“It was trying to climb up onto the counter. I just added spikes to the bottom of my shoes and stomped on it. Professor Baxter and Sister Cross came into the room a moment later.”
Eva leaned back, listening to Juliana’s story. She’d already heard it once, though that one was a lot different. A shame really. All the good parts were left out of this version.
Of course, the audience might not be able to take the unsanitized version.
Irene sat across from Eva. Her pork riblets had been shoved to the side after the initial description of the flesh golems. Her face grew greener almost every time Juliana said a line. She kept flashing a look at Eva as well.
A bit odd. Eva pegged her for the braver of the twins based on how she initially wanted to see Arachne.
Shelby also stopped eating her goulash, but she almost seemed interested in the story rather than scared or disgusted. Almost.
Jordan listened to the story with rapt attention. He shoved his food aside more for concentration than loss of appetite. “So where was Eva for all of this?”
“In the Rickenbacker medical center with Nurse Naranga,” Eva said, glad she and Zoe Baxter had come up with that cover story. “It was quite a shock to return to the room.”
“It was a shock to smell the hallway,” Irene grumbled, more to herself than anyone.
Eva gave the girl an understanding smile. The room smelled worse, but not by much. The real surprise for Eva was walking down the hallway.
At some point, the room entered her sphere of blood sense. She could almost ‘see’ the entire kitchen from the hallway. All the cupboards and the furniture, she could even tell where the ceiling was from the splatter that landed there.
It was all a bit disorienting.
Irene just shivered and looked down at her plate.
“Still though, first Shalise and now you?” Max glanced over at Eva. “Better be on your guard, you’re next.”
Shelby elbowed him in the side. Hard. Max doubled over, groaning.
“You can’t say things like that,” Shelby said. “What if she really gets hurt? Then how would you feel?”
Eva let her smile drop, but didn’t respond. They were probably after her in the first place.
Arachne now waited in their temporary room as a guard, just in case. If Eva had to run to the prison again, she’d probably bring Juliana with her. Eva was still unwilling to have the spider-demon anywhere near the nuns patrolling the campus.
Outside of their dorms, the nuns had almost tripled overnight. Two stood around the cafeteria and a fourth seemed to patrol between the tables every minute or so. Unnecessary, in Eva’s opinion.
She was still unsure what to make of Sister Cross’ theory of another necromancer in town. It seemed far-fetched. That there would be two separate groups of necromancers in town with both having run into Eva, or at least Eva’s room in the second case, she found to be incredibly unlikely. If it was true, however, they likely wanted the book as well.
What Eva really needed to do was inform the necromancers that the book was destroyed. For some reason, just hanging up notices like missing posters for a lost cat did not seem like it would do the trick.
“I can’t imagine having to sleep in that room.”
“We don’t,” Juliana said. “We’ve been moved to room three-eighteen until the room has been ‘sterilized.'”
“Even then, it can’t be pleasant going back to it.”
“I’m more concerned with my clothes. The things landed right by my bed. Some blood and puss got into my drawers.” Juliana sighed. “I think I have to burn the entire thing.” She pulled at the tee-shirt she had on, the only student in the cafeteria who wasn’t in uniform. “These are Eva’s even. Not that they’re bad or anything,” she said quickly with a glance at the owner.
Eva lightly chuckled and waved her off.
“Oh,” Irene perked up for the first time since lunch started. “We’ll go shopping after class ends. We’ll have to be quick though, curfew has been moved to an hour before sunset after your thing.”
“That seems odd,” Eva said. “A student is attacked in their dorm so now we have to be in the dorms sooner?”
Jordan looked up at Eva’s comment. “Professor Lurcher assured us that additional wards were being erected to prevent another incident,” he said.
Then why weren’t they erected after Halloween.
Eva didn’t have much confidence in the school. She had half a mind to erect her full blood wards when they moved back into three-thirteen. Sadly, such a thing would be hard to subtly key in everyone to the wards. Eva couldn’t very well go around to the entire faculty and ask for a blood sample.
Not to mention the wards might be detected by the Elysium Sisters. Their complete capabilities were still a mystery to Eva.
“No more zombie talk,” Irene said, flicking a finger at Jordan. Her finger whirled around to Juliana. “We’re going to get some new clothes and a new uniform for you with no talking about zombies either.”
The bell rang with only half of them having finished even part of their food. Together they sauntered off to alchemy.
Alchemy was the odd class out. Unlike all the classes with proper desks, they had counters with sinks and gas valves poking out the top. Four students could fit at each counter rather than the three per desk.
