Tag Archives: Sawyer

007.016

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Eva landed within her domain with far more grace than Nel. Given that jostling Serena might kill her if she wasn’t dead already, that was probably a good thing.

The first thing that Eva noticed was the lack of any ill feelings. Every time she had shown up while Shalise had been residing inside, Eva had felt sick. The same enigma sickness that she felt around the field. It was entirely absent.

There were no tracks in the sand that might have belonged to enigmas either. They had burrowed beneath the sand before, but Eva had still felt their presence.

Eva was quite confident in declaring her domain free of enigmas. And after she had been all prepared to use Sawyer’s whistle too. At least she wouldn’t have to touch her lips to that thing.

Why it was free of enigmas was another matter entirely. She had cleared all the carcasses out after freeing Shalise from Prax. But it had been months since then. Eva had expected there to be at least some buildup.

Prax was around somewhere. Eva could feel him as clearly as she had been able to feel Zagan and the other demons during her treatment. Maybe the lack of enigmas was all his doing. Honestly, Eva hadn’t expected him to stick around for very long. Though with that doll snooping around his domain, Eva couldn’t really blame him.

Surely the doll was gone by now? Maybe he just liked the humbleness of Eva’s abode.

Shaking her head, Eva moved towards the alternate women’s ward building. Sawyer was around somewhere. She could feel him as well, though it wasn’t quite the same sense as that of Prax. If she had to guess, it was her domain providing her with information about an enemy.

Eva paused as she realized that Nel wasn’t following. Turning back, she found the augur just staring at the pitch black sky.

“They’re not going to follow us, are they?”

“As soon as I left the mortal plane, channeling magic to power the transference circle was interrupted. If that wasn’t enough, all the blood making up the portal would have fallen to the ground without me there to hold it up.”

“And she can’t make another circle?”

“If she knows how to,” Eva said with a shrug. “But she would have to know how to target my domain specifically. Otherwise she’ll wind up who-knows-where.”

Accepting that response, Nel took her eyes off the sky and looked towards the alternate women’s ward.

Eva did not miss the frown on her face as she took in the sight.

“So, this is Hell, huh?”

“You lived inside of Ylva’s domain for more than a year. You’ve been in Hell before.”

“That… it was different. I didn’t even know that it was literal Hell for the first several months. After that, it was just strange to think about,” Nel said with a shrug. “Besides, I was expecting something a little more grandiose. I didn’t realize just how attached you were to that prison.”

“I wouldn’t say that I am,” Eva said slowly. “I just needed something for Shalise to live in and this was the first thing that popped into my head.”

“Instead of a regular house or an apartment?”

Eva just shrugged. She had never really lived in either one. The closest that she came to living in a regular dwelling was the Brakket Academy dormitories. With the women’s ward fresher in her mind than anything else, it was a natural and almost subconscious choice.

Something more grandiose, as Nel had put it, would be nice. Her first thoughts on that went towards Prax’s castle. It didn’t fit Prax and Eva didn’t think that it would fit her, but it was along the right ideas.

Eva had to wonder just what Catherine’s domain looked like. Would she have a large castle as well? Eva couldn’t really imagine that for her. Maybe just a small room with a computer inside.

What about Lucy? Or Zagan?

All of them were in the mortal plane at the moment. Before she left, maybe she would go see their domains. It should be relatively safe with them absent. Zagan’s domain especially, now that she had thought of it. Surely that would be a sight to see.

Their domains might give her ideas on her own domain.

It was a thing that Eva decided that she would work on when she found some spare time. Perhaps it would start out as a few doodles in a notebook. Maybe some research into buildings and architecture on Earth. Her domain should be something more impressive and imposing that would intimidate any guests who saw it.

Guests like Sawyer.

A few steps closer to her domain and Eva started smiling. She had found Sawyer. He was present in her blood sight up ahead, just outside of the main women’s ward building.

“Come, Nel. Let’s get Serena into a bed and then have some fun.”

“Fun?”

Eva glanced over her shoulder with a grin. “Are you forgetting that I sent Sawyer through first?”

Nel’s eyes widened. She started looking around like Sawyer might jump out of nowhere and attack her.

“Don’t worry,” Eva said with a laugh. “I know exactly where he is. He won’t hurt us.”

Although Nel didn’t look entirely convinced, she gave a slow nod and followed after Eva.

When she reached the courtyard before the women’s ward, Eva spotted several trap doors in the open state. Prax was standing over one of the ones closest to the entrance, glaring into the wide-open pit.

Moving up next to him, Eva looked down inside.

Sawyer sat in the pit. He grasped at one of his legs. A long metal spike had punctured straight through from just above his ankle to his knee. His other foot had a hole in it, but he had managed to pull it off the bloody spike. Looking up to Eva as she leaned over the edge, he smiled. It didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Nimble bastard,” Prax grumbled. “Jumped over three traps before I came out. I guess I was enough to startle him into the pit.”

“Slippery as well,” Eva said. “But there is no escape this time, Sawyer. As I said before, welcome to Hell. It might not live up to the biblical tales, but I will try my best.”

With that, Eva continued on towards the women’s ward. Sawyer wouldn’t be going anywhere. Even if he managed to climb out of the hole, there was nowhere to go. He could try for the waters, but Eva doubted that he knew enough about Hell to know what the waters were. If he had, he would have run to them first and avoided her women’s ward like the plague.

If he accidentally stumbled into the waters anyway, it probably wouldn’t do him much good. The first time that she had gone anywhere, she had accidentally gone to the abattoir. In retrospect, that was probably one of the better choices. Winding up in a domain like Willie’s could have been far more unpleasant.

So, if Sawyer wanted to take his chances, Eva would wish him luck. It wouldn’t be as satisfying as torturing him herself, but other demons probably had much more experience than she did.

Eva’s focus was on Serena for the moment.

It was worrying. She still hadn’t moved the slightest bit. Eva didn’t know a thing about vampires, but this couldn’t be healthy. For all she knew, she was carrying around a corpse.

A real corpse.

Carrying Serena into her room, Eva set the vampire down on her bed. She tried to straighten her neck as much as possible in the hopes that vampire healing would work its magic. Beyond that, she had no idea what to do.

“Unless…”

Eva glanced around. Nel and Prax were both still outside, keeping an eye on Sawyer.

Alone with Serena, Eva pried open her jaw to expose her sharp fangs.

Eva’s forearms would be the easiest part of her to use, but they were covered in hard carapace up to her elbows. She tried for a moment to get her upper arms into Serena’s mouth. After a few minutes of awkwardly changing position, she gave up on that.

Eva leaned over the vampire and rested her neck inside the wide open maw. She half expected Serena to jump up and bite down of her own accord, but the vampire was still unmoving.

With a shake of her head, Eva pulled away. “What am I doing?” she mumbled to herself. “Am I a blood mage or not?”

Pulling out her dagger, Eva sliced a cut on her upper arm.

Blood started trickling down into the vampire’s mouth after a little manipulation on Eva’s part.

To create the transference circle, Eva had shed a good deal of her blood. Now she was giving up more. It probably wouldn’t be a problem. She would be a little light-headed from the anemia, but she wasn’t expecting any sort of fight in the near future. Even with Sawyer around.

