Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Necromancer's Stone; In Honour Glen

Thalia tried to cast a spell to slow her fall, but her adversary managed to kick her in the side and break her focus.  She spun and hurled a dozen icy spikes at him, hoping that she could distract him long enough to cast it properly.  He flipped his cloak around and caught them all in its folds, then pulled it taut, launching them back towards her.  She waved her hand and melted them all, then chucked a fireball at him.  He parried it with his sword, but before he could slash at her he was stopped abruptly by a jutting rock on the side of the mountain.  She scarcely had a moment to laugh before she felt something solid and cold, then all was black.

"Get up.  I'm not done with you yet."
Thalia opened her eyes, blinking quickly as her vision cleared up and she found herself looking up at a young man with beautiful eyes, a nicely trimmed goatee, and an unfortunately directed sword.  He was bleeding rather heavily; multiple skull fractures, noticeable deep gouges, and his left arm was bent at an incredibly uncomfortable looking angle.  And none of that changed his apparent determination to end her life.  It was flattering, breathtakingly so, but she was still in a bit of a pickle.
"Can't we talk about this?"
"What's there to discuss?  It seems to me that this is pretty simple.  You did evil things, I'm here to provide just desserts."
"And you think the people I charmed were any better?  I picked the catering company because they were blackmailing their customers, sabotaging the competition, and covering up several potentially devastating harassment law suits.  They were at least as much of crooks as I am, and much less willing to discuss it."
"You threw my girlfriend to her death."
"And clearly, that was a serious misjudgment on my part.  Given the opportunity I'd like to think I would find an alternative target, or maybe a different location, one with water at the bottom of the cliff, or possibly a fluffy pillow factory.  But I would definitely not do this again given the choice."
"You weren't given the choice.  This is it."
He stood there, staring down his blade at her.  And then, rather than stab her, he simply continued to stare down the blade at her.  Then Thalia realized that the skull fractures had probably damaged his ability to focus, and judging by his entrancing eyes, his ability to see.  He couldn't actually tell where she was well enough to hit her with any sort of accuracy.  She was rather happy he wasn't the sort to just flail around wildly in the hopes of hitting her, because it would have been hard to miss at this distance.  She paused and looked around  for a moment, hoping to see something she could use to help her escape.  A simple portal spell would get her back to her room just fine, if she could distract him long enough to cast it.  She tried to look behind her and felt a tugging sensation in her stomach.  Hoping it was just something she ate, with all the trouble the caterers had already caused her she could use a good reason to sue, she glanced down.  It was only then that she realized just how dire her predicament really was; as made readily apparent by the crimson stalagmite sprouting from her stomach.  It wasn't particularly large, she could get off of it easily if she tried, but judging by the shade of red, she'd hit it quite some time ago, and was still bleeding.  Her study of medicine told her that she had probably lost a lot more blood than was good for her; common sense told her she ought to be dead, and a third, less common, sense told her that it hadn't killed her yet and probably wouldn't kill her at all.  
"You haven't mentioned your girlfriend's brother yet."
"He was a right piece of work.  I'd never have said it to her, but he really had it coming.  Maybe it was never anything quite illegal, at least not by local laws, but what he did was definitely wrong.  And I can even see what you meant about the caterers.  If they really did what you say they did, and all my knowledge says they did, then all you did was give them a taste of their own medicine.  Strictly speaking, they did consent to drink the punch.  Hap mentioned that you had them sign wavers before they started."  He shuffled a little, keeping his sword pointed at her as he did; impressive for a man as badly injured as him.  "The TacSim thing is still wrong though.  Not legally, but it violates the spirit of the game.  Sure you win, and you're very good at it.  I loved your maneuver against the Hammer Brothers for the mountain; really captured a holistic approach to warfare.  But you ignore the team building aspect, the social side of it all.  You're arrogant; maybe you have the skill to back it up but that doesn't give you an excuse for treating people the way you do."
"Arrogant!  You think I'm arrogant while you stand over me with a sword and tell me about what's wrong and right?"
"No, I thought you were evil.  You aren't.  You have reasons for why you do what you do, and they aren't personal gain.  You do things because you think you're better than they are and they need you to pass judgement on the people who really are evil, since no one else is smart enough to do so themselves.  That's what makes you arrogant."  He went to sheathe his sword and stopped, holding his left arm up when it didn't cooperate with him.  "What happened to my arm?"
"You hit a rock, I think you've done something to your elbow, some sort of misalignment.  Also you've suffered multiple skull fractures, lacerations to the throat, torso, and arms; probably legs too, and my guess is that you've got a concussion."
"How am I still alive?"
"I'm impaled on a stalactite, I'd say its been a few hours judging by the way the blood is clotting; between eight and nine probably.  Blood loss alone should have killed me hours ago; and that's not counting organ damage.  We both ought to be dead."
"Maybe the windows.."  Thalia cut him off there.
"No.  They're just a randomly shuffling portal, with a glass window in front of them.  I made them over the summer when I redecorated the ballroom.  If there was any sort of protective enchantment I would know."
"You did those?  That's pretty clever.  Most people just make permanent portals because they want an easy escape route, or a way of passing messages without detection; windows though, that's good."
Thalia blushed, apparently she still had enough blood left to handle flattery.  She flexed her arms, then her legs, to ensure that her body was all still working properly.  Everything still worked it seemed.  She tried to lift herself off of the stalagmite, but found she couldn't get herself quite high enough to make it.  She heard the sword clatter against the stones and saw him holding out his good hand.
"Here.  If you promise to put together a proper TacSim team, turn over your findings on the caterers to the authorities, and fix my other arm I promise not to kill you."
"What about your girlfriend?"
"It was mostly a status thing.  She wanted someone to show off at parties and I wanted people to stop thinking I was gay."  He paused.  "I'm not by the way."
"But I still killed her."
"And I've killed people too.  I'm not happy you killed her, but I trust you aren't in the habit of killing people."
"I avoid it when I can; being evil does have certain expectations though."  Thalia felt no pride in saying it.  She really did prefer not killing people, especially if she didn't know they deserved it.  It was the reason she did so much research; any mage could just randomly kill people, mages of her caliber could even get away with it, but she didn't see how the ability to kill with thought and hand waving made her any better than a mad man with a gun.  When it came down to it her real power was her mind, and failure to use it would be nearly as criminal as throwing someone out of a window.
"Besides,"  He reached down and took her by the hand.  He wasn't wearing gloves, and she could feel how rough his hand was.  Maybe it was from handling his sword, she had noticed that the grip was chipped and worn, or maybe it was just naturally rough.  "She was making an armed threat.  You certainly applied excessive force, but it was also self-defense.  I think you could get off fairly light; assuming you didn't just bribe the courts."
"I'd never.  Man like that I'd just blackmail with evidence of prior bribes.  Even if he didn't comply, no other judge would risk it, I've got dirt."
"Jars of dirt I imagine."  He pulled her up.  He didn't seem to be pulling very hard, but she still felt like she'd flown off the ground.  Thalia stumbled against him, a little stunned by her quick rise from the ground, and subsequent  blood loss, but more so by suddenly finding herself pressed up against him.  He steadied her as best he could with his one good hand, but hesitated before stepping back.  She felt a slight fluttering before he did, although she wasn't sure which of them it was.  It took them both a moment to regain their focus, whether because of his concussion or her light-headedness neither was sure, but once they had Thalia took hold of his bad arm and pulled lightly as she gently twisted it back into position.  She decided not to worry about patching wounds, but instead plied her spells towards numbing the pain.  Whether or not it had any effect on his perception of pain wasn't clear, but he didn't seem to be in any discomfort.  She let a few seconds pass before releasing the spell, then stepped back to check her handiwork.  His arm was set properly.  The bleeding had slacked off hours ago, which was good, but the concussion and skull fractures were going to remain a problem if they were going to try and get out of here.  She reached out and touched his head, trying not to dwell on her actions and focus on the task at hand.  He went to brush her away, but stopped short, his hand resting on hers.
"I'm going to try and seal the fractures.  I don't think it'll hurt, but it will almost certainly feel really, really weird."
He chuckled.  "I knew you'd try to mess with my head, I just didn't realize it would be this literal."
Thalia laughed.  Her hands falling from his head to his shoulders in order to keep her upright.  She still hadn't taken care of her own wound and didn't want to risk falling down onto anything dangerous.  When she stopped she realized where her hands were and returned them to his head, although not so fast as to fail to appreciate the finely tuned musculature.  She whispered a quiet spell and gently massaged the plates of his skull back into position, binding them magically as they reached the right place in the cranial puzzle.  And before she let go she inspected eyes, less to make sure his vision would return to normal as simply to appreciate their almost turquoise color.
"You good?  I don't think it takes that long to make sure I'm not crosseyed."
"Sorry.  You just have the most charming eyes I've ever seen."
"Did you know that you can tell what school of magic is a mage's strongest by looking at their Iris' close enough?"
He shrugged, lowering her hands from the sides of his head.  "You have a way of getting us out of here?"
She ignored the disappointing emptiness of her hands, and nodded, then drew a portal on the side of the mountain.  "Goes directly to an alley two streets over from my house.  Care to walk me home?"
"It would certainly be safer if I was with you."
"I feel better already."
"By it I meant 'everything else'."
Thalia snickered.  "And who might you be to stand between me and the world?"
"Hal, just Hal."
"Well then, Just Hal, lead on."

