“Wayne isn’t coming with us?” Eva asked as she shook off the icy cold of Zoe’s method of teleportation. Digging her claws into the brick wall of the building they had appeared next to, she pulled herself into a proper standing position. “I thought you said he would be here.”
“He will be. He just had to make a brief stop somewhere else first.”
Rubbing her claws up and down her arms, Eva watched an equally shaky Arachne as she unfolded herself from her smaller spider form.
Without a gate nearby, they didn’t have much choice but to go with Zoe despite the downsides to her teleportation. Zoe didn’t have a problem with her teleportation. She stood on watch for the few minutes that it took Eva and Arachne to recover, completely unaffected by the shivers and shakes.
No one else had a problem with it either. Eva had personally watched both Shalise and Juliana teleport alongside Zoe, and both had always walked away without the slightest shakes immediately after arriving at their destination. Yet both Eva and Arachne suffered after every teleport.
Maybe her method just wasn’t meant for nonhumans. At least it didn’t flay them alive as Eva’s teleportation had done to Lynn Cross.
“Well, I hope he gets here soon.” Eva slung off her backpack of supplies. “I need those potions.”
With Devon having fled into the night, Eva wasn’t about to try summoning demons. She was fairly certain that the wax demon had just about killed the both of them last time he summoned it. They had only been saved by Devon dominating it at the last minute.
Eva possessed neither the desire nor the ability to dominate demons. Devon had never taught her how. The textbooks that Martina Turner had assembled for the diablery class didn’t so much as mention the discipline, let alone devote a chapter to how to perform it.
So, Eva had decided to forgo any demonic support.
Aside from Arachne.
That was a whole other can of worms. Arachne had agreed to come along without hesitation. There wasn’t a problem with that.
Eva watched the unnaturally still demon through her blood sight as she pulled a large jar of fresh blood from her pack. She couldn’t help but let her mind wander to the demon.
Despite regular visits over the past few months, Eva felt as if she hadn’t spoken with Arachne in forever. What was she thinking? What was she feeling? Arachne’s thoughts were impenetrable at the best of times.
Now, it was like looking at a blank wall.
Eva shook off the thoughts. They could have a sit-down discussion after the current crisis was over.
For now, she had work to do.
Pulling out her dagger, Eva dug the tip into the crook of her elbow. After drawing out a decent sized globule, she healed the cut and dug into her backpack.
It didn’t take much rummaging to find what she was looking for. It already had a large core of blood that was shining brightly in her vision.
As soon as she moved her hand nearby, Basila coiled around her fingers, squeezing tightly. Eva pulled her out and started looking over the stone basilisk.
Everything appeared in order. Her scales had the same dark sheen and luster that they had had immediately after Eva performed her little experiment. The teeth and silver eyes still maintained their changes as well. None of the blood in the center of the basilisk replica had degraded–odd, given Eva had altered Basila back in January, a good two and a half months ago. Almost three.
Eva shrugged off that oddity. Probably intentional. Given that the spell was supposed to have been performed on an actual living creature, it made sense that the blood that actually imbued the effects would have to be preserved and not overwritten by the creature’s natural blood production.
Even still, she streamed the fresh globule of her own blood down the basilisk’s throat.
Had it always had a throat? It was just a sculpture, wasn’t it? Surely the Rivases wouldn’t have carved out the insides as well.
“What are you doing?”
“Taking an extra security measure.”
Eva didn’t glance up to Zoe as she responded. She had to ensure that Basila both swallowed all the blood and that her addition didn’t disturb the changes to Basila. Given that Basila was just an enchanted sculpture, she doubted that she could kill it. Still, she would rather not mess everything up.
The book she had acquired the spell from didn’t have any sections on fixing an altered sculpture.
“Security for what, exact–”
Two new people popped into the alley.
Eva jumped to her feet, the jar of Arachne’s blood bubbling and boiling at the ready. At her side, Arachne sprouted her spare limbs and dropped into a combat stance.
Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Zoe going for her dagger only to stop halfway there.
It didn’t take much to figure out why. Wayne was one of the two people.
Still, Eva and Arachne kept up their guard as the girl at his side started towards them.
Or… not, Eva thought as she watched the girl fall forward. She didn’t even try to catch herself as her skull cracked against the asphalt. Another demon?
