Credit to Livvielove for Kit’s dialogue!
No one’s POV
Nikolas slept better than he’d slept in a long while that night. That is to say, he actually did sleep the full night.
The next morning, Kit’s friend and his wife invited them inside to eat breakfast – as well as to offer some clothing to the kids.
Derek and Fawn’s own children had long since moved out, but they’d kept most of their clothing in the hopes of getting grandchildren eventually. Sadly, it seems parents liked buying their own kids new clothes these days, so the couple was glad to let Mouse and Nikolas choose outfits they liked.
Mouse was twirling for Kit when Fawn approached Aleccas. “Your jacket has a lot of holes and it’s dirty…” She noticed, touching it. “You can pick one of Derek’s to replace it, or I can try and fix it up some if you’d like.” She offered.
Aleccas looked down at his jacket with some hesitation. She wasn’t wrong, the poor thing was torn in all sorts of places, and he hadn’t given it a proper wash since…well since he first put it on – which in all technicality was over two hundred years ago. He felt the need to keep it on him for mostly sentimental reasons now…though it weighed heavily on his shoulders.
Kit noticed his hesitation, and she spoke. “Aye, plus it’s getting very hot out here. Ye could do with feelin’ the breeze. Let Fawn mend it for ye and take some of that weight off.”
“Yeah geez, I’m sweating just looking at you.” Niko snorted as he tried on a shirt.
Aleccas snorted as well before nodding. “Probably for the best, just a fix please.” He slipped out of the jacket and handed it to Fawn, watching it go.
“I’ll take good care of it don’t worry.” Fawn said with a kind smile before heading out.
Nikolas and Mouse left the house with a small pile of clothes and with elaborate thanks to their hosts. After putting them away, Kit led them all to an empty field in town – what would become Nikolas’ training grounds for now.
Aleccas, Mouse and Atris were welcome to join them – an invitation they happily accepted. They stood to the side, watching as Kit explained to Niko what he’d be doing that morning.
“What are we going to start with? Some battle stances?” He asked, dropping into one.
Kit laughed and nodded, before she attempted a more serious expression. “Aye, indeed! Very, very important battle stances. Place your legs shoulder-width apart and ‘old out your hands with your eyes closed.”
Nikolas squinted skeptically, but he did as she said, holding out his arms. “Going to learn right off the bat how to fight if I’m blinded?”
She laughed again, picking up one of the buckets they’d brought over. “No… That’s a wee bit advanced for right now. Ye have to learn the basics, first!” She said as she hung the bucket onto his hands. “Starting with walking.”
Nikolas frowned and opened his eyes, only to see she’d dropped a bucket of water right into his grip. He looked up at her inquisitively as he let his hands droop down with the weight of it. “Walking?”
Kit nodded before heading back to grab two buckets for herself. “Mhm, that’s what I said, wasn’t it? Walking. We’re gonna walk the length of this field at least fifty times while carryin’ water.” She declared as she put herself beside him. This was a good excuse for her to keep up with her own training as well. “The catch is, ye can’t spill a single drop of water.”
He raised his eyebrow at her, noticing how she was holding not one but two buckets, and he looked down at his own singular bucket whose water was already sloshing dangerously close to the edge. He was seeing the challenge now and he grinned at it. “Fifty times huh?” He asked with a competitive smirk. “Doable.” He rolled his shoulders looking back at the trio. “Who’s going to count us off?”
She laughed. “You’re going to count ye. Unless ye have trouble countin’ to fifty? If so we might need to backtrack even further…” She grinned as she gestured smoothly at the field, the water only sloshing slightly in her bucket. “A whole round is goin’ there and back. If ye spill any water, ye have to go all the way over there-”
She said as she pointed to a spot in the distance where you could discern a body of water. “-fill it up again and come all the way back ‘ere to start again. Understood?”
“Start again…you mean from the start of the fifty rounds or just the one round I was doing?” He asked, fearing the first option, but starting to feel like he should expect the worst case scenarios from her.
She laughed darkly. “What do you think, lad?” She let the question hang and Niko’s face grew worried as she didn’t bother to give any other hint. She started the walk and Nikolas felt the dread sink in as he accepted that it was probably the worst case scenario. He adjusted his hold on the bucket and followed suit, his walk awkward as the bucket dangerously swayed between his legs.
Yes, this was going to be a challenge.
Aleccas watched in amusement as Nikolas struggled to find his rhythm without dropping any water. He didn’t even make it to the other side before he was veering for the small pond.
The Keeper witch looked down at Mouse, who was playing with Atris.
“You two have become quite inseparable. You like Atris huh?” He said.
Mouse looked up at him and nodded with a grin.
“He’s a good dragon and he likes you too. He doesn’t get that familiar with people, but he seems really comfortable with you and Kit.” Aleccas said as he set his staff down, settling in the grass.
Mouse tickled Atris’ chin and the latter tapped his tail on the ground.
