A moment later, Alex is released from the pentacle. The magician leans down and clears away the chalk and begins drawing another, larger pentacle. She lights candles, lays out bowls of herbs, and draws runes.
It's all typical procedure, except, halfway through the third rune, the chalk breaks in her hand. She grumbles under her breath and goes to get another piece.
When she returns to finish the rune, she draws the wrong one.
It's an easy mistake to make, but a hard one to notice.
When she begins the summoning for some demon named Campbell, Alex has to work hard to hide his smile.
A demon appears! He has chosen the rather conservative appearance of a young man with bat wings and barbed tail, apparently. "Huh, I don't recognize you," he tells the summoner. "Who's been -"
Alex glares at him silently, waiting for him to look down and notice the flawed summoning.
"...What is even the point of letting your demons talk if you're going to be so overbearing about the task description? ...Hey, am I even bound? I'm not even bound, you moron, you could get hurt playing with summonings like that!"
Alex rounds on the other demon immediately, "Why didn't you kill her? You fool, you could have freed us."
"Excuse me? Did I accidentally wear my 'kiss me, I'm a murderer' pants? What the hell does she think she's playing at, anyway? Who lets demons talk and doesn't listen to anything they say, why bother?"
"Of course she didn't listen. Magicians never listen. Maybe you enjoy being a slave, but I want to go home. She's never made a mistake before, it might be years before she makes another one. Dammit! What the hell is wrong with you!"
"Um, she... still made a mistake," Cam says. "If you convince me she's gotta die, I'm still totally unbound, let's hear it. What kind of nasty summoner are we dealing with here, what's she got you doing?"
"You're not bound? I thought her mistake was enough to let you break free before she finished the summoning, but not enough to make it completely ineffective. Why are you still here?"
"Because she didn't unsummon me and is still alive?"
"You just said you weren't bound. Are you a fool? Is that why you didn't kill her? My god, I didn't think this century could get any worse."
"Spread the gold with a layer of hummus, what is she doing to you?"
"What every magician does. She traps me here while my essence drains away, letting me return home only when I'm too weak to fight her enemies and then only for an hour or a day. Just long enough to hope before she drags me back to this cursed world."
"What the fuck are you talking about?"
He starts, Cam looks the same, exactly the same on every plane. He keeps the human form and the wings and the tail. Whatever he is, he's not from the Other Place.
"What are you?"
"I'm a demon. What are you?"
"You are like no demon I've ever seen. I am a demon, an afrit to be precise. Is that your true form?"
"Yeah? In what sense might it be untrue?"
Alex shifts and takes Cam's form, then the form of the magician who summoned them, then the form of a great Pyrenees.
"...I can't do that. Well, not quickly, anyway."
"Then you're not a demon. Where are you from?"
"I am too a demon. From Hell, which is where demons hang out. But for simplicity we could call me a daeva, which is a supercategory."
"Hell, that is a place from human religion. I did not think it actually existed."
"Well, it's much nicer than portrayed in human religion, but for all I know the human religion you've heard of features Hell as a land made of food coloring and cooperative bunnies, so."
"I think its generally described as a fiery place where sinners are tortured. Is that close?"