Read The Road to Magic (Book 1 of the Way of the Demon Series) Online
Authors: Alexey Glushanovsky
The Road to Magic
(First book in
The Way of the Demon Series
THE ROAD TO MAGIC
All Rights Reserved © 2012 by Alexey Glushanovsky
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher.
Published by Alexey Glushanovsky
Table of Contents
A Difficult Morning
Oleg Davidov woke up and solemnly promised himself that from now on he would follow the path of virtue. Last night’s battle with the green snake of alcohol had left a considerable number of slain bodies scattered in the most varied positions on the floor of the none-too-large, three-student apartment. The bodies only had one thing in common: the strong stench of alcohol.
The two beds in the room next to Oleg’s were occupied by couples of different sexes.
‘Well,’ Oleg thought, smirking, ‘Sanya and Lyokha have got themselves nice warm bedfellows but I’ve screwed up again.’
He began to get up but felt something blocking him. On closer examination, that “something” turned out to be a girl’s delicate hand, meticulously manicured, draped over his neck. Turning in astonishment, Oleg found a splendid blonde head decorating his pillow. By straining his brain to its absolute limit, he managed to remember her name.
‘Marina,’ he said out loud.
The creature grunted, sighed and opened its eyes.
‘Hi! What time is it?’
‘That early? Then I’ll sleep a bit more,’ drawled the girl, and lowered her lids again.
‘Mm’hmm,’ Oleg said to himself as he got up. ‘We sure celebrated hat exam.’
At nineteen, Oleg Vladimirovich Davidov was a typical example of the species ‘studiozus vulgaris (Ordinary student) and was a third year philosophy student. Tall, good looking and well-built, his slightly harsh facial features gave him an advantage in one of the two traditional student sports – chasing skirts. His blue eyes and very fair, almost platinum hair gave some of the “captured skirts” reason to call him “the blond beast.”
Oleg was offended when someone likened him to a German, and each time it happened he would proudly trace his Slavic ancestors back as far as Denis Vasilevich Davidov, a hero of the 1812 War.
Nor did Oleg shirk the second traditional student sport – drinking– at which, despite his zealous training, he was unable to shine; in spite of his best efforts, he kept his good posture, assured after four years of karate training, and displayed a total absence of a beer belly.
In the breaks between these arduous tasks he read sci-fi and fantasy, and tried not to miss lectures.
However, he had another pastime, too, and although he didn’t exactly try to hide it, he at least tried not to advertise it-- he dabbled in magic. Not the psychic, charlatan stuff that legions of black or white or sky-blue-pink-and-yellow-spotted magicians, wizards and witches on the lookout for the bulging purses of gullible citizens promised to teach. No, Oleg was interested in ancient magic rituals, tarot, runic divinations, using futark, (the Scandinavian runic alphabet) for magical purposes, and such like.
He’d even had a certain degree of success. Good grades in many subjects, for instance, like this last exam, had recently become the norm. It was all because, not that long ago, in the vast reserves of the university library – which Oleg had access to thanks to Lena, his former classmate, one time heart-throb and good friend– he had found The Book. It had a long and boring eighteenth century title, which took up most of the front page, so for Oleg it had immediately become, simply, The Book. And a very, very strange Book it was.
Firstly, its title beginning: ‘The spectral Book, the crafts of the dead…’ was executed in an ancient script and was generally in keeping with its ancient appearance and the time-yellowed paper on which it was printed. The text inside, however, was almost modern.
Secondly, it wasn’t listed in any catalogues, which was highly unusual.
Thirdly, taking into account its extremely ancient appearance, it was hard to understand why it wasn’t kept with the rare books but was gathering dust in the library’s reserve room.
It was a collection of ancient magical rituals and spells with notes on how they should be correctly used, together with a short description of the results.
After having performed one of them, the description of which seemed the most innocent to Oleg, he became aware of new abilities in himself. For instance, his runic divinations, which had previously produced no results, had become much more reliable, almost one hundred percent accurate. Furthermore, considerably inebriated, he had once succeeded in lighting a cigarette without the help of either a lighter or matches, but just by exercising his will. However, he had not been able to repeat this achievement when sober.
