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A note from Wutosama

 

Gunther's temporary HQ found its home in the Melbourne Tower, where the residing Master, Guldric Uther, had been kind enough to lend the Sydney Mages a portion of his Tower as a Forward Operating Base.
Upon her arrival, a plague of reporters was already beating down the door to the sanctum, swamping the Paladin.

Thus far, the opinion of the press centred upon two narratives— one, that Gunther and the Tower have failed the city, two— that Gunther was a saviour wunderkind who pushed back the inevitable.

Within the Tower itself, there was the matter of Walken's punishment, Henry's negligence over the issue of Elizabeth for the last three decades, and finally, the old Master's funeral.

The funeral especially became a point of controversy, as some argued that a dead Magister served a perfect scapegoat. In response, Gunther promised retribution and blood for anyone who dared taint his teacher's obituary.

With the death of their Master, the fact that Alesia and Gunther were Henry's pupils escaped into the public domain. As for Gwen, her inclusion among that number would wait, for the crisis and controversy of the moment would only serve to endanger her. For the interim, at least until Alesia was back in shape and Gunther could solidify his base, her anonymity offered the best protection.

Likewise, the power vacuum left by the sudden department of two Magisters, both Henry Kilroy and Eric Walken, as well as the death of over a hundred Mages, opened up Tower positions which were salivated over by those whose aspirations had been stifled by the influence of the incumbents.

Gwen walked behind the men as they approached the double doors to Gunther's office, appearing as an attaché to the Major and his two Captains. Quickly, the reporters parted. While Alesia's adventuring party wasn't as famous as the flame-hearted madcap sorceress herself; the reporters knew well that Major de Botton had fought beside Gunther Shultz and was mortally wounded.

Still, some couldn't read the mood.

"Major Durn, can you comment on the current condition of Magus de Botton?"
"Captain, what is your opinion on the unknown phenomenon known as the Dark Sun?"
"Major! How do you respond to accusations of negligence in duty on the part of Lord Kilroy?"
"Captain!"
"Major!"
"Sir!"

The group pushed through the reporters, whose keen noises could smell the story cascading off their uniforms. It was unfortunate then that none of them noticed the pretty girl demurely following the men, looking like a nervous intern. When they'd reached the entrance, two guards opened double doors to reveal Gunther at his table, inundated by a mountain of paperwork.

The team passed through, then the doors boomed close behind them, cutting off the reporters.

"Good to see you guys. Gwen, I am happy to see you've recovered."
As he spoke, Gunther pulled himself away from the hilly terrain of crisis-reports with the expression of a crystal miner who's finally seeing the light.

It was the first time Gwen had seen Gunther in such an officious capacity. The room that her brother-in-craft had appropriated was an impressive rectangle with tall, vaulted ceilings covered with murals of demons and angels. Behind the Paladin, twin bay windows looked out into the still smoking city below, a reminder of the man's precious time that they were taking up.

With a word, Gunther waved away the men and women who'd been working through documents and memos and told them to take a coffee break while he sorted out some private matters. Several of the staffers looked toward Gwen with knowing familiarity written over their faces; one of them even acknowledged her presence and made a little nod.

Gwen approached the table and bowed, causing the Radiant Magus to stand. Gunther skirted the table and gave Gwen a cordial embrace, telling her to be at ease and to treat the place as if her own. He then left the table and opened up the alcohol cabinet, pouring out several glasses for the gathered guest.

The men received whiskey. Gwen received a glass of icy water.

Gingerly, Gwen sipped the chilled water to calm her nerves. She waited until they were all settled in, then informed Gunther of her request.

When the group had finished their tale, the Paladin fell silent.

"All feeling and no brain, I'd thought you better than this, Gwen," Gunther noted displeasingly. "Now of all times, to send you away is something that complicates matters unnecessarily."

"Gunther, I have to help them. I can't back down on that..." Gwen met the Magus' steely eyes with her own, trying her best to keep her tone controlled and tempered. She had already presented their case and now engaged the issue from another standpoint. "Besides, it's our Master's Grot! It has to be you, Alesia, or myself, and I'm the only one who's free. After all that happened, God knows what Sufina would do if strangers forced their way into the Grot. The place is special for all of us, if only because Sufi is our companion."

