I’ve mentioned in a couple of my On Writing posts how in knowing my characters well enough, I can sometimes set them up in a scene and let them find their own way to comedy. This is one such “aside” flashback scene in Five Talents, wherein Lilith, during her tenure in Hell, finds herself on a blind date with Aba Don. There are some nifty references and nods I wove into this I had fun with:
BLIND DATES ARE AWKWARD EVERYWHERE
“You know that line Genghis has everyone’s always quoting? A man’s greatest pleasure is to defeat his enemies?” Aba pointed his thumb proudly at his chest with a smirk, “this guy.”
“Who is everyone exactly?”
“No, Khan. Genghis said that, well I said it originally, but now all the meat sacks attribute it to him,” Aba clarified before draining his grog and snapping his fingers impatiently for the Avarice imp waiter to refill it.
Lilith sighed and continued bobbing her crossed leg like a bored cat lolls its tail. “Yes, but who’s the everyone you said who quotes it.”
Aba looked confused for a moment as he recalled what he’d said, then snapped his finger before accepting the refilled mug. “The meat sacks. They wrote it down. In dozens of books,” he took a long drink, “hundreds maybe. They’ll be saying it for ages, and those are my words I gave him. He’s one of my wards you know.”
Lilith raised her eyebrows, “wow.”
“Yeah, tore a path through Asia. Glibhook said I couldn’t even get him through the southeast region, but nope, I took him all the way to the door of Western civilization,” Aba sneered smugly, “even a meat sack can be something with the right tutelage.”
Lilith pursed her lips and crossed her arms while her leg bobbing once more, looking around the room for the waiter with their food so she’d have something else to focus her attention on. “It’s quite the story.”
Aba froze and harrumphed mildly, “well, for a human, sure. Matter of scale though. Nothing compared to what I had to do down here.”
Lilith cocked an eyebrow, which Aba mistook for a prompt to elaborate, which in turn forced her to fight to restrain her sigh at his boasting, “thousands, millions of denizens in Hell after the fall. Lord Lucifer reeling from the debasement of his exile, at the mercy of the chaos of his followers. I set myself by his side and rend them all asunder. I tore through the chaos and darkness to make the first orders of the masses of brutes.”
“That was your first act as director?” Lilith asked wickedly, just as the food arrived. She looked fixedly at the tilapia to hide the mischievous glint in her eye at referencing his more modest title compared to the other heads of six orders who had been named Vice Presidents.
Aba cleared his throat, “Executive Director. It’s another line he took from me- Khan I mean: conquering is easy, getting off the horse to govern is difficult.”
“Right, that’s good. It’s nice of Lucifer to spare you the stress of a VP title,” Lilith said digging the knife in a bit deeper and then cutting into her tilapia.
Aba shook his head, “I’ve always been a boots on the ground sort,” he justified.
“Clearly. I mean, you were the one tearing everyone this way and that to make sense of the chaos in this pit ages ago. How did anyone forget?” She moaned appreciatively at the first bite of the fish, rolling her eyes in enjoyment. Lilith, at this point, had only made occasional visits to the underworld. Despite her distaste for the scenery she had to admit the food- especially the desserts- was incredible.
“Of course. They can’t possibly forget,” Aba asserted.
“Oh, they can forget,” Lilith corrected blithely while cutting again. “After all, it’s Genghis’ name in all those books, not Aba Don’s.”
Aba’s face was stone set and he glared at his food, all appetite washed from his pallet. “They don’t know what it was like, but I’ll show them again. The age is coming. We ascended from chaos, and we’re always just a few steps away.”
“So you think the universe tends towards entropy?” Lilith asked bemusedly helping herself to some asparagus and resolving to pass on anything else to drink that might lengthen dinner a minute longer than finishing the last of her meal.
“Not at all. You seem to think chaos is pit. Chaos isn’t a pit, it’s a ladder. Only the ladder matters. Climbing it is all there is,” Aba said stonily.
Lilith bobbed her fork at Aba again, “something tells me that someday that line’ll make it up there too and be attributed to another lucky ward of yours.”
To her credit, George R. R. Martin had been born earlier that same year, so whether it was an admirable guess or merely further jabbing, the timing of her remark was- as Lilith is prone to being- wonderfully astute.