[identity profile] goe-mod.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] go_exchange
Title: Midterms at the University of Pandemonium
Recipient: Bravinto
Warnings: None
Rating: PG-13
Notes: Happy holidays, Bravinto! I absolutely loved your prompt about demons studying for Latin exams in Hell.
Summary: Hell passes a new decree requiring all demons to go back Hell to complete a one-year Latin certification. Crowley does not manage to dodge the recall, but he does manage to make some friends, keep in touch with Aziraphale, stay out of Hastur and Ligur's way (for about two weeks), and maybe even learn Latin.



The edge of the known world lay somewhere to the north of everything else. Crowley was stationed with a remote Danish tribe at the time. The land was frequently cold and occasionally colder, but that was fine by him. It was a small price to pay for the privilege of easy work.

Crowley’s usual day of work (as opposed to his usual day in general, which involved no work) involved meddling about in the market, selling crooked scales to crooked salesmen, or planting forged bread on innocent bakers, or spoiling produce, or frightening fish away from fishermen, or ripping the seams of expensive cloaks, and just generally nudging the people of the region to lie, cheat, and steal. The stealing was sometimes on a large scale, and involved coastal raids and the occasional extortion, but that was besides the point, and mostly the people’s own doing.

Easy work. No demonic possessions, apparitions, bargains, or anything theological. Crowley preferred it this way. The good people of Denmark still believed in the old gods, and hadn’t gotten weird about demons like the Christians in other parts of Europe. Any day, now, missionaries would come and spoil it all, but Crowley would do his very damndest to prevent it from happening, and increasing his workload. He’d probably get a commendation for his prevention efforts too, which was the nice thing. He smirked smugly to himself, and prodded his hearth fire, over which he was cooking some fish.

The smug reverie was interrupted by a tapping at his shoulder, which startled him terribly, since no one else lived under his roof.

What then happened was something that Crowley would have liked to remember as him giving a fearsome war cry and striking the intruder to the ground, but which was, unfortunately, not that. What happened was that he screamed, and while turning around, fell over, elbowing a hapless messenger imp in the face.

“Message for you, sir,” said the imp, rubbing his injured nose, and handing him a sheet of fresh vellum.

“Thanks,” said Crowley coolly, or in his best attempt at coolly. He put the message aside, on a small pile of vegetable peelings and bones, where he fully intended to leave it.

The imp gave him a polite smile and did not leave. Crowley stared at it.

“Well?” Crowley asked.

“Scuse me, sir,” said the imp, “but I’m supposed to stay till you’ve read it, sir.”

“Right,” said Crowley, “but between you and me, that’s just useless procedure, isn’t it? We can ignore it and I won’t tell anyone.”

The imp shook his head resolutely.

“Got to read, it sir, in front of me. And sign it. Pref’rably soon as you can.”

Crowley huffed and unrolled the message. It read, in an imposing handwriting.

“BE IT RESOLVED,”

(Oh great, he thought, a decree.)

“That henceforth, in Light of the Spread of the Latin Tongue, which continues to be Propagated despite the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, by means of the Christian Church and various Kings of different Lands:

i) All Demons shall be Required to complete a Certification (C.Lat.) in said Latin Tongue, for Ease of a) COMMUNICATION with Humans and b) SUMMONING by the Same.

ii) All Demons shall enrol for their C.Lat. at once, if convenient (and if inconvenient, all the same), by leaving their Sigil and Signature on this Letter, and returning it to Hell, after which,

iii) by Lottery, each Demon will be assigned to one of the seven Universities of Hell, and will attend there for a Period of two regular Semesters, and one short Semester. These shall be Autumn, Spring, and Summer. (Winter, Second Winter, and Little Winter, for University of Cocytus.)

iv) the Start Date of the Period of three Semesters will also be Determined by Lottery, so as not to recall all Field Agents simultaneously.

Note: this applies only to Demons who have NOT recently been stationed within Rome and/or the Confines of the Roman Empire for a Period of more than four Years. If you have been stationed within Rome and/or its Confines recently (within the last two Centuries), for a Period of more than four Years, you are not Required to complete the C.Lat., but your Name may still be Collected and you may be Summoned to work as a Tutor or Teaching Assistant.

Failure to comply shall not be Tolerated, and shall result in the extreme Punishment.

