Insomnia 8

Chrysanthemum awoke.

She opened her eyes and inhaled. Cool, Mundic air (zephyr, the type of gas that humans needed) seeped into her lungs as she reattached herself to the Mund’s reality. Without moving her head, Chrysanthemum looked around her. Straight ahead she could see a white ceiling. Around her lay stacks and stacks of books, similar to Uthurja’s — the kalista lady — place. But she knew she wasn’t there. She could see small runic holographs floating aimlessly like mindless fireflies. To her right, she saw a small table that rose up the the height of her thighs. Books and scepters and charms and trinkets lay scattered with no order upon it.

Where was she? What was she doing here?

She realized she did not dream. But then again she never dreamt. Or has she?

Chrys felt numb and cold all over. She could feel her muscles and tendons moving sluggishly like rusted hinges. She ordered her hands to close, and they did, wrapping itself. She lifted it up to her face for her to see.

Frost covered the tips of her fingers. She opened her mouth, and whispered, “The Contract…”

As long as she knew about that Contract, she had control over the concept of Frost and Ice. And now, the Earth as well.

She knew Quinen must’ve thought it Magick, and she supposed that in some way it was. But she didn’t like the responsibility having this power indicated. As she slowly recovered her sealed away memories, she realized that she didn’t want to be what she was before. She realized that, even moreso than before, she wanted to be someone else.

But she felt that foreboding feeling that this wasn’t something she could run away from.

Somebody had removed her old clothes. The Siddivata could feel the scratches and bruises of her legs and elbows cleaned. She grabbed the back of the couch she lay down upon and used it as leverage as she sat up. The Siddivata saw frost radiate out from the point she touched, and she pulled her hand away, gasping the smallest gasp. She looked at that hand, and little flecks and motes of rime drifted off of her fingertips. She frowned at them.

As she sat up, she watched the ever changing holographs of Runes and Symbols. These mindless images radiated a light that formed a small ball around them, and they bounced around whenever they collided or touched the textured walls. The walls around her curved. She found herself in a circular room.

To her right, Chrysanthemum could see railings, and then the rest of the room.

Mustering up her strength, she pushed herself to her feet. She walked and looked over the railings and saw wooden double doors. Below her, she could see a desk. Hunched over the desk, with one hand over his chest, was a white-haired man in synth leather robes, looking visibly in pain.

Chrysanthemum blinked. Where was she?

When the man grunted, Chrysanthemum let out an inaudible squeak. She backed away and sat down on the sofa again. She heard the man cough, and something that sounded vaguely like glass clanked against the wood.

He spoke as if shouting. “Goddamn Naphli ruining everything. I’m trying my Adondamned best to keep it all under control.” Footsteps clanged on the stairs. Chrysanthemum wondered if she should go back to pretending to sleep, or if she could ask questions immediately.

The white-haired man came to the little balcony she’d slept in before she could make up her mind. “Oh,” he said, squinting at her. He kept walking though, over to one of the many cabinets on the sides of the wall. He pulled it open and brought out a few pills. He grabbed a water bottle from within, and downed the pill with a swig.

He let out a huge breath after he drank, as if he’d just drunken a good bottle of beer. He placed the water bottle back, and winced as he turned to Chrys. “So? I expect you want an explanation?”


“In the Collegium,” he said. “You’ll be safe. Don’t worry. That other Siddivata won’t be taking you. Not anytime soon, at least.”

“Collegium?” Chrysanthemum’s hair glowed only faintly.

The white-haired (and bearded) man waved a hand. He grimaced. “What’s your name?”

Chrys licked her lips, pondering upon the implications of telling the man her name. But she decided she didn’t know enough to be doing that. “Chrysanthemum.”

“Well, Chrysanthemum,” he said. “It seems our intertwining skeins of destiny have tangled up into a horrible knot. I’m trying my best to unravel it, but it seems there’s a lot going on.”

Chrysanthemum looked down on her hands. “Where’s Quinen…?”

“Quinen?” The Dean furrowed his eyebrows. “Oh. He’s dead.” All this time, he’d been talking to Chrysanthemum leaning on the wall, gripping his chest. After he said those words, he pushed himself off the wall and inhaled.

Chrysanthemum’s eyes became still, and her mouth hung open. “H-He’s… dead?” But she knew that was impossible. His Soul was there! She’d seen it herself.

“Yes,” the Dean said. “And hopefully, you too in the near future. I want this done as fast and cleanly as possible.” He waved a hand, and pop of Magick. The Dean’s star-specked eyes flared, and Chrysanthemum’s eyes lulled and closed.


* * *


The Dean used a Manipulate Avalon Working to move her gently down onto the bed. He used a Manipulate Matter Working to slip the blanket back on without even moving a muscle. The Dean furrowed his eyebrows at the glowing pink haired girl. This girl that Zinnia wanted so much. This girl that’s made so much trouble for him that he has to keep secret.

He scowled, squinting his eyes, as he lifted his hand. He almost called forth the same white Diwal glave that had killed the body of the Warlock, but he bit back, closed his hand and let it hang to his side.

If he had followed through, he would have not just unravel the threads of fate. It would rend it, tear it asunder.

With a sigh, Hakumatheia made his way down the spiralling staircase and back to the wooden desk. He saw the Dissonance slug had dissipated, as it was supposed to have been. These shards of pure, undiluted anti-Magick were anathema to him.

He sat on the desk with a sigh. He’d mobilized the Collegium, but what good would that do? He just had to depend on the gamble that Zinnia wouldn’t be bound to do something stupid.

But he knew that she didn’t even know the concept of stupid.

Hakumatheia leaned back on his high-backed chair. He grimaced as he tried to relax. “The Woman Whose Hair Flared With the Realms She Conquered.”


* * *


On their way back, Urie had already contacted Detective Kotoro that he was clear to investigate. They met in the large park in the middle of the entire floating island, where the Vedina — the symbol of the Collegium and the symbol for power — sat. “Did you talk to the Dean already?”

The Captain nodded. “Were you supposed to ask him some questions?”

Kotoro furrowed his eyebrows, took a step back. He licked his lips, and then said, “Why? Can I?”

“I’d advise against it right now. What are you going to ask?”

“Well,” he dug into the little leather messenger bag he’d brought with him, and pulled out the pictures of a man with handsome features and ruffled black hair, a demeanor that suggested power beneath a mask of laziness. “We’ve identified one of the dead victims as Roeser Oberen. We want to ask some questions, and apparently he was a sixth-year here, so I’d have to get permission to barge into his class.”

“What information have you gathered?”

“Well, he wanted to go into Martial Thaumaturgy,” Kotoro said, scratching the back of his neck, prodding his memories to surface. “So he began taking lessons in Energy and Timespace. You know, Corporeal Fields. I have to get into the Dean or maybe someone with access to their Dataservers so I can find out what his schedules are.”

Urie nodded. “Try the Reception Lobby in the Administration Building,” said Urie, pointing to the taller tower. “They’ll point you in the right direction. Or so I’m told.”

“Right.” Kotoro whistled as he swept a gaze across the Central Park. “This is a lot different from the Jubh-Kan Collegium.”

“Sir.” Gharth spoke again behind Urie. “The Transplanar entity has been frozen solid by the Magicker that it was hunting down and has been transported into Containment in the Spires HQ.”

“Noted.” The Captain turned to Kotoro. “You take care now. We’re heading off.”

“Alright, Captain.” They nodded to each other — Kotoro to the two others behind the Captain — and then walked off to their respective destinations.


* * *


“Ah, Adon’s Spit and Shit,” Kasu leaned back. She ran a hand through her short hair. “This isn’t working.” She leaned forward and squinted at the screen, which showed a warning about an “unidentifiable error”. She’d tried all the usual tricks. The restart, the Data quick-purge. The backup. Maybe she needed to learn more about Souls? Was that the Field of Mind, or the Field of Spirits?

She leaned back once again. The entire room still dark, despite the Daystar being relatively high in the sky. Only a gray-blue sheen radiated from the holographic screen.

She stared at the ceiling, probing her brain for answers, for contingencies. Maybe… no. That would never work.

She continued looking at the ceiling, as if asking from the Heaven’s Above — from Adon Himself — to give her the answer.

It didn’t really come.

She tilted her head to the side, and glanced at the screen through the corners of her eyes. She could see the error still showing, in bright red script. There weren’t any image data to showcase a soul, so all that was displayed was an endless string of script, written in codal language. The desknode’s visual feed shut off then, and then the words “Commencing 19th Revitalization Sequence” appeared on screen. The desknode processed information and data, turned on the visual feed once again, and then ran the Soul-Recreation Sequence.

She looked at it and reevaluated it from her half-sleep. Then, just as she slipped off into the dark abyss of slumber, she saw something that appeared before the red error sign.



* * *


Quinen knew he had to stay low. He avoided most of the wide, main streets and stuck to the the shortcuts and narrow alleyways, piss-smells mixed with cigar smoke. The branches instead of the trunk.

He popped another cig as he closed in on the South entrance of the Collegium. He emerged out of an alleyway, in between a short, whitestone building and a larger, taller building made of reinforced adamant. He could feel the Diwa emanating from it.

The South entrance wasn’t too congested. A few people hanging around on the park outside of the huge, looming island. Some of them emerged out of the portals holding booknodes — students, he guessed.

There were four Celestial Lions that stood guard now, each of their tendrils flaring a bit more like the hot Daystar than the usual stars that emerge in the night. Quinen bit back a curse as he slipped back into the shadows of the alleyway and leaned against the wall.

He leaned his head back against the wall. They raised their security. They must know I’m coming… or maybe something else. Whatever the reason for closure, it would be infinitely harder for the Warlock to get in now.

Still cursing, Quinen heard the buzz of his palmnode. It was Kasu’s frequency. “Yeah, Dataturge?”

“When are you coming back to the apartment?”

Quinen blinked. “What?”

“My apartment? I-I need you here.”

The Warlock licked his lips. “Listen, Kasu-”

“What if you died again?”

What?” Quinen tsked. “Okay, ah, step by step, Dataturge.”

“Alright, Okay.” She sighed. “What if I told you I may have found a way to upload your Soul into the Datascape?”

“I’d tell you you’re either crazy or a Mind Magicker.”

“No, but — oh, it would be the Field of Mind, not Spirit?”


“A-anyway! Let’s discuss that later. Something more important is at hand — I can do that.”


“The Soul uploading thing.”

Quinen pushed himself off the wall, furrowing his eyebrows and scowling. “How?”

“Maybe because of the residue of your Soulstuff in the Datascape? When I stole you off the Mund, I mean.”

Quinen furrowed his eyebrows. “Yeah, how did you do that in the first place?”

Niro could hear Kasu shrugging. “Maybe I Burned some Personal Diwa? Lucky break? I don’t know. But I can do it, but I need your Soul.”

“Hey,” Quinen said, his voice firm. “Okay, before you go any further, tampering with my Soul is going to be a hard Working. Only Mind Magickers can manipulate the Soul.”

“Godspit,” Kasu spat. “You’re right. I…”

There was a silence.

“Hey, by the–”

“I got it. Talk to you later, Quinen.”



Quinen sighed. “I need a way into the Collegium. It seems they’ve raised their security and it’s gonna be easy for me to get caught now.”

“Hm. What did they do,” she snorted, “more Celestial Lions?”

“Exactly that.”

There was another silence. Quinen was out of options in his end. Maybe he could ask Kasu to let him traverse the Datascape…?

“We can’t go through Datascape — they’ve got only the best Dataturges working on their Bastions. Maybe… I don’t know. Talk to authority?”

Quinen leaned out of the brick wall, squinting out at the Portal once again. “Authority…” Just then, the Portal rippled, and a white gauntlet emerged from it, as if a sinking stone was being pulled out from some viscous tar. The gauntlet eventually gave way to the armor of the Naphli, of which one human, one anzu, and one alfr walked out of.

Something clicked in Quinen’s mind. “Hello?” Kasu’s modulated voice still blared through the receiver.

