Awakening 2


Saturday morning arrived in premature warmth, the clinging chill of April in New England thawed by an incoming storm. Evan sat alone in the back seat of the expensive black SUV Stephan had insisted on Beverly buying, peering through dark tinted windows at the scenery gliding by. Beverly drove with the efficiency of a drill sergeant, the trembling in her hands too light to register on the heavy steering wheel. His robe and suit jacket were hanging up behind him to keep them from wrinkling during the four hour drive.

When Evan had called in to explain to his supervisor why he would be missing his Saturday shift, he had inadvertently lost his job. No one was allowed to compete with the Hierarchy for the attention of its students, not even popular fast-food chains. Evan was still trying to mull out how he felt about the loss. He had never been allowed to keep the money he made at his part-time job, instead forced to hand it over to Stephan for his ‘room and board,’ as if the man had ever put a penny towards the household himself. When Evan had come of age, Stephan promised to kick him out if he didn’t contribute in some way, seeing as he would never be worth anything magically in the man’s eyes.

Evan had taken the only job a boy his age could get with short notice and learned to cook grease for the masses. Having a job had allowed him to feel like he could pass in that world, that one day he would escape Stephan and his cruelty and slip away into the mundaneness of humanity. Now that hope had flickered out along with any source of money to keep Stephan content. If Evan wasn’t careful, he would be homeless for the upcoming months before the Hierarchy put him up in their dormitory.

He had gone online at the local library to get a feel for New York Hierarchy. The pictures had been beautiful; expansive, well manicured grounds, orchards to the South, gardens to the East, all in perpetual bloom even with the carpet of snow in one particular photo. The buildings had old money written all over them, at least from the outside. There were no pictures of the interior.

The Hierarchy’s website was even less helpful. There was no mention of curriculum, no teacher list, not even a blurb about dormitories and if they had them. All they had was a page on the Dean, reading along the lines of an overly thorough resume complete with ancestry tracking and ties to financial backers. It went so far as to include a Sandstorm Salamander as a great uncle, which, after some quick research, turned out to be rather terrifying and dusty for any sort of proper relative.

Evan didn’t understand why the Hierarchy would have so odd a webpage when all the other Academy websites were thorough on actually interesting and pertinent information concerning the schools. Maybe it added to the allure of mystery and power surrounding the Hierarchy, or maybe it was another form of manipulation. Perhaps to some people out there, knowing the family and corporate connection of a school’s Dean was of greater interest than the school itself. Apparently for those accepted into the Hierarchy, that was intended to be the case.

Evan brooded while the landscape grew thicker in green blurs whizzing by. The Hierarchy was away from the civilization of New York. There would be no dizzying city or corporate towers where he was going. He could have gotten lost in the city, slipped into the shadows, maybe found a job that didn’t know who he was yet, hidden away by a press of bodies full of normal.

The idea of the city was appealing, but the reality would have been unlivable for him. Evan wasn’t certain but he knew his magic was connected to the land, unblemished and unmarred by foundations and tar. That magic, that part he had hidden away before he could willingly admit that it was there, was just as much his soul as his breath and his blood. He could hide it, he could deny it, but he would never survive long in a place that suffocated with smog and noise. Maybe that was why he longed for the city. In some ways Evan was certain to kill that part of him might offer a better life.

“I will not be allowed through the main gates,” Beverly said abruptly. “You will be forced to walk in alone. You will not be the first to be unescorted. Remember, your mother also attended here even if she is not here to accompany you. Do not allow anyone to make you feel lesser, Evanel. The moment they sense your weakness, they will forever drive at it. Do not give them anything.”

Evan looked up, meeting her eyes reflected in the rearview mirror. Beverly viewed the world like a wounded predator. Someone had hurt her long ago and she kept expecting it to be repeated, be it physically or emotionally. Evan usually felt her advice did not apply to many of his life situations. This was not one of those cases and he nodded at her briefly, then turned back to the window as the trees began to clear, a large wrought iron gate in front of an even taller hedge blocking the landscape from view.

