Mystic Nan

Discussion in 'Original Stories' started by Maromar, Mar 30, 2017.

  1. Maromar

    Maromar New Member

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    I saw this beautiful section of your forums and thought that I may as well stop lurking, and contribute. Feel free to leave any kind of feedback, I tend to learn much more from negatives than positives.



    Spark I


    “I know you’re awake, you stopped snoring a few minutes ago.”

    The gig was up. Nan was on her way to see the Grim Reaper. Or Saint Luke. Saint Luke was the one that acted as border security for the Pearly Gates, right? No, probably not. Nan never paid much attention in church, the pastor’s voice just had a way of lulling her to sleep. Saint Luke, however, wouldn’t sound like a female schoolteacher with a permanent honey-dripping smile etched on her face.

    Nan opened her eyes.

    The woman hovering above her couldn’t have been past her mid-thirties. Her dress had a black sleeved mantle that spanned from shoulder to sternum, splitting into a shin-length draping of fuzzy cyan material. Orange hair, freckles, green eyes. Classic ginger. Completely normal. Not a saint or a devil, but…

    “You have cat ears.”

    Her left ear, as orange as her hair, flicked twice upon mention, as if bracing itself for some moronic barrage of questions. Nan would have obliged, had she not felt so bleary.

    The woman smiled. “I think they’re closer to bat ears.”

    Nan blinked. “Whua?”

    “I have a tail, too. And wings, but I keep ’em bound.” She stood, releasing a quiet creak from the bed. A thin, stringy appendage with a tuft of dark fur on its end waved in greeting.

    “Izusa Keme, Soother and named Mystic.”

    Something unfamiliar itched at the back of her head. Her words were more than language, verbal information delivered by sound. The sensation cried out under a sheet of glass that she was too lethargic to push away. She focused on returning the doctor’s courtesy instead.

    “Nan Beauchamp, college student?” It felt right state to, at least, state some kind of title. Even it if was unimpressive. She reached out her hand.

    Izusa did the same, though haltingly. She wavered between looking at Nan and her offer like she wasn’t sure if it was okay to grasp her hand or not. It put a mite of worry in her heart. Was she contagious or something? Izusa ended up pressing lightly against her palm and letting go. Weirdest handshake of the century.

    “By far, you’re the calmest arrival I’ve had this year. Are you feeling alright? No wooziness?”

    “Only a bit. My eyes are a little blurry though.” It was like someone smeared all but the center of her vision with murky water. The girl found herself blinking rapidly, then moving her eyes around in a vain attempt to clear them up.

    “That’s normal, just tell me if it worsens or doesn’t pass in a cycle, okay?”

    “Okay.” Nan sighed. An entire day? What was she in for?

    Izusa gave a light hum of approval. “I have to do a quick spot check, then we can roll you out of here for something to eat.”

    Nan let herself fade along with her crawling suspicions, they weren’t doing her any good. She was in presumptively good hands, strange mutations or not. A relief, to be honest. The faintest bit of dread nipping at her heels must have been misbegotten; some lingering sentiment from a dream long lost to her conscious mind.

    Vaguely familiar splotches of brown and white surrounded her. A simple cube-ish structure sat aside the bed, a drawer or a desk of some kind. The thing snaking up from its center was decidedly not a wood eating superworm with a glowing blue eye, but a curly lamp.

    She lifted her arms when asked, only flinching slightly at the cold touch of something that at least looked like a stethoscope. The room was warm and smelled faintly of cinnamon. She felt safe, but a bit sluggish, a bit confused. She recognized exactly none of the instruments mounted to the walls, one of which looked like the unholy child of a curved scalpel and a reflex hammer.

    “I don’t have any money on me, do you need to call my parents?” Nan grimaced, if this was going to be like any of the other times she checked in at the hospital, quiet would be at a premium. Ma and Pa doted on her entirely too much, confinement to a bed meant no escape from their affections.

    “Don’t worry about that, even if you came with coins, we couldn’t take ’em.” Izusa hid a yawn with her hand. “Repeat your ABCs, please.”

    That was worthy of a raised eyebrow, but Nan did as requested. Probably just testing her for a concussion. Her memory was kind of hazy, the last thing Nan remembered was walking her way back from Mona’s ice cream place. Pavement to hospital building was quite the transition.

    “Hyulic…” That was not a letter. Another foreign sounding bit of gibberish danced at the tip of her tongue, though she opted to look up at Izusa rather than let it spill.

    “Out of native letters? Don’t think about the translation spell too hard. Just go with what feels right, It’ll save me an hour and you a headache.”

    “Gin and… Pylt?”

    “Yep.” Izusa clapped her hands together, “That’s all of them. Now I need you to sit really still for a second. Okay, Nan?”

    Nan held up her palm, halting Izusa’s approach. “You messed with my brain?”

    “No no no. I wouldn’t poke around with a kid’s brain, I messed with your soul.”



    “My what?!” With a burst of fright, Nan managed to bolt upwards and swing her legs off the mattress. Bare feet met wood, and promptly gave out.

    She teetered, but found little control over the motion. She tried to realign herself on the bedframe, only to barrel forward. Her muscles coiled and uncoiled almost uncontrollably. ‘this is wrong,’ she thought. Every impulse she sent through her lower body returned more motion than asked for. The most that Nan could do was shift the path of her fall into Izusa’s arms.

    “What’s wrong with me?! Where’s my mom an- “

    “Hush.” Nan found her head gently buried in the space between Izusa’s shoulder and neck. The mantle of her dress was as soft as it looked. A hand stroked idly at the top of her head. A faint warmth that was a bit too much for skin accompanied the same something she felt earlier for an instant.

    Like a cool breeze, the panic washed over and around her, leaving a drowsy feeling in its wake. After a while, Izusa detangled herself and helped Nan back into a seated position.

    She felt better. Fully aware of just how peculiar the sudden shift in emotion was, but unable to care about it overly much. Much more pertinent was erasing the image of herself blubbering like a child in front of a stranger. She considered kicking her legs nervously, but common sense murdered the idea.

    “Are you calm?”

    “Mm.”

    Izusa kept a steady grip on her shoulders. Nan preferred it that way. She didn’t trust herself to not fall again.

    “Are you certain?”

    “Mm.”

    “Alright, Nan. I’m going to dispel your whym restraints. Stay still, okay?”

    “Mm.”

    A collection of golden cogs and turning rods jutted out in a bell-shaped mass. Nan felt it. An intangible breeze. The unplaceable something waxed beyond her ability to glance through. The scent of cinnamon came, rushing to offer itself. On impulse, Nan’s something— Nan’s whym accepted. The glass ceiling over her perception shattered. A reserve space swelled, now a full breath of air where a pitiful wheeze in the depths of her being once stood. Her entire body tingled, it was like stretching out after a cramped tram ride.

    “Did it work?”

    Nan, nodded. The least, and most she could manage at the moment.

    “Hah! That makes twenty-six without a knock out!” Izusa’s hands trembled slightly, Nan failed to notice her words, or her letting go. Whym signatures flowed through a great portion of things. The blue curly lamp, herself, Izusa, and whatever, or whoever, lingered outside of the windowless room.

    “Do you think you can channel?”

    Nan blinked, drawing her attention from the network of whym surrounding her. She wondered if what she felt was similar to someone getting their first pair of hearing aids. There was just so much that she failed to notice before.

    “Like this.” Izusa held out her palm. This time, she could feel a tiny piece of Izusa’s whym separate, a storm of sorts parting with a sliver of itself. The piece fell into her palm with a flash of light, revealing a single slow turning cog.

    “Oh, that. I can try.” Nan copied Izusa’s gesture, squinted, and let out a breath. She imagined a cog appearing in her hand just like the other. Nothing. She frowned, looking inwards like one of the corny Japanese tv shows her brother was addicted to.

    Her palm flickered, a bright purple splotch that refused to settle into a coherent form rested just above her skin. Nan felt for the current of her whym, imagined it rushing outwards into the splotch.

    Purple flames danced above Nan’s palm, three of them, circling lazily around a much larger fourth. More whym flowed out of her and into the flames, feeding them, hastening their lazy path around the formation’s center. In a few heartbeats the little burning solar system dwarfed Nan’s hand. The smaller bits spun themselves into a blur.

    “This is wicked!” Nonchalant, “frosty” Nan let out a rather uncharacteristic shriek. One could call it girly even. At this point, Nan didn’t care about the weird nagging sensation that nestled in the back of her head. Here in her palm were freaking purple orbital fireballs created with minimum effort.

    “Okay, good, now stop.”

    “Stop?” The flames went from a circular path to an elliptical one. Nan lifted her chin, the air around her took on the pleasant chill of peppermint. “How do I stop?”

    One flame escaped its orbit, then the others. They burst against the ground, the wall and Izusa’s face, each with a sharp crack that made Nan cringe.

    She shut her eyes. Izusa was dead. After being shown nothing but kindness, she burned her to a crisp without so much as a moment to scream in agony. The fire would spread, it would kill her, and probably a lot of people in the building, too. In what twisted circle of hell was it okay to let a kid experiment with magic? Why did she let herself do it? ‘Nan, what have you done?!’

    A hand, surprisingly uncharred, found its way to Nan’s shoulder.

    “Well, that could have gone better. You’ll gain more control over your whym as you work with it.”

    Nan’s lips felt like gelatin. “B-b-but, the fire! It was everywhere! I hit you in the face!”

    “You were going to commit arson and manslaughter with your invocation sigil?”

    “What?”

    “You can’t do anything by just expelling whym, silly!”

    Izusa had one of those snorting laughs just like her friend, Gina. It managed to be annoying and endearing at the same time. When was the last time she saw Gina? Right before she woke up?

    Odd. Gina was the forgetful one, not her. Why was it so hard to recall the events of a few hours ago? Walking back to the dorms. Gina dropped some pinned insects on the road and scrambled to retrieve them. Nan remembered pushing her back on the sidewalk. Bugs were creepy, anyways. Definitely not worth being hit by car.

    Warm.

    Wet.

    Her leg muscles twitched, only to invite the sensation of broken bones sliding against one another.


    Warm.

    Wet.

    She couldn’t see. Couldn’t let out anything more than a wordless gurgle. Not in pain, but in sheer incomprehension.

    Warm.

    Wet.


    Shattered ribs flailed against the ruins of her chest cavity. It was her blood! Her own blood soaking through her clothes! Her own blood choking her from the inside!

    “Are you with us?” Izusa pawed at Nan’s cheek. Her voice retained its chipper tone, but she furrowed her eyebrows in concern.

    The gig was up, the illusion lifted, the reality that mirrored the strangest of delusions thrust into plain sight, as irrevocable as the swelling store of whym that continued to grow within her.

    “I died.”

    “Yes, you died.”
    (Oo\/oO)

    Author’s note: The initial version of this chapter was ugly beyond belief, and thus, saw many editing passes. My apologies to whoever had to shift through it.

