Everyone in the house woke up with something in their stomach. In the master bedroom, Illya Bright was staring at her alarm clock, waiting for it to go off. She knew her husband was awake beside her even though he hadn’t said a word. The red numbers finally blinked to six, her fingers slapping the off button before it could make a sound. There was no delaying it anymore.
William rolled over to wrap his arms around his wife. He nuzzled the crook of her neck, trying to relax her. She was lucky to have an understanding husband, but there was nothing he could do to change anything.
“You sure you don’t want me to go today?” he asked.
“No, this is my side of the family’s business. They wouldn’t be happy if you were there.”
“You mean your father.”
She turned to him and pecked his nose with a kiss. If she changed the subject, the bricks in their cores might lighten enough so they could get out of bed.
“Doctors don’t call off,” she told him. “And kid’s are always sick.”
Despite her push, Illya and William stayed in one another’s arms. In their silence they seperately prayed to God. William hoped that his family wouldn’t be torn away from him. Illya asked for something much greater.
For a secret to be kept.
Down the hall, six year old Winnifred Bright was twirling around her room, her core filled with butterflies. In her mirror she checked her braids. They were a little frizzy but still held together with the purple bows. This made her extra happy. She wanted to look her best since today was the first time she was going to be meeting her grandfather. Her dress had to be kept clean and wrinkle free. She thought about trying to put on makeup on but Mommy said she wasn’t old enough. That was okay, she didn’t want to steal the show. It was Ivor’s day. And maybe she was a little jealous of her older brother, but it’d be her turn soon. She was so excited for him. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t show grandfather a little bit of her dancing, right? She was sure he’d be impressed.
In the next room over, Ivor was staring at the ceiling. He hadn’t slept. Half the night he was sure he was going to throw up from anxiety, the other half he tried being hopeful.
Today was his tenth birthday. The day he would be judge on his magickal potential and if he could become a magi. It was a dream beyond dreams that he could be something more than what he already was. But it was stupid to... no, he had to be hopeful. No matter how slim the chances were, he had to be hopeful.
Ivor slid out of his bed and turned off his heart monitor. His clothes were on his dresser, he even got to wear a tie for the first time. Dad had took a lot of time practicing with him, showing him how to do the loops, and he felt very proud that he could do it himself. He suspected he’d have worn one by now if he wasn’t home schooled. Winny had been over the moon when she got to go to the Daddy Daughter. Ivor imagined going to a Mother Son dance sometimes, but Ivor imagined a lot of things. His favorite things to daydream about was friends. He’d think about all the different ways they’d look or what they’d talk about. Sometimes he’d go one step further and imagine them playing soccer outside. But Ivor didn’t have any friends besides Winny, and his mother would have a heart attack if he showed any interest in a sport.
No, those were all forbidden fantasies.
In his dress pants and button down shirt, Ivor felt like he was made of bone as the fabric hung off him. His sickly skin made him feel undeserving of such a bright red on his shirt, which saddened him. He liked these clothes, he liked clothes in general. He just wished he could look good in them.
A knock came to his door. His mother poked her head in.
“Happy birthday,” Illya whispered.
Ivor nodded, not ready to talk. Illya was dressed in heels, slacks and a blouse. Her mane of blonde hair was braided down her back to her waist. She tried patting out the wrinkles in Ivor’s shirt with a distracted look on her face.
He was a near perfect reflection of his mother except for two key things. First, was Ivor had his father’s green eyes. Second, he didn’t have his mother’s glow. There wasn’t anyway else to describe it. Her walk, her expressions, the way people looked at her when she entered a room. Ivor knew he didn’t have that. He was too frail, too sick.
“Ivor!” Winny sprinted to clasp him in a hug. “Happy birthday.”
Alright, no one could not smile at Winny, he thought.
“Thank you,” he said.
“Mommy said we could get Mcdonalds today!”
“She did, did she?” William laughed from the doorway. “Alright, everyone tell my bye, I need to get going.”
Illya kissed William and he held her tight, hoping some of his strength would go to her. She would need it more than him. Next was Winny, who William knelt down for so he could receive her hug and kiss. Ivor was last and the most reluctant to go.
“Are you sure you can’t come?” Ivor asked.
William hid the pain from his face. “I’ll be here when you get back,” he said hugging his son. William was an outsider to all of this. To him it felt like he was letting his family go off into the unknown.
“I love you, dad.”
“I love you, too, Ivor.”
The three hour drive was long for everyone. Illya was thinking of ways to stall her father from seeing the kids. Then again, she only assumed he was the one that was going to be the one to test Ivor’s potential. If she was wrong and her plan failed to over power his mind, then everything was over.
Ivor wasn’t sure about seeing his grandfather. He had a vague memory of him from when he was small. Just like his daughter, Ivan commanded the room despite him being short for a man. That was one thing Ivor hoped he hadn’t gotten from his mom’s side, their height.
June had yet to be welcoming. Grey skies and cool winds the whole week with this morning being no different. The backdrop didn’t help the charm of his grandfather’s house. As they slowly crept up the long drive he could see the old victorian come into view. The gargoyles were leaning towards him with gaping maws. The tips of high pointed fence were barbs with rusty blood. No light was coming from any of the windows.
