Eva hadn’t seen all that many movies, but those she had seen were of the horror genre. And the scene in front of her looked like something straight out of a horror movie.
Blood stained the walls, the floors, and even the ceiling. The blood wasn’t smeared on, nor did it spell out macabre messages. It formed large circles of an arcane nature.
None of it dripped–Eva had made sure of that.
So thorough were her shackles that she actually had to finish up from outside the room. She didn’t want to risk trapping herself in her own shackles and have to call out for help. That would be beyond embarrassing.
Using her own blood, Eva was able to stay outside the room while she worked. The container of her blood came from her last treatment–completely unusable for most haemomancy yet still controllable after dipping her dagger inside. That made it the perfect medium for long-range shackle drawing.
And they were some impressive shackles. Eva had pulled out one of Devon’s tomes dedicated to advanced shackles. Every possible bell and whistle had been covered. No magic at all within the circles. No items could be passed from the inside to the outside. Sound and sight was obscured from the inside to the outside. Touching the edge from the inside would cause more than a little pain.
About twenty other effects as well, all designed to keep a demon contained and unable to interact with anything.
Zoe had offered input and supervision. While not an expert in diablery, she had decided that it would be prudent to learn how to create shackles given all the demonic incidents that she had found herself involved in over the past two years. She had set up air barriers around the place on the off-chance that the demon had already released some toxic gas or anything similar.
Eva was fairly certain that one of the shackles did something along those lines, but she hadn’t said anything. As Eva often felt the need to mention, she did not consider herself a diabolist and neither did she know all that much about shackles. It was all from the book.
Still, the drawings were fine handiwork, if Eva said so herself. So much so that Eva was absolutely certain that no demon she had ever heard of would be able to extract themselves from the room without outside assistance.
She thought that before Zagan walked in, walked around the giant ice cube once, and walked back out without a pause in his steps.
Eva shook her head. He was a devil class demon and therefore he did not count.
“So,” Eva said as Zagan approached her, “what is it?”
Zagan’s twin golden eyes glanced down at her. A thoughtful expression crossed his features for a moment before twitching into one of annoyance.
“That, my little embryonic one, is a curiosity.”
Eva frowned. “To be clear, you aren’t talking about a creature with the name of ‘curiosity’ are you?”
“An enigma, a mystery. Do make an effort to not be so daft.”
“What you are saying,” Eva said, brushing off the insult, “is that you don’t know.”
“It came from Hell, that much is clear. The summoning circle connected properly–I can smell the lingering aura of a domain in the air.”
Eva had been working within the room to set up the shackles and hadn’t smelled a thing. Even taking a deep breath now left her with a fairly neutral scent. There was the slight tinge of her own blood in the air, but nothing more.
Maybe giant bulls had an enhanced sense of smell.
Zagan ignored her actions, bringing up a thumb to stroke the tip of his chin. “Perhaps the imp brought a creature to its domain whereby the creature was summoned in its place. It could have been invading the imp’s domain much as you and your little friends did to that poor demon I slaughtered.”
Zoe stepped forward, looking Zagan in the eyes. “Does it have anything to do with the situation regarding Hell itself?”
“I suppose we won’t know until we figure out exactly what that creature is. However, I would say that we should eliminate more mundane theories before jumping to something quite so fantastical.”
“Let’s try summoning up an imp,” Eva said. “If it works like normal, then we can probably write this off as some oddity. If we get more of those things,” she thumbed over her shoulder towards the large block of ice, “then we’ll at least know not to summon more imps for our class.”
Zoe turned to face Eva with a sharp glare. “Ah, yes. We still haven’t talked about your ‘class.'”
Eva winced and held up her hands. While she had thought to invite Zoe one of these days, she had intended to broach the subject with far more tact than Catherine showing up and blurting out that something went wrong.
“Martina Turner thought it was a brilliant idea,” she said, trying to force as much sarcasm in her voice as possible. “Take up its inception with her, not me.”
“You’re still teaching it.”
“I’m here to keep the stupid children out of trouble.” And maybe get some help for Shalise and Juliana, she thought with a subtle glance towards Zagan.
The devil was pointedly ignoring the conversation, looking above-it-all as he so often did.
“And a great job you’ve been doing of that,” Zoe said, pointing at the room.
