Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

Moderator: Kira Adia

Aideen Byrnes
Junior Adventurer
Junior Adventurer
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Joined: Sun Aug 29, 2021 1:15 pm

Re: Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

Post by Aideen Byrnes »

The lock on the front door clicked. Aideen almost didn’t hear it out in the greenhouse, but it came at a time when she had the water hose off and her most recent song had ended. “Who the hell…?” She set the hose down on a plant rack and made her way back into the apartment, sandals off at the door to avoid tracking water and dirt. Not that her feet hadn’t picked a little up already anyway. Her mom used to say jobs worth doing usually left you dirty, and Aideen tended to agree.

She stepped over to the dresser across from the greenhouse to where she kept her stun baton. “Hey, a knock please?”

The door swung open to reveal Kira standing in the threshold. “Ah, I was hoping Mira would be home. I did not expect you to be here.” She stepped in and closed the door behind her. She turned back to Aideen with a smile warming her cheeks. “Aideen, how are you, my dear?”

The hacker noticed her eyes oh-so-subtle flick to the baton in her hand. She set it back down on the dresser, “Oh, shit, you scared the hell out of me.” She gestured towards the still open greenhouse door. “I was minding the garden. Mira’s not here right now.”

Kira’s smile barely lost its hold, but her eyes spoke volumes. “Ah, such is a shame. But, as it turns out, I am here to see you, in fact.”

Aideen blinked. “Me? What for?” She put on a showy, coy look. “Oh, is it for… business?” She wasn’t working presently, but for Kira…

“No, I am afraid. But I do have a… hm, a job for you. I need assistance dealing with a… troublesome group here in the city.”

“Oh, that kind of business, then. Here, let’s go sit down. I could use some juice.” She gestured, then walked to the kitchen. She went straight for the fridge to fish out an apple juice or something.

Kira took a seat at the counter and waved off an offer for a drink. “I find myself in need of someone with your… technical expertise. A group has made an enemy of my by targeting someone of great importance to me.”

Aideen took up a spot across the counter, leaning forward to prop herself on her elbows, cup of juice in both hands. “Alright. I’ll see what I can do, but I need something to work from. I don’t exactly have my gear anymore, and getting a new set-up is expensive.”

“That will be no problem for me. I intend to hire you, not ask this as a favor.” The feeling nodded. “I offer to replace what equipment you need for this task as my advance payment, with a further payment to be rendered upon… elimination of this threat.”

“Hold up… you’re writing me a blank check to get my equipment back?” She felt her eyes go wide. “You gotta know, this shit ain’t cheap. I need to know what I’m up against, but I’m guessing it’ll be military grade encryption all-around.”

“Indeed. A specialized task such as this requires specialized equipment.” Kira smiled, almost looking like the true Fae she was under the human exterior. “I insist upon only the best for anything I deem important. And, given my ignorance of such technical matters, I leave it to your judgement as to what you will need. My only condition is that you find me what I need.”

There is no fucking way… But, here it was. The solution to most of Aideen’s current problems was being handed to her on a silver plate. She’d figured on months of working the streets and “entertaining” clients to be able to afford just the basics of what she needed to get back to freelancing. Not that she had any problems at all with working the “oldest profession,” and, in fact, considered staying part-time even when she was back to work, but she had to get back to what called to her.

This was precisely the break she needed. It was… almost too good.

“Wait… hold up. Isn’t there something about making deals with fae or some shit like that? How do I know I’m not handing over my soul or enslaving myself to you or something fucked like that?”

Kira shrugged. “Normally, I’d be offended at the suggestion, but you are not unwise to ask. That is why I am paying you handsomely for what I deem to be an equally important task. No favors either way.” She had absent-mindedly begun to toy around with the weird bird skull pendant hanging from her neck. “The ultimate goal of this endeavor is something I would pay any price for.

“Besides, if I did such a thing to you, I am more than certain Mira would have… strong objections to any such arrangement.” She winked. “She is most fond of you, my dear. That makes you… almost family, in a sense.”

Well, Aideen had no clue what to do with that. “Alright, so, it’s a ‘you scratch my back’ kinda thing. I can work with that.” The hacker set her cup down and circled the counter to grab an unclaimed stool and bring it across from Kira. “Gimme something. I need a starting point.”

Kira made a peculiar gesture on the countertop, and some items just… appeared. I’ll never get used to that. Aideen took a mental inventory of what she saw. A small tablet, barely larger than a cellphone, a couple of portable data storage cards, and some kind of commas device. “Okay, that is something.”

“I retrieved these from a young man who will no longer be needing them.” She gestured to the tech. “This is the best I can provide for now, but should I come across any more such items, they shall be in your hands right away.”

Aideen picked up the tablet. The batter was dead, unfortunately, but that was a temporary problem. She took a look at the comm next, and between those, she had an idea of what she needed. “Fuck me twice, it had to be Mimisportr goons.” She flipped the tablet over to see the logo.

“Omega Corp. Heard about them. They call themselves a ‘security firm,’ but they specialize in corporate warfare. Of the unconventional type, which in this case includes assassination and sabotage.”

“That is not how ‘warfare’ is conducted in such an environment.”

Aideen shook her head. “Nah, it’s all about profits, and fighting like Romans doesn’t pay the bills. Corps like to fight each other by undermining each other’s interests and playing chess with subsidiaries. Sometimes they’ll fund opposing sides in some proxy war to topple or secure some government in a nation—state. They could just fight it out and get it over with, but that leaves for a messy quarterly report.”

Kira nodded. “I see.” The glimmer in her eyes showed she was following the concept easier than Aideen thought she would. “And such ‘corporate warfare’ does not usually include direct violence.”

“Hell no. That makes for bad business. I mean, they’ll throw proxies at each other any day plus Sunday, but no suit with a bank account wants to have a target on them. Firms like Omega are exceptionally specialized. Usually used to destabilize nation-states or soften smaller corps for ‘hostile takeover actions.’”

“So. Whoever is hiring this group seeks to cause some kind of chaos in RhyDin City.” She thought about it for a moment. “And they are targeting the children…”

“Wait, back the fuck up. They’re killing kids?

Kira nodded. “My acquaintance takes in orphans rescued from… unhealthy environments. She also helps to feed and clothe those living on the streets. In return, they feed her information. Rumors, secrets, and information. Whispers.”

“Ha! Little cyberpunks in the making.”

