I did not follow up on my “homework”. A busy day at work followed by a busier evening meant I would be lucky to get five hours of sleep if I skipped personal “hobbies” and time wasters such as catching up to webcomics, forum posts, and thousand word scripts of magic rituals and god names.
My luck ran out. I got four.
Even though I did not touch the hazel rod the night before, I still included it with the rest of the ritual gear as I set up the circles. The opened black knife sat on the floor next to my right foot. The hazel rod sat on the floor next to my left foot. I wanted both in the circle with me, and having the knife on the floor instead of on the table was less dangerous to my feet. Accidentally stepping on a flat blade is not as hazardous to my toes as knocking the knife off a thirty inch high table. Trust me on this.
All the prayers were easy for me to say, act, and have faith in until the conjuration most necessary. The “Cados, Cados, Cados” phrase is only a few dozen words into the recitation and if that phrase became a stumbling block, then the other thousand words might as well be marks of silence.
I could have called on my angelus aspect, that soul-piece recently recovered, and taken up her mantle to say the names and recitations. But that felt like cheating. Blocking off pieces of my mind is what contributed to those terrible years. I’m not going to make that mistake now. Either all of me does this, or I put the toys away and go back to sleep for a craved nap before work.
I held the Solomon’s Seal amulet briefly, reminded myself of where and when I am, and began speaking with strength.
I did not close my eyes after calling [Patient Caller] to appear. I laid the thin brown book on my lap and folded my hands around it, but I kept my sight focused on the amber. The clear polished face, small as it is, reflected the darker areas of the room. As I watched, that darkness deepened into the stone, making it at first appear hollow before seeming like the polished surface was a tiny hole revealing another reality touching mine at that place.
The scent of the unlit candle intensified and though my open eyes saw nothing, I felt first the presence of smoke moving across the table, then the presence of a large, humanoid figure settling on the other side of the table to be at the same height I am. I saw shadows flitting behind and between the shewstones in a movement that mimicked his glinting rings as he clasped his hands and rested them on the book. His voice was strong in my mind.
«This is the fifteenth day and you have not fled. Well done.»
I could see the shadow outline of his body if I looked anywhere but directly at where I felt him. The rings glinted and sparkled in my peripheral vision. But to look directly across the table was to confuse my eyes. They tried to focus on where his form should be, but the complete lack of any physical matter to settle on kept forcing me to look away and focus on something, anything, else. I gave up and closed my eyes.
I tried to force a mental image of him to appear in my mind’s eye. Colors swirled into nothing and texture refused to settle. I gave up trying to force him to appear and accepted the void of imagery. Immediately, I “saw” the scene of the room from my physical point of view. [Patient Caller] sat across from me with a subtly amused smirk to greet me with.
«You are halfway through your obligation. Will you continue to the end of it?»
“I will. Tell me, have I met you halfway?”
«When you polished the amber and created the cord, you met me halfway. If you think completing your lessons will be as easy or as gentle as you have been coddled thus far, I must warn you now that doing so shall be neither. The lessons from this point forward come with more sting than a gentle chastisement when you are in error.»
“Heh. … When. … Okay. … I need to know a thing or three and you’re going to tell it. No twisting of words, [O Patient Caller]. No pulled punches, no omissions of truth or other deceptions. Recall the power by which you have been summoned, and the angels that guard us even now. I am not so soft hearted that I will not use the methods I have claimed in your invocation to obtain what I seek.”
He smiled. His eyes, which up to now had been solid orbs of shadow, now took on the glimmer (glamour?) of the polished amber face. He leaned forward, suddenly all attentive and eager to hear what words were going to slip from my mouth next. Once again, I felt like I just stepped into a carefully crafted trap.
I considered my wording carefully, took a deep breath, and spoke.
“Why? Why are you doing this?”
He relaxed his hands and spread them slightly. «Why? To instruct you. Did not Birto tell you my intentions from the start? They have not changed in all these years I have waited, they have not changed in the fifteen days of our acquaintance, and they will not change unless you change them. Magician.» He clasped his hands and settled them loosely on the table.
I gripped the thin brown book to hide my nervousness. To hide it from him or from myself, I am not sure. “To instruct me. Yes, Birto said the very same in many different ways, at that. But why? Why are you instructing me? To what end? You could have had a puppet at your disposal. Instead you are teaching me to be competent. For what purpose or reason are you doing this, [Patient Caller]?”