It sure looked to be suffering from the same problem that she did when teleported by Zoe and Wayne. Eva rubbed her own chin, feeling some semblance of empathy. While she had managed to catch herself on her knees this time, Eva distinctly recalled landing flat on her face the first time Wayne had teleported her.
Did Wayne know any other demons? Eva couldn’t think of any possibilities. The girl wasn’t Ylva, Catherine, or either of the Brakket security guards. While the girl could be Zagan, Eva couldn’t think of a reason why he would appear as a teenage girl.
Wayne stepped over the girl without so much as a downward glance. He quickly found himself at Zoe’s side where the two engaged in a hushed conversation.
Eva thought about listening in, but found herself more interested in the demon. As the minutes dragged on, the girl didn’t push herself up. She didn’t move at all. The thought of her being a demon vanished as Eva noted the oddity in the fallen girl through her blood sight.
Her blood did not move through her veins. Her heart wasn’t beating. Her chest didn’t expand and contract with each breath. There wasn’t the slightest sign of minute movements in the body’s blood that was so tell-tale of other living beings.
“She’s dead,” Eva said, feeling somewhat foolish at pointing out what was now plainly obvious. It was somewhat shocking. Had the girl died from the teleport? Wayne was one thing, but Eva couldn’t imagine Zoe just ignoring Wayne killing some teenager.
Wayne turned from his conversation. He regarded Eva for a good minute before shrugging his shoulders. “Yeah.”
With that, he went back to his conversation.
Or tried to.
“That’s it? ‘Yeah,’ and nothing else? You can’t just–” Eva paused.
With a shake of her head, she shunted the thought from her mind. Zoe wasn’t freaking out. Given how she had reacted to Devon and his potential new subject, a hushed conversation was out of character for her. Therefore, she expected this to happen.
She had known that Wayne would be dragging along a corpse.
So, Eva thought, what use is a corpse in sneaking through an Elysium Order owned church? Spare blood for me?
There wasn’t any sign of life in the blood and it felt old. Eva doubted it would be usable. If Wayne had intended that for her, it wasn’t a very good gift. He should have just raided a blood bank, not a morgue. Even then, Eva had a decent amount of Arachne’s blood to use. Stale blood just couldn’t hold up a candle to that.
“Whatever,” Eva said. She had already intended to steal the obelisk with only herself and Arachne. If Wayne could help, great. Otherwise… “Did you get my potions?”
“You’re lucky I keep examples on hand.” Wayne Lurcher reached into his suit and pulled out two vials. One was dark orange while the other could have been mistaken for blood. Regular blood.
“Thanks,” Eva said as she reached for them.
Wayne snapped his wrist back, pulling the vials just out of reach. “Not for use on huma–” He cut himself off with narrowed eyes. Those eyes flicked over towards Arachne before he continued. “Not for use on living flesh. You’re not going to be able to shrink yourself to get in.”
Eva shot out her hand and snatched the vials. “I know that,” she said. “Just because I don’t go to your class doesn’t mean that I haven’t read the books.” Technically, Arachne had read her the books. Wayne didn’t need to know that.
Rolling the vials around with her fingers, Eva double checked that the color and consistency was what the book described. She didn’t believe that Wayne would make a mistake–no matter how annoying he was, Eva believed that he knew his alchemy–but it couldn’t hurt to double-check.
“Actually,” Eva said as she finished. Satisfied with the results of her inspection, she set the vials within a potion satchel inside her backpack. “I don’t wear those gloves anymore. That was your main complaint with me, right?”
“You want to come to my class again?” He shook his head. “Wrong question. Are you going to be disrespectful and disruptive again?”
Balling her hands into fists, Eva glared at him. “You were rude to me–”
Wayne held up a hand. “Doesn’t matter. We’ll talk about this later.” Under his breath, he grumbled, “I might not have a job if the school shuts down.”
Eva’s mild anger dissipated into a slight sensation of melancholy. “That’s a possibility, is it?”
“Can’t tell what the dean will do. I’ve long since stopped trying to figure out how Turner thinks. But she won’t matter much if the sky spooks off all you kids. Can’t have a school without students.”
Although there were plenty of problems surrounding Brakket Academy, including the one going on at the moment, Eva had taken a liking to school. Without it, she would probably still be doing the odd job with Devon. Few and as far between as those jobs were, she would be going to mundane school. Her most recent experience with a mundane school had left her bored out of her mind.
