Witching Hour

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Sehmiautomagic (One Good Deed)

Though they would have loved to stay and listen to the numbers continue to climb from the mob of sadistic, vile, controlling, ambivalent, manipulating investors, with the numbers they threw a paltry sum to their fortune, a pittance for the souls of the people on the literal chopping block to be used as they saw fit... Minos didn’t want nor wait for it to end. The next vat was already clicking above, and that, too, was counting down their window before it was snapped shut. He pulled Samantha from the door, more than Cain to worry about as they returned to the first vat, wondering how they were going to get up and to the Black Halls. And even more how they were going to do it before Lilith got there.

Samantha thought about it as well, droning and bouncing around in her mind. It had competition with the other thoughts, clashing, crashing into an ever increasing expanse of vapor and strife, swirling into a typhoon, a hurricane. A hufficane, if one will.

“Hey,” Minos hissed, jostling her, teetering and tilting that storm brewing in her mind. It crackled and boomed against her brow, making it ache even more than it already did. He shook her again, growling. “Got any ideas?”

That question catalyzed the storm, now a true cataclysm, ripping her thoughts (and what was left of her patience) asunder. She gave him such a cold look, and handed him Scarlette’s skull before gripping his rear, snapping her attention to the tube above. The metal cylinder groaned, seeming to reach out for her, but she kept it at bay, holding out her left hand. The dragon on her arm fanned its wings and took off, tearing with it the metal that had started to form on her digits, allowing the wind under it to flow free. It swirled around them, whistling and rising to a shriek before it shot them up after the dragon’s ascent.

The dragon somersaulted at the top and wrapped its long tail around her arm as she touched down in the vat room again, encasing it and the gale that had billowed from it in metal once again. She panted, grunted, cold sweat beading on her brow as she leaned against Minos, only standing because of him... and his rear.

“Huh,” he uttered. “Well that happened.”

“Get us to the elevator,” she grumbled, taking Scarlette back as she crawled into his arms, forcing him to carry her through the room, the hall and maze, the theater once more, and out into Scarlette’s h- “Wait. There’s something we need to do.”

“Now?”

“We need to seal that room up again for starters.”

“That’s... a good point. What are you going to do?”

“After you pick up the broken bit of wood and hold it in place, you’ll see.”

“But you asked m-”

Something clicked, far, faded, but slowly growing as it rumbled from below. He eased Samantha onto her feet, who leaned against the wall as he picked up the wood. She winced as he shuffled and stepped on the chains, rattling, clinking away under his clomps, but it was minor. Fleeting. He grabbed the broken lock of the door, held it in place against the wood, and green energy laced from her fingers to it. They were dainty, thready little strands, but, once they made contact with that lock, turned a brilliant yellow. And shot out to the chains. They snapped up, ringing, singing their song as the lock trembled, pushed hard against the wood. The chains melted then melded through the timbers, fixing it –better than it was before, in fact. Alas, the dragon couldn’t keep it contained and her entire arm was encased in metal.

Minos grunted, huffed as he picked her up again, carrying her to Scarlette’s room, stopping by the pl-

“Further,” she stated.

“Oh. Sorry.” He leaned a bit c-

“I mean into the hall, jackass.”

“Is now the time for foreplay? And what h-” She pressed the button, making the metal slide open in the back, and the purple glow met them, warming them in its caress. Minos snorted, chortling. “Okay. How many secret passages does this bloody school have?”

“Just get moving.”

“How far?”

“Until we can see through the side.”

“That’s awfully... v...”

He stopped, looking through at the rows upon rows of bronze vats. Scarlette looked up at Samantha, her eyes blackened by the purple light, reminding of her another drider... and another burden.

“Scarlette,” Samantha said, grunting, giving Minos a dirty look as they landed in the room. “I have some bad news. Bella’s... Bella is dead.”

