A few years ago, in a galaxy far, far away...
Off in the slate fields, a small avianesque shuttle landed—sleek, angular and utilitarian in design. It hissed, pressurised air escaping from the side of the ship as a ramp extended outwards, touching down on the slate ground. Just above where the ramp connected to the ship, another hiss and the side of the ship above split in two.
Three figures disembarked the ship, marching down the ramp and onto the dark grey slate, their heavy boots grinding, crushing loose stones against the ground.
The leader of the trio was Oren Bosket. A study man of average height, he was dressed in the usual uniform of the Imperial Officer with his grey tunic, trousers and calf high boots. Upon his breast was his rank insignia plaque, showcasing three red and three blue squares representing his rank of Commander. Beside him where his men, dressed in roughed up Imperial armour with its trademark grey angular designs and bucket-like helms.
They continued marching until they arrived at their goal: The anomaly.
An unconscious girl, looking little younger than a teenager with bright pink hair that was strewn around her messily. The girl was thin and short, no taller than four-foot-ten and dressed in a primitive linen white shirt and a grey pleated skirt. Despite its dirty and damaged appearance, it was obvious to the three that it was well made. Beside her was a decorative stick, no longer than her forearm and only as wide as a finger.
The three shrugged the stick off as unimportant, more interested in the unconscious girl with the unnatural hair colour.
"Curious," Commander Bosket said, rubbing his stubble with his hand, "Are you sure there were no ships detected in the system? The sector?"
"None, sir!" piped up one of the helmeted men. "We just got some strange readings. Radiation or something."
"Take her with us, we'll figure who she is and decide then." The two soldiers complied, walking over to pick up the girl as their Commander marched back to the ship.
When the two others returned with the strange girl, he knocked on the door leading to the cockpit twice, signifying for the pilot to head back to base. As the ship flew, his mind was heavy with thoughts on what should be done with their mysterious person. He would have to inform the Empire of their find, which was going to bring a mountain of paperwork down on his head. Not only that, but it might get the Sith interested and that was something he did not want nor need.
Too soon, they arrived back at base where the girl was taken to the medbay to have some tests run on her as well as to discover her identity while the Commander prepared for the headache she was to bring.
Not an hour later, the headache arrived, but it was for a completely different reason. "What do you mean she doesn't exist?" he asked his intelligence officer.
"I mean, that I checked all the databanks we have at our disposal, including the public databases that Republic aligned worlds have. Not only that, but we tested her blood and… well, she has the lowest recorded count of midi-chlorians I've ever seen, but also a terrible immune system. I'm not even sure how she's alive and I doubt she would survive for much longer, especially if someone just so happened to cough in her general direction."
Commander Bosket considered what had been said for a few moments, "What's your opinion on this girl?"
"I think she might have been from a pre-hyperspace society. Possibly pre-industry considering the information we've gathered after scanning her clothes."
"So, for all intents and purposes, she's an unknown."
"Have you contacted the Empire about this?"
"No. I don't think we should," The Commander mumbled, once again scratching his stubble. Bringing the Empire into this could lead to Sith investigation, and that's the last thing I need. He turned his eyes to the morgue, where he knew a few slaves were to be cremated after an accident. We've lost man power and we need more personnel working the mines… but it could end with a blemish on my name, not reporting it.
As he considered this, the Imperial officer beside him could not help but ask, "Then, what do you want us to do with her, Commander?"
Finally coming to a decision, he said, "Give her an immune booster, then throw her in the slave pits."
THE SITH ZERO
Louise de La Vallière is the infamous second-year student of the Tristain Academy of Magic. Known among her peers as Louise the Zero, every spell she tries to cast ends in an explosion.
Her last chance is the SPRING TIME FAMILIAR SUMMONING, a ritual performed by second-year students where they summon and bind an animal as their life companion. Should she fail, she will be expelled from the Academy where her mother will decide her fate.
As the fateful day draws near and anxiety fills the hearts of every second-year student, something begins to stir in the Void….
Chapter I: New Worlds
It was a pleasant day, with winter having ended only a short while ago. The sun was shining and the morning dew on the lush grass made the plains around the Tristain Academy of Magic sparkle. However, the students of the Academy would find their peaceful morning interrupted by one of their own.
An explosion shook the foundations of the Academy. Dust, soot and smoke blasted from one of the lower windows of the Earth Tower, and the startled yells of all those around echoed into the quiet morning.
Inside, a class had been taking place. It was a second-year class and one of the first lessons the students were taking for the term, and the first they had with a new teacher. Professor Chevreuse the Red Earth was a plump woman who preferred to dress in an expensive black robe underneath a purple cloak with a wide brimmed pointed hat. She, as her runic name implied, taught Earth Magic. This lesson in particular was about transmutation, an important facet of Earth Magic, however, it had all gone downhill when she summoned a particular student to perform the spell.
Despite the protests of the class, she had thought she had made the correct choice as the student had been taking down notes vigorously throughout the entire lesson… aside from when the other students had started making fun of her. That aside, Chevreuse knew that the girl had potential.
