Insomnia 1

“Knight Vigilant?” Kasu’s eyebrows furrowed, and she blinked. “That’s impossible.”

The belgar snorted. She didn’t turn to her. “Is it really?”

“The Knights Vigilant aren’t sellswords,” she said. She found that her voice quivered. “They’re, well, Knights. They follow a Code, and they… they’re not bad.”

Rexza raised an eyebrow. “Bad?” She shook her head. “You know what’s bad, Magicker? Is that if that rogue Siddivata isn’t brought back to that chimerical shithole she came from, or killed from the face of the Mund, it might very well spark the most intense wars between the Mund and the Realm of Avalon. We wouldn’t want that would we?”

Kasu still furrowed her eyebrows, but she didn’t say another word.

The Daystar dawned.

“And the thing is…” the Knight stared at the horizon: orange melting the deepest purple into lead. “…this really isn’t a job for just anybody. Other people? They’re just trying to get along, trying to get their jobs done, or trying to survive. It’s my duty, as a Knight, to do what others cannot, what others will not, what others must not.

“That is my Code.”

Kasu swallowed hard. She hadn’t moved from her spot, and she felt miniscule compared to this large hunk of muscle.

“Then if you’re so attached to that Code,” said Kasu, then she stopped herself. She did not go further.

The winds of the morning howled. It was not a welcoming howl. It was an angry howl. A distraught howl. A howl that seemed to grow louder and louder. Moaning deeper and deeper.

Then a cold gust of wind slammed against Kasu, and pushing her back onto her butt. The gale swept across the rooftop, bringing with it loose residue from yesternight’s rain, leftover plastic wrappers and tin can neon pops. Gray dust danced to the tune of the wind.

And then, the wind tightened, spiralling into a smaller, tinier spiral until —

A Rift in Reality EXPLODED into existence, sending Kasu forward, her body slamming onto the concrete parapet. Rexza rocked off of the parapet, but her nimble body turned, and she caught herself before she could fall, pulling herself onto the roof.

Out of the portal leapt out a myriad of figures. Firstly, two Huntsmen — their cloaks and robes and garments slashed and ripped and torn. Secondly, Chrys popped out, hitting the ground knees scraping the concrete floor, but she rolled and got her feet under her.

That same Chrysanthemum — her knees bleeding and scratched — turned around and reached out into the rift. Kasu blinked, finding herself moving too slowly.

Then she pulled someone out. Or more accurately, something. The body was vaguely human, albeit devoid of feet, and one could see straight through his visage. He seemed to be made of glistening, burning starstuff.

Right as the Portal closed, an arachnid… thing blurred out at a speed her human eyes couldn’t register. The blurring arachnid slammed against the block of concrete where their door to escape — to freedom — would’ve been.

The arachnid stopped blurring, and it showed itself… and all Kasu could understand about it was that it looked like a solid, moving shadow with a carapace of clear glass.

She blinked.

She shook her head.

She closed her eyes.

She didn’t open them.

* * *

Rexza dropped onto the concrete floor, off of the parapet, when that arachnid thing bolted out, just as the Rift sealed shut with a minor pop. Vaguely arachnid, with seven heads — each with 3 eyes and only one with a mouth — and seven appendages, signaled to Rexza that this was no normal Avalon dweller.

It was a Hunter of the Wild Hunt.

“Shit.” She dashed forward, past the two savaged Huntsmen, her target, and the Burning Soul of a Magicker. “Get back! This is too dangerous.”

Rexza watched the arachnid closely, as it examined her with its seven heads. It moved, and it was on the floor immediately, appendages digging into the concrete like dreorg-forged blades. It spoke, but it was incomprehensible.

Rexza let in a breath. It was fast.

But she could be faster.

She crouched low, going into a savage martial posture. One foot forward, another behind her, and both paws in front of her. Her claws, like every other “civilized” belgar, had been plucked off.

“Seven-Headed Dragon Style,” she breathed out, and the world tensed, like a strummed string. She shouted the next few words: “Head 5: Most Excellent Alacrity!”

“Wait!” shouted a voice behind her. It had the burning echo effect of one who spoke from the Soul. “Stop!”

She decided to surprise the the protean beast.

And the beast lunged at her as well.

The dust kicked up behind her, gray motes of dirt flurrying upward. As she burst forward, the motes of dust stayed up there, falling as if in slow motion.

She and the arachnid Hunter met and the world shook. Her right straight broke through the hunter’s defense — that is, it didn’t exactly focus on keeping itself alive — and crunched against one head.

Two blade-appendages of the Hunter moved, trying to pincushion her from both sides. She dodged backward, retracting her paw, and meeting both blade-like appendages with a foot and another paw.

Cursing, she twisted, bringing her foot up with her, and that slammed against the Hunter’s abdomen.

The two blades pulled back, and she let the momentum of that kick carry her, flipping herself backwards and a good amount of space in between them.

She landed on four arms, looked up to see the Hunter stopping itself from falling over. It looked up, and exploded into a mad dash for her. She burst into a dash as well, running to the right, aiming to perform a circle to avoid him, as well as look for an opening. She summoned her Gawa — the personal, potential form of Diwa, and — and pooled it into her legs, sending her faster and faster. Her legs pumping like bellows. Even faster despite already being in Head 5 of this Mystical Strife.

The arachnid saw her movement, and didn’t even stop. It simply used another set of appendages and moved the other way. She saw the subtle weavings of destiny and probability and chaos around it, shimmering glass spiderwebs, as it moved towards her at a blinding speed.

The Hunter cut in front of Rexza. With her Gawa-empowered legs, the Knight Vigilant launched herself into the air, flipping over the arachnid. It lunged at her with an appendage, and two heads. Her leap cleared over two heads, but the blade-appendage ripped into her, impaling her right stomach, skewering her like a delicious barbecue.

Rexza grimaced as the Hunter hurled her to the ground. She cursed as she hit the ground, and the bleeding hole only widened. She skidded across the ground, gray dirt intermingling with blood red globules, kicking up into the air, but never dropping.

She slammed against the door, and the pain exploded. Behind her, the door creaked, only a little. She barely stifled a scream. She couldn’t show weakness. Not now. Not ever.

Do what others cannot.

She rose to her feet, leaning against the wall. It stained with her blood, which immediately froze onto the dirt on the wall. The dirt puffed out sluggishly.

She allowed her scream to come, but she only allowed it to be one of defiance. Fueling her pain with her anger, she juiced up her legs with her Gawa, and hurled herself at the arachnid.

She shot through the air like a hairy, beastly bullet. The Hunter twitched a blade-appendage it was supposed to move, and then slashed two blade-appendages upon her. Rexza twisted in mid-air, allowing the Magick to take hold of her for the shortest while, allowing her to ignore the pathetic rules of Mundic Physics. She twisted as two blades came down upon her.

One blade cut only air, the other cut cleanly a gash on her upper back. She grit her teeth. Her maneuver was unhindered.

She slammed onto the Hunter’s black, arachnid chest. She raised a paw, and let her Gawa pool into the fist. She shouted and slammed it against the arachnid’s abdomen.

All of creation vibrated from the impact.




Rexza saw the ripples of power radiating from the points of impact, but no discernible damage had been done unto the arachnid. The Knight looked up, and saw that the Hunter looked down upon her, the strangest expression on its not face. The expression of confusion. It expressed it, somehow, by communicating its thoughts to her nous.

She let this be the opportunity. She slammed her empowered fist onto the Hunter’s speaking head, and it screeched, clawed at her and threw her away.

Rexza landed on all fours once again, looking up at the arachnid Hunter.

The Hunter’s speaking head shook, and looked about. It looked over to the right, and then to the left. As it did, most of the other heads simply looked up and down and left and right, and its seven appendages clacked and stomped against the hard, cold concrete.

Do what others will not.

Rexza moved in. She channeled her Gawa through her, and then let it pool into her fist and then let it overflow. It exploded in Diwal power, white and red energy bursting into flames. They trailed behind her, flaming brush strokes from a master scripter.

She launched herself toward the confused and dazed Hunter, reached up, and screamed bloody defiance one last time as she let her fist loose. It slammed against the speaking head, and the head burst into a vast cascade of red and black and iridescent brush strokes, streaking across the sky.

It fell backwards, its useless blade-appendages clicking against the concrete.

Do what others must not.

Rexza fell to the ground, looking away from the Hunter, and saw the rest of them safe, watching. One of them was stuck in mid-surprise, slowly moving backwards and stopping himself.

She let out a breath.

Behind her, one of the arachnid Hunter’s heads split open, revealing a large grin. It screeched. Its blade-appendages moved.

And all the dust kicked up, all the blood spilled, all the things hit, moved.

The dust fell onto the floor.

The blood splashed onto the concrete.

The door cracked open.

* * *

Quinen’s soulstuff shouted a burning word. “Wait!” And as he lunged forward, to try and stop what she was going to do, she disappeared. A billowing cloud of dust behind her.

All he saw were two blurs. Quinen saw in his periphery, in the split second they fought, Thackeray stepping forward as well, his mouth opening to say a word.

The besouled Warlock felt three gigantic vibrations that felt like it shook all of creation. He turned around to see what had happened.

The dust fell to the ground. A door shattered open. Bits and pieces of red splattered everywhere, intermingling with more motes of dust.

The Warlock and the Huntsman stopped, as they saw the belgar on the ground, in front of a Hunter missing a head.

They saw the belgar sighing. They saw her gasp for breath.

They saw the blade-appendages of the Hunter move, inhumanely quick.

They saw the belgar — the Knight Vigilant — fall to her knees. Defeated, and headless.

“Shit!” The Warlock eloquently put. He turned around, shouting at everyone to move. He reached for Chrysanthemum, but his hand passed through her.

His eyes widened, his Soul burned bright fire.

The arachnid Hunter’s now six heads turned to him.

* * *

Kasu saw Rexza, the Knight Vigilant, fall to the ground without her head. She blinked, and she pounced into action then, scrambling up to her feet. The sight of the dark blood splattering onto the floor shook her and chilled her spine.

She saw the Soul of the Warlock. She saw the arachnid thing turn to him.

She had to save him. He must be Quinen.

She reached for her palmnode and activated a protocol. Then, she reached deep into her Soul, and brought forth her Dataturgy. The palmnode exploded into colors — multiple blue gray lights streaming out of it like hazy, fizzing vapor. She ran forward, lifted her palmnode toward the Soul’s direction, and tapped something on the palmnode.

There was a sound reminiscent of a glass shattering. The vapors solidified, turned to Quinen, and reached for him, grabbed him, caressed him and then embraced him. Slowly, the Soulstuff of Quinen turned gray, and turned into little blocks of blue-gray data that surged through the streams and into Kasu’s palmnode.

“Wh-what the…?” His voice resonated throughout all the realms, burning soulfire.

She winced, the veins on the back of her neck throbbing as if she had an intense migraine. She held her ground, feet apart, one hand holding the arm that held the palmnode. The Datal energy seemed to push her back, as she bobbed back and then forward. Her legs shook.