“U-uh yeah.”

“Yeah, like I said — the Naphli and the Congregation have some special access to the Collegium right? Maybe them?”

“Yeah,” Quinen said, nodding. “Maybe them. Thanks Kasu, I’ll get in contact with you soon.”

Quinen slipped back into the cold shadows of the alleyway, smoke wafting from his cig.


Insomnia 7

The Dean Hakumatheia rode the Tasslift to the top floor of the Administration Tower. The doors slid open, and the Dean stepped onto a carpeted floor. Glass walls surrounded the room, providing a one-way mirror to the rest of the City. From up here one could see most of the concrete buildings, and the neon lights writhing out of the umbral crevices. In the middle of it all was a graveyard of spears jutting out, reaching for the heavens — the Spires.
A circular table sat in the middle of the room, and eight other Magickers sat around it. On eight points of the table were intricate, multi-layered runes that represented the Field they administered. The runes were engraved onto their chairs.
The circular table lacked one last person to complete the Circle. Furthest from the Tasslift was another high-backed chair, with another multi-layered rune. This rune resembled all eight of the other Runes superimposed on top of each other, with a circle that sealed the runes within.
Hakumatheia walked, his synth leather robes trailing after him. He sat on his designation, and a hum of power rose from underneath the table.
The Dean sighed, placing an elbow onto the table and then leaning his head against his hand. “Do we have to go through this again?”
A man on the far right grinned and shrugged. “Magickers are beholden to Tradition, Dean.”
He dipped his head, and then waved for them to begin the formalities.
“Seal the Circle of the Nine,” the Dean began.
To the Dean’s right was a short dreorg female with blonde hair cut into a piskie’s style: short and boyish. Her small nose twitched as she had to adjust her chair up. With a swish of her tail, she said, “Eiv. Grand Exemplar of Life.” The rune of the Life Field glowed incandescent.
To Eiv’s right, a slender man with a sleepy smile raised his hand and flourished. His silver hair seemed to float until he spoke. “Ivahl Aurnem. Grand Master of Timespace.” And the rune of Timespace glowed.
To Ivahl’s right was the man that spoke earlier. He was burly and well-toned. His muscles taut and thick. His neck like the stump of a tree, and his chin and face structure square like a brick. His skin was dark against his white grin. “Smide Hefen, Grand Master of Matter.” And so the rune glowed.
To Smide’s right was a woman wearing a strict breast jacket and a skirt. Her eyes’ irises were the color of bleached bone, fulminating with power. Her hair was the color of a sun-bleached storm, and at times lightning would cause a strand of her hair to jump up, and then fall down. She looked at the Dean through square rimmed optics. “Fulma Aster,” she spoke, her voice like rolling thunder. “Grand Master of Energies.” The rune glowed as well.
To Fulma’s right, was a Magicker Grand Master that seemed very out of place. He was a zaretrych, with eight legs for walking appendages, two of which he could use as limbs, although he lacked fingers. He used the adhesive pads on each of his arms to cling onto things. The zaretrych’s anatomy was akin to a large arachnid’s save for the neck and head, which sported clawing mandibles instead of a mouth and tongue, and the little, useless hexagonal wings hiding in his abdomen.
It raised a hand, and it spoke. It didn’t move any mandibles, or had any physical means of speaking. Its face was more of a mask than an actual face, with a facial pattern on the front of the head resembling ink splattered onto a paper and then mirrored. The pattern glowed a bright green, contrasting its dark purple carapace. “Ssryx’ryxh.” The zaretrych spoke with a masculine tone, and his voice echoed from a contraption he wore near the top of his head. “Grand Master of Mind.” And the rune glowed.
Next to the zaretrych was a kalista, the ursine race. With dark gray fur and bright blue tattoos running down his torso, the kalista seemed like he still belonged to his barbarian tribes. When it was his turn, he smiled, his eyebrows arcing up in a lax position like Ivahl’s sleepy gaze. “Idurgam,” he said. “First of his name. Grand Master of Spirit.” The rune glowed.
An alfr sat next to Idurgam. His teimach glowed, and his long, alien ears were uncut and stood proud. They twitched, as if they had minds of their own. “Ardent Sound,” he said, his voice completely neutral but his teimach blazing white with pride. “Grand Master of Death.” This alfr had no hair on him.
Next to Ardent Sound was a belgar. Orange striped his brown fur, and he wore a blindfold across his large, beastly head. “Garod Avakahn,” he said, his voice deep and growling, the sound of marbles churning. “Grand Master of Fate.”
“And finally,” Hakumatheia waved a hand. “Dean Hakumatheia Uthan. Grand Master of Magick. With these nine Souls do we…”
And the rest of the Council joined him in saying the next words: “Quoth the Laws of Magick.
“Change is Reality, Magick is Change. Connection is Power, Magick is Connection. Dissonance is Consequence, Magick is Consequence.
“Quoth the Laws of Magick. And thus we seal the Circle of the Nine.”
Power popped, and the an invisible surge of Magick overflowed out of their Souls. The spasms of puissance conjoined and fuzed the runes’ glows until a single, incandescent light shone over them all.
The light died down, the room dimming, and little particles of white stars drifted onto the floor, dissipating with a hiss of smoke. “That took forever,” said Fulma. “Now for what have you assembled us here for?”
“We are in the middle of re-enrolment,” the zaretrych Grand Master, Ssryx, pointed out.
“Deepest apologies.” The Dean rolled his eyes. “But something grand is afoot. And I mean that in the worst way possible. The Wild Hunt might have been able to step through the cracks of Reality and appear out here, into the Mund.”
“What?” Fulma placed a hand on the table. “How could that happen? Wasn’t there an Accord?”
“There used to be,” said Hakumatheia, shrugging. “But that was made by the Knights Vigilant. And, for good or bad, they no longer exist.”
“I know of some Knights that still exist.” The alfr, Ardent Sound, spoke up. His tone was still neutral and unfeeling, but his teimach glowed brightly, urgently and almost desperately orange. “I may contact them.”
“Yes but the Accords themselves are obsolete,” Ivahl put in with a drolling sound. “The only thing keeping them away now is the fear of the Accords still existing, as time isn’t exactly a concrete concept over in their Plane.”
“How,” Fulma slapped the table. “Did a Gods-damned Divata arrive here in the first place?” Her hair crackled.
The Dean shook his head. “Come on, Fulma. You know that the Divata are summoned here regularly-”
“Well let me rephrase the question,” she cut in. “How did a Gods-damned Wild Hunt Divata arrive here in the first place? They’re bigger, stronger, more anathemic to the Mund’s physical realities than those in the lower rungs of their hierarchy. Literally the only way a Hunter could’ve arrived here is through a Portal rent open by a Siddivata.”
The Dean paused, and then leaned back. His mind wandered to the young Siddivata girl he’d placed on the couch above his office. Could she have…?
“We all know it is against Collegium Code to consort with extraplanar entities without express consent and permission,” Ssryx said.
“Yes.” Fulma’s voice was hard. “We all do.” She turned to the Dean. “So…?”
“I was consorting with a Siddivata. I was wanting to fix the Accords, but something went belly up along the way. She wanted something in return.”
Ivahl snorted a laugh. Eiv and the belgar said nothing, but when the Dean said that, they both turned to him.
Smide’s heavy arm slammed onto the table. The table quivered. “What?!”
Eiv sighed. “As expected.” Her voice was small and quiet.
The Dean changed the subject. “Let’s focus on the problem at hand, first.” His voice rolled thunder, managing to hide the wince as Dissonance struck his mind.
All eight of the Magickers nodded in agreement. Ssryx shook his head, as if snapping out of a trance. The Dean narrowed his eyes at Ssryx, and created a tether of empathy. A powerful working that needed his concentration and Will. He was thankful that Dissonance didn’t decide to strike then.
Ssryx relaxed, and nodded.
“Now.” Hakumatheia strained to let the words out. “We… urgh. We must get ready in case one of the Wild Hunt agents attacks the Collegium. I highly doubt that the entire Wild Hunt would arrive here in the Mund en masse.”
“But if that were to happen,” said Ivahl. “We’d all be screwed.”
“That would be speaking of Interplanar War,” said Garod, the belgar Grand Master of Fate. “That does not bode well. The skeins tell me that some threads lead inevitably to that, however…”
Ivahl grinned. “I hear you. The Reflections of Time-To-Be is hazy and shows fractals of possibilities. We are at an interesting time indeed.”
“Now,” the Dean continued, nodding. “Send some of our best Huntsmen here to deal with the Wild Hunt soldier. Tell them to watch out for Naphli reports. They might speak of strange beasts.”
“Most of our Huntsmen are on-duty right now in other places,” Smide says, contorting his face into a thoughtful visage. “Maybe we need to strengthen our defenses, just in case they come here? The Naphli have Magickers, after all. They can handle Interplanar Incursions.”
“Hm.” The Dean leaned back, and nodded. “I suppose you’re right.”
After a few more deliberations that eventually amounted to absolutely nothing, the Council of Nine was adjourned with another evocation. They had decided to double security, deploying twice the number of Celestial Lions and asking Smide to create more magitechnological constructs.
As each of the Grand Masters left, Ssryx couldn’t help wondering if there had been something amiss with the entire meeting. The zaretrych watched as the Dean walked into the Tasspath first.
He had also heard — and he was sure the other Grand Masters had too — that the Dean walked into the Medica and killed someone. They declared this as some sort of rumor, but…
Ssryx’ryxh contemplated on following the Dean. “Hey, Ssryx,” said Ivahl, tapping the zaretrych’s bulbous abdomen. “Ready to go back to re-enrolment?”
“O-oh. Yes.” That was right. He still had duties.
As he left the Tasspath Lift and walked out into the ground floor of the Administator’s building, he saw three Naphli officers striding past them. Ssryx and Ivahl asked what their business was.
“We’re here to ask the Dean something.” There was an edge to the human Naphli’s voice. He definitely looked demeaning, especially with his caramel skin and close-cropped black hair. Behind him walked an anzu and an alfr.
“What will you be asking?” said Ivahl.
The Naphliman raised an eyebrow. “There’s been another Incursion. I think it’s time I go to the Dean with some extra precautions.”
Ssryx’ryxh turned to Ivahl, and they nodded. Ssryx had learned that human gesture after spending much time in Throne. “Very well,” he said.
The Naphli bowed by the waist. “Have a good day, Grand Masters.” And he walked past them, the two others walking quickly after.
Ssryx and Ivahl looked at each other again, and then walked off to Re-enrolment.
* * *
“Quinen?” It was at that point it dawned upon Kasu that he was probably heading to the Collegium. The blinking dot on the holographic map of the Karoley Ward indicated just that. Cursing, she got up on her feet, turned and seized the sweater hanging by the coat rack and stopped just as her hand reached up to the door knob. What was she doing? Was she going to run all the way to the Karoley Ward just to help a guy she barely knew?
She paused for a second, thinking. She could help him better if she stayed here. But what if he dies again? I could siphon his soul back into her Grove…
She looked down on her hands. A finger fizzed in and out of materiality, breaking down into datal squares before reforming again. She gasped. Datal Dissonance.
She took a step back, looking at the unopened door. What would she do?
Then something dinged. She turned and walked back to her desknode, and typed away at the scriptboard. Soon, she’d accessed her datagrove and saw, there, the imprint of Quinen’s consciousness.
She bit her lip, and ran a program that would recreate the Consciousness. She watched as Data reformed the Warlock’s Soul.
Kasu watched this, mesmerized, until a knock on her door snapped her out of her reverie. The Dataturge got up to her feet, clenched her hands, and then walked out. She remembered that she had a job then, and maybe she should get back to it. She opened her palmnode and worked a text message to Einei, saying that she could go back to work by tomorrow.
She didn’t wait for an answer. She walked up to the door and opened it. “Yes?”
A Naphliman stood on the other side. “Miss. Can we ask you questions? Investigation for the crime scene that happened around your room.”
“U-um. Yes. Sure.”
They asked her questions about whether she’d seen anything, or whether she’d conspired, or felt something weird. It was easy enough to say she’d been in her room the entire time. She silently thanked Quinen for fixing her door.
Soon enough the Naphliman walked up and out of her room. She hoped that they didn’t suspect a thing. Apparently — from the questions the man was giving her — they were too busy trying to connect the scene from the roof to the scene on the ground.
As the Naphliman closed the fixed door behind him, Kasu sat on her bed, hugging her knees to her chest, waiting for the Data to reform the Soul.
* * *
Captain Urie rode up the Tasspath Lift that would lead to the Dean’s Office. A hand was on his belt, fingering the grip of his slugpiece.
Sersha and Gharth stood at attention behind him. They knew there was something about to happen. Something about to break out. Tension broiled underneath their armors.
Then the doors dinged open. Urie stepped out and slung out his slugpiece. With a quick movement, he removed the cartridge of slugs, and replaced it with another cartridge. The cartridge resembled any old cartridge, so Gharth questioned what was inside. He’d seen the previous cartridge that the Captain had removed still had a full dock of slugs.
Sersha followed quietly, and her hand was already on the long sword behind her.
Gharth was a bit more cautious. He unsheathed his Naphli-issued blade, and turned to Captain Urie. In a low croaking whisper, he asked, “Sir, what is that cartridge?”
Urie didn’t answer. “Watch my back.”
He flicked the switch on the side of the slugpiece’s barrel, activating the mini-Transmog that converted small pieces of Tass into quick, yet powerful, bursts of energy. Tass filled the lines that ran down the barrel of the slugpiece, glowing low. Below the barrel was a smaller rune that would use the remaining Tass from a shot fired as a Buffer to to contain any Dissonance that may come instead of letting it mess the mechanisms of the gun up. Of course, firing too much at any single time will raise the chances of incurring Dissonance.
Captain Urie opened the door just a crack, and then kicked it inward. Without another word, the Captain lifted his slugpiece and pulled the trigger. Tass churned, the spell activated, and the Transmog converted Diwa into pure kinetic energy. A black slug — small and the piece of a shattered glass — shot through the air, a white stream trailing after it. The slug sank into the robes of the Dean, and with a pained grunt, onto the surface of skin, but not actually puncturing it.
“What in Adon’s name are you doing?!” The Dean doubled over onto his desk. He had stood up when they entered, and now had to keep himself up by placing one hand on the desk. His other hand clutched the point of entry.
“Don’t try anything, Dean,” Urie said, lowering his gun and advancing to his desk. “Dissonance slug. Perform another Working and you’ll incur so much Dissonance that a Permanent Severance won’t be too far a fantasy.”
The Dean groaned at the pain, still doubled over on his desk. With sluggish movements he turned to look up at Urie. “What, in Adon’s holy hells, do you want?”
Urie grinned. Pretty easy to break the Dean’s demeanor, eh? “Now now, Dean. Since you’re technically the Head of this Administration, you should be the one to represent all the values that you actually stand for.”
The Dean’s eyes glanced to the palmnode sitting in his desk. “Fuck off. I can have all of the Collegium down your throat.” Urie made a gesture behind his back, facing the alfr behind him. The gesture made it look like he was holding some kind of invisible cylinder.
Sersha nodded. Her teimach flared a bright, creamy white as she tapped her Sorcery. The palmnode lifted off of the desk, and with a grunt from Sersha, the Data device shattered against a far wall.
Gharth pulled out his Naphli sword, and Sersha did the same, pulling out the long, curving blade from her back.
With the Dean still doubled over from the Dissonance slug embedded into his chest, Urie grabbed one of the chairs that lay in front of the wooden desk. He sat and leaned back, but still kept the slugpiece trained on Hakumatheia. Behind him, he heard the doors lock.
“I just came to talk,” Urie said, but he couldn’t help chuckling by the end of that sentence. “And, well, last time I came here… I couldn’t remember a damn thing Gharth and I did. I guessed it was your Magicks going on, so I brought some precautions.” He raised the slugpiece, and then lowered it. Now, there have been so much Tensions lately.”
“High Dissonance Tensions are common, you ignorant buffoon,” the Dean spat, and then grimaced. He wheezed. “Our job is to educate Magickers so that that won’t happen, but every once in a while you get a trickster.”
Urie nodded. “Right. So, I need you to track down that Warlock of yours and re-educate him. While you’re at it, care to tell me what in Adon’s Sin is a Transplanar entity doing in my City?!”
The Dean managed a wolfish grin. “That’s probably because of the Warlock too.” The Dean wheezed again. He could feel the cold blossom of potential Dissonance from his chest.
“Hm.” Captain Urie leaned back. “Then I’m going to need permission from you.”
The Dean raised an eyebrow and looked at him.
Urie turned to Sersha, then back to the Dean. “We’re going to have to apprehend this Warlock of yours. Now, since every Magicker that’s gone through the Collegium in this city is under your juris-”
“Fine,” the Dean said, looking away. “Go ahead. Apprehend him. Give him the Death Penalty for all I care.”
Captain Urie raised both eyebrows and leaned back a bit. Grinning, he said, “Well I’m thankful that we can come to terms with that.” The Naphli Captain rose to his feet, and the two Senior Officers moved, waiting for commands. “One last thing. I know that you’re a recently appointed Dean, but please do keep your Magick in your pants. One more use of Magick on anyone like that that I catch a whiff of? The Congregation will make sure they know it.”
And with that, Captain Urie turned around and walked off, his two Senior Officers following suit.