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Necromancer's Stone; The Party, part nine

The guests started to arrive.  Thalia watched patiently from the balcony, biding time for the right moment.  She saw one couple after another, groups of singles, and even a few loners make their way in and begin helping themselves cautiously to the food.  She saw Happock busy at the bar, and Mia, his daughter, beside him mixing drinks.  Katie was with her friend, chatting on the far end of the room.  Weydon had even showed up, nervously sitting by the punch bowl looking across the room for someone.  She watched for a while before deciding that everyone had come who could, and making note of those who had ignored their invitations, or come without them.  Upon them, disproportionate justice would be wrought.  It was one of the few legitimately evil things she did, but she really hated to be stood up.  Thalia snapped, turning off all lights but those she had set up for this moment.
"Greetings, honored guests.  I've gathered you all together here so that we might enjoy the arrival of the new year together.  Eat, drink, and dance; have fun."
She stepped back into the shadows and the lights turned back on.  Bit anti-climactic really, but she figured it was only a matter of time before someone would...
"Thalia Thansfeld, You will pay for your crimes!"
Ah, there it was.  She dimmed the lights and directed a spotlight towards the voice.  It was a woman, but she had companions, and they were armed.  It was her favorite part of the night already.
"Don't suppose you have any particular crime in mind?"
"You charmed the wait staff, cheated your way into the TacSim league, and killed my brother in a bar fight."
"Did I invite you?"
"No, we took it from some of your other guests.  Crooks just like you."
"Crook?" She floated down to the floor in front of them.  "That's all?  What about the bribery, the extortion, and all of the spying I had to do in order to do those things?  I think that calling me a mere crook is mildly insulting.  True of course, but I rather believe I'm so much more than that."
A man to her left spoke up, but Thalia didn't hear a word he said.  He had the most entrancing eyes of anyone she'd ever met.  It was actually a matter of minutes before she managed to regain full awareness, at which time she realized she must have continued talking because the weapons were now very much out in the open.
"I'll give you one more chance to come quietly."
"How long is this chance exactly?"
Thalia swept the woman's feet from under her and launched her towards the windows.  Then slid across the ballroom and picked the woman up by the throat.
"Offer rejected; care to try again?"
The man yelled.  "Let her go!"  He had a good, strong voice.  Plenty of resolution, courage, but it was also tender and caring.  She couldn't help but listen to his demand.  They'd find the body in Honor Glen weeks from now.  But as the man barreled into her, it occurred to her that they might find more than one body in the depths of the glen.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Necromancer's Stone; The Party, part eight

Thalia pushed the doors of the Hapsburg open as quietly as she could.  Entrances were said to be everything, but this wasn't the entrance she planned to make; this was the pre-entrance, the one used to set up everything so that the actual entrance would be perfect, with fireworks and self-operating spotlights.  She waved her hand towards the ceiling and several of the aforementioned spotlights appeared and began tracking her.  She wasn't about to pay for the damage fireworks would cause, so a set of multi-colored strobes were also conjured into position to provide supportive lighting effects, as well as a few fog machines.  It was all free, or else she'd have spared no expense. 
"I see you've begun set-up.  Any luck you could not scent the fog this year, it gave me flashbacks last time."
"I'm very sorry about that Happock.  I'll make sure not to make that mistake again, promise."
"Have fun setting up, would you like anything to drink while you take care of things?"
"No, but if you could prepare some punch for the caterers?  I expect they'll be here at five, and I plan to toast the evening before the guests arrive."
"Green or Red punch?"
"Red, and be sure to watch the toast so that you can answer the guests questions later."
"If you didn't pay me so well I'd almost think you were up to something."
"Ooh, that's good, be sure to tell them that when they ask."
Happock walked off towards the kitchens.  Thalia smiled and headed over to the ballroom to redecorate.  There were a few tables set up towards the edges, and stacks of chairs all around, nice red cushion-y ones.  windows on all sides enchanted to present an incredible view, usually seasonally appropriate.  She knew, she'd added them at the end of school party the previous year.  Today they had a view of Nepalya, looking across Honour Glen from the Imperial family's private ski cabin.  It was beautiful, snow on gray stone and the chasm below was perilous and wonderful.  She elected to start from there as a base point and began adding more rustic elements to the decorations, a large fireplace at one end of the room, hanging bundles of mountain herbs, and the faint scent of juniper wafting about the room in small, thought provoking air pockets.  She flicked her wrist and watched the curtains unfurl in red satin, then conducted a large ice sculpture of herself into existence in the middle of the room.  Thalia surveyed the room, nodding in satisfaction.
She stepped back out into the lobby and walked up to one of the mirrors, pondering the function and trying to determine the best possible outfit.  Thalia had already put on her nice silver earrings, and a ruby pendant.  She decided to stick with the red and conjured a flouncy red gown, and a set of red fabric pauldrons, not quite spiky but certainly intimidating nevertheless.  A little bit of lip gloss, some eyeliner, and she was set for the night.
"Caterers are waiting at the door.  Whatever you plan to do to the punch, do it now.  I'm going to go let them in."
That was what Thalia liked about the old dog, he didn't care that she was up to something.  Ga-Vok were like that, they were happy as long as there was food in their belly and a reason to run around afterwards.  Good and Evil were just words, and what mattered was how you treated people.  Give them a pat on the back, and maybe some more food, and they figured you couldn't be too bad.  Ignore them, mistreat them, and it didn't matter how many times you'd saved the world, they wouldn't stand for it.  Thalia could respect that.  Not to say she always treated everyone well, but not everyone was Ga-Vok.  There were bad people out there, and she happened to enjoy giving them their due.
And sometimes that meant spiking the punch.  She plucked a small vial of potion, carefully prepared the previous evening, and uncorked it over the punch.  She'd made it potent enough to work on a hundred people on twelve hours.  She doubted there would be a hundred of them, but it still wouldn't be enough to kill anyone.  And if it did, she'd have plenty of people willing to take the blame for it in her stead.  She'd done enough research, made the right investments, and memorized enough alibis that she could actually gain a great deal from any of the wait staff turning up dead on the boss's watch.  But she'd rather it didn't come to that.  She poured it into the punch and slipped it into subspace just as Happock showed them all in.  Now everything was prepared for the party.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Necromancer's Stone; The Party, part seven

The party was just around the corner now.  Thalia had only one group left to attend to, and it was undeniably the most important of all, the caterers.  Not only was was it essential that she have the best food available, but it was also essential that she drove enough fear into the hearts of the entire wait staff that all her guests would be left wondering exactly what means she'd used to secure everything at the party.  She couldn't even just get away with killing someone either, she'd have to torture dozens and use a corpse of thrones while laughing maniacally in order to manage the sort of fear she wanted to inflict.  Problem being that she also had to be completely legal about it and maniacal laughter was the sort of thing that attracted unwanted attention from the police.  Torture and murder were also frowned upon, although much easier to do without being noticed.  Given the choice, she'd have paid extra for them to act afraid, like she had with Happock.  But knowing caterers, she needed to actually inflict the fear, otherwise the lingering disgruntlement would overpower it.  It left her with few, and all of them unpleasant, options.
She could curse them with fear, but many students would be keen enough to notice the spell.  But it would be easy, cheap, and have no long term side effects.
She could make an example of anyone who stepped out of line, firing them on the spot or worse.  The chance existed, prominently, that doing so would simply cause them all to quit, spoiling the entire affair.
Or she could simply strike the most intimidating presence possible and threaten them into submission.  That option would work to a point, but couldn't achieve the same level of success of the others.
Thalia paced in front of her bed.  There had to be a better way, one that would keep them from leaving, while still making it appear that she was up to something, without requiring her to actually be up to something.  She flopped down on her sheer, pink curtained four-poster bed, twisting slightly aside to avoid the open file folder already resting on it.  There had to be a way, something devious, suspicious, and effective; a way of making her seem manipulative without causing harm.
She jumped up, or rather fell off and managed to roll to her feet.  She had the perfect plan.  Now all she had to do was set it in motion.  She called the catering company she'd selected, tapping her foot lightly as she waited for them to pick up.
"Mage's Table, Summon us to feed your party; what can I do for you?"  Answered a tired, somewhat nasal woman.
"I need to book you for a party at the Hapsburg.  Junsrew Eve, send your team over at five for the night.  I've already had satisfactory payment transferred.  It'll be under Thalia Thansfeld."
She listened to the woman type for a moment, then pause for several minutes.  Finally the woman managed to find her voice.  "Will that be all ma'am?"
"Yes, that should be more than satisfactory.  Don't be late."  Thalia hung up the phone.  That should get all of their top staff for the night, and no one would question why they were there.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Necromancer's Stone; The Party, part six

Thalia appraised the shop before her cautiously.  The third band, 'Flare!' having sent a rather excited message the prior night that they would be more than happy to perform, was reported by a reliable source to be performing here tonight.  'Gravitas', as the sign on the door referred to them, had already started to set up their equipment on the small stage on the far end of the building, but Thalia was still holding at the door.
It was known, well known depending on who you asked, that Thalia was fearless, powerful, and bold.  But that didn't mean that there weren't places she didn't like to go.  Cafes were one of them.  Their usual patrons were hardly the sort that she liked to deal with, and a past interaction with coffee had left her incapable of sleep for nearly a month.  In truth, few Nielda could be found within sight of the unobtrusive semi-restaurant.  For that matter, she couldn't see any Ga-Vok either.  There was a Jaguan further down the street, near the edge of an alley, but it was obvious that she was here to cater to the locals, and not out of any personal desire of her own.  Thalia couldn't help but worry about the overwhelming..human-ness of the neighborhood.  Most of Krove was so much more balanced in its demographics.  But she swallowed her concerns and pushed the door open.
The smell was devastatingly potent.  Thalia muttered a spell to ward off the effects and forged on towards the stage.  Five people, two girls and three guys, all of them were human.  She glanced around and noticed a few heads turned in her direction.  Even though most humans couldn't tell the difference between a Nielda, like Thalia, and a human, they would still notice her impressive height.  She stayed quiet until she stood directly in front of the singer's mic,  which she tapped gently.  No feedback, luckily they hadn't finished rigging the sound system yet.
"You're Gravitas?"
"Yes."  Dog-gone-it, they were going to make her force the whole conversation, weren't they?
"My name is Thalia, I'd like to engage your services."  She held out a hand, putting up her warmest smile.  None of them made any motion to return either the offered handshake or the smile, continuing about their business.  She lowered her hand, but forced herself to continue smiling.
"I hear you're the best in town, and I wanted to offer to let you play at my party, on Junsrew Eve."
No reply.  Were they deaf or something?  Her research should have turned up something like that.  She stopped smiling.
"I promise to compensate you fittingly."
"Look lady, we don't need your establishment money.  You can't buy us."
Crap, Those People; she couldn't stand dealing with people like this.  If they didn't want money it gave her two choices; threats, or trickery.  She couldn't play nice with Those sorts of people, it was just too far from her own view of things for her to pull off convincingly.  She could try to flirt her way to success, but none of these guys seemed to be inclined towards that weakness.  And threats were out of the question.  That meant she'd have to offer alternative bribery.
"Thats a shame, because my friend Katie's dad is the head of Bulenko Records."
Eyes popped up across the room.  Thalia smiled again, she had them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Necromancer's Stone; The Party, part five

