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Knarrian’s hesitation

“Flukia! Flukia wake up!” Abhain lightly shook her arm as she began to rouse.

“I’m awake, barely. How long have we been out?” Flukia slowly opened her eyes.

“I don’t know, all of the clocks have stopped.”

“Their magic is gone, all enchantments will be.”

“The people…”  Abhain fell out of his kneeling position as he came to the realization.

 

“They’re all dead.” Flukia managed to pull herself up enough to lean on the wall. “Everyone around the lake will be dead.”

“But we survived?”

“Because we’re young and inside this building, the infused bricks took the brunt.”

“There could be other people then…?”

“Not in Sothwood, only the city walls were designed to withstand magical attacks.”

“But the magic would have just gone over top of them…”

 

They sat in silence for a while. Flukia had just noticed that her dress was white again, it was to be expected.

 

It only took a minute for her strength to return to her and once it had she leapt to her feet, crunching the broken glass. She looked out the window.

 

“We’re still in the else-plane, this wasn’t a phase shift, someone pushed us through.”

“Who could have the power? Who would do such a thing?”

“I don’t know…” Flukia stared out the window taking in the devastation.

 

The lake was drained, only piles of sand and dead red algae. The grass was gone leaving behind only blackened dirt, the trees were bare and their bark as white as Flukia’s dress.

 

She had forgotten that all life on the mortal-plane was dependant on magic, it was their life force. This hadn’t just killed the people, it had killed the very ground they walked on.

 

“We need to go.” Flukia turned back to Abhain.

“Where? Where would be any better?”

“Abby, it’s not just Guardian’s that drain magic, the Else-plane itself is also doing it. We might generate enough to survive but this building doesn’t.”
“What do you mean?”

“The dirt and rock and clay around us will dissipate here, the magic that holds them together is breaking down.” Abhain just nodded, Flukia helped him to his feet.

 

“I should grab my stuff…”
“Believe me, anything you think you might need you wont, or it’s already gone.”

 

Abhain was still uneasy on his feet so Flukia held him up as they half stumbled down the stairs.

 

“Aquiquese!” He shouted the moment they reached the bottom step. Pulling himself off of Flukia he ran awkwardly to the front desk. He fell back to his knees. “Why? She wasn’t that much older than us!”

“She was old enough Abhain.” Flukia put her hand on his shoulder. She wanted to give him the time to grieve but she knew that they didn’t have it.

 

There was a soft rumbling sound coming from outside. Like distant thunder. At first Flukia thought it was the northern storm ever present in the else-plane but she realized they were far too south for that. She let go of Abhain and ran outside.

 

Sothwood city had started to crumble, several of the tallest buildings had fallen, the others that were visible at this distance were noticeably off kilter.

 

Flukia looked down at the road, she could see the cart she had arrived in. It was at the end of sharp turn on its side, the horses were grazing near it, they were now in their true form, pale white with bone spikes protruding from their backs, it wasn’t magic keeping them here. They turned as if to look at her, as if to ask something. Flukia ran back inside.

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Not Completely Soulless 4

Sari leaned on the building on the other side of the alley. She patted down the pockets of the coat she was wearing looking for something. It was a men’s small in a dark grey, Cherise was who had initially taken her clothes shopping and had suggested male clothes for more pockets.
Sari was very fond of having places to put things.

From her left pocket she pulled out a packet of cigarettes, removed one and returned the packet to her coat. She continued to pat down herself looking for something else.

 

“Here.” Cherise interrupted noticing Sari’s increasing search speed. Cherise brought up her arms holding her left hand with her palm facing towards herself. She moved her right hand down past her left as though going into a bag that she pretended to hold. Her right hand disappeared as it past the threshold of her left.

 

She brought it back up and it reappeared now holding a light blue safety lighter.

 

“Wouldn’t pyromancy be better?” Sari asked as she lit her cigarette.

“I don’t need to set things on fire very often.”

“Less often than you need to return lost things?”

“Fair point, but I am working on my own endless pocket.” Cherise leaned on the other side of the alley moving her right hand in and out of wherever it went beyond her left arm.

 

“Times really have changed, we never needed to harness magic before.”

“No we just thought we were above it. But more often than not mages witches and warlocks could find a way to beat us.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Just look at Hank, he doesn’t need a curse to be immortal and he’s not abnormally weak to precious metals”

“or balls of string.”

 

Sari took a long drag on her cigarette. She didn’t mind the habit other than how expensive it was. Even if she could get cancer it wouldn’t kill her. The smell wouldn’t stick to her, it wouldn’t ruin her teeth and the addiction could never form. However the nicotine would give her a short high similar to that of completely consuming a soul casing.

