Insomnia 15

“There is someone.” The Dean Hakumatheia squinted his eyes, and subtly opened his Sight. There was a burning conflagration on his periphery — a Magicker’s Soul — burning behind the railings of the second floor balcony. Behind such conflagration was a smaller wick of flame.

The Dean sighed. “Come out.”


* * *


Kotoro grimaced. He had to think fast; he looked down, and saw the gleaming badge of the Naphli. He grabbed it, removing it’s fastening pins from the breast of his shirt. He didn’t have a weapon with him — a huge mistake on his part — but rose. He saw the Dean on the floor below him. “Dean Hakumatheia? I am Kotoro. I’ve a warrant for questioning.” He raised his badge.

The Dean turned to him and raised a pristine, white eyebrow. The shimmer of his limbal ring suggested that he had his Sight turned on.

“You are… from the Naphli?”

“Yes, sir. I’ve only come here for the investigation of a certain Magickal Incursion near the Karoley Ward, southeast.”

“Indeed?” The Dean sat behind his wooden desk. The bearded man gestured for Kotoro to sit, and the detective did so, hurrying down the stairs and then taking his position on the wooden chair.

The Dean stared at the quicksilver orb that lay on his desk — one of his Charms. “Ask away.”

Kotoro nodded. He licked his lips, and then opened his mouth: “It’s come to our attention that there has been another Magickal Incursion that has also happened just a few days ago. That one was from the Warlock. This time, we’ve found a dead body. Two dead bodies, to be exact: one of a belgar with a strange emblem — somehow similar to the now vanished Knights Vigilant — and another belonging to a student of your Collegium. A certain Oberen Roeser.”

The Dean nodded slowly. “I see. What was the cause of death?”

“Unsure,” Kotoro said. “Usually, with two deaths so close to each other, one would think that they would have similar causes of death; the time of death seemed to be close enough as well. But no,” Kotoro straightened his back, “Oberen was killed from blunt force trauma, shattering his ribs. The belgar was decapitated. There were signs of a struggle on the roof, and more signs of struggle on the scaffolding.”

“Any theories?”

“I have one,” said Kotoro. He proceeded to splay open his hands and shrug. “They were fighting, of sorts, maybe. Maybe a rare burst of Dissonance hit them both, and Oberen flew off the roof, onto the scaffolding, dying as he hit the railings. The belgar was probably struck by a spell of some sort by Oberen. Was Oberen some Martial Thaumaturgist?”

The Dean nodded. “If I recall correctly, yes.”

“Perfect. That fits the theory.” Kotoro snapped his fingers, and then shook his head. “Now a new thread has popped up — there’s a Transplanar entity on the loose, and I’m thinking that the entity has something to do with the murders. Somehow. There was Magickal Resonance as well, which only helps my hypothesis of Martial Thaumaturgy.”

“Hm.” The Dean coughed. “Don’t you think you’re reaching for stars? The Transplanar Entity… should it not be connected at all…”

Kotoro licked his lips. “I’ve thought of it. But the time the Entity appeared, compared to the time we found the crime scene? I mean, it’s not all the time you see a Transplanar Entity openly jumping across the Karoley Ward chasing after a Magicker.”


Kotoro shrugged. “So they must be connected. Somehow.”

The Dean looked down at his desk, leaning back on his chair. He joined his fingertips together, forming a steeple with his fingers, as he thought. His face was completely blank. After a few moments, he spoke. “I care for the welfare of my students. What do you mean to ask of me?”

Kotoro gleamed. “What do you know of Oberen Roeser? What was he doing before his death?”

The Dean turned to Kotoro and looked into his eyes. The glimmer of Magickal Power wasn’t there anymore, and Kotoro leaned back at the intensity of his mundane gaze. The blue, icy eyes of the Dean.

Then the Dean said, “I don’t recall too much. He was with the Warlock the last time I saw him.”

“Ah,” Kotoro said, nodding. “So he hangs out with the Warlock a lot, it seems?”

The Dean shrugged.

“Who is this Warlock, by the by?”

The Dean sighed. “An Urban Legend, now. We have given him that moniker, Warlock — an old term for Magickers during the Second Age, during which Magick was feared as some sort of malevolent force — for it is what we call Magickers expelled due to malevolent sorceries.”

“Ah.” Kotoro nodded. Kotoro thought back to how they didn’t call any of the expelled students anything back in the Jubh-Kan Collegium. Merely Expelled. “Interesting. Do you have any idea where the Warlock might be?”

The Dean inhaled. “You may try the Headquarters of the Naphli.”

Kotoro raised an eyebrow. “He is there?”

The Dean was silent for a while, before saying, “In the Medica.”

“Thank you, for your time, sir,” Kotoro said.

“Anything to help the City’s Protectors.” The Dean said, smiling tightly. He stood with Oberen, and shook hands with him. Without another question, Kotoro bowed by the waist, turned, and walked out.

When he got to the lift, he realized that his Psychic Barrier had been struck. He blinked. Was the Dean trying to read his mind?


Kotoro walked out of the lift, and saw the girl still pinned to the wall. With a wave of a hand, he removed the bindings, and turned the matter back into the counter. With another wave of his hand and an uttering of incantation, he wove Magick. His Mind Working wove into her memories and struck out the recent happening.

She shook her head as if she were in a reverie, and then looked up at Kotoro. “Hi, how may I help you?”

Kotoro shook his head and grinned. “Just walking by.” He then turned and made his way out. He wondered why he didn’t just use a Mind Working in the first place, when he was trying to walk up to the Dean’s room. The Detective shrugged, chalking it all up to Matter Workings being easier to conjure up on the fly, since he learned it first. Besides, Corporeal Fields were easier to manipulate than the Ethereal Fields.


* * *


Chrysanthemum dreamed.


She found herself crouched over a damp, dark floor, rocky and craggy, uneven. There was a source of light somewhere, and before her shadows danced with the figures of her past. Strange animalian humans, twisted chimeras, and bygone dragons flew and crashed and ate and soared, creating bludgeoning images of surreality that seemed to bring into her mind the temporality of all things.

Within this shadowy cave, she felt a hand on her shoulder. The hand burned; she was cold and frigid to the touch. She turned, but found that she could not, for she wore some sort of mechanism that stuck her head forward, forever looking at the shadows dancing and showing them the shade of the truth.

The hand came away for a moment. Chrysanthemum turned to each side and saw other beings that were not human. Some of them had tentacles for hair, others had flaming mouths. Some didn’t have a face at all, only the visage of a shadow creating squinting masks. There was one that was an animal only — a small ferret, that enjoyed the dancing upon the wall, smiling along.

Then the burning hand returned; Chrysanthemum could feel its warmth. The hand touched the mechanisms binding her head and neck, and they melted away, burning up in a never-ending golden blaze. The burning hands cupped her small pixie face and turned her away from the shadow.

The light that cast such shadows only burnt her eyes. She had to squint, and through her squinting eyes she saw the face that equipped the burning hands.

It was Quinen.

The Warlock grabbed her arm and pulled her toward the Sun outside. She was equal parts afraid and excited. As she ran across the cold damp floor of the cave, onwards to the shining mouth and outside, the flames and heat only seemed to singe her. Conflagrate her. Torment her and burn her. Incinerate her.

She cried out, just as the Sun’s light was too unbearable, and right as she left the dream. Right before she tittered over the cusp of consciousness and unconsciousness, she heard a dark, twisted, yet holy voice. It spoke in cryptic words that she could not understand, but she felt bumps running along her spine.

And then she awoke.


Chrysanthemum opened her eyes. Her glowing pink hair was matted to her damp face. Her pupils dilated as she gazed up at the little pixie lights that floated lazily within the Dean’s Sanctum. She wondered upon what she just experienced. For so long, she’d been experiencing death — the state of slumber was the closest one could get to eternal rest, Quinen had told her once. But now that she dreamt, she wondered the implications, and what the dream meant.

She realized that tears streamed down her face.


She wanted to leave.

The little pixie lights still bumped each other. She shifted; a blanket slipped off of her and piled onto the floor. She rose to her feet, but fell back to the chair, dizzy from the sudden movement.

She breathed and then moved again, forward, to the steel railings. She peered down and saw the white haired Dean of the Collegium, leaning over his desk, deep in thought, wearing more regal clothes now. Clothes that seemed to fit his stature of being the Dean.

This white haired man tensed, and then turned to look up at the fey-girl. Th wrinkles on his face seemed more pronounced, his eyebags heavy and bulbous underneath his eyes, which glowed with some sort of fading white. He blinked, and said, “Come down, dear.”

Chrysanthemum, tired and all, happily obliged.

She came down the stairs, cold on her feet. Then something toiled, and turmoiled and trembled within her very being. A rumbling that she couldn’t exactly feel with her physical senses, rather, some sort of churning within the recesses and ravines of her mind.

Chrys stopped on the last step. Her glowing pink hair swayed like stray silk caught in the zephyr. When she turned to the Dean, the Dean’s face had been drained of color, and his mouth was slightly open.

“I felt it.”

Chrysanthemum tilted her head to one side, like a cat.


* * *


Kasu walked into the Lo-Fi Cafe. Ambient noise played in speakers unseen, but filled in the silences between conversations, an unwelcome third party to discourse. The bell rang as she walked through the glass door, and the strong coffee aroma slammed against her senses before mixing naturally with the scent of rain outside.

The lights were a yellow hue, bright enough for people to see but tinted for aesthetic purposes. A boy smiled at a customer ordering an eldrics cup. His short hair fixed into a fauxhawk, and his posture bad and crooked. As the woman moved to the right, he turned to the Dataturge.

“Ah, Kasu,” he said. He wore a black and red apron, instead of the usual yellow and brown.

Kasu walked up to him. “Did you miss me, Igdo?”

He smiled that crescent moon smile, which matched his dark complexion perfectly. “Maybe a little bit.” His Shennin was tinged with the accent of Zirrinae. “Just a little bit. How long are you going to be away?”

Kasu sighed, but eyed the choices of coffee written with chalk on the blackboard behind Igdo. “Maybe a day. Then I’ll come back. I just wanted to…”

Igdo wiped his hands on his apron, and then beckoned her to the Barista’s Quarters, which was really just a small place where they shove their bags into. Kasu followed, and they settled within the small private cubicle in this overly public place. She watched as Igdo touched her face. She didn’t pull away. “Kasu. Yiha, don’t stretch yourself. Okay?”

Kasu nodded which gradually grew into a slow shake of head. “I know, Igdo. I just… There was someone who needed help. I can’t just turn away from that.”

Igdo pressed his lips together. “I know, I know,” he nodded, and he tore away his hands from Kasu’s face. “Just remember that, if you do not help yourself, how can you help others? This is not bad, what you are doing. But too much of it is bad. Just like everything else in the Surface World.”

Kasu inhaled, and nodded. “I know. I get it. I’ll be back first thing in the morning.”

“That’s my girl.” Igbo cupped Kasu’s face again and brought it closer to his. He laid his lips on her forehead, and then let go. “You damn well should. I cannot keep paying you for doing nothing.”

Kasu nodded, grinning. “I know, I know. Can I have a house blend, before I go?”

Igdo winked, smiled that dimpled smile, and turned around back into the counter.

The Dataturge turned and made her way out of the Barista’s Quarters. She found a lone seat against the glass wall of the coffee shop. She sat, leaning against the invisible yet material wall between the cozy warmth and coffee aroma of the cafe and the wet and cold rain of the outside. She could half-see her reflection, and found that her hair wasn’t as bad as she thought. Past that, the streetlights cast an ember hue upon the rainfall puddling on the sidewalk, reflecting against the bitumen sheen of the road. Autochariots passed. Jacketed and umbrella using people walked by. Some of them wore plain clothes, others wore heavy jackets and asymmetrical hoods. Their datanodes cast a turquoise hue upon the drizzle.