The blood just pooled in the back of Serena’s mouth. She had wanted the vampire to swallow it herself, but that wasn’t looking like it was going to happen. Eva sent it all down Serena’s throat to her stomach.

Blood safely inside Serena’s stomach, Eva stepped away from the body. It still wasn’t moving, but hopefully it would just take time.

Eva was feeling somewhat guilty over not letting the vampire drink her blood before. If she was dead, she would never get to enjoy it.

But there was nothing more that she could do at the moment.

Pushing the guilt and worry from her mind, Eva put on a smile as she stepped back outside the women’s ward.

Nel, contrary to Eva’s expectations, did not appear wary of Prax in the slightest. She stood at his side with a hateful gaze locked on Sawyer. So focused was her gaze that Eva wondered if the augur had even realized that Prax was a giant, red-skinned, horned demon with muscles capable of snapping her in two if he decided he didn’t like her.

On the other hand, Prax had clearly taken notice of Nel. He was leering at her with a fanged grin just as one might expect from the spawn of a succubus.

Actually, it might have been more of a curious stare than anything nefarious. His demonic features removed a lot of the innocence from his looks. As far as Eva knew, cambions had none of the proclivities that succubi possessed. Shalise had never mentioned him being anything less than a gentleman, anyway.

That was if the rumors about succubi were true in the first place. Catherine sure didn’t fit in with the popular depiction. Sexy and easily able to draw attention, definitely. Anything beyond that still remained to be seen.

Shaking her head, Eva cleared her throat. Only Prax looked up, but that was fine. Eva waved him over.

“While I do appreciate you capturing him, I hope that you wouldn’t do that to everyone that shows up here. Some might be friends.”

“I could tell that he was not your ‘friend,'” Prax said with a sneer. “Your domain was hostile to him. So I was as well.” His sneer twisted into a grin, punctuated with a short chuckle.

“Really? Huh.” That was good to know. Of course, unless her domain had been the one to activate the trap doors, it probably hadn’t done anything aside from informing Prax. Maybe something could be set up in the event that she had future prisoners.

Prax’s deep bass voice interrupted her thoughts. She made a mental note to ask him about domain defenses later.

“I want out of here.”

“You’re free to leave,” Eva said with a shrug, intentionally misunderstanding the demon. “Were the enigmas too much for you?”

“They have not been around since you all left.”

Eva blinked in confusion. Prior to rescuing Shalise, they had been showing up with alarming regularity. Now they were just gone?

Unless it had been Shalise and Lynn that had been attracting them. In which case…

Eva’s head snapped to the side as a crack of thunder shattered the silence.

Nel, standing over the pit, had her withered arm outstretched. The glove that normally covered the arm was lying on the ground. A small trail of steam was coming off her fingertips.

Running over, Eva was glad to note that Sawyer’s heart was still beating. His right arm, the same one that had his still existing hand, had ruptured. The scarring to his blood vessels looked distinctly familiar. Eva had seen enough injuries caused by nun lightning to recognize what had happened.

Injured, but he wasn’t dead yet. Though, with the amount of blood around him, that was slightly surprising.

“Nel–”

“He deserved it.”

“I’ve no doubt about that,” Eva said, looking down at the lightning burn marks on his arm. “Why don’t we get him out of there and take him inside.”

Glancing down in the pit herself, Eva frowned. “But first,” she said as she reached behind her back. Curling her fingers around the hilt of her dagger, Eva knelt over the pit containing a certain unhappy necromancer. She dug it deep into his shoulder with all the force that she could muster.

Sawyer didn’t make a noise. In fact, he started smiling as he glanced down at the dagger.

The smile was slightly unnerving, but Eva ignored it. The more of his blood flowed over her dagger, the more he was under her control. Eva left the dagger in his chest as she stood back up. It was too late for him to grab it and use it against her. He would be dead faster than the vampire that had tried to call him.

Some of the blood that she had control of moved down to his leg and foot, blocking off circulation. Messy and it would potentially ruin the limb for all future use. Eva didn’t really care. The spike from his ankle to his knee had actually punctured through some major blood vessels. The spike itself was keeping his blood in, but that wouldn’t be the case once he got out of the pit. She only needed him alive long enough.

Eva looked up towards Prax. “Mind helping me get him out of there? No need to be careful. I’ll keep him from bleeding to death.”

Prax’s lip curled. Not quite a smile, nor a sneer. It was just him baring his teeth. With a clipped grunt, he reached into the pit and grasped Sawyer’s unstabbed shoulder. His claws dug into Sawyer’s flesh and even his bone as Prax used a single hand to yank the necromancer out of the few foot hole.

Sawyer still hadn’t made any noise.

Though it had been fading, Eva was extremely grateful that kicking Sawyer into Hell had broken the effects of her blood ritual. Sawyer looked to be in a sorry state, covered in blood and with several holes in his body. Eva had no desire to feel even a second of that sorry state.

Besides, being able to feel his pain would only ruin what she had planned for next.

Taking over for Prax, Eva dug her own claws into Sawyer’s arms and started dragging him into the women’s ward. His legs were trailing limp along the ground and he made no effort to fight against her.

And he was smiling.

Eva hated the feeling that she was missing something. The idea that he still had some card up his sleeve was preposterous. They were in Hell, Eva’s own domain. He was missing one hand, his legs were unusable, she had control over most of the blood in his body, and he had three enemies here. One of whom was a full-blooded demon.

For just a moment, Eva thought Sawyer might have convinced Prax of something in the brief time between his and Eva’s arrivals. Prax had just barely expressed a desire to leave Hell, unless Eva grossly misunderstood him. Maybe Sawyer had promised to summon him.

But then why would Prax have told her that he wanted to leave? Whatever the case, she would try to mollify him if he brought it up again. Zoe could probably summon him. Or Nel could be persuaded.

Technically, they weren’t supposed to be summoning demons. But Eva had already broken that rule. What was one more summon?

Her thoughts reassured Eva. Whatever Sawyer thought that he was planning, it wasn’t going to work.

Lacking any kind of real torture chamber in her little home, Eva just threw Sawyer right into one of the seats in her common room. She pulled her dagger out of his shoulder and sheathed it.

Enough of his blood was under her control that leaving it in wouldn’t do much more.

She did make sure to plug up the wound with hardened blood. The shoulder had many major blood vessels. He could bleed out in minutes.

Minutes would be far too fast for him. Eva wanted him to suffer.

“Comfortable,” Sawyer quipped as he settled into the chair.

“I do apologize for not being able to meet your standards in my accommodations. I hope you won’t mind.”

“It leaves something to be desired.”

“Well, I’m afraid I must disappoint further.” Eva reached out, taking hold over his ring finger and bent it straight backwards.

Sawyer didn’t appear to notice despite the sickening snap. The hand was stitched to him. It was entirely possible that he had absolutely no feeling in it, but Eva had been hoping for some sort of reaction.

Ignoring it for the moment, Eva just flashed a small grin. “All those fancy tools you had for me… I don’t have anything similar here.”

“A shame, to be sure.”

