Thursday, August 27, 2015

New short story: Fine Print

The sorcerer held the pendant in his outstretched hand, the red stone giving an eldritch gleam in the dim light. "This was forged in the fires of Hades by the artisans of the damned. Wear this, and you will be unstoppable."

The richly dressed man on the other side of the table reached for it eagerly, but stopped when the small woman next to him cleared her throat. She was wearing a suit and a politely disinterested expression, and the sorcerer hated her instantly. "Not yet, your lordship. There are a few points of the contract I need to go over with Mr..." She flipped through a few of the pages in her hands. "Dread Dank Darin."

The nobleman sat back in his chair, disappointed. The sorcerer – Darin to his friends – narrowed his eyes at the woman. He definitely did not approve of the way she said his name without a shred of awe. "Contract? There is no contract. I have to summon a demon if you want one of those, and I'll need a case of alcohol and 48 hours advance notice."

The woman gave him a long-suffering look. "No, I meant the implied contract that comes with ownership of the pendant you are trying to sell my client. For example – you promise him that he will be 'unstoppable' if he purchases this, but what precisely do you mean by that?"

The sorcerer's brow furrowed, not sure what she was getting at but definitely not willing to admit his confusion. “Exactly what it says on the tin. Unstoppable. Cannot be stopped.”

“By whom, exactly?” The woman’s voice was just polite enough to be infuriating. “Individual opponents? Entire armies? Gods? If he takes possession of the pendant, will he be capable of stopping himself should he choose to? Or could he, for example, eat himself to death without intending to? And what definition are you using for ‘stop’? Defeat in battle? A halt in his rise to power? Death? And if it is death, does it mean he can’t be killed or that he can’t die?”

“I knew an immortal once,” the nobleman said suddenly. “He mostly gardened. Said he was bored of everything else.” He shuddered. “I can’t even imagine.”

The sorcerer gaped at them both for a moment, caught without an answer to even a single one of the woman’s questions. Then he shook his head and focused his attention on the nobleman.  “Unlimited power is almost in your hands, your lordship! All you have to do is pay me!”

The nobleman hesitated for a moment, giving the pendant one last hungry look, then shook his head. “No, sorry. Can’t do it. My grandfather got himself killed in one of those ‘no man can defeat me’ loopholes, and that was before there were so many lady knights about.” He pushed himself away from the table, standing. “No good rising to power if you make it that easy on people to stop you.”

“But… but….”

The woman tucked her papers into a briefcase, then stood as well. “I would advise you to look into researching your products more thoroughly, Mr. Dank.”

By the time he had recovered enough to correct her, they were gone.  

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