Disclaimer:I do not own Xanth, Piers Anthony owns Xanth (I don't even own a single grain of magic dust)
The character Kassie belongs to me.
The meeting had begun with E(A/R)th accusing X(A/N)th of kidnapping lesser creatures from his own domain.
"That's ridiculous," X(A/N)th countered as he surveyed the large room which had been provided by S(A/T)(U/R)n for the occasion . The others were all present to witness the exchange, but had agreed not to interfere. "Kidnapping implies force. I have never forced any lesser creatures to enter my domain. Many of them come by accident, but most of them stay because they prefer it to the domain which they have left."
"Are you saying your realm is better than mine!" E(A/R)th said furiously.
"Not at all," (X(A/N)th replied "I am merely stating that lesser creatures, who enter my domain from your own, have in most instances found mine preferable.
"Then you would not refuse a challenge to prove this?" E(A/R)th inquired "If I win I will select those creatures which are mine and return them to my own realm. Furthermore, Once I have identified and removed all my creatures from your realm you will take steps that none others enter it, from any domain. And you will trade positions of status with me"
X(A/N)th knew exactly what E(A/R)th would do if he won; he would carry away every lesser creature, living or not living, from Xanth to Earth; where everything, except the full humans, would slowly die from the lack of magic - leaving X(A/N)th devoid of lesser creatures.
"If I refuse?" he asked.
"Then you will have proven your guilt." There was a murmur of agreement from the other Demons. E(A/R)th was been right, of course, a refusal of contest in the face of such an accusation would indeed look like an admission of guilt. X(A/N)th considered this for a fraction of a moment, (less in fact since the entire conversation had taken place in a fraction of moment), and then answered E(A/R)th.
"Agreed," he announced "If I win you will cease these petty accusations and revert to the status of below that of P(L/U)to." From the audience P(L/U)to nodded, at the time he was the least of the greater Demons.
Now it was E(A/R)th's turn to consider. At present he was third, just below J(U/P)(I/T)er. If he agreed to X(A/N)th's conditions and lost, he would slide down an entire seven status levels. But the thought of gaining X(A/N)th's number one spot was too much of a temptation for him. "Agreed," he announced.
"Challenge," X(A/N)th demanded.
"You claim these lesser creatures enter your realm of their own free will?"
"Or by accident," X(A/N)th had repeated "However, all who stay, do so of their own free will."
"'Who'?" E(R/T)th laughed "You think too highly of your lesser creatures. Perhaps you have been spending too much time in the company of that lesser female?"
"Chlorine," X(A/N)th answered "It is true that I place much more value in my creatures than any of the other Demons do in theirs. They have, after all, aided me in the winning of many contests."
"They are popular game pieces." E(A/R)th replied.
"Indeed" was all X(A/N) said but let the other Demon see his annoyance. His own lesser creatures had been used for contests in which he was not even a participant.
"Suppose this time we use one of my own?" E(A/R)th offered.
"Explain." X(A/N)th was suspicious.
"I have selected this game piece," in the palm of his hand E(A/R)th held the image of a female Mundane, named Kassie, who was not so young as to be considered a 'teen' but not yet into what lesser creatures referred to as 'middle age'. A further inspection revealed that she did not believe in magic or anything else which made up the fabric of X(A/N)th's realm. It seemed that most times she had trouble even believing in herself. "It is not much of a lesser creature," E(A/R)th had concluded.
"That is because she has been subjugated to your over controlling tendencies," X(A/N)th informed him "where she a Xanthian she would be more."
"You believe that you can increase it?"
"I know that I can."
"Very well. If you win I will give you this game piece, so that you may 'increase' it to your hearts desire."
"Agreed," X(A/N)th replied "If you win?"
"I will destroy it." E(A/R)th obviously did not have the kind of regard for his lesser creatures that X(A/N)th did for his.
"You will have one chance, and one chance only, to convince the game piece to enter your realm from mine, of it's own free will of course"
"You must convince the game piece to remain in your land for seven days, during which time it must not die or otherwise be permanently injured," E(A/R)th had continued. "At the end of those seven days, in the last hour before the contest ends, the game piece must express a desire to remain indefinitely in your realm."
"If I should refuse to keep the piece, thereby returning it to you?"
"I will destroy it, as it will be of no further use to me," E(A/R) said "But you will still have claimed the victory."
X(A/N)th agreed to this condition also "You will not interfere to prevent the piece from entering my realm."
"Agreed," X(A/N)th could tell that E(A/R)th was not happy about that condition, perhaps he had been planning to eliminate Kassie before she had a chance to reach the realm of X(A/N)th, thereby claiming the victory "You will also not interfere to prevent it from leaving your realm, or in any other manner."
X(A/N)th nodded "You will allow me to inform my lesser creatures of this challenge?"
"You will be allowed to inform one lesser being, other than the one with which you associate - as I know you will inform that one regardless. However neither of these lesser creatures will be allowed to inform any of your other lesser creatures, should they do so - you forfeit and I claim the victory. Furthermore you and the lesser creature with which you associate will remain in the Nameless Castle, where you live with her as Nimby. You may leave that castle if the game piece requests to stay in your realm during the last hour of the contest, but not before."
X(A/N)th looked at the other Demons "If the witnesses approve I will accept the challenge."
None of the other Demons objected so J(U/P)(I/T)er, who was acting as their spokes-entity stood up and announced "The challenge has been approved ."
Then V(E/N)us spoke. "The players should agree to observation, to ensure conditions are not compromised." She was always trying to catch X(A/N)th cheating
"Agreed," X(A/N)th said "Begin?"
"Begin" agreed E(A/R)th, and the Demons parted company until the outcome of the contest should be decided.
1.This had been the third chapter in the story, but I thought I should bring it forward. There will be other changes also