Dr. Dawkins steps up to the front door, and turns the knob. Pulling the door in, he smiles with delight at Nash and Harvos on front porch. “Gentlemen, it’s good to see you. Now, come in before we let nature inside.”

Nash steps through with a snort and brushes his nose with a grimace. “You’re telling me. These bugs must be waiting for anyone at the door around here.”

Habitually ducking his head to clear his horns under the doorway, Harvos moves to the side, and nods to Dr. Dawkins. “Sounds pretty out lively there.”

Dr. Dawkins closes the door, chuckles briefly, and rolls his eyes. “Oh, yes. Usually the bugs aren’t so bad, but all this rainfall has helped them.”

He motions Nash and Harvos to follow him, and directs his voice back as he walks. “One summer, I had some wild whelps hatch a nest. Those little ones got the taste for insects and scoured the outside of the house for everything they could fit in their maws. Best exterminators I ever had. Really wish they’d come back.”

He gestures towards the couch in his well decorated living room, approaches a wide table with a few fine bottles of liquor, and sets out some glasses. “Anyway...”

Lifting a curious brow, hints of confusion taint Dr. Dawkins’s voice as he addresses both Nash and Harvos. “Now, while I enjoy your company and having a proper excuse to drink, I’m a bit puzzled as to what you needed to talk to me in person about.”

Pointing to the two glasses and waiting for acknowledgment from Nash and Harvos, he tips a bottle of amber liquor close to them, and inquires further. “Especially under the explicit context that you didn’t want to speak over the phone about it...”

Both Nash and Harvos spot the glasses and nod confirmations to Dr. Dawkins. Drawing a long breath, Nash glances over to Harvos, and grits his teeth briefly. Harvos furrows his brow, narrow his brown on black gaze, and sighs uneasily. “To be frank, Dr. Dawkins... We think someone has been monitoring you in some shape or form.”

Dr. Dawkins pauses pouring the alcohol into the glasses, and tilts his head to the side while facing away from Nash and Harvos. “Really? What makes you believe that?”

Nash scratches the side of his head, grimaces, and sorts through an explanation. “Well, I don’t know how much you’ve heard from which sources, but... To hell with it. Noxian- Well, Isaac snuck into the basement server farms. And, left with... Something?”

Dr. Dawkins’s green eyes flit wide briefly, and he grasps hold of the two glasses with a healthy portion of brown liquor in them. “I thought there was something stirring on campus. I hadn’t heard from a few of the old faculty still teaching there for a while. Wondered what has been keeping them.”

Stepping carefully with the drinks in hand, he presents the alcoholic beverages to Nash and Harvos, and focuses an intrigued stare at them. “Very interesting... Do they know what he took? And... Why he was even there?”

Nash shakes his head with a long exhale. He pulls a hearty sip from his drink, hums in thought, and nods thankfully with a lift of the glass to Dr. Dawkins. “No. To be honest, everyone is pretty clueless. Hell, the only reason we knew it happened was I because I was reviewing camera footage for something completely unrelated. Remind me to tell you THAT story later.”

Pouring some of the drink in his mouth, Harvos sighs, and gazes up to Dr. Dawkins. “We wanted to let you know sooner, but...”

Dr. Dawkins cracks dry smirk, turns around, and walks to the table along the wall. “Allow me to make an educated guess. Upon seeing the report, the higher ups collectively soiled themselves in abject fear, and panicked uselessly to try figure a way to handle it without alarming everyone else. And, while they’ve been flailing around they have told everyone to keep quiet?”

Nash and Harvos exchange glances, shift focus to their drinks, and both down large swigs. Nash draws in a mildly embarrassed breath through his nose, groans off the alcohol vapor in his mouth, and nods with a grit of his teeth. “Yeah. Pretty much. So other events have happened, too, and they’ve called in... People.”

Slumping his shoulders slightly, Dr. Dawkins shakes his head of short, well-kept white hair, and grumbles with tinges of annoyance. “By the gods, how many organizations are poking around the Grand Library now?”

Wrestling the words on his face, Nash frowns awkwardly and shrugs his shoulders while gazing at the liquor left his glass. “All the ones that matter and a few more that don’t.”

Pouring a very large portion of golden brown liquor from another glass bottle, Dr. Dawkins sighs while rolling his eyes with a grimace. “So, they’re at that point now. Gods help us all.”

Harvos places his half full glass down on the coffee table in front of him, thoughtfully puts his hands together, and directs his voice to Dr. Dawkins. “The most troubling part is that this seems like it was planned out. It happened just after we left with you to the buffet. We’ve gotten evidence that indicates that Isaac has someone helping him out. Even followed us.”

Slowly resting the bottle down, Dr. Dawkins places a tight grip around his glass of liquor, idly swirls the beverage around, and stiffens his posture briefly. “Really? That is concerning...”

Pushing through his nerves, Harvos draws in a calming breath, and proposes his theory towards Dr. Dawkins. “That’s why we had to talk to you in person.”

Dr. Dawkins cools as he slowly lifts his drink to his mouth, maintains his gaze away from Harvos and Nash, and calmly waits. Nash glances around the room, pauses to notice any communications device nearby, and loudly whispers to Dr. Dawkins. “We think you were... or ARE... Being watched, recorded... Something.”