One of Kira’s eyebrows lifted at the comment. “These people are targeting… certain children. One who are more valuable for the skills they offer. Or the specific rumors they were pursuing.”

“Isn’t that a little… shady? Using kids for espionage like that?”

“Hm… Yes, it is. But consider: these are children who survive life on the streets in a city like RhyDin. Many of them were kept as slaves or worse before they were… rescued. They are already out there watching and listening. This way, they are contributing to something powerful. A chance to… overpower those who have failed them or hurt them in the best way they can. In return, they are cared for, looked after, and, in some cases, educated.”

Aideen wasn’t entirely convinced. This felt like exploitation to her. In fact, she was almost certain it was. Still, it’s a job. And she never asked questions before.

“Alright. I’ll do this for you. But only because the alternative is letting these kids get killed.”

Kira smiled. “Excellent.” She reached into a pocket and produced an envelope. “Inside, you will find the funds for your advance payment and a… credit card to use for your expenses. I trust your judgement.” The envelope was placed in the middle of the counter.

Aideen hesitated for only a brief moment. “Alright… looks like I’m all in.” She picked up the envelope and stood, taking her cup to the sink. “I’m clearing out. Gotta get dressed and shit.”

She felt every bit like she’d made a deal with the devil.
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Kira Adia
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Re: Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

Post by Kira Adia »

Far outside Rhydin City, continuing in a specific direction until most signs of civilization were spotty at best, one would eventually come across a rather nondescript graveyard in the shadow of a run down non-denominational church. The sermons no longer ran, and the flock scattered to the winds, but a lone groundskeeper kept the place somewhat neat and tidy. Only a couple of rows of those dead and gone stood in the patch of land; the only remaining proof that they were once people in the world being the gravestones marking where they rested.

Currently, though, that lone groundskeeper was off living his life, leaving his silent clients to their peace.
It was there that Lesinda would find what she was seeking. It didn't take long to find the gravesite of one Nathaniel Matteo Shadislav, and beside his was an identical stone with the name Marishka Silvia Shadislav. On the woman's, the date of birth and death indicated she passed in her early thirties, 'loving wife taken too soon'. And on the man's indicated he died the same year in his late 30s upon his stone was something more concerning, 'May the curse of the gods be upon you and yours.'.

The vampiress had taken some time to get here from the city. She didn't have the Grave Travel ability Mathian did, so she'd made her own way to the gravesite, taking her time to check the surrounding area rather than simply bampfing in with the teleportation tech from Negzarcurgis.
She waited in the tree line for a little while… Watching and waiting. There was nothing, just silence, in the hot and sweltering sun, the vampiress presumed anyone who might have been here was busy enjoying the day.

She waited a little longer before stepping out into the open, dressed in very practical clothes. The vampiress had opted for her long, dark red trench coat that licked at the back of her heels of her knee-length boots, into which her black jeans were tucked. Her top was little more than a black hoodie, hood up for now and obscuring her green hair.

She began searching the graveyard, checking headstones. Syl’s letter had been clear, so it didn't take much time walking among those enjoying their eternal slumber for the vampiress to find what she was after.

Lesinda paused to read both headstones, before crouching beside Mathian's grave. "Nathaniel…" The vampiress murmured quietly. She knelt in silence for a few seconds before she shook, finally here, finally seeing it before her, Lesinda's emotional fortitude broke down. A sense of dread washed over her, weighing her limbs down, even her fingers, her face, felt heavy and stiff. A squeezing pressure that didn't exist crushed her chest, and she looked about sharply. This was too easy, too simple… Was Mathian this sure of himself? Had he put nothing here to protect his lifeline? Anxiety raged through her as Les turned her attention back to the gravestone and started at his name.

Nathaniel… Matteo… Shadislav…

And then something peculiar happened… A rage built up in Lesinda. She snapped. Sudden and explosive, a fist flew out with a scream, smashing into Mathian's tombstone like a freight train with no breaks.

The simple gravestone shattered easily at the enraged vampiress' fist driving through it. Pieces of the slab scattered, bouncing in the grass and against the other stones in the vicinity.

She stared at the shattered remains, panting. What ought to have been a badly broken hand was, well, a broken hand. But quickly healing as the vampiress continued to stare for a moment until she realized her hand had healed.

The panic was gone, catharsis, apparently, was scattered in the remains of the simple stone. Lesinda shuddered and breathed… She breathed again… Then stood slowly and looked down at the grave. She snarled softly and with a shake of her hand, spread her fingers out, palm over the grave to start forming a sigil to begin excavating the grave itself.

The magic was summoned easily enough….but something was interfering with it taking hold and caused the sigil to fizzle and fade.

"Oh…FUCK. OFF." Lesinda snarled, her fingers curling as the sigil failed to form and broke up before her. "Fine. Fine." She growled, stepping back several dozen feet and held out her hand with a snap of fingers, ripping open a portal in the nexus and dropping a shovel neatly in her hand over hand. "We'll do it the hard way then." She added, stepping up to the grave once more and shoved the spade into the earth. "Gods damned fucking bullshit…"

It was hard going at first, the ground was difficult to break but once broken, the soft earth was moved easily by the vampiress. She had to dig for the full six feet before the metal of the shovel thumped again the wood of a coffin. Not much more than a simple box, half caved in from the weight of the dirt, but she could sense the magic that surrounded it now that she was closer to the object. It had some manner of aura, keeping whatever it was held within hidden from any that would simply pass by that were sensitive to such magics.

"Fuckingfuck." The vampiress cursed continually as she dug, driven on more by anger than the need to accomplish her objective at this point. Arriving at last at the coffin, she used the shovel as a pry, carefully pulling away boards of wood, so she could assess the interior. She was not comfortable with the idea Mathian hadn’t put down something to protect this place a little more effectively.

Mathian was an arrogant man, and apart from Giovanni and very few others knew of his true name. He believed himself invincible. When she pried open the box, she found the phylactery. Flesh long rotten and other spell components floated within some viscous green liquid held within a thick glass container. The item pulsed with magic in time with what one could imagine a steady heart beat would be. Simply being so close to the thing would make those sensitive to the magic most likely feel ill.

Lesinda started down at the pulsating, green liquid with a face of wrathful vengeance. No amount of arrogance could save him now. She wondered if he would feel it…

Even as a nauseating sensation of sickness washed over her, the vampiress swung hard and true, bringing the blade of the shovel down dead centre of the phylactery to try to shatter it, and Mathian's only hold on eternal life.

