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The Only Way

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"Zagreus sits inside your head,

Zagreus lives among the dead,

Zagreus sees you in your bed,

And eats you when you're sleeping."

Doctor Who Audioplay "Zagreus" created by Big Finish.

 

Laura regained consciousness. She found herself lying on her bed and recalled she had passed out after touching that necklace. She noticed Carmilla looked at her with a mixture of fear and anxiety – like she did right before her blackout. Laura asked her roommate, “What happened? I remember you tried to warn me about this jewellery. Was it poisoned?” Laura unintentionally touched her right palm with her right fingers and winced from the pain. She looked at it and saw several small dents like she just smashed something into pieces. Then she saw the signal on her computer is full, saying her cache was full.

Carmilla answered, “I wanted to talk to you about your loss of consciousness. I'm very sorry, but you must watch the last video recorded after our argument. It will explain the current situation and answer all of your questions."

Laura played it. It showed herself, but with her manner of speaking changed and her movement way less clumsy. She was talking to Carmilla like a strict mother to her naughty daughter, warning her not to interfere with the ritual, “ You didn’t come when I sent for you. I’m saving you from your foolishness. Threats to Sacrifice cannot be tolerated. One day, you’ll understand.

Carmilla asked, “Am I ever going to understand why you possessed the only girl I’ve ever loved?”. 

"What was the name of that cockroach, who you called your romantic interest? Dominic? Waverly? She was a good vessel for me until her death from old age, darling. You wanted to save her from being killed, you succeeded. Now your current target, silly meddling little Laura, will be an appropriate host because of her excellent physical state. My glittering girl, you’ll be near your girlfriend all her life again."

Then the video showed Laura crushing the flash drive with the sentience of JP, who had heard the full conversation, " I thought we should talk without your little 'friends' listening in. Now, that was satisfying. That little son of a glitch has been a loose end since he disappeared into that rabbit hole they call a library back in 1874. I’ll sacrifice the prom king, Wilson Kirsh, instead of your tiny moppet. "

Laura stopped the video and said, "So, I was possessed by The Dean, who is your Mother? I thought she was your sire, not a spiritual creature. Can we do anything to exorcise her from me and destroy her? I don't want to be her puppet. The library should have something we can consult.

Carmilla answered, "Our friends will look there and create a plan to solve the problem. 'The Mother' didn’t turn me into a vampire, but she controlled who did it, my elder sister, Mattie. Mattie taught me everything necessary for my new 'life.' She cares about me.”

Laura said, “It’s always good when you have someone supporting you and helping you. Now go and speak with the rest of our company: Perry, LaF, and Danny. Together you’ll save all the Dean’s victims: those girls prepared to feed to the monster, Kirsh, and me.”

Carmilla went to the corridor, where she texted Laura’s friends, “We need to urgently discuss a vital problem with Laura. Meet me in the cafeteria.”

She teleported there by her will, leaving a cloud of black smoke where she stood. They were already around the table near the window. Carmilla started explaining, “I need your help to eliminate The Dean who possessed Laura. The problem is, she is an ancient Sumerian goddess, Inanna, so, it might be difficult to eradicate her.”

Danny said, “The university should have the occult books related to this. We can find those materials.”

Carmilla and her friends went to the library. She loudly announced, “Information about the exorcism of the highest beings.” After those words, a large tome felt from the shelf and opened in the middle. Danny read aloud: " The highest beings, including deities and archdemons, cannot be exorcised. Thus, the only way to eliminate them is to build magical defence barriers, prevent the change of their body-carrier and murder their current host without any possibility of resurrection. "

Perry suggested the following plan: “I've studied many arcane books, so I know these sort of rituals. To create a magical barrier it is necessary to paint four protective circles on the floor and identical ones over them on the ceiling. The first is to contain the corporeal organisms, the second is for the spiritual creatures, the third is for the energy being (for instance, pure conscience), the last is for the most powerful things like angels of death who are capable of breaking through all previous defences. When you finish drawing the circles you should walk around them clockwise three times to increase their power. ”

Perry continued, “To stop the Dean from hopping into another person it’s required to quickly paint a special combination of runes and hieroglyphs on Laura’s forehead, after that we’ll sedate her with a high dose of tranquilisers. We’ll put her into the circles and add three items around them: evil, good, neutral, which are: a corrupt vampire hunter’s heart obtained by the Summer Society, the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, and The Dagger of Shadows, respectively. Carmilla must obtain The Blade of Hastur—a sword meant to shatter all who oppose it—which is sealed in an underwater cavern three hundred meters below sea level. The sword in question can kill both The Dean and Laura.”

