A Second Generation Whateley Academy Adventure
Lady of the Ring
Friday, November 4, 2016 - 4:21 pm
The tunnels, Abandoned makeshift lab stations (B3)
A biscuit’s piece nabbed from a devisor’s desk, or a bite taken from half a forgotten sandwich belonging to a distracted custodian. It was the way an animal could spoil itself while hidden within the tunnels. A treat too good to ignore when the chance was in sight. Always slipping off into the shadows, with its ears perked and attentive to what could be around the corner.
Today’s haul was a good one, a donut that tasted of a sweet flavor that it seldom remembered sampling before, taken from the bowl near one of those large buildings, the one with the dog with two heads.
The creature slinked back into the tunnels using one of the grates through which only it could slip. Navigating it with practiced steps before falling out one of the vents to the ground, touching it with paws of feline grace, something that was predominant in its genetic makeup.
Though upon doing so, the donut piece accidentally slipped from its maw and fell off.
The creature stiffened, its ears perked. It heard something. The metallic ticking of a wrench screwing up against iron and the air buzzing with electricity. It waited for someone or something to move from around the sound.
It must have been about five whole minutes of waiting but whoever it was hadn’t picked up on the creature’s presence. So valiantly, two steps were taken, and the donut piece was recovered. Three more strides and it was already peeking around the corner.
A room that was once a workshop for young ones and now laid empty and had been for a while. Two rows of tables stretched from one side to the other, with old separations against which it often scratched its claws. It played here every now and there, though usually there was little interest. Instead, focus went towards the new stuff.
Its interest peaked when it saw a device resting up against the wall. Resembling a bulky and rounder version of the things the members of security carried: ‘Guns’ the computer that taught it had labeled them. Though not quite like them. Next to them was an opaque tank that contained a strange, still liquid that brought in some curious memories for the animal.
But in the end, the biggest attention sink for the cat-thing was the boy who rested up against the wall of the corridor, kneeling on the floor and focused on his computer as he tapped away at something. His gaze turned towards one of the items at hand and back, never registering his visitor's presence. And upon seeing that, the cat-thing's mind went at ease. It knew their type: focused on their work and oblivious to the world around them. It was a big reason as to why it’d managed to survive down there never getting caught.
While curiosity would’ve driven it to linger around and watch, its mouth was drooling the more its tongue tasted the donut resting between its fangs, and habit demanded it to take it back to its lair to enjoy it safely.
With cautious steps, it backed away around the corner as mist began to slip out from the scales on its back and the fur around its legs. Magical or bioengineering, it had no idea of the concepts, it just came naturally.
One skip back and it disappeared into the shadows, leaving the boy mumbling to himself as he gave the finishing touches to his latest rush made invention, a metallic box that had within it, more of the pressurized black liquid.
“Firestep… just you wait. You’ll see. You’ll all see.”
Friday, November 4, 2016 - 6:20 pm
The tunnels, Morgana’s workshop (B2)
Caro read through the lines of the spell once more. This would be the third time she’d gone through this final iteration and pronounced her verdict. Being critical over her own work was something she struggled with as obvious mistakes were often invisible for eyes and minds that had already swept through the logic, even backwards. In broad strokes, she couldn’t find anything that would cause problems with it but didn’t mean it couldn’t be without a flaw. “This’ll work. Isn’t that right?”
She asked, expecting Grimma to answer, but there was no response. As eerie as it was to have the spirit, or shade or incarnation or whatever she was in the corner of her eye, it was always a jarring shift to realize she wasn’t present. Still, even without the voice at her side, Caro grew certain that her spell was good. To invite the power within Morgana’s blood to seep into the ring, willingly powering it up for the user whilst at the same time, appeasing the wilder instincts the dragon might have.
With the job done, she prepared herself to go back to her room, leaving her personal lab in the second basement before treading her way up the tunnels. Tomorrow had the makings of a rather intense day of arts and crafts, so rest and preparation was in order. The spell was ready, permits and papers were in order, the materials and tools were within the forge in the first basement, sealed by the ornate antique key which rested within her pocket.
All that was left was for her to put the effort into combining those elements together to create her item. And that would involve both using a spell to lend her hand and arm to Grimma and then working with fire and molten gold to create what she was after, two things she could hardly be confident about. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach for getting on with it and getting it done with.
She was so excited by the prospect, the thought never crossed her mind that the end result might be a dud. Because once it did, it wouldn’t be easy to second guess her entire approach.
“It’ll be the fifth day of the month and I’ll have my enchanted artifact already done by then. I’ll have my ring and the rest of the month for fun!” Caro said to herself, almost in singsong as she turned around the corner of the tunnels, only to run into her friends: the girl that was pretty much Miss Popularity within her contemporary classmates, Gwen Silver, and the ever energetic Christina ‘Chris’ Corbryn.
“Heya,” Caro blurted out once she got over her surprise, one that almost had her fumble her notebook.
“Caro!” Chris said with an energetic smile. “We haven’t seen you in a while.”
“It’s only been a couple of days,” Caro scoffed before correcting herself. “Sorry, I just had my head in this project. Wanted to get it over soon.”
“Chris wanted to see if you were up for watching this anime… although I did tell her you probably wouldn’t find it to your liking,” Gwen interjected.
“Is that what you were talking about? The ring?” Chris said with a wide grin.
“It is,” Caro explained as she flipped around the page to show the sketched image and plans for her project. The ring with the inlaid enchantment written to the side.
Chris picked up the book and spied it under the light with a bit of a grin. “Looks cool, kinda Tolkienesque,” Without much prompting, she stepped aside to let Caro through and the two friends followed her on the way.
“Went about reserving one of the school’s forges and making the preparations with the spell. So I’ve been all over the place,” Caro recounted. “I’ve paid visits to Mrs. Barton and Mrs. Grimes to iron out some of the needed details about the magic process involved in enchanting and had some tutoring with Mr. Kim to fix up the wording details. All in the past couple of days.”
“Sounds like a lot of magical stuff. But isn’t this supposed to be a month-long project?” Chris said as she passed off the bookmarked notebook onto her friend.
“Well, yeah. And the deadline is at the end of the month. I just figured I could get it done fast and just have the rest of the month for myself.”
“Sweet, means more time for movies and hanging about,” Chris snickered.
“Don’t you have to study?” Gwen chimed in.
“I can work on it later,” Chris said dismissively as they walked past an intersection, though her eyes briefly swayed over to the side or behind as if there was someone watching them.
“You took inspiration, didn’t you?” Gwen finally said looking up from the book.
“Well…” Caro said sheepishly. “Yes and no. I mean, I’ve never made a ring before or held any of the tools for it before yesterday, so I’m evidently not going to throw myself to make any complex cross in-laid mesh with a holder for a stone. Buying an existing ring might have its own share of hurdles, including being a bit pricey. The… ahem, One Ring’s simple band design was probably the easiest I could think of. Besides, as luck would have it, the forge had a mold for it which I could work with.”
“Will it let you turn invisible?”
“Of course not,” Caro shook her head. “More than that. As it stands, it’s meant to evoke the powers akin to its donor. In this case, I asked a girl from Poe, Dragonsfyre to lend her power. I mean, dragons would be a good plus, don’t you think?”
The two girls exchanged glances.
“What?” Caro asked as she heard their silence.
“Well, she’s one of the more notable freshmen at the cottage.”
“I already heard about the exploding bunny incident,” Caro said. “As sad as it is, I understand accidents.”