This Decree passed in the Year of That Man (you know the one) 506,
Approved by the High Council, (513)
And Signed (514) in Conjunction by,

Leonirotas
(under Lucifer) of Wesstyx, Chancellor for Education

Baal Sabaoth
(under his own Command) of Dis, Lord of South-East Hell

Malcmyrna
(under Alastor) of Pandemonium, Madame Provost of the University of Pandemonium

And

Septimius
(under Baal) of Dis, Chief Advisor, Esstyx.”


“What if, theoretically, one didn’t go?” asked Crowley.

“Well, theoretically, sir,” said the imp, “if someone dodged the summons, then, in theory, he or she or they would be subjected to the articles of torment described on the second and third pages of the letter.”
The imp handed him these pages. Crowley looked them over. They were double-sided and exquisitely illustrated, if you had the stomach for that sort of thing. The last picture showed the sludgy remains of the hypothetical prisoner being scraped out of a barrel. Crowley groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Sign here, please, to show you’ve agreed,” said the imp.

“Give me a minute,” said Crowley. He was trying to think of a way out. Any minute, now, he would think of something really brilliant.

Nothing.

“Now?” asked the imp, impudently.

Crowley found ink and a quill and signed his name (his real name) and sigil on the accursed letter.

There was really nothing to do now but wait.

Wait, and let someone know he’d be recalled soon.

“Er,” he said to the imp, “you wouldn’t happen to have any blank pieces of vellum, would you?”

“Not particularly, sir.”

“Any extra copies of the letter, then? Surely they’ve made a few extra just in case any got lost.”
“Well,” said the imp, beginning to doubt, “I don’t know if I should.”

Crowley tried another tactic.

“Surely you don’t doubt the wisdom of our masters?” He said theatrically, splaying a long-fingered hand across his chest.

“No!” said the poor puzzled imp, his eyes wide.

“Then you must be able to spare an extra copy. Give it to me, so I can scrape the ink off. I need to send a letter of my own.”

The imp dug around in his messenger bag nervously, and produced another thin sheet.
Crowley reached for it, but the imp jerked it away.

“Uh-uh,” said the imp, “what’s the magic word?”

Crowley signed and muttered something appropriately magical in Babylonian. The sheet flew out of the stunned imp’s hand and into his own.

“Off you go, then,” Crowley said to the imp, impatiently. “Shoo!”

***

In an half hour, Crowley had finished the whole process of removing the writing (a mixture of milk and oat bran always did the job, and the remaining tricky bits could be easily removed with a bit of fingernail scratching), and set the sheet out to dry while he thought of what he was going to say.

He would tell Aziraphale, of course. For some reason, it was important that he knew, and there really wasn’t anyone else to tell anyway. Where was the angel these days? Somewhere in the east, wasn’t it? Yes, Cappadocia, in Asia minor. Crowley winced at the thought of how much it would take for a letter to travel there, and for Aziraphale to compose a response, and then get around to sending it, and then for the letter to return.

He could easily cut out two of the steps with magic. Aziraphale would not approve of magic, of course, but he did miracles himself from time to time, and it was the same principle, once you got down to it. The only difference was the manufacturer.

So Crowley took his small knife from its leather sheath on his belt, cut the sheet in half, performed the appropriate enchantments, kept one half, and sent the other flying to Cappadocia.

On the remaining half, he wrote a brief letter.

Greetings to Aziraphale from Crowley,
Have just been recalled to Hell by a decree. Will probably be gone from Earth for a year, at the least. Just letting you know.
P.s., do not get into any trouble while I’m gone.


***

The words appeared on the half sheet that was flying towards Aziraphale as they were being written, and after a few days’ swift flight, the half sheet glided through an open window of a monastery, wandered around the halls till it found the right man, followed him to his cell, and gracefully lowered itself onto the side table next to his bed.

Aziraphale picked it up and examined it more closely. He really couldn’t say why the demon had chosen to tell him this, or how it was of any importance. Moreover, he found the remark “do not get into trouble” cheeky, and refused to dignify it with a response, except to note, for the sake of courtesy, which was owed even to enemies, that he had received the letter.

So he cleaned off the vellum and wrote:

Seen: 514 AD

***

Crowley’s acceptance letter arrived some weeks later. He’d been assigned to the University of Pandemonium.

WELCOME, read the first page in thick black letters.
HOME OF THE PANDAS, read a caption to a picture of a sportsball team.
And so on. There was other information about the university as well. Apparently it was a good one.