The next item on Thalia's list was the school's end of semester activities.  In this case that was a tourney, the interleague championship TacSim game, and a sort of magical equivalent to a science fair.  Most of the students would be competing in the tourney before being eliminated and heading over to watch the TacSim match, which would of course hold off on anything more than prepwork and initial troop assignments until the tourney was over.  As a result, Thalia would be heading over to see what the universe's budding magical experimenters and cunning illusionists had managed to turn out since June.  She wouldn't have stood a chance in the tourney anyways.
It was a tried and true format, with slight tweaks.  Reinforced and warded booths in which each student participating would have a display explaining their experiment, and then the student himself waiting to demonstrate it to passersby and judges.  Thalia had a booth, but her toothbrush replacing golems weren't going to win any awards.  Necromancy never won; too many teachers turned up their nose at such things.  Besides, it wasn't so much a test of the limits of magic as it was a test of her won limits.  The fact that they were smart enough to do so was a testament to her skill certainly, but hardly pushing the envelope.  At least, as far as any of them could tell.  Professor Zinksfeld might realize what she was really trying to do, but the odds of her showing anything but disdain for Necromancy were abysmal.
Self-combating swords, often in pairs, seemed to be the proverbial baking soda and vinegar volcano of this years fair.  Every student past third year enchanting seemed to be determined to show how simple it was to make a sword duel with proper form by using a simple enchantment etched into the pommel and then lacing it across the whole hilt to meet a second copy of the enchantment at the guard.  Thalia could have made them in her sleep, and had once done so just to prove she could; she'd made a pretty penny off that bet.  Some of the more clever among them had added a minor enchantment that caused the blade to glow when it was active.
Another student was demonstrating how the addition of a small looping pattern at specific parts of a pattern could completely alter the personality of a speaking sword, talking wall, or otherwise en-vocalized object.  Thalia had to stop and talk to him for a while, get a working understanding of his project.  This was the sort of advance in magic she came to the fair for in the first place.
But the booth that forced her to stop longest was the student who had decided to prove that a mage using Rucuun's theorem could not be defeated except by another mage equipped with the same or an equivalent ability.  Thalia couldn't stand the sheer elitism being displayed, and decided to volunteer herself to disprove his findings.  She stepped into the open space provided and drew a small dagger.  She'd run the scenario several times before in the past, it was doable but not easy.  Much easier than the tourney though.  She stood in the middle and knelt.  No enhancements, that wasn't quite the rules, but it was how she played it.  She watched him begin sidestepping about her like a bolt of lightning, letting her senses adjust to their limits.  She was looking for patterns, any weakness in his motion, judging the weight of his sword against his strength.  She'd only have a second to exploit any advantage he gave her, and little more to avoid his attack.  He came at her with a horizontal slash, which she jumped back to avoid, flinging her self to the side to avoid his follow up vertical blow.  There, he overextended and she darted in and pushed the dagger into his arm.  As he recoiled, still moving faster than she could manage without magic of her own, she condensed the vapors of the air into a sheet of ice beneath him.  He fell and she flipped him back up to meet her clenched fist.  It was somewhat cruel to do in front of student and judge alike, but his hubris had brought this upon him.  She released the magic that held the ice together and dispelled his enhancement as she did. Then she leaned in and pulled the dagger from his arm.
"Do you have someone you would trust to heal you; a girlfriend or something?"
She placed her hand over the wound, sealing it and mending the veins beneath.  "Perhaps the humility you should learn from today will help rectify that.  I have no hard feelings towards you for this, and I hope that you will feel the same."
"You just wrecked my experiment and stabbed me in the arm."
"Your experiment was faulty, but the concept was good.  It is difficult to defeat a mage using the theorem, not impossible.  And I've fixed the arm."
He stared at her, looking ready to scream.  Finally he softened and sighed.  "I see your point.  Thank you for correcting me."
"What's your name?"
She pulled an envelope from her sleeve and passed it to him.  "I'm having a party on Junsrew Eve.  Be there."
"Thank you?"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Necromancer's Stone; The Party, part four

The worst part of party prep was the time it took away from her other projects.  Not all of the time, she still stayed up well into the night reading up on the effects of fluctuations in necromantic alchemy patterns, testing various elements' effects on golem abilities, and trying to summon a skeleton independent enough to stop brushing its teeth when she stopped directly commanding it to.  She was starting to wonder if skeletons simply were never going to pull it off no matter how hard she tried; she'd worn through nine toothbrushes and even the best of them didn't so much as slow down.  Golems were a bit better, most of them would replace the brush once it wore out.  Although without an inherent moral code that often ended up being rather problematic.
So she left them to their brushing and set out to the cacophonous garage valley.  It was easy to find and difficult to ignore, even with her strongest muffling spell.  It had been a stroke of genius on the part of local architects to move all the city's garages outside of town and then provide bus service, and it had really paid off when local students and aspiring bands from a half million worlds had all decided that they needed somewhere to practice.  The result was that local law enforcement had far fewer 'could you turn that racket off?' type calls, and it was never hard to find a local band.  After finals and before the summer the valley was the second most sound polluted region in the universe, after the sonic weapon testing facility on Nuroung, where it was said they'd invented types of sound that could lay dormant for years before going off.
She was here to visit, and secure the cooperation of, a popular local punk band named 'Cast-Off'.  There was a small crowd gathered around the entrance of their garage, and a little neon sign out front that said 'no vacancy'.  How they could hear the band over the sounds of all the other bands in the valley she had no idea, but she did have a sudden curiosity in the cost of buying a stake in the garage rental industry.
Thalia waited for them to stop playing, which she could only determine because they stopped moving their hands over the strings of the guitars and started fiddling with the cords and amps.  She stepped through the crowd and set a second muffling spell into effect over the garage, even though she could still feel the ground throbbing beneath her.
"Good morning, I'm here to invite you to play at the Hapsburg on Junsrew eve."
"Sorry ginger babe, we're booked.  Party at the Hilden place, their daughter came and made the offer herself."
"Yeah, she really made it a sweet gig; if you know what I mean."  The guitarist winked at her.
"Oh, is that what it takes to book you?"  She waved her hand over the garage door and it rolled down, blocking the audience's view.  "Because I assure you that I will make good use of that information in the future."  Thalia reached up and set a hand at the top of her shirt.  The men in front of her tensed up in anticipation.  "Pigs."  She pulled out her checkbook.  "I'll give you her offer plus five hundred, and if you refuse then I'll see to it you never work in this town or any other.  And if you doubt me, then I'll be more than happy to give a demonstration."
"Wait, are you threatening us?"
Well that was disappointing, usually people picked up on her threats a little better.  Maybe they were stupid, but she'd rather her threats were impossible to misconstrue then have to explain herself.  She flicked her hand up and the strings of their instrument detached themselves and wound about their owner's throats.
"Yes, it was a threat.  You have been invited to perform at my party, and be paid for it.  No one, not even my worst enemies, would dare refuse my invitation.  If you fail to perform, you will never perform again; If you fail to show, you will not be given the opportunity to repeat the mistake.  Do I Make Myself Clear?"  With each word of the last sentence she tightened the choke hold on them, drawing blood on the final word.  She'd positioned the strings in such a way as to avoid causing any permanent damage, but the point was now abundantly clear that this was not an invitation, it was a command performance.
"Y-yea, we'll be t-there lady."  Thalia dropped them and returned the strings to their places.  SHe raised the garage door and turned to leave.  As she neared the edge of the muffled zone she stopped and looked over her shoulder.
"Oh, and if I were you I'd get yourselves down to the clinic, Florence Hilden's reputation is," she paused and savored the moment, "less than pure."

The Necromancer's Stone; The Party, part three

With a good night's sleep, which is to say one characterized by waking up only twice to write down some new idea or realization, under her, Thalia set off to take care of the next, and likely hardest, part of party planning; Entertainment.  For normal students, this would mean alcohol, maybe a friend who could DJ.  Thalia was not a normal student, nor did she know anyone who could DJ proficiently.  Alcohol would be unnecessary, the Hapsburg had its own bar, which Happock would of course make available to anyone who could provide the proper credentials.  And since she had no obligations, as a friend, to let anyone play, she figured she might as well go all out and get professionals.  The school string quartet would be on the list, no questions there.  She was hardly about to rent a ballroom and then not have at least one or two proper dances.  Besides, as a school string quartet they weren't really in a position to turn down a paying gig.
After that it was a bit more up in the air.  There were plenty of local bands, and Krove managed to maintain a fairly good musical community to support the more artistic sorts of musician; jazz, folk, blues.  But for a dance she needed something a bit more..popular.  If it had been up to her she'd have just let the string quartet play all night, maybe some karaoke if the mood struck her.  Sadly, most of the students wouldn't know how to properly dance, and the scale of the party wasn't conducive to karaoke.  She'd have to enlist an actual band, and she'd have to pick from one of the local bands to get anything popular.  There was no option left but to revisit the old folder closet for the 'local talent' section and see who she could get.

