Heller Manor- Chapter 4

Vic walked into their apartment and tossed their coat on the couch. Sounds coming from the bathroom told Mare was at work on the pipe, they walked back to check on things.

“Hey Mare,” Vic said, leaning on the door frame.

“Hey,” she responded over her shoulder as she tightened the new pipe on. “Almost done here. Got any other pipes ya want me to look at?” she smirked, cocking an eyebrow.

Vic laughed. “Sure, look at ’em all, make sure no more are gonna burst.”

“Hmm… that’ll cost you more than just dinner.” Mare replied, dropping the wrench into her tool bag as she stepped out of the shower enclosure.

“Y’could bill me,” Vic said turning and gesturing with their head towards the living room. They walked into the kitchen and pulled a couple bottles of cider as Mare walked over to the couch.

“Hey Diavolo,” she said moving Vic’s coat over, “How was the gig?”

Vic handed Mare a bottle and stepped over her legs to plop on the couch beside her. Vic nestled against Mare, who reached an arm over their shoulders, “Eh, it was fine. Woman was strung out because she saw ghosts and shit. I gave her the intro, warded her mirrors, told her to get cozy with the thing that gave her the visions and see what else she got.”

“Can you make rent this month?”

“Well, I’m going to do her Syndicate intro soon, and they pay well. I’m waiting on her for that, though. It’s entirely possible it won’t happen this month, which would suck.

“I’ve got money coming in on the blog, advertising, patrons, that sort of thing, but it can take a bit to clear. So basically I need more gigs, because $150 ain’t enough.”

“No savings to fall back on?”

Vic looked at Mare with eyes that said “Really?”

“Ok, good point,” Mare said. She sipped from her bottle. “So what are you going to do? You can’t just keep lurching from month to month hoping you’ll get enough gigs to pay the rent or that Chuck won’t evict your shapely ass.”

Vic swigged from their bottle. “Dunno.”

Outside, the skies rumbled, Portland’s daily rain shower starting early this afternoon. Vic groaned as they stood to close the kitchen window.

“Well, what’s the deal with the Syndicates? Didn’t you say they housed some of you guys?”

“Mostly just the ones on the payroll. Princes and bishops and the Revolution Committee and officers and all of that get room and board. Even if I wanted to be part of the power structure, they probably wouldn’t take me. I suppose I could squat with the Cauchemar for a while, but… I’d almost rather live out of my car. I don’t relish the idea of living in an even more neglected building waiting for someone to throw me out again.

“Well… if it comes to it…” Mare started, uneasy about finishing.

“No. We work well as we are. We don’t need to be a couple. Besides, you don’t want to be that kind of Renfield. I start living with you and the Syndicates start expecting me to truly bring you in.”

“Well, you can crash if you need to. I mean, I agree, no way do we need to be a couple, but if you’re looking at sleeping in your car, and staying at my place a bit… My bed’s comfier than your car.”

“Thanks, Mare. I’ll figure something out. Hell, if it comes to it, I can do some work for one of the cults. The Oracles always have some damned thing that needs hunting, the White Lotus probably has something they need done and a place to stay to pay for it with.”

“Why don’t you take those jobs?”

“I like being a slightly more free agent. I mean, the Oracles are my cult, and they send jobs my way, but I don’t want to be a 9 to 5 monster hunter, and the Lotuses… I just don’t have the energy to go crawling through tunnels or records for hours on end at this point in my life.”

“So you prefer living month to month and always worrying about having to load up your apartment in three days or less over a steady, but less than ideal job?”

“I’m young and introverted, it’s a thing with us.” Vic replied, poking Mare in the ribs.

“I’ve looked over their shoulder at tumblr, it really is,” Diavolo chimed in from his perch on a bookcase.

“Well, then you need to find a job that is ideal.”

“Something’ll come in, and in the meantime, I’ve got the blog. Of course, that depends on me getting jobs… unless I just start making things up.”

“Vic, find something. You get emails, right?”