Well, thought Crowley as he flipped through the unimportant pages to get to the registration information, it would have been good of them to send this sooner. Apparently he only had a few days before the registration deadline. He had to leave right away. Crowley blessed under his breath and began to pack some of his belongings. The rest, he buried somewhere for safekeeping.

***

The journey to Hell was long and torturous, mostly because Crowley had not been able to find a pack animal to carry his luggage and he was stuck carrying it himself. Old human men and women gave him weird admiring stares, and a couple younger men challenged him to lift their horses, but he declined and kept walking. For Hell’s sake, what were they thinking? The luggage really couldn’t look that heavy.

On second thought, he realized he didn’t want to attract attention, and pared it all down to one overstuffed backpack, and buried the rest again.

When he finally arrived at the nearest dark and spooky cavern, he pulled out a heavy black key from his pouch and traced the appropriate dark symbol on the wall of the stone. The symbol glowed in the darkness, and then shook from side to side a little, as if shaking its head, and vanished. Crowley sighed and tried a slightly different version of the symbol. It too shook and vanished, but not before revealing a helpful hint. Right, Crowley said to himself, he’d got the number of branches on the tree wrong. It had been a long time since he last visited Hell. He preferred a long time between visits. More than that, he preferred no visits, but he did not always get what he preferred.

When he had drawn the symbol correctly, the wall of the cave creaked, groaned, and opened like a pair of sliding doors, revealing a room the size of a fairly large pantry. He hauled his luggage inside and stood in there, waiting for the doors to seal themselves again.

With another groan, the doors slid shut, and a light came on inside the small room. Bright raised medallions appeared on one wall, with different name on each one. Crowley looked for Pandemonium– why weren’t they grouped alphabetically, for Hell’s sake?– and pressed it.

The room gave a jolt and began to descend slowly.

***

Pandemonium was a loud and busy old city with tall spires, colorful signs, and long, winding streets, crowded with demonic pedestrians and hellhound-drawn carts. Movement abounded. Even the streets seemed to Crowley to change place. This was because every time he asked any demon for directions to 1340, University Street, they pointed him in a different direction, and told him it was only four, five, six streets away. Remarkable city. He’d managed to get several of his belongings stolen in under twenty minutes.

Eventually, he gave up and summoned a cab. Somehow, he got to the student office.

***

The office was dimly lit, and was shaped like a long hall. Crowley imagined what it might look like when it was full of demons, all standing in line. He shuddered. Thankfully, there were only four others waiting in line before him.

They were called one by one to the reception desk in due time, and sent down different corridors. His turn came.

“New student?” asked the demoness at the reception desk.

“Yeah,” Crowley answered, trying not to stare at her polished tusks.

“Shoulda been here last week,” she muttered to herself.

“My letter only arrived last week,” Crowley answered snippily.

The receptionist shrugged her broad shoulders and tilted her head to the side, as if to say “and is that my problem?”

She wrote something down on a clipboard (Crowley was amazed at how neatly she could write with a hoof for a hand) and pushed it roughly in Crowley’s direction.
“Fill it out,” she said, without looking up again, “room five.”

Most of the information on the sheet was easy enough to fill out (true name, common name, other names, date of fall) but some of the questions were not clear. There was a three letter space under “place of residence” marked “deme” and Crowley left it blank because he had no idea what it was for.

He handed the sheet to the secretary sitting in room five.

“Wrong,” the secretary said.

“Pardon?”

“Look,” he said, “the form is asking for your place of residence in Hell. You’ve put something about Denny– Denm–” he squinted at the form. “Look, I don’t care. Just put where you live in Hell.”

“I don’t live here,” Crowley answered.

“You’re commuting here from Earth every day, then?” the secretary asked incredulously.

“Well, no.”

“Then put ‘Pandemonium.’ Put ‘CUP’ for your deme.”

“Why a cup?”

“Campus University Pandemonium,” said the secretary, rolling his eyes. “It’s simple

Everything would be simple, Crowley thought, if anyone told him how it worked.

Finally, he was handed his class schedule and pointed in the direction of the campus bookstore. There were two buildings in that general direction, and he decided to pick one and hope for the best.

***

“You wouldn’t happen to have any intro Latin textbooks?” asked Crowley, looking around the rather one bare store.

“Oh no!” said the attendant, a genial demoness with a fish eye on each side of her head. “This is the campus merchandise store. We wouldn’t happen to have hoodies and t-shirts. The bookshop is across the street. They wouldn’t happen to have intro Latin textbooks.”

