Roc And A Hard Place

Roc And A Hard Place by Piers Anthony Read Free Book Online

Book: Roc And A Hard Place by Piers Anthony Read Free Book Online
Authors: Piers Anthony
Tags: Humor, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult
said.
    'Oh, great!  Now we'll just serenade the birds!’
    “Well, whatever you wish,” Metria said, dispirited.  She seemed to be on an impossible mission, because she couldn't even get the attention of the one she was supposed to perform a Service for.  Had Humfrey sent her on a wild swan chase?
    'Wild what?' Mentia asked.
    'Waterfowl, heron, egret, gannet, crane, albatross, canvasback, duck—”
    'Gander?’
    'Whatever.’
    Meanwhile, Mara did her bird call.  She made a series of melodic, sweet, piercing, chirping sounds.  She was really quite good at it; it sounded just like some exotic bird.
    The Simurgh took wing and flew directly toward their peak.  WHO CALLS ME?  her powerful thought came.
    Metria formed a mouth so it could drop open in amazement.  Mara's talent wasn't to imitate bird calls, but to call birds—and she had just called the Simurgh herself!
    “Uh—I—I—” Mara began.
    YES, OF COURSE.  BEGONE.
    Mara vanished.
    “Hey!” Metria exclaimed.  “That isn't right!”
    'Shut up, fool!’
    BY WHAT DEFINITION, DEMONESS?  Now the giant bird loomed close.  Her feathers were like veils of light and shadow, and her head bore a crest of fire.  The beats of her enormous wings were like waves of mist.  She was an overwhelming presence.
    Metria was seldom cowed by anything in the natural world, but this was supernatural.  She dissolved into smoke, and re-formed in her approximately natural approximately human shape.  “I was trying to help her.  You have no right to banish her just like that!  I don't care who you are, it isn't right.”
    YOU QUESTION ME?  Now the great bird came to light on the tip of the red peak, her mighty talons digging into the glossy stone as if it were wood.
    'Let it go, idiot!’
    “Yes!  Bring her back!”
    THERE IS NO NEED.
    'Silence, imbecile!  She'll destroy you.’
    “Yes!” Metria cried, responding to both the Simurgh's query and her worser halts warning.
    The enormous head turned, one eye bearing on her.  BE AT EASE, GOOD DEMONESS.  I ACCEPT YOU FOR SERVICE.  THE GOOD MAGICIAN CHOSE WISELY.
    'Last chance, stupid!  Stifle it.’
    But Metria was beyond sensible restraint.  “Well, I'm not ready to give service!  Not to any creature who does that to an innocent person.  Mara never harmed you; she wanted only to go home.  I was trying to help her, because—”
    The Simurgh twitched one wing-feather.  Suddenly Mara was back, exactly as she had been before.  “Let it be, Metria; I'm done here.”
    “You're safe?” Metria asked, half-stunned.
    Mara smiled.  “As safe as a figment can ever be.” She vanished again.
    'See?  She doesn't really exist.  You irritated the big bird for nothing, moron!’
    NOT so, WORSER SELF, the Simurgh's thought came, this time stunning Mentia, who had thought her thoughts were hidden.  HER CONSCIENCE HAS SERVED HER WELL.
    Parts of this were beginning to settle into haphazard place.
    “This was all a—a test?  The woman, the storm, the chain? Like the Good Magician's castle?”
    HE GAVE YOU TOKEN CHALLENGES, BECAUSE HE WANTED YOU TO PERFORM THIS MISSION.  I VERIFIED YOUR FITNESS IN MY OWN FASHION, AS YOU NOW UNDERSTAND.  I REQUIRE A PERSONAGE WHO IS INVENTIVE, DETERMINED, AND COMPASSIONATE.
    Metria worked it out.  “First a mere physical obstruction or two, of no particular consequence.  Then a personal threat that needed to be dealt with.  Then a small trial of conscience.
    Just to make sure I could do the service you require.”
    EXACTLY, GOOD DEMONESS.  I AM CAREFUL ABOUT THOSE TO WHOM I ENTRUST IMPORTANT TASKS.  I REQUIRE ONE WITH THE POWERS OF A DEMON AND THE CONSCIENCE OF A SOULED PERSON.  YOU WILL DO.  DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS BEFORE COMMENCING?
    'Don't ask any, dunce!’
    'This mountain—I thought it was supposed to be one big emerald, but—”
    YOU ARE OBSERVANT, GOOD DEMONESS.  IT IS EMERALD, OR MORE CORRECTLY, BERYL, THE TYPE OF STONE OF WHICH EMERALD IS BUT ONE SHADE.  THE WHITE IS

Similar Books

Sister Mine

Tawni O’Dell

Zombie Lovin'

Olivia Starke

The Abduction

Mark Gimenez

In the Stars

Joan Duszynski

The Pregnant Bride

Catherine Spencer