Legal-Mancer at Last
warlock / ˈwɔː.lɒk / (n) 1: a wizard specializing in summoning 2: a wizard apt to getting fucked over
It's too warm for midnight. Shikya tugged at the neck of her robes and tapped one of its buttons with a dollop of mana to activate its cooling enchantment. I'm in the basement. At midnight. Every environmental control spell in the world. Still too hot. She knew the summoning chamber was not to blame; nor the weather and enchantments. No, I'm just a mess of frayed nerves... but no better time than the present… Well, probably a lot of other times would be better. Her spellbook floated in front of her, suspended with an aeromancy cantrip and opened to the page of the chant. Illusory pages of notes hovered quietly beside it. Shikya hopped up and down anxiously, unsuccessfully willing her body to settle, before once more tracing the circles of runes.
The copper strips inlaid in the stone floor appeared as they always had: dull, orange-brown, and accurate. Medias, Master of Magic and accomplished warlock, had examined them. Sheyla, dual-attuned genius extraordinaire, had double-checked. '...and Shikya, lost ayleth crying for her master, poked at them with apprehension...' She finished scanning the final ring enclosing an empty, six-foot diameter where the imp would appear. Don't need this much space, but I didn't design the damn room. Lowers the mana concentration anyway. Better for summoning lower-class demons. Satisfied with the runes and yet not, she raised her timelet and gave it a shake.
"11:49...," she grumbled exasperatedly. Fuck...
Shikya spent the last eleven minutes of her time as fledgling wizard re-reading the summoning chant, mouthing the syllables with care. Gods-damned five-minute spell... It's a miracle anyone summons anything. What am I even doing here... She forced her thoughts on existential philosophy aside as midnight neared.
"Aen Ahylun..." Her mouth formed the words and her voice carried them, but the phrase had no effect. Well, if Rundic doesn’t help now, what good is it. Wish there was a god of 'hot and sweaty and about to get dead-y.' There likely was one among the many gods of the Xanthun elves' Turbulence, but Shikya did not know it. Her mind paced fervently. 'Nothing keeps you awake at night like thoughts of demons.’ Classic adage; perfect platitude.
A soft 'ping' issued from her timelet and she raised her hands above the apex of the outermost circle, identified by a triangular formation. Her mana flowed from her core out towards her hands, coalescing at the fingertips and center of her palm. Medias and Sheyla both told her the mana in summoning spells would be different, but a corner of her mind still 'ooo'-ed and 'ahh'-ed at the viscous, dripping power from her fingers, reaching down to the runes. The moment her mana first touched them, Shikya began the chant, carefully avoiding any verbal stumbles.
As her tongue lashed out the harsh syllables of a demonic summoning, the circle flared to life, glowing a light blue contrasting with the dull stone and copper. As expected, an inaudible thump rolled over her as the chamber's magic sealed her, and any potential demon, inside; a safety measure. Despite the anxiety, once she started, Shikya fell into action and carried the arcane words easily.
Her eyes occasionally darted to the floating book at her side to ensure every letter and inflection was correct, but she had made no mistakes. Shikya's internal scholar noted with interest how different ritual casting felt from other spells. There was more time to experience the raw potential, and danger, of magic. It was almost thrilling were not it terrifying. The mana continued to ooze out of her fingertips and activated the runes in sequence, completing the first ring. One down, three to go... She breathed deeply during the moment's respite between rings.
The next globule of mana began the second circle, which Shikya was more confident about. The outermost ring included contractual details to translate between demonic and Rundic. It manifested as an innate understanding of the opposite language and functioned to a surprising degree. Taking effect immediately, the embedded knowledge afforded her a better grasp on the next phrases and before long the runes flashed with completion. Two.
Shikya expelled more 'purple goop of potency,' as she now called it, into the apex, beginning the third ring. This one contained further details on the limits of the contract; all unique to the situation and caster. Not all summonings had this section. As Medias would say, ‘not all warlocks take the right precautions.’ Words tumbled hurriedly out of her mouth to capture all the specifics in the requisite time. With practiced precision, Shikya finished a hair's breadth before the blue flash sealed the ring.
