Alastor swings his sword at Kovac’s neck, the blade hissing through the air before the tip makes impact, and, for a horrifying moment, I fear he means to have Kovac’s head.
But no, the tip of the blade catches the golden chain holding the Seal of Solomon, and the amulet flies off Kovac’s throat. A thread of blood spurts from a nick in his neck.
The demons howl and fling themselves at each other, clawing and biting, grasping for the precious Seal.
The Seal effortlessly flies out of the demonic circle like a swift, golden bird. I hear the clatter of metal on the dance floor, somewhere outside the circle beyond us.
The wound in Kovac’s neck hemorrhages into his dress shirt, staining the translucent fabric with bloodred Rorschachs. The Seal can’t heal him now.
My heart sinks. Three of Kovac’s magical weapons are gone. And mine? My hands ache and tremble and I’m disoriented from Alastor’s assault on the dais. As for my powers of concentration, what powers of concentration? What if I whip the shape-morpher off my waist and transform the thing into a coffee cup? A coffee cup that Alastor knocks out of my hands and shatters? Then I’m out of a shape-morphing weapon, that’s what.
I’m biding my time before I try out the shape-morpher. I’ve got to.
We back away from Alastor and whirl around to face him when he appears right behind us. I’m getting a little tired of his tricks, which strike me as–well, juvenile–for an entity thousands of years old. Alastor smirks, enjoying his surprise attacks. Maybe he’s been living in frat-boy hell a little too long.
“Got any more magic?” I whisper to Kovac.
“Yeah, I do.” From the waistband of his trousers, Kovac pulls out a substantial stick of what appears to be aged ivory. From the shape and curve, it’s an animal tusk heavily carved with arcane symbols.
“By the Wand of Ur”–Kovac proclaims, pointing the tusk at Alastor–”magician of the Age of Cavazzacca, you will stand back and let us pass.”
Alastor does his head-flung-back-guffawing bit. “A bone? Now you threaten me with a bone, puny human?”
But the demon stands back.
“What is it?” I whisper.
“Petrified boar’s tusk, circa Mesopotamia, thirty-five hundred years before the Christian era. Or so the curator of the Hearst Museum believes. She loaned it to me for the night. Agatha Easterly. You’ll like each other. Fantastic carvings. Look at that Providential Eye.”
Why am I not surprised that Jack Kovac knows just about every brainy, accomplished woman in Berkeley? But yes, I see the Eye, carved on the ivory curve the color of coffee heavily laced with cream. A Providential Eye used for power long before ancient Egyptian magicians redesigned my amulet and added the equilateral triangle.
“Does the Wand of Ur work?”
“Good question. Let’s find out.” Kovac thrusts the tusk at Alastor. “By the Wand of Ur, you will allow Abby Teller and me to depart from Avichi. Step aside!”
Kovac waves the wand with authority. Bright blue flames leap from the tip, and I feel a sudden heat. Kovac wields the weapon like a blow torch, and the demons step back.
But that’s it. That’s all. The demons don’t break ranks or flee screaming. Now they take a step closer.
“Maybe you need to say a spell in Mesopotamian, Jack.”
“Yeah, sign us both up for Mesopotamian spell-casting next semester.”
“You want to go back to college?”
“Only if I can carry your books, schoolgirl.”
Alastor appears to our right, swings his sword, and knocks the Wand of Ur out of Kovac’s grasp. Kovac jumps back before the demon can chop off his hand again, but the wand goes flying, whirring away over the demons’ heads and their grasping hands.
I listen for the clatter of the wand striking the floor but I hear nothing. Can a petrified boar’s tusk survive the impact of the fall? I suspect not. The wand must lie shattered, the aged ivory so brittle the impact made no sound.
“Sorry, Abby,” Kovac mutters. “Now I am all out of weapons.”
“Now what?” I mutter back.
“Now you’re both mine to do with as I please,” crows Alastor, swinging his sword so recklessly that his own minions scatter before the blade. “Two fine human magicians. Two prizes of power. How I shall enjoy devising everlasting tortures for your souls in Avichi.”
A horn blares, deep and brassy.
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