Isla takes a deep breath. Of all the things for Lucian to be right about, she really didn’t want it to be this. “It had to be Caelan,” she says softly. “Liam can’t touch anything.”
“We don’t know that,” Lucian says. “He only said he was cursed to stay in this house, and you don’t need to touch things to interact with them when you have magic. He’d hardly be the first witch to lose his body.”
Isla remembers Liam passing through the doorway, Caelan’s hand passing through his body. Was that all some elaborate ruse?
“But if he’s cursed to stay in the house, then where is he?” Isla asks. “He’s not in the main room, he’s not in the kitchen, he’s not here…”
Lucian looks up at Isla. “The dock. You remember what Caelan said, they go out onto the dock together, and–”
A loud keening screech breaks through the sound of pounding rain, sharp and otherworldy.
The very sound chills Isla to the bone. She doesn’t need to be told twice. She scrambles out of the bedroom, out onto the porch and into the pouring rain.
There, silhouetted against the gray sky and water, is the demon. It looks even bigger now, its presence seeming to loom all the way into the sky, far beyond its physical shadowy form.
Lucian grabs Isla’s arm and tugs her back. “Don’t look at it,” she says.
Isla tears her eyes away and looks out to the dock. She can barely make out the silhouette of a person at the edge.
Lucian’s grip tightens. “Sol!” she screams, barreling past Isla.
Isla runs after her. “Lucian!”
Liam stands at the edge of the dock with a stone in his hands, held high and glowing purple. He spares a glance at Lucian, but doesn’t react as she lunges for him with her knife, and passes straight through him and into the water.
“Liam,” Isla says, stepping up to the dock. “You’re the witch?”
“I’m a witch,” Liam says. “Not that you can talk.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’re a witch, aren’t you?” Liam sneers. “All that magic and you’re not even using it.”
“I am not a witch, and definitely not a witch like you!” Isla shouts. “I’d never summon that thing! Why would you ever do something like that!?”
Liam snarls. “Because I’m cursed!” he screams. “I’ve been trapped in this house for a year without my body! Do you know what it’s like to be chained to a place with no way to get yourself out?”
“So you summoned a demon?” Isla shouts.
Liam shoots her a poisonous look. “How else am I supposed to do anything? Caelan can’t go outside without catching on fire. A demon can be my hands and eyes, no matter what time or conditions. That shooting star was my chance, and I took it.”
“You can’t even control that thing!”
Liam clenches his transparent fingers around the glowing stone. “I beg to differ,” he says. He faces the demon and holds the stone aloft, shouting, “Come! Give me the gem.”
The demon shudders, but barely seems to move from its position in the water.
Growling, Liam holds his purple stone higher and shouts, “I compel you to give me the gem so I can free myself from this prison!”
There’s a purple flash and the demon creaks and collapses into the water with an enormous splash. It bows its head before Liam at the foot of the dock, a small green flame materializing from its head. The flame grows, dragging out the demon’s presence and size until it’s only about the height of a human.
Isla grits her teeth. Her memories.
“Stop!” Isla shouts as Liam tosses his purple stone aside and grabs the green flame out of the air.
The demon screams, screeching with a cacophonic sound that shakes Isla to her bones. Lightning and thunder crash down on the lake, splitting the air with sound and force.
Liam looks at Isla’s memories and smiles. “It’s been a long time,” he says. “All this, it’s all worth it. Just for this.” He presses the flame to his heart, and it sinks into his chest, through his skin. Purple light spreads across his body, making him unmistakably solid.
He steps back and looks at his hands, flexing them and turning them this way and that. “A body,” he breathes. “Finally, I can touch things again, and–” He looks up at Isla and his hands flare with purple fire. “I think we’re done here.”
“No!” Isla shouts, lunging for Liam. She has to do something, anything. “You can’t–”
Liam sweeps his hand aside and Isla goes flying off the dock. “Kill her!” he screams.
Isla plunges down into the water and hears no more.
