Sawyer stood at the crest of a hill that overlooked the ritual site. He turned his head one way then the other, taking in the destruction down below.
His actions gave Eva a nice overview of everything as well.
Much of the field was on fire in some capacity or other. Eva hadn’t managed to explode every casket, but a good chunk of them were nothing more than craters. Most of the skeletons and enigmas on the field were dead, thanks to the efforts of the vampires and Nel.
It was a strange sensation to feel Sawyer’s shoulders slump ever so slightly. Several nights worth of work had just gone to waste with her ten minute romp through the field. Likely more than just several nights. Even if Eva was beaten back, Sawyer wouldn’t be able to recover.
If it were just the work he had put into preparing the bodies, it wouldn’t be all that bad. But with the graveyards mostly dug up already, there might not be enough suitable corpses remaining. He might have to move to an entirely new location and set up everything all over again. Starting from scratch on a project this big couldn’t be fun.
Sawyer’s eyes narrowed to thin slits as he caught sight of one of the vampires dashing across the field. His hand went to his whistle.
But he paused. The whistle was on his lips, but he didn’t breathe out.
The vampire’s motion had carried his vision right to Eva and Nel.
Eva had to admit that the two of them looked absurd. Nel clung to Eva’s back while she hunched over to carry the weight. Lightning shot from a withered arm. Immediately after, Nel wobbled around as the lights in her eyes died off.
Absurd, but not to the point where it was all that humorous.
Yet Sawyer’s lips drew his already wide smile back even further.
Every time she had seen Sawyer, he had been smiling. Even when things weren’t going his way. Something was constantly amusing him.
Eva would have suspected drugs, but she had watched his actions from a front row seat over the last few days. She would have noticed something had it actually been drugs.
“Sawyer is here,” Eva said, turning to the necromancer and giving a little wave.
Through her sense of blood, she could see Nel take notice. Eva’s wave had pointed him out to her.
Her lips drew back into a snarl. Without a word of warning, she raised both of her arms.
Eva had to use both of her hands to keep Nel from falling off her back.
Twin bolts of white lightning fired off from Nel’s fingertips. They were of the same blindingly overcharged caliber that her initial bolts of the evening had been.
The only reason that Eva could still see with the lightning right in front of her face was because of her connection with Sawyer.
Though she couldn’t see from that end of things for very long. Grass and dirt filled her vision. Sawyer dropped to the ground the moment he saw Nel raise her arms. Eva could feel the heat over his back as the lightning careened on to the sky.
He rolled over on his back and brought the whistle around to his lips.
Again, no sound came out when he blew into the opening.
A wave of enigmas charged around him and into the field.
Still blinking away the spots in her eyes and shaking the thunder from her ears, Eva had to rely on her blood sight.
One of the vampires was in the way of the enigmas between Sawyer and Eva. Eva couldn’t tell if he had been blinded by the lightning or not, but he didn’t manage to get very far away once he realized what was happening. Tentacles lashed around his legs and arms from several different enigmas.
The different enigmas pulled in different directions. There was a moment of strain in the vampire’s limbs before they started snapping off.
A few of the enigmas pounced on the vampire, tearing him to even smaller pieces with their sharp teeth.
He didn’t scream for very long.
Most of the enigmas were still charging into the field.
Eva didn’t waste any time. Even while partially blind, she could still act.
The demon blood contained within the vials strapped to her body forced its way out of the vials. Two vials of Zagan’s blood stayed intact, just in case she needed them later on.
As it was, she was going to be stretching her blood reserves rather thin. Thirty enigmas were a lot. Even with Nel and the remaining vampires to assist and distract, dispatching them wasn’t going to be easy.
And then there was Sawyer to worry about. He climbed back to his feet, brushing the dirt off his button up shirt as he went. For the moment, he seemed content to merely watch.
Rings of blood flew out from Eva. She wrapped them around the four nearest enigmas’ necks and promptly clapped her hands. Technically, beheading the beasts didn’t kill them. It still put them down long enough to take them out of the current fight.
Eva didn’t have time to throw out more rings. Another wave of enigmas charged over their fallen brethren towards Eva.
A stream of fire from Nel’s fingertips consumed one and kept the others at bay long enough for Eva to form a shield around the two of them.
Just in time for an enigma’s wide mouth to try gnawing on the shield. Eva sent a smaller marble of blood down its throat and clapped her hands again.
Eva started to form up more rings when she noticed something odd.