Unfortunately, she should have listened to the students' outcry about her choice: Louise de La Vallière.
Standing at four-foot-nine with a petite build, Louise walked proudly to the front desk amidst the warnings and jeers of the other students. Bright pink and thick hair flowed down from her head to hips in slight waves and her pink eyes sparkled with determination. She was dressed in the usual uniforms of the Academy, a white button-up blouse with a grey pleated skirt and a gold medallion with a pentagram etched in the centre fastened around her neck. On top of that was a black cloak signifying her status as a second year.
When Louise came up to cast, she did everything right, from the pronunciations to the wand-movements and finally, envisioning the metal she wished: bronze. Yet, as every other time she cast a spell, it ended in an explosion.
The professor had been thrown against the blackboard, knocked her unconscious. The desk the demonstration took place was all but annihilated, whereas the closer auditorium desks had been flung back, colliding with the makeshift barricades the students hastily created from their own desks. Windows had been blown out and dust had been kicked up into the air. Yet despite the chaos, Louise stood unaffected by the explosion, despite being only second to Chevreuse in terms of proximity to the blast.
Surveying the damage, Louise could not help but sigh. Another failure…
And it would seem the rest of the class agreed if the glares directed at her meant anything. "What's the matter with you!?" the usually sultry, now incensed voice of Kirche von Zerbst shouted from the safety of her desk wall.
Louise scowled, turning towards the voluptuous tanned girl with a thick head crimson hair. "I just screwed up a little bit," she replied, trying to keep her voice calm in the face of adversity.
"What part of this is 'little'?" whined another student, the portly blond named Malicorne de Grandprè.
Louise bristled at the insult but kept an impassive mask in the face of failure, even when the room began to descend into more decries. She knew and should have expected this to happen. But I just had to go up and try. She thought bitterly. With her head held high, she marched out the room, planning to go to the Headmaster's Office before being collected, again. On her way out, she found Tabitha, a smaller girl with blue hair, however, based on what Louise had seen, her height was inverse of her magical potential. She supposed the girl had left pre-emptively to avoid any injuries.
The blue-haired girl looked up from her book, asking in a monotone, "Teacher?"
Louise let out a long-suffering sigh, "Unconscious."
Tabitha nodded silently, walking back into the classroom, probably, hopefully, to take the professor to the healers.
Crossing her arms, Louise began walking down the hall of the tower, passing a few classrooms and down a flight of stairs, each step causing her mood to drop. Had she been a proper mage, she would have been able to simply levitate herself down the steps, yet any time she tried the spell, it would explode, and she certainly did not wish to try it on herself.
Once she exited the tower, she made her way across the long path leading to the main tower. She watched a few third years out on tables outside, enjoying the sun or preparing for the lessons to come. Some noticed her, and she could hear them snigger, speaking to their friends which in turn brought more eyes upon her.
Louise ignored them, of course, and continued walking along the paths until she arrived at the main tower. Skirting along the side, she eventually arrived at the entryway. After that, it was only a quick walk through some rooms, halls, and up a few flights of stairs before she found herself standing before the Headmaster's Office. The room outside the office was bare, with only a simple waiting bench and potted plant nearby for decoration.
Moving to knock, Louise quickly retracted her hand when the door swung open on its own, revealing the two denizens of the office; Miss Longueville and Headmaster Osmond.
The green haired Miss Longueville, the Headmaster's secretary, was dressed in her usual blue robes with white highlights and a wine-red cloak. She was sitting down at her desk, looking the least bit annoyed, but by what, Louise did not know; though the scornful looks she sent the Headmaster, and the fact that the Headmaster's pipe was on her desk could have been a clue.
The Headmaster was a wizened man with a long silver beard and hair. He was dressed in a plain, yet fine robe of dark grey and had a quite few rings on his fingers. He looked exasperated.
"Miss Vallière," he said with a sigh, templing his fingers as he looked at her with his pricing brown eyes.
With a hung head, Louise walked into the office, taking a seat on one of the chairs in front of his desk and prepared herself for another chastisement.
Approximately half an hour later, Louise was finally freed from the Headmaster's office. Her mood had plummeted throughout the lecture she was given. Not for the first time since arriving in this school, had she been told to be careful with her magic, reminded of her place as a mage and a noble, the religious significance of her status, and the strain of her schooling on her family, both financially and reputation wise. Fortunately, her punishment had been near non-existent after she informed the headmaster of what happened, but there was warning in his voice. Her punishment would be dealt tomorrow, and the extent of which would be dependent on whether or not she failed the Springtime Familiar Summoning.
Failure would mean expulsion. Success would mean that the school would have something to work with.
Calming herself with a deep breath, Louise headed down the staircase from the office, ready to absorb herself in her books once again. However, unlike when she ascended the stairs sometime prior, she ran into an obstacle, or rather, three obstacles.
