Episode Eight: Proof of Existence

Chapter Two

"Stay put, will you? You're not going anywhere."

Dimentio released some of his focus on Merletoph in order to listen to Basile and Timpani's conversation. He leaned closer to the door of the wardrobe so he could hear properly. His heart skipped a beat as he nearly lost his balance; he caught himself, but his hand made a light thud as it moved positions on the floor of the wardrobe. Heart pounding, he waited to see if he'd been discovered.

"Stop moving! Do you want to die faster?"

Dimentio exhaled. Remembering Merletoph's breathing exercises, he tried to take a slower inhale but gave up after his blood protested the lack of oxygen.

"The Ancients are coming to destroy you. You've been ruining this world for far too long." Though her voice trembled, Dimentio admired the confidence behind Timpani's lie.

"They were supposed to be dead." Basile sighed. "You should be dead. Were it not for Blumiere's attachment to you, I would have killed you twice over."

Basile and Timpani were in the far left corner of the room, Dimentio surmised. With Timpani occupying Basile, he was likely facing away from the wardrobe. If he could get the door open without making a sound, an escape might be possible.

But could he leave Timpani?

"I hope he doesn't come for me," Timpani's voice rang with melancholic resolve, such that Dimentio couldn't tell if she was lying. "I want him to be happy. If he comes back for me, he'll be forced to live with an overbearing father for the rest of his life—" her statement cut off with a gasp and the sharp sound of flesh striking flesh.

"Say another word, and your life ends here!"

Slowly, Dimentio raised his hand, feeling through the darkness for something he could use as a weapon. He didn't have much going for him in the way of physical strength, but a well-aimed blow over the head might be able to knock Basile out. He grazed past the thick cloth and made contact with a hard piece of wood separate from the wardrobe's walls. Further inspection revealed a short wooden pole spanning one half of the wardrobe. Hangers crowded the length of it, but the clothing felt light. Experimentally, Dimentio lifted up a hanger. He removed it from the wooden pole easily and set it on the floor of the wardrobe without a sound.

"You think taking him away from here will protect him? He'll suffer in every world you drag him to."

Clearing the pole of the rest of its hangers, Dimentio maneuvered it away from the hooks that held it in place. Once the weight of the pole was entirely in Dimentio's hands, it swayed downward slightly. He hadn't expected it to be so heavy.


The pole collided with the wardrobe wall. Dimentio held his breath, but as soon as he heard Basile moving, he knew he had to act fast. Gripping the pole like a club, he drove his shoulder into the wardrobe door. It swung open, giving him just enough time to jump out and face Basile before the man opened the door himself.

...He's too tall.

Dimentio made a swing for Basile's stomach, and though it made contact, he suffered the blow silently and knocked the pole away. It twisted out of his grip and clattered to the floor. Basile grabbed him by the wrist before he could dive after it and hefted Dimentio up by the arm. Dimentio's feet barely lifted off the ground before Basile stopped; the wound in his shoulder caused his grip to tremble. The smell of smoke met Dimentio's nose, followed by the distinct odor of burned flesh.

"What are you doing in my wardrobe?"

"Playing hide and seek," Dimentio declared, choosing the first lie that came to mind. "I was winning until you found me, aha ha." He wriggled a little bit, trying to relieve some of the tension in his shoulder.

Basile ignored his ploy. His misty gaze flicked from one of Dimentio's eyes to the other. As Dimentio glanced to the side to avoid prolonged eye contact, he caught sight of Timpani moving, one hand outstretched. The wooden pole lay just outside of her grasp.

A gasp jumped from Dimentio's throat as an intense tingling sensation afflicted the wrist Basile had him hung by. Liquid dripped down his arm: a failed contact-magic spell leaking from Basile's fingertips.

There, around his wrist, Dimentio caught sight of a familiar shimmer.

