Adeyemi hummed as he sat in his office. The phone rang. He picked it up. “Hello?”
“This is Bavandersloth,” he heard. “The shipment you asked for should be there any minute now. I had to get some friends of mine to drive the trucks. You’ll need to be downstairs in order to receive it. They won’t trust a group of zombies.”
Adeyemi smiled. “Ah, I see. Thank you very much for bailing us out like this.”
“You’re welcome.” Bavandersloth hung up.
Adeyemi stood up, put some nose plugs in, and went downstairs. A few minutes later, a group of trucks arrived, driven by Adeyemi’s own men. Adeyemi raised an eyebrow. Bavandersloth had just said he’d sent his own people to drive the shipment in. It wasn’t like him to misremember something like that. Was this not the shipment? One of the men coughed as he exited the truck.
“Damn, boss. Why do you have to keep all of these… things around?”
“They’re our workers.”
“They’re from hell is what they are.” The man coughed a few more times. He looked down and sighed. “Whatever. I have the shipment here.”
“I see that you do. If I may ask, though, did something come up at the last minute? I was on the phone with Bavandersloth just now and he told me that some of his own men were bringing it in.”
The man tilted his head. “I don’t know how that happened. Some of his men gave me this thing maybe half an hour ago.”
Adeyemi squinted. “Strange. You don’t happen to know if--”
Johnathan’s eyes widened as a bright light flashed in front of him and he was forced out of the body he’d been controlling. He looked around. He was inside a fireball. Though it caused him no pain, he still felt the urge to fly above it, along with all of the other souls around. When he did, he looked down. His eyes widened. Several buildings were gone. A few others were on fire. John flew back to his master.
Bavandersloth looked up as several of his souls entered his mansion. He smiled. It was done, then.
“Master,” one of the souls said, “there was a--”
“An explosion, I know. Be assured that nothing I am not okay with has happened. In groups of two, go to some of the souls monitoring DIAPP agents and follow their assignments around until they bring you to agents who aren’t being monitored yet. At that point, one of you should start following them, and another one of you come tell me about it. I’ll send a third soul your way.”
The souls nodded and flew off. Bavandersloth put aside his book and picked a phone. He called a leader of a different organization.
“Hello?” the man on the other line said.
“It’s done,” Bavandersloth said. “Their facilities in the area should be beyond use. You’re free to set up shop if you want.”
“Excellent. Will you be supplying us with workers?”
“Possibly at a later date. I’m using every spare familiar on something else right now, but if that threat is ever resolved, I’ll contact you.”
“Oh. Disappointing. I suppose we can make due, though.”
“I trust that you can.”
Bavandersloth hung up. He dialed another number.
“Yes, hello, this is Bavandersloth. I’ve just learned that the shipment I sent you has been hijacked by the Okoro family and filled with explosives. They’re going to blow up your facilities when the shipment arrives. You’ll want to stop the shipment as soon as possible. It might already be too late. I wish I could have told you any sooner, but I only just now learned.”
There was a pause on the other end. “Understood.” The phone was hung up. Bavandersloth smiled.
Bavandersloth sat across from Violet Fox in the studio. His interviews here had become so regular that they may as well have been a nightly segment on the ten o’clock news. There was even talk of Bavandersloth getting his own show.
In the other room, an anchorman spoke. “Our top story tonight, Last Night, a rebel faction, has forcefully removed the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un from power. The United Brotherhood, a group previously unknown to intelligence officials and experts, has violently, but without any human fatalities, get this, single-handedly taken down the regime overnight, and it appears that the strangest detail in the case may give us a hint as to how that’s possible.”
The broadcast, displayed for Bavandersloth by a screen on the wall in front of him, cut to footage of the green light from Valthakar’s wish-granting. The light had arced across the Pacific Ocean, widening as it went from the size of a pinhead to the size and shape of the affected area: North Korea. In addition to the area it enveloped, the light had been seen from Alaska, Russia, China, South Korea, and Japan.
