Myzanthios added one last drop of human blood to his masterpiece.
He stepped back to admire his work. A circle of bleached bones dominated the floor of his sanctum. Dozens of crimson runes filled it, painted in diabolical shapes across the white marble. Exactly as the ancient texts demanded.
Standing beside him, his apprentice Theth marveled at the creation, still clutching a sheaf of scrolls in his arms. Most were yellowed with age, the papyrus brittle and flaking.
“It is truly beautiful, master,” he began. “But I’m frightened. Must we go forward with this?”
Myzanthios smiled. He closed his eyes, inhaling a deep breath of seaside air. Then he looked out from the only window of his orichalcum tower, high above the city. Dark clouds had rolled in from the ocean. Lightning was threatening the serenity of the day.
“My boy, the gods themselves already bear witness to what we are about to do,” he answered. “There is no one who can stop us now, not even Poseidon himself. Now, hand me the final scroll.”
“My liege, you are the greatest wizard the world has ever seen. Your feats of conjuring surpass all who have come before you. You need not attempt this to prove yourself any greater.”
Myzanthios held out his bony hand, his long fingernails as yellow as the parchment in his under-study’s arms. His eyes were already focused on the blood-rune circle, ignoring the wind that had begun to blow through his beard and his long white hair.
“This is no mere conjuring,” he whispered. “Today I claim my birthright.”
The young man relented, handing over the document his master demanded, the prize he had sought for decades in dozens of hidden vaults and sorcerers’ tombs across the world. He shuddered as he passed the gold-bordered vellum to the wizard. A clap of thunder from the ever-growing storm seemed to echo his terror.
Myzanthios took the scroll in hand, opening it wide. Though he was slow in reading the archaic pictographic text, he pronounced each of the symbols in practiced, deliberate fashion.
The sun vanished outside, casting a rainy shadow over the city as a thunderhead eclipsed it.
“Prepare the candles,” the wizard instructed.
Theth laid down the scrolls and took up three tapers. He lit them all. As Myzanthios continued his readings, Theth placed them at the center of the blood-drawn sigil.
Myzanthios rattled off a series of incantations, verses composed in long-forgotten tongues. He lifted his arms, beseeching the aid of hidden spirits and forces beyond the world.
A gust of wind came rushing through the window, dousing the candles. Darkness reigned, but only for a moment. As if in response to the wizard’s words, the tapers re-ignited, sending up columns of ghostly green flame and belching putrid, violet smoke. A vortex swirled within the bounds of the bone-circle.
Inhuman voices announced the arrival of something. Mournful calls echoed from the abyss. The smoke and flame congealed into a phantom form, a hideous beast of fire and shadow. Its pulsating carapace was neither flesh nor bone. Hundreds of spider-like eyes glowered from its face, while flailing tentacles reached out in every direction.
“Who has summoned us?” it demanded.
The wizard pointed his hand at the entity, chanting a spell that seemed to ensnare the demon like a lasso.
“I am Myzanthios,” he said. “Holder of the scrolls of Baneth and heir to the line of Zaraxos, greatest of all sorcerers. To his will you were long ago bound by a blood pact of one-thousand-thirteen souls.”
The demon looked upon the old man in his robes of shimmering black silk. Fury seethed in its eyes.
“The terms of that ancient bargain do still endure,” it said. “Whoever summons us may exert his will upon us for as long as he desires. Tell us, how long shall we serve your will, master?”
Myzanthios puffed his chest.
“Demon-slave of the dark pits, I demand your obedience until this land vanishes from the Earth.”
The demon nodded its bestial head.
“As you wish, master,” it said, bowing in deference.
Theth looked outside. The storm raged. Waves crashed over the harbor’s break-wall, spilling into the streets and flooding the canals. People ran for cover as the tide surged through the city itself, washing away everything in its path. Myzanthios appeared to care little for the chaos beyond his tower.
“You now stand beside the most powerful man in the world,” he said. “I command the obedience of the mightiest demon any sorcerer has ever summoned.”
“Perhaps your first use of that power should be to banish this storm,” Theth replied.
Myzanthios barely acknowledged the tempest.
“Wind and rain no longer concern me,” he replied. “Let the gale pass as it will. Did you not hear? I will rule this island kingdom until it disappears from the Earth.”
The wizard looked to Theth, cowering against the wall.
“Do not fear a thing, my boy,” he said, raising his voice against the howling storm. “Tomorrow, when the waters recede, I will be the last ruler Atlantis ever knows.”
Myzanthios laughed. And so did the demon.
Frank Cavallo’s first novel The Lucifer Messiah was published by Medallion Press. His short fiction has appeared in Ray Gun Revival and his Warhammer short story “The Talon of Khorne” is currently on sale in the May 2012 issue of “Hammer and Bolter” from The Black Library.