The invisible entity’s breath rushed on the breeze, seductive and strong. The faint beat of its heart sounded like the playing of a distant drum. Above all things else I could taste the overwhelming power on the tip of my tongue, a palpable flavor of strange, alien magic.
I had to have it. I needed to earn my Summoner’s Crest. It was finally my time. I had to make my father proud, wherever he could be. I thrust my hand out, the grimoire levitating at eye level, pages fluttering in an eldritch wind as it turned to the correct section. The binding, the forging of a powerful contract.
“With iron will and stalwart heart I beseech you, great force of the ether. Make yourself known. Manifest. In the name of the summoners that have come before me, hear my words. Heed my call.”
A new wind swirled at my feet, sending leaves tumbling upward, whipping at the branches. Gooseflesh rose all over my skin, my body’s response to the tingle and thrum of gathering power. Something was here. Something was responding.
Time to finish the incantation, the barest minimum for me to qualify for the Summoner’s Crest. Time to complete the Pact of the Unknown.
“I invoke you, thing of the ether, unseen and unnamed. Grant me time and space enough to bargain and barter, to forge a bond that may yet be fruitful for us both.”
The wind howled, ripping at my cloak, shearing through my hair, screaming into my ears. It was coming.
It was here.
Time to bring it all home.
“Nameless of the ether, dweller in the unknown, I call you. I summon you. Come forth. Reveal yourself!”
Grass, leaves, and petals exploded in a burst from the center of the clearing, filling the air with a swirl of green and gold. I shielded my eyes, watching through the gaps in my fingers. Had it worked? It must have. I said all the words correctly, channeled the torrent of great magic through my soul, my flesh. Nothing short of a god could have resisted my summons.
And there he knelt in the center of the glade, his head low, his neck loose, a powerfully built man wearing leather trousers and little else. He propped himself up by one hand, groaning, rubbing at his forehead with the other, like someone recovering from a hangover. A side effect of the invocation, possibly.
Black hair fell in soft wisps over his brow, across his pale gold eyes. They took their time to focus, then filled with defiance, with wild devilry. He glanced up at me, eyes widening, mouth turning up in anger. But even in fury the man was devastating. That face, those lips, that — oh, gods, that body. He was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen.
And then he opened his mouth.