Call me a fool, but I gave Sirio my undivided attention. The Bane of Mortals? The ring that granted absolute control over human kind? The thing I’ve been searching for for thousands of years? My single greatest desire? I was listening.
Sirio laughed in my face. “You’re a fool.”
It was like a blow to the chest. I shrank back, blurting, “What?”
“Look at you,” he said, waving a hand vaguely in my direction. “You’re slobbering like a dog over meat at the very mention of the thing. Pathetic.”
You know, the good thing about having red skin is when you’re embarrassed, no one can tell. But that’s just a random side note, completely unrelated. I wasn’t embarrassed, I was angry and I made sure Sirio could tell. With a gesture of my fingers, the shadows lurking behind Sirio’s chair rose up in tendrils, raking across his neck threateningly.
“That tickles,” Sirio commented. He brushed a hand through the shadows and they fell away. I ground my teeth. If this were anyone else, they would have remained corporeal.
“What are you saying?” I demanded. “That you don’t have intelligence and you were just messing with me?” Pausing, I backtracked, “Oh, wait, I see how that could be confusing. Let me rephrase that. You’re saying you don’t have intelligence on the ring?”
Sirio smirked. “Very witty.” He leaned back in the chair, letting his arms rest on the sides, the very picture of nonchalant. “In fact, I wasn’t lying. I do have information about that weapon you’re lusting after.”
I waited. He looked at me; I looked at him. We waited some more. Eventually, I caved. “Well? Are you going to tell me?”
I wasn’t surprised, but that didn’t stop me from sending a withering glare his way. “Tease.”
Sirio just smiled. “I’ve heard reports that you’re getting soft. If we’re going to have any chance of stealing the Bane, I’m going to need a ruthless, cold hearted demon I can trust.”
“Excuse me?” I blurted, too overwhelmed with the desire to laugh to keep up the glare. “There are so many things wrong with that statement. Where should I start?” I asked, half to myself. “Okay, first of all, I don’t know who your mysterious ‘sources’ are, but you might want to fire them. I’m not getting soft. Ask Mr. and Mrs. Travers rotting in the basement if I’m getting soft. Ask that homeless guy in the 32nd street alley if I’m getting soft. Oh wait, you can’t, because they’re dead.” I snapped. The shadows swirled at my feet, agitated by my irritation.
“And secondly, if we are going to have a chance at stealing the ring?” I asked incredulously. “I don’t work with you. I will never work with you. I learned my lesson a thousand times over, brother, and I’m not making that mistake again. I’ll steal it myself, and when I rule the world, you’ll come crawling back to me, begging at my feet to forgive you for everything you’ve done to me.”
Sirio simply looked amused, waiting with infuriating patience for me to continue. I did. “And lastly, I am ruthless and cold hearted, but you can’t trust me any more than I can trust you. Which is absolutely zero percent. Zero percent trust.” I scowled, feeling the darkness rise up around my legs in a comforting haze. “I don’t need you or your so-called intelligence. I’ll get it on my own.”
“Of course you will,” Sirio said, his voice brimming with thinly veiled skepticism. “Because I’m sure you have someone in the Guild with access to the sort of information I have.”
My head snapped up at that. “You’re working with the GITS? They trust an idiot like you? Never mind, of course they would.” I wasn’t being unnecessarily harsh or British in calling them gits. That was their actual acronym. GITS - Guild of International Transmutative Sorcerers. I wanted to personally reward whoever had come up with that name and failed to realize the acronym it would be shortened to. Now, with all the embossed stationary and GITS Pizza Friday Club t-shirts that had been made up, it was impossible to go back.
“Everyone wants an angel on their team,” Sirio pointed out.
“You’re hardly an angel.”
Sirio gave a half shrug. “Please. You don’t need a weapon to control mortals; they’re easy enough to deceive. As far as they know, I’m perfectly righteous.”
Ha. That was a joke if I ever heard one. I suppose I should explain how Sirio and I could possibly be related - a fact that I’m still furious about. Way back at the dawn of time or whatever you want to call it, there was an angel named Lucifer. He was a cool dude, God’s little pet, the best of the best, whatever. Well, through a series of events I won’t get into because it honestly grosses me out, he for some reason did the thing with Lilith, the worst of the worst demon. Somehow (and please don’t make me go into the details of it, you really don’t want to hear it) that union popped out just what had gone into it: one fallen angel and one demon. My brother and me. Of course, Sirio was a full fledged angel, so he had the potential to be good, but, well… it wasn’t in his nature, I suppose. Nor mine, but, well, what can you expect.
“Seriously?” I asked. “Ten minutes with you and I already feel unclean.”
“Says the demon.”
I ignored the jibe. Being a demon was freaking awesome. Not only did I get control over the shadows rather than light, I also got the ladies. Ladies love a bad boy. Okay, well, that’s not entirely true. Most women see the red skin and take off in the other direction, but on Halloween? Halloween is incredible. Love that holiday. “You can leave now, Sirio. You’re wasting your breath.”
“Hmm, I don’t think I am,” Sirio replied. In one fluid movement, he stood. “Here’s my offer. There’s a boy in the Guild and his father… Well, let’s say his father personally offended me. I, of course, took care of him, but it still stings. I want you to corrupt this boy, turn him from their side to ours, and prove to me that you’re just as sharp and capable as you claim to be.” Sirio’s golden eyes were piercing as he took a step closer. “Do that, and I’ll share with you everything I know about the Bane of Mortals. Together we’ll steal it, and together we’ll rule the world.”
Sirio backed off, heading for the door. He didn’t turn around when he said, “You’re my brother, Baxel, and you always will be. We both know you won’t be able to get this information without me, just like I can’t steal the ring without you. We need each other, and you know it. Corrupt the boy, prove me wrong about you, and I guarantee that you’ll get your wish.”
I didn’t reply. In the doorway, Sirio turned back for a brief second. “I’ll send someone with more information on this boy tomorrow.” He turned as if to go, then paused. “Oh, and Baxel? Cut your hair; it looks ridiculous.” He eyed the black hair that fell to my chin with disgust, then looked away.
Scowling, I shot back, “Yeah well, your face looks-“ Sirio was gone. “-ridiculous,” I finished sheepishly. With Sirio had gone the light, so I stood in the darkness, thinking about what he had said.
I didn’t trust him. I didn’t need him. Still, he had presented me with the challenge of corrupting this boy. If I didn’t, he’d think I was going soft. If I did, I look desperate to please him, to gain his approval and join his cause. He had backed me into a corner, and there was only one way out. I wanted that ring too badly to turn my back on my brother, regardless of how little I trusted him. Once it was in my possession, surely I could then find a way to double cross him. Until then, I would just have to play nice.
After all, a little corruption never hurt anybody.