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As part of my current charge I have been instructed to provide an occasional journal* of my recent activities. Since my most trivial thoughts are suffused with rare insight and the ringing clarity of true wisdom, this is a good deal for you. So here we go, then. Listen and be enlightened.






* I dislike the term blog, since coincidentally this word is also the name of a repulsive sub-caste of foliots, characterised by ooze, fleshy folds and gills of blue-grey gristle. Think slugs, but with worse personalities. Magicians send them to harass their enemies in their sleep; after a night of tormented dreams, the sleeper wakes to find his bed-clothes crossed with trails of slime… Where was I? Oh, yes – this being the case, I'll stick with journal if you don't mind.

In Other Place. Did nothing.


Yep, same again. Saw a few nice whirling colours and things. That's it. Easy, this journal lark, isn't it?

  *I'm not one for exact timekeeping, since (a) time doesn't exist in the Other Place, (b) I'm never sure whether to use the Gregorian, Julian, Egyptian or Mayan calendars. So don't expect exact days or months. Or centuries, for that matter.  

Still nothing. Long may it continue.

Well, it didn't. Today summoned painfully to earth by a short fat English magician with a dangerous stammer*. She's got some kid sidekick (in adjacent circle) to do her talking for her; a wise precaution. Through him I got my orders. She fears attack by her rival, the so-called 'Archmage of Tunbridge Wells'. I am to guard my master's property and her person. Am currently in form of black cat prowling round garden, the picture of furry alertness.





*Dangerous because any verbal hiccup while giving me my orders would break my bonds and uncage my savage wrath. Ooh, gave myself a bit of a shiver writing that. That's literary talent.

No attack during night, though I was approached by a tomcat with questionable intent. In the meantime, some observations: My master is not only rotund, but irascible. Her apprentice, a tow-haired boy with the gawkiness of youth, bears the brunt of her bad temper. She boxed his ears twice this morning for minor mistakes.

After a day cloistered in the workroom, this unpleasant magician departed to an evening conference, promising me other jobs 'suitable to my status' on the morrow. I anticipate nothing less than daring reconnaissance/search and destroy missions.

I ask you. The woman got me to do the dishes. And clean her bathroom. She then handed me a cloth and pinny and sent me off round the house to do the dusting. Did a bit of quick wiping, returned promptly and was given a Spasm for my trouble. Apparently I had 'missed' most of it, whatever that means. Sent off again. And again. So the afternoon passed merrily. No attack yet by Archmage. Wish he'd hurry up.

First signs of enemy action. Late-morning, I spot an imp sitting on a distant post-box, watching me scrub the porch. To my annoyance it is laughing hugely. Make a move for it, but it scarpers. Take the guise of a wasp and lurk among the camellias.

Mid-afternoon comes. The garden is hot and drowsy. Spy three suspicious butterflies flitting over hedge. Check the planes. Yep, small foliots, arms flapping wildly. Wasp rises up behind them, shoots down out of sun, zaps them with Infernos, one, two, three. Burning butterflies crash-land in pond. Alert master to my triumph. She inspects charred fragments. Her scowl deepens; turns out they were her slaves, returning with valuable information. Another Spasm.

At dinner the boy spills the soup and is clouted for his pains.


Dawn comes. I sense danger. With the magician snoring (and the boy busy scrubbing the kitchen floor) I go outside. Low mists across the road. I listen. A little sound… Something is scratching at the garden gate. Cautiously, I approach in feline form and nudge open the gate. A little mouse darts in, quick as quick, trailing a stench of magic. The cat leaps, pounces, catches it between my paws. The mouse gives a quiver, grows to become a dog, yellow-toothed and slavering. With a yowl, the cat breaks free and shifts, becomes a panther that bites the dog around the neck. The dog squeals, wriggles, changes to a giant timber-wolf, its bristles grey and wet with mist. The panther looses its hold and shifts into a lime-green serpent uncoiling whip-crack fast, winding itself around the wolf, seeking to crush its essence. But the wolf is now a manticore with poison spines and scorpion tail. The tail jabs; the serpent writhes, unwinds with speed, coils back against the rhododendrons, wounded and just a little unsure of itself*. The manticore rises up; it is revealed now – one of the higher djinn, a formidable opponent. My essence is hurt, I am momentarily slowed. I see my death in the manticore's black eyes. Its tail cranks back, ready for the final blow.

A fearful roar; the manticore's head jerks back. A silver spear-head juts through its throat. Behind stands the tow-haired boy, white-faced, clutching the spear. This is my chance: the serpent rallies, opens its mouth, sends out as strong a Detonation as I can muster. It hits the manticore directly in the throat and splits the wounded essence. Pop! The manticore's head goes spinning into a rosebush. The body sloughs and slips, falls into separate chunks that melt among the grasses.

The boy and I stand looking at each other.

At length the magician emerges from bed and we recount our tale. Her response lacks gratitude: stammering furiously, she chides us for the damage to her lawns and flowerbed.* The boy is smacked; I am Spasmed; we both spend the day with nail-clippers attending to the damage to the garden. I try to start up a conversation with the lad, but he is very quiet.

First thing this morning, the magician made an announcement. With her enemy's attack foiled, he would be seriously weakened. It was time to finish off the Archmage. I was to go to his house and slay him. I shook my head. Not in the job description. I'm protecting, not attacking. The magician hopped with rage, but knew I was right. She had no option but to get me in the pentacle again and amend my instructions.

I was the cat, as usual, sitting insolently in my circle. The magician and the boy stepped in and took their places; she ordered him to begin the new incantation.

The boy did the preliminaries, sealing the circles, erecting the bonds. Now we were all subject to the rules of the summoning. But then he stopped. He did not progress. The woman looked at him furiously. "I've forgotten it," he said.

The woman knew the words well enough, but couldn't do it for fear of stammering. She did her best to keep her temper, prompting, encouraging, cajoling and imploring, while the cat sat quietly in its circle as if it wasn't watching.

The boy shrugged. "I've forgotten it," was all he said. And then, "I guess I wasn't taught well enough."

At this, the magician's fury knew no bounds. She reached out of her circle and slapped the apprentice round his head. But by doing so, she broke her protective seal. The cat stretched languidly; the stretch arched up, widened, became lime-green. Fur became scales. The serpent's mouth opened wide as a grave; it came down upon the woman and swallowed her whole, like a snake does an egg, down to the heels of her quivering shoes.

The serpent closed its mouth; a bulge retreated slowly along its coils. It looked at the boy, still standing safely in the circle of his own.

"Goodbye," he said.

"G'bomf," I said. Well, I had my mouth full.

In Other Place again. Essence healing fast. Did nothing.



Maybe I'd better call a halt to the journal for a bit. Until something crops up, that is, which it hopefully won't for a couple of decades. In the meantime: farewell, enjoy your futile lives, etc. This is Bartimaeus, care of The Other Place, signing off.







*This is me by the way. Bartimaeus. I'd almost lost track myself.










*True, there were several holes burnt by molten essence in the grass, and the rosebush had split in two with the impact of the severed head. But that's not really the point, is it?