His desk was dimly lit by a single candle flame, creating a small space of secrecy, only his eyes were capable of seeing. He preferred it to be darker; however, his eyesight was already too poor with his advancing age. He had been working feverishly for the past 36 hours deciphering the magical language, stopping only for a small meal and bathroom break, when necessary. His eyes were tired and heavy from the strain of reading and his hand began to cramp from the continuous writing. He had already been through 12 raven quills and 2 bottles of ink and still had so much more to go. Each new revelation spurred his effort to decipher each new page of the forgotten language. He was deep in the middle of thought when a knock at the door broke his concentration.
“Yes,” he replied.
“It’s me, Abaji. I’ve brought you something to eat.”
“For the last time, go away, I’m busy!” Zultar fussed.
“But Master, it’s been over 16 hours since you’ve last eaten.”
Zultar sat at his desk with a puzzled expression on his face. Has it been that long? “I’m not hungry!”
“Master, please eat something. It will heighten your awareness and speed up your progress,” said Abaji.
Zultar snapped his fingers, lifting the magical seal locking the door. Then he looked over at the door and commanded, “Kashja.” The door opened, as Abaji waited patiently for Zultar to invite him in. Zultar waved a hand over his desk, all the books and papers were no longer visible. “Come in, Abaji.”
“Thank you, Master.”
“Damn it boy, how many times have I told you not to call me ‘Master’?”
“I’m sorry Master,” replied Abaji.
“Are you daft, boy?”
Abaji stood staring at the wizard.
“Oh, for the love of the Seven Gods, put the food on the table over by my bed.”
“Yes, Master.” Abaji walked over to the table, sat the food down and lit the lantern sitting on the desk. He turned at looked over at Zultar. “Would you like me to get you anything else?”
“Yes! I’d like you to leave my room and not return until I’ve summoned you or the Three Kingdoms of Hell have frozen over!”
Abaji stood frozen, unable to move. Zultar had never spoken to him in that manner.
“For the love of Shrikia, Abaji, if you don’t leave my presence this very instant, I’ll turn you into a field mouse and feed you to my owl!”
Vlad was perched on his stand next to Zultar’s desk and let out a “hoo…hoo…”
“Yes Master, right away!” Abaji hurried out of the room, the door closing fast behind him on its own with a ‘thud,’ the magical seal locking the door in place.
Zultar stood up and stretched his body upright, his muscles tight from sitting stooped over his desk for the past several hours. He started walking over to his food when another knock came at the door. “What now, Abaji!’.
There wasn’t any answer.
A strange sensation came over Zultar as he stood staring at the door. He could feel a dark presence on the other side. Zultar quickly threw up another ward over the door, not even the Lord of the Underneath could get through his magical web.
In an instant, the door flew open! There was no one standing on the other side. The old wizard stood frozen.
A voice whispered only inches from the back of the wizard’s head, “Hello, Zultar.”
The candle and lantern’s flame both went out in a whoosh. The room went completely black…Zultar went dead silent.