Bach sits on the hotel balcony walkway with his back against the warm brick. He gazes out into the Hattan cityscape from the upper story lookout and taps his feet against the metal railing. With a long sigh, he rests his head against the wall behind him. "Well, this has gone better than I expected. But, I really wasn't all that hopeful. So, probably not the best gauge to go on."

Sebastian's ethereal form shrugs while sitting down on the concrete balcony floor and he glances over to Bach next to him. An uncertain hint leaks into his tone. "Well, bro. If what happened yesterday was anything like the first time you encountered a Nightmare Geist... Shit..."

A frown weighs upon Bach's expression and he cringes with introspective disappointment. "Well, the worst part about it is that I had more control this time. And, well, I actually woke back up on the same day. So, I guess that's an improvement?"

Sebastian leans forward and turns a frustrated stare at his brother. "Bro, I know you had your reasons and all... But... Seriously... What. The. Fuck?"

A low grumble escapes Bach and he hisses out his own irritation. While Bach tries to avert his face away, Sebastian maintains a solid glare at him. "Why didn't you ever TELL ME of all people?! I'm your fuckin' brother! All the times you had my back, but you didn't trust me to do the same for you?! You damn well know I would have and would STILL do anything for you. But, you just ditched and used that lame excuse that you weren't cut out for adventuring."

Gritting his teeth, Bach closes his eyes and tilts his head up against the hotel brick towards the noon sun overhead. "I-I-I... I don't know. At the time, I was too freaked out... I... I couldn't think straight for weeks after that encounter. Hell, I still don't even know how I even did it. I was too scared out of my mind to commit those important details to memory. So, what could have been said if I couldn't even explain it myself?"

He locks eyes with Sebastian and winces with a painful sigh. "I mean, what would you do if you suddenly started spewing forth Elder energy?! And not just when you want it. Imagine this energy creeping in when you use even a modest amount of regular magical energy? And, every time it does, it just fucks up all the normal magic you want to do!"

He draws up his legs, rests his elbows on his knees, and holds his head in between hands. "Gods... I guess... It just made sense at the time to get away from it all. I was so afraid to say anything about it. I mean, the only people who use Elder energy these days like that are Dark Lords, right? It just... It just... It just made sense to not say anything and go with one of the many reasons people guessed."

His head lowers and his fingers comb through his long brown hair, sweeping up his front white streak. He exhales a regretful breath. "I SHOULD have told you about it. I'm really sorry, brother... But... Whatever THIS is, it just feels dangerous and that I shouldn't use it at all. It doesn't help that anyone that extensively uses this elder energy stuff seems to wind up becoming the next deranged Dark Lord that tries to destroy the damned world."

After a few moments of silence, Bach rotates his head to face Sebastian's concerned frown. "It just felt like anything about it shouldn't be known by anyone else. As if it was safer for everyone else to never speak of it again. Never touch it again... Keep it locked away..."

Sebastian blinks in thought and stares out in the Hattan skyline. Seconds within his mind later, he nods with a smirk and snorts. "I think I get it, bro. Thinking about, it probably only would have been a matter of time before someone at the school would have gotten suspicious. Then, the higher ups would have gotten involved. And eventually, the worst people would be looking for you. Gods, it would have been a real mess. Then, there's a bunch of other possibilities that I don't want to think about."

His smirk parts into a proud grin and Sebastian returns to face Bach with a wink. "But, you couldn't just live out your life as some supposed lame mage, could you?"

Bach rolls his eyes at himself and groans with embarrassment. "Well, what the fuck was I supposed to do?"

He shrugs his shoulders, stretches his arms out behind his neck, and relaxes his legs out with a weak smile. "Had A LOT of time to think about things, so figured out something I could do with what I could safely use. It's not a lot, but I think it's worked so far."

Sebastian lets out a ghostly laugh and shakes his head with a smile. "Well, bro, you've done plenty to save our collective asses. So, I'll say it's worked pretty fucking good so far. I have no complaints about that much."

A brief grin graces Bach's face, but fades as other thoughts enter his mind. "I just hope I can smooth things out with the rest of the group. This was kind of a really shitty thing to keep from everyone."

A long ethereal sigh sounds of from Sebastian's transparent form and he dons a supportive smile. "We'll have a good group talk tonight. Sort through everything. I think everyone will understand once you lay it out."

Uncertainty twists Bach's mouth and he fights a heavy frown. "I don't know. But, at least Dretphi seemed supportive, so that's good. I don't know about Aristespha."