“This light,” the newscaster continued, “whose color, I’m sure you notice, resembles that of force fields used by Angels on camera in the past, was seen throughout the area. The Light enveloped the whole of North Korea, seeming to have traveled from an arc originating right here in Goldfalls. Sitting in the studio with my co-anchor Violet Fox to comment on the issue is the Angel Light-rook.”
“Thank you, Dave. Light-rook, do you know what happened here?”
“Why yes. First, I want to state outright that this was indeed our doing. It was Orichalcum, actually. He took advantage of a special opportunity to cast a very powerful spell. There’s no safe way to induce it to happen on command, but in this case we were able to see it coming and capitalize on it.”
“Can you elaborate on the nature of this spell?”
Bavandersloth sighed. “Well, I’ll try I suppose. It’s to do with a buildup of magic in our home dimension, but not just anywhere there, in a specific area, a place where magic can more easily leak from that realm to this one. Magic moves through that realm randomly. Build-ups like this can happen at any time. I’ve seen days when five of them occur and I’ve seen stretches of fifty years where none do, and sometimes they go away before you get a chance to use them.” Bavandersloth smiled. “What I’m trying to say is don’t get your hopes up too high for it to happen again soon. Still, this time, things worked out well, and North Korea was the first thing that occurred to us.”
“Is your influence the reason for the lack of casualties?”
“And how did you make sure of that?”
“We were able to specify it in the spell.”
“And why did rebels end up overthrowing the government because of your spell? Why didn’t the regime just vanish?”
“I can’t say for sure. We think that with events like this, whatever we specify happens by the most likely scenario available. In this case, a new rebellion was formed and they overthrew the government, damaging only property.”
“I see. So what about…”
The interview continued nearly until the end of the newscast. Bavandersloth felt sorry for the political analyst they’d gotten on to speak on the implications of the spell. He only got to speak for a few minutes.
Agent Lambert turned off the TV. He turned to one of his fellow agents. “This has gone too far,” he said.
“The North Korea or the…”
“All of this.” Agent Lambert put his head down and took a deep breath. He looked back at his fellow agent. “I think…” Agent Lambert sighed, “I think it might be time for us to tell the public everything.”
The other Agent’s eyes widened. “You can’t be serious.”
Agent Lambert nodded. “I am.”
“But that’s against the highest of our protocols. If everyone knew how those things worked, some people, the wrong people, would want to be like them, and that book always appears for anyone who knows everything and still wants to be one of them. Besides, how would the public react if they knew about liches? Bad as real liches are, the rumors and suspicions about innocent people would give McCarthy nightmares.”
“I know.” Agent Lambert sighed. “But that’s better than letting Bavandersloth take over the world. If we don’t tell the world everything soon, Bavandersloth will win. It’s the only strategy left.”
“And what if we spur the community of liches into an all-out attack?”
“What could they possibly do that’s worse than what Bavandersloth has in mind?” Agent Lambert clinched his fist. “No. If we can unite humanity together against them, we’d be able to stamp them out.” He looked down. “This has become a different type of threat than we usually deal with. We can’t beat Bavandersloth in our usual way.” Lambert gritted his teeth. “We can’t afford to care about the consequences. There’s nothing we could ever do that’s not preferable to the least horrific of Bavandersloth’s possible endgames.”
The other agent sighed. “If that’s the case, we’d better speak to the Grey Man right away. Bavandersloth’s souls are probably already on their way back to him.”
“They’re already there,” Agent Lambert said, standing up.
Bavandersloth put down his book and looked up at the soul who’d approached him. He raised an eyebrow. “Yes?”
“Agent Lambert is speaking about revealing the truth about your diet to the press.”
Bavandersloth’s eyes widened. “What? Didn’t that go against their--”
“They say they’re desperate enough. Agent Lambert plans to speak with the Grey Man soon.”
Bavandersloth stood up. “Alright then,” he said. “Keep a close eye on Agent Lambert.”
The soul nodded. “Yes, master.” It flew away.
That night, Agent Lambert entered a video conference with the Grey Man. “Thank you for agreeing to speak to me this soon, sir.”
