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The Loops Before - Story Chapters
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The Loops Before - Story Chapters
This thread is for posting the story chapters of "The Loops Before" fanfic challenge
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THE LOOPS BEFORE
spawnofthejudge, deathcurse, DezoPenguin, Fuyu no Sora, Laith
First Night Before
Lillet Blan sighed in contentment. All of her things were unpacked and placed where she wanted them around her assigned room, and she was in her nightgown, ready for bed. Her excitement hadn't abated at all, though, so she wasn't all that tired. As the evening bell tolled, she hopped off her bed and started heading toward the door.
She heard Gaff from behind her. “Hey, where are you going?”
Lillet turned around to face him and tripped over her gown's hem. She fell flat on her face. There was a moment of silence, then she groaned.
“Lillet! Are you alright?” Gaff asked, leaning down toward her.
Lillet sat up, rubbing her face. “I'm... I'm fine, Gaff. Just a little shaken, is all.” It was the same nightgown that she'd worn all her life, right, so why was the hem fraying? She picked up the offending piece. Definitely fraying. When she looked up, Gaff's eyes were narrowed. Then she remembered what he asked.
“Oh... I... I was going to go out to feel the night air...”
“Did you forget what the Professor said? You wouldn't survive long out there,” Gaff admonished.
“I... I didn't forget,” Lillet said.
“You see, sometimes, the ghost of a scary witch stalks these halls...”
“Gaff... I don't think I'm going out now,” Lillet said, her eyes closing.
“...It was a quiet night. Just, like, tonight. A man met the witch in the hallway.”
“Gaff... can you not tell a scary story right before bed, please?” Lillet asked, her head beginning to throb, and her heartbeat still increasing.
“Are you okay?” Gaff asked. “Want me to slap you?”
“N-no... that's alright,” Lillet said, rising. “I think I'll go to bed now.” At the very least, she was going to lay down on her bed.
“That's for the best,” Gaff said. “You wouldn't want to meet the scary witch to-” He was interupted by a knock on the door.
Lillet whipped her head around to look at the door, which she immediately regretted. “Who could-... Ow...” Her headache was intensifying. Did she really hit her head that hard when she fell?
“So late at night! A scary ghost witch perhaps?” Gaff asked. He certainly wasn't giving up on that story.
“Open up!” came the voice from the other side. “Hurry!”
That voice sounded like Margarita's, but... Lillet walked over and, not without some trepidation at what might be on the other side, opened the door. Margarita immediately entered the room and shut the door behind her.
“Whew!” she said. “That was scary. That witch's ghost nearly found me...”
“You wouldn't live long out there,” Gaff told her. “But you won't stop until you get caught.”
“Leave me alone, Shorty,” Margarita snapped. “Sometimes nothing's better than a moonlit stroll.”
Not with this headache, Lillet thought. “You can knock it off with the ghost stuff,” she said aloud. “I'm not going out tonight; my head hurts.”
There was a pause, during which Surely moved, drawing Lillet's eyes to him. “...Her presence has faded. It seems the witch has passed.”
telling the truth? The sooner Lillet fell asleep, the better.
“Really? Then let's go,” Margarita said to her familiar. “Sorry for coming so late; thanks, Lillet.”
“Oh sure... I'm sorry I'm so out of it,” Lillet said.
better go to sleep early. I'm going straight to bed,” Margarita said. Then she opened the door quietly, glanced from side to side, then was gone. The door shut with a click behind her.
Lillet turned and walked over to her bed and laid down. Thankfully, the throbbing lessened when her head was on the pillow. “Gaff, I'm going to sleep now.”
“Alright,” Gaff said. “Let me know if you need anything.”
Thankfully, after that, Lillet knew no more.
First Day One
The following morning, Lillet awoke to merely slightly annoying throbbing behind her forehead. She sat up and immediately regretted that decision, falling back onto her pillow. She rubbed the offending spot with the heel of her hand before rubbing at her eyes. A glance at the clock in her assigned room told her that she should get moving, but she found that it was difficult to get herself to move much at all. She managed, though; she always managed.
It would not do to be late to her very first lesson at the Silver Star Tower, after all, no matter the state of her headache, fatigue, or nightdress.
Then again, Professor Gammel Dore had told her that she could set her own schedule. The flexibility would give her the opportunity to take the time to do what she needed to do to fix this. The decision made, Lillet did her normal morning routine, albeit slightly slower than usual, and started heading back to Gammel Dore's study.
Naturally, she found him reading a book over in a corner by one of the ubiquitous bookshelves that lined the walls. He closed it when he noticed her walk in. “Oh! On your first full day. Shall we begin our lesson?”
“Actually,” Lillet said, “I was wondering if there was someone that would be the best to talk to about a headache.”
“Ah! Have yourself a bit of a pain in the head?” the Professor asked. “Unfortunately, I would probably not be the best person to help you with that, but I think I know who would be: Dr. Chartreuse. He teaches Alchemy here, among his research.”
“And he could help my headache?”
“If anyone could come up with something that would be able to just take your headache away, I would trust him.” He rose. “How about I walk you over to his Alchemy lab?”
“Thank you very much, Professor,” Lillet replied.
Thus, Lillet found herself following the much older gentleman through the unfamiliar corridors of the Silver Star Tower. She tried to keep her hand from coming up to worry at her forehead too much, though she was not completely successful. What an awful way to be introduced to one of her professors! The last thing she wanted was to not be her most attentive when meeting the Alchemy professor for the first time. Though, there was little she could do about that; he was her best chance to not have to meet any other professors, or perhaps other students, with her head throbbing away.
They had been walking a while when another student sped around the corner in front of them. When this new student spotted them, he screeched to a stop. “Professor! The Chimeras! They've gotten out of control!”
This information seemed to surprise the professor, but he recovered quickly. “Let us move, then,” he said, increasing his speed significantly. Lillet tried to increase her own pace, but found it difficult. Gammel Dore looked back at her. “If you come, stay behind me, Miss Blan.”
She didn't think she'd make it.
She lost the two of them pretty quickly. Once she confirmed that she didn't know where they had gone, she stopped and leaned against a convenient pillar. Closing her eyes, she placed her palm against her forehead and took a deep breath to calm herself. She wouldn't be any help if she got to whatever that young man was talking about; she hadn't learned any magic yet! Of course all of this happens on her first day.
She didn't think she could find her way alone to the Alchemy lab, so she started to try to figure out where her room was, as perhaps some more rest would help her head. It was difficult to focus strongly enough on the task to figure it; she hadn't completely explored the Tower yet, so she wasn't entirely sure of her way around. However...
She was pretty sure that she wasn't all that far away from her room; maybe two floors below.
Decision made, she stood up straight, ignoring the increasing throbbing behind her skull. She started toward the nearest stairway that seemed to go downward. She made it all the way down that stairway and was trying to get her bearings on that floor when she found herself face-to-face with another student. After a moment of panic subsided (it was just another student after all), she was able to get a good look at this young man.
Pale hair over refined features. He certainly looked like he came from money. But before Lillet could memorize his face for future reference, she realized that Margarita was also standing behind him, smiling at her. “This is the new student I was telling you about, Hiram. Lillet, this is Hiram Menthe, another student in the tower. Hiram, this is Lillet Blan, brand new student as of yesterday.”
“Welcome, Lillet. It's nice to meet you,” Hiram told her.
“Nice to meet you too, Hiram.”
“I was just telling Hiram about how there was a new female student in the Tower,” Margarita said once Lillet and Hiram had exchanged pleasantries. “I thought, when I heard that we were getting a new student, that we would be getting another Bartido or something. I can tell you that I was very excited when I found that you're nothing like him.”
“Bartido?” Lillet asked.
“Oh, he's the other student in the tower right now,” Hiram said. “He can be a little... overbearing at times. He apprentices to Dr. Chartreuse, while I apprentice to Lady Opalneria.”