“Yeah, when people get desperate. It’s not like I can really advertise. The syndicates would be so far up my ass that I’d taste all four flavours.”

“Why can’t you advertise? Don’t people sell spells and shit and do ghost hunting shows?”

“Yeah, people who are fakes. The Syndicates basically allow those because they’re good comedy. I could try to set up shop doing spells and shit, but I’d be constantly dodging the Syndicates. Assuming I got any business at all.”

Diavolo fluttered over to perch on Vic’s head, “Don’t mean to interrupt the life talk, but looks like you just got a job, Vic. Check your email.”

Vic fished their phone out of their pocket and flicked into the email app, then to the Esoterica label. “Which one, Diavolo?”

“Haunted.”

Vic opened an email with the subject “ESOTERICA, HELP-MY PROPERTY IS HAUNTED.”

I’m desperate. I’ve tried everything, even a psychic. I got your name as someone who could help. I’ve got to get this place cleared out, or I can’t sell it. I’ll pay anything. Just help me. ASAP.

Heller Manor

549 Heller Drive

Portland

–Phil Robbins, Emmings Reality

“Well, this could be something. Maybe if it fails he’ll just give me the place…”

“And maybe if you get it done he’ll pay you well and keep you in mind for the next place,” Mare said, nudging Vic.

“Alright, I’m going to drive out to this place, check it out, see what’s going on. Mare, can you do some research about this place for me?”

“Yeah, the shop’s slow today, I’ll check it out.”

“Thanks.” Vic squeezed Mare’s arm affectionately. “I’ll probably just do a consult today. Assuming that the place isn’t haunted enough to keep me there…”

“Does that happen?”

“It can. Depends on the haunt, depends on whether the place has a major world bleed.”

“Alright, well, stay safe,” Mare said, standing to leave.

“Will do, let me know what you find out.”

Heller Manor- Chapter 3

Vic set a steaming cup of tea on the table and gently placed their hand on Kristal’s shoulder, “Kristal, wake up.”

The woman tensed as her eyes shot open and she expected to see something lurking above her. In a moment, she was already opening her mouth wide to scream before remembering what Vic looked like. She relaxed, but only a hair, and pushed herself up to sit against the arm of the sofa. “How long did you let me sleep for?”

Vic sat across from her on the sofa with a mug of coffee, brown like sugar–thick and sweet. “Half an hour. You need more, but you need this lesson even more. It gave me time to ward the place, make sure nothing comes in.”

Kristal picked up her tea and nodded her gratitude.

Ok, so here’s the deal. You live in a world with monsters and witches and magic. The fact that you most likely did not know this for certain, and certainly did not know the precise nature of it, is credence to the efficacy of the Vow of Silence, which is the deal struck by the supernatural community to not reveal their existence to humans so that humans would not come after them with pitches and torchforks,” Vic quipped. “Broadly speaking, there are six major lineages, and then there are the anathema. There are also varieties of each lineage, but you’ll get the basic idea. There are the werethings. They call themselves the lycanthropes because none of them came from Greece originally, and so they don’t care about Greek. There are the vampires, you know what those are, I’m sure. There are the automata, which are artificial beings. Adam, the Golem, androids, that sort of thing-”

Adam?”

Er, Frankenstein’s monster. He was named Adam.”

Oh. …he wasn’t real, was he?”

Yeah, he was. His lot are called Frankensteins. Reputedly, he did not much care for that, but it stuck.” Vic sipped their coffee before continuing. “There are leviathans, creatures which descend directly from the chaos dragon mother of monsters Tiamat, or people which ate leviathan flesh, and then there are transhumans, people which made themselves more than, and witches, people who adapted their heart and soul to magic. I save transhumans and witches for last because there’s honestly a good deal of overlap.” Vic looked Kristal over for any sign of acceptance or final mental snap. “With me so far?”

Yeah… and that’s it?”

