Author’s Note: Chapter may contain disturbing elements. If you find yourself becoming uncomfortable during Eva’s POV section, skip down to “Her Eva was missing.” This bypasses the section.
There will be an Author’s Note summarizing Eva’s POV beneath the bottom chapter navigation.
“You knock on your own room?” Irene quirked an eyebrow in Juliana’s direction.
The two finished shopping in record time. The subpar selection offered by shops around Brakket certainly helped. Still, Juliana made out with a new uniform and plenty of everyday clothes. Her favorite purchase was a brand new winter coat. It was cut long with an outer layer of wool and fleece lining.
Her old coat wasn’t technically ruined due to being hung up near the door when the golems attacked. As long as Zoe lifted the limit on her miscellaneous spending, why not spend it.
“Eva tends to sleep naked. I like to give her some warning in case she’s already stripped down.” And to make sure Arachne wasn’t hanging around in her human form.
It had only been one day since Arachne came back to the dorms. Juliana spent most of that day at school. The night before and the morning, after their talks with Sister Cross and Zoe, Arachne spent the entire time as a human. Apparently she no longer felt the need to hide in her spider form. At least around Juliana.
Juliana expected her to take over the third bed in the room. Instead she cuddled up with Eva in her bed. They weren’t made for two people, barely made for one person, but Arachne didn’t care and Juliana heard no complaints from Eva.
In a way it was comforting to have her around. If the necromancers decided to send more golems to attack, Arachne should be able to deal with them without any trouble if her show at the club was any indicator.
“So, are we going in then?” Irene shifted the bag she was carrying to her other arm.
“There’s no answer. Maybe she’s out.”
Juliana slipped both of her bags onto one arm and pulled out her card. With a quick swipe, the latch clicked open.
An empty room greeted them.
Papers were strewn about Eva’s desk and her book bag lay underneath. If Eva really was gone, Juliana might take a brief peek; so long as Arachne was gone as well.
Irene set her bag down near Juliana’s bed.
“Can I offer you some–” Juliana stopped herself. “Well, our fridge and cupboards are empty. I’ll owe you something as thanks.”
Irene waved a hand. “That’s okay. I’m glad to have helped.” She wandered over to Eva’s desk. “What’s all this?”
“Hmm,” Juliana said with a peek over her shoulder. “New version of the scrying packets, maybe. She doesn’t use regular pens when she draws out the real ones.”
“Ah, well,” Irene glanced around the room almost nervously. “I guess I’ll be heading out now.”
“There’s no rush. I don’t know when Eva will be back, but I’m sure she won’t mind.”
“Shelby wanted me to help her with a thing when I got back, so I couldn’t stay long anyway.” Irene half skipped to the door. She paused with her hand on the handle. “Tell Eva I said hello.”
And with that, she was gone.
“You’d almost think she was avoiding you.”
Juliana whirled around. Metal turned to liquid beneath her shirt.
All her adrenaline meant nothing as she faced the speaker.
Eight red eyes poked out from beneath the covers of Eva’s bed. Arachne ducked back under the sheets leaving just the crest of her hair… things visible.
Juliana took a moment to allow her heart to come down to a more normal pace.
“I’d say she’s trying to avoid Eva, actually. We just spent two hours shopping together.”
“Why would anyone avoid Eva?” came the muffled response. Despite the muffle, it was almost a growl.
Deciding that might not be the safest topic, Juliana just shrugged. “Where is Eva anyway?”
“She went to the library an hour and a half ago.”
“And left you here?”
“She didn’t want to run into any nuns in the hallway with me hanging off of her.” The woman sighed from beneath the covers.
Juliana shuffled her feet. She thought about putting her new clothes away, but the atmosphere turned sour with Arachne acting dejected. “I’ll go see if I can’t drag her back up here.”
Arachne gave no protest as Juliana slipped out of the room.
Dealing with Arachne normally wasn’t much of anything. Except when Eva instructed, Arachne would all but ignore Juliana. A moping Arachne was far more uncomfortable to be around.
Juliana walked back down to the first floor and into the dormitory library. It wasn’t nearly as big as the main campus library, but it had several copies of all grade’s schoolbooks. There were a good number of extra books for extracurricular study.
Being smaller, none of the shelves were higher than Juliana’s head despite her rather petite stature. For now. Her mother would tower over nearly everyone she came across and one day Juliana was sure she would too.
No long black hair could be seen over the tops of the shelves. She walked up and down the few aisles anyway, in case Eva was kneeling down.