“Is he the only other student?” Lillet asked, looking beyond the two others. Margarita noticed Lillet's gaze and glanced over her shoulder. When her face came back, it was smiling ruefully.
“Yes, Amoretta's not a student, really,” Margarita said, causing Hiram to also glance backwards at the silvery-blonde girl that was approaching from behind them. In that... very revealing dress. “Not exactly human, either, I think. Better to ask Dr. Chartreuse or Bartido if you want to know anything about her, though.”
“You could always ask her,” Hiram said, indicating this Amoretta. She was now close enough that none of them would have to shout to be heard by the newcomer. “Amoretta, we were just talking about you.”
“That's understandable,” Amoretta said. “I am not the most common sight in the world. Anyone new to the Tower would probably want to know about me.”
Lillet figured that this was her cue. As much as she wanted to meet all these people, couldn't it be
she had solved the headache issue? “Hello. My name is Lillet Blan. I'm a new student.”
“Hello, Lillet Blan. I am Amoretta.”
“Are you a student here?” Lillet asked.
After exchanging a look with both Hiram and Margarita, Amoretta looked back at Lillet. “No.”
Lillet's confusion must have shown on her face, but Amoretta shook her head, looking behind Lillet.
Great, someone else?
Was everyone in the Tower that wasn't dealing with the issues in the Alchemy lab going to meet her in this corridor? She turned to see who was behind her.
This... probably was a teacher. He was tall, thin, and carried himself with a bearing that – if Lillet wasn't mistaken – spoke of a great amount of life experience. It didn't seem like he was the type to be at the Silver Star Tower in order to learn.
“My goodness!” the new arrival remarked. “So many students in one place! One might think that you all are cooking up some trouble!”
“Uncle, must you always bother me? And, even more, must you bother the others?” Amoretta said.
“It is my job to keep an eye on the students,” her uncle said. “After all, I am a teacher here. However, there is one among you I have not yet met.” His eyes – they were very malevolent eyes, Lillet noticed – swung among them until they alighted on Lillet. “Are you a new student?”
“Yes I am,” Lillet replied, bowing. “My name is Lillet Blan. It's nice to meet you...?”
“Ah! Manners! How refreshing!” he said. “I am Advocat. I teach Sorcery here. I imagine we'll be seeing more of each other. Particularly if this is the company you keep.” Lillet blinked. What did
mean, anyway? She refused to give in and rub her forehead. “However, I believe I am needed elsewhere. If you'll excuse me...” He walked quickly away through the group, his gaze lingering on Amoretta. It managed to creep Lillet out through her headache.
Margarita shuddered. “The devil.”
Lillet snapped her head around to look at Margarita and immediately regretted it. “The what?”
Margarita looked at her and made a face of pity. “I'm sorry; you didn't know yet. Advocat is a devil.”
appropriate,” Hiram said. “He does teach how to control devils and demons. Who better to teach us that than one of their own?”
“Doesn't mean I have to like him, no matter how effective a teacher he is,” Margarita muttered. Then she seemed to remember something. “Oh! Lillet! How do you feel? Do you feel better than you did yesterday?”
Lillet shook her head as gently as she could. “Not really. I was hoping that Dr. Chartreuse would have something that would help my headache, but he got busy with... I think it was the Chimeras.”
All three of her companions blanched. “That would be... quite the distraction,” Hiram finally said. “So you haven't found anything for your headache?”
“No, I haven't.”
“I have something that would probably help you,” Amoretta said, indicating the black cat that she was carrying. Lillet wondered briefly why she hadn't noticed the cat there before. “Grimalkin could put you to sleep if you wanted to have a nap. I know that Creator often believes that sleep will cure his ills. Maybe it will help with you?”
Being able to fall asleep instantly, rather than having to effectively fight her headache, was extremely tempting. “I would like that, Amoretta.”
“Shall we, then? It would be best if you were already on your bed, I think.”
Margarita laughed lightly. “Well, we'll leave you to that. Do feel better, Lillet.”
“Yes,” Hiram said. “I hope you feel better the next time we meet.”
Lillet hoped that as well. Hopefully this nap would help her... and hopefully with this help, she'd be able to wake for dinner.
First Day Two
“Rats,” Lillet grumbled as she hurriedly dressed, hopping on one foot as she tried to lace up her boots and find her hat at the same time. “I haven’t even started classes yet, and I’m late already!”
She had slept through dinner yesterday, and by the looks of things today, she might be lucky to catch the end of breakfast before having to dart off to her lecture with Professor Gammel. At least her headache had died down, although Lillet kept feeling this odd sense of being tired during her idle time. True, she had been so excited in the days leading up to her departure from home to come to the Tower, but she shouldn’t be that tired, right?
“Hey, you’re finally up!” Gaff appeared in the doorway, looking at Lillet with annoyance. “You’re going to miss breakfast.”
“Can you please wake me up next time I oversleep?” Lillet asked as she finally found her hat on top of the wardrobe and jammed it on her head.
“What?” Gaff exclaimed, but ended up rolling his eyes. “Fine. Anyway, I’ve got a package from Professor Gammel for you.” He held up a grimoire with both hands, a white folded note on its cover.
“A note?” Lillet took it, skimming through it quickly. “
Miss Blan—I apologize for being unavailable this morning, urgent matters have arisen and I cannot attend our lecture this morning. Please report to the Library for Study Hall.
That was disappointing—Lillet had been hoping to learn some magic today. She inspected the Fairy Ring grimoire in her hand. Reading and practicing it on her own probably wasn’t a wise idea. But maybe one of the other students would be willing to help her out?
“Gaff, could you please show me where the Library is?”
“Wow,” Lillet said in a small voice.
Wow, wow, wow
, her voice echoed in the giant room, bouncing around the wooden shelves and ladders until it disappeared up past the arching staircases layered three times over above her head. As the leading magic school in the country, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the Silver Star Tower possessed one of the largest libraries in the kingdom. Little floating balls of flame hovered and drifted aimlessly between the maze of bookshelves on the first floor, illuminating the comfortable couches and large tables arranged in the centre of the circular room.
Lillet wasn’t the only one here, to her surprise.
“Lillet!” Margarita waved at her from her seat on one of the couches, a large grimoire perched on her knees. “Come join us!”
“Margarita, Hiram,” Lillet greeted as she walked over. There was another boy with them, and Lillet paused as she saw him. “You must be Bartido, right?”
“Bartido Ballentyne,” the dark haired boy declared, grinning smugly at Lillet. No wonder Margarita didn’t seem to fond of him—Bartido gave off an irritating air, although he looked clever enough under his cocky attitude to be more than just a jerk. Lillet thought that she’d give him the benefit of the doubt for now. “Be sure to remember it.”
“Don’t be rude,” Hiram retorted. “Bartido, this is Lillet Blan. She’s the new student.”
“Grab a chair, Lillet.” Margarita gestured around.
“Thank you.” Lillet set down her grimoire and found a cushioned stool to sit on. “Do none of you have classes today either?”
“No,” Hiram grumbled, looking fairly irritated as he scribbled notes from his tome into a parchment scroll. “All the professors are busy working with Miss Opalneria on a special project.”
“Special project?” asked Lillet curiously.
A guarded expression dropped over Hiram’s face, while Margarita was looking towards Hiram with the same intrigued interest that Lillet was feeling. Hiram cleared his throat. “That’s not—”
“They’re trying to find a safe way to dispose of Archmage Calvaros’ soul container,” Bartido Ballentyne interrupted wryly.
“Bartido!” Hiram snarled.
