“There,” Arachne said.
Not that she needed to say anything. Eva could feel the flames from a block away. Particles of blood started vanishing from her control as they neared the inferno.
“They’re still around.” Arachne’s long tongue darted out of her mouth to run across her lips. “I can almost taste them.”
“Don’t get eager. If it looks like a trap, we’re running.”
Eva focused on her blood sense. It wouldn’t help if the demons had a trick like Ylva in sunlight, but it was the best she had. She would have to rely on Arachne for anything else.
The demon had been overexcited the entire way over. She shifted to full Arachne-mode the moment they got away from the dorms. Her smile hadn’t left her face since. Eight eyes still trumped no eyes; Eva could only hope she’d use them effectively.
“Zagan?” Eva asked. “Catherine?”
“Can’t sense Zagan at all. I’d say the succubus is a good distance away in the direction of your school.”
No Zagan was good. He wouldn’t be able to show up and blame Eva. Or show up and attack Eva in the event that he was behind it.
“Can you put out that fire with all that fancy magic you insisted on staying at school and learning? I feel like the demons are inside.”
It was a lot of fire. She couldn’t actually see it, but Eva couldn’t imagine much of the house would be left. Eva shrugged. “I can try. Before that,” Eva froze one of the ten orbiting spheres of Arachne’s blood. It formed the pattern for a shield in mid-air.
With a clap of her fingers, a dome appeared in Eva’s vision. Arachne was only half in it, but it was formed with her blood. It wouldn’t hurt her at all.
“I thought you graduated from clapping.”
“Standing around for half an hour while I concentrate doesn’t seem like a good idea at the moment.”
Eva ignored Arachne’s half-laugh as she raised her arms in front of her, aimed at the house. She doubted it was necessary, but someone with a wand would have it pointed towards the house.
Extinguishing flames had been a big part of her final exam. It was also the first thing taught. A pyrokinetic being unable to control the flames they create could only create disaster.
Those tests were in controlled environments. Half the time, the flames were created by Eva herself. They were far easier to control than natural fire, but even that was limited to a few logs in a dedicated fire pit.
Not an entire house.
Every inch she managed to reclaim from the fire just burst into even more flames the moment she tried to move on to the next area. It was too hot. Too much fire around to reignite the ready to burn wood.
Eva wiped a forehead of sweat onto her shoulder as she continued concentrating.
I can do this. It just needs more power.
“Oh, I think it is working,” Arachne said. She actually sounded somewhat impressed.
Eva couldn’t bask in the praise. “No talking unless you’re learning magic and helping.” Sparing concentration on the demon would lead to relapse.
A tingling spread through her fingers as more and more magic built up. She could feel the flames dampening and receding. The entire house slowly died down. Eva would have blinked in surprise had her blindfold and eye situation been different. No new flames cropped up. No spontaneous recombustion.
It didn’t feel as natural as it should have, but Eva couldn’t complain about the results.
Cool September air crept over her without the flames to keep it at bay. Eva allowed a small smile to cross her face as the heat dampened. “And that’s–”
“Pathetic,” a voice grunted from behind Eva.
Eva cursed herself for letting her concentration lapse. Arachne apparently felt the same if her sudden hiss was any indication.
Whirling around, Eva launched three orbs of blood as another two began to form a wire frame ball.
Ice cold air exploded throughout the street. Her blood orbs flew through empty space. Arachne barreled through the area a moment too late.
“Spencer,” he growled. His voice had moved off to another side. “I should have expected you two.”
Eva mentally narrowed her eyes as she turned to face the alchemist. “Wayne Lurcher. You almost died.”
The blood she’d sent out returned to orbiting her. Her wire frame ball pulled back into two separate orbs.
“Touching you care,” he said with a scoff. “What did you do with Zoe?”
“First,” Eva said with a gesture towards the charred house, “I had nothing to do with that except to extinguish the fire.”
“I extinguished it. You might as well have been pissing on it for all the good you did. Where’s Zoe?”
Eva frowned. Stealing credit for her hard work? How dare he. Though that would explain the unnatural feeling, Eva thought with a mental sigh.
“Zoe is safe and fine with only minor injuries.” Probably “She’s at my prison with Juliana, Shalise, and Juliana’s father. They’re keeping an eye on her.”