Now to get the demon. The final circle opened a portal to the Realms and latched onto the target, forcefully pulling them into Turan. A torrent of black-purple tendrils extended from her hands into the apex, pumping mana into it with abandon. Violet energy arced into the center of the summoning chamber, cracking a seam in the air, as if it were a sheet of glass. Shikya began the final phrases of the verbal component, shaping the crack into a rough oval. Shards of magical power dissipated from the rift into nothingness as it reshaped and ignited into white-blue fire, encompassing the void left by the shattered pane of air.
With finality, Shikya slammed her hands together and channeled the greatest amount of mana yet into them, forming a sphere covering her hands. With the last two words, 'Daemon Impus,' a ghastly hand shot out into the portal, seeking an unwitting and unlucky imp to drag back into the circle. Shikya dropped her hands and breathed in relief. Thank the gods... Just have to wait. She flicked her wrist. 12:05. Practice to permanent, permanent to perfection, I guess.
Shikya waited. And she waited some more. She could feel the spell working; a soft drain on her mana reserves as it sought its objective. A few minutes passed before Shikya flipped through her book to the section on ritual timelines. Every wizard's spellbook was unique. Each spell required customization to fit the wizard's mana and reach its full potential. There exists a common language for each discipline of magic and therefore a fireball spell, for example, was similar to another's, but not quite the same. The closest thing to a universal spellbook was The Arcane and You: An Introduction to Modifying Core Arcana for the Purposes of Spellcasting. It was a terrible name for a terribly useful book, containing deep commentary on Arcana, the collection of magical languages, and how different personalities and 'colors' of mana would affect incantations.
Shikya's spellbook, her third one, was meticulously organized and tabulated. Her first remained in her room at the bottom of a trunk; a haphazard affair crammed with the raw text of everything she heard in her first month of study. The second completely rewrote the first into chapters, which afforded her some ability to finish her first-year thesis. The current book cost almost an entire semester's stipend. She hired a transformative transmutation expert to incorporate cantrips to copy text, add blank sections, insert margins, create endnotes which hovered in space, illusory pages of additional thoughts, and so forth.
Suffice to say, Shikya had notes. She found the relevant page and puzzled over the situation. The average summoning captured its target in under a minute with the upper limit being around three. A quick glance to her wrist confirmed the time as 12:10. Well, shit. This can't be anything good. With a huff, she smacked her spellbook closed and focused on her connection to the spell. It's still working, but it-
A shooting pain ran down her hands and to her heart. Collapsing to her knees and clutching her chest, Shikya wouldn't have been surprised if her arms turned blistered and raw. As quickly as it started, it ended. The fuck was that?! None of this was suppos- She felt the seeking spell evaporate. Did it work or has something else gone to shit? With an unusual showing of grit, Shikya pushed herself to her feet and ignored the bile rising in her throat, eyes fixed on the rift in space.
Moments later, a blue-skinned foot extended through and rested softly on the ground, finding purchase. The rest of the figure stepped through the portal. It was a woman with pale blue skin, complete with horns curved back and to the side of her head, harsh nails concealing claws, a set of wings wide enough to press against the barrier, and a swishing, spaded tail. She was clothed in black leather pants and a tight, black silk shirt that left her stomach bare. Several pieces of silver jewelry and piercings adorned her, complementing her skin. Her eyes glowed a supernatural violet and glared at Shikya with cool confidence.
Shikya performed quick mental arithmetic, wrapped her mind around the implications, examined the possible alternatives, and formulated conclusions regarding both the short- and long-term impact to her life to arrive at a formal assessment: Fuck.
The being in front of her was a succubus. As promised by the account within Introduction to Demons and Summonings, she had a flawless figure and, as an azure succubus, a surprisingly calm demeanor for a demon. All the better to murder me in my sleep with. A shitty summoning. What a way to die… Among contracted demons, succubi boasted the highest fatality rate and the azure breed the pinnacle. They were especially gifted at worming through loopholes in contracts. Shikya's mind paced, trying to find some way, any way, to establish an advantage.
"Well... if it isn't the young warlock Shikya...," she cooed sultrily.