The arachnid Hunter lunged forward, toward the burning Soul of the Warlock… and passed straight through the blue-gray fog of Data, slamming into the concrete of the roof.

“Quick!” The girl that wore the tattered clothes dashed toward the open door. “Through the door!”

The tattered man — his rock hard abdomen peeking through his ripped shirt — turned to the six-headed Hunter. One of the Hunter’s heads laid limp now, like a deflated balloon.

“Six Sacred Sacraments!” His hair burned golden white in an instant, and four extra arms erupted out of his back, materializing like an igniting fire. Kasu turned and ran straight past him, all the way to the door. Chrysanthemum was being carried by the black-haired girl with the tattered clothes.

As they ran through the shattered door, Kasu saw the black-haired girl turn around right at the last minute, raise her Scepter, and shout, “I call thee, Niveus!”

Everything around her suddenly felt chilly. Kasu, even in her warm sweater, shivered. The Dataturge peeked out of the doorway to find ice congealing about the Hunter’s seven blade legs, holding it in place, as the golden-haired boy flung himself toward it, swinging his six arms.

“Quick,” the woman said again. Kasu nodded, and they hurried down the stairs. The woman carried the unconscious Chrysanthemum.

The sounds of fighting and of an otherworldly echoing bounced off the walls.


Wake 15

“There exists a realm
of unbridled passion and
beautiful madness
hidden beneath all of us.”

— Beautiful Madness
by  Cordmn, dreorg poet.


Maeve cursed as a silver blade plunged deep into her gut. Intoxicating ecstasy turned her delirious. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she faded from consciousness.

Thackeray, screaming in defiance, threw himself at the thing that had stabbed Maeve. The thing was vaguely solid, an amorphous umbral blob that slithered out of the shadows between the trees. It didn’t have any eyes, nor did it seem to have appendages, but a blade as silver as the Nightstar erupted out of it anyway.

Thackeray’s six Divine arms ripped into the amorphous blob, and the shadow burst. The liquid darkness that fell onto the mutlicolored grass immediately congealed and rose into pillars of solid shade. Eventually, human figures walked out of those pillars as if they were stygian chambers. Thackeray grit his teeth, and the multitude of humanoid shades pounced.

The Huntsman managed to hold his own for a while, his four Divine Matter arms blazing gold-white, along with his two, natural arms. He punched one shade, vaulted over another, smashed one to the ground and broke four heads all at the same time.

He continued this brave bastion. A punch, evasion, a kick, a shout. The sweat had matted his shirt to his skin, his lungs grew tired. His arms and legs burned as he tried to keep himself, and Maeve, from succumbing to the wild hunt.

But for every shadow that receded, two more leapt to take its place.

Eventually, a hand slipped past the Huntsman’s valiant defence, and a cold sharp pain erupted from right hand. He cursed, and fell to the ground, and the shadows moved about him, congealing as if to reform.

The luminous sun that was Thackeray slowly succumbed to the eclipsing shadows.

All the while, the Wild Hunt watched from the Dark Between the Trees.




Time was very—awfully fickle in Avalon.

Quinen knew that he still retained Sympathy to the Fundamental Realms. But do I still have my Sympathy to Avalon…?

Zinnia’s voice crackled. “Know now that you have been beaten, Warlock.” The crackling of her voice echoed in three different silences. One light and vaguely human, another deep and hoarse, croaking like wood, and one monotone for a split moment before blazing into emotion the next. All three of them created the symphonic cacophony of Zinnia’s voice. “Know that my dear half-sister Chrysanthemum will fall into my lap.”

Quinen never looked up. He concentrated on the blooming sapling hugging the far wall. Its purple stem twisted out from the hard jade ground.

Zinnia made a sound reminiscent of someone smacking their lips. “But, then again, if she doesn’t, then what’s stopping me from charing into Throne City with the Wild Hunt as my sword and shield?”

Quinen licked his lips. He looked up. “You’re not that stupid, are you?”

Zinnia looked down at the Warlock from up on her throne, with eyes the texture of storms and with irises of blossoming roses. “What? You think the Collegium will stop me?” She shook her head, and cackled the same way a bonfire would flail wildly at a rogue wind. “Idiot. Fool. Moron. SImpleton. Mockery. Failed abortion. You dim-witted, single minded apespawn! The Collegium bows before me!” and her zephyr skin howled. Her flame-dress roared, her liquid snake-hair hissed. “None can stand against me, Baroness of Dwarf.”

Quinen, during this self-indulgent monologue, had turned back to that sapling, repeating the Mantra for Manipulate. “Herapher, herapher, herapher…” He performed the intricate hand Mudras behind him. When she finished her last, scene-consuming line, the sapling moved toward him… and then snapped in two.

Quinen grinned. “I can.” And he stood. A hot rush of Willpower and Resolve flooded through his Soul. He grinned like a wolf.

And then, behind him — just as he was about to perform some cool trick, for Adon’s sake — a portal exploded into life. The now alien sounds of shrill shouting of tenants and honking autochariots waked an intense nostalgia within Quinen. As if he hadn’t been in Throne for centuries.

Chrysanthemum stepped through the portal that had opened.

As Chrys’ Dwarf-Nymph blood mingled with Avalon, the room took on the aesthetic of a taiga. Crystalline snow over emerald jade.

The door, which had been sealed all this time, turned from the color of translucent green, to the blue-green of the sea, with a foundation of emerald. As the frost covered the material of the door, it burst open. An arachnid the size of two human males emerged into the room, wearing interlocking leaves of steel for armor. In two of its seven appendages hung…

…w-was that Maeve and Thackeray?

The silence that shook Avalon afterwards sang volumes.




The Darkness that engulfed Maeve and Thackeray tore away when consciousness returned to them. Horrid, sparkles of light behind the lids of their eyes flung them back into the flurry of reality. Of waking.

Of Avalon.

It was Maeve that came to first. The frost that had accumulated in her fingers had melted off. A few more seconds of sensation, and she realized that she was bound tightly, like a cocoon, with steel-strong threads.

She blinked, casting off the crust of slumber. She awoke to the sound of bitter fire, a sensation her limited, mundic perceptions couldn’t fathom.

The first few things she saw were the frozen walls of crawling vines and verdition. The next was the Warlock’s Soul, on its knees, looking up with wide eyes at her. The Soul’s eyes flickered over to the figure beside her.

She furrowed her eyebrows. Thackeray! She thought, craning her neck to look at the figure beside her. It was Thackeray, all wrapped up in a steel-strong cocoon like her. Thackeray blinked the unconsciousness from his eyes.

His sight recovered, the first thing he did was turn to his left, and then to his right, and shout, “Maeve! You’re okay.”

Maeve managed a smile.

“Cacophonous!” screeched Zinnia. “Make more noise and I will slowly turn every current of water within your body into seething hot brimstone!”

Maeve and Thackeray both grimaced.

The arachnid hunter that bound them in its appendages bowed a little bit too reverently at the Fey-princess. “Baroness Zinnia of the Aiobhan Fiefdom, fourth of her name,” it spoke with that serpentine hiss. “We’ve more Orderly Mundics spotted.”

Zinnia raised her liquid eyebrows. This was the first time she’d stood up. When she walked, flowers tried to blossom after her footfalls, but all they ended up becoming were frail little stalks of ice.

The Baroness of the Dwarf Court strode over to where the arachnid held the mundic prisoners. She took one glance at them and turned away, her liquid serpentine hair hissing like steam. “Abhorrently hideous. Execute them!”

All this time, the arachnid hunter never moved its seven bowed heads. Only when Zinnia issued the command did it animate once again. “As you wish,” Only one of its heads had a mouth. At least, one capable of coherent speech. It hefted Maeve and Thackeray just when a voice flared with a chilly fire.





Quinen’s Soul-mouth quite literally hung open when he heard Chrys talk. The one place she had wished never to come back to, and here she is — and on her fucking own.

The Warlock turned to find Chrys standing there, feet shoulder-length apart, her miniscule stature proving to detract from most of her intimidating demeanor. Quinen turned back around to Zinnia, who was calmly regarding Chrys.

“Ah,” she said. “So you’ve come back to you senses, dear Chrysanthemum.”

The Dwarf Baroness turned and snapped her fingers — her blazing dress danced wildly in response. As if the dress reacted to her every dramaticization. “Very good, Daughter of Ice and Earth.” The ten Fiagai brandished their swords, strung their bows, and readied their spears.

Quinen grimaced; Chrys squeaked.

“Now…” Zinnia paused, turning to the arachnid hunter that hadn’t moved. “Well?”

The arachnid turned all seven heads to Zinnia, and then to Chrys, and then to Zinnia once again. “We are… confused, oh Beloved Baroness.”

Zinnia scowled a confused scowl. “About?”

The arachnid turned three heads to Zinnia, and then three heads to Chrysanthemum. The one unmoving head spoke. “She is… the Daughter of Nymph and Dwarf. She is of the same echelon as thee, Baroness, if not higher.”

“You are on my fief, Dushamigkhala!”

“Indeed,” said Dushamigkhala. “But,  she is the Daughter of Nymph and Dwarf. A holy union. Thou art just a Baroness. Indeed, which is higher?”

Zinnia rubbed her temples. She mumbled something audible only to herself. “Fine.” She turned to her Fiagai. “Fiagai, eliminate the bastard wench.”




The Warlock plunged his hand into the frostic ground. “Hepher da Avalon!” He snarled, which meant “I manipulate Avalon!” when translated into Shennin Speech from Ascendant Speech.

Heeding the Warlock’s Will, the ground beneath them rumbled for a split moment before the columns of erathen ice exploded from the ground like fat fingers erupting out of a wall. Billows of light gathered around the pillars, as if to signify that it was, indeed, Magick.

The pillars of earthen-ice obstructed the path of the flying spears, arcing arrows, and charging hunters. Quinen’s Soul flickered for a moment.

But he didn’t stop.

He burst into action, dashing over to the arachnid hunter and yelling out the same words. “Hepher da Avalon!” Ice vines launched themselves out of their frozen places in the walls and wrapped around the arachnid hunter.

The one, articulate head shouted indignities in a language Quinen couldn’t understand. The Warlock willed the icy vines to retract, and the animated vines hauled the arachnid toward the far wall.

Quinen, conjuring up his Will, manipulated Avaon again, focusing now on the cocoons of strange silk wrapped around the two Huntsmen. With another command of Hapher, the silk unravelled, and the Huntsmen fell like a sack of rice to the ground.

“Get moving!” yelled Quinen. “I’ll buy you some time.”

Maeve looked up at him, and blinked. Then she shook her head, nodded, and turned to Thackeray. She helped him up to his feet.

“Newts!” screamed Zinnia. “Fiagai!”

There was an uncanny sound as a blade sliced clean through a pillar — a hissing sizzle to announce its feat. Grimacing, Quinen turned to Chrysanthemum. “Chrys!”

Chrys blinked, shook her head, and looked at Quinen. Her eyebrows arced upward, worried and confused. “Chrys,” Quinen repeated. “Chrys. I need you to believe in your own power. In yourself, okay? Open up another portal for us, alright?”

