Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned

Finish the Story: Deal?


Join in for a lighthearted, no-pressure writing prompt. Leave your perfectionist at the door and follow a dangling story thread to see where it leads you.

I always post my story doodle in the comments, and I’d absolutely love to see yours as well if you feel comfortable sharing it!

“Deal?” he said, extending his hand toward me. I hesitated then reached out. Frank thought he had the upper hand, and in a sense he did. What he didn’t know was that …


  • “Deal?” he said, extending his hand toward me. I hesitated then reached out. Frank thought he had the upper hand, and in a sense he did. What he didn’t know was that I’d already sold my soul to two other demons before I met him.

    Until I fulfilled the terms of my first contract, technically the soul was still mine.

    So I figured what the hell? (Literally)

    They could argue over who was the ultimate owner of my soul after I was done with it.

    The first demon was Felusadora, summoned by moonlight at a crossroads with the blood of an innocent. Not mine, though I realize now I probably qualified at the time.

    In exchange for my soul, I recieved a velvet purse that never ran out of coins.

    They say money doesn’t solve all of your problems but by god it solves a lot of them. Whoever came up with that phrase never raised a little sister on the streets.

    Guthren, the second demon, I summoned with books and black candles and a carefully drawn pentagram.

    From him, I got a vial of perfume that no man (or woman) could resist.

    It worked. I tested it out not on myself but on Velvet, a street whore who didn’t deserve the cards she’d been dealt. She had always been good to me and Mina, and now she was married to a sweet young duke with a fondness for stray dogs and lost causes.

    Frank, lucky demon number 3, was my last mark. I was fresh out of the blood of an innocent, and that pentacle spell would only summon Guthren, so I was forced to get creative. Augury was messy work, but I was prepared for that. It was good practice, anyway. The entrails of a black-boned chicken led me to an Eastern medicine shop in a shadowed alleyway.

    It smelled of spices I didn’t recognize, and the young woman behind the counter spoke a language I knew very little of.

    I did know one word, however. “Oni,” I said, and placed a stack of gold coins on the counter in front of her.

    She looked at me with growing astonishment as I doubled, then tripled the stack.

    A man walked out from the back room and began haggling.

    He thought it was too dangerous.

    I didn’t care.

    In the end, it only took five stacks of demon gold to get an aged rice paper scroll that led me to the incongruously named Frank.

    From him, I received only one thing.

    A compass that always pointed to the man who took my Mina from me.

    My contracts would all come due the moment I killed him, but I was in no rush.

  • “Deal?” he said, extending his hand toward me. I hesitated then reached out. Frank thought he had the upper hand, and in a sense he did. What he didn’t know was that there was always more than one side to a story, and he had no idea what I’d been through to get to this point.

    How little the thought of casually giving it all away seemed to me.

    “Deal,” I said. I reached forward slowly, letting my hesitance show in my actions. Even though his outward appearance showed bored indifference, I knew Frank well enough to know that he was gloating inside at the thought of getting access to my sister and the rest of my house through my carelessness.

    “Well?: He asked as my movements slowed to a stop. “What’s the holdup? Do we have a deal or not?”

    “There was just one thing I had questions about,” I asked.

    “You’ve read over the conditions of the deal already,” he said, exasperated. “You’ve had all week to go over the formwork, and I know that your house has an executor on staff. I’m sure you’ve made him go over everything as well.”

    “Of course,” I said, not having to act offended that he would think otherwise. The Dal’Evar house was the third most powerful house in the city. “But I just wanted to hear it in your own words.”

    “Fine,” Frank sighed. He acted bored, as if this was all just part of the process, but I could see the first slivers of worry rising up through his facade of indifference. “You’re having trouble summoning the higher magicks and keeping them under control long enough to pass the final test of the Arcanum. I’m offering you a way around that.”

    “By cheating,” I said, letting worry and trepidation show through in my voice.

    “Cheating’s a strong word,” he hedged. I knew his type. Knew that he was the kind of guy to prey on people in their moment of need, approaching as a friend, but exploiting his ‘victims’ for as much as he could talk them into parting with.

