A section to comment on all the Demon Bonded books. You may find polls here, secrets answered, character bios–I’m not sure exactly yet. Please, if you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
Ky returned to the world in a flare of fire and blinding light. Panic slammed in his chest as he spun. Green flames licked at his coat, and he instinctively curled inward and tried to pat them out before they could burn him alive. The bright, green flame evaporated under his touch, leaving his fingers unscathed. Ky stared at his coat, pulling at the edges, but no char or holes were there to find. He lifted his head and grabbed at the links on his collar as his mind ticked.
“Where the hell am I?” Ky muttered, his eyes scanning the cramped, dusty room, counters, shelves and wooden furniture dotting the creaking floorboards. It was empty of life, and Ky’s gaze fixed on a small, square window where daylight streamed in and turned the dusty air into a golden ray of glitter. He took sure steps to the door, his boots clunking loud on the bare boards, and he wrenched the handle open. Hesitating, Ky slowly stepped out onto the porch smelling of fresh paint and stared out into the dazzling morning.
The world outside, if possible, was just as empty and void as the room he arrived in. A field of tall green grass spread out before him, with only a few sparse trees to break up the landscape. A worn, dirt path cut a wandering trail along the landscape, the only thing that passed for a road as far as his eyes could see. Ky pursed his lips as he approached the wooden steps that led down, but the new vantage revealed only more grass, dirt, and clear, unmarred sky—nothing to tell him where the hell he was.
It was disturbingly mundane considering just how he traveled there. With a final, suspicious glare to the picturesque scenery, Ky turned back to the door he passed through and studied it closely. The porch, much like the room inside, was choked with the dust coming off the unpaved road, but also held the clinging odor of barely dried paint. The banister was a deep green, its fresh coat of gloss already marred by the fine cloud of dirt in the air. The boards beneath his feet were a faded white, creating a path leading to the door tinted with the sandy color of the road that had come in with the steps of all who entered. The black door also had a sheen to it, the high gloss looking out of place with the rest of the worn setting. Ky’s eyes narrowed, and he peered closer to read the dull bronze plaque fixed on the wall next to the door.
Built in 1814 by the Aeternum Committee, this structure replaces the original standing house built in 1639 by Blackstone Falls founder, Edmund James Glover. It is the oldest standing building in Blackstone Falls, and is home to the Blackstone Falls Historical Society and Museum.
Ky’s mouth gaped open in outrage, and he whirled to glare at the unchanging scenery. “Is this a joke? The Aeternum is the town’s fucking historical society?”
Shaking his head sharply, Ky turned back and pushed the door open wide, truly seeing the inside of the room he landed in. The dim light was mostly from the ambient daylight fighting to be seen through the dust streaked windows. The back wall was lined with stately, floor length curtains, where a long counter stretched the width, and an unoccupied cash register rested to the side. There were glass displays throughout the room filled with random objects and mementos of a time long past in the town. Ky’s teeth grit tight as he stalked the length of the nearest display and took in the yellowed note cards hand penned in neat cursive, arranged to give additional information of the contents within. His anger grew as he glared at the black and white photos on the wall in understated frames, the well preserved writing desk that’s surface held multiple different brochures, the post card display that rotated at his touch, and the plastic key chains with the Blackstone Falls Historical Society emblem emblazoned on each.
He picked up one of the key chains, the metal cold beneath his fingers, and glared at the emblem. “Fuckers,” he snarled under his breath. No magic, no collars, no spells or even that stupid wand museum Moore mentioned. Nothing. There was only dust and the same old historical shit you’d find in any little town not full of slave trading, murderous sorcerers. His dark stare lingering on a stuffed raven with beady glass eyes, Ky shoved the tacky key chain into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone to check the time.
Were they fucking with him? Moore handed him a magical card while claiming that they were going to come and drag him out of his house if he doesn’t show for this hearing thing, and this is where it dropped him? Where the fuck was everyone?
Ky’s expression grew grim as another thought struck. What if Stewart Moore just wanted him out of his house at a certain time so he could try to steal the wands?
Ky’s hand patted down to the pocked in his coat, his breath coming out in a rush when he felt Anselm’s wand there. His boot was stiff with Tobias’s wand tucked up against his leg. He might not know how to use them, but he understood the horror that could happen to the relics if he lost them. There was a flash of movement across the room, and Ky fixed on where the curtains behind the counter ruffled slightly from a breeze. His eyes narrowed when he realized there must be a door on the other side. Outside of a bathroom sign and the outer door that led to the empty fields, there was no other exit or entrance into the room.
His patience was wearing thin with his growing anxiety— he was already five minutes late for a hearing so important no one had bothered to actually greet him after all the threats of death and embarrassment. Ky strode toward the glass display case and leaped over the counter in a swift move, his coat snapping around his legs in a rush.
He found the divide in the wall of fabric and brashly pushed the dark curtains wide open, revealing a hidden door. A generic sign said ‘No Admittance. Employees Only.’ A snarl curling his lips, Ky grabbed the door handle, which readily turned at his touch, and pushed it forward.
Ky sensed the change in the air immediately. The doorway was charged with magic, and it felt like he was pushing through more than air as he swung the surprisingly heavy door open and stepped through the entry. It didn’t just feel different; looking around, Ky was certain he had entered into a completely different building.
