The secret room had shelves full of ointments and powders. Illusions on them were rapidly fading, and to her slight shock (though after a moment of thought, she wasn't surprised), Fabi recognized several infamous potions. She looked around, found what she hoped was a concussion ointment (or possibly an illusion that hadn't faded yet) and brought it back out.
Star Inkbright was leaning against the irid anvil, on the other side of the room from Eff. Fabi kept her eyes on the friend who was still alive, hopefully to stay that way.
After waiting a suspicious minute or do while Star muttered 'Down With the Sickness,' the vial of de-concussionifying potion hadn't changed. Fabi applied it to Star's forehead.
"Does it feel warm?" she asked.
Star's head bobbed up and down. "Inside the fire." Fabi took that to mean yes.
"Good. It'll feel warm for a minute or so, then you'll sleep for a bit, and be back to normal when you wake up."
"Disturbed apple crisps."
"Okay then." Fabi took the nonsense as agreement, and went to explore the secret room. There was something in there that Effie had wanted her to find. She stopped, realizing the alarming silence, and went to look outside. Ember and Mara were nowhere in sight.
Fabi felt a sinking feeling in her stomach, but she couldn't feign surprise. That was just what happened to anyone she cared about. In case you haven't noticed, she can be very pessimistic at times.
Back to the secret room she trudged, hoping to find something good, something that would help defeat Mevolent. If she could put even a tiny dent in that plan of his, she would. She would be there when Mevolent fell, if she had to fight him herself. She hoped it wouldn't come to that, though. She preferred staying out of sight entirely, but it was too late for that now.
On the other side of the world, Raeza Blayd typed a final command into her computer. A wall in the Norwegian Sanctuary caved in, burying half the enemy army and trapping the rest. The cleavers could handle things now. Not those cleavers, the Norwegian ones.
Another command snapped an elevator cable in London, crushing the prisoners who had escaped the Gaol. Though Raeza was using her traps to help the Sanctuary, they could just as easily have been used to attack it under different circumstances.
Once she was satisfied with how the battles were going, Raeza typed in a few more numbers, and prepared to give her report.
An image of a chair that shouldn't have been empty appeared on her screen. She sighed. "Eff, I know you like being dramatic and all, but I don't have time for this."
She heard a rustling on the other end, and a girl she didn't recognize peered at Raeza's face on the screen in front of her. She looked about 15, awkwardly tall, her disguise make-up starting to come off around her hairline. She looked drained and tired, like she'd seen too much pain and suffering, and had either lost the mask of being completely fine or never had it in the first place.
grimaced, like she was forcing words out. "Effie's dead."
Raeza blinked. "What?"
"Mevolent took over her body, and she was coming at me, and it all happened so fast... She...dropped her weapon..."
Raeza brushed away a slight tear, pretending to fiddle with her dark and wispy bangs. She couldn't claim to have known Eff as well as this girl clearly had, but she had worked with her several times, and couldn't help admiring her persistence and effectiveness. It was enough to break through her façade, even for only a moment. Then, it occurred to her that this girl might be lying.
"Who are you, then?" she asked, keeping the suspicion out of her voice while implying that this was not a rhetorical question.
The girl winced like she didn't like the attention on herself. "I'm a bunch of people, not unlike you." Maybe it was just a lucky guess, but Raeza couldn't shake the feeling that this girl knew things. "Eff first met me as Abigail Mackey, though, so I guess you can call me Abi." "Abi" shrugged.
"Well, since I can't report to Eff, I'll report to you, since you're here." Raeza decided. She would see how this "Abi" girl reacted to some of what she was going to say.
"Abi" shrugged again. "It'd be appreciated. I have no idea what's been going on lately, to be honest." She looked slightly nervous, as if afraid of what she would hear.
"Okay, I'll start a bit earlier then. Well, you know the spy, Fabienne S.? The one who escaped Mevolent's castle? Actually, just about everybody's escaped Mevolent's castle now, but anyway. Fabienne S. was shot and killed on the streets of Dublin by Cecil Mevolent himself."
'Abi' looked shocked. She really hadn't known. "You're sure she wasn't just unconscious?" Her eyes moved around as she thought at a million miles an hour.
Raeza nodded grimly. "No doubt at all, I'm afraid. So we really don't know what Mevolent said in his speech to the generals. Also, there have been sightings of Snake Fox."
"One of Mevolent's most trusted and most mysterious friends, back from the first war. All she's ever really been is a name and a long black dress. She'd disappeared completely off the radar, but she's back, apparently."
"Mevolent's been attacking the Grand Mage of America, no surprise there, but he's doing it by controlling the Sanctuary's assassin."
"Aretha Tesla?" 'Abi' clearly knew her. Best not to go into details, then. The story of Tesla being forced to kill her own family was not one this already fragile-looking girl needed to hear.
"Yeah, her." Raeza changed the subject. "One of Mevolent's newer generals, Death Rose, went rogue, and for a while it was doubtful which side she was on. Mevolent killed her, so I guess there's no point in speculating now. Wait, that reminds me. What happened to Eff?"
Abi's face began turning pink, and her voice came out like a small crackly rasp. "It's...it's my fault. Death... Effie... All of it." She looked like she was going to cry.
Raeza was about to reply, when the screen went black. She heard a deep laugh from behind her. "Yes, Fabienne S. It is all your fault." Raeza whirled around as the door slammed and something heavy was dragged in front of it.
"Who's out there?" she demanded, receiving no answer.
Then, she heard it, the unmistakable 'tick-tick-tick.'