Pull – Chapter 4

Outside, it has begun to rain. Silas stumbles into the greenery of the gardens, not being nearly as careful on his way out as he had been sneaking in. He should get away from here. Soon it will be a place of danger. He uses a little push of the demon’s strength to pull himself over the wall of the garden. After a quick glance around, he shrugs and dashes across the street, back to his shadowed hiding place.

He leans back against the wall, sinking down until his butt hits the cold ground. He takes a deep breath as several thoughts and emotions hit him.Silas lifts a hand to his lips, wanting to reach out and feel again what he’d felt minutes ago. He’d kissed River, and River had actually kissed him back. Then River had given him the cold shoulder. He’s willing to overlook that bit for now. River’s first instinct had been to kiss him back, not push him away or scream. It seems that revealed his true feelings, whatever he’d said to Silas afterwards.

As the initial dizziness and joy fades, Silas is struck with the unpleasant memory of why he’d come to the coven in the first place. Would River tell them that he’d been the one to warn them? River might think it would make Silas look like someone the witches can trust, but Silas knows it will never be that simple. If the others in the Coven of Ama find out a fiend had told River they’re in danger, they’d refuse to believe it, thinking that Silas was trying to trick them. They’d probably also excommunicate River for not alerting them to Silas’ break-in the minute it happened. Who knows what else they will do. Silas just hopes that River had the foresight to keep his visit a secret. With a deep breath, Silas moves to open another portal so he can return home. With a frown, he stops himself just as he was about to call up the demon. Once again, it seems he’d thought only of getting here and not of getting back. If he returns now, Malachai will know he’s been to see River. The smell of witches on him must be overpowering. Then he’ll eventually figure out that Violet told him, and Silas really doesn’t want to screw her over. Malachai is his boss, but Violet is a friend.

The demon in him stirs expectantly. He’d promised it he would get blackout drunk at the next opportunity. Apparently it had decided this is that opportunity. It’s true, he has nowhere to go and time to kill before he returns to Malachai. It wouldn’t be unusual for him to spend a day out drinking when he doesn’t have any responsibilities. He will return to Malachai tonight, and no matter how pissed Malachai will be he probably won’t suspect anything.

Silas calls the demon up, and it explodes into him. His vision turns blue as the demon takes over, and almost without him controlling them his hands rise and begin forming the sign for a portal. Silas doesn’t have a particular place in mind, but the demon must.

“Do you need to keep it a secret?” He mutters to himself, knowing the demon won’t answer him. His demon doesn’t speak in his mind like some people’s do. Still, he doesn’t like the idea of jumping through a portal without knowing where it’s going.

The ground falls out from under him anyways.

He lands on solid stone of the city street. He blinks, still seeing through a haze of blue and observing his body’s movements rather than controlling them. In a moment of frustration he shoves the demon out of the way, wanting to take another moment to let joy surge through him. He had kissed River, and River had kissed him. It feels impossible. It couldn’t have happened. His eyelids flutter as he remembers the way River’s hands had rested on his hips. He lingers over the memories of River’s exposed body as his vision grows blue again and the demon resurfaces.

River doesn’t fight it at all. He could use a couple drinks right about now. The street around him is totally empty, except for few seculars sleeping on the sidewalk. The sky is just beginning to brighten with the rising sun. Bars line the street he stands on, but most of them are dark on the inside. Only one of them still seems to be open, neon lights flashing Blue Venom in the window. It looks like one of those dingy little joints he would never go to on a normal night, but right now he isn’t being very picky.

Inside, the bar is empty save for a sec passed out at a table in the corner. At least Silas thinks he’s passed out until he hiccups, raises his head from the table, and says something that might possibly been directed at Silas. There’s a thud as he head falls back onto the table.

The bartender regards the sec in the corner with narrowed eyes, but turns to Silas as he sits at the bar. The bartender is a fiend with two sets of narrow leathery wings emerging from his back.

“What’ll you have?” He asks in Infernic.

“Something strong.” Silas says.

The bartender smiles wryly and turns around, grabbing a bottle and upending its contents into a small glass, which he pushes across the bar to Silas. Silas’ demon surges up and he downs the burning contents of the glass faster. It’s enchanted liquor, made to be stronger for those who need to appease their demons. The taste of magic is tingly and electric as it moves down his throat.