“Geez, Hiram—it’s no secret. Did you think that Miss Opalneria was entrusting you with some important information?” Bartido scoffed, tossing his yellow jacket onto the back of the couch and vaulting over the arm to perch on the end of it, one foot propped up against the table. “Professor Gammel found that someone had tried to break the Seal of the Archmage sometime last night, and all the professors are trying to find a way to increase the protections on the soul container.”
“Last night?” Margarita gasped, one of her hands jumping to her mouth.
“How?” Lillet frowned. She had only heard a little about the Archmage Calvaros, but from what she could recall from her lessons at the Magic Society, the Archmage had been defeated by Professor Gammel, and the Devil Grimlet that had helped Calvaros had also been sealed away. If Calvaros was freed…that thought was too terrible to entertain. “Who do they think had done it?”
The pale-haired Hiram straightened, placing his quill down as his eyes narrowed behind his glasses. “Lillet Blan…where were you last night? We didn’t see you at dinner.”
“You can’t think that
did it?” Lillet cried. “Why would I want to help the Archmage?”
“Yeah,” Bartido laughed derisively. “If it would be anyone, I’d bet it was that devil.”
“Mr. Advocat?” Lillet gasped. While she appreciated Bartido’s indirect defense, and wouldn’t want to do anything to help exonerate any other suspects and leave herself taking the fall, Lillet couldn’t imagine what Mr. Advocat would hope to gain from helping the Archmage escape.
make sense,” Margarita said thoughtfully. “He
a devil, after all. And he doesn’t seem to like any of us very much at all.”
“But why would Mr. Advocat want to help Archmage Calvaros?” Lillet challenged. “He must know that Calvaros is an evil magician. Why would
want to help Calvaros?”
“Maybe he’s afraid of something?” The surprising suggestion from Margarita made all of them turn to stare at the brunette. Margarita shrugged, adjusting her pince-nez on her nose. “Maybe he’s got other concerns he’s hoping to escape from by setting M—the Archmage Calvaros free. Who knows how a devil thinks, anyway?”
“Maybe he’s hoping that Calvaros will lead him to the Philosopher’s Stone,” Bartido smirked.
keep your mouth shut about
?” Hiram sniped.
“I—” Lillet stopped herself, shocked. She had been about to say
I already know about the Philosopher’s Stone
…but how could she have? No one had told her anything about the Philosopher’s Stone since she had arrived at the Tower…but yet some part of Lillet
that it knew exactly what Bartido was talking about! Just like the headache, the knowledge hung just outside of her conscious thoughts, like a mysterious word just at the tip of her tongue but that she couldn’t remember. The sensation both frustrated and fascinated Lillet. What was going on here?
She noticed that her fellow classmates were all regarding her, and so Lillet belatedly finished, “—I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Do you mean a real Philosopher’s Stone? Is it
? What does Calvaros have to do with the Stone?”
Hiram sighed deeply, giving in now that the cat’s clearly out of the bag. “Don’t you know? The Archmage helped make the Philosopher’s Stone. He used the Stone to keep Grimlet, the Devil, from taking his soul at the end of their contract. Whoever has the Philosopher’s Stone also has untold power.”
“I heard that it’s somewhere in this tower,” Bartido added, a wicked grin on his face. “The Silver Star Tower used to be the Archmage’s castle, after all—he probably hid the Stone somewhere here…”
A cold shiver passed through Lillet’s chest, making her twitch nervously. She rose hastily, anxious and not entirely sure why. “I…I think I’m going to go for a walk.”
“Do you want company?” Margarita asked, looking at her with concern. She half-rose from the couch, setting her grimoire down on the table. “It’s easy to get lost in here…”
“No, it’s alright.” Lillet picked up the Fairy Ring grimoire and hugged it to her chest. “I’ll find my way around. I just…wanted to get some air.”
“There are some nice balconies around here,” Bartido said, surprisingly helpful. Then he smirked and added, “But be careful not to fall off; it’s a
way off this Tower.”
“It was a long way getting up here,” Lillet agreed, taking the barb out of the tease by smiling in a seemingly naïve fashion. She didn’t want to get into any arguments in her first week at the Tower. “I don’t like flying very much. I’ll see you guys later.”
This Tower was such an odd place, Lillet mused as she closed the door to the Library behind her and walked down the long, empty hallway. Something mysterious about this whole place…All Lillet wanted was some uneventful, quiet days here learning magic. Yet she had a sinking feeling that “quiet” was one of the last things she was going to find here.
“What?” Lillet gasped, turning her head around. Then she noticed the black cat bounding up towards her from the right hallway. “I know you…you’re Grimalkin, right? Amoretta’s familiar.”
“Can you hear me?”
The cat’s whiskers twitched.
“I don’t know who you are, but if you can understand me—you must let Chartreuse know, that time is crucial, before the devils take her…”
“Oh no! Amoretta’s in danger?” Lillet ran up to him. “Where is she?”
“The classroom above us.”
“Find Dr. Chartreuse!” Lillet had already began running for the nearest staircase. “I’ll do my best to hold them off!”
Only when Lillet burst into the upstairs classroom and found herself face to face with three red-skinned devils and a cornered Amoretta, did she suddenly realize just how stupid she was. She didn’t know any magic! How could she possibly have done anything to help!
in front of her.
“Who is this?” the nearest devil hissed, his thick scaly brows furrowed as he peered at Lillet, piqued by the interruption.
“Another treat,” a spidery devil snickered, scuttling over to Lillet and leering at her.
Fear bubbled inside Lillet’s gut—as much as she loved magic and the abnormal, nothing in her life could have prepared her for the sight of the tall, hellish devils closing in on her, their burning eyes full of malicious amusement. But she could see Amoretta in the back, her tremours betraying the terror she must be feeling even though her expression was still smooth and impassively distant.
She can’t run away!
“I’m not a treat!” Lillet proclaimed loudly, glaring right back at the devil, her shoulders set back in a proud stance. Her bravado seemed to confuse the spider-devil, who had paused in his advance. “How rude of you to say so!” Lillet boldly strode into the room, walking right past the startled devils until she got to Amoretta’s side.
Quickly, trying not to let her nervousness show, Lillet grabbed Amoretta’s hand and turned back to face the three devils again. “Are you devils students here at the Tower?”
“No…” the third, smallest devil answered, staring at Lillet in puzzlement.
“Oh? I was hoping for more peers,” Lillet said, trying to keep her breathing steady so that she didn’t babble. “I could use some more help in my classes. Are you three teachers here then?”
“Teachers?” All three devils laughed, the sound grating like a mouthful of gargled rocks. “Here? Of course not, silly girl!”
“If you’re not students or teachers, then why are you at this Tower?” Lillet asserted, putting her free hand imperiously on her hip. “You’re being disruptive. All of you should please leave immediately.”
“Leave?” The scaly devil shook his head, then bared his teeth.
He seemed to have suddenly become aware of the ridiculousness of the situation, just as Lillet feared. “And how, little girl, are you going to
us leave?” He snickered, closing in on Lillet and Amoretta with the other two devils at his flanks.
“I’m a magician, I’ll have you know!” Lillet brandished her grimoire at them. “Now leave before we have to end this by casting!”
“You’re bluffing,” the devil snarled, rearing up on his hooved legs. “You don’t have the power to stop us!”
“Ah,” a charming drawl sounded from the shadows, “but I believe that
“Mr. Advocat!” Lillet said, feeling her knees shake in relief as the devil teacher stepped out, causing the three devils to back away apprehensively.
Advocat sauntered over, the golden skulls on his jacket catching the torchlight and gleaming ominously as he waved one hand, the ruffles in his sleeve flicking lazily. “Begone. This Tower already has one too many devils in it for my liking.”
“Mephistopheles!” The devils hastily retreated, scarpering out into the hall and away.
“Hmpf.” Advocat turned to regard Lillet with his own red eyes. “Lillet Blan…how interesting.”
