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About Literature / Hobbyist Premium Member Bonnie Quinn (which is totally a penname)Female/United States Recent Activity
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We scattered the spellbooks on the living room coffee table and I went to make tea while Renfield sorted them.  When I returned, he had one open on his lap, and I sat down next to him to look at the pages.  It was mass produced, glossy color pages interspersed with the pulp print text.  I couldn't help but wonder how these things got manufactured, if they were illegal.  Renfield didn't know, when I asked him.  He'd spent some time in a store for magical components, spellbooks, and other assorted arcana, but the shopkeeper only received his shipments and didn't ask questions about the source.  They fetched quite a price, with the low-end books going for around $500.  The rarer ones could reach over a thousand dollars, although Renfield added that he suspected the price was artificially inflated to keep demand down.  The shopkeeper had proofread each spellbook to ensure it'd been printed with a version that was free of errors, and that was why Renfield had refrained from killing anyone for so long.  It'd been hard, the demon had admitted, but he'd hoped that he'd oversee some sort of spell that could undo the binding that kept him confined to the clock.  That never happened, but Renfield noticed that the most expensive books were also the ones that contained spells that had no legal application whatsoever and were distinctive enough to be identifiable by law enforcement.  

“How are there legal applications for any of this?” I demanded, pointing at the book.

Renfield had the book open to a page with as spell that allowed the caster to dissolve organic matter with a touch.  The picture was a stylized drawing of a man vivisecting someone with just his fingers.

“Organic matter isn't necessarily flesh,” the demon replied demurely.  “How do you think I weed the garden?”

It was an unsettling thought and I went quiet at it.  Renfield flipped through a few more pages and I stopped him again, on a page labeled 'demon fire.'

“Is this... all demon magic?” I asked quietly.  “How is that possible for a human to use it?”

“Did you learn anything about magic?”  His tone was curt.

“No.  I can't use it, remember?”

“Being a cripple is no excuse for ignorance.  There are variations of magic and they react differently to the human body.  It's like food – some people can eat almonds but not peanuts and others can eat both.  I'm a demon, so I can only use one type of magic, which earned it the name 'demon magic.'  There is, in actuality, nothing that limits it solely to my species.”

He was quiet a moment and turned a few more pages.  Then he placed both hands palm-down on the paper, covering the text with his long and delicate fingers, and turned his head to regard me.  I suddenly realized how close I was sitting to him, almost touching his body as I leaned forwards to stare at the book, and I sat back, unsettled.

“What, exactly, happens when you use magic?” he asked softly, his voice flat.

I twisted my hands together in my lap.  There were degrees of severity, the doctors had told me.  No cure.  No treatment.  I just couldn't use magic.

“I hemorrhage,” I said quietly.  “The first time I tried to cast a spell, I started bleeding in the lungs, and they had to put me on oxygen and give me a blood transfusion.  I was in the hospital for days.  I was sixteen.  I haven't tried since.”

Magic had two components – body and soul.  When Renfield channeled magic, it was through his soul and my body, so the impact was lessened to the point it remained below the threshold that would damage me.  The demon had been very confident on this point when I'd expressed concern about him using magic while possessing me.  He'd take the brunt of it.  

And the first time he'd cast anything, I'd been elated.  We'd tried it out before accepting a job with the police, out in a parking lot outside a nearly deserted strip mall, late at night.  I'd stood there in the middle of the empty rows and Renfield had taken my body and raised our hand, fingers outspread, and demon fire had followed in the wake of his gesture, a streamer of black fire, oily and slick, stinking of sulfur.  I'd felt the flash of heat against my skin, my mouth had gone dry, and then he'd cupped it between both hands, the flames overflowing and falling to vanish on the ground at our feet.  Inside my head, I'd laughed and laughed, and Renfield had obligingly conjured more, spinning it about us like a halo, under the wan light of the dying streetlights, and for the first time in my life I'd felt the touch of power.  It was intoxicating.  Delirious.  The most delicious poison in my blood.  It was little wonder people killed themselves in pursuit of grander and greater spells.

“We'll keep that as a last resort, then,” he said.

My cellphone went off.  Peter.  I dove for it and answered.  He sounded strained when he said my name.

“Tell me you have something,” he said.

“We found one of the spellbooks that Marcus had purchased recently,” I replied.  On the sofa, the demon raised his eyes at me, seemingly amused.

“Oh?  What's in it?”

“Demon magic.  Lots of demon magic.”

A pause.

“Son of a bitch,” he snarled.  “Son of a bitch.”

Then he hung up.  I stared at the phone's screen for a moment in confusion until the display shut off and presented me with a black surface, smeared with my fingerprints.

“I'm guessing he figured it out,” Renfield said mildly.  

I raised my eyes to stare at him.  In turn, he held up the spellbook, open to a two-page illustration of a summoning circle etched onto the floor, with a demon standing in the middle, facing down a man on his knees at the fore.

“You've got to be fucking kidding me,” I said.  “We're dealing with a demon?”

“Demonic influences, at least.”  He set the book back down in his lap and gave me a half-shrug.  “Whoever killed Ryan knew what they were doing with those knives and well – my kind know what we're doing.”

“Then why didn't you say anything earlier?  You are a demon, shouldn't you have recognized a summoning ritual?”

My annoyance wasn't entirely with Renfield.  Up until this point, we'd always hunted down creatures that were, as Renfield called them, 'lesser beings'.  Nothing that the demon didn't have the upper hand on, and in the rare instance when demon magic was ineffective, Renfield at least knew enough about them to find a different way to counter the monster.  Or, failing that, the demon could augment my strength with his own.  He'd only done that once and the results had been... disturbing.  I'd broken a bone with my bare hands, felt it crack and splinter, like rolling a handful of pebbles around on my palm.

This time, we might be on equal footing with our quarry, and that frightened me.

“It's not necessarily a summoning ritual,” Renfield replied.  “And if it was, there was a lot wrong with it, to the point I can't recognize the spell that was cast from what remained.  I started to suspect some sort of demonic interference when we found Ryan's body, but even then, I've not seen anything like the inside of that house before.”

I slowly leveled myself down into the loveseat, my eyes fixed on his face, on the gentle curve of his horns.  His calm did nothing to reassure me.  The demon only got emotional over very specific things – disorganization and being defied.  I could not gauge by his tone just how dangerous a situation this was.

“The circle itself was burnt out,” he recited, his tone clinical, “which is unusual in that it didn't even leave the outline.  For that to happen, the amount of power that had to have blown through it when it went had to have been tremendous.  Yet, there were no physical signs of a magical surge.  At the very least, the windows would have had to been broken.”

“Perhaps the backlash was responsible for the blood everywhere?”

“The patterns aren't right.  Maybe in the living room, where it was splashed along the walls, but the trails in the entryway and stairwell were all vertical.  I'm not sure what could have caused that.  Then there's the fact the bodies are missing.  They didn't explode when the spell failed, as the police would have found something of the remains.  They're all gone.  I don't think someone is trying to hide evidence, as they wouldn't have left Ryan the way they did otherwise.”

“Could there be two parties involved?” I asked.  “Someone that wanted the bodies gone and then the demon?”

“I didn't say there was a demon,” he snapped.  “I said my kind was influencing this.  That's all I'm willing to hedge on right now.  Let's say that was a summoning ritual.  If it failed, the demon would be thrown back into our homewold.  A summoning is not permanent.  It opens a temporary gateway only.  The only thing that can forcibly move a demon from one world to the other is banishment, and that works only in one direction.”

“You said the spell had been altered though, to the point you couldn't recognize anything.  What if they'd altered it to permanently bring a demon into our world?” I asked.  

Renfield was quiet a moment.  Most of the time, my ignorance was a hindrance.  Sometimes, I got a lucky guess in.

“That's suicidal,” he finally said, staring straight ahead at the wall.  “Why would anyone do that?”

“I guess that's what we need to figure out,” I sighed.  “Maybe we can get a list of missing persons that might fit our profile from Peter.”

Look at me, using fancy police words.  I gave myself a grim smile as I went to fetch my purse and keys.  Renfield followed more slowly, reluctantly setting the book down on the coffee table with the others.  He seemed bothered by my suggestion, his wings drawn tight to his shoulders and his tail tip twitched in agitation.  I wanted to ask him, if it was a demon we were contending with, how he would handle it.  He'd never talked about his homeworld, not even when I asked him questions.  The demon just ignored them as if I hadn't spoken at all, as if I were invisible in those moments.  I wondered if perhaps he was angry at them, for leaving him trapped inside a clock for so very long, or if there was some other history.  I didn't particularly want to find out the hard way what the story was.



Peter kept us waiting when we arrived in the police station lobby and after a bit, Renfield whispered in my head that we were receiving more than our fair share of suspicious glances.  The police officers were wary.  This wasn't unusual, as I was carrying a demon around with me, but after Renfield pointed it out I had to admit that he was right – this was a bit more attention than I was used to.  

'We should leave,' Renfield said uneasily.

I put my back to the station and stared out one of the windows in the lobby to hide the fact I was talking to the demon.

“Because that wouldn't be suspicious at all,” I hissed in an undertone.  “What are you so nervous about?  It's not like they can banish you.”

'No.  They can't.'  He sounded weary reiterating that.  'But did it occur to you that I may be a suspect in Ryan's death and since I cannot act without your permission, that would make you culpable as well?'

