TYPO IN THE TITLE. SHOULD BE A DISTURBING DISCOVERY

Synopsis: After hoodwinking Darkos, a holy priest, into escorting her back to her castle, Dark Enchantress Geela has one item left on her list: revenge on her ex-husband. With a confused Darkos in tow, she sets out. However, Geela isn’t the only one with secrets. And Barney isn’t the only old enemy who’s about to get a visit.

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Geela led Darkos into a large, glitzy foyer. Two massive staircases swept up on either side but neither led anywhere. At the top, the air grew fuzzy, as if reality had stopped rendering. Around them were marble hallways that disappeared into the same underdeveloped air. It was a rather well implemented security technique and Geela couldn’t help but wonder if Carlosi had set it up or if she’d gotten someone else to. Perhaps a partner or a hired security mage.

“Woah,” Darkos said, his voice echoing off the tile. “Geela this place is incredible! It’s so… so… put together and sophisticated. Not like—”

Darkos was spared from finishing the sentence by a loud but not unpleasant swoosh as one of the ornate oaken doors on the side of the main hall swung open.

A tall man strode into the room, one of those fine dressed butler types with long coattails and a nose so high in the air that Geela could see his immaculately trimmed nostril hairs, down to the color treatment to keep them as dark as the hair on his head.

“Madame,” the butler intoned, “may I please take a name so that I may report to the mistress of the house?”

Geela’s lips hinted at a mysterious smile. “Tell her Sanguina Jaila requests the presence of Sanguina Corla.” The nicknames hadn’t quite been Arthette and Rakius levels of stupid but they were simple. They weren’t intended to throw off a vicious void fiend’s children, however. Just had to be enough to throw off the average eavesdropper.

The man nodded, no hint of surprise crossing his face and he turned to leave. As soon as he disappeared, however, Geela heard a gasp.

She looked up at the top of the left staircase, which now led to a hallway. At the precipice of the stairs stood a tall woman. Her silver hair swept around her in magnificent wings and her face, though lined, was regal, even with those dark eyes wide in shock.

“I—”

“Carlosi,” Geela said, “are we alone? Is this private?”

The woman nodded mutely.

Geela waved a hand. Though nothing physically changed, the illusions fell from her visage like water, revealing her golden haired beauty. This was something of a risk but it could easily be handwaved away as a trick if the woman tried anything.

“Prieste— I— Professor. What are you—” Carlosi stopped attempting words and instead hurried down the stairs, her tawny robes fanning out behind her as she took the steps with a grace and speed Geela hadn’t expected from a woman her age. When she reached Geela, she nodded her head, respectfully. Carlosi had been one of very few followers that Geela did not insist dip her head below Geela’s and she hadn’t forgotten. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

Her words were tight and her posture frigid.

“I’ve been in town for a few days,” Geela said. “I’m not here to ask you to help me bring back Berta. I simply wanted to stop by and ask a few questions.”

Carlosi nodded a few times before her face softened into a smile. “Welcome to my home then, Priestess!”

This welcome was warmer than Geela had expected from Lune and Gene’s words about all of the followers turning so dramatically. It could be a ruse but another feeling tugged in her stomach. Gene had left, joined another religion, yet when hearing someone was seeking out information on the cult, he’d given enough information to lead someone to Carlosi. Was this intentional? Had the surviving members of Geela’s inner circle remained working together?

Could they be happy to see her?

Geela couldn’t let the warm feeling override her caution though. “Carlosi. It’s good to see you again.”

“You haven’t aged a day.” The woman took Geela’s hand, making a symbol in Geela’s palm with her finger: a V with the right-most end curling down in a flourish. The sigil of the blood witch Berta.

“You’ve aged well,” Geela said, clasping Carlosi’s hand tight in her grasp. “It’s good to see some of you are still alive.”

“Amy never truly rejected you in her heart.” Carlosi’s dusky eyes burned with fervor. “On her deathbed, she confessed to me. Gene, Illisandra, we never—”

Geela held up a hand. “Maybe we can move this to a room where we won’t interrupted?”

Carlosi looked at Darkos, her thin lips parting in confusion. “Are we… you mean him? Is that Barney?”

Geela choked at her words, rather inelegantly. Yes, technically that did make sense. Carlosi knew they were engaged at the time she left the school. She had no reason to think they’d gotten a very messy divorce.

