Her father summoned demons.
Fanha remembered them well. There were the imps, of course, but
there were ones that he labored to summon and labored harder to
banish. Those wanted gifts and she remembered how he would
stumble from his room with neat cuts up and down the lengths of
his arms. And sometimes he would come back thinner than he was
when he entered the room and his eyes would be hollow, yet he
wouldn't eat for days. And then there were the ones that made him
cry and scream out when the lights went out. One demanded his
eyes until it agreed to take his two smallest fingers and seven
years of his life.
Her mother worried.
Elinee knew his ambition, though she married him for everything
else. She ignored the rites and the demonesses and the nights
that she could hear him scream and there was nothing she could do
but hold him down and pray for morning to come quickly. She
remembered the sweep of his jaw and the way that his eyes were
brown verging on gold. She remembered the way that he held her
and the way that his lips felt against her skin. She knew his
ambition; he desired to be more than an archmage, though he could
no more be a sorcerer than she could. Sometimes, when he could
sleep, she would walk to their sorceress daughter's room and
wonder just what he gave for her.
He always looked for power.
Cain used to prowl the edges of the Haunted Forest. There were
tales of a demon who hid in the body of a man who would grant
wishes to those who would dare take them. The tales always left
out what he wanted in return and sometimes they said that the
demon resided in the form of a woman or an old man or even a
child. One night he left and never returned; Elinee held Fanha
close and covered her ears against the screams of a man who
finally got what he wanted. When morning came, she packed his
clothing away in a chest and collected the hair from his brush
into a locket. When Fanha asked about Cain, all Elinee could tell
her was the truth.
Her father was dead.
Fanha grew up a witch and learned no magic. She learned how to
make a potion that would cure illness and learned which herbs to
chew to break a fever. She learned that lullabud seeds dulled
pain and a poultice made from mushboom and trapflower drew poison
from a wound. When the imps bit her, Fanha knew exactly how to
treat the wound. And when the imps would wound each other in
spring, she could sew each cut shut with tiny stitches. After her
father died, her mother took her out of school to protect her
from the world. Her friends wrote her for a while and she would
write back until the years passed and she became such a distant
memory that they wondered if they had dreamed her.
She dreamed of magic.
In time, Elinee taught Fanha her first spell. When she learned
that spell, much quicker than her mother had as a girl, Elinee
taught her another and another until her daughter grew
unsatisfied with simple spells. She asked for fire and water, ice
and stone, and spells that she shouldn't want and couldn't have.
In time, Fanha asked her mother how to summon demons. Elinee saw
the curve of her jaw and the color of her eyes and wept. And her
daughter, who grew up without mirrors, wept without knowing why.