With her bare feet dug into the dirt and her arms flung out, Athenia proclaimed an approximate English translation to the Enn, the Invitation for Summoning Bathin. “In the name of the entire darkness, make Bathin appear and submit to my will.” She paused then chanted in the demonic language. “Dyen Pretore on ca Bathin.” After she waited a few seconds, she repeated the summoning in English and demonic two more times.
This time there was no dramatic flash of light or crack of thunder. No opening of the earth or tornadic wind. Everything went dead inside the zone. Although outside a breeze stirred the Spanish moss and a crow cawed as it hopped about, inside silence and stillness reigned.
With a slight pop, the air pressure equalized. Bathin, astride his white horse, appeared in front of her. “I answer your call, sorcerer.” He gave her a slow once over. “How may I serve such a lovely woman? Or are you a woman? Your energy signature isn’t quite human.”
She kept a stern countenance. “Not your concern. I brought you here to help me.”
He swung his leg over the pommel of the saddle and slid to the ground. Looking her up and down, he strutted to her and stroked her hair. “What a beautiful color and so silky. Gorgeous creature, I would be honored to assist you.”
She kept her breathing slow and regular. Got to make him believe I’m calm and in control. “Would you like sustenance before we make our bargain? I brought this for you.” She proffered the bottle.
Bathin took it and inspected the label. “A good quality cabernet. How thoughtful. Most wizards provide the cheapest swill they can find.”
As Athenia presented the other delicacies, she said, “I hope you’ll approve of these, too.”
He put the wine on the ground and took the Brie and the loaf from her, then he unwrapped them and stuffed a bite of each into his mouth. After chewing and swallowing, he grinned at her. “Cheese imported from France and bread made in Cuban fashion. Some of the best cuisine.”
In a couple of enormous chomps, he finished eating, then chugged the entire bottle of wine. “Delicious. I’m in your debt. What may I do to repay you?”
“I want you to take me to Hell.”
He shrank back. “Why would you want to go there? Most want to avoid the underworld as long as possible.”
“I’m going to rescue my friend.”
“All spirits must cross the river Styx. You cannot fight death. It’s the order of things.”
“He’s not dead. He’s still alive in a stasis state.”
Bathin ogled her again. “I can make you forget any other male.” His serpent tail curled around his legs. “I possess, uh... talents, they can’t match.” He twirled the sinuous appendage, bringing it to tickle her bare arm.
She brushed it off. “Not interested.” She held out the lead crystal decanter, which caught the sun and sparkled. “If you take me, I’ll give you this.”
He wet his index finger with his tongue then ran the digit around the rim. The crystal rang. “I love lead in this form. Please, give it to me.”
“Will you transport me and bring us both back when we’re ready?”
His tail lashed. “That’s changing the terms of the agreement.”
Creepers of fear brushed down her spine. “I apologize, I thought I implied a return. If you agree to the bargain, I’ll reward you with more lead crystal. Perhaps stemware to go with the dispenser...?”
He gazed longingly at the gleaming glass. “Done. That, and a matching goblet in return for a round trip for you and a one-way return for your friend if you succeed.”
“Perfect. There’s no chance I’ll fail.” She gave him the carafe.
Bathin stowed it in a bag attached to his saddle. After he mounted, he reached down for her.
Boosting herself with a puff of air, she jumped on behind him and wrapped her arms around him. “All right, let’s do this.”
When he spoke a demonic word, the stallion reared, almost unseating Athenia. She cried out, and they flashed into another world.
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