Brave New World

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Devils in the Details

December 10, 2007

“So,” Reyna started before taking a large bite out of her pizza, “You gonna go to that dance you told me about or nah?” Marcus and Reyna were seated in a plastic booth with their backs to the windows. Marcus’s parents had decided to go on a date night and left Marcus in charge of all five of his siblings. He had asked Reyna along for the ride in hopes that her presence might make his siblings—at least the female ones—behave a bit better. If anything, though, it was another set of eyes to help him out. Currently, while the two ate their pizza, the rest of the Vankov brood ran amok in the pizzeria arcade.

“Hmm?” Marcus mumbled around his own slice, “Oh, probably not. It’s the Winter Formal and you’re supposed to bring dates.”

“What about that girl you were telling me about? Sharon? Sharona? I thought she liked you. Why don’t you ask her?” Reyna had never met the girl in person, but from what she gathered by Facebook creeping, she seemed nice enough.

“Sharice, and, uh, no, you know I’d rather not ask her.” Marcus coughed awkwardly and drank some of his pop to avoid Reyna’s piercing stare.

“What? Just last week you told me she was pretty cool! What’s happened? What, is she, like, not pretty enough for you? ‘Cause let me tell you something, buck-o, that girl is gorgeous!” Reyna was not exaggerating, either. Sharice looked like some Egyptian goddess with her dark brown skin and even darker, tightly wound curls. Her lips were so lush she’d easily make any lipstick model jealous. Overall, Reyna thought she was very aesthetically pleasing.

“If you think she’s so pretty, why don’t you date her, for Christ’s sake!” Marcus lashed out. Reyna simply rolled her eyes though, used to Marcus’ newly acquired temper. “She’s just—just not my type, okay? Ugh!” He groaned, plopping his head down on the counter. Bad move in Reyna’s opinion, since the counter was kind of sticky. “This is so frustrating!”

“Dude, what’s up with you? You’ve been acting weird for months now. You okay?” Reyna asked sincerely. When Marcus’s mood began to flare a few months back, she had just thought he was stressed from school or magic lessons, but after talking to Lokesh and his mother it seemed like neither was the case. Although Reyna couldn’t exactly rule school out entirely—who knew what happened between classes?—she knew Marcus would never get this stressed over his grades.

Lifting his head up, he asked, “Can I tell you something? And you have to promise—really promise—never to tell anyone, all right?” Nodding slowly, Reyna’s brows furrowed with concern. Sighing, Marcus admitted, “I like someone.”

“Okay?” Reyna said slowly, “What’s the problem? Who is she?”

“That’s the problem,” Marcus said, rubbing a hand down his face, “She’s not a she. I like a guy.”

Reyna stared into Marcus’ dark brown eyes for a few seconds before saying, “Oh . . . Oh! Uh, okay, um . . .so?” She prompted, hoping he’d continue.

“Reyna, I can’t be gay.” The Bulgarian said so seriously. His eyes turned down towards his plate of food and he began to pick away at the pepperoni and mushrooms. “I just, I mean, what if—what would my parents think? You know how they are; mass every Sunday, praying before each meal, never say the Lord’s name in vain! What if they . . . what if they don’t accept me? What if they cast me out? God, what about everyone else, too? I don’t know how Lokesh feels about homosexuality. What if he dumps me as his apprentice? Or the kids at school? Oh God, what if the guy I like finds out and thinks I’m a freak?”

“Marcus, hey, hey, calm down,” Reyna commanded, enveloping his hands into her own. She yanked on them until he twisted his body to face hers. “Look at me, okay? I want you to breathe, okay? Breathe with me, yeah? Inhale,” She sucked in a deep breath and held it for five seconds, “Exhale,” and then repeated the actions for ten more breaths until her friend looked like he wasn’t on the verge of a panic attack. “I know your parents, and, Marcus, they’d never . . . disown your or anything like that. They love you so, so much. It’s obvious to anyone who takes one step into your home how loved you are.” Titling his chin up so he had to look in her eyes, she smiled, “They won’t care about your sexuality so long as you’re happy and healthy, okay?

