“I’m human?!”

“Shush!” I quickly put my hands on his mouth, slowly removing them as I speak.

“It’s only temporary. My assumption that the ring would incapacitate you was partially correct. I thought the ring was meant to control demons, but it seems the original purpose was to contain demons.”

“So I…”

“It traps your demon half and leaves you normal.”

“I was normal!” He struggles to stand. He’s not used to relying on so much less strength.

“You were half demon. How is that normal?”

“It was normal for me. I felt normal. Fine. Peachy. Now, I’m stuck relearnin’ to walk. Get this ring offa me!”

I am an evil, evil man.

“…No.”

“Excuse me? You can’t leave me like this!”

“Actually, this works perfectly. I don’t have to worry about a child running around with the strength to rip this house to shreds, or disappearing and just leaving his aura to try and guess where he is.”

He glared at me. Thinking. Probably considering how to kill me.

“And if you do still want to help, if we get in a pinch, a quick snap and all your abilities come back.”

“Fine. I’m just as curious to find what’s makin’ this ruckus as you…”

That was close.

“…but you better believe I’ll rip your head off if you don’t get this damn thing offa me as soon as we’re done.”

Well, close enough.

“Fantastic. My name is Archibald Branner. Please, call me Branner.” I extend my hand.

“Call me Con.”

He takes my hand, and I pull him to his feet.

I walk to the door and step out of the room. The two servants Dr. Maladar had stationed to keep watch seemed unnerved by my rather callous attitude towards the former intruder, but I insisted Con accompany me during the investigation.

I didn’t say this aloud, but he makes a perfect bodyguard. He seems resistant to physical and magical attacks. Not to mention that whatever is occurring at this residence wasn’t enough to drive him away either means it isn’t as dangerous as I thought, Con is stronger than I initially assumed, or he’s just foolish. Considering how easily he’ll let emotions control him, I can’t rule out the third option. Still, he will come in handy.

“How are you doing, Con? Finding it easier to walk?”

“A bit. Still feel like a gorram babe.”

“I imagine that will wear off soon.” I hope.

“Where we goin’?”

“You were a small anomaly I was curious about. Now that this little deviation is finished, we should try to find the altar used to summon the demon here. Such a ritual would require a large area, and keeping the demon partially contained means-“

“Means it take a while. They don’t wanna be disturbed.”

“Yes. Precisely. How much would you say you know about your heritage?”

He gives me a look. I realize he didn’t understand me.

“How much would you say you know about demons?”

He looks down, a little sheepish when he replies.

“A bit. Enough to get by, at least.”

“Then this might prove an educational experience. Your kind are a complicated creature.”

“You know I’m half human too, right? ‘Sides, they ain’t ‘my kind.’ Most want me dead just as much as you humans…”

We find our way back to the grand foyer. Almost the entire blood bath from yesterday was gone. Dr. Maladar’s workers were very efficient. Still, the carving in the center of the room was what I was more interested in.

“Give… me… the… girl….,” Con says.

I turn to my new companion. That is odd.

“Con, can you read?”

“No, sir.”

“Interesting. Because what is carved in the floor here says ‘Give the girl to me’ yet you couldn’t read this. How did you know what the sentiment was?”

“Just a feeling. Like when you know someone is about to leave a room.”

“You know when someone is about to leave a room? Have you always had these types of precognitive abilities?”

He was looking uncomfortable. Likely due to the attention of the investigation being turned back to him and the lingering effects of his transformation.

“I guess. Thought it was normal.”

“It’s not, and that is what I find odd. Your demonic abilities should be sealed right now, yet you can still sense certain energies.”

“…..So, why would a demon want a girl for? He feelin’ frisky?”

Humor to disarm the situation. He doesn’t like talking about himself. I suppose I can throw him a bone.

“There’s a variety of reasons a demon would want a human child. Possession, sacrifice, even to signify the acceptance of a deal.”

“So which of these do you think it is?”

“I’m not quite sure. Of course, we have to keep the girl from this beast, but I’m more worried about something else.”

“And that would be?”

“If the demon has been given dominion over this house, he could just take the girl. Why hasn’t he?”

“Maybe he did?”

“Then why…” I trail off.

If the demon was looking for the daughter, he could have just taken her. If she was the signifier of the demonic trade, the summoner had more than enough time to give her to the demon. That is, unless the demon doesn’t have dominion over the home. Unless someone or something is stopping it and its summoner from accomplishing their goals.

Oh no. I think things have gotten worse.

“You ok Branner?”

“This situation has become infinitely more dangerous.”

Con looks troubled. I can see he’s still piecing it together. I was horrified that anyone was killed when I thought it was a ghost, but now I’m amazed this entire house isn’t a graveyard.  

“What’s the matter?”

“I believe we aren’t just dealing with one demon, but two. And worse, they seem to be at war with each other.”

“…I’m gonna assume that’s bad.”