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Exiled to the Couch
Fic Draft: Seirei's Gate
Fic Draft: Seirei's Gate
After more than a year, I've finally dusted off an old GrimGrimoire story of mine to hopefully work on lately
. I just finished hammering out a
story outline for this multi-chapter story, based off of a prologue I had written last October.
Lillet is 17 in this story, and had been a Royal Magician for a little more than a year. It is Springtime, after “The Christmas Guest” story in Dezo’s fics.
has loose ties to Dezo's fanon and my fanon.
It all started with Lillet trying to do a good deed.
Two Royal Magicians had been bitterly arguing about the angles of lines inside a necromancy Rune that could theoretically convert another magician’s summoned phantoms to the Rune caster’s will; with each counter-argument their postures and voices rose, until they were nearly shouting at each other across the table.
Riesling had tried to get order, as their staff meeting was starting to run overtime, but fresh opinions added at the vestiges of the calming embers only fanned them up again repeatedly.
Eventually, as the clock struck seven, Lillet had lost her temper, wanting the darn meeting to end so that she could make her arranged dinner plans with Amoretta.
“Look!” She snapped, lashing out a hand to rapidly trace the Rune in question and call it to life with a snap of her fingers. “You can’t align all six lines with the main Summon Rune if you use two 50 degree angles at the tip. See how it overshoots the third line? That won’t allow the mana transfer between the other person’s Rune and your own.” She traced the erring portion of the Rune. “You need to use acute angles—40 degrees, or even 35.” Lillet replaced the errant lines with the proper ones, letting the Rune glow lightly but not supplying the mana required to truly cast the spell. “See?” Waving her fingers she dispelled the Rune and tapped the papers in front of her. “Now can we
finish discussing the reports?”
The vindicated Magician crowed in triumph before starting, blinking, and falling just as silent as the rest of the room.
“What?” Lillet asked, blushing nervously at the sudden attention from her peers.
Royal Magician Benedictine was the one who finally spoke, his voice high-pitched with incredulity. “Did you just
the Summon-Stealer Rune? It’s not possible…How…how did you combine the Summon and Command runes without the spell falling apart?!”
“I just gave it a little “twist” at the ends of the…” Lillet trailed off when they clearly weren’t really listening, all of them giving her stunned, wide-eyed gapes.
“Lillet Blan,” Riesling announced suddenly, the full force of academic nerdship resounding in his voice, “You are being reassigned from Investigations to Research. Effective immediately!”
Lillet glanced over at the Head of Research and his team; they were all staring hungrily at her as if she were a banquet table in a desert.
“Could you give me a minute to send Amoretta a message? I don’t think I’ll be making it back for dinner tonight.”
Great to see you're going to start writing this story in earnest!
As you know, I've always loved the cuteness of the beginning (nothing like being able to do the apparently impossible by...not
, per se, but so casually that it might as well be).
“Design #138,” Lillet muttered to herself, squinting at the tiny diagram she had scribbled in the margins of her 137th picture. If the new Rune design actually held its shape, Lillet would transcribe it onto a full sheet of paper. After having wasted her time doing full-page drawings of 60 useless designs, Lillet had switched to sketching thumbnail pictures for testing purposes in case the Runes simply fell apart on conjuring.
The freshly scrubbed floor of the workroom glowed, the thin bluish lines of the Rune spreading inwards from the circular frame. Lillet held her breath—hopefully, the script for summon portion of the Hades Gate would flow into the harsh glyphs of the devil ritual. That was what had collapsed the last 24 Rune designs Lillet had tried, and if she couldn’t get the Rune to even
properly there was no way Lillet could complete the complicated Seirei’s Gate Rune.
“Please,” Lillet moaned, watching the symbols appearing with bated breath. Seven weeks of hard labour would have been for nothing if she had to restart her methodology! Becoming a Research Magician hadn’t exactly been thrilling at first, not when Lillet much preferred Investigations, but the challenge of her work soon won Lillet over. But the worst part of research work was often having to start over from scratch!
The shimmering script crept further towards the centre of the rune, and when all the lines met at the middle the entire Rune shone, the light flickering in and out.
Lillet bit her lip.
The Rune faded…then glowed steadily, the glyphs rotating gently around the rune solidly.
“YES!” Lillet yelled, jumping up in excitement. Her hat fell off her head and the precarious pile of paper on the stool next to her spilled over the floor, but Lillet didn’t care!
“It worked!” Lillet laughed giddily, circling the Seirei’s Gate rune and drawing the completed design down as quickly as she could on her notepad. It didn’t matter that the Rune wasn’t entirely complete yet—she had to find the right combination of symbols to activate it and create the ghostly figures that rose up and danced at the circumference of the Rune—but still, Lillet had finally unlocked this theoretical puzzle!
“Miss Blan!” Worried voices sounded from outside the workroom door, and someone banged on the enchanted wood. “Miss Blan, are you alright?”
“Master Cruzan!” Lillet dashed for the door, opening it quickly before turning her attention back to scribing. “Look, I did it! The Rune isn’t collapsing, it’s actually holding!”
Royal Magician Cruzan Asphodel was a large man, middle-aged in appearance but at least five decades old in reality. His square face was smooth of wrinkles, but unlike other vain magicians he had let his hair remain a dusty gray that reflected his true age. Although he always dressed impeccably as if about to go to a funeral, Cruzan took one look at the glowing Seirei’s Gate and bellowed, jumping up and down as excitedly as the teenaged Lillet.
“Miss Blan! I can’t believe it! Oh, you got the symbols for individual identification and the pattern for summoning to link with the subscript for substance! Oh amazing!”
“Yes!” Lillet cried, although she had to stop leaping about in order to pencil in the intricate details of the new Rune. “I’m almost done…I still have to write out all my bits and pieces of notes into a proper grimoire, but Master Cruzan, we finally did it!”