“Nonsense!” Eva dug her claws into his middle finger and crushed her hand into a fist. Not only could she hear the snapping of his bones, but also the blood and flesh that leaked out and ran over her smooth carapace. “This way is far more intimate.

“But I can’t have all the fun,” Eva said as she wiped the finger pulp off on the side of the chair. She turned around to find Nel actually shying away while eying the smear of blood on the chair. “Nel? He has a finger and a thumb left.”

The augur blanched, taking a step back.

Eva rolled her eyes. Given that she had just fired lightning at him while he was helpless and likely hadn’t provoked her, her shying away from a little harmless torture was somewhat disappointing.

Though, Eva wasn’t feeling the torture herself.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

This was to be her revenge. She finally had Sawyer helpless. Thinking back to when he had her strapped to a chair barely got Eva fired up.

Part of it was because of his smile. His failure to cry out in pain as she crushed his finger didn’t help matters. Eva wanted to hear his screams, but that wasn’t happening. The other part of it might be her mindset. It just wasn’t satisfying. Serena had her worried and being watched by the obviously squeamish Nel had her spirits dampened somewhat.

Maybe she didn’t have the inclinations to be a proper torturer.

Prax was standing back a short distance, watching with obvious disapproval on his face.

Probably thinking about how much better he could be as the torturer.

Steeling herself, Eva turned back to Sawyer with a glare. Even if she wasn’t feeling it, that was no excuse to let him off easy.

“I guess it’s just me and you right now.”

“I’d be disappointed if you handed me off to others.”

Eva gripped his hand as a whole and crushed the entire thing all at once. “You took my fingers, my toes, and my eyes. I really don’t care about your toes and your hands are mutilated enough.”

“My eyes then,” Sawyer said with a smile.

Lip curling in distaste, Eva shook her head. “Eventually.”

There was something else that she wanted to take from Sawyer more than his eyes.

Lifting up her hand, Eva moved the sharp tips of her claws towards his face no faster than particularly viscous honey flowing down a slight decline. She was hoping that the apprehension of not knowing where she was targeting would make Sawyer squirm at least a little. Unfortunately, that was a failure.

Sawyer kept his eyes locked onto Eva’s eyes, seemingly taking no notice of her hand.

An inch away from his face, Eva shot her hand forwards. Her claws found their way into his mouth. Pinching his teeth between her fingers, Eva squeezed.

Teeth were hard. That was essentially their entire purpose. For a scum of a necromancer who wound up eating dead flesh that fell into his food, Sawyer’s teeth were actually well cared for. Perhaps that was why he smiled so often; he wanted to show off all the hard work he put into his teeth.

Unfortunately for poor Sawyer, Eva’s fingers were stronger.

Shards of calcium exploded between her fingers.

The top row of Sawyer’s front teeth was just stubs and his gums.

Twisting her hand around, Eva dug her claws into the bottom of his jaw. She broke off the teeth from partway through his gums. His stumps of flesh started to fill his mouth with blood.

Eva pulled her hand out of his mouth and smiled.

“Your incessant grin looks so much better now.”

Sawyer twisted his head to one side and spat, expelling as many of the shards as he could.

When he looked back, Eva couldn’t actually tell whether or not he was trying to smile.

It was a definite improvement.

“Now that we’ve got that out of the way, what next? Nel, Prax,” Eva turned her head over her shoulder, “any ideas?”

The red demon’s scowl twisted into a grin. “If you are going for pure mutilation, there is a spot on any man which cannot be topped.”

Eva narrowed her eyes. Of course the cambion’s mind would head in that direction. Obviously she had been wrong about him being dissimilar to succubi. She did not want to touch Sawyer anywhere around there.

Although, Eva thought as she turned back to Sawyer, maybe it isn’t such a bad idea.

Sawyer’s eyes were wide. Even with his mutilated mouth, he didn’t appear to be smiling in the slightest. It was probably the first thing that actually caused a spike in his heart rate as well.

If it was the one thing that could get him to lose his cool, who was Eva to pass it up?

But she still wasn’t going to fondle him or anything resembling such an act.

Thankfully, her hands weren’t her only inhumanely strong limbs.

Lifting up a foot, Eva brought it down right on top of Sawyer’s groin. Sawyer drew in a sharp gasp as Eva crushed everything all the way to his hip bones. Grinding her foot in, Eva was almost disgusted by how his organs compressed and ruptured beneath her foot.

Blood and viscera dripped off the edges of the chair. Eva was holding most of it in, but some of the blood was outside of her control. His intestines and stomach and spleen and whatever other organs were falling out of the suddenly opened cavity were just a bit too heavy for her to contain. Not that she cared all that much about keeping it in. As long as she kept his blood circulating through any ruptures, he’d live for now.

And that’s really all Eva needed.

Sawyer started coughing. Blood and spittle flew from his mouth as his coughs shifted in tone.

Eva grit her teeth.

Sawyer was laughing.

“‘oo should haff killed me when ‘oo had the chance,” he mumbled out through his broken teeth.

“Wha–”

Eva didn’t have a chance to question what he meant.

Sawyer’s heart seized up. His eyes rolled back up in his head the moment it did so.

Using her blood magic and her control over his blood, Eva tried to force his circulation. Carrying his blood through his lungs and the empty air itself in an attempt to oxygenate it enough to keep his brain alive.

Despite her efforts, Sawyer slumped over in the chair, arms and head all falling limp as he moved.

“No,” Eva hissed.

She clenched her fists even as she stepped forward. With as much haste as she could, Eva clasped her hands on either side of his face and shoved her thumbs into his eyes. The twin orbs burst beneath the pressure of her claws, spilling blood and clear liquid all over her carapace.

Her fingers dug into his skull, burrowing through the bone until she reached his brain.

“You should have waited before killing him,” Prax said. “Let him feel the pain and humiliation a little longer.”

Eva pulled her fingers out of Sawyer’s skull, flinging blood and brain matter to the floor. “It was all too late,” she hissed. “He died before he even felt his eyes explode.”

“Died? You must have damaged the wrong spot.”

Eva shook her head. “I hit nothing. He knew he was going to die. He killed himself, taking the satisfaction away.” Turning around, Eva was about to ask Nel if she had any ideas on what happened.

The augur was lying on the ground, eyes closed.

“She passed out around the time your foot passed through his body,” Prax said with a deep grunt.

Eva just stared.

In a way, it was something of a relief. Her torturing Sawyer just hadn’t felt right. With him dead, she could rest easy. At least on the necromancy front. Des was still around, but she was just a little girl. If she carried that mummified corpse around with her constantly, she could be problematic. Between Eva, Nel, Ylva, and Zoe, they should be able to find a way to neutralize it.

For the time being, Eva just shook her head again. Leaving Nel on the floor, Eva walked off towards the shower room.

She was feeling somewhat drained. Getting the remains of Sawyer off her seemed like a good way to start feeling rejuvenated again.

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007.015

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Sawyer stood at the crest of a hill that overlooked the ritual site. He turned his head one way then the other, taking in the destruction down below.

His actions gave Eva a nice overview of everything as well.

