/simu/ - Simulacrum

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>June 5th, 2000

>In an emerald land, an after-image of what an isle once was, a lone castle sits, with timeless walls that match the feeling of separation of the area. Above this castle that was and never was, a distortion sits within the sky, calmly ebbing and flowing, a single tendril reaching from it to the castle below.

>On this day, the castle is busy, far busier than it appears to be used to, people of various races, cultures, and creeds are gathered within the main courtyard, their shouts and arguments making them look more like a mob than a gathering. Looking over them, a man with long black hair stands over the gate, his eyes following their movements carefully, taking in everything that happens. . .

>On the opposite side of the courtyard, another black-haired man stands, trying to calm the crowd down.

"Please. . . please. . . we understand your issues, this conclave would not have been called if we did not understand the weight of this situation, but you must remain. . ."

>A voice calls out from the crowd.

"The Prydwens promised us peace as long as we followed the statute of secrecy, these signs show they have failed!"

"The only thing that could do that is on the other side of the rift! Why have you betrayed us?!"

>The man raises his hands to try and quieten the people down.

"The Prydwens have not betrayed any of you. . ."

"The Hydes said the same, how can we-!"

>The crowd suddenly quietens down as a woman dressed in white emerges from the castle, her hair matching her robes. With a presence that indicates she was once much more powerful, she walks slowly and with a certain weakness in her steps.

"The Rift remains closed, I have ensured it myself. . ."

>Her voice is wispy, hollowed, yet it still carries enough volume to cut over the crowd.

>As she speaks, the man walks over to her, a look of concern in his eyes, and moves himself into a position to catch her at any time.

"But we have much to discuss, please, join us inside. . ."

>The woman slowly turns and walks back into the castle, a door opening up below in the courtyard to allow the others to enter as well.

>From his perch, the man watching the events shrugs, then walks away. . .


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>17 years later, a similar scene plays out. Standing above the entrance, a young girl with black hair watches as a crowd of diverse individuals make their way to the entrance of the castle, walking towards the great gates. From her location, she can see the surroundings of the castle for miles.

>As she takes in the sights, the man from 17 years earlier, looking like he hasn't aged a day, slowly walks up behind her, not making his presence immediately known.

"Quite a sight, isn't it?"

>The girl almost jumps, turning around quickly and quickly grabbing onto a staff that was leaning behind her, she points it at the man before slowly lowering it as she recognises him.

"Oh, Uncle Rhion. . . I didn't mean to. . ."

"Nothing to worry about, Little Raven, you're just being vigilant as the guardian of this place, right?"

>Rhion chuckles and makes his way over to the wall, bringing a leg up so that it looks like he's about to vault it.

"And I'm sure you'd be able to save me from being a frog if you turned me into one."

>The girl giggles at the comment, walking over to the wall as well.

"When did you get back Uncle?"

"This morning, I wanted to surprise you, besides, I couldn't exactly miss a conclave, could I?"

>Rhion takes a cigar out of his pocket, cutting the end and lighting it.

"They're always a site to see, so many people gathered from all around, although, the last one was quite a while ago. . ."

>Rhion blows a puff of smoke out over the horizon.

"Well, you know that, your mother hosted it, after all, just after you were born."

>The girl watches Rhion's movements, only shifting her attention to watch the approaching crowds below.

"And do you think. . . they will come?"

>Rhion thinks for a moment, a steady stream smoke coming from him as he does.

"I can't say, Little Raven, I can't say. . ."


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>Within the castle itself, another face from the previous conclave walks about, this one looking a lot more worse for wear than before. Using a staff of his own to support himself, the man who addressed the crowd at the previous conclave enters the main hall of the castle, stopping to breathe for a moment and watch as a group of people filters in.

>With a wince, the man goes to start moving again, only to find a woman blocking his path.

"You're looking a lot worse for wear, Medwyn."

>The man shifts his weight back onto his staff with another wince.

"And you look the same as always, Ms Laurent."

>His voice is older, more pained than it was before.

"I keep myself well, unlike you. But then again, I actually socialise unlike you mages of the mountain."

"I don't have time for this, Camille. . ."

>Camille brings a hand to her mouth, faking a shocked gasp.

"How rude, that's no way for a host to behave. . ."

>With a smug grin, she narrows her eyes.

"But then again, you're not our host, are you? I hear that's a little girl, how embarrassing. . ."

>Camille carefully looks around, practically applauding herself as a crowd begins to gather around the pair.

