I ignored Kelly’s breathing next to me, Mandy’s scowl across from me, and Jayleen tightening both her hands along her sword’s shaft. The late afternoon sunlight was streaming through high clearstory windows around the gym, the hiss of kerosene lamps I’d set up for back up lighting mingling with the quiet. Demon baiting in the dark was suicidal.
My voice was calm and deep as I raised my hands and began the summoning chant once more:
“Here in this place and before the eyes of the unbelievers, come forth.”
“I call the creatures of the elements. The seekers of release who wish to walk amongst the humans.”
“I bid you to destroy the binds holding you in thrall.”
“Come. Prove yourselves.”
A faint wind brushed against my skin. A hot, dry wind, not from damp Maryland in March, but someplace far away. Smelling of sulfur and brine.
I squeezed my eyes shut and kept chanting, stretching my arms higher, deepening my voice, ignoring the fissure of warning along my skin.
“There is a reason for being. Journey here. Now.”
“May your masters honor and bow before you. Sending you on your way.”
“You who laugh at the mortals. Come close.”
“Echo-demon I summon thee!”
The wind picked up and I swore I could feel grit and sand abrading my skin. Kelly caught her breath. I kept my eyes closed.
“We welcome you demon of the deep. Come play with us. Show us your might.”
Demons did love a dare.
The lights in the room flickered then went out. My eyelids flew open. Fortunately the few kerosene lanterns stayed lit even as they cast long wavering shadows dancing across the room and deepening the darkness in all four corners.
Mandy was no longer scowling but sending wary glances over both her shoulders. Jayleen faced where the danger was greatest, head-on, towards the circle. After her childhood what was one lone demon.
Kelly’s breathing came short and shallow. I feared she’d hyper-ventilate before I finished the summoning. But I couldn’t stop now. The echo-demon was too close. I could feel it’s presence like sharp cat claws stepping paw by paw across my exposed arms. The tensing of my neck and shoulders. The knot tightening in my gut.
“Come on,” I whispered, “show your ugly face. Come forth and die.”
“Now! Echo-demon. Close nearby as day dissolves into night. Show us your—”
The explosion ripped through the room. Tossing me far enough backwards I landed with a curse on my tailbone. Ten feet in front of me Jayleen and Mandy held their positions. They were no longer waiting or wary. Legs braced, swords held high, muscles tensed. They were ready for bear.
Crap. Where was. . .Kelly had winked out. Only her sword shook in the flickering light. The late afternoon sky had clouded over, as if evil brought its own darkness.
And not one but three echo-demons swirled like a bad nightmare in the middle of the gym; twelve feet tall, brackish green in color, scales covering their bodies as they materialized into more corporeal shapes. First one, with three horns sprouting from his misshapen head, then the second, with a gaping mouth of shark-like teeth, and then the third, with a double-forked tail, each ending in a knobby spike.
Oh by the Goddesses, what had I done?
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