Well, no, there are also the anathema, creatures which typically hail from the other realms, and refuse to get with the program. Demons, goblins, fae, evil plants, zombies, monstrous animals like chimera and swarms, and so on. But for that, we need to talk about the other realms. There are three worlds beyond the mortal coil we grew up on—the Dark Reflection, or Limbo—Hell, for all intents and purposes; the Gloom, or Mictlan, a world of death and cold; and Maya, the Dreamworld, realm of monstrous beasts and sapient plants.

Every supernatural draws power from one of those realms. For example, as a Baal, I draw my power from Limbo, it allows me to conjure flame, and gives me the magical energy to use to see auras, like you do. As a warlock, I also have spells, but those are somewhat separate, and require learning from tomes. Powers are mostly innate, though they can be learned as well.”

Can normal people learn spells?”

It’s possible, but there are really two strata of ‘normal people,’ Luminaries and the chaff. Luminaries are people who have some extra spark—if you saw people emanating golden light, those are Luminaries—which the chaff do not. This spark means that when they are turned into a supernatural, they retain their individuality and sapience, becoming a full supernatural. When chaff are turned, say by a vampire, they become near-feral beasts called spawn. Or they just die, if they’re left for dead by a lycanthrope. When a normal person attempts to learn magic, they typically learn, at best, one spell or power, and have poor control of it, and they’re referred to as cultists, since they usually learn magic through a cult or are quickly grabbed hold of by one after they learn their magic.”

Am I chaff?” Kristal asked, mortified.

No, you’re a Luminary. If you were chaff, well, I’d have basically been required to kill you. Trust me- it’s better than the alternative would have been. But no, you are a Luminary, and you’ve basically been made a Baal. The Limbic energy of the pot basically burned out your soul. …sorry.”

So… souls are real.”

Vic made a face of theological discomfort, “Yeah, but it’s not really what you’re probably thinking. There are a lot of ways for supernaturals to come back from death, and none of them—even leviathans and werewolves, who don’t lose their souls in their transformation—have said anything about any kind of afterlife beyond Mictlan. There are some people who wind up in Limbo when they die, usually because of mucking around with stuff from there, and there are people who wind up in Maya when they die, but most people become ghosts in Mictlan.

Soul, as we use the term, really refers to a core of humanity which basically makes one react badly to magic. If you get changed into a vampire or lycanthrope, your soul is changed, and your powers don’t really do you any harm. If you’re an automata or leviathan, you have a different kind of soul, which doesn’t react poorly to magic—at least, not as badly as a human soul, which has a tendency to make its owner go insane when magic hits it. Transhumans change their own souls, and witches, well, we destroy ours. Dryads replace their hearts with magic seeds that turn them into something more akin to a plant, khaibit turn themselves into something more like an animate corpse, and Baali, well, we just fucking burn our souls out.”

Kristal’s home evinced no particular devotion to God, but a small piece of her, verging on a racial memory of devoutness and religious superstition piped up inside her. “But… so… what will happen to me when I die?”

Vic sipped on their coffee again, looking over the top of it at Kristal. “Well, that rather depends on what you do while you’re alive. And I don’t mean in a general good deeds and bad deeds sorta way.” Vic pulled their shirt collar aside, showing a complex brand and tattoo just below their collarbone. “See, if I die, this thing here will do a quickie one-time rez on me-”

Rez?”

Oh, sorry, resurrection. There’s a power-slash-spell, it’s called all kinds of things when you’re looking at it as a spell, when it’s just a power someone has, it’s called Restoration—very original, I know—which returns a person to life. It’s a one time thing, and I have to make sure I have I have the mojo to let it do it’s thing, and if I’m impaled or my head’s been separated, I need to be taken down or reassembled, but basically, this puts me back on my feet so I don’t sit around as a ghost waiting for someone to come along and convince them to do it for me.

So, if you get one of these—I can put you in contact with the people who do ’em—then when you die, you come back after a few hours as a ghost. Or, if you make the right friends, one-a them can do a Restoration on you.