Gunther clinked the ice in his glass.
The atmosphere was reserved at best. Gwen and her companions nursed their drinks and held their breath while the gears turned in Gunther's head.

"Fine," the Paladin said finally.

The team breathed sighs of relief. If they were to leave without Gunther's blessing, the matter would be infinitely complicated.

"But I am not letting you just go out there without some contingencies. You're still missing a member."

"Who do you suggest?" Taj inquired, swishing the melted ice in his drained glass. Gunther motioned for the crystal decanter, but the Abjurer declined.

"Someone close to Gwen, who knows how to keep a secret. Someone highly competent, capable and trustworthy, who wouldn't expose Gwen's secrets."

"Surely you're not suggesting yourself?" Paul raises an eyebrow. While it would be pretty amazing to have Gunther himself joining them, it would come at a high cost to the city, to Gunther, and the Towers. Unlike Gwen, the de facto leader of the Sydney Tower can't just uproot himself in a crisis and go galavanting into a Black Zone.

Gunther returned the half-glass of amber liquid to the mahogany table with an audible thunk.

"I know the matter is urgent, and that you're desperate to leave." Gunther turned to Gwen. "But give me a day, at worst two, to sort out transport, identification and the location of your last member. For the time being, I highly recommend going to see your Grandfather. If you should recall, he was Master's squadmate. He can probably tell you more about Sufina, as well as the whereabouts of the Grot."

Gwen felt sudden epiphany dawn upon her. She'd been so anxious over Gunther refusing their request to rescue her friends, that she'd completely forgotten about Surya! The Old Codgers Club had known each other since they were young men and women, serving in the Saurian Conflict and then through the Coral Sea War. Undoubtedly Opa could shed some light on the matter.

"Thank you..." With a moist twinkle in her eye, Gwen allowed her next words flow over her tongue before allowing it to escape her parted lips. "Brother Gunther."

Gunther paused for a barely perceptible moment; then his face broke into an earnest grin.

"With one title, you've dug a hole I can't possibly escape from," he chuckled accusingly. "You're better than a Mind Mage, Gwen."

"I am grateful, Gunther, Really," Gwen implored emotively. "Thank you for helping my friends."

The rest of the group watched on with indulgent, tender faces. As Mages serving the Tower, they've all experienced the intimacy of becoming someone's brother-in-craft. Sometimes, a sibling rivalry sours when competing for the favour of their Masters. Other times, something beautiful is born - a bond of trust and camaraderie created from shared goals and convergent philosophies.

"Come, sister."

To Gwen's surprise, Gunther leaned across, opening his arms. Her astonishment lingered only a second before she wrapped her long arms around his broad waist. Though it was unfortunate that Gunther smelled as though he'd worked through the night, Gwen didn't mind. With her entire being, she welcomed the warmth of a brother with such an unshakable sense of responsibility and diligence for duty.

"I am sorry about our Master."

"I am too."

When they parted, Gunther gingerly took Gwen by the arm. His bear-like mitts extended to hold her small white hand within his own as incanting a familiar invocation that Henry had performed in the past. A gentle glow suffused Gwen's body, and she felt something disappear within the realm of her astral body.

"The… Geas?" Gwen marvelled. She had forgotten entirely about her Geas! It was by blind luck that she hadn't given up anything about her bond with the Rainbow Serpent, else things would have assuredly taken a turn for the worse.

"Give me your Tracking Ring, Gwen."

Gwen removed the Enchanted tracker from her ring finger. It was a gift from Henry that revealed her position when scried by a Diviner and placed it in Gunther's hands.

Beside her, Gunther likewise removed a silver band from his fingers.

"Don't let Alesia see this," Gunther joked. "Knowing her, she'd immediately misunderstand."

Gunther's band was a loop of pure mithril, glinting with that distinct, mana dense aura specific to the ultra-rare mineral. Meeting at the apex of the crown was a priceless cats' eye that sat between tiny claw-footed mountings.

"A Contingency Teleportation Ring," he announced. "Made with the core of an Evil-eye's optic Core."

Beside him, the eyes of Taj, Paul and Jonas glowed with appreciation and desire. An item like this was like a second life.

"If you are mortally wounded, the ring will teleport you to the closest Tower," the Magus explained.

