When Wizarding Goes Wrong

It was another day… probably.

Helbert opened his other eye as much as he could. The other eye confirmed it was morning.

He’d survived the night, which was something of a relief.

Unless this was the afterlife.

Helbert lifted his head further from the pillow. Once his eyes got the hang of focussing properly again, he looked around.

Unless the afterlife was a perfect simulacrum of his mortal existence then yes, he was still alive. Not that the theory meant much. Helbert had slept though most of his theology lectures at the University, but he wouldn’t put it past the gods to do something pointlessly malevolent. Something like make the afterlife a perfect replica of mortal existence for some cunning, devious and needlessly cruel eternal torment. They liked doing things like making mortals push rocks about forever for no reason, do endless never ending housework or have their eternally regenerating giblets feasted upon by various wild animals.

Anyway, Helbert needed to get out of bed. Although, out of all the available options he quite fancied dying in bed. But only when he was not much older and not by being torn apart limb from limb and having his soul eaten by some hell-spawned demon.

The book was still there, spread out face down. It was probably even open at the spell page where he’d dropped it the night before when he’d blown out his candle and dived under the covers. He looked down at his hands, twisting them around in front of his face in the grey dawn light.

He was not even a fully-qualified wizard yet. He was many years away from getting his scroll and the official Wizarding pointy hat and staff.

Apparently, even fully-qualified and completely paid-up wizards had trouble summoning demons. There were tales told in the inns and brothels around the university about what happened when wizarding went wrong, especially when it came to summoning demons.

Perhaps he’d dreamt it.

That Siluvrian wine was quite strong, after all.

He remembered he’d drunk too much of it. Then he’d been thrown out of Madame Genna’s House for making improper suggestions to one of her girls.

He remembered the girl in tears and the other – mostly undressed – girls gathered around comforting her as they started and glared at him, muttering curses under their breaths. Grunt, Madame Genna’s doorman, standing thwacking a cudgel the size of a tree trunk into his palm in a rather pointed manner as he too stared at Helbert.

He couldn’t remember what he’d said to the girl. All he membered was that, before he’d nipped around there for a quiet drink before bed, he’d been reading that book.

He stared down at that book lying on the floor now. Old, tattered, its leather binding and cover scuffed and worn. It didn’t look like much of a book, but ever since he’d found it in the bottom of a box at the back of the second-hand bookstore, strange things had been happening to him and around him.

He looked up and his jaw dropped open.

There was writing on the wall, in what looked like dripping red blood. Now Helbert realised, it smelt like blood too.

Helbert didn’t know what it said. He had never learnt the language of demons. But unearthly symbols written on a wall in still dripping blood, he knew, meant it wasn’t going to be anything good.

Then he heard the shouts and the thudding footsteps on the stairs, and the rattle of armour and unsheathed weapons.

He knew that the watch were coming for him. But – much like the night before in Madame Genna’s – Helbert had no idea what it was he’d done.