A Long Spoon

A Long Spoon by Jonathan L. Howard

Book: A Long Spoon by Jonathan L. Howard Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jonathan L. Howard
 
    Johannes Cabal wasn’t used to being quite so overwhelmed in the presence of a woman, but overwhelmed he was, and a question, as impertinent as it was pressing, forced itself from his lips.
    â€œMadam,” he said, knowing enough to be embarrassed by the asking, “forgive me for being so forward, but might I enquire—and you must feel in no way constrained to answer if you do not wish to do so—might I enquire, are you exothermic or endothermic? Your metabolism, that is?”
    The lady in question regarded him with coquettish amusement. If she had possessed a fan, she would surely have fluttered it. She did not, however, answer.
    â€œPoikilothermic, perhaps?” ventured Cabal.
    â€œ Poikilothermic ,” she repeated slowly, each syllable divorced from its neighbour by a full second of silence. She smiled. “I like you,” she said. “You’re funny. I don’t think I’ve ever met a funny human before.”
    Cabal hesitated; he wasn’t used to being found comedic, either. “I assure you, madam, it is in no way my intention to…”
    But she wasn’t listening. “Poik,” she said, savouring the sound. “Poik, poik, poik.”
    This was not going the way most summonings of supernatural entities usually went. He had some experience in that direction and knew them to involve a great deal of preparation, a precise understanding of the ritual’s ontological aspects, and patience. In this case, however, he had barely begun the ritual before the concentric summoning and warding circles were filled with a great deal of … he wasn’t quite sure what. He had summoned creatures from other planes, lost souls, and demons in the past, but this was the first time he had summoned a devil, which is to say a demon with more autonomy than the common herd.
    The choice had been forced upon him by circumstance. If he summoned some common or garden demon, it might feel beholden to report his business to Satan; that would never do. He and Satan were not entirely sympathetic to one another these days. If Satan maintained a Christmas card list—which is not as unlikely as it seems—then Cabal was surely off it.
    A devil, then. A reasonably free agent that did its acts of wickedness and subversion off its own bat rather than kowtowing to the great Lucifer and his menagerie of generals in the lowest ring of Hell. Johannes Cabal had gone through his extensive library harvesting the true names of any such things he could find, and then, by deduction and lot, settled upon one rarely summoned and therefore likely more tractable to the wiles of a cunning mortal such as himself. The disadvantage of such a method was that he had found no indications whatsoever as to the nature of the devil commonly—a very relative term in this circumstance—called Zarenyia, though whose true name was mottled with glottal stops, apostrophes, and—unavoidably—small sprays of saliva.
    Cabal had therefore duly glottal-y stopped, apostrophised, and spat his way through the summoning and been rewarded with the diabolical manifestation that now stood before him, going “Poik.”
    Cabal had been braced for all manner of hideous forms, anything from a body built from maggots to an evil-minded shade of pink, but he was slightly nonplussed by Zarenyia’s actual appearance. She was undoubtedly female, and probably very attractive in a shallow “really rather beautiful” sort of way. Her hair was short and red, her skin pale, her form gamine, her countenance open and attractive, her bosom pleasant without being overbearing, and her legs … Well, there were rather too many of them, by a factor of four.
    From the waist down, Zarenyia was a great spider. Her abdomen was smooth and black, her legs arched and powerful in appearance within the articulated chitin.
    Cabal had chosen to summon her in—what appeared to be from the outside—a

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