“We?” Cruzan shook his head, uncharacteristically beaming. “No, no, Miss Blan—there’s no loss in pride for me to admit that despite being your supposed ‘mentor’ in Necromancy research, it was
who accomplished this impossibility!” He paced about, studying the Rune with a calmer eye. “Extraordinary! A good first project, Miss Blan, a good choice!”
“Are you two done with your antics?” A dry voice commented from the doorway. Lillet spun around, unable to stop smiling even as she met the exasperated expression on the third Royal Magician present. Krystal Head was a prodigy herself: she had graduated from the Silver Star Tower when she was twenty-one, and obtained a post as Royal Magician when she was a mere twenty-five years old.
It was just unfortunate that working under the same mentor as Lillet Blan, the first seventeen year old Royal Magician, somewhat diminished Krystal’s prestige. Lillet tried not to attribute the slightly distant manner in which Krystal addressed her to such petty reasons, but it was hard to imagine that it was Lillet
who evoked indifferent reactions from the other Magician. Maybe that was part of Lillet’s own ego talking, but the honey-blonde girl hated to be in conflict with anyone. Hopefully, as time went on, she and Krystal Head could become friends…but for the time being, the friendly approaches were still one-sided.
Krystal sighed and crossed her arms, her red eyes rolling once. “A stable Rune doesn’t necessarily mean it’s functional,” she reminded them pragmatically. She tilted her head, hiding her entire face in the shadow of her hood. “Miss Lillet still has to go through the testing procedures before we can celebrate.”
“Of course you’re right, Miss Head,” Cruzan conceded, but he remained smiling. “Nonetheless, this is a great breakthrough for all of us—especially you, Miss Blan!”
“I couldn’t have done this without both of your help,” Lillet interjected, starting to tidy up the messy workroom. “Master Cruzan, Krystal, thank you both for your help with the research, and for letting me bounce ideas off of you over the last weeks.”
That elicited a reaction from Krystal—the young woman’s eyes gleamed as the corner of her lips twitched. “Of course it was no trouble, Miss Blan. Seirei’s Gate…what other Rune has the same fascinating conundrum? I’ve never worked on something like it before—summoning a soul from a living person, and not from the realm of the dead? It’s not something that necromancers usually have a chance to ponder over.”
“It’s more of a sorcery route,” Lillet agreed. “Devils normally deal in living souls—but think of it: with Seirei’s Gate, a magician could exorcise malevolent spirits from people without risking exorcism rituals! Not only would it help ease people’s minds about Sorcery, but it could also help us understand how a devil’s contract works.”
“You don’t have to spout the political rationale for us,” Cruzan chuckled, shuffling through some of Lillet’s notes with interest. “Really, the academic challenge is worth it. Seirei’s Gate is to magic what the Hodge Conjecture is to mathematics—theory without proof!”
“The Poincaré Conjecture is a better comparison,” Krystal deadpanned. “That problem was solved, as is Seirei’s Gate, now that Miss Blan had exerted her genius to solve the Rune.”
Lillet swallowed, taking a breath. “Master Cruzan,” she asked lightly, gently diverting the conversation, “do I have to write up a report about the Rune design for the next staff meeting?”
“At this point in the year? No, I’d wait until you have completed the testing procedures and activated the Rune fully first.” Cruzan handed Lillet her notes back, watching almost mournfully as the Seirei’s Gate rune faded away, restoring the lighting in the room to the yellowish glow of torchlight instead of the otherworldly shade of blue the necromancer clearly preferred. “Spring is always full of reports from distant magicians cut off for the winter, and with the Privy Council meeting often to discuss foreign news, the Royal House of Magic will be more concerned with current problems rather than research ones. Your results can wait a few weeks for you to perfect the Rune.”
“Yes, sir.” In the distance, Lillet could hear the faint tolling of the hour bells. “Four o’clock…sir, if you don’t mind, I’m going to leave it here for today. We have that Spring Festival ball tonight, don’t we?”
“Is today the 21st already?” Cruzan smoothed at his cropped beard. “So it is. Miss Blan, Miss Head, both of you take the afternoon off. We Magicians need our time to properly prepare for these things.”
Lillet hid a giggle—her mentor was infamous among the Royal Magicians for being nearly as vain as a noblewoman about his dress at courtly functions. But she wasn’t about to complain—after all, having more time to prepare meant that Lillet could steal a few minutes to relax with her lover before they had to get into their ball gowns. Extra time spent with Amoretta was always precious, and Lillet hurriedly stacked all her papers and bound them in leather book straps, eager to be on her way.
“See you two tonight!” Lillet politely brushed by Krystal and shoved her notes on the grimoire shelf above her workdesk. Snatching up her satchel, Lillet waved her goodbye over her shoulder as she ran out of the Research Wing, already imagining how Amoretta was going to look in her new wine-red silk dress…
Yes, today was a good day.
Lillet skipped into her chambers, dropping her satchel by the coat stand. “Amoretta, Gaff—I’m home!” She paused to scratch Grimalkin behind the ears, the snoozing demon-cat purring slightly as he curled up into a tighter ball on the bed.
“Lillet, you’re back?” A short elf looked up from his dusting, his large green hat nearly flopping over onto his face from the sudden movement. “Aren’t you early today?”
“Work went well, so we decided to end the day early.” Lillet plopped down onto an armchair by the fireplace, murmuring her thanks as Gaff stopped his dusting to hand her a cup of tea. “Is Amoretta out?”
“No, she’s restoring herself in her flask,” Gaff answered, pointing. He rolled his eyes. “Don’t worry, I didn’t dust in that corner of the room, so there’s no worry I’m going to break anything over there!”
“I wasn’t thinking that,” Lillet said, dismayed that her friend looked so glum. She patted his shoulder. “Really, Gaff! You’ve gotten so much better at not breaking things, I really wasn’t!”