Wayne twitched. A snarl crossed his face for an instant before he returned to a more placid expression. “Key me into your wards,” he said.
“Even if I wanted you to have access to the safety of my home, I can’t. Need to deal with the demons that caused this in the first place.” Eva faced the demon slowly creeping towards Wayne. “Arachne, are they still here?”
The spider-demon gave Wayne a growl before turning to Eva. “Still nearby and in the direction of the house.”
“Some of your friends get off their chain?”
“You’re so distrustful,” Eva said with an aside glance towards Wayne.
“I accepted what you said about Zoe at face value.”
Eva raised one eyebrow at that. “Well, they’re no friends of mine. You going to help out? If not, leave before you get caught in the middle.”
“Or fight us,” Arachne said with a feral smile. “Though you look too old to last long.”
“Demons first, Arachne. Then we can posture all we want.”
Wayne paid no attention to their byplay. He focused solely on the husk of a house. “What are we up against?”
“One strong. The other is,” Arachne gave a small sniff, “odd.”
“If you want to know more, run in and ask.”
“None for us,” Eva said. “Not unless you have some favors to call in.”
A terse grunt answered her. “Plan?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” Arachne said. “Run inside and say, ‘come out, it’s time to play,’ and then tear them into so many pieces that they’ll be spending centuries putting themselves back together in the void.”
“Maybe more subtle than that,” Eva said as she reclaimed the unused blood from her shield. “I’d rather avoid entering. Zoe’s house can’t be structurally sound after that fire. If Arachne starts plowing through walls…”
“Draw them out then? What are they doing inside?”
“Searching for something?”
“While it was on fire?”
“Probably immune,” Arachne said.
“The stereotype of a flame and lava filled Hell is mostly inaccurate,” Eva elaborated, “but demons having an affinity for fire isn’t.”
“For the most part. A good dedicated fire will still hurt. And things like your pet hel might–”
“We’re getting off track,” Wayne said.
Arachne sneered at Wayne before her expression froze. Her face twisted to a wide grin as she crawled towards the house. “I agree. Less talk, more tearing! Some things in there have far too many limbs.”
Eva ran to catch up. Ten orbs of blood followed after her.
Wayne trailed along behind. His head swiveled around as he looked for any threat that might jump out.
That was fine with Eva. Having someone else to watch their backs wasn’t unwelcome. Unless he was as useless in combat as Devon.
The house entered her range of vision. Two creatures within stood just behind the walls.
One was large and round with no protruding head. Not quite Arachne’s size, but large enough to make Eva wonder how it got through the door without bringing the house down. She couldn’t get a good read on its fangs without sending a possibly noticeable amount of blood in its direction, but it definitely had fangs in each of its three mouths.
Flecks of blood that neared its hands burnt away. Both were either on fire or hot enough to destroy Eva’s blood.
The shorter one was somewhere around half Eva’s height. It had fairly normal proportions for a human. Its hair was distinctly inhuman, however. Each strand was as thick as Eva’s arm and contained part of the creature’s circulatory system. Two larger tentacles hung down on either side of the creature’s head.
They stood together, making gestures at one another with their respective limbs. Arguing? Or just talking to one another?
“Stop,” Eva said.
Arachne froze at the edge of the property. The spider-demon half-snarled at Eva. The snarl ended with a soft sigh. “Come on. I can taste them.”
“They’re talking just inside,” Eva said as she crept past the sulking demon.
The wall was only partially intact. Eva’s blood particles mapped out a rendition of it in her mind. The roof took most of the damage, but the walls still looked somewhat like swiss cheese.
She ran up and crouched next to a less damaged section. Voices filtered through the wall just loud enough for her to hear.
“–of the Damned,” rumbled a deep, feminine voice.
“Doesn’t count,” a higher pitched voice squeaked. “Woman wasn’t wearing it.”
“Do you think that matters? If she ever wore it even for a moment–”
“Who cares. Now we have it. It is what the master wanted, right?”
Three orbs of blood merged together and formed a lithe snake. It slithered through a burnt out section of the wall. Keeping it out of the creatures’ eyesight, Eva directed it right next to the smaller of the creatures.
A loud groan followed a smack of flesh on flesh. “It would probably kill master if he put it on,” the voice spat. “Then again, maybe we should…”
“Encourage him to put it on?” A high-pitched squeal of glee echoed through the burnt out room.
