“Well,” said Ms. Connor, folding her hands in her lap. “I would like to see the demon now, if you please.”
“It takes a little while to set up the pentagram and the summoning circle,” Magnus said. “You might want to get comfortable.”
Ms. Connor looked startled and displeased. “I have a lunch meeting,” she noted. “Is there no way to expedite the process?”
“Er, no. This is dark magic, Ms. Connor,” said Magnus. “It is not quite the same as ordering a pizza.”
Ms. Connor’s mouth flattened like a piece of paper being folded in half. “Would it be possible for me to come back in a few hours?”
Magnus’s conviction that people who arrived early to meetings had no respect for other people’s time was being confirmed. On the other hand, he did not really wish for this woman to remain in his house for any longer than necessary.
“Off you go,” Magnus said, keeping his voice urbane and charming. “When you return, there will be a cecaelia demon in place for you to do with as you wish.”
“Casa Bane,” Magnus muttered as Ms. Connor left, his voice not quite low enough to be sure she wouldn’t hear him. “Hot- and cold-running demons, at your service.”
He didn’t have time to sit around being annoyed. There was work to be done. Magnus set about arranging his circle of black candles. Inside the circle he scratched a pentagram, using a rowan stick freshly cut by faerie hands. The whole process took a couple of hours before he was ready to begin his chant.
“Iam tibi impero et praecipio, maligne spiritus! I summon you, by the power of bell, book, and candle. I summon you from the airy void, from the darkest depths. I summon you, Elyaas who swims in the midnight seas of eternally drowning souls, Elyaas who lurks in the shadows that surround Pandemonium, Elyaas who bathes in tears and plays with the bones of lost sailors.”
Magnus drawled the words, tapping his nails on his cup and examining his chipped green nail polish. He took pride in his work, but this was not his favorite part of his job, not his favorite client, and not the day for it.
The golden wood of his floor began to smoke, and the smoke rising had the smell of sulfur. But the smoke rose in sullen wisps. Magnus felt a resistance as he pulled the demon dimension closer to him, like a fisherman drawing on a line and getting a fish who put up a fight.
It was too early in the afternoon for this. Magnus spoke in a louder voice, feeling the power rise in him as he spoke, as if his blood were catching on fire and sending sparks from the center of his being out into the space between worlds.
“As the destroyer of Marbas, I summon you. I summon you as the demon’s child who can make your seas dry to desert. I summon you by my own power, and by the power of my blood, and you know who my father is, Elyaas. You will not, you dare not, disobey.”
The smoke rose higher and higher, became a veil, and beyond the veil for an instant Magnus glimpsed another world. Then the smoke became too thick to see through. Magnus had to wait until it dwindled and coalesced into a shape—not quite the shape of a man.
Magnus had summoned many disgusting demons in his life. The amphisbaena demon had the wings and the trunk of a vast chicken. Mundane stories claimed it had the head and tail of a snake, but that was not in fact true. Amphisbaena demons were covered in tentacles, with one very large tentacle containing an eye, and a mouth with snapping fangs. Magnus could see how the confusion had arisen.
The amphisbaena demons were the worst, but cecaelia demons were not Magnus’s favorites either. They were not aesthetically pleasing, and they left slime all over the floor.
Elyaas’s shape was more blob than anything else. His head was something like a man’s, but with his green eyes set close together in the center of his face, and a triangular slit serving as both nose and mouth. He had no arms. His torso was abruptly truncated, and his lower parts resembled those of a squid, the tentacles thick and short. And from head to stubby tentacles, he was coated in greenish-black slime, as if he had arisen from a fetid swamp and was sweating out putrefaction from every pore.
“Who summons Elyaas?” he asked in a voice that sounded like a normal, rather jolly, man’s voice, with the slight suggestion that it was being heard underwater. It was possible that this was simply because he had a mouthful of slime. Magnus saw the demon’s tongue—like a human’s but green and ending in a thick point—flicker between his sharp slime-stained teeth as he spoke.
“I do,” said Magnus. “But I rather believe we covered that when I was summoning you and you proved recalcitrant.”
He spoke cheerfully, but the blue-white flame of the candles responded to his mood and contracted, forming a cage of light around Elyaas that made him yelp. His slime had no effect upon their fire whatsoever.