Though the glass was thick, it cracked then shattered easily with her supernatural strength. The liquid hissed and turned black at the exposure to air, the bone chilling howling screams of confined and tormented spirits billowed out of the destroyed container before all was silent. The magic dissipating and leaving her standing alone in the graveyard in a mostly empty grave.

Lesinda stood, breathing heavily for a few seconds, holding the shovel as it had fallen, the blade buried into the ground beneath the vial, staring down at the spot before she shook her head. It was done…
Letting the shovel fall to the ground, she turned with a flutter of her coat, and jumped, grabbing the edge of the hole she'd dug and hauled herself back out again before dusting herself down. She made no effort to cover the destruction she'd wrought, and instead briskly started making her way to the edge of the graveyard. It was time to leave. She needed to get someplace safe… Safe to feel. For now, she had to wear a coat of armor and fend off the anxiety of what this meant going forward.

════ ⋆★⋆ ════

It was the end of another day, and Kira made her way to the Red Dragon for a pot of tea. It had been a while since she’d stopped by, given how busy she’d been, and she wanted to check in on her room. She pushed her way through the front door and made her way into the common room, looking about to see who was present.

Sitting in a corner to one side of the commons was the familiar sight of Lesinda, still dressed in her unfamiliar outfit from the graveyard. It was rare she sat in a corner booth, curtain half-drawn in a facsimile of privacy. A long stemmed wine glass sat before her and a bottle of bloodwyne was settled before her, though it was untouched. Dust clung to Lesinda's clothes and boots from her two-day trip.

Kira paused upon seeing Les. Everything about the sight was off. She made her way over to the booth and stopped just short of the curtain. “Les, my love, is everything alright? May I sit here?” She gestured next to the vampiress.

Les was staring at the glass when Kira approached, and it took a moment before the vampires looked up and responded with a nod, shuffling over slightly, so there'd be enough room in the horseshoe shaped booth. "Of course… Hello Kira. Please, sit."

Kira sat down and offered her lover a kiss. If allowed, she’d run a thumb gently along the choker on her neck. Afterwards, she took a second to close the curtain for privacy. “Tell me, my love. What’s wrong?”

Of course, she allowed Kira, kissing her back before tilting her head to expose her neck to Kira. Once the curtain was closed, Lesinda slowly leaned over and settled her head on Kira's shoulder. "Nothing… I think…" She replied after a moment and then nuzzled Kira's neck. "I… paid a visit to an old gravesite. I just got back today and didn't know what to do with myself."

“Ah. Was it a visitation?” She wrapped an arm around Les as she nestled close, wrapping her up to hold her close. “Was it someone important? Or would you not like to talk about it?”

"It was indeed someone important." The vampiress replied, allowing herself to be wrapped up before shaking her head. "No, I should do… It was important to go there. Maybe… I shouldn't have gone alone…" She shrugged softly. "Nothing bad happened though…"

This was peculiar. Kira realized this might be a talk they would normally have in the safety of the Estate or Endless Nights. She tapped the raven skull necklace at her neck, and a bubble of silence surrounded the pair. “If you had asked, I would have come with you, beloved. Anything important to you is a priority to me.” She gently planted kisses on the top of her head, taking in Les’s scent. There might not be much, but Kira could still smell it. “What happened?”

"I smashed a tombstone and dug up a grave." Lesinda replied simply and without preamble. She smelt of the road, but also of tea tree oil and mint, her own personal favorites. "It wasn't… as difficult as I imagined it would be…"

“Hm.” Kira was thoughtfully silent for a brief moment. “Whose grave was it, my dear?”

"Mathian's." Lesinda said, letting her eyes drift closed. "Gods… I'm so tired." The vampiress murmured, before continuing. "I smashed his phylactery in his coffin. He… I wonder if he could feel it…"

“Ah.” Kira’s eyebrows rose slightly. “If so, I will be certain he is looked for. I do not imagine he would rush here.” She set a delicate finger under Les’s chin and brought her up for another kiss. “It’s almost over, then. Please tell me when you are ready. I am here for you however you need me.” She stared into Lesinda’s red eyes for a long second. “Do you need to feed, my love?”

She let herself be pulled up and kissed Kira back. "Almost." Lesinda replied, looking back up at Kira. "Almost." She repeated, before shaking her head softly. "No, I… I don't know. Later, maybe. I'm just… I think, anxious."

“Later, then. For now, I’ll just be here.” Kira moved a hand up to tangle her fingers in Les’s hair.

"Mmm." She murred happily. "I'm… Scared, Kira, about what's going to happen next." Lesinda said, enjoying the feel of fingers through her hair. "A wounded animal is always more dangerous, and Mathian was dangerous to begin with."

“It’s alright, Les. You are dangerous as well. And you are free of him. You can fight back.” She kissed her forehead. “Besides. You are an Adia, so far as I am concerned. You have us beside you. He does not.”

She laughed, nodding. "Not yet, I'm not, but I will be free of him soon." She replied, before looking up at Kira again. "I do have you guys… Hm, he'll never stand a chance against all of us."

Kira smiled and leaned into another kiss, still running her fingers through Lesinda’s hair. She lingered for some time before letting their lips part. “Would you like to feed on me tonight, my love? Or would you like to hunt?”

She shook her head softly after their kiss, smiling. "I don't have the energy to hunt… I just want to lay down with you and Mira and be content… And maybe feed a little." She added, the smile becoming coy.

“A wonderful plan. I am certain that Mira will be more than happy to oblige.” She settled in, preparing to just with for a while with the vampiress against her. “I am in no hurry. We can stay as long as you’d like.”

"Mm." She settled in Kira's arms, letting her eyes drift shut again. "I like that idea. We can go in a minute, I just… Want to sit for now."
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Kira Adia
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Re: Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

Post by Kira Adia »

A haze descended on Kira once again. She was dead.

Not for the first time, admittedly. And most certainly not the last. I had been a rare occurrence for most of her life before that point. Oddly enough, she was becoming rather used to the experience. Being the immortal girlfriend of a vampire might be to blame.

This had become something of an occasional ritual between the two women. Lesinda needed the equivalent of the entirety of a person’s blood supply once every few days to remain alive and well. Before the beginning of their relationship, Les had satisfied her hunger either in small doses over time, or in full meals from the worst types of creatures that wandered the streets of the city after dark. The same that Kira herself often hunted to satisfy a different, but not too dissimilar, craving.

