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Eva didn’t sit around to chat with Randal. A more in-depth questioning on what abilities his bound demon gave him could wait until after they had won this thing.
She had a bad feeling. Nothing with any real reason behind it, just a chill up her spine.
Blinking to the base of the pyramid, Eva hesitated for a second. The stairwell was still a smooth earthen slide. Rather than wait and see if Emily would reverse the staircase, she jumped.
The bottom segment of the pyramid was the largest. She couldn’t jump it all in a single bound. She could, however, dig her hands and feet into the wall. After making a sufficient platform for leverage, she jumped the rest of the way up.
And landed right between Anise and Emily again.
Compared to how she had seen them a mere minute ago, roughly calm but worried about Randal and the Faultline student, they both looked at Eva with some trepidation.
Eva opened her mouth to speak.
Anise beat her to it. She clasped the sides of her head with a loud groan. “I should have attacked you. Or your friend. Now there’s two of you and I still haven’t seen anyone from my school. Ah, I wish Chris were here. She wouldn’t have hesitated to attack you.”
Unless she attacked me right at the start and I knocked her out then, Eva didn’t bother saying. Instead she said, “We’re not going to attack you or anything. You two come up with us and who knows, maybe your schoolmates will show up and you can attack us. Or we activate some trap before winning and get knocked out, leaving you two to take over.”
“I am perfectly content with that plan,” Emily said after a moment of silence. “I mean, I don’t want to speak bad about my school… but I’m probably the only one left. They… we aren’t…”
Eva glared. She wasn’t angry. But she was on a time limit.
“That’s great. We can all have a heart to heart and be friends later. I left Rachael up there with the dryad and I’ve got a bad feeling. Let’s go.”
She took a step, preparing to jump up the stairs to the top, but paused and turned.
“Though if you could turn the stairs back to normal, I’m sure Randal would appreciate it.”
Randal was still within her blood sight range. He was struggling. A lot. He was trying to brace himself against where the stairs would be and the decorative slope between the stairwell and the main pyramid walls. Every now and again, he slid down.
Eva didn’t wait to see if Emily would comply. She half expected Rachael to be watching from the top, yet there was no silhouette against the moonlight sky. They might try attacking Randal, but he could probably handle it if they did. Especially if his magic canceling orbs worked on Elysium Order magic.
She hopped and hopped and hopped until the topmost plateau came in range of her blood sight.
A swear escaped her lips that would undoubtedly be censored over the airwaves.
Eva hopped to the top of the pyramid. Before her feet even touched the ground, she blinked and reappeared next to the vine-wrapped pillar.
A swipe of her fingers had several vines snapping, freeing Rachael. She slumped forwards. Only the tension of the vines had been holding her upright. Her hand pressed up against two bleeding holes in her shoulder.
“He was just waiting for you to leave,” she said, voice soft and lethargic.
Eva didn’t need to ask who ‘he’ was. The vampire had taken more blood than Eva would be comfortable with. Rachael should be fine. Potions could have her fixed up without trouble. Her neck was only lightly bleeding, so her life shouldn’t be in danger as long as she didn’t make the wound worse. Which made sense. The vampire wouldn’t want to kill anyone just as much as Eva didn’t want to.
Rachael’s wand was missing as well. Stolen or perhaps flung off the pyramid along with the Faultline wand. Eva had spares from the other members of Faultline. Unfortunately, they were worthless unless Rachael was actually up to the task of wielding one.
“I knew I should have thrown that dryad off the pyramid.”
Rachael let out a few low chuckles. “There are slots for the marbles,” she said, pointing towards the center of the pyramid. “It opened up into an elevator. They went inside. You might be able to catch them before they win this.”
“I hope so,” Eva said as she looked to where Rachael had pointed.
Sure enough, there was a shallow indentation right in the center that looked like it would be the perfect size for the marbles they had received to determine their teams.
But they must have gone pretty deep into the temple. Eva could see the dryad having slipped by her blood sense, but the vampire stuck out like a sore thumb. She hadn’t sensed either of them on her ascent back up the pyramid.
Eva’s first instinct was to run to the elevator, drop her marble in, and give immediate chase.
But then it would be her versus the dryad and the vampire. Alone. Exactly the situation she had been trying to avoid by dragging along the trainee nun this whole time.
Eva blinked to the edge of the stairs.