“Ah, no. This is Darkos. He’s currently my most trusted companion.” Geela nodded at Darkos. He was busy staring up at the willowy woman who was tall enough to stare over his head. “You can trust him.”

Carlosi nodded, eyes traveling over Darkos approvingly. “Good, good. Then we are in as private a place as we can be. The entire house is a series of connected rooms.”

Geela nodded slowly, one eyebrow rising. “Yes that tends to be how houses work.”

Finally Carlosi’s face broke into a broad smile. “Yes, yes it is! But these rooms are not physically connected. Not even to the door. I got my apprenticeship—”

“I remember. Illusion and plane shifting. This is impeccable.” Geela eyed all the halls and stairs disappearing into fogginess. “Do you live alone?”

Carlosi’s cheeks reddened in something pleased and a little smug but she only lifted one narrow shoulder. “I have some men and women. Many around but they can’t find me when I don’t want to be found.”

Some men and women. Carlosi had not changed from when she was 20 and this little similarity assured Geela a bit.

“Do you still follow the way of blood?” Geela asked. “Not magically but in spirit?”

Carlosi’s chin lifted. “No. None of us have stuck with our damned practices. We swore an oath to abandon them after successfully pleaing our innocence.”

“Yes, I heard about that.” Geela began to step through the entry hall, taking in Carlosi’s magic. Her lips twisted to a smirk and her voice rose to a somber tone. “I do apologize for corrupting you all so nastily. It was wrong of me to abuse my position like that.”

“Simply terrible,” Carlosi agreed, matching Geela’s serious tone. She watched her old high priestess eagerly, transported back to a moment of desperately longing for approval. “Ruined our lives.”

This made Geela’s stomach tighten a tad. She had ruined some of their lives, regardless of the joke between them. So she changed the subject. “This is well done.”

“My gratitude at your words. Would you like to see more as we speak?” Carlosi waved a hand at a hallway, which now opened down into a marble room with a dazzling view.

Geela nodded and ushered at Darkos. “Come now.”

As they walked, Carlosi glanced back at Darkos and dropped her voice. “So. Dropped Barney for him? I’m not judging. If I had to pick—”

Geela glanced back at Darkos, who was eyeing the room with a doe-eyed look of amazement. “He is rather appreciative of my prowess.” She smirked. “But no, I don’t just keep him around for the validation.”

“The validation?” Carlosi looked back at him, now openly staring. “I never understood how you could care so little of the physical appearance of your bedmates.”

“Most people call those husbands or wives. Boyfriends or girlfriends if they’re young. Lovers or partners or spouses if they’re— hey!” She stopped dead in her tracks, finally picking up on Carlosi’s meaning. “I am not sleeping with him.”

Carlosi held up her hands. “Alright alright. I just don’t get it. No, let me guess. He’s got a vow of celibacy.”

“Darkos, dear,” Geela picked up her voice as Darkos grew dangerously close. “Carlosi will let you out on the balcony if you want.” The balcony, the one with the view, opened up over a vista that couldn’t be found anywhere in the Emerald District.

He looked at the tumbling golden dunes and towering green mountains in the distance. “Can I?”

Geela shot Carlosi a look. The one that said ‘now that I’ve said this, you have to make it so.’

“Yes, of course. And worry not, you’ll be able to come back in. Just don’t leap off the balcony.” Carlosi let out a stream of words under her breath and the massive glass doors sprung open. Darkos scrambled out like a child who was finally allowed to join his friends at the beach.

As he left, Carlosi motioned her to another room. “When he wants back in— when you want him back in, I’ll summon a door to the balcony. I want to show you my library. And I want to know… vow?”

“I don’t… know actually.” Geela wracked her brains, trying to remember if the church of Alerion had been anti-fornication. “I never asked.”

“Hmm. So probably not it.” The two women swept into the library, Geela’s black robes and Carlosi’s brown ones painting them the picture of class and elegance. They looked well in place in such a massive room, filled with oak and golden shelves. In the center stood a massive model of the solar system they lived in. “Then how have you turned his advances down?”

Geela frowned even deeper at this. Had Darkos made advances? Geela was no stranger to how alluring she was, so she normally had a good finger on the pulse of the desires of others. “I’m pretty sure he hasn’t advanced. Have you noticed something?”