Beverly stopped the car shortly after, parking and turning off the engine. “I will be here Sunday evening, 10pm.”

“About Stephan…”

Turning in her seat, Beverly fixed him with a hard stare. “If you do not find someone greater to fear in that school, then you are truly a fool. Do not waste your thoughts on him now.” She took a deep breath, turning back to stare through the windshield at the seemingly impenetrable green and gate. “This is your future, Evanel. Everything before has already slipped away.”

Jaw tensing at the very suggestion, Evan opened the door, slowly slipping on his suit jacket and then robe. He brought nothing else with him besides a small notebook and pen that he kept opposite his wallet.

He hated when Beverly called him by his full name and she knew it. It was to remind him he wasn’t normal no matter how much he wanted to be. He couldn’t just slip away with the rest of the world. No, he had to be someone, and do something, and someone else was going to make sure it was what they wished it to be. Like being here in front of this gate in the middle of some nondescript forest on a Saturday morning. Evan would not be here if the Heirarchy had not chosen him, and now that he was chosen, he would likely find himself in many places with little choice on the matter.

Glaring at the fence, Evan walked up to where there was a small gate just large enough for a person to fit through. He reached for the handle, flinching back and hissing when something tore his finger open, blood dripping down to the ground. He glanced back at the SUV, Beverly expressionless through the tinted windshield. Glare growing, Evan stuck his bleeding finger in his mouth, kicking at the door cautiously only to have his foot move through as if nothing were there at all.

“Right. Blood activated,” Evan muttered with an eye roll, mentally hearing Stephan cackling in his ear for being so ignorant. Of course they had some sort of guard. How the Hierarchy had managed to get his blood on file and in their gate system when he hadn’t even given his confirmation was beyond him. But hey, magic. For all he knew, Beverly had sent in a damn dna sample. He didn’t bother waving goodbye, stepping through the illusion, magic rippling over his skin like a startling wave as he passed through the barrier.

“Evanel Reed?”

Eyes wide, Evan stumbled to a halt, not at all where he had expected to end up when stepping through the hedge.

“Yeah… I’m Evan,” he said, eyes wandering around the large room taking in the light marble floors and tall vaulted ceilings, wide windows trimmed with royal blue drapes. There were statues everywhere of creatures Evan had never imagined before, looking very lifelike and plausible in their stone glory. Realizing he was gawking, he snapped his attention to the young woman smiling at him indulgently from her chair next to him. She was petite with long brown hair, and looked like she spent a lot of her day smiling.

“Hand please,” she said, Evan just looking at her blankly. “Your finger. The bleeding one,” she added. Evan hesitated, knowing from Beverly that giving anyone access to your blood could lead to trouble and even death.

The girl sighed, her eyes sharpening. “Mr. Reed, I am trying to heal you so that you will not attract the attention of the many beings that attend this school and are known to succumb to bloodlust. Until you learn to heal yourself, you will need assistance when coming through the barrier. Hence why I have this lovely desk. Come now, give it up.”

“Umm… Okay.” Evan pulled his finger from his mouth and presented it to her, watching the girl carefully as she hovered her small hands above him. Warmth filled his hand, his finger tingling slightly before the pain immediately left. She went to give him a tissue but he quickly licked the rest of his blood away, not foolish enough to let her just collect it from him. She raised a brow at him but didn’t comment.

“I have a name badge for you and the school pamphlet. Please do not misplace your pamphlet; it is full of everything you will likely ever need to know about the Hierarchy, making it extremely valuable.”

Evan took the thin booklet, feeling the familiar tingle of magic within the cover. It was one of the expanding books, seemingly light and unimportant until the pages were being turned and started multiplying exponentially. He carefully tucked it into his inner robe pocket, frowning as he was then handed his name badge. “Do I have to…?”

“The entire time you are visiting, yes,” the girl said smartly. “It will not be required once you start your term. But for now, this will keep you out of trouble with any of the current students that you may run into, along with the teachers.”

