I'm back bitches! Chapter 9 here we go!
Nemoskull: It's going to start picking up next chapter. I know I got off to a slow start but I can promise you the next chapter will cover a period of at least a week, if not two, rather than the day-to-day chapters we've seen so far.
Gak237: No worries, hope you continue to enjoy the story. I appreciate the input on any stupid mistakes I make haha
MayAnny Review 1: Haha thank you, hope you like the next chapter's title.
MayAnny Review 2: Yes and the sad part is it's these poor, unfortunate, uneducated morons who stand to suffer the most from the Donald's policies. "Drain the Swamp? More like fill it with more alligators" (for those of you wondering what this is about, I live in the US and was livid at the US Election results and briefly posted a chapter simply with the words "Fuck Donald Trump". Also, Fuck Donald Trump).
Bob the Turtle Review 1: Sshhhhh hehehe...
Bob the Turtle Review 2: Hahaha I worked on a political campaign. And update on the job thing, I FINALLY GOT A MOTHAFUCKING JOB. And I'm a dude lol.
lookman4590: You'd think that, but like I said in my PM, most of my time in January and February was spent applying for jobs and writing cover letters.
Ospery Review 1: Haha sorry, couldn't resist… And shit… I can't believe I forgot about them haha. I will admit they'll play a part in the story but the main focus at the moment will be Victor and Tiffa, the passengers, and the Anomalies. For now...
Ospery Review 2: Ta-da! New chapter! And yes, the scars have faded but it's going to be a tough year with the tangerine madman in charge and then another long three years once he's inevitably impeached and his dingus mcfuckface and worst governor ever VP Mike Pence becomes President. I hear Spain is nice this time of year...
Ridli Scott: I'm basing this mostly on the anime, but remember these two are still learning of Void magic. And I got the printing press idea off "Storms Overhead", one of the few 1st person POV stories I actually like.
Lander Blazer: Thank you! You'll see more. I know exactly where I want the story to go but the trick is filling in the blanks between the major events I have in my head.
I own nothing. It all belongs to the author of Zero No Tsukaima (RIP).
Fuck the Donald.
Tristain Academy of Magic
3 Days After Arrival
"Dreadful" wrote Tiffania on yet another piece submitted by her students. Tiffania sighed at yet another night spent grading papers. The student in question had written a lengthy piece on how when in times of unease by the commoners, force and intimidation was the answer. Probably one of the foreign brats she thought. The ones that have made my job… interesting.
Nearly all of the Tristanians saw her as a hero after the Ancient Dragon Crisis and treated her well enough. Though she could trust Colbert, Saito, Louise, and many of her peers, the mere fact that she was an elf teaching the children of the nobility earned her many enemies from abroad. Even as one of the four Void mages, she'd received death threats from nobles in other countries when she'd first started teaching.
In the beginning, she'd retreated into her shy persona so as not to draw attention. Privately, however, she'd had many restless nights. Looking back, her personality had certainly changed compared to now.
Though she was still somewhat shy, she was proud of the fact that she had grown more assertive over the past few years. Those first few months had been increasingly hard, especially with only Colbert to confide in as Saito and Louise spent their honeymoon on Earth. And therein lay another source of frustration.
After the wedding, she'd given up on Saito, dismissing her love for him as a naive childlike crush thanks to her limited interaction with humans growing up in the forests of Albion.
However, if she was being honest with herself, she still felt a pang of jealousy. How could I not? she'd thought. Saito would do anything for Louise. She remembered her first interaction with Saito. The man died for her and would have stayed dead had I not brought him back.
Even as such feelings of jealousy had subsided over the past few months, she still felt increasingly lonely at the Academy. She longed for someone like Saito, so loyal and caring.
So when the possibility of summoning her own familiar had come up, she had secretly been elated at the thought of having a companion to confide in. Or something more.
Her joy had quadrupled when the possibility of Saito being her familiar had come up. Even as but close friends, she had grown even closer than before to both Saito and Louise. If she summoned him successfully, she would inevitably see him and Louise far more often than now.
Her feelings on the whole matter had been put on hold when she had failed to summon Saito and instead summoned the airliner and 122 humans from Earth. And it was now, 3 days after the incident that she could fully process the feelings she had experienced.
Finding out that Victor was her designated Familiar had been a strange experience. On the one hand, she'd been happy to find out who she had intended to summon. On the other, the man was clearly not on the same page as her. Although he had warmed up to her from his initially cold demeanor and was at least friendly, the fact remained that he would be leaving in two months and was not interested in remaining as her Familiar. A fact she couldn't help but resent him for.
The summoning was supposed to bring me the Familiar best suited for me… So why him?
The fact that he was an attractive man who came across as a vulgar rogue only compounded the matter.
He certainly is attractive… And his accent and manner of speaking is roguish, yet strangely charming. But… as he is so fond of repeating… he won't be here long regardless. He'll be leaving with the rest of his people in two months.
Tiffa couldn't help but wonder though, if the future held something in store for the both of them. Given her elven heritage and her mother's teachings, she was a firm believer in fate and that everything that happened, did so for a purpose. With her situation with Victor, she couldn't help but chalk it up to fate that he'd been the Familiar most suited for her. Which begged the question: if he was chosen for a reason, what will the next two months bring? So far as I know, without any external factors, a Familiar contract is for life. Will something happen to change that? He clearly does not see himself remaining in Halkeginia…
That line of thinking brought her back to the mysterious runes on his back… Mundalfr… Just what does it mean?
