Damian and I sat across from each other at the kitchen table, two mugs of tea slowly leeching their heat into the air. If there was one thing I hated more than pomegranate tea, it was cold pomegranate tea.
I leaned back in my chair and steepled my fingers. “So, Damian… You did very well in my tests.”
That was a lie. However, flattery was part of my plan, and I stuck to my plans. Unless my plan began to fail, which, let’s be honest, never happens.
“Really?” Damian said in a slightly more interested monotone than his usual monotone.
I nodded sagely. “Yes. You won my dog’s approval, and trust me, that is not given lightly.”
That was another lie.
“All I did was give him a half eaten granola bar,” Damian pointed out. “Sounds pretty light to me.”
“Mr. Skullcrusher the Third’s motivations may seem simple, but I can assure you, they’re very complex.”
“For a dog.”
Damian looked unconvinced. He shook his head lightly. “Ok, whatever. Stupid name, stupid dog. It’s fitting.”
I straightened in my chair. “Excuse me?”
“Why, what’d you do?” Damian asked, feigning ignorance. “Oh, right, you destroyed my life for no apparent reason, yes. Well, you’re not excused.”
I opted to ignore that. “Mr. Skullcrusher the Third does not have a stupid name, thank you very much.”
“Mhm,” Damian replied noncommittally.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I demanded.
Damian crossed his arms, the smooth fabric of his jacket squeaking slightly as it slid together. “It’s supposed to mean that any pet’s name with the prefix of ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mrs.’ is automatically assumed to be the product of a middle aged lady with an unhealthy attachment to her animals.”
I gaped in outrage. “That is not true!”
Smirking, Damian raised his voice to a mocking women’s tone, “‘Come here, Mr. Snuggles! It’s time for bed, Mrs. Fluffybottom!’ Congratulations,” he resumed in his normal, dry voice, “You’re officially compensating for human companionship.”
“You’re completely wrong,” I replied indignantly, leaning back again, this time with a scowl. “Why would I want human companionship anyway? Humans suck.”
Damian sighed. “Well, I hate to break it to you, but I’m a human. If you truly hate humans that much, how about you just let me go?”
“No,” I replied a little too fast. Damian raised a brow. “You have other purposes. You’re not here to keep me company.”
That was only partially a lie. As much as I hated to admit it, being the only demon on earth did get lonely from time to time. Sure, I made friends here and there, but they always abandoned me in my time of need. That pesky death thing. I mean, I was there to support Hitler when he was stuck on what the best way to kill all those Jews was, but where was he when Mr. Skullcrusher the First died and I needed him? Dead. Or Jack the Ripper. That guy was my best friend, a real prodigy. But then he went and stood me up before our second murder spree. Why? He went and died.
And that, I determined, was the problem with humans. They always died.
“Ok, fine, so what’s my purpose, then?” Damian asked.
I smiled, leaning forward so I could gesture with my hands for emphasis. “I am glad you asked.”
Damian groaned, seeming to realize his mistake. I ignored him and continued, “Let me paint you a word picture. Imagine a world exactly like the one that’s out there, only with me as dictator. It’d be completely united; everyone would work together to do whatever I command- What?” I broke off when Damian rolled his eyes.
“Really?” he asked, looking disappointed. “You’re going to go with the most cliche villain move in the book - rule the world?”
I blinked. “Uh, yeah? Isn’t that the dream?”
“Fine, then what would you suggest I aspire to instead?”
Damian thought for a moment. “How about world peace?”
“This will be world peace,” I responded. “If everyone’s busy serving me, they’d have no time to fight each other. Anyone who’d think to rebel or start a war or whatever I’d have killed.”
“Oh, right, of course,” he replied sarcastically.
I, however, was serious. “Of course. After all, if things go as planned, I’d be able to stop the rebellion before it happens.”
Damian actually looked a bit interested at this. “Oh? How do you plan on doing that?”
“By being so much smarter and more powerful than everyone,” I replied with a cheeky grin. Damian was unamused. “Fine. That’s where you come in.”
“I don’t like the sound of that.”
“I don’t care, particularly.”
