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Her Familiar Demon

Her Familiar Demon


Ember Blackthorn


Arkenna is struggling in her position as apprentice to the High Witch in the royal palace of Arevell. Her penchant for good-natured mischief often gets her into trouble—and despite the fact that she possesses more raw, natural power than the High Witch has ever seen before, her spells often go awry. In a bid to prove herself, she attempts a magical feat that no witch has been able to accomplish in two centuries: the complicated spell to summon a familiar. To her delight, the spell works, and she soon finds herself magically bound to a miniature dragon who is the literal cutest things she’s ever seen. But that very same night, Arkenna learns that her spell didn’t work as planned and that her new magical companion has a sinister secret: by day, he’s all sparkles and rainbows with an insatiable sweet tooth, but when the sun goes down, he returns to his true form—Cazraeth, deposed demon lord of the Infernal Empire. He’s also ridiculously attractive, and not at all shy about his carnal desires. By day, Arkenna is finally gaining recognition and respect among the court. Her magical feats—and the adorable, sugar-loving dragonling—have caught the attention of the King, a handsome Duke, and even the High Witch herself, but by night she’s wrangling with Cazraeth and his villainous impulses, and doing her best to ignore her inconvenient and growing attraction to him. Will Arkenna lean into her newfound courtly success? Or will Cazraeth tempt her into the darkness?

Monster RomanceFantasy RomanceParanormal

Chapter One

Wicked souls have wicked cravings,

Wicked hearts are beyond saving…


The old children’s rhyme echoed through my head like an incantation as I laid out all of my spell ingredients on the floor in front of me.

Funny—I hadn’t thought of that rhyme in years, but I supposed it was appropriate for an apprentice witch who’d stolen a spellbook from the palace library to perform secret magic under the full moon.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Everyn asked me, eyeing the locked door to my chamber as if someone might burst in at any moment.

“Of course it’s not a good idea,” I told her with a grin. “Frankly, it’s a terrible idea. But as Mistress likes to say, all magic worth doing requires a little risk.”

“That’s not what she says,” Evie replied, her green eyes flicking toward the open window, where the moonlight slipped in along with the midnight breeze.

But then she sighed with the long-suffering resignation of someone who knew better than to argue with me once I’d set my mind on something, ill-advised though that something might be.

In the almost-three years since Evie and I had begun our apprenticeships here at the palace, we’d become close—and that meant we’d played through this routine many, many times before.

Only this time, we risked more than a slap on the wrist if something went wrong.

“Arkenna…” Evie said, edging toward me, the skirt of her pale green apprentice gown rustling around her legs. “This isn’t the only way, you know.”

“Maybe not,” I conceded, sprinkling the dried herbs I’d gathered into my mortar. Next went the bit of soil from a sun-kissed forest glen, then a pinch of ash from a fire three days dead. “But I don’t have any better ideas.”

Mistress Bethel, the High Witch, had made herself clear: my ‘poor performance’ had been tolerated long enough, and unless I could prove I had some aptitude for the magical arts, I’d be relieved of my role as apprentice witch and cast out of the palace.

And I refused to go back to my life before. That wasn’t an option.

Evie knelt down beside me on the stone floor, fidgeting with the fabric of her skirt.

She was nervous. She was always nervous, always convinced that the world would crumble the moment she stepped outside the rules or the roles society set for her—and yet she was here anyway, because I’d asked her to help me.

Maybe that was why we’d become such good friends—because from the very day we’d met, each eighteen years old and newly arrived at the palace, we’d recognized that the other one had something that we lacked.

Something we wanted for ourselves.

Evie was the perfectionist, the conscientious one—she liked to follow the rules, do things right, and so far it had served her well. She’d done splendidly these last few years, performing magic with a precision and a control that sent Mistress Bethel into fits of praise.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t mimic that control even when I tried.