Les hated her need to feed. She hated the necessity of killing to survive, and she had developed a sense of guilt and self-loathing with every meal she took. It was understandable, as far as Kira was concerned. Most people were not inherently like Kira. She remembered herself being that way once, long ago. She could sympathize with Lesinda’s guilt.

Fortunately for the vampiress, Kira had a solution that cost her nothing. She was, after all, immortal. She could be killed, but she wouldn’t die. Not permanently, anyway. She needed an external source of healing magic to come back, but that was a question of logistics. Kira had put time and effort into that question long before she had come to love Lesinda for her own sake. It was serendipity that her studies with runic magic would provide the solution to both of their problems.

For now, Kira was working on retaining lucidity as she entered the edge of the Void. Thus far, she most often entered a dream-like state at the moment of death, waiting for something to bring her back. Time flowed differently here in the Ether. It could seem a few short minutes, or a century could pass for her as she settled at the edge of the afterlife.

Par for the course, these dream-like visions most often turned quickly to nightmares-like recollections of her lowest points. It was maddening at times. She could avoid sleep when she did not want it, and when she did, it was almost always in the calming presence of her lovers. Their warmth helped to keep the nightmares at bay, allowing her to drift to more pleasant memories of her past. The nightmares still came, but less frequent, and it was easier to wake herself from them when she was not alone.

Death was not so forgiving or considerate. Nearly every time, she’d found herself caught in a kaleidoscope of fears and regrets. The same that had tormented her nights for so long. Fortunately, returning from death’s embrace was easier than returning from the dreamscape. Much of the pain fell away at the threshold between living and dead, and, since her most recent deaths had been so peaceful (and voluntary), it was easy to return in a calm, happy state when Les greeted her upon awakening.

That didn’t make the in between any less unpleasant, but she had no desire to stop doing it. It was always a long, drawn out affair, and to say Kira enjoyed the experience of giving her life up for Les was an understatement of the highest order.

This time, she was able to hold on through the entire process. Once beyond the Ether, her mind at first struggled to resolve the environment of the boundary between the lands of the living and the dead. Or, rather, the Shores of the Living. The Void stretched out before her like a vast river, the opposite shore too far to see.

She stared across that vast expanse with more than a little sorrow. The entirety of her birth family lay beyond that far shore. Her mother was out there. Soon, Sylista would be as well. Without great effort, she would never see any of them again.

Immortality is not a blessing Kira truly wanted. She would be forever undying, trapped on this side of the Void while, eventually, everyone she will ever know will one day pass to that far shore. As young as Kira was in comparison to the eternity ahead of her, it was still the loneliest thing she could possibly imagine.

She turned away from the Void, letting the dead remain where they were, and took in her surroundings, if it could be called that. The far edge of the Ether was no physical place, so the best she could do was get an impression her mind could comprehend.

Formless and indescribable would be her first description. Something a Lovecraftian author might imagine. She felt her mind reject the strange sensations she experienced, and she tried to not focus on anything in particular. She found it easier to keep her bearings when she was not looking for points of reference.

That unfocused gaze allowed something to draw her attention. It was no more than a wisp of light at the edge of what she could perceive, like a distant cloud at the very curve of the horizon. She tried to focus on it and bring her mind closer, curious at what she might have found.

As she came closer, her senses began to awaken, as though she were waking up from a dark dream into a lighter, softer dreamscape. The cool light seemed to flow around her like water and gossamer veils, providing little resistance as she brought her mind further into this anomaly.

She began to experience more and more. She felt like her eyes were closed, and she could hear a gentle wind. The air felt cool, but not what others would consider uncomfortably cold. She began to perceive a smell. It was fleeting, but unmistakable. Old books, fresh tea, orchids, and wild amber.

The smell hit her senses at the very instant the runic tattoo on her arm did its work. She felt herself tugged irresistibly, like she’d just ported herself across the Nexus in a single jump. She felt her lungs fill with air, the sound of blood rushing through her veins filled her ears, and she was again in Lesinda’s arms.
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Kira Adia
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Re: Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

Post by Kira Adia »

Three weeks. Three whole weeks of hunting, and barely anything to show for it.

It’s not as if the Huntress’s efforts were completely wasted. The murders had slowed down, but they hadn’t stopped. And it felt like anything Kira did had any real effect on their operations. They might be acting more cautiously, but that also meant their targets were more meaningful. The older kids seemed to be the focus, and Edward could confirm the value of most of them as targets.

”These children are the mice. And a few of the birds. The ones who help coordinate and lead the other children.”

”So all that we have done is to incentivize selecting their true targets, rather than to kill more generally.”

Edward nodded his head. “Yes. It seems that way. Their previous pattern certainly weakened the entire whisper network as a whole, but now they’re ignoring the rest and going after the backbone of the network. That’s my read on it, at least.”

Kira silently cursed herself again. All of this, and all she’d done is make their aim more precise.

Still, she couldn’t give up. If she failed, not only would she lose Betty (and barely be able to face Sylista’s memory with any sense of pride), it would leave her with only one last option for gaining access to the office in Rathskeller Inn and the soul shard within. And she rather thought that option should be left on the table if at all possible.

A raven approached and landed at the edge of the high rooftop where Kira perched. It was from the flock that Ordark had gifted to her when she asked for their help. It croaked at her a few times, then flew off back into the night.

So, nothing in New Market tonight. She’d wait long enough for her spies in Dockside to bring word, but she was likely to stop now and head home. She’d spent far too little time with her lovers lately. She needed to make up for it.

The phone in her pocket rang, and a brief look revealed Aideen’s name on the screen. Except it read Aiden, and it took a second for the difference to register. Kira recalled something Mira had told her about the hacker, and she tapped her earbud to answer.

“Good evening, my dear. You have news?”

“Yeah, but probably best to not tell you over the phone.” A notification pinged on her phone as they continued talking. “Come by my office, and I’ll show you.”

“Very well. I will be there shortly.” She disconnected the call and stood. Her ravens would find her if she moved locations, so she wasted no time making her way into Dagon’s Gate.

════ ⋆★⋆ ════

The office turned out to be a self storage facility by the river that had been converted into an office park. Some units retained their sliding bay doors, while others had pulled them out in favor of throwing up a wall and a door to the unit within. Aiden’s office, it turned out, was one of the former, and the door was half opened when Kira approached.