 

There was a time that ravishing a human soul was necessary for Sari to stay alive. With age that dissipated now simply accepting a person’s radiant energy was enough. Even being without it for several days would just put her back into her sleeping state, like her time in the coffin.

 

“So what else were you doing here? Helping with deliveries would only take up an hour or two in the morning.”

“I was going to pop in to help then go shopping. Been saving for some furniture.”

“Well go on then, don’t hang around here.”

“Nowhere is open for like another hour.”

 

*

 

Sari hung around outside smoking cigarettes for a few minutes until she realized she could hang out inside a cafe instead.

 

She went to the nearest one and ordered a Flat White.

 

Although she had tried coffee before her time in the coffin it wasn’t nearly as popular. At the time she had thought it was bitter and could have used something to mellow it out, she had similar opinions to what had been made of the cacao bean during her time in spain before leaving for the new world.

 

Cow’s milk that had been steamed and bubbled probably would not have come to mind. Looking at it now she thought it was probably the idea of a master apothecary but who had left out the magic ingredient when selling the recipe.

 

Supposedly this kind of coffee was invented in this part of the world that Sari found herself in. A clever modification on those types that had come before it.

 

The human’s on this land are very fond of their coffee and Sari could see why. It tasted amazing and would often give her the same buzz as a cigarette only more mellow and long lasting.

 

Being in the coffin for over three hundred years didn’t seem like much time, barely a quarter of the time since she’d been born. But it was a long time for the mortals. Their advancement did not shock her as much as Hank thought it would. Automobiles, cell phones and spaceships are fantastic in comparison to what life was like before but no more amazing than what she had seen magic perform.

 

Sari was witness to the ignorance of her forebears that believed themselves greater than mortals because they were eternal. It was their unwillingness to change that got them all killed. So much for immortal. Sari refused to let that be her end.

 

“Is this seat taken?” Asked a man in a business suit cutting through her fog of thought.

“N-No, it’s not.” The noise of the cafe cutting back in.

 

Sari expected him to take the seat to another table as would normally happen in his circumstance. He sat down in front of her.

 

“Uh?” She couldn’t help but let out an unsure sound. Her shimmer had been turned back on and was at a level which would make any regular human ignore her.

“My apologies, I didn’t mean to startle you.” He had a smooth face but he did not look young, his hair was short slick dark brown and pulled back tightly. The black suit was perfectly cut and retained a perfect shape even as he sat down.

 

“What are you doing here Demon?” Sari finally caught on. This was no mortal, it was another broken soul but inside someone else’s meat puppet.

“Caught up on the new words then I see. I live here. What are you doing here Vampire?”

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Not Completely Soulless 3

“Do you normally walk to work like that? You’ll destroy someone’s personality.” Hank asked.

“Just having a sensitive day. It’s not a permanent effect.” Sari looked but did not sound apologetic.

“In most circumstances. But humans have a complex psychology, a single moment of that could irreparably damage someone’s self image.”

“If their image was that fragile then it would do them good to rebuild it.”

 

Hank sighed and swivelled around in his chair, back to filling out some forms. He was still wearing his big woollen coat so Sari assumed he wasn’t staying long.

 

“What are you doing here anyway, you don’t have a shift till later.” Cherise’s voice came from a short haired ginger cat sitting another chair beside Hank.

“I came in to help with the deliveries. You know having animals in here violates health codes.”

 

The cat gave a little shake as though getting a static shock, then swiftly became a woman. After catching up on recent media Sari started to liken shifter transformations to bad CGI. She had remained clothed through the shift with the help of an amulet that Hank had provided. Unlike Sari, Cherise could feel the cold and as such wore a thick dark jacket, black pants and a scarf almost the same colour as her cat hair.

 

“My fur doesn’t shed unless I fully regress into an animal state.” Cherise looked about Sari’s age but that didn’t really mean anything in this room, each of them being at least a hundred years old. She had her hair down, another health code violation, it was shoulder length and dark brown. Her normal brown-green eye colour had come back but her iris was still a feline slit shape instead of the human round. “Imagine what they would say if they knew about you turning into a big mosquito.”

 

Cherise and Sari enjoyed giving each other a gentle ribbing but it was all in good fun. It was hard to take offence when you’ve outlived a civilization or two.

 

“There are no deliveries today. They’re changing the route so we get them Mondays now.” Hank said without looking up.

“Wait… It’s not Monday?”

“How do you not know what day it is?” Cherise asked tilting her head with her remaining feline intent.

