Akviziel is late for tea again.
“I swear it isn’t my fault this time,” he says when he finally does show up. “I got summoned.”
I’ve heard that one before. “Well, you can warm your tea back up yourself.”
He grunts as he drops into the chair across from me. Leather squeaks against leather; I’d have gone with cloth to avoid that, but last time I had cloth furniture it just kept getting singed. Hellhound leather is made of stronger stuff.
I sip my tea as he carefully picks up his cup. It looks tiny in his massive hands, and his red brow furrows in concentration as he attempts to heat the tea without shattering the cup. He’s done it enough that I took up mosaics for something to do with all the shards.
My latest piece is up on the wall behind him, little chips of red among white-blue spelling out “WE’RE ALL GOING TO HELL.” I made it three weeks ago, and he has yet to notice.
“Well.” His cup is now steaming gently and he takes a small sip before he continues. “How are you?”
“Fine,” I tell him coolly. “I’m trying to restart the garden again. I expect—”
“Damn it.” He grimaces and sets his cup down. “Sorry. I’m being summoned again. I’ll be right back.”
“Oh. All right then.” I don’t quite believe him until he stands and a swirl of darkness takes him. It’s not that he dislikes spending time with me—if I don’t invite him to tea in any given week, he will show up whenever he pleases, but he does show up. It’s the ritual of it that he doesn’t seem to like, and he takes every opportunity to disrupt it.
I pour myself a third cup of tea and help myself to one of the cookies I made for today—almond, which is his favorite. You would think a demon would like something spicier, but he hates cinnamon, which eliminates a lot of possibilities.
It’s only a few minutes before he reappears.
“They could’ve summoned anyone for that sh—crap,” he grumbles. He sits again, the chair squeaks, and when he tests his tea, he frowns, then stares at it until it steams again. “You were saying. About your garden?”
“Ah, yes. It’s late in the season, but I thought I could at least till it now, and start saving up scraps to compost. To feed it, you know.”
“Hm. I could help with that.” He takes a cookie and bites into it with a pleased hum.
“No meat. This is a mundane garden, not a demonic one. I’m not planting anything carnivorous.”
“Oh. I can help till tho—argh, not again.” He stuffs the rest of the cookie in his mouth, says, “Excuse me,” around it, and stands to vanish in a swirl of darkness again.
Odd. I have seen him get summoned before, but never in such rapid succession. Maybe he wasn’t lying about his lateness.
Once again, it’s only minutes before he returns.
“Sorry,” he sighs, and sits heavily. The chair downright squeals. “It’s been like this all day.”
My curiosity gets the better of me. “What do they all want you for?”
He snorts and picks up his tea again. “Essentially nothing. Just proving they can do a summoning. I think it’s some kind of cult initiation—they were all dressed the same.”
“But why you?“
He shrugs and sips his tea. For once, he sits with proper posture—slouching deep into his chair, I expect, would be inefficient when he likely will need to get up again in a few minutes.
“It seems a waste of your time,” I comment.
“Yeah, wish they’d pick someone else to bother every once in a while. But it’s not like I can refuse a summoning.” He shrugs again.
No, he can’t, but it’s ruining our afternoon tea.
Next time he gets summoned, I stand and retreat to my workroom. I always have a summoning circle ready—when you’ve befriended demons, it’s best to be prepared—and it’s trivial to scrawl his name into it.
He returns shortly. “Where were we—huh?”
As soon as I hear his voice in the sitting room, I gently slice into my arm with my obsidian knife and drip blood onto the circle, completing the ritual. I hear him sigh before he reappears in front of me.
“What do you—wait, what?” He stares at me.
“Akviziel,” I say firmly, “I hereby summon and bind you to my service—and my service alone—”
He blinks black-yellow eyes, and starts to grin.
“—Until we have finished our tea.”
My demon cackles.