Kirche Augusta Frederica von Anhalt-Zerbst. Montmorency Margarita La Fère de Montmorency and… Tabitha. While she had no qualms with the petite bespectacled blunette—as she was a quiet bookworm who had only muttered a handful of words to Louise since the start of this year—the other two she found herself loathing. To be honest, Louise would have liked to been friends with Tabitha, had she kept better company, but fortune had never favoured Louise. At the moment, the girl was simply doing as she did best; silently reading a book while her only friend and her only friend's friend, looked on imperiously at Louise.
Kirche the Ardent, to put it in the nicest way Louise could, was a tart. She seemed to love dressing in her one-size-too-small uniform with the top two buttons of the blouse undone to show off her, admittedly large, assets, strutting around with her thigh-high leather boots and golden choker, all to increase her appeal. Some would have called Louise petty had that been the only reason for her disdain for the redhead, so she was pleased that she had more than enough reason to loathe the woman; the main two contenders were the incessant bullying—which included the creation of her most hated epithet—and the way she showed off how superior she was in every way to the petite pinkette.
Then there was Montmorency the Fragrancewho may seem like a vapid blonde who was too blind to see her lover's unfaithfulness but was actually quite handy with a cauldron. Her hair was styled in tight ringlets with a red bow tied immaculately atop her head, and, unlike Kirche, she wore her uniform in a conservative fashion—as any proper Tritainian noble should. While not as incessant and aggravating as the redhead, she still seemed to despise Louise for whatever reason.
"So, what's the story? Another trip to the detention room, or are they finally expelling you?" asked Kirche, trying to appear serious, but it was obvious that the girl was amused. It seemed Montmorency also found the downcast look of Louise funny as she too had to hide a snicker with a small cough. Tabitha turned a page.
Louise kept her eyes straight, not focusing on any of the three, as she walked past the group. "They decided not to punish me."
"What!?" exclaimed the two girls, their shock by the leniency of the school's officials obvious to the naked eye. "Why not?"
"They said," Louise began with a sigh, holding back the urge to sneer at the two as annoyance permeated her voice, "that it was partially the teacher's fault for asking me to demonstrate, after being warned by everyone in the class." Her answer, filled with bitter resentment, seemed to humour the blonde and redheaded girls as they both began to laugh. "I'm just having a bad day," stressed Louise.
"Yeah? Well, you're always having a bad day. You can't even get a real runic name, Louise the Zero!" Kirche teased.
Louise span around, sneering at the two, "Why don't you just be quiet!" she spat.
Despite Louise's outburst, Kirche ignored her. "Tomorrow will be fun. I can't wait to see what kind of familiar you manage to summon." The bait was obvious, but Louise could not help but bite.
"Oh yeah? Well, I'm confident in one spell: Summon Servant!" Louise shouted, glaring at the two who recoiled slightly at the vehement proclamation, "Just you watch. I'll conjure up a familiar that is divine, and beautiful, and powerful—and it will be better than anything you could cook up. Then we'll see who's laughing!" Spinning on her heel, she began stomping down the staircase, wanting to get as far away from the two as fast as possible.
Her goal was in mind: The library. In an act of kindness on the Headmaster's part, she had been given the day off to mentally prepare for the Summoning tomorrow and she wished to waste no time in silly things like relaxing, not when something as serious as this was before her.
The sun soon fell beyond the horizon; the twin moons soon taking up prominence in the night sky. Most, if not all students had gone back to their bedrooms—or in some cases, the bedrooms of others. Louise, at this moment, was being shooed out of the library and the librarian's insistence; something she felt mild annoyance at.
"Miss Vallière. You have been at this school for little over a year, read through almost all of the books you have been permitted to read more times than any other student, and yet found nothing," the librarian, the attractive Albionese Madam Black, said as she shooed Louise, "Go to bed. Tomorrow is the Springtime Familiar Summoning. If you are a mage, we'll find out tomorrow."
Louise frowned, holding her tongue as she remembered the last time she had pleaded to stay in the library after hours. With a mumbled apology, Louise left the library—after, of course, putting each of the books away. Once done, she left the large library quickly, heading towards her bedroom, her safe haven, as quickly as possible.
As she hoped, the walk was quick, and she soon traversed through the school to her dorm.
Entering, she found it a lot cleaner than it had been when she awoke. Obviously, the servants had tended to her room in her absence; books mostly about magical theory that were strewn about the previous night due to excessive studying were now stacked neatly near her desk; the dirty clothing she wore the day before had been taken from her room and probably washed; her stationary she had been using to write a letter to her mother and sister had been placed packed away with what looked like a fresh inkwell ready for use; and finally, her bed had been made with her pillows puffed and new blankets to replace the dirty ones.
Walking to her large set of drawers, she began to discard articles of clothing from her cape to her shirt and skirt, letting them all fall to the floor in a small pile. She then opened her draws and pulled from it, one of her pink lacy nightgowns, pulling it over her head and over her diminutive frame. Briefly, her eyes flickered to her books but quickly pulled away. Normally, she would have begun to read through her books again, but tonight, she could not pull herself to do so; Madam Black's comment was still ringing in her mind. If… If I am a mage…
One of her favourite parts of living in the Academy was the personal quarters. As Louise soon learned, the personal quarters were a place where one could act however they pleased without the tiring politics or rumours flying around, that is if they are alone; something that was always the case for the youngest Vallière.