Blinking as his mind processes the information, a sly smirk cracks from the corner of Dr. Dawkins's mouth, and he takes a long, relieved swig of liquor. Assuming a facade of concern, he turns around to face Nash and Harvos, and visibly puzzles. “Gods. Thinking about it... That was unfathomably convenient timing on Isaac’s part.”

Nash nods in complete agreement, and searches his own mind for theories. “That’s what we thought. I mean, Isaac has shown ability to use hacking software.”

Rolling his eyes partially at himself and shrugging his shoulders, Harvos grumbles with a guilty undertone. “Our department isn’t above utilizing a variety similar tricks to get access archaeological finds.”

Dr. Dawkins drifts off in thought, tilts his head to the side, and sighs. “That we aren’t.”

Nash narrows an inquisitive gaze at Dr. Dawkins, and mulls over the possibilities. “Have you noticed anything off around the house lately? Television not working right? Phone acting up? Computer crashing?”

Visibly searching his mind, Dr. Dawkins’s green eyes dart around and he pours some of the golden brown liquor into his mouth. Narrowing his gaze at Nash, he cocks his head. “My outdoor house lights have triggered on at oddest hours of the night this summer. They haven’t done that since the whelps left.”

Harvos sits up straighter, gradually nods, and proposes. “Yeah. That might be sign. Someone trying to figure how to get to the house and seeing if anyone reacts to the lights coming on...”

Nash scratches the beard on his chin. “What could have been done to this place? Maybe getting in the utility boxes?”

As Harvos and Nash exchange theories between each other, Dr. Dawkins rests his drink on the table, and points through an archway leading out of the living room. “Well, we probably won’t find anything sitting around. Let me check on my laundry, finish your drinks, and we’ll doing a little investigating outside before it gets too dark.”

Both Nash and Harvos agree, and focus on their beverages while debating. Dr. Dawkins calmly exits, travels around the dining room, navigates through the kitchen, and steps into the utility room with a washer and dryer. He locates a broom, pivots around quickly, and swiftly approaches the back exterior door. Reaching over to the dryer, he turns the dial to a set time, and presses the start button. As quietly as possible under the drowning drone of the machinery, he opens the back door, pushes out the screen door, and leans outside. Spotting a neatly closed utility box nearby, behind a large shrub, he slides the broomstick along the outer brick wall, catches the top latch, and expertly flicks it open. With a hard tap of the broom end, the box cover hinges down, and exposes carefully arranged wiring. Dr. Dawkins aims the end of the broomstick, thrusts the tip harshly into the cables, and roughly stirs the bundle into a mess. With deft precision, he positions the end of the broom under the box cover, drives it up to sloppily close over the wiring mass, and slams the top latch partially closed.

Slipping himself back inside, he allows the screen door to shut securely, closes the utility room door tightly, and places the broom exactly where it was. Arranging his clothing back neatly, he brushes his fingers through his hair, and grins sly and satisfied. Walking eagerly through the house into the living room, he calls out to Nash and Harvos. “Okay, gentlemen. Let’s see what clues we can find.”


A large, ornately carved wooden door swings inwards and passes under bell arm. As the chime rings out into the open, well-lit space, Isaac steps through from the outside dusk light. Allowing the door to close back, he walks slowly and surveys the area. Odd items and strange kitsch cover heavy tables within the center space of the shop. Down long side paths, selections of magical commercial products and unique offerings fill aisles of tall shelves. Isaac navigates through the displays of merchandise, stops for interesting items, and eyes them briefly. With a few other asides to survey artifacts, he notices the attentive, bright orange eyed gaze of an evuukian woman, and shifts his attention to the locked, glass display cases behind her. Presenting a proud perk of her brow on her light skin, the evuukian woman tosses back her long, flowing crimson and gold blended hair. She pulls an intrigued grin on her cheeks that graces the lines of color at the edges of her face. “Welcome to Lady Rhian’s Shoppe of Magic and Treasures. I am Lady Rhian. And, I can tell YOU are a discerning customer.”

Isaac cracks an amused smirk, brushes back his wispy, gray hair, and laughs lightly. “Maybe. How can you be so certain that I’m such a particular customer?”

Rhian smiles brightly, lifts a confident eyebrow at Isaac, and points towards the tables in the central space. “Well, you stopped and checked out the best items at each table. You looked at them carefully, but none interested you enough to actually pick it up. But, I saw how you reacted to...”

She steps to the side, waves out her hand towards all the strange artifacts in the glass displays behind her, and grins brightly. “The best.”

Crossing his arms humored, Isaac slowly nods at the deduction and tilts his head to the side with an inquiring gaze. “They are indeed very interesting, and any other time I would love if I could find out more about them. Unfortunately, I’m on a bit of quest at the moment, so I’ll have to stick to the mundane.”

With a playful, dramatic sigh, Rhian slumps her shoulders slightly, cocks her head, but maintains an eager smirk. “Oh well. I understand, but you are more than welcome to gaze upon them as long as you want. They MAY be waiting here for you next time you visit. But, I just never know.”

