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Cassandra ducked down behind a museum display stand just in time for a crackling bolt of raw magic to go whizzing overhead, right where her face had been moments ago. She squeaked as another bolt flew past, closer than the last. Lamia was huddled in a ball on the floor just in front of her, her breathing shallow and ragged.

Lamia had showed up out of the blue in the Library a couple of weeks ago. According to her, she’d put in place some kind of a “fail-safe” in case Dulaque betrayed her the way that he did. Supposedly, whatever it was revived her in the exact place where she was killed, but at a point in time when it was safe to do so. Cassandra – and the rest of them – weren’t sure why it didn’t just bring her back at any given time when they were all out on a mission or something. None of them trusted her as far as they could throw her, but they had seen how she’d been tossed aside by the Serpent Brotherhood, and with Eve and Flynn tethered to the Library, it didn’t hurt to have another Guardian join them in the field.

This was the first mission she was supposed to be on: a simple retrieval of a powerful artefact, one that was already safely stored in a museum for them. All they had to do was convince the museum staff to let them “borrow” it, and they’d be fine. Cassandra was privately very grateful for the Library’s magic, since she wasn’t sure the museum staff would give them the time of day without it; not after seeing Lamia decked out in black leather and a large green-gold snake ear cuff. It only took a few well-placed words and they were in with full permission to “display the artefact in their local museum”. Neither of them had counted on some other former members of the Brotherhood showing up, also after the artefact.

The artefact in question was a piece of ancient Greek pottery (a krater, according to Jacob), the only known piece to depict Echidna, the mother of all monsters. If it came in contact with someone’s skin, it would turn them into a monster. The Brotherhood stooges had already been in the process of stealing it when Cassandra and Lamia showed up. As the alarms screamed and patrons ran from the museum, Cassandra and Lamia both bolted forwards to try to get the pottery from them.

Lamia got there first. With clearly no thought of caution or restraint, she punched the guy holding the artefact in the stomach and then boxed him in the ears, and snatched it from him when he passed out. A second later, she doubled over, assaulted by Echidna’s magic. Cassandra watched in horror as patches of emerald green scales grew on her shoulders and face, forcing their way up from under her skin. Her eyes, wide from pain, turned bright yellow and her pupils narrowed to slits. As she cried out, a pair of razor sharp fangs descended from her gums with a truly disgusting noise.

Cassandra managed to pull her behind cover as the other Brotherhood goons pulled out… something from the pockets of their jackets. She didn’t get a good look, but it hardly mattered what they were when their effects were clear, electric blue flashes whizzing past them and getting scorched into the wall.

Now, Cassandra hovered over Lamia with concern. She still gasped and convulsed as her transformation wracked her body. As she stared helplessly, Lamia let out a broken cry of pain and clawed at the floor. Her nails pushed farther out from her fingers, darkening and hardening into sharp black talons. A tear was pushed out from her squeezed-shut eyes and slid down her cheek.

Cassandra took a deep breath, steadying herself. She wasn’t overly brave, and certainly not very good in a fight, but they couldn’t lose this artefact and even if she didn’t trust her, she couldn’t sit here any longer while Lamia suffered. She may not have been as strong as Eve or Jacob, but she was clever, and she had talents of her own. She squeezed her eyes and concentrated as hard as she could. She focused and transmitted a thought into the other two goons’ heads:

Don’t let him take the artefact.”

Instantly, the bolts of magic stopped. Cassandra didn’t hear anything right away, and she held her breath, fearing any sound would give her trick away. A long, tense moment passed – 23.65 seconds, her brain unhelpfully supplied – before she heard the shuffling of feet and rustle of clothes. Which were swiftly replaced with the tell-tale sound of someone punching someone else in the face.

Cassandra peeked around the corner of the display stand, untangling her hair from where it was wrapped around Lamia’s earring; sure enough, the goons were fighting each other, too eager for their own personal gain to consider any sort of loyalty to the organization they used to both be a part of. In the scuffle, Cassandra slipped off her sweater vest and crawled out from her hiding spot. She wrapped up the krater in her sweater vest and scurried back behind cover. Before the goons could figure out that she’d taken the artefact, she whipped her phone out and scrolled through her most recent contacts. She rested a hand on Lamia’s shivering shoulder as she stabbed one name with her thumb.

“Jenkins, we need a door,” she said, breathless and a little terrified. “Now.”

Cassandra sat curled up in a velvet wingback chair in the Reading Room. She had a thick textbook on quantum mechanics open on her lap, but instead of reading she stared off into nothing and chewed at the side of her thumb.

