are a djinn, and I’m not, you’ll just give her to me because I want her.” He started playing with his charm again. “Free of charge ? Or, is there a catch ?”

“There is the small matter of payment, of course,” Ismail said as he shrugged in his manner, as if to dismiss the payment as insignificant. “I would require a mere two hundred years of service from you and your descendants.”

“You’re wacko.” Black paused in his absent-minded fidgeting and squinted at Ismail. “How do I know that you’ll deliver once I’ve agreed ?”

“You require proof.” It was a statement and Ismail spoke it as if he had been waiting to be tested for millennium. “Name a task and I will perform it if I am able.”

“Bring back the dead,” Black said triumphantly, like a little boy who is sure of stumping an expert.

“Who do you require ?”

“Caesar. Bring back Julius Caesar.”

“It is done,” Ismail said, and pointed out into the dimly lit yard. In the distance, Black could make out the somewhat insubstantial figure of a man approaching. He could hear the clank of metal on metal and the creak of leather stretching and relaxing. The man grew closer and more solid with every step, until, when he was but a few yards away, it was clear that he was in the costume of an ancient Roman soldier. His bearing, however, was not that of a common man, but of a leader. He was a man used to the weight of command.

“He certainly looks Roman, but how do I know that he’s the real Caesar.” Black shook his head. “I’m afraid I’ll need to see more.”

“Choose another,” Ismail said. “Select two more, and they will come.”

“Marilyn Monroe. And Elvis.” Black smiled boyishly at the djinn. “Bring back the King.” Without another word, Ismail pointed back into the yard. Caesar was gone and in his place stood a platinum blond who could be no one else but Marilyn Monroe. Next to her was a young man who’s black hair was done up in a pompadour like hasn’t been seen since the 50’s. The King of Rock and Roll lived again. “Incredible.”

“Have you seen enough ?” asked Ismail, the impatience in his voice the first real emotion that Black had seen him display. “Are you willing to accept the bargain ?”

“I have a counter offer for you, Ismail, my friend.” Black had started to toy with his little, silver token again.

“Your charm is quite interesting,” Ismail said.

“It’s Ganesha, the Hindi ‘Remover of Obstacles’. It’s cheap, hollow silver. Cost me twenty bucks.” Black paused to look down at it. “Probably cost a quarter in India.” He looked up at the djinn thoughtfully. “You want it ?”

“I can make a thousand such trinkets with a mere thought.”

“Right.” Black dropped the hollow charm to his chest. “What you want is my servitude, right ?” The djinn nodded. “Alright, I’ll trade you two thousand years service for three wishes. How’s that sound ?” There was a long pause and then the djinn began to grin an evil, cat-who-ate-the-canary smile.


“Don’t I have to sign a contract, or something ?”

“Your word is enough.”

“Very well. My first wish is that majik can really work.”

“It is already so.”

“Not stage magic, mind. Real majik. Majik like as in Merlin and Cagliostro and King Solomon.”

“It has been so since the Beginning of Creation. You have wasted one wish.”

“Not so. Now I know for sure that majik works. And soon others will too.”

“So you say, manling. Name your second wish.”

“I wish to know, understand and be able to use every spell, charm, incantation, or other similar formulae or enchantment which Mankind has ever known or will ever know.”


“Really ?” Black asked as he rose from his chair. “Do I really know everything there is to know about majik, now and in the future ?”

“Look into your own mind if you do not believe.”

“Wow,” Black whispered. “It’s all there. It’s all really there.” He bent over and picked up the ivory-handled knife from the table.

“Your third wish ?”

“Let’s slow down a bit here, friend,” Black said as he fingered the knife. “Remember, with the next wish I condemn generations of my family to some mysterious servitude. Let’s pause a moment to reflect.”

“I can wait a while longer for you, manling.” He fixed Black with a devilish stare. “Choose carefully.”

“Hey, you know I’ve got a lot of Solomon’s really good stuff running around up here,” Black said, tapping his forehead with the tip of the knife. “He had a lot of your kind working on his Temple, didn’t he ?”

“Yes, but I don’t see how that effects your choice of a third wish.”

“Then, you’re nearsighted.” Black lowered his hands to his sides. “You gave me everything. Solomon’s Greater and Lesser Seals.” He turned and locked eyes with Ismail. “Even his Most Excellent Subjugation of Spirits of Fire and Air.”

“By Allah, no.”

“Oh, yes. Submit, submit, submit. I order you in the name of King Solomon and the Arch-Angels Gabriel, Raphael, and Metatron to suppress thyself ! Submerge, suppress, submit !” Black raised the knife and cut the thumb of his left hand. He smeared the quickly thickening blood on the face of the silver Ganesha about his neck. “As the will of my mind commands thee, so shall the blood of my body contain thee. Thou shalt be required to inhabit the object which bears my life’s blood until such time as I may require thine aid. Get thee thither !” At which point, Ismail made such a screech that it drove more than one animal insane and he became as smoke in the wind.

He became a foul black whirlwind who’s focus was the hollow, silver charm about Black’s neck. He fought and screamed and cursed and threatened. But, Solomon had warned of this and Black did not let his will waver. A moment later all was as it had been. Peaceful and quiet. The stars sparkling like fine gems in the velvet sky. Ismail was no longer to be seen.

But, Paul Black could hear him calling from his new home. He had switched to begging. Pleading. Bargaining.

“I will give you endless wishes, master,” he whispered. “If only you will let me be free of this accursed prison.”

“Well, old boy, I’ll have to get back to you about that wish thing,” Black said in a cheery voice. “You’ve given me quite a new lease on life. Now, it’s about time I started paying the rent.” He fished in the pocket of his shirt and pulled out a scrap of paper. On it was a phone number. He turned and looked at the sun rising above the trees and smiled. “I wonder if Heather’s up yet ?” A new day had begun.

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