To their shock, Gunther slipped the ring onto Gwen's ring finger, where her tracker had been.

"As usual, there's a tracking enchantment to allow for easy scrying from the Tower. Don't ever take it off. If you lose it without wilfully commanding it to disengage, it will send a teleportation Marker and an SOS to the closest Tower."

Gwen felt the warmth of the ring on her finger; her white legs were already knock-kneed when Gunther dispelled her Geas— now, they were jelly. Having seen Edgar escape certain death thanks to his ring, she knew just how precious this item was. Her brother-in-craft was lending her his second life.

"No! Gunther, I can't! It's too precious! You need it!"

"Nonsense!" Gunther waved a hand. "I'll be stuck here for the foreseeable future; until I move back into the Tower. Then I'll be stuck there for the foreseeable future. What need do I have for Contingency Ring when I am battling paperwork?"

"But!"

"No buts!" Gunther appeared taken with the role of a benevolent elder sibling, finding the secret joy that Henry must have felt when doting upon a young apprentice. "If you die saving Alesia's apprentice, do you think Alesia will let me have peace so long as I live? If you were killed, by say, a faction of Mages from Singapore, do you think Alesia will leave the city standing?"

"Err…" Gwen felt the words catch in her throat.

"Think of it as helping us, helping you," Gunther smirked, touching the emptiness on his finger where a contingency ring had sat for a decade. "Let the ring be insurance. Promise me you'll be more of yourself and less of Alesia out there. Don't put yourself in unnecessary danger. Know your limits and trust your friends and allies. Don't try to do everything yourself. Listen to Jonas and the others."

"I'd look ten years younger if Alesia did that," Jonas quipped, citing his white handlebar moustache.

"Agreed, I am losing hair," Taj joined in.

"That's just male pattern-baldness..." Paul interjected, fending off a deathly glare from Taj.

Gwen felt the ring on her finger.

The weight of it was incredible.
All that expectation and hope, anticipation and trust, bound up in one Mithril band.

"If you're not going to wear that ring, Gwen," Paul noted sternly. "I suggest you stay on the PT boat while we bushwhack the jungle."

Gwen met Gunther's steel-grey gaze, her own striking hazel eyes returning his benevolent gaze with gratitude and thankfulness.

"Thank you, Gunther," Gwen intoned gratefully to her brother-in-craft.
Gunther rubbed the back of his head with a newly discovered embarrassment. He dispelled the awkwardness by moving to teach Gwen the glamour used to make the ring nondescript.

"So, it activates when my life-force or biometrics is deemed critical?"

Gwen wanted to make sure that she won't accidentally activate the ring casting Void spells or in the performance of some calculated incantations.

Gunther affirmed the need to be very careful with her Void spells, as the designer of the Ring had probably not taken self-draining Negative Energy into account.

"So what if I…"

Gwen paused, her body becoming rigid.

"What if you..?" Gunther regarded his sister-in-craft, who'd seemed struck by something awful. Suddenly, Gwen's expression twisted with palpable horror as she processed an epiphanic hypothesis.

"GUNTHER!" Gwen spat with furrowed brows and trembling lips. "Oh, God!"

The rest of the team regarded her quizzically. Was the gift of the ring too much?

Within Gwen's mind, her thoughts were racing a thousand calculations a minute. She figured it out! She knew! How could it have been so obvious! The answer was there all along!

"Gunther… if a Tower is in Contingency Mode, can the ring still save my life?"

"Of course." Gunther nodded. "The Glyph-script within the ring is affirmed by a Treaty. The ring acts as proof of your allegiance. Even if you teleport into a Tower held by another Faction, they're honour bound to keep you safe, even if it's a temporary stay in an anti-magic prison. It's a Quid Pro Quo system agreed upon by all parties."

"Can the Contingency ring be tuned to a specific place, like your tracking ring? Can a student be teleported to the whereabouts of a Master?"

Gunther nodded.

"Yes, that's one of the most popular uses for the ring—"

Gwen's face flushed with exhilaration, her lips glistened.

"Gunther! I get it now!" She intoned jubilantly at her brother-in-craft. "I know how Elizabeth Teleported into the Tower!"

