As the cacophonous noise of the songs and revels of the Avalonian fief echoed across the gossamer silk of the land of Beautiful Madness, the five-winged birds of coruscating astral beams flew across a large mountain peak that broke the multicolor sky. Their stardust plume blazed in stellar conflagration as their trail drifted down onto a cliff-face to the far northern side, although direction is something moot in the land of Avalon.
The cliff face was large, and scaled similarly to the height of one of the towers in the Spires of Throne City. Although height is something also fickle in Avalon, and so the exact height shifted, as if some sort of mirage. It was pocked with granite moss, with one particularly large patch of basalt brambles writhing down and covering the lower half.
Before the cliff-face was a circular clearing, with a circle surrounding it made by blossoming trees and wilting waterblooms. Two figures — one humanoid and another serpentine, with feet like a tiger’s, head like a lion’s, and wings like a bat’s — approached the cliff-face.
The humanoid figure was vaguely feminine, with narrow shoulders and a wide waist. She was made of living wood, which writhed and wilted and fell off and grew again as she walked. Her eyes were like jade stones, blazing with an aubergine light. Her hair was that of brambles and hedges, and the occasional firk-stel (the aforementioned five-winged birds) would hang onto one of those branches.
She and the large draconian thing three times her size dropped on one knee. “King of Dwarf,” she spoke, and her voice was like wood creaking. “Zinnia has…”
And the cliff-face shook. A great trembling that croaked, rock grinding against harsh rock, as the Dwarf King’s mouth opened, and out came a voice that sounded like wind howling through stone passages. “I’VE SEEN AND HEARD AND FELT.”
The feminine figure turned to the draconian one, and nodded. “Then I shall take action,” she said. “Through some sort of cleverness, she has found a way for the Mundic Ones to break the Ancient Accords. They’ve killed one of our kind.”
“A HUNTER OF NYMPH.”
“Indeed,” said the feminine voice. “Since you would not do anything, we’ve purposed in our hearts to join Zinnia in conquering all of the Mund, for by eating the Seat of Creation can we attain perfect chaos.”
“SUCH IS YOUR NATURE, SHE WHO BROUGHT CHAOS AND NEVER QUESTIONED.”
The feminine figure blinked, the aubergine light in her eyes disappearing for a second; her shoulders raised, and she nodded. “And such do we require your permission, Dwarf King, to mobilize the Wild Hunt.”
“YOU HAVE IT,” said the King. “AND I SHALL DO NAUGHT.”
The feminine figure turned to the draconian beside her, grinning. They turned around and made their way out of the clearing, as the rock and basalt behind them ground and trembled back into its resting place. “Thank you, King,” she said as they reached an arcing bridge made of branches. “I would’ve thought you would say that. Such is your nature.”
And they left.
* * *
Kasu licked her lips, running.
It was all over the news. The Naphli HQ had been struck by some Transplanar entity. The casualties were very few — mostly other Naphlimen that fought with them — but the Transplanar Entity they had killed seemed to be one of high stature.
She didn’t know much about Avalon. It was a subject that never warranted any suspicion, yet at the same time, any special interest, to her. The general consensus was they will not be affected, and neither will the Avalonians, if they didn’t perform an affront to each other thanks to the Ancient Accords.
Speaking of the Ancient Accords, she really should get to reading those…
But as of the moment, she was occupied.
The dank alleyways of the shortcut she took clung onto her like a fetid embrace, never wanting to let her go. She finally came free, jumping up onto a dumpster, and then over a steel-link fence. She hit the ground with a thud and fell to her butt.
As she came onto her feet, her vision beheld the Collegium, floating in front of her, the backdrop of a thousand concrete fingers jutting out and reaching for the sky. Before she came up to her feet, she checked the leather satchel that slung across her shoulder. She sighed in relief as she saw her lapnode relatively unharmed.
She stood and walked. A brisk walk, mind you. Once she reached the perimeter of the Collegium, with that large park before the portal that would teleport you into the floating island, she looked for an alleyway and sat within its dark gray walls. The scaffolding made rickety sounds as she pulled her lapnode from her leather satchel and began typing. She tried accessing Quinen’s frequency through her lapnode, but it was no use. There was no answer.
