Hey folks. Sorry I've been gone so long. A few factors had a hand in making me take such a long time. The biggest one? The U.S. elections. Those were so damn stressful to wait through. I couldn't focus on writing. I was too anxious, too restless. It ended extending the writing of this way into November.
The other biggest was… well, some of you might notice this chapter isn't Covention. Well, after I finished the last chapter, I just didn't feel right going straight into Covention. I didn't want it to be a complete copy/paste of the episode but just with Hellboy, so I needed to think about it. With Takana's help, I was able to think out a solution. However, that solution required setup, which is admittedly what this chapter is for. Despite how it was initially just made for that, it also ended up being more good character pieces for me wot work with.
Another thing y'all might notice is the name of the story has changed. Yeah, back when I put out the first chapter, I rushed with the story's name because I wanted to post the story ASAP. Looking back on it though, the name just felt… bland. Generic. So, I got to thinking about a new one, discussing it with Takana, and Hell's Boiling Point is what I settled on. It still brings both series to mind while sparking an interesting title. Hopefully.
Finally, I've been looking to find somewhere to commission a title card for this story. I tried drawing a piece of my own, but it's... definitely amateurish. I'm hoping to use It as a template to send to an artist I can commission for a better one. Someone who can mimic Mignola's art. It might take some time.
I also found some fanart of this story! Szart98pl made a piece of Hellboy and Eda's staredown. Go give him some love!
With all that out of the way, on to the next chapter! No real action this time, that's coming in the next few chapters.
Chapter 5: Hellboy's Day Out
"That's a load of bull." I flick my lighter closed.
"Yeah, Manning's been really on my case about keeping too many of his "star agents" here. He's being stubborn on this in particular since you're stuck here." Kate replies, kolache box in hand.
I sigh and take one. "So, when did they leave?"
"Abe and Liz got airlifted this morning. It'll probably be a few days before they handle those ghosts in the Dead Sea."
"Hmph. Ghosts in the Dead Sea… Fitting situation, I guess." I take a bite. Not bad, but nothing compared to this one location in Dallas. Best I've tasted.
"HOOOOOOOT! HOOOOOOOT!" Our conversation is interrupted when the feathery door piece starts hooting like some kind of howler monkey bird hybrid.
"That's certainly a wake up call." Kate says, using her free hand to rub one of her ears.
"Try hearing it at 4 in the morning. I think Snaggletooth knocked him out before he could go off too long. Threw a cauldron at him."
"World's worst alarm clock…" Kate groans.
"Anyway…" I veer the discussion back, trying to drown out the sound. "Any other news I should know about."
"Well, he thought we were overstaffed. So he's decided to move most of our agents out too. Said he doesn't feel we need so many just to get you home."
"Did he not get the point of my report? It wasn't just me. The girl's trapped here, too. This isn't just some aftermath cleanup of some kind."
"Manning doesn't seem to think so. He's only leaving us with about four or five agents for the time being."
"Is there any good news you got for me?"
"Well, since he was taking Abe and Liz for a little bit, I was at least able to get him to send me someone to replace them. It's his first time out in the field since actually becoming an agent, so he's pretty excited about it."
"Hmm? They're sending us a rookie?" That felt a bit irritating. A hollow gesture even, replacing our experts with greenhorns.
"Don't tell me you forgot. After all, it was your good word that got him recruited… as well as resurrected."
Resurrected? What does she… ah. I see who it is now. "Well, Kate… when you're right you're right. When should we expecting him?"
"He should be arriving within the hour. You gonna introduce him to our latest hosts?"
"Sort of, but I won't be sticking around for too long. I'm gonna be heading into town today. Honestly, I was mostly mad cause I felt we needed someone who could keep track of ol' Owl Face. Miss Noceda doesn't trust her yet, so I can't have her going off alone with the kid. A few humans aren't gonna keep her from doing whatever she feels like."
"Supernatural agents aren't going to have a much easier time."
"Yeah, but it'll be easier regardless." I finish the pastry before returning to my smoke. Nice way to begin a morning. Knowing my luck, I'll need this little bit of relaxation before things eventually go nuts.
"So, you're already looking into this emperor guy?"
"Well, that's only half of it. I'm also gonna see what I can find out about the magic of this place. See how it works. I know both Nocedas probably want to hear how that goes."
Kate looks through her files. "I guess that'll give me a chance to ask Miss Eda about the letter. There's a question I still have."
"It wasn't her." She raises an eyebrow at me. "Think about it. Luz was the one who wanted to stay, and Eda didn't much care. Why would she bother sending a letter to cover her tracks? Besides, I brought it up with her. She laughed at me for being old fashioned. Apparently, the people living here have some kind of magical phone-like scroll."
"No idea. Guess it beats using birds."
Speaking of which, a sudden commotion outside grabs our attention again. "Dang it, Hooty! Shut your beak before I turn you into fried chicken!"
"Ow!" The screeching finally goes silent.
The two of us just sort stare out the window, thinking to ourselves how weird this place is… I'll take a fight with another one of those cyborg gorillas over hearing that feathery tube make any more noise.
I clear my throat. "That… does bring up another problem. Eda's been to Earth. Recently, even. She might not care about humans much, but there's a good chance she'd know that letters aren't a popular type of communication anymore. Heck, the kid's been using her phone constantly while here. Whoever wrote that letter probably didn't know that we'd grown in tech… which means they had to have been cut off from the human world for years."
"Then the emperor, perhaps? He is your biggest suspect after all."
"Could be, but it's just not gelling together to me. He keeps a random human girl from going home, but he stills needs to send a letter to cover his tracks?"
"Maybe he wanted to bring you here? Wouldn't be the first time."
"Yeah, but I'm here now. If he was as quick on the uptake to trap me here after my fight with Snaggletooth, why's the barrier still not working for the kid?"
"Good point." She puts the files down and stirs the coffee she bought. "Are you saying it's not him?"
