Stand alone flash fiction.

*****

Downing his drink, he took the book out of his breast pocket and placed it on the bar. When he tapped the bar with the empty glass, the bartender refilled the scotch without a word. He placed his hand on the book; surprised the action was comforting. He sipped this one; getting drunk would not be of value no matter how much it appealed to him.

At least the humans were gone. This preternatural bar, like most, cast avoidance spells at 3 AM, sending the humans away, and allowing those that were other to be as they were created. Case in point, one table shed their glamour revealing two winged forest nymphs and a dryad. Three pixies flew downstairs from the secure waiting room – where those without the ability to glamour waited for the humans to leave.

He stretched his neck and willed the tension out of his body. He snarled when the tension increased. He wasn’t a meditation type of guy. He was built for brute force. The tension remained, not due to his lack of skill as would be expected, but due to the creature that had arrived and stood at his back.

“Lin, I thought I would find you here,” Belial smiled. Her beauty was without equal. It was said that Helen of Troy saw her face and put on a veil to prevent comparison.

He set his drink down and turned to face the demon. Not demon in the angels and demons sense, but another magic wielding species like wizard or fae. “Thinking, that’s a new concept for you. Glad to see you can be taught.”

She snarled, “You should have listened. My orders are to acquire Lysette by any means necessary.”

“My orders are different,” Lin responded, resolved to what was coming.

The bar thinned out as the preternaturals realized a demon and wizard were about to throw down.

Belial laughed, “Orders? You take orders from no one. Whatever your payment, my master promises to double it.”

“There’s no payment,” he shrugged.

Belial grinned and moved closer to the wizard. “My master will pay for the young one. Name your price: riches, immortality, beauty.”

“World peace. Oh wait, no matter who holds your leash they can’t grant world peace because everyone – humans, fae, shape shifters, wizards, even demons – we all have free will. We chose our own destiny, and for the most part, we chose poorly. We wield that most dreaded power, the one thing that can crumble empires and raise new ones, and we do so with no true understanding of the universe,” Lin smirked. “Tell me, why have all demons suddenly chosen a side?” No one knew who had forced the demons to align, which was the first step to starting the final battle. He was charged with protecting Lysette, the last unaligned demon. Only ninety-one years to go until Lysette attained her majority. The nine-year-old would probably be the death of him, but dying for the child would not be the worst choice he ever made. Her mother’s dying request had been that he raise Lysette and protect her.

“Why shouldn’t we choose? Once demons are aligned, everyone will have to choose a side or fall to us, and then… Armageddon.” Belial’s face was radiant.

Well that explained a lot. Belial was a true believer in the cleansing power of the final battle. There were two viewpoints on Armageddon: the final battle would bring about an eventual peace or everyone would die. Either way most would die.

“For now, that’s a moot point.” He palmed the fireball, giving her time to back down before he threw it.

Delight over the coming battle showed in Belial’s eyes. She palmed her own fireball as the remaining patrons and employees ran.

The book Lin had set on the bar top shimmered and became a young demon. “Stop! I shall remain unaligned for as long as I wish. That is my right.” She held out a palm toward each fireball. They flew into her waiting palms. She drew them to her, absorbing their power. Something very few adult demons could do, and none were capable of that feat without years of training. To absorb magic into the body, and dissipate it without injuring the body, required a powerful high-level demon or a strong wizard.

Lysette changed forms again, disappearing. No one saw that she once again became the small book, tucked in Lin’s breast pocket. He kept his face bland, pleased that she was once again safe.

Belial’s face contorted in rage. The demonkin was of value and more than just demon. “Where is she? What is she?”

Lin tossed money on the bar to pay his tab, including a generous tip because his actions had cost the bar revenue. It had been his favorite bar for centuries and he wanted to be welcomed back inside its walls. He headed for the door and called over his shoulder, “What she is, is under my protection, and I’m Merlin, the most powerful wizard ever born.”

Mouth wide open, Belial watched Lin change forms as he walked. Gone was the male in his late twenties, replaced by an old man with long flowing hair and a beard to match. When he opened the door he turned into a hawk and flew into the night sky. As the door shut she had to ask herself, was the guy she had traded with on many occasions really Merlin, the oldest and most powerful of the wizards?

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