Sister Ann grasped her hand tightly in her age beaten one.
“It is a demon’s mark of possession. It is sign warning other supernaturals away from you. This demon marked you as his own.”
Elyse gulped. I am in a world of trouble now.
“T-There are more like him out there?” she whispered disbelievingly, still staring at the spot in the floor where Azrael had inexplicably vanished like mist. She recalled his furious crimson eyes and his demented howl when he was forced to leave her side.
“Yes, Child, there are. And this one has its eyes set on you.”
Hearing Sister Ann’s fervent words, Elyse clutched the blanket tighter around her body. Her mind was a torrent of wild thoughts. “I don’t understand...I am just an orphan. No legacy. No famous bloodline. No riches whatsover. Nothing. What would he ever want from me?” the girl contemplated.
The Headmistress shook her head at her young protéjée. Elyse’s naivete was going to be her downfall. “What every demon wants from his master– everything.”
The girl’s heart skipped a beat. Everything?
Sister Ann sighed, settling herself more comfortably in the chair. The HeadMistress looked exactly like she did when she was preparing to teach a very long, and boring, history lesson in front of the orphans. She nodded, continuing. “The master and the creature share a spiritual bond that grounds the demon into the mortal realm, the connection offering the demon access to incredible power. If the demon is strong, the myths say so is the human who controls it.”
“However, it all comes with a steep price, both for the human and the creature, I would say more so for the former party. Demons are unpredictable creatures, control over them is temporary only and any semblance of power a human obtains from the summoning is only an illusion. Only a fool would think otherwise.
As for the demon, it is dependant to its human until it possesses the power it craves. Such magic can only be obtained if the master grants it to the demon. This condition guarantees the relative protection of the human who is often the weaker one of the two, should the demon rebel prematurely. The creature cannot take the power by force, nor can steal it otherwise. However, it can manipulate its human into doing so – many a demon have used honeyed words to bewitch and subdue their masters into doing this.”
Though still scared, Elyse perked up hearing the story. Who would have ever believed that the prim and proper HeadMistress delved in such mysteries. According to her, there was an entire world out there which Elyse had known nothing about. Realms of magic and mystic bonds. The very idea made her drunk with possibilities.
“When you mentioned the master granting power to the demon, what did you mean? How does this happen exactly?” Elyse asked fascinated. Sister Ann frowned at the eager interest in the girl’s tone.
“Words can possess great magic behind their meaning, Elyse. When uttered in the wrong company at the wrong time, they cause great dangers. An example is what happened when you girls found that ancient tome and started foolishly reciting incantations from it.”
Elyse’s brow furrowed in consternation and tried to get up from her seated position on the bed. Having been bound and at the mercy of whatever Rosanna and her gang summoned still brought chills down the girl’s back. She did not want to be associated to her tormentors. “I had nothing to do with that insanity, Sister. My hand was forced quite literally that night and–”
Sister Ann calmly put a hand on the agitated blonde. Dots of perspiration appeared on her forehead and angry tears glistened in the young woman’s blue eyes. “I know, my child. Please calm down, I did not mean to accuse you. What I meant is that from now on you have to be very careful with what you speak. Your demon is always listening, always ready to pounce on an opportunity.” The HeadMistress voice quieted, the older’s woman’s eyes darting around the vacant dormitory. Even the Sister’s caramel complexion seemed to pale slightly.
“Words of acceptance from the master is how the demon gains power,” Sister Ann whispered. “Tell me Elyse, has your demon ever pushed you to accept him?”
Elyse wrecked her mind for answers, reliving the last days since this entire fiasco began. In the wake of the HeadMistress’s revelation, she was starting to notice a pattern in her past interactions with Azrael. There always seemed to be a veiled desperation in his actions, an ever present ambition for more. During her first dream of him, he had asked her to accept him. An again, when he stole her first kiss, he whispered for her acceptance. At that time, this aspect of his enigmatic behaviour puzzled her.
She now knew what he had actually meant. He had just longed for more power. Inexplicably, a bitter taste filled her mouth at the discovery.
She drew her legs closer to her torso, favouring her right one. At this point, it would be more sensible to worry for her life, instead of her misplaced hurt feelings. Elyse finally spoke while pensively caressing the pendant around her neck, looking for comfort that was not there. “I see it now. He always required my consent, actively persuading me to voice my acceptance of him. I never understood why he was so adamant. ”
Embarrassed, she hid her flushing cheeks when she reminisced exactly how he had persuaded to accept him. All those gentle touches had hidden the cruelest intent.
