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“You stink like the witches.” Malachai mumbles. He’s sitting at the kitchen table, all the dirty plates and garbage shoved to the side to make space for counting money. Leaning against the doorframe, Silas watches him work. Replaying in his brain is the moment River had said I’ve grown confused.

        “Huh?” Silas’ eyes focus on Malachai, who has turned away from his work to stare at him.

        “I’m asking why you stink like you’ve been to the covens!” The crash of the chair hitting the floor as he rockets to his feet doesn’t cover his shouting

        Silas takes a step back, and Malachai rushes towards him, grabbing his arm and pushing him up against the wall. Silas tries to push him away, but his arms are thin and waifish compared to Malachai’s.

        “Tell me why you were with them.” Malachai hisses.

        “I wasn’t with them.” Silas hisses back, and Malachai tightens his grip on his arm.

Malachai lets go of him, turning away and clenching his fists at his sides.

“You’re fucking one of them, aren’t you?” He yells again. Over his broad shoulder, Silas sees Violet poke her head in the doorway before widening her eyes in surprise and darting away.

“I haven’t fucked any of them.” Silas shouts back incredulously.

Malachai turns back to face him, shaking a fist. “I’ve looked the other way dozens of times when you’ve bent over for clients who owe us money, our rivals, basically anyone you shouldn’t. I’m not going to let this slide. This is a fucking dink we’re talking about. Hell’s Flames, Silas, can’t you think with your head instead of your cock?” He breathes heavily in Silas’ face, keeping him pressed against the wall.

        “We didn’t fuck. He…it…it isn’t reciprocated.” Silas says quietly. “Now please let me go. I still have the rest of the night off.”

        Malachai steps away from him and takes several deep breaths. He raises his eyebrows. “Not anymore. You’re going to count this money. Twice.” He gestures to the ledgers and the piles of bills on the table.

        Silas sighs but does not argue. “Fine.”

        “And you’re never going to see him again. Find some fiend to spread your legs for.”

       Silas glares at him but says nothing.

       Suddenly Malachai’s hand is on his windpipe, and he’s snarling in Silas’ face. “Do you understand me?”

Silas’ demon thrashes within him, knowing its own strength. He’s considered leaving dozens of times, but as strong as he is, it isn’t enough for him to survive alone. He’s thought of seizing power for himself, but he would have no idea how to lead and they would plummet into disaster.

        “I understand” Silas hisses.

        Malachai lets go of him, nods to the money piled on the table, and leaves.

        Alone in the room, Silas sits down to start the daunting task of counting all the money. He’s muttering angrily to himself, telling himself how much he hates Malachai.

“I’m different from other fiends. I know it, he knows it.” He whispers to himself. “I’ll be the first one to make it on my own. Just watch.”

The demon in Silas jolts upwards at the thought, almost taking him over.

“Calm yourself down,” he mutters, continuing to count bills, “You might want me to leave, but I’m not going to.”

“I heard what Malachai was saying, about the dinks.”

Silas looks up to see Violet standing with her arms crossed, staring down at him.

“Please tell me you aren’t actually sleeping with one of them.” She narrows her green eyes at him.

Silas pauses, a bill held in his hand. He slams it down on the table and moves the pile he’d made back towards the rest of the money.

“Fucking lost count.” He mutters. He looks up at Violet, leaning back onto the rear two legs of his chair. “And no. I haven’t fucked anyone for two weeks.”

A smirk makes the corner of Violet’s mouth twitch. “Yeah, I can tell. Saying you seem tense would be an understatement.”

It’s true. He can’t remember the last time he’d gone this long. The demon in him is frantic about it. He can’t stop imagining River’s hands running over his body, gripping his waist, pressing against his inner thighs to push them open. The idea of how River’s pink lips would feel against his, soft but full of life and desire, haunts him.

“Come out with me tonight.” Violet settles into the chair besides him. “We’ll find a man for you to take home. Something to help clear your system out.” She raises her eyebrows at him.

