The church door creaks loudly as Noah pushes it open, making me grimace. He mumbles an apology as he walks in with me at his heel. The church is well lit with candelabras all around and even a ball of light hovering in the centre of the room. It’s much smaller than any other church I have been in. It has only a few rows of pews and a small altar.
“Bartholomew?” Noah says, looking around the room. A door on the far end opens and in walks an old man. He has a hunched back and wears grey robes; signature for priests the way black ones are signature for worshippers. The priest walks towards us as Noah shuts the door.
“Noah? Whatever are you doing here?” Bartholomew asks, frowning at Noah and ignoring me.
Noah laughs lightly. “Nice to see you too,” he jokes. Looking at me now he says; “Damien, this is Bartholomew. He should be able to help us. Bartholomew, this is Damien. He’s…”
Before Noah can introduce me fully, Bartholomew interrupts him. “I know who he is,” he says, smiling at me. “I’m glad to know you’re alive, Damien Harpen,” he says. “You did this country a great service. I would thank Daniel too, if he were still alive…”
I don’t bother mentioning that Jojen died too, he never was one for being appreciated. “Thank you, that means a lot,” I tell him.
He turns suddenly, and makes his way to the door he came through. Noah and I follow. The room that he leads us to is small with only a desk and a few book shelves. Bartholomew sits down and gestures at two chairs on the other side of the desk. I sit, as does Noah.
I can’t help but to feel like this isn’t a very good church. It feels quite poorly main with random rooms that aren’t supposed to be here. Perhaps it’s more of a safe haven than a place of worship.
“I understand that the two of you need something from me,” he says with a slight smile. “Hopefully I will be able to assist you.”
Noah sits forward, maintaining eye contact with Bartholomew. “I’m sure you know that the Arch-Daemon’s spell book is in Wychelm,” Noah begins. “Needless to say, Damien and I are after it. We have an advantage; we know the first step in getting it. The Arch-Daemon that created it locked its contents up when the Daemonic-Gods forbade the Arch-Daemon from giving the book to mortal men. They feared the book would spill the secrets on how to defeat the Daemonic-Gods, so the Arch-Daemon hid the book away in its realm and hid the key that unlocks the books powers with a Greater-Daemon which it then imprisoned.
“Note that this all took place probably a thousand years ago,” Noah continues. “A thousand years or so after the heavenly wars. The heavenly Gods, if they were real that is, hadn’t been heard from in a long time. At this point, the Daemonic-Gods were rising back up, so when the Arch-Daemon created this book it jeopardized their victory over the mortal men. That’s why they locked it away, but the mortal men found it; they found the key and they found the book. They used the book to once again banish the Daemonic-Gods from this earth. When the Arch-Daemon realized what it did, it stole the book and the key from the men. The key is definitely with a Greater-Daemon that is trapped, and the book has been floating around ever since. Now we know it’s in Wychelm, we know that we need that key.”
Bartholomew nods, taking in all of what Noah just said. I’m trying to take it in too, that is so much more than he told me. I had no idea that the fabled heavenly wars had anything to do with the book, and I have never heard about Daemonic-Gods rising again…
“I didn’t think the heavenly wars were real,” I frown. “And I didn’t even know that Daemonic-Gods tried to rise again a thousand years ago.”
“Isn’t ignorance bliss?” Bartholomew laughs. “Damien, the heavenly wars were very real. They happened when our earth was still being made by the Gods, which are also very real,” he says with a sideways look at Noah. “While the Gods were creating this earth, thirteen Daemonic-Gods showed themselves and tried to take our earth. This was a war between two species of immortal beings; a war that would never have come to an end if not for a trick. The Gods managed to lock all thirteen Daemonic-Gods away, back in their hellish realms.”
“But they didn’t stay there… Not for good,” I say.
He shakes his head sadly. “A thousand years ago they rose again. This time however, the Gods were not there. They left this earth shortly after they made it; they decided that divine intervention would not help the people and animals of earth, they had to help themselves instead.”
“And they haven’t been seen since,” Noah asks, frowning. “The Gods?”
“No, they have not. But they are still loved. The Gods gave us this beautiful earth and they gave us free will,” Bartholomew explains. “So, like Noah said, the Daemonic-Gods rose again. What stopped them that time was the Arch-Daemon’s spell book. Mankind got it, and used it to banish the Daemonic-Gods once more.”
“But then the book was lost again,” I sigh. “The Arch-Daemon who created it took it again as well as the key. The book is in Wychelm now, meaning we can get it and use it.” Bartholomew nods. “Will the Daemonic-Gods rise again?” I ask, realising just how powerful this book is.