    If you missed the atrocity and feel the need to whet your curiosity, you can find it here

    I’ll comb over the other chapters momentarily, then upload the newer ones.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
  2. Maromar

    Maromar New Member

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    Spark II

    A deep breath. Air in her lungs, not blood.

    Nan considered her hands, opening and closing them deliberately. They were off, too. Not nearly as bad as her legs, but they lagged behind her commands for less than a moment. It became noticeable when she stopped abruptly then started again.

    Nan looked into Izusa’s eyes. Doctor, soother. The only difference was that one used magic to help people get better and the other didn’t. The titles were interchangeable. Nan frowned. That bit of information was new. Common knowledge like cycle= day were useful for both her and wherever she was now, they wouldn’t have to completely reeducate her. What else did they give her while she was out? How did they do it poking her brain? What happened to medical consent?

    “Dr. Keme?”

    “Yes, Nan?”

    “Is this the afterlife?”

    “Nope. You’ve been reclaimed.”

    Izusa must have caught on to Nan’s bewildered expression. She took a step back, running a finger along the twisty lamp. The blue paled, shifting into her whym’s shade of gold.

    Izusa placed a palm in her fist. “When you die, your soul separates from your body and goes wherever it goes, right?” Izusa made an upward wavy motion with her hand, leaving the closed one behind. “Reclamation is like casting a net between countless physical realms and the Meridian, a place between real space and a normal soul’s ultimate destination.” Izusa “caught” her fleeing hand and made the palm in fist motion in a new location. “Ones that get snagged are stuffed in artificial bodies that shape themselves after whatever flesh bag they were previously anchored to. Does that explain it?”

    “I think so,” Nan said. She wasn’t going to glare at the morality of interfering with a person’s soul at the moment. Not while she had no inkling of where she was or what the whym signatures surrounding her would do if she tried to raise a protest. Much better to play along, to dance around the whys and keep a firm eye on the direction of the wind.

    “I can’t ask you to send me home, can I?”

    Izusa gave a start, only to croak out the remains of a word half formed. It was easy to sympathise with her; few wanted to affirm another’s worse suspicions word. “I’m sorry,” came her reply. Her ears drooped.

    She expected the answer, but actually being told that there was no way to see her family and friends again made her die a little inside.

    This sucked. She wanted to drink for the first time at Uncle Richard’s bar. She wanted to finish her criminal justice degree and become a game warden. She wanted to fall in love and have two kids. How could she keel over before her folks? How could she leave Mom, Dad, and little Greg?

    Nan’s breath hitched. A warm feeling wrapped around her again. She lifted her chin to see the other side of the room. Izusa, having kneeled to her level, covered her foggy peripherals. For a moment, the soother was content to let Nan ruin her dress with her quiet sobbing. How long did it take for the worst to pass? Minutes? An hour? She didn’t know and Izusa seemed to not care. She exhausted all but the occasional sniffle before Izusa spoke up.

    “You’re a trooper, you know that?” Izusa rubbed circles into her back, earning a strangled hiccup. “A lot of people, older than you can’t even talk after they wake up. I’ll always be here, so see me as often as you want, as long as you want, okay?”

    “Mm.” Nan squeezed back. Tough bumps fluttered against the soft fuzziness of Izusa’s dress. She wasn’t lying about the wings.

    At times, Nan wondered if she ever got the science behind the whole big sister thing. This position though. It was the same gentle sanctuary she gave Greg after his first rejection from a pretty girl. Needless to say, the sensation was much more calming than screaming into a pillow. At least she got something right. She should have done this for him, and her parents, more.

    Another moment passed. It would be easy to let herself fall asleep, to deal with reality another time, but that would be lazy of her. Nan loosened her grip, letting Izusa stand, dust off her dress with one hand, and flick the other at the desk. Whym flowed. One of Izusa’s cogs flashed over the handle of the lowest drawer, extending it. Another emerged, lofting a tissue box within reach.

    Nan pulled a few out. Bolted over a sink in the wall, a mirror reflected brown eyes rimmed with red along with a small nose on the verge of dripping. Nan looked very much the part of a kindergartener post-tantrum.

    “Sorry, Dr. Keme.” She scrubbed at the moisture and embarrassment on her face.

    “Just call me Izusa, Nan. And there’s nothing to be sorry for. I may look scary, but I actually enjoy a hug or three in the morning.”

    The half giggle wasn’t quite as happy as she wanted it to sound, but it helped. “You don’t look scary.”

    Izusa laid a palm over her collarbone in a faux-shocked expression. “Really? Not even with these?” She opened her mouth a bit wider, giving Nan a view of straight teeth surrounding four sharp, but underwhelming, fangs. At that moment, Nan was very thankful for whoever gave Izusa her job.

    The next half hour or so passed with small talk and jokes. Izusa’s favorite color was indigo, not blue (“there’s a substantial difference!”). She wanted to do theater before the government found her to be a mystic of high potential, and she had an aunt in the military. In the meantime, a golden, cinnamon scented, cogwheel contraption about half Nan’s size spat ticklish motes of light through her loose patient’s gown. A minimally invasive whym assisted screening, or MIWAS, Izusa called it.

    The MIWAS decided to have mercy on Nan’s sides and collapsed. A section of the wall, just over her bed, slid away to reveal a tablet with a blue feather icon on the back. A cog held the device up, while Izusa used both hands to type at it.

    “Well, your soul isn’t rejecting the new body, but it looks like you’ll need to learn how to walk again.”

    “That isn’t normal?”

    “We haven’t drawn a bead on ‘normal’ for reclamation. There’s a strong correlation between problems with a new arrival’s body and the circumstances of their passing, though.”

    The door slid open with a two-toned chime, ushering in a floating chair with a back tall enough to reach at least a few inches above Nan’s head. It was silver with a red cushion that covered most of the front, yielding for a control stick on the left armrest. It advanced with a dull hum until it met the edge of Nan’s bed.

    “You’ll have to use a wheelchair for now, but I’ll get you up and running as soon as I can. Promise.” Izusa sounded apologetic, like her loss of mobility was more harmful than a minor inconvenience.

    “I don’t mind.” Nan wrapped her arms around Izusa while she hoisted her into the chair.

    Just outside was a cul-de-sac of doors. Nameplates, either blank or bearing flowing letters that she had no hope of making out, hung from each. Plain beam lights ran from one stretch of ceiling to the other, no whym passed through them, unlike the lamp in her room. Affixed to the walls were the occasional poster or painting. A hazy green sunset over a beach with three moons on the horizon, someone in a space suit pressed palm to foreleg with a giant spider, an eel, lamprey, thing coiled around an underwater lightning rod. Or maybe it was shooting lightning through the rod? Nan didn’t know.

    “Why is this thing called wheelchair? It doesn’t have wheels.”

    “Why would a wheelchair have wheels?” Izusa asked.

    “Because it’s a wheelchair.”

    “Nonsense. What part of the word ‘wheelchair’ makes you even think about wheels?” Something within her reserves twinged. A golden strand faded ever so slightly against a field of purple.

    “Bu-”

    “Zip!” Izusa looked back so she could pinch the air past Nan’s lips. “The translation isn’t perfect, let’s just leave it at that. Ask me anything else.”

    “Okay,” Nan said. “Where are we?” So far, magic proved intuitive. She could extend her senses like a muscle, picking up traces of motion above or below her. Still signatures laid just past the closed doors, easier to track, but dormant. Past a certain point, say more than several dozen paces in any direction, she couldn’t quite gauge how dense they were, only their presence and sometimes a vague hint of color. Had she been able to stretch farther, she could get a feel for the building’s dimensions. Judging by the hallways long and wide enough to make two lane roads, her best guess was somewhere in the ballpark of “not small”.

    “You’re aboard the LVV Vespa, a research and development vessel contracted to-” Izusa took an exaggerated breath. “The Lian Consolidated Worlds Emergency Abyssal Defense Pact Auxiliary. We build stuff that blow up, and keep our guys safe from getting blown up. Yes we are in space.”

    “Huh?”

    “That’s usually the answer to the next question. After that, comes we do have energy shields, faster than light travel, and giant robots. Did I miss anything?” Izusa turned on her heels and stared at Nan for all of three seconds before letting out a defeated sigh. “You’re not making the face. The face is the best part.”

    Clawed feet pattered from the side of the intersection. A mop haired man in a lab coat with boxy ears laid flat and a long, bushy tail of brown darted by, clutching a stack of papers to his chest.

    “A disbelieving gasp would also work, or you could laugh and say space travel’s impossible.” Izusa tried again, a glimmer hope poked through her eyes.

    “Magic is real, and I’m back from the dead. I’d believe you if you told me you rigged a cow to make chocolate milk.”

    Izusa’s drooped her ears in disappointment, continuing the march with a hand held to her chin.

    Nan stopped counting the number of turns at fifteen. Izusa seemed to know where they were going, she could bug her if she got lost on the way back. Nan was about to channel her inner child and ask “are we there yet?” when they passed through a sliding door that lead to a dead end with a circle cut into the ground. Beside it, a platform with a flat projector lamp protected by a metal grate lazily guided motes of glowing blue dust up another hole in the ceiling. She couldn’t read the sign between the two holes, but by the yellow “X” over pictures of a stick figure entering a hole upside down, on its back, when another stick figure was already using the hole, and while surrounded by fire, it probably said: “don’t do these stupid things”.

    Nan leaned so she could peer into the hole without sticking her face in it. The edge of another projector greeted her at what she could see of the bottom. Unlike Izusa’s signature or her own, the whym flowing through the projector had no scent up close. Nan was unsure if magic meant more stability than conventional technology, or less.

    “Come on, we’re taking the grav-shaft down,” Izusa said.

    “I don’t want to jump into a hole in the ground.”

    “Your room has no fridge, the breakfast train won’t make its rounds for another five hours, and I’m not carrying you down a flight of stairs.” Izusa stepped around her, turned, and backed into the hole with a parting wave. The dust shifted yellow, letting out the same dull hum as her chair before returning to normal.

    Nan let out a groan and pushed the control stick to its limit. Inching her way in was liable to tip her over. The inside of the shaft wasn’t unpleasant, just odd. It felt like sinking into a pit of ooze that clung to her everything. Breathing against it proved a bit difficult.

    Metal flooring met her this rather time than wooden boards, the ceiling seemed to stretch on a bit higher and the regularly spaced art pieces were missing from the walls.

    “Wasn’t so bad, was it? Sometimes the shaft misjudges a person’s weight and they break a few bones on the way down, though.”

    “Wh- what?!” If that was the case, why did they even use the things? Did the concept of OSHA not exist in this universe?

    Izusa looked back, lips curled into a smile. “There,” She said. “That was the face I was looking for.”

    Nan chewed at her lip. Not cool. She was legitimately worried for a moment.

    The next stop was a door at least half as thick as she was tall. A wheel lock the size of her head kept it barred. “A shortcut.” Izusa explained, grasping the wheel with both hands. Its creaking nearly begged for an entire quart of grease.

