Authors: The Amulet of Samarkand 2012 11 13 11 53 18 573
"She said I had a great career ahead of me," he went on, "if I played my cards right and worked hard. She said she would supervise my training, and that if all went well they'd put me on the fast track and I'd soon be working in a ministerial department,
getting experience." He had that triumphant look in his eyes again, the kind that made me want to put him over my knee. I made a big show of yawning and plumping up the
pillow, but he kept going. "There's no restriction on age, she said, only on talent.
I said I wanted to get involved with the Ministry for Internal Affairs—they're the
ones who're hunting the Resistance. Did you know there was another attack while we
were out of London? An office in Whitehall was blown up. No one's made a
breakthrough, yet—but I bet I could track them down.
First off I'll catch Fred and Stanley—and that girl. Then I'll make them talk, then
"Steady on," I said. "Haven't you done enough for a lifetime? Think about it—two power-crazed magicians killed, a hundred power-crazed magicians saved.... You're a
My slight sarcasm was wasted on him. "That's what Mr. Devereaux said."
I sat up suddenly and cupped my ear toward the window. "Listen to that!" I
"It's the sound of lots of people not cheering."
He scowled. "Meaning what?"
"Meaning the Government's keeping this all very quiet. Where are the
photographers? Where are the newspapermen? I'd have expected you on the front page of
this morning. They should be asking for your life story, giving you medals in public places, putting you on cheesy limited-edition postage stamps. But they aren't, are they?"
The boy sniffed. "They have to keep it quiet for security reasons. That's what they told me."
"No, it's for reasons of not wanting to look stupid. 'Twelve-year old saves
Government'? They'd be laughed at in the street. And that's something no magicians ever want, take it from me. When that happens, it's the beginning of the end."
The boy smirked. He was too young to understand. "It's not the commoners we
have to fear,"
he said. "It's the conspirators—the ones who got away. Ms. Whitwell says that at
least four magicians must have summoned the demon, so as well as Lovelace, Schyler,
and Lime there must be at least one more. Lime's gone, and no one's seen that red-
bearded magician at any of the harbors or aerodromes. It's a real mystery. I'm sure Sholto Pinn's in on it, too, but I can't say anything about him, after what you did to his shop."
"Yes," I said, putting my hands behind my head and speaking in a musing sort of way, "I suppose you
have rather a lot to hide. There's
your 'minor imp,' and all my exploits. There's
stealing the Amulet and framing your master...." He flushed at this and made a big show of going off to investigate the walk-in wardrobe. I got up and
followed him. "By the way," I added, "I notice you gave Mrs. Underwood a starring role in your version of events. Helps salve your conscience, does it?"
He spun round, his face reddened. "If you have a point," he snapped, "get to it."
I looked at him seriously then. "You said you would revenge yourself on
Lovelace," I said, "and you did what you set out to do. Perhaps that takes away a little of your pain—I hope so; I wouldn't know. But you
promised that if I helped you against Lovelace, you'd set me free. Well, help has been dutifully given. I think I saved your life several times over. Lovelace is dead and you're better off—in your eyes—than you've
ever been before. So now's the time to honor your promise, Nathaniel, and let me go."
For a moment he was silent. "Yes," he said, at last. "You did help me. You did save me."
"To my eternal shame."
"And I'm—" He halted.
"A teensy bit grateful?"
He took a deep breath. "Yes. I'm grateful. But that doesn't alter the fact that you know my birth name."
It was time to iron this out once and for all. I was tired; my essence ached with the
effort of nine days in the world. I had to go. "True," I said. "I know your name and you know mine. You can summon me. I can damage you. That makes us even. But while I'm
in the Other Place, who am I going to tell? No one. You should
me to go back there.
If we're both lucky, I won't even be summoned again during your lifetime. However, if I am"—I paused, gave a heavy sigh—"I promise I won't reveal your name."
He said nothing. "You want it official?" I cried. "How about this? 'Should I break this vow, may I be trampled into the sand by camels and scattered among the ordure of
the fields.' Now I can't say fairer than that, can I?"
 An old Egyptian vow. Be careful when you use it—it invariably comes true.
