“I’m not sure what’s going on milord: the binding you created doesn’t behave in the manner I was expecting. I can think of a couple of unbinding spells I would try, given how this one is supposed to be reacting, but each of them depends on the enchantment to be unbound working in a predictable way. I would hesitate to try them in this case.”
Siofra was walking along side Darius as he walked to class. She was in her Cait Sídhe form: that of a large black cat, and the speach was being sent directly to his ear, so that the tale of a second-year student with a talking familiar wouldn’t get around to far.
Of course, him talking to her was perfectly normal behavior. “I’ve told you all we did. Maybe something in our panic and rush changed how the magic reacted.” He still needed to be careful, of course. Being overheard discussing how to free himself from an unwanted bond with a meliae would probably attract those who’d wanted to create such a bond. And who hadn’t been as nice in how they went about getting it.
The one way they were sure would work to free Esti was to have someone kill Darius, and be prepared to transfer her bond as they did so…
Luckily his Wizard’s Oath didn’t require him to try that, if Esti didn’t want him to.
“It that what they teach humans in this ‘school’ of yours? That magic changes when you panic? Magic does not change, only the magic user changes.”
Siofra wasn’t his ‘famliar’ any more than she was a cat, and that was the other reason for the speach-in-ear: So that Darius wouldn’t have to explain that he manged to beat a two-hundred-year-old elf in a challenge duel. Sure that was young for her species, but no so young as to have expected to loose to a human still in undergrad training.
He’d only won because of the binding, and because Siofra hadn’t expected him to be able to put up any real ﬁght at all.
“You’ll get to see what they teach humans in this school. Here’s the classroom.”
She entered silent at his side.
“So once your circles have been approved you may attempt the summoning. I’ll be answering questions as my assistant looks over your work.” The professor ﬁnished up. Darius was only half-paying attention: They’d been working on Circles of Containment for a month now, and everyone in the class was fully bored with them at this point.
Of course, everyone in class could also create one in their sleep, which was probably the point. No summoning was safe without a proper containment circle.
The aides were as bored as the rest of the class, and one barely glanced at Darius’ work before passing to the next table. The nod that he was ready to try the next stage was nearly assumed.
Siofra also approved, which Darius found much more satisfying: The Cait Sídhe was much harder to impress, and knew bindings and traps far better than the one-grade-above teacher’s aides.
There was excitement at ﬁnally getting to do a summoning on their own. Nothing major: a major demon was not something to be summoned by novices in a classroom after all, but a real demon never the less.
Darius pricked his ﬁnger, drew the sigils, and chanted the words summoning a minor imp to his presence while concentrating on the idea that the summon must be friendly, helpful, and benign. As expected there was a slight spurt of sulfurous smoke, and a miniature red-skinned female form appeared in the circle.
Darius passed the demon the live mouse every student had on hand for this exercise: Summonings should always beneﬁt the demon in some way, if you wanted to ever be able to summon again.
He looked around a bit at the rest of the class: Most were having some trouble, apparently. A small signal got the attention of the professor, who looked at Darius’s summon from across the room, nodded, and went back to helping the student he was with.
The demoness had ﬁnished whatever it is she had done with the mouse, and spoke: “Thank you for the gift. What is it that you wish of me?”
Darius’s answer was out of the textbook: “I desired nothing at this time but to show my appreciation and power. You are released to go back to where you were summoned from, and I apologize if my summon inconvenienced you in any way.” Not ‘am sorry’. ‘Apologize’: The apology can be accepted or rejected, but it implies no further hold by the demon on the summoner.
The demoness looked around the room. “A student-summoning? Very well. I thank you for your gift, and there is no need to apologize. I… It has been a pleasure to meet you.” She bowed, then disappeared into the normal smoke of crossing.
That was not quite any of the expected formulas, but that was probably normal. Darius spoke the words to seal the summon, then dismissed and erased the circle.
Then he decided to take advantage of the professor’s oﬀer to let those who had completed the assignment leave early.
Siofra was silent until they were back in dormland, and in particular Darius’ room. “Have you ever had you magical aﬃnity’s tested, liege?”
“I’m not sure what you mean; I passed the entrance tests to the University, if that’s what you are talking about. They tested to see if I could work magic, and gave me a idea of how much I could use.”
The back cat looked at him for a moment, then walked over and shut the door with a paw. A moment of melted shimmer brought Siofra’s other true form: Not quite the unearthly beauty of the high-elves, but a more down-to-earth version of the same. She pulled up a chair, and sat down. “That is not quite what I meant. You know the types of magic accesable to mortals, yes?”
