[Story] Story a Week – Imp

Xanaroth held his breath as the portal opened, fel-green smoke swirling through the room. Though Elara was safely upstairs, there was always still that moment of danger before whatever it was stepped through the portal. Felarius wasn’t powerful enough to open large portals, but that wouldn’t stop something that was really determined to get through. Most demons, though, preferred to stay in their own realm. Imps were generally a bit easier to coax over — and they never seemed to guess ahead of time what lay ahead of them.

Felarius, his summoning student, shook faintly with the effort of maintaining the spell, his eyes fixed on the demonic portal. He had made great progress in the past few months, and Xanaroth felt he was ready to work with his first demon. Of course, that meant he had to summon it first. For a few long seconds, he believed nothing would happen. Though the portal had opened, perhaps there was something wrong; a rune slightly smudged or the angle just slightly wrong. But Felarius’s rune drawings had been immaculate. He’d copied them over and over in his books and was meticulous about his work — more so than Xanaroth himself had been at that age. The Twisting Nether teemed with demons, especially the little imps, which traveled in swarms for protection from their larger cousins. Was it possible that they were all in another spot?

A tiny hand appeared from the portal, followed by a wobbly oversized head. The imp stepped warily out of the portal and into the rune that Felarius had drawn on the workroom floor.

“Now,” Xanaroth said, and Felarius let the spell drop, the portal collapsing in on itself with an audible fizzle.

The imp, now alarmed, attempted to flee, but the magic circle held it in place. As it realized this, its panic grew and it began to shriek, flinging itself against the magical barrier.

Felarius frowned faintly. “Is it supposed to do that?” he whispered to Xanaroth.

The older summoner nodded. It wasn’t unusual at all for demons to resist binding. Once it accepted its fate, however, it would be easier to work with. And for imps, the protection of a warlock was preferable than being eaten by a larger demon. “Ask for its name,” Xanaroth reminded Felarius quietly.

“Imp,” Felarius announced. “You will give me your name.”

The imp cowered at the edge of the rune, its little clawed hands over its large ears. It wouldn’t matter; the rune that Felarius had drawn compelled it to obey. “D-dagtuk!” it screeched. Xanaroth hoped it wasn’t going to scream like that all of the time. It hurt his ears, and it would likely wake Elara.

He had also had Felarius practice the binding spell repeatedly. Any error there could cause the binding to weaken over time, putting the summoner at risk. As Felarius recited the binding spell, shadowy shackles formed around the imp’s wrists and ankles. “Dagtuk, I bind you to my bidding,” he said, and the imp whimpered quietly, but seemed to have calmed down, at least.

Xanaroth walked the perimeter of the rune, checking for any errors and inspecting the imp’s bindings. He was well aware that any mistake he overlooked would put his student in danger, so he took his time to see that everything was done correctly. Felarius watched him anxiously. At last he nodded. “Break it,” he instructed Felarius. With his boot, he smudged away one of the runes of the binding circle on the floor. Dagtuk crept warily to the spot and stuck his arm out tentatively. When nothing happened, the imp crawled slowly out of the circle to crouch at Felarius’s feet. For the first time, his student allowed himself a smile. “It worked,” he said, sounding a little amazed. “Can I pick it up?”

“Of course,” said Xanaroth. “Don’t lose it. Or if you do, you remember the recall spell?”

“I won’t,” Felarius said, touching the imp’s head gingerly. “And I do.”

As Xanaroth had expected, the imp calmed down once it realized that it wasn’t in immediate danger. It would still be curious about its new surroundings, and cause trouble if not supervised, but in time it might even grow fond of its master. Once it got a taste of proper food, it would never want to leave.

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[Story] Xanaroth’s Journal

Felarius’s lessons have been going well. Fortunately I’ve been able to keep Elara with me much of the time, in the same way that I imagine Hethurin must. I feel safer having her there with me rather than leaving her alone in a room during that time. Though I take her out any time we are summoning, even with imps. I’m not taking any chances. If she shows interest when she is older, that would be another matter, but I won’t take the risks I did in the past. It isn’t worth it. Nor will I put Felarius at risk. He’s so curious and eager, and I don’t want to dampen that, but at the same time I want to ensure he really understands the dangers of what he is working with. Like any tool, demons can harm the user if used incorrectly or carelessly.

