Diane rubbed her eyes and a yawn escaping her mouth as she waved her hand. “This is not working, Benjamin.”
Benjamin growled as he worked around his jaw. “Do it.” He commanded.
Diane looked around the silent room as the crazed werewolf’s ramblings fed through the speakers. Her vision shifted to the people worth her attention. Kelsey, the too young and energetic American thief; Ranglor, a competent man in the form of research, but too skeptical toward the magical community; and Benjamin, the temporary Regional Manager, replacing Gerard. There were a host of other researchers, but they were all unintelligent insects in her ears.
She closed her eyes and rubbed her temple as the speakers recounted everything muttered by the ninth werewolf exposed to the eye. This subject was only shown a drawing that had been done by the eighth.
Ranglor hummed thoughtfully when the howls of pain started as flames consumed the room the wolf was in. “A fascinating thing we’ve discovered here, Diane. Even having the wolves draw the image infuses the art with its presence and the personality shift that happens after an allotted time is quite interesting. We could let the alteration complete; it might yield us more results?”
“Your curiosity is getting the better of you,” Diane groaned tiredly. “We cannot take that risk, Ranglor. I have not come across anything like this in legend. There’s quite literally nothing. This is new territory and revolves around a young Founder. Not a scrap of information other than its infectious nature, insanity induction, and an alteration in demeanor. The eye cannot be shown in any visible form whatsoever. That is all we know, and that is not enough.” Diane mumbled as she stifled another yawn and took a few drinks of coffee.
Ranglor frowned. “Maybe about the eye, but the cause is also a mystery. We know it was in Sora’s room after I left, and in the space of forty minutes of blackened feed, Sora’s second tail goes from pure spiritual emission to a corporal form. Why? Was Sora the cause of this eye or another being?”
Diane sighed as she leaned back in her seat. “I doubt it was Sora … it’s probably because she was dying and another being interfered to save her. The question is why it would allow us to have her … also, using this complicated soul paralysis effect. I just don’t understand the goal…”
Ranglor hummed with a sly smirk. “So you came to the same conclusion and normally there are only a few ways for a Vulpes to gain a tail. Although we’re in a new ballgame with this girl since she herself is a Founder.”
Shaking her head, Diane sat back in her chair. “No, I’m certain she met with Inari.”
Eyebrows furrowing questioningly, Ranglor asked, “And how do you know this?”
Diane was slightly annoyed as Kelsey energetically cut in. “The tail cross, right? When Fen and Sora’s tails crossed, and she blacked out; it was Fen’s white tail that touched Sora’s red. Inari represents the white-tailed Vulpes, so what you were thinking is Inari’s power or a two Founder’s powers mixing.”
Slightly impressed, and too tired to explain, Diane bluntly asked, “Is that all you deduced?”
Licking her lips and looked around the room for answers like some college freshmen eager to prove herself, Kelsey said, “Sora stayed here … but she had to meet with Inari.” She snapped her fingers, and a broad smile lit her round cheeks, “I read a book you published three years ago about spiritual beings, it was titled—The Secrets of the Soul! Vulpes are of a hybrid nature, but they can transport their spirits to the—what did you call it—the Spiritual Plain?”
A smile spread across Diane’s lips. She is smarter than I gave her credit for, but when you study minds like mine, of course, she’d learn something. Shame she took the easier path, she could have been a decent witch … maybe she still can. “I am not easily impressed, Kelsey, but you have done that. Yes, I believe she met with Inari in the Spiritual Plain.”
Ranglor chuckled. “Really, the Spiritual Plain? That would require,” he cut off, suddenly realizing what he’d missed, but Kelsey was there to enlighten him. “That was what convinced me, her spirit left the base, but she didn’t die … Diane’s wards were destroyed in blue flames.”
Diane was starting to like Kelsey. She seems to have read my research in depth. Perhaps I could get my acolyte after all. She just needs to be nudged in the right direction. “Kelsey,” Kelsey’s head shifted to look at her. “How would you like to take my place with meeting Sora?”
Kelsey’s eyes widened with shock. “Are you sure? I mean, I’d love to have a chance to question her myself, but you have way more expertise than me. Wouldn’t it be better for you to meet her? Oh—I had a thought that the eye creature reminds me of Lovecraftian horror … that’s pretty spooky…”
Diane hummed thoughtfully. I have not heard of this Lovecraftian horror … is it an epic depicted in the past? … perhaps she can be helpful by compiling the research for me. Humming “You can look into this Lovecraftian horror for me and give me a synopsis later. In regards to Sora, I am sure you will ask the appropriate questions and give the appropriate answers she is searching for. I have been up for quite a long time and need to get some rest if my mind is to stay sharp. As of right now, I am hesitant to add any more wards to her. Make her comfortable and give her what she wants—that is suitable of course.”
Benjamin had been silent as he listened interjected to reroute the conversation. “I don’t like having so many monsters in the base when we’re so vulnerable. Gerard’s dead and I’ve lost quite a few good men to some of these beasts. This eye is still the most pressing threat too. We need to come up with a definitive plan.”
One of the guards stationed by the door said, “Diane, Eric wants to talk to you.”
Diane’s eyes narrowed, but her smile widened. Now, what could that man want? He has an interesting thought process. Before I head off for some rest, I might as well see what he wants.
Benjamin cleared his throat. “Diane we need to figure out what to do about all these monsters. The President is on his way, and I don’t want there to be any hiccups.”
