Shadowhunter

Discussion in 'Original Stories' started by Sturmritter, May 27, 2017.

?

Hi all, are you guys stil interested in this story? Should I continue?

Poll closed Jun 11, 2017.
  1. Yes

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  2. Meh

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  3. No

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  4. OMG! STOP ALREADY! SHEESH

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  1. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 41: The Scorpion and The Frog

    Keija looked at Teyna with a gleam in her eye, “Hehe. Freedom for at least seven hours. Now to find some way to get back at Lars for ordering me around earlier today,” Her eyes flashed with a violet storm of possibilities.

    “So what did Lars do to you that deserves this level of retribution?” Teyna asked with an amused smile.

    “You heard him when we got off the transport, ordering me about like a warehouse flunkie, and calling me a 'rookie'. Ha! I'm at least as old as he is, if not two hundred years older!”

    “Two h-hundred years?” Teyna looked astounded.

    “It may very well be even more,” Keija replied with a satisfactory nod, “We don't age so much as we mature in our realm. The nine realms of the world tree, Yggdrasil, are ageless, and we achieved a virtual immortality when the Synod was convocated granting us access to Asgard's Apples of Idun. Those fruits we call 'Epli'. Our sense of time is thus necessarily a bit distorted, as we live a timeless, yet changing realm."

    “You're immortal?” Teyna blinked in amazement.

    “Well, as long as I don't get physically pummeled into a gooey paste, or get my head blown off, I can usually recover from most physical injuries. Also, we tend to not get any sickness, and we retain our vigor even when our appearance seems to mature. Even then, we can partake of an Epli to restore our youth.”

    “That's amazing!” Teyna stood there dumbfounded by the manner in which Keija made this startling revelation seem no big deal.

    “Eh?” Keija blinked in confusion. “You do realize that you have an immortal soul yourself, don't you?”

    “What?” Teyna didn't think too much about religious or spiritual matters during her time at Daedalus.

    “Human beings are really immortal souls, housed in temporary meat puppets,” Keija explained matter-of-factly, “Your time in the mortal world is temporary, but your eidos remains even after your body withers away.”

    Teyna held up her hands for a moment, “Ok, your starting to talk about stuff I've never ever heard about now. Meat Puppets? Eidos? What the heck is that?”

    “For you humans, the Eidos is basically your soul. For spirits, it's the sum total of our existence: our personality, our intellect, our will, our emotions, our presence. As for term 'meat puppets', don't you think that's a bit self explanatory?”

    “Isn't that a bit crude for a description of the human body though? Still, it seems I've got a lot to learn about the secret world,” Teyna murmured.

    “Yep, and there will be plenty of time for that later on,” Keija interjected, “For now, we have a mission to get back at Lars.”

    “We?” Teyna feigned ignorance, “What do I have to do with you and Lars having a spat?”

    Keija pouted even as her eyes gleamed, “Awwww. Don't treat me like that Teyna! It's a way you can get to know everyone.”

    “Oh? So this would be a mission to get back at Lars while simultaneously introducing me to your co-conspirators?”

    Keija paused and cocked her head while holding her chin thoughtfully, “Um, yeah, sure. Why not?”

    Teyna started to giggle, “Are you always this way, Keija?”

    “Well, sort of I suppose. It's in my nature to pull tricks and play jokes on people,” Keija offered as a way of explanation.

    “Yes, but shouldn't those tricks and jokes be played on your opponents, rather than your team-mates?” Teyna offered with common sense.

    “What?!?” Keija exclaimed with a response as if she had an epiphany. “You mean jokes and pranks are a means to an end, and not an end in themselves? That's just plain crazy!” She winked.

    Teyna laughed out loud, “Now I'm starting to think you've been pulling my leg all this time!”

    Keija smiled, “Even if unintentional, it's still in my nature.”

    “At least you aren't a scorpion, from that story the scorpion and the frog,” Teyna offered tentatively.

    “Who says I'm not?” Keija flashed her eyes for effect, “Just kidding!”

    “Well, now I'm not so sure,” Teyna frowned.

    “Aw, sorry,” Keija apologized, “Even so, Although I might be a scorpion to my enemies, I don't sting my friends, even if I like to play jokes on them.”

    “But what if you were somehow compelled?” Teyna questioned. She might not be spiritually knowledgeable in general, but she had a few occult experiences growing up in Southeast Asia, and knew from some of her acquaintances that spiritual forces could be compelled by dark magicians.

    “Oh? So you know about that, huh?” Keija looked at Teyna with newfound appreciation, “Well, to be honest, it's quite possible for a spirit to be compelled by a talented Onmyouji or spiritualist. If you want to know more about that, you could ask Melissa or her brother Martin. Though both Uzume and myself have undertaken steps to reduce the possibility. In this location, with our integration as well as our friends here, we are quite safe.”

    “Still more to learn it seems,” Teyna sighed plaintively.

    “Education never ends, and it's never a waste,” Keija smiled warmly in response.

    “Well, then, start educating me, and take me on a tour of this place I may yet call home,” Teyna said resolutely, “You can worry about what to do with Lars later.”

    Keija nodded happily, and began to give Teyna a tour of the facility. They started at the dining facility, which looked like a large cafeteria but with a rustic country farmhouse feeling to it. The décor was colonial Victorian, warm and friendly. From there, Keija led Teyna to the library, where Richard Lowen worked in his office.

    Keija re-introduced Teyna to Richard, remarking (for Richard's sake) that they had briefly met at lunch in the dining hall. Richard nodded succinctly, gave a curt, sufficiently polite reply and returned to his archivist work.

    Teyna, after returning to the main library from Richard's office remarked, “Well, he's kind of a wet rag, isn't he?”

    “He's purely professional,” Keija offered a weak defense of his character, “He's not what I would call a social butterfly. But if you ever need to know something obscure, he's the man to go to. From what I've heard from Melissa and Martin, his knowledge on occult matters is truly encyclopedic.”

    Keija and Teyna continued down the hallway, and Keija pointed out the Forensics lab, where the mechanical bug invasion occurred before they had met in Singapore.

    “Oh? These were Daedalus creations?” Teyna was intrigued, “Do you happen to have any scrap left from the invasion?”
     
  2. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 42: Norse Ninjutsu and Eastern Weapons

    Keija pondered that question for a moment, “Let me ask Astrid if she or Sam have any parts that were left for analysis. One sec!” And she flashed away faster than Teyna could blink.

    'Holy Smokes!' Teyna thought to herself, she had never seen anyone move that fast before.

    In the time it took Keija to move, ask her questions of Astrid and Samuel, and return, Teyna had only shaken her head and turned around in the hallway to figure out where Keija had gone. She was startled to see Keija standing before her once again, only this time with a wrecked mechanical bug in her hands.

    “Astrid assures me this one has been scrubbed of any spells and tracking devices, so if you can add anything, that'd be great!” Keija spoke out enthusiastically.

    Teyna examined the wrecked bug, and nodded when she recognized the characteristic of arthropod articulation in Daedalus robot designs.

    “This one is definitely a Daedalus design,” she confirmed, “But I don't recognize the model, and it's much smaller than our typical commercial robots. I'm sorry I can't help much more with that, since I'm no engineer, unfortunately.”

    Keija shrugged her shoulders, “Well, it was a longshot, but at least you confirmed Daedalus involvement in the attack. Perhaps Edgar can help connect all the clues we've uncovered, later tonight at dinner.” Keija took back the mechanical bug, and flashed away at unbelievable speed only to return to where Teyna stood dumbfounded, this time empty handed.

    “How do you move so fast?” Teyna asked slack-jawed.

    “Well, I'm a Swartalfheimer with Synod training,” Keija replied with obvious pride, “It's a technique developed from the eastern cosmology, called Shunpo. We fey spirits of the northern cosmology were already well renowned for our stealth and agility, but when we started to receive training from the eastern cosmology under Synod guidance, in the art of Ninjutsu and Taijutsu, our capabilities increased dramatically.”

    “So what? You're some sort of dark elf ninja?” Teyna giggled.

    “Well, yes, I suppose so,” Keija grinned back, “But I prefer the term Swartalfheimer to dark elf. We may live in seclusion from sunlight, but our temperament isn't as dark as the tales suggest. But don't call me 'elf' or even worse, 'elfy', Daniel does that, and it drives me nutty.”

    “Seems like you and this Daniel fellow have a bit of a history,” Teyna stated cautiously.

    “Well, considering he almost started a war in Hel, and I just happened to be there to stop him in time, it was a bad start to say the least.”

    “Oh my God!” Teyna looked incredulous, “Are you serious? A war in Hell?” She practically started to cry from how crazy that sounded.

    “I don't think it's the same Hel you're thinking of, “Keija corrected, then before Teyna could ask for details she continued, “It's not a long story, but one that I'd rather not tell again. Just suffice to say it ended well enough for me and Daniel to not kill each other on sight. And lately, he's been acting a lot more civil towards me...” She trailed off thinking of the compliment Daniel gave her on the eve of Edgar's plight after she help to save his life.

    “Maybe it was all just a misunderstanding from the beginning?” Teyna offered as Keija seemed to be contemplating something deeply profound.

    “Hmmm, perhaps. Speaking of Daniel, perhaps we should swing by the dormitory rooms and I can introduce you while keeping him safely at bay from your innocence,” Keija winked as she said this last part.

    “That would be nice. I'd like to meet all of the 'home crew' you told me about on the airplane. So far, It's only been that wet rag, Richard,” Teyna agreed.

    Keija led Teyna over to the dormitory rooms, pointing out her own room, and several other of the females residences, then turning the corner to another hallway, she pointed out a lot of the men's dorm rooms, finally ending up at Daniel's room. Knocking at the door, Keija waited for a response, but there was none.

    “He doesn't seem to be in his room at the moment,” Keija slumped for an instant, before realizing that it was probably a good thing to avoid Daniel for the time being.

    He needed to be caught in a situation where others would require him to be on his best behavior, so Keija mentioned that it would probably be best to have others present when they met. And so they continued on their way, towards the Armory, where Samuel Golding was busy taking inventory of the equipment checked in from Singapore mission.

    “Oh, hello there, Teyna was it?” Sam smiled warmly as he recognized the new guest member of the facility along with Keija, “Come to show her where all the goodies are kept, Keija?”

    Keija nodded happily, “Of course!”

    Sam led both of them into the armory, and gave Teyna a basic tour, pointing out the various types of equipment and weapons that they kept on hand for various types of operations.

    “Speaking of equipment, Keija, I finished the Bagh Nakh you requested,” Sam said as he pulled a case out from a shelf and laid on one of the workbench tables, “They even have the Nordic runes you requested as well, so they should be quite dependable.”

    Keija looked on with anticipation as Sam carefully opened the lid to reveal an impressive set of Tiger Claw gauntlets.

    Sam gave an explanation of the smithing process used to create the claws, “They were made of composite carbon-steel that had been case hardened and quenched, then tempered and coated with a titanium carbide coating. In other words, these bad boys have a hardened wear resistant shell, but have a tough ductile core that is able to absorb shock and resist shattering. The runes were inscribed according to Richard's instructions, and then each blade was polished and fitted to the gauntlets. I also included some Hebraic zayin as decorative runes to help increase the sharpness.”

    Keija was speechless for a moment, mesmerized by the melding of modern technology and Norse magic into a set of weapons that could only be described as amazing.

    “Sam,” Keija breathlessly paused for a moment, “You are a genius.”

    Teyna looked at these gauntlets as a work of art fit for a museum. “They're beautiful!” She gaped in awe.

    “You'll still need to integrate your eidos with the runes to power them up,” Sam reminded, “I suspect it will take quite a while to get them powered up sufficiently for operational use.”

    “I'm looking forward to it,” Keija turned towards Sam, her eyes tearing up from joy.

    “Tomorrow at the earliest,” Sam reminded her, “We've still got that meeting after dinner tonight.”

    Keija pouted for a moment, but she could be patient too, even if she was impulsive by nature. Waving goodbye to Sam for the time being, Keija turned to Teyna and said, “Well, I guess we're done here for now, let's continue the tour?”
     
  3. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 43: Wrapping Up the Tour

    Teyna nodded in agreement, and followed after Keija, bowing politely to Samuel as she left the armory. A few hours were spent familiarizing Teyna with the other facilities of the compound, including the lacrosse field, the swimming pool, the tactical lanes, and the shooting range (which had both indoor and outdoor targets.) There was one area that Keija pointed out that was the new underground facility, but Sam hadn't given the authorization to open it up yet, since Mr. Mallory had some sort of Ceremony planned for the next day.

    “Seems like military or police training facilities,” Teyna remarked after emerging from the indoor shooting range.

    “I suppose in a way we are a peacekeeping force,” Keija nodded, and then added, “but the things we deal with tend to go outside the boundaries of mere political differences between nation states.”

    Keija noted the position of the sun that was beginning it's descent into the evening sky, “Looks like it's late afternoon. You probably are tired from jet lag and want to get freshened up before dinner?”