Darius nodded. “True ‘Arcane’ magic, Nature magic, and Elemental magic. Oh, and summoning of course, but that’s not really ‘magic’, just bargaining.” This was magic 101 stuﬀ.
“That is all?”
He sent his mind back, trying to recall the boring lessons he’d had. “Those are all the true magics, I believe. My teachers discussed ‘mental’ and ‘divination’ magic, but generally considered them to be mere forms of the true magics, not something seperate in their own right.”
“The sídhe would disagree. They are as seperate as our own connection to the powers of the world. Do you know which of these types you have access to?”
“Well, I’ve never been any good at Elemental magic, I know that.”
Siofra valiently kept from sighing. “My folk have a ritual test given to children which measures which types of magic each individual has access to. It is a fairly simple thing, and I believe it may have bearing on your quest to undue the binding on Esti. I request the right to preform it upon you.”
“Um, sure. If you think it will help.”
“Thank you, Oath-Lord. If you will give me a moment…” She took a moment to gather some supplies from where Darius kept them, then led Darius through what felt like a series of children’s games. He found them fun, if somewhat simplistic.
“That was kinda fun.” He said, when they stopped.
Siofra was slightly distracted. “It is meant to be: Asking a child to do something they enjoy is much easier than not. Many of our children play adapted versions with each other…” She ﬁnished whatever mental tally she had been working on, and came back to the present. “Milord, you have a moderate amount of ‘True’, magic, as you call it. As is to be expected for someone with a bond to a nature-sprit, you also have a strong connection to Nature magics; though I am unable to tell how much of that is natural and how much is from your bond. However, despite the bond’s strengthening eﬀect, that is not your strongest magical talent. It is still overshadowed by your access to the ‘Mental’ realm, one of those you dismissed as a form of arcane magic.”
“So, what does this mean for me?”
“From a practical perspective… You are untrained, and unused to thinking of using it, so you have not been accessing it. Which means you have a strength you have not been using. If I had known — if you had shown any signs of this — I would not have challenged you to a duel. With a little training, you would have been able to set a trap I could not get away from. Also: I wished to know, because you have been using it unconsciously to augment your other spellcasting. I sensed a bit of that in your summoning today.”
She took a deep breath. “Sire. I believe in your haste and panic, you reached deeper into this aspect of your talent when binding Esti. Mental magic is well-suited for bindings, and would have warped and deepened the binding well beyond the original spell’s intent. This would explain much of what I sensed in the binding.”
“So, I just have to learn how to undo the ‘Mental magic’ component of the spell as well. Good. At least we know what the problem is.”
“Possibly.” She had reservations, but before she could get to them there was a puﬀ of sulphuric smoke.
“There you are! I’ve been trying for ages to get through to you!”
There, on Darius’s desk, was a miniature demon. From the looks of it, the same demon that he had summoned in class.
“What are you doing here?” The words just came out.
The demoness got puzzled. “I… Came to be helpful. Besides, I like you. You could be a useful human to get to know.”
“Well, I didn’t summon you…” Siofra cut him oﬀ.
“How did you ﬁnd your way to this plane, demon?”
“I followed the link. It took a bit of eﬀort; the transfer between, but I made it eventually.”
“Of course. And could others follow this ‘link’?”
“Of course not! It’s between me and this human here.”
Siofra seemed done with her questioning, and Darius started again to try to dismiss the demon. “Liege!”
“You did not summon this demoness. She <em>crossed on her own.</em>”
“She is not yours to unsummon, nor to dismiss. And she could, as she has already shown, cross back and forth at any time.”
It ﬁnally sunk in to Darius. He’d been trying to send it away. All that was likely to do was make the demon upset with him: It had spent a fair amount of energy to get to him, after all. And, at the moment, it was friendly.
A chill went down his spine. This was a loose demon. It was in order to prevent such beings from occurring that demon summoning was freshman-level class. He’d seen the wards on the building that housed the ‘demon studies’ department. The very worst a demon summoned in there could do is destroy everything inside that building.
But they didn’t have those wards on the dorms…
Time to play nice. Through a suddenly-dry throat he addressed the ﬁgure on his desk. “I apologize for any rudeness on my part. How may I assist you?”
His mental censor winced at that. An open-ended oﬀer of assistance to a demon… Bad idea.
“I’m here to assist you.”
He relaxed, just a bit. “I thank you for that. Um. Do you mind if I have a moment to confer with…” What was Siofra anyway?
