hwango: (hermit crab)
[personal profile] hwango

In a place that was not a place, far outside what most men would in their ignorance call reality, Azreki waited. Time was meaningless to such a being and in such a place, but if such a thing did have meaning, Azreki would probably have been waiting for rather a long time, and might have been really bored.

Then, faintly at first but ever stronger, came a call to the mortal world. Azreki sculpted itself a shape from base matter and slipped through the cracks in the universe to stand looming over the mortal that had called it forth. The human was stooped with age but still there was steel in the old man's eyes. He was clothed in garb unfamiliar to Azreki, and it knew not whether its summoner was wizard, holy man, madman, or some combination thereof.

"I name you, Azreki, and I bind you to a task. Answer, o spirit, will you honor the ancient pacts and serve me in my time of need?"

Azreki's crown of flames blazed brighter as it glared at the presumptuous human.

"We both know I cannot refuse, creature of flesh. Name this task. What kingdom must I crush? How many of thine enemies must I slay?" Azreki asked.

"With good fortune, no such unseemly deeds shall be required of you. O spirit, I must journey downtown for groceries, but the traffic this time of day shall be the stuff of nightmares. You shall ride shotgun and warn me of idiots who won't stop texting long enough to watch the damned road."

Azreki stared in silence for a moment.

"...thy words are gibberish, old man," Azreki intoned.

"Just follow me," the human said. "And no more of this 'creature of flesh' or 'old man' nonsense. There's no need to be uncivil. You may call me Nigel."

Nigel led the way to the garage, where he opened the passenger door of his compact car for Azreki.

"Might be a bit of a tight fit," he said to the towering spirit, which had to stoop to keep its horns from scraping the ceiling of the garage. "Maybe scale things back a bit...and turn down the crown of flames, if you please."

Azreki shrank in on itself until it was a mere seven feet tall and sported little more then a tiara of flames, and then it folded itself awkwardly into the car.

"What vile torment is this?" it asked.

"Yes, it's a bit snug, but it's normally only ever me, and the gas mileage is excellent." Nigel closed the door and moved around to the driver's side. "The good news is that it's a nice day, so you're welcome to open your window."

* * *


Fortunately, the first few minutes of the drive were relatively uneventful, so Azreki had some time to acclimate itself a bit before things got complicated. By the time they had truly reached downtown it was a perfectly capable copilot.

"The worm driving the blue Ford cares not that thou desire to change lanes, but I can see that there is no courage in his heart. Cut him off, and he shall yield."

Nigel swerved sharply and the driver in question slammed on his brakes and leaned on his horn.

"It is as I said," intoned Azreki with a hint of smugness. "Thou art a cowering worm!" it howled out the window.

"None of that, now. Eyes on the road."

"Yon pedestrian flouts the law and crosses not within the marked path," Azreki said a moment later. "Thou would be in the right to run her down."

"If only that were true," Nigel said as he mashed his own horn and accelerated. The woman crossing the street recoiled a step so as not to have her toes crushed.

"Light coming up," Nigel said. "Remember, turn ours green and all of the others red. Don't forget the reds this time."

"Thou harp without end! It was but one mistake! I have long since mastered this childish system. The other lanes shall have such red as to be a sea of blood."

"I'm hoping to avoid seas of blood, if it's all the same, so make sure we're the only green this time."

Azreki muttered something as it willed the lights to change.

* * *


They reached their destination without serious incident, and Azreki willed another car into the space between worlds so Nigel could have its parking spot. There was even still time on the meter.

Once inside the actual store, Azreki carried a basket in every hand but one, and Nigel loaded all five with all manner of foodstuffs.

"This seems a strange way to hunt and gather," Azreki said. "Is there no less complicated or less perilous way thou might find sustenance?"

"Organic might be more in fashion of late, but if you want real food you're still better off avoiding a chain store," Nigel said, "so it's this place or move out of the city. Which has a certain allure, I confess."

"...once again, your words are meaningless."

"Well, don't you worry about it. Here, fetch me a jar of those from up there."

"Each time I believe this task cannot become more demeaning I find that there are further depths to which it can sink."

"Stop whining and fetch me the damned pickles."

* * *


The ride home was neither more nor less harrowing than the ride out, and they reached Nigel's home unscathed. Nigel had Azreki put everything into cupboards or the refrigerator as needed and then led it back to the circle of arcane runes in which it had first appeared.

"O spirit, your task is completed. I release you from my service."

Freed at last, Azreki lingered for a moment.

"This task was far beneath me, mortal," it said. "And yet, without my aid thou would most likely have been struck and killed by the fool in the SUV at the corner of 8th."

"Well, it would have been a near thing to be sure," Nigel said. "Good job."

"Thine is a strange world," Azreki said after a long moment, "And thou art a strange man."

"I won't argue with you there," Nigel said. Azreki stared at him a moment longer, then shook its head and vanished. Nigel left for the kitchen.

Several hours later he had finished preparing several dishes and placed each one in its own carefully sealed container. He returned to the summoning room and completed the necessary ritual.

The being that appeared this time was even more alien in appearance than the last, but the words they exchanged were nearly identical.

"What task have thee for one such as I?" it asked at last.

"O spirit, I require you to guide me to the home of my dear friend, who hosts this night a dinner party. Alas, I have forgotten the path I must take, and I don't trust those robots at Google Maps any further than I can throw them. Pick up these bags and follow me - the car is this way."
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