    “I would love to take a bath right about now,” Teyna sighed.

    “Well, you can either use the shower facilities at the pool, and swim for a bit if you like, or I can show you where your room is in relation to the bath house,” Keija offered.

    “Show me to where I'll be staying. I don't have much in the way of luggage as you well know,” Teyna said as she gave a perturbed look.

    “Right, back to the main hall then!” Keija led the way back to the hall where the library and dining facility where located, Along the way, she pointed out the bathhouse and it's relation to the dormatory wing, and noticed Uzume chatting with one of the groundskeepers about repairing some irrigation lines for the lawn.

    “Hey! Uzume!” Keija caught her attention, “When you get a moment, let me know where we can let Teyna stay?”

    “Pfah!” Uzume rolled her eyes, “Already done! She'll be in the ladies wing of the dormitory in the room two doors down from your own towards the end of the hall.”

    “Thanks a bunch!” Keija replied with gratitude, and continued towards her dorm room with Teyna.

    Passing by her own door, she stopped for a moment to grab a small wrapped device from a drawer in her room, and then led Teyna to her new quarters two doors down.

    “What's that thing in your hand?” Teyna wondered out loud.

    “Oh? Step through the door, and you'll find out,” Keija snickered.

    “Now I'm worried again,” Teyna said with a sigh.

    “Aww, don't be that way, trust me!” Keija winked.

    “Ok, but only because I am really wanting a bath,” Teyna reluctantly said as she stepped through the doorway.

    Keija immediately pulled the ends of the wrapped device, and a loud bang sounded through the hallway startling Teyna. It was one of those paper "poppers" that people used during Christmas or other celebrations, only this one was a home-made special of Keija's. Teyna was holding her hand to her heart and giving Keija a pointed look as she recovered from the loud noise.

    “Welcome to your new room, Teyna!” Keija exclaimed as the noise also brought several people's heads to peer out from their own rooms to find out what the commotion was all about.

    Seeing that Keija was leading Teyna into her new quarters, two people popped back into their room to grab some snacks and drinks to make an impromptu room warming party.

    Keija waved over to Astrid and Melissa and looked around for Venka but couldn't find her, “Come and welcome Teyna to her new room!”

    “That's the plan! That popper you made was pretty loud, Keija. I'm surprised it didn't set off any alarms,” Astrid said as she brought some soda and some plastic cups with her.

    Melissa came soon after with a tray of cookies, “Welcome to the nest, Teyna!” She greeted as if she were the host of the party. “I baked these myself after Elijah finished with lunch. They're oatmeal raisin, if that's ok with you?”

    Teyna smiled, “I love cookies, so any type is ok with me! Thank you!”

    “We won't keep you, since it's already been a long day, and everyone is probably feeling a bit of jet lag as well, but we can enjoy a little party before dinner, right?”

    As Teyna turned once again to enter the room, she was immediately impressed with the size and décor of the room. There was a nice double-sized bed and an armoire chest for storing clothes, as well as bookshelf and a walk-in closet for storage.

    Just then Teyna turned a bit pink as she blushed in embarrassment, “I don't have any clothing except this business suit that I'm wearing!”

    Melissa, Astrid and Keija all understood what had been happening these past couple of days, “We already planned to fix that! After all, you're in the US now, the land of shopping centers!” Astrid remarked in her thick eastern European manner.

    Teyna blinked and then shrugged, “Is there a place to shop nearby?”

    Keija, Astrid and Melissa all nodded in unison, “We're about 9 miles....um 15 kilometers, from Salem, and there are other villages and boutiques scattered around the area as well,” Keija added.

    “Oh? So we can make the trip to Salem in time for dinner?” Teyna looked hopeful.

    “I think we can. We just need to request some transportation,” Keija replied, then turning towards Melissa and Astrid, “You want to come along too?”

    “Sure, I've got no plans for the moment,” Melissa smiled in response.

    “Unfortunately for me, I've got some things I need to attend to before dinner tonight, but I wish you all the best!” Astrid said with an apologetic tone.

    After requesting the transport from one of the groundskeepers, Keija, Melissa and Tenya were driven in style to the town of Salem. Several of the locals wondered to themselves if a celebrity had arrived to play tourist. Spending about an hour and a half shopping, they had just enough time to get back home with a load of new clothes and toiletries for Teyna.

    “You've got about an hour to take a bath, if you like, and then dinner will be ready,” Keija informed Teyna, then picked herself up to leave Teyna on her own to finish settling in.

    “I'll see you at dinner then!” Teyna replied as Keija headed out the door.

    “Don't forget how to get to the dining facility,” Keija teased.

    “Your excellent tour is still fresh in my mind,” Teyna smiled back.
     
  4. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 44: Spirit Charming

    Teyna closed the door and prepared for her bath as Keija wandered down the hallway with a good feeling about the past few days. For her own part, she'd spend the rest of the time before dinner integrating her eidos and anticipating being able to test those beautiful Bagh Nakh that Samuel had forged for her.

    As she entered her own room, she briefly let down her human guise, and stared at her dark elf reflection in the mirror hanging on the wall beside her bed. She pondered whether or not she should go to dinner like this and just be herself. After a time, she re-applied her human guise and stared at it also for a few moments.

    This guise was as much a part of her now as her original form, she thought wryly. It didn't matter one way or the other to her companions which form she took, they had accepted her for who she was. She lay down on her bed, and began to integrate these feelings, lessons and conclusions of the past few days into her eidos, and then began to integrate her eidos once again with the facility.

    As dinner time approached, Keija felt that her integration had been successful in consolidating her breakthrough from Singapore. She felt more energetic and alert, and this was compounded by the fact that she was growing used to the place and having her eidos almost fully integrated with the location now.

    She got up from her bed, and changed out of her traveling clothes for a more casual outfit, and she changed her guise to her dark elf form. She decided that she'd just go with the flow tonight and be herself. She picked out a nice white crop top and shorts ensemble and a pair of white calf high ugg boots, and then headed out towards the dining facility.

    Skipping down the hallway, in a very fae sort of manner, Keija turned the corner and abruptly stopped as she saw Daniel emerge from his room down the hallway. Immediately her demeanor became more guarded and she thought of turning the corner to avoid the walker, when he caught sight of her and waved congenially.

    “Hey Keija!” Daniel said loudly without regard to anything in particular, as he began to walk towards her. He closed to a polite distance and asked, “Are you heading to dinner? You look great tonight!”

    Keija blinked in disbelief. Here was her nemesis (for all practical purposes) complimenting her on her appearance, and she was in her Dark Elf guise no less.

    Daniel smiled as he saw Keija flummoxed by his compliment, “Was it something I said?” He continued to tease sensing the effect it had on her.

    Keija would have blushed in her human guise, “Oh, I suppose you want me to thank you for the compliment? Well, thanks I guess. I'm not sure why you've decided to be civil all of a sudden, but I can at least return the favor.”

    “Oh? Are you going to compliment my good looks? My charming wit? My....”

    “Enough!” Keija quickly cut him off from self-aggrandizement. “I think I spoke too soon.”

    “Awww, Keija, don't be that way. See I didn't even call you THAT word you don't like,” Daniel said with a mild mocking tone.

    “It's a start,” She looked towards the ceiling in disdain. She decided to reciprocate the barely offered olive branch, however, and relented by sighing and directly addressing Daniel, “So what? You want to escort me to dinner? It's not as if I need a bodyguard...” She trailed off with mild discomfort at the conversation.

    “A man likes to be in the company of a beautiful woman, or even a beautiful Swartalfheimer,” Daniel laid it on thickly knowing that Keija was unaccustomed to such compliments from him.

    Keija's eidos reverberated from the complex emotions going through her at the moment. If she hadn't just previously consolidated her gains from Singapore, she might have lost it all right there!

    “Who says.....who says that you're a man anyways?” She said with embarrassment, even if her face could not show it.

    “Ok, I'll concede that I'm a YOUNG man, who happens to be attracted to a very attractive spirit at the moment. Perhaps this is some spell that you've cast?” Daniel raised his eyebrows suggestively as he continued to torment her with compliments.

    “You've got something underhanded planned!” Keija latched on to her often used accusation against the astral walker.

    Daniel shook his head, “Not this time. I've been thinking a lot since you left for Singapore. I want us to be friends, not rivals.”

    “That might take a while,” Keija demurred, “I can't just shake off the past so easily.”

    “Well, at least allow me the pleasure of escorting you to dinner. Even if you don't need a bodyguard, I might!” He winked slyly as he said this.

    Keija groaned audibly and conceded in her mind that this stubborn fool probably could use a bodyguard, since she wanted to strangle him at the moment, “Whatever!” She huffed, and let Daniel lead the way down the hall towards the dining room.

    As they walked, Daniel inquired about Teyna, “So who is this new person I've heard rumors about? She's from Singapore I take it?”

    Keija looked quizzically at Daniel, “You were there at lunch and saw her. Didn't you go up and talk to her at all?”

    Daniel shook his head, “I was still out of sorts from the astral walk and from your surprise party announcement. I'm also kind of shy towards certain people.”

    “I don't believe you for a minute,” Keija scoffed at that remark, “You? Shy? Ha! Don't make me laugh.”

    Daniel feigned a hurt look, “Seriously! I didn't introduce myself at lunch, so tell me about her from what you know. I would like a spirit's perspective on this person.”

    Keija stopped a few meters away from the entrance to the dining room, “Look, we're almost here, why don't I just introduce you to her at dinner when she arrives?”

    “Fine, fine,” Daniel relented and gestured politely for Keija to enter, as he opened the door in a gentlemanly fashion for her.

    Keija entered the dining room with Daniel following after and they both took their regular seats when Teyna walked in a few minutes later, looking quite refreshed and sharp in her new clothes. Teyna wore a simple blouse with a pleated skirt, and a small waistcoat, stockings and pumps.

    The look was casual and elegant at the same time, and Keija thought that it must be the corporate sensibility in fashion that allowed Teyna to show it off right. As Teyna scanned the room for those she was most familiar with, her eyes landed on Keija's figure and grew wide in recognition.

    Smiling immediately, Teyna quickly hurried over to where Keija and Daniel were seated.

    “Do I get to sit anywhere?” She asked as she arrived, “Or is there a seating arrangement that I need to familiarize myself with?”
     
  5. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 45: Dinner and a Meeting

    “You can sit here if you like, there's really no reserved seating for meals.”

    Daniel looked expectantly at Keija, who sighed and then made a hurried introduction, “Teyna, let me introduce you to Daniel Grey, the person I spoke to you earlier about.”

    “Daniel? This is Teyna Caulfield, our guest from Singapore.”

    Daniel immediately got up from his chair and bowed in greeting to Teyna, who was looking quizzically at Keija for confirmation that this was the same person she had warned her about.

    Keija nodded subtly, and shrugged her shoulders as if to confirm that he was not acting normally.

    “Very pleased to meet you, Teyna. I hope you find yourself at home while you are here,” He said graciously, “I do hope that you'll choose to sit here with us for dinner. I'd like to learn what you think of Keija, and how she made your acquaintance.”

    Was this the same Daniel Grey that tried to barge into the gates of Hel?!?!?! Keija blinked several times in astonishment at Daniel's polite behavior. No snarky phony lines, no air of superiority, no callous disregard for decorum?

    Something was fishy, but she didn't sense any exterior influences in the area or on Daniel himself. Just what the heck was going on?

    Teyna took a look at Keija, who was fidgeting mightily, and a look at Daniel, who was putting on his best behavior, and started to giggle, but she stifled it for Keija's sake.

    There was obviously more to these two than Keija let on previously, she thought to herself as she took the proffered chair and sat down with the two, just as Anthony Mallory and his uncle Edgar entered the room.

    The Old Man's arrival set into motion several of the seated agents and administrative personal to begin serving dinner. Keija and Daniel excused themselves to help as well.

    “Should I come too?” Teyna inquired politely.

    “You're still technically a guest, so please, enjoy your free time. If you do decide to become part of the organization, you'll be doing this quite a bit, so there is no hurry for now,” Daniel explained.

    Normally, who was on kitchen duty was determined by a schedule that revolved between all of the agents, but since the Singapore crew had just arrived, the duty fell on the home crew for today. Still, everyone lent a hand, so that dinner was served in short order.

    The meal was a sumptuous roast turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, a green bean casserole and stuffing. It could have almost doubled as an American Thanksgiving Day feast, except that it was merely mid October now.

    Edgar DeMolay seemed to have recovered much of his strength since early this morning when he awoke from his coma. His physical condition was also much improved, thanks to Uzume spending a part of the afternoon using healing spells to speed his recovery. He chatted with Anthony and Uzume about current events, and mentioned no business at all during the meal itself.

    Keija leaned over to Teyna, and pointed out Anthony's uncle Edgar, as the witness she mentioned earlier who had been in the hospital, and explained that's why everyone was so welcoming to him at lunch earlier in the day.

