"So Daria, you're being awfully quiet tonight," Jane said as she and Daria sat in her dorm room together.
"Huh?" Daria turned around from her computer. "I've been distracted lately."
"Well, you did want to meet up with me so we could head out to that museum," Jane pointed out. "But here you are surfing the internet. If you want to collect as much dust as a display, I think you're going about it the right way."
"Sorry," Daria apologized sheepishly. "I've been researching something big lately."
"Class project?" Jane raised an eyebrow.
"Well, not exactly."
"Just give me two more minutes to finish this," Daria told her friend. "Then we'll head out like I promised."
"So what's this really about?" asked Jane.
"Jane," Daria turned around. "Three days ago I saw the killer on campus."
"Whoa, what?!" Jane was shocked.
"I saw him with my own two legally blind eyes," Daria answered.
"So, how did you see him?" Jane inquired.
"Remember how we went downtown after we hung out at the gym with my aunt?" asked Daria.
"Well, it turns out I left my cell phone in the gym the whole time," Daria continued. "After we hung out, I immediately came back to the gym after closing time and managed to get in."
"From getting a belly button piercing for the guy she has a crush on to breaking and entering," Jane joked. "What lines will Daria Morgendorffer cross next?"
Daria shot Jane a dirty look.
"Okay sorry," Jane relented. "Just thought I'd lighten the mood since we're in the middle of an Edgar Allen Poe story."
"Anyways," Daria went on. "I went inside and got my cell phone but heard a noise. I thought it was a janitor at first so I hid under some darkened bleachers. Turned out it was a student from one of my classes talking with the masked killer."
"Okay, that's not good," Jane's expression turned serious.
"They said something about sacrificial victims," Daria finished. "I'm lucky I wasn't discovered by them last night."
"I take it what you're looking at on the internet has something to do with what you saw?" Jane observed.
"Take a look," Daria motioned Jane to come forward on the online article she was reading.
"Moloch," Jane read. "Phoenician god associated with child sacrifice…"
"Whoever it was under that mask went by that name," Daria confirmed.
"Okay then," Jane took a step back. "You sure you don't want to transfer schools?"
"I can't for right now," Daria shook her head. "I'll have to tough it out for the rest of the semester."
"If you're going to do that, then stay safe," Jane told Daria. "Try not to go outside after hours and try to keep company with a group."
"I'm certainly dealing with something above my own weight class," Daria acknowledged. "Not even Miss Li or Mr. O'Neill dealt in anything like this."
"Mr. O'Neill was part of your rogues gallery?" Jane raised an eyebrow.
"Eh, why not?" Daria smiled. "He always did force me to do extracurricular projects."
"Fair enough," Jane had to admit.
"Professor March?" Daria knocked on the professor's door.
"Uh, just one second!" the older man's voice rang out.
Daria looked down at her watch. Her showing up was within the time limits of Professor Clifford March's office hours.
"Alright, come in please," Professor March opened the door for her.
Daria stepped into the office of the professor. There was something odd about the professor's office. At first glance, it was a perfectly normal professorial setting, except there was something odd-smelling in the air, almost like incense. Or perhaps even a sort of recreational drug.
Still, Daria would not be deterred from asking questions.
"So, what is it you would like to speak to me about, Miss—" Professor March began.
"Daria Morgendorffer," confirmed Daria.
"Ah yes," Mr. March nodded. "Forgive me, I have a lot of students in my classes and it gets hard to keep track after a while."
"It's okay," Daria sat down and set her bag to the side. "I just figured I'd stop by and talk to you a bit about the pantheons of ancient people."
"And who did you have in mind today?" asked Mr. March.
"Well, the Phoenicians in particular," Daria pointed out. "Did they worship this god named Moloch?"
For a second, Professor March began looking a bit pale, as if he were at a loss of words that Daria had brought up the topic.
"I, uh," Clifford March looked at nervously. "I'm familiar with the topic. Moloch was a Canaanite god often associated with child sacrifices. According to Hebrew sources, children were sacrificed to him in fire."
"Well, that's not a pretty sight," Daria acknowledged.
"Yes, it was believed that back in ancient times, Phoenicians sacrificed their children to statues of Moloch, which happened to be giant metal statues possessing a man's body and a bull's head," Professor March continued. "A hole was usually located on the abdomen and fires were often lit inside the statues as parents sacrificed their children through that hole. Phoenicians in that era believed their sacrifices would ensure financial security for themselves and future children."
Daria listened in intently. Certainly what was revealed about Moloch was disturbing. But she had to find out as much as possible about the name.
"There's also been a lot of borrowing and cross-pollination back in those times," admitted Professor March. "In North Africa, Moloch was renamed Kronos. And as you most likely learned in grade school, Kronos became better well known as a Titan and the father of Zeus himself."
"It is interesting," admitted Daria. "Have owls ever been associated with Moloch?"
"Uh… that's more of a modern interpretation of Moloch," admitted Mr. March. "Traditionally he's always been portrayed more as a man with the head of a bull."
