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The Summoning

By Morgan Davie

[2nd place in the Short Story Competition]

Patsy rode through the forest on a beautiful white mare. He'd never come this far before; perhaps no one had. But the man ahead rode with purpose.

The man's name was Scarilon. Patsy suspected he was a nobleman, he had the sneer of nobility. But what nobleman would give a fine horse to a peasant, for just a month of service?

They stopped. Patsy watched as his master dismounted, then clumsily slid off his own horse. Scarilon had set off into the underbrush, striding hard. Patsy followed, ducking branches that swiped at his face. ‘Where are we going, m'Lord?’ he asked, fighting past a particularly large arm.

‘You've served me well, Patsy,’ Scarilon said.

‘Thank you kindly, m'Lord.’

‘So perhaps you've earnt the right to see what will happen here.’ Scarilon stopped. Beyond him was a bald patch in the forest carpet; huge stones, like snakes' teeth, marked a circle.

‘M'Lord ... What is this place?’

‘A stone circle. A place of magic.’ He looked at Patsy for the first time that day. His eyes burned. ‘A place for the summoning of demons.’

Patsy's eyes widened. ‘Black magic?’

‘Some call it that.’ Scarilon's smile was unnerving. ‘Now, my friend, mark in the dirt with chalk dust the design you found for me.’

Patsy swallowed. ‘In the circle.’

‘Yes. of course.’

‘I don't like magic, m'Lord. I fear God.’

‘Your final service, Patsy. Mark the design.’

Patsy took the bag of powder and stepped into the stone circle. It was no different within from without, but Patsy still didn't like it. As he bent to his task, Scarilon moved away. Soon Patsy heard his voice in the shadows.

‘Deal with the Doctor. But I have another means of escape in preparation here. Even if he ruins the plan, all will not be lost.’

There was silence then, until Patsy had drawn the diagram and hastened from the circle. Scarilon returned and stepped into the design. He gazed at the chalk lines. ‘Patsy - you are released from my service. The mare is yours, as is my thanks. But please stay, and watch the ... proceedings.’

Scarilon lifted an object high and began to chant. Patsy faded back into the shade as the words grew louder and louder... ‘AZAL! I CALL THEE!’

The earth began to rock and tilt. Patsy cried out, falling to his knees, heat and chill washing over him. Then the chaos subsided and when Patsy looked up. Scarilon was not alone in the stone circle.

The demon was immense; hate played on its face as it took in its surroundings. It was horned, and hooved. Patsy was frozen with fear, he forced himself to look away, and found Scarilon.

The fear redoubled. For Scarilon was now a demon too.

Azal looked down on the tiny humanoid with brimstone contempt. ‘You have disturbed the sleep of ages,’ he rumbled, ‘but you are not human.’

‘No! I am Scaroth, last of the Jagaroth!’

They are known to me. An unsuccessful experiment.’

‘An unsuccessful...’

‘The Daemons were displeased with their progress!’ roared the demon, hooves churning the dirt. Scaroth swayed, his one eye rolling in its socket.

‘Despite that, Azal, I ask your aid -’

- but as he spoke, he shifted somehow. Shifted in the fourth dimension.

Patsy watched as his hideous master looked up at the demon and finished his sentence.

‘Ah. Never mind.’

Eye wide, Scaroth answered time's summons.

Azal's eyes blazed at the space where the Jagaroth had been. The sleep broken and the petitioner gone - this was not to be tolerated!

Another figure stepped from the shadows. It was tall and red-bearded. Azal rounded on it. ‘My slumber is disturbed!’

‘Your wake-up call came early. Go back to sleep, Azal.’

‘When the slumber is disturbed, I sleep no more!’

‘No?’ grinned the man, waving an arm.

Before the Daemon could respond, the heaviness rose, arms like lead; and Azal submitted to the shrinking, and the slumber. ‘What magic...’ it managed, and was gone.

The red-bearded man stopped smiling. ‘Powerful magic, Azal.’ He sounded tired. ‘I've learned so much since our next encounter.’ He turned suddenly, meeting Patsy's wide eyes. ‘My dear chap. it's quite all right.’ He drew himself up.

‘I'm Merlin.’

Patsy crossed himself, and fled.

This item appeared in TSV 34 (July 1993).

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