Carlosi peered at Geela through a large circular lens by the planetarium. “Priestess,” she said. “I fail to understand how you have not simply gone mad, traveling in his presence so long with nothing happening. And I cannot wrap my head around the possibility that neither of you desire each other.”

Geela busied her hands with a book, mind racing. She was reminded of the two brainless wenches from Knuckle Sandwich who had lusted after Darkos so aggressively and she considered the appreciative way Carlosi had noted the cut of Darkos’s jaw and the thick black hair that fell just past it.

Could Darkos be… attractive? Not simply aesthetically passable, which Geela had certainly noticed, but genuinely appealing? Had Geela missed that? Did Darkos know?

It was a shocking enough possibility that Geela briefly forgot why she was there. Then she shook her head sharply. “My dear, I would love to have a moment to catch up at a future time but for now, I must focus my attention.”

Carlosi’s suggestive eyebrow sank to just over her eye and she nodded. “Of course, this isn’t simply a pleasure trip.”

“I fear not.” Geela swallowed, steeling herself before taking the plunge. “The Eight want to bring Berta back.”

Carlosi’s face was blank at this. “The Eight? I don’t understand. Not from the prophecy…”

“Did you not know… Vera and—” Geela coughed to clear her throat, “—Renby, apparently—”

“They did not.” Carlosi planted her hands on her hips. “Those… ooh, I was going to— Gene and I had this whole plan!” She then crossed her arms. “Maybe when we were in our actual 20s and could actually raise children. Ren was eighteen when he— at the end. They must have been— Priestess! He was a child! How could you have ordered him to—”

Geela held out her hands. “I had no idea they did that! Little brats went under my nose.”

Carlosi strode to a lounge chair and dramatically sank into it. “Brats indeed. And they had to have meant to because Ren didn’t even really like Vera. He didn’t even seem to show any interest in relationships or sex in general. Ugh.” She pressed a veined hand to her temple. “They just had to do everything, didn’t they?”

Geela could hear the same doting-but-fed-up tone that Geela herself often used when talking about Vera and Renby. It was nice to hear Carlosi had grown from the burning envy she used to feel towards the two. Geela remembered well how her inner circle had fought for her approval. Renby and Vera had sacrificed some of their popularity to cling so closely to Geela, but the inner circle had never truly ever been antagonistic towards each other.

“Yes yes,” Geela sighed. “They had twins, apparently, shortly before I dissolved the cult. The twins apparently were left with Vera’s parents and had two sets of twins each.”

“The prophecy.” Carlosi’s face went white as the implications sunk in. “They’ll think I did it. The directors. Me and Illy. They’ll think— Priestess, I cannot help you, I can’t, I—”

Geela shook her head sharply. “I don’t want Berta back anymore than you. We were on good terms but I’d rather her not destroy the directors. This city does too much good by keeping the magical development in the world progressing.” She sighed and sank in the armchair next to Carlosi. “I need someone to find them and figure out their plan. I’m busy trying to track down a void spawn—”

“In the Celestial City? Isn’t that a little dangerous?” Carlosi sounded skeptical but also strangely relieved, as if a void fiend was so much better than whatever she was worried about. Really, perhaps she just didn’t believe Geela. Void and celestial were polar opposites after all. If she’d learned there were two void spawns…

“A good hiding place. In fact, she lives in the church of Celeste.”

At this, Carlosi openly scoffed. “No. The pony goddess would see right through it.”

“This isn’t just a void spawn. This is…” Geela dropped her voice. “Noirela’s.”

The whisper sent a shudder of pitch and tar through the air in the room and Carlosi’s lips parted. “You brought them in?”

Geela rubbed a fist against her forehead. “Noire used my power to bring through one. That one raised enough power by starting a false religion and sacrificing young people. He brought the rest through, slowly but surely.”

“How do you know one is here?” Carlosi asked.

“I’ve already encountered three. One being the eldest. While tracking him down, I learned another, the youngest, was sent to the oldest by someone in the Celestial City.” The story was watered down but Carlosi didn’t need to know everything. “At first I thought it was a professor from the Academy, but she told me she’d sent him to a village in the woods. He ended up in the mountains, which means there was only one person who could have sent him astray. The priestess at the church of Celeste who first told them to evacuate the city.”

Carlosi sighed, her body sagging and reminding Geela that the woman was, in fact, in her mid sixties. “Priestess. I’m retired, both from my work and from occult things. I can’t help you fight a void fiend and the Eight.”