"No… maybe. I don't know. Like I've been saying, I don't have all the pieces right now. If I'm gonna pin anyone, I'll need to do it after I get more info."
"Fair enough. Just try not to get into trouble while you're out on the strip."
I hold back a laugh. "Yeah. I'll try. Doesn't mean I'll succeed."
"You people still here?" A sluggish voice calls out from the stairs. "Don't you have beds on the other side or something?" The Owl Lady trudges over to her fridge, pulling out a container of reddish liquid.
"Some of us have good work ethic." Kate snips back, not even looking at her.
"Bleh." Snaggletooth bats the air at us and drinks her beverage. "Hmm. That's funny. Usually Luz would be down here jumping all around about magic lessons."
I shrug. "Still sleeping, I think. Best not to disturb her. Yesterday was pretty stressful."
She scratches her stomach. "Where's the nurse?"
Kate sips from her own coffee. "Ms. Noceda left pretty early this morning for her job. She'll be back tonight to talk more with us about this whole "trial" thing we're doing."
"Hm." Snaggletooth mutters. She strolls over to the doorway, currently glowing in the middle of the living room. "Never kept this thing open for this long. It does make me wonder if this thing has a battery life."
Kate walks over to observe it as well. "Not as far as I can tell. It'll stay on as long as we need it to."
"And that means you'll be bumming around my house until then. Great."
"Morning…" Another sluggish voice emerges from upstairs. Luz rubs her eyes, peering around the room.
"Jeez, kid. You look as dead as I do." The Owl Lady comments.
"Sorry… after all the… "excitement" from yesterday, I guess my body didn't feel like waking up early."
"Now you know how evening people feel."
"Guess Mom had a morning shift. I remember her kissing my forehead this morning before I went back to sleep." She gives out a long yawn. "I wonder if maybe I could meet with Willow and Gus today about Covention. I didn't get to talk with them too long before they had to go home…"
"Might be good to just take it easy today." I suggest. "I was meaning to do some solo investigating into the town anyway."
"Oh, so you're going to investigate the magic of the boiling isles today?" She asks somewhat excitedly, waking up a bit.
"Among other things." The kid hops up and down, quietly shouting "yes" to herself. "But it also means you're stuck here. Gives you a chance to get acquainted with your new chores. Kate will let you know what you need to do."
"Dagh." Her arms droop, and she looks exhausted already.
Snaggletooth starts grumbling from the kitchen. "What about my deliveries? How am I supposed to get those done today without my errand girl?"
"You could do 'em yourself." I tell her flatly.
"After the fiasco yesterday? I don't know if you noticed, but we destroyed a lot of property. The fuzz is gonna be looking for me extra hard. Need to lay low until they calm down." Snaggletooth explains. "You on the other hand will probabvly have an easier time talking your way around the guards."
"Well, that's tough. Tell me how it goes later this week."
She marches up to me. "Oh no you don't. They wouldn't be up in a tizzy if not for you."
"And I wouldn't be here if not for you. Wanna keep this going?"
"The point is, Trenchcoat, I need the snails from my business to buy the elixir for my curse. Remember? I told Luz's mama yesterday. You were there. And that's not including all the other things I need to buy to keep up with this house. Charm supplies, special magic coatings, beast repellents, it goes on."
"Alright, alright! I get it already. I'll make your damn deliveries for you. Jeez…"
"Good. You'll find the supplies by the door before you go out. Make 'em first and then you do whatever "detective" work you need after. Capiche?"
"Hey Hellboy, where are Liz and Abe? I was hoping I'd at least get to ask them about some BPRD adventures." The kid pipes up, peering around the room.
"Sorry, Luz. Our ever so wise Director airlifted them out for a job at the Dead Sea. They'll be gone a few days inspecting some ghosts."
"Aww… wait, ghosts in the Dead Sea?" Her eyes light up. "Awesome…"
I chortle a bit. The kid's all sunshine and rainbows about this stuff. I'd been expecting her in a more goth getup when I was told she was into monsters and myths. Well, you know what they say about assuming... I toss her a kolache, which she scarfs down pretty quickly. "Don't worry about Liz and Abe. They'll be back before you know it. But I do have someone coming to replace the manpower."
"Sidney Leach?" She guesses. Hoo man, Leach'll like that. The human agents don't get as much attention as us weirdos do. 'Cept maybe Kate.
"Nah, this is a new guy. It's his first mission, so we thought this would be a good place to start. I'm waiting until he gets here before I head out. I think you'll like him. He's a pretty good guy."
Snaggletooth groans. "As if I didn't have enough people invading my house."
To say I'm nervous is a bit of an understatement. I'm completely anxious. My first mission since being brought to life… again.
I'm still shocked they decided to do that. After what almost happened with Liz, and what I did to Bud, I figured they would be happy to leave me lying on a dissection table. I mean, a lot of them were. But Hellboy and Abe… I don't know what they saw in me, but I'm gracious they believed I was worth something. Even Liz was willing to forgive me.
The car finally comes to a stop. Good, I can finally get out of this SUV. Let me tell you, I may not have proper nerves, but I felt my legs were falling asleep regardless.
Arriving at the destroyed cabin (I've been told it used to be less exploded before Hellboy arrived), I see three agents. According to the rundown I was given, these agents are meant to stay on this side, seeing how the portal interacts with the human world. The rest are with Hellboy and Kate on the other side.
Unfortunately, most of the agents are still wary of me. They just kind of stare at me for a moment, only looking away when I notice. It's a bit distressing, but maybe not unwarranted. I'm just choosing to ignore it for now.
Standing before the glowing door, my nervousness comes back. I take a deep breath. I don't have any lungs, of course, but I've heard it can be calming. One step through it, and I'm in a cabin of wonder and magic. Well, I think so anyway.
"Hey, Roger. You make it here okay?" The familiar voice of Hellboy grabs my attention. He stands there with Kate and some other characters. The rundown talked about them.