Feeling a hand touch her shoulder, Elyse looked up. “Demons are meant to be seductive creatures for a reason, my Elyse.” Sister Ann continued “In the past, only people of strong magic with extensive knowledge of the supernatural were allowed to summon demons. There was no possible way you could have guessed the creature’s motives. The fact you are still among the living means you are stronger than you think, otherwise the creature would have already taken all the power when you granted it to him.”
She knew the HeadMistress’ words were meant to be soothing, but the reminder of Azrael’s true intentions just brought more hurt. Then, as if summoned, an answering pulse on her collarbone took her by surprise. The mark! She had forgotten about it. Is it trying to tell me something?
She shook her head at her silly thoughts. Elyse tugged at her cotton shirt, revealing her neck. “Where does this brand come into the story? Why would the demon need to mark his master against other supernaturals? It makes no sense to me.” the girl asked.
Sister Ann rubbed her jaw thoughtfully. “No other supernaturals, but the demon can have access to the power anyway. There is no reason for the creature to feel threatened in that aspect,” the older woman pondered.
“Despite this, he still claimed you. Why all this effort to mark you as his indeed ...” Sister thought out loud. Elyse shifted uncomfortably under the older’s woman’s wise gaze.
“Your demon is hiding more from us than I expected, Child, and I am afraid my banishment shall only keep him away for so long.” The Headmistress confirmed Elyse’s creeping suspicions. It would have been foolish to hope that Azrael would disappear so easily. He had arrived like a storm into her life and it seemed he was here to stay.
Sister Ann motherly caressed her cheek, trying to bring some light back into the girl’s dejected blue eyes.
“Not all hope is lost, Elyse. The demon is still weak, we can send it back to where it came from. If I have something dear of yours, I can chant you a protection charm. It would help to keep him at bay.”
Sister Ann was proving to be more surprising each passing moment. At least something was proving to be on her side in the strange aftermath following the demon summoning gone wrong. With slight hesitation, she unclasped the golden locket around her neck and gently put it in the HeadMistress’s outstretched palm. It was her most prized possession. If this did not work, nothing would.
The Sister pocketed her pendant in her robes and nodded, standing up. “I shall leave you to rest now, my Child. Such news weigh heavily both on the mind and soul. Rest assured that the demon shall not disturb you for a few days at least. My banishment is strong enough to keep even more formidable monsters away for some time.”
Before the Headmistress closed the door, an errant thought entered Elyse’s mind. “Sister Ann, how do you know so much about demons?” she asked in a small voice.
The Sister stopped, but did not turn around. With growing regret for inquiring such, Elyse noticed the tense set of the kind woman’s shoulders and the slight tremble of the fingers clutching the door’s knob at the entrance.
Heavy moments passed in utter silence. Elyse cursed herself. She must have stupidly crossed a line.
“I had the misfortune of dealing with such creatures in my past before I became a nun,” the other woman finally said. The HeadMistress’s short explanation was lacking any emotion.
Elyse slightly jumped in her bed when Sister Ann jerked suddenly and her tear stained gaze pinned the girl in place. In a harsh voice, the older woman whispered across the room before she slammed the door behind her.
“Never trust them, Elyse. Never.”
The blonde put a trembling hand on her chest. Her heart was beating madly, threatening to jump out of her body and perhaps run after Sister Ann for more answers. Were it not for her unfortunate experience with demons, she would have called the Headmistress’ dramatic departure a slight exaggeration. However, she knew better now at least.
Hopefully, the old lesson that knowledge was power still applied in cases involving demons.
Curious, she extended one arm toward the hand mirror resting on the sheets. The mark Azrael left on her skin was still burning, she wanted to inspect and perhaps unravel some of the clouding mystery around it.
When she raised the mirror to her eye level, she suddenly shrieked and reflexively threw the object far away from her, ending on the wooden floor. However, watching the glass smash and explode into hundreds of shards did not succeed to erase from her memory the reflection she had seen staring back at her for one moment in the mirror.
Instead of her image, it had been Azrael’s smirking visage reflected in the mirror. The brand on her neck was hot to touch now.
To make matters worse, her mind perversely reminded her of Sister Ann’s encouragement.‘Rest assured that the demon shall not disturb you for a few days at least. My banishment is strong enough to keep even more formidable monsters away for some time.’
Elyse felt like throwing up.