You asked for a dragon’s tears, and you didn’t say I shouldn’t put ’em in a bottle that would evaporate and consume them before you could use ’em to make a gate into this world for your wights to come through. You asked for a gift from one who hated me, thinkin’ I’d fail to get one and become your servant here, so you could feed on the souls of men and women like Southern gourmets feedin’ on baby ducks.”
He tried to shut from his mind the demon light he’d seen in Jenny’s eyes and the obscene evil he’d watched her do. But he knew the demon saw it in his face. “And with what I’ve seen of the way you get into the heart and the skin and the brains of those you deal with, I don’t blame those who’ve a warrant for me for traffickin’ with your lot. I’d turn meself in if it wasn’t me.”
She stepped back from him while he spoke, but still she could have put out her hand and touched him, or he her; she stood with her garments—if they were garments— lifting and floating about her as if on the breath of some hot exhalation that he himself could not feel. Her spells of lust, of wanting, stroked him, clouding his mind like a perfume.
“Well, I won’t be your lover, and I won’t be your slave. Not in the world, not in me dreams—nothing. So you might as well go home and torture the other little demons in Hell, and let me take care of my son.”
“I can bring Jenny back to you.”
It was like an incautious step on a broken foot—he didn’t think her words concerning Jenny would hurt that much. He saw Jenny’s eyes again, across Ian’s waxy face; saw the set of her shoulders, braced against whatever he should say or think. Saw himself, blind with grief and rage and anxiety, not thinking that she would feel all those things, too.
“If she didn’t come back on her own, it wouldn’t be Jenny.”
The Demon Queen said nothing. On the hearth John saw how the flames had turned low and blue, as if the very nature of the air were changed. The shadows of the chest, the table, and the heaped books and tumbled scrolls and note tablets dimmed and loomed and ran together, and he could hear his own breath, and Ian’s: a slow desperate drag as if the boy struggled with horrors in his sleep. He wondered—as he always wondered—if the Demon Queen wore her own form when he wasn’t looking at her.
“John,” she said, and he looked back at her quickly. Almost it seemed he caught her shape changing, just enough to know that she had.
“Look at your son.”
Ian’s hand burned in his. As the fire licked up brighter again, unnaturally brighter, he saw the boy’s swollen tongue protruding from lips gone purple with blood. Even as he looked, brown spots formed under the clear thin skin, as if the blood vessels were dissolving in the flesh. Blisters bulged taut and yellow around the mouth and on the neck. Ian cried out in his sleep, weeping in pain, and kicked and clawed at the blanket