The Archfiend Artifact

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21

SAATHOFF ACADEMY, DARK MOON PORT, MABON CITY

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22
4:17 PM


The blank screen vanished on the third ring, replaced by some very upscale office scene. A woman sat just left of center. She could have been anywhere between twenty and sixty, and had auburn hair that fell around her shoulders in a curling cascade. Her skin looked even more pale than Duncan’s, and her eyes were striking, beautiful jade.

The still image sent chills racing down my spine.

I almost screamed when she suddenly blinked.

“My Lady,” Duncan said while giving her a slight bow.

“Revenant.” Her voice, though soft and polite, had an edge to it. She gave me the impression that she was someone not to be trifled with. Like some elitist mobster unafraid to kill for even the slightest mistake some underling or innocent bystander could make.

“I apologize for the unscheduled call,” Duncan went on. “But I thought it important that you meet somevon.”

Those piercing green eyes shifted to me.

I swallowed.

“May I present the daughter of Forlorn and Cassandra Lilley.”

Her eyebrows vanished beneath her bangs, and she took another long, reevaluating look at me. I had silently counted to six before she finally asked, “Are you certain of this?”

“Absolutely.”

“How many years have you, child?”

I licked my lips, nervous. “A-almost fifteen.”

“Incredible.”

“Ve are still trying to learn how she survived the night Taboo attacked and killed her family,” explained Duncan. “But that is not my reason for calling.”

Her jade gaze finally, thankfully, shifted away from me. “I gathered as much.”

“Actually, since my Second, Fenrir, stumbled upon her earlier this veek, Cybil has been actively playing a role in assisting us on an investigation.”

The woman sat back in her chair, steepled her fingers. “Go on.”

“I humbly request that you overlook her age, and allow her to officially assist my team as a consultant.”

A man’s voice came from somewhere off screen. He spoke softly and in a language that might have been Greek, and the woman frowned thoughtfully. Then he said, “You appear to be dead, Miss Starr.”

I clenched my fists. I failed to keep the venom out of my voice as I said, “That’s not who I am anymore.”

The woman quirked an eyebrow.

I think I might have stunned the man as it took a beat or two for him to reply with, “My sincerest apologies.”

A second man, this one with a rough and emotionless voice, said something I didn’t catch. I saw Duncan grimace out of the corner of my eye, and wondered what about the third speaker caused such a reaction. Or maybe he caught what had been said and didn’t like it.

The woman’s peachsicle lips pulled into a frown, and her gaze hardened as she focused somewhere off screen. “I am well aware of that, Sin.”

So that was Sin who had just spoken? No wonder Duncan reacted that way.

The woman’s focus remained elsewhere—most likely on Sin—a moment longer. I found myself hoping that the camera would pan towards him so I could get a look at the person who gave monsters nightmares. Of course, the camera didn’t obey my wishes, and remained steadily locked on the woman.

The hardness in her gaze ebbed slightly as someone laid a piece of paper in front of her. I watched as her gaze darted over the page for a moment. She pursed her lips in a thoughtful frown, looked off screen again.

The first man uttered something in Greek.

She exhaled through her nose, turned her focus on Duncan. “Very well, Revenant.” My heart hammered in my chest when she looked at me. “I hereby deputize you an Agent of the Three Worlds, subject to the duration of your current investigation.”

I battled the surge of excitement that erupted through me like fireworks on the Fourth of July. I wanted to jump or squeal or dance, but I held it all in. Except for the smile that made my cheeks hurt. Don’t embarrass yourself. Not in front of the boss.

Duncan bowed. “Thank you, my Lady.”

She held up a hand. “Should any harm befall her in the line of duty, you shall be the soul held responsible. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, my Lady.”

“Good,” she said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am in the midst of a meeting with my own team.”

“I understand. And thank you.”

“Yes,” I added and mimicked Duncan’s bow. “Thank you very much.”

The woman nodded once, and the screen went black.