The color of the air was different, tinted and disorientating in a way he couldn’t explain. Ky’s nostrils flared as he took in the new, foreign scents, something acrid, possibly a cleaner mixed with old dust and a strange, unfamiliar greenery scent that he couldn’t pinpoint. Ky turned to look behind him from where he came and found the entryway tall and arched at the top, although the handle grasped in his tight fingers was still connected to the same ordinary rectangular door with the sign telling him not to enter. The curtains behind him looked as if they were in a fishbowl, miles away even though he knew if he stepped back just a few inches, surely he would touch them. The morning light of the dusty room on the other side of the curtains looked dimmer than it should, as if it were twisting in on itself and filtered through a noxious green sap.
Ky’s stomach clenched as he forced himself into the large, impossible hallway, and his footsteps echoed in distortions of sound all around him. His senses were telling him this was a place he didn’t want to be, a place that wasn’t supposed to exist. He was somewhere that wasn’t real, in something unnaturally made, including the pocket of universe that contained it.
Ky scanned around him warily, his hand resting on Anselm’s wand inside his coat as he stepped. The strange distortion lifted the further he moved into the room, his body and mind starting to adjust enough for him to place the items around him into context with the space.
It was a hotel lobby of some sort, everything about it confusing as much as Ky was confused to be there. The decor was a muddle of modern, contemporary architecture combined with archways from a long past century, and perfectly preserved furniture from different points in time, ranging from a loveseat that looked straight from the Victorian era, a desk that suited more the 1920’s, including a bright red rotary style telephone that he was sure was a knockoff made to look much older than it was. The curtains couldn’t have existed in the current world at all, the fabric free of dyes and processing, and weaved by a machine that had long been replaced with modern textile technology.
The floor was tiled in hard marble, and the chunky heels of his boots clunked with each step. Ky’s eyes were drawn to thin carpets with elaborate designs that looked like they might suck a person into another realm, a place of color and pattern, if they strayed on the wavering threads. Lush, green plants potted in giant kiln glazed pots decorated the arch ways, the gold leaf glinting of wealth and luxury in a space that didn’t quite know what it was. A large wall on the other side of the hallway was split in two, half of the space filled with shelves of books arranged like a piece of artwork, while the other half displayed a clock larger than Ky was tall, surrounded by smaller clocks that each revealed different times.
Ky stopped his cautious steps and glanced behind him, his eyes seeking out the doorway he deliberately left open. The entrance had changed as he moved away from it, and the door now fit in the tall archway that housed it. Ky could see there were two handles, two doors to complete the large entrance, the one he left open looking into a green tinted room that appeared upside down now, like someone had placed a rounded glass between him and the other side.
Ky had never felt more like a small, insignificant bug than in that moment. His breath was stuck in his chest as he looked around the lobby, feeling the weight of magic in the air with every inhale. He wanted to pass it off as wards, but stepping into Tobias’s manor hadn’t felt remotely the same as this, and those wards were powerful enough to keep out the sorcerers he was there to meet. All Ky knew for certain was that he didn’t want to get lost here, and not just in the room. He didn’t want to get lost from where his home was—where Earth was—because the longer he stood in the strange lobby, the more certain he was that he wasn’t in Blackstone Falls anymore.
Ky jolted and grabbed his collar, his heart hammering in his chest. His fingertips skimmed over the white-pink jewel that thrummed with familiar power. “Lovely?”
‘Yes, I… I just wanted to make sure you were okay.’ Lovely’s inner voice was like leaves drifting over pavement, barely there and sounding further away than Ky remembered it ever sounding before. ‘You feel odd in my senses,’ Lovely continued anxiously. ‘Like I can’t quite reach you.’
Ky’s lips pursed as he tried to understand what that might mean. He had lost track of all of them when he crossed Tobias’s wards, something in the magic cutting the relics from his senses. Were the wards different here… or was he different now that his relic genes were turned on?
The question was on the tip of his tongue, but Ky stopped himself, his head rising as he searched the lobby to make sure he was alone. He didn’t see anyone, no sign of cameras or ears listening, but he couldn’t shake the uncomfortable feeling of being watched.
“I’m fine, Lovely. Well, so far,” Ky said grimly. “I passed through some sort of… I dunno.” He faltered for words, his body growing more and more tense when he realized he had no way to explain just where he was and why he was certain Lovely would not be able to reach him if he tried to jump through the bond. “I think it’s warded with some sort of magic,” Ky finally got out, certain at least that was true. “But I can’t talk at the moment. Just promise me you won’t jump here, Lovely. It’s not… It’s not safe.”
That, Ky also knew, was true, even if he couldn’t explain it. The lobby with it’s weird decor and strange distorted door wasn’t anywhere he wanted the relics to be. It felt like a space that wasn’t just a destination, but an entity that twisted magic into it, pulling objects and beings into place and never releasing them from its warped walls.
Ky inhaled sharply and stared out at the walls as dread pricked up his spine.
Lovely sighed in his head, every fear, every anxiety the catboy held swiftly flooding into Ky’s senses. ‘Ky, just remember you have options. Don’t just—’
“Lovely, I need to focus,” Ky said tightly. His relief to know he was still connected to the relics even in this strange place was quickly evaporating as Lovely’s fears bled into him. “I’m late, and I haven’t found anyone yet. You’ll…” Ky growled under his breath and his glare sharpened on a staircase that blended into the wall of books and clocks. “You’ll know if things go wrong. I have to go.”