After several hours of pouring over the pages, seeing every half-wit who thought he could sing or rearrange three chords into a new and completely revolutionary way, she managed to narrow it down to three bands.
The first was a fairly stable, if not especially talented, band called 'Flare!'.  They played a rather flashy sort of hard rock, with plenty of magic-based pyrotechnics to accompany it.  The lead singer had tried for years to maintain a playboy persona, but it had fallen apart when he'd married his girlfriend of seven years.  It was remarkable it had taken that long for people to figure out that he really didn't have any interest in other girls.  It was unique in that rather than the usual four man band style (guitar, bass, singer, drummer), it had two bass players, and the singer picked up the guitar for songs that needed it.  Both of the bass were played by twins, sisters, and they managed to mesh very well.  The harmonized bass gave the band a very interesting sound, without actually detracting from their ability to cover the songs of others, it was one of their strongest traits actually.  They'd performed for Thalia in the past; she'd been the one to reveal the singer's feelings for his now-wife, the band's drummer.  The three of them had stayed in touch since and Thalia knew she could call on them whenever she needed to.
The second was a punk band.  Normally Thalia would hold that against them, but the amount of popularity they'd accumulated would make them a great headliner.  Obviously the real talent of the night would be the string quartet, but the popularity issue was always a key factor for these choices.  Even though it wasn't really her tastes, whe wasn't just catering to her own interests.  Of course, it was also handy that she had enough dirt on any given member of the band to coerce all of them into playing; she could get them to play for free if she wanted to.
The third was more of an indie, whatever that meant, pop-y type deal.  She found them individually obnoxious, self-righteous, and more than slightly elitist.  But their music was good.  In the end that was the important part.  She could probably blackmail them into performing, she had the dirt, but something gave her the feeling that they'd write their next big hit about her if she did.  If there was one thing she hated, it was being demonized in catchy lyrics; she'd done it before and there were still people who used them to describe her.  She'd rather pay them double than have to listen to people tell her how much she reminded them of that girl in that one song.  Considering their apparent success, she might have to do just that.
She wrote up a letter for Jenny, Chuck, and the rest of "Flare!', then set aside room on her schedule to go and take care of the other three.  Tomorrow would be a busy day.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Necromancer's Stone; The Party, part two

Thalia dug a dusty folder out of her closet.  She had several folders, but this one was labeled 'party hotspots'.  She dug it out about twice a year for use, and updated it every other week the rest of the year.  Of course, the same could be said of nearly any of the folders she kept.  Anything important was committed to memory, the rest was filed away in her, well, massive closet.
She opened it up and began browsing the most recent additions.  It looked like nightclubs were in this year, but she couldn't stand the idea of being in a dark room with flashing lights, loud music, and people from school who's darkest secrets she was all to aware of.  Ballrooms were more her style anyways; sometimes large taverns when the mood struck her.  She turned through to find a good ballroom; she kept a section of her favorites towards the back of the file just for times like this.  According to her sources it looked like The Hapsburg had the day before Junsrew open, which would be perfect for her needs.  She returned the folder to its place in the closet and dug out a second folder, 'Party Hotspot owners'.

"You again?  Please don't tell me you're throwing another party already?"
Happock was the owner/operator of The Hapsburg Hotel.  It was one of the only truly classy establishments in town, even if its main function seemed to be housing angry parents, guest speakers, and the more romantically inclined sort of student couples.  As such, it didn't have terribly many rooms, just a few very nice ones.  Happock himself was, oddly enough, a Ga-Vok.  The canine race wasn't exactly known for its business management skills, and certainly not for its tidiness, but Happock always managed to exceed anyone's expectations in both regards.  It would be a shame when he passed, none of his nineteen sons had his talents.  One of his daughters showed a fair bit of skill in both regards, but unfortunately for the Hapsburg had also developed magical skill as well.  Nice girl, Thalia had personally extorted several of her undeserving ex's and they'd built a friendly, if mildly begrudging, relationship as a result.  She would be invited of course.
"Its nearly Junsrew, Hap.  You know I can't stand nightclubs."
The grayed wolf wagged gently.  "I have noticed the trend; I just didn't expect you to come visiting so soon."
"Katie reminded me this time; you wouldn't happen to have mentioned something last time she was in, would you?"
It was hard to tell whether a Ga-Vok was smiling or snarling, but his tail was still wagging so she knew it was positive at least.  "I would never ask that young lady anything of the sort.  Now damage costs on the other hand, those I have definitely had to speak with her about."
It meant that he'd asked her a favor and just picked up the tab himself.  Her business was invaluable and he knew nightclubs were 'In' this year.  Clever old dog, he was learning.  She'd have to make a note of that.
"That certainly sounds like her.  Well, I guess there's no skating about the issue; I'd like to rent the ballroom."
"No threats this time?"
"No one is watching, if I don't need to resort to such means I'd rather not.  Besides, I've got nothing on you.  It'd be a waste of time."
"There's always violence, most of the other evil students just threaten me with that."
"I'm almost hurt that you'd compare me to them.  No, violence is a weak threat; overused and rarely fulfilled.  Mia is doing well by the way."
"I can't thank you enough for taking care of that last one.  Vile little cur smelled like fish vomit and treated her nearly as badly."
"Always a pleasure, although I am curious as to what fish vomit smells like."
"Couldn't make you understand if I tried.  I assume you want the night before Junsrew?"  He'd gotten his ledger out while they were talking and was dabbing a bleached bone pen in an ink well.
"Of course, I'll be handling the catering, set up, entertainment, and the break down.  All I'll need is the ballroom."
"Will breakdown include restroom cleaning?"
"I think I can make it happen, yes."
"Base rate is Four, holiday premium is another One, with the preferred guest discount that'll come to Two point Seven-Five."  He looked up and raised his nose, a sign of respect among his people.  "If I fill my rooms I'll deduct another point Two-Five."
"I'll mend any damages as part of break down."
"One point Seven-Five"
"Are damages really that bad most of the time?"
"No, but you tend to get carried away when you start fixing things and I figure that I'll save enough to make it worth my while."  Now he was definitely smiling, and she had to confess he was right.  Once she started cleaning she found it hard to stop.  And last year she'd basically remodeled his bar while fixing the mirror.  If she really tried, she could get it for free, but she liked Happock and knew that what she paid bought Mia's books next year.
"I'll give you Two point Seven-Five for it.  But you have to promise to tell anyone who asks that I didn't pay and I had you hanging from the chandelier.  I have a reputation to uphold you know."  She winked.  It was a gesture that most Ga-Vok, with their odd, non-symmetric blinking, wouldn't notice at all, but Happock had been doing business with Humans and Nielda for long enough to know what she meant.
"Of course dear girl, you were quite rude and unpleasant to me all day."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Necromancer's Stone; The Party, part one

"What do you mean?"
"Haven't you been paying attention at all?  Its finals Thalia, you know, the holidays?"
Of course!  The holidays, how could she have forgotten?  It was one of her favorite times of the year, and if it was already finals then she had no time to lose.  After all, her parties were met with nearly as much anticipation as they were dread.  And as a 'evil' student, she could hardly afford to pass on such an excellent source of dread.  And those who anticipated it would probably have nothing to look forward to if she didn't.  Not that they were social outcasts, just that her parties consistently surpassed all those thrown by other students the whole season.  
Oh, and there was all the fun of putting it together.  Even if it did set her back on her work.  
"No, I guess I haven't.  Remind me which tests are coming up?"
Katie sighed and put her hand on Thalia's shoulder.  "You just aced them all.  I just wish I could test so well with so little effort."
"I have to, if I didn't I'd fail every class because I'd forgotten to study.  Kind of an evolutionary defense against such things I guess."
They smiled and continued walking up the hallway.  Thalia had actually studied quite hard, just not particularly on the subjects at hand.  She was memorizing things for classes several years ahead of her own, and perfecting techniques many of the upper classes of student would never hear of.  It worked for her, but it tended to make her seem like a know-it-all and a prodigy.  Realistically, she'd simply started earlier.  

"So, you throwing a party again this year?"
"Of course I am.  I just need to organize it."  
"Not that I think you will, but if you need help just ask.  You know how much I enjoyed your last one."
"I'll let you know.  But I don't think a good student like you would want to be involved in the behind the scenes bit of my parties.  Wouldn't be good for your rep."
"You're probably right."  

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Necromancer's Stone; Rucuun's Theorem

"Thalia, would you care to demonstrate the principles of Rucuun's theorem?"
Ah, Rucuun's theorem; she remembered the first time she'd read about it, at age twelve.  He had been one of the foremost theorists in the field of hydromancy.  It was, not surprisingly a result of her upbringing, one of her better fields.  And it was during the course of her upbringing that she had become acquainted with Rucuun, and then he had in turn acquainted her with his theories.  It had been hours of it actually, Rucuun was rather somewhat of a windbag, especially when it came to hydromancy.  Most boring three hours she'd ever endured, and the last time she'd stuck around for one of her father's parties.
The theorem was that sufficient cold could used to actually stop time.  The principle was simple enough; and she'd long been able to impede the progression of time using hydromancy for years.  As an immortal, she was far more interested in ways of speeding up time then those of slowing it.  But in combat it was a valuable tool.  Even if you weren't fast, and didn't have ninja-esque reflexes, it would give you the time to block swords, deflect arrows, and a sufficiently powerful mage could even walk across a raging battle unscathed.
Of course, it was called a theorem for a reason.  In fact, it had taken her all of ten minutes to completely take apart Rucuun's life's work, which was good because if it had taken any longer she'd have given up on escaping the conversation and just attempted to prove the theorem for him, on him.  No mage could ever actually freeze time, or if they had then they'd never be able to interact with anyone to prove it, since they'd live out their entire lives in a world occupied by statues.  Besides the fact that they'd have to constantly move in order to breathe and everything would be dark.
It hadn't stopped her from learning how to apply the premise.  Indeed, she'd have been hopeless in a fight without it.  Simply put, she just didn't have the frenzied pace that so many mages seemed to have.  Her reflexes were more attuned towards the deflection of falling feathers than to spellfire and sword fights.  Most magic users with her combat skills just took up enchanting or illusions.  She preferred necromancy to actual combat, but she was still very talented with combat magic, if not the rest of it.  And so she'd learned techniques like this one in order to even the odds.

