Metaworld Chronicles

by

Wutosama

Chapter 83 - An Unfortunate Encounter

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Morye Song was supposed to have the day off.

Now, he lined up against the wall with his fellow engineers, prisoners awaiting their firing squad.

It all began when his current girlfriend Yurin, one of two women he was seeing, suddenly demanded that he should meet her parents. The request meant that it was time to make a clean break, as things had progressed from harmless fun to quagmire.

The problem was that Yurin was one of those women with almond-brown puppy eyes that turned liquid when pleading for something, and Morye was weak - indeed, very weak, to the pleading of the fairer sex.
And so, Morye had traded his Wednesday shift for Thursday and had to spend an awkward night being glared at by Yurin's parents, who were utterly surprised when he confessed cleanly to having two children and an ex-wife.

Yurin may not have cared, but no one wanted their little girl to be the second, or in Morye's case, the hundredth fiddle. Morye apologised and left the house. Yurin's father shook his fist, and Yurin cried and tugged on her father's sleeves. Morye took a punch to the jaw but was thankful for the clean break. He had no desire to entice her illusion of marriage. They had their fun, and that was that.

Then it was Thursday, and all had been right with the world.

Morning shift at a Shielding Station was a quiet and tedious job, especially at a remote headland like Watson Bay. Greeting the dozen or so guards he'd known for years, Morye made his way into the belly of the beast. Within, a deep shaft a dozen meters wide held a levitating ultra-high-density Crystal six meters in diameter and about eight from tip to tip. Here was the heart of the Shielding Station that kept the city safe.

As an Abjurer, Morye's job was to monitor the hundreds of glyphs that surrounded the crystal, shaping its mana to create that unique resonance which made up the 'barrier'— an oscillating wavelength of mana that passed between stations.

His place of employment, North Head and Watson Bay made up the city's two principal stations. Here, the barrier was so strong as to form a shimmering white wall above and below the ocean and reaching the seabed, so penetrative as to be tangibly felt seen in the Astral Plane. What it accomplished was the repulsion of all creatures with Cores, causing discomfort, distress and ultimately destruction. The larger the beast, the more damage the resonance achieved, the more mana was consumed.

"Senior Engineer Song." his colleague had greeted him.

"Engineer Wenner." Morye had replied.

"How was your date?"

"With Yurin?"

"Yeah, the Korean one."

"As expected, angry old man, upset mother. I was half expecting the old feller to duel me when I told them I had two kids."

"Aren't you an old man too, old man?" Wenner laughed.

"Oi, I am only forty! Besides, I am young at heart."

"Ha! You're certainly not living any longer if you don't tier up your Spellcraft, hows your Abjuration?"

"You know me. I rather spend the night in the soft, white arms of a woman rather than the cold, hard pages of a textbook."

"Ah, come off it Morye. You've been here for almost what, fifteen years? Come on, Mate, we all know you can do better than Senior Engineer, I've seen your work."

"Too lazy!" Morye lamented dramatically. "Get promoted? It's just more work. I'd rather finish my calibrations in an hour and work on my naps."

Wenner shook his head in disbelief.

"How're your kids these days?" Wenner changed the subject.

"Percy's with his mother, so I'd dare say he's suffering for it. Gwen's doing pretty well. Did I tell you? She's awakened to Lightning. She's got more potential in life than me, that's for sure."

"'Grats, Mate! I still remember that time you brought her to the Christmas Party, she must be a lovely young lady now."

"Interested? Your son's still a bachelor?" Morye asked jovially.

"Damn straight he is. Yeah-Nah, your girl's too good for him."

"Aww, come on Ed, don't say that, Sam's good bloke."

"He's a regular Abjurer, low Water-affinity. He'll be satisfied with a regular gal."

"They're just kids, Ed, who knows? Gwen needs someone to show her how normal people behave. She's too much like her mother sometimes, full of shit and high sentence. It worries me sometimes."

Edward Wenner shook his head again. He'd seen some lumen-recordings of Gwen that Morye had gotten from his filthy-rich brother-in-law, doing her Lightning thing. The girl was heads above Sam's wildest dreams. Having the two of them meet up would just destroy the boy's self-esteem. Morye meant well, but then again, he usually pitched above his class. He dated girls in their twenties; he dated girls from NoM ghettos. He dated women who were older too, not caring even if they were Senior Mages or Magus.

Wenner was just about to say something when they heard the distinct sound of the middle barrier-gate opening. The hydraulically controlled portal consisted of Glyph panels made from transmuted steel. The seamless metal always made a suction sound as they opened, making a silent entry impossible.

