Silas braces himself, preparing to fight back against the demon as he struggles to take over his body. Valiant has called the demon and begged it to come out of Silas. So Silas waits for it, but it doesn’t fight. The demon simply stays coiled up inside him. He can feel the other fiends withdrawing from him, slowly stepping away in fear, expecting him to erupt into his demon and lose who he is.
“The demon inside me may be your brother, but he doesn’t seem interested in coming out to talk to you.” Silas freezes, his mind spinning at the insanity of what has happened in these few moments, “In fact, this is the least trouble I’ve had keeping him under control for as long as I can remember.”
Valiant’s lip curls. His eyes flash and Silas hears the sick thump of bodies hitting the floor. Instinctively, he looks behind him, but he doesn’t see any fiends on the ground. Instead he hears a shocked cry from one of the secs and looks over. Through the crowd, he sees bodies unmoving on the ground. The world seems to move in slow motion as he turns, hearing a piercing scream behind him. Other voices join in discord as fiends fold in on themselves clutching at their chests and stomachs.
“No.” Malachai whispers.
“Stop him!” Silas yells, looking to the witches on the other side of the warehouse.
River’s face is ashen and still, his jaw clenched tightly. Besides him, his mother’s face is puckered into a sour look.
Valiant smirks, his eyes wild. “Come out, brother, or I’ll pick them off one by one until I have the strength to drag you out into the open.”
Malachai stares at Silas, through Silas, looking into his demon and speaking to him directly. “He has no business with us. If you go to him, he’ll leave us alone. Please.”
Silas feels the demon stir, calls to it, reaches out to it, begging it to surface for the first time he can remember.
Then it rushes up over him and he is watching the world through another’s eyes. Everything has a blue tinge to it that he has come to associate with seeing through his demon. This is more intense than anything he has ever felt before. He feels wings and a tail burst from his body, his teeth pointing into fangs. The demon lets out a grunt as he moves Silas’ body, acquainting himself with how it feels.
“I’m not going to speak to you, brother.” He growls, stepping towards Valiant until they are only a foot apart. “You lied to father. I haven’t forgotten about what you did. You blamed me for your mistakes.”
Valiant rolls his eyes.” If you hadn’t fled and hidden in the mortal world, father would have forgiven you eventually. It’s all just water under the bridge now.”
The demon stiffens at that. “He would have killed me, and you know it.”
Valiant shrugs. “What’s done is done.”
The demon shakes his head. “No. You have damaged our home realm, and I will not let you ruin this one as well.”
“What, are you this realm’s keeper?” Valiant scoffs.
Silas’ demon says nothing, only stares evenly back at him. The silence stretches out, and Silas finds himself moving inside the demon. His soul has been pushed to the background, and he watches what the demon is doing as if through a television screen.
“Silas.” The demon does not open his mouth to speak, but Silas hears the voice reverberate through his body, their body. The demon is standing, still staring at Valiant, not talking.
“Silas, I need you. To bring him down, you must work with me.”
Silas isn’t sure how to respond. It’s odd having a body without really controlling it. His mind fills with fear, but he doesn’t feel his stomach drop or his heart leap into his throat.
“You are afraid because you don’t know how you could help me.” The demon replies, and Silas is surprised to recognize the humor in his voice. “I think, Silas, that you don’t know how much I rely on your strength.”
Silas is still unsure of how to respond. He can’t help but think of all the times he’d struggled to keep the demon down and prevented him from taking over. Yet here he is, and he is so calmly facing down Valiant.
“We can’t help what we are, Silas.” The demon says. Silas thinks painfully of River, and his denial of his own nature. Has Silas been doing the same thing? Have they all been doing the same thing by trying to force their demons to hide inside them, when they are so much a part of who you are? There is an odd aching sensation that Silas can feel, even though he is separated from his body. He can’t quite describe the feeling. To speak to this demon, the one he’s lived his life with, feels very complete, or at least on the way to completion.
The demon knows what he is thinking, and responds even though Silas can’t figure out a way to say what he wants.