“I had little other choice. The fact that an agent of your competence thinks that what I hear you’re planning is necessary is all the proof I need that the matter is more urgent than anything I had planned.”
Agent Lambert nodded. “Let us begin, then. I’ve put some thought into it, and I think I know how to convince the public of the nature of Bavandersloth’s plan.”
“We’ll show them one of our copies of On Soulless Ones.”
“And how will we do that? If we try to get to any news station, any publisher, any radio station, or any person whatsoever with the book, they’ll cut us off, and Bavandersloth will be able to come up with an excuse as to why that happened. The public is in love with him right now. They’ll believe anything he tells them.”
“Surely a group of exterminators could get it there?”
The Grey Man sat back. He thought. “Perhaps enough of them might be able to do it.” The Grey Man looked up at the camera. “How many do you want?”
“How many can you send?”
“As many as you need. For this, I’d send them all.”
Agent Lambert took a deep breath. “I think any more than fifteen would be overkill.”
“Then I ought to send twenty-one. This is a big deal. If you succeed,” the Gray Man sighed, “a lot of things will happen then.”
Agent Lambert smiled. “Twenty-five then.”
“Got it. Thirty-two agents will be sent to Goldfalls.”
“No. Not here. That’s too obvious. Send them to New York.”
The Grey Man raised an eyebrow. “New York?”
“We’re not sending this to Channel 4.”
The Grey Man sat back. “Alright then. New York it is. I’ll also send five your way, as I understand you don’t have any stationed there right now.”
Lambert nodded. “Thank you, sir.”
“Very good. Is there anything else to discuss?”
“Not with you.”
The Grey Man raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”
“With all due respect, sir, I don’t want to announce the details of my plan in front of the souls watching us.”
The Grey Man sighed. “Very well. Go on then. You have my permission to break the Highest Protocol.” The Grey man looked down. “I trust you.”
Agent Lambert nodded. “Thank you, sir.”
Agent Lambert turned off the communication. He sat down and sighed. That part had gone well. Now for the next part of his plan. He reached into his pocket, got out a cell phone, and called the biggest news Agency that came to mind.
He got an automated message. “Hello, you have reached the Galactic, America’s #1 News source. Thank you for calling. If you’re calling to report an error in a recent publication by the Galactic, press 1. If you’re calling to report a lead--”
Lambert pressed 2.
“Thank you. Please hold.” Music played.
Lambert grumbled. He needed this not to take long.
“Thank you,” Bavandersloth told the soul who’d come to him. “Go back and observe.”
“Yes, Master,” the soul said. It flew away. Bavandersloth thought. There was only one reason Agent Lambert would contact the Galactic in advance, to tell them the book was coming. If he got his side of the story out fast enough, he’d be able to prevent any attempt to keep the book away from that station. Bavandersloth had to stop this call.
After a moment, Bavandersloth smiled. He picked up his own phone. He called Larngulal.
She answered. “Hello?”
“Hello. This is Bavandersloth. Our plan is about to fail. Goldfalls’ chapter of DIAPP is contacting the Galactic to promise to send them a copy of the book. If that phone call goes through, we may have no realistic way of recovering. I need you to do whatever it takes to prevent them from receiving that phone call. You have until Agent Lambert comes off of hold.”
“Could you have possibly told me this any earlier?”
“No. Please, hurry.”
Larngulal sighed. “Alright. I’ll send a friend after it. He’s near there, I think.”
“Good. Thank you.”
She sighed again. “No problem.”
Bavandersloth sat back. Assuming she succeeded, that would only put off the inevitable. The Galactic would be able to take calls again within a few days no matter what, and there were more locations than that one to call. Bavandersloth slammed his fist on the table. How had this happened? He couldn’t stop DIAPP for long. They’d call another paper. They… wait. No. He was going about this all wrong. He picked up the phone and called Larngulal again.
“What now?” she asked.
“Change of plans. I have a better strategy.”
Hold ended. Agent Lambert reached the receptionist. “Hello, thank you for calling the Galactic. You have a tip for us?”