“Well, other than that, there are some talks between her, her roommate and Mrs. Horton.” Gwen shrugged. “We’re not in the magical know, but it appears that something is going on in her room at night, at least enough so as to get the cottage mother’s attention…”
Caro’s gaze turned over to Chris who was pretending to look away, only to speak when prompted. “I swear I don't use my powers to spy on the other girls on the wing!” she exclaimed, although uncertain if she was covering up by lying or being genuine.
“I don’t think it’ll influence much… right?” Caro tried to reassure herself. “If anything, by the end, what matters is the quality of the dragon powers, and what use I can have for them…” To that she suddenly halted herself in her words. “Geez, I sound like such a villain…”
“In all fairness, that applies to anyone talking about using blood to fuel their custom made relic that resembles the evil relic of a popular movie franchise,” Chris said as Gwen handed back the notebook. “So, wait, if this works, I could have the powers of a dragon? Flight, fire-breathing, and a tail?”
“I don’t know about those… It would depend on the tuning after the forge. Although I’m aiming to at least have some sort of fire properties, maybe just fire resistance.”
“Pfft, don’t nerf it all the way down to that, might as well be an unusable RPG accessory,” Chris said earning a couple of giggles from Gwen and even Caro.
“It does sound like an RPG,” Caro mumbled
“And when are you making it?” Chris continued.
“Tomorrow at four… According to Grimma, by about six it should be done or so. I guess?”
“Can I try it afterward? Assuming it’s safe.” Chris chimed in, getting a light elbow nudge from Gwen, reminding her about manners.
“It’ll be safe,” Caro assured. There was something about Chris that ebbed with boyish forwardness that was kinda endearing. “Sure, you could be my tester.”
“Yes!” Chris celebrated whilst Gwen was close to facepalming.
“Ahem… excuse me,” said a voice behind them that interrupted them, almost startling both Gwen and Caro, whilst Chris could only let out an inadvertently girlish giggle. Understandably, it was somewhat late, and they hadn’t ran into anyone in the tunnels, almost enough for them to forget there was supposed to be heavy transit there.
In this case, the voice belonged to a void of messy black hair and a bit of a disheveled look. The toolbelt and backpack with gear that hung out the bulk of his outline gave away that he was a devisor or gadgeteer. And as he drew closer it was easy to assume that he was a freshman.
“Can we help you?” Gwen asked, as polite as she could be.
“Sorry. Um, are you girls from Whitman?” The guy asked curiously
“We’re from Poe,” Chris and Gwen said whilst Caro stepped forth.
“But I’m from Whitman, are you looking for someone?” she said.
With an air of relief about him, he reached into his pocket, producing a folded piece of paper. “I was wondering… Do you know a girl? She goes by Firestep. I think her name is something like Carrie… Corrie.”
“Corrine? Yeah, I know her. Do you want me to hand over that letter?” Caro said, trying to be as approachable as possible, extending her hand.
“Yes. Please,” the boy said, handing over the piece of folded paper, albeit reluctantly. “Please, don’t open it. It’s only for her.”
“Don’t worry,” Caro reassured. “I promise that I won't open it, and will leave it at Firestep's door.”
“Alright.” The boy conceded. It was apparent he had little trust towards the girls he just met, but evidently saw this as the better option over walking into the cottage at this time of the night. So, understanding that she was doing him a favor, he added. “Thank you.”
“Do you want me to tell her who it is from?” Caro asked.
“No, it’s all on the note.” The boy said, with a tinge of bitterness. “Don’t open it.” Before turning around and awkwardly slipping back into the tunnels.
“Well, that was ominous,” Chris muttered as they resumed their walk. “He’d been following us for a bit of time before he gathered up the courage to talk to us.”
“Well, he probably saw the horns on my head and assumed I was from Whitman. Though still had to ask,” she said, spying the note.
She’d promised not to read its contents, but she still couldn’t help making a quick surface analysis of the piece of paper. And indeed, that’s what it was: a piece of graph paper torn from a notebook as exemplified by the creases and tears that lined one side of it. Folded by half about five times, it was all sealed together by a transparent piece of scotch tape.
Boys, at least, tended to work harder when sending love letters. And considering that the boy had refused to give out his name or asked for any other favor, buttering the girl up, all Caro could surmise was that this was either some sort of blackmailing or a challenge. Not that those were unheard of, it was just rare for a boy to go out looking for a fight with a girl.
“All okay?” Chris asked, leaning in.
“I was just contemplating what sort of problem the RAs will have to deal with later,” Caro half-joked as they departed the tunnels and onto the campus. There were invitations for an evening together, either to watch movies at Poe or to hang about and play a game, or to watch anime, as Chris suggested. Still, a brief moment of fun later, they were each setting off their separate ways.
Friday, November 4, 2016 - 7:48 pm
Admittedly, Caro almost forgot to deliver the note. After the afternoon with her friends, catching up on some of the latest gossip, without committing to any of the options, she was already thinking about going over to her room and watching some videos or relaxing in preparation for the next day. But when she reached down to her pocket for the key and found the folded piece of paper awaiting its delivery, she recalled her task.
She walked down the corridor passing by some of the girls, each of which was minding their own business and tending to their own problems. Some gossiping, maybe a bit louder than was comfortable, but otherwise a fleeting issue. She ran into Faollass, a girl with a GSD that made her look like an anthropomorphic border collie standing just outside of the bathroom with her basket of hair care products. Grumbling to herself about oversleeping and how it would take a long time for her to dry herself.
Shisa was trotting down the corridor followed by Meow Mix and Petshop at a brisk pace, one of them carrying little cute costumes meant to be worn by pets, complaining about not having been able to play dress-up this Halloween. Though, fortunately, it was a subdued chase.
The more interesting one was Penny Dreadful around the corner, in the middle of a sort of argument with her friend Marlene, also known as Peppercat. “You bumped into me and killed my pet. Just apologize,” Penny’s words came out stern and controlled, deliberately sounding as if she was barely containing herself and her power before the sophomore, but such tactics barely affected the girl with black cat fur.
“I really don’t have to apologize,” was the catgirl’s answer. “I wouldn’t have to try to sidestep my way through if you didn’t crowd the corridor with your undead.”
“I do it because I’m allowed.”
“I believe Mrs. Savage has been too lenient with you and that aspect. I mean there is just a certain point where you have to exercise restraint and you just flaunt it over.” Peppercat snorted.
“Why, you’re just jealous,” Penny said dryly.
“That no one will fear you, let alone respect you. A weeb that dresses up with fantasy characters.” To that last part, she exemplified the attire Peppercat was wearing. Evidently a dress in the makings of a cosplay costume, one that at the time seemed to resemble a conservative shirt and an embroidered British inspired vest on her. What character she was trying to emulate, Caro had no idea.
“Yeah, that at the best, all you’ll be is someone’s freaky cat girlfriend,” Penny punctuated, on her face, those words and the execution should’ve combined themselves to be the perfect burn and she evidently expected to make the sophomore fall to her knees sobbing and weeping.
The end result couldn’t be any further from it as a bemused grin appeared on Peppercat’s face, one that was far more involuntary than she’d expected that she had to cover herself. That little display irked Penny more than she could’ve foreseen. “I just can’t deal with you and your paper zombies tonight.”
“They don’t smell, they don’t act like zombies and worst of all… they’re zombies. It’s not like you’re a big bad necromancer, you just create these meat puppets that are the default fodder of every videogame. I just can’t deal with you and your play pretend, tonight.”
And with that Peppercat walked away, leaving an angered Penny who puffed her cheeks and stared daggers at her senior before walking away, almost close to stomping her way out whilst letting the undead that she’d summoned crumble down to dust.