Sebastian chuckles and rolls his eyes with an amused smirk. "She'll probably just quiz you endlessly about everything for the next few weeks and try to figure out what's going on. Honestly, bro, she's been trying to understand out why you were so dedicated in learning all the low level magic stuff, when people researching that stuff specifically aren't THAT dedicated.

He leans next to Bach's ear and drops his tone to a whisper. "I think she's happy to get an answer more than anything. She's had that figuring-it-out look since yesterday."

Bach nods briefly but slows to a sad hang of the head. "Sotalia... Well...  She seems... angry at me?"

Sebastian tugs at the corner of his mouth and echoes a sigh . "Give her time. Her reasonable side will eventually win. From experience, she can rile herself up something fierce, but she'll calm down enough to think it out. But, don't bother her until then. I've made that mistake a few times."

A watery glint outlines the bottom of Bach's eyes and he sniffs to swallow back the starts of tears. "And Cideeda... I don't know what to say. Dammit. I can only thank the gods that I didn't hurt her permanently... Or worse."

Sebastian and Bach both face out into the city and stare distantly to the horizon. Minutes later, Sebastian hovers up to stand upon the balcony surface and looks over his shoulder into the sliding glass door to the hotel room. "Well, I'm going to see what everyone else is up to and figure a good time to get everyone together."

Bach nods and glances up to Sebastian with a pleading expression. "I think I'm going to stay out here for a while. See what courage I can muster up."

Sebastian presents a comforting smile to Bach. "I understand, bro. It'll be okay. Give it some time."


Above a sea of green tree canopies, Lagi glides through the skies with Kaleb scanning around the area. As Lagi's shadow upon the ground passes by a unique collection of rocky spires, Kaleb acknowledges the landmark and peers out ahead to spot a distant clearing. "Not bad! Not bad at all. We made great time. In fact, almost the exact time I told her we'd be back this morning."

Lagi snorts and tilts his wings to navigate his approach towards the open area ahead. Kaleb scans the tree bordered field ahead. Within the confines of the forest clearing, wind rustles the leaves on rows of plants growing in a large garden. A windsock flutters on a tall mast extending up from the top ridge of a huge hangar. And, the sun reflects off roof mounted solar panels upon a long brick house. Delight lights up Kaleb's face when he recognizes the familiar structures. Lagi purrs contendedly and lines up his final approach to a worn dirt track in the middle of the field. The joy wavers as Kaleb notices the form of Shadeesa, standing expectantly with arms crossed at the end of the landing. "Uh oh... I think the local news ran THAT video clip..."

The stirring breeze blows some of Shadeesa's dark green hair over her light gray, pointed ears and wraps a few strands around her horns. She maintains crossed arms and glares her green on black eyes right at Kaleb and Lagi. White freckles decorate the cheeks of her stern face and a housework stained apron waves in wind over her pronounced stomach. She continues to affix her irritated stare upon Kaleb as Lagi glides down to land. With a final few flaps of both pairs of Lagi's wings, he secures footing upon the grassy soil. Lagi watches warily as Shadeesa calmly strolls towards him with arms still crossed and glances back to Kaleb, quietly whining with worry. Kaleb slides down off the saddle, plants his boots upon the earth, and presents a placating smile to Shadeesa. "Don't worry, boy. I'll talk to her."

Lagi scoots nervously behind Kaleb and peeks over his shoulder when Shadeesa closes in. Kaleb attempts a bashful grin with a weak laugh. "I take it you saw the-"

Shadeesa flicks up her index finger and holds it in front of Kaleb to his wide-eyed, abrupt silence. She sidesteps around Kaleb and levels her stare at the worried dragon hanging his head low and avoiding direct eye contact. A warmth fills her face and she reaches out to scratch underneath the chin of Lagi with her long, thick nails. With a kiss on his muzzle, she smiles at the relieved dragon and pets his head as she holds him close. "You did very good, Lagi. Thank you for keeping him safe."

Lagi purrs at the affection and resumes a prouder posture when Shadeesa lets him go. A stern glare immediately overtakes Shadeesa's face when she pivots to towards Kaleb. As Shadeesa's eyes stare through his very being, Kaleb sheepishly searches for the words in his mind that might help him at this moment. "Uh- I- Um- I just couldn't leave- I had to- Uh- Help...?"

