Inside the circle, the shimmering intensified.
Hairs on the back of Alex’s neck rose.
The incantation tumbled from his mouth, seeming to complete itself as the final words echoed throughout the summoning room. Suddenly, the temperature dropped, washing the room with a cool wave of air; his breath felt moister, like inhaling and exhaling on a damp and misty day.
His mind whirled, considering possibilities.
Summon Elemental Beetle was a first-tier spell with a single magic circuit. It didn’t have enough power to summon anything apocalyptic. But, it did have the ability to bring nasty things, especially if the summoner was caught off guard…which he was when he spoke the wrong name.
And whatever was coming, it looked to be the size of a colt.
Alex slammed his hands on the glyphs on the floor to dismiss the summoned spirit entering the circle. The glyphs could be activated in two ways: either by reading the incantation on them and activating the built-in spell array, or by running one’s mana through them and activating their magic through mana manipulation.
For obvious reasons, he chose the second way.
His mana washed through the glyphs, activating the tiny magical nodes that were tucked alongside their built-in spell array, and sent the dismissal magic roaring to life.
The ripple grew; as a shape was rapidly forming in the circle, surprising him with its speed. Whatever was being summoned was coming fast, much faster than it should have. With the way Summon Elemental Beetle worked, he should’ve had at least three or four more heartbeats before it-
Whenever Baelin teleported him, he would always be the first to appear before anyone else. What if whatever was responsible for that, also made anything he summoned appear faster too?
“Oh shit,” Alex swore.
The air split and water began gushing from a crack in empty space. It slammed into the invisible walls of the cylinder and began rapidly filling it.
Alex swore again. “Oh shit, shit, shit, shit! This is not good!”
The protective circle created by Summon Elemental Beetle was strong enough to seal Elemental Beetle, but it wasn’t made to contain the pressures from a massive amount of water too.
“Dammit! Claygon, I need you! Hit whatever shows up if it gets out of the circle!”
The dismissal glyphs were activating.
Water gushed in, continuing to fill the cylinder.
Then, something appeared with the water.
It looked similar to a selachar—with silver-grey skin, solid black eyes and sharp teeth—but that was where the similarities ended. Instead of hair, massive, jagged fins rose from its head, and its hands ended in long, hooked claws. A strange tentacled growth hung from the centre of its forehead bearing a tip that shone with an odd bewitching light.
It wasn’t kicking the water to stay afloat in the rapidly filling cylinder; everything below its waist resembled the armoured tail of a crayfish with several twitching, spidery legs. Massive claws—each large enough to clamp around Alex’s waist and crush him—extended from its bottom half. They snapped at the water as the creature hissed and writhed in the confines of its cylindrical prison.
The subjugation part of the spell partly caged its essence, but it wasn’t meant for a creature like this; the magic’s hold was limited, and the creature’s rage was loosening it.
The glow of the forehead tentacle increased, pulsating outward like a beacon.
Alex felt something else push against the cylinder.
Magic. The glow was magical, and it was reaching for him. For now, it was being blocked, but the circle was weakening.
Everything was happening so fast: what seemed to take minutes, was actually happening in only a brief space of seconds.
Finally, the glyphs flared.
Dismissal magic filled the air-
-as the protective cylinder shattered from the force of the creature’s thrashing, the weight of the water, and the monster’s magic.
It leapt at Alex-
-and Claygon’s fist shot out to meet it.
The water elemental folded against the blow.
Saltwater washed over Alex and Claygon, drenching them soundly.
Suddenly, both water and summoned monster vanished with the roar of an endless ocean.
Alex stood panting and sputtering, spitting salt water while his skin erupted in gooseflesh from the dousing of cold water that abruptly faded with the summoned monster.
“H-holy shit,” he murmured, as water completely evaporated from his clothing, Claygon, and the summoning room.
Claygon slowly looked down at him, his expression still frozen in that shark-toothed snarl that he and Selina had carved below his clay helmet.
“You did good buddy!” Alex patted his golem’s leg. “You did real good!”
