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How a Magician Makes Lemon Squares

It was a lazy Star­day af­ter­noon and I was in the mood for some of my grand­mother’s fa­mous lemon squares. It took a bit of ri­fling through the tat­tered parch­ments in my lab be­fore I could find the recipe, but soon enough I was on my way to de­li­cious bites of lemoney good­ness.

But a while later, as I was mix­ing some of the nec­es­sary in­gre­di­ents, a prob­lem emerged. No lemons! Shit. I looked out the steeple win­dow down at the or­chard look­ing for the lemon tree. I couldn’t find it no mat­ter how hard I looked. With a quick sprin­kle of some potash on a glass lens and the ut­ter­ance of some ar­cane syl­la­bles I per­formed a rit­ual of clair­voy­ance on my en­tire prop­erty for lemons. Zip. I must have used all of the lemons. Per­haps my ap­petite for my grand­mother’s temp­ta­tious lemon squares had been higher than I thought, as I knew my or­chard con­tained at least one or two small lemon trees. Had I been mak­ing the squares that often?

No mat­ter, I didn’t ded­i­cate my life to study­ing the ar­cane arts to let small in­con­ve­niences like this in­ter­rupt my life! I would not, like the av­er­age mor­tal, have to rush out of my manor, mid-​recipe, and visit the mar­ket to buy the miss­ing in­gre­di­ents. After as­cend­ing the req­ui­site spi­ral stair­case I was again flip­ping through old parch­ments and hand-​scrawled texts in my lab. Ad­mit­tedly, it took me hours to find the cor­rect spell – hours which could have eas­ily been spent buy­ing lemons at the mar­ket – but it was cold out­side my prop­erty and I at least saved my­self a ride through the snow.

The spell was found in a par­tic­u­larly old and faded an­cient text: the Ed­i­bles of Eden. After a few min­utes of study­ing the text I was con­fi­dent I could repli­cate the spell. An apple was the only reagent, and my or­chard was rife with ap­ples. I re­turned to my lab, apple in hand, and I spoke the magic syl­la­bles. The apple began to trans­form. But it did not turn into a lemon. It turned into a snake.

What? Had I mis­spoke the ar­cane syl­la­bles? My pro­nun­ci­a­tion was the clear­est in the land! Had I mis­read them? The text was par­tic­u­larly old, and the sym­bols worn. I quickly re­al­ized the prob­lem: the word I had read as “lemon” was, in fact, “demon”. This spell was de­signed to sum­mon a demon! Why would such an in­fer­nal spell be buried in such an in­no­cent text? (It was not until later that I would re­al­ize the book was ac­tu­ally ti­tled “En­e­mies of Eden”. I should prob­a­bly up­date some of my old, more faded texts.)

The ser­pent stretched its new mus­cles and spoke in a tired, im­pa­tient tone, “For what pur­pose have I been sum­moned?”

“Well, good fel­low, to be hon­est,” I replied, “I sum­moned you by ac­ci­dent. But per­haps you can help me now that you’re here, if it wouldn’t be too much trou­ble. I need a lemon. I don’t sup­pose you could con­jure one up for me and save me the ef­fort?”

The ser­pent was silent for a few sec­onds. I thought maybe it had gone dumb and I might have to de­stroy it and move on, but then it fi­nally replied in an angry hiss. “A lemon? You have sum­moned Satan, King of the In­fer­nal Kings and Prime Cor­rup­tor, to help with your pie recipe?”

“Lemon squares, ac­tu­ally,” I replied.

“I will de­stroy your body and feast on your soul! I will twist your flesh and your mind until you for­get who you are and know only pain! I will plunge your essence into the ter­rors of Hell and you will spend eter­nity ruing the oc­ca­sion on which you made the mor­tal mis­take of sum­mon­ing the Great De­stroyer to ask him for a measly, in­signif­i­cant lemon!”

I had lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence with de­monic magic, but from my ex­pe­ri­ence, these demons al­ways liked to talk a big game. “Yes, and don’t you think that re­gret would be all the more bit­ter if you first gave me a taste of hope? Maybe by cre­at­ing for me that very ob­ject which I wished for, and so mis­tak­enly tried to use you, the King of In­fer­nal Kings, to ob­tain?”

“Yes! I sup­pose that would make your suf­fer­ing all the more sweet! To give you what you want, only to take it away! Be­hold, human, a lemon!” And with that, the ser­pent con­jured a large, grapefruit-​sized lemon from thin air. My mouth wa­tered at the thought of my grand­mother’s lemon squares. Now only to deal with the King of Hell that I had sum­moned. “Why not give it a try, human?” The ser­pent’s con­stant dead ex­pres­sion re­mained still, but I could hear a grin in its speech. Was the lemon a trick? Was it poi­soned or some­thing? I had thought the ser­pent would just give me the lemon and then im­me­di­ately try to kill me. But ap­par­ently it wants me to try the lemon first.

With ex­treme hes­i­ta­tion, I cut the lemon open as the ser­pent watched in ex­cite­ment. No rind! If I made lemon squares out of this, the squares would lack that bit­ter tang of the lemon zest! The ser­pent laughed at my dis­ap­point­ment.