At least Randal and the others weren’t fighting. And they were hurrying up the stairs. But, only being halfway to the third landing, they were going far slower than Eva needed. Despite having started all the way at the base, Randal had passed by the two girls.
Cupping her hands to her mouth, Eva shouted down at them. “Move it people!”
Both Anise and Emily looked up at her with identical expressions on their faces.
They stared up at her with open mouths, panting as they used her shout as an excuse to stop moving.
It isn’t that far, Eva thought with a groan. Sure, the temple was probably twice the size of the absurdly large ritual circle. But they only had to go half the length of it. Uphill. Rather, upstairs. Which was probably worse if she thought about it for a moment.
But they didn’t have to be so slow about it.
That simply wouldn’t do.
Eva blinked straight down to Anise. Ignoring her yelp, Eva gave her a light shove. Just enough to knock her off-balance. Once off-balance, Eva scooped her up into her arms and started jumping back up the pyramid. Her hops up were shorter than they could be while on her own, but still much faster than Anise climbing unassisted.
At the top, Eva ignored Anise’s complaints and unceremoniously dropped her on the ground. She ran back to the stairs…
And considered leaving Emily behind once again. Randal was hightailing it up the pyramid and would be at the top soon enough. Even if they left her behind, Emily could still come down the elevator. Probably. Assuming it wasn’t limited in its uses.
If the first to use it was the only one who could, then Eva had already lost. She had to believe that the game wasn’t over yet.
The simple fact of the matter was that Emily didn’t offer all that much to the team. Randal was from her school and therefore a trusted ally. Not to mention his demon bond that gave him more power than the average thaumaturgical mage. Anise had an Elysium Order eye implanted in her chest. Her magic was the ultimate anti-undead. Almost to the point where Eva was concerned she might kill the vampire on accident.
It wasn’t super concerning. If the vampire died, Eva wouldn’t lose much sleep over it. And if somebody killed the vampire who wasn’t her, then all the better.
Emily was just a regular thaumaturge. Not even an experienced one. She was about the same age as Eva, even if she seemed to have a decent handle on both earth magic and fire magic.
However, she wasn’t from the Nod Complex. For the moment, that was good enough for Eva.
Eva blinked again.
Eva knocked her to the side just as she had with Anise, scooped her up, and started hopping up once again.
Randal made it up to the top before Eva did. Not by much. If she hadn’t hesitated in retrieving Emily, she might have made it back first. Or at least at the same time.
“No ride for me?” Randal asked with a mild chuckle. He started to move towards Rachael.
Eva pinched the hem of his shirt without setting down the somewhat squirmy Emily. She dragged him over to the center where Anise was already waiting. As with Anise, Eva dropped Emily on the ground and ignored her groan.
Fishing her marble out of her pocket—which was thankfully still intact despite the holes in her clothes—Eva dropped it into the indentation.
Which promptly opened up and swallowed the marble.
Eva waited. She was expecting the entire platform to move. Or at least the part between the pillars. There was a faint seam where she though the floor might drop out from the rest.
But it wasn’t moving.
“Rachael?” she said, turning. “How long did it take?”
“Only a second or two, but they both put their marbles in.”
Eva looked around her group. “Well? You heard her, what are you waiting for? I hope none of you lost them.”
Anise and Emily both pulled theirs out without complaint and dropped them into the hole. Randal pulled his out and held it in his hand.
He didn’t bend down and put it in the hole. His eyes narrowed as he watched the other two drop their marbles.
“Why are we taking these two with us?”
“Randal,” Eva said, keeping her voice cool. “Put your marble in the hole. If the elevator ride is long enough, maybe I’ll tell you. Nod Complex students are already down there. We don’t have time to sit around up here fighting.”
He hesitated for another moment before tilting his head. “Alright,” he said with a half-sigh.
The second he placed his marble down, the entire platform jolted. Another second and they were moving downwards.
“Good luck,” Rachael shouted just before their heads dipped below the surface of the temple.
Reaching into her pocket, Eva pulled out one of the wands and tossed it at Rachael. “Just in case,” she called out as two stone doors closed over her head.
Randal had his eyes on Eva as soon as the last vestiges of light were pinched by the doors. They snapped shut with a thunderous crash. Beyond that, Eva couldn’t hear much of anything. The elevator was near silent. Maybe a slight grinding of stone against stone if she really strained her ears, but that could just as easily be her imagination.