“Plot against master later. Worry about the fires being gone and the demon outside.”
“Doesn’t matter. They can’t find us.”
Eva frowned at that. She was pretty sure she found them.
In an instant, the blood snaked up the demon’s leg. Two rings formed at the base of either. With a clap of her hands, the rings detonated.
The screams of pain or anger and the collapsing of a legless demon body never came. As soon as her blood rings obliterated, the circulatory system shimmered out of existence. A second body materialized one step to the side.
Only a small chunk the size of a finger was missing from the leg closest to where her blood rings were.
Impossible. The rings detonated at the same time, all at once. It wasn’t any faster on one side or the other.
“You fool,” the deeper voice said, “I almost lost my leg. Why did you make that thing so close?”
“It’s easier the closer it is.”
“Idiot.” The tentacled demon’s head turned to face exactly where Eva crouched behind the wall. “Change of plans,” she said.
Eva didn’t wait to find out what the new plan was. She could guess easy enough.
The coiled muscles in Eva’s legs sprung her from the building to the edge of the property. She landed just between Arachne and Wayne.
“Sneak attack failed,” Eva said.
The moment she spoke, the wall exploded outwards in a flurry of splinters and glass.
Both demons stood in the opening as the dust cleared.
“A jezebeth and a carnivean,” Arachne said. “The big one makes illusions. Don’t let the little one grab you.” Arachne jumped into the air with a mad cackle. All of her legs propelled her massive body towards the demons.
She tried to land on top of the smaller demon.
Its tentacles shot out and gripped her legs. Using a few extra tentacles to brace against the ground, the smaller demon managed to slow Arachne down just inches from its head.
Arachne wasn’t deterred. Her body reabsorbed her legs, leaving her massive abdomen to swing down.
Her body connected with the demon with force to spare. It flew back into the home.
Arachne grew her legs back before she hit the ground and ran into the house after the demon.
Throughout the confrontation, the jezebeth cowered away from both the carnivean and Arachne. Soon enough, it vanished and reappeared several feet away, running slowly on its short legs.
“We take the big one then?” Wayne asked with a grunt.
“I suppose so,” Eva said. A wire frame ball of blood was already forming in front of her. “When I hit the little one inside, it disappeared and revealed what I assume was the real one. Make sure there is no illusion and I’ll make sure it has a very bad day.”
A shield formed at Eva’s command. Illusion was a poorly defined ability. Eva wasn’t about to risk thinking she was safe when the many mouthed creature actually had its jaws around her. She sent her blood orbs onto slightly random orbits. If it could do illusions of anything, it wouldn’t do to think she grabbed blood when there was nothing there. Eva knew how the orbits ran, hopefully it would have trouble replicating them.
Wayne wasted no time. As Eva straightened out her blood situation, he swung his heavy tome around and unleashed a massive wall of flame. While she couldn’t see the fire directly and most of the heat failed to penetrate her shield, she could vaguely sense where it was with pyrokinesis.
That and all of her blood flecks in its path burnt out.
Part of it washed over her shield on its way towards the house. Eva idly added a spare orb to the shield to keep it fueled as she concentrated on the circulatory system of the large demon.
The fire wall hit the demon with some force. It knocked back into the wall of the house. The demon’s veins twisted and burnt.
The entire thing vanished. It shimmered the same way the smaller demon had disappeared in the house.
Eva kept her concentration up, looking for the real one. She could see a good distance. Most of the house was well within her range. Arachne was missing a leg, but had somehow managed to tie a few of the carnivean’s tentacles together.
Wayne stood off to one side. Fire danced around him in a ring, giving him something of a shield as well. He scanned the entire yard just as intently as Eva searched for blood.
Yet the jezebeth remained missing.
“Did it run?” Eva asked.
“Flames are moving wrong.”
Eva pulled out her dagger and jammed it into her upper arm. “Where at?” she asked as she formed a second wire ball out of her own blood–she wasn’t going to use Arachne’s blood on a chance.
“Ten feet in our direction from the main window.”
Keeping one hand hovering over Arachne’s blood, Eva plunged her other claw into her blood ball. A massive version of her claw formed out of blood just in front of the indicated location. It dripped and felt unstable. It wouldn’t pierce or pack much of a punch, but Eva swiped it across ground anyway.
And it hit. A large demon cried out a high-pitched curse as the claw hit.