She tried to focus wind through her neck, but the sheer amount that she already cast, combined with the misery, the anger and... loneliness that had fluttered through Scarlette’s eyes made any response impossible. Samantha still understood though, seeing that yearning. She knew all too well, but, just like herself, she wasn’t sure she should sate that desire, quench that need for knowledge that would only damn her more. Instead, she conserved what energy she had left and handed Scarlette to Minos, toppling out of his arms.

“Sam!” Minos boomed, wincing. He crouched, offering his arm, but she shoved him away, crawling to the closest vat. The Scarlette inside was fully formed; the timer on top stated it would be opened in a few hours.

So what harm would it do if Samantha did it early.

The dragon once more ascended from her hand, lazing around the room, allowing her to use her left arm to pry up it. Her legs shook so much. Her breath was ragged, still enduring the storm that raged on inside her mind, but she was dead-set. Her ship, her goal, even with its lead sails and vapid hope, will flourish.

She rolled (and cracked) her wrist, the ends of her fingers dipped in silver, and clawed at the seam between the metal and glass, pinching into it before allowing the metal to surge forth. Steel clashed against copper, groaning, but it didn’t take more than an inch to make the glass pop out.

The room exploded with sound. And lights. Large flood lights sparked to life from above. Red klaxons wailed away as they spilled their red wash along the walls, washing the newly released drider in the chaos. The new Scarlette gasped and wheezed and clawed at the glass. Her legs thrashed in the air, while her abdomen shot webbing, loosing its stinger, dripping with green ichor. One by one, the klaxons were destroyed, the dragon roaring, a tinny, foreboding thing. Samantha pushed away from the vat, and lumbered around the drider to her head.

The new Scarlette stopped her thrashing, seeing her. Her face was so... innocent, pure. She was once... beautiful. It was so soft, rounded, with not a line nor imperfection to be seen. She had long, black hair, tied back into a ponytail, matted to her back and neck from the goo. She reached out for Samantha, purple lip quivering, and started to smile as Samantha reached for her, as well.

“I’m sorry,” Samantha said, and grabbed her by the neck, closing both hands on it. The new Scarlette gagged and gurgled, flailing once more, clawing at her grasp... before, with a sickening snip, she went still. She blinked, still looking at Samantha, though it wasn’t long before her eyes rolled into the back of her head. Her lids fluttered, twitching, jerking as Samantha lifted her head away from the body.

She nodded to Minos; he came over, his cheeks a bit greened, even more as he swapped heads with him, and she crouched again, pressing Scarlette’s head to the cut. A perfect seam.

“Hope this works,” Samantha grumbled. “Wasn’t sure where to really cut, so I did it mostly by touch.”

As she spoke, her hands started to glow, pulsing, pushing fresh green into the severance, on both the body. And Scarlette. Slowly, the body stopped to flail, stopped to jerk... and moved to Scarlette’s volition. The legs shuddered, getting underneath her, scrambling a little on the glass before finding solid steel, righting herself. She stood a head above Samantha, the irony not lost on her as she righted and fell into Minos, holding her up. She giggled softly, jumping, laughing harder as the dragon landed on her shoulder.

“T... te... Test...” Scarlette began, her once wheezing, nasally voice quickly becoming a soft lark. She inhaled deep, taking a bit longer to release as her chest refused to let it go easily, but the second time it was smooth. She inhaled a third... and lunged at Samantha, hugging her, sniffling. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

“I p... promised, didn’t I?” Samantha said, giggling again, and hugged the drider back. “Now you can get out of here.”

“How so? I mean, I have a body, but-”

Samantha let her go, and took the new Scarlette’s skull back. The eyes still rolled, still tried to see, but had glassed over, welcoming death. Something the real Scarlette could never do. Though Samantha had grown strong, she could not undo death nor keep it at bay... What she could do, however, was clear the glass and bloodshot out of the poor girl’s eyes. She could scorch the skull, get rid of the hair, and tear away the skin just enough to make it look ragged and weathered. Her last trick, her last defilement of this pure soul was to make it so the eyes would follow movement, a mockery of life.