Insomnia 6

Shemi Kasu watched information and images flooding through her desknode. She sighed, looking down at her palmnode resting on the table. No news from Quinen.

She wondered if she should go look for him. The information on her holographic screens showed the coordinates of somewhere within the Karoley Ward. The Collegium was in that Ward as well, but his coordinates didn’t say he’s in the Collegium. She sighed once more, and turned away.

She got up to her knees and stretched. “Hmmm.” She groaned, and then decided to head down to get another cup of coffee from the Quickshop.


* * *


Quinen stretched his legs as he hopped off the chair. His upper body glowed with intricate ink, complex scripts and drawings scrawled down his arms and his back. A few stray tendril-like inks lingered around his torso and toward his chest in a small, tight embrace.

“Where’d you get a Shell anyway?” asked Minada, running a finger down Quinen’s bare chest.

Quinen licked his lips and shrugged. He moved away from Minada and put on his shirt. “I have to go.”

Minada sighed. “When will I get paid?” She sipped a cup of coffee that she had laid beside her Inker tools.

“Soon.” Quinen walked out of the Inking room, through the thin veil. The store still said ‘Closed’. He could see a few people from the mouth of the alleyway, and then walking away. “Looks like you have some customers.”

“Word’s been spreading around,” said Minada as she walked through the veil. “You’re not the only one anymore gaining some traction anymore.”

Quinen smirked. “That’s nice to hear. I’ll see you, Minada.”

“Hopefully, “ Minada grinned, “not so soon.”


Quinen got out of the Inker Shop. He was already in the Karoley Ward, the same Ward the Collegium was in. Indeed, one could feel the immense, looming mass that was the floating isle of the Collegium.

Quinen briefly wondered if he should call a Red Cab to take him to the Collegium, but decided against it. It wasn’t too far from here anyway, and a brisk walk would benefit him and his new body by letting him get used to the body’s functions and machinations.

He walked down the pavement and turned around the corner. Straight ahead, he could see the tallest tower of the Collegium — the Administrator’s Building. The Dean’s room was nestled within.

Quinen sighed and grinned. A straight path to anywhere? That’s the least complex thing he’d had to do in his life. He walked down the path, smiling as he passed complaining, blue-collar workers, automata preprogrammed to grin at you when you walked by, skinny alfr and anzu pouncing out from the alleyways and smelling like piss-all, offering you for a ride…

He crossed a pedestrian’s walkway even when the crossing light was red. There weren’t any autochariots passing by that road anyway.

Quinen flexed his muscles as he walked, feeling the tight and rigid tendons, the taut muscles. Would he need to hit the gym to keep this strength and image up? Or maybe all he needed to do was keep himself moving.

He thought of a quick spell. Manipulate Matter. With a thought, move of a hand, and then the usage of the symbolism of the Ink on his right arm, he moved the dust lying on an alleyway. The dust stirred, and then shot up. With a smile, the Warlock paused, watching as the dust funneled upwards, all the way to the roof.

And just as it was about to escape the gap between the buildings, it slammed and exploded against a vast, blurring black figure. Something… arachnid.

Quinen’s Soul boiled. Shit.

The dust crashed against Hunter’s obsidian black carapace. It chittered and screamed, the force of the dust buffeting its momentum and sending him crashing against the brick wall of the building, and then down onto the alleyway. The homeless people — humans and otherwise — cursed and screamed as they ran away.

The arachnid twitched. One of its now six heads stretched up, and moved around, until its eyes — and grinning mouth — fell upon Quinen.

Quinen turned and bolted.

The Warlock heard the Hunter get on its feet, its blade appendages digging onto the ground as it took up on the pursuit. The Warlock heard the civilians screaming, and some of those screams being cut short as the arachnid eliminated barriers. With this thing in the open light of the day, the Naphli were bound to be en route. Quinen just had to survive until backup came.

The Warlock turned a corner, and dashed. His lungs burned less, and his feet moved faster.

Up ahead, the prism hanging underneath a black wire turned green, and the autochariots would be moving forward on the road Quinen was about to cross.

Quinen ran even faster. He could feel the adrenaline of the chase pumping through him, and he grinned like madman.

The Arachnid Hunter appeared overhead, grinning down at him. Its blade appendages dug onto the sides of the buildings, and it chased Quinen sideways. The Warlock churned a spell in his Mind’s Eye, and in his left hand the Ink he had designated for the Field of Energy burned brightly.

Autochariot horns blared. Quinen’s first reaction as he stepped onto the crossing with the autochariots at full acceleration was to use the timepiece to teleport him forward, but his Mind’s Eye had fumbled — he had visualized an Energy spell instead of a Timespace one.

Quinen’s second reaction was to raise his left arm behind him, and shout, “Herapher!” Manipulate. And he jumped.

The Spell he had been forming in his Mind’s Eye crystallized: Manipulate the kinetic Energy of the jump, and make it stronger.

The Working activated, and right as an autochariot slammed to a stop, Quinen burst up and forward, the kinetic energy of his jump amplified. The tattoo on his left arm blazed orange as he cleared the entirety of the crossing. He grunted as he slammed against the building wall on the other side of the street, but it wasn’t anything that would hinder him. With a grimace, he pushed himself off the wall, turned to his left, and ran. Even farther away from the Collegium.

Quinen took a chance and glanced over his shoulder, and he saw the arachnid Hunter leaping effortlessly across the road, sticking to the wall he had slammed against, and then running sideways once again. Its blade appendages dug into the brick, sometimes crashing through glass windows, wherein the arachnid would stumble a bit, but it would pull its appendage out of the window and continue on with the chase. One of its appendages flickered with blood.

Quinen screamed in his mind: Where are the Adon-damned Naphli?


* * *


“Captain, I’m getting word that some sort of obsidian-carapaced beast is barreling through the Karoley Ward.” Gharth looked down on his palmnode. A few human children were staring at Sersha, who sat on a cement block cross-legged and with her eyes closed.

“Hm?” Urie turned to the anzu. “Give me a visual.”

Gharth showed him the images flashing on the palmnode, which visualized some sort of arachnid… thing crawling sidewards, chasing after a tall man with black hair.

“Adon’s Fiery Spit — send the Wingsglave,” he said. “That’s no ordinary beast.” The image continued showing people scrambling out of their autochariots, taking pictures with their palmnodes, or running away. “Now! Relay the order now!”

The anzu did so.


* * *


“Shit. Get out of the way!” Quinen barelled through a crowd of workers hurrying to get to their trains or buses. They gave the Warlock strange looks at first, but when the Hunter rounded the corner, they dove out of the way.

