“You tricked me!”
There were very few moments that Evangeline would actually look angry. Now was one of those, but Caroline was hard pressed to take it seriously. Anger or not, Evangeline always had that gentle softness to her face despite her current attempts at swinging a cane at Caroline’s head.
Caroline ducked, but didn’t waver. “I said I wanted to discuss something with you, I didn’t mention anything about Dark.”
Evangeline huffed, crossing her arms as she turned away to go marching down the path. When one invites you out to the park to talk about an important lesson, usually it’s about your student. …not Gabriel! “Please don’t bring this up again. It’s not anything to be concerned about.”
“You have a voice, Evangeline. Had you any sense you would chain the man down and make him listen. He has no right to treat you this way. Demand him to stay.” It was clear to Caroline that Gabriel loved Evangeline. But what she could not understand was how insistent he was to stay away from her, when he knew how much it hurt her. There was protecting loved ones and then there was being just plain stupid.
Evangeline just shook her head. “I asked him to stay. Insisted. But he chooses not to. I can’t make him if he doesn’t want to.”
“My lady, he lo-” Caroline paused mid-sentence, just as a flashy PLOOF of smoke erupted nearby. It wafted away with a quick wave of the intruder’s arm. A incredibly tall woman with dark ebony skin, hair white as snow, and the most Cheshire grin ever seen. Caroline scowled, nudging Evangeline to stand behind her. “Malsuada.”
“Caoilainn. I’ve come to collect my payment. One soul, please.” Malsuada purred. A long tail was flicking back and forth behind her.
Caroline’s frown shifted to a brief look of surprise before falling back to a deep scowl. “I owe you nothing. I killed your demon for you, yet you betrayed the contract, and my village still died!” Even as she shouted, Caroline was shoving her hands in to her pockets to retrieve her ribbons.
Malsuada was so unconcerned, that the only movement from her was the swish of her tail and a flick of her hand. With that simple motion, a jolt of pain ran through Caroline’s body as she stiffened, unable to move even a single limb! “Caoilainn, you poor simple fool. You got exactly what you asked for. I believe the contract said power to save the village from monsters. And you did, didn’t you? Defeated the entire hoard. I certainly can’t be responsible for you losing control over the power and slaying all of those poor innocent people along with them.”
Caroline was struggling to get her limbs to obey, but with every attempt it felt as if the spell was ripping apart her muscles from the inside out. Through her teeth she gritted out. “You still took your payment.”
“Oh, no, oh no. Killing that helpless little demon child was not payment. Power doesn’t just come from thin air, you know.” Malsuada smirked, glancing at her perfectly talon like nails. “Humans never do read the fine print. A soul, Caoilainn. Power in exchange for a soul. It’s time to pay up.” The stationary spell on Caroline suddenly lifted, causing the woman to drop to the floor trying to gasp for breath to still the pain.
Evangeline had remained silent, but but now she didn’t think she could allow this to go on any longer. “Wait, wait!” she said quickly, easing herself around Caroline to block Malsuada’s way. She held up her hands to make sure she kept a distance. “Do you really need to take her soul? Maybe you might like something else instead!”
Malsuada raised an eyebrow at the small woman – one’s whose own soul was so brilliantly shining that it didn’t take a second for Malsuada to know what she wanted! “I might be persuaded to take something else. Oh, but… souls are what we devils treasure the most. To give up Caoilainn I would only take one of greater value. Do you have a valuable soul, precious wee human?”
“My lady, you have nothing to offer her.” Caroline hissed. She was struggled to get herself off the floor. Stories about Evangeline’s reckless rescues had circulated across Oracle. Deals with Devils was not something she needed to be involved in!
Evangeline tilted her head, trying to give it some consideration. Trading her own soul wouldn’t be very wise. And she certainly didn’t have any other souls to give in exchange. But, there was no way she could the devil take Caroline away, especially after she had taken such good care of Dark and herself. Good people could not be left to fend for themselves! “Well… I’d like to keep my soul, but would you like to take me instead? I don’t want to die, mind you, so you could have my life as long as I am alive?”
Perfect! It wasn’t a soul, but Malsuada knew how to get what she wanted and she’d have a lifetime to pull the soul out of the human. Instantly a contract appeared in her hands along with a feathered quill, holding it out for Evangeline to sign. “Trade accepting. Your precious human life for Caoilainn’s soul. Sign on the dotted line, please.”
“Evangeline, don’t you dare!” as feared, Gabriel’s Seer was doing something stupid! Caroline reached out to grasp Evangeline’s leg to pull her back, but she was just out of reach.
“Don’t worry, Caroline. We’ll figure this out later.” Evangeline took the quill and signed on the dotted line, with little fear. Caroline’s life was important, and now that she wouldn’t die, she would be able to help Evangeline out of a much less dire contract. And if Gabriel had not decided to leave for good, maybe he would help too.
Malsuada couldn’t help but smirk. Caroline had nothing that could match her own skills. And now she had a precious shining soul. Possibly the most precious in the world! “The deal is done. Thank you so much Caoilainn! You’ve been so accommodating.” Giggling with unrestrained glee, the signed contract disappeared. Malsuada snatched the wrist of her new prize and pulled her along. The portal to the Devil World opened up and they were gone in an instant.
“Shit!” Caroline had never wanted to curse so much in her entire life. With shaking hands she retrieved one of her marbles, cracking it between her fingers to let loose a prepared spell. The magic washed over her slowly, healing the flesh under the skin that had been wretched apart by Malsuada’s spell, but the expended energy came at a cost! Forced to remain where she was until she had the will to move, she could only think on how she would explain to Gabriel.
It was not going to be pretty.