She remembered breaking down crying during her first year when her colleagues had been especially cruel. It was the day that she had also been given the "runic name" of 'Zero,' a name that had spread like wildfire all over the Academy to even her eldest sister, Éléonore. In some cases, a small few even thought it was her actual runic name, and her classmates were always there to fuel that assumption. Of course, she never told anyone about this, not even Cattleya, the middle child of the Vallière family—she did not need to place any more stress on her sickly sibling.
Even now, Louise felt like crying, yet, she did not allow herself to do so. Tomorrow was the final chance she would have to prove she would have magic, and if she failed, she would be expelled where her father would be the one to decide her fate; married off to her fiancé, Jean-Jacques Francis, or disowned and forced to become nothing more than a commoner.
She knew that the latter would be unlikely, but the thought that it could be a possibility still haunted her.
With nothing better to do, Louise crawled into her cool queen-sized canopied bed, and tried to drift off to sleep, but found the land of dreams a hard place to reach; her mind always going back to thoughts on the Familiar Summoning. After a few hours of restlessness and fidgeting, however, she fell into a deep, nightmare-filled, slumber.
Visions of massive metal monstrosities floating in the void above, firing massive bolts of red, blue or even green fire at each other. Similar constructs annihilating massive cities of steel, charring the ground below. Men wearing bulky armour of red and white fighting against others donned in colours of grey, black and red, each unleashing similar blasts of fire from musket like contraptions as men fell to the ground, dead.
Then, a large stone temple in the centre of the cityscape, burning to the ground as warriors with blades of emerald and aqua danced Hel's dance against those wielding blades of crimson; they used wandless magic, flinging foes, and leaping inhumanly high as their blades swung around in near choreographed moves, or even just unleashing hell in lightning form from their fingers.
Then, she saw herself, who was also not, sitting upon a throne-like chair. The girl wore an expensive robe of black, purple, gold and red, looking similar to the gown the Priestesses of Brimir would wear, but altogether different. The lookalike had similar hair, if only a shade or two lighters, but instead of it flowing freely as it had always, it was in a high-top ponytail with two bound tresses of hair that fell from behind her ears and onto her chest.
She looked slightly older and more developed than Louise was, but her skin was pale with dark rings around her eyes, contrasting what should have been bright pink eyes. Instead, they were the colour of sulphur with rims of red. Eyes that bore into her soul, bringing her worst fears to the forefront of her mind, combined with the most horrible sadistic grin promising pain and untold terror for those who dare cross her.
Then she woke, with nary a memory of her dream aside from a vague feeling of dread.
"Today is the Springtime Familiar Summoning!" Professor Colbert exclaimed to his students. "This is the first exam of your second year, as well as the sacred day where you will meet your familiar spirit; a creature who you will spend the rest of your life with as a part of your Noble family…"
While the Professor continued to lecture the students about the summoning, Kirche made her way over to Louise with Tabitha hot on her heels. "I can hardly wait to see how divine and beautiful and powerful a familiar you'll summon, Louise the Zero."
"Leave me alone…" Louise growled. She was not in the mood to deal with the Zerbst, being far more tired than usual. Unfortunately, it was something her rival seemed to notice.
"Did someone not get enough sleep?" asked Kirche, her tone like she was talking to a baby.
Louise glared up at the taller girl. "Shut up, Zerbst," she said, turning back to the Professor. "The Summoning is starting."
The Professor had moved to the side and called for a student to begin the Summoning. The first was a boy named Thomas. He walked up to the edge of a chalk pentagram—which served no purpose other than abiding tradition—and began to cast. Raising his wand he began the ceremony with one of the many variations of the Summoning Spell, intoning the ancient spell as if he were reading it off a note. Once the spell finished and he had performed the flourish of his wand, a large green mirror like orb materialised from nothingness in the centre of the pentagram. It stayed like that for a second, before it disappeared with a flash, leaving behind a floating purple eyeball the size of a head.
It was a Bugbear, a creature said to belong to the air class of familiars, feeding off the ambient magic in the air to stay afloat and to survive.
Immediately after, another student took his place, summoning another creature, then another and another. One after another, each student summoned a familiar, some conjuring something mundane, such as a frog or a cat, to the weird and creepy such as the girl who ended up with a dog sized spider or a duck-beaver… thing. Finally, were the select few students who got the magical and powerful familiars, such as Tabitha's wind dragon; large, blue, with four legs and two powerful wings. From what she had read, the creature was quite young compared to other dragons.
Kirche was the other one who summoned a magical creature, conjuring forth a fire salamander—a large oversized red lizard with a live fire emitting from the tip of its tail—much to the admiration of her male cohorts. Even Louise had to admit she was slightly impressed with her rival, before banishing the thought with a scowl.
"Has everyone summoned a familiar?" asked Professor Colbert, surveying the gathered crowd of assorted creatures and students; oblivious to the familiar-less pinkette who frowned at the question. Am I that forgettable...? She thought.