He checked his watch.

"That's weird, George is not supposed to be here until 1400, reckon the guy cocked up his timetable? I'll go check."

Morye shrugged. Come hell or high-water; he's got a break to catch and a snooze quota to fill.

"ARRGH—"

A muffled scream echoed. Then silence.
Morye twisted his lips.
Next came the sound of boots moving through the compound. Whoever had just accosted the guards was now making their way down. Morye had just settled himself into a comfortable tub-chair when the door to the break-room opened.

"Hands up!"

His feet on a stool and a cup of tea in hand, Morye regarded two Mages whose combat-robes shimmered with Mage Armour. They looked well provisioned, each of the Mages had a bandolier full of potions, a wand by their side, and minor Storage Rings on their fingers.

"Hands on the back of your head! Move it!" the men commanded.

Morye complied unquestioningly. Unauthorised entry into a Shield Station carried stiff penalties. These men, assuming they were here to loot or steal, appeared in their element. Why were they here? Morye wondered. If he had to hazard a guess, he would imagine that they were pawns in the factional infighting that constantly accosted the Tower. When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled. Maybe the men would do what they need to do, and then leave? Morye hoped for the best, or else there would be trouble.

When he made his way to the antechamber, all the Engineers, Wenner included, lined up against a wall. The Director, McBride, was being questioned by a young man with what looked like mechanical, golem-like arms and legs.

"The encryption key— give it to me!" The Machine-man was making threats. It was a laughable gesture, of course — engineers were bound by Geas to never real the Glyph keys.

Morye felt puzzled. What happened to the guards on the first level? Why were these men capable of entering the Shielding Station unmolested, but had no access to the Glyph for the device itself?

Typically, the Tower issued both at the same time.
It could only mean that the individual who gave out the code for the Shielding Station didn't have access to the Glyph. Morye thought about that and didn't much fancy the answer at all.

"STOP! It hurts! I can't tell you even if I wanted to," the Director begged.

With exaggeration and wanton cruelty, the one-legged feller kicked and punched McBride, spittle flying this way and that. When the bloke tired of the sport, he straightened up and stretched out his golem-like limbs.

"Let's do this the hard way then," the blond announced.

The Mages behind the man were all dressed in grey-silver combat robes that were rather indistinct. There were six of them, all equally well equipped. Morye could see blood on their boots.

The blood, Morye supposed, explained at least some hint of where the guards had gone.

Were these a mercenary militia? Morye wondered, they looked the part but were too disciplined. A Shielding Station wasn't anything special, but it did have stores of crystals and other precious materials which would be more than enough to whet the appetite of a few greedy spells-for-hire.

That left only one other possibility that these men were private soldiers born and bred in-house by some noble family or perhaps some Trans-national conglomeration corporation.

To Morye's surprise, the blond Mage was not only a Conjurer but was also an Enchanter! Not just a regular Enchanter either, but the worst kind. His element was highly unusual as well. Was it Ash? No, Morye thought to himself. Ash was too rare. It was Dust.

Jesus, Morye stifled a whistle. When was the last time he had seen a Dust Mage? At any rate, they were in trouble. Mages who trafficked in forbidden spells and dangerous elements were not in the business of leaving witnesses.

While Morye was still pondering his options, the Station Master was screaming his lungs out. Blood drained from his wrists as the young man held a hand to his forehead. Motes of dust were moving in and out of the old Master's facial orifice, sending out spittles of blood and other bodily liquids through his nose, lips, and eyes.

What a cruel little shit. Morye thought distastefully, wondering how he should deal with this dilemma without catalysing more drama for himself. Outright resistance was likely impossible for the moment, at least not with six guard dogs watching his every move.

In a minute, the talkable ringleader seemed to be done, letting the exhausted old man drop to the floor in a ragged heap.

"Tell me what the glyph code is," he asked carefully.

To Morye's surprise, the Station Master began to recite the sequence like a mantra. The poor sod was on his second repetition when the Geas must have triggered, for he began to bleed violently from his facial orifices. Ten seconds later, the man was dead.

"Chit!" The young man spat. He turned his attention to the rest of the engineers.

"The rest of you, if you want to live, then go to your stations and do what I tell you."

The remaining Abjurers regarded one another.
They weren't heroes.
But they knew the importance of a Shielding Station.