He grabbed his notebook in excitement and flipped it open to a blank page, then made a note in bold letters.
- Summoned creatures will appear faster than expected, just like when I’m teleported. Always. Have. The. Dismissal Ready. Don’t get caught off guard again.
- The part of the summoning spell array that actually calls a monster from another plain seems to partially cast itself…or something like that. If you screw up the name of whatever you’re calling, the spell won’t necessarily fail, it can end up calling something else.
He paused, then quickly added:
Probably something really nasty, knowing my luck.
Shaking his head, he contemplated what just happened.
It looked like summoning was something he needed to both be careful with, and really, really focus on. The Mark’s interference was somewhat countered by whatever mystic stuff was going on with him and spells that involved transporting things across distances and planes.
If he put a lot of effort into it, he could probably cut the casting time down, letting his summoned creatures appear faster. With Claygon around, and Generasi’s safety precautions in place—now that he’d seen how fast whatever he summoned would appear, and how to activate the dismissal magic immediately—he could afford to make some mistakes with it. Mistakes were part of learning, he just had to be aware, and be prepared.
Summoning could really turn into a viable weapon for him to use, a way to expand resources and—when he was powerful enough to summon things that were old and wise—a way to get information.
“Speaking of summoning things for battle and getting information…” He pulled out another notebook; it was for both hypotheses and information that he and Baelin had gathered on The Traveller.
It was depressingly empty.
But, he wrote down a new hypothesis.
If he was right, and whatever was going on with him and teleportation was due to…something having to do with The Traveller, then that could mean…
When The Traveller was fighting the Ravener during her time as The Saint, summoning spirits and monsters through divine miracles might have been an effective combat tactic for her. If it was, and if someone could discover which spirits she favoured summoning, then in other planes, there’d be ancient creatures that she’d summoned to ask questions of.
This might be something to tell Baelin about.
What could work, might be to find out what spirits the priests of Uldar tended to summon back then, then he and Baelin could summon them and start investigating: seeing if any of them knew of others who’d had dealings with The Traveller.
He thought about the two goddess statues in her sanctum, and the holy symbol of them she wore around her neck. If she worshipped them, not Uldar, then maybe—even if she did summon spirits—they were different from whatever the priests of Uldar summoned.
He shook his head.
“Ugh, I’m just chasing suppositions with more suppositions. I don’t even have any real data to build a proper hypothesis on. Just hunches.”
A hunch could still be valuable—Professor Jules had reluctantly admitted that—but it could also simply be a manifestation of a researcher or investigator’s bias, or purely a desire to be right. It could be completely unrelated to facts.
‘Hunches were what once convinced an entire society that not washing the body was more sanitary than bathing in rivers and streams,’ the white haired alchemist had told him one day. ‘Of course the plague that rolled through their realm fixed that notion veeeery quickly.’
Alex moved on from the memory.
In either case—Traveller connection or not—summoning was something he wanted to bet on, almost as much as alchemy. The two could work together nicely. Professor Jules had summoned the shoggoth to get special materials for potions from it. He could do the same, collecting special materials from different monsters he summoned.
“Alright, back to it, then,” he said.
The first thing he did when he got back to work was practice saying the name of the species he was summoning, making sure to properly enunciate the word. He also made use of The Mark, working on pronunciation: it showed him successes from when he’d said the name before, and also from when he’d practiced other languages. If he committed a name to memory, then it’d lessen the chance of him mispronouncing it when The Mark started throwing obstacles around in his head. Something occurred to him that put a big smile on his face. Ironically, by using The Mark to help him work on properly pronouncing the names of creatures he wanted to summon, it was actually going to end up helping him cast summoning spells, no matter how much interference it threw. Alex’s smile grew the more he thought about pulling one over on it while it unwittingly helped him with spell casting.
Using The Mark to learn names would definitely be helpful from a safety standpoint since powerful creatures from different planes often had alien, very hard to pronounce names. Which would mean a summoning would be a lot more dangerous if he mispronounced those.
Which reminded him, he really needed to find out what it was he’d just summoned.
