Burning Oak

Ap looked taken aback, but rallied quickly.  “It matters not!  You still consort with demons!”

Gobstab stopped kicking his feet against the side of the stove.  “He’s kinda got you there, boss.”

“Ha!  Your foul servant admits it!”

David cleared his throat.  “Bit of a story there, actually.”

I closed my eyes and rubbed my forehead.  “I didn’t summon him.  I won him playing cards.”

“Playing.  Cards.”  The disbelief was thick in Ap’s voice.

I opened my eyes.  “Yes, I know.  It sounds ridiculous.  He was in the service of some idiot…”

“Raz’hal’al the Mad,” said Gobstab, wistfully.

“Right. Raz the Idiot.  We got him drunker than a skunk, challenged him to a game with marked cards, and cheated like all hell to get Gobby here out of his hands.”

At his nickname, Gobstab stuck out his tongue at me.  It was not a pretty sight.  He pulled it back in and shrugged.  “Gotta admire a man like that, even if he is a pain to work for.”

“You admit you desired his service!” shouted Ap.

“Not really,” I said.  “Raz was, as I mentioned, an idiot.  Leaving Gobby here in his service would be like giving the town bully a siege engine.  No way that was turning out well.  So we stole him, fair and square.”

“So he could serve you!” said Ap triumphantly. “Were you concerned, you could dismiss him!”

“Ain’t happening,” said Gobstab happily.  “I’m bound to this plane until my summoner dies.  That’s Raz the Idiot.”  He stopped and spat on the floor.  “Gah!  Now you’ve got me doing it.”

“Well, he was an idiot.” I looked knowingly at Ap while I said that, just to get the point across.  “So, yes, I could dismiss Gobstab.  All I would have to do is kill someone.  Not willing to do that.”

“Wuss.”  Gobstab’s accusation lacked oomph.  “He’s more interesting than Raz, in any case.  Man’s teaching me more than I ever thought I could learn about torture.”

“Ah-ha!  EVIL!”

I looked at Ap wearily.  “You really haven’t learned, have you?  Gobby, tell him how I torture you.”

“Oh, man.  Where to start?  I’ve lost track of the number of little old ladies I’ve had to help across the street.  He makes me do children’s shows at orphanages.  And the ‘scared straight outta hell’ messages he’s had me deliver to troubled youth?” Gobstab shuddered.  “It’s crazy, I tell you.  The man’s demented.”

Ap looked at me, confused.  I shrugged.  “Entirely different value systems,” I explained.  “I’m just keeping him busy for the next few decades until Raz the Idiot manages to get his ticket punched.”


I watched as Ap stumbled off into the twilight, headed in the general direction of Wolthaven.  I looked at David and held out my hand.

He grumbled, but fished out a couple of copper pins from his pocket and passed them over.  “The way he came at you with that sword, I honestly didn’t think you’d convince him.”

“And he did it telling nothing but the truth,” said Gobstab.  The sense of disbelief in the little demon’s voice was matched by the confused expression on his gnarled face.

I coughed.  “Most of the truth, at least.”

David chuckled.  “You did leave out the bit about needing to preserve the Carrasone forests so Karl could build you an invasion fleet to take against Yarvan.”

I shrugged.  “He never asked.”  I looked at Gobstab suspiciously.  “However, I am surprised that you didn’t mention anything.”

Gobstab chuckled, low and dark and evil.  “Say anything?  Are you kidding?”  He rubbed his hands together gleefully.  “Boss, his fate line and yours are tangled up every which way.  Since you let him live, you’re going to be running into this guy over and over and over…” The demon stopped and looked up at me, grinning.  “And you gave him money to buy a new sword!  Tell him?  Oh, no.  This is going to be absolutely hilarious.”

I sighed.  “Great.  Fine.  Whatever.  We’ll deal with that when the days comes.”  I looked at David.  “Cup of tea, then we get back to burning the forest, and get the hell out of here so we can invade Yarvan.”  I turned to walk back inside, and David fell into step next to me.

“You know, you really aren’t a very good dark lord.”

I stopped at looked at him.  “Navy blue at best,” we said together, giving each other a half smile.  I laughed and threw an arm around his shoulder.

“You, on the other hand, make an excellent minion.  Come on.  Let’s have a cup of tea before we get on with taking over the world.”

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