Folly series, Ben Aaronovitch Fanfiction: Pest Control Summary
Folly series, Ben Aaronovitch Fanfiction: Pest Control is a Folly series, Ben Aaronovitch Fanfiction write by a fan. we do not own the original story. New chapter release will be updated instantly on novelgates.com
Folly series, Ben Aaronovitch Fanfiction: Pest Control Summary:
How did Peter and Nightingale cope with magical problems that arose when Nightingale was on medical leave? Set between ‘Rivers of London’ and ‘Moon over Soho’, no particular spoilers for later books.
Folly series, Ben Aaronovitch Fanfiction: Pest Control first chapter:
“It’s not acceptable to me,” Nightingale said. “You can’t handle this on your own.”
It was the third time he’d said it, and I knew I wasn’t supposed to be getting him worked up, but I was a bit worked up about it too. “I’ve done all the reading,” I said. “It’s not that hard. And someone’s got to do something soon, because it’s killing people.”
“I wish I’d never let you near the reports,” Nightingale said. “I let you deal with that enchanted bicycle on Charing Cross Road on your own because it wasn’t too dangerous and it was causing a lot of annoyance. And the invisible pickpocket at Bakerloo. But this is not in the same league.”
“No,” I said, “it’s not. There are three people dead.” The old-style manila folder on the coffee table was closed now, but it might as well have been lying open. It contained a report from just outside London, a prosperous commuter town where in an ancient deer park, three people had been mysteriously killed in the past week. Dr Walid had examined the bodies and reported back to Nightingale, who said they had been killed by a minor demon.
The details of what exactly a demon was were frustratingly vague. According to Nightingale, it was a bit like a revenant only a lot less powerful, and typically, he had no idea about where it fit into any religion’s theology. Something magical that would come out, catch people, eat them or consume their life force or something like that, and then disappear through what Nightingale called a door into-well, that was where it got really complicated.
“The Dungeon Dimensions,” I had said finally when Nightingale was trying to explain, and he had given me that special annoyed look that he gets when I make references he doesn’t understand.
“Where they go doesn’t matter,” Nightingale had repeated. “They come out through the door, if they find people they kill them, and then they go back through the door, and unless you actually catch them in the act, you can’t perform the ritual to close it off again. They’re quite rare nowadays, more common in rural areas, and they only operate in darkness. I’ve dealt with them before.”
But not right now. And according to my reading, this was the sort of thing that got worse over time, like when you had one ant in your kitchen one day and fifty the next. “We can’t just wait around until, you know-“
Nightingale’s brows drew down. Until Dr Walid cleared him to return to duty, or at least perform magic. He’d been seriously stern about it when Nightingale had been released from hospital, telling Nightingale four times in my hearing that he was not permitted to do any magic, and then telling me as well, as if I had any control over what Nightingale did. While he’d been on bed rest it hadn’t been that hard, but now that he was up and about again, even though he was mostly in a wheelchair, he was getting itchy at the restriction. It had made my lessons even harder than before, because he had nothing to do but drill me on Latin and formae. (He gets really peeved if I call them formas.)
“It is very inadvisable to tackle these creatures on your own,” he said.
“Well, what about your other backup? Caffrey and his people?”
“I thought you said you did the reading,” Nightingale said. “Tell me why they can’t help us with this.”
I thought it through. “Oh. Yeah. Because of the glamour, or whatever you want to call it. It would get them.”
“Correct. The difficulty with these kind of demons is that they capture their prey by producing a very strong and powerful version of seducere. It produces terror in any individual who falls within range. Paralysing terror.” His voice was cool and clipped as ever, but I had a sudden and unwanted flash of just how the three people had died. They’d been two teenagers from a nearby school snogging in the park after dark, and a late-night dog walker. And the dog too.
“But so long as you resist it, all you have to do is set fire to it and it will run back to the door, and then you do the ritual to seal the door closed,” I said. “I’m good at setting fire to things.”
“A little too good,” Nightingale said dryly.
“And I’ve had practice at resisting glamours,” I said. “Mama Thames and Father Thames and Lady Ty have all tried it on with me. A demon’s got to be less powerful than a god, right?”
“That really isn’t how it works,” Nightingale said, but he didn’t sound quite as convinced.
“What would you have done before?” I asked after a moment. “Before I started here, if this sort of thing came up when you were on sick leave?”
“For this?” Nightingale looked down at the manila folder, where the pictures of the three victims were on the top page. He didn’t answer, but he didn’t need to.
Our demon was to be found in a well-heeled commuter town in Kent, a convenient half hour train ride from Charing Cross, full of spacious and expensive Victorian and Edwardian villas and some well-preserved seventeenth century bits on the High Street in between generic high street shops. Posh ones, though. I didn’t suggest stopping at the pub, even if it was a traditional tile-hung Kentish posting house. Not the kind of place where there would be much change from a tenner, and besides, I’m getting tired of being taken for Nightingale’s care assistant whenever we leave the Folly. Because I’m not, I’m his apprentice, and not in the modern apprenticeships sense either. More the solemn oath of loyalty, ten years minimum of training, padawan sense. Except I still know more about the Force than I do about magic. My Latin’s getting better, though.
It was an hour before sunset. Nightingale had been pretending to nap all the way through the headache that had been the M25 at rush hour, but the traffic had eased off now and the shops were closed, though given the warmth of the summer evening, there were middle-aged diners sitting outside some of the restaurants in the pedestrianised bits I could see off the High Street, and a cluster of people congregating outside a small theatre.
I navigated a Y-junction made even more complicated with zebra crossings, and drove a little way further, past some elegant Regency houses now doing duty as solicitor’s offices, and then opposite an old Norman church I took a left into a narrow high-walled lane that bisected the grounds of a posh school. It was a bit tricky to find, but I didn’t miss the turn because I knew where I was going. This morning, once it was clear that we were going to do this, I’d spent an hour setting things on fire under Nightingale’s critical eye, then taken the train down to scout the place out. Proper preparation prevents poor performance, according to my instructors at Hendon, and since poor performance meant being eaten by a demon, I was all in favour of proper preparation. Nightingale, for his part, had prepared for tonight by being unusually good about resting and staying in bed. Molly had eyed him suspiciously all day, and then glared at us both when I pushed Nightingale in his wheelchair out to the Jag after an early supper.
The compromise had been that I would do the setting things on fire and the ritual, and Nightingale would be in reserve to supervise. “I won’t do anything unless your life is in danger,” he’d said. “But you’re only four months into your training, and I’m not prepared to let you go into this alone, regardless of the circumstances.”
At the end of the lane was a ticket booth and a gate, closed and padlocked, and a DC from the Kent police sitting in a panda waiting for us. Nightingale had spoken to the Kent police earlier about our visit, and set me to figuring out a cover story for what had happened. I’d said a poisonous snake, which had earned me a lecture from Dr Walid on the difference between poison and venom, but it had been agreed that this would do as an explanation for what had happened to the poor sods the demon had attacked. A rare exotic snake on the loose in the deer park, kills three unlucky people, specialists from London sent to clear it up. That was the official story, and the Kent police would turn it into something believable. But the DC waiting for us, a skinny white guy with a haircut that would have got him laughed at in any London nick, must have known something more. He stared at me, and stared even more through the window at Nightingale when he thought I wasn’t looking.
“You sure you don’t want anyone else for backup?” he asked me. “We can have a whole mob here for you, any time.”
His budget must be doing well, I thought, or else he was seriously pissed off at the three deaths on his doorstep in this nice posh area.
“No,” I said, remembering Nightingale’s firmness on this point. “This is much safer. We’ve got radios, we’ll shout if we need anything.” There was a fire engine on standby too, though since it had rained all last night and this morning, I hoped we wouldn’t need it. There’s probably a limit to the number of tourist attractions you can set on fire before people start getting really pissed off with you, though I still maintain Covent Garden wasn’t my fault. Besides, I got it put out again, and nobody could prove I had anything to do with the burst water main.
With a final worried look he opened the gate for us, and suddenly we were out of the town and into the country. I drove the Jag along the paved track and up to the grassed car park. It was just getting dark, and the vast seventeenth century sprawl of the house stood over us, the limewashed walls glowing orange from the sunset light. I parked near a huge tree that even I could recognise as an oak. There were some old half-rotted fallen trees near the edge of the car park lying among ferny bracken stuff. Anything could be hiding in that, I thought. Why couldn’t people pave more of the countryside?
“This area was hit badly by the hurricane in ’87,” Nightingale remarked, and I decided not to point out that I’d barely been out of nappies in ’87. I’d seen the famous weather forecast on YouTube, though.
I got out and went for a walk around while Nightingale stayed in the car. According to him, the demon’s door would probably be within half a mile of where the victims had all been found, and away from any buildings or electric lights. The ground sloped steeply down from the car park away from the house and there was a nice wide flat grassy bit at the bottom, perfect for walking dogs, with some sheltered bits also perfect for a late-evening snog, if only I had anyone to snog. I walked along there for a while and looked up at the sides of the walk. It was called a gallop, according to the officer who’d shown me around the site earlier in the day, and I realised they meant that literally when I nearly stepped in a heap of horseshit that someone had just left lying around. Somewhere in the overgrown vegetation and fallen trees on the slopes on either side was probably where the demon had come through from the Dungeon Dimensions or whatever it was.
There was nothing now marking the places where the bodies had been found, but the Kent DC had shown them to me this morning: the teenage couple lying openly at the edge of the gallops, their backs to a stand of trees. The dog walker had been found further along lying in a tangle of bushes, her dog a little way off. I felt for vestigia at both places, but there wasn’t much. This was an old park, and a lot of people had been here, and the background was full of plant smells and kids running around, but nothing that felt like the demon. I wandered around a bit more, and took out my torch as I went back up to the Jag.
Nightingale had dozed off for real when I got back, and I sat outside the car on a log so as not to disturb him. He’d said there was no point starting anything until well after dark anyway. It was really quiet. I heard the far-off roar that I thought must be the motorway, and airplanes circling in the stack for Gatwick overhead, but it was all a long way off, and there were uncomfortable rustling sounds in the bushes and crunching noises. I nearly jumped out of my skin when a group, or herd or whatever, of deer came walking silently by barely ten metres from where I was sitting. I wished we’d brought Toby.
It got properly dark. My eyes adjusted some, and there was a half moon in the sky and the yellow reassuring glow of London to the northwest, but I thought they could have stood to put some streetlights in here. I got out my torch, but didn’t switch it on. The creepy animal noises continued, and I sat while the moon came up higher and I could see stars. It would have been properly romantic, if you liked that sort of thing and weren’t here with your boss hunting a hungry demon.
When I couldn’t stand it any longer I opened the door of the Jag. Nightingale woke with a start and blinked at me for a moment in the sudden glare of the Jag’s interior light. I looked away, because watching someone wake up is weird.
“Ah,” he said. “Time to go, then?”
“I think so.”
I still wasn’t sure what I thought of the plan. Nightingale’s idea was for him to be bait for the demon, and me to wait a little way away until it showed up, and then set it on fire. On the one hand, at least I wasn’t having to be the bait. On the other hand, it didn’t seem like a great idea for Nightingale to sit there in a wheelchair in the dark with a half-healed hole through his chest and wait to be eaten by a demon. But he seemed perfectly happy with the whole set-up, and he was the one who’d hunted demons before.
Nightingale laid his silver-topped cane across his knees and held a torch pointed downwards as I pushed the wheelchair along the drive we’d come up, then off the paved track and onto the gallops. Which were not paved, and though the grass had seemed pretty flat when I’d been walking along it, it wasn’t flat at all when pushing a wheelchair over it. See what I mean about paving more of the countryside being a good idea?
We went along the grass for a good ten minutes before Nightingale suddenly switched off the torch. “Here,” he said quietly. He made a gesture that I barely saw, pale hands against the dark grass, pointing me to the slope on his left. Obediently, I went.
According to Nightingale, demons were like most predators and preferred their prey slow and vulnerable, and Nightingale certainly fit the bill, apart from the bit where he could do magic so powerful that even the gods of the Thames listened when he talked. So even if it spotted both of us, it would ignore me and head for him. At which point I could make my move.
I turned my phone off and took the battery out of the radio on my belt, and then found as comfortable a place as I could to sit down on the slope, surrounded by rustling bushes, and waited. It had been a warm day and was only slowly cooling, but the land channeled the breeze along the gallops. I could see the outline of Nightingale sitting in the wheelchair, head up and tilted a little to one side, the pale oval of his face just visible in the gloom.
Sitting around waiting for something to happen is a major part of the job description for a police officer, and it wasn’t raining on me and it wasn’t too cold, so this beat a lot of stake-outs I’ve done before, but still, I was starting to think that maybe the demon had decided to stay home tonight. And then I hoped that if I started thinking that, it would make the demon appear, but the laws of narrative convenience weren’t on my side, and I sat in the bracken for over an hour more before I felt something.
At first it seemed like a part of my previous unease, since sitting in the bushes in darkness waiting for a demon to attack isn’t exactly conducive to relaxation. My hands were a bit sweaty and the Mars bar I’d eaten earlier was sitting heavily in my stomach. I had that feeling you get when you wake up on the day of a difficult exam, the same helpless foreboding. It got stronger, like waiting for bad news at hospital, and I felt myself crouching down lower without meaning to, and that’s when I realised that it wasn’t me having these feelings.
The demon was here. With that awareness, I tried to locate it. To my left, I thought, and coming closer. I waited a bit longer, then wondered why I was waiting. I was cold, queasy, and I suddenly desperately needed a piss, but I didn’t want to move. Every instinct I possessed told me to curl up, burrow down in the bushes and maybe it would pass me by. Instead, I sat up and looked out.
Nightingale was sitting still, not apparently reacting to the demon’s approach, and that made me feel a bit better. I stood up slowly. It took some effort to force my legs into motion, and not just because they’d gone pins and needles from sitting still so long. I tried to approach stealthily, but I could tell when it sensed me from the way the cold terror suddenly rushed over me, like being bowled over by a big icy wave on the beach, the time we had a holiday at Camber Sands. And like that time on the beach, I clawed my way back up again gasping and shaken and reaching for the forma to hang on to the way Nightingale had instructed me.
I took a few more steps closer, close enough to see Nightingale’s still and unrevealing face as he held the demon off. A little too well: the demon was concentrating all its attention on me. Nightingale saw it too, because I saw him lean back a little and deliberately let the demon get closer to him, lowering his guard. The terror receded a little, like being chest-deep in water instead of neck-deep, and I shaped the forma in my head, with all the heat and ferocity I could muster, opened my hand and said, “Lux.”
There was a moment where it drifted over the demon and nothing seemed to happen. Then it went up like a firework, and I turned my face away. Nightingale was doing the same, shielding his eyes. Then, just as Nightingale had said, the demon began to move away, and now I could see it go, blazing. I chased it. Its light destroyed my night vision, and I tripped and skidded over the grass, but at least there was no risk of me losing it.
The burning demon went about twenty metres along the gallops, then turned off up the further slope and up between two young trees. And vanished, like someone had flicked the switch. “Gotcha,” I said, and without taking my eyes off the place it had disappeared, reached into my pocket, pulled out a camping glowstick and cracked it. I felt a bit wary of getting too close to the spot, even though Nightingale had told me repeatedly that people, even magicians, couldn’t go through these doors and they were completely undetectable except by watching a demon pass through them. But I put the glowstick down on the spot, and as Nightingale had said, I could feel nothing.
“I’ve got it,” I called to Nightingale. Then I shivered.
“Peter,” Nightingale called back to me.
Parents of small children quickly learn to distinguish the scream of outrage as a child drops their Lego creation on the floor from the scream that means they’ve crushed a finger in a door. Police officers get good at identifying screams too, determining between angry drunks and people cornered in dark alleys by muggers. And there’s one further shout you react to, the surprisingly quiet but intent way a fellow officer alerts you that the wheels have seriously come off and they need backup now. I was running flat out towards Nightingale before my conscious mind had a chance to process anything at all.
There were three more of them, clustered around Nightingale like flies on blood, and despite all my urgency, the combined weight of their presence dropped me to my knees a couple of metres away. I’ve been in some tight situations, especially in the past few months, but nothing as overwhelming as this terror.
“Get up, Peter,” Nightingale said, voice taut, and I realised tears were running down my face. I managed to drag myself a little bit closer, and Nightingale abruptly pushed himself to his feet. One hand closed on my shoulder. For a few seconds, it was as if I was behind a shield, and my mind began to clear. I clutched for the forma, but when I opened my hand and spoke, there was a messy fizzle like a match not quite striking on a box. I tried again, too fast, with the same result. It was like when I’d been just starting to learn this forma a few months ago. I knew the shape was there, but I couldn’t get it right, like trying to play a tricky bit of music and flubbing it every time. Nightingale’s hand on my shoulder was shaking. I had a feeling he wasn’t going to be able to hold them off me much longer.
I really didn’t want to end up on Dr Walid’s slab with a Y-shaped incision down my front and my brain sliced open like a rotten cauliflower to serve as a warning for future apprentices – but there would be no future apprentices, because there would be no Nightingale to teach them, and whatever magical criminals were roaming London would get away with murder. And I would never figure out how to do the trick with the raincloud that follows you around.
I pictured the lab, and Nightingale watching patiently as I practiced, and opened my hand again. This time, the werelight blazed.
Nightingale let go of my shoulder, and whatever he’d been doing to shield us stopped, but the concentration needed to maintain the werelight protected me from the glamour. I threw the werelight at the nearest demon as hard as I could. It blazed up. Nightingale sat down abruptly in his wheelchair.
There was a surge from the remaining two demons, hunger and anger and determination, and I staggered backwards and caught my ankle on the footrest of the wheelchair, right where the nerve runs against the bone. Ever since Nightingale got out of hospital I’ve been fighting with the fucking footrests on that wheelchair. They swing out and whack you in the shins when you collapse it, they suddenly fall off and land on your toes when you pick it up to put it in the car, and then they get lost in the boot under a pile of go-bags and stab vests and reflective jackets.
This time I’m pretty sure it took some skin off my ankle, but I think it also saved both our lives. It turns out that hitting your ankle hard enough to make you want to hop up and down on one foot swearing will also completely drive a glamour out of your mind, at least for a few moments. And that was all I needed. I made a second werelight, and then a third. The two remaining demons blazed up and retreated towards where my glow-stick was still gleaming in the grass, leaving a trail of bright after-images on my retina like time-lapse photography.
I did hop on one foot at that point, then dropped to my knees a little way off and threw up my Mars bar. It was very quiet. I rolled away and lay on my side on the dew-damp grass.
“Peter,” Nightingale said. His voice was hoarse. “You need to close the door. You need to do it now.”
I had been trying so hard to block my mind off from the demons that it took a minute for Nightingale’s words to get through. I turned to look at him.
“Are you all right?”
“The ritual. Now. If you don’t think you can do it you need to get me over there so I can do it. We can’t have another incursion like this.”
“Yeah,” I said vaguely. “The ritual. Right.” I staggered up and went over to push Nightingale’s wheelchair over. It seemed incredibly hard to move, until I remembered to take the brakes off. We bumped over the grass and up the slope to where my glowstick was still waiting, and the simple physical effort cleared my mind a bit. “I’ll do it,” I said. I dug out my torch and passed it to Nightingale to hold for me while I got everything together. The light wavered, and first I thought it was lingering dizziness from the demons, and then I realised it was Nightingale’s hand shaking.
I had a mixture of coal dust and powdered chalk and salt prepared in my bag, and like I had done when talking to the ghost of Nicholas Wallpenny, I drew a thick circle around the two saplings, making sure it was big enough that the door was definitely inside it and there were no gaps. Then, staying well outside the circle near Nightingale, I read the words of the ritual aloud, and conjured my last fire of the evening into the circle I had just drawn. It flared up, red and purple and yellow flickers making a circle of flame around the door. Then there was a sound like lightning striking – or at least the way lighting strikes sound on TV and in films – and a burst of what felt like heat but didn’t warm me. Then there was another lightning sound, and all the flames and Nightingale’s torch went out.
“Sir?” I said, and my voice was a bit higher than I meant it to be.
“It’s all right.” Nightingale’s voice was as calm as if we were in the lab. “That’s how it’s supposed to work. Conjure a werelight.”