There was silence in the room at first, then Gunther slammed his cup onto the table. The office became a whirlwind of gesturing hands and fingers as Gwen explained her theory to Gunther, who began calling in assistants and advisors. As they talked, calls were made, and experts on the matter consulted.

Gunther delayed his appointments for the next hour while the group shared a light luncheon.

When all was said and done, Gwen was proven right; at least in theory and at least until practical experiments could be carried out.

It was indeed possible to use a Contingency Ring's bypass Teleportation design to force oneself into a Tower's systems. Furthermore, though untested, it was also possible to forcibly teleport oneself into a restricted region such as the Grot, which occupied both the Tower's space as well as the Grot's parallel pocket dimension. Though the theory had been floated once or twice before, there were no precedents. Thus, the warning had been forgotten in times of peace.

Gunther sighed.

"I was going to nail Walken with abetting the enemy and letting a hostile Magister teleport into the Tower," he told them conspiratorially. "Now it seems, Gwen may have saved his life."

"Oh." Gwen expression soured.

Gunther waved his hands in the air, suggesting that she shouldn't worry about the mislead politician.

"Keep the ring," Gunther insisted. As for the potential loophole, greater powers in higher positions would be the ones to lose sleep over it, certainly not the genius sister-in-craft who had uncovered it.

"There may be Contribution Credits involved. I'll keep you posted."

Gwen blinked. She had heard the term from Richard before but hadn't chased upon them since that night they'd exchanged some closely guarded secrets.

"What are Contribution Credits?"

"Something immeasurably useful, or utterly useless, depending on where you are." Gunther mused. "But nothing's finalised so I wouldn't worry too much about it. You'll know when the time comes."

With luncheon finished, it was time to go.

"Take the Teleportation Circle down to Shielding Station 46, that should give you a direct flight path into the Hunters' region," Gunther advised.

"I'll have number five sorted out soon, as well as your travel documents."
The group thanked Gunther and marched out. Once more, Gwen resumed her invisible intern persona while the burly men fended off the lumen recorders and pushed away nosy reporters baying for blood.

Gunther turned to his table, where a stack of reports had caught his curious eye. The foremost of which read: Preliminary Site Investigations - Watson Bay Shielding Station.

 

Regret.
Morye knew regret like one knew an old jilted lover.
He loathed the feeling, but like a moth to an old flame, he kept returning to her embrace, suckling on her magnificent teat with the ferocity of a newborn babe.

He had escaped the old country to start a new, carefree life in this Frontier City, and yet all he did was rack up one baggage after another, becoming embroiled in a dazzling display of love-debts.

Was he a playboy? Morye certainly didn't think so. He wasn't the sort of man who'd go and hit on women or used their injury to feed his ego. He wasn't a man who was lascivious or addicted to lovemaking; Morye merely enjoyed the company of woman more than most - their scent, their beauty, the softness of their voices, and the giddiness he felt when they held his arm for comfort.

The only problem was that he couldn't stomach the responsibility that inevitably came with the possessiveness. The desire to start a family, to settle down, to choke him with a collar called the breadwinner and demand that he picked up the kids after school.

Morye couldn't do that.

Helena had once demanded he explain himself, and so Morye imparted the wisdom that as Abjurers shielded and Evokers shot Fireballs; so Morye Song was incapable of becoming the stereotypical husband.

Such as the way of the world, Morye had explained.
Same as that water flowed down from high and dragons hatched as hermaphrodites; he was a man who couldn't help himself when it came to beautiful women.

After the nasty incident at Shield Station, he'd used the psychotic Dust Mage's Teleportation Scroll to will himself away. He'd ended up in Town Hall, a fair enough distance, not too far from Rosebay if a Mage took a crow's path to his destination.

His daughter needed rescuing, and Morye felt responsible for not once picking her up from school. At least this one time, he had told himself, he should do it. It was going to be a bloody and dangerous rescue, after which he would have executed his fatherly duty and could be at peace with his delicate conscience.

He had travelled no more than a dozen blocks when the tidal pods used by the Mermen started to rain down on the city, spilling fish-headed gooks of all shapes and sizes all over the broad avenues of the city.