Then Basile let go with a grunt and teetered back a step. "You're Aldrik's? "

Dimentio landed on his feet, but he lost his footing and fell, catching himself on the floor with his hands. Jarring pain flashed up his arms. As he jerked his hands away from the floor, he watched Timpani push herself slowly to her feet. Hoping to distract Basile, he made a show of cowering beneath his hands and scooting away. His back met with the frame of Basile's bed.

"How long has he—?" Basile knelt down with a grimace, investigating Dimento with his eyes. "Are you human? You are Aldrik's son, aren't you?"

He had the overwhelming desire to say no, and for it to be the truth. Instead, he replied, "Why, do I look like him?"

"No," Basile said after a moment of thought, and Dimentio felt a rush of relief at the answer. "You look like a human ." He said the word with a snarl, reaching out to grab Dimentio by the arm.

Dimentio saw Timpani raise the rod above her head just before a solid crack split the air. Basile slumped forward, his face hitting the ground next to Dimentio's feet. Above him, Timpani staggered and the wooden rod clunked to the floor. Shoulders slumping, she eyed Dimentio with the slightest glint of mistrust.

"Are you alright?"

He almost laughed. "I'm—" With a lack of coordination, he scrambled to his feet and gave Basile's body a wide berth as he stepped around it. "What about you? Are you alright?"

A stuttering side-step answered for her. "My arm...I don't know what he did to me, but it's spreading. And it—it hurts."

"Just like Kathleen," Dimentio said as Timpani sat against the wardrobe. "He put magic in your bloodstream. It will kill you if it's not purified or removed."

She glared up at him. "You always say the most morbid things as if they're nothing," she said. "Why don't you just go? Go find Blumiere and escape, just keep him safe."

"No." The word surprised him as it flew from his mouth. "I won't leave you. We all have to escape together. It wouldn't be nice to leave you behind to die."

A moment of silence passed between them. Timpani bowed her head, mulling over something as Dimentio shifted his weight from foot to foot. "Merletoph said you healed Kathleen," she whispered.

Dimentio nodded. "I removed the spell from her blood."

"But you still don't have your magic."


"Well, then what are you going to do?" Timpani's gaze passed over Basile's body. "It's only a matter of time before he wakes up. And if you waste time getting me out of here, the others might get hurt. You should just… Woah."

Dimentio followed Timpani's stare to the window above Basile's bed. A yellow glow brightened the sky; a moment later a wave of heat wafted into the room.

"Merletoph…" Dimentio wrapped his arms around himself as his grandfather's signature pulsed in the back of his mind.

"He's right outside the castle," Timpani said.

"Merletoph would be able to heal you." Dimentio's throat constricted, straining his voice. "I...I don't know how."

"He said you wanted to learn the magic of The Ancients, right? Did he ever get the chance to teach you anything?"

Dimentio sat on the ground, staring anxiously out the window. "No. He tried, but…" He swallowed back the emotion trying to squirm out of him. "I failed, aha. I almost made it worse." His breath shook as he exhaled, but it reminded him, "He did teach me a breathing exercise. I'm not very good at it."

Inhale. Exhale.

"It should be easy."

Inhale. Exhale.

What was it Merletoph had said?

Inhale. The breath is just as essential to your soul as blood is to your body. Exhale.

"Breath, soul, blood, body," he muttered.

"What?" Timpani leaned closer, rubbing at her purple-veined shoulder.

"Remember to breathe deeply: it will soothe your soul." Do I have a soul? It's been hidden my whole life; is it even there? Do I have a soul to strengthen?

Inhale. Exhale.

It must be inside of him somewhere. Buried deep underneath eight years of cloaking spells. But he had a soul, otherwise, there would be no reason to cloak it, right?

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

With each breath, Merletoph's soul sharpened in his mind. He could clearly see his grandfather step forward, raise his arms, and widen his stance. The edges of his soul tinged orange. Dimentio felt the anger that pulsed from Merletoph's core.

"He's using magic," he mumbled, closing his eyes so he could better focus. "He's fighting. He must be fighting my father."

"Do you think he'll win?" Timpani sounded uncertain.

