6 Circles Within Circles

Given the school incident in Alabama, rescue personnel would arrive quickly, but not more quickly than Sebastian, James and Avery, who entered through a portal into the AV room of the library. “Good God,” Sebastian cried as he came out into the library and ran to Chase’s side, “What’s happened to him?”

“Please back up,” the librarian answered him, failing to notice he wasn’t in a school uniform but a flowing black coat, followed by men dressed in the same.

“I’m not a student ma’am,” he said as patiently as he could, “I’m in charge of his security and I need to know….”

The woman said, “He was talking to a boy; he had a seizure and hit his head when he fell….”

“What boy?” James asked.

“The new boy, Daemon,” she answered. “He went to the office for help….” In fact, he returned at that very moment and stood in the door.

Sebastian’s eyes met Daemon’s, and he yelled, “HIM! GET HIM!”

Daemon recognized Sebastian, but it was too late. Two big wizards were on him. Moments later, William, Matt, Carl, and Edward were brought to the library by security and William ran to Chase, kneeling across from Sebastian.

“He seems okay,” Sebastian whispered. “He took a good knock though….”

Seeing the wizards restraining Daemon, William’s face contorted in fury. “What did you do?” William stood and raised his hand, not to fight, but gathering what looked like a storm cloud in his hand.

“William,” Sebastian called. “We don’t know…. He was the one who reported it; we just need to find out what happened!”

William’s hand relaxed, but he saw his friends and a few of the wizards staring at him, mouths open. “What the hell was that?” Matt asked, beginning to back away. But he would go nowhere without his friend, and Chase wasn’t going anywhere.

“Magick,” Carl said, shocking everyone at the easy and unconcerned way he said it.

“There’s no such thing,” Edward said, his eyes still glued to William’s open palm.

Carl took his hand and squeezed. “Yes, there is,” he whispered.

“He’s right,” William said, softly. “I’ve been keeping it from you all to protect you! Some very weird stuff is going down and….”

“Who are all these people?” Matt asked, looking at the young battle wizards arrayed around the room.

“They are wizards in my service,” Sebastian said, rising. Matt recognized him from the party. Quickly, Sebastian explained the most basic facts of the situation, the least dangerous ideas. Each of the boys was left flabbergasted in his own way. Sebastian summoned the healers to begin working on Chase, and then he answered some questions before turning to Carl. “You, young man, seem little surprised. How is that?”

Carl pulled the pendant out of his shirt for all to see. “I was raised by my grandmother in the old ways,” he said simply, as Edward watched him with widening eyes, not scared but full of awe.

Sebastian nodded and turned to Daemon. “And you! What happened to our Chase?” Daemon spit out the same explanation he’d made before and Sebastian seemed satisfied.

But Carl called out. “Something’s not right!” Daemon glared at him, but he went on, “I think he’s working some kind of love spell, he and his sister….”

“Fetch the girl,” Sebastian called and they waited.

When Katrina entered under guard and saw Sebastian, William and the boys, and Chase lying on the ground, she snarled, “What have you done?” at Daemon.

“Shut up,” he growled. “It was an accident! I grabbed his wrist. When he pulled away, he fell! It was an accident,” he said, beginning to cry, and though his beauty was heartrending, most weren’t buying it. Those with protection weren’t buying it, anyway.

“Why did you lie?” Sebastian asked, considering him with cold eyes.

“I was scared,” he wept, and Sebastian nearly eased up on him.

But, from the floor, a soft weak voice whispered, “Demon!”

Daemon was quick, “I’m here Chase; I’m so sorry,” he answered as if Chase had called his name.

“Demon,” Chase tried again weakly, but so softly that no one got it. When he saw Daemon’s shoulder relax, as if he’d won, Chase, with his last strength and breath, muttered loudly, “INCUBUS,” before falling unconscious again.

Daemon’s eyes widened, but Sebastian was faster. Before he could rip out of the wizards’ grasp, Sebastian raised a hand and blasted him in the chest with an enormously powerful fireball, sending the boy flying against the wall. When Daemong hit the ground, he slumped, injured. Then Sebastian looked at Katrina, as if to ask, you want some, and then said, “You, go grab your companion and drag him away from the wall.”