Diane rubbed her eyelids. “The Valkyrie is stable, for the moment. The dragon has just about exhausted all our drug induction systems, but we have more on the way. Eric has been locked away with death orders. The Fenris Wolf, Kari, has been detained. However, if she is a Fenris Wolf, then she’s a Founder as well, which is troubling, but not pressing with her circumstance.”
“There are much more than just them in this facility,” Benjamin said with a growl.
Leaning back in her chair, Diane let out a long puff of air. “Sora’s a wildcard that we can’t be cautious enough with. Keeping her content until I wake up and find a more permanent solution would be key. The one known as Aiden has made no effort whatsoever to escape, though yes, we do not know exactly what he is. Jian is controlled through Fen, and she’s perfectly under our thumb. Then there are the Tennessean monsters, which are already compliant. The eye seems to be an isolated incident at the moment, in connect to Sora’s tail. You are correct that it is imperative to understand, but if it wanted to, I have the suspicion we’d all be dead. That only leaves the werewolves an issue.”
Benjamin didn’t look eased. “There are a lot of werewolves, Diane, and I need a solution.”
Rubbing her temple, Diane said, “Fine, I will give it some thought.”
Benjamin gazed to the side for a moment. “You know what, never mind. I just thought of something from your earlier reports.”
He came up with a plan from my report? “Oh, what do you plan to do?” Diane asked.
“Yes, I’m interested in that as well,” Ranglor interjected.
Benjamin huffed. “I said I had a thought, not that I’d made up my mind. I’ll tell you when I confirm it.”
Diane’s vision narrowed, but she was feeling her body notably drag. If he wants to play a silent game on a thought that crossed his mind, then it’s probably something stupid we won’t like. Yet, there’s little I can do since he’s in command now. Morgane always said to put effort in where fruit will flourish. Let’s see what Eric has to say.
Walking to the door, the guards opened it for her. Stopping at the entrance, she turned and smiled at Kelsey. She seemed deep in thought but quickly focused on her. “I am counting on you, Kelsey. Bring Sora’s friend, Wendy in with you, but her dad is in another facility. So, we can’t move him. Show me your talents.” We can show a little good will with Wendy while holding her dad to keep her put. Once the President arrives, she’ll be out of my hair.
She left as Kelsey stumbled over a response. Continuing through two halls, she pressed her earpiece and ordered to be connected with Eric. A smile lit her lips as Eric’s deep voice sounded in her ear. “Diane, I’ll be quick, I know you’re fatigued.” Interesting, I have been up for a while, but he says he knows I am fatigued. How would he gain that information? “I would like to meet with Aiden and my sister.”
Licking her lips, Diane said, “I cannot authorize that. Not with the current circumstances. However, perhaps I can change that, for some valuable information.” I could see what he knows about the eye. She felt her adrenaline start waking her tired mind and body as Eric answered. “I’m willing to share information for my request. How would you like to know what Aiden is?”
Diane stopped in her tracks. Would he tell me that? If so, he would have to give me some proof. What is so important that he has to meet with his sister and Aiden? Smiling with excitement, Diane said, “I am afraid that is not sufficient information. I will also need proof of what you say and even more. There are a lot of things happening in the base, and it would have to be well within my interest to convince letting you meet with your sister. However, there are some other things I’d like answers on.” How far can I get him to go?
Eric’s tone was different than she anticipated. He had no superiority in his voice, no anger or amusement, he sounded perfectly calm, calculative, knowing. “I know just what you need to know, Diane, and I’m willing to give it for my request to be granted.”
Diane felt tingles shoot up her spine. What game is this? She started to feel a tad nervous; she hadn’t anticipated this kind of talk with Eric. Have I misjudged Eric’s personality? This doesn’t sound anything like his initial profile. “Is that right?” She asked. “What do I want to know, Eric?”
Eric’s voice was even and held no sarcasm. “The future.”
A bubbling laugh burst from Diane’s throat. “The future, really, you had me going there for a moment. You expect me to fall for such an obvious and ridiculous delusion?”
Diane’s lungs caught as Eric answered. “Adélaïde Bisset, a talented weave with the blood of nobles, yet forced to live in a small village. Adélaïde was approached by a dark hooded woman in the early spring of eighteen fifty-eight. The cloaked woman had been drawn to Adélaïde by her craft; this young seamstress spun small threads of magic into the clothes she produced to be just a little more resilient.”
Throat constricted Diane listened speechlessly. “This cloaked woman was your instructor, Morgane as you knew her. She taught you a secret form of longevity and a few pieces of runic arts before leaving you. With this information, you killed the man that refused to return your affections and the girl he’d chosen. Her name was…”
Diane’s voice was hoarse as she cut him off. “How do you know this?”
Her blood chilled at his response. “Past and present are already in the design, but future threads can be shifted, though there is a pattern intended. Agree to give me what I want, and I will give you a glimpse of what is to come and what you desire most. You will play a part.”
Knees starting to fail her, Diane leaned against a wall. This cannot be Eric. This kind of speech, the pattern, it has no relevance to his earlier personality. No one knows that information; no one knows my birth name but … Morgane herself. Is he—could he be working for Morgane? Was the eye her doing? What is her connection with the Founders? What other way could he know my past? Swallowing the nervous jitters in her stomach, Diane asked, “What do I need to know?”