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Silas has used his magic to project a map of the city, outlined in electric blue, onto a table in the center of their hideout and is staring down at it thoughtfully. He is lost in ideas of meeting places, good locations for possible demonstrations or attacks, even occasional thoughts of areas that they haven’t searched for potential new members. When he hears a voice behind him he jumps and mutters a string of colorful curses related to a certain Prince of Hell’s private parts.
Leena smirks at him. “I asked you if the guy you’ve been so clearly pining over these past weeks is the witch who stood besides you when you addressed the assembly.”
Silas tenses and turns as the map disappears. He stares at Leena angrily, but she lifts an eyebrow cockily at him. “Oh please. It’s him. If you think I’m going to judge you because he’s a witch, don’t worry.”
“He’s not just any witch.” River says darkly, crossing his arms and leaning back against the table. “He’s the son of the High Priestess of the coven of Ama.”
Leena didn’t look shocked or appalled like he’d expected. Instead she just shrugged. “So? You know women in those covens don’t care about their sons. He’s not a daughter, so she probably barely raised him like he was her own child. He’s just like any other witch, as far as I’m concerned.”
“He’s not like the rest of them.” Silas said defensively.
Leena laughs and puts a hand on his shoulder. “You know that’s not what I meant, Silas. If he’s on our side, than I’m sure he’s a great person.”
“Good. Glad you like him, because he’ll be here soon. He and I have business to discuss.”
“Business?” Leena wiggles her eyebrows suggestively.
Silas rolls his eyes. “Yes. Business. Remember, he leads the witches in this rebellion just like I lead the fiends. We need to work together.”
“Doesn’t mean you can’t have fun while doing it.” Leena laughs and turns away, sauntering off into the busyness of the warehouse.
Silas projects the map onto the table again and begins to look over it again when he hears Leena’s voice through the crowd. He doesn’t catch her exact words, but he can tell from her tone that it’s a greeting. He looks towards the direction of her voice and smiles when he sees River parting ways with her and heading towards him. With a quick flick of his hand, SIlas dismisses the map and leans against the table in a way he hopes looks alluring.
River smiles at him. “What did you want to discuss with me?”
Silas can’t help but give a little laugh.
“What?” River’s face falls immediately into a look of concern.
“You’re always so…I don’t know…to the point? Whatever happened to ‘hello, how are you’?”
River gives an uncertain smile. “Sorry?”
Silas laughs it off and waves a hand dismissively. With his other hand he makes a pulling motion that magically draws two chairs over to the table. He sits in one and motions for River to take the other.
“So, I was thinking,” Silas begins, “We need a way for me to get into the coven without risking getting my ass caught, since your mother isn’t exactly on-board with all this.”
River frowns and leans back in his chair. “Why don’t we just keep using this system?”
“What, I message you, you find a time when you can slip away and sneak over here and risk getting killed the whole way?” Silas shakes his head. “River, I know there’s a lot of protections around your coven that will make it hard for me to portal in, but you have to agree that it’s safer-”
“It’s not possible.” River cuts him off sharply.
Silas’ demon is agitated by the proximity of River’s divine magic, and his life recently has become hard hours of work trying to accomplish something he’s unconvinced will ever get done. His temper is short. “Well, fine, if you don’t want to communicate on equal terms, how about you just leave your coven and join us?”
River pales. “Silas…you know that isn’t…”
“I just don’t get it, River. We can figure something out.”
River sighs. “No. I don’t think you should come around the coven anymore. It isn’t safe.”
“It isn’t safe for you out on the streets!” Silas stands suddenly and moves around the table until he’s standing besides River, looking down at him.
River meets his eyes briefly and looks away. He opens his mouth to say something when a broken cry echoes throughout the stone walls of the warehouse. Silas whirls to identify the sound, hears a dull thump, and looks back to River to see he has passed out with his head on the table.
A primitive fear shivers through him, making his demon jump up into his throat as he falls to his knees, desperately shaking River and calling his name. The witch doesn’t respond. He hears more screaming. This time, it is a woman’s voice calling his name. Leena.
Silas looks back down to River, slumped over the table. He leans over and grabs
River’s wrist, checking his pulse and ignoring Leena’s continuing urgent screams. River’s pulse is normal, so with one last look of concern Silas steps away from him and rushes towards Leena’s grief-stricken voice. The fiends around her are standing in a circle with pale and horrified faces. Silas pushes them aside until he can see that the shape they are standing around is one of their own, a slender man collapsed bonelessly on his side. Heart thudding against his ribs, Silas kneels down next to him and pulls him into his lap. Suddenly, the fiend’s mouth opens wide, a hole torn in his face. His breath comes with a harsh wheezing sound and then the hollow noise of the wind through fall leaves as he pulls air back in.
