Innu wasn’t hard to sneak by. He took forever to go to sleep, but once he had, he didn’t stir. Cyril crept over to Innu’s pack and dug around until he found the demonology book. Innu had explained that he used the book as a reference, since demons were dangerous and it was good to stay knowledgeable about them. When Cyril asked him whether there were summoning spells in there, Innu had changed the subject.
By the dying firelight, Cyril flipped through the book until he found the part on summonings. There wasn’t a page, but the entire last half of the book was about summoning demons, with the name of a summonable demon on each page along with its information, rank, and the ingredients and circle configuration required to summon them. Apparently, necromancers couldn’t just summon “a demon”: they had to summon each one specifically.
Cyril flipped through the demon profiles, looking for a standard one that wouldn’t be too hard for a first try. Some of them looked truly terrifying, putting the demon in the cave to shame. Some looked like animals, most looked like an unearthly combination of a human, an animal, and the surreal imagination of an artist. Horns in places there shouldn’t be horns, teeth galore, limbs bending the wrong way, faces that Cyril hoped wouldn’t haunt him in his sleep.
He reached a page with the drawing of a young girl with a couple sets of small horns around her head like a crown. She wore a well-tailored robe with bangles on her ankles. She looked angry, but Cyril figured most demons were angry, especially the ones that had been summoned enough to end up in this book. That couldn’t be much of a life.
Next to her was written the number “14;” Cyril had no idea what that meant. Maybe it was her strength as compared to other demons, but on what scale? Cyril couldn’t find the scale. Well, fourteen wasn’t a very large number. Maybe it was on a scale of fifty or one hundred. He could handle her. Plus, the ingredients required to summon her were all things he had, which is more than he could say for some of the others.
Cyril gathered the ingredients—powdered monkshood, salt, lichen, dried sage, rosemary incense—Innu’s summoning circle board, a candle, and the demonology book and trekked up a hill that was far enough that he wouldn’t wake Innu but close enough that he wouldn’t get lost.
Cyril spread the board on the uneven grass and examined the book by candlelight. If Innu had been teaching Cyril anything at all, he would have been able to draw the intricate design of the circle with ease. But sadly, Innu hadn’t taught Cyril anything substantial since they had left on their senseless trek, so Cyril had to grind the sage between two rocks, mix it into the monkshood, and hope that the powder and what he was drawing would work.
It took an age to draw the circle and when Cyril had finally finished, he sat back on his knees and wiped the hair out of his face in triumph, leaving a black smear on his forehead. He lit the incense and set it in the center of the circle, propped up by a rock because he didn’t have a stand for it. Then he stepped back and drew a circle of salt around himself, the candle and the book.
Cyril’s heart began to race and a smile spread across his face. He was finally doing it. He felt the potential energy in the air, hanging, holding its breath, waiting for his command. He thought of his parents, the people in his kingdom, and how horrified they would all be if they saw what he was doing, if they saw how powerful he was.
A surge of intention snapped like lightning in his brain. For the first time in his entire life, he felt…right. This felt right, as though he had finally come home, as though he had finally discovered who he was. And it was someone fearsome, someone powerful. Not insane or feeble, not someone to be pitied. It was someone different and gloriously powerful.
With another surge of joy, Cyril held up the demonology book and found the incantation. It wasn’t written in a language he understood, but in a scrawling font, someone had helpfully written the Highlandic translation beside the original text; Cyril wasn’t great at the Highlandic dialect, but he could read it well enough.
He began to read, quiet at first, but then louder, eagerness pulling him along until he couldn’t read quickly enough to keep up with his desire. As he read, the symbols he had drawn on the board were starting to glow like a warming iron, first indistinguishable, but then so bright and red that it lit up the hill.
Where it used to curl up into the sky, the smoke from the incense was suddenly pulled downward into the center of the circle, where it disappeared unnaturally through the wood.
Something was pulling on Cyril’s chest; something was taking his energy.
The feeling of eagerness gave way to panic as the energy continued to drain out of him, as the red circle grew hotter. What if it didn’t stop?
Cyril stopped speaking and shut the book suddenly. The draining didn’t stop and Cyril could see a girl’s head with six tiny horns coming up through the circle like a swimmer from the water. She rose until she stood fully on top of the circle.
She had looked much less frightening in the book. The demon, Magnustl according to the book, stared at him with sparkling, completely black eyes. Not even fish had eyes this black. She stared him down, swaying in agitation, wanting to go forward but being unsure of whether she could.
Cyril hardly let himself breathe; he was afraid to move.
Magnustl cocked her head further than was natural, as though she had only learned human gestures out of a book. “I’ve never been summoned by you,” she said in a high-pitched, vibrating sort of voice.
Cyril swallowed. He had no idea what to do next. He really just wanted her to go away. He had summoned her. That was enough. He didn’t actually want to keep a demon because, really, where would he keep it? And Innu would kill him if he found out.
“I am your master,” Cyril said, trying to sound authoritative despite how he felt. “And I demand you stop siphoning my energy.”
Magnustl turned her head the other way, a smile of needle teeth growing on her face. “You are a necromancer of some sort,” she said slowly, starting to look delighted, “but it is clear to me you don’t know what you’re doing.”
“I know what I’m doing—“
Magnustl giggled in another poor rendition of a human expression and slid one bangled foot out of her circle, then her leg, then her face, and finally, she stepped with her other foot and she was completely out of her circle.
Cyril’s mind was blank with fear. He didn’t even know where to start with figuring out how to fix this. All he could think, over and over, was what a mistake he had just made.
Magnustl stepped forward but was stopped by the barrier of salt. She looked down, mildly disappointed.
“You know enough to salt yourself,” she said, “but that won’t keep me out forever.” She kicked some of the outer salt away with her foot. Then some more. All Cyril could do was watch in horror, because leaving the circle would mean instant death.
A/N: Demonological rank is actually on a 20 point scale, so Magnustl isn’t the worst Cyril could have summoned, but she’s up there. Definitely not something he should have tried on his first time. Beginning necromancers start with level 1 demons, which are actually only part-demon spirits, summonable but benign and honestly, not too bright or useful. Think rabbit.
And Cyril, Innu is within yelling distance. Just an FYI.