    All the other agents chatted about how they spent their free time during the afternoon, and swapped stories of what had happened here and in Singapore during the past few days.

    Teyna felt as if she were attending a large family reunion. It felt very warm, comfortable, and relaxing to be in the presence of so many people all focused on simply strengthening their bonds of friendship. As dinner was ending, and a small dessert of ice cream was served, the Old Man got up to announce the start of the evening meeting.

    “Once again, I'd like to welcome Teyna to our gathering tonight. I've been caught up to speed on what happened in Singapore, and I would like to express my sympathy for the loss of your employment, but would like for you to consider your future with us as well. I'm sure everything has happened so suddenly, so please, let's discuss everything in detail after we're done here?”

    Teyna nodded her head politely, and continued to let the flow of the evening's events take her wherever she might go.

    Lars and the combat crew all stood up, and welcomed Teyna loudly as well, “You've been such a sport, Miss Caulfield, that we all decided to pitch in and get you a small welcoming gift. So, please, open it when you get the chance.” Lars spoke for the others as he brought forth a small gift wrapped package.

    The Old Man allowed a bit of time for the gift to be handed over and such before he brought the meeting back to order, “Well, then. On to more pressing matters,” He stated with a serious tone.

    “My uncle Edgar has informed me that the Illuminati is responsible for the recent attacks. Coupled with the information garnered from Singapore, it's safe to say that Dr. Faustus is a key member of the Illuminati and has ties to Daedalus as well.

    For those who participated in the Singapore reprisal mission, I also have reports from Dr. Severus concerning a bounty of information obtained from Venka's recovery of a flash drive with Daedalus network information on it,” He paused momentarily to give a nod towards Venka for her part in this.

    “With that information, we've been able to ascertain that this faction of the Illuminati is working closely with Nidavellir to compromise and perhaps unseal some nexus gates. There are 12 nexus gates locations that we are aware of, leading to a long sealed portal to the realm of chaos. The strength of that portal gate depends on how many of the nexus gates have been unsealed. If all 12 nexus gates that we are aware of have their seals removed, it might possibly allow the strongest creatures of chaos to invade our world through the portal gate. Should that disaster occur, we would need to close the gate from inside the realm of chaos to prevent any invaders from reaching our world.”
     
  6. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 46: The Butterfly Effect

    Everyone who knew anything about the realm of chaos paused with a shudder in their hearts at this revelation. Keija bit her lip thinking about the consequences of such an action, Daniel sucked in his breath having just brushed with a minor chaos leviathan in the astral realm, and Teyna just figured that anything from the realm of chaos wasn't going to be good for the world in general.

    Uzume was the first to pose a question, “If these nexus gates are unsealed, that still doesn't mean the portal to the realm of chaos would be unsealed, though, isn't that correct?”

    “While this is true, it would allow the portal gate to begin drawing spiritual power from each of the nexus gate locations, and weaken any seal that has been placed on it,” Anthony countered with a serious look on his face.

    Keija spoke up at this point as well, “From what the Synod knows of this realm, even should a portal be opened, it's effects cannot be ascertained in advance. There is simply no way of measuring or predicting what effect such an action would have on either realm. It's considered madness to even contemplate opening a portal directly to that realm.”

    The Old Man nodded his head, “The consensus among all Guardian organizations is similar to the Synod's stance on this matter. However, while this potential action may seem madness to us, the Illuminati might have some method to this madness to be able to gain benefit from it.”

    “So what can we do about this that we are not already doing? The Illuminati are most likely already well advanced in their plans, given that they attacked immediately to try and silence Edgar and disrupt our organization,” Lars added to the conversation, “We and all of our branch organizations have responsibility for gates within our ability to protect, but these Nexus gates are something I've just heard about. How are we supposed to protect them from being unsealed?”

    “The nexus gates indeed do not fall under our normal jurisdiction. They are the responsibility of the college of magi, but a lapse on their part for whatever reason, is not justification for us to stand idly by while the world may be put in danger,” The Old Man replied without hesitation, “Additionally, we were targeted by the Illuminati because Edgar uncovered their malicious designs, and that makes it a personal matter to me.”

    Lars had no counterpoint for these stated reasons, and stood down. Being drawn into a conflict due to another organization failing in their duties was not something he could possibly be happy about, but he stifled his anger and would ensure he did his own duty.

    “Just out of curiosity,” Lars stated as he retook his seat, “How did Edgar uncover these plans?”

    The Old Man turned to his uncle, “Edgar? If you would please explain?”

    Edgar stood up, and adjusted his suit and tie before addressing Lars' concerns, and the other agents listened expectantly as well.

    “I was in Singapore for the Mid-Autumn festival, which happened about a week ago, with a group of friends from the college of magi. We had enjoyed a night on the town and were making our way back to our hotel when we stumbled upon a poor soul being mugged in a back alley,” Edgar spoke with a very gentlemanly English accent, with the air of a member of the Explorer's club.

    “Naturally,” He continued to relate the story, embellishing it with drama, “My friends and I couldn't simply stand by as someone was being mugged, and accosted the perpetrator on the spot!”

    Edgar paused for dramatic effect, “Well, one thing led to another, and chaos ensued as my magi friends used some spells to distract and disarm the attacker, but it turns out he had some knowledge of magic himself, and several of my friends and I were seriously injured. In spite of these injuries, we managed to drive the fiend off and were able to speak with the victim of this crime before he succumbed to his own injuries.”

    “So how did you end up here?” Teyna blurted out without regard to her station as a guest.

    Edgar smiled, “Well, my magi friends knew the information this victim had told us was important to the Shadow Hunters, so they located the nearest ley line to create a temporary portal gate and sent me through to warn Anthony, not realizing that my injury was much more serious than I or they realized. It was only after reaching the outer perimeter of the facility, that the young looking spirit over there found and saved me from the brink of death,” He bowed politely towards Keija.

    Lars shook his head, “This all seems a bit too convenient for my taste. Looking at it in hindsight, couldn't this have all been a set up to distract us? Knowing what we know now about Dr. Faustus, and his penchant for manipulating events, it seems very likely we fell prey to an elaborate plot to distract us from their real purpose.”

    “While that may seem plausible to you, Mr. Olson,” Edgar responded with a bit of English pride, “You were not there at the time. I think it very likely that we simply were in the wrong place at the right time. Why would the Illuminati know of my connection to Anthony, or even his connection to the Shadow Hunters? If they did know of such connections, were our own security precautions so loose as to miss their surveillance completely?” Edgar stared directly at Lars with a withering gaze. “No, I think I'd rather give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that we stumbled upon this plot by accident.”

    Uzume intervened diplomatically at this point between the two prideful men, “Perhaps there are some other factors at work which drove this fated encounter? There seems to be more to this situation than meets the eye. As we are all well aware, life is not so simple.”

    Astrid chimed in with her knowledge of chaos theory, "It's the butterfly effect. One small thing leads to another, and another, and sets a chain of events in motion."

    “That is indeed a possibility that I had not considered,” Edgar conceded. Lars nodded as well. Any plot that involved unsealing the gate to the realm of chaos was bound to attract the attention of a myriad of factions. Whether or not Edgar's encounter was pre-determined or by chance was not important at this point in time.

    Anthony Mallory spoke up at this point, to focus everyone back to the tasks at hand, “Our focus needs to be on protecting these nexus gates from being unsealed for the time being. As I've said before, these gates are not normally our responsibility, but the college of magi will need to be informed of what we've discovered if they are to fulfill their own responsibilities. To that end, I'll be heading to London within a few days to press the matter myself. Naturally, I'll want Uzume, Venka and Lars to accompany me. Melissa can handle things here at home while we're away.”

    “What will the new people be doing during this time?” Lars asked for their sake.

    “I'll be discussing that after we're finished here in private with them,” Anthony replied succinctly. Teyna glance at Keija to see if she was aware of any plans, but Keija turned to Daniel and Teyna and shrugged her shoulders, not knowing what to expect from the Old Man at this point.

    The Old Man then paused for any other questions before he continued, “Tomorrow, I want all the after action reports delivered to Richard by noon. Training resumes according to scheduled changes that will be posted by Uzume in the morning. Once I return from London with a plan to coordinate with the college of magi, we'll begin to put pressure on the Illuminati and put an end to their scheme once and for all.”
     
  7. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 47: Making Decisions and Plans

    As the meeting came to a close, and people began to clear out the dinner dishes, the Old Man beckoned Keija, Daniel and Teyna to accompany him to his office.

    As the three young agents entered into Mr. Mallory's office, he gestured for them to take seats and began to speak, “You three are the newest additions to this organization, with Daniel having the most seniority having been with us for almost half a year now. Keija, I know you have been well trained by the Synod, but you still have much to learn from our side as well, and you've only been with us for a couple of weeks now. Teyna. I don't want to pressure you at all, but you will need to decide in the next couple of days what you would like to do. From my point of view, family is very important. And given the hectic pace of what has befallen you in these past few days, I need to ask, if your family is aware of what has happened, or where you are now?”

    Teyna shook her head, “I'm not sure, Mr. Mallory. Everything happened so fast, on a whim, and yet I felt that the decisions I made were necessary at the time. I do know that the police in Singapore were given a missing persons report, but that was before I would have even considered myself to be missing.”

    “I understand this is a delicate matter for you, Ms. Caulfield,” Anthony replied gently, “If you would like, I can make contact with your family through Dr. Severus' connections, and inform them that you are safe. I'm sure they will wish to speak with you and confirm your safety at that time. Shall I go ahead and do this?”

    “I would be grateful, Mr. Mallory,” Teyna spoke while heaving a sigh of relief, “but I have to ask if my family will be safe from Mr. Daedalus and the Illuminati? If they are unaware of the danger....” She trailed off with a very glum look on her face.

    “Well, much of that will depend on how they react upon learning of your situation. We can provide a cover story for you, saying that you were offered a job in the US requiring a bold move on your part, but you would need to convince them of that on your own. We can provide discreet security for them should you decide to stay with us.”

    “As long as I can let them know I'm all right, I'm sure they won't make any fuss,” Teyna assured Mr. Mallory, “And I believe I made my decision to stay once I boarded the airplane back in Singapore. Although I might not know anything about spirits and portal gates, I do understand a bit about how untenable my situation was becoming while working at Daedalus.”

    “Well, then I'll begin to make the arrangements,” Anthony said with pleasant confidence, “Now, as for other matters while I am gone. Since you've decided to join us, Teyna, you'll need testing and training. Keija and Daniel are also in need of opportunities to expand their own training as well.”

    All three of the young agents nodded in agreement, as the Old Man continued, “For the next two days, I want you to observe our agents training some young magi from the college in the new facility. Also I've decided to enroll all three of you in some classes at the local branch of the college of magi as well. You'll be starting there on the day I head for London. It's no accident that we're located so close to Salem. Having our agents able to learn from the college and have their mages attend courses at our training facilities help everyone to do their duties better.”

    “Will we have any opportunities to use the new facilities ourselves before you leave?” Keija inquired, hoping to be able to test her newly forged Bagh Nakh.

    “Of course,” The Old Man chuckled as he sensed Keija's impatience, “Just be aware that some of our guests from the college tend to be a bit zealous when it comes to training time. And one final thing,” He trailed off with dramatic pause, “Don't forget the Lacrosse game for this week is closed rules.”

    Keija stifled a smile when she heard that, and Daniel grumbled a bit. Teyna didn't know what to make of Mr. Mallory's last comment one way or the other. All three acknowledged the Old Man with a “Yes, sir.” in varying degrees of enthusiasm, as they got up to leave.

    Before they left the room, Edgar arrived to discuss some matters, “Oh?” He apologized for barging in unannounced, “I do hope I'm not interrupting. I'll wait outside if you aren't finished?”

    The Old Man replied hurriedly, “Oh no need, Edgar. We just finished our conversation. I do wish to discuss some matters with you in private though.”

    Keija momentarily felt the urge to eavesdrop on such a conversation, but quickly quashed that inclination given a momentary surge of ki pressure that practically pushed the three young ones out of the room.

    “Well, I guess it's time to check out the new schedule for tomorrow's training,” Keija was torn between being excited to get back to training and missing out on any juicy gossip that Edgar might have for his nephew.

    Daniel chuckled as he looked at Keija's indecisive stance, knowing her curiosity was burning with repressed intent, “Don't even try it, Elfy.” He warned with a concerned look on his face, “Everyone knows the Old Man values his privacy. Don't even think to breech his trust if you value our existence.”

    “I wasn't thinking of that!” Keija said in embarrassment for her earlier inclination, “I wouldn't dare to spy on the Old Man!” She said confidently, even if she knew she would in a moment if she thought she could get away with it.

    And with the sudden realization that Daniel had called her 'elfy' she stomped on his foot and yelled, “Don't call me that!” and stormed away to her room, leaving Teyna bewildered at her reaction and Daniel nursing his bruised foot.

    Edgar opened the door from the office to peak out and inquire, “Is something the matter?”