The fiend’s eyes lock with his. Silas watches as his face grows pale, his lips shaking as if he is trying to say something. Then he falls back and is still.
Horror tears through Silas. The fiend is dead. He looks up at the other fiends around him who look on in horror.
“I tried…I couldn’t…” Silas whispers, withdrawing his hands from the body, holding them up on either side of himself.
“He’s breathing!” Leena gasps, pointing. Silas looks down and sees that Leena is right. The fiend’s chest is rising and falling, albeit weakly. Silas lays his hands back on the body, feels the terrible emptiness that he had mistaken for death. Revulsion overcomes him and he rips his hands away once more. The fiend’s eyes open halfway and he stares at him, glassy.
Even as he speaks, Silas cannot tear his eyes away from that gaze.
“His magic…it’s…gone.” Silas’ voice comes out louder than he’d intended, but strangely thin and empty.
“What?” Leena breathes, barely audible.
“It…he feels like a sec, when I reach out with my magic, but it’s…more than that. It’s more empty like something was” he speaks the unspeakable words, “torn…out of him.”
His eyes roam the gathered fiends. The memory of River passed out at the table is present but distant. Several things happen all at once. He notices that the air is heavy, as it is in the red fiend’s presence, it dawns on him that a surge of demonic magic could be enough to make River pass out, and he sees a young fiend with long blonde hair standing right in front of him turn ashen and falls to the ground. She hits the floor hard and Silas rockets to his feet. Leena rushes to her as she gives a few twitches. Silas can see her pale pink lips forming the word “no” over and over again, but no sound comes out.
The blonde fiend whispers something unintelligible, and then she is still.
The room is filled with eerie silence in which Silas can hear only two steady beats of his heart.
Then all around him, almost simultaneously, fiends begin to drop to the ground. With frighteningly slowed-down clarity, he sees the muscles in Leena’s back flex as she clutches at her chest. She is kneeling, but she falls over onto her side. He can’t close his eyes as he watches the fiends all around him fall, succumbing to the pain.
Silas should try to do something, should try to stop it, but the demon inside of him has frozen up. In a sudden moment of fear he wonders if his magic is gone, and raises his shaking hands in front of him to conjure a small flame in the palm of his hands. It works, shining a blue light in a small circle around him. He lets out a shaky breath and almost runs towards the back of the safehouse where River is still slumped over the table. There is no doubt in his mind that this is the red fiend’s doing. They are all going to lose their magic. Does River still have his? He was alive when Silas left him at the table, but has…
He falls to River’s side and places his hands on him. He is still breathing, which sends a wave of relief through Silas. The fiend closes his eyes and sends his magic into River, reaching out for the witch’s magic. An electric feeling, not exactly painful, vibrates through his whole body and forces him backwards. Divine magic still flows through River. He takes a quiet moment of relief before turning back to the horror that has just occurred.
Silas stands and places a hand over his mouth, looking over the warehouse of fallen fiends. They are all lying still, though occasionally he can hear the ragged sound of breathing or groans. Silas places a hand protectively over his stomach and closes his eyes. He knows that it will befall him, however it works, he will be stripped of his magic. What will he be then? How does a fiend live without his magic? Will he lose his demon? He can feel it, for the first time he can remember, wrapped around his own soul, hiding behind it in fear and searching for comfort within it.
He takes a deep steadying breath and sits in the chair across from River. What he can see of the witch’s face looks peaceful. It might be easier to lose his magic while looking at that peaceful expression, knowing that at least River will escape with his abilities intact. The heaviness in the air multiplies, and Silas thinks the chair he’s sitting in might fall through the floor from the weight of it. The blood-haired fiend is coming. He closes his eyes and waits for it. He briefly considers standing up and fighting the fiend, forcing his demon out of its hiding place until it will help him face his enemy, but before he can really decide if he should act on it he hears a voice.
“Oh no, fiend, I will not take away your magic.”
Silas blinks his eyes open, chasing away half-formed visions of taking down the red fiend in a torrent of blue fire.
The red fiend seems to shine in the darkness of the room. Silas has a sudden impossible wish that River will wake up and hold his hand. He doesn’t think he can face this alone. Then the words that the fiend had spoken begin to sink in.
“I will not take your magic, Silas.” He says again. “I will leave you with yours. In return you will talk to your friends who are planning to create peace. You will tell them of my power, and urge them to bow to me instead.”
He smiles. He has perfectly white, straight teeth.
“No.” Silas’ voice shakes. He is afraid, and also in shock that he’s standing up to this fiend that is clearly so much more powerful than he is. He speaks so quietly that he can barely hear his own voice.
“All you’ve done is wreak havoc.I don’t know who you are, but-”
Valiant tips his head back and laughs, revealing a second set of razor-sharp teeth behind his first row of human teeth.
