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In Which Deals are Struck and Trouble Arises

In Which Deals are Struck, and Trouble Arises Marcell was going to die. Cindy stared on as he was shredded to a pulp by the fangs of the massive werewolf. She couldn’t let this happen, she couldn’t. Without a plan, without even thinking, she opened her mouth and screamed. “Stop this! Now!” The crowd, which a moment before had been baying for blood, paused. The box went silent. Even the werewolf ceased its slaughter to locate the source to the noise. The whole world held its breath, and turned towards Cindy. She shrank just a little. “Why, Cynthia,” Raz put an arm around her shoulder. “I can’t stop it, that would go against everything we stand for. The world must be purified.” “And killing this one is going to save the world?” she said, loudly, so the rest of the arena could hear her. “There’s hundreds, thousands of others just as strange as he is. I should know, I...’ve met them.” “And your point is?” Raz seemed a little nervous at her words. He glanced not only down at the crowd below, to gauge their reaction perhaps, but also at her. He was either very uninformed, she realized, or didn’t want his followers to know. She took a deep breath. Where was she going with this? But then she happened to glance down at the fragment dangling from his neck. “For his life,” she said, lowering her voice. “I’m willing to make a bargain. “Little missy, I see only one thing you could offer me.” “Looks can be deceiving. You see, I’ve seen the Truth.” He had opened his mouth to protest, or maybe laugh at what she’d offered. But as soon as the last word was out he promptly shut it again. “The whole Truth, not just a pitiful little fragment like the one you’ve got around your neck.” She did it. She had him. She could see the glint behind his shades. “You spare his life,” she pointed back down to the arena, where two armed guards stood, having been summoned by Raz a second before, to keep the werewolf at arm’s length from Marcell’s unconscious body. “And I will tell you about the Truth.” The gears were turning in Anaxagoras’ head. Cindy could see them. After what seemed like an eternity, he snapped back to reality and grinned. “Alright, sugar. I’ll spare his life, tonight. But I can’t just let him go free. I’d have a riot on my hands. You understand, don’t you?” Then it would be up to her to get him out herself. That was fine. All she needed was time. “But you won’t sick that werewolf on him again, or anything that will kill him.” “He’ll be the king of the arena.”

“Deal.” He took her hand, then turned back to the crowd. Somehow, he must have told them something to keep them calm, and the guards below dragged Marcell away back into the belly of the arena. He was badly hurt, but alive. Everything else was hazy and insignificant; Cindy felt light-headed. She nearly felt a strange sense of mourning. In her mind’s eye she could see Lucius being torn into bloody bits and left to turn to ash in the sun. It hadn’t happened, but it had been such a close call that Cindy could nearly taste it on her tongue. How close she had been to losing him. Shivers crept down her spine. For a solid twenty minutes she could barely function. At some point someone must have led her to a room,, a small, concrete square only a little bigger than the one she’d woken up in. The only furnishings were a small bed and dresser. For a few minutes, all Cindy could do was sit on the edge of the lumpy bed and try not to panic. She was an unbelievably long way from home, Marcell was in trouble, and she was the only one who could save him. She had no phone, no book, no magic. Only her head, and her tongue. If only Niko’s head and Tommy’s tongue were here with her. But she was entirely, utterly alone. What could she do? She was an eighteen-year-old girl with—barely—only a high school diploma, and not much else going for her. Without her magic, Cindy wasn’t much of anything. Curling up on the thin sheets, Cindy tried very hard not to cry. In the end, she was glad she didn’t, because it took a long time to pull yourself together after a good, real cry. Certainly not enough before there was a soft, but firm knock on her door. Cindy sat up, cleared her throat. She tried to make her face a mask, no emotions. She would not show weakness. It was probably Raz, or one of his other associates on the other side of the door. There was no lock—because of course there wasn’t—so Cindy just said: “Yes?” The door opened a crack, and much to Cindy’s surprise, a head of bleached-blonde hair slunk through the door. It was the other girl from the box, what was her name? Kei? Her smile seemed a little too wide from the dark lipstick around her mouth, her eyes a little too bright from the black eyeliner. But there was something beyond that, something wrong about her that Cindy couldn’t place. It was a familiar feeling, but where from? “Well, well,” Kei grinned, broadly. “Finally, Cindy Miller, in the flesh.” Cindy stood. She still had a few tricks up her sleeve. “How do you know me?” After closing it behind her, Kei leaned against the door. “I’m you magical fairy godmother.” She was pretty sure she was bullshitting her, but with all the things she’d seen, it was difficult to be sure. “I’m kidding,” Kai said. “That was a lie. I tend to do that. I’m actually a tattoo artist from another dimension. I’ve been watching your little adventures for a while now.”