“That might’ve been a tad rude,” Caro noted as her friend was within talking distance.
“I think I might’ve overdone it,” Marlene noted, “It always stresses me to see her walk around there with her entourage. Clogging the hallways with her undead gets easily annoying and she throws a tantrum whenever any of us actually dematerialize them.”
“Yeah… it’s the implied code of conduct we have. ‘Don’t use your powers to annoy people’ lest you want to get into a fight.”
“Plus, I’ve kinda gotten used to dealing with people like her.” Marlene shook her head. “Goths both at my school and here wanted to invite me to their cliques after I began to manifest. For even a moment I was one of them.”
“Yeah, how could one forget,” Caro snickered.
“Anyway, I got a good feel for what they usually stand… A good chunk of them are just posers with eighth grade syndrome.”
Caro assumed that was an anime reference she didn’t intend to ask for at the moment. “So, you think Penny is a poser?”
“Whether she is or not. I still feel like she needs to take it down a notch and stop bothering people wanting to go about their usual business. It’s just common decency.” Marlene shrugged before looking down at Caro’s notebook. “Oh, how’s the project going? On to make the three rings for the elven kings? Seven for the dwarf lords? And the nine for the mortal men?
“Funny,” Caro found herself snickering. “Actually, by tomorrow night, I should have the one ring done.”
“Really? By tomorrow night?!” Marlene said, impressed.
“I know,” Caro agreed. “I’m just inspired this week”
“Let me try it afterward… Or at least use it as a prop.” Marlene said, clearing her throat before continuing with a raspy mocking one. “My PRECIOUS!!… I’m sure I could pull off the corrupted elf look.”
“It won’t be the same… and sure, once It passes all the tests, at a cost.” Caro added a bit of inspiration.
“Really?” Peppercat laughed it off.
“What can I say, the materials are expensive,” Caro said as her hand rested on her pocket, letting her hear the crinkle of the paper up against her hip. “Anyway, I’ve got to get going. I have an errand to run.” With that she began to go back towards the corridor.
“No problem, have a good night,” Marlene mused as she too went her way.
Firestep’s room wasn’t that far away. Only a couple of steps forward and she made it to her destination, room 211. And as she approached, her scaled elf-like ears picked some laughter going on at the other side of the door, three voices, so that meant there were at least visitors already after hours, almost making Caro stifle a groan.
The girl was a bit of a quiet case, at least when compared to other freshmen like Ratel, but she always struck Caro as someone with a strong personality, even if they’d only exchanged one or two words on occasions.
With two taps on the door, the noise on the other side ceased and a couple of seconds later, the door was opened halfway. Corrine Leigh, codename Firestep, stood there in the way, still wearing the school’s uniform, albeit disheveled with the carelessness of the Friday night they were in. “Yes?”
“Corrine. Heya,” Caro said whilst leaning onto the side to get a clearer view. She spied two girls lying down on the bed and floor. One of tanned skin and dark hair, and the other a more standard type of blond girl. While they weren’t from this cottage, Caro could recognize them from her frequent visits to Poe, with the first one being known as Thumper, and the other, as Wisp. What they were doing there was up to anyone's guess, but they regarded her with a mixture of daring interest and bemusement.
“Can I help you?” Corrine asked, interrupting.
“Sorry, I just noticed that you had visitors from other cottages. Remember that sleepovers require approval from the cottage mother.”
“Do you wanna join?” Wisp joked only to get Firestep to hiss back a “No”. Much to the amusement of the two girls.
Caro felt like she was missing some subtext, but it didn’t matter. “I’m just bringing up the reminder. And a message” With that, she produced the note and offered it. “Some boy from the tunnels asked me to give this to you.”
“Oh…” Firestep looked down at the piece of paper with a bit of annoyance that bordered on disgust. Still, she accepted the note before replying with a polite smile. “Well thank you. Good night.”
And with that, the door was closed to Caro. The girl knew that she shouldn’t take it personally, but some old experiences just reared their heads back in the forefront. Still, she tried to let it all flow and focus on tomorrow. Where she would be working on her project and not have to deal with whatever this was.
Friday, November 4, 2016 - 7:56 pm
Whitman, Room 211
“That girl isn’t bad,” Wisp mused once the door was closed.
“A bit of a stickler, though,” Thumper said sternly.
“Should we try to reach out to her? Get her to join the Amazons?”
“I don’t think it’ll work,” Firestep said, moving back to her spot on the bed, next to Wisp.
“Yeah,” Thumper agreed as she leaned back against Caro’s currently absent cottagemate. “She’s a sophomore, right? I think she’s friends with some of the unwanted ones from Poe.”
“Really? Because Chris is kinda cool, and Gwen is nice.”
“No, they’re not. None of their kind can be,” Thumper said with a derisive snort.
“Their kind? What are you girls talking about?” Firestep asked as she fiddled with the note, breaking the sealing tape.
“It’s a bit of a long story. Short version, Brita might not like Miss Horns,” Thumper summarized before leaning in forth. “So, what’s on the note? Is it a love letter?”
“Pfft,” Firestep snorted before clearing her throat and starting to recite. “’To the shallow hot-footed girl. You think yourself smart and brave? Jumping on an unarmed’… Unarmed, please. ‘An ‘unarmed’ guy like me with your little friends. You are nothing but a coward who takes advantage in abuse, as disgraceful and as dishonest as it can be. Do you want to settle this? Let’s do it tomorrow at five o'clock in the afternoon. At the old tunnel classroom “B3-12” and alone. I’ll be waiting for you.’ His writing is incredibly shoddy,” Firestep snorted.
“Couldn’t even write a proper challenge?” Wisp snickered.
“’If you don’t show up. Next time I won’t be nice enough to give you the heads up’. Probably wrote that after realizing I had no reason to hear him. It’s still not a good reason,” Firestep shrugged, tossing the note to the side, for Thumper to catch. “There’s a map and instructions on how to get to the place on the back.”
“Is it signed?” Wisp asked.
“Why? We already know who it is.” Firestep answered.
“So, you’re not going to go?” Thumper inquired as she finished reading the note.
“It’s obviously a trap.” Firestep shrugged. “And the guy is such a loser, probably won’t have the subtlety required to get me if I don’t go. Before long, it’ll be someone else giving him a swirly and becoming his new grudge.”
“Yeah, but he’s pretty much insulted you and by extension us, don’t you think?” Thumper argued as she turned the note around. “Considering what happened yesterday, he still has the gall to raise his metaphorical voice against you. That just means that the Amazon lesson hasn’t been properly learned.”
“Do I have to? This is obviously a setup.”
“Are you afraid of a simple boy?”
“Well, no, but…”
“Are you going to let him step on you with just a threat? He’ll think you cowered.”
“Of course, I wouldn’t. I don’t cower,” Firestep snapped. “And trap or not, I’ll still come out on top… Fine! Let’s go get him”
“Good, I’m pretty sure Brita will approve of you,” Thumper agreed, patting the girl’s back. “Don’t worry, we’ll be there for anything he tries.”
“We got your back,” Wisp agreed, somewhat uncomfortable with the idea, but still willing to stand with her friends.
“So… let’s talk strategy and gear,” Thumper began as they gathered closer for a more secretive talk.
Saturday, November 5, 2016 - 3:51 pm
The tunnels, Forgeroom 5 (B1)
“It’s such a pity,” Caro sighed as she observed the little bars of gold in her hand. Each had cost a surprising amount, not as much as she imagined actual gold would be worth, but still a hefty price that she hoped the school would pay back in some form once she presented her project. They were slightly heavier than she might’ve expected, but also quite pretty under the lights of the forge.