“T…” Lillet swallowed, wetting her dry throat. “Thank you for saving us, Mr. Advocat.” She tightened her grip on Amoretta’s hand, causing the other girl to look at Lillet in surprise.
“Hm, you intrigue me, Lillet Blan.” Advocat stroked his chin thoughtfully, a fanged smile on his angled face. “A mere slip of a girl standing up against three devils, while possessing no magical talent to speak of? How daring.”
Lillet blushed. “I…”
“It takes a cunning soul to treat with devils,” Advocat smirked, crossing his arms and meeting Lillet’s gaze with interest. “Lillet Blan—I think that you would make a good apprentice in Sorcery.”
First Day 3
How did I get myself into this?
Lillet Blan asked herself. She'd come to the Silver Star Tower to become a magician, to use her gift to try and make a respectable career for herself. Only, on her first night there she'd tripped on the frayed hem of her nightgown, she'd hit her head when she'd fallen...
...and now she was at the mercy of a devil.
The high-ceilinged classroom had no windows, so even though it was in the middle of the day, it still had to be lit by scores of candles in the great chandeliers that hung high above. Ruddy light flooded everything in its dull illumination, washing her features as well as her teacher's with an orange light that looked...well, hellish.
"M-Mr. Advocat," she squeaked.
"Yes, Lillet Blan?" The way he said her name, positively
every syllable of it like some delectable treat he was tasting, just made her all the more nervous.
"I don't want to sell my soul to a devil."
Advocat apparently thought this was the funniest thing ever. He burst into uproarious laughter, rich and self-satisfied.
"Lillet Blan, do you truly think I would attempt to deliver an interesting morsel like your soul into the hands of the uncouth rabble whom you'll be learning to summon?"
In a weird sort of way, she found that easier to believe than a smooth denial.
"Then...what are we doing?"
Advocat shook his head in mock sadness.
"What are they telling children at the Magical Society these days? Ah, well, I am a teacher, so answering ignorant questions is part of my job description."
He cupped his chin, as if choosing his words carefully.
"Sorcery is the art of summoning the minions of chaos, those who rebelled against God and their lackeys. Because devils have no respect for God's laws, nor any concern with the balance of nature, they can be a magician's strongest ally, limited only by the extent of their own power. But that power comes with a price. Can you tell me what it is?"
He looked at her expectantly.
But I don't know anything about devils!
Lillet wailed in her mind.
How can he expect—?
But this was obviously a teaching moment of some kind. She was probably supposed to figure the answer out on her own, as a test of her reasoning ability.
Obviously, the answer wasn't "her soul," since he'd laughed that off before. So what was it? Could she figure it out from his words?
"You said," she began slowly, "that devils have no respect for God's laws. So why...why would they want to help me?"
Advocat beamed at her.
"Exactly right, Lillet Blan. Devils are concerned with nothing but their own desires. We greater devils, of course, have desires which are complex, satisfied by plans that at times span centuries." He paused and chuckled. "Well, most of us. I know of some who can't see past their own noses. But that's neither here nor there. As you saw yesterday, the kind of devils
be summoning are base, visceral creatures, little more than the shadows of fleshly human appetites without a soul to balance their natures. To get them to obey you must either bargain to satisfy their appetites, or else compel them to service by the force of your magic. Were you to summon a devil you could not command, well..." He brushed his fingertips on the front of his striped tunic as if dusting them off. "Let us just say the results can be messy."
"Now, let us see about yourself. Open the grimoire I have given you, and let us commence our lesson. The Rune of the Hell Gate is a magical symbol which pierces the walls between worlds, reaching into the darkness beyond without all the tasteless little displays that sorcery used to require. So much more low-key this way."
And so much easier
, she had a flash of insight,
for a magician to turn to devils to accomplish her ends.
Even so, she flipped open the grimoire, then took her wand and began to sketch out the Rune on the classroom floor. The mana she poured into it left trails of ominous crimson light in its wake. In a bit over a minute, she was done.
"How's that, Mr. Advocat?"
"Very well done," he said, surveying the Rune. "I was right about you. You
have an aptitude for this. Are you certain that you've never studied Sorcery before?"
"I haven't done any such thing."
"Well, be that as it may, for someone who displays such intriguing talents, I daresay we can go a bit further with today's lesson than I anticipated." He smirked at her in a way that made her knees knock. "I will show you how to use more than bluff to bring demons to heel, Lillet Blan."
~X X X~
"So, how's the new sorceress? Running errands for her master?"
Lillet jerked in surprise, nearly losing her grip on the ladder. She managed to catch herself at the last second, but the book she'd been carrying tumbled out of her arms and fell to the floor.
"Bartido! Don't startle me like that! I almost fell! And what are you talking about, 'my master'?"
"Mr. Advocat's taken you under his wing, hasn't he?"
"How did you know that? I haven't even seen you since yesterday!"
"I have my ways," he said smugly. Lillet gave him the same stare she used on her brothers when they were being smart-mouthed, and he wilted. "Amoretta told Dr. Chartreuse and me about how you saved her yesterday and bluffed those demons until Mr. Advocat could come along. I knew he'd asked to see you today."
Lillet climbed down the ladder. It was an interesting device, fixed to the library wall by casters that mounted inside a metal slot in the bookshelves, and with wheels at the bottom so it could be slid up and down the serried ranks of books to give access to higher shelves. Bartido picked up her fallen grimoire and handed it to her.
"Mr. Advocat told me to study the first Rune in it. He says that he's going to teach me to summon succubi as guardians tomorrow."
Why am I telling him all this?
Bartido arched an eyebrow.
"Really? You're going to learn Symbols on your second day?"
"Symbols?" Lillet asked. "Are those like Runes?"
Bartido shook his head.
"More like magical constructs. They're fixed defenses a magician uses to protect themselves and their Runes in battle. But you really must have a natural talent for this. Or did you study a lot at the Magical Society before you came here?"
Lillet shook her head.
"No, I just learned about the basic theory and practice of recognizing the mana within myself. I'd never even cast a Rune until I came here to this tower."
"Really? Because it took me two months before Dr. Chartreuse even started me on Symbols."
"Well, I guess you're just slow, then," Lillet shot back, repaying him for nearly making her fall off the ladder. He gritted his teeth slightly, letting her know her teasing had hit home. He really was a lot like her little brothers in some ways!
"Oh, I think there's more to it than that. Amoretta said that it was her cat who'd found you."
"That's right. Grimalkin was looking for Dr. Chartreuse, but I guess he couldn't find him. What's that got to do with anything?"
"Grimalkin isn't an ordinary cat, you know."
"I know he's her familiar. Amoretta had him cast a sleeping spell on me so I could get over my headache two days ago."
Bartido shook his head.
"No, that's not it. He's not even a companion-familiar."
She'd learned about companion-familiars at the Magical Society; they were animal spirits who were bonded with Glamour magic to a magician. She'd have been really surprised to hear Surely talk if it hadn't been for that! But...Grimalkin wasn't one?
"No. He actually is a grimalkin." Bartido grinned broadly for a moment while adding, "Amoretta isn't really very creative in picking names for things."
Lillet felt herself nonplused for a second, wondering why Amoretta had told Bartido about the rescue, anyway? Were the two of them close friends, or something else? Professor Gammel hadn't said there were any rules about students romancing each other, and Amoretta was really pretty. Anyone would be attracted to her. But...the idea of them together bothered her more than she liked to admit. Not that she was going to say anything about it to Bartido!
"But, what's a grimalkin?"
"It's a minor devil of darkness, skilled in magic, which takes the form of a black cat," he said, clearly happy to show off his knowledge. "They're the reason for all the stories about witches and black cats."
"A devil!" Lillet yelped.
"That's right. But the point is, being able to talk to grimalkins and understand them is mid-level Sorcery."
"So, when you add that to your advancing to Symbols in one day, it seems that you have some kind of exceptional talent for dealing with devils."