She sighed, and hoped the Warlock wouldn’t rat her out for breaking into his palmnode’s facilities.
She looked about her, leaning to peek out of the corner if there would be anyone to disturb her. When she found none, she closed her eyes, said a twisting word, and Dove into the Datascape through her lapnode.
The Datascape, without a strong anchor from a Datagrove, was dark, and all one could see where the infinite paths that led everywhere. Even the lines of code that streamed down the sides like rain seemed to be of no-light.
Kasu clapped her hands once and light radiated from her.
She examined the infinite paths that twined and frayed like threads, and followed the one that buzzed with Quinen’s frequency. As she followed the path, gliding down it like some sort of digital sprite, the other million paths faded away, glistening and thinning until they dissipated like cotton silk. She followed the path then, the noise around her completely black, devoid of the orange skies and gray abyss. The blackness of the noiseless Datascape was almost deafening, and Kasu could hear her thoughts bouncing against non-existent walls.
She wondered once again why she was helping this seemingly distant and unknown man. She never knew him before, save for the legends of the Warlock she’d heard during her short time within the Collegium. Then she decided that she was gonna think later, and act now. That’s how she’d always done it; that’s how her mother had told her how to do it.
Eventually, the cold black void of her thoughts burnt away as she approached a pinprick of light. As she neared it, letting what was happening in front of her burn away the thoughts of doubt, the light expanded, like a star far away that was actually very much larger up close. Past the veil of bright light she could see a white marble floor. It took her a few more paces toward the light, and the ensuing enlargement of it, for her to understand that it was actually a ceiling.
Eventually, the light engulfed her, and her datal soul struck it and flattened against it. She pushed herself off of it, and she floated about blackness, with the light in front of her like a glass barrier.
Kasu inhaled, and said–
* * *
Quinen opened his eyes. He thought himself to have been hallucinating; although that voice was definitely familiar. He tried to look about himself, finding that he could move his neck and head about, but not much else without incurring some sort of aching.
The pixie voice sounded like a plastic container being filled with water, or rocks being crushed. It was somewhat of a mix of two, as if her voice was being modulated and changed around. He turned to his right, and there saw a short table, where his palmnode sat. The pane of glass was lighting up, flaring with that calm turquoise hue. Quinen furrowed his eyebrows and raised his hand. There was a short ache, but he was able to move it.
He grabbed the palmnode off of the short table and brought it up to his face.
On the other side was Kasu, seemingly made of the same turquoise blur, looking like a digital ghost. She sighed and smiled when she saw Quinen.
Quinen blinked, tried to shift his body a bit to see her better, but only ended up in loosening his grip on the palmnode. It fell right onto his face.
* * *
Kasu pushed herself off of the glass and covered her face. That was the closest she’d gotten to male. When she saw the bright light of the medica’s illumination returning she removed her hands from her face and pressed against the glass again.
“Sorry about that,” said Quinen, wiping his face with another hand. There were no medical equipment hooked up to him or anything. Dissonance, Kasu thought.
“It’s fine. Are you okay? My Eyes got disrupted for a second there, and I couldn’t find you anywhere.”
Quinen squinted his eyes and shook his head. “It looks like some Siddivata was chasing after me. Trying to kill me. I don’t know how he managed to find me, though. Avalonians don’t tend to have a good grasp of our concept of distance and space.”
“Well they did find you.”
“Yeah,” Quinen nodded. “What are you doing, anyway?”
“I came here to check if you were dead,” she said. “That’s it. Don’t die.”
Quinen blinked. “Hm. Thanks, I guess.” He shook his head. “Why are you so invested, anyway?”
She shrugged. “I don’t think you have to ask someone why they want to help other people. It should be automatic, no?”
“Ideally, yes. But we don’t live in an ideal.”
“That does not defer me,” she said. “I’ll leave. My physical body’s vulnerable. Make sure to contact my frequency once I’m out. I’m gonna try to look for other ways to get you into the Collegium.”
“Oh, I get it.”
Kasu had turned around, but she stopped and turned back to Quinen. “Hm?”
“I know why you want me alive so much.”