Lovely’s emotions swirled but soon withdrew, and the silence in Ky’s mind wasn’t interrupted again. Hating that he had to shut the beautiful relic out, Ky forged forward toward his new goal. This was to save them all. He couldn’t let his fear slow him down from the task at hand. They were all relying on him.
Ky passed a lounge area to the right of him, retro 1950’s style chairs in colorful leather spread out among coffee tables and tall fronds of greenery in the elegantly tiled space. It was empty, as was the library area that had seats to read in and a large ledger to keep track of who was borrowing which book.
That he wasn’t attacked immediately once the enchanted card deposited Ky there was small relief as he made his way to the massive staircase. He was being ignored. It felt calculated instead of a mistake or even a cruel slight. They wanted to set him off balance. They wanted to let the fear grow in him as he walked around this fucked up building and his mind was left to wonder on all the ways he might fail today and die at the hands of the Aeternum.
Ky already knew that there would be no winning in a power fight against these sorcerers. The Aeternum had crafted some sort of pocket of reality out of nothing, while he barely understood how to write with a wand.
Ky’s gaze followed the flow of the staircase, and he peered up, scanning for the telltale signs of people on the second floor from his limited vantage. There was a wooden banister that stretched along the second floor’s edge, gleaming in the light from a wide skylight that turned the entire ceiling into a prism of bright daylight. He squared his shoulders, his jaw clenched tight as he moved determinedly up the stairs, his ears picking up the sounds of voices reverberating in the distance. Ky’s eyes refused to stay still, seeking whatever telltale signs of life he could find and the danger it held as he moved and the upper floor came into view.
Glass displays were up here, far more modern and secure than the ones found behind the curtain in the historical society storefront. Ky’s steps slowed as he approached a case a little taller than him. Displayed inside was a faceless mannequin wearing a chain-mailed vest of what looked like blue and gold metal scales, combined with a long coat very similar in style to the one Ky was wearing. He squinted at the plaque attached to the wooden base, and his breath blasted out in a loud hiss when he read the small, engraved text.
Discovered by Abbott Burr Pemberton. When touched with flame these relic scales repel all heat, magic, and physical attack. When combined with a properly warded cloak, the wearer is rendered invulnerable.
Donated to the Aeternum Coven in 1822 by the Pemberton Estate.
The fuckers had taken the scales off of a relic and used it to make a magic vest. And then displayed it—like it was some fucking awesome thing they did instead of the act of complete barbarism it was.
Rage heated through him in a hot wave, and Ky turned from the display, his eyes moving around the upper floor to truly take in the objects around him. Books lined the back wall, the sunlight from above sparkling off the specks of dust that floated in the air. There were cases in long rows, some broken up by more shelves of books. Ky stepped warily onto the thin carpet, his eyes glued to the glass table tops where beneath the clear crystal surface, pieces of relics were arranged on black velvet. Ky’s vision dimmed dark at the edges as he picked out thin claws, dazzling scales, long, spiraled horns and shorter curled ones, and an array of tails, some so old, it was a wonder they hadn’t disintegrated.
His throat felt tight as he lifted his head toward the glass displays that contained what couldn’t be kept flat. One mannequin was swathed in long, crimson colored locks, but it wasn’t a wig. Someone had scalped a relic for some reason and put it on display. Another large, glass case held a complete relic skeleton, its tail, wings, and horns still attached, bones dark and stained.
Ky kept his lips pursed tight to prevent the snarl pulling at his muscles that would surely reveal the fangs he could feel itching to break free. Most of the other display cases held wings—so many different wings. The summoners must have been obsessed with the feathered type because they were the majority in display, from long, elegant wings that were three times the size of him, to small, feathery puffs that would have fit a child.
They were sick. These fucking people were sick, and no matter what happened, he needed to make sure they never got ahold of his wands. If he had to die to keep these sick freaks away from the relics, then it was a price worth paying.
Resolve formed in him like a hot flame, and Ky swept down the tiled area. The long banister gleamed to his right with the lobby beneath, and the rows of scientific displays to his left as he sought out the sounds of voices. There was a crash of glass up ahead followed by a pained cry, and Ky sneered, his anger moving through his face and breaking the impassive mask he desperately needed to keep intact.
He had to hide his heart. Feral’s warning echoed in his mind even as he stalked toward the sounds of whimpering and glass scraping on tile. These people would find a way to turn his heart against him, the same way Liem did.
Ky fought his emotions back and slowed as he reached the bend where a wall of books divided the next area from sight. As if his dark thoughts summoned him, Ky growled low in his chest when he stepped around the bookcase and found the other occupants of the upper floor, Liem standing among them.
It was a battle to school his expression back to something remotely neutral as Ky took in the scene unfolding yards away, his gaze fixed on the movement of flesh half hidden by the individuals standing. A single display case was shattered, its glass everywhere, including coating the relic who was huddled on the ground. He was holding his bleeding arm tight to his chest, his long, brilliant blue strands of hair hiding his face from view. Ky looked around, trying to see if there was a story to be told in the group of young men standing there in matching uniforms, staring down at the fallen relic with grim expressions on their faces.
