Runic - Aeonian Overture

The realms float about in the neon cosmos of mystic forces long thought to be extinct, a universe known as Ambright where mana and technology can transform entire cities into prosperous empires. However, war has left many with pasts forever altered by the times when lands clashed, such is the case with Glave and Uriel. Both have set their lives towards high aspirations. Glave yearns for his lost bloodline. Uriel dreams of becoming her king's loyal patron. Yet their undertakings dissolve as their choices lead further into a path of unexpected threats and struggling values. It would seam that Ambright holds other plans for them.

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14. Chapter 14 - Mothman 2

 

 

"I sometimes wonder if anybody else has perfect red eyes like mine."

-Uriel-

....
 

The shopping channel Char was talking about last night wasn't going to be open until the afternoon, the same time when the twin suns raced each other lower until their halo changed to the darker shades of gold. How Char knew this? Glave didn't know. What he did know is that the chances of that particular store carrying such a hard to find Momentum Switch was slim. However it was a good starting point, for they would begin the search there, and then expand their route upon the entire spectrum of storefronts along that side of the district. It would be well into nightfall before the trip would be finished, rather they came out empty handed or not. At least, that was the plan. But right now it was morning, and with it brought fresh new ideas on the journey in the long term. Glave tried his best to sleep but only got in four hours at bare maximum. The map he and Char were looking at before was still flattened out on his desk, with all the markings on it looking like they drew a complex spider web. Every possible shortcut was planned, every landmark, stopping point, and place where thieves and bandits dwelled were all either circled or marked on in some fashion to make those location very noticeable.

They also took time hypothesising alternative ways to gain entry into farrow should their current plan of using the portal ultimately fail. Char sorted out handfuls of scenarios ranging from rudimentary to utterly complex, but it all came back to the fact that Farrow had been declared a war zone yeats ago, and thus, all travel there was vehemently restricted. Even cargo trains had to make many inspection stops, and going by horse back would take three months. It was like fitting a thread through an apparatus with only one clear opening.

"So yes," Char concluded, "the old portal is the best way into Farrow. Not only is it hidden in a place where most would not venture, but using it will not gain unwanted attention."

"Grove's been involved in wars ever since I was born", Glave added. "I should've expected this from the start." He fumbled the broken gear in his fingers and remembered to bring up a point. "Is it possible that someone could've tampered with the portal on purpose?"

Char's response was surprisingly immediate. "To my understanding, It would take a very organized syndicate to pull off that kind of act. Remember, it's a long process for even me to get inside that dungeon, or any restricted area."

"So it's not likely."

"Well, anything is possible. Keep that in mind as we walk through the shopping district this afternoon."

"That's a given." Glave nodded. "I knew that traveling there with usual means was basically impossible. The inspection stops are new to me, though." He looked out the windows, into a world of sunlight and souls. "So, this really is the only way then."

"Yes. We can't even use the long range portals either. For instance, we can't teleport ourselves to Typhon, then teleport back to Grove, specifically Farrow. That's also been made impossible years ago, and besides, I think it's best if we take things slow. Time has not picked favorites yet."

"So much for two weeks then." Glave rose groggily and dropped the Momentum Switch in his pocket. "It seems to be one thing after the other. Guess there's really no simple way around this."

It was still a dark morning outside after everything was discussed, so Char simply went back to sleep after they revised their map one last time, leaving Glave alone downstairs in wait of morning's break. The fireplace was brighter than the sunlight this early in the day. He took ample time sorting through all the shop's items. He stored some of them away in the wood crates around back. Others, mainly larger display weapons and modeled picture frames, were left to sit on the shelves, filling up an otherwise plane room. He never found out how Aylward had actually acquired so many of these valuables throughout the decades. It was a spectacular art gallery of priceless treasures spanning from the sand hills of Dunnland to the wilds encompassing Yevital's greenhouses.

No one else was awake yet, and Filvia hadn't told him he couldn't go outside because of his injuries. So, it was time for a walk, the first since returning from the dungeon's mouth.