“A pity?” Grimma said, appearing in the corner of Caro’s eye, leaning in closer towards the ingot.
“I mean, this is gold. It’s not pure gold, but it’s still as pretty as it might be. All shiny and shimmering, reminding me of some of my parent’s jewels. It almost feels like a shame to melt it down.” Caro said as she took a moment to snap a couple of commemorative selfies. That would give her friends, former and current, a couple of things to talk about.
“Why the sorrow over the block of metals cold? It’ll turn into something wonderful once in mold?” Grimma mused.
“And what if I go wrong?” Caro sighed as she looked at the bar of gold one last time before setting it in a thick iron pot where it would be melted. “I can’t burn gold, can’t I? If I overheat it, it’ll just melt down? It’s not like trying to make caramel.”
“Oh, no. Of course not. You worry about it too much,” Grimma mused as she held the shadowy ingots out of Caro’s hand and with a hard squeeze, it turned it into a shadowy soup that fell into the iron pot.
“Of course, I worry. This wasn’t cheap, you know?” Caro muttered, shaking her head.
Grimma’s eyes narrowed. “Are you cowering already?”
“I’m not,” she said, restraining herself from adding anything. Grimma appreciated stories with actions and movement, so having her avatar retract from a ‘quest’ or project could invoke her displeasure. Of course, it never went past a couple of chastising words, but the spirit or entity did dangle the idea of throwing a curse Caro’s way.
Fortunately, at that time, in came a chime from her phone.
“An inspiring message from your friend? Maybe wishing for your hammer to see it all to the end?”
“It’s from Chris… says she and Gwen will drop by after they’re done in the parkour lab. Hm… they’re having fun in the interactive shooting range. I should probably join them one of these days, for a change.”
“I wouldn’t deny there is some appeal to train the roguish ways of acrobatics, but focus is where it's due now.”
“You’re right,” Caro agreed as she texted a quick answer, saying that she’d be waiting for them, letting them know when the ring is finished. “It’s already four o’clock.”
“Hopefully your ‘dragon’ won’t take to disappointing you,” Grimma mused. “I still can’t believe that you managed to find one in this day and age.”
“I told you she isn’t a dragon.”
“I know, I know.” Grimma laughed melodiously. “What an interesting world where you can find people harnessing the powers of ancients. Especially one that is bound to the flames, even if by the ember’s kind. Even if ancestral or a copy, there will always be something to curse and bind.”
“I really hope you don’t mean curse curse,” Caro mumbled.
“My sweet fable fledgling, you know that I mean enchantment when I say the word curse, it just sounds all the more exciting. But I don’t need to be a seer to know that what lies ahead will be… interesting at its worst, and riveting at its highest, to say the least,” Grimma said as her figure melted itself and dispersed into the air, disappearing into the corners of the room. “I’ll be watching and waiting for you to summon me.”
Caro shook her head as she moved to one of the forge’s corners, where her bags and notes rested, as well as the brochure pack assigned by the departments of Mystic arts. It features a bunch of notes and instructions on how to operate the system, what to do in case of emergency and even a small illustrated guidebook titled ‘my first magical bangle’. Even if Grimma would be lending her expertise and borrowing her hand, she still took her time to read the walkthrough.
The biggest and bulkiest item on the package (though not by much) was the protective gear, for both Morgana and her. Thick goggles, a first aid kit specialized in dealing with burns, and probably the most visually impressive was the entire set of metal worker’s protective gear split into parts. There was the thick padded apron with a lone pocket at the front, about two different types of helmet for her to wear and what could be described as the forger’s bracer. Pieces of insulated cloth and leather meant to protect her from the heat and molten splash that put together would’ve probably made for a huge monstrosity of a costume. Though as Radiant mentioned when she handed them over, most usually just wore the arm pieces, which had thick padded gloves for handling of the red hot materials, as more pieces would’ve made the compounded attire clunkier.
It didn’t take long for Caro to figure out how to slip the arm protection on. While stuffy at first, it wasn’t as cumbersome as, for example, oven mitts for handling stuff.
A couple of practice swings with the hammer wearing them and she was ready for it, and not a moment too soon as the doorknob rattled announcing the arrival of her assistant.
“Sorry, I’m late,” Morgana said as she stepped in. “I got the invitation and thought it was in the second level of the tunnels. I was wrong and had to ask a janitor the way here.”
“It’s not a problem.” Caro reassured her as she held up some of the protective gear up to Morgana. “Think you’ll need it?”
Morgana shook her head in reply. "No need, I'm fireproof."
“Alright,” Caro said with a bit of envy, before dropping the arm guard onto the pile of protective pieces. “I’ll give you a run-down of the process and then we’ll start. Sound fair?”
With that, Caro led the girl from Poe over to the nearby table, where laid all the things that would be needed, from the mold meant for a pair of rings to an open notebook on the schematics and wording of the spell.
“You’re making two rings.” Morgana said, picking up what seemed to be the odd item out from the assortment, a silvery tuning fork with a rubber handle.
“Yeah, the mold I chose was for a pair of rings of this design, and it’s about enough for the material we have,” she pointed to the pot.
Then Morgana’s gaze went over to the open notebook.
“Spirit of the flames, donned by its maiden… Quell the fire and restrain the dragon contained,” Morgana read out loud, a bit for Caro’s embarrassment, though the girl was used to saying that kinda every now and then. “It’s a rather flowery way of casting a spell. And a bit intimidating considering I’m the dragon.”
“Yeah… it’s a bit of my thing…Magic I cast specializes in enchantments. It has some nuances to it, but the general gist is, the more conditions, loopholes or offerings I make, the more potent they become.”
“So, the making of this piece should be right for you,” Morgana noted, putting the tuning fork down, though not without tapping it against the table counter and letting its vibration sing.
“It should be… but it’s the first time I’ve tried something like this,” Caro took a deep breath as she looked at the furnace. “If you’re as ready as I am, we can give it a go.”
Saturday, November 5, 2016 - 4:22 pm
Outside the Tunnels (B0)
Saturday afternoon in Whateley usually meant working out and studying for Vic. At least that’s how it was originally conceived when he arrived at the school. He assumed that the class and materials would be so hard that it would take everything from him to get through and that he wouldn’t be entertaining the idea of leisure time with friends as an option.
But on the first day he met the girls of the M3 group and the adventures that they carried. Then he got into that little incident in Berlin, and before he even expected it, he was contemplating the idea of trying to woo Tanya and training with Erica for BMA. Joining the art-club came next. And whilst that last one came with its own share of stresses, namely the inability to draw a straight line and be happy with the result, it was a different kind of stress. Devoid from the concerns of whatever looming future was around the corner that he couldn’t control.
And yet, despite all the new activities he had to deal with, he barely felt himself falling behind in his studies. Excellent grades in the past two tests and with his homework done since today’s morning, there was a temptation to take the day off, but a feeling of forced guilt always loomed around.
However, only half a mind was enough for him to feel drawn at the sight of the open tunnels in the distance and his mind went over to the small chat Laura had with the Imp -it’s still strange to address a teacher like that. The one that painted the lower tunnels in Whateley as treasure filled-ruins. With rooms, inventions of the sort that could be claimed.
He wasn’t down there that often, at least not as much as Laura, or even Morgana, were, so the place was still so unknown to him. The thoughts went back to that strange cat-like creature he saw some time ago, the rumors of the invisible bunnies out and about. Curiosity was enough to get him to take steps towards the threshold.
