The next morning Nebris arrived on MC’s doorstep and rang the bell. Nebris was prepared to have the door slammed on his face. While he waited he was organising his thoughts and deciding what to call through the door first. MC was unexpectedly welcoming, leading him into the lounge were Etho was relaxing with feet on table and sipping a drink. Nebris froze the moment he saw Etho.
“He wants you to give up that mark, keeps trying to force his will on me. I'm guessing you've picked up enough demon to get immunity or he'd get you to go to some sorcerer that you don't know. Hoping they'd think the mind compulsion was taken from the demon that marked you, and they'd treat the mark first. Though that would be stupid, removing the mark would call that demon there as I keep telling him.” MC reported.
“He's still the same Pak.” Nebris argued.
“Excuse me if I find that hard to swallow. Can you get him out of here? I have other sorcerers coming over and I don't think they’ll want anything to do with this demon drama of yours, now that you're marked and unwilling to give it up?”
“He wanted me to kill myself.”
“Get out of my house!” MC yelled at Etho. “You don't get to try and kill my friends then pretend you're trying to save him!”
“I am trying to save him.” Etho insisted. “At least save his soul, if he won't be mine I won't let anyone else take him. I thought he was safe while claimed by Pak, now that's changed and I see he's never going to be safe or let me in.”
“Go find yourself a sorcerer that doesn't care about Nebris, don't try pulling for pity again, I will be passing the message to those about to arrive.”
Etho’s good eye flashed red. “This isn't over.” And he was gone.
MC sighed. “If you're not here to get rid of your taint, why did you come?”
“I'm not mortal anymore, I don't know what I am. Pak and Blame have never come across a mortal using demon powers, I was kind of hoping you might have heard something?” Nebris trailed off, finding his mind drifting to thinking of Pak, specifically the abyss of his eyes.
“You can stay, maybe one of the others might know more.” MC offered. “Possibly know a way to guard your soul without removing that mark.”
“Thanks, what actually happens to form the mark?”
“Demon brands your soul while taking part of it, I'm not sure which part causes the mark. It glowing, which I see it’s still doing, means the demon is feasting on your soul. If they do it too quick you die, if they do it slow you can replenish it, but you need to look after yourself and pay more attention to your anger levels. With the fact you are able to burn your own soul too, you might find it hard. Which is why I want to guard your soul, but usually that breaks the link, and the mark goes with it.”
“I can't lose the magic, even if it brings Pak here I won't be able to get him to mark me again.”
“He’ll mark you again, it's what demons do.” MC stated flatly, as he began digging through his chest of enchanted items.
“He didn't mark me lightly, and he only did it to guard me from an entire clan of demons, I think Etho wouldn't cause him concern.”
“Why did he even take you to meet his clan?”
“I've been trying to get him to take me out to see demon lifestyle, Blames confirmed that Pak doesn't go for that. So he settled on inviting me to join him as he proposed war, are all the demons I know princes?”
“I don't pay attention to their hierarchy. Put these gloves on.” MC turned and passed him a pair of thin purple gloves “They should hide your taint, at least so long as Pak isn't around.”
Nebris accepted, wearing the gloves before he settled on the couch. Etho appeared briefly to try and get him to kill himself, he responded by sending Etho as far away as possible. MC rushed through to see why their had been a burst of energy, he settled once Nebris explained, getting up again as he was reminded he'd been making tea for the meeting.
Nebris greeted the guest with more enthusiasm than he felt, he'd finally realised the position he was in. It was a relatively small gathering, Mhykol, Seth and Doc. They were each confused by his presence, but they knew MC and him were close.
They started with general banter, then moved onto talk of movements of various factions they followed. Nebris decided to warn them of the war, though they didn't believe him. MC told him to remove his gloves, after he did they stared at him, then MC.
“Why didn't you tell us sooner, who knows if the demon can see what you are doing?” Mhykol was the first to break the silence.
“He can't.” Nebris heard the confidence in his own voice, but the truth was he trusted Pak not to misuse any information they might give him if he could see this.
“As it turns out, I trust them, and apparently I draw them? I fascinated a few at the clan gathering to arrange their war.”
“Since you were at a gathering, what eyes and who actually leads them?”