Igdo placed a cup of coffee in the round wooden table in front of her. The thudding and then clanking of the coffee nudged her away from the outside. “Here you go,” he said. “Enjoy it.”

Kasu grinned at him as he turned and strode away, back to the counter, just as the bell rang again. Grateful, she removed the top covering; she preferred seeing the coffee on the first sip or when she wasn’t on the move. The dark caramel brown color of the blend only accentuated the warm brown aroma. She leaned in to take a sip, when she saw the coffee quiver. Just by the tiniest bit.

She pulled the cup away from her lips.

Kasu looked past the glass window again, and she saw the rain intensify. The bright nightstar and her twin the moon could not be seen at all as heavy nimbuses huddled and conquered the night sky.

Kasu squinted as she realized the rain, looking like it was being poured out of the pitcher of Adon itself, was actually moving upwards. She saw people — humans, mostly — running to and fro past the coffee shop as the sidewalk suddenly shifted and turned into mud, or burst up into a concrete pillar or spike of earth. She saw the glass she sat behind suddenly begin to churn, as if it were water, and she dove away from it just in time before the glass suddenly warped and exploded, although it did not shatter.

“What in Adon’s Balls–?!”

There were screams from outside, and the lights flashed red, blue, green, yellow…


* * *


Kotoro leapt out of the Brown Cab, throwing down thirty full eagle coins onto the paying well of the Cab and never bothering to turn around. He dashed into the front doors of the HQ, ignoring the massive crater in the middle. He made his way to the front desk and asked, “I heard the Commissioner was here. Where’s the Commissioner?”

“7th floor, Detective,” said the woman behind the Desk. “Medica.”

He nodded in thanks and ran up the Lift.


* * *


The Top Command Center was still being repaired, but the more dedicated members — most notably Captain Urie, Sersha, and Gharth, all continued their works on the floor below it, which still had equipment.

Sersha nursed her wounds. Gharth slept soundly, without a noise, standing completely straight up and with his wings wrapped him like a cloak. Urie straightened at a high-pitched sound. His eyes had dark bags underneath them, and his mouth was half open. In his hand was a large cup of coffee. He pointed at a yellow-haired boy manning one of the desknodes. “Report, officer!”

“Sir, there are some loud Transplanar Energies coruscating somewhere sir.”

“Pinpoint the location.”



* * *


Chrysanthemum felt it, all the way to her bones. “I feel something familiar is coming.”

The Dean shook his head. He got up on his feet and sighed. “And I had hoped…” his voice was slow, strained. “It would not have come to this. But it seems that Zinnia had wished something else. It seems I’ve been played a fool. It seems I was the first Card in the Deck of Vivid Dreams”

“What?” Chrysanthemum asked.

“The Mammiwla, as they call it in Old Kerahmetian. The Dean’s face contorted. His mouth became a grave line, his eyes fell, his chin pointed to his chest. “That damned Siddivata bitch never wanted you. If she really did resort to that, then, I will make her face Magick.”


* * *


There was a great trembling in Quinen’s Soul.

This time, he knew it wasn’t Dissonance. He had been awake all this time, staring at the ceiling and thinking of nothing. A new thing for him, blankness. It was bliss. It was the closest thing to Heaven. The scuffling feet, the swaying curtains, the beeping of the Vita sensors — these ambient sounds induced blankness. These offhand, tertiary sounds induced bliss.

Then there was a great churning within him. The fibers and strings of his Soul quivered and tanged.

He swung his feet off the bed. He could move them now, relatively easily. He still had his clothes on, much to his relief. With every step he took, his Soul thundered. He remembered the words of his mentor, about the Sympathetic Link between Fields — especially if it were a Field not of the Nine Fundamental Fields.

As above, so below.

Avalon thundered. Each one louder than the last.

Quinen gripped his head, and winced. He walked out of his little curtained off portion of the Medica, and found a glass window off to the side. Walking up to it, he saw rain falling upwards — rising — and lights turning into red and blue and green and yellow before turning into a glowing black, and then back to hues that even his Mundic eyes couldn’t properly process, blasting him and overloading his perceptions.



Thunderstorms swirled about the highest point of Throne City, as if a tornado of nimbuses touched down on the tip of the Spire.

Quinen hoped for the best, but realized only the worst.

Could it be?

He turned around, but the thundering in his Soul only confirmed it.

The thundering was like the beat of hooves upon the fiber of reality.

The thundering of hooves.

The thunder of the Wild Hunt.



Insomnia 14

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.”


“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.”


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!”

“Thank you.”

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.

Insomnia 13

The doors to the Dean Hakumatheia’s room burst open. A young girl — the one that was sat behind the counter — looked at him with wide eyes. “Sir.”

The Dean raised an eyebrow, and listened to what she said. When he had heard it, he nodded. “Thank you Diav. I’ll handle it. Please, close the door on your way out.”

As the doors shut, the Dean was already on his feet. He had changed to a simple white shirt and gray jogging pants, but his eyes caught the white snow that drifted from the clouds. He turned, walked toward the wooden wardrobe, and opened it, revealing millions upon millions of articles of clothing swirling about a gray ether like a fashionable maelstrom. The Dean thought, and then raised his hand. He walked inside.

The wardrobe closed.

A moment flew into another moment.

The wardrobe opened.

The Dean walked out, complete getup in tow — a long, scintillating robe that reached his ankles adorned by a heavy white mantle hanging off of his right shoulder, with a burning sign of the Vedina inscribed onto the side. Underneath he had changed into leather boots, trousers, and a dress shirt. He walked toward the large window looking out to the Spires. As he did, the cabinets on the second floor burst open, and three bottles of translucent pills flew out of them and into his hands. With a flourish, that vanished invisible into the folds of his robe.

Out from underneath his desk, a slugblaster — having a longer barrel than the usual slugpiece — shot out and into his hands. He pumped it, and it made a noise as the runes within it heated up for action. He engaged the lever, and the stock folded down, revealing the two round holes where the slugs would go into. He jerked the slugs out, and they fell onto the carpeted floor with a soft thud.

The Dean Hakumatheia made a sign, and the right barrel flared purple, and the right flared green. With that done, he let the slugblaster hang in midair, before dissipating into golden motes, and then rematerializing on his back, held suspended by invisible strings by virtue of a Timespace Working.

He spoke a word, and he was gone.


* * *


In the second between the ear-shattering crack, and the ensuing blinding white flare from within the Binding Circle, Quinen’s thoughts rubber banded back to his time with Infinite Sights.


The alfr stood in front of him once again, in the carpeted room. Quinen sat on the chair, which they had moved so that it was set right in front of the table, and the alfr stood up on his wooden desk. Most of the trinkets and Charms that would be on his desk were hovering in the air.

“Now, young Novice,” he said, completely without any inflection to his voice, but his teimach shone with a cheery yellow. “Let us get to the heart of the matter. Us Savants and Magickers have long studied the essence and the nature of Magick. And while we still don’t exactly know what Magick is — whether it be our will alone, our sympathies to a realm, or an innate ability — we do know what everyone else is made of.”

Quinen nodded, his hand a fist and his cheek resting on it. “Everything is made of Diwa.”

“Truly,” he said. “Now Diwa has many different states. There’s such a thing as Ambient Diwa, and Fulminating Diwa, and Solid Diwa. The third you — and a lot of the other citizens of Throne — know full well of.”

Quinen nodded again. “It’s Tass.”

“Yes, indeed. But what about Ambient Diwa? And Fulminating Diwa?” Infinite Sights snapped his finger — his teimach burned with a jubilant bright yellow. “Ambient Diwa is easy. It is the very iota that persists in all of us. If you strip everyone down to the core, you will find that everyone is made of Diwa. Some people have the ability to use the Diwa in their Soul to make them stronger, such as our brothers the Avijaruns off to the Santadan Ranges to the West. The Creational Particle.

“And Fulminating Diwa,” continued Infinite Sights. “Is Diwa in action. Diwa that changes the world. While everything is made of Diwa — even the very air we breath, when we spur Diwa into action, we call it by another name. We call it Magick. Every Magicker’s Diwa is fulminating. Burning with the ability to change, to create. If one so chooses, one could even use Fulminating Diwa to burn away at the Ambient Diwa in others. Burning away another person’s Ambience dissipates their essence back into Diwa. Effectively erasing them for good.”

“So erasure doesn’t equate to annihilation?” Quinen leaned forward.

Infinite Sights stopped abruptly,  as if he were an automaton with a preprogrammed response to that. He looked down on Quinen, completely poker-face, but his teimach was a gray tinged with purple.

“No.” He didn’t blink. Infinite Sights never blinked. “There is a fourth state of Diwa, but we only call it a Fourth State because, well, it technically is nothing. We will not talk about that.”

“When, then?”

“Never.” And Infinite Sights’ teimach burned a molten hot crimson.


Quinen snapped back to his senses when a burst of wind hurled him toward one of the barriers that the Naphli had erected around the perimeter. There weren’t any civilians too near the place, as they had set a second barrier around it far down the road.

Quinen groaned as he stared up. The blazing angel that the Commissioner had become had stood her ground, never moving, as the Diwal Orb’s effects took place. The Suit of Armor within screamed in haunting, almost melodious agony. It fell to one knee as clouds of pure white burst from within it, eating away at its very pattern, its very essence.

As the radiating bursts met with the Binding Circle’s barrier, it the light flickered, and then, small holes began radiating out of points of impact, like a film tape being burnt. The Flaming Angel Commissioner turned to Quinen and shouted in two different voices: one was her usual voice, albeit sounding like it was being filtered through glass, and the second a flaming, crackling voice that resembled a crackling bonfire more than anything else. “YOUR CIRCLE DOES NOT HOLD.”

Quinen stumbled to his knees and shook his head at the Angel. “It will. It counteracts it. The Diwa Bomb doesn’t unravel the Pattern of my Workings. It does damage it though, since I can’t draw for shit.”

Despite holes being burned into the light, none of the clouds seeped past the Binding Circle’s radius. As the burning white clouds slammed and burnt away parts of the Binding Circle, they billowed backwards, pushed back by an invisible force.

The pure white clouds of pure creational fulmination bounced about the Binding Circle, the clouds reaching high up into the sky but never past the radius of the Circle.

Soon, the clouds dissipated. Quite abruptly as well, as the white melted into invisible weaves of iotal Diwa. As the clouds vanished, it brought along with it the Avalonian Essence of the Transplanar Entity, melting the Entities’ essence.

To where? Into what? Quinen didn’t really give a damn at this point.

And soon, the Binding Circle shattered.

Quinen sighed, and he gave up on standing up, deciding instead to sit down. His feet still spasmed, as if electricity had run through them, and his fingers wouldn’t respond to every impulse. He winced. Dissonance.

The Warlock watched as flaming angel burst one more time, and then shot up to the sky — leaving the Commissioner behind — through a hole in the clouds that Quinen hadn’t seen collect. The Commissioner herself fell to her knees, and the Naphlimen ran to her aid, some of them deliberately walking around the Warlock.

He rolled his eyes. He was just happy to be alive. He wanted to throw his head back and relax, but found that he couldn’t. One because Dissonance made every movement ache. Another because the implications of what just happened were huge.

Did Zinnia send that? Was the thing looking for something, or did it only want to kill him? Did it run over to the Naphli HQ because of him? Or was it because of something else?

Quinen sighed. Another painful spasm.

