“No!” she moaned. “No, it can’t be. Not
like that. Not now, not after all I’ve suffered, all he’s
Medem stared at the fire. The flames crackled and hissed. Tears
came to her eyes. She trembled slightly. “There’s no
other way,” she muttered.
Medem closed her eyes again, and took a deep breath. She began to
relax. She took another breath. Then she had another vision of Retsamdros’
head on the pole, and this time a raven was picking his eyes out.
Medem shuddered, and began again. It took her some twenty breaths
this time to arrive at the fully relaxed state, but eventually she
was able to resume her trance.
She envisioned a circle of fire around her. The flames rose higher
and higher, and finally met above her, forming a dome of fire. Then
the flames subsided a bit, leaving behind a number of triangular
gaps. The remaining flames above her head formed the figure of a
five-pointed star, the points of which merged with the circle of
fire on the floor surrounding her.
“Jazeel, Jazeel, come to me now,” she intoned silently
in her mind. Suddenly, an enormous man materialized in the room.
His skin was red, as if he had lain too long in the sun, and his
eyes glowed red as well. He was young and strong, with rippling
muscles on his bare chest and arms. He was also hideously ugly,
with scars on his cheeks, and claws extending from the tips of his
fingers. He was naked, and his lower body was covered with bristly
Medem shuddered slightly at the sight of him, and the star of fire
above her began to flicker.
Jazeel opened his mouth, revealing menacing sharp yellow teeth.
The stench of his rotten breath filled the room. He laughed, a horrible,
mocking laugh. The star disappeared, and he reached out his clawed
hand toward Medem. She looked away from him, envisioning the star
within the circle, and it flared up again. Jazeel withdrew his outstretched
“Why have you summoned me, Medem of Harafet?” His voice
was deep and melodic, yet tinged with malice.
“Oh, powerful Jazeel, I call upon you to save from doom
The vision of Retsamdros’ head upon the pole in the plaza
flooded the mind of Medem.
“I see,” said Jazeel. “You wish me to alter his
“Yes,” said Medem. “He must not fail. He must
elude his enemies.”
“I do not work charms, my servant, only curses. That you should
Medem shuddered. “Yes, great Jazeel, I know that you normally
do not work charms. But the powerful Jazeel can work charms if he
likes, can he not?”
Jazeel laughed. “Yes, yes I can, if I wish. But the price
will be high.”
Medem nodded, and trembled slightly. “I will give you what
you demand,” she said, in a sad voice.
“Then it will be so,” he said, eyeing Medem curiously.
Medem saw an image of herself sitting on the lap of Jazeel, shackles
surrounding her neck and her wrists. Jazeel held the end of the
Medem shuddered. “Yes, I understand,” she said, tears
in her eyes. “It is as it must be.”
“Good,” he said. “I will work the charm for you,
my servant. Know you well, Medem of Harafet, that all men will meet
their doom eventually.”
“I know,” she said. “But will Retsamdros achieve
greatness before he meets his?”
Jazeel smiled, showing his fierce yellow teeth. “Fame and
renown and glory will all be his, know you that, but he will meet
his doom just the same. And know you well, that you, by invoking
me now to save him, sow the seeds for his doom later on.”
Medem swallowed. “Yes, I understand.”
“Good,” said Jazeel. “Now, for your doom.”
Suddenly, Medem gazed into the chamber of Queen Salira. The queen
shivered with fever, and coughed up blood. Then the queen’s
face became Medem’s, and around her neck hung a shiny black
pendant. It was the pendant with which Medem had poisoned the queen.
Medem shuddered, and then she was back in the circle of fire, sitting
before Jazeel. He stared at her for a moment, as if he were looking
through her, inside of her.
“Yes,” he said at last. “Yes, you do understand.”
Medem nodded slowly, as if the motion caused her excruciating pain.
“Good,” said Jazeel. “Then the terms are agreed?”
Medem hesitated a moment. She rubbed her left wrist with her right
hand, and then her right wrist with her left hand. Then she placed
both of her hands behind her neck and slowly slid them forward till
they met at the front of her throat. Jazeel watched her, smiling.
“Agreed,” said Medem at last, trembling slightly.
“Then it is done,” said Jazeel.
A huge fire engulfed the spot where Jazeel stood, obscuring his
image and dazzling Medem’s eyes. Then the flames disappeared,
and Jazeel was gone.
Medem looked up at the five pointed star of fire above her, and
the circle of fire on the floor around her. A single tear rolled
down her cheek. Then the fire disappeared. Suddenly, she felt cold
metal clamped around her wrists and her neck. She was shackled,
and the three chains disappeared into a wall of fire. She heard
the horrible voice of Jazeel laughing. Medem shuddered.
She felt herself falling from a great height, and then her body
jerked. She opened her eyes, and she was sitting in the chair before
the fire. Instinctively, she felt her wrists and her throat. They
were free, unencumbered by any iron shackles. But she could smell
in her room a faint odor of decay. She shuddered, and opened the