Much of the field was on fire in some capacity or other. Eva hadn’t managed to explode every casket, but a good chunk of them were nothing more than craters. Most of the skeletons and enigmas on the field were dead, thanks to the efforts of the vampires and Nel.

It was a strange sensation to feel Sawyer’s shoulders slump ever so slightly. Several nights worth of work had just gone to waste with her ten minute romp through the field. Likely more than just several nights. Even if Eva was beaten back, Sawyer wouldn’t be able to recover.

If it were just the work he had put into preparing the bodies, it wouldn’t be all that bad. But with the graveyards mostly dug up already, there might not be enough suitable corpses remaining. He might have to move to an entirely new location and set up everything all over again. Starting from scratch on a project this big couldn’t be fun.

Sawyer’s eyes narrowed to thin slits as he caught sight of one of the vampires dashing across the field. His hand went to his whistle.

But he paused. The whistle was on his lips, but he didn’t breathe out.

The vampire’s motion had carried his vision right to Eva and Nel.

Eva had to admit that the two of them looked absurd. Nel clung to Eva’s back while she hunched over to carry the weight. Lightning shot from a withered arm. Immediately after, Nel wobbled around as the lights in her eyes died off.

Absurd, but not to the point where it was all that humorous.

Yet Sawyer’s lips drew his already wide smile back even further.

Every time she had seen Sawyer, he had been smiling. Even when things weren’t going his way. Something was constantly amusing him.

Eva would have suspected drugs, but she had watched his actions from a front row seat over the last few days. She would have noticed something had it actually been drugs.

“Sawyer is here,” Eva said, turning to the necromancer and giving a little wave.

Through her sense of blood, she could see Nel take notice. Eva’s wave had pointed him out to her.

Her lips drew back into a snarl. Without a word of warning, she raised both of her arms.

Eva had to use both of her hands to keep Nel from falling off her back.

Twin bolts of white lightning fired off from Nel’s fingertips. They were of the same blindingly overcharged caliber that her initial bolts of the evening had been.

The only reason that Eva could still see with the lightning right in front of her face was because of her connection with Sawyer.

Though she couldn’t see from that end of things for very long. Grass and dirt filled her vision. Sawyer dropped to the ground the moment he saw Nel raise her arms. Eva could feel the heat over his back as the lightning careened on to the sky.

He rolled over on his back and brought the whistle around to his lips.

Again, no sound came out when he blew into the opening.

A wave of enigmas charged around him and into the field.

Still blinking away the spots in her eyes and shaking the thunder from her ears, Eva had to rely on her blood sight.

One of the vampires was in the way of the enigmas between Sawyer and Eva. Eva couldn’t tell if he had been blinded by the lightning or not, but he didn’t manage to get very far away once he realized what was happening. Tentacles lashed around his legs and arms from several different enigmas.

The different enigmas pulled in different directions. There was a moment of strain in the vampire’s limbs before they started snapping off.

A few of the enigmas pounced on the vampire, tearing him to even smaller pieces with their sharp teeth.

He didn’t scream for very long.

Most of the enigmas were still charging into the field.

Eva didn’t waste any time. Even while partially blind, she could still act.

The demon blood contained within the vials strapped to her body forced its way out of the vials. Two vials of Zagan’s blood stayed intact, just in case she needed them later on.

As it was, she was going to be stretching her blood reserves rather thin. Thirty enigmas were a lot. Even with Nel and the remaining vampires to assist and distract, dispatching them wasn’t going to be easy.

And then there was Sawyer to worry about. He climbed back to his feet, brushing the dirt off his button up shirt as he went. For the moment, he seemed content to merely watch.

Rings of blood flew out from Eva. She wrapped them around the four nearest enigmas’ necks and promptly clapped her hands. Technically, beheading the beasts didn’t kill them. It still put them down long enough to take them out of the current fight.

Eva didn’t have time to throw out more rings. Another wave of enigmas charged over their fallen brethren towards Eva.

A stream of fire from Nel’s fingertips consumed one and kept the others at bay long enough for Eva to form a shield around the two of them.

Just in time for an enigma’s wide mouth to try gnawing on the shield. Eva sent a smaller marble of blood down its throat and clapped her hands again.

Eva started to form up more rings when she noticed something odd.

Enigmas, despite their oddities with death, acted like any other creature for the most part. They had brains, hearts, blood, and other organs. Eva was concerned mostly with their blood and hearts, as that was what she could see best. Normally, their hearts pumped and their blood flowed.

But not those of the enigmas that had consumed the vampire. There were only three of them, but they weren’t moving at all. Their tentacles were still, their mouths did not open or close, their hearts didn’t beat, and their blood didn’t move.

Though still, they weren’t idle. The blood inside the affected enigmas’ veins was turning stale. Old.

Like the blood within vampire veins.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Eva said, more to herself than to Nel. One of the vampires had landed on top of one of the unmoving enigmas and had started to tear it apart.

That seemed to be the trigger needed to get them moving. The vampire jumped away just in time to avoid getting caught by a tentacle.

The vampiric enigmas jumped after him.

A startled noise from Nel brought Eva back from watching the rest of the battle. She quickly sent a few small marbles down the throats of three enigmas that had approached her shield, dispatching all of them.

None of the other vampires in the field had been caught, thanks to small mercies, but they really were not that effective at taking out the enigmas. Nel’s fire did a much better job, probably because of its magic eating aspects and the fact that the enigmas were definitely magical beings.

Eva hoped that none of them wound up caught. She didn’t know what the enigmas had done, exactly, but something told her that they would be tougher, better regenerators, and possibly contagious. With any luck, they wouldn’t like the sun all that much. Maybe the sun could even kill them permanently.

Unfortunately, Eva had no time to test.

“We’re going to be moving up towards Sawyer,” Eva said.

Nel was back to gripping Eva’s shoulders for support, but she nodded an acknowledgment.

After dispatching one more enigma with a ring of blood around its neck, Eva shut down her shield and started running. She built up a fireball and tossed it towards the vampiric enigmas as she ran.

Vampires didn’t like fire, so why should vampiric enigmas?

That was the theory anyway. Eva didn’t stop to observe the results of her handiwork. She ran straight for the hill that Sawyer was once again standing on top of.

At the base of the hill, she stopped.

Something strange was going on. Her vision and sense of blood were not matching up with what Sawyer saw.

To Eva, the enigmas were fighting with the vampires down on the field. Or, they were being distracted by the vampires. After watching one of their number get quartered and eaten alive, they were being a little hesitant in engaging directly.

Standing atop the hill, Sawyer calmly watched as three of the enigmas turned. They started snarling at him. After a brief moment, they started running. Two of them brushed past Eva on either side of her.

Looking in person, the nearest enigma was some distance away, snapping at the heels of a vampire that jumped over it.

Eva could feel a headache forming again. Just when her nausea had started to dissipate as well. Something was going on and it was messing with Sawyer’s head. Her head by extension.

She had a feeling that she knew what it was, but she couldn’t actually see Serena anywhere around.

The three enigmas in Sawyer’s vision charged up the hill, running straight up to the necromancer.

He stood by as unconcerned as he could be even as the enigmas started circling around him. They growled and occasionally sent out the whistling thunder inside of his head. Sawyer flinched every time, but was otherwise entirely too calm for the situation.