Peter showed up at that point, cutting our conversation short.  He appeared haggard and nervous, but he curtly invited us back and, surprisingly, took us to one of the conference rooms instead of his desk.  There were a number of people in there, some police, some I didn't recognize, and they all fell quiet when we arrived.  I froze in the doorway as Peter strode in, returning to the far wall where photos and a map of the city was stuck up on the drywall.  I recognized some of the photos.  Ryan Harris.  And the others I did not.

“Well, come on in,” a man in a suit snapped.  “Peter says you've got a theory that this -” and he waved at the wall - “is related to the Marcus case.”

Peter studiously wasn't looking at me.  I was on my own here and I suddenly regretted coming. Inside my chest, Renfield sat poised in agitation, deliberating if he should fight or flee.  I swallowed hard, wishing he'd settle down.  He was not helping my nerves any.

“Marcus was dabbling in demonic magic,” I said uneasily, my eyes still fixed on the photographs.  

I saw three more bodies, each treated in the same manner as Ryan's had been.  Two appeared to be a couple, older.  The third was a young woman, likely no older than eighteen.  My stomach twisted into a knot at seeing that and for a moment, I lost track of what I was saying.

“When did all this happen?” I whispered.

“They all occurred at roughly the same time,” Peter supplied.  “You just found one before anyone else did.”

'What the fuck,' Renfield said flatly in my head.

The demon wasn't nervous because we were surrounded by police officers.  He was nervous because he wasn't certain what was going on, and that deeply frightened me.

“Renfield doesn't know what's going on anymore,” I said quietly.

I didn't particularly feel guilty about stating that I had no idea, because really, the police department wasn't hiring Erin as a consultant.  They were hiring the demon and I just happened to be part of the package deal.  On my own, I was useless, and I didn't feel ashamed to admit this.  If I had my way, I'd be back at my comfortable corporate job, wearing slacks and talking about end of year projects, instead of standing here in my blue jeans staring at photos of bodies staked to walls.

“That's great,” the man in the suit said dryly.  “Even the demon is stumped.  Fucking fantastic.”

He turned away from me and I couldn't help but feel a flash of irritation at the condescension in his tone.  I wasn't entirely certain the emotion was from the demon.

“It was demonic magic they were dabbling with,” I reiterated.  “Renfield said the ritual was altered as well, to the point he couldn't recognize it based on what little was left behind at the scene.  We suspect that there was a third party involved, as the backlash from the spell killed everyone in the room.  That third party could also be responsible for these deaths, although we haven't figured out why they'd go through the trouble of removing the bodies and then leaving these out in the open.”

“Peter?”

The man in the suit turned to the police officer, looking for confirmation.  Peter met his eyes, facing him square-on.

“I wanted them as consultants for a reason,” Peter replied firmly.  “The demon can pick up things I can't.  I can't confirm if that all is correct, but the information does line up with what we know are demonic abilities.”

“Okay,” he said softly.  “Then they're on the case still.”

Some of the tension bled from the room.  I realized, belatedly, that if I hadn't an alibi – if I hadn't been at the scene of Ryan's death and talking to the police after I called it in – I might have been a suspect.  But as it was, there was enough evidence to the contrary.  Another officer reviewed the latest information with everyone in the room while I stood nervously at the wall, behind everyone, and tried to figure out the power structure here.  I recognized two of the police officers but the rest appeared to be support personal and the man in the suit was clearly someone in charge but I hadn't seen him before.

“We've a list of possible targets,” one of the analysts concluded.  “We're dividing it up among you all.  If you can't get them to relocate, at least get some wards on their residence.  Doors and windows.”

The victims had all been related to recent missing person cases.  Some of them had confirmed links to Marcus.  Ryan was the ex-boyfriend of a missing woman.  The older couple were the parents of a missing student.  And the young girl was the twin sister of another highschooler.  I stood there uneasily as names and addresses were handed, until it became apparent that I wasn't going to be part of this.  And why should I?  I wasn't a police officer.  I was consulting, nothing more.  I sidled over to stand near Peter as he was flipping through the file that had been handed off to him.

“So what do I do?” I asked in a low voice.  Most everyone else was leaving the room, thankfully.

“You can take a look over the crime scenes, but I don't think you'll find anything new,” he sighed.  “Or you can come with me.”

'Let's go with Peter,' Renfield said.  'I can finish looking through the spellbook tonight.'

“Do you ever sleep?” I muttered.  

Peter looked at me funny and I flushed and pointed to my head, indicating that I was talking to the demon.

“We'll go with you,” I said awkwardly.

I followed Peter in my own car.  In the past, he'd always partnered with Jacobs.  It was a point of contention to have the two mages working together, he'd once told me, but in the end they'd won out on account of sometimes, you just really needed to bring all your magical expertise to bear at once.  I was afraid to ask what sort of cases needed two mages working in concert.

We stopped outside a small house in one of the suburbs lining the city.  It was modest, comparable to my own house, although my yard was better kept now, thanks to the demon.  As we made our way up the drive, Peter told us that the inhabitants were the parents of a college student that was among the missing persons.  Chris North.  He'd been reported as missing by his roommate and while it wasn't unusual for college students to vanish for 24 hours without notifying anyone and then reappear, having spent the night god knows were, the roommate thought this disappearance was worth reporting as he'd had misgivings for a while now about his friend.  He was aware that Chris was friends with Marcus and had grown concerned after getting a feel of some of the magic that Chris was practicing in his bedroom.  He hadn't been able to identify it, but he'd said on the police report that it hadn't felt 'right'.  Off, somehow.  

'That's because demon magic is native to my kind,' Renfield said to me, 'and channeling it is a slightly unnatural act.  Like swimming.  Possible, but not your natural state.'

That was enough to flag Chris North as a suspected victim.  We were here to talk to his parents.  They'd already been notified of his disappearance, as the police had spoken to them over the phone regarding their son's activities that morning.  Now, we were here to see if they would consider relocating for their own protection, until we figured out was happening.  Peter didn't sound hopeful.  

I hung back as Peter knocked. The father opened the door, still dressed in his work clothing, clearly just gotten home for the day.  His expression was stoic, but I saw the undercurrent of fear as he regarded the police officer and knew that this visit had to be about his son.

“I'm Officer Peter Grant,” he said.  “I've been working the case involving your son's disappearance.  Do you have a moment?”

“I already talked to the police,” the man said, his tone defensive.

Peter began to explain, but by then the wife had come up behind her husband and she'd froze in the entryway, staring past his shoulder, her eyes fixed on me.  I felt a tremor of fear.  She'd used vision.  There was no other explanation for the sudden hate that flared up in her expression upon seeing me.

“The girl is possessed,” she said tightly and both Peter and Mr. North fell silent.  All eyes turned to me.

“We've brought a consultant onto the case,” Peter replied smoothly, as if nothing was wrong and there wasn't a demon at his back.  “Erin is a specialist on demonic magic.”

“She is a demon.”

“Technically, I'm carrying a demon,” I said.  I wasn't certain if I was actually helping Peter here, but I felt compelled to point out the distinction.

“What do demons have to do with our son?”

Scared.  Scared and angry.  For a moment, Peter couldn't reply, then he gently asked if he could come inside and finish this conversation in private.  Mr. North complied, but the wife stepped up to block my path as I attempted to follow.  We stared off at each other and I heard Renfield whisper in my mind that while this woman wasn't a mage, she was quite close to it.  A few more years of practice, perhaps.

“I'm trying to help,” I said quietly.

“I'm not letting a demon in my house,” the woman said.

“Erin,” Peter called out from the end of the entryway, “just wait outside.  Okay?”

I hunched my shoulders and muttered something about sitting in my car.  The woman shut the door in my face and I was left standing alone on the porch.  For a moment, I just stared at the smooth white surface, hate boiling in my heart.  I should have been used to by then.  I'd been fired from my job, after all, and the lady from HR hadn't even been able to look me in the eyes.  They hadn't even let me clean out my own desk.  I'd waited outside while security did it for me.  None of my coworkers tried to contact me.  I hated them all.  This was no fault of mine.

“Fuck you too, bitch,” I hissed under my breath.  Petty.

Then I turned to walk away and Renfield stopped me before I was even off the last step and onto the driveway.

'You know,' he drawled, 'while they're in there distracted with Peter, now would be a perfect time to put down some wards of our own.'

“Are you serious?” I whispered, freezing in place, my hands in my pockets.

'I am very keen on finding out what is happening in this city,' the demon replied dryly.  'A ward of my making will be far more effective than Peter's.'

“Demon wards are dangerous,” I accused.  I didn't know this for a fact.  It was a reasonable guess, I thought.

'They are,' he admitted.  'However, I'll be warding against my magic.  So long as the woman isn't using demonic magic – and judging by her reaction, I doubt she is – they won't trigger.'

There were still risks.  She could find the wards.  And then what – would she inform the police we'd placed them without her knowledge or consent?  Would I get fired from the one job that would have me?  I hesitated, not quite willing to commit just yet.  Or did Peter bring me along for this express purpose?  He'd certainly given up on including me in the conversation rather quickly.

'Just give me control and stop thinking about it,' Renfield snapped.  'You and your idiotic morals.  You need to learn to break the law once in a while.'

“I'd rather not,” I muttered.

