It was a warm spring day. The sun shone through my window and the breeze blew my curtains about. I couldn’t enjoy it though, as I was in my room at the guild hall with Kian and Orri working on some spell work. Ferros had wanted me to practice summoning, something I’d never tried, so I’d be ready for when we called upon Ilien to ask for passage north.
I found out quickly that I was not particularly good at it. Even with the notes Wesley had left for me in my spellbook. They were supposed to help me through the steps. I’d been at it for hours and, with the instructions from my mentor, had managed to summon only a small wisp into my room. It had unfortunately promptly darted out the open balcony window. Cheered on by Orri as it fled to freedom.
Thankfully the startled screams had died down a few moments after it had vanished, so I was hoping that the wisp had dissipated. With Orri’s encouragement, I had tried a few other summoning spells from the book but only a gust of wind had resulted. A gross smelling gust of wind. Orri swore it was from the nether end of a demon. I had to agree with her. It was a bit discouraging.
“Kian thinks Tiris needs break,” Kian informed me from her small nest in the corner. Her tiny snout was covered by a cloth. “Kian thinks the room needs fresh air yes?”
“By the holy stones of my mother, yes.” Orri was the first to dart out of the door, a small hand covering her nose while the other flailed uselessly to fan away the smell.
I’d long lost my sense of smell to the horrid summon but I nodded anyway. I was developing a massive headache and even if I was used to it the smell wasn’t helping.
Kian, Orri, and I split up after leaving the room. Kian said something about roses and went off towards the gardens. Orri said something of nausea and went for the outhouse. I was hungry, so I headed towards the cantina.
The residential hallway that everyone’s rooms were off, was empty. I found it strange as I calmly exited my room behind my friends. Most times at least one member of the guild would be active. Ferros never gave everyone assignments at the same time. Just in case there was an emergency. Figuring everyone was off getting ready for the summoning I didn’t pay much mind to the oddity. Though it did make me a little nervous.
I made it to the end of the hall, where Sir Breken’s room was before I saw anyone. Breken had his door open and was leaning over his desk with a very rapt expression on his face. His cheeks looked flushed and he was tight knuckled while holding the edges of his desk.
My curiosity got the better of me and I knocked on the open door to get the warrior’s attention. I had to find out what had him so flustered. He was usually a calm and relaxed man who only got worked up when Garrett was pestering him, and I couldn’t see Garrett nearby.
The reaction I got from my knock was not what I was expecting. Breken grabbed a piece of vellum from his desk and slammed it into a drawer before spinning to face me. His face went whiter than a skeleton in the sun and he almost tumbled over his desk chair trying to straighten up.
“Are you okay Sir Breken?” I asked concerned. He looked sick. “Do you need me to get Liam?”
“No,” Breken waved me off with a shaky hand. “No need to bother the healer. I’m sure he is busy and I'm perfectly all right.”
“Are you?” I wasn’t convinced. Breken was almost sweating now and it wasn’t something I was used to seeing from the overly poised warrior.
You needn’t worry about me Lady Tiris,” Breken took a few shaky steps towards me. The way he hesitated a bit before leaving his desk unguarded made me want to see what he’d hidden in there even more.
“You look really ill though,” I stepped forward and Breken’s face grew bright red. I made a mental note to get Orri to break in and see what he was hiding if I couldn’t get him to tell me. Whatever it is had to be good to make such a calm man so jumpy.
“It isn’t what you think,” Breken wiped his hand across his forehead in a nervous gesture. The tips of his fingers massaging his brow. “You umm… You haven’t seen anything unusual today, have you? I mean more out of the average?”
“I summoned a wisp that escaped,” I offered. “I tried a few other times, but nothing came through.”
Breken nodded and swallowed, he looked to be preparing for a huge confession. “You… You haven’t seen any odd drawings or anything then?”
“Well one of my failed summonses caused a wind that left behind a smiling face, but I don’t think that’s what you’re asking about. In fact, if Orri was correct, I’m fairly sure that was just the emotion of the creature that released the wind.”
“No,” An awkward laugh and a hand through his normally well-kempt hair told me he was talking about something that made him uncomfortable. “I’m sure it is nothing. Just… umm... Have you seen Garrett lately?”