Still, he was distracted.

Eva couldn’t waste the opportunity.

Gathering up one of the vials of Zagan’s blood, she formed it into a large ring and sent it whizzing up the hill towards Sawyer. With Nel still on her back, she ran up after it.

At the same time, one of the enigmas lashed its tentacles around Sawyer’s leg. Eva could feel it squeezing and constricting. The pain just about sent her stumbling in her run.

Sawyer just looked down, his grin widening.

Something was definitely wrong.

Just before Eva’s blood ring could make it to Sawyer, his hand darted out to his side. It gripped something that wasn’t there in his sight. Eva could feel his hands squeezing tight around something fleshy.

In her blood sight, Eva just about started to panic.

The ring of blood flew straight towards his outstretched arm.

Eva just about dropped Nel in an attempt to clap her hands together.

She stopped just in the nick of time.

Sawyer swung his arm around. Eva’s blood splattered across an invisible woman in his hands.

The illusion in Sawyer’s vision died off and Serena shimmered into being, clutching and grasping at her throat, clawing away at Sawyer’s skin.

He didn’t seem to care as blood started dripping from his hand. His smile just grew wider.

“Serena is in trouble,” Eva hissed as she doubled her efforts in getting up the hill.

As she ran, she tried to salvage as much blood as she could from Serena. A lot of it had soaked into her clothing, becoming unusable. That which Eva could scrape up, she gathered just on the back of Serena’s neck. Normally, such a thing would have ruined the blood. It would have gotten mixed up with sweat and grime. Being a vampire, Serena didn’t sweat. Her body was dead.

With Sawyer holding her facing him, it was the perfect spot to hide the blood without him noticing.

“I say, you two are quite the sight,” Sawyer said, turning a grin in Eva’s direction.

Eva glared. She didn’t speak. She didn’t need to.

Nel gave a slight squeak as Eva unclasped her hands from the augur’s bottom. She almost fell to the ground as Eva dropped her, but managed to remain on her feet with a little help.

“Is this one with you?” Sawyer asked as he turned back to face Serena. “She’s a much rarer strain than those riffraff,” he swept his stitched hand towards the valley below. “Almost a shame what I have to do.”

Muscles and blood within Sawyer’s arm started moving. He was squeezing Serena’s throat.

Wasting no more time, the blood from behind Serena’s neck moved around, coating the back of Sawyer’s hand. Given that his hand was throttling Serena’s neck, the blood didn’t have far to move. He didn’t have a chance to pull away before most of the blood got onto him.

When he did release Serena and pull away, it was far too late.

Eva clapped her hands together.

Sawyer shouted out a clipped cry as the blood flashed white and obliterated everything that it was touching.

Namely, his hand.

Eva took care not to harm Serena. The vampire collapsed to the ground, unmoving despite Eva’s efforts. Her neck was bent at an angle that it shouldn’t be.

Vampires died if they were decapitated. Eva wasn’t sure about broken necks. Hopefully Serena would be able to regenerate from it. The vampire had actually grown on Eva since their attack on the Elysium Order’s cathedral.

But there was no time to worry about that now. Sawyer was looking at his hand–or the empty spot where it had been–as if he couldn’t believe what had just happened. Eva only managed to coat his fingers and part of the back of his hand, but his entire arm was missing up to his elbow.

The power of Zagan’s blood. Probably.

Eva charged forward, planting her shoulder right into Sawyer’s stomach. As he fell to the ground, Eva stepped forwards. She planted one foot on his chest and the other foot on the arm that still had a hand.

While Eva didn’t consider herself to be that heavy, she did not spare Sawyer anything. Her sharp toes pressed down on his chest with all the force that she could muster.

For a moment, she wished that she still had Nel on her back.

“You’re not getting away this time, Sawyer. Nel and I want to have a little fun with you.”

He smiled–as always–and laughed. “I can’t wait. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is in the cards for me tonight.”

This time, it was Eva’s turn to laugh. “You think that Des and a handful of skeletons will save you? Or that haugbui that you’ve got locked up in your warehouse?” Eva shook her head. “Think again.”

“How did you–”

Eva pressed down on his chest, digging the claws that made up her toes through his shirt and skin. Blood welled up and stained his shirt.

Drawing her knife from its sheath, Eva stabbed it into her arm. The amount of blood she pulled out was perhaps more than she should have, but she needed it for the next stage of her plan. She wanted to have everything ready before Des showed up with the skeletons.

Shaping her blood into a large circle, Eva hesitated. Sawyer was entirely too calm. Casting around her blood sight, Eva couldn’t find anything that might immediately threaten her.

Though pausing did remind her of something.

Bending over, Eva clawed one hand as she reached out for his pocket. Her hand grasped his whistle, cloth from his shirt, and even some skin. Even in her slowly fading senses from Sawyer, it hurt. Eva had intended for it to hurt.

Sawyer didn’t flinch in the slightest. He had to have some way of shutting off his sense of pain that didn’t protect Eva. There was no other way that he could just sit there smiling.

“Nel, keep an eye out for a bunch of skeletons while I work on this.”

“M-me?” she asked, whipping her head up from glaring at Sawyer.

Eva rolled her eyes. At least act a little confident in front of Sawyer. “Yes, you. They’ll be with Des, so maybe we’ll be able to recover your eyes.”

Slowly, Nel nodded. “Alright. I’d like that.”

Given that the eyes were implanted within Des, it might not be a good idea to put them back into Nel. They had been in the hands of a necromancer for far too long. There could be all kinds of traps and safeguards to keep Nel from reclaiming them.

But Eva didn’t need to comment on that to Nel at the moment. The augur desperately needed a boost to her confidence. Saying such things would have the opposite effect.

Turning her attention back to Sawyer and the ring of her blood in the air, Eva put on a grin of her own. She fingered the small black orb that hung from her neck–Arachne’s beacon. It was a depressing shame that Arachne couldn’t be here to watch her victory over Sawyer.

“Do you know what this is?” she asked as details started to form within the circle.

“A summoning circle,” Sawyer said with a half chuckle. “What horror are you going to call forth to exact your revenge? Oh, I can’t wait to find out!”

“Sawyer, I am appalled,” Eva said with a shake of her head. “You should really study up on your diablery. Or get your eyes checked.” He was entirely too excited about everything. Normally, such a thing would have worried Eva. She must be missing something.

But the circle was complete. It wouldn’t matter in a few seconds.

Eva started channeling magic into the circle as it hung in mid-air right next to Sawyer’s prone form.

A black void opened up where the blood had been.

“This,” she said, stepping off Sawyer, “is a transference circle.”

Before her words could entirely sink in, Eva dug one of her feet between Sawyer’s back and the ground.

Using the powerful legs that she had been given by Arachne, Eva kicked out.

Sawyer’s body lifted off the ground just a hair–it really didn’t need to go so high, Eva had made the bottom of the circle almost scraping the ground. All she needed to do was to get him inside.

She halfway succeeded. Her foot must have been too far off-center.