If you mean metaphysically… well, you will probably become a ghost in Mictlan until you’re pulled back. If you die in your sleep, well, then you become what’s known as a Jalus, the lost soul of a person who died while their mind was in Maya. If you give a demon or a goblin claim to your soul, you get pulled into Limbo. But notably, none of this prevents you from getting Restored.”

So…” Kristal tried to muster a response to all of this, “so wait, does God exist?”

Not so far as I know. There are a load of potent fucks claiming to be gods, and, yes, there are demons, but every mythos has evil fucks who want to take what is essentially you, so it’s not like that’s a sign of God’s existence. Hell, having thought on it, and seen enough, I’m starting to think a load of the supposed gods were just powerful supernaturals. You see a guy throw a bolt of lightning up another’s ass, and suddenly Zeus is a lot more human-seeming.”

Ok… so… about the seeing things?” Kristal said, still trying to cope with the new world she’d been thrust into.

Ok, so that’s a power, typically called Aura Perception. It’s pretty much the primary thing you get when you become a witch. It lets you peer into the shallows of other worlds, and see the true auras of supernatural beings. Because you’ve been transformed by an artifact of The Dark Reflection—Limbo—you’ve got your eyes stuck on that world. Each world has the Shallows and the Deeps, with the Shallows being basically an overlay of the mortal coil, and the Deeps being just that world.”

How do I turn it off?”

You just do. You just decide to not use it anymore. You didn’t know what was happening to you, so you didn’t know you could do that. Hoping for something to end and turning it off aren’t the same thing. So, take a deep breath, focus on your eyes—closing them may help—and will your eyes to see only the mortal coil.”

Kristal did as she was told. She closed her eyes, and focused her attention on the darkness behind her lids, and then… “Wait, how do I will something to happen?” she asked, her eyes still closed.

You decide it’s so.”

Oh.” Kristal focused on that blackness again, and just… decided that she wouldn’t see the demons of Limbo and auras of the supernatural.

Ok, open them, and look at me.”

Kristal slowly opened her eyes, and looked at Vic.

Oh.” She said.

What?”

I mean… I… didn’t know you were a woman.”

Um. Ok, yeah, sure, physically, yes, I’m female,” Vic said.

Kristal just looked at them quizically.

Vic sighed, “Yes, my physical sex is female. I’m transgender, meaning I identify differently from my physical sex. Specifically, I’m gender queer, I identify as both male and female.”

Oh.” Kristal considered for a moment. “Are all Warlocks-”

No. This is a person thing, not a supernatural thing. I mean… if you look at history, there was often complicated gender stuff ascribed to the magic people and spirit talkers of various non-abrahamic cultures, but no, there are a lot of witches who are male or female and a lot of warlocks who are male or female. Warlock is just my preferred term for my status as a magic using person. Just like I prefer to be seen as and referred to as ‘them’.”

Oh. Ok, so I can turn my visions off. Could- Could I turn them on again?”

Vic smiled inwardly for the return to the talk of the supernatural world. “Yeah, same way. You just decide to turn it back on. You need to keep in mind how much energy you have in you. Now, unless you have a secret life as a murderer that you’re very successfully hiding, I’m going to assume you’re a Lunar witch, which is to say, you gain energy from the rise of the moon. It doesn’t have to be full, it just needs to rise. And you’re specifically tied to the moonrise schedule of your home, meaning the Pacific timezone. You could be in Egypt, and be filled with energy in the middle of the day because the moon rose here.”

How much energy do I have?”

Well, it’s not like it’s in tangible units… but generally a new supernatural can, say, activate Aura Perception 13 times between recharges.”

And I recharge when the moon rises?”

Most likely, yes. There is a possibility that you recharge by inflicting harm on people, which is unlikely, as you would probably have run out of power and had the visions stop for that reason. There’s also the possibility that you are on what is known as a ritual power schedule, which requires you to spend two hours doing something specific. Such as absorb energy from the pot. That’s entirely possible. How much time have you spent in or around the kitchen since you got it?”

Well… actually the pot was in my room originally. I moved it down here just a night or two ago when the nightmares got really intense.”

