"Really? Let's get you out then?" Jasfoup uttered a cantrip to unfasten the lock but it stayed firmly shut.
"You'll find all spell crafting is disabled." The merchant appeared behind the counter and pointed to a large crystal held by a complicated tripod of wires and brass rods. "I find a gem of nullification invaluable in deterring thieves."
"Hardly a thief, sir. This imp here is under contract."
"Happy to oblige. If you'll just fill in the new owner's I-sixty form you can take him away with you. That'll be Forty Cs, please."
"Forty contracts? For an imp? That's outrageous."
"He's a very special imp. Already trained, see. Eager to please, hard working, dedicated."
"I know. He's already under contract."
"I doubt that very much. I caught him fair and square."
The demon looked shifty. "Um. The plains of Eternal Sorrow?"
"Behind the gasworks."
"Ah, I know it. I had a friend there once."
"Viviene. She had an enormous pair of—"
"Hell hounds. Still does."
"Really? Good for her." They both fell silent, looking at the cage with Devious inside. "So can I take him?"
"I'll do him for thirty, but that's snapping my own tentacles."
"I could report you for illegal trapping." Jasfoup gave him an easy smile. "Look! There's an enforcer over there. Shall I give him a call?"
The demon rocked back on his haunches and crossed his pincers. "Go ahead. You can't prove anything. Who's to say I didn't catch him in one of the designated areas?"
Devious nodded sadly. He has a point, sir. it'd be my word against his and who takes the word of an imp over that of a demon? Even if it is only a level three."
The demon scowled. "Watch your lip, you."
"I agree, but think of the paperwork. Once I press a charge every imp in these cages will be seized as evidence and you'll have to prove your right to each of them in triplicate. The business will be closed down and you'll have to appear before the Infernal Court to have the matter cleared up." He clapped an arm over the merchant's spine ridge. "Did I mention I worked for Harold Waterman?"
"The nephilim mage?"
"Nah. Means nothing to me."
"Son of the Prince of Lies, High Judge of the Infernal Court? His Unholiness Himself?"
"Ah." The merchant shuffled his lower limbs, sending a small eddy of dust swirling into the shadows under the stall. "Fifteen Cs?"
"Ah." The demon shook his forward proboscis. "If all my customers were like you I'd be out of business."
"You'll add five onto every other imp and turn a profit in the hour."
"I will?" The merchant tapped his ovipositor thoughtfully. "Aye, I could at that. I could say it was a one day offer."
"Indeed." Jasfoup nodded to the cage. "If you could just open it up for me then."
"Yes, of course. Sorry."
Devious scurried onto Jasfoup's shoulder. "Thanks, sir."