"Yes professor, but I'll need someone to attack me in order to really display its effects."
"Very well, Anden, could you attack Thalia?  I'm told she gave you a good reason to do so on Saturday."
Anden's girlfriend had broken up with him after the match.  Thalia had no qualms about having revealed that he'd been cheating on her; deep down she'd already known anyways.
Anden stepped out of the line and in front of the class.  Thalia paused for a moment, watching him take his stance and ready his sword.
"What, still afraid you can't take me in a straight fight?"
"Please," she said as she stood.  "I don't do straight fights."  She stretched a bit and then tapped the ground, causing a stone stave to grow, taking it in hand and turning to face her opponent.  "I hear you're short a date for the dance; if you can touch me maybe I'll make it up to you."
"Fat chance, skinny !$@#*."  The word censored itself as Thalia wiggled her nose.  Anden began to charge as it did.  She inhaled softly, then began to walk around him.  He wasn't even aware of the change, in fact, only she was.  The whole room cooled, and Thalia seemed to be a blur to all those watching.  She wasn't slowing it so much that he couldn't react at all, even though she could have; it was good enough that he couldn't touch her, but slow enough that he could watch it coming.  She swung the staff at his right leg as she walked by, breaking it over his knee, and dislocating it in the process.  She hopped around him and then jabbed at his left knee, doing the same to it as she had to the right.  Lastly she took the remnants of the staff and walked back to his front.  She took it in both hands and smashed it over his head.  Then at last she exhaled, and watched him slump to the ground.  He wasn't dead, but the point would be solidly made for everyone watching; she wasn't one to be messed with.
Oh right, and that the theorem was very useful.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Necromancer's Stone; Home

"Good evening daughter, how was the match?"
"Hi Dad, it was fun.  I beat the schnozz out of them, humiliated them socially, and created permanent divisions within the team."
Than the Frostbringer, member of the immortal pantheon and Thalia's adopted father, waved his hand and looked back at the sculpture he'd been working on.  "I only asked how it was, no need for the itemized list.  Do you have any homework?"
"No."  Despite her obvious disappointment, Than continued to work.  It was very cliched, but Thalia had long known that the best way to describe him was, well, icy.  He always had been.  And Thalia knew that it had probably left her emotionally and psychologically scarred for the rest of her life.  It certainly would if she didn't fight it.  And she did, every day.  Every time she said hello, or talked to a friend, she was making an effort not to be as cold as he was.  It wasn't much, but overtime it had been helping, and would continue to do so.
"Then you should go and find something productive to do."
"Yes Dad."  Even if that meant feeling hurt every time she spoke to him.  Although, she was hardly on speaking terms with her mother either.  For all she knew, Thalia wasn't hers.  Her mother, Liane, was Than's rival in the Pantheon, the Ashwalker.  Liane had put her up for adoption as soon as she'd discovered the pregnancy; patience was a critical virtue in caring for children and Liane had never possessed it.  Besides, it would have, as Than put it, 'impeded her lifestyle'.  Thalia wasn't sure if that sort of neglect would have truly been worse.  After all, she was born immortal; its not like she was going to die because nobody fed her; and as a Nielda she wasn't going to get sick either.  The worst that could happen would have been her not growing properly, and at six foot seven, she wasn't worried.
Thalia walked up the gray stone staircase to her room in the tower.  She was neither princess nor prisoner, but the room was decorated like she was the first and she felt like the second all too often.  She was free to leave whenever she wanted, but Than wasn't much of a cook and at a certain point bread, water, and canned soup started to wear on you, usually by the second day.  But prison orange would have been preferable to the veritable cavern of pink lace and ribbon that surrounded her.  She'd never really liked the color to start.  The dresses with their pink and gold puffed sleeves made her feel like a doll.  Although the plush unicorn collection at the end of her bed was of her own design, as was the nightstand littered with every imaginable color of nail polish and eye shadow.  The trophy case she'd filled, even though it had come pre-assembled and her father had picked it out without consulting her.
But her real favorite piece in the room, was the jewelry box.  Not its contents, she only wore earrings, and anything with a desired magical effect, but the box itself.  She'd gotten it at a yard sale several years prior.  It had been enchanted to charge, maintain, and even strengthen any enchantments on the jewelry stored in it.  It was silver, the only silver visible in the room in fact, and studded with rubies.  Thalia had always loved rubies, even though her father couldn't stand them, or possibly because he couldn't stand them.  Most importantly though, she had been given it by her mother after volunteering to help keep other students from absconding with more dangerous artifacts, mislabeled wares, or rather private personal effects.  She'd also gotten a very good '34 vintage, some harsh words concerning her father, and a rather embarrassing moment involving the accidental stumbling upon of the aforementioned private personal effects.  Thalia was very fond of the box, had rather enjoyed sharing the bottle with a few of her other sufficiently aged friends, and hoped that one day she'd be able to laugh about the embarrassing moment (Or at the very least be able to laugh at someone else's reaction when she shared the story with them).
And so, as the day drew to a close, she pulled her notes out of her pack and began to organize them on the floor in the most efficient possible manner.  She had a lot of work to take care of before she could sleep if she ever planned on having a room that wasn't pink in a house that wasn't cold.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Necromancer's Stone; The Day (Her's)

Saturday, best day of the week, had come again.  Thalia had signed up to lead a TacSim team, and then signed up ten people who didn't exist to make up the rest of the team.  It wasn't because she thought she'd win, she just liked the challenge of fighting a full team on her own.  Katie had volunteered to help, and if the administration ever caught on to what she was doing then she would probably accept the offer.  Although they both knew that half the reason Katie wanted to join was because it was a good extracurricular and looked good on resumes.  The other half Thalia chose to ignore.  Not that they hadn't had fun at the time, but she was fairly confident that she didn't 'roll that way'.
Her Opponents today would be a team of 'Good' students.  'Good' of course being fundamentally meaningless term assigned to students more likely to destroy a planet in an attempt to free the universe than for personal gain or entertainment.  Thalia had never really bought into the system; she saw no reason why this idea that they had to play at heroes and save the universe made them any more good than someone who wanted to bring order and peace to the universe through strong leadership and a focus on the fine arts.  They were both equally dismissive of the ability of the common man to chose his own path.  Neither one would ever bring real justice to anything, and more likely than not more people would die as a result of their competition than would if they both just shut up and stayed out of the way.  And assigning titles like 'good' and 'evil' only reinforced the divisions between the depressed losers with martyr complexes and the depressed losers with god complexes.
Needless to say, since she'd thought this through she'd been assigned the label 'evil'.  It was silly actually; if they'd actually inspected her goals the way they were supposed to they'd have realized that she was actually more 'good'.  Not that her means didn't justify their judgement, blackmail and extortion were very 'evil' things to do.
Anyways...'Good' team.  Eleven kids with preexisting social ties, at least one established couple(The guy was cheating on her, she was trying to look the other way but Katie reported that she cried in the lavatory often), four guys who liked to be called 'the hammer brothers'(One was in the closet, the other three teased him relentlessly while verbally abusing their girlfriends.  She hated those guys), one of Katie's ex's(nice girl, daddy issues she kept bottled up.  No dirt, when she inevitably left the team[lashing out at one of the hammer brothers] she'd get an invite to join Thalia's team), two of the hammer brothers girlfriends(useless, pretty, and according to the school nurse 'would be knocked up before they graduated, even if they were careful'), and a the team's muscles (Stan.  No need for dirt, he got into school because his parents were patrons, little to no magical ability, and even he knew it.  She actually felt bad for him; he really did try his best, but his parents expected too much and it was crushing him).  The team captain was an upperclassmen who'd been cut from his old team to make room for his old team captain's new girlfriend.  Not that it was common knowledge, but his replacement actually was better than he was, and really did deserve the spot, regardless of the reason she'd gotten it.
She went ahead and wrote on the front page of the dossier, 'Prediction: No Contest'