Enigmas, despite their oddities with death, acted like any other creature for the most part. They had brains, hearts, blood, and other organs. Eva was concerned mostly with their blood and hearts, as that was what she could see best. Normally, their hearts pumped and their blood flowed.
But not those of the enigmas that had consumed the vampire. There were only three of them, but they weren’t moving at all. Their tentacles were still, their mouths did not open or close, their hearts didn’t beat, and their blood didn’t move.
Though still, they weren’t idle. The blood inside the affected enigmas’ veins was turning stale. Old.
Like the blood within vampire veins.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Eva said, more to herself than to Nel. One of the vampires had landed on top of one of the unmoving enigmas and had started to tear it apart.
That seemed to be the trigger needed to get them moving. The vampire jumped away just in time to avoid getting caught by a tentacle.
The vampiric enigmas jumped after him.
A startled noise from Nel brought Eva back from watching the rest of the battle. She quickly sent a few small marbles down the throats of three enigmas that had approached her shield, dispatching all of them.
None of the other vampires in the field had been caught, thanks to small mercies, but they really were not that effective at taking out the enigmas. Nel’s fire did a much better job, probably because of its magic eating aspects and the fact that the enigmas were definitely magical beings.
Eva hoped that none of them wound up caught. She didn’t know what the enigmas had done, exactly, but something told her that they would be tougher, better regenerators, and possibly contagious. With any luck, they wouldn’t like the sun all that much. Maybe the sun could even kill them permanently.
Unfortunately, Eva had no time to test.
“We’re going to be moving up towards Sawyer,” Eva said.
Nel was back to gripping Eva’s shoulders for support, but she nodded an acknowledgment.
After dispatching one more enigma with a ring of blood around its neck, Eva shut down her shield and started running. She built up a fireball and tossed it towards the vampiric enigmas as she ran.
Vampires didn’t like fire, so why should vampiric enigmas?
That was the theory anyway. Eva didn’t stop to observe the results of her handiwork. She ran straight for the hill that Sawyer was once again standing on top of.
At the base of the hill, she stopped.
Something strange was going on. Her vision and sense of blood were not matching up with what Sawyer saw.
To Eva, the enigmas were fighting with the vampires down on the field. Or, they were being distracted by the vampires. After watching one of their number get quartered and eaten alive, they were being a little hesitant in engaging directly.
Standing atop the hill, Sawyer calmly watched as three of the enigmas turned. They started snarling at him. After a brief moment, they started running. Two of them brushed past Eva on either side of her.
Looking in person, the nearest enigma was some distance away, snapping at the heels of a vampire that jumped over it.
Eva could feel a headache forming again. Just when her nausea had started to dissipate as well. Something was going on and it was messing with Sawyer’s head. Her head by extension.
She had a feeling that she knew what it was, but she couldn’t actually see Serena anywhere around.
The three enigmas in Sawyer’s vision charged up the hill, running straight up to the necromancer.
He stood by as unconcerned as he could be even as the enigmas started circling around him. They growled and occasionally sent out the whistling thunder inside of his head. Sawyer flinched every time, but was otherwise entirely too calm for the situation.
Still, he was distracted.
Eva couldn’t waste the opportunity.
Gathering up one of the vials of Zagan’s blood, she formed it into a large ring and sent it whizzing up the hill towards Sawyer. With Nel still on her back, she ran up after it.
At the same time, one of the enigmas lashed its tentacles around Sawyer’s leg. Eva could feel it squeezing and constricting. The pain just about sent her stumbling in her run.
Sawyer just looked down, his grin widening.
Something was definitely wrong.
Just before Eva’s blood ring could make it to Sawyer, his hand darted out to his side. It gripped something that wasn’t there in his sight. Eva could feel his hands squeezing tight around something fleshy.
In her blood sight, Eva just about started to panic.
The ring of blood flew straight towards his outstretched arm.
Eva just about dropped Nel in an attempt to clap her hands together.
She stopped just in the nick of time.
Sawyer swung his arm around. Eva’s blood splattered across an invisible woman in his hands.
The illusion in Sawyer’s vision died off and Serena shimmered into being, clutching and grasping at her throat, clawing away at Sawyer’s skin.
He didn’t seem to care as blood started dripping from his hand. His smile just grew wider.
“Serena is in trouble,” Eva hissed as she doubled her efforts in getting up the hill.
As she ran, she tried to salvage as much blood as she could from Serena. A lot of it had soaked into her clothing, becoming unusable. That which Eva could scrape up, she gathered just on the back of Serena’s neck. Normally, such a thing would have ruined the blood. It would have gotten mixed up with sweat and grime. Being a vampire, Serena didn’t sweat. Her body was dead.
