Author's notes: Bergran in my creation. The incantations used, however, are written after those found in the Greek Magical Papyri.

Beyond his wildest dreams

Take the blood of a man born under a full moon and mix it with the tears of a childless woman. From the still waters of a dead moor steal the sighs of the midnight mist in a bottle thrice cleansed by salt and myrrh.

Kardur gathered all the essential ingredients on his work table. The air hung heavy with exotic incense and smoke from the black candles that shed little light over the unusual collection of items. The sorcerer studied each object. On this night, everything had to be perfect, for Kardur had anticipated this time all his adult life. In his youth, when men of his age spent their nights indulging in ale and wine and the company of soft, fragrant female bodies, the sorcerer confined himself in his gloomy quarters, lost in the study of dusty tomes and scrolls. As years passed and most men settled down, Kardur travelled the land following obscure leads from faded scrolls and half-torn maps. When others rested their heads in homes smelling of chamomile and sage and freshly baked bread, Kardur spent his nights in crypts and tombs in the company of spiders, rats and restless spirits.

During this night, though, he would be paid in full for all the pleasures he had forsaken. Seven rare items he had harvested, just in time as the stars aligned. On this one night in his lifetime, the signs favoured the summoning of Bergran, the Prince of the Lost and Elder of the Dark Souls - those entities who roamed the Otherworld, feeding off the pain of the dead and those who mourned them.

The sorcerer stroked his greying beard, contemplating the passages in the old archives referring to the Prince of the Lost. Bergran, also known as the Devourer, favoured another delicacy; living human flesh. Legend had it that the demon rewarded handsomely those who offered him his favorite treat, rewards that ranged from incredible treasures to ancient secrets of power and wisdom. Kardur's heart clenched with fear as he recalled the gruesome details describing the fate of certain careless spellworkers. The demon had little patience with greedy summoners and all grimoires advised extreme caution in any attempt to call forth the Prince of the Lost.

Cautiously, Kardur checked the arcane chains that held his sacrificial flesh still. Unless bound according to the ritual, the demon would snatch the captive and leave the sorcerer empty-handed, before Kardur had the chance to utter a single word. The man lay unconscious. Better this way, thought Kardur. He would rather be spared the man's pleas for mercy. The sorcerer had lured him from a local tavern with the promise of a couple of coins over some chores and a cup of wine spiced with enchanted herbs to silence him. During the past weeks, he had made inquiries about several of the local denizens. This emaciated man with the sallow skin and the empty stare seemed the perfect choice. No one would miss him - a nameless drunkard having neither family nor friends. His worthless existence would serve the summoner, opening the door to wealth and wisdom beyond his wildest dreams.

Ah, yes, the reward. Kardur's eyes widened with excitement at the thought of his life after this night. No more nights in this gloomy dungeon; he would ask – no; he would demand from the demon a palace with soft beds and gardens with fountains and flowers blossoming all year long. I will have maids and servants and cooks to order around as I see fit, Kardur thought with delight, the memory of the tavern-keeper's arrogant smirk still making his face burn. The vision of a vast library filled with rare arcane books flashed in his mind, soon to be followed by that of a treasury with countless chests of silver and gold and jewels. Neither of these lingered on for long, though, for another image came forth, firing up his blood. A harem; a harem full of lewd women from the east, tall women, short women, plump or slender, young and mature and perhaps a couple of boys for extra spice, whenever that mood surfaced. This should teach those filthy whores a lesson, he thought. Ever since one of the local prostitutes had disclosed certain details regarding the anatomy of his private parts, he had not dared to approach any of their lot. I wonder if the Prince of the Lost is capable of transfiguration spells, he thought, his face burning with embarrassment.

The cry of an owl in the distance pulled Kardur out of his dreams. The most dangerous part of the Ritual had yet to begin and it would be best for him to concentrate on the task ahead. Under his elaborate ceremonial robes, despite the chill of the night, cold sweat dripped down the summoner's spine. I hope there is little blood, he prayed in silence. I do not like blood, and violence and screaming. I hope that the demon will take this unfortunate man back to the abyss to enjoy his feast, away from prying eyes. With slightly trembling hands, Kardur turned the pages of his grimoire to the protective spells.

Thrice with salt blessed by storm and hail cast a circle. Harvest the head of a hanged man and in sea water boil it. When all flesh is gone, crush the skull and on four pieces scribe the runes of the elements. Anoint them with myrrh and speak the words AOR ROA ORA RAO as you place them on the four corners of the circle to seal the Gate.

With the last of the protective spells cast, Kardur indulged himself in a single moment of relaxation. Sweat still dripped down his spine and his knees felt weak. "Stop that," he scorned himself. "You no longer are the scrawny boy the neighbourhood bullies pushed around." The sorcerer shook his head to clear his mind from the painful memory of his face held over a pool of mud, amidst chuckles from a party of teenage boys. "I'll show them", he swore, clenching his fists.

Secure inside the circle, he gazed upon the dark surface of the water in his cauldron. It reflected the night sky as seen from the opening in the roof, the only safe way to witness the heavens above at the time of the alignment; at least so various scrolls advised.  The sorcerer recalled the words of his long dead mentor. He who stares directly at the aligned stars risks his sight and his sanity; perhaps even his soul. The old man already showed signs of senility at the time, but Kardur would not take unnecessary risks that night. Moments drifted away and the stars moved in place. An eerie sound pierced his ears - the strike of a demonic harp and its single note that made the heavens tremble.