He beat a hasty retreat to the farthest point of the room, and Siofra followed. “So, what now?”
“Liege, can you tell me what you were concentrating on during your summon in class?”
“Sure, I…” He thought a moment, to be sure he got it right. “Besides the actual workings of the spell, I wanted to make sure the demon I summoned was friendly, helpful, and benign.”
“Nothing more?” Darius nodded. “And how intensely were you concentrating on these traits, Lord?”
“As strongly as I could: The spell requires that you concentrate on the traits you are hoping for. I was even a bit nervous, which would make me concentrate harder.”
“So, again, you change the spell, by focusing your mental energy on the result you desire. Instead of requesting a demon who is such, you changed a demon to be what you wished, as long as you are linked to them. You then dismissed your calling, but not the change, nor the link.”
She shrugged. “The truth, or part of it. The demon is, after all, <em>friendly.</em>” She got a bit more serious. “But remember, you cannot dismiss her, not without breaking that bond ﬁrst. Which may leave a demon who is no longer friendly, or benign.”
They returned to the desk, and Darius organized his thoughts a moment. “Demoness, I must apologize again, this time for an error on my part. It seems that when I summoned you earlier today, I unconsciously used a form of magic I was not aware I possessed on you. This is what forged the link between us, among other things.”
She wasn’t dumb. “Other things?”
Siofra answered. “It is likely that he altered your disposition to be more helpful and friendly towards him. Again, this was unintentional.”
The demoness paused a moment. “I had wondered why I felt it so important to be friends with you. I mean, humans are useful enough, but…”
Darius decided to step back in. “I do not currently have the skill to free you. So I propose we deal.”
“You mean you do not have the skill to free me while keeping me under control.”
“Well, that too, but at this point I wouldn’t know even how to start.”
“Well, you appear to want to deal honestly, at least. What do you propose?”
“I, uh… I guess I hadn’t thought that far yet. What do you want? What can you oﬀer? For that matter, what should I call you?” He had recovered enough not to ask her name.
She laughed a bit, to herself. “You may call me Elpis. As for what I can oﬀer: I’m not very strong. I could oﬀer you some magic, but no more than you have already. Though I might be able to open a new type for you. Or I can oﬀer my personal services, in whatever form you require. To aid that I can change my shape and size, within limits. Smaller is easy; larger I wouldn’t be able to hold indeﬁnitely.” She paused a moment. “I don’t have enough power to change your physical form. Unless, of course, you wanted to become a Vampire.”
“As for what I want: The same as any demon who travels to this world. Energy, magic, whatever you will call it. Life-force is best, magic is always useful.”
“Uh… Thank you, Elpis” Darius exchanged a glance with Siofra. “I’ll say no to the Vampire thing right away. As for the rest: This bond is likely to last for a while. Would you rather return to your home, or would you like to stay here?”
She shrugged. “I have little power or inﬂuence in my world, nor do I have any other strong ties. Staying here would give me a chance to gain power, at the least. Besides, spell or not, I want to help you.”
Darius meanwhile had been reviewing anything he could think of from class. Actual summoning was near the end of the semester after all, speciﬁcally so that if anyone did try anything on their own they would know how to make deals.
“Ok, well, since I have no immediate problem you can help me with, how about we form an agreement where you can stay with me and help me if and when I do? You would need to be in some form that prevents you from drawing attention, of course.”
“And I suppose this form will be immobile?” She grinned, then laughed at his reaction. “I have dealt with humans before, and we do share stories on how we deal with you, much like you have classes on how to deal with us. Both sides after all want to work to their greatest advantage, and don’t want to ﬁnd themselves cheated.” She paused and thought for a moment. “Fine. As long as I am not required to permanently remain in the immobile form. And I would request that it be a form that you use regularly, either in handling magic or in handling life-force.”
“I would have to give permission, either explicit or implied, for you to leave the form. Of course, if I were to die you could leave it, but you would also need to go back to your own dimension.”
“You can’t force that.”
“I know. But I can request it.”
“Understood. Do you have a form in mind?”
The mention of life-force had triggered a thought in his mind. “Actually, I do.” He reached into a drawer for his class supplies. He’d never really used this, but he knew students who did. “Something like this.” What he placed on the desk was a cheap athame, in it’s sheath. He drew it out so she could take a look at it. “If you could ﬁt this sheath, it would be helpful.”
“And you will take me with you, where you wouldn’t take this?” She had noticed the dust, after all.
