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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 2

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Her syntax sucks."

"Gee, thanks." The modern phrases sounded odd with Al's accent.

"And don't let her do anything stupid," he added as he adjusted his glasses.

"Hey!" I exclaimed, but my eyes darted to the creepy tapestry whose figures seemed to move when I wasn't looking. There were things in Al's kitchen that it was best not to be alone with, and I appreciated the company. Even if it was Pierce.

"As the almighty Al wishes," Pierce said dryly, earning a raised eyebrow before Al vanished from where he stood, using a ley line to traverse the ever-after to get to Newt's rooms.

In an instant, the lights went out, but before I could move, they flashed back to life, markedly brighter as Pierce took over the charm, telling me it wasn't the demon-curse light charm I knew. Alone. How... nice. I watched him meticulously drape his damp dish towel to dry on the top of the cushioned bench that circled the central fire pit, and then, jaw clenched, I looked away.
Standing, I moved to keep the slate table between us as Pierce crossed the room with the grace of another time.

"What is the invocation today?" he asked, and I pointed to it on the table, wanting to look at it again myself but willing to wait. His hair fell over his eyes as he studied it.

"Sunt qui discessum animi a corpore putent esse mortem. Sunt erras" he said softly, his blue eyes shocking against his dark hair as he looked up. "You're working with souls?"

"Auras," I corrected him, but his expression was doubtful. There are those who believe that the departure of the soul from the body is death. They are wrong, I silently translated, then took it from him to set it with the bottle of aura, bowl, and the name scribed with my blood. "Hey, if you can't trust your demon, who can you trust?" I said sarcastically, gathering up the pile of discarded signature attempts and moving them out of the way to the mantel. But I didn't trust Al, and I itched to look at the curse again. Not with Pierce, though. He'd want to help me with my Latin.

The tension rose at my continued silence, and Pierce half-sat on the slate table, one long leg hanging down. He was watching me, making me nervous as I filled the inscribed bowl from a pitcher. It was just plain water, but it smelled faintly of burnt amber. No wonder I go home with headaches, I thought, grimacing as I overfilled the bowl and water dribbled out.

"I'll get that," Pierce said, jumping from the table and reaching for his dish towel.

"Thanks, I'm good," I snapped, snatching the cloth from him and doing it myself.

He drew back, looking hurt as he stood before the fire pit. "I'll allow I've gotten myself in a powerful fix, Rachel, but what have I done to turn you so cold?"

My motion to clean the slate slowed, and I turned with a sigh. The truth of it was, I wasn't sure. I only knew that the things that had attracted me once now looked childish and inane. He'd been a ghost, more or less, and had agreed to be Al's familiar if the demon could give him a body. Al had shoved his soul into a dead witch before the body even had the chance to skip a heartbeat. It didn't help that I'd known the guy Al had put his soul into. I didn't think I could take another person's body to save myself. But then, I'd never been dead before.

I looked at Pierce now, seeing the same reckless determination, the same disregard for the future that had gotten me shunned, rightfully, and all I knew was that I didn't want anything to do with it. I took a breath and let it out, not knowing where to start. But a shiver lifted through me at the memory of his touch, ages ago but still fresh in my mind. Al was right. I was an idiot.

"It's not going to work, Pierce," I said flatly, and I turned away.

My tone had been harsh, and Pierce's voice lost its sparkle. "Rachel. Truly. What's wrong? I took this job to be closer to you."

"That's just it!" I exclaimed, and he blinked, bewildered. "This is not a job!" I said, waving the dish towel. "It's slavery. You belong to him, body and soul. And you did it intentionally! We could have found another way to give you a body. Your own, maybe! But no. You just jumped right into a demon pact instead of asking for help!"

He came around the table, close but not quite touching me. "I swan, a demon curse is the only way to become living again," he said, touching his chest. "I know what I'm doing. This isn't forever. When I can, I'll kill the demon spawn, and then I'll be free."

"Kill Al?" I breathed, not believing he still thought he could.