“Valor” The demon’s voice echos through their souls. “My name is Valor.” There is a pause, and Valiant’s eyes begin to narrow and look them over. Silas wonders how long the conversation between them has lasted. Something shifts, and Silas finds his focus shifting from inside to outside, though it still seems like he is watching through a screen. The color of the world seems to change and grow sharper. Perhaps time hadn’t been moving outside of his body in the way he thought.
“If you do not willingly come with me, these children of the gods and myself will destroy all of you. Come brother, release yourself from that body and come with me.”
“No.” Valor replies, staring Valiant straight in the eye.
Valiant’s lip curls, radiating pure rage. He moves forward slowly, raising his arm out in front of him. Valor doesn’t move at all, keeping Silas’ body absolutely still. Valiant stops an arm’s length in front of him, reaching a hand out so his fingertips touch Silas’ face. As soon as they make contact with his skin, his vision explodes into white light.
Silas reels away from the light which shine into his eyes, raising his hands to cover his face. The brightness begins to dim, and he lowers his hands instinctively. He realizes as he does it that that he is in control of his own body. Consciousness comes back to him, and he realizes that he feels oddly empty. He looks around him, and sees Valor standing besides him in the whiteness. His skin is blue, his features all narrow and pointed, a set of black leathery wings and a tail sprouting from his naked skin. Silas feels his heart jump up into his throat. Has he lost Valor forever? Is this what it is like when your demon is stripped away and you’re left a ghost doomed to wander empty?
“Silas.” He reaches out his hand, smiling to reveal devilishly pointed teeth. Silas remembers living with this thing inside him, pushing him to do these evil things and having to struggle to fight against them or give in. Silas realizes he is reaching for Valor’s hand, then quickly draws it back, shaking his head. Anger flashes over Valor’s features and he shakes his hand, urging Silas to take it.
“Silas, don’t be petty. You’ll have to work with me-”
He stops mid-sentence, his eyes moving over to something in his peripheral vision. Silas followed his gaze, glad for the focus to be somewhere else. He immediately regrets this gladness, as he sees that Valiant stands across from them in the white space. Anger is bright on his face.
“I will take you with me, Valor. You will come home with me, and you will help me kill our sister and take her place.”
Valor shook his head. “And what then? You’ll share the kingdom with me equally? No, you’ll use me to take over the kingdom, and then you’ll kill me off so you can keep it all to yourself and whatever spawn you manage to create.”
“Why do you insist on staying here? Do you really feel so attached to this human you feed off of?”
“I’m not going with you, Valiant. You destroyed the kingdom, and that is why father left it to our sister.” Valor says softly.
Valiant snarls. “Like hell you aren’t” He snaps his fingers and a door appears next to him. the door swings open wide to send black fog ebbing slowly out into the room. Even though they are separate from each other, Silas can feel Valor’s emotions very clearly. He can feel the dread that fills him at the sight of that door.
Valiant shoves a hand forward, a deep pulse of magic emanating from his palm. It surges towards Valor so quickly that neither of them can react, acting like an invisible rope around his ankles and knocking him over. He begins to be pulled towards Valiant. Reacting on pure instinct, not thinking that having his demon—Valor—outside of his body should render his magic useless, he aims a bolt of force towards the invisible bonds holding Valor. It severs the connection and destroys Valiant’s spell. As the bond vanishes, Valor rocks back and uses his momentum to gracefully spring to his feet and aim a shot of blue, crackling with magical energy, at his brother. Valiant doubles over as the force crashes into his stomach, and as Silas aims to hit him again he aims his own retaliation at Valor. Valiant sidesteps as he casts, sending Silas’ bolt of energy spinning off wildly into the whiteness around them. Valor catches the spell that had been aiming for him and spins it around, reflecting it without taking any damage. Silas winds up and aims another spell, this time a narrow bolt which hits Valiant and causes him to stumble backwards. Silas grits his teeth at the effort it takes to expend such strong bolts of magic in such a short time. It’s then it occurs to him that Valor has been separated from him, hopefully only temporarily. He can feel the emptiness inside him where Valor resides. He shouldn’t be able to use magic if Valor isn’t within him.