Shaking his head with a chuckle, Isaac glances over to the impressive stock of strange artifacts and crafted items, and shifts his attention to Rhian. “I just may. After business, of course. I saw you had some magic detection sticks on the shelves, but I was curious if you sold them in bulk? I’m planning a trip into the zone and need a good supply.”

Rhian straightens her posture, twist her mouth, and lifts an examining brow towards Isaac. “Ah... First time going into the PWZ?”

With a single nod, Isaac sighs out a little bit of his pride. “Yes. I’m not a stranger to weird zones. But, I have been told the PWZ is... More unique than most.”

Kneeling down behind the counter, Rhian sorts through the lower counter shelves, and directs her voice to Isaac. “Oh yes, it is. And, I have a few suggestions.”

From her right hand, she places down small, rugged metal box with a glass window lid on the counter. With a firm grip on a leather bag, she stands up, easily curls her arm, and puts forth significant effort to plop the sack on the counter. She slides the metal box in front of Issac, and pulls out a large metal nut with a piece of fabric tied through it from the leather sack. Isaac blinks blankly, alternates his curious, illuminated gaze between the two items, and cocks his head. “Interesting. I’m definitely seeing some enchantments on that hardware, and some very curious magic flows from items in that box.”

Rhian grins eagerly at Isaac conclusions. “Yes, indeed.”

Closing her eyes briefly, she opens them to a glowing bright orange, directs her attention to the cloth tied metal nut in her left hand, and presents it to Isaac. “As wonderful as mage sight is, we both know that keeping it going non-stop will put anyone under unnecessary strain, and tie up your focus from the many, many others things happening. And in the PWZ, you CAN'T be distracted.”

Tapping her finger on the metal box, she smiles, and blinks off the illumination in her eyes. “This is an anomaly detector box. Inside are containers with different materials taken from the PWZ that react to the different things you might encounter. And thankfully, they react well before you get too close to them.”

Tossing around the fabric wrapped hardware in her left hand, she glances over at the metal object. “Despite it’s looks, this a typically reusable investigation tool. Treated with mild enchantments to help identify what strange phenomena you might have found yourself near.”

Isaac pauses mid thought, and narrows his gray eyed stare at Rhian. “Typically reusable?”

Rhian smirks sharply, and laughs as her very long, pointed ears twitch. “Well, while most would be perfectly serviceable after certain anomaly investigations... Recovery in those situations is not... Advisable?”

From the back area, the door opens and man in worn adventuring clothes with wild, brown hair steps out carrying handled, cylindrical containers. He loosens the nicely knitted, green scarf around his neck, places the vessels on a sturdy table, and calls out towards Rhian before looking over. “Found a Sparkler, two Streamers, and a Glow Ball last night. Should make for some good trinkets-”

He spots Rhian and Isaac, blinks to an awkward silence, and mutters. “Oh. Sorry. Didn’t know you had a customer...”

Rhian turns around with a warm smile towards the man, motions him over, and presents an entrepreneurial grin towards Issac. “Allow me to introduce you to a reliable PWZ contractor, Mavian Rha-she. He will attest to how useful my finely crafted detectors and rugged investigation tools are.”

Mavian’s expression blanks briefly. He draws in a long breath, walks up to the counter with a mildly annoyed glance to Rhian, and rummages through a pocket. He reveals a detector of similar construction to the one on the counter, and a worn cloth wrapped metal nut. “I’ve used Rhian’s tools for years, and personally found the detector fragments used from the deepest part of the PWZ. These simple looking cloth wrapped chunks of metal have kept me from making some very bad mistakes.”

He focuses the faint overall glow of his green eyes at Isaac and speaks with a genuine tone. “If you are going into this zone, you’ll want both. Even with what I can see with my eyes, I’m not going to take anything to chance. Neither should you.”

Isaac scrutinizes Mavian’s appearance, studies his body language, and eventually nods in agreement. “I must say, that is indeed very convincing.”

He gazes over to Rhian with a smile. “I think you’ve certainly made a sale. I still wouldn’t mind a few boxes of the typical detector sticks.”

Rhian grins brightly, with a happy squirm in her body language, and nods. “Of course!”

As Rhian goes to a nearby register and swiftly taps numbers into the device, Isaac glances between Rhian and Mavian, ponders a moment, and inquires. “Does the name Beckerin mean anything to you two?”

Rhian’s expression lights up with a delighted smile as she glances over to Isaac. “Yes, it does! He’s been quite the reseller of my hard move artifacts, and always seems to drum up business for me.”

Mavian twists his mouth, and sighs with a begrudging respect. “And, he’s quite good at finding oddest leads to strange finds... How do you know him?”

Isaac blinks a moment, shrugs his shoulders, and plainly states. “I do not know him personally, but friend of mine who does says he recommend that I should find this place... And ask about someone to guide me into the zone.”

Hint of hesitance and tension slows down Rhian’s data entry, and she narrows defensive stare at Isaac. “Why do you need a guide into the PWZ?”

Sensing the change in the mood, Isaac draws in a long breath, and calmly explains. “Well, to be honest, I’m trying to find a fellow colleague who my friend and I haven’t heard from in quite some time. We believe he went to study some ruins out in the PWZ, but hasn’t sent any recent updates. So, I’m trying to find him.”

Rhian’s sternly protective demeanor fades to a softer, empathetic attitude, and she nods slowly. “I can understand that. Well, I can’t personally help, but Mavian could.”