"I see," said Daria. "I've been taking more and more of an interest in this stuff ever since I took your class this semester."
"That's good to know, Daria," Professor March smiled. "It's not often that students come by during my office hours, displaying interest in the subject matter."
"Glad to be an exception," Daria replied.
"In any case, I have something coming up very soon," Professor March told her. "I apologize for cutting this short."
"No worries," Daria told him cooly. "I'll see you in class, Professor March."
Professor March smiled as Daria left his office.
Turning around, the professor took out a box from his desk. Quickly, he rushed towards the door and closed. Just as quickly, he went back to his desk as his body began twitching nervously.
He opened up the box to reveal certain unknown hashes within. Taking them out gently, he placed them within a metal pipe he had in his pockets and lit a match, lighting up the contents inside as he puffed, inhaling the smoke with great pleasure.
Soon, the twitching stopped as his body returned to its relaxed state.
"Hey Ted," Daria sat down at the pizzeria where the young man had been waiting for her.
"Hey Daria, everything well?" asked Ted.
"Well… not exactly," confessed Daria.
"What happened?" Ted looked curious.
"You could say I had close encounters of the serial killer kind," Daria admitted.
"You… you encountered the campus killer?" Ted looked aghast.
"I didn't meet him per say," Daria replied. "More like I saw him while in a hiding place."
"What did you see?" Ted looked concerned. "He didn't claim another victim, did he?"
"No, but he was talking with a student," Daria told Ted. "It was a student from one of my classes too. This guy is helping the campus killer find victims."
"This is serious, Daria," Ted looked worried. "Did you learn anything else?"
"Yeah, that he was named after Moloch, an ancient Phoenician god involved in child sacrifice," Daria grimaced.
"You didn't talk about this with anyone else, did you?" asked Ted.
"Well, uh, I did have a talk with my ancient mythology professor, Dr. March," confessed Daria. "Not about the campus killer per say, but about the deity Moloch."
"What if this Dr. March is connected somehow to the killer?" Ted raised his concerns. "That really wouldn't be good for you if he was."
Daria mentally berated herself for not having considered that possibility before having her chat with Professor March. However, what was done had been done.
"Yeah, guess you're right," Daria admitted. "At the time it didn't cross my mind. But then again, this wouldn't be my first time relying on someone potentially unreliable."
"That was the first time like?" Ted asked curiously.
"It was back in high school," Daria revealed. "At the time I had a crush on Jane's brother. During one point he was supposed to help us out with a multimedia project in Language Arts but failed to deliver on his end. After that, I sorta realized he wasn't too reliable and that he lived life on completely different terms than I did. Needless to say, my crush on him eroded after that."
"Wow, that's deep," Ted looked impressed by Daria's confession.
"Don't get me wrong," Daria continued. "Trent's a good guy in the end but it just wouldn't have worked out between us."
"Oh yeah, and then you went out with that guy with the sweater," Ted recalled with a smile. "I even remember taking a picture of you two together at the parade!"
Daria groaned inwardly remembering the events of that day. At the time she and Tom were not yet going out. And despite Ted's still somewhat naïve enthusiasm, she couldn't find it in herself to hold it against him for remembering such embarrassing details even now.
"Tom," Daria took a bit from her pizza. "Another good guy but we drifted apart too before graduation."
Sensing Daria was a bit glum, Ted patted her on the shoulder in a friendly manner.
"Don't worry Daria," Ted reassured her. "You'll find the right fish in the sea one day."
"Yeah, nothing says true love like waking up to the smell of sardines every morning," Daria quipped.
"Oh yeah, how's the crossbow practice coming along?" Ted asked.
"Much better than I thought," Daria replied honestly. "I think I have more natural talent with that than I do martial arts."
"Hey, some things we just pick up faster than others," Ted told her encouragingly. "I'm sure you'll get both down eventually."
"Thanks Ted," Daria smiled.
"Until then, I think it's better if you lie low for a while," Ted cautioned her.
"Yeah, you're probably right," Daria agreed reluctantly, realizing she was no longer dealing with mere bureaucratic corruption in the form of Ms. Angela Li anymore.
"Graham, come in," Professor March said as the young student walked in.
"I hear you have some news for us," Graham frowned, closing the door.
"Yes, I'm afraid I have a student who could potentially be poking around in our affairs," Clifford March replied.
"Who is this student?" demanded Graham.
Professor March winced at the tone Graham used with him.
"Well, she only used the High Priest's name once but she was asking me more or less about ancient mythology," Professor March said, backtracking a bit. "We don't know for certain if she's really snooping around in our affairs."
"Her name?" Graham insisted impatiently.
"D-Daria Morgendorffer," Professor March admitted.
"Daria, huh?" Graham tilted his head. "Well, this is interesting."
"She came to me during office hours to ask about the deity Moloch," March went on. "We had a nice enjoyable conversation about Phoenician mythology. That was it."