Eva immediately plunged her hand into Arachne’s blood.
A second claw appeared just above where the demon stood. It dropped down and squeezed.
Each needle of her blood claw punctured into the ball-shaped demon like a pencil into an overripe tomato.
Wayne added in a twisting tornado of fire right on top of it.
An uncontrollable grin spread across Eva’s face as it screamed and writhed under her grip.
All three of its mouths opened wide. It roared out a high-pitched squeal.
Eva’s blood claw disintegrated instantly. She pulled her hand from the scorching hot wire frame ball. Sear marks lined her carapace where the blood had touched her.
Her shield wavered, but held. Another orb of blood became fuel as Eva put together a new wire frame ball.
The creature vanished again.
Only one orb of Arachne’s blood remained in its orbit.
Not enough, Eva thought. She stabbed herself again, pulling her own blood into orbit. I should have drained Arachne dry.
There were still five vials of blood in her satchel, but those were emergency only.
“We injured it,” Wayne said. “It shouldn’t–”
The human circulatory system to Eva’s side twisted. It moved similar to Arachne when she changed forms. Every vein expanded outwards until a fleshy balloon replaced what had been Wayne. The balloon rippled into a car sized monster.
A monster with three mouths.
Another few flecks of blood in the air incinerated as fire engulfed its hands.
Just an illusion, Eva thought as it turned to her. She hardened several spheres of her own blood into a spear. Not wanting to hurt Wayne, Eva lightly jabbed the creature with the spear.
The spear stuck a quarter-inch into its stomach. No passing right through the illusion. No shimmering away into Wayne.
The three mouths opened and roared.
Its flaming fist slammed down into Eva’s shield.
Eva dropped the last free orb of Arachne’s blood into her shield. She doubted its ability to hold up to two more hits. Especially when combined with its roar. The part of her spear that left her shield completely disintegrated at the noise.
Acting fast, Eva shouted out, “I hope you aren’t there Wayne Lurcher!”
She clasped her hands together with the wire ball between them. Both claws vanished beneath the surface.
Two of her blood claws appeared on either side of the demon.
And crushed inwards.
Eva kept a small hole in her hands where Wayne had been standing, just in case.
The demon was far larger than Wayne. Plenty to tear, rend, and destroy.
One claw gripped and twisted.
Veins twisted and tore as its body split in two.
Like pulling apart a sandwich cookie to get at the creme filling, the demon came apart.
Its viscous blood dribbled out of its halves.
The entire thing shimmered away.
Wayne lay face down in its place. Part of his face and chest were burnt, but he was otherwise not twisted and pulled apart.
I knew it, Eva thought with a small amount of relief. She didn’t have time to check on Wayne. The real demon shimmered into being on the opposite side of her.
Its fist connected with Eva’s shield just as she spun the remains of her spear.
With a hard thrust, it stuck into one of the demon’s gaping maws.
Eva wasted no time in clapping her hands.
The spear exploded into oblivion, taking a large chunk of the demon with it.
It roared once more, shaking away the last of Eva’s shield.
Two of her vials popped open and the blood within launched at each of the remaining mouths.
Eva clapped her hands. Two massive holes appeared within the demon.
It slumped to the ground, honey-like blood soaking into the ground.
She let out a soft sigh. What an annoying enemy, Eva thought as she turned towards Wayne.
“Ah, what a mess.” The rumbling feminine voice echoed over the lawn. “And you failed to kill either of them.”
The tentacled demon kicked a head out over the yard.
It rolled to a stop at Eva’s feet.
Eight eyes stared up at her with a mouth frozen in a painful grimace.
The demon let out a long, hard laugh.
It laughed and laughed until Eva couldn’t help herself.
A stream of giggles erupted from her mouth. The carnivean stopped mid-laugh and stared. Eva didn’t care. She wasn’t done yet.
Eva continued laughing as she gripped her dagger. With a final laugh, Eva jammed it into her stomach.
She had to fight to suppress the wince. Her arms had built up a sort of tolerance to the constant cuts over the years. Not so with her stomach. But it was a much larger pool of blood–blood she’d need.
As much blood as Eva could pull without becoming debilitating formed a solid ring around her. She opened the remaining three vials of Arachne’s blood and set the spheres orbiting her head.
