"A wise decision." Ezekiel said satisfied "Now first things first. Magic is called the Secret Arts because, it obviously involves a lot of secrets. One of them is who or what its is that wants magic to stay hidden and what their reasons are. But you best assume going on national television with your story means someone with magic at least as powerful as the bone will feel that it would have been better if you never existed. At the moment nobody unveils the existence of magic because we know it would bring this boogeymans wrath down on us, and we know the boogeyman exists because nobody tried to unveil the existence of magic yet. That is how it usually goes with the Secret Arts. Never a clear answer, only more riddles. “
He let out a quiet little laugh ” But on to more practical wisdom. The necklace I bound the demons to was made by Anansi the weaver, and has the power to reweave your attire according to your wishes. It's magic is now interwoven with your own, so it is the one artifact you'll still be able to use despite lacking a human soul. "
"Ok. How do i do that? I can't wait to get out of this." Jake made an annoyed gesture towards her body, or more specifically the dress.
"That you will have to find out on your own." Ezekiel said, holding up a finger to silence Jakes protest "I am not being coy. I know the legends surrounding it but as I said: Without a human soul it is usually impossible for a demon to use these items. Usually it work similar to the bone however. Try visualizing the desired result and…."
“Yeah yeah. Got it. ” Jake interrupted, closing her eyes in concentration. Nothing happened for several long moments, until Jake muttered something under her breath. Suddenly the dress disintergrated into a cloud of drifting threads, giving Dave a glimpse of the naked flesh beneath in all it’s glory. A moment later the threads snapped together preserving Jakes modesty once more in the form of a baggy bathrobe made from the same white silk as the dress.
Opening her eyes again Jake let out let out a happy little sound somewhere between a laugh and a sigh, “It worked” she declared patting the robe experimentally a few times as if to confirm its solidity. The happy expression on her face drained away as she looked up to find Ezekiel pointedly looking at the wall opposite her and a very awkward looking Dave. “What?” she asked.
“Apparently the documents I have neglected to mention the brief wardrobe mal-function upon use. ” Ezekiel explained sounding genuinely apologetic “My apologies. I should have anticipated the clothes unraveling before being remade.”
“So you both saw…..” Jake trailed off as Dave nodded, her awkward expression mirroring his.
Ezekiel clearing his throat, rescued Dave from having to come up with something appropriate to say “Ehem. Moving on.” The demon sounded calm and collected but Dave had the impression there was an amused gleam in his eye “The reason you are a girl is because you felt this is what you deserved.”
“I told you, I’m not gay!” Jake hissed through clenched jaws.
“Certainly. But you always felt it was unfair how girls had it so much easier, did you not? Isn’t that why you turned your sisters into your personal maids? To balance the scales? Because your mom…no, the world cut them all the slack it never gave you?”
Daves eyes widened as he tried to reconcile two different memories, that of Michelle- Jakes older sister- Zoe and Joan -the two younger ones- with Joelle, three girls that went by the same name, looked absolutely identical down to the way they dressed and did their best to make Jakes life easier even if they didn’t seem to like him very much.
Jake averted her head in shame as Daves eyes met hers. “It wasn’t supposed to be forever.” She mumbled as she sank down to sit on the edge of the bed.
“You never told them that.” Ezekiel remarked, his tone was light but Dave could see a hard glint in his eyes “They thought they would never have their own identity again. That their old lives and their dreams were gone forever and they’d be stuck as this conjoined entity forever. Well I thought it would be a nice touch to make sure the world will henceforth cut you the same slack you felt they did never earn. ‘Karma’ as the young folks say ‘sure is a bitch!’. ”
“Oh god.” Jake moaned, her wings folding around her body into the same cocoon she’d been in when Dave had entered.
“What will happen to them?” Dave asked quietly.
Ezekiel mulled the thought over for a while “The compulsion to act as their brothers personal maids no longer has a real target unless your friend decides to go back to her family. Even then she isn’t really the brother she used to be so it would be weaker. I gather they could try to pass one of their drivers licenses off as their own, saying it was just a bad photo. Finding a job will be challenging, but I am sure resourceful young ladies could make it work. Dating will be a challenge though.”
“Can you help them?” Jake asked, her feathers rusting slightly as the cocoon opened a slit.
“I certainly could.” Ezekiel said with a smile.
“…but there’d be a price” Jake finished, with a resigned sigh. “I’ll pay it.”
“You would?” Ezekiel sounded surprised “you don’t even know it yet.”
“They are a pain in the ass,” Jake said, her voice growing in confidence “but I didn’t mean to ruin their lives. Besides. Mine is already ruined, so what do I have to loose?”
“Well. Color me surprised.” Ezekiel gave Jake an approving glance “I didn’t think you were the type for a noble sacrifice.” Jake answered with a noncommittal grunt. “Not like it can get much worse.” she added sullenly after a few moments.
