Book 2, Chapter 100

Elizabeth led Ean up a winding, creaky staircase and down a long hall lined with old paintings, dust entombed busts, and battered suits of armor. At the end of it, she turned and pointed to a locked door. “This is the master’s ritual room,” Elizabeth announced. “Now, it would be best for you if I went and watched the front door before he decides to start shouting orders. Also, since he does not want to be disturbed and that is a rather sturdy door, here is the key. It will provide a much quieter means of entry than utilizing that crowbar of yours too soon.” She pulled a small key from under her belt and passed it to Ean. Then Elizabeth afforded him what might have charitably been called a smile. “I honestly suggest you not disturb him for as long as possible. It would really be best if he not see you coming.” Then she hastily turned and retreated, anxious to be away lest Ean’s de-abduction fail and she be ordered to kill him for disturbing Michael.

Bemused, Ean watched Elizabeth leave. “And this,” he mused, “is why you should always treat your minions well.”

I really hoped he was aware of the hypocrisy of that statement.

Like: Really hoped.

Ean scowled. “Oh, shut up Narrator,” he grumbled — but it was only a half hearted grumble. He leaned his crowbar and board with a nail through it against the wall. Then he crouched down and put his eye to the door’s keyhole, hoping to scope out some of the room that he was about to barge into.

So naturally he was startled when Sakura said, from right behind him: “How in the… I had to scout the entire dungeon. How did you know Rachel wasn’t down stairs?”

Ean had twisted around to stare at her when Sakura had appeared behind him, but it only took him a second to recover his breath. “She’s in there,” he said, pointing at the locked door.

Sakura narrowed her eyes. “How… Did you already scout the rest of this floor?

Ean stood. He made a show of dusting himself off, then looked at Sakura again. “I’m good at what I do,” he said blandly.

Sakura scoffed in disbelief, but then smiled. She looked at the door again, assessing it. “Well, it’ll only take a few seconds for me to pick that lock,” she started to say — but Ean interrupted her by holding up the key.

Sakura’s jaw dropped.

Very good at what I do,” Ean said dryly. “Shall we?”

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 099

One half hour’s drive later found Ean and Sakura standing next to the tree from which Sakura had earlier observed the Necromancer’s house. Ean groaned. “Oh, great,” he muttered. “A necromancer?” In one hand he was armed with the crowbar that Big had dropped in his apartment the night that Fifi was trapped in the refrigerator. In the other, just for the sake of overkill, was the board with a nail in it that he had pried up and threatened to give to JD for fending off the demon.

“Really?” Asked Sakura. “How do you figure?”

“Uh… yeah,” Ean hastily answered. “I mean look at that place. Evil magic plus that much spooky? Necromancer. Definitely.”

Sakura glanced at Ean. He could stand on his own now, but he was a little wobbly. “Are you sure you don’t want to just go home and forget about all this? Necromancers usually aren’t very nice people. And I’d still owe you a favor.”

Ean glanced at her. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m sure.”

Sakura grimaced. “Have you at least come up with a plan?” She asked.

Ean nodded. “Basically, I find the guy and politely ask him to let Rachel go.”

Sakura froze. Then she slowly turned toward Ean and stared at him in disbelief. “And if he says ‘no?’ What’s plan B?”

Ean tilted his head and continued to look over the building. It was a lot like old times. “Well, then I hit the guy with the crowbar a bunch of times.”

“Er… Do you have a plan C?” Sakura asked. “I mean: what if he has some kind of spell that melts metal objects or something?”

Ean hefted the board with a nail through it. “Board with a nail through it,” he said, and started walking toward the mansion.

“What?” Sakura yelped. “That’s as bad as… Okay, what if he has some sort of generic magical protection from physical harm?” She asked. “What’s plan D?”

“Uh… Outsmart the bastard?” Ean suggested.

Sakura’s eyes narrowed. “Aren’t wizards — evil or not — supposed to be geniuses?”

“Yeah,” Ean said. “I think so.” He reached up and knocked on the mansion’s front door.

