“This is a nightmare.”
“How did things come to this?”
Eva shared a glance with Juliana. Beads of sweat dripped down her forehead despite the cold October air.
“If only you’d have done this earlier,” Shalise said at their backs.
The two sighed at the same time and each turned back to their current enemy.
“I don’t even think that one has a chest,” Juliana said with a look of disgust. “This is supposed to be a school. For kids. How can they let something like this happen.”
“No. It just got knocked off. Look,” Eva pointed, “it is lying on the floor over there.”
“That barely covers anything.”
“Yeah. Let’s go check the men’s section.”
Juliana and Shalise trudged along behind Eva.
“I can’t believe you don’t know any good monsters. I mean, you know Rach.”
“First,” Eva said, “Rach isn’t a monster.” Although Arachne was making Eva nervous. She hadn’t seen the demon all day. Eva had planned on spending most of the day hanging out with her and not dressing up for the party. Arachne apparently had plans and left Eva to go shopping with Juliana.
The fact that she had something planned for Halloween made Eva a bit sad. It was supposed to be their day after all.
“She’s very nice,” Eva continued. “Second, I know of plenty of ‘monsters’ but I wouldn’t know where to start making costumes of them. That’s assuming we had longer than a few hours as well.”
“I don’t know why you two waited. I’ve had my costume for a week,” Shalise grinned at the two. “There was a much better selection when I was here too. Now you’re stuck with all the things everyone else didn’t want.”
“You sneaked off on your own,” Juliana said as she started picking through the men’s racks. “You didn’t even invite us.”
Eva shuffled through the racks. She didn’t want to wear a costume. She barely wanted to party. The situation with the grimoire had gone nowhere. Zoe Baxter hadn’t managed to destroy even a single page.
The day before, Zoe Baxter vanished the book in front of Eva. She claimed it was ‘between’ and would be safe until the Day of the Dead festival ended on November third. Then she wanted Eva to try, but only while she was watching.
Even after assuring Eva that Zoe would do nothing no matter the kind of magic she used, Eva had her reservations about that. Under no circumstances did she want to stand around summoning a demon in front of Zoe Baxter.
There was nothing to be done about it now, however. Her master hadn’t even returned yet.
That led to her current situation of picking out a costume. If she’d known there was absolutely no selection, she would have made her own. Arachne could have helped her make an amazing outfit. She’d done so in the past. Eva still had the dress Arachne had made when she was nine.
It was a crime that it remained hidden away in a closet in Florida.
Eva shoved more costumes aside. Nothing would match that dress. Nothing would come even close. She’d have to settle for something else.
Something else caught her eye.
Juliana seemed to notice the pause in Eva’s shuffling of costumes. “Find something?” she asked.
“Maybe. It will need touching up, that’s for sure.”
“Good luck with that. I’m going back to the girl’s section.”
Eva held her future costume up and looked it over. She could feel Shalise leaning over her shoulder.
“That’s it?” she asked.
“It is a start. Needs a bit of flair though.”
“Better hurry, there’s only a few hours until the party starts.”
“Who shows up to parties on time anyway,” Eva said. She actually wasn’t sure. Shalise admitted in front of everyone that she had never been to a party before. Eva hadn’t admitted it.
When your friends consisted only of demons and people several decades older than yourself, you didn’t get invited to parties very often. At least not the kind that didn’t involve danger, blood, and possible death.
“Well, I’m not showing up late to my first party. Need help?”
“Just need a black necktie and a white button up shirt. I think I can get everything else at our dorm.”
“Those shouldn’t be hard to find. I’ll go help Juliana then.”
Eva nodded as the chipper woman left. She dug through a prop bin, trying to find a syringe. Not a real one. A prop comical one. She could get real ones if she took the time to run to the prison. Eva didn’t think she wanted to put that much effort into a costume.
Still, this one seemed decent.
“You’ve been giggling the whole way here. My costume is fine.”
That only made Shalise giggle harder.
Eva carefully kept her own smile polite and controlled as they walked down the street.
Juliana wore a large one piece suit covered in fur. She had a dog nose covering her nose and long floppy ears coming off of a head band.
“It was the only costume that showed less skin than Eva when she walks around wearing nothing but Rach.”
“Eva’s covered up now and without wearing a dog costume.”