"The ride was bumpy, but otherwise okay. This place looks cool."
"Whoa! He's as big as you, Hellboy!" The young girl shouts. Luz Noceda, from what the report says.
"Everyone, this is Roger. He's our latest recruit."
The girl sticks her hand out excitedly. "Hello!" Without hesitation or doubt. I think I like her already.
I mirror her, shaking her hand with as much enthusiasm. "Hello!"
"Okay, last time I checked, humans didn't have gray skin." The older woman, I'm guessing Eda the Owl Lady, comments. "Or weird metal rings in distracting places…" She mumbles so the girl can't hear. "Wait a minute…" She sniffs the air, slowly walking over to me. "Smells like… dried blood." She eyes me up and down. She lifts up one of my hands and peers at it closely and poking at it. I wasn't prepared for her licking the back of my hand. It tickles. "This… this is a homunculus! Bigger than the usual kind… how'd you get one of these guys?"
Hellboy shrugs, his expression a bit weirded out from Eda's "inspection". "We just sorta found him."
"Who would leave a perfectly good homunculus lying around?"
"I feel like I've heard of that…" Luz ponders out loud.
Eda leans back onto the counter. Her attention is mostly focused on Luz. "Homunculi are artificial beings created using Alchemy. It's considered an advanced study under potions at that dingy school."
"Ooooh, Alchemy! I know a show that involves that… huh, now that I think about it, the glyphs are kinda like that show."
Hellboy strokes his chin. "Oh yeah. The one with the kid with the metal arm?"
"You've seen it?"
"Haven't been able to catch up with the series. BPRD work is like that."
Kate finally says something. "Oh yeah, you left off on the old version. They released a remake a few years later."
"Blech." Luz gags. "You watched the first show? We definitely need to get you into the second one. It's far more accurate to the manga-"
"I have no idea what any of you are talking about, but if I could have your attention back…" Eda loudly interrupts, and Luz's gaze returns to her. "Potions and Alchemy don't involve glyphs or spell circles, kid. It's all about combining materials to make concoctions and other special items. In this guy's case, a Homunculus. You take some blood and herbs, stew it in a jar… and then you incubate it in horse manure!"
Luz stares at her with a blank smile. "Gross." I frown a bit. I suppose that was expected. I could only come off as "not freaky" to a human for so long. "But also really cool!" She adds unflinchingly, surprising me. The smile returns to my face.
Hellboy places a hand on my shoulder. "Yeah, Luz likes anything having to do with magic and monsters. And with Snaggletooth and her little house of wonders here… you'll fit in just fine." He looks around the room. "Where's the dog bone?"
"King? Either he's sleeping in or he's working on his "totally unbiased" book of demons. He'll turn up eventually."
"Right. Listen, let me just give him a quick rundown, then I'll be on my way." He guides me to the house's front door, picking up some box as we head outside. "How ya feeling?"
"Nervous." I rub the back of my head. "I know it's silly, I've already technically been on my first mission…"
"Right. South Carolina… you been doing okay since then?"
"As good as I can do, I guess."
"I'd like to tell you it's not going to get complicated this time, but it's been doing that long before you got here. Honestly, nine times out of ten, the mission isn't as simple as we first think."
"I just hope I can adapt to the situation if it does end up going awry." I poke at the cap on my chest. "You and Abe advocated for me. I don't want to let you two down."
"Don't worry about that. Just focus on doing the right thing, I'm sure you'll do fine." He adjusts the box full of liquids. "So, first job for you. I need to go into town to do some investigating. You keep an eye on the girl and make sure the witch doesn't get up to anything with her. Ground rules: Luz can't go anywhere unless we say so and can't do this island's magic until we give the all clear. We keep her out of danger no matter what."
"Gotcha." I can't help but wonder one thing, though… "Um, is this where I salute?"
"We don't really do that. I will take a thumbs up, however." We share two thumbs, and Hellboy makes his way into the forest towards town.
Back inside the house, Eda is relaxing on the couch, changed into a red outfit. Kate is directing the agents to move machines in certain places. I don't see Luz.
"There, in that spot. Out of the way of people's feet but still close to the door. Can someone get me a MIGNO-93? That's probably our best bet to scan the inside of the portal. If we get the readings on that sort of "in between" area, we might be able to figure out why it's rejecting Luz and Hellboy."
"Need my help?" I offer.
"Not quite yet, Roger. But I will need some heavy lifting done for some pieces on the other side. Just wait around for now, I'll let you know when I need you."
"I could probably heeelllllp!" A weird cylindrical owl thing rises up between us. "I can totally pick up those thingies and doodads! I can even juggle them if you want!"
"No, no! You aren't going anywhere near that delicate equipment!" Kate shouts at it.
"Aw, come on! I promise not to drop a few of them!"
Kate pulls a small device out that sparks. "Get the hell out or I'll show you what fifty thousand volts feels like."
"Gah! Don't tase me, bro!" His form quickly slithers out the window. Kate pinches the bridge of her nose while walking back to the other agents.
I can't help but stand there. I'm not sure what else I can possibly do, as the other agents are already handling the other equipment. I just sort of stand around awkwardly, gazing at various items on the shelves and walls. Already I feel like I'm not doing enough.
"Whoa. I've never been this close to BPRD investigations before." I jump at Luz's voice. Standing next to me in a new outfit, she gazes on as the agents do their work. "Usually I only see them from TubeTube videos, or on TV. Getting to see them in person like this is exciting." She turns to me. "What's it like working with him? Solving supernatural mysteries and fighting alongside Hellboy?"
I don't answer at first. My experience with the BPRD so far has been… limited. At first, I was their enemy. Then I was stuck in their facilities for a while. Then South Carolina… and finally, training proper.