Silas nods, returning to the task of money. “Fine.” It isn’t like him to sound so unenthusiastic about going out, and she knows it. Violet eyes him suspiciously but says nothing, standing and leaving the room. Silas returns to his task of counting, trying to focus, but his mind keeps slipping back to two-toned eyes and golden hair.

When Silas has finished counting, and recounting, the money, he returns to the living room. Violet is examining her nails are arguing with Cole about something. Cole is big, with beefy arms like Malachai’s. His blonde hair is long, though not as long as Silas’, and his skin is a pale sort of tan. Jack is laying on the couch, clearly half asleep, the long scar that runs all the way from the top of his scalp past his ear to his jawbone very prominent. Jack is, out of all of them, the best at healing. The scar is large, but had been very neatly healed. Silas thinks of some of his own scars. The ones he’d tried to heal himself had healed ugly and uneven.

Malachai storms into the room and they all perk up, except Jack.

“Listen.” Malachai says loudly, startling Jack fully awake.

“As you all know, Silas and I visited the coven of Ama two weeks ago.”

Silas feels a hot prickling moving over his chest and neck. What has happened?

“We discovered that the war between the witches and the secs was worse than we had thought, and it’s getting even worse now.”

Body tensing, Silas sits up and fixes Malachai with a stare.

“Apparently the secs have started making demands. They went to one of the weakest covens first. When they refused, the secs attacked.”

        It takes Silas some time to process this.

He knows the seculars have guns, things they use to hurt people without magic, but whatever weapons they possess are so much weaker than magic. He’s never thought they could really harm anyone other than each other.

        “Which coven?” Silas asks. Malachai says it is a weak coven. That should reassure Silas that Ama’s coven, River’s coven, is safe, but his hands still shake.

“It seems the secs have made some sort of new weapon,” Malachai continues, “one that can create explosions.”

Surprise moves through the room but Silas ignores it. “Which coven?” He asks again.

        “There were no survivors. It was the first open act of war from the secs against the witches.” Malachai keeps ignoring Silas.

        “Which coven?” Silas yells this time, losing track of himself in his desperation to ensure River’s safety.

        Malachai locks his dark eyes, hard with impatience, with Silas’.

        “The Coven of Eva,” He says, “on the other side of the city.”

        A deep breath rushes out of Silas which he can make no attempt to silence. Cole and Jack frown at him, probably wanting to know why he could possibly care so much about a single coven. Violet shoots him a glance of sympathy but quickly looks away.

        “So there will be a war now?” she asks, breaking the tension Silas outburst has caused.

        “I don’t know.” Malachai sighs. “Whatever happens, we’re going to lay low.”

        “They won’t stop with one coven.” Cole, ever practical and war-minded, points out. “They don’t understand the way the witches operate. They do not realize how separate each of the covens are. They attack witches as a whole.”

Jack, always silent, simply shakes his head. Violet crosses her arms over her chest and bends forward, as if she is trying to curl up and block it all out. “Do you think they will come after us?” She asks quietly.

        “I don’t think it’s about magic.” Silas shakes his head. “When I had the vision…I swear I could feel their anger. They’re just sick of being so poor.”

        “We’re in the poorhouse just like they are. They won’t come for us.” Malachai says, nodding. “I wouldn’t have bothered with telling you, but lots of our customers are secs. It’s important we stay smart when we’re dealing with them. We can’t get mixed up it in.”

It’s true. The secs can’t get enough Gauge, though it takes less of the drug to get them high than it does for fiends.They are all so desperate to forget their poverty and their misery that they will do anything to chase it away.

        “Yes.” Cole responds. “I don’t think they will attack us, as long as we remain neutral.”  

        “We are going to keep out of this.” Malachai says, looking around at all of them very seriously, “We are going to keep going about business as usual.” His eyes flicker over to Silas, “Any and all interaction with any of the covens is forbidden. Understood?”