Eva turned away from Wayne, not bothering to question him further. As he had said, it was something to think about later. For now, she was wasting time. With the potions delivered, she was fairly certain that they were ready.
Arachne didn’t have many preparations to make as she was made up of everything that she used to fight with. She was no longer shaking from the effects of the teleport either. When Eva gave her a glance, she nodded.
“Let’s get this show on the road.”
“Wait. We’re not going to let you do this on your own.”
Eva turned back to Zoe with a frown on her face. She tried to keep her voice polite as she said, “Wait? For how long? You do realize that Shalise could be in danger?” Eva bit down on a harsher response.
While she respected Zoe and understood that she wanted to help, Eva was somewhat anxious about finding the obelisk and getting back to Shalise. When Sister Cross had said there might be problems acquiring the obelisk, Eva had not expected that an assault on an Elysium Order controlled church to be in the cards.
“But don’t worry, this is just like a job with Devon. I’ve done tons of them. In fact, this is better than a job with Devon. This time, thanks to Nel, we actually have a map with the destination marked and a good idea of how many nuns are around. That’s ten times the preparation that ever went into any of Devon’s jobs.”
Zoe had her lips pressed into a thin line. Probably at the thought of Devon dragging her off on jobs.
Eva jumped, whirling around to face the corpse on the ground. The sound had come from below and behind her. Right where that corpse had been lying.
The body was still dead. Still unmoving face down on the asphalt. No blood flowed through its veins. It was even in the same position that Eva had last seen it in.
No, Eva thought as a glob of Arachne’s blood started hovering around her, not quite the same position.
The jaw had slackened from the hardened rictus that it had arrived with.
Eva jumped back as the body lifted a hand. She did a quick double-check of herself, the professors, and Arachne just to ensure that her blood sight was working properly.
Everyone’s blood was flowing just fine.
Everyone except for the currently animated corpse.
Her first thoughts were of necromancy. None of the skeletons or zombies that she had encountered had ever spoken, but the ghost that had assisted in her initial capture had responded to queries. Could ghosts possess corpses?
Then there was the blended girl and her friend. Both were strange to her blood sight and both had a connection to Sawyer. Their status of being alive was in question solely because of that. But even the friend had a pulse. A slow, lethargic pulse, but a pulse nonetheless.
It did, however, answer the question of why Wayne had brought along a corpse. If the Elysium Order thought that there might be undead in the general area of their church, they would probably send at least a portion of their forces to investigate.
Unfortunately, it would probably set the rest on high alert.
Maybe the undead should be contained and set to be released if they needed a distraction. A much better plan than alerting everyone right away.
Eva kept a careful watch on the girl as she pushed herself up to her knees and then to her feet. All the while, Eva had a portion of Arachne’s blood ready to strike or shield at a moment’s notice.
Arachne had moved back in the shadows and climbed partway up the building, looking about ready to pounce on the animated corpse.
“I told you to warn me before teleporting,” the girl whined as she tried to brush dirt and grime from her clothes.
Given that she was wearing a white dress, she failed miserably. If anything, she only worsened the problem by smearing the dirt around herself.
The girl seemed to realize the problem only after it was too late.
As she looked up to glare at Wayne, Eva caught a dead-on view of her eyes.
Or rather, the endless abyss behind them. They were like little snow globes with storms in place of the snow that would be right at home inside of Ylva’s domain.
“You would have ended up on your face no matter what,” Wayne said.
His voice broke Eva out of her trance. She shook her head and averted her eyes, determined not to get stuck in that trap again.
“I also told you to catch me. You’re so meaan to me,” she said, drawing out the word. “And after all the favors I’ve done for you over the years.”
Eva heard the distinct sound of Wayne scoffing behind her back.
“Now I’m all embarrassed and dirty in front of,” she took a deep breath through her nose, “someone who smells soo fantastic.”
The girl appeared in front of Eva. It wasn’t teleportation; Eva managed to track her movements just enough to tell that much. She was, however, fast enough to startle Eva.
Barely thinking, Eva activated her shield as she stumbled back from the other teenager.
She passed through the side of the shield and left the animated corpse behind, trapped within the bubble.
“What strange eyes,” the corpse muttered to herself.
“Look who’s talking.”
The corpse took another deep breath. “Ah, blood magic,” she said. A wide smile formed on her face as she poked the orb of blood powering the shield. “But you should have taken this with you.”