He sighed. “Fine, what do I have to do?”
I was excited. I could sense he was going to give in; I just knew it. “Have you ever heard of the Bane of Mortals?”
“What, they don’t teach you that in GIT training?” I asked in surprise.
Damian looked at me tiredly. “Let me guess, it’s some sort of super powerful weapon that allows you to control mortals.”
My eyes narrowed. “How’d you know that?”
“See? They don’t need to teach us these things because you guys name them so obviously,” Damian replied sounding bored.
That was god awful logic, and I got the feeling he knew it. I scrutinized him for a minute, trying to read the subtle facial expressions that he was doing a remarkably good job at keeping blank. Not good enough for my trained eye, though. I knew what bitterness looked like.
“Oh, you’re bitter because you don’t have a high enough clearance level for them to tell you about the major weapons, I see,” I said, and by the slight twitch of his eyes, I could tell I’d gotten it right. “What, do they think that while you’re young and impressionable you might take that information and run off with it to guys like me? Not that you’d know anything I don’t.”
“No,” Damian snapped. “They just have rules for the good of the guild, and it only makes sense that we follow them,” he parroted off.
My eyes twinkled, and I couldn’t help but grin. “Aw, is that what they told you whenever you threw a tantrum?”
Damian clenched his jaw and didn’t reply. I had won, and I knew it.
You’re supposed to be winning him over, you imbecile, my inner voice reminded me. Shut up, I replied to it. This was just too much fun. Surely my natural charisma could win him over eventually, just not today.
“Anyway,” I continued, drawing out the word. “The Bane of Mortals is, well, exactly what you said. It’s a ring that grants me ultimate control over people. Which, obviously, is the dream. And you’re going to help me get it,” I said with certainty. Damian looked at me. I looked at Damian. Damian burst out laughing.
“Yeah,” he managed. “That’s what’s going to happen. I’m totally going to help you take over the world.”
“Oh, come on,” I replied, rolling my eyes. “It’s not like you have a choice anyway, so you might as well submit willingly.”
“Mhm,” Damian replied, smiling ironically. “Ok, I’ll humor you. What would I be doing in this grand scheme of yours?”
I froze for a brief second. Sirio hadn’t actually told me what the point of getting Damian on our side was, apart from revenge. Though, I knew my brother, and if it were a simple case of revenge, Damian would be dead already. There had to be some other purpose to his involvement. I resolved to ask Sirio about it next time I saw him. So, hopefully not until the plan itself was about to go down.
For the purposes of the current conversation, though, I raised a finger, pointing at Damian. “Excellent question. However, you don’t have the clearance to hear that information yet,” I said mockingly. “All in due time.”
Damian scowled. “Fine. Can we just skip to the part where you teach me how to cure my sister?”
I laughed at that. Damian continued scowling. “What?” I demanded as my laughter died away and he was still glaring at me. “You really think I’m going to teach you how to do that before you help us steal the ring?”
“Us?” Damian asked.
I kicked myself. Mentally. “Erm, me. Before you help me steal the ring. Did I say us? It’s probably because I’m hungry and when I’m hungry, my thoughts get screwy,” I rambled, but the damage had been done.
“Who are you working with?” he demanded, eyes narrowing.
“Hey,” I snapped. “I’m asking the questions here.”
Damian rolled his eyes.
“Anyway,” I continued, “I’m going to attempt to train you in the fine art of shadow control, as I call it-“
I’d called it that once.
“-and then you’ll help me steal the ring, and only after you’ve successfully done that will I tell you how to cure your sister.”
“Fine,” Damian said, his dark eyes narrowing in determination. “I’ll figure it out myself.”
I raised a brow. “Well, be my guest if you want to experiment, just bear in mind that one mistake and you could agitate the shadows in her, making her spontaneously combust.”
That was a lie. The art of spontaneously combusting people was one I had worked for decades to refine; if he could do it by accident, I’d be jealous.
Clapping my hands together, I said, “So. Now that you’ve heard the plan, are you ready to get started?”
“Too bad,” I said, brushing him off and standing. “Hold onto your hat, kid. Things are about to get crazy.”