She leaned back in her chair, rubbing her eyes and attempting to dismiss the thoughts that had been brewing in her mind the entirety of the evening.
Looking back at the dreadful paper, she sighed. Many of her students were quite bright but there were a few who stuck to the old ways. Pushing back from her desk, she moved to her cupboard to grab a glass of her favorite wine.
As she moved, she heard yelling from next door. Victor's room she thought.
She was about to move closer to the wall when the section closest to her desk promptly exploded.
The explosion threw her back across the room, smacking her into the floor in front of the cupboard. Struggling to stand, she peered into the smoldering hole between her familiar's room and hers. A figure that could only be Victor was standing on the other side, staring confused at the hole. But that was not the only thing she noticed.
His hands… Flames dancing in his hands… He's a mage?
Victor seemed to have noticed this as well as he inspected his flame covered hands. Looking back up, he uttered the only thing he could think of:
"What the fuck just happened?!"
"Are you alright Victor?" asked Tiffania, walking up to the smoldering hole.
"My head hurts and my hands are on freaking fire… But otherwise I'm peachy…" came the witty reply.
"Calm yourself… focus on calming yourself and the flames will stop" instructed Tiffania, watching as the flames seemed to grow and wane of their own accord. He's clearly not in full control of them.
Victor did as told, steadying his breathing, and he immediately saw the flames dancing between his fingers wither and die.
"Ok, that solves that problem" he said. Grabbing her wand, Tiffania extinguished the flames on her end of the hole and walked through the smoldering hole to Victor's room.
"What in the hell just happened?" he told her.
Tiffania stared at Victor's hands, now normal. She could still picture the flames on them. Looking back at the hole in the wall, she spoke.
"That was magic. Pure, uncontrolled magic. You're a mage, Victor…" she said..
Victor looked at her, confused, before looking at his hands again.
"How is that possible? There's no magic on Earth. I've never done this before."
"I don't know. But I can definitely feel magic in you, now that I'm standing close to you. It's impressive really…"
Impressive did not begin to come close to describe it. With every passing moment, she could feel his reserves growing as she stood next to him. As if all the ambient magic in the room was being drawn towards him. Void mages had an unusual ability to feel the magic of other mages, an ability likely derived from their proximity to the Founder's bloodline. Or so Louise had hypothesized when she'd first discovered the ability. She'd previously felt some magic in him but she had assumed it was derived from the Familiar runes. The amount of magic she could feel coursing through her Familiar now was easily ten times that.
Victor looked down, examining his arms. He could feel a strange tingling emanating from his center. With every heartbeat, it spread through his body. It was strange, but not unwelcome. Even more welcome was the fact that the voices that had tormented him were now quiet. Pulling down the top of his shirt, the runes engraved on his chest were no longer glowing, nor did they sting. He could still feel warmth coming from the Mundalfr runes but that was waning. "How did I do that…" he thought aloud, staring at his hand.
"These walls are warded with several layers of reinforcement spells" said Tiffa nervously. "If you'd blasted through an unprotected wall, you could have killed me."
Victor smiled, looking embarrassed. "It was my first magic spell" he said staring at the hole, still stunned he'd blown the wall up.
Tiffania couldn't help but laugh.
Their little moment was short lived as Colbert and Chevreuse came barging in, wands out.
The bald Headmaster had been on the verge of falling asleep until two students had come running into his office, screaming bloody murder about an explosion in Professor Westwood's room.
Taking in the scene, he was glad they had called him. The hole in the wall immediately drew his attention, as did the obvious remnants of fire. It was clear a powerful fire spell had caused it.
"By the Founder, what happened here?" he demanded.
Tiffania moved to answer but Victor beat her to it.
"I got a little angry and uh… blew up the wall" he said nervously.
"He somehow managed to cast a large fire spell, Headmaster. And without a wand at that" added Tiffania.
"You?" replied Colbert, still not sure if he was being serious. "But you're from Earth… How can you be a mage?"
Victor shrugged as Tiffania took over. "Perhaps we should discuss this in your office, Headmaster?"
Colbert nodded. Turning back the way he came, he addressed the students who had gathered from the commotion. "It's all right now. Go back to sleep. You all still have classes tomorrow."
The students all grumbled back to their rooms as the three adults headed to the Headmaster's Office.
The walk was mostly silent as all three of them had different thoughts stirring.
Victor was still in shock. His mind raced with possible explanations, as well as other thoughts.
Could it be the runes? Could they have caused this? We still have no idea what Mundalfr is… Or what those runes' powers are. Or what the hell is going on with the runes in the first place. Are they still trying to brainwash me? Why does it feel like only the Lífþrasir runes are trying to do that?
Colbert and Tiffania's thoughts followed a similar line. Questions about the source of Victor's powers, the nature of the Mundalfr runes.
Once inside his office, Colbert locked the door and turned to Victor and Tiffa.
"Alright Professor, Mister De La Fuente: please explain why there is a massive hole in one of my dormitories."
Summoner and Familiar looked at each other before Victor began.
"Well, this requires a bit of a long explanation. I already spoke with Tiffania about this and she assured me she was looking into it" he said, looking back at Tiffa, who nodded.
