Still on track to finish this week! On publication of this one, I’ll be dropping the price of Rob #1 to .99 in the hope of stimulating some sales. Amazingly enough, I’m just plain ENJOYING writing this one, even though it may not sell any more copies than Rob #1 did this month (Which was, um, five so far!). Well, if I was writing to please the market, I’d be doing shifters instead of daemons. You gotta follow your muse, I say. Who knows, maybe I’ll make daemons the next big thing and then I won’t be sorry I didn’t follow the trends :0
I went through my books to see what I could find to get some traction over Ga’ap aka Phil. When I read his entry in the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, my heart sank. As I already knew, “ ‘He appears in the form of a doctor when he takes on a human form. He is the most excellent doctor of women, and he makes them burn with love for men.’ ”
“Oh brother,” Gary said, looking up at my screen.
He looked at me reproachfully. “Dr. Phil?”
Lucy and I groaned. She did a horrifyingly good impression of the bullying TV doctor. “ ‘Are yew gonna dew what Doctor Phil tells yew to dew?’”
I laughed, then sobered. The problem was, Celia was going to do what Dr. Phil told her to do. I read on. “ ‘It is to be noted, that if anie exorcist have the art of Bileth, and cannot make him stand before him, nor see him, I may not bewraie how and declare the meanes to conteine him, bicause it is abhomination, and for that I have learned nothing from Salomon of his dignitie and office.’ ”
“So even Solomon can’t contain him?” I wondered aloud.
“Not true,” Lucy said. “Solomon did contain him once. When he tried to end the Age of Daemons, remember?”
“Ah. Well, let me show you.”
She jumped up onto my chest, and drilled my eyes with hers. I looked into them, at the spooky flat discs at the back of them, and…watched a scene unfold there like a movie.
I saw the battle, Solomon and Sheba fighting together, trying to press all the daemons into a great brass amphora…Ba’al the Lord of Flies, a cloud of flies whipping at them…Phoenix’s flaming wings singing my hair, the great daemon-bird’s scream making the roots of his teeth ache…Ga’ap’s ice-blue eyes reaching into Sheba’s soul…the blow from my staff that broke his concentration…Sheba’s spell sending him raging into the amphora.
Then… I gasped. Phoenix, the last but one to be bound in the jar…Phoenix bursting into flames, lighting Celia’s wooden sword on fire…Phoenix, with the chance now to be King of Daemons, if only he could defeat me.
And then, there was Rob, Barbatos! “None shall bow to you, Phoenix,” came the voice I ached to hear again. Then, Rob, sacrificing his own freedom to take Phoenix with him into the jar…
“Oh God!” I said, jumping up, sending Lucy sailing. I was sobbing. Rob, Barbatos, had given his freedom for me, for Solomon, had sent Phoenix into imprisonment…and, worst of all, no doubt, stole Phoenix’s chance to be the King of Daemons. Now I knew why Phoenix hated Rob.
And I was so relieved. I’d been dreading this knowledge without knowing it, waiting for the axe to fall, to hear of what terrible murder or horror Rob had committed to earn Phoenix’s enmity. But this…
“Rob, oh God, Rob, why did you do that?”
“For you,” Lucy said softly. “He did it for you.”
“And then what happened?”
“Solomon and Sheba threw the amphora into a lake, where it should have stayed. But the Babylonians found out about it, and their sorcerers raised the amphora from the lake, and they broke it open, thinking they could govern its spirits – after all, who was Solomon to them but a jumped-up king of a bunch of nomads, and they were a mighty city-state. The reward they received from daemonkind was…just, in my opinion. Ba’al was so enraged at his confinement that he murdered every human being present at his rage at the species, and that was the end of the Babylonian priest-magicians. And so Solomon and Sheba, who thought they’d retired from daemon wrangling, had to go back to work…but that’s another story.”
I felt something I thought was a myth – ancestral guilt. “So Rob did that for Solomon, and yet, still, after all that, even when he was freed, Solomon didn’t forgive him, didn’t summon him back to his side.”
“No,” Lucy said quietly. “He didn’t.”
“Solomon was an asshole,” I decided. Lucy didn’t argue.
“And Ga’ap, he hates me too, for putting him in there. And Celia. And Rob. Hell, everyone.”
“Pretty much,” Lucy agreed.
