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101 Fantasy Books

The Imp's Arrow

By Charles Moffat - January 2018.


There was a flash of fiery light and the imp Gramonicus appeared within the chalk summoning circle in a rectangular stone room. He blinked several times, looking very small, fragile and afraid in his new surroundings. The chamber appeared to be an old armoury in a castle as the walls had various rusting weapons dangling from hooks, racks of moldy looking bows, and a barrel full of decrepit looking arrows. The air was thick with the smell of sickly sweet incense smoke.

The room was lit by a ball of glowing light that floated in the corner of the room, above and behind a middle-aged human with a slack jaw, a wart covered nose and greasy hair that was turning grey.

The imp coughed, looking a bit like a hairless cat coughing up a furball. "Let me guess, you're-"

"Silence imp!" said the conjuror angrily, evidently upset about something. "Your name is Gramonicus, correct? I wasn't expecting you to be so small and pathetic."

The imp's barbed stinger reared up like a scorpion ready for the kill. "Small and deadly, stupid human. And if you are at all familiar with my kind, then you know we imps are skilled assassins, invisible when we choose to be and quite capable in a fight. Perhaps you would like a demonstration. Who do you want killed?"

The conjuror glared at him, displeased that of all the imps he could conjure he got the talkative one who liked to mouth back to his master. He took a deep breath as if seeking to pace himself with a dose of patience. "No one at this time. I was hoping you were a demon, not some mere imp. This process of summoning is expensive, requiring the burning of rare incense-"

The imp waved a claw at him casually. "Don't bother filling me in with the details. I am well aware with the process required for summoning imps. Where are we by the way? Are you running low on gold these days that you've taken to vagrancy?"

The conjuror ignored the slight about his personal wealth. He cared little for coins and jewels. "We are in the old bailey on the hill north of the village of Izhamet-"

"Ah, Korovia," exclaimed the imp, as if he knew the place well. "We're near the city of Weyvin. Where Galzebub got his arm chopped off. Why don't you just summon Galzebub? He is certainly a powerful demon. Very famous too."

The conjuror rolled his eyes, unable to hide his annoyance. "Galzebub is just a fairy tale. An old story told to children. I am looking for the names of real demons whom I can summon and bind to do my bidding. Now-"

"Galzebub is just a fairy tale?!" sputtered the imp in disbelief. "The great demon prince himself is just a fairy tale? Are you daft? Galzebub is as real as any dragon or beast you can think of. If you want my help, why don't we go straight to one of the greatest sources of demonic power your pathetic little kingdom has ever known? Galzebub is part of your history. Galzebub is-"

"Just a myth you pathetic little creature. Now shut up and give me the names of some real demons."

"Galzebub! Galzebub! Galzebub!" shouted the imp angrily, his barbed tail whipping forward to strike at the conjuror - and bouncing harmlessly off the air above the chalk pentagram on the floor. Even though his effort had failed he suddenly looked bigger and less pathetic than he previously did.

"No such demon," said the conjuror. "I am not going to fall for your petty tricks imp. But please, do wear yourself out trying to free yourself from my summoning circle. I assure you it is quite well drawn and impossible for you to breach without my permission." He moved to one side and sat down on an old chair. He snapped his finger and a pint of ale appeared in his hand, summoned from some unseen keg somewhere else in this abandoned bailey.

The imp stalked the edge of the pentagram, looking for a weak spot in the chalk drawing where he might breach it. If there was a crack in the floor, a break in the chalk somewhere, an object going over top of the drawing, anything of the sort that would allow him to exit and wreck havoc upon this stupid human.

The conjuror lowered his ale and leaned forward, resting both of his elbows on his knees. "Listen closely imp. Tomorrow I will bind you to me as a familiar, but in the meantime you might as well get used to us working together. We could accomplish great things together you and I, but to do so I need the names of more powerful demons-"

"Galzebub."

"More powerful demons that-"

"Galzebub!"

"That I can summon. This nonsense about Galzebub isn't going to impress me and you are only serving to annoy me, your new master."

The imp made a loud and exaggerated sigh. "Listen. What if I told you a story, a very old fable, which proves that Galzebub is real. Would you agree then that he is real? Certainly you've heard the stories of how the Heroes of Olde defeated him and chopped off his arm, am I right?"

The conjuror smiled, deciding to at least humour the imp. "Yes, I am well aware of all the children's stories about the Heroes of Olde, including those where the defeated the Great Horned Ice Demon, the defeat of Galzebub, the Battle of the Storm Tower and such. Well aware. There is no story you can tell me that I haven't already heard."

The imp snickered. "No story you haven't heard, hmm? Ever heard of the Fable of the Ice Mephit? It is a very old story."