He’s copying and studying bindings, and learning about the various types of demons. Sometimes he has questions that I don’t know the answer to — like last night, he was asking me about imps. I’ve never given imps much thought, they are just simply there most of the time and taken for granted. But he asked me about where they come from. I explained that they are born in great litters? Clutches? From broodmothers, something like a queen bee will give birth to all of the bees in a hive. And like bees, individual imps are simply workers who exist for the greater good of the swarm. Who fathers them? That question stumped me. Something  must, assuming that demons work in the same way that animals do. But perhaps they do not, perhaps the female doesn’t require a male at all. Or perhaps she finds a mate before she becomes so large. There is much we still don’t know about demons and their lives, given their secrecy and ability to hide away in the Nether. Maybe Felarius will be the one to discover it one day. He also asked if they miss their families. I said that they didn’t, because they don’t form familial attachments in the way that we elves do. Doesn’t the mother miss her children? I doubt she even knows how many she has, but it is true that imps form attachments easily to their masters. Perhaps they do seek some sort of parental figure, though I had always assumed they wanted protection from the Nether’s more dangerous residents. It’s an interesting thought, one I am glad that he brought up. A student who challenges the teacher is sure to go far in his studies, and in turn should make me a better teacher.

I do worry a bit that he’ll fall behind in his fire lessons. Aeramin is away, so his assistant Maerista is taking over his classes for the trip. Normally, Felarius does his private fire lessons with Aeramin, but it seems that he’s been studying his summoning instead. I don’t want to discourage that, of course, but nor do I want him to fall behind in fire. Not only is it incredibly important to have a good fire foundation, it would look awfully suspicious if he’s taking private lessons off site and still not doing well. I don’t want to raise any questions.

I think he’ll be ready for an imp soon. Obviously he can’t keep it at the school, but I could probably set up a place in the work room here. It will be easier than constantly summoning it, and I will also be able to keep a closer eye on its behavior. I’m somewhat relieved that he doesn’t seem to have any interest in a succubus. Those are nothing but trouble.

[Story] Xanaroth’s Journal

I brought Vallindra into the healers’ office, I was worried that something might be wrong and I thought it best that they see her. Everything seemed normal to be, but of course I’m not a healer, and she was well past her due date. I suppose the little one was warm and comfortable and wasn’t in any hurry to be disturbed! They decided to give Vallindra something that they said would hurry things along, she said it tasted really terrible. We waited there for quite a while, but nothing had happened yet. Esladra went home for the night, though Lani was still there, seeing to her father in the next room. Vallindra was worried because Lani doesn’t have much training in the area of babies — though she does have one herself so she must have some idea. Still, I had a hawkstrider outside ready to go and fetch Esladra at a moment’s notice. Vallindra slept, I had meant to stay awake but I fell asleep in the chair, until she woke me later that night. I wasn’t sure of the hour, but it was certainly late. Or early. I felt a little guilty waking Esladra at that hour, but then it was her job, wasn’t it? She was dressed and had her little bag ready much more quickly than I expected.

Once things started to happen, it went quickly. Lani came to assist so I did my best simply to stay out of the way. I wasn’t especially eager to see Vallindra in pain either — not to mention that she might rightfully blame me for being in this situation. I’m not the one who had to go through all of the discomfort, hopefully I can make it up to her later on. The baby is a girl. Vallindra said I could choose her name, and though I had a whole list ready it still wasn’t easy. Their name is something they have for life, it has to be nice and should fit them. I chose Elara, it’s short and pretty and it goes nicely with Embersun. I got to hold her, she’s so tiny that I was afraid I might drop her. Everything about her is tiny — her little fingers and her little ears and nose. And she’s cute. Of course I’m biased, but I think she’s one of the cutest babies I ever saw. No doubt she’ll grow up to be just as beautiful as her mother. She mostly sleeps now, and eats. I bring her to Vallindra for that, though sometimes I make a bottle if I want to let her get some rest. Esladra said that’s all she will do for a couple of weeks. I wonder about what she’ll be like, what her interests will be, what she’ll like in school, whether she’ll want to study summoning or not. I wouldn’t deter her of course, but I admit that it would worry me.

I had to skip Felarius’s lesson that week, because there was just too much to do. I felt bad about it, so we had an extra the next. He’s a good student, he has been keeping up on his reading and did all of the practice circles that I asked him to do. He asks questions but he doesn’t challenge me. I think he’ll do well. It’s been nice having a student again. I tried to explain it to Vallindra but I’m not sure she really understood. There’s nothing quite like seeing the student that you taught succeed and grow. Though I expect it must be similar to be a parent.

[Story] Xanaroth’s Journal

I stopped by Magister Firewind’s house to meet his new student. He’d been caught with certain books, and Hethurin agreed to allow Aeramin to instruct him safely, rather than expel him altogether. Many people aren’t so understanding, so I’m grateful that he allows his students to explore subjects that he may not agree with. However, he’s not to study or practice on the school grounds, which is where Aeramin came in. It’s far safer this way, he can learn the foundations required to summon safely and without putting others in danger. But then Aeramin said he thought I should take over his lessons, for what reason I do not know. I was surprised by the suggestion, but quickly agreed. It’s been far too long since I’ve had a student, and I look forward to watching him learn and progress. He’s studying fire magic currently, which is a good starting place. I intend to begin with the classification and attributes of various types of demons. He has a few books, but I can loan him more. It’s difficult not to give them all at once, I have to remember that he’ll be easily overwhelmed by too much information too fast. I can hardly believe I was once that naive and eager.