"Our first conclave in 17 years, and the host is a little girl? Is this how low we've fallen?"

>Medwyn winces, his expression barely hiding anger.

"My daughter, Camille, is perfectly capable of acting as a host, unlike the Laurents, the Prydwens keep to their duties. . . Now, if you'll excuse me. . ."

>Medwyn begins to walk around Camille, the crowd separating around him as he walks away. After a few steps, he stops himself, and looks over his shoulder.

". . .I have to make sure the familiars are preparing everything properly. But please do make sure to enjoy yourself while you wait. . ."


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>As time passes, more and more people filter into the main hall. As each person enters the hall, various creatures attend to their needs and set up an area for them to sit and discuss with friends and colleagues.

>With the variety and amount of people attending, the gathering looks as if it has the attention of the world itself, but the lack of any sort of media presence works against this, creating an odd juxtaposition of modern and ancient.

>As the hall fills with more and more people, Rhion makes his way from outside, picking a quiet, and dark, corner of the room, and keeping to the shadows, not interacting with anyone, simply, instead, watching.

>The host of the gathering itself, however, has still not appeared in the main hall yet. . .


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>A slightly short, hooded figure enters the room, stopping at the entryway to observe the gathering. They move their head around, watching as the creatures whiz by and perform their duties.

>They hesitate for a moment, before fully entering the main hall. Looking for a place to settle down near-by, the figure finds an empty spot near a pillar at the side of the hall.

>After reaching the pillar, the figure leans their back against it. Slowly, they take off their hood - revealing a woman with an almost silver mane of hair tied into a long pair of twin tails.

>The woman quietly pulls a large book from her robe and opens it up - attempting to appear as normal and unremarkable as possible, while she waits for the host's arrival.


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>From his corner, Rhion notices the figure and raises an eyebrow, blowing out another puff of smoke before slipping into the shadows.

>The rest of the room's attention is focused away from the newcomer as the host herself arrives, beginning a short speech.

"Thank you for. . ."

>Silently, Rhion slips out of the shadows behind the short newcomer.

"To be honest, I didn't expect any of you to accept my niece's invitation, I bet it feels for you to be wanted, right?"

>Waiting for a response, Rhion lights a new cigar.


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>The woman is startled, nearly dropping her book. She quickly closes it and puts it away, trying to appear composed.

>She clears her throat.

"I was uh… curious. And my brother didn't want to come. So I did."

>The woman tries to ignore the smoke coming from the cigar, turning her head away slightly to avoid it. She scans the crowd with her eyes.

"So many people here. I wasn't aware there were still so many people who practiced the art."


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"Fewer each time though. . ."

>Rhion lets out a great puff of smoke, which drops down to the ground with a surprising amount of weight, spreading out and forming into images of people in various robes.

"We're a dying breed, young one, every family with a representative here has lost people in the last few decades, and many of those without have died out completely. . . but I suppose you knew the first one personally. . ."

>The images fade away as a breeze blows through the area, and some of the words of the speech cut through the silence.

". . .and that's why we need together to work through these tensions. . ."

>Rhion chuckles to himself.

"It's well said, the Prydwens are no exception, that young girl up there has had the burden of the family's duty since she was a child because of - much like your brother, I would imagine."

>Rhion shifts, going to move away from the woman.

"I imagine he's an interesting man, I'd like to talk to him some time. . ."

>Leaving the "invitation" in the air, Rhion slips back into the shadows again.

>From her location, the host scans the room, noticing Rhion. . . and the stranger he's with, and shifts the focus of her speech.

". . .and that unity is why I want even the pariahs among our kind to feel welcome once again. . ."

>The attention of the room follows the host's gaze, narrowing in on the woman.


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>Noticing the attention focus on her, the woman blushes and turns away. She mumbles to herself:

{"Stop looking at me, please…"}

>The woman remains like this for several moments, waiting for the room's attention to turn elsewhere. Once she's no longer the center of attention, she turns her head back - returning to watching the room.

>Looking near the back, she takes note as the magician Karl quietely walks into the back of the room. She stares at him for a moment, trying to recall his identity, before moving her eyes across the room once more.

>Standing out immediately, she locks her eyes on a head of blue hair. The hair appears to very slightly give off a soft light, not enough to light up a room, but enough to appear visibly unnatural.

