Tag Archives: Sunji

001.024

Author’s Note: Chapter may contain disturbing elements. If you find yourself becoming uncomfortable during Eva’s POV section, skip down to “Her Eva was missing.” This bypasses the section.

There will be an Author’s Note summarizing Eva’s POV beneath the bottom chapter navigation.

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“You knock on your own room?” Irene quirked an eyebrow in Juliana’s direction.

The two finished shopping in record time. The subpar selection offered by shops around Brakket certainly helped. Still, Juliana made out with a new uniform and plenty of everyday clothes. Her favorite purchase was a brand new winter coat. It was cut long with an outer layer of wool and fleece lining.

Her old coat wasn’t technically ruined due to being hung up near the door when the golems attacked. As long as Zoe lifted the limit on her miscellaneous spending, why not spend it.

“Eva tends to sleep naked. I like to give her some warning in case she’s already stripped down.” And to make sure Arachne wasn’t hanging around in her human form.

It had only been one day since Arachne came back to the dorms. Juliana spent most of that day at school. The night before and the morning, after their talks with Sister Cross and Zoe, Arachne spent the entire time as a human. Apparently she no longer felt the need to hide in her spider form. At least around Juliana.

Juliana expected her to take over the third bed in the room. Instead she cuddled up with Eva in her bed. They weren’t made for two people, barely made for one person, but Arachne didn’t care and Juliana heard no complaints from Eva.

In a way it was comforting to have her around. If the necromancers decided to send more golems to attack, Arachne should be able to deal with them without any trouble if her show at the club was any indicator.

“So, are we going in then?” Irene shifted the bag she was carrying to her other arm.

“There’s no answer. Maybe she’s out.”

Juliana slipped both of her bags onto one arm and pulled out her card. With a quick swipe, the latch clicked open.

An empty room greeted them.

Papers were strewn about Eva’s desk and her book bag lay underneath. If Eva really was gone, Juliana might take a brief peek; so long as Arachne was gone as well.

Irene set her bag down near Juliana’s bed.

“Can I offer you some–” Juliana stopped herself. “Well, our fridge and cupboards are empty. I’ll owe you something as thanks.”

Irene waved a hand. “That’s okay. I’m glad to have helped.” She wandered over to Eva’s desk. “What’s all this?”

“Hmm,” Juliana said with a peek over her shoulder. “New version of the scrying packets, maybe. She doesn’t use regular pens when she draws out the real ones.”

“Ah, well,” Irene glanced around the room almost nervously. “I guess I’ll be heading out now.”

“There’s no rush. I don’t know when Eva will be back, but I’m sure she won’t mind.”

“Shelby wanted me to help her with a thing when I got back, so I couldn’t stay long anyway.” Irene half skipped to the door. She paused with her hand on the handle. “Tell Eva I said hello.”

And with that, she was gone.

“You’d almost think she was avoiding you.”

Juliana whirled around. Metal turned to liquid beneath her shirt.

All her adrenaline meant nothing as she faced the speaker.

Eight red eyes poked out from beneath the covers of Eva’s bed. Arachne ducked back under the sheets leaving just the crest of her hair… things visible.

Juliana took a moment to allow her heart to come down to a more normal pace.

“I’d say she’s trying to avoid Eva, actually. We just spent two hours shopping together.”

“Why would anyone avoid Eva?” came the muffled response. Despite the muffle, it was almost a growl.

Deciding that might not be the safest topic, Juliana just shrugged. “Where is Eva anyway?”

“She went to the library an hour and a half ago.”

“And left you here?”

“She didn’t want to run into any nuns in the hallway with me hanging off of her.” The woman sighed from beneath the covers.

Juliana shuffled her feet. She thought about putting her new clothes away, but the atmosphere turned sour with Arachne acting dejected. “I’ll go see if I can’t drag her back up here.”

Arachne gave no protest as Juliana slipped out of the room.

Dealing with Arachne normally wasn’t much of anything. Except when Eva instructed, Arachne would all but ignore Juliana. A moping Arachne was far more uncomfortable to be around.

Juliana walked back down to the first floor and into the dormitory library. It wasn’t nearly as big as the main campus library, but it had several copies of all grade’s schoolbooks. There were a good number of extra books for extracurricular study.

Being smaller, none of the shelves were higher than Juliana’s head despite her rather petite stature. For now. Her mother would tower over nearly everyone she came across and one day Juliana was sure she would too.

No long black hair could be seen over the tops of the shelves. She walked up and down the few aisles anyway, in case Eva was kneeling down.

Juliana had yet to receive any kind of notice from her mother. She had just gone home Sunday night. There was no way she didn’t get a call about the golems on Tuesday morning, if not the night before. Juliana half expected to get pulled out of Brakket Academy, for good, by Friday.

Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that. Despite all the goings on, she’d actually been having fun at school. Even if most of the classwork was below the level of her mother’s tutelage.

Without finding her quarry, Juliana stopped by Mr. Sunji’s desk. The curly-haired man peeked over the rims of his glasses.

“Can I help you?” he asked in a soft voice.

“Have you seen Eva? A girl, slightly taller than me, black hair down to just below her hips,” she added at his puzzled look.

“Oh, I’ve seen her. She comes in with you sometimes.” Juliana nodded a confirmation. “Yeah, came in an hour or two ago. Only stayed about fifteen minutes. Haven’t seen her since.”

“I see. Know what books she was looking at?”

“Sorry. I don’t usually pay much attention unless people need something.”

Juliana sighed. “Thanks anyway Mr. Sunji.”

He nodded her off with a polite smile. Juliana doubted he knew her name. Not that it mattered.

Juliana headed back upstairs, ready to tell Arachne the bad news.

