Eva blinked forward, moving rooftop to rooftop. It only took a handful of blinks before she found herself in front of the creature. The creature could fly, so she had expected to be rapidly blinking over and over again just to keep up. However, it wasn’t that good at it. It bobbed and dipped, barely able to keep from crashing into the ground. The tentacles lining its back behind its wings moved as if they had a mind of their own, even going so far as to gnaw on the ends of the wings.
It truly was a bizarre sight. One that had Eva standing and watching for a few seconds rather than trying to catch it.
Of course, once it realized that Eva had gotten ahead of it, it panicked again. Rather than simply turn and glide away somewhere else, it actually tried to climb over its own wings in a scramble to escape. Doing so didn’t turn out so well. The moment it tried to twist and grab at its own wings, it lost against gravity. It crashed down, hit the end of the roof, rolled over the side and crashed down again in the middle of the street.
Eva almost felt bad watching it try to pick itself out of the tangled heap of limbs and tentacles. Not bad enough to stop Arachne from following it off the edge of the roof with her thread stretched between her hands. Despite landing almost on top of the creature, it managed to scuttle out from underneath her legs without getting tied up.
Six legs and a series of tentacles carried it along the ground faster than it had been flying. Arachne snarled as Eva teleported down to street level, just in front of the creature.
It nearly barreled right over her, being entirely focused on Arachne. Only a quick wall of flames between them caught the creature’s attention in time for it to skid to a halt. Eva spread the flame around in a wide semicircle, helping contain the creature while leaving Arachne free to march in closer.
Unfortunately, the creature realized that as well. Spreading its wings once again, it managed to get just enough height to get over Eva’s head.
Blinking after it, Eva considered just jumping on its back. The only thing stopping her were those tentacles filled with teeth. She still had distinct memories of having her foot bitten clean off after accidentally getting it caught in an enigma’s mouth. And that had been fairly easy to reattach as well, being a nice clean cut. The tentacles weren’t large enough to fit her entire foot in their mouths. They would take a dozen little bites out of her should she get close.
Which, really, she should have realized earlier. Her carapace was the same as Arachne’s. If Arachne moved in close, she could wind up half-eaten. And if the teeth could tear through carapace, they could probably get through thread. Even if it was Arachne’s demonic thread.
A bolt of lightning skimmed the fur on the tips of the creature’s ears, startling it enough to send it crashing back to the ground. A secondary gust of wind blew it along the ground until it hit the side of a small bakery. Zoe jumped off the roof she had been following along atop, gliding to the ground rather than falling with full force.
Eva held out a hand, stalling Arachne from approaching. Zoe had the winds whirling around, continually spinning the creature around and keeping it from getting back on its feet. There was no need for Arachne to put herself in danger so long as Zoe kept her magic up.
“You said to catch it,” Zoe said as she walked closer with her dagger out and swiping through the air, continually sending turbulent winds around the terrified creature. “But did you have a plan as to how? Or where to keep it?”
“The prison, I assume. Lynn, Catherine, and Devon can take a look at whatever it is. They can come up with some containment wards or shackles as well. They’re much more qualified than me.”
“Maybe so, but how are you getting it to them?”
Eva didn’t have much of a plan for that either. Given that she hadn’t even thought they would be chasing and capturing an unknown creature today, she felt she really should be excused for not having a proper plan.
“You missed your lightning bolt,” Eva said, rather than properly answer. Deflecting was a perfectly valid response.
Zoe didn’t respond right away. Instead she frowned and stared, looking at the creature as it pressed up against the wall. It tried to puff out all its fur to look as big as possible while simultaneously trying to shrink itself down as small as possible to avoid the tornado of winds rushing around it. After staring for a moment longer, she kept her dagger pointed at the creature while turning to look at Eva out of the corner of her eyes.
“It’s scared. I feel bad doing this even though it isn’t hurting it in the slightest.”
Earlier, while chasing it, Eva had a similar thought. The creature was far more pitiful than standard enigmas. If it even was an enigma. For all she knew, it was just some strange demon. Perhaps not one hundred percent of demons had black blood. Zagan didn’t have red eyes even though every other demon Eva had seen had them. And this thing did feel like a demon, though as weak as an imp. If that.
She would have to ask. Catherine might know more demonic species. Devon as well.
“So,” Eva said, “any ideas on transporting it?”
“Calm it down. If it stops fleeing, I’ll be free to use my magic for more than just containment.”
“You can’t just solidify air around it?”
“I could try, but if this is an enigma… these things have been known to break out of fairly hefty shackles in the past. Even if it isn’t, demons aren’t weak. My solidified air is more of a warning barrier than anything meant to contain something.”
Eva, curling her lips into a frown, stared at the creature. Calm it down? Even if it weren’t an enigma, it still acted like a feral cat. A cat with wings. And tentacles filled with teeth. In fact, was there even a need to calm it down?