Chrys blinked, and then nodded. A determined furrow of her eyebrows, a determined thin-lipped smile. She breathed and turned around.

Quinen turned back to the enemy. He saw the Huntsmen limping over to where Chrysanthemum was. Neither of them looking any good.

A Fiagai appeared in Quinen’s periphery. It carried a curving blade that screamed epithets of war and destruction and strife and conflict. He bounded over to Quinen and swung his blade.

Quinen cursed, turning to the direction of the attack. He stepped back to duck away form the blade, and intoned, “Hapher!” once again. The ground beneath the attacking Fiagai rumbled before it shot up, a pillar exploding underneath the Fiagai.

The blade had cut up into Quinen’s Soul-stuff but not too deeply. The earth-ice pillar smashed the knight of Zinnia onto the ceiling, and the gauntleted hand gripping the sword fell open, limp. It tumbled out of the Fiagai’s grip, and Quinen caught it.

The surprisingly spacious room now looked like some sort of game room. Various pillars bridged the floor and ceiling. There was no coherent structure or system to the placing of the columns. Two more Fiagai emerged into the space between the pillars.

Quinen cursed. They hefted bows and spears — weapons belonging in the Mid-Second Age. He raised his own, newly acquired blade. It burned an orange fire within its gray steel. It felt awfully heavy and much too solid, but the screams of death and destruction provided a boost to Quinen’s grip.

Right as the Fiagai with the bow nocked an arrow, the screech of the arachnid echoed across the walls. Quinen flickered, turning. The two other Fiagai paused for a bit. Chrys bit her lip. Maeve and Thackeray limped faster.

Quinen saw that it had broken free of its icy vine bonds and it seemed to be weaving something. Flame colored like the sea exploded out of its spinnerets, and its legs’ appendages wove the unbridled sea-green embers into a ball of flame, coagulating and hardening as if it were a ball of snow.

Quinen stepped back, risking a quick glance over his shoulder. Chrysanthemum stood, looking away from him. One hand stretched out, fingers spread, and another in a fist against her heart. Her face contorted into worry.

Cursing, Quinen turned to the three threats before him. The Fiagai with the bow pulled back the string, and loosed an arrow.

“Ah, Adon’s blue balls.” Quinen wheezed with effort. The wound on his shoulder spewed out more stardust soulstuff. Quinen dove out of the way, but he knew the flying arrow made of loyalty turned into killing intent would hit him.

And that was when another thing guided his soul-hands.

The rearing blade seemed to move of its own accord. It moved right as Quin dove out of the way, right as the arrow got too near. The roaring, orange within gray blade sliced through the arrow’s shaft, killing its momentum and its killing intent, and sparing Quinen’s life.

Quinen crashed onto the surprisingly stable ground. He winced as pain surged up the shoulder he’d been cut in. It was at that moment he realized that the Soul could still feel physical pain. At least, in a realm with such loose rules as Avalon.

Wincing, the Warlock managed to pull himself to his feet. He looked down at the gray sword, which now absolutely blazed with sulfuric vermillion. As if a powerful bonfire had been lit within the gray steel. Quinen breathed, and managed to grin.

The arachnid screeched again. Quinen swept his gaze to it — saw the Fiagai with the bow ready another arrow, while the other Fiagai hesitated on attacking. Probably because of the seven legged, seven headed menace barelling down the room toward Quinen with an honestly terrifying speed.

Seven legs scrambling toward him, six heads flailing around like loose threads of hair. One head — the articulate one — chewed something in its mouth.

Quinen blinked. He spotted that, in between chews, there was something sea green and bright and fulminating within its mouth. As if it were chewing a star.

It chewed the sea-colored fireball it had created.

“Shit,” the eloquent Soul of the Warlock said. “Shit. Shit. Shit.” Quinen looked down at the blade, and shook it, as if that would make anything happen.

Quin could’ve felt fear. Anger. Disappointment. He did, but one emotion overpowered everything else.


Here he was. The Warlock. The one who had seemingly been able to create a Sympathy with Avalon. And he couldn’t do jack shit. Quinen grit his teeth and sighed.

Failure. All those tomes. Getting kicked out of the Collegium. Risking his life in Avalon for the first time. All for this.

What an ironic way to die.

Was this his Narrative? Or do only the denizens of Avalon have those? Made from those?


Quinen blinked.

Chrysanthemum’s call pulled him out of his ocean-like reverie. All this time, everything had been blurred. But now, his vision focused.

And all he could see was the arachnid hunter stopping its run, raising its head, and breathing out ungodly amount of sea-colored fire like a flamethrower.

The sword blazed. It sang again, and it moved on its own. Quinen had never practiced swordsmanship formally before — only the general self-defense class in Physical Fitness class — but the sword he gripped didn’t seem to mind that. It made every fiber of soul-muscle held the blade as if it had held it a thousand times before.

The blade moved, guiding Quinen, and they cut a six-pointed star in the air. The lines blazed, and then the sea-colored flames funneled into it instead of enveloping Quinen like what — he presumed — was the original plan of the arachnid.

The star drank up the sea-green fame. The Fiagai with the bow loosed an arrow. The sword moved, lightning fast, and the arrow bounced off the blade with a satisfying clang of concept against steel. The arachnid stared at the glowing star swallowing the insidious spray of fire. it blinked 434 different eyes, each in different parts of a second.

Quinen did the same thing — albeit, only with two eyes. He gawked and wondered just what in the hell the sword was.

The Fiagai with the spear charged then, stabbing at Quinen. The spear resembled a crooked branch rather than a weapon used to skewer combatants from a safe distance. A thrust of the spear, and the curved sword parried it. It flourished, and moved Quinen’s wrist in a quick whipping motion that cut twice into the Fiagi. It had to weave back to avoid the strikes.

The Fiagai came in for another thrust. Another parry, and the blade reached farther this time. A slash embedded itself across the Fiagai’s breastplate of silver steel leaves. Quinen grinned wolfishly. The Fiagai spear-divata cursed in another language.

And that was when the sweet dissonance of the Portal back to the Mund roared throughout the room.

Chrys’ voice rode that dissonance and caressed his ears. “Quinen!”

The Warlock turned to Chrys. She reached out her hand — she was already on the other side, with Maeve and Thackeray. She stood on a rooftop, and the sky outside was the murky black of late Descending.

The arachnid screeched. Zinnia screamed out something. Even the walls seemed to resound. But Quinen’s soul muted all noise. He ran. He ran as fast as his soul’s legs could carry him, a trail of stardust smoke billowing in his wake.

And Quinen finally reached the Portal, and grabbed Chrys’ hand.

The Portal shut closed.

Wake 14

“How bright does the fire
of absurdity burn. In hues
of cacophony,
in songs of crimson,
in blankets of brimstone,
in vistas of sweetness.
Such cackling symphony,
absurdity burns with

— The Symphonies of Avalon
by Invisible Palimpsest, alfr

Hakumatheia blinked. He leaned back on his desk, looking out into the gray, overcast sky. It wasn’t night time, he knew, because the warmth of the Daystar still glowered within the curtains of the gray.

The Dean furrowed his eyebrows and wondered.

Why isn’t Zinnia contacting me yet?

* * *

Thackeray and Maeve knew they had to run. They did. Their athletic bodies definitely helped as they wove through the steel wood and singing colors. Although it never rang again, the echoes of the bellowing horn bounced around their minds. Their utter souls rang from the tune, piercing through the physical and impaling the ethereal.

Thackeray spoke in between gasps. “D-do you know what that was?!” The Huntsman jumped over a fallen stump, and the stump turned liquid when he touched it. He would’ve fallen mid-vault, if it wasn’t for Maeve reaching out her hand and reflexively freezing the water. She winced as she did it.

Thackeray rolled as he hit the ground, and Maeve followed suit.

“I don’t!” Maeve said back, with the same heaving breaths. “But it’s not good!” The hairs on the backs of their necks were raised up, and there was the inherent feeling of wrongness. As if they had just seen a man’s face riddled with a myriad of holes, making him look like a pineapple.

Wrongness, dancing with fear.

They erupted out of the hedge and into a clearing, in the middle of which was a crooked tree, resembling a bonsai. Its leaves were made of steel, resembling blades, and they flailed about in a radial pattern in the solid, rainbow-colored breeze. The two Huntsmen never stopped moving, gasping for breaths as their legs carried them through the clearing. With each step, Maeve noticed, the blades of the grass turned into a different color.

As they stopped near the tree, the rapidly shifting colors of the grass stopped. Thackeray fell to his knees, gasping for air, while Maeve hunched over, sweat matting her hair to the sides of her head, sticking her clothes to her pale skin.

She looked down on her fingers, prying them from her knees. They shivered, tingled, and they emitted a frosty mist. She could hardly move them.


And that was when they heard the bellowing horns again. The sound came from all sides of the clearing.

Thackeray rose to his feet, and brought out his yantras — his brass knuckles. He slipped them on, punched the ground, and began chanting the mantra.

Maeve blinked, turning to Thackeray. “Thack, I…”

“I’m not going down here, Maeve,” Thackeray said, in between chants. Maeve saw the golden particles as he called down the Divine Realms. They were ghastly at first, but when they met with the power of Thackeray’s will, they coagulated and solidified until they were wisps of burning power. The grass all about them — and even the protean air that shifted about them — responded to this show of power, turning into vibrant hues of orange and red and yellow and white, painting a picture of some sort of six handed avatar of some God. The mutlicolored blades of grass turned red and wilted away, as if afraid of his power.

Maeve watched in awe, as Thackeray finished the chant and turned to her — his eyes burned golden. “And I know you’re not either.” He turned to the sky and screamed, “Six Sacred Sacraments!”

Four extra arms made of solidified divinity exploded from his back, and immediately took up a fighting stance. Thackeray turned all about him, readying for whatever was coming.

Maeve nodded. She agreed. Going down here just wasn’t an option. Not now, not ever. She brandished her scepter and called forth the power of Niveus, his icy frost turning her blood into rime, before exploding into wintry mist about her, signifying her power.

Now they waited for what was to come. Maeve with Niveus channeled, and Thackeray with his Six Sacred Sacraments activated.

And eventually, they heard it come. The rumbling of hooves, the clanking of mail, the low bass of some sort of electronic instrument intermingled with the loud, rattling “BOOMS” of drums the size of lions.

They’ve come.

And though they did not study this admittedly apocryphal piece of information, they knew what they were.

As the first of the Hunters stepped forth, riding three different beasts for his rump was too large to fit one, and raised a bow with an arrow the size of a spear large enough to shatter mountains, the name rang through.

One by one, the shadows in between the hollows of the gargantuan trees opened their eyes, grew limbs and feet, came to life, moving toward them in fiendish gaits and four-legged prowls. Thackeray grit his teeth, stepped back, but shone brightly — the solid wind, like a painting, showing the avatar wrapped around him grinning defiantly.

Maeve clenched one of her fists, and the coldness in her fingers made her wince. She felt like they were gonna break off at any second.

And then, the third horn bellowed.