    Daniel put one hand up and merely said, “Guilty!” as he grimaced in pain. Teyna looked at Edgar and shrugged her shoulders, “I'm new here. I think I'll just be going now,” as she turned and headed towards towards her own room.

    Keija, with her natural speed, reached her room within moments and slammed her door shut with a loud thud.
     
  8. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 48: Reflections, Apologies and Hope

    'Ooooh! That Daniel really knows how to piss me off!' She thought to herself with furious emotions raging within her.

    Her Eidos was rapidly destabilizing and she knew that if she didn't concentrate on her integration, she would not have a stable foundation moving forward with upcoming training. She had only recently broken through to the fourth level of spiritual strength, and so her foundation was still being formed for this level. Daniel's distracting and typical teasing was becoming increasingly a disturbance for her development.

    In a brief moment of clarity, she asked herself why she was allowing herself to become so affected by Daniel. His recent civility and manner had become much more attractive, but yet he still managed to slip into his old ways at the worst possible times.

    She began to realize that his presence and behavior were unconsciously being integrated into her eidos as well. He was fast becoming a part of her everyday life, and that thought both horrified and attracted her, as if a moth to a flame.

    Keija slumped against the door, and stared into the mirror on her wall once again, noting the Swartalfheimer staring back at her was looking rather confused at the moment. Besides her confusion with Daniel, she had really wanted to spy on the Old Man as well, but she also felt a kinship with him and these Shadow Hunters.

    She had her duties to the Synod, but this was merely a petty inclination towards getting some gossip. She needed to calm down, and focus on her priorities, and quell her natural instincts to cause trouble with her allies. She concentrated intently on stabilizing her eidos, and slowly, but steadily pushed the confusion from her mind. Daniel was a human and could change his outlook on a whim and adapt to circumstances easily, whereas she was a spirit who did not adapt to changes quite so easily.

    This was a weakness on her part, and she began to focus on this aspect of her nature, forcing herself through sheer willpower to work on adapting to changing circumstances as a new ability.

    After about half an hour passed of this forced eidos revision, Keija was beginning to calm down and feel some progress. The sudden knock at the door was another changing circumstance, but she had been forcing her eidos through all sorts of changing simulations for the past twenty minutes, and so she wasn't startled at all.

    A contrite voice sounded on the other side of the door, “I want to apologize Keija, if you don't want to talk, I'll understand,” Daniel's voice seemed a bit hesitant.

    Keija ended her eidos integration for the time being, and spoke up, “Come in. I need to apologize a bit myself.”

    Daniel opened the door and noticed Keija sitting on her bed, but looking a lot calmer than she did before, “I want to apologize for saying that word,” He sounded sincere as he finished awkwardly, “I know you don't like it, but it just came out of my mouth from habit.”

    “You're damn right I don't like it,” Keija responded harshly, but quickly relented as well, “You need to understand that I'm not able to change my outlook as easily as humans do. My eidos isn't able to dynamically change on the spur of the moment like yours seem to do. Our past encounters are not easily overlooked, and my initial perceptions, even if they turn out wrong, are not easily altered.”

    Daniel leaned against the wall, and sighed as he replied, “I know all this in my head, but habits aren't so easily changed in humans either. I knew the moment I said that, that you'd react in such a manner, but it still came out regardless of my intent. The 'unforeseen consequences' of human actions, that you like to mention a lot, don't seem to register with many of us when we act on impulse it seems.”

    Keija took a moment to consider that being slow to change one's outlook could be seen as advantageous to someone who often acted on impulse. Steady deliberation held many advantages over impulsive action, but both were necessary according to changing circumstances. It was in this realization, that Keija knew she had much to work on.

    “I need to apologize for injuring your foot as well,” Keija said as she hung her head low and turned her eyes toward the ground, “I can summon a healing wisp that will help, if you'll allow it.” She finished trying to make amends.

    “Yeah, that would be helpful,” Daniel agreed as he wiggled his bruised foot.

    Just as Keija was beginning to summon the wisp, another knock sounded on the door, and Teyna's voice could be heard on the other side, “Is everything ok? You took off like a bat out of hell back there. I just wanted to check up and see if everything was alright.”

    Keija smiled and spoke up loudly, “Come on in, Teyna, Daniel and I were just discussing what happened.”

    “Oh?” Teyna replied curiously as she opened the door and entered in the room seeing Daniel sitting in a chair with his leg extended and Keija holding his foot, “I'm not interrupting anything personal, am I?” She said with a hint of sarcasm.

    “Should it be more personal?” Daniel replied wryly.

    Keija groaned, but continued to summon her healing wisp. Teyna watched in fascination as an orb of emerald green energy began to appear and solidify in Keija's palm. The wisp then began to hover over Daniel's foot, imparting it's energy to help speed the body's natural healing process.

    “Am I watching this for real?” Teyna wondered out loud.

    Keija grinned at her with a flash of indigo in her eyes, “Welcome to the secret world, Teyna. You'll probably be learning something like this soon enough on your own.”

    “I wonder if it's even possible. My aptitude apparently is high enough to perceive these things, but I still know nothing about my spiritual strength or how to utilize it.”

    “We'll find out soon enough. I can set up a test with Richard Lowen for you.”

    “The wet rag in the library?” Teyna recalled her meeting with him earlier.

    “Yeah, that's the guy.” Keija confirmed while Daniel chuckled at the description.

    “Sit still!” Keija insisted as Daniel winced from misdirected energy from her wisp.

    “Yes, ma'am,” Daniel replied with mocking obedience.

    “Well, you seem to be fine now,” Teyna assured herself at Keija's condition, “If you need anything, don't hesitate to call me. I'm just two doors down now!”


    “Thanks Teyna, I'll see you in the morning,” Keija responded with a smile as she continued to direct healing energies from the wisp into Daniel's foot.

    Daniel turned to Keija after Teyna left, “You've made quite the friend, there..” He was about to say 'Elfy' out of habit, but caught himself in time, “Keija.” He finished suavely.

    Keija noticed the distinct pause and congratulated him teasingly, “Caught yourself this time, eh?” She grinned, “Perhaps there's hope for you after all.”
     
  9. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 49: The Morning After

    Daniel shook his head feigning surrender, “Just don't expect me to get it right all of the time. We all make mistakes after all.”

    “Well, it's time for you to go now,” Keija replied matter-of-factly, “The wisp has done what it can, and you'll have to rest in order for the healing to complete.”

    “Awww,” Daniel sounded dejected, “Just when we're starting to figure each other out too.”

    “Plenty of time for that later on,” Keija retorted, getting up and shooing Daniel out the door.

    “I've got a lot of eidos consolidation to do after tonight's hot mess,” She explained as she gently pushed him into the hallway, “And there's tomorrows training to consider as well. Go to sleep!” She commanded.

    “Goodnight, Elfy,” Daniel responded with a teasing smile. Keija couldn't help but fume for a second, but realized he wasn't saying it in a vindictive manner this time. She could feel the intent behind it wasn't as malicious as before and she just shook her head in astonishment that he would be so bold as to test her limits at this point.

    “Whatever,” She huffed and she closed the door in his face, but she turned immediately and leaned against the door smiling in an odd manner.

    “Lots of work to do tonight,” she reminded herself after a moment. She lay down on her bed and began to concentrate once again on integrating her eidos with all of these new revelations.

    The next day began early, and Keija finished her long and exhausting integration with a new appreciation for Daniel and Teyna. Humans were definitely worthy of studying due to their ability to adapt to change so quickly.

    She noticed the day's training schedule had been slipped under her door, and she went to pick it up, noting the time that the college of magi students would arrive at the training site entrance, and also when the Lacrosse game for the week would happen later in the afternoon.

    Feeling quite hungry and thirsty after her integration ordeal, Keija headed to the dining facility for breakfast, and met up with Astrid and Melissa along the way.

    “Good morning, Keija!” Melissa smiled brightly having had a good night's rest. Astrid waved in greeting as well as the three met up in the hallway.

    Keija felt a bit like a hungover squirrel from her integration, and being in her human guise replied as if she were bleary eyed and bushy tongued, “Good morning,” She replied in monotone.

    “Shall we grab Teyna and make a foursome for breakfast?” Astrid asked straight away.

    “The more the merrier!” Melissa agreed in spite of Keija's obvious state of dishevelment.

    Keija groaned a bit, but was willing to accommodate Teyna joining them for the morning meal.

    “Hard night?” Melissa finally decided to break the ice as they knocked on Teyna's door.

    “Indeed,” Keija replied with a bit of hesitation, “I'm still recovering from consolidating my eidos with everything that happened last night.”

    “Did it somehow involve Daniel?” Astrid coolly remarked rhetorically, noting Keija's implied agreement when she observed a small nod of the head.

    “Send him to me, next time, Keija, and I'll set him straight,” Astrid encouraged her.

    “I think we settled things for the time being,” Keija replied, “But thanks for the offer! I'll keep it in mind for next time.”

    Teyna finally opened the door after a few more knocks, and groaned. She looked a bit worse for wear than Keija, and Melissa grinned at her, “Jet lag?”

    “Jet lag,” Teyna groaned again.

    “Sorry, we can't let you get back to sleep. After a hard day's training you'll be acclimated to the new time zone, so it's better to get it over with quickly in one day, than to let it linger,” Melissa pulled Teyna out of her room. She took one look at Teyna in her pajamas and pushed her back in the room, “Time to get dressed, sleepyhead.”

    “Noooooooooo!” Teyna mumbled in weak protest.

    Melissa, Astrid and Keija all combined to overcome Teyna's weak resistance to getting dressed and eventually the four of them continued down the hallway to the dining room, where a buffet style breakfast awaited them. Keija, Melissa and Astrid all loaded up their plates with all sorts of different fruits and breakfast staples, and sat down to eat quickly. Teyna was still figuring out what looked good to eat and settled on a some scrambled eggs, toast, bacon and some coffee.

    “Did you take a look at the training schedule, Teyna?” Keija said as she pushed her copy in front of the sleepyhead's face as Teyna took a big cup of coffee from her tray and began to gulp it.

    Teyna grabbed the schedule and looked it over, “This seems a lot better than typing reports into a computer all day.”

    “We have to meet the incoming students from the College of Magi right after breakfast, so hurry up and eat!” Keija pointed out the time on the clock hanging on the wall nearby.

    “Oh? You're right. Daniel is supposed to meet up with us as well. Seems like these college students will be in the same classes we're transferring into soon.” Teyna was slowly beginning to become alert after drinking the coffee.

    “You finish up breakfast. I'm going to the armory to check out my Bagh Nakh and meet you back here. I want to get those runes powered up by the time we're ready to run some tactical lanes.”

    Before Teyna could respond, Keija has disappeared in a flash, and Teyna just looked at both Melissa and Astrid to see their reaction to Keija's speed. Both of the veteran agents simply smiled at Teyna, and Melissa said, “She'll be back by the time you finish your coffee, so you'd better eat quickly.”

    Sure enough, as soon as Teyna finished her eggs, and reached to finish off her coffee, Keija had returned with the Bagh Nakh carrying case in hand.

    “Have you seen these beauties?” Keija said excitedly to Melissa and Astrid, “Teyna and I got a peek at them yesterday, but today I'm gonna start to work them in!”

    “I'm sure we'll see you with them in action soon enough, Now get going! The bus is about to arrive according to the schedule!” Melissa retorted.

    Keija nodded and grabbed Teyna by the arm, as Melissa and Astrid continued to enjoy a more relaxed breakfast, since their scheduled training didn't start until much later. Heading out of the main building they dashed (at a speed that Teyna could handle) towards the entrance to the newly opened underground training facility.
     
  10. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 50: Pompous and Ceremony

    Lars and his combat team were assembled to greet the college students when they arrived, while Keija and Teyna impatiently awaited the arrival of Daniel, who was notorious (according to Keija) for arriving 'fashionably late' to most training functions.

    The bus appeared around a curve in the road only several minutes after Keija and Teyna had recovered from their dash, and as the bus approached, Daniel appeared meandering across the Lacrosse field to arrive simultaneously with the bus.

    “Cutting it a bit close, Daniel?” Teyna asked pointedly, as she began to understand why Keija was always exasperated by his behavior.

    “Hey! I'm not even late,” He shot back with his usual flippancy, “And I have an excuse since my foot is still on the mend.”

    “Fine!” Keija interceded on Teyna's behalf, shielding her from Daniel's usual abrasive behavior. The three of them got a very glowering stare from Lars as the bus pulled up, and the three young agents all straightened their backs, and stood at attention as the students from the College of Magi emerged from the bus. Keija noticed that the first one off the bus had their aura of an instructor, and she noted that he was a rather wiry middle aged man with bifocal glasses and a scholarly look about him.

    “Professor Halloran!” Lars spoke up with a warm greeting as the Professor stepped to the side and pulled out a notebook. The Professor glanced up as he recognized Lars' voice, and smiled in return, “Ah Mr. Olson! Good of you to meet us. We're looking forward to training with you today.”

