The petite Siren glared up at the vermilion-skinned daemon as a battle of wills commenced.
"You have to wear it," Syndra said for the umpteenth time, forgoing the cajoling sweetness which usually filled her voice, and replacing it with a snarl. By the frustrated tone bleeding through her curt statement, she'd repeated those four words multiple times.
The Baalzadeen's Abbadon-black eyes bored down at the pale-skinned creature who had bound him. Despite the blood bond which existed between ritualist and subject, the daemon would not bend to her will in this matter. In fact, he was flagrantly denying her demands, mocking her with its pupil-less eyes and fanged smile.
And it was making her angry.
Her fist shook around the evergreen wool of an embroidered sweater. She'd custom made it to fit the gargantuan form of the Baalzadeen, with silver tinsel surrounding the holes where the creature's shoulder and arm bone spikes protruded, white fleecy pom-poms hung off the hem of it like snowballs, and the snarling maw of a winged daemonite was stitched upon the front. It was a Mhaldorian's idea of a gaudy Logosmas sweater, and a perfect way to accessorise a fashion-minded Apostate with holiday cheer. She wasn't about to wear the wretched thing, but her daemon could.
If only the Baalzadeen would get with the program.
"You only have to wear it for a little while," Syndra tried again as she took a step forward, holding the present out.
A translucent shield shimmered into being around the Baalzadeen.
"Why you giant..pain..in.."
Crumpling the sweater in her fist, Syndra crossed her arms, her fingertips tapping a concerto of anger upon her forearm. Her star-shot eyes glowed silver from the depths of her hood with her annoyance.
Being angry wasn't going to resolve this situation. Being crafty would.
Bribery. Blackmail. These were her tools in some situations and maybe would work with the stubborn creature.
How does one bribe a daemon? She could offer it freedom, but if she reneged the Baalzadeen would never listen to her again. Which would make her life hellish in battle. There was also stabbing it straight through the heart, and hoping the next creature she summoned would listen, but that was a gamble. She'd already spent most of the month trying to finagle her way with this one.
That just left forcing her will with more blood. The effect wouldn't last long, but maybe if the Baalzadeen saw and felt how fleecy and soft the sweater was, he would capitulate to her whims.
Withered fingers crooked into the air as she sent a small pulse of magic out into the world, seeking that which was hers, but might have been lost. Almost immediately a savage-looking crimson-hued daegger flew towards her, vibrating with speed, and ravening for blood. The malicious, lone eye set into the weapon's cross-guard gleamed up at her.
She held her hand out to the daegger, palm up, and glowered at the Baalzadeen.
"You made me do this," she said.
The daegger struck in a flash of barbs and hooks, and blood welled from the sliced flesh. Immediately, the Siren pumped her fist, and held it into the air, letting the vitae drip before exerting her will, and shaping it into a pentagram.
The Holy symbol acted as a focus to her magic and powered by her blood, the daemon would be powerless to resist her commands. At least as long as the pentagram lasted.
She held out the sweater with an arch of midnight blue brows. "Wear it."
This time, the Baalzadeen was forced to comply. Snarling in a way that would make Mhaldorus impressed, the daemon wrenched the gaudy Logosmas sweater over his horned head, his barbed tail lashing the air with the threat of violence.
"Very good," Syndra said with a nod.
The petite Assassin was able to enjoy the daemon's suffering for almost an entire day until the pentagram faded. She whirled towards him as she felt the ritual magic fade, daegger at the ready, but the Baalzadeen's skin pulsed with a ruddy glow, and then he faded.
"Oh, you did not just.."
But, he had. The daemon had returned itself to the Inferno, and no matter how hard she tried to summon the creature back, the Baalzadeen would not return.
Syndra stood outside the gates of Mhaldor, staring over at the roiling blood ocean barely visible in the distance, and considered her choices. Without a daemon to bend to her bidding, she would be hampered in battle. She would be useless once again, and unworthy of her rank.
A day passed as Syndra plotted a way to remedy the situation.
"Assassin," a commanding voice telepathically whispered through her mind. "are you able to return to the refuge?"
Syndra's gaze slunk towards where her Baalzadeen should be. The absence of the giant creature vexed her.
"No..," she replied, hoping that her guiltiness wouldn't shimmer through her mental words.
"What did you do," the Inquisitor demanded. At this juncture of her Mhaldorian career, most knew that if something went awry, Syndra likely had a hand in it.
Gods, she was going to get sent to the Red Square for this one, she knew it. Had she caused all of the daemons to band together and revolt against Mhaldor?
"I made him wear a Logosmas sweater," Syndra whispered to the voice in he head.
The silence was damning, and she could imagine the elder Siren's face.
She took a step past Mhaldor's spiked guardhouse, her head hung forward as she commenced her death march to the Executioner.
"You did what? Why?"
The confusion was hard to disguise even telepathically, and Syndra stopped, pressing a fang into her bottom lip. How could she explain this one?
"I made him dress up for some holiday cheer," she answered with a guilty murmur. "But, he is suffering!"
"Well," the Inquisitor said after a long, long pause. "You have a unique way of bringing about torment."
Syndra exhaled the breath she'd been holding, her mind calming enough to let a hint of wryness seep through her mental voice. "As long as the means bear fruit, Inquisitor."
Tilting her head, the Apostate gazed through the red-hued fog nearly overwhelming the city. It was a ghoulishly beautiful Logosmas, the first the Siren had enjoyed in the realm.
But still, one question remained, nagging the necromancer as she scurried deeper into the city towards the Cathedral and the bloodied Logosmas tree.
How was she going to get her daemon back?
The elder Apostate nodded towards his Baalzadeen, and the daemon reached gnarled fingers out, stroking his Master's cheek with a gentle touch. The world around the two faded until they arrived at the Inferno a heartbeat later.
The unassuming island floated amid a vast, black lake. Fire burned the sky. It was a calming, familiar sight to the Apostate. Until he turned and his attention fell on the scraps strewn at his feet.
Silver tinsel. White bits of fur. Evergreen thread that looked as it it had been savagely unspooled. A Logosmas massacre had happened in the Inferno. In all of his years seeking refuge amongst the charred and broken bones of the island, he'd never seen anything like this before.
A bare-chested Baalzadeen stood in the middle of the wreckage, his chest heaving, and with a few green threads caught on the bony protrusions of his arms. Claw marks scored the daemon's chest, sending black blood leaking down to the loincloth around his hips. Rage pulsed from the daemon with every breath.
The human didn't ask. He didn't need too. He already knew. The conductor of the Baalzadeen's torment walked an off-beaten path for a Mhaldorian, but always with the Holy Truths in her heart and mind. The snarling daemon who looked ready to maim any and all around him proved her tactics worked.
"Return to her," the human ordered the Baalzadeen with barely disguised mirth, "Before she does something worse to you."