“Ah, okay,” Gaff mumbled, his ears turning pink. “Well, that’s good…but, um, I guess I’ll keep away from Amoretta’s flask anyway, huh?” He smirked slightly, a light blush on his cheeks. “Because, you know, I know how much you worry about Amoretta.”
Lillet managed a tiny smile to assure Gaff, but she couldn’t help but shiver at the bad memories. The sound of breaking glass was practically a phobia to Lillet…but if anyone had seen their love die
from her flask breaking, then they would be anxious at that shattering sound as well. Without the Philosopher’s Stone and the time loops, Lillet would have lost Amoretta forever.
And without the many, many years of learning magic while caught in the Philosopher’s Stone’s loops of time, Lillet wouldn’t have her position here at the Royal House of Magic either. So maybe those dreadful five days back at the Silver Star Tower were actually a blessing, in some ways.
Lillet finished her tea, and crossed the room to stand beside her workbench by the far wall. She gently laid a light finger against the large glass flask wrapped snugly and secured to the padded stand.
Lillet thought, smiling from just thinking her love’s name.
A warm rush flowed through Lillet’s finger and settled inside her heart.
Amoretta’s soft voice asked delightedly, her joy projecting to Lillet as happy tingles.
You’re home! I’m coming out.
The translucent liquid inside the flask bubbled, then poured forth from the narrow neck until it coalesced into the form of a young, pale-skinned woman. Lillet picked up the dressing gown hanging over the back of a chair, and when she finished forming Amoretta opened her beautiful garnet eyes to smile sweetly at her lover.
“Lillet, welcome back!” Amoretta stepped close, pressing her body close to Lillet’s and kissing the other girl deeply. Lillet returned the kiss eagerly, although she was more breathless than usual and so regretfully pulled away to catch her breath.
“What’s wrong?” Amoretta asked, concerned, but Lillet waved that aside with a sheepish grin.
“Nothing, except that my knees are kind of weak right now—my beautiful girlfriend does that to me, you know.” Yes, her beautiful, naked girlfriend…and that kiss…no wonder Lillet couldn’t quite remember breathing.
Lifting a hand to hide her giggles, Amoretta accepted the dressing gown that Lillet helped her into. “How was your day?”
“Really good,” Lillet beamed, taking Amoretta’s hand to guide them over to the loveseat, which they promptly put to good use. “I managed to come up with a stable version of Seirei’s Gate, and now I have some time before tonight’s ball to snuggle with you.”
Amoretta kissed Lillet’s cheek, snuggling deeper into Lillet’s arms. “Yes, that sounds like a good day. When do we have to get ready for the ball?”
“We have a few minutes,” Lillet suggested shyly, feeling a blush and a shiver go through her body.
Beautiful red eyes darkened, and Amoretta shifted, somehow finding more surfaces to press close to Lillet. Through her pale blond bangs, Amoretta gazed at Lillet with deep, loving eyes as her arms rose to wrap around Lillet’s neck.
“A few minutes,” her delicate lover promised huskily.
Gaff sighed and picked up Grimalkin, striding out the door. “Come on, Grimalkin—we’ll be back in half an hour with their dresses.”
“More like an hour or two,” the demon-cat chuckled as the door closed behind them.
Lillet twirled on the spot, feeling foolishly girly as she let her white and purple ball gown flare around her legs. “How do I look?”
“You look lovely!” Amoretta exclaimed, actually clapping with delight. Although the compliment could have resulted from Amoretta’s recent attempts to speak with a moderate level of tact, Lillet could hear the candid joy in her lover’s tone that spoke to her honesty.
Blushing slightly, Lillet came back over and rewarded Amoretta with a quick kiss. “Thank you—and you’re stunning. I love that shade of red.” Lillet couldn’t help tracing the jewelled silk of Amoretta’s bodice with her fingers, only pulling away before she started something that they had no time for, not if they wanted to arrive at the ballroom on time. She offered Amoretta the crook of her arm. “Shall we?”
“You’ll both be back late, I suppose?” Gaff remarked, obsessively brushing at the hem of Lillet’s dress one more time with a lint brush for invisible lint.
“Yup—don’t wait up for us, Gaff, we can manage,” Lillet smiled, walking out with Amoretta on her arm. “Good night!”
The Royal Palace was the heart of the capital city, and for good reason; it acted as a political centre, the residence of the monarchy, and also as the workroom of many Crown-sponsored divisions of the sciences and the arts. The Royal House of Magic was less a ‘house’ than a full expansion of the Palace built when the Queen had ascended to the throne. The Royal Magicians’ residence was in the levels above the various workrooms and offices, and this entire wing of the Palace spanned several city blocks. Even walking to the main ballroom took Lillet and Amoretta several minutes before they entered the entertainment wing of the Palace.
“Come,” Lillet covered Amoretta’s hand with hers, “the Royal Magicians—and their guests—enter through the Faerie door, which is around the back. Hm, maybe we’d get a chance to see Hiram. I heard that he and Ms. Opalneria are back from their travelling.”
“They sound really happy together in their letters,” Amoretta noted as she and Lillet made their way over towards the other Royal Magicians waiting outside the ballroom. “I wonder if you’ll get a chance to discuss your work with them.”
“I’d love that,” Lillet said. “I mean, Necromancy isn’t my best subject, and those two are experts. It would be great to hear their take on Seirei’s Gate, especially since I haven’t finished working out some of the underlying components of the Rune work. I lifted a whole portion of the design from one of Ms. Opalneria’s…” Lillet trailed off, chagrined. “I’m boring you, aren’t I?”
“Not very much, Lillet,” Amoretta replied, squeezing Lillet’s arm affectionately. “I love to hear you sound so excited about your work. I don’t understand sometimes when you talk about the complicated concepts, but it’s always interesting to hear.”
That got Amoretta a kiss from her grateful girlfriend. Nonetheless, Lillet glanced around and found the perfect excuse to change the subject. “Ah, they’re letting us in now.” She lifted Amoretta’s hand from her elbow into her near hand, lacing their fingers together and winked. “Shall we, my little love?”
