Author’s Note: If you find yourself becoming uncomfortable, skip to the line “time to find some containers”
“Demon of strength?” Arachne let out a long laugh. “When I kill you, I think I will be taking your title.”
“Fool. Such arrogance will be your demise.”
Arachne laughed again. As if. The carnivean only had one tentacle of any significant length remaining. And that would soon be gone.
It was disappointing, actually. Carniveans were supposed to be strong. Very strong. Sure, if it managed to wrap a tentacle around anything, that thing would break off–two of Arachne’s legs and most of one arm were testament to that.
None of that strength translated to martial prowess.
Still, it was the first real fight she’d been in since the necromancer’s cave.
Arachne intended to enjoy it to the fullest.
The carnivean jumped through the air at Arachne’s laugh. Two glowing red eyes blazed brighter as her three-fanged mouth opened in a snarl.
Arachne swung her entire body around, catching the small body with her bulk. The tentacle slipped off of smooth carapace as the carnivean flew through another charred wall.
More of the wall tumbled over as Arachne gave chase. Creaks and shudders in the house went ignored. She reared back, intending to send several legs into the back of the prone demon.
None of them hit their target.
Using the tentacle, the demon knocked herself across the room and into a kitchen. She slammed into the refrigerator. It teetered and would have crushed her had she not thrown herself out of the way again.
The sight sent Arachne into another fit of maniacal laughter.
The fridge falling probably wouldn’t have killed the tiny thing. Despite her lack of size, she was still a demon.
It might have held her down long enough for Arachne to end her.
Not giving her a moment of respite, Arachne gave chase. She raked a leg across the carnivean’s chest. Whatever scraps of cloth the demon once wore had long since been shred. Another thin line of black spread over her chest.
Arachne missed the tentacle. The demon twisted into the attack to avoid losing her last tentacle.
The carnivean had to know she already lost. Perhaps something in her contract prevented her from fleeing or just ending it herself.
Not that Arachne wanted her to. But she was starting to get worried. Her Eva hadn’t joined against the carnivean, yet was taking far too long against the jezebeth.
Arachne had fought one in the past. Annoying, for sure, but mostly harmless. They’d pop like a balloon if anyone even looked at one funny.
No time to think about that. Arachne had to jump out of the way as the tentacle tried to latch onto one of her legs.
The few strands holding her claw to her arm snapped as Arachne jumped. She grabbed the claw out of mid-air, twisted, and threw the claw.
It caught the carnivean straight in the face. If her fingers hadn’t curled back in flight, it would have stuck.
As it was, the carnivean merely stumbled back.
Stumbling would have to do.
Arachne charged forwards. Two of her legs plunged into the carnivean’s. They split downwards from mid-thigh to knee. Black blood, muscles, and fat all spilled out onto the floor.
Another two legs similarly sheared the demon’s arms.
She was too slow to pin down the tentacle.
It lanced forwards, gripping tightly around Arachne’s throat.
And started constricting.
She could feel cracks forming in her carapace under the pressure.
Arachne’s remaining arm swung out at the tentacle–almost of its own volition.
Her sharp fingers completely severed it from the carnivean’s head. She quickly raked her fingers against her own throat. She couldn’t risk it having any kind of mental connection to the creature and continuing squeezing.
The pieces fell away to the ground with a slop.
“I believe the humans would say ‘checkmate’ at this point,” Arachne said with a laugh.
The carnivean’s eyes burned a bright red as she glared into Arachne’s eyes. “Just end it.” Her deep voice laced hate into each syllable.
Arachne was about to oblige. She wanted to. Crushing the stupid, weak demon’s head with her sole remaining claw would be nothing short of euphoric.
Staring into the demon’s glowing eyes gave Arachne another idea.
“How human-like are your eyes?”
Anger bled away to confusion for the briefest of instants before the carnivean’s face twisted into a scowl. “What?”
“I might be convinced to let you go. You’re in a sorry state, but even if I were to tear off all your limbs, it has to be better than the oblivion of Void.”
A shudder traveled up Arachne’s legs from the pinned demon.
Arachne grinned. She had her now.
“What do you want?”
“Your eyes. They’re human enough, despite the slit pupil and red iris. They’re around the right size too. Though, if my claws and legs are any indication, size won’t matter after a while.”
The demon glanced between all eight of Arachne’s eyes.
Searching for deception?
She better search well.
“You cut my eyes out and you will let me go?”
Hope glimmered in the carnivean’s eyes. Arachne had to keep herself from bursting out laughing. She’d be taking the eyes one way or another. Now that the idea was in her head, she couldn’t let it go.
