When she woke up that morning, Emory hadn't thought that gate-crashing a millionaire's birthday party was how she was going to spend her evening.
But it seemed that life never seemed to fit her expectations, and so there she was, crouched behind a two-metre high metal fence adorned with ribbons of razor wire. A sheen of light drizzle obscured her vision and a dribble of water was slowly yet determinedly worming its way down her neck.
"So what are we doing then?" Emory turned to Nathaniel who was standing behind her, seemingly unbothered by the weather.
Nathaniel squatted down next to her on the pavement, his hair plastered against his forehead. "Do you know the story of the Seven Deadly Sins?"
Emory shrugged. "Guess so."
He nodded. "These seven demons are the ones who have been released from the deepest and darkest pits of Hell. And they shall drag the human race back into Hell with them when they finally disappear. But you must understand, human-" here he leant forward, so that their faces were nearly touching "-that they will never disappear until they have destroyed every ounce of humanity left on this planet."
Nathaniel stood up again. "I have received word that there is at least one of those Sins attending this event, and they should not be expecting anyone at all. And you, being one who spends her time surrounded by the corrupt and vile, should be able to recognise them. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
The drip of water had reached her lower back and Emory shivered. She stood up, stretched and looked expectantly at Nathaniel, who raised an eyebrow. "What?"
Emory flapped her hands towards the gate. "Vamush it. Turn it to dust again. Smite it, oh mighty smiter."
Nathaniel appeared bamboozled. "Why would I do that? My powers could easily make any demonc forces aware to my presence."
Emory nodded. "Of course. Your magical powers."
It wasn't so much that she didn't believe him, but more that it simply sounded far too surreal. This whole new adventure sounded utterly ridiculous, too be honest. She hadn't even believed that any of this was even possible and yet she couldn't help but believe it.
Emory threw out a heavy breath and ran a hand through her hair. Then she looked down at her hands, up at the fence and started climbing.
"Well," Emory turned to Nathaniel after scrambling through the third-floor toilet window. "This is just as posh as I imagined it to be."
Even the bathroom was splendid- the mirror was framed by tiny lights and the glass so clean that Emory could see every freckle on her face. The shower was about the same size of her entire kitchen, and Emory's legs ached from just walking across the bedroom. She suddenly realised how out of place she was going to be in the party; there she was, in old jeans and a ratty jacket, with mud on her boots, scratches on her hands and leaves in her hair. She could hear the fine tendrils of music worming its way beneath the ensuite door, and although she didn't know much about classical music, she could tell that it was fancy as heck.
Even Nathaniel looked vaguely impressed when she pushed open the door to reveal the grand hall, the spiral staircase swooping down to the bottom floor, a diamond chandelier sparkling above Emory's head, the jewels adorning it flickering in the cold light. Below, people bustled around each other, sipping champagne from fine-stemmed glasses and throwing jokes and small talk from one end of the room to the other.
Emory let out a low whistle.
"So what are we both meant to look for?" Emory asked, turning back to him. "You said I'm meant to be able to see something, but how am I meant to know what that is?"
Nathaniel peered over the banister. "I shall attempt to mingle in with the masses and you can watch from above. Is that satisfactory?"
Emory shrugged. "Whatever."
To be honest, that plan didn't sound much fun. As she watched Nathaniel slip down the stairs and into the swarms of finely-dressed personnel, she realised that it really wasn't much of a good plan at all. She had no idea what to do, what to look for, how to fight whatever might attack her-
Of course, she knew the whole ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ thing. There was Lust, Gluttony, Greed and Pride, Sloth, Envy and- what was the other one? Oh yeah- Wrath. And now that she thought about it, she actually could help out a bit. These were the seven main things that actually led to people requesting her- ahem- services, so she guessed that if anyone could recognise such toxicity, then she’d be the one to do so.
Emory’s stomach growled, and she suddenly remembered that she hadn’t eaten a scrap of food all day. After searched through her pockets, there was still absolutely nothing. Nada. Not even a crumb from last week’s bacon sandwich. She sighed. Could it really get any worse?
(I can assure you that it can. And will. But this is simply foreshadowing, so do not worry about what I say)
Scanning over the crowds, Emory noticed one of the partygoers. Nothing appeared particularly… off about them, but Emory couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t completely right. Maybe it was the way that they were dressed- her dress utterly soaked in diamonds and her long red hair freckled with sapphires. She was even more well-dressed than every other person at the party, and something about her seemed to radiate power despite her small stature.
And then the woman raised her gaze towards the ceiling and her eyes met Emory’s. She nodded politely, completely unperturbed by Emory's appearance, and maybe it was Emory’s imagination but did the woman's eyes flash black? Emory was really too far away to tell.
She doubted that was a normal occurrence.
Then, as quickly as she had seen it, the woman spun away again, turning to a man who was clearly the party host. He had both men and women hanging from his velvet-clad arms like overeager leeches, his neatly-groomed hair as dark as his suit. He was tall, gaunt and dark-skinned, with a booming voice that almost caused Emory's eardrums to implode.
As Emory watched, the woman-with-maybe-evil-eyes never left the man's side- never taking her eyes from the crowd. She could occasionally make out Nathaniel's blonde hair, cautiously winding his way through the finely-dressed masses before disappearing again. He'd occasionally glance up at her, lurking behind the banister before melding back into the group again.
The room was vast- metres upon metres of fine carpets, rich food and expensive furniture- and it was almost impossible for Emory to keep an eye on everyone. But she glanced away for an instance, only an instance, but in that time, Emory realised that the man had completely vanished from the room.
"You appear to be without an invite," a voice said behind her, and Emory spun far too slowly to stop the hand grabbing her jacket collar, dragging her back into the bathroom and almost throwing her through the door. Emory let out a choked sound as she hit the ground, the back of her head smacking into the marble floor with a crunch.
There was a black shape behind him- the woman, her eyes as cold and dark as stone- and they crouched down next to her. Emory's head was swimming.
"We were warned about you," the woman whispered. "We were told that someone was coming. Someone who was going to try and stop us." Her laughter was as soft and cruel as poison. "But there we were thinking that it was someone strong. Someone we should have worried about. It's a shame that we had to over-estimate you, though."
The world was spinning. Her head was throbbing. Emory couldn't get up.
And this time, both the man and woman's eyes were completely, undeniably, terrifyingly black, and there were hands on her throat and she couldn't breathe... she couldn't breathe one bit...