“You shouldn’t be the one to deliver it to him,” the priest said about the slop Kaia stretched out before her.
She carried the bowl as though it was diseased, walking into the basement of the church in a wedding march.
“Don’t be ridiculous. I love him,” Kaia said, smirked. “He’s adorable.”
The demon glowered. She tilted her head in mock concern then carefully lifted the horizontal slit, pushing the bowl through.
The bars had been built to bring drunkards to sobriety overnight, not to hold one of the hellmen. The priest wished she would just drop the bowl, but she was too busy teasing the beast like a fool.
The demon slowly got to his feet. Father Abram froze in trepidation.
“I have to be the one to bring it in. I’m the only one who likes doing it,” she said, intentionally taking her eyes off the bowl.
But the beast just stood before her, waiting.
The priest noticed her anxiety, her face growing just a little whiter as she added to the demon, “I do miss you so.”
Before Father Abram even saw its hand twitch, it snatched the bowl. The girl jerked back with a clang, her fingers hitting the metal.
The demon smiled victoriously before looking down at what she had to offer and grimacing. Kaia backed away to safety before feigning that nothing had happened, turning to Abram. “Why don’t you do it?”
“I would have to leave the room,” he said.
“Next time I’ll hand it to you,” she replied with finality.
She blew the demon a kiss then turned on her heel for the door.
“That is not the problem,” the priest snapped.
“We need to send in one of the guards. A strong man is not as likely to fall under the demon’s spell. By just having you in the room, we risk you being susceptible.”
She debated, her expression wavering from amused to offended.
“Alright,” she smiled. She turned for the door.
“I did not mean because you are a woman.”
Hand on the handle, she bowed a little to leverage her body’s swing. “Oh, yes. The farmers are specially trained in demon mind power.”
“If we had captured a siren or a succubus, it wouldn’t be wise for men to take care of her. If that were the case, you would be my first choice.”
She nodded, admitting the sensibility before shrugging. “Yes, but then I wouldn’t want to.”
Just as she stepped in front of the door, it lurched open. Rasmus entered.
Her brother had his head down, feet drawing his interest. He didn’t notice Kaia standing, waiting for his attention, just walked past her, thoughts consuming him, until she barked, “Hey!”
He jumped, surprised.
“What are you doing here?” he asked in shock. He looked at the Abram. “Hello.”
“Where have you been all day?” she asked, a whine in her voice.
“God, you’re needy,” he said lethargically, telling the priest, “I’m here to let you off the hook.”
Father Abram didn’t move. Rasmus pushed back his bangs, waiting until he realized the priest’s hesitance.
“You said you wanted my help,” Rasmus snapped. “I am helping.”
Father Abram assessed his own body, the fatigue, the desire to go lie in his bed, to get away from that damn chair… He nodded.
As he left, he looked back at the three faces watching him go. The demon smiled and waved. He shut the door.
“There’s something I need to talk to you about,” Rasmus said.
Kaia gave a glance back to the cage. “Go for it.”
“I’m… not sure what it means.” He sorted through his thoughts with a glossed expression before admitting, “I went to a witch today. For information.”
He looked like she was an idiot. “Our family. She scryed on our grandparents and they didn’t show up.”
She blinked. “What does that mean?”
“I don’t know.”
“Does that mean they’re dead?”
“I don’t know.”
Kaia scanned the demon. “Maybe she made a mistake.”
“Maybe she didn’t do the spell right.”
“Or maybe there’s a spell affecting it; I always thought that Father might go to lengths to keep us from going back.”
“Father doesn’t know how to do anything remotely useful. And why would he want that? That’s a reach,” he said. He eyed her skeptically. “You think really think he’s doing something?”
“No, I really think he’s dead. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t.”
“Well, the woman said that if it was due to death, it would probably indicate it in some other manner, but she’s never actually tried to scry on dead people. There isn’t much of a market for that sort of thing.”
“She did it wrong.”
“She assures me she didn’t.”
“Well, of course she doesn’t think she did it wrong. You should’ve made her do it again.”
“What do you want to do?” he said.
She paused. Her face contorted. “We are running out of time to leave before snow.” But before he opened his mouth, her thoughts changed. “This isn’t about the grandparents,” she realized. “What’s wrong?”
“I got shanghaied.”
“A crowd of people grabbed me in a panic.” He licked his lips then released the air weighing down the pit of his stomach. “A girl is missing.”
She took this in. “How old?”
“You think it’s supernatural?”
“Well, a scrying spell didn’t work and then…” He swallowed. “A girl is missing.” He flicked an eye to the cage. “There’s a demon. In a cage. Scrying doesn’t work. A girl is missing. Henrik was transformed here. I have no doubt some storm is about to hit. Maybe an actual storm. Who knows?”
