Brakket had become polluted since this time the previous year. At least three demons freely walked the streets. Their stench wafted through the streets as a dead skunk on the side of the road might. It wasn’t so much a smell as it was sense, but that was just how Arachne explained it.
Still, the news worried Eva. There were apparently three demons running around where Eva was certain there had been only two.
That was not including Arachne herself.
There were traces of others. According to Arachne, those were more like wisps in the air; either they left, went back to Hell on their own, or were banished.
These three demons as well as the other wisps excluded both Arachne herself and Ylva, of course.
One, of course, was Zagan. Both Eva and Arachne decided together to stay as far from him as possible. They had been allies of sorts while the nuns were in town. The mutual enemy left and Eva wasn’t willing to test the waters.
Another was the lesser succubus associated with Zagan. Likely not willingly. She didn’t smell very powerful, according to Arachne, but the association made her dangerous. That the succubus was Martina Turner’s secretary was a minor footnote.
But the third… Arachne took a deep breath of the early evening’s air. “The third smells weak. Not laughably weak, but weak all the same. I want to tear it apart. I haven’t torn things to bits in so long. You wouldn’t even let me fight that nun.”
“Did you want to get between her and Zagan?”
Arachne’s frown turned into a growl. “She hurt my Eva.”
Eva simply shook her head. “Focus on the future. Next time, Sister Cross might do something stupid enough that warrants having her fight you. For now, let’s concentrate on this other demon.”
The other two weren’t hostile at the moment. Even if they were, Eva wasn’t entirely sure what she would do about it.
“Maybe,” Eva said, “it won’t be very friendly. If you do start tearing it apart, try to keep the eyes intact. I want them.”
The third demon, however, was in the complete opposite direction. As far from the academy as one could get without actually leaving Brakket–which wasn’t actually that far.
Especially not for someone like Arachne.
Or someone with Arachne’s legs.
Eva ran alongside Arachne over the rooftops. They hopped over the gaps, ran some, and hopped some more. It had taken some lessons with Arachne over the weeks, but Eva managed good enough control for the small hops.
Jumping the gap between the streets was out, however.
Not because of any fault in the legs Arachne gave her. The legs were working fine and proper. The problem lay in Eva’s spine and hips. Namely, they were still too human. Too weak.
She wasn’t willing to risk the impact without learning how to properly absorb shock in her legs. If it was even possible to do that without stressing the rest of her body.
A worry for another time. For now, running along the rooftops sufficed.
“It is gone,” Arachne said as she came to a sudden stop.
Eva slid across the roof as she tried to stop herself. She lost her balance and had to catch herself on her hands. Tick off another good thing about Arachne’s carapace, Eva thought; the hard chitin didn’t get skinned as her hands and knees hit the ground.
It was a good thing she chose to wear a skirt. After the thrashings that Zoe Baxter gave her in the last two seminars, Eva did not need any more holes in her remaining pairs of pants. She hadn’t planned on clothes shopping until just before school started back up, but that proved impossible with her new legs.
At the rate she was damaging clothes, she’d have to go shopping again.
Picking herself up to her feet before Arachne could say or do anything, Eva turned to look at the demon. “What’s gone?”
Arachne stared for a moment. She watched as Eva brushed off her knees. With only a sly smile on her face, Arachne said, “the demon was either killed, sent back, or went back on its own.”
“Can we at least find out where the demon was?”
The hair tendrils swayed side to side as Arachne shook her head. “Somewhere in the general direction we were headed. If I remember right from when I was looking for a home like the prison, the buildings soon end and houses start up. They have some distance between the neighboring houses, but are still numerous enough to take a while to search.”
Eva sighed as she turned back in the direction they had been running. She couldn’t actually see much of anything, aside from the rooftops she had coated in a thin layer of her own blood. No people lived in the buildings they had been running across. Several windows were broken or boarded up.
An abandoned section of town.
“Nothing to narrow it down?”