The sun grows brighter outside as the bartender refills Silas’ glass again and again. The demon seems to expand inside him as greediness begins to give way to satiation.

He turns his head to the front door when he hears the sound of someone entering the bar. The drunken sec who had sat in the corner had left a a while ago, leaving Silas to enjoy most if his drinking in solitude.

Silas flicks his eyes over the dark shape that enters, a hood pulled up to conceal him. Then he turns back to the bar, pulling his leather jacket tighter around himself. The demon in him is calm, not fully satisfied but expecting that it will be soon. As the man steps into the bar, the demon seems to change, and sluggishly tucks itself away in an almost fearful manner. Silas is left fully in control of himself, and the true state of his drunkenness becomes immediately apparent.

As he tries to blink away dizziness, he hears a thump. The man who had come in is sitting next to him. Silas stares at him, frowning. The man pulls his hood down, revealing long hair the color of blood. He turns to look at Silas, and Silas catches a glimpse of red eyes before he turns away. The man’s skin is darker than Silas’ and duskier than Silas’ honey tone. Against the color of it, the bright red of his eyes stands out terrifyingly.

The man sits in silence, and Silas notices in surprise that the bartender hasn’t approached him yet. Perhaps he hadn’t noticed the new customer? Silas expects the stranger to say something to the bartender, but he is silent. Silas sits, finished with his drink, as the tension builds. Deciding he should be able to get a drink elsewhere, he moves to escape the awkward atmosphere when the man speaks.

“They’re getting worse.”

“What?” The man’s voice is clear and mellow, but Silas still can’t comprehend what he says.

“The secs. They’re getting worse. Go down to the city square and see for yourself.” Then the figure stands and pulls up his hood to hide the vibrancy of his hair. He shuffles out of the bar.

With a start, Silas rushes out after him. He glances around on the street, but it is empty.

He blinks. What was that? He knows he’s drunker than he’d thought, but he doesn’t think he’s that drunk. He shrugs it off and heads towards the city square, planning to find another bar as the demon unfurls and begins to beg him for just a few more. A few which, he knows, will quickly become many.

The center of the city is busier than he’d expected, crawling with secs. There are fiends as well, mostly ones who have gone rogue and let the demon take them over almost completely. They sport tails or horns, and sometimes even wings. They won’t last long alone. Silas’ eye scans the crowd as he begins to weave his way through. With a shock he realizes that he’s caught a glimpse of long, blood-colored hair moving through the crowd. He sets out after it, pushing past people, barely noticing the crowd becoming denser as he moves towards the east corner of the square. He slows as he realizes he’s totally lost sight of the fiend. He hears a voice in the distance, and suddenly notices the obvious fact that the secs are gathered here, listening to something.

Silas isn’t tall, but over the heads of the assembled listeners be can see a woman with red hair. It’s not blood-red like the fiend he saw, but a beautiful, shining, natural red-orange hue. She wears only a black skirt and green cloth tied around her ample breasts. Her soft stomach is exposed, and the sunlight shines off her golden skin and red hair. Silas is struck. She is beautiful, almost hypnotically so. However the words she speaks are ugly and full of hate.

“The witches sit up in their golden houses, far away from us and our problems, and yet they insist that they are our rulers. They believe that their gods created them to be superior to ourselves. I ask them: ‘But if the gods made us as well, are we not also holy works of creation? If a mother has two children, can she claim she loves one better?’ They do not care. Why should we care for the gods who have abandoned us? Why should we respect the witches who have forgotten us?”

“KILL THE WITCHES, TOPPLE THE GODS!” The crowd cries around him.

Silas shivers, thinking of the look on River’s face when he told him the coven was in danger. He can’t deny that what the woman said makes sense, to an extent. This person must be Josa, the leader of this rebellion. Even from a distance Silas can see the fire in her eyes, the fire of someone who leads others in change. For the most part, the witches leave the fiends alone, but they still consider themselves superior. It’s irritating when they think they can order Silas or his people around just because they think the gods created them to be better, but nothing like the hatred the secs experience. Most fiends believe in the gods, as having a part of the infernal in you makes you sure that the divine exist, but he is sure they do not hate him for something he couldn’t help. He hadn’t chosen to become a fiend, the demon had simply latched to his soul as a child. The witches know that, but they still treat them as inferior.