“You try being in a box while the rest of the world changes the calendar on you.”

 

There was a knock at the front door of the shop. “See, deliveries.”

“That’s not a delivery.” Hank fluidly got up from his chair, moved around the front counter and went to the door.

“Wait. What is it then?” Sari asked, genuinely confused. Cherise said nothing but knowingly smiled.

 

Hank opened the door for the new arrival and in the same motion cast a small spell dulling Sari’s shimmer. “No, you can’t be.” Sari started to figure it out.

 

“Travis, hello. You’re here for the interview yes?”

“Yes. I-I-I am.” A timid boy just over eighteen stood in the doorway.

“Cherise, Sari, some privacy please.” Hank motioned his head at Cherise indicating that she should take Sari with her by force if needed.

 

Cherise grabbed Sari by the hand and pulled her out into the alley behind the store.

 

“A human! You’re going to hire a human?” Sari put on some anger as the situation seemed to be something she should be angry at.

“No, we’re just interviewing one for a position.” Cherise didn’t respond to the anger, she knew it wasn’t real.

“Are you interviewing anyone like us?”

“Well we’re definitely not interviewing any vampires.”
“You know what I meant. Like you and me, Cain’s brood.”

“Brood? Is that what you call us?”

“Does Cain’s Children sound any better?”

 

“You’re right.”
“That you’re going to hire a human?”

“No, brood does sound better.”

“I will bite you Cherise.”

“If we get any non-human applicants they have a higher priority at the moment but there hasn’t been any.”

“How can there not be? Every supernatural in this town know about us.”

“But they aren’t looking for what will likely be minimum wage work. We’re a pizza place not the Refuge. Maybe we’ll get lucky and hire someone who doesn’t know they’re like us.”

“A Taniwha? That could be interesting actually.”

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Not Completely Soulless 2

The wind blew an icy chill over Sari. Her skin responded by popping up with some goosebumps. This reminded her to do a little shiver, rub her arms in a vain attempt to warm herself back up.

 

Just in case someone was watching.

 

She had just stepped out of her apartment building into the little ocean facing alcove at the front. Up here on the top of this hill that was called a mountain barely anyone walked passed. Still, just in case, she performed the ritual of blowing into her hands.

 

A piece of her soul flared up again, though this emotion was not her own, a resonance with another full soul on the edge of her perception. It was amusement. Perhaps someone in the building laughing at a soulless creature pretending to be cold. Or maybe a human in a house nearby watching a comedy show.

 

“It’s going to be one of those days.” Sari didn’t let the emotion creep into her voice so it came out as icy as the wind.

 

With a step forward she went into hyperspeed, the cold wind tried its best to cut into her but she couldn’t feel the temperature of it, only the pressure of it on her skin. Within the space of a few heartbeats she had made it down the hill.

 

No-one would have seen her even if they had been paying attention. She wasn’t sure if it was a function of her shimmer or her speed but she was imperceptible at her highest speeds. Usually her shimmer just made her appear more attractive or less noticeable at will, never had she become fully invisible. Yet, if she was actually moving fast enough to outrun human sight then really her clothes should not have been able to withstand the incoming air.

 

Regardless she had practiced controlling her shimmer every day, there were stories that her Uncle was able to become fully invisible.

 

Sari slowed to a brisk walk as she came upon an alley between two buildings. Now that she was in the more populated area of town it was harder to move that fast without disrupting anyone. Even though she was fairly thin and aerodynamic the air she displaced had previously knocked over several people even a couple of small cars.

 

This had also sparked another idea, could she turn her drag into lift. More study into flight was required for figuring that one out. But she wanted to finish off this game series she had gotten into. There were fourteen games and each of them were hundreds of hours to fully complete. Now that she thought about it they were probably made expressly for soulless like her, surely humans don’t have as much time on their hands.

 

There were several people going her way through town which was fairly normal for this time of the morning. She passed them easily with her quick pace, this got her a few glances but it was probably more because her shimmer was turned to eleven. It was much easier to mentally block the onslaught of human emotion if she was focused on projecting the shell of confidence and beauty.

 

Many would have been unable to look upon her directly without feeling completely inadequate and shamed. But most would only catch the full effect for a moment and just be in awe. This effect would only last seconds and once she was out of their view any negative connotation of the feeling would be gone. A shimmer was able to project an image and influence those who are very suggestible but it was only ever temporary.

 

Even though she wasn’t in hyperspeed it felt like she had made it across town in an instant. She decided to slow down her pace a bit there was plenty of time in the day to do what she needed. First though she was going to pop into work.