He watched the strangely serene scene of the Binding Circle. The engravings were still there, albeit without the flaring Diwa channeled into them. The rune he had etched was erased, as if some invisible god reached down and wiped it off of the bitumen. The Suit of Armor was nowhere to be found.

Then something shimmered in the midst of the engravings.

Quinen blinked.

When he opened his eyes, the Dean Hakumatheia stood in front of them all, with an Adon-damned slugblaster in one hand.


“What is the meaning of this?” He spoke it low and soft, but his voice echoed throughout all their souls.

Quinen sighed. “This hack.” And he fell on his back.


* * *


The Dean reappeared in the midst of serene chaos. Underneath him, he found that he stood upon a Binding Circle engraving.

He watched as a tall man with his shirt half-ripped — showing an exceptionally toned body — fell on his back and laid still. The Dean squinted his eyes.

“Are you the Dean?” The woman’s voice pulled Hakumatheia’s attention to her. A platinum blonde woman. Tall, and her hair looked like she had turned into a conflagration.

The Dean turned to her, still standing tall, and nodded. “Indeed, Commissioner Haliyn.”

The Commissioner nodded. “We’ve much to discuss. I must rest.”

The Dean furrowed his eyebrows. “Indeed… I’ve heard that there was a Transplanar Entity?”

The Commissioner opened her mouth to say something more, but her body failed her, and she fell onto the pavement in front of the Dean.


* * *


Maeve blinked as News Frequency suddenly ripped through her holographic display to show her the devastation in the Spires. Eccentrically-dressed humans — wearing dark purple gowns that only covered half of their bodies, while the other half turned them invisible, tall and bright hats that radiated some sort of green liquid that dissipated as it touched any material other than air, some sort of cape that never moved — all gathered around the block of the Naphli HQ. The newsdrones buzzed closer to the scene, and Maeve saw that the Dean was there, with the Naphli Commissioner of Throne as well as Quinen, now laying on his back, seemingly paralyzed.

She sent a Text message.


* * *


Quinen couldn’t move as they rushed him into the Naphli HQ. Men and women pushed him in a floating bed that led them to the Medical Area. As he was pushed into the main doors of the Naphli HQ, Quinen saw the Savants and Repair Automata jumping out of the corvids and onto the smoldering top Command Center.


Eventually, Quinen woke up to a white ceiling. He’d slept so soundly that he didn’t even know he’d fallen into slumber. Beside him, past a heavy curtain, he could hear the deep, somber voice of the Dean Hakumathiea speaking with the hoarse voice of the Commissioner.

Quinen grimaced, trying to turn. The effects of Dissonance slipped away, but everything still ached to the bone. A voice that seemed to speak through a filter said, “Do not move, sir. We seek to quicken your healing.”

Quinen sighed, trying to sit up, and then failing, onto his back. “Why don’t you give me a Loom Elixir or ask a Medicker to heal me up, then?”

The voice didn’t speak. It was not intelligent.

Quinen continued to look up. He could only hear the muffled speaking of the Dean to his right, and then the low beeps of the Health Tracker to his left — a glass orb that showed a holographic image of a green liquid. The fuller it was, the “healthier” one’s state is.

The beeping managed to lull him into serenity, and the mumbling became a nice white noise to fade out to. Quinen blinked and thought back to everything that had happened. He still felt like he couldn’t quite grasp what was happening, although he knew this was going to happen some time or another. He had just hoped that he could’ve managed to reacquire his Magickal Tools before it happened.

He shrugged. Pain lanced through him.

Chrysanthemum lingered in his mind. He was doing so much for her. So much that the rest of the world seemed to become just a shadow of the light that she radiated. He lingered in these thoughts, as the Dean and the Commissioner spoke.


* * *


“The man to the Room beside me has called himself the Warlock.”

Hakumatheia furrowed his eyebrows, and cocked his head backwards the slightest inch. “No. That’s not the Warlock.”

“That is what he said.”

The Dean turned around, and with a thought, summoned his Sight. Five rotating mandalas of power shimmered into reality, and the Commissioner tensed. The Dean turned his gaze to the room behind him, and saw past the pallor of mundic reality to set his eyes upon the wayward, fulminating Soul of the Warlock.

He closed his eyes, the Sight disappeared into the ether.

The Death of the Warlock suddenly sprung forth into Dean’s mind as he swept his gaze back to the Commissioner. There hadn’t been any news of his Soul, after all, once the Huntsmen had gotten back from Avalon.

The Dean pinched the bridge of his nose. He thought for sure that physical death would’ve sent his Soul into the Mort.

“Okay. Alright whatever. I’ll deal with that later. So you’re saying that thing that you bombed was a Transplanar Entity?”

The Commissioner nodded. “It called itself Garomeos. It spoke in a weird, snarling tongue.”

“That’s how Avalonians speak. Especially if they’ve consumed a lot of gossamer.”

“By Adon’s Flame, Dean,” the Commissioner said, her face contorted into a sad mix of fear and anger. “How could’ve an Avalonian entered here?”

“I do not know,” replied Hakumatheia. “And you speak of another Transplanar Entity?”

“One that claims to be of Avalon — A Wild Hunt Soldier.”

The Dean sighed, nodding. “Then this does put a fatal twist upon things.” There was an almost sad shadow of a smile as he nodded and said his farewells to the Commissioner, and then turned and walked out of the room. He thought of walking straight into the Warlock’s room, but decided against it.

With a thought, a pop of power, and a contortion of Will, he disappeared.


* * *


Kotoro swallowed a dumpling as his palmnode buzzed. The Collegium cafeteria was filled with people, ratcheting cacophonous noise all about the place. In front of him was Ofenia, tapping at something in her palmnode before leaning back down to scoop some dumplings into her mouth.

“Excuse me,” said Kotoro, raising a finger. Ofenia nodded.

Kotoro walked out of the cafeteria and off to one of the pillars that were placed alongside the wall overlooking the city. He leaned against one of them and opened his palmnode; he was greeted by the News Frequency instead, showing a strange man, the Commissioner, and a man with blazing white hair and beard, coupled with eyes that trailed off with stardust, standing in front of both of them.

Kotoro blinked at the scene, and the particular newsdrone that his visual feed was on flew up, and he saw the Naphli Headquarter Spire looking like it had been struck by lightning.


* * *


Zinnia watched as the congregation of the Cold Silver Eclipse stood in front of her. “Do you hear? The cries of the devoured gossamer of your leader — Garomeos?”

Hoots. Cries. Chants. Bellows. All inhuman.

“Do you hear? This is the first shattering of the Accords! If we do not act now, then all our kind will be eaten by the calcifying mundanity of the Mundic Ones! Cold Silver Eclipse — call upon your brethren, and let us Hunt…”

And the resounding cry echoed and vibrated the very diwal strings that made up the gossamer silk of their plane.

“…the Mund!”

Insomnia 12


The Commissioner narrowed her eyes. She turned to the Quinen, and nodded her head.

The Warlock sighed. He stepped forward, past most of the Command Crew, as the Commissioner rallied them and led them into the Lift. “Get to safety!” she shouted to them.

The Warlock clenched his fists. He should be cleared of Dissonance now, and he could probably throw a few spells across without incurring it. He grit his teeth, and bared the tattoos on his arms. It was well worth noting that the Instruments he had were not exactly needed in casting Workings, but having it certainly helps ease the Casting and helps lower the chances of Dissonance incurring.

The suit of Armor walked a few steps forward. The flurrying snow had frozen the smoke and fire wholesale so that now they looked like sculptures of ice. Its red eyes flared. “…YOUARETHEWARLOCK…”

Quinen blinked.  “How do you know?”


“Of course you have.” He rolled his eyes at that.

The Commissioner walked up beside Quinen, a slugpiece levelled at the suit of Armor. Her stance was straight and proper, yet relaxed and ready to dodge out of the way. Unlike more archaic missile weapons like crossbows, the magitechnical mechanisms of the slugpiece didn’t produce powerful recoil, so moving about while firing was much easier.

“Warlock,” she said, her voice a rising to a shout so that she could be heard above the loud winds. “What did that thing say?”

“I think that’s another Transplanar entity,” Quinen said, his voice a shout now as well.


“It’s mocking us!” shouted Quinen again. Something fluttered in his stomach, and from the way it talked he knew that he didn’t need a Sense Avalon Working to work out where it came from.

The Commissioner gazed quickly at the room, watching the half wind-blown, half frozen state of the HQ. She furrowed her eyebrows. “Backup should be coming soon.”

“So what, we just have to keep it occupied?”

“Preferably,” said the Commissioner, nodding. “Or, we can bind it. Is that not a common Magickal trick? A Binding Circle?”

Quinen shrugged. “It is. But a Binding Circle here?”

“Then what is the optimal location?”

The Armor charged at them. Quinen reached out to the space behind the armor, and warped Timespace. The Commissioner dove off to one side, caught a table, and vaulted over it. Quinen reappeared on the other end, his stomach churning. The walking suit of Armor crashed against nothing, and it slowed to a grinding halt.

The Commissioner hit the ground, rolled, and then fired. Quinen squinted his eyes that the sword on the Armor’s back — way too large to be pragmatic, but getting hit by that would most probably hurt a lot. The Warlock quickly glanced behind him to the Commissioner, opened his mouth, and then turned back. The Commissioner glanced at him at that moment, and Quinen pointed outside.

How are we gonna get it outside? He thought to himself. To his surprise, though, the Commissioner nodded once, her eyes completely dead serious.

The Armor turned around and lunged at the Commissioner. The woman tsked, flipped backwards, and as she hit the ground she shouted, “I pray to thee, Adon!” The Armor didn’t stop its lunge, and managed to backhand the Commissioner, sending her hurtling through the air and against one of the glass walls, shattering it, and through the wall, against the steel railings outside.

Quinen winced, and then turned to the suit of Armor. It looked strangely at the Commissioner, and the turned to the Warlock. It still didn’t pull out that sword, but it walked along, expecting Quinen to just up and fly to its grasp.

Quinen shook his head. “Manipulate Energy!” He reached out and grasped a hammer of force, slammed it against the Armor. It flew to the side suddenly and slammed onto the wall. The Warlock turned to his left and ran to the Commissioner.

She was on the ground, on one knee, with a hand gripping the steel railing which had bent outwardly. She rose to her feet as Quinen reached her, and shook her head. “I’m alright. Get ready to form the Binding Circle.

Quinen nodded, but the doubt still nagged in his mind that a normal Binding Circle wouldn’t work. Besides, Binding Circles took up a lot of time to make, if you wanted one that was half-competent…

“Okay, so the Binding Circle that I’d be able to make is not going to hold it for long,” said Quinen.

The Commissioner straightened. She waved a hand at the Warlock. “A few minutes of holding should be enough. The Backup I requested has firepower.”

Quinen grit his teeth, and looked to the Armor that was removing itself from the wall. “Alright. I’ll trust you on that.”

The Commissioner nodded. “Go.”

“Wait, Commissioner,” he grabbed Haliyn’s arm. “I’ll implant this spell onto you so that the kinetic force would be buffeted.”

The Commissioner pulled her arm free from the Warlock. “I need not your Magicks,” she said. She took a step, and then paused. “But your assistance would be helpful.”

Quinen imparted a Manipulate Energy about her to shift the kinetic force around her automatically for the next few hours. Hopefully that was all that they needed.

Quinen inhaled as the Commissioner ran inside, pulling out a sword. Cold bit his feet, and he winced.

Ignoring the first few vestiges of Dissonance, he turned to the steel railings, shrugged, and vaulted over it.


Quinen fell.

