Happy New Year! As my final installment in my 12 Days of Yule series, enjoy chapter 6 of Pull. Just a reminder that you can now buy the eBook of the first four chapters!
It had been surprisingly easy to gather together fiends interested in peace. Silas had started with Leena, convincing her to leave her gang and join him. He knew she’d have to listen to him, due to the dominance of his demon (superior even to her gang leader, as he’d guessed) that he had never quite understood. After that, they’d used her connections to seek out others who would be willing to team up with the witches. They’d gotten themselves a warehouse in an abandoned corner of the city. There aren’t a lot of them, but more fiends show up almost every day to join.
It’s been two weeks that they’ve been here, as he hasn’t heard anything from River about his mother or any of the other High Priestesses. He’s starting to get anxious. The secs have gotten even more violent. Two more covens have been bombed, and witches who dared to wander outside the covens are killed almost every day. Silas barely sleeps, and when he does he’s haunted by images of River’s lifeless form. He wakes up sweating and shaking then clutching his knees to his chest. He just wants to hear from River. He just wants to be sure he’s alright.
“You’re worrying about him again, aren’t you?” Leena looks at him sidelong. He hadn’t told her he is in love, but she isn’t stupid. They’d barely known each other before, but two weeks of nearly constant contact has made them pretty close. It isn’t hard to figure out he likes guys, and apparently it isn’t very hard to figure out what all his pining and nervous tension is about. Of course, she doesn’t know that the man Silas is in love with is a witch, must less the son of an important coven’s High Priestess. At least, he hopes she doesn’t know.
Silas realizes he’s been staring out the dirty glass of the window at nothing. He blinks and looks over at Leena.
“Yes. I’m worried about him.” Silas notices the bite in his tone, but doesn’t apologize or make an attempt to remedy it.
“Listen, I’ve seen how much this is eating at you. Normally, I would just tell you to get over it but this feels more serious than that. You aren’t yourself. Maybe we could send some scouts out to look for him, whoever he is, and find out if he’s alright. It could be a good way to train some of the newer ones before we ask them to find out anything…”
She cut herself off before she could finish her sentence, but Silas had guessed on what she had been about to say: anything important.
Silas ignores the implication of the unspoken words, knowing she would not have meant to seem like she didn’t care about Silas’ love interest.
Silas sighs. It’s a tempting thought, to think of someone sneaking out to check on River. He’d thought about going out himself. He’d practically had to tie himself down every night to keep himself from going out and searching for River himself.
He loves River, but he is dedicated to this cause. Too dedicated to risk it by getting himself killed searching for River. Fiends can really only join this group because Silas’ demon is dominant to so many of their leaders’. If he was to die, they’d end up wandering back to their old gangs, and any attempts for reunion would be futile.
“We can’t send anyone after him.” Silas whispers, turning away. Leena calls his name and follows after him, but he’s already walking off.
He stops short. The edges of the warehouses are crowded with fiends, sitting on the blankets they sleep on, chatting with each other and whatever else. In the center of the room, staring at Silas, is a familiar fiend. The one with long blood-red hair and red eyes that stand out dramatically against his dark skin.
Silas freezes and stares at the fiend. He glances around at the others, but they don’t seem to notice him. He smiles wickedly at Silas. A thick feeling of magic, heavier than anything he’d felt before, settles over the air.
“What are you doing here?” Silas calls across the warehouse angrily. The demon in him moves frenetically. It isn’t exactly pushing for control, but it is frantic inside him. Many of the fiends in the warehouse turn to stare at him, still blind to the other fiend. The fiend pulls his long dark red hair over one shoulder, running pale slender fingers through it. Then he leans down into the ear of one of the fiends, Silas thinks his name is Euan, and whispers something. His bright red eyes flicker to Silas and when he finds him staring he gives a sly smile. His pink tongue darts out and licks Euan’s ear. His eyes on Silas’ are suggestively dark and blood floods Silas’ face. Then the red-haired fiend smiles, turns, and vanishes.
The atmosphere of magic dissipates, and everything in the warehouse changes very quickly. Euan’s expression turns to one of anger and he begins yelling at the fiend he’d been talking to a few minutes earlier. Silas doesn’t catch what he says, but the argument spreads like wildfire and soon everyone is fighting. Leena even grabs his upper arm, spins him around, and begins yelling some babble about how sad and pathetic he is and how he needs to either man up or leave. Just as he’s registered that something here is wrong and that the blood-haired fiend caused it, he feels the demon surge up in him. It is stronger than he’s ever felt before; too sudden and forceful for him to control. It speaks through him in a way it never has before, its voice tearing out of his throat.
“ENOUGH!” The voice is deeper than Silas’ own and echoes through the room.
The fighting stops all at once, and the fiends all blink at look around at each other with confusion clear on their faces. The demon rushes out of Silas to some place deep inside of him, leaving him drained. His knees buckle and he falls to the floor. He looks around at all the other fiends, knowing that his own confusion and fear mimics that so easy to see in the others.
