Authors: Sara DeHaven
Tags: #possession, #Seattle, #demons, #urban fantasy
Copyright © May 2015 Sara DeHaven
All rights reserved.
to call a demon. Bree Jenkins took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, willing the tension in her body to drift out on the exhale, hazel eyes half hooded. There was, sadly, no drifting. There was crawling, though. A sensation of big hairy spiders crawling up her spine.
“Aw, shit!” She opened her eyes and shook out her arms and legs in an attempt to dissipate the unpleasant, nervy sensation.
Daniel Thorvaldson, who was standing across from her, raised his eyebrows.
“Don’t say it,” Bree commanded.
“Don’t say what?” Daniel replied mildly.
“Don’t say, ‘It'll be fine, Bree. You're getting the hang of it, Bree.' I won’t let it kill you, Bree.’”
“Now why would I want to reassure you in any way? I’m sure this will go much better if you’re a nervous wreck.”
“Oh, bite me!” Bree bent over in a stretch. It failed to ease the tightness in her back, and managed to make a mess of her hair. She stood up and combed out the thick, brown length of it with irritated fingers. Great, now she was getting prissy and self-conscious about her hair when she was supposed to be all calm and centered Warrior Woman. She sternly reminded herself that if she was going to try an exorcism again, it was time for her to do this with the training wheels off. Just her and Daniel, no other back up. Enough with the delaying.
She carefully took another breath and watched as Daniel did the same across from her. He looked far more relaxed than she felt, standing with arms loose at his sides, breath moving evenly through his slender, long boned frame, his normally intense dark gaze softened and directed somewhere toward the floor of his work room.
She seized the moment to study his face when he wouldn’t catch her looking, a pleasure mixed with guilt. Her eyes roved over the strongly defined cheekbones, the winged brows, and the slightly full, bitable lips. In the two and a half months since she'd let him back into her life, they'd managed to avoid throwing themselves on each other in the mad, impulsive make out sessions that had erupted so forcefully during their adventures together at the end of last year. Unfortunately, that didn’t mean Bree wasn’t attracted to him any more.
On the contrary, that had just gotten worse and worse. The more self-control he showed in not making a play for her, the more she started to trust that he wasn’t an unstable, demon burned Demon Master after all. She was starting to think the unending sexual tension between them was even worse than the terror of courting demons.
There was a typically overcast Seattle morning visible out the window at Daniel’s back. The room was rather dark because of the dense cloud cover, the only additional illumination provided by several candles on the battered wooden table along one side of the room. The darkness of the room matched her rapidly darkening mood. Bree took another breath and firmly focused her mind back on the task at hand: spending a hard earned Saturday morning trying to see if she could control a seriously nasty demon without becoming possessed herself.
A few more breaths and a greater attempt at concentration finally got her into the state of calm readiness she was seeking. Daniel seemed to sense it, and glanced up at her. She nodded, and he raised his arms slowly to his sides. A ward rose in a circle behind them, a worst case scenario back up to prevent the demon escaping out into the world where it could possess someone.
Bree set her stance firmly, a form of bracing herself for what was to come. She focused her intention to call a demon, one she had called before, and intoned loudly and firmly, “Holtis I call you! Holtis, I command you!”
The air went unnaturally still, then a rush of hot, wet air blew into the room from an invisible source to her left and coalesced into a burnt orange cloud between her and Daniel. Daniel swiftly raised another ward between them and the manifesting demon.
A form about waist high took shape in the cloud. It settled slowly into an evil-visaged wood gnome, a gnarled red-brown being with slender, stick-like fingers and toes, a long curved nose with bright red nostrils, and burning orange eyes. Bree could feel her connection to the rotten smelling little thing through her will energy, a slender rope of power that emanated from her hands and wrapped itself around the demon’s core. The sensation made her nauseous, but that was a good sign. So far, she was in control.
“Why do you call, Master?” the demon said in a high, childish voice that went ill with its appearance. Bree shot a look at Daniel, and he gave a small nod in acknowledgement. This was the first time the demon had named her “Master.” That had to be significant.
“I call you as an experiment, a test, just as I have before,” Bree answered cautiously.
“I don’t like your tests,” the demon complained. “They never involve any food for me. I have not been able to come through in any other way in months, and I’m starving!” He made a run at the ward, then bounced off onto his back.
“I know you need to consume negative emotional energy to survive, but I’ve been wondering, is there sustenance for you in any other kind of energy?” She was totally focused on the demon now, and Daniel was letting her lead the questioning. This particular demon was a little smarter and more coherent than most, so they'd decided it was worth trying to get some answers.
“If I were allowed to possess you, I could feed even if you slept, but it would not be enough,” Holtis answered as he climbed back to his feet.
“And yet it doesn’t seem to kill any of you to go without possession.”
“And yet still we suffer,” he answered bitterly.
“I know that you suffer, Holtis, and believe it or not, I’m asking these questions partly as a way to find some peace between us. If we could discover some other means besides possessing humans for you to feed, that would help.”
