Just a Little Black Magic
Chapter 10: The Many Ways to Skin an Imp
by: Jess


At the touch of the boiling hot rain, Mia screamed again, running for the
doorway. Cale hauled Dais to his feet and shoved him out the door, pausing to
allow the frightened woman out before taking his leave. Sekhmet ground his
teeth against the scalding of the water against his skin. He reached down
inside him, summoning his strength to move forward into the rainstorm and grab
the imp. As his unprotected fists closed about the neck of the creature, he
felt tiny, hardened claws rip into his arms, raking and gouging furiously.
Sekhmet felt the other imp jump upon his back, pounding away with puny, cold
Cye ran to help his friend, grabbing the ice imp from his back. The imp was
only inches shorter than the smallest Ronin, and finding itself so evenly
matched, promptly contemplated retreat. With a quick exhale and a shower of ice
shards at the young man, the imp leapt out the window.
The ice melted in the boiling rain, before it ever touched the Ronin. The
steam mephit saw its companion leave and gasped its displeasure. Past Sekhmet's
ever-constricting grip on its throat it croaked.
"Garblufink, you coward!!"
Sekhmet tore the imp from the floor and threw his uncerimoniously into the
refrigerator. The imp hit with a crack, shaking the fridge and slumping to the
floor. The boiling rainstorm faded without the imp's steam to sustain it. Cye
smiled at the Overlord as Sekhmet picked up the limp imp and joined the others
in the living room.
"Selfless acts are becoming quite the habit, huh?" Cye asked jokingly.
Sekhmet looked from the imp in his hands to Mia and the others. "Yeah," he
replied in an equally joking tone. "I guess they are."
"Uh... what was all that noise?" Liza asked, coming halfway down the stairs.
"And why did Whiteblaze and Ryo just take off into the woods?"
Sekhmet dropped the imp to go over to her. Cye looked at Dais. Dais looked at
"You don't seriously think I'm gonna pick that up?" Cye asked. "It's nearly my
Dais grinned. "I wouldn't dream of it."
Liza came down the stairs all the way and went to take Sekhmet's hand as was
her habit. Pausing, she gasped.
"Sekhmet, you're bleeding!"
Sekhmet looked at his arms, where the imp had raked and gouged out furrows of
his flesh. He was, indeed, bleeding heavily. Raising his eyebrows in mild
interest he made a frightening observation.
"I don't feel anything."

Artemis was in deep meditation, the kind of state that one takes when troubles
of the real world are too much and one has to get away. She was oblivious to
the outside world, except of the pungent smell of freshly mown lawn around her
and the texture of the grass that she lay prone and spread-eagle in. Most
outside stimuli were just ignored by her, like the leaping of an ice mephit over
her, and the pound of tiger's feet on the ground. Even Ryo, as he jumped over
her, was ignored with the best of them.
There was only one thing she was conditioned to react to even in her deepest
meditation. The sound of her name, called in fear and worry. She didn't even
have to "hear" it, only sense that it was being called. And from the sound came
the most sincere reaction one could imagine.
Artemis leapt to her feet, feeling, more than hearing, Liza shout her name.
She ran back to the house, moving fleetly across the expansive yard. Half of
her mind still lingered in meditation, giving to her urgency a state of calm
placidness that couldn't be shaken. It was that calm that permeated the air
around her as she entered the house and paused at the sight of Dais, holding
suspended in air, the unconscious form of a steam mephit.
The same calm calmed Liza as Artemis moved over to where the girl had forced
Sekhmet to sit down on the stairs. Artemis looked briefly from the steam mephit
to the Overlord and could tell they had tangled in battle. The skin of
Sekhmet's forearms had been burned by the boiling rainstorm. Artemis took his
wrist and lightly ran her hand over his arm, waiting to see if she would receive
a hiss of pain from him. Sekhmet looked at her without flinching, but he was
exhibiting an increasing panic.
"Mia," Artemis said in a commanding tone. "Fetch me some cool water and long
strips of cloth. Liza, go to our room and bring me the leather pouch that is on
the writing desk beside the incense."
Both women ran off to do what was requested. Dais and Cale approached her,
holding the mephit between them.
"Is there anything we can do?" Cale asked.
"Don't let that thing wake up!" Artemis snapped. "Tie it with something that
won't weaken with water."
Dais jumped at her tone, so accustomed to hearing her speak gently and s
oothingly with everyone. But he went with Cale to accomplish the tasks, feeling
somewhat useful. Sekhmet watched them go.