The only difference was the level of willingness from her captive. If she struggled, Arachne might end up damaging the eyes. Small nicks might be able to heal, but anything big would ruin the eyes. That wouldn’t serve any purpose aside from unnecessary torture.
Not that Arachne took issue with unnecessary torture.
Rather than answer the demon, Arachne moved one of her sharp fingers right next to the demon’s face.
She inched it closer.
Arachne would slice her eyelid if the carnivean so much as blinked.
She slid her needle-like finger up and around the eyeball. It was a tight squeeze, she was sure part of it was damaged. Arachne tried to put most of the force onto the surrounding skin and bone. Black blood stained the eye as it dripped down.
To her credit, the carnivean did not scream or even wiggle. It made Arachne’s job far easier.
After a scant few seconds that hopefully felt like forever to the carnivean, Arachne felt her finger cut away at enough connecting material. The glow in the eye dimmed as it started flopping freely around the demon’s eye socket.
Arachne tried to gently nudge it out of the socket. It wasn’t working. Too much resistance.
How to get it out without slicing it in two? Well, the easy answer would be to cut off the carnivean’s face. She might protest that.
So, other eye first.
Arachne carefully withdrew her finger and positioned it in front of the carnivean’s other eye. She repeated the action of severing the eye from the demon.
“Excellent job,” Arachne said. “Still need to get the eyes out. Keep holding still for just a moment.”
The demon didn’t respond. Had her eyes not been rolled back in her head at the moment, she might have tried an intimidating glare.
As it was, Arachne had to suppress another bought of laughter.
She started cutting away bone and skin. Far less carefully.
Once the hole was wide enough for the eyes fit through with plenty of extra space, Arachne tipped the demon’s head forwards. Both eyes rolled out onto her waiting palm.
It wasn’t often that Arachne needed pockets. If she needed something carried, she would simply bring a bag. With no bag and a whole arm missing, Arachne found herself suddenly in need of them now.
She popped both eyes into her mouth, taking care to avoid biting, crushing, or accidentally swallowing them.
“You have them right? Let me go. That was our agreement.”
Arachne’s hand jutted forwards and gripped the carnivean’s face. Two fingers went through each eye socket. She shoved her thumb down the demon’s throat.
The screams were music to Arachne’s ears.
Holding her head like a bowling ball, Arachne closed her grip.
The carnivean’s face crushed to a pulp beneath her might. Demon of strength? Ha.
Without her hand as support, the little tentacle monster collapsed to the ground. The pulpy mess of her face squished beneath one of Arachne’s legs.
The remains of the carnivean dissolved into the ground.
Arachne spat the eyes back into her hand. She almost swallowed them as she tried to laugh. The mouth was clearly a terrible storage spot.
“Ah, sorry. I lied.”
Eyes safely in her hand, Arachne threw her head back and laughed.
As the last of her glee slowly left her system, Arachne remembered her missing master.
But first, time to find some containers.
Arachne returned to her human form as she moved to the kitchen. She kept all her remaining legs extended, but walking around as a human inside a human habitation was far more convenient. She could destroy more walls in her full size, but the building might not hold up long enough.
She just needed to find a hard sided container that wasn’t too melted. Most seemed to be resistant to heat. She dropped the eyes in the first one she found.
Lids seemed harder to find, but Arachne didn’t need it to be perfect. The one she chose didn’t snap shut, but it was close enough.
Eyes safely tucked in the crook of her damaged arm, Arachne headed out of the kitchen to find her absent master.
Arachne stepped out of the husk of a home. The first thing to catch her eye was the narrow pillar of fire stretching towards the clouds. Despite its height, it failed to waver in the light breeze. No part of it so much as burned the grass of the yard.
That did not stop it from putting out enough heat for Arachne to feel mildly uncomfortable in its presence.
It took Arachne a moment to tear her eyes towards the small bubble just a few steps away. Her master–her Eva–lay on her back in the shadow of the flame pillar. The blood shield protected her from any detrimental effects of the heat.
Blood spilled from her mouth. Her own dagger stuck straight out of her chest.
Arachne had to fight to stop herself from running straight to Eva’s side.
The jezebeth was still missing.
An illusion? Arachne discarded the idea. Unless she hadn’t actually killed the carnivean, the jezebeth likely hadn’t been anywhere near Arachne. It wouldn’t have had the time to weave a large-scale illusion.
No. What was in front of Arachne was the truth. At most there would be spatial shifts.
But the jezebeth wasn’t visible. Not unless it was around the opposite side of the flames.
It hadn’t run away. Arachne could still sense the demon somewhere around. Somewhere in the direction of the flame and her Eva.
