A Demon of Midwinter: Part 8
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Rhys took a step around the desk in Dar’s room, trying to inch closer to the man. To the vampire, he reminded himself again, his mind still not quite ready to believe. Dar shifted away, reaching for a pen, his attention focused on the parchment that lay between them.
“It says right here: ‘kill it in its killing place’.” Rhys stabbed at the sheet of runic inscription. “’Bind it in a circle with water and words’.”
Rhys rolled his eyes, but graced Dar with an impish smile. He jerked his chin towards the paper. “The incantation.”
“Right.” Dar frowned at it.
“You’re not used to dealing with magic, are you?”
“Are you?” Dar arched an eyebrow, then shrugged a shoulder. “I fight evil with sword and dagger. Maybe fire.” He waved his hand at the runes. “What damage can words do?”
Rhys gave him a hard look, but his voice was quiet when he spoke. “Ask the people whose lives are destroyed by a rumour, true or not.” Silence fell until Dar nodded. Rhys peered at the paper. “But its killing place? It kills all over.”
Dar shook his head, causing his too-long hair to fall over his face. He ran a hand through it to sweep it back. “We have to go back to one of the crime scenes.”
Rhys placed his hands on the desk beside the paper as Dar stepped closer. “There’s only one choice.”
Dar’s hand came to rest above his elbow. “Are you sure?” His voice was soft.
Rhys nodded and straightened. “The other one is too busy. And far from the river.”
Rhys elbowed Dar, gently dislodging the hand that distracted him. “Keep up…. Water.”
“I’m desert born.” Dar’s dark eyes caught his. “There’s water everywhere here.”
“Fair enough.” Rhys tore his gaze away, returning it to the paper. “So we know where.”
“And we know how — with water and words.” There was still uncertainty in Dar’s voice when he said it.
Rhys shook his head. “I don’t think we kill it with words. We confine it so we can kill it.”
“So how do we kill it?”
He shrugged. “I suppose the old-fashioned way.” Glancing at Dar, he added, “I’m the wordsmith. You might need to take care of the weapons.”
Dar nodded sharply, his brow relaxing. “Weapons I can do. Mrs. Silver will have a selection.”
“The landlady.” Dar waved casually towards the door.
“Does she also have salt? A lot of salt.”
“Since it doesn’t say, I assume the circle should be salt.” It was what his grandmother line the door with on the longest night of the year to keep the demons at bay.
“Wait here.” Dar touched his elbow, then left the room. Rhys heard footsteps on the stairs and murmured words down below. Silence followed, eventually interrupted by slow plodding steps up the staircase. Grumbling accompanied the footsteps.
“Mrs. Silver, this is Rhys.” Dar waved the wavy dagger in his hand between Rhys and the landlady. Rhys nodded at her. She scowled at him even deeper than she had the last time he’d been here.
“Do you have any idea what you’re messing with, young man?” The woman’s black eyes flicked over his face, flashing like two pieces of coal.
“Magic is a powerful thing.” She shuffled over to the desk, dropping her load on top. In amongst more blades was a small jar of white sand which Rhys assumed held salt. “Best left to the professionals.”
“And do you know a witch who can read old Norse?” Dar picked up another one of the blades, a long dagger that looked as if it had seen action in the war.
She pointed a finger at Dar, and Rhys had a flicker of fear that she intended to hex him. “It’s not to be trifled with.”
“We do not plan to trifle.” Dar placed his dagger on the desk and pulled out a map. He drew a circle by the river. “We plan to lure her here, trap her, and exorcise her from this realm forever.”
Mrs. Silver snorted and peered at the map, stabbing her finger at the circle. “And how do you propose to get her there?”
A frown formed on Dar’s forehead, and he glared at the page. A heavy stone sank in Rhys’ gut as the answer became clear.
“She’ll come for me.” Rhys met Dar’s eyes as the vampire’s head lifted.
“No.” Dar’s jaw ticked.
“Yes. She already has her sights on me. If she thinks I’m alone, she’ll come.” Rhys didn’t know why he was so certain, other than his bones told him.
The landlady’s scowl deepened, and she flicked her finger from Dar to Rhys. “Not to be trifled with.”
Rhys picked up the little jar of salt. “Mrs. Silver, could I trouble you for more salt?”
She nodded at the jar. “If you need more than that, you’re done for.” With one last glare, she pulled her shawl tight and headed to the door with more haste than she’d come.
“No,” Dar repeated, his voice quiet, and it took Rhys a minute to figure out what he meant — he still was against the idea of Rhys as bait.
“Do you have a better idea?” he asked, hoping to hear Dar say ‘yes’. When no answer followed, he folded his arms over his chest. “I’ll do it whether you help me or not.”
Dar circled the desk with an inhuman speed, touching his fingers to Rhys’ jaw. “What if I can’t stop her from killing you?”
Rhys placed his hand on Dar’s chest. “I trust you. Besides —” He started to say if he was killed, at least Dar could stop her from killing more people. But Dar’s mouth pressing against his stopped him. Dar’s lips whispered along his jaw to his ear.
“I need…” Dar became quiet as his nose nuzzled Rhys’ neck.
After seconds of stillness and silence, Rhys spoke. “What?” His hands went to Dar’s waist. “What do you need?” A second later, he cursed himself for saying anything.
“Nothing.” Dar pushed away. “It’s fine. I’m fine.” It felt like he was talking to himself instead of Rhys.
Rhys shivered at the cold air filling the space between them when Dar stepped away and turned toward the fire. His hand followed the vampire, reaching for him, and Dar stopped.
When he turned back to look at Rhys, sparks flared in his eyes. “I could turn you.” He closed the space between them again.
“Make you a vampire.” His hand snaked around Rhys’ neck, coming to rest at the nape. “Then you wouldn’t have to fear death.”
Rhys' eyelids twitched as his brain churned around that thought. His mouth went dry, and his head shook. “I don’t fear death.” The warmth of Dar’s hand seeped into his skin. He looked up from the vampire’s chest to meet his gaze. “I fear being alone. Again.”
Dar’s lips came to his ear. “I fear your death.”