Eleven hundred men to an army; divided up among the players however the captain chose to.  Her suspicions were confirmed as she watched them divide their troops; only two of the girls got troops at all (the captain's brother's girlfriend, and Katie's ex) the rest were just their for 'moral support'.  Fine, it was an officially recognized strategy; totally bollocks of course, but officially recognized.  That was how she got away with ten non-combatants anyways.  The Hammers took up the center, girls and the captain's brother headed for the mountain on her left flank, the captain and Stan went for the forest on her right.  Standard tactics, nothing unexpected, and leaving her surprisingly at an advantage.  The Hammers commanded somewhat more than half their army, with almost a quarter left to each flank.  She could easily crush their captain using her investment in forestry training for her troops, or she could demolish the Hammer line.  The mountain would take too long and she wouldn't be able to use her numbers effectively enough to avoid being surrounded herself.  She detached two hundred men to clear the forest, and then booted up to lead the rest of her army in a direct assault.
Four men, six hundred soldiers, and she faced them with a mere times and a half their numbers, superior training and equipment, and a lifetime of hydromancy training; to say nothing of her necromancy.  If they knew who she was, they'd have charged.  Sadly they didn't, and she'd have to hunt them down on the field.
She stepped in front of her army, waving off the storm of arrows that flew towards her.
"Ahem.  And now, for your entertainment, Thalia Immersfeld presents 'A Taunt'."  She unfurled a scroll and began to read the carefully metered words, making light of the behaviors of the so called 'hammered man'.  It had the desired effect, and two of them glanced across the lines at each other before howling and charging across the field at her.  She flipped the scroll closed and slid it into a pouch held by one of her soldiers.  Then she spun to face them and slid her foot forward along the hillock.  A burst of ice shot forth from the ground and tripped them both, and as she drew up her hands it softened and arced over them, then hardened again securing them on the ground.  She waved across the field and her armies leapt into action, hurling darts and javelins as they crashed upon the enemy line.  She watched for the spellburst of an embattled mage, and as she spotted the third hammer she rent space and pulled herself across the void to his position.
"Hi, I'm Thalia and I'll be your destroyer today.  Would you like a frequent die-ers card so you can earn a bonus death for every ten times I kill you?"
"Uhhh, wait what?"
One of her men ran him through as he wavered in shock.  She stepped up and caught him as he collapsed.  "There's nothing wrong with what you are.  Be confident in yourself, and your true friends will accept you for who you are."  She slipped him a small card with one punch.  "Those who have nothing to hide need not fear that which is in the dark, for it holds nothing against them."  She looked up as she saw him release from the simulation, the card vanishing with him.  A burst of flame from the opposing side of the battle indicated her next target, and she walked across the void to meet him.  As she returned to digital reality he unleashed a burst of crimson heat upon her.  She scarcely had time to block, and as her hurried mind raced to pull the right spell from her memory another took its place.  She traced a swift spiral before herself and the flames were dispersed by a torrent of her own.  She thrust an icy spear through his chest before pausing.  She'd never wielded fire before, her father had always raised her to wield the frost and tide as he did.  It had never occurred to her that she might also have the gift of pyromancy as her mother did.  This was a fact that she would reveal to her father with no haste.
She raised her hand over the field and watched bones reanimate before her.  The troops she had sent to the forest returned triumphant as she did, and she faced the mountain with armies scarcely weaker than those she had begun the battle with.  She took a second scroll from her squire and opened it in full view of the mountaintop commanders.  "Behold the ruin of your allies!  Such shall be your fate should you stand against my armies.  Surrender and I will let you leave in peace.  Fight, and not one of your men will walk from this field.  But still further, I will lay bare your secrets in the presence of all those gathered about us.  What you have done in darkness will be revealed by light of day.  You have ten minutes."
She motioned for her men to take up defensive positions around the mountain, and then began tracing patterns into the earth.  It would take more than men to defeat them if they chose to fight.  And so she prepared a battery of catapults, transmuting wood and beaten steel into engines of destruction.  There was no shortage of ammunition, and she had no need for supplies, skeletons were as strong as soldiers in TacSim and she wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice her men should the food run short.  They were only programs after all.  She tarred the chosen rounds and lit torches as the ten minutes drew short.  Then at last she heard their reply.
"Thalia, I can see that if we fight we will lose.  Even if my comrades will not see reason, I surrender myself into your custody."  It was Katie's ex, Nella.  Apparently she'd decided that it was better to give up than to drag out the battle.  Even if she hadn't been able to surrender her men, removing herself from the field left the enemy with only two mages, and after Thalia was done speaking neither of them would be any threat.  She ordered her men to escort Nella to her position, then drew another scroll.
"A pity you have chosen to fight, but fight you shall.  And it is nothing personal that drives me to say this, but missy, he's a dog and you deserve better."  And as she heard the crying and denials and general row begin, she ordered her catapults to open fire.
The day had been hers before it had even begun.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Necromancer's Stone; Bar Fight

"Hey! What's up girl?"
Thalia glanced over her shoulder and saw a familiar, waving blonde.  She sighed and slid her notes back into her bag.  They'd have to wait for a quieter day, which this one had just ceased to be.
"Hey Katie, nothing much, just working on a project."
"Typical, you're always working on something or other.  You need to liven up, get out a little.  Have some fun!"
"I don't suppose you have any particular sort of fun in mind?"  She smiled.  She didn't legitimately smile often, most of the time she only stage smiled.  It worked well enough for teachers and other people she felt inclined to ingratiate herself with.  For others, like the girl now cheerfully skipping beside her, she felt actual affection and didn't have to force it.
"Weelll, I might have an idea or two.  C'mon, lets go hit the tavern and I'll tell you about it."

Katie's tavern of choice was the Fuzzy Librarian.  It was rather shady, and half the patrons were unshaven, unbathed, and looking for a fight.  The other half were doing their best not to be noticed there, while attempting to hire the first half.  It was located on the bustling edge of town, on a dark street occupied by nearly a dozen similar taverns and inns.
Katie liked the Fuzzy Librarian because they made the best appletini in town.
"So, tell me, what's your plan?"
"Well, I was thinking we could start with a few drinks.  Later I'll tell you about the cave I found out in the mountains.  And then.."  She bumped into a chainmail-clad adventurer and spilled her drink.
"Hey!  Watch where you're going."  He wiped off his armor and then stepped closer.  "Do you know what could happen if it had rusted my armor?  I could have died! That's what!"
"Lay off it you trout lipped buffoon, I'm not one of your impractical city mages.  It'll take more than that old trick to fool me into letting you have your way with me."
"What?  I..I don't know what you're talking about."
"I'm sure you don't.  Unfortunately for you, my friend here does.  Thalia?"
It was one of their favorite games.  Sure it was a tad bit evil what she was about to do, but that's why they worked so well together.  Katie managed to accomplish the good act of removing a criminal from the streets, and Thalia got to start, partake, and end a bar fight.  She slid out of the booth and stood up.  It wasn't often that people actually had the chance to...oh what was she trying to accomplish by lying to herself, she loved the feeling of towering over people.  There were few people she enjoyed intimidating as much as those who were in the process of trying to intimidate.  And this man was perfect for it; burly, selfish, and cruel.
"Hi, I'm Thalia.  I specialize in necromancy, manipulation, and strategy; it will take none of those to turn your pasty butt into buttery paste."  And she stepped into his threatened space.  He flipped a knife out of his sleeve and thrusted wildly.  She dodged it and grabbed him by his ponytail, rolling to his side as she pulled him to his knees.  She let go of it and pulled his arms behind his back, forcing him to the ground as she did.  She leaned in and whispered into his ear.  "First offense loses you your armor, multiple offenses loses your sword too; lie and I take much, much more.  Now tell me, how many times have you done this?"
He whimpered and said, "First time, I swear, this was the first time."
She looked up at Katie and shook her head.  Katie closed her eyes and nodded.  She lifted her hand in a ball of frostfire and brought it down.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Necromancer's Stone; Plotting

Thalia sat at her desk.  Enchanting was one of the less interesting classes of the day, so she'd taken out the notes on one of her private projects so that she could get something productive done.
She had several projects in the works; strategies for taking down various local authority figures, new ways to exploit the TacSim system, a record of the who's-who of the school social structure and how they got there, complete with blackmail potential.  But her big project was the one she saved especially for this class, the longest one of the day.

As Professor Zinksfeld droned on about how something or other pattern distortion could be used to cause X effect, Thalia set down her pen and thought.  Any decent necromancer could summon a fairly standard skeleton, and most could go so far as to produce a golem from any provided element.  But what she needed was a golem stronger and smarter than any other, and that could be created as easily as a skeleton.  It was the philosopher's stone of proper necromancy, The Champion without parallel, that could be produced in the numbers of the undead.  If she could pull it off than for that alone she would be remembered as a legend in her own time, and if she used it then her own time would be both long and interesting.
"Are you listening Thalia?"
Of course not, she'd learned everything she needed to about enchanting by flirting with the old men with their glittering robes in town, they'd been happy to tell her all of this and then demonstrated it by setting her up with a fine collection of potent jewelry and a fair few sets of glittering robes all her own.  But she didn't have the GPA to just tell the professor that, at least, not this professor.
"Yes Professor.  You were saying how a slight bubbling pattern along the inner third ring of a self-refilling enchantment can cause ordinary beverages to become carbonated during refilling."
"That was ten minutes ago Thalia, what was I saying just now?"
"You were asking me if I was listening."
"Don't get smart with me girl.  If you don't intend to pay attention in class then I'll make sure you're no longer required to attend, permanently."
Thalia weathered out the urge to make a witty retort, and simply replied, "I'm sorry Professor, I'll pay better attention next time."
"Now maybe if you could share with us what you've decided to think about instead of the task at hand?"
"I was just thinking about all the breakups and make-ups of the past week.  With the way some of the girls go from one boy to the next you'd almost think they were getting paid for it.  Of course, if Kelly Warner is to be believed than some of them may actually..."
"Kelly, you b----!  You swore you wouldn't tell anyone!"  Exclaimed one of the girls in question as she flew out of her chair at another, horribly confused, girl.  Thalia had, of course, never actually been told any such thing.  She was simply very good at listening and had conveniently been forced to spend a few detentions painting all of the stalls in every bathroom in the school.  Convenient because all it took to write an enchantment to record conversations was a carved pattern on every door, none of which could be noticed through the new layer of military gray paint she'd put on them.
Obviously she hadn't carved the patterns herself, that would be too easy.  She'd manipulated several people with much darker secrets into doing so for her.  People who would never dream of raising an accusatory finger in her direction without quickly adding, 'Him, on the other side of the ginger girl I've never seen before.  He's the one that did it'.  And in exchange she had overlooked some of their indiscretions, as evidenced by the fact that they had all been selected as a result of her already being able to prove that they'd been in the girl's restrooms before.  It was win-postponed loss-loss, since inevitably everyone but her lost when she ran out of ways for them to justify her not turning them in, and anyone she couldn't blackmail was losing as a result of the various actions of those that she could.  She did help that later group when she could, but she had an evil reputation to uphold; even if much of that reputation was that people couldn't actually pin anything evil on her without her pinning something much worse on them.
And all of it justified as the bell rung to send them to their next class just as the Professor turned to face Thalia again.  Another day, another plot, another victory; almost made her wonder why she even bothered with magic in the first place.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Short Story; The Visitor

Koren woke and got out of bed.  He pulled on his argyle sweater and tied his shoelaces.  Then he walked down to the kitchen and scrambled five eggs, one for each of them and one for whoever Cyssie sent to repair the lights.  He put some bacon in the pan and started to fry it as Fae came down and joined him.
"Your sister says someone will be by to take care of the lights later."
"I hope they aren't vegan, I've gone ahead and prepared an extra serving of eggs for them."
Fae got out the milk, orange juice, and five glasses and began setting the table.  Koren stopped and turned around.  "Fae?"
Fae continued to set the table, ignoring him pointedly.
"Fae, who did Cyssie send?"
Fae stopped and spun to face him.  He could see the worry in her countenance.  "I'm sorry Koren, I tried to talk her out of it but she didn't seem to understand.  You know how she gets when she thinks of things; only Igor and your mum have ever been able to talk any sense into her."
"She wouldn't.  She knows that She can't get in here unless someone tells her to come, why would she..."
At that moment the kids came down the stairs, quietly, though certainly not so quiet as their parent's discussion.  Koren and Fae stopped at once and finished preparing breakfast.  They spent it discussing their plans for the day.  Alan would be starting over in the history section, then working his way around to whatever subjects caught his interest along the way before coming back in time for dinner at five.  His older sister, Lia, would be practicing her art in the sculpture garden.  It was laundry day, so Fae would be staying here to keep the dryer from burning down the house.  Koren, of course, would be at the reception desk, awaiting the arrival of their guest.