Pinning the silver badge to his robe, his full name on display for everyone to see, Evan suppressed a longsuffering sigh. He did not know what the magical community knew about his mother, Beverly having shut herself away like a hermit many years ago. There had once been a lot of talk surrounding Cecilia Reed’s mysterious disappearance and he feared the potential conversations he might be faced with, walking in as her only child.

“There will be a speaker starting soon down the hall, Mr. Reed. This is the entrance you will find yourself in every time you pass through the school barrier. Eventually you will learn to change which building to arrive in, but for now just remember that you are in the Hall of Beasts. It’s simple enough, given the many statues.”

Evan nodded, glancing behind him for the first time since appearing in the room. There was no doorway, or green, or even gate to show how he had entered. In the middle of the large room there was a sliver of mirror, giant and suspended like a portal hanging in the air. The surface was reflective, his own wide, dark eyes staring back at him beneath shaggy, ash-blond hair.

He schooled his features quickly, trying to get the flush off of his cheeks and surprise from his face. He looked like some sweet faced, excited kid dressed in a suit instead of his miserable, dread filled self. Stern would have been better. Hell, blank and zombified would likely be the best. Maybe if they thought nobody was home, the Hierarchy would give up on him. Glaring in exasperation at his reflection, Evan settled for angry, his wide eyes and pouty lips always making him look too soft and kind.

“Do I need anything special to be able to leave?” He asked the girl at the desk.

“No. Just understand that you’ll be placed outside the barrier at the main entrance. If you try to enter with a vehicle, you will be automatically transferred to the garage. It’s all in the pamphlet. You should get going. The Dean will be speaking soon and being late is not an option.”

Evan took a step away towards the direction she pointed, then stopped, turning back. “Has anyone ever gotten kicked out of here? Expelled? Dropped out?”

Staring at him for a long moment, the girl placed both her hands on the desk, standing. She reached her hand out and hesitatingly Evan shook it. “You may call me Serena, Mr. Reed. I am a student here that watches the desk on weekends, and if you need help, I would be happy to direct you to how you can find it.”

Brow furrowed, Evan had a moment to wonder if maybe the girl was just confused and thought he was trying to get her attention, when she continued, letting his hand go. “The Hierarchy does not let their students go. Even if you are the most dreadful, dullest, talentless slob that has walked through our barrier, we will find a use for you. But believe me, we do not invite such people to our school.”

Realizing she actually thought he was looking for a damn peptalk instead of trying to figure out how to escape the place, Evan just nodded silently. He turned on his heel, heading to where two large doors were wide open, leading to the hall she had pointed to earlier.

As if he wanted assurance that he was good enough for the place—God, at least Master Collins had understood, as useless as the man had been to help. Maybe Serena was happy there. Maybe she was naïve, and dim, and really just wanted to impress others with showing the world she was special because she could do magic. Evan didn’t know. He just wanted out and needed to find someone that knew how to make that happen.

Evan found the group of students starting next term down the long hall and through two more large rooms. It had taken him a moment, statues still littering every room, to realize he had finally found the living and not just a colorful version of the inanimate.

It was also at this time that he realized that as formally dressed as he was, he was by no means appropriately dressed if he wanted to fit in. It was a mistake, one that Beverly would not approve of because he definitely stuck out in his suit and robes among the leather clad forms of the others. They were all dressed in Clan garb, looking like they had walked off the hunting field, or more the ritual dance depicting the hunt afterwards. Most of the clothes were still ornamental among their leather and blades, jewels and rich silks mixed in with dragon hides, leviathan scales, griffin feathers, and even one dazzling firefox fur. Evan was extremely underdressed and the eyes turning towards him as he walked in the door were already judging him for it.

He squared his shoulders and straightened, refusing to feel intimidated. He had spent a lifetime dressed in rags because Stephan didn’t think he deserved what it would cost to clothe him properly. He had never let that get to him, and he wasn’t going to let some damn overprivileged sorcerer brats think he was any less just because of his clothing. Hell, they were all just trying to show each other off anyways. It would be one thing if they were dressed for battle, at least that would have been useful. Evan wasn’t even sure how half the girls were walking, their heels so tall and skirts too tight.

