She steadied herself, trying to calm the furious pounding of her heart. Into the silence she said, simply, "Silas."
At first, nothing. Then the hair hanging in front of her face stirred as though moved by a breath. A sourceless breeze fluttered the fringe of the rolled up carpet. A paper blew across the room, fetching up against the wall, and all 5 candles snuffed out at once
Elisabeth forgot to breathe as she concentrated on the darkness in the circle before her. Was it darker, there at the center, or was she imagining it?
Nathaniel’s voice floated faintly into the room, but she ignored it. She strained her eyes, willing the darkness to recede, trying to see—
Suddenly, the candles flared back to life with a whoosh and her startled eyes locked with those of the figure standing at the center of the circle.
Distantly, she heard Nathaniel’s cane tapping down the hall, but all her attention was focused on Silas. And he was Silas, not Silariathas. He was just as she remembered him; slight and pale and refined, not a hair out of place. His eyes were dark pools with only a tiny ring of yellow around them, but he didn’t look hungry, as he had the last time she’d seen him standing in this circle. He looked… relieved.
Nathaniel’s voice broke off as he rounded the corner of the stacked furniture and boxes. His eyes widened with shock and he gasped, dropping his cane and stumbling over a chair leg as he rushed to her side. His face drained of color as he dropped to his knees beside her, eyes locked onto the figure waiting patiently at the center of the circle.
“Silas?” he whispered, voice shaking with awe and disbelief.
Silas inclined his head slightly, waiting.
Nathaniel’s hand shot out, grabbing the dagger that rested at Elisabeth’s side. He fumbled it, cursing as it sliced into the pad of his thumb. His arm trembled as he held it out before him, letting two drops of blood drip onto the circle.
The ghost of a smile touched Silas’ lips. “As I believe I have told you before, I can only serve one—“ He paused, his eyes widening, as the dark, glistening droplets disappeared.
“Well,” he said bemusedly, after a moment, “it seems I was wrong.”
Nathaniel’s voice shook slightly as he said “I offer you twenty years of my life in exchange for your service.”
Silas tilted his head to the side, considering. “No,” he said softly, “I believe this time I shall ask fifteen. Of each of you,” he added, quelling Nathaniel’s protest.
Their voices twines as they instantly said “done.”
Silas’ smile grew as he stepped out of the circle and clasped one of their hands in each of his.
Elisabeth’s stomach swooped as she felt the years she had promised drain from her, as she watched the silver bleed back into Nathaniel’s hair.
“I am your devoted servant,” Silas said, speaking clearly and deliberately. “Through me you are conferred the art of sorcery. Any command that you give I shall obey.”
“Silas,” Nathaniel whispered, disbelieving, once he had finished, “You’re back. I thought—“
Silas’ yellow eyes were tender as he gazed at him. “Yes, Master. I know.” He squeezed Nathaniel’s hand, and then Elisabeth’s. “Miss Scri— Mistress.” He smiled wryly. “This will take some getting used to.”
“Now,” he said, dropping their hands and glancing despairingly at the pile of discarded furniture. “Let me see about dinner, and then I shall deal with this mess.”
Elisabeth and Nathaniel moved to follow him, but he paused at Nathaniel’s soft moan as he tried to use his injured leg.
“You are hurt, Master,” he said, bending and pushing up Nathaniel’s pant leg to inspect the wound.
Nathaniel leaned heavily on Elisabeth’s arm as he tried to put weight on his leg. “It’s nothing. Just a souvenir from the battle with the Arkon. If you’d be so kind as to hand me my cane, we can—“
“No, master. Allow me to help you.” Silas considered the wound for a moment, a small frown forming between his eyebrows. “I cannot heal it entirely,” he finally said, “for it was caused by a power far greater than my own. But I can ease the pain.”
He pressed his hand to Nathaniel’s knee, and Nathaniel jerked in surprise, gripping Elisabeth’s arm so tightly that his knuckles went white. After a moment, his grip eased, and he flexed his knee experimentally, then put his weight on it. When it held, he withdrew his arm from Elisabeth’s. She rubbed absently at the marks his fingers had left, and tried not to miss their warmth.
Silas stood, looking satisfied, then pressed Nathaniel's cane into his hand and led them into the hall.
As Elisabeth moved toward the stairs, Nathaniel took her hand. “Wait,” he said, staring at her hair, where she knew the silver streak must match his own. “Can you do magic now?”
She paused, frowning. “I don’t know,” she said, finally. “I hadn’t considered.” She shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know how I would even find out.”
“Here,” he said, holding out his hand. “Try this.” He whispered several Enochian words and she was surprised to find that they didn’t wiggle and buzz in her mind as they had done before. A small green flame appeared in his hand and he stared at it for a moment, a soft smile tugging up the corners of his lips. Then he closed his hand around the flame and when he opened it again, the flame was gone.
“Now you try,” he whispered, so close that his breath stirred the tendrils of hair curling around her face.
Elisabeth chewed the corner of her lip in concentration as she tried to banish thoughts of his distracting nearness and repeat the words he had used. She felt a curious tingle as they passed her lips, and then a small green flame burst into being on her hand.
It wasn’t hot — it felt more like a faint tickle than anything. She stared at it, mouth open in wonder. She was a sorcerer. She was a sorcerer. She wondered what the Director — Irina— would think about that. But she already knew the answer. She had known Elisabeth wasn’t destined to be a warden, and she had loved her anyway. She stared into the flame, basking in the realization of that love, in the knowledge that she was free.
Then Nathaniel’s hand closed around hers, snuffing the flame. She looked up at him, startled, as he began backing her toward the wall.
“What?” she asked, eyes widening as he pressed closer to her.
“That,” he said, eyes intent on her face as he pressed her inexorably backward, “was the sexiest thing I have ever seen.” Her back hit the wall, and he swooped in and kissed her. A surprised laugh bubbled to her lips and he grinned, kissing her with wicked intent.
Then he pulled back, eyes dancing with mischief. “The Magisterium is going to hate this,” he said, sounding supremely satisfied. “This is going to be such fun.”
“What do you mean?” Elisabeth asked, heart still racing and mind a whirl of thoughts and emotions.
He grinned. “Have you met any sorcerers who are women?”
She opened her mouth, then closed it again. Had she? But surely there were some… She thought again of how the various powerful men she had met had treated her, and wondered.
“Exactly,” he said, tapping her chest with his finger. “And one demon serving two sorcerers at the same time? You, you menace, are going to shake things up until those pompous idiots don’t know up from down, and it will be delightful.”