Deception, Part 2.
A sudden feeling of emptiness woke Devin three nights later. A moment's concentration showed him that once again, something had happened to Luciel. In fact, the mage found that the magical "dogtag" that Luciel had placed on him, to be able to find him anywhere at a moment's notice, was no longer present. That brought Devin fully awake.
He looked around his room warily, knowing that this had to be Sikhander's doing. But how had the demon gotten past Luciel's wards and Devin's traps? The angel had set several layers of shielding that theoretically should have prevented Sikhander, as both a demon and more specifically a Naga clansman, from entering. Clearly, something had gone wrong, since it was Luciel who had disappeared.
Devin himself had set several demon traps, keyed specifically to Sikhander and designed to capture and hold the thane in a spell of binding, but if Luciel was gone, the effectiveness of those traps was now greatly reduced.
Well, he had one more nasty trick up his sleeve if the demon came at him again. For now, though, he had to determine where the wretch was.
"Sikhander ul-Naga! Where are you hiding?" he called harshly, tossing a light spell into the air and bracing his magical shield. In a heartbeat, he thanked the gods he had done so as an onslaught of black fire bombarded him.
"Oh-ho, becoming rather bold, aren't we?" came the demon's melodious voice. Devin couldn't see through the mage flames battering at his shield, but his magic sense told him that Sikhander, no longer hiding his presence, stood in the doorway.
The pressure of the flames suddenly increased, and the young mage gritted his teeth and held up his shield, which was threatening to buckle under the strain. "Why do you want my blood?" he growled, breaking into a sweat from the effort. "I imagine that I taste rather nasty."
Sikhander chuckled condescendingly. "Mmm... no, actually, little mage, you taste rather nice..." His tone was that of someone reminiscing on something particularly pleasant. "But I digress. Your blood, little vesha, is giving me a good deal of strength." As a demonstration, he increased the power of the flames around Devin so sharply that the mage's shield shattered like glass under pressure. The demon fire, however, snuffed out as soon as the shield disappeared, not a lick of it touching Devin.
The mage almost didn't notice that detail at first, his mind whirling from Sikhander's display of power and one word he had said -- vesha. It was a demon word that no language of any goodly race had an exact translation for: a victim, a toy to be played with, prey to be tormented before being devoured. With the apparent defeat of Luciel, and Sikhander's new strength, Devin had no doubts that the thane could and would make him into a vesha if he so desired.
Well, I won't let him have such an easy time of it, he thought grimly. Devin looked up at the demon now standing at the foot of his bed, smirking in an arrogant way that was both repulsive and seductive at once. "Why my blood?" he demanded, trying to ignore the aura of sensuality radiating from the thane. He didn't bother trying to put a shield back up; at this point it would just be a waste of energy.
"Because, ki vesha, you have the Faerie blood." Sikhander grinned at the dumbstruck look on Devin's face. "Didn't you know?"
As the thane moved closer, Devin could see he had been injured, probably in fighting Luciel. His left arm was bleeding from a long, shallow cut and he sported burns in several places on his pale skin and patterned tunic.
"How could I know?" the mage snarled, irritated enough to be fully truthful with the demon. "I don't know who my parents were."
"Ah... I had forgotten," Sikhander murmured. He smiled at Devin's startled look. "I know more about you than you think, ki vesha." He stood beside the bed now, looking down slightly at the mage, who was sitting upright.
Devin couldn't hide his convulsive swallow as he met the thane's cat-like gaze. Any minute now, he expected the lick of the fire chains... "Where is Luciel?" he asked flatly, looking slightly to one side in an attempt to keep the demon from simply dazzling him with his eyes.
"Ah... he gave me a surprisingly good fight," Sikhander chuckled. "But your guardian is back where he should be, minding his own business." His smile was malevolent.
That explained why both Luciel and his links to Devin had disappeared; the demon had banished him from the Physical Plane! Bringing him back would take a full day of spellcasting, and that meant Devin would be getting no miraculous help this night.
A gentle caress on his cheek brought his thoughts quickly back to his present problem. Before he could duck out of the way -- and his body, anticipating what was coming, didn't really want to escape -- Sikhander leaned down and kissed him demandingly, his clawed hands running ticklingly down Devin's bare arms. The thane murmured the command word against Devin's lips, but the mage had seen it coming when Sikhander's hands had reached his wrists; as the fire chains sprang forth, they struck a reflection spell and snapped around Sikhander's wrists instead.
The demon pulled back slightly, his hands still holding Devin's wrists. His grin conveyed a hint of admiration. "Of all your little traps, ki vesha, this has been the best." He laughed as if truly amused. "Keying the traps to me, that was clever. What did you use to set the target?"