“I can tell it existed. But it’s like the others, just an echo in the air.” Arachne took a deep breath of air behind Eva. She immediately dropped into a fighting stance as her gaze turned to the surroundings. “Zagan,” she hissed.
“Coming here?” Eva couldn’t detect anything within her fifty foot range.
Arachne gave a curt nod.
Eva’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Do we stay and see what he wants or do we run?”
A humanoid with wings slapped on its back entered Eva’s range. In the span of a single heartbeat, it crossed the distance.
Arachne moved in front of Eva. All of her spare legs sprouted from her back as she readied her claws.
Zagan pulled short just before crashing into them. He rose up into the air and dropped straight down on his feet. His wings flapped one last time just inches from the ground before folding behind his back.
“You should stay, embryonic one. Have a chat.”
Eva thought for a moment about channeling magic into herself and escaping to her prison. Arachne would be unable to follow with her magic deficiency. Instead, Eva crossed her arms and put on a brave face. “There’s no way you could have heard what I said.”
“Didn’t need to. Her tense stance and your panicked face were all I needed to know.” He clasped his hands together, causing both Arachne and Eva to jump. “Enough of that. Martina was willing to overlook your summonings over the last few months because you were working with us. Now, however, she grows paranoid. What are you two up to?”
“Us? I haven’t summoned anything since last November.” Summoning Ylva to destroy the book was the most recent summon Eva had been a part of. Sure, Ylva seemed to be able to come and go at will since she took over cell house two, but that didn’t count as summoning.
“So I find you on the way to this demon and you have nothing to do with it?” His lips peeled into a sneer. “I don’t believe you.”
“Can’t you just know instead of not know?”
“Could.” Zagan pulled back into a more relaxed posture. His wings fluttered behind him for a moment before settling against his back. “Martina yelling at me about that is precisely why I didn’t catch you in the act. I don’t like to use my powers often; this world would be no better than my domain.”
Eva frowned. She couldn’t blame him for not wanting to take the easy route. He had enough power in his own right to not need to worry. She could still resent him for it–especially as his relaxed posture turned to a more threatening glare.
Holding up her hands and taking a half step back, Eva said, “we were on our way to find out what this demon business is all about. Arachne sensed one and we followed after. It disappeared. That is all.”
“Three diabolists in the same town?” His voice betrayed a hint of incredulity. “When I last walked the mortal plane, demon summoners were few and far between. One could walk an entire continent and pass not a single one.”
“I don’t consider myself a diabolist.”
“You summon and consort with demons.”
Eva sighed and shook her head. “We’re getting off topic. I have not summoned any demons recently. Whatever is going on tonight wasn’t us.”
Zagan made a slight humming noise before he nodded his head. He waited another minute before he spoke again. “Hunters will be around with all the demons in the area. You should banish your pet lest they find and snatch you up. I don’t often patrol the outskirts of town, some might get brave.”
Arachne gnashed her teeth at her being mentioned.
Eva ignored it. “I won’t. Patrol more often if it concerns you so much.”
Zagan made a small sniffing noise as two plumes of smoke leaked out of his nose. “Perhaps next time we’ll figure out what is going on. I expect you to keep me appraised of the situation.”
Arachne’s tension seemed to drop, but only slightly.
“You’re not even going to try investigating more?”
Wings flapped lightly in time with Zagan’s shoulders as he shrugged. “I don’t really care, yeah? It isn’t like I can be hurt by summoners or hunters.” He shook his head and looked off into the distance. “If Catherine hadn’t mentioned anything to Martina, I’d be a town over with this flirty little barfly. He had a thin face with–I’ll just tell Martina that it wasn’t you and see if I can salvage my evening.”
“She won’t be mad at that?” Eva asked, pointedly ignoring his mentions of a date.
“Don’t care. Our contract is very loose. I only allowed myself into her service to rid myself of some boredom. My primary goal is to find out what happened to the Void and why.” He took a deep breath through his nose as he turned back to Eva. “I’m still not convinced it has nothing to do with you, but in either case, you do smell delectable.”
