Charles rubs his hands, letting chalk dust sprinkle to the floor.
He’s been working on this particular chalk circle for the better part of the day, and his hands are covered in different colors of the stuff. Blue, gold, red, green, and silver chalk smudge up his arms to the elbows, and he’s fairly sure he’s gotten some on his face somehow. He likes color-coding the different types of wards; it makes it easier for him to check for any mistakes. And it happens to be prettier.
Some other magicians Charles knows can make their work incredibly dull. His teacher, for example. Charles likes to throw in little things that make spells more fun, always has, and today is no exception. He’s thrown in some extra sigils today, just to show off. The specialized valknut is particularly exciting, because he doesn't know if it’s actually going to work.
Everything looks to be in order, so Charles grins and claps his hands together. The lights above him flicker off as a burst of energy pops his eardrums. The chalk sigils filling the room begin to glow in all their different colors.
He takes a breath, closes his eyes, and begins to chant the summoning spell that he has had memorized before he learned to walk. The words reverberate through the room, magnified by the magic he pushes through each syllable.
“Parti vitali transgredi. O daemon infernalis aeternum, mihi veni. Leges universae qui vocatus mandant vel accipetis, vel te tollent. O Ignis Magnus Metalli invictus, mihi veni!”
(He hopes the demon he’s summoning won’t be offended by the word choices of the spell. Really, in Charles’ experience, telling people that you’re going to destroy them if they don’t obey your summons is not a good way to introduce yourself.)
When the final echoes of Charles’ words fade, purple smoke begins to curl up from the shuddering floor in the center of Charles’ carefully drawn Sigillum Dei. The smoke billows and fills until Charles can see the outline of the demon standing there in the shape of a man.
There is a faint smell, but Charles cannot place it. Usually the books say that demons fill rooms with sulfur and other such nasty odors, but this one is not so. It is nondescript, almost pleasant in its tang.
As the smoke clears in a flutter, Charles avidly takes in the demon’s appearance. He is a lean, muscular man with a crisp suit and tie. Dark purple horns, twisted and elegant, curl upward from above his ears. He stands with poise, hands in his pockets, as his tail flicks disinterestedly back and forth.
His eyes pierce Charles, sizing him up. A smirk curls his lips.
“To whom do I owe the pleasure of this call?” The demon asks with polite detachment. He checks his fingernails as he speaks. They are awfully long and sharp, Charles notices.
“Charles Xavier, at your service,” Charles cheerfully replies. “But you may call me Charles, of course.”
The demon blinks. “Charles,” he says, slowly rolling it off his tongue.
“Guilty as charged,” Charles says with a small smile. “And what may I call you, if I may be so bold?”
“You already know my name,” the demon says. “The chant..."
“Well, technically, I suppose I do. Would you like me to call you Ignis Magnus Metalli? I would, it you prefer.” Charles idly rubs his itching nose with his thumb, smearing chalk onto it. “Oh, dear - ” He cuts himself off with a sneeze.
“Gesundheit,” Ignis Magnus Metalli says absentmindedly.
“Thank you.” Charles sniffs to curb off another sneeze. “Sorry about that, sometimes I swear I’m allergic to the stuff... But there’s the price of being a magician, I suppose, chalk is everywhere. Anyway, yes, if you like to be called by your full summoning name, then I would be happy to do so. Is there another name you would like better, though?”
Ignis Magnus Metalli stares at him as if he were the demon spirited away from hell.
“Oh, bugger, is that too forward? Is it rude? Should I not be asking for your other names?” Charles wishes that there were more books on these kinds of things. He wouldn’t have embarrassed himself so quickly if he’d just known a little more about demonic social customs. “Well, don’t answer that, then. I shall simply call you Magnus for the sake of expediency, if it isn’t too much trouble. Is Magnus acceptable?”
“Magnus is... fine, yes.”
“Oh, excellent. Well, Magnus, it’s lovely to meet you.” Charles smiles at him. “This is my first summoning, and I must say, you are absolutely magnificent!”
Magnus looks surprised, but says nothing. His tail isn’t flicking back and forth anymore. Charles wonders if he’s forgot to apologize for something else that he’s done wrong, something that could be construed as rude...
“Yes, oh! And I’m terribly sorry about the wording of that summoning spell, really. I aim on coming up with a new one that isn’t quite so... demanding, but, well.” Charles shrugs. “I have to perfect it first, before I start using it. Optimistically, I’ll have the testing done by the end of the month to use it for a full-scale summons. I do hope you weren’t offended?”
Magnus raises an eyebrow and minutely shakes his head.
“Oh, good.” Charles smiles, relieved. “And now, to business, if you don’t mind.”
Charles claps his hands together and pulls out a golden chain from the palm of his hand. At the end is a small watch, with beautiful, curved designs carved on its face.
“What’s that?” Magnus asks.