Mavian crosses his arms, focuses a scrutinizing stare at Isaac, tilts his head to the side. “So... Do you have any specific locations you know to check, or any last whereabouts?”

Isaac shakes his head, sighs, and frowns. “Unfortunately not. I have some vague hints from his last update, but nothing specific.”

Searching his mind, Mavian grimaces, and slowly shakes his head. “I’m not one for wandering aimlessly in the zone. Do you have a name?”

With a plain tone, Isaac replies. “Dr. Malkav.”

Mavian’s faintly glowing green eyes dart around his memories, and after a few seconds a semblance of recognition dawns upon his light tan face. “I swear I’ve heard that name before. In conversations with other zone runners.”

He gazes at Isaac, slides a pad of paper over, and searches for a writing utensil. “Okay, here’s what I can do right now. You’ll want to head to Precipice. It’s the last thing you can call civilization in the PWZ before you leave the calmer part of the zone. Well, as calm as it can be at times. If your friend is still alive and well, he probably HAS to make visit there to get supplies. There’s not that many people in that town, so SOMEONE has to know him and have some contact with him.”

Rhian hands Mavian a pen with a warm smile, and Mavian writes out contact information on the paper. “I’m currently on a... break from doing guide work. But, I usually have a room at this inn in Precipice when I’m working. If you can find out any specific places to check for Dr. Malkav, try to find me in two weeks, and we’ll talk further.”

Isaac smiles appreciatively, shakes Mavian’s outstretched hand firmly, and retrieves his wallet with an expectant gaze to Rhian. “So, what do I owe you?”

Rhian recites an amount, Isaac hands over appropriate currency, and Mavian awkwardly figures out how to package up the purchased merchandise. Isaac leaves the store, and a bright chime sounds as the door swings open and drifts closed. Rhian stretches her arms out on the counter with a happy smile, and focuses her bright orange eyes towards Mavian. “So, what are you doing tonight?”

Mavian blinks blankly, stiffens his posture, and awkwardly stumbles upon his own surge of shyness. “I, uh, um... Nothing really. Just wanted to rest and catch up on the shows I missed while I was out.”

A sly smirk creeps out from the corner of Rhian’s mouth, and she pivots around to face Mavian with a slight frown. “Oh, I guess I understand. I wanted to cook something nice, but it’s just seems so wasteful when it’s just yourself. I wouldn’t want to impose on you catching up on your shows.”

Flitting his eyes wide, Mavian shakes his head, fumbles over his awkwardness, and softly replies while fighting a flush of embarrassment. “Well, uh... I can watch them after you get to cook something nice.”

A bright smile graces Rhian’s face. “WE can watch them after WE eat.”


Aristespha, Bach, Cideeda, Dretphi, Sotalia, and Sebastian sort through different descriptions upon tablet, phone, and paper. Bach collates a few packets, offsets the section titles from each other, and lays out the arrangement on the table top. “I think we can pull these off in a day.”

Cideeda narrows her emerald green eyes, flicks her furry ears in thought, and nods. “Probably. They don’t look too involved. But...”

She reads some text from her phone, writes it down on a blank piece of paper, and inserts the page between two sections in Bach’s stack. Pointing to mark on a map print out, she motions to two other points nearby, and grins with a scheming tone. “This one is along the way, and we could easily fit it in.”

Sotalia swipes through a list of different postings, sneers as she travels further down, and whines. “Gods almighty, what’s with this area and wanting people to check out deep, dark ruins this month? Half of these posts are for exploration and inspection of some underground, ancient, and/or creepy bunker.”

Nodding in begrudging agreement, Dretphi frowns and groans disappointed. “Would not mind something outdoors. Tired of finding terrible things indoors.”

Leaning back in her seat at the dining table, Sotalia stretches her arms up and curls her back with a smirk. “Oh, girl, I know. At least, if we run into something outside I can use the FUN spells to take care of it.”

Sneaking a guilty smile, Dretphi rolls her eyes at herself, and giggles. “Use the FUN gun.”

Sebastian glances away from peeking over Aristespha’s shoulder, snorts ethereally, and shrugs his ghostly shoulders. “I would not mind another nature hike in a park, even if it means running off another bratty teenager.”

Cideeda raps her claw tips on the table top, grins toothily, and wags her tail. “It was a little fun teaching her a lesson. Though I did feel... a little... bad that there was only cold water working.”

Bach glances between everyone, contorts his face, and dons a sly smirk. “Oh... The hot water worked just fine.”

A long silence looms in the room. Sebastian snorts out laugh. Aristespha blinks with an amused smirk. Dretphi covers her mouth in a mildly humored, surprise. Sotalia cocks her head with a delighted smile. And, Cideeda snickers and laughs. Shaking her head with a mix of approval and puzzling, Sotalia lifts an intrigued brow. “Bach Warwick... Really? And here I thought I was being a bad influence on you.”

Dretphi summons up a semblance of a disapproving frown towards Bach, and Cideeda narrows a playful glare toward Dretphi, pointing clawed finger. “Oh, don’t you act all high and mighty. You purposefully sprayed her up the back when she wasn’t expecting it. I saw the look on your face.”

