Tag Archives: Weilks

001.027

<– Back | Index | Next –>

The pleasant heat vanished. A cool musk rushed in to replace it.

Slowly, carefully, Arachne set Eva down on the slightly uneven ground. She used all of her legs to help steady Eva until she got her balance under control.

Eva shrugged her off and kept her own balance.

She stumbled forwards almost immediately. One of Arachne’s limbs reached out and steadied her.

Without toes, Eva had to pick up her feet straight up in order to walk. It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t elegant. More of a waddle. Hopefully I can come up with some way to rig toes into shoes, Eva thought with a sigh.

Eva reached out with her sight. Arachne stood just to her left. All her limbs were hovering just inches away from Eva. Her hands were mere stumps, both still bleeding. Either Arachne didn’t notice or she didn’t care.

Eva certainly didn’t at the moment.

The blood dripped down, splashing on the rough floor. It formed a rough topography as it ran down a slight incline. They were almost certainly in a cave.

Some distance away, Eva could feel a lot of bodies. Their biology was weird. Weirder than Arachne’s even. Large sacks with small tubes connecting them. Flesh golems perhaps? Maybe zombies.

“Arachne,” Eva snapped, “where are we?”

“A cave. Maybe a storage room of some sort? There’s a lot of junk lying around.” Eva watched her limbs as they moved off to one side, seemingly picking up something. “Your necklace.”

Eva almost pulled away. Instead she put on her best glower as Arachne’s legs reached around her. Had she been less angry, she might have appreciated the way Arachne manipulated the necklace to attach it behind Eva’s neck with only her legs.

“Arachne,” Eva said. “I am mad at you. More than mad, I am disappointed.”

The muscles making up Arachne’s face contorted. Eva wasn’t sure what to make of the expression. She couldn’t see Arachne’s chitinous face, just the meat beneath. “Eva, I–”

“You’re lucky. For two reasons,” Eva held up one of Arachne–one of her fingers. She’d been trying not to think about it. Her fingers were long. They had too many joints. Moving them was clumsy and unnatural. “The first reason is that I cannot see. I can’t move around this place and it is full of enemies. I can see flesh golems, maybe zombies too. Skeletons? Ghosts? I doubt I’ll see anything.”

Eva extended a lengthy second finger. “The second reason you are lucky is that I am furious with the necromancers. I will tear Sawyer apart.”

No response came except a slight bowing of her head.

Eva shrugged it off. She could yell at Arachne later.

“Is my dagger around here?”

Arachne rummaged through boxes and drawers, by the sound of things. Eva wasn’t expecting results.

The bloodstone she made in the abattoir glowed in her vision as it rested against her chest. It was crumbling and cracked. The escape from the Abattoir cost it a lot of integrity. Controlling so much blood just wasn’t healthy for the poor thing.

Without her dagger, it was all she had.

She knelt down, careful to keep her balance, and dipped it in the small puddle of Arachne’s blood. The blood swirled up to form a small handful of marbles. Not even enough to make toes out of. She needed more.

The flesh golems stood, unmoving, a distance away. They were folded up on each other like chairs might be in a storage room. They would do.

“Enough, Arachne. It isn’t here.”

Arachne stopped searching. The blood in her eyes focused on Eva.

“Anything useful?”

“Books, lots of books. No weapons that I could see.” One of her legs lifted up near Eva. “Your clothes, though it looks like they cut you out of them rather than simply undressed you.”

“Leave them,” Eva sighed. She did not miss the edge in Arachne’s voice when she spoke of undressing. “As much as I would like to take the books, they aren’t much use to me at the moment.” She resisted an urge to tap at her eyes. “Maybe later.

“The door?”

Arachne led Eva with her legs. Eva herself used the marbles of Arachne’s blood to get a rough view of the floor. She tried not to trip over anything as she waddled out into the hallway.

Eva pointed in the direction of the flesh golems and said, “that way.”

An odd concentration of blood appeared in Arachne’s face. Pursing her mouth together?

Eva couldn’t tell. Maybe with practice.

Together, they walked through a very uneven corridor, almost perpendicular to where the flesh golems sat. It was slow going and more than once, Arachne offered to carry Eva. Eva refused.

It would have been the smart thing to do. Under other circumstances, Eva would have in an instant.

If she didn’t show Arachne she was mad at her, the demon would just try the same trick again next time.

Next time, Eva thought, if she even got a next time.

They moved around the cavern until another blood bag entered Eva’s sight. He sat casually, writing on a desk if Eva was reading his motions correctly. The blood form was slim, a skinny man who towered even while sitting. He shook a finger off to one side as if flicking something away. The way the blood in his mouth flowed, Eva could tell.

He was wearing a wide grin.

Sawyer,” Eva hissed. “Arachne, that way.” She raised one of her pointed fingers, aiming it right at the man. Her hand knocked against a hard wall.

She grit her teeth. “Are there any doors or passages that might lead in that direction?”

Arachne didn’t respond. She was looking down the hall in the direction they had been heading.

“Arachne?”

“Dogs. The ghost kind.”

“Can you take them?” Eva wasn’t entirely sure the dogs could actually hurt either of them, being ghosts. That went the other way as well. Her blood seemed effective on Halloween, but being unable to see severely hurt that plan.

“I don’t think I need to. They took one look and ran off without even a growl.”

“They’re warning Sawyer,” Eva said with a small amount of panic. She pointed again at the wall. “That way Arachne, as fast as we can.”

Without asking, Arachne scooped up Eva into her arms and legs. She took off down the hall at a light run.

Eva almost protested, but she’d asked for fast.

It didn’t matter now. If Sawyer got away…

Her fists collapsed in on themselves as she brought her many jointed fingers into a ball.

Arachne skidded to a halt. She spun, whipping Eva around.

Two light thuds hit Arachne’s back. Eva could see blood trickling out of fresh holes in her back.

“Skeletons,” Arachne said. “Stay here.”

Arachne set her down on the cavern floor. She didn’t even set Eva upright. Another wound appeared in her back before she charged down the hallway.

Sawyer was moving. He was walking calmly, not running or panicking. His heart wasn’t even beating especially fast. Yet he was getting away.

Eva grit her teeth.

He was getting away.

The marbles of Arachne’s blood formed into a single large small ball. She formed it, weaved it into a wire array. She couldn’t tell how well the fight was going. For all she knew, Arachne was in the middle of killing the last skeleton.

It didn’t matter.

“Arachne, hit the floor,” Eva shouted.