“I see him every day,” In fact, he was a bit of a stalker. I had little doubt Ferros was having him keep an eye on me. “I’m actually surprised he isn’t here now. Usually, I can’t go a few hours without him popping up.” I had the suspicion that the smell from my summoning had chased him and his sensitive nose off for a while. At least one good thing had come of it. “Why?”
“He hasn’t done anything he shouldn’t to you has he?” Breken’s voice was serious and his own shaking had disappeared in lieu of what he considered an earnest threat.
“He keeps eating my food.” Garrett was more of an annoyance to me really. He and I were alike in our conscription to the guild and Ferros had instructed him to keep an eye on me because of it. That and I was certain Wesley had paid Ferros a pretty coin to get me a bodyguard. I didn’t really dislike him, he was mostly quiet and kept to himself even when in the same room. He just got on my nerves sometimes with his teasing. Something I noticed he rarely did with anyone else. “Garrett has never really been dangerous.” I pause a moment. “Well, not to me at least. Why? Do you think he did something?”
“I, ummm…, I woke up this morning with an… inappropriate… uh. Picture?” He seemed unsure of what words to use and I found myself wanting to laugh at him.
“What kind of picture?” I asked. “You think Garrett put it on your door as a joke?”
“I...no,” Breken sighed. “I had thought maybe he’d umm… drawn it, and someone else stole it. I don’t think he’d let something like this… get into my possession.”
“You aren’t making this sound good,” I peeked past him to the desk and crossed my arms. “Is it a picture of me?”
I was shocked quiet for a split second before I demanded “Let me see it!” and tried to push past the larger man. “What kind of picture is it?” I expected such things from Garrett but never Breken!
“See what?” The instant I was doing something slightly inappropriate Garrett appeared at the top of the stairs leading down into the main hall. He didn’t look too pleased that I was trying to push my way into Breken’s room.
“Someone posted a picture of me on Breken’s door this morning! He put it in his desk!”
“What kind of picture?” Garrett’s tone was the normal hostile tenor it took on whenever he spoke to Breken. “Where is it?”
“Safe,” Breken snapped back. “It will remain so until I know who the culprit is.”
Garrett stepped towards the other man, he was slightly shorter than Breken, not including his horns, and looked up at the other like he was facing his worst enemy. “I think it would be safer with Tiris. So why don’t you hand it over? Then we can find the culprit.”
“I can handle it, Garrett,” I push the Delgan out of my way and confront Breken again. “If it is a drawing of me that makes you blush so, then I want it.” I cringe at the thought that what Breken was so flustered about was a picture of me. Was it that bad?
“I…” Breken was about to object when there was a scream from downstairs. Followed by a loud crash as a vase was hurled against the wall. Fragments of glass flew to the stair landing vigorously pursued by Kinsley, the guild's treasurer.
Kinsley was about to run up the stairs when he spotted me, Garrett, and Breken. His thin face went deathly white and he looked about to faint.
Nihla, our courser an assistant cook appeared right behind him and she was fuming. She stopped when she saw us and at once grabbed Kinsley and jerked him down the stairs again. I heard her cursing about inappropriate pictures and getting himself killed by a crazy dragon man with a bow.
“Wait!” I called after them the moment I heard her muttering about the pictures. “Nihla!”
She stopped and turned back to me. “Missus please know that I will take care of this cretin. You needn’t worry about such vile defamation around here.”
“Was it attached to your door this morning?” I asked Kinsley. He was cowering behind Nihla’s legs trying to hide from Breken and Garrett. Both of which stood peering over my shoulders with fearsome frowns. “Breken had one on his door too. Did you see who did it?”
“No-o,” Kinsley said, his voice quivering. “It was just there. I swear I was going to burn it."
“Where is it now?” Garrett demanded. He glared down at Kinsley, his normal smirk gone and his face stoney.
“I threw it in the fire,” Nihla answered for the terrified treasurer. “I wasn’t about to let him keep it.”
“So, neither of you saw who did it?” Frustration and embarrassment warred for victory in me and made my stomach a little bubbly. “Do you have any ideas who might have done it?”
“I’m afraid not missus. I thought for sure this worm had done so. But if good Sir Breken is also being targeted I suppose I can’t blame Kinsley.” Nihla turned a scornful gaze to the man behind her. “Though he shouldn’t have been ogling it like he was!”