Entering the ballroom was an interesting display of politics, and despite Lillet’s distaste for the games she still found herself well-informed of them. The trades families were in the room already, along with the lesser-ranked nobles and the richer merchants who managed to be on the invitation list. A few freelance magicians were in the crowd too, noticeable to Lillet by the way they moved around the room, aware of where the magical leylines were. Next it looks like it was the Royal Magicians’ turn, and Lillet and Amoretta joined the other Royal Magicians as they entered the half-filled room.
There was no sign of Hiram yet, which Lillet expected. The greater nobles, the clergy, foreign diplomats, and the royal family always entered last. Unfortunately, while waiting for the ball to truly begin it meant that there was a lot of time for political gossiping and socializing.
“Miss Lillet Blan!” Royal Magician Absinthe bore down on them, her feathered gown sparkling with specks of pixie lights. The older woman gave Lillet a surprisingly firm handshake as Lillet murmured a reply. Absinthe’s eyes flicked sideways, and an interested look gleamed in her sharp eyes. “Ah, this must be your familiar who we’ve heard so much about.”
Lillet’s hand tensed, squeezing Amoretta’s hand harder than she had intended to. “Her
is Amoretta. Amoretta Virgine.”
Amoretta gave Lillet a puzzled glance before turning and nodding politely at Mistress Absinthe. “Pleasure to meet you, Royal Magician Absinthe. What a beautiful dress you have.”
Absinthe blinked, jolted from her surprise at Lillet’s harsh tone by the ingrained niceties Amoretta prompted with her reply. “Yes, thank you, dear.” She inclined her head slightly in acknowledgement, but her bearing remained as regal as a queen’s. “Hopefully we can speak again tonight, Miss Virgine, Miss Blan, but if you will excuse me?”
“Lillet?” Amoretta asked gently as Absinthe moved on.
“I’m sorry if I was rude,” Lillet said glumly, feeling slightly ashamed now that her anger had passed. Not exactly subtle with her frustration, was she? She forced herself to relax her grip on Amoretta’s hand and stroked the soft skin with her thumb. “I just…I don’t like them treating you differently from anyone else.”
“But they’re right,” Amoretta pointed out. “I
a homunculus, and I’m also
, even if it’s not in the master-familiar way they think.”
The blush that rose in Lillet’s cheeks dispelled the last bits of indignant anger from the blonde’s heart. “Y-Yes, you’re right, little love.” Conscious of the public scene, Lillet settled with raising Amoretta’s hand to her lips. “You’re mine, and I’m yours. That sounds about right.”
“Indeed,” Amoretta smiled, happy to have succeeded in transforming the anger into a softer emotion. She glanced around the room as the musicians took their places in the corner of the gilded ballroom. “Will you dance with me?”
Before Lillet could reply, a large body stepped up to them. Cruzan Asphodel bowed to both young women, looking quite stern and striking in black. His waistcoat looked like it cost a quarter of Lillet’s annual salary, and intricate charms hung off of his silver watch chain, all of them glimmering with magic. “Miss Blan, good evening to you and your guest.”
“Ah, Master Cruzan,” Lillet perked up. She laid a hand on Amoretta’s sleeve and said, “Amoretta, this is Master Cruzan, my research mentor. Master Cruzan, this is my partner, Amoretta Virgine.”
Cruzan bowed over Amoretta’s fingers, his giant hands gloved in exquisite salamander skin gloves and practically comically large next to Amoretta’s. “My pleasure, Miss Virgine.” He straightened and frowned slightly, narrowing his eyes in thought. “My pardon, but…you seem different than the average young woman, if you don’t mind my saying so.”
Twice in one evening. Lillet sighed.
“Yes, sir,” Amoretta said, her innate honesty overcoming her attentiveness for Lillet’s comfort. “I was not born as normal humans are.”
“Oh yes, you’re a homunculus, aren’t you?” Cruzan seemed to stand taller in interest. “I can’t believe that I had forgotten! Miss Blan speaks very highly of you, Miss Virgine. I’m delighted to finally meet you in person.” He smiled kindly at them both. “You look wonderful together. Miss Blan is a very lucky young woman indeed, to be graced with a lady such as yourself.”
“Thank you, sir,” Lillet blushed, involuntarily sharing a loving look with Amoretta for a moment. “I know I am.”
“Ah, don’t sell yourself short Miss Blan,” Cruzan chided. To Amoretta, he praised, “Your partner is the most talented young magician I’ve ever met—and I’ve met quite a few in my old age! Why, just last month Miss Blan succeeded in creating a proper variant of the Summon-Stealer Rune to capture summons of
type, whether it is a Glamour, Necromancy, Sorcery, or Alchemy familiar. Creating what was once thought of as an impossible Rune, and
able to tinker with it to improve the original theory? Not many magicians can claim to have succeeded where even the late Calvaros had failed!”
Lillet flushed harder at the praise, embarrassed but abashedly pleased. “I have excellent teachers, sir, and I always hope to do them credit.”
“Modest, Miss Blan?” Cruzan gruffed. “You must be very proud of her, Miss Virgine.”
“I always am,” answered Amoretta without hesitation, her red eyes on Lillet alone.
“Ah yes, a homunculus and the weight they place on love,” Cruzan nodded, his gaze pensive as he studied Amoretta. He didn’t have a leering look, or else Lillet would have interrupted with a pointed deflection of his attention. No, her mentor appeared almost studiously fascinated with Amoretta, as expected from a Research Magician. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a chance to speak at length with a homunculus, Miss Virgine. I hope you don’t mind my scholarly curiosity?”
“Not at all, sir.”
“Wonderful! How is it that you can live outside your flask, unlike most other homunculi?” Cruzan asked, his pale eyes alight with fervour at the opportunity.
“I was built by my Creator around an angel’s core, sir. It allows me to live with Lillet outside of my flask.”