"I-" the conjuror paused, thinking about whether he should keep humouring the imp. "Actually, nope. Never heard of that one. Very well then. I have my ale to drink while I listen. Go ahead and tell this tale." He leaned back in his chair and crossed one leg over the other and sipped at his tankard.

The imp smiled mischievously. Or was that just what his normal smile looked like? He walked to the center of the pentagram as if it was a stage. He coughed and cleared his throat, playing up his showmanship.

"The Fable of the Ice Mephit," said the imp in a deeper voice. Then, to the conjuror's surprise the wee demonic creature broke into song, his creepy little voice surprisingly melodic:

Once upon a time at the ancient Battlefield of Krest, the four peaceful tribes came together.
Mighty heroes gathered to remember a grand quest, fallen friends forever lost to the nether.
They celebrated the ending of the Great Demon War, each leader bringing handsome gifts.
Speeches were made and vows of allegiance they swore, the healing of old and new rifts.

Into the sprawling camp an icy cold assassin skittered, to commit cold murder most foul.
Flying from tent to tent with frost that glittered, hunting with the stealth of a snowy owl.
At last the demon spied its pregnant prey in the twilight, heavy with child the wife of Ko Margus.
A lowly half-elf female spotted the trail of the frost blight, curiousity and concern raising a fuss.

The ice mephit swooped into the hut with murderous intent, slaying the wife of the brave Ko.
Glowing with frosty light the mephit had dealt the punishment, cawing over his deed like a crow.
The vengeance of the Demon Prince Galzebub had been wrought, but not entirely fulfilled.
The half-elf burst in with comrades she had brought, they fought the mephit until he was killed.

Quick thinking the half-elf drew forth her obsidian dagger, cutting the belly of the dead mother.
There was no times for tears no time for any swagger, working quickly before the babe could smother.
The babe was drawn forth unmoving from the womb, a shaman called upon the light of the silvery moon.
Fast actions saved the wee Koling from an earthly tomb, healing magic from the goddess was a boon.

The demon assassin was dead and naught but melting ice, but questions remained for the heroes.
Ko Margus had his wee son but his heart was twisted in a vice, he swore vengeance for his woes.
Drawn by duty to his tribe he could not seek out the foes himself, he pressed the half-elf for her aid.
With her comrades of humans, dwarves and an elf, she would fulfill his vengeance until the debt was repaid.

But that is another story...


The conjuror sat there quietly, waiting to see if there was more. The imp only grinned and smiled back at him with his jagged teeth looked quite comical.

Finally the conjuror broke the silence. "That isn't really proof that Galzebub is a real demon. It is just a story."

The imp looked insulted, feigning shock as if he was wounded. "You hurt me sir. How well do you know your history?"

"Quite well enough, thank you," said the conjuror. "Ko Margus is obviously some ancestor of King Margus the First-"

"Na-ah-ah!" chortled the imp, waving a clawed finger at him. "Ko Margus is King Margus. Before he became king he was first the Ko of the Wolfkin Tribe. You've heard of them, yes? Ko Margus later defeated Tibing Boris in a duel and united their two tribes, thus becoming Ko-Tibing Margus. Ko-Tibing, of course, is the Ancient Korovian word for..."

"King," finished the conjuror. "But that still isn't proof that Galzebub is a real demon. It is still just a story."

"Na-ah-ah!" laughed the imp again. "Who do you think the half-elf is? Can you think of any really famous half-elf women? Don't think too hard, it is pretty obvious."

"Indrasen?"

"Ding ding!" said the imp, miming like he was ringing a bell. "Indrasen the Assassin, as she was oft called. One of the Heroes of Olde, as you humans call her. One of the heroes who was present when Galzebub's arm was cut off. She was only there because of cause and effect. And that isn't all, Krest is obviously the village of Millkrest, the site of an ancient battlefield where many demons were slain or banished during the First Demon War, which at the time was the only demon war, hence why it was called the Great Demon War. Only the combined might of four tribes was able to push back the demon army and close the portals. The Koling mentioned in the story, cut from his mother's womb? That is none other than Prince Justus Margus, so called because his father craved justice for his wife's murder. Justus Margus, also known as King Margus the Second. He became king after his father died of old age. Obsidian daggers set the time period this took place, on the cusp of the bronze age. The dwarves brought bronze weapons for their allies as gifts, the first time humans in Korovia had ever seen or held bronze weapons was at this meeting of the four tribes."

"This is all just coincidence. How do I know you just didn't make up this story?"