“This was required for class; I found it clumsy to use, and it gave me no real beneﬁt. I suspect you will not be clumsy, and will be worth carrying.”
“I suspect I can be more versatile, yes. What do you propose I can do for you in this form? And how will it beneﬁt me?”
“An athame is often used to cast spells, to help in focusing the ﬂow of magic. And, as a dagger, I could use you in routine matters as well. Cutting anything with life in it releases some life-force, which you would be placed to harvest.”
“Would I be able to collect magic from that I help focus for you?”
“As long as you do not impact the spell, of course.”
“This form is acceptable. Anything else?”
“That is all I can think of at this time. I reserve the right to change my mind — with your agreement — in the future if something comes up.”
“Fair enough. I do have one more request: Would I be allowed to visit my own dimension, from time to time? Or would I be trapped here?”
Put that way… “Of course you may visit your own dimension, as much as you wish. As long as you either are doing it in your own time — when it doesn’t aﬀect me — or I give you prior permission. For instance, when I sleep you would be free to travel there, as long as you are back by the time I wake up.”
“A deal then, with the same condition.” She put her hands above her head, and her feet together, then morphed into a dagger, with her legs forming the blade, and her body the handle. “Will this do?” She formed an impish smile.
Darius forced himself to reach out and grab her nude form naturally, like she was any other knife. She ﬁt into his hand well, and the balance was perfect. “It does very well. Thank you.”
“You are welcome. I foresee this being a proﬁtable partnership.” The feel changed slightly.
When he set her back down, she appeared to be a completely metal knife, with just some intricate work done on the hilt. Darius let out a breath, relaxing for a moment. Then he placed her in the sheath, and attached the sheath to his belt, then headed for the door.
“Where are you going?” Siofra asked.
“I have to report this.”
Siofra followed Darius to Professor Heﬀernan’s oﬃce. Luckily he had oﬃce-hours right after class; Darius arrived just after the Professor did. “Professor Heﬀernan?”
“Yes? Darius, right? Come in, what can I do for you? You didn’t appear to have any trouble with the lab today.”
“Yes, well, about that… It appears there was one issue…” He drew and presented Elpis. “Elpis, you can take your own form if you wish for the moment.” Apparently she decided she so wished, although she didn’t bother to speak. “She came back after I dismissed her.” Darius added, unnecessarily.
“I see.” He examined the demoness in front of him for a moment, with an obviously appraising eye, then turned with some evidence of surprise to Darius. “She appears unbound, and I see no traces of a summoning. How did you say she came back?”
“I… Apparently I managed to forge some sort of ‘link’ with her. She followed it back on her own.”
“I see.” He sat back, and thought for a moment. “The form she was in when you came in. Was there a purpose to it?”
“Well, since I didn’t summon her and can’t dismiss her, we formed a bargain. One of the terms is that she is to remain in that form unless I say otherwise, at least as long as she is in this world.”
“Hmm.” He thought a moment. “And she will keep this bargain?”
“I cannot enforce it, but she has agreed to it, and says she believes it will beneﬁt her.”
The professor nodded. “Well then. I will mark you as having a friendly demon ally. This will mean you the school shall keep a watch on you, of course, but it will also mean the wards will treat you as ‘known’. However: Failure to permanently dismiss a summon in class is an automatic failure for my course. You understand that?”
“Good. On the other hand, my course is only required for students who do not have a demon ally.” He looked down at the small female before him. “For right or wrong, ma’am, we do not wish you present in a situation where you could interfere with other summonings.”
Elpis bowed in response, then turned back into an athame.
The professor nodded in reply, then turned back to Darius. “I will notify the rest of the college, and you will have another free period for the rest of the semester. You are not allowed back in that class, with or without your new partner.” Darius nodded. “I would recommend my 201 course for your next semester, although it is too late to join it now. You may need it. Is that all?”
“Yes, Professor. Thank you.”
Professor Heﬀernan turned back to his papers. “Good day then.”
Outside, with the door shut, Darius let out a long breath. “So, forming a permanent deal with a demon fails the class? That seems counter-productive.” Siofra spoke up.
Darius looked down at her cat-form. “<em>During</em> that class, we are supposed to be learning how to make such deals safely. Afterwards, we are on our own. And not reporting Elpis would have meant my expulsion when someone found out.” He took another breath to calm himself, then pushed oﬀ the wall he’d leaned on. “So. Can you teach me mental magic?”
“I know some of the basics, as the Sidhe practice it, leige. I cannot teach much, but what I do know I would be proud to show you.”