“Yes. It’s about the Angels. I’m from the Agency that’s been opposing them recently. I need you to publish the fact that in a few days, perhaps tomorrow, we are going to bring a book to your offices.”
“Yes. It’s a magical book. It contains information on the Angels that is vital to the public interest. I’m calling you because it’s inevitable that the Angels will try to stop you from receiving this book.”
“Yes. I see. And how will this book come to us?”
“The soldiers in the special armor you’ve seen. We’re getting thirty-two of them to escort the book to you. The Angels will try to attack them on their way, especially if you don’t publish this.”
“I see. Well, your tip has been noted. Thank you for calling.”
“You’re going to publish it right?”
“Sir, we receive hundreds of these sorts of tips. We cannot write stories on them all. If your claims are true, we will be sure to inform the public of your call.”
“Wait. Listen to me. I need you to--”
The phone buzzed. She’d hung up. Lambert clinched his fist. He sighed. Please, let thirty-two be enough.
“Okay, what’s your plan?” Larngulal asked.
“I need you to stop any planes from landing nearby tonight.”
“Well that’s much easier said than done.”
“I know, but I have an idea for how you’re going to do it.”
“Do what I did with Tkoralkiarch. Find a human willing to become one of us, and make sure they come out with the power to manipulate the weather, more specifically to cause fog.”
There was a pause. “Ok. Oh. Yes, that just might work.”
“Do you think you can do it?”
“Of course I can do it.”
Bavandersloth smiled. “Good, then. Get going.”
Larngulal hung up. Bavandersloth sat back. He was on top of this.
A few hours later, Larngulal snuck, invisible, into a federal Prison. Souls around her kept watch for guards as she walked through the facility, looking for a specific criminal.
She stopped outside of his cell. She smiled. That was him. Fifteen years ago, that man had terrorized this city by killing over forty people.
Larngulal placed her hands on the bars of the cell and made small parts of them rust away. She took the rest of the bars away from the cell and set them down. This way, it might look like they’d been destroyed gradually over time, perhaps with something as simple as dental floss and sand. She entered the cell. Her target, Jonah Harrison, was on the top bunk. She climbed the ladder and shook him awake.
He opened his eyes. Larngulal pulled her hands away. Jonah sat up in bed. “Huh?” he said.
“Hello,” she said.
Jonah looked around. “Who’s there?”
“I’m on the ladder,” Larngulal said.
Jonah looked. “I don’t see any… wai--”
“Don’t scream. I’m not here to kill you.”
Jonah stared for a second. Eventually, he smiled. “Alright then, what are you here for?”
“I need help,” Larngulal said. “And you’re perfect for the job I need done.”
“I’ll tell you everything after I take you out of here.”
Jonah’s eyes widened. “You’ll get me out of here?”
“I believe that’s what I just said, now come on.”
“Well you don’t have to ask me twice.”
Larngulal smiled. She helped Jonah out of bed and then walked with him out of the prison. Whenever one of her souls warned her of a guard, she’d leave Jonah behind, go to them and give them injuries similar to the one’s they’d get from being punched out, removing a bit of their memory in the process. It wasn’t too long before they’d left the prison. Larngulal put Jonah in the back of her truck and drove off.
Bavandersloth grabbed the criminal as his next meal stood over the man it’d been assaulting. The mortal struggled. Bavandersloth grunted as it tried to wriggle away before he finally managed to pin the human to the ground. He scythed the man’s soul and ate it. The victim tried to stand up. Bavandersloth turned to him. “Don’t,” he said.
The victim looked up at him. “Huh?”
“You’re too injured to safely move. I’m sorry to say I’m not one of the healers. Do you have a cell phone?”
The man pointed nearby. Bavandersloth walked over to the device. It was on the floor, cracked, and damaged to the point of uselessness. He sighed. “Hold on a moment.” Bavandersloth stepped away, took his human form, reached into his pocket, grabbed a phone, and changed back into his true form. He went back into the room. “Here,” he said. “Call an ambulance. Your injuries need to be treated.”
