Urban Reverie

Dream 9

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Oberen and Quinen made their way out of the Collegium. They hailed a brown cab and headed for Diys’ apartment. “So what are the assumptions? The hypotheses?”

The brown cab barreled into heavy traffic. Quinen sighed. “Lyn took Angel Dust with Diys,” he said. “Diys might’ve been able to concoct some of this Angel Dust, but how she did it is beyond me. The Field of Avalon isn’t something you connect your Soul to with a simple Sympathy Rite.”

“I’m guessing it’d be dangerous too,” Oberen said, leaning back a bit.

“Right,” Quinen nodded. “Sympathy to a Field does provide a two-way connection after all. That’s why I’m hoping she just got the Angel Dust off of some alchemical dealer and that she hadn’t concocted it herself.”

“How’d you know that a Simple Sympathy Rite couldn’t work with the Field of Avalon?” Oberen inquired.

Quinen stayed silent.

The brown cab turned a corner, tires squeaking on the bitumen road. The air became heavy between the two magickers; the silence binding them together like a red rope pulled taut.

Quinen eyed Oberen as he stretched. “You’re not going in there without your usual Yantras?”

Oberen grinned at him, and he tapped the hilt of the rapier. “Martial Thaumaturgy,” he said.

Quinen rolled his eyes. He took out another cig, lit it up, and the two Magickers went up to Diys’ door.

 

***

 

They’re coming, aren’t they? They’re coming. Oh Dear Adon, they’re coming.

A shadow on the wall spoke. “Would you relax, little dreorg? Your thoughts are loud. Shut up.”

The shadow blinked, revealing almond-shaped cat eyes. “I am sure they will be much delighted to meet me.”

Diys didn’t respond. She sat against her window, muttering again and again over to herself. About how she was going to get expelled, how she had wasted her mom’s inheritance on the Collegium, how she didn’t want to die, how she was going to kill herself anyway for connecting to the Field of Avalon.

 

***

 

The hair on the nape of Quinen’s neck stood up. He stopped right before knocking, leaving his hand there in mid air. He furrowed his eyebrows. Oberen raised an eyebrow at him. Quinen only nodded. “Something’s here.”

The Warlock took a step back, tapped the timepiece ring, and a creeping, glowing iridescence congealed into the shape of the pistol. He kept his left hand behind him, flicking the inhibitor off.

He knocked. The door opened midway after the first.

Surprised, Quinen stepped back and jerked his left hand just a bit, but he controlled himself. Oberen’s hand had already been resting on the hilt of his rapier, and when the door opened, he simply pressed his lips together and squinted.

Something that looked like a woman with a voluptuous figure grinned at him, peeking through the door. She was around the same height as Quinen, grinning with her perfectly human teeth. Her emerald green skin betrayed her anthropic origin; her white hair tied up in a tight bun above her head. Her red lips peeled back as she smiled; her cat eyes, gold and full of lunacy, danced with jest.

She wore a gown of stars, which hugged her figure tight. She looked up at the two Magickers and said, “Oh, guests. How wonderful!”

Quinen looked at her, and then at Oberen, who just so happened to look at Quinen at the same time. When their eyes met, they came to the same conclusion. She was no human. Quinen turned to the green-skinned woman. “Where’s the dreorg?”

“Ah, little miss Diys,” she said, nodding. “My precious puffcake is there somewhere in the corner, talking to herself. I do hope she shuts up some time.”

Diys was perfectly silent.

Quinen’s scowled. He set his jaw, but hid his Diwaslinger. “Who are you? What are you doing in Diys’ property?”

The woman raised a delicate, thin eyebrow. “Her property?” the woman shook her head. “No, I own Miss Diys, and therefore, whatever she owns, I own as well. By extension of right.”

Oberen cut in. “And may I ask just what may we have the pleasure of conversing with tonight?” He shook and smiled, correcting himself. Quinen tensed, just for a second. “I’m sorry, ‘who’.”

The emerald-skinned woman didn’t seem to notice the blunder. “Zinnia,” she said, grinning and hugging the wooden door tight as if she were some shy ten year old. “Zinnia of the Dwarf Court. Baronness of the Aiobhan Fiefdom in the Vast East. Jade Princess, Daughter of the Spring King, fourth of her name, after Zinnia, my mother before me.”

“What a splendid, beautiful name,” Oberen said, bowing.

Something clicked within Quinen’s memory vaults. Right. Beauty. That’s what the Dwarf Court was all about. Quinen silently thanked the little flirting rascal.