“And Lokesh . . . I don’t know his opinions on the subject either, but there’s no way in hell he’d throw you out like yesterday’s trash or anything ridiculous like that. It’s not his job to know who you like or what you do with your free time. He’s your teacher first and foremost, yeah? Everything outside of that is optional. If he wants to be a part of your personal life, then he’ll just have to learn to accept you exactly how you are. As for the kids at your school?” She smirked wickedly, “Well if they find out and think you’re a freak just fuck them and hit them with a curse they’ll never forget. That’ll set ‘em right!”

Marcus let out a choked laugh and leaned forward to rest his forehead against Reyna’s. “I’m so confused, Reyna. I really thought I like Sharice, but then I saw Sam and my heart pounded ten times harder for him than it ever did for her.” He paused, lost in thought for some time. “My parents, though. Reyna . . . I’m scared.” He admitted and his hands clenched into fists, twisting under Reyna’s palms. “What if they don’t love me enough? What if they do throw me away? What’ll I do?”

“Live with me, of course,” Reyna responded immediately as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do. Reyna knew exactly how it felt to be left behind, to be discarded by the people that were meant to love you with every fiber of their being. It felt like shit, and that was putting it lightly. Sometimes, even now, years later, Reyna would become lost in her thoughts of her lost family, and her heart would feel as if someone had torn the organ out and all that was left was a gaping hole. Wrapping her arms around her friend, Reyna hoped he’d never have to feel that pain.

“No one has to know until you’re ready,” She whispered into his ear before pulling back to smile softly. “And if you ever need a beard,” she shrugged, “I’m always available.”

Marcus laughed a bit more cheerfully this time. Nodding his head he told her, “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Keep what in mind?” Nicky asked, surprising the two Casters. His dark eyes peered up at them curiously before he climbed into the booth next to his brother and grabbed another slice of pizza.

“Nothing, Nicholai,” Marcus said shortly. Nicky, hearing the use of his full name, didn’t push further and busied himself with stuffing his mouth with his slice.

“So,” Reyna started, trying to think of a new conversation topic. She kept one hand intertwined with Marcus’s, though, and could still feel the slight tremble in his hand even though his face showed none of his anxiety. “When do you think we’ll see Merlin again?”

Understanding what she was trying to do, Marcus let out a shaky breath before attempting to give her a half smile. “Probably not any time soon. Lokesh said he lives on a small island in Scotland. I think he’s kinda a hermit.”

“Bummer!” She whined, “I wanted to ask him some questions.”

“Interrogate him, you mean? You know, you should think about becoming a journalist or something. You’d be great at it.”

Reyna’s rolled her eyes a bit and sarcastically said, “Right, ‘cause it’s not like I don’t already got a job lined up for me.”

“You know being a Council of Three member doesn’t pay, right? It’s more an honorary positon than anything else.” Marcus explained with a slightly concerned look.

“Wait, what?” Reyna asked, her eye brows shooting up into her hair line.

“Yeah, like, Lokesh is a professor at NYU and Donny . . . well, I think he’s a trust fund baby, actually, so he kind of just travels a lot,” he said with a shrug. After taking a few more bites of pizza and then washing it down with his Sprite, Marcus asked, “You didn’t know Dunstan had a job?”

“He’s never mentioned having one,” she explained, “which is why I just assumed he didn’t have one. I mean, I’ve heard him talking about clients before, but who knows what that means.” Pursing her lips, Reyna was determined to ask Dunstan what his job was as soon as she saw him next.

“You know, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about him . . . about Dunstan, but I guess I was, uh,” he glanced over at his younger brother, “distracted with other things.” Reyna took a big gulp of her pop through the straw, but looked at Marcus for him to continue. “Lokesh is really the one that wants me to ask you about Dunstan, so yeah, but I guess he wanted me to ask if you were okay?”

“If I was okay?” Reyna repeated slowly, elbow now resting on the table and her chin in her hand. “Why wouldn’t I be okay?” She asked with a tilt of her head.

Marcus coughed before looking at his brother. Pulling out some more quarters from his pocket, he placed them on the table and said, “Hey, Nicky, how ‘bout you go play some more games?”

Giving his older brother a dull look, Nicky took the quarters and said under his breath, “I never get to hear the good stuff.”