>She continues to stare at the owner of the hair, standing on her toes to look over and around people as she tries to get a look at the person. Quietly, she asks out loud:

"Who… is that? I don't know any families that have hair like that…"


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>The stunt of pointing out the woman earns a few murmurs from the gathered people, but the girl continues talking.

"Because, in these times we need to work together."

"Almost seventeen years, our world was shaken to the core as an unknown magical energy of immense power sent ripples through our community."

"While we among the Prydwens can confidently say that it did not come from, or from beyond, the rift. . ."

>The girl holds her left arm for a second.

"We cannot guarantee that whatever being came through was defeated, or that it is even friendly, which is why we're making this call for unity now."

"Together, we can work through this, we can find the answers to this mystery, and if necessary. . ."

"We can defeat the source of it."


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>Not having paid any attention to the murmurs or the woman pointed out, Karl holds in a chuckle.

{"They truly know nothing."}

>Smirking to himself, Karl's hands slide into his pockets. Suddenly, he speaks out loud and says:

"And why, pray tell have you waited seventeen years to finally do something about it? Don't tell me the great Prydwens have only just now decided to look down from their castle at us "lesser" mages."


>Meanwhile, the woman with blue hair crosses her arms. Apparently annoyed by both the attention drawn to her, as well as Karl.


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>Across the room, Karl's comment earns a smile from Camile.

>The girl looks somewhat shocked at Karl's question, but manages to compose herself.

"I will admit that we among the Prydwens can be. . . slow to move. But our duty is to maintain the Rift first and foremost, and those years have been. . . difficult for us, the Rift has been more active in the last ten years than it had for centuries before that."

>The girl lifts her left arm, letting part of her robe sleeve fall down to reveal a marking that goes further down, the pattern pulsing with a glow that matches the colour of the distortion above.

"And, even if we claim ancestry from one of the greatest, we mages of the mountain do not see ourselves as superior to your families not bound by our duty. My calling of this conclave was because we had seen no evidence that the tensions started 17 years ago were going to calm down, combined with the Rift being stable enough for us to afford guests."

>The girl covers her arm back up.

"Besides, Mr Fischer, I find your candour surprising, given that the previous conclave was apparently beneath your notice to even deign to attend, it had led us to believe that you were unconcerned by the surge 17 years ago."


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>Appearing as calm as ever, Karl replies:

"I do not need to rely on sparse gatherings to keep myself informed. The only reason I bothered to join this conclave was purely out of curiosity. Nothing more."

>Looking around the room, Karl adds:

"From what I can see, things appear… dull. As usual."

>Looking towards the young girl once again, Karl yawns.

"But, forgive me for my interruption. Do go on with your speech."


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"We're mages, Mr Fischer, we don't just gather out of curiosity, you came here for your own reason, the same as anyone else. . ."

>The girl offers out her hand, as if inviting Karl onto a stage.

"So please, say your piece, the main points we wished to bring across, bar one, have been said. . ."

>The girl does a small shrug.

"But if you don't wish to, I'm sure others here would be willing to step forward. . ."


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>Karl waves the girl's suggestion off, and says.

"No thank you, Ms. Prydwen. I've already said enough. Let someone else take to the stage, if they wish."


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"You disappoint me, Mr Fischer, your confidence led me to believe that you had your own theory on a solution, but clearly that was just empty rhetoric from you. . ."

>The girl lowers her hand, and looks around the room.

"The offer for anyone to speak their piece remains, however, you were all invited here as equals, not to simply listen."

>A few murmurs comes from the crowd.


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>Taking the bait, Karl raises his eyebrow.

"Oh? I've disappointed you? Very well. I'll humor you."

>Karl clears his throat, before raising his voice to address all the room.

"If such a powerful entity still exists, and is indeed a danger to us all then our solution is simple. We take inspiration from those who came before us."

"As controversial as this may sound to some of you, the Thaumians are an ideal source of inspiration. We simply must do as they did, and put all our focus into gaining as much power as possible."

>Hearing the crowd begin to get more lively, Karl elaborates:

"Now, I know how that sounds. But we have the benefit of hindsight. We can learn from their mistakes, and avoid those pitfalls."


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>Karl's suggestion causes the crowd to start heading towards a fever pitch, and earns an angered shout from Medwyn, the older man stepping forward and leaning on his staff.

"Your insane theory hasn't changed since you suggested it to Eirwen, Karl, what makes you think it'll work now, or is this just your new attempt at leading us all to oblivion?"