The man on the ground nodded and dialed the phone as Bavandersloth ran off. He smiled. That last soul had put him over a threshold he’d been looking forward to crossing for a century. The DIAPP issue ought to be sorted out by tomorrow and he’d be ready to deploy phase two of his plan.
Larngulal led Jonah to her headquarters, a large house in a wealthy New York suburb. She pulled into the garage before helping Jonah out of the trunk.
Jonah coughed. “Damn it’s hot in there.” He took deep breaths.
Larngulal ignored him and pointed to a plastic bag hanging off of the garage door. “There are street clothes in that,” she said. “I’ll go on inside. Come in when you’re dressed, and bring your prison uniform so I can destroy it.”
Jonah nodded. Larngulal went inside and walked into one of the other rooms in her home. She grabbed her copy of On Soulless Ones and walked back to the kitchen. A few minutes later, Jonah stepped in. “Come on in,” Larngulal said. “Sit down.”
Jonah smiled and obeyed. “Wowzers,” he said. “Who knew an Angel would look so… Angelic.”
Larngulal took the book from her side and placed it on the table. Jonah’s eyes widened. “Woah. Are those gems… real?”
“Yes.” Larngulal said. “But they are of no value at all compared to what is inside this book.”
“Meh, books have never been my thing.”
“Oh, I imagine this one will be.” Larngulal smiled. “You see, we Angels need another one of us.” She opened the book to Chapter Two. “The community of Angels is currently suffering through a less-than-small problem, and the only way to solve it would be to have one of us use weather controlling powers to bring a thick blanket of fog upon a large area surrounding New York City.” Larngulal frowned. “Sadly, there doesn’t happen to be an Angel capable of doing that.” She looked Jonah in the eye. “But you can become one.”
Jonah beamed. “Sign me up.”
“I was hoping you would say that.” Jonah reached for the book. Larngulal closed it. Jonah looked up. “First, though, there are a few rules that need to be established.”
“First, you need to know a secret. We Angels, we eat human souls.”
Jonah raised his head. He paused. “Interesting,” he said after a moment. “So… that’s why you kill criminals?”
Larngulal nodded. “One every night. And if you become one of us, you’re free to do that too. You’ll have to find criminals to do it with, but if you want, you can paralyze them, bring them back here, and do whatever you want to them before you eat them, so l--”
“Just skip to how I do it already.”
Larngulal opened the book back up again, this time to the end of Chapter Two. “You need to select an object, pick something hard to destroy, and put it on here, then read the incantation here.” Larngulal pointed to the text on the opposite page. “That will transfer your soul into the object you choose.” Jonah got up. Larngulal looked over at him. “Don’t forget, will yourself to get weather controlling powers, strong ones, strong enough to allow you to bring down that blanket of fog right away.” Demanding something that powerful and specific would make him weaker in other areas, but Larngulal wasn’t going to mention that.
It wasn’t long before Jonah came back with a small metal statue of a chicken. He placed it on the book, looked down, and squinted. “I call upon the power of the underworld to cast my soul into this object, so that I may become a being of death, disease, and decay.”
Larngulal sat, her hands folded. Jonah became dizzy, and stumbled a few steps forward. He couged. He had a few dry heaves, and then vomited out his soul. It flew toward and made contact with the statue. A few seconds later, Jonah opened his eyes and stood up. He took a few breaths.
Larngulal smiled. “Good job.” Jonah looked at the statue. He walked to it and picked it up. “Now,” Larngulal continued, “cast the fog.”
Jonah smiled. He looked over at her and nodded. He closed his eyes and whispered for a thick fog to come down. Larngulal looked out the window. She could already see it. It wasn’t quite thick enough yet, but it was getting thicker by the second. She got up.
“Where are you going?” Jonah asked.
“To call a friend of mine. There are some papers on the table. Grab one from each stack. They’ll explain the rules you’ll be expected to abide by.”
Jonah frowned and then sighed. He stepped over to the table as Larngulal went into the other room, picked up the phone, and dialed Bavandersloth’s number.
“In other news,” a reporter in New York said, “a sudden, thick fog has caused flight delays all across New York. Our meteorologist Ned Jackson is here to comment.”