Still… despite the limited time he'd spent with him, he knew much of what he could say about Hellboy.… "Well… you can tell he's been at this for a while. Complications are both surprising yet predictable to him. It might catch him off guard at first, but he's quick to adapt. He's also a real welcoming guy. He does whatever he can to make you feel like you're not out of place. But most importantly… he wants to do right by everyone. Whether it be human or supernatural being, he won't stand to see them be wronged. And he sees the better parts in you… even if you don't." I give her a grin. "He's a pretty great guy."
"Yeah." She looks down and smiles. "I think so too."
"Luz, good to see you're dressed for the day." Kate calls out, slightly startling her. "You're just in time for me to teach you your first new chore."
"Aw, darn it…" Luz slumps over.
"Come on over. You're first job will involve marking down energy levels and repeating them back to me."
"Oh, I know that one." I mention. "I can help you learn it."
"Sure. Don't worry, you won't have to mark down the numbers each second. Kate will fire it up, and when this little gauge reaches max, that's when you record it and tell her…"
I toss the last few snails into the bag, pocketing it into my coat. This went surprisingly quicker than I thought. I was worried it would take me till the afternoon and give me less time to look around. Still, it might've been quick, but it wasn't necessarily easy. One house's door kept moving on me. Literally. One resident sprayed me with… some kind of goo. I think the less I know, the better. I'll just make sure to wash extra thoroughly tonight. One house's doorbell tried to eat me. I responded by knocking its teeth out.
I can tell you, it's not looking like we'll let Luz do these deliveries. At least not until Snaggletooth takes some damn precautions.
Still, in spite of being pushed to do the witch's grunt work, it has given me a chance to take a closer look at the people who live here. Before, I'd been entirely focused on finding Luz. So, it'll be fascinating to see what I missed the first time around.
It's astonishing to see how integrated magic is into these people's lives. I think I've seen several dozen spell circles being used on one street alone. Shop and stall owners, street performers, even some children running and playing around. If this magic really is backed by a demon, it might be one of the best pyramid schemes of damnation I've ever seen. This place might as well be completely dependent on it.
Surprisingly though, I have this feeling in my gut telling me there really aren't any strings attached. I don't know, something about the casual use of spells… But I can't go off a gut feeling alone. Ms. Noceda will want some hard proof. I'll need to start doing some research proper… but where to start?
…Well… I do know one place.
Eyes are on me this time around as I enter the tavern. Guess word got around about a certain event yesterday... and who was involved in it. I noticed it on the streets too. Some gave me hard stares as I walked around, others gave a quick glance and then tried acting inconspicuously.
"Well, well, well. Look who it is. You end up finding your human, friend?" The barkeep asks me as I stop at the counter.
"More or less."
"You sure know how to cause quite a ruckus, you know that? People all around town are talking about what happened at Hexside. The way some go on it's as if a gore-nado flew through the area." ...Gore-nado?
"Just tends to happen on the job. Things get complicated."
"Complicated? You call getting into a tussle with the strongest wild witch on the isles complicated? The Owl Lady of the Outskirts? The biggest criminal on Belos' hit list? I'm surprised you weren't blown to pieces by her!"
"I'm pretty sturdy." I flip a coin onto the counter, the one from when I first got here. I'd rather not use the witch's money. She'll probably find a way to make me pay a huge amount of interest for one damn coin. "That being said, I could use some of your info again. The magic she was using... I'm not exactly familiar with it."
He slides a different drink down, dark green in color. Once again, it tastes pretty good. "Not familiar with... what in Belos' name are on about? The Owl Lady might be powerful, but it's the same magic everybody uses."
"Remember when I told you I was from out of town?" He does a double take at me.
"You said you were "visiting". I thought you meant that you just weren't from Bonesborough. Where the hell are you from then?"
"Way out of town... where the witches gain their power through deals with demons. And I mean the big ones."
"...You mean... witches from the human side?" I nod, and he shudders. "Yeesh. Their magic is even wilder than the Owl Lady's. Those gals creep me out something fierce. What do you need help from me for?"
"The magic of this place doesn't seem to follow the same rules as what I'm used to. I need to know how it works if I'm gonna fight her again."
"Again?! Why would you do something so stupid as that?"
"The Owl Lady's got something I want. I ain't leaving till I get it." That's only sort of true, in a way, but I'm not sure I need it getting around that I'm staying with Snaggletooth. Those guards did tackle me for simply being associated with her...
"Hmph. Crazy bastard. Well, I can't tell you how our magic works exactly. If you really need that kind of information, just go to the Bonesborough Library."
I down the rest of my drink. "S'all I needed to know. Can you give me directions?"
"No, no, no. If we are to show our expertise at the Covention, we must be in sync. Our future comrades will be in that audience, and we must be sure to make an impression on them here and now if we are to gain their loyalty." I point to the coven member who has been slacking during this crucial rehearsal. "For our Emperor's sake, get it right! Unless you'd prefer to make our beloved leader look bad?"
"N-no, ma'am. I'm just a little tired is all."
"Then get some apple blood if you must! Just don't come back onto this stage until you know you can give it your all!" He shakes his head up and down, then scurries out the room. I sigh. "All right then, I suppose that's good a time any for a break. Take five." The other coven members also exit the room. Honestly, they would not be so nonchalant about this event if they were the ones organizing the coven's show this year.
"Miss Lilith, Miss Lilith!" A city guard comes storming in. "Miss Lilith, I have some urgent news."
"Can it not wait? I'm busy enough as is coordinating for the Covention."
"It's about the demon with sawed off horns! One of our guards spotted him in town!"
That information gets my attention. "The one who fought my sister? What is he doing in town?"
"Last the guard said, he seemed to be... making deliveries."
"Deliveries?" From what other guards have said, he was apparently a bounty hunter. Why would he be making deliveries? Did my sister truly beat him yesterday and enslave him? Doesn't seem like her... then again, previous reports about her mention her being with a human. It's hard to know what's going through my sister's mind these days.
"Do they know where he's going?"
"I'm not sure, ma'am. He was last seen exiting the Terrorantula's Web."
