Chapter 5: The Bloody Housewarming Party
Joseph slid into the chair. It was really quite comfortable. He rested his arms on the table, and steepled his fingers. "Hello, Winston," he said, smiling.
Winston sat opposite Joseph, puffing on his cigar. "Good to see you again. Sorry to hear about Chiron being fired."
Joseph's smile faded at the reminder. "Yeah, it sucks. I can't believe Zeus blames him for poisoning Thalia's Tree. It's pretty obvious it was an agent of the Titans, probably a half-blood." He folded his hands in his lap. "Let's get straight to the point. Why did you call me here?"
Winston rested his hand on the armrest, the cigar still smoking. "It is time for another lesson."
Joseph was irritated. "Obviously."
Winston took a deep breath. "Your father wishes me to teach you how to summon daemons."
Joseph wasn't surprised. He had guessed that this was a strong possibility. "I presume this is more than a theoretical exercise. He wants me to actually summon them."
Winston nodded. "Indeed. He told me you would have need of daemonic assistance."
That was probably true. He'd spent a lot of time on patrol over the last few weeks, and it was clear that the camp's magical barriers were fading to the point of nonexistence. A few daemons could certainly help. However, summoning daemons was certainly risky…
"I hope he doesn't want me to try to open a warp portal." Joseph smiled thinly. "I've heard those can be a headache." In fact, it would entail Joseph becoming the portal, which would be immediately fatal to himself, and subsequently fatal to just about everyone.
Winston chuckled. "You might say. But no, this will be on a smaller scale. Instead of an army, you'll be able to summon individual daemons."
That sounded a lot better. Joseph felt he could safely summon a Pink Horror or Screamer. Even if it got out of control, he and Clarisse ought to be able to kill it. In fact, he had gotten his own cabin primarily on the basis that he needed a ritual space. And now that said cabin was complete, he ought to be using it.
"The thing about summoning daemons," Winston continued, "is that you must break through the barriers separating our world from the Immaterium. For most casters, nothing less than the sacrifice of a human life would do it."
Joseph inhaled sharply at that, and his eyes narrowed.
"Fortunately, there is another way for you." Joseph relaxed at that. But he didn't quite like the way Winston was looking at him. "You are, in your own way, a creature of the Warp. A single drop of your blood would be enough to make a tiny crack, which could be widened to allow daemons through."
"So," Joseph said slowly, considering this information, "I'll just need to cut myself whenever I wish to summon daemons?"
Winston shook his head slowly. "Not necessarily." He took another drag on his cigar. "You already have the solution to that problem."
Joseph stared at him for a few moments. Then, he realized what Winston was talking about. "The cabin!"
Winston nodded. "You have built a holy site for Chaos. If you were to… consecrate it… you would open a crack that would be tied to the site. You should then be able to summon daemons fairly easily. As for how to consecrate it… there is no single way. I will leave it to you to find a way. Consider what you know of Chaos, and make an offering you think appropriate. I have confidence in your abilities… as does your father."
That last bit warmed Joseph's heart. Most campers tended to resent their divine parents for not taking a more active role in their lives, and cherished what attention they got. Joseph's feelings were rather different – he regarded Tzeentch with a combination of fear and distrust – but even so, he couldn't help but feel some pride, knowing that his father believed Joseph was up to the task.
Assuming, of course, Tzeentch wasn't lying.
Churchill stood, and gestured to Joseph's bed. "Go. You have homework."
CLARISSE LA RUE
Clarisse stood around the ritual circle. Joseph had summoned her along with representatives from every cabin. Normally, members of one cabin did not enter another, but Joseph was quite welcoming of visitors. Clarisse suspected it had to do with his upbringing – surely the Regents had hosted their fair share of house parties.
The Tzeentch cabin was built more like a temple. Joseph had used a depiction from some Warhammer game as a guide. The actual cabin took up only half of the area Joseph had been allotted. It was built from dark grey stone shot through with veins of crystal, some of which glowed at night. As it was currently mid-afternoon, they instead glittered in the sunlight.
Joseph's bunk was pushed to one side, next to a bookcase filled with sci-fi novels. Across the room was a desk and computer. A shelf held miniatures and painting supplies. And in the center of the room was a large table for wargaming, with a few rocks strewn about the surface, along with a thick hardcover copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
The other half of the cabin's area was the ritual circle. It was a large circle, made from the same stone as the cabin, with eight strips of bronze radiating from the center, forming the eight-pointed star of Chaos. Each strip terminated at a Greek-style column. Each column was decorated with blue banners bearing the golden flame emblem of Tzeentch, and blue-white fires burned in braziers atop the columns.
The representatives from the various cabins stood in front of each of the columns. All were the senior members of their cabins, except for Michael Oversteegen, the son of Athena. Michael had been the only other Warhammer player when Joseph had arrived, so his presence made sense despite his lack of seniority. He was tall and slender, with brown hair, a patrician nose, and the storm-grey eyes common to the children of Athena. He came from a wealthy Southern family – his dad was an admiral or something – and he normally projected an aura of self-confidence. Right now, however, he was clearly afraid.
Joseph stood in the center. His expression was grim, and he too was obviously afraid. He wore a blue robe over his armor, and one hand held a celestial bronze dagger. He looked around the circle, taking in everyone's expressions, and spoke.
"I imagine you're all wondering why I've called you here," he said, his voice tinged with humor. Clarisse recognized what he was doing – trying to keep everyone calm, despite the seriousness of the situation.
Travis Stoll raised a hand. "Uh, we're going to summon a daemon?" he asked, his cheeks turning red.
Joseph smiled thinly. "You're not wrong. But there's more to it. You see, in order to summon a daemon, we must make a tear in the barriers between reality and the Warp."