That was always a strange feeling. Down the almost hundred storeys of the Naphli HQ, straight down, down, down. Plummeting down from the tip of the Top of the World and straight onto the bitumen floor below. Splat. That’s what fallen angels would’ve probably thought.

There was that weird sinking feeling, the feeling of yourself being pulled down to the ground. Quinen flailed through the air, and the anticipation of hitting the ground almost killed him.

How long, he wondered, would it take him to hit the ground?

Normally, he meant. Not Magickally.

Quinen turned around, stretched out both his arms as he fell down half of the building and screamed, “Manipulate Timespace!”

The space in front of him warped, like a mirror being melted into gray goo, and then suddenly straightened, as if the gray goo bounced back into mirror. As if the mirror was some malleable thing.

When you teleport, especially with just a Timespace spell, momentum is usually lost. So despite Quinen already having fallen half the height of the hundred-floor spire, he hit the ground beneath it with his feet, perfectly safe and unharmed.

He turned around, and saw a bunch of people crowding about, with a few other Naphlimen keeping them at bay. Quinen looked up and saw a few of the xi-ri aerial units converging in on the top floor, as well as other corvids converging in on the position.

He turned around him, and saw that there was enough space to make a big enough Binding Circle. He called for the others to free him some space, and he answered that it was the Commissioner’s orders to do it when he was asked why or met resistance.

He licked his lips, stretching out the hand tattooed in the Matter symbols, and said, “Manipulate.”

He touched the bitumen and began tracing. As he did, he Manipulated the Matter so that the floor hollowed out and the residue tossed to the side. He began his first stroke, which was horribly crooked. Without stopping, he idly hoped that the Commissioner was doing better than he was.


* * *


The Commissioner hurtled backwards and crashed against the sculpture of ice that the fire and smoke had become. Blood dribbled from her lip.

“…SHOULDYOUWISHTODIETHENIWILLBEYOURREAPER…” the voice echoed like stones being crushed. The Armor still hadn’t pulled out its sword.

The Commissioner winced. She was suddenly grateful at the kinetic buffeting shield the Warlock had put up around her. She raised her sword and watched as the Armor lumbered towards her.

As the Armor came out of the room and out into the landing pad, one of the Corvids cricling the building opened fire. Little slugs  buffeted the walking suit of armor, but it didn’t even budge. It only kept walking, pain being only a distant memory to it.

One of their xi-ri units flew down, and the huge six-winged creature raked at the Armor with its claws. Two claws connected, scratching against tough steel, but the Armor caught one of its wing-appendages, broke it in half, and then threw the beast out of their field.


The Commissioner scowled. More slugs erupted from the Corvid, only to bounce harmlessly from the Armor.

She knelt down on one knee, and pressed one hand against her chest. “Adon, oh Adon, heed my call. Answer the prayer of thine closest servant…”

The Armor burst forward, and would’ve caught the Commissioner if it weren’t for two of the Naphli’s liquidsteel armor units jumping in and slicing, shooting, and distracting the Armor. The Armor turned to one of them, moved in a burst of speed, turning into a flurry of destruction, and punched a hole deep through the chest of one of them.

The other liquidsteel unit ran up to the Commissioner. “Commissioner. We have to escape.”


The liquidsteel unit tried to convince her, to persuade her from facing certain death, when a voice echoed through his comms. He nodded, turned around, and jumped off of the landing pad, only to be caught by one of the xi-ri.

…Adon, oh Adon, I quoth thee and beseech thee. Bequeath unto me the visage and the power of one of thine servants. I call upon the Heavenly Angel of War and Fire! Rashni! Let the Fires of Adon shine through me!”

An orange, blue, white, and red flame exploded from behind the Commissioner, completely melting away the ice on the floor and the sculpture behind her. Vigor coursed through the Commissioner, as the torrents of flame formed wings. The Commissioner rose to her feet, and the flames expanded, soon billowing out into a flaming conflagration shaped into the visage of something humanoid wearing armor, with wings spread out behind it like powerful, perpetually exploding bombs.

She raised her Naphli sword, and the flaming entity — Rashni — raised its hand. The Armor paused, looked at the flaming silhouette, and reached for its sword.


* * *


Quinen saw the sudden burst of light and the following flames. The Commissioner had said so herself that she wasn’t a Magicker like him, but that she could speak to Souls and call upon the Powers of Adon himself. Quinen thought it all bollocks, but seeing the flaming thing up there… well there was some sort of Magickal Resonance from it. But he couldn’t exactly pinpoint what.

He continued on forging the Binding Circle. The crudely drawn circle was about to close, and a little trail of bituminous residue lay beside the small engraving he had made on the concrete. Once it was done, he began drawing the geometries within that would speak Bindings — a square, with a star within, and with the Ascendant Rune for the word “Bound”.

Drawing it from memory sucked.


* * *


“Fool!” shouted the Commissioner, and the Armor pulled out its sword. When it waved it around in a quick flourish, ice trailed after it, as if it was freezing the air in its path. It twirled it about and then pointed the tip of the frostic blade at the flaming angel.

“The Flames of Adon burn you!” and she lunged forward, her Naphli blade flashing forward, conflagrance blazing after it. The Armored thing stepped forward, and cut with its blade.

In a second, the freezing blade met with the flaming sword, and the flame slowly frosted over. In mid-Conflagration, the flames froze, becoming a sculpture of fire. Then, lightning arced through Rashni, and the flames that were not yet frozen began blazing forward, burning through the ice and crashing against the steel.

“…IAMGAROMEOSANDYOUWILLBEKNELTMYNYMPHICFROSTCONSUMEYOU…” Garomeos stepped forward, cloak billowing behind him, and he moved three times. It was blazingly fast — in the time it took for a flame to roar, three moving slashes materialized and struck at Rashni. The flames met the slashes, and the Commissioner didn’t budge.

Right after the slashes were eaten up by the flames, though, a second — as if an afterimage — blade of ice coagulated and came down once again. The ice was overwhelming, freezing the tips of the flames again, freezing heat itself in an impossible perversion of thermodynamics.

Then Garomeos finished it off with one single thrust of his blade. Rashni moved, and she tore apart into three different flaming balls that moved behind Garomeos and formed together again, blazing into the form of the Commissioner. She swung her Naphli blade, and Rashni’s flame followed quickly, whipping at the back of the Transplanar entity.

The blow was so powerful that Garomeos hurtled forward, ice slowly melting off of it, and the entity broke through the steel railings, stumbling down as the dwarfen forces of the Mund pulled it to the ground.

Haliyn, possessed by Rashni, burst forward, flaming wings carrying them to the edge and then down the glass walls. The searing hot flames vexed and warped the glass walls of the Naphli Spire.

Garomeos had twisted in mid air, struck its sword into the side of the building and grinded to a halt. Ice erupted behind the blade, resembling a cloud of dust that had been frozen instantly.

Rashni screamed as she sent three balls of flame with every swing of her blade. Garomeos moved, and froze the three balls in mid-flight, causing them to melt away as it neared Garomeos.

Before the Transplanar entity could react, Rashni slammed against it, melting through some of its steel and then sending it hurtling through the cloud of ice it had made.

Rashni didn’t let up. Her flaming wings acted as propellers, exploding backwards and sending her straight down, through the cloud of white caused by the shattering of the ice sculpture. She saw Garomeos twisting through the air, and she slashed with her blade — one, two, three, four. Four flaming slashes burnt into the Armor. The fifth slash was met by a blade, and then a quick counter-slash that sent Rashni down past Garomeos.

Garomeos was above now, and it sent gales of ice surging through its boots. Three slashes of its blade, each one met with a parry from Rashni, before Rashni kicked with her boot and sent Garomeos hurtling back. Garomeos twisted and threw the blade of everfrost toward the flaming angel.

Rashni parried Garomeos away, but it turned and, without being held, thrust. Rashni twisted, avoiding the thrust, but Garomeos sent its sword down on her from behind, but her blade was quick enough to block it. She twisted around it, and sent it flying back to Garomeos just as Garomeos caught up to her, caught the blade, and slashed once again.

Rashni blocked the first one, but a frozen afterimage came and slammed against her shoulder. Blood seeped, flames burst. They were nearing the ground.

Rashni twisted, bringing her foot with her as she did. She managed to move around Garomeos as Garomeos tried to parry away a kick that wasn’t coming, and she sent her kick as a whipping flame towards the Transplanar Entity. It grunted, and she burst forward with her two flaming wings.

She twirled as she delivered five slashes in quick rhythm, turned, and sent a final sixth slash blazing with blue flame, that was blocked by Garomeos, right as it crashed onto the ground.

Rashni redirected her course, flaming wings exploding behind her, as she curved upwards and into the sky.


* * *


“Shit.” Quinen had moved out of the way. He watched the Dancing Angel fight the Frozen Alien as they barrelled down the side of the building. He managed to finish the crudely made Binding Geometries and the Rune just as Rashni managed to twirl behind Garomeos.

Quinen dove out of the way as Garomeos crashed onto the ground, sending thousands of bitumen pieces flying and a massive cloud of dust around it. As Quinen rolled he got up on his feet, turned, clapped his hands together and screamed, “Bind!”

There was a powerful, overt Magickal burst as the lines flared with white Diwal power. A veil of light erupted out of the engravings, creating a flaring circle around the Transplanar Entity.

Rashni fell beside Quinen, and Quinen had to move a few feet away because of the searing heat. “HOW LONG?”

“A minute, tops!”

As the smoke cleared within, Garomeos rose to its feet. For a second it looked about it paused, wondering probably at what this curtain of light around it meant.

Rashni turned up to the Corvids that surrounded them, and she shouted — with a voice Quinen was sure reached up to the heavens: “NOW!”

There was a muted silence as the Corvid swept in low and a human threw out a small ball that burned white. Quinen blinked, and then realized what it was just as it struck Garomeos’ steel.

He turned around, reached out for a Timespace Working to get him out of there, but the only answer was Dissonance freezing his toes and fingers and causing painful spasms across his entire being.

He fell onto the ground.

There was an ear-splitting crack.

Somebody had shouted, “Diwal Orb!”


Insomnia 11

The Containment Room was a vast white room with several glass tubes that reached up to the ceiling. Within these glass tubes were a wide variety of creatures. Some sort of clockwork human that sat hugging its knees, a black ooze that slammed itself repeatedly against the wall, soliciting a bright blue sigil from the points of impact, as well as some sort of lakerto — his skull cracked wide open by a black material that looked like solidified black ink blossoming upward.

Urie led the Commissioner past these and to a sectioned off room within Containment. This room was split into two halves — one half was dark and filled with different kinds of equipment and monitors, desknodes and magickal scripts. The other half was a simple white room, large enough to house the large, arachnid… thing.

Urie grimaced at the sight. It was a weird one, that was for sure. It definitely would live up to the title of Transplanar entity.

The Captain and the Commissioner walked into the monitoring room, where the Haliyn was greeted by salutes and bows. The Commissioner walked over to the one sitting right in front of a desknode console. She peered through the one-way glass.

The Commissioner leaned down, placed a finger on the sigil that activated the resonator, and said, “What are you?” Her voice was deep, husky.

The arachnid looked up, and then to its right, and then, straight at the commissioner. The six heads that it had all turned directly to her, and one of it grinned.

Commissioner Haliyn furrowed her eyebrows, and her mouth twisted up a bit. It was the slightest grimace.

“…HUNTER…” When it spoke, it’s voice echoed in and then out, as if it was constantly talking, and never stopping.

The Commissioner leaned down again and activated the Sigil to the resonator. “Where are you from?”

Urie stood near to the Commissioner, but behind her still.