She arrived at Five past Eleven, like she usually did.  All his fears were confirmed as the room grew cold in her proximity.
"Good morning Koren.  I'm told you're having a problem with the lights?"
"Yes we are, I trust Cyssie has provided you with the right replacements?"
"Do either of us honestly believe Cyssie keeps close enough track of her vast supplies of gizmos to know which one is the 'right' replacement part?  She's never had your knack for organization after all."
"Did she send the parts?"
"No, she sent the schemata and all of the elements the parts could potentially be made of and told me to be a dear and pop in to take care of it.  Do you know how heavy some of this stuff is?"
"Yes, all of it.  Come, I'll show you to the source."
"No need for that, I've spent enough time in the library to know where i'm going."
"Exactly, come with me."
"Aren't we snippy today? Very well, I'll go along with you."
Koren lead her down three floors, or rather, directed her down three floors while keeping her within direct eyesight at all times.  The library gave anyone who asked a card, but only once had it ever had to revoke one.
She sat down in front of the ThaumaGrimoric Energy Condenser and opened the schematics.
"Looks like everything is in order here.  Nothing's wrong with your fancy gadget Koren, I think the problem may be with your books."
"The books are perfectly in order, exactly where they should be."
The woman swept her alabaster hair behind her shoulders and looked him in the eye.
"Koren, please I don't mean this in a bad way, but I don't think they are."
"Of course they are," he replied angrily, "I spent an age researching the most effective possible manner of filing them.  Every single one is on the right shelf, not a single book is out of place."
She sighed.  "That's the problem.  Books aren't meant to sit on shelves for hundreds of years, they're meant to be read.  Books don't generate energy on their own."  She paused as both their minds turned to the rune-carved pedestal above them.  "Well, most books don't anyways.  The reason why you're not getting enough power is because the metaphorical battery is dead.  You've got about five, maybe six hundred books in this library generating power, and the rest just sitting on the shelves."
"You just want the book."
"No.  I mean, yes I want it, but that's not why I'm saying this.  Koren, if you want the library to work, you have to open it back up.  Tell people that its here, with the catalog you've built up it ought to do its own advertising.  Just let them read it."  She paused, muttering a charm to drive off the gathering shadows.  "Koren, I would love to read out of the omnipedia.  Know everything; past, present, future; fiction, truth, or any combination thereof.  But if its what it takes, I would rather die than see you keep hiding it from the world."
Koren remained silent.  He wasn't hiding it, he was protecting it.  He remembered what had happened before, Arcania had used a only a small part of the knowledge he guarded and had nearly destroyed everything.  And even if she hadn't succeeded, the risk of letting people use any of it was too great.  He had to keep it safe.
"Fine.  I'll leave.  But think about what I've said.  The books want to be read, Koren, and you can't keep everyone out."  She beckoned to the white fox that had accompanied her.  "And not all of them will be nice."
"I hardly consider your methods to be 'nice', Kate."
"I meant the books."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Short Story; The Library

Another day in the library, it would be just as the one before and the day that would inevitably follow would be like it in every major regard.  
"I'm going to be in Historical Fiction today honey, I'll be back by five."
"Will you be taking the kids?"
"Alright, I'll man the front desk then."
"Be careful, the lights have been troublesome lately, count the shadows and be careful not to trip over anything.  Your sister said someone would be by to take care of them later this week."
"Thanks sweetheart."
Nothing to worry about then, just the usual problems to worry about.  He hiked across the ninth floor reference section (Meg - Meh) and down past the complete works of Alberto the Star-Eater.  Finally he arrived at the front desk.  It was a wide hall, with space for armies of hundreds, and tall enough for giants to play hopscotch, although should either find themselves in it they'd likely have been shown out for creating a ruckus.  It was a Library after all.  The hall contained one book, which sat on a rune-carved pedestal in the center of the room.  Koren Bookminder sat at the desk that surrounded the pedestal and looked out upon the room.  
The lights flickered, and he looked up.  He heard the rustle of the lightless sweeping through the air, and placed one finger to his lips.  The lights above him blinked out and he could feel them rushing towards him.  He quietly bid them hush, and the lights reignited in time with his silent spell.  
As the day dragged on, he stood and walked over to the book.  He lifted it from its resting place and blew upon its cover, sweeping the dust away.  Then, as silent as ever, he opened it and read a single word, 'the'.  Then he closed it, and replaced it on the pedestal.  Such a potent book could not be read hastily, and the power of that one word was more than could be comprehended by even many of the immortals of the universe.  

The day drew to a close as had the last, the clock struck four forty-five, and he stood.  The doors locking with a sound that made the scream of a dying mouse seem like the roar of battle.  He walked back up, past the collected works of Alberto, the Star-Eater, past the ninth floor reference stacks (Meg - Meh), and through the door to their home.  Just as he would tomorrow.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Short Story; Story Time, pt 2

"As I was saying; Ten thousand Harakai warriors Hopped across the battlefield towards us.  I knew our little band had no hope of standing in the face of such a foe, but we had no choice.  I readied my sword and gave the order to take aim."
Of course she had done nothing of the sort.  With a scant four hundred men, all exhausted, hungry, and almost universally garbed in little more than a shirt, boots, and recently soiled pants, she had thrown herself behind the nearest rock crying 'Oh God we're all going to die!'.  And frankly almost anyone would do the same if faced with those odds.  Children, however, were not as likely to be forgiving of such cowardice as experienced soldiers.  Especially considering the amount of disbelief these particular children had offered at the idea of the Harakai being scary.
"Then, as if borne on the wind itself, a woman appeared.  Her hair was the blue of a summer sky, and her eyes flashed like lightning.  'Leave them to me.' she said, with a voice like the roll of thunder.  And she raised her left hand, continuing, 'Send forth your priest, and send with him your ten mightiest warriors, for I wish to do battle with them'. And I realized that I was face to face with the Storm Mage, Tala."
Another fabrication, but it was much more imposing than Tala's actual approach.  'Hi hun, I brought you folks a trunk of fresh underthings.  Sit still and stay low, cause i'm about to open up a can of grade A royal butt kickin on that fuzzy mob over there.' Or something like that anyways, it had been a while and her memory was starting to fuzz over.  The next bit she was much more sure of, and that was 'Hey y'all, who wants to try out my new Sizzlin' Gumbo Coney recipe?' It was much harder to forget that part, the voice like a roll of thunder part had not been a fabrication.
"The priest began to chant, and ten of their warriors, each as burly and belligerent as the last, dragged a mighty blade from their back and bounded across the field at speeds so great I could have sworn they were shot out of a cannon.  But Tala, she just faced them all and drew her sword, a rapier with a winding guard.  As each one came she sidestepped their blows and pierced their vitals before reacting to the approach of the next.  As the last one fell the priest hurled a bolt of dark magic, and we were all afraid that this would be the end.  But Tala, she caught it in a gust of wind and returned it from whence it came, smiting the priest with his own spell.  Their armies fled as they realized that they could never hope to defeat her, and as we cheered our good fortune, she vanished as though she had never come."
"That's it?  That's a lame story."
The storyteller took no offense, the children were no longer naive enough to believe the lies.  But even an adult would never believe that she had laid low the whole army with nothing but a song.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Short Story; Story Time, pt 1

"..And then we saw it, an army, ten thousand strong, hopping towards us, yelling their.."
"Hold it lady, did you just say they were 'Hopping'?"
"Yes I did, rather quickly too.  You could feel the ground shake as they came, the fall of every paw matched by a hundred others.  And they were quite large too, and armored.  It was one of the..."
"What's wrong with hopping?"
"Its just, normally people charge or run towards things.  What kind of army hops?"
"The Harakai kind, now as I was saying.."
"You mean those big, fuzzy monks you see in the movies?"
"Yes, only with armor instead of robes and ruled by instincts instead of chi or karma or whatever they're calling it these days.  As I was.."
"You expect me to believe that an army of Nielda was actually afraid of giant bunny rabbits?"
"Do you want to keep interrupting me or can I finish the story?"
"There is no way that a Nielda, let alone a Secloran, would ever be afraid of a giant, fluffy, bunny."
The story teller sighed and waved for the child to lean in.
"Would you like me to introduce you to the curvature of the planet, or will you shut up and listen to the damn story.  A lot of good friends of mine died fighting Harakai, and I'll not see you make a mockery of their sacrifices just because you can't get your puerile little mind around the idea that those 'fluffy bunnies' were once the greatest threat the galaxy had ever encountered.  If I told you that right now, this very minute, there are things out there in the universe that shiver at the mere sight of the common house-cat, you wouldn't believe me, but that doesn't mean it isn't true.  And I say that as someone with a personal relationship with people who would literally rather fight demons than admit that they'd flunked out of their ninth year at the Academy.  What you believe, is irrelevant to the truth.  Now sit back down, and listen closely."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Short Story; Just a Game

"Hatsfel, take your men and secure the mountain on the left flank.  Shirley, Rothbert, Deidrick, armor up and hold the center.  Arasa, the forest on the right flank, you know the drill.  Everyone else get ready to press the assault once Hatsfel is in position."
"And what about you Captain?"
"Just watch."
 All of his lieutenants followed their commands perfectly.  He sent Raithe to reinforce Hatsfel once the mountain was secure.  Her Artillery batteries would be the perfect support to the coming assault, and the two of them had always worked well together.  He watched the enemy forces disappear into the forest, laid low by Arasa's hunters.  Rothbert went down in the face of their enemy's captain, but he managed to quickly shuffle the men into Shirley and Deidrick's commands in time to retaliate and hold their positions.  But the true masterwork of his plan was one they'd never see coming; his own force advanced under the cover of the river on the right flank right into the heart of their encampment.  He ordered the reserves into the center to draw their attention, and then armored up to join his men.