A chill went down Clarisse's spine. Since Joseph's arrival, he had been educating the campers on Warhammer lore, with an emphasis on Chaos, daemons, and the Warp. She knew that daemons couldn't break through to our world on their own. Joseph was proposing to create a breach, one that might let them do so.
Joseph held up his empty hand. "Obviously, I have no intention of opening a large breach. Just a crack, really. Enough to allow me to summon daemons here when I choose… but only when I choose. If necessary, I should be able to close the breach completely."
Silena Beauregard cocked her head to one side. "So… what do you need us for?"
Joseph turned to face her. "To create the breach, we must make a blood offering. For most Chaos cults, that would mean a human sacrifice. Often a large one. The life-force of those killed would be used to create the breach."
Clarisse tightened her grip on her spear. Surely Joseph didn't mean to sacrifice them!
He smiled. "Fortunately, I have found another way. You see, we have an advantage that no cult ever had – or, will have, I guess." He spread his arms wide, gesturing around the circle. "We are demigods." He spoke that sentence in a rather dramatic tone, which made Clarisse smile a bit. Joseph seemed to be more confident now that he was explaining things, which was probably good.
"How does that change things?" Travis Stoll asked.
"We're more than mortal," Joseph replied. "You are all the children of Olympus. I am the son of a Chaos god. All that we really need to give is a bit of blood. The blood of eight demigods, each the child of a different Olympian. That has power, especially if the blood is given willingly."
"Eight demigods," Michael Oversteegen said in a southern drawl. "Eight is the sacred number of Chaos."
Joseph nodded. "Exactly."
Travis Stoll looked at Joseph with annoyance. "What about you? Won't you be offering any of your blood?"
Joseph turned to Travis. "Don't worry. I'm not going to make you do anything I won't. My blood is the key. I'm partly of the Warp. And to boot, eight of you plus one of me makes nine, the sacred number of Tzeentch. That will make this portal specific to Tzeentch. The daemons of other gods will be unable to use it. Which is important, because I don't believe I will have the same influence over them that I do over the daemons of Tzeentch."
Clarisse understood. Except for one thing.
"If you can control the daemons of Tzeentch," she asked, "why did you have us all come armed and armored?"
Joseph's voice was bitter. "Because I don't trust my father completely. I don't know if my control will be as complete in the real world as it was in the Warp. If I can't control the daemon, we will have to kill it." He took a deep breath. "Any more questions?"
The circle was silent.
"Then let's begin. As you make the offering, speak your name, and that of your divine parent."
He approached Miranda Gardiner, and handed her the knife. "Just a few drops," he whispered. Miranda set down her sickle, and drew the edge of the knife across her palm. Blood welled up, and she tilted her palm, letting it drip onto the bronze. "Miranda Gardiner, daughter of Demeter," she intoned.
Joseph produced a cloth bandage from inside his robe, and quickly wrapped it around his hand. He glanced at Lee Fletcher, and nodded. He took the knife from her, and moved around the circle. Clarisse was next.
"Clarisse La Rue, daughter of Ares," she said, watching as the red blood splattered onto the circle. Joseph bound her hand, and moved on.
"Michael Oversteegen, son of Athena."
"Lee Fletcher, son of Apollo."
"Charles Beckendorf, son of Hephaestus."
"Silena Beauregard, daughter of Aphrodite."
"Travis Stoll, son of Hermes."
"Castor Merlot, son of Dionysus."
As Castor finished, Joseph took the knife, and stepped into the center of the circle. He held out his own hand, and cut it the same way the others had. "Joseph Regent, son of Tzeentch." After binding his hand, he produced the Lampad torch, and held it up high. Joseph had done something with the torch, turning it into a focus for his powers.
Clarisse felt something pulling on her stomach. Faint tendrils of energy snaked from where she and her fellow campers had spilled their blood, meeting at the torch, which shone with a violet light. The light grew brighter, and brighter, until she had to avert her eyes.
Then, there was a bright flash, and she heard the sound of feet hitting stone. The light faded, and she opened her eyes. At the center of the circle stood one of the most horrific creatures she had ever laid eyes on. It was six feet tall, with two legs and three arms arranged around its body, which was little more than a pair of eyes and a huge mouth, filled with razor-sharp teeth and a long purple tongue. Its skin was a bright shade of pink, and seemed to shift around constantly. A few tentacles sprouting from the back of its head completed the loathsome picture.
The creature turned around, and looked at the demigods. Then it saw Joseph, and knelt before him. Joseph smiled, and clapped his hands.
"Uh… did it work?" Travis asked.
Joseph nodded. "Indeed it did. This, my friends, is a Pink Horror. A footsoldier daemon of Tzeentch." He looked down at the daemon. "Rise," he commanded. The daemon stood up, still facing Joseph. Clarisse could tell that it held Joseph in awe.
Joseph stepped forward. He reached out gingerly with his bandaged hand, still clutching the dagger. He brushed the back of his hand along the daemon's skin. "He… seems to be stable," he said in a quiet tone. "He'll last a little while, I think…"
Clarisse wondered how he knew that the daemon was a "he". The creature seemed wrong. She wanted to drive her spear through its body, kill it now. Her grip tightened on the spear…
The sound of a horn interrupted her train of thought. Her head snapped in the direction of the sound. West. The patrol! She had left Darryl Hayden in command while she attended the ritual.
"We're under attack!" she shouted. Everyone took a step back, their eyes swiveling to focus on her. Silena turned a little pale. Everyone took up their weapons. Clarisse raised her spear. "To arms!"
"To arms!" they replied, and nine armed campers surged out of the circle through the camp. Accompanied by one Pink Horror of Tzeentch.
Oddly, Clarisse no longer had any desire to slay the daemon. In fact, she was looking forward to unleashing the terrors of the Warp upon their monstrous foes.