Not that she needed to hear anything. Randal’s stare was loud enough on its own to make up for the lack of noise around.
She couldn’t actually see his eyes. No new lights lit up inside the slowly lowering chamber.
Well, none save for two bright white lights flaring up where Anise’s eyes should be. They didn’t provide nearly enough illumination to brighten up the entire elevator however.
So Eva decided to help out. She ignited both of her claws, brightening her flames until she could see not only her companions but the moving walls as well. The platform was fairly spacious. Eva couldn’t stretch out her arms without hitting someone else, but she wasn’t up in their faces either. Even still, she took a step closer to the center.
Being able to see the walls moving up while in the elevator unnerved her for some reason.
Interestingly, she couldn’t see any cameras around. The drones had been circling around outside the temple, but none had followed them into the elevator shaft.
“So spill. Why are we not taking their wands. Or kicking them off the top of the pyramid?”
“First,” Eva pointed towards Anise, “she doesn’t need a wand for her most dangerous magic.”
Anise took a step back as Randal turned to glare at her. Though she still had at least two steps to go before hitting the wall, Eva couldn’t help but wince. What if her curly hair snagged on the rough stone walls as they rushed past?
“Second, we’re going down into this temple with who knows what waiting for us. At the very least, there is a dryad and a vampire.”
“You don’t think we can take them?”
“I think I could take them with my eyes closed. While the vampire isn’t necessarily the most powerful representative of his species and the dryad might be a little underwhelming, I still would rather not find out they’ve been hiding all their tricks right at the last moment.”
“I suppose I can understand that,” Randal said, eying the other two girls. “What’s the third reason?”
“What makes you think there is a third reason?”
He turned back, looking at her as if he were offended she had thought so little of him.
“Alright. I really don’t want the Nod Complex to win. Like, at all. We have a better chance at stopping them with four of us.”
Turning her attention to Emily, she smiled a nice, closed mouth smile. “I don’t know what your deal with Faultline was, but all three of their people lost their wands. Thanks to yours truly. They can’t win anymore. I expect equal help in keeping the Nod Complex from winning.”
Before Emily could agree or disagree, Eva turned to Anise. “And you’re part of the Elysium Order. Say what you want about demons, but you hunt undead. Think of what an embarrassment it would be if a vampire were to win.”
A jolt almost threw all of them to the ground as the elevator slammed into the ground. It hadn’t slowed down in the slightest before stopping cold. Eva actually had to extinguish her hands in a hurry lest she accidentally burn Randal by bumping into him. When no further jolts came, she moved a step away and reignited her hands.
One of the four walls wasn’t a wall anymore. A doorway had opened up in place of the wall leading out into a long corridor. A camera was mounted on a track along one of the walls, staring right at them.
Eva almost glowered at it. Instead, she grinned and gave it a little wave. Despite their disadvantage in getting down the elevator second, she might as well be a little confident.
As for how far they had gone down, Eva couldn’t say. Rachael’s circulatory system had gone out of range a short while ago. They had traveled for a time since then. For all Eva knew, they could be halfway up the pyramid, level with the ground around it, or even deep underground.
Just beneath the camera was a small tray. Three violet marbles and one yellow were ready for collection.
Eva picked up one of the violet ones, the one furthest from the elevator which should be hers, as did the other girls. Randal picked up his yellow marble.
Based on how they were keys to get down into the pyramid, they were probably used elsewhere inside as well. Maybe keys for doors. Maybe winning the whole thing. Whatever the case, Eva wasn’t about to throw it away.
“Alright. Time is running out.”
With one final glance towards her companions, Eva took off running.
She did not handicap her speed to keep as a group. So long as there was nothing but a single hallway, there was no need. No one would get lost and the vampire should be up ahead.
Though, she was the group’s light source at the moment. The others might be able to get their own light going, but so long as she had her hands aflame, she might as well help out. Eva trailed a finger along the wall opposite from the camera—which was racing along with her—and left fire sticking to the wall in a long line.
So long as she had her spell right, it should burn for several minutes with a decent brightness. Even ten-year-old light bulbs would be better, but the small trail of flames was better still than nothing at all. As long as it stayed lit. It wasn’t something she had done before, but she was fairly confident in her ability.
She was moving fast through the corridor. Her flames only left a thin trail of fire behind her that failed to light up the entire hallway. Ahead of her was dark enough that she nearly crashed into a wall. The hallway looped around, turning straight back the way she had come with a slight incline up a ramp.