As soon as his brother was far enough away, Marcus coughed again but turned back to face Reyna. “Well, you know during the competition how you drew water from your body, and, like, made lightning from an electrical brain signal?” Reyna nodded, not seeing where this was going, “And a while back, you had some cuts on your body and stuff, and you told me you were practicing healing? Or, or when you told me about Dunstan and you grave robbing?”

“Yes, I remember all these things,” Reyna said with a sigh and tipped her head back with exasperation. “What about it?”

“Well, Lokesh seems to think that Dunstan’s been getting into dark stuff, you know, magic wise, and that he’s been teaching you dark magic.”

Twisting her mouth, Reyna asked, “What’s the difference between dark magic and . . . light magic? Is that even the right wording?”

“Yeah, I guess,” he said while rubbing the back of neck. “And I dunno, it seems like dark magic is more likely to hurt people. Or, maybe it deals less with nature and more with the body. I don’t know, okay? It just seems to Lokesh . . . and to me, kinda, that your magic gives off this darkish vibe, you know?”

“No, I don’t know,” Reyna said with a clipped tone. “And it seems like you really don’t, either! You can’t even tell me what dark magic means, and even if my magic is dark then so what? It’s not like I’m hurting anyone, and—and,”

“Hey, hey, calm down, all right?” Marcus said, placing his hand on her shoulder. “Look, I don’t think Lokesh’s problem is with you or the fact that you’re doing dark magic. I think it’s the fact that Dunstan’s teaching it to you and probably has been this whole time. If there is one thing I know about dark magic, it’s that it’s powerful and most of the time unpredictable, and that’s what makes it dangerous. Lokesh is just trying to look out for you. So am I.”

Reyna’s shoulder deflated at the last part. “I know,” she muttered, giving him a small, shaky smile. “But you don’t have to worry about me,” she gave his hand a squeeze, “I’m pretty tough.”

“You’d let me know, though? If Dunstan made you feel uncomfortable or anything?” Reynanodded easily, but Marcus wasn’t appeased. “Seriously, Reyna. Dunstan gives me bad vibes sometimes, and I know Lokesh is suspicious of him, so tell me if he does anything to you, okay?”

Reyna considered Marcus’s words for a few seconds. The conversation really put him on edge, and Reyna didn’t fully understand why. Sure, sometimes Dunstan took things too far, like when he lost him temper and lashed out. He had his secrets, but who didn’t? Maybe sometimes his actions came off as unorthodox, but as far as Reyna knew he wasn’t hurting anyone.

Feeling her lips twist into a frown, she thought about what Marcus himself was going through. Sure, he seemed fine now, but that was because he was focusing all his attention onto her. Reyna saw what the stress was doing to him, and just because he knew how to put on a good face and seemed A-OK didn’t mean there wasn’t a storm of emotion brewing inside of him. So Reyna looked into her friends eyes and knew she wouldn’t go to him if anything in her life took a turn. She just couldn’t do that to him. If anything ever did happen, she’d deal with it herself.

Marcus was still waiting for a response, though, so with a bright smile Reyna lied straight through her teeth, “Of course I will.” The tension that had built up around Marcus’ eyes lessened and he returned her smile with one of his smaller ones. Marcus finally broke eye contact when his siblings returned from the arcade and scooted their bodies into the booth next to them. The group finished off their pizzas and drinks and after paying their bill made their way out of the restaurant. Although he was starting to get a little too big for it, Reyna carried the seven year old Stefan until they reached the stairs that led down to her subway train.

After saying goodbye to the entire Vankov brood, and promising Marcus she’d call him when she was home, Reyna descended down the stairs and made her way home. The normally long half hour trip went by quickly for her as she listened to music on her newly acquired iPod Nano—her latest birthday gift from Lilith. Getting off at her stop, Reyna walked the last five minutes shivering in her winter coat up to Dunstan’s brownstone. “I’m back!” She yelled, quickly discarding her many layers and boots.

She heard Dunstan’s footsteps rounding the corner from his study before she saw him. “Good. Why don’t you go take a shower to warm up and then I want to show you something.”

