Voyages of the Cerberus 135: Dolonis

Grace and Farah had never been to Dolonis. They were surprised by what they found. From the description, they were expecting a drab, sterile place, full of akumillians in lab coats with kind smiles. Instead, it was very colourful.

The colours weren’t bright, rather they were fairly muted but there were a lot of them. Blues, violets, greens, pale pinks & the like. The workers were similarly attired. When the Cerberus crew arrived, they were each led away by a separate akumillian.

Grace found herself with a petite man wearing a lavender suit. He sat in a comfortable chair and had her take a seat in an identical one beside his.

“I am Bilnious. When you’re ready, you can tell me about your grief,” he said. That was it. He closed his eyes and faced away from her. A part of Grace wanted to see how long he’d wait before saying anything else but it wasn’t the time or place. She took a little time to get her thoughts together and told him everything.

Everything about that last, horrible battle, about Allison’s final holo message and about her own sorrow about the whole thing.

All the while he listened. It was strange talking to him. Whenever she talked to Lucy, there was this… power emanating from her. This sense that at any moment she could easily end you. With Bilnious, that sensation wasn’t there. Rather, he radiated warmth and compassion. Grace figured it was probably a professional difference. That akumillians learned to project sensations that aided them in their regular work.

After listening to her, Bilnious looked like he was deep in thought. “I’m so sorry,” his voice was completely sincere. “I do hope we can help you. Given your personality type, I would suggest starting with reflective therapy. I would say that we should follow that up with solitary memory immersion therapy. After that, we can try some group exchange therapy and then we’ll see where you’re at.”

“What do those entail exactly?” Grace asked. Reflective therapy seemed obvious enough  but the other two… What exactly did “group exchange therapy” mean?

“Oh, my apologies,” Bilnious stated. “I’d forgotten that it’s your first time. allow me to explain. For reflective therapy we put you in a capsule that looks similar to a stasis chamber. It’s designed to heighten your focus and your introspective abilities. Which will allow you to fully connect with your emotions surrounding your horrible loss. Memory immersion therapy uses the same principle, but instead of connecting to your emotions, it goes on a deeper level, allowing you to vividly recall times you spent with your dear friend. Group exchange therapy will broadcast your exact feelings to someone from your group and theirs to you.”

“I know how they feel,” Grace said. “We’re all suffering the same loss after all.”

“Forgive me, Miss,” Bilnious said “but that isn’t true. You may, indeed be suffering from the same loss, but you aren’t suffering the same way. Experiencing one another’s suffering will allow the both of you to place your own in perspective and sharing that moment of empathy will allow you to both better understand that you aren’t alone and aid you in facing your own challenges.”

“And who would I be doing this procedure with?” Grace asked.

“Whoever you wish,” Bilnious said. “Provided, of course, that they agree. You already have someone in mind?”

“I do,” Grace said.

“Then, you find the plan acceptable?”

“Well, you’re the expert on this stuff,” Grace said. “I’ll trust your judgement.”

“Thank you,” Bilnious said. “But the important thing is that you’re comfortable and that you get the help you need. You mustn’t hesitate to decline if something seems uncomfortable to you.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Grace said. “None of it seems bad.”

Bilnious nodded. “Very well. Then I’ll make the preparations for your reflective therapy. At the longest, it could be an hour. Will you be all right being by yourself for that time?”

“I’ll be fine,” Grace reassured him.

He bowed and made his way out, reassuring Grace that he would return shortly.

*****

Y4-R1’s Personal Log

My expedition has failed at its primary objective. However, it has aided me in an unanticipated way. Lunais has permitted me to remain within the garden, at least on a temporary basis. She has been listening to my feelings of loss and shown support for the turmoil I have been subjected to as a result of Allison’s death.

I am still damaged. I do not know if the damage will ever be repairable. Regardless, her assistance is gradually making my difficulties more bearable.

I do not know what extent of recovery will be necessary for me to return to the Cerberus. Nor do I know how much time will pass before I reach that point. I am not even certain how I will recognise it. I am still lost.

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The Last Draconian 4: Illyana’s Familiar

Previous Chapter

Illyana Fensen

The carriage ride was bumpy, but not too bad. I could hear the horses’ hooves strike unevenly against the ground but they still managed to settle into a monotonous rhythm. Mother was with me. She’d insisted on going with me personally. I think she was still worried that I’d disappear on some other adventure.

I’d told her that it was a one time thing because Sylvie and the others needed me, but she was protective. After all, I was blind and frail. Why shouldn’t she worry about me being out in dangerous situations?

I think she could also sense that I wasn’t telling the full truth about what had happened. I mean, I’d told her about Camila and how she’d tried to claim Inés by force. I’d told her about how I’d worked with Aunt Lais and the others to stop her but I hadn’t told her about Sylvie’s confession. About how she’d told me she loved me.

Truthfully, I was still having trouble processing it. I had told her that if she could say the same in a year, I’d be hers. That I was happy for her feelings. But I was also doubtful of them. Could she, or anyone else, love someone as hapless as me?