Devin, somewhat dismayed by the thane's reaction, tried to break away, but Sikhander's grip was like a steel vise. Looking away from the bright, alien eyes he muttered, "A strand of your hair."
"Of course... Very nicely done." Sikhander raised his chained hands, still clutching the mage's wrists. "And this rebound spell -- excellent. Except for one little thing..."
His tone prodded Devin to ask for the answer. "What 'little thing'?" the mage asked, growing more apprehensive. Sikhander was about to do something dramatic...
"I made the flames, little fool, and no human can control them!" the demon hissed, snuffing the fire chain. "Only your dear Luciel could have used them... and he just happens to be absent."
Devin felt his face growing pale. How could he have forgotten? That was so elementary -- humans couldn't control demon fire unaided. It was a lesson he had learned the hard way nearly ten years ago, fighting a little fire imp. Nothing should have driven that from his mind -- but Sikhander's hands, sliding down his back, reminded him sharply that the demon had the ability to drive anything from his mind.
"Oh, little vesha, you do amuse me..." the silky voice whispered in his ear. "I can't decide whether to punish you for causing me so much trouble, or reward you for being so clever..."
"'Reward'?" Devin spat, fighting the sudden heat flowing through his body. Reward or punishment, he knew, were all one and the same to the thane.
"Reward," Sikhander repeated, casually catching the front of Devin's t-shirt with one clawed hand and ripping it all the way down. "Something you will surely enjoy." His broad grin bared his sharp, white teeth, giving Devin an atavistic shudder.
It was so hard for the mage to keep telling himself that he wanted no part of the demon's predatory ardor, when his whole body was yearning to surrender to it. It was a true case of "mind over matter", and it seemed more and more that "matter" was winning the argument.
Sikhander laughed softly at the mage's inner struggle. "Why do you fight it?" he asked earnestly, as he slowly pushed Devin back onto the bed. "I'm only taking such a little thing from you... and look what you're getting in return."
Why am I fighting it? Devin thought in a daze. I never swore to celibacy or anything stupid like that... I have nothing to feel guilty about... He caught a glimpse of Sikhander's scar as the demon shed his burned clothing, and suddenly shook himself out of the near-trance he was in. This creature had killed his master! But Sikhander caught him in that iron grip when he tried to leap up, and wrestled him down again, ignoring the feeble magical attacks that flickered against his shield.
Devin was breathing hard from the physical struggle, painfully aware of the demon's body pressed against his. He wasn't going to be able to fight for much longer -- his magic was virtually useless, his physical strength was as nothing compared to Sikhander's, and he was certain that the demon was somehow making his lust stronger than it should be. Yes, the demon was fascinating, but Devin should not have been feeling like a dog in heat. As if the battle hadn't been pitched against him anyway...
Sikhander's clever hands were teasing him again, and the mage felt despair rising with his desire. Why couldn't he control himself? It was as if his body were betraying him. "Why can't you just take what you want?" he demanded, writhing to keep the demon's hands from wandering too far. "Take my damned blood, and leave me the hell alone! Stop... stop toying with me, dammit!"
The thane regarded him with mixed curiosity and amusement. As Devin mentally reviewed his words, he flushed, realizing that he had sounded like a petulant teenaged girl.
"I told you before, ki vesha, that wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable... for either of us." Sikhander's cool gaze held the mage spellbound, and Devin felt himself drawn against his will, the heat of physical desire making it nearly impossible to think clearly.
"Just let go for a little while," the demon urged him before taking advantage of their current entangled pose.
Devin wanted to scream, wanted to lash out, but his mind seemed to be floating in a cloud, isolated from the intoxicating sensations that ensnared his body as surely as the fire chains had.
When the mage woke, it was still dark outside, but the moon had already set; dawn was not far off. He rolled out of bed and staggered to the bathroom, wincing as he turned on the light. With coldly analytical eyes, he examined himself in the mirror.
There were streaks of blood around a gash on his neck; well, that was hardly surprising. He felt several smarting lines on his back and turned around, craning his head around to see the reflection. A parallel track of four lines -- scratches from Sikhander's claws, he remembered with a guilty flush. The whole night's events came back to him then, and he braced himself against the countertop as he nearly collapsed, shivering.
Master must be rolling in his grave, he thought miserably. How could I let that monster...
There's no shame in being simply overpowered, his other half reminded him. He's stronger than you, stronger than Luciel. You can't expect to fight such a foe off.
No... the shame was not in defeat. The shame was in pleasure, his tormented side retorted.
The demon is obviously a past master at this kind of manipulation. It was just another strength he used against you.
Or maybe it is just a weakness I have, waiting to be exploited. The mage took a shaking breath and lurched into the shower stall, fumbling with the spigot and not caring how cold the water was. That last thought was the one causing him the most distress. Was there something within him that was so desperate for affection that he would accept a demon's poisonous caresses -- even the demon who had killed his master? Did Sikhander have some kind of hold over him now? Would Luciel abandon him now, disgusted at his weakness?