She looked at him with disdain, but seeing that she was surrounded by wizards she did as she was told. Then as she stood holding him, Avery formed a magick circle around them, about eight feet across. Sebastian formed the outer circle. That prison would hold them for the time being.

Carl’s head was in his hands. “I should have known,” he yelled, before turning and hitting the wall.

Sebastian shook his head. “No one could see it….”

“No, no, they made my amulet burn! It was more than magick,” Carl said.

“The amulets,” William said, reaching into his shirt. “Mine felt warm too, but I wasn’t paying attention…. Chase tried to tell me!”

“Guys,” James shouted. “We got them! We got them before any serious damage was done! Chase is going to be fine!”

“I hurt his feelings, I ignored his warnings!” William looked distressed. Matt looked pale as he put a hand on William’s shoulder and knelt down next to him.

“He tried to tell me, too! He warned me about Katrina…. I don’t know if Amy’ll ever forgive me,” Matt whispered.

Sebastian and Avery stepped into a corner. “Avery, have the wizards secure this room! We’ve got to decide what we’re going to do about them…. If we send them back, Sammael will just summon them again, and … I think that Daemon might know what Chase is!”

“How?” Avery asked.

“I think, and I’m guessing, that Chase got a good look at Daemon’s true nature, metaphysically speaking of course…. If that happened, I suspect Daemon got a look at his as well,” Sebastian said.

“Shit!” Avery responded.

“Exactly,” Sebastian said. “We can’t move them, we can’t kill them, and we can’t keep them here….”

Avery barked a few commands to the men to clear the room, and then asked one of them to fetch him a gallon of holy water. “We can interrogate them,” he said with a smile.

By the time the man returned with the holy water and other equipment, Daemon was more or less on his feet again. He stood, small but proud, and radiated sex defiantly at the men in the room. “So you are the High Consul Sebastian! And who are your friends?” he asked haughtily.

Sebastian nodded. “This is Avery Salazar, leading a strike force of battle wizards. And this is my partner, James. William and Chase you’ve met, though Chase has seen better days. He must have gotten a good glimpse of you, eh?” Sebastian asked, and got confirmation in the demon’s widening eyes. “And of course Matt, Carl and Edward…. Now, who do I have the pleasure of addressing?”

The demon’s smile widened in false politeness. “This is one of my little sisters, Katrina…. And I am Daemon, Lord of the Seducers!”

“So you are part of Sammael’s high circle, then,” Sebastian asked, taking a seat.

“Sammael takes no counsel, Sebastian. It’s a point of contention…. I’m somewhat of a black sheep in any case,” he said with a smile.

“How so?” Sebastian asked, legitimately interested.

“I love the flesh! I love people! Not like the rest, who view you as vermin….. Your pleasures give me the greatest satisfaction, even as the others, like Beelzebub, take pleasure from your suffering…. You can see how this would lead us to disagree on basic strategy!”

“Daemon,” Katrina said. “You speak out of court!”

“Hush, succubus…. I am your lord!” Daemon growled.

“Sammael is my LORD,” Katrina snarled.

But Daemon just smiled contemptuously. “But Sammael isn’t here, is he?” Sebastian found this direction very interesting. Then to his surprise, Daemon looked at him and said, “I’d like to make a deal!”

Sebastian smiled, “Oh, this is going to be good!”

Daemon smiled back. “Let me go….”

“Ain’t gonna happen,” James began, but Sebastian held up a hand.

“Go on,” Sebastian said.

“Thank you,” Daemon smirked at James. “Let me go, and I’ll return to hell to ensure that the other lords do not rise to support Sammael’s misadventure….”

Katrina rushed him and wrapped her fingers around his neck. “TRAITOR!” Daemon, however, raised his hand and set power through her so violently that she fell, temporarily paralyzed.

“Now, where were we?” he asked with a smile.

“You could do that?” Sebastian asked.

“While we disagree on much, none of the lords seeks the destruction of the world, as Sammael does. We get much pleasure, each in our own way, from your kind,” Daemon explained.

Sebastian looked at Avery who shook his head and shrugged. “And you’d tell Sammael and the others nothing of what you’ve learned about Chase?”