With that, Zagan dove off the edge of the roof. It was only two stories high, but he managed to unfurl his wings and gain altitude before he hit the ground.
Eva sighed as she watched him veer off towards Brakket Academy.
Most demons could shapeshift in some form or another. Arachne’s spider transformation, Zagan’s winged bull, Ylva’s skeleton. After her treatment finished, would she gain that ability? Was it learned or natural?
Given her donor, it was far more likely for Eva to sprout extra legs than wings. That would be interesting, but not necessarily what she wanted.
A small part of her wondered if it were possible for a demon to give away wings like Arachne gave her legs. Not Zagan’s wings, but there had to be some other fallen angels or succubi that might barter.
Before that, however, came replacement eyes. Not a task she had made any progress towards.
“I don’t like him,” Arachne said.
“Neither do I, but what are we to do? Fighting him would be suicide.”
“Not if he were to unexpectedly wander into your blood wards.”
“Couldn’t he just turn them off?”
Arachne responded with silence.
“Come on,” Eva said with a pat on the spider-woman’s shoulder, “if we can’t narrow it down any more, we may as well get to Zoe Baxter’s seminar on time.”
Arachne opened her mouth to respond. She snapped it shut almost immediately. “Alright,” was her slightly dejected reply.
Zoe Baxter quirked an eyebrow at the two students as the rest of the seminar students filed out. “First my wayward first years, now Juliana skips the seminar?” Zoe heaved an exasperated sigh.
Shalise shook her head. “She’s been meeting with her father every once in a while this summer.”
“I think,” Eva said, “she’s setting up some meeting with me and her dad. She mentioned him wanting to meet with me and Arachne.”
“Arachne?” Zoe frowned. The frown quickly changed into a grimace. “She told her parents?”
Eva nodded. She’d had much the same reaction. “I think only her father. Something about her mother not reacting well to the news.”
“I can imagine.”
“With the nuns gone, I was hoping to avoid any more annoyances about me and Arachne. If things get problematic, we’ll probably just disappear.”
“I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
School was something she had started looking forward to attending again. While she could study on her own, it just didn’t have the same feeling as attending class. She’d have left quickly had her classmates been like those in her middle school. All the students in her year were tolerable at worst while most were somewhat enjoyable to be around.
“In any case,” Zoe Baxter said, “Juliana was asking me about visiting Nel again. I don’t like her being around those two.”
“I kind of feel bad about Nel.”
Zoe raised one eyebrow. It was difficult to discern the rest of her expression, but Eva had a feeling it was somewhere between disbelief and disappointment.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Eva said. “She was spying on me and I was quite justifiably unhappy with that. I didn’t expect her to go and indenture herself to Ylva. Forever.”
“If you would have let me warn her…”
“Yeah. Hindsight though.” Eva dismissed Zoe’s concerns with a wave of her hand. “I don’t see a problem with Juliana visiting her. Nel seems somewhat lonely yet generally happy whenever I stop by. I don’t think she likes me, though. More than once have I noticed her looking at me like I was about to kill her.”
“I wonder why.”
“Excuse me, who is Ylva? And Nel?”
Eva turned to face Shalise despite the orientation of her head not mattering for her sight. “The half skeleton demon and her new servant who live at the prison. I think I’ve mentioned them.”
Shalise tapped her lip with her finger. “You might have. I still haven’t been to your prison, you know.”
Zoe stiffened and frowned at Shalise’s implied request.
Eva ignored her. “I’d take you, but it is a good distance away. My method of teleporting isn’t well suited for tagalongs; I think you wouldn’t enjoy it.”
A pout formed on Shalise’s face. She actually pouted. “Juliana got to go.”
“Juliana rode on the back of Arachne or was teleported there by Zoe Baxter. So it is really them that you have to convince.”
