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The Devil Went Down to Neovia


by emblo93

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As told by Lord Hiram Haberdashery

Ah, Colonel! That may have been a close shave, but I've got a story that puts yours to the utmost shame. Hmm? Quiet, Billsborough, it has nothing to do with Lady Cynthia. Have I told you gents the time I came face to face with the Devil himself? Yes, indeed! That Devil! The one what goes around stealing trinkets and treasures alike. Met him not two years ago, this month. Now, you rotters can either go play billiards with Billsborough there, or you can listen to a story of daring, deviousness, and altogether quite a lot of derring-do!

     Oh, shush up, Billsborough.

     It all started simply enough about two years ago. Do you remember I was out of Neovia at the time? Yes, the Duchess – you know the Duchess, I take it? Lovely woman. Anyway, she had asked that I pop up to Faerieland and see if I couldn't find out what had happened to some faerie I'm blasted if I can remember the name of. No, not Jhudora, you uncultured Kau. No, not Fyora either – listen, I can either tell the story or not... Thank you. So, as I'm sure you're aware, a trip up to Faerieland is no picnic! I won't bore you with the details, of course, but just let it be known that I comported myself with all the grace and dignity you fellows have come to expect of me.

     Billsborough, you can always show yourself the door.

     So there I am in Faerieland. Beautiful place! Clouds, sun – it's all controlled by the faeries, you know? They weave these intricate spells – what, this is me weaving the intricate spells – and they can choose whether or not there's rain or sun or any sort of weather they choose! But it was beautiful, like I said! I find this faerie the Duchess asked me to find, nothing to it. But that's not the important part. Have you gents ever heard of the Hidden Tower?

     I figured you mightn't have. Well, Queen Fyora is the queen and all, right? But she has to make her money somehow. The Hidden Tower is basically her of way of, ah, putting bread on the table, as it were. She sells very particular items for... er... a hefty price. Hmm? Oh, well, see, I stopped in there – the Duchess had given me its location on a prior occasion. Lovely woman. I stopped in there and thought maybe I could buy a little something for my niece. I think you've met her, Colonel. Little girl, maybe seven, lovely eyes. Anyway, I stop in and I figure she might like one of those dolls of the queen, you know the kind with the big head and the wings. Yes, you've seen them, I'm sure. It cost a few million, but what are the points for if not to spend them?

     I'll thank you to leave the Collinsridge merger out of this, Billsborough.

     So there I was, coming back from Faerieland. My business was done, my doll was bought, and there was nothing else for it. Well, no, I didn't come back right away. You can't go to Faerieland and not enjoy it a little bit! That's not important, though. The story picks up back here. I'd come back, settled in, told the servants to take the night off, that sort of thing. It's not important why I did it! I just did, it's not unheard of to be kind once in a while, Lord Entworth. No, Lady Cynthia was not involved, Colonel.

     So that night... the fire dies down. The ashes spark and flicker, the moon outside beams in through the window. The Fyora doll is sitting across from me on a chair. Suddenly, a flash of lightning! KRAKOW! Before me, there's a blue mass, a ghost with eyes as red as a ruby apple. He glares menacingly at me and turns his attention to the Fyora doll in the chair. I know who he is... it's the Pant Devil!

     "Cease your machinations, O Devil!" I cry! "Lend me your ear for but a moment and-" Were you there, Billsborough? No? Then stop your snickering. "Lend me your ear for but a moment, and I will lay down such a story of woe and misery that you could not bear to relieve my of that precious puppet."

     The Devil looks at me with those unseeing eyes of his. His claws have reached out for the doll, but they stop now. "Your plea moves me, my Lord," he says. "But I steal, I pilfer, it is my lot in life. Whether trash or treasure, I care little; it is the plight of the Pant Devil that he steal that which is not his."

     "Far be it from me, Devil, to denounce your station. I ask only this: spare me your devices only this once. That doll is not mine, for it is meant for my niece, a spring flower in the winter of this cruel world."