But I relinquished my body to the demon anyway.  He moved quick, turning our heel and returning to the front door.  He looked about the neighborhood, cursory, and satisfied that we weren't being watched, stooped on the concrete and pulled the door mat out of the way.  He bit into our hand, hard enough to draw blood, and it took more effort than I think either of us expected.  He cursed under his breath once the skin finally split open and I squirmed inside my own mind at the pain.  The demon, however, seemed more annoyed at how useless human teeth were for this sort of thing, and the pain was nothing more than a mild distraction.

“You're carrying a pocketknife from here out,” he muttered as he tilted our hand to drip a bit of blood onto the porch.  “And no, I don't care about your PTSD or whatever problem you have at the sight of a knife.  Yes, I stabbed it through your hand – get over it.”

I hadn't recovered full use of my left hand.  It was still weak and the doctor said it would likely be that way permanently.

The blood spread out into lines, no bigger than a thread, branching to form a circle of words in a language I didn't know.  Human magic typically used Latin.  This was demon magic and it used their language and their alphabet.  Renfield murmured something over this and it turned black and then was gone.  He slid the mat back and scooted over to crouch under one of the windows and he repeated the process, worrying the thin wound on my hand with our canines until it bled some more onto the ground.

He did this for each window on the ground level, keeping low, watching the neighborhood around us to ensure we weren't seen.  I was terrified the entire time at the prospect of being caught and wished I had the ability to close my eyes or otherwise look away and no longer be aware of what it was the demon was doing with my body.  

“Stop it,” Renfield hissed once we reached the backyard.

'I'm not doing anything,' I retorted.

“You're pulling control back unconsciously.  Try to relax.  This is why full possession is so hard, because you humans get so damn uptight at what we're doing with your bodies.”

He sounded intensely disgruntled.  I tried to calm myself down, reciting mentally that this was fine, that Renfield could sense the presence of humans and he'd know if anyone was going to see us.  He'd done things like this before, surely.  He was a demon.  He was far better at committing crimes and getting away with it.  

“Well, that's annoying,” Renfield said as I repeated this to myself, over and over again.

I think he was relieved to let me take control back.  I walked through the front yard, back to the car, and tried to keep my shoulders back and pretend that nothing was wrong, that we hadn't just laid demonic wards around every possible entrance of a stranger's house.  I remained there in the driver's seat  until Peter came out of the house, half an hour later, and I got out ot meet him at his police cruiser.  He looked tired and didn't pay  much attention to me.  I kept my left hand behind my back, just in case he noticed that I now had a bandaid on it where I hadn't before.

“They won't relocate,” he said with a sigh.  “They're going to at least let me ward the house though.”

He went to the trunk and opened it up to grab his spellkit.  I sidled up to him as he unlocked the lid and flipped it open.  The contents weren't nearly as exciting as I'd hoped – mostly a lot of chalk and some base materials such as charcoal, water, and minerals.  Modern spellcasting had done away with most of the material components and now, anything physical was typically just a container for the power until the spell layers were properly in place.

“So I already put down wards,” I said in an undertone.

He'd find them on his own.  Better I said it than he figured it out himself.

“Oh good,” he grunted.  “That will save us some time.”

“So you meant for me to do that?”

He eyed me critically as he slammed the trunk down, a couple pieces of chalk in his hand.

“I'd like to keep this family alive, so yes,” he said.  And he walked away to place his own wards.

“Well then,” I whispered under my breath.  “At least one person in this city trusts us.  And a police officer, no less.”

'I feel like I've failed as a demon,' Renfield replied morosely to that.
Renfield's Clock - Chapter 6
I've changed the mechanics of the spell here repeatedly in my head as I've written this.  Anyone want to make bets on whether the logic will make sense or not in the end?

It's a good thing the only reason people are reading this is for Renfield's witty banter, right?

Right?

Gawd I hope his banter is actually witty.
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My conversation with Peter was brief.  We spoke only on the phone and he had little to say about the matter.  The autopsy of Ryan Harris was not yet done and they were still processing the evidence from the house.  He could tell me, at least, that they hadn't found fingerprints on the knives other than Ryan's.  The department, at least, was going to treat it as a separate case.  One of the non-mage detectives was going to be assigned to it.  As such, I wouldn't have access to any further details.

“But it's connected,” I protested.  “He knew one of the victims!”

“First off,” Peter replied tersely, “we haven't confirmed the victims yet.  Secondly, the method of death is completely different and, as you yourself said, there were no signs of magic in the apartment.  Separate case, Erin, unless you can prove otherwise.”

“Then where the fuck am I supposed to look next?” I snapped.

It was, after all, still his case.  Thankfully, Peter seemed to be expecting this question and he had my answer ready.  There was a bookstore that specialized in spellbooks that Marcus Herringwood had made a number of purchases at.  Peter wanted us to speak to the employees and see if they could provide information on what he had purchased, especially if they were paid for in cash.  In this, Renfield and I would be far more effective than the police officer.

We left the house in the afternoon, as Renfield had insisted on finishing his gardening first.  He'd neglected it, he said, and needed to get caught up.  I could not see any signs of neglect, personally, but it wasn't worth arguing with the demon, not when his obsessive streak was manifesting itself.  The store was located downtown, nestled between the trendy nightlife area and downtown proper.  It wasn't a bad area, but it wasn't one I'd leave my cellphone sitting out on my car dash, either.  I parked along one of the side streets, some distance from the shop, and walked along the tree-lined sidewalk to the rows of strip stores along the main street.  The store was nestled between a well-lit adult bookstore and a coffee house advertising hookahs for sale in the window.  A bell chimed as I entered and something hit me like a baseball to the sternum.  I coughed and staggered backwards, my heel catching on the doorframe.

“Don't take another step,” a man called from somewhere near the back of the store.  “Stay right where you are.”

He sounded angry and scared.  It was a dangerous combination.  He rounded a bookcase, fumbling with a pistol hidden in a side carry under his button-up shirt.

“You let me walk into a ward,” I hissed under my breath.

'I negated most of the effects, didn't I?' he replied tersely.  'And you didn't give me time to check for one.'

“Okay,” the man said evenly.  “Step inside.  Nice and slow.  I'll shoot the instant I feel any sort of magic building.  What the hell are you?”

It seemed the ward was only targeted against non-humans.  I did as he asked, careful to keep my hands down at my side.  This wasn't the first time we'd had... adverse reactions from the general public.  The interior of the store was as well-lit as it could be, with bookcases that stretched to the ceiling and narrow alleyways.  We, thankfully, appeared to be the only ones present in the store at the time.  I could see mostly mundane books in the front, a row off to the side that housed some older manuscripts behind glass, and beyond the gentleman with the gun I could see the spellbooks in the back, denoted with a hanging sign just before the bookcase.

“Demon possession,” I replied.  “Are you going to call the police?”

That could be awkward.  I didn't want him to know I was working for them just yet.

“Depends.  How much of the girl did you leave intact?”

His voice was strained.  He'd shoot, I realized.  It wasn't a crime to kill a demon.

“I am the girl,” I said.  “My name is Erin.  Someone ditched a cursed artifact on my front porch and instead of waiting to die, I made a bargain.”

And slowly, I raised my left hand, and he tracked the motion with his eyes but his stance did not change.  I turned my hand so that he could see the back of it, where the scar was clearly visible.  

“Blood oath,” I said.  “He gets a measure of freedom.  I get to live.  Use your vision.  You'll see the demon isn't in control right now.”

He squinted and did as I said.  Renfield sat in the back of my head, urging me to give him control in those few seconds it took, and I refused him.  I knew quite well what he would do in the short amount of time that the man was distracted.  I doubted the demon would kill him, but it wouldn't be pleasant.  Renfield settled back down, irate and sullen at being rebuked.  Sometimes, I caught a streak of anger in him, so hot that it made me afraid, that perhaps this was the moment that Renfield stopped protecting me, and saw to breaking me down instead.

“Well I'll be damned,” the man murmured.  “The demon really is dormant.  Still, I don't want you here.  Turn around and leave.”

“I can't,” I replied.  “I need to know about Marcus-”

“I don't divulge information about my customers-”

“He's dead,” I interrupted sharply and the man cut himself off.  “The interior of the house was covered in blood and the bodies are missing.”

“I'm not getting involved,” he said, and now he sounded scared.  He shifted his shoulders, easing some of the tension in holding the gun steady.

“They found someone that might have been related to one of the participants in the ritual last night,” I continued.  “Tortured to death.  My demon here... was impressed.”

The man swore under his breath.  Then, finally, he lowered the gun and tucked it back into the holster.  He hadn't quite invited me to stay, but neither was he actively throwing me out, so I assumed that meant he was willing to talk.  I took a deep breath and slowly let it out, trying to steady myself.  I hadn't acknowledged it during the conversation, but my nerves were one edge.  Being held at gunpoint did that, I supposed.  Still, I had something to do.  I just had to ignore the hammering of my heart.  I followed him over to the counter and let him collect himself.  Then, he leaned on the wood surface and regarded me a moment.

“I'm James,” he finally said.  “I own this place, so yeah, I know Marcus.  Wasn't my favorite customer.  Nice guy, don't get me wrong, but he was getting into magic for the wrong reasons.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.  I, being unable to use magic, had actively avoided the culture surrounding it.  Too painful.  He just peered at me a moment, as if surprised at my ignorance.  I avoided his gaze.

“You know.  Power.  Prestige.  That sort of thing.  He was very full of himself.  I refused to sell him some of the spellbooks he wanted.”

Inside my head, Renfield quietly informed me that the James was lying.  I decided to hold off on playing that card.  Not yet.