No use. It probably has infinite stamina or something. Quinen thought quick; he saw an opening to an alleyway. He had to corner this thing and beat it. Somehow.

Okay maybe not beat it. That’s stretching it a bit too far.

Running at full speed, he grabbed the lead pipe running down the corner of the brick building and used that to help him turn sharply. He slid into an alleyway, his shoes slapping against a clear puddle.

It was a dead-end.

It was a narrow end, boxed in by three buildings perpendicular to each other. Quinen inhaled deeply as he careened to a stop. He looked up, saw clotheslines shot out of windows and jumped into windows directly across them.

The Warlock turned. The Hunter reached the opening, and saw Quinen trapped. Its grinning mouth only opened.

Its blade appendages left the wall in a flash, and in the next instant, all seven blade appendages were poised to skewer Quinen. Seven lances wielded by a mass of black Avalonian demonism. The Hunter had jumped from the opening of the alleyway, so it sailed across the space between them.

Quinen screamed and threw up his right arm, “Herapher!” and the Tattoo that had the symbol of the Field of Matter burned.

The water of the puddle exploded upwards, gushing against the Hunter. Quinen closed his hand, and the Matter Inks writhed with power. The water froze.

Quinen winced as stray Dissonance wracked his body, and he fell onto one knee. He reached out with both hands this time, and Manipulated Matter — he moved the lead pipe running down the side of the building, breaking it off and directing the water that jetted out of it towards the Hunter. As the water splashed onto the Hunter, he froze it again.

No stray Dissonance this time, but his skin looked… harder than usual. As if a chrome sheen had enveloped him.

The Hunter, on the other hand, writhed underneath a thick cocoon of ice.

Off in the distance, Quinen could hear the billowing booms of large wings flapping. He looked up, and he saw three creatures with six wings — three on each side — flapping above the alleyway he stood in.

The six-winged creatures — feathered with scales underneath the colorful sheen of plumage — banked, and riding on their large backs were silver-armored Naphli. They spoke through the voice amplifiers within their helmets. “Stand down and do not move. We are Wingsglave.”

Quinen tsked, scowling. The glare of the Daystar bounced off of the clean, reflective silver armor of the Wingsglave.

Managing a slight grin, Quinen said, “He’s all yours, officers.” And he reached out with his left hand this time, muttering “Herapher,” once more, and bent the light around him, reflecting the light away from him like a mirror.

“Sir, please comply and remove the veiling,” Quinen heard the Wingsglave say from afar. He was already five blocks away.


* * *


Sersha sat cross-legged. Gharth watched his Captain. The Detective Kotoro looked at his palmnode with eyebrows in a worried arc. Captain Urie was shouting into his palmnode, ignoring looks and gazes from the people around.

“Give me a report, now!” A voice replied to him from the other end. “There was a Magicker? Did he look like anyone from our records? No. Adon’s Fiery Spit.”

“What is it, sir?” Gharth stepped forward. Kotoro looked up from his palmnode to look worriedly at the Captain this time.

“Some… thing that’s not Mundic was chasing down this Magicker, apparently,” he said, turning to the Portal to the Collegium. “It’s nigh time we visit the Dean to understand just what in the icy nether is going on.” He put up the palmnode near his mouth again. “Give me status reports and examine the thing that was chasing the Magicker. Get some Savant Detectives to track the Magick down.”

The Captain shoved the palmnode into his pocket, sealing off the frequency. “You two.” He said, turning to Sersha and Gharth. Without another word, he walked toward the Celestial Lions. Gharth and Sersha followed.

Kotoro scowled at his palmnode. “Send me a frequency text once I’m clear to head in.”

“Will do, Detective,” said the Captain, as he walked past the Celestial Lions and sank into the Portal to the Collegium.


* * *


Quinen heaved. The adrenaline escaped him like an unraveling cloak. He could feel the Dissonance building within him. His skin felt thicker and heavier than usual, as if he were moving through water. He stopped by another alleyway — this one not a dead end and not smelling of piss — and leaned against the wall.

His palmnode buzzed in his pocket. Opening his eyes, he plucked out the device and answered Kasu’s frequency.

“Where were you?” asked Kasu from the other side, and her sudden shout actually made Quinen physically grimace. “Your coordinates were all over the place!”

“The…” Quinen inhaled deeply, still trying to catch his breath. “The thing that followed me into the Mund from Avalon saw me and chased me down.”

“The spider thing?!”

Quinen swallowed. “Yeah.”

“This is bad. Dangerous.” There was a pause. “Right?”

“Oh yeah very,” Quinen replied. “Don’t get involved. Keep being my eyes and ears Kasu. That thing was in the Karoley Ward — it was heading for the Collegium. That’s where Chrysanthemum is, isn’t she?”

Silence. “I…”

“That’s right.” Quinen pushed himself off of the wall and walked across the alleyway, out to the other side, where he could see the looming towers of the floating island. “Watch my back.” And he ended the call, cutting the frequency, and he shoved the palmnode into his pocket.

The Warlock ran towards the Collegium.

Insomnia 5

Maeve sat on her bed. She had just woken up, drunken water, and washed her face. Without her usual makeup on, her skin was pocked, sickly pale, and her angles were flat. She licked her lips, sat up again and washed her face. Again.

When she looked up at herself, she remembered a name.


She slipped on a warm hoodie and walked out of her dormitory. That’s why her dorm felt so lacking. That’s why there seemed to be some ghost that walked about the room, a restless shade trying to sleep next to her. It was the ghost of Thackeray in the deepest recesses of her mind.

She made her way through the cold Ascending air, all the way over to the separate building where the Dean stayed. She walked past the Guards, past the Librarium, through the Tasspaths and eventually, back to the double wooden doors.

Maeve balled her hands into fists, raised them, and knocked.

The door opened, and the Dean wasn’t there.

Frowning, she turned around and left as fast as she could. As she walked away, she saw a familiar face walking down the hallway. “Professor Ivahl!”

Ivahl paused, and turned around. As always, he wore that gray waistcoat that he never seemed to remove, never seemed to let go. He whipped his silver hair to the side. “Hm? Oh, De Laqua. Congratu-”

“Have you seen the Dean?”

Ivahl paused, and then stared closely at her. After a moment, he licked his lips and shrugged. “He has left, it seems. I’m assuming you’ve walked up to his room, yes?”

Maeve tsked, looked around her, as if she hadn’t heard what Ivahl had said. “Have you seen Thackeray?”

“Thackeray…?” He raised an eyebrow. “Oh, you mean Navarre! I did not, as a matter of fact. Isn’t he always with you?” A gust of wind buffeted Ivahl’s hair, leaving as quick as it came. “Don’t you have other friends you could try asking?” He plucked out his palmnode, checked the piece of glass, and then returned it.

“Eyth.” And with a rekindled flame of hope burning from the bottom of her spine to the crevice of her heart, she turned and walked away.

Ivahl watched her walk. She’d always been that kind of girl — the one that took initiative. He chuckled softly beneath his lips, shook his head, and then turned around. Another gale rushed past, and Ivahl was gone.

* * *

Quinen walked into a diner, grimacing as he forced his new body to comply to his Will. “This is going to take some getting used to…”

The front bar was mostly a granite slab painted gray and red, with wooden stools in front of the counter. Dining tables were arrayed against the front window of the shop, curving, as it was at the corner of a street. “And you?”

Quinen looked up. The man that asked for his order scratched his stubble. “Heh. You look like shit.”

Quinen waved a hand. “Give me breakfast.”

“Mm.” He nodded and scribbled something. “Pick one — pelagum bacon and grimu eggs, or stacks of waffles with chairotnyan cheese?”

Quinen licked his lips, looked down at his pocket, and found that he didn’t have enough money for both. He sighed. “Gimme a minute.”

He turned around and buzzed up Kasu’s frequency. Midway through the first buzz Kasu picked up. “Are you okay? What happened?”

Quinen snickered. “Calm down, Mom.” He turned back to the man taking his orders. “Do you take Data-Transfers?”

The man nodded. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll be right back.” He turned around, shoving the notepad and pencil into the pocket of his apron and walked back into the kitchen. Quinen put the palmnode up to his ear again.

“I need some money on this node.”

“For what?”

“I’m hungry.”

There was a silence on the other side. Quinen’s head throbbed, but it wasn’t debilitating.

“How much you need?”

Quinen smirked.

He finished the two plates quick enough. He raised his palmnode and tapped the Data-receiver of the waiter: a thick slab of aquamarine glass that showed information in the form of numbers and script. Light motes of data siphoned out of Quinen’s palmnode and funneled themselves into the Data-receiver.

“Transfer finished.” The waiter pulled the slab away. “Have a nice day.”

Quinen finished his third cup of coffee, smiled, and then turned around. “You too.” He walked out of the diner, turned right on the curb, and walked down the block. He had some people to visit.

* * *

Maeve hopped off of the brown cab and walked into the crumbling walls and galvanized steel stacks of the Dirah Ward. Of Slum City. It was the same as last time they’d come here, although this time the Daystar hung low, about to sink underneath the walls of the City. The tenants of these scabs of the wall brought out crude lamps with flickering lights within them. Some of them were the passable, usable alchemical luxes, others were the less bright orange-light luxes. Most of them carried around rods of neon for light instead, or used the sole palmnode they were able to scrape from the bottom of a dumpster as their light source.

Maeve arrived at the cul-de-sac where Eyth lived above the anzu woman. Lady Yalla, her name was?

She saw that the room above Yalla’s was dark and unlit. Maybe Eyth wasn’t home?

Without thinking, Maeve’s hand moved over to her sceptre, which hung within a little elongated leather pouch, and hovered over the revealed pommel. She saw Lady Yalla trudge out into the porch of her small home, her eyes heavy-lidded and half-closed. The anzu turned, reached for a rune on the side of the galvanized steel house, and she tapped it. It lit up with an orange light, and a bar of neon buzzed to life, casting a cool orange and blue glow over the anzu.

“Miss Yalla!” called Maeve as she walked closer to her. Yalla turned around to her, paused when she saw her, and then hung her head. She just stood there, hanging her head the entire time, weak and unmoving.

“Lady Yalla?” Maeve slowed her walk and leaned down to look at her levelly. The hunched over grandma anzu looked up at her, and Maeve fell on one knee. Her eyebrows arched downward. “Are you okay?”

Yalla shook her head. She walked closer and then butted Maeve softly.

That was a traditional anzu gesture. It had the same function as hugs.

“Where’s Eyth?”

Another headbutt.

Maeve’s shoulders slumped.

* * *

Gharth, Sersha, and Captain Urie arrived in the Southern Entrance of the floating Collegium, parking a few ways off from the Celestial Lions that guarded the Portal. One could see the many people walking about the sidewalk in front of the Portal, as well as the spacious clearing that acted as some sort of park.

The two senior officers walked behind the Captain of the Naphli HQ in the Spires. “Captain,” spoke Gharth. “Naphli Detective Kotoro Lumis is here.”

Urie turned to see the detective, outfitted in a stylish waistcoat and pants get up, overshadowed by a boring hoodie jacket. He grinned as he walked up to them, palmnode in hand as if he were just looking at it when he saw them. “Ah, Captain,” Lumis began. “I got the warrant. What’re you here for?”

“Some interrogation of our own, Detective,” the Captain replied. “They’ll be notified once you tell them you have a warrant. I have some authority in there, and I have to speak with the Dean. I’ll signal you when you can come inside.”

“Alrighty!” he paused, and then looked behind him. “Huh,” he said. “Have you seen Sahnie anywhere?”

Urie raised a stern eyebrow. “Sahnie? Namana? The other Detective, yes?”

“Yeah…” Kotoro looked down at his palmnode again. “I sent her a frequency text but she hasn’t replied. We usually go together on important cases like these. She hasn’t told me what she found yet, other than what the Senior Officer Gharth here told me.” He turned to the anzu.