    As the students filed off the bus behind the professor, Lars took the opportunity to question the Professor on how many students would be attending today, and if there were any special accommodations that needed to be made for any particular student.

    “This doesn't seem to be our usual meeting place,” Professor Halloran remarked to Lars as he surveyed the surrounding area.

    “Nope. This is a new facility that we're just opening up today, even I haven't been able to take a look at it yet. We're going to have a small ground breaking ceremony with Mr. Mallory before we start the training,” Lars replied.

    A voice from one of the students who had just stepped off the bus sounded off as he overheard Lars' remark, “Isn't that wasting our time?” he sneered arrogantly and looked with indifference towards both the Professor and Mr. Olson.

    “That's enough, Wesley!” the Professor turned towards the student who had embarrassed him with such an outburst, “If you want to remain on the bus Mr. Willoughby, you are more than welcome to fail this portion of your training.”

    The arrogant student named Wesley sneered but remained quiet, but he turned to one of his toady friends, and whispered, “I'd probably still pass this guy's class even if I did nothing today!” He then turned towards Keija, “Who are you? You seem rather freakish,” He said intently as he stared directly at her, noting her unusual aura with his spiritual sense.

    Teyna couldn't believe the words coming out of this guys mouth, and was about to respond back, when Keija held out her hand to stop her, “This coming from a guy named Wesley Willoughby? Now that's a laugh,” She replied with straight laced seriousness. Daniel stifled a laugh, and Teyna smiled as she patted Keija's shoulder.

    Wesley turned beet red and was about to respond with something insulting, when Professor Halloran intervened, “Enough trash talking, Wesley, You are here to train, not make enemies.”

    Wesley turned his head up in disdain, “As if these mere gate guards could teach magicians anything useful.” Several of the mage students nodded their head in agreement with Wesley, but a fair number of them just shook their heads in embarrassment.

    Lars stepped forward to take charge of the situation, “That's what you're here today to find out, Mr. Willoughby, but first we've got a ceremony to attend, and Mr. Mallory dislikes disruptions from guests, so please be on your best behavior. Please, everyone, follow me through the tunnel here, and we'll get started as soon as Mr. Mallory completes his ceremony.”

    Teyna whispered to Keija as the group followed Lars and his team into a tunnel entrance carved out from a small bunker near the Lacrosse field, “The arrogance of these guys make my old boss look humble!”

    “I do hope this Wesley will be in our classes at the college,” Keija smirked in reply as her eyes flashed a deep violet, “I've been wanting to pull off some pranks without restraint lately,” She patted the case containing her Bagh Nakh gently.

    The group continued to follow Lars through the tunnel into a large open area, lit by bright high pressure sodium vapor lamps. The Old Man was there in a nice 3 piece suit with a vest, and Edgar accompanied him along with Uzume, and Venka.

    “Welcome students!” Mr. Mallory called out to the incoming group as they filed into a roped off area with seating arranged for them, “Today is an important day for our organization, in that we are dedicating this new facility and I wanted to impress upon each of you that ceremony is an important part of what both mages and celestial gate guardians do in the course of their duties.”

    “This ceremony will bless the land, align and purify any ley lines and magnify the benefits from using this facility in the course of your training, so please bear with us, as we begin with prayer and a time of silent reflection.”

    The gathered people bent their heads in prayer, and even Wesley and his clique of toady sycophants could feel the spiritual pressure being exerted by the one called Anthony Mallory and dared not cause a disturbance. If he considered Keija freakish for her strange spiritual aura, Mr. Mallory could be considered a leviathan in this regard.

    In addition, the number of participants gathered around him were also exerting immense spiritual pressure as well. All of the mages felt the power immersed throughout the facility, and those that felt inclined to lend their own strength to the ceremony did so during this time.

    After the period of silent prayer and reflection was completed, Mr. Mallory introduced several priests of various religious traditions, shamans and others considered wise in the manner of blessings to conduct their own ceremonies in turn. The overall ceremony was simple and to the point, and everyone felt the blessings and synergy of the myriad prayers that were invoked for the benefit of the people and this facility.

    “And with that final blessing, our newly dedicated facility is now open for use! I hope all of you benefit from today's training, and as a final point, I'd like to thank all those who made this new facility a reality. A special thanks to Samuel Golding, and Richard Lowen, as well as my good friends gathered today for making this all possible,” Mr. Mallory finished the dedication and cut the ribbon to officially open the training ground for use.
     
  11. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 51: A Morning of Training at the New Facility

    The students all clapped politely as the primary participants in the ceremony began to meander back through the tunnel for a bit of tea and cake back in the main building.

    Lars took charge of the students and divded the mages by their class standing. Keija, Teyna and Daniel were asked by Lars to observe the students for now, since the training was not something Teyna could accomplish yet, but rather magic and counter magic training.

    Teyna, for her part, was extremely interested in observing how the student mages evoked their spells and also was interested in how they were to be countered, so this training was fascinating for her.

    Keija, and Daniel, on the other hand, were much more familiar with this type of training and observed in a much more casual manner.

    The underground facility was designed to buffer the effects of magic training from leaking into the surface and inadvertently altering the ley lines that crisscrossed the Shadow Hunter's compound. Although magical arrays helped in this regard, using the natural ability of the earth to ground these effects in a manner akin to lightning went a long way in reducing the spiritual energy costs of maintaining the arrays .

    By it's very nature magic was a phenomenon that exhibited an anti-entropy effect. The residual effects of spiritual energy in a location that was warped by the use of magic tended to be disruptive and corrupting if the spells were done haphazardly or in rapid succession. Thus the facility was designed in such a way to mitigate these side effects and dissipate them harmlessly.

    After each class was separated into their groups, each group was further divided into 3 person teams. The roles of each team were scout, attacker and defender.

    Lars explained that two randomly selected teams would face off against each other in a capture-the-flag style mock battle. Magic use was to be limited to class 2 non-lethal spells, in both offensive and defensive categories. In all, there were four teams per class, and three classes, so twelve teams would be facing off against each other.

    The champions from each class would then do a round-robin style tournament to determine an overall victor.

    Lars turned towards Keija, Teyna and Daniel next to explain what they were expected to accomplish and learn from observing, “Teyna, I'd like for you to concentrate on perceiving the magic use, and refining your spiritual aptitude to improve your sense of spiritual strength and effects. You can accompany Daniel or Keija as they monitor the students as well."

    Lars explained that Mr. Mallory wanted her to develop a better sense of her surroundings, and improve her spiritual awareness.

    He then turned towards the other two and continued, “Keija and Daniel, I want you to monitor the students, and generally be on the lookout for safety issues. I don't want anyone to test the failsafes built into the facility today, so ensure the students don't get too embroiled in their contest that they forget themselves. My team will also be patrolling the area, not only to familiarize ourselves with the facility, but to keep things running smoothly as well. Samuel will be in the operations room, adding environmental hazards and obstacles from time to time during each contest, so be aware of your own positioning as well.”

    The first two student teams were picked, and began to take their positions. Each flag was located on the opposite side the facility, and the terrain in between them consisted of a myriad maze of passages and dead ends, with observation posts scatted throughout the area, connected by suspension bridges so that safety personal could monitor the ongoing training.

    ********

    Emily Danforth was a young, aspiring mage of the prestigious Danforth family. Her mother, and grandmother before her were excellent mages who had a long and storied history among the alumni at the Salem branch of the college. The Danforth family were quite honorable, and Emily was no different in that regard. She was one of the mages who had earlier shaken their heads in embarrassment over Wesley Willoughby's arrogant words when they had first gotten off the bus.

    Along with Emily, were her two friends, Jonathan Clarke and Amelia Harrington. They had formed a team within their class, because they were quite familiar and worked well with each other over the many months they had studied magic together.

    The opposing student team for this first contest included two of Wesley's toady friends, and another mage, Elliott Mathers, who sympathized more with Emily's honor, but couldn't find a team in time before the two in Wesley's camp had grabbed him to complete their own team.

    Jerome Parker (One of Wesley's toady friends) turned towards Elliott with a serious look on his face, “Elliott, I know you like Emily, but you have got to uphold your end in this contest. We can't slack off because you like someone on the opposing team!”

    “Right, right,” Elliott murmured even though his heart wasn't in it. Still, for his own personal honor, he had to do his best for the team he was assigned.

    “Don't worry, Elliott,” Marcus Faber spoke up as well, “Jerome and I can do an awesome scout/attack, as long as you defend the flag, we should win this contest.”

    “I'll do my best,” Elliott replied with a tinge of hesitation.

    Emily's team moved out first, with Jonathan scouting with a scrying spell and supporting team communication with telepathy, and Amelia acting as the attacker. She cloaked herself with a spell called “Mind cloud”. This spell gave the person affected an aura which would cause others around them to be distracted easily and be unable to concentrate.

    This was an unusual choice, because most people in this situation would use stealth field and concealment spells to hide their advance. Unlike concealment spells, "Mind Cloud" operated a little differently. To observers from a distance, they wouldn't be affected, but opponents within spell range would find almost anything else around them more interesting than the person affected by this spell. Emily had suggested this to Amelia and Amelia agreed it would be worth the attempt to test it's effectiveness.

    Emily herself began to create a small, but easily constructed array of wards to prevent the opposing team from capturing their flag. She had figured on about 10 minutes to complete the array, and hoped that Amelia's “Mind Cloud” would also assist in this regard as well as act as an effective cloak for her own actions.

    Each of the spells that Emily's team cast were extremely efficient and did not take much spiritual strength to activate, but the defensive array would be a constant drain on Emily's spiritual power once she finally activated the wards. So until the opposing team was in danger of capturing the flag, she would simply channel successively stronger amounts of spiritual strength into the inactive wards to make their effect stronger once triggered.

    The plan was to rest a few minutes in between each ward strengthening, and query Jonathan for any updates from his scrying until the defensive array was completed, then trigger the array when the opposing attacker was in range of the trap. Amelia would delay her own advance until Jonathan's scrying revealed the best plan which he could telepathically imprint in Amelia's mind, as soon as she received the imprint, she would rapidly close on the target and capture the flag.

    Jerome and Marcus, on their end, cast “Sense Life” and “Map Terrain” on themselves and each other.

    This would be a constant drain of spiritual energy, but it gave them the immediate advantage of a kind of mental tactical map, giving away the positions of everyone in the vicinity as well as giving the scout and attacker a sense of the terrain to avoid dead ends within the maze of passages and pick the most direct route to the opposing team's flag.

    Elliott, as defender, cast numerous illusory flag around the area to create a confusing amount of choices for any attacker. The illusions cast did not require a constant drain of spiritual strength to maintain, but would fade after about 30 minutes, which was more than enough time to finish the battle with their current plans.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2017
  12. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 52: Mage Training

    The two teams set their plans in motion as the signal to start the contest was given, and Marcus and Jerome immediately cast their spells on each other and began to wind their way through the maze of passages towards Emily and her team's flag.

    Jonathan's decided to focus his scrying on the opposing team captain, Jerome Parker, and found that they were already swiftly moving through the passages with great accuracy missing most dead ends, he quickly relayed a telepathic message to Emily and Amelia they had to adjust their initial plan, and delay the advance of this rapid advance tactic.

    Amelia continued casting her “Mind Cloud” and waited in a choke point which limited access to their own flag. If the two opposing attackers were to be affected by her spell, it would allow Emily the time needed to finish her defensive array and trigger the trap. It seemed as if they had to delay their own attack to counter this rapid advance first.

    As Marcus and Jerome neared the choke point, Amelia infused her spell with additional spiritual energy, to increase the effect of “Mind Cloud”. Jonathan gave her information as he saw their own position through Jerome's viewpoint and as he finished the imprint of information telepathically, he switched his scrying to focus on the opposing team's flag.

    Amelia's spell began to effect the opposing team's attackers a mere five minutes after the contest began. She needed to delay and confuse the two attackers until Emily had time to active the array, that meant she had to buy five minutes of time against two opponents.

    She decided to attempt to charm the attackers, and cast a quick illusion on herself, while maintaining the mind cloud spell. The two spells worked in synergy to lower their mental defenses and persuade the affected persons that the caster was their best friend ever.

    As Jerome and Wesley approached Amelia to within recognition range, the two attackers slowed down to a walk and began to stare in amazement that their best friend ever was standing before them.

    “Hey, is that you Amelia?” Jerome stood still and gaped at his best friend ever.

    “Is that Amelia? What are you doing in this place?” Marcus echoed as he lost track of what he was doing.

    Amelia nodded in satisfaction that her spells had proven effective, and she laid on her charms thick and heavy against the two infatuated boys.

    “Oh me? I was just passing through, but now that you are here, I could really use an escort.”

    The two replied almost simultaneously, “Where can we take you?”

    “Oh, just back to where you started would be just fine,” Amelia smiled with sparkle in her eyes.

    Jerome turned to Marcus, “What are we doing here? Didn't we have something to accomplish?”