Drawing a long breath, Dretphi rolls her steely gray eyes at herself, and awkwardly twists her mouth, mumbling. “Call me a brute...”

A faint chirp sounds out from Aristespha’s shorts pocket. She glances down, reaches her hand in, and puzzles as she retrieves her aetherphone. Sorting through the menus, her violet eyes read through a message, and she furrows her brow with suspicion and confusion. “Speaking of her... Pardon me, she wants a private video call.”

Amid exchanges of intrigue and curiosity between everyone else, Aristespha walks towards the hallway archway. She taps a few buttons and initiates the call. Stepping through the doorway into her room, she sits down on her bed and holds the phone in front of her expectantly. On the video feed, Valavera brushes her golden hair out her green eyed gaze, and huffs out an upset breath. She tries to smile. “Hey, Aristespha. Sorry. I really need someone to talk to.”

Aristespha smiles slightly, and nods to the screen. “I’m here for you. So, what’s on your mind?”

Valavera sorts through the words on her face, works through the thoughts, and pieces together sentences. “Well... While in summer school at the university... Which is going REALLY amazing and I really like it... Um... I... Met... Someone.”

A sly smile graces Aristespha's ivory face, and she focuses her attention upon the conversation with renewing interest. “Really? Do tell.”

Summoning up the courage, Valavera wanders around certain details and watches Aristespha’s reaction through the phone. “Well, we met in my botany class, and have been lab partners for a while. I asked him out to a show for a local band a friend plays in... And well... we kind of hit it off.”

Aristespha studies Valavera’s image on her phone, perk her brow inquisitively, and pries eagerly. “Okay. So, first, what’s his name?”

Valavera bites her lower lip, averts her green eyes side to side briefly, and draws in a cautious breath. “Alexander.”

An abrupt quiet stifles the call and surrounding room. The emotional pressure grows as Aristespha’s expression blanks. She tilts her head slightly, and creeps to an uncertain observation. “That name sounds very... Hu-”

Valavera interrupts. “Human.”

Aristespha’s violet eyes flit wide, she grits her teeth. “Oh. Oh, gods...”

Valavera snorts with a frown and turns her head away unhappily. “Fucking knew it. Damn it! I hoped you would understand.”

Pausing mid breath, Aristespha locks an uneasy stare upon her phone screen, and cautiously inquires in a serious tone. “Why would you think THAT?”

Growing more defiant and petulant, Valavera narrows a glare through the video feed to Aristespha and loudly rambles. “Because, you’re out there! In the world. More worldly? I don’t know! You just seemed more experienced and around more different people.”

Aristespha processes the explanation, eases out a moment of relief, but quickly contains a new swell of concern. “Yes. I am. And, I UNDERSTAND what you are going through. I really do. It’s just that you have consider the bigger picture. You are a daughter of a prominent house-”

Valavera tosses her hair back angrily, and spits out. “Fourth child. FOURTH! You should know that fourth children don’t receive anything worth mentioning.”

Pinching the bridge of her nose, Aristespha releases a long calming sigh, draws in a long breath, and refocuses her gaze to Valavera’s video feed. “Fifth child speaking here. Fourths get a little more. Okay. And, that’s why you have to be careful with this and conduct yourself-”

Riding upon a surge of stubborn angst, Valavera berates Aristespha over the call. “Oh, conduct myself as a proper Evuukian House woman?! What?! And, be some tag along to everything my brother and sisters get to do?! FUCK THAT! Gods, I really shouldn’t have call-”

Pulling a sharp inhale through her nose, Aristespha powerfully yells to her phone in an authoritative, motherly tone, and speaks a short commanding sentence of evuukian punctuated by Valavera Tala Erisa Verherin’s full name. Valavera reflexively seizes and awaits with a wide-eyed, spooked expression. Aristespha eases out an uncertain and uncomfortable breath as she holds a finger to signal Valavera to wait, and searches her feelings. As Aristespha contorts her face towards a conclusion, Valavera’s previous emotions fade to genuine concern as she watches Aristespha wrestle with something big internally. A smile appears on Aristespha ivory face, and she snorts with a slight shake of her head. She turns to face down the hallway, and calls out a warm, loving string of evuukian around Sebastian’s name. Valavera blinks blankly as the verbal communication fails to process in her mind, and stares perplexed.

Sebastian peeks his head down the hallway, notices Aristespha motioning him over, and flies into her room. Aristespha pats a spot on the bed next to her, waits for Sebastian to drift down upon it, and adjusts the aim of the camera to include both her and him. She points to herself, points to Sebastian, and repeats the motion awaiting Valavera’s reaction. After seconds of sorting through the implications, Valavera’s eyes widen in recognition and her jaw drops in utter shock as tinges of delight slip out. Aristespha grins slyly, and addresses Valavera. “Now, that you know I UNDERSTAND, would you like to be educated on how to navigate current Evuukian house society and maintain such a relationship?”

Valavera straightens her posture, brings her phone closer, and eagerly nods. “Yes. Oh gods... I’m really sorry for acting like that and all- But, please teach me. Oh! Is going to be like in the books and all?”

Narrowing her gaze, Aristespha rolls her eyes with a smirk, and waves the chuckling Sebastian away. “I would ask what books, but one thing at a time. So, tell me all about this boy.”