“What has become of the demons in this world? Do they really quiver so inside of you, not telling you of the glories of their home?”
Silas speaks before he can help it, feeling urged by some sort of defensiveness. “Many demons can talk to the fiends they live in. But I’ve never heard them mention any demon or fiend by name. Except Lucifer.”
The fiend’s blood-red hair moves in the air around him like he is underwater. “Ah, yes, Lucifer.” He says the name with a sneer. “All anybody ever wants to talk about is Lucifer. Nobody wants to give his sons the credit that they deserve.”
“Sons?” Silas whispers. He is somehow transfixed by the idea. He knows that there is chaos around him, and that he should be thinking about the fiends or River, but he is transfixed by the idea of learning more. Perhaps it has always bothered him that something which is so much a part of his life is a secret, but he has never really wanted to learn more about the demons until right now.
“Yes. I rather thought someone who claimed to be leading so many fiends would be a bit smarter. There are other demons with power, besides Lucifer. I am one of them. I am Valiant.”
Of course. He is no fiend. He is a true demon, appearing in a human form. How could Silas not have realized?
“Why are you always hurting people? If you’re a demon, how could you hurt all these fiends? Aren’t they your people too?”
Valiant runs a hand over his chin and looks thoughtfully at Silas. “Yes. Of course your people hold a special place in my heart. But sometimes we have to make sacrifices in order to get the best result. It’s a shame I had to take all of your friends’ magic away, but it is necessary in order to get what I want.”
“What you want?” Silas blinks, unable to process the information or say anything else.
“You will tell all your people, and the witches, and I suppose the seculars too, that they will bow to me. You will tell them that I will continue to create terror if they do not. I will take the war I’ve been making and multiply it tenfold.”
Silas feels the world around him drop. Spots darken his vision and his knees weaken for a moment. The war I’ve been making.
“You…” He doesn’t recognize his own voice. He begs for his own demon to be with him, and make him strong, but his demon is withdrawn fully inside him.
“Yes, me.” Valiant flashes him a wide smile, his row of human teeth hiding the truths of what lies behind them.
Then he is gone
Silas sinks to his knees in the darkness. He can do nothing to help his people. All this time, he had thought that maybe they were going to be able to do something. The chance of failure had always been high, and he’d been aware of that, but he’d thought that they’d at least make some sort of difference.
Yet when it came down to it, he could do nothing. Even the power of his demon had betrayed him. So many times he had taken for granted the power he held over others and the subtle knowledge that he was the most powerful of anyone he knows. Now it is like his whole sense of self is being taken away from him. If he is no longer strong enough to fight whatever faces him, what good is any of his power?
“Silas?” River’s voice from the back of the warehouse is quiet. Silas spins and rushes to River’s side.
“What happened?” River asks, blinking and lifting a hand to his head. His pale eyebrows furrow as he takes in the scene around him. “Silas, what…”
Silas can’t help falling against River, can’t help the tears that cloud his vision.
“Valiant…the red fiend…he’s a demon. He came. He took everyone’s magic. I’m the only one left.”
River says nothing, but his arms go around Silas. Silas can feel him looking around the room, the quickening of the witch’s breath as he takes it all in.
Less time than he would like passes before he has to push River away and deal with the situation. He takes a deep breath and rubs his eyes.
“River, you should go back to the coven. You’ll be safer there.”
River frowns at him. “What are you going to do about this?”
“I’ll message Malachai and ask him for help. It’s all I can think of.”
River looks at him, his eyes wide with concern. His gaze flickers down to Silas’ lips. Moments later, River kisses him. It is quick, and sweet, but it calms the torrent of Silas’ mind even if only by a small amount.
His friends are all still breathing, but he can tell they are weak and pale. He picks his way over their forms until he stands over Leena. Her eyes seem void of all color as they move from Silas to where Valiant had been standing. She moves her lips and dry, gravelly sound comes out. Silas rushes to her side, shushing her. He feels a brief rush of air that he knows means Malachai and the others have arrived.
“Malachai, thank you.” Silas says as he turns, but it is not Malachai.
Violet’s petite form looks especially small in the large room where she stands alone.
“Violet?” He asks, rising shakily to his feet.
“I’m sorry, Silas. The other’s wouldn’t come. I’m,” she hesitates, “I’m out of the gang now, but you said it was an emergency and I needed to make sure you were alright but…what happened, Silas?”
He looks Violet in the eye and tells her what has happened. The blood drains from her face, and for a moment terror rips through Silas. But it is only the shock. Violet is not losing her magic. She remains upright.
“Has this happened elsewhere?” She asks.
“I don’t know.” Silas shakes his head. “Will you help me tend to them?”
Violet’s eyes move over the fallen. She doesn’t nod or give any other form of consent, but she kneels and begins to look after them.
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