    The door dragged open against hard, grainy flooring. Warm steam filled a room laden with the scent of salt and metal. Tall, yellow bars warded a circular pool that occupied a majority of the space.

    “You have a community bath?”

    “That’s a purification vat. It’s full of tiny robots that strip organic contaminants from our machines and converts them into soil. If you try to bathe in that, you’ll be ripped apart.”

    Nan inched her chair away from the pool until it nearly hugged the wall. “Not a community bath. Got it.”

    “We do have a salon though. We should go when you’re done with rehab. I know some girls that would kill for smooth hair like yours.”

    “This?” Nan ran a hand through her black, face hugging bangs. “I just pick up any shampoo that has aloe in it.”

    “I have no idea what that is,” Izusa chirped.

    The cafeteria (or was it a galley?), reminded her a lot of her elementary school. Long tables with integrated seats made up two aisles with plenty of room to shift about in a desperate search for a familiar face. On the outskirts were smaller setups with actual chairs. At the end of no man’s land sat a serving line with no attendants, most of the platters were empty or reduced to bits and pieces of various foodstuffs.

    People with at least one kind of animal feature occupied the odd pocket of space, lending small voices and smaller whym signatures to an otherwise quiet atmosphere.

    More than a few cast her long glances. It likely had nothing to do with how underdressed she was. Not among the collection of pajamas and t-shirts. Nan swore she heard someone mutter “humie” on their way past a group.

    Izusa lead her up a ramp off to the side that curved until it met a raised platform well above the assortment of tails and ears and claws.

    “Here’s fine.” Izusa pulled back a chair to make room for Nan’s wheelchair at a strangely curved table. “What would you like? Something sweet? It’s a little early but they usually serve breakfast dishes all cycle.”

    The odd scene around her and quick change of pace may have been enough to blind Nan’s stomach before, but at the mention of food, it cried out in realization that it was empty. Completely empty. Mouthland experienced a flood of unseen proportions.

    Nan swallowed. “Pancakes and bacon?”

    “Sit tight, I’ll see what I can do.” Izusa gave Nan a light pat on the head.

    Food, Nan supposed, was universal. There were only so many ways one could cut, cook and display products. If one civilization was similar enough to the next, then a translation thingy, spell or not, wouldn’t really have trouble lining up one thing to its analogue. Or she

    A certain fuzziness sprouted in her head. Again the golden thread of whym waned in color within her reserves. She couldn’t literally see it, not through her eyes, but it still held the impression of color, almost offensively different than her own. If she pressed against it just so she could probably push it out; it felt like the natural thing to do.

    ‘Oh. That’s probably the translation spell. Think of something else, anything else.’ Nan kicked her leg out, wincing as it went too far, jarring her ankle against the chair in front of her. She winced. Fine, something that wasn’t physical then. She valued her bones more than her ability to hold on to a spell that could be redone.

    She occupied her senses with the varied signatures around her, feeling out Izusa’s weaving through the others. It wasn’t hard. Everyone else was a light breeze. The only ones that came to even a close comparison was her own and… Nan frowned.

    There was another raised platform diagonally aligned to their own. It held a white-haired woman with glasses and long curly horns that rimmed floppy ears. She had her nose buried in a green book, a steaming mug laid untouched at her side. Her whym was odd. Not as big as Izusa’s signature but denser by a wide margin. If Izusa’s whym was a twister spread freely about a space a little larger than her body, than hers held the same severity shoved into a thumb-sized vial. Nan ‘reached’ towards it like a child discovering a rare letter in a bowl of alphabet soup.

    Faster than Nan could gasp, the vial erupted, smacking away her glance with a stinging sensation she felt outside her body.

    And ram lady leaned in Nan’s face, grouching.

    “That.” She scowled, prepping her glasses a bit higher. “Was quite rude of you.”
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017
  3. Maromar

    Maromar New Member

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    One time, and one time alone, Nan suffered the “creeper shoulder brush” in a packed metro car. It aroused a thirst for vindication that would only be slaked with every pint of the offender’s blood had she the displeasure of seeing his face again in a quiet alley. Nan had very good reason to believe that she stumbled upon the magical equivalent in her ignorance.

    Ram Lady was at least a half-head shorter than herself. Prime height for jaw to skull impalement with her lowered horns.

    “You appear surprised. Why would I catch you with my miniscule reserves? I am named, the same as you. Pray tell, how many others have you casually probed? How often have you abused your providence delivered strength for a pastime so dishonorable?”

    Whym flowed. It was small, just a trickle of energy, yet its presence stifled her. Her breaths came through a filter, hard pressed. An aroma akin to daisies and cut grass filled the air. “Can you not simply ask to see someone’s sigil?! Are you addle minded?!” The woman glowered. “Do you even care for the example you lay?!” Throughout her spiel, she worked herself up from a stern, measured tone to the verge of shouting.

    Nan was reminded of a bear rearing up on its hind legs roaring in warning: “See how big and threatening I am? Back off.” A silly image in retrospect, standing bears usually meant curiosity, not aggression. Movies worked to ruin one’s perception, but it fit the situation at hand.

    Nan bit her tongue. She did get the impression of some shape before her “probe” was deflected. So it was peeking, not touching? Still bad under most contexts. She opened her mouth, only to trigger another bout of reprimands.

    “I detest you. I detest all of you! How arrogant must you be to just… to just- augh! Three times, slipper clad feet struck the ground hard enough to jar the bottles of condiments on the table.

    How hadn’t this drawn more attention? Nan spared a glance outwards. Indeed, there were onlookers; a man in a disheveled lab coat and fuzzy ears that may as well have been a pair of radio dishes stood out from a similarly dressed gaggle seated under them. They decided to look away rather than answer her silent plea. Was she expected to just take a clobbering? Where was Izusa? She couldn’t sense anything but the encroaching field of whym.

    “I uh- didn’t mean to? I mean I didn’t know that I probed you. It was my first time.” Nan held out her hands, palms open. The air between her fingers felt thicker than water.

    Ram Lady’s scowl deepened. The bear stood taller, opening its jaws in the anticipation of a roar. Nan’s breaths grew shorter still. The tiny bit of whym surrounding her pressed until it seemed ready to crush her lungs. She considered pushing back with her own reserves.

    “I’m a new arrival?”

    “Truly?” Ram Lady, stammered. The stifling pressure retreated, leaving only a dull ache behind. Nan took a deep, blissful breath. Sweet, sweet oxygen. Never again, would she disregard its beauty.

    Ram Lady’s expression went from one of unadulterated rage to that of a woman who feared the lash of a displeased god. Or a lawsuit. She held her mouth open slightly, though her words seemed to be locked in port. A heartbeat passed. Two.

    Ram Lady let out a sound that was suspiciously close to a soft baa.

    “I was unaware…” Her eyes widened. “I said such mean things!” A short flare of whym. Ram Lady sat astride her, one of Nan’s hands gingerly held in both of hers. “I rescind everything.” Again, Ram Lady’s breath got lost in her throat. “Rather, I apologize.”

    “It’s okay, really.” Nan said. “I’d be mad, too if some stranger just brushed up on me.”

    Ram Lady’s ears twitched. “No. That hardly lends cause for what I did.” In a much quieter tone, she added, “I… I shall take my leave. You needn’t suffer me anymore.” She spoke in a fit mirroring her first, this time waxing depression rather than anger. Slowly, whym bubbled up. “May providence guide your path.”

    “Hold on.”

    Her aching chest motioned for her to just shut up. To let the Darth Vader analogue leave and hope they never cross paths again, but Nan was still bearingless in an unknown environment. If weathering an infuriated force choking ment making a friend, she’d do it twice.

    “You were sitting alone, right? I’d like it if you stayed. I’m Nan, by the way.” Personal connections were high maintenance things. All the better to keep thoughts of home at bay with.

    Ram lady blinked. Her pink eyes held rectangular pupils that maintained a horizontal orientation with the ground, even when she tilted her head. “So kind…” She said.

    The nature scented whym shifted from a bubble to a braid. Her book and mug of coffee settled on the table seconds later. She puffed herself up, putting on an air of composure and confidence that clashed with that of a few moments ago. “Yaranessli Vo Vannon, second daughter of Amir Vo Vannon. It will be fine if you simply call me Yara.”

    Yara wore a blue button-up shirt that would have made her look like a boy if her hair wasn’t twisted into an intricate bun. “Cute” would sum up the bits of her first impression that didn’t include strangling her with thin air. Yara thumbed the handle of her coffee mug “Just don’t do that again, even if you can get away with it.”

    “I’m confused. Don’t we cast spells with sigils? Is it indecent to look?”

    Yara shook her head. “Seeing one and probing are completely different. An invocation sigil is your will given form, a reflection of your soul.” She lifted a finger in the air. A green scroll winked into existence, opening with a fwap. The bit of whym she segregated to bring it up was like a single rain drop. Negligible, if she wasn’t paying attention to it.

    “Calling them for their own sake is a sign of trust and respect. A request to be dealt with fairly, and a promise to do the same. If you go deeper than the surface, you can pick up memories or emotions. Intimate things. Spreading your senses is fine but, if you must cast to do so, do not. You may overstep.”

    Nan nodded. So “feeling” harder would reveal someone’s sigil without their permission. That may present problems down the road. When she picked up Yara’s signature, zeroing in was almost a knee-jerk reaction. “I didn’t cast anything, you felt unique, and I kind of wanted to know why. Then I felt like I could if I just looked a bit harder. Sorry.”

    Yara grimaced. “That is rather unfortunate. You must have a sensory affinity. ” Both of her hands clasped over her mug. She drummed her fingertips against the plain white material, mulling something over. “In any case, someone should have told you. How long have you been… alive?”

    “Nan got out of medical stasis an hour and a half ago. Thanks for not killing her, she’s a good kid.”

    She didn’t notice the soother coming up the ramp. Cogs deposited two plates stacked with bacon and pancakes covered in syrup and a blue fruit-like thing that was too large to be any berry she knew; grey seeds ran along one half of its heart-shaped form. Glasses filled with chocolate milk trailed behind.

    “Izusa, you are mistaken, I would never!” Yara’s gaze shifted to the chair. Her expression changed from one of shock to horror. She pulled at her horns in distress, the sound she made was most definitely a baa. “Nan, are you in a vulnerable state? Did I hurt you?”

    “She’s fine. I’ll savor that reaction of yours though, thanks.”

    Yara’s cheeks turned an interesting shade of pink. “Soother Izusa Keme. That was low of you. Your cruelty is boundless.” Her admonition had no bite behind it, just disappointment. Given what she’s seen of her in the past few moments, Izusa was simply being Izusa, and Yara had long adapted to her ways.