And the two of them knew, deep down, in their heart of hearts and soul of souls.

There was no escaping the Wild Hunt.

* * *

“Kasu.” Chrysanthemum’s voice shook, miniscule. “I feel… strange.”

Kasu blinked. She wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that. “Um…?”

What kind of strange? she thought deep in her mind. She licked her lips.

“Memories…?” Chrys whispered, and shivered. “Memories, Kasu. And they’re so… strange.”

Kasu nodded. “Mm-hm. I’m sure they are, love.” Chrys’ head was on her lap now.

The Datathurge tsked. A small voice in the back of her head kept reminding her how they haven’t got much time left. That belgar will break out, eventually. It was just the way the Datascape worked — if it wasn’t digital, then it didn’t belong in the Scape. Kasu knew that if they didn’t move soon, the belgar would eventually get them.

“Ch-chrys…?” she slowly nudged Chrys to get off her lap, but when she poked her, the Siddivata stood up on her own. “Chrysanthemum…?”

* * *

Chrysanthemum’s mind was in a rush. Memories, all she never remembered having — and most of it she couldn’t really decipher anyway — swam through her head. They drifted slowly, at first, before she saw a vision of a tall man. He had horns reminiscent of a goat’s curling out of his head, and wings hanging low — so low that they dragged across the floor like too long hair, or a cloak.

When she saw this man, something snapped, chugged, and then clicked.

The Siddivata let the rest of the flurrying, tornado-speed memories guide he rmovements. She walked across the concrete rooftop, and clambered up to the top of the rooftop.

She could hear Kasu behind her. That strange Dataphile called for a while, which eventually turned into ear-piercing screams when the Siddivata clambered on top of the concrete parapet.

Just like her memories, it took Chrys sometime before she could begin deciphering the desperate screams from Kasu.

“Chrys!” She called. She opened her mouth to say more. To encourage her not to do it, but no words came out. Her eyes stirred with fear, and she saw herself standing in Chrysanthemum’s place, many years ago.

Kasu’s heart fluttered when the girl paused, turned around, and managed a weak grin.

Without saying another word, Chrys looked away once again, back to the chilling view of the low-rise buildings of the Dirah Ward. Chrys thought it strange that she could only see five to six skyscrapers. Of course, it was because she was facing away from the Cathedra Ward, and consequently, the Spires.

The vista upon which she gazed didn’t offer a breath-taking sight. In fact, it offered something completely mundane. She could see the man walking his brown and yellow haired canine, the oversized woman yelling at someone from the lower floor. Through window she could barely peek her head through, no less.

The constant flow of autochariots zooming left and right on the bitumen road was dizzying. Much like her influx of emotions, she realized.

Chrys clsoed her eyes. When she opened them, before her — tinged with pink, giving it the impression that it hid behind some translucent pink veil — the visage of the swirling, curling, storming, coagulating, melting, dissipating, destroying, beautifying…


Chrys let out a little breath, as she reached out with her hand, and ripped open the pink veil with a thought.

* * *

Kasu’s eyes widened. She stepped back, her hand over her mouth. Air exploded out of the rift in reality that Chrysanthemum had opened. With one hand. Without the usual yantras and mantras and mudras thing. One could see, reflecting off of her optics, the golden, blazing ring; within were colors incomprehensible, sounds inaudible, and smells improbable. Through it, Kasu could only see— wait. Greenery? Green and emerald foliage everywhere.

Kasu blinked, and immediately, the scene before her solidified into something understandable. Something her mortal, limited senses could make sense of.

Before her was strangeness. She could see through the perspective of someone from behind a vaguely human figure — a bit more translucent and made of wispy ethereal gossamer than a usual human, that was for sure — kneeling on the ground. Before him were ten knight-like figures with weapon and armor so ridiculous you would’ve thought they belonged in some animation from Sidef.

In between the ten knightly figures sat a weird woman on a strange throne. The throne was made of unmoving, steel-like wood; its gnarled branches more akin to girders of steel. Sitting atop the strange throne was something that looked like a sentient, autonomous tree… if the three could wear a blazing dress and have liquid snakes for hair and gale-force winds for skin.

Kasu slowly turned to Chrys. She didn’t know what she was expecting, but the pink-haired Siddivata turned to her, still with an arm outrstretched. Chrys muttered a word that sent chills reverberating within Kasu’s Soul.


* * *

Rexza could feel the grip of the Datascape weaken its hold on her physical body. The Scape eroded all about her — she could feel the inert, fundamental laws of the Mund and the Scape work together to peel away the digital haze. Electricity crackled about her, fur rising up. She could begin to smell once again the girl’s room. Stale pizza and cheap deodorant. The muted sounds gradually popped back into cacophonous vibrancy.

Eventually, the Knight Vigilant was back in the real world. She stood up, too abrupt — her head became a balloon, filled with air, and her vision swirled. A high-pitched bell rang within her skull.

With a deep breath, a quick shake of her muscles, the bell dulled into silence, and everything became clear. The rhapsody of the Third Age came popping back. The barking of dogs, shrill protests of disgruntled tenants, the squak of the auiboic birds… and then there was the exploding thunderclap that cut through all of it.

Rexza’s ears twitched, once, twice. She recognized the cacophony. As if somebody had opened a spinning washing machine that hadn’t stopped yet, and wasn’t stopping any time soon.

Rexza cursed. Shit. The Siddivata opened a portal.

The belgar bolted out of the room, scowering the hallways for the flight of stairs. There! The pressure made a popping sound within Rexza’s ears, as if she were in an airship, as she ascended up the flight of stairs. Closer and closer she got to the anomaly, the stronger the pushback.

The last few steps to the blue-green doors were agony. Her hypersensitive sense of paranormalcy (extramundic things that trespass into the world — was going haywire. With her body, she burst through the doors, grimacing as she stumbled onto the rooftop. She could only see the bewildered Datathurge, and the — surprisingly — just as bewildered Siddivata.

The two human girls turned to the Knight. There was a split second where silence reigned. Then, the Siddivata turned, eyes wide with alertness, and she leapt off of the rooftop.

Into the Rift.

The Dataturge watched Chrys jump into the rift, and it sealing behind he, the ring shrinking into a hole the size of a mole on the face of an anzu. Rexza’s fur stiffened, and her tail crawled in between her legs as reality — at least, the Reality of the Mund — knit itself back together.

Another silence. This time, it was true silence — even the shrill neighbors had gone silent, even the honking of autochariots, the blinking of neon signs — silent. As if they knew the significance of what had just transpired.

The Knight Vigilant blinked. She was quite stumped, as she lingered bodily into the silence. The contract WAS to kill her, right? There wasn’t any clause covering what to do if the Siddivata returned to its origin. The agreement was to annihilate the rogue Siddivata. If that Siddivata had gone back to her origin, can she still be considered “rogue”?

Inhaling, exhaling, Rexza walked over to the parapet upon where Chrysanthemum jumped off of, and sat.

Time worked differently in Avalon. Maybe, all she had to do was wait?

* * *

Kasu blinked.  The assassin of Oberen burst in here, and then suddenly was jumping into… Avalon?!

The Datathurge blinked again when the Knight walked across the rooftop, over to the parapet upon where Chrys was standing. She stood there, for a bit, and then clambered over ontop of the parapet, and then just sat there. A few seconds later, she dug into the pocket of her lune-iron armor — the liquid steel forming a hole — and she pulled out a palmnode. Huh, that one was quite…  was that a Halcyon Black Box 4? That was released back in 2070. Seven years ago.

Yeah, it was the retro design. A black box, with a clear glass screen across the front. No holographic or augmented reality functions — everything was on the screen. Unlike the newer models, which tended to be panes of glass — well, not really glass. They were made of Kronium, a type of magical alloy usually found in the Fundamental Traverse of Timespace, but can be recreated through Alchemical Amalgamation. Now Alchemists are in high demand, because of their ability to create Kronium, which can be made into nodes, which offer increased nodal power in channeling the Datascape. This allowed lots of graphical improvements, along with holographic screens without being a Datathurge.

Well, the Black Box models still worked, Kasu guessed. Just that they didn’t have the same nodal power as newer models. How can she access the newest Data Sectors? She thought. Lots of bottlenecking, I guess.

Kasu watched the belgar tap away, and she wondered what she was doing. Then she saw the blood stain on her armpit, and she realized that she stood in the midst of Oberen’s killer.

Activating her remote interface, Kasu thought of her options. She didn’t know how to fight, but, she figured if she could drag the furball into the Datascape — her turf — she’d have the same chance a Regito Animae would have against an ant. She’d be a god.

The belgar didn’t look her way. “H-Hey.” Kasu furrowed her eyebrows.

The assassin turned to Kasu, one eyebrow raised. Her irises were vertical slits, which the belgar shared with felix animals — cats, nyakins, the like. “Oh, you.” The belgar sighed, but didn’t move from her spot on the parapet. Her clawed feet swung in the air.

There was a deep, grating rush of air. An exhalation. “Look,” Rexza spoke. Her voice was still melodious, yet now it sounded… frail. Vulnerable. Her pitch was a bit higher, her voice more wearied and tired. “Look.” The belgar looked down on her fists. “Look,” she sighed. “I’m sorry about the boy. H-He was just in the way. I had to do a job. Nothing personal, okay?”

Kasu didn’t realize she had been scowling. She didn’t feel compelled to stop doing it either. She also didn’t feel compelled to turn off her remote interface. If she could just get the belgar to her Datagrove… “So you are an assassin.”

The belgar sighed. “That’s what I looked like, huh? Wouldn’t blame you. I don’t even know what I am anymore, either.”

The Dataturge raised an eyebrow. “You’re… not an assassin?”

The belgar shook her head. “Sometimes it’s part of my job.” She leaned back, supporting herself on her paws. She turned up to look at the sky, Descending, the Daystar sunk low on the east horizon, the serene, softer glow of the Nightstar could be seen on the far west. The intermingled blue and orange glows created the warm gray of the Twilight hour. “I’m a Knight Vigilant.”

“A… Knight Vigilant?” Kasu blinked. Twice. “Oath of Knighthood, diwablades, sixth sense, masters of the one hundred Mystic Strifes?”

Rexza grinned. It seems she’s been told a lot of stoires. She raised a claw. “One hundred and eight Mystic Strifes. And Diwablades are expensive to make these days, only half of us really have them anymore.” She sighed, and then nodded. “But yes. Those Knights Vigilant. The ones that fell into legend… and never rose again.”

Wake 13

Thackeray and Maeve wandered around aimlessly. They could’ve sworn they’d seen that same multicolored bush made of bird’s tears for the third time now.

Thackeray looked down at the chronologically protected watch. As expected, it was moving at the same time as Maeve’s was, meaning some semblance of Magick still worked in this world. He bit his lip, knowing that one day had already passed, despite them only wandering around for what he thought was a few hours or so.

“Damn that Dean,” said Maeve. “He never told us where to go!”

Thackeray lipped his lips. He gestured for the two of them to take a rest on the same space framed by roots of a large tree. Sighing in effort, Maeve leaned against the steel bark, and it clanged hollowly when she banged her head lightly against it.

