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Deal 1177: Lamp rubbing

“New lamps for old” was the cry heard around the neighborhood.

It was easy to dismiss as just an attempt by a merchant’s brat to gain entry to our household for nefarious purposes. But we also had a number of old lamps gathering dust and tarnish. We could let the worst of those go in exchange for something new. Let him have all the joy he can find in polishing up the odd bits of junk.

But first, we must make sure we aren’t giving away something more valuable than it appears.

Our oldest and dirtiest lamp was duly sent for, and proved to be even worse than I remembered. It had been neglected in an unused storage room, and developed a considerable patina of corrosion, tarnish, cobwebs, and soot.

A few minutes later, the youth was ushered into the room. His eyes scanned the shelves and tables, and fairly lit up when he saw the lamp sitting in a pool of its own dust on my table. At that point, I was sure there was something specific he was looking for, and that we had missed.

While he watched in horrified fascination, I had my butler polish the lamp, and stand by to fill and light the lamp after.

On the third rub, smoke billowed from the lamp and filled the room. A voice rang out: “Who dares disturb the sleep of the Djinn of the Lamp? Step forth and suffer the consequences.”

Moving in a rare example of unchoreographed grace, my entire household staff took a step backwards, leaving the butler standing alone and holding the lamp and a very dirty rag in his hands.

The Djinn faced the butler and glared. The butler quaked but stood his ground.

A moment later, the smoke was clearing, the butler had vanished, and the lamp fell to the ground.

Broken free of his shock, the youth fled screaming into the night.

Neither the youth nor the butler were heard from again. I had the lamp returned to storage, this time to sit on a note that warned of further handling.

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Deal 1173: River of keys

The keys clicked constantly in the background, blending together to sound a little like the surf or a waterfall. Consistent white noise, almost hypnotic.

In the foreground, other things were happening. Some true, some not so true.

But always overlaid on the constant flow of keystrokes.

Fate brought us to this point. But fate can only go so far without overtly meddling. And fate never, despite all the rumors, never meddles. Meddling directly would be too clumsy. Fate prefers the elegant solutions, where a gentle nudge to a player’s destiny is all that is required. A gentle tug on their strings. Then let the players work it all out for themselves.

This may not be so simple.

Characters lay dying.

The keys continued to tap away, as story wrote over story and worlds collide.

Something pushed each one past their breaking point.

And their authors seemed unable to stop, pouring the words out in torrents, as if writing it all down was the only way to find out what would happen.