— — —

“Wakey-wakey.”

A hot sting burned into the side of Eva’s face. Her neck creaked as her head twisted to one side.

Her eyes snapped open. Sawyer’s wide grin was mere inches from her face.

“There we go. I was worried we killed you.”

The bone thin man stood alone in a small room. At least, the part she could see. He moved his hands just behind Eva’s head. There was a light clicking noise and a band tightened around her forehead. It held her head straight forwards, she couldn’t move it an inch in either direction.

A single light bulb hung from its cord just behind Sawyer. The dim light was barely enough to reach the rocky walls of the room. A barred door was firmly wedged in the opening.

If Eva didn’t know better, she’d think she was in one of the older buildings at her prison. She inspected every inch of that place. None of the buildings looked this much like a cave.

Eva tried to shout at him. Her mouth wouldn’t move. Rather than the cold grip of a specter, leather was taut against her mouth and chin. She couldn’t even move her lips.

“Ah yes, your restraints. I did them myself, quite proud of them. Go on, struggle.”

Eva tried. She didn’t even move. Something was wrapped around her forehead, several points on her arms and legs, and all along her torso. Judging by the cool air, she wasn’t wearing much other than her restraints.

“Not even a budge?” Sawyer tsked his tongue. “You should really try lifting a little. Exercise never hurt anyone.”

Eva was willing to bet she could arm wrestle the skinny little twig in front of her. With the restraints on, she couldn’t do much but glare.

“I wouldn’t worry about it anymore though.” He moved back and to the side, out of Eva’s vision. She tried to cast a fireball at herself. Even if her fireballs were weak, they should work on the restraints.

Or not.

The fireball fizzled out before it even left her fingertips.

Eva took a deep breath through her nose and tried again. Same response.

“Fascinating,” he said. “Do you have an implanted focus? Or is that… No matter. Magic doesn’t work in the dungeons. Can’t have our precious prisoners accidentally acquiring a focus and escaping, now can we?”

Eva let out a low growl. He was lying, of course. Magic did work. At least, it worked for her. Just not further away than her body.

She tried stepping straight forward.

Eva groaned. It felt like walking headfirst into a wrecking ball.

“Unexpected. Something just pinged against the anti-teleportation wards. Was that you?” He pinched Eva’s cheek from off to the side. “That school must be something special. I almost regret attacking it now.

“Now then,” he said, “apart from all your other tricks, blood mages are tricky sorts. Let’s test just how tricky you are, hmm?”

He walked back in front of Eva. In his hands was a small steel rectangle. It looked like the kind of thing a fat businessman would chop off the end of his cigar with. Kind of. Sawyer’s cigars must be made of steel.

Two sharp slices rang as Sawyer tested it on the air.

Eva tried to pull away as he brought it right next to her ear. The bindings gave no quarter.

He sliced it in the air again.

“Now, the test.” He knelt before her.

Without being able to tilt her head, Eva couldn’t see him.

Another slice through the air.

Eva kept her breathing calm and steady. Whatever he was going to do couldn’t be that bad. The contraption was too small for a foot. It would just be a toe.

Toes aren’t even big deals, really. Just little stubs of flesh and bone.

Cold metal touched against her little toe.

Eva tensed. She tried to curl her toes but a strap over her foot made it near impossible.

The cold disappeared and another slice shirked through nothing but air.

Eva didn’t relax.

The cold reappeared around her toe.

Eva screamed out. Or tried to. Her mouth wouldn’t budge. It came out more as a loud hum.

Her toe was off. It hurt. It hurt.

Sawyer popped back up holding a small, fleshy colored thing between his fingers.

“It was just a little toe and you’re trying so hard to thrash around? I’d have assumed a blood mage would be used to the pain. Are you really a blood mage?”

Eva glared at him, grinding down on her own teeth.

“I mean, there are no shards of blood exploding in my eyes. Not a single tendril of blood between your foot and the toe trying to reattach it. And,” he gave it a squeeze. Blood dripped down, pooling on the floor.

Eva could sense it. She could ‘see’ it. The blood on the floor, his fingers, his shoe. She could see it all even without turning her head.

“And its black. I thought something was odd back in the woods. It might have been a trick of the light. Nope.” He laughed. “Black blood? You’re a demon yourself, aren’t you?”

With the restraints on, Eva couldn’t respond. She didn’t want to. With a deep breath, Eva concentrated on healing her damaged foot. Stopping the bleeding was the only thing she could do.

“That my restraints can hold a demon… Well, that brings a tear to my eye.” He laughed again. “I thought we’d barely get any money from selling off your body parts, but demon parts? Ohh boy, we’ll be living like kings. At least for a week or two.

“To be honest,” Sawyer leaned down, all but licking Eva’s ear. “I don’t care about the money, or the stupid book. Weilks’ plan wouldn’t have turned it into the real thing. He’s a deluded fool getting on in age and getting a fear of Death.”

Eva glared. It was all she could do. Desperately willing the blood on his fingers to do something, anything, wasn’t working. Even if she could snap her fingers, the blood hadn’t touched her blade.

“If your kidnapping draws out the Elysium Sisters, all the better. Them trying to use their augur to find you would be the best case scenario. Weilks is out watching their movements.

“Meanwhile,” he snipped the cutter again, “I get all the fun!”

He knelt back down, snipping the cutter as he went.

“Oh good, you stopped your bleeding. It’d be a shame if you missed out on the fun by passing out or, Death forbid, dying.”

Eva hummed as another toe splattered to the floor.

Her last pinky dropped off its nub. Sawyer caught it in a small sack along with the others. He wiped a lock of blond hair back over his forehead. He didn’t seem to mind it being stained black with her blood.