Eva only hesitated in continuing for a brief moment before charging forwards. She continued her trail of fire, though she absently noted that the camera decided not to follow her onwards. It went backwards at the turn, perhaps giving the others some screen time.
The inclined passageway wasn’t half as long as the one from the elevator to the turn.
It opened up without a door into a wide and well-lit room. Wide might have been an understatement. As far as Eva could tell, the entire pyramid was hollow. There was a single column in the very center of a gigantic space where the elevator must have been. Cameras lined it up and down, some able to move around on large robotic arms. More cameras hung off the sloped walls of the pyramid, though she couldn’t see any real light sources.
Or do the walls count as a ceiling?
Eva shook her head.
It didn’t matter.
What did matter was the absolute forest that had grown inside. It couldn’t be a natural forest. The flowers and vines and even a few trees had broken away the stone flooring to grow. Maybe Redford had done it, but Eva’s money was on the dryad.
There was a slight decline leading down into the forest bowl that had Eva wondering just how badly space had been twisted inside the temple. It was probably meant to give a view of the area before one actually had to tread down there.
The opposite end of the room looked like a large golden shrine. Two pillars of gold covered in ornate carvings of blocky-looking people surrounded a mural of a sun. She actually had to move a little to see it properly as the large elevator column was in the dead center.
And the vampire stood in front of the mural, pacing back and forth.
Eva tried not to sigh in relief. People who paced back and forth with a scowl on their face generally weren’t about to win a contest. She still had time to get to him.
Better yet, he hadn’t looked back yet. He wasn’t aware of her presence. If his sense of smell was even mildly good, it probably wouldn’t stay that way for long, but Eva held the advantage for the moment.
Perhaps the dryad hadn’t grown the forest. Redford might have planted it all to slow people down and obstruct the pyramid floor. Or the dryad had done it to slow down anyone who might be following the Nod Complex. If they needed to reach the opposite end of the room, either case made perfect sense.
But where was the dryad? Shouldn’t she be up with the vampire? Had he decided that he didn’t need her help and attacked his own teammate?
Before Eva could move even a single step more, her theory was crushed.
Along with the poor dryad.
A massive serpent flew out of the denser section of the forest close to the golden shrine. The shine on its silver scales actually forced Eva to momentarily raise a hand to protect her eyes. Wings made of pure gold carried it through the air.
And a screaming dryad was caught between two blunt antler-like horns coming off its head.
It reared up high in the air before flinging the dryad off.
A gaggle of trees caught her, though still with enough force to make Eva wince. She wasn’t quite sure what it took to kill a dryad—termites maybe—but that had to have been painful no matter what.
At the noise, the vampire gave a callous glance over his shoulder, paying attention for a mere instant before returning his focus to the golden mural.
Eva took a step forwards.
The moment she did, the serpent snapped its head to look at her.
Her eyes locked with the serpent’s massive eyes. She couldn’t tell exactly how large they were, but given the size of the dryad against its horns, each one might as well be as big as Eva was. One was a deep purple with a golden pupil. The other, a dark green with a black pupil. It almost looked as if there was a hexagon inside the green eye. Just lines connecting the edges of the iris.
The gaze lasted only a few short seconds, but Eva found herself gasping for breath at the end of it. She shivered. A chill ran up her spine. She felt a strange sensation as if she and everything about her had been on display like the pages of an open book.
But the silver-scaled serpent did not charge at her. It flicked its long tail straight towards the vampire.
Despite his back being turned, he managed to jump out of the way. It did force him back down into the forest and away from the mural.
Trees came to life as the serpent chased after him. Thick branches reared back and struck the serpent.
Doing little damage as far as Eva could tell. The opposite end of the pyramid was too far for her blood sight, so it might be getting a few bruises beneath those glittering scales. Eva wouldn’t be too surprised if it was entirely unharmed.
By the time Eva was ready to try moving again, all three of her companions showed up in the opening. All three stood and stared with their mouths wide open.
Eva hoped that she hadn’t been quite so slack-jawed. There were cameras watching.
“Know what it is?”
Anise jolted at the sudden address. She quickly shook her head. “I’ve never seen something like that before.”
“Well, it doesn’t look undead. Probably shouldn’t be surprised,” Eva said as she glanced towards the other two.