    Nan would have found the exchange humorous, had a giant spider in polished blue platemail not stalked its way up the ramp.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017
  4. Maromar

    Maromar New Member

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    No, Nan was not hallucinating. The spider had a whym signature like everyone else. It came up to Izusa’s waist and was at least twice its height in width. Its armor broke off into round segments that left spaces for its joints, the larger sections covering its ventral and dorsal sides followed suit, giving it an overall smooth impression. She dared not call the design elegant, not while her heart was testing the structural integrity of her ribs.

    The only thing keeping Nan from vaulting over the ledge and curling up in the nearest corner was the lack of a similar reaction from the others. And her useless legs.

    “Hello, Margrave Chitani.” Yara unearthed her face from her hands long enough to nod at the giant spider. She proceeded to admonish Izusa, citing the importance of first impressions, of not embarrassing another named mystic, of providence, and public face, and manners in general. It droned on in the backdrop of Nan’s attention, like every third sermon in recent memory.

    “I assure you, Ms. Beauchamp, as long as you don’t threaten my people, you’ve no need to be afraid.” The spider said. Her voice was regal enough to fit her title. Far from the one million voices in one B-movie effect she expected.

    “Afraid? I’m not afraid.” Nan let out a dry, humorless laugh.

    Nan was afraid. No matter the angle she regarded it from, Chitani’s frame was imposing. Hours of Animal Planet documentaries made her eternally thankful that arachnids weren’t ized, and now they were. The worst part wasn’t the hairs sticking out of the armor plates, or the way her mandibles vibrated to produce sound. It was the eyes; six fist-sized balls that reflected her form.

    “You fib worse than Ms. Vo Vannon.” What gave it away? The dead fish stare or the way her fingers clutched the sides of her chair tighter than a bunny hug.

    Yara let out a huff. “I will rue the day speaking falsely becomes a skill.”

    This wasn’t home. A piece of her rejected the fact, and likely would for the foreseeable future. Still, the animal people pressed on her perception of normal bounds. Chitani took a sledgehammer to its kneecaps with no mind paid to the screams. Even if this was some surreal coma from which she would never wake, there was no benefit to overreaction. Nan squeezed her palms.

    “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any offense.” At this rate, Nan’s apologies would soon develop into an art form.

    The spider said, “I am a natural born predator. My species used to track prey for days on end, lie in ambush within unseen recesses, and melt the innards of mammals more than twice your size. Your reaction to my form is warranted on an instinctual level, and I do not fault you for it.”

    “That being said.” She shifted easily from left to right, limbs tacking softly against the floor. “It saddens me whenever one of you softshells give me a much wider berth than necessary. As if a few inches would save you from being pounced on. The circumstances of my birth are beyond my control, I did not choose to appear intimidating, just as Ms. Keme had no part in being a lian, or you, a human. I enjoy sports, fruit mixtures, and a good choir concert. I love my human husband more than life, and not simply because I don’t have to use a heating lamp to sleep when I go home, brrrrrph.” The last bit wasn’t a word, but Chitani’s fangs quivering into a blur.

    “Let us introduce ourselves on better terms. As of three months ago, I am Chitani, margrave and captain of the mighty Vespa. Astroids quake at the sight of our three undersized peashooters. Well met, Ms. Beauchamp.”

    With much more grace than any eight legged being ought to have, Chitani strode around Izusa and presented one of her limbs expectantly.

    If Chitani was patient enough to meet her halfway, then Nan would do the same. Foreleg met hand with a soft chink of cold metal. Still not a proper shake, but close enough.

    The proceeding affair was civil in an uncanny way. Izusa seated herself to Nan’s left and pushed the extra plate of food over to her before digging into her own. Yara glanced from Nan to Chitani, content to let the conversation fall where it may. It was slightly disappointing. The novelty of supping with aliens, something children dreamed of, was paper thin.

    “You don’t sound very happy about you position.” Nan said.

    “Ms. Beauchamp.” Chitani sighed. “You have no idea.” She swept a free foreleg at the air, as if dismissing her admission of discontent. “Let’s not worry about my pettiness. You have your own headaches to consider.”

    “A catch to bringing me back from the dead?” Nan fished a fork from under a piece of bacon and speared her pancake. The fruit on top tasted like a strawberry with the toughness of an apple, everything else was a strike above palitible.

    “Indeed. Reclamation is not a mercy, or a pet project we let our eggheads track for sport. We have been at war for more than three decades, and this particular vessel is starved for personnel. I am obligated to ask that you devote six years of your time to the Abyssal Auxiliary.”

    That did not sound ideal. It was far from the worse she could expect, but lending herself to a cause she knew nothing about failed to rub her the right way. She cast her gaze at Izusa, only to get a guilty grimace in return. Yara looked away.

    “You don’t have to answer immediately, but we do need you, Ms. Beauchamp. The reclamation process almost assures that you’ll earn a become a named mystic within a few cycle’s time. Even if we were to force every mystic into active service, the LCW would still be outnumbered four to one for magic users alone.”

    Become a named mystic? Wasn’t she already? Maybe she felt like one to Yara but hadn’t reached that point yet. How could one tell? The translation spell wasn’t forthcoming; Nan shelved the thought for later.

    “Am I free to decline?”

    “You are. There’s no need to worry about getting your citizenship retracted if you leave. We’ll even toss about a month’s worth of money your way, drop you off at the nearest LCW planet, and tell you ‘good luck’. You won’t have trouble finding a job, but we won’t have the resources to spare on teaching you how to read or write, and you won’t be saved from the regular forces’ draft”

    Repay us now, or repay us later. Were it not so close to home, Nan would have laughed. It was a setup from the beginning; she had no folks to worry about missing her anymore. There was no one to complain about injustice.

    “We don’t really have time to ease you into this. I’m sorry, Nan.” Izusa took a sudden interest in the floor, her ears drooped.

    “Izusa, stop. I’m not mad at you.” She may have been projecting her expectations, but a sad face just looked wrong on her.

    Nan owed a debt. Fine. It couldn’t be worse than college loans. She was a big girl- no, a “grown ass woman” as her mother would say. Crying and bemoaning her fate would take her zero feet from nowhere. The LCW had magic, cool ships, and what seemed to be an adventure in the making. If they wanted to use her, she was going to milk every bit of enjoyment out of it as possible.

    “For the Lian Consolidated Worlds, Margrave Chitani.”

    Chitani made the brrrrrrph noise again. “It’s always a pleasure to meet vertebrae with with real backbones.”

    Chitani’s whym reserves dispatched the tiniest breeze. A ribcage of silver trapped in the a blue web presented itself. Nan followed suit, careful to only let out the slightest bit of her own, like a faucet opened and closed within seconds. Rather than the more intricate sigil she managed earlier, a lonely flame gleamed against the faux-bones, flickering out of existence in mere seconds.

    For better or worse, there was something that felt very final about the little display.

    “Oh, I almost forgot,” Izusa chirped. Well, half chirped. Her voice was twanged with something dour. She pointed at Nan’s half-finished glass. “That’s from a real chocolate cow.”

    Her smile was a tad different from the one she gave when she teased Nan near the grav-shaft. “Are we still friends?” the question hung in the air, unspoken but clearly expressed. Izusa was the only buffer between waking up and the sudden weight on her shoulders. If anything, her sweetness only made the change of pace more jarring. Justified or not, Nan could get away with being cold, even accusing her of being intentionally misleading.

    Instead, she smirked. “Not possible.”

    Izusa puffed out her cheeks. “You said you’d believe anything!”

    “I lied.”

    Chitani blinked multiple times while Yara pressed a finger to her forehead, letting out a low whine.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017
  5. Maromar

    Maromar New Member

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    Too late to stumble away. Far too late. Her face kissed the trembling ground long before she realized she’d been hit. Rubber met her foot, a literal third wheel between two sources of pain. Slowly, it pulped her bones with cold impunity.

    “Ughhhh.”

    Nan woke not with a start, but a pitiful groan. She enjoyed her dreams; nightmares even, were things to draw a passing thrill from. Three nights of reruns, however, crossed the line.

    Nan squeezed her oversized pillow to her chest, releasing a whoosh of air. It wasn’t nearly as comforting as snatching up Greg or Gina.

    Her subconsciousness held no small fistfull of gall, leaving bloodstained sticky notes all over the fridge of her third eye. “You’re far from home, my girl. Likely never to happen upon a yellow brick road, and far too clumsy to wear ruby slippers.” Okay, she got it. Constant reminders were the things she was trying to avoid.

    Tighter she held on, but the pillow was incapable of squirming away in embarrassment, hugging back, or even giving her a little warmth in return. Ten seconds. Nan counted them alongside deep breaths. More than a practical allowance for despondent wallowing.

    A silver medical bracelet coiled snugly around her wrist; the sixth of its kind, and the source of many a headache. She sent two short flares of her trademark purple through it. Her trusty steed, now dubbed Slowsilver, hummed to her side.

    Apparently, manifesting one’s sigil, using whym for signals, or making one’s body work a bit better than it should were things people rarely couldn’t do. Technology adapted accordingly. Calling down lightning on foolish heathens took practice, or luck enough to be born with large reserves. Doing it well took more of both. Five broken bracelets in the bottom of her wastebasket stood testament to that.

    This was a problem beyond incurring the sick bay staff’s silent disdain. As long as she was supposed to be chair-bound, doors wouldn’t open without her rear end planted firmly on Slowsilver with the bracelet snapped shut. Straying too far away from either summoned a pair of worried lian and a floating gurney. Nan rushed through her morning business and made her way outside.

    The residential deck yawned with early signs of life. Those who weren’t clad in lab coats, scurrying off to parts unknown, loitered. Quiet murmurings and fingers tapping away at tablets reigned supreme.

    Her destination was a wall mounted terminal shoved into the space between a vending machine and a door. Blue swirling letters stood out against the soft browns and greys of the backdrop. “Guidance” was a five letter word in Common Script. Aside from that, and scrawling a butchered rendition of her name, Nan was completely illiterate. The translation spell left a mite to be desired. It was almost as if she only got half the cake slice Izusa promised for sitting through the renewal session without singing.

    Nan fidgeted her legs. She wasn’t sure of what to be more appalled at, food bribery or her vocal prowess being weak enough to warrant it. She directed two short flares at the terminal.

    Nothing.

    Two long flares, then a longer lag time between each, then three short, three long, and three short again proved fruitless. Glaring also failed to produce results. The terminal had a button perched on a panel under its blank screen, just out of reach. It was a dishonorable option, a concession of defeat, but what other choice did she have?

    “One short, two long,” offered a tenor voice from behind.

    She paused mid slide, allowing herself to slump back into Slowsilver’s waiting cushions. “Oh? Thanks.” It was always a pleasure to see someone take time out of their day for a stranger, necessary or not. What kind of ears did he have?

    Spider ears, whatever giant spiders, or murgumo as they were politely called, used for ears. Soft padding hugged his legs and main body, likely some kind of under ensemble for the armor his kind favored. Traces of whym leaked from a book attached to a chain on his front section.

    Nan held back a gasp, but her smile was held taut by a string.