“I’ll let HQ buzz her in,” said Urie, just as he connected to the HQ’s frequency and relayed that exact order.

* * *

In a dark room, far within the Western Ward, where many buildings abound, where run-down buildings revived into living places. Where warehouses stocked with refugees and homeless people. Where the cheapest rent could be found, at the expense of your privacy and health…

In a dark room in a five storey tall brick apartment, a palmnode buzzed.

A bed fit for two people leaned against a wall. A simple, adequate bathroom had its door open, and there was a small space fit for a stove and counters and a drawer. The only source of light was the buzzing palmnode, flashing intermittent turquoises.

On the bed lay Namana. Her coat hung on a hook hammered onto a slightly opened door. Light bled in, casting shadows upon the face of a man standing above the Detective. Her eyes were wide, afraid, her irises large, trying to take in as much light as they could. She struggled and flailed, but could not move underneath the man’s gigantic strength.

The man pinned her with only a hand. He raised a wicked long, single-edged blade in another, and clenched his fists. The carbon steel blade heated up, and it burned a bright orange-red.

A crimson flame.

Namana gasped as the man’s hand tightened around her neck.

The blade fell.

The palmnode buzzed once again, and beside it the intermittent turquoise flashes cast a light upon an emblem: which showed three swords crossed, pointing upwards, and wrapped by a laurel.

* * *

Quinen walked up the block and turned right into a small alleyway, ending at Minada’s Ink Shop. Through the glass front, the Warlock could see Minada sipping on a tall mug and tpying on the scriptboard of her lapnode.

The Warlock walked ahead, into the alleyway that had moss and grass growing out of sides, creating a makeshift path that seemed to paint the Inkers’ shop in a fairytale light. Of course, the scent of cigs and the buzz of flies and the husky, depressing smog from everything else didn’t really help strengthen that particular image.

Quinen removed the cigarette from his lips and dropped it nonchalantly. Quinen licked his lips, and the cig burnt up immediately as it hit the pavement.

Minada blinked, and she looked up at Quinen through the glass front of the Shop. She raised an eyebrow. With a wave of a hand, the holographic display of her lapnode dissipated, leaving only the large, slim slab of turquoise glass on her lap.

She stood and walked over to the door and pressed something. A holographic image that said “CLOSED” lit up.

Quinen smiled and walked in. Minada scowled and ran to the bar counter on the far right. There was a pop of power as Quinen’s Soul registered.  A bell chimed.

“Who are you?” Minada slung out a slugpiece from under the bar counter. The transmogrifier in the grip-cartirdge activated, power whirred. Quinen raised his hands. “Only Quinen could get through my wards unharmed.”

“Yeah well that should give you an idea,” said Quinen, looking down at his new body. Slightly taller, definitely a lot more fit and aesthetically pleasing. “Like it?”

“Adon’s Fiery Spit,” she gasped. “What have you done this time, Quinen?”

Quinen licked his lips. “It’s a long story.” He gestured at the comfy leather chair set in front of a wooden table and another leather chair.

Minada bit her lip, and her eyes only flickered to the chair. Then she nodded, but kept the slugpiece trained on him.

Quinen smiled and took the seat, groaning as he sank into the leather of the chair. Then, he explained. No preamble.

Minada listened, yet kept the slugpiece trained on Quinen at all times. The Collegiate Symbol that glowed on the side of the barrel was one of protection. For three times a day, Quinen knew, that every slug that exploded out of that barrel would be magickally protected — counterspelling and unravelling any spells used against it.

Minada herself was covered from top to bottom with ink. Her skin was naturally dark, a trait of most Zirrinae humans, which she came from. She wasn’t wearing her eyeliner today, but her hair was still tied way too tightly behind her head, in a ponytail. She had those ear fixtures that widened your lobes, and a nose ring shimmered against the white alchemical light above.

“And that’s why this happened.” Quinen finished the story quick enough, avoiding alot of the unnecessary details. Minada was the only person Quinen had told about the truth of Chrysanthemum — that she was Siddivata. She was the one that created her Binding Inks, after all.

“Shit, Quin,” said Minada. “Godshit. You were technically dead.”

“Wasn’t a fun experience,” said Quinen, shrugging. “If Avalon was the afterlife I was going to then, heh, I’d rather choose hell.”

Minada shrugged. She kept the slugpiece, but her shoulders relaxed, tension unravelling from her like a turning coil. She sat down on the chair across Quinen, and picked up her lapnode again, which she had placed on the table. “So I’m guessing you want a new batch of Inks, eh?”

Quinen smiled and nodded. “Yeah. Um, and presumably one for most of the Fields that I can do now, because I might not always have them.”

Minada glanced upward, thinking. “But if your Soul is a bit, ah, flimsier now, that means Shell-Changing is possible for you–”

Quinen waved his hand. “Let’s not think about that right now. I need an Ink Array — one for Energy, one for Matter, and then one for Death.”

“How many Workings have you cast?” She asked, rising to her feet.

“Not much. Easy ones. Not enough to break Limit.”

Minada walked over to a spot in the cafe where a thin veil of black and purple covered an opening the size of a doorway. “Alright, you have a time limit this time?”

Quinen rose to his feet as well. He walked over to the opening and was surprised he had to watch his head for once. He slipped through, and on the other side was a chair that resembled a hospital’s surgery room way too much. On both sides of the chair were wooden tables that showed different wands and steles and scepters for the act of Inking. No windows in this square room, although there a very bright alchemical light shone a bright, clear white.

“Uh, it’s not going to take more than two hours, right?”

Minada walked over to the tables and bit her lip, standing with her hands akimbo. “I guess, yeah. You want interlocking Symbols?”

Quinen nodded.

“Well,” she pursed her lips, and then tsked. “For a hundred Eagles and a drop of Tass? I’ll make it two hours, yeah.”

Quinen nodded. “Deal.”

And Minada set to work.

Insomnia 4

The Baroness of the Dwarf Court stayed pinned onto the wall as the Dean turned around and grabbed a cup of coffee with his Mind’s Hand. It floated through the air and the Dean caught it and sipped. “I’m waiting.”

The Dean sipped a second time before Zinnia spoke.

“The Warlock is still alive,” she spat. “And he escaped. One of my hunters managed to get out at the same time.”

“Who opened a Portal to Avalon?”

Zinnia raised a crimson eyebrow at that.

“Oh adonsshit,” he said, and he turned to Chrysanthemum. He snapped back to the other Siddivata and said, “Fix this.”

There was a small pause. Dean could tell the Baroness was eyeing him, gauging and weighing the consequences, if whether following the Dean could be deemed “beautiful”.

In the Dean’s perspective, the next words that resounded her decision were the wrong ones. “Or what?”

Hakumatheia could clearly sense the hesitation in her timbre. The momentary pause, the slight shaking of the first word…

“You know what will happen,” said the Dean, and with a nonchalant wave of his hand, a portal to Avalon exploded into being once again. “Go.” His voice echoed into the swirling golden gossamer rift.

Zinnia shot the Dean a look. Hakumatheia knew she hated this, but she also knew the consequences.

With a indignant humph, the Baroness turned to the portal and walked into it. With another dismissive wave from the Dean, the portal sealed shut.

* * *

When the rift behind her sealed, Zinnia screamed. A short burst of noise that echoed across Avalon. The second the sound exploded out of her lips, a rhapsodic synesthesia of notes and waves echoed into scintillating fireworks of neon blues and colors. Her fiagai stood there as her rage took shape, forming into her shout, which then dissipated and congealed into the walls of her throne room. The throne room became red, and the leaves wilted.

“Damn that Dean!” she shouted. “I thought I had him in the palm of my hand.” She walked up to her throne and sat, pouting. Her hair blazed. The conflagration on her scalp caught on the wilting trees, setting those afire with a blue flame.

Her fiagai said nothing, all ten of them still standing one either side of her. Zinnia inhaled, despite not having to breathe in Avalon. It was probably something leftover from her human form. She exhaled, and her breath turned into an angry cacophony of mini shouts and curses.

“Tell me from which Pack that hunter — Dushamigkhala — is from.”

There was a silence for a beat, and then a disembodied voice that seemed to whisper from the crevices of the room replied, “The Cold Silver Eclipse Pack.”

“Get the Head Hunter of the Cold Silver Eclipse.”

“As you wish.”

Zinnia looked straight on at the door, and only had to wait mere moments before the green jade double doors opened at the same time, for time was a mercurial concept in Avalon. In stepped a man twice the height of Zinnia, about nine feet. Every step he took, his armor clanged, echoing steel across the entire room. On his back hung a wide greatsword, a foot wide and six feet long, along with a longbow in a strange harness made of rotting vines.

On his right arm he had strapped a buckler, and on his left he held the neck of some sort of creature with ten eyes on its scalp and no mouth, yet otherwise having a humanoid body.

“Baroness.” His voice was mechanical, metal, lifeless. No inflection. No emotion. “I am here.”

“You are the head of the Cold Silver Eclipse?”

The giant tossed the humanoid nonchalantly to the foot of Zinnia’s throne, and he knelt. “Garomeos,” he intoned. “Sword of the Silver Eclipse, killer of the Avalon Beast: Dragon Swallows the World. What would you have me do?”

Zinnia blinked. Her fires died down. She could feel the power emanating from this entity, as if some sort of Magick radiated from him. Avalon was strong with him. He had eaten much gossamer, Zinnia guessed.

“What Echelon is Cold Silver Eclipse in the Wild Hunt?”

“The Second Echelon,” he replied.

Lightning streaked excitedly across Zinnia’s bonfire hair. “I need you to do what you do best then.”

“And in return?”

“I am the Baroness of this Fiefdom,” she said, her voice calm but rolling like thunder. “Your Packmate, Dushamigkhala, is loose. We cannot have that. We are not ready yet. Common knowledge of Avalon must be hidden from the Mund.”

“I will make sure he is punished.” Garomeos stood.

“But you are from the Second Echelon, of all things,” she said. “If I let this mess up be known to those that DO know… then imagine what will happen to your reputation.”

Garomeos stood still.

“To repay me, accept this Contract that shall Bind our Gossamer evermore. By the seven names of the Dwarf King, Garomeos and Zinnia hath been bound.”

“Hath been bound.”

“You have to kill two more in my name: The Warlock of Throne known as Argist Quinen…” and she conjured a piece of his soulstuff from the boughs of her being. Garomeos stepped forward and strung it up like it was silk weave. He clasped it together in between his hands, and a light pulsed through the armor. When he let his hands go, the soulstuff was gone.


Zinnia stood and walked forward. With a thought, she raised the flooring until she was equal in height to Garomeos. Then, she leaned forward, and kissed the featureless helm.

Another pulse of light.

“Hakumatheia. Dean of the Throne Collegium.”

* * *


Dushamigkhala’s thoughts echoed through its thoughtspace.

The constant stream of its alien mind ran unimpeded as it jumped from one concrete rooftop to the next, barely reaching the other side, scrambling over the edge with its seven feet. Its blade appendages punctured a neon fixture and it fizzed out.

It only had six heads now. The seventh destroyed one hung limply to the side, yellow Avalon resonance wafting from it like yellow vapor.

It scampered across the rooftop, blade appendages digging into the concrete, no doubt disturbing the things or people underneath, and a limp head clanging against its obsidian carapace. It stopped at the edge of that rooftop and looked down. Below was, what Dushamigkhala called, a “river of bitumen” swimming with “fish made of defiled creation-essence and steel.”

It reared its new mouthed head back, and then stepped away from the edge.

It raised another, featureless head, and it made a motion quite reminiscent of sniffing. It paused for a moment, before turning and then scampering across the rooftop, running adjacent to the streets below.

The arachnid Hunter jumped over the gap and then landed on the next rooftop. Behind it were the tall, sky-piercing towers and floating marvel-monuments of the Spires.

Before him rose the floating island known as the Collegium.


* * *

Kasu had been watching the Warlock slowly grow accustomed to his body.

