I blew out my breath. Shit, leave it to me to ask a vague yes-or-no question. “No, what I meant is, what is my destiny?”
Furfur shook his head. “You have used up your question.”
I frowned at the frustrating demon. “Rhea? Is he telling the truth?”
“Yep. You only get one.”
I heard Giguhl mutter, “Smooth move.”
“Shit,” I said. “Fine. You can go now.”
“Ahem.” This from Rhea.
“Godsdammit,” I said. I was so flustered by my mistake, I’d forgotten demons have to be sent back to Irkalla by their summoner. “Idummu bara nadzu.”
Another burst of thunder, another black cloud, and then Furfur disappeared.
“Well, that was lame,” Giguhl said.
I turned and speared my demon with a glare. “You might have mentioned the one-question rule.”
“How was I supposed to know you’d ask a stupid one?”
“Children,” Rhea said, stepping between us. “Let’s not focus on the negative. Sabina successfully summoned a Count of Irkalla without incident. I’d say this lesson was a success.”
Success, my ass, I thought. Sure, I’d managed to summon and send away a demon, but I’d also embarrassed myself. Not knowing the protocol and unwritten rules frustrated me. Magic was a new world to me, and I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I didn’t like it at all. My rational side told me experience would teach me these things, and experience was gained by making and learning from mistakes. But the impatient, inner-critic side—far stronger than the rational most days—was already busy with the beatdown. How could I be so stupid? I spent years learning to be an assassin. I’d paid my dues and prided myself on my skills. I wasn’t some wet-behind-the-ears mage. I was an ass-kicking vampire with five decades behind me. I should have known better than to make a mistake like that. The fact I had very little experience with magic didn’t matter. I expected myself to do better. And the prospect of making more mistakes as the training continued made me feel like a balloon filled to bursting.
“Sabina?” Rhea said. “What’s going on in that head of yours? You look like you’re ready to kick someone’s ass.”
Yeah, I thought. My own.
I shrugged. “I was just going back over what happened. Next time, I’d appreciate a little warning about what to expect.”
Rhea smiled. “How will you learn if I spoon-feed you everything? Learning is done best by doing.”
“But I screwed up.”
She tilted her head. “No, you didn’t. Screwing up would have been getting us all killed. No, you learned something. That’s never a mistake.”
“But you could have just told me—”
She waved a hand. “Sabina, let’s clear one thing up from the beginning. I’m not here to hold your hand and ease you into mage life. This here’s a magical boot camp. You’re going to make mistakes. Get used to that right now. But I guarantee you’ll never make the same mistake twice. So quit beating yourself up for not knowing everything. I don’t expect it, and neither should you.”
I nodded, but inside, every fiber of my being argued she was wrong. Fifty-three years of being told I had to be faster, smarter, and better than the average vampire didn’t go away overnight. My grandmother had drilled the quest for perfection into me from infancy. The granddaughter of the Alpha Dominae could never settle for average. Add my mixed blood to that equation and I had even less leeway. If I wanted respect and acceptance, I had to prove myself.
But Rhea was right about one thing; I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.
“I think that’s enough for one evening,” Rhea said. “Tomorrow night we’ll get started on harnessing your Chthonic powers. Good work.”
I nodded and headed for the door. Giguhl joined me in the hall. “Giguhl, I want you to give me a crash course in demons.”
His eyebrows raised in surprise. “Really?”
I nodded. “If I’m going to be summoning them, I better start learning more about how you guys tick, right?”
Giguhl nodded absently. “Sabina, you do understand you’re not going to learn everything about demons overnight, right? I don’t even know everything, and I’ve been one for half a millennia.”
I slapped him on the back. “I guess we better get started, then.”
We ran into Maisie on the way back down to our rooms. Giguhl was busy chattering away about the complex structure of demon government as we walked back. Maisie exited the council chamber with a worried frown on her face and didn’t notice us at first.
“Hey, Maisie,” I called in greeting. She startled but quickly erased the frown lines from between her eyes.
“How’d training go?” She was smiling now but still seemed distracted.
I sighed. “Rhea certainly has some interesting teaching methods.”
Maisie caught the sarcasm and frowned. “But you’re making progress, right?” Her urgent tone told me she was worried about my answer. I tried to figure out her angle. Obviously, Maisie believed there was a direct link between my magic training and her prophecy that I was the Chosen. Of course she’d want me to learn quickly. Especially if the council was getting closer to a vote on the war.
“I guess so,” I said, wanting to be positive but not overstate things. I didn’t like the idea of Maisie or anyone else pinning hopes on me.
Maisie relaxed a fraction. “I want to hear all about it, but I’m on my way to a meeting with a diplomat from Queen Maeve’s court.”
I perked up. The mention of the Queen of the Fae made me think of Adam.
I wanted to stop her and ask if she’d had any word from him. I told myself this was mere curiosity over how his mission was going, but I knew better. I missed him. As a friend, of course. We’d spent so much time together over the last several weeks, I’d grown used to having him around. That was all. But after the way Maisie had given me the third degree about Adam the other night, I didn’t want to encourage her.
“Is everything okay?” I asked instead.
Maisie shrugged. “As good as can be expected with the council at each other’s throats. Now I have to go talk to the fae delegate and explain to them why we’re no closer to a vote. The queen won’t be pleased.” She glanced at her watch. “I really need to get going. Let’s chat later about your training, okay?”