"So the prognosis?" he asked quietly while Liza was still away.
Artemis smiled. "It looks worse than it is." she began. "You've had the
nerve-endings overloaded with sensory input. Kind of a.... a shut-down of the
nerves." She stopped as Liza appeared.
Liza was back with with the leather pouch of herbs. Losing her jovial smile,
Artemis dug through the pouch for a moment, coming up with two small packets of
herbs. Handing one to Liza, she directed:
"Boil this in a cup of water, and let it cool until it has a faint greenish
Liza nodded and took the packet, hurrying to the kitchen to get it done. Mia
exited as the girl entered. She carried a large bowl of cool water and had half
a dozen strips of white cloth over her shoulder. Mia set the bowl near Artemis'
feet and stood back to wait for Artemis to need the cloth.
Dunking the second packet of herbs into the cool water, Artemis waited an
watched while a pale orange color seeped from the packet into the water. She
swirled it around until the color diffused through out the whole bowl. Looking
up, Artemis beckoned for one of the strips of cloth.
While she thoroughly wet the cloth, Sekhmet fidgeted and waited in tense
silence. His arms were numb from the sleeves of his tee-shirt to the tips of
his long fingers. He couldn't even feel Artemis begin to wrap the cloth around
his arm. Liza came back when Artemis had finished both arms with a small mug of
the herbal tea.
Artemis smiled and stood to allow Liza to take her place.
"Drink it Sekhmet," Artemis directed. "Then I suggest you go to your room."
Liza hesitated at the glance she recieved from Sekhmet. "What is it?" he
Artemis smiled, the gentle tone returning to her voice. "A mild sedative...
you need to sleep to regain your energies." She nodded to Liza.
Liza raised the cup to Sekhmet's lips and he drank the full amount quickly,
eyes raised over the rim to Liza's worried gaze. When he finished, Liza handed
the mug to Mia, and helped him stand. He carefully flexed his hands, feeling
the tendons pull slightly but not the sensation on the skin. Liza's arm slipped
around him and they ascended the stairs together.
"<Hyuck,>" the sound came from the mephit. "Now doesn't that just tweak my
heartstrings... IF I HAD ANY!!"
It thrashed and twisted in its bindings of heavy chain, chain that was left
over from pulling a treestump from the ground a few years ago. It laughed and
jeered at the people gathering around it.
Artemis ran a hand through her hair and approached it. Dais lowered his hand
slightly, lowering the mephit to eye level with the petite woman. The
Underrealmer's gaze was hard and cold as she confronted the mephit.
"Why are you here?"
"Why should I tell you? Huh?" the mephit cackled, writhing in its chains.
"Why should I even stay here when I could easily get out?"
"If you can get out so easily why don't you do that?" Artemis countered cooly.
The mephit paused. "Because I don't want to." it finally replied haughtily.
Cale chuckled.
"Hey, whatchu laughing at, scar-face?" the mephit twisted to see him. "I could
whoop you with one ear tied behind me back!!"
Cale rolled his eyes, chuckling even harder. He pushed the mephit causing it
to swing to and fro on the end of the chain by which Dais held it.
"Don't tempt me." Cale warned.
Swinging back and forth, the mephit's grayish skin took on a green tint. "Hey,
I get motion-sickness! Don't you have any respect for intelligent life?? Wait,
you can't 'cause you don't know intelligence when you see it!" The mephit found
itself extremely funny, bursting out cackling.
Cale wasn't the least bit amused. "Artemis?"
"I have control, Cale..." Artemis said, turning away from the mephit. She
retrieved the orange-tinted water. "Do you see this, mephit?" she asked.
"Yeah.... so it's diluted orange juice, what should I care?" it asked,
squirming uncomfortably.
"No... not orange juice... water... laced with a tiny bit of an anodyne...
pain-killer." Her smile changed to a grin as she observed the mephit's
It was a proven fact in the Underrealm, that a mephit imp lived with the utmost
excruciating pain in the world. Being made of the psuedo-elements of ice, lava,
steam, mist, smoke, or the element of fire, they mantained forced forms and
those forced forms were painful to keep. But if the pain of the form were not
present... each mephit would disintegrate into the component elements of its
The steam mephit visibly paled and trembled, taking upon itself its craven,
"yes-master" expression of fidelity.
"Now, let's try this again... why are you here?"