By trial and error he had learned how to tell which exam question would fall to him, and now he was exploiting his new abilities to the full.
Nevertheless, Oleg never tired of marvelling at the fact that the ritual which had increased his powers at reading
tarot cards was clearly a variation of a
ritual of fire worship. Though admittedly, there were differences. The most striking was the replacement of the Hindu god of fire, Agni, by a certain lady named Clear Flame, who, judging from the details of her invocation, was a rather attractive colleague of Agni.
It was soon after Oleg had preformed this ritual that exams started, so today Oleg made his way to the university’s main complex, which housed the library to look up something else which might prove interesting and come in handy.
Engaged in his favourite occupation, Oleg didn’t notice how time was flying. But after four hours of careful reading, having all but reached the end of The Book, he was disappointed. His thorough study had not uncovered anything suitable. The rituals described in the Book were either too technically complex, or the results were of absolutely no use whatsoever.
‘OK,’ he mused, bent over the next description. ‘Let’s say I manage to talk a couple of guys and three or four girls into an orgy during the full moon in an oak stand on the slope of a hill…but just where am I supposed to find that oak stand on the slope of a hill, and how am I supposed to explain to the lads and lasses that they can’t drink vodka and beer but only light wine, and even then they have to pour more than half of it into little hollows in the ground? They’d bury me in those same little hollows for suggesting such a thing, and keep the booze. But most of all: what the hell do I want with kindly Brias, the goat-herder, and his magical method for warding wolves away from goats and sheep!
‘Then there’s this ritual which gives you the ability to sense precious metals, gems and artificially created cavities under the earth. Now that would come in really handy, but you have to get hold of quite impossible ingredients.
‘Dragon’s vertebra or a “river horse’s” hair,’ Oleg mused, ‘wouldn’t be too hard.’ After all there were plenty of fossilized dinosaur vertebrae in the vaults of the paleontological museum where he’d worked last summer, and no-one would notice if one went missing. The hippo’s hair was easy, too. A hippo named Diamond who lived in the municipal zoo was known to be calm and good-humoured, and for one or two treats, he would gladly let himself be stroked, so getting one of his hairs didn’t pose a problem.
But where, pray tell, where in this world could you find such a mythical thing as a lock of hair from a virgin actress, the saliva of a truthful lawyer or a drop of blood from an honest politician?
And so with the sure knowledge that he would never find a way to lay his hands on such rare ingredients, Oleg reluctantly gave up the idea of getting rich by searching out hidden treasures. He was just about to leave, having come to the sad conclusion that The Book held nothing more of use for him, when, turning the last page, he found two sheets of handwritten paper stuck to the back. On one sheet, “Freedom of the Way” was written in Russian in a strange angular hand, and below that were three lines of runes similar to the Scandinavian. Oleg examined the piece of paper carefully. He knew the ancient Scandinavian alphabet pretty well; he could read it and even had a smattering of vocabulary, thanks to some study and a general flair for languages. But this manuscript was very different from anything he had seen before. There was a kind of…incorrectness…incompleteness about the words written in runes which made it impossible to concentrate on them, impossible to read or even take a good look at them. Oleg turned the sheet of paper this way and that trying to decipher the text, but the meaning slipped through his fingers like a wriggling minnow in the hands of an inexperienced fisherman. Oleg focussed his attention more and more on the unyielding sheet, as if falling into some kind of meditation. The world around him moved away, a grey twilight curtained off the bookshelves, and the window with the jolly, sunny town beyond it disappeared. But the obstinate sheet of paper didn’t give itself up.
‘I’ll have to start reading aloud, letter by letter, pronouncing each rune separately and then construct the words from memory.’
, no, no.
What sort of a language was it? No clue. But it sure wasn’t Scandinavian. So then why was it written in runes? Suddenly a flicker of ginger flame flashed before Oleg’s eyes, and at once everything disappeared. The electric lights went out, but visibility didn’t diminish. An even, yellowy glow lit up the empty library. A dull greenish luminescence wrapped around the books on the shelves. When Oleg looked around he could see waves of orange, blue and violet flames pulsating on him. He remembered that something similar had happened before. That time, at Serioga’s dacha, he had seen that glimmering flame which reminded him of a woman’s face, and the cigarette in his hand had suddenly been lit from the casual touch of his finger.