Juliana had yet to receive any kind of notice from her mother. She had just gone home Sunday night. There was no way she didn’t get a call about the golems on Tuesday morning, if not the night before. Juliana half expected to get pulled out of Brakket Academy, for good, by Friday.
Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that. Despite all the goings on, she’d actually been having fun at school. Even if most of the classwork was below the level of her mother’s tutelage.
Without finding her quarry, Juliana stopped by Mr. Sunji’s desk. The curly-haired man peeked over the rims of his glasses.
“Can I help you?” he asked in a soft voice.
“Have you seen Eva? A girl, slightly taller than me, black hair down to just below her hips,” she added at his puzzled look.
“Oh, I’ve seen her. She comes in with you sometimes.” Juliana nodded a confirmation. “Yeah, came in an hour or two ago. Only stayed about fifteen minutes. Haven’t seen her since.”
“I see. Know what books she was looking at?”
“Sorry. I don’t usually pay much attention unless people need something.”
Juliana sighed. “Thanks anyway Mr. Sunji.”
He nodded her off with a polite smile. Juliana doubted he knew her name. Not that it mattered.
Juliana headed back upstairs, ready to tell Arachne the bad news.
— — —
A hot sting burned into the side of Eva’s face. Her neck creaked as her head twisted to one side.
Her eyes snapped open. Sawyer’s wide grin was mere inches from her face.
“There we go. I was worried we killed you.”
The bone thin man stood alone in a small room. At least, the part she could see. He moved his hands just behind Eva’s head. There was a light clicking noise and a band tightened around her forehead. It held her head straight forwards, she couldn’t move it an inch in either direction.
A single light bulb hung from its cord just behind Sawyer. The dim light was barely enough to reach the rocky walls of the room. A barred door was firmly wedged in the opening.
If Eva didn’t know better, she’d think she was in one of the older buildings at her prison. She inspected every inch of that place. None of the buildings looked this much like a cave.
Eva tried to shout at him. Her mouth wouldn’t move. Rather than the cold grip of a specter, leather was taut against her mouth and chin. She couldn’t even move her lips.
“Ah yes, your restraints. I did them myself, quite proud of them. Go on, struggle.”
Eva tried. She didn’t even move. Something was wrapped around her forehead, several points on her arms and legs, and all along her torso. Judging by the cool air, she wasn’t wearing much other than her restraints.
“Not even a budge?” Sawyer tsked his tongue. “You should really try lifting a little. Exercise never hurt anyone.”
Eva was willing to bet she could arm wrestle the skinny little twig in front of her. With the restraints on, she couldn’t do much but glare.
“I wouldn’t worry about it anymore though.” He moved back and to the side, out of Eva’s vision. She tried to cast a fireball at herself. Even if her fireballs were weak, they should work on the restraints.
The fireball fizzled out before it even left her fingertips.
Eva took a deep breath through her nose and tried again. Same response.
“Fascinating,” he said. “Do you have an implanted focus? Or is that… No matter. Magic doesn’t work in the dungeons. Can’t have our precious prisoners accidentally acquiring a focus and escaping, now can we?”
Eva let out a low growl. He was lying, of course. Magic did work. At least, it worked for her. Just not further away than her body.
She tried stepping straight forward.
Eva groaned. It felt like walking headfirst into a wrecking ball.
“Unexpected. Something just pinged against the anti-teleportation wards. Was that you?” He pinched Eva’s cheek from off to the side. “That school must be something special. I almost regret attacking it now.
“Now then,” he said, “apart from all your other tricks, blood mages are tricky sorts. Let’s test just how tricky you are, hmm?”
He walked back in front of Eva. In his hands was a small steel rectangle. It looked like the kind of thing a fat businessman would chop off the end of his cigar with. Kind of. Sawyer’s cigars must be made of steel.
Two sharp slices rang as Sawyer tested it on the air.
Eva tried to pull away as he brought it right next to her ear. The bindings gave no quarter.
He sliced it in the air again.
“Now, the test.” He knelt before her.
Without being able to tilt her head, Eva couldn’t see him.
Another slice through the air.
Eva kept her breathing calm and steady. Whatever he was going to do couldn’t be that bad. The contraption was too small for a foot. It would just be a toe.
Toes aren’t even big deals, really. Just little stubs of flesh and bone.
Cold metal touched against her little toe.
Eva tensed. She tried to curl her toes but a strap over her foot made it near impossible.
The cold disappeared and another slice shirked through nothing but air.
Eva didn’t relax.
The cold reappeared around her toe.
Eva screamed out. Or tried to. Her mouth wouldn’t budge. It came out more as a loud hum.