“Ten toes, ten fingers. I honestly have no idea who would want to buy demon toes.” Sawyer’s grin was visible even through Eva’s tears. “I’m sure someone will. There are a lot of real freaks out there, you know?”

Eva couldn’t think. Her right thumb was the last to go and it didn’t even hurt. There was too much other hurt going on. She felt light-headed. Not a lack of blood. A lack of air. Her heart hammered non stop. Two nostrils were not enough for her needs.

“Now,” Sawyer said. He pulled a long, shiny knife off a side table, “there are a lot of real expensive goods inside here.” He patted her stomach.

Eva froze. Not that she had any choice, none of the restraints had loosened in the slightest. She might not have to worry about a hammering heart much longer.

“Not a lot you can live without though.” The knife glinted as he slid it back towards the table.

Eva almost relaxed. Almost. She’d learned better over the last hour.

“Then again, you are a demon. Who knows what you can live through?” His hand flashed to her chest. The knife drew across her skin.

Eva healed herself as fast as she could. The cut itself was barely a scratch against the pain pulsing out of her fingers. She glared at him all the while.

Sawyer drew back. “That’s an annoying ability. I might actually have to knock you out to get in there.” He pulled the whole tray of surgical materials into Eva’s line of sight. “I’m sure there is lots of other fun we can have until then.”

His hands passed over various implements. With each one, he paused and looked at Eva as if considering whether to use it or not.

None of them looked like anything Eva wanted used on her.

“Ahhh, this one might work.” He picked up an odd-looking metal stick. It was long and flat, with clear pincers at the end. “Watch close and I’ll explain how it works.”

Eva gave him her best glare.

“Enucleation. Know what that means?”

He got a glare in response.

“No? Well then, this thing here is flexible, see?” He bent the tip of the thing. “By pulling on a string at the end, it can hug whatever it is around. By pulling another string it goes snip-snip.” He demonstrated. The little flexible end snipped shut.

“Would you like to see how it works?” He laughed and pinched Eva’s cheek. “Of course you do.”

Sawyer gripped her forehead with one hand and pulled her eyelid open. With one deft movement, he jammed the thing into her eye.

Eva tried to scream. She tried to step. She tried fireballs and blood. Nothing worked. Nothing helped.

“Snip.”

Eva’s eyeball jiggled in its socket as Sawyer slid the implement around.

“Snip.”

Her toes and fingers were nothing. Losing her leg was nothing.

“Snip and snip. Okay, now the big one. Big smiles for the last one.”

Eva tried to scream. She tried to cry.

The cutter shoved further back. She could feel it. It wrapped around the backside of her eyeball.

“Snip.”

Her left eye went dark.

“And,” Sawyer made a popping sound with his mouth as he forced her eyeball out of its resting spot.

He held it up. A red-hazel eye stared back at Eva.

Eva threw up. For the first time in nearly eight years, Eva threw up.

It flooded into her mouth. With nowhere to go, it spewed out her nose. Two nostrils were not enough for her stomach. It dribbled down her bare chest, pooling under her seat.

Her lungs burned. Her nose cleared. Eva greedily inhaled, some of her own stomach acid flew back in, burning her lungs from the inside. With great effort, she swallowed back the stuff in her mouth before she started coughing.

Coughing didn’t work so well with your mouth covered.

It just hurt more.

“That wasn’t so bad,” Sawyer said, having taken a step away from her. “There’s still one left though.”

He moved in while Eva was still reeling from the first one. He quickly snipped out the smaller cuts and then stepped back.

Eva couldn’t move her eye anymore. It hung loosely, affected more by gravity than any of her will.

“You know,” he said, “demon eyes will fetch quite the price. Regenerate them quickly enough and maybe we won’t kill you. We’ll just harvest your eyes until you pay us back.

“With interest, of course.” He lunged forward, jamming the tool into her eye.

Eva’s vision went dark.

“If you promise to work on growing back your eyes, I’ll leave you alone for now.”

Eva felt fingers touching her cheek. They pulled away. A moment later, footsteps walked away from her. A door opened and slammed shut.

It took all of her willpower to concentrate on stopping the blood. Her eye sockets were slowly filling up behind the useless flaps that were her eyelids.

Eva slowly got herself under control. It might have been an hour or ten hours, she couldn’t tell.

Eva couldn’t even slump. She just sat in her chair. Body fluids still dripped from her chin down her chest. The dried parts cracked and stuck to her, but they were far from the most unpleasant thing she was feeling.

Grow back my eyes? Eva almost laughed at that. She wasn’t in the mood to laugh.

Maybe if she had been caught a few years from now. Somewhere in the final stages of her treatment.

As it was, Sawyer would just come back and see no progress in healing. She’d get her stomach cut open and everything valuable taken out.

She tried casting fireballs. The heat just fizzled out the moment they left her finger nubs. She tried another midway up her arm, right next to a restraint. There wasn’t even any heat with that.

Stepping didn’t work. Her blood wasn’t working. She could still see it. It was the only thing she could see, though it wasn’t true sight.

There wasn’t much to see. It was mostly a small section of the floor splattered in front of her, the ends of her feet and hands–and her face. Maybe some of the tools as well; they were too far away to do anything with even if she could move.

Demonology wouldn’t help either. She had no summoning circles nearby to call out to. No runes anywhere to charge. She hadn’t read the necromancy books, but she doubted they would–

Or would demonology help. Arachne was always pestering her about moving through Hell to reach their other home.

Infernal walks were dangerous for mortals. Even if Eva went, she assumed Arachne would be there to help.

Hell couldn’t be any more dangerous than waiting for Sawyer to return.