There were about thirty people his own age and he suppressed another feeling of dread as he took a stance behind the group and faced towards the podium where they were gathered. The Hierarchy’s schools were by continent. In all of North America, this was all that was worthy to grace their hallways? It would be harder to slip through the cracks when there were so few students in his year.

He tried to avoid the curious gazes floating back his way, staring instead at the speaker that had yet to start speaking, the man chatting with his colleague animatedly. The students were in groups, and given they were all dressed alike, Evan had to imagine that they knew each other. Another disadvantage he could do little about. Not that it mattered. Making friends would only entrench him deeper into this world he wished to escape.

Someone slipped beside him, Evan glancing over when they stepped too close into his personal space. It was a girl, nearly as tall as him, looking more clan than ornamental with her dirty blond hair dreaded and weaved with pink and blue feathers, snakebite lip rings and skintight cream colored leather top and pants that made her tanned skin seem warm and rich. Peeking down, Evan could see she was also in a heavy pair of dragonhide boots, very much without a six inch heel. Considering they were dusty, she might of literally stepped away from a hunt to spend her weekend at the Hierarchy. She seemed less obnoxious if by clothing alone, but it didn’t mean Evan wanted her on his foot, so he took a step to the side to get some space.

Only, the girl took another step towards him, head ducked, eyes glancing his way curiously. Glaring, Evan took a large step away. “What?” He snapped when she went to follow him. “There’s plenty of room without crowding me.”

“You don’t like me,” she said with a bright smile, violet eyes glinting mischievously as she looked him over.

“I don’t even know you,” Evan said cautiously, not sure what her game was. She had a wide stance that fit well with the warrior blades strapped to her back. Very confident, very strong, very beautiful. Also, not completely human now that he saw her pointed ears covered in studs and rings, fanged teeth and long talons, which was probably why she was dressed like Clan and not in a costume.

“Well, you’re going to get to know me because you’re the first person in the place to not try to get in my pants after five seconds of being next to me,” the girl said bluntly, holding her hand out. “I’m Gilda Frey.”

Staring at her claws for a moment, Evan eventually shook the girl’s hand, her grip strong. “I’m Evan. And I’m gay, so that would be the reason for that, I guess,” he said with an awkward shrug. He really didn’t go trying to get into anyone’s pants, very much not wanting to complicate his already fucked up life.

“You’d think so, but I’m a Siren and it really doesn’t matter what you’re into when around me.” She tilted her head towards the people in front of them, Evan noticing now how the closer ones, boys and girls, had turned, staring at Gilda with very dazed expressions. Smirking, she stepped back, tugging his sleeve until he followed. It took a few steps but eventually each dazed face flushed and returned to staring at the podium as they waited for the orientation to start.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Evan said. “I’ve never met a Siren, so I really can’t say how I would act to one, guy or girl.”

“No, seriously, it really isn’t effected by gender… But we could test you out, just to see,” she mussed, looking around the room. “No male Sirens, but there are plenty of lust powered Clans around. We could try Dren, but his power doesn’t really work unless he’s trying… Ah, Vesper. Vesper is very strong. He has to stand across the room just to keep the prey off of him.”

Evan started, having gone to follow the girl’s gaze only to turn back. “Prey?”

“The pretty things that get sucked into my allure.” Pinning him with a piercing gaze, she smiled, revealing sharp fangs. “When you feed off of sex, you can’t help but see things a bit different.”

Evan swallowed hard, scratching the back of his head. “What… so you… eat people?”

Eyes widening in surprise, Gilda burst out laughing. “Oh my god, you’re like, like, so new to all this, aren’t you? Are you from some powerless family or something?”