“A core?” Cruzan exclaimed. “Why, that’s practically a soul, isn’t it?” He turned his attention back to Lillet, a faintly apologetic expression on his chiselled face. “My apologies, Miss Blan, and to you too, Miss Virgine, for my behaviour. I didn’t expect you to be, well…more than a familiar. I should have had more regard for your privacy. I beg your pardon for my rudeness and discourtesy.”
Lillet waited for Amoretta’s response first, and only after Amoretta responded with, “I took no offense, sir” did Lillet nod her agreement as well.
“Thank you. Ah,” Cruzan glanced up over Lillet’s shoulder. “Excuse me, ladies, but Riesling wants my attention. I beg your leave,” he bowed.
“I promised you a dance,” Lillet said to Amoretta, quickly tugging her out onto the dance floor before they could be waylaid by any more interruptions. Really, if Lillet had to endure the shallow conversations of these gatherings, at the very least she should make sure that Amoretta enjoyed her time at these functions. And Lillet would never miss a chance to hold Amoretta close to her and simply enjoy her company.
Amoretta beamed, turning so that she could put her arms around Lillet’s neck. She always treasured Lillet’s attention, even if she was patient enough when Lillet was distracted. Lillet smiled lovingly back, and put a hand on Amoretta’s hip, bringing her other hand up to take Amoretta into a dance hold.
A tap on her shoulder made Lillet halt in her steps. Lillet spun around, frowning impatiently at the interruption, but she startled to see Royal Magician Riesling behind her, an uncommonly grave set to his features.
“Miss Lillet Blan. Her Majesty, Queen Martelle, asks an audience with you immediately.”
Author’s Note: OH MY GAWD, this chapter became WAY longer than I had intended! @_@ I had hoped to have a lot of short chapters that I can churn out easily, but no dice!
There are lots of Dezo-fanon references ^_^: Benedictine, Riesling, and Absinthe are his characters, while Cruzan, Krystal, and Martelle are mine. And probably other subtle, unconsciously made Dezo-references I can’t remember at the moment XD.
And so the plot limps along…things should pick up in the next few chapters, as plot and subplots start to make themselves obvious ^_-…
Before I even start thinking of a review/commentary, though, am I right in interpreting the A/N from the Prologue section that while you are
some of the elements of fanon I created, the story is not itself designed to necessarily fit within that overall structure?
is that this story slots nicely into your fanon (with bits from my fanon), since the Seirei's Gate Rune is one that Lillet could possibly have used in "Life in a Bottle"...but I say "loosely" because there's a complicated mess of plots and subplots that I'm trying to write a story around
, so if something contradicts your fanon but is necessary for my story, I'm going to let
become separate from your fanon structure.
So basically, it
supposed to be part of your fanon until something contradicts it.
Okay, so if I see things that diverge from my established world, I'll point them out, but not with the expectation that you'll actually change them to bring it back into line. Though frankly, Sora will probably spot them first; she knows my writing better than I do!
As for the first chapter, I'll be brief and say that I loved it. So we have a new Rune (I like that with the story title being a specific reference to a thing rather than a pithy phrase, you've gone and introduced it directly and immediately) for summoning a living soul...which raises the question, of course, of what happens to its body at the time, to say nothing of the ferociously unethical ways in which such an ability could be used. One wonders if Cruzan, Lillet, or Krystal has already thought of that.
Cruzan, thus far, appears to be "just there," the "senior researcher" role, with "detached magical curiosity" for his main personality twist (I wonder if Amoretta will react negatively to him because of his resemblance to Dr. Chartreuse?). Krystal appears more interesting thus far, as the classic "jealous rival" (with the ironic twist: Krystal is the
prodigy, whereas Lillet...has a millennium or so of magical experience that have given her an artificial stat boots).
As for the remainder of the story, Amoretta and Lillet are deliciously sweet together and the Gaff/Grimalkin exchange was so on point for my fanon that I could have written it.
(Hopefully, that comes off as a compliment rather than an exercise in pompous jackassery.
). Looks like we're going to get a little more of "their battles are fought at the ball" with the Queen stepping in!
Well, if it's not hugely plot-disturbing, I'll probably happily change it
Glad you liked it!
(LOL, a reference to how I like vague, pithy phrases as titles?
) And minimal commentary from me on this subject
Cruzan was actually originally going to be more "Gammel Dore"-like, but as I wrote him he ended up a little different
. And Krystal is a character I'm going to have trouble writing--can't over-expose her, but yet she's got so much that an author could play with!
Hehe, yeah, I had some fun writing Amoretta and Lillet (and Gaff/Grimalkin
). And the best part is that it's all relevant to the story too!
(Compliment, no worries ^_-).
Thanks for the review! Second chapter is hopefully coming soon--I have so many stories and papers, it's now down to which story inspires me at the moment!
To pull a soul from a body? Better be able to put it back in
Am intrigued by Krystal's mannerisms - particularly the way you describe her face being hidden by hoods and shadows. Sign posting or a red herring?
By the way, was there a particular reason for the title/name of the rune? I understand the Japanese meaning but it seems a little out of place in a story that uses English names.
(Sorry for brevity, have been spending the last 24 hours (literally) in airplanes or at airports and only just crawled home)
Yes, better be able to
Krystal is going to be a ball of laughs
...for me to write, that is
. I imagine her to look every bit the "necromancer," and yet you're not quite sure if she's following the stereotype straight or if she's subtly mocking it
I chose "seirei" because it was a synonym for "ikiryo," which is exactly how the rune is supposed to work--a soul that is removed from a living person and moving about on its own. I agonized a bit over the name, since as you say, it's distractingly Japanese, but I just couldn't find an alternative name that got the same meaning across =/...
(LOL, no problem--and wow, crazy traveling! O_o)
Ah, I actually read 'seirei' as in 'spirits' which was different from the ikiryo meaning. Damn homonyms in foreign languages lol.