“Indeed,” Quinen caught the momentum of the conversation, his voice sounding a bit stiff, yet commendable. “In fact, you might just be the most beautiful little cut of jade I’ve seen in the West, Miss Zinnia, Jade Princess.” He took the Baroness’ hand and brushed the top of his lip against it. Her hand felt like a piece of ice.

“Oh you flagrant flatterer,” she said suppressing a smile; her cheeks dimpled. “Do come in.”

Quinen pressed his lips together in a forced smile. He turned to Oberen, who raised both eyebrows at him to tell him to go in. Quin breathed through his nose, shoved the Diwaslinger into his back pocket, and walked in.

Inside, the room was in an immaculate state. Clothes once strewn on the floor now lay folded on top of a wooden desk, alongside flasks and vials and the bong that she had been using. Food and drinks disappeared, and the sink from the kitchenette had been scrubbed clean. Quinen’s gaze swept across the spotless apartment until it came across the window. The tall window that showed the view all the way up to the Spires in the Cathedra Ward. Rain tapped softly against it, glazing it in a precipitous glow.

Before the window sat Diys, the dreorg. She hugged her knees against her chest, and her prehensile tail made of shimmering crystal wrapped around her like a comforting friend.

Quinen set his jaw.

He turned to Zinnia, who lifted up a teacup. “Tea?” She held a tea set in one hand.

Quinen looked at her in askance for a moment, took the tea, and thanked her. She did the same for Oberen. Quinen gave Oberen the glance of doubt.

Oberen nodded, closing his eyes and snarling softly in another language. He opened his eyes and a mandala of creamy white Power blazed in front of them. Like optics, it gave him a magickally enhanced sight, allowing Oberen to see if the tea was spiked or anything.

He shook his head.

“Ah, Magickers!” Zinnia clapped her hands together in three rapid strikes. “How delightful! Weaving the very fundamental forces of Creation into Reality. I like you lot, you chaotic lot.”

Oberen bared his teeth and the corners of his lips curled down in a grimace, as if to say, “my bad.” Quinen shook his head.

“So what is it that brings you here to my humble abode?” Zinnia asked, turning around and sitting on thin air. Her weight rested upon air, suspended, as if she sat on an invisible box.

Quinen shrugged. “Well, I’m going to assume you don’t like lies.” She’s a Siddivata, Quinen thought. Thought reading’s like listening to music for them.

She grinned.

“I’ve come to bring Diys back to the Collegium for guidance counseling,” he said. Diys didn’t look up; she kept silent, quietly quivering. “Because alchemical substances like Angel Dust can ruin your very Soul.”

“Ah, is that what she used to get into Avalon?” Zinnia turned to Diys, and then back at Quinen with a grin. “How convenient everything is in the Tekhnika Era of Oeuvre. You can go into our realm with nary but a drug.”

“We get lazier as we go,” Quinen shrugged.

“That’s not the whole truth,” Zinnia snapped, sudden. “Spit it out.”

Quinen heard Oberen breathe in through his teeth. Quinen sighed. “I’ve come to the conclusion that Diys took the substance with her best friend, Lyn, who had died because of the substance.”

“Lyn?” Zinnia put a finger on her lip. “Oh, yes, Lyn! But, she didn’t die. Her Soul is alive and well in Avalon.”

“Where she is being tortured, I’m sure.” Oberen cut in. There was an edge to his voice.

“Not tortured,” Zinnia said, smiling indignantly. “More of… being taken care of. Being groomed for a special purpose.”

Quinen frowned and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Okay,” he said, nodding. “That’s enough from me. Your turn. What are you doing here? I thought people like you hated the physical stability of the Mund?”

“We do,” she said and nodded. Her voice trailed off, fluttering, sultry. “But it’s come to our attention that you stole something from us. It’s been five thousand years, Quinen. You didn’t think we’d notice?”

Quinen suppressed a smirk. In Mund, it had only been five weeks. “No, I did, actually.”

“Then you must be stupider than I’ve thought,” she said. She paused, looked down, and then up again with a smile. “Why, I like that word — stupider. It’s very beautiful.”

Oberen tensed at this point, but still had the calm and awareness of a trained martial thaumaturgist.

“What did I steal from you?” Quinen asked.

Zinnia scoffed. “Oh don’t play dumb with me,” she said, turning to Quinen. Shadow covered her face, as if the umbra moved at her command, as if the shadows were tangential things. Zinnia’s cat-eyes sliced through the darkness. “We want our dear baby sister back, of course. Chrysanthemum.”