With a hard kick of her demonic legs, Eva sent Arachne’s head flying. She gave her widest, most maniacal grin to the carnivean with a cocked head.
As if she would die without a smile on her face.
No. Arachne was fine. Winning even. The amount of tentacles still attached to the carnivean’s head was rapidly dwindling. Arachne’s hand might be held on by nothing more than tendons, but the rest of her injuries looked minor at best.
The carnivean certainly did not look half as cocky as its illusion.
This was another trick by the jezebeth.
It failed to understand the range of Eva’s sight. Or perhaps failed to erase Arachne and the real carnivean due to their fight. Whatever the case, it failed.
Eva was willing to bet her shield was even still up. Otherwise she’d likely be dead by now. No. It was distracting her. Using up her blood. Possibly while fighting Wayne for real.
Now, how to find it.
She knew of several wide area blood rituals. Something she wished she had committed to memory. Even if she had, Wayne was likely in the area.
If she had some of its blood; Eva knew several quick and dirty rituals to use with the blood of an enemy. Carlos wasn’t wrong about keeping blood out of other people’s hands.
Eva glanced down at the fake corpse of the jezebeth. Not insignificant amounts of blood stained the ground. It wouldn’t work. Not unless that wasn’t an illusion and the demon was merely pretending to be dead.
No harm trying. It was a better idea than standing around waiting.
Eva moved to the edge of where her shield would be if she could still perceive it. Keeping as much of herself within the boundary as she could, Eva quickly swiped the tip of her dagger through the pool of thick blood.
The blood felt off as Eva pulled a large sphere of it in front of her. Whether that feeling was from an illusion or the unusual viscosity of the liquid was hard to say.
The carnivean stepped closer to Eva. “That won’t help,” she said. “Your demon is dead. Your friend is dead. And I am going to pluck your legs off like a child plucks the wings off of flies.”
“Good luck with that,” Eva said.
The ball of blood was already spinning in her palm. Some of her own blood wrapped around the ball in three thin rings. Her blood started heating up as it constricted around the main sphere.
“You are a pathetic creature,” the demon’s voice rumbled. She walked closer and closer until she stopped a mere arm’s length away from where Eva’s shield should be. “Neither here nor there. Everyone you know is using you for their own purposes. Your demon never cared about you. Your friends are going to betray you. Your–”
“I find it hard to believe that Arachne lost to someone who can’t shut up. Did you talk her head off?”
The false demon growled as it started walking around Eva’s shield. Despite Eva’s belief that her shield did exist, she couldn’t help but feel nauseous under the carnivean’s hungry glare. All of her instincts screamed to either run or bring up a new shield.
Only three orbs of Arachne’s blood orbited her head. Eva would need every one of them in a few moments.
She spared the remainder of her own blood to form into a shield. It wasn’t strong and wouldn’t stop much. Hopefully it would soak enough hits for Eva to escape if needed.
The jezebeth’s blood was starting to boil. The rest of the blood on the ground started boiling with the ball in her hands.
Eva smiled as a faint scream started ringing in her ears.
The illusion of the carnivean shimmered. It didn’t disappear, just a flicker. It twisted its face into a grimace.
Her shield was gone. Broken. Drained instantly.
All the blood around her–her own, Arachne’s, and the jezebeth’s–all dropped out of the air. It splashed against the ground.
Two stinging spots appeared just beneath her breasts. Hot liquid ran down her stomach.
Blood spewed from Eva’s mouth as she started coughing.
She couldn’t breathe.
Eva tipped backwards, falling against the ground. Two tentacles wrenched themselves from her chest with an audible squelch.
She couldn’t understand. The real demon was still fighting Arachne.
No. Both of the fighters within the house, Arachne and the other copy of the carnivean, shimmered out of existence.
Eva tried to scream.
Blood gurgled in her throat.
Her lungs were filling with blood. Both had massive chunks taken out of them.
Even her heart suffered damage. One chamber was open and spilling.
She’d bleed out if her heart didn’t fail completely.
Clouds started forming in her thoughts. The blood to her brain, the shock, the drowning in her own vita. All of it added up.
Mustering the last of her rapidly dwindling strength, Eva swung her arm into her own chest.
A void dagger pierced her heart.
Eva concentrated as hard as she could. Focused on one task. She had to force her blood to move properly. She had to drain her lungs.
She had to repair the damage.
Before the demon thought to finish her off.