Glancing at the people once again looking back at him, Evan didn’t answer right away. Maybe it would have been easier if he was just some ignorant hick that had never heard of sorcery, but this was the Hierarchy and being ignorant was far more dangerous than anything else. “I’m not Clan and I never met anyone Clan,” he said evenly, glad when the girl finally stopped her chuckling.

“Ah, I suppose that’s fair enough,” Gilda said lightly, once again stepping just a little too close for comfort. She ducked her head, whispering in his ear. “I’m not a cannibal, idiot. I drink down desire. It’s completely harmless… Unless you’re a prude, or something, and freak out over things like that.”

Evan could not tell if Gilda was absolutely annoying, or charming. She was definitely bold… And trying to lick him. He quickly placed a hand on her forehead and pushed her back, glaring at the smirking girl. “I don’t care what you fucking say, that is not some Clan greeting.”

“Will you look at that, you were able to push me back and everything.” Gilda’s smirk only grew the more annoyed Evan got, and he realized she was once again just testing to see if he responded to whatever magic she had that made everyone stop and stare at her.

“Are you trying to piss me off?” He wiped the side of his neck with the sleeve of his robe.

Gilda shrugged. “When all everyone does it stare at you and most of the time can barely say a word, you start looking forward to conversation. Even angry conversation. There are four other lust creatures in our class and I can talk to them easy enough. But we don’t much because we’re all just too alike.”

Evan relaxed slightly when he understood Gilda wasn’t actually trying to upset him. She was bold, she was blunt, and she was honest; all qualities he respected in a person. “Predators don’t get along much.”

“Exactly.” She smiled wider, fangs again making an appearance. “Competition. I had thought maybe you were one of us, walking in here in such inconspicuous clothing to lure the pretties into a false state of calm before you started hunting them down. But now, I can’t be so sure.”

“I’m not hunting people,” Evan said, amused.

“I can see that. But you’re also not one of the pretty prey flitting around… Not that you aren’t very pretty.”

“I’m also still very gay,” he reminded with a cough, not happy to hear himself refered to as being pretty.

Slinging an arm over his shoulders, Gilda pointed near the front of the room. “I prefer sweet things with thick thighs and hips like red over there. Most of the girls around here are very much conceited bitches and hardly sweet, though.”

Evan nodded. He was apparently not competition in any sense. “So you all know each other?”

“Years now. All sorcerers do is network. It’s damn exhausting, especially once they pegged me and started setting up inhibitors to keep me from hunting during the gatherings.” Resting lightly on the boy, she glanced down at his name badge. “It is definitely the first time I have seen you, Mr. Evanel Umbra Reed. Yet here you are at the Hierarchy of all places. How exactly does that happen?”

“Listen, Gilda, I’m more than happy to talk to you, but could you not be so touchy?” Evan lifted her arm off from around his shoulders. Physical contact was uncomfortable for him as it was, never mind with someone that kept referring to herself as a predator.

“Just the way of my kind,” she said unapologetically. “Get in my face about it enough and I’ll probably remember.”

Again, Evan found her blunt honesty appealing. She really didn’t give a fuck about anything. “My mother was Cecilia Reed. She attended here, back—”

“Oh, I know who Cecilia Reed is,” Gilda interrupted. “So you’re her bastard son, huh?”

Grinning wryly, Evan nodded. “The one and only.”

“Shit, no wonder you never came to the little socialite parties. These vicious bitches would have torn you apart.”

“Well, if you need to distance yourself to protect your reputation, I completely understand.” Evan had seen it happen before when he was younger and hadn’t understood what it meant to not know who his father was. Sorcerers were snobby, pretentious assholes that spent more time during the day listing off all their powerful relatives than actually bothering to do something substantial. He had lost friends that had been just as naïve as him until ultimately someone had informed them he wasn’t ‘appropriate’ and they had moved on. Then Stephen Grock had moved into his life and Evan had stopped even thinking about making friends.