    Marcus nodded, “I think so, but I can't remember at the moment. Perhaps we can take Amelia to where she wants to go first, and then finish whatever we were supposed to do?”

    “Sounds good to me. Anything to help my dear friend, Amelia!” Jerome agreed.

    Amelia smiled graciously, and added, “Really, there is no hurry at the moment, we can take a nice leisurely stroll, and examine the passages for any paintings, or historical markings as we head back.”

    The easily distracted, confused and charmed students were like putty in Amelia's hand as she walked leisurely with them back towards their original starting point, asking which passage was best at every intersection. When Emily heard from Jonathan what exactly Amelia had done, she couldn't help but laugh and put extra effort into finishing her defensive array.

    As they walked, Amelia constantly asked how close they were to their starting point, and when she was close enough to find her way without help, but still far enough away to avoid detection from Elliott, she released the two attackers and told them they should head back to what they were doing and that she'd be fine from here on out.

    She did this to prevent Elliott from breaking her charm and having her face three opponents when she attempted to capture the flag. She had brilliantly bought Emily enough time to spring her own trap, and she could afford to wait a minute or two for Marcus and Jerome to get out of her area on their own mission before she had to face down the lone defender.

    Marcus and Jerome waved goodbye and felt relieved that they could assist their best friend ever in getting to her destination when they turned to resume their mission.

    “What were we doing again?” Jerome asked Marcus as they walked back towards Emily's position.

    “I think we were looking for something. Let's keep going down this passage for now,” Marcus replied.

    Slowly, the effects of the charm and mind cloud spells began to fade as the distance from Amelia grew longer, until Marcus and Jerome were once again concentrating and remembered they were attacking the opposing team's flag.

    “Wait a second!” Marcus exclaimed after a few minutes, suddenly made the connection between Amelia and their mission.

    “She charmed us!” Jerome yelled out startled.

    “Should we go back and assist Elliott?” Marcus asked quickly.

    “We don't have time, she's probably already charmed him as well. We need to concentrate on capturing the flag before she has Elliott dismantle his illusions!” Jerome explained as he broke into a sprint.

    “Crap!” Marcus replied.

    Amelia had waited two minutes after Marcus and Jerome turned the corner down the far passageway before turning her attention towards the flag chamber and Elliott. Her mind cloud was still effective, but her charm spell had faded.

    She approached the flag chamber, but was stunned to see hundreds of flags protruding from the ground and walls. Obviously this was an illusion, but she couldn't determine which flag was which without breaking the illusion.

    But the only way to break the illusion was to first drop the “Mind Cloud” spell to allow her enough spiritual strength to cast counter magic. Amelia decided it was riskier to drop the “Mind Cloud” and so maintained it as she searched the flag chamber for wherever Elliott was hiding in wait.

    Elliott initially noticed Amelia, but as she drew closer he suddenly felt the effects of her “Mind Cloud” spell and began to be distracted.

    Jonathan was finished focusing his scry on the flag, and could view Emily from the vantage point of the flag, after rotating his view 360 degrees. He sent a telepathic message to Emily that he had her in sight from the flag's vantage point, when he suddenly had to shift his attention to the arrival of Marcus and Jerome in his own flag chamber.

    Emily also noticed this and asked Jonathan to retreat to safety behind the array, while she triggered the wards and concentrated on maintaining her spiritual strength flowing into the wards. Jerome and Marcus swore softly as they perceived the defensive array springing into action, and jumped back to prevent being adversely affected.

    Back at the other flag chamber, Elliott was wary of Amelia's distance, as his spiritual perception was a bit higher than either Jerome or Marcus', he innately understood there was some sort of mind energy spell surrounding Amelia.

    He cast a spell “Cloud of darkness” on the chamber and plunged it into a thick obscuring smoky haze. The flag illusions still had about 15 minutes left before they dispersed, so he wasn't concerned about that, but what he was concerned about were any telepathic links, mind controlling or charm spells, and information gathering spells. No one really had an effective counter spell learned at this point in their studies, but they could weaken the effects of certain spells they knew about.

    If Amelia was attempting to scry the true flag's location, or have someone else scry for it and communicate that information, Elliott would have to resort to a sleep spell to try and overcome Amelia's spiritual strength.

    Once Amelia heard Jonathan re-establish his telepathic link and gave Amelia “hot” and “cold” directions as he could calculate the distance between the flag's scrying origin and Amelia's telepathic imprint, even through the haze of “Cloud of Darkness”.

    He kept relaying this “hot” and “cold” information until she closed in on the actual flag's location. Elliotts fears were realized and he burst forth from his hiding place to cast sleep on Amelia, but suddenly got distracted by Amelia's “Mind Cloud” and shifted his focus on the flag illusion.

    His distraction was only momentary, but before he could complete his sleep spell, the siren went off as Amelia took Team Jerome's flag, and ended the contest.
     
  13. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 53: Morning Training Concludes

    “Nice going, Amelia,” Elliott offered his congratulations, “I didn't expect Mind Cloud, and that telepathy and scrying combo between your teammates was a great counter to my own Cloud of Darkness. If I hadn't been distracted for that split second....”

    “You weren't so bad yourself Elliott, you put up a very creative defense, and your teammates really put the squeeze on us with that rush for our flag. How did they navigate the maze so quickly?” Amelia asked as she finished complimenting Elliott as well.

    “Life Sense and Map Terrain,” Elliott explained.

    “Wow, great combo, too bad I had Mind Cloud picked out. It really is quite a useful spell,” She smiled as she acknowledged the opposing team's tactics.

    Jerome and Marcus cursed silently as they heard the Siren go off as well, and Emily and Jonathan released their spells and the array powered down.

    “Telepathy?” Jerome asked Emily, and she pointed to Jonathan. “He's the expert for that spell. You should have realized we'd have good communication and be able to react swiftly.”

    “We would have had you except Amelia caught us with a charm spell of some sort.”

    “Mind Cloud,” Emily replied, “And then probably some charm illusion to magnify it's effects.”

    “That spell is really useful. I'll need to study it more!”

    As the students continued to debate their tactics, Keija and Teyna also debated the event as they finished observing from the central tower.

    Daniel had gone off by his own towards the flag chamber defended by Elliott and watched first hand the amazing defense and even more amazing counter that Amelia's team was able to pull off to take the flag. He returned to the central tower via the suspension bridge and related the contest to the others.

    The next few battles seemed to be more cautious and drawn out affairs. The various students creatively used rank 2 or lower spells in very unusual ways to achieve victory or deny seemingly forgone outcomes to turn the tables on their opponents.

    Wesley's team was seemingly sure to lose to a rapidly advancing opposing team when their turn came to contest the flags, but pulled out a long slogging victory, after Wesley managed to sleep the opposing team's attacker just before he snatched their flag. Elliott mumbled to himself from the spectator area, “Same situation I was in, but a different result due to spell choices.”

    Teyna was simply amazed watching all the various contests and the myriad of low levels spells cast along with their effects. Keija noticed her fascination with these spells, and encouraged her with the knowledge that her spiritual aptitude was considered good for most people.

    “You'll probably be able to learn some of these spells, if we do well in our classes at the college,” Keija finished with a smile.

    “Stop me before I ever get to be as arrogant as that Willoughby kid though,” Teyna replied seriously. She well knew that power corrupted, and she didn't want to end up like Edward Daedalus: cold, ruthless and arrogant.

    Daniel also encouraged her and added, “I'll keep you in check as well. As long as you help me keep Keija in check,” He winked.

    Keija turned to Daniel and snorted, “You're the one that both Teyna and I need to keep in check!”

    The three of them turned towards each other and gave wry smiles of agreement.

    “We should all put a check on Wesley when we're attending classes,” Teyna added.

    The morning's training with the college of magi students ended with Keija and Daniel writing up after action reviews on a laptop computer, of what they had observed, so that Professor Halloran and Lars could give a thorough lecture to each of the participants after all the contests were completed.

    Keija gave Teyna a copy of all her reports so she could study them. Even if she didn't understand magic at the time, she could learn the tactics employed by magicians to effect and counter-effect spells in given situations.

    Teyna had learned a lot about the secret world that day, and her interest was piqued tremendously by that training in the underground facility. She started to imagine herself at the college taking classes, and Keija and Daniel had to help keep her focused on the present.

    After the final review lectures were completed, Sam Golding issued an announcement that the facility would be closed for a maintenance period, and the students were led to the exit tunnel by Professor Halloran and Lars.

    Lars turned to Keija and reminded her about the Lacrosse game later in the afternoon, “Closed rules, lucky for you!” He winked.

    Keija was more interested in getting some integration completed before the game began than much of anything else, but Daniel and Teyna wanted to get a head start on finding out more about the college of magi.

    After heading to the library with the others, Keija groaned when she learned more about the college, “I have no integration in that place, and I'm going to be very susceptible to spirit binding and compulsions if they find out about my nature. I'm going to have to research methods of protecting my eidos beyond integration,” she finished with a sigh.

    “Most of those mage students seemed quite polite and studious,” Tenya replied, “But that Wesley fellow was definitely an arrogant prick, though even he seemed proficient during his contest at the underground facility. He and his friends will be the ones to watch out for. If there is anything I can do to help you, just let me know!”

    Daniel also offered his assistance, even if Keija had trouble trusting him or his motives. “At the very least you can ask Richard for his advice in such a matter. Beyond that, I can act as a conduit for spiritual energy between here and the college using the astral realm, so that might be helpful as well.”

    Keija nodded to Daniel, acknowledging that his ideas were potentially helpful in preventing a compulsion, but to counter spirit binding she would need to carry a ward that would constantly drain a portion of her spiritual strength. Normally, this wasn't an issue because of her deepening integration with her location, but the college would be a new place for her, and she would be vulnerable until she could establish an effective connection to the college.

    “If that's the case,” Daniel replied with a knowing look, “Then why don't we take a trip to Salem tonight, and let you begin your integration before our classes begin?”

    Teyna jumped up in agreement with this idea, and exclaimed, “Of course, That's the answer! Get your integration going before we have to deal with the students!”

    Richard Lowen stuck his head out of his office, and gave Teyna a withering glance, as he pointed to the sign which read, 'Please don't make disturbances in the Library.” Teyna blushed a deep red and quickly sat down with a bit of embarrassment on her face.

    “That guy never leaves the library, does he?” She whispered to Daniel and Keija.

    “Not often enough,” Daniel whispered back.
     
  14. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 54: Learning the Game Redux

    After several hours of studying spirit defense and the history of the college of magi in the library, the time for the Lacrosse game arrived, and the three young agents left the building and headed for the practice field.

    Most of the agents who had been in Singapore were already suited up and warming up their muscles with practice drills as Keija and Teyna went to the women's locker room, and Daniel headed for the men's side.

    “We need to find a practice uniform and gear for you,” Keija informed Teyna.

    “What?” Teyna replied, “Can't I just observe for today? I'm still suffering jet lag!”

    “That'll be up to whoever turns out to be your team captain,” Keija replied. “You still need to suit up, just in case, and if nothing else, it will help familiarize yourself with the equipment.”

    “How can you expect someone to play who doesn't even know the game?” Teyna retorted, “I'm not that athletic, and I have never even seen a lacrosse game in my life!”

    “Hehehe,” Keija giggled, “You're using almost the same argument that I used when I first arrived, but they didn't believe me about my lack of athleticism.”

    “What? So you were just thrown into a game as well?” Teyna asked incredulously.

    Keija nodded, as she turned towards the equipment closet to pick out a mid-fielder's equipment based on her knowledge of Teyna's size and build. “Mid-fielders do a lot of running, so that position will probably best for you to build up endurance,” she recommended. “You don't have to be a great player, but you do need to be in shape for what we do in the course of our duties. Lacrosse helps us to keep fit, and helps to build teamwork.”

    As Teyna began trying on the various uniforms for her best fit, Keija picked out the helmet, glove, pads and mid-fielder's stick. Unlike most female lacrosse players, the Shadow Hunters used all Men's equipment, because the invaders from the secret world did not discriminate in their carnage on the basis of gender, and the games were played co-ed with no slacking off in regard to playstyle.

    “If you do take the field today, be prepared for serious bruising, but know that most injuries get healed by Uzume and myself after practice, so it might hurt for a while, but it won't result in any long term damage,” Keija warned her in advance.

    “Good grief,” Teyna muttered as she shook her head in astonishment, “I'm to be beaten on my first day with you guys?”

    “Consider it a wake up call for joining the secret world. Don't worry, there is no hazing for people new to the organization, but they don't cut you slack for being unprepared either,” Keija said with a knowing look, “At least today is closed rules, so you won't have to deal with anyone's spiritual abilities.”

    “Closed rules?” Teyna looked a bit confused by Keija's remark.

    “The Old Man has us alternately training one week with spiritual abilities being used, and another week with no spiritual abilities permitted, beyond what is intrinsic to one's nature.”

    “What's that supposed to mean?” Teyna continued to look confused.