“You seem to have found a good place to set up.” It would be impressive if Kira knew what she was looking at. The small fortune that Aiden has siphoned from the discretionary account she’d set up for them certainly testified to that effect. As it was, the rows of servers and collections of computers and devices of occult purpose might as well have been magitek, for all Kira could divine from them. “I can see why you chose not to set up shop in your apartment.”

“Yeah, well, I coulda fit it all in there, but I kinda asked Lily to move in with me, and all this shit would just be in the way.” The hacker themself was planted in a rather comfortable looking chair, turned away from a bank of holographic monitors and displays tucked into one corner of the spacious interior, their booted feet up on the edge of the desk as they turned to face Kira and reclined back in their seat. Their blue hair was shorter than she’d seen last, though she knew they could change it at will, and their figure was different. Their natural left arm was resting on the desk, while the cybernetic prosthetic laid on their midsection.

“Ah. That is wonderful news.” Kira hadn’t checked in on Lily personally since helping her a few weeks back. She’d have to plan a visit when she’d settled in. “You mentioned you had news for me?”

“Yeah, and it’s not all bad either.” They turned to face the screens and gestured, bringing a few of them within reaches as they tapped out a few commands. “I still can’t get fully into Mimisportr’s network. I got sniffed out and my access points are blocked. But I was able to get enough to get an idea of what they’re up to.”

Kira nodded along, slowly walking along the perimeter of the room and looking at the machines. On a table with a backpack, Kira found a few framed photos. Some were of Lily, and the ones of Mira brought a smile to the faeling’s lips. “That is something. What have you found so far?”

They paused and looked as though they were referencing notes. “At first glance, it looks like they’re working for some no-name corp that runs a fishing trade between here and the Bay, but that’s just a smokescreen. Anyone who’s ever worked in the business knows it’s just a shell to hide whoever they’re actually working for. And this client is one who really doesn’t want to be found out. Following the money is what got me knocked out of the network.”

An eyebrow raised as Kira approached the desk. “So we don’t know for sure who it is?”

“Come on, look who you’re talking to. This shit was my job when I was a corporate slave. My generous patrons thought I was too good at it. What’s why I’m here now instead of drawing a salary.” They tapped at the nearest screen, and a logo came into view.

“Meet Focus Staffing Group, a corporation that, on paper, specializes in Human Resources. Er, that’s what we called it on Earth. Companies reach out to them when they need cheap temp workers or job skills training for low skill workers.”

Kira’s eyes narrowed. “They are slavers. I have seen their mark on correspondences recovered from slave pens and markets I have raided. A variation of it, at least.”

“Bingo.” Aiden made a pointing gesture towards Kira.

She continued. “They seem to appear in places where they have made some kind of deal with the slave ring operating there, but I have never seen them operate directly. Too much competition. I most often find them in places they have yet to fully establish themselves.”

Aiden shrugged. “I don’t know their operations. Just their profile. They’re a subsidiary. Ultimately, everyone is owned by someone. And these fuckers…” They tapped something else, and the view shifted. The logo shrank some, and a line travelled from it to another, larger logo in a shape recognized across the multiverse. The World Tree. “Bifrost Transportation.” Their prosthetic hand open and clenched tightly a few times.

The name sounded familiar. “That was…?”

Aiden nodded. “Yeah. The Old Man. Doesn’t surprise me he’s into the slave trade too.” They let out a sigh. “Fuck me twice. Looks like I’m all in now.”

Kira’s gaze shifted to them. “You we’re not invested already?”

“It was a job. A paycheck. I wasn’t happy with it. The whole exploiting kids bullshit.” They gestured at the screens. “But I’m seeing what those kids have gone through. What he wants to do to them. Yeah, I’ll do what I can to stop that fucker cold.”

A land landed softly on Aiden’s shoulder. They looked up to see Kira had walked close. “We will stop him. Thank you, Aiden. Keep digging and see what you can find. Whatever you need, it is yours.”

They nodded. “I was able to decrypt that comm link and the tablet. I’ll be tapping in and see what I can find. So far, lots of talk of someone called ‘Swallow.’”

“Thank you. I will speak with Edward and see what he can tell me.” Kira turned to walk out of the office. “Good night, Aiden. I will see you soon.”

════ ⋆★⋆ ════

Kira could have ported, but she decided that Endless Nights wasn’t too far away, and she really wanted to enjoy a nighttime stroll. She had nothing to fear and nothing but time, so she casually walked the winding paths through the alleys that led her to Les and Mira.

A flutter of wings announced the approach of a bird, just before the blue-eyes raven landed on her shoulder. Kira reached up to scratch under her chin. “I have not seen you all night, my dear. I wondered when you would arrive.”

“I don’t work for you, you know. Not yet, anyway.” Perdea cocked her head slightly. “Something came up. She’s sending help.”

“Oh?” Kira looked to the raven. “How is that?”

“I don’t know. She doesn’t tell me anything half the time. Watch for a message, is all I can say.”

Kira hummed to herself. “I suppose I will find out soon enough. Tonight, I wish to see my lovers.”

“Whatever you say. I have work to do. Don’t call if you need me.” She kept into the air and glided down the alley, taking a sharp turn to disappear around a corner.
Verity and Destiny
Junior Adventurer
Junior Adventurer
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Jul 05, 2022 1:31 am

Re: Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

Post by Verity and Destiny »

A pen clattered on a notebook. A groan. The sound of a chair pushing back from the table. It all interrupted the silence in the Grace girl’s apartment. “I don’t know how you of all people believed her so easily, Des.” Verity grumbled. She stretched and yawned, the sound turning high pitched at the end. “This lady wasn’t a good person.”

Destiny glared at her sister and shook her head. “You know about the masks people wear better than anyone – you get to see her story with everyone you’ve talked to. How can you not believe her?”

“She told people what they wanted to hear.”

“Or people believed what they wanted to. I don’t get it. Why are you so against her, Veri?” Destiny’s brows furrowed. She could feel the anger rising, hot and cruel, and not her own. 

The cloudy eyes across from her shut. Verity’s left hand lifted to her forehead so the pointer and middle finger could rub the crease forming there. After a slow breath, her expression softened as she took in her sister. “I just think it’s weird that this… ghost conveniently shows up the night you died, revives you, and is giving us what we need to help our parents. That’s not including the things I’ve heard people say about her.”

After their conversation at the Rathskeller Inn, Verity asked around to see who knew their new… friend. Most of her staff said they missed her, though some complained about her daughter, Tori. A few said they felt more relaxed without the rest of her family around, but that was it. Outside of her business, however, a different story took shape. Verity pointed at her notebook, her finger landing beside a list. “She had a running theme; dramatic, angry, cold, manipulative, fire-happy, and a camgirl.”