“What sort of thing was he wanting?” I asked.

“Oh, just the more advanced magic.  It ran the full gambit of schools, but it was all stuff that could be dangerous or used to hurt people.”

“Anything illegal?”

His expression turned cross and he opened his mouth to deny it, that no, of course not.  He didn't carry those sorts of books.  In the past, I might have believed him.  That was before I got a demon trapped in my head, however, and learned just how selfish people could be.  I knew what I would do for money.  I had no doubt that James wouldn't hesitate to sell the wrong spellbook to the wrong person if the pay was good enough.

“And before you answer,” I said smoothly, spreading my hand on the counter so that he could see the scar there, “you should know that my demon can tell if you're lying.  It's just something they can do.”

He went still.

“You should leave now,” he said after a moment.

“Whatever is out there may target you at some point.”

“I'll handle it.”

'Oh for fuck's sake,' Renfield snarled.  'Let me talk to him.'

I'd tried.  I had that, at least, to assuage my conscience and with a shrug, I relinquished to the demon.  He did not hesitate.  We were up and over the counter as soon as my will was shoved to the side to permit the demon access to my bones and muscles, and we hit James at about chest-height.  A knee went into solar plexus and then our weight bore him to the ground.  Renfield put an arm across his neck and seized the gun with his free hand.  He ripped it out and slid it across the floor.  By then, James had recovered from his surprise enough to fight back, and he hit up at us, catching my body in the shoulder.  There wasn't much strength in the blow, the impact a dull pain.  Renfield put his hand against the man's face and James choked on a shrill scream, jerking his head away, but Renfield maintained contact.

I'd experienced enough of Renfield's magic to know what he was doing.  Demon fire.  Just enough to hurt, superficially.  I felt sick, but I did not take back control of my body.  The demon knew what he was doing.

“Now you get to talk to me,” he purred.  “My name is Renfield.  It's a pleasure to meet you.”

James went pale.  I watched as his pupils dilated in terror and there were tears at the corner of his eyes.  He wasn't struggling now, realizing that each time he did, the pain of the fire held against his cheek only got worse.

“I think it's apparent that you sell illegal spellbooks here,” Renfield continued.  “True, nowadays you can just download them, but they're not the most reliable versions and they run the risk of having components deliberately altered.  So distributors like yourself remain in demand.  Which did Marcus buy?”

“I don't want to get involved in this,” James whimpered.  

It was a strange sound, hearing someone in pain and terror like this.  I could only watch in morbid fascination, and, disconcertingly enough – pleasure.  A sharp, fierce delight at the man's terror and suffering, courtesy of the demon I harbored.  At one point, this had been me on the floor, I realized.  The situation was different, but the demon had crouched over me while I screamed and cried, shuddering at the agony he'd inflicted.  

Renfield hadn't given me an opportunity to back out of the blood oath.  He'd explained it in the kitchen, using his telekinesis to write out the ritual on the floor with chalk.  Then, he'd directed me to kneel in the middle of the circle.  I hadn't seen the knife.  He'd slipped it out of my purse, unfolded the pocketknife, and as I settled myself on my knees, he'd driven it down through my left hand, between the tendons, and into the floor.

I didn't have a choice.  I bound him to my property, as we'd agreed, and then once his corporeal body was freed to roam the house, he knelt over me where I lay curled up on the cold wooden floor, panting, trying not to move, trying not to pass out from the agony in my hand, running up through my arm and into my chest.  He'd put one finger on the handle of the knife and stared down at me, the threat implicit in his posture.  It could hurt worse.  A lot worse.  And so, when he'd asked that I agree to one more blood oath, that I let him take up residence in my mind whenever I left the property – I'd agreed.  And when the ritual was done, after he'd coached me through the steps, he'd ripped the knife free and I finally, finally, fainted.

“You're already involved,” Renfield growled at James.  “I'm going to get what I want.  The only thing you control now is how much you suffer.”

“Someone will come along.”  Terrified, desperate defiance.

“Perhaps.”  He lowered himself, our face close to James's.  The man flinched.  “But tell me – if one of your customers came in and saw us here, my body straddling yours – intimately close – what would they think?”

'Renfield,' I said coldly.  'Don't you dare.'

I couldn't tell if the demon was bluffing or not.  Thankfully, neither could James.

“Fine,” the man gasped.  “Fine.  He wanted a spellbook on summoning rituals.  I have one more copy in stock.  Let me up and I'll go get it.”

“Tell me where it is instead,” Renfield laughed, “and I'll get it.”

James complied.  When he was done, Renfield increased the pressure on his neck until he couldn't breath at all, and James struggled in earnest now, his eyes wide with panic, mouth agape, and Renfield grunted as he fought to keep the larger man under control.  The demon fire wasn't enough of a threat, but we had the advantage still, and James went limp after a few moments and Renfield released him.  I was relieved to see he was still breathing.  Intensely relieved.

“Thank you for not interfering,” Renfield said dryly, walking towards the back of the store.  “I felt you considering it there.”

'If you didn't let up after he blacked out, I would have,' I replied.  'You were scaring me.'

“I got us what we wanted.”

Using methods we could never tell Peter about, unfortunately.  Thankfully for us, James wouldn’t be able to talk to the police either.  Not without admitting he had illegal goods here.  We found the spellbooks in question in a safe in the back room.  James had relinquished the code to it and Renfield disabled the ward and opened it up.  There were about twelve books stacked in a pile, battered and aged, and Renfield selected one from the middle.  Then, we smiled, and he eased the entire stack out and into our arms.

'Seriously?' I asked as we returned to the front of the store, stepping over the shopkeeper's prone body to take a sack to put them in.  

“We're doing him a favor,” Renfield replied.  “He shouldn’t be in possession of these.”

'You have no intention of turning the books over to the police.'

“None,” he confirmed, sliding a mundane book into the sack on either side of the pile to hide the contents better.

James was stirring as we left.  Renfield walked fast, putting some distance between us and the store, and finally he gave control back over to me when we were in eyeshot of the car.  I quickened my pace even further at that point, as I couldn't shake the itch along my spine, as if I were waiting for James to catch up at any moment.  Which, I thought, was stupid.  He'd been thoroughly bested and likely had the common sense to not shoot at someone in broad daylight.  Still.  I certainly wouldn’t be welcome in this part of town anytime soon.

“We really can't be doing things like this,” I hissed to the demon.  Thankfully, the sidewalk was deserted, so I wouldn't be overheard talking to myself.

'I don't see why you have a reason to complain,' he replied.  'I got what we needed.  I am a demon.  This is what we do.  If you don't like that, then perhaps you should have let me kill you.  I'd have taken my time.  You could have eked out a few more months before I finally grew bored.'

I'd been prepared for an argument, but the way he said it – so casually, as if this was a perfectly normal choice to make – left me without a response.  He would have killed me.  In pieces, perhaps, but the end was always, inexorably, the same.

“Would you have tortured me?” I asked, as I put the books in the backseat and got in the car.  “If I'd refused to let you possess my mind, what would you have done?”

'If you're asking for confirmation, then yes, of course I would have hurt you,' he purred in response.  'If you're asking for methodology, I would have started with the demon fire.  It leaves less damage, if applied correctly.  Then, knives-”

“You can stop now,” I said abruptly, starting the engine.

'But-'  He sounded offended.

“That's enough.  Seriously.”

And the demon was sullenly quiet for the rest of the trip home.
Renfield's Clock - Chapter 5
Basically everything involving the police is totally pulled out of my ass because I know nothing about this and NaNoWriMo is about writing, not doing silly things like research.
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While the exact nature of demon kind was largely a mystery, there were some things we knew.  They were, above all, predators, and they hunted their prey like any other creature did.  Despite being imprisoned inside my human flesh, Renfield retained much of his ability to track down his victims, and this talent was quite useful in finding people, as I quickly found out.  I was planning on calling the police station and seeing if they could find out which apartment Ryan Harris lived in, but Renfield assured me that wouldn't be necessary.  He'd find the man, the demon promised.  He had his name.  That was enough.

“You can seriously track someone down with just their name?” I hissed as I got out of the car in the apartment complex parking lot.

'I can.'  He seemed unperturbed by my own consternation at the concept.  'Humans leave a myriad of trails behind wherever they go.  Some are biological – scent, sight – while others are magical.  A name helps me distinguish one trail in particular.'

The apartment complex was open, the units arranged around a grassy courtyard with the front doors facing center, each unit open to the outside.  Renfield directed me to one on the corner and I stepped up on the stoop and knocked.  I expected to have to knock for a while until someone came, but then Renfield shushed me into silence and I stood there in the shadow of the building, listening, heart pounding.  When Renfield asked for control, his manner terse, I gave it.  I'd learned not to question the demon on some things.

He burned the door open.  My body wasn't strong enough to kick it open – we'd learned this the hard way – so he cupped his hands around the doorknob and I felt demon fire surge through our veins.  It was like fever under the skin, carrying the adrenaline of power in its wake.  An ecstasy of dominion.  Human magic was not like this.  The demons reveled in what they could do to the world.  The lock melted under Renfield's touch, the metal sagging like melting icecream, tongues of fire licking at the surrounding wood.  It dropped to the cement and tendrils of steam wafted off into the cold night air.  We shook the last droplets of metal off our fingers and shoved the door open.  