Sounds of the summer night fill the surrounding forest of the small clearing. A chorus of insects, small nocturnal animals, and calm wildness merge together into an evening ambiance. A dim glow radiates from a low fire, and illuminates the circle of different tents. Chad walks to the center of the camp, surveys everyone in the team, and hems. “Okay, everybody. Gather around.”

Deedri closes up a medical bag, and hops up. Modoran nonchalantly emerges from nearby shadows, and stands next to Deedri. Trakenthin finishes a page of a book, replaces the bookmark, and joins the center. Tassilda brushes her finger through her raven black hair, flicks away a stray leaf, and steps to the group. Veevi grumbles as she stands next to an open door of the black SUV, and stares at the still charge indicator on her connected aetherphone. Chad waits a moment, narrows a mildly annoyed stare at Veevi, and calls out to her. “Veevi. Would you please join us?”

Faint rustles of leaves sound out from the perimeter of the camp, and camera crews take aim for choice shots between Chad and Veevi. Flicking a pointed, fuzzy ear towards Chad, Veevi disdainfully sneers her upper lip, crosses her arms defiantly, and grumbles loudly. “I can hear you just fine.”

Focusing his glare, Chad rests his hands on his side, smirks, and speaks out. “You do understand if you don’t attend these meetings, you won’t know what we’re doing. So, you just might be left behind... All by yourself... In a strange forest, locked out of the SUV, during the summer heat, and with all the hungry forest creatures around you.”

Veevi’s pink pupil eyes widen as she weighs the degrees of discomfort in her mind, and huffs in disgust as she begrudgingly walks over. “Fine.”

Chad clears his throat, and addresses the group. “Okay. We’re going to start a deeper search of the forest tomorrow. We got a good start today with scouting the immediate area thanks to Modoran and Trakenthin. We’ll be going as one group, and keeping as alert as possible. Until we get a better idea of what this forest has, we need to be extra cautious. So, get a good night’s rest and we’ll start bright and early.”

All the team agrees, with one exception. They break towards each of their individual tents. Veevi checks her phone, slams the door in frustration, and quickly slips into her tent nearby. Camera crews retreat away, leaving remote monitors, as the activity dies down in comparison to the wildness around.

An hour passes peacefully. Stirring around her tent, Veevi peeks her head out, scans around, and slinks out. Creeping around the perimeter of the camp, she maintains a careful watch of the other tents, but focuses upon one on the opposite side. She sneaks to the best of ability around the site, and arrives. Kneeling next to the back entry, she pulls up on the zipper. It doesn’t move. Veevi tugs harder upon it, and strains slide it up the track. After many failed attempts, she snorts and huffs, and grumbles to herself. “The fuck is wrong with your tent, Modoran.”

A sharp snap echoes faintly across the camp site, and Veevi’s fuzzy ears perk towards the noise. She narrows her pink pupil eyes in the direction of her tent. Her bewildered gaze widens as she sees Modoran slip into her tent. Bewildered, she cocks her head to side, ponders the situation, and pulls an evil grin across her face. Swiftly, she slinks around the camp back to her tent. Donning a seductive flow to her body movement and loosening her top, she pulls herself into her tent expectantly. Inside she finds only her bedroll and other belongings. Sitting back on her legs, she briefly searches interior of the tent, spins around, and tries to slip back out through the flap. After feeling the tent fabric wrap around her face tightly, she pulls away, and puzzles at the closed zipper on the flap. Gripping the slide handle tightly, she pulls up expecting, and the zipper denies. Pulling harder on the mechanism, she mumbles out curses under her breath, and her anger reveals her vain, obvious efforts.

A young fvalian woman yawns, blinks her eyes, and tilts her head sleepily in front of a monitor. Walking quietly over, a young fvalian man holds a steaming cup of coffee near, and softly whispers. “Urdi, coffee?”

Urdi stirs back awake, turns her nose to towards the hot beverage, and appreciatively grasps hold of the drink with a smile. “Thank you, Radnae.”

Radnae settles into a chair in the van interior, and glances over another large monitor. He blinks a moment as the feed switches from another camera. Tapping a few control buttons, the screen switches back, and he takes control of the remote camera. While adjusting the zoom and aim, he mumbles out in surprise. “The fuck is going on here?”

Urdi shifts her gaze to the screen and tilts her head. “Is she... Oh my gods... No...”

She picks up a pair of headphones, slips them on, and dials in a volume knob. After a few moments, she twists her face in a mix of disgust and disbelief. “She really is. She’s bitching about it not opening.”

An ill-humored smirk grows upon Radnae, and he directs his voice behind him to a middle aged man in another seat. “Hey, Harris... You WON’T believe this. Check out camera three.”

Harris presses a few buttons on the control console, and studies his screen. “What the? Is that dumbass stuck in her tent?!”

Radnae snorts while shaking his head, and quips. “I think we found our first clip for next week’s show.”


Late afternoon sun shines overhead through the forest canopy, and projects swaying shadows upon the ground. Chad leads the team, navigates ahead through the forest, and investigates suspicious areas. Trakenthin surveys each new area, notices landmarks, and compares them against a paper map. Modoran carefully scouts out from the group upon spotting unusual evidence and when prompted by Chad suspicions. Tassilda monitors the magical activity in the area through incantations and detection tools. Deedri assists with sweeps for magical activity and studies relevant chapters from her guide book.