 

***

 

A knock. Chrysanthemum looked over her shoulder, wondering if it was Quinen. Deep within, she hoped it was.

More knocking. Chrysanthemum sighed. The night still lingered on. She didn’t feel like sleeping, nor was she drowsy. Her coffee had gone cold and stale, tired of waiting for her to stop her eternal wondering.

She turned from her cross-legged position on the windowsill and walked across the wooden floor, faerie steps dancing lightly. She placed her coffee cup on the kitchenette, and opened the door.

Behind the door stood a tall man. Lithe and muscular, with a rugged jaw covered in a fine stubble. His hair fell about him like a tousled mophead, albeit brown. He wore a hoodie and pants with too many pockets within them. His boots squelched as he fidgeted around. Probably a fault of the first few snows of the wintry season of Nymph.

“Chrysanthemum?” He spoke with a hint of a Zirrrinae accent. His bronze skin also made him look very much like a human born and raised in Zir.

Chrysanthemum huddled close to the door, only letting one side of her head and her hand out of the door. “Y-yes?”

“I would like to speak with you,” he began. His eyes were cat-like, Chrysanthemum noticed. “Do you have the time?”

Chrysanthemum pressed her lips together. Didn’t Quinen tell her not to let anybody in? But the man seemed friendly. She looked up at his eyes, and they shimmered with golden amiability. He grinned, and she couldn’t help but feel that she could let him in. That she would be safe with him. “Yes. Please, come in.”

The Zirrinae man smiled a genuine smile. The Magickal Wards vanished like an ebbing wave when Chrysanthemum said those words.

 

***

 

There was a tense silence. So taut was the tension that you could cut it by just looking at it with a sharp enough gaze. Oberen froze, his mouth hung slightly open. Even Diys looked up, eyes wide, at Quinen.

Quinen looked the least perturbed.

“What is it…” his voice wandered, his grip on the diwaslinger loosened, as he shoved it into his back pocket. “That you Siddivata value the most?” He asked.

Zinnia raised a delicate, arching eyebrow. “Enlighten me. I’ve never been one to indulge in self-diagnosis.”

Quinen spread his hands, palms forward. “Identity,” Quinen said. He put his hands behind him. “The Siddivata value their identity the most, which defines the chaos that they live in.” He sounded like he was quoting something off of a book.

“Yes…”

“And the method that you gain that identity? Soul-feeding,” he said. “Taking Souls and chewing on them and siphoning them ever so slowly, so that you can experience all the Soul has to offer — memories, time, hurts and pain. You suck the identity of people.”

She nodded. “It is our only sustenance, especially here in the world of the stable.”

“Chrys didn’t want that,” Quinen said. “She told me she wanted to make her own identity. She wanted to be Chrysanthemum.”

Zinnia squinted her eyes, and then smirked. “But you yourself have been drained.”

Oberen coughed.

Quinen didn’t move. “Like you said, she needed sustenance. Just a bit. Until she has her own memories — her own identity. Her own Soul.”

“None of the Siddivata have their own identities. That is now how we are. We only run on Narratives.” Zinnia shrugged. “It is not beautiful either.”

“It can be done,” Quinen said, frowning. “I know of a way.”

Zinnia pondered on this for a while, looking straight into Quinen’s eyes. Quinen tried hard not to pull away. Another silence. It stretched on forever. “I’m sure there is…” Zinnia whispered. “But that hardly matters now. Chrysanthemum is to be wed to the Prince of the Salamander Court, so that we may reconcile Salamander and Dwarf.”

“Chrys is of the Nymph Court,” Quinen said, furrowing his eyebrows.

She nodded. “She was born of the reconciliation of Nymph and Dwarf, yes.” She shrugged and stood. “Anyway, what a wonderful chat, Mister Quinen. You’ve given me a particularly beautiful piece of memory and ponderance to chew on.”

“Literally,” Quinen snorted.

“But now, I must go. My fiagai must have found her by now.”

A pin-drop silence. Something shattered within Quinen’s mind. He probed his mind palace for what the word meant. Fiagai…?

Memory boomed in his mindspace like a thunderclap. Quinen whirled around, his mageweave coat billowing before him, synthetic lights humming.  He didn’t turn to Oberen as he shout out the door. “Oberen, apprehend and bring Diys back to the Dean. I have to save Chrys.”

“But what about-”

“Now!”

Oberen turned and found Zinnia gone. The window had been opened. He scooped Diys up into his arms — she was light, being a dreorg and all. When he turned, the door had swung open, and Quinen was nowhere to be seen.