Glass cracked under a heavy boot as Stewart Moore came into view from the other side of the relic where the room expanded into a large study area. He was dressed similar to when he broke into Ky’s house, his formal coat and neat hair at odds with the man’s unruly eyebrows and almost comically large beak of a nose. Stewart held his cane up and moved the instrument in a sweeping gesture. Wind swirled up and the glass clinked and sparkled as it was caught up in a wave of magic and brought to settle into the remains of the shattered display case. He failed to get them all, and small, slivered shards glittered from the carpet among the shoes of the motionless apprentices, and the bare legs and feet of the naked relic who was struggling to stand up singlehandedly.
Ky’s blood roared in his ears as he took slow, deliberate steps toward the group. He had no clue if he could run there in time and reach the relic before something horrible happened. Ky might not have seen what had caused the relic to end up smashed through the display case, but even from the distance, Ky could tell his wounds would be fatal if he wasn’t treated immediately. There was too much blood on the floor, too many large pieces of glass in his skin. The relic’s movements looked to be slow, weak, from one who had little energy and was succumbing to shock.
As Ky got closer, his view shifted and he could see one of the apprentices was red faced, pointing at the relic’s location as if in mid yell, but the young man was unnaturally still compared to his peers. Even the dustmotes floating around didn’t move where the red faced apprentice was. Ky realized with a start that the apprentice and everything directly around him had been spelled frozen.
“Mr. Scion, I was expecting you ten minutes ago,” Stewart called gruffly, his eyes fixed on the relic who was frantically sucking on his wounded wrist while pushing unsteadily to his feet.
Ky scowled and didn’t bother to respond. He needed to calm down or he was going to do something stupid, like heal that relic and show that he was the same, all in one go.
He kept his eyes glued to his feet while breathing around the stench of fresh blood and panicked whimpers. Ky’s steps stopped in front of a spray of glass where thin shards were coating a mounted animal that had fallen to the floor, knocked out of the display case when it broke. He peered down at it, his eyes narrowed as he tried to discern just exactly what he was looking at. Not much bigger than a cat, it had a face framed in long fur, obscuring its glass eyes and sharp teeth. It was half skin, its preservation either gone wrong, or the deep wrinkles all along its face and body natural. Four legged, its had fur from the top of its head down to its back haunches, the color a startling, unnatural blue against the more fleshy pinks and dark browns of the skin. Its prehensile tail was twisted around, posed to show its many joints.
Its arms were longer than its back legs, giving the creature a sort of monkey like slope in its death pose. At the end of its fingers, its claws were intact, long giant things that looked like metal. It had too many fingers, and Ky grimaced despite himself when he saw that the front paws were doubled at the wrist, splitting into two extra, clawless hands that had intricate joints very similar to a human’s.
It was completely bizarre, and Ky couldn’t shake the certainty that if the fur wasn’t in the way, the face of the creature might look just like a spider monkey or some other small primate. Except it wouldn’t be a primate from Earth; it would be one that originated on Realm with the relics.
“Please be careful with that. It’s priceless. The only one ever discovered.”
Ky glanced up, his eyebrow raised at Stewart incredulously as he fought the anger he was feeling in his chest. “I’m not the one who threw it on the floor,” he finally grunted.
Ky carefully stepped over the preserved creature and kept his eyes straight ahead on Stewart. It took everything in him not to look at the relic, not to pull him up and away from these crazy fucks, and heal the wounds that were currently gushing blood and dripping on the floor. Ky knew if he looked, there would be no hiding his emotions, no pretending his heart wasn’t breaking to see anyone so hurt and at the same time, so completely disregarded. In that moment, Ky couldn’t promise that his eyes wouldn’t glow blue just like the relic whose genes he was made from.
“Hey!” One of the apprentices cried out the same moment the relic hissed savagely. Ky gritted his teeth, daring a glance to the side, somewhat surprised to find the relic had his claws outstretched in aggression at the wall of apprentices as he backed away. He looked lopsided, Ky’s concern growing when he saw he had only one wing.
He was a catboy like Lovely, but even though he had the telltale black cat ears and slinky tail, that was where the similarities ended. The pale flesh of his form was interrupted by bright blue and black scales that dazzled along one arm, ending in a reptilian like claw with metallic talons that looked to be permanently extended. His other arm and the rest of his limbs lacked any scales at all, and when Ky glanced to his shoulder where his long, neon blue hair was kept to one side, he saw that the cat relic only had a wing connected to his scales, like someone had grafted another relic onto his right shoulder and arm.
He was about the strangest relic Ky had ever seen, his coloring familiar to the mounted animal on the floor, and Ky couldn’t help but seek out the collar on the relic’s throat as he tried to piece together just what the hell was going on. It wasn’t the collar normally seen on relics. No, this one was made of the same metal used for the chains on Magnificent Night that kept his power contained. For whatever reason, they collared this relic but hadn’t bonded him.
The relic hissed again, louder this time as he backed away, his eyes darting from the group of apprentices and then to Stewart. His fangs extended and silver eyes flecked with blue narrowed calculatingly as he suddenly whirled and threw himself across the room. Blood splattered and his bare feet streaked crimson as he escaped out an archway and into another part of the building.
No one followed. The apprentices all gaped at the door as if shocked the relic had fled, but they refused to chase after him.