Stepping forward to just before the tornado, Eva knelt down. She carved a series of runes into the ground with the tip of her finger.
It had been quite some time since she had used runes for anything. In fact, the last real time she had used them had been the rage script she had created to rile up people against the Elysium Order. There had been a few little things since then. She had kept up with the privacy packets up until her incapacitation at Sawyer’s hands. She had taught Shalise a little, but those lessons had fallen by the wayside not long after they started. Partially, again, because of Sawyer’s attack and then Shalise’s detention in Hell.
But that disuse didn’t mean that she had forgotten everything.
A quick sloth rune, a few pargons, some directional targeting, and a blood-based exclusionary clause and Eva had a decent sleeping runic array. She pricked a single droplet of blood and let it fall onto the exclusionary clause, motioned for Arachne to do the same, and stood to move towards Zoe. “Going to need a drop of your blood unless you want to take a quick nap.”
She frowned for a moment. Still, she held out her arm—the one she wasn’t using to wave around a focus. Not having her dagger on her person at the moment thanks to Anderson, the guests from other schools, and all the cameras that had been around Brakket Academy since the start of the event, Eva wiped her fingers off onto her shirt before pricking Zoe’s upper arm. Carefully holding the droplet of blood on the tip of her claw, she carried it over to the runic array. Only then did she let it fall from her fingertip.
Everything all set up, Eva flooded the array with magic. Then she waited, watching.
Back when she and Devon had raided the museum for the lich’s phylactery, the place where she had found the bloodstone encrusted dagger, she had made a similar rune system to put any guards to sleep. However, the guards at the museum had likely already been half asleep. If nothing else, they hadn’t been highly alert and full of adrenaline.
The creature was filled to the brim with adrenaline. Or whatever passed for adrenaline in its species. Its four pale white eyes twitched back and forth, rapidly searching out anything it might be able to use to escape. Fur sticking out, it continually moved back and forth in a space of about four feet. Every few movements, it swiped its paw towards the wind. The wind swiped back every time, turning to a transparent whip that kept the creature at bay.
After watching for a full minute, Eva started wondering if she might need to add a few extra pargon runes to up the power of the sleep spell. Just as the thought crossed her mind, the creature’s lids drooped. It was only for a moment. Its eyes snapped wide open as it shook its head, sending its long mane of hair whipping around in the wind.
But it was a start.
So Eva sat and continued to watch.
It managed to hold on for another minute before its head dipped. Jolting awake, the creature snapped its head around. The next slow blink of its otherwise wide eyes came only half a minute after. From there, its eyes started closing every few seconds, increasing in frequency with every blink. As its movements slowed, Zoe slowed down the wind and only swatted at the creature when it tried to escape its containment. Something that it wasn’t trying to do half as often.
All at once, its eyes fluttered shut and stayed there. Perched on its hind legs with its forepaws supporting most of its weight, it managed to stay sitting up for all of ten seconds before collapsing to the ground in a sleeping pile of fur and tentacles. Unfortunately, though the creature as a whole had fallen asleep, the tentacles didn’t care. They whipped around and snapped at everything. Which included both bricks and small bites out of the creature itself. Eva hadn’t actually attacked it. Neither had Arachne or Zoe—aside from some mostly harmless wind. Yet it was bleeding almost worse than it had been when they first came across it.
“We may need to amputate its tentacles,” Eva said. “If only to keep it intact enough to transport to the prison.”
Eva could do it without too much trouble had she a few vials of blood on hand. Really, she should just carry some vials around with her. It wasn’t like anyone would recognize demon blood for what it was aside from the vampire. If asked, she could claim that they were potions of some sort.
Just as easily, she could sever the creature’s tentacles with her bare hands—Arachne as well—should they get close. Unfortunately, getting close would put them in range of those teeth. She could try to burn them off. Or explode them off. However, her fire magic wasn’t that precise. She would probably do more damage to the creature than the tentacles were.
“I don’t suppose your razor wind is good at amputations?”
“So long as your runes will keep it asleep,” Zoe said. Receiving a mostly confident nod from Eva, she raised her dagger and made several sharp cutting motions. With each movement, the head of a tentacle fell to the sidewalk. Each swipe sent a precise blade of wind at the creature. No blade touched anywhere except her targets.
Eva might have given a slight whistle at her ability. It would have been one thing had they been unmoving targets, but they were squirming around like the arms of a wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tubeman.
The severed ends were small and almost spherical with their teeth at one end. And they didn’t stop biting. The mouths opened wide and then closed with sharp clicks despite their ability to move around having been stolen away from them. Still, barring a sudden ability to levitate around, Eva felt safe enough to approach.
Squatting down, Eva reached out and picked up one of the still snapping tentacle ends. She turned it over in her fingers. It continued opening and closing at the same rate, apparently unable to tell that it was mere inches away from something real to eat. With a shake of her head, she set it back down and moved on to the main body.
