Eva opened her eyes, surprised to find she had eyes to open after watching the avatar being torn apart in the walls of the teleportation tunnel. She had fully expected to be torn apart as well. Even if Void reclaimed her, she would still have awoken in that void where nothing existed save for her mind.
Awaking in a familiar place, staring at a familiar cracked sandstone ceiling, Eva let out a soft sigh. The women’s ward. Her own bed. Definitely a far cry from the endless abyss that had been her earlier death. The blankets felt soft and fluffy against her skin, as if they had just recently been laundered.
She didn’t want to get out of bed. For so long, she had felt this stress building up. And now, everything was over. Or it should have been over. Unfortunately, she couldn’t say that with absolute certainty. As much as she wanted to just lie down and relax for a week straight, Eva needed to find out what had happened. To find out whether or not everything worked out properly.
Mustering up her willpower, Eva threw off the blankets and swung her legs out of bed.
Only to fall straight to the floor, unable to even catch herself on the edge of the bed.
She had no legs. Her arms ended as stubs just beneath her elbows. Unlike how she had woken after using her beacon, no coalesced blood served to replace her missing limbs. Neither had Arachne’s carapace returned. Just raw skin that terminated around her bones.
However hard she tried, she couldn’t force her blood to pierce her skin. Or move it much at all, for that matter; trying to manipulate her blood within her veins worked, but the blood couldn’t escape her body.
Which wouldn’t stand.
Maybe it was her skin being too demonic, too strong for such a weak manipulation to work. Maybe it was something else entirely. Even if she had a cut, she doubted that her control over her blood was to the level where she could form limbs from it.
If her demonic power involved blood, that was great. She knew blood. Practically her entire life had been spent as a blood mage. But if it only activated when she was under extreme stress, what good was it? Especially now that she lacked Arachne’s limbs, she really needed it.
Propping herself up into an upright position, Eva glanced around with a scowl on her face. Nothing around the room would help her. Her dresser held clothes and books. The end table had a few runes to control the lighting of the room—which she hadn’t activated, and yet she could see perfectly fine despite the dark sky outside the window. Perhaps another demonic aspect? Night vision? Neat, but useless as far as mobility was concerned.
She didn’t have a wheelchair. Even if she did, she wouldn’t be able to wheel it. Her thaumaturgy wasn’t good enough to help. Fire wouldn’t do much except make a mess and her skills in air magic levitation were lacking. Earth magic might be able to push her around, but she was barely experienced enough to work with dirt, not the hard cement of the women’s ward floor.
Dragging herself around was a possibility, if an unpleasant one. She hadn’t had clothes since before her transformation at the ritual circle, so she would be dragging her bare skin across the ground. Bearable until she reached someone, she supposed, but that was another problem in and of itself. Did she really want to appear before anyone else while crawling across the ground? Juliana and Shalise might help her out without question, but they weren’t likely to be at the prison. Catherine, Devon, or Devon’s demons were the ones who should be around.
Eva had a sinking feeling that the demons would lose all respect for her while Devon would see it as an opportunity to lock her up and keep her from getting into more trouble. All for his experiments, of course.
Arachne was the only one she would trust and she was obviously not around. If Arachne were anywhere nearby, Eva had no doubts that the spider-demon would have sensed her presence and sought her out above all other happenings. Even were the world back in peril of ending.
In attempting to clamber back onto the bed—because so long as she was stuck thinking, she might as well be stuck in comfort—Eva knocked over the end table. A crystalline dagger, one she hadn’t touched in years, slid across the floor away from her. The hilt lacked a bloodstone. It hadn’t had one in years as well, the same years in which she hadn’t touched it. Neither did she have the means of creating a new bloodstone.
Her void metal dagger, and the gems it held, were likely lost. She had the dagger on her person before the ritual began. After transforming into the bloody winged version of herself, she hadn’t checked for its presence. After returning to Earth from Hell, she had wound up naked. Maybe it was lying out on the surface of the ritual circle. Maybe it was gone forever. She would make a few attempts to look for it, but obviously not at the moment.
There should be a few spare stones lying about from her trip to Florida however.
Before she could get excited about digging them out from whatever corner of the room she had tossed them in, Eva realized just when her trip to Florida had been. She had gone on the very first day school had ended. While she had spent a few days wandering about before finding the gang she had dismantled, it hadn’t been a significant length of time. Which meant that the bloodstones were at least seven months old. Probably closer to eight.
Normal bloodstones lasted only about three months before deteriorating. Those left over from her altercation with Sawyer would be nothing but dust. Her void metal dagger and its stones had spoiled her.
Slumping back against the bed, Eva scowled. She had such a simple solution to her problem and yet no bloodstones with which to enact that solution. She could try teleporting to the dormitory. Crawling around, she would be more likely to encounter Genoa, Shalise, or another human. But there were also a number of demons there. Possibly including Catherine. They would be able to sense her without much difficulty and might investigate.
Though, given that no one had come to see her at all was somewhat strange. Her room was a separate ward scheme than the women’s ward and the rest of the prison, but they could still have knocked on her door without exploding. Something… was wrong.