“I hope you have a plan E,” Sakura muttered.

“And I hope it doesn’t come to that,” Ean absently replied. He knocked on the door again.

Sakura groaned. “You know,” she said, “I kind of think we’d be better off if I just let you blunder around like a big distraction while I sneak around and rescue the girl.”

Ean started to reply, but he was startled into silence when the mansion doors suddenly swung open. He blinked a couple of times at the pretty girl in an overly sexualized french maid’s costume that greeted him. “Hello,” she said. “The master of the house does not wish to be disturbed. May I inquire as to the purpose of your visit?”

“We,” Ean started to say — oblivious to the fact that Sakura had already disappeared on him. He gave me a glare and then returned his gaze to the maid. “I,” he started over, “don’t want to disturb anyone. I just want to pick up my date — she’s a pretty blonde named Rachel — and escort her home for the evening. If I can avoid meeting the master of the house, that would even be pretty ideal. So, if you could direct me to your dungeon or wherever….”

“She’s not in the dungeon, she’s with the master in his ritual chamber,” Elizabeth said. She looked at Ean. Then she looked at his crowbar, and then his board with a nail through it, and then at his face again. “But since he just said he didn’t want to be disturbed, and not that I shouldn’t let him be disturbed — and you aren’t here to disturb him, anyway, I don’t see why it would be a problem for me to take you there,” she cheerfully decided. “Please follow me. It’s right this way.”

Ean hesitated, but then fell into step behind Elizabeth. “You really don’t like the master of the house, do you?” He guessed.

Elizabeth didn’t even bother looking back to answer. “Yes,” she said. “He’s an insufferable jackass. I hope you don’t disturb him with that crowbar. In the head. Repeatedly.”

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 098

Ean was so panicked at Sakura’s casual admission — especially since I didn’t really see a point in not confirming that it was Rachel Sakura had seen be abducted — that he started to push himself up. Then he got dizzy and thumped into the floor again.

“Hey,” Sakura said soothingly. “Don’t hurt yourself, okay?” But Ean was too busy thinking to listen.

He’d just moved.

“Sakura,” Ean said slowly. “I just moved. I thought you said this paralysis wouldn’t wear off for two hours?”

Sakura crouched next to Ean. He carefully avoided looking at her — insofar as he could manage without trying to move again. “Well, yeah,” Sakura said. “It’s a gradual process that takes about two hours.”

Ean blinked a couple times as he processed that. “Sakura,” he said just as slowly as he had the first time, “You didn’t mention that it would start to wear off sooner than that.”

Sakura rolled her eyes. “It’s a chemical agent,” she said. “Not an on off switch. Since it isn’t permanent of course it wears off over time.”

Ean processed that, and then gave up on pursuing it further. “Right,” he said. “Help me up. Do you have any idea where Rachel is now? Can you use your ninja abilities to track her abductor?”

“Yes,” Sakura said. “To both. Why?” She eyed Ean warily, but started helping him to his feet regardless. “You know, I’m pretty sure that the guy who grabbed her is an evil wizard,” she said. “That’s not the sort of thing you do not want to mess with.”

Ean winced as a wave of dizziness washed over him again — but the wince had nothing to do with the dizziness, and a lot more because he was remembering…

“Stop,” Ean snapped at me before I could go into a flashback. He ruins all of the best narrative techniques. Then, because Sakura had thought he was talking to her, he continued. “I’m not going to mess with an evil wizard.”

Sakura breathed a subtle sigh of relief. It didn’t go unnoticed, of course, because I’d just pointed it out. But instead of being annoyed by that, Ean just smirked.

“I’m just going to go pick up my date,” he said, “that’s all.”

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 97

Sakura jumped in surprise when Ean called out to her. This made two times now that he’d addressed her when he shouldn’t have known she was in the room — and that made her suspicious that maybe he wasn’t actually the ‘nice, normal’ boy she’d assumed.

Which possibly made him a candidate for romantic interest again.