I intend to organize my work-room and give him his own corner to use for study and practice. Most of what’s down there are my notes for the book, but it’s been overdue for organizing anyway. I am a little concerned that Vallindra might not be pleased, but she shouldn’t see or hear him at all aside from when he arrives and leaves. That, and the baby will be here any day now. I know Hethurin teaches his classes with one (or two, sometimes) in a sling, and I expect that would work well for me. But later on, once Felarius actually begins summoning, we will have to find another arrangement. There’s no way I would expose my child to even an innocent looking imp; too much can go wrong. But I suspect that is quite some time off, I suppose how quickly Felarius learns and where his individual strengths lie.

I’m uncertain of Aeramin’s reasons for giving me his student. I’m not complaining, of course. On the contrary, it was a pleasant surprise. He did make a remark about not wishing to make Imralion jealous, which I found rather strange. Would he really be jealous of Aeramin spending time with a student? He did say there had been issues in the past, not necessarily with Imralion, but others. I suppose if Vallindra had a very handsome young blood knight wishing to visit her often, I might not like it very much. Whatever the reason, I look forward to it. And to finally meeting my son or daughter as well.

[Story] Xanaroth’s Journal

Work proceeds on the manuscript, though not as quickly as perhaps it could. I admit I have been distracted enough with Vallindra’s discovery. She went to her sisters’ clinic to be certain. Though it’s still yet a long way off, there’s a lot that must be done to prepare, and I am the one who fulfills any requests she might have. Normally, there are quite a few, and it can be difficult to get work done, but I don’t mind. The manuscript can wait, if it has to. I know I’ll have even less time once the child actually arrives, but I won’t mind that either. I promised Vallindra that I would see to as much care as possible. We’ll likely have to hire someone to help though, which will further complicate our research, unless it’s another student of the fel arts. I doubt there are many nannies who study demons, however. I should have a very rough version for Aeramin to look over soon, I need to meet with him and Kestrae to discuss the book in more detail. Until this point it has primarily been organizing our notes and research, but it must be laid out in an organized fashion in order to be useful to others. I know Kestrae has been busy with their little one, and Aeramin is teaching at the school which must consume a great deal of his time.

I do stop by from time to time to visit, primarily to bring dinner back but also sometimes to visit with Hethurin. I know he has no particular affection for Vallindra, but he has always been polite to me, so I make an effort to keep in touch. The students should have their spring holiday soon, and it should afford both of them more time to meet. The cook is also preoccupied, so the meals aren’t perhaps quite up to their usual standard, but still quite tasty and certainly better than my own cooking. I do what I can when she requests something late at night, I am considering asking Hethurin to help me learn conjuring so I can at least do that. It seems it would be perfect for fulfilling odd late-night snack requests, but I was never very good at it.

I wonder as well if there are any students there interested in summoning. I’m certain it’s not permitted, but we all did it anyway. Students are curious, they want to know more – especially things they’re told they can’t know. It all ties in so well — fel magic can amplify and empower your ordinary fire spells, it’s a natural progression. When I speak to Aeramin, I’ll ask if there are any who might show potential for it. Of course it would have to be after they graduate; I don’t want to bring any trouble to Hethurin’s school, but just to sow the seeds.

Keeping busy helps with the worry. If I’m painting the room or fetching something for Vallindra, I don’t have time to be afraid of what might happen. At least, not as much. It’s still there, I can’t banish it completely. I’m a great deal older now and I am more careful, but I was careful then too. I hate being afraid and vulnerable, it’s an unpleasant and unsettling feeling. I’ve strengthened all of the wards again, just to be certain. I’ll ask Hethurin if he has any suggestions for them, as well.

[Story] Xanaroth’s Journal

I had a visit the other evening, from Vallindra’s brother. We don’t often get visitors, and we hardly ever see him, so it was doubly unusual. She wasn’t home at the time; she was in the city shopping for winter gifts with her mother (and that boy).  I suspect Hethurin might have known somehow — maybe he’d been watching — and that’s why he chose that evening. He wanted to tell me that the wards at the school had been working well, though Firewind was the one who made them. I’ve never been very good with wards — bindings are another matter, but of course that isn’t what they needed. The research from the new Tanaris species has been helpful, he said. I wish I could have had more time with them. I’m still sorting and compiling notes, and doing tests on Firewind’s over-sized imp when I can, which isn’t as often as I would like. While we know some things about them, there’s a great deal we don’t know, such as resistances or weaknesses to specific spells, their reactions to various herbs and magical compounds, things like that. All the sorts of things you would expect in a demonic compendium. Vallindra did the wards here, though in truth they’re more to keep ours in than to keep anything out. Any wild demon who stumbled through our roof might be unpleasantly surprised.

