Final Exam, Demonology

Karl Dandenell

Wyld FLASH October 15th 2021

“Do I have to dismiss the demon?” said Sugyen. The apprentice stared at the fearsome creature imprisoned within the circle of blood runes and flickering candles. “It feels cruel, dragging the poor thing here just to send it back straight away.”

Ymir, his master, shook his head. “Any apprentice can summon a demon. Only a full wizard can control and dismiss. Now get on with it.”

“Yes, please hurry,” said the demon. “I’m in complete agony over here.”

“No one asked you, Gwal’laghamandar!” snapped Ymir. He whispered a few syllables. Blisters rose on the demon’s back.

Gwal’laghamandar hissed in pain.

Ymir lowered his voice. “Look, Sugyen, you’re an excellent student. But your priorities are all wrong. You need to spend less time caring for every injured toad and vole that crosses your path and more time learning the finer elements of the magical arts.”

“Like demon control,” said Sugyen.

“Precisely!” said Ymir, happy that Sugyen agreed with him. “The first time I summoned a demon, I was so scared I nearly wet myself. But once I realized I had the thing under my control, well, I knew I would become a great wizard and do great things.”

Sugyen nodded. “Like getting this keep. I know.” As a young wizard, Ymir had summoned up a relatively minor demon, then tasked it with procuring fifteen perfect emeralds from the black dragon Enok the Terrible. Those gems had paid for and furnished Ymir’s keep, including an extensive orchard of rare fruit trees. Ymir had regaled Sugyen with the story on his first night as an apprentice. And repeatedly thereafter.

“Pity the demon didn’t think to kill the dragon before taking the emeralds,” said Ymir.

“So you summoned another demon—”

“Exactly,” said Ymir. “That demon handled the foul lizard after it torched my beautiful orchard. Quite the battle, let me tell you.”

“Master,” said Sugyen, hoping to forestall another reminiscence. “Why didn’t you just order the first demon to kill the dragon? You taught me demons are impervious to dragon fire.”

“Indeed. The physical forms of demons are nearly impossible to kill in this realm,” said Ymir. “Only their true names combined with certain magics can affect them.”

“Then—oh, right.” Sugyen blushed. “Service or Saga.”

“I glad you remember some of your demonic theory,” said Ymir, his voice falling into a familiar teaching rhythm. “Once a demon performs physical labor for you—successfully—it’s free to go, and you can’t summon it a second time. On the other hand, if the demon only answers questions…?”

“Then you can call upon it as often as needed,” finished Sugyen. “Hardly seems fair, given the painful nature of summoning.”

“Demons barely notice. Trust me.” Ymir pulled out two scrolls. “Now then—here are your spells: Total Demonic Control and Immediate Demonic Dismissal. Once you’ve sent Gwal’laghamandar back to his realm, I’ll consider your apprenticeship complete.” He handed over the scrolls.

“I’m going to down to the cellar and find a nice brandy to celebrate. You two play nice, now.” Ymir closed the heavy door behind him.

Sugyen recited the spell of Total Demonic Control, taking special care with his pronunciation. Once the spell was cast, the demon sighed and scratched its belly with a black, serrated talon. “What is thy bidding?”

Sugyen opened the second scroll, then paused, thinking to indulge his curiosity. “I bid you answer truthfully, Gwal’laghamandar. Does it truly pain you when you are summoned?”

“Does it pain me? Imagine being crushed to death between two millstones, over and over,” said the demon. “Now give me a task, Master, so I may depart and never see you again.”

Sugyen had been so worried about performing his spells he hadn’t thought about a task. “Uh, I have no labor for you. Only questions.”

“Just like the others.” Gwal’laghamandar narrowed its eyes. “Of Ymir’s eight apprentices, only two have allowed me to fulfill my contract. The remainder hold me in thrall, summoning me whenever they seek some trivial bit of arcane knowledge.”

“But I wouldn’t do that,” said Sugyen. “I hate seeing things suffer. Ask anyone! Honestly, now that I know the truth, I couldn’t see myself ever summoning you again.”

“Eventually, you will summon me. That’s what wizards do.”

Sugyen considered all the animals he’d nursed back to health. As much as he wanted to keep them as pets, he always released them, knowing they could only thrive in their natural habitats. Was it not reasonable to think demons, too, required such treatment?

Then he remembered Ymir’s comment about demonic theory. “You know, there might be a way to keep you safe from another summoning.”

“How?”

“I could bestow a new name on you.”

Gwal’laghamandar shook its head. “I know wizards can name things, but it makes no difference. Whatever name you give me will be shared,  and I’ll find myself right back here. Suffering.”

“Not if I don’t remember the name.” Sugyen sketched out his plan.

“I have my doubts,” said the demon, “though I cannot see any good alternative given my circumstances. Proceed, wizardling.”

Sugyen opened the chamber door, took a deep breath, and placed his left hand in the frame. “Do you, Gwal’laghamandar, accept a new name to bind you both body and spirit?”

“I do.”

“Then I name you—” Sugyen slammed the door, crushing his fingers. He shrieked and cursed, jumping about the chamber.

Gwal’laghamandar laughed. “A most excellent name. I will bear it with pride.”

“Glad you like it.” Sugyen wheezed with pain.

“Now task me so I can depart. Hurry! Ymir approaches.”

Sugyen looked around, shaking his fingers. “I, uh, command you to remove the cobwebs from the ceiling!” That seemed safe enough.

“Done.” The candles in the summoning circle flared, scouring the ceiling. When the flames died down, Gwal’laghamandar disappeared, his contract fulfilled.

A moment later, Ymir stepped into the room with a bottle and two goblets. “I heard screaming. Everything all right?”

“Fine, master. Just had to remind the demon who was in charge.”

“Good, good. I’m glad to see you’re starting to act like a proper wizard.” The old wizard filled the goblets with brandy. “A toast to your first demon!”

“My first demon!” said Sugyen, his hand throbbing. And hopefully my last.


Author Bio: Karl Dandenell is a Full Member of the Science Fiction Writers of America who lives on an island near San Francisco with his family and cat overlords. His love of strong tea and whiskey is perfectly normal.


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