“We’re here,” Mother’s voice said. The scent of incense filled the air. I knew the scent. It was made from a dragon palm tree’s resin. “Once you leave this carriage,” mother continued “you’ll have thirty minutes to find a familiar.” She added something to the incense. Lavender? “Should you fail, it will be proof that Hecate has rejected you.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I won’t disappoint you.”

“I know you won’t,” Mother said. “Remember, your familiar will be a part of you and you will be a part of it. The two of you will be bound. You must look out for one another and you must choose your familiar with care. Should you be forced to terminate your connection, not only will you never be able to forge a bond with another familiar, but a part of you will also be missing.”

I heard Sweetgrass, my mother’s familiar, squeak. Sweetgrass was a field mouse. When mother had done her own ritual, she’d wanted a falcon but changed her mind when she felt a connection with Sweetgrass. I’d heard the story many times and I was sure that this was my mother’s way of telling me that it was okay to change my mind and get something besides a bat. “Good luck, Illyana.”

I left the carriage. The scent of the incense surrounded me. It remained as strong as it had been in the carriage. I moved about a dozen metres away and sat in a meditative lotus position.

Now was the hard part. I had to form a sphere that perfectly reflected the nature of my magic. I started with void. Then I transmuted half of the ball into earth. I added fire and ice, making it a quarter each element. Then came water and air. Finally, I added thunder and aether. I carefully manipulated the eight elements, ensuring that each one took up an equal part of the ball. I allowed it to float in front of me and waited.

They started coming. My magic acting as a beacon to them. I could sense them. A wolf, a loner but proud. A bear, brave and composed, starting to grow old. A mole, curious and clever. A coral snake. An owl. Then I sensed it. A bat, a blood drinker. He was probably half-starved but he was determined, inquisitive. From the moment our minds touched, I felt a bond.

I reached my left hand out towards him. “Hello, I would like to make a bond with you. If you’ll have me.”

I heard a rush of air. He swooped and landed in my palm. I sensed something emerging from his body. His soul stone. It burned for a moment but the intense heat quickly cooled into a steady warmth. The stone throbbed in my hand and wouldn’t cool any further. I grabbed it with my other hand and pocketed it carefully.

“You’ll need a name,” I said. “How do you feel about Drake?”

Drake let out a screech of approval.

“Then it’s settled,” I said. “Let’s go back.”

Drake left my hand and settled onto my right shoulder. Together, we left the cave. All in all, the ritual had taken about twenty minutes.

I heard my mother whistle when we entered the carriage.

“That’s a big one. Is… is that a blood drinker?”

“He is,” I confirmed. His name is Drake.”

“I see,” Mother said. She didn’t sound too happy about me picking a blood drinker. “Well, you got done earlier than expected. Let’s head back and I’ll teach you how to borrow Drake’s senses.”

*****

Michael Ryufan

The desert was expansive. It had to be. It had, after all succeeded in largely isolating my people from the outside world for millennia. We had chosen it for that reason and it had played a role in our downfall. Still, it was an ideal place for training in the way of the sword.

I reached out with air magic. There were no travellers in the area. I removed my cloak and stretched my wings.

I spread some sheep’s blood on the ground, knowing exactly what kind of predator it would attract. I flew upwards, knowing it imprudent to be on the ground when it arrived.

There was a loud rumbling sound. I could see the sands being disrupted as it travelled beneath.

The sand wyrm was a fierce predator with armoured scales as hard as steel covering its body and a squid-like snout covering a wide opening with serrated teeth leading down its gullet. This ultimately resulted in a painful end for any prey it managed to swallow alive. It also possessed acid shooting tubes, usually three or four, on its back. Regardless of the danger, I waited for it to peek its head from the sands and tossed a stone in order to provoke it.

The wyrm was roughly thrice my own size. It roared and lunged for me.

I half flew, half rolled backwards. The wyrm’s lunge missed me. I moved further up in the air and dodged to the side as the wyrm lunged through the sand and snapped at me.

I drew my blade and swooped downward. The wyrm’s tubes opened and clear acid jetted at me. The stream barely missed as I flapped over it. I swooped back down. The creature roared and snapped at me as I came. I rolled in mid-air, avoiding the powerful jaws. I plunged my blade through the wyrm’s eye and pierced its brain. The creature collapsed onto the sand.

I burned it as a sacrifice to the goddess Nemesis. I was almost proficient enough in the way of the sword to challenge the Magi, almost.

Next Chapter

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Voyages of the Cerberus 134: The Trip to Dolonis

“Dolonis… Dolonis…” Farah muttered. “Found it! It’s a mourning planet.”

“Mourning planet?” Grace asked. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It looks like they have facilities designed to make you examine and come to terms with grief,” Farah answered. “In a traditional akumillian way.”

“So, people come visit this planet just to grieve,” Grace stated. “Certainly sounds akumillian. Maybe I’ll stay on the ship.”

“Well, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to try it,” Farah suggested. “Losing her hit us all hard. Maybe going through this will help ease the pain. Even if only a little.”