He stopped by a rally house to hear the paper man whistle off the news to a gathered flock of listeners. The man, a human like himself, yelled about how a new mineral junction was being built outside of town, and about these unexplained killings that were popping up cold blooded around the northern district. The second part about the murders was what surprised Glave more. Syndicate and bandit gangs normally stilled near the eastern quadrant, where the dungeon was located. The north part of Forktown was where most of the memorial sites were stationed. Strange. Very Strange.

Why would anyone want to target a spot where there were nothing but cemeteries?

The thought carried him onward as he continued his walk, making sure to not venture outside the district boundaries, as Char urged not to, because, again, of his injuries from that terrible time. It still rippled his spine whenever he accidentally recalled the day he Overdosed, that dreadful feeling as the skin separated and the mana inside his body seething out like a tight balloon.

I was about to die. No, I never want to feel that way again.

Loud factory pistons slammed together from inside the rusty overturned building, and a hot oil deposit made a wide spill across the road. Glave's shoes were smoking by the time he stepped through it, but this was the only way back home. It was surprising, because this path had been clear on his way out. In a cityscape this urbanized, things could change quickly.

By the time he trotted back home, the clock tower had resounded it's early dong, and his head was wet with the morning dew. He shut the front glass door gently behind him, and swore there was the shuffle of angel's feet close by. It was Filvia, downing the staircase, wearing the same pearl colored sundress from the other day, and in that unique silvery voice she said, "Are you ready for this afternoon?" However, her eyes gleamed the twist of regret. "Because I'm not."

Glave held a moment of concern. "You don't want to go?"

"And walk around all day in some dusty market strip? No thanks." She carried on while Glave followed her into the kitchen. "But there's no point in ranting. As Char said, I have to do exactly what he says, to the letter." She whipped her arm at the end, as if to exaggerate everything. "I didn't think snow could look ugly until yesterday, when I saw it mixed with mud and oil on the pavement outside."

"It's not all like that", said Glave "Snow can be clean around here. As for the trip, we have plenty of time to prepare, and it's likely they'll be devices for sell that use magic as the energy source. I know you're in to stuff like that."

"You haven't told Char about how I tried to use the scroll, right?" She tried to keep her words to a whisper. Char was just upstairs.

He nodded to say no. "It's sounding like you would get punished."

"I will." Her voice lowered. "Typhon forbids tampering with dangerous items from other realms. Small things count, and of course that means handheld bombs."

....

The second bright circle rose below the first, and for the rest of the late morning neither of them spoke to each other in fear that the truth would leak out. Encased anyone asked, they agreed to weaved the truth into a lie, saying that Glave had the scroll the entire time and kept it inside his drawer, which is why Char never saw it. It was a sorry lie indeed, but it was all for a means to avoid the consequence, whatever they would be.

The day continued. Time passed. No one brought it up.

The suns guided their light to brush the stratosphere all variants of orange, red, and pink, and chatter swelled from within the deeper market channels. Glave heard the town become more alive as all the shops began to open their doors down the blocks; it was all impressively familiar to him. Now it was time to leave, time to go on the search, and time to go where the noise was coming from, and find a very rare little clock-like gear. Pigments of dust particles whirled around their feet as they left. Cold winds had made most who walked about wear thick skins of coats and jackets, except for those who already had a thick veil of fur or feathers naturally. All that is, except Filvia and Char, who paced onward as if the temperature was merely a flat number written on parchment, indifferent. A few strangers took second puzzled looks at the Peacock, while others snuck unmistakably enticing glares at the girl in white. They were an odd little family walking among streets of strange normalities.

Glave led the way. He knew the best route was to head for the spot where all the roads from Dunnland and Farrow met, and search the stands where travelers had set up their merchandise. It was where he used the library to study text on undocumented locations in Forktown. Additionally, it was the most dangerous focal point, because one's pockets were never safe from a swindler's hands. The specific store Char mentioned was more down the eastern block, so they would visit that spot last. He thought about passing Jin's Foster Fome, but then he would have to tell her about Aylward.