My spells went awry more often than not, and I ran afoul of Mistress Bethel’s strict rules on a weekly basis—usually because there were simply far too many for any normal person to remember, but sometimes, I’ll admit, out of sheer stubbornness.

I’d heard Mistress Bethel mutter, on more than one occasion, that I’d been sent by the demon lords of the Infernal Deep to torment her.

The only reason I was still here was because Mistress Bethel said there was more sheer, natural power inside me than she’d ever seen before—but gods help me, what good was that if I couldn’t use it properly?

And after my most recent magical disaster a few days ago—which involved two goats, some pickled herring, and what could only be described as a most offensive odor, in the presence of the king, no less—I was lucky she hadn’t kicked me out on the spot, natural power or no.


Wicked souls have wicked cravings,

Wicked hearts are beyond saving…


My mother had warned me, when I was a child, that when little girls were wicked the demon lords would crawl up out of the Infernal Deep and steal them away. And then she’d always laugh and tell me that I was lucky, because even when I was wicked I was too ‘relentlessly cheerful’ to be of any interest to any demon lords.

“They’d send you back within a week for smiling too much,” she’d say.

Unfortunately, Mistress Bethel’s opinion of me wasn’t quite so generous.

While Evie looked on with furrowed brow, I ground the herbs, soil, and ash together until they were a fine dust in my bowl, fragrant and earthy and humming with potential. A witch’s magic didn’t come from her own power alone—but from the harmony between her innate ability and that of the world around her.

That was why the spells were so important. They were a recipe, a map. One wrong word, one missed ingredient, and the magic might go awry.

And the greater a witch’s power, the greater the results—or the potential disaster.

I set the mortar aside and turned back to the ancient book splayed open beside my knee. The pages were yellowed and cracked along the edges, but the blue-black ink was still legible, despite its age.

Across the top of the page, in ornate script, were written the words, To Summon a Witchlie Familiar.

“What do you think it will be?” Evie asked, her curiosity overcoming her nerves.

According to the book, A familiar will complement its witch in spirit, temperament, and power; it will be both companion and balance to the witch. A familiar may appear as any creature of above-average intelligence, but common forms include those of: cat, bat, owl, snake, or hawk. Or in rare cases: sprite, dragonling, or pixie.

“Something with wings would be fun,” I admitted. “It could steal sweets from the kitchens and fly them up to me. But I’ll take whatever I can get.”

No witch had been powerful enough to summon a familiar in nearly two centuries—not even Mistress Bethel herself, or any of the High Witches before her.

If I could do it, then no one could deny that I belonged here—which meant I didn’t care if my familiar showed up as a rat with two heads, just as long as the spell worked.

My fingers moved down the list of spell components for the dozenth time.

…sage, comfrey, sun-kissed soil, ash from a fire three days dead, breath of a virgin…

Cheeks heating, I picked up the bowl again and raised it to my lips.

Many young women, by the age of twenty-one, were either married or betrothed—and that would have been my fate as well if I hadn’t been taken on as an apprentice witch.

Witches rarely married, but most took on lovers. Sometimes several.

Even careful, conscientious Evie had been carrying on a discreet affair with a handsome young lordling—but I, for a million different little reasons, had never had a lover. Not even for a night.

Softly, so as not to raise a cloud of my carefully prepared spell-dust, I blew across the other ingredients.

Beside me, Evie shifted. She knew it was time.

“You don’t have to be here for this part,” I told her, rising to my feet with the mortar still in my hand. I’d wanted her to oversee the spell ingredients—she had an eye for detail that I envied—but I didn’t expect her to stay for the actual casting.

If things went wrong, then I didn’t want her to get in trouble for my disaster.

She rose beside me, but hesitated. In the moonlight filtering in through the open window, her red hair in its intricate braids looked like brushed bronze, and her green eyes almost glowed, her irises trembling slightly in her indecision.

I knew what she saw when she looked at me—past the blue eyes, flushed cheeks, and curly, unruly black hair—I was something wild, unpredictable next to her. She feared those things, even as she craved them—just as I both feared and craved the stability that came from her control.