Hmm... I do need to stay to prepare... but Belos did want me to question this individual. I might not get another chance. The Emperor will surely forgive me for leaving if I am successful getting answers. "Continue having your guards look for him. But do not engage. I will confront him myself."
I grunt as I put down a box of stuff as gently as I can. I stop to catch my breath. Miss Corrigan had detected some odd signatures in different spots in the house, but they'd been blocked off furniture. So, my next job was to move that furniture so she could get proper readings. And then moving it back when they were done. Nothing too heavy, of course. Roger would be the one to move dressers and couches. Still, it's hard work.
"That's the last spot. Now, I just message the results back to base and wait to see what they have to say."
I kind of register that. The least I comprehend is that we're done with lifting and moving... for now. My poor nerd arms are going to feel sore in the morning.
"Until that info comes down, let's go ahead and take a break."
"Finally…" I flop into the nearest chair. "This punishment's turning out even harder than I thought." Only a little past noon and I already felt like going to bed. But now, I have some time to myself to spend how I want… at least for as long as this break is.
I mull around in my mind what to do for the time being. Maybe I could ask Eda to show me… wait, no. Eda couldn't teach me anything until Hellboy gave the okay. Well, then maybe I could go with Willow and Gus to… no, I can't leave without approval from the BPRD. Maybe I might be able to talk to King, but I haven't seen him all morning. Looks like I'll just have to play around on my phone. I take it out and- "Ah, dang it! I forgot to charge it last night…" I look around for a static rock. Eda uses them for more… electrical spells and potions, but I found very quickly that they were surprisingly good at charging my phone. All I needed to do was place it next to one, and within an hour, it would be ready.
However, by the time that hour would finish, I'd probably be back to work with Kate and the others. I groan in frustration. "This stinks."
"Kinda does." She glanced up at Eda as she walked into the room. "Don't worry about it too much, kid. The Para-whatsit guys might be paranoid about the magic of the Boiling Isles, but I can tell you for sure that it's just fine. I've met my fair share of witches on the human side, and trust me, the Titan's magic isn't a malevolent source like theirs is."
"I guess… but I still worry that they won't see it that way. And it doesn't make the wait any less agonizing."
"Yeah. It's real boring around here now ain't it? You look like you're about ready to become one with that chair." She gives a small snorty laugh. "Ahh, but seriously kid. It'll be fine. Before you know it, we'll be back to learning your next spells."
Eda says that, but… will we really? I've seen everything on this island as pretty cool, or amazing, and all that, but… from most other people's perspective, it would be seen as horrifying. I'd been hopeful this morning that Hellboy was looking into the Isles magic, but was that really a good thing? If anything, it could mean the opposite. And even if Hellboy found it alright, would her mom see it the same way? The concerns are wracking my mind like crazy.
"Yeah…" I mutter, not entirely convinced. "I'm gonna go and get some fresh air before Kate comes back."
Luz misses the saddened look that Eda gives her as she walks out. She notices me looking at her and acts all grumpy again. "What's with the grin, big guy?"
I don't answer her on that, simply heading for the door. "Maybe I can talk to her."
"…Good luck." She mutters as I walk out the door.
Luz isn't doing much, simply leaning on the house, staring at the forest's edge. She's probably waiting for Hellboy. With not much for her to do, I can see why. If Hellboy comes back and says the magic of this realm is okay, then she'll be able to learn it again. But until then, her options are limited.
"Oh. Hey, Roger." She greets as I stroll up.
"Sort of… but it's more than that. Without much to do, it's made me think. Hellboy could be my hero. But…" She pauses a moment. "…If Hellboy comes back and tells mom that the Boiling Isles magic is too dangerous…"
"I get it. The wait is killing you, isn't it?"
"Yeah. The moment he comes back will either make or break my chance to stay here." She looks off across the ocean. "So, here I wait… at least until Kate comes back from break." She peers up into the sky. "I just wish more than anything else that my mom will let me stay. That she'll see how amazing this place is. I may noy be a chosen one, but I feel like I can find my purpose here."
She sighs in defeat. "But I can't kid myself. I ran away from home and broke her heart. I stayed in a place that put me in danger, scaring her out of her mind. I'm lucky she even humored me on this trial run. I'm glad she'll let me see Willow and Gus, but as far as the rest of the Boiling Isles go… if she decides I can't come back, I can't really blame her."
Her face reads of distress, eyes watering slightly. At that moment, she seems to realize she told me this. She wipes her face. "I'm… sorry. I didn't mean to dump all that on you. I guess all that's been weighing a bit much on my mind."
I don't mind. I'd gotten much of the story from Kate through the day. I could relate. Guilted by mistakes… searching for one's worth… it makes me feel a kinship with her. I suppose it's only fair that I share my own experience with such.
I sit down against the wall, bringing me closer to her height. "I had a brother."
Luz looks at me in curiosity. "A brother? But I thought you were-"
"Artificial. Yes. But we were made by the same creator. It's about as close to a relative I can get." She nods in understanding. "My brother… see, I'd been wandering alone for the time I'd been alive. Wracked with guilt over mistakes I'd made in my first moments of life. I had hurt someone… and even…" I stop myself. Though I don't wish to say it to a young girl, she seems to get the implication. "I thought myself an abomination."
Luz looks at me sadly, placing a hand on my shoulder. I smile back at her. "About that point, my brother found me. He told me of the father who abandoned us…" Luz's hand clenches my shoulder a bit harder. It's as if she was pained to hear that. "…and attempted to persuade me we were superior to human beings. For the time I spent with him, he said great words about us… I'd thought that maybe I did have reason to live. But… I soon realized he did not care for what I wanted." The memories of the event flash in my mind. "He wished to destroy humanity. Have us become one in a gigantic colossus made of metal and flesh. But I wanted no part in such a massacre. I did not want to build my life off the corpses of others. …He would not listen. In the end, I understood that he only saw me as a means to his own ends. I… I had to…
Luz kneels down. "I… I understand." She sits beside me. "I get what you're going through. A lot more than you realize. Thinking that you weren't meant to belong… or just feeling terrible about mistakes you've made. Even when it comes to your…" She hesitates at the end. "…But… why tell me all of this?"