“Oh, come on!” Elyaas grumbled. “Don’t be like that! I was on my way. I was held up by some personal business.”
Magnus rolled his eyes. “What were you doing, demon?”
Elyaas looked shifty, insofar as you could tell under the slime. “I had a thing. So how have you been, Magnus?”
“What?” Magnus asked.
“You know, since the last time you summoned me. How have you been keeping?”
“What?” Magnus asked again.
“You don’t remember me?” said the tentacle demon.
“I summon a lot of demons,” Magnus said weakly.
There was a long pause. Magnus stared into the bottom of his coffee cup and desperately willed more coffee to appear. This was something a lot of mundanes did too, but Magnus had one up on those suckers. His mug did slowly fill again, until it was brimming with rich dark liquid. He sipped and looked at Elyaas, who was shifting uncomfortably from tentacle to tentacle.
“Well,” said Elyaas. “This is awkward.”
“It’s nothing personal,” said Magnus.
“Maybe if I jogged your memory,” Elyaas suggested helpfully. “You summoned me when you were searching for a demon who cursed a Shadowhunter? Bill Herondale?”
“Will Herondale,” said Magnus.
Elyaas snapped his tentacles as if they were fingers. “I knew it was something like that.”
“You know,” Magnus said, enlightened, “I think I do remember. I’m sorry about that. I realized right away that you weren’t the demon I was looking for. You looked kind of blue in one of the drawings, but obviously you are not blue, and I was wasting your time. You were pretty understanding about it.”
“Think nothing of it.” Elyaas waved a tentacle. “These things happen. And I can look blue. You know, in the right light.”
“Lighting’s important, it’s true,” said Magnus.
“So whatever happened with Bill Herondale and that curse a blue demon put on him?” The cecaelia demon’s interest seemed genuine.
“Will Herondale,” Magnus said again. “It’s actually rather a long story.”
“You know, sometimes we demons pretend we’re cursing people and we don’t really do it,” said Elyaas chattily. “Like, just for kicks? It’s kind of a thing with us. Did you know that?”
“You could have mentioned it a century or two ago,” Magnus observed frostily.
Elyaas shook his head, smiling a slime-bedecked smile. “The old pretend-to-curse. It’s a classic. Very funny.” He appeared to notice Magnus’s unimpressed expression for the first time. “Not from your perspective, of course.”
“It wasn’t funny for Bill Herondale!” said Magnus. “Oh, damn it. Now you’ve got me doing it.”
Magnus’s phone buzzed on the counter where he had left it. Magnus made a dive for it, and was delighted when he saw that it was Catarina. He had been expecting her call.
Then he realized the demon was looking at him curiously.
“Sorry,” Magnus said. “Mind if I take this?”
Elyaas waved a tentacle. “Oh no, go right ahead.”
Magnus pressed the answer button on the phone and walked toward the window, away from the demon and the sulfur fumes.
“Hello, Catarina!” said Magnus. “I am so pleased that you finally called me back.”
He might have laid a slight pointed emphasis on the “finally.”
“I only did because you said it was urgent,” said his friend Catarina, who was a nurse first and a warlock second. Magnus did not think she’d had a date in fifteen years. Before that she’d had a fiancé whom she had kept meaning to marry, but she’d never found the time, and eventually he’d died of old age, still hoping that one day she would set a date.
“It is urgent,” said Magnus. “You know that I’ve been, ah, spending time with one of the Nephilim at the New York Institute.”
“A Lightwood, right?” Catarina asked.
“Alexander Lightwood,” said Magnus, and he was mildly horrified to hear how his own voice softened on the name.
“I wouldn’t have thought you’d have time, with all the other things going on.”
It was true. The night when Magnus had met Alec, he had just wanted to throw a party, have some fun, act the part of a warlock filled with joie de vivre until he could feel it. He remembered how in the past, every few years, he used to feel a restless craving for love, and would start to search for the possibility of love in beautiful strangers. Somehow this time around it hadn’t happened. He had spent the eighties in a strange cloud of misery, thinking of Camille, the vampire he had loved more than a century before. He had not loved anyone, not really loved them and had them love him back, since Etta in the fifties. Etta had been dead for years and years, and had left him before she’d died. Since then there had been affairs, of course, lovers who’d let him down or whom he’d let down, faces he now barely remembered, glimpses of brightness that had flickered and gone out even as he’d approached.