Ryan was dead.  I knew that as soon as Renfield opened the door and the stink of fresh blood hit our nostrils.  Cloying, tainted with another scent – a current of stale terror.  He moved inside, kicking the door half-shut behind us and glided silently through the house, careful to place our feet flat on the ground so as to not make any sound.  His gaze darted into the living room, towards the stairs, checking for movement.  Then Renfield froze, fingers outstretched, and it was like the skin of my palms was livid with electricity.  It itched, faintly.  He exhaled and some of the tension bled out of his shoulders.

“We're alone,” he said.  “The house is empty.”

Then he strode into the kitchen and flipped on the lights.

What was left of Ryan was against the wall.  An iron stake had been driven into the plaster, through a stud, likely, so that it could support the young man's weight.  He was naked, his hands bound to the stake with barbed wire, tight enough so that it had sliced through the skin and his wrists were limp, caked with blood.  Renfield studied the body for a moment and I felt his... satisfaction.  We were looking at, in his mind, a job well done.  

“Kept him alive for hours,” Renfield murmured, reaching forwards to touch the body, but stopped himself at the last moment.  Surely he'd felt my revulsion.

'We need to call the dispatcher,' I said, urgently.

I had to think of next steps.  I couldn't allow myself to fully process what I was staring at.  Renfield, however, seemed only tangentially aware of my distress, and kept our gaze fixed on the battered corpse.

“They didn't use magic,” he continued.  “Curious.  They knew what they were doing, then.  Yet-”

His eyes roved across the kitchen then, finally lighting on the counter.  There were knives there, kitchen knives.  Lined up in a neat row, handles neatly parallel, the blades tacky with congealed blood.  One of them was a pocketknife and my mind went blank with and old terror upon seeing it.  These, Renfield knew better than to touch, at least.  There would hopefully be fingerprints on them.  He pulled out my cellphone and dialed.  The dispatcher, at least, knew us well enough to be able to tell which of us was speaking.  She'd once told me that Renfield sounded authoritative, as if his requests were actually demands.  They likely were.

I, on the other hand, just sounded scared whenever I talked to her.

“No magic anywhere,” Renfield mused as he hung up.  The police would be here soon.  “Not even to force an entry and I didn't see any sign of them breaking in by mundane means, either.  Whatever did this, Ryan let it in willingly.”

'Whatever or whoever?'

A long pause as Renfield considered this.

“There are some creatures that can mimic human form,” he said, “but they would leave a scent behind.  So, whoever, I suppose.”

Which, I found far more unsettling than the thought of some supernatural beast.  To think another human had done something like this – I wished Renfield would look away from the knives or leave the kitchen entirely, and I briefly considered taking back my body.  Only briefly.

“Although,” he muttered, “I don't sense a second human here either.  Just Ryan.  He died badly, so the death throes could be masking the presence of another scent, but, hm.  It's odd.”

'We should go wait outside.  I don't want to disturb the crime scene.'

That was enough to reluctantly shake him out of his reverie.  Giving the tortured body one last hungry glance, he turned and walked us out of the building, where he forfeited control on the front stoop.  I remained there until the police arrived, two squad cars in all, and an ambulance, presumably for transporting the body.  One of the officers was Thomas, whom I had encountered before.  I did not recognize the others, and I stood and walked off to the side to speak to him as the others entered the house.  I was shivering, partly from cold, and partly from what I'd seen.  I hadn't gotten ill, at least, but the sight had left me in sort of a quietly numb state of mind.  It was hard to focus on any one thing and Thomas had to repeat his initial questions a couple times before they managed to work their way through my consciousness.  I kept running my fingers over the scar on my left hand.

“I'm sorry,” I whispered.  “I'm not – I've never-”

“I get it.  Do you think I can talk to Renfield instead, then?  He'll have a better recollection.”

Grateful for the suggestion, I yielded to the demon, and the demon refused to take it.  Frowning, I stared at the ground, letting him feel my growing anger for a moment.  He'd brought me into that house.  He'd made me stare at that poor, dead, young man.  Now, he wouldn’t do me the courtesy of letting me hide in the quiet of my own mind, where I didn't have to deal with this.

“C'mon Renfield,” I hissed under my breath.  “Just talk to the police officer.”

Still nothing.  Not even a response.  If it wasn't for the cold certainty that I wasn't alone inside my head, I wouldn't have known he was there at all.

“Okay,” Thomas sighed.  “Just tell me what you can, then.”

It was hard.  I told him exactly what I'd done and what Renfield had found.  How there was no magic.  That seemed to bother Thomas and he grew uneasy.

“Do you think it's connected to what happened at the other house?” I asked.

“I don't know.  I'm not on this case.  You'll have to talk to Peter.  He's not on duty right now, though.”

I could wake him.  He wouldn’t complain, not for something like this.  I didn't want to do that to him, however.  Not when I could go home, get some rest of my own, and then talk to him in the comfort of daylight.  Thomas let me go shortly after that and I wearily returned to my car, feeling like I was just going through the motions of being.  It was instinct that carried us home, my body mechanically going through the actions of driving and pulling up into the garage and then walking myself into the house.  Renfield met me at the door, his corporeal form reasserting itself as soon as I had crossed the property line.  He followed close at my heels, his thin tail lashing in agitation.  I was too tired to care.  I just returned to my bedroom and when he blocked the doorway, I turned my back to him and pulled off my shirt, ignoring his presence.  I didn't care.  I was tired and I wanted my pajamas.

“He doesn't trust you,” the demon said.

“What?” I asked, crossly.

“Thomas.  He doesn't trust you.”

“I don't blame him.”

I threw the clothing into the bathroom.  I didn't think there was residual blood on it, but I'd check it over in the morning.  There were still a few hours left before dawn.  Barely.

“Is that why you refused to talk to him?” I asked.

“I just didn't want to speak with the human,” he replied indifferently.  “You realize that Ryan's death has to be connected to what we found at the house, right?  There is no way something like that is simply random.”

“I'm done talking about this.”

I climbed back into bed and hesitated as I reached to turn out the light.  The dog was in the hallway, as she preferred to sleep between the bedrooms and the front door.  I thought about whistling for her, but she wouldn’t stay for long.  Renfield, however...

“Would you stay?” I asked him quietly.  “Just... until I fall asleep?”

The demon looked startled.  His dark eyes widened and he shifted, his hands falling to his side.  After a moment, he hooked the thumbs in his pockets, as if the gesture was intentional.

“Are you frightened?” he asked quietly.

I just looked at him.  How could he have to ask such a question, after what we'd seen that night?  But he was a demon and that brought with it a certain kind of fearlessness.  He was, technically, at the top of the food chain.

“Very well,” the demon sighed.

He slipped into the room, leaning against the wall just by the door, and ducked his head so that he was no longer staring at me, but rather at the floor.  I turned the lights out and rolled onto my side, putting my back to him.  And as I'd requested, the demon remained there until I fell asleep.



I didn't sleep very well until the sun was up.  Nightmares plagued me, waking me off and on, and each time I startled awake I'd sit up and look towards the door.  And each time, I saw Renfield there.  He'd sat down at some point, his arms across his chest and his head bowed so that the tips of his horns were visible in the darkness.  He could have been asleep.  It was still reassuring, in a strange sort of way.  Whatever was out there, I had something just as terrible, and I knew that my demon would protect me.  Finally, when the room began to brighten from the sunlight filtering through the curtains, I fell into a fitful slumber that was, at least, free of dreams.  When I woke, Renfield was gone.

I found him outside in the backyard.  It was his habit to garden in the morning and he often took the dog outside with him.  His disdain for humanity did not extend to our pets, apparently, and my golden retriever adored the demon.  That wasn't really a surprise, as the dog adored everyone.  I joined Renfield on the back deck, leaning against the railing and staring down at the demon, a few feet below me, kneeling in the dirt as he weeded.  The dog was out running in circles by the back fence.  The demon had converted a significant part of the yard to a garden and had been rather successful over the summer.  With the turn of the seasons, however, I wasn't certain for how much longer we'd had the plants.  I was disappointed by this.  I'd never enjoyed yardwork, but Renfield's obsession with the house made for a bountiful harvest and I'd come to appreciate the fresh vegetables.

Except for the black tomatoes, of course.  Renfield had warned me away from those rather firmly and so far, had refused all attempts to get an explanation as to what made them so different.

“Do you know if Peter is on duty yet?” I asked, nursing my coffee.

“No.”

“Did you even call?”

“Of course not.”  He sounded annoyed.

“You realize this money is what's going to get the light fixed, right?”

It was not uncommon for him to pull demonic superiority on me.  Most of what he did was because he wanted to.  Even his consideration for me – when he cooked or did my laundry – had the feel of him taking care of a favored pet.  When there was a task he considered dull, it became beneath him.  Like paying bills.  It was a menial task and therefore, he was too good for it.  The human should take care of it.

“Then go make the call,” Renfield said slowly, raising his head to stare at me accusingly.

It was not a suggestion.  It was a command.  I considered refusing, just to see what would happen, but there was ice in Renfield's gaze and I felt cold, despite the late morning sun on my bare arms.  Suddenly, I doubted that my definition of being protected as the demon's vessel actually matched his.

Off in the yard, my dog suddenly ceased running in circles and came tearing across the grass in our direction.  For a moment, I hoped that she'd sensed my distress, but the dog only collapsed at Renfield's side and rolled belly-up, oblivious to the fact that her true master was currently being threatened by a demon.  Renfield obligingly scratched her belly, his eyes never leaving mine.