Normally, Irene sat with Eva and Juliana.
Today, Eva watched with furrowed eyebrows as the brunette stopped and hesitated. She glanced at her usual seat at Eva’s side before hurrying over to Jordan’s table, taking a seat beside Max.
Eva shot a questioning glance at Juliana. The blond shrugged and shook her head, looking just as confused as Eva felt.
Without Shalise, their table was down to two.
Understanding dawned on Eva as she moved to the stool next to Juliana. Most of Wayne Lurcher’s lessons were for pairs. Without Shalise, there would be an odd person out. It might be weird for Max to have a partner for the first time since school started, but it probably worked out better this way.
Wayne Lurcher got the lesson started the moment the bell rang. He pulled a bucket of crystals out from behind his counter. Eva recognized them immediately as crystallized magic spanning all six colors of thaumaturgical magic in various shapes and sizes.
“Today we will be melting this entire stock into liquid magic.” He held up one of the sapphire spheres. “Water is the easiest. As many of you may remember from Calvin’s class, getting it into the crystal form is the hard part. It wants to be liquid.”
That was an understatement. The water crystal class had been the worst general magic class so far. They’d had small glass bowls of water to turn into crystal. Getting it into a crystal form wasn’t that hard. Keeping it there was. A good portion of the class tried to pick up their crystals before they stabilized, despite warnings from Professor Calvin. The moment they touched it, the crystals would explode into liquid magic, soaking everyone around.
Shalise ended up soaking Eva and Juliana more than once.
“Earth,” he picked up one of the jagged green crystals, “is the opposite. It wants to be solid, though I imagine you’ll have less problems than you did getting water into a crystallized form.”
He held up a small lump that looked like a potato. If potatoes were transparent and had raging sandstorms inside of them. He put a glove on his other hand before lifting a pointed red crystal that had very visible heat waves emanating from it.
Eva did not miss Juliana’s wince at the sight.
“Both air and fire can simply be melted with heat. Extreme heat in fire’s case. We have special ovens for that.”
Only two types remained. “Order and chaos are the two odd ones. We will be dissolving and then distilling the two.” He tapped the smooth white sphere against the black box. A loud hiss echoed through the room. A portion of each crystal vanished. “It might look gone, but the essence is still in the air. It will dissipate after a few minutes. With a special still to trap it, we can condense the two into liquid order and liquid chaos.
“If you mess up, you’ll have homework of making more crystal of whatever type you ruined.”
The rest of the class was spent making large flasks of each type of liquid magic. Wayne Lurcher showed more in-depth ways of liquefying each type of crystal. Neither Juliana nor Eva had any problems.
The only group to wind up with any of Wayne Lurcher’s homework was the Jason Bradley and Peter Mason duo. They somehow screwed up making liquid fire. It was so simple. The fire crystal was placed in the oven and liquid fire dripped into a flask. How they messed it up Eva couldn’t fathom, but a large pile of slag had replaced their oven.
Max didn’t mess up anything, which came as a surprise to Eva. Probably due to Irene rather than any bouts of competence from her partner.
The moment Wayne Lurcher dismissed the class after the bell rang, Irene ran over and half dragged Juliana away. The poor blond gave a half-hearted wave to Eva as she vanished through the door.
That Juliana seemed to be done with her cold shoulder was nice. Four days of living in the same room right next to each other, without school even as a distraction, was awkward. She didn’t even have any good books to read. Almost her entire collection, including the as-of-yet unread necromancer books were all out at the prison.
Eva would have to thank the necromancers for sending those flesh golems before tearing out their hearts.
In the meantime, she had work to do.
Once inside dorm three-eighteen, Eva stepped straight to her desk. She had moved all of her supplies the night before.
Arachne peeked out from under her covers in spider form. She glanced around the room. A moment later, Arachne shifted into her human form, already reclining on Eva’s bed.
“It was boring without you around,” Arachne said.
Eva held up her finger to her lips.
“What?” Arachne whispered. She looked around the room again, getting up from the bed in an alert stance.
“I had the theory before,” Eva said as she pulled out a stack of fresh paper and a pen. She’d use her good ink after she was sure of her runes, the anti-scrying papers were getting exceedingly complicated, but it was a fun problem to work out.
Eva continued, “Juliana’s description of the golems seemed to confirm it.”
“Confirm what?” Arachne whispered.
“It also revealed a massive flaw I can’t believe I didn’t correct earlier.