Lillet felt her stomach squirm. She didn't
to have some kind of special talent for Sorcery! And besides, if that was true, wouldn't they have noticed it at the Magical Society?
"Of course, there could be another explanation."
Lillet and Bartido both turned towards the sharp voice. Hiram was just coming up the stairs, his footsteps almost silent.
"It might be knowledge, not talent."
"Hiram, what are you driving at?" Bartido asked sharply.
"Just what I said. Maybe the reason she can do mid-level Sorcery is that she's
"But I haven't!" Lillet protested.
Hiram pushed his glasses up his nose.
"And how do we know that?"
"Hiram, what's gotten into you?" Bartido asked.
The Necromancy student scowled at them.
"You haven't heard, then?"
"I'm guessing not, since I'm not running around like a crazy man."
Hiram glared at him.
"First, she arrives here. Then, all of a sudden,
tries to get ahold of the soul container. And last night, someone stole Titania, the Grimoire of the Morning Star, from Professor Gammel's room."
"What?" Bartido exclaimed. "I hadn't heard about this."
"What's Titania?" Lillet asked.
"As if you didn't know," Hiram accused.
"It contains the highest magic of Glamour," Bartido explained. "Its Rune summons the Spirit of the Morning Star, the bane of Astral entities, and strengthens all other Glamour magic generally."
"I see, but why is that dangerous?"
"The soul container is guarded by Ms. Opalneria," Hiram snapped. "Her Necromancy is especially strong against the power of Sorcery, so someone like you or that devil would have a hard time breaching the wards. But Glamour, the magic of life and nature, is in turn strong against the forces of death."
"So, you think I tried to steal the soul container, and when that failed, I took the grimoire so I could use its magic in a second attempt?" Lillet shot back. "What sort of a fool do you take me for? Even if I was some kind of spy for the Archmage, would I be silly enough to show up and run right at my target without investigating or getting the lay of the land first, so I could act without arousing suspicion?"
Bartido flinched when she said it, making Lillet wonder if it really was such a surprising idea. Hiram, for his part, wasn't giving ground.
"That's all well and good, but when we factor in your skills at Sorcery, it seems like much more than coincidence."
. Unless the real culprit decided to act now
I just came here. And I don't see what right you have to accuse me of anything. I have my book, so I need to go study."
Lillet started forward, but Hiram blocked her path.
"Just a minute. We aren't finished here."
"Unless you suddenly turned into a professor, I don't have to answer any of your questions."
Hiram looked startled for a second, and Lillet pushed past him and started down the staircase. Magician or not, he was an aristocrat; the casual assumption of authority was typical of his sort. Well, Lillet wasn't going to put up with it. His family might be rich, but he wasn't a teacher. He had no right to accuse her of things she hadn't done!
Of course, he might tell his suspicions to Professor Gammel or to his own mentor...Lady Opalneria, Margarita had said? But Lillet was telling the truth, so she didn't think they'd punish her out of hand. But even if Hiram's answers weren't right, his questions were good ones. Who had tried to get to the Archmage's soul and why? Was it the same person who'd stolen the Titania grimoire, or was that someone else? And why
Lillet been able to understand Grimalkin? Did she really have some kind of natural talent for Sorcery, some affinity for
? That thought scared her more than Hiram's suspicions!
She was all but lost in her own thoughts as she reached the bottom of the staircase, but she still caught a flicker of something out of the corner of her eye. Movement? Yes, a flutter of a brown skirt at the library door. Margarita? Had she been in the library when Lillet and the male apprentices were talking? Lillet hoped the other girl hadn't believed Hiram; she didn't want to lose the first friend she'd made at the Tower.
"Margarita?" she called, quickly following after. There was no answer, and when Lillet got to the door and looked out, there was no sign of anyone in the long, arching corridor. Maybe it hadn't been Margarita at all, just a trick of the light. She rubbed her forehead; the ache was coming back, probably due to all the stress.
Well, no one ever said that becoming a great magician would be easy,
she decided, before turning up the corridor towards her own room. If she was going to achieve her dream, she couldn't let all these distractions make her neglect her studies.
Fuyu no Sora
First Day 4
"Oh, I give up!" Lillet cried in annoyance as she fell back in her bed. She had been moving the furniture in her room around to see if she could make space for magical practice. She had already calculated that the place was probably too small for it, but nobody got anywhere without trying and she had stubbornly insisted in attempting every configuration she could think of to see if one would give her the result she was looking for. That was one of her distinctive characteristics, really; her insistence in trying to make things work again and again despite repeated failures.
Even so, her room was definitely too small for it and after an hour and a half of pushing and pulling old, heavy furniture, even she had given up on the idea.
"One of the summoning rooms is probably much better for practice, anyway," she muttered to herself. Practice with Mr. Advocat would come in the afternoon, after all, and she wanted to be ready for when she would be back in the classroom with the devil teacher. The way his eyes had followed her every move in yesterday’s class had made her even more nervous than she already had been, and she wanted to make sure that this time she’d be ready to answer any question he might have in store for her and that she wouldn’t miss a sign or symbol when she was asked to try casting the Rune.
That and at least Gaff would be able to clean in the places where she had moved the furniture, so she guessed it was not all bad. Where did all that dust come from, anyway?
She sighed; her thoughts were wandering. She still didn't really know her way around the school, so she figured she'd ask Professor Gammel where the summoning rooms were and if she could use one for personal practice. With a new objective in mind, she made her way to his study.
But of course he wasn't there.
Lillet sighed in frustration. While exploring wouldn't be a bad idea, she really wanted to get to work on her Runes. There was a nagging feeling at the back of her head that kept telling her this was important.
Well, if the Professor wasn't around, she'd just have to find a room on her own. She had seen many rooms in the tower while she walked about the corridors and at least
of them had to be empty for her to practice in.
Taking action was much more productive than dawdling. Nodding to herself, Lillet made her way back to the long hallways.
She stopped in front of a door that looked interesting and was about to open it when she heard a sharp cry.
Turning toward the voice, she found Bartido staring at her with a look that clearly showed he was not impressed with her.
"You shouldn't go around opening doors if you don't know what's inside of them," he deadpanned, "this is one of the rooms in which the Archmage's magic is still active. You'll be gone soon enough if you're not careful.”
“Wait, so there are rooms in this tower in which the Archmage’s magic is still active? Why haven’t the professors done something about that?”
"Perhaps it’s the same reason they haven’t gotten rid of the ghost witch that haunts the hallways at night. " Bartido shrugged. “Don’t ask me, ask them. Regardless, try not to go opening doors at random, please. We’ve had a lot of students disappear before because of rooms like this one.”
Lillet nodded gratefully. “Thanks, Bartido.”
Strangely enough, the boy blushed a bit and looked to the side. “Huh? Yeah, sure, no problem.”
Then the moment passed and he stared at her for a long time.
“Um… is there something on my face?”
Bartido shook his head. “Nah. I don’t know why, but I got this strange feeling that I’d met you somewhere before. Forget about it.” Then he tapped his head lightly, “Aw, rats. I was supposed to go get more dragon blood for Dr. Chartreuse and I got sidetracked,” he then ran off, yelling as he went, “Ask before opening doors!”
She would have loved to give a snarky remark to that, but he
saved her and he was already out of sight by the time she opened her mouth. “I got it the first time, thank you very much,” she muttered to herself.
That still left her unable to practice before her lesson, unless she managed to find a teacher that could give her pointers. Sighing, frustrated at how the day had gone so far, Lillet walked back to her room.
Of course, things couldn’t be that easy.
Sighing for what felt like the umpteenth time that day, Lillet wondered how come her life had suddenly gotten so complicated just by stepping foot in this tower.
Her path was currently blocked by Mr. Advocat and a stern-looking woman with spectacles… whose face was currently scrunched up in anger.