Sawyer’s legs and lower waist disappeared into the void, but he managed to flip over onto his stomach. Grasping at the brush and well-entrenched weeds on the ground, he managed to stop himself from falling inside entirely. His head tilted upwards, glaring at Eva as she smirked down at him.

He no longer had a smile on his face.

Eva knelt in front of him and started prying his fingers loose, one by one. He only had one hand, so it wasn’t like he had all that much to hold onto.

“You know,” Eva said as she accidentally broke one of his fingers, “connecting the mortal realm to Hell is supposed to be off limits for a time. I just wanted you to know how special you are to have an exception made just for you.”

Snapping his pinky finger clean off, Eva stood again.

He was slowly being dragged into the portal.

Too slowly.

Eva placed her foot right on his forehead.

“This isn’t over,” he said, all humor and amusement gone from his voice.

“Of course it isn’t. Welcome to Hell.”

Eva gave his forehead just a light tap, sending him tumbling into the darkness.

With a head-splitting smile on her face, Eva pocketed the pinky finger. His blood had come in handy before. Perhaps this would as well. No sense in tossing it, in any case.

Eva blinked as she realized something. There was no connection between her and Sawyer anymore. The moment he had disappeared through the portal, she couldn’t sense him anymore.

Which was something of a shame. Eva had been hoping to get a picture of her domain when he landed.

Oh well, she thought. Sawyer might get torn apart without his whistle, if there are enigmas down there. It would be a definite shame. Eva wanted to torture him. A lot. But if he died to enigmas, she supposed that would have to suffice. Maybe one of his necromancy books would have a guide on how to ensure that he had eternal torment.

Something to worry about later.

She was just about to close the portal when Nel shouted.

“Eva! We have a problem!”

“What is it?” Eva asked, even as she turned to seek out the problem for herself.

It didn’t take long to notice something amiss.

One of the vampires down on the ritual field was in pieces. As if someone had taken a razor-sharp cleaver from his shoulder to his waist and then severed one of his legs.

As she stared, another of the vampires just started to fall apart. An arm followed a leg. It ended with the top half of his head just sliding off the rest of his body.

“It’s the haugbui,” Nel shrieked.

“I thought you said that they couldn’t be moved.”

“I said that it cannot move. Someone moved it!”

“Des,” Eva hissed as another vampire fell to pieces. Apparently, the girl had decided that skeletons wouldn’t be enough. Or Sawyer had somehow communicated with her, telling her to bring it along.

That might explain his unwarranted confidence. He was expecting Des to show up with the haugbui. Eva didn’t know how strong the things were. Based on how it was just slicing apart the vampires without even being visible, it might have been able to slice apart even a stronger demon. Perhaps why Sawyer ‘couldn’t wait’ to see what Eva summoned.

“It’s going after the vampires because that’s what Sawyer told it to do earlier,” Eva said, glancing towards Serena. Her body was still intact, though she was still unmoving with her neck crooked. “But that probably won’t last very long at this rate. Into the portal.”

Nel’s head whipped around, eyes wide. “What? We can’t–Sawyer just–”

“It leads to my domain. Just pretend that this was intentional. Act confident.” Eva knelt down, scooping up Serena into her arms while trying to keep her head from twisting into a worse position. “Unless you want to stay and try fighting off that haugbui.”

Nel shook her head. She stepped up to the portal.

And hesitated.

Eva didn’t have this kind of time. Another vampire was being shredded behind them.

Raising a leg, Eva kicked Nel into the portal. Her sudden scream was cut off as soon as her head vanished into the darkness.

Eva jumped in without hesitation, Serena in her arms.

<– Back | Index | Next –>


007.014

<– Back | Index | Next –>

The field wasn’t any different in person. Not that Eva had expected it to be. Her ritual gave her a perfect picture of exactly what Sawyer saw and felt. She had already known how the place would look, feel, and smell. Looking at it with her own eyes didn’t matter in the slightest.

In fact, she was actually feeling better than any time that she had visited through Sawyer’s eyes.

The ritual was fading away. In an hour, maybe two, it would have run its course, leaving Eva all by her self. She could still see Sawyer at the moment, but the sounds were slightly muffled and the colors were muted.

If there was one thing that was different about the real field versus seeing it from Sawyer, it was having Nel and Serena at her side as they looked down at the valley filled with caskets and coffins.

Serena was imitating Catherine at the moment. Her cellphone was out and she was tapping away. Coordinating with the vampires was a full-time job, apparently. Six of them were dotted around the field, keeping themselves out of sight of the many skeletons and enigmas. Two more were just behind Eva.

The ‘Lord’ Kuvon had decided not to grace them with his illustrious presence for the night, sending a portion of his minions instead.

Frankly, Eva wasn’t expecting much from any of them. Sawyer was expecting vampires to attack. Aside from the Elysium Order, Sawyer being prepared to fight vampires would probably be the worst thing that could happen to them.

Eva really didn’t care what happened to any vampire that wasn’t named Serena. In fact, if Sawyer killed them all, she wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep over it. That would leave Kuvon and maybe two other vampires that also hadn’t joined in their little escapade. It wouldn’t be difficult to reclaim her blood from them.

And Eva was less than enthused about gifting them a case filled with vials of her blood.

Besides, killing off the vampires would make Nel happy.

At the moment, Nel looked like she could use all the happiness that she could get her hands on.

The summer air was warm, even in the dead of night. Eva wouldn’t have been able to tell that just from looking at Nel. Or from feeling her as she grasped on to Eva’s arm.

It was strange to think that she had been holding back on the trembling. Eva could barely see straight with how much the vibrations traveling up her arm wound up shaking her around. Every single slight noise in the wilderness around them was received with a jump from Nel followed by the girl whipping her head around to find out just what was attacking them.

Nothing. Nothing attacked them.

“Calm down,” Eva said, patting the augur’s non-withered arm. “The vampires are staring.”

“I’m not supposed to be out in the field,” she hissed back. “I can’t fight!”

“Would you rather be back at the hotel? All by yourself? The hotel that the vampires run?”

“Yes! No! I don’t know.” She looked around twice, trying not to be obvious about staring at the vampires. Eva would have to say that she failed, but at least they were being polite about it. Her hysterical voice dropped to a whisper as she leaned her trembling body closer to Eva.

“What am I doing here? I can’t use my magic. All the vampires will know what I am. Even if I had all the frankincense in the world, I can’t catch a glimpse of anything. We’re right in the middle of the dead zone from that stupid little girl.”

“Use your magic if you need to,” Eva said, her voice even quieter than Nel’s. “All the vampires here drank the blood. If they try to bother you, I’ll deal with them.” A little louder, Eva said, “I think you’ll want to be here anyway. Up close and personal, front row seats to Sawyer’s demise.”

Turning to face Serena and the two vampires—she hadn’t bothered to learn their names—Eva clapped her hands together.

Serena started, glancing at the two vampires as if they were about to explode. With good reason. However, Eva hadn’t been channeling any magic into exploding the blood in their stomachs. Not at the moment anyway.

“Sawyer is still in his warehouse,” Eva said. “I don’t think he plans on leaving tonight. Let us see if we can’t change his plans. We’re here to make noise. I refuse to believe that he has no alarms set up to warn him that his precious ritual circle is being destroyed.”