Eva concentrated. She would have closed her eyes but…

Eva didn’t shake her head. She tried, but failed.

Focusing, Eva channeled her magic into herself. Not elemental magic, not chaos magic. She channeled it into herself the same way she channeled magic to summon demons. Arachne hadn’t been clear on exactly what to do–the demon had never done it herself–but Eva got the gist that it was almost the same as summoning.

Except backwards.

Eva vanished from the room.

— — —

Her Eva was missing.

The stupid human returned without any real answers. She flopped down on her bed and shrugged it off saying Eva was ‘probably fine.’

Like Arachne would believe that. Necromancers running around and a missing Eva? ‘Probably fine’ her tuberous abdomen.

Juliana conceded to that. She’d gotten her teacher to teleport the two of them out to the prison.

Eva wouldn’t be there.

Her Eva wouldn’t just run off without her. She promised never to do that again.

She promised. Eva wouldn’t lie to Arachne.

Which meant she had been kidnapped. Her Eva was in trouble and Arachne had no idea what to do. She was still alive; Arachne could feel it through their contract. But where at.

Arachne had left the dorms through the window. She marched around the area looking for any clues.

There were none.

If the necromancers were so easy to find, the foolish nuns would have found them already.

Arachne got the jitters as she walked along the forest near the Academy. She had half a mind to go get herself banished with the help of a nun. Then she could claw her way back into the mortal realm wherever her Eva’s necklace was.

That held dangers of its own. Aside from Hell–dangerous enough on its own–there was also the location of Eva. If she wasn’t in trouble, Arachne very well might expose her Eva as a diabolist. Their contract might be another problem.

Its wording was loose and vague, mostly on purpose. When they had made it, Arachne mentioned not having to go back to Hell as part of the deal. She wasn’t sure if wanting to go back to Hell would break the contract. If it did, Arachne would be at fault. She could handle the punishment the Void would dole out.

The real problem was that she wasn’t sure Eva would want to reforge their contract.

Everything was going smoothly with her plan. Eva seemed to enjoy Arachne’s company. Her Eva no longer complained about Arachne carrying her places, or physical contact in general. If anything, she expected it. That was a good sign. The necromancers helped, oddly enough, boost Eva’s reliance on Arachne. They had a home that was mostly meant for just them.

Nevertheless, Arachne couldn’t help but feel it was too soon. If she did anything to jeopardize their contract, would Eva be the one to reestablish their connection?

Her Eva would.

Would Arachne want it? She had another plan for after their contract ended naturally. A plan it was far too soon to enact. But maybe, if Eva–

Something happened. She could feel it in her heart tube. The binding coils of their contract were still there, so Eva hadn’t died. Something had happened.

Something bad.

Eva felt far away. Distance meant nothing to the Void’s contracts in the mortal plane. Yet it was there. A distance between them.

An involuntary shiver ran up Arachne’s exoskeleton.

Her Eva was in trouble.

Arachne ran.

She couldn’t banish herself. Arachne only tried magic once well over ten thousand years ago. It was a tedious annoyance when her job usually consisted of crushing skulls.

The nearest summoning circle she knew of was in the prison. She could charge it and use it to traverse to Hell. That was more than an hour away. There were closer ways to get to Hell.

Arachne ran until she reached the school. There. A suitable target walked away from Arachne just outside the building.

A white-robed nun spun to face the approaching demon. It didn’t matter if she heard Arachne’s approach or if she felt the murderous rage pouring off the demon. She turned too slow.

Arachne had her sharp fingers gripped around the nun’s neck. “Banish me,” Arachne growled out.

The nun’s eyes flashed white, a burning glow coming from within. Lightning arced from her fingers into Arachne’s shoulder.

Almost involuntarily–almost–Arachne crushed the nun’s neck. She went limp and sank to the ground. It didn’t matter. Devon said they could feel each other die, or some nonsense. More would be here quickly enough.

Arachne thrust her hands inside the chest of the nun, piercing her with her needly fingers over and over again. It had been such a long time and Arachne couldn’t wait calmly.

By the time Arachne changed to pulling limbs off, two more nuns raced across the campus.

One immediately launched a lightning bolt towards Arachne. The mutilated remains of the first nun kindly blocked it.

The third nun began speaking as the other kept up her assault.

“Demon. Sathanus, subcategory: Lucifer. Designation: Arachne. Response: Banish.”

At least they had her name right this time, Arachne thought as she dodged another bolt of lightning. She didn’t know what the Sathanus and Lucifer nonsense was about, but she was Arachne.

A game. Arachne would make it a stress reducing game. Could the nun banish her before her companion was a pulpy mess.

Arachne intended to find out.

She launched up into the air, unfurling herself to her full glory. A lightning bolt lanced up into her abdomen before she landed. She shrugged it off. It wouldn’t be pleasant later but right now, Arachne just didn’t care.

The lightning nun rolled out of the way just as Arachne landed where she had been.

Arachne barreled forth, barely avoiding another lightning strike. A blue shield enveloped the nun, stopping her claws just inches from her body. As much as she hated to admit it, she would have been banished in that alley if Eva hadn’t helped break the shield.

This time, she had no help. Arachne could feel the Void opening up beneath her. She almost stopped and let it take her. Not before she gave the nun a last parting gift.

Arachne swung her bulbous abdomen around, the same move that had scattered a mass of bones five times the nun’s size. Even with the shield, the nun went flying. She crashed straight through the cinder block wall.

Empty tendrils grew out of the ground. They wrapped around Arachne and pulled her down into a large portal.

She gave the remaining nun a grin as the mortal realm vanished above her.

The web covered crag of her domain rapidly approached Arachne.