"Mwahaha!" laughed the imp, deeper this time as if he deeply pleased with himself. "Do you think me a poet who writes rhymes, let alone a poem riddled and spliced with double rhymes? I suppose I could write some dirty poetry if I wanted to, but do you see me writing poetic rhymes of historical human events? Why would I, an imp, write about your silly little human history? Most of your history has been lost to the ages. The product of a largely illiterate society that once had to rely upon word-of-mouth and bardic tales to pass down knowledge. This story, as you call it, is the product of a pre-literate Korovia. People made their history into songs and poems so they were easier to remember. Shamans, mystics, dwarves only recently discovering how to make bronze. It was an important time in Korovia, no doubt, but literacy didn't exist until people travelled to Al-Qazar and brought back Al-Qazarian script. The Korovian alphabet would not be invented until much later, and so for much of Korovia's history the history itself was passed down through songs and poetry."

The conjuror sat there quietly, deep in thought. Was there truth to the imp's story? Many old stories were certainly based on some truth. Indrasen was indeed a famed hero, the comrade of heroes like Bogdan, Ivar and Sturum, and Indrasen was the half-sister of Queen Introsia who fought during the First Demon War. Was Introsia there at this meeting of the four tribes? Certainly there would be something written about it in elvish histories if any of this was true.

"Very well imp, I shall investigate this story. It warrants looking into at least," said the conjuror. He stood and picked up his tankard of ale, paused and then handed the tankard to the imp - unwittingly breaking the threshold of the pentagram. The imp seemed to have calmed down however having been humoured at least, and he no longer seemed a threat. "Drink the rest and wash the tankard. You've earned that much today. Tomorrow I will bind you as my familiar."

"Oh, you are sooooo gracious milord," mocked the imp, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "I shall treasure this moment in my black heart forever. The leftover dregs of your stale ale shall warm me in cold nights when I-"

"Shut up about it!" snapped the conjuror and left the room.

The imp waited he was well out of earshot before speaking again. "Whatever bitch. Watch I don't stab you in the neck with my stinger. Then I can drink all the ale I want, all frothy and fresh from the spout. Then when I am good and ready I can piss on your corpse. A really long piss too, considering all the ale I am going to drink. Just you wait and see. You're not half as smart as you think you are."

Down the hallway, the conjuror found the musty room he was looking for. It was a library of sorts, small, many of the shelves were broken or falling apart, but the room was stacked high with books on all manner of subjects. He cast a simple light spell to illuminate the gloom and began organizing books into piles of different topics. He had previously seen a book in here about elvish royalty, a collection of biographies or so he thought, but could not be certain where it was now. The room was overdue to be organized anyway.

Halfway through the effort of organizing the room he found the book he was looking for, a grey and green volume decorated with leaves enameled into the surface of the wood covers. It was old, possibly pre-Strauzian judging by the handwritten lettering and elaborate illuminations on the pages within, but it was in reasonable condition considering its possible age.

The first chapter in the book was about the life of Introsia, the first Queen of Sylvania. The daughter of Qi Entrosek, chieftain of the Sylvan Tribe and a powerful mystic in his own right. Entrosek played a pivotal role in destroying demon portals during the latter stages of the First Demon War, but when he was injured during the final Battle of Krest, it fell to his daughter Introsia to close the portals. Indrasen, the half-sister, was born of an union between a human woman and the elf chieftain during the early stages of the war and was but a child at the time. During the final Battle of Krest there was no mention of any demon prince named Galzebub, but it did mention a demonlord named Balganrusk.

Perhaps the imp was wrong. Maybe Balganrusk was the demon he should be summoning instead? He chose to keep reading. It was rare to find the names of demons in such books, so this was still useful knowledge to him.

During the battle the hero Olafslav the Giantslayer, the Vanquisher of Demons the book calls him, disappeared fighting Balganrusk. Both the demon and the hero were never seen again. Introsia succeeded in closing the last of the demon portals, thus ending the war, but many demons still roamed the land and without reinforcements they went into hiding. Years later a group of ice demons sent an ice mephit to Krest, where the four tribes had met to exchange gifts and honour the fallen.

"Now we're getting somewhere," muttered the conjuror. He stood and moved closer to the floating ball of light so he could see the page easier and make out the old script with ease.

The ice mephit slew Ko Margus' wife and nearly killed the Koling Justus, but was saved by the actions of the half-elf Indrasen and the Hab shaman Sturum (whom the city of Sturvek is named after) and other heroes since lost to history having died earlier in their quest and never becoming as famous as the Heroes of Olde. Introsia was unable to accompany her half-sister on a quest to avenge the Ko's wife because Qi Entrosek wanted his daughter present for a meeting of elvish tribes. This meeting of elvish tribes later turned fatal for Qi Entrosek as the elvish snake tribe decided to use the opportunity to kill some of the other elvish leaders. Bereft of their Qi, Introsia became the new leader of her tribe. Minus the snake tribe, Introsia united three elvish tribes together. Years later, via marriage she united her tribes with a fourth larger tribe and became known as Qi-En Introsia (Queen Introsia).

