I knew where I’d find Nybbas. Not only was he predictable, but I also checked in on him periodically with my shadows, just to make sure he wasn’t doing anything too far out of line. I liked a good spot of mischief myself, but he could sometimes go a bit overboard. Like I said, I much prefer subtly to confrontation, and if he ended up getting caught, I would be his first call. I didn’t relish explaining to the human authorities why an imp was lighting people’s coattails on fire.
Crouching behind a bush, I did something I never thought I’d do: curse myself for not being nicer. I never expected it to be an inconvenience, but, as it turned out, calling in favors is a lot easier when people actually owe you favors. And, well, people owing favors is rather dependent on how much you’ve done for them, if anything. In my case, it was usually nothing.
And that was how I found myself with no one to turn to but Nybbas, the ridiculous little imp currently hiding behind one of the bars of the metal park bench on which a smoker sat. He grinned mischievously and snapped his fingers, and the man’s cigarette went up in flames, singing his eyebrows off and eliciting a girlish shriek. As the man danced around, trying to get as far away from the burning cigarette as he could, Nybbas laughed silently, uncontrollably. He didn’t even notice the shadows wrapping around his limbs until it was too late.
With a cartoonish look of surprise, Nybbas’s large green-gold eyes went wide and snapped to me before he tried to scream. The shadows stopped him. I stood up from my crouch, turning to walk into a more secluded part of the park, Nybbas trailing helplessly behind me. Once we were out of view, I let him go. Mostly. Enough to speak, anyway.
“Let me ouuuuut,” he whined, his meager muscles straining at his bonds, stretching beneath his greenish skin. “Let me go, Baxel.”
“Hello, Nybbas,” I said passively, leaning casually against a tree and crossing my feet at the ankle.
“That’s not my name,” Nybbas replied, his voice high and squeaky.
I scowled. “Oh, right. What did you change it to, again? Nabbers?”
“That’s not my name anymore either,” Nybbas replied, pouting. He gave up on trying to escape my bonds.
“Then what is it this time?”
I cracked a smile, shaking my head almost fondly. Nybbas was always a trip. “Ok, Ted. Whatever you say.”
Nybbas tried to glare at me, but it didn’t really work. He was about two feet tall and currently well restrained by my shadows; he wasn’t exactly the most intimidating of creatures. Plus, I knew him and his kind. I knew just how to manipulate them.
“I’m sorry for the bonds,” I said. “I just wanted to make sure you didn’t run off before we got a chance to talk and catch up. After all, you’re my friend right?” He perked up at the word. “You won’t run off if I let you free?”
“No, no, no,” Nybbas said quickly. “We’re friends.”
“Right,” I said, and let the shadows dissolve to reveal Nybbas’s wiry, tiny body. He shook out his hands, his long fingers wiggling in their freedom. “So, how have you been?”
Nybbas’s face fell. “Lonely,” he replied, his voice dropping to a more despondent tone. “No one wants to be friends with me. But now you’re here! You’re my friend, right, Baxel?”
“Right,” I said again, smiling. Imps were always searching for friendship and attention. How they thought that would come about by playing horrible tricks on people, I had no idea. Really, no wonder they couldn’t keep a friend for more than five minutes; most people were out of there the first time they turned around to find half of their pants ripped away or their tie set on fire. “So you’ve been being good? I don’t want to hear you got into gambling with those goblins again.”
“Oh, no, Ted’s done with the goblins, yes, sir,” Nybbas said. “Thank you again for rescuing me, I’m eternally grateful.”
I smiled again. “You know, on the subject of gratefulness and friends… How would you like to make another friend? One who’ll stick with you no matter what kind of tricks you pull on him?” I asked.
Nybbas’s eyes grew even wider than I thought possible. “You mean like a best friend? One who won’t abandon me?”
“That’s exactly what I mean,” I replied.
“But, Baxel, you’re my best friend.”
I squatted down, patting Nybbas softly on the shoulder. “That’s true, but I’d be willing to surrender my position as your best friend to this guy. After all, didn’t you always want a human friend?”
“A human best friend?” Nybbas echoed in awe. “What…? How…?”
This was almost too easy. I nodded. “I promise he’ll love you if you just do one thing for him. One thing for me.”
“What is it?” Nybbas asked.
“Well, you see, this horrible person has kidnapped him, and I can save him if I just figure out where he is,” I explained. “And I know how popular you are and how much the other imps like you, and I was hoping you could spread the word. See if anyone has seen anything or knows where he might be. He’s a teenage human, dressed in dark clothes, dark hair. His kidnapper would be an angel named Sirio - white suit, annoyingly handsome, a face like mine. If you find him, he’ll be eternally grateful.”
Nybbas was already nodding. “Yes! Yes, I can do that! I’ll find him, Baxel, I promise. I’ll find him and we’ll be best friends, and-“ the rest was nonsense. Nybbas was babbling in his excitement, and the fact that he was bouncing up and down on his large flat feet wasn’t helping his clarity of speech.
I stood from my crouch. “Good. Thank you so much, Ted; I knew I could count on you. Here’s where I’m staying,” I said, handing him an address. “If you find anything, let me know right away, alright?”
“Of course, of course!” Nybbas replied. “I’ll start looking right this second!”
He meant it, too. In the time it took me to blink, he was gone.