Of course, he wasn’t expecting to come across anything weird, but was mostly doing this to get a better idea of what lies beneath the more transited sections. That, and he’d been playing one of the dungeon-crawling games from the collection Ronnie installed, so the idea of the real live version appeared fun as could be.
Standing before one of the less-transited entrances on the fringes of the campus, he checked his ‘gear’. He was just walking home from his jog when the temptation struck, so all he had was the phone in hand, and a water bottle hanging from his belt pouch which should be enough. It would all amount to a slight detour anyway, maybe an hour or so out of his way before he would get back to his cottage and be back in routine brushing up on the reading for the next week.
A couple of steps in, he was met up by a simple map outline of the area ahead - Including with a list of warnings about the place:
“This area is unstable,” Vic read. “The grounds below are ever shifting, so, for the sake of your safety, try to follow the rules.”
“1. If possible, avoid delving deeper than the third level.”
“2. If you do, preferably, travel in groups.”
“3. Download the map app using the QR code.”
“4. If you end up lost, either travel towards the highlighted explored areas of the tunnels or use the app’s alert to send out the distress signal.”
“5. If the situation is dire, full use of powers and tools is allowed.”
“Ominous,” Vic said. Though somewhat intimidated, he soldiered. After all, many people traveled the tunnels and came back alive. Scanning the QR code allowed him to download the app, which featured, in quite plain terms, the digital map, tracker and alarm button in case anything happened.
This current section of the tunnels was situated at the fringe of the usual area, as such, being slightly out of the usual treaded paths, there was no hiding that most of the area was unexplored. According to the app, there were four or five levels of depth, mostly. The first and second levels were completely and thoroughly explored and reserved for labs, more particular workshops and some control rooms for auxiliary processes such as water purification and energy circulation along with some spaces that were labeled with some magical functions, of which he couldn’t understand and would probably try to avoid them regardless.
Below them, at the third basement was where the lines of the known parts became somewhat more blurred. It was still explored and there were some clear outlines as to the paths that were supposed to be traversed. Areas that had been designated as workbench labs and testing areas (only a few of which were actually reserved according to the schedule). But outside, the paths were pitch black and the corridors that connected these pockets were up to anyone’s guess. Vic’s mind went back to the fourth rule. “If lost… travel to the highlighted explored areas.”
The fourth and fifth basement were more of the same, with the dark ‘unknown’ areas becoming all the more prevalent. Until the fifth level which was basically black, and no clue if there was anything deeper than that.
An adventurous spirit perhaps seemed to have taken the hold of him as he moved forth into the pathway and down into the tunnel.
Saturday, November 5, 2016 - 4:27 pm
Whateley Campus’ nice lounging tree
Sitting in a tree, Shisa’s ears flickered as she tried to shut out the noise. No matter where she went, there seemed to be people running around, talking, laughing and just doing noisy things.
It wasn’t like Seattle where it all faded into a white noise that she could ignore. Or the woods where it was only the sound of nature. This was just a reminder of what she couldn’t have.
She could go into the woods near the campus, though. If she went deep enough no one would bother her there. But if she did that in her mood, she probably would just keep going and never come back. As tempting as that was, it wasn’t an option for her.
Stirred and pushed into motion, she stood up on the branch and stretched her body, arching her back and raising her tail. She was glad no one was there to see her. After so much time resting and stewing in her own envy, she knew she needed to move. But, where could she go anyway?
Caro was supposed to be doing something in the tunnels. Maybe she should go find her, maybe ask her about how the spell to change her BIT was going. It was as good an option as anything, and in the tunnels, there were dark quiet places where no one went. It would be peaceful, and she wouldn't run away.
Jumping down, she headed for a row of bushes. She knew an entrance that would avoid most of the usual paths and walkways. With a bit of caution, she could avoid being seen by almost everyone.
Saturday, November 5, 2016 - 4:35pm
The Tunnels (B3)
Vic carried on with his investigation at a leisurely pace. With the recently downloaded ephemeral map on his phone, he walked his way around the first two levels with a certain degree of confidence in his directions, making the exploration more akin to taking a tour down the zoo or museum, only with the interesting sights replaced by dull looking hallways, with the occasional room, interesting crack on the wall and the reminder map with the ‘You Are Here’ sign to break the monotony.
“I had expected a bit more… but I guess that’s my error. What else did I expect exploring a place called ‘the tunnels’?” Vic half mused, not particularly frustrated, after all, this was still an entertaining, if not chill ride. But the novelty would definitely end up running out in the next couple of minutes.
Eventually, he arrived at the stairs and dared to go a level lower towards the third one, which was, conveniently, as low as they could go. All that meant that to try to venture lower, he would need to find other stairs.
As opposed to the upper levels, down there, the place had a bit of a more ominous look. Seemingly transited, the corridors ahead to stretch themselves into the dark, with the random flickering of the lamps giving him some strange eerie vibes. With no one in sight and yet, he still couldn’t feel alone. One step after another, he followed the outlined explored path, all the while following the little dot on the map that represented him. He wondered if it was a gadgeteer program or a devisor one, concerned if it would end up malfunctioning.
Eventually, he found, to his right, an annexed hallway. The path ahead, at sheer glance, was no different to the one he was walking on, it even had the lights on and a door, yet, according to the map the area was darkened.
“Hm…” Vic muttered as he took a tentative, but definitive, step into the hallway. When nothing happened, two more steps were followed. The only thing he heard were the beeps of his phone app as the little distance he traversed became colored onto the map. “Wait, so I’m drawing this as I go? But if it’s so easy then why is the map incomplete,” There was a bit of a sense of dread going on about in the back of his head. “Hm… maybe they forgot to do the rounds here with the app, right?” he said jokingly
And as if prompted by Vic’s words, a faint but definite sound rang through the seemingly empty corridors. A loud clink followed by a dulled rattle. It reminded him of a bell. “Hello?” Vic called out as he made it to an intersection and turned around to look down the different paths. According to the app, none of them were explored.
*Clink* *rattle* *rattle*
“Da miedo,” he muttered to himself as he picked the path from which the sound came and followed it. A slight rumbling came about onto the side and the lights flickered, but it was still nothing to worry about. Everything is fine, I can just turn back and follow the map. At least that’s what he told himself to calm down.
He carried on, this time trying to be as stealthy as he could, taking his time with each step while keeping his ears focused.
*Clink* *rattle* *rattle*
The more he heard it, the less scared he grew, though no less nervous.
It still came in from around the corner becoming more and more rambunctious, erratic, almost like a kid was moving about and having fun with whatever was happening. There was no doubt it was something or someone within the concrete walls and lights. Carefully, Vic switched his phone from the app to the camera. If it was something interesting, he might as well have some photographic evidence.
He used the camera to take a peek of what was around it. He had made it to a room of sorts. At least the space opened itself up further than just a narrow hallway. With a threshold ahead that appeared to be as dark, devoid from the electric system that had been illuminating his path. The presence of a handrail made it clear that he’d just happened upon the stairway towards the fourth level.
But what was more important was the source of the sound. At the ground of that small atrium like open space was a small figure that darted about, moving in a blur. Though every now and then stopping under the dimmed lights to let Vic get a good look of its appearance under the camera lenses.
