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Johannes Cabal the Necromancer

ISBN-10: 0767930762
ISBN-13: 9780767930765
Edition: 2009
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Book details

List price: $18.95
Copyright year: 2009
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 6/1/2010
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 304
Size: 5.25" wide x 8.00" long x 0.75" tall
Weight: 0.506

in which a scientist visits hell and a deal is struck Walpurgisnacht, the Hexennacht. The last night of April. The night of witches, when evil walks abroad. He stood at a desolate and lonely place where there would be no interruption, no prying eyes. The air smelled metallic with freshly spilt blood; the body of a decapitated virgin kid goat lay nearby. He had no alloyed metal about him but for a thin-bladed sword of fine steel he held in his right hand; that arm was naked, his shirt sleeve rolled up to the biceps. A silver coin wrapped in paper nestled in his waistcoat pocket. Before him burned a fire of white wood. His name was Johannes Cabal, and he was summoning a demon. "... Oarios! Almoazin! Arios! Membrot!" The chanted names faded into the unusually still night air. Only the crackling of the fire accompanied him. "Janna! Etitnamus! Zariatnatmix... and so on." He drew a deep breath and sighed, bored with the ritual. "A. E. A. J. A. T. M. O...." There was hidden meaning in the names he must call, the letters he must chant. That didn't mean he had to approve or even be impressed by them. As he recited the Grand Conjuration, he thought that some magicians might have better served the world by writing crossword puzzles. Then space distorted, and he was no longer alone. The demon's name was Lucifuge Rofocale. He stood a little taller than Cabal's six feet, but the bizarre fool's cap he wore--three flopping horns, or perhaps tentacles, ending with arrowheads--made his height vary from moment to moment. In one hand he held a bag containing, at least symbolically, the riches of the world. In the other, a golden hoop. He wore a segmented, studded leather skirt rather like a Roman soldier's. Beneath it, _fur-_covered legs ended in hooves. He had a fat anteater's tail, and a silly little Hercule Poirot moustache. As is often the case with demons, Lucifuge looked like an anatomical game of Consequences. "Lo!" cried the demon. "I am here! What dost thou seek of me? Why dost thou disturb my repose? Smite me no more with that dread rod!" He looked at Cabal. "Where's your dread rod?" "I left it at home," replied Cabal. "Didn't think I really needed it." "You can't summon me without a dread rod!" said Lucifuge, appalled. "You're here, aren't you?" "Well, yes, but under false pretences. You haven't got a goatskin or two vervain crowns or two candles of virgin wax made by a virgin girl and duly blessed. Have you got the stone called Ematille?" "I don't even know what Ematille is." Neither did the demon. He dropped the subject and moved on. "Four nails from the coffin of a dead child?" "Don't be fatuous." "Half a bottle of brandy?" "I don't drink brandy." "It's not for you." "I have a hip flask," said Cabal, and threw it to him. The demon caught it and took a dram. "Cheers," said Lucifuge, and threw it back. They regarded each other for a long moment. "This really is a shambles," the demon added finally. "What did you summon me for, anyway?"
The Gates of Hell are an impressive structure. A great adamantine finger of rock a mile in diameter and two miles high punches through the surface of the cracked and baking desert plain of Limbo. On one side of this impenetrable edifice are the Gates themselves: massive iron constructions hundreds of feet wide and a thousand high. Their rough, barely worked surfaces are pocked and pitted with great bolts driven through in ragged lines, huge bands of brass running across in uneven ranks. One could be forgiven for thinking Hell's a popular place to get into. Perhaps surprisingly, it is. On the outside, one wonders what happens once you pass through that terrible, cruel portal. Some believe that all Hell is somehow crammed within the rock, a place where dimensions mean nothing. Others say that immediately beyond the Gates, within the hollowed rock, is a great chasm that opens into the pit of Hell, and that those stepping within must surely plunge straight to their eternal dooms. Others believe that the rock conceals the top of a very big escalator. Nobody on the outside knows for sure, but everyone wants to find out, and they want to find out because anything--anything--is better than the