“Is it a magical something?” Reyna asked suspiciously. He’d been hinting at something big all week and the she wondered if this was it.

“Yes, it’s a magical something.” He said with a laugh, “Why? Notot up for it tonight?” He asked, matching her skeptic tone.

“No, no,” she immediately assured him, making him smirk. “I’m up for it. I was just wondering.” After closing the hall closet where she’d deposited her coats, she began to climb the stairs, but stopped half way up. “Can we have cocoa?”

Dunstan shrugged, “Sure, I’ll make some while you take a shower.” Smiling brightly now, Reyna hurried up the rest of the steps to her room. Her conversation with Marcus flooded into her mind and she rolled her eyes. Dunstan may be rough around the edges, and he was most certainly not a substantial resource for emotional issues, but besides a few minor hiccups between them, the two had a pretty good thing going. And Dunstan made great hot cocoa, which was always a plus.

Once she was nice and clean, though still a little damp from her towel dried hair, Reyna found Dunstan in the kitchen with two mugs in front of him. Grabbing the one that looked like a penguin, she smiled when she saw that he’d added mini marshmallows. “So, what’ll we be doing tonight?”

“Tonight you’ll be summoning Devils. Or, well, not completely, but you’ll see.” He explained. The smile that was on Reyna’s face was wiped clean. She could remember back to her first lesson with Dunstan and his lesson about the creatures, but she never really thought she’d summon one.

“Are you sure?” She squeaked. “I mean, aren’t I a bit young to summon a Devil?”

“Nonsense, the sooner you learn the better. Now, summon a notebook, because I know you’ll want to take notes for this.” He grabbed his mug and moved from the counter to the living room where various items awaited them on the coffee table. “Come along,” he said once he realized she wasn’t immediately following. Letting out a grimacing sigh, Reyna did as she was told; summoned her notebook, and followed Dunstan into the living room.

“Now,” Dunstan began once she was seated next to him on the couch, “each Devil has their own summoning circle, which can be drawn on anything with anything so be careful when you practice. Always leave a symbol out while you practice so you don’t end up accidently summoning a Devil in your room. For tonight, though, we won’t be summoning the Devils to our plain completely, more like we’ll be Skyping them. Tonight we’ll just be summoning a few of the lesser Devils, how’s that sound?”

“Ah, good, I guess.” Reyna said without an ounce of conviction. She felt completely blindsided by this whole Devil business. She needed at least a week’s to mentally prepare herself for a Devil summoning. Unfortunately for her, though, Reyna knew she was about to dive head first into this mess. Steeling herself and taking in a deep breath, Reyna locked eyes with Dunstan and asked, “Who’s first?”

“Tamiel,” Dunstan said, “he’s considered more of a Demon, actually, but semantics,” he said with an offhanded wave of his hand. “He’s in charge of two hundred other Demons, which, in the grand scheme of things, means he’s pretty low on the totem pole.” He grabbed a pad of paper from the coffee table and a pen and began drawing an elaborate circle. Reyna began to copy his circle into her notebook, remembering to leave a symbol out. “Now the difference between summoning a Devil’s apparition and summoning the actual Devil is blood,” he explained after adding the last details to the circle. The lines turned from black to gold and soon the whole page began to glow. “Just add a few drops of your blood if you want to bring it into our dimension.” The pad of paper began to vibrate and almost shook itself off Dunstan’s lap. “You should only do that, however, if you have a deal set up with the Devil beforehand. Otherwise the Devil can, and probably will, take advantage of you.”

A dark, smoky shadow rose from the still glowing piece of paper. Soon Reyna could make out the barely there outline of a shape. Writing down whatever she could think of into her own notebook, she took in a sharp breath when the Demon opened its eyes. She had assumed they’d be red, or maybe black like in all the movies, but they were actually white. Almost blindingly white. The shadow took more shape and now Reyna could see horns on its head. It looked like a bull to her and Reyna wondered if all creatures from that dimension resembled animals.

“Sorcerer Dunstan,” the Demon hissed, “To what do I owe the pleasure?” Although it didn’t have any pupils, Reyna swore it was looking at her and she shivered.