“Thank you Jennifer, the fog came suddenly just a few hours ago and blanketed a large portion of the New York metropolitan area. All incoming flights to New York have been delayed…”
Agent Lambert slammed the phone into the receiver. “Damn it!” he screamed. He seethed. Another agent looked at him. Lambert looked down and took a deep breath, putting his face in his hands. He looked up. “I think I might have another idea.”
The agent raised an eyebrow. “What, sir?”
“It’d be better if I don’t tell you. I don’t want to give Bavandersloth any time to react.”
Cody stepped onto Cherie’s porch, carrying a bag with his copy of On Soulless Ones inside. He knocked on the door. After a few seconds, Cherie opened it. “Hey,” she said.
Cody smiled. “Hey,” he said. “You said we needed to talk, and to bring the book?”
Cherie nodded. “Yeah.”
Cody tilted his head. “Is this a…”
“Well, yeah. I’m getting information from this. Didn’t you suspect that coming here?”
“No. That’s not it. You…” Cody looked around. She was lying. This was a trap, but what kind? DIAPP didn’t need his book, or any information they’d learn out of it, or any information he could tell them about it. They had several copies of their own. What else could it be? He’d left the cube at home. Cody’s eyes widened. He’d left the cube at home. Cody put down the book and ran away.
“Cody, wait,” Cherie shouted.
Cody ran off, ignoring her.
Thomas stayed hidden behind the bushes until the devourer was far enough away and Cherie was inside. Eventually, he ran out, grabbed the book, and rushed onto his motorcycle. Four other exterminators followed him.
Bavandersloth poured his wine from his glass, keeping an eye on Justin, who was outside on a swing. A few of Valthakar’s souls came up to him.
“Bavandersloth,” one said.
Bavandersloth looked up. “What is it?”
“A group of exterminators have taken Odelarch’s book. They’re on their way to the news station right now.”
Bavandersloth’s eyes widened. “What?” He turned around and dashed into the other room. Valthakar sat, reading from On the Underworld. “Stand up and hurry, Valthakar.” Valthakar looked up. “Exterminators are rushing toward the news station with Odelarch’s copy of On Soulless Ones. Run over there right now and stop them.”
Valthakar nodded. He got up and ran toward the door. “Wait,” Bavandersloth said.
Valthakar turned around. “What?”
“Go downstairs and get some of the weapons.”
“I think magic ought to be sufficient.”
“And it will also make it clear that we did this. Run over there in your true form, but make yourself look like a human criminal and use conventional weapons to defeat them. Go for heavier ones. Those should get through the exterminator’s light bullet-proof vests. Don’t pay any mind to collateral damage.” Bavandersloth thought. “On second thought, do. Given how I’ll spin this later, I’d prefer there to be as much as possible.”
Valthakar nodded and ran downstairs to grab some guns. Bavandersloth clenched his fist.
Valthakar rushed through town on a course that should allow him to intercept the exterminators if they were on their way to the news station.
After about twenty minutes, Valthakar saw the exterminators. He smiled. Bystanders were looking on, so Valthakar found a hiding place, took his human form, and stepped out bearing a machine gun. He aimed and fired at one of the exterminators; hitting him and making him slouch over. People around screamed and ran away.
“Tom?” a woman’s voice screamed from another bike. Valthakar fired a few more shots at him, making his blood spatter onto the road and causing his bike to fall over. Valthakar aimed upward at the others. He hit two more before they rode out of sight.
Valthakar looked down and saw that none of the ones he’d hit was carrying the book. He sighed. He got on one of the motorcycles and rode after the other two.
He saw them again within a few minutes. He raised his gun and opened fire, managing to hit one.
The other one turned around when she saw her partner hit. She gasped. Valthakar looked. She was carrying the book. The exterminator turned and drove into an alley. Valthakar pulled back harder on his motorcycle’s handle and followed.
When he emerged on the other side of the alley, Valthakar looked both ways and saw the exterminator riding off to the left. His eyes widened. The News Station was close. Valthakar sped that way, firing, but the exterminator swerved. She was probably keeping an eye on him through her motor-cycle’s rear-view mirror. Valthakar retook his aim, but with the same result.
