Five Things You Should Know Before Summoning a Demon

Karl Dandenell

March 25th 2022

Look, if you’re going to go to the trouble of summoning a demon, there are five things you need to know:

1) We Have Long, Complicated Names

This one’s pretty obvious. You killed another wizard in a duel or pored over thousands of pages of ancient, nearly illegible tomes to find my name. It’s pretty challenging pronouncing it with your soft mouthparts, ain’t it? We aren’t just “Rowena the Wise” or “Mahesh of the Ivory Fleet,” although we might employ similar monikers among ourselves. Formal demon names convey our lineage, our triumphs, and our history. Truth be told, our names contain our very essence, which is the only reason you could hook me with your summoning spell and drag me here to this pathetic excuse for a castle.

You’re lucky my name has only sixteen syllables and two glottal stops. If you want a real challenge, ask me how I like my venomous spines polished or what my favorite color is.

It’s brown, by the way. Yellowish-brown, like fresh bile.

So do your homework and practice the demon’s name before you cast your summoning, ‘kay?

2) We Have Lives Too, You Know

Every wizard is surprised when I tell them this. What? Do you think we’re stored in glass bottles or iron-bound chests or sealed crypts just waiting for you to drag us to the upper realms? Hardly. We have lives, rich and full. And important jobs. I myself am responsible for ten thousand slaves who should be digging a canal through a fetid swamp. Do you know what happens when I’m not there to crack the whip and rip off a few arms? The work just stops. Stops, I tell you. My boss—a Named Prince of the Infernal Realms—doesn’t want to hear excuses. He’ll just peel off my skin and count it as my lunch break. It’s all about the bottom line for him.

3) We Don’t Die, But We Do Feel Pain

Look, I know you’re very excited about commanding me to fight some fire-breathing lizard just so you can have its gold, or watching me slay the armored minions of your liege lord’s annoying neighbor, but you have to understand something. Despite our apparent invulnerability, we still hurt. Every claw, every enchanted blade, every pool of lava hurts. Sure, we can rebuild our material forms but the process takes time and energy and boy, it smarts. I have better things to do with my day.

4) We’re Supernatural, Not Stupid

When the ancient gods created the upper and lower realms, they filled them with beings both magical and mundane. Just because demons were consigned to the lower pits doesn’t mean we forgot to pack our brains. We know what you’re doing. You can’t just order us around and expect us to roll over without a fight. And we’re definitely not going to fall for the old “accomplish this one simple task and I’ll set you free” trick. Forget about us draining the ocean or building a tower taller than the moon, or finding your lost true love. Forget it. They moved on. And so should you.

5) Seriously, Check Your Work

Demons don’t belong in this realm, which is why it’s no small task to summon us. First, as I already mentioned, you have to discover our name. Then you have to prepare your summoning circle with runes drawn in blood or ruby dust or what-have-you. And then you have to light the candles, in the right order, I might add. Finally, you have to command the demon to appear within the circle where you can control them.

I can’t stress this last part enough. Magic isn’t a natural process for you like it is for us. You can’t make any mistakes.

And even if you do everything right, you’re still dealing with a powerful, capricious, practically immortal being who would happily decorate your inner sanctum with your organs if given the opportunity.

Why? As a warning to other wizards, of course. And because it’s fun.

Okay, have you got all that? Excellent.  

Now, before you tell me my really important task, I should point out something. I’ve been examining your rune work and I must admit it’s excellent. Really top notch. All except that third one on the left. No, your left. Looks like you forgot to close a loop. Just a little thing, really. Still, it does break the whole design, which means I’m not obligated to stay inside the summoning circle.


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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