Lagging behind the team, Veevi follows along in a perpetual state of annoyed and petulant. She grumbles to herself, occasionally kicks forest debris, and searches the area with her hand on her holstered laser pistol. With each stretch of boredom, she retrieves her aetherphone, and stares at the out of service icons and dwindling battery meter. Glancing around, she notices the team far away. Her internal anxiety and fear surges and drives her rush back up to the group.

Behind and off to the side, various recording teams keep track of the Flames of Phoenix. Gerald aims his shoulder camera for a shot, and abruptly blinks when his viewfinder blacks out briefly. He records the shot, and inspects his camera. After initial checks, he shakes his head. Samantha glances over. “Anything wrong?”

Gerald shrugs, hoists the camera back on his shoulder, and grimaces. “I don’t know. A lot of weird little glitches happening too often. We might be getting close to something.”


Flicking her short hair tail full of frustration, Veevi eyes the traces of late morning sun hinting through the dense, gray cloud cover, and crosses her arms. “Are we seriously going to explore another part of this fucking forest for no good reason?! It going to rain!”

Chad rolls his brown eyes, curls his upper lip, and keeps his attention towards the game trail. “Yes. This is the last section near the predicted crash area before we have to expand our search. So, you better help find it. Otherwise, we are going to see ALL parts of this gods damned forest.”

The Flames of the Phoenix continue forward with Chad in the lead, Trakenthin, Modoran, Deedri, and Tassilda following close behind. Veevi trails behind, glances back to a small camera crew tagging along, and grumbles out her grievances to a captive audience. With the darkening skies, progress slows along rougher terrain, and traces of disappointment creep into the team. Chad halts, and scans his distant stare along the edges of his vision. “Where are we now, Trakenthin?”

Trakenthin steps up, holds out a paper map, and taps his finger on a rough area. “Here.”

Resting his hands on his sides, Chad twists his mouth. “Okay. Damn, I was hoping to see something...”

A strong gust blows overhead and filters into a brisk breeze through the trees. As the wind passes, Deedri’s furry ears perk up and sort through the noise. She darts her auburn eyes around, and spots unnatural debris rattling on the ground. Kneeling down, she cautiously pinches a jagged fragment of aluminum between her claw tips, and holds it up into view of the rest of the team. “I think we might be close.”

The team, including Veevi, gather close to examine the thin metal sheet. Trakenthin searches along the ground. “Out of place.”

Chad narrows his gaze at the material, carefully takes it from Deedri, and studies it. “This definitely came from some kind of aircraft. It looks just like the exterior sheets the machinists use when they make replacement panels for the planes and drones being restored at my dad’s garages.”

Narrowing her examining stare upon the metal, Tassilda furrow her brow and cocks her head puzzled. “I think I’m feeling magical leftovers on it.”

Processing the possibilities, Chad stands up tall, hands the piece back to Deedri appreciatively, and walks further down the path. “Okay, everyone. Keep an eye out. And, be careful. We don’t know exactly what brought this thing down. Let’s not chance anything.”

With renewed vigor, the team trudges forward. As they travel through the winding path, they find more metal fragments. Modoran and Trakenthin both notice broken branches high up in the trees and sheered bark on trunks. Minutes of travel later, the group arrives at a thick wall of brush and tall hedges surrounding a large area. Awkwardly probing the plant life, Chad pushes through a thinner section with assistance from Trakenthin and Modoran holding back annoying, obstructing branches.

After the rest of the team filters through and the camera crews fight rougher patches, Chad, Trakenthin, Modoran, Deedri, Tassilda, and Veevi gawk at the scene before them. Bright, vibrant flora around a small stream sways in the gentle breeze swirling in the vicinity. Carpets of flowering plants shift intermittently to unseen forces across the ground, and flits of colorful illumination spark around the area. With a weak gust, one of the four main propellers on the large drone spins with a barely audible whir, and the chassis rocks gradually upon the soft soil with the wind. An accomplished grin grows wide on Chad’s face, and he gazes back to the team. With a presenting wave of his arm, Chad brightly smiles proud and chuckles as he steps to the side of the team. “I think we found our drone.”

Deedri steps up, holds her hands up to the team, and motions them to wait. “One moment. There’s some really obvious signs of spirit activity. I’d like to try out a detection spell before we go any further.”

Chad blinks, nods in agreement, and motions encouragingly. “Of course! Please go ahead.”

Checking her Tobin book briefly, she slowly recites through the complicated incantation, and performs a chain of gestures with exacting motions. Summoning up magical flows, she focuses condensing energies between her palms, flings her arms wide, and releases a faint pulse. The wave travels a few meters before dispersing completely, and barely highlights a few translucent entities. Deedri’s furry ears droop slightly, and she frowns out her disappointment. “That was suppose to be a little more revealing.”

As the rest of the team watches the illuminated spirits, Chad smiles at Deedri, and reassures her with a proud tone. “I think that’s pretty good for a first try at the spell. It worked. Just try it a few more times.”