>Within the crowd, Rhion carefully moves around, avoiding talking to anyone until he locks onto the woman with blue hair, moving to her side and looking over the crowd from her perspective.

"Now we're getting to the interesting part, Medwyn would kill himself in these debates if he were allowed to, always trying to keep his wife's memory alive. . ."

>Rhion shrugs.

"Of course, you'd already know that if you were a familiar face, but you're very new, and I've not heard of any families adopting anyone, a new stray that the Fondants have picked up, maybe?"


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>The blue haired woman watches as Karl continues to argue for his point. Not taking her eyes off of him, she replies to Rhion.

"There aren't any families named the Fondants. And I'm no stray."

>The woman narrows her eyes while watching Karl, debating internally on something.

"Is there a reason you're talking to me, rather than focusing on the debate?"


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"Because you weren't invited, yet you're standing here like you belong."

>Rhion follows the woman's gaze.

"And you're staring at Karl Fischer like you're going to kill him at any moment. Which, officially, I'm meant to ask you not to do."

>Rhion grins.

"Unofficially, that'd be the most interesting thing to happen at one of these events in a long time, could even cause a war. . ."


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>The woman waves Rhion's statement off, and says:

"I'm not here as an assassin. And I'm not here to start a war."

>Finally taking her eyes off of Karl, the woman locks them onto Rhion.

"If things are boring you, feel free to liven things up yourself. I'm content where I am right now."


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"Well, a war here would ruin my lovely home, we've spent a long time keepingg this place pristine, even if there's less and less of us each generation, but. . ."

>Rhion claps his hands together.

"I'll take you up on the offer, thanks for the idea."

>Taking the cigar out of his mouth, Rhion steps forward, takes a deep breath, and coughs, the volume of it somehow managing to reach deafening volumes, silencing the room.

"Medwyn. . . Karl. . . as much as we'd all love to see you debate the merits of copying a long dead civilisation for the rest of this conclave. It appears we have an intruder. . ."

"This lovely young woman who should be behind me. . . unless she's slipped away as easily as she slipped in, wasn't invited, unless there's suddenly a family renowned for its bright blue hair?"


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>Finally taking notice of the intruder, Karl's eyes immediately widen as he recognizes them. Quickly, he then composes his self, and waits in silence.


>Visibly annoyed, the blue haired woman metaphorically shoots daggers at Rhion with her eyes.

{"Great. Of course."}


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>Rhion quickly looks over his shoulder at the woman.

"I'm surprised you didn't leave straight away. . ."

>He then turns and points at Karl.

"And I'm surprised you looked so shocked at her being here, Karl, if I didn't know better I'd say you recognised her."

"That'd be an insane theory though, of course, a great mage like you wouldn't slip up and reveal our secrets to an outsider, right. . ?"

>From her location in the room, the girl walks around to get a better view of the blue-haired woman, ending up standing next to Medwyn before shifting her attention to Karl.

"Does his theory have any merit, Mr Fischer?"


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>Karl turns to look at the girl.

"This woman simply resembles someone else. And I have no reason, nor the time to waste to bother teaching an outsider."

>He places his hands in his pockets, and then turns away.

"My opinions may be controversial. But I am no fool."

>Karl then walks away, heading towards a more isolated section of the room to sit back and watch from.


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"Then. . ."

>The girl turns her attention to the woman.

"Who are you? My uncle is right in the fact that you weren't invited, you clearly don't belong to any of the families. . ."


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>The woman watches as Karl heads towards the back of the room, before training her eyes on the girl.

"I was under the impression that anyone was welcome here, considering you allowed some less than popular individuals in."

"If you're afraid I'm some kind of threat, I'm not. I just wanted to see the conclave for myself."


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>The girl almost winces at the comment.

"While that is true, an outsider knowing of our secrets suggests that someone. . ."

>A voice shouts out from the crowd.

"It was the Hydes! Devil-worshippers like them have no respect for our rules, they brought this girl here to undermine us!"

"One of them is here, we can get her to confess!"

"They're not even human anyway, they're probably all some kind of demonspawn."

>The girl grimaces at the last comment, part of it dug deep for her.

"We are not going to lynch someone over their family! This outsider can explain how they came to know themselves before we point any fingers!"

>The crowd, however, seems focused on their own arguments.


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>The woman seemingly rolls her eyes at the crowd, before responding to the girl.

"Nobody has revealed any of your secrets to me. I'm a just a mage, like the rest of you. And I found this conclave on my own."

>She pauses for a moment, before continuing.