Please, not now

They casually entered a shop to the right, one with birds banging their wings against steel bars, and crazy animal calls and cackles behind cages that sometimes hanged from the ceiling boards. But there was nothing shiny like a gear piece. Next, they entered a market across the street. This one sold daggers, swords, axes, and anything carved with a sharp edge or blade laid on racks, ready to be picked up and welded. Of course, laws restricted such items, so not just any commoner could purchase weapons. But that didn't stop the rare but violent event of a criminal rally.

"My scroll is considered a weapon. Wouldn't a guard or anybody have noticed by now?" Glave asked as they exited. He figured that focusing a conversation on the scroll would do some sort of opposite effect, meaning that if he talked comfortably about it, Char wouldn't grow suspicious about how he didn't show it to him before. "If I get caught," he continued, "the punishment would be three to four days in an alternate academy. Even if I give the scroll to you, they can still issue out a lesser punishment if they have enough evidence, since I'm in the same party. At least, I think they call it a party."

"Wilva was able to keep her bomb scrolls disguised, even during the Etherian war," Char replied. "Honesty, there's no surprise that we'll be able to keep that one without drawing attention." It was quiet response, as to not alert anybody surrounding them. "You seem to know a lot about the laws in this area," he added. "Did Aylward teach you them?"

"I learned on my own. I had to know all about the justice system by reading and studying books about it from the library, and trust me when I say every single book." He nodded to a guard who was posted at a watch tower. "For example, all guards who don't have normal travel paths change shift every three hours. This is so that a single person can't gain too much familiarity with that guard's habits, or try to see past their mask with a kind of transparency magic."

There wasn't any time to breathe after his dialogue. Filvia pulled the boy aside so hard that the movement of her sundress was a ghosting blur.

"What do you think you're doing talking about that scroll!" she hissed, like the yelling went on inside her throat. "We just swore not to utter a peep."

Glave waited until she let go of his hand, thankfully he didn't have any stitches there. He slowed his pace to make more distance between them and Char. "Speaking about the scroll bomb casually like I did will prevent Char from being suspicious," he said. "Remember, he still thinks it was in my jacket pocket the whole time."

Filvia stiffened her arms in frustration. "So why in devil's name take the risk?"

"Because this may be my only link to learning more about Wilva, or why my sister died. Char could be the only way I might learn about these things, even if it's dangerous to talk about the subject because of your safety."

"My safety? Glave, we're talking about much more than that. We're talking about what I do for a living. One false error about Wilva's scroll, and I'll be left in one of Typhon's rehabilitation halls." She finished, and was about to say more, but Char looked behind his shoulder to see them far away. He handed a confused look and firmly waved them over.

"C'mon," Glave said. "We'll talk about this later."

Filvia sighed. "That better happen."

They crossed an oak bridge spanning across Wynding river to continue their expedition. The water smelled thin, but was tainted slightly with oil. It was probably running waste from a silver mining factory across town. It wasn't the same as when Milos was around, alive, when she would take Glave down by the sandbars to look for rocks or whatever happened to drift by.

Then the blood happened.

Somewhere in front, a sign with un-legible markings dangled from a brass overhang. The three of them were walking near the end of one of the many shopping strips until Char specifically pointed this particular shop out, the one they had planned to visit from the start. Almost nobody surrounded its rather small entrance, and at first, no one was seen inside either. Then, their eyes traveled lower to see a little creature, no taller than a food can, waving them over with its little mouse hands and his little mouse cane. It greeted them with a grandiose voice of brass, a hearty tone that wouldn't normally fit a creature that small.

"I didn't know they were that tiny," Filvia whispered to Glave. She sometimes just didn't know what to think of a world where vermin could wear clothes, walk on two two legs, and still seem perfectly normal.

"Alketo." Char stepped forward, except he wasn't able to finish his sentence.