Odd, Arachne thought as she fell, the contract with Eva feels closer now.

>>Extra Chapter 002<<

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Author’s Note: Eva was tortured by Sawyer. She had her toes, fingers, and eyes removed. She attempted an ‘infernal walk’ to escape.


001.023

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“It was trying to climb up onto the counter. I just added spikes to the bottom of my shoes and stomped on it. Professor Baxter and Sister Cross came into the room a moment later.”

Eva leaned back, listening to Juliana’s story. She’d already heard it once, though that one was a lot different. A shame really. All the good parts were left out of this version.

Of course, the audience might not be able to take the unsanitized version.

Irene sat across from Eva. Her pork riblets had been shoved to the side after the initial description of the flesh golems. Her face grew greener almost every time Juliana said a line. She kept flashing a look at Eva as well.

A bit odd. Eva pegged her for the braver of the twins based on how she initially wanted to see Arachne.

Shelby also stopped eating her goulash, but she almost seemed interested in the story rather than scared or disgusted. Almost.

Jordan listened to the story with rapt attention. He shoved his food aside more for concentration than loss of appetite. “So where was Eva for all of this?”

“In the Rickenbacker medical center with Nurse Naranga,” Eva said, glad she and Zoe Baxter had come up with that cover story. “It was quite a shock to return to the room.”

“It was a shock to smell the hallway,” Irene grumbled, more to herself than anyone.

Eva gave the girl an understanding smile. The room smelled worse, but not by much. The real surprise for Eva was walking down the hallway.

At some point, the room entered her sphere of blood sense. She could almost ‘see’ the entire kitchen from the hallway. All the cupboards and the furniture, she could even tell where the ceiling was from the splatter that landed there.

It was all a bit disorienting.

Irene just shivered and looked down at her plate.

“Still though, first Shalise and now you?” Max glanced over at Eva. “Better be on your guard, you’re next.”

Shelby elbowed him in the side. Hard. Max doubled over, groaning.

“You can’t say things like that,” Shelby said. “What if she really gets hurt? Then how would you feel?”

Eva let her smile drop, but didn’t respond. They were probably after her in the first place.

Arachne now waited in their temporary room as a guard, just in case. If Eva had to run to the prison again, she’d probably bring Juliana with her. Eva was still unwilling to have the spider-demon anywhere near the nuns patrolling the campus.

Outside of their dorms, the nuns had almost tripled overnight. Two stood around the cafeteria and a fourth seemed to patrol between the tables every minute or so. Unnecessary, in Eva’s opinion.

She was still unsure what to make of Sister Cross’ theory of another necromancer in town. It seemed far-fetched. That there would be two separate groups of necromancers in town with both having run into Eva, or at least Eva’s room in the second case, she found to be incredibly unlikely. If it was true, however, they likely wanted the book as well.

What Eva really needed to do was inform the necromancers that the book was destroyed. For some reason, just hanging up notices like missing posters for a lost cat did not seem like it would do the trick.

“I can’t imagine having to sleep in that room.”

“We don’t,” Juliana said. “We’ve been moved to room three-eighteen until the room has been ‘sterilized.'”

“Even then, it can’t be pleasant going back to it.”

“I’m more concerned with my clothes. The things landed right by my bed. Some blood and puss got into my drawers.” Juliana sighed. “I think I have to burn the entire thing.” She pulled at the tee-shirt she had on, the only student in the cafeteria who wasn’t in uniform. “These are Eva’s even. Not that they’re bad or anything,” she said quickly with a glance at the owner.

Eva lightly chuckled and waved her off.

“Oh,” Irene perked up for the first time since lunch started. “We’ll go shopping after class ends. We’ll have to be quick though, curfew has been moved to an hour before sunset after your thing.”

“That seems odd,” Eva said. “A student is attacked in their dorm so now we have to be in the dorms sooner?”

Jordan looked up at Eva’s comment. “Professor Lurcher assured us that additional wards were being erected to prevent another incident,” he said.

Then why weren’t they erected after Halloween.

Eva didn’t have much confidence in the school. She had half a mind to erect her full blood wards when they moved back into three-thirteen. Sadly, such a thing would be hard to subtly key in everyone to the wards. Eva couldn’t very well go around to the entire faculty and ask for a blood sample.

Not to mention the wards might be detected by the Elysium Sisters. Their complete capabilities were still a mystery to Eva.

“No more zombie talk,” Irene said, flicking a finger at Jordan. Her finger whirled around to Juliana. “We’re going to get some new clothes and a new uniform for you with no talking about zombies either.”

The bell rang with only half of them having finished even part of their food. Together they sauntered off to alchemy.

Alchemy was the odd class out. Unlike all the classes with proper desks, they had counters with sinks and gas valves poking out the top. Four students could fit at each counter rather than the three per desk.

Normally, Irene sat with Eva and Juliana.

Today, Eva watched with furrowed eyebrows as the brunette stopped and hesitated. She glanced at her usual seat at Eva’s side before hurrying over to Jordan’s table, taking a seat beside Max.

Eva shot a questioning glance at Juliana. The blond shrugged and shook her head, looking just as confused as Eva felt.

Without Shalise, their table was down to two.

Understanding dawned on Eva as she moved to the stool next to Juliana. Most of Wayne Lurcher’s lessons were for pairs. Without Shalise, there would be an odd person out. It might be weird for Max to have a partner for the first time since school started, but it probably worked out better this way.

Wayne Lurcher got the lesson started the moment the bell rang. He pulled a bucket of crystals out from behind his counter. Eva recognized them immediately as crystallized magic spanning all six colors of thaumaturgical magic in various shapes and sizes.