It took me longer than I’d like to admit to calm myself. When at last my heartbeat slowed to something more normal, I looked at Duncan. “I hope I don’t get you in trouble.”

He met my gaze with a soft smile. “I am certain that you vill continue to do marvelously.”

I couldn’t stop grinning during the trek back to Duncan’s public office. After ten grueling years of torture and misery, things were finally starting to go my way. I had my freedom and, in a round about way, I had my dream job—even if it was only temporary. I wanted to sing and dance. To shout it from the rooftops.

I’m a cop! I’m a cop!

I just hoped I didn’t mess it up.

Duncan deviated from the path we had originally taken. He turned left instead of right at the end of the hall and stepped through a door labeled ‘Supplies’. I held the door open with my foot, watched as the vampire went about collecting a few things. He placed them all in a handy, empty printer paper box, which he then handed to me.

“Procedure guidelines and agency information,” he said by way of explanation.

I stared blankly at him for a beat, shook the stupor off. “You do realize that I’m only a temporary asset to your team, right?”

He flashed a too-white smile and strode away.

I rolled my eyes at his back and quickly followed him.

We were back in his public office a minute later. Quinn and Morgan had arrived during our absence, which seemed to surprise Duncan. The vampire looked to Specter for an explanation.

“I know what we’re looking for.” His voice held a grim note, and he manipulated his control sphere so that it projected an image of the twisted mirror. Only, in this image, all three pieces were one. “It’s the Mirror of Souls.”

Stunned, Duncan sank into his office chair. “Are you certain of this?”

“There’s only one record of it, and you’ll never guess who wrote it.”

“Sin?”

The ghost nodded wryly.

“At least we’ll know it’s accurate,” muttered Quinn.

“Vhat does the report say?”

“Not much, I’m afraid. We already know the legend of the mirror’s ability to steal the souls of its victims. But Sin’s report goes on to say that the powers of those souls can then transferred to whomever wields the mirror.”

I raised my hand, which earned me a couple of grins. “What does that mean, exactly?”

“Heh. Uh. Let me see. How do I explain it?” The ghost chewed on his lower lip for a moment. “Ah. Let’s say that a fire demon wanted to control ice for some reason. All he would need to do is steal the soul of an ice demon using the mirror, which would instantly kill the ice demon. Then he would need to turn the mirror on himself—I’m not sure how, but I’m sure there’s some sort of ritual involved—so that he could absorb that soul. Voila. Instant fire-ice demon.”

“That would be a bloody nightmare,” Quinn grumbled.

Duncan sighed. “And now it is in the hands of a Shadow.”

“A Shadow we cannot find,” Morgan added, which drew Duncan’s and Specter’s attention. “As you know, WEIRD is able to track every demon in the realm, but we haven’t been able to locate any Shadows in the last week.”

I muttered thoughtfully to myself, “But I’ve seen at least one up close and personal on multiple occasions.”

It earned a stern glare from the blonde. “Indeed.”

A little louder, I asked, “Is there a way they can conceal themselves from your tracking thingy?”

Her glare on me intensified. “No.”

“Huh.” I pondered over what that might mean. I had no idea how the angels’ tracking system worked, but if it could detect energies, that might explain why it couldn’t find any Shadows lurking around. Life energy can be manipulated to a certain extent. A change of emotion could do it. Or, more likely, the Shadows found a way to suppress their energy, making it appear as though they weren’t ever here.

I wondered if I could do the same.

“All right,” said Duncan. He pointed to Morgan. “I vant you to keep an eye out for any strange pings. If a Shadow really has the mirror, it vill vant to use it.” Then he looked at me. “If you get any visions, let us know.”

I nodded.

Quinn started to say something, but Duncan cut him off. “The Lady has given us permission to utilize Cybil’s abilities for this case.”

The werewolf flashed a thumbs up.

Morgan muttered something under her breath.

“All right, AEONs,” said Duncan. “Let’s get to vork.”

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