“Oh, I am glad you asked. This is something I cobbled together from several spells after a great deal of research. You see, I have read that demons are unduly uncomfortable in their taken forms on this dimension due to the stresses of stabilizing with the surrounding environment. This watch,” he held it up, “is an experimental attempt at relieving that discomfort. It is imbued with constrained flames of hell to recreate a comfortable environmental basis for an individual from the demon plane, and is also a protective amulet against destabilization of magical form and illusion. In effect, it makes the demonic form in the human plane painless and effortless to maintain. In theory, anyway.”
Magnus stares at the watch with fascination.
“Here you are.” Charles tosses the watch over to Magnus in a carefully aimed puff of wind. He catches it deftly. Charles can see the effect of the watch immediately. Magnus straightens up, the lines in his forehead fall away, and he hums with power.
“It works,” Magnus says, astonished. He flexes his fingers, watching as his claws recede into normal fingernails. He flicks the claws out again. Testing the limits of his control, Charles assumes.
“Excellent, I rather hoped it would. I wouldn’t want you to be forcibly uncomfortable. Keep it on your personhood and it should keep working as long as that watch is ticking.”
Magnus tucks the watch into his waistcoat like an old-fashioned pocket watch. It looks marvelous and stately, just like the rest of him.
Charles claps his hands together again and twists. When he pulls them apart, a folder is in his hands. “Now, Magnus, this folder I have here holds a contract that I have drawn up for our potential partnership. It is rather long, of course, and I advise you to read the whole thing through before you make your decision.”
“To agree to work with me or not.” Charles had thought that should have been obvious.
“And if I decided against it? What would happen then?” Magnus eyes him suspiciously.
“Well, I wouldn’t be a prat. I would send you right back to your home, of course.” Charles looks coolly right back at him, after putting two and two together. “I wouldn’t presume to control you and use you through punishments and spells. I do hear other magicians prefer that method, but it is not one I agree with.”
Charles pulls a pen out of his shirt pocket and clips it onto the edge of the folder before sending it all over to Magnus in another puff of air. Magnus opens it with care, brow furrowed, and begins to read over the terms.
Charles knows that the contract is at least ten pages long, and Magnus looks like a very thorough, precise individual, so he assumes it will take some time before Magnus comes to his decision. In the meantime, Charles feels as if he can take a bit of a break. He quietly claps his hands together and pulls out an empty teacup from his palm. Charles circles the edge with a finger, and the cup fills with hot tea.
He sips from it and his eyes close in pleasure. One of his best little creations: a teacup that can infinitely refill itself. Divine. Maybe he’ll change the flavor in his next cup; he does like Earl Grey, but he has had a taste for Rooibos recently.
He’s on his fourth cup when Magnus is finished reading.
“I have questions,” Magnus states, “and I will have them answered before I sign anything.”
That sounds promising. “Of course, any questions you may have I will answer to the best of my ability.” Charles takes his last sip of Rooibos tea. “Fire away.”
“Is this contract magically upheld?”
Charles frowns in thought. “Well, yes. As it says on page five, if any magical or non-magical violence is intended towards each other or any other being without the informed consent of both parties, the contract will disallow that violent action. In addition, if there is any order or suggestion that I make to you that is magically binding but causes you pain, or if you simply cannot abide, you may say so and the contract will allow you to opt out of that action with no punishment.”
“How else?” Magnus’ eyes narrow.
“Well, the contract also allows either of us to break it at any time. Once it is broken, you will immediately be sent back home. That spell is already woven into the contract, so there will be no need for me to do the honors.” Charles refills his teacup again, this time with green tea. “That’s all for magical constraints.”
“So I would be able to - ”
“Return to the demon plane whenever you so wish, yes.” Charles waves his hand airily while taking another sip of tea. “I would not wish to keep you here if you did not want to be here. And you can act as you see fit, as long as you aren’t violent.”
Magnus is silent for a moment. “And what would the purpose of this partnership be, exactly?”
“I rather hoped I could ask you questions about what it is like to be a demon, for one,” Charles says. “I am, for another, quite interested in refining my magic. And lastly, I would like to discover the whereabouts of my sister and recover her.”
“Your sister? Why, have you lost her?” A single eyebrow of his lifts sardonically.
“No, no. She was taken.” Charles stares into middle distance, thinking about that night. The sound of a window opening, the sound of Raven’s muffled screams.
He shakes himself back into the present moment. Magnus is watching him carefully.
Charles swirls his tea distractedly, clearing his throat. It looks like he has spilled some tea on the floor. That’s embarrassing. He finishes off the tea and puts the teacup back into his palm. “And yourself?”
“What purpose would you have with our partnership?”
Magnus blinks. “My purpose? I...” He shifts from one foot to the other. “I suppose...”
“Please do take your time,” Charles says kindly. “I am sorry to spring this all on you so suddenly.”