Dunstan chuckled dryly, “What a ball of sunshine you are, Tamiel. This is my apprentice, Reyna,” he said and now Reyna was sure the creature was looking right at her. “I’m teaching her how to summon Devils like yourself.”

“Are you serious?” Tamiel whined, making Reyna’s brows rise in surprise. “Do you know how much work I’ve got down here? It’s busy season for pity’s sake! I don’t have time for this!”

“Oh, hush,” Dunstan chastised and Reyna couldn’t believe he was talking to a Demon—a Demon—like it was a tantrum throwing child. “You only have a couple hundred subordinates, how much work could you possibly have?”

“More than you’d think,” the Demon sighed, “and it’s three hundred and twenty seven subordinates now, thank you very much.” The Demon shook his head in what seemed to be exasperation. At least, that’s what Reyna thought it was. “What is it that you want, Dunstan?”

Dunstan shrugged easily, “Just wanted my apprentice to see a real Demon is all, maybe have you answer some of her questions,” he gave Reyna a knowing look. “If you’re busy, though, we’ll just move on to the next Devil. Maybe this time we’ll get a real, fearsome thing instead of sad sap of a bookworm.”

A sad sap? Why you—who’re you going to summon next?”

“Kokabiel,” He responded while looking intently at his finger nails.

Kokabiel? And you have the gall to call me a sad sap? Please!” Tamiel turned his shadowy figure towards Reyna, “Ask away, little worm.”

Staring at the Demon for a few seconds, Reyna hesitated before asking her questions. This was not at all how she thought a Devil summoning would go. “Uh, well, how did you become a Demon? Do all Demons look like you? Like, with eyes and animal head? Are you always so shadowy? What’s your dimension like? Have you ever been to our dimension? If so, which do you like better? Do people summon you a lot? What do they summon you for? How did our dimension first—”

“Reyna!” Dunstan interrupted her barrage of questions. “Take a deep breath and let him answer you, eh?”

Blushing now, Reyna bit her bottom lip to keep herself from blurting out any more questions and waited for the answers. Tamiel stared at her for a few seconds before, “Well, that sure was . . . a lot. Ah, I was born a Demon. We all are, actually, but some religions gave us backstories where we were something before like an angel or a human and turned evil.” He shrugged, “It’s not like that. It’s really, really not. I guess a lot of Demons look like me, with the horns and stuff. We all have white eyes . . . not everyone has a head that looks like an animal from your realm, but none of us look like anyone from your dimension, either. Well, unless we possess a human, but that’s completely different.” Reyna opened her mouth to ask more about possession, but caught Dunstan’s eye last second and clicked her jaw shut.

Tamiel’s white eyes seem to look past Reyna and at the room behind her, “Our dimension definitely doesn’t look like fire and brimstone, which I know is how it’s shown on your T.V. shows, but again, it doesn’t look like yours. We don’t have the same kind of plants or even the sun. We do have the stars, though.” It shrugged again, “I don’t know how else to explain it. It’d be easier if I could show you.” He offered, almost nonchalantly.

“No.” Dunstan said immediately. Turning to look at Reyna he said, “Never take a Devil up on their offer to see their world. It’s a trick to either get your soul, or to just plain kill you since our kind can’t live in their world.” He finished, then gave Tamiel a dark look, which the Demon returned with one of innocence.

“Can you blame me for trying?” He asked, and when Dunstan’s look didn’t change he sighed, “I guess you can.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Reyna said, “We have souls? I thought we didn’t know for, like, certain or whatever.”

“We call them souls only because we don’t know what else to call it, honestly. Some say it’s a life force, but that just sounds pretentious.” Dunstan explained, twisting his mouth in thought. “Whatever it is, it’s like crack to Devils and they’ll do anything to get their hands on it.”

“What happens to the person they take it from? Do they die?”

“No, well, yes,” Dunstan sighed. “Not right away. I guess you could say it’s their personality the Devil takes, maybe even their will to live. Usually after it’s gone the person will just wither away. Horrible way to go, really.”

“Is there any way to stop a Devil from getting your, ah . . .soul?”