Shalise immediately glanced up towards Zoe.
Eva was about to laugh when Arachne poked her in the back.
A little yelp escaped from her lips much to the surprise of the other two. Eva peaked down her shirt, less because she needed to and more to tell Arachne that she was talking to the demon. “Something the matter?”
Two pokes in her shoulder.
“Emergency matter or something we can ignore?”
Arachne said, ‘yes’ before Eva finished the question.
Both Zoe and Shalise stopped their half playful fight when Arachne poked Eva. Zoe’s face turned more worried with each question. “What’s wrong?”
“Arachne needs a place to turn back,” Eva said. The little amphitheater still had a few students loitering around. “The forest should work.”
The same forest behind the amphitheater where Eva had been possessed by a ghost and kidnapped. Eva tried not to get sentimental about such things. It didn’t always work.
Not that she felt afraid of the forest. Eva was quite confident that, should she be possessed and kidnapped again, she’d be able to escape and thoroughly dismantle Sawyer.
Another poke in her back brought Eva out of her thoughts.
“Alright,” she said, “I’m going.”
Only two steps later, Eva realized both Shalise and Zoe Baxter were following close behind.
“You don’t have to come, you know.”
“You mentioned emergency. If this is a danger to students, I can’t sit by.”
“I want to be a part of this too. With the gloves, I can be here for whatever this is too.”
Eva sighed. “The gloves aren’t exactly meant for actual combat. I don’t know what this is, but I might have an idea.”
“Which is?” Zoe asked.
“Wait until we’re at the forest,” Eva said as she continued out of the amphitheater.
A few students glanced in their direction as they walked out. Partially because they were heading away from the dorms and partially because they had Zoe with them, Eva assumed. So long as none of them followed her, she didn’t care.
At the tree line, Arachne popped off Eva’s chest. She skittered around behind a few trees and immediately grew back to her humanoid form.
“There’s another demon out there,” she said before her face had even formed fully.
“Demon?” Shalise and Zoe echoed together, though Shalise stuttered it slightly.
“Out on the outskirts again?” Eva asked.
Arachne shook her head as her hair tendrils sprouted from her scalp. “Closer.”
“Are you really going to make me ask how much closer?”
Arachne opened her mouth to answer. Instead of the demon’s voice, Eva heard a scream coming from the direction of the amphitheater. Several more shouts and screams followed.
Zoe Baxter vanished with a bone chilling blast of cold air.
“So? What do we do?”
“I guess we go help Zoe Baxter,” Eva said. “Shalise, you–”
“I-I’m going with you.”
Eva heaved a greatly exaggerated sigh. “Arachne, keep out of sight with Shalise. Only jump in if there is no one around or I’m in trouble.”
“But I want to fight.” Her needle-like fingers spread apart and clasped back together. “It’s been so long.”
“Stand by what I said.” Eva uncapped her vials of blood and drew out five marbles into a large sphere near her hand. “Let’s go.”
Eva turned and ran back to the stage. Arachne followed behind at a far more dejected pace with Shalise behind her. The poor brown-haired girl didn’t have the powerful legs to keep up. Luckily for her, the amphitheater wasn’t far.
Chaos reigned in the amphitheater. Students were either running or cowering. One lay in a pool of her own blood. Zoe had taken up the defense, putting herself between the retreating students and the demon.
The demon itself was a shorter thing. It came up to about half Zoe Baxter’s height. Three stubby fingers capped each of its hands. A spaded tail sprouted from its backside along with two stunted wings.
Eva doubted they could support the imp in any kind of flight.
Not taking chances with her relatively weak order shield, Zoe intercepted its green fire with large gusts of wind.
Despite its small stature, the imp kept Zoe from launching a proper attack with a mass of fireballs flowing from each hand.
“Shalise,” Eva called out, “try to get the kids who are cowering out of here. Arachne, keep an eye out for a summoner.”
Her orders given out, Eva didn’t bother to ensure they were carried out. She’d trust her friends.