"The runes… They're speaking to me" he continued. Colbert motioned for him to continue. "One set has the voice of a man, trying to brainwash me into serving Tiffa. The other is a woman, more gentle, telling me to 'resist' or 'find myself'."
"Tonight, I decided to humor them and try to talk to them. It didn't go too well when I told them I'd soon be gone from this place." Victor didn't notice Tiffania flinch at the mention of this. "My chest runes started burning and gave me a massive headache, worse than any I've felt before. It only got worse when I got to my room."
"I heard the other voice, the one from my back runes telling me to resist, to fight back. It was almost like the two runes started fighting each other at that point, instead of tormenting me. It hurt like hell. Between the pain and the voices, I just snapped. And that's when I somehow blew a hole in the wall" finished Victor.
"Do you think this has something to do with Mundalfr? Could those runes be giving him powers?" asked Tiffa.
Colbert shook his head. "I do not think so. You see, nearly every mage in history discovers their magic the same way: accidentally. Usually in times of great emotional stress." A smile came over Colbert as he remembered. "I discovered my affinity for fire when my parents took away my favorite toy because I would not put it away for dinner" he said, chuckling. "I ended up burning one of the servants' hair off."
"My theory is that you've had an affinity for magic all along, but that the lack of magic on Earth has kept you from unlocking that ability. Now here, in magic-rich Halkeginia, your powers have awakened."
Victor thought about this, thinking back to everything he had experienced since arriving. The last words he'd heard during his "fight" with the runes resonated in his head.
"Before I… blew up… I heard the Mundalfr runes say something… 'You must resist, Lífþrasir. The power I give you will unlock your potential. Use it and fight!'"
Colbert absorbed this information and thought for a moment.
"That certainly adds to my theory. Though I'm afraid it raises more questions than answers. The Lífþrasir runes are a spell created by the Founder, so it could be the Founder's voice in those runes. But I am unsure who the voice in the Mundalfr runes may belong to. And what power could they referring to?"
Victor nodded as Colbert continued.
"I have been unable to find any information on the Mundalfr runes but it does seem to suggest you had the potential all along."
"Hmmm… Would being a fire mage be the reason I've been waking up sweating every morning since I got here?" asked Victor.
Colbert nodded. "That's precisely why. You see, fire mages tend to be the most susceptible to the side effects of build ups of magic within them. Other affinities experience different effects but they are most noticeable with fire users. Though such effects are usually only felt for a brief period in childhood. Your body learns to quickly adapt its core temperature so as not to overheat you. Again, this normally happens during childhood, but as you are now being exposed to magic for the first time, I suspect the same is happening now."
"Ok… Well that aside, the good news is the brainwashing from the Lífþrasir runes seems to have stopped for now…" replied Victor. "Come to think of it, I haven't heard a peep since my fiery tantrum."
"I told you to come to me if the voices started up again" chided Tiffa.
"Sorry... it happened so suddenly, all I could think about was getting them to stop."
"I shall keep looking into the runes, and see if there's anything we can do about the voices" added Colbert. "For now, I think a good night's sleep may be in order" he finished, looking at the clock near the door.
The Next Morning
Breakfast had been a loud affair, with talk of the explosion in one of the dormitories and the fact that a commoner had suddenly developed magic.
Victor had tried his best to answer all the questions, both from curious students and his fellow passengers. He'd tried to replicate what he'd done last night at lunch, only to fail spectacularly.
Hansen, however, had no time for such pleasantries:
Today was the day they would try to set up consistent communications with Earth.
He'd cornered Louise and Saito after breakfast and now they stood in the courtyard waiting for the designated time. Several passengers and curious students had gathered to witness the event, Colbert, Victor and the flight crew among them.
Finally, Hansen's watch indicated 1100 Zulu and he gave Louise the go ahead.
The pinkette began chanting, her wand beginning to glow.
The instant the portal materialized, something came flying through and landed with a thud in the courtyard.
Milliseconds later, the portal destabilized before Louise cancelled the spell.
The group moved to inspect the new arrival. It was a large container, almost the size of a grown adult.
Agent Hansen moved to open it, popping the latches on the container.
Opening it, he saw a note pinned to whatever was inside. After a moment of reading it, he began removing the components inside. The native Halkeginians watched as he first removed a tripod, followed by what looked like a large, thin window. Next, he pulled out a large folded rectangular case and unfolded it, revealing a large panel with black squares dotting it. Finally, he pulled out what looked like a white rectangle and a large, fat pen.
"What is that?" asked Louise.
"Looks like a solar panel" answered Victor, recognizing the device immediately. "Photovoltaic cells in the panel convert sunlight to electricity."
"Correct, we need something to generate power" added Hansen. "Something that doesn't require someone to be constantly brewing petrol." Hansen pulled out the last component, the power generator that would be attached to the solar panel.
"Fascinating" remarked Colbert.
"What exactly is all this anyway?" asked Captain Rollins.
"It's a Window Generator" answered Hansen as he continued to assemble the device. "Used to peer into this world for reconnaissance and study. A bit fuzzy on how they work exactly, but the principle is they capture the errant photons from parallel worlds, allowing you to see what's going on on the other side. We're going to use this one to communicate more efficiently with Earth."
The group watched as Hansen finished assembling the Window Generator. Plugging in the solar panels, he angled them towards the sun and waited. Sure enough, the indicator light on the portable generator came on, showing that it was receiving electricity from the photovoltaic panels.