“Please, I’m full blooded Clan and we don’t give a crap about who fucked who to produce whom. That you’re not drooling at my feet is fine enough for me.” Smiling broadly, she smacked Evan on the back, then went to put her arm on his shoulders. Evan intercepted the girl, stepping to the side and looking at her meaningfully. “Right, no touchy.”

There was a small commotion to the side, a large, angry man pushing a rather red faced boy back into the center of the crowd and away from the side of the room. Evan glanced further as he felt someone staring at him, ice blue eyes meeting his for the briefest of moments. Evan couldn’t help but stare once catching sight of the boy across the room. He was as pale as one of the statues, toned and lithe, his nearly bare chest and arms looking more sculpted than real under his straps of black leather. His hair was a bright curtain of shimmering platinum that brushed his shoulders and continued down to the center of his back, starting at his forehead in a sharp widow’s peak.

With his strong, aristocratic features and sharp eyes, he looked like some damn mystical elf, except Evan didn’t think elves ever grew over five feet, so probably not that. Definitely Clan… Another proper and predatory Clan, given the straps on his chest connected to weapons on his back. He was in some sort of ceremonial kilt, white wispy silk layered under heavy black hide and wrapped in more straps and buckles, his legs clad in leather pants underneath and heavy dragonhide boots. The boy glanced his way again and Evan immediately looked back towards the podium, not interested in getting caught staring like an idiot. Whoever he was, the boy was beautiful and likely dangerous.

“God, will this thing ever start?” Gilda muttered, flipping her dreadlocks over her shoulder.

“Are we waiting on someone?” Evan asked, trying to ignore the feeling of those sharp eyes touching on him again from the side of the room. That probably wasn’t right, being able to tell someone was looking at you. But he could tell and he couldn’t stop noticing now that he had seen the boy.

There was another commotion, the same angry man wrangling two students by their collars and dragging them towards the center of the room. Gilda glanced over this time, tsking softly. “That creature is a menace. That he’s allowed in here at all is insulting.”

Evan watched as the bald man manhandled the two girls, snapping at them to get a damn clue before striding away. He followed with his gaze, the man moving to the side and, sure enough, stopping in front of the beautiful boy that kept looking at him. Evan was certain he kept looking at him because the boy was definitely looking at him now, blue eyes almost glowing as they moved up and down his form curiously.

“Vesper Malice’s wild guard dog,” Gilda disclosed in his ear. “Don’t tangle with that bastard of a beast. He’s been enchanted not to kill but you never know with his type. Maiming and crippling aren’t quite death, after all. Vesper only has so much control over the thing.”

Eyes straying away from the pale boy, Evan took a better look at the angry man. He was unnaturally tall, muscles puffing out of his broad chest and wide shoulders even though he was in a suit. He didn’t wear sunglasses, something Evan had just assumed a bodyguard to do. No, the man’s eyes were bare, allowing everyone to see the strange fiery red orbs, no white in sight. Gold lines flowed like cracks over his face and skin, making Evan wonder just what the hell he was. “Why is he so… cracked?”

“Hellspawn. His master is a full demon, not to mention an essence eater. The dog might not be so terrible but his master is, and that’s who you deal with if you cross Vesper.”

“You mean… that boy over there is a demon?” Evan asked in a hushed whisper.

“Hell, no—You really are out of the loop. Thank god you’re pretty,” Gilda said with a shake of her head, feathers ruffling from the movement. “Vesper’s master is a demon, and a right terrible one. If you ever see the kid’s back, you’ll get it. He’s got a tattoo nearly covering all of it. He’s been marked by the demon, contracted to feed the hideous thing until one of them dies—Likely Vesper, given how long the monstrous creature has been around. That’s why he’s got the dog; to keep idiots away from his allure. The demon is a jealous thing and will probably kill anyone that makes an actual move on his prey.”

Dread shivered down Evan’s spine, his eyes again drawn to the platinum haired boy still looking his way. “What… What will the demon do to him?”