A fifth of the glob of blood in Eva’s hand separated and beelined towards the imp. She had enough blood to do two of the larger disembodied limb attacks; they were far too visible and left too much residue to clean up.
The blood formed a ring around the imp’s arm.
With a clap of Eva’s hands, the blood obliterated.
An arm slapped against the ground as the demon let out a frightened scream. It hopped backwards, turned, and ran.
Weak, Eva thought. She used more than twice that amount to disarm Zagan and that had been a close one.
Two more globs of blood separated from her sphere, leaving a much smaller ball behind.
Before they could impact with the fleeing demon, a bolt of lightning pierced through its chest. Blood and flesh boiled away leaving a six-inch gaping hole.
Once Zoe Baxter raised her dagger to cut off the stream of lightning, the imp collapsed. Its knees hit the ground followed by its face.
Eva frowned as the imp’s body dissolved and sank into the ground.
“You shouldn’t have killed it,” Eva said. “We could have asked it who sent it.”
“No time.” Zoe spun on her heel and ran towards the injured student. She clasped her hand around the student’s shoulders and both vanished.
Eva wandered back towards Arachne with the two globs of blood trailing after her. Rather than replace them in the vials, Eva kept them orbiting her. No sense getting complacent when another attack could occur.
“That was it?” Arachne asked as Eva neared. “I could tell it was weak. I didn’t expect it to be that weak.”
“I know. I barely did anything save give Zoe an opening.”
“Lynn isn’t going to like this,” Shalise said after she jogged up. She nervously rubbed her hands together. “Where did it come from? W-why did it attack?”
Eva shrugged. “It had to have been a distraction for something.”
“Why a distraction?”
“Because,” Arachne drawled, “that imp was pathetic.”
“Unless it was specifically targeting the one student who was injured,” Eva said. “It didn’t accomplish much else.”
Arachne drew in a deep breath. “I don’t smell any unusual demons around.”
“So the summoner is acting without demon support, but doing what? And how was this distracting? A single, easily dealt with demon didn’t even buy five minutes of time. If anything, it tipped us off to the summoner attempting something tonight.”
“M-maybe he just wanted to be known. To say ‘here I am with my own demons.'”
Arachne half snarled, half laughed. “Then a stronger demon should have been sent. Sending that imp would be akin to waving around a rubber knife at a tank.” She leaned in, putting her face only centimeters away from Shalise’s face. Her sharp teeth were on full display in a wide smile. “I would be the tank.”
Shalise took half a step back with a nervous giggle. “I-I’m glad you’re on our side, then.”
Arachne pulled back to her full height. Her arms cross as she let out a small huff.
“Alright,” Eva said with a sigh. “Back to the dorms. Come on, Arachne,” Eva said as she patted her chest.
Arachne gave a small smile before turning herself small. She climbed up Eva’s legs and wrapped her own legs firmly around Eva’s chest.
Securely in place, Eva nodded to Shalise.
“We’re not waiting for Professor Baxter?”
“I’m sure she’ll find us if she needs to. Our room would be the first place she’d look for us.”
“I don’t know…”
“You could wait if you want,” Eva said as she started walking, “but there is no guarantee she’ll even be looking for us.”
Shalise ran a few steps to catch up. “Not on my own, I’m not.”
“To the dorms it is.”
They wasted no time in heading up to room three-thirteen. Juliana stood just outside the door. She had the room card held up to the door as they rounded the corner into the hallway.
“Hello, Juliana,” Shalise said with a wave. “Something wrong with the door?”
“Nope. Just got back myself.” Her eyes shifted over to Eva. “My father said,” she paused and shook her head. She swiped her card and pressed into the room with both Shalise and Eva on her heels.
As soon as the door clicked shut and Shalise’s carved runes started glowing, Juliana started again. “My father asked if he could meet with you sometime during the first week of school,” she said. “Someplace where Arachne is more free to be herself.”