“Sure,” I said uneasily.  “I'll just.... go do that now.”

“Good.”  

His voice was low and I heard the threat in the undertone.  With one last shiver, I hurried back inside, sliding the glass door behind me.  

“My dog is worthless,” I snarled.

It wasn't her fault, I supposed.  She just simply wasn't smart enough to recognize the danger of the demon.  He'd never threatened or hurt her, after all.  I ran my fingers through my hair and went to call Peter.
Renfield's Clock - Chapter 4
Still going strong.  I'm waaay ahead of this point with the NaNo but I'm slow on posting it.
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Since I'm doing NaNoWriMo, I wrote this little blog post about it.  It features my best illustration to date.  Seriously.  I'm super-proud of it.

road-rage-letters.tumblr.com/p…
I was woken in the night by Renfield.  He shook me awake, roughly, and I came to with a start and for a moment I panicked, disoriented, and then the demon turned on the beside lamp and the terrors of the dark and the unknown fled, leaving me with only the demon by my side.  I sat up, my heart pounding in my chest, and reluctantly glanced at the clock.  An hour after midnight.  Of course.  Renfield never woke me at sane hours.  I groaned and collapsed back on the bed, pulling the covers up to my chin and putting my back to the demon.  

“Why do you bother having a bed if you never use it?” I muttered.

He'd taken my guest bedroom for his own.  I couldn't exactly say I gave it to him, as in the days that followed our agreement, I hadn't the courage to even speak to him.  The demon went through my house like a storm, investigating every room and closet, and he did not pay any heed to me.  He rearranged things to this liking and I silently stood by, too afraid to protest, feeling trapped inside my own house.  I hardly slept.  I was unaccustomed to having someone else in the house, much less a demon, and I startled awake at every sound.

It wasn't until after I was fired that I collapsed.  I'd been holding it together well enough – I'd managed the hospital, the dozens of interviews with the police, the government intervention in buying out the loan on my house and declaring it cursed, but losing my job was simply too much.  It was the last piece of stability I had and when I returned home, when Renfield was gone from my head and standing there in the flesh, I collapsed.  It was abrupt.  I walked into the kitchen, turned, saw Renfield watching me and I threw the nearest object – a candle – at him.  Cursed at him.  He'd deflected it with a hand, but I saw the surprise in his features, then it twisted into anger.

He threw me against the wall.  I can't remember how it happened, just that I was afraid, desperately so, and then my back was against the plaster and it hurt to breath and he had an arm across my chest, his body close to mine and his wings stretched out to engulf me in their shadow.  His lips were peeled back, revealing the unnaturally long canines, and his eyes were narrowed in fury.  I knew he was going to retaliate.  He was a demon.  That was what they did.  Yet, I no longer cared in that moment, and I just sagged against the wall and began to cry, brokenly, a quiet, hopeless sobbing.

And the demon went still and after a few seconds he released me.  I slid down into a heap on the floor and he walked away.  I listened as he collected the candle and returned it to its rightful spot on the ledge.  He didn't say anything to me, not directly.  But that evening, he cooked dinner for the first time and brought it to me while I sat in my office, staring blankly at my laptop.  Thinking I should be applying for unemployment or contacting a lawyer or even putting together my resume – but lacking the will to do any of those things.  

“You ruined my life,” I whispered to him as he entered the room.

“And you gave me back mine,” he replied, and set the plate down and walked away.

We had something of a amicable relationship after that.  It took some time, certainly.  And there were some days where I felt Renfield was more the master of the house than I was.  He was possessive of it, constantly scouring the rooms for anything out of order and occasionally rearranging everything on a whim.  I wasn't certain if he actually slept.  I'd never actually seen him use his bed, but he insisted on having one.

I hadn't quite figured out if his habit of waking me up whenever he felt like was because he didn't comprehend I needed to sleep or if he was just that much of an asshole.

“We need to go look at that house,” he said tersely.

“What house?” I muttered drowsily.  I wasn't quite ready to accept that I'd have to get up and finish this conversation before I could be allowed to sleep again.

“The one where the people all died.”

I rolled over at that and propped myself up on an elbow.  His expression was unnaturally focused, his eyes fixed and his wings were drawn tight to his back.  

“Okay, I don't know what you're talking about,” I finally said.  For all I knew, he'd been watching late night movies and mistook them for reality.

“The case file Peter gave us.  A bunch people died in a house near campus.  A rental.  They found blood all over the floors, walls, and ceiling, but no bodies.  They assume the lessor died and have tentatively identified a few others that were acquaintances and have turned up missing.  Otherwise, they have no idea how many people are dead.”

“I am not setting foot in that house,” I said quietly.

“We have to, Peter asked us.”

His voice was urgent.  This wasn't just that we were helping the police out or that we would get paid for it.  The demon was drawn to violence like a moth to flame.  I looked at the clock again.

“Not at night.”

“My magic is strongest after sundown.  Come on.  Get up.  We're going.”

He turned his back to me and opened one of my dresser drawers, rummaging through it in search of jeans.  Cursing, I swung my legs out of bed and staggered over, waving him off and pulling out a pair myself.  I didn't care to have the demon going through my clothing.  There were limits.

“I'll be downstairs in a few minutes,” I told him.

One of the few benefits of having Renfield around was that I was no longer frightened of the world after the sun set.  There were things out there.  This was a fact.  However, with a demon in tow, I no longer had any cause to be afraid of them.  Rather, they should be frightened of us.  Wearily, I dressed in clothing I wouldn’t mind having to get rid of later, and staggered down the stairs and to the garage.  Renfield was waiting at the door with the car keys.  While the demon was quite knowledgeable about the world, he lacked practical skills.  Being trapped in a clock for centuries had given him quite the breadth of knowledge.  However, he lacked the application.  While he knew all about driving, I would never trust him behind the wheel.  He'd never asked, just relinquished control of my mind if we needed to use the car.  The demon at least knew his limitations.

The transition from his corporeal body to my mind was a strange one.  I'd not quite figured out how the magic behind our agreement worked, as Renfield hadn't explained it before and was cagey at best when I tried to question him after.  I'd done a little research, but demon magic was not well understood.  Our worlds didn't interact very often.  They sat in a realm of their own, just next to ours, and there were a handful of points where the two worlds intersected and the demons could cross over.  They were well-guarded on both sides and an uneasy truce existed.  We stayed in our world and they stayed in theirs, at least, that was the theory.  Renfield's presence here was an aberration.  He could only manifest physically while on my property.  His ability to take on his own body ended at the curb and after that, he could only venture forth with his consciousness nestled somewhere inside my own mind.  His body would dissolve like mist dispersing with the sun and then I would feel the weight of his soul settle down with my own.  It felt hot, at first, and then the sensation dulled as I grew used to its weight.  I'd not yet grown used to it and I suspected I never would.  Humans weren't meant to consort with demons.

He remained quiet on our drive to the house.  It was late enough that the streets were close to deserted, although there started to be more signs of life once we reached the campus area.  Lights in the windows, the odd group out on the street.  I felt Renfield's curiosity stir and, as we passed an individual walking alone, his hunger.  That was the unsettling thing about having a demon in my head.  I could feel his emotions, as if they were my own, and while in my head I knew I would never dare harm someone – there was still that spur in my heart, whispering desire as my car whispered past him in the night.  Sometimes I wondered if my former employer had been right to fire me.  I feared the day that Renfield's presence became invisible to me.

I edged the car up against the curb and shut it off, inhaling sharply as I tried to calm my fluttering heart.  I had a badge that identified me as consulting for the police, so while it was possible to be mistaken for an intruder – assuming the neighbors even noticed – there was little cause to be concerned in that regards.  My fear was for what we'd find inside.  

The door was locked, but Peter had provided a key.  I gave Renfield control, briefly, to disable the ward on the door as well.  They were simply meant to deter the curious and triggering one would do no more than alert the caster that it had been broken, which would then bring a police car down on the interloper.  The demon pressed both palms on the surface of the door and whispered something in his own language, the syllables harsh, and the wood grew faintly warm for a moment.  Then he shoved the door open and relinquished control of the body.

Full possession was hard, he said.  The only reason he managed to ride along like he did was because I'd entered into a blood contract with him.  Taking over my body, even when I gave it over to him, was exhausting.  He had to suppress my personality, even if I wasn't trying to actively take control, else he'd be ousted simply on unconscious instinct alone.  The stronger a personality, the harder it was.  This was why demons couldn't possess most people.  They had to break their victims first.  Destroy their sense of self.  It took a long time.

He was quiet when he told me this.  

The house was dark inside and the air was thick with a musty, sour odor.  I stepped inside and flipped on the entryway lights.  There was a river of dried blood on the floor, tendrils reaching out towards me like fingers.  I staggered backwards, my chest constricting with horror, my back hitting the door behind me and slamming it shut.  I jumped and shrieked at the sound and whirled, jerking away and it was only Renfield snapping out my name, so loud inside my head that it chased away all other thoughts, that made me stop before I backed into the wall.

'There is nothing in here,' he said coldly.  'The house is empty.'

“I-is that-?” I gasped, covering my nose and mouth with both hands.

'Yes.  There's blood everywhere.  Didn't you read the case file?'

No.  The demon had hoarded it from the moment we got home.

“I don't want to do this anymore,” I said weakly, my eyes fixed on the walls.  It was like staring through a window on a rainy day, rendered in white and crimson.  “I'm going to call Peter and tell him I can't do this.”