"Hail commander."
"Right, are we all in position?"
"The men await your orders."
"Good, good, then lets get started."  He stood up and raised his sword.  The men began to climb the levee and scream their battle cries.  He pulled himself over the top and was preparing to join them when he saw one of the most dreaded things to ever grace the battlefield.
"Aren't you cute?  I bet you think you're awful clever, sorry to prove you wrong.  Men, dispose of the soldiers."
He managed to catch the sight of spellflame before finding himself back in the lobby.  He cursed and looked over at Rothbert.
"You too?"
"Nobody told me we were fighting HER.  I'd have never signed up for this if I'd known, I'm so sorry."
"Nah, I'm just amazed we've done as well as we have."
Arasa walked in from the command chamber.
"You too?"
"Nope, they silenced my communications ages ago.  I just got bored of sitting there and went in myself just after you did.  It was this white haired girl that did it.  She made the trees eat my entire command without a trace.  We were outmatched from the start."
The battle continued over the rest of the day.  By the end he realized that it had never been about beating them, it was all about how.  Shirley and Deidrick faced a cloaked man with a purple sword who seemed to step through the shadows.  Elsa was still confused by how her men had all simply commited suicide out of sudden crushing despair, and Olan reported that his men had begun to dance uncontrollably until collapsing from exhaustion.  And the rest furiously reported how a single man had walked silently into the middle of the camp and mesmerized all of their troops with a recitation of poetry; to their knowledge he was still reciting it.
The last to go were Hatsfel and Raithe.  Hatsfel confirmed what he and Rothbert had seen; their opponent was the Dark Lady herself, Empress Thalia Immersfeld.  And as he completed the thought they found themselves face to face with their foe.
"Evening; I just wanted to thank you all for your participation.  You put up a better fight than most, and for that, here is your reward."  A satchel of coins was deposited on the table.  "Have a lovely life everybody."

Short Story: Ski Trip

[Might be PG-13, would definitely be by my rating system.  ]

Cast: Rea, Krell, 

Fresh powder showered Rea, adding insult to her already embarrassing predicament.  
"Are you ok?" Krell called as he hurriedly stumbled to her side.  
"I'm embedded in a tree, what do you think smarty-pants?"  She was in fact embedded in a tree, a Nepalyan Scrimul to be specific.  Now Rea would be the first one to admit that it had been a while since she'd been skiing, but when you'd lived for as long as she had, a few decades was nothing, especially compared to how long it had been since she'd ridden a bike.  
"Stupid question, would you like some help getting out of the tree?"
Wasn't that sweet of him?  Not that she couldn't do it herself, but it'd make him feel better to help.  And It'd probably be good for her to show a bit of trust.  Thalia had always been telling her how she needed to let other people in, how she was so closed off.  
"Not that I couldn't get myself out, but yeah, that'd be nice."
"Ok."  He took her hand and braced himself against the tree.  She'd rather expected him to use magic, but apparently he didn't think it necessary.  Maybe she hadn't been as embedded as she thought she was.  
"Thanks," She brushed herself off and pulled a spar from her leg.  "I don't know what happened, I must have miscalculated my momentum."  
"Here, let me fix that."  He sat down and rolled the leg of her pants up.  She barely even noticed the pain, not so much out of the numbing to the sensation born of her many years of experience as out of shock at his boldness.  And yet it was a..pleasant sort of shock, and she found herself anticipating his actions, rather than frightened by them.  He lowered his hand onto the wound, the cold mountain air being driven off by the warmth of his spellcraft, and she felt her flesh weaving itself together beneath it.  He didn't utter a word until after he'd gently rolled the heavy garment back down to her ankle.  "Better?"
"Yes, thank you."  She swallowed her breath, trying to hide what she'd just felt.  He rose, not noticing, and held out a hand.  She took it and joined him.  "I don't know what's going on with me lately.  I'm tripping over myself all the time, I broke that man's arm on accident in the hotel the other day, and now I slide out of control into a tree.  What's going on?"
"You're...your body changed a fair bit recently, and with as accustomed to your old, younger body as you were you're probably having to adapt a lot to the new height and..uhm..proportions."  
Proportions?  "Are you calling me fat?"
"No.  Nothing like that, have..I mean your..nevermind."
"Oh."  She blushed, and tore them through space back down the mountain, a safe distance from the hotel, and started walking towards it.  "I'm sorry for snapping at you like that.  I've just been so moody lately."
"Its ok, I understand.  Let's go get some Hot Chocolate."  
"With whipped cream?"  She stopped and smiled back at him.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Other Witch; The Armorer

Krove was the intellectual heart of the universe, home to the legendary Arcane Academy.  It was, not coincidentally, also used as the geographical heart of the known universe.  Part of that was because there were so few natural boundaries around it preventing travel to other regions, but it was also because all of the great explorers had started their journey from the little mountain strewn world.  Tala, the Storm Mage and founder of the universe's political heart, Stormgarde, had studied here.  Arcania, the queen of the frostbourne, had also studied here before ultimately wandering into the reaches of space.
Indeed, most Immortals had been here at some time, and certainly those with the most time under their gilded belts.  Petra, the paladin spoken of in as many fairy tales as historical accounts, was said to keep a home here, near the Academy.  Prior to the Frostbourne War the Pantheon had met here, and all Immortals had kept at least an apartment somewhere nearby.

Salvia could have told anyone that, if you had the money, the best enchantments and equipment were to be found on Krove.  Logic alone would have indicated that much, even if popular knowledge didn't, which it did.  The man calling himself, falteringly, Hack, had landed at a small space port several miles outside of Death's Nave, the largest of the towns that had grown up around the academy.  It had been named for the most influential immortal of the day, a princess of the Empire and necromancer of great power claiming to be Death Herself; some said she truly was, others dismissed it as idle boasts and the ravings of a mage consumed with power.  All Salvia cared for was that she had nearly destroyed the Empire and that there was a severe lack of evidence pointing to her actual death; the sort of thing that made her wonder how long it had been before she'd come back and been put down by some poor sap who couldn't have told you what enchantments his own sword carried.
"We're here.  Zinarth, manor of the fell angel, home of one of the most powerful beings in the universe, and beyond."
"And a close personal friend of yours I'm sure."
"Not particularly, we've met once or twice.  Usually ended with harsh words relating to the nature of evil and the virginity of others, can't say either of us were particularly welcome in the other's home.  But that's never stopped me from going anywhere or doing anything before so I daresay it won't now."
Salvia paused to contemplate how she had ended up involved in this mess in the first place.  As she did the door opened to a dark young man in a light tunic.
"Morning sir and madam, are you here to see the teacher, the enchanter, or the hero?"
Hack stared dumbly at the young man on the other side of the door frame.  For someone claiming to be familiar with the house's occupant she had expected a more..confident reaction.
"Are you?  I mean to say, I thought she never...Bother it all, who the devil are you?"
"Not the devil, nor any friend to those who serve him.  Can I help you, or would you prefer to stand there all day.  Or you could leave, that option also exists if you wish."
"But Issues?"
"Honeysuckle, I think you have visitors."
A girlish giggle came from deeper within the shadows of the house, "I'll be right there, my love" The woman who had spoken came from the left and paused to kiss the dark, and Salvia had to admit it, handsome man who had first greeted them.  She was nothing like what the voice would have made her think; her skin was tanned and her hands rough from work.  She bore the faded mark of one who had seen many battles within her eyes, and her hair was tied back in the braid of those Nielda who have pledged themselves to battle.  But she was softer than she had clearly been before, and there was a spring in her step still stiff from lack of use.  And the stains on her knees were clearly more vegetable than animal or mineral.
"Good morning Old father, good morning Young sister; what can we do for you?"
Salvia decided to eschew Hack's continued attempts to take charge and do so herself.  "I need a weapon.  Something that will befit in battles against well equipped armies or powerful mages.  I would prefer a pistol if you could, and I can demonstrate my abilities if need be."
The woman didn't let go of her partner's waist as she looked over his shoulder, surveying her as though she were more portrait than person.  She seemed to seize her up like a gem,and Salvia could feel the stranger's mind weaving through every crack and crevice of her own without any regard for privacy or decency.
"Yes, I think trueshot, variable element, transastral summoning, bottomless quiver, modified of course, and maybe," she pasued for a moment, "maybe flair of the bard or runeweaver's clarity.  What do you think Love?"
"Witch's Nocturne."
"Ah yes, of course, how silly of me; Witch's Nocturne.  I'll get started at once.  When the old man wakes from his stupor tell him that she was right, it really has helped a lot.  Toodles!"  And the door shut without another word.