Eva didn’t wait. She plunged her hand straight into the blood sphere.

The arachnid turned her head back for just an instant before all but falling straight to the floor.

Her vision warped and twisted as a massive claw made of blood launched down the hallway. She felt her fingers pierce more than a few skeletons as it went. It crashed against the end of the corridor, shaking the entire cavern.

That felt a bit worrying. She couldn’t tell where the cavern ended before her attack. More of those might risk some sort of collapse.

The blood it left in its wake painted a vision of the hallway in her mind. Eva knew from experience that the blood wouldn’t be usable, but it was interesting that she could see it. Five distinct and massive holes buried deep into the cave wall.

She could get used to that.

Arachne clambered back to her feet. She gave the hallway a once over before running back to Eva. Apparently everything was dead.

Deader.

Eva did not miss the extra arrow holes leaking small amounts of blood in her chest.

“I was almost done.”

“No time, Sawyer is getting away.”

There was a brief hesitation before Arachne scooped Eva back up.

While running, Eva tapped her bloodstone against the stubs of Arachne’s wrists.

That did it. The stone crumbled to dust. That attack strained it too far.

Eva tore the lace necklace from her neck and flung it to the floor. Worthless.

Her fingers ticked as she tapped them against the palm of her hand. Fireballs wouldn’t do much of anything other than provide a minor inconvenience. Her wind and earth magic would be worth less than dust in an eye.

She cursed herself for not spending more time practicing regular thaumaturgy.

Arachne rounded a corner.

At least they were making progress towards Sawyer now. He turned down another corridor. This might have been the original hallway he was in before the skeletons delayed them.

“Sawyer!” Eva called out with no idea if her voice would carry to him. She didn’t care. “I’m coming for you!”

He definitely heard it.

He gripped something in one hand, tightly if Eva read the heavy pressure around his fingers, and threw it off to one side. He made motions that were unmistakably closing a door. Seemingly satisfied with shutting something into a room, he pulled out some small object from a pocket.

Not being able to see objects was a curse, though she supposed she wouldn’t be able to see even Sawyer normally from where she was.

With no small amount of satisfaction, Eva watched as his heart picked up a beat.

Whatever it was, Eva didn’t care.

Sawyer slowly walked back towards the corridor Eva was in.

She grinned as her fingers clicked against her palm.

Arachne rounded the corner and stopped. They were face to face.

“Ghosts,” Arachne whispered, “at least three humans and a dog.”

“One possessed me earlier, that’s how I got captured. Be careful.”

Sawyer’s grin widened, Eva could tell. He looked on at them and started laughing. “A crippled girl and a crippled demon come to attack me? I was almost worried for a minute.” He stopped laughing and glanced at Eva again. She could feel his eyes running over her.

“Ah,” he said, “but those fingers are sure to sell far better than your old ones. Have you come back to donate more? Where are your eyes and toes?”

“A work in progress,” Eva growled. “Arachne, we’re not here to talk. We’re here for fun.”

There was an almost imperceptible nod from Arachne. Rather than dash forward, she took one slow step. Eva did not fail to notice her mouth opening into a wide grin. It was almost a shame she couldn’t see her sharp teeth poking though.

The step back that Sawyer took brought a wide grin to Eva’s own face.

Arachne took another step forward.

Sawyer took half a step back. Then he paused. His smile grew wider.

“Arachne,” Eva started.

Sawer waved whatever was in his hand.

The blood configuration Eva decided was flesh golems appeared in front of her. More and more appeared, seemingly filling the hallway.

Eva wasn’t sure if they were being created or transported. It didn’t matter in the end. A plan formed in her mind as they shuffled towards them.

“Hold them off.”

Arachne gently set her on the ground. The moment Eva was steady on her feet, she jumped at the creatures. Eva watched for a moment as six legs lanced into the chests of the first six.

They flew aside as if they weighed no more than a pillow.

Eva set to work on her idea.

Using one of her pointed fingers, she punctured her upper arm. She brought her bloodied finger to the back of her left claw. Keeping her arm as steady as she could, Eva started a circle on the back of her claw.

She found it far easier to move her whole arm, keeping her needle-like finger stiff. Trying to bend the joints felt awkward. It was a far more precise circle than she felt she could draw otherwise.

Slowly, Eva pulled out six spokes and drew an outer circle. The base design was complete. Eva wasn’t finished. Arachne followed her orders perfectly, none of the creatures were getting hear her.

Three tear shaped droplets dripped down from the main circle. A single line crested the top of the circle. Eva added several small marks from the line, stretching out to her fingers.

That would do for now.

Eva walked–waddled–to the nearest downed golem. It wasn’t moving, but its heart beat. That was all she needed.

She dug into the bag of flesh where its heart was located. Her marked hand pressed up against the beating heart.

I hope this is a human heart.

Eva channeled her magic into it.

The heart twisted in on itself, pulling and rending the flesh it was attached to. It compressed until a small glowing sphere appeared in Eva’s vision. As blood collected against the sphere, Eva could tell it still had flaws. Far less flaws than the woman from the abattoir, but it was more porous than a proper bloodstone should be.

A wave of her hand caused the entirety of the creature’s blood to tear out of its corpse. She kept a small amount wrapped around the bloodstone to keep it floating around her.

The rest formed large marbles and shot off towards the heart of every flesh golem Eva could detect. Once they were splattered with her controlled blood, Eva snapped her fingers.

Nothing happened.

Eva snapped her fingers.

She looked down and repeated the motion. She couldn’t see more than the insides, but Eva had her guesses. The smooth chitin rubbed uselessly against each other in the clumsiest way she ever saw someone try to snap.

“Arachne,” Eva yelled, “I can’t snap your stupid fingers.”

The demon didn’t respond, opting instead to skewer another two golems.

Eva sighed and clapped.

At once, all the flesh golems’ hearts exploded in their chests.

As they tumbled Eva could only lament the potency of the blood. It was far better than hers.

At the moment, she reassured herself.

She sent the bloodstone off to collect more blood. Not too much, Eva didn’t want to wear down the new stone too quickly.

“Sawyer,” Eva called as she looked around for the man. “Sawyer, where are you?”

Her calls were just for fun. He sat back behind the line of fallen golems, apparently having fallen backwards when the golems died. His grin was still plastered on his face. She wondered for a moment if it was just stuck like that.