'They're paying us and I want the overhead light fixed.  It bothers me.'  There was a surge of irritation, almost strong enough to drown out the adrenaline singing in my veins.  'Besides, it's not like you're going to come across any bodies.  Those haven't been found yet.'

That in no way reassured me.

I edged forwards into the house, trying to skirt along the narrow channel where the blood wasn't sitting in a thick stream.  I felt Renfield in my mind, alert and impatient, as I took us further into the house and towards the living room.  It sat just off the main hallway, to the left, and further along at the back of the house I could see the kitchen.  I averted my eyes, quickly.

Mentally, I braced myself when I flipped the light on for the living room.  I still had a hand over my nose and mouth, trying vainly to block out the stench of the blood, and as the lights came on I swallowed hard, trying to keep the bile down in my throat.  The carpet was sodden, the color of rust, and the walls were streaked with long loops of blood, like someone had spun about with a can of paint.  It clung to the windows and the ceiling.  I could see the imprints of feet on the carpet where the responders had walked across it and cracked the fibers, brittle with the dried blood, like sheaves of dry grass.  The furniture in the room had been shoved against the back wall, a battered couch wedged in the corner, a similarly abused coffee table pushed up against it.  There was nothing else in the room aside from the overhead light.  I felt a flash of annoyance from Renfield at that detail.  It worked.  Ours did not.

'No ritual circle,' Renfield muttered.  'Go take a look at the center of the room.'

“I am not walking in that,” I gasped.

'It's just dried blood.  Go on.'

“The police already looked at this room, we can ask them for what they found.”

'They missed something.  We wouldn't be here, otherwise.'

The annoyance was growing stronger and it bled over, feeding into my emotions, and I found myself on the verge of snapping at the demon to shut up.  I caught myself, just in time.  If I told Renfield to stop talking, he just might, and I knew – logically – that I preferred his voice in my head to silence.  

“I'm really scared,” I whispered.

A pause.  Some of the annoyance faded away and there was a warmth in my chest, like Renfield was shifting positions, his soul trying to find a more comfortable spot inside me.  He settled down like a weight pressing down on my ribcage and strangely, I found that reassuring.  I was not alone here in this house.

'There is really nothing here,' he replied gently.  'I'm a predator, Erin, and even trapped inside your body like I am, I can still sense the presence of other creatures – human or otherwise.  Whatever did this is long gone.  Now go ahead.  I really do need a closer look.'

It was difficult to force my feet to move.  I whimpered once, in the back of my throat, and stepped across the threshold into the living room.  The carpet was stiff under my shoes, crackling at my weight, and I tried not to think about what I was doing.  I kept my eyes fixed on the center of the room, conscious of Renfield's gentle reassurance in the back of my head, prodding me along.  He directed me to stop a few feet shy of the middle.  I crouched, resting my weight fully on my feet, and Renfield asked for control.  I gave it, relieved.

Then the bastard knelt, putting our knees against the carpet.  I could feel it through the fabric of our jeans and some part of my mind just went into quiet, numb, shock, reciting silently that we were kneeling in blood.  Renfield seemed oblivious to my distress.  He spread out our hands, pressing the palms against the crimson carpet.  It was like burying my skin in pine needles.  I wanted to close my eyes, to go somewhere else and pretend we weren't here, but Renfield was staring intently at the floor, muttering under his breath.

I hated his language.  It hurt, on some visceral level.  

We sat back after a few minutes of this.  My eyesight darted along the carpet, then to the walls, slowly scanning the room, until finally we stood and dusted off our palms on our jeans.  I couldn't sense any of Renfield's emotions.  Whatever he was feeling, it was hidden well.

“Someone cleaned up after themselves,” he murmured.  “There's no sign of whatever ritual was performed here.  But the confusing thing is, I can catch the scent of the people that were involved in the ritual, and all eight of them died here.  This is their blood.”

We stood and walked over to the wall.  Renfield put his fingers to the blood there, tracing its path with our nails.  

“No one else was here until the police came,” he murmured.  “At least, not that I can tell.  And how did the blood get everywhere like this?  They died in the living room, but it's all over the hallway and I thought I saw it going up the stairs as well.”

We turned, abruptly, and strode out into the hallway.  The check up the stairwell was cursory and confirmed the demon's suspicions.  The walls were streaked with blood, as if the house itself had bled out.  Disgruntled, the demon returned to the entryway and relinquished control of my body.  I shuddered, feeling light-headed, and rubbed the palms of my hands against my jeans again until they burned.  I'd touched the blood.  It had flaked off onto my skin, little flecks clinging to the lines and wrinkles.

“Can we go now?” I asked, my voice unsteady.

'Yes.  But we should go talk to the neighbors before we go home.'

“Didn't the police already do that?”

'They did.  But they're not demons.'

He sounded smug.  I stepped out onto the front patio, shutting off the lights and locking the door behind me.

“Just because we work for the police doesn't mean we still can't get arrested,” I muttered under my breath.  I tried to avoid talking to Renfield in public, as I didn't want to make a habit of seemingly talking to myself.

'You make it sound like I'm going to hurt someone.'

“I don't know.  Are you?”

A long pause as I walked down to the sidewalk.

'I'm keeping my options open,' he finally admitted.

Despite my reservations, I allowed Renfield to talk me into going to the house next door.  It took a good deal of knocking before someone responded and when they did, she left the chain on so that the door only opened a few inches.  I saw a cellphone in her hand and she kept back a short distance, staring at us from the narrow strip of open space between the door and frame.  It was, after all, almost two in the morning.

“Hi,” I said, trying to inject some measure of cheer into my voice, “I'm with the police.”

I held up my badge.  She eyed it a moment.

“You're not a police officer though,” she finally said.

“No.  Consulting only.  I handle supernatural incidents.”

“You don't look like a demon hunter.”

Renfield hissed inside my mind.  He despised the term, but that was what the public generally called people that hunted down the worst of the supernatural elements.  It was an apt enough description.  Demons were among the worst.

“Magic,” I said, and that was explanation enough.  Technically, it wasn't my magic.  Never mine.  She didn't need to know that.

“I'm really not interested in talking,” she said.  “It's too late at night and I've already talked to the police.”

Inside my head, Renfield was urging me to let him handle this.  He sounded eager and for that reason, and many others, I ignored his request.

“Look,” I said tersely, “I'm here this late at night because my partner happens to be a demon and they work best after dark.  And he's urging me right now to let him talk to you and I'm just as tired and grumpy as you are and am tempted to let him, so I suggest you give us just fifteen minutes of your time and then we'll be on our way.”

Her eyes had gone wide at the word 'demon' and she'd taken a step back and I saw her gesture, her lips silently mouthing the words to a spell.  Vision.  Checking to see if what I claimed was true, if there really was a second soul residing in my body.  I was prepared for her next reaction.  She went to slam the door, but I was already moving for it, putting a shoulder against it and it stopped cold, the impact of the wood against my muscle making me grunt.  I was, however, stronger than her.

Either that or just bigger.  I'd taken to stress eating since losing my job.

“Come on... Susan,” I said, as Renfield quietly supplied her name in my head.  It was one of the many things he could instinctively pick up on from people.  “You know some seriously bad shit went down next door, right?  We're just trying to find out what happened.”

“A demon,” she said, her voice thin with fear, as she backed away from the door.  I saw her eyes flicker to the cellphone, considering if she should call 911 yet.

“It's a long story,” I sighed.  “We've got an arrangement, though.  He can't do anything without my permission.”

“Do – do the police-?”

“Of course they know,” I said quietly.  “They're the ones that responded after I struck the bargain with the demon and needed medical help.  That's why I'm here, trying to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else.”

Hah.  If I had my way, Renfield would be gone and I'd still have my old, quiet, boring job.  I was only here because I needed the money and because I didn't think Renfield would let me ever sleep again if I didn't capitulate to his curiosity.  However, the moment of vulnerability, of empathy, was enough.  She told me to stand back and I heard her unlock the chain and then she opened the door wide enough for us to enter.  I thanked her and she said nothing in return.  Just let me back through the house, to the kitchen.  There was another young woman there, also with a cellphone.  Both were in their pajamas and the table was strewn with textbooks.  Math and psychology.  There were empty beer bottles in the kitchen sink.

“Renfield, what were your questions?” I asked of the demon, crossing my arms across my chest.

'Let me talk to them directly,' he insisted.

“No.  Absolutely not.  I'll relay your questions, just tell me what they are.”  

I glanced up, noticing that both women were staring at me.  

“I'm sorry, I'm not really talking to myself,” I said, suddenly embarrassed.  “It's just Renfield is an asshole and I'd rather not have him direct the conversation.”

“It's okay,” the roommate said abruptly.  “I'll talk to the demon.”

For a moment, I just looked at her.  She seemed earnest enough and, reluctantly, I let Renfield take the helm.  Instantly, my posture changed.  He shifted the weight to one leg, half turning one shoulder, and his eyes narrowed at the young woman.  There was a tightness to my muscles, an anticipatory alertness.  Demons were, after all, predators, and here was some easy prey.

“You told the police you didn't know the neighbors that well,” Renfield said quietly.  “That wasn't entirely true, was it?”

“Look, whatever happened was bad stuff,” she said uneasily, rubbing her hands over her arms and looking away.  “I was studying upstairs when it happened and it was like – there was this shockwave.  It didn't disturb anything, but I felt it.  I-I wanted-”

Her voice faltered.  The other woman was staring studiously at the floor.