"Not yet!" Kirche said singsonged, still patting her new familiar, before pointing to Louise, "Louise hasn't summoned anything, yet!"
The buzz that had prevailed over the crowd ended swiftly, everybody stopping what they were doing to turn to Louise with either a nervous frown or malicious joy. Even the teacher took a bit nervous, before it changed to apologetic, then finally something encouraging. "Miss Vallière, could you please step forwards to summon your familiar?"
"Uh… yes," Louise said, choosing to not look at the Professor as she addressed him, moving towards the Summoning circle. Ignore him, just focus on summoning a familiar.
She stopped at the edge of the summoning circle, a mask of indifference covering the nerve-racking fear and anger that festered within. Behind her, she could hear the buzz of the students pick up again, no longer praising each other for their success in summoning a familiar but making jokes or insulting statements at her own expense.
Each insult chipped away at her mask as her anxiety disappeared in a puff of smoke as loathing took hold. She glared at the pentagram, trying to ignore them all as she went through the summoning spell in her head. Raising her wand, she began to chant, ignoring Kirche's barb at her boast the day before, "My servant that exists somewhere in this vast universe. My divine, beautiful, and powerful servant, heed my call! I wish from the very bottom of my heart, bring forth my familiar and appear!"
Then, Louise suddenly swished her wand towards the centre of the pentagram as the rest of the students, and even the teacher braced themselves for an explosion.
Nothing but a vague feeling of dirtiness. Louise still wore the face of anticipation that had taken over during the chanting. It was like time had frozen. And it was quiet. Much too quiet. If someone on the other side of the school had dropped a coin, Louise was sure the entire class would have jumped. Yet, nothing.
Then someone laughed. It was a pathetic laugh, one people who do when they hear a bad joke but don't know whether to laugh or not. Then another, and another, and soon, the entire class was laughing. At first, Louise was confused; there was no explosion, so she could not have failed… right?
But as laughter reached new heights, she finally understood what was happening. I… failed? Her mask cracked as her mind filled with anguish and despair.
"…ouis? Louise!?" the Professor shouted, jolting the Vallière scion back to reality.
She turned around, her eyes blinking owlishly as she looked to the various students laughing at her expense, yet it was only a low hum in her ear. She wanted to run away, to run to her room, shut the door and cry. She wanted to wake up and find out that the entire day was some kind of nightmare. She wanted Cattleya, Mother, Father, or even Éléonore.
She tried to run, but her legs would not carry her. So, without anywhere to run, she—for the first time in years—broke down crying in front of everyone. Howling like a wounded beast, she cried and cried, soon overpowering the sounds of laughter. Some found this even more amusing, their laughter becoming too much for them to keep standing; more chuckled for a bit, before falling into an awkward silence; and others silencing, feeling a sudden ugly feeling of shame gnaw at their gut.
"Louise, we should go to the Headmaster's office…" Colbert said eventually, finding the child-like wailing to be extremely unnerving, but the only reply he got was for the crying to get louder and louder. Eventually, he decided to levitate her to the Headmaster's office. But as he tried to do so, a loud and desperate shout stopped him in his tracks.
Louise did not know what she was doing when she picked up her wand. She felt like she could not control her body like she was possessed. One moment she was being carted off to the Headmaster's office, and the next she seemed to have an epiphany and her body began to move on its own to the centre of the pentagram. That is when she began to chant.
"Shâsot, tyûk, midwan, asha!"
With those first guttural words, everything froze. The unnatural sound of her voice and what sounded like another, older, more masculine voice chanting in unison silenced everyone around her.
"Shâsotjontû ia nuyak, Louise Françoise de Blanc de La Vallière tyûk ro Qyâsik ia kifyit ka nun!"
Strange sky-blue mist began to seep from her wand and hands as she moved them in strange archaic ways. Her head was flung back involuntarily, and she could see the sky darken above as ominous clouds formed overhead.
"Midwansisjontû, kotswinot itsu nuyak!"
The earth inside the pentagram began to crack, releasing dark smoke that began to converge and swirled around her legs. And suddenly, as if something had just clicked in her mind, she felt opened to the world around her. She could feel those around her, this strange feeling permeating from each of them. She could also feel it from the familiars, some of which had fled, and some of which were trying to save their summoners from whatever were to come next. It threatened to overwhelm her, like a tidal wave crashing down upon her, but something blocked it, saving her from drowning.
"Nedrissis nû qyâ nu wonen—"
The wind that was once simply a calm breeze, was now a howling storm as the clouds above thickened and began to swirl above Louise, strange lightning snapping and cracking above.
"—ka châtsatul asha nun razut!"
The instant that final word was spoken, everything stilled for a second, the clouds and smoke seemed to reverse slightly, before a beam of blue cloudy energy shot down from above, slamming onto Louise with a thunderous crash. Everything, students, teacher, and the familiar's that had yet to flee, were thrown back, blinded by the bright flash of light. And just like it appeared, the blue beam disappeared.
Several seconds later, the assembled class were able to recover and began to stand once more. Even with the after effects of the bright flash limiting their eyesight, one thing was certain. There was a crater where the circle once stood, where their fellow student once stood, still smouldering with purple-black smoke.