“I can promise that … and you’d be assured of my truthfulness,” Daemon answered.

“How? And why are you doing this?” Sebastian asked.

“The answer to both is one and the same!” Daemon looked at the blond boy lying on the floor and pointed. “Him! Well, him, and I’d like to fuck hot young things for another four thousand years!”

“What do you mean, him?” William asked. “You don’t mean you’re doing it for him?”

Daemon laughed. “He’s cute, but he’s not that cute,” Daemon answered. “No, I’m doing it because he scared the shit out of me…. I want nothing to do with him; I want out now!” All eyes fell on the ancient demon, who was dead serious, with a mixture of doubt and curiosity. “None of you has any clue what he’s capable of! What he’ll do before all’s said and done! For me, and those like me, he’s what nightmares are made of….”

William laughed, but fell silent as he felt Chase squeeze his hand and struggle to sit up. “No, he’s right to be afraid,” Chase said slowly and quietly, but with deadly emphasis. Taking a long breath, he said, “You know, if you’re lying, I’ll hunt you down and destroy you?”

“I know,” Daemon said, quietly.

“What about her?” Chase asked.

“She’ll go to Sammael and warn him about me, at the very least,” Daemon said.

Chase nodded, and said, “Let him go….”

“Are you sure?” Sebastian asked.

When Chase nodded, Sebastian nodded to the guards and said, “Let him go….” They lowered the circles and replaced them when Daemon was outside of them. “Daemon,” Chase said, motioning the demon over. The boy struggled to his feet and whispered something no one else but the demon could hear, but everyone saw Daemon’s face. The terror was no act, and then he was gone.

“We can’t trust him,” Avery said.

“We can,” Chase said, “because he knows what I can do to him, what I will do to him….” The way he said it sent chills through them all. “Now what about her?”

Katrina sat in the circle looking at them like a tigress waiting to devour. “We can’t keep her here, and we can’t let her go,” Avery said, repeating his earlier sentiment.

Chase nodded sadly, and said, “I need you all to leave the room….”

“What?” Sebastian asked.

“I’m going to do something very dangerous and … I need to be alone,” Chase said.

“Chase,” William pleaded, “what are you talking about?”

“I’m going to kill her,” Chase said.

“Chase, if you kill her body, the demon will return to Hell, so she can contact Sammael,” Avery explained patiently.

Chase snapped, “I know that!” After a moment, he added, “I’m sorry, Avery, I’m upset….” Again, after a pause. “I’m not going to kill the body, I’m going to destroy the demon.”

“You … can’t do that,” Avery said, sounding very unsure of this absolute truth.

“No,” Chase said heavily, “YOU can’t do that! Alright, if you won’t leave, get as far from her as possible….” The look he gave them drove them all to back up against the back wall. “Avery, I need you to do one thing before you take cover….”

“What Chase?” he asked.

“I need you to put up some circles around her,” Chase said.

“There are two already,” Avery added.

“There need to be at least seven, and make sure they’re strong…. Very strong,” Chase said. “That many should absorb some of the blast….”

Avery went about his work and it took him a long time to perform the task up to the standard of caution Chase had inspired. He lifted eight circles around the two that held Katrina. Avery led Chase to the edge of the outer circle and helped the boy kneel down before he moved to the far side of the room. Without facing at them, Chase said, “You’re aware that a great deal of energy is present even in a small piece of matter, and that converting it to energy releases a great deal of power…. Imagine the potential of reducing energy, pure spirit, to a state of non-being.”

“Impossible,” Edward whispered to Carl.

But Sebastian quietly replied, “An hour ago, I would have agreed with you….”

Chase began moving his hands in the air in front of him creating a sigil more complex than any of them had ever seen, burning with blue fire. With a wave of his hand, the sigil began to move like a slow comet toward Katrina, who backed away until she was against the wall of the inner circle. When the sigil struck her, the body she had formed for herself collapsed, leaving a being of pure spirit standing over it. The demon was revealed for what it was, but could not escape.

“Katrina” was about 9 feet tall, black as night, with the skin of a serpent. A thick green tongue protruded from between two rows of serrated teeth. She was a horror to behold. “Conjurer,” the demon screamed, “I’ll tear your flesh from your bones for this!”