He anxiously scratches the back of his head of short, blonde hair. "I know I shouldn't be taking risks like that and I thought we were playing it safe and-"

Shadeesa's hands grasp either side of Kaleb's face, guide him slightly down to her level, and pull the two close together. Kaleb remains quiet as Shadeesa gazes into his eyes. Seconds of silent communication later, Shadeesa's expression softens. She closes her eyes, gently but firmly butts her head against Kaleb's forehead, and presents a smile. Her hands drop down, her arms slip underneath Kaleb's shoulders, and she embraces him tightly, resting her head next to his. Kaleb wraps his arms around her, with moments taken to comb the stray hairs out her face and over her horns. "I'm sorry."

Shadeesa giggles through the sighing release of tension and squeezes Kaleb. "It's okay... I'd honestly be very disappointed if you hadn't helped out."

She rolls her eyes at herself and twists a humored smirk. "Can't rightly fault you for what I'd want to do myself."

Kaleb chuckles and sways gently side to side with Shadeesa. "I love you."

Shadeesa loosens her hold of Kaleb and smiles back at him. "I love you, too."

The two share a quiet moment. Kaleb blinks, thinks a moment, and dons a quizzical quirk to the brow. "Have they said anything about what happened to the Nightmare Geist? Lagi and I got clear before it hit the town. And well, I haven't heard anything useful from any of the news sources."

Shadeesa puzzles over the idea and shakes her head. "Only speculation from what I've heard. A LOT of wild guesses. A few involving Noxian either releasing the thing or getting rid of it... Or both. No one can make sense of it, but that doesn't stop them from trying to explain it to everyone."

Kaleb groans with a shrug of the shoulders. "And the sky is still blue, too, I guess."

Lagi cranes his head around to scan the vicinity and his attention locks onto a distant shrub speckled with bright berries. He wanders away from Kaleb and Shadeesa as the two continue to talk.


Dretphi pushes open the decoratively frosted glass door, and steps from the hotel hallway into the large, tall chamber housing the indoor swimming pool. She sniffs the humid air and listens to the ambient hum of water filters operating nearby. She searches the length of the pool and finds only a horned head of dark red hair leaning against the edge of the shallow end. As Dretphi approaches the steps leading into the pool, she notices Sotalia residing within her own thoughts. Sotalia stares blankly across to the other end of the pool, while her arms idly wave across the water's surface. Dretphi sits down cross-legged nearby on the concrete perimeter of the pool and glances over to Sotalia. "Is there something wrong?"

Sotalia startles back to awareness and reflexively splashes some water. She quickly spins herself around and looks up to Dretphi with an awkward smile. "Oh! Uh... No. Just taking a break from swimming around this really nice pool."

Dretphi spots the mostly dry hair and swept-back horns upon Sotalia's head, then focuses an incredulous stare right at Sotalia. After contorting the corners of her mouth, Sotalia grumbles and sneers with hints of irritation. "Fine. I'm thinking about... Yesterday."

She pushes her feet easily along the shallow end's bottom and paddles slowly with her arms to a wandering float in the pool. "A lot happened and I'm just trying to process it all. That's all."

A blatant lift of the eye brow telegraphs how unconvinced Dretphi remains at that statement. Dretphi maintains a stare at Sotalia and awaits an answer. Sotalia settles upon another wall of the pool, notices the examining gaze from Dretphi, and expresses her internal deliberation. A minute later, a low growl swells out loudly from Sotalia and she pushes forceful waves of water out with both arms. "Okay! Gods damn it!"

Sotalia slips her feet underneath herself, stands up from the water, crosses her arms, and promptly sits on the pool perimeter. She grumbles out a sigh and shakes her head as the water drains off her swimsuit to wick into the darkening concrete. "I KNOW this is probably short-sighted and childish, but I can't help to be... Well... Angry."

Dretphi nods and inquisitively cocks her head to the side. "At?"

With a furrow of the brow, Sotalia rolls her eyes with a grimacing breath in. "Bach. More specifically at that the fact that he, oh I don't know, HID A CERTAIN THING FROM US!"

She grits her teeth, hisses her frustration, and rolls her shoulders. "I don't know! A certain part of me just can't shake feeling disrespected and betrayed. Even though there was probably no intent to do so...  It STILL would have been REALLY useful to know about THAT power before this point!"

Dretphi draws in a long breath, brushes back her some of her platinum blonde braids, and ponders. "Would it have?"