“I don’t have a problem with that,” Eva said.
Arachne detached from Eva and turned herself back to her human size. A small scowl spread across her face as her face formed, but she didn’t say anything.
“I’m not sure The Liddellest Cafe is the best place for that. Perhaps the prison,” she suggested with a hint of hope in her voice.
Eva frowned. “I don’t know. Far more people than I ever intended know about and have access to the place.”
“I was hoping to say hi to Nel again.”
“We don’t need your father there for that.”
“You can discuss that later,” Shalise cut in. “Professor Baxter’s seminar was attacked!”
“Attacked?” Juliana said. “What happened?”
Biting her lip–Eva doubted Juliana would be happy to hear what happened on account of her mother–Eva picked a starting place. “A demon seemed to visit some random violence on students after Zoe’s seminar tonight.”
Eva took a seat on Juliana’s bed next to the blond and ran her through the events of the night.
“Oh,” Juliana said a minute or so after Eva finished. “That isn’t going to make my mom happy at all. She’s already mad about the bull.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Eva said. “It was just a little imp. I don’t think the student was badly injured either. I could see her heart beating just fine, if a little fast.”
“Who was it?”
“Don’t know,” Eva said with a flippant shrug. “I didn’t recognize her circulatory system.”
“Cosette something,” Shalise said. “She helped me study a little last year after Professor Baxter recommended her to me, mostly working on my order shield.”
Eva just shrugged again.
Juliana opened her mouth twice but failed to say anything, ending with a solemn nod.
“Don’t worry about it,” Eva said. “Like I said, Zoe dispatched it before any real damage could be done.”
Eva reached into her desk drawer. She felt around for the small black sphere. Made from her own blood–Arachne had taught her how the previous December. There was a single red swish on it. Eva couldn’t see the colors, but she knew it was there.
“Can I talk to both of you for a minute? About something that can’t leave the room, not even to Zoe Baxter.”
Eva watched as both of their heart rates jumped slightly, Shalise’s more than Juliana. Her own heart jumped slightly as well. Only Arachne, snuggling under Eva’s blankets, remained unaffected.
Still, neither of them shook their heads.
“I-is this something dangerous?” Shalise asked.
“Not on its own, though it could be if other people learn about it.”
Juliana sighed and flipped a lock of her hair behind her back. “You can’t just say things like this and expect us to walk away without hearing about it. So just go on and say it.”
Eva took a deep breath. “Last year,” she said, “I was trapped in Hell for a short period of time and only escaped thanks to Arachne.” Eva sent the spider-demon a small smile. “After getting back, she taught me how to escape without her help. I don’t intend to go back, ever, but it seems a prudent step to take. Unfortunately, escaping requires one of you to help.”
Neither girl made a sound. That suited Eva just fine. There would be plenty of questions later.
“This,” she held up the black sphere in her gloveless claws, “is a beacon. There is an official name for it, I’m sure, but I’ve never heard Devon call it anything else.
“When active, it allows a demon one free escape from Hell. It can be activated multiple times, but can only hold one ‘escape ticket’ at a time. As far as I know, that ticket lasts forever until it is consumed.”
Juliana opened her mouth, but Shalise beat her to the punch. “W-what does it take to activate it?”
“A mortal, like you,” Arachne growled, “must accept it. They must know full well what the giver is–a demon–and have at least a general idea that the beacon will allow the demon to escape Hell.”
It wasn’t the phrasing she might have used, but it wasn’t inaccurate. Eva nodded at Arachne.
“A demon,” Juliana said. “You?”
Eva sighed. “That is the part you cannot tell anyone. My master, Devon, is currently running an experiment that aims to turn me into a demon. I was born as human as you.”
Shalise’s heart started beating harder. Juliana’s did as well, but she started to smile as well.
“You’re turning into a demon,” Juliana said. Her eyes turned off to glance at Eva’s claws.