Something stirred in me. Something…kingly. I stood up. “Well, we’re going to destroy Jeff and we’re going to put Ga’ap back in a motherfucking jar. And nobody’s letting him out this time.”
Lucy bowed her head. “Spoken like a king, Solomon.”
Lucy and I flew first class to New York, and while she grumbled about the cat carrier and the under-the-seat treatment required of small animals in the main cabin, she made the sacrifice, knowing it was in a good cause.
I’d been on the computer, making the reservations in coach class, when Lucy put a paw on my hand. “Use your miles.”
I snorted. “What miles?”
“The miles Rob put in your account before he went into the ground.”
I logged in and checked my mileage balance. “Oh shit!” Instead of the 15,000 or so I thought I had, my balance had gone up to 500,000. “How did he do that?”
She quoted the Lemegeton. “ ‘He giveth ye understanding of ye singing of Birds, and ye voice of other Creatures and ye [such as] barking of dogs &c, he breaketh hidden treasures open, that have been Laid by ye Enchantment of Magicians.’”
“So, hacking past firewalls into an airline mainframe is the modern version of breaketh-ing hidden treasures open, bypassing ye enchantments?”
She smiled. “Gotta change with the times.”
There was more “treasure” to come, I discovered. A car and driver met us at LaGuardia and whisked us to 55 Central Park West, where Phoenix kept an apartment. Daemons, after all, have had all the time in the world to pile up material goods, and nobody could say consorting with them wasn’t a comfortable experience.
Outside the building, I suddenly realized something. I laughed, semi-hysterically. The driver looked at me oddly, as did the doorman. I sobered up.
“Sorry. I just realized this is the ‘Ghostbusters’ building.”
They smiled and nodded, reassured that my laughter had a reasonable cause. Sure enough, with typical daemonic humor, Phoenix had acquired an apartment in the building that had been used (with a different, gargoyle-clad roof) in the movie “Ghostbusters” as the gateway into our world for the evil god Gozer the Gozerian.
The apartment was gorgeous. Phoenix had taste, for sure. The furniture was mostly white, with lots of (naturally) red accents. You could have white furniture, after all, if you had magical elements constantly whisking the dirt away.
I tried to sit down on one of the comfy chairs but Lucy had jumped into it, and I nearly tripped on myself jumping back up. “I almost sat on you!”
“I know. I’d love to let you rest, but we need to get to work. In there,” she said, sauntering towards a completely incongruous door, a heavy, dark-stained wooden door with iron bolts and decorations across it – decorations I realized were magical symbols.
And yes, it even creaked when I opened it. It was dark in there, so I muttered a spell for light. I’d expected the same ambient light I’d created in the basement of the Historical Society, but the room had ideas of its own; it captured my spell and repurposed it, and hundreds of candles lit themselves. Candles in wall sconces, candles in a chandelier, candles on an altar, a giant cedar altar with Phoenix’s own sigil carved deeply into the top:
Each channel in the symbol had its own purpose. The top left corner, that straight line, held a wand. The bottom left corner, the circle, held a chalice. The upside down cross next to it held a knife, a gorgeous Renaissance dagger with an exquisitely jeweled hilt – red rubies, of course. The semi-figure eight at the bottom right held two piles of ground materials, one with sage and the other with sulphur. The long, oblong center was a pool of still, clear water. The two crosses at the top, one under water, each had smaller, sharper, thinner daggers. The scent of the contents of the chalice was intoxicating, alluring. My whole body wanted to grab the cup and drain it. But I knew better, forced my thoughts away from it.
Instinctively, I reached for the large dagger nearest me. Lucy jumped up onto the altar. “Nuh uh. Not that one. Unless you want to vow yourself for all time to the priesthood of Phoenix.”
“No. No, I do not.” I thought about it. I looked at the dagger under water. It was more like a letter opener than anything else, with its simple white hilt, but it drew me.
I knew better than to just stick my hand in the water. “Durer el shesha, Phoenix gir al natha,” Part the waters, in the name of Phoenix, your king. It was true that I could use plain English for my spells, but I was discovering that, at the least, it sounded very cool to speak them in beautiful dead languages. And, in this case, that language was probably necessary to get around the very specific and ancient wards placed here by Phoenix.
The water stirred, as if a pebble had been dropped just over the dagger, little ripples flowing outward, only the ripples were deep, and the waters parted at the center of the ripples. I picked up the dagger, which was warm and dry, and the water flowed back into its natural state.