       

        Within the next month there are six more attacks. The secs do not ask for anything else from any of the covens, but they do not bomb anymore either. Silas finds himself sometimes awake at night, wondering what the secs had wanted when they’d approached the coven of Eva. What had been so crucial that they’d needed to bomb it when they hadn’t gotten what they wanted? Although the bombings don’t continue, the secs continue their violence by shooting down random groups of witches on the streets. Many fiends laugh at their deaths, giddy to see the divine — their long time enemy — fall in such a tragic way. Silas stays up staring out the window. He becomes distracted on jobs. He realizes people are talking to him only when they’ve called his name too many times. He can’t stop thinking of River. Weeks have gone by since they met, and Silas is still tormented by worry. He’s spent years fucking, more men than he can count, and now that he’s finally found someone that makes him feel, he might finally lose them. It is a selfish way of thinking about it, and he knows that, but recently it feels like he is mostly the demon.

He sits on the saggy couch now, leaning back against the fraying pillows with his eyes closed. He feels the demon stirring in him. He’s been sitting, staring at the bottle of liquor on the table in front of him. He doesn’t like to drink too much of it, and when he was spending most of his nights out clubbing, he wouldn’t have to. He’s noticed in the past few weeks that it’s been taking more and more of it to subdue the demon. Violet keeps telling him to forget about River. It’s messing you up, she’d said. He takes a deep drink from the bottle, staring at the empty wall in front of him. He knows he needs to do something to stop sitting here alone, but Malachai has been keeping him busy, and he’s too tired to go out. Malachai isn’t stupid. He knows that if he gives Silas too much leeway he’ll start thinking about running to River again. The demon begins to settle inside him as he takes another drink from the bottle.

“Are you going out tonight?”

Violet’s hopeful voice startles him so much that the bottle slips from his hand and shatters on the floor.

“Hell’s Flames, Violet.” Muttering, Silas waves a hand to reassemble the bottle and siphon the liquid back inside. “What is it they say about people like you? Quick as death and twice as quiet.”

Violet smiles. “I wouldn’t be a very good sleuth if I wasn’t either of those things.”

“You’ve been spying a lot more lately.” Silas observes. She is dressed in all black, including a piece of fabric around her neck which she could pull up to make a skin-tight hood that leaves only her eyes exposed. She’s headed out to investigate. Again. There’s been talk among the witches. The heads of the largest covens are going to meet and discuss how to handle the violence. Although Malachai had said he doesn’t want to be involved, it’s clear he still wants to be filled in on what the covens are planning. A few days ago she’d told them the high priestesses are planning to meet up, and they’d been shocked. They had never expected that the witches would band together. It seems that the situation really is becoming dire.

Silas stands, setting down the bottle. “Violet, you need to do something for me.”

She raises an eyebrow at him, green eyes sparkling with impatience.

        “What do you want?”  She asks.

        Silas glances around them, ensuring Malachai isn’t in earshot. “He’s sent you to listen in on the witches, yes?”

        She nods, frowning at him. “Yes, as always.”

        “I need you to go to the coven of Ama.”

        “What?” Violet sounds truly shocked.

        “I’ve asked you. You have to listen to me.”

Violet flinches away. It’s low of him to mention the power his demon has over hers. He’s too desperate to care.

“I’d be disobeying Malachai’s orders.” Violet hisses through her teeth. She won’t be disobeying their boss, not really. She knows this, and Silas can see it in her eyes.

“No you won’t. He already has you spying. You’re just adding an extra destination to the list.”

Violet sighs and closes her eyes. “You want me to find out about River.”

Silas nods.

Violet shakes her head. “Fine. Since I have to obey you, I’ll do it. But you need to forget about River. It’s too risky. If Malachai finds out-“

        “He’ll toss me out.” Silas finishes her sentence. “Yes, I know. I’m valuable to him, but not so valuable that he’ll let me do whatever I want. And I promise, if he finds out, I’ll tell him that I ordered you to do this. You won’t get in trouble.”