No body was ever found.
Louise Françoise le Blanc de La Vallière was no more.
The inky blackness of the Void.
That was all Louise could see, no matter which direction she turned and the only thing she could see, was her own body. An ugly sensation washed down her spine, as her mind tried to comprehend what she was seeing. At first, she thought she was simply dreaming, that her wish had come true and the entire summoning had just been a nightmare. So, she pinched herself.
Now confused and scared, she started to act erratically; her breath quickened as her head darted around, hoping and praying to see anything different in the black void she saw now in. Her breathing turned to hyperventilation, and soon her body began to move frantically.
"Hello!" she shouted into the emptiness. "Anybody out there! Somebody, please, get me out of here!"
Her fearful struggling continued until she received a mental slap from her brain, prompting her to try and think of another explanation other than 'dream' for her predicament.
She did not like the conclusion.
"Am I dead…?" she asked to void, her voice barely above a whisper. The more she thought, the more she believed. "I blew myself up after failing the summoning," she said matter-of-factly.
When the situation sunk in fully, she just blinked. This did not look like Valhalla. This did not look like what the Church perched that the afterlife was like. She saw no pearly gates, no Founder, no Valkyries, no gods, no Saints, no nothing. Just the void.
Louise began to laugh.
It was not a kind laugh, one of mirth. It was a cold laugh, one that sent chills down peoples' necks, one that scared children and animals, one that spoke of someone who has lost it all. She laughed when the back of her left hand lit up. She laughed when she felt it burn her hand. She screamed as seven individual runes etched themselves into her skin. She screamed as the black void melted away in a purple-green flash, revealing an azure sky and an amber sun above.
The last thing she saw, was the dark slate of the ground, rushing towards her.
Louise groaned as she stirred from her sleep. Her entire body ached as if she had been hit by a Square-Class spell, and her bed was not helping matters. What did the servants do to my bed, fill it with rocks?
Slowly, Louise pulled herself into a sitting position on her bed before stifling a massive yawn as she stretched her arms out. She went to rub the back of her neck, the part that seemed to ache the most but froze when instead of feeling skin, she the cool touch of metal. Snapping her eyes open, the Pinkette leapt out of the bed and went to go check her neck in the mirror… only to discover that there was no mirror, nor was she in her bedroom.
Louise looked around the strange room, her shock evident. It was quite large and had the basic shape of a stubby 'T' with cold slate floors and dark grey steel walls and roof. She could see no windows anywhere, with the only light coming from strange white lights above her. At the bottom end of the room was an unassuming door and at the other end was a large indent that reminded her vaguely of a large manor door. Along the sides of the main walls, were several beds, much like the one she had been laying on; single sized bunk beds that sat perpendicular to the wall with two grey footlockers on either side of the bed.
Slowly and cautiously, Louise made her way over to one of the door like things. Choosing the manoresque door, she found that it had no handles or anything, yet she knew it to be a separate entity from the wall. And so, with all her strength, she tried to push the door open. Yet it did not budge. She tried finding anything that would allow her to pull, but the entire thing seemed sealed shut.
She could feel panic start to set in as her hands shook and her breathing quickened. Without any idea of how to make the door budge, she rushed to the other door, only to find that the door would move, and acted like a sliding door that slid into the wall.
Passing the threshold, Louise expected to find another way out, a window, or something, but all she found were two rooms; the one closest to the entrance was small with a few horizontal bars hanging from the walls at waist height with several towels on them and a few benches in the middle of the room; the second was larger with a tiled floor and strange pipes hanging from the top half of the walls. It appeared she had walked into some strange kind of washroom with the pipes up near the roof being taps. To her, it was a highly inefficient way to bathe, not that bathing had taken up any part of her mind, at the moment. There was no other door or anything else that clued her in on where she was.
Louise tried to calm herself, knowing that panicking would do nothing good even in this situation. So, with that in mind, she returned to the main room and went back to the bed she had woken up in. There, she sat and tried to review her memories. But try as she might, she could not figure anything out, until she caught a glance at the back of her hands, or more specifically, the back of her left hand.
She gazed at them etching on her skin, and suddenly, she remembered where she got it from: the void. Flashes of memories appeared before her eyes as she began to recall what had happened, from the familiar summoning to the flash of light, to the void, then falling…
Her mind instantly went to the worst-case scenario. "I… I failed the Summoning."
Four words she never wished to utter. Louise felt like curling up into a ball and just dying. I failed…
It was the only thing that made sense; she failed the summoning and her parents had discarded her without letting her say goodbye, possibly because they could not face their failure of a daughter. She was now a fallen noble, worse than a commoner, dressed in strange brown pants, a tan shirt and grey work boots. She had no wand, no power, no anything, only commoner garb and had a strange metal thing strapped to her neck.
Louise did not know how long she spent crying her heart out into the poor excuse of a pillow, and she did not care. She was alone in an alien place without anybody to tell her what was going on. But by the fifth minute, she had blocked out most outside stimuli.