Dimentio drew a calculated inhale, willing his nerves to stay calm. "I don't know."

"You should go. You're running out of time."

The exhale warmed Dimentio's knees as he curled forward. "No. I'm going to try and heal you."

Inhale. He pushed himself sideways, sliding over so he was sitting by Timpani's wounded arm. Exhale. He placed his hands on her wrist.

Immediately, he could feel the pulsing of her blood, but he pushed past that, searching deeper for the source. Her heart, the organ responsible for cycling the blood, hadn't yet been tainted by the spell.

Blood and body. Breath and soul.

"Breathe deep," Dimentio instructed. "Slow. Just like me."

Contact magic requires two pulses to beat at the same time.

He slowed his breathing further, matching his inhales and exhales with Timpani. She stared at him, eyes glazed. Dimentio stared back, searching.

Where is her soul?

Merletoph's bright orange faded into the background. Dimentio strained his mind, staring through Timpani's blue eyes into the space beyond.


A faint, pale shape, barely formed. A human soul, Dimentio imagined, with no magic to tame it. Purple veins crackled through it, much like the veins on her arm.

Timpani must have felt the connection; her shoulders flinched. Dimentio didn't break eye contact.

Pressing inward, he zeroed in on the struggling blotch of life. With each inhale, the purple lines lifted, but with each exhale they regained their hold. He slowed his breathing and felt Timpani doing the same.

Is it working? The lines drew further away with every breath, diluting as if they were being washed out. One final inhale, and they dissipated from Dimentio's view of Timpani's soul. The next exhale, and they didn't come back.

Inhale. Exhale. In—

Dimentio gasped out the remaining breath in his lungs, breaking the connection between them. Slumping forward, he panted for air, pressing a hand over his aching chest.

"Oh, woah." Timpani whispered.

Closing his eyes, Dimentio sought out Merletoph's signature and curled in on its warmth. It was so bright compared to Timpani's, so stable. Dimentio held it closer, watching as it shifted between oranges and yellows.

I did it, Merletoph. I healed her. I did something nice. Are you proud of me?

Merletoph's soul fluttered, fluctuating into a deep red for a half-second.

I know you're fighting to protect me. I know you're doing this to keep the rest of us safe.

But, please...stay alive.

The white void enveloped Blumiere for a full three seconds. He'd never teleported quite so far before, so the prolonged exposure to the dimension of nothing induced a split-second panic. Nevertheless, he emerged, nearly blinded by the contrast of the castle's dark hallways.

His heart pounded as he glanced in both directions. No one had seen him arrive. He pressed an ear to the door of his father's bedroom.

Silence. Puzzled, Blumiere furrowed his brow. Where else would father have taken her? He pulled away, but just as he began to ponder where to look next, someone spoke from within Basile's room.

Timpani! She didn't sound angry or afraid. Who is she talking to? Blumiere's hand clutched the doorknob. Now or never.

He flung the door open, the thumb and forefinger of his right hand pressed together, ready to produce a magical orb. He'd never imagined attacking his own father, but at the moment, he had no other option. However, as he stepped into the bedroom, the spell slipped from his fingers.

"Blumiere!" Timpani all but fell into him as she embraced him. "You came!"

Blumiere couldn't take his eyes off of his father, crumpled face-forward on the ground. "Is he…?"

"He's not dead." Blumiere startled at the sound of Dimentio's voice. "But he's going to wake up, soon."

"We need to go," Timpani said. "Dimentio's right, he could wake up any second now."

"What about Merletoph?" Dimentio's static tone rang with anxiety.

"He'll come back when he has the chance," Blumiere said. "He told me he would know when to go."

"He's dying." Dimentio stared at Blumiere with a faraway look in his eyes. "I can feel him dying."

"Well—" Blumiere clamped his mouth around the rest of his sentence as a heavy warmth pressed into his mind.

" D… … … bi…. sel… … … od…"

"Did you hear that?" Blumiere moved further into the room.

"Hear what?" Timpani asked, shifting to follow him.

