The demon stared at me quizzically, head cocked to the side as if it didn’t understand the question. Well, “stared” might be the wrong word considering it had no eyes. Its humanoid head was featureless and smooth like polished marble, as if it were a statue waiting for a sculptor to come along and finish it. Its alabaster face held only lines of multicolored gemstones arranged in a “T” shape that flickered and glowed seemingly at its whim. The rest of the Yaviya, the lowest class of Hell’s denizens, was covered by a billowing cloak of purple fur that I assume was made from the skin of some other unfortunate demon.
“I do not understand,” the demon said in a vaguely feminine voice, despite having no mouth.
“Don’t insult my intelligence A’vish,” I replied carefully in the Infernal tongue. The choppy guttural language always felt ill suited for my mouth. “You’re being deliberately evasive. You either know, or you don’t know.”
“It is not my intention to give insult,” the Yaviya purred, “but I do not understand what you are asking. Perhaps if you rephrased the question?”
I stared down at the silvery-blue light of the summoning circle between us and took a deep breath to calm myself. The last thing I wanted to do was get sloppy when dealing with a demon, even one bound in a circle. I smoothed the front of my silk dress and brushed an errant red whisp of hair behind my ear. It was obvious my line of questioning made A’vish uncomfortable, but so bound, it couldn’t lie to me, only remain silent or try to dance around the question. I tried again, “Do you know which Anaviya was summoned by Shakkar?”
“There were many summoned by him.” Something about A’vish’s tone made me think the Yaviya was toying with me, but it was tough to tell with demons.
“Are you familiar with the first one he summoned? The one who aided him in his understanding of your kind?”
“I cannot say.”
“Because you don’t know or you’re not willing to tell me?”
The demon cocked its head to the side again.
“A’vish, which is it?”
“I cannot say.”
“Do…you…know?” I said gnawing on the heavy Infernal words.
“I cannot give you a more satisfactory answer to the question, mage.”
I relaxed my hands, which had balled themselves into fists, and rubbed the bridge of my nose. I had to change tactics. “Could you locate Shakkar’s first Anaviya?”
The gemstones in A’vish’s face started flickering in sequence. I’d noticed that behavior before when the demon was thinking very hard about something. “It is theoretically possible. But it will not help you.”
“And why is that?”
The stones flickered again. “I am certain you would long be dust, as would many of your decedents, before I was able to locate what you ask for,” A’vish said, flatly.
That took me aback. Most demons were boastful of their abilities. It was unusual for one to downplay them, and I happened to know from experience that A’vish was quite talented at locating things. “I thought you could find anything in Hell?”
A’vish hesitated. “I can.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
The Yaviya just stood in silence, the gems in its face lighting up from the far points inward.
“Come now, Hell’s not that large,” I said.
“The size of hell is constantly changing, based upon the will of the Rajasa–”
“You’re sidestepping again. Why would it take you so long to find Shakkar’s Anaviya?”
A’vish just remained silent, the gems on its empty face went dark. Something finally occurred to me. “You’ve been commanded to find him before haven’t you? And you weren’t able to, were you?”
The demon’s smooth face lit up in rapid succession. “Did you think you were the first human to summon me for this purpose?”
Actually, I kind of did. It was a bit bruising to the pride to realize I wasn’t quite a clevor as I thought. When I took a step back from the situation I realized I’d been naive. Doubtless, hundreds of mages over the years had tried exactly what I was doing. Oh well. What was one more soul-crushing dead end in a day? I had learned one thing, though I drew no solace from it. Apparently the Anivaya I was looking for was hard even for other demons to find.