At the Red Dragon Inn, in room 31, a certain resident had been preparing a spell. It was risky. It could kill her. But it was the only way.
Chalk lines cross-crossed along the floor in the middle of the living space. Kira had meticulously created and connected a series of runes, some prescribed by the notes in her references, others she had added in experimentation, and a few stumbled upon by blind luck. The connecting segments spiraled onwards and outwards, before bringing the entire network to a single large symbol in the center, large enough for Kira to sit in. A position she now occupied.
As the spell was being prepared, Kira placed her hand on a few of the closest runes, one after another. As each lit up, energy snaked its way through the network, slowly activating the massive rune as it built energy. The young enchanter watched the process unfold from her perch.
This would be the third attempt at this spell. The first was a failure, and while the second was incomplete, it was a partial success. The entire process of preparing the ritual took her a week, while the research behind it was the fruits of over a decade of experimentation by James. It should clear the last obstacle to her full use of Jame’s chronomancy.
The spell itself was a bit of a perversion of healing magic. She would be going through the effort of modifying her own soul to withstand the side effects of dealing with time directly. Her few attempts and doing the spell work herself were memorable in the pain that followed.
If she were to face the challenges ahead, she would need to be clear-headed with every jump. When she left to find James, she would need to be prepared to react to whatever she may find on the journey. And now that Sylista was in danger, there was no more time to prepare. Whatever the huntress could do needed to be done now.
These were the stakes. For anything else, she would continue the search for alternatives. There were other lines of inquiry, and she had all the time she needed to do that work for Jame’s sake. But the news Luna gave her an hour and a half earlier had led her to make up her mind. This was happening, and it would happen tonight.
The final rune segment charged and the outermost channels were completing their connections. Kira closed her eyes and focused on the network. Her soul was laid out before her now. She knew what she was looking for. The entire thing was fascinating, but she didn't admire more than a passing glance. She had a purpose.
In the room, Kira sat eyes closed. The previously dark space had been illuminated with the warm golden hue of the runes. The focus gifted to her by Sylista as a part of her training set in a circle of chalk, also glowing white in a way not in its intended design. The air around the huntress shimmered as though with heat. Pressure built up in the air with the exertion of the spell at work. After several minutes, it was as though the entire room was vibrating. Then, at its peak, it suddenly stopped, the lights from the magic extinguished, and Kira was on her side in agony.
Her screams would have likely summoned help in a normal circumstance, but frequent nightmares and concerns for neighboring residents led to Kira placing dunes of silence on the walls. No one outside the room would be able to hear her. She was wounded, she was hopeless, and she was alone.
No, not entirely helpless. She had just done all of this to unlock an entire arsenal of new magic. She tried to focus through the pain, to steady herself for just one spell.
After a few moments, screams turned to whimpers, and soon she had enough control back to push herself back up to her knees. Ever move sent a new sharp stab of pain throughout her body. Kira concentrated on herself and visualized a place she could get help. There were a few options, but one in particular came to mind easiest. She rose to her feet with the help of the chair at her desk. After a few deep breaths, there was a pop, and she found herself collapsing on a well-maintained path in front of a house in the Wilds.
Kira struggled to contain a fresh bout of screams. But the pain was not like it was before. She didn't feel the blow that so often accompanied these jumps in her early attempts. What she felt was a cold sensation of nothing. An entire portion of her soul was now severed, and time could no longer hold her. She knew the implications, but she didn't dwell on that.
She rose and stumbled to the front door and pounded at it. It was not particularly hard, but the sound thundered in her ears. She had used up what energy she had. She couldn't even shout anymore. She collapsed for the third and final time at the threshold, struggling at the edge of consciousness.