 

“Dear Lucifer woman turn down the brightness.” Hank physically shielded his eyes from her Shimmer.

“Sorry, sorry.” Hank was technically human but besides being a landlord and business owner he was a very powerful Warlock.

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Not completely soulless

Sari lifted her feet off of her desk and swung herself around on her chair. The alarm on her phone had started it’s morning mating call. She switched it off and turned back to what she was doing.

 

The game she was playing pulsed blue and grey light over her. Her research into this pastime suggested that doing this all night every night would not be healthy for a human mind or set of eyes. Luckily she wasn’t exactly human.

 

She reached forward and turned the screen off. She would just leave the game paused, having not reached a savepoint recently. The room went completely dark, her apartment was effectively subterranean, so this room didn’t need curtains to reach this pitch black darkness. It was meant for a different type of inhuman but it had been the last apartment available in the building Hank owned.

 

Not that Sari minded at all. She could still see, light was unnecessary.

 

In the time before her confinement, having light at night time was limited so she hadn’t developed the habit of keeping the light on in her sleepless nights.

 

The thought of her time in the coffin got her moving. Not with her top speed but something approximating normal human movement, there was no need to rush. Sari whipped off her fluffy pajamas and put on some clothes.

 

Doing so she mused again at how much she prefered the modern fashion. Thin fabrics, less layers, less mock proportions and less frills. She pulled on a skirt and top before remembering it was winter. She groaned, like the dead body she was, and pulled out some more clothes from her chest of drawers. Cold was no obstacle for her kind, in fact it was beneficial in some cases. However it was one of the requirements of staying in this apartment that she at least try to blend in.

 

Now armed with a scarf, heavy coat and thick tights she was ready to venture outside. She picked up her discarded clothes and put them in her washing basket. Sari didn’t sweat, at least, not in the conventional sense. Her clothes never get dirty from wearing them even if she has exerted herself, a difficult task in its own right, and her skin repealed grease, dirt and other blemishes. This made it difficult to regularly schedule a human routine even outside the fact that she didn’t sleep.

 

To keep herself from wearing the same clothes or giving away any clues to her nature, she showered every night and washed every item of clothing after wearing it once. It was a waste of time, she admitted to herself, but she had more than enough to burn.

 

Sari pulled open her door, the light in the hallway flooding her room.

 

Looking back she took a mental picture of her apartment for later reference. She was going furniture shopping today.

 

On the left was the bathroom, nothing needed for there. Further in but still on the left was the kitchen separated from the living room by a countertop.

 

Living room was still a little bare, there was space on the wall for a couple of paintings. Sari thought about a plant but it would never get any sun.

 

There would be enough room for a settee or whatever they were called in this era. If she planned on having anyone over they would need somewhere to sit. Her thoughts quickly flicked to the idea of having someone stay the night.

 

Somewhere in the remnants of her soul something half remembered how to feel embarrassed. This only sparked more thoughts about what she would do with anyone handsome enough to fulfill her tastes.

 

The remnant of soul core burned out. Her face did not change expression since she had left the game but now she had a question on her brow.

 

“I don’t even have a bed.” She remarked at the images fleeing from her mind.

 

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It’s only a door

At the edge of the creation, hidden behind the collision of neutron star and black hole stuck in an endless time loop, halfway between the fourth and fifth dimensions, sits a door.

 

The door was made from an abnormally large and abnormally straight Pōhutukawa, a tree only found on two little islands at the bottom of a small blue planet infinitely far from the edge. Thousands of curves were carved into the door, the curves were present even at an atomic level, electrons only popping in and out of existence where the wood had remained.

 

Despite being made from organic material it did not wane, it did not decay. Not many space travelers had come upon the door, the fundamental laws of the universe prevented most approaches to the edge of creation both in time and space.

 

Those who had happened upon the door always remarked about its sturdiness. It could be burned, broken or bent. Even the highest level scan, radar or x-ray couldn’t penetrate even a millimetre of its mass. But it wasn’t locked.

 

The key remained in the hole. It was black and molecular analysis would determine that it was made from diamond yet light did not penetrate it. Not one traveler had been able to remove it, or even turn it, for further study.

 

With only the slightest nudge the door would swing open slamming into the nothing that it was set into, with the sound of a thousand supernovae. The sound would never reach a traveler as there was nothing for it to transfer on.

 

Behind the door was another time, another place, a small restaurant in the Earth year Nineteen Sixty Five. The time was well known to agents of frequent temporal travel as a nexus in time. The place however was unremarkable other than being from the same planet as the Pōhutukawa.