Deedri’s mood perks up and she summons up another attempt at the spell. The team cautiously travels towards the crashed drone. Deedri releases a few more focused spirit detection pulses to check the route leading to the autonomous aircraft. At the drone, Chad and Modoran investigate the large two meter wide and long machine. Trakenthin searches up into the trees and surveys area above them. Tassilda and Deedri use their aetherphones to document the drone, and often distract themselves with photos of the surrounding area and the animated spirits. Camera crews struggle to capture all the different things happening along with the team. Meanwhile, Veevi watches idle spirits resting upon different plants, and attempts to poke them when Trakenthin shifts his stern, disapproving stare away.

Minutes later, Modoran stands up, stretches his back, and shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly. “Except for that one side, this thing looks like it’s in great shape.”

Chad blinks thoughtfully, crosses his arms, and twists his mouth. “Yeah. I’ve actually seen worse looking things fly. So, probably some flight control system acted up and it... I guess, gracefully failed into a hard landing?”

Narrowing his eyes, Trakenthin slowly pivots to face Chad and Modoran, and sneers through his suspecting tone. “Quite successful for failing. There is a crude path through the trees that leads here. Broken branches confirm.”

Tassilda walks with Deedri, holds up her aetherphone, quirks her brow, and alternates between two images on the device. “Not to make it seem even more suspicious, but for crashing, this thing looks almost exactly like it’s profile picture.”

Lifting her toed boots to step to a rocky patch of forest floor, Deedri grits her teeth with a wary tone. “Also, as easy as it is for ME to push my boots into this dirt, I find it REALLY weird that a crashed drone this big isn’t sunken in.”

The team mulls over the observations, and contemplate together. Meanwhile, Veevi pesters a very tolerant spirit under the attention of a camera crew.

A loud, powerful rumble of distant thunder rolls over the area, and rattles the team back to immediate reality. Chad focuses gaze to the darkening skies, and sighs uneasy. “Okay. We found it, and I think that’s good enough today. Let’s double-time it back to the camp, and get ready to weather this storm.”

As Veevi reaches out with a stick to swat at small glowing orbs, the surrounding spirits disperse away from her, and quickly disappear. She cocks her head of pink hair to the side, stands up, and whines. “Aww, they all ran away.”

Tassilda glares over and quips derisively. “I guess your smell finally drove them away.”

Just as Veevi and Tassilda lock confrontational glares, Deedri’s ears flick around and hunt for a sound. Her frightened eyes widen and her tail fur puffs out. “What is THAT?!”

Quickly approaching from the distant woods, a brightly shining being of translucent, angular shapes and jagged energy trails flies towards the crashed drone. It abruptly halts short of the downed craft, swiftly shifts opposite of the team, and hovers up. It pulsates a reddish light out in the area. A growing cacophony of calculated acoustic wave forms floods local soundscape in a strange chaotic chorus. Deedri steps back uncertainty with fear blatantly on her face, and searches her mind frantically. Chad notices the obvious unease, motions slowly, and positions himself defensively with Trakenthin and Modoran in front of Deedri, Tassilda, and Veevi. In a surge of reflexive fear, Veevi fumbles for her laser pistol and tries to draw it. She winces at the harsh clamping of Chad’s hand on hers. She glares bewildered at him in a mix of fright and anger. Chad remains quiet and drills a grave, serious stare through her.

The camera crews attempt to record, but fight constant equipment glitches, crashes, and malfunctions. Deedri blinks as recognition rises in her mind, and she whispers to the team. “I think this is an Anima. It’s a spirit that tends to affect technological devices and seems very interested in such.”

Chad directs his voice back over to Deedri and inquires. “Are they hostile? Aggressive?”

Deedri bites her lower lip uncertainly, draws in an uneasy breath, and weakly shrugs. “The guide book said they are sometimes protective? Often territorial?”

Trakenthin darts his hazel eyes to the pathway in the trees, the anima’s position, and the drone. After a few grath curses under his breath, he sternly motions back. “Get away from the drone.”

The team pieces together the situation enough, and quickly arrive at the same conclusion. All step carefully back from the anima and craft. As the distance from the anima grows, the speed of team and crew retreat increases. A bright, jagged thread travels the dark cloudy sky in a lightning flash, and an overwhelming boom blasts down up the forest. The anima flickers chaotically, releases a distorted screech, and slams into the drone.

Everyone in the area freezes. The quad propellers spin to full power, servos articulate motors downwards, and the aircraft lifts into the air. Navigating the surrounding trees frantically, the drone slams hard into nearby trees and snaps through branches.

Blue white light floods the area. A spray of electrical arcs erupt out from the drone as a jagged run of lightning launches up into the sky instantly. The concussive eruption of air sends Chad, Deedri, Modoran, Trakenthin, Tassilda, and Veevi onto the dirt. Recording teams stumble upon the ground. A torrent of water drains through the canopy into a full downpour. Recovering from the blinding flash, deafening boom, and sudden soaking, the team struggles, and the crew scramble away. Chad, Deedri, Modoran, Trakenthin, Tassilda, and Veevi barely manage to recover enough of their senses to witness the anima infused drone roar out in an echoing, digital scream. It releases a spray of electrical arcs into burning trees, and charges in forth in flaming magical fury.

Everyone scatters in pure panic.