Igniting her hand, Eva gathered up flames into a tight ball. Not quite to the point of the explosive blasts that she used to explode enigmas or blow open the door in her domain. It would need to survive a trip through the air.

Tossing the fireball with all her might, Eva aimed for one of the caskets in the center ring of the ritual circle. With a gleeful smile, she watched as it sailed down into the field.

It missed.

The fireball fell short of the casket by a good distance. Because of the way the caskets were arranged, it didn’t even hit one of the ones in the next ring out. Some grass and brush caught fire between two caskets, but the foliage wasn’t dry enough to spread quickly. Maybe with time, it would spread and engulf the caskets.

Eva didn’t have time.

The skeletons meandering about in the field took note of the fire. Worse, they took note of the direction the fireball had come from.

Eva threw another fireball, this one actually managing to hit one of the closer caskets. Unfortunately, it was a newer casket. One made out of metal of some kind. The flames splashed off, igniting some of the surrounding brush but doing no damage to the casket or the body sealed inside.

Using some of her own blood—demon blood was still being reserved for when Sawyer arrived and she really needed it—Eva created a shield around herself and Nel. Just in time to catch a few arrows that were arching through the air.

Nel let out a short shriek as the arrows pinged against the shield, drawing more attention and more arrows.

Even though the shield was powered with her blood, the arrows weren’t doing enough damage to worry Eva. She could last a good half hour at the current rate before needing to refill the shield’s reserves.

Of course, that would leave her stuck in one spot. Being immobilized would probably not be a good thing once Sawyer showed up.

“Nel,” Eva said as the vampires ran off towards the ritual circle. Their job was to take out the enigmas. And skeletons, if they came across them. The enigmas could burrow and they needed to be taken down before the field became a mine field of monsters. “How well can you aim your lightning?”

“What happened to use it if you need to?”

“I could get us out of this, either with blood or through waiting for the vampires to kill the skeletons. I’d rather be proactive.” Eva raised one of her long claws, pointing at a skeleton that had his bow drawn and aimed towards them. “If I open up a hole, can you hit that one?”

“But the vampires…”

Eva rolled her eyes. “Nel, if you want me to, I’ll explode all of the vampires right now. Except for Serena. Of course, then it will be just us against Sawyer and whatever undead he brings, but I’m sure we can take them.”

Pausing for a moment, Eva took her eyes off the ritual circle to look over Nel. “We’re not friends,” Eva said. “I don’t think so, anyway. But if it is between you and them, I’ll pick you. Mostly because I know you better. Nothing to do with Ylva or how useful you are. In fact, it is definitely not because of how useful you are. You’re absolutely useless if you can’t hit that skeleton.”

Balling her good hand into a fist, Nel glared at Eva. “Fine,” she shouted. “I’ll do it. If those vampires kill me… or the skeletons–”

“Yeah, yeah,” Eva waved a hand, “I promise to feel bad for a few minutes. Now get ready, as soon as the next arrow hits, I’m dropping the shield for a second or two.”

Nel closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them again, they were burning with white light. With her arm outstretched, she waited.

Eva dropped her shield.

A thunderous crack in the air accompanied a blinding flash of light. With her sudden lack of vision, Eva immediately brought up her shield. She didn’t want to risk either one of them getting hit by an arrow because she couldn’t see them coming.

As Eva blinked away the spots in her eyes and the ringing in her ears faded, she looked down at the ritual field.

The vampires had taken notice, but none of them were actually approaching. After they got through their momentary stupor, they continued tearing through the enigmas on the field. Given just how bright and loud it was, it would have been a surprise had they not noticed.

Brush and grass had blackened and charred around where the skeleton had stood. The skeleton itself was still there, though it was no longer standing. The pile of bones sat in the center of the scorch marks, unmoving.

“Excellent,” Eva said. “Though perhaps tone it down for the next one? Your magic eats other magic, so I don’t think you need to put quite so much power behind it.”

“I was nervous,” Nel said. Her voice was weak. She stumbled forward slightly. There was no fire in her eyes as she grabbed hold of Eva for support.

“Are you alright?”

“I tend to get overwhelmed with information when I connect. I’ll shake it off in a moment. In the mean time, I think I know what all the corpses are for.”

Eva raised an eyebrow as she waited for Nel to get steady on her feet again.

“He’s trying to make a Death Stick.”

“You’re going to have to elaborate.”

“It’s a…” Nel winced, rubbing at her forehead with her good hand. “It’s said to call down Death himself to strike down a single living being. That’s not true, but it does kill something. Then it binds their soul to the stick, though the Death Stick doesn’t have to be a literal stick. It can be anything.

“The body continues to be animated and controlled by the bound soul—which is under the control of the necromancer. Essentially, it creates a lich. But one under control of someone else. And, unless he makes the Death Stick out of gold, it will wear away after a few weeks and crumble to dust. The soul will be released and the body killed for good.”

Nel shook her head. Pulling away from Eva, she stood on her own just at the edge of their shield. “Something is wrong though,” she said as she looked down at the field. “You can make a Death Stick with nine corpses. There are far too many bodies down here.”

Eva shrugged her shoulders. “All the more reason to destroy this place. I don’t even know what you would use such a thing for.”

“Typically, gaining access to a mage’s personal vault. Or other things that can only be acquired by one specific person. Mind control is almost impossible with thaumaturgy. Most non-thaumaturgical methods can and will be checked for at any respectable bank.”

Waving Nel off before she could continue further, Eva pointed at two skeletons that were still launching arrows in their direction.

“Do you think you can take care of both of them at once?”

“Maybe with a little less flash this time as well.”

Nel nodded as a small amount of blood rushed to her ears and cheeks.

“On three,” Eva said.

Once she began her countdown, Nel prepared herself. Fire again burst from her eyes. She held out both hands this time, her good one and the whithered arm covered in a glove. Each pointed at a different skeleton.

“Three,” Eva said as she brought down the shield.

Two bolts of crackling white light speared off into the distance. The moment they connected with the skeletons, the skeletons dropped into unmoving heaps of bones.

Catching Nel before she could fall over, Eva helped her keep on her feet.

“We need to move. I can fire bomb these coffins, but I need to get closer if I want to do any real damage.”

“Bomb them? That’s desecrating the dead.”

“I think Sawyer is way ahead of us on that front,” Eva said as she dragged Nel down the hill towards the caskets.

Around them, vampires were still darting in and out of the place. They seemed to be having more trouble with the enigmas than Eva had expected. Given her experiences fighting them inside her domain, Eva had been hoping that they would tear through them and move on to the skeletons in a few minutes. She hadn’t heard any of the whining and explosion noises that they made. The vampires were keeping them too busy for that at least, thankfully.

Sawyer might have done something to make them stronger. Or, perhaps, they had grown stronger on their own. None of the enigmas that Eva encountered had ever survived for as long as these had. For given values of survival; the creatures couldn’t technically die.

Stopping at the nearest coffin, Eva prepared to destroy the entire thing. She considered opening the lid and setting fire to the contents. That should be more than enough to destroy the corpse.