“He seems to be as happy to be here as I am,” Ky muttered dryly as he stared down at the large puddle of blood the relic left behind.
“Hmm. It’s good you got here when you did,” Stewart said with a sharp tap of his cane. “I was just about to send someone to collect you.”
Ky met his piercing eyes and the disapproval he did nothing to hide. “That the best you got? You threaten my family after breaking into my house, have your stupid card drop me off in a place I’ve never been before without anyone to show me where to go, and you think I’m supposed to give a fuck if I’m late?” Ky shook his head and sighed. “You people are pathetic.”
“And yet, here you are.” Stewart stepped around Ky and stooped down to pick up the fallen mounted animal. Ky glared at his back, holding himself from the angry retort at the tip of his tongue. There wasn’t any point in arguing over something so trivial when had much bigger problems to deal with.
Stewart brushed the glass off the blue furred creature and walked it to the nearest table, careful to arrange its fur back in order. “Thank goodness. For a moment I thought we lost it.”
Ky glared at the apprentices who were silently watching Stewart, then at the sorcerer. “Your relic is bleeding out,” he said tightly.
“He’s a self healer. He’ll be fine,” Stewart said dismissively, his expression grave as he looked at Ky over the blue fur of the mounted animal. “You’re still alive, I see.”
“Trust me, you’re the only one surprised about that,” Ky said flatly. He couldn’t keep his tongue though, not after what he’d seen within moments of finally finding people in the building. “Is there a particular reason that relic is bleeding? Were you trying to take his scales to make another disgusting vest?”
Stewart straightened taller and glared down his nose at Ky. “Draquer’s scales are extremely rare. It is not a magical property that relic possesses.”
“Because you tested him, right?” Ky’s smirk was bitter as he twirled a finger to indicate the room. “And you have him live where there is a butchery of relics on display like some sick fuck slaughterhouse.”
Stewart stiffened at the accusation. “Mr. Scion, everything in this building is for the pursuit of knowledge in relation to demons and summoning them. Nothing is here to torment our links.”
Ky snorted in disbelief. “Are you that dead inside? You hunt these relics down, kill the ones you don’t want, and the ones you do enslave eventually end up in pieces on display. This is a fucking crypt full of pieces of slaves. For all you know, they’re dead relatives to the relics who pass through here.”
Although his expression was impassive, a new anger lit Stewart’s eyes. “Then that would be most unfortunate. Now, unless you have a point, Mr. Scion—”
Ky’s smile felt feral as he stalked over to the red faced apprentice who had failed to move since he got there. “My point is that even though you have a room full of books, and more than enough pieces of dead slaves all over the place to understand their anatomy, you still can’t seem to figure out that a self healing relic can only heal when he has enough energy. Your relic is starved, and his arm was gushing blood when he left. And all you can muster a single thought about is the welfare of a dead animal you didn’t have the decency to bury.”
Ky’s gaze strayed to the side to the painfully silent apprentices who were staring at him like he had three heads. He fixed on Liem, who was looking distinctly uncomfortable. “You do realize how sociopathic you are, right? Like on a scale of sane to fucked in the head, you’re all at the level of sick fuck rapists and slave traders.”
Liem paled under Ky’s unblinking scrutiny, and he turned his head away. Without saying a word, Liem broke away from the group and moved into the large nook created by the tall bookcases, heading to a counter at the back.
Rage felt like a pit in Ky’s chest, tensing all his muscles as he heard Stewart step toward him, his cane tapping on the floor. “Not all our apprentices become demon summoners, Mr. Scion. Some choose to research and expand the knowledge already discovered. Others to focus on magical arts, while others prefer to continue in service to a master sorcerer by keeping up their household and finances.” He turned his assessing gaze on the apprentices. “Not every sorcerer is cut out for the task of summoning and bonding a demon.”
“Is that supposed to make it better?” Ky asked coldly, his eyes taking in the half dozen apprentices who were still standing there, still waiting for some sort of command from Stewart to be allowed to speak, or be dismissed, or have a damn thought of their own. “You created an industry off the backs of kidnapped and enslaved beings. Do you really think by only cleaning the bloodstains off the floors, you’re any less of an accomplice?”
Stewart didn’t say anything for a long moment, but Ky wasn’t under the illusion he was actually listening. Even most of the apprentices, with their hard eyes and smug smiles, looked completely apathetic to anything that had to do with acknowledging their very profession was a crime against nature, no matter what planet that nature might have originated on.
“You have some very… different ideas of demon summoning, Mr. Scion. Perhaps you’d be interested in discussing them more with those who are training for the art?” Stewart suggested, sweeping his cane out to indicate the apprentices staring back at them. “As I said on our first meeting, we have a few openings in our mentoring program—”
“Pass.” Ky turned to face the sorcerer, his eyes narrowed on the twin red links glinting on Stewart’s collar a moment. He nodded sideways at the red faced apprentice who hadn’t taken a breath since he’d been spelled. “What did he do? How much did he have to piss you off for you to just take away his control over his body like that?”
Stewart smiled grimly and lifted his cane to rap sharply on the shoulder of the frozen apprentice. “He broke my favorite display, and damn near killed one of the rarest relics I have ever come across in the process. I would say a time out was the least that was due for our esteemed Mr. Glover.”
