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22 February 2015 @ 09:40 pm
fic: The Summoning  
'You could just do some short Valentine's promptathon fills,' says franztastisch. 'Just 500 words. Come on, just some small fills.' HA. Have part one of a series of three interconnected prompt fills feauting Natasha as a demon for the latest be_compromised promptathon. (Late, as ever.)

Title: The Summoning (also on AO3)
Rating/Warnings: PG13 (f-word, talk of murder, actual murder, this demon wants to eat dead people)
Length: 2312 words
Summary: Clint accidentally summons a red-haired demon from the Fourth Level of Hell - and she's pretty pissed off.
Author Note: Written for this prompt from sweetwatersong in the be_compromised 2015 Valentine's Mini Promptathon. I’ve interpreted the levels of Hell as Dante’s circles of hell, this is your friendly reminder that it’s not cannibalism if you’re eating a different species, and the author takes no responsibility for any attempts at demon summoning using the instructions contained in this fic. (Especially if it works.)

The Summoning


The electricity being out when Clint finally gets back to his apartment is just another shitty thing to happen in his long, shitty day.

No lights, never mind hot food or Dog Cops. He can get his field suit off (and on, for the record) in the dark, so that isn’t an issue, but he has a few scrapes that it’d be sensible to doctor before he can collapse into bed, if only so he doesn’t get blood stains on the sheets again. He can see a bit thanks to the streetlights outside, but his floor is too high up for them to be much use. He scrabbles around in the junk draw – the one with the old batteries, used batteries, and possibly new batteries rolling around loose amongst wire, paperclips, a mini screwdriver set from a Christmas cracker, and who knows what else – until he finds a candle and some matches.

He gets it lit on the second try, clumsy with tiredness. It’s fat and red, maybe another Christmas thing, and he drips wax on to the coffee table until it looks like there’s enough to stick the base of the candle down so it won’t topple over.

The drips form a kind of pattern. He didn’t do it on purpose, but it seems familiar.

It reminds him of the carnival; maybe something from the fortune teller’s booth with all her fancy candles, or from Maggie’s trailer with the drippy candles in their empty wine bottle holders, or maybe just from nights when everyone would gather around a fire with candles and torches, whatever they had, and all kinds of leftover food.

Clint lets a few more drops of liquid wax fall, completing a circle with little dots and lines spiraling out of it and a cross at two o’clock, and then curses, a quiet aww, fucking hell, when the blood still oozing from a cut in his wrist spatters on the table with the wax.

He ends up planting the candle on the kitchen countertop instead whilst he searches for the first aid kit, then cleans and bandages the parts of him that refuse to stop bleeding on their own. He’s barely awake enough to remember to blow the damn thing out before making it into bed.

The little wax circle is easily forgotten.

For quite some time.

~O~

As much as many humans like to pretend otherwise, cloaking the mystical in rituals, spells and artistry, it doesn’t take much to summon the supernatural. All that’s needed is a deliberate action – something done that’s out of the ordinary for the person doing it, as simple as words spoken or as deep as a life taken – and appealing to the being or supernatural plane you wish to hear from. Blood helps, especially for the darker callings.

A pattern in wax, invoking Hell, and spilling blood will do the trick.

~O~

Some demons quite enjoy being summoned forth from Hell. They say it’s a change of scenery, destroying the locals is an enjoyable pastime, and the meat is fresh.

She has been tied to the Fourth Level of Hell for almost eight centuries, enduring a dull existence spent in tormenting those who hoarded their wealth wage a never-ending battle against those who squandered theirs, and if there’s anything worse than watching the war of greed it’s doing so whilst crowded by her squabbling brethren, and still she cannot articulate just how much she detests being summoned to Earth. To be used to do someone else’s bidding, and to be used by a mortal soul at that, makes her essence run hot and foul.

She intends to emerge in a form of wrath and rage, to terrify the being who dares to call her, and instead finds herself in a Summoning Circle too small to comfortably fit even the smallest of mammals (and in her current state she cannot be anything but warm-blooded). She fumes, incorporeal, making the air burn, turning it to death and poison.

And she goes unnoticed.

If there is anything worse than being summoned and used she thinks that it could be being summoned and ignored.

~O~

Held in place, she watches the dust motes in sunlight and the changing shadows on the walls. There are dim sounds from outside the room she is in, sounds she cannot hone in on whilst her powers are confined to a Circle. There are smells occasionally, the best of them the smell of meat which comes with the frustration of being unable to devour.

Sometimes there is a man. He comes and goes at odd hours, dressed either meticulously in reinforced clothing or, more often, slovenly in rumpled garments. He eats poorly, cries out at night, and is almost always tainted by injury. He has a dog, below her line of sight unless it clambers up onto the furniture, but other than that he seems to be alone.

He is one mortal man, a pathetic specimen of a man this one who called on her and whose bidding she awaits, and it galls her that she cannot burn him to ash.

~O~

He never states the reason for the summoning. He never makes a demand. He never acknowledges her.

For a while she thinks this is punishment for a sin she cannot remember committing.

(There is blood in her ledger, glorious red, but for those sins remembered she knows the price and that too is listed.)

~O~

He practices archery in a steady rhythm of draw, nock, and release, parting the air currents with his arrows. He eats sitting on the couch, the dog’s head resting in his lap, to the sound of the talking picture box. He talks himself sometimes, mostly with women who never stay long.