“Today we will be melting this entire stock into liquid magic.” He held up one of the sapphire spheres. “Water is the easiest. As many of you may remember from Calvin’s class, getting it into the crystal form is the hard part. It wants to be liquid.”

That was an understatement. The water crystal class had been the worst general magic class so far. They’d had small glass bowls of water to turn into crystal. Getting it into a crystal form wasn’t that hard. Keeping it there was. A good portion of the class tried to pick up their crystals before they stabilized, despite warnings from Professor Calvin. The moment they touched it, the crystals would explode into liquid magic, soaking everyone around.

Shalise ended up soaking Eva and Juliana more than once.

“Earth,” he picked up one of the jagged green crystals, “is the opposite. It wants to be solid, though I imagine you’ll have less problems than you did getting water into a crystallized form.”

He held up a small lump that looked like a potato. If potatoes were transparent and had raging sandstorms inside of them. He put a glove on his other hand before lifting a pointed red crystal that had very visible heat waves emanating from it.

Eva did not miss Juliana’s wince at the sight.

“Both air and fire can simply be melted with heat. Extreme heat in fire’s case. We have special ovens for that.”

Only two types remained. “Order and chaos are the two odd ones. We will be dissolving and then distilling the two.” He tapped the smooth white sphere against the black box. A loud hiss echoed through the room. A portion of each crystal vanished. “It might look gone, but the essence is still in the air. It will dissipate after a few minutes. With a special still to trap it, we can condense the two into liquid order and liquid chaos.

“If you mess up, you’ll have homework of making more crystal of whatever type you ruined.”

The rest of the class was spent making large flasks of each type of liquid magic. Wayne Lurcher showed more in-depth ways of liquefying each type of crystal. Neither Juliana nor Eva had any problems.

The only group to wind up with any of Wayne Lurcher’s homework was the Jason Bradley and Peter Mason duo. They somehow screwed up making liquid fire. It was so simple. The fire crystal was placed in the oven and liquid fire dripped into a flask. How they messed it up Eva couldn’t fathom, but a large pile of slag had replaced their oven.

Max didn’t mess up anything, which came as a surprise to Eva. Probably due to Irene rather than any bouts of competence from her partner.

The moment Wayne Lurcher dismissed the class after the bell rang, Irene ran over and half dragged Juliana away. The poor blond gave a half-hearted wave to Eva as she vanished through the door.

That Juliana seemed to be done with her cold shoulder was nice. Four days of living in the same room right next to each other, without school even as a distraction, was awkward. She didn’t even have any good books to read. Almost her entire collection, including the as-of-yet unread necromancer books were all out at the prison.

Eva would have to thank the necromancers for sending those flesh golems before tearing out their hearts.

In the meantime, she had work to do.

Once inside dorm three-eighteen, Eva stepped straight to her desk. She had moved all of her supplies the night before.

Arachne peeked out from under her covers in spider form. She glanced around the room. A moment later, Arachne shifted into her human form, already reclining on Eva’s bed.

“It was boring without you around,” Arachne said.

Eva held up her finger to her lips.

“What?” Arachne whispered. She looked around the room again, getting up from the bed in an alert stance.

“I had the theory before,” Eva said as she pulled out a stack of fresh paper and a pen. She’d use her good ink after she was sure of her runes, the anti-scrying papers were getting exceedingly complicated, but it was a fun problem to work out.

Eva continued, “Juliana’s description of the golems seemed to confirm it.”

“Confirm what?” Arachne whispered.

“It also revealed a massive flaw I can’t believe I didn’t correct earlier.

“I’m pretty sure that those flesh golems couldn’t see thanks to my runes. I mostly expected that. After all, skeletons don’t have eyeballs yet they can still see. Those flesh golems seemed to hear Juliana’s footsteps.”

“Your runes don’t block sound?”

“No.” The oversight made Eva sweat buckets when she first thought about it. “If someone heard one of our discussions in the shower…”

“They’d just think you were with Juliana or Shalise, right?”

“I can’t say that you sound like either of them,” Eva said. “Not to mention the things we talked about were definitely dangerous.”

“So you’re going to fix that?”

“At least for our room, I will.”

Eva set to work. She started with a blank piece of paper. It was easiest to start from scratch and then tie the sound runes into her already existing anti-scrying runes rather than try to get everything working at once.

Waves in the air cause sound. It seemed a good place to start.

Isaz tied to aesh to freeze the air. She tied them together and set up a boundary similar to the scrying runes. A uath and naudiz would be tied in later to cause fear and distress in anyone attempting to listen. For now, they were just to the side, unconnected. With the simple array in place, Eva charged the runes.

Nothing happened.

Of course nothing happened. She’d need to try to listen in. Eva didn’t know how to do that.

Eva looked up to ask Arachne if she had any way of testing.

She tired to speak, but no words came out.

A small feeling of panic settled in.

Eva took a big gasp of air. Relief replaced panic as air flowed into her lungs. She wasn’t sure if Arachne needed to breathe or not, or how often, but Eva still needed air. Adding pargon power runes might have solidified the air. If she had frozen the air so solidly she couldn’t even move, she would probably still be able to overload the regular ink, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Glad nothing went seriously wrong, Eva tore the paper in two, ending the effect.

The mistake was an obvious one, one she’d learned when she first made her anti-scrying runes. She forgot the praecantatio rune attached to the isaz rune.

Her first runic sheet blinded herself and Juliana, scaring the poor girl for a minute.

Praecantatio changed whatever it was attached to into magic, in this case, freezing magic that interacts with the air. Hopefully most forms of magical listening would pick something up from the air.

Eva quickly redrew the paper, changes in place, and activated it.

“Arachne,” Eva said, “know any means of scrying with sound?”