Kardur delivered the items to the flames, chanting softly the words he had memorized years before, words that had kept him awake countless nights with their fiery promise of his heart's secret desires. The dying breaths of seven women dead in labour, having borne stillborn babes; sinew from a hanged man born under the dark of the moon; relics from lives wasted and lost souls. With every sound his throat emitted, with each ingredient flung upon the flames, another cord sounded from the ethereal harp to join the cacophony of the stars. Slowly but steadily, a thick mist appeared in the middle of the room between the summoner and the offering. Kardur's heart raced frantically inside his chest and his mouth suddenly went dry as, before his eyes, the mist grew head and arms and talons; and a monstrous grin of three sets of teeth. With the last item consumed by the flames, an otherworldly voice echoed in Kardur's head.

"Who calls forth the Devourer? Who calls forth the Prince of the Lost?"

Ignoring the flutter inside his stomach, Kardur licked his lips and struggled to keep his voice and face calm. "I have called you forth, Dark One, by the Rite of the Seven Secrets, as appointed by your faithful servants when the world was young," he replied, hoping that he sounded authoritative.

The demon walked a couple of steps and stared at the summoner. "Is this so?" Huge, lidless eyes studied Kardur's slender figure. "And who exactly are you, puny man?"

In horror, Kardur realized that the demon had not reacted according to the ancient scrolls. I should be in control, he thought, and not this creature that shows no signs of respect. How can this be? Have I made any mistakes in deciphering the scriptures? The demon snarled at him and poisonous spit dripped on the floor. Never reveal your true name to the creatures you summon, his mentor's warning rang in his ears. Kardur tried to concentrate and turn the demon's attention elsewhere; anywhere, but on him. "I have the offering," he said, hoping that the scrolls were at least accurate in their descriptions of the protective circle.

Fortunately, this indeed turned the demon's attention to the unconscious man. Snarling, Bergran leaned over the sorcerer's captive and clicked his forked tongue. "Ah… yes, this might do." At that point, the drunk came out of his magically induced sleep and found himself under the jaws of the Prince of Demons. And, of course, he screamed. Bergran laughed, delighted by the man's terror, and the drunk passed out again.

Relieved, the summoner ventured, "Is he to your liking, Dark One?"

Reptilian, intelligent eyes burned the summoner's face. "Release him to me," Bergran demanded with a hungry growl, raising one taloned hand towards the sorcerer.

"By the Rite of the Seven Secre-"

"Cease this nonsense! I disembowelled the fools that wrote those insolent incantations aeons ago," hissed Bergran, and Kardur felt his bowels liquidating. "To my regret, I was not fast enough. The imbeciles had hid copies of this pitiful ritual in places beyond my reach, in their Inner Sanctums and under the accursed sunlight. Speak your demands, sorcerer," he spat, "and release to me the offered flesh before the stars move apart!"

At last! Kardur's mouth watered at the thought of limitless riches and power laid before him, of the end of his forlorn nights in this gloomy dungeon over dusty tomes, dining alone on cheap meat and warm ale. As the summoner searched for the right words to state his demands, he failed to notice the stench that had been added to the room.

Has the demon come too close?

To his horror, Kardur realized that the Prince of the Lost had stepped inside his circle and looked down on him, drooling poison and acid upon the summoner's head and face. Kardur screamed as the malicious laughter thundered around his head and his skin sizzled under the kiss of the demonic fluids.

How can that be? I made no mistake in casting the protective spells.

Acid burned his lids. He glimpsed a yellow streak of fluid that came from beneath the unconscious man and reached the circle, soaking in its stinking path the salt, the chalk and the runes. Unbeknownst to him, the drunkard had wetted himself sometime during the summoning.

That sorry excuse of a man wetted himself, Kardur thought in shock. The protective circle I spent hours casting broken by a drunkard's urine.

Terror mingled with pain as the demon towered him. The image of a luxurious palace flashed in his mind a heartbeat before sharp claws tore his chest apart. Monstrous jaws closed around his head.

Kardur saw nothing more.

~*~

The moon shone gloriously when Miur, the drunkard, regained consciousness. Where am I? He blinked, confused. This is not the ditch that filthy tavern-keeper usually throws me in, he thought. Miur scratched his head. He could not recall anything about the past few hours, save from a horrible dream in which he had found himself face to face with a demon - yellow, sharp fangs over his head and a forked tongue clicking in anticipation. That ruffian waters his ale, I'm sure of it, he thought. Quality ale does never messes up my head.

A jolt of pain made him gasp as Miur tried to stand up. His wrists and ankles felt sore, as if someone had tied him down for long. As his eyes adjusted to his dimly lit surroundings, he saw a deserted room with several pieces of furniture tripped over. The smell of long burned-out candles reached his nose. The thought of exploring his surroundings further vanished when the painful emptiness in his stomach reminded him that he had not eaten –or drunk- anything for quite some time. As he stood up, his wet breeches clung on him in the most shameful way. Humiliated, he realized that he had once more lost control of his bladder during his sleep.

Making his way to the door, Miur stubbed his toe on something and fell, cursing. On his knees, his fingers felt the floor in the dark. Among dirt and pieces of broken pottery, a heavy cloth sack lay on the ground. His rough fingers struggled with the knot for a while; when he finally reached inside the sack, Miur gasped in surprise. This was beyond his wildest dreams.

A few moments later the drunkard walked into the night air with a wide grin on his face.

This kind of money would pay for lots of ale.