(Does ANY flight to/from the US from Asia ever depart on time?? I'm not designed to travel for such long hours >.< )
Lillet hesitated, still holding onto Amoretta’s hand. A summons from the Queen wasn’t something to be ignored, but it would be terrible taste to simply abandon her lover at the ball while Lillet danced off to attend the Queen.
“It’s alright, Miss Blan,” Cruzan nodded, bowing stately. “I would be delighted to accompany Miss Virgine while you are occupied with business.”
“I understand, Lillet,” Amoretta assured her, sealing the decision.
“Thank you, Master Cruzan—little love, I’ll be right back,” promised Lillet, giving Amoretta a quick restrained kiss on the hand before following Riesling through the crowd back towards the hall doors.
“Master Riesling, do you know why the Queen asked for me?”
“Yes,” he told her simply, but then added, “However, I will let her Majesty explain the situation.” Riesling led them towards the smaller Privy Chamber, and Lillet felt her heart rate increase. She had only ever been in the Privy Chamber once, and that was because the heat spell by the fireplace had needed renewing, and she had been the only Royal Magician available at the time. All the major decisions for the kingdom happened in that Chamber, and the company was much too grand for a farm-girl-turned-magician…
The four gold-suited guards by the doors saluted, and two of them opened the Privy Chamber doors for Riesling and Lillet. Lillet tried not to gape as she stared curiously into the room, tucking her hands into the folds of her dress to hide her nervous trembles.
Well, it wasn’t that bad—the only people in the room were her Majesty the Queen, a smattering of Queen’s Guards, and a well-dressed but stocky man leaning on the massive hardwood table at the centre of the Chamber. From the man’s groomed but subtly muted fashion, Lillet guessed that he was one of the Royal Magician Inspectors who worked more with the Watch than with the Royal House of Magic. They tended to avoid flaunting their rank and worth compared to other Magicians, which was what Lillet preferred.
His presence probably meant that Lillet was going to be questioned more for her experience in Investigations than in Research, although Lillet couldn’t think of why. All the cases she had worked on in Investigations had been closed before she transferred to Research, so what information or help could she possibly provide?
“Lillet Blan, Royal Magician,” Riesling announced, giving a polite nod of his grizzled head. Lillet swallowed as the attention of the entire room suddenly focused in on her.
“You called for me, your Majesty?” Lillet asked, bobbing into an adequate curtsey. She envied Amoretta’s otherworldly grace sometimes—before the Queen, Lillet felt very small and simple.
You’ve done impossible things
, Lillet, she reminded herself.
modest in the royal court.
“Lillet Blan,” the magician said, walking over. He inclined his head for silent permission from the Queen, who chose to continue remaining silent and merely lifted a hand in answer. The man bowed, and from up close Lillet could see that he looked to be in his mid-forties, and the intensity in his eyes matched his physical age. “Ed Hardy, Inspector of the Watch and a Royal Magician from Investigations.”
“I’ve heard of you, Master Hardy,” Lillet replied, curtseying again. “When I worked Investigations, we often heard stories about your cases.”
In actuality, most of those stories involved how Ed Hardy
to apprehend his suspects. But that wasn’t a true indication of his skill, as Ed Hardy was always the one called in for the stranger types of cases, where criminal depravity and the cruel imaginative reaches of magic mixed together to form calamity. Lillet felt her gut getting cold. If Ed Hardy had a case, then something bad must be happening in the kingdom.
“Same to you,” Ed Hardy said, hooking his thumbs in his waistcoat. Many black discs lined his waistcoat within easy reach, and Lillet would bet that each one had a pre-spelled Rune worked into it. Guiltily, Lillet made a mental note to carry around her own set of prepared spells everywhere she went—she had assumed that a grand ball would be safe, but the first lesson all Investigators had drilled into them was that
was safe from unexpected crime. “Miss Blan, her Majesty and I have called you here tonight for work that is both uncanny and potentially dangerous if it were to be publically known. You know how strange magic can cause panic in the average folk.”
“Yes, sir.” Lillet frowned slightly, thinking hard. “I am always at the service of her Majesty and of the Watch.” What strangeness could they possibly be consulting about? Wait, Lillet recalled reading something in the papers earlier in the month that had stuck out in her mind. “Does this case have anything to do with the merchant ship that had sunk in the river three weeks ago?” The papers had claimed that the ship had run aground, but Lillet had remembered feeling unnerving wisps of magic when she and Amoretta had taken a walk along the riverbanks by the wreck. Lillet was willing to wager that her unusual unease by the river and Ed Hardy’s strange case were connected.
Queen Martelle inhaled sharply, and Ed Hardy’s eyes widened as he stiffened in shock.
Score for me
, Lillet hid a smile.
“How did you get that information?” Ed Hardy demanded, and his face black with rage.
“I guessed,” Lillet said, keeping her own voice calm. She hadn’t done anything wrong, and Hardy’s reaction told her something else. The Privy Chamber was plastered with security spells, so there would be no security risk for Lillet to ask aloud, “Are you worried about an information leak in the Watch, or in the House?”
The room was silent.
Then Queen Martelle laughed, the sound surprisingly strong and amused. “It seems like Riesling wasn’t exaggerating your talents, Miss Blan. Master Hardy, be candid with Miss Blan before we waste our time telling her information that she figures out on her own.”
“Yes, your Majesty,” Ed Hardy said, smoothing a hand through his dark hair as Lillet blushed with pleasure at the unexpected praise. He sighed. “Let’s start at the beginning. The ship that sunk, the
, normally transported magician’s goods—herbs, pixie dust, dragon scales, that sort of thing. Unsavory for the average merchant, but all completely legal…that is, until three weeks ago when I got a tidbit from an informant that the
may have more than the usual magician’s wares aboard.”
“What were they smuggling?” asked Lillet.