    “Rixal.” The generously proportioned brown recluse mistook the uncomfortable silence for an introduction request. Today’s dose of social faux pas would have to wait a little longer.

    Nan recovered quickly enough, she gave herself a mental pat on the back for not hesitating to accept Rixal’s “handshake”, though the effort was more like plunging into a jump before her thoughts locked her up at the edge. Without the cold press of metal against her skin, her fingers sunk into an expanse of soft hairs that warded against the sheeny exoskeleton underneath.

    Juxtaposition, thy name is murgumo. The deadly predator felt like a teddy bear.

    “Nan,” she replied. “Nice to meet you.”

    “Isn’t it? Forty thousand people and less than half are interested in anything that doesn’t involve geek speak. Not that there’s a thing wrong with it, I just enjoy witnessing a particle lance in its natural habitat more than spawning one.”

    It was a sentiment she could understand. An ecology lab practical didn’t run the risk of putting her to sleep like a lecture.

    “What does a particle lance look like in its natural habitat?”

    “Wouldn’t you know?”

    Nan shook her head. “I wasn’t into sci-fi before I died.”

    The way Rixal shifted his main body made the classic up-down appraisal obvious. Nan had to remind herself that he was not determining the best way to eat her. “You’re reclaimed then. Thought you were one of Precept Johannes’ Marines, they have a habit of busting up their legs.”

    “Nope, my legs came pre-busted, but they’re fine now. I’m just stuck with this until I can prove it.” She walked around the chair a few times to make her point, the only oddity left was a floating sensation, courtesy of her dependence on Slowsilver.

    “They gonna unshackle you soon?”

    Shackles were the perfect analogue. Walking meant an embarrassingly slow shuffle if she didn’t want to risk stepping past Slowsilver’s alert threshold. If she pushed it in front of her, it would push back before reaching anything resembling a decent pace. Hence the name and her continued tolerance of the thing.

    It gave her a clear goal at least: ditch Slowsilver. Everything else could come after that. Even outside of rehab sessions, she worked on turning her undead shamble into a perfectly respectable walk, and then a sprint.

    Nan gave Rixal a nod. “Now if I have anything to say about it. I won’t survive another day in this.”

    “Agility Trial Two?” Rixal asked.

    “I think so.”

    “It’s on the way to my stop, no need to be seen with a guidance fairy.” Eight tiny shoes would have made Rixal’s turn an in-place tap dance. Nan bit her tongue at the thought. Her guide’s pace dithered, eventually settling to accommodate Slowsilver’s meager maximum speed.

    Maintaining a cool demeanor was simple enough. At least until their path fell into three turns in quick succession that set Rixal’s limbs clicking heavily. Her imagination stabbed her neutral expression in the liver with an image of Chitani flanked by Rixal and another murgumo performing on stage. The tophats, tailed suits, and canes bombed the corpse.

    “Ahem.” Nan turned an errant chuff into the falsest of coughs.

    “Fire away.”

    “You mentioned a Johannes guy in charge of the Marines. Isn’t the Margrave our boss?”

    “She’s chief of everyone but the Marines. They’re crown troops, here to make sure we play nice.” The last few words were spoken in the same tone people roll their eyes to.

    Rixal made a grinding motion with his fangs, as if he had difficulty breaking down some invisible morsel. “It’s still weird calling her that: Margrave Chitani.”

    “Wasn’t she born into it?”

    “Huh!” Rixal’s hairs quivered. Rather than the controlled vibrations of speech, his fangs spread to release a low screech.

    Nan didn’t know the slightest thing about helping humans through a heart attack, let alone a murgumo. “Are you okay?!” Panic gave way to action. She stood, fully prepared to kick Slowsilver past its alarm threshold. Get help first, worry later.

    Rixal held out a shaky forelimb. “I won’t be if you keep trying to slay me!”

    Nan aborted what she would have liked to call a vicious roundhouse windup that more likely resembled a peeing dog with all of her nonexistent martial arts experience. “Slay you?” she asked.

    “Chitani’s not some fat clan head. Used to be another gold-a-dozen merc captain cramped up in a boarding barge. We got lucky; snagged a crippled Federation missile carrier that managed to break her FTL. ID check told us that we’d caught none other than the FCV Longbow. Half mystic crew, terror of Star Cluster Nieth, sixty cruiser and up sized kills to her name. The crew surrendered before we had a chance to check if their legs were curled. Chitani was in such a sour mood that she promised them a refill if someone beat her in a duel, not one taker. Too starved to fight.

    “The LCW paid us the full bounty and offered to take our little barge away for a fancy title and ‘a home suitable for heroes’. We thought we’d be getting the Longbow, she was sitting right next to us in the docks. We got the Vespa instead.”

    There were exactly no situations where Nan would agree to a straight fight with Chitani, magical abilities notwithstanding. She would be equally hesitant to allow someone else to do it. Seeing someone torn in half wasn’t on her list of preferred unique experiences.

    “That’s disappointing.” Nan handed over her most sympathetic sigh. It was a safe bet, given Rixal’s tone of voice. She could express something close to condolences without commenting on how smart she thought the captain of the Longbow was. Life was preferable to freedom under many circumstances.

    “Tell me about it.” Rixal clicked his fangs.

    At a wide glass door, Rixal called a halt. She entered, turning back for a parting wave. “Thanks for the help,” She said.

    “No need for that, you could have found the way yourself.” Rixal swept one forelimb across the other. “Make it a clean kill, milady.”

    Nan’s lips curved into a smirk. “I’m not some noble.”

    “Not yet, but reclaimed folk have a pretty good chance of getting a name, ya?”

    The door hissed shut. It was frosted, but not enough to hide Rixal’s brown blob heading back through the way they came.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017
  6. Maromar

    Maromar New Member

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    What was Nan stepping in?

    She lost faith in the Disney princesses at ten. Delusions of how wonderful it would be to join the ranks of actual nobility faded soon after. Assassinations, enforced peasant poverty, and the French Revolution did not a fun time make.

    Nan set a groan echoing against the hallway, glad that the door had long clicked shut before doing so. There was a warbling mass of discomfort that she couldn’t hold back. Not without Greg’s dopey smile encouraging her to at least try.

    It was best not to hope for too much; being named or a successful mercenary were paths to a title, “can melt a face from twenty meters” had no place in the definition of effective leadership. Still, she crossed her fingers against common sense. A predisposition against bluebloods was still a predisposition: unfair by nature.

    Slowsilver seemed to hum in agreement. It was probably just sucking up. The only thing between itself and abandonment was a quick proof of her recovered mobility.

    Perhaps the reclamation process did something to her head. She was personifying a chair.

    An infant laugh rising from her chest crashed into her throat as a dry coughing fit. Every source of whym decided to perform the universe’s greatest synchronized dying act. Or so her senses would have her believe. She was alone with her stormy reserves and the dot of pressure her chair sputtered out. Nan backed up, the nearly silent click of the door seal coming undone heralded the return of normalcy.

    Life itself didn’t decide to cancel mid-season. A relief. She would understand if she did something worthy of Darwin’s facepalm, but incidentally killing a person twice in the same year was far from sporting.

    It wasn’t the first time Nan came by a block of space she couldn’t sense through. Some rooms in the white fortress that was the Vespa’s sick bay drew dark spots inside her bubble of awareness. Being inside one was a unique, rather unpleasant, experience. For the slightest moment, she felt as though she was choking on herself. Much worse than dragging her nails on a chalkboard, but just as overrated after realizing the source of her distress.

    A mass of blurs poked through the glass door on the far side. Whatever the insufferable material that blotted out her more than mundane senses was left the roar of voices and thuds of metal alone. The room called to her, dangling her leg license in front of her eyes just behind a wall of discomfort.

    This eerie empty space could do its worst. Nan Jane Beauchamp would not be denied.

    The stretch felt much longer than it should have. She was crowded by nothing, surrounded by a wide expanse of claustrophobic emptiness. The wave of whym that greeted her at the end felt like a cool, relaxing breath by comparison.

    Nan didn’t expect step ladders and jump ropes. A track with the bar things that seemed to exist for the sole purpose of tripping people up in public, perhaps. Or a normal obstacle course; a standard high wall and balance log affair. More than enough to prove her restored motor skills while being relatively simple to navigate.

    A replica of the platform games of yore was the last thing she had in mind. She was on a safe area of sorts, tendered by water stations, towels, and benches occupied by a collection of lian and the odd murgumo or human stretching on the padded floor. She peered meters ahead, into at least three football field’s worth of chasm.

    Platforms held aloft by gravity lamps dotted it like lily pads floating on a pond. Those closest drifted evenly, leaving gaps she could walk across if she stretched out her steps. The spaces yawned out wider the further away they went until they dropped any semblance of rhyme. The section closest to the far side held moving, malformed things that may as well have been small asteroids. They weaved over and under each other erratically. Nothing but a net stood between the clumsy or inept and a pool situated oh-so-conveniently a floor below.

    Nan reigned in her desire to sift through the crowd’s reserves for Izusa. There were too many whym signatures crammed together to make it easy, and she wasn’t confident in her ability to not commit another faux pas.

    “If you’ll be so kind as to pardon me, miss.”

    A hand rested above her shoulder, not quite touching. A blue haired lian with a pair of stalky rabbit ears and a star tattooed to his cheek smiled down at her.

    “Oh, sorry.” Nan scuttled to the side, leaving him room to dive backwards into the abyss, clearing two heads and a bottle of water on the way. A second passed. The scent of brown sugar heralded his grand resurfacing amid a burst of gold flecked turquoise.

    Did he just wink at her?

    He traipsed clear into the more ridiculous end of the trial amid a series of unnecessary flips, tucks and midair spins until he came to a rest on the highest platform in the very rear of the room, a crumpled looking crescent. He bowed at a human girl in a lab coat and glasses on the far side's safe area.

    She waved sheepishly, only to turn her expression into a wordless gasp. She pointed at the platform, its blue projector light blinking angrily.

    Flashy Feet McGee looked down, the showman’s smile etched on his face made it all the way until he got dumped by the side. To his credit, he managed to hold himself up on another jet of whym- this time without a semblance of finesse. His fingers brushed the edge of the platform before gravity reclaimed its hold.

    A flare of green wormed its way to the edge of Nan’s senses, carrying the scent of daisies and grass.

    “Yara?”

    Empty space. A young man edging between the floor and the platforms met her eyes for an awkward moment before stepping off.

    Again, Yara’s signature made itself known. A half formed scroll, rolled up and muted, emitting just enough whym to catch her attention before fading and showing up a bit further away. Breadcrumbs.

    She weaved her way through, muttering gain ways and apologies. Yara rested straight backed and cross-legged on a bench, shutting her book in one hand as she paid her a glance. There was a lian in a dress similar to the one Izusa wore. No. Robe was likely the preferred term. The antlered person was a male.

    “Morning. You could have just shouted me over, you know?”