“Was he now?” Garrett stepped towards the pair and came to stand at my side. He wasn’t loud and didn’t sound angry, but the look on his face was terrifying. Like he’d seen a bug that had insulted him.
He moved to go past me, but I grabbed his arm by his leather gauntlet and shook my head at him. “It’ll pass for now. We need to find who is doing this and stop them before it gets any worse.”
“Perhaps Sir Liam will know something,” Breken said from behind me. He hadn’t fully come down the stairs and towered over the rest of us. He was normally intimidating but was somehow even more so in his vexation at the loss of my honor.
“I will ask some of the kitchen staff if they’ve seen anything,” Nihla offered before grabbing Kinsley by the scruff of his shirt and tugging him along after her.
With no one else to ask I headed off down the hall to the infirmary. It was on the opposite side to the cantina, so I couldn’t help but grumble to myself about missing lunch. I decided then I was going to double up on dinner even if Garrett sat there the entire time telling me I’d get fat.
Liam was at his desk in the infirmary when we got there. His normally immaculate robes were fluffed, and his long blond hair looked like he hadn’t bothered to brush it. He turned to us when we entered, and I saw him twitch a little when he looked at me.
“Not you too?” I whined. “How many people have pictures of me?”
“It’s a Grent!” Liam held his hand up to stop Garrett from advancing past me to confront him. “I don’t know how it got in here! But, I did see it fleeing earlier when it came to my office!”
“You say it’s a mangy little goat demon that’s been handing out pictures of Tiris? Something out of a fairytale?” Garrett snorted in disbelief. “You know those things can only be summoned by a high-level spell and a lot of power?”
A nervous chuckle made its way out of my throat the moment I heard Garrett’s disbelieving words. I looked up at the Kyegan Healer and gave him a brittle smile. Surely Wesley wouldn’t have written something like that into my novice tome? Scratch that, knowing Wesley he would have done it just to see what would happen and to have a good laugh about it.
“Umm… could a Grent be summoned on accident? Say, from a spell that was inscribed by another with residual energies stored inside a catalyst. Like a book?”
Everyone turned to me. Liam looked skeptical but nodded. “I suppose so. It would take someone of great power, however. Have you been summoning things?”
“I was earlier… From my spell tome. Some old rituals my mentor wrote for me. But I didn’t put any real magic behind it and all I summoned was a wisp and some really bad winds.”
I heard Garrett growl and saw him cross his arms like he always did when he felt justified in his overbearing level of watchfulness. He thankfully didn’t say so this time and instead turned to Liam. “How do we unsummon an accidental chaos demon?”
“I only know of rumors, but you should be able to unsummon it if you can catch it. They're not fond of being seen so most likely once it's in the open you can sever its bindings to this plane with a decently powerful cleansing.” Liam offered. He then took out a small piece of paper and handed it to me while keeping a wide berth around Garrett who was already steaming. “But be careful. They’re dangerously stubborn and I can’t rightly say what you’ll have to do to make it show its true self. I’ve heard they’re weak to elemental magic but I don’t know which element exactly. I’d never seen one in person before today and only read of them in training. So, my advice may not work.”
“How should we find this thing?” Breken asked. “No one has seen it aside from you.”
“Well, it seems to be trying to cause trouble between our group. I suppose since Tiris summoned it she is the object of desire, and the link to our plane, in this situation. It most likely has no other connection to this realm.” Liam pointed at the crude drawing in my hand. It was a strikingly accurate portrait of me lounging on my bed with no clothes on except for a wiggly line that might have been a blanket covering one of my hips. I felt dirty just holding the thing. “My bet would be if you gathered all of its ploys at rousing our ire, or actually start arguing, it’d show up eventually. Demons like it feed on that sort of energy. A large enough aura of discord might draw it out.”
“Easy enough,” Garrett said with a grin. Before any of us could realize what, he had meant he’d thrown a punch right at Breken who hadn’t expected it.
Garrett’s fist connected with Breken’s cheek and the next instant both men were in a full-on wrestling match. Garrett had the advantage of speed but Breken had the strength built from wearing his armor. It was a brief brawl, but bloody, and the fight ended with a stalemate as both tumbled into the hall and were promptly snatched up by their necks as Ferros passed the doorway on his way up the hall.