 

***

 

Chrysanthemum sat on the bed, cross-legged. She had one of Quinen’s oversized shirts on again. She looked up at the shadow of a man, who stood with his back straight. He had closed the door behind him, and walked up to the window. “Princess Chrysanthemum,” he began.

“Princess?” Chrys tilted her head to the side.

“I am Fiagai Basil,” the Fiagai said. “Loyal to Zinnia, Jade Princess, Fourth of her Name, of the Dwarf Court.”

Chrysanthemum bit her lip. “I… I don’t understand.”

“You are not meant to,” it said. “Not yet, at least. Just come with me, and your family will refresh your memory.”

“Family?”

Basil nodded. “That’s right. I’m here to take you home.”

“I have a family?” Chrysanthemum asked, tilting her head to the side.

“And they do dearly miss you,” it said, reaching up to Chrys and stroking her arm. Chrys fought the urge to move away. It was a calming touch. “What are you doing here, my Princess? What are you doing here in this wretched steel and stable world?”

“I…” she looked out the window wistfully.

 

***

 

Quinen ran as fast as his human legs and his non-fit physique could take him. He knew the CRT line was the quickest way to his neighborhood in the Felghoun Ward, even this late in the night.

He got on the CRT, and it sped in between the tall skyscrapers of industry. Not much people in the train at this time of morning, but the ones that were there watched the heaving, fidgeting Warlock.

When the doors dinged open, Quinen flew out of it. He vaulted over the railing and landed on the concrete with a roll. An autochariot came to an abrupt stop in front of him; horns resounded, accompanied with curses in more languages than just Shennin. Quinen was unapologetic, dashing off uphill to his apartment.

When he managed to open the door, there was a great billowing, like a powerful gale heralding the storm.

 

***

 

Basil turned, looking at Chrysanthemum. “Let me show you home,” it began. The fiagai waved its hand at the window. The glass fixture shuddered violently, and a large rushing-in of wind forced Chrysanthemum to close her eyes. When she opened them again, she saw a land of beautiful madness beyond. Trees and rocks and grass and animals and people and humanoids and spirits of all colors, tastes and sounds burst out from the portal within the window. A world of madness made form, of form turned into madness. A chaos so indescribable that words falter it’s discordant beauty. Clashes of color and themes and concepts. A realm of fey and dreams. “Avalon,” said Basil.

Chrysanthemum looked up at it, her eyes glimmering with reflection. “Avalon,” she echoed, entranced. She stood, and took a step toward the portal. Then another. Every step she took, the tattoos slowly receded, like scrawling vines. Her mouth hung open as she stepped, like a faerie in an intricate hypnotic dance.

That was when the door burst open and Quinen raised his diwaslinger. Not another beat before a shot crackled through the air.

Basil turned, and a slug of pure creational force slammed into the Fiagai’s chest; the slug exploded into a sphere, which tore at the Fiagai’s very being, fraying the strands that kept it together. Its flesh burnt off and became nothing.

The portal shut abruptly, the lights and the sounds and the colors and the smells and the emotions that echoed from the place vanished. Avalon was replaced by the more ambient and familiar noise of honking autochariots and shouting citizens.

Basil growled in bright agony. The hunter turned to the Warlock, who scowled at the intruder as he lowered his slinger. The Fiagai looked down at the point of impact, and saw a smoldering crater where his chest should’ve been. The flesh unburnt around it crept back like growing vines to refill and regenerate the annihilated tissue.

“Magicker,” Basil spat.

Quinen fired another shot. Power and force pooled around the barrel for a bit, as the Transmogrifier within the diwaslinger activated and churned. Then the pooling power burst out into strokes of white and black, as the slug of Diwa shot through the air. White vapor wafted from the barrel as Quinen’s arms folded under the recoil, and he had to take a step back.

Basil was quick this time.

A flash, and the Diwa slug melted into the steel of the curved, single-edged slashing sword of the Fiagai.

“Don’t interfere,” Basil said, stepping forward. The Fiagai blurred, and in another step he was in front of Quinen, grabbed him by the neck, and hurled him out of the window.

Quinen flew, twisted in the air… and then pain.

Blunt force slammed onto his back. His mageweave armor did its best to absorb and spread out the damage. He turned to his side and winced as he lay on the rain-slicked curb. When the Fiagai came blurring out the window, eagle wings spread out from its hip, the Warlock forced himself to stand.