“Nightshade extracts, grimoires of dark necromancy, unregistered alchemy instruments, and artefacts linked with devil rituals,” Ed Hardy said grimly, before returning to his story. “However, within a day of my planning a raid on the ship, as you saw in the papers, the
had sunk in the river off of our shores. Word of the raid had been contained, but damn, my team had been so sure of ourselves that we hadn’t suspected that there could be a traitor in our mix. Magicians and constables talk. Half the Court could have found out about the
in some fashion, and so I came to her Majesty to ask permission to shut this whole case down to just myself.”
While that request would have painted Ed Hardy in an arrogant light, Lillet just nodded in understanding. There was something about this whole case that felt eerie. If the leak had come from the Royal House of Magic or from the Watch, then why hadn’t the traitor simply waited until the goods had been seized before acquiring the evidence for themselves? Or arranged warrants or old-fashioned trickery to divert the
from its planned route? The information had gotten out too quickly to be from other unlikely sources, as Lillet was sure that Ed Hardy and the Queen had realized already. That meant that whatever game was being played here, the purposes of it were so grim that the traitor was willing to commit the magic and horror of sinking an entire merchant vessel a stone’s throw away from the nation’s capital city.
No wonder Ed Hardy was acting in such a paranoid fashion.
“Two weeks ago, I chased a suspicious lead from an apothecary who claimed that the tenant of the lower-city apartments had ordered a suspiciously large amount of alkahest over the last few days. Alkahest being—”
“—the universal solvent for most basic alchemical experiments,” Lillet interrupted gently so that Hardy could note her knowledge level and not waste time with explanations. She added, “And since part of the illegal shipment included alchemical instruments, the alkahest order could have been from the same culprit.”
A brief nod and a wry glint in his green eyes showed that Ed Hardy got the hint, and was humoured. “Precisely, Miss Blan. I was doubtful that the culprit would have been so careless, but even clever criminals sometimes slip up. Unfortunately, I found the apartment empty but for the remnants of alchemical failures; however, large amounts of equipment had clearly been recently moved from the site.
“Yet something stood out about the apartment—the melted flasks contained bits of mutated homunculi, and the whole place held an abnormal amount of trace magic, as if extensive Rune work had been practiced in those rooms. The ambient magic was such a mess I couldn’t separate anything to find what kind of magic had been done by the culprit.” Ed Hardy’s jaw clenched as his glower turned as black as his cropped beard. “But it was clear to me, even with the signs of rushed clean-up, that this was a powerful magician that we’re dealing with. Powerful, or backed by powerful friends…and dealing in strange magic that I don’t understand.”
nd if this rogue magician had friends within the Royal House of Magic or the Watch, catching him or her would be a trouble and a half,
Lillet filled in mentally.
Worse, if the culprit and the leak were one and the same…
“Which is why Master Hardy requested for your transfer from the Research Division back to Investigations, Miss Blan,” Queen Martelle said, startling Lillet. Unbelievably, Lillet had nearly forgotten about the Queen entirely as she had listened to Ed Hardy’s case and started working on theories of her own! If any of her embarrassment showed on Lillet’s face, the Queen was gracious enough to pretend not to notice as she continued, “Your rare expertise in all four forms of magic, as well as your talent for Runes, would be great assets in this unusual case. Lillet Blan, will you serve as an Investigator on this case alongside Inspector-Magician Ed Hardy for the safety of our realm?”
“I will, your Majesty,” Lillet promised, if she even had a choice in it.
It wasn’t just the mention of strange Rune magic that had seized Lillet’s attention. The distinction between a homunculus familiar summoned in a magician’s battle and someone like Amoretta was thin to most magicians, and it was a constant weight on Lillet’s mind whenever she called up homunculi of her own. Was the difference of lacking a soul, or a core, really what made it okay to “play God” with a living creation?
If there was a magician out there twisting Alchemy for his or her own flighty desires, then Lillet was going to put a stop to it.
“Then, Lillet Blan, I thereby authorize your transfer from Research Magician to Investigations-Inspector, with all the powers of those two offices,” Queen Martelle intoned, her intense eyes resting keenly on Lillet. The jewels in her hair and around her neck flashed as she dipped her head slowly in a monarch’s salute. “The Crown places our faith in you and Inspector-Magician Ed Hardy to keep our kingdom safe from unlawful magic. Find the culprit. Find out what they are plotting. And wield justice against them, in the Crown’s name.”
Under the flickering torchlight and heavy expectations, Lillet and Ed Hardy responded in unison, “We give our word, your Majesty.”
?” Cruzan gasped, his face turning the same ashen shade as his hair. Krystal’s expression barely changed, but even though the shadow of her hood Lillet could see the other woman twitch in her version of immense shock.
“I’ve been transferred,” Lillet repeated patiently, wringing her hands. Maybe she should have told them immediately during last night’s ball, rather than wait until their next day of work? No, it was probably better this way—at least they had privacy in Cruzan’s workroom, which would let all of them keep a bit of dignity. Lillet had wanted to spend the previous night explaining her transfer to Amoretta, and she hadn’t gotten to bed until the early morning hours, so Lillet hadn’t been motivated to wake up early when she would see Cruzan and Krystal in the afternoon anyway.
Besides, mornings were for snuggling with Amoretta, who unfortunately had to leave for Tullamore’s workshop too early for Lillet’s liking.
Lillet would miss working with them, even though her apprenticeship with Cruzan had been brief. Working on Runes gave Lillet a thrill like nothing else, and although the work was tedious it was so gratifying to see her Runes blaze into being at the end of weeks of crafting. She’d even miss working with Krystal, since despite the unspoken antagonism Lillet had never felt so intellectually challenged before.
But she had sworn her service to the Queen, and more than that…this homunculi case hit Lillet a bit personally, for obvious reasons.
“I’m sorry, but I swear, the moment Master Hardy and I wrap up this case, I’ll keep working on Seirei’s Gate.”
“Research isn’t going to stop just because you’re not here,” Krystal pointed out practically.