Illya stepped out of the car and paused. She made a show announcing her magickal presence. Her father would find that rich. Most trained magi could hold in their presence if they kept it in the back of their mind to do so, but when Illya let go it felt like she had been holding her breath for ten years. An old friend had once described her presence like a cannon being pointed at their face; large, heavy, and waiting to go off at any second. Illya liked that. She always compared her father to a wall, and she was ready to put some holes in it.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw the excuse she needed. A gate leading to a side garden. The kids could disappear back there easy enough for a few minutes.
She opened the door to unbuckle Winny from her seat. “Why don’t you two go explore the backyard while I go find grandpa, huh?”
Ivor tensed at the chill exiting the car. He wasn’t exactly thrilled about it, but he also didn’t want to see grandfather yet.
“Sure, mom,” he said.
He grabbed Winny’s hand and walked towards the gate while Illya set her sites on the house. There were wards all over the place, muddling her senses. If she could catch him in the study, alone and not ready to put up a fight, she was sure she could take over his mind. Laws be damned this was more important. It’d be draining in every sense of the word but she knew her father and she knew she could break him. An hour tops would be all she’d need.
She knocked on the front door. A female knight answer.
That complicated things. “Where’s Inquisitor Vasiliev?” she asked.
The knight bowed. “This way, Enchantress Vasiliev.”
Illya held her tongue. Being someone of power this knight was meant to be loyal to would be easy to play.
The knight led her down the hall, Illya using the time to intermingle with all the energy of the house. She sensed there were two more people. One was definitely her father, the other with any luck would be another knight. She could excuse them both to ask for a private moment.
They were in a sitting room. Ivan had his back to her in a chair reading, a male knight beside the door. This was her chance.
“May we have a moment?” she whispered in his ear.
The knight bowed without a second thought and shut the door behind him.
She could do it, she could save her son.
This was his game, not acknowledging his own daughter until she properly presented herself to him. Well, this game was one she was set up to win. With slow steps she silently approached the chair, the words of her spell swirling on her tongue. She wanted to be close so she could be direct as possible. Within arms reach would be all she’d need to blast through him. She built up the power within her entire body until she was sure she was going to yell her curse.
That was when they both felt it arrive.
Ivan stood and met her eyes, both of their expressions a mix of shock and terror.
“Where are the kids?” he asked.
“Oh, God, outside.”
They both ran for the door, the knights stunned by the urgency.
“Borris, Kela,” Ivan yelled. “Find the kids, now.”
Illya didn’t stop running. She was moving as fast as she could, almost smashing the front door. There was something so large, so evil here, it could only be a Demon.
Ivor did not like this place and was probably walking faster than he should, but everything was just creepy. Dead shrubs and empty trees created a dark maze accented with old crumbling statues. Ivor thought maybe they were of people who used to live in the house, but that didn’t make it any better.
Worst of all, Winny didn’t seem phased, not even a little.
He headed for the edge of the garden, towards a nice looking wood that seemed much more natural and inviting. There were pines that brought so much color to the dreary conditions outside. He was inside the radius of it’s bed of dead needles when he felt something seemingly burst in his body. He fell to his knees, catching himself with one hand.
“Ivor, oh my gosh, are you okay?” Winny quickly kneeled with her brother. If Ivor’s body gave up on him she wouldn’t be able to carry him like mommy or daddy could.
He coughed hard, knowing it wasn’t that bad, he’d had worse. He was even about to tell Winny he was okay when he saw it in the trees.
Osidian eyes pierced into him. It had swollen grey skin and oily hair dragging along the ground as a grotesque cape. Ivor couldn’t move, and if he tried he wouldn’t get far. Winny had to get away.
“Go get mom and grandpa. Now.”
“Are you sure?”
Deformed hands, jagged rocks for teeth, it smelled like hatred. There was no mistaking what this was. Ivor tried controlling his tightening throat but it hurt so much.
Winny decided she had to be brave for Ivor. She ran back towards the house, terrified but not sure why. Worry for her brother moved her legs as fast as they could go.
Ivor was happy Winny couldn’t see it. She wouldn’t have left him alone like this if she could. For a second, he thought he could pretend he didn’t see it, too. Maybe it’d leave him alone, but that didn’t seem right. He was sure it was making itself visible to him on purpose.
The Demon’s head cocked at an unnatural angle.
“Trying to die?”
Ivor swallowed the knot in his dry throat. Maybe he was.
The fear that had first raced through his system dug coldly into his skin. He had told Winny to run, leaving him defenseless against something he could never hope to handle. His body was useless. He couldn’t run, he couldn’t fight. The painful loneliness of the moment came crushingly swift. He was going to die.
“Ahhh,” the Demon’s jaw slacked open, smoke as thick as mud filling the air around them. Grass blackened at it’s touch while the bark of the trees began breaking in attempt to get away. His visibility of the garden dropped to nothing. Sound vanished as if it had been engolfed.
“If that is your wish.”
Ivor felt the Demon charge at him more than he saw it. He twisted to move but the air had become dense as if he was under water. Tripping over his own feet he weightlessly fell, the smoke encasing him.
Then lightning struck.
The world filled with light until it blinded him. Someone screamed, then there were ten million voices crying out to him. For a second, Ivor thought maybe this was just how death felt. Loud, deafening, light consuming him into nothing. He would almost say it was peaceful.
Until his head finally crashed into the ground, rattling his brain, and sending him from blissful light into darkness.