~ Be Thou Bound ~

Integra struggled against the Djinn who was holding her down, trying to feed her a Demon Mark. Not that it was the Djinn's fault, as he was compelled to follow the orders of the Warden who owned his bottle.

"Don't fight me," the Djinn told her. "It's not a battle you'll win."

Somehow, even in her panic, she did not miss the subtle emphasis the Djinn put on the word me.

If he wasn't the one she should fight, then-

Her eyes darted to where Richard stood, a good distance across the room. Should she risk attacking her uncle directly? He was only a Weather Warden - and a mediocre one, at that - while she was both Earth Warden and Weather Warden, but his possession of the Djinn put her at a distinct disadvantage.

As the Djinn's inhuman red eyes caught her gaze once more, he gave a slight shake of his head. Although his power kept her limbs immobile and he held the squirming ball of darkness against her mouth in a show of attempting to feed it to her, the Djinn made no effort to force her jaw open to allow the otherworldly parasite to invade her body.

He was following Richard's orders to the letter, not the spirit. Djinn were often that way if not given specific enough instructions by their masters, always looking for loopholes and workarounds to disobey and piss off their keepers. But, more than that, this one seemed as though he genuinely did not want to harm her. And if he was on her side, that meant... the solution to this situation would be to break his bottle - and thereby free him from her uncle's control - before Richard could get a clue and issue a more specific order.

Integra focused her Earth power and sent out a shockwave at a frequency capable of shattering glass. This approach was not subtle in the least, and Richard immediately realized what she was doing, but he had neither the abilities necessary to negate her attack, nor enough time to protect the bottle from it by more mundane means.

Windows, plates, the screen of an old TV, every bit of glass in the house shattered.

The moment the Djinn was free, he immediately pulled the Demon Mark away from Integra. As she watched, he crushed it in his fist. The thing let out an ungodly shriek and dissolved into oily black strings, which in turn dissolved further into a gray-black mist, which quickly dissipated, leaving no trace of its presence either on the mortal plane or the aetheric.

She had no idea how he'd done it. She'd never heard of a Djinn being able to kill a Demon Mark before.

Richard, however, did not seem entirely surprised by this turn of events.

"You knew he could get rid of the Mark," she accused.

"I suspected he might," her uncle prevaricated.

Integra felt her power flare within her as anger clouded her judgement. It would be so easy to strike out with her Earth Warden powers, against which Richard had very little defense, and kill him right now.

No sooner than the thought had crossed her mind, however, she found her powers blocked by some unseen force.

"Don't," the Djinn warned.

"Why not?" she snapped. "He was ready to sentence me to death, with that-"

"Because," the Djinn said grimly, "the other Wardens would know by your energy signature that it was you." Baring his teeth in a feral snarl, he continued, "On the other hand, if I were do it..."

"If he knew you could destroy the Mark, why didn't he just have you do that in the first place instead of trying to transfer it to me?"

Alucard stared at her pityingly for a long moment before answering, "Because that isn't what he wanted to do. Your uncle has resented you - Arthur's daughter, the prodigy - for the entire ten years since your powers first manifested, and after taking the Demon Mark upon himself to increase his own sadly lacking powers, Bad Dick decided he was going to take his sainted brother's little darling down with him."

She cringed.

"Even though I know it was his nickname, it's always strange hearing someone actually call him 'Bad Dick'."

"Hmm... you know, I have to wonder... was that nickname given to him just because his name was Richard and he was a terrible person, or was it because he was bad at se-"

"STOP. I do not want to hear that about my uncle!"

"Stop here," Alucard said suddenly.

Integra frowned, but pulled the car over and parked in front of the small antique store that he'd pointed out.

She followed him inside, wondering what he'd seen (or sensed) within the shop that was so urgent it was worth disrupting their journey to deal with.

When she caught up with the Djinn, she found him staring into a display case crowded with-

"Bottles?" she blurted out in surprise.

She would have thought he'd had enough of those, seeing as he'd been trapped in one for centuries.

"Look," he said, excitedly pointing out a particular one. "It's an original Coca Cola bottle. From back when they actually made it with cocaine."

"Would you want something with such a sordid history?" she asked, making no effort to hide her distaste with both the object and his apparent interest in it. Was this really why he'd told her to stop here? She didn't bother to question the veracity of his claims. As a Djinn, one look at an object could tell him its entire history.

He turned his head, and she shivered as those bright unnatural eyes focused on her.

"I admit I am partial to such things. I have a rather sordid history myself." Turning back to the display case, he inquired, "Which one would you choose, then?"

As her eyes began to roam over the selection of items within the case, she said, "So, hypothetically, for aesthetic purposes-"

She broke off as his molten gaze raked over her.

"No. Pick one with which to bind me to you."

The one she picked was tiny with gold-plated stopper, its glass tinged a pale blue, and had formerly housed a perfume sample, the scent of which still clung faintly to it.

Although she'd had Djinn temporarily assigned to her possession before, Integra had never personally bound one to a bottle before, and it was a deeply uncomfortable experience as she pointed the opened bottle in his direction and chanted, "Be thou bound to my service. Be thou bound to my service. Be thou bound to my service."

Alucard grinned as he dissolved into mist which flowed into the bottle. Integra felt the connection snap into place as she pushed the tiny stopper into the bottle. Once bound, the Warden became the Djinn's conduit to the aetheric, the source through which the Djinn received energy, since being bottled disrupted the connection between Djinn and Mother Earth.

~ to be continued ~