Kasu blinked, but didn’t move. She threshed the thought of raising her eyebrow, but decided against it when Quinen continued his statement. “It’s because you want to experiment more on my Soul.”
Kasu still didn’t answer.
Quinen nodded. “I’m curious myself. Should be fun.”
“Curiosity is a foundation of Magick,” said Kasu. And she vanished, her Soul-tethers automatically fraying her digital avatar and sending her consciousness bouncing back up into her physical, corporeal form.
She inhaled deeply as she opened her eyes. The smell of piss overwhelmed her, but numbness came after quickly. She folded her lapnode closed and shoved it into her bag, and then rose to her feet. Maybe she’ll head over to the cafe again.
* * *
Kotoro had left Ofenia behind. He rushed out the cafeteria down a cascade of steps, and eventually found himself back in the Central Park. It seemed that most roads led to this here, looping around like the symbol of infinity.
He looked over to the administration building and made a mad dash. This time might be as good as any. In the back of his head, doubts flew about like insane strings. He thought that maybe this correlated with the scene going on at the Naphli HQ, and that the Dean might be interested or maybe even know of something like this.
He arrived at the tasspath, ignoring the looks from the Magickers — professors and students alike. He stepped and zoomed through the Tasspath, eventually arriving at the Administrative Building by the end of it. There was a girl behind a counter, who looked to him and said, “Are you here to see the Dean?”
At least, that’s what he would’ve heard, if it wasn’t for him making a mad dash across the carpeted room over to the lift. The lift had dinged close, unfortunately, and when he jabbed the button to go up, the visual feed had said 10, which is to say it was at the top floor. He turned to the woman manning the counter and said “What floor is the Dean’s floor?”
“Wh–excuse me do you have an appointment?”
“Just tell me!” He uttered a word, and almost ripped out his brain in a shattering process of flashing his Mind’s Eye with his Spell and calling upon power. The next instant, his Manipulate Matter spell went off, and the marble counter launched itself at the woman, slamming her to the wall behind her. The counter then moved, oozed and slithered like a liquid snake that stuck itself to the wall behind her and bound itself around the girl, binding her to the wall itself. Then, the marble hardened once again.
“Tell me or else!” And the marble liquefied for a split second for a spike to jut out and point itself at the neck of the woman.
“The seventh floor!”
The elevator doors dinged open, and the spike turned into a block that slammed itself against the woman’s head, enough to knock her out.
There was nobody within the lift. Kotoro walked in, and jabbed the seventh floor. As it flung up, he sagged against the wall, and his mind throbbed with glass spikes of pain. Dissonance hurts.
After that burst of brashness, Kotoro pondered seriously about looking for other ways to get what he wanted. But as the lift doors dinged open, he walked out into the floor with double wooden doors. He had committed; he couldn’t doubt now.
He walked through the wooden doors and closed them behind him. There was nobody inside. He blinked, surprised, wondering if the reason why the woman was asking him that question was to tell him that the Dean was, in fact, not there.
The Detective scanned the room. There were stacks of books behind the front desk, where a high-backed chair was. Various charms and trinkets lay on the top of the desk. To the left side of the desk, not within the stacks and shelves of books, was a spiralling black steel staircase that led to a second level. Kotoro glanced through the shelves of books, but he found the usual stuff that was taught even in the Jubh-Kan Collegium: “Willworking Basics, The Metaphysics of Magick, the Essence of Diwa, The Jiafantean Ethics”. Even one that said, “Lady Kifes’ Bestiarium” sat beside a pretty famous book: “The Thousand-Wisdoms Bestiary”.
Once Kotoro had exhausted most of the reading that he had already read, he made his way up to the second level. He walked as silently as he could, for he somehow felt that there was another thing in here, despite the silence.
Eventually, he arrived at the top of the stairs. He swept his gaze, and right as his eyes set upon the small, dainty and alabaster pale feet of a person…
“Get down from there.”
Kotoro blinked, and turned around. A white-haired and bearded man stood by the window, with a large, regal robes and a mantle hanging off of him. “That’s a guest. Get down and we’ll talk.” He sighed, and the wrinkles in his face made him seem as old as he was.