So he understands, when the red-haired woman preaches that the witches are arrogant.

“We will bring them down!” She cries over the roar of the crowd. That is where he can no longer agree. Even living with a demon inside him, he knows war is not the answer. He’s seen first hand, with River, how the beliefs of the witches are ingrained so strongly. Should you really be held accountable for something you believe only because you’ve been told your whole life that it is true? If someone had been telling him since childhood that the gods love fiends the most, would he not have believed it?

“I have written the heads of the covens, demanding that they meet with me and discuss our terms. None of them have even responded. We destroyed the Coven of Eva, to prove how serious we are. They thought that we were a small rebellion. They thought that the magic they have on their side meant that they had to win against us. We proved them wrong.”

“We attempted to settle things through peace. When that did not work, we had to resort to violence. Since the witches have failed to get off their pedestals and deal with us as equals, we must knock them down.”

“Kill the witches! Topple the gods!” The crowd begins to yell, chanting over and over again.

Silas feels a stirring inside him, and looks over his right shoulder. He hopes briefly to see the blood-haired fiend again, but it’s another fiend: a middle-aged woman with grey eyes. Her skin is so pale that he can see blue veins decorating her temples like spider webs. He knows he recognizes her and had probably met her once or twice in some sort of dealing between gangs.

“Leena.” He says quickly, the name rushing out of him as he remembers it.

“They say they tried for peace, but they cheer ‘kill the witches’ as an anthem.” She speaks very close to his ear so he can hear her over the sound of the crowd.

“I don’t think they ever really tried for peace.” Silas cranes his neck to speak into her ear.

“No.” She replies. “I don’t think they did.” She pauses, her eyes roving over the crowd. “You are a member of Malachai’s gang, right?”

Silas nods, watching the crowd himself. The cheers are beginning to die away now as the crowd slowly begins to disperse, but the buzzing energy they’d left behind continues to fill the air. Silas keeps an eye on Josa, who is talking to a small group of secs.

“Do you think he’s aware of the danger?” Leena asks.

Silas turns to her and frowns. “Who?” He asks, thinking of River.

She blinks her grey eyes at him. “…Malachai. Does he know how dangerou things are getting.

“Oh.” Silas blinks, feeling stupid. ”He doesn’t think they’ll come after us. He thinks their problem is with the witches alone.”

Her eyes narrow. “It is. They aren’t coming after us, we don’t take advantage of them like the witches do. But what if they somehow succeed? What happens to us then?” She pauses, rubbing a hand over her mouth as she watches the crowd. “Our leader agrees with me. I think you should talk to Malachai. He’s a really important member of the community. If he agrees to team up with the witches, then other fiends will too”

Silas blinks. He isn’t sure why he’s listening to what Leena has to say. He barely knows her. Why should he trust her opinion over Malachai’s?

“Do you really think we should unite against them?” He asks

“We are stronger united than we are as separate gangs. I think we should prepare, so that if they come after us we can hold our own.”

Silas shakes his head, “But why would they come after us? They go after the witches because they hold so much power, but we have none. So why would they fight us?”

Her grey eyes are knife sharp. “Because they fear magic. If they take down the witches, and leave us behind, there is a chance that we will rise to occupy the spot that the witches once did. Their leaders are not stupid. They will cut down a tree before it can grow.”

Silas nods. A look of fear, simple in its primitiveness, is shared between them before she moves away into the crowd.

“Where were you?” Malachai bellows as soon as he walks in the door. “I needed you to meet with Vincent today. Instead, I had to go down there myself.”

Silas shrugs. “I went out drinking. The demon needed it.” Silas isn’t nearly as drunk as he would like to be. The demon is starting to get antsy again. He hadn’t gotten as drunk as he had promised it. The rally he had seen in the square had sobered him up, and he’d been too anxious after that to go drink more. So he ignores Malachai and walks into the kitchen, grabbing a bottle of vodka he’d left there a while ago and taking a swig out of it. Malachai follows him into the kitchen and watches him, nostrils flaring.

He steps towards Silas and wrenches the  bottle out of his hand. Then he reaches up and hits Silas over the head.