“Out of my way,
. I have no time to deal with the likes of you.”
“You’re so vulgar, Opalneria,” the Sorcery teacher chuckled softly, a hand on his chin, “Ah. Went to see
, I presume. From your face I take it your meeting did not go well?”
Fuyu no Sora
The woman’s face became harsher. She looked as if she was going to snarl at the devil.
“Out of my way, I said! If it wasn’t for Sir Gammel I would have purged you a long time ago!”
is easier said than done, my dear. Would you like to try your hand, though?”
Lillet groaned to herself,
I’m now stuck in the middle of a corridor with two teachers about to engage in a magical brawl. What is going on in this school?
Before the fight could actually break out, however, a rich, lilting and provocative yet dangerous voice interrupted them.
“I would appreciate it if you were to leave my apprentice alone, Mephistopheles.”
Advocat turned to the voice and an amused smile curved his lips, “My, my. And here I thought you only appeared at night, Lujei.”
“Well, when my cute apprentice is being harassed I have no choice but to step in, do I?” the voice replied. Lillet shifted slightly to get a better look at who was speaking.
She was surprised to see the ghost of a beautiful, scantily-clad young woman that was… surrounded by rose vines? Blue marks littered her body, and she held a red staff with a skull on top close to her.
Was she the ghost witch that Gaff had told her about on her first night here?
Due to her internal musings she missed part of the conversation, but once she began paying attention again, she saw that the ghost woman was in front of Advocat.
“Don’t you have somewhere else to be?” she asked softly. Lillet knew she had to be missing something there when Advocat simply chuckled softly and looked to the woman.
“I shall leave for now but I will visit you sometime soon, Opalneria. After all, I like your room. You have great taste in decor.” Laughing evilly, he walked away from the scene looking as though he were amused by something.
Lillet thought to herself before focusing back to the scene in front of her.
“Mmm. So what is it, Opalneria? Is the plan ready as you said?”
Opalneria placed her hands in front of her and nodded demurely. “Yes, Mistress. I did everything just as you taught me. I will execute the plan shortly.”
“Is that why you went to see him?”
The ghost witch clucked her tongue.
“That’s not good, Opalneria. If you’re distracted you won’t be able to perform well.”
“Mm. Now go. You have to get ready.”
Opalneria bowed and went away without another word.
Lujei looked after the witch, then smiled once she disappeared around the corner, “This will definitely be interesting. I’m curious to know what the result of her efforts will be.”
The skull on the ghost witch’s staff then began talking, causing Lillet to almost let out a surprised squeak, “Do you think Opalneria will fail?”
“Who knows? I was working on that magic when I was alive, but I never tried it. Now, whose fault was that?”
Lillet felt that she agreed with the skull when he released a worried “Oh dear” before Lujei disappeared as well.
She tried to swallow her nervousness once she found herself in the wide classroom, with Advocat examining every single one of the strokes of her wand. A few explanations and some pointers later, Lillet found herself with two Imps that were obediently waiting for orders and four succubi whose bodies were surrounded in flames. Locked in place due to their legs being encased in magical stone, they moved their tails to a tune only they could hear and looked at her from the corner of their eyes.
Advocat stroked his chin pensively.
“You most certainly have a natural affinity for Sorcery, Lillet Blan. You summoned these Guardians perfectly and they haven’t tried to burn you a single time.”
Lillet shuddered as she was yet again reminded that she had some mysterious special power over devils; a more than disturbing notion by itself without having to be reminded of it all the time. She bit back her innate response of
“I don’t want to have a natural affinity for Sorcery!”
by recalling that she had come here to learn, and if she had a natural affinity to any type of magic she should be grateful and study hard to master it instead of whine about it. Even if it was strange and somewhat scary.
Remember why you’re here! Stop complaining and focus!
The devil teacher looked at her for a long while before he grinned, “Well, this is fine work. I think it’s too early to give you the Chaos Nest to study yet, but I do believe you’re ready for a little more advanced work in the Hell’s Gate. You have proven that you can summon Imps and Demons, even Guardians, and have them well under your control.” His eyes then gleamed, “Now I will teach you how to effectively use this to make even weaklings like Imps fit to fight.”
Fuyu no Sora
Lillet groaned out gratefully when she hit her bed at night. It had been a long day today, what with almost opening magically dangerous rooms, seeing the teachers almost get into a fight in the middle of the hallway and discovering something about a plan. She had wondered what Ms. Opalneria was planning to do, but it was probably in her best interest to not go poking around too much. She was here to study magic and become a great magician, not to spy on what her teachers were doing in their own individual time.
A great magician, huh?
Lillet turned in her bed and wondered if she was doing well in only looking at Sorcery. There were four main branches of magic, Glamour, Necromancy, Sorcery and Alchemy, but so far she had only had the chance to study the art of summoning and chaining devils with her will. Her first Glamour lesson with Professor Gammel had been pretty much shot when he had been called away by Bartido to help with some problem at the Alchemy lab and thus she had also not met the Alchemy teacher.
“You most certainly have a natural affinity for Sorcery.”
She sighed heavily. Even though she had managed to pep talk herself into focusing in Advocat’s lessons, she was still disturbed by the fact that she seemed to be so comfortable with summoning and controlling devils. She wondered if she had such a talent in any other of the branches of magic.
Well, the only way to find out is by trying another discipline,
her mind answered her.
For now, it’s been a long day and I should sleep.
First Day 5
The knocking on the door made Lillet wake up.
Rubbing her eyes, she noticed that her room was still in the dark. In her foggy mind, she wondered why would someone wake her up in the middle of the night.
Opening the room, preparing herself to express her irritation at whoever had woken her earlier if they had not a good reason, she shrieked as a pair of hands grabbed her shoulders by surprise. Looking at the one who was grabbing her, she recognized the white haired boy.
“Why!?” Hiram yelled, “Why did you have to come here!?” The hold on her shoulders became stronger, making her wince in pain. “What could you possibly gain by releasing the archmage!?”
Before Hiram could continue, his hands were seized and separated from her shoulders. Regaining her balance, she noticed that Bartido had saved her again. Accompaning them was Margarita, barely inside the room, looking at both sides of the aisle, pale as a ghost. She also noticed that the three of them were in their nightwear, and that Bartido was carrying a grimoire while Margarita did the same with two.
“We don't have time for this,” Bartido said, his voice lacking his usual cocky attitude, now replaced by a seriousness tone, with a hint of fear. “Look, Lillet we need to leave right now. The archmage was freed, as Hiram just accused you of doing it, and the teachers are trying to stop him but...” Bartido stopped for a second and looked away. Lillet gasped at the implication. “Anyway, we have to leave, right now.” Bartido started to walk out of the room.
“Bartido,” Hiram said loudly, startling the other three. “How can you suggest that we leave with her, when its her own fault.”
Well that's enough.
' “Look, I did not release the archmage, why would I do that?” Lillet retorted angry.
“How would I know? You are the one who did it.”
“What? How could I have done it, if I was sleeping.”
“I don't know how you did it but, because of you, because of you Miss Opalneria had to... had to...” Was that her imagination or was Hiram crying?
“Hiram! You can accuse her of whatever you want, just move while you do it.” Bartido once again stopped Hiram. He then grabbed his arm and pulled him outside the room. Margarita just followed them without making a sound or raising her head.
Lillet just exhaled, took her own grimoire and then began to follow.
First Day 5.
They arrived to the main entrance of the tower. The main entrance, Lillet had noted on her arrival, was grand and majestic, as was expected of it. The moonlight that came through the windows combined with the fire of the lamps, made it seem more splendorous than the first time she had seen it. It was also a contrast to the thing that was at the beginning of the staircase.
