As I sat on the rock in that dark clearing, Damian looked over at me. “Does controlling shadows take your energy like spells do?”
“Yes, but since it’s controlling shadows that already exist rather than manufacturing energy, it’s considerably less than the magic tricks you gits do,” I replied as my limbs regained their strength. “And even though I do have considerable energy and a speedy recovery time, that little trick really takes it out of me.”
“How much energy does teleporting take?”
“Teleporting through the Nether?” I asked, pleased that he was showing interest.
I shrugged. “Not a ton, at least not if it’s just you. It’s when you try to take multiple people that it gets harder. Or at least that’s how it is with me,” I explained. “I’m a creature of the dark; I belong in the Nether. The more mortals or Lights you try to take down there, the more it wants to spit them out.”
Damian scowled. “You mean I won’t be able to do that?”
Raising a brow, I asked, “Oh, so you’re cool with learning how to control the shadows now? Giving into your dark side?”
“What?” Damian asked quickly. “No, I didn’t say that.”
“Uh huh.” I smiled. He had slipped into wanting to learn, and we both knew it. “There is another way to teleport, although it’s much more difficult. It’s all on this plane. I tend to not use it because there’s really no reason to, and the amount of power it takes is extraordinary, even for me.”
“Teach me that.”
I laughed. “Ha, nice try, kid. It would kill you if you attempted it now. Besides, I thought the only thing you wanted to learn was how to cure your sister.”
It took him a moment to formulate a reply. “You made it clear that I’m not getting that until I help you with stealing that thing, so in the meantime I might as well learn as many useful things I can to make it out of there alive. If I die before you get that ring, Taryn will be in a coma forever.”
“Now that’s the spirit!” I said. “I’m proud of you; good job.”
Damian glared. “Come on, what else can you do?”
“Wow, insensitive much?” I replied. “I’m resting.”
“I thought you were a demon with incredible power and speedy recovery time or whatever. How long do you need to rest?” he said derisively.
I knew he was just baiting me, but I couldn’t just sit there and take a blow to my ego. Not that it was fragile or anything, but you know. Principle.
“Alright, alright.” I stood back up, feeling for the shadows at my fingertips. I stretched and pulled them into lengths that were as thin as but ten times stronger than rope and shot them towards Damian, letting them wrap around his chest and legs. They secured his arms tight to his sides as he looked on in horror, struggling in vain to free himself.
“Get them off me!”
I laughed, willing them to stop wrapping around him but not letting them fall away just yet.
Damian glared at me. “Can you stop using me as your dummy for all of these?”
Pointedly looking around, I asked, “Who else am I going to use? I don’t see any volunteers.” He did not look amused. “Well you’re no fun,” I declared as I let the shadows release him. Damian shook out his arms, then crossed them and looked at me petulantly. “Oh, come on, it’s all in good humor.”
With one final dark look, Damian turned and stalked off to the opposite side of the clearing. Where he thought he was going, I had no idea. “Should’ve known he wasn’t into the whole bondage thing,” I muttered under my breath.
Just then, Damian turned back around. “Can you do anything that’s not violence-related?”
“Sure,” I replied. “Basically, if you can imagine it and you have enough shadows around, you can do it. Watch.”
Much to Damian’s displeasure - or at least I assumed by his loud protests that it was displeasure and not begrudging fun - I picked him up with a large hand composed of shadows and dangled him about twenty feet in the air.
“You idiot!” he yelled. “Put me down!”
Ah, the classic “put me down.” Foolish kid. “Put you down? Alright,” I agreed and let him drop.
At the last minute, I formed a wave of cushioning shadows into which he plunged like a stone falling into water. The shadows swallowed him, then popped him out on top and placed him gently back on his feet. “See, wasn’t that fun?” I asked with a wide grin.
Damian was seething. “Stop. Using. Me. For. Your. Demonstrations.”
“Hmm,” I replied, pretending to consider his request. Without him noticing, I snuck a stream of shadows around behind his back and ignored the fact that they were creeping up to his shoulders and sprouting feathers. “Let me think about that…” I continued, stalling as they began to stretch down his arms, attaching themselves by wrapping around his arms so gently that he didn’t feel them through his jacket. I waited another half second before saying, “How about no,” and snapping my fingers. The bands tightened on his arms and the wings flapped at my command, raising him up off the ground a few feet, then higher.