The Hunter kept grinning at the Commissioner. It had been tied up quite neatly, with the same Uvikaian binds that were reinforced by magick, steel chains that glowed. But it removed one foot out of its frozen body, cracking and shattering the rime. It still couldn’t move its blade-appendage past the Uvikaian binds, but it struggled.

It didn’t answer.

The Commissioner stood up straight and folded her arms. “This thing was chasing down a Magicker?”

“Yes,” Urie said, and then said, “A-and the Magicker himself has offered himself for interrogation. He’d stated that that thing was a Wild Hunt Soldier.”

The Commissioner turned to Urie and raised both eyebrows. “Take me to him.”


* * *


Quinen leaned against the couch. He looked at his hands, and then, began poking at his own, rock-hard belly. It was supposed to be fleshy, and tummy-like, not something akin to a washboard. It freaked him out, to be honest, as he poked at it. He licked his lips and furrowed his eyebrows.

He scowled as he raised his hand, and saw the hard, veiny muscles that ran down his arm. Was this even him anymore? Did him not having the same body as before make him not Quinen?

Well, I could still do Magick… he thought, and some Mind-Savants argue that the Soul is the only identity…

But is it? Is identity one quantifiable thing, or is it a great many things that defines us, and not just the Soul?

But is the Soul the thing that would be defined?

Quinen shook his head. He decided to ponder on cooler things: could his Shell be modular? Could he upgrade his parts with magitechnics?

The doorknob twisted and the door swung open. Quinen noticed the two humans that walked in, albeit still absent-mindedly looking down his arm. One was the Captain, while the other human was a woman that held herself like she was a dignified 40 year old corporate executive, yet looked like a 25 year old theater actress.

Quinen scowled at them, but he would be a liar if he said he wasn’t somewhat taken aback by the woman’s gray eyes.

The Captain turned to Quinen and said, “Magicker, this is Commissioner Haliyn.”

Quinen furrowed his eyebrows, sighed, and stood up. He offered his most gracious bow. “Good day, Commissioner.”

The Commissioner stared at Quinen severely, and her gray eyes looked like an endless hallway that Quinen could get sucked into. He had to look at the bookshelf behind her to not get distracted or utterly entranced.

The tall woman nodded, and then turned to the Captain. “Thank you, Captain. Please, give us some privacy.”

The Captain nodded, and he shut the door behind him.

The Commissioner gestured for Quinen to sit, and Quinen bowed by the chest ever so slightly as he fell down onto the leather once again. The Commissioner drew up a chair, and then sat across him.

“Privacy?” Quinen managed a smirk. “There’s another room with a one-sided mirror over there.”

The Commissioner raised an eyebrow. “You tried a Working within this room?”

Quinen shrugged. “I know that this kind of, ah, place tells me that there’s probably some sort of anti-magickal spell in here somewhere. Be it because of the bland gray walls, comfy veneer, or the fact that it’s in the middle of the Naphli HQ.” Quinen turned to look up at the woman, and steeled his resolve to look straight into her eye. “But curiosity is a core tenet of the Theory.”

There was a silence. A moment. Quinen had to break off from the tensions growing between them because of the prolonged staring contest.

When he broke off, the blonde woman spoke. “What is your name, Magicker?”

Quinen still didn’t turn to look at the woman. He tossed the idea of telling her his true identity around his mind, but he realized that he didn’t exactly have anyone else left to protect other than Chrys.

He’s never shown his connection with Chrysanthemum officially. Chrys has never been officially registered into the Annal Populi — the Records of the People. He decided to take the chance, but a measured one. A leap of faith but with a safety net underneath. “The Warlock. Maybe you might’ve heard of me.”

The Commissioner sat back, resting on her chair. She blinked at Quinen, and both her eyebrows were raised. “I have heard of you, but most of the claims to your infamy have been only legends in the Collegium.”

“And thus you do not believe them,” Quinen said, nodding. “Smart, I guess. People do tend to blow up my acts.”

“What did you do back then, Warlock?” The Commissioner leaned forward. “What did you truly do to earn that infamous moniker, Argist Quinen?”

Quinen shrugged. “A little bit of Qitra dabbling, a little bit of Astralmancy, curiosity. You know, the usual for a Magicker who thinks he’s the hotshot.”

“And have you learned from it?”

“I’d like to think I have.” But I probably haven’t. I’m not exactly the best self-critic.

The Commissioner nodded. She pulled out a larger palmnode that didn’t exactly fit the palm. They’ve called these models padnodes, and they’re slowly becoming a more famous occurrence in Modern Throne.

The blonde haired woman guided different visual feeds with her finger, tapping and closing, sliding and stopping, before she clicked on something and said, “How old are you?”

Quinen lifted a hand and wiggled it, a gesticulation of in-between. “Eh, maybe somewhere between twenty seven, or twenty nine? Maybe twenty eight, I’m not sure.”

The Commissioner squinted her eyes at him. “It says here that you’re 29, yes. It also depicts a much different version of you. Much thicker, and with longer hair, and shorter. Who are you?

Quinen sighed and leaned his head backwards. “Okay. Alright.” He hadn’t counted on the fucking Commissioner of the Naphli to come and interrogate him. He was hoping he could get this over with as quickly as possible.

“You have a record of Incursions.”

Quinen shrugged. “Why do they call me Warlock?”

“And you have been an accomplice of that certain Dean that has been since stripped of his power and subjected to the act of Severance.”

Quinen tensed. He snapped his head to the side and nodded, looking back straight at the Commissioner. Her face was a perfect mask. “And was replaced by a literal monkey that has no idea what he’s doing.”

“We don’t tolerate traitors.” She flicked away a stray lock of hair that had fallen, and on her right hand Quinen could see the seven-spoked star that burned with some sort of superimposed neon.

“You don’t tolerate free-thinkers, you mean.”

The Commissioner’s mask never broke. “That is a topic for Academia.”

“Academia does nothing,” said Quinen, running a hand through his hair and stretching his legs, “if they’re not allowed to make a change.”

The Commissioner squinted her eyes. Quinen managed to grasp faint strands of satisfaction. “The religion this place runs on will not benefit the future,” he continued. “Especially when it’s built on a lie.”

The Commissioner had already been nodding halfway through Quinen’s statement.

And that was when the entire building shook.

Both Quinen and the Commissioner stopped. A half-second passed and the Commissioner was already on her feet, opening the door, and meeting with the rest outside. Quinen scrambled forward and caught the door right before it closed, and managed to slip outside.

A red sheen covered the room he was in, as if someone had set up bright red neon somewhere and turned off all the usual alchemical luxes. “Let us put this discussions aside and focus on something more important that you’ve said.”


“That the Transplanar Entity we’ve captured is actually a Wild-”

“Something broke in, Commissioner!” The Captain barged in.

The Commissioner turned and was on her feet in a lightning second. “What broke in? How?”

“It’s vaguely humanoid, Ma’am,” another voice said. Female. “And as for how…?”


* * *


Gharth, Sersha, and the rest of the Top Command Crew jumped up from their seats, weapons all in hand and ready to fire. Those with access to the better armor units activated them, and a liquid armor exploded out of a cartridge on the napes of their necks and twisted about them until they were fully clad in a protean, silver carapace.

The corvid lay destroyed, ablaze, casting a harsh orange light against the inside of the top floor. In the midst of the fire, completely unhurt and covered in white ice, was a ten foot-tall walking suit of armor. Its armet helmet completely blocked its entire face, but they could see two burning balls that acted like eyes.


Gharth readied his blade. Sersha chanted something, and her teimach flared with Magick.


Gharth glanced side wards at Sersha, and he could see the knife-ears slowly lifting off of the ground. He could feel the pull of Magick, of some sort of Sorcery not quite like Collegiate Magick but not too different either.


The Top Command Crew fired. A cacophony, a rhapsodic orchestra of slug and missiles razing the armored thing. Fires and slugs and plumes of flame and crackles of lightning and bursts of wind as they unloaded different types of bullets. A colorful cloud burst from where the thing stood.

The armor walked through it, rainbow smoke trailing behind it.

Gharth cursed. Sersha tensed. The suit of armor was fast. One stride and it was in front of one of their armored units. The man brought up an arm, and the liquid armor extended, creating a shield just as the Suit of Armor brought down a gigantic steel fist. The fist slammed against the armored unit, sending it flying backwards and against a wall. Spiderweb cracks radiated from the point of impact; liquid steel dropped onto the ground and the shield shattered.

Gharth breathed heavier. He had to work himself up. He’d pledged. Die protecting the City, the Kingdom. He didn’t earn the title of Senior Officer by being scared of some sort of walking suit of armor.

But the ten-foot tall thing straightened up from its punching posture, and turned. One flaring red eye staring at Gharth underneath a black veneer.

Gharth took a step forward, and his avian legs quivered.

Calm down.

The voice swirled about his mind, echoing within the chambers of his soul, and then calming him down with a serene, soothing mist. Gharth stopped quivering, and he stood up straight, inhaling.

Calm down.

The anzu looked about him, and he could see the rest of the tense Top Command Crew lower their shoulders, stand straighter, and eyes more alert, looking straight at the hulking piece of armor.

Gharth looked at Sersha, and Sersha stared up at him. “The Commissioner,” Sersha whispered.

They nodded at each other.

Calm down, resonated once again the voice of the Commissioner. You are Naphli. Sworn Guardians of the Kingdom. Show this intruder the might of the mortals. Remember: every fight has a rhythm.

Gharth looked about him, and the rest of the Top Command Crew nodded, looking at each other. Ornami, with her dark blue hair stood up straighter, holding up the slugpiece and reaching for a different slug cartridge. Kijaki, their belgar, clenched his beastly fists and stretched his legs. The liquidsteel armor allowed him more mobility that accompanied his fighting style. Arashu, the madman, grinned as he stood on the desk, holding an electric guitar.

The Suit of Armor lunged towards Arashu. Sanami, their combat-magicker, clapped her hands and shouted, “Manipulate Energy! Let’s go, Kifetic Shield!” The lunging suit of armor slammed against an invisible wall, and then with another shriek of effort, Arashu hurled the suit of armor back with a powerful explosion of kinetic energy. The suit of armor struck the ground, twisted, and found its footing near the opening of the Command Center. Back where it started.

“Every fight has a rhythm!” shouted Arashu, his dark hair flailing. “Let’s rock, Naphli!”

Engage, but do not die. I will be there soon.

The entire Napli team nodded.

And Arashu riffed.


The fight was a coordinated, calm strike. The first attack was from their stronger units, armored. Kijaki and Ordan — the one punched by the Armor — lunged in a provoking attack. Kijaki lunged, with a speed that could’ve matched the armor, and then feinted to the right as Ordan leapt across the room, twisted in midair, and slashed twice with his Naphli sword. Their magickally-enhanced, Naphli-standard blades didn’t cut right through the steel despite being made of starsteel, but it dented the armet helmet of the Armor.

The Armor moved just as quick. It struck once, and Ordan hurtled backwards, crashing against the roof. Kijaki feinted to the right, and then moved up, bringing a claw wrapped with the liquidsteel with him. The Armor kicked the strike away; Kijaki twisted and swung his leg, which actually connected against the steel of the Armor. The Armor moved again, like a tornado, and Kijaki slammed against one of the desknodes.

Keep it occupied until I am there.

Sersha nodded and her teimach flared. She turned to Sanami, and then to Gharth. The first riff had been set. Their swords can scratch it, and the Armor was fast. They just need someone just as fast.

Gharth sighed. There’s a reason he became a Senior Officer at his young age. He didn’t come from Shen, after all. Rather, far to the east, in the Cliff-Nests of his kind. There they practiced a particular kind of Magick.