I remain silent for a moment. "My brother only came to me for what he wanted. To have a mindless drone whose only purpose was to serve him. He wasn't truly family to me in the end. But your mom… she's tough on you… but she considers what you want. She wants what's best for you and is willing to do it in a way that speaks to you. Even if she did lose sight for a moment. And you… you're still worried about how you hurt her. You care for her as much as she does you… even if you two don't always see eye to eye. Even if I've only been exposed to a corrupt version of the concept… I feel I can confidently say that you two truly are family." I look at her with great conviction. "I believe she will come around. From what I've heard from her, she cares more for you than anything else. It might be rough, but I think she'll understand what this place means to you."
She smiles back at me, grateful for the support. "What you said about Hellboy… about him seeing the good in people. Were you…?"
"I hurt people he cared about. Once the incident with my brother ended I went with him to make things right. It cost me my life. I expected him to not give a damn about me afterward, but… he put a good word in for me."
The girl giggles. "Yeah… you know… I was expected him to be a lot like in the comics. Gruff. No nonsense. Spouting one liners everywhere."
"He is like that, though."
"Well, yeah, but… I wasn't prepared for how gentle he was. When he told me how my decisions were affecting my mom… I half expected him to give me an earful… I even thought he might call me dumb. But… he was nothing like that. He was calm. He didn't even raise his voice at me. And then he walked me through the whole situation. He made it clear I made mistakes… but the whole time, it felt like he didn't want me to drag myself down with them. It's almost as if he'd… been through the same thing."
"Yeah… I got that feeling too." We sit in silence on that thought, staring into the forest just like before. After a few moments of the sound of ocean waves and forest breezes, I finally stand back up. "I think Kate might actually be done for the day, at least on this side of the portal. Maybe we could find something to do to pass the time?"
Luz also stands up, dusting herself off. "My phone isn't charged yet, and I can't do what I usually do on the Boiling Isles… the only thing I can think of is King. But I don't know where he is."
As if on cue, a commotion came from inside. Before we could guess, the door slammed opened. "Luz, there you are!" A small animal thing comes forward.
Luz excitedly runs over and scoops him up. "King! I haven't seen you all morning, you adorable little button!"
"Gah! Luz, I'm trying to act intimidating here!" It was still a few moments before she stopped cuddling him and put him down. "Ahem… yes, well, I'd been very busy all morning. When I heard you wouldn't be learning magic for a while, I thought we could use the opportunity to catch up on your demon lessons. Of course… I suddenly realized I didn't have enough demo- I mean, hadn't prepared the next few lessons, so I've been spending all morning getting them ready to teach you."
She kneels down. "Aw. You wanted to help me pass the time, didn't you, cutie-patootie?"
"No!" He rushes to say. "You're just… behind on your lessons! As a professor of demons it's my job to keep you updated on these things! Now, come on, already. We're losing daylight."
"Do you mind if I join?" I ask. Seems like it could be fun. Plus, I have nothing else to do. I'm bored.
"Uh… this lesson is kinda private, weird giant stranger."
"King, this is Roger the Homunculus. He's with the BPRD."
"Those humans have a Homunculus?! What did I miss?"
"Why don't we go inside, and I'll tell you. Come on, Roger!" She leads King inside to start their lesson.
Besides fun, the BPRD does need to know what kind of creatures are roaming the island. And it might just take enough time for Hellboy to come back.
Still… what is taking Hellboy so long anyway?
I got turned around at least three times trying to find this library. I had to ask for directions a second time. Just to find this place closed down for the day.
I walk up to the door when I notice a piece of paper. This might shed some light.
Dear Library Visitors,
We are sorry to declare that the Library will be closed for some time. We have become understaffed after several of our librarians suffered nervous breakdowns, due to pranks from unknown suspects. If you should know who might be behind these practical jokes, we ask that you post an anonymous note to the snitch box at your local guard house.
THE KEEPER OF KNOWLEDGE AND UNGODLY SECRETS, LIBRARIAN KOLOK
"Great. Guess I'm not checking out any books today." I sigh. There's got to be another way to find information on this island. Asking the locals is an option, sure, but it's like asking random bystanders how a field of science works. They could probably give you the basics, but they can't go into detail.
I leave down the street. No point staying. I could break in, but that ain't my style. At least not for legitimate businesses. Plus, it would draw too much attention to me. Suppose I could wander around for a bit longer before heading back, try to find an alternative. But then I'd just be walking around aimlessly. Maybe that school has some teachers who could answer my questions… but they probably won't be keen on letting me around their after my little tussle with Snaggletooth. Assuming class is even in today after we trashed the schoolyard… Perhaps it's just best if I go back to the bar and ask for more options.
…But first, I should probably take care of the pest problem I've been having for the last few blocks.
I swing around, pulling my gun on whoever's been tailing me. The woman is startled, backing up a bit. "You know, I've never been a fan of stalkers. So I'll give you one chance to answer me. If I don't like it, I start blasting. Why are you following me?"
She straightens up and stares at me. "You'd be wise not to pull a weapon on the leader of the Emperor's Coven."
Oh, great. This could be trouble. "Tell me why you've been tailing me, or I might just chance it."
"Easy, demon. I did not come to arrest you. I am Lilith of the Emperor's coven. I am simply here to ask you some things. If you wouldn't mind answering them?"
I raise an eyebrow. I thought the guards might follow up on me after I promised Snaggletooth to them. Didn't think it'd be this soon. I lower my gun. "Depends on what you're asking about."
"Just some matters concerning your stay here."
Doesn't seem like she's lying. Still, if she's the leader of the Emperor's hounds, I better be cautious. I put my gun back in my coat.
