The First Surrender Cookie
Jennifer Lynn Barnes, author of the I’ve-already-mentioned-fabulous Raised by Wolves has written an article in the Guardian about her top ten favourite fantasy fictional families – and the Ryves brothers are on there, along with the Pevensies! I feel pretty fancy.
I hear that goblinmarket_sw is concluded, and there are lots of pretty Demon’s Lexicon pictures and stories to look at. I can’t read the stories, of course, but the pictures are really awesome, aren’t they? (Mae is a MERMAID!)
And since it is November, and the people have spoken – Jamie is apparently your king! Time for the first cookie from The Demon’s Surrender, featuring the fascinating Mr Crawford…
Sin was left with the two magician boys. Which was better odds than she’d had before.
“Looks like it’s you and me, Seb,” she said, and sank her voice just in case a pretty girl in distress might appeal to him. She could use that. “And you,” she added to the boy in the window seat. “I don’t think we’ve been introduced.”
The boy turned away from the window.
All of Sin’s breath was scythed out of her throat.
He unfolded from the window seat in a leisurely fashion, in slow deliberate movements, and every movement sent chills down Sin’s spine, like a ghost drawing a cold finger along the small of her back. He was slight and not tall, but that didn’t matter: it just made her think of elves as they were in the oldest stories, alien and terrible, child thieves and traitors. His eyes were silver coins, whatever color they had once been drowned in shimmering magic, and his face was a perfect blank.
Sin’s sense of dread built, as if the finger tracing her spine had become a claw. The thing between his palms, the thing he was turning over and over as if it was a familiar and favorite toy, was a gleaming-sharp knife. There were carvings on the hilt and the blade looked too sharp to be real.
Worse than that, as he turned to face her head-on, she saw the demon’s mark set along the sharp line of his jaw. It was a dark and wavering brand, an obscene shadow crawling on the boy’s porcelain-pale skin.
“You don’t remember me?” he asked. “I’m Jamie.”
… scene cut for truly terrible spoilery references to other events
There were steps outside the door. One was someone in heels, Sin thought. Seb jerked away at the sound, as if he’d been caught doing something indecent. Jamie didn’t seem to care.
“Here it is,” Celeste’s voice said.
Sin couldn’t see her, because she was standing behind Nick.
He stood at the door like death waiting to be invited in, all in black. It made his face look white as a skull.
“You’re late,” Jamie snapped. He clicked his fingers and Nick walked slowly, reluctantly, forward over the tilting floor.
Sin realized this wasn’t Nick’s ordinary pallor. He was a demon in a human body: being trapped in a vessel over running water must be like being slowly tortured. There was no way he would be here willingly.
He was here though, and coming like a dog to heel.
When he reached Jamie he went down in a crouch by the table. His eyes flickered over Sin, not even seeming to register her.
Jamie reached out and twisted the cord of Nick’s talisman around his fingers. Sin saw the leather bite deep into the side of Nick’s neck.
“Don’t be late again,” Jamie commanded softly. “Or I won’t let you go back. Understand?”
Jamie’s hold on the talisman forced Nick’s head back, his face tilted up to Jamie’s. The strange light of Jamie’s eyes shone reflected in Nick’s blank black gaze.
Nick lowered his eyelids, and nodded.
“Turns out when a demon marks a magician,” Celeste said from the door, her voice rich with satisfaction, like a cat in the process of drinking the cream, “it doesn’t give the demon any power over the magician at all. Rather the opposite, in fact. Isn’t it marvelous?”
It couldn’t be true, Sin thought. If Gerald had control over Nick already, he wouldn’t have bothered torturing Alan.
“Marvelous for me,” Jamie agreed, his tone as silky as hers. “Since he’s mine, and I don’t feel like letting the rest of the Circle enjoy any of his magic. I guess you shouldn’t have killed my mother.”
“Jamie, do we have to go through this again?” Celeste sounded impatient. “Helen has apologized. And she was only a human.”
“I know, I know,” Jamie drawled. “But it’s the little things. Don’t you agree?”
“Make sure it behaves at the party tonight,” Celeste ordered. She turned on her heel and left.
Jamie let go of Nick’s talisman and leaned back along the table, putting his weight on his hands behind him.
“You heard my fearless leader, Hnikarr,” he said. “This party is going to be her little show of strength to the other Circles. I want you to stay in the ballroom like everyone else, so I can show you off. And I want you to be on your best behavior. No more magically throwing people down the stairs. That is naughty.”
“I understand,” Nick grated out, as if he was having difficulty speaking at all, or as if he was too sick to talk much.
Sin felt sick too, sick at the thought that this was how magicians treated their friends. She wanted to do something, to hurl the knife she had just stolen at Jamie’s head, but she couldn’t do a thing to help Nick, and if she tried she would only make sure she couldn’t help herself.
“Atta boy,” Jamie said encouragingly. “That’s what I like to hear. See how nice the world can be, when one of us is just the obedient slave of the other?”