Sanami vaulted over the table and slid beside Sersha. The Armor didn’t budge, watching as more of their armored units came in and provoked it. Some fired their slugpieces, and the bullets lodged themselves into the steel, but the Armor trudged on, implacable.

“What’s the plan?”

“The Commissioner is coming soon,” Gharth said, kneeling beside Sersha. “We will try not to get killed.”

“But sometimes,” Sersha began. Her teimach still flared, like a neverending bonfire. “Your defense is as good as your offence. We’ll keep it occupied. The Commissioner should be here soon.”

Sanami nodded. “So I’m gonna do the thing with Gharth, right?”

“Yes.” Sersha’s flaring teimach managed to flash a green of confirmation. The white flaring blazed emerald.

Sanami bit her lip. “That Manipulate Spell took a bunch out of me, but I can still do Solid Circles.”

Gharth breathed. “Alright.”

The guitar was in the build-up. A continuously rising riff. “The first break is coming,” Gharth said.

“We’ve done this a million times.”

Arashu riffed, faster and faster and faster.

Gharth breathed, and his feathers rose, each plume prickling with its own wind.

Arashu stopped, and the final guitar chord echoed.

Zephyr! Unlock!”

When Gharth moved, the electric guitar returned, riding the crest of the hanging final chord, carrying the battle to another stage. Gharth shot forward; Sersha, Sanami, and even Arashu all grimaced as the wind whipped their hair backward, and the tables toppled. Arashu managed to flip off of a tumbling table, continue his guitar in the air, and then drop onto the ground, slamming his guitar pick down at the same time.

The Armor wasn’t expecting Gharth’s blade lodged deep into its chest, his plumage flaring with an invisible flame. In the next second, Gharth dislodged his blade and pushed off of the Armor, and he exploded backwards, flurrying gales sending the Armor stumbling backwards.

Sanami raised her hands and shouted, “Transmute Energy!” She performed a lightning fast gesture.

Gharth flipped in mid air and hit the block of flash-frozen wind. He pushed again, and his Zephyr burst against the thin slice of frozen air. Wind exploded. Gharth sliced at the Armor once again, going through and creating a long slash across its side. The anzu hit the floor and the tiles burst outward, into the landing pad, some of it crashing against the now decimated corvid.

Three rising chords.

Gharth moved three times. Sanami created blocks of flash-frozen wind for him to bounce from. Three more slashes materialized in the Armor. Gharth moved five times all in the space of a second. Sanami winced, fell on one knee as she made four blocks of flash-frozena air, helping five more gashes materialize on the steel of the armor. Gharth moved one last time, and one large gash materialized across the Armor’s back, and this time the creature howled. A howl that sounded like steel grinding against rock.

Sersha rose from the ground, flipped in midair as if suspended by invisible strings, and then she fell forward, just as Gharth reappeared beside Sanami, breathing heavily. Sanami was on both knees.

Sersha fell towards the Armor; a thousand more cuts reappeared beside the gashes that had already been dealt.

The final riff played, just as Sersha — completely silent — crashed against the Armor with the weight of a falling boulder. Her knees slammed against the Armor’s torso just as Arashu played the final chord. The Armor hurtled backwards, past the smoking remnants of the corvid, and crashed against the steel railings of the landing pad.

Sersha flipped in midair again, and then fell back down, wincing.

The lift behind them dinged open, and the Commissioner, with the Warlock, stepped out.

The final guitar chord’s vibrations echoed through the air, a shredding final note to end the battle.


The Armor pushed itself off of the steel railing and rose to its feet. The snow flurried around it. The Commissioner stared it down.

Insomnia 10


Kotoro blinked, and then turned to the boy with the glasses. He wore the sixth-year’s uniform of the Throne Collegium — a black double-breasted jacket with dark blue pants, with a white polo underneath. The one thing distinguishing the various different levels was the mantle they wore around their shoulders. For the sixth-years, their mantle was a brimming indigo.

A few of the other students in the class kept talking to each other, while the majority of them turned to look at the boy. “Yes.” Kotoro squinted his eyes. “Did you know him?”

The boy opened his mouth, but said nothing. His eyes swept across his classmates, and then he sighed. “Yes. I knew him.”

Kotoro scanned him. His hands were clenched, and his jaw was set. He swallowed — a deep, harsh gulp. His eyes were on the verge of tears.

The Naphli Detective nodded, and turned to Master Qamed. “Master, if it’s not too much to ask, can I excuse the students that knew of Roeser Oberen?”

Qamed nodded. “I knew about Roeser Oberen as well. Exceptional Student, and a frequent Dean-Lister. In fact, the Dean ordered him on many things.”

“Oh?” Kotoro said, raising an eyebrow. “Interesting. I’ll have to look into that.” He paused suddenly captured by his thoughts. “Very… interesting…

“Master Qamed,” he said again. “I don’t need to excuse them. Just a few more questions, and I’ll be gone. Hopefully that’s not too much of an inconvenience?”

“Oh no, not at all. Go ahead.” Qamed’s face was of somberness. “Tragic news, and I’m thankful that the Naphli are looking into it.” He leaned closer to Kotoro. “Can I know about the details?”

“I don’t know if I can disclose it yet.”

“Yes, yes. Right of course.”

“Now.” Kotoro turned again, and the boy still stood. “What’s your name, boy?”

The boy had closed his eyes; when he opened them, they were red. Tears glistened on his cheeks. “S-Sygmun.”

“Sygmun,” Kotoro repeated. “When was the last time you saw Oberen?”

Sygmun swallowed. “A few days ago. 2nd of Nymph, maybe?” Kotoro gestured for him to continue. “I– The last time I saw him was with the Warlock.”

Kotoro’s eyebrows rose. “Warlock?”

Sygmun nodded. The other students seemed to nod as well, some of them murmuring and muttering, “I thought the Warlock was dead?” and “Oh yeah, I saw the Warlock here a few days ago. He looked like a normal enough dude, though.”

“Tell me about the Warlock.”

“You haven’t heard of the Warlock?” Master Qamed said behind him. The detective shook his head and turned to him, grinning.

“I’m new here.”

“Ah,” Qamed nodded. “Are you from the Continent of Oyora, perhaps?”

Kotoro nodded. “Jubh-Kan. A bit dirtier than this place, let me tell you that.”

Qamed smiled. “Okay, well,” he scratched the side of his face. “The Warlock has… turned into a sort of Urban Legend in the Throne Collegium, see. Says that he can warp reality, his power comes from Daemons, he’s mastered Qitran Magic, stuff like that. In truth, he was just one of our students that made it to seventh-year and never beyond because… well let’s just say he and the previous Dean got too curious.”

Kotoro tilted his head to the side, and the shadow of a smile danced across his lips. “Isn’t curiosity the basis of Kifetic Theory anyways?”

Master Qamed shrugged. “Sure. Anyway, get back to your investigation, yeah?”

“Right,” Kotoro nodded. He turned around again. He felt like he was going nowhere. New threads were popping up and none of them tied around each other. “That’s it?”

Sygmun nodded. “H-how did Oberen die?”

“I cannot disclose right now,” said Kotoro, grinning. “Rest assured that we will be able to tell you once we’ve fully examined the body and have seen the rest of the investigation through.”

None of the others spoke or objected or gave any meaningful addition, so Kotoro decided it was nigh time that he went. It seemed that he had to take his queries to the Dean himself if he wanted answers.

He turned around and bowed by the waist. “Thank you muchly, Master Qamed. I will take my queries elsewhere. You’ve been of utmost help.”

“No worries,” he said.

Kotoro turned to the class, bowed to them as well, and then turned and left.  He didn’t glance over his shoulder, but he could hear the silence that followed after his wake. The sniffles that came from Sygmun. He must’ve been a close friend.


He walked out of the door of the Field of Energies and walked up to a wooden bench unoccupied by most of the students. He sat there, under the staff of Kifes Hasrianna, and allowed the loom of his thoughts to wrap themselves around him.

Was the Dean the only real lead he had? He didn’t know about most of the Magickal going-ons in Throne, and a lot of the Record Keepers can’t really disclose information with him anyway, since that needed express permittance from the Dean himself. But the Captain said not to go to the Dean just yet…

Kotoro wondered why, leaning his head back and sighing. Oberen was with the Warlock, eh? That’s it? Maybe if he learned more about the Warlock…

He pulled out his palmnode and looked at his list of frequencies. He saw the frequency of the lady from before, behind the receptionist’s counter. Saraster Ofenia?

He buzzed the frequency and put the palmnode against his ear.


* * *


Quinen sat in the chariot with the two other non-humans, staring at the alfr and anzu sitting squished next to each other. The anzu had to fold his wings in an unnatural angle to make enough space for both of them. They both sat rigidly, looking straight on, without looking at each other or at Quinen himself.

Quinen leaned against the window with his elbow and rested his hand against his fist. He watched outside as the shorter buildings grew, sprouted and then shot up into the sky, transmuting from drab basalt and concrete to coalescing glass. He watched as the city grew like a perverse forest of steel trees, as they left the Karoley Ward and entered the Cathedra Ward.

The Spires.

Quinen raised his eyebrows as they cruised through the new Ward. Admittedly, he hadn’t been here much. Mostly because most of his business had been elsewhere, but the Spires were a testament to Savant-Engineering. Most of the towers would pierce the sky with their height, having near fifty floors to a hundred and fifty floors, standing so tall that they looked like they would topple. Other towers floated amongst these tall spires, only half as tall, floating with some sort of reality-defying magick Charm.

A second layer of roads twisted through the Spires like a serpent. This second layer of roads was actually just one, long road that winded and circled and danced around the Spires, held by some contraption that Quinen couldn’t much see from here, but he could see the blue and red glint of some sort of Magick.

The autochariots became more advanced here as well, some of them getting shorter and sleeker. Flatter, less of a box like the Naphli autochariot they sat in right now.

Soon enough the autochariot barreled into an underground parking space, and the three of them got out. They hadn’t slapped cuffs on to Quinen, much to his relief. (Not that that would’ve bothered him, unless they’d managed to get ahold of Countermagickal Cuffs). When he got out of the autochariot, the Captain immediately placed a hand on him. “You’ll be taken in for questioning, alright? We’ll get to you in a few.” The Captain turned around and gestured behind him. Quinen felt cold, slender hands gripping his back and his wrist. The alfr led him forward, into the electric lift, and they shot up to the thirtieth floor.

Quinen licked his lips as this alfr girl that stood a few inches shorter him managed to make him feel like he’s the smaller one.

The doors opened, and the alfr girl shoved him forward. Quinen followed, and they walked through a room that resembled a maze because of all the cubicles within it. The alfr Naphli led Quinen along, down the side, to a room with a wooden door, and the words “Interrogation” engraved onto a plaque.

The alfr pushed him inside. “Sit down,” said the girl, gesturing to the leather couch that lay against a wall. “We will return to you shortly.”

“Yeah,” Quinen walked forward as the girl let go of him, and fell onto the couch. “Take your time.”

The alfr girl watched him carefully. No semblance of emotion or usual human facial movements. Her teimach also flared a low, neutral gray. “You will be confined here until we will speak with you.”

“I know.”

The alfr’s teimach shone brighter a bit in approval, and she left. She closed the door behind her, and there was the mechanical clanking of gears and locks.

Quinen sighed, left alone with his thoughts.

A few minutes passed with him twiddling his thumbs, looking up at the ceiling, at the shelves of books that encompassed lessons he’d probably already read about. The floor was carpeted, and the walls were white. The temperature was mild.

Quinen leaned back and tried a simple Sense Energy Working. He called upon the Field, and focused the image of the spell. He formed it in his Mind’s Eye, sensing if there was something different in the temperature, sensing if there was something managing it artificially.