The spider-woman shrugged and nestled back into Eva’s bed.

Eva didn’t expect any other response. In all her years knowing the demon, Eva never once saw her casting any magic. Her blood was magical, very magical if Eva’s blood magic was any indicator, so she could in theory. Arachne was probably just too lazy to learn.

“I’ll be heading to the library for a few minutes then,” Eva said.

The runes were a good start. They felt promising, at least. It wouldn’t do to leave them untested. They almost assuredly needed testing. Hopefully, she would find a book on the subject.

Arachne perked up.

Eva was quick to crush her hopes. “I’ll only be gone for a minute. Stay here. We don’t want to run into any nuns out in the halls.”

Arachne fell face first onto the bed. She grumbled something into the pillow. Eva had a decent guess as to what she said.

Eva moved up next to her, patting her on her back. “Don’t be like that. They’re to our advantage right now. Plus there are at least thirty of them, probably more.”

Another set of grumblings rumbled out of the pillow. It sounded suspiciously like, ‘eh, I could take them.’

Eva ran her fingers through the semi-stiff hair tendrils running off onto the bed. “One other thing. Juliana is out shopping with Irene. When she comes back, Irene might help carry things into the room. It is safer for you to be a spider when that happens.” At further rumbles in the pillow, Eva added, “they won’t be back until curfew, I bet. Just keep an ear out. If you hear anything, change into a spider quickly.”

She gave a quick pat on Arachne’s head and headed down to the library.

The musty scent of the Rickenbacker library filled the air as usual. It seemed to have gotten worse after snowing. Students tracking in snow made the books moist.

If Eva were in charge of the library, there would be several runes set up around the entrances to keep dampness at bay. She’d done that at the prison and her Florida home.

David Sunji wasn’t Eva. He sat at his usual spot behind the counter and gave Eva a polite nod. He made no effort to make sure her shoes were clear of snow and water.

They were clear, of course. She cranked up the temperature in her shoes at the prison the night before to help dry any wayward snow.

Her next task at the prison was to inscribe some more permanent runes along every path in the prison. Something to keep the winter away while walking around.

Sadly, winter proofing the prison was not an immediate concern. Necromancers were. Ensuring privacy in dorms came pretty close to necromancers.

Eva made her way to the section she found the scrying book at. There had to be something around that she could use.

It didn’t take long before she found a book that looked promising.

Claircognizance: Clairvoyance, Clairsentience, Clairaudience, Clairalience, and Clairgustance

Written by Claire de Puységur

Rather than the smooth pools of water her other book instructed to use, Claire insisted crystal balls were the best form of clairvoyance possible. Unfortunately, crystal balls weren’t easy to come by. Filling a bowl with water was far more convenient.

Eva skipped to the clairaudience section. By burning fresh needles from pine trees, a good amount of smoke would be produced. Using a wand to channel magic into the smoke and focusing on a location, clairaudience could be achieved.

That seemed doable. Too doable. A crystal ball might be hard to acquire, but books like these shouldn’t be accessible by children. That was just asking for trouble.

Still, that was why Eva was working on her new runes.

There were pine trees in the small section of woods behind the outdoor auditorium.

Eva snapped the book shut. The auditorium wasn’t far. A jog from the dorms would take less than ten minutes and another ten minutes to get back.

Half way there, Eva started regretting coming. She should have gone shopping and picked up some boots. The paths were shoveled or at least trampled between school and the dorms. The path to the auditorium hadn’t been used since school started.

Snow a good five inches deep filled the entire area. The heating runes were not keeping up. Eva shivered, wishing she was better at fire magic.

Once far enough away from the dorms and the nuns, Eva started stepping. Skipping huge amounts of the snow helped a little, even if that little was just to get her out of the cold sooner.

In retrospect there were probably pine trees in the Infinite Courtyard. Most of its paths would probably be trampled down after two days of school. At least ones far enough in to reach a pine tree.

Eva toughed it out. The auditorium sprawled out before her, covered in snow. She’d just step straight past and be done with the cold for the rest of the week.

Just before the tree line, Eva withdrew her dagger. She tapped out just a tiny amount of blood. It formed an intense heating rune on each of her shoes. Blood wouldn’t last long for making the entire rune, but she’d rather walk on hot coals on the way back than trudge through the snow.

With steam rising at every step, Eva went up to the nearest pine tree and started pulling needles. They were slightly sticky. The self-cleaning enchantments on her school uniform better be up to the task.

She filled her pockets and took an extra double handful. After clearing a spot on the ground, Eva set the needles on a spot dried by her shoes. Might as well test her existing rune and clairaudience while she had the spare needles to gather if she screwed up.

A small, controlled flame was much easier to create than a fireball and that is what Eva used to get a smoldering clump of pine needles. As the book said, she channeled magic, wandlessly, into the smoke and visualized room three-eighteen.

Nothing happened.

If her rune was working, she wouldn’t be able to tell if she was doing the spell properly. She tried to focus on the dorm cafeteria which usually had at least someone in it.

Still nothing.

Eva pulled another handful of pine needles off a tree and added it to her pile. She settled down, ready to try again.

She spent a half hour testing various locations before she heard even the faintest murmur of noise that wasn’t from the near silent woods around her. There was a conversation going on in one of the classrooms in school. It wasn’t clear enough to make out details or even what the speakers sounded like.

At least the spell worked. Closing eyes seemed to help more than anything.

Nothing.

That might be because Arachne was quiet and Juliana wasn’t back. Not for the first time, Eva wished she had a way to contact the spider. Zoe Baxter seemed to use a cell phone for her long distance communication. Eva almost thought about buying one for her and another for Arachne, but didn’t think Arachne would like it so much. She didn’t wear clothes and would probably crush it any time she tried to type on it.