Without any way of telling the time, Louise did not know how much time had passed when she fell into the welcoming arms of semi-consciousness, but soon found herself ripped from it as someone shook her shoulder, saying something in a strange language that she could not understand.
Louise's head snapped towards the voice, only for ice to fill her veins as she was confronted by a large gathering of… people? She could see some… well, normal people, but they only numbered around three out of the fourteen. The rest were made up of strange human-like creatures; four looked similar enough to humans, except for their chalk white skin and the lack of hair atop their heads; another four-looked human enough, if it was not for their bald heads with horns that spurt from their heads like a crown; and finally, three were similar enough to the ones with the horns, however instead of horns, they had two thick tentacles that sprouted from the back of their heads.
It was the tentacle headed creature that caught her eye the most, though, as one of them—an old and frail orange skinned one—was leaning over her curiously, and for some reason, it clicked that he was the one who had spoken.
Instantly, Louise began to back away from the menagerie of beings. Unfortunately, she was only on a single bed so quickly found herself falling from the bed and onto her back—the strange metal collar jabbing painfully into the back of her neck. Her fall had caused a small ruckus within the group who began to move in closer to her, but their movements only caused Louise's fear to kick into overdrive. A loud piercing screech echoed throughout the room as she began scrambling away from the creatures, pulling herself up and rushing to the back of the room to hide in the strange washroom.
The door slid open, permitting her entry, and she suddenly realised that she could not actually use the door as an adequate blockade against the creatures. But she had gotten so far and decided that hiding in the washroom and hoping they would leave her alone was a good enough plan. In the end, Louise found nowhere to hide and soon, her only choice was to try and merge with the furthest corner away from the door.
She could hear the door slid open with a strange hiss as the sound of boots hitting the metal floor came echoed in the nearly empty room. The creature spoke again, the sounds of walking gone. To Louise, it sounded like a question, but for what, only her terror-stricken mind to ponder. After a moment's pause, the footsteps returned and soon she could see the creature once again. He walked like any human would, and, if she was not so scared, she would have noticed the appearance of worry in the creased lines of his face.
Louise shrieked again, causing the orange man to back off slightly, raising his hands to try and placate her. "Monster!" she yelled, curling up as she stared at the creature, "Somebody, help me! Monster!"
It spoke again, its hands and general body language imploring Louise to calm down, but any effect it might have had was dashed when Louise spied the sharpened teeth in its maw.
Her sobbing increased, her cheeks wet with tears as she begged, "Oh Brimir, please don't eat me! Please!"
The creature shouted suddenly, two distinct words that, despite not knowing what they meant, she understood. Calm down. Louise stilled, looking fearfully up at the creature. The creature continued speaking, however, what it was saying, was lost on her.
I-Is it trying to speak to me? Louise thought, looking closely at the thin man… thing. He was dressed similarly, though his outfit was much larger, if dirtier than hers, and he also seemed to have the same metal thingy on the back of his neck. Aside from his dress, the only other noticeable thing was the kind blue eyes. Maybe she was not going to get eaten, but it still left her with someone she was unable to understand and understand her in turn. And so, she said, only to receive a momentarily confused look in return.
He spoke again, but this time the dialect was different, so she assumed it might have been a different language. When she only returned a confused look, he changed again, and again, and again. After a few more language switches, he seemed to give up and revert back to the original language. What he said, was still unknown, but the sigh told her he was exasperated, leaving Louise concerned that she might have annoyed the sharp-toothed not-human.
Then, as if he had an idea, he straightened up and pointed to himself before saying, "Renv'amor."
At first, Louise was confused, but after he repeated it twice, then pointed to her, Louise suspected that he was telling her his name, in some primitive fashion. Well, if this isn't the most barbaric introduction I've ever had. A small part of her thought sardonically. Nevertheless, Louise decided to play along and pointed to the being called 'Ren-va-mor' and proceeded to butcher the unfamiliar name on her first try.
All sense of terror gone, replaced by embarrassment as the orange man just stared at her. With a sigh, he once again pointed towards himself, and said "Ren."
Feeling a mixture of bashfulness and annoyance that the creature had to dumb down its own name for her, Louise huffed and repeated the shorter version of his name, "Ren."
Nodding, he pointed towards her with a hopeful expression. Elation filled her as she realised that the creature, despite not being human, might know her family name, and so she said, with as much confidence as possible in her cowering position, "Louise Françoise le Blanc de La Vallière."
Unfortunately, the creature only gave her a queer look, as if to say, 'do you expect me to call you such a thing?' It was a look that also caused her hopes to be dashed, because had he known of the Vallière name, he would have reacted with more grace, with one speaking to a Noble… or perhaps he's just treating me like a Fallen Noble. A traitorous part of her thought. She could feel her tears start to return, but she pushed them back as fast as she could and answered the amended, "Louise."
"Louise," he repeated, to which she nodded in reply. With a nod of his own, he held out a hand to the young Vallière, obviously intending to help the girl stand up. Considering her options, Louise tentatively grasped the outstretched hand with her own, noting how coarse it felt. Ren, showing surprising strength for one so old and thin, pulled the girl to her feet, where she began to wipe away her tears. Together they left the washroom.