The Mermen were a strange lot in Morye's opinion, their preference for raiding human cities likewise made no sense when one considered the logistics of expending troops for negligible gain. He'd heard the popular theory that they were out for revenge, after all, humans ate a shit-ton of fish; as well as the notion that war against humanity was kind of holy crusade issued by the sea-priest to thin their overpopulated numbers.
The over-population theory had met with resistance in the academic circles. After all, if the hypothesis held, why bother raiding the human cities and taking prisoners? Why not just file into the human cities and declare themselves sushi and sashimi? Morye was confident that humanity could handle as much seafood as the Mermen could march out of the sea. If so, the Lords of the Sea could thin their numbers and trade for goods and services!

Having survived the Northern Front, Morye had little sympathy for the stupid NoMs who'd ignored the call for shelter and remained wandering through the streets aimlessly.

Little sympathy that is, until he spotted a lovely brunette number being dragged by two thuggish looking brutes into an alley.

Immediately his blood was up.
They were in a crisis for God's sake! A horrid assault upon the city! Only blocks away, there were Mermen chopping people apart with claws, tearing them to shreds— to shreds! How can these NoMs behave like such animals at a time like this?!

"Salt Skin!"

A smooth layer of pink, crystalline-salt covered Morye's body, adhering a film over his face, forming a featureless mask. As one of his favourite signature spells, he had spent a goodly number of years sculpting the invocation so that the transmuted carapace resembled a suit of crystalline-white medieval armour tinged with marbled pink, giving him a knightly, although anonymous, air.

With a hefty thunk, Morye landed in the alleyway. Within, he accosted the sight of a struggling woman who was half-way undressed at knifepoint. He took a glance at her dishevelled stated and shot two shards of monomolecular salt toward the thugs. The sound made by the crystalline projectiles slicing through flesh and bone was silken, punching through their limbs like a well-honed flenser carving ham-in-bone.

The men crumpled.

"Miss, are you alright? It's not safe here." Morye helped the woman up. She had erratic eyes that were wild with messy mascara and full red lips that were a little smeared. The scene was so titillating as to make Morye's mind wander into dangerous territories of his own.

"Thank… Thank you." The woman avoided looking at the whimpering men beside her; one was holding a spurting arm stump, the other trying to piece his leg together. "They are my co-workers— I didn't... I didn't think..."

"The shelter's that way." Morye held her as she stumbled from the alleyway, her dress worse for wear and covered in blood. He materialised a jacket and hung it over her shoulders, lest she attracts other unkind eyes.

Morye wanted to leave right there and then, but the sight of her fixing her dress despondently while her eyes flashed with desperate signals made his protective instincts engorge. In the end, he took a quick detour and dropped the woman off at the entrance to the shelter, presided over by a few Militia Mages ushering folk into the bunker.

Having resumed his merry way to Rosebay, Morye was determined to get to Gwen as soon as possible. His daughter was the target of some very unpleasant people, and it was pivotal that he reached her before other, more nefarious forces.

Then Morye had turned the corner, only to see a group of Mermen beating down a battle group of Militia Mages. The Mages were pushed back by the burly Crab-men, who served as shields for the weaker fishheads. From the looks of it, the crustacean carapace exceeded the tier 1 to 2 Air spells utilised by the novice Evokers. As living battering rams, the beasts smashed through the Abjurer's earth-shields, snapping up the poor bastard with a swipe of their claws. When two of the burly crustaceans pulled the man apart like a blood-sausage piñata, it proved too much for the Evokers.

Dark lines creased all over Morye's forehead. Here is why amateurs were useless in war.

He had just about left when one of the Evoker women pulled off her cumbersome hood to reveal ash-blonde curls framing a dazzling face. The girl appeared young, maybe in her late teens, at best her early twenties, screaming bloody murder as she scampered on all fours away from the Mermen. Morye paused mid-air, torn by indecision. He had to save his daughter! But how could he leave these Mages undefended, destined to be fish-food?

The second Evoker stumbled and fell to her hands, which became bloody with nasty abrasions from the broken debris. When the first girl went to help her, she threw off her backpack and hood, revealing a similar head of flaxen locks matted by sweat and blood.

Sisters! Morye realised with a pounding heart. It would be a tragedy if their mother, who must also be a lovely blonde matron, were to lose two of her children in a single day. It was his duty as a Mage of superior power, gifted by fate, to ensure that these young women lived to see another day.