“That’s part of what I’m worried about,” Grace said. “Right now… it’s hard to explain.”

“Try me,” Farah said, gently taking Grace’s hand.

“Right now I feel like I should be in pain,” Grace said. “Like, it’s too soon to really be over it.”

“I understand,” Farah said. “But I don’t think it’s the right way to think. I mean, you’re seeing it as a betrayal of her memory to start feeling better. But I think she would prefer her memory to be surrounded by light and laughter, you know? That’s the kind of person she was.”

“I know that,” Grace said. “I know that Allison would probably be cracking some stupid joke or other and trying to make us all feel better, But, right now, I just feel like it’s better to be hurting. If that makes any sense.”

“I get it,” Farah said. “Then let’s stay behind together.”

“You don’t have to miss out for me,” Grace said.

“I know,” Farah said. “You wouldn’t complain or even be upset if I did go. But at times like this it’s better to be near the one you love.”

Grace studied her. “Fine, we’ll  go.”

*****

“I got your things all packed up,” Lucy said. “How long until we get there? Around an hour?”

“An hour and a quarter,” Ophelia answered. She looked over to Lucy. “You know, someone should stay with the ship. Maybe…”

“Don’t you dare suggest it,” Lucy said. “You are going.”

“Worth a shot,” Ophelia said. “So, what will they make us do?”

“They won’t make you do anything,” Lucy said. “They will make suggestions and we will be following those suggestions.”

“I’m surprised you’re going to be,” Ophelia said. “You usually don’t follow suggestions.”

“True,” Lucy admitted. “But we’re in it together. I wouldn’t tell you to do it if I wasn’t willing to.”

“I appreciate that about you,” Ophelia said. “So, what can I expect from this place?”

Lucy considered it for a moment. “They’ll get in your head and it won’t be easy for you,” Lucy said. “But it will be good for you.”

*****

“Where are we going first?”  Leon asked.

“It might be better if we each go on our own and meet up for meals and at the end of the day,” Paul said. He noticed the look on Leon’s face. “What?”

“We don’t get much time off duty without some mission or other on the horizon and you wanna spend it alone?”

“This isn’t leisure time, Fuzzy,” Paul said. “It’s time to sort through our emotions and thoughts… To come to terms. And there are aspects of that that need another person just like there are aspects that need solitude.”

“So, we can go together for the stuff that needs another person, right?” Leon asked.

Sure,” Paul answered. “I’d rather have you with me for that than anyone else. But, for the first few days at least, can’t we try to focus on the other stuff?”

“Hey, I’m not that needy,” Leon said. “What? I’m not!”

*****

“Attention, Everyone.” Ophelia’s voice came over the ship’s intercom. “We’ll be landing in twenty minutes. If you’re going to be spending this time on Dolonis, Please get your bags and be ready near the door.”

Lucy turned to her. “Don’t be so anxious, Love. Trust me. This will be good for you.”

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The Last Draconian 3: A Fond Farewell

Previous Chapter

Illyana Fensen

I walked down the corridor. I didn’t need to use magic to guide me around the Academy. Not any more. I listened for other students, keeping out of their way. Two more steps and the door was on my right. I turned and knocked.

“Come in.” My mother’s voice  was inviting, even though she didn’t know it was me. That’s why she was such a good headmistress for the Academy. She was always there for any student.

I grasped the latch and opened the door.

“Illyana!” Mother’s voice was happy. “What can I do for you?”

“Pardon my intrusion, Headmistress Elivy,” I said. “But I was hoping you could tell me more of the draconians.”

“Honestly,” Mother sounded ever so slightly annoyed. “What is your morbid fascination with that extinct species?”

“Well, since they’re extinct I believe that it’s important to remember them. I’m sorry if I’m asking for too much.” I hoped my answer didn’t sound too rehearsed.

I heard the slight squeal of mother’s chair and the soft movement of air indicating that she was getting up. Her footsteps were very slight as she moved over to me. Her hand gently brushed some loose strands of hair from my forehead to the side.

“Very well. Let’s talk about the draconians. Come, sit with me.”

*****

Michael Ryufan

In my slumber, I saw it all happen again. The memories of my people’s final moments were reconstructed with extreme clarity. I felt their wounds, heard the crack of thunder, felt the heat of the flames. Sadow’s hollow laughter surrounded me all the while.

I was awakened by the sound of my own screams. I sat upright in my bed. I was hyperventilating and both of my hearts were beating abnormally quickly.

I reached up with my hands and wiped the heavy perspiration from my brow. At this point, moving around my horns had become natural.

I rose from bed and examined myself in the heavy oaken mirror. My hair was dishevelled. My pupils were dilated and bloodshot. The contrast of red against my own natural violet was somewhat disconcerting.

I calmed myself with the monotony of brushing my hair. when the task was thoroughly completed, I took out a strong black cord and tied it into a ponytail.

The ponytail went down to my eighth vertebrae, right betwixt my wings. I wondered if it might not be prudent to cut it off before it grew much longer. However, I hesitated to take that step for purely sentimental reasons. After all, my hair was the same shimmering silver colour as my mother’s had been.

I put on proper attire, packed my hair brush, and tucked my coin pouch into my belt. I did not put on my cloak. I pondered why I had tarried so long as I secured my blade. I had finished mastering the spells I needed to know ninety two days ago and yet, I had encountered considerable difficulty in deciding to leave.

Had I become complacent and overly attached to the Academy? Was I frightened of facing Sadow? Perhaps I had simply desired some respite in my quest for vengeance. Or…

A knock on the door interrupted my thoughts. I hurriedly grasped my cloak “Who is it?”

“Illyana.”

I allowed my grip to relax. “Are you alone?”

“I am.”

I released the cloak and moved to unlatch and open the door. “You may enter.”

Illyana strode in, concealing something beneath a cloth. I closed the door behind her.

Her hands moved the cloth aside to reveal a frosted confectionery. “Happy sixteenth birthday!”

“I had forgotten,” I stated.

“Liar!” Illyana declared, sitting on my bed. “You never forget anything.”

“Well, you are somewhat correct,” I conceded. “I had not forgotten the anniversary of my birth. I simply had not attached any importance to it.”

“Have some,” she held out her confectionery. “Mother helped me make it.”

I acquiesced to her request and consumed a small amount.

“Can you believe that next year we’ll have gotten far enough to have our own familiars and everything?” Illyana asked. “So, what are you going to pick?”

I refrained from shrugging since she would not notice any way. “That is not important. What about you?”

Illyana rose and elbowed me in the ribs. “You should be able to answer a simple question. I’m going to get a bat.”

“That seems like an unusual choice.” I scratched my head, right behind my horns. “May I ask why?”

Illyana crossed her arms over her chest. “If you can’t answer a simple question then don’t expect me to.”

“I apologise for my rudeness,” I said.

Illyana lay back on the bed. “That’s fine, I can tell you. I like bats because they sense things in a completely different way. Just like I do. And they have the freedom of the sky.”

“I understand,” I stated. I briefly considered whether or not I should tell her the truth. It would hurt her to discover it after the fact. I steadied myself and spoke. “Illyana, I am done.”

Illyana sat straight up. “What do you mean?”

“I have learned all the magic that I need. It is time for me to learn the ways of the sword.”

“I see.” Illyana stood. After a minute of silence she spoke up. “Does this have to do with what happened to your people?”

My voice was unsteady. “I…I do not know what you mean.”

“But, you’re a draconian, right?” I froze, incapable of speaking. She knew! I had been so cautious but it had availed me naught. “Don’t worry, I haven’t told anyone.”

“How did you find out?”

Illyana chuckled.  There was sorrow in her voice. “Just because I can’t see doesn’t mean that I’m completely senseless. Your footsteps have always been unusually light, and when we’re alone I can hear the light slither of something… your tail, I think, moving around and the light flap of your wings.”

Of course! I had been complacent believing that she would not notice.

Illyana sighed. “I didn’t mention it before because I had always hoped that you would tell me on your own. Tell me, what really happened to the other draconians?”

“Perhaps the story that you have heard is accurate.”

Illyana walked over and lightly punched my back, directly under the left wing. “The Far Darter wouldn’t have missed you. You can’t tell me?”

I turned away from her. Telling her would be a risk, but she had kept my confidence when I was unaware that she even had it. “It was the lich, Sadow. He wiped the rest of the draconians out. Only I survived his assault.”

Illyana stepped back. “Why would he? How could he?”

“I do not know why. None of us did, but I have sworn to make him answer for that crime.”

Illyana wrung her hands together. “It won’t be easy to defeat one of the Magi.”

“I am aware of the difficulties, but I must fight nevertheless.”

“Do you need help?”

I allowed myself a slight smile, realising why it had been difficult to leave. “I thank you for the offer, but I must do this on my own.”

“Will you ever come back?”

“If I survive, I will return. Farewell Illyana Fensen. May you find your place in this world.”

“Hold on a moment!”

“I can not tarry any longer.” I opened the window and spread my wings.

Illyana grabbed my arm, pulling me slightly back. “I just have one last request.”

I sighed and stepped away from the window. “I will listen, but I will make no guarantees.”

Illyana moved her arms away from me and pressed her hands together. “Can I—touch your face?”

I looked up at her. “If you truly wish, I will comply with that request.”

Next Chapter

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Voyages of the Cerberus 133: Yuri Seeks Out Lunais

Yuri made her landing in the garden, created and maintained by Lunais. Yuri wasn’t sure if this would go her way, but she had to make the attempt.

“We welcome you back to our abode, Cerberus android.” Lunais appeared in front of her, or at least a projection of her did. Her dark blue hair remained still, even in the wind. “Why have you returned to our home? To view the results of the mission we gave you? To learn more about us, perhaps?”

“I would request an audience in person,” Yuri stated. “Please, it is important.”

“Very well,” Lunais said. “We will bring you to us.”

Yuri found herself inside the floating castle. In the same entrance that she and Kat had been taken to such a long time ago.

