Chapter 48: Ancient Visual History

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Kim woke up in a very bad place. Like physically, but also like emotionally and mentally and spiritually. She was tired and depressed but also in physical pain because she was tied to a stone altar that was not very expertly carved and parts of it were digging into her shoulders.

She wasn't sure who had strapped her to a stone altar, or why, but it probably wasn't a good sign.

She lifted her head up as far as she could to look around the room. It was definitely more of a cave than a room, with walls all jagged and shadowy from the rough bedrock. There were flames on sconces around the edge of the wide space and she could see other stone alters arrayed in a circle around hers.

The air was very cold and damp and smelled like wet leaves and dead uncle. And something else, something flowery and cloying and fake. Cassio's cologne. So yay, she was back in Florence, in the caves beneath the villa. Awesome.

Kim sighed and laid back, bored and uncomfortable and waiting for the scene to start, wondering if she should try yelling for help or something? When a figure swished in from another chamber. Kim could immediately tell it was a woman from how they carried themselves and her heart lifted because Yay, women. It was a rare thing these days.

"Hey! You! Can you help me???" Kim called.

The figure came closer, her robes so deep and dark that her every movement made it look as though she was a collection of shadows peeling themselves away from the wall. She stood over Kim and pulled her hood back and leaned down, revealing her pale skin and sad, hollow eyes that stared curiously at Kim, inspecting her like she was a slime mold on a petri dish under a microscope.

"HOLY SHIT, ASH????" Kim yelled.

Ash smiled, her face still very close to Kim's. "Hello Kimberly," she replied, as though it had been 30 seconds since their last conversation. Ash's voice was different than Kim remembered - it was as if her sentences were being spoken by different voices, at slightly different speeds and intonations. "I like your outfit," Ash continued. "Are your ties too tight? I admit they are mainly symbolic. A nod to the old ways, you know." Ash smiled at Kim as though they were sharing a joke, which they were definitely not.

"Um yeah they're fine?" Kim said. "I guess? ASH WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?"

"Tarnishing the legacy of our ancestors and being very, very sad," Ash said, as she reached out with her fingers and delicately swept some salt into a line, fixing the circle that Kim now saw surrounded her on the table.

"OK well I'm so extremely glad to see you, I need your help. I'm trying to stop Cassio from destroying the world--he's stealing my magic to build an army of men to take over KKHollywood."

Ash shook her head. "Oh no, the army is built. The next part of the plan is that we'll leech the remainder of your magic away to make his army more powerful..." Ash paused and waved way the rest of the sentence. "He has a whole speech prepared, I don't want to ruin the moment for him. And I don't fully understand his goals myself. Once you lose everything that matters to you including your will to live, things like cause and effect become frightfully difficult to keep straight." Ash smiled brightly at Kim and shrugged helplessly.

"Wait you said 'we'. You're helping him? Ash, come on!!!"

Ash rolled her eyes. "I mean, ~helping him, technically I've done most of the work. As far as magic is concerned he seems merely capable. Although I will say, he definitely has that entrepreneurial CEO spirit. The unyielding plan, the enduring will to bend people towards his vision." Ash shrugged. "But I created the spell that stole all the handsome celebrity boys from your world. I stole the K-Stars and combined their magic with the spirits of the handsome boys, in order to clone them and create Cassio's One True Patriarchy. And once we have your magic we will fulfill the convenant of the Celebrityship." Ash stopped and stared off into space, as though she was watching her own words float away. "It doesn't sound like much when you list it out like that, but it was an awful lot of work."

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