Neither gave her anything more than a shake of their heads identical to Anise’s.
“Right, well, I have a feeling that those plants are going to be attacking us as soon as we head down there. I don’t know about you, but if those trees are meant to fight that thing,” she said, pointing a long finger, “I don’t really want them attacking me.”
“We could burn our way across,” Randal said.
Anise crossed her arms with a slight huff. “Unless you have really fast acting fire, we’ll just have burning trees attacking us.”
Eva opened her mouth, held up a finger, cocked her head to one side, and snapped her mouth shut. She nodded slightly in agreement before perking up as an idea struck.
“How about this. We set Basila down and have her clear us a path, barreling over all the trees in our path,” Eva said with a wide grin.
Eva extinguished the flames around one hand and held it up, showing off the stone-like snake coiled around her wrist.
All three of them stared at her with blank looks.
With both the vampire and the dryad either fighting or fleeing from the giant serpent, who—Eva assumed—would go after whoever was closest to the golden shrine, she felt like she had a few moments to breathe. And, so long as she had a moment, she might as well put on a little show for the cameras.
Genoa, assuming she was watching, might get a little amusement out of it anyway.
“Basila!” Eva said, voice slightly raised. She scratched the little snake beneath the chin to wake it up. “These foolish mortals are mocking your brilliance.”
Its tiny little jaw opened up into the cutest little yawn before its steely eyes turned to stare at her.
Eva quickly pulled the little basilisk off her wrist, setting it on the ground. As she did so, she tore a potion flask from her hip, uncapped it, and upended it over the snake.
She had already ‘fed’ it some blood earlier. Blood she could control. If worse came to worse, she could help direct it to where she needed to go.
As soon as the potion touched its black scales, it started growing.
Eva didn’t bother waiting for it to reach full size.
“Go, my pretty,” Eva said, nudging it along with the blood. “Go and trample this forest. Find the vampire and contain him.”
With one last look towards Eva, it slithered off into the forest, still growing larger and larger.
Now the others were looking at Basila with impressed looks on their faces. Or… maybe that was fear. Anise’s lower lip was trembling and her hands were shaking.
“Th-that’s a basilisk.”
“Yep! Let’s go. Use Basila as a shield. Fight off the vampire if you can. Distract him. Whatever. The dryad is a secondary priority. I’m heading for the shrine.”
Eva blinked away.
Basila, rapidly approaching hallway size, charged through the forest without a care in the world. Vines never got a grasp on her, seeds bounced off her scales without her even noticing, and the trees were shattered at the trunk as she rammed into them. A few of the trees whacked into her with a disturbing amount of force before she could destroy them, but they had nothing like nun lightning. Her natural regeneration—or unnatural, given the ritual Eva had performed on her—helped to counteract the damage a great deal.
Eva didn’t actually need to hide behind Basila. So she didn’t. She just kept blinking straight across, leaving the others behind.
She did ensure Basila stayed well within her range, however, just in case the snake decided to coil up around one of her teammates. It did take a nudge every now and again to keep her moving in the right direction.
By the time Eva crossed enough distance to see the vampire, he had obviously noticed her as well. He angled his sprint away from the giant serpent to put them on a collision course.
Eva curled her fingers, conjuring explosive balls of flame between each one.
She tossed them out well ahead of when the vampire would have made it to her, conjuring up a second set the moment they were out of her fingers.
The vampire shifted course to avoid the series of explosions. He ran straight past Eva.
As he did so, he took the serpent with him.
Eva paused for just a moment, inspecting it with her sense of blood.
Though it was roughly a snake, it had a drastically different circulatory system when compared with Basila.
Basila was a golem. Originally, she hadn’t had a circulatory system. After the ritual, she got a single tube of blood running from nose to tail. There were no real veins or capillaries.
The serpent had all that and more. She could see organs. A heart, stomach, lungs, tongue, eyes, and anything else one might expect to see in a living creature. That didn’t really tell Eva much aside from the fact that whatever it was, it was real.
And, so long as it was focused on the vampire, Eva had an opportunity to inspect the mural.
Two more blinks through the fake forest had her at a small set of stairs leading up to the shrine.
They were as gold as the pillars and wall.
Eva jumped straight to the top, frowning slightly as her feet dug large gouges into the floor. They were sharp and gold was soft, but this whole thing couldn’t be real gold.