     My friends, I jest not, I thought I might have won that old Devil over right then and there, his eyes watered so. But he has been around for too long, and his heart was hardened to the innocence of youth. "My Lord," he says, "I am both touched and chastened by your supplication, but in good faith I cannot leave without an attempt at protecting my honor. I issue you a challenge."

     A challenge from the Pant Devil himself, my friends! Can you even imagine such a thing? My very life hung in the balance – no, he was not armed, Colonel. No, he was probably just going to steal the doll. Thank you, Colonel, you've quite killed the mood. Where was I? Oh, right, my very life hung in the balance! I couldn't begin to imagine what that trickster had in mind, but there was naught I could do but accept his terms.

     "The challenge is this!" he cries. "A contest there shall be, of dextrous digits and ignoble intentions. A thief, I play, and so a thief you too must become to ward off my ill visitation."

     "Speak you plainly, Devil!" I retort. "I have no patience for your riddles, wrapped as they are in mysteries, and those inside enigmas themselves."

     Out, Billsborough. No. No! Out, I said! Blast you, Billsborough! Blast you and all your ilk!

     Ahem... what was I saying? Oh, yes, thank you, Colonel. "In layman's terms," he says, "it is thus. Upon my word, we shall leave this place, out into the cold wastes of your Neovia. For no more than an hour, we each shall make ours that which hitherto was not. I, with my skills, you with yours. Whosoever returns at the end of the hour with the largest wealth of goods shall walk away the victor."

     What could I do but shake his hand? The hour strikes. The Devil is gone before I can move a muscle. Into the night he goes, gliding from house to house, stealing all that is not tied down. I know I cannot beat him. All I can do is retrieve a filthy sack from Wilfred's room – Wilfred's my butler, Lord Entworth – and go out into the cold night.

     But ah, gentlemen. An idea begins to form in my head. The Devil is quick with his hands, but I am quicker with my mind. He has been too long without an opponent, and his wits are no longer as wary as once they might have been. I wander for an hour, enjoying the breeze, and return to my home, picking a single rose from Ms. Fairweather's garden as my only token of thievery.

     Before I leave the foyer, I place the rose in an empty vase beside the door. No, Colonel, I hadn't gone daft, just listen. I enter the drawing room. The Devil is there, a hoard of trinkets piled in front of him. "My Lord," he says, "unless my eyes deceive me greatly, it is I who has won this bout. Can you thusly contradict me?"

     "No, O Devil," I say, "for though you gave me an hour, there was naught I could steal but this rose, a flower so ripe for the plucking, a mere child could have stolen it ere me. But I pray you, go into the hall and look at it, so wondrous and beauteous a specimen it is. Would that you take the flower over the doll, I should die with your name upon my lips."

     For a moment, it appears that the Devil suspects my ruse, but then he is gone, into the hall to inspect Ms. Fairweather's rose. Like a lightning bolt, I am moved! The sack flies open, maw wide, and gulps up the Devil's entire hoard. It is stolen! Thieved from the thief himself and tied up in my own sack, placed gently at my feet.

     The Devil returns, cackling like a witch over a cauldron, and then he sees what has been done. "Infernal beast!" he crows. "Deceiver and wretch! You have stolen away that which was rightfully mine!"

     "And in so doing, fair Devil, I have obeyed the rules of the game and thus won the contest."

     Oh, my friends! You should have seen the look on his face! Never before has there been such rage. But he was a Devil of his word, and he soon graciously admitted his defeat. "You have bested me, sir, and I applaud your commendable efforts. I shall leave henceforth, and you shall never again be forced to look upon this terrible visage."

     And then... he was gone. The lightning flashed once more, and the Pant Devil was left as though he had never existed to begin with.

     Hmm? The doll?

     Oh.

     Well.

     He managed to... ah... sneak off with it after all when I wasn't looking.

     Hm. Quite.

     Oh shush up, Billsborough.

The End

 
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