Our guild master looked intrigued and amused by the scuffle as he sat the two men down out of each other’s reach. I admired the fact that, as a half-giant, Ferros could do such things. My own small size made me a bit envious at the straightforward way he just picked up two full grown men in the middle of combat as if they weighed nothing.
“Finally decided to kill each other huh? Mind tellin me what sparked this bit of nonsense?” The half-giant chuckled and looked to me as Liam and I cautiously peeked out of the infirmary.
“The brat summoned a demon,” Garrett huffed and wiped a bit of blood from his nose. Breken had gotten a good swing in towards the end and Garrett looked murderous when he saw the blood on his hand.
Sparing the Delgan a warning glance to not start another fight Ferros turned raised brows to me. “Really now? What’d ya manage to call?”
“Liam says it’s a Grent, some chaos demon.” I shifted a bit away from Ferros, so that Liam was in front of me, in hopes that his good humor wouldn’t let him fuss. The summoning practice had been his idea.
Luckily it seemed he was more amused than angry. “Hells. How’d ya do that lass?”
“Accident,” I sighed. “I was trying to practice like you said and used a spell from my book that my mentor wrote for me, but nothing went right.”
“Something went right if you called a Grent.”
Leaving Garrett and Breken to glare at each other Ferros walked by me and made a signal for us to follow. Liam stayed behind to clean up the mess the other two had made. We went up the hall to the master’s chambers and Ferros let us in behind him.
“I suppose the two of you were hoping to make it show up, eh?” He asked the two sulking men as they entered the room behind me.
Breken, who was now sporting a blackened eye and scuffed jaw, just snorted, and glared at Garrett who had retreated to his usual spot, hovering over me. “That would seem to have been Garrett’s plan. It didn’t work.”
“We could always try again,” Garrett growled but stayed where he was. His nose was starting to puff up and was still dripping blood. I was half tempted to pinch it to make him behave but I was more than a little sure he’d attack me too.
“Not in my office,” Ferros rumbled. He drew out his decanter from the giant-sized desk in the corner and offered up a slug to me, Breken, and Garrett. Only Garrett accepted. After a shot of it himself, Ferros leaned back onto his desk. “Ya had the right idea Gar but not big enough. How many people was it targetin?”
“Breken had a picture, Kinsley had one, and so did Liam,” I answered. I suspected Garrett had one too, but he had hidden it and wouldn’t admit it if asked. “Not sure about any of the others. I haven't seen any of them.”
“Three we know of then huh?” Running thick fingers through his fluffy red beard Ferros hummed and seemed to think on something. He smiled after a minute and snapped his fingers before pointing at me. “Get everyone that is still here into the Cantina. We’ll have a mock fight in there and catch tha little bastard!”
“Liam says we have to break its link to our plane before it’ll go away. Do you have a plan for when that thing shows up?” Breken asked with a frown. He was side eyeing Garrett as if the idea of another chance to fight was appealing.
Garrett, for his part, looked just as ready.
“Well, we gotta catch tha thing first. We’ll worry about the nitty stuff later.” Digging through his desk Ferros produced a small collar that I recognized as the subduer that Garrett had gotten stuck in during our last mission. Garrett identified it too as he slipped towards the door and planted himself squarely behind me, not that it helped, him being a good foot or so taller. “Snap this on it and we’ll be able to deal with it easily enough. Let Garrett do his dragon thing an eat its magic or something."
“So, what? We just fight it out until the demon pops up?” I didn’t like the idea much. I’d seen demons before, back when Wesley had been teaching me. He’d cautioned me that they were drawn to our kind. Desiring the living magic we produced. They had scared Wesley and anything that scared him was something I wanted nothing to do with. This was likely his way of teaching me a lesson. I’d failed to restrain myself and cast a spell without knowing what it was, something he’d scolded me about many times in my youthful practices. How many other traps like this had he laid in that book? I had to voice my objection. “Isn’t that just giving it what it wants? I don’t know much about demons but feeding it seems like a bad idea.”
“Any other ideas princess?” Garrett sneered a little pettily, his anger clearly from the fact that I was taking away his legitimate chance to fight Breken. “Seeing as how this is your fault? Go ahead and tell us how we should fix your fuck up?”