“Since when are you so judgemental?” Destiny snapped.

“Um, what?”

“You’re upset she was a camgirl? Really? I thought you were better than that.”

“That’s hardly the worst thing on this list, Des. I’m judging the rest of it.” Verity grabbed for her mug and held it in both hands, lifting it to her lips while she waited for her twin to speak. When the silence became too much, she tilted her head up toward the ceiling and sighed. “Okay, okay, so I think it’s a little gross, but it’s because she has a charity that helps kids!”

Destiny shut the offensive wire bound book and stood up, following the same stretching pattern Verity completed moments earlier (without the obnoxious yawn). “I doubt the woman mixed the two. If you remember, she was heartbroken over what her own children thought about her. The ones at the Shooting Stars Ranch might not be hers by blood, but she showed the same emotion for them. You said so yourself.”

Verity sighed, placed her coffee down, and crossed her arms over her chest. “Why do you trust her?” 

This wasn’t the first time she asked, and Destiny knew it wouldn’t be the last. Each answer gave Verity another chance to see Destiny’s truth, which, between the nightmares and conversations with the dead woman, was becoming clearer for everyone involved.

“What you can see, hear, or understand from the living is what I will one day do for the dead. We’re in balance that way, even if our abilities are different. I’ll never tune it out, like you. I don’t get the choice - I’m a beacon of hope for them.” Destiny scrubbed her face with her hands and scoffed before slowly opening her eyes. “You’ve seen me try to avoid what appears to be nothing, talking to people you can’t see. At least Sylista asks first, and will tell me it can wait when I’ve hesitated. Sure, I could do without her memories and dreams, but that’s not her fault. She’d rather no one saw those things.”

Destiny closed the space between them, placing her hands on Verity’s shoulders. “I love you and how protective you are with me.” She smirked. “Most of the time, anyway. It’s time to let me thrive, Veri. I’ve depended on you for so long to keep me safe, and now it’s time for you to follow my lead.

“I can feel how scared she is, can feel her desire to help us and pass on to whatever is on the other side. I don’t know what part we play in helping her rest, but whatever it is, I know it’s going to help us find Mom and Dad.”

Verity started stammering something, interrupted by the doorbell they often forgot they had. The sisters looked between each other before Verity motioned Destiny to sit and walked toward the door.

“Oh, hello. Is this a fundraiser?” she asked the two kids who appeared in the doorway. “I’m sorry to say I don’t have any money on me.”

“No, miss,” one of them replied. She was young and soft-spoken. “I don’t need money. I need help.”

"Tell her about the bird,” the other kid urged with desperation in his voice. “Come on, Kit, you gotta!”

Neither Verity nor the girl responded to him. The former asked the latter if she needed the phone and the girl shook her head. Destiny’s heart pounded in her ears when she realized why. Pale and shaking, she took a few steps forward while mumbling, “Hells, he’s just a kid.”

“What’s that Des?” Verity asked, turning her head. Her twin’s flecked purple eyes focused on the little girl as she asked, “Did you recently lose a friend, Kit? A boy your age?”  

The girl stiffened, looked around, and rolled her shoulders. “You know my name? Is Toby here? Is he with me?”

Destiny looked at the boy beside her and offered him a smile. His eyes were wide with surprise as he stared at her and gave a slow nod.

“Yes, Toby is here with you. It’s nice to meet you both. My name is Des and my sister is Veri. Can you tell me about the bird, Kit?”

Kit hugged herself as tears rolled down her cheeks. “I thought I was crazy. It was a big black bird with blue eyes-.”

“A raven. Her name is Perdea,” Toby offered in the space of Kit’s breath.

“It grabbed my shirt and pulled me. Then pecked at my feet when I didn’t follow since I didn’t know what it wanted at first. I thought it wanted Toby’s body, so I tried to wave it off, but then the bad people started coming.”

“The ones that killed me.”

Verity gasped, and it took willpower not to let out a string of curses as Destiny watched her sister go rigid, a hand at her throat. She needed to keep the girl talking to get all the details. “Did you run away?”

The girl winced and nodded, her sobs shaking her small body. Des held out her hand for the girl to take and pulled her into a hug. “You did good, both of you. How did you end up here, sweetheart?”

“Do you know The Lady and Kira?” she asked, clinging to Destiny. 

“I do.”

“Oh. The bird told me to follow to find you. I didn’t want to die, so I did.” The kid pushed away and wiped her nose with her sleeve. Destiny took a step backward as well, putting herself behind Verity but close enough to touch if the girl needed comfort. 

The little one coughed and added, “It led me here and told me to mention The Lady and Kira so you’d help.” Sniffle. “Was it right? Can you help?”

“Please, miss?”

Verity stumbled backward into her sister and shivered against her. She saw every graphic detail if the tears in her eyes were any indication. Destiny pulled them both to the side, telling the kids to “Come inside and lock the door” before guiding Verity to the nearest chair. 

“All that blood. So much blood, and not just Toby. How can we help them, Des?” she asked in a breathless, faraway voice. 

“Kit and Toby are going to come sit with you, I’m going to make some tea, and we’re going to ask them.”

Kit came to the table, looking between the girls. “It’s not me who needs help, miss. It’s Betty.”

Destiny tried to keep calm. She knew that name and how important she was in all of this. “Alright, Kit, I’m going to need you to start at the beginning. Tell us everything.”
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Kira Adia
Proven Adventurer
Proven Adventurer
Mistress of House Adia

Posts: 227
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2020 9:38 pm
Location: Adia Estate, south of the city on the border with Skoggard

Re: Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

Post by Kira Adia »

A warm campfire flickered in the cold winter night. This was not an unusual scene. Winter was Kira’s favored season to hunt, and she spent days at a time out in the Deep Wilds. Many nights just like this had passed, camped out in the show-blanketed wilderness. This could have been a memory of any one of those many nights.

Only one occasion included the woman sitting across the fire pit from Kira in this scene.

Kira remembered working up the courage to say anything and break the pregnant silence. Kira had so much to tell Syl. She spoke the first thing she could think of. “Dearest, you are absolutely gorgeous. This entire day is worth it simply for the sight of you now.”