He sat back but kept his clasped hands behind the shewstones. I noted the further he leaned away, the more his face was obscured. «I instruct you, as I have been instructed to. As he set above me has commanded me. To wait, to make myself available, and when the opportunity came, to be present and fulfill my duty.»
On Day 7 I had noted a quality to his appearance and a consistent trait to the clothes he appears in. Over the next two days, I was able to find examples of his clothes and verified the quality I had felt emanating from him was the same. I was not sure if this quality was a measure of rank or title, and so I have not written of it to keep a private tell to myself.
I was feeling that quality radiate in waves from every part of him, from his almost hidden face to his brightly shining rings. It fluttered the hems of his clothing and draped over his shoulders. The spiritual flow even made the false flame of the candle spit and sputter. I was not sure if [Patient Caller] was bragging about himself, or warning me about what spirit was lord over him. I was not surprised to hear of a chain of subservience to a hierarchy. [Patient Caller] is a grimoire spirit after all, and grimoires are full of lists of lists of kings and dukes and commanders and servants. The idea of having another name that I could use to keep [Patient Caller] in check as the lessons became more intense and personal was just too much of a good thing to pass up.
I leaned forward to get a better look at the spirit’s face, forgetting my eyes were closed and that I was seeing with my mind’s eye. I kept such a tight grip on the thin brown book that I thought I felt the spine slightly give. I wanted a straight answer out of this smug bastard, and by God, I was going to get it.
“And who instructed you, [O Patient Caller]? Who is set above you that you obeyed the command and yielded in service to come instruct me?”
He leaned forward with quickness so that his beardless face was nearly touching mine. Dark amber “eyes” stared into mine as he opened his hands and spread them on the table with the palms up so that they laid on either side of the Book of Oberon. He suddenly dropped his sight and his face as he bowed his head with solemnity.
«My lord… Cyprian.»
I don’t remember jumping to my feet. I don’t remember snatching the hazel rod from under my chair. I don’t remember how the bone-white cotton shawl I wore over my head became a glowing shroud of flame. I didn’t notice the unworked wood becoming a complete and finished wand in my left hand as I raised it and pointed it at the face of the still bowed spirit.
I only remember the shouting.
“I FUCKING CHARGE YOU, IN THE NAME OF THE MOST HIGH GOD, BY THE NAME AGLA, BY THE NAME ADONAI, BY THE NAME EL, AND BY THE NAME ON, THAT YOU DO NOT DISOBEY ME! I COMMAND YOU, [O PATIENT CALLER], BY THE MIGHT OF THE UNCONQUERABLE GOD AND BY THE FIERCE HOLINESS THAT IS WIELDED BY THE ANGELS OF STRENGTH THAT HAVE BEEN PLACED AROUND YOU, DO NOT FUCKING DISOBEY ME, LIE TO ME, PERFORM FRAUDULENT WORKS, OR DECEIVE ME. CADOS, CADOS, CADOS IS THE LORD MOST HIGH AND IF YOU FUCKING OPEN YOUR MOUTH FOR EVIL, SO HELP ME GOD, YOU WILL BE SPLIT AND BROKEN AND THE PIECES MOUNTED FOR ALL TO SEE THE FATE OF THOSE WHO DEFY THE TRUE AND THE HOLY! IF YOU MEAN TO SPEAK EVIL TO ME, THEN YOU SHALL BE SILENT. IF YOU MEAN TO WORK HARM AGAINST ME, THEN YOU SHALL BE STILL! I FUCKING DEMAND THE TRUTH FROM YOU, [O PATIENT CALLER]! SPEAK THE TRUTH OR SPEAK FUCKING NOT!”
The shroud, still an encompassing flame around and over me that did not burn me, outshone the lamp in my room and cast a pure white light over the scene, physical or not. The spirit looked up and his amber eyes reflected the light with a hue that reminded me of old blood. He was smiling with naked joy even as the point of the hazel wand was a mere inch from his nose.
«Yes, you are listening to your instinct. I see I do not have to instruct you on the use of the hazel wand, as you are using it quite well already. Indeed, you have already settled on its final form, and have just to remove the physical material blocking it.» He moved his hands further out to his sides and tilted his head in a gesture I could mistake for surrender.