“How can work possibly continue?” demanded Cruzan, agitated and pacing. “The theory has been in place for quite some time, but it’s actually
the magic that’s been holding magicians back on the Gate for so long! I’ve never seen another magician manipulate Runes like you, Miss Blan. And it’s not just Seirei’s Gate—you remember from the first day when we discussed your work, there are hundreds of Runes that should be developed or refined, and some of them are just too advanced for the average Magician to craft…”
“It won’t be that bad,” Lillet offered weakly. She didn’t disagree with either of the opposing statements, but it was hard to simply submit to Krystal’s pragmatic-yet-barbed comment. “I’m sure that things will work out, and even if work on Seirei’s Gate is delayed, I’m definitely committed to returning after this case is over to help out where I can. Please, Master Cruzan—there could be a rogue magician on the loose, one who hasn’t thought twice about killing, and just like any Royal Magician I have to help out where I can.”
“Master Ed Hardy’s cases are infamous,” Krystal said. “What if the case stays open for a year, or two? It would be a waste of resources, since there are so many other Runes whose concepts are related to the one you’ve developed for Seirei’s Gate.” Krystal hesitated, then lowered her red gaze. “Is there a way you could work both? Consulting on a Watch case shouldn’t take up
of your time.”
Wow, that was the closest Lillet was probably
going to get to a request for her to stay by Krystal Head. “I’m not a consultant, I’m an Investigator on the case,” Lillet corrected, a little piqued at the assumption that she had nothing to offer the Inspector except for information. “I’m sorry, but we’ll probably be out around the city tracking down leads and investigating the crime scenes for magic traces. Master Cruzan, I know that it is bad form for an apprentice to leave so abruptly, but I ask for your understanding.”
“It was mandated by Riesling and the Queen, so of course I cannot deny permission for you to leave,” Cruzan said woefully, bitterly. He sighed, his big shoulders slumping as he tugged at his silver watch chain distractedly. “Politics, Miss Blan, never take into consideration the possibilities for humankind that Research does, remember that.”
“Yes, sir,” Lillet answered dutifully. Honestly, that was generalizing quite a bit, but Lillet wasn’t going to argue philosophy with her ex-mentor. “Um…I don’t have an office in Investigations yet, because the bookkeepers are still working on the red tape of my transfer, so could I trouble you to allow me to keep my desk for a few more weeks, Master Cruzan?”
“Of course, Miss Blan.” Nodding distractedly, Cruzan glanced over at Lillet’s desk, staring mournfully at the grimoires that she had stacked on the shelves as if they were old friends he was soon going to lose. “Miss Head, you don’t mind?”
“No.” Krystal shrugged, sitting in her own desk chair on the other side of the room. “As long as you manage your own security of your classified Investigations documents, Miss Lillet, I don’t see how a change in your work subject could affect me.”
Security? Drat, Lillet had totally forgotten about that. She eyed her desk—there was a space in the bottom drawer that Lillet could probably charm to act as a makeshift safe for case documents until she was fully transferred over to the Investigations Wing. Not that it was likely for anyone to be able to snoop around the Royal House of Magic anyway—
security around the Palace, especially in this area, could hold back all but good magicians anyhow.
Krystal had already turned back to her own work, her fountain pen scribbling away on a diagram. Cruzan hesitated awkwardly, then exhaled and strode off to his private office, shutting the door to brood.
Lillet thought morosely, sorting stray papers on her desktop.
Now I look like a bootlicker, jumping ship the moment an opportunity comes.
It didn’t matter if she had been ordered into it by the Queen and by her own conscience; other Royal Magicians were still probably going to misinterpret Lillet’s actions. She just couldn’t win, socially.
Even if Lillet valued doing the right thing more than her social status, it still hurt being at the bottom of the social ladder among the Royal Magicians.
Years and years of time-loops didn’t teach Lillet political acumen alongside the magic.
Lillet shook her head, discarding her self-pitying session. So what if she seemed to keep messing up socially at court—Lillet was doing good work, honest work…and she had lots of people who cared about her!
“That’s all that counts,” muttered Lillet, cracking a small smile at the thought.
Maybe she should take the rest of the afternoon off, and go drop in on Amoretta’s lab? She never tired of seeing Amoretta’s face shine whenever her love caught sight of her, and she knew that Royal Magician Estel Tullamore didn’t mind interruptions in her workroom. Actually…Tullamore tended to do a lot of girlish squealing whenever she saw them doing anything sappy, which was both embarrassing and kind of unnerving at the same time.
Just then, firm knocking on Cruzan’s workroom door interrupted Lillet’s planning. Lillet crossed the room to open the door so that Krystal didn’t have to pause in her work.
Ed Hardy filled the doorway, his hat clutched in hand with his longcoat tucked over his elbow. His face was cold, but his eyes burned with something dark and simmering, making Lillet tremble. “Miss Blan, get your things. The Watch discovered something in the Artisan’s District, and the sooner we get there, the sooner we can stop this sick son-of-a-bitch.”
“What happened?” Lillet demanded apprehensively as she grabbed her travelling kit and her own coat, hurrying after the Inspector into the hall.
“A suite full of dead,” Ed Hardy said grimly, his hat pulled low over his angry scowl. Softer, he added, a fierce glint in his gaze, “You know my track record, Miss Blan. But I know yours—so this time, the bastards are
getting away from us.”
Author’s Note: Man, and here I go again…although only 3000+ words this time! I actually had to cut this chapter in half, since although the next chapter was just 2 lines long in my outline, I realized that the actual writing of it would be its own chapter! XD
I borrowed the Watch/police concept from Dezo, although I also gave the Royal House of Magic its own specific magic-Investigating division. I imagine the distinction between Watch magicians and Royal Magician Investigators to be like local police vs. FBI, just in terms of resources and training.
To be honest, I'm not entirely pleased with how this chapter turned out, but I"m not sure if it's just bad writing due to final paper stress, or if it's in the plotting/pacing =/...
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