"Ah, good." She pulls off her hood. "Out of my own curiosity, I must ask… how did you know I was following you?"
"You learn to spot weird things in my line of work."
"Interesting. And is your business what brought you to come to blows with the Owl Lady?"
"You could say that."
"Can I now? Yet despite going after a well-known criminal, you intimidated my guards into backing off." She looks at me questioningly. "Why?"
"You're… kidding, right?"
She stares at me stone-faced for second before she grimaces. "Fine, you have a point there. Moving on." She clears her throat. "That being said, you promised the guard one Owl Lady. And we seem to have a noticeable lack of Eda Clawthorne within out prison. You and her seemed to have quite the showdown yesterday. What happened?"
I narrow my eyes. She's obviously prying for information. "I didn't win." I say, and she looks expectedly unimpressed. "But I didn't lose either."
"You're trying to tell me you were evenly matched?"
"I'd say so. But I'm looking to tip that scale."
"Is that so?" She waves a finger in a circle, and the bag of snails from my coat fly out. I catch them before she can take them. "Then tell me, why are you doing her errands for her?"
I glare at her as I nestle the bag tighter in this time. "We've got an arrangement. She's got something I want. I ain't leaving till I get it."
"The human, right?" I freeze. Guess I should've expected she would know. I'd been asking around about it so much, it was bound to come back to me. I say nothing to that. Never was a great liar. "Seems I'm on the mark. But… that's not all you're here for, is it?" I raise an eyebrow. The hell is she implying? "My si- Eda is many things, but a slave keeper is not one of them. If you truly wanted to take the human, I have no doubt she would let you. You probably just spooked her while trying to find the thing. But if the human was really all you were after, why haven't you just gone?"
Did… did she not know? If she's really the emperor's stooge, he probably would've told her that he was keeping Luz and I here. Unless…
Unless he isn't the one keeping us here.
"You clearly have an ulterior motive. What is it that you're looking for, hmm? I can get it for you. Emperor Belos is a very generous soul."
"Really, now?" I think it's time I do some fishing of my own.
"Indeed. However… before I could get you what you want, I would need a favor from you."
"And that is?"
"The Owl Lady. If you capture her and bring her to me, I will make sure you have a personal audience with the Emperor to voice your desires."
Figures. Finish the job, get the reward. With what she wants though, I can get the info I want. "Sounds like a good bargain. But if I'm gonna take her in, I need to know what I'm dealing with. The magic you use on these Isles is different than the stuff witches use on the human side."
"You wish to know our magic works?"
"It would help."
"Ask away then, I'll be happy to comply."
"The source of it, first off. Where's it come from?"
"The magic of the Isles is a gift from the Titan. His body brought forth a well of magic that all are privileged to use."
"So, you worship him in exchange for this power?"
"No, no." She quickly stops me. "The beings of the Isles have evolved due to the Titan's magic permeating the air. The creatures of the Boiling Isles have evolved organs such as bile glands next to our hearts to use the magic surrounding us whenever we want."
"So, there's not strings attached?"
"Not necessarily. We follow the Titan's will. But The only one the Titan speaks to is the Emperor. He tells us what the Titan wishes. But the magic would be here regardless. Belos simply taught us how to avoid destroying ourselves with wild magic, like what Eda uses."
"I see. So there's no way to use the magic without these bile glands?"
"Most assuredly." Her face suddenly becomes anxious. "H-hold on, you're not thinking of… No, out of the question, you will not grievously harm her, much less her bile gland, in any way." I look at her questioningly. "The… the Emperor requires she be unmaimed. Is that clear?"
Now why does she want Snaggletooth unharmed? Strange… "Fine. Is the magic of a demonic nature?"
"Demonic nature. The way witches from the human world often get their magic is by deals with devils. That kind of magic can be suppressed by methods I know. Is it evil, basically?"
She shakes her head. "No. The magic is of the Titan's, and the Titan's alone. His magic was a power separate from that of hell. One can destroy themselves if not careful… but that is an error on the user, not any outside source."
"Damn. That narrows my options."
"Will you be unable to combat her?"
"No. I think I've got some options left. But it'll take time."
"Good. Then leave me alone for a while. I don't want Snaggletooth getting suspicious. Just assume I'm not ready to strike if you see me with her. Got it?"
"Most certainly. I wish you a good evening, mister…"
"Hellboy. And leave the human alone. If you want the witch unharmed, then the kid's gotta be unharmed."
"Of course. We shall not harm a hair on her head. Let us meet with less hostility next time."
I walk away, headed back to the little shack on the coast. I almost expected today to go belly up after seeing that note on that door. Definitely thought I'd get into more of a hassle with the guards. Instead, I came out with the info I was looking for… both concerning the magic and the ol' Emperor himself.
Don't know how long I can keep the lie up, though. Better use it while I can. God knows how things will probably go wrong somewhere down the line.
I watch as this 'Hellboy' disappears into town. How he plans to deal with Eda, I am unsure.
A Coven member flanks to my side. "Is it wise to give him so much free reign, Lilith?"
"Of course not. I'm not giving him that much rope." I head off back to the Covention center. "I felt off that entire conversation. We will 'leave him alone', but we will be watching his exploits. Closely…"
The sun setting over the horizon tells me just how long I took. Hope Luz didn't go nuts with boredom.
I'm greeted with what looks like some kind of makeshift college classroom. Looks like the bonehead finally decided to come down. He's got some chalkboard out with some drawing of a monster out. Both Luz and Roger are sitting down in front of it, both wearing some small caps. They look like bats.
"Hey, Luz." Snaggletooth shouts from the other side of the room. "Trenchcoat is back."
"He is?" Her eyes dart around the room, till they land on me. "He is!" Luz shoots up, running to me in in a flash.
"Hey, kid. You keep yourself busy while I was gone?"
"We were getting along just fine before you interrupted my lesson." Pint size says in a huff.