“Nope,” Eva said, “my hands and legs have nothing to do with it. They’re there simply because Arachne gave them to me, as she could with anyone.”
“Even me?” Juliana asked as her head twisted towards Arachne.
Arachne let out a low growl from half under Eva’s bedding. “You couldn’t pay me enough to consider it.”
“Anyway,” Eva said, “accepting my beacon will hopefully allow me to escape from Hell should I ever fall back into the Void.”
Shalise blinked and said, “hopefully?”
“Well,” Eva ran her claws through her hair, “I escaped with Arachne due to a technicality. I’m roughly half and half at the moment, according to Devon. For all I know, it won’t work until after another year or three of treatment.”
“Y-you want us to take a dangerous artifact without knowing if it will even work?”
Eva shook her head. “It isn’t dangerous. I mean, a demon hunter could find out if you told them, but associating with Arachne would be condemning enough, I think.”
Shalise gave a short glance and a frown at Arachne. The spider-demon merely shrugged.
“Really, they’d be hard pressed to find out. After accepting it, you could leave it in a drawer–better yet, you could leave it within the blood wards at my prison.”
Fidgeting with her hands, Shalise shifted back and forth in her seat. “I don’t think you’re a bad person. I wouldn’t want you to be stuck in a place like Hell–”
Eva doubted her idea of Hell was anything like its actual form, but she decided not to interrupt.
“–Taking a demonic artifact. I don’t know. I promised Sister Cross that I would keep away from things like that.”
Eva gave what she hoped was her friendliest smile. “That’s quite alright. I’m not forcing anything.” She turned her head to Juliana. “If your mother–”
“I’ll do it,” Juliana said. “Though, I want to be the one to drop it off at your prison.”
A smile worked its way across Eva’s face. “Thanks. I suppose that as long as I’m going to be a demon, I should start doing contracts like accepting the beacon and taking you to the prison in retu–”
“Don’t,” Arachne said slightly louder than normal. “Freely given. You can’t use contracts while giving a beacon.”
“I guess you’ll just have to accept the beacon.” Eva let out a short sigh. “I suppose I might be enticed to take you to the prison for completely unrelated reasons.”
“That will suffice,” Juliana said in a stern voice. It almost resembled the way Zoe Baxter spoke while in full-on lecture mode. A grin spread across Juliana’s face a moment later. “So what do I do?”
Eva held out the black sphere. She dropped it in Juliana’s open palm.
The sphere was just large enough that Juliana couldn’t close her fist around it.
“That was it?”
“I think so,” Eva turned her head towards Arachne, looking for confirmation.
The demon simply shrugged. “When you think about it, there will be a tingle in the back of your skull.”
Eva tried to think about it. The black sphere with a red streak.
She felt something. Not so much a tingle as it was a low buzz.
“I think it worked,” Eva said.
Shalise walked from her bed to Juliana and stared at the sphere. Eva noted that she took care to keep a good foot away from it, even as Juliana tried to give her a better view.
“So,” Shalise said, “you can teleport to it at any time now?”
“Cross-plane only,” Arachne said. At Shalise’s confused look, Arachne rolled her eyes. Or she tried to. Eva imagined she would if her eyes were capable of rolling, in any case. “From Hell to the mortal plane.”
“Still,” Juliana said, “becoming a demon? I don’t have the vocabulary to comment on how cool that is.”
“That is the part you cannot mention to anyone,” Eva said a bit forcefully. “Beacons are not too uncommon. Rare, but not overly so. My treatment is something only I, Arachne, Devon, and now you two know.” She paused as a thought occurred to her. “Ylva too.”
Juliana quirked her head to one side. “Nel?”
“Don’t think so.”
“She slips up and calls you ‘abomination’ on occasion.”
“Oh?” Eva tried on her most vicious grin. “I suppose I’ll mention that to her next time I see her.”
That got a small laugh out of Arachne, even if Juliana and Shalise–more so the latter–didn’t smile.