    Yara crinkled her nose, “Not a chance. That would be terribly uncouth.” She paused as if forgetting herself for a moment. “I mean, good morning to you as well.”

    Baiting her around like a fish wasn’t? It was subtle, Nan supposed, no one seemed to pay it much mind. But what was so rude about raising her voice? They weren’t in the most quiet of places. Nan chalked it up to alien social mores and let her frustration fizzle out. Too many things made sense for her to complain about the things that didn’t.

    “I was supposed to see Izusa today, finally getting rid of this thing.” Nan flicked Slowsilver’s control stick with a finger. “Have you seen her?”

    The robed lian coughed politely, his voice was on the gravely side despite all the features of youth gracing his form. “She’s tending to a complete torso regeneration. I’m Soother Brass.” Whym flowed, presenting a tilted chalice of purple. “I’ll be taking care of you in her stead.”

    Nan returned the gesture. Again, just the diminished candlelight she showed Chianti. Channeling enough to display anything more grandiose ended in embarrassment. Torso regeneration. She had no idea how to feel about that. Assured that magic could bring her back after being blown to bits, or appalled that there were things blowing people to bits in the safety of the ship. “Would it be rude to ask what happened?”

    “Not terribly. The patient will be fine, given a good cycle’s rest. He had a run in with an undocumented parasite.”

    “It burst out of the guy’s stomach?”

    “It’d be less troublesome if it had. Nasty thing supplanted most of his organs over a week. It concealed itself using an interesting suite of spells considering its lack of intelligence. We only found something amiss after it started replacing his skin.” He hooked a messenger bag away from the bench with his foot “I have the first part of the removal procedure on video if you’re interested.”

    “Really? Cool.”

    Yara’s whym flared, curling around herself in a much less coordinated manner than her previous displays. “Not in my presence, please. I don’t want to suffer those sounds again.”

    “Right, some other time then.” Soother Brass sighed, his disappointment palatable. “May I see your mediband?”

    A chalice, much smaller than the first, loomed over Nan’s wrist. Dark syrup oozed into the bracelet, bidding it open with a satisfying click and the scent of oranges. How much of the process was just showmanship? The liquid was made of an ordered strand, much like the translation spell she wasn’t supposed to be paying attention to.

    “A fifth of the way and back should suffice. We just need to see if you can hold up to something a little more intense than simple jogging. You can come back tomorrow if you flub it”

    Nan stood. Relishing in the sensation of solid ground returning to her feet. “I won’t flub it.”

    A running start. Reckless, but Nan didn’t care. The drifting sensation still held on to Nan's legs, though it provided little hindrance. After a week of nothing but stretching, walking in a straight line, and sleeping, her pulse ached for a good hastening. The first platform yielded under her weight slightly before it swayed back to its original position. Whym and warmth sank into her bones as she dashed to the next, and then the next.

    Too easy.

    She took them three at a time, the start of the irregular section didn’t phase her progress.

    Yara’s signature winked into existence. She held her arms behind her back, teleporting in pace with each of Nan’s steps.

    “Cheering me on?”

    She peered over her glasses. “Catching you if you fall.”

    “Oh? Thanks.”

    The plate ahead of her drifted upwards at an angle, she latched and vaulted onto it from the edge.

    “Before I forget, there was a cute lian with a star tattoo, do know him?”

    Yara blinked. “Blue hair, tall ears?”

    “Yea.”

    “Jarohan Vo Astra. A fine sparring partner, but don’t flatter him, his ego is quite large enough.”

    'He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow'. She was almost certain that Solomon had something else in mind, but the quote seemed fitting. Apparently, the rabbit eared lian was a noble by birth who failed to acquire a name. A circumstance the Auxiliary could redress.

    After thoroughly demonstrating that her legs were working better than fine, Yara signaled for the return trip, leaving Nan more than a little washed out. Anything but the first few meters of the trial would be impossible in her old body, but with so much whym flowing through her, she didn’t even break a sweat.

    “How does all of this work?" Nan asked. "Names, and magic, and stuff."

    “Izusa didn’t tell you?”

    “I didn’t ask.” They detoured around a girl hanging from a platform by her fingertips. Nan looked back as they passed, feeling a bit guilty when she lost her grip with a squeal. If she called for help, Nan would be happy to oblige. Hopefully. Probably. Definitely.

    Yara had a way of glancing just so that could convey more emotion than a mouthful of words. She blamed magic, despite the absence of whym. Only her mother could achieve that effect without it. “Ask every question that comes to mind. Ignorance can end your life.”

    ‘So could speeding vehicles,’ she thought with a drip of bitterness.

    Names are bestowed upon those who bond with a herald, spirits provided by providence itself. A lifetime partnership, not so different from one forged with a familiar. We offer an anchor to the physical world and a portion of our whym to sustain them. In return, we become something more than ourselves.”

    “That gave me more questions than answers.”

    “As it should.” Yara held up a hand, not caring to look at a human boy that almost crashed into her from the side. He sputtered an apology as he spun listlessly in the air for a few moments, cradled by green whym.

    “It’s quite alright. Do be more careful, though.”

    Nan' feet thudded against the matted ground. Yara promised a long talk about heralds, providence, and the nature of magic if she would suffer an afternoon of tea with her later while Soother Brass got to tinkering with Slowsilver. There was a faint connection between it and her sigil that she didn’t notice until it faded away. It wasn't invasive, but it turned her thoughts to what else could be done with a strand attached to the intermediary between her soul. She shook her head, deciding to focus on her freedom instead.

    Sweet, delicious freedom. Were she of weaker will, Nan would leap for joy. She was already losing the battle to retain her reputation as a less excitable person, one more step would undo her. She settled with channeling her euphoria into a single wave for her steed’s final departure into the sunset.

    “So long Slowsilver, don’t come back.” Nan allowed herself a wry grin.

    “You named the wheelchair?” Yara asked.

    “I grew kind of attached to him during our week together, despite the circumstances.”

    Brass stuffed a tablet back into his messenger bag. “An apt name. We cap their speed to keep patients from falling off. When we were understaffed, wheelchair drag racing used to be a thing.”

    Nan fell into a petty grouch. “Do you have any idea how miserable that made me?”

    Unfettered, he said, “Talk to me about misery after you deal with the alternative. If it makes you feel any better, your lost convenience means less children getting scrapped off the walls.”

    Nan sincerely hoped he wasn’t speaking in a literal sense.

    “Ah ha, Jaro! what’s happening?!”

    The noisy one was a tall, fair haired human. He traded a series of fist bumps that the lian in question returned with pleased gusto. Another man, short haired with dark skin, conceded Jarohan a less enthusiastic, single bump after some prodding.

    And wasn’t that the textbook definition of surreal? A puffy pants bearing Horatio stepping in sync with the cool kids. While she couldn’t comfortably pin down Jarohan’s color now that he wasn’t doing much, the vague impression of red and deep blue clung to the blonde and his friend respectively. Nan clamped down on her senses before nosey probes could sprout.

    “What are you looking at?” Brass traced Nan's line of sight, his inquisitive expression melted into a frown. Slinging on his messenger bag, he said, “Hold on, that’s one of mine.”

    The Soother beckoned for Nan and Izusa to follow, approaching the group from behind.

    “Got your rehab for that new arm done early, Felix?”

    The noisy blonde’s jaw dropped. “Oh, hey doc! I thought you had today off.”

    “I’m filling in.”

    Yara didn’t seem content with beating around the bush, turning the full force of her disappointed expression on Felix. “The question was far from difficult.”

    “Lady Yaranessli Vo Vannon, I swear on my mother, Maker rest her beautiful soul, that I did the rehab thing.”

    Yara didn’t look pleased. “You hold your mother in contempt. Does he speak truly, Newt?”

    All eyes turned to the other man, who, for the world, seemed to be both bored and fed up in the same instance. “This is what you made me take an oath for?.”

    “You just broke the spirit! How am I supposed to trust your word, man?!”

    Half of an infuriated bleat was all the warning spared. Yara blinked out of existence. She reappeared to snatch him by the legs, releasing the other half of her lungs before warping again, Felix in tow. Meters above, Red whym struggled to push them groundward in vain, all but choked off by green threads. “I should ask you the same! I shall not suffer the loss of another companion! Can you not see the distress you levy against me?! How can someone blessed by providence be so daft?!”

    "I get it, I’m sorry! Show a little mercy! This feels weird!"

    “This is mercy! If some terrible fate were to befall you, I’d cry! Do you wish for me to cry?!” For her part, Yara already looked prepared to cry. Her face was a reddened mask of worry and she wasn’t even the one being dangled by the legs.

    Nan looked at the others in turn. They were all too content with watching Yara beat Felix with the figurative bush. “None of you are going to lend a hand?” Nan asked.

    “If he went to rehab, he’d have the full use of two.”

    Newt clicked his tongue. “Already told him off for poking bangstone, that" He pointed at the screaming form of Felix. "Is the sound of the other boot.”

    “A Vo Astra would be remiss to deny a display of trust and affection between comrades.”

    Introductions were made without the need for Nan to expose her pitiful level of whym control. Thankfully, Newt and Felix (after Yara finally let him down), knew how to execute a proper handshake, Jaro was obsessed with the exotic “art of dap” Felix taught him, and insisted upon making a personal greeting to be used between just the two them.

    “You said you were both reclaimed from Earth?” Hope edged through Nan's tone. If other people were getting thrown in from her planet, the location may prove to be more than a one-off factor. Repetition lent itself to study, and study lent itself to understanding. A road back may have been less of a pipe dream than everyone thought.

    Newt grit his teeth, bearing the face of a man used to delivering bad news. “Don’t get too elated. We come from an Earth. We don’t have any complete maps after The Calamity, but Siegard, that’s where he’s from.” He pointed at Felix with a thumb. “Doesn’t even sound like any unfractured landmass I know of.”

    Felix nodded. “The only ‘Calamity’ back home is a band, we don’t even have magic. It was pretty boring, actually.”

    “Ninety-two percent surface water isn’t boring.”

    “Says you.” Felix blanched as he held out an arm. Soother Brass had it subjected to oily tendrils rising from a chalice half Nan’s size, his shoulder, arm, and wrist twitched and stretched, followed by each finger. Yara flitted between his arm and Brass constantly, asking if it was supposed to move like that with every shift in angle.

    Even if the no refund policy reclamation had was a lie, there was still the matter of pinpointing her world among what could be hundreds across some dimension of space she would likely never understand. The revelation felt surprisingly numb.

    “Right.” Nan’s smile slackened. “So, what are you here for?”

    “A bit of sport with the Margrave.” Newt turned to the door, glancing at something Nan was too short to see. “Speak of land shakes and they arrive.” Whym flowed. The scent of lavender rode an oddly proportioned instrument. An octagon with strings. Seconds saw him perform the same series of baiting whym flares Yara used on her.

    “Ah, good to see you standing, Nan.”