Sylista was extremely distracted up to that moment. She stared meaningfully just to the side of the fire between the pair. When Kira’s words reached her, she looked up at the faeling woman, the contemplative expression wiping away to show the pleasure she wore at the compliment. She looked… coy. Embarrassed. It was one of the few times Kira recalled ever seeing the Flameweaver caught so off guard. The much older Kira observing the dream-memory recognized very subtle signs of a blush that could not form in the flawless flesh of her vampiric features.

”Thank you, Kira. This section of the woods reminds me of home, and the fresh air is good for the skin.” Playful giggles erupted from the Huntress. She expected any number of flirts and innuendoes to be returned in response; such had been the cadence of their dance thus far. To see her mistress concede the advantage was almost a shock.

Even the younger Kira recognized the way Syl had been distracted. This was, in many ways, the beginning of the end. Soon, Sylista would be in the coma that changed everything. Kira will have done the spell that left her in the state she now found herself in, soul shattered and death forever denied to her.

This night was the last time the two companions shared in such an intimate capacity. With the plain truth of this hindsight, Kira knew she would wake to a wet pillow once again.

“The Wilds are good for many things. I am called to them frequently. To experience the slow thrill of the hunt and the wild freedom of untamed wilderness.” Kira looked around to take in the woods at night affectionately. “I am free here. I do not have to worry about obligation, or about propriety. I do not feel the subtle pressure of the people all around me.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

Kira looked back to Sylista, violet eyes with their subtle glow opened once again. “I have... long wondered about my place in our companionship. I wondered: was I the huntress, slowly baiting you with my desire until the final moment of release? Or were you the predator, and me the prey with no... desire for escape?” She bit at her lip, something she had picked up from the woman before her. An imitation of a habit she found impossibly endearing. “Out here, with nothing clouding my feelings, I see it doesn’t matter. You pursued me, and I chased you back in kind. I have been... afraid of what I needed to do to finally meet you in the middle. But... I am not afraid anymore. I’m falling in love with you, Sylista. I want you to see me. The true me.”

Sylista remained impassive. A painful few seconds passed in which Kira watched, all but impatiently, for her companion to respond. Gracefully, she canted her head and looked at Kira with compassion. “It feels so much like you came into my life to help me right the wrongs I have caused to others. The parallels are striking.” With a sigh, she looked away and out into the woods.

“When I first came to RhyDin, I truly believed myself incapable of love. To the extent that I hurt a man who confessed his love for me, for fear of the hurt he would feel seeing me with the next dangerous person who found me pretty enough to give me attention.” She closed her eyes and muttered something silently to herself, amused with some memory.

Once the black lashes lifted from the way they fanned across her cheek, she turned back to look at Kira, a sad smile on her face. “I have since learned what love is and my capability to feel an infinite amount of it, but I am in no position to open my heart up to someone who could lose me.” A lump was forming in her throat and a delicate hand lifted to put pressure against it. “If I was sure I could survive what I am facing, I would be more willing to explore this with you... but I cannot let you suffer the amount of pain my husbands will should I lose this battle. I say this because I care for you, Kira, not because I do not want you.”

Kira knew the hope that her confession would be passionately accepted and consummated there in the Wilds was nothing more than the girlish fantasy of one inexperienced with love. Even at that time, she did not expect such theatrics, even in her daydreams. She also knew that her greatest fear — that she truly was no more than a pet, and her love was a thing to be scorned and ridiculed — was equally unlikely, given all that had come before.

She knew neither of these would happen. Instead, she expected a deferral, another sidestep in the waltz that was their relationship, closer to the mutual center, but still only a step in a greater journey. She did not expect the music to stop, to be met with acceptance in the same breath as... not a rejection, but a wall. And a revelation that whatever they have, it might not last.

At that time, it took a moment for the response to process in the huntress and she was able to respond. As she observed the memory, knowing what was to come, the dreaming Kira felt the pain of the moment immediately. Though, it was not a jab deep into her core that she felt at the time. Now, Kira was left with a wound that wept as it remembered.

The reaction eventually came, however. Something saw fit to intrude upon their courtship. Someone had thrown up a wall between them. A heat rose to fill the hallow space in her breast. A wall can be scaled, or shattered, if the gate was not opened.

“I cannot speak to the feelings of my lords, your beloveds,” Kira began, a tremble barely concealed in her voice. “I can only speak to mine. So I must ask you: how do you know the extent of my grief should I ever lose you? How can you say I would suffer any less than them? If I am not to marry you, and I cannot give you children, am I less capable of devotion to you?”

Once let free, the fire Kira felt for Syl was one that could not yet be tamed. It threatened to consumer her, spilling forth from her like a dam that had been thrown open. “What is it I am not allowed to know? How can I help you? What is it you are desperately protecting me from?” She moved around the fire, slowly, as though afraid to drive her companion away. “If I am to be kept at a distance, I will accept that role. If I have misunderstood and was never meant to fall for you, then I am sorry.” She placed a hand gently on Syl’s knee. The warmth in the touch inspired a shiver in the huntress that had nothing to do with the cold. “Tell me who am I to be to you, Syl. Be plain with me, please. How far does that invitation you once offered extend?”

“You would mourn me the same if I lose this," Sylista conceded with a sigh. "You have made what you want very clear and I appreciate that. The courage that must have taken is admirable." She watched Kira move toward her, the thrill of the hunt still evident in her movements. “I do not pretend to understand your feelings, as I can only understand them by hearing from you what is in your heart and mind.” She shook her head.

"I want you in my life, Kira. I enjoy our time together! I am just fighting a war in my mind against a force of nature that could end up with me dead or worse, and it is something that has left my family and trusted allies at a loss. I..." She trailed off and took up the hand on her knee. "I tried tricking Fire with only a portion of what you would call my soul, and he figured that out. He wants all of me and, should he win, someone who loves me will need to kill me. How can I allow myself to give you hope when I am doomed?"

The Huntress looked squarely into Syl’s eyes. “By allowing those who love you to stand at your side and weather the flames with you!” She kissed the vampiress. Not intensely as she would have liked, but her message was clear. I will not walk away from this unless you force me to.

She spoke when their lips parted. “If you are afraid to hope, then I will hope for the both of us. I lose everyone I knew and loved before I met you.” She closed her eyes against the fresh stab of pain that echoed even into the dreaming observer. “I lost everything... because I could do nothing.” Her eyes opened, and she reached to take Syl’s other hand, holding them both. “I would give every ounce of my being, even my own soul, to not lose you. I will not walk away and do nothing again when I have found so much.”