“Right,” said Crowley. “Great.”

“It’s the new C.Lat program,” she said apologetically. “Enrollment is at levels we aren’t prepared for.”

Crowley sighed and looked at the door.

“Lovely. Shortages.”

“You can’t get the books till after the first class, anyway,” she explained, “there’s about three or four Latin students to each book. The library is holding them. You have to find a group of classmates to share with before they give them over.”

“Okay,” Crowley said. “Thanks anyway.”

“Wait,” she said, “you’ll want some notebooks.”

Eventually, she talked him into getting six thin codex-bound blank books made of a strange new kind of writing material. It was wood pulp, she explained. It was cheaper to mass-produce, but everyone liked the feel of parchment much more, so it would probably never catch on.

***
Crowley consulted the map of the campus and folded it up and put it in his pouch. He cut across the lower field trying to look cool, like he knew where he was going.

***

Aha. There it was. Arts 160. The classroom had high, dark ceilings, but the room itself was rather small and cramped. It was like sitting at the bottom of a giant well, Crowley thought to himself. But a sort of nice wood-panelled well.

Then students started arriving, and it really began to feel small. Fortunately, he had picked a good seat in the second row, a row that other demons seemed reluctant to sit in. Crowley reasoned that there was probably a good reason they were avoiding it, but those costs could not possibly outweigh the benefit of not having to sit too close to anybody. Talking to other demons was all right, but sitting elbow-to-elbow was harder.

Someone sat down next to him anyway. It was a lanky demon with hair that came past his eyes.

“Ridiculous, isn’t it?” the other demon asked.

“Sorry?” asked Crowley.

“I mean, Western Rome fell. It’s a pit. Fortunately, I was in the eastern half. But pretty soon, the only people you’ll have speaking standard Latin are going to be the church and the old families. Demonic work should be done in the vernacular, but I think it’s going to be changing too fast to keep up. Everyone else is going to be speaking half-latin, half-barbarian, and I don’t think the church is going to be around much longer either. If you ask me, we should be learning the languages of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire, the promising ones with more speakers. More souls.”
He paused, and then added,
“Forgot to introduce myself. The name’s Phanos, people I know call me Steve.”

Crowley had heard one important thing and his expression changed immediately.

“You were in the Roman Empire?”

“Yes, but not recently enough to avoid the decree.”
“Do you know some Latin?”

“Well,” said Steve-Phanos, “I know Thracian. There’s some Latin influence, but it’s not exactly the same.”

“But it’s similar enough, right?”

“I guess.1 It’s been a while. Haven’t been a field agent in centuries. I’d like to go back.”

“My name’s Crowley,” Crowley said, extending a hand, “you can call me Crowley.”

Right, he thought to himself, one useful alliance down, two or three to go.

Ahead of them, in the front row, like keeners, sat a pair of demonesses who seemed to know each other. They were talking about places on Earth they’d seen. Apparently, they’d both been to Alexandria, and one of them had even been stationed in Alexandria, but when they tried to talk about local places, they realized that they’d been in entirely different Alexandrias, and that neither of them had been stationed in the one with the library, in Egypt.

“But I have seen the library,” said the shorter and more broad-shouldered of the two.

“And the lighthouse.”

“Oh, you have?” asked the other one with mild envy. “That’s nice. What else have you seen?”

“The aqueducts,” she answered innocently. “Only, I forget which ones, because it was a long time ago, but I really liked them.”

“You’ve been in Rome, then?” asked Crowley.

“I’ve been to Rome,” said the shorter demoness. Then she blinked her ox-like eyes and realized she didn’t see who had spoken. She turned around.

“Who are you?”

“Crowley, at your service. And this is Steve.”

“Hi,” said Steve.

“Hi,” said the short demoness, “I’m Malbah, third year engineering. This is Thaïs,” she said, pointing at the other one.

Thaïs smiled thinly. She had an aristocratic nose and curly hair so dark, it was nearly blue. Her teeth were very sharp.

“Hello,” she said. “What are you two studying?”

“I’m just here for the C.Lat,” said Steve, stretching and putting his hands behind his head.

“Me too,” said Crowley.

“And I don’t particularly want to be here,” Steve added.