Eva focused on him. All her rage, all her anger. If it wasn’t for him…

She grit her teeth. As carefully as she could, Eva marched up to him. The ground was slick enough with blood for her to see every nook and cranny.

“Ah-ah, my sweetie.” He ticked his finger back and forth. “I should mention this: killing me won’t make it stop.”

Eva tilted her head to the side. “What are yo–”

A brief flash of movement was the only warning she got.

Eva dived to the side, tumbling out of the path of the attack.

“It took all five specters and she is fighting every step.” Eva watched as the meat in his tongue slipped over empty space. His teeth. “I love the feisty ones. She’s a much better fighter than you.”

Arachne lurched forwards. Her steps were unsteady, more like a zombie than some of the actual zombies she’d seen. Another step almost sent her to the ground; one of her legs stretched forward to catch her.

Eva didn’t waste a second of time. Her blood spread forward, wrapping around each of Arachne’s legs at the base of her back. She doubled and tripled up the rings of blood. Arachne was a demon and her carapace was strong.

Eva clapped.

Not strong enough. Six legs violently exploded off the back of the arachnid. Arachne fell on her face a moment later. Eva couldn’t tell for sure, but an arrow sticking out of her chest might have been pushed all the way through. The legs squirmed and writhed on the ground before they went still.

“Heartless,” Sawyer quipped as he looked down at the lamely flopping Arachne.

The stubs on her hands didn’t seem to offer enough grip to prop herself back up. That or Arachne was fighting every movement.

Eva hoped it was the second.

Eva shrugged. “She’ll regenerate. You,” Eva couldn’t help but grin at the man before her, “will not.”

“I had my doubts about you being a demon. I suppose my doubts were unfounded.”

“Arachne,” Eva said as she walked over to Sawyer, “you have until I finish sorting our friend’s organs from smallest to largest to fight off those ghosts. If you fail, I’ll banish you until we find a solution.”

“Smallest to largest?” Sawyer said with mock confidence. “Why not alphabetical? It just seems so plebeian, otherwise. Or,” he gasped, bringing a hand to his mouth, “are you a simpleton who doesn’t even know the names of half the body’s organs?”

“Really, the only organ that matters to me is the heart.” Eva knelt down near the grinning man. “I could coat you in blood and clap my hands. I could, it would be so easy. I could have done it instead of the golems or Arachne.”

Her fingers clicked as they tapped against each other. “I think it would be much more cathartic to do this by hand,” she wiggled her needle-like fingers, clacking them together more, “or claw, as the case may be.”

Sawyer offered nothing but his wide grin. His heart rate increased. Not by a little bit. It hammered in his chest almost as hard as Eva’s own heart.

“Shall we start here?” Eva gripped his little toe, or tried to. The man was wearing a shoe that Eva couldn’t see. Eva pinched, intending to only cut through the shoe. She misjudged her hand’s strength. Her sharp fingers pierced straight through his toe.

He didn’t scream. He didn’t even slip in his smile. His heart beat faster.

“Sorry,” Eva said. “I don’t have much experience with these hands. Something we can explore together. You still have nine toes and plenty more after that.”

Eva reached into the small opening in his shoe. The next toe, Eva rolled back and forth in her fingers. Bone snapped beneath her fingers before she squeezed it off. “Eight now, Sawyer. Any comments?”

“Just one,” he said with a laugh that sounded far less forced than it should have sounded, “I’m glad I took your eyes.”

Eva frowned at that. She reached for his third–

Hot pain pierced her side. Eva gripped her side as something kicked the side of her head.

“Trouble with two naked whores, Sawyer? I am disappointed.”

“Weilks, good to see you.”

Eva couldn’t breathe, not well at least. She could see exactly what happened, at least to her blood vessels. Something pierced her lung. She set to healing as much as she could. Her bloodstone flew into the cut, giving her more control over her own blood. Lungs were far more complicated than skin; as long as it matched the opposite side, it should be fine. Her blood magic could keep her from drowning in her own blood as well.

“The Elysium Sluts are on the move. Now would be the perfect time to find the augur. Except,” the larger man made a show of looking around the chamber, “is this our entire army?”

“A third.”

“Sawyer,” Weilks said warningly.

Eva gripped the thing piercing her side and pulled it slowly out, healing as she went. The blood sticking to the blade made a familiar pattern.

This was her dagger. Her dagger. The bloodstone was missing. It was her bloodstone. The best one she’d ever made. The fat man must have it.

She launched the blood at him, forming rings around his feet and hands.

Eva clapped.

Weilks fell forwards, nearly crushing Sawyer. He tumbled without even a scream.

The skinnier man scrambled out of the way. Eva noted with some satisfaction that the smile finally slipped from his mouth.

Eva let him scramble to the side. She mostly ignored him as she rolled Weilks over on his back.

“Where is my bloodstone,” Eva said. She felt a distinct need to cough, but suppressed it. Her claws pressed around his neck as she straddled his chest. “My bloodstone, I want it back.”

“You whore,” he said.

Eva jammed one of her claws straight into his side. “My bloodstone?”

The man just glared.

“I’ll need to make a new one then.”

Using the bloodstone floating near her, Eva cleared off the back of her hand. She cut open a small cut on her upper arm and touched the bloodstone to it, careful to keep the flesh golem blood separate from her own.

She formed the sigil on the back of her hand using purely blood magic. Eva fancied it up as much as she could. Smooth, clean lines. The droplets of blood being actual droplets rather than a mere drawing.

Once ready, Eva tore into his chest with her other claw. She was careful. Her vision helped keep from even scratching the man’s heart as his flesh tore away.

Eva ignored his screams. His thrashing arms were held down by rings of the flesh golem blood. They also served to keep him from bleeding out.

With his beating heart exposed, Eva pressed her sigiled hand against it. She felt its beats even through the exoskeleton. It was best while his heart still beat strong.

Eva channeled her magic.

The heart twisted in on itself, repeating the same motions the flesh golem heart made.

This time came with the added benefit of watching the very life being sucked out of the man she was sitting on. His blood stopped pumping immediately. She watched as the blood in his veins came to a standstill. His eyes bulged for a moment before a last gasp of breath escaped from his lifeless corpse.

Cradled in his open ribcage was a perfect bloodstone. At least, as perfect as Eva could make them. It might be better than her old one, she couldn’t be sure. Her old one she inspected with her eyes. This one she used the blood surrounding it.

Eva stood up, stepping irreverently on the corpse as she did so. Both stones and her dagger hovered around her, coated in blood. The dagger may have gotten dirty, not something she could worry about now. She’d set the stone later.