Shikya's eyes snapped wide and her stomach fell further to the floor and perhaps past it. How the fuck does she know my name?! Names had power. Not the kind commoners attributed to them, but power nonetheless. Wizards couldn't use names to control thoughts. They couldn't force people to act against their will. Hexes didn’t need them any more than a fireball required flint and stone.
Names let wizards aim. Picking the right target out of a fight was easier. Summoning the right demon became a simple exercise. Scrying spells were more successful and less mana-intensive. Wait, can demons scry us? Is that how she knows? However she discovered it, Shikya felt lost and flat-footed. Regardless, she forced herself to recall her training, put on a stoic face, and think. Confidence and calm. Act like this was somehow, against all ends, expected. What would I have asked if it had been an imp?
"Name yourself. Why are you here?" Her voice faltered, betraying concern. Good job, Shikya. Start with the tough questions. Next, I'll ask about the weather in the Realms to make sure she understands who's in whose circle. She scolded her inner monologue for its quips and mentally checked the strength of the barrier and her remaining mana to sustain it. I have plenty enough time for her to claw my eyes out. Lovely.
The demon lifted one leg up and then the other, crossing them in mid-air as she hovered, leaning back as though lounging on a summer's day. A rakish smile answered, "I am Velzix, fledgling. A lord among demons if you must know. But you care little for our squabbles; just as I care so very little for yours." Velzix eyed the young elf lazily, somehow looking down on her though she was level with Shikya. "I think we are both aware you were expecting an imp. No need to pretend."
Shit. Well... it’s to be expected. It's probably all her fault. The succubus' tail swished back and forth beneath, waiting for a response. What a conniving, miserable… an-and… sadistic… Adjectives failed her as quiet, pouting rage ebbed and flowed. The soft drain of the circle reminded Shikya she had no time to dawdle.
"So be it. I assume you're responsible for that?" A shrug and a slight nod. "Then I suspect you wanted to be summoned?" A firmer nod, but with a smirk. "Why? WHY?!" Shikya let her frustration get the better of her. Why me... I can't handle this crap... After taking a moment to breathe, she steeled herself and stared down the demon, who observed her with mild interest.
"Who can say... Maybe I like causing you damnable warlocks trouble. Maybe I plan on making a kingdom for myself on this side because I have grown bored with mine." Velzix idly examined her fingernails, preening casually. "Or… something else entirely..." She flexed her hand, extending her claws; examining those in turn. "Regardless, you are going to do as I say; an obedient servant." A lascivious smile flashed across her face, and she re-assessed. "More like a pet; an ayleth as you call them."
Shikya shuddered, bristling at the thought. Another part of her mind thought, 'No, no, no. This is like a reverse contract! We can negotiate for better terms. Limit yourself to just three hours of humiliation per day. Four would cut into your time cutting the skin off grapes for her. They would get in her teeth after all.' Despite internal monologues and discomfort, Velzix reminded her of Sheyla: the cool, quiet conviction of someone who knew themselves wholly.
"I... I am not yours to command!" Shikya lashed out with a hefty portion of her remaining mana, creating a bolt of energy to force Velzix back through the portal. The inky darkness sped towards Velzix, who had dropped to the ground and planted her feet solidly. Shikya watched in abject horror as Velzix caught the spell with her hands, stumbling backward only briefly, and crushed it out of existence. The demon had used magic to stop the bolt, but Shikya couldn’t recognize the design of the counterspell. Well done, Shikya. Weaken the barrier and contract for your own ego. Velzix stretched her hands and shook them haughtily.
"Not a bad idea, but not good enough." With a hand on her hip and the other flipping a stray tuft of hair behind her horn, she boasted, "You will need a lot more mana to kick me out... and I do not think you have enough. A foolish move. You would not last long in open combat."
Shikya gnashed her teeth, feeling the insult cut at her as Velzix chuckled and grinned at her misfortune. A tear eeked out from her left eye. WHY?! Why did this have to happen?! What gods hate me so fucking much?! Her mind tumbled through the mistakes in her life, adding them together like a maths problem. Did I really deserve this? To die? Did I do so many things wrong in life?