"I just wanted to see it for myself. That's it."


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"Mages don't just happen, someone must have taught you, or made you. . ."

>The girl shifts in the spot, looking at the man behind the woman, giving him a look that makes it clear that she wants him to do something.

"And one does not simply walk into our home, it's well-hidden - for good reason."

>The girl raises her marked hand.

"I'm sorry, but we're going to have to detain you, at least until we can get to the bottom of this. . ."


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{"Let's see what happens next."}

"No, that won't be necessary. I'll just get out of your hair and see myself out."

>The woman turns and begins walking away, curiously waiting for whatever it is they're planning to do.


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>Rhion moves with a surprising amount of speed, placing himself between the woman and the door.

"It's not that easy, I'm afraid. . ."

>The girl twists her hand, sending vines in the woman's direction.

"We'll let you go after we've confirmed what you've said, I promise."


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>The woman moves with equally high speed, quickly maneuvering her body around Rhion and flipping him around - throwing him towards the vines.

"I don't like being confined."

>A dark substance begins dripping from the woman's sleeves, quickly pooling together into a black pool of liquid.

>The liquid begins moving around, appearing like strokes of ink as they build into a three dimensional structure - taking on the form of a solid black cat made of ink.

>The cat casually leaps onto the woman's shoulder, rubbing against her. She pets the cat on the head, and says:

"Go on. Protect."

>The cat suddenly leaps from the woman's shoulder, twisting and transforming mid-air as it takes on a more solid monstrous form. Now appearing like a massive lion or tiger, it rumbles and growls - causing it's spiked back quills to raise up aggressively.


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>The vines hit Rhion and tangle around the man, both of them hitting the ground with a thud.

"Oh well, looks like this old man's not going to be much help. . ."

>The black-haired man casually turns his head to look at the girl.

"It'll be a show at least. . ."

>Seeing the vines have not connected with her desired target, the girl curses and moves her arm, disconnecting the vines from it.

"You're skilled at least! Is that your familiar? It's very well made. . ."

>The girl violently pulls a feather from her robes and holds it in front of her.

"You're not the only one who knows how to summon familiars, though, and that one's clearly based on darkness, so I just need to use a creature that represents light, right?"

>The girl pulls a dagger from her belt, still keeping it sheathed in a white hilt, and grabs onto the still covered blade with the hand. After a few seconds of her holding the blade, a drop of blood hits the ground, and she pulls the blade away throwing the feather into the air and snapping her finger.

>With the cue from her snap, the flames of the torches around the room jump from their spots and all fly into the feather, twisting and morphing into the shame of a bird, and plunging the room into darkness besides the summoned creature.

>Needless to say, the incident has drawn attention.

>Standing behind the bird, the girl still looks at the woman.

"I don't want to fight you, but you have to understand that we can't just let you go without you telling us more."


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"There's nothing more I have to say. But you're free to try and stop me from leaving."

>The woman clicks her fingers together - causing the cat-like creature to act. It digs it's massive claws into the ground, cutting through the stone as if it were butter.

>Black cracks rapidly form around the monster's paws, before launching a pressurized stream of black liquid towards the Phoenix.


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"Fine, if you want to do it that way. . ."

>The girl brings the dagger up, facing the blade to the stream, and pulls the blade slightly out of its sheath.

>As the metal is exposed to the air, the stream is cut in two, going around the bird, and the girl places the blade back on her belt, using the momentum of the moment to start running to the woman.

"Deal with the familiar, I'll handle her!"

>Her shout to the bird causes it to swoop down at the cat-like creature, ready to face it head on, while the girl still keeps on running to the woman, removing one of the heavier robes to not be held back and grabbing some charms from her belt.

"Even if you've said everything you want to say, you've not said everything you have to say! We can't just let anyone in here!"


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>The cat creature avoids the bird's swooping attack, attempting to pounce it in return. This continues, as the pair of familiars both repeatedly avoid each other's attacks.

>Meanwhile, the woman smiles at the girl.

"You're brave for running right at me. But I'm not as fragile as the typical mage."

>Quickly she sticks her leg out, touching the floor with her toe. In one fluid motion she spins around - tracing a perfect circle on the floor. The circle lights up, glowing with a blue hue similar to her hair.


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"That's fine, I don't think like a typical mage anyway."

>The girl says, flinging one of the charms at the woman, a simple stone with a dot surrounded by a circle engraved onto it.

>The stone seems to miss its mark, however, and clatters on the ground behind the woman, lying still for a moment before suddently exploding into a ball of flame.

"For example, I'm willing to destroy this entire place if it ensures the integrity of the rift - and while I don't know what spell you're casting. . ."

>The girl brings her hand up, showing several more stones with the same engraving held between her fingers, and grins.

"I'm willing to bet you need the circle preserved to cast it, right? So. . ."

>The girl throws the stones in her hand in a scattered pattern.

"I just need to destroy it!"


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"I can assure you I'm not here about the rift. There's no danger of it being opened by me."

>The stones rumble and explode, converging flames in on the woman. Moments pass, with nothing but dust and fire visible - only for the ground to crack and rip open next to the girl. A dark pool of liquid fills the vacant space opened by the cracks.

>Suddenly the liquid flies out from the floor and entangles itself around the girl's leg - twisting and curling it's way up her body to try and restraint her.

>Meanwhile as the fire and dust clears, the woman appears to be perfectly fine as a translucent bubble melts away from around her.

"Good thinking. But the circle was just a distraction."

>The woman begins stepping towards the girl, waving smoke and dust out of her face with her hand.


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"Lying is a thing, you know. . ."

>The girl shifts her weight slightly, waiting for the smoke to die down, looking somewhat disappointed that the attack didn't work, even if she was clearly expecting it to not harm her.

"Well, familiars and rune charms aren't my specialty. . ."

>The girl brings up her branded arm, showing off more of the markings along it, the thrumming patterns looking like the roots of a tree.

"Consider yourself lucky, no one outside of the Prydwen family has seen this magic in centuries, and you get to experience being stuck by it. . ."

>The intensity of ebbing and flowing begins to increase, and the girl grits her teeth, as if being injured by something elsewhere.

"Ceridwen, no! She is not worth that!"

>From beyond fight of the familiars, Medwyn calls out, shouting to the girl, who turned her head slightly to look at the man, but still continues preparing her move.


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>The woman's eyes move back and forth between the girl and Medwyn. After a few moments of thinking, she suddenly clears her throat.

>All sound in the room seems to go away, save for the woman's voice. Her voice softly echoes all around the girl, filling her ears with the sounds of soothing songs and music - influencing her to sleep.

>The woman keeps this up for several moments before closing her mouth - forcing all the sound back into the room.


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>From his spot, Rhion quietly whispers to himself.

"Shame. . . I wanted to see that used again. . ."

>The girl, Ceridwen, stumbles down as the songs hit her, her spell being broken. Still, however, she doesn't go fully to sleep, still staying awake, albeit kneeling from the fatigue.

"I. . ."

>Ceridwen bends her head over, spitting out some blood before continuing.

". . .can't be beaten by charms. . ."

>As she talks, a serious-looking gash on her tongue reveals how she managed to stave off complete sleep.


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>The woman lets out a sigh, only to suddenly vanish from her spot - re-appearing next to Ceridwen.

"Ceri. You don't need to hurt yourself."

>The woman holds out her hand, suggesting she wants the girl to take it.

"Let me help you up. Then I'll fix that gash for you."


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>Ceridwen looks at the hand, wiping some blood from her chin.

"Only. . . if you answer my questions. . . I won't stop until then. . ."


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>The woman stares at Ceridwen for a few moments, appearing annoyed. Finally, she lets out a sigh and says.

"Sure. If it stops you from hurting yourself."


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>Ceridwen looks at the hand again, and takes it.

"I can't make any promises. . ."

>The girl presses her hand against the woman's so that she can easily feel the stone in her hand.

". . .duty comes first, you see"

>The stone begins to spark.


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>Immediately feeling the crackling sparks of the stone against her skin, the woman appears annoyed.


>The sparks of the stone intensify, repeatedly striking at the woman with bolts of electricity. However, the elctricity stops just a few centimeters in front of the woman's body, with each strike visibly burning a hole through what seems to be transparent shielding.

>With the electricity continuing to intensify, the holes begin to appear more and more. In response the woman grips the stone tightly and twists around - throwing it into the air. As it hurdles through the air the electricity being produced twists and twines around it - encasing itself in a prison of it's own making.

>The room rattles and shakes, as the power given off by the stone increases exponentially - only to suddenly explode, sending a shockwave through the room.


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>Ceridwen falls backwards as the shockwave hits her.

"Wards, then. . ."

>The girl scatters a few more stanes across the ground, abandoning them.

". . .just need to find the right trick to get through them."


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"Ceri. Stop. The fight's over. I already told you I'd talk."

>The woman holds her hand out one more time.

"Let me help you up. Then we can talk."


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"People lie. . ."

>Ceridwen shrugs.

". . .and you weren't making any moves to surrender, so I figured it was a ploy."

>Picking up a stone, Ceridwen lightly slings it at the woman, it bouncing harmlessly and clattering to the floor.

"If you're complying now, we can start with an easy question. Name, family, and teacher."

>Another stone is thrown in the woman's direction, harmlessly missing another part.


File: 1647719025396.jpg (183.39 KB, 850x955, Steph358.jpg)

>Another stone is thrown at the woman, this time with her catching it.

"Stephanie. My "father" and his family don't practice."

>Seemingly annoyed, Stephanie takes the stone and casually flicks it at a near-by wall, causing the stone to shatter into a pile of dust and pebbles.

"My mother was a Beaufort. But she and none of her close family practiced."

>She goes silent for a few moments, seemingly lost in thought. After what feels like minutes of silence, she says:

"Anyway, that last one is… complicated. And something I'm not willing to reveal."


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>Ceridwen grabs a pouch from her belt and pours some dust out of it, blowing it in Stephanie's direction.

"You can't just not answer the questions. . . so, again, who taught you?"


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"I can. And I won't."

>Stephanie quickly flicks her wrist towards the dust - causing a relatively weak gust of wind to force it to change directions away from her.

"Does it matter? Because it's nobody who has any connections to anyone here."


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"Then it matters even more, it means that there may be someone revealing the secrets of the mystic arts to the world as a whole."

>Ceridwen pulls off a few feathers from her robes and pricks her finger, wiping the blood from it onto them and then sending them in Stephanie's direction.

"And every person in this room has a duty to ensure that the mystic arts are concealed, lest we fall to ruin like the Thaumians."


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>Again, Stephanie creates a breeze - blowing it towards the feathers.

"If they wanted to do that, magic would've become public knowledge long ago. Besides, what would you do if that was their intent?"

>The ink creature from earlier leaps onto Stephanie's shoulder, having returned to it's former cat-like state. She pets it, while awaiting Ceri's answer.


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"They could just be biding their time. . ."

>Ceridwen flicks her hand, sending the feathers back on their original course.

". . .and if their goal were to do something like that, we'd just have to stop them, like how we stopped the creature on the other side of the rift long ago - or like how we banished the Hydes for trying to let that creature in. . ."

"It may appear brutal, but it's what is necessary to protect ourselves. Regular humans hate us, revile us, they organise witch hunts against us and try to kill us, like in Salem, or Chhotanagpur, or Glarus - and there's more of them than there are us."


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"That hatred stems from ignorance. Something which is much easier to correct today."

>Again, Stephanie reverses the course of the feathers.

"But we agree the world isn't ready for something like that. Which is why it hasn't happened, when it easily could've already."

>Stephanie continues to pet the cat for a few more moments before it jumps off her shoulder, appearing to vanish.

"So to summarize, you want to protect you people, and the world by extension. Right?"


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"You say so, yet I'm told the world is still filled with ignorance, until recently, it was law to discriminate against groups, and even now people hate people not like themselves."

>Ceridwen points down, causing the feathers to plummet and burrow into the ground, taking a different approach towards Stephanie.

"I protect my own family, like how everyone in this room protects theirs, and currently, that requires this world to remain, if I could, I would only keep to ensuring the safety of my own."


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"Well. I didn't say the world was ignorance free. Just that it was easier to correct now. It still has a long way to go."

>The floor below Stephanie seemingly comes to life, rumbling as it begins rotating around and swapping her position with Ceri.

"That's understandable. Your job is incredibly stressful. But you handle it well. Which is why I wanted to meet you and see how you'd perform."


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>Ceridwen points up, causing the feathers to erupt out of the ground, at an angle pointing straight at Stephanie.

"A convenient reason, but still not explanation on who taught you. Particularly as wanting to see how I perform can be to probe defences for an attack."


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>A sharp, fast burst of wind slices through the feathers - cutting them to pieces and destroying their momentum.

"And what good would me telling you do, if it's not someone you know anything about? You have no way to find them, let alone stop anything they're doing."

>Stephanie lets out a sigh.

"I'm not telling you who taught me. But feel free to use whatever you have to gauge my intentions. If that doesn't satisfy you? Then I'll just take my leave. I've already seen enough to leave me satisfied."


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"Others have said similar before, including the ancestors of the modern Hydes. Knowledge is our greatest strength, so it sounds more like you're afraid of what we could do, that we could stop them."

>Ceridwen brings up her had again, the vines from before firing out, but in a much more controlled fashion.

"So we'll just have to take that knowledge from you more forcefully."


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>Stephanie thinks to herself in silence for a few moments, deciding on whether she should leave or stay.

"Alright, fine."

>Stephanie quickly motions her arm in the shape of a circle - generating a spinning vortex of fire that shreds and burns the vines.

"Give it your best shot. I want to see you try harder."

>Once the vines have been destroyed the flaming vortex putters out into a puff of smoke.

"If you're going to get serious."

>The light around the pair seems to begin shimmering and distorting, bending and changing into more and more unrecognizable patterns.

"Then we should probably get some more space."

>The distortion effects quickly stop, now revealing the pair's apparent location on the moon itself.

"I'll leave you to figure out if we're actually on the moon or not. Now come on, let's see how you adapt."


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>Ceridwen closes her mouth, trying to hold her breath for a moment as she notices what the surroundings look like, letting it out when she notices that she's still able to breath through her nose and can feel some air on her skin.

"Fine. . ."

>Ceridwen moves her foot, drawing a circle of her own around herself.

"If I really don't have to keep up appearances or hide things. . ."

>The girl looks down at the hand she cut earlier, and cuts along it with one her nails, reopening the wound. This time, however, she takes some of the blood with her finger and brings it to her her tongue, the sclera of her eyes darkening instantly as it makes contact.

"Demon's blood doesn't dilute over the generations, and the sword of the lake hasn't dulled with time."

>Ceridwen brings her marked arm and points it at Stephanie, palm open. The markings rapidly pulsing with light.

"Fall before Caledfwlch."

>A blast of golden energy bursts from Ceridwen's hand, heading straight for Stephanie, vaporizing the ground it touches.


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>The ground beneath Stephanie's feet begins glowing a soft, light blue color. The wind builds up around her, nearly forming a wind tunnel from her feet.

{"Well. That's bright."}

>The moon dust around Stephanie's feet begin swirling around her, glowing blue in color. In just a moment it begins to join together in front of her body - spiraling as a large circular shield.

>Ancient hieroglyphic symbols representing the Egyptian god Djehuty trace images across the spiraling shield - blocking the golden stream of energy. Massive pressure and wind blows against Stephanie's body, digging her feet deeper into the ground.

>With time to get out of the way, Stephanie pushes her weight into her feet - before leaping into the air, higher than any normal person could even in a place like the moon. Her giant shield wall vanishes, it's particles being vaporized by the stream of light.

>Glowing moondust swirls up and around her as she raises a hand in the air, saying:

"You've done a good job, Ceri. Your family should be proud."

>The light takes on the elecrified form of a ball of light, crackling and whipping with glowing bands of energy. Without another word she points her palm at Ceridwen, firing her own massive stream of energy towards her.


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"I'm not done yet!"

>Ceridwen shouts out, turning her palm to face the energy heading to her and firing another blast at it, cutting the stream of energy after it connects and stumbling out of the way of the path of the beam.

"I just need to put more energy in and. . ."

>Ceridwen clutches her wrist with her other hand and fire a third blast in Stephanie's direction.

>Once the blast is fired, Ceridwen trips over, landing on one knee and panting, her head kept low, clearly exhausted.

"It's. . . over. . ."


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>Reacting quickly, Stephanie swerves around the third and final stream of energy - now clearly flying. She races around it, and towards Ceri - kicking up some moon dust with her landing.

"Are you okay? Damn it. I let you over exert yourself."

>The light ripples and moves around the pair, as Stephanie kneels down in front of Ceri. In a manner of moments the illusion is shattered, restoring their place in the castle.

"You put up a good fight, Ceri. Let me heal you."

>Stephanie waits for Ceri's response.


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>Ceridwen looks up at the blue-haired sorceress.

"How are you still able to staaaan. . ."

>The girl falls to the side, completely drained of energy


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>Stephanie prevents Ceri from hitting the floor hard, taking the time to heal her wounds. Soft, glowing light emits from her hands, enveloping Ceridwen's body.

>After a minute of this she stops, letting out a sigh.

"There. Ceri's wounds are healed. She can sleep to restore her energy."

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