“It was an accident,” I glared up at the Delgan who just looked down his swollen nose at me like he usually did. “If this thing is attached to me than it should come after me eventually. I say ignore it. It hasn’t hurt anyone yet just been rude. I bet if it doesn't get what it wants it'll show itself.”
“I don’t think that is a good idea.” Shouldering past a stiff-backed Garrett, Breken beseeched me.
“Of course it isn’t a good fucking idea,” Garrett snarled. For once agreeing with Breken.
“Well, it's what I’m going to do.” Crossing my arms, I turned away from the two men. I was agitated at the entire ordeal. Instead I addressed Ferros, “I’m going back to my room to look through my spell book to see how to banish this thing. My mentor likely laid this trap to see if I could stop it. He’d leave hints behind if so. While I do that if you find any more pictures just destroy them and ignore whatever the demon does."
Ferros nodded. He didn’t look happy about my plan but then again, he could've just been upset that I wasn’t letting him have a guild-wide bar brawl. “Be careful lass, and if the beast comes, you yell for one of us.”
I moved past Breken and Garrett before either could stop me and head down the hall.
I came across Liam at his office and let him know Garrett needed his nose set and that he should catch him as soon as possible before he escaped. I was mostly concerned for the angle it sat at, but I was also hoping that Liam could keep the man away from me until I’d dealt with my blunder.
While he was always angry and bitter about everything I did Garrett was stubborn in his way. While Breken would be happy enough doing as I asked Garrett would never do so. If for principle alone I had no doubts that he’d be in my room within the next few hours, invited or not. I didn’t want him to be on the front line if the demon proved hostile. I’d caused this and I was going to stop it.
My first goal was to retrieve my spell tome from its place on my table in my room. The staircase and hallway up were still silent and eerie as I made my way but now tendrils of dark magic, dead and lost flitted around the walls. I shuddered as a small wisp brushed my arm and burnt my skin. In reaction, my own magic drew around me in a weak barrier. The inky magic drawn to the living warmth rubbed its way along mine, it felt greasy and hot. I pushed my way through the rest of the hall and rushed into my room. The place still reeked from the spell and was filled with the dark energy, so I hurried out once I had it.
Once free from the residential floor and back in an area devoid of the sick magic I decided to finish my day up as planned while looking through the book for any clue about how to undo the summoning.
I managed to snag some leftover lunch in the Cantina and found that Grestle, the head cook, had also had a picture and that most of the kitchen staff had seen it. Passing it around like a prize until Grestle’s wife, Juniper, found it and went off on them all. She’d then sent most of them packing and locked her husband out in the larder until he apologized to both of us. I told her that it was fine but that she should just let him sit there for a while and that every now and then whisper through the door that she was going to tell Garrett about what he’d done until dawn came. A bit of juvenile revenge. Garrett would have been proud of me.
That seed of shortly lived chaos sown, and my belly full, I went out into the gardens behind the hall where Kian was tending the poultice herbs. I didn’t see her at first, as she crouched behind a rose bush, but I spotted her wing tips easily against the sage plants in the last bins. Orri was with her, nose embedded in a pile of lavender.
“I summoned a demon,” I announced plopping down into the dirt beside my Dwarven and Dragonling friends, sending up a small cloud of dust in the process.
“Kian believes you,” Clipping some of the sage Kian placed it into a small basket. The musky smell made me hungry again. “Kian thought to cleanse room yes? Mistress agree yes? Make smell go away.”
“Or we could just burn it ta the ground,” Orri interjected. “Just your part of the room though.”
I laughed at the idea but nod in agreement. “You think that’ll tick the demon off? I was going to ignore it until it got upset but I suppose a cleansing with fire will help. I can't find much else on how to banish it anyway. Seems my mentor meant this to be a hard-won lesson. I don’t have much information on Grents. Oh, and you should have heard the others. They just wanted to beat each other bloody until it showed up.”
“And you stopped them?” A mock glare from Orri sent us both into giggles.
“I’d have loved to see it too but once we let Ferros do it once we’d never get anything done.” I point out then look back to the basket Kian had stuffed full. “I like Kian’s idea better.”
“Kian know common sense. Asides, I think smell be enough to be upsetting anything livin in there,” Wiping her claws on the tiny yellow apron she wore Kian pushed the basket of sage to me. She added some crushed mint to the pile and poked a few holes in the leaves with her talon tips. “Kian may need more. Smell is strong.”