Sotalia opens her mouth but the words halt at the tip of her tongue. She sighs as past situations play out in her mind and her face relays how little the review even convinces herself. Dretphi speaks a single word in Grath. Sotalia blinks, processes, and slowly nods at the concept. "That translates roughly to... Death by remedy... Yeah.  That might apply."

She loosens her arms, rests her hands upon the walkway, and contends with a growing unease. "I'll admit, it was really spooky seeing him with that little control over his magic. I don't think he wanted to use that option."

Dretphi frowns and stares down at the water and the warping reflections of the overhead lights. "He was scared."

Sotalia agrees and flit of the brow. "I certainly was too with that thing charging at us-"

Glancing up from the pool, Dretphi makes eye contact with Sotalia. "Afterwards. When he woke up in the humvee. Fearful. I believe of... Us. He was horrified of what he may have done."

Seconds of quiet later, a long sigh escapes Sotalia as she frowns and relaxes her shoulders. The previous ire filling her flickers out and she slowly kicks waves with her feet under the water with a light pout. "Gods... Well... I'm NOT going to let him off the hook. Still don't like the fact he kept quiet about THAT, among other things he has yet to tell me... But..."

A sly grins graces Sotalia's lips and a mischievous air surrounds her as she stretches out her figure. "I'll try to be NICE to him and alleviate his fears. Maybe he'll open up more now.  After this, what's a few other acdemic details and spells in comparison?  Right?"

An annoyed groan echoes out from Dretphi and she glares unamusedly at Sotalia with a slow side to side sway of her head. Sotalia playfully shrugs it off with a tilt of head, shifting the curling ends of her dark red hair. "What?"

Dretphi dismissively rolls her eyes then narrows a stare at Sotalia.


Captain Hackle and Captain Hays walk down a blockaded section of street. Members of the Greater Azure Alliance specialists investigate the area. Sergeant Violet orders around Specialist Thayal and a few others in the company, with a specific focus upon Thayal when he tries to avoid duties. Chana and Heccaeh trail loosely behind Hays, while Chana pets one of the two whelps clinging upon each of Heccaeh's shoulders. Hays and Hackle both stop around the perimeter of a rope barrier and stare at the encircled section of road surface. The enclosed street visually resembles the rest of the roadway. Hays lifts an inquisitive brow and glances over to Hackle. "So, your group figure anything out yet?"

Hackle draws a long breath in, puffs his thin frame's chest out, and smirks. "Apart from the obvious that initial investigations have granted us, the fading elder energy residue, notably... Not too terribly much, actually."

The wry grin pulls across his mouth and folds the lines of age on his face. "I do have my theories. And given a certain bit of information we both know about parties possibly present in the area, I have one particular theory."

A solitary laugh escapes Hays and he crosses his arms, drumming his fingers upon the metal of his cybernetic limb. "I think we both share that theory."

He turns his head back to examine the cordoned off pavement and directs his lowered voice to Hackle. "So, are you going to investigate them further? Because, I personally have no professional stake in this now. Charting that nightmare's path back, with how we figured the animals were moving, it left out that weird zone roughly a week ago and headed straight here."

Hackle quirks a brow and mulls over the information with a few twitches of his gray mustache. "Strange. What could have prompted it to travel here, so recently?"

Hays ponders with a frown and grumbles as the frustrating possibilities rise in his mind. "Well, I get the feeling this one was homed in on something. Hell, this bastard may been zone hopping all the way from the Perimeter Weird Zone, starting over a month ago. Got a bunch of vague reports to sort through on that one."

With shrug of the shoulders, he lifts his chin up, pivots around, and scans the remaining bits of destruction, pausing to admire a very flat vehicle. "But, it has ceased to be, so my jurisdiction ends here."

Hackle shakes his head slowly, sneaks a smile on his face, and releases a long exahle as he glances at the tall city buildings surrounding the area. "The city still stands mostly in one piece. No reported loss of life. And, there's no longer an immediate threat. So, I believe my jurisdiction is about to end, too."

The two men idle in silence as specialists continue to inspect and assess the damages by taking both technological and magical measurements. Minutes later, Hackle flashes a humored grin at Hays. "You think THAT sword did it in?"

Hays chuckles and replies with a similarly amused smile. "Only thing I've ever known to put down one of these things is some ancient artifact. That sword is about the only one I know in the area right now. Didn't know it could do this, but I'm not one to complain about a gift."