“No,” Magnus says brusquely. “No, it’s fine.” He taps his claws on Charles’ watch while he skims over the contract’s cover page again. They make clear ringing sounds, like a line of bells in a glockenspiel.
He looks up at Charles, his gaze piercing. “My goal is to find a magician and kill him. If that can’t be done, then I can’t sign this contract.”
Charles frowns. “Who is the magician in question?”
Magnus’ mouth thins. “Shaw. You know of him?”
Charles nods his head. “He specializes in magical absorption and recalibration. I’ve... met the man a few times at international presentations.”
Magnus is silent, his eyes studying Charles.
“You must see that I am not a man of violence, Magnus, though I am no great friend to Shaw...” Charles rubs the back of his neck in agitation. “Why are you bent on killing him? Is there really a need for that?”
“Yes.” Magnus says fervently.
“But why? What has he done?”
Magnus grinds his teeth, but he answers. “He hunts us.” The words are bitten off with rage. “He hunts demons down and kills them. After experimenting on them.”
“Oh my god,” Charles breathes. “I can’t believe someone would ever...”
“So you do not believe that one of your own would do something like that?” Magnus sneers. “Or you do not believe the word of a demon?”
“No, of course I believe you, Magnus, of course I do, I am just... My god, I am so sorry. That’s... atrocious.”
Magnus looks mollified. “Well, what do you say now?”
Charles studies Magnus. “You are sure that there is no other way to stop him besides killing him?”
“Then...” Charles chews on his lip. “I suppose I agree to that term, if it is true about Shaw hunting and killing demons in that horrible way, and there is no other way to stop him.”
Magnus grins triumphantly. Charles suddenly thinks about all the books he has read where demons lie to their masters to trick them into accidentally killing themselves. Charles brushes the thought away. “Would you have any other goals in this partnership? Hopefully they are not so violent.”
Magnus tips his head to the side, watching Charles. Considering. The curl of a smile is still perched on the edge of his mouth. “Hn.”
Charles lifts an eyebrow. “I’ll assume that’s a no for now. Well, if you do have any additions to make, you can just tell me later and we’ll be able to add them into the contract. It would not be a problem.”
“Good.” Magnus flips to the last page of the contract. He uncaps the pen, and after a moment of hesitation, signs his name in an intelligible scrawl on the bottom line. Charles wonders if it's the name he called Magnus in his summoning spell or if it is another name, closer to Magnus’ heart.
“Excellent. And if you would be so kind, I also believe I have to sign - ” Charles doesn’t finish his sentence before Magnus clips the pen back onto the folder and blows it back over to him in a cloud of purple smoke. “ – Oh, thank you very much.”
Charles signs the contract with a smile. Both of the signatures begin to glow bright gold, even though the ink from the pen was black. “Good, good. Looks to be all in order, then.”
He looks up at Magnus again before walking out of his protection circle and over to the Sigillum Dei. “That means there’s no more cause for this ridiculous thing to keep you hemmed in.” He bends down onto one knee and splits the Dei circle with one brisk motion. “There you are. Freed from captivity. Feel free to explore and roam about the planet.”
Magnus grins, showing off his many teeth. “And when am I to return, master mine?”
Charles blushes to the tips of his ears. “Oh, do call me Charles, please, there’s no need to call me master – and oh, yes. Communication. Returning. Yes. Um.”
Charles claps his hands together and pulls two small pocket journals from his palm. He hands one over to Magnus. “I’ve enchanted these journals to mimic each other. No matter where they are, no matter how far apart, what is written in one will show up in another. When there is a new message, the edges of the journal will glow. Oh, and you have to use a pen, I’m sorry, something about the graphite of a pencil doesn’t properly translate through the mimicking spell.”
Magnus rolls his eyes. “That is no hardship, I assure you. So, you will write me a message in one of these when you want me to return?”
“Yes, that’s the idea. You can also inform me if you need more time, or if you think you’ll be a bit late, or anything like that. I wouldn’t want to interrupt anything important on your end, of course.”
“Of course,” Magnus echoes with the touch of a smirk. Charles has the distinct impression that he is being mocked. Well. He knows demons are very prone to mischief, and a dig here or there is much preferred to some plan to kill him in the night or something.
He holds out his hand. “Well, it was a pleasure to meet you, Magnus. Please know that you are invited to dinner here at the house any time you like. Oh, and if you are in need of money, it can easily be taken care of.”
Magnus looks down at his hand, and for a moment Charles wonders if he’s committed another demonic faux pas.
Then Magnus takes his hand, shaking it with vigor and a sharp smile.
“It has been a very interesting summons, Charles. Do tell me when dinner is served.”
With that, Magnus leaves behind a cloud of purple smoke that quickly fades into wisps. He’s gone.
“That went well,” Charles remarks to thin air.
He tucks his pocket journal back into his palm and whistles a tune as he walks up the stairs. He has got to scrub off all this bloody chalk before he goes to dinner; he can almost feel another sneeze coming on.