Experiencing everything that Sawyer had for the past two days was more than enough for Eva to never wish to open a casket again.

After compressing flames into an explosive marble, Eva tossed it at the casket. She reactivated her shield the moment the marble left her hands.

The ball of bright yellow flames touched the side of the casket, shattering the thin layer of stability that Eva had formed as a shell. Noise and a bright flash quickly followed. Neither were as bright as the initial lightning bolt that Nel had cast, but they were enough to momentarily blind Eva.

Shrapnel and body parts went flying through the air. Because the explosion had occurred between the casket and Eva, most parts were directed away from her position.

One large chunk of the metal casket had other ideas. It crashed into Eva’s shield at high speeds, draining almost every last drop of her blood. The remaining bits of bone and steel that hit finished off the shield. The protective bubble around Eva and Nel dropped away.

With a groan, Eva unsheathed her dagger and jammed it into her arm. She drained almost twice the amount of blood. Not enough for her to feel anemic, but she wouldn’t be able to keep up a permanent shield without lethargy creeping up on her.

“I wish Arachne were here,” Eva sighed. And not just because of the powers of her blood. That was useful, but Arachne made for far better company than Nel. It had been nearly two months since Arachne died and Eva was still not used to the lack of her presence.

Aside from that, Arachne’s largest form could easily have trodden over caskets, enigmas, and skeletons alike.

Pushing the thoughts of her lost friend out of her mind for the moment, Eva conjured up another three exploding fireballs. Each one went to a different casket around her.

Again, Eva put up her shield. Again, debris hit it. Nothing quite so hard as the first casket, but a good chunk of her shield’s blood still drained away.

Eva was about to continue. There were a lot of caskets that needed exploding and only so many hours of darkness remaining.

But she paused. Through her gradually dimming connection to Sawyer, she saw something.

Sawyer bolted upright from being hunched over a soon-to-be animated skeleton. He turned his head from one side of the room to the other, slowly looking over every little thing. From all of his tools, the empty caskets piled up at the far end of the room, the unarmed skeletons waiting in a corner for their bows and arrows, all the way to Des and her nearly finished skeleton.

For just a moment, Eva thought that he might just be imagining things. Or at least, she thought that he thought that he was just imagining things.

The whole point of blowing up the ritual site was to draw him out. Well, and to stop the ritual. Him thinking it was his imagination couldn’t be allowed.

Moving forward a few steps, Eva found herself in range of another few caskets. Explosions at each of them had Sawyer dropping his tools.

“The field,” he hissed. Sawyer ran up to a tool shelf and pulled off a small whistle that looked as if it had been carved from bone. “Des, honey, meet me at the field with as many skeletons as you can gather that can fight. We have a vampire infestation.”

Placing the whistle against his lips, Sawyer gave a sharp blow. Eva couldn’t hear anything through his ears. The same was not true for the enigmas in the room. The second he blew the whistle, they perked up and ran over to him, stopping just at his feet.

They followed at his heels, nipping at each other with their vacuous maws and intertwining their tentacles.

Apart from the occasional glance back, Sawyer ignored them. As soon as he got outside, he blew the whistle again.

Nothing happened.

Sawyer didn’t seem too worried by the lack of any action. He walked right past his sports car, stopping at a larger truck around the backside of the warehouse. The truck was hooked up to a long metal trailer with plenty of holes in the sides for air.

Eva heard it before she saw it. The scampering of footsteps as enigmas charged towards him. Three, five, ten… there had to be at least thirty.

It didn’t take long to herd them into the back of the trailer. Either they were well-trained or Sawyer had more control over them than a simple whistle would imply.

They didn’t all fit. Each enigma was roughly the size of a large dog. A few of them might have been able to pass as smaller horses. Very tentacly horses. With wide mouths and sharp teeth. The larger enigmas climbed over and on top of the smaller ones. They all bit at each other, but not enough to do damage, sadly.

Once Sawyer had kicked the last enigma aboard, he closed the back of the trailer and went around to the driver’s seat of the truck.

The field wasn’t far from the warehouse. A fifteen minute drive at most. And Sawyer would be in a hurry.

“Serena!” Eva shouted out, hoping that the vampire could hear her above all the droning thunder of the enigmas around the field.

She dropped out of mid-air in front of Eva just a second or two after shouting.

“Little busy at the moment,” Serena said, baring her fangs in Eva’s direction.

Nel started shaking at the look, again, but Eva paid her no mind.

She was glad to see that Serena had listened to her request of not drinking the enigmas’ blood. Her fangs were shiny white and not stained purple. Eva still hadn’t seen any proof of corrupting effects, but who was she to doubt Ylva’s words on the matter. She didn’t know if the other vampires had listened, but really, she didn’t care.

“You’re about to be a whole lot busier,” Eva said. “Sawyer noticed. He’s on his way with about thirty more enigmas.”

“Thirty! There were only ten here and we are barely dealing with them. What are we supposed to do about thirty?”

“He has a whistle that he’s using to control them. Inside his shirt pocket on the left side,” Eva said, patting her chest in the spot. “Get it and we might not have to deal with them.”

“If I’m that close to him, I might as well tear out his heart while I’m at it.”

Eva slumped slightly. “I won’t say you can’t, but that wouldn’t get rid of the enigmas. Besides, I’d rather he lives. I’d hate to resort to necromancy just to torture him.”

Nel hissed at Eva’s side, but again, Eva ignored her.

“Alright,” Serena said, “I’ll let the other vampires know that we have incoming enemies.”

“Great. I’m going to explode as many of these coffins as I can before he arrives.”

Serena jumped away into the night with barely a nod of acknowledgment.

Eva turned to face Nel with a frown. “Walking with you is slowing me down. We need to move fast if we want to make any progress before Sawyer arrives.”

“What?” Nel shrieked. “B-but, you can’t leave me alone. You promised.”

“I know,” Eva said. She was mostly certain that she hadn’t actually promised anything, but she didn’t intend to leave Nel behind anyway. Ducking to the ground, Eva faced away from Nel. “Climb onto my back.”

“What.” This time, her voice was flat.

“No time to argue. Climb on and shoot lighting at anything that moves. And try not to fall off.”

“I can’t–”

No time to argue,” Eva repeated slowly. “My legs are strong enough to carry you, just hold on tight.”

Her legs were definitely strong enough, but Eva was more concerned about her back. Nel wasn’t overweight or even all that large. If anything, she was malnourished. Eva didn’t think that she had been eating much since the start of their trip. Still, carrying around a human body for any length of time wasn’t easy. She had learned that much from carrying Irene’s unconscious body around when Sawyer had attacked Brakket the second time. And Irene was smaller than Nel.

“Hurry,” Eva said as Nel continued to hesitate.

That seemed to snap her out of it.

Nel climbed on, wrapping her legs around Eva’s waist and gripping Eva’s shoulder with her good hand. Her withered hand was far too weak to keep any real hold of Eva.

Eva had to place one of her hands around Nel’s bottom to stabilize them both enough to move.

With her free hand, Eva lit up another few fireballs.

“Alright, lightning at anything that moves,” Eva said as she took off in a run. “Well, aside from the vampires,” she added.

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