Excerpt: By Mistake

“What in the hell are you doing there?” a voice shrieked.

Shimari grimaced, still nauseous and disoriented from the summoning. He shook his head in a futile attempt to clear it and squinted while he waited for the acrid, pale blue-violet smoke to clear.

The shriek became a wail of despair as the speaker said, “Wrong, wrong, all wrong.”

When Shimari could finally see, he found himself unimpressed. The summoner was a bloody child, and really, to judge by the poor penmanship that had written out the summoning circle, the idiot should be nowhere near magic. The more Shimari studied him, the less impressed he became. Had wizards discarded dignity and self-respect in the years since he had last been summoned? The poor thing was pathetic.

His hair was short, a red-brown color that made Shimari think simultaneously of mud and rust. Unfortunately, it was just long enough that it was able to stick up every which way—and it definitely had found one hundred different directions to stick up in. There were spectacles perched on the slightly overlarge nose, but they were crooked. Freckles were scattered like dirt across his face, all the more livid for the unhealthy, unappealing paleness of his skin.

He was dressed in clothes that had clearly seen better days. Really, Shimari thought, what was the world coming to?

Yellow-brown eyes the color of cheap, thin beer stared at him, wide with panic. “What in the hell—I didn’t summon you!”

Shimari lifted one brow at that, then glanced down his nose at the poorly scrawled runes on the floor. “As a matter of fact, you did. Excellent summon work for an idiot, except that you clearly did it by accident.”

The pale cheeks flushed. “I just wanted to summon a fairy, that’s all. A helper.”

“A familiar,” Shimari corrected automatically. “Summoned creatures are called familiars.”

Flushing darker, the idiot replied, “I know what they’re called.”

“I’m impressed you know anything at all,” Shimari replied. “Given the poorly drawn runes, that at least half of them are incorrect, and you are the saddest wizard I have ever…” He trailed off as the wizard dropped his head in an obvious show of guilt. A sudden horribly realization came to him. “You’re not a wizard, are you? Of course you’re not. A real wizard would not summon a demon instead of a fairy, and he’d have better handwriting. Nor,” he added, “would he look like he was two steps from the poorhouse.”

The nonwizard went pale, and so much pain flashed through the yellow-brown eyes that Shimari almost felt bad for being so blunt. Except if the idiot was not a wizard, he should not be summoning or practicing magic at all. Magic was dangerous. So he refused to feel bad.

“One step, actually,” the idiot said, looking hard at the floor. “I wanted a fairy because I need help packing, since I’ve no friends to call upon.”

Shimari frowned, but still refused to feel bad. “Who are you, idiot nonwizard?”

“Andrus Bothwell,” Andrus said faintly, talking to the floor.

“Bothwell?” Shimari echoed. “Surely you are not a Bothwell. They’re accomplished wizards; I remember Lord Sendrus Bothwell was extremely talented with summoning.”

“My great grandfather,” Andrus replied, still talking to the floor. “It was his notes I was trying to use.”

Shimari glanced at said notes, piled haphazardly on a rickety table. The notes were not in much better shape—the papers were loose from the bindings of the books they had once been a part of, the sheets wrinkled, torn, even burnt in some places. No wonder the summoning had gone all wrong, when that mess was combined with the mess of a summoner. “So why are you so abysmal, when he was so exceptional?”

“Because no one ever taught me magic!” Andrus snapped, a fire flashing in his eyes for one moment before it died like a snuffed candle. “We’re no longer allowed to learn magic.”

Shimari’s brows shot up at that. “Since when are the Bothwells forbidden magic?”

“Since Sendrus was hanged as a traitor. My parents and grandparents were stripped of their magic, and I was never allowed to learn it,” Andrus said, speaking to the floor again. “They died two years ago of illness. I’ve been trying to pay off the family debts, but I’ve failed. They’re coming to take the house in three days. I just wanted someone to help me pack up the few belongings I have left.”

It was when he saw Andrus turn away to hide and hastily wipe away tears that Shimari almost began to feel bad. The kid’s problems were not his, but still, he had not needed to mock him; it had just felt good at the time. “How old are you, Andrus Bothwell?”

“Nineteen,” Andrus replied, his back still to Shimari.

Yet he had summoned Shimari, a class five demon—by accident. The world would end, someday, due to an idiot doing something by mistake. Sighing, Shimari stepped out of the summoning circle and snapped his fingers, banishing the last traces of smoke. Then he willed on clothes, a scarlet tunic with black leggings and under tunic, and he tied back his long, blue-black hair with a scarlet ribbon. Last, he settled a pair of spectacles on his face that would hide the demonic glow of his red eyes, make them brown instead.

Andrus slowly turned as he heard Shimari approach, wiping hastily at his eyes. “I am sorry for my mistake, demon. You should be free in five hours, though.”

Shimari sighed, annoyed all over again. “No, I won’t be—you wrote it for five years, not five hours. You really are quite awful at magic, especially considering that Bothwells used to have a natural knack for it. Pathetic, really, that it only took two generations for that talent to vanish.”

Making a rough noise, Andrus turned sharply away again, not quite managing to muffle a sob as he left the room, leaving Shimari alone.