Ky pursed his lips, not sure he disagreed, given the circumstances. Stewart Moore might not have a heart beating in that chest of his, but he cared about the things he owned enough to punish those who broke them. It was almost something.
Ky glanced sideways when someone stepped close, and he quickly turned fully to meet the curious gaze of a brown haired, green eyed apprentice who was leaning into his space to stare at his collar. “Can I help you?” Ky gritted out.
“Uh, s-sorry.” Blinking rapidly, the apprentice quickly stepped back, his eyes jumping from Ky’s black painted lips, down to his links, then to the side. “You’re uh, you’re jeweled. I’ve never… Two of them.” He held up two fingers, a blush staining his cheeks as he flustered to find the right words.
“He’s dead,” the brown eyed teen next to him said, his voice razor sharp as he stared at Ky. “One shadow link is enough to kill. He’s got five.”
“Funny, cuz I feel fucking fine.” Ky looked the apprentice up and down, taking in his black blazer with red trim and matching buttons. He had an elaborate crest embroidered in red on the front pocket, something that was repeated on the blazers of all the apprentices. His dress shirt was gray, and his silk black tie was patterned with thin, red diagonal stripes. It might have looked rather posh, except for the uniform’s tight, charcoal gray shorts that didn’t reach past mid thigh, and the tall gray socks that stopped just below the knees. Even the wealthy looking, brightly polished black boots couldn’t disguise that the apprentices were wearing a uniform designed for children.
“I can’t help but notice you don’t have any links,” Ky remarked coolly. “You don’t even have a collar. Unless you’re hiding it under the pedo shorts they call a uniform here,” he added with a cruel smirk.
The apprentice scowled, and his hands clenched into fists at his sides. Ky merely raised an eyebrow when the scowl was mirrored by the other apprentices. “Hey, I didn’t dress you like that.”
“Uniforms keep things even around here,” Stewart spoke up from behind Ky. “Apprentices are less likely to confuse themselves as sorcerers when they’re in the correct uniform. It also makes it much harder to hide weapons or items that shouldn’t be in the possession of someone in training just yet.”
Ky realized he was talking about wands, and his eyebrows raised. None of the apprentices were wearing collars, including Liem. But Liem, unlike the others, had apparently graduated to pants. Ky suspected even if he was told not to, Liem had his wand stashed somewhere. He might have been a total asshole, but he wasn’t stupid.
“We’re not allowed to, uh, that is…” The green eyed apprentice glanced sideways, taking a step away from his scowling peers. “Apprentices can’t have demons. Not until the master mentoring them says they’re allowed. That is, um, the ones who want to have demons, anyways.”
Ky glanced his way briefly, unable to miss the red tie he was wearing that was polka dotted with small black mice. “You planning on having a demon?”
The green eyed apprentice shook his head rapidly. “Uh, no. I have enough magic without needing to… well, you know.” He coughed awkwardly, his eyes downcast to the side.
His face was expressive, and he seemed almost human compared to the others in the room. Ky shook his head in annoyance. “These fuckers are going to eat you alive.”
The apprentice shrugged meekly, his gaze straying back to Ky’s collar. “The jewels… Could you… How does someone get a jewel bond?” he asked in a rush. “Are the relics really rare, or is it something to do with the binding spell?”
Ky inhaled sharply, looking over to see that the other apprentices were just as clueless. His lips pursed in a thin line, Ky stepped forward, bending his head to speak into the curious teen’s ear while fixing his glare on the others. “It’s really fucking simple. When you go to bond, don’t rape your relic.”
Flinching at the venom in his words, the apprentice refused to meet his eyes when Ky stepped back. Ky smiled grimly, fixing on the others who were staring back with expressions of varying levels of tense indifference. “Funny that, huh? How much you wanna bet not a single sorcerer here has a jewel bond?” Bile burned at the back of his throat when Ky turned away, disgusted with it all, including the Aeternum that was creating more monsters to continue the sick practice.
“Are we done here?” Ky asked sharply when he found Stewart meticulously combing fingers through the stuffed creature’s fur, carefully pulling free shards of glass and specks of dirt.
“There’s no need to rush.” Stewart lifted his head to nod at the apprentices behind Ky. “Given your lack of background in demon summoning, I thought it would be good for you to meet the apprentices training to expand their magic. It would give you an opportunity to see the options the Aeternum has to offer—”
“Stop wasting my fucking time!” Ky snarled, his jacket crackling as he whipped his arm out to point to the display cases. “Do you seriously think I want to be here with pieces of thinking, feeling beings out on display as the trophies of serial killers? You people have no fucking clue how sick you are, do you?” he exclaimed when Stewart’s passive expression didn’t change. “You actually think this is normal.”
“Of course it’s normal,” Stewart said stiffly. “Those in pursuit of the answers to the universe must remove their emotions to maintain objectivity—”
“Your relic is bleeding out! He’s going to die unless he gets energy or medical attention, and you’re trying to give me a tour of your mentoring for psychopaths program.” Ky pointed again to the blood on the floor that no one seemed in a rush to clean up. “Where, exactly, is your fucking objectivity in that?”
“Master Moore,” one of the apprentices called. Ky whirled as he recognized the voice and glared at Liem, who had returned carrying a sturdy, black leather physician’s bag.