She tastes the call that brought her; the wax, the blood, the curse, nostalgia and the pain of injury so familiar that open wounds are forgotten until blood interrupts. She tastes and she wonders the reason why she is here, what her use is to be. She tastes the only thing available to consume and she waits.

~O~

One time his hand passes through her domain, the small circle of space she inhabits, giving her the chance to demonstrate the heat of her rage.

He blames the steam rising from his coffee cup and doesn’t so much as run the burn under the cold water tap, the moron.

In her defense she’d been lulled by boredom into drifting as part of the air and it takes a lot longer than the breath in which a hand passes over a small wax circle to hot things up enough to really do some damage.

(Really she knows her complacency is indefensible.)

~O~

Almost always he returns injured, such a fool never taking care of himself. She could burn and brand his skin, cauterize the damage. She could drink the blood of him and seal him closed. She could fall on his enemies like a living nightmare so that none may injure him again.

If he told her to, she could.

She watches. There’s nothing else to be done.

~O~

It occurs to her that she could try to get his attention, to ask what he wants of her rather than passively waiting to be commanded.

She could say that she does not because she is weakened by being enclosed in this Circle for so long, but her kind cannot lie, only omit and obfuscate. The fact of it is that she has settled into the waiting, much as she had settled into place on the Fourth Level of Hell only here is preferable.

Both Hell and here are confinement, but here she isn’t required to constantly torture the unchanging dead or to put up with the bickering of the others of her kind trapped alongside her. Here there is confinement without orders she is forced to obey, and she doesn’t care to bring herself to the man’s attention and find out otherwise. Here is restful and there are worse states of being.

For now, here will do.

(Besides, there are only three more episodes left until the end of Season Two of Dog Cops.)

~O~

Time on every other plane can be stretched, compressed, and manipulated beyond all recognition, but it is a strange thing on Earth that time is a consistent measure and yet a century can seem like minutes or minutes like a century, regardless of how much time has actually passed.

There is time spent in a Circle of wax and blood.

She stops waiting to be acknowledged or ordered by the one who summoned her and just waits. Time is a constant. Eventually time will wear away the wax and the blood, or someone else will come across her and use her.

All things come in time.

~O~

When a blunt knife scrapes at the wax and there is the harsh stench of cleaning products at first she doesn’t realize what has happened, that she is free.

This is the first time she has been truly free in millennia, and to be free on Earth where the mortals are ripe for hunting? No human has made such a mistake for so long that her kind have become few and far between on this plane, and none have ever made such a mistake with her.

Still intangible, she darts out of the open window and soars upward, up into the vast and empty sky where there is more space than can be imagined in Hell and where the cacophony of humanity spreads out below her as a feast. She tastes their dreams and their fears, their desires and breaking points, and knows all she needs to do is to influence them here and here. A whisper in an ear, an open-mouthed kiss with that one’s partner, leave this door open so a child can wander loose… Such small actions to lead to a mortal’s undoing, and then she can eat.

There are rules, she remembers. It has been so long since she has been on Earth outside a Summoning Circle – where there are orders but because there are orders the rules do not apply – and she has been waiting to be used, never dreaming she could be set free. She has to adjust.

There are rules.

She cannot kill, but she can drive others to kill for her and she can influence this by any means short of death. She can seduce and tempt, threaten and terrify, and, in the end, when death is done the meat of the dead belongs to her.

There must be an exchange or an offering. She must do a service, as simple as providing an opportunity for someone who already wants to kill or as complicated as can be, but she must create a debt for her to claim payment.

This one wants an excuse, this one wants their partner to be jealous, this one wishes they had more time to themselves.

A whisper in an ear and they’ll kill for her. An open-mouthed kiss and their partner will be so jealous murder is inevitable. Leave this door open so a child can wander loose and they’ll have all the time in the world to themselves after a driver going too fast has been her partner in crime.

There are rules, but oh so many choices, so many she can destroy, that it’s almost overwhelming, but below she feels a man who once made a Circle of wax and blood and then dared to ignore her.

She knows him, knows how easy it will be. All she needs to do is wait until the next injury, the next accident, and ensure its fatality. Then she will deliver her long overdue wrath.

She finds him in a high place, a bridge tower buffeted by wind and rain. He has his bow drawn and is aiming at one of two figures talking on the bridge below.

“I have the shot,” he says into the device in his ear, and he does.

But his balance is precarious, and the people below have guns, and the man clutching a package under one arm is almost shaking with fear and adrenalin and god let me live through this, just let me live through this. All she needs to do is to help the elements a little. The archer will lose his balance, alerted to his presence the man with the package will wildly fire his gun, and the archer will suffer a bullet and a fall.

She forms herself into air, pausing before joining the natural air currents in their attack to caress her idiot’s cheek. (In a mocking farewell, of course.)

This is when she realizes that his neatest clothes are a uniform and hears the voice in his ear giving orders. This is when she realizes that he is being used, sent out to kill on someone else’s behalf, and for this he is injured and suffers. He, she realizes, is the one being used to do demon’s work.

If there is anything worse than being used herself she thinks perhaps it could be watching someone else being used.

She fumes, making the air burn, and for a moment he is protected from the elements, the cold forced around her wrath and the rain turned to steam before it can touch him. She could say that this is all she does, and that it hardly counts as help, but then there is a climbing line secured nearby, presumably how he got up here in the first place, and she threads it through a loop on the back of his uniform, securing it to a strut.

He does not fall.

The man below does, with an arrow through his heart.

This is an exchange, not a kindness. She takes the eyes of his kill, as is her due.

They taste sweet.