“Be silent,” Chase said, and gave his hand a quick vertical wave. Unseen force drove the monster to its knees. He reached out and felt for the energy of the outer circle and used it to orient himself. Walking counterclockwise around the huge circle, he began weaving a spell so complex, so difficult, it boggles the mind. As he walked, he drew a web of sigils, signs and knots on the immaterial wall of the outer circle in what looked like black fire. Once, twice, three times he circled, each time adding more symbols, more details, quietly humming a melody both haunting and beautiful. Each pass, Katrina’s screams became more authentic and more terrified. Four, five, and six times he circled, inscribing red symbols on top of the black fire. Then he stopped and faced the terrible wall. From deep within, as if a world away, Katrina’s voice could be heard. “Please, have mercy…. Please!”

Chase’s voice called out to her, “Do you turn to God, repent of your rebellion, and seek HIS forgiveness?”

Softly she moaned, until it faded to a maniacal laughing. “Fuck you!”

He heaved a heavy sigh, and said, “In six days, God created the heavens and the earth and established all things. If it be your will, oh Lord, reverse your decree!”

The sigils of black and red fire began to spin slowly, but surely, even as the outer wall began to shrink, steadily drawing the circle in on its radius. Soon a horrible but hollow screaming began to emanate from its core until it was silenced in a sickening crushing sound. Within moments the circle was no bigger around than a plate, then a saucer, then a quarter, then a pencil, and then … it was just gone. The silent observers began to stir and move about, but Chase stood still and raised a hand and carved the shielding sigil in the air, just as a shock wave tore through the room, invisible, immaterial and deadly. The shield absorbed most of the blast and protected those present, though most were knocked off their feet.

Chase collapsed to his knees and William rushed to his side. “Are you alright, Chase?” he asked in a whisper.

Chase shook his head, no, over and over again, as tears poured down his cheeks. Soon, wracking sobs were added. No one dared move, or say a word, as Chase just sat there, shaking his head and weeping.

William’s arms closed around Chase, his body absorbed wave after wave of heaving, which took about thirty minutes to subside.

At last, it was Sebastian who spoke. He leaned in to Avery and asked, “WHAT WAS THAT?”

“Something terrible,” Avery said. “Things like that … aren’t supposed to happen, aren’t supposed to be possible.”

“It was necessary,” Sebastian asserted softly.

Avery nodded, but added, “But it’s a terrible thing nonetheless…. I can’t imagine what he must be going through.” Sebastian nodded and motioned for his men to clean up and get things put back in order.

When he noticed that Chase had fallen silent he walked up to the boys, and could see that Chase was deep asleep. He hoped it would be dreamless. “Do you need help with him?” William shook his head and effortlessly lifted the boy off the ground. “Come with us: he can rest at my place and we can get you home later….” William nodded and the mass of wizards left the school as if they’d never been there. Sebastian motioned for Matt, Edward and Carl to accompany them back to his mansion.

***

Sammael paced in the mobile command unit he’d had assembled as it rumbled up Interstate 65. His limbs tingled with strength; he’d fed deeply from those teens’ fear and pain. He longed to unleash the power he was building up, but he wanted to come out with a bang.

A young man at the communication center announced, “There’s been an incident at the school in Richmond, sir…. Our operatives are off-line, and the wizards have stormed the school.”

“What?” he asked, his voice full of anger. “Daemon?”

“He has been returned to the Pit, sir. He’s out of contact at the moment….”

“Katrina?” Sammael asked.

“We are unable to locate her sir. She’s gone,” the man responded.

“What?” Sammael asked again, his anger rising.

“Her body is dead, but her demonic form is not in Hell, sir,” the young man answered.

“Well, where is she?” Sammael demanded.

“I’m sorry sir,” the answer came.

“Get me DAEMON!” Sammael roared.

“I’m on it, sir!” the man replied.

***

“What are you saying, Daemon?” the mammoth red, hairy demon asked, his voice full of rage and terror all at once.

“Sammael is out, he’s making his move, and he’s kept it from all of us,” Daemon the Seducer replied to Hell’s vice-regent.