"Would you stop daydreaming or moping or whatever the hell it is you are doing?!" Jolted from her reverie, Shikya looked back to an annoyed Velzix. In a huff, the succubus crossed her arms. "I am still in your damn circle; at least for now. Are we going to negotiate or stand here waiting for your mana to run dry?"
Shikya blinked, put off guard by the sudden change in tone. "Uh... um…" Failure, but still a master of verbal wit, aren't I? Facing down certain doom with stutters. Wait, negotiate? Why would she negotiate? "Why would you... You're not going to kill me...?"
Velzix sighed, showing less consternation than before. "Do you think I would go to this trouble if I was going to murder you where you stand? Put your head to work." She leaned against the barrier, ignoring the crackling force pushing back at her. "I know your contract. You want me to sign the proverbial papers?"
Furrowing her brow, Shikya asked, "Why would I want a succubus for a demon? I-I'm not... not looking... I don't want to... I wanted an imp as an assistant. I didn't-"
The demon laughed at her attempt to avoid the obvious. "You mean you are not some horny warlock looking for a good lay? Of course not. If you were, I would kill you. Much too boring."
"Then why make a contract? The portal's right there. Go back home!"
"No," Velzix stated with finality. "And if we do not have an agreement, then I will wait for this barrier to drop and..." She let her voice trail off.
"...and then you'll kill me? Might as well do it now instead of later." Shikya sighed at her own weakness.
"No. I will kill your friends." Shikya looked at her in stunned silence. "I do not want to, but I will if I have to." Velzix did not look overly pleased to say it, but wore an expression of determination.
Shikya's shoulders slumped and her heart thumped in her ears. Her mind adopted the tone of an omniscient narrator, 'Shikya bent to the will of the god of fate, hurling herself into the yawning void of madness and into the clenched first of what-the-fuck-am-I-doing...' The soft pulse of the spell drawing energy from her pulled at her focus. I don’t have enough time… She sighed.
"So be it. If you know the contract stipulations, then accept them."
Velzix nodded, nonplussed by the limits. "Quite, though I think you will find succubi more difficult to control than an imp." She quirked her eyebrows and winked at Shikya. "I have been in far worse situations. Besides, you are Turanic. Whatever rules you have, you will die quickly enough." The knowing smirk returned. "I can always wait..."
She's not wrong... Demons lived for centuries if not millennia, such as in the case of succubi. It was not uncommon for longer-lived examples to have several masters over their life. It seemed one could not truly kill a demon in Turan and not for lack of trying on the part of warlocks and scholars. Death would dismiss them to the Realms; ready to be recalled by their master, or the next once more. That's it! I can make the contract, dismiss her, and dissolve it! Problem solved!
Shikya smiled momentarily as she clothed her hand in mana, preparing to finalize the contract by touching it to the apex of the circle. The smile did not go unnoticed.
"Thinking of dissolving the contract after you make it? You humanoids are so easy to read." Shikya stopped, already crouching and halfway to the runes. "You could... There is no way for me to stop you..." Both of them narrowed their eyes. "But I will be waiting around the corner the next time you attempt a summoning..."
"Then I won't summon a demon."
"Oh? Just going to drop your discipline on a whim? No consequences for that? Nobody counting on you? Hoping you will graduate...? Even then, no other warlocks here at the Academy to summon demons? Maybe I will sneak into their summoning and resolve a newly found grudge…" The succubus clearly enjoyed taunting Shikya and knew she had her cornered. If the questions didn't make it obvious, the smirk did.
Shikya winced and cursed, "Shit..." She wracked her brain to find another way out. Well, if that's the way it's going to be... "Can you... ... How..." Shikya faltered in her words.
"Can I what?"
"How good at transformation are you?” She cast an uncertain look at the demon.
Velzix scrutinized her, showing actual interest. “I have honed my crafts over more than a dozen centuries. I should think my abilities sufficient.”
Shikya resigned herself to losing her dignity. “Then can you glamour yourself so you... don't, you know... look like that...?" Flushed, she glared at the ground. Gods, as if I didn't have enough problems. Please don't make this one... "Everyone expects an imp... and no one will believe me..."
