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.