“Any day now,” Minos muttered, almost fumbling her as she clambered into his arms once more.

Samantha looked to Scarlette, panting, the world starting to haze.

“I take it you know the way out?”

“I’ve spent a good bit of time down in these tunnels. You don’t have anything to worry about,” she said, and started to skitter by... when she stopped and looked back. “Sam... I need to know. Who killed Bella?”

“Lilith. Lilith killed her.”

“Thank you... I will repay this favor... Until we meet again.”

With that she leaped, catching on the front of the slit above, and left a silk rope for Minos to climb. He didn’t even give it a second thought, wrenching at it hard the entire way up, and sprinted up the stairs, only stopping for Samantha to hit the button and put “Scarlette” on the plinth. Her cold eyes stared after, her only sin that she was born at all. Samantha saw those eyes over Minos’s shoulder, bobbing, barely able to keep her head up, and felt a stone sink into her gut.

I did the right thing, didn’t I?

She shook her head, wincing, cursing that she did even that small movement, and settled into Minos’s embrace again, if only to dull those sirens, still wailing through the metal plate. Minos took the long way home, in case anybody was after them, but also made haste returning to the Black Halls. Much to their disdain. They hoped they were a little more careful than that, slower, meticulous, but they both knew that time was of the essence.

Which somebody must have been looking out for them. Lilith had not been there. Not yet.

Minos hurried down the hall to Samantha’s room, and eased her into her desk chair... and placed her in it again when she fell out. Her eyes were heavily lidded, a question of which was heavier: them, or the metal that still lingered on her hands. The dragon returned to the left arm, resting on smooth skin, but her right was still encased up to the elbow, melting onto the desk as he propped it for her to lean on, rushing into the kitchen. He made her a canteen of black tea, loaded with sugar, and had her guzzle it. Thankfully, it was cold brewed, but she didn’t really appreciate having to fish tea packets out of her throat, tossing the twelfth one at him when, at last, there was a knock on the door.

Samantha tried to stand, but Minos already answered the door, sneering at Lilith on the other side.

“I must have died and gone to Hell,” he said. “What did I do to deserve seeing you twice?”

“Jack,” Lilith said, giving him a saccharine smile. Minos returned it, and stepped back as the succubus entered... along with the mer. Samantha cocked her head, seeing the shy girl peeking around Lilith’s side, forced in front of her by Lilith. “Sammy, I know we already discussed the seven new students-”

“You mean you gave them to me and said they were.”

“Exactly. We discussed it.” She put both hands on the girl’s shoulders, and Samantha felt both a touch pleased to see blood drawn from it... and disgusted with how the girl flinched. “Sammy. This is Sehmi. Sehmi... W...”

“You... don’t know her last name?”

“It’s been a long day. There was an... incident. I need to tend to that, but first I thought I would at least introduce you two. Now, her name is Sehmi Wil- Wilshire! Sehmi Wilshire... Sehmi, this is Samantha Coffey. She’ll be looking af- teaching you.”

“T-t-teaching?” The girl said. Her voice sounded as if it was on the verge of crying, but was carried on an unholy crackle. So much like her progenitor already.

“Yes, dear. She’ll be... your... she’s your mistress. Your Mistress Sam.”

“Mistress... Sam?”

“Yes. Very good.” Lilith chortled, and looked up at Samantha. The succubus’s eye twitched as she rubbed the girl’s shoulders, smearing her blood into her blue scale, turning them a shimmering purple. “You’ll forgive her. She’s still rather tired; had a long day. I can assure you she’s an amazing student. A bit rough on English, but she’ll pick up on it fast.”

“That’s great and all, but... what is she? I mean, the ears give away she’s a mer, but what has she done to be down here- and I thought all mer were dead?”