He closed his eyes and stood directly under the cold spray, wishing he could wash away the taint he felt on his spirit. It was going to be a long day, and until the evening, when he had hopefully brought Luciel back -- provided he wanted to come back, Devin thought morosely -- he would be all alone with his guilty and agonized thoughts.
Luciel appeared, strangely garbed in clothing that seemed to be ancient Assyrian, on his knees within the summoning circle shortly before the sun sank in the western sky. He looked up at Devin his expression one of pure anguish.
"Devin -- he -- I couldn't --" The angel crawled on hands and knees out of the circle, towards his protégé, who watched him in mild alarm. As the spirit came closer and reached out to him like a beggar, Devin saw pale parallel scars running down the right side of his face and onto his neck. Only another spirit could have caused such wounds that would not heal neatly.
"Luciel! What did he do to you?!" The mage took Luciel's hands, reassuring the angel that he was, superficially at least, all right.
"Never mind me, what did he do to you? Did he get to you? I lost the link to you, I couldn't --"
"Luciel!" Devin said sharply. The angel looked up at him, and in his silver eyes Devin saw a reflection of the despair and self-recrimination he felt. He sighed, and though it felt rather foreign to him, he drew Luciel into an embrace that he hoped would seem comforting. To his surprise, as the angel's arms held him tightly, he realized that he needed the consolation just as much as Luciel did.
"I'm so sorry," the angel murmured into Devin's hair. He was shaking slightly, like a frightened bird, but he gradually relaxed. They sat together for a long while, taking silent comfort in each other's presence, as Luciel reestablished his link with Devin.
Finally, he pulled away and rose to his feet, holding out a hand to help Devin, which the mage took, letting Luciel pull him to his feet.
"Look, we've both got tales to tell, but... he may be back tonight and I... we have to be ready. This won't happen again." Devin said this last with a growl.
The angel nodded soberly. "What do you wish me to do?"
"First, you need to cloak your presence totally. I don't want him to know you're back on this Plane. Is that possible?"
"Yes. If I step off the Plane, like I do to travel, he cannot feel me. The only reason he caught me before was because... I came to confront him." The angel shivered at the memory.
"Fine. Get gone, then."
"What?" Luciel looked hurt. "But -- you haven't told me --"
Devin closed his eyes. "Come back tomorrow, Luce. I can tell you everything then. But for tonight, you can't be here. As long as our bond is in place, I can use my magic, so I'll be all right."
The angel bit his lip and nodded. This whole situation was showing Devin a new side of his guardian, a side that wasn't so self-assured and cheerful as he normally appeared to be. Right now, he seemed more frightened than Devin.
"I'll be back in the morning then," Luciel said quietly. "Devin --"
"Don't let him trick you into thinking so poorly of yourself. You know that's what he's trying to do..."
Devin had not thought of it in so many words, but it was true. Sikhander was torturing him by attacking his self-confidence, not by physically harming him. That realization just made him all the more determined to settle the thane once and for all. "I'll remember, Luce. Now get lost -- I've got a trap to make." He grinned a little to take the harshness from his words as Luciel saluted him and disappeared.
And what a trap, he thought with just a little smugness. He had thought of it the night before, while he was taking his shower. It was something he had never heard of being tried before, and in his mind, that boded will for its success -- provided that the devious Sikhander didn't catch on and avoid it.
Well... I'll just have to exercise my acting skills, the mage thought darkly. It will be worth it to see the look on his face when he realizes what's happened...
Since Luciel was safely in hiding, it was a soft touch on Devin's face that woke him that night, instead of a sense that something was wrong. As he opened his eyes, he did not have to feign his sudden fear as he felt Sikhander's aura nearby. The demon's power had increased again, leaving no doubt that Devin's blood was some sort of tonic to him.
"Oh, little vesha... still alone, hmm?" The thane tossed a softly blue ball of light into the air, revealing that he had already undressed in anticipation of another night of sport.
Devin struggled to keep from either smiling smugly and letting the demon know he was up to something, or letting himself be overwhelmed by the demon's allure, as had happened the night before. He shied away from the thane, keeping an expression of apprehension on his face.
"I suppose it's not too surprising... Summoning is rather difficult, when you're distracted by... say... fear." Sikhander grinned and sat on the edge of the bed, one arm reaching across Devin's legs to prop himself up. "Or...perhaps desire..."
Devin felt himself blushing; it seemed he wouldn't be so hard-pressed to act properly dismayed. That was just as well; part of him wanted to laugh in the thane's face for thinking him so undisciplined. Distracted, indeed!
