The Deal

It was cold. Too cold.

Saoirse felt like she would turn into an icicle. The wind battered her relentlessly, forcing snow into every crease of her robes. She would be soaking wet, if she werenʼt so cold. She pulls her cloak tighter and presses on. The wind is her friend; even as it hampers her progress, it is protecting her from her pursuers.

She is on a mountain in the middle of a blizzard; she lost the cavalry when she began climbing, but there are no doubt scouts following her trail. She now knows of their betrayal, and must return to the Kingdom to report on her findings.

But first, she must lose her pursuers. Armed with only a blade, and carrying only basic supplies, climbing ever-higher in a blizzard is tantamount to suicide for most. But that is her only option.

Nobody would be able to follow her in this blizzard, and if they presume her to be dead, all the better. The snow conceals her tracks, and would slow down a group even further.

She just has to survive.

She nears an overhang, where she can take shelter from the snow. She fumbles with her pack, pulling out an orange glass vial. ‘Liquid fire’, as the alchemists call it. She throws it against the rock face, expecting it to shatter and bathe the area in warmth.

It sails straight through the wall, crashing on the other side.

An illusion?

What would someone hide up here?

Saoirse concentrates for a moment, feeling for the presence of any others, but there is nothing. The fire will evaporate quickly, so she hurries through the wall, revelling in its warmth while it lasts.

As the feeling returns to her hands, she looks around, attempting to gauge the purpose of the room.

There is dust along the floor, but no snow. A dwarven torch attached to the wall. How they are made is a secret known only to the dwarves, but they provide light indefinitely unless one attempts to remove them.

There is nothing else in the room, apart from a large, ornate mirror.

Saoirse walks over to the mirror and places a palm against the surface. Perhaps it is some kind of mageʼs doorway? No, her reflection shakes its head.

Saoirse gasps and steps back from the mirror. Her reflection does not mirror her actions; it looks at her with a bored expression and waves, then utters a wordless hello.

“What is the meaning of this?”, Saoirse asks her reflection. It rolls its eyes and beckons her closer, placing a hand against the glass of the mirror.

Not sure what to make of this, Saoirse does the same, placing her hand over the same spot. Immediately, she can feel the presence within. A burning, fell mind that seems to be inside the mirror. Where words fail, telepathy usually works. But this presence…

«What a pleasant surprise,» the entity thinks, «someone who can hear!»

«What is the meaning of this?», Saoirse responds.

«Oh, Iʼm just your average demon, sealed away in a mirror because I was too pretty or something.» The demon cocks an eye at her. «I canʼt do anything to you from in here, except look like you.»

«If you canʼt do anything, how did you know I was psychic?»

«I know everything you know. I have the body of whoever is reflected by the mirror, and your mind comes with your body.» The demon grins mischievously.

«Itʼs all part of my punishment, I suppose. I don't get to decide what I look like, and I can see everything about you but I canʼt reach out and touch you. Oh, I could have so much power over you, with access to your deepest secrets and desires. But you will always be just out of reach. Brilliant, really.» The demon chuckles sadly.

«Why are you being punished?»

«Oh, of course you ask that. You like helping people, donʼt you? Not even worried in the slightest that I might be an ancient terror?» The demon grins at Saoirse; although it has taken her form, the eyes are bright red and there are obvious fangs.

«There is a dwarven light, and dwarves cannot use magic. A powerful mage would have to have done this, and that would make for an interesting story.»

«Or perhaps one of my kind was jealous?» The demonʼs thoughts grow restless; it knows Saoirse cannot resist.

«How should I know? Iʼm asking you.» The demon blinks at this, and frowns slightly.

«I knew the truth, and that made me dangerous.» The demon grimaces, but continues. «I didnʼt want power. I wanted to live. I wanted to feel the sunlight.»

Saoirse is bombarded with images: a man running at her, sacrificing himself to allow his family to escape. Puzzled. Why would a human trade their life for another?

A year later. She returns to the village, hiding in the shadows and observing these humans. What are they doing? Why arenʼt they fighting? Why did that woman just give food to a child?

The demon had seen sharing. Cooperation. Foreign concepts to these nigh-immortal beings that spend all their time stealing the life force of mortals and competing amongst each other to amass the most power.

53 years later. The demon is talking with that same child, but he is an old man now. The demon is one of them, and they accept it.

From the outskirts of town, cries can be heard. The sky goes black. Fire. A clawed hand reaches for the demon. “You have strayed too far.”

The grief within the mirror overwhelms Saoirse for a moment. «I am so sorry…»

The fire has died, and it is getting cold again. Saoirse thinks for a moment.

«Yes, human. I can create fire. But not from in here.»

Saoirse eyes the mirror. «This is probably a bad idea, but how exactly are you inside the mirror?»

The demon laughs soundlessly. «You are really thinking about letting me out? I did not know you were insane.»

«Oh, I have no intention of simply setting you free. You are a demon, after all. But I will likely die if I leave you here.»

«My soul is bound to this mirror, so I exist within it. Souls are powerful things… not that you would know anything about that.» The demon pauses, eyes widening as it predicts her next question. «If you break the mirror, my spirit is not bound to anything else. I will cease to exist.»

Now it is Saoirseʼs turn to grin. She is familiar with this form of magic, having spent a month fascinated by the concept.

«So bind it to something else. You are a demon; you can make deals. Why not use your own soul?»

The demonʼs mind grows cold. It is scared now.

«Iʼm not a demon. I canʼt eat it, or whatever you do to them. Sell yourself to me. Give me your soul, that you cannot harm me and must obey me. A demonʼs pact is stronger than any binding, and once I die of old age, you will be free once more.»

The demon is astounded. «We are buyers, not sellers. But your offer is intriguing…»

The demonʼs mind is a whirlwind of emotions. It is thinking.

«If you take too long, Iʼll freeze to death and you will have lost your chance.» Saoirse smirks triumphantly.

«Very well, human. You have yourself a deal.»

The demon steps back, away from the glass and begins speaking. All Saoirse can see is the lips moving. A strange, violet substance begins bleeding out of the center of the mirror, crystallizing before falling to the ground.

Saoirse picks it up, and it appears to melt into her hand. At once, the demonʼs presence fills her mind once more. “Excellent,” she says aloud, “now letʼs see if I remember what that book said…”

Saoirse turns to the mirror. The demonʼs eyes grow wide as she draws her blade, smashing the mirror with the pommel. As the glass falls away, the demon appears behind Saoirse, standing exactly as it had in the reflection.

“Fascinating.” She turns to the demon once more.

The demon still has her appearance, apart from the red eyes and a spaded tail.

“You already know, but allow me to introduce myself. I am Saoirse.” She holds her hand out, and the demon shakes it, bemused. The demonʼs hand is extremely warm; almost painfully so. Perfect.

“I am also Saoirse,” the demon responds, “I have all your memories up until you stood in front of the mirror; we are one.”

“I can think of worse people to be,” Saoirse chuckles. “Now, about that fire…”