I dipped its point into the cup, brought the point to my mouth to taste its contents. A smoky-sweet drop of spiced wine exploded on my tongue, a galaxy of flavors, including some that Rob had taught me to detect. I knew right away that, had I drank it without touching the knife to its contents, it would have poisoned me. But now, instead, it strengthened me, blew away all the cobwebs that transcontinental travel had hung on my brain.
I knew I could replicate its contents later, that the knowledge was in me, and more than just the knowledge of how to make this brew – it was as if I’d downloaded a Wikipedia’s worth of sorcerous instruction via the world’s smallest flash drive. Phoenix had promised to instruct me, and he had been true to his word.
I put this knife through my belt loop – I no longer needed to wear the “hippie scrubs,” it seemed. I picked up the other small blade. With a practiced flick, I tossed a knife-point’s worth of sage into the water, then an equal amount of sulphur.
The water erupted in flames, transformed into a raging-hot sorcerous fuel. I stepped backwards, instinctively put my hand up against the wave of heat.
“Shit,” I said, remembering the wand on the other side of the flames. Then I remembered who I was. I put the second blade down and thrust my right arm through the flames, ready to yank it back at the first hint of singing hairs. But the Seal of Solomon tattoo did its job, and the flames parted for me as readily as the water had. I picked up the wand, and that went into my pocket.
“It’s time to open the gate,” Lucy said.
I nodded. I put the second small blade back into the flames, and drew it out. The flames came with it, like taffy being pulled. I drew a doorframe of flame, and then stuck the blade in where the key would have gone in a “real” door. I heard a click – more a clank, like some old mechanism being opened. I pulled, and instead of the altar, I saw…
…the interior of the “French Pavilion” on Jeff Faustus’ Hamptons estate, where Doctor Jane Scott was still imprisoned. This time she was sobbing on the floor. I stepped through, and Lucy followed. The door snapped shut behind us, and I whirled.
“Don’t worry,” Lucy said. “It’s still there.”
She looked up. “Who are you? How did you…”
“He’s Luke Skywalker, he’s here to rescue you,” Lucy said. I rolled my eyes.
Dr. Scott looked at the talking cat with a startling equanimity. I suppose she’d seen things far more strange and awful since becoming Jeff’s unwilling concubine.
“You can’t be here. He’ll destroy you.”
“No,” I said firmly, helping her to her feet. “I’m here to destroy him.”
“It’s impossible. He has..things helping him.” She shuddered. “Awful things.”
“I’ve got things, too,” I said, pulling the wand out of my pocket and giving a stern, conductor-like wave at one of the French doors.
Which exploded outward, shards of wood and glass flying, shocking us all. I’d meant to unlock it, that was all. “Don’t know my own strength,” I said.
Lucy purred. “Nice.”
“Let’s go,” I said, but Dr. Scott recoiled from my grasp.
“No. It’ll be even worse for me if you fail. I’ll…I’ll stay here.”
I looked at her. This had been an accomplished woman, the kind who strode down the streets of Manhattan, through hospital corridors, like a force of nature, and Jeff Faustus had transformed her into…this. I paused. Best not to get too cocky, myself.
“Okay. Listen. There’s a door, okay? The door we came through.” I handed her the second blade. “This is the key. When you’re ready to use it, just stick it here,” I said, indicating the spot where the “lock” was. How we’d get back if Dr. Scott used the key and shut the door behind her was something I’d deal with later.
She nodded, probably more, I thought, to get rid of me. Jeff had a hold on her that was more than just fear. All the same, if we could get to him, weaken him long enough, she could come to her senses and escape.
We walked out through the mess I’d made, Lucy picking her way carefully through the glass. It wasn’t long before I heard it – the rustling of October leaves, gathering together, Jeff’s own portal forming nearby.
Then there he was, facing me from the other side of a little pool. He was smiling. “Well, well, back for more.” He raised his hand and the leaves that had swept him here formed a spear, and I knew the blades of these leaves were sharper than knives. He hurled it at me.
I raised my right arm in front of my face, and the spear should have penetrated my forearm, and gone straight through my skull. Instead it shattered into dust as it impacted against the Seal of Solomon.
Jeff frowned. “Who the fuck are you?”
“I am Solomon King reborn, Jeff Faustus. And I am here to fuck you up.”