    “Rixal? You look…” Intimidating, Nan’s mind screamed. Though she somehow forced her tongue to say “Cool.” His armor was a pale tan with a less intricate design than Chitani’s, who trailed behind. It still added a few good inches to his already too-large-for-ease profile.

    “Shucks, I’d blush if I could.” Rixal shifted to the side. “Is blush the right term, Cap?”

    “It is,” Chitani said. The Margrave looked Nan in the eyes for a few dreadfully long heartbeats. “A game of tag, Mrs. Beauchamp. Myself on everyone. One life. No offensive spells. I’ll throw in sixty silvers for anyone who makes it past five minutes.”

    ‘No. No. Non. Nien. Ie. `A`ole. Nnyaa. Cha. Ni.’

    “Sure.” Nan didn’t want to be rude. She had the impression that it was bad for her health.

    “Is Mr. Tayls okay to participate?”

    Soother Brass shrugged, letting his sigil collapse. “It’ll only do him good.” Felix stuck his tongue at Yara, only to feign a yawn when she looked back.

    Brrrrrph. Excellent, a fair hunt.”

    Newt crossed his arms “Can’t say so myself.”

    Chianti thrummed her limbs in place, one at a time. “Shall I offer a three second lead?"
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017
  7. Maromar

    Maromar New Member

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    Three seconds was far too short of an allowance. Far too short for Nan, at least.

    Every participant besides herself displayed some form of movement trick that took a paddle to the laws of physics. Felix copied Jarohan’s spurts of thrust producing whym, Brass set a chalice on the ground from which a tide of murky tendrils erupted, carrying him without a surfboard. Rixal, Newt, and a last-minute addition, another murgumo in thick obsidian armor, threw chains and webs of solid whym to each other. The person in the lead would grab hold of the two behind, sling them ahead, and trust the next person to do the same, all before landing. Pay no mind to the improbability of such a feat.

    Even with whym coursing through Nan’s legs, she only got as far as the third row of platforms. Everyone else held comfortable leads at least an eighth of the way across.

    Finally, a sense of empathy could be established with the stragglers always caught first in countless variations of the “chase me game” during the age of recess. If only the feeling could have revealed itself under less inopportune circumstances. Just two seconds in, Nan regretted her decision to play. Her uneasy sense of calm around the murgumo came from the assurance that she wasn’t being hunted by them, and now she was.

    Not one to be a giant spider’s appetizer, game or not, Nan improvised. She yanked on her whym reserves, willing it to speed her along in much the same manner Felix and Jarohan managed; it seemed like the simplest method. Rather than blurred vision amid purple contrails, a great flame orbited by six fellows emerged before bursting in a wave of peppermint scented air.

    Her surroundings were a splatter painting superimposed on a windy meadow. The exact color and position of everyone’s whym, clear to either end of the room, seemed to parse themselves without a moment spent on examining a single presence. There were fourteen silvers, sixteen reds, twelve blues, nine greens-

    Bang!

    The sound tore Nan away from her errant spell. Chitani’s armored form was a gleaming blur in the light. Her jump either expended no whym at all, or an amount too miniscule to perceive. The margrave, however, didn’t sail towards Nan, but far above. The girl was falling.

    Odd. She could feel the surrounding whym signatures rise, or rather, she felt her own signature descend. The sense of urgency that tended to accompany a dive of any distance worth more than a short hop simply wasn’t there. Instead, she wondered why everything seemed so incomplete, so muted in comparison to a few moments before.

    No other thoughts crossed her mind. No realization that she lost her balance while casting, and certainly no suggestion that, perhaps, she should orient herself in a manner that would ensure she didn’t land head first. Nan retained a distant expression until she stopped short, meeting something warm rather than the cold, solid net.

    “Experiment after we finish, please.” Yara, minus a pair of glasses, held Nan aloft. Nan was far from the tallest person, yet Yara didn’t seem to have any trouble bearing her weight. It would make for a rather bizarre image, Yara was a tad smaller than herself.

    “My hero.” Nan looked up, hands to her chest, eyes fluttering in a manner reminiscent of countless rescued damsels.

    “I can drop you over the pool, if you wish.” She deadpanned.

    “Right, I’ll stop, thanks.”

    Space came apart in a mild stretch of nausea, Nan found herself deposited over a slightly malformed platform that overlooked much of room. Yara tied a strand of whym to its grav-lamp, halting the diagonal drift it was set on.

    “Chitani prefers lively targets. Remain here, and you will be moderately safe.” This was said while Chitani “felled” Jarohan as he broke for the exit, the door just cracked open when she bore down on him.

    “Thank you?”

    “You’re very welcome,” Yara said. “But this is an act of self-interest. I believe five silvers would be fair compensation if you managed to triumph by sitting still.”

    “Deal.” The two exchanged sigils, then Yara was gone.

    Five silvers weren’t much. Money in the LCW took suspiciously after a great many fantasy tales: one hundred pieces of bronze to a silver, one hundred silvers to a piece of gold. She remembered Izusa mentioning that a carton of chocolate milk went for thirty bronze coins and a silver. It was nothing more than a glass taken from a wine bottle, especially when her unsolicited investment came with such a killer view.

    Nan was completely aware of her hypocritical line of rational. Being chased by a murgumo was terrifying, watching other people being chased was cool in an abnormal manner.

    Midfield, Brass attempted to bar Chitani’s with a wall of squirming tendrils that were torn away with a quick slash of her forelimb. The way cleared to reveal a dome of the same life-like material. It was dealt with a similar measure of ease.

    Brass sat cross-legged, watching his barrier’s ruination with disinterest. He held a hand up for Chitani to tap.

    Chitani quivered her fangs. “It is so very disappointing when you give up.”

    Brass smirked, “Think about it this way, I just gave the try hard herd a moment’s respite.” He took a wide step backwards, tendrils rushed to ferry him to the shoulder side of the safe area, next to a waiting Jarohan.

    Felix fell next, followed by the obsidian armored murgumo; she failed to latch on a length of whym constructed chain.

    The remainders fought to stay in the air valiantly, but were forced to spend longer and longer intervals of time on the platforms. The work and burden of two seemed less efficient than that of three. Shouts of “Left!” or “Right!” or “Back!” crossed between Rixal and Newt, a twinge of desperation finding its way into their tones. They were no longer capable of landing too far from Chitani, leaving them with less time to recover after each toss.

    Abruptly, Chitani laid a plate of silver-blue under herself to catapult towards the pair while both parties were airborne, a “double jump” many would call it. Rixal and Newt made the mistake of bunching together, the former payed the price.

    With the rest of the chain/web gang gone, Nan considered Newt finished. The assumption was far from the truth. In the moment between another one of Chitani’s great leaps, he summoned his sapphire sigil, strumming it with a flick of his thumb.

    No sound came, but whym coalesced into four finned constructs, two for his forearms, two for his calves. Just as Chitani reached his position, he primed and shot forward, leaking an excessive amount of whym in exchange for an even more excessive burst of flight. Chitani gave chase, aiming for angles that put her between Newt’s destination rather than taking a direct route.

    Two times, Yara warped the man out of harm’s way who, in turn, dove to throw Yara out of danger moments later as Chitani redirected her attention.

    The bait and switch came to an end when Chitani retargeted Newt, prompting Yara to reach with another familiar strand. Nan witnessed the spell enough times to identify its unique feeling. First a solitary string formed, then a rush of bubble shaped whym swelled around its target. This time, though, there was no bubble. Yara’s spell contorted like a long balloon squeezed at the middle until it burst. Newt couldn’t change directions fast enough to avoid predation.

    This was no small thing, for his place of defeat happened to be very near Nan’s little platform.

    Brrrrph, Ms. Beauchamp! I nearly forgot about you!”

    Nan’s heart attempted to achieve escape velocity, deterred only by her pesky set of ribs.

    The closest platform that wasn’t in Chitani’s path was too high and too far away to consider. Game over.

    But it wasn’t. A flare of green whym and a mildly unpleasant pulling sensation saw her to a space behind and rather far away from Chitani. Yara still had her palm held out to her while she channeled another bubble of whym around herself, slowed quite thoroughly by the weight of fatigue.

    Once more, Chitani’s silver-blue whym curled around the mote of wispy green. Chocking it, and Yara’s half finished spell. There was nothing Nan could do to intercede. If only she had the ability to place something of her own between the two, Yara would be safe.

    A flame stood, circled by four. For the briefest moment, the detachment of Yara and Chitani’s whym became clear, focused, and almost understandable. The strands were clumps of whym shaped into different words that weren’t words. They were more like commands or requests of something given an almost physical form. This somethingobliged, but asked for payment in return; a cocktail of will, and yearning, and pure want in addition to a certain amount of whym. Yara wanted to be somewhere else, Chitani wanted Yara’s request ignored, though the something that Yara beseeched was a different something than Chitani’s.

    Nan fed Chitani’s strand until it burst, much too fast for something to continue its instructions despite the cost being paid in more than full. Yara disappeared, and Nan’s reserves were completely and utterly empty.

    She felt everything. The floaty sensation from staying attached to Slowsilver, aches and pains in her joints from exerting herself after being sedentary for so long, and a hollowness that cried to her very soul for salvation. The response, which only took a fraction of a second, felt terribly slow.

    Her reserves swelled, first igniting her dimmed sigil, then rushing to take away the weakness bound in her corporal form. She felt two shakes better than normal, but missed the ghost of a third. Nan rose without remembering the sensation of placing her hands on her knees.

    Yet again, Nan was met with the image of Chitani cornering Yara, two spells in a deadlock while the murgumo closed in. She only succeeded in delaying the inevitable.

    A strand within Nan’s sigil brightened, she felt as though she could do it again, whatever it was. Grimacing, Nan pushed her influence towards the renewed battle of energies, this time aware of a certain lethargic discomfort that ebbed into a token effort. There was the clarity, the greatly cleared perception of green struggling against blue and silver, but Nan couldn’t pay to go any further, not with a tank half-filled.

    Yara paid her a glance, a small smile pressed its way past her lips as she likely registered her presence, what she was trying to do with it, and the fact that she failed. With her effort spent on prepping another spatial jaunt, and her hopes spent on trusting Nan to make it possible, Yara signed her own certificate of defeat.

    From the sideline with the rest of the “dead”, she flashed an unfurled scroll. Yara said something that Nan couldn’t hear or lipread. It could have been an oath of vengeance or something along the lines of “the rest is up to you” if it was a line important enough to deliver with accompaniment by a sigil. She would never find out.

    Slowly, Chitani faced the sole survivor, the easiest prey, the girl who most definitely had no plans of getting tackled. The platform Nan was situated on may have been stationary, but the nearest unblocked one was not, she’d have to wait for it to float in range. Not happening.

    Down. Down was the fastest safe route, so down Nan gladly went.

    She hit the net bum first. The wave of pain she expected from such a fall never came, though she did lose a negligible amount of whym.

    Bang!

    Margrave Chitani was completely and utterly insane. The net had holes larger than the space occupied by her limbs, she would surely get stuck.