Not that it mattered, though if it were a prize for victory, that would slightly sweeten the deal.
At the very front of the mural was a small pedestal stretching up to her waist with the top shaped into a shallow cup. The perfect size for a marble.
Of course, dropping her marble in the slot did nothing. If it was that simple, the vampire would have won already. The marble didn’t even stay in the slot, it rolled out despite the depression where the marble should have stayed.
From afar, she had only been able to see the sun. Which was truly massive. Up close, Eva had to crane her neck just to see the top of it. Down closer to the pedestal yet still high above it were two circular moldings protruding from the wall.
Eva shuddered as she looked at them.
One was a set of concentric rings. The other had less rings, but also had lines in the shape of a hexagon.
The serpent’s eyes.
Eva turned back to the forest with grit teeth. Were they supposed to kill the serpent and take its eyes? Put them somewhere around the platform. That seemed a bit violent for live television.
Besides, there wasn’t anywhere to put them even if she did have them. Maybe if the protrusions were deep carvings instead.
Turning back to the arena, Eva quickly surveyed the area. If the trees were gone, everything would be much easier. She could clearly see the trail that Basila was carving through the forest. Even more devastating than a hallway-sized snake plowing through everything were black orbs eating and consuming all the plant life around the area.
Which, if they were made up of magic, made sense.
Eva couldn’t see the dryad anywhere around. Given how well she blended in with the trees—both visually and through her nearly impossible to see blood—Eva doubted she would be able to spot her without her being obvious about it.
The vampire still had the serpent after him. He dashed between the trees, using them as cover and platforms to spring from.
Which had Eva narrowing her eyes.
She was up at the gold shrine. Why hadn’t it switched to her?
Had he stolen something from up here? Had he provoked it?
Despite the white lightning that occasionally fired off in the vampire’s direction and missed, none of her teammates had hit, or even attacked, the serpent. Though maybe someone had while her back had been turned, but she doubted it.
Flying through the air, the vampire reached out. His hand dug into one of the thick branches as if he had Eva’s claws. Doing so stopped him short of a bolt of lightning, but allowed the serpent to close distance.
Something he had apparently planned on.
The tree swung its branch backwards, flinging the vampire on a collision course with the serpent. Both of his hands spread out, intent on gripping onto the serpent.
Or maybe clawing into it.
Not willing to let itself be attacked, the serpent spun around. Its tail whipped into him, sending him flying across the room straight towards the golden shrine.
And, consequently, straight towards Eva.
He twisted in the middle of the air, angling to properly attack her.
Eva ignited every part of her body that wasn’t covered in clothes. Flames dripped from her hands like globs of burning tar, spreading across the platform. They wouldn’t last long, but she only needed them to last long enough to ward off the vampire.
His eyes went wide as Eva’s smile widened.
Even if he could hop around without getting hurt, he couldn’t fly. Physics still carried him straight to her waiting arms.
Her burning arms.
Eva’s fist connected with his stomach. Flames from her arm launched forwards when her arm found itself unable to continue, coating the vampire’s shirt in the sticky flames.
He jumped away before Eva could follow up. His shirt flew off his body as he grasped one of the pillars, keeping high and out of Eva’s immediate range.
“Will you desist,” he snapped at her, not really asking a question.
Eva didn’t bother answering. The vampire was already leaping towards her.
More, the serpent was on a collision course with the mural. The mural she just happened to be standing in front of.
Eva jumped, letting the vampire take the blow. She landed just between its horns, grabbing onto one as she extinguished her flames.
Amazingly enough, she didn’t go flying into the wall when the serpent hit it.
In fact, the serpent didn’t hit it at all.
The vampire caught the serpent, one hand on each of the person-sized fangs. Normally, such a thing would have had Eva staring. Even for a vampire, that was an impressive display of strength. The serpent was at least twice the size of a hallway-sized Basila. Probably bigger.
But Eva’s eyes were glued to the mural.
Before, it had been a solid sheet of gold. Slight lines formed the pattern of the sun, but they were engravings rather than any other sort of material.
As the vampire held the serpent, the mural lit up. The lines that had previously been mere indentations in the gold began radiating light. The two eye shaped constructs lit up purple and green, identical to the serpent’s eyes.
The vampire threw his arms to the side, sending the flying serpent off towards one of the walls. Eva had to grab on tight as it lifted high in the chamber to avoid crashing.