He looks down. “They are rising,” he tells me. “But this time they do not want to take over, the mage wars thankfully got that notion out of their heads. Now it would appear they just want to torment mankind. At least five have been spotted around the world; making deals, killing needlessly. This time they’re not taking over, they’re just having fun…”
“The book could banish them again, couldn’t it?” Noah asks.
“Possibly,” Bartholomew says. “But remember, it hasn’t been read in a thousand years. For all we know it’s just a bunch of hog wash. It is likely that the Arch-Daemon tore information about the Daemonic-Gods from the book.” After a moment of silence, he continues. “If you do get this book, will you let me read it?” He asks suddenly. “After you use it for what you need it for, let me read it. I can see whether it can be used to defeat the Daemonic-Gods again.”
“Of course,” I say. “But what if it doesn’t? What do we do about them then?”
He shrugs, which is mildly amusing to see. A very old priest who seems to know everything shrugging. “We pray that they leave us alone, and if they do come to us, we pray we can outsmart them and survive with our sanity and lives intact.”
“That’s a really great plan,” Noah says, laughing nervously. “But let’s talk about this Greater-Daemon. Can we summon it Bartholomew?” He asks. He sounds very eager but probably only because our plan does rely a lot on this Daemon and the key it apparently has.
Bartholomew nods and smiles gently. “Yes, we can summon the Daemon. It won’t be too hard since it’s only a Greater-Daemon, and it should be incredibly weak.”
The door suddenly bursts open, making me jump. Noah turns calmly while Bartholomew merely sighs. Turning, I see a girl has entered the room. Or more accurately, fallen into the room.
She lies on the floor with a flustered face, looking at us. It’s clear that she fell in. She was probably lurking outside. The girl looks younger than Noah and I, probably only sixteen. She’s short with light blonde hair that goes down to her breasts in a wavy fashion. She has bright blue eyes and a very pretty face.
“Tessa,” Bartholomew says gently. “I told you not to disturb us.”
She stands quickly, brushing off her long black dress. “I’m sorry Bartholomew,” she says, speaking fast. “It’s just, we overheard you talking about the Arch-Daemon’s book. We thought...”
Bartholomew abruptly interrupts her. “I know what the two of us thought,” he says with a tinge of anger. “You should know better than to try and join this. It’s too dangerous for you two.”
“She’s a mage though!” A voice says. From behind Tessa emerges a small boy, probably only thirteen or fourteen. He has blonde hair, but unlike Tessa’s his is quite dark. He’s short, even shorter than Tessa. Oddly, he has brown eyes which are quite light. Weird looking kid.
“Jack,” Bartholomew sighs. “Tessa may be a mage but you are not. Also, Tessa isn’t all that strong. No offence…”
“Non-taken,” she mumbles. Then louder, she says; “Who’s Daniel? And why have you been thinking about Noah so much?”
“Tessa!” Bartholomew shouts, startling me. “Stay out of their minds. They are not the enemy.” So she’s a telepath? What a perfect travel companion she would make.
Tessa steps further into the room until she’s stood behind me. “Then let me fight the enemy,” she says with admirable determination. “Let me help them get the book and then I can use it too!”
Bartholomew is silent for a second. Surely he can’t be considering it, letting these children help us… It would be suicide for them.
“I’m not a child,” Tessa says, looking directly at me. I have to admit; she is quite terrifying. “I’m as old as Noah is, I just look younger.”
“It is not for me to decide,” Bartholomew says finally. “I will let the four of you talk, meet me here in the morning and tell me whether you will all complete this mission.” Bartholomew stands but suddenly gasps, falling forward. Noah and I both jump up, running to his side. He grasps my wrist horrifically tightly, causing me to instinctively recoil. I can’t however, the grip is too tight… “Spare the child of she who will not return the kindness,” he says in a voice that does not seem to be his own; it’s almost inhuman! “You cannot be at peace if you kill the child…”
He falls back suddenly, sitting back down and releasing me. “Are you okay?” I ask.
He nods, sighing loudly. “I wish to speak to Damien alone,” he tells us all. The other three nod, leaving immediately. I move and sit across from Bartholomew.
“What is it?” I ask, frowning. And what the hell was he just saying? ‘Spare the child of she who will not return the kindness. You cannot be at peace if you kill the child…’
Bartholomew is silent for a moment, just looking at me. “I had a premonition of sorts,” he tells me. “It did not tell me much, only what I have said already and… And that you will summon and fight a Daemonic-Goddess.”
I’m stunned into silence momentarily. “If that’s what it takes to get him back,” I sigh, “I’ll do it.”