She proceeded directly up into Lunais’ personal chamber on the fourth floor, assuming she’d be there like she was the last time. It turned out to be a correct assumption. Lunais was sitting in one of her cushions. She closed the book she had been reading and set it in front of her. Yuri recognised it. Allison had had the same book. It was a highly erotic lesbian romance.

“We welcome you back to our home,” Lunais greeted her. “We were most pleased by the task you performed for us last time. Thanks to your assistance, our garden’s population has more than quadrupled. Now, tell us, what do you wish?”

“I have not forgotten the power you demonstrated,” Yuri stated. “you have the ability to create and alter life. I  wish to know, can you also repair someone who has been broken beyond repair?”

Lunais seemed taken aback for a moment. “We can not bring back the dead, no. Nor can we create highly advanced life. At best we could construct a being in the likeness of the dead person but the being would be without the personality or intelligence of the original. Tell me, Android, who did the Cerberus lose?”

“It does not matter now,” Yuri answered. “I am sorry to have wasted your time. Please, return me to the shuttle.”

“Hold!” Lunais commanded. “You would not have come to us were it not important to you. We know not who was lost or how. But we do know that dealing with grief is a long, painful process. One that can be aided by a sympathetic ear to air one’s grievances to. We will provide you with that ear. Should you wish.”

Yuri paused and considered Lunais’ offer. “It will be a long story.”

“We will listen intently.”

*****

Ophelia looked through various missions being advertised.

“Love of mine, that’s enough,” Lucy said.

“What, have you found something?” Ophelia asked.

“I haven’t been looking,” Lucy answered. “But I know you’re trying too hard.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Ophelia lied.

“You’re a terrible liar,” Lucy said. “Or maybe I’m just too good at seeing through falsehoods. Whatever the case may be, it’s obvious what you’re doing.”

“And just what is that?” Ophelia demanded.

“Keeping busy,” Lucy said. “You don’t want to take too much time to think about Allison and mourn. So you’re hurrying to find the next mission. Just like you did with the Turing station thing.”

“They needed us,” Ophelia protested. “Paul helped save a lot of people. You and the others solved the mystery of just what happened. It was a great success.”

“That’s a separate issue,” Lucy said. “The issue at hand is that we need a break. Not just you, but everyone on the ship. Leon, Kat, Paul, Grace, Farah, You and Me. We need time to process our grief.”

“And what do you suggest we do?” Ophelia asked. “Head to some resort planet and take a week off?”

“No,” Lucy stated. “We need time off, but not at a resort. I propose that we go to Dolonis.”

“Dolonis?” Yuri asked. “That might suit you and other akumillians at a time like this but our crew is made up of humans.”

“It works for humans as well,” Lucy said. “It’s received many over the years  and I know it helped Kat, Leon and Paul when they went there the last time we lost a member of our crew.”

“That was different,” Ophelia said. “We had to find replacements. Damian and Stephen left us. Jane…”

“It’s not different at all,” Lucy said. “Except that this time you and I will join the others.”

“I couldn’t possibly,” Ophelia said. “I have to…”

“Stop right there!” Lucy declared, her voice commanding. We are not going through another rough patch where you let your guilt and sense of loss affect everything you do for months. Where you spend so much time working yourself half to death that everyone worries about you and Paul has to step in and coerce you into taking time off. This time, you’re facing your grief directly. Understand, My Heart?”

“I….” Ophelia began. She quickly noted the look on Lucy’s face. “Yes, Dear. I’ll set course for Dolonis.”

“And I’ll inform the crew,” Lucy said.

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The Last Draconian 2: The Academy

Previous Chapter

Michael Ryufan

I was taken to the Academy. The grounds were massive. They had five buildings, all surrounded by an ornate marble fence. The largest building at the centre was where classes were held. The buildings directly to its left and right housed the student dormitories. Directly behind the main building was a crystal tower, which housed the library. The building at the gate was a storehouse.

The instructor, who had introduced himself as Professor Mord, was explaining the layout to me. I did not pay much heed to his words. I appreciated him trying to be helpful, but the layout was much the same as it had been the last time a draconian had visited. My racial memory rendered his guidance redundant.

We were stopped on our tour by an elven woman. She had aqua coloured hair and light brown eyes. Her robes were a shadowy grey, identifying her as the Academy’s head. “Bastian, who is this?”

Professor Mord bowed in deference to her. “This is Michael Ryufan. He’s seven and very skilled for his age. Michael this is Luc Elivy, the academy’s current headmistress.”

She offered me her hand. I reached my own out to take it. “In all my time at the academy there have never been two children on the grounds at once.” She studied me as she spoke. “Is there something wrong with your eyes?” I hurriedly averted my gaze to look at the ground. I would have to be careful around her. Her vision was sharp.

“No matter,” she spoke quickly. Apparently interpreting my actions as a symptom of sensitivity. “Get him a room and test his current abilities so that we can get a proper curriculum in place.” She paused for a moment. “But first introduce him to Illyana.”

“Understood,” Professor Mord turned to me. “Follow me.” He gestured towards the dormitory on the left. I followed without a word.