The thing was clearly humanoid and Lillet was tempted to call it a ghost. But then a ghost was white to the point of transparency while this thing skin was completely black. It also had a strange aura that surrounded him, making him glow slightly. His eyes were completely white as his hair.
There was no need for her to ask, as even though she had never seen a painting , she recognized that the Archmage Calvaros was standing in front of them.
Ah, child you have done well. Thanks to you I have returned to the living, it is a shame that you have to die here.
” A shiver went down everyone's spine. “A
s for the remaining children, do not despair, because of my good will your end will be swift.
” Ending that sentence, the Archmage walked toward them.
Small note: This takes place after an epic battle at the end of Laith's chapter, that is so far unwritten. So use your imaginations for now
Second Night Before
Bong! Bong! Bong!
Lillet gasped, stumbling back in disorientation.
How did she get to this corridor? Earlier, she had been in the entrance hall along with the others…
She was panting, her muscles quivering with a bone-deep chill. Some of that was excitement from defeating the Archmage, but she was shaking so much…
The bells stopped tolling, leaving the castle silent except for the ghost wind whispers through the stone walls.
“Only seven bells?” Lillet puzzled, stumbling over to the window to peer out. The moon was definitely far too high in the sky for it to be seven in the evening. Full night had settled around the Silver Star Tower.
“How…” Lillet inhaled sharply. She had heard five bells right as they had bound the Archmage, so perhaps she had only been transported through space as the bells finished tolling midnight.
Quickly, Lillet dashed for the nearest staircase, hurtling down the stairs towards the main entrance hall. Did something react at the end of their battle to send Lillet up three levels? She hoped that nothing had happened to the others!
“Margarita! Bartido!” Lillet called, skidding around the corner, her boots leaving streaks on the worn stone.
There was no one there.
How could they be gone? And the Archmage was missing, the floor utterly unmarked and clean of Runes!
“What’s going on?” whispered Lillet, staring at the unblemished corridor. Where were the cracks, the broken pillars? The window panes were intact and shimmering silver-white from the moonlight.
“Not just space,” Lillet realized, resting a hand on the wall to ground herself. “Space
She had travelled through time. Did she go forward or backwards? What was going on? Lillet lifted the grimoire she had tucked under her arm, the weight of it having become familiar over the last few days. Cracking open the cover, Lillet thumbed through the annotated pages, recognizing her own handwriting. If she had the grimoire, then Lillet must have gone forward through time, right? Still…Lillet walked to the windows again, gazing across at the sliver of moon. The last time she had looked, it had definitely been waxing, and unless she had jumped forward by a month or more, there was no way the moon could only be such a sliver. Maybe she had gone
in time a few days?
How could this be possible?
Nothing Lillet could recall from her lessons talked about jumping through time. Not even the most powerful devil could affect that aspect of the natural world. There wasn’t a single magic strong enough to do it.
“Of course!” Lillet gasped, smacking a fist on her hip. “The Philosopher’s Stone!”
The Philosopher’s Stone had been made by the three most powerful magicians of the century; it had been a collaboration between the Archmage Calvaros, Professor Gammel, and the Grand Witch Lujei. Hiram had accused her of using it in league with the Archmage, and one of the Stone’s rumoured powers was the ability to transcend natural magic limitations. Time travel could be one of them!
“I should ask…” She let her thought trail off, a sudden thought coming over her like a splash of ice water.
No, Lillet couldn’t ask anyone for help.
Even if it
been due to the Philosopher’s Stone that Lillet was now strangely sent through time…the other students already thought that Lillet was conspiring with the enemy. If she asked around about the Philosopher’s Stone, that would only provide circumstantial proof for their suspicions.
And what if she asked Professor Gammel? He might wonder why she had such an interest in a powerful relic that the Archmage Calvaros wanted. As long as the real traitor was still free, Lillet would be under the same harsh scrutiny that they
If they thought that Lillet was the traitor, their real enemy would get away.
So that’s it then.
It looks like Lillet would have to find out more about the Philosopher’s Stone on her own.
Second Day One
Lillet Blan shifted her shawl one more time to make sure that it was exactly how she wanted it before she sighed. She was now presentable for the day - and any other time, she would be
for the day as well. But this day was not like any other that she remembered. She didn't even know what day it
. Had the previous night been a dream? And if so... when had the dream begun? Had she dreamed her fourth and fifth day? All five? Did she dream making it into the Tower and talking to all of the people that resided there? Was she still dreaming?
There was really only one thing for it, and that was to go to Professor Gammel. If nothing else, he would steer her in the right direction. He had told her, or so her memories made it seem, that she could go to attend to any professor at her own time and own pace. So it wouldn't be out of the ordinary for her to take a class from a Professor of her choice, no matter what day it was. Though, given what she thought she remembered about the past five days, she couldn't talk to Mr. Advocat about it. That would merely snap her right back under suspicion if she had managed to escape it thus far. Besides,
had come from one of the more unbelievable parts of her memories. She was gifted in entreating with devils! A joke, if there ever was one.
It was with such musing thoughts that Lillet made her way through the Tower. It was a little disconcerting that the paths she took matched her memories of the place exactly, but if she woke in the Tower, she would have had to have met Professor Gammel in his study and have gone to her assigned quarters from there. No matter what had happened to her, she had certainly walked this path before, even if only in the reverse. Perhaps her dreams had been supplied it from that one trip, and the wonder she felt then - and still felt - made it all the more clear to her mind.
She shook her head sharply to clear it. Ruminating constantly on her situation would not help until she knew more, and Gammel was her best source of information. She finally made her way all the way to the Professor's study door, and rapped smartly on it. "Enter," the voice inside told her, and she opened the door and obeyed.
"Ah, Miss Lillet," Professor Gammel said from the chair he was in, looking up from a rather large tome. "Coming up on your first day, I see. Such drive!" He chuckled to himself as he stood up and closed the book. "I think you will do well here."
Well, that answered that question rather quickly. "I'm glad you think so, Professor." She then had a sudden bit of inspiration, though the idea would not work unless she launched right into it. So she did. "I spent most of the evening looking over this Grimoire you gave me," she said, pulling out her Fairy Ring Grimoire, which, if her memories were right, she got from him on her second day - tomorrow? - rather than her first - today? - due to her headache. "And I think I understand the summoning processes for Elves and Fairies."
Professor Gammel's eyebrows rose and his hand went to his bearded chin. "Indeed? Then why don't you follow me and you can show me precisely what you have learned?" He showed her to a door on the opposite side of the study from the one that Lillet had entered, and opened it to let her through into what was obviously a practice room. He shut the door behind her with a click and walked over to the other side of the room, drawing a few runes with practiced ease. "Stand over there, in the green corner. When I tell you, I'd like you to draw a Fairy Ring there." It wasn't very long before he finished drawing. He finished with a flourish. "There." He looked up at her. "Now, draw your rune."
Having done so only the previous night under considerably more duress, Lillet drew with ease at first, and then suddenly remembered that this was supposed to be her first attempt doing magic. Knowing that Professor Gammel was watching her closely, she frowned in concentration as she tried to strike a balance between inexperienced and dangerous. She thought that she had done a rather good job of it when she finished with as awkward a flourish as she could manage.
"Good!" Professor Gammel said once she was looking at him again. "Very good. I must say, I didn't expect you to do so well!" He smiled, or perhaps his beard became somewhat wider. "Are you sure that you have not studied at the Magical Society before now?"
Lillet, who had been smiling at the praise from her teacher, felt her smile droop for an instant before she plastered it back on. "No, Professor. I just... I'm very excited. I didn't get much sleep last night because I could not put my Fairy Ring Grimoire down." As long as he didn't ask Gaff about it...