“I wouldn’t ask you to.” Geela would have loved to but knew the woman had a reputation to protect, a lifestyle to protect. Her life to protect, really, since the Silver Guard would be called in at one breath of a rumor that Carlosi was up to old tricks. “I simply wanted to ask if you knew anything about Renby.”

As she finished her request, there was a knock on one of the bookshelves, as if someone inside was trying to get out.

Geela stared. “Carlosi, do you store your paramours in bookcases?”

Carlosi pinched her lips together, fighting a smile, and rose from her seat. “Are we comfortable with letting your… companion back in?”

Geela nodded. “Don’t speak of the youngest void spawn to him,” she said.

The woman nodded and waved a hand, opening the bookcase.

“I don’t know if you saw the sandworm,” Darkos was saying as he walked in. “It was massive. I thought it’d come for me for sure but had to— wait a sec. This is a library.”

Geela waved at a chair. “Well spotted.”

“We were in a… ah, nevermind. I wanted to show you the sandworm.” He looked crestfallen.

“Perhaps another time. We do have business to discuss?”

“Oh right! About blood magic and such.”

Carlosi looked uncomfortable at the reminder. “I don’t know if I can help.” She rolled her shoulders, which creaked and made Geela revel in her eternal youth. “I haven’t done blood magic in years. I’m out of practice, I have no ties to the way of the sanguine. I’ve spent the last forty years working as the head architect of portals throughout the city. I’m a planes mage and an illusionist, I—”

“Hold up!” Darkos pinched the bridge of his nose. “Just planes magic. And illusions.

Both women turned on him. “Yes,” Carlosi said.

“Planes is like… ok, no, illusions, that’s like that headache you get from trying to see hidden ostriches in those dumb impossible mirage pictures that always get handed out at children’s birthday parties, right?” Darkos’s face flushed with more color than Geela had seen in it in days, but she knew what he meant and she inwardly swelled, validated that she wasn’t, in fact, the only person who couldn’t ever find the hidden images.

“Go on?”

“Ok planes, that one is trickier. I know illusions cause I’ve been around you enough.” He screwed up his face, inhaling deeply through his nose, as if trying to smell the magic. “But it’s that weird, bobbing vertigo.”

“Priestess, what is he talking about?” asked Carlosi, but Geela held up a hand.

“More or less.”

“So the copper…”

Geela frowned. The copper. Now Geela had been keeping her blood magic on a mild simmer this whole time, in case she needed to draw on it. But that shouldn’t be enough for Darkos to pick up on it. It would, however, be enough that Geela wouldn’t pick up on other blood magic. She dropped the energy well to nothing and for a moment picked up a hint of iron in the aura around her.

“My dear Carlosi.”

“P—priestess, I can explain.” The warm brown of her face blanched. “It’s simply… not acute magic, it’s—”

“I know you too well. I know when you’re lying.” Geela looked around the library, irritated. As if Geela, who had bestowed that blood magic unto Carlosi, could not detect it like salt in her tea.

“Priestess. If any were to know, it would ruin us both.” Her voice fell almost to a plea.

“Us both? You’ve done wonderfully protecting yourself, as have I. Besides.” Geela rose from her chair, lifting her gaze. “I have not betrayed you in forty years.”

“Not us. Not you and I.” Carlosi’s voice dropped lower. “Priestess, I cannot.”

“At this point, you do not have a choice.” It was an ugly ultimatum but there was too much at stake to keep Carlosi and her other partner, probably Illisandra or Gene, safe while risking herself and Darkos. “Tell us what you’re hiding.”

Carlosi let out a heavy breath, her eyes showing their age for the first time. “Alright. I beg you will understand what I’ve done and why I’ve hid it from you. I swear, I have done nothing to compromise you. Just to protect us.”

“Well…” Geela gestured at the woman to speak.

“It’ll be better if I show you.” She turned to a nearby aisle of the library, which now led into a new hallway. “Follow me.”


My Henchman Can’t Possibly Be This Hot!

Oh Geela. So stuck in her own head. What do you all think of Carlosi? Was she what you expected from an old student of Geela’s?

Lotta fun patron stuff coming up this week, since it’s week one of the month! Keep your eyes open.

And let me know what you think! I’ve seen a bunch of repeat commenters on each chapter and it always makes me grin so big to see your comments. Thanks for making it worth it!

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