Asmodeus, a great king, strong and powerful, was supposed to have appeared with three heads (bull, man, ram). It had taken weeks to beg, borrow and steal the ingredients for the incense. It had taken days to obtain candles – real candles – from the undermarket: Unregistered products were forbidden by the Syndic.

While my Breth and Siz waited outside, watchful for Syndicops I’d lit the candles and the incense and boomed out the words of the evocation. I’d scared myself to death with it. But when Asmodeus appeared it would have been worth it. He could give true answers and we needed answers.

This was all pre-crash tech you understand. Magic they called it. Since the crash the Syndic got to say what was real and what was forbidden. Their way or the nihilway. All the new tech was theirs, all licensed and controlled, tagged and traced. Too many independent groups had been taken down because they’d relied on some gizmo or gadget without realising it was ratchatting back to the Syndics. So our method was oldschool, offgrid, slideways. And my passion was magic. Basically spiritech if you need a name you can understand. According to pre-crash writing the universe is full of entities beyond the material world. And there were books, like physical datadrops, in the pre-crash that gave instructions on getting in touch with them. One of those books was the Lesser Key of Solomon. Solomon was a movershaker way back pre-crash and his crew wielded real fluence for a while, and all because Solomon had power over these entities and among them was my man Asmodeus. He built Sol’s safehouse for him, outfitted it with all the glitz and glimmer. And if anyone could tell us how to get one over on the Syndic it was Asmodeus. One advantage. One whisper of a hope. That’s all we wanted.

So, as it was, I’d lit the candles, the incense, stingthroating smoke filling my nostrils, and I’d boomed out the evocation, calling AS-MO-DAY-US! over and over until I went hoarse and dizzy. Nothing. Sweet Flashing Zipzap. No demon, no spirit, no entity. Just dribblewax stumps and ash, so much ash.

But that had been three months ago and we hadn’t given up, my Breth and Siz and I. We traded plenty spiders (money being Syndic through and through and every penny logged and linked) in the shadows and got passed from linkman to linkman until I’d met with an old man in a smoked glass egg cubicle overlooking the drybay near the citydeep gate. He took some suading but I told him we knew he had what we needed, a precrash book. Bigger and better than the Lesser Key of Solomon. Why hadn’t he used it himself I asked, bring down the Syndic? Old men need no trouble, he’d said, and he hadn’t dared. He’d read the book and it had scared him. The beings it described were warped and powerful, changeable and sometimes wild. Was it real? He believed so. He’d studied and found these entites had been known all across the world pre-crash. Their images appeared everywhere. Would he sell it? Not cheaply.

It took us another month to hunt, modify and breed the spiders he wanted but we did it and made payment one night. He handed over the book. Handwritten by the man’s grandfather from many sources he’d discovered over the years. I looked at the first page only and the images there chilled me. The creatures were like nothing I could have day/nightdreamed, their names and attributes alien and nonsensical. I closed the book, offered my profound grats and headed for my homeslot.

The next six weeks we pored over the book, my Breth and Siz and I. We learned the sacred or blasphemous names. We committed their natures and attributes to memory. They were creatures of another time, a world alien to us since the Crash. And they could help us take down the Syndic without a doubt. Even the elite Platinum Corps of the Syndicops couldn’t stand up against the powers we would wield.

There were no rituals in the book so we decided I’d use the wordways from the Lesser Key of Solomon. There was fear in the blood as I lit the candles and the incense. My Breth and Siz kissed me goodbye just in case and headed out to leave me to the work. We’d chosen the one we were going to summon. I’d drawn it on the wall in pigments we’d made ourself. I fixed my eyes on it and began.

The ritual wordways were fixed in my memory from earlier experiments with Asmodeus, with Belial and Lucifuge Rofocale. I chanted them from memory but this time there was a newfeel in the air, tangible and darkening. It was listening and ready to answer.

As the ritual moved up in tempo, as the words of power poured from my lips, the image on the wall seemed to shift, become deeper in colour, began to emerge from the flat surface as the shadows around it pooled and grew. Lightning crackled around it and the air smelled of endstorm. I needed to name it, bind it, or we would be lost. The barbarous name from the old man’s book eluded me for one panicked second as the flat black eyes of the beast met mine and the creature smiled. Then in a moment of relief I remembered the name and the words of binding from the old book:

“Peeee-kaaaa-chooooooo!” I intoned, “I choose you!”

The creature repeated its name and showed its teeth.

We’d taken the first step against the Syndic. And with over eight hundred of the spirits to call upon, as compared to the 72 in the Lesser Key of Solomon, the ancient tome Pokedex would be our most potent weapon.

Finn’s first novel A Step Beyond Context is available on,uk and and a few others as well. It’s a punchy genre-busting mystery with a heroine who is a Regency lady, a high tech mercenary and much more.

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