“A lesser , no a baser, man would take that as a challenge.” Ezekiel chuckled ” But as it happens I have a soft spot for noble sacrifices. And this leads so very nicely to the next lesson. So all I need you to do is close your eyes and remember your siblings as they used to be. ”
“Ok.” Jake said slowly, clearly unsure where this was going. “So what now?” she asked as she closed her eyes.
Ezekiel watched Jake stand there for several seconds before asking “Can you see them clearly in your minds eye?”
“Ye---GACK!” as soon as Jake opened her mouth Ezekiels hand darted forward snatching something from the back of her throat before retreating.
Dave looked from his coughing friend to the demon who held a struggling moth between pinched fingers, in bewilderment. “What…” Daves question was echoed a moment later by Jakes own “What…” pressed forth between to coughing fits “What did you do?”.
Ezekiel smiled holding the moth up for a moment with intricate etchings of people on it’s wings that moved like a jerky stop-motion film with each panicked fluttering “That my dear boy, was what I got out of being a demon.” And with that he crammed the struggling insect into his own mouth swallowing loudly before continuing “I have always been a greedy man, I sought power so I could take what I wanted, and bonding with a demon defined by greed let me take the first steps towards becoming a literally a devil at the negotiating table as well as a thief as hard to catch as a gust of air. And I could have built on that, if I was after glittering gold and vapid luxury. But my eye had always been on the intangible things. ”
The whole room seemed to lurch slightly, and Dave found himself standing a foot to the left, Jake and Ezekiel too had shifted positions.
“Now the artifacts and books I coveted were valuable, it is true. But it was the knowledge they represented I want to amass. And there is little difference between knowledge itself and memories of how you gained it.”
“No!” Jake had recovered from her coughing fit, but her voice was still a bit hoarse as she demanded “Give them back. Give my sisters back!” Dave was still reeling about from their apparent displacement, and struggled to catch up to what was happening.
“He took my sisters.” Jake pointed accusingly at the Ezekiel, who raised his hands in a placatory gesture “They are perfectly fine.” The demon assured Dave. “What you friend here meant to say is….”
“…..you took the memories.” Dave finished the sentence in disbelief. While Jake and Ezekiel had been talking, it had suddenly clicked for Dave what felt so strange about this situation: He still remembered Jake had three sisters, could recall conversations and small personal details about them, yet their faces, names or anything specific about their lives was just a vague blur. The oldest had been home from the university she had decided to attend after working as a nurse for three years. But Dave couldn’t say which university nor where her home was.
“Indeed. They will have their life back, but your friend will not be a part of it.” Ezekiel explained. “I know it is trite, but sometimes you don’t know what you had until you loose it. ” he turned to Jake “Which I find a fair price, but if you’d rather have your sisters decide instead, how you should pay for the past weeks, I can oblige you.”
Jake had been visibly building up steam to go head to head with Ezekiel, but visibly deflated at that prospect. “it’s …fair….. I suppose.” She finally ground out, eliciting a satisfied nod from Ezekiel.
A thoughtful silence descended onto the room after that. It was a strange feeling, knowing there was a hole in your memory. Dave wondered if Jake too couldn’t keep from reflexively probing it, like a child probing a loose milk-tooth with it’s tongue.
“So.” Dave finally broke the silence ”Jake will be able to do that too?” he wasn’t sure how to feel about that.
Ezekiel waggled a hand in a ‘Maybe’-gesture. “I do not think so. Unlike me, your friend would have to go down a rather ugly road to do it.”
“Huh? What do you mean by that?” Jake asked.
“It is quite simple. The bonding process is far from over. The changes so far just made sure you are … compatible, so to speak. But it will take some time for the demon to fill the void left when you burnt out your soul. Right now most of their energy is spent vying for dominance, struggling to fit as much of themselves into the available space as possible.
If you act contrary to a concept they encompass they will have to fight to cling on to it if it is integral to their make-up, loosing ground as their attention is divided. Or they might watch it deteriorate or even shed it altogether if it was inconsequential. Likewise acting in accordance with your new guests will allow them to dig their roots in deeper. So just like yours, the each demons nature is still very much in flux.
And as its hold grows more secure and its efforts turn from a fight for survival to a struggle for the top of the hill, each demon will be free to offer more and more gifts to entice you to act in accordance with its concepts. So in the near future you can expect to rapidly grow in power, that far surpasses the vestigial abilities you already have. The underlying nature of these changes, the fundamentals, are set, but there is a lot of room to add in details.”
Ezekiel had told Dave each artifact represented a different sin. With Jake being a quite literal green-eyed monster, it was not hard for Dave to guess the fundamental nature of her upcoming changes.
“So what are these fundamentals?” Jake asked “What is in store for me?” Dave could hear both excitement and fear in her voice.