“The Father shall linger like the scent of an overcooked dinner.”
It is difficult to appear less than imposing while sitting atop a throne made entirely of the skeletons of demons, but Hubert pulled it off. Which is to say, he looked not so much a Master of Evil, but more like he expected the real Master of Evil to burst in and ask what he thought he was doing sitting in his chair.
“What do you think you’re doing?” hissed the spectral figure floating annoyingly over his shoulder.
He fidgeted in his Crimson and Ebon Hell Armor and did his best to ignore the ghost of his father, the former Master of Evil, Balor-Nar.
“Old Shannah, Sorceress of the Swamplands, have you found what I seek?” asked Hubert, the current Master of Evil.
The shriveled old woman hacked into a filthy handkerchief, which was just as grimy as the rest of her.
“Well, my lord, the reading was complicated. It is somewhere in the Duchy of Whattlesworth.”
“She’s stalling,” said the ghost.
“Father, she’s not done. Please go on, Old Shannah.”
With a surprisingly vigorous movement, the Sorceress of the Swamplands threw out her arms and danced in lopsided circle.
“Demons of the outer reaches, I beseech you! Make my eyes unclouded, show me what I ask!”
It grew substantially warmer as the odor of egg salad permeated the throne room. Some diabolists theorize that the smell that precedes demons is an attempt to make the mortal realm more like Hell, which is partially true, but it’s also because at their core all demons are little more than jerks with a schoolboy’s sense of humor– making people bargain in a room that smells like farts genuinely amuses them. An infernal light shone from Old Shannah’s eyes and she spoke in a voice that was now quite a bit sultrier.
“What do you ask of me, Balor-Nar, Master of Evil?” purred the hideous old crone in an especially disturbing way.
“Actually, it’s Hubert, I’m the Master of Evil now.”
“Really? What happened to your father?”
Balor-Nar glided in front of Hubert.
“I walk in-between the realms of life and death.”
“Really? Good for you. Much better than dying and going to one of the Hells.”
“Don’t I know it!”
The demon and ghost laughed.
“So, how did you become one of the Undead?” asked the demon.
Balor-Nar smiled. “Funny story, I was torturing some Tree Priest-“
Hubert cleared his throat.
“Excuse me, but could we possibly get back to business?”
His father’s ghost and the demon-possessed old woman stared at him but thanks to the spells worked into his armor he just felt slightly nauseated.
“You are the Master of Evil now,” said the specter as it glided back over his shoulder. “Allegedly,” he added quietly, but still loud enough to be heard by everyone in the room as the acoustics were excellent.
“Demon, can you tell me the identity of the sacrifice?” asked the Alleged Master of Evil.
“Perhaps,” replied the demon coyly.
A pause awkwardly filled the throne room.
“Ask what it wants in return,” muttered Balor-Nar.
“Oh, right, right, right,” Hubert stammered, “Hellish one, what is your price?”
A smile spread on the face of Old Shannah.
“The soul of this old woman,” trilled the demon.
Balor-Nar rolled his eyes. “The correct answer is YES, Hubert!”
“But Shannah has been a loyal servant of Skeletal Throne for, well, a long time. You told me that she was old when you were a boy! It seems harsh to just feed her soul to this infernal monster! No offence.”
“I take it as a compliment.”
“I didn’t… Never mind, how can you cast off this old woman to an eternity of damnation?”
His father shook his transparent head. “She was going kill you.”
“That’s ridiculous! Why would she do that?”
“I hired her to assassinate you.”
“Are you insane?” sputtered Hubert.
Balor-Nar shrugged, “If you stopped it, I thought it might give you some backbone.”
“You put a hit on me to help my self-esteem? Wait, IF I stopped it?”
Ghost and demon looked at each other.
“I was reasonably confident that you could dispatch her. And it’s a valuable object lesson. Don’t trust anyone.”
“Like you?” asked Hubert sulkily.
“Don’t be a child. Let the demon take her soul and we can find out where the sacrifice is.”
“If it helps, she was damned already,” added the demon. “She did a LOT of bad stuff.”
Hubert knew that a summoned and bound demon was compelled to tell the truth.
“This is has been a very disappointing evening. Very well, for the identity of the sacrifice, you may take the soul of Old Shannah, Sorceress of the Swamplands. So says Hubert Rashnovton, Master of Evil.”
The demon smiled. “Excellent! The sacrifice is the youngest daughter of Morris, Duke of Whattlesworth.”
“No riddle? No convoluted series of quatrains?” asked Hubert suspiciously.
“I’ve worked with your dad quite a bit, so I thought I’d cut to the chase.”
“I was looking forward to solving the puzzle. I’m rather good at them.”
“Hubert! Do you know how rare it is to get a straightforward answer from a creature of Hell? It’s almost unheard of!”
“Sorry, sorry! Thanks to you, demon.”
“Thanks to you for the crone. I’ll have her in the pool.”
“Don’t you mean you had her in the pool?”
“No, I’m going to put her in a pool of flaming acid.”
He stared at the demon and the awkward pause returned.
“You have to release him!” shouted his father.
“Right! Demon, return to the depths from which you came!”
Fiendish light faded from Old Shannah’s eyes and she disappeared in a column of flame. Hubert turned to his father’s ghost.
“Too bad about Old Shannah. I guess you really never know anyone, truly.”
“Would you like to share your innermost feelings? Maybe over some sea foam tea and pixie pies?” asked the spirit.
“I know you’re just mocking me but I do wish we were closer,” replied Hubert.
Ghostly eyes regarded him with contempt.
“Oh well, such is life.”
“Aren’t you forgetting something?”
“I’d like to forget my 10th birthday. Really, a piñata full of poisonous rage lizards? If you ever wonder why I don’t have any friends left, that’s why.”
“The girl! The Duke of Whattlesworth’s youngest daughter!”
Hubert was about to say, “Would it kill you to say please?” but he recalled that his father had never said please as long as he could remember and of course he was already dead. So instead he said, “I think I’ll send the Shadow Creepers to get her, on the down low, so to speak.”
“That is a suitable plan,” said his father.
Hubert Rashnovton, the current Master of Evil smiled.
“I think we just had a moment, father.”
With that, Balor-Nar disappeared into the stone floor, taking with him any pride in his offspring. Hubert leaned back in to the Skeletal Throne sadly.
“Summon the Shadow Creepers, I have work for them,” he said, wishing he could take more diabolical pleasure in his work.