It was true, Atris had always been hesitant with others. He only agreed to teleport people if Aleccas was there. It was the case now with the Rebellion, and it was the case then with the witch families. Atris hatched for him, but the witch courts had…hoped they could use Atris without him. That hadn’t been the case, they were a pair.
It took a lot usually for Atris to warm up to other people, but as long as Aleccas was around Atris was open to it. There were only a few that Atris had felt comfortable with from the start: Nikolas, Kit and Mouse.
It was amusing that he was taking a vacation with them now.
Maybe Atris had detected he’d get along with them, that he’d end up staying with them for a bit…Ha, that was trying to give the dragon too much credit. Atris was just a child still. He didn’t know much about dragons – and it was unfortunate now that the one person who seemed to, Haginda, was dead – but he figured being barely two years old was hardly enough time to know these kinds of things.
Aleccas grimaced a bit. He wished he knew more about Atris. So far he seemed to take care of him well enough. He’d figured out what the dragon liked, what he needed to survive in a day, and that was especially thanks to Atris’ expressive nature. Still, it felt like Aleccas’ lack of knowledge might be holding Atris back. Maybe he had hidden potential he couldn’t come into because Aleccas was severely underprepared for this.
No one in his family had been prepared. The task had always been to take care of the eggs – no one expected anything to happen with them, though they used to entertain prophecies over them, supported by the fortune tellers.
Aleccas leaned back, reliving that day over two hundred years ago as Nikolas lost control of his bucket again.
The Witch War was still in full destructive force then. Though it was just called the War then. Things were starting to look bleak and the main witch families were sending their children to go fight. Aleccas was the Keeper Prince and there was a whole ceremony involving the eggs that was meant to send him off to war with luck on his side.
Everybody had done it before. Court witches cast fortune spells on you, and you finish it all by placing your hands on the eggs. It was the best luck gift you could get as long as you were a Keeper witch.
When Aleccas had done so, one of the eggs had started to hatch, and there Atris was, covered in goop and the egg dripping with magic.
A week later, they were both in the crater. The crater that wasn’t too far from Rustmeadow actually, if you looked at the horizon you could see the peaks of the mountains surrounding it.
A week later, they were in the middle of the battlefield fighting for their lives and everyone else’s. Everything…exploded in that war. Too many people died…all of them did.
Somehow, Atris had saved Aleccas, because one moment Aleccas was scrambling for his life as the very ground opened up swallowing everyone, and the next he’d woken up locked to a Hans lab chair two hundred years later. Aleccas leaned on his knee.
No he didn’t know much of anything about Atris, apart from what he needed to so they could work and live together. They’d spent the year surviving and adjusting, he’d never even thought about Atris’ origins. He’d avoided thinking about a lot of things that related to back then. His hand came to touch his shirt. It was one thing to take his jacket off for the night, but to take it off for the day…
It’s strange how much he felt the difference in weight.
He shook his head.
“Mouse do you want to see a magic show?” Aleccas asked as he picked up his staff.
Two hours later, Nikolas hadn’t yet breached round 25. He’d dropped water more than once and in a frustrating attempt at keeping to an honor system, he’d head over to the pond to refill and restart his 50 all over again.
Kit on the other hand, had finished them without any complications. Since she had a job to do for Derek after lunch, she told Niko to keep going until he reached his goal. He waved her off tiredly, driven by frustration more than anything at that point.
Aleccas watched as Kit made her way back to them, dropping her buckets.
“He’s still going?” He asks with a short snort after getting up from his spot on the ground.
Kit snorted. “Aye, he took me seriously when I joked that ‘e had to start over after spilling. Ah well, it’s good for his legs. If he’s still goin’ in two more hours, have him call it quits for the day to eat. He’ll get sun fatigued otherwise and be dead as a doornail tomorrow, which will do him nothing good.”
He nods. “Sounds good, I’ll watch him.” He got up, reflexively brushing imaginary dirt off his pants. “You’re off to work more on that job? How’s that looking? Do you need any help?”
She gave a nod back. “That I am. It’s a very curious case that smells of some strange magic to me. If I need ye I’ll let ye know, but I need more information first.”
Kit looked over Aleccas carefully before smiling at him. “Ye look nice without the coat… freer, almost. I’ll see ye tonight. Have fun, Mouse!” She waved at them both before heading off leaving Aleccas pleasantly conscious of the way he looked. Not having his jacket on was proving to have advantages – apart from not dying under the growing scorching heat of the summer sun.
“Fuck.” One could hear distantly in the background from a very frustrated seventeen year old.
Having a spot among the Hans is an incredible opportunity and a privilege. It was then and it is now. Though, the reasons why are slightly different now.
The Hans are the leaders of medicine and science. They are the pinnacle of these subjects and they dabble in history, archaeology, and military. If you were looking for a career in research, you needed to aim for a career with the Hans. Even being a janitor for their research labs or their hospitals was something to boast about.