The Avalon Warrior landed on the ground next to Quinen, and his sword clanged against curb. The Fiagai raised it again and swung at Quin.

The Warlock snarled a word and pointed with the timepiece, using it to channel the power of the Field of Timespace like a torrent of power. The mechanisms within the timepiece activated, and it channeled the rote within it, despite Quinen having no ability in the Field of Timespace whatsoever.

The wicked sharp sword clanged onto the concrete of the curb. Quinen rematerialized a few yards away, twirling in midair. Another bullet burst from the barrel of his Diwaslinger, an explosion of black and white strokes like an invisible god had stroked with a brush. Quinen barreled backwards from the recoil, but managed to hit the ground on his knees.

The bullet exploded into a sphere in Basil’s chest, annihilating yet another part of his flesh from the existence. The Warrior screamed in agony.

Quinen breathed and fired again. Basil blurred to the side, evading it easily, and then forward. Its eagle wings vanished in a puff of iridescent clouds, and the Fiagai’s sword sang a song of blood.

The Fiagai’s blade sliced into the meat of Quinen’s right bicep. The Warlock cried out, wincing. With a force of will, he pulled the trigger of the Diwaslinger as the Fiagai was close to him — the barrel pushing against the hunter’s abdomen.

A sphere of annihilation exploded within the Fiagai; air was eradicated from that area. A clap of sound exploded from the sphere of nothingness as air then rushed in to fill the vacuum.

The Fiagai flew backwards, manifested its wings once again, and landed on its feet. The Warrior grit its teeth, looking down at the hole of nothingness its stomach had become. There was no blood — only a wispy, iridescent smoke trailing from the wound.

Quinen twirled in midair and slammed against the concrete of the curb. Blood spread. He grit his teeth and stood. From his periphery, he could see people raising their palmnodes and taking holographs. At this rate, the Naphli would be coming. He should do this quick.

Quinen raised his hand and found that the Diwaslinger was gone from his hands. He cursed as the Fiagai stepped on it, cracking it. White vapor steamed from underneath his greaves. The Diwaslinger was broken. And that cost me a thousand eagles too…

The Warrior’s cat-like eyes focused on him, with the deadly intent to kill. Its lips peeled back into a vicious grin, ready to maim and kill its prey. The Fiagai knew that it had Quinen cornered.

Quinen wasn’t going to survive this if he fought like this. He chewed on this fact, as the Warrior’s body began to mend together its stomach once again.

Quinen cursed. If annihilating the Fiagai from existence won’t work, what will? The Warlock looked about him to see what he could manage, what he could use. His mind worked double time, scrolling through lists of rotes and theorems to find a Working that would actually work. Dammit, I’m bad at Rotes.

The Fiagai stepped and blurred. His sword shot out, like a scorpion tail lashing. The mageweave armor tried to block the sharp edge of the blade, but fell short, only managing to curb the kinetic onslaught of the strike.

In a lithe movement, Quinen twisted to his right, evading the strike, and he snarled another word with his timepiece. His vision tunneled, a flash, and then he was a few feet away again, timespace bowing before his Will. Or more precisely, the power of his timepiece. But Quinen cursed as he heard the ticking of the timepiece getting slower.

Dissonance kicked in. His mind wracked, a throbbing that began from the base of his head near his neck, and eventually grew all about him. All around the Warlock, the buildings loomed impossibly higher, as if stretched, and the raindrops fell slower. The effects of Timespace Dissonance. He’d forgotten that this particular Charm didn’t contain a Dissonance Buffer.

Quinen shook off the Dissonance and turned. The Fiagai blurred toward him, and in a few more flurrying steps Quinen’s body would be the sword’s new scabbard.

The rain had matted both of their hairs. The drops of condensation splashed off of the blurring hunter.

With a defiant shout, Quinen pulled out a cylindrical, foot-long shaft of steel.

His defiance manifested.

The shaft of steel exploded into color: two burning blades of fulminating incandescence burst out on either side, forming into a double-bladed weapon. With his left hand, Quinen twirled it, and winced as he caught it with his right hand.

The Fiagai’s sword fell upon the Warlock. Quinen grit his teeth, and parried.

The Diwa eating blade clashed brightly with the blazing edge of Quinen’s dynamostaff. A sound reminiscent of the noise made when a wind kicks up a fire resounded. Heat billowed up all about Quinen, but he didn’t feel it. The sound of sizzling water; the smell of burnt flesh.

The Warlock pushed the Warrior back, and he jabbed twice with his blade.