“If you truly wish to pursue my heart, I ask you to offer me similar patience to that which I offered you regarding physical touch. I...” Syl’s voice was thick with both pain and fear. There were so many layers to this woman, and she was only just learning to peel them away herself. “I will face a man with a vendetta holding a gun, or a demon with an unhealthy obsession, without batting an eyelash. Protecting people so I do not need to mourn them is easy when I am not protecting them from myself.”

Kira felt there was an unspoken acceptance in the reply that eased the girl’s mind. Syl already had her heart. She had earned that. Kira had offered it without reservation. That offer would not be taken back off the table.

“You waited for me. I will wait for you. Please, beloved, all I ask is to not be left out. If you are in danger, let me face it with you, in whatever small way I can. I will not leave your life, and I sincerely believe you do not want me to leave.”

Kira closed her eyes to prepare for what was to come. She had more to say, and she had come too far to be deterred now. She focused on the golden raven skull pendant at her breast, and delicate etchings began to glow green. A bubble of air formed, creating a shield of privacy around the pair. Another thing Kira had picked up from her companion, even if she couldn’t harness the power of Air herself yet.

“There was... something I have wanted to tell you for a long time. Something... I can tell no one else. I will wait until you can give me your heart. Please let me offer you mine.”

Kira shook her head solemnly. “If our time together is truly so short, it is important to me that you know this. If it is not, I want you to know my heart is waiting for you when this is done. I want you to... I want you to be certain that... I am yours, as long as you’ll have me. My name... is...” She closed her eyes as the sound left her lips and let out a shudder. She had not spoken her own name in so long.

Sylista winced, a shudder running through her, and it was evident she was feeling ill moments before Kira spoke her true name. "Wai-" A deep-voice laughed in the stillness around them. The sound was dark, and it caused goosebumps to rise up on the Flameweaver's arms. If she could cry without the blood-tears staining her cheeks, she would. "Fire..." she murmured, eyes wide and full of panic. "I am so sorry, Kira. I tried to warn you. I hope this does not cause you any harm in the future."

She stood, the movement rapid yet graceful. "Do forgive me, I do not take this gift lightly. There are just things that I cannot control, Kira, and I do not wish for you to end up hurt from them." She paused and ran a hand across red strands of hair tenderly. "Thank you."

Kira only just heard the laughter in the edge of her aural perception at the time, and the memory of it caused a shudder. It was only then that she realized that the laughter was growing, an echo from the past threatening to engulf Kira in the present and consume her whole.

“You should have listened to her, pet.”

The voice was deep and dark, coming at Kira from all directions. The memory melted away in a puff of smoke, and Kira watched the vision of her first beloved burn away before her. She found herself standing alone in the woods. A distant glow and a deep, droning roar crept between the trees.

“Who...?” The shock of the abrupt end to the vision left the Huntress momentarily disoriented.

The laughter filled her ears again. “Her soul belongs to me, girl. You give so much in vain for her, and yet all you would have ever hoped to be was an amusement to her. A pet. Someone she could easily discard like all the others.”

Kira grit her teeth as she realized who this was. She felt her own fury rise within her, hot and heavy in her chest. Fire... The one who had been the cause of all of this. “She is not yours...” Kira stopped as she felt the heat in her heart grow, biting back a cry of pain that she couldn’t name. The Huntress fell to her knees as she clutched at her chest.

“She was mine the moment she pledged herself to me for my power. If you keep trying to interfere, I’ll make sure you understand why you were told to stay away.” A deep, throaty rumble shook Kira’s core, like the planet itself were laughing at her.

She struggled to rise. Her eyes had begun to glow a furious green as the rage in Kira began to consume her. “You... will not win...” She nearly stumbled, barely catching herself and staying on her feet.

“My, but you are so eager to throw yourself on the pyre. Did you truly mean it? You would give your soul to be with her?” Kira felt his attention on her like a weight. “I have no use for a pet, but perhaps I could amuse myself with a toy.”

The Huntress felt the impossible pain becoming sharper, spreading throughout her entire being. She felt herself on the verge of bursting, and with a scream, she became engulfed in a white-hot flame. Her skin boiled away and her bones crumbled to ash.

════ ⋆★⋆ ════

Kira woke up with a scream, lashing out at some unseen threat. She stood up from the chair she’d been sitting in, knocking it to the hard wood floor, and instinctively reached out through Earth, lashing out with a tangle of vines and tendrils to grasp and throw. The old wooden desk in front of her yanked to the side and collided with the flood with a shuddering crash, scattering books and paraphernalia across the room.

She looked around, breathing heavily and trying to make sense of where she was. Her senses were scanning for someone, hyper-aware of everything around her. At the edge of her awareness, she heard the fluttering of feathers and the cawing of a bird that sounded a lot like her name.

“Kira! Stupid girl, wake up! Stop trying to kill me!”

She took a second to stop and take in where she was. The private office in her sanctuary. She had fallen asleep at her desk, which was now broken and scattered across half the room amongst books and papers.

“No, gods below...” She rushed across to look at the ruin. The old desk she’d taken from her time living in the Red Dragon. Her vines had ripped it apart.

Perdea found a side table to land on. “Whatever you were dreaming has her all in a fuss. She sent me to wake you.”

Kira thought back, concentrating on her dream before it slipped away with wakefulness. She remembered the camping trip. The voice. A chilling laugh echoed in the back of her mind. She hugged herself defensively and shivered. “Fire...”

“Well.” The raven’s head cocked to the side. She seemed to avoid snark. “He came for you after all. She’ll be pissed.”

“This was expected?” Kira shouldn’t have been so surprised. “Of course it was. He has an interest in my failure.” She brought a finger to the side of her chin thoughtfully. “If he has visited my dreams too, then I can only assume that is no longer a safe way for her to speak to me. We may need another way.”

“Don’t look at me. I can only do so much.” Her head cocked the other way. “I have other responsibilities.”

Kira shook her head. “No, I know a way.” She sighed deeply. “I will need to go to her.”

“Do I want to know? I already know the answer. I really don’t.”

Kira didn’t answer. She was lost in thought. A shiver came over her, and she hugged herself again.

“Probably healthy to be afraid.”

The Huntress shook her head again. “I am not afraid. I am furious.” She knelt down and began working on cleaning up her mess. “You are free to help.”

Kira turned her head. Of course she’d left. She let out a weak giggle before returning to gathering books and papers to salvage from the wreck.
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