"Fuck you!" A middle-aged woman shouted defiantly. "I am not letting any of you go near that Shield, you rapscallions!"
"Bess! No!"
"Shut up, Bess!"
"She didn't mean it, your eminences! She's just a foolish old woman's all," Wenner pleaded. "She doesn't even have access to the work station."

Beatrice was their Transmuter. She repaired the structure as it grew weathered by the brine from the east-northernly wind. She had a strong sense of justice but a limited grasp of common sense.

Morye wondered if he would regret not helping the poor woman. After all, he'd been to her house, attended a few luncheons with the rest of the staff. The mother of two was happy with her lot. She must have been thinking of her sons, still safe behind the barrier when she made that call.

"I am not fond of old women, but I am less fond of rudeness," the young man intoned. With a word, the Dust mage moved his invisible Dust-beast over to Beatrice. Then, he squeezed her like a lemon.

The rest of the staff watched as Beatrice suffered, whimper and begging for death until all that remained of the once vibrant mother was a dried husk that crumbled onto the floor with a clattering of fossilised flesh and bones.

"Disgusting," The young man scoffed, seemingly unsatisfied. "Any other volunteers?"

The rest of the staff moved to their stations; watched by the cowled Mages in their silver-grey robes.

With the Master's glyph code, the young man manipulated the central control system of the station. He gave orders expertly, as though he knew exactly how each Glyph switch within the system worked.

THUMMMMM—

The central crystal grew dull.

Morye watched as the Dust Mage approached, placing a hand upon the crystalline structure. There was a surge of violent mana, impressive both in volume and control. With a slight shimmer of space-time, the young man's Storage Ring consumed the stone.

To the staff's surprise, the Dust Mage raised his other hand and summoned another stone similar in size to replace it. This one was etched with sigils and runes, covered from tip to tip with malevolent looking Glyph-scripts. With some alarm, Morye realised that this was the stone that was stolen from the Barrington Top station some three months ago.

The others reacted too.

They were all Abjurers here, and it instantly became evident what these men intended! What little naive hope of survival the staff had of surviving the encounter faded away. Now, it was a fight to preserve both their lives AND the lives of those in the city.

"Stop them!"
"Chase them out!"
"Morye, help me!"

Instantly, Shields of all kinds, stone, earth, water and pure mana erupted here and there, protecting their casters from the forces that sought to access their control consoles.

The problem was that they were all Abjurers.

The guards who were supposed to be protecting them were all dead. The battle, if there ever was one, was over the moment these Mages had gained access to the lower chambers.

Morye too erected his shield. Unlike the others, his barrier was a bright, comically pink series of jagged stone.

Outside, he heard the sound of spells clashing against his barrier, wondering how long his colleagues could keep up until help could arrive.

If an Abjurer was to turtle up, they should be able to withstand attacks for some time. With the correct sequence of Absorb Elements, Elemental Warding, and proper management of mana recycling, a prolonged hold-out was possible.

Tink—TINK!
BOOM-CRACK!

Chaos reigned as Morye carefully uttered the necessary meta-magics used to delay the spell he held in reserve. With each passing minute, however, the sound outside grew quieter, fainter and less pronounced.

Then the battle ceased altogether, and Morye knew that it was soon his turn.

A glyph bloomed in the dark of his rock-pink crystal shell.
To this surprise, someone was Messaging him.

"Hello?" Morye answered the spell.

"Hey, it's me, Edgar, the one outside who just killed your friends."

"…"

"Listen, I am not going to kill you."

"O, thank God."

"I need you, Mr Song. For a mission that is even more important than this one, at least to me. Do you mind if we talk face to face?"

"... What choice do I have?"

Morye dispelled his Shielding, the pink-stones falling away until he revealed himself. Curiously, his fragments did not fade into motes of earthen mana. Instead, the manifested shell of his Abjuration shield scattered onto the floor, becoming crumbling pink-white particles that crunched underfoot.

In front of Morye was a massacre.

Shit, Wenner, Morye felt the corner of his eye twitch. Poor Sam. The others were dead too. Some were burnt alive, others crushed, a few drained until they were just husks.

Morye had no benedictions to give. He was not a religious man.

The Dust Mage, whose name was Edgar, stood not far from Morye. Behind him, his followers were busy rigging up the Shielding Stone.

"You know; when I drained this little old feller here." Edgar swirled a few motes of dust around his good forefinger. "I caught an interesting piece of information in your work roster."

"Go on."

"You are the father of Gwen Song, no?"

Morye raised a brow in surprise.

"Why does that matter?"