Beelzebub’s growl echoed through the chambers of the city of Dis’s inner court. “How? HOW COULD THIS HAVE HAPPENED?” he demanded.

“Did you think we could keep him ensnared forever, mighty Lord of the Flies?” Belial asked sagely, bowing his head in false piety and smiling a freezing smile.

“You are the watcher of the gates,” Beelzebub snarled back at Belial.

“My lords,” Daemon, Lord of the Tempters, spoke softly. “Sammael will call for us when he is at the apex of his power! We must turn our attention to this. What will we do?”

“What else would we do?” Abaddon muttered. “We will go! If he succeeds and we are wrong, he’ll destroy us for our disobedience! If he fails, he returns as our lord! If he succeeds and we are right, we cease to be and suffer no more!”

“Pascal would be proud,” Daemon smiled sweetly, “of your logic, my lord! But perhaps there is another way?” All eyes were on him and he knew it was time. “I met with Sammael’s enemy, who trapped me. He allowed me to return here to suggest … an alliance.”

“An alliance with heaven?” Belial asked, snorting derisively. “Our inability to do that is how this got started,” he laughed motioning around him.

“Not heaven,” Daemon said, uttering a half-truth like only a demon can. “Sammael is opposed by the Shadow Council of wizards and vampires. Heaven stands predictably silent. But I have seen what they do. If we withhold our aid, they can defeat Sammael … finally and forever!”

Whispers broke out across the packed chamber, as all assembled wondered whether it was possible. “This is too unbelievable,” Adramalek said in his high, whiney voice.

“Then summon Katrina back to us, our master’s favorite of my charges! She was with me before I was dispatched. This assembly may summon any lesser demon, from any possession or outer place. Summon her!” Daemon demanded.

Beelzebub nodded and Belial agreed. Abaddon said, “Let us begin, then….” But after three times they were unable to summon the lower demon, something that had never happened before. Ever. “What is the meaning of this, Daemon…?”

“They have learned Raziel’s lost art,” he said, as demon lords gasped in shock.

“It cannot be,” Astaroth’s voice rumbled from the shadows as demons parted for his approach. “That magick is lost!”

“And yet, Sammael’s enemies have performed the annihilation matrix this very evening to silence Sammael’s spy,” Daemon declared. “If they succeed, we’ll all be free of the tyrant! We must make sure they succeed!”

Around the chamber, there were nods of agreement. But at last one voice spoke out in rage. “Blasphemy,” boomed the tall shadowy figure who stood in the archway, unseen ‘til now. “Sedition! There will be an accounting for this outrage!” Even as the figure stepped out into the fiery light, the shadows that clung to him were not banished. In some mysterious way, they deepened.

“Who are you,” Beelzebub snarled, “to interrupt these proceedings? Seize him!” Hellish monsters, Behemoth and Leviathan, reached for the figure, but cried out in pain as their flesh touched his shadows. Seeing the great beasts writhe in pain, the gathered demons recoiled.

Lowering his dark cowl, the figure smiled a cold and skeletal smile. He looked humanoid, but the flesh had rotted from his bones in most places, and his empty eye-holes burned with a yellow light. “You must forgive me, brothers, I know you know me not…. I am a private being. These many years I have served my Lord Sammael only, and spoke to none other in all of Hades, except those humans my Lord bade me….” Looking around, he saw their faces hostile. “I am the Archivist…. The keeper of the Book of Death, the Lord of the Pit, Pursan!”

Again, whispers spread through the chamber; Pursan was a legend even among eternal beings. His knowledge of all things all things earthly and secret, from knowledge of divinity to the creation of the world, was exceeded only by that of the Holy One. He was known to see past, present, and future in the same glance. “And I come to tell you, there WILL BE AN ACCOUNTING!”

“What price wouldn’t we pay for relief from the ancient tyrant?” Daemon asked boldly, to cries of assent by his brother lords.

“It is not mine to reveal, nor mine to execute, but you are warned of this course. Mark my words,” the demon smiled, his yellow glow cutting to Daemon’s core, as he turned and walked out. Despite the uproar, Hell was settled on its course. Sammael was on his own.