    “It means that people can shapeshift, spirit bind, transform into werewolves, or cast magic or wards during games where such abilities are allowed. During closed rules games, you just play lacrosse with your own natural athletic ability.”

    “Thank God it's closed rules then,” Teyna sounded greatly relieved.

    “Uzume and I have a great advantage in closed rules games due to our natural agility,” Keija said with a wide grin, “Hopefully you'll be able to improve your own abilities with practice over time.”

    “I guess I'll learn the game soon enough,” Teyna said without any knowledge of what to expect beyond being bruised, as she finished trying on a uniform that fit her well.

    Keija turned to Teyna with her hands full of equipment, and instructed her in how to fasten the pads and wear the helmet and gloves, and how to 'cradle,' which is how players protected the ball from opponents while carrying it in their lacrosse sticks.

    Teyna took these quick lessons in stride, and then followed Keija out of the locker room to join the others in warming up for the practice game. Daniel emerged from the Men's side soon after and joined the warm up as well. The scrimmage game began after deciding teams.

    Uzume and Lars were the team captains for today, and Teyna ended up on Uzume's team opposite Keija and Daniel who were selected for Lars' team. It seemed as if Uzume and Keija were never on the same team during closed rules games, since that would have been a huge advantage for any team having both agile spirits when no one else could do anything about their natural speed.

    Uzume had Teyna on the sidelines for the start of the game, to observe the ebb and flow of the game, and to begin to understand it's rules by watching intently. Uzume and Keija were lined up against each other as midfielders, along with several other agents normally assigned to Lars' combat team.

    The attackers and defenders for each team included many of the agents assigned to the Singapore mission as well. Teyna barely recognized some of them due to the equipment and padding, though.

    The game proceeded through the first 15 minute quarter with a score of 2-1 in favor of Uzume's team. Teyna was substituted in for one of the midfielders on Uzume's team in the second quarter, since it was important to improve Teyna's conditioning and that position really did move about the field the most.

    The second quarter had Lars' team take advantage of Teyna's inexperience, and the halftime of the game ended with Lars' team ahead 4-2. Teyna hustled over to the sidelines, looking quite ragged at the start of the halftime rest period.

    “How long does this game go on?” Teyna said to Martin Dubois, in between wheezing breaths.

    “The game lasts an hour, divided into 2 fifteen minute quarters for each half,” He replied with a consoling look on his face, “How are you holding up?”

    “I've never run so much in 15 minutes in all my life!” She huffed back, her face beneath her helmet glistening with perspiration.

    Martin and the others near him chuckled at that statement, “Everyone here has gone through a similar time their first few games, even if one thought they were conditioned for it. The open rules games push the limits for us all.”

    Lukas added, “You're lucky it's a closed rule day!”
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  15. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 55: Surviving the Game

    Teyna couldn't imagine how she would feel if she was forced into a open rules game. She immediately understood that she needed to get in top physical shape as soon as possible.

    She nodded at Lukas and was able to get out, “Don't I know it!” between deep gulps from a water bottle that Uzume had handed to her.

    As Uzume, Teyna and their teammates began to recover their stamina, they began to make adjustments to their play. On Keija's side, Lars' was giving a nice pep talk and commending their team for pulling ahead after a cold start.

    Lars gave his team some encouraging advice on how to box Uzume and force her to give up the ball whenever she got it, and also offered some advice to Keija on how to anticipate where her teammates would position and where they would pass the ball.

    Between Keija and Uzume, Keija had the advantage of her natural speed in a human form, and while Uzume was also quick, she exceeded more in open rules games when she could assume a hybrid kitsune form. Therefore there was usually a slight advantage for Keija to position herself and make great plays.

    In the first quarter, however, Uzume and her teammates had used a very effective strategy of forcing errors in passing to Keija, and so was able to limit her advantage due to the time she had to adjust. Even as fast as Keija was, it couldn't compare to her use of techniques and spells during open rule games.

    However, in those game she also suffered from spirit bindings and other factors which mitigated her advantages as well.

    In the second quarter of the game, Teyna's inexperience was taken advantage of severely. This was done for two reasons.

    Firstly, Her lack of knowledge of game play and pick setting allowed Lars' team to roll through her area unimpeded.

    Secondly, they forced her to react and move as much as possible to test her endurance and conditioning. This type of on-the-job training during the scrimmage happened to almost every Shadow Hunter in their first games as well.

    As the two teams rested for the allotted half-time period, Teyna glanced over to Keija and Daniel and waved in appreciation of their game play and their stamina. The two agents on Lars' team each gave Teyna a thumbs up in reply.

    Uzume turned to Teyna, “I'll have you sit out the third quarter to recover your endurance, but I will play you for the last quarter, so prepare yourself mentally, and drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated. Pay attention to how we play, and watch for those picks!”

    Teyna nodded, as she sucked down some more water from the bottle, and she was gaining an appreciation of the teamwork necessary for one to succeed in playing this game. Even in her old corporate life, she never felt the sense of teamwork required to make a successful company that she felt in the playing of this game with these players.

    Teyna was suddenly filled with a deep sense of satisfaction, even if she was currently physically exhausted after only fifteen minutes of play.

    In the last quarter, Uzume sent Teyna in against Keija herself. This was hard training for Teyna who hadn't nearly the speed to keep up with Keija, but Teyna did manage to scoop up a forced error pass that found Keija out of position for a mere moment, and she sent it off towards Lukas before Keija checked her crosse.

    Uzume yelled from the sidelines with a congratulatory thumbs up, “You're getting better Teyna!”

    Keija grimaced for anticipating a flawless pass that ended up short and found her too far out of position to stop Teyna's quick defense. Her lack of ability to adjust to rapidly changing conditions was indeed her weakness, even on the field, but her agility could usually make up for it. Not that time.

    “Good play on your part,” Keija grumbled, “and an error in my judgment.”

    Teyna huffed from all the exertion of playing hard the past few minutes, “You've been running me ragged all quarter long! Not to mention that your team is now double ours in points!”

    “Well, we have to welcome you to our team in way you'll never forget,” Keija grinned, her own face wet with perspiration, since she was in human guise.

    “Yeah, yeah,” Teyna stifled her panting for a moment to respond.

    The game ended a few minutes later, with a final score of 10-5, in favor of Lars' team.

    Uzume and the others could confidently point to the 5 points they had in spite of the newcomer's handicap, but they still felt a tinge of disappointment that the score wasn't closer. Nonetheless, they were all part of the same team, so everyone was a good sport about the outcome.

    As all the players left the field for the locker room showers, Keija and Daniel told Teyna to meet up afterwards.

    “Oh, is there more training planned?” Teyna inquired.

    “Not on the schedule,” Keija remarked, “But I haven't had a chance to power up the runes for those Bagh Nakh that Samuel made for me, and we were thinking of checking out the local campus of the college of Magi before classes started so I can begin to integrate there as well. I might be able to do both at the same time, if all goes well.”

    “And you want me to come along, I suppose?” Teyna felt exhausted from the scrimmage, and just wanted to relax after dinner.

    “I do, but if you're exhausted from the game, I won't press it too hard. There shouldn't be anything strenuous, but since there are mages around that campus, I really would like some teammates along to keep me safe,” Keija hinted at the notion Teyna had mentioned previously about spiritual compulsion and binding.

    “Isn't Daniel enough for that?” Teyna raised an eyebrow as she asked this question.

    “You saw how many mages got off that bus at the UTF* this morning, right? Well, that was only one grade's worth of mages, and that college teaches four grades of magic!”

    Teyna sighed, but relented when she saw Keija being earnestly nervous about this scouting trip, “I'll come, but don't expect me to much help in any altercation that might happen. And, you have to supply the snacks and drinks, if we're going to miss dinner.”

    Keija smiled gratefully, “Deal. Now let's get a bath and then meet up at the garage for our transport in an hour. Oh, and stop by Martin's room and ask him for some protection wards to bring with you. You never know what we might run into over there.”

    * (author's note: UTF = Underground Training Facility)
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
  16. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 56: Learning the Leys of the Land

    An hour later, feeling much more refreshed and yet still tired from the game plus having to deal with jet lag, Teyna dragged herself to the garage, where Keija and Daniel were waiting next to a car with a driver ready to take them to the campus of the college.

    Keija held her weapons case containing the forged Bagh Nakh, and she waved it over her head as Teyna approached.

    “I see you have your new toys to play with,” Teyna remarked as she yawned.

    “Feeling tired after all the training today?” Keija asked teasingly.

    “I don't know how long I'm going to be able to stay awake,” Teyna explained as she fought off a wave of dizzyness.

    “Not to worry!” Keija replied, “I brought some thermoses with some energy drinks and coffee. And we have doughnuts and cookies that Melissa baked.”

    “Not the most nutritious dinner I've had,” Teyna smiled as she, Keija and Daniel entered the vehicle, “But it should get me to bedtime as long as I don't over-do it.”

    “Considering your last meal was bacon, eggs and toast at breakfast? This will make up those calories from a missed lunch coupled with all that exercise!” Keija winked.

    “But empty calories. I need something a bit more substantial,” Teyna grumbled.

    Daniel smirked as he shook his head from the explanation Keija gave for the sugary fare that she offered in lieu of dinner.

    Teyna hungrily ate several cookies and a doughnut and commandeered a thermos of coffee for herself, as the vehicle steadily made it's way through the long, windy, tree lined road towards the Salem campus of the college of magi.

    Daniel pulled out a pouch of beef jerky and handed her a few slices as well, “Gotta have some protein too,” He said wryly, emphasizing 'some'.

    Teyna greedily grabbed the slices of jerky and tore off a bit with her mouth, then gulped another swig of coffee, “Thanks,” she mumbled as an afterthought.

    After fifteen minutes of driving, the driver announced that they had arrived at campus, and after inquiring as to when he would need to return for pickup, gave a nod and returned to the Shadow Hunter's facility, leaving the three student agents at the gates to the college.

    The college campus definitely had that old world feel to it, surrounded with lush greenery and ivy covered brick buildings in the colonial style prevalent in New England. The late afternoon sun glimmered through the trees and gave the campus a shadowy, ephemeral feeling to it, as the three began to explore their surroundings.

    “This place looks amazing!” Teyna exclaimed, and considering that she had been working in an urban metropolitan sprawl in southeast asia, the pastoral rustic colonial campus filled her with a sense of soul strengthening liberation.

    Keija also felt the spiritual strength of this place, but in a more direct manner, “I sense ley lines running all over the place.”

    “What's a ley line?” Teyna asked inquisitively.

    Daniel responded as Keija was immersed in tracking down a line, “Ley lines are conduits of natural spiritual strength. Magic is strengthened considerably when activated near such lines, and they also attract spirits since they tend to greatly magnify a spirit's ability to integrate their eidos with the surroundings.”

    “It makes sense that a college of magic would be placed in such a location, I suppose,” Teyna nodded as she reached this intuitive conclusion.

    Daniel noticed Keija making a beeline for a certain building, and motioned Teyna to follow him, “We can't lose her when she's like this, or we might never find her!”

    “Ley lines must be like candy to a baby for spirits,” Teyna chuckled as she followed Daniel in hot pursuit after Keija.

    The building that Keija was heading directly towards was the library of the campus. An old colonial style courthouse architecture gave the front of the library an imposing facade, with a brick wall fence and wrought iron gate.

    Keija sensed a powerful ley line running right through the entrance, and she entered the facility following it to a spacious lobby where rows of index card cabinets and computer stations lined the walls.

    A young man at the front desk of the library noticed Keija entering with haste, and politely spoke up as she passed nearby, “Is there anything I can assist you with?”

    Keija barely noticed the young man, and he looked on in astonishment, as she rushed on by towards where the ley line terminated in a pool of spiritual energy. Daniel and Teyna soon entered the building behind her. Finally Keija stopped and turned around to speak to the young attendant, “Do you have any books on ley line identification?”

    Blinking during an awkward pause, the young desk attendant finally replied, “I'm sure the library has some reference materials on such things, You can use the computer stations to look up any of our books or periodicals by subject, author or a variety of other search parameters.”

    Seeing two more people enter the library, the young man excused himself to assist these newcomers, but they simply replied that they were also with the young lady interested in ley lines.

    “My name is Corey Hawthorne, please feel free to ask me if you need any assistance.”

    Daniel and Teyna both voiced their thanks, and continued towards Keija who was now sitting at a computer station busily typing in her search parameters.

    Corey looked at these people as obviously students, but they carried themselves with such haste and focus, it was unusual to see students who were in such a rush to utilize the library for research.

    Corey wasn't a student himself, but he was the nephew of one of the professors at the college, and supported himself by working various jobs around campus, in the library, and in the student union, where he managed a small cafe and delicatessen.

    As he saw the three settle into a computer station, he briefly glanced at Teyna as if recognizing something long forgotten in the past. He felt attracted this young lady, but suppressed the urge to speak to her at the moment. He didn't want to seem to be hitting on students while on the job.