LaF suggested a possible alternative, "Maybe instead of murdering Laura we'll put her into a medically induced coma with barbiturate drugs."

Carmilla objected to the idea. "No, The Dean is too strong. My roommate will have to submit to her without any chance to resist. Her death is our only chance to save students."

Perry offered to split up, "Carmilla will dive into that cave for the sword. She is a vampire, so she can do it without breathing and use her panther form for acceleration. I'll find the folio with all the required magical diagrams and sequences of deterrent symbols, while LaF will obtain a tranquilizer in the Alchemical Club and necessary artefacts from the warehouse. Then Danny and I will create the circles of power and put Laura into them, as I told you before. Please, hurry up! We have no time!"

LaF went to the Alchemical Club south of campus. In the first class, they had tried to participate in its experiments, but they abandoned it later due to the numerous hazards to their health and life caused by multiple safety violations. As a result, LaF switched to less dangerous biological studies.

When they came to the doors, they winced from a strong chemical smell. They put a handkerchief to their nose and entered the building. Inside was the bizarre mix of a chemical laboratory with a room of a mad medieval scientist: modern and obsolete labware, ancient ingredients next to reagents, notes full of jargon, unclear even for a Chemistry Major.

They asked one of the alchemists, "Do you have any tranquilizers?"

Their interlocutor said, " Is a gun with darts We often use it to calm down the results of our experiments." 

LaF agreed, "That's fine. Could you please give it to me? I'll return it this evening." The gun and darts were immediately brought and LaF took them to the warehouse, their next destination. Someone had regretted that LaF had left the club during their first week at the university. LaF thought, "Unlike these alchemists, I love to be alive and well by the end of the day."

LaF quickly found the requested artefacts using an electronic catalogue at the entrance of the storage. When they obtained a Holy Grenade with a sealed pin, they commented, "A grenade a day keeps the rabbit away." The heart was in a plastic sterile container with a specially prepared ice-cold preservation solution. The dagger was sealed in plastic to prevent accidental activation of its shadow-sucking ability by blood. LaF used their backpack to take all the items to the hall.

There they met Danny and Perry who painted the magical circles in LaF and Perry’s room, located at the end of the third floor. Danny admitted they struggled slightly without a step ladder in the dormitory. Even with her being 6'2" it would be difficult to reach the ceiling without it.

Two minutes later Carmilla slowly walked in her animal form, keeping the carbon black blade in her mouth. On her lips were small pale marks where the sword touched the skin. Carmilla only took three steps until she fell from the fatigue caused by her ordeal of diving to obtain the weapon.

Danny addressed to her friends, “After Laura, with Inanna restrained in her head, will be put inside the circles, Carmilla will stab her with the sword. Then she'll dial Laura's father, Sherman Hollis, asking him to come here, so she can explain the situation. Carmilla will use her pyrokinesis to burn the body to ashes, eliminating every possibility of resurrection. Let's go!"

The company went to Laura and Carmilla's room, where Laura ("Laura"?) filmed her new vlog. " Good day, dear viewers. I'm glad to inform you that we have made great progress in our investigation. I assure you, you shouldn't worry at all, we’ve kept the situation under our control. The case, which was about the so-called 'missing girls' who weren’t missing in the first place, is successfully closed. They are alive and well. There was nothing wrong with them, they just had left the university to hang out in some clubs. More pleasant news: an ancient vampire older than 1,200 years threatening the students was eliminated by our two brave students —Theodore Straka and William Luce — who was KIA, unfortunately."

LaF shot two darts and Laura fell on the floor along with her chair. Perry wrote the constraining sequence of symbols on her forehead. Danny picked Laura up and carried her to the middle of the circles.

Carmilla carefully took the blade and pierced the heart of her roommate. The weapon absorbed Laura's life-force within half a minute, and she fell, dead. She looked like she was just sleeping peacefully, no sign of any wound.

Danny took Laura's mobile phone, quickly finding the number of Sherman Hollis under "Dad". Despite the gravity of the situation, she smiled noticing how some of the other contacts were named: LaF - "Brainiac", herself - "Athlete from the U", Perry - "Mother Hen", Carmilla - "Miss Broody."