Her toe was off. It hurt. It hurt.
Sawyer popped back up holding a small, fleshy colored thing between his fingers.
“It was just a little toe and you’re trying so hard to thrash around? I’d have assumed a blood mage would be used to the pain. Are you really a blood mage?”
Eva glared at him, grinding down on her own teeth.
“I mean, there are no shards of blood exploding in my eyes. Not a single tendril of blood between your foot and the toe trying to reattach it. And,” he gave it a squeeze. Blood dripped down, pooling on the floor.
Eva could sense it. She could ‘see’ it. The blood on the floor, his fingers, his shoe. She could see it all even without turning her head.
“And its black. I thought something was odd back in the woods. It might have been a trick of the light. Nope.” He laughed. “Black blood? You’re a demon yourself, aren’t you?”
With the restraints on, Eva couldn’t respond. She didn’t want to. With a deep breath, Eva concentrated on healing her damaged foot. Stopping the bleeding was the only thing she could do.
“That my restraints can hold a demon… Well, that brings a tear to my eye.” He laughed again. “I thought we’d barely get any money from selling off your body parts, but demon parts? Ohh boy, we’ll be living like kings. At least for a week or two.
“To be honest,” Sawyer leaned down, all but licking Eva’s ear. “I don’t care about the money, or the stupid book. Weilks’ plan wouldn’t have turned it into the real thing. He’s a deluded fool getting on in age and getting a fear of Death.”
Eva glared. It was all she could do. Desperately willing the blood on his fingers to do something, anything, wasn’t working. Even if she could snap her fingers, the blood hadn’t touched her blade.
“If your kidnapping draws out the Elysium Sisters, all the better. Them trying to use their augur to find you would be the best case scenario. Weilks is out watching their movements.
“Meanwhile,” he snipped the cutter again, “I get all the fun!”
He knelt back down, snipping the cutter as he went.
“Oh good, you stopped your bleeding. It’d be a shame if you missed out on the fun by passing out or, Death forbid, dying.”
Eva hummed as another toe splattered to the floor.
Her last pinky dropped off its nub. Sawyer caught it in a small sack along with the others. He wiped a lock of blond hair back over his forehead. He didn’t seem to mind it being stained black with her blood.
“Ten toes, ten fingers. I honestly have no idea who would want to buy demon toes.” Sawyer’s grin was visible even through Eva’s tears. “I’m sure someone will. There are a lot of real freaks out there, you know?”
Eva couldn’t think. Her right thumb was the last to go and it didn’t even hurt. There was too much other hurt going on. She felt light-headed. Not a lack of blood. A lack of air. Her heart hammered non stop. Two nostrils were not enough for her needs.
“Now,” Sawyer said. He pulled a long, shiny knife off a side table, “there are a lot of real expensive goods inside here.” He patted her stomach.
Eva froze. Not that she had any choice, none of the restraints had loosened in the slightest. She might not have to worry about a hammering heart much longer.
“Not a lot you can live without though.” The knife glinted as he slid it back towards the table.
Eva almost relaxed. Almost. She’d learned better over the last hour.
“Then again, you are a demon. Who knows what you can live through?” His hand flashed to her chest. The knife drew across her skin.
Eva healed herself as fast as she could. The cut itself was barely a scratch against the pain pulsing out of her fingers. She glared at him all the while.
Sawyer drew back. “That’s an annoying ability. I might actually have to knock you out to get in there.” He pulled the whole tray of surgical materials into Eva’s line of sight. “I’m sure there is lots of other fun we can have until then.”
His hands passed over various implements. With each one, he paused and looked at Eva as if considering whether to use it or not.
None of them looked like anything Eva wanted used on her.
“Ahhh, this one might work.” He picked up an odd-looking metal stick. It was long and flat, with clear pincers at the end. “Watch close and I’ll explain how it works.”
Eva gave him her best glare.
“Enucleation. Know what that means?”
He got a glare in response.
“No? Well then, this thing here is flexible, see?” He bent the tip of the thing. “By pulling on a string at the end, it can hug whatever it is around. By pulling another string it goes snip-snip.” He demonstrated. The little flexible end snipped shut.
“Would you like to see how it works?” He laughed and pinched Eva’s cheek. “Of course you do.”
Sawyer gripped her forehead with one hand and pulled her eyelid open. With one deft movement, he jammed the thing into her eye.
Eva tried to scream. She tried to step. She tried fireballs and blood. Nothing worked. Nothing helped.
Eva’s eyeball jiggled in its socket as Sawyer slid the implement around.