The conjuror turned to the next page and scanned it briefly, but found no further mention of Krest or demons. Still, the part about the ice mephit going to Krest seemed to be true. Could the poem be a more accurate account of the history of the event, the story having been passed down orally in a pre-literate tribal society? It was beginning to ring true. Plus how often do imp's sing?

Galzebub himself had many fables about him, and his cursed arm. The arm was chopped off during a battle with the Heroes of Olde in Weyvin, back when the city was little more than a fishing village. Supposedly it was cut off by Bogdan the Battle Behemoth himself. Still, it seemed unlikely that Galzebub's true name would be out there in the open for any conjuror to use. Certainly there would be other conjurors who had attempted to conjure him, to test if he was a real demon? Or perhaps none had tried because they all thought he was just a story, not a real demon. Was that why?

The conjuror's curiousity was now tweaked. He was not convinced that Galzebub was real, but the ice mephit fable at least appeared to be true. And if it was true, as the imp attested it was, was it not possible the imp was telling the truth for once?

If he was lying he would simply punish the hideous creature for his lies. Torture or at least the threat of torture could be a handsome method of extracting the truth from the wicked creature. Under such a threat, would the imp still claim it to be truth?

And then there was the matter of power. He wasn't greedy, but the lust for power - for control over a being as powerful as a demon prince was very enticing. The demon could be used to exact vengeance on old enemies, on new foes, and to make good on threats. He could bring great power and wealth too. He could stop living in these old ruins and find himself a nice fortress with servants. A powerful demon could bring more demons to his cause, build an army, maybe even open portals to start a new demon war while he became rich and powerful off the spoils of war. Everything he wanted would come true.

So it was settled then. Threaten the dastardly imp to make it clear that he had best be telling the truth, lest he be punished. Then summon this Galzebub and bind him to his will.

The conjuror set the book aside and went back to his summoning chamber. He found the imp playing with an old arrow, throwing it like a dart against the wall. The imp would then retrieve the arrow, retreat back behind an arbitrary line on the summoning circle, and then throw his arrow again, each time bouncing harmlessly off the wall with a clink of metal on stone from the rusty steel arrowhead.

"Imp," said the conjuror. "If you've been lying to me about the existence of Galzebub you can be sure I will come up with all measure of unpleasantness to punish you for your lies. Now tell me the truth on pain of punishment, does he truly exist?"

The imp laughed midthrow and the arrow hit the wall sideways, bounching off and rolling across the floor. "As you see fit to talk in that manner, certainly. Upon pain of whatever punishment your crude human mind can come up with, I swear that Galzebub is real, he is huge, and he is spectacular."

"Real and spectacular. We shall see about that," muttered the conjuror. He wasn't sure which he was more keen about. Ordering the demon prince about to do his bidding or the possibility of devising punishments for the nasty imp.

He gathered up the necessary incense for summoning a powerful demon and made all the appropriate preparations for the casting of the powerful conjuration. He also prepared the necessary diamond dust for binding the demon prince, for once done summoning the being it would be important to quickly bind it to his will. A being as powerful as a demon prince could not be trusted until it has been properly bound by magic to do his bidding.

Everything was ready.

The imp was now in a corner of the room, fiddling with a few arrows and minding his own business. He wasn't being quiet, but he wasn't being annoying or distracting either. This suited the conjuror just fine.

First he cast a simple protection spell upon himself, necessary to prevent any otherworldly creature from trying to touch him or otherwise harm him. Then he inspected the status of the chalk summoning circle to ensure it was in good condition. The reason why he had chosen the armoury previously is because the floor in this room was a single giant slab of stone, unbroken, thus making it well nigh impossible for any creature to breach the summoning circle via some flaw in the stone. He renewed the protection spell on the summoning circle, which essentially was the reverse of the first spell but inverted so that any summoned creature could not leave the summoning circle without the permission of the conjuror.

With the protections now firmly in place, he began the process of Gating in the demon prince known as Galzebub. The process involved used the incense smoke to create a large swirling portal of smoke, through which he only had to speak the demon's true name and it would be forced to appear. As long as the caster knew the true name of the being to be summoned it was impossible to resist. Only a totem god, demigod or greater entity could ignore the call of this powerful magic.

"Galzebub," the conjuror said at last, having finished his incantations.

