Maladiction, page 1
Copyright 2012, Tom Morris
Maledict the Magnificent, sometimes known as Maledict the Malicious (although very infrequently due to the ubiquitousness of his many informers) leant back and settled himself more firmly on the well-padded lion throne of the hereditary rulers of Tzim in the Land of Belsinor. He smiled benignly at Azart Hath, his grand vizier.
"I seek a refreshment of my palate," he said "which is wearied by the unadventurous cuisine with which I have been served of late by my chief cook, who as we speak is now being impaled on his own spit." At this his Major Domo, head of the Royal household, trembled, became pale and tried as imperceptibly as possible to edge backwards through the crowd of courtiers who attended the August Presence.
"I have been told that a most agreeable and excellent aperitif is to made by an infusion of the leaves of the Quinct bush, which grows on the edge of the Sansomati Desert, in the spring water from the head of the River Ashjard and cooled with fresh snow from high in the Pass of Desolation in the Mountains of Solitude. Arrange for such a beverage to be produced."
Azart Hath showed no flicker of emotion. He practiced maintaining a total imperturbability of his features every morning in front of his mirror, while his wife Jasmine stuck pins into his back and arms. To show surprise in front of the Exalted One was tantamount to insult and invited an unpleasant reprisal. Inwardly he cursed. The whims of His Imperial master were becoming extreme. Azart was beginning to suspect that it was a deliberate ploy simply for the sadistic enjoyment of provoking him.
"Of course, your Glorious Majesty" he responded, bowing so low that his forehead touched the ground. "I will attend to it without delay." He backed away from the throne towards the exit at the far end, conscious of the amused smiles on the faces of those courtiers who took simple pleasure in the misfortune of others, usually in the belief that so long as someone else was in the firing line their own necks were temporally safe from the executioners axe or worse."
He was just on the point of withdrawing through the heavy, gold-embroidered, brocade curtains when there was a cough from the throne. "Before my breakfast, first thing in the morning."
"It shall be done as you wish Divinity," he acknowledged, and dodged behind the drapery before his face could betray his dismay. He hurried back to the seclusion of his apartments, his mind awhirl, and entering through the heavy plank door into the stone tower at one edge of the Palace which provided accommodation for him, his wife and his large collection of antiquities, slammed it violently behind him, screamed at that top of his voice and beat his fists on the large oak table which stood in the middle of the room. Luckily it was of stout construction and withstood the onslaught without damage, unlike the small footstool which he then kicked violently across the room.
His wife, Jasmine, alarmed by the outburst hurried into the room. "What has happened my husband?" she asked, have things not gone well at the council chamber?"
"Not gone well," he snarled. "No, they have gone far from well. He drives me too far, the miserable, egotistical sadist. His latest whim is for a drink to be concocted from ingredients which can only be found three days travel away and he wants it by tomorrow, a complete impossibility as he well knows.”
Jasmine, who was perhaps made of somewhat sterner stuff than he husband, sighed with exasperation. “Perhaps it could be prepared from materials closer to hand?” she asked.
“Not unless you wish to see me flayed alive and staked out for the ants,” Azart replied morosely. “You know as well as I that he has an uncanny nose for such subterfuges. I am ruined. He has finally decided to make an end of me.”
His wife sighed. “Nonsense!” she said. “You are a resourceful man, think hard! Is there perhaps something of use in that collection of old junk which you call your Museum of the Arcane arts? A grimoire or book of spells which might provide an answer?”
Azart sighed. I have read and re-read the librams many times, nothing comes to mind that would be of any practical use. There is perhaps Zasder’s spell of transmigration, but it requires a week of fasting before it may be performed. Perilume’s Bane allows a demon to be summoned to perform one’s bidding, but only at the time of the lunar eclipse, and the next is still some time away.” He scratched his head wildly then leaped into the air. “Of course, of course,” he chortled. “The lamp, the lamp.” He clasped Jasmine’s arms and spun her around. “As always my dear wife you are my inspiration, my guiding star. Do you remember my grandfather, Al ad Din? He left me an old brass lamp and told me that it was the repository for a Djinn who should only be disturbed in a time of extreme peril because he had promised that since he had helped him so greatly in his youth he should be allowed to rest unmolested for as long as possible.”
Jasmine gently untangled herself from her husband’s excited cavorting. “Make haste then,” she said. “Find the lamp, summon the Genie and give him the necessary instructions.”
“Just a minute,” said Azart. “There is something Grandfather told me to remember before I raised him and I have forgotten what it was. Something important.”
His wife sighed in exasperation. “Please think hard then my husband. I have no wish to become a widow on account of your woolly head!”
Azart started, “That’s it.” he shouted, “Again you have put your delightful little finger on the very answer!”
“What do you mean,” his wife asked. The fact that I do not wish to be a widow or that you have a particularly vague memory?
“Neither, my little rosebud. You said ‘Please’ and it reminded me – grandfather was most insistent that the Djinn should be treated with every politeness and that under no circumstances was he to be given an order. He will only help if requested in a civil and courteous manner”
“Well, it’s nice to be appreciated,” Jasmine smiled, a little smugly. “Be quick and get the lamp and let us meet its spirit with all due humility.”
Azart hastened up the spiral staircase that lead to the small room at the top of the tower. He had been an amateur student of the occult for many years and had collected a large miscellany of books, devices and curios which filled the room in a disorganised jumble which he had always intended to classify and order but had never had the time to do, being occupied most of the time in pandering to the whims of Maledict and in avoiding exasperating his wife, who he loved dearly but who had little patience with his hobby. Feverishly he searched through the conglomeration, making his way through books, boxes and assorted objects, picking them up and discarding them. Finally, perched on a bookshelf, between a mummified bat and the five volumes of Zillapart’s ‘Esoteric Law In Theory and Practice’ he found the lamp and seizing it triumphantly dashed back below, almost falling down the stairs in his haste.
Panting, he flourished it at his wife. “Here it is,” he chortled. “Now let’s see the look on Maledict's miserable face when he gets his refreshing morning drink!”
Jasmine smiles encouragingly. “Well done my husband,” she said. Wake the Djinn and ask for his help. I believe, according to the tales that I have heard, that the lamp should be rubbed a few times and that that will suffice.”
Azart gathered up his sleeve and polished the lamp three times with a flourish. Nothing happened. Again he buffed vigorously, until the lamp shone brightly, but to no avail. “Damnation take it,” he yelled. “What ails the thing, why won’t it work?” In his frustration he banged the lamp hard on the table, threw it to the floor and slumped into a nearby sofa.
As it came to rest a plume of reddish smoke spurted from the spout, coiling and curling in the air, gaining in thickness and volume until at last it coalesced into large, fat Genie dressed in blue and yellow s
“By the Seven Halls of Hell,” it shouted, “have you no patience whatsoever? How quick are you at getting up after a good sleep when someone calls you? And how would you feel if they started kicking and banging on the door?”
Azart jumped to his feet wringing his hands in panic. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he shouted. “I had no idea, I didn’t realise, please accept my most humble and sincere apologies”
The Genie looked slightly mollified. “Well, all right then,” he said. “I’ll overlook it this time, but just make sure there’s no repetition or you won’t enjoy the consequences, believe you me!”
“Please don’t be angry,” Jasmine begged, forcing a few tears from her eyes (a ploy she found useful from time to time, such as when a simple request for new clothes or jewellery had been abruptly refused by her parsimonious husband). “We really had no choice but to disturb you. We desperately need some assistance and we hoped that you could help us just like you helped my husband’s grandfather.”
The Genie’s frown softened as he looked at Jasmine’s contrite expression and a small smile appeared, (he was actually quite