Crowley sighed. Neither did he, particularly, but he had more sense than to say so. It was a real pity that some people didn’t know when to speak their mind, and to whom. Thaïs didn’t seem the sort who would appreciate the sentiment, any minute now, she’d say–

“You know, some of us actually worked hard to get into UPan, and didn’t get selected by lot to do a Latin certification. You might be a bit more respectful. This is one of the best–”

Malbah and Crowley made uncomfortable eye contact as Thaïs went on. Crowley made a face and Malbah shrugged her shoulders in agreement.

“...and think of where else you could have been sent, you cocks,” Thaïs finished.

“Pardon?”

“UCocs. Cocytus is incredibly cold, all the time, and their languages program is understaffed.”

“Oh,” said Steve. “I didn’t–I didn’t mean I didn’t want to be here, I meant that...you know, the Latin certification requirement, is kind of–”

“Oh!” she said, softening. “Yeah, definitely. I have to do it too, in addition to my regular courses. You already need a bit of Latin for the B.A. magical languages, so I was already supposed to take Latin, but not three semesters, and not conversational Latin, and not Latin Rhetoric and Composition as well. So I’m going to be graduating late.”

“And the classes are going to be huge, now, like it’s first year or something,” added Malbah helpfully.

“Don’t see why there’s so much emphasis on Latin anyway,” said Thaïs. “It’s not the only magical language. Most of the innovation in the curse tablet field is occurring in Greek and Coptic.”

“Right!” agreed Crowley, making a note to himself to find out what she meant.

“I agree completely, you know,” said Steve, running a hand through his hair. “And I also think the emphasis on Latin excessively focuses Hell’s attentions on the successor states of the former Western Roman empire, when there’s a lot more of the world.”

He smiled at her.

“Okay,” Thaïs said. “Um, thanks?”

Students kept filing into the classroom. It was packed elbow to elbow now. A couple familiar faces, one tall one and one short one, walked in and sat a few rows behind Crowley, lurking. He held his breath and focused on the front of the room. If he didn’t look at them, they wouldn’t notice him. If he kept his head down, he would keep his head.

“Oi Crawly!” someone called out from behind.

“Hey Snakeface!” the other chimed in.

Crowley took a deep breath, crossed his arms, and stared resolutely forward. Be cool, he told himself.

“Bet you love being back in Hell, huh?” one of them said.

“Do you know them?” Malbah asked.

“Unfortunately,” Crowley answered. “Don’t mind them.”

“That’s right. You don’t need to listen to anything they say,” said Thaïs reassuringly. “Management students only continue if you encourage them.”

A very tall, yawning demoness sat directly behind Crowley, blocking him from Hastur and Ligur’s jeers. She gave him a little nod, and then slouched in her seat, and stifled another yawn with three long claws.

“What’s your name?” asked Steve, extending his hand to her.
She looked at him hazily and slowly reached her arm out towards him. It was covered in some sort of light fur with a greenish tinge. On second thought, Steve withdrew his hand.

“Rude,” Crowley muttered.

The demoness didn’t seem to mind. She folded her arm on the desk and then lay her head on it.

Finally, once students had stopped entering the room, a wrinkled man in white robes entered and stood at the front. He cleared his throat and the chattering subsided.

“Ignei, aerii, aquatani spiritus, salvete!” he said.
No one responded.

“Now, if any of you knew what that meant, you wouldn’t be here. But here you are. Welcome to intense-intensive beginner Latin.”

“I know what that meant,” said a bored voice from the back of the room, “it’s a greeting.”

“Bene,” he said, closing his eyes “dic mihi, igitur, quid est quod dixi?”

No one responded.

“That’s what I thought,” he said. “My name is Marcus Pera. Mihi nomen est Marcus Pera. I could also say: nomen meus Marcus Pera est. Latin word order is very flexible. Hopefully, by the end of this lesson, you’ll all be able to introduce yourselves and ask someone their name, and if they wish to serve Satan. By the end of this course, I hope you’ll be able to carry on a conversation, maybe even a persuasive and engaging one, about basic topics, and read and write short passages of Latin. In the meantime, there is a lot of material to cover! Now, I’ll pass out the syllabus–and note that the plural of syllabus is also syllabus, not syllabi–and while I’m passing them out, feel free to ask me any preliminary questions.”

“Are you human?” asked a snub-nosed demon sitting in the back.

“That is neither here nor there,” said Pera, without batting an eye. “But ask yourself this: Would you rather be taught by a native speaker of Latin or by someone with an awful accent who can’t answer all of your questions?”

