This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Friday, 12 October 2012


Give me a Blood Mary,” said the warlock, burying his face in his hands.

“Careful,” I warned, reaching out just in time to stop his conical hat toppling off onto the bar. “You ought to have left it at the door,” I told him, pointing. “There is a hat-check girl, after all.”

“Who ever heard of a warlock without a hat?” he grumbled. “Who ever heard of a bald warlock at that?” He lifted his hat long enough to show me an expanse of mottled scalp partly covered with a few wispy strands of hair. “Who’s ever going to take a warlock seriously if he can’t even grow himself a head of hair!”

“Well,” I asked, reasonably enough I thought, as I reached up for a glass, “why don’t you?”

“You think it’s that easy? Besides, what use is hair? Takes up time to comb and shampoo and keep trimmed, doesn’t it?” He glared at me. “Where’s my Blood Mary?”

I measured out the vodka. “What blood do you want?” I asked. “The usual?”

“Yes, of course.” He watched me mix in the hippogriff blood, using a wing bone of a wyvern as a swizzle stick, snatched it out of my hand and downed it in one deep gulp. “Give me another,” he said.

“Tough day at work?” I asked, automatically. In my job, you understand, I have to do a lot of listening. For some reason a lot of otherwise intelligent people seem to think a bartender is a part time psychiatrist or confessor or something. So I have to at least pretend to be interested. Over the years I’ve learned to look interested even as I daydreamed about my girlfriend or planned my shopping. But sometimes I listened, because there might be something worth listening to. Besides, my girlfriend had decided a bartender wasn’t her dream man after all and left me. “Something went wrong, did it?”

“Did it ever,” he said morosely. He sipped at the second Blood Mary. “These things taste terrible,” he said.

“Then why do you drink them?” I shrugged. Over on the other side of the room, two vampires were passionately locking lips, their fangs ripping the hell out of each other’s mouths. Dark red blood was trickling down their pale skins. Well, so long as they were harming nobody else, what they did to each other was their lookout.

“Because I want to.” That was a good answer, I supposed. The vampires realised they were drawing everyone’s attention, and stopped mauling each other. The female began to daintily mop her partner’s blood away with a napkin. A tall ogre came ambling over and demanded a keg of ale. I muscled it over the counter, took his gold and watched him suck down the entire keg in one long draught.

“You were saying?” I asked, turning back to the warlock. He had been mumbling something. “Something about a demon, wasn’t it?”

“The next time I try to raise one,” he said, “you might as well take my hat and cloak of stars away and give me a strait-jacket.” He tossed off the last of the second Blood Mary. “I’ll have another,” he informed me, “and go easy on the blood.”

“It must have been bad,” I said, “if you need three Blood Marys.”

“Three?” he screeched, loud enough so even the shambling mummy in the corner turned to look. “Three hundred wouldn’t be enough, you hear me? Or three thousand!”

“All right,” I said soothingly. “Calm down a bit and tell me more.”

don’t think (said the warlock, sipping at his third Blood Mary) you ever wondered about Summoning a demon? No, of course you haven’t. Only the greatest warlocks ever give any thought to the matter, and only the greatest of the greatest – someone like me, for instance – would even begin to plan out a Summoning. It isn’t easy.

First, of course, you have to decide which demon to Summon. It’s a very, very difficult exercise even to bring over a little imp, so if you’re going to go to all that trouble you might as well bring over a demon who’s worth the effort – someone who can do something for you. Get me?

So I consulted all my books of spells, my grimoires and of course the great Atlas of Hell, which is, of course, bound in human skin and written in human blood. And – step by step – I narrowed down my search until I chose which Demon to summon. It was no small demon, no imp from one of the lesser circles. I had decided on a Demon worth my while indeed; a demon of demons, so to speak. Yes, I, the greatest warlock of all, decided to bring over the greatest demon I could.

It was Beelzebub. You know what he’s like? Or maybe you don’t. It doesn’t matter. He’s the second greatest of them all in Hell, that’s all you need to remember. Beelzebub, the Demon King.

I tell you I had a hard time getting together the things I needed to get him over. A full year I spent just in getting the nail parings of a dragon, and three months more to get a phoenix’ ashes. I almost gave up when it came to the grated unicorn horn, and were it not for a young female friend of mine – well, I digress. Finally, I had it all together, and I prepared everything for the Summoning.

You remember the storm last night? I was there in my tower, feeling the storm make it sway, so strong the wind was, and the rain – I believe even the nightwalkers stayed in their caverns. But I didn’t mind the storm. It provided – you know – the setting.

I won’t bore you with the rituals. They wouldn’t mean a thing to you anyway, my drink-slinging friend. Just let me say that precisely at midnight, when I poured three measured drops of the essence of vile canker into the indestructible crucible of molten gold – I’ll tell you about that crucible some day, how I got it and how I tried to break it – anyway, by that time I had already been at work for five hours without a break. And then I uttered the words of the Summoning.

“Beelzebub,” I called at last, “King of Demons, come out!”

I had not known precisely what to expect, so I stood well back from the pentagram on the floor where he was supposed to make his entrance. I waited to see him appear, with his three great horns and seven eyes, and his bat wings and needle teeth. I waited in vain.

What instead happened was a hole opened in the air and something came through, snuffling. Imagine an old, old snake, its head as thin as a spike, and its scales ragged and dull. Now give that snake wet, leathery-looking wings, folded along its back, and a tail ending in a blunt triangle, and you’ll have a fair idea of what it looked like. Standing on two stunted legs, the thing wasn’t even up to my waist.

“Beelzebub,” I said in astonishment, “is that you?”

“Beelzebub’s on holiday,” the thing said in a whining voice. “I never get a holiday, but he does. All I do is wait on him through eternity while he goes off gallivanting among the seas of Europa – and what do you want?”

“Who are you?” I asked, still amazed.

“Beelzebub’s secretary. At least that’s what he calls me, but I’m more like his personal servant. Now what do you want? Why did you bring me here?”

I tell you that my senses were in such a whirl that I could scarcely remember why I had wanted to summon a demon in the first place. All I could do was blab something about enhancing my powers. I think I demanded the powers of Hell to be added to mine. And at that the creature laughed aloud.

“Powers indeed. If I had powers to give, would I have wasted my eternity as Beelzebub’s factotum?” It flapped its wings slightly, and my Magic Dust was blown right out of its packets all over the floor. A hundred years of Magic Dust just thrown away! “Maybe you want the keys to Satan’s executive washroom too?” Still laughing, it shimmered and vanished. And after it went, I found it had stolen all my gryphon feathers as well. Why? Who knows?

And that’s how it ended, a lifetime’s effort to summon a demon.  I tell you, I’d rather be in a strait jacket than go through that again.

The warlock put down his fourth Blood Mary and, sighing, turned to go. I was watching the werewolf at the far end of the bar, who had reached an advanced stage of intoxication and was liable to begin something if I wasn’t careful, so the warlock had almost made the door when I realised something.

“Hey,” I called, “you haven’t paid me for that.”

He looked over his shoulder at me with his reddened watery eyes. “Money,” he said bitterly, and sent a gold coin floating through the air. “That’s all you lot think about. And here I am with my life’s work shattered.”

And with a sigh of utter drunken melancholy, he tottered into the night.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2010

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