She shoved a spoonful of ice cream into her mouth, glanced at the holographic monitors to her right — which showed feed about the newest food recipes and some information about the going ons in the Collegium — and then back at the slumbering Warlocok. He looked so frail and, well, dead. For the first couple of minutes, he hadn’t moved at all, unmoving as a rock.

Kasu reached down and picked up a cup of coffee, sipped. She’d watched the body slowly breathe, his chest heaving, up, down, up, down. He seriously hadn’t looked like he was breathing, but now he took in deep breaths. Slow, pondering breaths that signified that he was truly asleep.

She’d gone to the thrift shop down the street, bought some clothes and scrounged up enough change to take it to the laundromat shop across the street. None of the autochariots really followed the pedestrian crossing or rules of the road in Throne, so crossing the bitumen road was like trying to play a game of “run really fast before the speeding hunk of metal hits you because they’re not stopping for you”.

Kasu glanced at the neatly folded clothes stacked on top of one another on the foot of the bed. She’d only gotten the bare minimum. A black hooded sweater, some jeans, a pair of boots. They all smelled of cheap flower cologne and cleansing powder. Tangy and aromatic, sweet like the smell of an artificial flowerbed.

Kasu nodded. That should do fine.

As Kasu scooped out the last bits of vanilla ice cream off of her tub, Quinen stirred. She gasped inaudibly, moving her rolling chair back a bit. She put down the ice cream and sat with her knees against her chest. She watched through her optics, as the naked, yet very well-toned man stirred into being.

“Wh-” he coughed. Kasu’s eyes widened. She fetched him a glass of water and allowed him to drink it slowly.

He coughed a few more times, his eyes still unopened like a babe. When he finally peeled his eyes open, Kasu could see the Soul sear through the irises. He had the dark browns that she presumed had belonged to Quinen. When she had gotten the Shell, she realized that the eyes didn’t have colors on their irises.

He sluggishly turned his head to Kasu, and then gazed at her for a few seconds. Kasu bit her lips, and then sat with her knees pressed against her chest once again.

“Who are you?”

Kasu breathed in. “Kasu.” She opened her mouth, and then closed it. And then opened it again and spoke anyway, “I saved your life.”

“Ah–” another cough, “Right. Yeah. Thanks for that.” He inhaled, and then exhaled. Inhaled, and then exhaled. He looked down upon himself, and he started hyperventilating. His eyebrows arched downward, his face exploded into shock and confusion. “I…”

“It’s alright!” she said, but didn’t move. “It’s alright. It’s a new body.”

“How…?” The shock was taking over him.

Kasu leaned forward and grabbed his hand, held it tight. “It’s alright, Quinen. It’s alright.”

That did the trick, a bit. His breathing slowed, stabilizing. He licked his lips. “It’s alright, Quinen,” she repeated. And Quinen held Kasu’s hand tight.

Before long, Quinen had worn off the shock. He laid down on the pillow, his eyes staring up at the ceiling. He would move parts of his body to grow accustomed to it. Kasu saw him touch and feel his body, his hair, his lips. He actually said something, muttered something, just to see if he retained his voice. Somehow, his voice sounded almost the same, as if the Soul had changed the vocal chords.

“Shit,” said Quinen. “I need a cig.”


Kasu walked out of the apartment building and to the convenience store a couple of blocks to her left. Dusk fell, and as she walked by the neon lights they flickered to life, illuminating with that low, buzzing sound.

She came across one shop with glass windows for walls, so you could see everything going on inside. Within were a few aisles of food and other convenient items. For your convenience. Kasu looked up, and saw, in a orange and blue neon fixture, the word “Quickshop.”

Kasu went in and ordered a pack of cigs. The man behind the counter was an alfr. She could easily identify that with the body markings — his teimach — that he tried to hide so desperately with various clothing items. Also because he had cut off his ears, and had grown his hair to cover the fact.

Kasu had studied some of the Naturaspeak in the Collegium. She took the cigs and anextra lighter, and said, “Ondo-hiranda-saninte.” You I thank.

The alfr shot her a look back, and shook his head. “Next.”

Kasu turned and left, grimacing.


When she returned to the apartment, she found her door fixed up and good as new. She realized just how empty the floor she was in. Aside from another human, she was the only one in this floor, so having the door permanently open didn’t really agitate her.

She opened the door and saw Quinen standing fully up and fully clothed. “Fixed your door.”


Quinen shrugged. “I should thank you. You got me a Shell, huh?”

Kasu smiled a tight-lipped smile. She walked over to the bed and laid the pack of cigs and the lighter there. The clothes she’d bought him fit him well enough. Maybe she should’ve gotten a longer sweater, but hey.

“Thanks for the cigs.” Quinen said again. He grabbed one, blew into the tip of it, and then muttered, “Herapher.”

The air that he’d blown out slowed down, grew stagnant. Quinen grimaced slightly, and then the air fizzed, and then turned into flame, igniting the end of the cig. “Shit. Can’t do anything done without my Instruments.”

He turned to the lighter and picked it up. He examined it, and then shrugged. “This should work, I guess.”

“So you’re the Warlock, huh?” Kasu asked, as she tried to slowly walk around Quinen. Eventually, she sat on her chair once again.

Quinen raised an eyebrow and paused. He glanced at Kasu from the corner of his eye. “You’ve been in the Collegium too?”

“They spoke about you,” she said. “You know. In the urban legend type of way.” She eyed him as he dragged a long one, and then puffed it out. The smoke wafted, reflecting the red neon outside.

“What they say?”

“Um.” She bit her lip again. “That you can rewrite reality.”

Quinen shrugged and fell onto the bed again. It was eerily silent inside, the only noise coming from the bustle outside and the low hum of the Transmogrifiers. “Isn’t that what Magick is, anyway?”

Kasu thought, and then said, “Magick changes reality.”

Quinen sighed. He leaned against the wall and scoffed a bark. “What else?”


“What else did they say about me?”

“That you consorted with demons and fiends to get that ability. That’s why they called you Warlock, actually.”

“Ah. Because I consorted with demons. Because that’s the only way I could’ve managed to have been this… good with Magick.” Quinen turned to look at Kasu.

Kasu only stared back.

Quinen looked away. “I had a different mentor. An alfr mentor. He was the previous Dean.”

Kasu raised an eyebrow. “So the Dean I’d met earlier was newer?”

“Somehow. You met the Dean?”

Kasu nodded.

There was a pause, before Quinen cursed. “So that’s where Chyrsanthemum is, huh?” He shot up to his feet.

“Chrysanthemum…?” When it dawned on her, she gasped. “Adonsshit. How could I forget?”

“Mind Workings,” said Quinen, looking around. “Where’s my coat?”

Chrysanthemum had stood up at this point and shrugged.

“Ah shit.” He sat down again. “Okay, lemme think this through. One of the most powerful Magickers has Chrys hostage. I don’t have anything to blunt against his magick. My coat can, but it’s lost.” He was hotboxing his cig. “Shit. My old body’s dead, huh?” He turned to Kasu.

Kasu licked her lips.

“Yeah probably. Fucking hell. Alright. In cases of Transportations, the Collegium always manages to get ahold of the Magicker’s body. So I must’ve been in their Medica. Then I must’ve been killed. So my old body would be in a mortuary, somewhere, while my Instruments are probably… back in the repository. Goddammit.

“How long since the Dean encounter?”

Kasu furrowed her eyebrows, and it took her a second to get it. “Ah, um, around a few hours? It was near the Zenith hour.”

“Alright, then,” he said, standing up again. The first cig had been shortened considerably. He plucked it from his mouth, threw it to the air, and then muttered “Herapher” once again. The cig disintegrated into ember motes. He picked up a new cig and lit it up; this time, by placing his the end of cigarette near his fingers, and then snapping. He spoke the same, Manipulating word, and the sound waves transformed into flame that ignited the tip of the cig.

Kasu blinked, impressed. “You are really good at that. Is that all you learned?”

Quinen turned to her and grinned. His teeth were an exemplary white. “I can Sense, Manipulate, Transmute, and Destroy Energies.

“I can Sense, Manipulate, and Transmute Matter.

“And finally, I can Sense and Manipulate Death and Timespace. Of course, the Sight and the Aegis, but those are par for the course.

“Anyway, those are my credentials. Eventually working my way to Create Energies, but all this Avalon work has me cramming.” He turned toward the door and began to walk out.


“I can’t bring you with me. Too dangerous.”

Kasu rose to her feet. “At least give me your palmnode’s frequency.”

“For what?”

“For… contingency. Look, I can help you from back here. Send information, scan areas, that kind of shit.”

“I would, but I don’t have my palmnode with me anymore.”

Kasu bit her lip. She turned, pulled out a drawer and tossed an older version of a Halcyon palmnode his way. A Nova 6. Fast, reliable, and has a great link to the Datascape. Quinen caught it. “Ta. I’ll be counting on you.”

Kasu smiled and nodded.

The Warlock walked back into the warzone.


Insomnia 3

Shikoth barrelled forward, tumbling through the air, but managed to right himself and catch the winds. “What the hell?” He turned around and felt the great Magickal outburst coming from within the Dean’s room. The skeleton winced — as much as a skull can wince — and turned around and went about on his way, as he was tasked to do.

* * *

Gharth landed on the landing pads of one of the taller Spires. The Naphli’s HQ. At this time of day, there were more than just a few people bustling around in black and white suits. Captain Urie stepped forward, one hand resting on the hilt of his Naphli-issue blade. “Report?”

“Another Magickal Incursion, Captain,” he said. “Still of a High Dissonance Tension. This is very disconcerting…” Captain Urie was already turning around and walking back to the electric lift down to the garage.

“It sure is. Gharth, Sersha, with me.” The Captain pointed at a young-looking lady sitting in front of a desk. Sersha turned and nodded. She had been coating a long, single-edged curving blade with what looked like some sort of translucent liquid, that congealed and made the blade of the sword gleam. When she nodded, she flourished the blade and sheathed it down the built-in scabbard on the backside of her armor.

Gharth managed an avian grin at Sersha as she walked into the electric lift with them. “Hey, Knife-ears.”

“Birdbrain,” she said back, with the tiniest hint of a smirk on her pale face.

Urie stepped behind them. As they zoomed down the electric lift, Gharth noticed Sersha’s posture. Straight, unmoving for the most part, with her fingers open and relaxed, ready for anything. She regulated her breathing, ready should a fight erupt at anytime. On her right waist hung a standard issue slugpiece.

Soon enough, the lift opened and they stepped within. They piled up within the autochariot, and it made its way to the Collegium. “Oh yes,” Gharth perked up, forgetting something. “The Detectives are making some headway, and they want to investigate within the Collegium. For that, they need a warrant.”

Captain nodded. “Who were the Detectives?”

“Namana Sahnie and Kotoro Lumis.”

The Captain brought out his palmnode and buzzed the frequency of the Headquarters. He told them to issue warrants for the Collegium to aforementioned detectives.

* * *

Kasu blinked, and then checked her pockets. “Where’s my palmnode…?”

Maeve turned and looked at her. “Huh?”

“My… palmnode…” She blinked, and then shook her head. “Sorry, Maeve. I have to go.”

“Where’s Thackeray, I wonder…” They walked down the Central Park of the Collegium. “I should go look for him. Alright, you take care, okay?”

Kasu nodded, and she was off.

Her memory was slowly coming back to her. Her mental defenses managed to soak up a lot of the perversions from the Working of… who did the Working? Was it the Dean?

She shook her head. She had to get Quinen out of there. If… if she was forced to leave the palmnode, then the Dean must’ve known that there was something important within. That the Warlock was in it.

She took the City-Rail Transit to her home. It was faster, and she wouldn’t get caught in the traffic. She fervently hoped that she wouldn’t be late.

Kasu dropped by a certain place just outside her the Ward in which her home was in. She wove through buildings close to each other like concrete ravines, until he found a neon sign that only said, “Unggang’s” plastered above a steel door. Kasu knocked.