Hackle nods and hums as his attention settles upon a question still in his head. "It's good to have it in capable hands. Still, I have to wonder about what attracted this geist here of all places."

Hays reaches into his pants pocket, retrieves his aetherphone, and taps through a series of menus to reveal a map. He holds the device within convenient viewing of Hackle. "I thought about that. I wondered if maybe there was something further along the path. But, the only thing it would have run into was a bunch of random ridges over near the United Appaland States."

After studying the map, Hackle straightens his posture, crosses his arms behind his back, and dons a satisfied smirk. "Well, I guess that will have to be another mystery left unsolved... Along with what may or may not have destroyed this particular Nightmare Geist. Without proper observations to report, I can only assume it must have self-destructed, or suffered a catastrophic malfunction."

A sly grin cracks on Hays's lips and he places his aetherphone back into his pocket. "I mean... It was only just a few hundred years old."

Hackle leads a healthy fit of laughter with Hays, and the two men walk away from the cordoned section of street towards the barricade exit. Hackle directs a sarcastic tone to Hays. "I truly wonder what wild theories the local news investigators will fill their reports with. I have been running low on comedies."

Hays squelches a snicker and shakes his head. "Wait a month, there will be a movie."


Samantha slowly steps through the elaborately decorated hotel hallway, studies her clipboard, and flips through a number of papers. She stops riffling, throws a bundle over the metal clip, and scribbles out notes upon the page below with a pen. "Okay... I think we can make this work still. The editing team will have a bit of extra work, but a few dramatic cliffhangers between the commercial breaks should make it workable."

Gerald cranes his head over near Samantha's shoulder and skims through the paragraphs of correction speckled literature with a dubious sneer. "I guess. Most the shots we got of the monster were from VERY far away. And, some of the video got slightly corrupted by that weird magical wave."

Tapping the pen to her lips, Samantha lifts an intrigued brow as an idea enters her mind. "Ah... We can spin it off as footage recorded by the locals of the monster with a bit of special effects work. Mix in the scenes of the team helping with the evacuation efforts... And, then throw together a dramatic narration over a mosaic of the news broadcasts and fade in to scenes of the aftermath... With... With..."

Gerald dons a sly smile and directs a suggestion into Samantha's ears. "Interleaved clips of individual video journals talking about the whole event."

A delighted glint sparkles in Samantha's eye and she grins widely, excitement putting a lift in her step. "Oh... Yes..."

She feverishly jots down a series of sentences and sketches out a number of diagrams in the empty margins of the pages. "I'll need to type this up and send it to Howie for final approval, but I like it enough that we should go ahead get the clips for it!"

Gerald nods, pulls out his aetherphone, and navigates through the interface. "Send the crews out to get footage of where the team members were assisting, along with shots of the destruction?"

Samantha taps the pen upon her clipboard, stalling on a final step of the rough outline upon the paperwork. "Yes.  Need a closure scene to finish up on..."

Seconds of travel down the hall later, Gerald blinks out of drifting thought and glances over to Samantha. "A wide shot of the site the authorities are investigating, voice over about the strange disappearance of the monster, and some dramatic music?"

Biting her lower lip, Samantha quickly writes down the sequence of events and nearly skips along the next few meters down the carpeted hallway. "Oh, I'll let the editing team go all out on that one! Hide some faint old secret society symbols, too!"

She looks up from the clipboard at Gerald. "So how long before you can get set up for the video journals?"

Gerald calculates the time upon the top of his mind and shrugs nonchalantly. "Maybe half an hour or so?"

The two move down the hallway, until Samantha stops outside a hotel room entry. She knocks quickly and loudly upon the door. Seconds later, the inset peephole darkens briefly and the lock unlatches. The door opens to reveal the towering frame of Trakenthin, who simply stares down at Samantha and Gerald. Samantha smiles confidently and gazes up at Trakenthin. "Personal Interviews in half an hour."

Trakenthin nods slowly. As he closes the door, Modoran's sardonic tone leaks out. "Oh, my favoritest thing to do!"

Gerald and Samantha travel down to the next door. Samantha raps upon the wood and waits. The door opens to Tassilda standing, arms crossed, with hints of defiance in her posture. "Yes?"

Samantha narrows her eyes at Tassilda and assumes a more assertive stance. "Personal Interviews. Half an hour."