Now, she looked over to the figure standing to one side. She paused, frozen in her steps. The figure had two mounds of blood on her chest and a distinct lack of blood between her legs. She was not Sawyer.

Arachne slowly picked herself off the floor. Her biology was different enough that Eva couldn’t mistake her for anyone.

“Who are you?”

The woman raised an arm.

Eva didn’t hesitate for a second. She’d had enough of being injured for one day. A blood shield formed around her and Arachne with a mere thought. With all the available fuel, it wouldn’t be running out anytime soon.

Eva never got to play with this much blood. A shame, really.

“I’ll not ask again,” Eva said.

“You don’t recognize me.” Her voice came out soft, almost as a song.

“Voice is familiar, but no eyes.” Eva pointed two fingers at her empty eyes, careful to keep from touching her skin with her sharp fingers. She gave a hard kick at the corpse behind her, almost tumbling due to her balance issues. “Thanks to these necromancers. Did you happen to see the other one?”

“You are a blood mage.”

Eva didn’t know what to say to that. It would be hard to hide in her current state.

“That’s how you saved Shal.”

“Shal? Shalise?”

“And your hands?”

“Didn’t have much choice in the matter.” Eva shot a hard glare at the now standing form of Arachne. “Are you yourself?”

“The ghosts left along with Sawyer,” Arachne hung her head, “sorry.”

“Consider your lack of limbs both a lesson and a punishment. The first of many, I think.”

“You know that demon?”

“Something like that.”

“I’ll spare your life for saving my daughter.” She paused, turning her head to point at Arachne. “That thing killed one of my sisters. I demand its obliteration.”

“Your sisters?” The voice finally clicked in her head. “Sister Cross?”

“I can ensure the augur doesn’t speak of you to any others, but you must hand over that demon.”

“I’ll do no such thing. Her punishment is mine. Although,” Eva tapped a finger on her chin. She winced away at a cut as she healed it. “Now that you mention it. The other necromancer mentioned your augur. She was their main target.”

“What?” Sister Cross’ heart picked up a handful of beats.

“Given that he disappeared from here, with two-thirds of their flesh golem army, I sure hope your augur is protected.”

“Come here. I’ll take you back to the academy.”

“How stupid do you think I am? I’m not going anywhere with you.”

“Eva,” Sister Cross half shouted, “I came here alone to pull you out before any others saw you; as thanks for saving my daughter. My sisters would kill you on sight when they storm this place.”

“Thanks but no thanks,” Eva said. “As you so astutely deduced, I am a blood mage and here,” she waved her arm over the littered corpses of flesh golems, “I am in my element. Are you in yours?”

Sister Cross dropped into a fighting stance. “You’re going to try to fight me?”

“I certainly don’t want to. With all the corpses and two bloodstones, I’m sure I run a sporting chance.”

“Most of all,” Eva said, “I don’t think I have to. If all your nuns are poised to strike here, who is defending your augur?”

Sister Cross’ heart picked up another few beats.

“Go, take your nuns and save your augur. I’ll find my own way back.”

The nun’s jaw grit to one side. A moment later, she vanished.

“If you find Sawyer,” Eva called to the empty air, “please, don’t kill him. I owe him a dismemberment. Several, actually.”

Tension drained out of the air and Eva felt herself drain with it. She stumbled forward only to be caught by Arachne’s stumps.

“I thought you might hand me over for a moment.”

Eva spun out of Arachne’s arms and slammed her foot into the corpse of Weilks as hard as she could.

Sawyer got away.

She kicked again. The wound in her toes opened up again. Eva healed it quickly and kicked again.

Sawyer got away.

Eva kicked one more time and sighed.

“You might wish I handed you over when I’m done with you,” Eva said. She felt in a particularly vicious mood at the moment.

Arachne grinned. A wide grin. Eva didn’t need to look to see it. Eva didn’t mirror the expression.

She gave Weilks another kick.

“My legs would kick harder, if you want.”

“Later,” Eva said. “I need a bath. And a shower. And a nap. And…” Eva sighed. “And a lot of things. Let’s get back to the prison.”

Arachne moved to pick her up. Eva allowed it. She was too tired to complain.

Arachne walked slowly, careful to keep Eva from slipping out of her smooth arm stubs. They did stumble across a storage room. Eva collected a few books, using blood to carry them.

She had no idea how she’d read them. Maybe she’d force Arachne to read them to her. That might be a worse punishment for the demon than anything Eva could come up with.

Together they wandered, lost in the cavern until they found the exit.

Eva shut her–relaxed in Arachne’s arms.

Next stop: home.

<– Back | Index | Next –>


001.023

<– Back | Index | Next –>

“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.”

<– Back | Index | Next –>


001.019

<– Back | Index | Next –>

“Terrible night, isn’t it?”

“Is this an attempt at small talk?”

The man grumbled something under his breath.

Zoe took her eyes off searching the streets and glanced at him.

Wayne’s eyes searched the tops of buildings as they walked down the deserted street. He, like her, was fully dressed in his usual black suit. He held a large tome open in one hand as if he was in the middle of reading it. He wasn’t, of course.

Zoe had never understood why he used a tome as a focus. Their storage capacity surpassed staves. One could pen down spells into the tome’s pages to avoid the concentration required for more complicated spells. Wayne never used spells that took advantage of those traits. As far as she could tell, he used the tome like any other focus.

Tomes were heavy and unwieldy, yet it was all he used outside of the classroom.

“Ahead,” he said.

Zoe broke her thoughts and snapped her eyes forward.

Another group of the creatures shambled around the corner of the street.

Six of them looked old and rotted. Two had bright red blood still dripping from their wounds. Their clothes were less torn and one wore a Halloween costume. Fresh victims.

Still, no mercy would be shown. Zoe readied her dagger. She already had to put down one of her students, she only hoped neither of the two fresh corpses were students.

Zoe lanced a lightning bolt at the nearest one’s head. She sustained the bolt for a few extra seconds. A normal person would go down with a heart attack, brain damage, or nerve damage, depending on location and power. A zombie didn’t care about such things.

She held the bolt until the zombie’s eyes exploded. Another few seconds and the zombie crumpled to the ground with smoke rising from its body. The putrid stench of burnt flesh filled the street.

The crack drew the attention of the rest of the creatures.

Wayne didn’t hesitate for a moment. He immediately sent out a blast of fire, enveloping a zombie.

