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Why Gahaziel Gave Up Saging
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 1

"More wine!"

The former sage Gahaziel smacked down the tankard on the rough wooden table, and wiped his drooping grey moustache with the back of his hand. "More wine!"† he bellowed. "More wine, by the horns of Beelzebub!"

A dowdy serving wench dressed in a rough brown smock scurried over with a tall earthen pitcher. As she poured the dark red fluid into the tankard, the ex-sage focussed his bleary eyes on her nearest dangling breast, and finally made a grab for it. But his coordination was off, and the serving wench had already skipped smartly back by the time he raised his hand, so he ended up pawing the air. Everyone sniggered.

It didnít improve Gahazielís temper any. His heavy eyebrows crunched down over his bloodshot eyes, and his nostrils flared alarmingly. We who knew him well were aware that he had just attained the Second Highest Level of Drunken Rage. When his flowing beard began to bristle, that was Top Level, and time for bystanders to prepare to abandon ship.

"Whatís so funny?" he rumbled, the words bouncing around inside his immense frame. "Whatís the goddamn joke?"

"Howís the wine, Gahaziel?" we asked, trying to head off his blowing his top. "Is it good? Should we order more?" Several bronze coins rattled on the filthy table, competing for the honour of buying Gahaziel more wine. It didnít calm him down, but did seem to put a lid on his fury.

Balefully muttering something under his breath, he took a mouthful of the wine and swallowed. It was really terrible stuff even by inn standards, but Gahaziel was far past the point of being able to taste anything. Glaring around the table, he took off his peaked cap and swatted at a fly with it.

"Someone should burn this place down," he announced grandly. "In fact, someone should burn down the whole blasted world. Iíll probably do it today if I feel like it."

We all relaxed with an audible sigh. When Gahaziel began threatening ruin and destruction, it meant he was not going to actually attempt any, so we wouldnít have violence on our hands. I glanced over my shoulder at the inn door. The pair of huge men who had appeared there earlier, probably summoned by the innkeeper, apparently picked up our relief. One even leaned against the wall, laying down his staff on the floor at his side.

I could have told them that their muscles and staffs wouldnít have stood a chance against Gahaziel in full flow. In all the years Iíve known him, I have yet to see anything which could.

I looked back at Gahaziel. He was gazing into the depths of his tankard with a puzzled look, as though wondering where the wine had gone. Suddenly he jerked his head up and glared into my eyes. "Holes!" he yelled.

I jerked back, as much out of shock as to evade the cloud of wine-smelling spittle. "Holes, Gahaziel?"

"Thatís what I said, didnít I?" Gahaziel was leaning across the table, screaming into my face. "Are you bloody deaf?"

Iíd go deaf at this rate if he didnít pipe down. "What holes, Gahaziel? Tell me about the holes."

"What holes?" Gahaziel said, sitting back and crossing his heavily tattooed arms on his chest. "Holes here and holes there, holes, holes everywhere. But whatís the point of telling you lot. You wouldnít know a hole if you fell into it."

"Well, you see," one of us said, "youíre a sage, and weíre just nobody. So of course youíd know better about these things than we would."

"Iím not a sage," Gahaziel grumbled. "Iím an ex-sage, and donít you forget it." He looked speculatively at the window, outside which the rain fell in a freezing downpour. Riding through the muddy tracks in that would be no fun at all, what with the night coming on, as even he must have realised. "And itís all because of those holes to hell."

We glanced at each other, wondering if the alcohol had driven Gahaziel suddenly senile. "Um Ė Gahaziel? Did you say holes to hell?"

"Looks like weíre stuck here till the damned rain stops." Gahaziel belched mightily and reached for another tankard. "You might as well listen, then," he said.†

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Genre:General Horror
Type:Short story
Rating:7.11 / 10
Rated By:13 users
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