Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Invoking Paimon

"I still don't see why we couldn't do it upstairs," said Shay.  "Your office is warmer and more comfortable than this... cave!"
"We could have invoked Paimon there," said Tomaz.  "It would have taken a lot longer and been much more dangerous, and we'd have had to come down here in the end anyway.  The point of entry to the Library for books in Paimon's realm is this gate in front of you."
"Huh," said Shay.  "At least we'd have been down here for less time."
Tomaz didn't answer that, but opened his slim little box instead.  Inside it looked like a rectangular artist's palette, with little indentations set at regular intervals and filled with what looked like solid colour.  Annejecta craned her neck to see more clearly, and Barrus sniffed once and twitched his nose as though he were smelling something disagreeable.  They could hear Tomaz counting softly underneath his breath, moving his finger along the indentations.  When his finger stopped it was next to the only amber colour in the box, on which he rubbed his finger.  The amber was soft enough for him to rub a layer off, roughing up the surface of the disc and lightly coating his finger, and Annejecta thought immediately of fat-based cosmetics.
"Hold still," said Tomaz to Shay.  "I need to draw a sigil on your face.  It won't hurt."
"It's only wax," said Barrus.  "Why would it hurt?"
While Tomaz carefully copied the sigil on the gate onto Shay's face, the waves going on his forehead and the cross-lines going through his nose and mouth, Annejecta shuffled a little closer to Barrus and said quietly enough that only he could hear her,
"Not all of those coloured discs will be painless to put on.  Some of... of... of the things we might want to talk to won't talk until they can feel your pain."
Barrus looked startled, stepped backwards and nearly colliding with the fourth member of their little group, who glared at him but said nothing, adjusting her position so that Annejecta was between her and Barrus.  Annejecta closed the gap between them again, speaking quickly to stop him from saying anything.
"Paimon isn't like that, he embodies dignity and there's nothing dignified about needless suffering.  But there might be some of them we might want to talk to one day who will make that demand.  That's just the way they are.  It's like, I don't know, the terms of a contract.  You sign on with someone and they say you have to wear their stupid, heavy, scratchy uniform all the time, so you do it because they're paying you."
"Fine."  Barrus's voice was flat and his eyes showed that he didn't like what he'd just heard.
"Normally," said Tomaz, as he finished his drawing, "you would need to learn a set of phrases first that you'd repeat, but because of where we are right now, we can omit that step.  Stay right where you are while I fetch something; don't move around much now.  You're attracting attention just by being here, and we've marked you now.  Remember that you're going to be judged."
"What does he mean, judged?" asked Barrus, his helmet shifting slightly.  Annejecta surmised that he was frowning hard beneath it.
"We're asking for something," she said.  "Knowledge about the Hinterlands in this case.  Just like when you go to the Librarians and ask them for a book, they decide if you can have it, if you can take it away or if you have to read it where they can watch you.  It's just like that, only Paimon's a bit... bigger than a Librarian."
"Well, I think I know how to deal with Librarians," said Barrus, the volume of his voice rising a little now.  "Doesn't matter what they call themelves."
Tomaz reappeared from underneath the stairs carrying a tiny clay bottle with a cork stopper.  As he walked past Annejecta and Barrus they both smelled something strongly resinous and then an undercurrent that reminded them both of sick-rooms.  Tomaz stopped in front of Shay and pulled the cork from the bottle, thrusting it under Shay's nose as he did so.  Shay inhaled, ready to step back and away, and his eyes rolled up in his head as his nose smelled something incredibly strong and potent.
"Paimon rebharat, maccaresis ca ta fïeldur.  Laimat ta rebhara.  Paimon et urfeld maccara." said Tomaz, his voice sharp and high.  It felt like his voice cut through the air in the room like a knife through soft butter, and Annejecta took a step back, feeling off-balance.  The mark on Shay's face lit up redly, with the flesh behind it appearing purple and bruised, and the moss beneath his feet changed colour to red as well, a straight path rolling out both before and behind him.  His feet moved jerkily, carrying him forwards as though managed by an inexperienced puppeteer, and Annejecta saw that the sigil on the gate was also glowing.  They all remained silent while Shay stumbled forward, and when he reached the gate he put his hand out as though to stop himself from walking into it, but his hand passed through the bars like they were a mirage.  He walked through, stopping on the other side and turning around to face the rest of them.  Then the light faded out of his face and he staggered a little, catching himself against the wall.
"What the fuck good's that?" said Barrus, the first to speak.  "I thought we were getting books from this."
"You are," said Tomaz. "The lever for opening the gate is on Shay's side."

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