“Black lead by Gvetal and abyssal.” He decided not to out Pak, he could trust everyone but Seth. He'd not really bonded with Seth. And there was still that promise not to tell people. He was many things, a liar, a cheat, a thief, but he was always loyal.
“Who lead the abyssal demons? We've been trying to pin that down for years.”
“You have.” Corrected MC. “The rest of us do not care so long as they leave non-demons alone.”
“That prince is illusive. Who are they?”
“The one who marked me, and I've promised not to share who that is.” Nebris responded. Showing, at least to MC, why he was unwilling to spill.
“You didn't check for compulsion.” Seth accused MC.
“He is clean.” MC provided. “And after a visit from Etho I am pretty sure that Nebris is immune to it now. Got Etho flustered, demanding I remove the mark, as it turns out he wants it gone so he can compel Nebris to kill himself.”
“Etho would never-“
“Etho would,” Doc interrupted. “Remember that he is a demon without a clan because of atrocities he committed. Even demons wouldn't accept how far he goes to get what he wants.”
“But why kill Nebris, he remains obsessed.”
Nebris jumped as his own keys appeared in front of him. He rose as he grabbed them from the air. “He's calling me.”
“Go to my room, you can't leave yet. I will try and explain your situation, once he arrives you try to get him to stay away.” MC instructed, tone far more commanding then Nebris had ever heard.
“Thanks.” Nebris whispered, not wanting to see the others reactions to his demon powers.
Mhykol protested Nebris leaving, still wanting to know who Pak was, while MC started denying him Mhykol realised that MC knew who the demon was and started telling him to tell the group. Nebris just heard the start of MC’s protests before he closed the door, then he couldn't hear anything outside. He hoped they couldn't hear him either while he sat at MC’s desk and waited for Pak to wonder why he wasn't coming.
It took longer than he expected. Briefly he got up and locked the door in case someone came looking. When Pak did appear he was wearing his janitor outfit.
“I was hoping you're free?” Pak bade.
“Not really. MC and some of the mindcrack sorcerers are out there, Mhykol wants to know who you are. I’ve told them that I'm marked by the leader of the abyssal eyed demons.” Nebris told him. His eyes turned abyssal and Nebris stared at the ornaments on MC’s desk rather than get entranced.
“You're getting better at that.” Pak praised.
“Not getting entranced. You probably noticed that everyone in my clan draws you in that manner, it's what we do to mortals. Makes you easy prey. Thankfully I don't know of any other clan that does that innately and my lot don't abuse it, not since I took over. I'm going to say hi to the guys.” Pak left, his eyes still abyssal.
As Pak left Nebris wanted him to turn so his eyes could be seen. He was wrong, it was getting harder to ignore the call of the abyss, to stare into it. Not staring had been easier with his clan after the mark, but took Nebris every bit of self control to deny himself from staring into Pak’s abyssal eyes.
He felt tense, not sure how the others would take to Pak outing himself. Nebris remembered that he was waiting for Pak, he jumped up and followed. He was unsurprised to find Pak bound by magic, clearly at the moment he walked through the door. He moved Pak to get past.
“Can you tell them that you begged for that mark?” Pak asked.
“I don't beg.” Nebris proclaimed.
“I recall demanding it and you wanting me to leave.”
The magic binding Pak ceased and he completed the step he was in the middle of before appearing in the empty seat. “What is Nebris doing here?”
“I want to guard his soul from you.” MC informed, glaring at Pak.
“You take that mark and he'll spend the rest of his days running from Etho. I'd have to let Blame mark him, and each time you removed it Blame would re-mark him, past the point when his soul was scarred an no longer shines.”
“And if you continue devouring his soul? Or he burns it from your powers?” MC argued.
“Please trust me; him using my powers has no more effect on his soul than any demon casting near a mortal. And I'm not trying to devour his soul, he's devouring mine, that should cause you concern, it's worrying me.”
“Demons don't have souls.” MC disagreed.
“Everything that lives does, my soul may be drastically different to yours but it is there. It allows me to seek redemption.”
“How do I stop?” Nebris asked, before he lost himself in Pak’s eyes. No thoughts passing through his head as the trance took him. He found himself starring at Pak’s brown eyes with MC shaking him.