forms. Lots of forms. Stacks of forms. An average of nine thousand, seven hundred, and forty-seven of them were required to gain entrance to Hell. The largest form ran to fifteen thousand, four hundred, and ninety-seven questions. The shortest to just five, but five of such subtle phraseology, labyrinthine grammar, and malicious ambiguity that, released into the mortal world, they would certainly have formed the basis of a new religion or, at the least, a management course. This, then, was the first torment of Hell, as engineered by the soul of a bank clerk. Nobody had to fill in the forms, of course. But, given that the _alternative was eternity spent naked in an endless desert that has never known night, most people found themselves sooner or later queuing up at the small porter's door set into one of Hell's Gates. There they would receive a form entitled "Infernal Regions (Local Authority) Hades Admission Application--Provisional (AAAA/342)" and a soft pencil. Congas of hopeful applicants wound around the gatehouse like a line drawn by somebody wanting to find out how much writing you could get out of a box of ballpoints. The formerly quiet desert hummed to a steady drone of sub-vocalised reading and flipped pages. New arrivals and old hands queued patiently at the porter's door to hand in and receive forms. The quickest route through the paper trail necessitated the completion of two thousand, seven hundred, and _eighty-_five, but nobody had yet fulfilled the extremely narrow conditions that would permit such a speedy passage. Most could anticipate three or four times as many, not counting forms rejected for mistakes; the hand-picked team of administrative imps that dealt with admissions didn't like errors at all, nor did they issue erasers.
The Arch-Demon Ratuth Slabuth had been informed that Hell had been invaded and, being a general of the Infernal Hordes, did he intend to do anything about it? Flying devils were sent to reconnoitre the enemy force, but these quickly returned and--somewhat crestfallen--reported that the invaders consisted of one man with a short temper and sunglasses. Intrigued, the general had decided to take the situation into his own hands, claws, and writhing thorned tentacles. Ratuth Slabuth, a stack of shifting _non-Euclidean angles topped by a horse's skull in a stylised, ancient-Grecian helmet, looked down from a great height upon the insolent human. "This is Hell," he tried to explain for the third time. "Not a drop-in centre. You can't just turn up and say, 'Oh, I was just in the neighbourhood and thought I'd call by and have a bit of a chinwag with Lord Satan.' It simply isn't done." "No," said the infuriating mortal. "It hasn't been done. There is a difference. May I pass now?" "No, you may not. Satan's a very busy... um, is very busy right now. He can't go interrupting his work for every Tom, Dick, and Johannes"--he paused for effect, but the human just looked at him with a faint air of what seemed to be pity--"Harry, that is, who turns up demanding audience." "Really?" said Cabal. "I had no idea. I thought this would be an uncommon occurrence, unique even, but you seem to imply that it happens all the time. Fair enough." Ratuth was just thinking how well he'd handled things when, suddenly, Cabal pointed directly at him. "I call you liar!" he spat. "I call you duplicitous, mendacious, and thoroughly amateur at both enterprises." "What?" shrieked the demon general. "WHAT? You, a mere mortal, dare to call me thus?" The eldritch angles unfolded, the darkness about him deepened as he rose like some dreadful bird of prey. "I shall destroy you! I shall rend the very flesh from your skeleton, hollow your long bones, and play your funeral lament upon them! For I am Ratuth Slabuth! Dark General of the Infernal Hordes! Father of Desolation! Despoiler of Innocence! Look upon me, mortal, and know thy doom!" Cabal, he noticed through his rage, looked calm. Worryingly so. " 'Ratuth Slabuth,' eh?" said Cabal. "You wouldn't happen to have started your career as Ragtag Slyboots, Despoiler of Milk and Entangler of Shoelaces, would you?" The effect was electric. Ratuth Slabuth folded up like an especially large deck of cards in the blink of an eye until he was the same height as Cabal. "How did you know that?" he asked quickly. "I'm a necromancer. You'd be surprised at the sources we dig up. Now, then, do I get my audience with Satan or do I spread rumours about a certain diabolic general's personal history? Which is it to be?"
From the Hardcover edition.

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