Ean squeezed his eyes shut. Probably because he knew I wasn’t going to let up on him until he got a freaking romantic interest, because dammit: that makes for good subplots.

“Sakura?” Ean asked before I could get on him about it more.

“Um,” Sakura said as she pulled her wits together. She hesitated, then asked: “So, Ean, is Rachel a really hot blonde?”

“Yesssss…” Ean said slowly. “Why?”

“Oh,” Sakura answered. “No reason. I’m just… er… trying to figure out if the person I saw get kidnapped was your Rachel, or someone else with the same name.”

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 96

Ean was still laying face down on the floor when Sakura came back. Naturally, since she was a Ninja, there was no evidence of her arrival — nor did she want there to be. She still wasn’t entirely certain she wanted to tell Ean what she’d seen at the theatre — or after.

Naturally, since Ean is Ean, he just rolled his eyes. He was probably going to harp on me about giving away ‘out of character information’ again, later — but it wasn’t like I could just not describe what was going on. I mean: come on! I’m The Narrator, man!

But for once Ean managed to refrain from yelling at me for doing my job while there was someone else around who would think he was crazy if she overhead. Instead, he addressed her.

“Hi Sakura,” Ean said. “So, did you see anything neat at the theatre? Or after?

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Delayed — aparently it’s a two week “vacation.”

Hi, everyone.

So.  I’ve recently been going through a string of very stressful events — not related to the story, but they’ve been having an impact on my writing.  (if you want the details, I’ve posted them in my most recent online diary post.)  Yesterday I actualy wrote two full Midnight Moonlight chapters — each of which is easily the length of a full week’s worth of Et Alia — and they fell far short of my usual standards and probably would’ve derailed that story a bit.  I didn’t even get a start on more Et Alia, in the wake of that.

And that is no good.

The upshot, then, is that I need a little time to pull myself together.  I’m going to give myself the rest of this week off, rather than struggle to catch up or post something I’m not satisfied with.

I am really, genuinely, deeply sorry about this — especially with Et Alia getting the short end of my attention span last week, too.  If I have it together enough by this weekend, I’ll post a full week’s then before resuming regular updates.  But I don’t want to commit to that while I’m in the headspace that I’m in right here and now.

Thank you for your understanding and patience,

–Eren Reverie

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Temporary delay.

So, this has been a hell of a week so far, and I’m still trying to sort things out with the doctor and pharmacy (posting this while waiting in an exam room).  Et Alia will resume updates next week — I simply haven’t had the time (or rather, the energy when I’ve had time) to write this week’s chapters yet.

–Eren Reverie

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 095

Michael recoiled. He was used to people pleading for their lives, or weeping incoherently, or attempting to maintain stoic silence, or threatening him with retribution — stuff like that. But mocking him? That was new. “What.” He said, a dangerous undercurrent to his tone.

But Rachel just strained against the restraints and glared at him. “Magic isn’t real, dumbass!” She shouted.

Michael recoiled from the force of her shout — but then he started laughing. “Oh, Rachel. Poor, poor Rachel. You’re really that ignorant, aren’t you?” He chuckled and shook his head.

Rachel scowled at him. She was pissed now, but not quite as enraged. “Oh,” she snarked. “Yeah. I’m ignorant and you’re insane. We’d have been the perfect couple. Too bad you decided to kill me instead of taking me up on that date,” she shot at him sarcastically.

The sarcasm went completely over Michael’s head. “What?!” He exclaimed. “But you’re the one who rejected me!”

“No I didn’t,” Rachel shouted back. “You just decided to taze me instead of letting me finish. I said I didn’t feel up to coffee tonight — and I was going to say ‘but maybe we can get together this weekend, instead.’ Only you got zap happy and fucked it up! It’s not my fault you’re going to compound on that with a little murder, now!”

Michael stared at Rachel. He vaguely remembered that she’d started to say something more before he’d interrupted her. His jaw worked slowly, but words didn’t come out. He was too distracted by the fierce, beautiful, powerful woman strapped down on the altar in front of him. That tiny bit of himself — the tiny bit that had reacted to her in the parking lot — started pestering him again.

