“Hello again, Rachael Haven.” The cold voice slipped out of the dark room like frost over the windows. It held the quiet malice of an old Bond villian, greeting the hero just after his capture. Amber’s hand flew to her mouth and she turned to me wide-eyed.
I rolled my eyes, pushing the door the rest of the way open as I walked in.
“Hi Jackie,” I said brightly. “I wasn’t expecting you.” The room brightened as I entered, revealing a row of seven framed mirrors on one wall. In one mirror, a small creature looked out of frosted glass. Vaguely humanoid in appearance, it stood about 3 feet high, with long black horns that added an extra foot to their height. Their skin was an icy blue, covered in bony ridges in dark blue patterns. They stared out of the mirror with white snake eyes peeking out of shaggy, pure white hair.
The demon scoffed, their breath clouding the mirror. “I wish you would at least pretend to be scared of me.”
“I think you scared the new girl, that’s the best I can offer you,” I said.
Jackie’s face peeled into a grin, revealing razor sharp teeth. “You have a new librarian? When do I get to meet her?”
“Now,” I said with a shrug, “if she wants to.”
I heard a squeak outside the door of my chamber. “Your call,” I yelled out to Amber.
There was a moment of silence as we both waited for Amber’s answer.
“H-Hello?” she said, hesitantly poking her head around the door frame. Her hair had come loose since last night, and loose waves hung around her elven face. She inspected room with quick eyes. Several mannequins stood along one wall, covered in various bits of armour. Several brown leather books on a shelf covered in shiny trinkets and globes. And in a corner, my reason for coming. Amber brushed the hair out of her face nervously.
Jackie’s grin spread until it practically touched their ears. The demon leaned forward until their face practically touched the glass. “Hello, little mage.”
Amber looked no less terrified to have seen the imp.
I snorted. “This is Jaxihaime,” I said, gesturing at the mirror. “You can come in if you want, they can’t hurt you here. But don’t touch the glass. Or anything, really.”
Amber looked like she might rather handle a king cobra. “H-Hi Jaxihaime.”
“I like this one, she’s fun,” the demon cooed at me.
I rolled my eyes. “You should also know that some demon consider names to have power over their owners, which is why I haven’t introduced you yet. Take care.”
“He knows your name though?” Amber said cautiously from outside the door.
“Quick learner, this one,” Jackie said.
I scowled. “Doesn’t matter, they’re trapped and we have a pact. One which I assume still holds, as you’re in the mirror again.”
I addressed the last part to the demon and they scowled back at me. “Yes, yes. Our pact ends when your life ends. Where I’m located doesn’t change the pact.”
“Well good,” I said, turning my attention away from them. I went to the shelves first, opening up a set of drawers and pulling out a set of clean clothes and a roll of bandages. Jackie and Amber spoke as I walked into a corner, pulling out a changing screen.
“So then, little mage,” Jackie crooned through the glass. “Will you tell me your name?”
Amber hesitated. “I don’t think so.”
The demon sounded put out. “Why not?” they asked as I stripped off my bloody jeans. I dealt with the scratch on my leg first, wrapping the bandage around it several times.
“You’re only trapped while Rachael is alive,” Amber said. “If she dies and I don’t, you’re free with my name.”
“This one learns too fast, Rachael,” Jackie complained as I pulled on the wide legged, black pants. “Why don’t you bring me the slow ones?”
“The dumb ones don’t become librarians,” I called over the screen. The pant legs slipped into high leather boots which I strapped tightly to my calves. “Their life expectancy is too low.”
“Surely there must be some powerful, yet dumb mages within your midst,” Jackie complain as I stripped off my red leather jacket and blouse. I sighed, fingering the tear that the thorns had left in the leather. I liked that jacket.
“Even if there was, Jackie,” I said, pulling on a dark purple silk shirt, “I wouldn’t bring them down here to meet you.”
“You said you weren’t expecting me,” the demon huffed.
“I wasn’t,” I said simply, stepping out from behind the curtain fully clothed. I looped the chain for my key twice around my neck, dropping it back into the shirt so it nestled in my chest. “Why were you released from your book?”
“Somebody wanted my stronger siblings released,” Jackie purred. “I was a fortunate enough to slip out first.”
I laughed. “So now you’re hiding from them in my basement.”
“You have always been far better company,” the demon replied.
“Flattery will get you nowhere,” I said, turning back to the mannequins in the corner. They wore a variety of armour. One in dark chainmail, another in full plate armour. It was tempting, but chainmail tended to attract more attention than it was worth. Another of them wore a black leather breastplate, I undressed it clumsily, slipping on the light armour.
“Do you need help?” Amber asked from the doorway as I struggled with the leather spaulders.
I turned my back towards her. “Can you do up that strap?” I asked, pointing with my bandaged hand. Amber stepped into the room.
“You’re bleeding,” the demon remarked.
“I’m surprised you’re just noticing,” I said as she buckled up the armour. “Normally that’s your first comment.”
The demon waved a hand, leaning closer to the glass. “You are always bleeding. No, she is bleeding.”
I looked over my shoulder at Amber, grabbing her hand. Sure enough, the cuts on her hand had bled through the thin bandages. “Does it hurt?” I asked.
“Not really,” she said.
“You’ll have to bandage that again,” I said, gesturing toward the medical supplies. Amber nodded gratefully, going to the drawer.
“It smells wrong,” Jaxihaime said, pale eyes millimeters from the glass. “What caused this?”
Amber looked at me questioningly and I shook my head at her. The demon turned to me. “Answer me, Rachael.”
“That answer will cost you a heal,” I said. “Same terms as last time.”
Jackie nodded, placing one icy blue hand up against the glass of the mirror. I walked up to the mirror, placing my bandaged hand against a four-fingered clawed one. All of the cuts on my body seared with cold, the pain nearly indistinguishable from fire. I hissed my breath through clenched teeth and my body tensed. I didn’t dare move my hand or touch the glass.
After a moment the pain faded. I slumped forward, bracing myself against the wall, and the demon retreated from the glass.
“Are you okay?” Amber asked. I nodded, not quite trusting my voice yet.
“I thought you said not to touch the glass,” Amber added.
“I still don’t recommend it,” I said darkly, finally straightening up. A quick check in the mirror beside Jackie’s showed that the demon had done good work again. I couldn’t even see the line where Amber had slashed me. I unwrapped the bandage on my hand and the two long cuts had vanished, replaced by white scars.
“You promised an answer,” Jackie reminded me from their prison as I walked to the wardrobe that stood beside the mannequins.
“Thorns were the cause,” I replied, shrugging on a long black trenchcoat that hung inside. “Thank you Jackie, you do good work.”
The blue demon pouted. “That’s hardly a fitting reward for my efforts.”
“If I had a better answer, I might share it,” I said, adjusting the coat.
“I can heal you too.” The demon grinned predatorily at Amber. She looked at me hesitantly.
“Don’t,” I warned. I reached in once more, hefting out my bastard sword. I ran a hand over the sheathe, sliding it open to check the long, black blade. Still sharp. I grinned as I slipped it over my head, feeling it’s familiar weight.
The demon huffed at me, sulking near the back of their mirror.
“Shall we see what’s in your room?” I asked Amber. The girl nodded anxiously.
“Goodbye, Jackie.” I waved as we left. “Thanks for your help.”