“Wait,” I said, before Damian’s fingers touched the aged, antique wood of the box. He paused and looked up at me for the first time. “Damian…. I thought we were friends.”
Damian scowled. It was an expression I knew well, but this time it caused me more pain than ever before. “What would make you think that?” Damian replied. “All you ever do is threaten me. You crippled my sister.” He paused before adding, with venom, “And you killed my parents. Yeah, those are all things friends do.”
I stared at him. “I didn’t-“
“Spout all the lies you want, Baxel,” Sirio interrupted. “We both know you did. Or do you not remember me trying to stop you?”
“You didn’t try to stop me because I didn’t do it! You did!” I protested.
Damian looked to Sirio, scowling again. “That’s a lie,” Sirio assured him. “I told you that he would try to mess with you, that he would feed you lies to get in your head. It’s what he does; it’s how he works. Now open the box and give me the ring.”
“Why don’t you open it yourself?” I demanded. “You’re the great and powerful Sirio; why are you making Damian do all your work for you?”
“I’m not making him do anything,” Sirio replied. “It’s an honor.”
This time, though, Damian hesitated. “It’s alright. I’ll pass. You open it.” He slid the box over to Sirio.
“No, no, I insist,” Sirio replied, not touching it.
I scowled to match Damian. “There’s something you’re not telling us.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Tell me why I have to be the one to open the box,” Damian said. “Or I won’t do it.”
Sirio’s jaw clenched. “Fine. One of the levels of protection was that no supernatural being could open the box. It has to be a human.” Sirio’s words were clipped, as if there was more that he wasn’t saying. But that was enough.
Damian’s eyes shone with new interest. “Oh. Oh, I see.”
“Open the box and give it to me, Damian. I’ll destroy it so Baxel will never get his hands on it,” Sirio urged.
“That’s a lie,” I told Damian. “He’s just going to use it for himself. You can't trust him.”
Damian laughed darkly. “What, like I trust you?”
He had a point.
“Go on, Damian,” Sirio said gently.
Damian looked between us, then pulled the box back over to him. He touched the latch and it sprung open. Nestled in a cushion of velvet sat the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The ring was gunmetal gray, smooth and shiny save for the inscriptions circling the center stone of obsidian. It was gorgeous. I could feel the power radiating from it, and I wanted it more than I’d ever wanted anything in my life.
Reaching tentatively inside, Damian picked up the ring. I could feel the energy buzz in the air. I could only imagine what it would be like to have that only stronger, to wear it and have the power course through my veins-
Sirio reached for the ring just as Damian tossed it to me. I caught it, slipped it on, and everyone in the room froze. I looked down at my hand, admiring the cool metal against my skin. Still, the buzz of energy seemed to have dissipated; I didn’t feel anything beyond a normal ring.
Sirio looked at Damian in horror. “Why would you do that? Why would you give that to him?” he demanded.
“Because,” Damian replied with venom, rounding the table to come stand next to me. “For all the terrible things Baxel has done, he didn’t kill my parents.”
There was silence for a moment while Sirio gaped in shock.
“What, you thought I believed you?” Damian asked, raising a brow. “Well, here’s some news - I remember everything about that night. And it wasn’t shadows that killed my parents, it was light.”
Sirio's face turned from surprise to fury.
“High five,” I said, holding up my palm. Damian just scowled at me. “I command you to give me a high five.”
Damian frowned. “I don’t feel commanded.” He didn’t move.
“Why isn’t it working?” I asked, scowling down at the ring.
“Because,” Sirio said, taking on the righteous tone he loved so much, “there was more than one safeguard on the ring. Not only could only a mortal take it from the box, but only the same mortal can use it until its power is relinquished to someone else, whether through verbal permission or,” Sirio paused dramatically, “death.”
Damian swallowed conspicuously as Sirio’s gaze turned to him. In a flash, a bolt of light shot towards Damian’s head. Instinctively, I drew at the shadows to deflect it, and was surprised to find them at my command once more. They must have come back once Damian opened the box, but in the drama, I hadn’t noticed.
“Go,” I told Damian. “Get out of here!”
Damian didn’t hesitate. He bolted for the door. Sirio tried to bar his way, but I broke a hole through with shadows. In doing so, I left myself vulnerable to a blast of light aimed right at my back. I flew forward, hitting the stone wall with a sickening smack. If I thought my feet hurt already, this was about a hundred times worse. Still, I forced myself to move from where I landed on the ground.
Sirio was already aiming another light attack at me, so I erected a quick shadow shield while I tried to regain my focus and composure. Done with games, Sirio strode right over to me, reaching through the shield, for his essence as a being of light sliced through the shadows like butter.
Grabbing my arm, Sirio wrenched it behind me. I gasped in pain, but still tried to struggle free.
“I’m tired of your tricks, Baxel,” Sirio hissed into my ear. I felt his cold hand close around mine and finger the ring. “You might have the boy’s loyalty after all, but I’m taking this. And you’re never going to see it again.” I felt the metal slip from my finger. I tried to struggle, but he held me fast. “Tell your little friend that I’m coming for him. And make no mistake, I will get him to relinquish power to me.”
Sirio let go of my arm, but even as I whipped around with my fist poised for a punch, he was gone.