Zoe took a step backwards, casting a heavy wind in the direction of the zombies. Two of them stumbled and fell to the ground. A follow-up razor wind took the head off of another.

Wayne threw a blaze of red fire over the two on the ground and caught a third in the inferno.

Thick shoes clomping behind her made Zoe spin. Out of the alley stumbled one more creature. Wayne was incinerating a zombie to her side. This one fell to her. She raised her dagger and prepared to fire.

A small black sphere splattered against the neck of the zombie from its side. It flashed white a moment after.

The zombie’s head fell to the ground with its body crumpling after it.

Zoe whirled around to where the attack came from.

A woman stood next to a younger black-haired girl. The woman wore a suit–much fancier than Zoe’s own–splattered with blood. The sleeves were torn at the wrist and she had long black gloves tipped in sharp claws. What really drew Zoe’s eyes was the half-black, half-white mask with thin slits for eyes and thick cords that ran from the top of her head down her back.

The black-haired girl quickly placed something behind her back while Zoe was distracted with the masked woman. She wore much more normal pants, tee-shirt and a jacket.

It took a double take before Zoe recognized the girl. Zoe forced herself to relax and put on a calmer face.

“Eva, what are you doing here?”

The young girl looked up at Zoe with cold eyes. “Same thing as you, I imagine; cleaning up the town and hunting necromancers. Found any?”

“You’re covered in blood.” She wasn’t exactly covered in it. Not as much as her companion, at least. There was definitely blood, especially on her hands.

She looked down at herself then back up at Zoe with a small smile. “It isn’t mine.”

Zoe did not match her smile. If the blood was hers, she was injured. Not a good thing when zombies are running around. If the blood wasn’t hers then it was zombie blood.

“Eva,” Zoe started, calmly and slowly, “are you infected?”

The tall figure standing next to her tensed at the comment. Zoe couldn’t tell her facial expression beneath the mask, but she looked about ready to pounce. Judging by the blood dripping off of her clawed gloves as well as over her undamaged clothes, she was quite good at pouncing.

Eva held her hand to the side and gave a small shake of her head. The woman immediately relaxed.

“Don’t worry,” Eva said, “I took an anti-zombie potion.”

Wayne bristled at that. “No such thing,” he grunted.

“People keep telling me that.” Eva crossed her arms beneath her chest. “We’ll see who is a zombie in the morning and who isn’t.”

Zoe didn’t doubt Wayne’s knowledge of potions. She knew of only one way to counteract the infection from a zombie and she did not have a corpse flower handy. “You will become a hindrance if you are infected.”

“So you’re going to kill me then?” Eva half snarled. This time both of them tensed.

Zoe did not like how quickly the girl was ready to fight. She had one hand behind her back. Zoe did not know what was back there except that it was undoubtedly a weapon.

“Quarantine,” Zoe quickly said. “In the morning you can, if you’re you, teach Wayne how to make your potion.”

“Can’t,” Eva said with a wave of her hand, “I didn’t make it. My mentor did. It was delivered by,” she paused and glanced at the tall woman next to her, “his associate.” Eva relaxed, dropping her arm to her side. The woman next to her didn’t.

“Does this associate have a name?”

“Yes.”

“Why’s she wearing a mask?” Wayne asked.

“It’s Halloween, isn’t it?” The woman in the mask had a confident but very artificially modulated voice. Just four words came out like they weren’t being spoken by a proper mouth or vocal cords.

It set Zoe on edge. More on edge than she already was.

“Quarantine, Eva, is–”

“A waste of time. If you have no information on the necromancers behind this, then I believe it is time to go.” She turned, though the woman next to her did not. “Believe it or not, I am mildly fond of you. Don’t try to stop me. It would be… unpleasant.”

“Take one of these at least,” Zoe said. She pulled out one of her business cards and held it out. “If you do find the necromancers, let us know. We can help.”

Eva reached out and almost took it. She pulled her hand back mere inches from the card. “I’d rather not risk getting blood on you,” she said.

Zoe set the card on the ground and took a step back. Eva picked it up.

“If I do use this, I highly recommend not touching either of us without sterilization. Even if we’re badly injured.”

With that said, the girl turned and used her false blink down the street. The ‘associate’ remained–glaring if Zoe had to guess–for a moment longer before she sprinted down the street. She jumped straight to a rooftop that Eva blinked to and they were gone.

“You shouldn’t have let them go.”

“I don’t think we had much choice. I have no doubts that the thing next to her was not human. I do have doubts over how much we could have hurt it before it killed us.”

Wayne just grunted. “Come on,” he said, “night’s far from over.”

Zoe followed after him. She kept alert for any movement, but her thoughts were elsewhere.

A mysterious nonhuman associate. A weapon that she kept hidden even when she suspected an attack. A cure for zombie infection.

As long as she did end up not becoming a zombie. She seemed very confident about it, if exhausted.

Zoe let herself smile for the first time that night.

Wayne really had missed out when he let her slip by. Zoe just hoped the trouble Eva caused would be worth it in the end.

— — —

Eva stepped to another rooftop and paused, catching her breath. Arachne caught up a moment later.

Leaning into the spider, Eva sighed. The amount of blood she used drawing the ritual circle wound up taking more out of her than she thought. Combined with slaughtering a town infested with zombies and Eva felt ready to drop.

“You need to take a rest,” Arachne said. “They can finish cleaning the streets.”

Eva picked herself off of Arachne. “No. We’re going to find them.”

“You can barely stand. You may be half demon, but you aren’t a full one yet. You will die if you keep this up.”

“I will be fine. I’ll just avoid using blood magic for a while. I need to practice regular magic anyway.”

Arachne did not look convinced as she slid her mask to the side.

“And I’ll be relying on you,” Eva added.

“As much as I like to hear you say that, I’d rather you head in for the night. If you really want me to, I’ll continue scourging this town of the infected.”

Eva smiled at her concern. It was nice. Touching to have the woman care about her so. “Good thing we decided to get you that full mask. I’d rather have Zoe Baxter thinking of you as just a spooky associate than a demon.”

Arachne side and slid the mask back over her face. “I’m not going to talk you out of this, am I?”

“Try again a few zombies later. I might be more tired then.”

“I didn’t know you cared about the humans in this place enough to strain yourself so.”

Eva frowned at that and gave it a long thought before responding. “I suppose I don’t. Not humans in general anyway. These necromancers hurt my friends and are making a mess of the town I currently call home.” She paused, looking over Arachne for any cues. She found none.

