Ky was on his feet before he was fully awake. It took him a moment, his eyes narrowed and full of sleep when another loud knock came from the door across the room.
“Ky, we need to talk.”
Ky recognized his father’s voice and internally groaned. He rubbed at his eyes with his palm as he sought out a pair of pants. He looked around. Mag was curled up back in the corner by the bathroom, his wings tight around him like a shield, one eye peeking out. Ky flashed him a reassuring smile. Feral and Lovely were on the bed, trying to burrow down no matter how loud his father knocked. Ky wanted more than anything to be with them atm.
Yeah, hold on. I’m coming.
Where’s your mother’s car?
Aw, shit. He slapped his hand to his forehead. He had totally forgotten.
When Ky opens the door, he lies through his teeth, knowing Marcus doesn’t want to know how he got home really. I got a ride. Some girl named Piper.
We didn’t hear you come in. We were waiting. You didn’t even have dinner.
Ky ignored the churning in his stomach at the thought of food.
Marcus, a plea for the wands, a hardness in his eyes. He’s too afraid to cross into the room. Ky pulls a shirt on while his father makes demands he has no intention of ever meeting. This was not the way he wanted to start the day.
I want an ultimatum from Marcus. He doesn’t want Ky involved with these people. He doesn’t want him involved in magic at all. He needs to stop this.
Marcus is tense, his jaw grit, eyes haunted. I don’t know, Ky. I can’t live with this nonsense. I can’t wonder about your safety. I can’t have the police coming down here to tell me you took a flying leap off a building to see if you could fly or something. I can’t do this. So either you need to stop this path you’re taking or… he takes a deep breath, his eyes turning from Ky. I don’t know. This can’t continue.
Ky is left feeling hollow. He’s going to lose them. He’s losing his father over this shit, and possibly his mother too. This wasn’t his choice, this wasn’t what he wanted, but it’s not like he had any other option. He wasn’t going to abandon the Relics. He wasn’t going to let them be killed off by a coven of slave traders. Not if he could help it, anyways.
What? Marcus seemed jolted from his thoughts to hear Ky speak.
Okay. You have to do what you have to do. Ky pulled a boot up his leg, zipping the side until it was snug at the top of his calf. An idea struck, and he grabbed Anselm’s wand from his bureau. It tucked perfectly into the side of the boot and Ky quickly pulled the other on so he could hide Tobias’s wand away as well. Marcus watched him warily when Ky approached and pushed Livia’s car keys into his hand. I have to go. That hearing this is in an hour and I want to be ready.
Ky… Marcus stared at his hand, then back to Ky. Where is this place? How are you getting there? Do you have a plan to get home?
Ky fights the familiar dread as he wonders if he’s ever coming back. Don’t worry about it. I’m really sorry about mom’s car. Ky paused when he heard the rattle of chains behind him and Marcus stiffened. Ky tried to read his father’s face as he peered behind him into his room to where Magnificent had shifted on the floor.
Ky felt a deep twinge of pity as he watched the fear wage with renewed anger on Marcus’s features. I am sorry, dad. Really.
Marcus blinked, fixing his harried gaze back his way.
That I’m doing this to you. That I brought it all back. Ky nodded to the gargoyles above. They’re about the most boring thing in this entire house and you can’t even handle them. It should have died with Anselm, but I ruined it. I’m sorry I fucked it all up for you. I’m sorry I keep scaring you.
Once Marcus is gone, Ky turns to find Lovely sitting up waiting for him. Feral was gone, and Ky glanced at the ceiling, sensing he was above in the attic. Maybe he was hiding, afraid to show him the fear he felt. A tentative plan had formed in Ky’s mind before he finally slept, and he feels a mild peace as he stands in front of Lovely and slides fingers through his long hair.
I’m coming with you.
No. Ky gives him a long look. If I take your collar off, will it break the link?
Lovely refuses to answer, his expression grim.