"Alright, let's see if this works" commented Hansen, before switching on the Window Generator. A gentle hum began emanating from the device as Hansen fiddled with the controls. The clear display on the Generator turned a shade of slight blue as the view inside became fuzzy. Turning a few knobs, the view inside, which had until then shown the walls of the Academy in a blue tinge, suddenly shifted. It showed an open Belgian field with the massive E40 Freeway in the distance.
Peering through the window while turning it around on the tripod, Hansen found what he was looking for: the nondescript van of SWORD's Mobile 1 team. They had their window generator set up and were now staring at Hansen through it. One of them even gave a wave, which Hansen returned.
Pulling out a dry-erase board, one of them wrote:
CONFIRM CLEAR PICTURE?
Hansen pulled out a dry-erase board from the box and wrote back.
CONFIRMED. GOOD TO SEE YOU.
GOOD TO SEE YOU TOO. STATUS?
ALL IS WELL. HALKS BEING GOOD HOSTS. FOOD AND SHELTER PROVIDED.
UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENT. PAX INTENDED AS FAMILIAR HAS DEVELOPED MAGIC.
VICTOR DE LA FUENTE, USA, DEVELOPED FIRE ABILITIES LAST NIGHT.
ACKNOWLEDGED. OBSERVE AND CONTINUE REPORTING.
NOW ONTO BUSINESS.
"Director Reynolds, Agent Carlisle has arrived."
Reynolds turned from watching the interaction between the field team and Halkeginia to the aide that had just informed him.
"Thank you. Send them to my office" he told the aide.
Carlisle didn't take long to arrive. She walked in with the two men he'd been hoping to see.
"Agent Carlisle. Welcome back. Job well done" he told her. Turning to the two men, he spoke.
"Doctor Dreyfus, Mr. Dreyfus, welcome. I'm Nick Reynolds, Director of the Sentient World Observation and Research Division, or SWORD. We're glad you decided to come help."
The younger Dreyfus spoke first, shaking Reynolds' hand. "Well, this is quite the operation you've got here. Surprised nobody's found you guys out yet."
"Well we wouldn't be very good at our jobs if we had Mr. Dreyfus." He moved to shake the elder Dreyfus' hand. "Dr. Dreyfus, welcome back. Like what we've done with the place?"
"Director, this is… quite remarkable" replied the old scientist. "You've certainly expanded since I was last here."
"I'm glad you approve. The labs haven't changed nearly as drastically. I'm sure you'll feel right at home."
"Yes! I'm eager to get to work and see what you've discovered in my absence."
"Agent Carlisle mentioned you wanted a brief on Saito Hiraga and his history."
"Ah yes! I would like to review the files on this Saito Hiraga fellow" said the scientist excitedly.
As Reynolds was about to respond, his phone went off, the caller ID indicating it was Agent Owens.
"We'll have a full write up of everything ready for you. Now if you'll excuse me… Agent Carlisle will show you to the lab" said Reynolds, motioning for them to leave.
Once the door had closed, Reynolds picked up the phone. "Reynolds."
"Boss, you might want to get down here. We had a big problem."
"How did this happen?" asked Reynolds, standing over the bloody body of the Russian agent lying in the hallway.
"I still have to review the surveillance tapes to find out what went wrong but…" replied Agent Owens. "We had nothing on him, no family, no leverage to get him to talk. So I followed your orders and prepared to use… different methods to get him to talk."
Reynolds said nothing as Owens continued.
"We were preparing to transfer him to a black site for questioning. He grabbed one of the guards' weapons and shot two of my men. The guards had orders to keep him alive but… he must have forced their hand."
At that moment, one of the guards came in. "Sir, surveillance tapes are ready" he said.
The three moved to the security console outside the cell. "Proceed" ordered Reynolds, still seething.
The high-definition camera captured everything. The video showed the agent sitting in his cell as the guard came to the door.
"Prisoner, stand and face the wall."
The Russian said nothing as he complied.
"Hands on the wall where I can see them."
The Russian obeyed as one guard walked in and another trained his weapon on the prisoner.
The instant the first guard touched the Russian's left hand to handcuff him, the Russian moved.
At a speed defying his apparent age, the Russian pulled and slammed the guard against the wall and in one smooth motion, grabbed the handgun from the guard's right hip and fired into the guard.
Reynolds' immediate thoughts at this harkened back to his days in the CIA.
The guard fell, clutching his side. The Russian used the body as a shield to position himself next.
Reynolds had learned the wounded man was in intensive care but expected to survive.
The second guard in the room raised his weapon but hesitated.
The Russian however, did not hesitate, firing at the guard twice. The first round missed, but the second one caught the guard in the shoulder, sending him to the ground in pain.
The Russian fled through the open door and down the hallway.
He didn't get far as he was eventually cornered in the maze-like hallways of the SWORD sub-basements. The Russian grumbled, looking for a way to escape as two guards came up, weapons drawn.
"DROP THE WEAPON! BROS' ORUZHIYE!"
The Russian did nothing but stare back at them.
"DROP THE WEAPON OR WE WILL FIRE!"
Barely audible, but enough to be picked up by the cameras, the Russian whispered.
Motherland thought Reynolds, remembering his rusty Russian.