Well, then it’s even more likely,” Vic said. “You can always experiment, and may want to, since it’s good to know when and how you get your power, and you’ve got some new capabilities to learn to use.”

So, what else can I do?”

Well, that’s very vague. You get to see auras, you can push people around, and you can manipulate peoples’ memories. Beyond that, it really matters more what you learn. So I’d recommend taking a much needed rest, get some sleep, and then start getting to know that pot. It’ll be the source of your initial sorcery, then you can learn spells later. Each witch walks their own path, and all the others are no more than guides.” Vic stood, slipping their coat back on. “So, get some sleep. Get to know your pot. Take two magic-acid-trips and call me in the morning.”

Kristal stood to walk Vic to the door. “Thank you. Do I owe you?”

Stepping out of the house, Vic reflexively pulled a white cigarette from her case, where cigarettes alternated regular white and black clove, and lit it. “Well, this was an intro to the world of supernaturals. My usual rate for that is $100, more if it takes particularly long, or I get mauled because it’s some out-of-control werething with a deadbeat sire—happens more than you’d figure—so paypal it to me.” Vic considered and sucked on their cigarette, “plus $50 for the warding and mirror-sanding. Oh. Speaking of, it may be hard to see in your mirrors for a bit. I mean, I didn’t sand them, with, like, sandpaper. I just magically embedded sand into them—it’s how you nullify infernal magic, sand. It’ll be absorbed, should be fine in a day or so.”

Ok. One-fifty. Glad I have savings.”

Good. Wait’ll I introduce you to the society,” Vic said.

Eesh,” Kristal grimaced, “What’ll that cost me?”

Eh, I just charge ya twenty bucks and gas money for that. The Syndicates pay for the actual intro since it encourages us to actually introduce you guys.”

Ok. Imma go sleep now…”

You do that.”

Heller Manor- Chapter 2

Vic pulled up to the curb of the house in the suburbs of Portland. Looking around, they held open the door for Diavolo to hop out. Diavolo took wing, circled around, and landed on Vic’s shoulder. “I’ll bet plate,” Diavolo said.

Eh, she emailed me, so she should be expecting me.” They walked up the path to the door, and knocked. When no reply came after a couple minutes, they knocked again, clearing their throat, “Kristal, this is Vic, I’m here to help.” With no response, Vic sighed, and stomped their cigarette out before placing their hand on the knob. “I’ll bet…” they considered a moment, “knick knack.”

You’re on,” Diavolo responded.

Vic tried to turn the knob and found it locked. “lokunc” they whispered, rewarded with a click, and they turned the knob, raising their voice as they entered, “Kristal? This is Vic, we talked online, you asked me to come over now and deal with the things you’re seeing. OK?” They announced as they looked around.

Vic gingerly stepped through the living room, looking around. They silently opened their eyes to the energies of magic and other realms. “Oh yeah, definitely not-fun-things happening around here,” they said as they surveyed the entryway and living room, broken knick knacks and mugs littering the edges of the room, a large crack running through a mirror over the fireplace, a mysterious—but coffee-scented—stain on one wall. The house looked fairly normal beyond that, provided you’re well off enough for a young woman owning a house on their own to be normal.

They turned toward the kitchen, sweeping their eyes over it before they narrowly dodged something that shattered against the wall behind them.

Diavolo looked back, “Plate, you owe me a filet.”

Vic glanced back, “Bullshit, that’s a commemorative plate, you owe me a spell.”

Hey, I just said plate, I didn’t say what kind.”

Commemorative plates are knick knacks,” Vic contended, before turning in the direction of the thrower, “Kristal, it’s Vic. We talked.”

No! You’re another fucking demon! What the fuck is happening to me!?”

De- oh. Goddamnit.” Vic sighed. “Look, Kristal, I’m not going to say what you’re seeing isn’t real, because it is, but it can’t hurt you. What you’re seeing is in another layer of reality, ok?”

But you can see me! And you’re talking to me! How can-”

I get it, I have a lot to explain to you, but I need you to calm down, and understand I won’t hurt you, ok?” Vic slowly approached, “I’m here to help, ok? Once you understand, it’ll be better, I promise.”