    Still, he would remember her face, and if she ever showed up at the student union, he'd be able to strike up a more casual conversation.

    Keija finished up her search for books about ley lines, and pointed out several selections to Teyna who seemed confused by one title, “Dragon Veins: A Comprehensive Study”.

    “Dragon Veins are simply another name for ley lines!” Keija explained with enthusiasm, “In the eastern cosmology, there are many stories of Daoist cultivators building incredible arrays and marvelous structures along the paths of Dragon Veins. And for good reason, ley lines definitely magnify spiritual strength, though how they do so may well remain a mystery.”

    “And there are ley lines here? If you can sense them yourself, why look up a general text?”

    “Although I can sense ley lines, there are 7 known 'flavors' (for lack of a better word) of these lines, and I have my preferences,” She lightly laughed as if explaining why some people preferred vanilla over chocolate ice cream.

    “And this book can help you narrow down what flavor this ley line is?” Teyna mused.

    “That's the hope anyways,” Keija nodded.
     
  17. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

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    Chapter 57: No Blank Slates in the Foundation of Knowledge

    Daniel, during this time, looked a bit bored and muttered something about getting started with what they came here to do, and looked glaringly at Keija as she attempted to ignore his impatience.

    “Why don't you take Teyna around as I do this research, and look for the lecture halls we'll be attending. I want to do some campus reconnaissance too after this.”

    “I thought you needed a bodyguard,” Daniel groused.

    “Well, I should be fine for now, if Mr. Hawthorne is watching from his desk, right?”

    “I'll give you thirty minutes to research your ley lines, then you to start working on your Bagh Nakh and location integration. We don't have all night to do this, remember.”

    “I remember everything,” Keija pursed her lips as she couldn't help but remember everything that Daniel did over the weeks she'd known him to irritate her. Thankfully, due to her previous eidos integrations, she was able to overlook these failings to see some positive traits in Daniel as well, but she also felt a bit frustrated that he took joy in teasing her.

    It was as if he did it purposefully to elicit her response, which was an astonishing epiphany that she immediately knew to be the truth.

    “You!” Keija suddenly turned up at Daniel with fire in her eyes, “You do this on purpose to me!”

    Daniel immediately stifled a grin, “Guilty as charged. Okay!, Okay! I'll relent,” He quickly added as way of an apology, “Teyna and I will go scout the campus. Please be here when we get back?”

    “If the ley line I tracked ended up being the sort I need, I can probably start integrating my eidos right now,” Keija replied easily, “But I want to find the best spot, and best flavor I can.”

    “Right,” Daniel said with loud breath, then looking at Teyna, “Let's go find the campus hangout, it should be the Student Union or some nightclub off campus, otherwise.”

    Teyna put her hands on her hips and gave a shrug of indifference, “Why not just ask Mr. Hawthorne over there where the students hang out?”

    “Oh, right. Duh me?” Daniel said in a very sarcastic tone.

    “I can see how you endear all the ladies with your charm,” Teyna scoffed while grinning at Keija.

    “Very funny,” Daniel groaned, “All right, I'll ask Corey where the happening places are near campus.”

    As Daniel wandered over to the front desk, Teyna turned towards Keija, who was already getting up from the computer station and heading over to where the Dragon Veins book was located. After perusing the tome for several minutes, Keija's eye lit up and she returned the book to it's shelf and made a bee line for the spiritual energy pool at the heart of the library.

    “Did you already figure out what flavor this ley line is?” Teyna asked, noting wryly to herself that just a few days ago such a question would never have come out of her mouth.

    “Indeed, and it's one that will be quite helpful to me. It looks like I'll be spending quite a bit of time in the library once classes begin,” Keija replied enthusiastically.

    “But that won't help us tonight, as the library is closing soon,” Teyna countered, pointing at the sign above the computer station, noting the hours of use.

    “Hmmmm.....” Keija mused for a moment, “Well, I only need to be in proximity to good lay line at the start of my integration, and I can begin outside as well. But for powering up the runes on these Bagh Nakh, I'm going to need another source anyways. This lay line isn't conducive of natural attributes, nor metallic, but more of spiritual knowledge and wisdom. Hence I suppose why the library was built here,” She aptly concluded.

    Teyna was a bit confused, “Natural attributes? Such as?” She asked curiously.

    “All those things you've heard about mother nature. How nature is wild, untamed, aggressive, majestic, powerful, relentless, unforgiving, etc...” Keija replied knowingly, “The ley lines exhibiting the nature attribute are among the best for powering weapon runes. Spirit ley lines, such as this one here in the library, are actually not recommended for such things, because they would cloud the purity of essence within the rune object. Knowledge, for example, is all about improving one's ability to comprehend the world. Weapons don't need comprehension, they just need to fulfill their purpose.”

    “What about those so-called intelligent weapons?” Teyna remarked about a topic that was constantly under consideration during her work at Daedalus corportation, “AI drones, and terminator style robots?”

    Keija pondered this for a moment before responding, “Do AI drones cook? Or paint, or create literature? Or conduct apologetics on theology or philosophy? Do 'Terminator' robots think to themselves, 'Cogito ergo sum'? I think these questions point to the difference in knowledge comprehension and purpose, so the answer should be self-evident concerning those weapons.”

    “Well, that doesn't mean that an AI couldn't eventually do such things,” Teyna argued her counterpoint.

    Keija took a deep breath, and then gave a long winded answer, “Perhaps, but such an AI would have a completely alien way of processing information from any such purpose initially programmed into it at the start. No knowledge can have a blank slate as it's beginning. All of creation started with some initialized parameters at the start by their creator. Think of DNA for a moment. Here is a genetic digital code that defines organic growth and development through the coding of proteins and regulatory enzymes in a body.”

    Teyna nodded but interjected, “What does DNA have to do with initialized parameters?”

    Keija continued, “I'm getting to that,” as she turned back to the computer to pull up an article on DNA from the internet, “Notice, that the phosphate-sugar backbone of the DNA has no tendency to favor any particular amino acid beyond that of a Van Der Waals force preference for the Adenine, Guanine, Thymine and Cytosine that are found in DNA. So the order in which those four amino acids is coded is entirely due to something other than chance or necessity. All of the coding for proteins and various force interactions in DNA are what are known as 'context dependent' interactions.”

    Teyna stared dumbfounded as Keija rattled off knowledge of biology as if she were an expert, “How do you remember all this stuff?”

    “What? It's all here in the article,” Keija replied matter-of-factly, “But to answer your question, I have an eidetic memory. I cannot forget anything, even though there are times I would like to.”

    Teyna was amazed by this revelation, “So you remember everything I've ever said to you?”

    “Yes,” Keija looked at her with a somewhat complaisant attitude, “Anyways, back to the point. DNA is coded with pre-loaded instructions, everything after that point is a result of context dependent interactions, but the initial instructions still had to come from some intelligence. Applying this example to my claim or even to AI weapons systems, there are no blank slates in the building of knowledge. The end path for knowledge acquisition is determined at the start by these initial parameters.”

    Daniel returned from the front desk at this time, “I hate to break up your little discussion group on the nature of ley lines, knowledge, DNA and AI, but we need to continue our recon of the campus, and the library is closing too.”

    “That was a diverting discussion, but you are right. I need to find a ley line to power these runes, and this one won't do for that purpose,” Keija sighed.
     
  18. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 58: Willoughby House

    As the three got up to leave the library, Teyna noticed Corey looking at her with some interest that made her blush slightly, and she blurted out a good night towards the young man.

    Corey replied after a moment of startled hesitation, “Good night! I hope you found what you were looking for.”

    “Partly,” Keija replied for everyone, oblivious to the obvious attraction that Corey had for Teyna, “I'm sure we'll be back again at some point.”

    As the three left the library and emerged onto the campus common, Keija turned to Daniel, “Well, what did Corey have to say about where the students hang out?”

    Daniel shrugged noncommittally, “He said most students tend to hang out in the dorms or near the student union, and off campus, there's a cafe called the 'Witches Brew' that students tend to hang out at, along with the 'Mercy Tavern' pub.”

    Teyna smirked at the name of the cafe, “The 'Witches Brew' Cafe is a hangout for mages?”

    Daniel shrugged again, “It's Salem, what can I say?”

    Keija shook her head and interjected, “Let's stay on campus for now, after all, we'll probably be commuting daily from the compound. Shall we head to the student union?”

    “I'm not sure we'll be able to do much more than get a sense of it's location, since everything is closing down for the evening. We'd do better to locate the dorm rooms in that case, and see if we can find any of those mages we observed this morning,” Daniel replied.

    Teyna had no preferences whatsoever, as she had been roped into going along in spite of being exhausted from the day's activities, “I'm running on fumes, people, so if I can get to bed soon, I'm ok with whatever, as long as you get what you need done quickly.”

    Keija nodded. The jet lag and physical activity that Teyna exerted today was enough to fell even the sturdiest of people, and she commended Teyna for her efforts to hold out and help with this little excursion.

    “No problem!” Teyna chuckled and then stifled a yawn, “Let's get it done before I collapse!”

    The three explored the campus, and followed the occasional sign pointing out various lecture halls and dormitory buildings, all while Keija was searching for an appropriate ley line to power her bagh nakh's runes. After about fifteen minutes of wandering around campus, and as late afternoon twilight turned to evening, the three ran into a group of students returning to their dorm rooms.

    “Excuse me!” Daniel raised his voice to grab their attention.

    A young lady in the group of students paused at Daniel's voice, and turned her attention towards them, “Ah yes? Is something the matter?”

    “We're going to be transferring to the college here in a few days, and I was hoping you'd be able to direct me to the dormitories which house Professor Halloran's students?” Daniel explained succinctly.

    “Oh? Professor Halloran? He's in charge of the 2nd year students, right, Jake?” The girl turned towards another boy in her group.

    “That's right,” The other student replied matter-of-factly.

    “So are all the 2nd year students housed in the same dorm?” Daniel followed up with another question.

    “That's right,” The boy student replied again curtly.

    Daniel waited for the boy to continue, but he just looked at Daniel with a glaring look for having been bothered with some triviality.

    “Um....Jake was it?” Daniel seemed to sense his irritation, and decided to pile on, “You really should think about laying off the caffeine. You seem irritated for some reason. If you could just direct us to the 2nd year dormitory, we'll not bother you further.”

    The girl looked at Daniel with eyes wide at his blatantly sarcastic comment, and stifled a giggle.

    “What's so funny, Liahna?” Jake glowered from both the stranger's barbed comment and Liahna's reaction to it.

    “Oh, lighten up Jake. You're always such a grouse. Just be helpful for once in your life!” Liahna blurted out, and seeing that Jake was folding his arms and looking sideways in disdain, she turned towards Daniel and the others to reply, “Sorry. Midterms are soon upon us, and Jake and I and the others just came back from a long study session at the student union.”

    “That explains quite a bit,” Teyna interjected, knowing full well how stressful the college life could be.

    Liahna continued, “Well, in any case, the 2nd year dorms are just down this main path, past the music conservatory, make a right turn and follow the path to the third building on the right side. That'll be 'Willoughby House'.”

    Keija groaned, “Did you say 'Willoughby House'? Wasn't there a student here named Wesley Willoughby? He seemed full of himself.”

    Liahna raised her eyebrows, “Oh, so you've met Wesley have you? Yea, the dormitory is named after his family donated a large endowment to the college. He's got the well deserved reputation of being an arrogant prick, but nobody does much since his family is well connected to the college. Also, the rest of his family seems pretty down to earth. Wesley seems to be a sort of black sheep in the family.”

    “Well, thanks for the information, Liahna was it?” Daniel smiled at the young lady in a pleasant manner, “I'm Daniel, and these are my fellow transfer students, Keija and Teyna.”

    “Pleased to meet, you. I'm sure we'll see you around campus!” Liahna replied good-naturedly as she, Jake and the others of their group waved goodbye and continued on their way.

    Keija, Teyna and Daniel continued down the main campus path until they arrived at the music conservatory, then following Liahna's directions they turned right and followed the path until they arrived at the steps to 'Willoughby House'.

    From all outward appearances, the dormitory looked to be a typical student housing facility. A large brownstone building, with two floors, and contemporary architectural design that blended nicely with the more common colonial style. Some students were milling about the common entryway with some beers in hand and discussing midterm exams, and others were watching shows in the entry lounge area on TV.

    At first glance, it was impossible to distinguish this dormitory from thousands of other college dormitories across the nation, until Teyna noticed a couple of residents repairing an array of some sort using their spiritual strength. The array glowed a soft hue of cerulean blue as it absorbed the spiritual strength offered by the mages.

    Teyna glanced over to Keija and Daniel, only to find the others were busying moving around to the side of the building as they traced what Teyna assumed to be another ley line.

    “Hey! Wait up for me!” Teyna exclaimed as she rushed over to the others as they rounded the corner of the building. As she caught up to them, the array behind her flared up with a deep green hue and then became invisible as the students finished with their task.
     

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