Thackeray sighed. He reached into the gym bag and brought out a bottle of water, which was already half-empty. He threw it to Maeve. “Maybe… maybe he didn’t know? Come on, we are the Huntsmen here after all. Weren’t we trained to use our surroundings to seek out our enemies?”

“Yes, but there are special Huntsmen for jobs like these,” said Maeve, sighing. “They’re called High-Ranking ones. This was a suicide mission, wasn’t it?”

Thackeray’s face went through a vortex of emotions. He didn’t know if he wanted to furrow his eyebrows or shake his head in denial. “M-maybe once we do find the Warlock, he might be able to bring us back?”

Maeve sighed. “Probably. He’s been here before, hasn’t he?”

Thackeray shrugged. “I’ve only heard rumors. He was our senior, remember? He was already in his Master’s Year while we were still in our Initiate’s year.”

The black-haired woman nodded. “Right. He never even finished that Master’s Year. That was the year when he got expelled, right?”

“For reasons unknown too…”

There was the large groaning of the wind. The groaning turned into whispers, and then into giggles, and then into seductions of hypnosis


It murmured.

Succumb to night…

“Shit.” Maeve rose. “Come on, Thackeray, we have to move.”

Thackeray nodded and slung on the gym bag. “I got that.”

And that was when they heard the basso, bellowing horns.




Chrysanthemum’s eyes were wide, and she looked at the floor with a glazed-over gaze. Kasu furrowed her eyebrows in confusion.

The mauve-haired girl turned to the belgar. “Why? What did you do to him?”

The belgar turned for the first time to Kasu, noticing her. He looked at her from head to toe, before shaking her head. “Don’t interfere, human. I’ve got a contract to bring down that Siddivata. Her being here in the Mund will only cause trouble for everyone.”

“Wh-why?” asked Chrysanthemum. Her little fae hands balled into fists. “Wh-why did you do that?”

“He was in the way,” said the belgar. Still looking at Kasu, she continued, “And if you don’t get out of the way soon, you’ll suffer the same fate.”

Kasu grimaced, but held a determined stance. She saw the blood dripping from her underarm, drenching her lune-iron suit in blood.

Holy shit, lune-iron?!

“Now,” said the belgar, stepping forward. “I’m going to take the Siddivata, without hurting her, and you won’t get in the way. Is that a fine deal?”

“That isn’t even a deal.” Kasu inhaled. She blinked once, and with a thought, activated her desknode. It whirred to life, the holographic monitor popping up, showering the darkened room with a blue-gray haze. Rexza kept her eyes off of it.

Chrysanthemum still didn’t move, her eyes plastered to the wooden floor.

Kasu stepped forward in front of Chrysanthemum.

The belgar sighed. “For the love of Adon, woman. I’d prefer to keep my casualties to a minimum.”

“Wh-why…?” Chrysanthemum’s voice shook.

“I would too,” said Kasu. Her eyes were glimmering with the same, digital blue haze. From her perspective, holographic screens popped up around her periphery, and she was scanning the Database of Throne’s population to see who the belgar was.

She was unidentified. Kasu cursed inwardly.

“Then get out of the way, please,” said the belgar, and she took another step.

“Who sent you?” Shot in the dark, Kasu knew, but at least it would buy her enough time.

“The Dean,” the belgar said, waving a dismissive hand. “That’s all you have to know.”

Kasu’s eyes widened. Hakumatheia…?

In one of the holographic screens in her periphery only visible to her, a progress meter materialized in a torrent of datal numbers and scripts. It displayed the meter at 95%. Come on…

“Just get out the way, human female,” said the belgar, raising a paw and then placing it firmly on Kasu’s shoulder. She leaned in closer, and Kasu could smell her breath — it smelled of coffee with the tinge of alcohol.

“No.” And the progress bar reached 100%.




Rexza found the human lady with the glasses and the mauve hair to be cute. The kind of cute Rexza would prefer to have cuddled up with with a cup of warm cocoa during a wintry, Nymph snow day like this.

Alas, such things weren’t meant to be.

“No.” Her voice echoed once, and then it boomed as if she had spoken into a voice amplifier. Rexza furrowed her eyebrows, and found the walls slowly peeling away horizontally, revealing the blue-gray Datascape underneath.

“What the…?” Rexza turned to see the two women gone in front of her, and everything was replaced with the hazy hues of Kasu’s Datagrove, resembling a digital palimpsest. There was no way in or out, Rexza knew. So all she had to do was wait. She turned, and sat, and watched the walls fitz and glitch, as if it were attuned to a dead channel.




Kasu turned around and grabbed Chrysanthemum’s hand. She hauled her out of their room, eyes wide and blinking. She grabbed and slammed the door, before heading down, still pulling the blank-eyed Chrysanthemum all the while.

Dammit, she said. I never asked for this.

She stopped in the middle of the first flight of concrete stairs as an idea came to her. There was no way that the assassin belgar wouldn’t think of searching down here, so she decided to go the safe route. Still gripping Chrys’ limp hand, she hauled her up the stairs until she reached the rooftop, six floors up. She grabbed the lever of the rooftop door and pushed. The blue-green door gave way.

The two of them stumbled out into a concrete rooftop area framed by a concrete parapet. Usually, these places were off-limits, but Kasu’s landlord couldn’t care less about what her tenants did, or what happens on the rooftops, or what happens below them.

Kasu closed the door behind her, and she heaved breaths. She hadn’t moved that much since Initiate-Level Physical Classes.

She walked Chrys over to one of the concrete parapets and sat her down in front of it, letting her lean against the cold concrete. Chrys still watched her surroundings without much acknowledgment of what was actually happening. She can see, but she didn’t look.

Kasu straightened herself, still breathing heavily. Beside them, the CRT zoomed past like a heavy, long bullet-snake. Kasu could feel the wind buffeting her as it flew past, the kah-klunk from its tracks creating a mundane symphony.

Kasu plucked out her palmnode. The Datagrove wasn’t going to last forever — two to three hours, tops. She had to get help. She tapped a few times on the palmnode and turned on a converse channel.

“Sygmun,” Kasu began, and she immediately remembered what the belgar had said.

There was the amplified voice of the Professor in the background. “What is it? Can it wait? I’m in class.”

Kasu bit her lip. “Right. Sorry.”

The converse channel shut off. She sighed, which was lost in between heavy breaths. “Dammit, I liked Oberen,” she muttered underneath her breath.

“Me too,” Chrys said. Her voice was weak, but rising in power, as if she had just awakened from a reverie. “Wh-where is he?”

Kasu turned, her eyebrows in a concerned arc. She knelt down beside her and told her the news. Again.

The pink glow of Chrys’ hair seemed to dull. So much so that it resembled a dirty dye job. “Oh.” She said. “I… I’m sad.”

“Me too,” said Kasu. “Me too.”

Chrys blinked, and Kasu blinked as well. Slowly, the Siddivata moved, positioning herself in such a way that she could be cuddled by the arms of Kasu. She laid her head full of pink hair against Kasu’s chest. It slowly glowed again.

Kasu blinked.

“You’re so soft, and warm, Kasu.”

Kasu blinked again. “Y-yeah. Thanks?”


“Mm-hmm?” Kasu didn’t want to move, but… well, she guessed that she could allow it at least this once.

“What do you think happens when people die?”

Kasu shrugged. “We stop living. I never thought much about it. I’m pretty sure our Souls just get reprogrammed or something.”

“Huh.” There was a silence, and another train zooming past, creating the same cacophony. When it passed and all was silent again, Kasu thought of once again calling Sygmun. She had to break the news somehow.

She just wished it didn’t have to be her.

“What do you think happens when I die?”

Kasu clicked her tongue. “Uh…” she shrugged. “Maybe your Soul goes back to Avalon?”





Rexza sat, cross legged, in the middle of the Datagrove. She could hear the sounds of the Mund outside, but they were muted. She meditated in the middle of it all.

She… she had to finish this Contract. What other choice did she have? She already went too far. She was Knight Vigilant.

And they always fulfilled their promises…





Shikoth barrelled through Dean Hakumatheia’s open window, crashing onto the carpeted floor and spilling snow all over it. The Dean blinked a few times, before leaning over and watching Shikoth pick himself off the ground and turn to him.

“Hey, Hakky-Baby.”


“Mission accomplished! Apparently.”

“Is that so…?” Hakumatheia raised an eyebrow.

Shikoth nodded. “Well, I didn’t really see what happened. Just that Rexza told me to report that to you.”

“Hm.” He leaned back into his chair. “The Knight must’ve been quite confident in her ability.”

Shikoth shrugged. “It was a Knight Vigilant against some Siddivata girl who didn’t know about her powers.” The skeletal bird sighed. “That’s weird on so many levels. How’d a Siddivata stay here and manage to keep a mortal form long enough? Why does she not have her memories? How’d you get a hold of a Knight Vigilant — weren’t they supposed to have been disbanded?”

The Dean shrugged. “Officially, yes,” he said. “But all one hundred and eight of them still lurk underground, preferring to do work without the eyes of the public trained on them. Apparently, it allows them to do the harder things without judgment.”

Shikoth nodded sagely. “Mm. I wouldn’t blame them.”

The Dean leaned forward. “And yes, Shikoth, quite sharp of you. A Siddivata girl staying here for longer than two days? Seems like they should’ve unravelled by now and turned to Gossamer, yes? But no. She’s stayed. Just what did the Warlock do, hm?”

Shikoth shrugged. “I’m no good at this Magick stuff.”

The Dean nodded. “I guess the only way he could’ve done that is through some sort of reality-breaking. That’s the only way that I know of. That, and… “

Shikoth raised an eyebrow. Which was strange, for a bird without a face. It was like Shikoth’s big pits for eyes grew bigger to emulate the expression. “And…?”

The Dean inhaled. Even he didn’t like the thought of it.

That was when there was a knock on the door.

The Dean raised an eyebrow, and turned to Shikoth. Shikoth nodded, and blasted out of the window, back into the freezing storm.

The windows closed with a flick of a wrist, and the doors swung open with another. Behind it was one of the Medic-Magickers, wearing the uniform of the Collegium’s medical school — a white flowing garment made of faux-leather, glinting with green highlights that shone like neon lights embedded into the fabric.

“Physicker…?” The Dean said, still with an eyebrow raised.

“Physicker Koto Lifara, Dean.” The woman walked in, adjusted her glasses. Her short hair was a dark shade of green, her eyes hazel brown. “It seems there was a… failure, Dean.”

“What is it?”

“The Warlock sir,” she said. “His physical body… is dead.”

The Dean blinked. “How?”

“It seems there was someone in his room the other day, sir. One resembling…”

The Dean blinked again, and white lances of pain surged through Koto’s body. She winced and fell to her knee. “One resembling not me, was it?” said the Dean looking at Koto with heavy lids, as if he were half-asleep. “Or I may have the entire Collegium shut down. I can do that, you know that, Physicker Koto? This is but one Collegium of many.”