Now, the Hans are the leading decision makers of the Right continent. Last year, the governments came together and gave the Hans full power over fixing the supernatural problem. Those spoiled individuals were wreaking havoc on our political system and were the sole cause of thousands of deaths. They need to be contained and the Hans stepped up to offer their help.
That’s another reason why it’s a lot more advantageous to work for them.
I worked hard and I excelled to gain the position I have now. I’m still in training and these are still just internships, but I am certain of the permanency of time with them. I am too good of a scientist for them not to keep me. The only project I have failed is the one I had with Thomas and that was because our subject escaped due to circumstances out of our control.
Still, I’m not sure why they’ve set me up with Thomas again.
Of his permanency…well his I’m certain is of a more temporary nature. I don’t know why he was hired. He’s lazy, crass, rude, lacks the decent sense to be punctual and I’m certain he doesn’t brush his teeth. I can smell his bad breath from a mile away.
Maybe his incompetence is why we’ve been assigned to another project together. They’re hoping my expertise will spread to him.
“I should’ve brought sunscreen.” Thomas whined under the summer sun as we walked.
“Yes like I advised you to.” I said with a sigh.
“Did you? I don’t remember this.” He shrugged and I rolled my eyes.
I looked back at the two workers traveling with us, confirming that they were still following.
This was my first field project. It was also my first time on the Left continent. It was always described to me as technologically deficient – as the Hans don’t have as much of a prominent place here – and so far the lack of proper civilization supported that.
A day or so ago a weird energy spike was detected in the forest near Hazelwood. I was assigned the case to go see what had created it, and to bring it back if possible. I was determined to complete this project to make up for the other failure I had working with Thomas.
“We’re nearing the coordinates. Just behind those…” One of the workers trailed off as we all looked at the smoke cloud snaking among the trees.
“Looks like we’re here!” Thomas exclaimed as I pulled out a camera.
“What a strange formation. Have any of you seen this before?” I asked, taking a few pictures. They shook their heads. “This is definitely the cause. We need to get closer for better readings.”
We approached cautiously until we reached the edge. We all equipped ourselves with masks in case this was the physical manifestation of toxic gas.
The youngest of the workers extended his hand into the smoke. “I can’t feel it. It doesn’t have any substance.” He said, turning his hand in it. “Though…it’s starting to sting a bit.” He added with a frown, before his eyes widened. His body was overcome with a shake all of a sudden, before he dropped to the ground, dead.
We each took a large leap backwards.
“Oh man! Did he just die? Buddy?”
I was busy connecting the dots. “Instant death, smoke like appearance….” I scrambled and grabbed a tool from the case. It was a magic detector and I tuned it to a very very low frequency of magic. The kind no one could use, at most witches might be able to tap into it, but only the more adept. It was referred to as soul level magic among the Hans. I think I heard that the white-haired lizard eyed girl had the ability to use that kind of magic, but I can’t confirm.
I pointed the tool at the fog and the readings confirmed it.
“This is a curse.” I declared to the two who’d been waiting and glancing at the dead body.
“Apart from a swear word, I have no idea what you’re talking about. ” Thomas said.
Well, he didn’t need to know, but I was going to have to explain it anyway.
“It’s powerful soul magic that’s only meant to kill. That’s the only thing it can do and it’s not avoidable.” I explained and they took extra steps back. “It’s also nearly impossible to cast without dying yourself. The last time it was managed was…hundreds of years ago and by a powerful witch.” I looked at the scene in awe. “But never on this scale. Who? Who could’ve cast this?”
“I say let’s not find out and head back to headquarters. ” Thomas grimaced.
“There’s a town nearby, Hazelwood. We can go inquire on what happened here.”
“Thomas this assignment just became the find of the century. You can head back if you’d like, but I’m not taking the chance that someone else will get the credit for it. I’m going to Hazelwood.”
He continued to grimace, but nodded. “Fine, I’m coming too.” The remaining worker gave me a nod which served no purpose as he had no choice but to follow me.
It’s a rare occurrence, but this merited it.
I love the Left continent. It was a trove of untouched phenomenons. The Witch Crater alone, a literal hole of dangerous uncontrollable levels of magic, was my dream. It was considered too dangerous to examine continously for now, the Hans preferring to watch the effects on the surrounding towns like Rustmeadow or Twinbrook, but one day the levels would lower enough. And I wanted to be high enough in the Hans to dive into the mystery of what happened 200 years ago during the witch war.
How from one moment to the next, there were hundreds of supernaturals fighting for their lives and then…there was no one at all. All of them dead, corpses disintegrating in the air. All witnesses along with them. Only Aleccas Keeper was found alive in it and that was 200 years after the fact and he’d yet to reveal anything about it.
I looked back at the fog covering what was once the Talent Troupe. There was little doubt that no one had survived.
One moment to the next, an entire group wiped out. That kind of power…that kind of event…
I felt a shiver run through me.
Yes, I love my job.