It is another sleepless night for Silas. Nightmares of the fiend with blood-red hair had been added to his visions of River’s death since he had appeared a few days ago. He sits awake, leaning against the wall and watching the front door to the warehouse. He starts when the door slides open. They have watchers posted outside. How had someone gotten past without raising the alarm? A blonde figure slips in and slides the door closed silently. Silas relaxes back again. He’s fallen asleep, and he’s dreaming. It’s happened before. He watches River as he approaches, glancing furtively around him. When River reaches him he falls to his knees and wraps his arms around the fiend. Silas jolts when he feels River’s warmth and the strength of his arms.
“I’m not dreaming?” Whispering, Silas presses his face into River’s neck, wrapping his arms around the witch and pulling him close. The hug is awkward with them both sitting, but they cling to each other for a long moment before pulling apart.
“You’re not dreaming.” River breathes. “I’m here.”
Silas raises a hand softly to cup River’s cheek. “You’re alive.”
River’s cheek moves as he smiles under his hand. “Yes. I can take care of myself, Silas.” He glances around shyly and pulls Silas’ hand from his cheek. Silas notices that some of the other fiends have woken up and are staring at them in confusion. They must be able to tell he is a witch from the feel of his presence.
“This is River. He is our ally. He is helping me get his fellow witches to join us and work for peace.”
Some of the fiends looked concerned, but none of them say anything. Silas stands and pulls River to his feet, leading him to a small room in the back of the warehouse. He shuts the door behind them. When he turns back to River, the witch is giggling uncontrollably.
“What?” Silas’ voice is quieter than it might have been, his eyes fixed on the laughing smile on River’s face.
River opens his eyes, his smile softening but still visible.
“You know what they’ll think we’re doing in here.”
Silas blushes and turns away. River has always been blunt, but the sudden implication that something like that between them is not only imaginable but possible shocks him. He mumbles something nonsensical, takes a moment to gather himself, and turns back to face River.
“You talked to your mother.” There’s no other reason he would have come here.
River sighs and nods. “Yes. I did.”
Silence stretches on.
“And?” Silas takes a step closer.
River shrugs. “I don’t know. She was…oddly noncommittal. I don’t understand how she kept dodging an answer about something so big.”
Silas’ disappointment must be obvious, because River hastens to get the rest of his words out.
“But I did manage to talk to some witches from other covens, and they talked to their High Priestesses. They want to meet with you. It hasn’t been much time, so there aren’t many of them, but-”
“That’s amazing!” Silas starts forward and wraps River into a tight embrace. River doesn’t respond at first, shock making his body tense. Just as he moves to put his arms around Silas’ narrow frame, Silas pulls back with his hands on the witch’s shoulders.
“When?” His dark eyes are bright.
“Two nights from now, in what they’ve decided is a neutral location.” He pauses, looking down at Silas softly. “I’m so proud of you, Silas. I can’t believe everything you’ve done. You’ve already brought so many people together.”
Silas smiles up at him. “None of it would have happened without you, River.”
River remembers his own expression, staring up into River’s face when he’d come to the fiend’s hideout. His face had been soft then, and he had felt his own eyes filled with the look of adoration. The demon in him had barely been noticeable, as if it was somehow as relieved as he was to see River safe. Now, the demon rages in him, spurred on by his own anger and desire for change. His slender eyes burn with the desire for revolution as he and River face the assembled crowd. River keeps glancing over at him like he is a stranger.
The crowd is split clearly between fiends and witches. They whisper to themselves about fear and doubts and cast distrusting looks at the opposite side. Surprisingly, when he steps forward to speak, the chattering of the assembled crowd of fiends and witches dies off almost immediately. Silas isn’t sure what to do with the sudden influx of attention, all those eyes trained on him at once, and he finds he has to try to speak more than once, no matter how passionate he is.
“We are here today to discuss peace.” He finally begins, waiting for the crowd to erupt into angry comments. When they remain silent, he continues. “Each person here is, of their respective people, one of the few who actually cares about creating equality and peace. We know that there are many who would rather have war. Some of my fellow fiends believe that we are better off alone. But you,” he turns to his people and extends his arms out towards them, “and I know that the best long-term solution is harmony.”
A heavy feeling settles over the air, and Silas stomach drops.
“No.” He whispers to himself, but there is nothing he can do. Almost directly in front of him, between the separated groups of fiends and witches, stands the red-haired fiend. He gives a little wave and smiles up at Silas. With a feminine flourish, he snaps his thin fingers. Everyone else in the room seems to be oblivious to his presence, as they had been the first time, and they stare at Silas as if he is still speaking. Bright red eyes shift their gaze from Silas to River, grazing the witch’s body up and down in a way that makes Silas furious. Before he can react, the fiend turns and vanishes.
“Harmony?” One of the witches, a tall woman with short black hair, shouts shrilly. Silas blinks, taken totally aback by her cry. Yes. “Harmony” had been the last thing he said before the red fiend had appeared.