The exterminator accelerated ahead. Valthakar tried to do the same, but was already going as fast as he could. He gritted his teeth, reloaded, and took aim again. He saw a turn coming up ahead. Valthakar smiled. He waited for the exterminator to slow down for the turn and fired. He hit. The woman fell off of her motorcycle and rolled away. A car slammed on its breaks to avoid hitting her. Valthakar abandoned his own bike and ran toward the woman. She tried to stand up, but Valthakar shot her, forcing her back down. She shouted for help, but Valthakar fired again, killing her.
Everyone around was screaming and running away. Valthakar turned around and fired on them. When no one was left in the vicinity, Valthakar walked to the exterminator. He reached down and grabbed the book. He picked it up, ducked into an alley, took his true form and became invisible. He ran back to Bavandersloth’s Mansion.
Agent Lambert picked up his phone. “Yes, hello. Did they…” The agent on the other end sighed. Agent Lambert’s eyes widened. “What…”
“I’m sorry, sir. The devourers got the book back and all of our exterminators are dead.”
Agent Lambert gasped. He shed a tear. He clinched his teeth. He threw the phone against the wall. “God damn it.” Several of the agents around backed away. Lambert punched the couch he was on repeatedly, tears streaming down his face. “Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?”
Cody knocked back on Cherie’s door. Cherie opened it. “What?” she asked.
“What was that?”
Cherie sighed. “It was a DIAPP thing.”
“Well I worked that out.”
Cherie sighed. “Come in.”
Cody followed Cherie downstairs. They sat on the couch. “Alright,” Cody said. “What was that? You acted like you were going to kill me.”
“That’s what you were supposed to think.” Cherie looked down. “That’s what dad said. He didn’t say anything more.”
Cody looked down and sighed. “When he does, mind informing me?”
That night, Bavandersloth sat in his usual spot for his nightly interview with Violet Fox. The subject of the tragedy that had just occurred downtown was being discussed.
“…The motorcyclists there were in the standard armor of the government agency that you’ve interacted with. Do you know anything at all about that incident?”
Bavandersloth smiled. “Well, I don’t know the exact story of how the conflict between them and the perpetrator came about to start with, I’m sorry to say. I do, however, know what they were fighting over.”
Violet’s eyes widened a bit. “What?”
“It was a book.” Bavandersloth sighed. “A terrible, terrible book. That tome is nothing short of pure evil. It comes from our home dimension, and its magical nature reveals itself upon casual examination.”
Violet leaned forward. “How?”
“Well, for one thing, the tome is totally indestructible. I’ve experimented with copies myself and I’ve never managed, nor known of anyone to manage, to inflict the slightest damage on it. Water falls right off of its pages, fire abhors it, and no weight ever supplied has managed to crush it.” Violet started to speak, but Bavandersloth interrupted. “That, though, is far from its strangest property. If you open the book to any page while having nothing in particular in mind as to which of its passages you want to see, you will see a table of contents. If you open it to any page having something in mind, it will display whatever you willed to see.”
Violet’s mouth was wide. “And you said it was evil?”
Bavandersloth paused. “In the worst possible way,” he finally said. “The sort of magic it contains is not the normal kind that I use, but what is considered Dark Magic.” Bavandersloth audibly gulped. “When that book makes a statement of fact about anything but a spell, it cannot be trusted. Its pages contain an elaborate history and cosmology, the whole of which is utterly fabricated. The one respect in which it is truthful is in its spells. It contains the instructions by which one could use magic to do truly heinous things.”
“Can you give an example?”
“Not with a clear conscience. Believe me; you do not want to know.”
“So where is the book now?”
“There are numerous copies. Many of them are buried. A few are safeguarded by some of us; as I said, the book can be trusted to tell the truth about its own spells, and sometimes it yields information useful to combat wicked men who have discovered it. I believe the government agency has at least one copy as well, probably several. The one over which the battle today was fought, though, is now in much more dangerous hands.”
Violet’s eyes widened. “Who has it?”