This gave Jeff pause. Then a figure materialized at his side, and I heard Lucy yowl in pain and indignation as she was picked up by the tail and swung far away, deep into the bushes. I gasped as I saw her crash, and then I heard a familiar sound – the laugh of Phil Gabeta, Ga’ap Bileth.
“Did you forget your Lemegeton, Sol?” Ga’ap asked me. “ ‘He can dilever familiers out of the custody of other Magicians.’ You just lost yours.”
“Ga’ap.” I pulled out the miniature vodka bottle I’d got on the plane and decided to keep. I showed it to him. “Here’s your new home for the next…well, forever. Not very roomy. And it wasn’t very good vodka, either. Oh, and it’s plastic, too, full of icky stinky chemicals. Not even a glass bottle for you.”
He roared, and lunged. I held up the small knife and it clove him in two. I heard a squall of pain from him at the division, and his two parts fell to the ground behind me. “A Phoenix Blade, Ga’ap. I have allies of my own.”
Jeff smirked. “Oh, but I have something too, Sol.” He waved his hand over the pond, and the water rose up into a square sheet, that became a window…
Onto a dungeon. And there was Celia, chained to the wall, Phoenix next to her, also chained, both lifeless.
“No,” I whispered, and in that moment of fear and weakness, Ga’ap struck from behind. The wand fell from my hand.
“Yes,” Ga’ap squealed with delight. “And the two of you will die together, Solomon and Sheba, and I will be avenged.”
Jeff twitched his hand and the window wavered. Then the sheet of water formed into thousands of little droplets that came rushing at me like buckshot.
When they hit me, I fell. Lucy, Celia, Phoenix…Rob…I couldn’t save anyone, I thought in despair as I fell. Then I hit my head on the ground and that was the end of thinking.
When I woke up, I, too, was chained to the wall where I’d seen Celia and Phoenix. I doubt very much the original Palace at Versailles had a grim, cold dungeon, but I could be wrong. At any rate, Jeff had deviated from the original in this if nothing else.
“Celia,” I whispered, but she was dead to the world. Mercifully, I thought. Why wake her up to …this?
“Well,” Phoenix said. “That went well.” The laugh lines at the corners of his mouth curled up. He looked about forty years old, which was better than the last time, I supposed.
I laughed bitterly. “Yeah, right.”
He shook his head. “No, it did. Everything worked perfectly. You’re right where you need to be, right when you need to be.”
I blinked. “You mean… you set me up to fail?”
“You haven’t failed, Sol. Trust me.”
Before I could ask any questions, I heard the groaning of a door, and the sound of footsteps on the stairs – two pairs.
“Come to gloat?” I asked Jeff and Ga’ap, as they stood outside our cell, beaming at us like two parents at a newborn baby.
“Yes!” Ga’ap said delightedly. “And to tell you what’s in store for you! You’ve been asleep for two weeks, Sol. And guess what day it is?”
“Math class is hard,” I said. “You do the calculating.”
Jeff smiled. “It’s Saturday, November 2nd.”
Rob, I thought with a surge of joy. In a matter of hours my beloved daemon would burst out of the ground and lay waste to these motherfuckers.
“Oh,” Ga’ap said sorrowfully. “I know what you’re thinking. But you’re wrong. You see, you and Celia are to be sacrificed tonight. You’ll die together, at, oh, I think 1:59 a.m.?” He looked at Jeff, who nodded. “Yes. Barbatos will return just in time to see you take your last breath.” He laughed and laughed, a horrible sound like nails on chalkboard.
“And,” Jeff added brightly, “at the same time I’ll have drained Phoenix for the last time. And I will become one of daemon kind…an immortal.” His eyes glittered at the thought.
“If you can kill Phoenix,” I said, “then daemon kind isn’t immortal. So you won’t be, either, will you?”
Phoenix chuckled at this as Jeff’s face darkened with rage. “For that, I’ll make you suffer. You’ll die slowly, Solomon Priest. Slowly and painfully.” Then they were gone, Ga’ap’s awful laugh trailing behind them, leaving despair and sorrow in its wake.
When they were gone, I started to cry. Not because I was going to die, but because I’d never see Rob again. Or, worse, I’d look on him with my dying eyes, and see the look of pain on his face as I died in front of him.
“Stop it,” Phoenix snapped. “Listen to me. There’s another way.”