Circles of Temptations
The apprentice stared greedily at the massive tome that sat upon the smooth, basalt pedestal. Reaching forth a trembling hand to caress the cracked, leathery texture, his supple fingers lingered lovingly upon the worn cover. With reverence, he carefully opened the heavy volume, his eyes absorbing the precise script that described the complex formulas and intricate diagrams that detailed the summoner's art. It was his one true love and the Master's specialty.
For three long years the apprentice had worked and slaved for the chance to call upon the myriad denizens of the netherworld and for three long years he had been allowed only brief, controlled glimpses of his boundless potential. It was frustrating and the apprentice felt like he was doomed to spend his life in obscurity, a broom in his hand and his dreams of power unrealized. Now it seemed, things were about to change.
Called away at the last minute on urgent business, the Master had left the apprentice to prepare the chamber for the evening's ritual. With the moon waning in her fullness and passing through the Seventh House of the Magi, the Master would attempt to drag one of the Nistryn, the most powerful of the denizens that roamed the chaotic void, across the threshold between the worlds. Unfortunately, the apprentice would not be allowed to witness such powerful magic, his presence an unwanted distraction in a situation were the slightest mistake would prove fatal.
Apparently though, in his haste, the Master had left his precious grimoire unattended in the summoning chamber. While the apprentice had busied himself with the lighting of the sacred candles, he had discovered the book and its longed for secrets. Fate had obviously smiled upon him and his pulse had quickened, the first stirrings of a greater destiny filling him with a pleasant flush of warmth. The Master would return to find the Nystryn subdued and bound to his will. Then, the Master would have to concede he was ready.
Clutching his scarlet robe tightly about his slender frame, the apprentice stepped confidently into the protection of the diamond-etched circle the Master had laboriously prepared. Focusing solely upon the words of the summoning, he began to intone the harsh syllables that would part the veil that separated the two worlds. Inexorably, the apprentice's gaze was torn away from the book as the magic took on a life of its own, the complicated phrases coming unbidden to the apprentice's suddenly parched lips. Almost against his will, his eyes were forced to rest upon the physical receptacle of the forming gateway, an elegant mirror framed in lustrous gold.
As an unseen wind stirred the hem of the apprentice's robe, the arcane runes inscribed within the protective circle flared to life in a radiant burst of scintillating blue. The mirror's surface rippled like a becalmed pond gently stirred by a slight breeze. Its reflection was replaced by a deep, fathomless emptiness that sent shivers up and down the apprentice's spine. A hollow rushing sound filled the air as a sharp, metallic tang assaulted the apprentice's nose. So far so good, the gateway was opening.
With a primordial scream that reverberated up from the depths of his soul, the Nystryn's true name was wrenched from the profusely sweating apprentice. In response, two pinpricks of smoldering flame formed in the darkness within the mirror. First one, then another clawed appendage broke free of the elastic surface to grasp the mirror's gilded frame. A thick, black ichor dripped for the gray-hued flesh and where those cruel hands clutched the metal, it blackened and began to melt beneath that unholy touch.
The apprentice watched in both wonder and horror as the creature pulled itself through the portal, the spongy substance of the veil stubbornly resisting the passage before finally giving way with a loud, rending noise. He had not realized it would be so big and the awful reality of it unnerved him. All rational though fled from his mind as did the brave demeanor with which he had begun the summoning. Fear set in and his disciplined mind abandoned him in the face of such elemental evil.
Turning toward the dazed apprentice, the Nistryn's baleful glare fell upon the frightened youth. Eyes of malevolent fire bore into him with such malice and hunger that he momentarily faltered. When the creature stepped toward him, his reaction was natural, but quite unfortunate.
Faced with the culmination of mankind's worst nightmares and depraved imaginings, he flinched away from the Nistryn, and regrettably, the safety of the mystic circle.
The aged Master paused momentarily before the oaken door, the sense of evil emanating from beyond informing him without a doubt what had occurred. Squaring his shoulders, he threw the door open and charged into the blood-splattered chamber. Raising both hands toward the grotesque creature that feasted upon what little remained of the late apprentice, he made a dismissive gesture and spoke a few, sharp words of command.
The Nistryn howled soullessly as the magic ensnared it and hurled it through the gateway back to its infernal home. With the connection severed, the mirror slowly returned to normal, its reflective surface displaying in full detail the gruesome scene. Obviously, the apprentice had not been as ready as he had thought.
"How many did that make now," the wizard thought bitterly. There had been so many of them, he admitted to himself sadly, he no longer truly remembered.
"Boy," the ancient mage shouted as he folded his arms within the voluminous sleeves of his black, silken robe.
The sound of hurried footsteps announced the arrival of a small, sandy-haired boy dressed in shabby, peasant clothing. His jade eyes burned with a fierce intelligence and just a hint of youthful ambition. To his credit, he did not shy away from the crimson stains or the sodden lump of the dead apprentice's remains. "Yes, Master," he said respectfully as he bowed low.
"Your first task is to clean this mess up and remember, you owe this opportunity to pride, impatience, fear, and temptation. Meditate upon that so that you do not fall prey to their weakness or you will be the one strewn about the chamber next time."
"Yes Master," the boy replied as he rushed off to retrieve the needed cleaning materials.
Returning swiftly, the apprentice was soon hard at work. The Master watched his efforts for several long moments, an unreadable expression on his solemn face. With a whispered word, the Master vanished, leaving the apprentice alone with his broom and dreams.