He hesitated. For an instant, he was going to agree. "I don't know," he muttered.
"You're a de—a djinni. Vows mean nothing to you."
"You're confusing me with a magician! All right, then." I jumped back in anger.
"How about this?
If you don't dismiss me here and now, I'll go right downstairs and tell your dear
Ms. Whitwell exactly what's been going on. She'll be very interested to see me in my true form."
He bit his lip, reached for his book. "I could—"
"Yes, you could do lots of things," I said. "That's your trouble. You're too clever for your own good. A lot has happened because you were too clever to let things lie. You wanted revenge, you summoned a noble djinni, you stole the Amulet, you let others pay
the price. You did what you wanted, and I helped because I had to. And no doubt, with
your cleverness, you could devise some new bond for me in time, but not quickly enough to stop me telling your master right now about you, the Amulet, Underwood, and me."
"Right now?" he said quietly.
"You'd end up in the tin."
"Too bad for both of us."
For a few moments we held each other's gaze properly, perhaps for the first time.
Then, with a sigh, the boy looked away.
"Dismiss me, John," I said. "I've done enough. I'm tired. And so are you."
He gave a small smile at this.
not tired," he said. "There's too much I want to do."
"Exactly," I said. "The Resistance... the conspirators... You'll want a free hand trying to hunt them down. Think of all the other djinn you'll need to summon as you
embark on your great career.
They won't have my class, but they'll give you less lip."
Something in that seemed to strike a chord with him. "All right, Bartimaeus," he said finally. "I agree. You'll have to wait while I draw the circle."
"That's no problem!" I was eagerness itself. "In fact, I'll gladly entertain you while you do it!
What would you like? I could sing like a nightingale, summon sweet music from
the air, create a thousand heavenly scents.... I suppose I could even juggle a bit if that tickles your fancy."
"Thank you. None of that will be necessary."
The floor in one corner of the room had been purposely left bare of carpet and
was slightly raised. Here, with great precision, and with only one or two fleeting glances at his book of formulae, the boy drew a simple pentacle and two circles with a piece of black chalk he found in the drawer of his desk. I kept very quiet while he did so. I didn't want him to make any mistakes.
At last he finished, and rose stiffly, holding his back.
"It's done," he said, stretching. "Get in."
I considered the runes carefully. "That cancels Adelbrand's Pentacle, does it?"
"And breaks the bond of Perpetual Confinement?"
"Yes! See that hieroglyph here? That snaps the thread. Now do you want to be
dismissed or not?"
"Just checking." I skipped into the bigger circle and turned to face him. He readied himself, ordering the words in his mind, then looked at me severely.
"Take that stupid grin off your face," he said. "You're putting me off."
"Sorry." I adopted a hideous expression of malady and woe.
"That's not much better."
"All right, prepare yourself." He took a deep breath.
"Just one thing," I said. "If you were going to summon someone else soon, I recommend Faquarl. He's a good worker. Put him to something constructive, like
draining a lake with a sieve, or counting grains of sand on a beach. He'd be good at that."
"Look, do you
to go or not?"
"Oh, yes. I do. Very much."
"Nathaniel—one last thing."
"Listen: for a magician, you've got potential. And I don't mean the way you think I mean. For a start, you've got far more initiative than most of them, but they'll crush it out of you if you're not careful. And you've a conscience too, another thing which is rare and easily lost. Guard it. That's all.
Oh, and I'd beware of your new master, if I were you."
He looked at me for a moment, as if he wanted to speak. Then he shook his head
"I'll be all right. You needn't bother about me. This is your last chance. I have to be down for dinner in five minutes."
Then the boy spoke the counter-summons swiftly and without fault. I felt the
weight of words binding me to the earth lessen with every syllable. As he neared the end, my form extended, spread, blossomed out from the confines of the circle. Multiple doors opened in the planes, beckoning me through. I became a dense cloud of smoke that
roared up and outward, filling a room that became less real to me with every passing
He finished. His mouth snapped shut. The final bond broke like a severed chain.
So I departed, leaving behind a pungent smell of brimstone. Just something to
remember me by.
Copyright © 2003 by Jonathan Stroud