Eva glanced down at her own costume. A knee-length lab coat hung loose over slacks and a button up shirt. She had slicked back her hair into a loose ponytail and added a pair of fake glasses. The look was topped off with a fake syringe full of glowing green liquid and several real potions shoved into her pockets.
The real potions were just in case, as were the vials of blood and her dagger hidden against her back.
Overall, Eva thought she looked like a perfect stereotypical mad scientist.
“You’re the one who pointed this out to me. I’ll have no more laughter from you.”
“And I was right. It is very cute on you.”
Juliana crossed her arms and sulked. “Yours looks nice. You should have found me something like that.”
Shalise twisted slightly, letting her black coat flair out. It wasn’t a real coat, almost more like a knee-length dress that was missing its front. She wore a red minidress underneath. Fake fangs on her teeth poked out of her mouth.
“Like I said, you got the costumes everyone else didn’t want.”
Eva just smiled at their byplay as they arrived at The Vertex. They were quickly let into the building by bouncers? Maybe ushers. The Vertex didn’t seem like the kind of club that would need bouncers.
“Wow,” Shalise said, “it is almost like a real party in here.”
Eva had to agree. Almost being the key word.
The club had a large dance floor with a stage just in front of it. A DJ stood behind a large table with headphones on, nodding his head with the pounding beat. Neon lights and lasers strobed through a cool mist on the dance floor. A second floor curled around, offering a high altitude view of the dance floor.
The only thing missing were the people.
There were a couple of groups here and there. A cat girl and a rather poor skeleton chatted off to one side. A group of three hung out in a corner, they had a girl with impressive voodoo inspired makeup and several fake bones hung around her neck, a much more impressive skeleton, and a man who seemed to be into bondage with knives taped to his fingers.
No one danced on the dance floor and none of the groups appeared very animated.
There was a bar to the side of the entryway with a Frankenstein’s monster handing out a plate of nachos to the only patron. The portly man turned around to reveal a solid green suit and dyed red hair. Golden clover pins were attached all over his suit.
“Hello Max,” Shalise said warmly.
“You guys made it. I’m glad.” He grabbed both plates of nachos and seemed to struggle with his soda until Shalise took pity and grabbed it. “Thanks. Everyone else is upstairs, come on.”
They followed him up to the neon lit second floor. Another three groups of people hung about up here. Two of the groups consisted of a pair of superheroes with red and blue outfits, a pirate, a spooky bedsheet ghost, and a princess.
The third group was seated around one of the large tables that occupied much of the second floor. A winged fairy stood and started waving them over with a clear bottle. She was also entirely green except for the brown hair and red lipstick.
“Irene, nice makeup,” Juliana said.
Irene grinned. “Thanks. It took Shelby all afternoon to paint me green.”
“And don’t ask for it again,” a black and white woman said. She had painted her face completely white save for black lipstick. Her dress matched the white paint on her face and arms with black floral patterns. Even her green eyes had been covered by silver contacts.
“Oh, like your makeup took any less time.”
“Your wearing a lot less actual clothes than I am. You didn’t have to paint my stomach or my back or most of my legs. Most of it I did on my own.”
“Now now, you all look great. Don’t bicker.”
Eva almost missed the dark figure sitting next to Shelby. Where she looked like something out of an old black and white film, Jordan could have been her shadow. He had a full black body stocking on, even over his face. Something magical had been done to it; Eva’s eyes didn’t want to focus on it.
“You’re going to have to teach me that one,” Eva said. It seemed very useful for more than just party tricks.
Jordan chuckled. It sounded a bit forced, though that may be because if he had merely smiled, Eva wouldn’t be able to notice.
“He can’t,” Irene said. She had a large frown on her face and a glare leveled at Jordan. “The enchantment came with the suit.”
“Ah, that’s a shame.” Eva might have to spend some time tracking down the makers of the suit and learning the technique. Or at least buy one for herself.
“So,” Shalise said after a minute, “what do we do now?”
Maximilian spoke up, thankfully without his mouth full. “Grab some food unless you already ate. Then we just hang out, I suppose.” He looked around to the others as if for confirmation.
“That sounds good,” Juliana said. “I skipped lunch for costume hunting.”
She and Shalise turned and headed back to the stairs. Shalise paused. “You’re not coming Eva?”