Silas realizes he’s been standing still for too long only as a red bolt takes him in the shoulder, disturbing his balance and throwing him onto his back. Silas has a moment of silent panic where he fears the whiteness will not support him and he will simply fall into oblivion. He lands roughly instead and has the wind knocked out of him, only taking a few seconds to relish in an odd sense of relief before scrambling to his feet. He wishes briefly that he could spring to his feet as gracefully as Valor had earlier.
Valor lets out a cry of frustration and thrusts his hands forward. No magic rushes out of them, but he continues his shout as his arms begin to strain and bend at the elbows. He pushes them back out with a final yell and magical blue flames erupt all around Valiant. Valiant snarls and throws a shield up all around himself Silas puts his own power behind the spell, something shockingly easy to do with his own demon casting it. The combined strength of their magic is almost strong enough to break through the invisible shield. Valiant snarls, a thin film of sweat forming on his forehead. His left hand stays up holding the force field while he makes an elaborate motion with his right hand, which shoots a ray of energy out through the shield and straight through Silas’ shoulder, the same shoulder which is weakened from his previous blow. Silas cries out at the burning sensation. His spell is broken as he stumbles backwards, clutching his shoulder where it is burned.
He writhes in pain, the world coming at him in flashes. Valiant is advancing towards Valor, and the two are trading spells back and forth. Valor keeps losing ground as he looks over to Silas, clearly distracted by concern. Silas hisses through his teeth, muttering a spell to numb the pain. He is weak. He has to speak the spell just to get it to work. In the real world, he might not have been able to cast magic at all. In this strange space, where he can cast without Valor inside him, he has no idea how to measure his own strength.
He feels numbness spread over his shoulder. He squeezes his eyes shut and uses his other arm to shove himself up, grunting as he gets to his feet. He mumbles a quick spell and hurls a ball of energy at Valiant. It hits him by surprise, crashing into him harder than it should, even though Silas’ magic is weakened. As Valiant staggers back from the blow, Valor looks at Silas. They are both breathing heavily. It is only the quickest meeting between eyes, but after years of sharing a body he can see the exhaustion clearly on Valor’s face. Valor can sense Silas’ light-headedness caused by the healing spell. Hopelessness begins to overwhelm him as Valiant hisses and moves his hands in a sweeping motion that Silas recognizes as a powerful spell. Dread fills him as he looks once more at Valor, and when Valor’s eyes meet his, he feels something shift. Even in this world of white against white, he can feel something in his surroundings still. When he looks back at Valiant, the demon is frozen. His eyes burn with determination, but he has stopped moving entirely. Silas stutters, trying to make sense of what happened. He looks over to Valor, ready to start asking him what the hell is going on. Then he speaks in Silas’ head.
“My brother may be stronger than I am, but there are powers I have that he never will.”
“You stopped time?” Silas is stunned, though he shouldn’t be, Valor must have stopped time when they spoke in his head before.
“Not quite.” Valor says dismissively, “But I can’t explain it now. We have to focus on my brother.”
“I’m weak.” Silas breathes heavily, clutching his shoulder. “I’m injured and I’m weak.”
“We can’t beat him with spells, Silas.”
“Then what have we been doing these past-”
“Silas — listen! I can’t hold this much longer.” Something in the impatience of his tone feels familiar, and Silas almost smiles at the strange comfort it gives him.
“We distracted him by fighting with spells.” Valor continues. “He doesn’t know I can ‘stop time’ as you called it. He won’t be expecting another form of attack.”
“Which is?” Silas presses
“It’s an old form of magic. It’s more natural than anything you’ve seen. It’s not from gods or demons that give magic. This magic is based on emotions.”
“What? That’s something out of a children’s story! It’s not-”
Valor cuts off Silas’ shouting. “Humans can’t use it any more in the mortal realm, but where we are now has different rules. It’s almost like we are inside your mind. Emotions have strength here.”
“That…I can’t believe that.”
Valor’s eyes flash angrily. “Believe it or not, it’s true, and hatred is the strongest of all feelings.”
Silas knits his eyebrows together.
“When I let go, focus on your hatred. Try to channel it into him.”
“Won’t that just make him more angry?” Silas asks, still not convinced and unsure of how this odd magic will work.
“It will drive him mad.” Valor replies. “Get ready.”
