And so I am drawn into the room, and given a glass of... odd, I am not sure what it is. It has some alcoholic content, clearly, but it is not wine, nor any usual variant of spirits. I wonder... it is familiar to me, but I cannot name it, it tugs at some memory I have long ago hidden away. I shall not bother with it, a drink can do me no real harm - and though I have my quarrels with Philip, I do trust him where his arts are concerned. And I know he would do nothing to spoil Cerise, she has such promise, and is a far lovelier creature than the old man has welcomed into his home in years. Her laughter lets in a beam of sunlight to this dark and shrouded place, her fresh face recalls all the innocent splendor of youth to these motley souls, who have spent so long buried in their cultish studies. It has been some great time since they heard a child laugh, since they glimpsed frivolous joy. Ah, Cerise, do not go wholly from us! For we shall keep you young, we shall... oh I ought not deceive myself, I know she would soon grow old among us, for there is nothing within our midst that does not soon grow spoiled, with the darkness that seeps from us with every breath. And yet... and yet it would at least be a bittersweet aging, were she with us, and she would yet be beautiful, if melancholy. With such as these, she would only grow to be an old crone, and not think of her beauty until she was near death, when she would try in vain to conjure its return. With us, her beauty would be celebrated to its fullest before it fell away...
I am aware of how my mind wanders from its surroundings - but I have long since stopped keeping it from doing so. When one has been so long in this world, missing a minute or two of its follies hardly seems a concern. I still hear and recognize every word that is said, but really, it is so rarely anywhere near as interesting as my own thoughts and analyses.
When everyone has finished their drinks, Philip guides us all to sit at a round table in the center of the room. We do so, and Cerise finds her way back to my side - though on her other side is the old woman she has been talking with almost the entire night so far. Thus, she does not say anything to me, being still in conversation, but she smiles at me and slips her hand into mine, squeezing it briefly. She seems to be doing well, but I can sense the anxiety still in her, she is not yet entirely at ease. Although I suppose it is as much unease regarding the evening's activity as a social issue - she has not, so far as I know, witnessed any sort of summoning yet.
It is not always a pleasant sight, a summoning. The spirit is not always willing, and is rarely cooperative. They are so often confused, or enraged at some slight (either by those who have conjured it, or those it knew in life), and rarely speak the same language as the conjurer. For the one called is not always the one that comes, and oh, there are all sorts of details which can alter the outcome. We designed the art this way of a purpose - oh, what fun it was! To let them think they had it all figured out, only to find that there was suddenly another rule that ought to be followed, another symbol that needed drawn. Oh how Azal delighted in it all... really, did the silly creatures think we would so easily hand over such vast powers? As if we could trust mere mortals to understand the entirety of the spiritual planes, as if they could comprehend a single tiny portion of that immensity which cannot be divided into portions.
The very fact that they could not see what jests we made of them makes my case entirely for me.
But Philip has always been a very cautious practitioner - even now, as his guests chatter idly among themselves, he completes a chalk drawing on the floor. Oh but not mere chalk, he uses only the finest materials, the purest substances, for there is no end to his care in these matters. He is making the marks of what I think is a particularly strong barrier of protection - I never paid these things much mind, there was no need to, but I do recall some of the general ideas... and so as before, I study his markings carefully, and I am now quite certain there is no warding away of evil, only of strength. He does not mind if what he brings into the room is not of particularly moral character, he only ensures that he will be able to control it. And of this I approve.
I do wonder if... no, but there are no changes to be made in the preparations he makes, now that I am present. He does not know my origin - no human does, we learned the consequences of that mistake in short order. But I wonder if my presence will alter his spells? I do not know what changes have occurred in this most complex of arts since I stopped minding it... I would feel rather sorry to disappoint everyone so, if I should spoil it - oh but I cannot keep back a smile at the thought of Philip's face, were his attempts to fail! For in his great care, and vast knowledges, he has long since forgotten what it is like to be mistaken. I do think he could use a reminder every once in awhile.