“I’m not hungry at the moment. I might grab something later.” Eva doubted she would. In truth, Eva only ate about one meal a day. A side effect from the experiments, most likely; she’d never seen Arachne eat anything.
Her treatments were a point of worry. Because the ritual circle was still complete in her prison, she might be able to rope Juliana into performing the ritual in an emergency. It was not a thing she was very eager to show the blond.
Devon considered her his life’s work, so she doubted he would just up and abandon her. Unless he had gone off and died. Then again, she had to send Ivonis after her master over the summer.
She really wasn’t looking forward to cleaning fifty animal carcases out of a cell block again.
Shalise and Juliana headed back downstairs while Eva took a seat next to Irene.
“So a scientist, huh?”
“A mad scientist, if you please.” Eva whipped out the fake syringe and quirked an eyebrow. After striking her pose, she dropped the syringe back into her pocket. “It was either this or what Juliana is wearing.” Eva leaned over and stage whispered in Irene’s ear, “I’d rather come naked if that was my only option.”
“Oh it isn’t that bad,” Shelby said with only a small chuckle.
They descended into an awkward sort of silence. Eva imagined it would have been a comfortable silence, or not silence at all, if she hadn’t been there. Despite spending nearly every lunch together and interacting in class on a regular basis, Eva just didn’t click with them.
She didn’t think she really clicked with Shalise either, even if she got along with her. The only reason she and Juliana got along well was because of their little adventure. No part of that was going to be spoken of under any circumstances, no matter how much it might help avoid awkward silences.
So Eva just waited with a polite smile on her face. Hoping Juliana and Shalise returned quickly.
Luckily they did not dilly-dally. They brought back a plate of nachos each. Eva wondered if that was the only thing the club served. Juliana did not look overly pleased with it, at the very least.
Shalise was the one who managed to get a conversation going. She was much better at these things than Eva or Juliana. Talking about school was even a safe topic for Eva. Something she was very glad about when Jordan turned his masked face to her.
“Figure out your element yet? You were having problems with it if I remember right.”
“I can’t do a tiny bit of water magic which would normally mean my affinity is fire, right?” At Jordan nodding his head, Eva continued, “I don’t think I’m especially good at fire magic or air and earth. Chaos magic feels the best to use, honestly. That could be because it is the only real magic I knew before school.”
“You knew chaos magic before attending school?” Eva couldn’t see his face, but his voice sounded intrigued.
“Only a little. A darkness spell and a blink that apparently isn’t a proper blink.” She demonstrated by stepping past Juliana and onto the open floor then back to her seat.
It had taken her months to perfect stepping into a sitting position. Most tries ended up with her either standing on the chair or standing in front of it.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t even see if Jordan was impressed. Max spoke up in his place.
“I want to learn that. No. I need to learn that.” He batted his eyes and looked at Eva. “Teach me please?”
Shelby spoke before Eva could. “You can barely manage simple water spells and that is supposed to be your element. If you try that, you’ll wind up cutting yourself to pieces.”
The large boy deflated a bit at that. He puffed back up and drew his fist in front of himself with confidence. “I’ll start taking my studies seriously if it means I can teleport around.”
Eva quirked her eyebrow at that and shook her head. It was magic. He wasn’t taking it seriously? He might as well have just stayed in a regular school.
“That was impressive,” Jordan said. “Don’t worry too much though. Fire is supposedly the hardest of the four. As an earth mage, I’m finding it extra difficult.”
“Same,” Irene said.
Shelby frowned at Irene. “I don’t think I’ve found fire to be too hard and I’m air. At least not the warming spell and light spell we learned in class.”
“Hey,” Irene dropped her voice to a whisper, “is it just me or has that Phantom been staring at us for a while?”
Eva glanced up along with everyone else.
Arachne stood at the top of the stairs wearing a phantom mask. It covered four eyes on her forehead, but both her gleaming red eyes as well as a smaller eye beneath her left were visible. Not to mention the black carapace and sharp teeth that filled her grin.
The black tendrils that made up her hair had been swept back and lay in perfectly straight lines.
The rest of her was covered in a black suit with a red vest and black tie on a black shirt. She didn’t have shoes on and she didn’t have anything hiding her long fingers either.
Eva almost jumped to her feet. She might have if she hadn’t been so shocked at Arachne actually wearing clothes.
Juliana, on the other hand, did jump up.
