“Anyway,” she continued, “the trick is knowing the right sigil. The stronger the demon, the more complex and secret the design.” She flipped through the pages as she spoke. “Now we just have to figure out who you should summon.”
As she searched for a likely candidate, I wiped my damp palms on my jeans. Here’s the thing. While I felt comfortable with Giguhl now, the truth was our first meeting hadn’t gone well. Adam had summoned the demon to test me. And by test, I mean Giguhl staked me. I’d survived, but it was touch and go there for a few minutes.
“What if the demon I summon tries to kill me?” I knew I could survive a staking, but demons had other means of killing I had no idea how to defend against.
Rhea looked at me over the pages of the book. “That’s what the circle’s for. It binds the demon.” She looked at Giguhl. “You’re what? A seventh-level Mischief?”
Giguhl’s chest puffed out with indignation. “Fifth level.”
Rhea pursed her lips. “Hmm.” She finally stopped on a page and nodded. “Okay, let’s see how strong you are. The demon you’re going to summon is named Furfur.”
I laughed, suddenly relieved. “Furfur?” A demon with such a silly name couldn’t be so bad, I thought. Until I got a look at Giguhl’s face.
“Um, do you think that’s a good idea?” he said to Rhea, sounding uncharacteristically serious.
Rhea simply smiled. “It’ll be fine. I think. And if not, we’re all here to help.”
That didn’t sound good at all. “Wait. Why is Giguhl worried?”
Rhea opened her mouth to speak, but Giguhl beat her to it. “Furfur is a Count of Irkalla who rules twenty-six legions.”
Rhea waved a hand, shooing away Giguhl’s concern. “We’ll have to take a couple extra precautions, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Trust me.”
Call me crazy, but trust didn’t come so easily these days. “I don’t know, Rhea.”
“Look, all you have to do is cast a triangle inside the circle for extra protection.”
It’s not that I was scared, exactly. Surely Rhea wouldn’t have me summon a demon I couldn’t handle, or at least not one she couldn’t handle if shit went down. I looked at her now, and the challenge in her eyes and the smirk on her lips all but dared me to back down. To hell with that.
“Okay, fine. I’ll do it.”
Her smile widened. “Thatta girl.”
For the next few minutes she walked me through casting a circle in salt on the floor, followed by a smaller triangle inside. Then she made me trace Furfur’s sigil over and over on the page until I had it memorized. Unlike Giguhl’s, Furfur’s design was a irregular collection of shapes in an asymmetrical pattern. Once I felt I had a good grasp on how to draw it, Rhea stepped back and closed the book.
“Now picture the sigil in your mind when you evoke the demon. And whatever you do, don’t cross that line.” She pointed to the border of the circle. “Good luck.”
Rhea joined Giguhl and Damara several feet away. Giguhl sent me a halfhearted thumbs-up while Damara yawned and looked at her watch.
I swallowed and stepped up to the circle. A trickle of sweat rolled down my back and I rubbed my hands on my jeans. “Here goes nothing,” I muttered. I took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly. Closing my eyes, I focused on clearing my mind. Furfur’s sigil lit up in my mind, neon against a black background. I raised my right hand and let it hang there for a second. Then, releasing my breath, I traced the complex design in the air.
My stomach dipped. A split second later thunder boomed through the room. I jerked and my eyes flew open. In the center of the triangle, a roiling black cloud appeared. Instead of the brimstone odor that always accompanied Giguhl’s appearance, the room filled with the sharp scent of ozone.
I didn’t dare take my eyes from the cloud. My breath caught, as wind wiped through the circle, blowing away the cloud.
I’d never imagined what a half-man, half-stag would look like. Never occurred to me. But as I stood there looking at Furfur, I realized he was exactly that. Shrewd eyes stared out from a man’s face, and his upper body was covered with muscled bare flesh. But the antlers jutting from the sides of his head were so big I wondered how he held them up with his human neck. Four powerful flanks covered in fawn-colored fur made up the lower half of his body.
I stared in shock for a few moments, unsure what exactly I was supposed to do now.
“Well?” His voice was hoarse, like he’d smoked a dozen packs a day for a millennium.
“Um.” I wanted to look over my shoulder for guidance, but even I knew better than to turn my back on a demon. “Hi.”
A bolt of electricity zapped through the circle, crackling off the invisible barrier between us. I flinched and took a step back. He didn’t move. “I don’t have time for games. What is your bidding, mage?”
“Rhea?” I called over my shoulder.
“Little help here?”
“You’re doing great,” she said.
“Ask him a question about your future,” Giguhl said. “Furfur is required to tell the truth when bound by a triangle.” I heard a scuffle behind me. Then, “Ow, hey!”
“We’re conducting a lesson here, demon,” Rhea scolded. “If you’re going to give her the answers, you can leave.”
“Sorry,” Giguhl muttered.
This exchange made Furfur narrow his gaze at a spot behind me, which I assumed meant he’d finally noticed the audience. I figured having a Count of Irkalla pissed at him wouldn’t do Giguhl any favors, so I waved my hands. “Hey, Bambi. Over here.”
More lightning crackled through the circle, but Furfur transferred his attention toward me. “That’s better,” I said.
I rubbed my hands together. If this demon had to tell the truth about my future, then this was too good an opportunity to pass up. And I knew exactly what I was going to ask. “Okay, here’s my question. Do I have a destiny?”
Furfur tilted his head and pursed his lips. As soon as I’d asked the question, I regretted it. What if he told me Maisie was right about the prophecy? Was I ready to handle that kind of pressure? Finally, after what felt like forever, Furfur smiled. “The answer to your question is…” He paused for dramatic effect. I held my breath. Not a sound could be heard in the room. “Yes.”