It was a solemn affair.
The room was silent enough that one could begin to believe that they could hear the thousand flickering candles.
With a swish of luxurious cloth against the cold stone, hooded figures entered the room. With them, came the sounds of the living.
They gathered in the centre, around a small dais elaborately decorated in gold fittings. One of the hooded figures stepped onto the dais and the others closed the circle as one.
“Brothers and sisters,” began a clear voice. It was feminine, and though not loud, seemed to echo in the hushed anticipation of the room. “We have long prepared for this day. The time is nigh to summon the greatest power that this realm has seen. We shall begin the ritual to bring forth from the lower realm.”
In unison, the figures raised an arm each, palm pointed towards the ceiling while a strange-sounding chant started.
On the platform, the figure raised both hands, palms up and spoke. Each word reverberated with an inexplicable weight. “We Welcome Thee, The First Of All. Lord And Master Of Demonkind. The First To Exist, The Greatest Demon Of All The Realms. With Open Arms We Invite Your Presence So That We May Show Our Devotion. Come Forth And Show Yourself!”
The magic circles carved into the ceiling and floor glowed bright for a few moments, then dimmed. Soon, the light dissipated – the warm radiance from the array of candles seeming to cast mocking shadows on the etched lines.
A minute passed, and finally someone stirred. They looked to an identical hooded body on their left.
“I don’t think it worked.”
Clicking their tongue in annoyance, the person on the dais put a hand on their hip. “Perhaps we just need to change the words. It might not have been friendly enough.”
“Maybe it could tell that there were entrapment charms set up. They glowed for a minute, so it could have been checking us out.” A baritone suggested.
There was a frown in the voice of the figure on the dais. “Does it work like that?”
A shrug was the only response.
“Where’s Grosdan?” The voice on the dais asked after a brief silence. A hand on the right went up. “Do you know what’s wrong?”
There was a moment where Grosdan’s hooded figure seemed to flinch at the annoyed tone of the one in charge.
A youthful voice replied hesitantly, “Perhaps it is as Master Era—”
The baritone cleared their throat loudly.
“—As, um, one of my, um, esteemed colleagues has pointed out… the entrapment charms need to be better concealed—”
“Would a devil even be able to recognise those?” Another voice, high and thin interrupted.
Grosdan turned to the source of that voice. “Master-- um, well, we are trying to summon a archdevil. They are recorded to be creatures of superior intelli—”
“Very well,” the voice from the dais was sounding bored now. “Grosdan, fix the charms before we reconvene next Tuesday at the usual time. Does that work for everyone?”
There was a smattering of nods, but one hand rose. It was the person who had been first to comment.
“Can we do next Wednesday instead? I have a prior engagement.”
“If there are no objections,” the leader said, opening the question to the floor with a gesture. After a few seconds’ pause, their hood jerked forward in a nod. “Wednesday at the usual time, then.”
“Ah,” a different hand went up. “I can’t do six pm. Can we push it back a little later?”
The frown was back in the leader’s voice. “What time are you suggesting?”
Thoughtfully, the other figure tilted their head. “Eight…?”
“That’s too late,” the baritone protested. “Most of us have to start work at dawn.”
“You can start without me.”
“We need all thirteen present, Jordana.” The impatience of the figure on the dais was clear. The hooded figure named Jordana said nothing for a while.
The tension was palpable.
Finally, meekly, Jordana said, “I… should be able to make it at the usual time.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.” Jordana nodded. “At most I’ll be here at half past six.”
Another tense silence fell.
Sighing, the leader said with finality, “We’ll start at six-thirty next Wednesday.” They added testily, “I trust no one else has any more scheduling concerns?”
There were a few murmurs of assent and the sound of shuffling feet. Before anyone else could add on, the leader stepped down from the dais and with a rustle of heavy fabric, swept out of the room.