Go,” I urged her again. I could see how uncomfortable she was, how stressed, and I’d pushed her far enough already. “I’ll be fine, I promise.”

She leaned forward, throwing her arms around me and hugging me as if this might be the last time we ever saw each other. She was half a head shorter than me, and delicate and lithe where I was soft and curvy, but we fit together like two imperfect petals of the same flower.

I laughed, even as I squeezed her back. “I’ll be fine.”

“You’d better be,” she said, finally releasing me.

In all likelihood, if the spell failed, it would be because—like every other witch of the last two centuries who’d attempted this—I was simply not strong enough, in which case it would fizzle out into nothing.

But I wasn’t ready to even consider the possibility of failure, not when this was the only thing that might keep me from being tossed out of the palace.

I can’t go back.

I nudged Evie toward the door, and she finally relented. She gave me one last nervous, encouraging smile before slipping into the corridor.

And I had no more reasons to draw this out—if I was going to cast this spell, it had to be now.

I took my time crafting the summoning circle, walking slowly and sprinkling the spell-dust I’d made in the large spiral pattern depicted on the yellowed page of the book.

By the time I was done, the handful of candles I’d left burning had melted down to nubs, but the summoning circle thrummed with energy, the magic waiting for the next step. The moon was low in the sky, and dawn was not far away.

I hadn’t let myself feel my nerves until this moment. But now I noticed the sweat on my palms, the fluttering of my pulse in my throat.

This has to work.

I took up the book, propping it open on one arm so I could read the spell by the moonlight.

My feet were bare, my toes cold against the stone floor, and I stepped inside the circle, careful to avoid the lines of the spiral I’d drawn with the spell-dust.

And as I moved, my mind began singing again:


Wicked souls have wicked cravings,

Wicked hearts are beyond saving…


For once, let my wicked, mischievous heart accomplish something good. Something that would show Mistress Bethel and the others that I deserved to be here, that I could be the accomplished witch they’d once believed I could be.

When I stood at the center of the circle, bathed in moonlight, I finally began the incantation.

It was in the arcane tongue, the language of magic, and even after almost three years, the words still felt strange and foreign on my lips. But I shaped them carefully, determined to get every syllable right.

As I said them, I felt the magic begin to swell inside me—and the magic of the spell outside of me rose to meet it, like two partners coming together in a dance of power. The magic swirled around me, whipping my curls across my face and lifting the spell-dust from the ground.

It was exhilarating—like standing on the very edge of a sea cliff with a storm-wind rolling in from the ocean.

But magic had a price. It pulled from your soul, your very will, drinking from you, exhausting you.

And this spell was not like the simple ones that Mistress Bethel had us practicing. This one asked for more.

I could feel the magic tugging at me, pulling at something deep inside me. I kept reading the incantation, refusing to let myself be distracted. But every word, every breath became harder.

My body was starting to ache. My throat was tightening, squeezing down around the words of the spell. I still choked them out, one syllable at a time, but each sound was a battle.

My head throbbed, the pain nearly blinding me. But it was that tugging deep inside me that scared me the most. I clamped down instinctively, fighting it, even as the magic tried to rip it loose.

I could feel the spell starting to break free of me now, feel the magic escaping my control. There were only two lines of the incantation left. If I could just finish—

But it was too much. I’d cast a spell I couldn’t contain.

The magical wind had become a tempest, blowing my skirt up my legs and whipping my hair so hard that it lashed against my skin. The tempest threw the spell-dust against my bare legs and up my body, and I felt like I was being stung by thousands of tiny needle-points.

I grabbed at my hair with one hand, trying to hold it out of my face so I could see. My other hand desperately tried to keep the spellbook open to the proper page.

The spell-dust blew into my eyes, burning, but I read through the tears, speaking the last line of the spell—

And the entire chamber flashed white.