The imp Gramonicus looked up from the arrows he had been fiddling with. Finally something interesting to watch. He gave the swirling cloud of incense smoke his full attention.

There was a flash of fiery bright light from the center of the incense portal and a tall dark creature appeared, wreathed in flames, horns scraping the twelve foot tall ceiling, but even so he was hunched over and could not achieve its full height. Huge bat-like wings unfurled like a cape from around the torso of the massive being, but could not fully unfurl for the summoning circle was too small and too well made.

A deep rumbling growl came from the chest of the bestial creature. It glared at the conjuror with glowing red eyes but said nothing. The growling grew louder, so loud it seemed like thunder. The demon prince snorted from its puggish nose and raised his left arm - his only arm and tapped at the barrier of the summoning circle with one long black pointed fingernail.

"You are mine now, Galzebub!" said the conjuror, quaking with excitement. "I will bind you to my service and together we shall-"

"Shut your mouth mortal," boomed Galzebub. He scanned the room and spotted the imp cowering in the corner, one hand grasping his puny arrow. The demon prince tapped on the barrier with his sharp black fingernails, as if bored.

"Now see here demon, I-"

An arrow flew past the conjuror's head and clattered to the ground. It rolled a few more feet and on to the chalk drawing of the summoning circle.

Galzebub stepped on the arrow, the part of it that was within the summoning circle, and then rolled it sideways, its fletching brushing the chalk aside with ease. The summoning circle was broken.

"Why you little bastard!" screamed the conjuror, turning on the imp. "I will punish you for that! What good will it do? He still cannot touch or harm me! Your treachery will be your folly!"

Galzebub stepped forward, out of the summoning circle. He reached forward his left arm and a massive black demon-metal sword appeared in his hand. He struck it upwards into the ceiling, the black demon-metal shattering stone and raining down massive chunks of stone on to the conjuror. He struck again, this time the ceiling collapsed, burying the conjurer under the rubble.

The imp came forward from his corner and groveled on the floor before the demon prince, an act befitting royalty.

"Good work pawn," boomed Galzebub. He scanned the room as if searching for something useful or threatening. Perhaps he was looking for magical auras. Seeing none, he turned back to the imp. "I have another task for you. You shall travel to the city of Kost and seek out the woman known as Katya Yerovik. Do not kill her. I want you to remain invisible and observe her actions. I shall establish a stronghold in the mines beneath the town of Kazark, where I have many devotees. In three months time you shall come to Kazark to report your findings. If, and only if, you catch a clue to the whereabouts of my arm will you return sooner than that. Now be gone!"

The imp scampered from the armoury and down the hallway. His service to one master had been averted, but his newfound service to the demon prince had only just begun. No doubt any foul deeds he did were to be more rewarding than any of the demeaning work a pathetic human might ask him to do.

Like singing.

Fucking singing.

He was never going to live that one down.

Still, it had accomplished his goal of summoning a more suitable liege. Stupid humans. They always fall for that trick. There was a reason why any mortal that summons Galzebub never lives to tell the tale. The demon prince always kills them somehow.

He had never even found out the name of the conjuror. He supposed it didn't matter. Any conjuror foolish enough to summon a demon prince wasn't worth mentioning in any history books. The fool was dead now and that was all that mattered.

The imp sped up a set of crumbling stairs and into the open air. The ruins of the old bailey was on a steep and rocky hill overlooking the village of Izhamet. The stars were out tonight and the sky was clear of clouds. The red moon Xarsius was on the rise, giving the landscape a crimson hue. It was an evil omen. The demon prince returned to the land of Korovia and the blood moon nearly full.

"Fucking beautiful," said the imp. "Just fucking beautiful."

The End.


Author's Notes

  • 1. Yes, I totally put a Seinfeld reference in there. Deal with it bitch.
  • 2. To read about Katya Yerovik, check out "The Demon's Pawn" by Frederic King, a pseudonym of Charles Moffat. For chronology purposes, this story takes place after the events of "The Demon's Pawn".
  • 3. Galzebub is referenced in various other stories and fables, but is rarely ever shown. His name is even sometimes used as a curse word, a reference to his cursed arm. The story above is a rare exception as Galzebub makes a direct appearance.
  • 4. "The Fable of the Ice Mephit" is an ancient and rare fable, that only sages and collectors of rare lore would know about. Or people who lived the actual events and remember hearing the fable as a song or poem. Demons are immortal and don't really die, even if defeated and banished back to the Abyss. Even a lowly imp like Gramonicus is immortal. Thus he remembers the fable because he lived through the events that followed the First Demon War, and overheard the song being sung while spying on humans.

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