Silas, unsure of what to do, draws his hands up and widens his stance. Still he is not sure what emotion he’ll channel. He tries to think of what he felt: when he saw River standing behind Valiant, when River left him alone in the bed, all those times River turned from him and chose his religion instead. All those times, sadness and anger and disappointment had been the strongest feelings, but he knows that something underlies those. He wants to wrap himself in the blanket of memories that comes when he remembers cradling River between his thighs, looking into his mismatched eyes, the ragged breath against his neck. He cannot lose himself. Only seconds have passed, but it feels like hours and he wants to linger longer.
He feels the world shift, away from the stillness, as Valor yells “Ready?”
Silas is too shocked to yell back and say he is not. Slowly at first, Valiant begins to move again, finishing casting his spell. His arm comes up, and as he moves to slash it down and send a spell against them, Valor screams and shoots a bolt of energy out from his left hand. The left hand, the hand which is closer to the heart. There is savagery in his posture. He looks over his shoulder at Silas, his eyes like flame wheels scorching with hate. He shouts incoherently into Silas’ mind.
Silas cringes, and panics, and suddenly it is like Valor is inside him, and he has been neglecting what he needs for days, and he can’t hold back from giving him what he wants anymore. He looks at Valiant’s face, screwed up against the weight of Valor’s spell. Hatred for the demon fills him. This demon took magic from his own people and condemned them to an empty existence. He perpetuated the war that has ruined so many.
So Valiant holds out his left hand, and lets all the feelings flow through it, and lets out a cry as a bolt of silvery light hits Valiant directly in the chest. He squints his eyes against the brightness of his magic and Valor’s combined, but he can still see the hole that their spell begin to tear through Valiant. Valiant’s yell as his chest is ripped open is hauntingly familiar to Silas.
It reminds him of the sounds his friend’s made when their magic was taken from them.
A righteous feeling of justice burns through Silas. He grunts as he tries to put more power into his spell. Even through the bright glare of the lights he can see the splatters of blood as Valiant’s flesh is torn apart.
His magic cuts out as pain rips its way through his shoulder. The wound he had managed to heal temporarily burns like it is on fire, and he falls to his knees, raising a hand to the wound only to find that it makes the pain worse. His magic is totally drained, more than it’s ever been before. He has no healing left. Valor’s spell flickers out and dies. His gaze as he turns it towards Silas is still burning but now with fiery victory rather than hatred.
Valiant has collapsed to one knee, and even through everything Silas still has a moment where he can’t believe that two shots in the shoulder brought him down while Valiant has had a hole burrowed halfway through his chest he has just fallen to one knee. Silas’ vision starts to blur with exhaustion and pain, but he sees Valiant bow his head and his hair falls around him like a crimson curtain. Valor steps over him, and Silas expects to see tiredness in the set of the demon’s shoulders, but he holds himself upright and strong. He looks down and Valiant. He reaches out a hand and runs two fingers through the blood oozing down his blistering chest. Valiant is babbling nonsense, his eyes rolling and flickering to look where there is nothing to see.
Valor paints a circle on Valiant’s brow with his own blood.
“As I set this seal, I pronounce you banished, brother.” Valor says in a raspy voice.
“As I set this seal, your name is silent.” Valor dips his fingers back in the blood and draws a line vertically through the circle of Valiant’s brow.
“As I set this seal, your body is broken.” He draws another line perpendicular to the first.
“As I set this seal, your magic is ashes.” He adds a diagonal line.
“As I set this seal, your spirit is doomed.” He adds a fourth line.
“As I set this seal, you split to pieces in the ether.” He adds a larger circle to connect the ends of all the lines together and forms a shape like a wheel.
“You were of spirit like mine, and blood like mine, and flesh like mine, and magic like mine. We were of one heritage.”
Valiant’s eyes move up one more time to look at Valor. He speaks one word: “Brother.”
Valor’s expression does not change. He continues to speak.
“Now you are nothing and never will you return.”
The sigil on Valiant’s brow pulses once, emanating a deep blue light.
Valiant’s eyes roll up into his head and he falls forward onto his face.
“What an inelegant end.” Silas manages to think, as blackness storms into the edges of his vision and he falls backwards into it.
Read the next chapter here