Kristal looked uncertain, her eyes still wide with fear. “Wh-what are you?”

Vic rubbed her eyes and pinched the bridge of their nose, “I’m what’s known as a Baali, a witch who gets their magic from energies from, well, Hell, essentially.” They crouched to level their eyes with Kristal, “But I won’t hurt you, ok? I can help you with this.”

Kristal’s eyes scanned around, as if looking for escape, before locking with Vic’s. “Ok,” she said, a little hollowly, then she reached out to take Vic’s proffered hand, “OK,” she said again, firmly, as Vic helped her up from the floor.

Sitting down at the table, Vic gave Diavolo their arm to remove their coat, switching arms mid-way, and place the coat over the back of a chair, where the crow hopped over to perch. “So, first things first, Kristal, this is Diavolo, my familiar. He can talk, and is as much a person as you or I, so please remember that to avoid faux pas that would go unthought of when talking about a normal bird.”

Kristal blinked. “Um, hi?”

Diavolo bowed his head, “Hello, Kristal.”

So, you’ve been seeing demons? Describe to me what you’ve seen. I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on, but I need to narrow things down a bit.”

Kristal swallowed, “Um, well, I see…Can I get you some water? Or something?”

Vic nodded, “Yes, please, there will be a lot of talking, and a smoker’s throat dries quickly. Please, continue,” she said, pressing the reluctant woman.

Ok,” Kristal got up to retrieve water, hesitating, but putting her head down to charge ahead in the explanation, “I see… women… eating ashes. Skin like a porcelain doll, but cracked and fractured, being repaired, but they scream horsely…” Kristal set the water down.

Asura,” Vic nodded, “A pitcher might be a good idea. I need you to tell me about this as uninterrupted as possible.”

Kristal could swear she could see Vic’s left eye flash red, but, given the circumstances shrugged it off. As she filled a pitcher, she continued. “When I’m out… when I used to still go out… I would see… well, like, monsters, but like they were being worn by people. Like, people with giant snake heads, or who looked like they were wearing wolf-suits…”

Yes, aura perception allows you to see the true auras of supernaturals. Tell me more about the creatures you would see that weren’t being worn by people. That’s why you saw a demon when you looked at me.”

There were these giant… things. With horns. Or extra arms. Or twenty legs and no arms.”

Got it.” Vic said. “Ok, think back before you started seeing these things. Did you come into possession of any strange objects? Did you have any strange dreams? Did you come across a book that detailed how to achieve immortality? Alternatively, have you found yourself with holes in your memory from childhood, or realizing that some childhood memories were false, or remember strange events from childhood?”

Um,” Kristal stared blankly at Vic.

No, seriously. I need to know if any of that has happened, and which of those things it was. Look, you’re talking to a warlock, who brought their crow familiar in with them, I myself have burned out my soul to obtain magic from Hell, believe me, I’ve kind of seen it all.”

I guess the only really strange object is a souvenir pot my uncle sent to me from some tourist trap in the Middle East.” Nicole said uncertainly.

Vic raised an eyebrow, “Can I see the pot?”

Kristal pointed a thin finger to the window over her sink. A clay pot, deep red in hue, with depictions of ritual torture etched into it and filled in black. Vic stood and looked it over, “Oh yeah, that’s definitely some major Baali shit.” They gingerly picked up the pot, which radiated smoke under the perception of auras. “So, the Middle East. I’m going to guess your uncle is in… Hm, what would you say, Diavolo, Iraq?”

Ur. Southern Iraq,” the bird replied, starting Kristal.

Yeah. Ur.” Vic carried the pot back to the table.

So… that pot is making me see things?” Kristal said uncertainly.

In a way,” Vic replied.

Kristal quickly rose and backed into the corner.

It’s done its thing.” Vic said, setting it on the table, “You can sit down, it won’t hurt you.”