Professor Mord led me into the garden. A human girl was sitting on the grass. She had golden blonde hair. She was roughly my height but significantly smaller. If she had weighed slightly less, I could have described her as emaciated. Her eyes were tightly shut and a walking stick was laying by her feet. I deduced that she was likely sightless.

She cocked her head towards us as we approached.

“Illyana,” Professor Mord made an effort to make his voice sound soothing. “Can you come here for a moment please?”

She retrieved her stick and approached us. Swinging her stick from side to side to detect potential obstacles.

Profesor Mord put his right hand on her shoulder and his left hand on mine. “Illyana, this is Michael. He’s one year younger than you. He’s going to be joining us at the academy. Michael, this is Illyana. She’s lived here for the past two years.”

“I am pleased to meet you,” I stated.

“Likewise,” she said.

*****

I was in my room. My wings kept me elevated. A couple violet scales fell to the flooring. I would have to dispose of them later. It would be unacceptable for a class mate to find them. Their curiosity was becoming burdensome.

I was looking forward to completing my time at the Academy. I only needed to master a few more spells for my battle against the lich: Cutting Winds, Binding Breath & Typhoon.

I was not overly concerned. After all, I was still an adolescent and those spells were difficult. I knew that further growth would lead to greater power and with that power combined with practice, mastery would come. It was inevitable.

A knock interrupted my reverie. “Who is there please?”

“It’s Illyana.”

“Is anyone there with you?”

I could detect Illyana using magic to probe her surroundings. “No, I’m alone.”

I ceased flapping my wings and landed. I walked to the door and unlocked it. “You may enter.”

Illyana entered my room. She was still somewhat thin, but far healthier looking than she had been when we first met. She had recently undergone a growth spurt and currently stood at just over a hundred eighty five centimetres tall. Her skin was pale. Strangely so, given how much time she expended in the gardens. She was currently clad in light blue robes and carrying a book under her left arm.

“The new students are arriving today.”

I felt my tail shift. “I am aware of that.”

Illyana smiled. “There are finally students our age here. Maybe we can make some friends.”

I sighed and pressed my left hand against my forehead, betwixt my horns. “You have already made ample friends among the priestess trainees. You are trying to get me to socialise more. Tell me, why would I wish to waste my time in such an endeavour?”

Illyana frowned. “You can’t live like a hermit forever.”

I decided to change the topic. “You did not come here to discuss the new students.”

Illyana laughed a little. “Professor Mord gave me this book.” She held it out. “Could you help me with it?”

I took it. I recognised the book and was capable of reciting the contents verbatim but flipped through it for the sake of appearances. Illyana sat down on my bed. “It is by a dwarven omnimage named Tron Greystone who lived 734 years ago. He is espousing the view that the physical difficulties are more than offset by the experience of possessing all of the possible inborn elements. He continues to describe the experience in detail.”

Illyana’s voice shook. “Does it say what problems he had?”

The book neglected to mention it but I answered her query. “Tron was incapable of walking. His heart was weakened. The condition caused his death at the age of 28.”

“But he could see?”

“Yes, he could see.”

Tears were falling down Illyana’s face. “I would give anything for that ability. Anything.”

I did not believe she meant that. She had probably brought the book hoping that it would display some understanding of her own difficulties. Her frustration and sorrow were still evident. I moved my wings so that they were sticking straight back. I reached out and lightly hugged Illyana while she cried. She put her hands on my lower back and wept into my chest. I sighed with relief when she missed touching my wings.

Next Chapter

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Voyages of the Cerberus 132: Lucy’s Anger

Angela, Paul & Lucas worked feverishly producing and administering their cure to the residents of Turing Station. Once they were done, they began tests for side effects and work on decontaminating the station. They worked for several days with barely any sleep among them, but they were finally able to declare Turing clear.

“Thank you for your help, Paul,” Angela said. “Will you and your crew stay around for a while?”

“I shouldn’t think so,” Paul said. “Ophelia likes to keep us moving. I rather think most of the crew enjoys travelling through the cosmos.”

“You say that like you don’t,” Angela said.

Paul rubbed the back of his head. “I do quite enjoy the journey. It’s the dangerous missions I’m not fond of. I mean, there are times like this where it’s gratifying to be able to help people who really need it. Then there are the other times… Times we come under fire or where our people go into dangerous territory to save some trinket or other. I always wonder, is it worth it?”

Angela gently hugged him. “You lost someone recently, didn’t you?”

Paul didn’t say anything. He rested his head on her shoulder and nodded.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Angela said. “But they’re your family and they need you. Especially at a time like this.”

“I know,” Paul said. “Thank you, Angela.”

“Bang!”

The two of them looked down. Hannah had her toy robot near Paul’s legs. She glared up at him.

Paul moved away from Angela. “I’m sorry, Lass, was I too close to your mom there?”

Angela laughed. “Don’t feel bad, Paul. She doesn’t even like it when Femi and I are too affectionate in front of her. I think she just doesn’t like to share attention.” Angela knelt down and picked up her daughter. “She is her mommies’ little diva.”