"I'll be free of him and have a body, both." He took my hands, and I realized how cold I was. "Trust me, Rachel. I know what I'm doing."

Oh my God. He is as bad as I am. Was. "You're crazy!" I exclaimed, pulling out of his grip. "You think you're more powerful than you are, with your black magic and whatever! Al is a demon, and I don't think you grasp what he can do. He's playing with you!"

Pierce leaned against the table, arms crossed and the light catching the colorful pattern of his vest. "Do tell? You opine I don't know what I'm doing?"

"I opine you don't!" I mocked, using his own words. His attitude was infuriating, and I looked at the bowl behind him, the remnant of others who had thought they were smarter than a demon now just names on a bowl, bottles on a shelf.

"Fair enough." Pierce scratched his chin and stood. "I expect a body needs proof."

I stiffened. Shit. Proof? "Hey, wait a minute," I said, dropping the dish towel to the table. "What are you doing? Al brought you back, but he can take you out again, too."

Pierce impishly put a finger to his nose. "Mayhap. But he has to catch me first."

My eyes darted to the band of charmed silver around his wrist. Pierce could jump ley lines where I couldn't, but charmed silver cut off his access to them. He couldn't leave.

"What, this?" he said confidently, and my lips parted when he ran his finger around the inside of the silver band and the metal seemed to stretch, allowing him to slip it off.

"H-How," I stammered as he twirled it. Crap on toast. I'd be blamed for this. I knew it!

"It's been tampered with so I can move from room to room here. I tampered with it a little more is all," Pierce said, sticking the band of silver in his back pocket, his eyes gleaming. "I've not had a bite of food free of burnt amber in a coon's age. I'll fetch you something to warm your cold heart."

I stepped forward, panicking. "Put that back on! If Al knows you can escape, he'll - "

"Kill me. Yeah, yeah, yeah," he said, hitting the modern phrase perfectly. His hand dipped into another pocket, and he studied a handful of coins. "Al will tarry with Newt for at least fifteen minutes. I'll be right back."

His accent was thinning. Clearly he could turn it off and on at will - which worried me even more. What else was he hiding? "You're going to get me in trouble!" I said, but with a sly grin, he vanished. The lights he had been minding went out, and the ring of charmed silver he had stuck in his pocket made a ting as it hit the floor. My heart thumped in the sudden darkness lit only by the hearth fire and the dull glow of the banked fire pit. He was gone, and we were both going to be in deep shit if Al found out.

Heart pounding, I watched the creepy tapestry across the room. My mouth was dry, and the shadows shifted as the figures on it seemed to move in the firelight. Son of a bitch! I thought as I went to pick up the ring of charmed silver and tuck the incriminating thing in a pocket. Al was going to blame me. He'd think I took the charmed silver off Pierce.

Edging back to the small hearth fire, I fumbled for the candle on the mantel, scraping wax under my nail as a focusing object, pinching the wick, and tapping a ley line to work the charm. "Consimilis calefacio" I said, voice quavering as a tiny slip of ley-line energy flowed through me, exciting the molecules until the wick burst into flame, but just as I did, the ley-line-powered lights flashed high, and I jumped, knocking the lit candle off the mantel.

"I can explain!" I exclaimed as I fumbled for the candle, now rolling down the mantel toward Mr. Fish. But it was Pierce, tossing his hair from his eyes and with two tall grandes in his hands. "You idiot!" I hissed as the candle hit the scraps of paper and in a flash, they went up.

"Across lots like lightning, mistress witch," Pierce said, laughing as he extended a coffee.

God, I wish he'd speak normal English. Frantic, I brushed the bits of paper off the mantel, stepping on them once they hit the black marble floor. The stink of burning plastic joined the mess, and I grabbed the bowl of water, dumping it. Black smoke wisped up, stinging my eyes. It helped mask the reek of burning shoe, so maybe it wasn't all bad.

"You ass!" I shouted. "Do you realize what would happen if Al came back and found you gone? Are you that inconsiderate, or just that stupid? Put this back on!"

Angry, I threw the ring of charmed metal at him.

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