The Working fired off without a hitch, and he felt his senses direct him to a place past the clear wall to his left, across the wall with the bookshelf. He stood up and walked toward it. He placed a hand, and the Working told him there was something past it, and Quinen could only extrapolate from this information that, indeed, the temperature was controlled.

He let go of the Working, and the Spell dissipated back into Diwa. With a shrug, Quinen decided to let it be as he turned around and walked back to the couch. They probably had some sort of control room past that very wall to check on the conditions of their, er, victims.

As Quinen sat, he felt an uncomfortable chill sprout from the back of his neck, crawling down his spine. He scowled, and broke into a cold sweat. The shadows of the room loomed larger then, and the Warlock sank back into his seat, looking as if he wanted to sink even deeper into the couch.

What in Adon’s name…?

He felt the pulse of danger, of uncertainty. The cold feeling that heralded the spike of Dissonance long deserved. The cold feeling of oblivion reaching out to his Soul and slapping his hubris into nothingness.

Quinen didn’t realize he was closing his eyes.

He opened them with a gasp.

When he did, the alfr girl was back, in the middle of closing the door. Quinen found that he was gasping for air. He felt as if actual Dissonance had hit, and he began expecting sores or spasms all over his body, but felt none.

The alfr girl watched Quinen. “Dissonance Wards,” she said. “Made from only the best of converted Diwa.”

Quinen winced. Converted Diwa…? Did she mean Qitra? “A warning would’ve been good.”

The alfr girl nodded, and Quinen swore she had a sheepish look on her face. “It would have, yes.” And with that, she walked out of the door once again, closing it behind her.

Quinen watched the door for a few moments, before sighing and reverting to a relaxed position on the couch, with hands outstretched and one foot on his thigh. “Why didn’t they just build counter-magick devices? Shouldn’t be too hard, and they didn’t have to convert Diwa into Qitra.”

Quinen shuddered. The only time he’d encountered Qitra was back in eighth year, where they were having Advanced Metaphysics. It was one of the last classes of his seventh year. The professor of that class — it was the Grand Master of the Field of Matter that conducted that class. Smide, was it? — had showed them a glob of deathly black and red ooze, that looked like what Tass would look like if one had stuck it into a blender and poured black ink onto it.

Grand Master Smide never opened the glass jar that the glob of Qitra was in — the jar itself was engraved on every side with Runir — and he only spoke of the destructive effects. How it could erase Diwa from existence, and that Qitra was the lack of existence itself, and how amalgamating Qitra and Diwa together would create a powerful effect akin to that of an alchemical explosion. Only the explosion would be large enough to annihilate the city — and by annihilate he meant annihilate. As in, dissipate everything into nothing in its blast radius — and the aftermath would include Qitran Virulence. There were stories of one such occurrence, on an island off the West Coast of Choma. The island no longer exists, and ships are forbidden to travel that route.


Whatever they were doing, Quinen hoped they had a capable Magicker in their hands that can handle it carefully. Countermagickal Charms were safer than Qitran… anything. He knew that creating counter-magick Charms would be expensive, since they would have to hire Savant-Engineers that would be Masters for a Field of Magick. And since not a lot of people tend to become Masters in more than one field, they’d have to hire eight different Savant-Engineers. And Savant-Engineers were already expensive as all hell.

There’s a reason why Savantry Courses were the more popular Courses in the Throne Collegium, as opposed to the Martial and Diplomacy courses.

Quinen let out another breath. He was going to be here a while, wasn’t he? He decided to check his palmnode, and found that all his frequencies were slashed. Ah, they have their own servers in here, don’t they?

With another, defeated sigh, Quinen decided to wait. This was, in his eyes, the worst decision of his life.


* * *


Urie and Gharth took the Lift to the top floor. As the doors opened to the open area, Captain Urie saw that there was a corvid sitting on the airdock past the glass doors. Urie could see the intricate symbols and humming lines of Magickal power. It looked similar to a bird with its wings folded back when in its ground mode, with wheels instead of feet.

The side door of the corvid chariot had been opened, but no one walked out yet. Urie walked past out of the glass doors quickly, while Gharth took his station with the command center of the Naphli — the rows of people typing away at desknodes on either side of the room.

Gharth watched as the Captain walked up to the corvid. Gharth knew who drove around in that corvid. One could see it from the sleek black and white palette of the corvid. The Captain waited in front of the corvid before a woman stepped out.

She wore a long, monochrome dress that reached her ankles, and she walked forward with the strict, straight-backed and chin up posture of a soldier. Latched onto her right hip was a sword, and on her left was a slugpiece. Her skin was immaculate, white but healthy, and her hair was tied up into a severe knot. Her platinum blonde hair was pocked with the occasional gray strand.


Urie saluted. “Commissioner Haliyn.”

The Commissioner saluted back. “Captain.”

The Commisioner took a long glance at the command and nodded, satisfied. “Everything seems to be in order,” she said. Her gray eyes were somehow both piercing and swallowing at the same time. “Take me to the Transplanar entity.”

The Captain nodded, and she led the Commissioner to the electric lift. He thumbed 42, and they rode down half the Naphli Spire in silence. When the doors dinged open, they walked into a lobby, with various safety equipment lining the walls. Across the room was a door, and above it were the words “Containment.”


Insomnia 9

The South Entrance’s Portal spat De Laqua Maeve into the torch-lit room. In her rush, she barely noticed the doubled amount of Celestial Lions watching her as she descended the steps and out into the Central Park.

She cut through the throngs of students enjoying their afternoon classes and approached the Administration Building. She strode toward the Lift that would take her to the Dean’s Office.

“Whoa there, miss.” A large hand gripped her pale bicep. Maeve tensed and lifted a hand, about to shout another Niveus spell. She turned and stopped, seeing that it was Smide, Grand Master of Matter, grinning at her.

Maeve put her hand down. “I-I have to see the Dean.”

“Did you make an appointment?” He pointed over to the office that had been empty before. A girl not any older than Maeve sat behind it, typing away at the scriptboard and speaking with a belgar in front of her.

“Appointment?” Her voice shook. Maeve could only imagine what he was seeing in her. Some ragged woman who looked terrible without her makeup on. “I… I have to speak with the Dean. I had a mission for him.”

Smide furrowed his eyebrows and took a step back. He crossed his arms in front of him. “Mission? Ah, were you the Arrow sent to retrieve the Warlock from the Avalon plane?”

Maeve blinked. She found that she was gasping. Her mind wandered a bit back to the things she’d seen in Avalon, and she quickly shook her head. “Yes. We were. I have to speak with the Dean about… my partner.”

“Righto.” Smide glanced at the woman behind the counter and shrugged. “Alright, go on ahead then.”

“Thank you, Grand Master.” They grinned at each other, and Maeve went on to the Lift.


The Dean’s Office was locked. With a breath, she knocked.

The door opened on the second knock, unassisted, as if buffeted open by the winds. “Come in,” said Hakumatheia past the doors. Maeve walked up to the Dean, the doors shutting behind her.

She was sealed in with the most powerful Magicker in the Throne Collegium once again. All around them, little Runir symbols floated about like lazy fireflies.

“Sit.” Hakumatheia gestured. Maeve scanned him as she took the seat. She wondered if he was hiding something from him. He was speaking awfully tritely right now.

Maeve didn’t sit. “Where’s…” She breathed in. “Where’s Thackeray?”

Hakumatheia raised an eyebrow, and then he sighed. There was a silence, a pause. Maeve realized that there was some sort of low, humming melody somewhere just beneath the skin of reality. It buzzed right beside the pallor and veil of the Mund. Was it the Dean’s Power? Or was it something else…?

“Okay, De Laqua Maeve. I will be honest with you.”

Maeve listened.

The Dean sighed. His breathing was ragged, and he winced a bit in pain. “It was all a matter of saving face,” he said. “Would I had not attempted to rescue the Warlock — a Magicker still technically under my jurisdiction — I would face a consequence as dictated by the Ordinances. We Magickers are beholden to Tradition, see? We couldn’t spare anyone. I couldn’t spare anyone.” The Dean looked straight into Maeve’s eyes, and he swallowed. There was a softness there that Maeve couldn’t quite make out. Like he was asking for pity, or he was simply tired. “You were new.”

“So,” Maeve grew appalled at the conclusion she was arriving at. “We were expendable. Is that it?”

“Pragmatism is what won the Kifetic Theory the Mystick Wars,” said Hakumatheia. “We changed and adapted, used the others to our advantage. Now our name is synonymous with Magick. It’s deeply rooted into our mythos. Into who we are.”

Maeve shook her head. “I don’t care anymore.” In the back of her head, she was already screaming that she was going to run away. Far away, once she got Thackeray. They would escape to nicer places, to nicer vistas. Maybe a city down the coast, or to West Choma, instead of the hellhole that was Throne. “Where’s Thackeray?” she demanded.

Hakumatheia steppeled his fingers and looked at Maeve straight in the eye. He licked his lips. “Thackeray’s dead.”

Maeve blinked. There was a short period of calm. A short period of silence, as everything broiled underneath, like electricity galvanizing and churning under a pot lid. And then, Maeve exploded.


Hakumatheia let out a breath through his nose. There was a sheen of Power, a coagulation. Maeve blinked, realizing that she had raised her hand and a five icicles hung arrayed about her.

The Dean’s hand flared with a creamy white substance. Maeve looked up and saw three pointed shafts of pure, pulsating and coruscating Diwa, aimed at her. The were positioned in such a way that made it look like the Dean had a halo.

“And yes, to answer your question. You are expendable.”


* * *


Kotoro watched as a haggard woman walked by. He had asked the woman in front of the reception’s desk if he could ask about a certain student’s schedules. When she hadn’t complied, he raised a brass badge depicting twelve pairs of wings — six of them folded inwards, creating the body of the badge, and six of them outstretched, crowning the other, folded in wings. His Naphli Badge.

“I have a search warrant,” he’d said, and the girl behind the counter immediately went to work. Kotoro grinned, and then turned around, watching all about him.

Kotoro whistled. This was the Lobby building, they’d said, which had a Librarium to the far right, where students could download their booknodes. There was also the Repository, where they could retrieve and deposit magickal items and artifacts.

The stone walls broke and opened into a hallway. Kotoro wondered where that led. The other opening led to a Tasspath, and he could only guess that that led to the Administration Building.

All in all, this place looked nothing like the Jubh-Kan Collegium. The Jubh-Kan Collegium was a lot less… floaty, and had more buildings than parks. It was more of a complex than a cool university like this one.

Kotoro had to admit that he was a bit jealous.

He also realized the stark difference in human to other race ratio in Throne. Having grown up in Jubh-Kan, he was used to having a belgar for a best friend, a dreorg for a lover, and a zaretrych for a mentor.

In Throne? Lots of humans. It was kinda plain to see.

“Sir Kotoro?”

Kotoro stopped, and he turned around. He grinned at the girl sitting down behind the counter. Kotoro absolutely knew how handsome he was. The girl was young, obviously working part-time, helping the facilities of the Collegium. Since most of the Collegium worked on Principles she studied, this was something that she probably wanted to do.

“Please,” he said. “Call me Lumis.” Even he cringed. His heart sped up a bit as he tried to flirt and became flustered.

“O-okay. Lumis.” She looked down on the information the holographic monitor fed her. Partly to see the information, and partly to cover her face. “You are looking for the schedule of our Sixth-Year Roeser Oberen, yes?”

“That’s right.”

“Can I have your palmnode’s frequency, Lumis?”