Behind the two girls, the Transmuter who had tried to bring up the rear proved too fragile to withstand the assault of the cruel Mermen. Even with Bark Skin and Enhanced Strength, he found himself caught between a dozen crab-claws, held in the air while coral tridents skewered him like a kabab.

Horridly, some of the Mermen began to eat, digging for the young man's guts, his liver, his heart and brain, even as he screamed for the mercy of death.

The sight of their companion being eaten alive erased any thoughts of resistance from the girls. They fell on their bottoms, all courage and strength depleted, failing both the tests of fight or flight and instead choosing paralysis. Morye marvelled at their gamble— were the girls hoping that the Mermen were interested in living prisoners? If captured, what awaited them was infinitely worse than death.

Just as one of the fishheads approached with a seaweed-strew net; the sisters found themselves staring upward at a salt-carapace Demigod.

"Foul beasts," Morye spat. "Know the retribution of man! Pillar of Salt!"
The modified Flame Strike materialised from thin-air and slammed into the group of Mermen with a terrific force. Negative energy flooded the surrounding space, draining the life from the Mermen. At the same time, crystalline shards dug into their skin, sliced into the flexible joints between their carapace, drawing out the moisture from their bodies.

Easy, Morye grinned. Like sauntering garlic-butter lobster.

The elemental power of salt was brutally effective against water-based creatures by the simple virtue of its desiccating passive effect. Even if the Mermen survived the initial blast, the loss of moisture from their bodies ensured the ultimate collapse of their organs moments later.

The Mermen crumpled.

Morye turned to the two women, who by now was staring at him with doe-eyed worship. The last survivor of the group of five, a plain-looking, nondescript broad, fled the scene.

"Thank you! Thank you so much, Magus!"
"Thank you, Sir!"
"I am June, and this is Summer."
"We owe you our lives!"
The girls were beyond glad that in the eleventh hour, a Magus with a rare Mineral Element would come and save them. Morye looked at the two women, whose faces were similar, but each had their unique appeals. The taller one had a freckled nose that gave her a cherished air of vitality and youth; the shorter one had large, glassy eyes that hinted at a high level of compliance with a low level of situational awareness.

"I am glad you're alright." Morye landed, feeling pleased with his efforts.
June and Summer were in a dishevelled stated by now, their tattered clothing revealing their graceful surfer's bodies beneath the robes.

"I should escort you to safety," Morye announced. "The shelter is not far from here."

"We need to join up with our battle group," one of the girls replied guiltily, reflecting upon their cowardice when the Crab-men had bested their spells.

"Fine, I'll take you over, just point me in the right direction."

Unfortunately for Morye, another battle awaited him. When they arrived at the girls' FOB, he found the leader of their rag-tag battle group entrenched in a melee. The Militia had barricaded themselves with furniture, cars, road signs, and any other opportunistic bric-a-brac they could find. A full three dozen of them were fending off hundreds of menacing Mermen, lead by a burly looking shark-cum-reptile.

Without a word, Morye dropped a Blade Barrier around the barricade, instantly turning the Mermen assault into sashimi dinners. As the pink-crystal blades churned, the shark-leader bellowed a challenge at Morye.

Morye moved to confront the shark-headed beast. He wasn't stupid enough to melee it. Instead, he dropped a Cone of Salt the moment he was close enough to cover the Shark-captain and his guards. As usual, the desiccating spells proved too much for the fish folk. After the magic passed, all that remained were comical dried fish-jerky wearing armour and carrying semi-enchanted weapons of the depths.

The leader of the Militia was a young officer called Katie Rhodes, who introduced herself and supplicated before Morye, demonstrating the most heartfelt genuflection she could show.

Morye examined the young commander. She had cropped hair about her ears, with liquid, brown eyes were alive with hope and vigour, giving her face an enduring quality that made one want to embrace its beautiful symmetry and aesthetic curvature. Morye felt his heart aflutter, feeling a little lost in the innocence of her face.

"Sir, thank you for saving us..." Such vivid eyes the girl possessed! So intimate and familiar, so pretty—

Morye blinked.
Shit! Gwen!

Without a word, Morye steeled his resolved and flew into the sky, no longer keeping his eyes upon the disturbance of the ground below.

Gwen! He told himself. I am coming!