Irene turned to them with a raised eyebrow. “Someone you know?”
“Ah, maybe. I’ll go speak with her,” Eva said.
She stepped straight from her seat to Arachne before anyone could say anything.
“What are you doing?” Eva half hissed.
“It is fine,” Arachne said with a wave of her hand, “we went trick-or-treating that one time and nobody cared.”
“That was different. Everyone over there has seen your spider form. They’ll notice similarities if not draw the correct conclusions outright.”
A long needly finger pointed at the phantom mask. “That’s why I’m disguised. You didn’t think I’d wear clothes for fun, did you?”
“So what, where have you even been all day?”
“It took longer than expected to steal these clothes without being noticed.”
“You could have asked me.”
“I wanted it to be a surprise. Are you surprised?”
“Very,” Eva deadpanned.
The smile that grew on Arachne’s face was so genuine that Eva had a hard time maintaining her anger. She almost felt bad that Arachne couldn’t walk over and join their table.
“So,” Eva said, “what do you want?”
“I…” Eva glanced over the railing. “No one is even dancing.”
“More people to watch us.”
“I’ve never danced a day in my life.”
“I know,” Arachne’s gentle smile never wavered. “We’ll run to the bathroom and have a crash course. Enough to keep you on your feet, at least. And even after, I won’t mind if you step on mine.”
Eva bit her lip. What a cruel demon. How could she show up looking so earnest. “Alright. Meet me in the bathroom. I’m going to explain at least a little to the others.”
Arachne nodded and turned to the second floor bathrooms.
Eva stepped straight back to the table.
“Someone you know?” Irene asked again.
“Yeah, friend of mine from Florida. She decided to visit unexpectedly today.”
Maximilian let out a long whistle. “That’s a crazy costume. How did she do the hair?”
“Foam, I think.” Eva’s smile felt very plastered on. “She wanted to dance with me, and teach me to dance first.”
“Teach you to dance before dancing? Have you ever danced before?” Jordan asked.
“We should get some popcorn.”
Eva allowed her fake smile to slip into a frown. “You do that. I’ll be back later, I think.”
“Good luck,” Juliana called even as Eva stepped straight to the bathroom door.
She opened the door and waked into the bathroom.
Like everything else in The Vertex, the bathroom was lit by several neon lights. Also like the rest of the place, it wasn’t very clean.
Arachne waited in the narrow area between the stalls and the sinks. A smile spread across her face as Eva wandered in.
“Come on, we have a full half hour before its time.”
“Time for what,” Eva asked.
“I had a word,” her grin turned a bit feral, “with the musician downstairs. He agreed the music was unsuitable for proper dancing.”
Arachne stepped forwards and grabbed each of Eva’s hands with her own. She placed one on her own shoulder and kept the other in her claw.
“Now,” Arachne said, “step with me.”
Arachne jerked her forward. “No saying you can’t. To the side now.”
Eva stepped to the side before Arachne had a chance to pull her. She almost got her own foot stepped on for her efforts. Eva took a quick step back to avoid Arachne’s clawed feet.
“Too quick,” Arachne chided. “You have to allow me to finish before you move on.”
Forget stepping on Arachne’s feet. If she steps on mine then there will be a bloody mess all over the floor.
They continued dancing and fell into a rhythm. It was actually kind of fun, though Eva doubted she would be winning any awards anytime soon. Dancing around in a small box didn’t look very impressive.
“Now,” Arachne’s sudden voice nearly caused Eva’s foot to slip under the claw, “we rotate with each step.”
Taking care to avoid being trod upon, Eva followed Arachne’s lead. They continued for another ten minutes until Arachne added another element.
“Spins are probably too much for our short lesson. If I lean to one side, just follow that lean.”
Eva nodded and tried to follow. Some steps Arachne would pause and lean while others were mid-step. Still, those wound up with patterns as well. She wondered if it wouldn’t be easier with proper music than the thudding bass that reverberated throughout the bathroom.
“That will have to do,” Arachne finally concluded. “Perhaps I’ll teach you how to properly dance in the future. I thought about teaching you before tonight but worried that it would ruin the surprise.”
Eva almost wished she had taught her earlier, surprise or no. She wasn’t the type to get embarrassed easily. That require caring about what other people thought. Not something she’d ever had a problem with in the past.