    People like him made me sick.

    “It’s not like you’d be doing something that the entire school doesn’t already know about,” he said. “Whether or not it’s really openly known to you juniors, it’s something just about everyone does.”

    “Really?” I asked, not having to feign my skepticism.

    “Absolutely,” he nodded. “It’s pretty common to get a powerful patron as a sponsor for the final test. The faculty knows about it, but they’ll turn a blind eye to it.”

    And they would, of course. I’d be hard pressed to list something more corrupt than the staff of the Arcanum. But what Frank was trying to dupe a gullible little junior about was that it really mattered who the sponsor was.

    They might be willing to look the other way if the sponsor was a high ranking member of the mage’s council, or the leading member of a powerful house. In the event that my ‘sponsor’ was just another student? Albeit, a powerful one? I’d be caught and expelled.

    Not that Frank would care. I knew how snakes like him worked. Once he got his fee, he’d turn his back on his victim and look for the next gullible idiot to turn to him for help.

    Only fools and the desperate made deals with Frank Abernathy.

    Lucky for me, I was neither.

    “I guess that sounds like a pretty square deal,” I said slowly, reaching out and taking his hand.

    His wolfish smile spread as the rippling blue glow of a Contract being bound flared to life along our entwined hands.

    “I’ll be expecting your first payment of soma on the first of the month,” he was saying as the blue glow slid up to our wrists. “I know that you juniors always worry about paying off soma debts, but soulstuff grows back over time, so you have nothing to wor…”

    He trailed off as the blue glow took on a sick greenish tinge and flared into an angry red glare.

    I couldn’t keep my satisfaction in anymore and let my own grin spread wide across my face.

    “What the…?”

    “That’s odd, don’t you think, Frank?” I asked, my voice dripping with mock concern. “It’s a bit troubling. It’s almost as if I-”

    “You already have another sponsor?!” He managed with a strangled gasp as the thorny rippling feedback from a Contract on already promised soma ripped into his spirit.

    “Who dares?” A hissing voice asked. Void energy pulsed out from me in a rippling wave as Kyrenmoss manifested a fraction of his power into our world.

    “An underlord?” Frank whispered. “How did you?” His gaze narrowed in suspicion as the better question occurred to him. “Why would you do this?”

    Underlords were notoriously fickle, but they were known for two things. Their unending hunger for soma, and their indifference as to who initiated the encroachment on soma they were owed. Only that it was happening.

    “Karen,” I said quietly. “The Arcanum was everything to her, and you made her a deal, didn’t you?”

    “I don’t know any Karen,” he said, his voice rote, a lie often practiced.

    “Sure you do,” I said as Kyrenmoss moved in, looming over Frank in a predatory manner. His appendages reached out, latching onto Frank’s soma and pulling, punishment enacted for a perceived slight. “Pretty girl, a bit mousey and quiet. But she wanted so badly to please her parents. To prove that she wasn’t a failure.”

    A slow sigh escaped me as I thought back to the girl I’d once been so close to.

    “She killed herself, you know,” I continued conversationally. “The stress of bringing that kind of shame to her family after everything they’d given up to get her into the Arcanum…it was too much for her.”

    “I’ll see you dead for this,” Frank managed to hiss as a sharp cry of pain escaped him.

    “I doubt it,” I said as Kyrenmoss began to howl with glee, an unseely hunger being sated as he drank deeply of Frank’s soma. “By the time Kyrenmoss is done with you, I doubt you’ll be able to retain your spot in the college, let alone at the Arcanum.”

    I looked at him and couldn’t find a shred of pity in my soul as he twisted and flailed in the underlord’s care.

    It had been written in Karen’s last letter to me. A line that had echoed in her mind after she’d been kicked out. A line that haunted her and had eventually driven her to take her own life.

    A line spoken to her by the one who’d gotten her caught.

    “Honestly, you have only yourself to blame. It’s the real world out there so consider this your first lesson.”

    Frank screamed and I watched, feeling a part of me inside grow hard and cold, knowing that this would change me forevermore.

    It was worth it.

Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned