The night is cold. Winter is clinging to the air, stubborn as if it refuses to die without a fight. You wrap your cloak around you tighter and adjust your thick scarf. The tips of your ears and nose feel hard with numbness, and you begin to fear frostbite. You cannot turn back. Night has fallen upon the forest, and your lantern won't survive the hike back to your rental cabin. Dense trees muffle the sound of the woods, not a breeze or a footstep or a single insect is out. It's almost as if they all know what is going to happen.
You've come a long way to find this place. It took many years and many libraries to search for this secret ceremony. You'd call it your life's work, but... well, all of that will come after. Tonight, with other believers, you will summon demons. You've always known demons weren't all bad... just most.
Of course, it can't be as simple as summoning. There is always a bargain to be struck and a sacrifice to give. Luckily, "sacrifice" isn't always the gorey things you've seen in movies. In fact, most demons you're interested in summoning have no use for living sacrifices. These demons require proof of your time and dedication: two weeks of further reading. As if you haven't read enough...
A flicker of light shines between broad tree trunks, and you can finally hear low chatter. You barely keep yourself from running toward the light, toward the candles and bonfires that are surely waiting there. It would do you no good to break an ankle out here. You might not be able to partake in the summoning if you did.
Dense, thick heat wafts over you as you pass through the final barrier of trees and to the ceremony. Indeed, the bonfire is the biggest one you've ever seen: at least ten feet high and with enough wood to keep burning for hours. Most of the others have shed off their warm clothing, sweating under the blaze of the fire. No one looks intimidating here. If anything, they look like something straight out of a summer music festival, or perhaps a frat party with as many drinks are out. A few people are even roasting marshmallows and making s'mores!
A woman walks up to you, smile bright and glasses fogged from the humidity.
"Hi!" she says as she hands you a sealed bottle of water. "You here for the summoning?"
You nod, out of breath from the long hike.
"Great! We'll start in a little bit. We're waiting for a few people. Hopefully, they didn't get lost..."
You pull off your scarf. Despite the near-frozen state you were in, the heat is nearly overwhelming you now. The woman takes your scarf and coat, asks for your name, and writes it on a little slip of paper. She tears it in half and hands it to you.
"Don't lose it!" she said, then bounces off to check your coat.
You take in a long breath and smile. You have a few minutes to wander and prepare.
Do you even know which demons you want to meet?