It was a dark and blue creature. Of lithe and nimble body that weaved itself in its action, from its little attentive ears to the tip of its tail that appeared coated in a strange form of shadowy plume. Whatever it was, was evidently based off a cat. And it acted as such, circled its way around a small silvery brass object that made the sound. Though he couldn’t fully recognize it, he could hazard a guess that that was the same bell he picked from his trip to Berlin and left in the woods, only to find it gone soon after.
The thing chased and weaved around, bouncing it against the wall with its paws before grabbing it with its mouth, shaking its head wildly just to hear its ringing. It was so amusing that, after snapping a blurry picture, Vic couldn’t help but peek his head around the corner for a clearer look… and a better angle.
It was so distracted that Vic managed to make it to the threshold of the small atrium. But that was as far as he got.
Ears perking up, it stopped in the middle of its playtime and the creature turned startled to realize Vic was standing just a couple of steps away. Its eyes were wide, and its body tensed up, but it didn’t appear aggressive.
“Hey there… I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to take a picture,” Vic said, though the animal didn’t believe it and was ever so slowly taking small steps away with its body ready to jump in any second. Its paws and back already starting to exude some sort of black mist. It just made it clear that it wasn’t dangerous, or that, at least it didn’t want to fight.
Emboldened, Vic tried up a trick he read. Slowly kneeling down and offering a closed hand was an invitation for most cats, even for the ones that appeared spliced or built in a lab. Granted, he didn’t expect it to work or at least to get into contact, but did give it some reassurance, enough to raise its ears and lift its head slightly.
“There we go, there we go,” Vic thought to himself once it took a step forth. Thinking he was making some headway, he slowly raised his phone to try to snap a picture, with it this close, there was just enough detail.
But at that time, the cat creature’s eyes glowed, fixating themselves onto the phone and stopping in its tracks. Whether it was because the animal was skittish by nature or because of some bad experience, Vic lowered it to soothe the cat… But that didn’t return the creature to the calm it had a second ago.
The cat’s ears abruptly raised and turned around towards the sides as its gaze shifted, forgetting of the feline handshake, moving around as if something was going on. Vic had no idea what it was. The exuding smoke wrapped itself around its body, as it bound around. And, like a magic trick, as the cover became less dense, there was no animal to be seen, just a traveling plume.
It hadn’t vanished, but turned invisible, he imagined. As its body became cloaked and the smoke was fading, its immediate strides pointed towards the set of stairs down to the lower floor. The sound of its steps and strides, along with the muffled rattling of the bell in its mouth.
“Drat…” Vic muttered, though he barely had the time to do or think of anything else. The cat had felt something incoming, and soon after, an alert popped up on his phone belonging to the mapping app. One tap of his thumb and the view shifted, yet, rather than finding the expected map, all it showed was a black void with only his marker in place. With the flickering of static going about in the areas of the map.
Suddenly an alert flashed on the screen. “Spatial anomaly detected! Warning! Incoming!” only for the screen to fritz.
“M-Maybe I should try to head back…” He blurted out as he turned around for the way he came from only to find the corner turn was still there… only that it turned in the opposite way. The app’s alert was enough to put him in an uneasy mindset, the realization of the change set him off close to a panic. The lights suddenly started to flicker, and the world felt as if it was moving even if the concrete walls appeared as static and immovable as before. Whilst the sight of lights above going dark sporadically weren’t a rarity or enough to be scared, now they were fully going on and off in a concatenate way, one after the other. Hiding sections of the paths whilst at the same time creating eerie spotlights and encroaching darkness. Vic almost expected to see a monster, serial killer or a ghost standing there.
“Help!” Vic succumbed to the surrealness of the scene as the lights above him went off, casting him in an unnatural darkness, even as he tried to regain his bearings. His hand trying to manipulate his phone to use it as a flashlight as he tried to chase some of the fleeting spotlights about. His steps took him down a hallway that shouldn’t have been there before. “Shit shit. Mala idea! Mala idea!”
Finally, he got the phone to do as he wanted and shine a bright light on the steps ahead, only a moment too late. Right where his next step was going to be, there was a hole that evidently shouldn’t have been there.
He barely got to react with anything but a scream as he found himself plummeting down to the level below. His light on his phone danced and spun but was unable to make heads or tails of what was beneath. And then, he glimpsed the shimmering and movement below. Water!
Vic hit the surface with a sordid splash, which fortunately hurt less than expected. He assumed his powers softened the water immediately upon contact.
Fortunately, before the fear of drowning for, ironically, not knowing how to swim could claim him, he realized that the water was slightly above knee height. So, getting himself back up wasn’t a problem.
The second concern that crossed his head was that this might be dark water, or sewage, which was, as well, immediately discarded when he saw the light of his waterproof phone just a couple of steps ahead. The water was clear and transparent. Hopefully, fresh out of the purifier.
“Good… I think,” Vic muttered as he grabbed the light and pointed it around. Effectively, he was in what appeared to be a large canal of dark and mud colored plain concrete walls that followed a single straight path forward, though its depth and surroundings were still, for some reason, too far to be revealed.
Additionally, signs of light appeared sparsely and in between, meaning he would have to rely a bit more on his phone for guidance. The supposed hole on the ceiling was missing. Fear was the common response and he felt close to heeding it and calling out for help, to reach into the app to press the big red button that would call for a rescue, possibly, in the form of a spelunking team.
But at the same time, it felt as if the place around him had calmed down. And the notes did suggest trying to find the way back before hitting the alarm button. While he couldn’t really tell from where he was, it was exemplified by the map on the app suddenly reestablishing itself and mapping his progress, down in the fifth basement.
“Now I know why it’s hard to map this place,” Vic muttered, inwardly starting to feel a sense of panic about him. The idea that he might end up lost or trapped wasn’t that far-fetched now. “But I asked for this, didn't I? Did the tunnels hear me thinking that this adventure was turning out boring?”
Joking to himself was the best way to stave off panic in this situation and fortunately, now that everything seemed over, he could find the composure to carry on. He stood up and force dried his clothes, at least the parts that were above his knees, pulling the liquid off the fabric. All the while keeping an eye on his surroundings.
While the sights didn’t reveal much, he admittedly felt all the safer while standing surrounded in his element. Even if his power’s upper limit was the weight equivalent to a grown man, with his influence spread out, he could feel any sort of movement or unwanted element swimming about.
It was that spatial security that nudged him away from pressing the panic button on the app… that and the aversion to making a scene, like a kid that gets lost in a mall.
With the water slowly flowing northward (he guessed) he had his direction set and carried on wading along with the current. Hoping to find an exit soon before whatever happened would happen again… or before his phone would run out of battery.
“Well, in a sense, I asked for this,” he muttered to himself.
Saturday, November 5, 2016 - 4:39 pm
The tunnels, Forgeroom 5 (B1)
“Are you sure about this?” Morgana asked. While there was a bit of a concerned hesitation creeping up in her voice, but for the most part, she was still committed to see this through.
“I guess,” Caro answered as she took a deep breath.
“Guess?” Morgana chastised with a small grin.
“Okay, fine. Yes, I’m sure,” Caro said, taking a deep breath as she looked forth. Before her was the foundry whereupon they would melt the gold and cast it. Of course, considering they were making a single pair of rings and that the gold pieces they had were barely larger than a chocolate bar, there was no need to use the large hard-iron tub, instead, laid down a deepened metal sheet that hung above a controlled fire, much akin to an oven tray. “We’re doing this.” She reassured mostly to herself.
“I meant about this part.” Morgana said, holding up her athame up to the height of her open palm.