“I’d rather be taught by a demon,” he said.

“Then leave,” said Pera, smiling thinly. “Go on. Vade retro.”

“I can’t,” said the demon, “I have to take this class.”

“Then your comment was useless and impertinent. So either you stay and stop making a musca molesta of yourself, or you leave and suffer the mandated punishments for not taking Latin. Elige, choose.”

The demon was silent. Pera continued to pass out the syllabus.

“The next one to make that sort of comment will have to wash their mouth with aqua benedicta,” he said calmly. “I’m sure even if you don’t know Latin, you know what that means. Any better questions?”

Malbah raised her hand.
“There’s a lot written down on the syllabus for the first class. Are we going to get through it all?”
“Certainly,” said Pera, “I see no reason why not. After all, this is a three-and-a-half hour class.”

Crowley flipped to the schedule part of the syllabus to look at what was written down for the first day. It took up the whole page.

***

The first thing was having to learn a whole different alphabet. Crowley opened his new notebook, and he traced and re-traced the new letterforms until they looked natural. It was very different from the runic alphabet he knew.

Some demons seemed puzzled by the concept of letters for vowels. Others, such as Thaïs, seemed puzzled by the paucity of vowels. Crowley swore he heard her mutter something like, “where’s the other O?” The greenish demoness, on the other hand, seemed to be having a fine time with the alphabet when she wasn’t nodding off. Steve seemed to be handling the alphabet well enough too.

And there was also someone else who seemed at ease. She was sitting next to Hastur and Ligur and helping them. It was unfortunately a bit too late to recruit her.

***
The introduction to the grammar was a bit easier. Pera was able to draw parallels among Latin, New Standard Demonic, and even Old Angelic. They all had cases, for example. While Old Angelic had twenty-seven, and New Standard Demonic had six, Latin had seven, only five of which were commonly used. So really, Latin was going to be so much easier, he argued, than at least one language they already knew. (They would learn to love the ablative, Pera insisted. It was multipurpose, and covered prepositional, adverbial, instrumental, and a capella functions.)

The demons who had rarely been out of Hell seemed to struggle a bit with the concept of arbitrary grammatical gender. Pera’s answer that they would just have to memorize which nouns belonged to which and that there was no rule or pattern felt inadequate. In demonic, grammatical genders followed a clear, logical pattern. There were five in Demonic, and these were animate matter, inanimate matter, ghost, group, and freestyle.

***

Not nearly soon enough, but thankfully at some point, the lecture ended. Already, on the first day, there was an assignment. And there was wailing and gnashing of teeth.

“If you have any questions,” said Pera, “send me an imp-mail. My office is on the fourth floor of the Ferreira building.”

Malbah groaned quietly.
“Great, it’s in the lab. We’ll never be able to find it.”
“Laboratory?” asked Crowley
“Labyrinth,” she said.

***

Fortunately, the assignment was simple. All they had to do was form groups, get their books from the library, and do all the exercises of the first chapter.

Outside the classroom, Crowley gathered Steve, Thaïs, Malbah, and the yawning greenish girl around himself. He leaned back against the wall with his thumbs tucked into his belt as he spoke to them.
“I think the five of us would make a fine group,” he said. “What do you say?”
The other four looked at each other.
“Sounds good,” said Steve.
“I see no reason to object,” said Thaïs.
“Okay,” said Malbah.
The sloth-like girl squinted and nodded approvingly, or at least Crowley thought she did.
It was far easier than Crowley had expected. Apparently his ability at temptation was still with him.
“Right-o,” he said. “To the library. Thaïs, lead the way.”
He sounded confident enough that nobody guessed that he had no idea where the library was himself.

***

The arts and sciences library of the University of Pandemonium was something magnificent. It was an old stone building three stories high, with six wings radiating outwards from a tremendous central dome. And as to the books, Aziraphale would probably weep, Crowley thought to himself. He had never seen this many books in the same place. And it wasn’t just the number of books that was impressive. Crowley was paying attention to the signs that hung around the library. Apparently, UPan had the ancient right of first pick at the bonfire, which meant that they had a whole wing of slightly singed books that were presumed lost on Earth. Crowley was so absorbed by the burned books wing that he nearly walked into a pillar.

The sloth demoness made a noise and pointed a long claw at a sign on the pillar.
“C.Lat textbook distribution on the second floor, W-2,” Malbah read.
“Excellent, follow me,” said Crowley, and led the way.