He sighs sadly. “I know there is nothing I can do to talk you out of this.” I smile weakly at him, knowing he’s right. “So I will instead wish you luck. If you do this and you do it well, you will be happy. In the end.” I try to thank him but he just dismisses me. “Thank me when you have the key,” he says. “Which should be tomorrow. I will spend tonight preparing. You and your allies should meet me here at sunrise,” he says. “Decide whether you will let Tessa and Jack join you.”
“What do you think we should do?” I ask. It’s weird that I want guidance from him.
“That is not for me to decide, dear boy.”
Nodding, I stand and make my way out of the room, closing the door behind me. Hopefully Bartholomew will be ready to summon the Greater-Daemon tomorrow. The sooner the better.
Noah, Tessa and Jack sit on the front row of pews. They aren’t speaking so I get straight to the point. “We need to decide whether Tessa and Jack can come with us,” I say.
“You have to let us come,” Tessa says quickly, practically begging. “We can help, and we only need one small spell from the book.”
I don’t bother asking what spell, because then they’ll expect me to tell them why I want it. Telling them I plan on raising the dead could prove problematic…
“How could you help?” Noah asks, speaking before I have the chance. “Jack has no power and Tessa only has telepathy.”
Jack looks down guiltily, as if ashamed he has no powers. It kind of makes me pity him.
Tessa glares at Noah. “I’m telekinetic too,” she snaps. “And Jack isn’t useless… He’s, uh, very educated.”
“I think they should come,” I sigh. “I’m sure they have good intentions, and we kind of need all the help we can get.”
Noah frowns. “Fine, but if either of you die, it’s on you.” With that, he storms off, towards a door in the corner that I hadn’t noticed before.
“Where’s he going?” I ask, hoping he isn’t mad at me.
Tessa sits back down. “To the dorms, you should follow him. We wouldn’t want your boyfriend being upset now would we?” Before I can tell her he isn’t my boyfriend she continues on. “And before you ask, the dorms are a pocket dimension owned by Bartholomew. They’re out of the reach of anybody he doesn’t want there, so we’ll be safe.”
“Thanks,” I mumble bitterly. I’m already regretting allowing them to ‘help’.
“I heard that,” she mumbles as I walk away. “And you’ll have to share a room with Noah.”
Gritting my teeth, I open the door and step straight through, slamming it behind me. It’s a small room I’ve entered, practically a box. A light floats above me, illuminating three plain doors; one of which I came through.
I try one of the handles to find it locked. That seems peculiar. This is a church after all…
I press my ear against it and hold my breath. Silence. I hold my position for a few seconds before I hear something. A whisper from an inhuman voice. “I’m going to hurt you.”
Pushing from the door quickly, I stifle a gasp. What the hell is in there? Why would Bartholomew have something trapped? Shivering again, I try the other door.
This one opens, revealing a stairway. It goes up in a spiral with lights illuminating the way. Trying to forget what I heard, I ascend the stairs. Thankfully they don’t go up far before reaching a short corridor with only three doors. One is open, so I go to it.
I peer inside and see Noah laying on the bed, facing up with his arm over his eyes. “Are you okay?” I ask, stepping into the room.
He removes his arm from his face and sits up, looking at me. “Yeah, just a little annoyed that they’re coming with us now.”
“How come?” I frown, sitting on the bed next to him. In a strange way this feels familiar. “Surely it’ll be better to have four of us.”
“There is strength in numbers,” he begins, “but now we’re kind of responsible for them. We’re leading them into a difficult mission. Before I only felt like I had to protect you and myself. Now it’s them too.”
He feels like he has to protect me? “I understand,” I say with a slight smile, thinking of how I felt when Jojen announced that we would be going on a mission with a stranger… “I definitely understand,” I repeat again. “But you shouldn’t feel responsible for me. I survived a war against all odds, maybe I can survive this too.”
Noah smiles and lays down across one side of the bed. It strikes me as weird that he’s sleeping so early in the day. Nevertheless, I lay beside him. “We’ll probably be up very early,” he explains. “Summoning that Daemon won’t be easy you know?”
“None of this is easy.”
A yawn wakes me from my slumber. Opening my eyes, I see Noah sat up next to me. He’s smiling slightly, his hair wildly messed up.
“Good dreams?” I ask, sitting up and stretching.
He nods, laughing lightly and standing. “Yeah, you could say that.”
“What were they about?” I ask.
“I’m not saying,” he says. “Even if I wanted to, we don’t have time to sit up here and talk. Bartholomew is preparing to summon the daemon, we need to go and get in place.” How long did I sleep?
I sigh. “Summoning Daemons is so annoying,” I say. He makes a noise of agreement. “I hope it doesn’t want anything.”