“If I was the one hurt,” Eva continued, “you’d have brought the entire town to rubble until you found the culprit. So don’t say I’m going overboard over a couple of ‘measly humans.’ They’re my friends right now, just like you are. I’d do the same for you.”

Arachne smiled at that. Even with the mask in place, Eva could tell. The twitching of her hair tendrils and the slight tilt of her head gave it away.

How she had gotten to know Arachne so well over the last few months felt odd. Like a twisting in her stomach. She wasn’t sure if it was a good twisting or a bad twisting, but being friends with Arachne had been beneficial, if nothing else. The real twist in her stomach was that she actually meant it when she said they were friends.

Devon always warned her away from even speaking with demons outside of orders and definitely disapproved of being friendly. He definitely disapproved of Arachne’s interest in Eva. Once she started taking interest, Devon sought to keep them apart save for her treatments and a select few jobs.

Eva never saw the harm in it.

Even Ylva, who could kill someone merely by brushing her hand over them, had been very polite to a frightened Eva. She even left a gift. Sure, Eva had apparently given her some great boon, but there was no contract for the gift. Eva foolishly gave the phylactery to the demon. She could have just left and gotten a free boon.

After the experiment ended, what would her master do? Keep her around for observations, surely. Start treating her like one of the demons he summoned? Not if Eva had a choice in the matter.

Eva sighed again and realized Arachne hadn’t said anything. The spider-woman had gone very still. “Something the matter?”

“Are you sure you don’t want to head back?”

“I’m sure. Why?”

Arachne hesitated just a moment before responding. “There’s a group of zombies in the street below. I can hear them.”

Eva went silent to listen. Her hearing wasn’t as good as the spider-woman’s. Still, she could hear faint moaning when she concentrated.

“If you promise to stay here, I’ll go finish them and be back in less than a minute.”

Eva shook her head. “Like I said, I could use practice with regular magic.”

Arachne slumped her shoulders. “Alright,” she said, “but let me carry you down. We don’t want you leaving half yourself behind again.”

“That happened once,” Eva said as the spider woman lifted her into her arms. “I was brand new and panicked at the time.”

“And this time you are very exhausted.” Arachne stepped off the edge of the building. She absorbed all the shock of the landing and set Eva down in one smooth motion.

Eva whipped her arm out and launched a fireball towards the zombies. It came out less as the basketball she envisioned and more as a ping-pong ball. Eva sighed as it sailed right past the group of zombies and dissipated harmlessly against the asphalt.

It did manage get their attention. Unfortunately, their attention went to where the fireball dispersed–in the opposite direction.

Eva shared a glance with Arachne. Despite the mask, she felt the demon was very desperately trying to hold in laughter.

Eva shook her head and concentrated. She pictured a boulder of flame and rock being catapulted against a castle wall. With that image in mind, Eva lobbed another fireball.

The ball slammed into the shoulder of one of the zombies. If the golf ball sized orb did more than singe the flesh, Eva couldn’t tell in the dim light of the street lamps.

Eva sighed. At least the fireball was bigger this time, maybe. If I squinted. “Maybe I’m actually not a fire mage,” she said to Arachne.

The zombie she struck turned around and started shambling towards her. Eva wasn’t worried. They were slow and uncoordinated. The only real danger was them sneaking up and with Arachne at her side, Eva doubted that was possible.

Arachne stuck nearby rather than jumping into the fray. It had been several groups of zombies since she decided sticking by Eva’s side was more important than wanton slaughter. Heartwarming in a way, and here it gave Eva a chance to practice.

She tossed another few fireballs without doing much damage. The other zombies had been attracted by the light. Eva just calmly walked backwards with Arachne at her side.

Zoe Baxter had used a gust of wind to completely remove a zombie’s head. Eva tried the same thing. Sneezing might have done more.

“You’re just not cut out for ‘proper’ magics.”

Eva was sure there was laughter in the demon’s voice. “It is my second month of schooling. I’m sure I’ll get better.”

“May I?” Arachne asked with a gesture towards the approaching zombies.

Eva just nodded her head and stopped walking backwards.

Arachne took a look around before calmly walking forwards and decapitating each one with a swipe of her hands. She did so quickly and without needless gore as she had done with some of the earlier groups. Arachne walked back to Eva’s side.

With the zombies dead, Eva slumped her shoulders and sighed. Maybe her lack of ability was exhaustion. No, not maybe. Definitely.

A nap sounded amazing at the moment. Curling up under some warm blankets with Arachne huddled around her had never sounded better. Alas it was not to be.

A thunder crack put Eva on full alertness. She turned at the noise. A horde of corpses streamed into the street from an alley. They less shambled and more ran.

A similar crack shook the street somewhere behind Eva. Another horde materialized out of thin air.

“These aren’t zombies,” Eva said.

They were more like skeletons that had been shoved into the fresh meat section of a grocery store. Flesh and skin hung off the bones. None of the bones seemed to be from the same creature either. Not a one looked human without heavily squinting your eyes.

They shambled and twisted until Eva was backed against the wall of a building. Arachne kept a few paces in front, flinging any that got too close down the street.

“We need to get out of here,” Arachne said.

Eva couldn’t agree more. She was about ready to step away when the flesh golems stopped. They left about a ten foot ring around her and just stood, staring.

Arachne growled, flexing her claws but not moving forward. She started pacing in front of Eva.

“Well,” a voice above Eva echoed down into the street, “what do we have here?”

Two men stood on a roof looking down at Eva and Arachne. Two spectral hounds flanked them, both barking and growling at the two in the street.

“Two party goers lost out on All Hallow’s Eve,” the skinny one said.

Eva narrowed her eyes. She didn’t doubt for a moment who these two were.

Arachne kept moving around Eva as if expecting one of the flesh golems to lunge at any moment.

“The dogs are saying she was the one at the crypt.”

“She’s the one,” a voice shrieked out. Stephen Toomey stumbled forward past the two men. He collapsed on his knees and pointed the only finger left on his hand at Eva. “I swear. I sold it to the little girl.”

“Oh?” The bulky man stepped to the edge of the roof and looked down. “I have doubts about that pathetic display of fireworks. There were a good hundred skeletons taken out. The dogs might be wrong, or it might be the other woman. If you’re sure you sold the book to her…”

“It’s her. Now please, let me go. I just–”

The blond man clapped Toomey on the back with a friendly smile. “Looks like we won’t be needing to visit the dorms after all.” He stood up, dragging Toomey to his feet by the shirt. “Selling out a schoolgirl in an attempt to save your own life?” He clicked his tongue disapprovingly. “Disgusting.”