The tense standoff lasted only a few seconds. The instant the Russian began bringing the gun to bear, the guards fired one shot each, both striking the Russian. By the time a medic had gotten to him, he was dead. And with that, their best shot at figuring out what the Russians knew was gone, bled out on the floor.
Owens turned the screen off as Reynolds absorbed the information. He let out a long sigh as he spoke.
"So we're back to square one then…" he said.
"Looks like" replied Owens. "I'm sorry. We should have had more men in there…"
Reynolds said nothing as he moved to leave.
"Clean up this mess, Owens" he said from the hallway.
Owens felt nothing but shame as he replied. "Yes sir…"
Tristain Magic Academy
Tiffania fell to her knees, panting.
"Another" ordered Louise, standing off to the side. Her arms were crossed as she watched Tiffania practice her void spells
After a sharp exhale, Tiffa pushed herself up.
"You're still using too much energy for the portals. Try to focus on using only what you need. Come on. One more then we'll rest."
Tiffa rolled her shoulders. She was sweating underneath her professor's robe. She hadn't even had time to change into something more suited for training before Louise had dragged her from lunch to practice their Void magic.
"I go back home tomorrow, so we're getting our practice done today!" she'd ranted as she dragged her fellow Void mage out to the Vestri Courtyard.
She watched as Tiffania began chanting for the portal spell. They had memorized the incantations long ago and were able to quickly go through the words.
A portal began forming at the end of Tiffa's wand as she began pushing all her strength into it.
"Good, good, keep it up!" shouted Louise.
The portal materialized and through it, Des Ornieres was clearly visible. Tiffa was able to hold it another ten seconds before she dropped her wand and closed it. Though portalling to another point in Halkeginia was less magic-intensive than portalling to Earth, it still strained her.
She wobbled a bit but managed to stay on her feet this time.
"You're getting better. Remember, the best way to build up your reserves is to exhaust them" said Louise.
"Really?" panted Tiffania. "I don't see you barely able to stand. And you cast three in a row!" she shot back playfully.
Louise shrugged her shoulders. "I ate a big lunch."
The two shared a brief moment of silence before they burst out laughing.
"Founder" said Louise between laughs. "I missed this."
"Yes, it's been far too long since we truly trained together" replied Tiffa. The two sat down on the grass next to each other to enjoy the crisp Autumn breeze blowing through the courtyard.
"I'm sorry we haven't visited more often. The last harvest and Saito's obsession with his mission from Earth have kept us busy" admitted Louise. "It's strange really, I've never seen him this focused on anything."
Tiffania briefly remembered the task Saito had been given by his homeworld. To find the source of the unknown phenomena plaguing Earth.
"Has he found anything?" she asked the pinkette, who shook her head.
"No, he and Colbert have run into a wall. The only information left is at the Romalian Archives."
Tiffa said nothing, apprehensive at the thought of returning to Romalia under the new Pope. As if reading her mind, Louise continued.
"I don't like this new Pope. Too radical" she confessed. "I mean, what is there in the Holy Land worth dying for?"
Tiffania nodded, remembering her time with Saito in the Holy Land. Louise was right. All she remembered was widespread deserts dotted with the occasional oases.
"Every crusade that Halkeginia has sent has ended in disaster. And for what? A desert?" continued the pinkette. She didn't outright say it, her still being a firm believer in the Church of Brimir. But she felt the Church's official position on the Elves was misguided.
True, since the Ancient Dragon Crisis, the relatively small minority of people in Halkeginia identifying as Moderates had blossomed into a majority in Tristain and Gallia. Albion was still split roughly halfway down the middle. Only Romalia maintained its Fundamentalist majority, it being the seat of power for the Brimiric Church.
The Moderates believed that the word of the Founder was much more flexible than was written. Many of them believed that rather than follow the strict interpretation the Church made of Brimir's teachings, devoted Brimirists should instead focus on selectively using the wisdom of the Founder to solve the many problems that plagued Halkeginia, such as corruption, hunger, and poverty.
Queen Henrietta had taken the wisdom of Saito's world and used it to expand on the Moderate view on Brimir's teachings, proactively rooting out corruption where it lay and making an example out of Nobles who did not treat their commoners right. Though many had resisted such radical changes at first, having a direct descendant of the Founder in Louise helped convince those who were… hesitant.
The result had been that Tristain's people were much happier than before and had renewed faith in their Nobles. Even Pope Caius II, before his untimely death, had given the Queen his blessing in strengthening the core tenets of the faith while improving the lives of its followers. Unfortunately, many in the Church in Romalia had not taken too kindly to such radical teachings of free will and freedom of speech and tensions between Tristain and the Fundamentalists in the Holy See had grown significantly in the past few years.
Caius II's death and the election of the Fundamentalist Pope Honorius months prior had only exacerbated the tensions between Tristain and Romalia. Gallia to an extent had also drawn the ire of the Fundamentalists, but with Queen Charlotte being a Void mage, such criticisms were more muted for not wanting to provoke the wrath of the largest of the Brimiric countries. Tristain on the other hand, being such a small country, was much easier to condemn.
Louise, being a Void mage, had received her fair share of criticism for being so fervently behind the Queen. Such criticism was obviously anonymous, as no one dared criticize her openly for fear of drawing the wrath of the Pink Terror, as she was so affectionately referred to in hushed tones.
Though she secretly relished at her reputation, Louise wished for a better name. Pink Terror doesn't necessarily inspire, well terror she'd thought when she'd first heard the name.