What if I take my collar off? Will that break all my links to the relics connected to me?
That would be madness! You would be completely defenseless.
It was the answer Ky wanted, and a weight lifted from his chest. He stalked over to his bureau, looking for his eyeliner. Lovely watched him through the mirror.
What are you going to do?
I don’t know. All I know is I can’t trust these sorcerers. So if it goes bad and it looks like they’re going to kill me, I’m cutting you all loose. His eyes met Lovely’s through the mirror. Which is why you can’t come with me. You need to be able to run. Liem knows you’re here and I’m sure he’ll go for Magnificent Night the moment he thinks he can get away with it. The chains cripple him and the wards here aren’t great, so… yeah. Ky fell silent, thinking of how he failed even that. Couldn’t make a fucking ward work to protect his family.
He peered into the mirror, carefully outlining his eyes in black. He looked older, grim. His new earring glinted and he paused, staring at it a moment. The fear had left him last night. Maybe from the ritual, knowing he carried a piece of Tobias within, the strength of a monster plus a piece of every relic he ever bonded to. Or maybe his fear had grown so big it had just swallowed him up, because he didn’t feel like himself this morning. The air felt heavy, like a storm was coming, but Ky was calm, ready.
Ky, don’t do this. Lovely’s hand grasped his arm and slid down to twine their fingers together. You don’t need to be alone. We are stronger together.
Ky smiled faintly. Even now, Lovely thought of him instead of his own fragile existence. He knew what would happen if those sorcerers got a hold of the relics. He couldn’t let it happen. Mag’s a requiem. That means he can feed you. Take care of him, Lovely. He’s really broken. He’s going to need someone like you; someone who cares. You should take my brush, he added softly as he looked to where Mag was curled up on the floor. Take care of his hair.
Ky, listen to me. We can fight. Lovely shook the links on Ky’s collar. If you summon us all, we can fight and win against these sorcerers.
Ky shook his head. How many sorcerers will be there? Do they have wards to keep relics from being summoned in? Will they just kill me the second I step into that place? I don’t even know where the hell I’m going. Ky placed his hands on Lovely’s shoulders, relieved to find they were steady. I’ll take my master collar off. When I do, you need to run. Right away. You know this is the only option.
Ky could see the understanding in his eyes even if his jaw was set in a defiant expression. I’m sorry I said those things to you. I’m sorry I got everything so confused. I love you so much and…
Stop apologizing, Lovely hissed, grabbing two fistfuls of Ky’s hair and kissing him fiercely. Ky whimpered, opening to the brutal kiss, a sigh escaping him when Lovely pulled away to glare down at him. You’re coming back. You’re coming home. I did not bond with you just to have you die!
Ky smiled breathlessly, his heart feeling too big for his chest as he stared up into Lovely’s beautiful, mismatched eyes. He could see tears trying to break free, and Ky slid his hand up, rubbing his thumb over Lovely’s red lips. I’m not planning on dying. But if it happens, I’ll feel a lot better if I know that you’ll live through it. That you’ll run and find a safe place to hide. Promise me, Lovely. Just promise me this and I can face whatever the hell I have to face today.
Lovely’s glare grew. With a hiss, he released him and whirled away, his tail slashing the air. I will never be able to find you in this world if you take that collar off. If they capture you, I will not be able to save you. He turned back, pointing at Ky aggressively, his brows in a sharp V. You do not take it off unless you’re going to die, you understand? Even then… frrl. He turned away again, his voice breaking and a tear streaking down his cheek. I can heal. I’m a healer. Do not be rash with this decision, sweetling.
I won’t. Ky licked his lips, watching Lovely’s tail twitch in agitation. I won’t do that to you.
Good. Wipes at his face brusquely. Redless! Time is running out.
Ky looked to the wardrobe, not surprised to find Feral watching. Feral stepped forward, a long piece of black leather draped over his arm. Mag’s head shot up when he saw it, his eyes narrowed as he sniffed the air.