Her toes and fingers were nothing. Losing her leg was nothing.
“Snip and snip. Okay, now the big one. Big smiles for the last one.”
Eva tried to scream. She tried to cry.
The cutter shoved further back. She could feel it. It wrapped around the backside of her eyeball.
Her left eye went dark.
“And,” Sawyer made a popping sound with his mouth as he forced her eyeball out of its resting spot.
He held it up. A red-hazel eye stared back at Eva.
Eva threw up. For the first time in nearly eight years, Eva threw up.
It flooded into her mouth. With nowhere to go, it spewed out her nose. Two nostrils were not enough for her stomach. It dribbled down her bare chest, pooling under her seat.
Her lungs burned. Her nose cleared. Eva greedily inhaled, some of her own stomach acid flew back in, burning her lungs from the inside. With great effort, she swallowed back the stuff in her mouth before she started coughing.
Coughing didn’t work so well with your mouth covered.
It just hurt more.
“That wasn’t so bad,” Sawyer said, having taken a step away from her. “There’s still one left though.”
He moved in while Eva was still reeling from the first one. He quickly snipped out the smaller cuts and then stepped back.
Eva couldn’t move her eye anymore. It hung loosely, affected more by gravity than any of her will.
“You know,” he said, “demon eyes will fetch quite the price. Regenerate them quickly enough and maybe we won’t kill you. We’ll just harvest your eyes until you pay us back.
“With interest, of course.” He lunged forward, jamming the tool into her eye.
Eva’s vision went dark.
“If you promise to work on growing back your eyes, I’ll leave you alone for now.”
Eva felt fingers touching her cheek. They pulled away. A moment later, footsteps walked away from her. A door opened and slammed shut.
It took all of her willpower to concentrate on stopping the blood. Her eye sockets were slowly filling up behind the useless flaps that were her eyelids.
Eva slowly got herself under control. It might have been an hour or ten hours, she couldn’t tell.
Eva couldn’t even slump. She just sat in her chair. Body fluids still dripped from her chin down her chest. The dried parts cracked and stuck to her, but they were far from the most unpleasant thing she was feeling.
Grow back my eyes? Eva almost laughed at that. She wasn’t in the mood to laugh.
Maybe if she had been caught a few years from now. Somewhere in the final stages of her treatment.
As it was, Sawyer would just come back and see no progress in healing. She’d get her stomach cut open and everything valuable taken out.
She tried casting fireballs. The heat just fizzled out the moment they left her finger nubs. She tried another midway up her arm, right next to a restraint. There wasn’t even any heat with that.
Stepping didn’t work. Her blood wasn’t working. She could still see it. It was the only thing she could see, though it wasn’t true sight.
There wasn’t much to see. It was mostly a small section of the floor splattered in front of her, the ends of her feet and hands–and her face. Maybe some of the tools as well; they were too far away to do anything with even if she could move.
Demonology wouldn’t help either. She had no summoning circles nearby to call out to. No runes anywhere to charge. She hadn’t read the necromancy books, but she doubted they would–
Or would demonology help. Arachne was always pestering her about moving through Hell to reach their other home.
Infernal walks were dangerous for mortals. Even if Eva went, she assumed Arachne would be there to help.
Hell couldn’t be any more dangerous than waiting for Sawyer to return.
Eva concentrated. She would have closed her eyes but…
Eva didn’t shake her head. She tried, but failed.
Focusing, Eva channeled her magic into herself. Not elemental magic, not chaos magic. She channeled it into herself the same way she channeled magic to summon demons. Arachne hadn’t been clear on exactly what to do–the demon had never done it herself–but Eva got the gist that it was almost the same as summoning.
Eva vanished from the room.
— — —
Her Eva was missing.
The stupid human returned without any real answers. She flopped down on her bed and shrugged it off saying Eva was ‘probably fine.’
Like Arachne would believe that. Necromancers running around and a missing Eva? ‘Probably fine’ her tuberous abdomen.
Juliana conceded to that. She’d gotten her teacher to teleport the two of them out to the prison.
Eva wouldn’t be there.
Her Eva wouldn’t just run off without her. She promised never to do that again.
She promised. Eva wouldn’t lie to Arachne.
Which meant she had been kidnapped. Her Eva was in trouble and Arachne had no idea what to do. She was still alive; Arachne could feel it through their contract. But where at.
Arachne had left the dorms through the window. She marched around the area looking for any clues.
There were none.
If the necromancers were so easy to find, the foolish nuns would have found them already.