“Well… Grimma told me that, if I use my magic to set the dragon's blood ablaze, it’ll burn in the brightest of reds and will make it easier for the ring to take in your blood,” Caro said as she held out her hand. Her left arm wrapped around the piece of protective gear that fit snugly against her, with the thick leather and binding bands around glowed whenever she tried to channel her mana. Evidently, it was made so as to not let the protection get in the way of spellcasting. “Whenever you’re ready.”
“Alright,” Morgana said as she sliced her blade against her palm, wincing as her blood fell into the open flame.
“Red that feeds life and lays itself for sacrifice. Sing with the strength that has brought you to the cost. Whatever you are will always mark and suffice. So now I need for you to show us the fire’s boast.”
At the completion of the sentence, the torrent of flames boomed into life, it burned the air seemingly to crave the melting of the metal. Dragging its heat further out, in a brief shushing sound that could’ve been mistaken by a beast’s roar, like a dragon. As expected, the power of the blood was present, and the elemental nature changed ever so subtly.
“Didn’t you say it would be of ‘the brightest of reds’?” Morgana asked in a somewhat dubious voice.
“I thought that’s how it was supposed to go,” Caro said, holding up her hand to protect her eyes from the initial glare and heat. “Well, it looks red and strong.”
“I mean, I expected cherry red, or tomato red… This is more maroon or velvet, right?” Morgana noted as she reached over, fearlessly waving her hand close to the flame, clearly unaffected by the intensity.
She made Caro wish she’d invested the day before in making herself fireproof and heat resistant… But alas, they were in the middle of work. With her protected hand, she grabbed the tray with the gold and carefully moved it into the still blowing flame. Morgana then practically flaunted her fire resistance by sitting down at the edge and simply placing her hand underneath the piping hot metal slab the moment she noticed Caro handle started to waver.
“Thanks,” she said, a tad relieved. By then the gold slowly began to lose its shape and melt under the heat. It almost reminded her of butter put into the microwave. How hot it must’ve been, Caro wasn’t sure, but was certain that the runes that lined the edge of the foundry, glowing in an icy blue hue, were lowering the intensity she experienced.
“So then, why did you pick a ring, and not a bracelet?” Morgana said, trying to make small talk while the two girls waited for the metal to melt. “Or even do it yourself?”
“Yeah, the idea of a bracelet crossed my mind. But the ring appeared like the simpler and more cost effective option. I mean, the alloy bar wasn’t cheap, and I’m getting two rings instead of a thin bracelet. And I suppose I could’ve bought it premade, but the little extra we put into the process should give me an extra edge at the time of the spell.” Caro sighed. “Plus, I can claim that I forged it myself, which might impress the teacher.”
“I see…” Morgana agreed as she grabbed the mold. It was made of two pressed sheets of steel that contained the outline of the rings, along with the canal through which the molten gold would fill in the spots. “I really want to see it turn out well. And this way, maybe I can keep the copy.”
“Yeah, no,” Caro joked. “There might’ve been other molds in other forges along the campus, but I like the idea of keeping the spare.”
“I just hope these aren’t enchanted for marriage or something,” Morgana half joked.
“I don’t think so,” Caro laughed in agreement. It wasn’t that far-fetched to think that these were supposed to be wedding bands.
“Will it fit?” Morgana asked. “The mold does look bigger than my finger, wearing a loose ring can’t be comfortable, right?”
“Don’t worry, my spell will take care of that detail,” Caro said, wiping some of the steam from her protective glasses. “I think it's done.”
“Got it,” Morgana answered, carefully moving the mold into place, with the two pieces locked together and only a hole through that would lead towards the two rings. She did so using her hands, which was definitely much easier than using the clunky tongs.
"Give me a moment, I'll warm the mold up, so we get a good pour" Cupping the metal mold between her hands, she concentrated as flame flickered around it for a few moments. "That should be hot enough, now just pour the metal in. I'll hold it still for you".
With a tip of her hand, Caro let the molten gold that pooled the tray slide into the mold’s canal, letting a soft hiss as the surface met the liquefied metal
“That’d be enough,” Morgana noted as the gold was about to spill off. With that, she plugged the cast with a black iron cap. “How long before it sets?”
“Hm… Maybe a couple of minutes?” Caro muttered, taking a step back. She’d done everything to the letter of the instructions, but that hardly did anything over the fear of getting burned. Despite the mold being of black iron, she could only imagine how hot it would be to touch. “Give it a couple of spins.”
“Why? Is that okay?” Morgana said, looking at the case, being careful with her hold.
“Have you made chocolate before? I think you need to keep it in movement. If you can channel your essence, it might help.”
Finding the sense in it, Morgana agreed and began to spin the cast between her fingers. Occasionally switching the axis and not letting it settle.
“That should make sure that the distribution is uniform enough. I’ll work on inscribing the spell and then summon the forger.”
With Morgana’s agreeing nod, Caro slipped back onto the forge table where the bulk of the fine work and polishing would be done. A small anvil had been loaded up onto the pedestal and secured as per Grimma’s specifications, holes and knobs where the ring would be fitted. At the base were fine pencil lines wherein the spell would be inscribed, words with Caro’s own magic to give them shape and make the conditions a law for the bangle.
Taking a deep breath, she picked up the piece of the special chalk and began to inscribe.
“Tonight, comes into creation my newest treasure.
Wherein I request for the powers of nature
So as to deal with any danger and pressure.
That is what’ll hold and save me in the future”
“Spirit of the flames, donned in by its maiden
I request for the power of the dragon that lies within
Rung out with seven chimes of the bell on each turn.
A vessel made to house your power and temper.”
“Quell the fire and restrain the dragon contained,
So as to not drown the finger that guides.
Like a saddle to a steed, their direction be yours.
And thus, receive the protection needed.”
“Red string that wraps around the wealth
Sift through the sun’s surface into the core
Housed within, the vein will run,
Feeding it all with the power that must.”
“For any wielder presented it will always fit,
When the steel voiceless one sings, do let free.
Its strength bent and its power at alluring display
I want for this to protect the dragon’s will.”
Lines and lines of text, marked on the surface. Whenever each stanza was finished, the lines glowed and shrank themselves into a more condensed form so as to not obstruct the lines that came next. Despite the errors that came from the speedy writing, it was all given leeway as part of her magic as the intent was clear. At the center of the anvil, the torn sheet of her notebook was laid open and pinned down onto the surface, with every note and recitation affected, the lines echoed to offer the needed redundancy.
With that part over, she could see that Morgana was already starting to get bored of spinning the mold.
“Up next is to summon the forger,” Caro sighed as she closed her eyes.
“Spirit of the stories, fairy tales and fables,
You who’d held a place in plenty tables,
Lived in the breath of the smallest of pests,
And ruled the realms from behind the bests,
At the utterance of the word, something began to change in the room. Something subtle at first that only those magically attuned could perceive. A change in the air, a sort of hollowness and candid chill. Much like the wind one would feel at the entrance of a dark forest or the breeze at a cliff overlooking the sea. It was… invigorating.
Morgana slowed in her work but kept at it as she felt it.
“Having played the role opponent and ally,
I need to ask for your services, incidentally
As someone who knows of magics olds and new,
And have seen and done, held only by a few.”
This time, the effects were more tangible and present. A soft gentle darkness ebbed itself into existence within the corners of the room, creeping in soft swirls towards Caro.
Morgana tried to remain silent, but she was clearly seeing the dark smoke manifest itself parade towards the center of the room. Carefully, she tried to take a step away from their path, even if it was unnecessary.