The Dust Mage— Edgar— suddenly took on a remarkably insane expression. His whole face grew contorted like that of a demonic mask, hideous with malevolence. The change was so drastic that for a moment, Morye questioned if the man had been taken over by some maleficent spirit.

"Why does it matter?"

Edgar ripped out a fistful of hair.

"Why… why does it matter— the father says!" Edgar paced back and forth, utterly unable to control himself. "Why does it matter indeed!"

Morye stared.
It was an innocent question.
He certainly did not expect the man to lose his mind.
Perhaps he should hazard a conjecture?

"Did Gwen… reject you at a cocktail party?" he asked dryly. That was the best postulation Morye could muster. He didn't think Gwen was the kind of girl to be hanging with psychopathic Mages, so the arsehole incarnate probably had spoken to her or something at some innocent social event— that he could believe. If anything, Gwen possessed her mother's talent for attracting attention, both good and bad. With her face and those legs, not many young men could resist an aloof princess. That and young cocks like Edgar likely had a low tolerance for disgrace.

"A party?! A fucking party?" Edgar tore at his robes to reveal the pallid flesh beneath.

"You're too skinny for Gwen's tastes." Morye sighed. Kids these days, so hot-headed.

"Shut the fuck up!" Edgar disrobed violently to reveal his clockwork limbs. He pulled at his face until the flesh bled, revealing what appeared to be tessellated mithril plating. "Your whore of a daughter gave me this! She took my fucking arm and leg! She took my face!"

Morye whistled impressively.

"I take it you didn't listen when she told you - No?" he quipped jovially. "You know, when a lady says no, they probably just mean no. It's an art to read the context, but if you're not sure, just stop."

Edgar looked like he wanted to rip out Morye's heart and eat it bloody and raw.

"You think you're funny?" he demanded.

"I am known to be jocular, yes," Morye's mouth twisted with mirth. "Did you know I wasn't supposed to be working today? Imagine that, you came all this way, and you could have missed me."

"I think death is too easy for you." Edgar's words had such poison in them that they spat from his lips toward Morye, who looked at the stains on his work uniform with wordless revulsion.

"I want you to know what I am going to do." Edgar seemed to calm himself and began to speak. "I am going to saw off your arms and legs. Then, I am going to cut off your tongue and your cock and balls. You're going to be just a fleshy stump, wishing for death. Yet, you're not going to die. We're going to heal your wounds, and make you suffer."

"Young man." Morye breathed out coldly. "You ever thought about seeing a Mind Mage about that attitude of yours?"

"You laugh now—" Edgar continued. "But when I find your daughter, you know what I am going to do? I am going to show her your stumpy, miserable form, and then she will share your fate. I will cut off her long white legs, sever her arms, and strap her into a harness, like so…"

Morye watched as Edgar's expression changed from rage to lust, then to eye-rolling desire.

"You liked that? Good," Edgar continued eagerly. "You know what's next? She's going to bear my children, carry my bloodline. Her dual Void and Lighting ability, all of her talents will belong to me. She's going to be nothing but a sow, a fertile little meat-machine for my litter of Void Mages. Your scions, my slaves for the next hundred generations. How do you like that?"

"She's a Void Mage? You say?" Morye's surprise was wholly genuine. "Jesus Christ. Really?"

"You didn't know?" Now, it was Edgar who stared, his voice incredible with disbelief.

"Nope. We're not that close, you know, so I don't think I'll make a good hostage." Morye confessed.

"I'll be the judge of that," Edgar collected himself. "Now let's see what's in that head of yours."

Edgar placed a hand on Morye's forehead.

Morye felt the invisible dust-conjuration moving behind him. Something with incredible force was now holding his wrists and ankles immobile, effectively paralysing his physical movements.

"I am not looking for a son-in-law," Morye wryly declared. "Take your filthy mitts off my face, boy."

"SHUT UP!" his assailant howled in turn. "Submit your memories to me! Give—"

The Dust Mage's golem-limb fell limp. The rest of the Mages stopped to stare. There was a layer of white crystals now covering the joint, paralysing the clockwork.

"Flesh to Salt," Morye incanted without any significant emotion.

Without warning, the world turned white.

"Arrrgh!"
"My leg!"
"No! No! No!"
"I can't see!"
"Master! Save us!"
"It hurts! Aeeeeee!"

With the utterance of the last syllable of the invocation, Morye's hidden Transmutation activated. It fed upon trails of salt, so carelessly scattered previously, minute and seemingly a part of the dusty decor of the sandstone interior. Mercilessly, these enlivened motes of salt now adhered to the assailants, boring into flesh and bone.