Orri and I follow Kian back into the hall and up the stairs to my room. The dark aura from before was gone. A hollow cold clinging to the walls in its place.
I noticed Breken was in his room as we passed and was digging around his desk, frantically looking for something. I tried not to think about the ‘what’ he was looking for. Why had that thing thought erotic drawings of me was an effective way to rile everyone up? Knowing the idiots in the hall it could have picked from any female and gotten the same reaction.
For his part, Breken didn’t seem to notice us or the sweet-smelling pile of mint and sage we carried. For the best. I didn’t really want to explain to him our plan of simply annoying the demon via common smudging. That and I wasn't looking forward to his reaction at seeing me. I was going to hide in my room for a few days after all this mess was dealt with.
My room was also free of the dead magic and a bit pungent still but had gotten better. The demon must've left the area for the time being.
Kian set up the herb basin I used to burn incense and piled in the whole basket of sage and mint. Orri grabbed up all the ginger incense I had left and threw that in too and I lit it up with a small fire spell. Once it took to smoking we set about with small wafting plates to get the smoke into all the cracks and crevices. Nothing happened. At least not demonically. The room smelt much better though.
"Looks like that isn't going to work." I look over everything to make sure we hadn't simply missed a demonic episode but found my room pretty much as I left it. Not a thing out of place.
"Maybe it isn't a demon at all. Liam probably saw a goblin or something." Orri said as she made her way to her bed with a small bowl of the smoldering herbs.
"Liam be Kyegan Priest." Patting out the last of the herbal ashes Kian turned to study Orri. She tapped a clawed hand on her chin in consideration. "He not be mistaken a demon. He is poor priest if so."
"But if it is a demon wouldn't it have done something by now?" Orri retorted. “Those kinds of things are usually all teeth.”
" It's definitely a demon,” I tell Orri as I straighten my herb basin and set my spell tome back onto its pedestal. “I felt its presence earlier and it felt cruel and full of malice. It hasn’t tried to outright attack me, but I mean it's already drawn and handed out pictures of me. Messing with my head. I'd hate to see what it'll do next if it is hanging around."
"Frettin be no use." With arms crossed, Kian shook her head. She didn't look pleased. "We sleeps soon. It creeps out. We find it then."
Propped up on her bed with a book in hand Orri said, "I really do not want to go to sleep with a demon running around handing out naked pictures of Tiris."
"Yous one says ignore it," Kian countered to me ignoring the raspberry Orri blew at her.
Couldn't argue. I sigh and shrugged. "Fine. I guess we wait it out then. You're going to stay here with me, right?"
Magic or not I didn't like the idea of a demon sneaking up on me in my sleep while alone.
“I’ll be here,” Orri chimed.
"Kian be in nest." The dragonling assured me as well. She settled into the said nest with one of my books and looked at me with a sharp tooth lizard grin. "Yous sleep fine."
"I doubt it." I scoffed.
Kian paid me no mind and began to flick through the book, lighting a candle by her nest for light.
I ended up on my balcony where I could see the darkening sky. The day was nearly done, only some last streaks of red and orange lingered from the fallen sun. The chill of the night had also begun to set in, my skin growing cold under the thin cotton clothes I wore. It reminded me of home. Standing on the tavern’s balcony as I listened to the drunken cheers of the patrons and heard my mother yelling for someone or another to calm themselves. Those days, only a few weeks behind me, felt so far away now.
I close the balcony doors and light a few candles. I set a fire in the hearth and fed it enough for the night, my magic sustaining it longer than a normal blaze. I find a decent book and snuggle into the downy softness of my bed. My roommates long fell into sleep.
I must have fallen asleep reading. I woke to shadows and the sound of my balcony doors opening. I stiffen in my bed and dared a peek towards the doors.
There is a figure there. Hunched down with its hands on the ground between its feet. It doesn't so much as twitch, even though I'm looking right at it. That dead weave of magic is thick around it and it presses on me. I want to scream but find my voice gone. Sucked from me as my own magic is drawn away. Terrified all I can do is shiver in my bed as the thing just sits there, staring back at me.
