Ciaran lit the match with a careful, deliberate gesture, then bowed to touch the flame to the kindling beneath his fire. Each stick and log was touched with his blood, and the black steel fire pit was covered with incised inscriptions in the First Language: commands to give it purpose, and constraints to maintain control. Six small, rolled-up scrolls contained additional pleas specific to this ritual, set at intervals around the edges of the fuel.
The flames spread quickly, taking root in the wood and reaching out. They touched the scrolls and consumed them, and Ciaran nodded to himself as the fire suddenly rushed upwards, voracious. It found the offering atop the wood, consuming the meat and gnawing at the bones in a rush of heat; then the fire collapsed, leaving a bed of glowing coals. They winked, red and black and red again, giving the disturbing sense that the remains of the pyre now regarded Ciaran with every bit as much intention as he regarded them.
It formed slowly, outlined in the smoke that drifted up from the coals: something that was and wasn't a face, new-formed but horrifyingly ancient, bodiless but very much alive...
Ciaran spoke a name, and the thing replied with his own: a faint whisper that sent sparks rising from the coals to outline the smoke-framed hints of its features.
"I bring you sacrifice," Ciaran said. "Meat, bone, and blood."
It is good.
"It serves my interests to keep you happy, O wise and powerful spirit."
And how would you see your interests served? You know the price of further power.
"I have not forgotten. But my brother is sly, and now he is wary. He moves around. He is hard to catch."
You ask nothing, then?
Ciaran nodded carefully. "I would not have you grow displeased while I hunt."
A word, then: your brother is being watched. Tread carefully. Seek him in the places of his interests, but tread carefully.
Ciaran nodded again, and the fire collapsed in on itself with a sudden, unnatural hiss. He held out his hand, and found that the ashes were cold; the Great Beast had taken the last of the heat when it departed. Well then, he thought, and shivered. A small sacrifice for a small bit of knowledge, and a small price to assure his provider's continuing goodwill. He would need to find a better sacrifice for the next one, especially if he had not found and crucified Edhem by then.
Edhem, who might be found in the places of his interests: fortune telling and magic tricks, the things that looked like sorcery but weren't. Edhem, who was being watched... and watched by someone or something consequential enough that the Great Beast had felt it was worth a warning. Edhem, who needed to die so that Ciaran could complete his bargain with the Great Beast and finally come into the fullness of his power.
All right then, Ciarin thought. Let's do this.