Laura's father picked up the call immediately, because it was uncharacteristic for his daughter to dial him before the evening when she usually described her day. Thus, it could only be an emergency. " My little muffin, what happened?"

Danny said, " It's Danny Lawrence. Maybe you still remember me from when I was in a relationship with Laura? You should come here immediately: she was murdered. "

Sherman was silent for a few seconds. Then he answered: " I'll be there in an hour. Please meet me near the gates of the campus because I don't know its territory. "

Carmilla met him, introducing herself as Laura's friend and roommate. Sherman commented, when they walked to the dormitory, "Laura spoke well of you during our conversations. I still haven't seen any of her videos she sent to me because of my job. I'm a physician in the Emergency Medical Services. I'm busy saving lives practically all the time and when I'm not I'm so tired I just want to sleep."

When they entered the hall, Sherman was asked to introduce himself and explain the purpose of the visit. He showed his passport, saying he wanted to see his murdered daughter. Carmilla accompanied him to the third floor and entered Room 307, belonging to Laura and Carmilla. Sherman came to Laura without any delay and examined, her finding no visible cause of death, "Can someone tell me how she died? Who did this to my only child and for what purpose?"

After that, Sherman noticed Laura's body was surrounded by bizarre artefacts, a strange sword, and four white circles with plenty of unknown symbols of the same colour. He understood that Laura was sacrificed in an arcane ritual, but why it was done, he couldn’t comprehend yet.

Perry explained, "An ancient evil goddess of war and political power possessed your daughter. We weren't able to perform a proper exorcism because it's ineffective for such powerful creatures. Thus, we had only one way to deal with it: contain it inside the carrier and kill them both using the magical blade you saw. Laura died in her sleep quickly and peacefully, without any pain."

Sherman asked, "I heard this university had wizards and supernatural beings. Can they resurrect her, or turn her into a vampire, or at least summon her spirit?"

LaF shook their head, "No, sir. Laura's conscience is inextricably linked to the mind of the intruder. They could exist only simultaneously since the possession. Now we should make a funeral pyre in the forest."

When they returned, after the body was turned to ashes in a fire lit by Camilla's pyrokinesis, Sherman said, "Fate took my wife in a car crash twelve years ago, my daughter died in another accident, and I'm afraid I'll join them by the end of the year due to my untreatable condition. I'm sorry for leaving you now, but I'll cope better with my sorrow alone. I need time to move on after all." Then he returned to his home.

Carmilla told her friends she needed something in her room. When she didn't come back for twenty minutes, Perry, being the DA, used her skeleton key to open the door. A black panther was lying on Laura's bed, hugging her favourite yellow pillow and staring at the camera. The last recorded video said, "All the people I loved died because of me: Elle, Laura, my elder sister Mattie. The Dean destroyed them to hurt me, get revenge on me for my disobedience, and force me to continue to be her pawn. We defeated her, yet it cost us a lot. I'm afraid of losing anyone else including myself. "

Perry calmed Carmilla down, petting her smooth fur. "It wasn't your fault. Your Mother might eliminate them anyway to perform her malicious plans. You tried to stop her, to prevent more sacrifices and you succeeded. Many lives were saved. Regarding Laura, you did what you must."

There was an unexpected radio announcement, " The Chancellor of Silas University and its Dean, Lilita Morgan, was found deceased today from a heart attack. Due to this unfortunate circumstance, I, Matska Belmonde, have been assigned to her position by the Silas Board of Governors. I'm planning to significantly improve the university after the failure of my predecessor's policy. I'm taking over duties from now on. My first task is to balance the budget by cutting extra expenses. "

LaF asked Carmilla, "How is this possible, after Matska was killed by The Dean?"

Carmilla returned to her human form and gave an explanation, "My sister is not only the oldest, most powerful and influential European vampire. In addition to that, she is a willing host for the goddess of the underworld, Ereshkigal, who has control over life and death. In return for that, the latter saved the former. Unlike our Maman, she is much saner, thus she will provide more appropriate management. Mattie is the Chair of the aforementioned Board, she simply assigned herself being able to do these sort of jobs well. The Dean's 'children' had a mental connection with her. That's how Mattie knew about her death."