Hands on her hips, Eva frowned. “Well sorry. Being attacked by rogue nuns has a way of making one late to other appointments.”
“Nuns?” Zagan said, attention suddenly on Eva. “The Death nuns, yeah? After the hel’s little temper tantrum, I half expected them to vacate their presence on the North American continent.”
“Hence my usage of the word ‘rogue.'” Eva did not feel it wise to mention exactly who said nun was to Zagan. There was always the chance that he wanted to finish their fight.
Though he brought up an interesting topic. Eva had heard from Ylva about how the inquisitorial division of the Elysium Order had been taken apart–somewhat literally–but she had never heard what happened to the Elysium Order in general. Maybe she would question Sister Cross on the topic provided the nun could contain her vitriol.
That was a laughable idea.
Having Nel spy on her former companions seemed far more likely to get the information.
Unfortunately, Eva didn’t care enough about the Elysium Order to ask Nel to spy. Mostly because Nel was already searching for Sawyer. While Eva planned to solve that issue on her own, if Nel could find him first then all the better for her.
“In any case,” Eva said to Zoe, “if I weren’t around supervising, Catherine would be left to teach the class on her own. And look where that got them today.”
There, Eva thought triumphantly, turn it around and make Catherine and Martina Turner the bad guys.
“Neither of you are responsible adults,” Zoe said, crossing her arms. “You aren’t an adult and Catherine is far from responsible.”
“Martina originally wanted Devon for the project,” Zagan said, oh so helpfully.
Zoe let out a long sigh as she rubbed her forehead. “I’ll be attending classes from now on. And if I can’t make it, Wayne will be there. If neither of us can make it, cancel class for the day.”
Eva blinked in surprise. “You’re… not going to try to stop it completely?”
“As much as I hate to admit it, the idea may not be wholly flawed. Especially given the Hell Convergence issue. Having more humans who are knowledgeable about such things couldn’t hurt.”
“Even though they’re kids?”
Zoe’s lips formed into a thin line. “Are you deliberately trying to get me to have second thoughts about it?”
Eva just shrugged. Honestly, she still wasn’t too pleased with the project herself. She couldn’t exactly say as such in front of Zagan. Not if she wanted his help.
“Perhaps,” Zoe said, “I’ll feel out some of the other staff. We’ll see who might be more ambivalent to the idea of demons.”
“I’ll leave that to you.” Eva almost thought about suggesting a second class for the adults. Unfortunately, that would just take up more time than she was already expending on the class.
Turning to Zagan, Eva said, “is there anything else we need to do while here? If not, I’ve got a prisoner to take care of.”
Zagan brushed his hand off to one side. “Do what you want. I have a few… appointments of my own to keep.” That said, he started walking off down the hall, no longer paying any attention to Zoe or Eva.
Closing and locking the door to the room, Eva glanced around. “Wasn’t there supposed to be a security guard here?”
“Daru left partway through your warding,” Zoe said, pulling out her cellphone. After a few quick taps on the screen, her phone buzzed a response. “Alright, Lucy is on her way. She will keep watch on it over the night. But are we really going to leave it here, in the school with all the children running around?”
“It would be nice if it could stay on ice until Devon got back.” Ignoring Zoe’s eye-roll, Eva continued. “I’m not about to trust that Zagan spoke all of his thoughts about the creature. Even if he did and truly doesn’t know, I’m sure Devon would have something intelligent to say about it. Probably something more useful than ‘it is an enigma’ in any case. Or…” Eva trailed off, biting her lip.
“Oh nothing,” she said with a shake of her head. Both of them started walking down the hallway towards Brakket Academy’s main entrance.
After a few moments of awkward silence, Eva responded. “I just thought of another magizoologist that might find that creature interesting. I doubt Carlos will be all that enthused to receive a letter from me.”
“You haven’t heard from them?”
“Not since Genoa was moved from the school infirmary. Juliana didn’t even tell me what hospital they were going to. She probably hates me,” Eva said with a sigh. “And Arachne too.”
“I can’t exactly fault her for the latter. You, on the other hand, most definitely saved Genoa’s life.”
“If I had better control over Arachne, none of it would have happened. Though, she has made a few interesting decisions as of late.”