Now she might care, at least a little, what the group she’d come here with thought. What her friends thought.
None of that even compared to the disaster that might happen if Arachne stepped on her feet. She probably had enough control over her body to not injure Eva. Looking at the deep claw marks on the floor of the bathroom made Eva not want to take that chance.
Still, Eva didn’t want to take away the smile on Arachne’s face. Arachne never smiled. It was always a grin. This was nice. A side of Arachne that rarely showed.
So she allowed the woman to lead her out of the bathroom.
None of her friends were at the table. A quick peek over the railing showed Juliana talking to someone out of sight. Probably the others.
Arachne brought her down the stairs by her hand.
The moment her clawed foot touched the dance floor, the heavy sounds of an organ crashed over the room. Eva glanced up at the DJ who was looking very nervously at Arachne. He was completely ignored in return.
Arachne separated from Eva at the center of the dance floor. She turned and gave a deep bow.
Eva gripped the edges of her lab coat and curtsied.
Arachne offered her hand and Eva took it. They pulled together and began their waltz.
Just like the practice, they began stepping in a small square. As the organ raged on, Arachne started rotating and eventually added the leaning.
Eva was sure it didn’t look very impressive. They had done nothing especially fancy. Eva kept her eyes on her feet more than half the time and, more than once, broke the rhythm in her haste to escape being crushed by Arachne’s feet.
But it was fun. Arachne’s smile never left her face, even when Eva half kicked her foot.
They danced around. Eva had no idea how long the song was, but it eventually ended. It couldn’t have lasted more than five minutes.
Arachne drew back to arm’s length, holding Eva’s hands until they slipped out from the distance. She gave another bow which Eva returned. She stepped forwards once more and pulled Eva into a tight embrace.
Slowly, Eva brought her arms up and returned the hug. Eva normally did not return Arachne’s frequent hugs, but sometimes things were special. This is one of those times, she thought as she idly played with the tips of Arachne’s hair tendrils.
A scream from behind her brought the moment to a crash.
Arachne immediately moved to the other side of Eva in a full protective stance.
Eva uncorked two blood vials as she turned to look.
The rest of the room had descended into a panic. Two shambling men dressed as zombies staggered up to the bar where a third had his arms around Shalise. His teeth sunk deep into her arm as she tried to fight him off.
Jordan and Max both had their wands out and were casting spells. Shadows erupted out of Jordan’s wand–some kind of chaos spell, perhaps–and enveloped the two approaching zombies.
Max flicked his wand. When nothing happened, he scrambled backwards away from the group.
It was all Eva had to say. The demon jumped across the dance floor. The black needles of her fingers plunged straight through the zombie’s head as she landed next to Shalise.
Eva ran over as Arachne tore into the two zombies under Jordan’s darkness. She slid across the hard wood floor where some of the zombie had landed, but recovered her balance and knelt beside Shalise.
Shalise’s arm wasn’t looking good. She could already see the infection settling in. Eva thought about removing the arm the way her master had, but the gash in the side of the brunette’s face made her stop. She wouldn’t be able to remove her head to stop the infection.
“Don’t touch her,” Jordan said, “you’ll infect yourself without gloves.”
Eva shook her head. She could help, but not around so many people. “Don’t worry,” she pulled a black vial from her pockets, “anti-zombie potion.” A lie of course.
“I think I can help, but I need–” Eva cut herself off as she looked around.
Arachne was making her way back to Eva’s side, her fancy suit marred by blood and rotting flesh. Juliana looked petrified, she hadn’t moved since Eva first saw the zombies. Max slowly made his way back to Jordan’s side.
“Where’s Irene and Shelby?”
“Irene said she felt sick shortly after you entered the bathroom. Shelby took her back to the dorm.” Eva couldn’t tell his expression through his costume, but he stood straighter and squared his shoulders. “I’m going after them.”
“Don’t try to stop me.”
“I’m not,” Eva said with vehemence. “But if she was feeling sick…” Eva gave a pointed glance at the zombie, “just be careful if you find her.”
He gave a solemn nod and dashed out the door.
Maximilian glanced between his friend and Eva.
“Go,” she said, “even if your magic is worthless, you can at least keep things from sneaking up behind him. Watch his back.”
He took a step but hesitated. Eva did not miss the tremble in his arm.