Kaia gave the beast a dirty look.
“We need to go into the words.”
“We have to find her,” he whispered.
The demon raised an arm, leaning it against the bars. He smirked at them.
“Do you mind?” Kaia demanded, spinning back to her brother. “She’s not in the woods.”
Rasmus raised his brows. “How do you know?”
“They did it.”
“They did it.”
“They did what?”
“They kidnapped her,” she replied.
“Ooo, twist,” the demon said.
Kaia neared the cage, gesturing to him. “This whole thing? All of these things? This is a trap.”
“You think they kidnapped their own girl?”
“I think they said they did.”
“A trap for who?”
“The Vampire Hunting Guild.”
Rasmus held out a hand, reaching for answers. “Seriously? You actually think that?”
She held up her hands. “This place is suspicious.”
“I agree,” the demon said.
She gestured at the testimony. But Rasmus didn’t laugh. He wouldn’t even look up. Suddenly, she was worried.
“Are you alright?”
He just kept shaking his head.
“Rasmus, what’s wrong?”
“They said…” he began, staring at the dirt, “she was out in the Wyrd. She was spirited away. And it’s my job to find her.”
She paused, biting her lip. Her brother’s nerves bothered her to an extent she couldn’t understand.
“Have you ever heard of a child coming back?”
Kaia went white. “Fairy tales.”
He released a deep breath.
“Fairy tales!” she repeated. “Fairy tales and lies and speculation. Rumors even. No one ever told me a true story from experience—child returning or no! We don’t know,” she said. “Being spirited away is merely being taken to their realm. People have gone to their realm before. No big deal.”
“Gone to the Wyrd?” He moved for the chair. “Bullshit. No one has seen the Wyrd. No one I believe, anyway.”
“The fairy realm,” she said. “Must be the same, right? If spiriting away exists…” She then shrugged, a little too stiff to be organic. “I doubt that’s what it is. This is probably just a trick to chase us out of town. Get rid of us when the big guns come in.”
He stiffened at her callousness. “I’m need to know, Kaia.”
He snapped a look at her, barking, “Know if someone’s ever come back!”
“I’ve never even heard of it actually happening in the first place!” she snapped.
“Well, I need you to tell me.”
She stammered, shock. “I can see what I can find…”
“We need to speak to the parents, the villagers, and anyone who saw her.”
He waited. “Now.”
“Wait a minute…”
“Kaia, I have to stay here, so you need to go!”
“No, wait. Sit down. Let’s think this through.”
“Think what through?”
” he hissed.
“So, if anyone sees it, it will just concern them. Or merely make them think you don’t know what you’re doing. And in this state, maybe you shouldn’t be in a room with Frost Bite over here.”
The white-haired demon scowled.
” he sighed. “Her life is in our hands. This isn’t like when we’re making shit up, or when we have real hunters to pick up our slack. A little girl is missing!”
“I am not
about to let a girl die! Now go!”
She puffed her chest out in kneejerk indignation. “You
go. You’re the one who cares!”
“She doesn’t exist!
“Are you serious?”
“Look,” she said, sense overriding her ego. “Okay. Maybe you’re right. And I do care. But what do you want me to do exactly? If they are lying, they’ll just send us on a wild goose chase.”
“So? What’s there to lose? If it’s a trick…”
Kaia licked her lips. The demon caught her glance and smirked.
“Because it might not be a trick,” she said.
“I mean… it might still be true. Just not necessarily how they say. I’m not sure, but I feel…” She took a breath. “Something’s wrong with this place.”
He glowered. “You think?”
“I think it’s a trap.”
“So you’re not going to help.”
“We need to think things through.”
“There’s not time!”
“I know but…”
“Are you going to help me or not?”
“By what? Charging out there and playing their game?”
“Fine. You stay here and watch him then.”
But he was already out the door.
“Rasmus! I can’t. I’m not supposed to…”
It slammed shut.
She swallowed. Her brother’s pain lingered on her skin and she felt an aching pain in the throat. Kaia turned to the demon in defeat.
“What are you looking at?” she demanded.
“Your children. They’re very fragile?”
“What? You don’t have them in hell?” She trudged over to the chair and slumped in it.
“Yes. But in a very different way.”
She raised a brow. He didn’t elaborate.
“Why are you here, human?” he asked finally.
She didn’t answer immediately.
“Curiosity,” she grunted, slouched down in her seat.
He nodded and turned away.
He looked back over his shoulder, a surprisingly contemplated look on his face. “I didn’t care where I turned up.”
She raised a brow.
“But I don’t like it here anymore than you do.”
She thought about this. “Well I’m not in a cage.”
“At least something’s between me and them.”