Twisting her neck to see behind her, Eva found the mural back to its default state. No lights and no colors.
Eva looked down. Spotting Basila near instantly, she blinked.
“Anise,” Eva said, dodging the nun’s glowing battle-axe, “I need you to get to the vampire and just hound him. Make him absolutely unable to do anything.”
“No time to argue. Basila will help keep the plants off your back. Just find him and lock him down.” Eva used the blood within Basila to send her off in the direction of the vampire. He was fast. Far too fast for her to expect Basila to get a hit in, let alone coil around him.
But that was what Anise was for.
“Follow Basila, she’ll lead you to the vampire.”
Anise hesitated for another moment, opening her mouth.
A single glare from Eva had her moving after the basilisk.
“Randal,” Eva said, turning to face him. “Get to the big golden shrine and get your marble ready. You can’t put it in until the shrine is active.”
At least, that was what Eva was assuming. It seemed logical, but she hadn’t really been in a position to try while the shrine had been active.
“Sounds easy. You just taking a nap while we’re doing all the hard work?”
Eva looked up to the serpent as it drifted about overhead, looking for something to attack.
“I’ve got a snake to wrangle.”
“Fair enough. I suppose I’ll leave you to it.”
Eva turned, about to blink away as Randal ran off. Emily gripped her hand, stopping her cold.
“What about me?”
“Help Randal, I suppose,” Eva said after a moment of silence. Really, she wasn’t quite sure what Emily was going to do that Randal couldn’t, but at least it gave her something to do.
She nodded, offering a smile before running off.
Left alone, Eva gave herself a moment to concentrate. Blinking onto a moving target, especially one higher up, was near impossible. Not without losing a leg or worse. However, she could blink to a point in front of it and hope she could grab onto its horns.
Horns? Eva thought with a frown. Snakes didn’t have horns. Not even basilisks. Neither did they have wings. Maybe it was actually a Chinese dragon, though why it was in the middle of a pyramid was anyone’s guess.
Not that it mattered at the moment.
Staring at a creature with a mouth twice her size coming straight at her as she fell had Eva wondering if it was such a good idea after all.
She landed hard on its forehead, bouncing slightly and letting out a groan even as she tried to get a grip on its antler-like horns. Even with Arachne’s claws, there wasn’t much more than a light scrape on whatever they were made out of.
“Great job Eva,” she mumbled to herself, face down on the platinum scales with her arms wrapped around one horn. “Now what?”
Now she had to wrangle it.
Easier said than done.
Using the horn for support, Eva slowly made it to her feet.
White flashes of lightning and fire lit up a section of the forest. Anise must have been doing her job properly. She was slightly out of range of Eva’s blood sight—as was Basila—but Eva couldn’t see the vampire anywhere. Emily and Randal had both made it up to the shrine and were doing nothing more than standing around.
The perfect time.
Eva gripped the horn. With all of her body weight behind it, she yanked it to the side.
The dragon’s gaze crossed the shrine, but only long enough to cause a faint glow. Something that had probably happened numerous times and yet had been too subtle to notice.
Eva’s grip nearly came loose as the dragon shook its head. She grit her teeth and wrapped her legs around the horn for extra grip until it stopped bucking.
When it did, it faced away from the shrine.
Which wasn’t bad.
If it kept going straight, she could loop it around the elevator pillar. If she could even its flight out afterwards, that would give it a much straighter path and, more importantly, a longer path than the simple turn of its head. Its gaze would be on the shrine for longer.
Eva carefully leaned back and forth, never putting too much force in her attempts to steer the dragon for fear of it suddenly bucking again. She kept it going straight until it had passed the pillar.
Only then did she shove against its right horn.
Almost immediately, she let go of the right horn and barreled into the left, leveling it out.
The shrine lit up in a brilliant gold. In front of it, Randal started to reach his arm towards the pedestal.
“Randal!” Eva shouted.
A moment too late.
Vines snapped out of the dryad’s wrist and wrapped around Randal’s arm. She yanked his arm back even as she ran forwards with her own green marble in hand.
He spun, stumbling twice before gathering his wits about him and casting one of his orbs at the vines.
Eva tried to slam her body against the dragon’s horn again to break contact.
But it was too late.
A hand slammed a violet marble down into the slot, just before the dryad could reach the pedestal.
The golden mural exploded into a rainbow of colors, forcing Eva to shield her eyes.
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