Exhaling sharply, Gilda suddenly stepped to the other side of Evan, blocking him from sight of the pale boy. “Essence eaters consume life force, not desire. Vesper’s contract starts on his birthday, when he will be slowly fed off of for how long, or how short as his fucked up master can control himself. Ten years tends to be the most a normal person can hold out, and thats with a weak demon. Vesper is not normal, and his demon is not weak. His demon is strong enough to manipulate contracts and worm its way into the Malice line, feeding off their ancestors for generations now.”

“Is this… Is this normal?” Evan asked hoarsely, realizing the beautiful boy was marked for death. “I knew demons existed but I thought they were used by sorcerers, not, well, masters of sorcerers.”

“It is unusual but not unheard of. The Malices are the most notorious for this particular problem. They bred the strongest magically and were targeted for it. They thought they were on the top of the food chain with their unearthly beauty, impossible allure and godlike powers, and then they found a predator even worse than them.”

Evan didn’t say anything as Gilda explained the situation as if it were just simple math and nature. The boy over there had not chosen his power, his family, his face or his fate. He had just been born into a bloodline where a demon feasted and he had been unfortunate enough to have caught the creature’s eye.

“So, everyone knows about this and the Malice line, and no one has done anything to help?” He finally asked, anger creeping into his voice.

“Look at you, giving a shit about an absolute stranger.” Gilda snorted softly. “What do you think would happen to anyone that tried to help? Like I said, the Malice line is about the oldest, strongest family of sorcerers out there. If they can’t defeat the beast, who the hell can? At least they were able to contract with it, keeping it from just draining them all dry in one go. They gain power from the union—Definitely an increase in fertility. Some of them probably think it’s a sweet tradeoff.”

“I have a feeling that kid over there doesn’t share your opinion,” Evan said tightly.

“He was bred for it. Like cattle for a burger. Vesper has known the score since the day he was born, so don’t waste your tears on him. He will exploit everything he can because he knows his life is short. His existence has been very comfortable up to this point and will continue to be. Not all of us can even have a guarantee of that.”

Evan just shook his head, shocked with the entire thing including how cold and heartless Gilda was about it. He was almost relieved when there was a sudden noise from the front, the crowd silencing and turning to watch as the Dean finally approached to speak. Evan tried to pay attention but his mind kept wandering back to the boy leaning against the pillars, forced to stand so far away just to keep everyone safe.

Part of the reason Evan had stuffed down any inkling of magic deep inside him and far from sight was because of Stephen Grock. Stephen was not a demon but he was a monster. He had figured out at a very young age that Stephen wanted power, and if he saw it, he would take it. Even from a small, parentless child. Evan knew what it was like to live with a predator, and not the silky, domestic type like Gilda, who was once again leaning her arm on him. Evan lived with a warlock that hated him for his bloodline and the power it naturally held while coveting it at the same time. When the warlock’s anger grew, usually after blissing out on elixirs with Beverly, he also struck out, having beaten Evan more times than he could count only to charm the marks and bruises away from sight even though the pain and scars remained.

Edward, Beverly’s son, might be able to get away with having power in front of Stephan because his mother protected him. Evan was on his own, his mother missing and probably long dead and his father an absolute mystery. Beverly was willing to give him a roof but not protection, very much a believer of survival of the fittest. Maybe Evan was stronger for it, maybe he had learned to hide and step careful or whatever nonsense his guardian liked to preach when flashing back to her time in the war. But that was him against one monster of a man. The silver haired boy was up against a demon that had ravaged his entire bloodline. It hardly seemed fair to expect him to be able to survive.

Evan closed his eyes, wincing inwardly. That wasn’t quite right. Gilda did not seem to think the boy would survive at all, just hold out for as long as possible, trying not to drown in the sick hunger of a demon.

He should mind his own business. There was nothing he could do but pity the boy. Evan had no magic, or at least, none he was willing to use. He was just some naïve, idealistic kid wishing to run away from his own crappy fate while hoping to help others do the same. The silver haired boy was in the same situation he was, just with a set master and type of death tattooed into his pale skin in black ink. They would not be able to help each other.