He gave just a light push.

Toomey tumbled off the edge of the roof. He let out a short cry before he was silenced. A sickening crunch spread through the air.

“A vain attempt,” the skinny man said with a wide smile.

“Thank you for caring for our tome, but we’ll be taking the book back.”

The flesh golems shuffled back and forth, eager to advance. If they attacked, things could get bad. The spectral dogs would make running more difficult.

Eva leaned back against the wall, trying to look casual, and placed her arms behind her back. “What book?” Eva said with more confidence than she felt.

What book?” The larger man looked to his companion. “Sawyer, you’ve killed the bookkeeper too soon.”

While the man was turned, Eva carefully slipped her dagger out of its sheath. She touched it against her other arm. Blood marbles began forming behind her back.

Her body wasn’t quite at a real danger point. She’d survive enough blood loss to take out the dogs. Maybe the two necromancers if she was lucky. If this turned into a long confrontation, she’d be in trouble.

“She’s lying.” The skinny man’s eyes never left hers. His smile still stretched from ear to ear.

Eva frowned at his words. Why does everyone seem to know when I’m lying.

The man turned back to her and frowned. “You don’t want to test us further. You will regret it. Hand over the book.”

“Oh, I just hand it over and you’ll let me go on my way?”

“Of course not. There are worse things than death, my sweetie.”

“Sweetie?” Eva controlled her voice very carefully. “If we are so familiar, why not introduce yourselves.” She tapered off the flow of blood and healed her cut. Ten marbles totaling about a pint of blood hovered in the small of her back.

“Your last warning. Hand us the book or–”

The skinny one interrupted. “She doesn’t have the book. Obviously.” He managed to roll his eyes without taking them off Eva.

“Take us to the book or–”

“Don’t know where it is,” Eva interrupted. The man seemed to be going a bit red in the face. “Ask your friend if I’m telling the truth.”

The moment his head swung to the side, Eva launched four blood orbs. One at each of the dogs and one at each of the men.

Arachne noticed the orbs whizzing past her. She turned and grabbed Eva, smoothly jumping over the horde of golems without a pause.

Eva barely had time to snap her fingers before Arachne bolted down the street. Over Arachne’s shoulder, she could see the two figures atop the building still standing there. Neither crumpled or appeared to be in pain.

One of the spectral dogs chased after her through the air. It barked and snarled as it closed in faster than Arachne could dash. The other dog was nowhere to be seen.

One out of four isn’t bad, she thought as she launched another two orbs. They passed straight through the dog as if it wasn’t even there. A snap of her fingers and the orbs exploded within. The dog howled and vanished into green motes.

“Dogs are dead,” Eva said to Arachne. “Take me back, I want another shot at the necromancers.”

“No.”

“Arachne?”

“You’re shaking, shivering even, and covered in sweat that wasn’t there before. You need rest.”

Eva held her hand in front of her. She couldn’t hold it steady as much as she tried. Arachne’s running didn’t help. “Shaking and sweating from excitement.”

“Don’t lie to me Eva. Your breathing is ragged. You were supposed to be done with blood magic for the night. I could have dealt with them. Call your teachers if you wish. We’re going back to our home.”

Eva sighed and leaned into Arachne’s shoulder. She didn’t close her eyes. If she fell asleep, no one would be able to keep an eye on pursuers. “Can’t call them. Zoe Baxter has the book. Too dangerous to have her engage.”

“Relax, Eva. We’ll find them again. Maybe we will send Ivonis after them.”

“Oh? Did they introduce themselves to you while I wasn’t looking? I must have missed their names.”

Arachne’s mouth split into a small smile. “Another demon then. I’ll go even. Once you’re safe and rested.”

“We do need to warn Zoe Baxter.” Eva scanned the streets behind Arachne, waiting for someone to show up. “And retrieve the book from her.”

“Shall I hunt her down?”

“No, I have her card. Take us home and we’ll call her there, someplace far away from here.”

“She can teleport, right?”

“It will take us time to get there. Time for the necromancers to vanish.”

“Or cause more problems.”

Eva sighed. She wished her master were here. He’d know what demon to summon to clean up the town.

Maybe he will be at the prison.

— — —

“I just got a pulse from Eva.”

Wayne tensed up immediately.

They hadn’t seen anything for the last half hour. Not a zombie, not another person. The other instructors were still checking in every so often, but it seemed like most of their excitement died down as well.

“Where at?”

“Not sure. About fifty miles outside Brakket.”

“Found the necromancer’s base? Or captured? Worse?”

“Just a moment.” Zoe took her dagger and sliced straight down in front of her. A tear in space widened to a small oval in front of her face. Zoe peered into the pure white of between.

And immediately pulled away, clutching her head.

“Zoe?” Wayne set a firm hand on her shoulder.

She shook him off. “Nothing. Same effect as when trying to look around her runes at the dorms. Which means it is probably a safe area.”

“Safe for her. Or the necromancers use the same thing.”

Zoe attempted scrying again. This time, she picked an area half a mile off. “No protection over here. There’s an unmaintained road leading up to a large black area.” Zoe winced. “The black area is the protected area. It triggers the same effect, though not as bad as when I tried to look in directly.”

“Any people or zombies around?”

“None that I can see from the hill.” Zoe frowned. She tried to avoid looking directly at the black area, but it was huge. “Each one of her rune packets is just enough to cover one room. This place is probably the size of the entire school plus one of the dorm buildings, maybe the other as well.”

“Are we going to go?”

“I’d rather not leave a student in trouble. We can be gone in an instant if it looks dangerous.”

“Unless they’ve got wards set up against that.”

“If we can get in, we can get out.”

Wayne just grumbled. He moved over and peeked into her scrying window.

Zoe readied her dagger and went between. The street fell into a white void and was replaced by a sagebrush filled hillside. Wayne appeared at her side an instant later. Zoe turned, looking out over the area that was covered in darkness.

“A prison.”

“An old one,” Wayne grunted.

“Do we go knock?”

Wayne shrugged and headed down the hill. Zoe followed after him, careful to mind her step down the rough hillside.

As they approached the main gate, Zoe made out the young girl leaning against the bars.

“Eva, are you alright?”

The girl before her looked like she could barely stand on her feet.

“Just tired for the most part. Took you long enough to get here.”