There were so few times Grimma manifested herself in this world outside of magic, and when she did, she had to make a spectacle of it for the audience. The smoke coalesced itself on the ground before the caster and rose up, slowly molding itself into the shape of a woman with glowing white eyes in the middle of her face. Elegant horns that clearly outclassed Caro’s own circlet and the illusion of a transparent cape that framed regalia.
Evidently not the usual appearance she presented herself as. Caro would’ve rolled her eyes to that weren’t it still a rather elegant sight to behold and, her still needing to focus on the spell at hand.
I relinquish part of my hold, for aid I ask,
May you grab the hammer for the forging,
And swing it down with precise task,
Make into reality the plans I lay, a ring.
“Good job,” Caro heard Grimma’s voice in her mind as the outline before her slowly disappeared away. Each of the contours slowly dissolved itself and reached forth towards her. The smoke tendrils coming into contact with her skin and fading but at the same time, making her feel her connection with the spirit of fables and stories was at its strongest.
Her status as an avatar wasn’t exactly the common kind. She was a steward for an otherworldly entity, but that entity didn’t live within her nor was bound to fill in a metaphorical slot within her. Instead, she was more of a guidepost, whereupon the spirit could always return back in her roamings. How that affected her magic? Surprisingly little.
That being said, she’d experienced Grimma’s possession before and it was far gentler than she expected. No sudden jolting of her body, no spine crack and no rolled up eyes as she’d seen in movies. Instead, it was more like a warm embrace and another person standing at her side, guiding her movements and filling her up with strange power that guided her own towards a new limit.
She’d felt this power about a couple of times before, and it was tempting.
“Relishing in the moment?” Grimma mused within her as the last dregs of the smoke disappeared from the room. “It’s been a spell since we last tried this, hasn’t it?” She nudged Caro for control, and she complied.
She could see the black, blue and green mist that exuded from her skin. What she claimed was “the power to make the rules and enforce them with her own flair.” And she quite felt it now. With every breath she took and every move she made, there was magic about, the energies that made this aspect of the world what it was, the strings ready to bend to her will at the right wave.
A glance of her reflection on the polished pedestal, and she saw what she’d come to expect but still an unsettling image considering it was her. As the mist surrounded her right arm was also slipping from the same side of her face, tentatively seeping off the corner of her eye that now glowed of an emerald and white color, much like Grimma’s illusory appearance.
I suppose it could be much worse, but it’s always so more distracting, Caro thought to herself whilst Grimma’s modest giggles followed as if on cue.
“Caro? Are you there?” Morgana asked from the side.
“I believe your subject is wondering if you’re still yourself,” Grimma mused within Caro’s head, but as it was part of their agreement, she wouldn’t move or talk without her host’s consent.
“I’m fine,” Caro surmised. “Grimma just enjoys being a little bit over the top.”
“Humph, I take offense to that,” Grimma said mockingly, which Caro tried to ignore.
“Think the gold has begun to set.”
“That’s wonderful,” Caro said. Her tone, intonations and even voice changing subtly so as to show the spirit’s influence. “Please, bring it over and undo the lock of the cast so we can see the rings.”
Morgana nodded and already began to work on the latches of the cast. Only to be briefly taken aback as Caro suddenly drew herself closer towards her. Arching her body like a cat perched over the edge of the couch, curious as to what was on the table. And yet before she could get even closer or say something, as her growing smile seemed to be hinting to, she backed away, as if yanked by an invisible leash.
“Can you focus?” Caro suddenly asked with her normal voice.
“Very well,” Grimma conceded inwardly, she would’ve used Caro’s own lips to smile if she’d been allowed. “I’ll get to work. May I have more guidance over your body?”
“You may,” Caro said, accidentally saying it out loud.
“Hearing voices?” Morgana said amusedly as she worked her way around the latches on the mold.
“It’s more like having an overly concerned friend do things for you,” Caro said, hearing Grimma utter a teasing ‘aw’ within the back of her mind. “This is exciting. Can’t wait to see the results.” She claimed, feeling the thrill and excitement overcome doubts.
The latches were popped open and the two rings were revealed, ready to be plucked off the cast.
The end result was just as Caro might’ve expected. The two rings were embedded within the black iron mold, connected by a thin tube of gold that needed to be broken so as to complete the job. Its shape was still a work in progress, but was close to perfect, with the sheen of its smooth curved outer side being almost mirror-like within its ebbing heat.
“This’ll do nicely,” Grimma said through Caro’s lips as she walked around the pedestal, now decorated with the abridged words that read the spell. The possessed girl’s gaze moved down towards the written instructions, seemingly able to read the code just as easily. A smile appeared on her lips as the words slipped her. “Not bad. It makes it clear what you want and what you expect. Conditions could use some work, and your desire and trade are a bit too plain to see… but I’ll gladly offer you the help for this.”
With that, her finger touched the pedestal, in the same motion one would clean the dust off a surface, and as it did, the letters and lines it touched became brighter with a soft change of the hue.
“This looks so nice,” Morgana said, dangling the ring by the thin connecting golden line. And to that, she just playfully spun them as if it were a ceiling fan, though not missing what was taking place at the polishing and enchanting station, watching with clear interest. “When do we start?”
“Over here, if you please,” Caro said, pointing at the center of the table. “And prepare thine eyes for the show. I’m sorry, Morgana, she likes to show off and dazzle.”
“I don’t mind,” Morgana said amused as she complied. “Dazzle away.”
“Thank you.” Caro mused with Grimma’s regal tone as she adjusted her protective gear, dusting and straightening the protective cover and properly affixing the arm brace, with the runes on circling bands flaring up with the new magic.
Grimma had Caro outstretch her arm and uttered the word. “Come.”
To that, one of the unbound hammers from the racks suddenly began to shake and trembled within the hooks. And suddenly, it slipped off and flew through the air into her hand. Inwardly though, Caro was practically preparing to flinch and duck.
Still surrendering her actions to the boisterous spirit, Caro’s body investigated the hammer. Her finger went from its handle up to the head. A finger caressed the hard surface and her lips moved, reciting something that Morgana wouldn’t be able to hear, much less decipher.
But Caro would.
“Oh, silvery egg born from the insides of the mountain. Raised and hatched into being by the hand of an artist. Of willed head and thin hard beak, the batting of your wings will raise fiery feathers wherever you tread. Duty bound to perfect, and with the order of your patron, help for the creation of this maiden’s wishes.”
A sweet short poem that was just her way of showing off other ways her spells and conditions could be formulated. As the recital happened in a short fast breath, her finger traveled from the head of the hammer down to the back edge, on its path, releasing the same magic and color of mana into the surface, leaving on its wake organized and detailed lines that were the abridged version of the verse.
To someone like Morgana, it might make little sense, but for Caro who saw these every now and then, there was a sense of order about it that she wished she could emulate with ease.
By the time her finger left metal, large heatless embers flew off.
“There we have it.” Grimma mused, admiring her handiwork. She spun the hammer around her hand before having it strike the hard surface of the pedestal, releasing a ring that felt like a hundred glasses peacefully shattering in harmony. With a flip of the wrist, the backside of the head, one that ended in a pointy chisel-like end, touched the iron, not leaving a scratch but instead a colorful line.
And without saying anything else, she began to work. With the chisel edge, as if it were a guillotine’s blade, she easily snipped off the golden connections between the rings, with only a couple of bright red flashes and the soft metallic crack.
The two rings were released onto Caro’s hand. Letting the shaft slip halfway through her fingers, wherein she prepared for the next part. Setting the two accessories on iron knobs, she raised her enchanted hammer as a preamble of what was to come.