"I confess Louise, I do worry about why the Pope would choose to call us down to Romalia, with tensions being the way they are" said Tiffania.
"I know" replied Louise. "There is more at work here than meets the eye. One does not simply gather the four Void Mages and their Familiars in one place without a very good reason. Especially when one of the Void Mages happens to be an elf" she said, looking at her elven friend with worry.
Tiffa met her gaze and nodded, appreciating the concern. "No… And I don't particularly care for the fact that the Pope used your needing access to the Archives to force me to summon another Familiar and get us into this mess" added Tiffania, glancing in the direction of a group of passengers milling about the courtyard.
"Hmmm… When we go down there, you tell your Familiar to watch himself" warned Louise. "From Saito's teachings, I know he is not a Brimirist, nor looking to become one. And neither are the rest of his peers. They already look at you with suspicion. So be careful. The last thing we need is an Inquisition called down upon us."
Tristain Magic Academy
Later that evening
Having just returned from a meeting with Lapidus and the backup flight crew, Captain Rollins set his notes down on his desk and lit one of his precious cigarettes to try to calm his nerves.
Can't use too many of these on the off chance tobacco is scarce here… Still, I think I deserve it after the past few days. Especially with what's to come…
He thought back to the notes he'd received from SWORD earlier.
Flying over an unknown world with no radio guidance, no GPS, and no accurate charts. Just VFR the whole way. This'll be fun.
He was of course referring to the notes currently sitting on his desk detailing the flight plan for the return journey.
OCN29 ECLIPSE RETURN FLIGHT PLAN
TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE WILL OCCUR NOV. 27 AT 1558 ZULU
OCN29 MUST BE IN POSITION WITHIN ECLIPSE UMBRA TO TRANSITION TO EARTH.
FLIGHTPLAN IS AS FOLLOWS
TAKEOFF TRISTAIN MAGIC ACADEMY NOV. 27 AT 1115 ZULU
DISTANCE: 1786 NMI
FLT TIME: 3HR 48MIN
FLY 893 NMI AT MAG HDG 068
FLY 893 NMI AT MAG HDG 098
ARRIVE ECLIPSE SITE NO LATER THAN 1515 ZULU
TRANSITION TO EARTH AT 1558 ZULU
ECLIPSE EMERGENCE SOMEWHERE IN THE VICINITY OF MIDWAY ATOLL
(JUST FOCUS ON NOTHING BUT MIDWAY ATOLL WHEN TRANSITIONING AND THE PORTAL WILL SPIT YOU OUT WHERE YOU NEED TO GO)
(IT WORKED FOR HIRAGA. IT'LL WORK FOR YOU. DON'T BOTHER ASKING HOW IT WORKS. IT'S MAGIC. WE DON'T KNOW EITHER)
That last statement had gotten a few nervous chuckles from the pilots as they'd discussed it.
REACQUIRE NAV/GPS UPON EMERGENCE. MAKE CONTACT WITH ESCORT FLIGHT
MIDWAY ATOLL AIRFIELD ARRIVAL
DISEMBARKATION AND DEBRIEF
Rollins saw the sense in Midway Atoll. It was small, isolated, and a military installation. Perfect for hiding an airliner that "crashed on a deserted island in the Pacific". The entire crew had laughed awkwardly when the SWORD agents had explained the cover story they'd come up with for the airliner's disappearance and eventual discovery.
And yet on that note, he couldn't help but wonder what agony his ex-wife and children were going through. Or the loved ones of his passengers.
Missing and presumed dead he thought. How are we going to deal with that when we return?
He recalled a passage from a book he'd read recently that seemed appropriate. One person he did not envy was SWORD's communications department.
"Dear Earth, remember those passengers who died and we had some nice funerals for? Turns out they're alive and were "stranded on a deserted island!" Our bad!"
It's like Cast Away times 122 he thought. Nothing we can do about it except trust SWORD to handle it. The clandestine organization had already pledged to handle everything from rent payments to feeding passengers' pets. Though Rollins knew the emotional damage would be harder to overcome for everyone's loved ones.
Turning back to the notes, he sighed.
Two months he thought. Two months and I'll be performing the most critical and most dangerous flight in my career.
If, during his training in the Australian Air Force, someone had told him he'd someday have to fly a passenger airliner over a fantasy world with no guidance, he'd have punched the bloke in the face and had a laugh.
Still, Rollins couldn't help but worry. The problem is fuel.
Their plan meant that their margin of error fuel-wise was small, less than two hours of flexibility if something went wrong. They had burned through most of their fuel on the flight over the Pacific and circling around Tristain. The plane only had a limited amount of fuel left and even IF Colbert could make enough for them, they still had no way of pumping it into the 787's massive fuel tanks.
If their timing was wrong, they'd be royally fucked. Take off too early and they might not have enough fuel to circle around waiting for the eclipse. Take off too late and they'd miss the Eclipse altogether or burn extra fuel trying to make up lost time.
They had to take off with enough time before the eclipse where most of the time and fuel spent waiting for it to occur would be used to fly to the site.
Hmph he chuckled as the nicotine in the cigarette finally began to take effect. I'll need to look at the local maps… I still don't like it. Too many unknowns...
Being the last one out, Tiffa closed the door to the Headmaster's office.