Kotoro gave it, and she passed on the information to him. Once it was done, and he had retrieved the information, he said, “Why don’t you sync your frequency on there as well, while you’re at it?” He burned inside; the flame of the thrill. He was young, after all. He’d survived twenty-seven years studying and then working as a Savant-Detective. Wait, should this be normal? He felt sixteen again.

He hated it when he saw attractive women.

She pressed her lips together and looked down again. Her hair was naturally silver, almost white, with a tinge that made it look like it was purple. Her features were small and delicate, like a dandelion one would see in the Sydea Plains to the South of Throne, near the Hedge.

Eventually, she finished and handed it back to Kotoro. “A-Are you sure that flirting with people while on the job is professional, Detective?”

“It is if I want it to be,” he said, shrugging.

She smiled. “Saraster Ofenia.”

“I’ll see you then, Ofenia.” And with that Kotoro winked at her and walked away. He managed to get out of the doors, back into the central park, before he let out a huge breath that he didn’t realize he was holding in. He walked over to a pillar, and placed his head against it. He groaned. Both in success or irritation of himself. He didn’t really know.


“Alright,” Kotoro said, checking down the schedule. “Fifth of Nymph… ah, there.” He scrolled down until he saw what his next period would be. “Five to Six Descending… Martial Thaumaturgy. Alright.”

He asked around for directions to the Martial Thaumaturgy class, and was directed to the Westside of the Collegium. There there were multiple buildings that encompassed the multitudes of Fields of study. While other practical studies were held in the other side — the Eastside — most Magickal Study was apparently conducted in the Westside.

For some reason, they’d placed the Martial Thaumaturgy classes into the Building of Energy. The buildings formed a circle around a single statue of Kifes Hasrianna — made of adamant and aurichalcum mixed together, giving it a silver and gold sheen. She stood with one hand high up, ablaze with flame, another hand wrapped around the staff, and the Vedina shining behind her like some golden Halo.

The buildings around her were fashioned to reflect the Fields they taught. On the right side — the side where Kifes held her staff — stood the buildings for the Corporeal Fields: Life, Timespace, Matter, and Energy. On the left — the side where Kifes’ blazing hand was — stood the buildings for the Ethereal Fields: Death, Destiny, Spirit, and Mind.

Kotoro followed the cobblestone path that winded on the right. It was a long path, as each building was wide and almost five storeys high. They were each made of a different magickal material — specifically, the material that can be mined from their Traverses. As such, the building of Life was made of the material edaphine. It looked vaguely like a deep, green jade, and so most of the walls were made of this material.

The building of Timespace was made of orasium, resembling a thousand-times reflecting mirror. Kotoro winced and walked as fast as he could past it so that he didn’t have to look at it.

The building of Matter was made of one of the more common magickal materials — adamant. It looked vaguely like basalt, but was darker in shade — nearing black — denser, more compact. More material than the other magickal materials.

And finally, the building of Energies. Kotoro stood in front of it, admiring it. It was made of aurichalcum, the same blazing golden material found in many ceremonial buildings. It was a symbol of wealth and status, after all. Here, they amped up the blazing part — the gold looked more like flame, constantly shimmering and showing off force. This was aurichalcum as it was meant to be.

In front of the building of Energies were a bunch of students in their downtime. Fiddling with their palmnodes, playing lutes and guitars. As Kotoro passed by, a powerful gale of wind threatened to throw him off his feet, but it promptly stopped, with a girl’s voice going, “Hey! Don’t be a dick.”

One of them struck the aurichalcum walls and amplified the force of their punch with the usual Manipulate Energy rote. The section they struck billowed out flames, but never cracked or shattered.

Kotoro avoided eye contact and walked on in, finding the door carpeted, much to his surprise. He saw a woman behind a desk. She waved the detective over. “Hello, sir. You seem new. Can I help you in any way?”

Kotoro nodded. “Right. Ah, can you direct me to where the Martial Thaumaturgy class is?”

“Take the stairs all the way to the fifth floor. Our Lift isn’t functional as of the moment. A few students tampered with the transmogrifier of it. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

“Oh no, it’s alright.”

“There will be two rooms in the fifth floor. The gym and the classroom for the Martial Thaumaturgy. It shouldn’t be too hard to find which one you’re trying to get to.”

Kotoro smirked. “Of course. Thank you once again.”

He made his way up to the fifth floor, taking the stairs on the ends of the hallways. The stairs were made of adamant, which have an express resistance against magically conjured flames or any magically conjured spells. He could see the rails were made of aurichalcum as well.

They were taking extraordinary precautions. Which is, of course, to be expected.

Kotoro arrived on the fifth floor, and walked into the hallway. The first room had the words “Gym” in Shennin written across a black slate. The Gym had two doors, each on one end of the doors, so he had to cross those two before getting to the second room.

The second room had the words “Martial Thaumaturgy” written across it in Shennin. Kotoro stood in front of it. He could hear words being spoken from within. Inhaling, Kotoro knocked on the door. Three short, yet loud, raps on the door.

The talking lecture inside the classroom came to a shushing halt. Kotoro fixed his posture, so that he looked intimidating and like a Shennin Naphli conducting official business, and not some grad that felt like an outsider.

The door slid open, and before it was an older man. Not any older than Kotoro — hell, the man was probably just three years older than him — but he conveyed a sense of antiquity. Like wizards of yore.

“And how may I help you?” The man was lean, muscular and tall. Kotoro looked up to him. Literally.

With a flourish, Kotoro showed his badge. “Kotoro Lumis. Detective for the Shennin Naphli. I have some questions to ask. This is urgent.”

The man furrowed his eyebrows. “Urgent, eh?” He turned back to his students and said something in a low-hushed voice, yet most of the students understood him anyway. Kotoro smirked. An old Field of Energy trick, really. Amplify the sound energy as it arrived near the ears of the ones you want to convey a message to.

Eventually, the man turned back to Kotoro and said, “Sure. We’d be happy to, given that it doesn’t take too long.”

Kotoro nodded. “I’ll do my best to keep it concise.”

The Master nodded and gestured him inside. “Oh, right, I’m Master Qamed. Come on right in.”

Master Qamed led Kotoro into the room, which was a lot bigger than he’d thought it would be. The students — there were around forty of them in this room in all — sat in tiered seats with semi-circle tables. In front of the students was a large, circular clearing with a few Runir symbols engraved onto it, constantly humming with Diwal power. Kotoro knew that the Symbols were for “Manipulate Matter”. It was a Spell to strengthen it without the use of Adamant.

Of course, strengthening it ran the chance of Dissonance.

“Class. This is Kotoro Lumis, a Detective for the Shennin Naphli.” The students began leaning close to each other, whispering in hushed tones and speaking and gossiping. Some of the students sat more rigidly, as if caught doing something bad. Kotoro grinned. “He’ll be asking a few questions.” Despite the large room, Master Qamed’s voice carried throughout the entire space. His voice was amplified.

And with that, Master Qamed took a step back, gesturing for Kotoro to speak.

Kotoro spoke, and he found that his voice had been amplified too. It was the only way for him to be heard in such a big space anyway. “Roeser Oberen is dead. Did anybody in this room know him?”

A boy with tousled hair and large optics shot up to his feet.


* * *


Quinen cursed at his own stupid plan.

He stalked after the three Naphlimen as they walked across the road and approached their autochariot. As they came near, the alfr girl that walked behind the two other men paused.

Adonsshit. Quinen stopped, turned, and leaned against the wall, inhaling another smoke.

The alfr girl turned around. They were on the same side of the street as Quinen now.

One of them — the human — opened the door to the driver’s pit. He turned to the alfr girl and said something. Quinen strained to hear, and he called upon the Field of Energy to amplify the sound as it came over to his ears. An intricate, delicate, and complex working.


The anzu had stopped moving as well, looking at the alfr.

“Sersha,” the anzu spoke. “What’s happening?”

“There is a human that follows,” she said, her teimach writhing with a suspicious violet.

Quinen saw the man close the door and turn to him. Quinen removed his cig, watching the flames fall to the ground, and then he let it dissipate into embers with a quick Spell. He then turned and walked into the alleyway right beside him, all the while never letting go of the amplification spell he’d done.

“That’s the human that follows.” The alfr.

“Gharth. Pick him up.”

“Ah come on,” muttered Quinen to himself. He prepared to run — it should be easy enough when the Naphli didn’t have Magickers with them, but he decided to stop. A little plan coalesced in his mind.

With a huge intake of breath, to make sure there was enough zephyr in his mind to keep the Spell going, he walked out of the alleyway and into the open. “Naphli. I mean no harm. I’ve only come to ask a question.”

The human raised an eyebrow. The alfr had pulled out a sword from her back, and the anzu was already in the air. A pause, and then the human walked forward. He pulled out a gun and said, “This has Dissonance slugs, son. Come forward without any Magick.”

Quinen nodded, and he turned off the amplification spell. A strain on his brain lifted, like a migraine eroding. The Warlock walked forward to the Naphli human.

“Stop.” The human said as Quinen came a few feet from him. “Now what did you come to ask?”

Here we go. “The Wild Hunt Soldier,” he said. “That Transplanar entity? I can help you with that.” He breathed, eyeing the captain and the anzu and the alfr carefully. “It was chasing me.”

The Naphlimen lowered their weapons.


* * *


Afar off, in the midst of the afternoon hustle, in the midst of the Daystar’s unrelenting rays beating down on the concrete city of Throne, a rift exploded in the vestiges of reality. It ripped open in a seemingly random place, as if the coordinates of its entrance was slightly off. Deep into a back-alley, amidst the dumpsters and scaffolding and plastic wrappers and homeless people leaning against the brick walls for support, the winds swirled about the Rift, as if trying to fill in a vacuum but failing over and over again, creating a loud sound.

Then a chill came over the entire alleyway. A sabaton of black incomprehensible flickered out from the rift and into the Mund. When it landed on the floor, ice exploded outward, radiating around it. The ice frosted over the walls of the alley, froze the scaffolding and the dumpsters and the flying trash wrappers and the homeless people with nowhere to go. In the existence between seconds, the entire alleyway had been frozen over, as if a two day blizzard had swept through it.

Soon followed the rest of the armor, moving out of the rift as if passing through a heavy veil. A nine-foot tall humanoid clad in armor stepped forth, and raised its armet helm, fashioned in the gothic design of the Second Age Shennin Warriors known as the Dakila. A bowl helmet that covered the entire head with the use of hinged cheek plates that folded backwards.

It turned, and its cloak billowed in the icy wind. It was a cape made of the coagulated tears of animals, knit together by the aeolian strands of unfate.

It looked up, and thought that this view was not fit for it. That it couldn’t see anything from here. With a thought, it bent the rules of the Mund and carried itself to the top of the building beside it with nary but a thought.

Now on the concrete roof, it walked near to one of the edges, and looked out. If any of the populis would look up, they would see a tall statue made of such an abyssal black that they would’ve thought it were made of styigum — the material mined from the Traverse of the Field of Death.

It surveyed its surroundings, seeking out the essence, the tasteful gossamer, of Dushamigkhala. Its cape billowed in the wind, and the winds itself now seemed to bow to it, whirling about the Wild Hunt Leader, caressing it and sliding into the vents and openings of its armor.

Then, Garomeos turned around, its armet now pointing to the direction of the Spires. More specifically, the Naphli HQ.

It stepped forward, and a Rift — not surging with golden gossamer like the usual Avalon Rift — exploded in front of it. It stepped inside, and the Rift closed behind it.

In its wake, the winds had turned cold, and the working class and the populis below shivered. They chalked it up to a Cold Surge because of the Nymph Season, and maybe they would not be wrong. Some of the populis looked, up, and only saw a frozen silhouette.