“I’m pretty sure that those flesh golems couldn’t see thanks to my runes. I mostly expected that. After all, skeletons don’t have eyeballs yet they can still see. Those flesh golems seemed to hear Juliana’s footsteps.”
“Your runes don’t block sound?”
“No.” The oversight made Eva sweat buckets when she first thought about it. “If someone heard one of our discussions in the shower…”
“They’d just think you were with Juliana or Shalise, right?”
“I can’t say that you sound like either of them,” Eva said. “Not to mention the things we talked about were definitely dangerous.”
“So you’re going to fix that?”
“At least for our room, I will.”
Eva set to work. She started with a blank piece of paper. It was easiest to start from scratch and then tie the sound runes into her already existing anti-scrying runes rather than try to get everything working at once.
Waves in the air cause sound. It seemed a good place to start.
Isaz tied to aesh to freeze the air. She tied them together and set up a boundary similar to the scrying runes. A uath and naudiz would be tied in later to cause fear and distress in anyone attempting to listen. For now, they were just to the side, unconnected. With the simple array in place, Eva charged the runes.
Of course nothing happened. She’d need to try to listen in. Eva didn’t know how to do that.
Eva looked up to ask Arachne if she had any way of testing.
She tired to speak, but no words came out.
A small feeling of panic settled in.
Eva took a big gasp of air. Relief replaced panic as air flowed into her lungs. She wasn’t sure if Arachne needed to breathe or not, or how often, but Eva still needed air. Adding pargon power runes might have solidified the air. If she had frozen the air so solidly she couldn’t even move, she would probably still be able to overload the regular ink, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Glad nothing went seriously wrong, Eva tore the paper in two, ending the effect.
The mistake was an obvious one, one she’d learned when she first made her anti-scrying runes. She forgot the praecantatio rune attached to the isaz rune.
Her first runic sheet blinded herself and Juliana, scaring the poor girl for a minute.
Praecantatio changed whatever it was attached to into magic, in this case, freezing magic that interacts with the air. Hopefully most forms of magical listening would pick something up from the air.
Eva quickly redrew the paper, changes in place, and activated it.
“Arachne,” Eva said, “know any means of scrying with sound?”
The spider-woman shrugged and nestled back into Eva’s bed.
Eva didn’t expect any other response. In all her years knowing the demon, Eva never once saw her casting any magic. Her blood was magical, very magical if Eva’s blood magic was any indicator, so she could in theory. Arachne was probably just too lazy to learn.
“I’ll be heading to the library for a few minutes then,” Eva said.
The runes were a good start. They felt promising, at least. It wouldn’t do to leave them untested. They almost assuredly needed testing. Hopefully, she would find a book on the subject.
Arachne perked up.
Eva was quick to crush her hopes. “I’ll only be gone for a minute. Stay here. We don’t want to run into any nuns out in the halls.”
Arachne fell face first onto the bed. She grumbled something into the pillow. Eva had a decent guess as to what she said.
Eva moved up next to her, patting her on her back. “Don’t be like that. They’re to our advantage right now. Plus there are at least thirty of them, probably more.”
Another set of grumblings rumbled out of the pillow. It sounded suspiciously like, ‘eh, I could take them.’
Eva ran her fingers through the semi-stiff hair tendrils running off onto the bed. “One other thing. Juliana is out shopping with Irene. When she comes back, Irene might help carry things into the room. It is safer for you to be a spider when that happens.” At further rumbles in the pillow, Eva added, “they won’t be back until curfew, I bet. Just keep an ear out. If you hear anything, change into a spider quickly.”
She gave a quick pat on Arachne’s head and headed down to the library.
The musty scent of the Rickenbacker library filled the air as usual. It seemed to have gotten worse after snowing. Students tracking in snow made the books moist.
If Eva were in charge of the library, there would be several runes set up around the entrances to keep dampness at bay. She’d done that at the prison and her Florida home.
David Sunji wasn’t Eva. He sat at his usual spot behind the counter and gave Eva a polite nod. He made no effort to make sure her shoes were clear of snow and water.
They were clear, of course. She cranked up the temperature in her shoes at the prison the night before to help dry any wayward snow.
Her next task at the prison was to inscribe some more permanent runes along every path in the prison. Something to keep the winter away while walking around.
Sadly, winter proofing the prison was not an immediate concern. Necromancers were. Ensuring privacy in dorms came pretty close to necromancers.
Eva made her way to the section she found the scrying book at. There had to be something around that she could use.
It didn’t take long before she found a book that looked promising.