Arachne set the eye container on the ground, hopefully far enough from the building that it wouldn’t come to harm if the building collapsed.
Nothing could be trusted. Sight, smell, sound, touch, taste. Everything was compromised or would be soon enough. The longer she spent in the presence of the jezebeth, the more it could affect her personally.
Time was of the essence. She had to dispatch the creature before even the ingrained ability to sense other demons could be affected.
Arachne ran. She honed in on the other demon and sprinted. Even if she couldn’t see it, she’d hit something. The demon would make a crack in the ground or a small rock–something for Arachne to trip over.
Then she’d strike.
She jumped over Eva’s blood shield, making sure to just barely skim the surface. Two of her legs dug into the shield, just to ensure the jezebeth wasn’t disguising itself.
Doing so was unnecessary.
The jezebeth was sitting–inasmuch as a sphere with legs could sit–in front of the flame. The palpable surprise on its face as Arachne vaulted the shield was to die for.
Arachne’s face split in two with her grin. She had every intention of making that literal.
Her legs swept across as much empty air that they could reach. Missing the demon on account of it being two rolls to one side would be as annoying as it would be embarrassing.
Flesh spilled to the ground from empty air just a few paces from the demon. Arachne immediately turned and jabbed all of her legs into the spot. Over and over she pulled out her legs and jammed them back in.
The sitting jezebeth shimmered away into nothingness. A broken, battered, and screaming demon materialized in front of Arachne.
She absently noted that most of the creature was covered in freshly burned skin. Considering it was a demon that had some level of immunity to flames, that was mildly impressive. Unfortunately, that was likely caused by the professor rather than her Eva.
At least I caught the real one, Arachne thought as another leg entered and retracted from the demon’s eye. Her sense of the demon hadn’t moved since she started stabbing.
She wished, desperately wished that she had time to spare. Slow running of her fingers over the jezebeth’s flesh, cutting away small chunks as it serenaded her with screams. And its screams were so nice. High-pitched and from three mouths at once.
Arachne couldn’t ask for more.
But Eva was in trouble.
Bits of flesh flew off of the jezebeth as Arachne started tearing it to pieces. It didn’t have a head, but it had to have some vital core in there.
It fell apart, bit by bit, like a claw to an overripe tomato. Black goop oozed from every wound.
Arachne continued to pull, rend, tear, and decimate until its screams ceased. The ground opened up and swallowed most of the pulpy mess. An arm here and a leg there along with several strips of flesh and even a few fangs that had broken out all had been left behind.
She couldn’t worry about souvenirs. Arachne spun on a sharp heel and jumped through the shield to land at Eva’s side.
A second shield just inside caught Arachne mid jump.
Two shields? And the second was made without Arachne’s blood. No matter. A few quick swipes of her limbs had that shield out of her way.
“Eva,” Arachne said.
A spike of nearly black blood speared out of Eva’s chest and into Arachne’s own. It failed to penetrate and Eva looked in no mood to clap.
Her breathing was ragged. One arm looked like it tried to lift. It gave up just an inch off the ground.
Arachne ignored the spike as she knelt next to her Eva. Tons of blood made the surrounding grass slick, but that could be from her vials. Apart from the dagger in her chest and the blood trickling from her mouth, Eva didn’t look harmed.
The dagger in the chest was worrying enough.
“All the illusions are gone, Eva. Everything left is real.”
Not caring that her hand was still sticky with the jezebeth and carnivean’s blood, Arachne gripped the sides of Eva’s face. She turned her head to face Arachne.
Despite her soon-to-be-rectified lack of eyes, it almost seemed as if Eva was looking at her.
“It’s okay. I’m really Arachne. All the other demons are dead. You need to heal.”
Arachne paused as she glanced over Eva. Her breathing might have steadied slightly, but she didn’t move a muscle.
“Can you understand me?”
Eva made a slight cough. A spittle of blood flew into the air.
It didn’t fall back down. A thin string slipped from her mouth to join the few droplets already in the air. The moved around until they formed three simple shapes.
“How do I help?”
DO NOT MOVE
Arachne frowned with a glance a the dagger. “How do I help?”
DAGGER WILL PUSH OUT WITH HEAL
HOUR OR SO
“Eva,” Arachne said in a quiet voice, “how do I help?”
The blood in the air swirled into a tight sphere before forming into her response.
“I can do that.”
“That would leave you alone.”
Arachne glanced over towards where the pillar of flame used to stand. It had died out sometime since the jezebeth’s death. Lying near the center of it was the smoldering corpse of Wayne Lurcher. With a smile, Arachne looked back towards Eva. “Looking extra crispy.”