Then it moved. It leaned forward as if to crawl across the ground, but then it was there in an instant, at my bed. Large, black, lidless eyes set in an iron-grey face, horns curling down around its cheeks, shark-like teeth gleaming at me through the moonlight.
I shrieked at the shock of its appearance and my first reaction is to lash out with fire. But it wasn't there anymore. Instead, I hear my bedroom door slam open and find Garrett rushing in with an odd look on his face. He was in his night clothes still and looked ruffled. I didn't care. I bolted to him the second I saw him and threw my arms around him in a death grip.
He stiffened under me at first, but his arms eventually wrapped around my shoulders. "What the hell happened?" He asked finally when I'd calmed down a little.
"It was in here," The tears burn my eyes as I thought about that thing rushing at me. "It was right at my bed."
"Did it hurt you?" Holding me by my arms Garrett pushed me back away from him to look me over. His amber eyes purposely avoiding my tear-soaked face.
"No, I used my magic when it startled me, and it was just gone." I rub the tears away furiously. I was so happy that Garrett was there that I was practically sobbing.
The commotion had been enough to rouse Kian and Orri and they hurried over to me. Through my shaking and tears, I managed to repeat what happened. Kian ended up looking between me and Garrett before she turned to the door and left. Orri at her heels. Most likely to find Ferros and to look around for the creature. Breken came in soon after they had gone, woken by my screams like Garrett had been.
The two of them began to search the room. All they found were claw marks on the edge of my bed.
"We can't leave her in here alone," I heard Breken whisper loudly to Garrett as I huddled near the front door.
"The dragon was in here with her and it still came fucking close." Garrett snapped, not even trying to be quiet. "She isn't safe with or without someone here. We need to deal with it. That's the only way she'll be safe."
"We can't deal with something we can't find," Breken argued. "At least if someone stays with her we might have a chance of catching it."
"I suppose you want to be that prince charming?" The bitterness was thick in Garrett's voice. He didn't look like he'd slept much, and he didn't look happy about dealing with it all.
"Someone has to. I am the most skilled with a sword. It will not get by me."
Garrett laughed humorlessly at Breken. He shook his head then held his arms out wide. "It's a fucking demon! Twisted, dark energy all over it. Your sword isn't going to do shit but piss it off. Besides, you're a heavy sleeper. Took you quite some time before you came running in here to see what's wrong."
"This isn't a joke." Voice low and dark Breken glared at Garrett who just smirked back.
"Do you think I'm joking?" Garrett asked. "I'm serious. You're beyond useless dealing with this. If I can catch the little bastard I might be able to cut its ties to this realm. Rip the thing to shreds. Or have you forgotten Delgan can break magic? It picked the wrong night to pull this shit."
"Can you really get rid of it?" I'd grown tired of the feud. It wasn't helping. "If you can, then please do. I can't find anything on how to banish it in my books."
For a moment Garrett looked shocked that I had asked him to help. It didn't last long as he grinned at me. "Possibly. I'll have to be close to catch it, close enough I can grab it. It's the only way I can try and break the bonds. Think you mind sharing your bed for a few days?"
I was still too shaken to get offended at his jest. Right now, he was the only one who had a plan. "Please Garrett, just make it go away." Was all I could manage.
Garrett nodded, his grin gone. "Don't worry Princess. I'll take care of it."
The rest of the night passed silently. Garrett stretched out on the outer edge of my bed while I curled up against the wall swaddled in every blanket I could find. The next day was uneventful too. I saw several warped shadows and vestiges of decayed magic throughout the hall, but I couldn't tell if it was the demon or not. Garrett noticed them too, so I had little doubt they were.
We settled into my room again that evening after dinner. Kian cleaning her nest while Orri and Garrett played some game with dice and knuckle bones. I went back to read a little more of the book I'd started the day before. None of us saw anything wrong. We really should have paid more attention.
I heard breathing. Heavy and fast. I opened my eyes to find myself lying on the floor. It was dark, but I could tell I was still in my room from the shape of the shadows around me. Garrett, Orri, and Kian were gone, but something else had come to take their place.
"Such pretty skin," A ragged voice hissed by my ear. I jerked away and scooted until I hit a wall. I couldn't see the thing, but I could feel it edge closer to me my magic pulling towards it.