“Magic, of course. Devils need to be in our dimension to take a person’s soul, which means they have to abide by our nature’s laws. So long as you can defend yourself—or run fast enough—you have nothing to worry about. Isn’t that right, Tamiel?”

“Hmm?” The Demon mumbled, apparently having lost interest a while ago, “Ah, yes, yes, it’s true, but that doesn’t mean we’re weak in your realm either. Don’t forget that, Dunstan.”

“No, but you can only stay in our dimension for so long unless you possess someone, and that is a rare commodity to find here.”

“Why?” Reyna chimed in.

Tamiel sighed, “Because we have to have the person’s consent to enter their body. Or well, we can possess a body of a person who’d just recently died or something, but you have to get in there within freaking thirty seconds or else the body will just continue to decay and let’s just say we’d rather not go through that mess.”

“Ew,” Reyna mumbled. “So,” she continued, “do you get summoned a lot?”

“Yeah, at least five times a year. Each Devil has their own specialty, though, so sometimes I get summoned to grant a wish and it gets awkward real fast ‘cause I don’t do that.” He shrugged, “Gotta do your research, people.”

“What is your specialty?”

“Abortions, mostly. I usually get summoned by women whose partner won’t let them get one through a doctor so they become real desperate, real fast. I deal with floods, too, but I haven’t done anything like that for several centuries now. Too messy, really.”

“Huh, okay then.”

“What?” The Demon said sharply, suddenly defensive. “Not cool enough for you? Ugh, everyone’s a critic.”

“No, no!” Reyna quickly amended, “It’s not that, I’m just surprised is all. All the T.V. shows I’ve seen with Demons or Devils in them they’re shown like the Big Bads who make deals to get people’s souls or wreak havoc just for the fun of it. So, yeah, it’s just surprising or—or eye opening, I guess.”

“Oh, there are some Devils like that, believe me,” Tamiel assured her. “But that’s what the top guys are for, you know? Lucifer, Azazel, and all them. They’re such show offs.” Again, Reyna couldn’t tell for certain, but she was pretty sure the Demon just rolled his eyes. “Then again, they don’t have things like paperwork to worry about, so they can be. So, any more questions? I really should be getting back.”

“No, I think that’s all for tonight,” Dunstan said before Reyna could ask another question. After their goodbyes—which, to Reyna, felt all too civil considering who they’re were saying it to—Dunstan drew a slash through the circle. The Demon disappeared along with the golden light and it just became another piece of paper again. “And that,” Dunstan said, “Is how you disconnect the line. All right,” he gave Reyna the pad of paper. “Your turn. I want you to draw the circle to summon Kokabiel. If you turn the page, the circle is basically ready for you, you just need to copy it and add the last symbol.”

“Are all Devils like that?” She asked as she began to draw the new circle. “Normal, I mean?”

“Not really, no. Some are as mean and as strange as you’d expect them to be, and others are perfectly nice and would never hurt a fly. It just depends on who they are.”

Reyna hummed and finished up the circle. Just like with Dunstan’s, it shook and illuminated in a golden light. The smoke began to rise once again from the paper and eventually Reyna could make out the form of a new Devil. His eyes were just as white as Tamiel’s, but they did seem to have a bluer tint to them, and instead of a bull’s head, this Devil was just a dark outline of a bald man. Total scary movie bad guy shadow, in Reyna’s opinion. “Hello Kokabiel!” She greeted cheerfully before getting to the point, “My name is Reyna and I have some questions.”

His pure white eyes seemed to flash between Dunstan and Reyna before nodding his head. “Great,” Reyna chirped. Checking on Dunstan out of the corner of her eye to see if she was doing everything right, she saw nothing amiss in his facial expression so she continued. “What’s your specialty? When you’re summoned, that is.”

“Wishes and fate,” his barely there voice hissed out. Reyna frowned, thinking she liked Tamiel better than Kokabiel. Nevertheless, she wrote down the new information in her notebook.

“And, uh, do you oversee any Devils or Demons? And, um, if so how many?”

“Three hundred and sixty-five thousand spirits.”

“Spirits?” She repeated. “Not Devils?” The Devil shook his head no. Humming, Reyna added that to her notes. “So what does that mean, exactly?”