“Isn’t that the truth,” Femi said, walking in. She scrutinised Paul and held out her hand. “Thank you, for your service to Turing. Should you or your crew ever need a haven, we will be glad to have you.”

“Thank you,” Paul said, accepting her hand.

Leon stood behind them, biting his thumb. “Too close to my Paul,” he whispered.

Farah nudged him. “Calm down,” she said. “They’re just being friendly.”

“I’ll see you at the next akumillian medical symposium,” Angela said. “If you need anything or just want to chat, you can write me.”

“I will,” Paul said. “Thank you.”

“Yo,” Lucas spoke up. “Is it all right if I mail you too? you know, if I need advice or anything.”

“Of course,” Paul said. He put a hand on Lucas’ shoulder. “You’re a valued colleague.”

*****

Lucy waited until the Cerberus had pulled away from Turing and was well on the way before moving to the communications console in her quarters. She activated all the privacy protections before making her transmission. A chubby akumillian appeared on the screen.

“Well, well, if it isn’t Luciverianna,” he said. “Is the Cerberus looking for intelligence work?”

“You know why I’m calling, Methilis” Lucy said. “Let’s not pretend. And don’t worry. This is a secure channel.”

“So it is,” Methilis confirmed. “I’d heard your crew got called to Turing.”

“It was a solid plan,” Lucy said. “Make the evidence suggest that the alliance had framed akumil. Sure, they mistrusted you for a while but after finding that it’ll all be cleared up. Do we really need allies that badly?”

“The need is not grave,” Methilis stated. “But it is prudent to have as many as possible. You object?”

“Strongly!” Lucy declared. “You made Turing highly vulnerable, which could have grossly backfired. Not only that, but you dragged our ship and crew into it.”

“You knew and yet you still played your part,” Methilis said. “We thank you for your service, Luciverianna.”

“And I warn you,” Lucy said. “If you ever pull us into your machinations again, I will make certain that the entire truth comes out. My mate and I are not your pawns. Our crew is not your pawns. We will not, I emphasise, not be toyed with.”

“Message understood,” Methilis said. “We will not rouse your anger further.”

The transmission cut off.

*****

Y4-R1’s Personal Log:

I am entering Yujin’s orbit. I will attempt to land the shuttle with Lunais’ garden. There are things I must discuss with her. If things go well, I may be able to return to the Cerberus soon.

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The Last Draconian 1: Entering Wicadia

Previous Chapter

Michael Ryufan

The coachman was examining the gold I had given him. I could not tell if the silence was disconcerting to him or if he was surprised that a hatchling my age could afford the price of fare. I reached a hand under my hood to check my forehead. My horns had not fully grown, nor would they for some time. I  could, however, feel the nubs. They were large enough that they would be noticeable. I would have to keep my forehead concealed, lest I reveal my identity.

“Hey kid, we’re almost there.”

I said nothing. The landscape was familiar. I had never been here, but I had racial memories of this place. It had undergone some changes. Some statues had been erected. There had been some construction, eliminating greenery for buildings. It was still recognisable.

“What business do you have in Wicadia anyway?”

“I intend to enter the magic academy.”

The driver laughed. “They won’t take you.”

“Under normal circumstances that would be true. However, the academy has a history of making exceptions for magical prodigies.”

“You think you qualify, kid?”

“I was ha—” I stopped myself, remembering that I had to appear human. As such, I could not reveal my true age either. Were I to say that I had been born a mere three years ago, it would surely arouse suspicion. “born seven years, twenty seven days ago, and I am already capable of casting spells.”

My driver stopped at the city gates. Wicadia was built like a fortress. It was surrounded by a wall with a single gate. Five turrets were built up at the corners of the wall to allow for strong vantage points. I had no doubt that even the buildings that had arisen outside of the walls were well guarded. This was, after all, the capital of magic. I watched the crystal spire that rose from the city’s centre. A guard came over and peeked into the coach. He was carrying a trident and had a stern look on his face. I ignored him. I did not believe that he would harm a child.

“Sir, do you have anything else in the coach?”

“Just the kid and his things.”

The guard looked back at me. “Son, why are you wearing that cloak?”

I thought for a moment. I needed an answer that would sound nonchalant and distract from the truth. “I am trying to become a mage and wearing a cloak makes me feel like one.” I tried to say it with as much youthful exuberance as I could muster.

The guard laughed and turned back to the driver. My façade had worked. “Do you have any business in the city?”

The driver shook his head. “I was just chartered to bring the boy.”

“Son, can you reach your destination from here without help?”

I nodded.

“In that case step out of the carriage with your things.”

I grabbed my small bag and emerged from the carriage, keeping my head down. The guard waved the carriage driver away and I was free to proceed.

*****

After entering Wicadia it did not take me long to locate a mage. He was wearing the loose, dark-purple robes that were a clear sign of an academy teacher. He was leaning on his staff as he walked. I reached out and pulled on the hem of his robes.

