The apprentice demonologist

The apprentice demonologist

Can one have too much education? Over the years I have come round to a feeling that one can. Yes I agree entirely that the young should be taught the finer arts necessary for an appreciation of poetry, but how much more education should they be burdened with?
In all candour I find there is something unnerving about young boys sitting quietly in a room reading books. They should be outside, knocking the hats of the pompous with well placed slingshots, or surreptitiously stealing sweetmeats from confectioners. Even the swift theft of a cooling pie from a kitchen window provides the youngster with many of the skills they will need when they embark upon adult life. Many an elderly usurer or senior lawyer will tell you that it’s the courage and dexterity that they acquired in their youth which stood them in good stead when facing the adversity of middle age.

This is why I feel obliged to share with you the sad story of Sidimor Emmercob. The Emmercobs had the disadvantage of being ‘new money’ and Madam Emmercob, Sidimor’s mother, was in awe of her husband, Tilandor. She felt that it was his mastery of the vertex, his understanding of both factors and variables, and his grasp of the properties of salts, airs, acids and spirits, were the bedrock upon which the family fortune was based. Indeed their prosperity rested on his production of salt of lemon, used to remove ink stains, but also in high demand by marble grinders everywhere.

Perhaps because of this, Madam Emmercob set a far higher value on education that I feel is wise. Indeed when her husband perished in unfortunate circumstances (in a bed that was not his own), she decided that young Sidimor was the best hope of guaranteeing the family finances. Therefore she didn’t merely encourage his reading, she made it mandatory. On the occasions I visited the house, if he was not at school, Sidimor was always in his late father’s workroom, studying.

Now the late Tilandor had been one of those individuals whom appeared at the meal table with his nose buried in a book. During the meal he would remain engrossed in whatever he was reading, eating mechanically with no real sense of what it was he was eating. Thus one of Sidimor’s few boyish pranks was to put custard over his father’s meat rather than gravy, and to sweeten his infusions with a spoonful of syrup of figs. His father never appeared to notice.

Once the meal was over, Tilandor would retire to his workroom where he would continue whatever alchemical experiments he was working on. Hence when Sidimor started to progress down the same route, his mother regarded this as a positive development rather than otherwise.

Now whilst Tilandor’s dabbling in alchemy could be regarded as eccentric, Sidimor’s dabbling in demonology ought to meet with general disapproval. Yet his mother, herself a lady who could quote all the great poets and play fourteen different musical instruments beautifully, didn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between the two sciences.

From what I could piece together after the event, Sidimor drifted into demonology by accident. I suspect that he was following his father’s researches and took to demonology as an obvious shortcut. Certainly a number of his father’s alchemical tomes did hint at the possibility of demonic involvement to hasten various reactions, and I suspect the boy may have followed these hints. Unfortunately his mother gave him far too generous book allowance and with this he was able to build up a sound basic library of demonology. This allowed him to continue his researches.
I well remember the time when I called upon his mother to assist her in planning a charitable event she was to host. As we sat in her parlour, she summoned Sidimor and asked him to show me his new pet. He appeared, blinking into the light of the parlour, with some monstrous beast on his arm. One merely had to look into the creature’s eyes to realise that this was some hell-spawned abomination. It sat on his arm, gnawing on a piece of cooked chicken and gibbering to itself in some loathsome dialect.
Indeed the proud mother insisted on showing me the workroom. The windows were heavily shuttered and the room was largely in darkness. Only the centre was illuminated by a dozen noisome candles which burned with an uncertain flame. On one bench, his father’s equipment, aludels and alembics were pushed to one side. They were joined by a pile of crucibles, blackened and cracked with the heat. In the centre a pentagram of steel was set into the floor, and just visible in the candlelight, row after row of leather backed books which seemed to lurk more ominously than an honest title should. I confess I was glad to be out of there.

The end came unexpectedly for Sidimor, although I fear that an aspiring demonologist has only a very tenuous grasp on both life and reality. Guided both by his library and by his demonic familiar he decided to summon and bind some greater creature. But when dealing with such entities, one cannot entice them to obedience with cooked chicken. They demand darker meats and the blood and soul of a virgin were called for. After circumspect enquiries amongst his schoolfellows he picked his victim, a maiden called Stonni, whose virginity was vouchsafed by all who knew her. She, he courted, in his bumbling fashion. Finally she allowed herself to be enticed into the house on the promise of tea and cake. Secure in the knowledge that his mother would be present, she allowed herself to be lured.

Again, when Sidimor offered to show her his etchings, her initial suspicions were dispelled by the discovery that the room involved was not a bedroom but instead one downstairs and close to where his mother sat at tea with friends. So she entered the workroom and was initially impressed by the ambiance and the décor. She even watched with admiration as he proceeded to work his way through the summoning ritual, chanting complex syllables and only occasionally glancing at the book to refresh his memory. It was only as the ceremony reached the climax that she started to have her misgivings.

Sidimor realised at this point that he had forgotten some minor details. It was with the summoned demon already present that he had to turn to Stonni and ask her if she would mind taking her clothes off and submitting to being tied up. Stonni, although a virgin, was not entirely innocent. She had older sisters and a mother who entertained a lot. Thus being asked to remove her clothes wasn’t a complete surprise. The being tied up seemed a step too far at this stage of a relationship, and the presence of a demon seemed to her an entirely unnecessary distraction. When Sidimor, growing both nervous and impatient, tried to assist her in the undressing, she awarded him with a backhanded slap across the face which propelled him several feet backwards, over the protecting pentagram and into the numerous arms of the awaiting demon. This creature screeched, and disappeared with its prey. Stonni, somewhat put out by the whole process, left quietly by a back door.

I was asked by Madam Emmercob to discover where Sidimor had disappeared to. In the course of my investigations I had cause to speak to Stonni and she told me what had happened. Having heard her story I felt that it seemed unnecessarily heartless to let too much truth leak out. We had Stonni’s reputation to think of; after all no girl likes it to be known that she is in the habit of casting unwanted suitors into the maw of a demon. An older and more experienced lady might well get away with such a reputation, but not a girl of thirteen.

Thus Madam Emmercob informed the world that Sidimor had gone to pursue his studies in the company of wiser and more powerful teachers, and he could well be gone for some time.


If you intend to wait for his return, you might need a good book to while away the time. Could I be so bold as to suggest

Dead Man Riding East 

(It also has a demon, which is as good a link as any)

A reviewer commented, “In this new adventure in the `Swords’ series, we again follow Benor and watch and feel as though we take part in his hectic life. He both pursues and is pursued when he `liberates’ a prince’s concubine (and keeps her!) and the prince, naturally, doesn’t want to let the matter rest. As well as being an excellent fighter, one of his companions on the journey is a master of the haute couture trade and manages to combine these two rather successfully.

Jim Webster has created a credible fantasy world here, populated by its own races, both rivals and allies, and with an intriguing group of wild creatures which you can almost taste when they are described as food species! There is a good deal of action in this book but also some softer, `Ahhh!’ moments which I won’t describe for fear of spoiling the story. Needless to say, he has once again used his own writing style to give us some wonderfully memorable phrases. I like his style and his gentle humour.”

16 thoughts on “The apprentice demonologist

    1. Some of the stories do have a thread of darkness woven through them, but I’ve always found that darkness works better when there’s plenty of light about to highlight the contrast.
      If you read ‘Dead Man Riding East’ you’ll find that there is plenty of darkness which occasionally breaks through the surface 🙂


      1. strangely enough several people have said that the Tallis Stories would make a good TV series, one story an episode
        Unfortunately none of the people who’ve said this have any connection with a TV company 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

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