Bloody staff meetings she thought. They've devolved into screaming matches. These new staff are more trouble than they're worth.
Now that she was finally done with her responsibilities, she could finally go speak with her familiar.
She'd heard Vic wanted to speak to her regarding his abilities. And truth be told, she wanted to speak to him as well, ensure he was adjusting to them.
Being a small academy, it took no time for news to spread. By late afternoon, all her students could talk about was how the professor's new familiar had burnt his lunch to a crisp... after he sneezed.
He's likely at Camp Oceanic with the rest of them she thought, making her way downstairs from the Main Tower.
The passengers had quickly designated their usual meeting spot just outside the walls of the Academy "Camp Oceanic", due to being near the eponymous machine that had brought them to Tristain.
Crossing the courtyard quickly, she could already hear the spirited conversations coming from just outside the walls.
"Basically, now that SWORD can finally talk to us, they won't shut up" said Hansen chuckling, discussing the few things he could with his fellow passengers. A group of them had gathered at Camp Oceanic around a small bonfire and were relaxing underneath the alien sky of Halkeginia, the twin moons hovering over them.
Victor listened to the conversation, but had decided to immerse himself in the book he was reading and forget about the embarrassment that had transpired throughout the day.
First, he'd sneezed and burnt his lunch to a crisp… as well as his neighbor's right eyebrow.
Not to mention what had occurred later that day in his room... when he'd fired out the other end…
Those were my favorite kind of briefs too… he thought sadly.
He shuddered, trying to hide his red face from the rest of his passengers in his book. Luckily, nobody had been around for that last one and nobody seemed to notice his beet red face.
"Well, I'm freezing, so I'm going to bed. G'night mates" said Hansen, as he walked off. Victor kept his eyes on his book but gave him a fist-bump as he walked by him.
It wasn't long before something else interrupted his reading.
Looking up from his book, Vic saw none other than his summoner walking up to him. Scooting over, he let her sit down next to him.
"Hey, glad you found me. Been meaning to talk to you."
"So I hear. I assume it's due to your newfound abilities?"
Whatever witty retort Victor had, died in that moment.
"You heard about lunch…" he deadpanned, staring back at the fire.
"I heard about lunch…"
Victor rolled his eyes. "The whole 'being-able-to-control-fire" thing is cool but I have no idea HOW to control it" he said. Looking back at his summoner, he swallowed his pride before continuing. "Think you could give me a few pointers on how to not light shit on fire every time I sneeze?"
Tiffania, despite having no idea what he meant by "cool", nodded her head in agreement.
"I thought you might say that…"
After a pregnant pause, she continued.
"I'd be more than happy to teach you some of the magic I know" she said, looking at him. "Fire happens to be my secondary affinity so we could start there and work our way through the other elements. But not mere control. I want my Familiar to be competent. If I do this, I'll be teaching you how to wield your magic properly."
Victor's eyebrows shot up. "I… You'd teach me how to be an actual mage? Throwing fireballs and lightning and shit?"
"Yes. Although I do ask something in return" she said. "I need help practicing my Void spells. Louise and Saito return to their estate tomorrow. I need to brush up on my spells before our trip to Romalia. Would you be willing to lend me some of your power and help me practice?"
Victor shrugged. "Sure, it shouldn't be a problem" he said, excited at the prospect of learning magic. "So when do we get started?"
Tiffa nodded. "My afternoons are relatively quiet, so I am certain we could find some time starting tomorrow."
Vic smiled. "Cool. Harry Potter status achieved" he said with a smile, rubbing his hands together.
Tiffa seized the opportunity to finally ask him. "You keep using that word: cool? What does it mean? And what is Harry Potter status?"
Victor couldn't help but laugh. "Cool means something is… well… umm… Shit, I've never had to describe what it means" he chuckled. "It means something is neat, interesting, or fascinating. As for the other question, it's a book series from Earth about a boy wizard who goes to a magic school, much like this one."
"But I thought there was no magic on Earth?"
"There isn't… although recent events have got me wondering... But I digress. Just cause we don't have magic doesn't mean it's absent from our fiction. In fact, the concept of elves has been around for centuries."
Over the next hour, Tiffania couldn't help but be amazed at the wondrous works of fiction Victor was describing. The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Game of Thrones, an entire genre dedicated to things that would be commonplace in Halkeginia but were mere fiction on Earth.
"I actually happen to have the Harry Potter and Game of Thrones series on my tablet if you'd like to read them sometime. And the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies are on my laptop if you want to see the books come to life."
"Oh, are those the moving pictures from Earth? Saito has often spoken of them. Louise says they are quite the sight."
"Yep, that's it. You're going out of your way to teach me here. So feel free to ask to read or watch them any time."
"It would be wonderful to see them."
It being late, the two continued their conversation as they walked back to the dormitory together, their rooms being next to each other. As they reached Tiffa's room, she turned to her Familiar.
"For your training tomorrow, meet me at the Vestri Courtyard at 2 in the afternoon. And find something to wear that you're comfortable training in."
Vic nodded. "Sounds good, I'll see you then."
An awkward moment of silence went by before Tiffa finally broke it.
"Well, I must get to bed. Good night Victor" she said quickly, entering her room in a hurry.
"Yeah" he replied, confused, as the door closed. "Good night."
Victor stared at the door for a moment before moving to his own room.