It’s the master’s old coat. Unfolds it and holds it up. You should dress like them. Do not let them think lowly of you. You are a master summoner with many demons, not one of those apprentices. You must blend in with these sorcerers. Show no emotion. Most important, do not let them see you feed. Feral’s eyes bore into his. If they know what you are, you will never be free.
Ky nodded stiffly, staring at the coat that smelled like dust and maybe it was his imagination, but old blood. It was a long leather trench coat with smooth onyx buttons inlaid with geometric silver designs. Embroidered cuffs, silk lining of black on black paisleys. It looked like Anselm had stolen it from a vampire’s castle. Ky’s lips twisted down and his brows furrowed. Were vampires real?
Wear it. Place Anselm’s wand here. Feral pointed to a hidden pocket made specifically to hold the instrument. No matter what, let no one touch you or take your wand. He held the coat up and Ky turned, sliding his arms into the leather. He felt mildly sick, like he was sliding into Anselm’s skin. 15 years dead and the man still haunted his clothes. Ky glanced at himself in the mirror, glaring at who he saw there. He was cloaked nearly as black as the relics, but instead of shadows it was magic and pompous ceremony. He pulled his hair up into a ponytail, his bangs half obscuring his face. He sought out his black lipstick and traced the color onto his lips. He didn’t care what people saw when they looked at him, but the last thing he wanted to do was look like Anselm when he said goodbye to Mag.
Feral’s fingers teased along the strands of his ponytail, and Ky turned.
Act like an asshole, whelp. Like the world is dirt beneath your shoes. Like you don’t care if relics are killed, just so long as you’re doing the killing. Don’t let them see your heart. I know men like this. Any weakness, any, and they will use it against you. Don’t fall for their lies and don’t cry. Bawl when you come home, not out there.
Feral’s eyes glared into him, and Ky could feel his fear. If I come home crying, you can’t make fun of me, Ky pointed out quietly.
Come home. We’ll see how much I can tease you then. He turned his head to where Mag was sitting. You better come home, whelp. No one else can help him the way you can.
Ky took heavy steps to where Mag was, his eyes on his curled horns and bowed head. Ky wished he had washed his hair last night. Wished he had brushed it until it shone. Wished he found a way to get those chains off of him. Wished there had just been more time to watch this man return to life and see who he really was.
I’m leaving. He crouched down when Mag refused to lift his head. Lovely and Feral will be here if you need anything. And if something happens… If I can’t convince these assholes that Tobias’s relics are mine, and it all goes to shit… Ky trailed off. Feral and Lovely will take care of you. They’re good people, Mag. I know it can be hard to trust, but you can trust them. You’re going to be fine.
Mag didn’t say anything, and Ky worried it was the coat, his face, every reminder of the man he kept insisting was really dead. Maybe it was just the blatant lie. Ky didn’t want it to be a lie but he had little hope Mag would be okay without someone to love him, wait for him to heal. I have to go. I don’t want to give them an excuse to come back here. He pushed up and jolted when Mag’s tail wrapped around his wrist.
Mag pulled him down until Ky’s head was resting on his shoulder. His wings wrapped around them, a dark sanctuary of heat and fluttering shadows. Ky understood why Mag hid in his wings now. It was peaceful and muffled the world outside to almost bearable. Thank you, Ky whispered. For not giving up after all this time. I won’t give up either.
Ky takes the card off the top of the bureau and grabs his lighter for his incense. The fear is palpable coming from the relics. This is an enemy they have never been able to defeat. They hadn’t won against Anselm, no it took a monster they all feared to kill the sorcerer. They didn’t fully know just how fragile a sorcerer could be—Ky only knew because he saw Tobias die. They were still just humans. Death would eventually take them. If he had any say, far sooner than later.
Ky lights the card, not sure what to expect. His eyes go wide when the flame turns green and he’s sucked into it hand first in a flash. The card falls to the ground and burns out while the three relics stare.