“Ahh!” Damian cried, craning his neck to see what was propelling him. “What the f-“ He cut himself off, for I let go of the control of the wings, only putting in enough effort to keep them corporeal. He was falling.
“Flap!” I called, cutting him off.
Panicked, Damian gave a few flaps of his wings and he steadied for a brief second before beginning to fall again. “How do I get down?!” he demanded, his voice wrought with tension.
I took pity on him and regained control of the wings, gently lowering him to a few feet off the ground. There, I let them dissolve completely. A few foot fall wouldn’t kill him, I figured. Damian fell to the ground with a surprising amount of grace, then brushed himself off and glared at me. “Ok, I have to admit that was pretty cool, but will you please stop-“
“Using you as my human dummy? Sure,” I said easily, then winked. Damian looked skeptical. I held my hands up. “Seriously. I’ll stop.”
Slowly, he seemed to believe me. Of course, that was my cue to encase him in a shadow bubble. Damian’s eyes grew wide, and he hit at the bubble, dismayed to find that his hand was stopped by the translucent darkness. He said something to me, but I didn’t hear it. I guessed it was something derisive. The bubble was soundproof as well, at least from the outside. He could still hear me. “Finally some peace and quiet. No more annoying kid complaining about how awesome my talents are,” I mused.
Damian crossed his arms and gave me a look. Sighing, I let him out. “What?” I asked.
“You suck,” he replied, and headed back through the clearing towards the path we’d come by.
“Oh, come on,” I began, following him. “We both know you’re dying to learn how to do all that.”
Damian didn’t reply, which was confirmation enough.
“Of course, it’ll take you a while to get to even a fraction of my level,” I continued. “If you can do it at all. I mean, you’re supposed to be reasonably powerful from what I hear, but you’ll never be as good as me.”
“Even if I were, you’d never admit it,” Damian muttered.
“True,” I conceded. “But you’re not and never will be. But true.” We kept walking through the forest, the sounds of leaves and sticks crunching under our feet filling the silence. “Just starting out, though, you’d probably only be able to make a dozen feathers appear and there’s no way in hell you’d be able to fly.”
Damian glanced back at me. “Oh, but you can do it with ease?”
“No, actually,” I replied. “It’s one of the more taxing of my tricks. I can’t fly far before I start to lose control and the feathers begin to dissolve. But practice makes perfect, you know? I’ve only been working on that for a century or two; I’ll get better.”
“A century or two… right. How old are you again?”
I pulled an expression of mock offense. “You can’t just ask someone that!”
Damian rolled his eyes at me as we broke through the edge of the trees and into the backyard of the Travers’s house again. “Seriously, though.”
“Let’s just say I’m older than dirt.”
I shrugged, figuring he could make a guess about that on his own. We headed back inside the house and Mr. Skullcrusher greeted me with a friendly bark and a wagging tail. He ignored Damian but at least allowed him to keep his throat to himself, so that was something.
“Well,” I said to Damian, “now that you’ve seen how useful shadows can be, you’ll start training tomorrow where you’ll be doing absolutely none of the fun things we did tonight.”
“Why not?” Damian asked.
“Because you’re going to suck at it,” I replied simply before heading back the hallway. “That room is mine,” I said, pointing at the first door. “You can take whatever other one you want, I don’t care. Bathroom is at the end of the hall. I normally don’t go to sleep this early, but my schedule is all thrown off. Your training is going to start at sundown tomorrow. Until then, don’t bother me and don’t leave the house or try to contact anyone from the outside world in any way. Understand?”
“Yeah,” Damian grumbled, shrugging off his jacket to reveal a surprisingly muscular body under his fitted gray t-shirt. “I’d tell you to sleep well, but, well, first off, I don’t care, and also you probably can’t what with all the people you’ve killed and lives you’ve destroyed.”
I almost laughed at that. “Please, that only affects people with a conscience. I’ll sleep like a baby.” I headed for my room, pausing in the doorway. “Be well rested for tomorrow. If I’m going to have any fun at all watching you fail, I want it to be your best effort.”
The last thing I saw before closing the door was Damian’s dark scowl.