Upon joining the other not-humans on just outside the bath, Ren began to talk adamantly to the others who expressed obvious curiosity and an underlining melancholy towards the pink-haired girl. While they did this, Louise found herself drawn to the various types of not-humans she could see and found that they were more or less dressed the same, with the same metal thingy on their necks. Some tried talking to her, even switching languages to find out if they knew one she spoke after Ren assumedly told them about the language barrier; but it was no use.
As she continued looking at the wide array of creatures, Louise suddenly felt quite silly when she thought back to her reaction, thinking they were monster, despite known there were some humans among them. Not only that, but she felt elation knowing that if she was to be stuck with any inhuman, it was anything other than an Elf.
But, the conversation soon came to an end when a loud and unexpected buzzing sound blared to life around the room, causing Louise to nearly leap from her skin. Everyone else reacted as if this happened every day, though it was obvious they were slightly confused as to what was going on.
Nevertheless, Ren tapped Louise on the shoulder and gestured her to follow the other strange people as they congregated at the other end of the room. She was then forced to get into a line with Louise placed between Ren and one of the people with the horns on his head.
While still confused, Louise suddenly started to feel a dreadful feeling welling up in her stomach as the clock ticked by. Soon, the door she could not open, hissed, before sliding into the walls. And from the greyish hall that was revealed, came three figures. The first was a sturdy human—thankfully—of average height. He was dressed in a grey uniform like tunic with similarly grey pants, calf-high boots and a strange multicoloured plaque upon his breast. He extruded an oppressive aura which was tainted with sleaziness.
His two compatriots, on the other hand, were frightening; dressed in full body armour of dark grey and black, that gave the two an intimidating presence. Not only that, but the fact that all three were armed—the man in the uniform had a strange pistol by his side, while the obvious soldiers held even stranger musket like weapons in their hands—helped make Louise wary of angering them.
The uniformed man stopped halfway between the lineup and the entry door, as his guards, as they undoubtedly were his guards, stood just behind him, armed and ready. His steely grey eyes looked over the gathered beings before they landed on Louise. He barked an order, using the same strange language the rest had spoken.
Knowing it was an order, just from the tone, but not knowing what he said, Louise stood where she was, looking at him strangely. She was about to speak, when Ren stepped forwards, with his head bowed in submission.
The man growled, saying something as he reached for a strange small cylinder on his belt.
Ren flinched, but held his ground as he replied to the man.
The two had a short back and forth, leaving Louise confused and scared. She knew they were talking about her, her name even being mentioned once, but aside from that, she knew nothing about what either of them were saying. Soon, the man said something, smirking cruelly. Ren flinched at the words but obediently replied with what she assumed was something similar to a 'yes, sir' or, 'yes, milord'.
Once again, the man barked something before turning, beginning to march out of the room, his guards following.
Ren left with the three strangers, his head downcast, and Louise tried to follow, not knowing anything that was going on, but before she could, a hand grasped her shoulder. Looking up, she saw one of the creatures with the crown of horns shake her head. The meaning was clear, and from the atmosphere left in the wake of the three men, she did not feel like disobeying.
The door slid closed, and after a few seconds, the rest of the people went on with their lives. A few pitying looks and at least one hostile glare came her way, but other than that, no one else spoke to her or even made a move too. It was almost like they were scared.
And so, Louise was once again alone.
When Ren returned, Louise immediately felt worried. Despite his best attempts to hide it, as it was obvious to the girl he was hiding it, she could see that he walked with a slight limp, and the pained expression betrayed any sense of well-being.
Louise had no idea what to do in this situation. Should she go and help him? Should she get someone else? Whatever her decision, it did not matter, as Ren soon began walking over to her with a pained smile on his face. He moved onto his bed, soon find himself almost relaxed on it.
At the tip of her tongue, a question waited to be asked, despite knowing he would not understand, but it soon died when he picked up her pathetic excuse of a pillow and said a word in his strange language. Five more repeats of the same word later, and Louise finally understood what he was getting at.
"Pillow," she said, mimicking the sounds he made.
And so, Louise began learning a new language.
Hours passed as Ren tried his best to impart the language onto Louise, starting by listing off the names of various things like beds, lockers, doors, arms, legs, tentacles and so on and so forth. By the time Louise thought she could retain the names of objects, he also began to teach her the names of the others, such as the horned girl who stopped Louise was named Notri. She was also given a crash-course in the names of the different creatures they were. Ren was a Twi'lek, Notri was a Zabrak, while the chalk white people were known as the Rattataki, which she found ridiculously hard to pronounce.
Nevertheless, their lessons had to come to an end, something Louise was positively grateful for as she had felt tired ever since Ren had left; the day's events catching up on her. Yet, sleep was hard to find, as when the lights were turned off, and the others had gone to sleep, she found herself repeating the day over and over ago as they slowly sunk in.
Not wanting to wake the others, Louise cried softly, and soon fell asleep when she could cry no more.