Was she checking me out? he thought, his face scrunched up. He looked back at the door one more time before entering his own.
Shutting the door, he moved to his suitcase to change for bed, still thinking about the encounter. I mean, sure she's cute…
Catching his line of thought, Vic scolded himself mentally. Down boy, that's your other head thinking. You know what happens when you get your heart broken by a girl. You throw yourself on apps and bring home the first girl you meet up with. Happened with Lina, happened with Erin…
He sighed, still remembering his latest breakup.
Not like that helps you forget though...
It'd been a week and he was still having restless nights when all he could think of waiting to fall asleep was Erin.
I figured a trip to the other side of the world would help put some distance between us and sort things out. Heh… Well, I guess this place is just as far.
That line of thought brought him to another, one he hadn't really thought of before.
Jesus… I wonder how she's dealing with this. She probably thinks I'm dead with the rest of us…
Great he thought. I should hate her but now I feel bad for her.
He slipped on his sleeping tank and sweatpants and stared out the window letting his thoughts wander.
Ah, fuck you love he grunted mentally, grabbing his book and jumping into bed.
Tiffania closed the door.
She moved to her cupboard and poured herself a glass of wine to get her thoughts in order. She had not intended to linger outside her door, but she had frozen, just standing there with her Familiar, for some reason. Like one of my fawning students she thought, rolling her eyes and recalling a certain, fiery Germanian redhead. Perish the thought, Tiffania. He's attractive, yes, but nothing will happen. Even if it does, it won't end well with his imminent departure.
At a glance, beneath Victor's good looks and crude sense of humor, she sensed a vast reservoir of feeling and passion. There was also an immense amount of guilt and sadness hidden within him.
That's good, magic is about feeling, it comes from within. We can use that tomorrow. But what could possibly weigh so heavily upon him that it's clearly visible?
She couldn't help but empathize with him, especially given that she had brought him here.
He's had his heart broken... recently she theorized. Or he's lost someone dear to him.
Hmph… Maybe we're not so different after all she thought, sipping the wine.
Loss was one thing Tiffa knew all too well. Her train of thought inevitably carried her to memories she would rather forget.
Although he had been distant during her childhood, her father had never left Tiffania or her mother wanting. The Duke had made sure they were well taken care of.
But it was his keeping of an elven mistress that had brought some of the more extremist individuals in Albion down upon them without mercy. The same extremists whose manifesto eventually lead to Reconquista.
First, they had ambushed her father while hunting, slitting his throat from ear to ear.
Then, they had come for her mother and her.
Be quiet my little dove. Whatever happens, you must not make a sound. I love you.
Those were the last words her mother had ever spoken to her.
Tiffania could feel her heartbeat picking up and tears forming in her eyes. She took another large swig of the wine.
The nightmares of hiding in the closet had mostly subsided over the years, but she could still remember her mother screaming.
Tiffania had followed her mother's orders and kept quiet. She kept quiet as her mother was dragged out of the closet screaming. She kept quiet as they drove their knives into her over and over. She kept quiet as they left her there, bleeding to death. She kept quiet until her father's vassal, the Baron of South Gotha found her still hiding in the closet less than an hour later.
Her father's most trusted follower, he personally executed the few attackers left alive after he and his men at arms had rushed to their liege lord's defense. However her being an elf meant he had to smuggle her out and hide her in the forest.
Shaking her head as if to shake the bad memories away, she downed the glass of wine and poured herself another.
Tiffania sighed. Every time my thoughts wander, they turn to that…
She stared out the window, trying to think about something else, the moons above staring back at her.
Her thoughts turned to tomorrow's magic lesson, and how she would teach her Familiar how to channel his magic.
It was staring through the window that she noticed lightning in the distance.
Odd, you don't usually see thunderstorms in Autumn she thought.
The lightning itself was also odd as it flashed far more frequently than she'd ever seen it.
Looking closely, she saw strange colors in the sky above the storm.
What is that? she wondered.
As the day shift left for the day, the SWORD night shift watched the monitor as the same unseasonal lightning storm flashed over the Belgian countryside. All the while, their readings on Void energy spiked with every flash of lightning.
Above ground, Alexander, Robert, and Agent Carlisle walked to their waiting escort. After nearly being compromised by the Russians, SWORD was taking no chances. Alex looked up and noticed something strange in the distance.
Carlisle followed his eyes, followed by Robert. In the distance, lightning flashed at a high frequency. Above the storm, an Aurora Borealis danced in the sky.
"High-level static discharge. And an Aurora as well. That's a Class 3 Anomaly" she remarked. "Void energy bleeding through from the space between our two worlds."
"My… This is quite remarkable" said the elder Dreyfus.
"Pretty, yes. But it also means there's a soft spot in the membrane between our worlds somewhere around that area" explained Carlisle.
"A soft spot?" asked Alex.
"Yeah. And you better pray that it stays that way" said Carlisle, getting into the SUV. "If an unstable breach opens up there, we'll be in for a long night."
Tiffania extinguished the flames on her end of the hole and walked through to Victor's room.
"I still don't get what happened" he told her.
Before she could speak, Hagrid crashed through the door to the room.
"Yer a wizard, Victor."
Oooooooh got a little dark in this chapter. And what's this? Potential teasing of some sort of future interaction between Master and Familiar? Who knows? We'll find out soon enough,
Next chapter should pick up the pace.
Please read and review!