“You have no idea what you’ve got there, do you old one?”

Whelk looked behind himself, and saw what he had previously dismissed as a trick of shadow–the Zaar, the very same one that had nicked Jennie’s pendant in the first place.

“You dare speak to me thus in my own shop?” snarled Whelk. “I’ve a mind to banish you from that husk and contain you in a jewel of my choosing to sell to a couple of fat American will o’ wisp tourists.”

“Ah, but how can you cast the spell if you’ve forgotten the words?” the Zaar laughed.

Whelk defiantly moved his lips with the incantation he knew well, one which he used to banish pesky hobgoblins and pixies on a weekly basis, trapping their tiny souls in geegaws he sold for a quid apiece. But no sound came–the Zaar had stolen the very words from him.

“Is it any wonder that my master would send a Zaar to collect this trinket?” The Zaar leered, cackling with glee–an effect all the more unsettling to see on the serious and bespectacled waxwork face of Eamon de Valera. “You think it a shiny bauble, a thing to be bartered and sold, but I know its true potential. And I mean to have it.”

“You are no ordinary Zaar,” Whelk choked.

“Oh, figured that all out by yourself did you? Was it the glasses? Or the suit and tie? Or the fact that I can banish your feeble incantations with just a passing thought?” The Zaar licked its lips hungrily, a gesture that could have had no meaning in its waxy form other than intimidation. “Give me the bauble, now, old one, and I’ll let you off after having a bit of fun. You might even live! The scars might not be noticeable after a few years, and the limp might fix itself!”

“You don’t scare me,” Whelk said.

“Nor should I,” laughed the Zaar. “I should terrify you, old one! The very thought that I might make you my business ought to have you squealing for your life like a veal calf before the slaughter! I am like the last page of a good book, because we both spell the end for you.”

Whelk was not a fool, but he did not suffer intrusions in his affairs lightly. “You waste your words on one who has shrugged off better intimidation before breakfast,” he sneered. “Begone, ordinary or not, or I’ll find a way of dealing with you that requires no words.”

“But what fun is there in the world without words?” Eamon de Valera’s waxy features drew closer, his marble-eyes wide and malignant. “How else might I tell you of the very special doom I have set out for you like a sumptuous banquet?”

The sword-stick Whelk had hidden in a corner for intruders flashed through the dusty air. He had taken it from a seraphim on credit for a loan never repaid, and it ought to have rent the wax asunder easily with the keen meteoric iron edge alone, notwithstanding the many powerful enchantments thereon.

The Zaar grinned, even though its head was now on the floor. Picking it up and setting it back, the wax melted together seamlessly. “You expect a simple trick like that to banish me, old one?” The laughter grew in intensity, in pitch, becoming a monstrous parody of an insane cackle.

Whelk’s eyes widened.

“A snack, really, an appetizer for the birthing cry of a new god. The death of rationality and order! The howling of madness from the rooftops! Laughter everywhere at the black joke that is life!”

The old one’s soul was as dust upon the Zaar’s howling wind.

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