Rune, the Vizier of Magick to the High King of Throne, felt a strange presence as she let her Magickal Perceptions writhe through the Collegium.
There was one resonance that didn’t feel like usual Magick at all. The vibration of Rhythmchasing, nor the abrasive, intrusive Magick of the usual reality-bending Collegiate Magick, were absent.
There was some sort of Transplanar Entity… but the Entity’s resonance was all botched, as if some sort of… mundanity was stapled onto its resonance. This troubled her greatly. What troubled her even more is the fact that she could somehow pinpoint the resonance coming from the Dean’s room.
So when she told the Dean that they had to go to the High King’s Cathedral, she changed her course and instead went to the Dean’s room, using the fabric of his clothes to create a sympathetic connection.
She had sent the Dean to the Cathedral alone.
Rune decided that the Dean would manage.
The Dean’s room was not quiet, at all. There was a little girl — who was still, somehow, taller than Rune herself — walking through the stacks of books behind the Dean’s desk, a leatherbound tome in her small, slender hands. She wore a peculiar hoodie that fell to her knees, and her hair glowed of a certain pink hue. It was no magitechnical implant nor fashion statement — her hair actually glowed pink.
Rune smirked, and crossed her arms across her chest. She waited for the girl to turn around. When she did, Rune’s smirk turned into a grin for a flash second, and then into a forced state of impassive judgment. The girl had squeaked, and the book had fallen from her hands. The leather slapping against the ground resonated throughout the entirety of the room.
“Girl.” She made sure her Mantle could be seen. “What are you?”
The girl blinked. She held her hands close to her chest and walked backward until she hit a stack. She leaned against it, looking at Rune like a kitten not hoping for a fight.
When the girl didn’t answer, the Vizier sighed. She flicked her hand towards her, almost sleepily, and a gust of wind blew the pink-haired girl past the wooden desk. Her leg slammed against the wood, sending her spinning in mid air before crashing on the carpeted floor before the Vizier. The girl had screamed, and then said, “Owwww.”
The little, fae-like girl caressed her shin. Rune resisted the urge to apologize or heal her. “You heard me.”
The pink-haired girl sniffed, but didn’t look up. Her hair glowed brighter. She still didn’t answer.
“Are you a Siddivata?”
Still no answer.
Rune sighed. With another flick of her wrist, a sudden force slammed the girl to the side. She squeaked. It was but a weak push, but having trained in the military, Rune realized that her definition of weak must be different from the girl’s.
Again, the Vizier resisted the urge to apologize.
“Are you? You have Transplanar resonance. From what Realm do you hail?”
The answer was weak: “I don’t know.”
But Rune heard enough.
There were many realms that existed within the Mael. It was a vast sea, after all. While Rune may have studied about the Near Shore Realm of the Phantasm — the home of the Spirits — and the Far Shore Realm of Zivana, the realm of the Messengers of the Theito, she knew next to nothing about the Far Shore Realm of Avalon. It was populated with stories, with narratives, with coruscating nonsense and paradox. It was beautiful madness.
That’s all she knew.
Rune frowned. “There are Transplanar Entities converging on the Mund. Have you any idea why that may be?”
The girl shook her head.
Rune sighed. She pinched the bridge of her nose. “Then why are you in the Dean’s Room?” She waved her hand, and winds flurried, spinning into a razor sharp lance before the girl, aimed directly at her head. Everything around the lance flailed wildly as the gale winds blew everything around. The girl’s hair, clothes, and even Rune’s mantle. The Vizier had to raise her voice to be heard by the fey-girl. “Do NOT lie!”
“I don’t know! I was just waiting for Quinen…-” She quieted.
Rune blinked. With a wave of her hand the winds dissipated. She wondered how much Dissonance she’d accrued. “Who?” The girl didn’t answer. “Who is Quinen?”
“I… He was…”
Chrysanthemum’s hair, all this time, had been a rising glow. It burned hotter and brighter, until finally, it danced like a flame, rising above her head like a transplanar crown. “I DON’T KNOW!”
The windows of the Dean’s room exploded open. Ice and snow and shards of glass burst in, somehow conjured through the upfalling rain. Rune’s reaction time was quick — with a step back, and a slight tense, she’d conjured an invisible shield of force.
“Leave me alone!” The fae-girl’s voice echoed, and her hair blazed. Rune forced herself to keep the impassive face.
“So you are Siddivata?” Rune shouted over the flurrying winds.