Arachne got the jitters as she walked along the forest near the Academy. She had half a mind to go get herself banished with the help of a nun. Then she could claw her way back into the mortal realm wherever her Eva’s necklace was.
That held dangers of its own. Aside from Hell–dangerous enough on its own–there was also the location of Eva. If she wasn’t in trouble, Arachne very well might expose her Eva as a diabolist. Their contract might be another problem.
Its wording was loose and vague, mostly on purpose. When they had made it, Arachne mentioned not having to go back to Hell as part of the deal. She wasn’t sure if wanting to go back to Hell would break the contract. If it did, Arachne would be at fault. She could handle the punishment the Void would dole out.
The real problem was that she wasn’t sure Eva would want to reforge their contract.
Everything was going smoothly with her plan. Eva seemed to enjoy Arachne’s company. Her Eva no longer complained about Arachne carrying her places, or physical contact in general. If anything, she expected it. That was a good sign. The necromancers helped, oddly enough, boost Eva’s reliance on Arachne. They had a home that was mostly meant for just them.
Nevertheless, Arachne couldn’t help but feel it was too soon. If she did anything to jeopardize their contract, would Eva be the one to reestablish their connection?
Her Eva would.
Would Arachne want it? She had another plan for after their contract ended naturally. A plan it was far too soon to enact. But maybe, if Eva–
Something happened. She could feel it in her heart tube. The binding coils of their contract were still there, so Eva hadn’t died. Something had happened.
Eva felt far away. Distance meant nothing to the Void’s contracts in the mortal plane. Yet it was there. A distance between them.
An involuntary shiver ran up Arachne’s exoskeleton.
Her Eva was in trouble.
She couldn’t banish herself. Arachne only tried magic once well over ten thousand years ago. It was a tedious annoyance when her job usually consisted of crushing skulls.
The nearest summoning circle she knew of was in the prison. She could charge it and use it to traverse to Hell. That was more than an hour away. There were closer ways to get to Hell.
Arachne ran until she reached the school. There. A suitable target walked away from Arachne just outside the building.
A white-robed nun spun to face the approaching demon. It didn’t matter if she heard Arachne’s approach or if she felt the murderous rage pouring off the demon. She turned too slow.
Arachne had her sharp fingers gripped around the nun’s neck. “Banish me,” Arachne growled out.
The nun’s eyes flashed white, a burning glow coming from within. Lightning arced from her fingers into Arachne’s shoulder.
Almost involuntarily–almost–Arachne crushed the nun’s neck. She went limp and sank to the ground. It didn’t matter. Devon said they could feel each other die, or some nonsense. More would be here quickly enough.
Arachne thrust her hands inside the chest of the nun, piercing her with her needly fingers over and over again. It had been such a long time and Arachne couldn’t wait calmly.
By the time Arachne changed to pulling limbs off, two more nuns raced across the campus.
One immediately launched a lightning bolt towards Arachne. The mutilated remains of the first nun kindly blocked it.
The third nun began speaking as the other kept up her assault.
“Demon. Sathanus, subcategory: Lucifer. Designation: Arachne. Response: Banish.”
At least they had her name right this time, Arachne thought as she dodged another bolt of lightning. She didn’t know what the Sathanus and Lucifer nonsense was about, but she was Arachne.
A game. Arachne would make it a stress reducing game. Could the nun banish her before her companion was a pulpy mess.
Arachne intended to find out.
She launched up into the air, unfurling herself to her full glory. A lightning bolt lanced up into her abdomen before she landed. She shrugged it off. It wouldn’t be pleasant later but right now, Arachne just didn’t care.
The lightning nun rolled out of the way just as Arachne landed where she had been.
Arachne barreled forth, barely avoiding another lightning strike. A blue shield enveloped the nun, stopping her claws just inches from her body. As much as she hated to admit it, she would have been banished in that alley if Eva hadn’t helped break the shield.
This time, she had no help. Arachne could feel the Void opening up beneath her. She almost stopped and let it take her. Not before she gave the nun a last parting gift.
Arachne swung her bulbous abdomen around, the same move that had scattered a mass of bones five times the nun’s size. Even with the shield, the nun went flying. She crashed straight through the cinder block wall.
Empty tendrils grew out of the ground. They wrapped around Arachne and pulled her down into a large portal.
She gave the remaining nun a grin as the mortal realm vanished above her.
The web covered crag of her domain rapidly approached Arachne.
Odd, Arachne thought as she fell, the contract with Eva feels closer now.
Author’s Note: Eva was tortured by Sawyer. She had her toes, fingers, and eyes removed. She attempted an ‘infernal walk’ to escape.