But there, again my thoughts have filled all the empty spaces in the action around me - Philip has finished his preparations, and now sits among us. Conversation slowly drops off, though in a leisurely manner, for most of the group are elderly souls, and they have not the haste of youth, they have learned to hold every moment for all that it is worth.
What distasteful things mortals become when they grow old, I shall always prefer the company of the young. The old truly do fossilize, in all aspects of mind and body, and are entertaining only in brief encounters.
When all have quieted and look toward him for leadership, he recites some words of welcome, in a tone that makes it clear it is a ritualistic greeting. He looks around the company, meeting the eyes of each. "You are all aware of the solemnity of tonight's undertaking, and so I hardly need ask these things of you, but I will ask all the same, for no precaution is too great in such matters. You absolutely must control yourselves, no matter what may happen. Any sudden motion, any burst of passions, will disrupt all the forces tangling in the air, and the results will be entirely unpredictable - which is exactly the opposite of what must happen if the spirit called is in any way dangerous. And you must remember, that no matter what form, any and every spirit is dangerous, no matter how sweet it may appear. Even the devils may walk in the guise of angels - there is no end to their deceptions. Never put complete faith in anything said - or, especially, in anything implied - by a spirit being called under duress. You must remember that they are rarely willing to come into this world and converse with us, and so they are angry as often as they are bewildered. You must let me be the only one to speak aloud - I must use all my energy to focus, and it would also disorient the spirit more than it will already be."
He shifts his gaze to Cerise now, his eyes softening. "I promise, I have researched all of this with the greatest care - many of you helped in the effort, and for that, I give my unending gratitude. Unless something goes terribly, unbelievably wrong, all will be safe."
He rises slowly, and an old woman sitting across from him rises as well. They pass slowly around the room, lighting candles of many colors, in a ring just inside the ring drawn on the floor:
Candles of yellow, to aid in concentration and persuasion. Candles of red to wield strength and intense attractions - only a few of these, for Philip knows better than to trust himself entirely with what power he may obtain. Candles of magenta for energizing large amounts of power, candles of brown to provide a stable grounding and concentration. Candles of indigo, to increase spiritual abilities. Candles of black, to allow access to the further reaches of the spirit realm, and provide protection from physical harm. I chant their meanings to myself in almost childlike-rote, as one repeating a lesson. I believe such powers attributed to mere colors was Meres' idea, for there is a sort of beauty to the idea, a degree of romance to the thought that the purity of a hue grants it certain strengths.
Cerise turns to me, slipping her hand again into mine. She is lightly biting the inside of her lip, and her eyes are filled with a terrified excitement. I smile, feeling strangely avuncular about this whole situation, as if I were a father watching his daughter at her first day of schooling. I stroke her hand soothingly, and my gaze is reassuring. I must admit, I am as eager to see the effect all of this has on her as she is to see the thing itself done. I do hope it is an encouragement to her, I should hate to see such native talent wasted... but no, I am uncertain still. For if she chooses this path to follow, she should have to hide it from the world, which would lead her quite naturally to nestle in among us and those who reside around us, and while I think we should find her presence a lovely balm, she is too intelligent, and I fear she should learn too much. There is a keenness in her glance that is both promising and terrifying, though it is yet too clouded by innocence to concern us much. Indeed, I have heard no-one speak of it, so I may be the only one to have noticed.
Oh, but here, I have wandered into my thoughts again, and lost sight for a moment of the events around me. I really ought to discipline myself better than that, I wonder why I am so distracted in the midst of such novelty as this evening promises?
I must wonder, is it fear, am I hiding from what---
Oh certainly not, how ridiculous of me! Whatever do I have to fear - a mere waylaid spirit? Ha! I have subdued scores of them with a single word, I have nothing to fear of them. Indeed, I could master them still, though it has been long since I felt any interest in so doing.