The Fiagai Basil blurred, parrying both, stepped back and returned the strike. Quinen evaded with a lithe weaving back step, the sword grazing the fabric of his mageweave. Moving like a wave, he connected the dodge to an underhand strike with the second blade.

The blade nicked the Fiagai, and the solid flame sliced a blazing wound on its arm. Basil didn’t holler in pain. Instead, it pushed forward, blade flickering, an implacable predator. Quinen wove out of the way, but the Fiagai was a trained fighter. The sword was too fast. Blood soaked the blade of the Warrior as it sank into the Warlock’s flesh, piercing through the mageweave coat.

Quinen managed to kick out, but Basil stepped away and swiped, managing to slice deep into Quinen’s ankle. Quin grimaced, but he grit his teeth. Pain will not bow him.

Not now. Not yet.

In the small second that Basil rebalanced from his attack, Quinen called upon the sympathies within his tattoos. His Inks facilitated the channel. His Soul called to the Field of Energies, and he lashed out with force, allowing his Will and Emotion — his Soul — to supercharge his attack. The tattoos in his hands danced in flame. He had Burned a part of his Personal Diwa.

A wave of pure kinetic force blasted out from his hand, catching the rebalancing hunter off-guard. The Fiagai grunted as the invisible hammer of force sent him flying, and he crashed onto the building on the other side of the street.

The rain poured. Quinen forced himself up, keeping his dynamostaff ready. The droplets of rain sizzled and evaporated when they met the unrelenting heat of Quinen’s dynamostaff. Everything slowed. He felt his insides burning, sizzling.

Thw Warlock winced, turned, and saw the Fiagai move forward. Basil grimaced in pain as the healing factor of its supernatural nature strained to heal so much damage — especially when the majority of it were damages to the Fiagai’s very existence.

Quinen watched as Basil sprouted wings again, shaking its head at Quinen. The Fiagai’s cat eyes cut through the mist of the rain. It crouched, and then its wings flapped, billowing wind and water about him. Basil streaked toward the open window of Quinen’s house.

Quinen scowled. Oh no, you don’t. His bicep bled as he forced his hand up, aiming at the flying Fiagai with the timepiece. He snarled a word, and the timepiece called down the Field of Timespace, to weave reality about him, to transcend the illusions of correspondence.

This next spell could unravel him. The Dissonance he had built up cackled with voracious power, like electricity cackling underneath a flimsy glass ceiling. But Quinen took the chances. He had to.

The Warlock shouted the word — a basso, gnarled word. A word incomprehensible. A word that belonged to a time long forgotten by even the most ancient of Magickers. A word a Magicker could only really use once in his career.

He disappeared. The buildings loomed over him like shadows, the rain droplets halted, like a video paused. He felt his fingers folding into unnatural angles. Quinen’s eyes widened, and he opened his mouth to say something.

And then, he rematerialized in front of Basil, slamming into the Fiagai. Quinen’s dynamostaff blazed as it went straight through the hunter’s abdomen. Quinen’s momentum canceled Basil’s, and they plummeted onto the curb, with Basil hitting the ground first, his wings sizzling into nothingness.

Quinen grit his teeth. There was only one way. The Warlock brought out his lighter and snarled the incantation of Banishment. Banishing a Fiagai would be harder than banishing a lowly jifarin, but he had to try. He gripped Basil’s skull with his left hand, leaving the fulminating dynamosaff in the Fiagai’s abdomen.

The Fiagai opened its mouth and emotions rushed through its eyes. Fear, anger, madness.

He reached out with the last remaining vestiges of his Will and Soul, opening the Sympathy he had made to Avalon to perform the banishment. He uttered the Mantra.

“Back!” Quinen shouted, as the echoes and madness and dreams of the Divata filled his soul. “Back to Avalon with you!” An incomprehensible, basso voice echoed after him in a language he did not speak.

The Fiagai screamed silence as he exploded into a vast cloud of golden butterflies. They swirled about the rain, and the rain slipped off of them as if they were rainproof material. Quinen didn’t look up as the golden butterflies rushed past him like a torrent of running water, billowing his coat, his hair, blinding him.

And then, one by one, they vanished.

 

***

 

Chrysanthemum hugged herself and rocked back and forth in the corner. The door opened and Quinen, battered and bleeding, walked up to her. She didn’t look up; tears glistened down the sides of her face, wetting her cheeks.

Quinen fell to his knees and pulled her into a hug. “It’s alright,” he said. He closed his eyes, and surrendered into blackness. His soul frayed.

The rain fell relentless.

 

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