"How much longer will you keep doing this?" the mage asked in what he hoped sounded like a fearful, breathless tone. He was backed up against the headboard, with nowhere to go; it was a perfect position for his trap, and he hoped that Sikhander would take the bait.
"Now why on earth would I ever want to stop?" the demon laughed. "Unless there is some point where your blood stops increasing my power, I see no reason to." He leaned in closer, effectively trapping Devin. "Besides... we're both enjoying it so much..."
Devin felt his heartbeat speeding up as the demon came closer -- it was coming, he had to be ready --
One of Sikhander's hands came up to rest against his cheek; the mage closed his eyes, his nerves on edge, as the thane kissed him. At the gentle teasing of the demon's tongue, Devin parted his lips with false hesitation, and then their tongues touched --
And then the exorcism spell written in berry ink on Devin's tongue activated, using Sikhander's own power to surround him in pale flames of pure spiritual energy. He pushed himself violently away from the vindictive mage, staring at him with unfeigned shock.
"You -- how did you --" As Luciel reappeared in reply to Devin's unspoken call, the demon closed his eyes and smiled in reluctant admiration. "I've underestimated you," he said as his corporeal form slowly burned away, leaving a gradually fading wraith in its place. "Using my saliva to force me to be the power source for the spell? Brilliant, ki vesha."
Luciel looked at Devin with a confused mixture of awe and horror; he certainly would never have thought of such a devious trap. The mage ignored the questions in his guardian's eyes for the moment and stared at Sikhander, who was burning away without complaint.
"Banishment, then," the demon said, sounding resigned. "What are the conditions?"
"You won't be returning until the next time the planets are in their current alignment," Devin said coldly, feeling as if the thane, by accepting his defeat so calmly, had stolen his victory away.
"Ah... a hundred and fifty years or so." Sikhander looked up and grinned with his usual malice, even though he was beginning to fade from view. "If you're half the mage your father is, you'll still be around when I return." His eyes, the brightest part of him still visible, seemed to flare suddenly. "And then, ki vesha, I'll show you what torture really is." His unpleasant laugh quickly faded as he disappeared from the Physical Plane, but it echoed in Devin's mind. He shuddered uncontrollably for a moment.
"Devin -- you're all right, aren't you? He didn't have a chance to..." Luciel trailed off, not wanting to be too explicit.
"I'm fine. Better than fine, now that I'm rid of him." Well, that wasn't quite true -- his body was still humming a little from the demon's presence, but a shower and a boring book would cure that. He knew he owed Luciel an explanation of the past two nights, but he wasn't really feeling up to it tonight.
Luciel, thankfully, seemed to sense that; he simply nodded his acceptance of his protégé's assurances. "I suppose I'll be off, then; you're certainly safe enough now."
Devin nodded, rising to take that shower. He paused, however, as he remembered Sikhander's parting shot. "Luce -- he mentioned my father! Do you have any idea who he was talking about?"
The angel, about to leave, turned and looked at Devin in surprise. "Why, so he did. Certainly he knew Levalier was not your father..."
"He... he said he was taking my blood because I'm part Faerie. And he knew I'm an orphan..."
Luciel's eyes widened. "Part Faerie..." He closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them and smiled. "You are. How odd."
It was a very terse answer from the angel; Devin suspected he knew something. Well, if it was important enough to worry about, Luce would tell him. He shrugged and sighed heavily, finally feeling a sense of relief now that Sikhander's threat was gone for a long time to come.
Luciel chuckled softly, seeming more like his old self. "Go take your shower, and get some sleep. I'll be back tomorrow."
The mage nodded and headed to the bathroom, feeling Luciel's presence fade away behind him. He let his mind wander as he stripped and let the water heat up in the shower stall.
After such a trial, perhaps defeating Sikhander was enough to satisfy his need for vengeance. He had been the leader of the attack ten years ago, and it was by his hand that Levalier had died. After Sikhander, fighting the rest of Naga would seem trivial, if, as Luciel reported, they were all afraid of their thane.
And besides, he had better things to do now... like socializing. It was about time he started trying to act like a normal human being; Lord only knew that Luciel pestered him often enough to get out and meet people. Perhaps he'd take some time off from his studies and travel. His Master had been exceedingly well-traveled, and had often sparked his apprentice's imagination with tales of foreign cities and peoples.
Yes, Devin thought as he let the hot water massage the tension out of his muscles, perhaps a vacation was in order.
It wasn't really intentional the first two times, but I seemed to fall into a pattern of showers here... but metaphorically they certainly stand for Devin's attempts to cleanse himself. I guess I was subconsciously having him feel "dirty", so a shower was his solution... but did they help much? ::grins::
And now...a vacation! Can anyone really imagine Dev relaxing? 'Cos I can't. ^_^