Claircognizance: Clairvoyance, Clairsentience, Clairaudience, Clairalience, and Clairgustance
Written by Claire de Puységur
Rather than the smooth pools of water her other book instructed to use, Claire insisted crystal balls were the best form of clairvoyance possible. Unfortunately, crystal balls weren’t easy to come by. Filling a bowl with water was far more convenient.
Eva skipped to the clairaudience section. By burning fresh needles from pine trees, a good amount of smoke would be produced. Using a wand to channel magic into the smoke and focusing on a location, clairaudience could be achieved.
That seemed doable. Too doable. A crystal ball might be hard to acquire, but books like these shouldn’t be accessible by children. That was just asking for trouble.
Still, that was why Eva was working on her new runes.
There were pine trees in the small section of woods behind the outdoor auditorium.
Eva snapped the book shut. The auditorium wasn’t far. A jog from the dorms would take less than ten minutes and another ten minutes to get back.
Half way there, Eva started regretting coming. She should have gone shopping and picked up some boots. The paths were shoveled or at least trampled between school and the dorms. The path to the auditorium hadn’t been used since school started.
Snow a good five inches deep filled the entire area. The heating runes were not keeping up. Eva shivered, wishing she was better at fire magic.
Once far enough away from the dorms and the nuns, Eva started stepping. Skipping huge amounts of the snow helped a little, even if that little was just to get her out of the cold sooner.
In retrospect there were probably pine trees in the Infinite Courtyard. Most of its paths would probably be trampled down after two days of school. At least ones far enough in to reach a pine tree.
Eva toughed it out. The auditorium sprawled out before her, covered in snow. She’d just step straight past and be done with the cold for the rest of the week.
Just before the tree line, Eva withdrew her dagger. She tapped out just a tiny amount of blood. It formed an intense heating rune on each of her shoes. Blood wouldn’t last long for making the entire rune, but she’d rather walk on hot coals on the way back than trudge through the snow.
With steam rising at every step, Eva went up to the nearest pine tree and started pulling needles. They were slightly sticky. The self-cleaning enchantments on her school uniform better be up to the task.
She filled her pockets and took an extra double handful. After clearing a spot on the ground, Eva set the needles on a spot dried by her shoes. Might as well test her existing rune and clairaudience while she had the spare needles to gather if she screwed up.
A small, controlled flame was much easier to create than a fireball and that is what Eva used to get a smoldering clump of pine needles. As the book said, she channeled magic, wandlessly, into the smoke and visualized room three-eighteen.
If her rune was working, she wouldn’t be able to tell if she was doing the spell properly. She tried to focus on the dorm cafeteria which usually had at least someone in it.
Eva pulled another handful of pine needles off a tree and added it to her pile. She settled down, ready to try again.
She spent a half hour testing various locations before she heard even the faintest murmur of noise that wasn’t from the near silent woods around her. There was a conversation going on in one of the classrooms in school. It wasn’t clear enough to make out details or even what the speakers sounded like.
At least the spell worked. Closing eyes seemed to help more than anything.
That might be because Arachne was quiet and Juliana wasn’t back. Not for the first time, Eva wished she had a way to contact the spider. Zoe Baxter seemed to use a cell phone for her long distance communication. Eva almost thought about buying one for her and another for Arachne, but didn’t think Arachne would like it so much. She didn’t wear clothes and would probably crush it any time she tried to type on it.
There had to be a proper magical way to communicate easily. If she could teach Arachne clairaudience, that might be a solution. If they both used it at the same time. And always had piles of the sticky pine needles on hand.
Sighing, Eva opened her eyes.
A large, murky spike of ice jutted out of her pile of needles.
Eva scrambled backwards, looking upwards to make sure she was in the clear from other icicles.
Her cheeks heated up with a wave of foolishness as she realized what the icicle was.
Huh, she thought as she tipped over the spike, I suppose isaz worked.
A light chuckle escaped from her lips.
The chuckle and any accompanying smile vanished as snow crunched behind her.
She pulled her dagger out from its place on her back and glanced around the woods.
“No demon to watch your back tonight?”
Eva whirled, sending a splattering of blood in the direction of the voice.
A large flesh golem jumped in the way of the blood, shielding its masters.
She snapped her fingers and the blood flashed. The golem staggered and collapsed to the ground.
“I’m quite capable on my own,” Eva said with far more confidence than she felt. The golem fell due to luck, more than anything. Had that been Arachne’s blood, the golem would have vaporized.