Time to refocus.
The next three times he cast Summon Elemental Beetle, he completely failed. Nerves from the earlier close call, and the fact that he was new to the spell, combined with what seemed like The Mark’s glee-filled interference and made things overwhelming.
On the fourth try, he got the casting right, but cancelled the spell partway, thinking that it’d be a good idea to practice control and cut the spell off in case anything went wrong again.
After a couple of successful castings where he cut it just before activation, he cast it to completion, but activated the dismissal glyphs as soon as he felt the summoning magic grasp something on the elemental plane.
Alex perfected the timing and the dismissal spell, successfully preventing anything from appearing in the circle.
Finally, he cast the spell again, this time allowing the magic circuit to form without interruption. He felt that shift and his magic reached out across the planes.
It grasped something much smaller than whatever that fish monster was, and the air began shimmering within the circle.
Just a tiny spot, only a little bit bigger than a squirrel.
The air rippled, and the point in space parted and a-
-a loud buzzing filled the air.
A large beetle-like creature—its shell the colour of dark ocean waves—finally appeared in the circle, hovering in the air.
Alex felt a tether between it and himself—the subjugation part of the spell that controlled the monster—reached through the cylinder. Its legs kicked in the air, shining like sapphires, and its mandibles clicked softly and rhythmically.
A smile lit up Alex’s face as he flipped open his notebook.
Summon Elemental Beetle: 100%.
Eagerly, he dismissed the protective circle and extended his hand.
“Fly to my hand,” Alex said.
The beetle immediately flew over and settled on his hand.
“Do as I command, and do not harm me,” he commanded, making sure that his intent was the focus in his thoughts. Without his intent, then the summoned creature was only bound by his words alone. And if it only had to follow the words of a command, and not the intent of one, then a more intelligent monster or spirit could use loopholes in wording or logic to defy a summoner’s command.
It seemed that the beetle had no intention of harming him though. The docile bug-like creature climbed up his sleeve, with its tiny legs tickling his arm through his shirt and sending him into giggling fits.
“Hey, what do you think, Claygon?” he laughed, holding up the beetle for his golem’s examination. “Pretty cool, huh? Like I said, don’t get jealous, because soon, I’ll be commanding lots of these.”
The golem’s head slowly turned to look down at the beetle. Whether Claygon was actually examining it or was just following Alex—through their link—he had no way of knowing.
After a few minutes, the magic circuit began to lose power and Alex had to infuse more mana to keep the beetle from disappearing. With more practice and time, the spell would last longer.
To get a bit more practice, he decided to cast Summon Elemental Beetle two more times, summoning a ‘beetle’ from each of the elemental planes of earth and ice.
Alex let the three little creatures crawl over him, giggling at the tickling sensation. ‘Selina was going to get a kick out of these.’ He looked up at the time keeper on the wall, and noticing that his time was almost up, packed up his things and opened the door to leave, taking one last look around to make sure that everything was as he’d found it.
He planned on practicing keeping the spells powered by using Val’Rok’s mana regeneration techniques to see how long he could maintain them. It’d be good preparation for the future if he wanted to keep more powerful summoning spells activated longer.
Summon Elemental Beetle Swarm was a second-tier version of this spell, and it called an entire swarm of the squirrel-sized insect creatures. From his experience with the vespara, he knew how much of a problem swarms could be without the right protections. So, Beetle Swarm would be a good addition to his arsenal, and The Mark shouldn’t have anything to object to.
He was locking the room and considering if it’d be worthwhile to try and learn the spell before The Games started when he heard the sound of feet hurrying down the hall.
“Oh, sorry, sorry!” He recognized a familiar voice.
Alex looked over to see Amir rushing past two Watchers of Roal—who were at their post in the hallway changing shifts—his arms were full of books.
“Sorry,” he apologized again, as he stumbled around them.
“Hey, Amir, how’re you doing?” Alex asked. He paused.
He wasn’t sure how Amir was doing, but he definitely didn’t look good.
He did not look good at all.