“Nebs? Nebs?” MC called.
“What?” Nebris heard the faraway tone in his voice, still partly entranced, he shook his head to try and clear it.
“I think it's safe to say you're still mortal, unless you love him?”
Nebris picked up the note of horror in MC’s voice, he shook his head more violently. Pak was a good friend, nothing more.
“I should go. I've to work and then see how the war planning is going.” Pak declared. “Nebs, I expect you at the church extra early tomorrow morning.” He then vanished.
“It's getting worse.” Nebris whispered to MC. “Before I could hold conversations while his eyes were abyssal without having to watch were I looked. Now they enter my thoughts, and part of me wants to get lost in them.”
MC shrugged. “Mhykol is the one who watches the demons, I watch the mortals, ask him.”
Nebris was silent, this was something that he barely wanted to admit to MC, one of his oldest friends. He tried to convince his mind to tell him what happened while he'd been entranced, while keeping himself out of the conversation with everyone else by staring at the ceiling.
He tuned out them arguing over binding Etho's powers, Seth was strongly against it and the other three were trying to talk him into agreeing. His mind found what he was looking for, Pak explaining that he didn't know how to make it stop, but Blame might know as he'd never lost a mortal to soul decay. Failing that Vechs might know, though he lost half his mortals to it Pak had a suspicion that it was because he was bored with them.
MC was the one that noticed him not moving, and his mind let him see that even after Pak’s eyes returned to brown he'd been entranced long enough for the others to react and give up on rousing him, accept MC, who only paid half attention to the conversation while trying to get Nebris to awaken.
Now he felt embarrassed. They'd all seen it, and he couldn't deny it. He didn't move as he started listening to the continuing argument, Seth was just as determined not to bind Etho's powers though he was refusing to explain why. Nebris wondered if Seth had felt Etho's mind control and was still under it.
“If I'm syphoning Pak’s soul, what am I doing with it and how will it affect me?” Nebris asked in the first lull that occurred.
“You need to stop it, it doesn't matter what the effects are they won't be good. Pak said Blame or Vechs might know how.” Mhykol informed, unaware that he could recall what happened during the trance.
“I heard, it just takes a while to remember.”
“Does Pak know that you can remember?”
“Don't know, usually it's only a moment.”
“Could you do that before you got the mark?”
“Mortals don't remember things that they do or that happen around them during trances like that.” Mhykol explained before asking another question, “Before you let Pak mark you, did Etho ever effect your mind?”
“How would I know? Blame said he doesn't need to talk to effect mortals.”
The sorcerers began talking in code, Nebris couldn't follow the conversation but heard his name a few times. Along with various other mindcrackers. When they all left MC apologised that there was nothing they could do for Nebris, unless he changed his position on keeping the mark. MC promised that if he did they would keep him demon free.
MC explained to him that they could sanctify him, which would need renewed yearly. Sanctifying him would make him naturally repellent to demons, but would only be guaranteed to work if he wanted it. If he didn't then it was possible that they could still mark him.
He also said they could make spaces, which Nebris spent a lot of time in, demonproof. Though that would require far more regular renewal and still leave him open to demons outside those spaces. MC could still watch for him getting tainted and fix it again, but each time would be painful.
Regardless of which Nebris chose they would have to block Etho's power so he couldn't compel Nebris to do harm to himself. Which would require getting Seth to agree. Without any ideas on why Seth was refusing they probably wouldn't have much luck without risking Nebris’s life first.
Nebris tried to reassure MC that he wanted this, and that he'd wanted it for a long time. He attempted to explain his quest for magic. Starting when he was a boy, surrounded by family with magic, until now, where he is surrounded by demons. Demons was the only way for him to get magic, his family could accept him now.
MC argued that they would reject him, like he'd been so close to doing and still might do. Nebris was sure the threat was empty. But he remembered the anger that MC had displayed after the mark had been revealed to him, and how hostile he had been to Pak, who had been friends with MC for a long time.
They spent the rest of the day together, Nebris shared with MC the events of the gathering he'd been at. MC seemed to accept that he was still normal. Though every so often MC would remind him that the mark could be removed at a drop of a hat and he would never have to deal with demons again.