At once, Edgar's lackeys grew encased in tombs of salt that covered every inch of their body, growing as salt fed, becoming larger and denser. As crippling agony paralysed the Mages, the salt began their terrible work. In a moment, all moisture within the tender bodies of Morye's assailants were quickly extracted. Besides them, Morye stood impassive as a statue, not even noticing the desiccation.

It took half a minute before the spell ran its course, transforming all organic matter into pink-white rocksalt.

"You know," Morye said softly to the young man now resting on his back. "In my culture, salt is used to drive away evil."

 


Edgar stumbled backwards, a spell already upon his lips. His mind was a mess of fumbling ecstasy, the desire to escape defeating all rational thought.

He had to buy time to activate his Teleport. The station was done for—there was nothing this man could do to stop it now. The only miscarriage of their plans was the loss of his men, nothing more.

But why was Gwen's father a Salt Mage? Edgar's struggled to breathe, for such was the pain wracking his body. Why was a minimum tier 6 Transmuter Magus working as a low-level grunt in a Shield Station?

But none of that mattered now.
He had to live to tell the tale.

For as long as he had lived, Edgar only believed in his abilities and his singular survival. His Mistress may question him later, but what could he have done against a Salt Abjurer-Transmuter? The man had resisted his Absorb Memory earlier. But how was that possible? Only specialist Military Mages from tier 1 cities trained to inoculated themselves against Mind Magic. But Sydney was a remote Frontier! Morye was supposed to be a low-tier barrier Mage!

Quickly, using his agony as a distraction, Edgar completed one of his best spells.

"Cloud Kill!"

A mustard cloud sprang into existence surrounding the area where Morye stood. Yet, against all expectation, the acidic gas sizzled against Morye's salt-covered skin, ineffectively against the self-replenishing barrier.

Edgar's eyes bulged against their sockets.

He'd heard that salt was an extremely versatile element, supreme in defence and easy to manipulate, but this was absurd. What was the man's Affinity?

"Dusty! Get him away from me!" Edgar commanded, his golem's leg skittering against the sandstone floor.

With a roaring, his Familiar charged, bringing with it bits of salt, paper, and dust from the dead.

"Banish Evil!" his opponent incanted casually. True to his word, like an evil spirit banished by a hand full of salt, Dusty ceased to be.

"You fucking banished my familiar?"

Edgar was learning many new things today, such as that even in the Frontier, a spell existed which could force one's familiar back into its Pocket Dimension. To summon his familiar again required time, vitality, and mana, all of which Edgar couldn't spare. Only Abjurers of the middle tiers possessed such spells, and only if they hailed from centres of magical study.

"You got anything else to say?" Morye asked casually. "I am not a patient guy."

"Plague of Insects!" Edgar desperately retaliated with another spell he had been proud of, summoning a dark swarm of stinging insects that would harass his victims and drain their vitality.

"Banish Evil!" Morye incanted, throwing out a fistful of salt in a stylistic flourish.

Again, the conjured creatures disappeared without a trace.

Edgar now on the verge of perturbed hysteria, he'd never faced someone like Morye before in his entire twenty-five years. As a scion of a noble house, he had seldom face setbacks, save for his unfortunate encounter with Gwen. Now, at the hands of both father and daughter, he had tasted the bitterness of failure.

Half-wild, Edgar produced a scroll and began to read its contents, heedless of Morye's presence.

"Telep…"

"Disintegrate!"

Edgar's mind flared white-hot.
Impossible! Impossible! He screamed. Disintegrate was tier 6! How could there be a Mage capable of casting such a spell in so short a time here in Sydney?

 

 

A beam of white frost struck Edgars' golem's arm, turning it spontaneously into a pile of salt. Edgar dropped the Teleportation scroll mid-cast, the precious parchment falling into a crystalline pile as fresh and white as the fallen snow.

"Disintegrate," Morye repeated the spell, leaving Edgar was left without a leg to stand on. He walked over towards the two-limbed man with an expression full of sympathy.

"You know, I am curious to know who your parents are."

"If I told you, you wouldn't dare lay a finger on me!" Edgar screamed at him. "My father will skin you alive! Your kin shall be made into living specimens as future warnings!"

"Very scary," Morye intoned. "So, who's your dad?"

Edgar remained silent, crawling on his remaining arm and leg. Morye watched with great interest as the kid produced yet another scroll from his ring.

"Horrid… Wi…"

"Disintegrate!"

