“Master, Master!” The door burst open, waking me up from the precious sleep. I saw all around me plush velvet and at felt disoriented. Then I recalled the awful reality. I am a homunculus now. Surely it is a dream? A face floated in my sight.
“So here you are, you little shit! What did you do to my Master?” A huge hand reached for me and picked me up before I could think of an escape.
“If I squeeze your bones break, isn’t it true?” Petr asked mockingly.
“I will be my Master’s favorite again, right?” He added triumphantly.
I wriggled in his fist, but it was hopeless. I felt like a hamster. Petr furtively looked around.
“He is not here,” he muttered and turned toward the door.
“I will tell him you ran away, my little one,” he whispered.
“Petr!” Kelley’s voice broke the air. Petr’s face fell. The corners of his mouth turned down. He looked at me angrily and turned around while hiding me at the same time behind his back.
“What did you call me for?” Kelley entered the room using a door in the back and stared suspiciously at Petr. Petr deeply bowed.
“Master, peasants are revolting again!” He said urgently. “They are coming to the Castle. The village priest instigated it. He says you practice Black Magic.” Kelley frowned.
“I thought the last lesson was enough. I will give them another taste of the wisdom of Hernes Trismegistus.” Petr bowed again and started to back out of the door.
“What is it behind your back?” Kelley suddenly demanded. Petr slowly brought his hand and me to the front.
“I wanted to give him a bath Master,” he said meekly.
“He wanted to kill me,” I squeaked. I could not breathe.
“Give him to me,” Kelley reached out.
“Leave him alone, you hear?” He ordered Petr. “He is mine until I get tired of him.”
He placed me in a pocket in his robe and I felt I am being carried out of the room. I grabbed the edge of the pocket and peeked out. Kelly marched out of a door into the fresh air of the country. I narrowed my eyes and the sun hit me. I was not out for a long time. Kelly strode toward the castles ramparts and quickly climbed a narrow stone staircase to their top.
I looked down and swallowed. There was a deep rock wall falling all way down to the forested ground. There was a road to the castle on the left and it was not empty. I saw crowds of people dressed in brown and grey clothes. They looked poor, but everyone of them carried something. Pitchforks predominated, but there were torches too. Given that it was morning, I guessed they did not need those to illuminate the road. Kelly frowned. I spotted a man in black cloth in the front.
“He is new, Master,” said Vlasta who suddenly appeared behind Kelley.
“Do you care about your fellow man of cloth Antonio?” Kelley asked over his shoulder.
“He is a fool,” said Antonio’s voice. So the whole crew was here. Almost. I did not see Marie. Kelley lifted his arms, muttering something to himself. A wind arose. First slowly, then faster. The peasant torches blew out and I saw the crowd sway. It was too late. The howling rose in the forest. It was first far away and then it moved closer. Then the forest disgorged a pack of wolves. Packs, not a pack. There must have been at least a hundred. They attacked. The peasants ran, screaming, back from whence they came. The wolves did not chase them. Instead, they attacked the priest. I heard a brief horrible scream and shut my eyes.
Kelley turned back and I felt him descending the staircase when he staggered. I popped my head out of the pocket and looked at him. He covered his face with both hands and moaned. Antonio quickly caught him and supported him until we reached the ground.
“They are back,” Kelley moaned.
“I will make them go away Master,” Vlasta cried. “I will give you my brew, you know you can resist them if you drink it.”
She caught his other arm and together with Antonio they half-carried Kelley and me back to his study. Kelly was led to his chair and sat down. All the time he waved his arms around, his eyes firmly shut.
“Apage!” He screamed. “Apage, Azazel!”
I rolled myself into a ball and hope he is not going to kill me. His arms and hands were huge and if he hit me only once, it may be enough. Petr and Antonio held him firmly in his chair and Vlasta finally appeared with his brew. I allowed myself a quick peek: There was a steaming stone bowl or something in her hands. The smell was sickeningly sweet. Kelley muttered something with his eyes still closed.
“Why do they bother me so?” He asked. Vlasta put the bowel to his lips and he drank. Almost immediately his head fell to the side and he snored. Antonio and Petr released him. I relaxed. Too early. Antonio stuck his hand into my pocket – Kelley’s pocket really, but I came to think of it as mine – and pulled me out.
“What are you going to do with him?” Petr asked, a hope mixing with hatred in his voice.
“Something useful,” Antonio said dryly. He walked out of the room carrying me with him. We walked long, descending deeper and deeper into the castle’s bowels. Finally, we stopped in front of a wooden, iron-covered door. Antonio fished out a large key. The room behind the door was dark and Antonio lighted up a fat candle. I twisted my neck as I tried to look around.
“What do you think?” Antonio asked. The stone chamber had a peaked ceiling. There was a black cloth-covered table in front and a crucifix. A fireplace, plenty of paintings on the walls. Something was off. I frowned.
“The crucifix is upside down!” I blurted out.
“Right,” Antonio said and smiled. Anything else? There were remnants of candles too. The candles used to be black. I studied the paintings. They described scenes from Bible, but these were scenes from hell. Naked bodies writhed in ecstasy, devils were poking people, but they seemed to welcome the pain.
“You serve a Black Mass here,” I told Antonio.
“Indeed, little one,” he agreed.
“Why?” I asked.