Echidna’s krater was almost two days ago, and Lamia wasn’t getting any better. Cassandra had explained the situation to Jenkins when the two of them stumbled through the Backdoor into the Library. Since then, he’d been working in the lab almost non-stop to figure out how to reverse the krater’s effects. Thus far, none of his attempts had been successful.

Intellectually, Cassandra knew that it was just a fluke, but she still felt guilty over what happened. She kept trying to tell herself that both of them were aware of the artefact’s effects and Lamia had chosen to grab it anyways. That even though Cassandra had been working with the Library for longer, Lamia was also incredibly capable. None of it actually helped.

She sighed, frustrated, and slammed her book shut. Not like she was reading it anyways. She set it aside on the side table and got up from her chair. She stretched as she stood, waiting for that satisfying pop of her spine.

She left the room and meandered around the Library’s halls for a while, not trying to get anywhere in particular. The only downside to having a mind as powerful as hers was that it was very, very difficult to turn off.

Despite everything that had happened with Lamia and the Serpent Brotherhood years ago, Cassandra had always had this tiny, stupid little useless crush on her. She was gorgeous, of course; Cassandra hadn’t really had the opportunity to figure out her sexuality until after she started working with the Library, and she’d be lying if she said that meeting Lamia wasn’t a significant part of that. More than that, the time that she herself had spent with the Serpent Brotherhood after stealing King Arthur’s crown put her in close proximity to the other woman. She’d seen, perhaps without Lamia intending it, the secret softness and warmth that she had deep down.

Eve had also told each of the Librarians about the alternate timelines she’d seen when the Loom of Fate had been cut. Cassandra didn’t know what happened for Ezekiel and Jacob, but she still thought about that other version of herself, most often when it was late at night and she couldn’t sleep. Obviously, the mastery of magic and being a powerful sorceress was more than a little intriguing, but she was even more intrigued by the fact that Lamia was there by her side.

Cassandra was abruptly pulled from her thoughts as she stopped right outside of a door. It was in one of the corridors near the Reading Room; each Librarian – and each Guardian as well – had a personal room in the Library. Equal parts bedroom and personalized research laboratory, they were their private little sanctuaries here. The fact that there was almost instantly a room there for Lamia when she came back was honestly the biggest factor in letting her join the team – clearly, the Library wanted her there.

It was, of course, Lamia’s room that Cassandra hovered outside of. Almost as if she was being pulled by a string, kind of like a marionette, she lifted her arm, her fist hanging just a few inches away from the door. She bit her lip. She sighed, and instead of knocking she laid her palm flat against the door and leaned against it.

“Lamia? Are you in there?”

There was no verbal reply, but Cassandra could hear the shuffling of fabric through the door. Either Lamia was there, or someone else was.

“Can I come in?” Another long silence followed – long enough that Cassandra seriously considered walking away and trying again later – but eventually, a raspy voice softly spoke.

“If you must.”

Cassandra hesitated for another second, feeling a little bad about the intrusion even with begrudging permission, but gently pushed the door open nonetheless. She slipped in and shut the door behind her.

Immediately, she noticed how dark the room was. Only the bedside lamp was on, casting a dim light in one corner of the room. She didn’t pay much attention to the furnishings and decorations in the room, more concerned with the figure huddled in a ball on the floor in front of the bed.

Lamia still wore the snake ear cuff and simple black tank top that she had worn on their mission two days ago, though the fabric of her tank top was ripped and torn in places. The scales that had grown from her shoulders shone in the low light. On her legs –

Cassandra couldn’t stop the shocked gasp that escaped as she saw the full extent of Echidna’s magic on Lamia. From the waist up, she looked… well, not the same as normal, but at least she still had a human form and proportions. Her legs, however, had vanished, and in their place was a pair of long snake-like limbs. They looked like anacondas that had lost their heads and fused into one at her hips.

“Oh, Lamia,” Cassandra said, a stab of sympathy laced through her voice. She knelt down beside her and gently rested a hand on her shoulder. She was careful to avoid the scales, just in case they were still painful. “Does it still hurt?”


Silence hung in the air for a time after that, tense and heavy. Cassandra gently rubbed Lamia’s shoulder, completely at a loss for what to say next. She wished she was as good as Jacob or Eve or Jenkins with giving people advice and comfort. Hell, even Flynn and Ezekiel were better at this than she was. She tried to think of what one of them might say that would make her feel better, if she were in Lamia’s position.