There was a thumping on the other side of the door, and then it swung open. The sound of the hinges creaking echoed across the room. Out came a nine foot tall… person that had to crouch to get through his own little door. His skin was mottled and textured like the bark of a tree, his tusks crooked and jutting out from his jaw. His eyes were a pitch black, but if one looked closely and looked past the ugly exterior, one would see specks of starlight. He breathed through his fat cigarillo.

Past the door, Kasu could see a flight of stairs going down into a much larger basement room.

“Ung,” she spoke. “I need… um,” she looked around her. There was a woman fumbling with her purse, a bunch of homeless trying out the newest magickal herbs. She turned back to Ung. “I need a Shell.”

Unggang spoke with the voice that grated the earth in its baritone. “Okeh, Shemi Kasu. Please, step inside.”

Kasu nodded, looking about her still. She closed the door behind her, and followed the giant down into his basement.

Basement was a bit of an understatement. It would be more accurate to have called it a cave. It rose up to probably all the way to the first floor of the building above, as the nine-foot tall giant still had about two feet of headspace within. As Kasu stepped down onto the maroon-carpeted floor, Unggang walked across the room in three strides and looked down at a large table that had rows upon rows of clay-like humanoid.

“What body you need?”

“Human,” Kasu said. “Um, hopefully you have some?”

Unggang nodded, scanning through his rows. “Of course I do! Everyone here in Throne is human.” He sighed. “Not very many kapre.”

Kasu smiled a tight-lipped smile. He walked over to Unggang and stroked his arm. “You’ll find one some day, big guy.” She blinked.

Unggang shrugged. “I do not want one. I want many.” He shrugged. “But it does not bother me. I have my customers, and they pay me. Very good business.”

Kasu snickered. “You’re running a very illegal business, Ung.”

Unggang turned to her and grinned. His teeth clacked woodenly. “But sometimes, illegal business is what people need.” He turned back. “I am guessing you need human male? Tell me what shape and distinctions. I am sure to have some.”

“I guess, tall, handsome? Maybe has long hair. Free of tattoos, ew,” she said, grimacing. “Give him a well-toned body.”

“Why you need Shell, huh?” asked Unggang as he picked up a masculine Shell, shook his head and dropped it back down. “I did not know you studied the Death Arts or the Spirit Arts.”

“Data Arts,” replied Kasu. “And, I… managed to digitize a Soul.”

Unggang turned and raised a leafy eyebrow. “You did?”

Kasu nodded. “I’m sure the Dissonance will manifest like some kind of headache and it’ll hurt like hell.” She bit her lip. “I should pick up some dampener pills for that actually…”

“Say no more.” Unggang paused from his sifting, picked up a clear, small packet of pills, and gave it to Kasu. It was small, even in Kasu’s fingers, and it made it all the more humorous when Unggang had to pick it up with the sharpest of precisions.

“Thanks, Unggang.”

“That will be an extra,” he said, smiling. “But let us finish this first, yes?”

Kasu nodded. “Right.”

“But tell me how you did this Soul-Digitizing. I hadn’t heard it done before.”

Kasu shrugged. “With live subjects.”


“You’ve never heard it done before with live subjects. I’m guessing this one — this wandering Soul — had a physical body that was by all intents and purposes, deceased.”

“Ah yes,” Unggang nodded. “That may be a valid reason. Interesting. So the Living Souls of the Dead may be tampered with… How did you get a Living Soul detached from its physical body, however?”

Kasu licked her lips and bit them. “I… don’t know, honestly. It came from Avalon, so maybe Transportation?”

“From… Avalon? Then that soul plays with a particularly dangerous fire.”

“He does.” I guess. Kasu said.

“Here.” Unggang picked up a body that was handsome enough, rugged, and with a body build that would put Kerahmetian sculptures to shame. Such Kerahmetian sculptures showed images of human perfection, with lean muscles and flat stomachs, with six packs. Kasu thanked the kapre, and the kapre offered to put it in a minimizing bag, wherein it would fit, but the bag would be a lot smaller. That added much more money to her final.

“How much would that be?” Kasu asked, biting her lip.

“I think two thousand Eagles should do the trick.”

“Fuck,” she patted about her, checked the deep pockets of her green leather coat. “You, uh, take monthly payments?”

Unggang nodded. “You may pay me fully in another time. All I need is some money now, and a lock of your hair.”

Kasu sighed. Very well.

* * *

Argist Quinen had no idea what was happening outside. He was mostly moving about the confines of the palmnode subconsciously. He looked about him, and realized that he was, somehow, basically an intelligent ghost. The Datascape was his Underworld, or his Great Afterafter. What if this was his punishment? His punishment for all his transgressions in the past, against Reality, against the Dean, against the Collegium…

He stopped. The Warlock clutched his head, and willed the thoughts to go away. He didn’t want them back.

It wasn’t long before there was a subtle pulling and manipulation in the Scape. Quinen felt the tugging, fraying, and otherwise perversion of the entire Realm before another “ghost” materialized in front of him. She looked like… that girl that had digitized his soul.

Her hair had been put up on top of her head. Lines of blue and gray circled about her, and her entire body was covered in an electric sheen of data and information, swirling clouds of numbers and haze.

“Who are you?” Quinen spoke, but he didn’t hear his voice echo.

“Call me Kasu,” the girl replied. Without another word, she reached out and grabbed Quinen’s Soulstuff. Quinen cursed, reflexively tried to pry her hand off of his, but she worked her Dataturgy, and the room around him blurred. It funneled into a tunnel of brilliant lights and data, of great brightness. The blues and grays and whites and yellows blurred all about him, in discombobulating synesthesia and…

* * *

Kasu bit her lip and closed her eyes. She curled up in a fetal position as she felt the Dissonant wracking in her Soul, but she had to hold out just a bit more before she could give in to the Dissonance.

Once the painful spasm of Dissonance grew a bit more tolerable, she stood up and reached for the packet of dampener pills. She realized she had tears in her eyes as she searched for some kind of liquid to down the pills with. She found a gallon of milk that she’d almost forgotten. She checked the date it would’ve expired. Shit. Tomorrow.

She downed the pills with a huge gulp of the milk. The pills reacted almost immediately, the headache and the spasming pain subsided, just a bit. She inhaled, closing her eyes and regulating her breathing. She wiped the tears from her cheeks, somehow proud that she didn’t make a sound.

She turned around once again to the unmoving form of the Warlock and realized that she really should’ve bought him some clothes.

Eh, she thought. Too late for that now.

* * *

Quinen swam through a sea of abyssal emptiness, of overwhelming nothing. And the Warlock could not comprehend nothingness, for the mind has to think of something, therefore it cannot think of nothing. These thoughts and non-thoughts waged war, and there was a great wracking pain within his very being.

The Warlock awoke. He awoke simply — just like any other human. His eyes opened, and he gasped a breath.

And that was when he felt something was wrong.

He gasped for another breath. And then another. And then another. And his whole body was wracked by spasms of breathlessness, of the lungs failing to heed the commands of his Soul. He closed his eyes, and desired to die, as he felt his lungs bursting from within, as if he was drowning. Drowning…

No. He saw Chrys’ face in the back of his eyelids. He saw the things he left behind. He saw his past, flurry through him, and how the Baroness Siddivata known as Zinnia has the power to wreak havoc among Throne, bringing with her the Wild Hunt.

And because of this, he awoke, and he Willed his Soul to conform to this Shell. He’d seen this before. He’d seen Souls transplanted onto homunculi. Some of them succeeded, some of them didn’t. Those that succeeded have been testaments to mortal ingenuity.

Quinen shook violently within the chains, the coffin that was the Shell, and he Willed his Soul to be at peace. “I am the Master,” his voice managed to roll out of his thought, echoing like rolling thunder across the room despite the mouth never moving. “The Magick is still.”

And all was calm, and all was peaceful.

Kasu had been going around, scrolling through walls of scripts on her desknode. She sweated, muttering over and over to herself, the tears on the corner of her eyes streaming down her cheeks.

She didn’t stop even when all was calm, even when Quinen had control of his body once more. Quinen reached out, and touched her hand. The Warlock was just as impressed at his Will, and at this new development. This new body he inhabited.

Kasu gasped, tumbling away from his touch. He must’ve been deathly cold to the touch. The semblance of life, warmth, should come gradually, as the Soul anchors itself within this new body.

Quinen winced, as his Soul flagellated itself to fit within its new shape.

“Thank you,” Quinen managed to say, before he fell back to darkness.

Insomnia 2

Quinen opened his eyes with a gasp, as if he were in some sort of trance or dream or nightmare. He opened his eyes and saw himself in the vast, blinding light of the Datascape. The incandescent flows of information and the powerful lines of data coursed beneath him in murky, chaotic shambles. He saw that he was in someone’s Datagrove, finding himself within a room sleeted over with a blue-gray haze. Those lights of data exited through the Datagroves’ opening: the window in front of him. He could hear the second-hand conversations and the third-hand gossip being passed to and fro like water running through glass pipes.

The Warlock turned around and saw nothing but the Datagrove. When he looked down upon himself he saw his lingering Upper Soul, still not free of this mortal coil.

How… How did I get here? He wondered. Ah. That girl. He thought back to the girl that raised her palmnode at him. Was that possible? He wasn’t a master of the arts of Data, nor the Arts of Working the Scape with Will. But manipulating a Soul with it with such ease… it wasn’t possible, right?

He wondered then. He knew that one could manipulate the Soul using Diwaturgy, the Sorcery of Manipulating Diwa, but he knew not much more than that. He’d decided not to dabble into the basic foundation of Magick, finding that Magick that affected the natural state of the World Seen to be far more important, or pragmatic, or fun.

So the thought lingered on in his mind, even as he wandered about. A Soul without his Lower Half in the Datascape.


* * *


Kasu breathed hard, with the woman behind her cradling the small feychild. The two of them reached the bottom of the stairs, and then eventually arrived at the Lobby. The janitors wiping the windows turned to them with furrowed eyebrows, stared for half a second, and then went back to their chores. Gotta get their work done, after all; they were being paid by the hour.

Kasu turned around to see if the woman was still following her and she was, still carrying Chrys in her arms. The little girl’s pink hair glowed dimmer now, softer hums. It was as if the bright beating was slowly being extinguished.

Kasu nodded, and she tried thinking of safe places to bring them, to no avail.

“Get us a Brown Cab,” the woman carrying Chrys said.

Kasu bit her lip, but she nodded. She dashed out to the curb, and she realized that it was early morning Ascending already. The Daystar blossomed a yellow-orange glow into the world, banking in the west. A few autochariots passed by — the morning bustle had already begun. It was mostly humans walking to and fro, grabbing donuts and shoving them into their faces, washing it down with coffee or beer. They rushed out with half-buttoned up uniforms, obviously late to whatever job it was they did to contribute to society, tying up their hair.

The occasional non-human race lumbered through, making way for the either taller or shorter humans.

Kasu reached out a hand to hail a Cab, and then beckoned for the woman and Chrys, The two of them slid into the passenger’s cabin of the autochariot. The woman held Chrys up and fixed her position so that she was sitting down, leaning against the woman’s shoulder.

The woman leaned forward to the driver. “Karoley Ward, Collegium?”

The driver turned on the meter. “Which entrance?”

“South should be good.”

“I gotcha.” He drove off.

They rode in silence for a short while. The raven haired woman fixed her hair, tying it up ontop of her head, exposing the soft pale skin of her neck underneath. She turned to Chrysanthemum, checking up on her, before turning to Kasu. The Dataturge looked straight on ahead, blinked, nervous and afraid of looking at this woman straight at the face.

Kasu saw the woman smiling from her periphery.

“And what do you have in connection with the feychild?”

Kasu blinked. “Me?” She glanced at the woman, saw her freezing gray blue eyes, and then looked away. “I’m just being a good soul and helping her.”

The woman raised an eyebrow. “Oh, is that so? You have no connection whatsoever to her?”

