Chapter 3

It was very nice getting the prize, but that was not all. Soon after, there was a brightening of light around the Augsburg mansion.

“Now who the hell is that?” Azzie remarked. He didn’t appreciate all the interruptions when he was getting ready for a good sulk.

This shape took its time solidifying. Azzie waited, and it finally took on the form and substance of Babriel.

“Hail, Azzie!” Babriel cried, standing tall and blond and as stupid looking as before.

“Yeah, hail and all that,” Azzie said. “You want to rub it in, I suppose?”

“Not at all. You know I never gloat.”

“That’s true,” Azzie said, “and it makes you all the more annoying.”

“You’re a great kidder,” Babriel replied. “But let me tell you why I’m here.”

“If you wish,” Azzie said. “It makes no difference to me.”

“By the powers vested in me by the Committee for the Powers of Light,” Babriel said, reading from a scroll he had taken out of the white folds of his robe, “we hereby present a special Power of Light award to AzzieElbub, demon, but not utterly damned, for the good services he did for the Powers of

Light in helping us win the destiny of mankind for the next thousand years.”

So saying, he removed from his bosom a small effigy of an angel, done in a sickly yellow white, with glinty blue eyes and cutesy little wings.

“Well,” Azzie said, pleased despite himself, “that’s very nice of the Powers of Light. Very nice indeed.” He struggled to find something ugly to say, but for the moment was overcome. He had received awards from both the Powers of Light and of Darkness. He was pretty sure he was the first ever to win both awards.

After Babriel had left, Azzie fell to musing. He set his two awards down on a table and looked at them. They were rather attractive things. He was pleased despite himself. Rage still boiled, however, when he considered how near he had come to winning the real one, the big one, the Millennial Award itself. But there was no use brooding over it.

For now, what he needed was a little rest and-strange how the thought should occur to him – some home cooking, before shrinking his enemies and delivering them to Brigitte and her guillotine. His thoughts strayed to Ylith. He hadn’t paid much attention to her recently; he’d been too preoccupied with putting together his entry. But now it was over.

He mused. He could use a vacation. There was a nice spot he recalled in India where generations of Assassins had worked, killing their thousands of victims each year as they attached themselves to the great pilgrimages. The Assassins had built a special resort on the flat top of a low mountain somewhere north of the Ganges. He was sure he could find it again. It would be fun to go there with Ylith. He remembered the amuse­ments that had been available last time: bowling with human heads, croquet matches with giraffes’ necks, table tennis with eyeballs. Yes, it was time he gave Ylith a break.


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