Noah walks across the room and leaves, not responding to me. Not bothering to wonder why, I hurry and get out of bed. Before I find the others I decide I should exercise and change clothes. This daemon could be strong, so I need to be ready for anything. It probably won’t be too strong though… It has been trapped for a long, long time. Power can fade.
Yawning as I leave the room, I brush my hair with my hands as I go. I’m assuming the summoning will be done in the main part of the church. There’s the most space there, and its safe. If the Daemon breaks free, it will be weak in the church. Hopefully nothing goes wrong.
I get to the bottom of the stairs and go straight through the door, making an effort not to hear whatever is through that door. The main room is covered in candles, so many that it takes a moment for my eyes to adjust. All the pews have been moved to the sides, replaced by a large pentagram painted in the centre of the room. Bartholomew stands ready at one point, a book in his hand.
“Hurry now,” he says, rousing the others who are stood near the door, all looking rather sheepish. “Everybody take a point.”
Gulping nervously, I move and stand on a point next to Bartholomew. Noah stands on the other side of me with Jack beside him and then Tessa. It’s been a while since I’ve summoned a Daemon. Hopefully I don’t fuck it up.
“Do not move from your points,” Bartholomew warns. “If you do it will allow him to break free…” He pauses for a minute, flipping through the pages of his book. “Also, do not speak unless spoken to. Be careful what you say too, do not let him trick you into a deal. We hold the upper hand, and so we hold the power. If it gets anything over us, it could break free and kill us all.”
Jack makes a weird noise, presumably one of fear.
“First Daemonic summoning?” Noah asks, smiling slightly. Jack nods. “Don’t worry,” Noah continues. “We won’t die. Unless we fuck up massively…”
“Noah!” Bartholomew snaps. “Stop teasing the poor boy. I remember your first summoning. You fainted!” Noah scowls, blushing brightly. I can’t help but to laugh a little. “Okay, is everybody ready?” He asks. We all nod, making an effort to stay silent. Sighing, Bartholomew begins to speak. He doesn’t speak our language though. He speaks one I do not understand, obviously an ancient language, not of this world.
I keep my eyes fixed on the centre of the pentagram. The floor is rippling ever so slightly. As Bartholomew continues to speak it speeds up. The rippling is contained to the pentagram, thankfully.
Suddenly, a pillar of fire erupts in the centre! Bartholomew begins to shout the words with a frightening urgency in his voice. The fire dissipates and I have to resist the urge to step back… I expected a Daemon, something solid and killable. Instead, there is only a strange smoke. It’s only small, but thick and black. So scarily black…
“Damien Harpen,” it snarls. It sounds as if it hasn’t spoken in a thousand years. I’m tempted to offer it a drink of water. “What a pleasure it is to be summoned by you. I’ve watched you throughout my imprisonment…”
I look at Bartholomew. Now he’s just mumbling the words, presumably to keep the Daemon trapped. He nods to me as if to give me permission to speak. I know I must choose my words very carefully.
“So you know what I want,” I say, trying to sound calm.
The Daemon laughs lightly, making me shiver. I keep my eyes on it, not looking at anybody else. “I also know that you’re smart, Damien,” it says. “So you know what I want.”
“Revenge,” I say. I know that’s what I would want if I were trapped for so long. “You want revenge on the Arch-Daemon that has kept you trapped with that key.”
“So let’s cut to the chase,” it snaps. “You let me free and I give you the key.”
I laugh, smirking. Hopefully its believing that I feel confident here. My face and words say I’m confident, that I hold the power. My brain however tells me I’m out of my depth. I hold mine and Daniel’s fate in my cumbersome hands. “I’m not stupid,” I retort. “You’ll get free and use the key yourself.”
“I don’t want the book,” it tells me. “I want only to make that Arch-Daemon suffer like I did!”
“Then give us the key,” Noah says suddenly. I glare, feeling weary. “You give us the key and we can help you get revenge on that Daemon.”
The Daemon is silent for a moment. The only sound in the room is Bartholomew’s chanting. “Very well,” it says finally, surprising me. Beneath the smoke appears a key. It’s tiny but is on a chain.
Bartholomew suddenly begins to shout, scaring me. The key drops to the floor…
“I banish you to your home realm,” Bartholomew shouts. “You are free from your imprisonment but will never return to this earth again.”
We tricked it… Somehow that feels wrong.
With a shocked scream, the smoke vanishes in a pillar of flames much like the one it came in. Bartholomew steps back from the pentagram. Smiling ever so slightly, he gestures to the key. “Take your prize,” he says. “Take the key to your futures.”