The demon’s eyes flared brighter and focused more closely on Bree. “And what makes you think we want peace with you?” At the same time, Bree felt an energy surge in her connection to the demon, a much stronger one than she’d thought it capable of. She literally rocked on her feet trying to absorb and contain it. Daniel took a reflexive step closer to her, but he didn’t interfere.
“But what if peace meant you would not hunger?” Bree asked reasonably in spite of the rising, gibbering fear that the demon might get free of her control.
“There is always the hunger,” the demon piped.
“Not always,” Daniel put in. He managed to sound conversational in spite of the effort he was likely putting in to keep the space warded and read the demon on an energetic level. “We've been told about the Seldenai, how you used to live within them and weren’t hungry.”
“Bah! Tales of the old ones! I have not seen it, and I don’t believe it. If you are not going to feed me, release me!”
Bree felt another surge, a larger one. She gave an involuntary gasp at the size of it, but bore down with her will, calling on the well of her base energy to support it. Her hands rose before her in fists, where she concentrated the energy of control. She was able to hold it, but just. This was much worse than the other two times she’d tried with this demon. She had better try banishing it while she still had some control. “I will have more questions for you later. But for now, I release you. Be gone, Holtis!” She put as much command and will into her voice as she could.
The demon’s form shuddered, but it did not disperse. He began to cackle with laughter. “Still not Master enough, are you?” Bree glanced at Daniel for help, but he instructed, “Try again.”
It was moments like this that Bree felt ridiculously out of her depth. Daniel was able to banish any demon, and she couldn’t even get this relatively small one to shift. Trouble was, she knew good and well that if she succeeded, it was final proof she was a Demon Master too. Maybe that hanging over her head was screwing her up, keeping her from making it work. She focused and gathered her will yet again, and said, “Holtis, I command you! Be gone!”
The demon misted out around the edges, and the doorway between her world and whatever place the demons lived started to open.
The little being solidified and darted to the edge the doorway, thrust its long woody hands into it and shrieked, “I have it! Come through!”
Too late, Daniel raised his fists to command Holtis. Another demon shot through, a much larger one, solidifying far faster than the first one had. It was in a form all too familiar to Bree, an archetypal devil, huge, scaled and ruddy, with a horned head, a huge erection and whirling, fiery eyes. There was a nightmare quality to the energy it brought into the room, the sense of terrifying, inescapable evil that people imagined when they thought the word “demon.” Demons took forms culled from humanity’s visions of what was most frightening, and with her Catholic upbringing, a devil form really got to her. Worse by far was the fact that this was the demon she had specifically been avoiding for months, the demon Daniel had been risking his own sanity to keep away from her. “Gelsenim,” she breathed.
Daniel shifted, both fisted hands together in front of him now, preparing to banish the demon. Before she could stop to think it through, Bree flung up an arm and said, “Wait! Let him talk."
Daniel sent her a concerned look, but he stepped back and did what she asked.
Gelsenim loomed over Bree, and she looked up at him warily. Her heart was pounding, but she was glad she'd done it, glad some part of her was ready to face him. Unfortunately, the part of her that was not sent panic signals up and down her nervous system, making her feel like she was inhabited by a crowd of miniature people, all screaming and running in different directions.
“At last, we meet again, my host,” the demon rumbled. “I have missed you so.” The demon’s penis jerked toward her face as he spoke.
The ward between them was still strong, but she couldn’t help but flinch away. That annoyed her enough that the panic lessened somewhat. “Wish I could say the same.”
“I don’t believe that,” Gelsenim scoffed. “You felt what I felt when I possessed you. You felt the merging of our energies. When have you ever felt such power, or had such command of your magic?”
All true, of course. She had allowed Gelsenim to possess her in a last ditch attempt to save Daniel’s life last autumn, and the experience had been seductive.
“Okay, so it felt good,” she admitted, meeting the demon’s eyes, though it took craning her head back quite a ways to do it. “And yes, we were effective together. But I know that’s how it works, how you get Demon Masters to allow possession even when they know it will eventually kill them or drive them crazy.”
“And yet I sensed no ill effect when I was within you, or after,” the demon argued.
“Oh for heaven’s sake, change form, will you Gelsenim? You’re not exactly reassuring in that guise,” Bree said.
The demon laughed unpleasantly, but did as she asked, melting and reforming into the shape of an exceptionally beautiful man with blond hair that waved back from his high forehead, his thin, mobile lips bending into a cocky grin. “Is this better, my sweet?” He wore a dapper white suit, circa 1920. As usual, his nails were painted red. The orange eyes ruined the very human appearing illusion, along with the lingering sulfuric miasma left on the air.
“Better,” Bree conceded. She glanced over at Daniel to check on him. Almost more than her fear of the ward failing was the concern that extended contact with the demons would destabilize Daniel. She used her Reader sense for a quick and dirty scan of his energy. It wasn't critically down, but that dark layer to his energy had definitely grown a little. She had to keep this brief. “How unusual is that, that I didn’t get sick or pass out when you left?”