With Sawyer holding her facing him, it was the perfect spot to hide the blood without him noticing.
“I say, you two are quite the sight,” Sawyer said, turning a grin in Eva’s direction.
Eva glared. She didn’t speak. She didn’t need to.
Nel gave a slight squeak as Eva unclasped her hands from the augur’s bottom. She almost fell to the ground as Eva dropped her, but managed to remain on her feet with a little help.
“Is this one with you?” Sawyer asked as he turned back to face Serena. “She’s a much rarer strain than those riffraff,” he swept his stitched hand towards the valley below. “Almost a shame what I have to do.”
Muscles and blood within Sawyer’s arm started moving. He was squeezing Serena’s throat.
Wasting no more time, the blood from behind Serena’s neck moved around, coating the back of Sawyer’s hand. Given that his hand was throttling Serena’s neck, the blood didn’t have far to move. He didn’t have a chance to pull away before most of the blood got onto him.
When he did release Serena and pull away, it was far too late.
Eva clapped her hands together.
Sawyer shouted out a clipped cry as the blood flashed white and obliterated everything that it was touching.
Namely, his hand.
Eva took care not to harm Serena. The vampire collapsed to the ground, unmoving despite Eva’s efforts. Her neck was bent at an angle that it shouldn’t be.
Vampires died if they were decapitated. Eva wasn’t sure about broken necks. Hopefully Serena would be able to regenerate from it. The vampire had actually grown on Eva since their attack on the Elysium Order’s cathedral.
But there was no time to worry about that now. Sawyer was looking at his hand–or the empty spot where it had been–as if he couldn’t believe what had just happened. Eva only managed to coat his fingers and part of the back of his hand, but his entire arm was missing up to his elbow.
The power of Zagan’s blood. Probably.
Eva charged forward, planting her shoulder right into Sawyer’s stomach. As he fell to the ground, Eva stepped forwards. She planted one foot on his chest and the other foot on the arm that still had a hand.
While Eva didn’t consider herself to be that heavy, she did not spare Sawyer anything. Her sharp toes pressed down on his chest with all the force that she could muster.
For a moment, she wished that she still had Nel on her back.
“You’re not getting away this time, Sawyer. Nel and I want to have a little fun with you.”
He smiled–as always–and laughed. “I can’t wait. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is in the cards for me tonight.”
This time, it was Eva’s turn to laugh. “You think that Des and a handful of skeletons will save you? Or that haugbui that you’ve got locked up in your warehouse?” Eva shook her head. “Think again.”
“How did you–”
Eva pressed down on his chest, digging the claws that made up her toes through his shirt and skin. Blood welled up and stained his shirt.
Drawing her knife from its sheath, Eva stabbed it into her arm. The amount of blood she pulled out was perhaps more than she should have, but she needed it for the next stage of her plan. She wanted to have everything ready before Des showed up with the skeletons.
Shaping her blood into a large circle, Eva hesitated. Sawyer was entirely too calm. Casting around her blood sight, Eva couldn’t find anything that might immediately threaten her.
Though pausing did remind her of something.
Bending over, Eva clawed one hand as she reached out for his pocket. Her hand grasped his whistle, cloth from his shirt, and even some skin. Even in her slowly fading senses from Sawyer, it hurt. Eva had intended for it to hurt.
Sawyer didn’t flinch in the slightest. He had to have some way of shutting off his sense of pain that didn’t protect Eva. There was no other way that he could just sit there smiling.
“Nel, keep an eye out for a bunch of skeletons while I work on this.”
“M-me?” she asked, whipping her head up from glaring at Sawyer.
Eva rolled her eyes. At least act a little confident in front of Sawyer. “Yes, you. They’ll be with Des, so maybe we’ll be able to recover your eyes.”
Slowly, Nel nodded. “Alright. I’d like that.”
Given that the eyes were implanted within Des, it might not be a good idea to put them back into Nel. They had been in the hands of a necromancer for far too long. There could be all kinds of traps and safeguards to keep Nel from reclaiming them.
But Eva didn’t need to comment on that to Nel at the moment. The augur desperately needed a boost to her confidence. Saying such things would have the opposite effect.
Turning her attention back to Sawyer and the ring of her blood in the air, Eva put on a grin of her own. She fingered the small black orb that hung from her neck–Arachne’s beacon. It was a depressing shame that Arachne couldn’t be here to watch her victory over Sawyer.
“Do you know what this is?” she asked as details started to form within the circle.