“Hell’s Flames, Malachai!” Silas yells. He grabs the bottle of Vodka back from Malachai and steps back. “I went into the city. I have some information that you’d probably like to hear. Back the fuck off.”

Malachai doesn’t touch him again, but he lashes out with magic that gives Silas a punch in the gut. Silas groans, doubled over, as Malachai speaks.

“Whatever you learned in the city square, it better be fucking worth pissing me off.” Malachai grumbles, leaning against the kitchen counter as Silas slumps into one of the kitchen chairs. Tiredness from the previous night hits him in a sudden wave and he takes another drink of vodka, blinking as his vision blurs for a moment.

“I saw the leader of the rebellion.” His mouth feels heavy, his tongue hard to control. “Josa. She was giving some sort of speech to the people.”

Violet appears in the doorway, leaning against the frame and watching them with slightly narrowed eyes. Jack, his ginger hair falling over the scar on the side of his face, stands behind her.

“You saw Jose?” Violet asks quietly.

Malachai turns to glare at her. “Get the fuck out.”

Violet rolls her eyes, but neither she nor Jack are able to refuse. They leave the kitchen and climb up the stairs.

Silas watches them go before continuing. “She told them she’d attempted peace negotiations with the heads of the covens before they bombed them. From my perspective it doesn’t look like they really tried for peace in any serious way.”

Malachai sighs. “None of this is anything I don’t know.”

Silas shakes his head. “No, please listen. I ran into another fiend when I was there. Someone I recognized. Her name was Leena, I think she’s a member of Otto’s gang. She warned me.”

Malachai frowns and shifts his weight, crossing his arms in front of his body. The posture makes it clear that he is not ready to hear whatever Silas has to say, and will most likely brush it off.

“She warned me that the secs might be focused just on the witches for now, but if they manage to get rid of that threat, they’ll come for us. They’ll cut down anyone who poses a threat.”

Malachai scoffs and waves a hand. “We have talked about this, Silas. The secs will not come after us.”

“But what if they do? Listen, I know working together isn’t exactly what fiends are known for, but shouldn’t we at least talk to the other gangs and create a plan of how we’ll work together if they come after us?”

“Those other gangs aren’t our friends. Sure, we might be on good terms with some of them, but they’re our enemies.” Real anger, not just the temporary annoyance that had caused him to hit Silas earlier, is beginning to sneak into his tone.

Silas stands, swaying slightly. “Malachai, why do you have to be so stubborn?”

Malachai starts forward, grabs Silas by the collar of his shirt, and shoves him against the wall. Silas lashes out at Malachai with a bolt of magic, but he’s drunk and off his game. Malachai deflects it easily and slams him against the wall a second time, hitting his right side. Spots swim in front of his eyes.

“You think you run this gang? Huh?” His eyes are wild.

Silas tries to twist away, not out of fear but because when Malachai is so close, with his demon so strong and irritated, the intensity makes Silas’ demon buzz painfully inside him.

Silas has learned by now that when Malachai is like this, which is fairly often, it is best to just stay still and let it happen. When Malachai has gotten worked into a rage like this, no amount of talking or fighting will reach him. Malachai shouts at him some more, but Silas just stands there and takes it. Finally, with one last growl, Malachai pulls away, storming out of the kitchen and up the stairs.

Silas draws a deep breath and shuffles into the living room. He’s exhausted, and drunk, and the side where Malachai pushed him against the wall is pulsing with dull pain. He can feel the bruises beginning to form. He looks at Jack, his bulky form laying on the couch. Jack quickly looks away, as if he hadn’t been staring. Ignoring him, Silas slumps into the open chair. The other fiends are often baffled by the arguments SIlas and Malachai have. Real arguments, not just Malachai shouting at one of them when he’s pissed. The others have subservient demons and, like most fiends, can’t even imagine standing up against him. Even if they could, the results would be disasterous. Fiends are pack animals. Left alone, they are not themselves, and the demon takes over. Silas sinks his head into his hands as thoughts spin in his drunken mind. He’s worried about River. What he had seen in the city square shook him up. He knows what Leena had said to him had been the truth. He needs to figure out how to convince Malachai that uniting with the others is necessary if they want to survive this revolution. And who was that fiend he had seen in the bar? pullcover-1

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