"Name's Alketlo Giopesian, at your service!" The Ratman boomed loudly, a trombone playing a stanza of notes. "Don't bother remembering the last name, I have trouble repeating it myself." His glassy gaze shifted to Filvia and Glave. "Your strange lookin' friend came over here yesterday saying he wanted to look for somethin' very very old."

"A Momentum Switch," Said Glave.

"Yeah, that's the one!" The walking rat wheeled around, marching like a toy drummer boy through the store's entrance. "Follow me in here. My spoils date back to the pre-Zesh era, when there was nothin' around except the grasslands and the monks of the old ways. If whatever you're lookin' for is as old as y'all say it is, then there's a good chance it's in one of my shelves."

Inside, a wide black disk spun to a needle playing slow, quiet banjo music. Alketo walked to the prickly beat of it as he muzzled away at the extensive selection his store had stocked with endless glee, saying how good the sales were and how many treasures he had stocked up. "I've got pistons, sprockets, bits and pieces, everything that goes clink or clonk! Feel free to browse." He spun his hooked, silver-tipped cane in a swift motion at the shelves. The small, brushed orange tags used the old currency ratio to determine an item's price, so Char and Glave had to sift simple math in their heads to get their actual value. Alketo lead them down the rows, pointing and talking about the old relics that used to be faithful in working societies long gone.

The Ratman turned around. "Char's story had me intrigued when he spun it to me yesterday. Nobody's been able to warp themselves to Farrow in decades. I was surprised that you told me about the old portal."

"I just hope everything works when we find one," Glave said.

Alketo eventually left them alone as the Char and Glave weeded in and out the aisles, not caring about anything except finding a small gear that looked liked it belonged in a clock. Glave fiddled out the broken portal switch from his inside jacket pocket, comparing it with the many look-alikes in the container bins he passed by. Char was doing a similar act, but Filvia.

...But Filvia

She waited until both of them, especially Char, to go safety out of earshot. She eased to the checkout desk where that Ratman named Alketo was bobbing his whiskers to the background tunes. Before he was about to issue his loud energetic greeting, she raised a finger to his lips, hushing his snout

"Is there any magic devices around here. Anything ran by mana?" She looked around, outside her personal space. She knew her mentor would be able to sense her location right now, but he was probably too occupied with item hunting.

"That's very unusual question, little Missy."

The girl was confused. "How oddly you say that."

"It's because I can tell you want this to be a secret." Alketo laughed softly, and his foundation changed to be more intent. "I can tell with the way you approached."

"Oh."

"Well, don't look sad."

"I'm not sad."

He laughed again.

"What is it now?"

He stopped laughing. "Nothing. You're just very interesting. Let me search up some items in my log book. I'll find what you're looking for."

She watched the book's pages flap around like sheets of snow falling into place. It was going smoothly, until black movement stopped the oiled rails of the Ratman's concentration. Ink blocked the front entrance way, but it was not ink, but a man, a man with a long white bird mask that beaked sharply at the end, a man wearing a black tapestry coat. Filvia watched him enter, and he walked with boots that clicked with every step.

"Don't remember appointing a Plague Doctor in my store." Alketo adjusted his eye glass. "Nobody's sick around here."

"I'm here on slightly different matters." A distorted voice fizzled from Linus's mask as he approached closer. Filvia forgot to breath, as all the air seemed to dry up instantly. "I'm currently looking for a human boy and a green Zelathryt. I tipped off a stupid bunch of harpies and they said I would find them here."

Alketo puffed his cast iron pipe and adjusted his tiny glass eyepiece once again. He took a glance at Filvia, and saw her do a small nod. This Plague Doctor had just walked in unannounced without immediately showing a contract, or at least a better reason than a simple tip. "I'm not required to tell you that," he replied evenly. Section six, line 24 of manager's conduct says I'm not required to tell of a customer's whereabouts unless provided a warrant." He made a short pause, then burst into laughter saying, "You probably heard all of this before! I'm not used to spouting off official jumbo like that, but all in all, you need to have some paperwork."