“I don’t know!” shouted the girl back. “Where’s Quinen? I’m going to find Quinen! I want Quinen!”
Rune scowled. “No you don’t!” With a flick of her wrist, the winds twisted, and began to funnel and furl into a razor sharp wind-lance, but Rune found herself wrestling with a Transplanar Will. “Well well well!”
The girl shouted back. “I will!” With another scream, the girl summoned even more wind to blast frost and rain upon the Vizier of Magick. Rune squinted. The winds writhed as they tried to form funnels, looking like disembodied limbs bleeding lightning.
The girl turned around then, her body obscured by the vast sheet of white confounding Rune. She disappeared then, and Rune summoned all her power to counteract all of the effects. She called upon the Field of Diwa, and tried to extinguish the flames of magic.
But it was to no avail. To unravel magick, one had to know enough about it. As of that moment, Avalonian sorcery was unknown to her. With another cry, Rune simply forced the shield of force to expand to the total length and width of the room, and then pushed that force forward and outside.
That was when she felt a hammer-like force slam into her chest as well, and she grunted as she was flew back. The shield of force dissipated, and the snow flurried inside. All was white, and the Vizier performed a Manipulate Energies working to keep herself warm as ice blanketed over her, burying her in her own white grave.
Then her back met the wall. The wind was knocked out of her, and everything was white again. She closed her eyes, and struggled to keep the flaming warmth spell going.
It was a long time before she heard the sound of flurrying snow vanish.
The soft storm sound of flurrying snow was suddenly replaced by a small, indignant hissing as Rune’s warm body spell tried to melt through the sheet of white she’d been buried in. Eventually, she fell forward, down onto a white sheeted ground. Blinking, she looked up and saw that the Dean’s entire room was blanketed by that feathery, yet heavy, white. Many books had been soiled, and the wooden desk had been frozen over, icicles hanging underneath the edges.
The window of the Dean hung open, shattered by the otherworldly sorcery of that fae-girl. Rune walked up to it, and stood right at the mouth of it, looking out to the vast mechanical corpse that was Throne City.
She closed her eyes, and quested with her Magickal Perceptions. She fine-tuned her Perceive Diwa Working to sense Transplanar Entities.
It wasn’t long before Rune opened her eyes. Golden magick hummed beneath her irises. She fell forward, plummeted, and with a flick of her hand, called upon the winds to carry her forward and sail across the sky, after that wafting Transplanar smoke trail.
* * *
Kasu walked on the concrete rooftop. There had fortunately been a Medicker inside Lo-Fi Cafe with them, who offered to patch up the scrapes and cuts she had gotten from that chaotic outburst. It was not a fun experience. She thanked the man, and immediately ran straight for home.
I shouldn’t have gone out in the first place, she thought to herself.
But now she found herself wandering the rooftop of her apartment building. Where she had met Rexza. Where the portal to Avalon opened. Where everything basically went to shit, and something that she shouldn’t have been part of suddenly pulled her into its chain of events. It was like fate, maybe. Or some sort of discordant coincidence.
She had heard vast, sweeping theories — so absurd that they may as well be conspiracies — about how Fate, or Probability, as the more Material Savants would insist, is actually an infinite amount of intertwining threads and strings. Then it is said that these strings all intersect or intercross or intertwine here, in the Mund, and some strings even begin in the Mund.
Kasu always thought that absurd. She’d seen and studied — albeit as cursory as they get — about other Realms. Why would the Mund be any different?
She shrugged, leaning against a concrete baluster and staring up at the converging thunderclouds above the tallest Spire in Throne. The upfalling rain was already weirding her out. The violent, random and chaotic outbursts of angered matter didn’t help.
She sighed. She should be safe in her room for the time being. She briefly considered jacking back into the Datascape again, but decided against it when she walked through the door and down the stairs, and almost slipped on the first step. She blinked. Had she been sleeping lately?
She shrugged. Sleep is for the weak. Something she had been muttering to herself during her Collegiate days. At the thought of that, her mind lingered to the possibility that maybe she should continue her Magickal Education. She had been able to manipulate Soulstuff… was that possible? Was that normal? How did she do that with her Data Magick?
A great many questions she asked herself, but none of them she could answer. As she reached the last step of the stairs, she grinned. In one way or another, this was what a Magicker’s life was about — solving mysteries.