Koto blinked. Her eyes watered. “P-please…!” Her voice was but a whisper. She tried to continue her sentence, but pain engulfed her.

The Dean inhaled, breaking away his gaze, and Koto gasped for air, as if she had been submerged in ice cold water. “I-It… It seems we cannot identify,” she grimaced again, “the perpetrator, sir.”

“Good. Now leave.”

Physicker Koto bowed by her waist, turned, and walked out. The doors had been open all this time.

When she left, the Dean shut them with a flick of his wrist, and then he ran a hand through his whitening hair. “Damn it.”


Wake 12

Chrysanthemum stepped lightly through the Datascape. The data below her feet billowed and splashed like water, and then slowed down to hang suspended in mid-air, until it dissipated back into the aetheric data of the Scape. Each footstep created this effect.

Kasu didn’t walk. She floated, moving a few feet above the pathway. She moved, wraith-like, leaning her body. “Shouldn’t be too far now,” her voice resounded. The data bobbed and moved along with her voice, like visualizations of sound waves, blossoming in technicolor scintilla. “I made sure my pathway to his Datagrove isn’t too long.”

Chrys followed along silently. As she walked, the liquids dissipated back into data; her footfalls blessing the ground with her consciousness. She realized that the pathway she walked on was but one of many, crisscrossing like an intricate loom of webs superimposed onto one another, endlessly crisscrossing above the desert of data.

Kasu turned and walked down a path that led them underneath another, and she followed.

She would be there, soon. She knew that much.


Rexza was surprised when Oberen launched himself at her. She didn’t think anybody would be stupid enough to get in her way.

She grunted, and quietly flickered, paws extending in the unbeatable martial art. She was surprised to conclude too that the man she was fighting seemed to be a Magicker, what with the weapon summoning and all that.

He flung himself at her with such a speed that surprised even her, but her jab was unstayed.


Oberen grunted as he lunged forward and the hulking mass of a Knight Vigilant casually lifted a paw. She didn’t even see him as a threat.

He frowned. He’ll make sure to change that preconception.

His straight, rapier sword flashed, and her jab met. The jab was too short, and Oberen wove down, twisted his rapier, and stabbed up. Thick hide met his blade. The belgar yelped in surprise as the rapier dug into her underarm. With a grunt, she seized the blade, wrapped a forearm about it, then kicked Oberen away. Oberen dodged the kick by jumping backwards and dematerializing the blade. He landed on his feet, and then summoned his rapier once again.

Blood dripped from it.


Shit. Rexza was surprised. She stepped back and turned, dashing into the hallway. Oberen raised a rapier and waited.

Surprising, Rexza said, her voice all too calm. This should prove interesting.


Oberen wondered if he should chase after her. He took another step back, and he felt Chrysanthemum’s limp body behind him. He cursed. He knew who she was after. Of course it was the Siddivata.

That meant he had to take the belgar out of her vicinity, to assure her safety. He sighed, looked out into the hallway, and peeked out.

He saw the belgar leaning against a window at the end of the hallway, blood seeping down and drenching her lune-iron armor in crimson. He peered out, took a step, and then breathed. He called down the Field of Force. “Transmute…” he said, for that was the highest Technique he knew for that Field. He performed a quick hand gesture, drawing a geometric shape in the air, before stepping forward and calling — “Transmute, Matter into Energies!”

He targeted down the air all about him, transmuting it into a burst of speed, force pushing him forward. In the next step, he reappeared in front of the belgar, but she had already opened the window and jumped out as Oberen’s rapier crunched into the wood of the wall underneath the window.

He cursed, dematerialized the rapier, and then materialized it again. He jumped out of the window…


And Rexza was there, a flurry of whirling fists, sending him back and forcing him into the defensive. She was fast, too fast for Oberen, and three paws met with his chest, sending him sprawling backward and against the railing of the steel staircase complex on the side of the building.

Oberen cursed. He had to do this quick, or else Chrys would be gone. He wouldn’t want that.

He liked Chrys. She was endearing, and… pretty.

Those were always worth fighting for.

Of course, he also had to survive. Sygmun was waiting for him back home too, of course.


Getting a bit desperate, Oberen gripped his rapier and lunged forward, summarizing all his protective and killing intent into a piercing strike.

Rexza frowned and stepped back, her paws quickly flurrying into the defensive. Oberen’s lunge speared through, and Rexza sprang like a trap, her paws twisting about the rapier, she then crouched down, pulled the rapier toward her and subsequently pulling Oberen along. She snapped her closed fist with the whipping movement of the Seven-Headed Dragon’s tail.

The fist crunched against Oberen’s chest, and Rexza continued the assault. Oberen flew backwards, bounced against the railing, and Rexza twisted, pouring her energy into her right paw turned into a fist. White and black strokes of power, resembling the strokes of a paint brush, swirled about that fist. She brought that fulminating mace of power upon Oberen as he bounced back towards her, shouting, “Draconic Fury Assault!”

Oberen’s eyes widened, and he swore he could’ve seen Chrysanthemum, lying unconscious and dead before her eyes. He cursed.


Rexza’s fist connected. Brush strokes of power warping reality itself exploded out of Oberen’s chest. The hammer force sent him flying through the railings, the rusted steel of it shattering as Oberen’s own bones cracked as well.

He was dead before he hit the ground, a gaping hole in his chest, as if it had been melted open.

Rexza sighed, watching the dead Magicker. She turned and slipped inside.


Chrysanthemum followed Kasu down the path, which swirled down like a slinky. The web of information criss-crossed in a confusing kaleidescope and Chrysanthemum lost all track of direction. Space suddenly became an illusion in this world of pure information and data and colors and timelessness and illusions and…

“Chrys,” Kasu’s voiced boomed through reality, and Chrys came to, her trance shattering. They stood in front of a large… castle? It was made of bricks each of a different color, and it was shaped like a castle, but there was no entrance. No doors, no openings that could act like windows.

It was a lone, data castle in the middle of the web of all things.

Kasu floated forward, pressed a few of the bricks in a sequence, as if a password, and the walls crumbled down. Kasu floated through, into the data castle’s courtyard. Chrys followed suit, her footfalls still making informational splashes.

Soon enough, they were both in the middle of a deserted courtyard, the lone ornament being the fountain made of hazy, gray blue data. Kasu walked toward it, examined it, and then nodded. “I remember now.”

She turned and walked into the throne room. Chrys opened her mouth to protest, and raised a finger, but shrugged and followed. She took deliberate, carefully placed steps, as if afraid to anger the castle itself.

The throne room was completely empty. Chrys’ memories told her of long throne room’s decorated with gold and platinum and aurichalcum. The throne rooms of her memories resembled more of hallways, stretching twenty feet long, with a red carpet embellished with woven diamonds and glass on the  sides. Pillars and columns of Thrapodian architecture, the great accomplishments of the zaretrych race.

This had none of that. All it consisted of was a throne, lone and cold and filled with webs, in the middle of the room, and doors on both sides.

Kasu was unfazed by this. She leaned forward and floated toward the library to the left, or the right-hand side of the throne. Chrys followed. The doors opened automatically, revealing a huge library that has to be five floors high, with stacks upon stacks of books, shelves filled to the brim, looking like the books want to get out of it because they hated being sandwiched with the others. The digital dust had settled upon them, causing them to glitch and haze.

Kasu walked up to the tenth stack to the right. Chrys followed. When she caught up to Kasu, she had already pulled out a book. Actually, no, it would be more right to call it a piece of folded paper.

“What is it?” asked Chrys, “Is it the contract?”

Kasu nodded. “Sure enough.” She folded it open, and she handed it to Chrys.

Chrys furrowed her eyebrows, reached for it, then pulled her hand back. Kasu shook the contract, urging her to get it.

Chrys sighed. “What will happen?”

Kasu shrugged.

Inhaling, the Siddivata took her contract and read it.






It was finished off by a signage at the bottom, written in soil glittering with fine jewels, “All the Anima of the Earth.”

Below that, was signed, “He Who Lives To Uphold and Destroy, King of the Court of Dwarf.”


“Well?” Kasu leaned forward, trying to peek into it.

Chrys stood, blinking, and then she closed her eyes. As she did, she folded the contract and gave it back to Kasu. “M-my head hurts.”

Kasu tsked. “Let’s go back.”

Chrys opened her eyes, and her irises glowed an emerald sheen. “Yes.”


Chrys’ eyes flew open in the real world, and Kasu began disconnecting her from her rig. Chrys’ leaned forward and looked about her, her eyes still glowing a terrifying green. “Wh-where’s Oberen?”

The Siddivata saw a huge, hulking shadow come into view from the frame. Soon enough, the shadow broke away, revealing itself to be a large belgar wearing lune-iron.

Rexza inhaled, and all the world seemed to inhale with her. “Dead.”

Wake 11

The Knight Vigilant known as Rexza watched as her quarry disappeared into the sea of humans.

Shikoth watched, and then patted Rexza’s snout. “Conflicted, I imagine.”

Rexza didn’t move. She looked up at the skeletal anzu. “How’d you know?”

Shikoth shrugged. “I can read people, let me just say. And you are just showcasing all kinds of conflictedness.”

More silence, as Rexza’s eyes watched the innocent Siddivata that was no longer there.

“Hey,” Shikoth said again, still patting Rexza’s snout. “I don’t know about you, but that’s still a job to do. ‘Do what others must not, right?’ Come on, I’ll give you some beer to take your mind off of it.”

Rexza inhaled.

“I know of,” Shikoth continued. “This great cafe place that serves coffee with alcohol.”

Rexza turned and walked down. The other people — humans, mostly — moved about her, trying to get to their destination, padding down the concrete road, completely oblivious to the Knight turned assassin in their midst.

“Come on. It’s just down the sidewalk.” Shikoth slapped Rexza to motion, and she moved.

She walked down the sidewalk as the Daystar slowly dipped into the horizon, washing the city with its halogen orange, and mixing the sky into leaden gray. As a response, Throne City began activated its lights, alchemical and neon. Red, blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, indigo in a psychedelic mesh of pigments. As the sun dawned, the sapient technologies turned on their concrete, mechanical bonfire, burning with technicolor flame.

Shikoth directed Rexza into the Lo-Fi cafe. The sound of a customer coming again, resonating from nowhere specific. “Welcome, to Lo-Fi.’” the melodious, almost purring noise that still had the heft and grunt of a belgar resonated from behind the counter. Rexza walked up to it. Shikoth never left his makeshift nest on top of Rexza’s head.

The black-furred belgar bartender blinked when she saw Rexza. The Knight regarded her with a tired expression, and then grinned. For her sake.

The belgar smiled. “Not much of the other xenians here,” she said. “What will you be having?”

The glowing emblem of the Knights Vigilant attracted the bartender’s attention, but she only glanced at it without offering a comment.

Shikoth grinned. “Two large cups of Bailiff’s Dissipating Special.”

The bartender opened her mouth, and then her eyes drifted up to the skeletal anzu. She sighed, and then nodded. “Please wait in your seats. What name should I write down?”

“Shikoth,” the skeletal anzu said.