“Really?” Michael asked in a small, vulnerable voice. He let the hand with the dagger fall to his side.

“That would actually be really nice,” Michael admitted. “You know,” he added shyly, “despite all my obscene power I’ve never been on a date before — frankly, being consistently rejected was one of the reasons I got into the dark arts to begin with.”

For a moment, Michael just studied Rachel while she looked back at him — too flabbergast to form a response.

“Sooooo,” Michael finally, hesitantly, said. “If we did do that weekend thing instead of this murder thing, where would you like to go?”

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 094

“Wait!” Rachel shouted.

Michael paused again. “Why?” he asked.

“You said you would answer my questions,” Rachel hastily told him. “There’s still stuff that I don’t understand!”

“Oh!” Michael exclaimed. He lowered the dagger. “Well, we can’t have that. I find that souls are far more helpful if they understand what’s expected of them.” He smiled. “What are you having trouble with?”

“Um.” These restraints, Rachel thought. But what she said was: “You want to rip out my soul and turn it into some sort of magical battery?”

“Yes,” Michael said. He sounded a little annoyed. “You seem to have a good enough grasp on that,” he commented.

“Oh,” Rachel said. “Yeah, that’s not what I’m confused about.” She scrambled to come up with something to say — something to keep him talking. Maybe I can get him to identify with me as a person. Or at least reveal some aspect of his psychosis that I can use against him?

“Then what is?” Michael asked flatly. “That’s really all there is to it. I mean: It’s not that complicated, Rachel.”

“It’s just, well…” Nothing was coming to mind. Rachel didn’t know what to say and she was more than a little scared: and the absurdity of the situation…

Actually, it was making her angry. Mostly at herself. She’d tried listening to her feelings when they told her that Ean was a good guy, and gotten stood up twice. She’d tried not listening to her feelings about Michael, and now he was going to kill her because of ‘magic.’

And it wasn’t like she had any hope that anyone was going to come and rescue her.

Rachel’s voice sharpened. Her fear fell away. “Well,” she said, “if you needed a magic battery so badly, couldn’t you have just asked Santa Claus for one, instead of killing me?

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 093

Michael’s chuckle made a sickening fear bubble up in Rachel’s gut. “Elizabeth, I do not wish to be distracted. Depart.”

Elizabeth jerked as though she had gone from being a person to being a marionette. She stiffly walked out of Rachel’s field of view. Then Rachel heard a door open and close, and she realized that now she was alone with the madman who’d abducted her.

Michael stepped into Rachel’s field of vision and smiled nastily. When she saw him her eyes widened. He was wearing a deep red robe and cowl, with strange arcane symbols embroidered along the edges in black. Oh my God, she thought as she hastily reevaluated the ‘madness’ level of this particular madman upward. Way, way upward.

“You see, Rachel,” Michael explained as he said he would, “you have an incredibly powerful aura. It is the sign of someone who could have been an equally powerful warlock — or witch. And of course, I can’t have that. Or rather, I can. You see, I have brought you here so that I can strip that aura away. I will make it mine, and use it to power my spells for another hundred years — during which all the other power I harvest from the souls of my victims will simply *accumulate.” He giggled. “By the time your soul is a withered husk,” Michael told Rachel, “I will easily have doubled — if not tripled — my current reserves of magic.”

“Oh my God,” Rachel said aloud. “You’re insane!

Michael paused thoughtfully. “People keep saying so,” he admitted amiably. Then he raised a straight, dully stained dagger. “Now try not to fuss. This will only hurt until you die.”

Rachel’s eyes widened. Michael stepped up beside her. Then he paused again. A thoughtful, pouty frown twisted his lips. “And then… possibly until your soul is utterly destroyed after a century of being drained in my service,” he admitted. “But certainly no longer than that,” he concluded cheerfully.

And then Michael raised the dagger to strike.

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating