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Thread: [OneShot] On Wings of Wax

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    [OneShot] On Wings of Wax

    Hello everyone,

    I come before you today with another one shot, this time moving away from Heroic Spirits and on towards the Clock Tower. All the characters involved are OCs, except for a short cameo at the end.

    Once again, this is kind of practice as I move towards making a more long-form fic. My main concern with this one is that it might have come out too dry and technical, but by all means please let me know what you think on all fronts!

    Length is 17200 words. Estimated reading time is about an hour.

    Let me know what you think!


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    "Of course, we can't simply blame all our problems on the past," the professor droned on. His dry, raspy voice gave the impression that he had given this talk a hundred times before. From his appearance, a hundred times once a year sounded about right.

    "Magecraft as a field certainly has been in steep decline since the beginning of the common era, around what modern scholars call the beginning of the 'Age of Man,' but the average level of magi has been dropping since the very beginning."

    Andy sketched idly in his notebook as the lecture continued. While it wasn't something he had heard in this class before, it was still an old story. Old magi griping about the fact that the youngsters weren't as skilled or capable as they should be. It was a tired trope even outside the Clock Tower, but as with any complaint of this ilk, there was never any suggestion on how exactly to remedy that problem.

    No, it was all just doomsday dread. The end of magecraft was coming, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Right.

    Of course, he was well aware that despite looking down on all the doomsayers for doing no more than whining uselessly, he didn't exactly have any answers either.

    Contemplating idly on that would certainly much more interesting than what the professor had to say, though. Turning to a blank page in his notebook, he turned his thoughts to the problem: why was magecraft deteriorating, and what could be done about it?

    "Now, don't get the wrong idea," the professor's words interrupted his thoughts. "It's not that the Age of Man caused the acceleration of the decline in magecraft. That decline is what caused the beginning of the Age of Man."

    Though he hadn't heard the question the professor was answering, the answer seemed surprisingly pertinent to what he was thinking about. It seemed his decision to ignore the lecture had been a bit premature.

    "'Would magecraft have declined so much if the Age of Gods persisted' is basically asking, 'would magecraft have declined so much if magecraft hadn't declined so much?' That being said, the question isn't really as stupid as it sounds. A couple centuries ago, there was a considerable movement within the Clock Tower of magi attempting to replicate the properties of the Age of Gods to see the effect it would have on modern magecraft."

    For the first time in hours, Andy began jotting down notes. If we was going to pursue the problem with any sort of seriousness, then he would need any scrap of information he could get.

    "These endeavours met with...limited success. Though a few magi were able to replicate the properties of the Age of Gods within a defined area - perhaps, a square meter or so - they were unable to 'unwrite' the properties of the Age of Man. As you can imagine, this created a chaotic mess which altered the functioning of magecraft tremendously, but in seemingly random and unpredictable ways. Within a generation the forerunners in the field, referred to as Spatial Refounding by its progenitors, had all either killed themselves in accidents or come so close that they gave up on it."

    Andy's hand began to move faster as he turned the problem over in his head. It seemed like the professor had gone off topic partway through his answer, but there was still useful information there.

    In short, there was a reason to believe that even if a contemporary magus were to exist in the Age of Gods, his or her magecraft would perform differently. The hypothesis technically was still untested, and what evidence they did have for the truth of it seemed suspect to him.

    Though they called it Spatial Refounding, they hadn't actually managed to change the foundation on which magecraft was acting. All they had done was layer a new set of rules on top of the old ones. To draw a parallel in more mundane terms, they had layered the rule "2+2=6" on top of the already-present rule of "2+2=4." It was easy to see why the resulting magecraft had been unpredictable - it was trying to conform to multiple realities at the same time.

    That gave him an idea. Looking to his left, he saw the girl sitting immediately beside him seemed to be as uninterested in the lecture as he had been.

    "Hey, Sarah. I need a second opinion." At the sound of his voice, the girl turned her bored gaze towards him, but said nothing. He continued, keeping his voice low. "If it's possible to create an area in which the rules of the Age of Gods still apply, does that mean that we could find a way to return to the Age of Gods?"

    After a brief silence, "Of course not. They never accurately reproduced the characteristics of the Age of Gods, so we can't draw any conclusions at all."

    As inattentive as she seemed, Andy knew her well enough to know that she was more than on top of the lesson. If there was one thing he knew after studying with her for the better part of two years, it was that she was an excellent student - she was probably bored because she already knew everything the professor was trying to teach them.

    "But...they did? The professor just said they succeeded in-"

    "If you actually bothered to read the material we were assigned last year," she cut him off, turning her gaze back forward, "you'd know that what they were doing was creating an artificial system within the currently existing one. They decided what the properties of the Age of Gods were first, then tried to reproduce that by simply layering Bounded Fields. Frankly, it was embarrassingly primitive and painfully misguided. Even if they had been able to remove the laws of the current system, it was a field of inquiry with no future."

    And like that, Andy knew all he needed to know about Spatial Refounding. A dead end field of magecraft that wouldn't provide him with what he needed.

    "Alright, second question," Andy continued, marking the dead end in his notes. "Are there any methods that show promise in bringing back the Age of Gods?"

    "Well," Sarah replied, spinning her pen in her hand, "that depends. According to orthodox theory, the Age of Gods completely ended two thousand years ago, and the Age of Man began immediately after. In order to make the transition back, you would have to return the world - and thus humanity - to the state it had before the Age of Gods ended. But it's not like water, where if you drop the temperature below zero it will turn back to ice. What you'd really want to do is find a way to draw the gods and phantasmal species back to the world, and hope their influence on humans is enough to spark a new Age of Mystery. It wouldn't be the same as the Age of Gods, but it's probably the closest you would get."

    "According to orthodox theory," Andy replied with a nod, rapidly jotting down the gist of what he was being told. "But what about according to, uh...non-orthodox theory?"

    Sarah gave him an odd look, as if she was trying to see what he was trying to get at. "There's been some recent work done - really just starting within the past few years - regarding the general level of Mystery in the world over time. Looking at the preliminary results of their investigation, it seems like rather than the Age of Gods ending and the Age of Man beginning two thousand years ago, it would be more accurate to say that the Age of Man was imposed over the Age of Gods."

    "So...like, Spatial Refounding?"

    "...actually, yes. That's a pretty accurate description. Someone or something decided on a new, arbitrary set of rules, and forced it into place overtop of the pre-existing system. Except unlike Spatial Refounding, this new system was strong enough to completely suppress the system underneath."

    "So according to that theory...the Age of Gods is still going on?"

    "Well, we don't know," she said, finally having lost the bored look in her eyes. "That could be the case. Or maybe it's in like...suspended animation. It could be chugging along happily beneath the surface, leaving us none-the-wiser, or it could be frozen in time until the Age of Man collapses."

    "So if we could remove the Age of Man, we would be able to witness the Age of Gods ourselves?"

    Sarah snorted. "Yeah. Exactly. Though doing that would be like...I don't know, trying to turn off physics? Not only physically impossible, but also a really stupid idea."

    Andy made a sour expression. "Fair enough." As he finished scribbling down the notes from Sarah's mini-lecture, he proposed another alternative. "So instead of that, it would be smarter to...get 'under' the Age of Man, as it were?"

    Sarah made a face as if she were about to give another sarcastic retort, but froze. Her expression fell into a frown, and after a short while, "...yeah. I guess that would work."

    Andy blinked in surprise. "Wait, really?"

    "...yeah. According to that new theory, of course. We don't really have any physical evidence to prove it, but if it were the case, it would be possible. It would also explain why there is no physical evidence of gods or phantasmal species left in the modern world - it's all trapped in the Age of Gods. But if it was actually frozen in time, then the minute you got there you'd be frozen as well. It would basically be suicide."

    A chime sounded out, signalling the end of class. As the students seated around them all hastily gathered their things and started leaving, Andy gave Sarah a mischievous grin. "Hey Sarah, are you busy after classes today? I've got an experiment I'd like to try."



    -------------------------



    "Ignoring the fact that you have no idea what you're doing," Sarah spoke while pressing her fingers into the sides of her head, "you do realize that these kinds of experiments are forbidden in the dorms, right?"

    Shooting her a withering glare for a moment, Andy quickly returned to drawing the alchemical array on the floor of his room. "That didn't stop you from setting your room on fire last year. Or setting my room on fire a couple months ago. Or setting-"

    "Okay, okay! I get it!" Sarah replied, trying to hide her embarrassment. Probably less so at being called out for being a hypocrite, and more that he was only recounting her failures. "The point is, aim small, okay? If you get caught, you could get in a lot of trouble."

    "You didn't get in that much trouble when you-"

    "Just, stop bringing that up, okay?!" Sarah's sudden shout prompted a small laughing fit from Andy, causing him to slip in his drawing. Shaking his head with a smile, he erased the line he had been working on and started over. "Anyways," she continued after clearing her throat, "trying to get 'underneath' the Age of Man is a pretty serious deal. Like...'the counterforce intervenes' level of serious."

    "But you already said, as long as we are going there, there's no issue. It's bringing the Age of Gods into the present world that's the real problem, right? We're not upsetting the World by leaving it."

    "The problem is," Sarah spoke again, her voice accusatory, "that you're going to mess it up, and end up doing something stupid like trying to bore a hole through the World. And that would very much upset it."

    Standing up from where he was kneeling, Andy stepped back from the array he had finished inscribing on the floor. Turning to Sarah, he gave her a wink. "I promise I won't try to bore a hole through the World. Cross my heart and hope to die." Sarah's only response was to roll her eyes.

    As much as she heckled him, she was really an invaluable asset to have cooperating with him. Her knowledge of the history of magecraft was beyond useful, and her skill was top-tier. While her family was a rather weak one when it came to Magecraft, leaving her with rather poor quality circuits, that was a failing that Andy could more than make up for himself. And while their styles of magecraft didn't exactly operate well together, their partnership since they had met a couple years before had been invaluable to the both of them.

    She was also pretty alright as a friend, he supposed.

    "Putting that matter aside for now," Sarah spoke hesitantly, motioning towards the array drawn on the floor, "do you actually know any Alchemy?"

    "Nope," he replied nonchalantly, gingerly placing an empty glass in the middle of the array. "This is just a replica of something I read in an Alchemy 101 textbook."

    Sarah stepped forward and looked over the alchemical array on the ground. Without a word, she rubbed out two of the lines near the edges with her foot before bending down and redrawing them at slightly different angles. After she had done so, Andy returned with a new piece of chalk, this piece the colour of red sandstone mixed with a sort of silvery glitter, a sharp contrast to the plain white of the alchemical array. With this new piece of chalk, he began drawing a new, larger circle around the first one.

    "As much fun as this is," Sarah said dryly, returning to leaning against the wall near the window, "what exactly did you want my help for?"

    Absent-mindedly, Andy spoke while carefully drawing the new circle. "You're into Spiritual Evocation, right? You can summon elementals and stuff?"

    Sarah bit off a laugh. "First of all, yeah, I'm into Spiritual Evocation. That is my family's line of magecraft. Secondly no, I cannot summon elementals. Lesser nature spirits, sure. If I could summon elementals, I'd be running the Clock Tower, not studying at it."

    "Regardless," Andy continued, "you summon things. Where do those things come from?"

    "That depends on what you mean by 'come from,'" she replied. "They are nature spirits, so they are obviously 'from' nature?"

    "But they aren't literally just sitting around in nature. Just because the wind blows, doesn't mean there is a wind fairy flying by, right?"

    After shaking her head with another sigh, "Again, fairies are a completely different thing. But you're right, I have to call the spirits into the natural phenomena. Then, if they are willing to listen to me, I can ask them to manipulate them."

    "So," Andy continued, moving over to start drawing the second half of the circle, "where is your 'lesser nature spirit' when you haven't evocationed it yet?"

    "Surprisingly, that's not especially relevant to what we do," Sarah replied, giving no more than a flat look in response to his fictional vocabulary. "We call the nature spirits into phenomena, but it is their choice whether to answer the call or not. It's not that we're reaching out and grabbing them out of their homes, it's more like we're creating a new home for them and saying 'come and get it.' Where they actually are before is outside our scope."

    Nodding to her answer, he continued. "Okay. So nowadays, we have physics to explain why there is wind. We don't need wind fairies, so the wind fairies left. But...back in the Age of Gods, when there was wind, it was actually caused by wind fairies, right?"

    "They're not fairies," she immediately responded before a look of shock took over her face. "Wait, I think I see where you're going with this. You think these nature spirits still live in the Age of Gods?"

    "Or at least, there are spirits there. Am I wrong?"

    "I...don't actually know. But suppose they did...I think I know what you're going to say, but why don't you explain it to me anyways?"

    "If they do still live in the Age of Gods," Andy spoke while returning his strangely coloured chalk to its place in his desk, "then that means your Spiritual Evocation is capable of opening a line from the Age of Gods to here. Or at the very least, sending a message, so that the Spirits can open a line from the Age of Gods to here. So if we want to go to the Age of Gods ourselves..." Pausing, Andy knelt down, placing a hand on the outer edge of the red and silver magic circle. As soon as his fingers touched the edge, the whole circle erupted with light...and began to move.

    As if they were living threads, the lines of the red magic circle twisted and wove around each other. Then, they turned inwards, weaving around the white alchemical array, causing it too to burst with light. As each part of the alchemical array flashed with bright white light, it disappeared, and the red-silver threads continued onwards. Once the entire alchemical array had vanished in puffs of white light, the threads went even further, winding themselves around the glass cup, crawling up its surface until the glass couldn't be seen under the magic light.

    Then, with one more flash of red and silver, the threads vanished. Both magic circles were gone, and all that remained was a simple, unmarked glass cup.

    "...all we have to do is follow that line backwards. Right?"

    Sarah crossed her arms with a frown as she mulled over what Andy said. Meanwhile, Andy picked up the glass from the middle of the floor and took it back to his desk, where a pitcher of water was waiting. Pouring enough water to fill the glass, he held it up and inspected it. Even when filled, it just looked like a plain, ordinary glass. Offering it to Sarah, he interrupted her thoughts with his trademarked victory smile. "Would you like to do the honours?"

    With a distracted look, Sarah took the glass from his hands. Without so much as looking at it, she opened a single magic circuit, connecting it to the glass - and the glass responded by flaring with light.

    With magical energy running through it, the lines had finally become visible - the alchemical array that had been inscribed on the floor before was now infused into the glass, ingrained deeper than any chalk or paint. The intricate lines and curves were now a part of the very glass itself, not just something layered on top. As the lines glowed white, the water in the glass began to change - first, its movement slowed and stopped. Then, it slowly began to turn solid, from the center towards the edges. In the span of three seconds, all of the liquid in the glass had turned to ice - and a second after that, the glass itself exploded outwards, throwing glass shards around the room, and leaving Sarah with a handful of solid ice.

    Andy frowned as he covered his eyes to avoid the flying shards of glass. "I guess it needs a limiter of some sort, huh?"

    "You don't say," Sarah said dryly as she stepped over to drop the hunk of ice back into the pitcher of water on Andy's desk, careful to step around the shards of broken glass now litering the floor. Luckily, the glass had only broken because of the expanding water inside of it, so the shards hadn't gone all that far. "Anyways, theoretically it would be difficult. Following the line back, I mean. Being spiritual entities, any lines created by spirits connecting between the Age of Gods and our World would only be traversable by spirits, so unless you want to leave your body behind, you won't be able to go."

    "What about an Astral Projection?"

    "Can you do Astral Projection?"

    "Not the question."

    Sarah smirked at her small victory. "An Astral Projection might be able to travel the line, but it would disappear once the line closed and your connection to it was severed, at best. At worst, your mind would be permanently split from your body. So you'd need a way to hold the line open, and that is definitely getting into dangerous territory."

    Andy cocked his head to the side. "What's so dangerous about that?"

    Sarah just shook her head in disappointment. "Okay Andy, you go ahead and open a permanent portal that leads out of this plane of existence. That definitely won't prompt the World, the Counter Force, the entire Mage's Association, or the Laws of Physics to immediately murder you."

    Andy made a sour expression. "Fair enough."

    Finished with his glass experiment, Andy sat down at his desk and pulled out a small, worn notebook and a pen. After flipping through for a while in search of a blank page, he began scribbling in some rough ideas.

    "So, in short, we need to find a way to trace the lines created by your spirits, and then find a way to make a spiritual body?"

    "And then find a way to actually follow the line back," Sarah replied while wiping her hand dry on a nearby curtain. Neither of them paid any mind to the small smears of blood that appeared on it.

    Andy paused, biting the end of his pen as he reread what he had just wrote. "Well, no time like the present, right?" Standing up suddenly from his chair, he inspected the books on his bookcase before pulling out a couple.

    Fundamentals of Spiritual Evocation.

    Advanced Flow Analysis and Mechanisms of Control.

    Eyeing his selections as he quickly opened and began to scan the contents of the first book, Sarah raised an eyebrow. "Why do you even have those books? Last I checked you weren't in Spiritual Evocation or Minerology."

    "Doesn't matter," he replied absently, earmarking a page before continuing flipping through. "My field involves all areas of magecraft, so I have to be ready to learn about anything." After earmarking another page, he handed the first book to Sarah and opened the second. Without a word, she took the book, looked over the pages he had marked, grabbed a piece of white chalk from his desk and began drawing on the floor, clearing away the broken pieces of glass as needed.

    "This would be a lot easier if we did it outside," she spoke under her breath as she began working, creating a fairly simple looking glyph almost a foot in diameter.

    "Well if we did that," Andy replied, grabbing the red-silver chalk with one hand while he held the open book with the other, "we'd get caught."

    Sarah grumbled wordlessly as she finished the more intricate details of the glyph, stepping aside to led Andy add his marks. In short order, another slightly more complicated array was drawn around the glyph in red, connecting to a large plain circle on the other side of the room. The drawing complete, Andy retrieved a sheet of thin, translucent paper from behind his bookshelf and laid it over the blank circle. As he did so, Sarah pulled a small box out from Andy's bed, rummaging through it briefly before retrieving a candle with a metal stand. Careful not to damage the glyph she had drawn, she slowly placed the candle in the center.

    "Do you want a sheet for me too?" Sarah asked, double-checking that she hadn't damaged the glyph in white or the red array around it.

    After thinking for a moment, "Nah, that will probably be too much information. Let's just go with this for now." Cleaning up the remainder of the broken glass, he grabbed a handheld fire extinguisher from under his desk and nodded for her to start.

    After a glare and a huff at Andy's evident lack of trust, Sarah turned her attention back to the candle.

    Normally, for something as simple as this, she wouldn't need a glyph. But she had accompanied Andy enough times on his experiments to know that the extra focus it enabled would save them both from repeating this simple task half a dozen more times. Andy's specialty might have been in Analysis, but even the greatest analyst could only do so much with poor quality data.

    Raising a hand palm first towards the candle, Sarah took a deep breath to center herself. Then, in a voice just above a whisper, she spoke an incantation.

    Children of Flame, Dance!

    At first, there was nothing but a single spark, like metal striking off flint. Soon after, the spark 'opened' like a blooming flower, spiraling outwards until a fireball the size of a fist hung in the air just above the candle. As quickly as it had appeared, it vanished, as if the flames had been sucked through a hole in space. Underneath where the fireball had disappeared, the lone candle burned merrily, the tip of its wick having just barely been caught by the edge of the fire before it had vanished.

    Sarah then turned her attention to the sheet of paper lying on the ground a few feet away. The previously blank sheet was now being covered in what looked like some sort of map, black scorch marks tracing a labyrinth of detail over the entire surface of the paper.

    After replacing the fire extinguisher beneath his desk with an exaggerated sigh of relief, Andy watched as the pattern being drawn on the paper reached completion before retrieviing it from the floor and gently laying it on his desk. Without a word, he sat down and started writing in his notebook again. Taking a small cloth from her pocket, Sarah spent a minute scrubbing out the chalk lines and the glyph she had drawn before peaking over his shoulder to look at what he was doing.

    This was one of the few areas in which Andy was much more knowledgeable than she was. While she had a basic knowledge of tracing leylines in a similar fashion, the level of intricacy needed to trace the movement of mana in such a tightly confined area was well beyond what she could manage. She could possibly record the data with a similar level of accuracy if she took the time to set up a Bounded Field to do so, but the actual analysis of those results was something that was yet beyond her.

    "Anything interesting?" she said as she read the notes he had taken so far. Mostly numbers, with a few brief descriptions and a diagram here and there.

    "Yes and no," he replied with a scowl. "The information itself isn't that useful, but it at least tells us where we need to go next." Finishing what he was writing, he tossed Sarah a piece of white chalk from his desk, grabbing himself a red.

    "Let's try wind this time."


    --------------------


    "Remind me again why we have to do this in your room?" The tiredness was clear in Sarah's voice, though it was more from the late hour they were meeting at rather than any sort of exertion.

    It had been a long two months, constantly analyzing basic magecrafts, and then trying to combine them in new ways. Meeting at Andy's room after hours had become an almost daily ritual for them, and both of them had long lost track of how many hours they had sunk into the project.

    "Because," Andy spoke as he finished drawing in the lines of a simple Boundary Field, covering the entirety of his room, "I can afford to take the fall if we get caught. Even worst case scenario, my family has the resources to educate me if I get expelled. What would you do?"

    Sarah averted her gaze, a bitter expression on her face. He knew she didn't like it when people brought up her family, but the truth was the truth. She was already on thin ice with the administration due to previous 'unsupervised experiments,' and with a family as weak as hers, her life as a magus would be over if she was kicked out of the Clock Tower. He, on the other hand, had been able to keep his illegal experiments covert, and so would probably get off with a warning, or at worst a temporary suspension.

    As he said though, even if he was expelled, his family could figure something out for him. They would be furious, of course, but he already had the Crest, so they wouldn't have very many options.

    A few moments after Andy connected the last line, the edges of the Boundary Field began to glow a faint white. It was a truly elementary level Field, one even a magus with no history would be able to master in as little as a few months. For its simplicity though, it was incredibly effective - serving not only to shield the room from prying eyes and ears, but also alert the caster if there were any attempts to breach it. Of course, getting past it would be easy for any skilled magus, but just because lock picks exist doesn't mean you shouldn't lock your door, right?

    Plus, since Sarah had been coming to help him regularly over the past couple months, most people nearby would probably assume that they had set up a privacy barrier for more...intimate reasons.

    "Anyways, now that that's taken care of, I think we can get started. How'd your search go?" At Andy's prompting, Sarah retrieved her bag from the foot of the bed she was sitting on and began rifling through the pile of clothes inside. After a few moments of searching, she pulled out a small wooden jewelry box, and with an almost comical level of gentleness, she placed it on her lap and began fiddling with the lock.

    "You do realize how hard it was for me to get this, right?" Sarah muttered, her voice slightly bitter. "With the price tag this thing has, I could afford tuition here for a decade. Sneaking this out from my father's vault was probably the single stupidest thing I've done in my life."

    "I appreciate your sacrifice," Andy said with a wink, earning a bitter glare from Sarah as she finished undoing the physical lock and began working on the magical one. "But really, it's just a container. It's not like it's going to disappear after we use it, so if anyone ever figures out you took it, you can just give it back." Sarah paused, the look on her face expressing how unconvinced she was, but after shaking her head with a sigh she gingerly opened the box, turning it to show the contents to Andy.

    Within the box, resting on a velvet cushion, was a crystal cube. Its edges, measuring five centimeters across, were frosted lightly white, but otherwise the crystal was unmarked and transparent. Within it, there was a cavity in the shape of a sphere, whose edges didn't quite reach to the edges of the cube itself.

    A Vessel. An inanimate structure that could house and sustain a spiritual body, up to the size and strength of a human soul, with a little breathing room just in case.

    Of course, Andy wasn't so interested in putting human souls in it. He just needed something that could hold a spiritual body that was too weak to survive in the open air.

    Like Sarah had said, such an object was incredibly valuable, if of only limited usefulness. To a magus specialized in Spiritual Evocation though, such a high quality Vessel would be worth much more than Sarah herself.

    "Alright, alright," Andy said, trying to suppress his mounting giddiness. "We're finally ready to get things started then. Just uhh...just leave that on the desk, and help me get the rest of this set up."

    With an exaggerated carefulness, Sarah closed the lid of the box and slowly walked it over to Andy's desking. Andy had managed to procure the other materials he needed for the experiment entirely on his own, but the last part - and the most critical part, naturally - was beyond him. As much of a jerk as he felt for thinking it, luckily Sarah was on fairly bad terms with her family, so she didn't mind 'borrowing' something that valuable without permission.

    With the Vessel seated firmly on the desk, the two set about building the experiment area. It was a procedure they had practiced countless times over the past weeks, while they waited for her to get a chance to snag the Vessel, so even as his excitement made his hands shake, he was able to arrange everything with almost mechanical precision. The experiment would involve both his specialty of Creation and hers of Spiritual Evocation, so they both had rather complex preparation to do.

    It had taken a month, working together, to develop a theoretical basis to let them even observe the Age of Gods, or the Far Side as their research told them it was called by modern scholars. Another three weeks had been enough time to refine their procedure, and develop new spells to carry it out, and the final two weeks had been spent practicing and gathering reagents. Though they had practiced cold, this would be their first live test, so there was no telling how successful they would be. Theoretically, at least, their procedure should have been bullet proof.

    Thirty minutes passed in silence as they continued setting up, drawing arrays and magic circles and setting up reagents and catalysts. Once they had finished, they shared a nervous nod, and Sarah retrieved the Vessel from the desk. Placing it in the middle of the first of three compound arrays inscribed on the floor in a mixture of white and red chalk, she returned to her spot seated on the bed, giving Andy a nod in confirmation.

    The whole experiment was a three step process. The first step was of course to create a body that was capable of surviving on the Far Side. They had no idea if a human body could survive there, but they did know spiritual bodies could. On top of that, the only connection they had to the Far Side was through Sarah's Summoning, so they would need a body that could travel the same pathways her Nature Spirits did. The safest and surest way would be to send some sort of spiritual body.

    Of course for a first experiment, sending their own souls was beyond crazy. So step one was to create a familiar with a purely spiritual body.

    Kneeling down in front of the first array, Andy placed both hands on the edges of the innermost circle and opened his Magic Circuits. As if starving for magical energy, he could feel the array violently tear the energy from his Circuits as soon as the connection was established. It was a sensation familiar to him, but always somewhat nerve-wracking. All it would take was one mistake in the array for it to go out of control, drawing more energy from him than his circuits could handle and burning him out in a matter of seconds. It seemed that the array was constructed as well as he had hoped, however, as the intensifying glow of the array was matched by a proportional decrease in the draw from his Circuits. After about half a minute, the pull stopped altogether, and the array held its full capacity of magical energy, waiting for the activation signal.

    Sarah watched from the bed without a word, giving no clues as to whether the tenseness in her expression was from nerves or excitement. When it came to spirits, she was certainly more knowledgeable than Andy was, but as far as practical experience with creating familiars, she couldn't even compare. So while her expertise with spiritual entities and skill in research had been invaluable in creating a new kind of familiar, it was up to Andy in the end to pull off the actual act.

    Taking a deep breath, Andy reached his hand out again, touching the second level of the array. A similar sensation pulled at him, dragging the energy from his open Circuits without him having to act consciously on it. Letting the array drink its fill, he pulled his hand back again, taking a deep breath. Before touching the third and final level of the array, he grabbed a small test tube from his desk, containing a faintly red solution. Created from a mixture of his and Sarah's blood, to provide a more balanced result than a single person could create, and a few magically treated chemicals to eliminate as many of the biological properties of the solution as possible, it would serve as the raw material from which the familiar was created.

    While fresh blood would have been better, the advantage gained by letting the chemicals work outweighed the advantage of keeping the sample fresh. As such, he had let the mixture sit - in ice, of course - for a few days. Now, he unstoppered the tube and poured the solution on top of the Vessel, careful not to let any of it drip over the sides and onto the floor. Returning the empty tube to his desk, Andy took one last steadying breath before placing his hands on the third and outermost level of the array. As it began drinking from his Circuits, the inner two layers flared brightly, and the process began.

    This time, Andy had to control how much magical energy the array could take from him. The inner two layers of the array laid the base foundation for the familiar to be constructed, and could be left to work more or less autonomously. The final layer, however, required precision and adaptability, and so had to be managed manually. A minute passed, and the base foundation had been set, the innermost circle going dark as its work was complete. As it did, the solution resting atop the Vessel began to glow faintly as the second circle began to extract the spiritual energy from it and stitch it into a new spiritual body.

    While Andy kept an eye on the progress of the second circle, the majority of his focus was on what he was doing now. He would have only a few seconds after the second circle finished to begin layering on the actual functions of the spiritual body, so he had to both keep a careful eye on the progress of the array in general and make sure he finished what he was doing in time.

    After another ten minutes, the solution on the Vessel went dark, followed quickly by the second circle flickering and losing its light. The spiritual core, the focal point on which the familiar would be built, was complete. Without hesitation, Andy opened his Circuits fully, forcing magical energy through them into the array and towards the Vessel at the center. Sweat began to bead on his forehead, both from the physical exertion of keeping his Circuits open at full throttle, and from the extreme concentration needed to guide the tremendous amounts of magical energy into exactly the necessary places.

    Now, he was layering the actual functions onto the familiar. It was a very simple creation, with no will power of its own or method of control. It couldn't really take any action at all, not even to move. All it was capable of doing was observing - it could see, it could hear, and most importantly, it could remember. All it had to do was give them a snapshot, no more than a few seconds long, of the Far Side before it died. If it could manage that, it would be more than a success.

    After what felt like an hour, but was probably more like ten or fifteen minutes, Andy abruptly shut his Magic Circuits, causing the entirety of the array to go dark. Almost unsure if he wanted to check his own results, Andy slowly lifted his gaze to look at the Vessel sitting in the center of the array. After staring at it for a moment, he finally let out an exhausted, and satisfied, sigh.

    Within the very center of the Vessel was a tiny pinprick of yellow-white light, so small you'd probably think it was just a reflection from one of the room's lights if you hadn't known what you were looking for. But that tiny pinprick of light felt like the most satisfying thing he had ever done. He had actually succeeded at creating a familiar from scratch that was small enough to travel the pathways created by Nature Spirits, and thanks to the Vessel, it didn't need a physical body to preserve it.

    "Okay," Sarah broke the silence of almost an hour that had hung over the room as she stood up from her spot on the bed, "Good work. Now it's my turn." Taking a small cloth from her pocket, she picked up the Vessel from its spot on the ground and carefully wiped the residue of the spent blood solution off the top. Inspecting it to make sure it was spotless, and that the tiny spiritual familiar inside was still there, she carefully placed it in the center of another magic circle at the far end of the room.

    Now that they had successfully cleared the first step of the experiment, they could move on to step two - actually getting the familiar to the Far Side.

    This time, it was all up to Sarah. They had deliberated long and hard over how they could actually make it to the Far Side, and while using a variant of Astral Projection had seemed like the most promising method at first, it ended up being impractical to apply to something without its own consciousness. In the end, they opted for the much simpler solution of using the pathways created by Nature Spirits when they were summoned. Of course, exactly how to use them had taken some creative thinking, but in the end the simple solution won out - summon a Nature Spirit with the express purpose of ferrying a spiritual body across to the other side.

    To that end, the familiar to be carried across would have to be very small - spiritually, not physically - so that it could ride the pathway along with whatever spirit was carrying it. This meant it would be too weak to survive in the open air itself, hence the necessity of the vessel. The gamble was that they would lose contact with the familiar as soon as the pathway closed, meaning they would have no way of knowing whether its spiritual body could survive on the Far Side until they tried to bring it back.

    While that was essentially just a gamble, though, the more difficult part was actually getting a spirit to do the task. Unfortunately, Nature Spirits didn't exactly speak English, so Sarah had spent weeks attempting to develop a spell to communicate her intent. Normally her summonings involved very simple tasks, like "burn" or "cut." In this case, things were much more complicated - "come, take this, go back, then wait a while, then bring it back to us." Even if a fairly weak spirit would be capable of accomplishing the task, it would have to understand the task before it could complete it.

    The scariest part was that it would have to take the familiar out of the Vessel, and then put it back in. Which meant if the instructions weren't communicated properly, it was very possible the Vessel would be damaged - and with such a precision-crafted artifact, any amount of damage would make it useless.

    Kneeling down on the floor before the array responsible for summoning the spirit ferry, Sarah took a deep breath. The array began to glow a faint, pale green in response to Sarah opening her Magic Circuits. Then, with eyes closed, she whispered.


    Children of wind,
    Ride to us on gentle wings,
    Take this child from its prison of stone,
    Shelter him from the storms of passage,
    And deliver him safely to a world unknown.

    Children of wind,
    Ride to us on gentle wings,
    Take this child in your tender embrace,
    Shelter him from the pain of this world,
    And deliver him safely home.


    In response to her incantation, the array before her flared brightly - for only an instant. As the array turned dark, a sudden gust of wind filled the room, strong but not violent, pulling at the hair and clothes of the two amateur magi before spiraling inwards and wrapping around the Vessel. Then, as quickly as it had appeared, it vanished - and so did the spark of light within the Vessel.

    Andy held his breath as he watched. Sarah sat unmoving, eyes still closed. He had no idea how intensive the remainder of her work was, whether she could just leave it now that the spell had been activated, or whether she was even now focusing hard on bringing the spirit back. But he did know that she was not sitting idle - at the bare minimum, it required some degree of magical energy to call the spirit back, which meant that until it returned with the familiar, Sarah had to keep her Circuits open and active.

    Luckily, they didn't have to wait that long. After a few tense minutes, a stiff breeze passed through the closed room again, wrapping tightly around the Vessel and spinning it into the air. After a few seconds of it spinning wildly, it gently lowered to the ground, became still, and the wind once again disappeared. Andy couldn't help but count.

    One...

    Two...

    Three...

    ...and then a small pinprick of yellow-white light appeared in the center of the Vessel.

    After seeing the light remain steady in the Vessel, both Andy and Sarah collapsed to the ground with sighs of exhausted relief.

    "I can't believe that actually worked," Andy laughed, the tension of an hour of waiting all released at once.

    Wiping the sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand, Sarah grinned. "And on the first try. I guess we're just that amazing."

    After the two had collected themselves, watching the faintly luminescent Vessel with excited disbelief, Andy finally sat up and turned to Sarah with a victorious grin.

    All that was left now was step three.

    "Shall we take a look at where our little speck of light has journeyed?"


    --------------------


    For the hundredth time, Andy watched as the short "video" they had created faded to black, the short few seconds of footage coming to an end. It was well past the hour he should have been sleeping, and getting closer to the hour he should be thinking about waking up, but like every night before, he couldn't stop himself from coming back.

    It was like...he was in love.

    After the first resounding success he and Sarah had had, they had managed to repeat the experiment four more times, giving them five unique records of the home of the Nature Spirits Sarah could summon. The first few times had yielded predictable results - brief clips, a few seconds long, that contained a visual and audio record of a place that looked very similar to Earth. It made sense - after all, if the Nature Spirits had once lived in the same world humans now occupy, then the nature they were now a part of would have to be at least somewhat similar.

    For the final two experiments, Andy had augmented the familiar's capabilities somewhat, allowing it to detect and record traces of magical energy as well as basic visible light and audible sound. These were the records he couldn't stop viewing.

    The atmosphere on the other side was absolutely inundated with magical energy. To an ordinary magus, trying to use magecraft there would be like trying to drink from a cup while underwater.

    But what was even more interesting was that in that sea of magical energy...he could see fish.

    It was very difficult to recognize them by sight alone, but looking at the recordings of magical energy readings, there were hot spots that moved around. At first he thought they were like weather patterns, occurring simply because of the huge amount of magical energy, but their movements were too erratic, and their forms too regular. After a few dozen times watching the recordings, he was finally able to recognize one - a clump of energy that almost perpetually surrounded the observing familiar - as the spirit responsible for carrying the familiar to and from the other side.

    After that initial discovery, he could suddenly see very easily that the other hot spots were other spirits. Perhaps nature spirits, perhaps spirits of some other description, each of them flitted around erratically, curiously observing the familiar that they had sent to the other side.

    It felt like first contact with an alien race. Only they had no way to communicate - all they knew was that the other existed.

    Once more, Andy played the clip back, the data recorded in a crystal the size of his thumb streaming directly into his brain, so he could see like he was having a vision, or dreaming. The clip was only four seconds long, scenery of an open grassland meeting his eyes. Wind howled past his ears, rustling the grass below him. The sun shone overhead, yet everything was still dark - he wasn't sure if that was an oddity created by his method of observation, or if that was actually how things were on that side.

    With a sigh, Andy reluctantly put the recording crystal down on his desk. He really needed to sleep if he was going to be able to get through the next day's classes. It had been two weeks since he had slept properly - two weeks since their first foray into the Far Side - and it was really starting to catch up to him. He still felt far too excited to sleep though, a feeling that surged anew when he looked over at the numerous arrays that were still engraved on the floor of his room.

    He wanted to see. Not through the eyes of a familiar, but for himself. He wanted to go there, himself.

    For two weeks, even before, he had spent every spare moment of daylight researching a way to get a human soul across to the other side. As it turned out, moving a human soul, while incredibly dangerous, wasn't all that difficult. It was a level above Astral Projection, which simply projected the caster's consciousness into the Astral Plane, but the parallels there were very useful.

    After they had successfully witnessed the Far Side through the eyes of a familiar, Andy had - without telling Sarah, as she would definitely have put a stop to it - been developing a way to shift a human soul to the other side without the aid of a summoned Spirit. One, it was too dangerous to rely on a spirit with which one could barely communicate, and two it would be more practical if they could learn to open the pathway themselves rather than having to find a Nature Spirit powerful enough to open one a human soul could traverse.

    The theory was simple, though perhaps easier said than done. Take Astral Projection as a base, and make two basic changes - instead of projecting to the Astral Plane, project to the Far Side. Instead of projecting your consciousness, project your whole soul.

    It had been surprisingly difficult to get the basics of Astral Projection down, but once he had, the changes he needed flowed naturally. Since he had plenty of data to work with thanks to analyzing Sarah's Summoning, it hadn't been all that difficult to relocate the target of the projection, and for now transporting his consciousness would be more than sufficient. In fact, he had already finished the theoretical work behind changing his target from the Astral Plane to the Far Side, but he had been waiting to actually try for a better time.

    But...when?

    He couldn't tell Sarah about it, as she would almost definitely forbid him from trying. So there was no point waiting for her.

    So...what was he waiting for?

    Why not just try?

    Andy began to fidget nervously. He knew it was a bad thought. He knew that he shouldn't try now, that it was too dangerous. That he should at least have someone look at his formulae before he risked his life on them.

    But he had checked them a hundred times. Theoretically, everything was perfect. And most of all, he knew himself too well...now that the idea was in his head, he knew he wouldn't be able to let go of it.

    Slowly, Andy stood from his chair and stepped over to the newest array on the floor - a practice attempt that had turned out splendidly, one he would have to erase before Sarah came by and saw what he was doing. Kneeling down in the center, he took a deep breath.

    Sitting at eye level was the Vessel, floating in place, the familiar he had been using as his probe still pulsing faintly inside. It had taken a tremendous effort to convince Sarah to leave it behind, but at the cost of his spare key, he had managed to do it. After all, it would have been much more dangerous to have to sneak something that valuable in and out repeatedly. It was much better to leave it here, where it was secure. Normally he left it in the jewelry box, safely hidden away behind multiple locks, but he needed it out to decode the image crystals he had used.

    Now it hovered motionless, the familiar inside watching him.

    Daring him.

    With another deep breath to steady himself, he gave the Vessel-bound familiar a salute. "Wish me luck, little buddy."

    His Magic Circuits opened, and the world around him faded to black.


    Set a foundation, weave a shell for the mind.

    Find the goal, open a pathway to the destination.

    Divest the mind from the body, enter the pathway.

    Leave an anchor behind, to find your way home.

    Break free.


    As his mantra came to an end, more instructions to himself than words to a spell, the array he was seated inside flared to life - and everything went insane.

    It was nothing like Astral Projection. It was as if his perception of reality was a thin sheet of glass, now shattered, and the real world behind it melted and slipped through the cracks. It was hot, it was cold, it was bright, it was dark, it was loud, it was silent, all of his senses went completely mad as the world he knew collapsed around him.

    And then, like some divine hand had swept away the broken mess, everything became clear.

    He was in a grassy field. As far as the eye could see, tall grasses stretched, a sea of green unimpeded by any sort of landmarks. Even as far out as the horizon, there wasn't so much as a single hill or valley.

    The sun shone down powerfully from above, yet the sky remained pitch black. Pitch black, except dotted with stars - even with the sun blazing high in the sky, the sky was still filled with thousands upon thousands of stars.

    It was enough to make him cry. Or would have been, if we wasn't currently outside of his body. Though he had seen images through his familiar, this was a whole different experience. The world was so much more vivid, so much more...real. Even more real than the place he called home.

    A gentle breeze blew by him - through him, as he had no body - and on that wind he could hear faint whispers welcoming him home.

    It hadn't been even a minute. It hadn't been even ten seconds, and yet just being here, he knew.

    This is where magi truly belonged.

    This is the way the world was meant to be.

    After a minute or so, Andy was able to wrest some self-control back, which he used to turn his eyes inward. As he had originally anticipated, the tremendous amount of magical energy latent in the atmosphere had a terrible effect on the shell he used for his projection. It would probably decay within another minute, meaning his consciousness would be annihilated if he didn't return shortly. Briefly, he considered whether it might be worth it - such was his instant intoxication with the place he had only ever seen through a familiar's eyes.

    Of course, that was crazy talk. Nothing more than drunken rambling. He knew he could succeed now, knew he could project himself to the Far Side. With a little work, he could probably make the projection shell considerably more durable, allowing him to visit here for much longer durations of time. Until then, his best bet was to let go and go back.

    He hadn't had the time to learn anything new since arriving, but he didn't have the time to worry about that. He had been reckless enough coming here at all - now was the time to be cautious, and cut the link early. With a single mental command, everything froze - the broken pieces of his perception reassembled, mended themselves back into a glass sheet - the veil was complete again, and Andy was back in his room.

    After a brief pause to get his bearings, Andy cautiously stood up. Careful not to disturb the numerous arrays on the floor, he stepped over to his bed and flopped down loudly on his back.

    He was so overwhelmed by his experience, he couldn't even form coherent thoughts. Everything in his head raced to be first, demanding his attention so much he couldn't focus on anything at all. Reeling under everything he had experienced and everything he wanted to do, Andy couldn't so much as close his eyes as a grin he knew must have looked stupid took over his face.

    Even if this marked the end of his experiments for now...there was no way he was sleeping tonight.


    -----------------


    Andy breathed slowly, trying to suppress his desire to rush as he redrew the array for the sixth time.

    Ever since he had first made a successful shift to the Far Side, he had been waiting to show Sarah. It had taken a while, since she had been away dealing with family troubles, but finally yesterday she returned to the Clock Tower, and tonight she had some time to come over. He was excited about showing her the results of his continued experiments, even if he was a little apprehensive at confessing he had risked is life a few times to get there.

    He realized unfortunately late that the best way to convince her that what he was doing was okay was to show her - not by doing, but by recording. And so here he was, rushing at the last minute to get a recording of his own Mental Projection - he couldn't call it Astral Projection anymore, as it didn't use the Astral plane at all - into the Far Side.

    Not only would success without the use of a Spirit to open the pathway be sure to impress her, but he was also dead set on making the recording as long as possible. If his calculations were correct, with the adjustments he had made, he should have been able to persist in the Far Side for much longer than the hundred or so seconds he had accomplished before. His goal was to last a full hour on the other side, but as a proof of concept, he figured five to ten minutes would be more than enough to convince her it was safe.

    And most importantly of all, it would show her that they no longer needed the Vessel. She would no doubt be ecstatic to be able to return that before anyone in her family had even realized it was gone.

    However, now she was due to arrive in less than an hour. And he just couldn't get this one damn line right.

    Once again drawing in the offending line, he took a step back as he looked over the entire array. Everything had to be perfect - the modifications to the spell this time were aimed at the shell that protected his consciousness from the outside world, so if anything went wrong, it was very possible his mind could receive severe - and probably fatal - damage.

    Nodding to himself, he looked over the entire room again. The Mental Projection array was ready, the recording array was ready, the door was locked, the bounded field for privacy was up...everything seemed perfect. Once again taking a seat in the Projection Array, he gave his customary salute to the Vessel-bound familiar and opened his Magic Circuits, connecting smoothly to the array around him.

    The whole room seemed to whir into motion, the flashes of light from the floor strong enough to compete with the brightness of the electric lighting. Then, in short order, the familiar sensation of glass breaking, of a veil parting. After a few seconds of chaos, his senses reoriented, and he was back in that familiar grassland.

    Once again struck by the euphoria of a successful transport, Andy struggled to contain himself. Though the scenery was familiar, there were some definite differences. For one, the sun was gone - the stars remained, but otherwise there were no lights in the sky. Even so, the world was only slightly darker, closer in feel to a cloudy day than night time.

    Was the flow of time different here, or just offset? It was certainly much earlier in the evening than when he had visited last time, so perhaps the sun had simply not risen yet. It was certainly something he was going to have to keep track of for future reference.

    There was something else that seemed different, though. He couldn't remember how it was the last time he Projected himself here, but every time he had sent the familiar across, there had been swarms of Spirits floating around, curiously watching. Now, he saw nothing. Perhaps he had just come at a bad time, or maybe there was something about the familiar's nature that drew Spirits to it. Or maybe they were drawn to each other, and thus Sarah's appeal to them brought more Spirits than just the one that carried his familiar around.

    That was another question he would have to ask Sarah. For now, however, he turned to some introspection.

    As before, the tremendous amount of magical energy suffusing the air was causing the shell of his Projection to erode. It had seemed that his preparations had been effective, though, since it was degrading at a much slower pace than before. At this rate, he should easily be able to make his preliminary goal of ten minutes, and if he pushed it as close as possible, even an hour didn't seem so implausible.

    That meant he had a lot of time to explore. Everywhere he looked seemed identical, just an endless sea of grass stretching off into the distance, so picking a direction at random, he moved. Without a body, he could only float. The movement was disorienting to his senses that were used to a physical structure, but he could tell clearly that he was moving to some degree across the open plain. It was hard to tell exactly how far he was moving, thanks to a combination of the blur that worsened as he moved and everything looking exactly the same. Every few seconds he would stop, allowing the distortions in his sight and hearing to fade, before continuing on.

    As he wandered around the empty field for a few minutes, he continued to think of new things he could study. How difficult would it be to Project himself to a different location on the Far Side? How could he bring back some of the grass here for study? How could he find a way to test his magecraft here?

    Unfortunately, as it was, he had no method to use magecraft. Since only his mind had been projected across, both his body and his soul - and thus all of his nerves and Magic Circuits - were still back in his room in the Clock Tower. If he took the next step, bringing his soul across to the other side, he might be able to figure something out, but even being here as just a mind he could tell that any sort of magecraft would be very difficult. His particular style might be able to do something, thanks to his reliance on using preconstructed arrays that could be fortified against outside influence, but most magi would find that the tremendous amount of latent magical energy would cause large amounts of resistance against their magecraft. Not to mention the problems with being completely removed from their foundation, and the basic underlying Mystery of the location probably being comparable, if not flat out stronger, than their magecraft making executing anything next to impossible.

    Getting to his original goal of using the properties of the Far Side to amplify magecraft was certainly going to be difficult. He had had no illusions it would be easy, but seeing it first hand was a much different experience.

    Strangely, it didn't discourage him. If anything, it made him feel more determined. With the first part of his long-term plan succeeding so beautifully in only a few months, it seemed like nothing could stop him. After all, if he could find a way to reach this world of amplified Mystery, how much harder could it be to get something useful out of it? If nothing else, as a member of a family that specialized in taking simple magecrafts from others and modifying them to their own uses, surely there would be some way he could utilize the latent mystery of the Far Side to his own gain, if not for magi everywhere.

    Andy paused, startled. Suddenly, something new had snapped into his vision. Had it just suddenly appeared there, or was he moving a lot faster than he realized? The distortion in his vision caused by his movements meant it was hard to get a good grasp of how fast he was moving, so it really could have been either. But now, floating a dozen or so meters away, was a lone smudge of magical energy - a single Spirit.

    Now that he was here in person, he could see it much easier than through the familiar. Here it even had a visible form beyond that of the increased concentration of magical energy that indicated a soul of some sort. It was like a patch of fog, vaguely humanoid shaped, and about the size of a human adult as well. It had numerous features, places where the fog gave way to clearly defined sections, and parts that seemed like holes that were completely transparent, but the unique features seemed to be constantly shifting. Moving about, making it impossible to describe, as any description would be inaccurate a moment later.

    As if it was as surprised to see him as he was to see it, the Spirit floated frozen in the air, its constantly shifting body otherwise unmoving. After a few silent moments of watching each other in stillness, the Spirit made the first move - slowly, it began inching towards him.

    Andy could barely contain his excitement. This was his first contact with a Spirit in its native environment, maybe the first time any human had been here. In fact, though by no means certain, it was possible this was the Spirit's first time ever coming into contact with a human being. How many people dreamed of this kind of first contact?

    Being a simple mental projection, he had no real way to communicate directly. Fortunately, it wasn't difficult to work around those limitations - with a bit of work on his side, he could send some simple sounds or visuals along the link that connected his body and soul to his projection. Language of course wouldn't work, so instead he would have to do something visual - some way of showing greeting to the Spirit before him, without appearing threatening.

    The instant he activated his Magic Circuits back in his physical body, however, the Spirit froze. It seemed like it had noticed he was doing something with magical energy. Was it scared? Of course, it had no way of knowing what he was doing, so it was only natural it would be cautious about the intentions of this strange new being. As quickly as possible, Andy finished sending his message, creating a soft glow of white light around him. His intention was to be as non-threatening as possible, but how would the Spirit interpret it?

    A few seconds passed, the Spirit watching the display of light without reaction. Then, it changed - and this time it was Andy's turn to be scared.

    The white-grey fog of the Spirit dramatically began to change colour, shifting to a blackish-purple that raised all sorts of red flags in Andy's brain. Before he could react, however, the Spirit bolted - towards him.

    Among the rapidly shifting features, Andy could vaguely discern one thing. It was hard to put into words, but if he tried, it was like a combination of fangs bared...and a hand reaching towards him.

    In that split second, Andy realized that the Spirit was not afraid. His attempt at seeming non-threatening had been a resounding success. The Spirit definitely didn't consider him a threat.

    It considered him prey.

    Instinctively, Andy attempted to run away, lunging sideways as best he could when he didn't have a body. His movement was barely fast enough, the attacking Spirit narrowly missing him as it sped off into the distance. After a short pause, as if it had to turn to face him again, the Spirit let out a keening wail. In moments, another shape appeared, almost identical to the first, hovering in the field behind him. And then another, and another, and another. One by one, the open grassland was filled with Spirits, as if a wall of purple fog had descended on it.

    And then one by one, they charged him.

    Panic took over as Andy kept attempting to evade. Why did he think things would be any different here? He had imagined that all spirits coexisted peacefully, floating about, just...being. What would they have to fight about? They were all spirits, after all.

    If he had control of his body, a bitter grin would have reached his face. What did people have to fight about? They were all human, after all.

    No...even here, the Law of the Jungle was absolute.

    Survival of the fittest.

    Kill or be killed.

    In his current state, Andy had no way of defending himself. Even if he could use his magecraft optimally, his own style of magecraft required too much preparation to deal with a sudden attack like this, and the numbers they were attacking with assured that no matter what he did, there would always be another attacker to follow up while he was vulnerable. For now, his odd movements were enough to avoid being killed outright, but they were all much faster than he was, and he was surrounded. It would only be a matter of seconds before they caught him.

    His only way out was to find a way to escape, to go somewhere the attacker couldn't follow him. Outrunning the Spirits was impossible. But in this open field, empty of any landmarks, where could he possibly...?

    Realizing his stupidity a breath before the next Spirit struck him, Andy hit the killswitch - bringing his consciousness back to his body, safe in the Clock Tower. As his perception began to fade, the glass veil that made up his perception of the world slowly repairing itself, he was overwhelmed with relief. It had been a close call. Only a fraction of a second later, and he would have...

    The sound of glass cracking completely annihilated whatever sense of relief he was feeling. As much as the glass veil reconstructing before him was a metaphor, this sound was very real - a signal, specifically designed to warn Andy that something had gone wrong.

    To warn him that the shell protecting his consciousness during the Mental Projection had been compromised.

    As far as his actual consciousness, it didn't matter. He had already left the Far Side, so even if the damage to the shell continued to grow exponentially, he would still make it back to his body with plenty of time to spare. However, the story it told was much more grim.

    Even after leaving the Far Side, something was attacking that shell.

    He had been too slow after all. The attacking Spirit had managed to latch on to the shell, and had been carried out of the Far Side. In a few seconds, as Andy returned to his body, the Spirit would be deposited directly into his room.

    Time seemed to slow as the image of his room appeared in his eyes once again, indicating he had fully returned. Just as he had expected, the blackish-purple, wraith-like creature appeared directly alongside him. Before he could so much as stand up, it would attack again, killing him instantly. The spirit shouldn't be able to survive long on this side, but it wouldn't matter. It only had to survive for a few moments to kill him.

    Out of the corner of his eye, Andy saw the Vessel, floating idly in the middle of the room.

    That was it - that was his chance.

    Still acting in slow motion, Andy reached his hand out to the array still drawn around him. With one broad motion, he broke two of the lines, the ones that controlled what would be projected by the spell. There was no way he could redraw it properly in time, but this way he could at least jury rig a solution of some kind with his own Magic Circuits.

    For a brief moment, the Spirit floated motionless, disoriented by its sudden transportation. After a few seconds of confusion, it turned to look at Andy, once again lunging towards him - but those few seconds had been all Andy needed.

    Magical Energy roared through Andy's already open circuits, the array around him flared brilliantly, and a split second before the Spirit's claw-fangs reached him...

    ...everything went dark.


    ---------------------


    Sarah rubbed her eyes as she walked through the hallways of the dormitory. Being eleven in the evening, she was more than ready to call it a night before her classes the next day. It didn't help that she hadn't slept properly for almost a week, what with all the 'business' going on at home.

    She shook her head with a sigh. Home was the last thing she wanted to think about right now. Anything that could distract her from that was good enough. Hence why she was here, walking through the dormitories instead of sleeping in her own room. Andy had promised her an incredible breakthrough, and that good news was something she needed badly right now.

    He hadn't been willing to tell her exactly what he had accomplished, making some vague excuses about secrecy, but that didn't matter. She'd know in a few minutes when she arrived at his room anyway, and she had had more than enough to think about in the days before.

    Aside from the obvious problems she was dealing with, she had been thinking about their research into the Far Side. For now, their biggest limitation seemed to be their method of observing it. The whole process of making a familiar and having a Spirit carry it over and back certainly worked, but it was closer to a proof of concept than anything practically usable. It was just too convoluted, too roundabout. The next thing they would need to do was to make a better way to observe the other side.

    To that end, she had been doing a lot of theorycrafting. It seemed from their preliminary observations, the other side had a nature very similar to their world. They had presumed from the beginning that only spiritual entities could survive on the other side, but if nature was the same, why would that be the case? Maybe taking a physical body across would actually be much easier than they had actually anticipated.

    Of course that brought up the question of how they would actually move a physical body to the other side. The pathways created by the Spirits she summoned wouldn't be crossable by material entities, so they would have to find a new way to get across - and that sounded dangerously close to her previous warnings about drilling holes in reality.

    In an attempt to avoid that, she had been doing some light research into transposition magecraft - spells that could allow a single person to inhabit multiple places at once. Though her initial research had turned up that it was even more difficult to do than straight up teleportation, which was already close to True Magic, she hadn't given up quite yet. Sure, there were only two or three people in the history of the Magic Association who had managed any sort of semblence of Transposition Magecraft before, but it had been done.

    She hadn't had the time to look into it deeply, but in the coming weeks that would change. Tonight she would hopefully be able to bounce the idea off of Andy and see his take on it, though he was admittedly a bit too positive when it came to judging whether things were possible or not.

    As she turned the final corner leading to Andy's room, Sarah froze. Standing at the far end of the hallway in front of her - or more accurately, floating there - was a vague, indistinct figure. It was like it was trying to appear human, but it looked more like a purple-black fog obscuring some sort of transparent skeleton. Even that figure quickly vanished back into the fog, and then it looked just like a man - and then a woman, and then static, and then a skeleton again.

    It was the first time Sarah had seen anything like it. Yet somehow, even though she had no idea what it was...

    ...she knew it was dangerous.

    Retreating quickly into her own mind, she sought out her trigger, her mental switch.

    An icy cold loneliness.

    A soul-crushing despair.

    Utter helplessness.

    The desire for someone, anyone, to save her.

    Her Magic Circuits opened full throttle, magical energy rushing through her like a torrent of fire.

    She hated that that was her trigger, but there was little she could do about it now. Having to dredge up that feeling of helplessness every time she wanted to use magecraft made her almost quit her life as a magus on more than one occasion, and even in this emergency she couldn't help but feel revulsion at her own feigned weakness.

    The instant her Circuits opened, the strange figure at the end of the hall froze. It was an odd sight, seeing even the wavering haze that obscured it from view suddenly stop moving. Then, with the unmistakable motion of turning towards her, the creature charged.

    Children of Flame, Dance!

    The ghost moved frighteningly quickly, but luckily Sarah didn't have to aim her magecraft. After the creature covered half the distance between them, a spark ignited in the air in front of it. For the briefest moment, it seemed like the creature slowed down, wary of the fire, but before it could change directions the spark burst into an orb of brilliant fire.

    An inhuman shriek tore the air, both so loud it hurt Sarah's ears and yet somehow only on the edge of being audible. The fire she had summoned dissipated almost instantly, leaving Sarah alone in the hallway with the ghost once again. It hadn't seemed to take any damage from the attack, but at the same time it had completely stopped moving. On top of that, the shriek it gave was more than likely an expression of pain. If that was the case, maybe it would think twice before-

    The creature surged into motion once again, seeming to reach for Sarah despite having no distinct appendage with which to do so.

    Spirit of Wind, descend upon our humble realm...

    With the speed at which the creature moved, Sarah knew she had no real way to fight it. If she had had an hour to prepare, she might have been able to fend something like this off, but as it was she was far too weak for her single-action spells to bring it down before it reached her.

    So, she ran towards the charging ghost.

    ...reach out your hand and crush those who dare oppose you....

    A split second before she made contact with the ghost, she dropped to the floor, as if to slide tackle it. Of course it had no legs, so she passed harmlessly under it, but more importantly, it passed harmlessly over her.

    Cursing her decision to wear a skirt that day, she quickly got back to her feet and continued running, now away from the creature. Her legs stung from the rug burn, but it wasn't anything she couldn't bear. Quickly, she looked over her shoulder to see her pursuer just now turning to face her again.

    As she had expected, whatever it was was either not very smart, or not used to dealing with moving around with a physical world with a spiritual body. After a few moments of confusion, it took off in pursuit of her again, this time extending what looked like some sort of gauntleted hand...with teeth... as it charged.

    Spinning quickly to face the ghost, Sarah raised her own hand towards it.

    ...that we might revel in your glorious power!

    The sensation of her call being answered flooded through her - or more accurately, flooded out of her - as a sudden intense gust of wind tore past her from behind. Though it would be invisible even to most magi, she could faintly see the Spirit of wind cut through the hallway towards her opponent.

    Again, for a brief moment, the purple ghost seemed to hesitate. Before it could react, the wind reached it, coiling around the creature from above before slamming it down into the floor.

    Sarah didn't wait to watch the ghost struggle. Turning around, she sprinted down the hallway to Andy's room. She knew she had no chance against whatever this was on her own, so the obvious course of action was to find an ally.

    As she reached the door, however, she had a terrible realization. What if this thing had come from Andy's room? What if their experiments had somehow drawn this creature here? It certainly seemed plausible, given the spiritual nature of the creature, that it had come from some sort of spiritual plane. Maybe not from the Far Side, but it still could have found them thanks to their experiments and followed the trail here.

    Breathing hard, more out of fear than exertion, she threw open the door to Andy's room and jumped inside, slamming the door behind her. The instant she looked across the room, she knew her suspicions had been correct.

    Andy's body was lying on the floor in a lifeless heap, a profound amount of blood drenching both his clothes and the floor around him. A large portion of his stomach had been torn out, as if bitten off by a pair of enormous jaws, clearly showing how he had died. Even that aside, he had hideously deep wounds on his throat, wrists, thighs and heart. Anyone could tell just by looked at him that he was long dead.

    Desperately trying to suppress the terror that was choking back even her shock and grief at seeing her friend's mutilated corpse, Sarah forced herself to keep moving. If Andy was dead, that meant staying here would likely get her killed soon as well. As much as the scene before her disgusted her, it was nothing she couldn't be disgusted about later. Going back to the hallway was suicide, so her only other option of escape was the window. As she stepped forward into the room though, despite knowing she had no time to lose, she hesitated.

    Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Andy's face. Even drenched in blood, he was smiling. It was a smile she knew well, one he made frequently and always for the same reason.

    A victorious smile.

    Was he proud at having brought that creature here? No, he must have known it was going to kill him. That meant he must have accomplished something after seeing the creature. Following his gaze, Sarah's eyes met the Vessel.

    Suspended in the air, floating lazily, the crystal cube small enough to fit in her hand looked back at her without a care in the world. And from within it, a brilliant light was shining.

    Not a speck, not a glimmer like before, with Andy's tiny familiar. A brilliant, steady light shone at her, as if mocking her for not noticing it immediately.

    "Oh, you did not, you crazy son of a-"

    Another violent shriek tore through the air, causing a sharp spike of pain in Sarah's head. Taking that as her cue to get lost, she leapt across the room and grabbed the Vessel out of the air where it was hovering.

    Immediately upon touching it, the crystal cube flared to life, a dazzling multicoloured light so bright it hurt her eyes. But more than the pain in her eyes, she felt the surge in her Magic Circuits - the sensation of someone connecting their Circuits to hers.

    As the rejected daughter of a weak lineage, Sarah knew her Magic Circuits were below average. Their individual quality wasn't particularly poor, indeed unprecedentedly high quality for her family, but her fatal weakness was in their number and her low capacity for storing magical energy. But as she took the Vessel in hand, she felt a surge of magical energy like nothing she had ever experienced before. It was like she had been searching through the dark with a flashlight, and then suddenly the sun had appeared in the sky over her head.

    Once again, she was forced to remind herself she didn't have time to stand around awestruck. Without a second thought, she hurled herself through the closest window, covering her face with her arms as she crashed through the glass. Ignoring the bite of broken glass cutting into her arms and legs, she shouted at the top of her lungs.

    Children of Wind, Fly with me!

    Drinking deeply from the Vessel in her hand, the single-action spell activated with more magical energy than Sarah had ever been able to handle in her life. As soon as the words left her mouth, a violent gale of wind wrapped around her, throwing away the pieces of broken glass that had embedded themselves in her skin and clothes, and gently but quickly lowering her to the ground three stories below. Carrying forward with the momentum from her brief fall, Sarah turned to face the building from which she had just descended. As she had expected, the spirit-creature had leapt out after her through the broken window. Again, as if it was not sure how movement worked, it descended straight to the earth below before heading towards her, despite being able to fly through the air effortlessly.

    As the ghost descended, Sarah raised the vessel in her hand towards it. With this, with Circuits like these, with this much distance between them, maybe she could do something. With another Wind Spirit, she could maybe move fast enough to avoid the creature, though she wasn't sure if she would be able to outrun it.

    Or...she could stand and fight.

    The creature reached the ground, and Sarah began her chant.


    Spirits of Perdition, rise up from the depths,
    Let loose your blazing judgment,
    And scatter the ashes of the wicked to the four winds!


    It was a gamble. She had never had the strength as a magus to summon more than one Spirit at a time, let alone spirits of multiple elemental affinities. On top of all that, she was still in the heart of London, a land that was practically toxic to Spirits of nature. But it was still only three verses, she knew she had a dual affinity for Fire and Wind, and she now had Circuits and a power source - however temporary they might be - rivaling that of the most powerful magi in the Clock Tower.

    If she would ever be able to pull something like this off, it would be now.

    From behind her, ribbons of vermillion flame raced through the night air towards the rapidly approaching ghost, riding on a wind violent and focused enough it could have cut flesh. In the span of a heartbeat, the ribbons of flame and wind reached their target, wrapped tightly around their prey...and detonated.

    With a force the shook the ground enough to make Sarah stumble, the ribbons of fire exploded upward into a pillar of flame, whipped into a cyclone by hurricane force winds. The pillar of flame rose up almost thirty feet into the air, bathing the entire area in a harsh orange light. All the while, the winds whipped the fire into a confined frenzy, sending the flames back inwards toward their hapless victim. The roar of the flames and the howling of the wind drowned out all other noise, just as the light from the blaze blinded her to everything else that was around her.

    The next few seconds felt like an eternity as she watched the magnificent pillar of destruction reduce the ghost to ashes. But just as she began to smile, just as she was about to collapse to the ground with relief...

    ...the ghost shrieked.

    An order of magnitute stronger than anything before, the shriek once again caused a violent stabbing pain in Sarah's head. Collapsing to her knees, she unconsciously brought her hands up to cover her ears. Unable to even open her eyes, she could do nothing but sit helplessly on the ground, waiting for the attack to end.

    After a few moments, the shrieking stopped. Finally lowering her hands, now covered in the blood dripping from her ears, Sarah instinctively thrust the Vessel towards the spirit.

    The first thing she noticed was that the Vessel had gone dark. Not empty dark, but down to its reduced glow, like it had been before she touched it.

    Only a dozen or so feet in front of her, the spirit-creature keened. The pillar of fire that had trapped it was gone, a circle of ash the size of Andy's room the only indication it had ever existed. In the middle, the creature wavered, its form slowly beginning to unravel and dissolve. No longer shrieking as it had before, it was making a much more normal noise, a very clear cry of pain. An angry, desperate cry of pain.

    It was seriously injured, but it was not dead.

    Though it had no eyes or face, Sarah could clearly feel the creature turn its attention towards her. Immediately, she attempted to cast another single-action spell, if for no other reason than to distract it long enough for her to think of a better plan...but she couldn't.

    Her Magic Circuits were closed.

    Try as she might to open them, the migraine-like pain in her head prevented her from focusing. Whether it was intentional or not, the creature's shriek had effectively robbed her of her magecraft. That must have been why the pillar of fire disappeared - and in fact, why all her spells had been dissolving. That thing was attacking her mentally, breaking the flow of magical energy through her Magic Circuits by forcing her mind to shut them off.

    This was the irony she hated about her switch.

    No matter how helpless she felt now, the magecraft that helplessness was supposed to enable couldn't do a thing for her.

    One hand still pressing on the side of her head in an attempt to suppress the intense pain, Sarah struggled to her feet. Before she could so much as take a step though, the creature lunged at her.

    This was it. There was nothing she could do. She didn't even have the time to despair before the creature reached her, extending its own collapsing hand -

    - and stopping.

    An instant before the ghost ripped her apart, dozens of needle-thin spears of silver impaled it from the side, freezing it in place. Before either of them could realize what happened, the silver threads flicked backwards, throwing the spirit away from Sarah and back into the pile of ash left by Sarah's own attempts at dispatching it.

    Sarah looked on in astonishment, too confused to be relieved at her rescue. Before she could even turn to look, a woman - for lack of a better term - dressed in a maid's outfit leapt into the space between Sarah and the ghost. Even in the darkness, Sarah could easily tell that she wasn't all human, though. Her skin, an shimmering silver, was proof enough of that.

    After righting itself, the creature immediately shrieked again...but this time it was completely inaudible. There was no pressure, no more pain than Sarah already felt...nothing. Only after realizing the shriek had no effect did Sarah notice the ring of light surrounding it, hovering an inch above the ashes.

    "Noisy little guy, isn't he?" A voice pulled Sarah's attention from the creature. Approaching from her left at a leisurely pace was a young girl, her blonde hair standing out brightly against her dark navy outfit. The girl, who looked to be in her mid-teens, held a hand to the side of her head, her expression telling she was in obvious pain as she gave the creature an icy look. "Hope you don't mind me cutting off your sound, but people are trying to sleep, you know?"

    Turning to Sarah, the girl spoke again. "Is this thing yours?"

    "N-no, not at all," Sarah said, stuttering as she started breathing again, not quite sure when she had stopped. Hearing that, the blonde girl's expression softened, taking on a pleasant yet mischievous looking smile.

    "Good. I didn't think so after...that," she said, motioning with her free hand toward the pile of ashes, "but I figured I might as well make sure." Turning to face the silver maid, the girl spoke in a commanding voice, a voice that carried much more authority than seemed appropriate for her age. "Trimmau, kill it."

    Without a moment's hesitation, the maid raised its arms towards the creature. From the sides of its arms, countless needle-thin threads of silver shot out in every direction, arcing around and impaling the hapless ghost from all sides, still desperately shrieking within the girl's silencing field. The maid flicked its arms outwards, and the threads followed suit, tearing the spirit into a thousand pieces that melted away into the night air, dissolving like smoke.

    "I was going to let you deal with it, since it seemed you were having so much fun," the girl spoke again, somehow sounding both mocking and friendly, "but it looked like you wouldn't mind a bit of help at the end there."

    "Thanks," Sarah replied with a weak smile. "I owe you one."

    The girl immediately raised an eyebrow, giving her a look charged with a meaning Sarah didn't appreciate. "Might I be so bold as to ask your name?" As she spoke, the silver-skinned maid walked back to her, taking up position quietly behind her.

    "Sarah Laurent, Department of Spiritual Evocation, fourth year. And you?"

    Ignoring her question, the girl smiled in a way Sarah could only describe as being devilish. "We'll remember you said that, Miss Laurent. I hope you have a most pleasant evening." With a small curtsy, the girl turned around, making her way back to the Clock Tower proper, her maid following silently behind her.

    Her headache from the creature's attack finally starting to subside, Sarah took a deep breath to try and calm herself, gently lowering herself to the ground.

    As a magus, she knew she lived on the threshold of death. She knew she faced the real risk of dying every day she practiced magecraft. But even so, this was the first time she had ever had to fight for her life. Not to mention the fact her best friend had been murdered in a more gruesome way than she had ever imagined possible.

    By all accounts, she should have been dead. Thankfully, that blonde girl had showed up at just the right time. If it wasn't for her...

    Sarah shook her head. She didn't need to think about that now. Everything was over. Well...the fight was over. There was no doubt she would be thoroughly interrogated as to why she had felt the need to use such destructive magecraft on campus, in the middle of the night, without supervision or permission. Not to mention the fact that she had thrown herself out of a third story window, from a room belonging to someone who had been viciously murdered.

    "That'll be a difficult story to sell, wont it?" Sarah murmured to herself, looking down at the Vessel in her hand.

    As before, the Vessel glowed with a strong light, but nothing like the brilliance of when she had been using it before. Likely, it had reacted as it had to her before because her Magic Circuits had been open. Now, as they were closed, it had a faint and steady light, as if waiting for instructions.

    Sarah couldn't help but shake her head again. Everyone would think he had been murdered, and they would be mostly right. His body had certainly been killed as dead as dead could be. But somehow...somehow that crazy bastard had managed to transplant his own soul from his body into the Vessel before dying. The ghost, which had no doubt attacked him to feed and try and preserve itself in the harsh environment it found itself in, either couldn't get to him in the Vessel or didn't realize what had happened. So it consumed whatever lingering traces of magical energy were left in his body, and then left in search of more food.

    It was no wonder it had reacted so violently then when Sarah came face to face with it and opened her Magic Circuits. It was starving to death, and she was food. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say it was suffocating, and she was a pocket of air.

    Of course, she couldn't tell anyone that Andy was still technically alive. If they knew, that meant they would know about the Vessel. They would no doubt confiscate it, and then not only would Sarah's theft of the Vessel be made public knowledge, thus burning what few bridges remained between her and her family, but also there would be no chance to bring Andy back. The higher ups would obviously have the resources to do so, but as a mere student from a politically unimportant family, they would never bother to, no matter how skilled he may have been.

    No, if she was going to get him back into a real body, she would have to do it herself. In the mean time...

    Making sure the Vessel was hidden covertly in the palm of her hand, Sarah stood up, brushing the dirt her legs and clothes. More than a few clear stinging sensations reminded her of her jump through a closed glass window, though a quick inspection of her arms and legs showed most of the cuts were fairly superficial. Her first order of business would have to be to take care of those. If she was fast enough, she could get back to Andy's room and try to recover as much of their research materials before the Faculty of Law confiscated them in their murder investigation.

    She had thought the previous weeks had been hell, but she had the aching suspicion that the following few days would be so much worse. She needed to get through those without anyone discovering the Vessel that held his soul. If she could manage that, then she could get to work on figuring out a way to put him back into a body of some sort.

    The Vessel was truly a master-crafted artifact, and would be more than capable of sustaining him in that state for decades. Assuming she at least could find one eventually, there was no worry that he might perish before she found a solution. In the mean time, while he waited inside that crystal to be returned to life, was he even conscious? Would he even realize how long he had been trapped inside when he got out?

    Was the connection between his Magic Circuits and hers an accident, or intentional on his part?

    As she began to walk back to the dorms, she clutched the Vessel tight in her hand. She had no idea if she'd really be able to acquire the resources or skills needed to bring him back, but she'd be damned if she didn't try.

    After all, he still needed to tell her about his breakthrough.
    Last edited by TwilightsCall; September 6th, 2016 at 09:03 AM. Reason: was he when he even conscious?

  2. #2
    The Long-Forgotten Sight Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    I was expecting them to get warped into the backside and never return, but this works too.

    Okay no, actually it's far too cruel to leave something this interesting on a cliffhanger! Andy and Sarah were immediately likable, and seeing them work their way through their theories was fascinating. If only Andy hadn't tried to talk to the Nazguls...

    Great job with this; I really enjoyed it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

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    Hey, I ain’t no lizard! Draconic's Avatar
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    Oh… my… god…
    That was amazing! You wrote the suspense fabulously! I'm still interested in these characters though.
    SPOILERS for the story:
    Will there be a follow-up about Sarah stealing a homunculus body, and transplanting Andy's soul inside it?
    I'd honestly suggest that you save this somewhere under a different name, and come up with an alternate history story with Andy and Sarah as the main characters, (or just one of the two if you'd prefer it that way), because this is a quality standalone piece of writing you have here. On the other hand, you could also continue as is and do all the alterations later.

    Anyway, nice job. As I mentioned, you did a great job at conveying the suspense, and the title gave an appropriately ominous overtone to the story. I was constantly wondering which of their decisions would be the one that brought them too close to the sun, (and which of them would ultimately plummet like Icarus.

    Also, just so that I can be sure, that was Reines who showed up at the end, right?

    Oh, right, one last thing: Rafflesiac, 'if only Andy hadn't tried to talk to the Nazguls' is the funniest thing I've seen all day. Thank you for the laugh.
    Last edited by Draconic; September 4th, 2016 at 09:09 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    That makes me think of Rin as a loan shark.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    Admittedly, she'd probably be the hottest loan shark you'll ever meet. She'd probably make you smile as she sucked you dry.


    Oh dear, that doesn't sound like yuri at all.
    Quote Originally Posted by Techlet View Post
    Not with that attitude.

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    Presia messe noce yor tes mea TwilightsCall's Avatar
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    Sarah is actually a main character from the long form story I am working out, so her story will definitely be continuing, though likely considerably long after the point this story ends (I'm thinking like ten years later or so). I had originally written her up as a character over a year ago, and only after starting writing this and realizing Andy needed a sidekick of some sort did I realize how perfectly she fit this story (and how perfectly this story fit her!).

    Andy...well, his situation is a little more complicated. He'll certainly be around, but his ultimate fate is yet to be decided. I'm sure he'd appreciate your prayers and support though!

    And yes, that was Reines at the end.

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    夜属 Nightkin Andaeus's Avatar
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    That was really interesting!

    I don't usually read OC-centric stories, but I'm gad I made an exception. I actually found myself liking your characters pretty quickly. You also handled the setting's magic system very well, even if their idea seems like the kind of thing magi would have already tried and documented by now. Then again, the concept of magi sharing their work at all has always been kind of an iffy thing in the Nasuverse.

    I would definitely read more about these two. Do you have any plans for further interactions with the normal cast(s)? I have to admit, when I saw Mercury-meido show up my first thought was that they were being saved by Waver, which would have been hilarious. The scene probably worked better with Reines, though.

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    Hey, I ain’t no lizard! Draconic's Avatar
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    He has my support, though he's definitely a crazy risk taker, though that's true of many mages. My opinion of Sarah's situation is that she's definitely screwed, and Andy's research materials if she doesn't have at least one powerful ally in the Clock Tower, which gives me the impression that Reines was the cameo here for a reason. Waver is an arrogant prick, but he has some common decency, and nobody on this site is more qualified to write Gray than you are, so they'd be the perfect in-universe characters to have as friends.

    Meanwhile, I actually made up something of an atypical mage myself for alfheimwanderer's The Great Heracles Hunt RP. At the time your story take place, he'd probably be in his forties or fifties, but the reason I bring him up is because his origin is 'collecting' and he's an almost suicidally nice-guy how-can-I-help-you mage, so he's exactly who Sarah needs if she wants to hide her family's spirit vessel. He's not dead however because he owns lots of things, and the more stuff he hoards, the luckier he is. It's a cycle of happiness, unless he needs to clean things up.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    That makes me think of Rin as a loan shark.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    Admittedly, she'd probably be the hottest loan shark you'll ever meet. She'd probably make you smile as she sucked you dry.


    Oh dear, that doesn't sound like yuri at all.
    Quote Originally Posted by Techlet View Post
    Not with that attitude.

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    Presia messe noce yor tes mea TwilightsCall's Avatar
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    I do plan to bring in a fair number of characters from official works, yes. They probably won't be main characters, but they should have a decent amount of screen time.

    It was actually a pretty tough decision whether to have Reines (via Trimmau) or Waver (via Gray) swoop in to save the day at the end, but in the end I couldn't justify having Gray bring out the scythe against a non-undead thing, so it ended up being the maid.

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    Who stole my donuts!? Leo Novum's Avatar
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    This was absolutely magnificent! I thought this story wouldn't be much considering that it had original characters in it but am I glad that I was wrong. Your characters weren't just entertaining, I actually cared about them, something that can rarely be said about OCs.

    I hope you are going to continue this brilliant piece and regale us with the stories of the adventures of Andy and Sarah. Leaving this at a cliffhanger would be far too cruel.
    If I'm an unknown being, then the way I can change is unknown, too…
    So all I have to do… is make them not-unknown.
    - Teddie, Perona 4

    Spoiler:

    Say what again, I dare you!

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