"Please leave me alone." Frantically I looked around trying to see it. To have some comfort in knowing where it was. "I'm sorry I didn't mean to summon you. I can undo it. Just stay away from me."
"But you didn't summon me," The voice said from over my shoulder. I twitched. I was backed against the wall. There was no way it was there. No way when my very being was being pulled to my right.
"Then why are you here?" Trembling I began to pray that Garrett or Kian or Orri would appear. I didn't know where they were, and I hoped they were okay. "Why are you after me?"
"I'm here because of him," The grey face loomed from the darkness right in front of me. It stayed a few feet away, but its unnerving black gaze was locked on my reddish one. "I'm with you because the males of your breed are not as easy pickings. Puca are such delicious creatures. Especially when they're afraid."
My heart froze at its words. I hadn't been called a Puca in a long time. The others knew I was a half-breed, but they’d never called me as such. Hell, even Wesley hadn’t used that term to name us.
"I'm not a Puca," My voice was barely a whisper.
The creature tilted its head and its mouth opened wider, sharp teeth glittering at me. "Oh, but he says you are, and I can smell it in you. Oh, how He rages now that I'm here. But He can do nothing, trapped so far away. He didn't mean to call me. He was trying to call to you. That's the price of power though. We can't always choose how things work."
"Who are you talking about?" It couldn’t be Wesley could it? Had Wesley tried to summon me? Or contact me? Had this thing latched onto his call?
As my thoughts became increasingly confused I saw movement further in the room. By the size, it looked like Garrett. He seemed to be sneaking along the wall towards my bed. I hoped I could distract the thing long enough for him to make it. I just needed to keep it talking.
"You didn’t hear him?" It leaned in further. Just a little. Enough to make me almost tear up in fear and silently beg Garrett to hurry. “Oh, the wail of fear I pulled from him when I slipped through. His despair at sending me right to you.”
It wasn’t a test then. Wesley had tried to contact me when I was practicing my summons. I’d opened the doorway and this thing had latched onto Wesley’s side to find its way through. He was frantic with worry. Too far from me to help this time.
"I don't feel anyone, and I didn't know there was a Puca calling to me," I say while trying to avoid looking at the shadowy Garrett moving towards us.
"Poor little Kiten didn't know," The creature cooed, coming closer, ever so slowly as he mocked the nickname my Wesley used for me. "He misses you, he watches from afar. Afraid of how he’d break you if he stayed near. It was his mumbling that led me to you. Him and those sweet little spells you used. I've been down in the dark places with him for so long. To see such a pretty feyling within the light of the moon was far too nice to pass up. So, come little one. Down into the dark with me. We can fill that old empty den. I'm sure he'll like that." It was reaching for me. Its long foul nails closing in on my throat. I couldn't move, and I couldn't call my magic, the demon’s body greedily stealing it.
Garrett tackled it. From the darkness on my right, all I saw was his broad form leaping out of the shadows.
The force of his jump took the demon by surprise and they both went sprawling into the center of the room. I could hear the thing snarling and hissing. It's shrieking bloodcurdling. I was too terrified and drained to do anything but watch as the two fought. Garrett was larger and seemed to have the upper hand.
The thing began cursing 'him' again. About how it wasn't fair. About how 'he' was cheating. But Garrett didn't seem to give it any heed as he straddled the demon and began to blatantly bash the thing with his fists. Repeatedly I could see his shadow beating the creature as it lay prone on the floor. Garrett didn't stop, even when the demon began to flake away. Its body glowing a sickly purple color from my magic being released as it dissipated. It wasn't until Ferros burst into the room with his ax that Garrett finally relented.
Things went back to normal after that. Well almost normal.
I never recovered any of the pictures. The one Liam had given me vanished and Breken's had too. I suspected Garrett might have snatched them, but I didn't dare ask. The man's attitude had gotten vile for a few days following the incident. It wasn't until a week later that he just went back to being grumpy and not openly hostile. I wasn't sure what was wrong with him, but he just seemed to want to act as if the whole thing never happened. I was more than happy to oblige.
There was something that stuck with me though. The demon was dead and gone but I couldn't forget the look of pure hatred on Garrett's face when the torchlight hit him as he kept beating the corpse. Nor the red of his eyes that flashed to amber when I looked at him. It was only for a moment, but I don't think it was Garrett who saved me that night.