Sirio stumbled to his knees, skidding on the sharp, gray sand. I stood tall above him. This was my realm. This was quite literally my element.
Sirio wasn’t going anywhere.
“How did you do that?” Sirio demanded. “I shouldn’t be able to be down here; this place shouldn’t have let me,” Sirio said, rasping as all of the strength he usually stole from the light was drained away.
I smiled. “Maybe I’m just stronger than you thought.”
“No…. no, you can’t be,” Sirio said, shaking his head.
“Or maybe it’s because, as dormant as it is, you do have demon blood in you somewhere.”
Sirio looked horrified. “Let me out,” he said. “You have the ring, now let me go.”
I had to admit, he did look pitiful down there on the ground, kneeling on all threes, supporting himself with every limb but the dripping stump of an arm. I wasn’t a fool. I knew it was going to grow back, but it would be a long and painful process After all, the actual appendage itself mattered less than the jewelry it wore.
Sirio lunged at me weakly, his hands forming claws to tear at my leg. I easily sidestepped. Without his light powers, he was all but useless. Snapping my fingers, I fashioned a short cage with shadow bars that solidified under my will. They rose up like spikes from the ground around Sirio, lacing together and encasing him in bars of darkness. There was no door. I formed the equivalent of a concrete slab of shadows underneath the bottom, anchoring the bars. Sirio could only look on helplessly. The shadow-nature of this realm wouldn’t kill him - he was a supernatural being - but it would definitely weaken him. I knew he wouldn’t be escaping.
I turned, thinking it had been Sirio who had spoken. He shrugged “I didn’t say anything.”
“Baxel,” the same voice croaked weakly, and this time I recognized it. “Help.”
“Damian,” I asked in surprise, heading towards the sound. At first, he blended into the landscape in his dark coat and grayscale clothes. I hurried to his side, crouching on he sand. “How did you get down here? Nybbas was supposed to bring you back; don’t tell me you ran off before he got there.”
Damian shook his head, swallowing. He moved to speak, but I realized then that an explanation could wait.
“We need to get you to the surface. How long have you been down here”
“Few minutes,” Damian answered, his voice weak, but definitely still sane.
I frowned. “How are you not-“
“Crazy?” Sirio offered from his cage. “I know the answer to that one.”
Damian and I both looked his way. He didn’t seem keen to elaborate, so I prompted, “What is it?”
“Why should I tell you?” Sirio replied, then answered his own question. “Actually, I will tell you. I think it’ll drive you even crazier than not telling you would.”
“What?” I asked.
Damian even seemed more alert. Weak, certainly, but still there mentally.
Sirio was reveling in the spotlight. He was going to draw this out. “There was more than one reason I needed Damian to get the ring from the box in the first place. Of course, the warding required a human,” he said, before breaking for a cough. “But it was more specific than that. It was all about balance. In order to make sure no one side had the advantage, it needed a human who was a mix of Light and Dark blood.”
Damian and I stared at him blankly. “He doesn’t have Dark blood in him. The paperwork you gave me said it was thirty percent Light, seventy percent mortal,” I said.
Sirio rolled his eyes from where he sat slumped against the bars of the age, his once brilliant white suit now dirty and ruined. “They determine that based on lineage. What, you think there’s some kind of Light/Dark litmus test or something?” That was a good point. “Why do you think he can control shadows? You need Dark blood to be able to do that. Or didn’t you know?”
“I never tried to teach a human before,” I admitted sheepishly.
“Well, that’s how it works,” Sirio said tiredly. “Damian’s got Dark blood. If I had known that beforehand, I would never have left him in your hands in the first place.”
Damian coughed, bringing my attention back to him. Dark blood or not, he was looking bad. Wrapping an arm around his shoulders, I pulled him upright. “I’m sorry to do this to you now, but I need you to transfer ownership of the ring to me and then I’ll take you up.”
Damian was too exhausted to argue. “I formally transfer ownership of the Bane of Mortals to the demon Baxel.”
I didn’t feel any different, but I accepted it. “Thank you,” I said, then promptly took us both back up to the house that held Taryn. Oh, shit, Taryn. I’d forgotten about her and how the light was just slamming into her when I disappeared. Well… fuck.
I took Damian to the living room and laid him on the couch. He was asleep in seconds. After I was certain he wouldn’t be moving any time soon, I headed upstairs, taking the steps two by two.
Taryn lay on the floor of her bedroom, unconscious, Sirio’s severed hand next to her. I looked back and forth between them before heading for the hand. Hey, maybe Taryn just needed a bit of rest, and who was I to rush to wake her up? I slipped the ring off Sirio’s hand without a second thought. It wasn’t like I hadn’t touched corpses before.
The ring felt cool and tight on my finger. It buzzed with power, and this time I could tell that it would obey me. Smiling, I then turned my attention to Taryn. I shook her. No response. I poked her cheek. No response. I slapped her across the face. No response.
“Wake up,” I muttered, and her eyes flew open. I felt the ring get warm on my finger. “Shit,” I breathed. “This is going to come in handy.”
“Wha-“ Taryn began, then winced in pain.
“Don’t move.,” I said. “Did you just get hit by his light thing?”
“Yes,” she gasped.
“I’m surprised you didn’t die.”
“It dissipated some,” she managed. “After you disappeared with him.”
“Oh, good. I feel heroic; I saved your life.”
I chose to believe the resulting glare was more out of pain than anger at me. Carefully, I felt her ribs. She winced. “I think you just have a few broken ribs..”
“Oh, and you’re a doctor now?”
I scowled at her. “You’re too much like your brother.”
That earned me a slight proud smile. I used the shadows to lift her as gently as I could onto the bed. She winced as I set her down and took several shallow breaths. “Is Damian ok?” she asked once she’d regained control. “Did you hurt him?”
“He’s fine,” I lied. “Just sleeping downstairs. You can see him in the morning.”
Taryn nodded as she turned away to look up at the ceiling. I moved to leave when she added quietly, “You know, you’re not what I expected.”
I paused in the doorway for a long time. Her breathing evened out, and I knew she was asleep. I looked over at her on the bed and frowned. “You know, I’m not what I expected either.”