“Unless you wanted to leave him alone, of course.” That seemed to set him off. Eva called after him, “tell him that the girl’s rooms in the dorms might be safer than the guys.”
“Arachne,” Eva said as the portly man ran off into the night. The demon knelt and Eva spoke in a whisper, “I need you to take Shalise to the bathroom. Start stripping her, be careful to get any bits of clothing out of her wounds. Keep her awake and talking and try to hurt her as little as possible.”
The demon swooped down and lifted Shalise off the ground without complaint. Shalise started fighting and struggling, to no effect, as Arachne headed to the bathroom.
The blond didn’t respond.
Tear filled blue eyes flicked to Eva. Her eyes then swept over the corpses and blood on the floor.
Her knees cracked against the ground as she knelt over and retched.
Eva wanted to walk over and slap some sense into her, but she was covered in blood. It would only make the problem worse. Instead she waited until Juliana emptied her nachos all over the floor.
“Juliana,” Eva said softly as the blond staggered back to her feet. “We can save Shalise, but I need you to do something. Can you do something for me?”
Juliana wiped the edges of her mouth and nodded firmly, if a bit weakly.
“I need thirteen stones. Sharp ones, like arrowheads. Can you make thirteen arrowheads?”
She looked around her and tapped the floor with her foot. “It is wood, I’ll have to go o-outside.”
“The bartender,” Eva glared at the man who had just been watching the entire scene, “will watch your back or he will die.” Eva returned a soft gaze to Juliana. “When you’re done with the stones, block off the entrance with a wall of rocks, just like you did at the cave. If you see any zombies or skeletons, or anything at all, come get Arachne and myself.”
Juliana nodded and took a few shaky steps towards the door.
Eva glared at the bartender again. “Go.”
“What right do–”
“If you don’t, I’ll wipe some of this blood all over you.” Eva held up her bloodied hands. “By morning, you’ll look like one of them,” she waved a hand at the corpses.
He returned her glare but stepped around the counter and followed Juliana out the door.
As he passed by, Eva said, “if you let anything happen to her, I’ll kill you.”
Eva turned to the remaining gawkers huddling around the dance floor. “Any of you know any good fire magic?” she asked. No one responded. “Then do not go near those bodies unless you wish to die a very painful death followed by attempting to kill your friends.”
“What about you?” a half hysterical cat girl asked.
“Anti-zombie potion,” Eva said holding up the black vial. She really wished she had worn a mask. If any of the students knew who she was, she’d be facing a lot of questions in the morning.
If anyone who cared to question her lived, that is.
“There is no cure for a zombie infection,” a pirate said.
“Oh? Who told you that?” He gave no response. “That’s right. Shut up and don’t touch the corpses and maybe you’ll live until tomorrow.”
Eva ignored any further questions and marched off to the bathroom.
A naked Shalise sat on the floor. Arachne was picking through the large chunk on her arm, pulling bits of cloth from the wound. She had a weary look on her face.
Could be worse, could be a dazed look, Eva thought with a mental shrug.
“Shalise, can you hear me?”
“I’m a–” a hiccup, “a-a zombie.”
“Not yet and not ever if I have anything to say about it. I’ll let you in on a little secret I haven’t even told Juliana. I’m a blood mage.
“Being a blood mage, I can clear this whole mess up with a little cleansing ritual.”
A brown-haired girl flicked eyes in Eva’s direction. Her eyes had the slightest glimmer of hope.
“It is a very thorough cleansing, however. Have you ever had any surgeries that implanted anything? Metal plates in your hip or pacemakers?”
Shalise shook her head.
“Good. We’ll need to get all those nasty nachos out of your stomach though.”
“She already vomited, thrice,” Arachne said. “Wasn’t anything left by the third time.”
“Excellent. Next step then. Shalise, I need you to close your eyes. This ritual requires a calm mind to work.”
Eva moved to the sinks. She tore off her lab coat–shame about it being ruined–her shirt, and her pants. All were too contaminated to trust. Naked, Eva began scrubbing her arms and face of all traces of blood, double checking in the mirror. She used her innate sense of blood to check that she was completely clean of any foreign contaminants.
“I need you to close your eyes. Think of a clean white cloth, gently blowing in the wind.”
Eva turned around and ensured the girl’s eyes were closed. She pulled her dagger off her back and jammed it deep into her own arm. Eva spread her arms wide, pulling a long trail of blood out with the dagger.
