Flash Friday 09/09/2016: Cult of Technicality
As one of the founding members of the cult, High Mage Sears had big plans. His companions respected that. They believed putting him on the forefront for hiring and training new recruits would be the most effective use of his skills. Sears agreed. He wish he didn’t
Cults don’t attract new members in droves; they often come in dribbles, often just the one, often just a few, always very stupid. Well, not always. Sometimes a well-meaning and efficient servant of the darkness will approach and prove themselves worthy. Most, however, were simply applying so they can see a demon, or read too many gothic novels, or saw it as a better alternative than a day job.
Sear’s three current students were not efficient servants in the least. But he always had to try them, just in case he was wrong. He never was, but just in case.
“Now then.” Sears gestured to the altar in front of him, the air thick with incense smoke. “Present to me the reagents needed to call upon Our Dark Lord, Nzeleth.”
The student standing between his companions looked at them, as if hoping they’d answer for him. When nobody said anything: “call upon who?”
“Nzeleth. The very reason I had you go get the reagents. Did you not read the tome as I instructed?”
“No, it’s sixty quid at the cultist student bookshop.”
“Well, find a preowned one on ebay after this, it’s very important. Regardless.” Sears picked up a sinister-looking knife from the altar. “First, present to me the animal sacrifice that you prepared.”
All three of the students perked up, keen to show the fruits of their efforts. One of them picked up a sack that was sitting on the floor, dug into it, then slapped a dead chicken onto the altar.
Sears peered at it. “It’s dead.”
“Yes,” a student said, nodding. “Sacrificed, see?”
“But I’m the one who’s supposed to sacrifice it. You’re supposed to give it to me still alive.”
“Oh. Well, next time, we’ll nail it. Save the farmer the mental scarring, at any rate.”
“Please do so. For now, please present to me the next offering; the flames of hellfire itself, contained within a suitable vessel.”
Once more, the students dug into the bag. One of them presented, then placed down, a chili pepper.
Sears looked at it with great disdain.
“It’s really hot,” one of the students said in defense. “Like, I gave it a lick and my tongue came out in blisters. If that’s not hellfire, then I don’t know what is, honestly.”
The other students nodded in agreement.
Sears’ face twitched in annoyance. “Very well,” he said, when everything was, in fact, not. “The first two reagents are shadowed by the third, most important offering; give me…the virgin.”
The first sign that something was very off was when the student’s eyes lit up and they dug, once more, into the sack. As if holding the holy grail, they proudly and enthusiastically presented their bottle of extra virgin olive oil.
“See?” one of the students said, tapping the word ‘extra’ on the bottle of oil. “It’s more virgin than you originally asked for, so it has to be better.”
The students gave each other high fives, then watched Sears as if awaiting the gratuitous amounts of praise they were about to receive. They didn’t get it.
Sears managed a heavy sigh. “I sent you,” he began, slowly, “on a mission to summon the avatar of the god of darkness who you’ll eventually serve for the rest of this life, and the entirety of the next. What I got were the perfect ingredients for a chicken stir fry.”
A shrug from one of the students. “So, what, does that mean we get a B?”
“What it means is that you three clearly don’t understand the kind of dark powers you’re utilising. Perhaps if you gazed upon the visage of our Dark Lord himself, you’ll be better equipped with the fear and respect that all acolytes should embrace. Behold!”
Other mortals had to give Nzeleth offerings in order to summon his avatar into the world. Sears, however, had given so much devotion to Nzeleth’s cause that simply slamming the end of his staff against the floor was enough to call him. Where Sears struck his staff on the floor, a black spot of darkness appeared and grew. Black tendrils creeped out of the spot, taking hold of the floor around it, before pulling up what looked like an octopus with eyes across its entire body and a mouth packed with teeth.
“My liege,” Sears said, bowing. He gestured to the three quaking students. “These acolytes failed miserably to entertain your demands. I request that you show them exactly who they are dealing with, so they do not fail you again.”
The eyes on Nzeleth closest to the altar swiveled to observe the offering. Then, in a deep voice that echoed around the room without moving his mouth, Nzeleth ‘said’, “your offering represents myself in no way whatsoever. This is an offense to me and everything I do. A dead chicken, some chili, and olive oil come together to make nothing of…”
The eyes peered at the offerings, as if realising something. Then, after a small period of thinking: “have you tried…adding cashew nuts?”
Sears blinked. “My liege, we are not in the process of making a chicken stir fry.”
“I can see that. You haven’t even got the noodles yet. Can’t do anything without noodles. Your Dark Lord Nzeleth demands egg-fried. They’re the best.”
“But these acolytes failed their exam of summoning you!”
“Oh, shut up. I’m sick to death of eating sacrifices. A bit of change once in a millennia won’t hurt, far less calories than virgins. Now, do you have the ceremonial wok on hand? Go fetch it.”
“Understood, my liege,” Sears said. At least leaving to get the wok meant he didn’t have to look at the smug faces of his acolytes.