There had to be a proper magical way to communicate easily. If she could teach Arachne clairaudience, that might be a solution. If they both used it at the same time. And always had piles of the sticky pine needles on hand.

Sighing, Eva opened her eyes.

A large, murky spike of ice jutted out of her pile of needles.

Eva scrambled backwards, looking upwards to make sure she was in the clear from other icicles.

Her cheeks heated up with a wave of foolishness as she realized what the icicle was.

Huh, she thought as she tipped over the spike, I suppose isaz worked.

A light chuckle escaped from her lips.

The chuckle and any accompanying smile vanished as snow crunched behind her.

She pulled her dagger out from its place on her back and glanced around the woods.

“No demon to watch your back tonight?”

Eva whirled, sending a splattering of blood in the direction of the voice.

A large flesh golem jumped in the way of the blood, shielding its masters.

She snapped her fingers and the blood flashed. The golem staggered and collapsed to the ground.

“I’m quite capable on my own,” Eva said with far more confidence than she felt. The golem fell due to luck, more than anything. Had that been Arachne’s blood, the golem would have vaporized.

And she still hadn’t gotten around to having Arachne refill the vials she’d used on Halloween.

The skinny figure behind the fallen flesh golem clapped his hands twice with a wide grin on his face. “I thought that was blood magic the other night. It was too dark to tell for sure.”

A spectral hound growled at Eva from between the two men standing before her. Ectoplasmic foam dripped from its mouth to the snow. Around ten flesh golems stood around the two men.

The wider man shot a glare at his companion. “We’re here for the book, not for compliments, Sawyer.”

“Book?” Eva said with false swagger. “Oh, you must mean the pile of ashes I scattered to the winds after Halloween.” She ticked her finger back and forth. “Shouldn’t have shown your hand. Especially to me.”

The large man started forwards. Three more flesh golems jumped forwards with his movement. Sawyer placed his hand on the larger man’s shoulder, but the golems didn’t stop.

Eva jammed her crystal dagger into her arm. She drew a thin thread of her dark blood into a razor wire in front of her.

With a snap of her finger, the wire whipped out from her. She slashed it across the nearest golem.

The golem staggered, but kept coming.

Eva thrust out, wrapping the whip around its neck. She snapped her fingers, decapitating it.

The other two barreled onto her. She stepped straight behind them, forming a small blood needle in each hand as she moved.

The golems each got a needle in their backs. With a snap of her finger, the needles exploded. They collapsed with damaged spinal cords.

Eva whirled on the remaining group. None of them had moved. “Come on,” Eva said, trying to contain her anger. “I’ll take on the rest of them and you.”

Revealing her stepping was not something she wanted to do. Especially without her wand in her hand. She tried very hard to make her finger ring more obvious.

Sawyer just laughed and clapped again. His grin never left his face.

“What a ferocious display.” He leaned over to his companion. “If that’s what they teach kids at that school, I might have to enroll my daughter.”

“Sawyer,” the man growled. “No jokes. If she destroyed the book…”

“It isn’t like the book was our main plan.” Sawyer paused and brought his finger to his chin. “It was expensive. We’ll have to gather just recompense from the young lady.”

A golden glint passed through his eyes as he spoke. It sent shivers up Eva’s spine. She quickly glanced around the woods. A number of flesh golems wandered up to form a loose circle around her. She almost stepped away when Sawyer’s companion spoke.

“I don’t care about the Elysium whores.” The word was all but spat out. “I want my book.”

None of the golems moved and their footsteps would crunch the show if they did. She’d have warning enough to step. Information might be more handy at the moment.

“What do you want with the Elysium Sisters?”

“Nothing much. Every chapter travels with an augur. We just want her skull polished and carved into a container. Her soul can stay inside until we tire of her blathering.”

“That doesn’t sound like something Death would like much.”

Sawyer shrugged without breaking eye contact. “It isn’t like we’re turning her into a lich. Did you even read those books you stole?”

Eva shifted uncomfortably.

His voice dropped to a low rumble. “Those who squander knowledge are the worst sorts of people.”

Eva opened her mouth to retort only for it to snap shut. A cold chill gripped her spine. The cold branched out to the tips of her fingers and the bottoms of her feet. Even the boiling runes in her shoes couldn’t fight off the cold.

She tried to step away. Even towards the necromancers when she couldn’t turn her head.

Instead, Eva teetered and fell into the snow.

“That took longer than expected,” Sawyer’s companion grumbled.

It took all her concentration to lift her head up. She struggled to look at the necromancers. Her head moved slowly, like she was in a pool of honey.

“Don’t fight the possession, my sweetie. You’ll just hurt yourself.”

Eva didn’t listen. She fought as hard as she could. Slowly she got to her feet.

It wasn’t her doing.

“Well?” Sawyer’s companion barked out.

“Something’s strange,” a voice said. “She’s strange,” Eva’s voice said. She lurched forwards. Her dagger tumbled out of her twitching fingers.

The large man walked up to Eva. He gingerly plucked the dagger out of the snow. Only his forefinger and thumb touched the hilt.

If only he accidentally cut himself.

He gripped Eva’s chin with a meaty hand and pinched her mouth open. A cold liquid flooded into her mouth.

“Make her swallow.”

Eva tried to spit. Tried to avoid swallowing. Cold tendrils snaked through the inside of her mouth. The potion was in her stomach soon enough.

If only she was further along in her treatments. The drowsiness wouldn’t have taken hold.

“Now,” Sawyer’s voice came through murky water, “what were we talking about?

“Ah yes, recompense.”

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