    Nan witnessed her descent with a mild sense of interest that took a U turn and crashed into the town hall of Horror City. Whym flowed, the scent of salt and metal spread, and ribs rattled against a web. Solid dots of silver-blue filled the spaces between the net, right before it undulated with the force of Chitani’s impact.

    “You get an accolade for creativity, Ms. Beauchamp. Shall we continue?”

    She couldn’t run. Not fast enough to avoid Chitani, but she was close enough to roll into a space between the wall. Again, she plunged, this time met by a welcoming rush of chilly water. Strokes hastened by whym, she pulled herself up on the pool’s edge. She didn’t care about the shouts of swimwear clad folk, she was safe.

    On second thought, their condemnation didn’t sound annoyed or frightened. No, it wasn’t condemnation at all. They wore grins and pointed to a spot above and behind her.

    Nan shook the water out of her ears. “Whua?”

    “Run!” Came the unanimous reply. Nearly unanimous, at least. A murgumo in red was rooting for the former merc captain.

    Nan should not have looked back. Years of movies prepared her for this exact situation, though her wisdom was lost in the aftershocks of misbegotten relief. What better image to drain its entirety than Chitani running down the wall. It was almost as if she was a giant spider, or something.

    Nan took the briefest moment to remember that Chitani was, in fact, a giant spider.

    A giant spider that closed more than half the distance between them in the span of time it took to remember that the giant spider that was now within spitting range was a giant spider that coiled all eight of her giant spider legs (armored joints clinking) for a giant spider pounce.

    Nan ran.

    She had no time for the sliding door’s antics, pulling it along its path so she could slip though a narrow hallway that smelled of metal and cleaning solution. She had no time for the lian in a lab coat that opened her mouth to say something as she rushed by. She had no time to make heads or tails of the sign hanging over the intersection she came across, straight was the path of least resistance.

    The dead end, a door much larger than others she saw on the vespa that was bolted shut and warded by yellow tape and a trickle of whym cared not for how little time Nan had.

    “Well hunted, Ms. Beauchamp.”

    A single limb touched her neck, bringing the tension, her thrumming pulse, and the sense of mounting dread to an irrational crescendo. Nan’s legs turned into gelatin. It had absolutely nothing to do with physical acclimatization or lingering discomfort from Slowsilver. Three more cold branches steadied her. No, they captured her, held her into place so that her taste would be unmarred by the floor. She thrashed, unable to break free, but more than capable of bringing her sight to bear on a massive set of fangs and forelimbs.

    Her sigil, a flame orbited by two, then three, then eight, appeared and dispersed impotently. Unfulfilled images of a pressure wave, a shell of pure whym, and a column of flesh melting heat flashed across her mind, forgotten before they could be brought into existence. Her fit of panic was reflected clearly in Chitani’s eyes.

    Nan most definitely did not scream. Nope. Anyone who said otherwise was a liar.

    (Oo/\oO)
    This chapter felt a bit hard coming out, though I enjoyed writing it. The scene may seem a tad drawn out to some, especially given its low-risk nature. I do, however, think this builds upon the characters of those brought into focus (not every named character, unfortunately).

    Bits of the magic system were also set up here, I got to experience the results of my notes and musings written into the story and perceived by a character that doesn’t have access to said notes. I hope any confusion generated was the right kind of confusion.

    In-universe, incontinence is a large part of any untrained magic user’s life as magic (at least its initial activation sequence) is in some ways like entering commands into a computer. Except everyone is working on a different OS, the keyboard is a mix of impulses and conscious thought, and the same set of keystrokes that says 3.14 for one says Adf408こんにちわ727 for the other. This is seen where Nan tries to copy Jarohan’s spell, only to get something completely different. Also, panic casting is typically no good. When caught, Nan was doing the (partial) equivalent of smashing in a random string of console commands without paying the cost to manifest an effect. (This clipfrom Dean Dodrill's "Dust an Elysian Tail illustrates her train of thought eloquently)

    In any case, your input is greatly appreciated, be it a simple “Keep going dude.” Or a stinging critique. Be sure to tune in next time, for I shall present to you: soul symbiosis, a transformation sequence (kind of, maybe, but not really), and social awkwardness.

    Thank you for reading, may providence guide your path.
     
  8. Maromar

    Maromar New Member

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    Where was the bone rending bite? Nan was expecting a grotesquely horrifying bone rending bite.

    No crunch, or slice, or pop presented itself. Was she too much skin and wire to consider eating? Nan peeked one eye open, then the other, just in time to see Chitani draw her limbs back. A dull thud resounded; the sound of her feet landing safely on the floor, decidedly ungobbled yet a tad wobbly.

    It took exactly four seconds and thirty-two hundredths to crack open the proceeding sheaf of ice. A miniscule span of time, but more powerful than its size warranted. At least, when accompanied by the realization that recalling the events of a day not even half-finished would have Nan smashing her head against the nearest wall for a decade.

    She played the part of everything she didn’t want to be; bumbling, irrational, jumpy at every little thing that evoked fear. Her self-respectability was in the ER with a low chance of survival. Even worse, the pure mortification sinking its teeth into Nan’s spine couldn’t be anything close to how Chitani must have felt. The only thing worse than fearing a false monster was being treated like a real one.

    Chitani was a giant spider. This was true. First and foremost, however, she was a person. Still, Nan’s mind whispered, “Run, run, run.” While her heart hammered like a desperate thing. As long as they drew such a reaction, half her smiles around any murgumo would carry on as cardboard cutouts taped over an expression of silent terror. No relatively innocent person deserved that. Nan opened her mouth.

    “You have my apologies, Ms. Beauchamp. I thought you were acclimatizing well, Rixal said as much. It wasn’t my intent to cause you distress.” Chitani’s limbs tacked against the floor, one at a time.

    Some malicious, sunglasses donning piece of Nan’s subconscious struck a match against its thumb, delivering it to a gasoline filled patch within her mindscape via over the shoulder toss. It walked away slowly, illuminated by the conflagration that was her blushing cheeks.

    “No, I’m sorry,” Nan said. “I overreacted. I’ve been on the Vespa far too long for this.” Unacceptable. She needed to take responsibility for not being calm, collected, and personable, not make someone else suffer through an apology. Why was she being treated like a kid who didn’t know any better?

    “I understand, I’ve been there before. My first few planetfalls away from home were a tad embarrassing. Many hunts amount to ‘follow the warm, slow-moving mammal’; stalking lone travelers at night became a quirk of muscle memory. Of course, it wasn’t all bad. I ran into my honeykins that way.”

    Chitani swayed from one side to another, eyes no longer quite focused on Nan.

    Dear God, the former mercenary captain was lovesick. She didn’t need any kind of guidebook to discern what her posturing meant. Everything was there; the change in pitch, the vacant gaze, the way she blinked rapidly when she came back down to the metaphorical ground.

    Two solid taps rang out from the same forelimb. “Anyways, keep your head up, those are molting pains you’re feeling, Ms. Beauchamp. And It’s perfectly fine to laugh.”

    Normally Nan wouldn’t. She’d wait until she was alone, or at the very least, privy to a conversation that wasn’t as close to the heart.

    It was too bizarre, marrying someone that resembled food, it was like smooching a box of cereal. She put forth a valiant effort; hands over her mouth, quavering with her shoulders, but it was too little, too late. Her inhibitions were already a smoldering wreck. The boss’ okay was the final straw.

    Laugh she did, for all of a very slight moment; companionable or not, the laugh of a murgumo was a long, unsettling screech.

    “My apologies.”

    “No, my apologies, Margrave Chitani.” Nan would work on that. Even if she had to get Izusa to help her record the sound and play it over a pair of earphones strapped to the side of her head.

    Yara and Brass arrived in a flash of whym. Mercifully late for the imbroglio.

    Chitani shifted to her full height, previous talks about social skills, and the apparent dearth both managed to display, were tossed to the wind.

    “Time?” Chitani asked.

    Brass held out his wrist, producing a string of illegible scrawling via hologram. Cool yet confusing at the same time. There wasn’t a watch or projecting device in sight, nor a tracible whym signature. An implant?

    “I don’t know why you keep asking,” Brass said. “Three and twenty-two seconds at the time of Nan’s scream. We lost, like we did last time, and the time before.”

    That short? She could have sworn she was running forever.

    More importantly, Nan didn’t scream. It was a surprised shout at its worst. She wasn’t going to start a debate, that would be childish. She knew the true truth, that was all that mattered.

    Yara said, “That time is far from terrible, you needn’t be crestfallen.”

    Brass dismissed the strand of alien numerals. “I’m not unhappy, just tired of getting dragged into games I can’t win.”

    “That kinda bugs me. Why did we, but mostly you, Newt, and Felix, lose so badly?” Nan dipped her head at Yara “I thought being named made you a big shot.”

    If providence this, blessed that, and the importance of having so many named mystics available was complete bunk, or worse: ceremonial bunk, she’d be disappointed. An adventure appealed to her in some sense, circumstances notwithstanding. Of course, nearly anything was preferable to an exciting career in the ever expanding field of red road paint.

    “Shifting would put the Margrave at more of a disadvantage than we faced at the hands-” Yara paused, looking over Chitani for a moment. “forelimbs of her natural talents.”

    “It’s the truth, as frustrating as it is. I couldn’t take on a complete greenhorn with a name, even if it was a complete slugging match, not without a good strike frame and some extra weapon mounts at least.” Chitani said.

    They existed in a sort of Morton’s Fork scenario. Whatever they decided to do ended in an unfair competition. Murgumo physiology only got better with age, and Chitani was at the point where she could outstrip most mammalian race’s normal sports stars without trying. A named mystic though, could laugh at those stats, say something akin to “Hold my beer.”, and fly circles around the Margrave until they ran out of whym to sustain their shift, whatever the details of such a thing entailed. “Unfair by principle” Soother Brass called it.

    Nan had to admit, as long as it didn’t involve her hair turning yellow and half an hour of yelling, the ability to outrun Chitani sounded pretty desirable.

    “How soon can I get a name?” Nan said. Name, name, name. She would never quite get used to how the word felt, scratching at her consciousness with a certain pressure that demanded recognition, it even cared to differentiate itself from its less high-strung twin, the humble name. Something told her that the translation spell had nothing to do with it.

    “As soon as you feel ready, Ms. Beauchamp.” She might have been imagining it, but Chitani sounded rather pleased. The Margrave did seem like the kind of person that valued initiative.

    “With your reserves, I doubt a herald would reject you outright, but…” Yara placed a hand on her chin. “Are you certain about trying so soon? There’s no shame in gathering your bearings.”

    “Absolutely certain,” came her reply. Perhaps Nan put a bit more conviction than she intended behind it, but she preferred that over sounding like an awkward duck. Unless she was seeing the trend incorrectly, power was a means of obtaining greater independence.

    Besides, she needed to pull her weight as soon as possible. The less handholding she forced on others, the better.
     

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