"Apparently, you don't look it either." The Mothman's beak gritted, and Alketo's snagging smile stretched to a frown.

Filvia failed to not grip the counter, tensing up. "Why?" She asked, eyes still fixed down. "Did these people you're speaking of do something wrong?" It came out sounding hoarse. She cursed loudly in her mind.

"My superior wants them to go to a very special place," Linus responded, very slowly, slow enough so that the air vibrated with a thick kinetic force that rattled in Filvia's chest. She looked up to see two black eye sockets towering over her, looking into her pupils like a pair of scalpels. "You seem quick on jumping to conclusions. Either that, or you know something."

"I-I'm not from around here. That's why I'm worried." Filvia tried not to let her tongue fail her, but it stammered anyway.

"I think it's time you leave." Alketo's tapped the counter with his cane, and waved it at the entrance. "Those Harpies you tipped off must've gotten you lost. Heck, those beak heads don't even know a chain link from a cooking pan."

"Perhaps." The doctor's tone graveled. "After all, their cranium can only hold 6.71 centimeters worth of brain tissue. Not intelligently gifted at all."

"That's...really specific."

"Hey! What are doing messing around with vermin." Another man, a human who wore black leather and a childish smile, bustled in and looked casually at the strange doctor. "C'mon, we'll just search this slum ourselves until we find him."

"Targets?" Filvia said, her lips acting on their own. Her hands pressed together.

Kugo, the human, peered calmly at her and said, "Yeah that's right girly. Have you seen a green feathery looking thing and a boy go by here? The boy's about yay high." He leveled a hand to his chest. "Might be using alot of shield magic...and other stuff."

"Nope, nothing here. Now the both of you all get out of here before consumers start to flock away. C'mon, get!" Alketo urged with a hiss gurgled in his throat, making the brushing motion of his hands to shoo them off.

Kugo laughed again. "Customers? I don't see another soul around else except the little girl here in white." He jeered about, with eyes frosted in careless hate. He peered at the tall rows of shelves scaling deeper into the rest of the shop, and he focused. "Well, I do sense the presence of two other life forms somewhere in there. I'm gonna take a look."

Alkelto hoped to the edge of the counter, twisted his cane, and rigidly uttered, "Those would be my cats. Now scram before I call the guards."

The remark would have been intimidating, if only he was eight times larger.

Kugo snickered. "I thought cats ate mice."

"I'm not a mouse you buffoon. Mice have no class like I do."

"Really? I thought rats were worse."

"Don't bother with him. We're leaving." Linus craned his nose over. "Get our wagon ready."

Kugo's smile widened, and they quickly disappeared outside. The men had left without a second word.

"What an unusual lot." Alketo's whiskers frizzled like a buzz board, and he tipped his top hat. "Better warn the managers nearby." He looked over to a snowbird that had paralysis. "Char didn't seem like the trouble making type when he came in yesterday asking for my hours, and the boy looks well mannered."

Filvia leaned against the wall. "I don't know. I just wanted them to stay away from my mentor."

He adjusted his eye piece, twisting the dial a couple times over. "Weren't you asking me about a specific item?"

"Yes!" She piped up, remembering. "It wasn't really specific though. I just want something powered by magic."

Alketo tipped his hat, and ran a nail along his catalog book, a narrow spotlight looking for treasure.

Everything had calmed down. The talking outside simmered to a flat bed a noise, and the air felt like it was shrinking around in on itself. It was a calmness that wouldn't last. Filvia felt that something was about to happen. Her ears range for a second or two, as if the atmospheric pressure rose to simulate anxiety.

A minute went by, then slowly, all grew tense.