She notices Deedri waving in the background and flashes a nice smile with a wave back... Right before Tassilda firmly shuts the door. The duo approach the next door and slow their pace down. Gerald tilts his head, and aims his ear at the door, waits a few moments, and then snorts. Samantha rolls her eyes dismissively as the unmistakable sounds of carnal gymnastics resonate faintly from inside the hotel room. She sighs, shakes her head, and directs a sarcastic tone to Gerald. "We'll come back in fifteen minutes or so."

Gerald snickers with an ill-humored smirk. "That long?"

Samantha blinks with a tight smile as the situation amuses her. "Oh really?"

With a derisive snicker, Gerald pivots and steps down the hall with Samantha following behind. "Well, let's just say I've been noting the duration of events when it comes to the time codes on the videos."


Afternoon sun rays beam through the sliding glass door leading out to the balcony of the hotel room. The light shines upon the sheets of the bed nearest to the balcony and barely reaches over to touch the base of the next. Cideeda steps through a doorway joining another similar hotel room and searches the area, puzzling. She halts her stare over the luggage and bags laying out on a pulled out sleeper sofa, and plods over with her hands on her hips. She slides over a bag, unzips the top, and rummages through the contents while mumbling to herself. Aristespha lifts her head up from a pile of paperwork and tablets upon the room desk and glances over to notice Cideeda. "Did you misplace something?"

Cideeda's ears perk back and guide the rest of her head as she pauses her hunt momentarily with a grumble of frustration. "Yes. I can't find my headphones. I thought I packed them, but can't remember which bag they ended up in."

Aristespha slides out, stands up from chair, and steps over next to Cideeda. She leans over to another suitcase and opens up pocket. "Well, you can borrow mine. The ear pieces aren't quite the best fit for you, but they might be a close enough fit for a little while."

An appreciate smile appears on Cideeda's face and she gives a Aristespha nod before resuming her exploration of her bag's contents. "If I don't find them in this bag, I'll definitely take you up on the offer. Thank you."

After a few digs underneath layers of clothes and other personal items, Cideeda uncovers the magic flow practice wand.  She stares at the device and a frowns forms. She slowly grips onto the wooden, magically inscribed stick, and her mood sharply darkens with a depressing, audible sigh. Aristespha glances over from her luggage and witnesses Cideeda's longing stare upon the practice wand. A compassionate, sad smile graces her lips and she directs a concerned tone. "As medical professional, I can say you are physically healthy today."

She sits down on the bed near the sleeper sofa, places her hands upon her knees, and presents a patient, comforting demeanor. "But as a friend, I can tell something has been bothering you since yesterday. I would be happy to listen."

Cideeda glances over to Aristepha, back to the practice wand, then back. Her ears droop, a long mournful exhale escapes her lungs, and she lifts herself to a seat on the bed next to Aristespha. As she rolls the magical focus in her clawed fingers, she wrestles down the words to form a sentence. "I know I shouldn't be surprised... Or even really think about it at this point, but..."

She stares at the practice wand, grimaces, and focuses her thoughts. "I don't know. Despite there not being anything... Known... to modern magical medicine that can fix my magic issue..."

Aristespha angles her head to catch eye contact with Cideeda, and waits calmly. After few silent moments, Cideeda continues her explanation with a slight waver to her voice. "I just never quite gave up on that ridiculously unlikely chance. And well, seeing... Someone..."

She pauses a moment to communicate unspoken and Aristespha acknowledges with a nod. Cideeda draws in a breath. "Someone struggle pass supposed limitations to do amazing things, I thought that maybe there was a better chance for me than I thought? There was some kind of hope? Maybe I'm not the only one? And something could change?"

Her eyes close, and she sniffs, tempering the emotional swell. After a small cough, she blinks her emerald eyes open and presents faux grin. "Well, now, it seems that I've just been building up my hopes, again. So, you know... Just facing the reality of it all, again. But, at least, I'm still me. Still the same as I was before."

As her voice trails off, she drifts a stare at the wand.  Aristespha breathes in carefully, rests a hand upon Cideeda's slumping shoulder, and squeezes gently. "I will not tell you to hope blindly. I'm not going to tell you to ignore the reality of the situation. But, I will say... You should NOT exclude the possibility."

A sadness tints her tone and she maintains a strong smile despite her thoughts. "I can't say it is similar to yours, but I've had to face the reality of my own situation. And my hopes seem to grow a little less likely with each day. But, while I'm not making any great future plans based on those hopes... I still include the possibility that my hopes can happen. That way, I keep searching for ways to make them happen."

Cideeda lifts her head up, turns to face Aristespha while she stares ahead, and notices the damp corners of her eyes. She straightens her back up, pulls in a breath of air, and vents out her tension. "Well, if you keep entertaining that possibility, I'll try to do the same, despite myself."

She presents an honest, toothy grin and Aristespha smiles genuinely in return. Cideeda shifts her focus to the practice wand, grips it with both her hands, and chuckles. She closes her eyes, concentrates, and turns her attention inwards. A few moments later, she open her eyes, shrugs nonchalantly at Aristespha with facetious laugh, and finally gazes down at the practice wand.

A green glow illuminates from the inscriptions wrapping up the base of stick.

Cideeda and Aristespha both stare at the wand blankly. Aristespha's face falls right into perplexed and gives way to outright shock. Cideeda's hand trembles in the dim green light, her jaw hangs wide open, and her emerald eyes widen. The astonishment barely allows her a single word. "H-H-how...?"


The aetherphone screen shows a man and woman sitting behind a wide desk. The woman stiffens her posture and defiantly retorts. "How can you say it ISN'T Dark Lord Noxian?! It makes perfect sense! Release this terror upon the populace, and then triumphantly show up to destroy the beast. That way he fools people into thinking he's justified! Who wields that much elder energy? A Dark Lord! What Dark Lord is there? Noxian!"

The man narrows his eyes, and reinforces his composure. "But WHERE is Noxian? Why hasn't he revealed himself to take the credit? And Nightmare Geists have been dealt with by other means. There is another explanation that doesn't involve the latest magical criminal that hasn't been seen or heard from in three months!"

The clouds glide out of the way the late afternoon sun and the light shines on Bach's face. For a moment, he stares at his faint, sad reflection in the glare of the phone screen. He firmly presses the close button on the video stream and puts the device away in his pocket. As the sounds of Hattan fill the background, Bach closes his eyes tightly and winces in self frustration. He rests his head back upon the balcony brick, stares off towards the horizon, and mumbles to himself. "Dammit, you fuckin' idiot... What did you expect was going to happen?"

A loud, swift slide of the glass door to the hotel room snaps Bach into reality from his head space. Dretphi quickly leans out the doorway, and energetically motions Bach over. "Come here."

Bach blankly stares as Sebastian's ethereal form zips out behind Dretphi and dramatically gestures at Bach. "You have to see this, bro!"

Uncertainty slows Bach's progress to stand and he apprehensively approaches the sliding glass door. Once he follows Sebastian inside, he feels the firm pressure of Dretphi's hand on his back ushering him towards the doors joining the two hotel rooms. As he moves along the route, he glances over to Sebastian and searches for an answer. "Uh, what's going on?"

Sebastian hovers next Bach with a shrug. "Not quite sure. It's only been like, ten minutes. We're still figuring it out."

The trio arrive in the other hotel room. Bach stares in utter confusion at the scene. Cideeda sits on the hotel bed with her arm extended out. Sotalia holds her hand out while seated next to Cideeda, and slowly demonstrates a series of magical gestures, voicing the relevant parts of the incantation. Aristespha slides the room chair up closer, opposite of Cideeda, and places her hands underneath Cideeda's arm with glowing violet eyes. "Okay. Whenever you are ready."

Bach cocks his head to side as he tries to understand the situation. Sotalia subdues her anticipation, and calmly leads with the first gesture and incantation part. Cideeda carefully mimics the motion, pronounces the sound, and visibly concentrates. Part after part, Sotalia shows the process and Cideeda repeats as accurately as she can. A flash of recognition sparks in Bach's mind of a very simple training spell. With the final part, Cideeda strains her focus and flexes her fingers out.

A small speck of cloudy light flickers into existence above Cideeda's palm. It hovers very shakily for a few seconds before dissipating in a puff of magical miasma.

Sotalia covers her mouth and nose with both hands in awe. Aristespha moves her hands away, lifts up her head, and blinks the glow down in her eyes with a smile. "Well, you'll need many years of practice. But, that looked and felt like normal beginner's flow."

The excitement within Sotalia wins out against any restraint and she wraps her arms quickly around Cideeda in a hug. "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! I'm going to show you all the best spells! And you'll get to practice with the rest of us!"