“I serve the real Lord,” he said. “The Prince of Darkness. Just look around yourself. Who do you think controls the World?”
“Is Kelley a Satanist?”
“Not really,” Antonio said. “He is too weak. He just wants me to control his Demons.”
“His Demons?” I repeated.
“Those he sees,” Antonio confirmed. “The trouble is that I cannot do it. Not without an appropriate material. All our dear Master provides is Marie to lay there on the altar,” he jerked his head toward the table, “and a peasant or two. It is not enough to get the Prince of Darkness to listen.”
“Why did you bring me here?” I asked. “Can’t you guess?” Antonio asked and gave me a wide grin. “You are a magical creature. If we serve you to Satan, he will pay attention.”
“I am too small,” I protested desperately.
“That may be a problem,” Antonio conceded. He reached out and placed me into a glass, which stood on a little table near him. “We have to do the sacrifice in style.”
He went around the room and methodically collected the burn out candles. I watched in horrified fascination as he picked up a bowel from the altar, filled it with the candles and walked over to the fireplace. He hummed as he lighted up fire.
“What are you doing?” I piped up. He rose up from the crouch and turned to me.
“I am melting the wax, of course,” he said as he brushed off his hands on his robe.
“Then what?” I asked.
“Then I will make a new fat candle,” he told me with a smile. “It will be really a special one. It will have inside a homunculus. This way we can do the sacrifice and Master will never know. He may object to us using his plaything. He can be weak.”
Should I scream? I did not think anybody would hear me. He picked up the bowl from the fireplace and placed it on the table.
“We have to be quick,” he confided. He approached the table and fished in the glass for me. I bit him. He cursed and his fingers closed around me. He started to wrap me in cotton, creating a thick wick. I could only turn my neck. He approached the bowl. I saw the bubbling wax under me. I knew the black liquid would solidify soon around me.
“I will leave you a little hole so you can breathe,” Antonio said. “We need you alive until the Mass.”
“I will scream,” I protested weakly.
“That reminds me,” Antonio said. “I will have to pull out your tongue. But first I will cover you up to your neck to make sure you don’t try to run away.” He leaned over the bowel. The door suddenly creaked and in floated Marie. Her wide open eyes aimlessly wandered around the room until they stopped at me.
“What are you doing with my George?” She cried, bounced ahead and snatched me out of the stunned Antonio’s hand. “I am going to keep him,” she said defiantly. “Nobody bought me another one at the market today.”
She ran out of the room. I was never as happy to be cute and cuddly doll as I was now.
“What did he do to you?” She asked. “It looks to me that he tried to dress you up.” She quickly unwrapped the cotton off me. “He has no idea how to make proper clothes. These men!” She carried me up. “I am going to tell Edward I am going to keep you.”
“Sure,” said Kelley placatingly. “You can keep him.” He was awake now and sat in his favorite chair. He face was pale and wan. “But I am going to ask George to do something for me first. Be a good girl and run along now.”
Marie reluctantly put me on the table. “If I let you play with him, you are going to buy me a new dress, right?” She asked slyly.
“Whatever you want,” Kelley said impatiently. “Now I have to do some work. I will see you at dinner.” Once the door closed after Marie, he looked at me thoughtfully.
“You had a busy day, haven’t you?” He asked with a hint of amusement.
“Antonio wanted to sacrifice me to Satan,” I said.
“Antonio means well, but does not know what he is doing,” Kelley said lightly not appearing disturbed by Antonio’s intentions. “The trouble is he really cannot control the Demons. He cannot even see them.”
He turned his eyes to a corner. “Look there,” he commanded. “What do you see?”
“Some dust,” I said. Kelley nodded tiredly.
“You are magical, yet you don’t see Asmodean, who is crouching there.”
He lowered his voice. “He is quiet now and so are the others. They show up anytime I try to do something great. They fly around me, until I am dizzy. They scream and mock me. Me! The greatest…”
“… alchemist in the world,” I finished for him. He looked at me suspiciously, but let it go.
“Why do they do it?” I asked.
“My enemies sent them,” he explained.
“I was the favorite alchemist of the emperor. They were jealous. They said I cheated the Emperor and killed other people.”
“Did you?” I asked.
“Perhaps I cheated a little,” he said. “I had to do it, the old man only wanted us to make gold and I could not. I would get there, though. All I needed was more Emerald Tablets.” He frowned.
“I had to kill to get some,” he conceded. “It is rough out there. Kill or be killed. Emperor did not care about it anyway. At the end he locked me up until I make gold. I escaped and have to pretend I died. If I can only get rid of the Demons, though, I will go and find the right Tablet. Then I will make gold. And once I do it – he leaned toward me – I will be the Emperor.”
“You don’t need me,” I said. “I don’t know how to make gold.”
“They still don’t know how to make gold in your time?” He asked with contempt. “I will find out. You will help me, but not by making gold. You will help me to get rid of the Demons.”
“I don’t know how,” I started.
“No, you don’t,” he agreed. “I know someone who does, though.”
“Why don’t you ask him?” I asked.
“He lives far away,” Kelley said seriously. “I cannot go there. I would be recognized on the way. And even if I were not, it is not a place where Christians can go freely.” Quite likely not even Satanists, I thought, but held my tongue. He pulled on the rope. Petr appeared.
“Get me Jakub,” Kelley ordered. “Tell him to bring Arrow with him.”