The blood was much darker than it had been the last time she saw it. Not quite Arachne black, but the ritual didn’t need blood purity. Without a stick of chalk, blood was the next best thing. Better, actually, as she had fine control in manipulating it.
“The white cloth just blew onto a crystal clear lake. It sent a handful of ripples across the otherwise smooth surface.”
Eva started manipulating the blood into a circle on the floor. She added lines to direct the magic and characters to control it.
The bathroom door opened and Juliana walked in, thirteen arrowheads floating behind her.
Eva met the blond’s eyes and pressed a finger to her lips.
“The ripples stopped. There’s just a white cloth floating on the water beneath a beautiful sky.”
Eva finished drawing out the ritual circle. She looked up and nodded at Arachne.
“Keep your eyes closed. Arachne is going to pick you up and move you to the ritual circle. Don’t be scared, nothing will hurt you. Just think of a gentle breeze bringing the fresh fragrance of flowers blowing over your lake. Don’t move after you’re set down.” The bathroom was cramped enough, there was barely enough space for the inner circle without her smearing the blood.
Arachne did as instructed and backed up.
Eva stepped straight across to Arachne and whispered in her ear, “Stand outside. I don’t want anyone seeing what is about to happen.” Eva turned to Juliana as Arachne stepped outside. “Place the stones down around the outer edge of the circle pointing inwards. Keep quiet, Shalise needs to concentrate.”
As Eva moved back in front of Shalise, she said aloud, “there is a small creek making a nice flowing noise in the background. Listen to the water run.”
Once Juliana finished with the stones, Eva pulled her dagger back out. “Now, raise your uninjured hand straight in front of you, palm down.” Shalise brought her hand out, shaking a good deal. Eva held her knife just beneath her open palm. “When I say go, I need you to bring your hand to the ground hard, like you’re trying to squash an ant that is invading your beautiful lake.”
Eva waited just a moment before steadying the knife in her hand. “Ready. Go.”
Shalise’s screams pierced the air as the magical ritual dagger pierced her hand like a knife through butter. Six of the thirteen stone arrowheads immediately splattered red and green with blood and gore. Eva sheathed her dagger and did a quick check of Shalise’s arm.
All the rot had been torn away, leaving an even larger wound than before. Still, it was clean.
Eva pulled the girl into a tight hug. “It’s alright, it’s okay,” Eva said as tears ran down her chest. “It hurts, but you are fine. No zombie Shalise tonight.”
Her words didn’t seem to comfort the crying girl. Shalise cried harder and squeezed back.
Juliana took half a step forward. Eva shook her head, pointing at the bloodied stones and shaking her head.
“You are safe. Safe from zombies, but we need to do something about your wounds.” Her arm and face were still bleeding and now her hand had blood pouring out of it. Eva couldn’t see it, but she could both feel and sense the blood running down her back where Shalise had her gripped. “I’m going to let you go, I have to grab some potions. I’ll be right back and we’ll get you feeling better, okay?”
Eva tried to stand, but the girl was reluctant to let her go. Eva pried herself out of Shalise’s grip and moved to her bloodied lab coat. Using her knife, Eva punctured her arm again. Drawing the ritual took a good amount of blood out of her, but she needed to make sure there was no contaminated blood getting back into Shalise’s bloodstream.
With a snap of her fingers, all traces of blood on the lab coat had been obliterated using drops of her own blood. She grabbed six vials of Arachne’s blood and sent orbs to obliterate the six arrowheads. She grabbed all of her potions, making sure they were clean, and went back to Shalise’s side.
Eva handed over two light blue vials and a yellow vial. The general remedies would help boost her blood production as well as general pain relief and the yellow vial would help stop the bleeding, though her arm and hand were going to need some serious healing before they went back to normal. If they ever got back to normal.
“Juliana,” Eva said, “see if you can round-up some clothes from the other party goers. It doesn’t need to be a lot, I don’t care if you can’t get clothes for me. Just something for Shalise to wear.”
The blond nodded. She still seemed to be in some sort of shock, but at least she was responding.
“Oh,” Eva said before she left, “don’t touch Arachne. She’s still covered in zombie blood.”
A soft whimper brought Eva’s attention back to Shalise. She knelt down and resumed her hug.
Those necromancers are going to wish they were never born.