The witch continues her shouting. “Where was peace when you let the secs bomb the covens and kill my sisters?”
“You always say your people are better than we are. Why couldn’t you protect yourselves?” A random fiend shouts out from the crowd.
There are two many angry responses to that for Silas to decipher each one individually. Feeling River tense next to him, he looks over and sees the witch open his mouth to add his own shout to the crowd’s. Silas puts a hand on his arm, fear rising in him to see River succumb to the fear-mongering the red-haired fiend had caused. He remembers with a flash of rage the way his bright red eyes had lingered over River’s body.
River looks at him like he has just woken up from a dream, his eyes wide with confusion. The look of anger is gone from his face, and his two-toned eyes wander over the room as he tries to make sense of what is happening. The fiends and witches are arguing hotly, the space that had divided them in the room shrinking as they advance towards each other aggressively.
River steps forward hurriedly as the secs and witches began to fling insults at each other.
“I know-” He begins, much too quietly, and is cut off by the continued yelling of the crowd.
“Peace, people, and listen to me-” He tries again, but the shouting is loud, and his beautiful voice is lost in all the anger and fear.
Silas is just about to intervene when River raises his hands in a fluid motion, and everyone in the gathered crowd is knocked down by the force of his magic. Silas sees River’s hands shaking slightly as he lowers them. He has grown noticeably paler and his lips are pressed tightly together. Silas is shocked and impressed by the strength of River’s magic, but the toll it had taken on him is clear.
Silas tears his eyes away from River to see that the crowd, while distracted by being knocked to the floor, is still overpowered by anger. Silas remembers how the demon had surged up in him before, when the red fiend had appeared in the warehouse, He pulls the demon up again, summoning its power as he shouts out for them to stop. It doesn’t feel quite as strong as it had last time, but it works just the same. The fiends and witches all stop, turning their focus back to Silas and River. They look at each other, each of them clearly trying to make some sense of what they just saw, but not knowing any way to really do so.
“Our two peoples have never been friends. Or, if we were it was so long ago that none of us can remember it. Why haven’t we ever tried to change that? We’ve always understood that we can be stronger together than we are apart, we just never had a reason to unite until now. Maybe it sounds ridiculous. The secs have no magic, but they’re stronger than we give them credit for. If we don’t unite against them, we won’t survive. Sure, maybe we’d win this battle, but one day in the future there would be another that we would all lose.” Silas looks over them warily, his breath slightly quickened from the fervor of his monologue.
Surprisingly, River steps up besides him and addresses the crowd. “Trust me, I was wary when Silas first approached me. But the truth is, uniting against the secs is a smart move. If we keep going as we are now, our race will not survive.”
An hour or so later, after a great deal of discussion, Silas and River are left alone in the warehouse. Silas smiles and puts a hand on River’s shoulder, earning a small smile in reply.
“So, what now?” River asks as his gaze falls over the empty warehouse.
Silas turns to regard the spacious room alongside him. River slips an arm around Silas’ shoulders, leaning on the fiend’s smaller frame. He is still weak from the huge bout of magic he had used earlier. Silas purses his lips, glancing over at River. The witch’s blond hair shines in shafts of moonlight. He looks beautifully ethereal. Silas’ eyes stay fixed on him for many moments, until River feels the gaze on him and turns to meet his eyes.
“River…” Silas starts, then cuts off. How could he possibly bring up what he’s seen without sounding insane? He can trust River. “Did you see anybody…appear today?”
The confusion on River’s face indicates that he has no idea what Silas is saying.
The fiend sighs and shakes his head. “It sounds crazy, but…today, and a few weeks ago, I’ve seen this fiend with blood-red hair. It doesn’t seem like anybody else can see him. He just appears and brings this heavy feeling of magic with him. When he leaves, everything seems to dissolve into chaos.”
“Is that what happened today?” River asks, “Before the fight broke out?” He rests his head on Silas’ shoulder.
For a few rapid heartbeats, Silas is distracted by the warmth of the witch’s head on his shoulder. When he finds his voice, he replies.
“Yes. He was here. This time and last time, the effects of his magic didn’t…dissipate until I said something. Well, more like my demon said something.”
River jerks and moves away from him. The demon in Silas relishes in the space between his body and the witch’s divinity, but Silas stings with the sudden emptiness alongside him.
“Sorry…” River apologizes weakly, vaguely gesturing in Silas’ direction.
“I-I didn’t see any fiend.” He says after a few moments. “But the demon inside you is different than other fiends’, right? Maybe that’s why you can see it while others can’t, and maybe why your demon can stop it. When you touched my arm, it broke some sort of trance. I realized something was wrong. Before that it was like I was in a dream.”
Silas knows how wounded he looks, watching River where he stands much too far away from him. What the witch had said was probably right, and Silas can only guess that answer was just so simple that he overlooked it.
“I’m sure you’re right, River. But…what do I do?”
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