Hesitantly, Violet looks him over, but nods before pulling her hood up over her head and face and slipping out the front door.

        The moon has been shining in Silas’ window for several hours when he hears someone coming in the front door. He has been laying on his back, randomly pointing his finger at things laying around his room and making them chase each other. When he hears a sound from downstairs he bolts upright, causing everything to fall to floor with thumping sounds. He opens the door just as Violet is coming up the stairs, her hood pulled down around her neck and her face covered in a thin sheen of sweat.

“Where’s Malachai?” She asks. Malachai usually needs her to report immediately, and would probably beat her if she dallied in delivering her news.

“He’s on a date.” Silas says, unable to keep the hint of humor from his voice.

Violet shakes her head as she climbs the last stair and stops in front of Silas. “I keep forgetting he’s such a romantic. I’ll tell him when he’s back.”

Violet moves to leave, but Silas reaches out and grabs her arm. He pulls her into his room and shuts the door behind them. She suddenly looks exhausted. She sits her slender frame on his bed and rubs at her eyes.

        “So?” Silas eyes her impatiently.

        Violet shakes her head. “I went to the coven of Ama. I didn’t see him, but I crouched beneath a kitchen window for half an hour and heard one of their servants mention him. He’s alive. I’m sure of it.”

Silas lets out a breath of relief, leaning back against the wall. He closes his eyes for a moment, then flutters them open. He’s surprised to see Violet still sitting on his bed, looking down at her hands in her lap. She’s never been good at hiding secrets. It’s probably part if why Malachi likes her so much: he knows she’ll never hide anything from him. She can’t lie to Malachi directly, due to the subservience of the demon inside her, but she could find creative ways to avoid the truth if she was a different type of person.

        “There’s something else.” Silas presses, stepping towards her and looking down at her where she sits.

        She looks up at him. “That’s all I heard at the coven.”

And here I was praising her honesty.

        “There’s something you aren’t telling me.” Silas knows it from the look she has in her eyes. He reaches down and grasps her shoulder, pressing hard into it.       

        She stands up and pushes him back to break his grip. “Did you really think you could bully me into telling?”

        Silas feels something burning at the base of his throat. Something is very wrong. “So there is something.”

        Violet blinks, realizing too late that she has made a mistake. She mumbles a few colorful curses before she sinks back onto the bed. Her hands slide over her face, muffling her voice as she speaks, “I was going to tell Malachai first. I don’t want you to freak out.”

Silas feels the breath rush out of him. “Tell me.”

“The secs are going to attack the coven of Ama.”

        A bolt of electricity runs up Silas’ spine. “What?” His voice comes out weak and quiet with shock. “River’s coven?”

        “Yes.” Violet rushes to speak, “But you can’t do anything, Malachai can’t know I-”

        “When?” Silas’ voice is harsh.

        Violet looks at him, hesitating. “Three days.” She speaks softly, almost in a whisper.

        “I need to warn River.” He moves quickly to leave the room. Violet grabs him by the wrist and holds him back.

        “Silas. You can’t get involved. If you get between the secs and the witches, you’re inviting all the fiends into the war.”

        Roughly jerking his arm away, Silas stares daggers at her.

        “I do what I want. I’m going to warn him. Nobody will see me.”

        Violet shakes her head. “This is why I didn’t want to tell you.  Do you really think Malachai won’t find out?”

        “Screw Malachai!” Silas shouts, letting out a wave of magic which shoves loose objects against the walls. “I’ve been thinking about splitting off. Going out on my own.”

        Violet flinches. “You can’t mean that. How could you leave?”

        Silas gives her one final look but says nothing. He rushes out of the room, pounds down the stairs and bursts out the door, running.

Comment below or email me at krmorrighan@wordpress.com to let me know what you think! Whatever you have to say, I’d love to hear it (especially constructive criticism)! 

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