Trying to maintain that out-of-the-ordinary state, he trained his eyes on the text and, as though spell-bound, read out the lines which suddenly became clear to him.
Errum gkhanash ti uvairey.
Zenum ugandsh zum shaidey.
Erkhabn nun zigdanshraidey!
His usually soft and gentle voice took on cold and harsh tones. That’s how a crazy and triumphant north wind might sound as it blew over a frozen city; harsh and dead – cruel. Through the veil covering his consciousness he clearly understood the meaning of the lines:
Death is the freedom of the way.
A magician is not bound to go to the dead.
Find for yourself the path to tread!
The mirage ended abruptly. The lights came back on and an agitated Lena rushed up to him.
‘What do you mean?’ Oleg asked, feigning ignorance.
He really didn’t want to explain what had compelled him to read those verses in an unknown language in the middle of the library, and at the top of his voice.
‘It seemed like someone was reading poetry. In a, you know, really creepy voice! Really creepy! I’ve got goose bumps all over. And then all the lights went out.’
‘Someone was reading here?’
‘Yeah, it was coming from here.’
‘Well, it wasn’t me.’
‘Didn’t you hear anything?’
‘No, nothing. But I was engrossed in reading. But the lights did go out, I saw that. Probably someone fiddling with the switches.’
‘Could be.’ Lena calmed down. ‘I’m so sick of this library!’ Now her eyes showed not fear but anger. ‘I’m going to leave. I’ll work till the end of this month and that’s it!’
‘What’s wrong?’ Oleg asked. ‘Do they give you a hard time?’
‘No, of course not.’ Gazing into her hand mirror with great concentration, Lena set about fixing her makeup. ‘It’s just not a good place. No-one can work here for more than a year. There’s all kinds of weird things going on. Today, for instance, someone recited poetry and made all the lights go out. Then in the evenings the books rustle as though there were some wind, and three months ago, not long before you came waltzing in here for the first time, I even saw some sort of vision or hallucination. It’s enough to drive you mad!’
Getting interested, Oleg began to quiz her, particularly about the hallucination, but Lena announced that she would prefer to keep the details of her madness to herself and only share them with the shrink when they locked her up in the mad house, which would most definitely happen if she didn’t quit this job ASAP.
Oleg didn’t insist. Apart from stunning beauty and an outstanding mind, Lena was also noted for her unswerving stubbornness. He was reminded of something that had happened not all that long ago. The Aesthetics prof--a dried out, bilious woman who had taken a dislike to Lena and some of the other pretty girls–was simply hung up on dress codes. Before the exam she insisted that all the boys should come in suits and ties, and all the girls should wear formal blouses and knee-length or longer skirts. She drew particular attention to Lena’s midriff, all-too exposed, in her opinion. Lena kept quiet, although she usually caused a huge fuss if anyone tried to tell her what to wear. Everyone thought she’d resigned herself to it and the Sour Spinster (they often used the abbreviation of this nickname – SS) thought so, too.
The next day, Lena showed up for the exam in a formal blouse up to her chin and a knee-length skirt. But apart from that, she was wearing only scarlet lace G-string panties, little white socks and high-heels, and anyone who wanted could testify to that. As for the blouse and skirt, worn on the teacher’s orders, despite towing the line in length and cut, they stood out because they were transparent.
Lena had to resit the exam in front of the examining board, after which a little note appeared in her file: ‘Is endowed with great aesthetic taste and is not afraid to show it.’ It’s not hard to guess that the examining board was made up of men, some of whom had had the good fortune to witness her démarche with Sour Spinster. With this story in mind, Oleg didn’t insist that Lena tell him about her hallucination but asked instead how he could help. The girl’s answer came instantly: as a gentleman, it was his duty to wait until she finished work, and then escort her to some place that served alcoholic drinks, to lower her stress levels.