Kristal reluctantly sat back down, but straddling the leg of the table, as far as she could be from the pot.

So, yeah, this is definitely a Baali thing. Most likely, it was used by an ancient Baal to gather blood from the sacrifices they used to recharge their energies.” Vic looked at Kristal who had gone from just uneasy to uneasy and puzzled. “Ok, short version- the pot is why you’re seeing shit. You have a power that is commonly known as aura perception, which allows you to look into the next layer of reality and see things there, as well as see the true auras of supernatural beings, and, if you know what to look for, magical items. The things you’re seeing could hurt you, but they’d need to get into this world first. Provided you haven’t mucked around with mirrors, I don’t think you could let any through.” Vic looked side-long to Diavolo, silently telling him to not correct her.

That’s the short version. I’m going to leave this here on the table, and you’re going to go sit on that nice, comfy couch in your living room, and I will bring you some tea, and we’ll go over the long version, ok?” Vic soothingly told Kristal, their eye flashing red again as they put a little measure of power into the words.

Will the tea make me not see things anymore?” Kristal asked weakly.

Well, I could give you tea that would do that, but that would entail blinding or killing you, so, no, I’m going to teach you, and you will turn off the visions yourself, ok?”

Ok.” Kristal stood, slowly and mechanically, as if she were being driven by remote, the metaphorical distance between her body and mind becoming a vast chasm. As she entered the living room, she shrieked.

Vic stood and shot into the living room, hand already clutching a sachet of sand from her coat pocket. They looked around, before locking eyes with a fiendish visage in the mirror over the fireplace. She pocketed the sand, and maneuvered in front of Kristal, between her and the mirror, “Kristal, it’s in the other world. It can’t come through that mirror. You’re ok.” Vic looked around to find a blanket on the sofa, and nodded to Diavolo, who flapped over, and picked up the blanket in his beak, dragging it over to the mirror and carefully covering it with the blanket, delicately perching on the rim of the mirror and tucking one end behind it, wobbling slightly with the awkward task, then hopping down to the ground, and picking up the other end of the blanket to do the same on the other side, and then tuck the middle behind it.

It’s still there…” Kristal said, on the verge of tears.

Yes, yes it is still there, in the shallows of Limbo. IT CANNOT CROSSOVER THROUGH THIS MIRROR. I promise you,” Vic said, “Trust me.”

Kristal looked up to Vic through tear-welling eyes, and nodded. Vic guided her to the couch, and sat her down.

Diavolo, stay with her.” Vic said, returning to the kitchen.

Diavolo ducked his head in a nod. “Won’t leave her for anything.”

Vic filled the kettle with water, and rummaged through the cabinets, looking for a green tea. “She’s a fucking wreck,” Vic muttered, “probably hasn’t slept proper in weeks. She needs to relax, but she needs energy.” Vic pulled out a box of generic Asian-themed packaged green tea, and a mug. They also set up the coffee maker for themselves. “I owe you coffee” they said, their voice raised so Kristal could hear. The woman grunted a vague acknowledgement.

Vic walked back out while they waited for water to boil. Kristal sat on the couch slouched forward. Vic placed their hands on her shoulders, softly rubbed when she flinched, and pulled her back and down to recline against the arm. “It’ll be a few minutes. Close your eyes for a bit, Diavolo’s watching you.”

Can he make the monsters go away if they come?”

He can peck their damned eyes out and raise a fuss that makes me come running, then I blast the ever-loving fuck out of them,” Vic reassured her. “You need rest. Tea is on its way, but just close your eyes for now.”

Vic let Kristal doze. They took the kettle off the burner, and just let the coffee brew. “Half an hour won’t hurt. It’s not as much as she needs, but it’ll be more help than just a mug or two of tea,” they whispered to Diavolo. “I’ll do the standard warding stuff.”

Vic poured themselves a mug of coffee, and went out to their car to retrieve a larger bag of sand from their trunk.

After setting a large glass of water from the filtered fridge spout on the coffee table, they set to work on every reflective surface in the house with the sand and their levitation magic.