* * *
Chrysanthemum sailed through the air, breathing heavily. She still felt her nose was clogged, and her eyes burning, but she couldn’t think about that. Her hair still blazed about her like a fuschia conflagration.
She didn’t know how she did it, but she was flying — well, more of gliding, really, as her flight had a slow descent. She directed this flight toward the Felghoun Ward. It wasn’t hard — all she had to do was follow the City-Rail Transit and landmarks Quinen had told her.
The strange Siddivata Entity had jumped off of the window and asked the snow to carry her where she wanted. Snow flurried about her and brought her up, carrying her through the sky like a storm of frost. She leaned forward, with her hands splayed to her side, as she fell slowly towards the Felghoun Ward.
Much of the sky-travel had been suspended thanks to the looming threat of that transplanar storm. She thought back to what just happened back in the room of the Dean. She had gotten anxious, waiting, and as usual got curious about what all the books were about. A great many books were on there, and she saw an interesting textbook written by a dreorg philosopher (as he described himself in the book) named Gyeras, which had been translated into Shennin by a man named Infinite Sights. “A Shout from the Soul to the Stars”, the leatherbound tome was titled. A title which most definitely caught her — and many others, she was sure — attention.
The writing was dreadfully thick and lumbering, without much coherent thought as he jumped from one topic — left it for a minute as he went on a tangent about how his broom may have its own soul — and then went back to the topic of the function of Stars and the order of the Celestial Sphere. She hadn’t read much, and she’d only gotten to the part about Souls right as when that horrible Magicker woman — who was somehow shorter than her — attacked her.
She shook her head. That woman must be looking for her this very second. She had to move quick.
Before long she found Quinen’s apartment. She thanked the Snow for carrying her and told them to put her down onto the concrete. As the concrete frosted over a bit from the presence of the Snow spirits, Chrysanthemum’s bare feet danced over the sidewalk and she moved to the door of the apartment. She muttered, “Please be here, please be here, please be here…” again and again like a chant, as she walked inside.
When she opened Quinen’s apartment door, she saw the window was still broken, and the room itself was still in disarray. They hadn’t gone back to it ever since the first Fiagai had assaulted the two of them, she realized. Along with that realization was the lightning bolt clarification that Quinen wasn’t here either.
The thunder rolled. She wasn’t safe alone. Quinen had told her that. Even if she had access to both of her contracts now, she still didn’t know the extent of them, how far she could use them to protect herself. She was much too weak to keep herself safe…
She realized, though, that she had managed to fend off that nosy Magicker when she was in the Dean’s Room.
Chyrsanthemum shook her head. She had to keep moving. If she stopped, she would sink. Another person immediately popped up into her mind — Kasu. That dark-haired, almost quirky dataturge who had helped her before. Maybe she can help her again.
The fae-girl hurried down the stairs and out of the door. “Snows, please, take me to where I need to go!” she asked, and then jumped into the air. A flurry of snow and ice caught her, and lifted her higher from the ground. She glided again, in the direction now of Kasu’s house, in the Crihilox Ward. She used the the easily recognizable adamant material of the Librarium Soph’s walls to guide her way. She realized that only a few humans dotted the concrete corpse below her.
She found that looking for that specific apartment building was harder than she thought, as she sailed above the CRT line. Especially when a bunch of other apartment buildings stood scrunched up next to each other, and their features were almost all uniformly the same.
The snow spirits flurried and faltered as they neared the concrete sidewalk. “Thank you, Snow. You may put me down.” The snow spirits put her down on the sidewalk near the CRT.
A bunch of pedestrians walked around her, giving her a wide berth. Some of the younger ones gawked and marvelled. There were no Naphli officers to scold her. She remembered this street, but it had been filled with people in her sea of memories. Now it was almost empty.
She quickly looked for an alleyway to hide behind, angry at herself for slipping up. Thunder rolled again, reminding her that she had to find someone that could help her quick.
A thought snapped up into her mind. She got onto one knee and placed her palm onto the ground. The earth reverberated underneath her touch, vibrating and churning. “Earth Spirits, Dwarf Court. Please, show me where Kasu is.”
There was a pause, a long silence. A silence that scared Kasu, making her think that she had failed, or the Dwarf Court contract was fake…
Then the earth beneath her opened up. It was as if the concrete had suddenly liquefied, and she sank into it. There was a moment of darkness, as the Earth spirits moved and changed and burrowed. The next moment, the earth spit her out, and she was standing in front of an apartment complex barred by a scissor gate.