HEART STILL BEATS
Arachne’s smile faltered to a frown as she noticed the slight rise and fall of the man’s chest. “That can’t be pleasant. I shall put him out of his misery.”
“Wayne Lurcher,” Arachne called out after a short sigh, “are you busy at the moment?”
Rather than the wheeze, cough, or simple silence that Arachne expected, the older alchemist grunted out a, “hurts to talk.”
Arachne cocked her head to the side for a moment before replying. “I think Eva is having a similar issue.”
Arachne sighed again. “Do you have any spells to get help you trust? That is to say, help that you trust seeing Eva and potentially myself.”
“Cellphone,” he said. “In pocket.”
“Pocket? All that remains of your clothes is ash. You realize you’re lying there nude, right?”
That got a few coughs from him. “A good pyrokinetic will fireproof everything–”
“It is around somewhere. Find it.”
Before Arachne could complain to Eva, the blood in the air was already swirling around.
Grumbling under her breath, Arachne started searching the lawn around Wayne Lurcher. She thought about giving him a good glare, but his eyes were closed and scorched over. It would just be wasted effort.
“This little brick it?” Arachne asked as she bent to pick up the little white rectangle. She tapped the only button on the front. “It wants a password.”
Arachne let out a short snort as she typed it in. “Who am I contacting?”
“I still can’t sense him. I can handle Catherine if she shows up.” Arachne stared down at the brick, looking for Turner.
Too many buttons.
Password was easy. Self explanatory. After entering the password, the screen changed. There were so many buttons. Moving a finger to the side only made more.
None of them said Turner.
Arachne glanced over at Eva. She would be fine after some time. At least as long as her self healing worked itself out.
No. Assistance would be for the alchemist. Arachne wasn’t entirely sure what the effects of fire on humans was, but the blackened and cracked skin couldn’t be good. He was talking and conscious, so it shouldn’t be too bad.
In the end, what did Arachne care?
He wasn’t her master. He wasn’t her master’s master.
Arachne was about to toss the brick over her shoulder when the blood buzzed in front of her face.
With a sigh, Arachne knelt down next to the fallen Alchemist. “Wayne Lurcher,” Arachne said quietly.
“Did she not answer?”
“Um. Yes. That is correct. She did not answer.”
The blood swirled in front of Arachne to form a frown on an eyeless face.
“I mean, I might have called the wrong person.” Arachne grit her teeth together. “Walk me through it to ensure I did it properly.”
If the stupid human had been in any shape to laugh, Arachne was sure he would have. He let out a loud cough before getting to the directions as it was.
A mocking cough.
Most humans were beneath Arachne’s notice. Few could harm her, much less kill her. The nuns knowing how to banish her was an inconvenience that didn’t matter so long as she had a beacon active. Many annoyed her, especially those that surrounded Eva, but some well placed stress relief could manage most negative inclinations towards them.
Never before had she wanted so much to stick her fingers into a human’s heart and crush it in her grip.
Arachne restrained herself as–through her efforts–Martina Turner’s voice picked up on the small brick.
“Wayne? You said you’d call me when you got there. What–”
“He is burnt. He needs help at Zoe Baxter’s house.”
“You’re not Wayne,” the voice said. “What did you do to him?”
“As much as I want to, nothing. Yet. You better hurry with someone who can fix burns. He’s all charred and his skin is cracked. Boils and pus leaking everywhere.”
“Who is this?”
Arachne sighed. Tell her or no? Whatever. Maybe this would finally force Eva away from the academy and away from Zagan. “Arachne,” she said.
“Eva’s demon? Why would you attack Zoe? What happened to the other demons? Catherine says they’re gone.”
“I killed the two demons who were attacking. Wayne was injured in the process. Send help for him or not, I don’t care.”
Arachne crushed the tiny brick in her claws before any more annoying queries could be directed at her.
Wayne let out a short cough as the bits of plastic rained down to the ground. “Someone’s coming then?”
“Don’t know. Don’t care. I told her. If I continued talking, I would have ended up stabbing you to death.”
“You. You’re the only thing available to stab in the immediate vicinity.”
The alchemist fell silent and resumed his shallow breathing.
Arachne started back towards Eva before she froze. “I’ll be back in one moment,” she said.
Sprinting full tilt, Arachne grabbed the container of eyes off the ground and ran straight back to Eva.
“Look what I have!”
“Ah, you won’t be able to make those jokes soon enough. Surely there is blood inside these, surely you can tell what they are.”
