“Dæmon” excerpt 2

Taking a small vial from her pack, Nekane rubbed a glittery, syrupy mixture between her fingers, not enough to rub it in completely, but enough to thoroughly coat the tips of her fingers in it.

“Hold out your hands,” she instructed, flexing her fingers.

As she began to slowly apply the goo to his fingernails, Zane snorted. “I didn’t peg you for a debutante. Are you going to paint my toes, too?” At her mild glare he grinned sheepishly. “So what is this guck anyway?”

“Give it a minute,” she said by way of answer. When she was finished she went on to gently rub the tips of his ears with the mixture as well. She then had him bare his teeth, where she applied a small amount to his canines. Finally Nekane stepped back and looked at him. “Wait. Close your left eye.” He did as instructed and, very gently, she placed the pad of her thumb across his eyelid, swiping slightly to cover the entirety of it. “There. Now we can at least explain your human stink.”

“I’m still not sure what exactly you did,” he said. But when Zane glanced down at his hands—the only part of him that had the stuff applied to it that he could see—his eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. “What the hell is in that stuff, miracle grow?!”

Nekane smiled slyly. “You should look at the rest of you.” Sobering slightly she added, “Now don’t get water on yourself; it neutralizes the illusory effect.”

Zane was too busy staring at his hands to really comprehend her words. His fingernails, which hadn’t exactly been manicured before, looked clean, neat, but also elongated and sharp. Claws, he realized, glancing at Nekane’s own hands to look at her set of deadly nails. Hers weren’t as awkwardly long as his new set was, but still deadly looking.

Then her words sunk in and he dug into his own pack for the small mirror his mother said he should bring even though he’d thought it silly. He gasped, which then revealed his hidden teeth, and gasped again. His ears now resembled Nekane’s in their pointed tips—though his were longer, peeking more prominently through his dark hair—as did his teeth. Both ears and canines were longer and sharper, and Zane tested the tip of one tooth on his lip. A bead of blood oozed up—definitely real and not an illusion! Then he noticed his left eye was not how he’d last saw it. Instead of the normal green he’d seen his whole life, it was an odd, sulfurous-yellow color.

He looked up at Nekane in almost-horror. “What the hell is in that?” he repeated.

“A little ‘magic’ and plants. Handy, isn’t it?” She looked around his side and then focused on a spot above his eyes, humming thoughtfully to herself. “I should probably give you horns and a tail, too…”

“No!” he said immediately, dropping the mirror in an effort to cover both his lower back and forehead with his hands. He crouched low protectively. “I think this is enough!”

“All right,” she conceded easily, and Zane figured she’d just mentioned the extra extremities to rile him up, “I just don’t want you getting eaten.”

“Question,” he said, standing and raising his hand a tad. She nodded for him to go on. “Why just one eye?”

“I told you,” Nekane said, playing the part of a long-suffering genius among a hoard of idiots, “to explain your smell. We can doll you up all we want, but the human smell is still all over you—understandably. And,” she went on, seeing he was about to interject, “Half-demons, more often than not, have two different colored eyes—I don’t know why, probably the bloods mixing. They also have a faint stink of human from that sire, so you won’t be too conspicuous. Where we’re going, the demons will sniff, look and then strike, thankfully. Or not strike, depending. Most other places they’ll sniff and strike and won’t bother looking. So,” she pointed to him, “a disguise is kind of essential.”

“Oh.”

“And make sure you don’t accidentally make it wear off,” she went on, narrowing her eyes threateningly. “Scinn is expensive. And it was a pain to steal this much. I’d rather not have to actually pay for it.”

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