***

After they had obtained their textbook, they found a quiet study space in W-3. Thaïs assumed they would all copy out the exercises and then work on them separately, but Crowley argued otherwise.

“There’s just way too many of them,” he explained. “Wouldn’t it be easier to stay here and do them all together? Besides, we can probably learn from each other. Why else would they have us share a textbook? We ought to combine our skills. You,” he said, addressing the sleepy one whose name she had never told him, “You seem to be good at picking things up quickly. Steve, you were stationed in Thrace, right? You must know some Latin already.”
“Not so much,” Steve said sheepishly.
“Okay. But Malbah, you were actually in Rome.”
“Yeah,” she said, “I was! I took a lot of measurements during my visit.”
“Right,” said Crowley, “that’s something. And Thaïs, you’re good with languages.”
“I certainly study them,” she said.
“Wonderful,” said Crowley. He did not sound entirely convinced.

“Let’s start,” he said, and cracked open the textbook.
“What about you?” asked Malbah quietly.
“What about me?”
“Your skill. You know.”
“Well,” said Crowley, thinking quickly, “I’m a quick thinker, I have a good memory, and I understood today’s lecture very well.”
“Oh, good,” said Malbah, “I was a bit confused with that example he gave about the horses.”

***

They finished the assignment in just over an hour, and Malbah and Thaïs bid them goodbye and headed to their next classes. Now that that was out of the way, Crowley focused on his real priorities.

“Is there any sleeping at university?” he asked Steve.
“Oh yes,” said Steve. “Not everyone sleeps, but it’s definitely an option. Have you seen the dormitories?”
“Do you think,” Crowley said, “I would be asking that if I had seen the dormitories?”
“Fair enough. Hey, I still need two roommates before they give me the room.”
He looked at the sloth demoness and at Crowley.
“Would you two be willing to join me?”
She and Crowley agreed, and followed him across the lower field. They passed a demon in a weird hat trying to tell a hellhound to sit who got frustrated, turned himself into a dog, and repeated the command in barks. Some other students were playing catch with a disc. Both of these activities were normal.

“Ta-da!” said Steve when they reached the dormitories.

Unlike the library, the dormitories were not magnificent. Bits of the floor seemed to be breaking off, and the first floor smelled slightly weird.

“It’s nice,” Crowley said, and lied.
“Not really,” said Steve, “but I might be able to get us a good room if there’s any left. Wait right here, I’ll be back with the keys.”

He stepped into an office and came back ten minutes later.

“Okay,” he said triumphantly, “I’ve gotten the three of us a single, but it comes with a bunk bed and a couch, so it’s basically a room for three. Also, there are only two keys, but I’m sure we can manage. What do you say?”

“I say dibs on the top bunk,” Crowley answered.

***

Crowley spent much of the first week getting to know the campus. Malbah, who shared his love of eating, showed him other places to eat on campus besides the dormitory cafeteria, which was awful. There was, for example, the less-known cafeteria in the basement of the engineering building, which was awful but not quite as awful. She also explained how the meal tokens worked.

“You get a certain amount every week, but it’s not enough to eat decently, and it’s not supposed to be enough to eat decently. That’s because the city doesn’t want university to make demons soft, so it’s a sort of compromise. You’ve got to find other ways of getting more tokens. You can exchange things for them, or win them in a game of dice, or whatever works. Thaïs and I find pickpocketing is the most effective method.”

Crowley’s hand immediately reached for his pouch. Malbah laughed.
“Don’t worry Crowley, I wouldn’t rob you. But I can give you more advice about this place if you buy me lunch.”
It seemed a fair enough exchange to him.

***

Crowley got used to the schedule of classes very quickly. He only had to take four. These were Pera’s intense-intensive intro Latin course, a conversational Latin course, a theory of damnation of the human soul course, and a Roman mythology course, which was actually quite easy. But Pera’s course counted for double the amount of credits, because it was supposed to be two semesters of intro Latin packed into one. Consequently, it was double the work.

This wouldn’t have been as bad if Pera had been good at explaining things clearly in class. Two thirds of the time, he read directly from the book and wrote nothing on the board.

