hwango (hwango) wrote,

fiction - ljidol week 17 - surrender under protest

719 words

Aramanthus was in a foul mood. His entire menagerie of exotic creatures had been killed, his castle was on fire, and all that he possessed was being brought to ruin. Ordinarily these would be relatively trivial concerns, but what made it so vexing was that some mortal was the one responsible for it all. Like any fae, Aramanthus loved a good story, but he was finding that he was significantly less fond of one in which he was not the hero. Right now it seemed pretty obvious that the hero must be the brave, clever human who had solved all of his riddles, defeated all of his monsters, and found a loophole that would let him complete what was supposed to be an impossible quest. He had also set the castle on fire, which Aramanthus thought had been rather petty.

Before he left to start over again somewhere else, Aramanthus decided to take one last tour of the place, mentally cataloging features he'd include in his next castle. He wasn't in any particular hurry, since the fire was having a difficult time devouring the building. It was mostly made of stone and dreams, and the only reason it was managing to burn at all was a certain narrative necessity. He admired the large ballroom, cast a critical eye at the small ballroom, and stopped for several minutes to enjoy his gallery of paintings in which he had imprisoned various trespassers over the years. Then he espied the empty space where he'd planned to hang the most recent interloper before things had all fallen apart, and he sighed a despairing little sigh. Alas.

It had been a really good impossible quest, he'd thought, filled will all sorts of entertaining obstacles. He'd particularly enjoyed the bit where the answer to a riddle had been "a lion" and then the human was attacked by half a dozen lions, and then the answer to the next riddle had been "a butterfly," and then the human had been attacked by a full dozen lions. He thought that was a pretty good joke.

Eventually Aramanthus reached his conservatory. It was his favorite place in the whole castle, and it was every bit as cruel and beautiful as Aramanthus himself. He took a moment to enjoy the scent of cherry blossoms as their delicate petals danced around him in the unnatural breeze.

"Smudge," he said. He did not shout. Shouting required effort, and servants who required effort to be summoned were worthless. Smudge appeared at his side, wringing his hands in terror.

"Oh, master, the castle is on fire!" Smudge said in obvious distress.

"Whatever will I do without your keen powers of observation, Smudge? You are quite right. It is the work of that absurd human."

"What will you do?!" Smudge cried.

"Well, I shall be forced to endure the ridicule of my peers for a while, but I am certain that some other diversion will manifest itself after no more than a decade or so."

"No, master," Smudge said, and Aramanthus raised an eyebrow at his impertinence, "I mean about the garden!"

Smudge's concern was understandable. Smudge loved only two things in all the world - his master, and the garden. Long ago, Smudge had loved other things as well, but Aramanthus had been sure to destroy them all to insure that his servant kept the proper focus. Creating a work of art like the garden was the work of an artist like Aramanthus, but maintaining works of art was the work of servants.

"Well, obviously I have to give the human what he wants," Aramanthus said.

"Can't you just kill him or something?" Smudge pleaded. Aramanthus rolled his eyes contemptuously.

"Well, obviously I can kill him. But we struck a bargain and he managed to uphold his end of it, so clearly I shall have to do the same."

Smudge clearly did not understand, but Aramanthus was already too bored by the whole situation to have any desire to explain it to him.

"Just turn the trees back into his children," Aramanthus said.

Smudge whimpered pitifully. Yes, it was awful how much it was going to destroy the symmetry of the place, but it didn't really matter anymore anyway.

"What about the others?" Smudge asked.

Aramanthus shrugged in disinterest.

"They are not part of the deal," Aramanthus said. "Let them burn."
Tags: fiction, ljidol
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