 

The door was also set aside from other natural wormholes in time and space. It did not appear to bend the fabric of the universe, no gravitational wave emission, no heat not even the tiniest amount of gravy radiation.

 

Again unlike a portal, travelers that came through to the restaurant found themselves with a existing booking and a pre-planned meal. Usually five courses but occasionally three. The scallops were delightful but if you got the pasta you would find that your childhood pet was actually still alive and had run away to keep its immortality hidden.

 

There were other patrons and apon interview they would all appear to have arrived through the door.

 

If by some miracle you can eat each course and emotionally survive the onslaught of the most excellent Blues ever played. Then you will be able to leave through the front door onto the busy streets of London even though it appeared like you were in Rome.

 

If you cannot finish a meal or find yourself overcome by the melancholy of the harmonica player whose face could not be seen. Then you will find yourself waking under the stars on a small moon in red dwarf star system, the system with the Restaurant outside of the visible universe.

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Not the homecoming we were hoping for.

The carriage moved slowly down the street, pulled by two horses made of pulsing green light. The driver held one arm out, a similar green light shining through his white embroidered coat. It passed by another carriage, coming against it on the other side of the road. This one not drawn by horses but floating through the air on a foggy haze. The drivers tipped their hats at each other in courtesy.

 

Flukia waved at the floating carriage as well, it wasn’t often that she saw an air mage like herself. She wondered if it was transporting a royal envoy from the Northern states, that would seem to be the most likely scenario. The curtains on the carriage were closed but she could sense the breath of at least one person inside, probably a man, he gave a deep sigh of relief.

 

She continued to look out the window once it had passed. The carriage was taking her back into Sothwood, the Capital city of the Western states. The only road entrance to Sothwood was beside both a cliff and lake. She could see the lake from this side, it was a deep red from the algae blooming on the surface. The lake broke out to sea at its south-most point, right there was where Sothwood had been built.

 

The story was that Knarrian the Avatar of the Ocean was trapped here, he turned himself into a gigantic whale and forced his way out of the lake. On the other side of the lake was Knarria, a smaller town that housed the Western states military academy. Flukia had just come from there she could just make out the shape of the watchtower she had occasionally been posted at.

 

“We have arrived young lady.” The driver called out as the carriage slowed and came to a halt. Flukia waved her hand at the door behind her a white light flashing on her hand, it popped open a little too fast and made a thud as it hit the carriage.

“Sorry! Can you get my luggage?”

“Of course.” He replied trying to hold back an indignant tone.

 

Flukia climbed out of the carriage, she was wearing her under-armor overalls with a light blue dress over top, the same colour as her hair that was held back loosely in a bun. The overalls were made from white dragon fur, they could stop a sharp blade that was being dragged across them even a blunt one with a stab. Her dress, she had fashioned herself from the same material, but used one of her air charms to make it appear the blue colour. It was her favourite.

 

The building they had arrived at was an old church of Knarrian, it had been damaged during the last war but had since been refurbished and turned into a kind of nursing home. It was a place for those who by all other means would be dead if not for their own magic keeping them on this plane. It had a great view of the lake.

 

She caught a glimpse of the horses as they faded into a green mist. Back to the else-plane, not to be confused with the place people go when their magic is gone. Those trained in the arcane can easily come and go from the else-plane, it would have been how this driver made those horses his own, if they had not been passed down in the family.

Flukia had been there, just like all the other recruits, a trip to the else-plane to find an animal companion. Those who have never been liken it to going to the stables with a bag of gold but it is not that simple. There are a myriad of eldritch beasts present there, most of them hostile, many of them deadly. Also the spirit animals that are peaceful are not always easy to befriend, which you would have to before you could summon them.

 

“Are you sure this is where you wanted to go?” The driver’s arm was now covered in white stone as he struggled to carry Flukia’s trunk. It was holding all of her worldly possessions.

“Yes, I’m meeting a friend here. I have your payment sir.” She pulled a couple of silver coins from her pocket and held them out to him.

“I can carry this inside if you like.”
“I’ll manage, thank you.”

 

He put down the trunk and accepted the coins. Waving his arm the stones disappeared and the green light shone through once more, the horses reformed with the sound of snapping a branch.

 

Flukia turned around and looked up at the nursing home. It had some marvelous brickwork, stones that had been placed to look like waves crashing onto the entrance way. Flukia wasn’t looking at the bricks however she didn’t have an eye for that.