“That’s correct.” Arachne grinned down at the immobile girl. “As long as you’re lying around not doing anything–”
CONCENTRATING ON HEALING
“And you don’t have to stop that. You didn’t think about your arms or legs at all when we swapped them over, did you? But these things will go bad if we don’t do something with them soon.”
The blood in the air condensed into a bubbling sphere.
“If you delay, we’ll be back to searching for a demon to barter with.”
That got the blood moving. QUALITY OF SIGHT
“I haven’t tried them myself.” Arachne tried to keep the deadpan out of her voice. “But they’re vertically slit pupils. You’ll have fine control over the light entering your eyes thanks to your horizontal eyelids. They don’t look human at all. All the whites are black and the colored part is bright red. Or it was, it dulled somewhat when I detached them.”
TIME TO WAIT?
“I have no idea. They were only severed from the carnivean ten minutes ago. If they start to decompose, it will likely be painful, dangerous, or even impossible to transplant them.”
“You’re doing an eye transplant here?” Wayne said with a small cough. “Skipping sterility? Anesthetics?”
Arachne didn’t deign to answer the human. She could sense the lesser succubus moving towards their group. He would be out of her tendrils soon enough.
Keeping an eye on the bubbling mass of blood was far more interesting.
Eventually, the blood coalesced into a decision.
Arachne plucked the headband from Eva’s face with a snip of her fingers. Carefully moving her fingers to Eva’s eyelids, Arachne inspected the insides.
It didn’t look too bad. Arachne never saw Eva cleaning out the sockets, but perhaps she managed using blood magic to obliterate any dust and debris.
“I’ll need to make fresh cuts for the new eyes to attach to.”
ALREADY SAID: DO IT
Arachne wasn’t one to argue. Using all of her legs, Arachne held Eva still–she couldn’t have her squirming in pain and dislodging the knife in her chest–and made two quick cuts in each eye.
Licking the small amount of blood off her fingertips, Arachne said, “alright. Putting in the new eyes now. The carnivean was much smaller than you, so they should slip right in.”
“Your hands and, presumably, your legs are shrinking to fit your body size. I imagine they would grow even if they were too small.”
Arachne pulled out the first eye. A brief blow of air hopefully brushed off more dust than it added. She tried not to breathe a sigh of relief when the eye slid into place just as Arachne said it would. She hadn’t been entirely sure on that.
Cutting away at the bone around Eva’s eye sockets was terrifying and appealing all at the same time, but not something Arachne particularly wanted to do.
Eva might banish her to the prison again.
The second eye slid in as easily as the first. Arachne quickly oriented each eye with the slits vertical. She wasn’t sure if it mattered–they hadn’t been precise with either the hands or legs and both turned out fine–but she wanted to make sure nothing went wrong. Eyes were far more delicate than arms.
Of course, they might be upside down. It was hard to tell.
“Starting to join them to you,” Arachne said.
Arachne started channeling her magic.
It was an odd feeling. A foreign feeling. She didn’t like it. Magic never worked properly around her. Some side effect of starting her existence as a human, she was sure. Other demons got by without much problem, even if they relied on their own abilities most of the time.
All Arachne had for demonic powers was the ability to shapeshift. An incredibly common ability among demons. It could never match up to something like Zagan or even the jezebeth.
Luckily, all that seemed unrelated to the grafting of limbs.
The hands had succeeded. The legs had succeeded. Arachne wasn’t about to fail her Eva now. The eyes would succeed.
Unlike the hands or legs, Arachne couldn’t actually see them connect. The only indication that it was working were the winces Eva made.
Arachne had to hold her Eva in place as a slight tremor ran through her body. As soon as the tremor ceased, Eva’s new eyes lit up with a brilliant red light.
The flow of magic ceased as Arachne pulled back from Eva.
“You tell me. Can you see?”
“Off? You’re colorblind?” There was a slight sinking feeling in Arachne’s stomach. She couldn’t have her Eva running around with imperfect eyes. They would do until a new donor could be found, but Arachne doubted she’d be keen on having them cut out again.
WILL GET USED TO
“Oh. Good.” Arachne made a note to press for details when Eva was up to talking at length. Speaking of that. “How is your dagger issue coming?”
LUNG HEALS QUICKER
DONE IT BEFORE
AND LESS SENSITIVE
The ball of blood scrunched up into a bubbling ball before spreading out again.
Arachne nodded to Eva as she stood up. She could feel it as well. Taking a protective position over Eva, Arachne directed her gaze in the direction the blood arrow indicated. She doubted the pathetic lust demon would be able to get through Eva’s shield in any reasonable amount of time, but Arachne would protect her master no matter what.
Not that the demon was supposed to be their enemy.
Was it too much to hope that the succubus would try to attack?