“What foul magic!” I ex­claimed with fac­ti­tious melo­drama. The ser­pent laughed again at my mis­for­tune. But, as a mas­ter of the ar­cane arts, I also had a few tricks up my sleeve. At a work­bench nearby I flipped through a few loose pages until I found a spell which looked use­ful: The Im­bue­ment of a Rind. The ser­pent would surely be dis­ap­pointed when I mag­i­cally gave the lemon a rind! Then the ser­pent would surely try to kill me with fire magic, and the glyphs of pro­tec­tion on my manor would ac­ti­vate and de­stroy the ser­pent, leav­ing me with my lemon.

I spoke the syl­la­bles, and the lemon did not gain a rind. In­stead, the work­shop was filled with high-​pitched scream­ing. My ears started to ring, and I looked around for the source of the shrill whin­ing.

“My in­sides! My juices are spilling out!” The lemon screamed in agony. “Why have I been born into such a pained ex­is­tence? Why would you cre­ate me so? Why would you cut me in half and then imbue me with a mind? Truly, you are a ter­ri­ble cre­ator!”

The devil-​serpent laughed at me. “Oh, human! Your aw­ful­ness nearly ri­vals my own! Such a piti­ful crea­ture you have cre­ated.”

Whoops. I im­bued the lemon with a mind. I guess that would make sense. Why would there be a spell for im­bu­ing a lemon with a rind? Seems aw­fully spe­cific. It ap­peared to me like a prob­lem that a lit­tle magic could fix, how­ever. I took a glass orb from a box of ar­ti­facts on a shelf nearby, and cast it into the ground. This Gem of Body Swap­ping would switch Satan into the body of the lemon, where his in­fer­nal magic would be nat­u­rally in­hib­ited by the cit­ric acid, and the poor lemon into Satan’s old body where it could at least live out its life as a snake.

I was right about the des­ti­na­tion of Satan, and he im­me­di­ately re­leased his tether to this realm and re­turned to the Nine Hells. As for the lemon, it ac­tu­ally took up res­i­dence in my body, where it im­me­di­ately fell cata­tonic. I was also switched bod­ies – into the ser­pent! I for­got that, un­like the In­can­ta­tion of Body Swap­ping, which doesn’t af­fect the caster, the Gem, as an ar­ti­fact, doesn’t have a caster and so af­fects every­one within range. It was no big deal (at least I didn’t end up in the lemon); I’ve been in worse sit­u­a­tions be­fore.

The lemon re­mained mo­tion­less in my body. It did not know how to ex­er­cise con­trol over my body’s mus­cles, and it would be a long time be­fore it learned how. As a ser­pent, I knew my eye­sight wouldn’t be good enough to read through my spell­books to find a so­lu­tion to this prob­lem, as they were hard enough to read as a human, so I had to rely on power words and ar­ti­facts. The only power words I knew were KILL and MAIM, nei­ther of which would be use­ful here. So I started slith­er­ing across the ta­bles and shelves of my work­shop, look­ing for some­thing to rem­edy my si­ta­tion.

In total I found three ar­ti­facts which looked promis­ing, the first being Cos­mic Cloth, which could be used to wipe the mind-​imbuement spell from my body and ren­der it empty and ready for me to in­habit it. The prob­lem with this is that, with­out a mind, my body would quickly sus­pend its au­to­matic ac­tiv­i­ties like breath­ing and die.

The sec­ond ar­ti­fact was the pair of Pur­ple Cuffs, which would make my body into a copy of the being I was cuffed to. Then I would just kill the lemon’s body and the prob­lem would be solved. But my vi­sion as a ser­pent was sub-​par to say the least, and I wasn’t sure if these were ac­tu­ally the Pur­ple Cuffs or the Vi­o­let Cuffs, and if they were the Vi­o­let Cuffs, our bod­ies and minds would be merged into one ser­pent­folk. Not ideal.

The third ar­ti­fact was an­other Gem of Body Swap­ping. I hate using con­sum­able ar­ti­facts be­cause then I have to re­place them at the cost of time and gold, but it couldn’t be helped. I knocked the gem to the ground of my work­shop with my tail, and it shat­tered, re­leas­ing its mag­i­cal en­ergy.

The Gem did place the lemon into the body of the snake, in which it mostly re­mained cata­tonic aside from a few ran­dom mus­cle con­trac­tions. Being a snake is hard for a lemon. But I didn’t end up in my body. In­stead, I could see my body from above. Did I die? Is this some kind of pre-​death out-​of-body ex­pe­ri­ence? I watched as my body im­me­di­ately stood up and started clum­sily jump­ing and try­ing to grab the ever­glow can­dles in the chan­de­lier. This was hard for me to see, as my eye­sight was even worse than when I was in the ser­pent. It was a few mo­ments later that I re­al­ized what had hap­pened: ap­par­ently a moth had flown into the room be­fore I broke the sec­ond Gem.

At least with my new pair of dusty wings I could sim­ply reach the Feather of Time Re­ver­sal I had stored on a high shelf. An­other ex­pen­sive and con­sum­able ar­ti­fact. At least it would re­store the two Gems which I broke. I fo­cused my mind on the time I would re­turn to – not right be­fore sum­mon­ing Satan, but rather three days prior, to a mo­ment right after I had taken a batch of lovely lemon squares out of the oven – and dropped the feather.

And, I’ll be damned, those lemon squares were even bet­ter the sec­ond time around.