“The man who collected it, and who is responsible for every death in that incident, was a member of a criminal organization. In those hands, it could be used to cause untold destruction.”
“Wait; do you know which organization has it?”
“No.” Violet looked down. Bavandersloth continued. “We have some idea. We know a few it can’t be, and a few dozen it’s most likely to be, but that’s it. I’m afraid I can’t say much more.”
“Are you going to contact the police about this?”
Bavandersloth nodded. “We already did, but we’ve not heard back.” Bavandersloth stood up. “In fact, that’s part of the reason I came here tonight. I’ve already contacted law enforcement asking for their cooperation, though not long enough ago that I’d expect to have received a response by now. Just to be sure, though, I wanted to say this publically: I intend to visit the police personally tomorrow. For a while now, the police have been doing little to combat us, and I appreciate that, but in light of these events, I feel I must ask for more. I think it’s time that the community of Angels and police around the world begin officially cooperating. I believe that we can do much more together than apart. Our community has done much to combat crime both in America and around the world, and with official support; I believe we could do much more.”
There were a few gasps in the studio, though not as many as Bavandersloth had expected. Some of the people around might have suspected this would happen soon. Bavandersloth sat down.
Violet Fox took a moment to respond. “I see,” she said. Bavandersloth smiled.
Agent Lambert seethed when he saw Bavandersloth’s speech on the television. He tried to force himself to calm down. Bavandersloth was winning. Lambert took a few deep breaths. He called another agent: an expert in criminal justice. He waited a minute before she picked up the phone.
“Hello, sir,” she said.
“Are you watching this?”
Lambert sighed. “In your opinion, Agent Reynolds, how likely is it that the police will go along with them?”
Agent Reynolds paused. “It’s hard to say. I’m not sure how likely it is that the police will be willing to go along with a group known to kill people. Then again, after North Korea…”
Agent Lambert looked down. He shed a tear and slammed the phone against the receiver.
The interview continued. “So who made this book anyway? Where did it come from?”
“Our dimension. The exact details are lost, but we believe it was created by a devourer intent on sewing mistrust against us. I’ve read the book myself. Its chief purpose, other than giving humans access to powerful magic, is to make us seem synonymous with them. This might be why this government agency thought that was the case at first, and might still think so now. As I said earlier, they no doubt have several copies of the thing.”
Violet looked down. She looked back up. “I see.”
“I don’t blame them. It’s natural to trust something that seems to come from a magical source, especially when it’s the first side of the story one hears. I’d happily extend my offer for cooperation to that organization as well, if they’re interested. Indeed, it might take all three of us to combat these criminals.”
Violet nodded. “I see.” She sat back.
Bavandersloth raised an eyebrow. “Is something wrong?”
Violet pressed her lips together. She looked down, and then back up. “How do we know the book is dishonest? How do we know you’re not lying right now? A lot of people out there distrust you, and a lot of them make seemingly good points.”
Bavandersloth paused for a moment, and then chuckled softly. He sighed. “That’s a good question,” he said. “Truth be told, I can’t think of a way to prove it. You have, I suppose, never seen any Angel and their devourer in the same place at the same time. It is odd that a benevolent race like us would hide ourselves for so long and that just shortly after our unveiling that these other forces would suddenly emerge. Truth be told, I can’t think of any proof I have that our community is trustworthy. However, there is one thing I can say.”
Violet’s eyes widened. “What?”
Bavandersloth smiled. “I gained a new power last night. The power of any one of us is constantly growing by drips and drops. One of my powers requires me to be with someone face to face, or at least it did, until last night.”
Lambert’s eyes widened. He grabbed his remote and turned off his TV. He picked up a microphone and turned on the intercom. “Everyone, TV’s off now. Cover your ears. Close your eyes. Look away.” Lambert paused. “Cut power to the facility just to be safe.”
“What are you saying?” Violet asked.
Bavandersloth closed his eyes. “Oh, simply that the various fears based on the facts that I just mentioned are false.” Bavandersloth used his power to induce false belief on all who were watching. “You should think nothing of them.”
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