I just started reading the Bartimaeus sequence and I am probably overlooking important stuff. But

I wonder: why Bartimaeus doesn't return to retrieve the Amulet of Samarkand, so as to shield himself from any punishment by Nathaniel?

Especially after having discovered his birth name. The original command doesn't appear to forbid that:

‘I charge you to take the Amulet of Samarkand and hide it in the magical repository of the magician Arthur Underwood, concealing it so that he cannot observe it, and achieving this so stealthily that no one, neither human nor spirit, on this plane or any other, shall see you enter or depart; I further charge you to return to me immediately, silent and unseen, to await further instructions.’

Many punishments discussed should be absorbed by the amulet, for example:

  • Shrivelling Fire
  • Systematic Vice
  • Stimulating Compass

Finally, Nathaniel threatens Bartimaeus with indefinite confinement. Would that not be a spell targeted at Bartimaeus, absorbed when triggered, much like that magical trap at Lovelace's place? The trap at Lovelaces estate was not cast on Bartimaeus, yet the effect was absorbed. I see great parallels to the confinement cast on the tin box.

EDIT: regarding dismissal: isn't that precisely what Bartimaeus wants?

  • Surely the part about “returning immediately” and “awaiting further instructions” would preclude Bartimaeus from returning? Besides, I doubt that the Amulet would block a Dismissal, after which Nathaniel could just pick up the Amulet. – Adamant Feb 13 '17 at 23:21

Well, first, I suspect that the order to return immediately would have precluded Bartimaeus from simply putting the amulet down and then picking it up again. This was undoubtedly the point, since Nathaniel is known to be fairly careful with his phrasing.

The part about “awaiting further instructions” would presumably preclude Bartimaeus from simply going right back, or indeed doing anything else he might want to do, as we see from the fact that Bartimaeus does indeed follow Nathaniel around:

With that, my assignment was complete. All that remained was to return to the boy. I exited cupboard and study without any hiccups and set off back upstairs. This was where it got interesting.

I was heading up to the attic room again, of course, using the sloping ceiling above the stairs, when unexpectedly the boy passed me coming down. He was trailing in the wake of the magician’s wife, looking thoroughly fed up. Evidently he had just been summoned from his room.

I perked up at once. This was bad for him, and I could see from his face that he realized it too. He knew I was loose, somewhere nearby. He knew I would be coming back, that my charge had been to return to him immediately, silent and unseen, to await further instructions. He knew I might therefore be following him now, listening and watching, learning more about him, and that he couldn’t do anything about it until he got back to his room and stood again within the pentacle.

The Amulet of Samarkand

We see that both Bartimaeus and Nathaniel have basically the understanding of Nathaniel’s instructions that I outlined above.

Now, could Bartimaeus have simply disobeyed Nathaniel’s orders, while carrying the Amulet, in the hopes that it would protect him from the Shriveling Fire? Possibly. But, assuming the possibility occurred to Bartimaeus, why would he take this risk? The Amulet is designed to protect magicians against external attack, not to protect spirits against (internally-originating) penalties related to their enslavement. Would Bartimaeus really want to risk his very continued existence for the mere possibility that he would be able to torment or kill Nathaniel without penalty? He bears a great deal of antipathy toward his masters, sure, but not enough to risk his own essence.

But perhaps more important, I don’t think the Amulet would have protected Bartimaeus from the most useful spell Nathaniel could have used: the Dismissal. There’s no doubt that the Amulet would have absorbed the attacks mentioned in the question, and perhaps even the Indefinite Confinement. However, the Dismissal is not really an attack, and would probably not be recognized by the Amulet as harmful (quite the opposite). Moreover, the Dismissal merely breaks a spell that already exists (namely, that binding the spirit to the material world in the first place), and doesn’t produce any new magical effect, so it’s doubtful whether it even “counts.” Once Nathaniel had dismissed Bartimaeus, he could merely pick up the Amulet.

  • I think I get it, but wouldn't dismissal be a victory for Bartimaeus, as he would be free? – Ludi Feb 14 '17 at 12:02
  • @Ludi - Nathaniel could just bind him again. – Adamant Feb 14 '17 at 14:25
  • Yes, but it should take some time, leaving Bartimaeus free to tell other demons his real name etc., right? – Ludi Feb 14 '17 at 19:55
  • @Ludi If Bartimaeus had been dismissed he wouldn't be able to tell anyone anything as he wouldn't be around. – Bellerophon Feb 26 '17 at 14:35
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    @Ludi It seems they can't, or more likely don't bother about communicating things like names. As for someone else summoning him, it is unlikely he would be summoned within Nathaniel's lifetime. – Bellerophon Mar 4 '17 at 18:59

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