 

The patchwork that had been done interested her though, magical fire was the same as any other but in the war there were much more powerful uses of all forms of magic. Around the new brick were large sections of melted stone and a lingering feeling, the twang of the arcane. No wonder they kept the elderly here, it would supplement their own magic at least a little bit, take the edge off. Flukia pointed her arm over towards her trunk.

 

Invisible patterns on her arm became clear now as white light shone from them. Her trunk wobbled like a defiant toddler then gave into her power, rising from the ground. A dark cloud formed below it, blossoming around it into a cushion. It floated over to her as she put her arm down, the tattoos on her arm still white but not as bright.

 

She entered the old church calmly, using her buoyant trunk to push open one of the large doors.

 

“Flukia?” There was a young woman sitting behind a desk just inside the door. She was scratching at her arm, consciously avoiding where she had recently got a new tattoo. It was a dark blue and seemed to move as she did. Water mages were more common in Sothwood, it being the original proficiency for the Western states, but it was also more expected in a caring facility as they have innately stronger healing magic. “Abhain has been waiting for you. He’s up on the second floor.”

“Thank you.” Flukia nodded. “Do you mind if I leave my trunk here?”

 

*

 

“Kia! You made it.” There was both joy and relief in Abhain’s voice. “How was the trip?”

“Good to see you too Abby.” Flukia have a cheeky grin. “No stick ups, so as pleasant as it could be.”
“Mmm, I heard there were some bandits on the roads, but I knew you could handle them.”

“Is that why you were stressing out the lady at the desk?”

“Aquiquese is pretty used to my stressing.”

 

“No patients up here then?” Flukia looked around, the second floor at this end of the building was a long chamber overtop of the main entrance hall. There was a wooden table lined with chairs in the center and right at the back was a circle of more comfortable cushioned chairs.

“Not patients Kia, they aren’t sick.”

“They’re just not well.”

 

Abhain just smiled at her, he thought about continuing to correct her but knew it was in vain.

 

“No, the patients aren’t allowed up here.”
“So why a nursing home Abby? As far as I knew you were one of the top healers.”
“A lot has changed since you enlisted.”

“No it hasn’t, your mother wrote me too you know.”

 

“I wanted to help people Kia.”
“And you would have, people who had a chance.”

 

He turned away and walked up to the window looking out to the lake. He put his head against it with a thunk.

 

“And why did you enlist then huh? Why did you even think that they wanted a air mage in the Western Corp?”
“You know what I’m good at.”

“Fighting, I know, but you didn’t have to do it for them. You could have done it here. Why did you want to get away from me?”

“Abby, you know that’s not the reason.”

 

“What was I supposed to think? You didn’t tell anyone until you’d already done it.”
“I’m sorry Abby, I was selfish back then.”

“It’s only be three years.”
“That’s a lot of growing, even more so when everyday is an intense training program.”

“So why you leave then? That sounds like your dream.”

“Just because I’m good at it doesn’t mean I like it.”

 

They stood quietly. Flukia walked up to the window beside him and looked out at the water.

 

“So was the nursing home ‘cause of me or…?”

“I don’t know. I think it was probably just me lashing out at the world.”

“Weird way to do it, but that’s you in general, right?” Flukia teased.

 

Abhain laughed, put his fist on her shoulder gave her a hardy push. That used to be enough to shift her balance but this time she stayed stiff. She grinned back at him.

 

“I couldn’t have got this view working at a hospital or apothecary.”

“Very true…” The high pitch whistling of an alarm cut her off, she spun away from the window.

 

Flukia flicked her hand down beside her lightly tapping her leg. There was a swirl of air around her flapping her dress. Suddenly she was holding a short sword. It’s blade glinted silver in the light, the hilt was wrapped in white fabric.

 

“That’s not an attack alarm Kia. Someone has reached critical magic le…” Several similar alarms started drowning him out. “What in the four realms is that?”

 

Flukia turned back to the window. The lake had gone dark, but it wasn’t the algae it was the sky that had turned black.

 

An energy storm had started to form darkening the area. The telltale red and blue arching of magic gave it away.

 

“A portal to the else-plane.”

“In the sky?”

 

The storm spread out in a ring across the sky with a boom of thunder leaving behind an unfamiliar starry sky. Once it reached the horizon the ground shook violently knocking them both off their feet.

 

Flukia was suddenly holding a shield over top of the protecting them from debris.

 

The shaking slowed to stop but the sound of crumbling buildings continued. There were a few muffled shouts then nothing, complete silence.

 

They both jumped up, Flukia glanced out the window and froze in place.

 

The water was being displaced, drained out to sea, revealing the bottom of the lake. The sand had started to move, huge black tendrils underneath it wiggling their way out.