"It...It was like a whisper, coming from…" Blumiere pinpointed the direction of the voice. In his father's wardrobe? No, further back than that. Behind it?

"And…...self… ve… chaos…"

"It's coming from back here." Blumiere dug his shoulder into one side of the wardrobe and pushed, succeeding in moving the heavy piece of furniture a few steps.

"Blumiere, we have to go!" Timpani urged. "What are you doing?"

The pressure in his head drowned out Timpani's words. Blumiere continued to push at the wardrobe until it hit a corner and moved no further. A small door with no handle had been carved into the wall where the wardrobe had been. A black spiral design with a large indent in the center decorated the door. Blumiere touched the indent and shot a bit of magic into the mechanism beyond his finger. The spiral design turned and the door slid open.

"Blumiere!" Timpani had him by the arm, preventing him from entering the room behind the door. "Snap out of it! Why aren't you listening to me?"

"Come closer."

Blumiere squinted down at Timpani. "It can help us," he said, without knowing if it were true. "Can't you hear it?" He pulled Timpani through the doorway with him.

The tiny room housed only two items of interest: an empty pedestal wrapped with golden chains, and a thick black tome resting against the far wall.

Blumiere finally faltered. "The Dark Prognosticus?"

Dimentio pushed his way into the room. "It's here?"

"Blumiere," Timpani tried again, "please. Take us away from here. We shouldn't be here."

"It can save Merletoph," Blumiere said.

Timpani and Dimentio both fell silent at that. And then, before either of them could stop him, Blumiere stooped to pick up the Dark Prognosticus.

As soon as he touched the black leather cover, an invisible force connected to his soul. A rush of power roared through him, revitalizing his blood and strengthening his heart. The same whisper from before repeated in his ears, loud as a warcry.

"Dost thou bind thyself with thy blood and makest thyself a vessel of chaos?"

Thousands of screams tore through his mind, faraway and anguished. Timpani's voice joined them, her words drowned in the sea of wails. A hand on his back grounded him to his own dimension. Cold fear flowed like a river over him as he grasped the meaning of the Dark Prognosticus' inquiry.

No, no, he realized. No, I don't want that!

Sensing his refusal, the book thrust him away, forcefully breaking their connection. The power he'd felt was sucked away, leaving him even more drained than before. Timpani caught him and then fell to the ground herself, leaving them both in a heap on the floor. Dimentio stood over them, his eyes trained on the book.

"We need to go, Blumiere," Timpani said, straining to get herself standing again. " Now. We—" She cut off with a gasp.

Blumiere sat up to look at her and first noticed that Dimentio had gone rigid. Dimentio stared, wide-eyed, at Timpani. Similarly, Timpani looked not at Blumiere, but at Dimentio.

" No... " Timpani covered her mouth with her hand. "He's…"

"Merletoph?" Blumiere scrambled to his feet and then braced against the wall after a haunt of vertigo attacked him. "Is he alright?"

"Gone," Timpani said. "His soul is gone."

Dimentio shook his head. "No, it's not gone. It's black. His soul is black."

"What does that mean?"

"I don't know!"

Blumiere slid down against the wall, assaulted by a bout of nausea. His heart fluttered in his chest, struggling to beat.

"Come closer."

"N-No," he spat out, pressing his eyes closed against a sudden headache.

Wordlessly, Timpani joined him on the floor. Dimentio followed soon after, on the other side.

"What do we do?" Timpani asked.

"I'm going to take us back," Blumiere murmured, the words barely sliding from his throat in a whisper. "I promised… Merletoph I'd find you… bring you back safe." He wheezed, placing a shaking hand over his heart. "Something's… wrong. Not much time."

Timpani placed her hand on top of Blumiere's. Dimentio silently touched Blumiere's other hand, his head bowed.

"We'll have to leave Merletoph behind," Timpani murmured. Dimentio inhaled sharply through his nose.

Gathering all of his remaining strength, Blumiere imagined the glowing arch of the Dimensional Gateway and forced his soul to move, one last time.