Eva poked at the side of its face. Just a quick test to ensure that it actually was sleeping. She assumed so, as all its tentacles being chopped off couldn’t have been a pleasant experience. Throughout the whole ordeal, none of its four eyes so much as twitched. And, leaning just a slight bit closer, Eva could have sworn that she heard snoring coming from the back of its throat.
Satisfied that it wasn’t going to be jumping up and attacking anytime soon, Eva stood and turned to the others.
“Arachne, wrap it up tight. It should be able to breathe but little else. Stay clear of the little mouths,” she said, pausing to reach down and pick one up. It had been eating into the cement sidewalk, chewing it up and spitting it out the severed end. As it did so, it started turning more gray than its natural black. Squeezing it in her fingers, Eva found it much tougher than the one she had picked up just a moment ago. “They’ll probably just eat through your webbing. We’ll need to find a way to contain them. Preferably without them eating whatever they’re held in.”
Zoe aimed her wand once again. The tentacle heads all rose from the ground, hovering in the air around Eva. They only stayed by her for a moment before they moved off to the side, still up in the air. “I’ll handle these if you figure out how to transport it.”
“I don’t have a truck handy.”
Nobody had recovered Devon’s vehicle from when they had gone to attack Sawyer. Devon did have a new one that he got from somewhere, but she highly doubted that he would let her borrow it anytime soon. He might bring it over to pick up the creature himself, but that could be hours from now. If he even bothered. Better to simply bring it to him. To that end, she turned to look at Arachne.
“Feeling up to carrying this thing all the way to the prison?”
Arachne’s eyes had never left the sleeping form of the creature. She still took a moment to respond. “So long as it stays asleep. Though I suppose I can tear its wings off if it starts to wake up. That should make catching it again much easier.”
“Sounds good. Let’s get moving.” Eva stepped away from the body, letting Arachne move in to pick it up. “I don’t know if you can teleport with those,” she said with a pointed finger towards the little mouths that were now levitating in front of Zoe, “but we should be able to find some way to contain them at the prison.”
“I’ll call up Wayne. He should have a vehicle for me.”
As Arachne hefted up the creature, Eva knelt down to the sidewalk where she had etched in her runes. Dragging her finger around the entire array, she used her burgeoning earth magic skills to free the small chunk of cement. Carrying it along with her should keep the creature asleep for the journey. “Great. We’ll head off first. Stay safe.”
With that, Eva started running just behind Arachne. The entire time they ran, Eva just thought. She didn’t speak with Arachne. She barely paid attention to where her feet were stepping.
Enigmas had fallen from the sky. And demons, or things that felt slightly like demons. Until Eva could confirm that a real demon had crossed over as Arachne had, she would be reserving judgment.
But the thing in Arachne’s arms was not a demon. It looked like one. Felt almost like one. But it wasn’t one. Eva had theories about what it might be. Or had been. It had been an enigma. Just like all the others. Dog-like with tentacles, too many limbs, sharp teeth, and violet blood. But something had happened to it that had made it more human-like. Or demon-like. Both.
Sawyer’s enigmas had eaten a few of the vampires she had recruited while attacking his ritual circle. There hadn’t been much time to investigate given the situation, but Eva had definitely noticed something. The enigmas that feasted on vampires had changed. They turned more like a vampire than whatever enigmas were.
The same thing had to have happened to this enigma. It had consumed demons. Perhaps a succubus? Stripping away the tentacles and fur, it might be quite attractive to people who weren’t Eva, though in an androgynous sort of way. The tentacles were a holdover from it being an enigma. For the fur… maybe it had consumed a hellhound? Maybe even a cerberus. The wings could have come from a succubus or just about anything else—a great number of demons had wings.
That brought up the question of what had happened to the demons it had consumed. Did they die for real? Did Void pull them deeper into Hell to let them heal like normal? Most of all, could the creature talk? It had a humanoid face. It might have to be taught to talk. Was its brain developed enough to facilitate proper communication?
She suspected that those would be questions for Devon and Catherine.
Speak of the devil…
They made it to the prison without running into any further issues, enigma related or otherwise. It wasn’t quite record time. Arachne hadn’t shifted into her largest form, just carrying the creature in her arms and moving with her two humanoid legs. And they had been moving slowly. Even with the runic array, they didn’t want to accidentally wake the creature.
Catherine stood atop the prison walls, having apparently sensed Eva’s approach. “Stay here,” Eva said to Arachne. Setting down the rune array so that it would still cover the enigma, Eva took a few drops of the creature’s blood—using the palm of her hand to contain them—and blinked atop the wall.
“I’ll be right back,” she said to Catherine. “We’ll need some containment wards though. Maybe shackles. Not sure.”
Catherine didn’t respond. She kept her eyes glued on the body in Arachne’s arms.