“I’m sorry that this happened to you,” she started, soft and unsteady. “I wish I could make it easier for you. But Jenkins is working on figuring out how to reverse Echidna’s magic, so this’ll all be fixed soon!”

If Cassandra hadn’t had her hand resting on Lamia’s shoulder, she probably would have missed her flinch. As it was, she felt the tension in the new Guardian’s body, and a moment later saw her pull herself away from Cassandra, just a little bit.

“Do you know the origin of the name ‘Lamia’?” she rasped. She slowly pushed herself up so that she was sitting upright, still hunched over on herself and still facing away from Cassandra.

“Umm, no.” Cassandra was slightly taken aback by the abrupt subject change, but at least Lamia was talking to her again. “Should I?” she asked slowly. Lamia turned her head just enough to glare at her with one bright yellow serpentine eye.

“It’s Greek. It comes from some old myths – women, sometimes referred to as demons, always depicted as monsters.” Her gaze flicked away from Cassandra to stare at the wall behind her instead. “They had the lower body of a serpent, and feasted on the suffering of others.” Her voice was bitter and her eyes were angry; Cassandra wasn’t quite sure where that anger was directed, but it didn’t seem to be at her.

A shiver ran down her spine as Lamia’s words sunk in. “Are you – what are you saying?”

Lamia fully turned her head to her and smiled, dark and sarcastic and showing her fangs for just a moment. “The Brotherhood found me when I was just a child. I don’t remember my family; I’m not even sure I had one. They trained me, taught me to read and to fight and how to use magic. When they decided I was ready, they performed a ritual. One that made me human.”

The weight of her words crashed down on Cassandra like a tidal wave. “You’re not just Lamia, you’re a lamia.” She shivered again, once again very, very glad that the Brotherhood had been defeated. “Did… I mean, your name…”

“Are you asking if they gave it to me? Yes.” She turned away from Cassandra again. “It was a reminder, that even though I was part of their organization, even though I was their perfect weapon, I was still less than them. Still just a monster.” She spit the word with such venom that Cassandra was a little surprised that actual venom didn’t spray from her fangs. She saw Lamia look down at her taloned hands. “The krater didn’t turn me into a monster – it just undid their spell.”

“You’re not a monster, Lamia. Maybe… maybe you aren’t human, and maybe you’ve done some bad things, but that doesn’t make you a monster. There’s plenty of people who are completely human who’re truly monstrous, and everyone makes bad choices at some point. You’re better than what they thought of you.”

Silence once again followed Cassandra’s words, but it wasn’t uncomfortable like before. She kept her hand on Lamia’s shoulder. She brought it up as she rubbed comforting circles into her skin, making sure to touch the scales, to show her that she wasn’t afraid of her. A thought struck Cassandra.

“Do you want to still be called Lamia? You could pick a name for yourself – one that isn’t intended as an insult.”

Lamia sniffed. “No. No, I am Lamia; they don’t get to take that from me.” She brought a hand up to her face, hidden behind her hair, and Cassandra suddenly realized she’d been crying and was now wiping away the tears.

“Do you want to tell the others?” she asked quietly.

“The old knight already knows – he realized what I was the moment he came in here. He’s been trying to find a way to adapt the Brotherhood’s spell, one that would allow me to change between forms.” She drew her (legs?) up under her and rested her crossed arms on her (knees?). “You can tell the rest; it’ll hardly change what they think of me.”

“You might be surprised.” Cassandra let her hand slip down to Lamia’s elbow. “Are you gonna be okay if I go?”

Lamia snorted. “I’m hardly a child; I can stand to be without supervision.”

Cassandra softly smiled as she stood. Before she got all the way up, she bent over and pressed a gentle kiss to Lamia’s temple.

“Okay, but I’m gonna check in on you later.” She let her hand trail along Lamia’s arm back up to her shoulder, then let it drop. Still smiling, she turned and started walking towards the door.

“Wait, wait.” Lamia choked out. Cassandra stopped in the doorway and looked over her shoulder. Lamia had half turned around to face her – well, kind of face her. Her upper body was turned towards her, but she refused to meet her gaze, glaring off at the far wall, her face stained with a dark blush. “Thank you.”

Cassandra just smiled a little wider before she slipped out the door. Once she was a decent distance down the hall, she giggled and started skipping. Sure, this would be an adjustment period for everybody, but they’d get through it as a team. They always did. And she and Lamia might’ve just reached a new understanding in their relationship – in more ways than one.