Professor Gammel's hand returned to his chin as his bead returned to its normal width. "It is not good to lose sleep, Miss Blan. When practicing magic, it may require your full attention to control all of the familiars you may have active at one time. We have the cirriculum settable by our students for many reasons, and one of them is so that we never rush you. You need to move at a pace that is comfortable and allows you to be fully awake, alert and ready whenever you practice magic. I trust you will take my words to heart this evening, Miss Blan?"
Pleased and feeling a little embarrassed despite lying about not getting enough sleep, she nodded as contritely as she could manage. "Yes, Professor."
"Good!" The Professor said. "Now, perhaps if you could show me summoning an elf?"
"Excellent!" Professor Gammel said as Lillet finally dismissed her Fairy Ring. "You are moving along quite nicely. Now, in addition to making sure you practice powering your Fairy Ring to the point that your Elves can heal your Fairies, I would like you to study this." He took another Grimoire from one of the bookcases that were in his study and handed it to her. "It is the Wicca Grimoire, one of the other Grimoires from Glamour. We can discuss Adventing Talismens next time, but make sure you have enough sleep before you come by again."
Lillet nodded absently as she took the Grimoire from Gammel. Another Grimoire. And apparently, it had something similar to Guardians from Sorcery. She would definitely take a look soon.
"Professor Gammel!" Bartido barged into the room, the door thwacking the wall that it was attached to so hard that Lillet thought that it would snap right in half, but apparently it was made of sterner stuff than it looked. "The experiment failed, and the Chimeras are out of control!"
Professor Gammel looked grim. "Miss Lillet, I need to go take care of this. You should return to your room, or perhaps find another place to be for the time being. I shall see you next time. Do not over-exert yourself." He left the room quickly, but not quite at a run. Bartido looked at Lillet with a funny look on his face for a moment, but he clearly thought better of it and left to rush after Gammel.
Lillet was left in the practice room looking at the swinging door. She walked into Gammel's study and found that both of the others had left quite quickly, which made sense if there were Chimeras on the loose. Lillet looked around. She wondered if any of the books on the many shelves in the room would have the answers she sought? Would Professor Gammel even have any books that would talk about the Philosopher's Stone? There was nothing but to look, and with the emergency taking his attention, this was possibly the best time she would have to even peruse what he had.
Or it wasn't. She heard a squeak from behind her and spun. There seemed to be no one in the room with her. She searched the floor. Nor did she see anything there. Thinking that it was just her imagination, though her heart did not believe that, she turned back around to regard the book shelf. Quickly, another sound came from behind and she spun again, this time preparing to draw a Rune, even in the small study. She came face to face with Mr. Advocat.
This time, it was Lillet who squeaked. "Mr. Advocat!"
"Oh?" the devil drew himself up. "I do not believe that we have met officially. Do we know each other from somewhere?"
Internally smacking herself for her outburst, she cast about for some reason that she might know his name. "Er... I heard some of the other students talking about you, and they said that if any of the teachers sneak up on you, it's probably Mr. Advocat."
Advocat huffed in annoyance and seemed quite insulted. "Really? Hmph. These students certainly don't know how to respect their elders. Nor do you, if your current actions are to be taken into account." He seemed to forget entirely about the other students, instead looking accusingly at Lillet and flicked his eyes up to the bookcase and back. "Were you looking for something important, Lillet Blan?"
Lillet hitched, her own eyes flicking up where his had. "I guess I could also ask you how you know my name, Mr. Advocat." After all, his answer could tell her if she was hallucinating all that had happened or something.
"I have my ways," he said mysteriously. "Now, perhaps you can tell me why you wanted to go through Gammel's books?"
It looked like she wasn't going to get out of it that easily... perhaps some form of the truth was the best option here? No... if she mentioned the Philosopher's Stone to any of the professors, she went right back to being suspect number one when it came to helping the Archmage escape his prison. So she couldn't try that. She had played the excited about magic card once... perhaps it would work again? "I wanted to see what kings of books that Professor Gammel liked to have on hand in his study, for ideas as to the sorts of books I might want to take a look at in my own studies. I was going to ask him about it, but he apparently had an emergency to take care of with the Chimeras with B... that boy who came in earlier." She tried not to hold her breath when she ran out of things to say.
Advocat looked at her, clearly calculating her and her response. Finally, he waved her on. "Ask him later, rather than rifle through his things. One would think that you had the manners of a Demon if you go through people's things like that."
Once dismissed, Lillet practically fled from the study. Perhaps she would have better luck in the library or something? Anywhere away from the devil was for the best. How had he known that she had been doing that, anyway?
Second Day 2
Lillet woke worried.
She got dressed in a daze, still turning over her thoughts in her head. This was the second day of her strange jump back in time, and Lillet was pretty sure that she had indeed somehow undone what had happened two days ago to her, after that battle with the Archmage. Gaff hadn't recognised her, and it seemed like Mr. Advocat didn't remember giving her any lessons in sorcery. But yet Lillet still remembered those lessons with great clarity, and she still had the grimoires that the professors had given her.
Who knew how many days Lillet had this time around! Would things still happen the way they did the first time? Would this loop through time happen again, or did Lillet only have one chance to get things right so that no one died?
"And what to do about the Philosopher's Stone!" Lillet muttered to herself under her breath, keeping her voice low. Who knew where Mr. Advocat could be?
She couldn't let herself get caught sneaking through Professor Gammel's books again, not if she wanted to keep her interest in the Stone hidden. But how else could she find out more about the Philosopher's Stone? Lillet might not have enough time to go looking through the main library, not if she possibly had a time limit!
But what else could she do? Anyone who she could possibly ask about the Stone either wouldn’t know anything beyond rumour—which wouldn’t help Lillet at all—or would become suspicious about her behaviour and actually have the power to
something about it. Lillet sighed, slipping into her boots and left her room, walking purposefully towards the library.
Lillet was going to the library. At least, that’s what she was
to do. Bartido had said it well—this Tower was a mess of corridors and rooms, and somehow Lillet had turned herself around between two floors and now she had utterly no idea where she was. It wasn’t
big a deal that she couldn’t retrace her steps to the library entrance she used before, since there were at least six other entrances to the massive main library, but opening doors at random in this Tower was a hazardous exercise, to say the least.
“Maybe I should find my way back down to the main hall,” Lillet said to herself, glum at the thought. That would get her oriented again, but that was a lot of stairs she’d have to go down.
The echo of boots on stone made Lillet perk up. She looked behind herself and saw Margarita rounding a corner, her eyes downcast. The brunette’s familiar was croaking from his spot on Margarita’s head, but abruptly stopped just as Margarita looked up and spotted Lillet.
“Oh, uh…Hi Lillet,” Margarita said nervously, tucking both her hands around a grimoire behind her back, her posture oddly shy. Lillet almost couldn’t believe that this was the same Margarita she knew who would sneak around the halls at night in open defiance of the rules.
“Hi Margarita,” Lillet said, grateful that someone knew who she was. That meant that when she went back in time, her first afternoon at the Tower hadn’t been reset. What was it about nightime on that first day that allowed all this time looping to happen?
“Um, can’t talk now,” mumbled the other girl, edging around Lillet. “Sorry for running off, but I have to get this grimoire to Professor Gammel.” Margarita tucked the book under her arm so quicky Lillet couldn’t see the title. “I’ll see you later.”
“Wait!” Lillet called, making Margarita jump. “Sorry, um…I was wondering, could you point me towards the library?”
Margarita pointed vaguely down the hall where she had came, although her direction was fairly aimless as she had already turned around and was trotting down the corridor. Lillet sighed, eyeing the solid wall that had been the exact object of Margarita’s directing.
“Somewhere this way, huh?”
She walked down the hall and turned the corner—it didn’t look familiar. Still, there weren’t
many doors down this hallway, so Lillet bit her lip and took a gamble.
“Door number one?” She grabbed the metal door ring and pulled down, lifting the iron lever and pushed the wooden door open.
Oh, this was
not the library.
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