“If you’ll permit me, I can see to the relic,” Liem said quietly, his head turned deliberately to avoid looking at Ky.
Stewart’s gaze followed to where Ky had pointed, something in his eyes shifting for a moment. “It does seem he’s lost a substantial amount of blood. Alright, Mr. Kane. Remember to use caution; he’s killed before.”
Liem nodded silently and turned away with the bag in hand, walking toward the archway the relic had disappeared through. Ky watched him go as he tried to figure out what Liem’s angle was. He couldn’t believe he cared; Liem had shown time and time again just how little he was capable of caring about anyone but himself.
Ky’s shoulders lost some of their tension once he realized he had won. The relic might be doomed to live among these psychos, but at least it wasn’t going to bleed out just because he’d been unfortunate enough to be injured the same day Ky had a hearing.
“Were there anymore questions for Mr. Scion before he continues on with his business of the day?” Stewart addressed the apprentices as he leaned on his cane with elbows locked. Ky would have protested, except it meant that Stewart was finally ready to leave.
“Yeah,” a new apprentice spoke up, his blond hair in perfect order and dark eyes full of cruel mirth. “Did you write your will? If you care so much for your demons, who do you plan on giving them away to when they kill you?”
Ky glared, a dark smile curling at the edges of his lips as he stared the other down. “Do you think Tobias Godwin wrote a will?” Ky raised his hand to touch the five shadow links, four that connected him to the relics in Tobias’s manor and one to Magnificent Night. “When these relics tore the flesh from Tobias’s bones, hollowed out his ribcage, and ate what they found inside, do you really think he was worried about who was going to inherit them next?”
The apprentice’s jaw clenched defiantly, but his cheeks had paled and uncertainty shadowed his eyes. “Master Godwin got greedy,” he said tightly. “He tried to control too many at once.”
Ky snorted. “If he had a fucking brain in his head, Tobias would have been kind to his relics, and they wouldn’t have turned on him. He got everything he deserved for being a psychopathic monster.”
The apprentice looked like he wanted to say something but held back, his eyes eventually averting under Ky’s unblinking glare.
“Anyone else?” Ky asked sharply. “I’ve got shit to do today, and apparently your master thinks this is it.”
Inhaling sharply, the green eyed apprentice raised his hand hesitantly and dared a step close. “Uh… if, if you’re right and those links aren’t going to, uh, drain you… What are you going to do with it?” he mumbled, his cheeks flushed.
“It?” Ky repeated, having no idea what he was referring to.
“The, uh… the power. All that magic.” The apprentice looked away nervously, only to add in a stronger voice, “That’s the only reason a sorcerer bonds with too many demons. They try to get more power, and end up being drained by the demons they thought they were going to drain.”
Ky’s lips pursed in a thin line and he nodded slightly. “That’s the problem though, isn’t it?” He lifted one of the shadow links, Blood’s energy responding under his fingertips as he studied the apprentice’s face. “You sorcerers only want one thing. When your master bonds a relic, he’s trying to take away their will. The same way that friend of yours got frozen—there was no negotiating, no conversation or compromise. Moore just took what he wanted because that’s what you sorcerers do. Take.”
Ky ran his thumb along the shadow links, feeling the energy shift with each touch. “You don’t understand that just because these links can allow a relic to take my energy, it doesn’t mean they will. The same way I don’t go stealing the magic from the relics I’ve bonded with just because I’m linked. Unless the energy is freely given, I won’t touch it.”
“Oh.” His lower lip caught between his teeth, the apprentice dragged his stare up from Ky’s links as a look of realization flashed across his features. “Wait, so that means you can talk to them?”
Ky’s eyes widened slightly. “Of course I can. What the hell are they teaching you here?”
“Liar!” the brown eyed apprentice of before broke in. “Demons can’t speak.”
“Not the ones you spell silent,” Ky shot back. “Even then, they can speak in your head if you bond correctly. Relics have more languages than we do. Just because you’re too ignorant to understand them doesn’t make it any less true.”
“How do you get them to speak in your head—?”
“Enough,” Stewart ordered sharply, rapping his cane on the floor. The apprentices fell silent, the green eyed one bowing his head even as his gaze flickered to Ky’s jeweled links and his fingers flexed at his sides as he held back his questions.
“Gentlemen, I arranged this meeting for a reason,” Stewart said gravely, his piercing stare moving over each of the apprentices in turn. “As you can see for yourselves, Mr. Scion is a cautionary tale; one that will not end happily, by any means. In a few days time, Mr. Scion’s links will have drained the magic and life out of our untrained friend, leaving him dead and his relics free to wreck havoc on the innocent people out in the world who have no natural defenses against the hunger of a stray demon.”
Ky huffed, his annoyance growing with each pompous word. “You’re so full of shit. I got my first shadow link over a month ago.”
Stewart ignored him and continued on with his lecture for the apprentices. “There are consequences to jumping into summoning without training, and those consequences don’t end with you. If you’re drained by failing to overpower your demon in a bond, it won’t just be you who ends up dead—and it will be you no matter what our foolish Mr. Scion would like to believe,” he added with a pointed stare toward Ky. “It will also be your family members, your loved ones, your neighbors and classmates. Your careless mistake will haunt everyplace you have ever touched, bringing only death and pain. Your best hope if that occurs is that there will be a sorcerer trained and empowered enough to clean up your mess after you’ve died.”
