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from The Gods' Own by Alexis Cunningham

Copyright © 2019–2021 Alexis Cunningham

Chapter 15
Home Truths

Yasha dropped onto the balcony in a three point landing, his left arm thrown out behind him for balance. Brushing off his borrowed trousers and tunic, careful to make sure the creases fell out of the soft cotton and the gold thread etched hem hung level, Yasha stood up and rolled his shoulders, settling his magic back down like a bird might ruffle furled feathers.

             ‘We’re not making a habit of this,’ he told Mati severely. His familiar was perched on the stone moulding above the balcony doors. She cocked her head in her version of a droll look. ‘I mean it, I can’t afford to get sloppy just because I’m running on a full tank right now.’

He needed to soul purge and soon, the more power he had inside him the harder it was not to use it. He was being hunted and his instincts told him to take flight, to expend power to keep himself out of Matriev’s reach, but reason told him how dangerous that would be when he had a scion’s tracking mark on his skin.  He was taking a huge risk coming back to the penthouse at all. One he couldn’t really justify even to himself, except that the pull to return to the eyrie was too strong. He couldn’t fight the territorial drive and stay alert for other dangers.

Slipping inside the penthouse was easy. The doors were unlocked. The only creatures who could find the building were greys and demons and neither of them would be put off by a lock on a sliding glass door. Dead leaves crunched under his feet as he stepped into the wide open space of the penthouse main room. The pale wood floorboards were covered in fallen leaves, shrivelled petals and bits of twig. Dessicated vines trailed from the free-standing trellises he’d put up as wall dividers and spindly trails criss-crossed the slanted glass of the roof, causing the sunlight to rain down on the floor in odd veined patterns of light and shade. The place looked like it had been abandoned longer than a year.

The penthouse had one large multi-functional room leading to the balcony, two bedrooms with ensuite facilities Yasha couldn’t use because he’d never figured out how to connect the place to the mains without the city knowing, a large kitchen, a laundry room, pantry and third toilet. He’d never bothered to open up the bedrooms or the laundry and he’d only used the kitchen to store his camp stove. He’d put a bed in the main room near the door to the third toilet, where he’d installed a chemical latrine. He’d washed in an old tin bath tub, heating pales of water on the camp stove. It had been a rustic sort of existence, surrounded by echoes of past grandeur but living primitively.

Yasha walked the perimeter of the room, opening the door to his kitchen but barely glancing inside the unlit room before he headed to the main room’s most unique feature. A scrying pool set in the middle of the floor. The pool was about six feet deep and large enough for four people to bathe in, though not wide enough to swim in. Back when he’d found this place he’d sent thanks to Ivan Moslany’s ghost, grateful to the demon-summoning nutcase for having the audacity to place a scrying pool in the middle of his penthouse.

Moslany had no doubt used the pool to anoint the brows of vestal virgin sacrifices and as a containment for demons. Yasha had read the millionaire summoner had been a traditionalist when it came to his illicit rites. The old school summoners had believed that demons lost their magic when submerged in water. Not true, as Moslany found out to his cost when he summoned a demon who proceeded to slaughter his entire coven, but the water feature had worked for Yasha’s purposes, especially once he’d filled the pool with soul spring water stolen from the Orandir Corporation. His plants had thrived feeding on soul spring water and the anima they had released alongside oxygen had kept the penthouse saturated in magic. Now the pool was dry, his plants were dead and the magic he’d so carefully cultivated was gone.

Yasha sat down at the edge of the pool, booted heels thumbing against the pool wall. He sat with his head in his hands, all earlier elation gone. This facing consequences business really wasn’t for him, he thought. He didn’t want t...

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