Chapter 4

Just then the doorbell rang. It was the postman. He de­livered a huge sack made of horsehide and standing about three feet high. The bag wriggled, and piteous moans came from it.

“Who’s that?” Azzie asked.

“It’s me, master,” Frike’s muffled voice said from within. “Master, I would really appreciate it if you’d put me back together again.”

“And so I shall,” Azzie said. “But first I’ve got some work to do. Have you seen Ylith?”

“I can’t see anything from in here,” Frike said. “Could you please reconstitute me?”

There came the sound of singing, from upstairs.

“All in good time,” Azzie said. “I think I hear her now.”

He hurried up the stairs. Yes, she sang a witching melody, old when the pyramids were mere foundations. “Ylith! Are you there?”

“Down the hall,” Ylith called back.

He hurried to the spare bedroom from which her voice had come and entered the room. She was packing a small suit­case. She looked radiant. Something about her seemed different, though. Was it her complexion? Yes, it had definitely changed for the paler. And her eyes, night black and deliciously sinister, seemed to have become cornflower blue.

“Ylith! What is come over you?” he cried. “Has an infes­tation of good gotten to you? I know several charms and simples that could cure it… .”

“There’s nothing wrong with me, Azzie,” Ylith said. “What you see are the visible effects of happiness.”

“But what have you got to be happy about?”

“My dear, I don’t know how to tell you this… .”

“Then don’t,” Azzie said. “When anyone starts like that, it’s sure to mean bad news. I’ve had enough bad news for a while.”

“What are those things you’re carrying?” Ylith asked.

“Oh. Some awards. One from the Powers of Light, the other from Darkness. I guess they both thought I should have them.”

“Azzie, how wonderful!”

“Yes, it is nice,” Azzie said. “But listen, Ylith, I’ve been thinking. I haven’t treated you very well. But you know how it is when you’re serious about the service of evil. Always some­thing to do. Well, I’ve ignored you for too long. I’d like you to come away with me now, to a very fine little hotel I know in India. India’s lovely at this time of year, and we’ll sport and disport ourselves and have a great time. What do you say?”

“Ah, Azzie,” she said, her voice soft and breathy, “if only you could know how much I’ve longed to hear those words from you!”

“Well, now you’ve heard them. It’s good that you’re pack­ing. We can be away at once.”

“Darling, I hate to tell you this, but I love another.”

“Ouch!” Azzie said, sitting down, then getting up again. “Well, I suppose whoever it is could come with us,” he offered. “That’s in the nature of evil, isn’t it, to share when you don’t want to?”

“I’m afraid it cannot be,” Ylith said. “Babriel would never stand for it.”

“Babriel!”

“Yes, he is the one I love. He has asked me away from here, to a beautiful little place he knows where there are green pastures and lambs frolic and the flowers of springtime shine everywhere.”

“Sounds sickening,” Azzie said. “What are you thinking of, Ylith? It is not in the nature of evil to have a taste for lambs, except in the form of chops done with a bit of rosemary and mint jelly.”

“Same old Azzie,” she said, smiling. “You don’t under­stand. I’ve converted. I’ve decided to be good.”

“No! Not you, Ylith! You need an exorcism immediately!”

“It’s not like that at all,” she replied. “I’ve fallen in love with Babriel. I will go with him, and I will be a person he can love and respect.”

Azzie mastered himself for the moment. “Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked.

“Absolutely. Look!”

She turned. Azzie could see the rudimentary wings sprout­ing from her back. They were whiter than mourning doves, whiter than foam from untrammeled seas. They were tiny now, but they would grow. She had become a Creature of Light.

“That’s disgusting,” Azzie said. “You’ll regret this, I prom­ise you.”

He left the door standing open as he stalked away.

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