"Did you find out if I can do magic?" She asks, her face wrought with worry.
"I still need a bit more information. But it's looking good for you." Her face bursts into the biggest gleam of happiness I've seen on her all day. "How was your first day on the job, Roger?"
"Pretty good. King was nice enough to let me sit in on the demon lessons."
"Demon lesson?" That's a bit concerning.
"They're harmless." Kate pipes up. I hadn't even noticed she was sitting down with Snaggletooth. "I have solid info from a local." I look at the Owl Lady, and she just looks away. "How was your search today?" Kate asks me, and I grumble a bit.
"A mixed bag. I got some useful notes. But I might have the attention of the local guards."
"Oh no… don't tell me we'll be seeing wanted posters of you now."
"Not that kind of trouble. But I think I'll be under a watchful eye from now on." I get down and whisper to her. "I also got some interesting information about our "suspect"…"
"You got caught? Amateur." Snaggletooth says with a cocky grin.
"Yeah, yeah. We get it. You're good at being a criminal." I take the bag of snails out from my coat and toss 'em over. "You know, I could start asking for a paycheck."
"You're doing volunteer work, nothing more. The moment I get Luz back on the job, you're being let go."
"Yeah, we're gonna need to talk about that delivery route of yours…"
"Wait, you went out to do Eda's chores? I didn't think they'd take that long. You are an amateur." Pint size says, leaping down from the table he'd been on.
Luz kneels down next to him. "No, King. Hellboy went out to research the Boiling Isles magic, to see if it's dangerous or not. My mom won't let me learn it if it is."
"Unfortunately, the library was closed. Some pranksters caused some mayhem and they had to take a few days off."
"Oh, I heard about that in the papers. Reminds me of my first practical jokes…" Eda says, the sound of nostalgia in her voice.
"That's what you went out there for?" King asks, then walks over to a nearby shelf and pulls out a book titled "The Unauthorized Boiling Isles History". "But we have a book that goes into extensive detail on the magic of the Isles right here."
Kate, Roger, Luz and I stare at the book dumbfounded, before giving Eda a strange look. "We do? Oh yeah, we do!"
"Ugh, this always happens. She forgot we had a back door last week. If I wasn't here, I'm pretty sure she'd forget who Hooty was."
"Aw, come on!" The door-bird slithers in, smooshing his face into Eda's. "No one can forget ol' Hooty!"
She punches him hard enough to fling his head into the nearby wall. "No matter how hard I try." She proceeds to gulp down her drink furiously.
I grumble in frustration before grabbing the book out of King's hands. "I'm gonna have to go and do some quick studying. Come and get me when Ms. Noceda gets here."
"Here's some tea, Ms. Noceda."
She takes the cup from the Homunculus gently. Her hands tremble slightly. Luckily, it's not due to the artificial human in front of her. She took pretty well to the guy, just like Luz did. Roger's just like that, honestly.
"Thank you, Roger." She takes a sip, before calmly breathing out. "Though it's good to know my daughter is safe, my body has still been so shaky. I had to excuse myself from more precise jobs today."
Kate takes a sip from her own cup. "That's understandable, Ms. Noceda. You've had a scary week. Your body's probably still trying to come down from it all."
"Hopefully it does soon. My superiors have not been so sympathetic to my situation. They've been rushing me to get back to "100% percent", as they say."
I grumble in anger. "Figures. Bunch of assholes…"
"Don't worry about me, Hellboy. This isn't the first time. I can handle it." She takes another sip… and I notice her cup is already pretty empty. "I understand you have some things to tell me about this Island's magic?"
"Yep. I've got it on good authority that the magic of this island isn't connected to demons and that it won't burn up Luz's soul." I take the book from earlier out and slide it to her. "Don't let the name fool you. It matches up with what I learned from official sources in town. I've got the chapter bookmarked."
"Thank you, Hellboy. I know Luz must have been happy to hear that." She sighs as looks it over. "Still, I can't help but feel wary to let her learn it. Even with this information in front of me, I still feel scared of it."
"Sounds like normal parent fears to me. It's only natural to be cautious, Camila." Kate notes.
"…That… "Covention" is tomorrow, right?"
"Yep. With all the covens coming to demonstrate, we'll be able to fully understand this magic's capabilities."
"Good. Maybe understanding what this magic can do might sate my fears." She puts the book down. "I also have one other concern. I've been thinking about the fact that this Eda is a criminal. It's gotten me worried about my Luz's safety with her possibly being target by the law. With her having escaped the local jail…"
"I've got you there." I mention. "Had a talk with an important official in town today… I've gotten them to leave your girl alone. They don't really seem interested in her anyway."
Camila seems to relax a bit at this. "That's good. If that's the case, I'm not so nervous to let her go tomorrow. Just please make sure to keep her out of trouble."
"I'll be watching her like a hawk."
"Thank you." Her eyes veer away to Roger, whose currently playing with a weird item from Eda's house. "My third concern is… can we have Roger wear pants?"
I cringe. "Trust me, Cam. It looks even weirder."
The pieces are moving…
...I must make sure…
…In the right direction…
Okay, Covention next time. (spongebob narrator voice) Tomorrow for sure…
Review response time!
Nestor Hdez- A Little Hooty goes a long way, but I certainly could have stood to add him some more. I'll also do my best to make things feel a bit more natural in the future.
Mister Enigma- I'm sorry ma, but that story's pretty self contained. and with what happened to him at the end, well... I'll say this at the least, it's not looking like he'll show up.
1Batman4u- Eh... No, I'm sorry. That kind of humor feels like it would be out of place in this story. Are you sure the horns regrowing isn't only the movie continuity? Maybe I missed the comic that mentioned it for the books...
coldblue2015- 1. Hellboy x Hooty all the way. 2. Certainly possible. 3. *shakes magic eight ball* "Outlook not so good". Damn...
That's all this time folks. See you when I see you!