Zoe quirked an eyebrow as she glanced down at her side. “Oh?”
“For instance, Sister Cross is still alive. I didn’t even have to warn her off.”
Shaking her head, Zoe let out a disapproving hum. “To be perfectly honest, I would much rather have her stay locked up in her room.”
“I…” Eva sighed. “I just want things to go back to the way they used to be. There is a disgusting, awkward feeling between the two of us at the moment. Hopefully, hunting Sawyer will cheer her up. The thought of it is enough to make me giddy, so it should do wonders for her.”
Walking a step in front of Zoe, Eva smiled slightly as she caught the professor’s lips pressing together in a frown through her blood sight.
“Not going to try to stop me?” Eva said when Zoe failed to respond.
“It is in my opinion that Sawyer needs to be put down. Permanently. I would rather take out a bounty with the Guild or direct the Elysium Order in his direction.”
“But you’re not going to stop me.”
“Just take Arachne with you. Ylva too.”
“I don’t know about Ylva, but Nel wanted to fight. Get herself a little revenge, I think.”
“Would she be any use?”
“She could keep an eye on him. Or exits, I suppose. He’s doing something to block her sight. Likely with the eyes that were not recovered.”
Both women fell into silence as they turned a corner. Despite it being late in the evening on a Saturday, another professor was walking down the hallway. Not one of Eva’s teachers. Probably someone who taught electives or just other years’ regular classes.
With her second year drawing towards its conclusion, perhaps it was time to give some thought towards electives. Warding might be interesting. She already had something of a background in the topic given her blood wards, but those were a far cry from thaumaturgical wards. Still, one could never have enough protection for their stuff.
She hadn’t ever come up with a good way of activating a shield using runes. Maybe a warding class would have the answer.
Golemancy would be interesting too. The blood clone she created earlier had some bases in the subject, though again it was created using haemomancy rather than thaumaturgy.
The basilisk Juliana’s parents had gifted her was probably a golem of some type. If her little enhancement worked the way she hoped it would, a golemancy background could be very useful indeed.
“Ah,” Eva said aloud, remembering the whole reason she wanted to talk with Zoe after their spar. “Are you busy for the rest of the night?”
“I still have your essays to grade. This,” she waved her hand in a vague manner, “occupied far more time than I expected to spend.”
“You can’t put it off until tomorrow?”
“I took a break today for our spar and this, which might have put me behind schedule. I’m afraid I’ll be spending much of tomorrow grading as well.”
“That busy, huh?”
“Let’s just say that leaving Catherine in charge tends to create unnecessary work. If she could ruin your class as much as she did in two hours, imagine what she did to my class over the course of two weeks. I’m still sorting through half of that mess.”
“At least she wasn’t summoning demons in your class,” Eva said with a chuckle.
“Small mercies.” Zoe stopped just outside the Brakket main entryway.
Eva shivered as the February evening air seeped through her clothes. It was crisp and dry, that much Eva was thankful for. Snow had been sparse this winter. That didn’t mean it wasn’t cold.
Clasping her hands around her upper arms didn’t do much to help. In fact, it might have worsened the sensation. The outside of her carapace was not warm.
At least not until she ignited her hands. She kept her clothes from burning. The heat flowed through her.
“Dropping any pretense of needing a wand?”
“I still use it in class. There’s no one out here to see, so why not?”
“A good thing too,” she said, taking a step away. “I can’t say I know any pyrokinetics that set themselves on fire. Especially not without toning down the heat.”
Still shivering slightly, Eva glanced up at Zoe with an eyebrow raised. “Is it really that hot?”
“Not all of us are half demon.”
Zoe’s tone of voice was somewhat jovial, but her smile turned sad.
As she did every time the subject came up.
Really, it was getting to be annoying.
“Do we need to talk about that? Again?”
“No,” Zoe said softly. “I just wish things had been different for you. You’re a good girl, Eva.”
Eva disagreed–haemomancers should be excluded from the ‘good’ category by definition, but she wasn’t about to say that to her face. However, she felt she was far from ‘bad’ as well. It wasn’t like she was Sawyer.
“But,” Zoe said, “I do need to get back home.”
“Ylva still keeping a watch over your apartment?”
“I’m not planning on asking her to stop until the Sawyer situation is dealt with.”
