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Black Magic Sanction: Page 74
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"Now there's two of them."
Oh God, my head hurt. Al let me go, and I staggered, only to fall down again in the middle of that big pentagram. He was wearing my boots, or at least replicas of the one I'd left in the ever-after. It was the only difference between us. Fingers stretching, I reached for my amulet, sighing when my fingers snagged it and the pain in my head dulled.
"You didn't do it right, itchy witch," Al said, then flung out a hand when Brooke threw a ball of something at us. "Bitch," he said absently as a black sheet of ever-after sprang up around us. He'd set a circle. Al had set a protection circle. I'd only seen him do that once, maybe twice, before. "Look what you made me do," the demon snarled. "I hope you're satisfied. I had to set a circle. I've not set a circle this side of the lines since Piscary tried to get me to kill you. Proud of yourself?"
His syntax sounded funny coming from my face. "Not especially," I said, then yelped when he yanked me to my feet. From the rafters, Bis hissed.
The pop of a spell hitting the black-sheened protection circle thumped through me. It was followed by several more as Vivian and Brooke tried to break through with their lethal white charms. I tried to see a glimmer of APs gold aura, seeing only black. Nothing remained.
"Let her go!" Bis exclaimed, ignored as he dropped through Al's circle.
"I ought to throttle you," Al snarled, red hair twin to my own swinging into his face. It sort of put a new spin on the phrase killing yourself. "And your little gargoyle, too," he added, making Bis dart back out of the circle when the wood at his feet started to smolder.
Oh yeah, my fuzzy brain thought. Pierce and the gun.
"I didn't know," I gasped. "I forgot Pierce had my splat gun. Damn it, Al, I was stoned out of my mind! Why am I always trying to prove myself to you? How about a little trust?"
Al loosened his hold. It was like looking in a mirror, but I doubt I ever had that angry a snarl before. His attention jerked past me as I felt a drop in the ley line. They were trying to reset their summoning circle to trap us. Grimacing, Al muttered a word of Latin.
Vivian yelped, leaping to the side when Al's circle dropped, broken by his magic tearing through it. A new, nasty ooze dripped from the wall behind her.
"Pierce is a jerk," I said, feeling the ice pick in my head start to dissolve. "You were right. I'm wrong. His shooting at you wasn't my idea. You know he's trying to kill you. What did you expect?"
Al's eyes went from green to their usual red, goat-slitted ugliness.
"I'm right and you're admitting it?" he said, his tone lightening. His hand opened, and I fell, yelping. The scent of musty carpet puffed up, and I looked around the sunset-gloomed air. Loveland Castle?
I got up and looked at Brooke, taking in her bloodied lip, wild hair, white face, and grim determination. It seemed like we were at a stalemate. "Loveland Castle?" I questioned her. "You've got to be kidding me."
"You are on thin ice, student," Al interrupted, his accent perfect, proper highbrow English coming from my body.
Brushing myself off* I sidled next to him. "Good thing I know how to skate. You mind not looking like me?" I knew I should be scared, but hell, I'd jumped a line to be here.
Al smirked at my sour attitude, and a sheet of ever-after coated him. He gained bulk, height, and a ruddy complexion. "Being you got me out very quickly," he said, again himself as he tugged his lace straight. "It's amazing how your pretty face opens doors."
Another drop in the line brought both Al's and my attention up, and we were trapped as Brooke's circle rose again. "I have you!" Brooke exclaimed. "You're mine! I did it!"
Sighing, I shook my head in disbelief as Al grumbled. This was not my day.
Bis dropped through the circle holding us, his red eyes whirling and the white tuft of fur on the end of his tail bristling. Wings beating to make my hair fly, he landed on my shoulder. Cincinnati's lines exploded in my mind, and my knees buckled as I reached for Al.
The gargoyle hissed as Al pulled me up. "Make a circle around your thoughts," he muttered so only Bis and I could hear. "You look like a drunk like that."
It wasn't hard, and immediately the humming between my ears stopped, and I stood under my own power. "Thank you," I whispered, trying to get a finger between Bis's tail and my neck. The kid was scared to death. He had abandoned me in the lines after I'd fried myself. It wasn't his fault, but I'd be surprised if he left me now even if I told him to go.
