Macbain sat down on a creaky chair, and arranged her skirts. “Alright,” she said. “I’m listening.”
Underby exhaled slowly, and looked at the ground. “Once upon a time,” he started. “there was a traveling carnival. The carnival had a fortune teller named Madame Zmaidof.”
Macbain went to stand up. “What on earth does this have to do with anything?”
Underby held up a hand. “Peace. Have patience.”
With a pronounced sigh, she sat back down. The chair squeaked.
He started again: “Madame Zmaidof took a boy in the carnival as her apprentice fortune teller, he had failed at everything else he tried… jugglar, clown, fire eater, even knife thrower…”
He smiled a little, for a moment. “Though, he is a much better knife thrower today.”
Macbain drummed her fingers on the desktop.
“Madame Zmaidof found that the boy took to fortune telling remarkably quickly. She realized he was making up half of what he said to people, but it worked, and he conned them.
“She didn’t care. She knew even real magic was at least half con. There’s a reason that the Magician card in the tarot deck was originally the Jugglar. Jugglars were at one time, basically little more than common confidence men.
“So, she took the lad under her wing, and began to teach him the genuine magic. The nitty gritty. For Madame Zmaidof was, above all else, a sorceress. She taught the lad many things…
Underby looked off for a moment, wistfully. “Many… many things…
“Of the many things she taught him over the years, one was a variation of an ancient ritual.”
Macbain sat up straighter. “Ritual?” she asked.
Underby nodded. “A ritual she assumed he would never use, nobody ever did… it was exceedingly difficult. The ritual involved many complicated items, difficult to obtain. It was more theory than practice. This ritual culminated in the corporeal form of a state of nature.
Macbain ‘s eyes widened slightly, “You absolute idiot.”
Underby smiled somewhat sadly. “Oh yes. More than you will ever ever know Macbain. But young men, are young men…”
“Go on,” she said with a frown.
Underby pressed on: “The thing was, this lad… let’s call him Osgoode for convenience… this Osgoode had an ace up his sleeve which he had never revealed to the Madame in all their years together. He knew a fae personally.”
“Pip.” she said.
He nodded. “Pip.”
“Osgoode created a small clay figure and called Pip, his childhood friend, into the figure. Pip was over joyed to see Osgoode again after all this time, but the lad was consumed with greed and immediately tossed a handful of marbles across the ground. The tiny simulacra fae dropped to count them, as is the wont of their kind, and Osgoode cast and drew a magic circle around it. Him. Not it. Him.”
Underby licked his lips, looking suddenly grim before he continued: “Then, he ritualistically bound him.”
“Oh poor poor Pip.”
“Yes. Then, with his new familiar, he travelled to the Gobi Desert, after gathering the complicated items he needed for the ceremony. He performed the ritual, and lo – it was an abject failure.
“Or,” Underby said. “so he thought… That evening a stranger approached his camp, looking for assistance. A man named Samael.”