“That can’t come soon enough.”
A short moment of companionable silence passed before Zoe gave Eva a light tap on the shoulder.
“I’ll see you in class,” she said. With a puff of chilled air, Zoe vanished.
Eva started to build up her own magic for a teleport back to the prison. A nostalgic thought stayed her hand.
She started walking forwards. The flames on her hands receded to nothing more than warm embers so as to not draw attention from anyone looking out their dorm window. It was late, but who knew with teenagers.
Moving into the Rickenbacker dormitory, Eva headed up the staircase to the third floor. Soon enough, room three-thirteen sat before her.
Eva reached out to the handle before realizing her folly.
Her key was all the way back at the prison. She hadn’t used it in months, having stayed exclusively within her women’s ward or spending the occasional night in Ylva’s domain.
And really, there wasn’t much inside. Maybe a few books of hers that shouldn’t be lying around, but nothing too damning. Anything important was in the prison.
Though she wondered if the same could be said of Shalise and Juliana’s belongings. Had Juliana cleared out her stuff before leaving? Shalise still had things in there for sure.
Taking a step back from her door, Eva had a brief thought to go visit Shalise. Being alone in Hell with no one but Prax for company had to be a nightmare. Besides, it was about time to deliver more homework and collect what she had done.
Shalise had been overjoyed to find she could still do her homework in absentia. Zoe had even passed through Ylva’s domain every other week so far to give her private tutoring lessons.
In light of that, Zoe’s busyness was even more understandable.
Just as Eva was about to leave, she stopped again. Turning to the door adjacent to room three-thirteen, Eva knocked.
A moment of muffled shuffling later and the door opened.
“Shelby,” Eva said as the black-haired girl opened the door, glad that the twins weren’t of the identical kind. Though she hadn’t signed any contracts, accidentally talking about what she wanted to talk about with Irene might lead to some awkward silence and deflections. “Is your sister in?”
The girl before her scrunched up her eyes, brought her hand to her mouth and released a truly magnificent yawn before responding. “Haven’t seen her all night,” she said. “Thought she was with you.”
“I haven’t seen her all night either,” Eva said.
“Maybe try asking Jordan? I know that he met with her earlier today.”
“It wasn’t that important. I mostly stopped by on a whim. I’ll talk to her on Monday.”
“Say,” Shelby said, stepping out of the room. She left the door open a crack behind her. “What have you been up to with my sister? She’s been all secretive and evasive whenever we ask her. She tries not to act like it, but,” she crossed her arms and leaned against the door frame with a smug smile on, “I’ve been her sister my whole life. It’s pretty obvious.”
Eva opened her mouth
What excuses had Irene used?
“You aren’t dating her, are you?” Shelby asked, saving her from responding. “I mean, not that I have any problems with that. She’s my sister and I’d support her even if she wanted to marry a troll.”
Eva winced as Shelby’s face turned to a grimace of disgust.
“Well, maybe not a troll,” she said. “But I don’t think you’re very troll-like at all.”
“That’s… thanks? But no, we’re not dating. I can’t say I’ve had a single thought of romance towards anyone. Kind of not my thing?”
Shelby reached out, resting her hand on Eva’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll awaken to a more interesting side of life when you’re older.”
“I see…” Politely smiling, Eva backed up a few steps. “I’ll talk to her later. Don’t want to keep you up all night.”
Letting out another tremendous yawn, Shelby waved her off. “Good idea.” Slinking back into her room, Shelby started to shut the door. “Oh,” she said, “in case I don’t see you tomorrow, happy birthday!”
Eva froze in her walk away, blinking in surprise. After telling everyone when her birthday was over the summer, she hadn’t actually expected any of them to remember.
She only remembered because it meant that it was almost time for her spring treatment.
After giving Shelby a belated “thanks,” Eva wandered off to the nearest stairwell. Arachne would probably want to spend the day with her.
Probably. It was becoming harder and harder to tell exactly what she was thinking.
Sighing, Eva built up the magic for a teleport to the women’s ward.
She still had Sister Cross to deal with.
Or perhaps not. It was her birthday. Sister Cross was not the sort of company she cared for any day of the week, let alone her birthday.
She’d live for one day.
There were others whose company she’d rather be in.