Flexing the claw tipped fingers of her hand, Cideeda stares blankly and watches her hand as she sways with the enthusiastic embrace of Sotalia. As the smile forms, a flow of tears roll down Cideeda's face and she sniffles. She tries to wipe the water off her face, but laughs as she struggles against the hold Sotalia. Bach remains silent, props himself against the nearby wall, and gazes on, absolutely bewildered. Dretphi smiles brightly at Cideeda and rests a hand upon Bach's shoulder. Sebastian proudly grins at Bach. "Heh. Told you it'd be okay, bro."

After Sotalia calms down enough to release her, Cideeda looks over to Bach, with a tear soaked smile. She watches the mix of confusion, embarrassment, and nerves play out on Bach's face as he obviously fumbles about a response. She presents a toothy grin to Bach. "So... How are you feeling?"

Bach stops, smiles weakly, and shrugs as nonchalantly as he can muster. "Well... Happy... But, very, very confused right now."

Cideeda nods slowly and giggles. "About the same here."


Layers of conversation from the lunch crowd fill the background inside the sandwich shop. A middle aged woman with blonde hair, rearranges the area around the register. She moves a number of items within easy reach of her left arm, pauses to survey the workspace, and readjusts the shoulder strap of her arm sling. When th e phone rings, she winces as she fights against habit to not move her right arm. With a quick pivot, she answers the phone with her left hand and pinches the handset between an ear and shoulder. Exercising great care, she taps out the order on her computer screen, relays the cost, waits, and then presses the confirmation button. After the call, she smiles over to a small, blonde haired girl sitting on stool, and steps over to see the number of crayon drawings on paper upon the counter. She kisses the top of the girl's head, and hugs her tightly with her left arm. The little girl pauses from her art and happily returns the affection. "Love you, mommy."

As the door opens, the chime sounds out and a thin, older man walks into the shop. He calmly steps towards the counter, his hands in the pockets of his hoodie. While he waits near the register, he loosens the blue scarf around his neck and scratches his gray facial hair. The middle age woman glances over and delights. "Isaac! I'm glad you are okay. Especially, after all the chaos over the last two days."

Isaac shakes his head and laughs. "It's has been quite the few days, Lydia. I came yesterday, but your employees said you were-"

He glances down and notices the sling holding Lydia's right arm and a worried frown flashes on his face. "Oh my! What ever happened?"

Lydia looks down and sighs. "Well, long story short, when that monster wrecked a machine shop, some of the debris eventually crash landed through my apartment and onto me."

She lifts some of her hair to reveal a bandage on her head. "Broke my arm, hit the floor, and got knocked out cold."

With a wide-eyed attention, Isaac's face flits between worry, concern, and some relief. "Well, I'm happy to see you standing."

He glances over at the little girl and summons a smile. "Well, I see that Leigh is okay. That must have been frightening for her."

Lydia draws a tense breath of air and her posture stiffens. "Oh gods. You have no idea! After I didn't wake up for an hour, she braved out on her own to try to find help for me. She wandered right into the path of that... thing..."

Isaac remains silent and turns his horrified stare to Lydia. Rolling the unease out of her shoulders, Lydia loosely holds her hand near her mouth while she looks to Leigh. "I don't know all that happened.  She ran away from it. And thank every god out there, a wonderful group of adventurers were around the area. They swept her up and got her to safety."

Lydia exhales and rests her hand on her chest. "The rescue team had to nearly sedate me when I woke up and couldn't find her. But, it was less than a few minutes later she was turned in to the authorities."

She drifts off in thought while looking at Leigh, then remembers. "Oh! I'm so sorry. Let me take your order first, then we can talk our ears off. Your usual?"

Isaac confirms with a smile and holds up a finger. "Yes, but extra olives today."

With a quick nod, Lydia focuses her attention to the computerized order system and carefully taps the order out with her left hand. Isaac studies the nearby sheets paper next to a large box of crayons. He happy smirks and curiously observes Leigh coloring. "What are you drawing today?"

Leigh briefly looks up and taps her hand on the pile of paper. "My new friends. Look!"

Isaac chuckles to himself, and examines the drawings. Green eyed fvalian. Tall woman with blonde braids. Woman with blue and gray hair, and violet eyes. Horned, red haired woman. And a faintly shaded man. Isaac blinks, thinks a moment, and watches Leigh color in her latest drawing. "Is that another drawing of a friend?"

Leigh shakes her head while she concentrates on the picture. "No. It's the monster. It's okay. The hero stopped it."

Upon the paper, a giant, solid black figure nearly fills half the page, but a solitary man with white crayon colored over him stands in the way of the dark form.