Philip is calling upon lower-level ones now himself, though clearly not everyone is aware of the exact object of the foreign words he murmurs in a low voice. The words have changed in the course of long years, but there are some I yet recognize, or can place as familiar, though it is a language I have not spoken in a hundred years or more. The group seated at the table gradually adopt various attitudes of meditation: one with his palms flat on the wooden table and eyes closed, one tracing her fingertips fixedly along a grain in the wood. One hums in the faintest of voices, one crosses his eyes but folds his hands as if in devout prayer. Cerise glances about her, uncertain, but gradually lets close her wide violet eyes, and chants silently, her lips moving in slow steady curves, her breathing quiet and shallow.
I remain as I was before, quietly observing, thoughtful and amused. I do not doubt they shall conjure something, though I know not what... it has been some time since I had a direct contact with that realm, I wonder--- oh but of course I shall be known, how could I not be? I only hope the spirit is not foolish enough to say more of myself than I should like it to - but there, if it knows of me, it will know better than to cause me offense.
The words Philip speaks are changing now, shifting from a gentle chant to a lower, more forceful tone. The phrases are growing more intricate now, patterns within patterns of sounds and meaning, until even I am lost in the labyrinth of them. Philip's eyes are open, and he begins drawing sigils and symbols upon the table itself, every line perfectly controlled, his drawings sure and clearly much-practiced. His skill has grown far greater in the time since I last met him than I had expected, he is quiet fluent in the most intricate of drawings now. I peer at the growing lace of line and space, but the patterns have grown too complex in the long years, and I recognize only the barest outlines of pentagrams and circular devices. He places words, too, along certain of the lines, making more specific his calls, words in Greek and Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic, Egyptian and languages much, much older...
...I begin to feel dizzy, whatever was it he gave us to drink? But no, it is not that, it is his chant, his words have slipped into languages I...I do not remember, I... what is he asking? I feel trapped, I have a sudden panic to throw back my chair and run from this room, but my muscles will not answer my screams, I... I am tied within some web, and I cannot see my way out of it, I feel something pulled from me and woven into the stuffy fabrics around me, and I cannot keep the threads from flowing.....
- - -
Ah, the delights of this girl! I am almost sorry I stole her out from under Veri - or, rather, on top of Veri, to recall the situation properly. But he had hoarded such treasure long enough, what foolishness to say that he needed her! It will serve him a much-needed lesson, to live a night without her, he depends on her far too much, however skilled a masseuse she might be. I can scarcely believe how long she said Luce has had her - and to think we had never met her! He is quite cruel when he so desires. But ah, this girl! She has brought me such delight this evening, and continues to do so. I have stolen her away to one of my favorite rooms, one which I have had decorated to mirror one in my desert palace, swathed all in rich colors and coquettish gauzes, the air heavy with the spices of incense and rose and jasmine. The jasmine twines around every object it might, and rare orchids peek from unexpected corners. An immense pot of amaranth stands in one corner, its long trails of rich burgundy falling nearly to the floor, while thousands of rose petals cover all the floor in fragrant silk.
She lies naked beside me, her long and graceful fingers running wickedly over my skin, which has grown alert to the lightest of touches, such pleasure has it had. I shudder and lean up to kiss her, long and lingering, tangling my hand in her hair, which I have pulled free of its restraining pins and ties. It hangs so elegantly over her shoulders, its shimmering dark strands in lovely contrast to the paleness of her skin. Ah, she is beautiful! She could almost have been one of us, so lovely is she, and so self-possessed. "Ah, Sabine," I murmur softly, nibbling her exquisite jawline. "Every desire of mine you fulfill only makes me desirous of more..."
She makes some soft answer, but I do not hear her, for my heart suddenly gives way within me. I pause, confused - whatever has unsettled me? She has done nothing wrong. Unless that is it, and I am troubled by my - admittedly ridiculous - thought that she could be almost our equal. Oh that must have been it, but I see now how silly it was, I shall forget the very thought.