“A summoning circle,” Sawyer said with a half chuckle. “What horror are you going to call forth to exact your revenge? Oh, I can’t wait to find out!”
“Sawyer, I am appalled,” Eva said with a shake of her head. “You should really study up on your diablery. Or get your eyes checked.” He was entirely too excited about everything. Normally, such a thing would have worried Eva. She must be missing something.
But the circle was complete. It wouldn’t matter in a few seconds.
Eva started channeling magic into the circle as it hung in mid-air right next to Sawyer’s prone form.
A black void opened up where the blood had been.
“This,” she said, stepping off Sawyer, “is a transference circle.”
Before her words could entirely sink in, Eva dug one of her feet between Sawyer’s back and the ground.
Using the powerful legs that she had been given by Arachne, Eva kicked out.
Sawyer’s body lifted off the ground just a hair–it really didn’t need to go so high, Eva had made the bottom of the circle almost scraping the ground. All she needed to do was to get him inside.
She halfway succeeded. Her foot must have been too far off-center.
Sawyer’s legs and lower waist disappeared into the void, but he managed to flip over onto his stomach. Grasping at the brush and well-entrenched weeds on the ground, he managed to stop himself from falling inside entirely. His head tilted upwards, glaring at Eva as she smirked down at him.
He no longer had a smile on his face.
Eva knelt in front of him and started prying his fingers loose, one by one. He only had one hand, so it wasn’t like he had all that much to hold onto.
“You know,” Eva said as she accidentally broke one of his fingers, “connecting the mortal realm to Hell is supposed to be off limits for a time. I just wanted you to know how special you are to have an exception made just for you.”
Snapping his pinky finger clean off, Eva stood again.
He was slowly being dragged into the portal.
Eva placed her foot right on his forehead.
“This isn’t over,” he said, all humor and amusement gone from his voice.
“Of course it isn’t. Welcome to Hell.”
Eva gave his forehead just a light tap, sending him tumbling into the darkness.
With a head-splitting smile on her face, Eva pocketed the pinky finger. His blood had come in handy before. Perhaps this would as well. No sense in tossing it, in any case.
Eva blinked as she realized something. There was no connection between her and Sawyer anymore. The moment he had disappeared through the portal, she couldn’t sense him anymore.
Which was something of a shame. Eva had been hoping to get a picture of her domain when he landed.
Oh well, she thought. Sawyer might get torn apart without his whistle, if there are enigmas down there. It would be a definite shame. Eva wanted to torture him. A lot. But if he died to enigmas, she supposed that would have to suffice. Maybe one of his necromancy books would have a guide on how to ensure that he had eternal torment.
Something to worry about later.
She was just about to close the portal when Nel shouted.
“Eva! We have a problem!”
“What is it?” Eva asked, even as she turned to seek out the problem for herself.
It didn’t take long to notice something amiss.
One of the vampires down on the ritual field was in pieces. As if someone had taken a razor-sharp cleaver from his shoulder to his waist and then severed one of his legs.
As she stared, another of the vampires just started to fall apart. An arm followed a leg. It ended with the top half of his head just sliding off the rest of his body.
“It’s the haugbui,” Nel shrieked.
“I thought you said that they couldn’t be moved.”
“I said that it cannot move. Someone moved it!”
“Des,” Eva hissed as another vampire fell to pieces. Apparently, the girl had decided that skeletons wouldn’t be enough. Or Sawyer had somehow communicated with her, telling her to bring it along.
That might explain his unwarranted confidence. He was expecting Des to show up with the haugbui. Eva didn’t know how strong the things were. Based on how it was just slicing apart the vampires without even being visible, it might have been able to slice apart even a stronger demon. Perhaps why Sawyer ‘couldn’t wait’ to see what Eva summoned.
“It’s going after the vampires because that’s what Sawyer told it to do earlier,” Eva said, glancing towards Serena. Her body was still intact, though she was still unmoving with her neck crooked. “But that probably won’t last very long at this rate. Into the portal.”
Nel’s head whipped around, eyes wide. “What? We can’t–Sawyer just–”
“It leads to my domain. Just pretend that this was intentional. Act confident.” Eva knelt down, scooping up Serena into her arms while trying to keep her head from twisting into a worse position. “Unless you want to stay and try fighting off that haugbui.”
Nel shook her head. She stepped up to the portal.
Eva didn’t have this kind of time. Another vampire was being shredded behind them.
Raising a leg, Eva kicked Nel into the portal. Her sudden scream was cut off as soon as her head vanished into the darkness.
Eva jumped in without hesitation, Serena in her arms.