Eva slid herself across the floor, angling herself towards the window. Nighttime, just as she had seen before. But it wasn’t a proper night.
There were no stars in the sky. No clouds, not even a wisp. She couldn’t see the ground or any prison walls from her position, but she bet that there wouldn’t be much out there. Nothing besides sand and an endless ocean outside the walls of her women’s ward.
The alternate women’s ward.
Eva grit her teeth. Of course. She should have realized the moment she woke up. The normal women’s ward had been destroyed by enigmas during the attack. She had seen it with her own eyes.
Her first thought was to simply use her beacon to return to the real world.
But she didn’t have one. In the short time between returning to Earth and taking the Avatar of Life through the teleportation tunnel, she hadn’t had time to create one. She hadn’t even thought of it.
“Void!” Eva shouted. “Put me back on Earth! There are still things that need doing.”
She waited, but for once in Hell, only silence answered her. Eva had to concentrate to keep her teeth from grinding together. The plan to return Life’s avatar hadn’t included this. Had it even succeeded? Void was supposed to have used the connection Life had forged between their realms to punt the brain back at the Power. But if she were here, was it here as well?
Eva did not want to walk outside to find chunks of Vektul or the avatar lying strewn about her domain.
Though, she didn’t want to be in her domain in the first place. In fact, she really didn’t want to be in her domain. There was nothing here. Nothing at all save for what she created. Which she knew about, and had known about for a while, but it hadn’t really registered with her until just now. She had always figured that Arachne would be around to keep her company. Unless some significant amount of time had passed, she doubted that Arachne would be hanging around in her domain. Same with Lucy. Not that Eva ever wanted to return to that domain, but maybe she could have gotten some imp to go to Lucy’s domain and extend an invite. Catherine and every other demon that she knew would be back on Earth.
Well, not every demon. Visiting Willie didn’t seem like a good way to pass the time, however. Prax died a while back, he might have returned from Void’s pit of Hell, but Eva didn’t really care to see the cambion again.
There had to be a way out.
Though first, she needed to get mobile.
Being in her domain, she should be able to conjure up something. She had built the entire alternate women’s ward, after all. But what to conjure up? A set of crutches clattered to the ground to her side. Without hands to grab them, she wouldn’t be able to use them even if she had the balance of a succubus. She couldn’t even reach the doorknob let alone turn it without hands.
Destroying the door, or the entire women’s ward would be possible. That would just leave her on a sandy beach and while she could roll into the waters of Hell and visit another domain, she had already decided that that probably wouldn’t be the best of ideas. Especially not while missing limbs and unable to defend herself. Sure, winding up in trouble might increase her control over her blood based on what happened in tense situations in the past. At the same time, she might wind up torn apart at the hands of another demon.
A dozen bloodstones dropped out of mid-air at Eva’s next request, rolling across the floor. One rolled right up to her arm. Despite the bad feeling about it, Eva ground the stub of her arm against the ground until it started bleeding. Dripping the black blood over the bloodstone, Eva waited for just a moment before sighing.
It wasn’t working. She felt no control over her blood beyond what little there was from being in her veins. And that was rapidly dissipating now that the blood had left her body.
The lack of control was probably because the bloodstones were simply constructed from her memories and not from the heart of a living being. Even if she conjured up a body, she doubted that creating a bloodstone from it would work as it would be a construct and not a real living person.
Really, she was the only living being that she had ready access to.
A sardonic smile crossed her face. Of course, her body was the only one she had access to. Her heart beat in her chest, ready to go.
And she had a modicum of blood under her control within her own veins. Likely not even anything demonic, but rather from the ritual she had performed before even coming to Brakket that allowed her to heal from the small cuts that were so prevalent in blood magic. She probably could have controlled the blood within her veins years ago, she had just never had a reason to do so.
Now? She did. She needed to get back on her feet. She needed to be able to move around. Perhaps more importantly, she needed something she could use as an active weapon.
Everything seemed calm at the moment. Seemed being the key word. She had not forgotten the enigmas that had once run rampant around her domain. Void had mentioned that he had been cleaning up after the invasion, but it had sounded like a work still in progress. If there were things outside her room, destroying the building or leaving could be dangerous. She was not invulnerable within her own domain. This was where an enigma had bitten off her leg, after all.
Eva took a deep breath. Not willing to waste any more time thinking—just in case an enigma barged into her room—she started to act. Blood, under her direction, etched itself into the surface of her heart. A perfect etching of circles and sigils. The most detailed version of bloodstone creation that she knew how to create. Normally, she drew it on the back of her hand and pressed her hand to the chest of whoever she was turning into a bloodstone. If she could, she pressed her hand directly against their still beating heart. With the sigil directly etched into the heart, something she had never tried before, she was expecting a high quality stone.
Hopefully. She had a slight comfort in knowing that Void would reconstitute her body should she screw everything up. Not the best reassurance, but a reassurance nonetheless.
With another deep breath, she flooded the shallow etchings with magic.