She nodded. “That’d be 10 eagles, sir.”

Shikoth grinned. It was a strange expression, mostly because he technically already was grinning, being just a skeleton.

The Knight nodded, and plopped down ten 1 Eagle Coins. The flat, square pieces of thin copper jangled lightly, with a tinkling noise. The belgar bartender nodded, and dropped them onto the cup connected to a rectangular, holographic registry screen

The coins melded, folded, and then unravelled in datal haze, disappearing into the Datascape. A piece of paper jutted out, as if it were the result of mixing the coins together.

Rexza picked the receipt up and walked away from the counter, the human behind her watching her stomp to a lone table at the corner of the establishment before turning to face the bartender.

Rexza sat, and then slammed her face onto the wooden, circular table. Shikoth nodded sagely, stepped off, and then sat on the chair opposite of her. He leaned against the dark brown, hardwood wall of the Cafe.

They sat like that for a time. Shikoth, unmoving, a skeletal statue. Rexza, not rising from her little face. When the name “Shikoth!” resounded from behind the counter, Rexza stirred, and sat up. She blinked the sleep from her eyes, moved, bringing the receipt with her.

The human behind the counter didn’t ask for her receipt anymore. He just gave her the two mugs of coffee, the blackness tinged with a bright brown, mixing around it as if it were another liquid. Rexza grinned her most amiable grin, but the human only nodded once and turned away.

Rexza took the two mugs and moved over to Shikoth. Shikoth grinned, and then stared down at it.

Rexza sat and took a sip. There was the spike, then a cold intermingled with the warmth of hot coffee. It felt good, felt new. Shikoth watched the belgar, and said, “You liking that?”

Rexza nodded.

Shikoth imperceptibly grinned again. “Good, because you better enjoy it in my stead.”

Rexza grinned then. “Right. You’re a skeleton. Can’t drink this.”

“Yeah,” Shikoth said, the tinge of wist pigmenting his voice. “Yeah.” And he slid his own mug across the wooden table, trailing misty droplets of water on the wood.

Without a shadow of a doubt, Rexza began gulping, warm coffee mixing with icy beer. Soon enough, both mugs were empty, their coffee entrails a brown palimpsest. Shikoth watched her, unmoving, with large, black pits for eyes. “You done?”

Rexza paused, shutting her eyes, and then she swallowed. “Not yet.” And she rose to her feet, pushing the chair with a bit more noise than Shikoth would’ve looked. With blatant disregard to the humans all about her in the cafe, watching her, she turned and walked out of the dimly lit establishment. Shikoth waddled after her.

She emerged out into the pavement, where the Nymph snow set in a chill that froze the bones. She wasn’t bothered by it; her thick hide and fur protected her from the brunt of the elements, like always. Nevertheless, she walked onto the cold pavement, and said, “Reveal to me where they have gone.”

Shikoth nodded. “I still have their scent! Follow me!” And Shikoth took to the skies, bothered not by the slowly fluttering Nymph snow. Rexza nodded, clenched her fists, and followed immediately after the skeletal husk of a sapient.

In her mind, Rexza repeated the mantra of the Knights Vigilant as she turned the dark corner and walked down the neon burning concrete bonfire.

What others cannot, what others will not…




“Okay,” Kasu finished. She scratched the side of her face. “These implants should allow to you to Delve into the Scape. At least, your Consciousness.”

Chrysanthemum looked at herself in the mirror. Kasu had bound up her hair — which she loved — on top of her head and implanted three things that resembled complicated screws to each side of her head. They hurt at first, but when Kasu let her move around with them, she found them to be fine.

“Why can’t you just do that trick you did and send us into the Scape physically?” Oberen inquired, leaning against one wall.

Kasu shrugged, began typing scripts with the script-board. “Too much energy,” she said. “Dissonance. Generally, trying to do big things past my own Datagrove will mess me up. Gotta do it with proper tools.”

Oberen stayed silent, the answer sufficient.

Before long, Kasu had hooked Chrysanthemum up to wireless contraptions, and bound her down to a chair beside the holographic video screen. “Okay, so, I can send myself remotely. It’s my Magick after all. What we’re going to do is access the Pathways that lead to the encrypted datagrove of Rast, where he kept the recorded Contract files.

“Your consciousness is replicated,” Kasu continued, typing away. She straightened, and holographic discs of calculations and data exploded from her vision, reminiscent of Oberen’s mandala Sight trick. “So if you die in the Scape, you just get booted out. Still, be careful. And when we’re in there, make sure to stay behind me. The Scape is my place. I control lots oft things in there.”

Oberen grinned. Chrysanthemum nodded.

“Alright. You ready?” Kasu said, with a slight sigh.

Chrysanthemum nodded. “And here, we—“

All sound, feeling, taste and sight disappeared, suddenly made fuzzy and muted. It felt like falling into the ocean in the middle of the night. Lonely, dark, with the only source of light being the dim glow of the Nightstar. Chrys fell, sinking towards the darkness behind her, and she didn’t bother, she didn’t dare, to turn around. For fear of what she might see.

What a stupid fear. Chrys’ felt Kasu’s voice resonate within her Soul.

“—go.” Voice returned, and there was an aunnatural silence. Chrys found it weird when the punches of silence that would accompany usual conversations in the physical Mund was filled in by the white noise of autochariots ringing and voices from below, shouts of the Intelligent.

Open your eyes, Chrys. Kasu’s voice was deep, melodious, and seemed to resonate from everywhere. As if she was the God in this place, as if she spoke through the Scape itself.

Chrys opened her eyes, and she found herself in the place similar to Kasu’s datagrove. The digitized version of her room, physical components stripped away.

Chrys lifted a hand, and saw a hand composed of light and color and information and data. Was this all her consciousness was? Bits of information, of data?

Technically. Kasu boomed. Chrys understood that she can read her mind. Yeah I can. And yeah. Technically, everything in the entirety of Creation can be summarized as just bits and pieces of information. Nothing more, nothing less.

Chrys nodded. Her mind was a storm.

Anyway. Now the voice seemed to come from somewhere, despite there being an echo that reverberated through the very data of the Scape. Chrys turned around to see Kasu’s figure, made up of a black, glassy outline and poured with a cup filled with iridescent, harshly combining lights that constituted for complex calculations and information that the normal mind cannot fathom.

“Come on,” Kasu said. She turned and walked out of the door. The door here being where the desknode was in the physical world. “We shouldn’t waste time.”

Chrys nodded. She agreed wholeheartedly. She was already beginning to feel a bit fuzzy and floaty. She took a step forward, and followed into the door.

On the other side of the door, spanned the Datascape. And it was an unending storm of data and information, numbers and streams of color that eventually died down and stagnated, turning into fine bits of particles that accumulated below the translucent pathway Chrys and Kasu stood upon, creating a desert of Data.

“Welcome to the Datascape,” said Kasu without looking behind. “Purgatory, Heaven, or Hell. It’s up to you to decide.”




Oberen watched as Chrys and Kasu jumped into the Scape. Kasu stood perfectly still, but her eyes blanched, her irises turning that lilac color. Chrys shook once, and then went limp.

Oberen found that it wasn’t too different from Field Jumps, whenever one would access the Traverse of a particular Field mentally instead of physically.

Oberen whistled. He wondered what he would do to pass the time. He brought out his palmnode, which showed him a notification from his Personal Digital Assistant, or PDA, that told him he had classes on the morrow. He sighed. He was beginning to wonder if he was skipping any classes, when he remembered that today was the end of their Nymph break.

Came a bit too late, he told himself, and pocketed the palmnode. He pushed himself off of the wall and walked over to the refrigerator. Opening it, he found an opened, but unfinished can of OchreOx, a drink that never failed in keeping cramming students awake. He grinned, took it, and downed it with a huge gulp.

He then went back to wondering what he would do to pass the time.




…What others must not.

Shikoth led him to the door of Kasu’s apartment. Rexza had to duck down. Of course they wouldn’t make the hallways fit belgar. She was in Throne, after all.

“You going to do what you set out to do?”

Rexza nodded. “I have one final favor to ask of you,” she said, the tinge of coffee and alcohol swirling like viscous mist in her breath. “Tell the Dean of the Collegium that I’ve succeeded in my job.”

Shiktoh grinned that impossible grin once again. “You got it, Knight, baby!” Shikoth fluttered down and out on invisible wings.

Rexza wasted no time. She knew this would be easy.

She raised a hand and snarled, “Draconic Fury Assault!” The punch that met the door exploded in brush strokes of white, red, and blue light. The door caved in, exploding inward, and shattered in mid-air before slamming against the wall far across the room.

The lune-iron wearing belgar Knight stomped in, with her eyes half-closed.

A man wearing a dark blue jacket over a cyan hoodie turned around. He raised his own eyebrow, peering at Rexza with half closed eyes.

There was a silence. Rexza watched, waiting for him to move.

Whatever he would do, Rexza would kill him anyway.

Oberen grinned a lazy grin. “Well I know what I’m doing in the meantime.” He raised a hand, and Channeled Magick. Rexza could feel it — the rolling thunder, the humidity, and then the knot in your stomach once you feel a person imposing their Will upon reality.

Rexza stepped back. A full, deliberate, rebalancing step.

The oppression, the weight set in.

Oberen raised a hand, and gulped down the last few drops of OchreOx with another. In that one outstretched hand, a ribbon of pure Diwal energy exploded.

And a rapier materialized into his grip. Oberen narrowed his eyes at Rexza.

Rexza clenched her fists, Oberen positioned his rapier…

…and they moved.


Wake 10

Quinen looked about him, at the ten fiagai — five on each side of Zinnia — that watched him from within armors of twining steel and glinting sap. Wielding bows of destiny and shooting arrows of sadness, brandishing spears of wrath.

The Warlock coughed out a laugh.

He laughed a wheezing laugh as he watched the chamber he was in pulse like a heartbeat. He watched as the walls writhed with symphonies, and danced with pigments. As the walls sang with spices.

“Seems like I’m back, huh.”




Thackeray and Maeve wove through multicolored grass and shrubs with leaves of wicked sharp daggers. They kept their wits about them, their combat Yantras kept close. Maeve gripped her scepter and Thackeray clenched his fists, his fingers suffocating his gold brass knuckles. The Huntsmen stalked the unfamiliar forestry. All round them, roots double their size and trunks thinner than their fingers surrounded them. The leaves burned with ice, sang with silence, rustled in stagnant air, made of chlorophyll knives and steel leaves. A wind passed by them, and they could see the particles of the wind, ever-shifting in color, always changing, never the same.

Maeve stopped and doubled over, retching. Thackeray leapt to her and held her shoulders. She felt horrible, but nothing would come out of her mouth. “You alright?”

Maeve nodded, waving dismissively at Thackeray. “Don’t worry. I’m fine.”

Thackeray nodded as Maeve moved on forward, scepter held up. The scepter was made of gnarled wood, with branches spreading out like fingers at the end of the shaft and wrapping around the crystal on the head of the staff, glowing a bright blue. A mist of frost swirled about it, leaving trails of little frost as the coldness froze the air. Thackeray followed after Maeve, cautious steps. “Hey,” Maeve said. Her voice echoed, and then suddenly became muted, as the fickle winds amplified her voice and then muted it. “Help me up and over this branch.”