"Still, Daria asking you about Moloch is too big of a coincidence," Graham shook his head. "And I don't think High Priest Moloch himself will be pleased to learn that some random student is snooping around, inquiring about his namesake."
"But I just thought I'd bring it to the High Priest's attention," Dr. March said weakly. "Maybe just keep an eye on the girl to make sure she isn't really snooping. I'll even volunteer to do it if you want."
"Hey, I like your suggestion, I really do," Graham reminded the teacher. "But I'm not the one who makes the decisions here. I'll let the master know of this all and I'll get back to you later tonight in this same room at nine, okay?"
"O-Okay," Professor March sighed. "Also, I'm down to my final batch of Ambrosia. Do you think you could get more for me?"
"I'll see what I can do," Graham said in a neutral tone.
After Graham left, Professor March's body began to shiver again. Soon, his body was quaking and twitching again. Opening the drawer underneath his desk, Professor March took out the box he normally hid his stashes in. After the lid was opened, he gulped, realizing that he had no more of the Ambrosia he craved.
"Hey Aunt Amy," Daria said as she walked into her Aunt's Boston apartment.
"Hi Daria," Amy Barksdale smiled. "Feel free to make yourself at home. In fact, feel free to stay for the night. I don't want you walking alone at night on that campus of yours."
"Well," Daria sat down on her aunt's couch. "That's actually what I came to talk to you about."
"Say what?" Amy turned her head.
"I, uh, saw that campus killer again," Daria confessed.
"Seriously?" Amy Barksdale looked horrified.
"Well, this should be the part where I get on your case for going out alone at night after I told you and the girls not to do that kind of stuff," Amy took a seat. "But I'll just settle for telling you how glad I am you're in one piece."
"Thanks Aunt Amy," Daria said graciously.
"So what happened?" asked her aunt.
"Remember how you and I practiced that one time in the gym when Jane was also there?" asked Daria.
"Well, afterwards, I accidentally left my cell phone there," Daria admitted. "It wasn't until after I hung out with Jane that I realized it was missing. So I went back to the gym to try to find it."
"So you came back at night all alone just to get your cell phone," Amy grimaced. "I can just imagine the look on Helen's face if she ever found out you walked around at night with a serial killer on the loose."
"The gym was closed," Daria went on. "But I found a door open in the back."
"Breaking and entering?" Amy raised an eyebrow. "The plot thickens… and so does my headache."
"After I retrieved the phone, I heard someone coming so I hid under the bleachers," Daria finished. "And that's when I saw the serial killer speaking with a student who was apparently helping him out."
"He has people helping him?" Amy was surprised.
"I'm afraid so," Daria nodded.
"Then the rabbit hole goes deeper," Amy looked concerned. "You don't have any early classes tomorrow, do you?"
"Nope," Daria replied.
"Good, you're staying here for the night," Aunt Amy told her niece.
"Alright," Daria conceded.
"I have a guest bedroom you can borrow for tonight," Amy told Daria as she got up.
"Does it have a night light?" Daria joked.
"For a big girl like you, sure," Amy smiled.
"Got anything to drink?" asked Daria.
"There's water, milk, beer, and wine in the fridge," Amy said in a humorous tone. "Touch my vodka, however, and I'll make you disappear for real."
"Milk it is," Daria smiled. "Good night, Aunt Amy."
"Graham," Professor March looked up.
He was still in his office at night time. Graham had also shown up as he had promised.
"Did you bring the—"
"Before you ask me about the Ambrosia," Graham told him, "you ought to know that our High Priest is not pleased that his name is being used as the topic of casual conversation."
"But it could have just been a coincidence," Dr. March protested. "Daria speaking with me about Phoenician mythology and Moloch in particular doesn't mean she knows what we're doing."
"Even so, it's not a chance the Death Apostles are willing to take," Graham stared at his professor dead in the eye.
"Then what do you want to do?" asked Professor March.
"No Mr. March, it's what the High Priest has commanded you to do," Graham sneered.
"What's that?" Professor March looked nervous.
"He wants you to personally kill Daria Morgendorffer," Graham said coldly.
"Daria?" Professor March was shocked. "But… she's the best student in my class! And she's got a bright future ahead of her!"
"Then I guess this means you won't be getting the Ambrosia," Graham turned around to leave.
"Wait!" Professor March called out shakily.
Twitching nervously, Clifford March clasped both hands together in a pleading manner.
"Please," Professor March pleaded. "I need that Ambrosia."
Graham shook his head at the absurdity of it all. When it came down to it, the professor's addiction was enough to override all his moral functions.
"Is that a yes?" Graham asked.
"Y-Yes," Professor March lowered his head in shame.
"Good, you won't have to do it immediately," Graham explained. "We'll give Daria a few weeks, maybe even a month or so. When the time comes, we'll contact you."
Graham walked over and handed Dr. March a box filled with the drug that he had in his backpack.
"We'll keep in touch," Graham promised.