She is pushing me back into the deep mattress now, her mouth roaming hotly over my skin, and my body is rising to meet her advances. Ah, what a lovely creature! She seems aware of the response every inch of the body will give her, and knows how to play it to her best advantage.
But again - I am drawn away from her by a sickening sense of misgiving within me. Away... something is telling me to leave this place, to leave...
Oh if this is some petty trick of Veri's, I shall pay him back a hundredfold! What puerile simplicity if it is, he has no call to be so jealous, I want the girl only for the night! He is welcome to her after that, I was merely curious. She is skilled enough, of course, but I scarcely have Veri's obsessive need for her.
I gasp aloud, unable to hold my pretenses longer. There is pain... there is pain, for I do not leave, and something... something bids me to go. No! I will not! Veri you fool let me have my fun as you have yours, you have no right to deny me my pleasures!
The girl leans close, putting her arms around me. "Azal... are you alright? Is there something I can do, you are in pain?"
I struggle for breath, and shake my head. "No, no, there is nothing you can... I do not know, I--- oh!" I am pulled, I am pulled by some force I cannot see, and I struggle against it, I will not be so forced away from my desires! But oh, it feels as though it should tear my spirit clear out of this wretched body, oh that it would! Oh to fly free again, and--- ah, and to be away from such pain! This body has withstood the most wretched of agony, but this... this is different, this is an all-consuming forceful ache, a solid thing, a thing which will tear me in two without the slightest visible sign.
No, I will not go! I will do as I wish I will not go! I have made my life into a thing of my own decision, and I will continue to do so, I will listen to no-one! Who would dare bid me to obey their command, I, who defied God Himself! I, who chose to leave Heaven behind me, I who declared myself above God's commands!
The girl continues to hold me, to try to soothe my writhing body, but I will have none of it the wretched little mortal creature. Veri must have set her about some trick, she must have worked my muscles in some strange way which bids them to force their own way, this must be some conspiracy between them. But I will not go! Oh but I do not want the girl, either, she is an irritation now, I shove her aside and she falls from the bed, crying out in pain as she lands. I do not care, I have concerns of my own, this pain this pain how am I to be rid of it? I will not go!
Come to me... speak with me, and I shall allow you return in peace, I bid you no harm but you must come to me.
I do not hear the voice but I hear it all the same. The words... I recognize the words, my mouth wraps itself around the ancient sounds as I hear them. The muscles feel strained, awkward, it has been so long since they were used in such way, these words are so old...
I created these words.
I created these words when Man was a mere infant, I crafted these words in the dryness of the desert, in the wastelands outside of Eden.
There are none now living who know these words, the language has been dead a millennium and more, that--- I had to teach him, and that was nearly a thousand years ago in itself, his mouth could scarcely make the proper motions I--- there are none who knows this who speaks thus to me? Who commands me with such wretched strength, oh I will not go! I will not go to such a one, if it tears me in two to stay!
Come to me, I bid you no harm but you must come to me... I hold the power of your Name, and with that power, I bid you come to me.
My Name my Name my Name and those words I once created turned against me my Name! That is a power even we no longer hold, we... To hold a spirit's Name is to hold its very existence in your hand, he--- ah! Oh he holds it I know he must for I can feel the strength in his call, who bids me thus? Oh thou wretched thing let me go let me go! I will not be so commanded, I have denied all commandments and will take no more, I will not go do not hurt me more!
I hear the girl whisper my name, her voice gone from her in terror, but she does not matter that is not my name only the one I made and have used all this time, it is tired and had no power to begin with. My Name! I cry out with the rapture and the terror of hearing it again, he cannot know it he cannot I will not go he cannot Call me!
I call you, and you must answer my call. I hold the power of your Name, and with that power, I bid you come to me.
I bid you come to me, Semjâzâ.