He had a great many questions about the demons here, primarily how they might be getting here. I explained that they could not come on their own, they would require a portal to be opened into the Ghostlands. I thought it best not to mention the flying structures — if one of those was here, it would surely have been noticed and I thought it best not to scare him. There aren’t any here, nor have there been. We would have seen them. I explained that portals of that size and power would require an immense amount of energy to maintain, the ones that we observed in Tanaris were set on leyline crossings. That would amplify the power of whoever — or whatever — is keeping the portal open. Hethurin wanted to see Vallindra’s maps, which I showed to him. There are only a few ley crossings that I believe would be large enough, and I pointed them out. He seemed thankful for the knowledge, but I can’t help but wonder what he plans to do with it. Does he intend to try to close them? Doing so would be both difficult and dangerous, especially for a mage untrained in demonic magic. Perhaps ward the boundaries, so the demons are trapped within? It might work, though it would likewise require an immense amount of energy and it would be impossible for him to maintain them alone. Perhaps he could place a second portal directly at the exit, so that the demons step from the Nether into the bottom of the ocean, or something like that. It’s an amusing thought, but again, would require a power source.

Hethurin said that the school is doing well, and that I ought to visit for the winter ball. I’d very much like to, but I know he still mistrusts Vallindra, and I’d rather not leave her home alone. Unless she has plans already that night, I suppose. I just hope she doesn’t gain any ideas from her mother about leaving me for a boy who works at the pool. I don’t think I’m that old just yet.

[Story] Xanaroth’s Journal

This place is awful. It’s my own fault for suggesting it, I know. Vallindra wanted somewhere warm, well it’s certainly that. “Warm” is misleading. It’s so hot that I can feel every part of me sweating in my robes. Sand gets into every conceivable crack, whether you want it to or not. At Hethurin’s suggestion, I bought a hat to protect from the sun, while it looks ridiculous I am glad I did. Magister Firewind’s doesn’t cover his ears, and already by the first night they were painfully burned. There are snakes, scorpions, and massive spiders. I’m told they seek shelter in shoes at night. In sharp contrast to the heat of the day, at night it’s quite cold and we need heavy blankets. The only food we have to eat are dried fish, which is tough and salty and terrible. Vallindra thought to bring some fruit, but it won’t last long. Hopefully some traders will pass by the outpost soon. It is my hope that all of this discomfort will be worth it in the end, and so far it seems promising.

We sleep during the hottest hours of the day, and venture out in the cool of night. It’s a bit more dangerous, due to the sand worms, but they haven’t given us much trouble yet. Magister Firewind suggested that we butcher and eat one if it should attack us. I can’t even imagine what worm meat must taste like.

While we couldn’t see any demons from the Reliquary camp, it did not take us long to find some. More interesting are the structures, because they are large enough that they appear to have been present for some time, but I don’t see how that is possible. Do they have some means to move them via portals? It’s something I’ve never seen before. I made sketches of the structures; there are also large flying air-ships overhead. It’s difficult to see them well in the night sky, but I have done my best to sketch them.

And there are new species, as I had hoped. There are slender, robed demons that are skilled casters and appear to keep lesser demons enslaved. I suggested that these ones be named after Vallindra, but I can’t tell if she was amused or not. We observed a larger species of imp, apparently similar in all ways to its smaller cousins, aside from size. Though slighter of build, they stand as tall as an elf, which is unsettling to say the least. After a few failed attempts, we aided Magister Firewind in binding one. Its name is Grembahl. I do not know if he intends to bring it home with him or not; if so I suspect that his present imps will not like the arrangement very much. I have selected some larger species that I would like to study more in-depth, in addition to the Vallindra demons of course.

I dislike having the blood knight here, aside from possibly exposing our studies, there is the very real danger that he will carelessly kill something I’m in the middle of studying. That’s the reason they agreed to send him here, so he can learn how to kill them and report back to the others. I don’t see what’s so complicated about it, but that’s blood knights for you. Binding and guiding them is much more rewarding, and delicate. Our knowledge will also help strengthen the wards back in the Ghostlands, to keep the school and rangers safe. As much as I enjoy studying them, I’d prefer demons weren’t roaming loose all over the Ghostlands.