“It would have been nice if you’d given me your name before you left, mysterious Mithrae,” Calum muttered into the demon portal assembled out of sticks laid before him. Ophelia had left the apartment hours ago for the work day, leaving Calum to wake up and drag himself out of his hammock alone, but not before finding the twigs left on top of his canopy by some bird who’d given up trying to nest on such an unstable surface. A dash of sugar mixed with salt had been sprinkled on a scrap of paper and placed in the middle as a precaution against any Mithrae gone rogue and seeking premature souls to collect. Any attempted possessions would just send the spirits back to their origin as the granules were too potent for any of them to be in the presence of. “You could have left me a sigil to read from, at least. I can’t exactly summon the correct being if I don’t know their name.”

“You won’t have to.” The same figure as a few nights before materialized behind Calum, eliciting far less of a shock as he had last time. He stood a good foot taller than he had at his last appearance, however, and still towered over Calum when the latter rose from the floor in deference. Casting his gaze to the rudimentary demon portal, he sneered, “Honestly, Camael-athaelus, what is this crap you’ve laid before me? None of this is in any proportion, and none of the protective runes are present! Are you trying to invite a malevolent spirit into your home?”

“No- wait, what did you call me?” Calum took a few steps back, stepping into the middle of the inactive demon portal and clenching his fists.

“I called you Camael-athaelus. You know, your actual name. Kiel stulta vi estas?” How stupid are you? The figure waved his hand over the demon portal, conjuring a purple glow to cover the place where Calum was fidgeting. “You haven’t been away from us long enough to forget your real name, Calum. I’d do my best to remember it. Nobody’s going to want to call you by your human name.”

“Are… are we going home now?” Calum queried with trembling feet.

“Please get out of the gate, Calum. I’ve got to ask an associate over the caverns if they have the specific bottle I need.” Calum hesitantly nodded, stepping out of the purple glow’s reach as the figure pulled a pouch from his belt and tossed a pinch of scarlet power in. As the portal shimmered to a golden shade, the figure shouted, “Agave-lupas! How far along is MB-298?”

A beam of light shot out of the middle of the portal. “Very far along, unfortunately and inextricable from Group 78. They’ll be fully mixed in and ready to go back to Earth by the end of the month. Why do you ask?”

“I need a soul to fill the vessel of Camael-athaelus. I’m reclaiming him.”

“That’ll be a good present for his family. The whole lot’s been depressed since he was claimed by that dupe Allaketo. I’ve got a few hundred souls that came to us via accidents and could use a few more decades. Is that good enough for your uses?”

“Yes. Please send the capsule up after a few minutes.” He turned away from the golden stream, stepping over to Calum. “Can you lay down on the floor and place your hands on your chest, please?”

He obeyed in silence directly next to the portal, staring straight up at the ceiling and avoiding the gaze of the figure. “What about Ophelia? What’s she going to say when she comes back from work and there’s some clueless person in my body? Can’t she come with us since she’s an otherling too?”

A sigh escaped from the figure, who fumbled around with a few more poiches until he found a pink one. “Since she’s neither Mithrae or Mithral, she unfortunately cannot come back with us, Calum. If it’s going to be a barrier for getting you to cooperate with us, we can figure out a way for her to return to her proper place in the cosmos, but that’s the best we can do.”

“That sucks.”

The figure closed Calum’s eyelids and sprinkled a few dashes of golden powder on his eyelids and lips, refusing to comment further. He shouted back to the portal, “Do you have the jar yet?”

“I do, in fact…let me send it up now.”

A small capsule swirling with pearly liquid popped out of the portal, and the figure caught it in his hands. Uncapping it over Calum’s body and balancing it in his bellybutton, he intoned the words, “Estas tempo por vi kuri libera.”

Calum’s body sagged violently, and a smoke rose where the bottle was draining itself out through the glassy bottom. Waving his ashy limbs about, unsure how to react to the sensation of being weightless, he murmured, “I…”

“Now if you could please go through the portal with me, Calum, we will be returning to Gehenna shortly.” The figure gestured to the slowly closing purple pool, which Calum lazily drifted into, disappearing into the other side before the figure stepped in and closed it behind him. The interstitial period between the two worlds was still the same dark and unstimulating void that Calum was all too familiar with, and when a hole formed to allow the two to step into Gehenna, they did so.

From where Calum could stand once he’d switched back to a humanoid form, only slightly different than the body he’d left behind on Earth, the sky had shifted into a reddish hue. Small little oak trees dolloped the landscape between earthy hills, and a breeze brushed past Calum’s cheek, warm and inviting the stray Mithrae home.


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