It was like the first signs of an earthquake. First, the soft tremors rattled the shop's foundation, then shouting blazed from outside. She could hear them say, "Get out the way!" and "Someone lock up its spindles!" But it was too late and the warning came without time to prepare. Like a wood ravaged comet, the hulking trolley wagon slammed into the front wall of Aketo's shop, carving a path of destruction as everyone scattered like exposed maggots. Wood thundered as the driverless set of wheels fractured apart, breaking into pieces from its own momentum while spraying its chiseled shards everywhere. Filvia was in a spot where she wasn't affected, but Glave and Char were staring down freight wagon charging at them, but Glave was too physically impaired from raising a forcefield.

"Glave! Behind me, now!' Char managed to form a saber to his grip, and with milliseconds to act he swung it down using the weapon's density to buffer the impact as the wagon broke to a stop, leaning up a bit, then reeling back down. The smog cleared, glass particles spewed, and Glave swept his eyes, seeing that most of everything was a piled disaster, even though it had only been a few moments. He looked around where the entrance once was, and saw Filvia helping Alketo to his feet. Filvia looked completely fine, save for the red trails drawing from her leg. It was at this point when the people who had watched from the street outside came closer to see the aftermath. Dust settled, and all who were caught in the fray were starting to regained their composure. It was over just as it began.

Filvia was making a platform with her palms for little Alketo to limp onto, as his leg had been bruised by a falling block of wood. As she waddled over a pile of smoked rubble, the Ratman, coughed harshly, like breathing crude gasoline.

"I say those were only Vagabonds. They only reopened the crinkle in my leg. Doctor's not gonna be to happy about that." Alketo hopped off her hand and limped over a shrapnel pile, peering over the wreckage that made for a chaotic mess of wood and smoked merchandise "...nor is my financial adviser." His attention, stiffly, averted to the one who put a stop to the rampaging trolley, the strange green creature with the feathers and perfect cyan eyes.

"It takes someone with lots of power to do what you did," Alketo stated in a mix of disbelief and wonder. "You're definitely stronger than you look."

Char just nodded.

"But who's actually responsible?" Glave asked quietly, while checking the larger stitches on his arms and the rib area. Thankfully, nothing was damaged

"Most likely the idiots who came into my shop while you all were browsing around. They were probably drunk outta their minds. It's not the first time this has happened around here, but I must say it hasn't happened to me until now."

They spent time cleaning up some the rubble until guards arrived on the scene. Of course, there was disappointment in that if there was a Momentum Switch somewhere among the shelves, it was gone for good, vanished under the carnage. However, at least everyone got out without any major injuries. Many nameless faces passed by, sometimes stopping to look, others walking along and not acting surprised. It came to a popular conclusion that whoever did this damaging stunt had to be disoriented in some way, under the influence of some licker or wine. At least, that's how everyone would come to believe.

Filvia, however, had other ideas.

The manner in which that human from before looked at everything when he entered the room. It was a savage look that turned her skin into ice sheets. She knew for certain it was different from anything else, and what was with that other one with the mask?

But things like this are normal around here, right? She took a last peek over her shoulder as they all left for home. By now, It was late afternoon. The twin suns hung over like dull coins above the clouds, painting the roads a harsh gold. However, despite this being the warmest part of any day, her skin felt cold as she remembered the two black sockets of that plague doctor's mask looking at her, crawling around like an ivory tapeworm.

It was not pleasant.

Sleeping it off that night didn't erase the memory either. She was sitting up in bed, hoping the night's silence would carry it off. Even at this hour, voices rose and fell from beyond her bedroom door. No doubt it was Glave and Char talking about what happened, which only made the memory return with more ferocity. The voices went away eventually though, leaving just whispers of the lunar circle floating up, rising in the sky. There was no moon in Typhon, which was a rare case when most realms in Ambright had satellites orbiting them. The light seeping in through her window lit the walls in a pale coat, and she felt the urge to lean back in the bed sheets and take in it, expanding her frame more and more.

A crow alighted on a tree outside and flicked it head at the stars, its beak glossy black and sharp. Its small pebble eyes turned over to where the snow bird was sleeping. The Crow cackled, stroked its wings furiously, and went airborne once again. A ragged feather landed on Filvia's window seal.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

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