“At first, he was an absolute horror. He still is, if I’m being honest… but once I accepted his whimsical, childlike glee he became… tolerable. Perhaps even funny, though I could never admit that to him more than once.”
Seraphina’s dreams that night were a scrambled, painful mess; a whirlwind of scenes sandwiched together. Obsidian sand beneath her feet crunched as she traversed a familiar dark desert. Sand swirled into the deep, black depths of an ocean filled with snapping teeth and groping hands. Bells tinkled in the darkness and a cacophony of whispers hissed at her. A crimson reptile tail thrashed through the waves of an inky ocean.
She woke, in the dark morning hours, with a cry that rawed her throat. Blood pounded in her ears and the skin around her neck burned as if she’d been branded.
Eyes wide and seeing nothing, she slapped wildly at her bedside table, searching for her phone; a source of light.
Not finding it, she tumbled from her sweat-soaked sheets. Stumbling to the master bathroom, she groped for the light switch. Lightbulbs bloomed with blinding light and she squeezed her eyes shut.
She blinked, eyes adjusting and taking in her own reflection in the mirror. Wild mahogany curls framed her sickly pale face. Her forehead beaded with sweat and her blue eyes were bloodshot, horrified.
She pulled her eyelids open as if seeing them wider would change anything. Her eyes were supposed to be brown, had been all her life. Now they were a gleaming turquoise that made her look blind. She had only a moment to fret over her eyes before her gaze drifted down to her neck. Then, true panic set in.
An angry puckered welt pulsed at her neck and she gasped. “Oh, Jesus…” Leaning forward she craned her neck for a better look, wincing when the skin pulled painfully.
At first she thought the mark to be a rash or cluster of insect bites, but upon closer inspection she could only wish that it was. There on the right side of her neck was a angry red replica of the symbol that had been scrawled on Noxul’s card.
“No.” She whimpered. “No! No, no, no!” She’d gotten rid of that cursed thing only to find it etched into her skin.
Tears blurred her vision and she began to cry as a pounding in her ears grew louder. Her temples ached and she felt pin pricks swarming across her skin like fire ants. Dizziness took her and she leaned heavily against the sink.
A massive thump sounded as something hit the bathroom wall from the other side. The mirror rattled before popping open. It swung out on its hinges to crash into pieces with the force of hitting the wall behind it.
There should have been a medicine cabinet behind the mirror; pills and tubes and other personal items. To her profound horror, there were body parts instead.
Seraphina screeched as she leaped back and tumbled to the ground. The twitching limbs writhed and fought to free themselves from the cabinet. She crab walked backward and out of the bathroom as a thick giggle erupted from the mass. An arm fell forward and the rest began to follow.
Flesh tumbled to the floor, colliding with the sink on its way down and knocking it sideways. The gut wrenching snaps and popping of bones could be heard over Seraphina’s wailing. What looked like the body of a very large man began to reassemble itself before her eyes. He came to his feet and laughed hysterically, spine bowing back with the force of it.
“Oh, how GOOD it feels to BREATHE again!” He shouted, the foundations of the house shaking as if the building was rejoicing with him. “No LUNGS, no TEETH, no TONGUE to taste with! You can not even imagine it, Seraphina!”
Wind whistled outside and branches clawed and scratched at the windows. The bathroom light waned and flickered wildly. The floorboards had not stopped shaking and Seraphina felt like everything was being whisked away in some freak tornado.
“Now we can finally have some fun!” He ended the sentence with a very familiar tidder of laughter.
The man was not a stranger to her, or a man at all. The man was — “Noxul!” She screamed, skull aching and stomach threatening to spill. “But I burned the card! You told me t — “
“I told you to summon me, Little One.” He sauntered forward, a long black coat billowing behind his long legged strides. He wore leather trousers so dark a purple they were almost midnight; each leg tucked into a black boot that gleamed with buckles from toe to shin. His chest beneath his coat was bare and it bore the pale bluish hue of death. Long, waist length hair fell around him like a dark curtain and his lavender eyes gleamed. “Did you really think I’d tell you how to destroy my card?”
“You tricked me!” Her yelling ended in a pained moan and she crawled from him further until her back hit the side of her bed. “You lied!”
“Oh come now, I didn’t lie! ” He grinned a razor sharp grin and waggled an elegant finger at her. “I’m just playing the game! Now hold still before you expire. Summoning Sickness is a nasty business.”
He reached for her and she leapt up, throwing herself onto the bed in an attempt to climb over it. She made it about three feet before a cold hand gripped her ankle and yanked.
“Oh no you don’t, Miss Evers!” Noxul gushed with glee, flipping her over as if she weighed nothing at all.
Seraphina stared up at him in horror as he made to crawl onto her. She kicked at him with all her might, which wasn’t much considering her current condition. He took the blows to the chest and didn’t budge an inch. His savage grin spread wider than a human mouth had any right too, showing four sharp canines and a black tongue. Seraphina thrust a heel at his slender nose. She felt it crunch beneath her foot and still he laughed, happy as can be.
“You got me!” He exclaimed, coming to straddle her waist as black inky liquid began to leak from his crooked snout. “Do hold still, Seraphina. This is all very fun but if I don’t seal the bond, the magic will kill you.”
She beat against his chest with her fists but he caught them up with a large hand and pinned them above her head. She shrieked when he raised his other index finger and it elongated into a curved black talon before her eyes.
His nose snapped back into place of its own accord as he told her, “Now, now, don’t squirm. If you do, I may nick something important!”
He struck, a swift painful stab right into the wound in her neck. Despite the agony she grit her teeth and held fast, terrified that he’d slice an artery.
He’s cutting into your neck! She reasoned internally. There’s no hope for arteries or anything else!
She gasped as she felt him tracing the mark in her neck with his talon. Strangely, as he did so her pain began to dissipate. The pounding in her head stopped, the burning subsided and her stomach settled. Even the wind outside halted.
“There.” He cooed as the house stopped shaking and he released her wrists. “Was that so bad?”
She glared up at him, breaking the new silence with a shriek. She reached for his head and scrabbled for purchase on anything she could get a grip on. Noxul grunted when she took hold of a very long, very elven looking ear and yanked hard, her other hand pulling at a fist of his ebony hair.
“Get the hell off of me!” She roared.
He did roll off of her then, with his ear and hair intact, unfortunately. “What a ghastly thing to do!” He shouted, standing and straightening his jacket with a smile. “And after I’ve just saved your life?” He clucked his black tongue. “Manners, manners, Miss Evers…”
Seraphina jumped off of the bed and ran for the door, leaving him behind. She threw it open to flee and slammed face first into Noxul’s chest, which should have been impossible. “Oof.” She grunted with the impact and then squirmed when his arms circled her in an iron grip.
“Do you ever stop moving?” He asked, amused.
“What the — How did — Let me go!” Seraphina screamed.
“Fine, but you mustn’t waste anymore time. We have a lot to speak on, you and I.” He released her and disappeared in a puff of black smoke.
She fell forward at the absence of his solid form and smacked into the hardwood floor.
“Come down stairs and put the kettle on!” She heard him call from the kitchen. “I haven’t had a cup of Earth tea in centuries and I’m quite looking forward to it!” She heard a pop of air compression as her refrigerator opened. “Oh! You have cake!”
“Keep your filthy hands off my red velvet!” She shouted.
There’s a demon in my kitchen. She thought as she rose to her feet. There’s a demon in my kitchen and he wants tea… and cake…