***

“Are you getting any of this?” Malbah asked Steve in class.
“I am, in fact, getting none of this,” he answered.
“I think he’s saying why some prepositions take the accusative,” Crowley whispered.
“There was a pattern?” asked Steve. “I was just writing down a list.”
“The list’s in the book anyway,” Thaïs whispered.
“Where’s our roommate, by the way?” Crowley asked Steve.
“Greenie? Sleeping in.”
“Don’t call her that,” Crowley said, “it’s not easy being green.”
“True. Sorry. I just didn’t have the heart to wake her. I think she’s nocturnal.”

“Are we having an interesting conversation in row three?” Pera asked, smiling thinly.
“I was just asking them a question about prepositions,” Steve said, “Sorry.”
“If it was related to class, you don’t have to be sorry,” Pera said, resuming a normal facial expression. “But if you have questions, I’d rather you asked me or your classmate Corinna, who is helping with the tutoring. She was stationed in Rome for fifty years six centuries ago!”
A couple rows behind them, the demoness called Corinna gave a little wave. She was sitting between Hastur and Ligur.

***

After class, Crowley was bored rather than hungry, since he didn’t technically need to eat, and the food on campus was mediocre at best, but his feet somehow led him to the hallway lined with lockers outside the engineering cafeteria. None of his friends (acquaintances was probably a better word, since demons technically didn’t have friends) were there, but he did see a familiar face. It was Corinna.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hail Satan,” she said. “You must be Crawly. Ligs and Hazza have told me about you.”
On some level, Crowley’s brain registered the nicknames, but dismissed them as too ridiculous to be true, and reassured him that he’d heard wrong.
“Yes,” said Crowley, “I thought they probably might have done.”
“Aren’t they something?” she mused.
Crowley took a deep breath before he spoke.
“Listen, you seem nice and I’ve got to tell you this. Those two are bad company. They’re backstabbers and cowards and generally cruel. You really don’t want to spend your time around them.”
Something vicious and inhuman lit up behind Corinna’s eyes. She smiled.
“Do you know why I study with them?”
“Because...they’re struggling and you want to help them?” Crowley tried.
“What, out of the kindness of my heart?”
“Uh...maybe?”
“Wrong. It’s because it’s useful for me to have them owe me one. Alliances are important. Oh! Here they come right now. Watch this.”

Crowley watched uneasily as Ligur approached.
“Is this snake bothering you?” he asked Corinna.
“No,” she said cheerfully, “but we’re low on meal tokens. You know what to do.”
“Give me your food money,” said Ligur, stepping far too close to Crowley.
“Oh, please,” said Crowley, trying to feign mild annoyance but winding up closer to strangled dread, “children do this. Not university students.”
“That’s right,” said Corinna, “university students do this in Latin.”
“Da me–”
“Mihi,” Corinna corrected gently.
“Da mihi pecunia, uh, no, pecuniam?”
“That’s right, it’s accusative.”
“Da mihi pecuniam alimentariam tuam.”
“I don’t want to,” said Crowley.
“In Latin, please,” said Corinna
“Uh, nolo, I think. Hang on, this is ridiculous. Come on, the cafeteria food isn’t even that good.”
Corinna cleared her throat. Crowley crossed his arms.
“Are you refusing?” Ligur asked.
He was awfully close now and Crowley could smell his very breath. Or, better put, he was very close now and Crowley could smell his awful breath.
“Is he refusing?” asked Hastur, who had just joined them.

Part of him wanted to stand down and avoid a fight, and part of him didn’t want to give in. This part of him was his pride. It was an important part of every demon.

“I am refusing,” Crowley said.
“Pugnam visne?” Hastur asked.
Crowley took a few seconds to parse that.
“That’s technically correct, but ‘num pugnam vis?’ sounds more natural,” Corinna was saying as Hastur’s fist whizzed towards his face.
He ducked out of the way and swung a kick at Hastur’s ankle to set him off-balance.
“So you do want a fight?” Ligur asked, grinning.
Hastur got to his feet, grinning as well.
“Go on, snake, hit me. Just try. Fabricati diem, punc.”

The three advanced towards Crowley and he stepped back till he reached a wall.

“Fabricati is the genitive participial form, not the imperative, and not exactly the best verb in this context,” Corinna tutted. “You want fac.”

They closed in around him. Crowley was thinking about how to get out of this one with his skin on. Getting out of this one with his dignity was no longer on the horizon. He swung a fist at Hastur, but Hastur caught it in midair

“Oh fac,” Crowley said.


***

To Be Continued



Happy Holidays, Bravinto, from your Secret Writer!
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