“-like you wanted to hurt yourself, maybe?” Renfield prompted.

“Yeah.  I wanted to claw my eyes out.  When it passed, I had scratches all down my cheeks.”  She glanced up to stare at us.  “How did you know?”

“A failed spell will send out a current,” he replied calmly.  “It carries with it the last imprints of the person casting it and in this case, since the casters died, it carried their deaths, and it stands to reason they died in agony.”

She shivered and turned pale.

“I wasn't home,” the other woman said quietly.  “There was only one person living next door.  Marcus Herringwood.  He had rich parents or something because he's the only one person on this street that can afford the rent without a roommate.  We kind of got to know him at the start of the school year but then he, I don't know, started getting weird.”

“Had people over a lot,” the roommate muttered.  “Not just other students, either.  There were some nice cars parked out front – not super nice, just better than what most of us have.  And I swear one of the girls looked like she was still in highschool.  That's when we stopped associating with him.  Thought maybe he was a creep.”

“Was there anyone else that did the same?” I asked.  “Someone that knew him a bit better, perhaps, and is still around for us to talk to?”

Someone that wasn't dead, in other words.  She leaned against the kitchen counter while she considered, finally glancing at the other woman and the two traded names for a moment, speculating.

“Ryan Harris,” she finally told me.  “Super nice guy.  Was dating one of the girls that would go over to Marcus's house and they broke up around the time we stopped associating with Marcus.  He lives in the apartments between the railroad track and the movie theater.”

I knew where it was.  The movie theater was one of the nicest in town, so I'd been there a number of times.  I doubted there was anything else the girls could give me, so I thanked them both, and let Susan escort me to the door.  Then, in the entryway, I turned to regard her as curiosity overcame me.

“You didn't tell the police this,” I said quietly, “but you told me.  Why is that?”

She met my gaze, unflinching.

“I didn't think the police could protect us,” she said.  “I didn't think they'd find out what happened.  They'd just clear the house of any residual magic and it'd become yet another unsolved case.    But... you have a demon.”

Her expression turned wary.

“You're going to find whatever did this, right?”  Her voice was soft.  “You're going to keep it from coming back?”

She just wanted to keep her head down and hope she wasn't involved any further.  That she didn't get hurt.

'Tell her we'll hunt it down,' Renfield prompted.  

I did, and she seemed relieved at that.  On the walk back to the car, I checked my cellphone.  Two thirty in the morning.  I knew that I should go home and get some sleep, but the demon inside me was coiled tight with agitation, and I knew he wouldn't be satisfied until we followed up with Ryan Harris.  More people to wake up in the dead of night.  I hissed in irritation as I got into the car and started the engine.

“I didn't expect you to be reassuring,” I said to the demon.

'That was a lie,' he replied.  'If it comes back, there isn't a damn thing I'll be able to do to keep them safe.'

“Besides finding it first?”

He just laughed in my head, dry and cruel.  I just shook my head and eased the car out into the empty road.
Renfield's Clock - Chapter 3
Remember, this is my NaNoWriMo novel, so continuity and thinking things through be damned!
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Since I'm doing NaNoWriMo, I wrote this little blog post about it.  It features my best illustration to date.  Seriously.  I'm super-proud of it.

road-rage-letters.tumblr.com/p…

So here's the thing. I have only done NaNoWriMo once. It was while I was in the throes of my illness and taking a ton of meds. As a result... that month got nuked from my memory. I had to e-mail someone that was my writing buddy, asking if he remembered anything of my plot, so I could then run a search on my C: drive to find the folder I'd stashed the novel in.

I still haven't read it. I can't. It's too weird, like someone else wrote it.

And it's also terrible and I get this horrible second-hand embarrassment when I look at it.

So that's my NaNoWriMo story.

I've been getting some friends that are doing it, some people asking if I'm doing it too, so while I KNOW I shouldn't add anything else to my plate, I'm kind of tempted to give it another shot. I usually give myself a little bit of time each evening to kick back and relax, I'll just shuffle that time into NaNo and I should be able to crank out the required word count each evening.

The question is, what do I write about? My coworker was asking, so I wrote up some ideas and sent them to her. She voted for one and I won't say what it is. I do not favor any one of these over the other, so let me know which looks interesting.

Renfield:

Modern era, world is much the same except magic and supernatural stuff is commonly known and just part of life. People can learn magic at the local library. Protagonist is part of the 20% of the population that has an adverse reaction to magic and gets violently ill, so she’s without. Story starts with someone dumping a cursed (and homicidal) artifact on her doorstep. Instead of trying to get rid of it and cursing someone else in the process, she negotiates with the demon trapped inside. Now he lives in her house and when she leaves, he rides along in her head. She’s lost her job as a result (apparently HR wasn’t too happy with the pseudo-possession aspect) and to make ends meet, the demon suggests they freelance for the police working on their high-casualty supernatural cases that typically never get solved because they’re too dangerous.

Hijinks ensue.

Death's daughter:

Modern era, young adult. The supernatural is kiiiind of known about, but most people assume it’s completely separate from their lives and doesn't really interact with the world at large. The main character loses her mother and the grim reaper takes a personal interest in her situation, contacting a government agency that is like the FBI for the supernatural, and they take custody of her and place her with a retired agent’s family, conveniently close to their HQ. She gets a bit older, starts highschool, then starts seeing weird things at school, gets suspended for fighting, and death shows up for a father-daughter talk, because she’s the kid he didn’t know he had. He then talks the supernatural FBI into letting her help them, because she’s effectively immortal as death has no desire to take his daughter to the underworld, and because she can see and interact with said underworld and it’s currently being ruled by a queen that is slowly invading the mundane world and unraveling the world at the seams. And she’s got a chokehold on death and he’s unable to overthrow her without help, and hopes that his daughter will be just the help he needs.

Samantha:

Modern era, young adult, mix of sci-fi/fantasy. Main character gets pulled into an in-between realm that connects all the other worlds by a boy in need of saving. He’s currently being held at a ‘hub’ that controls all the networks between worlds, as he’s a ‘key’ that can open gates between and is being used to connect one part of the universe. The protagonist is also a key to another part of the universe and the hub would really love to get their hands on her as well, as they’re currently engaged in a conquest of the various settled worlds. She basically spends the story running from them, as well as the monsters that inhabit the hub, as the previous ‘key’ is being kept in suspended animation because she ripped open the worlds and the hub was forced to imprison her. The monsters are born out of her nightmares and are what’s keeping the boy a prisoner there, the hub is just exploiting that to their advantage. The main character gets some people to help her from the various worlds of varying technological levels that are sick of the hub’s control, and they find the boy, wake the sleeping key, realize ‘oh shit she’s crazy and is responsible for the monsters’ and have to undo their mistake. I’ve also been wanting to write about a protagonist with a disability and this is one I’d do that with.

Keepers:

Future dystopia, a world war has rendered most of the planet radioactive and inhabitable. The biggest human settlement is a single city, building up and down in one of the few ‘safe’ areas left. It’s not too terrible of a dystopia, they just have to manage everything since resources are so limited now. With the world war, a lot of the old supernatural things in hiding have started to take over the remnants of the world, as they’re not affected by the toxins in the environment as the humans are. The main character is the second-oldest remaining vampire, helping shelter a bunch of the other surviving vampires. Their nest is raided by the city and they’re brought to said city and then recruited into taking up a very old tradition of keeping the other supernaturals in check so they don’t wipe out humanity. Because vampires are about the only supernatural that is sympathetic to humans. Technically the job is for the oldest vampire, but he’s too busy playing politics with the city, and delegates to the protagonist.

And I'm adding this one by request: Langley's Ark:

Other world, steampunk. Ships hover instead of sail over the ocean, twin mages that own their own ship are employed for a research mission to the south pole investigating where undead penguins are coming from. A member of the royal... secret police? organization is assigned to tag along to arrest said necromancer, because necromancy is illegal. Then they find the necromancer and she's 12 years old. Hijinks ensue.


Also, I'm Fainting Goat on the website.

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Bonnie Quinn (which is totally a penname)
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
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I write. I draw. I write way too much. I paint and play the harp. And I'm part of the Society for Creative Anachronism as Lady Brighid of Red Spears.

kiki-doodle drew that awesomeness for me.
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:iconsaraplante:
SaraPlante Featured By Owner Edited Nov 15, 2014  Professional General Artist

Thank you so much for the favorite on Reprisal! Also, since you seem interested in goats check out my piece The Kids!

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sleepyowlet Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I love your minecraft textures. To bits. Thank you so much for creating and sharing that thing of utter beauty!
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jf123 Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Have a Llama for writing good stories. They are enjoyable.
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:iconkiki-doodle:
kiki-doodle Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Thought of you!!
i am goat. by sketchinthoughts
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
LOVE IT.
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Aviskye Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2014
Darn, I missed your birthday. Facepalm Have a very late happy birthday and a very late merry Christmas and a very late happy New Year and a llama badge from me. XD
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you.  :)
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Rakuen-Ookami Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2013
Hope you had a happy birthday!
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I had an AWESOME birthday, thank you!
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:iconsabreur:
Sabreur Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2013
Auuugh.  I'm so behind on reading your stuff.

WHY DO YOU WRITE SO MUCH.

WHY DO YOU MAKE IT GOOD ENOUGH THAT I CAN'T SKIP ANY OF IT.

D-:
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