I did, and saw the two saplings were burnt black and the entire patch of grass singed. I walked around checking that there weren’t any smouldering patches of bracken, but all the fire was gone now. Nightingale had me push him up close to check everything too, and then said, “I think that’s done it.”
I moved my werelight back to check Nightingale. He was way too pale.
“We done here, then?” I said.
“I believe so.”
I bumped Nightingale back along the grass, up the hill and back into the car park where the Jag was waiting. He was holding himself in the tilted-sideways posture I recognised as an attempt to shield his injuries, and I tried to make the ride smoother, but there wasn’t much to be done. Dr Walid was going to kill me. I gave him a hand into the Jag, then wrestled the wheelchair into the boot. It still whacked me in the shins with the footrests, and the collapsing mechanism at the back pinched my fingers as well, and I swore at it even though it had saved my life earlier, because I have no gratitude when it comes to awkward mechanical objects causing me pain. Nightingale was leaning back exhausted in the seat. I started the engine and tried to get a response from the Jag’s temperamental heating system, but mostly succeeded in blowing stale oil-scented air over us both.
Down at the gate to the park, the DC was still waiting in his panda. He opened the gate. I felt too tired to get out, and just rolled down the window – manually, on the Jag, with a little handle.
“It should be all cleared up,” I said to him. “You can find the spot if you want, it’s been a bit scorched, but there’s no fire or anything. It’s gone.”
“I’ll speak to your SIO on the telephone tomorrow,” Nightingale added. “We’ll be heading back to London now.”
The DC thanked us, eyed Nightingale and me and asked if there was anything we needed. “No, thank you,” Nightingale said.
I drove back through the town, now silent and dark in the way small towns get after closing time. But there was a 24-hour Tesco on the outskirts, since the people who live in upmarket commuter towns may read weekend magazine articles lamenting how supermarkets are destroying traditional high streets, but they still want to get all their food in one convenient place with free parking and prices that mean you don’t have to take out a second mortgage. I pulled in and went into the coffee shop and came out with two steaming cups and a couple of pastries. Nightingale’s was tea with milk and two sugars, mine black coffee, and I suspect they were equally terrible, but Nightingale looked a bit better for it.
“You handled yourself well,” he said as I pulled onto the motorway. “Very well.”
I kept my eyes on the road because I didn’t want Nightingale to see that I was pleased at that. “Dr Walid isn’t going to see it that way,” I said.
“Don’t worry about Abdul,” Nightingale said. “I guarantee he will be so busy lecturing me that he won’t even notice you. Besides, it’s not your responsibility to worry about me. Quite the reverse.”
“Glad to hear it, sir,” I said. Then I added, “But-“
“Well, it’s not like I could just google for another wizard to teach me magic, is it, sir? If that shot had – you know, that would have been it. But you could get another apprentice.”
Nightingale sighed, and I could hear the way his breath rasped shallowly in his chest. “Abdul – once he got over the shock of it all – wanted to keep me in a glass case somewhere, preserved for posterity. It took me years to break him of that habit. I’d be obliged if you didn’t imitate him. I’d barely broken myself of it then. Besides,” he added, “it wasn’t that easy to find an apprentice. It took me four years.”
“Really?” I said before I could stop myself. I hadn’t thought I was that rare.
There was a smile in Nightingale’s voice. “Not because of your aptitude for magic, God help us, Peter. I asked twenty-six others before you. But you were the first who said yes.”
The road was empty. I looked sideways at Nightingale, trying to work out whether that was a compliment or not, but he had closed his eyes and wasn’t giving anything away. “The twenty-six others must have been idiots, then,” I said at last. “Lucky you got me.”
The Jag’s heating was finally kicking in as we got off the M25 and headed into Swanley and the outer boroughs of London. Nightingale yawned. “Lucky indeed,” he said. His voice was so bland I had no idea whether he meant it or not, and when I’d finished navigating an excessively complicated roundabout, he had fallen asleep.
Probably just as well. The kind of conversations you have when driving on empty roads at night are embarrassing to remember afterwards. But as I pointed the Jag towards the lights of London and the Folly, I thought that I wasn’t sorry the other twenty-six had said no.
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