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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Asprin Robert

«Myth Directions», Robert Asprin

Chapter One:

"Dragons and Demons and Kings, Oh my!"



"THIS place stinks!" my scaly mentor snarled, glaring out the window at the rain.

"Yes, Aahz," I agreed meekly.

"What's that supposed to mean?" he snapped, turning his demon's speckled gold eyes on me.

"It means," I gulped, "that I agree with you. The Kingdom of Possiltum, and the palace specifically, stink to high heaven-both figuratively and literally."

"Ingratitude!" Aahz made his appeal to the ceiling. "I lose my powers to a stupid practical joker, and instead of concentrating on getting them back, I take on some twit of an apprentice who doesn't have any aspirations higher than being a thief, train him, groom him, and get him a job paying more than he could spend in two lifetimes, and what happens? He complains! I suppose you think you could have done better on your own?"

It occurred to me that Aahz's guidance had also gotten me hung, embroiled in a magik duel with a master magician, and recently, placed in the unenviable position of trying to stop the world's largest army with a handful of down-at-the -heels demons. It also occurred to me that this was not the most tactful time to point out these minor nerve-jangling incidents.

"I'm sorry, Aahz," I grovelled. "Possiltum is a pretty nice kingdom to work for."

"It stinks!" he declared, turning to the window again.

I stifled a sigh. A magician's lot is not a happy one. I stole that saying from a tune Aahz sings off and on... key. More and more, I was realizing the truth of the jingle. As the court magician to my king I had already endured a great deal more than I had ever bargained for.

Actually the king of Possiltum isn't my king. I'm his royal magician, an employee at best.

Aahz isn't my demon, either. I'm his apprentice, trying desperately to learn enough magik to warrant my aforementioned lofty title.

Gleep is definitely my dragon, though. Just ask Aahz. Better still, ask anyone in the court of Possiltum. Anytime my pet wreaks havoc with his playful romping, I get the blame and J.R. Grimble, the king's chancellor, deducts the damages from my wages.

Naturally, this gets Aahz upset. In addition to managing my magik career, Aahz also oversees our finances. Well, that's something of an understatement. He shamelessly bleeds the kingdom for every monetary consideration he can get for us (which is considerable) and watches over our expenses. When it comes to spending our ill-gotten wealth, Aahz would rather part with my blood. As you might guess, we argue a lot over this.

Gleep is understanding though; which is part of the reason I keep him around. He's quite intelligent and understanding for a baby dragon with a one word vocabulary. I spend a considerable amount of time telling him my troubles, and he always listens attentively without interrupting or arguing or shouting about how stupid I am. This makes him better company than Aahz.

It says something about one's lifestyle when the only one you can get sympathy from is a dragon.

Unfortunately, on this particular day I was cut off from my pet's company. It was raining, and when it rains in Possiltum, it doesn't kid around. Gleep is to big to live indoors with us, and the rain made the courtyard impassable, so I couldn't reach the stables where he was quartered. What was more, I couldn't risk roaming the halls of the castle for fear of running into the king. If that happened, he would doubtless ask when I was going to do something about the miserable weather. Weather control was not one of my current skills, and I was under strict orders from Aahz to avoid the subject at all costs. As such, I was stuck waiting out the rain in my own quarters. That in itself wouldn't be so bad, if it wasn't for the fact that I shared those quarters with Aahz.

Rain made Aahz grouchy, or I should say grouchier than usual. I'd rather be locked in a small cage with an angry spider-bear than be alone in a room with Aahz when he's in a bad mood.

"There must be something to do," Aahz grumbled, begging to pace the floor. "I haven't been this bored since the Two Hundred Year Siege."

"You could teach me about dimension travel," I suggested hopefully.

This was one area of magik Aahz had steadfastly refused to teach me. As I mentioned earlier, Aahz is a demon, short for "dimension traveler." Most of my close friends these days were demons, and I was eager to add dimension traveling to my meager list of skills.

"Don't make me laugh, kid." Aahz laughed harshly. "At the rate you're learning, it would take more than two hundred years to teach it to you."

"Oh," I said, crestfallen. "Well-you could tell me about the Two Hundred Year Siege."

"The Two Hundred Year Siege," Aahz murmured dreamily, smiling slightly to himself. Large groups of armed men have been known to turn pale and tremble visibly before Aahz's smile.

"There isn't much to tell," he began, leaning against a table and hefting a large pitcher of wine. "It was me and another magician, Diz-Ne. He was a snotty little upstart... you remind me a bit of him."

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