Morye had to admit. He didn't have too many of those spells left in him. The third Disintegrate had also missed— Morye had intended it to strike the boy's remaining hand, but now he took the kid's limb off at the shoulder.

"ARRRRGH— B-bastard!"

"Sorry, it's been a decade. I am out of practice."

Edgar lay in a pile of his flesh-turned salt. Screaming the scream of the oppressed, the very same he had heard so many times before.

Morye picked up a ring from the pile of salt, collecting his ill-gotten loot.


"Oh, my!" he muttered, impressed. With a few incantations, he dispelled the tracking feature. "Your father must surely be a scary man to give a brat like you a Contingency Teleportation Ring. One of these would keep me in style for the next ten years, you know."

Below, Edgar began to whimper. The salt was mixing into his wounds. Morye knew that the pain was exquisite, comparable to ten-thousand insects nipping away at one's shoulder stump.

"Please… mercy…" Edgar begged, the boy's voice cracking. "My father..."

"Where have I heard that before?" Morye stoically regarded his quarry. "You know, I am not usually a man partial to anger, but when you started yapping on about Gwen, it put me off."

Morye raised a jackboot. The Engineer's outfits had steel-capped boots made to resist dense crystal drops.

"What… what are you…"

Morye stomped down, hard.

A wail began to echo around the chamber, a soul-chilling vibrato that started as a bestial baritone and ultimately reached a castrato crescendo.

"Yeah, see, when you talk about other people's children, you have to be respectful." Morye pattered his pockets and pulled out a packet of cheap cigarettes. "All that talk of rape, I mean, seriously, guy? Who even taught you to speak that way? Are your parents inbred?"

"My— my— father will find you— he—" Edgar moaned wetly, squirming in a pool of blood and vomit.

Besides the duo, the corrupted crystal shuddered. Its resonance had corrupted the whole system, sending the surrounding stones and the station itself into a spiral of catastrophe.

"What are you guys trying to achieve, anyhow?" Morye lit up.

"I am… a Ravenport! I can't die here— I am— fo— Father—

Edgar, or whatever his name was, finally aid still.

Morye breathed out, watching the smoke coil and writhe.
Had any of the others sent off an SOS before their demise? Any fluctuations on the Shielding Grid should be automatically sent to the Tower. What Edgar and his men had done here should have been visible on the smallest augur engine.

Beside Morye, the corrupted crystal hummed and groaned, beginning to reach critical mass.

Morye pulled out the Teleportation scroll Edgar had so kindly left behind.

"Thank Mao." Morye toked on his tobacco. "Imagine having to fly out of there."

 

 

With a flash of Conjuration, Morye found himself beside the Queen Victoria Memorial. He wasn't sure how trustworthy the scroll was and had thus selected a place that was familiar and public. A few Mages glanced at him and quickly nodded their heads in apology before rushing away. Anyone using a tier 7 spell was above their station to question. The NoMs, however, gawked with the best of them.

Far in the distance, there was a sound of something exploding on the ocean — first one, then a dozen. While the NoM crowds paused, then persisted in their menial labour, Morye could see a few of the Mages receiving Message spells, then immediately began to panic.

With few more puffs, he finished off his cigarette. Them, he pulled out his message device and dialled in the classified Glyph for the Shield Station.

 

 

"Collective suicide." Morye didn't feel like explaining any more than necessary, he was already smearing enough shit on himself to last a lifetime. "Look, the point is, they had an inside man, someone had given them the codes for the Glyphs shielding the stone, and now we're all in deep shit. I am going to find my kids because there is nothing else I can do here, the city's toast and we should be calling in the troop carriers. So, where is my son?"

"Carey?"

"They've located a match for the boy. He is—"

The spell died. It was blaring a moment ago, and then it was gone.

"Gunther?" Morye spoke into thin air. The spell was dead. No, the whole fucking network had died. "Fuck."

Morye tried again. The Message spell was no longer functioning. He looked towards the sky, but there was no Tower visible. Whatever was occurring, the magical fortress was not in combat mode.

"Rosebay huh…" Morye mouthed to himself.

The city would fall; there would be no doubt about that.
He had time, a few hours at least.
Morye thought about Edgar's gloat.
Gwen - a Void Mage.
He rummaged for the cigarette packet and lit up another stick.
Inhale.
Exhale.

He wasn't even supposed to be working today.

Morye signed the sigh of fathers everywhere when their daughters were out past ten and had yet to call. Like two decades ago, Morye Song was at the crossroads.

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