 

Each tentacle moved independently but had the common goal of burrowing to the surface.

 

“A demon under the lake?” Abhain asked, Flukia hadn’t noticed that he was staring along with her.

“No not a demon, an else-plane guardian.”

“Did the portal bring it here?”

“No… We were brought to it.”
“B…but, how is that possible?”

“Your patients! You need to go sa…” There was another quake but they both stayed on their feet.

 

The wet sand had finally cleared away and the guardian was now exposed. The tentacles weren’t just black but they seemed to drain the light around them diffusing the very sight of them. Its central mass was much the same but covered in large pure white spots, eyes.

 

A piercing screech dulled their hearing even though they tried to block it out with their hands. Flukia knew what came next but trying to warn Abhain would have been in vain. She didn’t know if there was anything he could have done anyway.

 

The guardian sucked in air and puffed itself up to about twice the size. The eyes rolled around until the pupils were visible, huge and black with the thin outline of white.

 

Abhain fell to the floor, he wasn’t braced for his magic to get drained away.

 

Flukia’s sword and shield turned to smoke.Her vision grew dim as she tried to fight it, even the worst magic fatigue would never have felt this bad. Her fingers and toes felt like they were covered in molten iron. Every bone in her body started to ache and she felt stabbings all over her back. She put her hands onto the windowsill ignoring the broken glass, trying to hold herself up.

 

The draining stopped but the pain remained. With another quake the guardian lifted itself up and pushed off the ground floating off into the sky, still bloated but now with magic instead of air.

 

She would survive with this remaining amount of magic, so Abhain probably will too. She fell back onto the ground with a sigh of relief knocking herself out.

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Jamee The Unwitting Necromancer

The dirt was liquid under her feet, each step was a battle. The mud fumed out a pungent fog of tree sap and the decomposition of flesh. She had a long strip of fabric wrapped around her head, keeping her mud-caked hair and the disgusting smell out of her mouth or nose. The fabric was well made, a silk and cotton blend dyed purple, the same as her dress.

 

Another step forward revealed the torn section of her gown, it now only came up to her knees. The remaining pieces of her outfit were soaked in blood. She reached out and grabbed a low hanging branch of the nearest swamp tree. Pulling with all her might she managed to free herself from the ground and swing her legs up as well.

 

She lay there on the branch for a while, regaining her strength. She tried to figure out where she was, there weren’t many swamps she could remember. The smell pretty much gave it away however. This was the Grutal Marsh. About twenty years ago this was a battleground, there’s only a thin layer of mud between her and hundreds of dead men, women, horses.

 

“How did I get here?” She asked herself in a whisper, her voice raspy. She coughed, winced in pain and rubbed at her throat. There was a scab there, from the back of her chin to her collar bone. The crusty piece of skin had already started to come away from her neck.

 

There was a sunken area of skin where the scab had been, where it had struggled to grow over the area. ‘How did I survive a cut like this?’ She thought, being sure not to speak. ‘Did I survive?’

 

She knew the stories about the Marsh, about the battle that was fought here. A fight against the dead. Not that she really believed it. Necromancy was such an abhorrent magic, there was no-one who could really consider using it. This couldn’t be the case anyway, the battle was won, the dark magic’s vanquished.

 

But maybe, the magic lingered. It has a habit of doing that, the unexpected.

 

Using what strength she had regained she reached out her arm and focused her energy. The dirt on her arms shook right off as her skin started to glow purple. Her hidden runic tattoos revealed by their use. A pale lilac mist formed around her. There were no other magics at work here.

 

She didn’t notice that the mist she formed floated down to the ground. It swirled around underneath her, overcoming the swamp’s natural fog.

 

The mud began to move.

 

Now with enough physical strength she decided to move, jumping down. The mud didn’t squelch, ‘looks like I got out of the flooded area’ she decided.

 

Up ahead she could see a clearing. Maybe things were looking up for her after all.

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The Source

Everyone knows about Mana, that luminescent blue fluid. Pretty much everyone in town has a few bottles of it lying around to sell to any adventurer who might pass through. But no one has ever been able to tell me where it comes from.

 

“Well I think I found these on a group of imps I beat up out in the forest.” The latest hero to the town answers my question. She half dropped half slammed a large battle axe onto the table beside me. I only jumped slightly. She was taller than me and extremely well built. Must have come from one of the nearby barbarian camps.  “Do you have anything with better stats than this?” Yet she didn’t speak like a barbarian, she still used vowels.

