Shadows

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Odessa brushed into the room, the air crackling around her with her anger. Despite it, she shut the door with a soft click and put up the wards around her room. Once she was sure she was alone, and no one could eavesdrop, she let her rage go. The lights flickered and a vase shattered with the aftereffects of her magic.

No was not a word that Odessa enjoyed hearing. She hated hearing it from her mother growing up, hated it from her grandmother, and despised when Marax told her no. But her mother was living her peaceful mundane life, her grandmother was dead, and there was nothing she could do about the demon. He only said no if she asked for something outside the bounds of their contract or his abilities.

She hurled another vase against the wall with her magic and whirled to find something else to take her anger on. Only, she came face to chest with the very demon she was tied to.

“I rather liked that one, it wasn’t as gaudy as the others,” Marax smirked down at her. He was a tall demon, towering over her by at least a foot. His voice was already grating her nerves and he hadn’t even fully materialized yet. The upper part of his face was still shrouded in shadow. “I was wondering how long you would last. Long lost family not up to par?”

“You knew,” she hissed, eyes narrowing even as she doubled her wards. The last thing she needed right now was for anyone in the house to sense the demonic energy in here. It was hard enough hiding the mark of their contract. “You knew they would refuse me.”

“Perhaps.”

The air in the room thickened, stopping Odessa’s hand before she could fling the magic from her fingers. Marax left her like that for a moment, making himself comfortable in the armchair set in the corner of her room before releasing her.

“Now, my sweet witchling, you know as well as I do the magical hierarchy of this world. You should have expected this too.”

Odessa’s rage only simmered as she prowled around the room. It was only more irritating that he was right. There was a hierarchy to magic users. The magic users who must borrow power were at the bottom, natural born witches like her rested somewhere in the middle, and Sorcerers and Sorceresses at the top. They were the keepers of the old ways, of magics that were long forgotten or perverted by time.

Her relatives, apparently the main branch of the Percival family from which her own family came from, were one of the oldest Sorcerer lines in existence. They drew power from the stars and constellations instead of the moon cycles. According the Marax, they not only held the most power but they had the most pull in the magical community.

Getting in with that part of the family would have opened doors that even a demon as old as Marax could not open.

They had not minded opening their doors to a distant cousin, to allow her to take part in the summer solstice and to play with their children. But neither Ivan nor Geneva, who was only a Percival by marriage, would share with her anything of substance. Geneva had taught her spells from her own family but they were nothing that she couldn’t have sent Marax out to get for her.

The children had not been of help either. Dietrich and Vivan had been taught to keep their lessons a secret from their cousin and they did not falter in that. No amount of sweet-talking or snooping had helped her either. They were nearly five years younger than she had been when she came into her magic and yet could do spells with such ease that she was tempted. Witches only came into their magic at puberty but sorcerers; they could do magic nearly from the crib.

“All I wanted was to learn,” she paced, ignoring Marax’s glittering eyes or the feeling of his power over her skin. She knew what he wanted and it could wait until he’d done something worth a reward.

After nearly a month, she was sick and tired of hearing the word no. She only wanted to learn the family craft, to show that she had the fortitude for sorcery. She’d proven it time and time again that she had the power, even though she hadn’t once touched dark magic or anything that would have aroused suspicion. Odessa had even gone as far to stifle her demon contract up until this point.

It sparked a rage in her. After the death of her grandmother, no one had ever dared to refuse her. The other magic users that she had cut down had been helpful up until she took their magic. Her personal library nearly rivaled that of the one in this old mansion.

She was worthy of their knowledge. She was worthy of knowing the secrets, of how to move beyond the stigma that comes with the title of witch. Odessa had become more powerful than that. Sorceress sounded much better.

“Show them,” Marax purred, sliding from his chair to kneel in front of her. His eyes glittered with a darkness that mirrored her own in that moment. “Show them the error of their ways. You tried this your way, now do it the way we both enjoy so much more.”

It vexed her to need his power, to need this creature to do something so simple as learning. However, he wasn’t wrong. It was time to show them that being a witch was not all that she was. She would wrench the knowledge she wanted from them and leave a pile of ashes in her wake.

The shadows of the room seemed to shudder as she made her decision. She stepped away from her demon to pluck a knife off her makeshift worktable. There were wards around the property and throughout the house. For him to leave this room to do what she required, he would need an anchor to them. Distant or not, she was still a Percival and the wards would recognize him after she shared her blood.

She watched as he drank from her palm, used to his need for the theatrics and licking away every drop. He was a pain in the ass on a good day but she just wished he would be done already.

“What is it you require from this humble demon?” Marax licked the blood from his lips as he stood. He didn’t need a real order, he knew what he was to do, but he was such a fan of the process. Their contract was a simple one; she gave him the blood and freedom he needed in return for his strength and power to acquire the knowledge she wanted to learn.

“Bring your hoard,” she let her blood drip from her fingertips to the floor, activating the circle she had drawn months ago. It would ward this room alone from the demons and be where Marax could bring her what she needed. “Set them upon this house. I want their knowledge and their magic.”

“So you want them breathing. What a shame.”

“You know your job,” Odessa flicked her fingers at the door, her eyes sparkling with the same shadows her demon produced. “Make sure you find Ivan Percival’s Grimoire. It will contain the secrets to the line.”

“Of course, witchling.” Almost immediately, the room was alight with an unearthly glow. Odessa knew that Marax would do as she commanded and so she could stand back. Normally, she’d like to participate a bit more but this time was all his. She owed him this much after leaving him in the shadows for months.

Sinking down into her armchair, she waved him and his slowly manifesting hoard off to have fun. Picking up the book she’d been studying for the past few weeks, she licked her finger to turn the pages. “Oh, Marax.”

“Yes?”

“Turn everything else to ash.”

The smile that curled across Marax’s face was something out of nightmares. It and his laugh lingered even after he had disappeared.

Even after the screams began.