Velzix burst out laughing. Recovering herself much later than Shikya appreciated, she exclaimed, "Oh my god, you fucking prudes. Who gives a shit if you summon a succubus." Still chuckling, she continued, "You know what, if it makes you feel better, fine. I can do that." She held up a finger, pointed to Shikya, and winked again. "Remember... you asked me to."
Sighing, and continually losing what little was left of her mana, Shikya slammed her hand the rest of the way onto the circle's apex. All four circles flashed purple and the quiet thump of a properly cast spell washed over them as the barrier evaporated and the portal simmered away. Shikya half-expected to die in a moment, but neither of them moved except for the incessant swish of Velzix's tail. Guess that makes me a warlock... with a bundle of bodacious trouble.
After she was confident Velzix wouldn't eviscerate her on the spot, Shikya stood; exhausted. I spent too much trying to banish her. At least with the contract I can dismiss her without much effort. Before she could entertain this thought for much longer, Velzix strode over to her, too close for comfort. Way too close. She leaned back, feeling small as the succubus scrutinized her face.
"You are an interesting specimen. Unusual to see a female or an elf warlock, never mind one so... demure." Her scent assaulted Shikya's senses, who realized it carried a light hex to dull the mind. Reflexively, she redirected mana to block the effect. The corner of the succubus’ lip turned up a smidge. "Clever. I think we are going to have a lot of fun..."
Crap. This is already going so well. Might as well lay on the table to be carved. Most dim-witted thing I've ever done. Shit... why did I do this... Shikya shook her head and shoved Velzix back, who merely grinned at the reaction. "Could you just... not?!"
"Ooooo... does the youngling not like that...?"
"No, 'the youngling' doesn't," Shikya huffed and then remembered something. "Fuck... Medias wanted me to meet him after the ritual..."
Velzix raised an eyebrow. "So? Let us go meet this 'Medias' then. He your boyfriend?" A seductive lip emphasized her thinking.
Shikya could tell this would be excruciating and emphatically wanted to die inside. However, projecting confidence in the face of adversity is what the situation calls for. Steeling herself, she narrowed her eyes at Velzix with a stony expression, betraying nothing beneath the calculating façade. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!! I'm so gods-damned fucked!
The succubus held up her hands in mock apology. "Okay, fine." Beginning a chant Shikya recognized as transformation, Velzix's body distorted and contracted into a third its size. A second reshaped her form into a grotesque imp; complete with elongated fingers, feet, and nose. The last part of the spell darkened her hair to a deep red, shaded her skin to a coarse black, and bulged her eyes as they turned yellow and black. Finished, Velzix hovered in the air, flapping her smaller wings.
Shikya stared slack-jawed. Though she had asked for precisely this, it was no less impressive to watch organic transformation on a sentient being. The realignment of organs alone would require years of practice. The thought reminded her of something. She’s practiced magic for at least a hundred times longer than me. Literally. There was no question who would win should it come to a fight.
"Better?" the ‘imp’ asked in a gruff voice. Winged imps were the highest class of imp and were a useful choice for a beginning warlock. Medias would be pleased. Assuming the transformation holds up to scrutiny...
"Depends on you, Velzix.” Once again trying to apply summoning techniques to her confidence and garner some respect, she asked facetiously, “How skilled are you? Medias is a Master and likely to use aether sight."
Velzix flopped a hand up and down dismissively, still adjusting to the body. "Do not insult me." She put a ghastly hand to her scrawny chest in offense. "I have been casting illusions for a millenium. Some old codger from a backwater institution like this will not see through my glamours. And, please, call me Vel in this form; Velzix does not feel right for an imp." She flew through the exit to the chamber and landed on the arm of an aether-lamp outside.
"Fine..." Quietly, Shikya bemoaned, "And should you see fit to end my life, do it quickly; before I have a chance to fuck something else up..." She took a deep breath and followed Velzix out.
'And so Shikya strode towards the gaping abyss before her, heaving with the depths of depravity and lunacy, fully cognizant of how monumentally fucked she was for listening to the voice of the omniscient narrator...'