The Archfiend Artifact

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40

SAATHOFF ACADEMY, DARK MOON PORT, MABON CITY

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25
8:08 AM


I became dimly aware of whispers close-by. Male voices. Both speaking in low, clear mumbles. I caught ghosts of a British accent in one of the tones. That had to be Quinn. Which means the other was most likely Duncan. Curiosity got the best of me, and I tuned in to their quiet conversation.

“… was stupid, but the caller didn’t leave any room for negotiations,” said Quinn. He sounded frustrated. “They had us dead in their sights, and we never even knew it. If Specter hadn’t told us what had gone down, I doubt we’d have shown up before emergency services. They could have taken her and her friend in, slapped them with some bogus charge of terrorism or something, and we’d be playing hell to get them back.”

“I am avare of that,” Duncan replied in a patient voice. “And I am not accusing you or Morgan of dereliction of duty. Cybil only saw von vay out of the situation, and I thank vhatever higher power may be out there that she had been smart enough to keep her phone on so ve could track it.” He sighed. “But even Morgan had to admit that the fact that she vent up against a Shadow alone, and managed not only to survive, but also to save her friend, is incredible.”

Quinn hummed in agreement.

“Two,” I muttered, blinking my eyes open. I sat up with a groan and a couple popping joints. My gaze traveled around the room. I had been brought to my quarters and tucked into bed. The lights were off, and the blinds had been drawn, but an uncomfortable amount of daylight still seeped through. I stared longest at my desk, where my phone had been placed and was grateful that someone had retrieved it.

I found Quinn standing at the foot of my bed; Duncan by my couch, where the sunlight couldn’t strike him. Both were dressed similarly, in tee shirts and jeans. And both looked relieved to see me awake.

Relieved.

And a little confused.

“There were two Shadows,” I clarified before they could ask. Their eyebrows practically disappeared into their hairlines. “And I think they were working for Anjelah but...” I shrugged, winced a little at the tightness in my neck and shoulders. “It might have been the other way around.”

They traded a look.

“What?”

“Summoning demons is—at least according to Bones—relatively simple, but requires a talent for black magic.” Duncan’s voice adopted a pensive tone, as if he was trying to make sense of the details. His hand reached up to absently stroke an imaginary beard. “The Crosses veren’t in the AEON database, vhich means one of two things. A, they kept their talents very vell hidden, changing names and associations frequently, vhich is highly unlikely; or B, the talent developed vithin the last generation or two, and they did not know to be registered.”

“Interesting,” I muttered. Honestly, I was more curious to know, “Who’s Bones?”

Even behind his hand, I could tell the corners of Duncan’s mouth twitched upwards. “She’s a vitch who vorks on Team Alpha.”

This Team Alpha intrigued me more and more every time I heard about it. First, it was Lady Saathoff herself, who I knew little about. Then it was Sin, the mysterious and powerful being who terrified everybody. Now, it’s this Bones character, who wasn’t just a witch; she was the witch. The first one in history—her position among the Alphas told me that much about her at least.

“Well, Aiden is definitely not a witch.” I firmly stated. “Or black mage, or sorcerer, or whatever else they might be called. She had had plenty of opportunity to use magick on her sister, but never did.”

Duncan’s brow furrowed, and his hand fell back to his side. “So it vas the sister?”

I nodded. “Anjie was waving her hands around and muttering words in some language I didn’t recognize, and every time she did that, something would go flying. Oh! And she kept me prisoner in a summoning circle.”

The vampire blinked, shook his head as if he had just been slapped. “How did you get out?”

I told them about my Jump.

They gaped at me for a long, silent while. Then Duncan had me backtrack all the way to the beginning and fill them in on what went down. I told them about the creepy phone call. The threat against Quinn’s and Morgan’s lives. The duel in the theater. Everything that went down in the school’s sub-basement. Up until the big, green explosion that I narrowly escaped. They listened quietly through the whole tale before they started asking me questions.

“Before I answer all those, I have a couple questions for you.”

They each waved a hand, welcoming me to ask away.

“Could you tell me what the heck was in that mini super soaker you lent me?”

Quinn chuckled, adjusted his weight on the bed. “Remember when you shot the Shadow on Cynthia’s front porch?”

I said that I did.

“The plain ol’ holy water didn’t do much except give it what we would call a nasty sunburn. The demon could have healed that with just a quick Shadow Jump to… wherever it was hiding out. The water didn’t have the stopping power we needed to go up against a demon of that caliber. So, I beefed up the mixture I put in your concealed carry with a little silver nitrate.”

I didn’t know exactly what that mixture was, but my attention hung on the word silver. “I thought werewolves were allergic to silver.”

Duncan concealed a smile.

“Oh, if only it were a simple thing like an allergy.” Quinn made a face, absently rubbed a spot on his right forearm. “The mixture we use actually comes in a soluble capsule that any parathrope can touch; even werewolves and demons. Just so long as you don’t accidentally break the capsule.”

“I see,” I muttered.

“I thought you vould have anxiously inquired about your friend,” admitted Duncan.

I grinned at him. “If you had bad news about Aiden, you would have told me already.”

He nodded.

“I take it she’s here?”

Another nod. “She woke up about an hour ago. She’s refusing to talk to anyone except you, so I had a professor escort her to the cafeteria for something to eat.”

“She’s not a parathrope. Neither is her dad…” I swallowed hard, shook my head. “She can’t stay here, can she?”

“Unfortunately, no. The school is a sanctuary for parathropes. And, while she may have been exposed to our world, her cowan status won’t count for anything among our population. However, we will be keeping a watchful eye on her in the years to come to make sure nothing goes after her.”

Well, at least she’ll have some protection.

“Vhy don’t you go up to the cafeteria and talk to her?” prompted Duncan. “I’m sure she is still there.”

Quinn agreed, got to his feet. “Yeah, we can finish this Q and A session after things have settled a bit more.”

That sounded like a great idea to me.

I threw aside the covers, draped my feet over the side of my bed. As I did, I caught a glimpse of my family Polaroid and was reminded of something. I called Duncan’s name before he stepped out of the room.

He looked sidelong at me.

“Any word from Khione?”

His expression turned stone cold.

I took it as a ‘no.’

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