Kasu shook her head. “Sort of. Um, it’s trivial. I knew Oberen and they both walked into the cafe I worked in and then suddenly I found out that Chrysanthemum was, er, that.”

“Roeser Oberen?”

Kasu nodded. “Y-yeah.” She gulped.

“Where is Oberen?”

Kasu stayed silent, looking down at the black floor of the cab instead of straight ahead.


There was silence. The taxi driver was glancing at them from his rear view mirror.

“So, you just randomly helped this girl out.”

Kasu shrugged. “Right. Um,” she bit her lip. “I don’t think I need some big ol’ reason to help her out. Besides, Oberen clearly went out of his way to help her. So she has to be of some importance.”

The woman turned to Chrysanthemum, and her gaze lingered on her. “You might be right.” She turned to Kasu. “De Laqua Maeve, by the way.”

Kasu blinked. “Shemi Kasu.”

“Call me Maeve. We’ve already survived death together, anyway.”

Kasu blinked. “Then I guess you can call me Kasu.”

The cab turned into the Inner Interward Highway, joining the throng of other autochariots moving down the road, like a river of rubber and steel.


* * *


The anzu named Gharth flew across the morning air, his grand feathery wings slicing through the wind. He dove onto the rooftop where the scene of one of the crimes was supposed to be. Two crimes around the same building was intriguing to the Naphli — there’s a very small chance they weren’t connected to each other. And with reports of another High Dissonance Tension, this could prove intriguing indeed.

Not like they didn’t deal with Dissonance Tensions brought about by Magickers that didn’t respect the law every now and again. But it has been around two days since the last one, and a High Dissonance Tensions is rarely seen. High Tensions were sources of great magickal workings.

Gharth opened his wings right before he hit the ground, allowing air to catch him, and he dropped down safely onto the concrete parapet of the rooftop. Across them, he could see visible signs of struggle, blood everywhere, a broken door, and two bodies eviscerated and laid onto the floor.

The first body, nearer to the parapet he stood on, was human. He still had the lingering of magick about him. There was a woman detective, also human, standing over him, inspecting the dead body with a critical eye. She was squinting, her blonde hair cascaded down behind her, and she scrunched up to a heavy cloth which she used as a scarf. The long and heavy gray overcoat was definitely a nice touch. Gharth liked to think of himself as a sort of fashion connoisseur. Not that it applied to him, since he had to wear Naphli uniform tailor made for his race.

He stepped down onto the concrete of the roof, his zygodactyl feet crunched onto the surface. “Detective Namana,” he said, stepping forward. His Naphli-issue sword and slugpiece clanked on his right waist. “Tell me the read of this situation.”

Namana turned to Gharth. “Not good. Also: Sahnie, since we’re friends an all.” She turned back to the body. “This one’s eviscerated, but I can’t connect the cause with the effect. Lacerations on his body, deep, and curiously clean. Honestly, only a Naphli blade could make this clean a cut.” She looked up, at the second body — a decapitated belgar. “That one is stranger. She has the emblem of the Knights Vigilant.”

Gharth blinked. “The Knights? I thought they were gone?”

Sahnie shrugged. “Well I guess not.” She waved a dismissive hand. “Anyhow, the strangest thing of all from this scene are definitely the pockholes. See over there? They look like they were formed by sturdy spears struck onto the concrete. Multiple times. Some of them have a high frequency, while others are far apart.” She pinched her nose, and then shrugged.

Gharth inspected the pocks in the concrete. Some of holes were close together, while others were apart. “Right. The frequency of those holes are strange. Any hypotheses?”

“They were feet, maybe,” she said. “Bladespiders have that similar type of legs, with sharp swords for feet, which they use to climb up surfaces. But most of them can only be found in far Northern Sidef, and none of them can grow that large.”

The anzu nodded. “Anything else?’

“Very heavy Magickal Resonance. It’s setting off all kinds of signals on my Sight.” She stepped back, closed her eyes, and uttered a word. Mandalas of power — three tiers of them — materialized in front of her eyes, glass circles of translucent iridescence amplifying her vision. She opened her now blazing eyes, and peered into the scene.

After a moment, she tsked, and closed her Sight with another blink. “Resonance, yes, but not Magickal. Definitely a bit more… transdimensional. Might be from a Realm in the Mael.”

Gharth frowned.


He decided to leave Sahnie to her investigations and fluttered down to the left side of the apartment, into a piss-smelling alleyway where another body lay. The entire alley was sealed off with holographic sign telling the populace that there was an investigation underway. Some of the populace tried to peer in, but most of them only took a cursory glance before heading on their usual route.

Gharth strode over to where the body was, past other Naphli officers that wore a similar a black and white uniform as he did. They nodded to him as he walked past, and Gharth quickly returned it.

He saw the body: it was a handsome looking young man, with a cloud of black hair and pale skin. He wore a dark blue jacket, and through his anzian eyes he could still see the Magickal Resonance floating up from him like some sort of mystic vapor. The dead boy’s chest looked like it was blown inwards, with dark black markings on them.

The one they’d sent to investigate this one was yet another Magicker-Detective. Gharth walked up to the man, lanky and wearing glasses, with a maroon waistcoat over a dress shirt. “Detective Kotoro?”

Kotoro raised an eyebrow and turned to him. “Ah, Officer Gharth,” he nodded to the anzu. “We haven’t made much progress. Excessive blunt force to the chest, died before he hit the ground. Used my Sight earlier — terribly powerful magickal force. Destroyed his entire upper torso. Magickal power overflowed to his Soul, even. He was in the Great Afterafter at the moment of the impact on his chest.” He sighed. “Whatever it was.”

Gharth blinked first, processing the information, then: “Magickal Hammer, maybe?”

“Maybe,” Kotoro said, shrugging. “I’ll get deeper into this, but that means going over to the Collegium. I need a warrant.”

“I’ll do my best,” Gharth said, nodding. He didn’t like the developments on this case. Yet another High Dissonance Tension. Another Incursion of Magick, it seems, but transdimensional? Just what were they dealing with here? “I’ll report back to Captain Urie.”

Kotoro nodded. “Much thanks, Gharth. We need to get to the bottom of this.”

“So is the impact caused by something Magickal, and not Transdimensional?”

Kotoro nodded. He paused, then turned to look up at the anzu. “What did Sahnie conclude up there?”

“That the resonance seemed Transdimensional. At least, she said so.”

“Ah,” Kotoro said. “Interesting. Well, I suggest you head back to Captain Urie and get that warrant.”

Gharth replied that he will. He turned around, opened his large, gold-feathered wings, and shot into the air. As he rose into the skyline, he saw, in his periphery, a skeleton of an anzu perched atop a rooftop across the alleyway. He turned for another look, but the skeleton had vanished.

He shrugged, turned, and made his way back to the Naphli headquarters.


* * *


Shikoth flew through the cold Nymph season air. He made his way to the floating fortress that was the Collegium, powered by dwarfic defying magicks. Thoughts ran across his… thoughtspace. He didn’t exactly have a physical brain, you see.

The anzu veered up, flapping rapidly, and reached the high window that led to the Dean’s window. He perched on the open window, peering into the room of the Dean. He saw Hakumatheia, wearing a coat over a black shirt and denim pants. He sat with his fingers steepled, and he leaned forward.

Across the table, in front of him, stood a disheveled woman with tattered clothes, which seemed to be once a beautiful array of black and blue coats and shirts, skirts and leggings, now showed too much of her pale skin accented by the black cherry of blood.

She held in her hands a small little girl with pink hair, and Shikoth couldn’t help but mutter, “No fucking way.”

It was Chrysanthemum; it was the Siddivata. They did it.

But beside the disheveled woman was a not too little girl, also disheveled, her optics bent, her dark green jacket seeming too big for her, holding a hazing palmnode in one hand.

“Ah,” the Dean said. “Very, very good, Huntsman De Laqua.” Hakumatheia gestured for De Laqua to lay Chrysanthemum on the chair in front of his desk. “I shall reward you accordingly, but I suggest you rest first. Maybe a trip to the Medica.”

“We are loyal to you, Dean,” De Laqua said almost bowing reverently. “But I must ask a question before I hand the victim over…” Her face was firm, unyielding, and fierce. “Did you think we would get out? Was the plan really to rescue the Warlock?”

The Dean paused. He had that passive look on his face. Shikoth never saw him wearing any other mask, only a passive mask that seemed to tell people that he knew every detail and minutiae of your next move. “It might, it might not be.” He shrugged. “Hand the Siddivata over.”

De Laqua Maeve narrowed her eyes. “Why? You ordered us to hand over the Warlock, yes? Not this little girl. Not this… Siddivata?” The Huntsman looked down, but she shook her head and resumed her piercing stare at the Dean.

The Dean shrugged. “The Warlock is gone, is he not?”

“He has turned into a Soul,” said De Laqua. Her eyes glanced over to the shorter girl beside her. “I do not know if this bodes well or not.”

“Ah, so,” he turned to the girl. “She has it?”

The girl gasped, taking a step back.

“Shemi Kasu,” said the Dean, leaning back. “You’ve studied here before, if I recall correctly. Matter studies, or was it Energy? I don’t remember.”

Kasu’s eyes flickered to Maeve.

Maeve shook her head. “Answer me truthfully, Dean Hakumatheia. Did you plan on us getting out?”

The Dean spread his hands out. “Of course! I needed the Warlock’s Soul.” With a very minute flicker of a finger magickal power popped, and Maeve nodded.

“Right. Okay.” Maeve turned to Kasu. “Give him the Soul of the Warlock.”


“Just follow his orders.”

The Dean leaned forward again. “Oh yes, by the by, wasn’t there another one of you? The man? Thackeray Navarre, if I recalled his name correctly.”

“Ah,” Shikoth cut in then. Maeve and Kasu both turned to look at the skeleton, but Dean only looked at the girls. “Isn’t that the guy on the rooftop? Yeah, he’s dead.”

De Laqua almost dropped Chrysanthemum. She stepped back, her grip slackened, and she blinked. “Wh-what?”

Shikoth turned his avian skull to Maeve. “You heard me. He gone, dead, his Soul has gone to the Great Afterafter, baby.” He then turned to the Dean, completely ignoring the disheveled woman, who has gone through hell, staring at him with glassy eyes. “By the way Hakky, there’s this weird spider thing going on killing them. Um, you want to do something about that?”

The Dean blinked. Slowly, almost trancelike. “What?”

Shikoth sighed. “You heard me, didn’t you?”

The Dean cursed. “Quick. Get out of this room.” He turned to Maeve. “Leave the Siddivata here. You, Shemi, leave your palmnode here as well.”



They did as they were commanded. Kasu dropped her palmnode onto the desk, and Maeve laid Chrysanthemum on the chair. Quickly they shuffled out the door after that, and it shut tight behind them with a loud bang.

“Let’s get back to my dorm room,” Maeve said, on the other side of the door, but she didn’t feel like her words were her own.


* * *


“What’s going on, Hakky baby?”

The Dean turned to Shikoth. “Leave for now. Keep an eye on that same thing, and report back to me once you’ve seen the spider thing again.”

Shikoth nodded. “Will do!” And fell backwards into the air, and then up into the sky.


The Dean, now alone, closed the window with nary a thought. He snapped his fingers, uttered a snarling word, and a portal to Avalon burst open. Through it, he could see the disheveled room of Zinnia, vines everywhere, with her fiagai scattered about. The pillars were gone.

“Zinnia, come to the Mund.”

The firetree Siddivata turned to him, frowned.

“Come!” His voice rolled thunder.

Zinnia shrugged. She stood up, and walked through the portal. Her true nature and form peeled away as she stepped through the veil between worlds, replaced by something the Mund could actually understand. Her fiery red hair and emerald green eyes returned. “What is it, Hakky?”

Without another word, the portal to Avalon closed, and an invisible hammer of energy slammed Zinnia towards the wall.

Hakumethia glared at the Siddivata Baronness, and his eyes crackled with electricity. “Explain why a Hunter of the Wyld Hunt is here. And do not lie to me.”