“I couldn’t see into the prison. Your runes, I assume. We were forced to arrive on the hill.”

“When you didn’t show up, I figured it was something like that. I had to come out here to keep you from wandering the prison.”

Wayne took a step forward, peering down at the girl. “Something we shouldn’t see inside?”

“Tons of things,” Eva rolled her eyes, “mostly didn’t want you running into one of my mentor’s wards. You would find that very unpleasant.”

“Unpleasant?”

“Explosively so.”

Wayne growled.

“In any case,” Eva said, “I’m fine. I need the book. Recent events have convinced me that it needs to be destroyed sooner rather than later.”

Zoe did not like the sound of that. “What events?”

“Oh nothing much. Ran into two necromancers. They killed Stephen Toomey right in front of me and had about a hundred flesh golems. They found us with some ghost dogs that were tracking us from when we found out the name of the book.” The black-haired girl smacked her face. She half shouted, “Which is something I didn’t think about until just now.”

The edge in her voice set Zoe on edge as well. Eva rarely was perturbed by anything.

“There is one more person I didn’t tell you who went with us. Well, two, but my mentor’s associate can take care of herself. Juliana on the other hand…”

“You took Juliana with you?” Eva putting herself in danger was one thing. One thing Zoe didn’t like. She couldn’t do much to help it aside from confining Eva to her room. She doubted that would even hold her. Not if she’d set up a home out here with enough facilities to make it livable.

Bringing other students into it was crossing the line.

Not to mention that it was Juliana. Her mother would raze Hell itself if anything happened to her daughter.

“You said there were hordes of skeletons.”

“Not that many.”

“Mr. Carter was injured so bad you haven’t even seen him since.”

“It was just a flesh wound.”

“You said you were lucky to have escaped with your lives.”

“Nothing wrong with a bit of embellishment. You’re making a much bigger deal out of this than you did when it was just me and my mentor.”

“You are wrong about that, Evaleen Spencer.” The girl winced at her full name. Zoe hadn’t forgotten how her father went on about the ‘ungrateful brat who won’t even call herself by her birth name.’ “I remember very distinctly scolding you for a good half hour.”

“Well, we don’t have time for another scolding. If they tracked me down, they might go to the dorms. They might already be there, I escaped from them over an hour ago.”

The young girl looked calm, but she started sweating. In the cold air, that was something of a feat.

Zoe knelt down and placed a hand on Eva’s shoulder. She felt a tremble beneath the shirt. “Eva, calm down. The dorms and school have very thorough alarm wards set up. If anyone were hurt or even taken somewhere against their will, all teachers would know instantly. Nothing has happened yet.

“Professor Twillie along with a full complement of local police are watching over it. Wayne,” she glanced at her companion, “will head over and check on Juliana.”

Eva nodded and looked at Wayne. “Shalise was injured at the party earlier. Bitten by a zombie.”

Zoe couldn’t help but gasp. Wayne shifted.

“She’s fine, not contagious nor infected.” Eva held up her hands. “Though you may not believe that when you see her injuries. We thought about taking her to the hospital, but Juliana believed that would be a bad place to go on a night like tonight. She’s hopped up on potions and being watched over by Juliana.”

“More of your zombie immunity potion?” He made his disbelief clear in his tone.

Eva nodded.

Wayne grunted and vanished.

“Now, Eva, we are going to talk about everything that happened tonight.”

“I’d rather get to destroying dangerous books and then bed. I am feeling a very bad headache coming on.”

“Eva.” Zoe gave the girl a hard glare. “We are going to talk about everything. People died tonight. I had to rekill two students. This is not okay.”

The girl tried to shake her hand off, but Zoe kept a firm grip on her shoulder.

“None of that is my fault. I am not a necromancer. I didn’t bring them here. I warned you that Halloween was a dangerous day.”

“I know. I’m not blaming you. You are more involved in this than anyone else save for the missing Mr. Carter, that is why we will talk.” Zoe gave her a smile and a squeeze on her shoulder before releasing her. “Are you going to invite me in?”

Eva shuffled her feet and shifted her eyes away from Zoe. “There are no good areas to host guests outside of very heavily protected wards. Well, there are, but you probably won’t like solitary.”

“And you can’t key me into the wards?”

“I… could. We talked about incriminating things already once. A similar idea applies here.”

Zoe didn’t respond to that. She already had an idea of what the elusive Mr. Carter was into. The ‘associate’ of his that had been with Eva earlier was another piece to the puzzle. There were few humanoid creatures that could move and jump the way it did.

“My office then,” Zoe said.

“That’s…” Eva put her hand to her forehead. “I’d much rather stay here. I’m quite confident in my wards and their ability to repel even very powerful creatures. Not to mention A–my mentor’s associate will get antsy if she finds me missing. She may become… unpredictable.”

“Eva. I am willing to look over Mr. Carter’s demonic associations.” Eva snapped her head up, eyes wide. So easy to read, Eva. “So long as Mr. Carter truly means no harm to anyone and keeps his…” Zoe ground her teeth, “things under control. And is against the necromancers currently assailing our town.”

There were another hundred stipulations Zoe should add to the list. She’d have to report this to… to someone. Whatever Mr. Carter was, he was against the necromancers. The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. And I will use that enemy to defeat my enemies.

“For now,” Zoe added. She’d think of how to break Eva away from the man after their current crisis was over. Eva mentioned the man saved her from death. That surely created a strong connection.

“As amusing as your baseless accusations are, they aren’t the only issue. The anti-zombie potion kept me from becoming a zombie, but it has left me with massive headaches, shaking, sweating, and general exhaustion. I am in no state to speak on anything tonight.”

Zoe looked the girl over again. She hadn’t moved from leaning against the metal. The sweat she had thought to be from worry over Juliana hadn’t stopped. The girl was telling the truth about this, at least.

“First thing in the morning. I will be at this gate as the sun rises. If you are not here, I’ll hunt you down. Confidence in your wards or not, all wards can be broken.”

“That is grim, but agreeable.”

“I wouldn’t hunt you down to kill you, Eva, if that is what you are thinking.”

“Not that, that my wards might be brought down. Still, even if someone hammered against them all night, I should be fine. I’ll have someone watching over me as I sleep.”

Zoe frowned at that, but didn’t say anything. Baby steps, she told herself. She pulled out another business card. “Just if anything happens.”

“Don’t aimlessly wander the prison, you might not survive.”

“I appreciate the warning.”

<– Back | Index | Next –>