The pain came instantly and without remorse. Eva cried out, screeching at the top of her lungs. If anything was in her domain and hadn’t known that she was there, it did now. Though Eva didn’t spare a moment of her thought to consider that terrible prospect. She didn’t have a moment of thought to spare. Not a single coherent thought formed.
Her heart crunched down, tearing itself apart from the veins and arteries that connected it to the rest of her body. It twisted. The flesh of her heart chaotically folded in on itself, hardening as it shrank down. The rough walls of her heart smoothed out, becoming as glass.
Despite her heart being completely disconnected from her body, the pain in her chest didn’t stop. A burning fire welled up within her. At the same time, she started to see spots in front of her eyes. Her arms, even though they were half gone, felt as heavy as lead.
Eva failed to maintain her half-sitting position. The muscles in her back just wouldn’t respond.
As she slumped down to the floor, a single coherent thought made it through the jumbled mess that had become her stream of consciousness.
She needed to circulate her blood.
The moment the thought crossed her mind, her blood started pumping again. A second later, she gasped in a deep breath of air.
Her heart didn’t pump. She had no heart. Just a gemstone the size of a marble. And it… worked. Blood flowed around the stone, filling her veins and carrying that vital essence of life around her body. She didn’t know why she had started to see spots so soon. Being ninety-nine percent demon, she barely slept, ate, or did other human things. Breathing was something of an automatic reaction, so she hadn’t really stopped doing so, but had thought that she could go without oxygen for some time.
Obviously not something she was about to test.
For what seemed like an hour, Eva lay on the floor in a puddle of her own sweat that she hadn’t realized she had even shed. That entire time, the pain slowly lessened and lessened until she could stand to actually think for a few moments about how foolish her solution had been.
Maybe it wouldn’t have been so foolish had she already had an implanted bloodstone. Something that she could have kept her blood flowing with while her heart underwent its transformation. Of course, had she already had a bloodstone in her chest, she wouldn’t have needed to make one in the first place.
By the time Eva felt well enough to actually move, her body was sticky and somewhat unpleasant smelling.
But it had worked.
It had worked.
Her blood was flowing rapidly through her body, all according to her direction. Much like when the hunter had stabbed her in the chest. She didn’t need a heart. She had blood magic. And maybe a little demonic constitution helping out as well. A normal human might have a bit more trouble recovering from that pain or even standing up again.
Speaking of standing… Eva glanced down to her sweat covered arms. One was already injured, lightly leaking a little blood from it. She stretched the blood out, forming it into a hand shape. A mass of liquid hand. Glancing to her other arm, she watched as thin needles of blood burst from the smooth skin, wrapping around the stub until it too formed a hand.
She repeated the action with both of her legs, pouring blood from her stumps.
Which almost had her passing out again. Eva quickly sucked the blood back into her body as she considered a second, albeit smaller problem.
Unlike before, she wasn’t mass producing an endless supply of blood. That had been some demonic power. Maybe she would learn to harness it fully one day. For now, she only had the blood in her body.
Trying again, this time Eva did not make solid arms and legs. Her hands were thin and bone-like. As if the bones of her arm were the only things that extended out, no meat and no muscles. Her legs were the same. She only had narrow bones of liquid blood stretching out from the stubs at her hips.
She still felt a little anemic, but it was better than nothing. So long as her body continued to produce blood cells, she could fill out her thighs and hands to their proper shape. For now, skeleton Eva it was.
And she stood, shaky at first. Whether the shakes came from how narrow her legs were, the dull thumps of pain still pounding in her chest, or simply because she wasn’t quite used to walking around just yet—using the blood as legs before had felt a whole lot more natural—she couldn’t say. But she did stand.
Standing was an improvement worthy of praise in and of itself.
Technically, she didn’t need to stand. Neither did she need long legs. Floating around on platforms of blood should be possible. It was basically what she was doing anyway—unless she hardened the bones of blood, they were fairly poor supports for her body. And she could harden them, and probably would later, but only once she had enough blood to spare for proper legs.
However, half her reason for not wanting to crawl around was appearances. Specifically not wanting to appear weak in front of other demons. Floating around on a platform of blood might be convenient, but didn’t look imposing enough. In that respect, skeletal legs were probably more intimidating than filled out thighs.
Similarly, she didn’t really need hands. She could form her blood into tentacles or just leave it all within her body until she needed to manipulate something. Even in that case, she wouldn’t need to move her arms. Floating blood was a trick she had learned a long time ago.
Maybe some day, she wouldn’t feel the need to maintain appearances. For now, she walked out of the room on two feet made of blood with two skeletal hands.
And, as she left the room, she found herself in the common room of the alternate women’s ward.
In the real world, and the last time she had seen the alternate version, the common room merely held a table and a few stolen couches. It normally sat between all the cells of the prison and led out into the main walled off courtyard.
However, as she walked into the common room, Eva found herself face to face with an obsidian column. Sandstone bricks from the roof and floor of her domain littered the floor around the common room as if it had risen from under the ground.
Eva found herself staring into her own glowing red eyes in the reflection of the smooth obsidian wall. “Huh,” she said, slowly walking around the construct. “I don’t remember creating that.”