Thackeray nodded, and walked up to her, interlocking his fingers to give her a boost. She stepped on it, and Thackeray threw her up. She clambered over the branch, turned around, knelt and stretched out her hand. “Come on.”

Thackeray nodded. He readied to spring up into a large jump to reach for Maeve’s hand, when there was a sudden, amplified noise that resembled gurgling behind her. She gasped as something pulled her out of his sight. “Maeve!”

Thackeray cursed. He looked about him, but found nothing to use leverage. He grit his teeth, repeating to himself to think, think.

He wondered if Magick would work.

He shook his head. He could only Percieve and Transmute Force. And with the fickle physics of Avalon, he wasn’t quite sure if there were any forces in here in the first place. He’d have to create some Force first, and he hasn’t studied to that level. He switched over to a Minor Theory for his Martial Thaumaturgy, after all.

He had to get creative. He bent down and began Channeling Magick, calling down power from the Divine Realms.




Maeve turned around and pushed away whatever had pulled at her in the first place.

The weird, wet hand that clamped around her ankle let its grip loose fairly easily, and she scrambled to her feet. With a flick of her hair, she looked up, and saw a — no, three! Three black, hunched things with teeth the size of long knives and with eyes shining like candleflames. Their thick, black desiccated hide had a strange texture about them. Everytime they moved, the pattern upon the hide didn’t move, as if they were just empty video screens that showed an unmoving back screen.

Globules of spit dribbled down their huge underbite. Their eyes looked at her rapaciously. None of them had weapons, save for the claws the size of longswords on each hand. They looked like they shouldn’t be able to life them, but they did so anyway.

Maeve cursed.

The black creatures screeched and they all launched themselves at her, swiping at her with their wickedly sharp claws. Maeve bit her lip and tried to dodge the attacks by charging head first into the fray and jumping over them, creating a minor wall of ice underneath her feet.

She vaulted over four gripping talons that belonged to two of the creatures, but the last one lashed out longer, and managed to scratch her combat armor. She hadn’t worn too much — certainly not enough to hamper her mobility. The white long coat that shimmered with magickal power was magickally-enhanced by Eyth himself, who managed to get ahold of a few artificers.

The long claws bit into her, but didn’t tear through her white, frostic long coat. She landed on the other side, relatively unscathed.

As she soared through the air and landed, she Channeled her Magick. Calling upon the Heart of Niveus, coagulating his Animistic force into her own Magick, snow and frost and rime swirled about her, billowing through her long coat and sending her brown hair flailing wildly in the wintry wind.

“Niveus!” She turned and flung out her scepter. Knives of frost, like hornets of ice, solidified in the misty air that had appeared about her, imposing order upon the fickle Avalon. A myriad of ice arrows flung themselves toward the closest creature.

The ice fragments hit home, crashing onto the creature’s tough hide. The ice punctured its strange textury hide and stuck there, like darts on wood. The force of the projectiles was enough to send the creature flying back. The two other black creatures crept up, smiling their wicked slasher grins, and jumped at her.

“Shit,” she said, and prayed fervently for Thackeray to get there. As the creatures jumped at her, she twirled backward, bringing her scepter with her, sweeping it in a wide arc. A trail of rime mist followed the scepter, which then froze into a wall that jutted out from the ground. The creatures studded against the winter wall.




“Six Sacred Sacraments!” Thackeray bellowed, and four extra arms made of pure divine energy exploded from his back, glowing golden and white gossamer, radiating a light that fought back the fickle chaos of Avalon.

Thackeray grunted as he jumped up, and using his six limbs, dug onto the side of the root, and clambered up to the top in mere seconds. He saw a black-hide creature writhing on the ground, with ice spikes jutting out of his chest, and Thackeray smashed it with a golden arm. It paused, and then exploded in a cloud of fine gossamer silk, which eventually dissipated.

“Maeve!” he shouted. Three more of those black hide creatures came crawling out of the huge crevices in the bark of the humungous trees that were no less thinner than their finger, as if they moved through space itself.

Thee three new of these black hide creatures, with their wicked grins and sword claws, fell down in a sickening thud, and then picked themselves off the floor, prying their faces as if they’d been glued to the floor.

Thackeray cursed. He moved forward, grabbed two of the creatures that had thudded against the ice wall with two his gold arms, and proceeded to punch each of them in the gut with the other two of his golden arms.

The force of the punch sent them flying back, to the wall of ice, which shattered. Behind it, Maeve was already preparing another Working.

The other three creatures all pounced on him. He cursed, turning, and used his six arms to get out of the way, flipping backwards on golden arms. Divinity coursed through him, sending strands of gold as Avalon contended with another realm.

As he barreled backwards, sword-claws dug into his jacket-armor, and the strands of divinity were joined with strands of cloth that had been cut from his jacket. He cursed as he hit the ground, wincing.

The one creature that managed to hit him pounced upon him once again, and Thackeray used his Sacrament arms to launch him upwards, and the sword blades hit nothing but the wood of the branch, which seemed to be as hard as clay.

Maeve raised her scepter up high. “Niveus, hear me! I channel the breath of your soul, fuse with my Magick and send them to the rivers of pain! Breath!” She swung her scepter forward, and a huge gust of misty wind billowed in a cone in front of her, completely enveloping the five creatures in front of them.

When the mist cleared, the black creatures had turned into sculptures of ice, with frosty flowers decorating each display as chaos melded with order.

Maeve sighed, and sank to her knees. Thackeray fell to the top of the root with a light thud, and dismissed his four extra arms with a wave from both his arms. They dissipated into glows.

“Come on,” Thackeray said, walking up to Maeve. “We should keep going.”

She nodded. “Let’s try to avoid fighting first.” She wheezed. Thackeray offered to carry her. Maeve smiled. “That’d be nice.”

He picked Maeve up, and made his way down the other side of the root. He managed to find a loose vine that fell halfway to the ground. He clambered down, and then dropped the rest of the way. Wincing, he picked himself off the ground, and managed to walk forward. “Do we know where to go?” Thackeray asked.

Maeve looked at Thackeray, eyes wide and brows furrowed in confusion.




The city of Throne was crowded during the Zenith hour.

Of course, this was kind of a given. Throne City was the Capital of the Human Kingdom of Shen after all.

“I live nearby, so we can just walk.” Kasu had said.

And so they did.

They walked down a sidewalk path, with Kasu trying her best to explain what the Datascape was to Chrysanthemum, only to give up a few tries later. They wove through the dense population. People bumping with each other as they went out on their lunch breaks to try and get the cheapest place possible. Academia students bumped into workers that probably woke up only to enter into a cubicle, and then out again.

The three of them stuck close together. Oberen ruffled his already tousled dark hair as he followed the two of them. They crossed a wide street beneath the wide tracks of the City-Rail Transit. Above them, the tracks and structure of the Transit looked like an ominous structure of times bygone, with its stark black steel and occasional bright red and yellow and blue neon.

Eventually, they arrived in front of a building protected by a scissor gate that led into an open lobby. Kasu reached into her pocket and unlocked the gate, sliding it to the right. She beckoned the two of them to come inside, and they followed. She walked across the lobby, which was clean as a janitor swept the floor, and went up a flight of stairs. Chrysanthemum and Oberen followed Kasu to the third floor, wherein they entered.

Kasu removed her boots and slipped on comfy house slippers. The floor was immaculately clean, shining and reflecting the light fixtures on the ceiling. Chrys smiled and followed enthusiastically. Oberen smiled a lazy smile, raised both eyebrows as he watched Chrysanthemum, as if one would watch their own child. He closed the door behind him and slipped on the guest slippers.

They walked across a short hallway lined with a room and a bathroom, before it opened up into the living room. All the windows were covered in a blue curtain, and was barred shut either way by the two large stacks of Nodes that made up Kasu’s machine.

“Wow!” Chrysanthemum’s eyes widened as she stepped forward. Kasu grinned. She snapped her fingers, and the two stacks of glass cubes lit up with a digital, blue-gray haze. The visual feed erupted out of a small fixture on the bottom of the desk — it was a holographic display. Expensive, by today’s standards.

Kasu walked over to it and sat down on her chair. It swivelled a bit. She stretched her fingers, and when she lay them down a few inches off of the desk top, a holographic script-board materialized in a flash of blue-gray. Kasu began typing away at the scripts, and the visual feed began computing.

She typed a few things, and then reached up and tapped something on the holographic screen. A new screen popped out from that, and Kasu moved it around with her hands. She stood, carrying the new window off the desk and near Chrysanthemum. “Here,” Kasu said. Oberen looked and saw that the screen was showcasing the visual of what the Datascape looked like on the inside — a gray desert made up of fine grains of information, swept by a storm of blue-gray-green data, made up of scripts and numbers.

“That’s the Datascape,” Kasu said. “It’s a new sort of… realm that the modern races have made that allows us to send and receive and manipulate information and data. We can do almost anything with it. Even Magick.”

“Kasu is a Datathurgist,” Oberen said behind Chrys. Chrysanthemum turned around and nodded. “That means that — while I, as a Magicker of the Perfected Collegiate Theory, have my Soul Sympathetically Linked to the Fundamental Realms, Kasu here is Sympathetically Linked to the Datascape itself.”

“Which means I can do some neat things,” Kasu said, grinning. She turned and pressed a floating button to the side of the script-board. “Like this.”

The room began folding away, as if pieces of paper were being peeled off of the room. It was replaced with, well, the room of Kasu, but one made up of blue gray data and information. Chrysanthemum and Oberen stepped back, but was surprised to see that they were unharmed, their bodies trailing information like dust motes. Kasu began whisking data and then turning it about her hands. “This is my Datagrove, my own little encrypted space of the Datascape.” She trapped the small bit of data she whisked away from the air within her hands and clasped them together. With another breath, the layers of physical reality returned, stapling themselves back onto the walls and air of data and information. Chrys and Oberen felt their stomachs flutter for a bit as they materialized.

Kasu smiled sweetly and opened her hands, cupping something within. Inside, a small little bunny peeked out, made up of translucent blue-gray-green data. It moved about, a haze trailing after it like a translucent shadow. “And this is a rabbit. A data-rabbit. Only a Datathurgist can do these things.”

She laid the data rabbit down on her desk, and it began hopping around. “So that’s the Datascape. It connects all of us. Your Node taps into it, so that you can access, send, or manipulate information. You can contact someone from across the world, or manipulate data in such a way that you can abandon your physical body and live in the Datascape without dying. Sounds great, huh?”

Chrysanthemum smiled. But it was a sad smile. She didn’t like the sound of living forever.

Oberen chuckled. “Ever the dataphiliac, eh?”

“It’s just so amazing,” said Kasu, as she rubbed her cheek against the data-rabbit. She laid it down again, and waved a dismissive hand. It dissipated in a digital haze, back into her Datagrove. “Right. Anyway, your Contract?”