And she still hadn’t gotten around to having Arachne refill the vials she’d used on Halloween.
The skinny figure behind the fallen flesh golem clapped his hands twice with a wide grin on his face. “I thought that was blood magic the other night. It was too dark to tell for sure.”
A spectral hound growled at Eva from between the two men standing before her. Ectoplasmic foam dripped from its mouth to the snow. Around ten flesh golems stood around the two men.
The wider man shot a glare at his companion. “We’re here for the book, not for compliments, Sawyer.”
“Book?” Eva said with false swagger. “Oh, you must mean the pile of ashes I scattered to the winds after Halloween.” She ticked her finger back and forth. “Shouldn’t have shown your hand. Especially to me.”
The large man started forwards. Three more flesh golems jumped forwards with his movement. Sawyer placed his hand on the larger man’s shoulder, but the golems didn’t stop.
Eva jammed her crystal dagger into her arm. She drew a thin thread of her dark blood into a razor wire in front of her.
With a snap of her finger, the wire whipped out from her. She slashed it across the nearest golem.
The golem staggered, but kept coming.
Eva thrust out, wrapping the whip around its neck. She snapped her fingers, decapitating it.
The other two barreled onto her. She stepped straight behind them, forming a small blood needle in each hand as she moved.
The golems each got a needle in their backs. With a snap of her finger, the needles exploded. They collapsed with damaged spinal cords.
Eva whirled on the remaining group. None of them had moved. “Come on,” Eva said, trying to contain her anger. “I’ll take on the rest of them and you.”
Revealing her stepping was not something she wanted to do. Especially without her wand in her hand. She tried very hard to make her finger ring more obvious.
Sawyer just laughed and clapped again. His grin never left his face.
“What a ferocious display.” He leaned over to his companion. “If that’s what they teach kids at that school, I might have to enroll my daughter.”
“Sawyer,” the man growled. “No jokes. If she destroyed the book…”
“It isn’t like the book was our main plan.” Sawyer paused and brought his finger to his chin. “It was expensive. We’ll have to gather just recompense from the young lady.”
A golden glint passed through his eyes as he spoke. It sent shivers up Eva’s spine. She quickly glanced around the woods. A number of flesh golems wandered up to form a loose circle around her. She almost stepped away when Sawyer’s companion spoke.
“I don’t care about the Elysium whores.” The word was all but spat out. “I want my book.”
None of the golems moved and their footsteps would crunch the show if they did. She’d have warning enough to step. Information might be more handy at the moment.
“What do you want with the Elysium Sisters?”
“Nothing much. Every chapter travels with an augur. We just want her skull polished and carved into a container. Her soul can stay inside until we tire of her blathering.”
“That doesn’t sound like something Death would like much.”
Sawyer shrugged without breaking eye contact. “It isn’t like we’re turning her into a lich. Did you even read those books you stole?”
Eva shifted uncomfortably.
His voice dropped to a low rumble. “Those who squander knowledge are the worst sorts of people.”
Eva opened her mouth to retort only for it to snap shut. A cold chill gripped her spine. The cold branched out to the tips of her fingers and the bottoms of her feet. Even the boiling runes in her shoes couldn’t fight off the cold.
She tried to step away. Even towards the necromancers when she couldn’t turn her head.
Instead, Eva teetered and fell into the snow.
“That took longer than expected,” Sawyer’s companion grumbled.
It took all her concentration to lift her head up. She struggled to look at the necromancers. Her head moved slowly, like she was in a pool of honey.
“Don’t fight the possession, my sweetie. You’ll just hurt yourself.”
Eva didn’t listen. She fought as hard as she could. Slowly she got to her feet.
It wasn’t her doing.
“Well?” Sawyer’s companion barked out.
“Something’s strange,” a voice said. “She’s strange,” Eva’s voice said. She lurched forwards. Her dagger tumbled out of her twitching fingers.
The large man walked up to Eva. He gingerly plucked the dagger out of the snow. Only his forefinger and thumb touched the hilt.
If only he accidentally cut himself.
He gripped Eva’s chin with a meaty hand and pinched her mouth open. A cold liquid flooded into her mouth.
“Make her swallow.”
Eva tried to spit. Tried to avoid swallowing. Cold tendrils snaked through the inside of her mouth. The potion was in her stomach soon enough.
If only she was further along in her treatments. The drowsiness wouldn’t have taken hold.
“Now,” Sawyer’s voice came through murky water, “what were we talking about?
“Ah yes, recompense.”