It doesn’t work like that, Eva almost said. The orb had to stay in the direct center of the shield or it collapsed. She had tried otherwise in the past, but nothing had never worked.
But Eva kept her mouth shut as her mind raced to toss out all of her previous assumptions about the girl. The twin fangs hanging out of her smile introduced a new theory.
The girl was a vampire.
Eva had never before encountered a vampire. In fact, she had assumed that the entire species was a myth up until Genoa had told the story of why she disliked the Elysium Order.
As if to prove Eva’s new theory, the vampire leaned down and slurped up the core of the shield. The actual shell collapsed immediately, freeing the trapped vampire.
For just a moment, Eva considered clapping her hands together and exploding the blood inside the vampire’s stomach. The only thing staying her hands was the fact that the vampire had arrived with Wayne and Zoe had clearly been expecting her arrival. She was probably not an enemy.
A blur of movement in the upper corners of Eva’s eyes had her shouting as fast as possible. “Arachne!”
The spider-demon twisted in midair, moving just enough to land behind the vampire rather than on top of her. All of her spare legs were spread out, hovering dangerously close to the vampire’s throat.
The vampire turned around to face Arachne, calm and languid as she could be.
Or the vampire’s calm exterior could be a facade. Perhaps she was nervous out of her mind.
Eva was finding it incredibly difficult to tell one way or the other. It made her realize just how much she had come to rely on her blood sight to tell when people were nervous. Anyone with even a modicum of self-control could keep their face straight in stressful situations, but keeping their hearts steady was another matter entirely.
“That was your blood?” The vampire wrinkled her nose. “I’m not sure it agreed with me. Too tangy. Too sweet.”
Arachne stood motionless over the far smaller vampire, radiating a menacing aura.
“Do you talk? You clearly listen,” she said with a glance at Eva. “Yet I cannot say I’ve ever encountered a creature like you.”
“Serena,” Zoe said, “we have time constraints. You can socialize later.”
The vampire spun on her heel and skipped straight to Zoe. Wrapping her into a hug around the waist, Serena said, “Zoe! I haven’t seen you in forever. You’re so big now. Have you thought more on joining?”
“Not in the slightest,” Zoe said. Her voice was flat, but she returned the hug.
Eva just blinked. Zoe knew the vampire too? And was hugging her?
“Wayne told you what we’re going to do?”
Serena shook her head. Her voice dropped into a mocking growl as she spoke. “‘Remember Boston? We need to do that again,’ was all he said. But since we’re in an alley and not a sushi bar, there are no circuses around, and Wayne doesn’t have makeup on, I’m not sure how we’re going to–”
“Not that part of Boston,” Zoe said as fast as she could.
Unlike the vampire, Eva could actually see Zoe’s heart pick up the pace a few notches.
“Oh,” her eyes narrowed. “I thought we agreed not to bother the Elysium Order again. I’ve enjoyed relative peace for the last few years and would really rather not antagonize them any further. Can’t you just ask them for whatever you need?”
“While I respect the Elysium Order for most of their work,” Wayne said as he took a half step forward, “I’d rather not walk up to them openly and announce myself. I doubt they will be so forgiving if they tie us to Boston.”
Zoe nodded along with that. “And they probably wouldn’t be willing to give a relic of theirs away. This is an emergency. Necessary, even. If you want to back out, I’ll understand.”
“Do we even have masks this time?”
Zoe gave a short shake of her head.
Releasing Zoe from the hug, Serena huffed as she turned around. Her eyes found Eva and for a moment, she just stared. “What’s your role in all this?”
“My friend is the one in danger. And we,” Eva gestured towards Arachne, “will be proceeding with or without anyone’s help.”
“You think you can fight the Elysium Order on your own? I don’t know what the two of you are, but you can’t seriously believe that running head on into one of their strongholds will turn out well.”
“Run in? Fight?” Eva shook her head. “Not in the slightest. I doubt I could fight a single nun. So long as they’re healthy, at least. No, my plan involves a great deal more subtlety and stealth. We have a map. We know roughly how many nuns are around. It is late at night; many nuns will be asleep.” Eva glanced at Arachne. “Shapeshifting into smaller forms won’t hurt our chances.”
“Sneaking in?” The vampire hummed. After a moment of thought, she turned a glare on Wayne. “That’s a far better plan than what we did last time. And, it is something that my talents will be useful for.”
“Great. Splendid. Can we please get a move on?”