Chrysanthemum grinned. Once again, pedestrians walked around her, most of them making sure not to disturb her. She leaned down onto the sidewalk and whispered, “Thank you, earth spirits.”
Then, with an inhalation of cold, almost Avalonian air — something she couldn’t quite understand nor describe — she walked into Kasu’s apartment building.
Up on the third floor, there was one room that had no door. It looked like it had been blasted off of its hinges. From that room spewed out datal lights of hazy turquoise and gray blue. Chrysanthemum walked up to it and saw Kasu staring at her desknode setup, eating a tub of chocolate ice cream. “Kasu.”
The hacker didn’t budge. She scooped and dumped more chocolate ice cream into her mouth.
Chrysanthemum said her name again, a bit louder this time. Kasu stopped mid-scoop then, and she swiveled her chair around. “Yes?” Her eyes widened. “Chrysanthemum?”
Chrys nodded. Her hair had calmed down now to a low humming pink. She had the saddest, most tired expression on her face. Kasu put her ice cream tub aside and walked up to her. “Chrys! How’d you manage to get out?” The Dataturge hugged her.
“I…” Chrys hugged her back. “I don’t know. I– Where’s Quinen?” Chrysanthemum noticed, up close, that there were scratches and wounds on her, and her right arm seemed to be moving in a weird, spastic fashion. As if she didn’t quite have full control over it. “Are you okay?”
Kasu pulled away and nodded. She caressed her right arm. “There was some sort of chaotic blowback when the rain began falling upwards. I don’t know why, and there wasn’t any news of it, so maybe I had been singled out or maybe the lashes had been sparse.” She paused, and then stared at Chrys’ right shin. “Okay, now are you okay?”
Chrys hugged Kasu again and nodded. “I fell and bruised my shin. It is nothing. Quinen says humans get it all the time. Oh Kasu.” Chrys realized that they were roughly of the same height.
Kasu nodded slowly. “Well okay. I’m fine, really,” Kasu said, breaking away again. “Maybe I should be sleeping, though.” She perked up then. “Oh, but wait. It seems you forgot this.” The dataturge turned around and walked back to her desknode. She raised a palmnode, translucent and turned off. “This is yours, I believe. I think you left it here, behind the screens of my desknode, so it was hard to find. I sorta just saw it while I was wiping my tables.”
Chrysanthemum blinked. She took the palmnode from her.
“I know, I know. It doesn’t look like I clean.” And her eyes glanced at the state of her room. “But I’m a good girl. I swear.”
Chrysanthemum giggled, and realized that she found that complex, multi-layered implication funny. Kasu harrumphed.
Chrys eventually shrugged off the laughing fit, and sighed. “Oh, Kasu. I need your help.”
Kasu raised an eyebrow at that. Her eyes flickered to her desknode’s screen — data and information and statistics changed and flickered. “What is it? Anything I can do about it?”
“I need Quinen.”
Kasu blinked. “Well, right. Oh right! Of course!” She rubbed her eyes. “Quinen was trying to get to you too, but you were inside the Collegium, and he couldn’t contact you.”
“Do you know where he might be?”
Kasu nodded, dropping back down to her swivel chair. She entered a few commands with the scriptboard, and then a map of Throne City showing a purple blip materialized onto the screen of her desknode. “He’s in… oh shit. What’s he doing in the Cathedral?”
“The Cathedral?” Chrysanthemum asked. “That’s where the King and the Priests reside, right?”
Kasu nodded. “I see Quinen’s informed you of that.”
“I need to get to him. Can you help me?”
Kasu rose to her feet. She reached for a bottle of Dampener pills and stuffed them into a messenger bag. “Of course–” she hesitated. Chrysanthemum blinked, opening her mouth to say that she didn’t need to. “Yeah,” continued Kasu. “Yeah. I can. Don’t worry about it.”
Chrysanthemum paused for a bit, her large, elven eyes staring innocently at Kasu. Then she said, “Then we need to hurry,” Chrysanthemum said. “There is a horrible Magicker that is chasing after me.”
“Is that so?” asked Kasu, raising an eyebrow. She packed the messenger bag with the folding lapnode and two different palmnodes. “Leave whoever that is to me.”
“No. You don’t understand. She’s powerful.”
“All Magickers are powerful, Chrysanthemum.” Kasu walked forward and grabbed Chrysanthemum’s hand, dragging her out of her room. “Now let’s go.”
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