I was not sure if the entire scene was “in my head” or if I had truly shouted with my physical voice. As I did not hear anyone banging on the door, I assumed that the confrontation was happening entirely in spirit. Regardless of the physical state I was in, I wanted a straight answer.
“Dodge the question again, and I will follow through. Look around us, the angels are at the ready. Lie to me, and they will seize you. Who is your lord, [Patient Caller]? Who sent you to me? And are both the same?”
With his hands still extended, he spoke. «Your fury is a force you should harness for yourself. It is full of glory. But I digress no further.» He brought his hands together at his chest as if for prayer but leaned the fingers towards me in supplication. «You know my lord by the name of Saint Cyprian of Antioch. And it was by the command of my lord Cyprian, that I lie in wait for you to come. And yes, both my lord and the one who commanded me to instruct you are the same.» He lowered his face and raised his hands so that his brow touched his fingertips. «Gracious is the Lord most high, holy is his name, mighty is he that moved and called the worlds into being. Amen.»
The shroud became mere cloth that covered me tightly and the light faded until only my lamp illumined me. Suddenly weakened, I fell onto the chair and allowed the wand to fall out of my hand. The moment my hand released it, the future wand dissolved from my awareness. I looked down and the unworked hazel rod remained under the chair where I had placed it. I realized my eyes were still closed, so I opened them to find nothing had physically happened.
I closed my eyes again to keep from crying. Immediately I saw the alternative reality. The spirit did not lift his head at my quiet declaration of near panic. “Okay. Third time’s the charm, right? I ask you a third time, then, [Patient Caller], who is your lord, and did your lord command you to instruct me in this art?”
He clasped his hands and rested them behind the shewstones again. The false smoke from the candle again encircled his right little finger before flowing into the polished amber. He did not lift his head, but leaned forward slightly.
«My lord is known in your language and understanding as Saint Cyprian of Antioch, and he did command me to instruct you in this art. I cannot lie to you.»
I acknowledged his answer with a series of rapid repetitions of the words “fuck” and “god dammit” said softly and delicately so not to wake others in the house (or the neighborhood). “So… uh… did you know I have been told to stay the hell away from Saint Cyprian? To have nothing to do with him, his books, his magic, or any spirit that is under him?”
He did not answer but turned his head slightly away so that it was obscured in shadow again.
“Okay, granted, there are a few other entities in my life that I was told to stay away from or risk madness, but ya know, after what I’ve been through in this life, they’ve actually been more help than hindrance. But just bloody once, I’d like to not be fucking played.”
I was angry. I was tired. I was sleep deprived and yet very much wide awake. I wanted to cry. I wanted to throw everything on the table into a pit and set it on fire. The charge to avoid Saint Cyprian came from so long ago I do not remember the circumstances or who laid the command upon me. I suspect it came from that time when the cults ruled my head and spirit. I did remember the warning of what would come with involvement with the figure or any spirit associated with him.
I would change. My life would change. Irrevocably. Cyprian was the figurehead of a contagion that could not be cured. Absolute avoidance was necessary. But the more I tried to remember why I had been all but oathed to avoid him, I could not come up with any hint of a reason.
I reflected on every conscious decision I have made since my apostasy and realized I probably never had something as honest and real as a “choice” in the first place.
“[Patient Caller]… go… just fucking go. If you’re gonna fuck with me via apophenia, then fucking do so, but announce yourself and don’t start any shit.” I followed with the more formal License to Depart and ended the ritual with a very vigorous and overly dramatic recitation of Psalm 54.
Total ritual time: 50 actually quiet minutes.
While the coffee was brewing, I threw some small temper tantrums on social media. Despite my resignation, I was still full of fear and fury. I just could not remember why I have such a deeply set prohibition to specifically Saint Cyprian.
Private conversations with trustworthy folk helped me to reframe my experiences with [Patient Caller]. Their third-party interpretations of my interactions with the spirit helped me put the matter in a perspective that did not rely on emotional extremes to reason through.
I can say “no” at any time. I can turn off the alarm. I can simply not perform the ritual at all. The agency and the decision is mine. I don’t have to torment myself by continuing to ritually expose myself to a source of terror. Delete the files. Throw away the tools. Give the book to the library. Done.
I have a wand to work on. The spiritual version of the hazel wand felt right in my hand. That is a thing I want to have.
After all, I didn’t make it halfway to quit now.