“Hopefully not one who gets his jollies by dressing his apprentices up in hot pants,” Ky said flatly. “Are we done? For someone who made such a big deal about me showing up on time, you sure are interested in making me wait.”
His jaw clenching from Ky’s disrespectful tone, Stewart straightened taller as he turned his stern stare on him. “It was strategic. I wanted the apprentices to see how weak you are from being drained.”
Ky smiled savagely. “That fucking backfired, huh? Would you like to mention how Tobias had three red links—supposedly ‘overpowering his bond’ as you claim is the only safe way to bond—and still managed to end up dead?”
Stewart harrumphed and his eyebrows drew down the center. “It is too unusual to worth mentioning.”
“Fucking shit.” Ky shook his head, his smile bitter. “Tell that to his corpse.”
Moore’s steps cracked with the remains of broken glass as he paused at the apprentice frozen in his spell. “I want this mess cleaned up. Mr. Glover will remain here to think about the rules he’s broken and how his parents are going to take the news that he’s destroyed priceless Aeternum property. Understood?” he demanded, his grave expression once again sweeping over the apprentices.
Silent, the apprentices all nodded, a couple looking at their frozen peer nervously. When Ky looked closely, he could see that the teen’s eyes were moving slightly, suggesting he was completely conscious to what was happening around him. Ky felt no pity; the relic who ended up through that glass display had lost far too much blood for him to care if the apprentice who pushed him into it was suffering.
“Mr. Scion, the Aeternum awaits.” Stewart pointed his cane to the other side of the upper floor where a staircase was shrouded in shadows from the tall bookcases. Without waiting for him to answer, Stewart started long strides across the room.
Ky spared a glance back at the apprentices, many of them glaring at him. As young as they were, every single one of them was there to learn how to enslave relics or help those who already did. Ky frowned, his eyes hard as he left with a parting quip about the uniforms they clearly hated. “Watch your asses, kiddies. These creeps sure are.”
—Moore sends the apprentices away—they’re not a part of what’s to come—and leads Ky to a formal looking chamber. Ky is expecting a large group of people. Moore had mentioned the might of the Aeternum coven. It’s a shock to see so few waiting to hear his case.
—I want characters, not flat and boring. These are men and women with unquestioned power over the lives of others, and it has to have changed them in ways that normal people aren’t. They keep their relics with them, Ky offended by the fact they’re all nude. Moore notices and explains curtly that it is to prove none of the demons are female. Overseers are too dangerous, and all female demons are destroyed immediately to prevent the possibility of an overseer. There is something else there, not a relic but an animal from Realm. Ky is distracted by the strange beast, intros and tight conversation, until they finally get to the reason he’s there.
—Moore is in charge of the apprentice side of things, but he’s not running the meeting/trial. That’s a sorceress, and she has five demons on her collar. It’s a struggle for many summoners to be able to handle just one demon, and because of her five, it marks her as the most powerful in the room at the moment. Before things get fully underway, Moore asks all the demons to be removed from the room. His time with Liem has led him to believe Ky is dangerous among the relics, linked or not, and he doesn’t want any problems. Ky is relieved. He’s not sure how long he can control his own relic nature, and being revealed would be worse than death around these people.
—A tense conversation, Ky disgusted by the things stated as if they’re fact, about the ritual overshadowing basic human decency, the structure of the summoner’s league motos, etc. They care nothing of the relics, treat them as subhuman. Some act as if they’re giving them an opportunity to be among a more advanced society instead of the world they came from where they wear rags and know no language. Ky is fighting himself more than anything, trying to strategize around these insane people while feeling out of his depths. He isn’t the type of person he needs to be to win at this game. He’s brash and full of heart and he doesn’t know how to be any other way, just that how he is keeps fucking things over for the relics.
—The Aeternum keeps insisting he’s going to die, that the demons are draining him, etc, until Ky finally breaks away in anger to point out he is very much alive and fine, how else is he there at all? They don’t expect him to be alive much longer. They’re actually surprised he made it this long. Ky’s angered by that as well, frustrated, only to be distracted by a new voice in his head. It’s different, more faded because of the weaker shadow link, but he recognizes Brave. Brave explains that there are sorcerers outside the manor. A large group of them pushing at the wards.
—Ky is furious at the revelation and doesn’t bother to hide the fact he’s communicating with the relics in Tobias’s mansion. The Aeternum is surprised with the ability, but more focused on the cold, hard reality of it all. They will not allow Tobias’s demons to escape and reveal themselves to the humans, possibly go on a murdering spree, etc. No one can predict what the beasts might do. Disgusted, Ky goes to leave, only to find the door is warded and he is trapped inside the room. They’re not going to let him out. They’re going to wait there until he either gives up his relics to the Aeternum, or he dies from being drained through his links.
—Ky’s first move is to talk to Lovely. It’s the same there. At least five sorcerers are outside the property boundaries, waiting. Ky wonders if they’re the apprentices, or if they’re the ones who belonged to the empty chairs in the trial room. He had foolishly thought the Aeternum was smaller than it was. Were they as powerful as the lead sorceress, or weaker? Would it matter given the numbers of them? Moore had walked right through his wards and he only had two links. Just what kind of magic did it take to get though his wards?