“It seems she was an oversight. Which is why she’s down here. She’s... special.” She grunted and pushed the girl towards Samantha, almost knocking her out of her chair. As soon as Sehmi touched her... Samantha wished she didn’t. Greatly. Her skin felt like a thousand, rusted blades separated just enough to press and scratch. It was like sandpaper laced with sharp pebbles, grazing and tearing away. Thankfully, she had SOME “clothes” on, but they were torn to ribbons as the girl caught herself in Samantha’s lap, looking up at her.

Lilith clapped her hands, making the girl tense again, and sighed.

“Now. With that out of the way... ta!”

She turned and clacked away, leaving Minos to shut the door again.

“I really do hate that cunt,” he grumbled, and leaned on the door, groaning. He gestured to the girl, whom was still simply... staring up at Samantha. “So... what are we going to do with her?”

“I have no idea,” Samantha muttered, locked in that girl’s gaze, sleep starting to win. “I just... d-”

“Mistress Sam?” Sehmi said, shocking her awake as she stood. And pushed down on the witch’s legs. Two broad streaks of blood started to rise from each thigh, trickling onto the chair and down to the floor, but Sehmi nor Samantha seemed to notice. Samantha could see herself in those sapphire eyes-stained yellow, pulsing, seeming to rotate in their sockets as they continued to stare. Their irises seemed to quiver, as if wanting to separate, to become two in each orb. Samantha thought it was like there were two souls in there, forced to intertwine, to constantly clash.

But, suddenly, they snapped together, locked as one as the girl chuckled, a rattling, rasping sound that sent a shiver down Samantha’s spine.

“Mistress Sam.”

Minos cleared his throat, making those eyes flash green as he wheeled on him.

“Right. I think your, uh, mistress needs her rest,” he said, opening the door. “Let’s go find you a room. You are spoiled for choice right now, so where would you like to g-”

“I would lie to stay with Mistress Sam,” she said, putting her hand on her hip. “You, however, can o.”

“... What? Man, the bitch wasn’t kidding. You are rough.” He chuckled, and reached out to pat the girl on the head- stopping himself when he saw the blood on the ground, by Samantha’s feet. He cleared his throat, and gestured to the door, instead. “Anyways, No can do. I’m st-”

A growl bubbled deep from the elf, rumbling, marring the metal itself with the sheer... malevolence in it. Her skin pulsed red, allowing gouts of flame to spurt out, running down her back to just above her rear where it trickled out into a long, sprawling tail. “Bone” seemed to form, long, black segments, fourteen in all, wrapping around to undulate towards Minos, ending in a jagged, splintered tip. Her hands cracked, black blood raining onto the metal, hissing and eating through it as the bones inside simply... ripped free, ending in four, long, tapered tips.

“O,” she said, her voice raspy, almost otherworldly.

Minos... chuckled, waving at Samantha.

“I’ll come by later... Sleep tight. Sweet dreams.”

He continued to chuckle, stilted, as he sidled out the door. Slamming it shut. Sehmi’s fires dissipated, and she wheeled around, putting the skin back on her hands as she smiled at Samantha. She reached down, picking her up, and Samantha fought not to flinch, not to shake nor wince feeling those coarse digits grip her. If to avoid any more bloodshed... Sehmi placed her in bed, and climbed in beside, snuggling against, trilling, purring, as if a cat. A large, lanky, demonic cat.

“Mistress Sam,” she said, repeating it with a sigh, still looking at her. “My Mistress.”

The way she said it made sleep the last thing Samantha wanted. Her every movement, her every pawing and nestling and nuzzling keeping it at the surface... but she used too much that day. She pressed herself further that day than any time before... even when she killed her mother.

No, she thought, yawning, regretting it as Sehmi moaned and gripped her tighter... forcing her to close the new holes on her side, feeling even more woozy from healing it. I will not go back there. Never again. I won’t be that... that... monster.

With that, she succumbed to sleep at last. She wasn’t sure what the next day held, but one thing was certain: it could only be worse. There was no way it could be better, but there was always downhill. Rock bottom? That was a myth.

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