And finding his wayward daughter he did.
Though the outcome was somewhat more ambivalent than Morye had hoped. There was no tearful rescue, no screaming for help. Instead, he had to act as a witness to her horrid mutilation of some poor sod. After, watched her blast off into the sky with a green glow and realised that his daughter all grown up. At that moment, he felt like a useless father who'd spent years neglecting his daughter, and when he'd finally found her again, she'd married a seven-foot biker and was holding a baby sporting a rat-tailed mullet at the tender age of three. Then the biker-husband turned to Morye and asked, 'who the fuck are you?'

"Fuck it," Morye recalled finding himself instantly distant. "I am out."

His first goal had been finding a way to return to his peaceful life as a useless Abjurer, laying low while the whole thing blows over. Surely, with all the drama happening with the Shield Stations, the department wouldn't be too interested in a senior technician who'd gone awol.

At least that was what he'd naively hoped.

Instead, just as he had met one of his ex's, coaxed her into providing him with temporary shelter, when a message spell bloomed beside his head.

Unlike a personal message spell, the glyph for this one was silver, indicating that it came from a Government authority.

"Shit," Morye said to himself. "Sorry Margerie, I gotta take this."

The NoM woman kissed his shoulder, walking away without so much as a sliver of cloth. Morye marvelled at the gentle, soft curves of her body, admiring the good fortune that despite the years since their last tryst, she'd kept well, maturing like a well-seasoned mango.

"Morye Song." The voice that spoke was stern and commanding.

"Yeah?"

"This is Gunther Shultz, interim Master of the Sydney Tower. I am invoking section 5.7.8 of the Frontier Military General Article 7. I am conscripting you for mandatory duty while the city is under Martial Law."

"Why? I am just a no-good Abjurer. What can I do?" Morye protested.

"Katie tells me otherwise, Mr Song."

"I don't know who that is."

"Perhaps I'd be more convincing if I called you by your new title?"
Morye furrowed his brow. What title was that?

"The Pink Salt Saviour."

Morye choked on his spit.

"That's fucking ridiculous!"

"Nonetheless, I have a quest for you, one you cannot possibly refuse. It serves neither of our purpose for the headlines to tell tales of your wondrous exploits."

"We'll see about that."

"From your colourful past, no less. From the old country to the New, so many women wondering where you'd gone."

"... I am listening."

"Good, because you wouldn't want to turn down my offer regardless. It involves Gwen, and your refusal to participate will directly endanger her."

"Fuck me sideways." Morye had a sinking feeling.

"It's not so bad." Gunther's voice was caught between amusement and self-control. "If you participate, I will keep your talents a secret for you. Otherwise, you can prepare to live the rest of your life in Oceania as a renowned public figure."

"No, no," Morye succumbed quickly. "If it's for Gwen, I'll do it."

"Good," Gunther replied. "You are to rendezvous with her at Surya's estate. I have a team ready to head out."

"Out to where?" Morye became suspicious. "Who else is at the estate?"

"Out to a Black Zone," Gunther said. "Your wife and son, as well as their stepfather, are all thankfully safe and sound— at the estate. They eagerly await your unexpected arrival at the estate."

Morye moaned silently. He was happy that Percy was safe and sound; that Gwen too was alright, but the mere mention of Helena made his chest sore.

"I wish you the best of luck," the Paladin intoned, satisfied with his recruitment drive. "Good hunting."

The Paladin silenced the Message conference.

Morye felt his world turn dark. He felt like a Merman stuck in a crab cage. He hadn't thought about it before, but he knew it now— there were indeed fates worse than death.

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A note from Wutosama

Chapter Ref :: 


Volume 1 Amazon (US) the book is in all markets as well.
Volume 2 Amazon (US) the book is in all markets as well.
 
V1 Google Play, iBook, Kobo, Nook and Playster Link
V2 Google Play, iBook, Kobo, Nook and Playster Link

Paper back in near future

 


Satiate yourself while you wait with Metaworld-Meta-fics :

 


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For theorycrafting, world building, Dede, and meta-brew Roleplaying! 
Thank you Wandysama & Boneless Chicken et al for all the vote pics! 
 

 


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About the author

Wutosama

Bio: I write on the phone and edit at home. Times are tough!

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