For a long moment, there’s nothing but silence and blackness.
Isla sinks. She registers coldness against her skin, all over, and the feeling of being dragged down slowly. Light resolves in her vision, but just barely.
A black figure in the water darts towards her.
Get away! She thinks, thrusting out a hand, and there’s a blast of pink light that makes the thing recoil, but only for a moment.
It rears back, then charges at her through the water. It swipes once, twice, shearing Isla’s pack right off, everything spilling out into the water.
Isla panics and tries to get away, but she needs air, she can’t breathe, and the demon strikes her all the way to the lake floor. She opens her mouth to shout but water rushes in and she chokes on it as her vision dims and her limbs refuse to move.
There. Glowing purple catches her eye.
She blinks blearily and can barely make out the glowing purple stone Liam had used, and the phial with the remaining pieces of it, barely a few feet away.
Liam had used that stone to control the demon. The stone is broken, but the spell is still there, and maybe that’s enough.
With limbs that feel like lead, she scoops up the fragments of the stone in a handful of silt and pushes her power into them. It floods out of her in a rush of pink light, and she feels the magic in the stones resist, then bow and shatter under her power.
The demon swoops at her and she thinks, Stop!
Get me out of here, Isla thinks as her vision goes black. Get me out of this lake.
There’s a flash of purple and she feels magic press through her fingers like a physical force pushing out. The demon grabs her by the front of her shirt and drags her up to the surface.
There’s a rushing sound in her ears, then the din of rain on the lake as she breaks the water’s surface. The demon drops her on the wood planks of the dock and she coughs and splutters, trying to get the water out of her lungs and get air back in. She can barely see, barely hear what’s going on through the haziness in her head and the rain and lightning crashing all around her.
Then, through the noise–sounds of fighting.
“Give Sol back, you sons of bitches!” Lucian screams amidst the screech of steel clashing against steel. “Where is she?!”
“Get away from my boyfriend!” Caelan yells. “He hasn’t done anything wrong, I won’t let you hurt him!”
Weapons smash together, throwing sparks in the darkness. Isla makes out three figures in the rain–hazy silhouettes of what must be Caelan and Liam attacking Lucian. There’s a flash of purple fire and Lucian screams.
Isla clutches the broken pieces of the magic stone in her hand, glowing purple, and says, “Stop the fighting. Make Liam and Caelan stop.”
The demon rises behind her–she feels it more than sees it–and it vanishes into the shadows, only to appear right behind Caelan as they launch themself at Lucian another time.
The demon snatches Caelan by the throat and with a swift movement, it smashes them against the rocks with a sickening crunch. Caelan doesn’t move after that.
The demon turns on Liam.
“No!” Liam screams. “You’re my demon! How could you! You can’t hurt Caelan, you–”
The demon steps towards him and Liam snarls.
“Get away from me,” he says, flinging his hands out with a lash of purple light. It winds around the demon and ensnares it, trapping it even as the demon’s form shifts and twists to try and escape. “If you won’t listen to me, then you won’t exist at all!”
With a sharp yank, the cords of purple light collapse inward, banishing the demon in a flash of silver light.
Panting, Liam turns and faces Isla. “You think you’re so clever, do you? Stealing my demon? Murdering my boyfriend?” He steps forward and pulls Isla up by the collar with burning hands–so hot that Isla can feel it burning her. “I’m going to make you pay.”
Isla, whose limbs all feel like jelly, can’t do anything to respond but cough as Liam lowers a glowing purple hand to her face.
Then, just before he manages to touch her, Liam shudders and freezes.
Lucian pulls her knife out of Liam’s heart, and Liam collapses onto the dock in a lifeless heap. Lucian kicks it aside. “That’s what you get,” she growls. “Good riddance.”
Slowly, Liam’s body fades, then dissipates into shreds of purple light, leaving nothing but a green flame in his place. Isla reaches out and takes it. When she opens her hand, it’s nothing more than a smooth green stone.