 

“Sorry I’m not an effective appraiser. I wouldn’t know.” I’ve only been working at the blacksmiths for about 2 weeks but I can already discern that this weapon is well infused with magic. Not that I would know what kind of effect it would have. “I can show you our other enchanted axes if you want to browse?” I turned slightly and waved my arm up and down to show her the rack of enchanted weapons, we had several axes that were made using special rituals.

 

Most would agree that Mana is a congealed form of magic. Any mage worth his robes can tell when his exhaustion is really a lack of magic power and a thirst for Mana. Despite that no mage, witch-doctor or even necromancer could tell me how the magic is condensed into that state.

 

Not even a fabrication, no legends of a river flowing with it on a faraway mountain. No whispers of a goblin mining operation in ancient mana crystal caves. Not even a bed time story of bottled tears from a lonely goddess.

 

“It looks like none of these will ever top Blazedelight here.” She picked up her axe and stamped its hilt to the ground revealing that it was just as tall as she was. “Oh hey, about your Mana question. Would you like me to try and find out for you, go on a bit of a quest for it and all that?”

 

I looked at her, I’m sure that the look upon my face was that of pure dumbfoundedness. Why had I never thought to just offer to pay a hero to find out? That’s what adventurers do, we pay them to go and do things out of town that we don’t want to.

 

“I uh…” Just as I started to speak I realized that this might not be a task for a run of the mill adventurer. We normally just get them to kill bandits or hunt some of the local beasts. Following the clues and actually figuring stuff out isn’t normally one of their strong attributes. “Would it be okay if I joined you instead?”

 

“Well sure, what is your combat focus?”

“I… well I can swing a sword. I know some magic spells I guess.”

“Novice magician… I see. Any healing spells?”

“Uh yeah I guess.”

“Alright then. Let me get you some gear.” She turned away from me and quickly turned back holding some mage robes and a staff. “Here you go, put these on.”

If I ever find out where Mana comes from the next thing will be to figure out where adventurers keep all their items.

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Hop skip and a jump

Madeline’s mother had always said ‘You can’t tie the rainbow to the Galgadorf if you don’t have Pixie blood.’

Madeline could remember bouncing her head up and down in agreement as a child, as though she had just heard a proverb of ancient wisdom. She wanted to say that it was before her mother was in an institution, that she realized that she had been insane the whole time. But she knew that she had continued to believe it until her mother was stabbed and killed by another inmate.

Her mother had not been a Marbh, not even just a regular Pixie.

At least that’s how it seemed for about sixteen years.

The penny dropped and her world was shattered about six months ago. When her garden was overrun by refuge Pixies. Luckily they could change their size down to about that of a medium rat but the fact that they had brought their own homes along did not help with the issue of space.

It came as much as a surprise to the Pixies that Madeline could see them as they had not found anyone outside of Scotland that could. When asked why they were not in Scotland they had made the same face and proceeded to rant about how they had a right to their homeland and how the bloody fay had tricked their ancestors out of the deal between magic and man.

For the first few weeks she had believed she had lost it just like her mother. She went to several different doctors and got enough brain scans to give her the cancer she slightly hoped she had. But it turned up nothing. Her psychiatrist had got her to take extended leave after she described the Visual and auditory hallucinations she was having.

She was pretty sure she wasn’t getting her job back when she finally made it back. Not in the least due to the fact that her house being broken into and her blood being strewn around the place. But also because she had gone to the Tír nAill for about a seven days which in real time accounts for about fourteen months. She hadn’t checked the date in the real world yet but she assumed she still wouldn’t be as old as she felt.

The Pixies had taken her on a wild ride. It definitely wasn’t their fault that the fairies bribed the MSA into eliminating the last remaining Pixies at her house. And they could have left her somewhere but she couldn’t help herself from tagging along after they had literally teleported her to the United Kingdom.

Since then she’d had her own fair share of fights. They met up with a band of Clurichaun refugees on the way and Madeline had used her unusual knowledge of alcohol brewery to show them how to make their own wine. They granted her their only weapon, a sword they had once stolen from a king.

Madeline had used the sword to defeat the Far darrig and best Una’s best soldiers in combat much to her own surprise.

But now she felt her adventures where near the end. Most of her Pixie friends were captured by the Fairy Queen, as she made sure that the Rainbow would never be sealed. She would have complete access to the gold and would eventually be able to buy the human world out from under them.

Madeline made her way to the Galgadorf with five remaining Pixies, each of them dead. You can’t tie the rainbow to the Galgadorf if you don’t have Pixie blood.

Madeline grabbed the red and violet ends of the rainbow. Her mother was right about everything.

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