Rocks and blue light spun into a blur as Blumiere pulled Timpani to the ground. She struggled, trying to see why he'd fallen, but the dead-weight of his arm pinned her against the cold stone floor.

"Good stars! Wha' 'appened?"


Kathleen rushed to assist them. She pulled Blumiere away from Timpani and helped Dimentio, who'd also been dragged to the ground.

Timpani heaved herself into a kneeling position. "Blumiere! Are you hurt?"

His glazed eyes stared right through her. For a heartbeat, Timpani thought he must be dead. But then his gaze shifted ever-so-slightly and focused on her before his eyelids drooped closed. She gasped and reached for his hand.

"His pulse is slow," Dimentio said. "He's used up the last of his energy."

"Will he get better?" Timpani asked, desperation sharpening her tone.


"Let's give 'im some time," Kathleen suggested. "We still 'ave teh wait for Merletoph, 'aven't we?"

"No." Timpani shook her head, furrowing her brow as she recalled Blumiere's father. He could already be after them, for all she knew. "No, we have to go. We can't afford to wait for either of them."

"Wha', are we gon' teh drag 'im through?"

"But, Papa!" Mimi's wail cut over Kathleen's incredulous question. She grabbed onto the sleeve of Timpani's dress. "We have to wait for Papa to come back!"

"He'll find us," Timpani said, with a glance at Dimentio. "But we're in great danger here. We have to leave."

"Basile is coming," Dimentio said. He stared, unfocused, at the ground. "We have to go." It sounded less like an urgent statement and more like a haunting realization.

Timpani flexed her injured arm, still marveling at how quickly the pain had faded. "Come on, Kathleen," she said as she pushed herself to her feet, "hold the door open. I'll carry him through."

"Can yeh manage?"

"I've carried him once before," Timpani said. "He's no more awake than he was then."

As she stooped to slip her arms underneath Blumiere's body, Mimi grabbed her again.

"Please, we have to wait for Papa. He'll come. He said he'd come."

"Merletoph can teleport to us, right Dimentio?" Timpani's voice strained in her throat as she lifted Blumiere off the ground.

Dimentio only narrowed his eyes in response.

"Well, if we're really goin', let's go," Kathleen said. She put a hand on the door handle. "Ronan, grab Merletoph's pack if yeh can manage. Mimi, follow Timpani through. Yeh 'ave teh hurry, Mimi," Kathleen added as the girl opened her mouth to argue. "We're still bein' chased, lass. I hate teh say it, but it's too scary to stay behind."

With shimmering eyes, Mimi gave a tiny nod and grabbed onto Timpani's dress.

When Kathleen opened the Dimensional Gateway, a blinding light filled the cavern. "Go on in," she said. "Step through. I'll keep the door open."

With no time for hesitation, Timpani stepped into the nothingness. She allowed the light to completely envelop her.

What awaited her on the other side of the door was unlike anything she'd ever seen. The floor beneath her feet, solid though it was, sparkled and misted like a glittering cloud. The translucent dust revealed an endless, black ocean of stars below and above her.

The cloudy floor extended like a hallway. Along each edge, hundreds of doors floated in the open space, lined up perfectly. Each one had a unique color, design, and outer border. Some of them had glowing lights around their edges, while others dimmed in and out of existence.

The hallway stretched on endlessly, fading out of sight further down. Here and there, corridors branched off of the main hall, and as far as Timpani could tell, they, too, were lined with doors.

Her arms screamed for a break from carrying Blumiere, but she ignored them. Instead, she searched the doors nearby, trying to figure out which one would be the best to open next.

"Come on, come on," Kathleen said from the other side of the door. Even though a bright light obscured her from Timpani's view, she could still hear the girl clearly. "We 'ave to go, Dimentio. Ah know, child, but we 'ave teh leave 'im behind."

Ronan stepped through the glowing threshold, followed shortly after by Dimentio, and then Kathleen.

The door to Timpani's home closed behind her.