“Spirits are what becomes of creatures from your dimension that make the mistake of visiting mine.”

“Oh. Oh,” Reyna said as she registered his words. Underlining the word spirits in her notes, she made a mental note to highlight that part later on. “Hmm,” Reyna tapped her pen to her lips in thought. Kokabiel wasn’t really the ideal candidate to interview. So with a nod of her head, she said a quick, “Thanks, gotta go now!” and slashed her pen through the circle.

“Why’d you do that?” Dunstan asked, looking at her with one eyebrow raised and a frown on his lips. “You just summoned him.”

“Yeah, but I was getting nowhere with him! It was like pulling teeth for heaven’s sake!” She explained while writing the words ‘Do not summon—total bore!’ next to Kokabiel’s name. When Dunstan laughed at her explanation, Reyna rolled her eyes and let out a huff of air.

“Well if you thought he was a bore, we might as well skip Ramiel for tonight. You can summon him and determine his worth on you own time. Here,” he said after leaning forward and grabbing a book from the coffee table. “It’s a book with every summon-able Devil and their circles. You can study up and practice summoning them. Just remember to stay on your toes around them, they’re devious by nature after all.”

Skimming through the pages, Reyna grimaced at some of the illustrations the book included. Puffing out her cheeks, Reyna looked up at Dunstan who was finishing off his hot chocolate. “Hey, Dunstan?” He made a humming noise, telling her he was listening. “Would this be considered dark magic?”

Dunstan’s entire body stilled. He turned his body toward Reyna’s and looked at her with narrowed eyes. “Why would you ask that?”

Shrugging, she told him, “’Cause Marcus mentioned it today when we were eating dinner. He couldn’t even explain to me what dark magic was, though,” she scoffed, “so I kinda brushed him off, but then we summoned Devils so I was just wondering.” Scrunching up her nose and tilting her head she asked, “What is dark magic, anyway?”

With a tense jaw—Reyna could see a muscle in it ticking—Dunstan shook his head. “Marcus doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’m sure it’s just Lokesh trying to meddle with things that don’t concern him.” He glared into his empty mug. “Dark magic is just misunderstood magic, Reyna. It scares people because it usually deals with blood, but it’s not ‘dark’ at all. Magic is magic. Never think otherwise, all right?”

“Oo-kay,” Reyna said slowly. Dunstan looked thoroughly upset by this conversation topic. So after taking a long swig of her lukewarm cocoa, Reyna redirected and asked, “Do you have a job?”

“What?”

“Do you have a job?” Reyna repeated, almost laughing at his face. The tension had left, wiped clean with confusion. It looked like she’d given him whiplash with her questions. One of the highest achievements Reyna’s ever accomplished, in her own opinion. “Marcus told me about Lokesh’s job and I wanted to know if you had one. You’re always mentioning clients, anyway, so I figured you had one, but, like, I don’t know what it is.”

Massaging the skin on his forehead, Dunstan asked, “You know how law firms have clients that pay for their services?” Reyna nodded. “Well I’m kind of like a magical lawyer. People pay for my services, and they pay well since I’m so powerful.” His arrogant tone made her snort. Rolling his eyes, he continued, “Lilith is one of my clients, actually. So are the Fairy Queens. One day, when I’ve retired or died—who knows—they’ll be your clients.”

My clients?”

“Sure,” he said easily, “You’re not only my heir for the Council of Three, you’re also my heir in business. Of course you won’t start out with the sharks, but when you’re a little older we’ll set it up for you to have some clients of your own. They’ll have your number and whenever they need your services they’ll call. Sometimes it’ll be easy things like performing a lost and found spell, but sometimes it’ll be bigger things they ask you for.”

“Like what?” Reyna asked while scooping out some marshmallows with her finger.

“You’ll find out when you’re older.” He told her, taking their empty cups and heading into the kitchen.

Reyna twisted so she could look at him over the couch with an annoyed expression. “I am older, you know. I’m freaking fifteen!”

Dunstan laughed loudly and responded with a, “Go study up on that Devil book, eh?” Reyna grumbled at the dismissal, but gathered up her things anyway and headed for her room with the plan of taking thorough notes on every Devil and Demon mentioned.
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