The Archfiend Artifact

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27

THE PRISON OF THE MIND
TIME: NONEXISTENT


I decided it’d be better for me to ride with Quinn on the way back. So, after telling Lieutenant LeFae about the Shadow attacking, the angel vanished with one of the cars in a spectacular burst of golden light. Afterwards, Quinn explained that Morgan had done something called a Light Jump, which is just a fancy way to say she teleported. He also told me that I should be able to do something like that, only through shadows instead of light.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had given up my demon side. But, now that I knew that, I thought it’d be a cool ability. I could teleport anywhere I wanted and never have to worry about having fare or a passport. Paris for lunch? Sure. Dinner in Japan? Why not?

For now, I had to settle with riding shotgun in a BMW sedan.

Thankfully, the drive back to the academy turned out to be much more leisurely than the mad ride out. I spent most of it figuring out how to reload the spent canister on my tactical super soaker, all the while wondering if I had done the right thing in shooting the Shadow. I had just finished swapping it out when Quinn pulled the sedan into a parking spot. The two of us climbed out of the car and made for the elevator.

The doors opened some moments later, and I followed Quinn through the tiny security room. The werewolf muttered something under his breath when we rounded the corner to the hallway of offices. I noted that all the doors were closed and wondered where everyone would be.

Quinn unlocked his office door, told me to wait inside while he rounded up the team. Faced with some unknown amount of time alone, I decided it would be best spent hashing things out with my inner demon. So I sat on the floor with my back against a wall and laid the super soaker beside me. Then I rested my hands in my lap, let my eyes close. I let my breathing slow, and with it, my heartbeat. For an instant, I felt weightless. Then…

Blue candlelight danced over frost-blanketed stone. A familiar gloom stretched on before me, shrouding the presence I knew lurked in the never ending dark. The prison seemed more eerie. More ominous than before. And it was much colder. Enough so that my breath formed clouds of ice crystals every time I exhaled.

Such a drastic change of the place in only a short time. Perhaps this was the way my inner demon threw a hissy fit. All because I told it to take a hike.

‘Perfect.’

I advanced cautiously into the murk, the whispers that were my footfalls almost like screams in the silence. The first step down came out of nowhere, and I barely caught myself before I flew down the remaining stairs. I paused a moment to let my heartbeat slow before continuing on.

My progress was slowed by the ever-thickening gloom. It felt like an eternity had slipped by before I stepped off the final stair and onto the landing. Then I took seven steps forward, stopped. There, in the middle of the emptiness, I called for the presence to appear.

It didn’t.

‘Come on!’ I angrily thought. ‘I haven’t got all night, and I know you’re in there. Show yourself!’

Still nothing.

I growled, impatient. ‘I command you to show yourself. Now.’

Two fiery eyes suddenly appeared in the gloom. They zeroed in on me in an instant, and narrowed dangerously.

‘About time.’ I crossed my arms, partially out of annoyance, but mostly because I was freezing. I had never truly been cold before, and this experience with my inner demon was maddening enough without the sudden worry of whether my limbs turning into blocks of ice or not.

You require something, Keeper Mine? I picked right up on the venom to its voice that hadn’t been there during our last encounter. It felt a fury similar to my own.

‘Uh, yeah! I require that you quit screwing with my senses. I was almost attacked today because you–’

I have done only what you commanded of me.

‘No. I told you to stop force feeding me your power and interfering in my life!’

The fire in its eyes flared. That is what you commanded and what I have done.

‘Oh yeah? Then how did I not sense that demon sneaking up on me and Quinn earlier? I should have picked up on it long before he did.’

It snarled like a rabid animal. I have kept my word and taken back the power I provided you. Now you are nothing. You are powerless and as feeble as a newborn. You are Cowan.

‘Then restore my senses to what they wer--’

No.

‘What?’ I hissed through gritted teeth.

I will not.

‘Fine then. I command you t--’

I refuse to obey the demands of an ungrateful whelp simply because she suddenly realizes that she is not able to fend for herself now that I am no longer sacrificing myself to come to her aid.

‘But if I die because you’re too stupid to give me back the ability to sense my enemies approaching, then you will die as well!’

If that must truly be the price for the lesson, then so be it.

I roared with frustration and fury. ’Go to Hell, you miserable piece of sh—”

Telling a demon to go to Hell wouldn’t even make a footnote in a newspaper. The eyes vanished. Be gone!

I stood there in furious shock for a beat. My hands turned to fists. My jaw clenched. And I unleashed every insult and curse I could think of at the top of my lungs until my throat started to hurt.

Silence hung like a bad smell.

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