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Bell, Book and Candle

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Ring the bell

"She is of Baphomet the sister and the youngest of her line, though puissant still and not easily to be taken with words or symbols of art. But with silver will you bind her and with her name, anagrammatized, appease her."

For countless generations, Ajulutsikeal had watched and waited. Daughter of the mazikim, destroyer of men, devourer of souls, she rose only when called; given a task or a name. Her victims had always been men, and she’d considered them beneath her contempt, no better than cattle. For a long time, all she could remember of the summonings were the echoes of instinct. Hunger. Lust. Anger. Pain.

The silver anklet had been the fetter that that tied her to the world, much as she hated it. It chained her, but also gave her gave her form, identity and the ability to form thoughts beyond instinct. And then, when the chain was cut through the actions of an alcoholic ne’er do well of an exorcist, she suddenly became an emancipated demon - corporeal but able to take actions beyond the hunt, thus free to explore the world.

What she hadn’t expected, in the process of learning to live like a human (or at least a good approximation of one), was that she might begin to act as one, too. It was one thing to refrain from feeding, to refrain from killing men, even those she’d once marked. But as Juliet Salazar, she came to feel compassion for the women who, imprisoned or abused, arrived at her door seeking help. She developed a certain fondness and even respect for Castor, first as a mentor and later as a friend. Then she met Susan Book, and could for the first time experience desire without the concurrent need to consume. And strangest of all, in that process she somehow came to understand love - its affection and exasperation, possession and protectiveness.

Jules might indeed be released from her worldly shackles, but she is bound all the same.

Close the book

Sue had always prided herself on being a hardworking, sensible, down-to earth sort. At school, her marks had been good but not stellar, and knowing how difficult it would be to get a job with a 2:1 in English, especially from a new university, she’d proceeded to a course in library science. Her position as verger at St. Michael’s had been earned after years of volunteering and youth work. Despite being religious, she hadn’t been fanciful - if anything, she was perhaps a little unimaginative. When the news filled with lurid tales of possession, exorcism and the walking dead, it hadn’t affected her day to day life much or changed what she believed in.

Of course, she’d never believed in love at first sight. Not until the day she’d met Jules. Fix explained to her later, slightly abashed and more intoxicated than usual, what he hadn’t been able to in the early days of their acquaintance - that most of what she’d felt was a visceral, chemical reaction to the succubus Ajulutsikael. All she’d known at the time, all she’d realized was that she wanted – wanted in a way she’d never wanted before.

And that desire had shaken her to her foundations – her confidence, her faith, her very understanding of the world. At first, she’d wondered if it had to do with the possession – the strange happenings at St. Michael’s which had led her to find and employ the exorcist and medium Juliet Salazar. But even after Asmodeus had been chained back in the body of Rafael Ditko, her feelings for Jules hadn’t changed. Instead, they changed her, opened her to a world of spells and powers and demons, one of them her own lover.

She regrets it a little, leaving the Church. (Although she still sometimes goes to a moderate, LGBT congregation for special services at Christmas and Easter. Jules understandably chooses to refrain.) But it’s been nice to be back at the library. After all, when one door closes, another opens.

Quench the candle

Friday is date night, so even though Sue usually gets back before Jules, she doesn’t start dinner as soon as she gets in the door. It’s been a little awkward anyway, since she became a vegetarian, but Jules doesn’t actually need to eat, so in some respects it doesn’t matter that much. And tonight, they are going out for dinner to the same little café South London where they had their first date - since it is after all, their anniversary.

Jules moves a little awkwardly, as her injuries from the confrontation at Mount Grace still trouble her. There’s no obvious scar, but flesh is malleable for her in any case, and the wounds inflicted by Moloch go beyond that. Still the food is good, and the evening enjoyable despite the somewhat bedazzled service. Sue chats about her day – having taken two weeks’ leave to nurse Jules back to health, she’s only just returned to the library, and is still catching up on the office gossip. Jules listens quietly, asking the occasional question in her usual low murmur.

It’s not until they get home and are unwinding over a glass wine that Sue gets up the courage to say something. “Jules – something’s been bothering you all night. Is it – are you in pain? Is there something I can do?”

“I’m sorry, Sue.” Juliet looks up from the table, where she had been gazing fixedly into her glass, as if only just noticing the way the light from candle centerpiece is reflected in the liquid. “I’ve been distracted, and I’m not good at using words…”

The horrible sinking feeling has already started in Susan’s stomach, but Jules continues “…so I just thought I’d give this to you.”

The box is from Goldsmiths, and it contains a plain, simple gold band. Inscribed in the interior are the characters “שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים,”

Sue gasps, and kisses her.

Jules continues. “I know that under the laws of Rath Adona, it will have to be a civil union, but -”

Sue interrupts. “Yes, always.”

No further words are necessary. Juliet smiles, and blows the candles out.