Brooke was almost hopping in delight, but Vivian looked ill. "Brooke," the youngest coven member said, "there are two of them in there."
"I know!" she said in delight. "We circled them both!"
"You circled them," Vivian said. "Not me. This is against the coven. One of them is a demon."
"The hell with it!" Brooke said, her delight tarnishing. "They're all shortsighted hacks."
"I didn't agree to this!" Vivian protested, backing up. "You summoned a demon, not Rachel Morgan! Did you stop to think about what that makes you?"
Brooke's eyes narrowed and she stiffened. "I have control of this situation" she said stiltedly. "I'm not a demon summoner. I just want the one to kill the other is all."
Bis's wings shifted as I turned to Al. The demon's eyebrows were high as he eyed me over his round smoked glasses. "Perhaps you should do something, Rachel?" he suggested.
"Demon!" Brooke exclaimed as I touched her circle to find it humming a warning at me. "I demand that you kill Rachel Morgan."
I spun to face Al, my back hitting the bubble until I jerked away at its burning. Kill me?
Bis spread his wings, claws pinching my shoulder. "You're not touching her," he hissed.
Al, though, wasn't moving. He gave me a glance, then put a hand behind his back to look elegant in his crushed green velvet and shiny buckled shoes. His visible hand became a fist in its white glove, and his lip curled in disgust. "Who?" he said disdainfully; then he muttered to me, "Best hurry, itchy witch. I can stall for only so long."
My breath exploded from me. He didn't want to do it, but he would.
"That demon in there with you, dolt!" Brooke shouted, pointing.
Holy crap, I had to get out of here!
"First," Al said dryly, "my name isn't dolt. And second, I'm the only demon here."
Brooke fumed. Vivian's expression was puzzled. "I demand you kill Rachel Morgan this instant!" Brooke stated.
Al reached into a pocket, pulling out a small tin. "There are thirty-five Rachel Morgans on this continent alone," he said, opening it. The scent of Brimstone hit me, and I sneezed. "Which one would you prefer? The one in Sacramento or the one in New Mexico? You can't mean the newborn in Kalamazoo..." He sneezed as well, snapping the lid to the tin and tucking it away. "A coven member sending a demon to kill a newborn? And people say I'm a sadist."
I was frantic, almost not hearing Bis when he leaned forward and whispered in my ear, "Can't you circle Al?"
My scanning of the floor for a weakness ceased. Circle Al? I looked up to see Al smiling at me. I had promised not to, but I think he'd overlook it in this case.
"That one!" Brooke shouted, pointing. "That witch right there!"
Al turned to me as if seeing me for the first time. "That's not a witch."
I had nothing to make a circle with. It was a good thing Brooke didn't know my third name. Maybe this was why the tradition of having three started. Giving up on finding anything useful, I awkwardly ran my finger across the dusty carpet, crab-walking around Al. He could have moved and avoided it easily, but he didn't.
"Just kill her!" Brooke screamed, and I invoked the circle.
I exhaled heavily as the smut-coated sheet of gold-tinted ever-after rose up, loosely imprisoning Al. It was like tying a stallion with string, but Al rumbled appreciatively.
"Took you long enough," he sniffed, poking at it only to draw back when it almost fell.
Shaking, I turned to Brooke, totally pissed and smiling. The woman was staring, clearly recognizing that something had shifted, but not making the connection. She was a white witch. She had no clue that she'd just lost control of him. Vivian, though, was backing up, her face whiter than her coat used to be.
"Algaliarept, kill the woman standing beside you," Brooke said, and Al blew her a kiss.
"Too late, Brooke. I circled him. He's my demon," I said, hearing more than my words were saying. Al was my demon. I admitted it. It was time to live it. It was the only way I was going to survive being me.
"No!" Brooke exclaimed, her face becoming livid. "I circled you. I circled both of you! Rachel, I demand you do what I say and release that demon!"
"That doesn't work on me," I said smugly as Al chuckled. "I'm not a demon. We've been over this." I wasn't a demon, but Al didn't think I was a witch either.
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