“Alright,” Cindy narrowed her eyes. “Now you’re just making fun of me.” “Me?” she gasped, looking hurt. “I would never.” “What do you want?” Cindy crossed her arms, getting annoyed now. Kei just shook her head. “Testy, this one,” she giggled. “I’m disappointed. I assumed you’d take after your brother. He’d let me talk circles around him until he finally wised up.” “You... you know my brother? Which one?” “Oh, that’s right, there are three Miller spawn, aren’t there? I never heard much about the youngest one.” What in the hell was this lady’s problem? “You can’t just give me a straight answer, can you?” “I mean, I could, but where’s the fun in that?” “Are you just here to confuse me?” Cindy massaged her temple. It had been a long day and this clown wasn’t making things any easier for her. “No, no, no, no,” Kei shook her head vigorously. She gestured over to the dresser, like she intended to sit on it. “May I?” Cindy sighed. “Knock yourself out.” Hopping up on the battered wood, Kei wiggled her legs back and forth and leaned forward. “Alright, so here’s the deal: we’re both here because we want something. You want your boyfriend free, and I want—or rather, someone who is here with me wants—Abigail Hodge dead.” “I’m not too fond of her myself.” Cindy decided not to tell Kei about her other goal: getting that piece of the Truth away from Anaxagoras. She didn’t trust her. Not her words, not her Cheshire- like grin. Who knew what she might do with something like the Truth? “Well, that’s good,” Kei sniggered. “Because the way I see it, her death is the best chance you two have of getting out of here in one piece.” “What makes you say that?” “You need some sort of distraction,” she explained. “The only way to free your boyfriend is when all of the cultists are focused on something else. Killing Raz will only put everyone on high alert, but if a random, if high-ranking, follower is killed, then anyone could be next, utter chaos.” “I take it that means you have a plan?” She just laughed more. “Oh Cindy, if there’s one thing you’ll learn about me, it’s that I always have a plan.” ~~ o ~~ The evening had certainly been full of excitement. Abigail’s cheeks were rosy from all the fun—and also the slight chill of the summer evening. She would have to thank Cindy for her beautiful distraction. It had been so much easier than it usually was to slip away in the confusion. She was here to observe, not to take part in the cult, no matter how fun it may look. She had to bide her time, unfortunately. She couldn’t just yank the damn fragment from around Raz’s neck and run away. Because she needed to see. She needed to see how the thing was affecting him. And if it was the same as how it was affecting her. There was one primary difference, of course, between the two of them. All Anaxagoras had ever known was this small fragment, merely a piece of the Truth. But all those years ago, in that cave by the sea, when Abigail had first seen it, it had been whole, complete. Only then had she broken off a small piece to keep in her mind. She didn’t quite know why she had done it. Perhaps she’d been hoping to retain some sort of power over it, locked up in her mind as it was. A hostage of sorts. That had been a mistake, one she highly regretted. Because instead of keeping it as ransom, like she’d intended, it was instead slowly taking over her mind. Abigail could hear it laughing at her, even now as she struggled against it. Anyone could see the Truth, but it took a special mind to truly understand what it meant. She did understand it, far too well. She knew this world, and her place in it. Sometimes she wished she didn’t. Finally, after a few minutes of stumbling through the woods, Abigail saw the familiar outline of the van, a faint light coming from its back. She pulled the handle and with a heavy clunk the door swung open. Victor was in the back, eyes transfixed on a piece of machinery. He only looked up after she’d been standing there for a few seconds. “Hi,” he said. “Hello,” she smiled, leaning into the back to give him a peck on the lips, and then crawling in beside him. “How was the... arena?” he asked. Usually, he didn’t attend with Abigail because he didn’t like seeing it. Which was fine, the real reason for Abigail’s presence there wasn’t for the mindless slaughter anyway. He’d made some machines to help the thing run, a gift to get into Raz’s good graces, and then promptly had nothing more to do with it. Abigail sighed. “There’s been a.... complication.” “That doesn’t sound good.” “Cindy Miller and her delicious boy-toy vampire showed up.” Blinking, Victor frowned. “Why would they be here?” “To destroy Raz’s little trinket, obviously,” she said. “But she can’t have it, she wouldn’t even know what to do with it!” “And you do?” “Well, no,” she stumbled. “But I’m a lot closer than she it. She’ll probably try to crush it with a rock or something, the heathen. Speaking of which, how’s progress here been?” She looked around the back of the van, mechanical parts strewn everywhere, Victor’s face covered in oil stains... He shrugged. “I wish I had a real workspace. It’s hard to get a lot done without any equipment.” “We both will have one, just as soon as I can get that damn fragment. I wish I could just rip the thing off his neck, but then the whole cult would be on me in seconds. But you know...” she straightened as a sudden thought occurred to her. “Maybe little miss fire fingers showing up could be a good thing.” “How so?” Victor asked. “She’s a teenager. Filled with hormones and drama, no offence, and nearly everything is the end of the world. In all honesty, she might make for a wonderful distraction...”

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