He turned towards me. His grey eyes studied me. He stroked his white moustache. For a moment, I was concerned that he might see under my hood. “Can I help you, Kid?”

I nodded. “I wish to join the academy.”

He smiled. “I’m sorry, but you’re too young. Maybe you can try when you’re older.”

I stuck my palms out at a barrel; I felt the wind currents in the area. I concentrated on them and bent them to my will. Under my direction the currents surrounded the barrel. Then, at my mental command, a strong up-draft lifted it into the air, while the currents on top formed a barrier against resistance and light blasts of air from the sides stabilised it. The instructor stared at the floating barrel, wide-eyed.

“Tell me boy, how old are you?”

“I am seven.”

He knelt down to look at me. “What’s your name?”

I adjusted my cloak to ensure that he wouldn’t see my forehead. “Michael Ryufan.”

“Michael, do your parents know you’re here?”

“My parents are no longer alive.”

He extended a hand to me. “Well Michael I think that given the circumstances and,”—he looked at the still-floating barrel.—“Given your obvious abilities, I’d like to invite you to join us at the academy.” I had anticipated this. It was simple to use very basic magic when you had a clear memory of others.

I felt guilty for deceiving him about my abilities however, I needed the Academy to master stronger spells and to provide a safe haven for my practice of them. I also knew that it would be folly to reveal the truth. Even if he and the other mages were to believe a draconian hatchling over a magi it would not accomplish my goal.

I manoeuvred the wind in order to lower the barrel to the ground undamaged. I took his hand. “Please take care of me.”

Next Chapter

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Voyages of the Cerberus 131: Forming Bonds

Kat grabbed her communicator. “Ophelia, I’m finished grabbing everything Paul asked for. I’m going to take the Wyvern and transport it all over now.”

“I’ll tell Paul you’re on the way,” Ophelia said. “Just remember to wear a full atmosphere suit. No need to have more people infected.”

“I know,” Kat said. “Don’t worry.”

*****

“Do you think she’ll tell us how her investigation goes?” Farah asked.

“Probably not,” Leon muttered. “I don’t think she cares for us. But, whatever. She’ll have the evidence she needs and we’ll be in the clear.”

“She’ll tell us,” Lucy stated. “She’s the straightforward type. When she had reason to mistrust us, she let it show. Now that we’ve given her the evidence she needs to close this case she’ll let her gratitude show just as clearly. Besides, she did leave us alone. That shows some trust.”

“We just did the right thing and helped catch the real culprits,” Farah said.

“I wonder,” Lucy whispered.

“What was that?” Leon asked.

Lucy shook her head. “Nothing, just thinking.”

*****

“This must be your friend,” Angela said. She held out her hand. “I’m Doctor Ziegmari.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Kat said. She politely shook Angela’s hand. “I brought the chemicals.”

“We’ll take care of the unloading,” Angela said. “James, help us out and we can get these to Medical in one trip.”

“Yeah, let’s move ’em quickly,” Lucas said.

*****

“Your engines are impressive,” Siya said. “Not as impressive as your android friend, but you’ve clearly used a lot of ingenuity in modifying them.”

“Well, thank you,” Grace said. “I did work hard on them.”

“You must be at about… 135% engine efficiency compared to an unmodded version?” Siya asked.

“137%,” Grace said. “I’m sure I’ll come up with something to improve them even more too.”

“Well, I do know the engine type,” Siya said. “I think I could help you up to about 148. Or, to be exact, I can give you some ideas that will get you there.”

“Great!” Grace declared.

“Well, I still owe you,” Siya said. “I’ve shown you some very advanced schematics, but they can’t really compare to…” she scrutinised Yuri’s schematics “this.”

“Oh, about those,” Grace said. “I should warn you. The androids are completely sentient. Which does mean that they have self determination and can’t really be controlled. For Yuri, it’s fine. Dealing with her is like dealing with a nice, sincere person. But we found another android with her and he was unstable. Psychotic even. I would suggest extreme precautions if you’re going to try and build any androids like them.”

“We will,” Siya said. “Although reconstructing the brain will take some doing. It may be a good twenty years before we can even get a first prototype.”

“I would have an even longer time table,” Grace said. “Just because I’m the only engineer on the Cerberus. It’s the only reason I haven’t petitioned Ophelia & Lucy to let me try making another sentient android.”

“You could always stay on Turing and work with our team,” Siya said. “You have some experience maintaining a working android. You’d be invaluable. Possibly even the best candidate for leading the project.”

“Is that so?” Grace said. “Well, it’s a nice offer. But I’ll have to stay where I am. The Cerberus needs me. Farah needs me and I need her. But you have to send me status updates and stuff. I can at least give you some advice.”

“I’ll take you up on that,” Siya said.

*****

“You two mix up as much as you can,” Angela said. “I’ll go assess who needs it most.”

“Don’t worry, we’ve got this,” Lucas said. “Dosage should be about 20 milligrams for an adult?”

“Twenty five, I should think,” Paul said. “A quarter of that should do it for for children. Half for teenagers.”

“Right,” Lucas said. “You know, Doctor Albrecht, it’s been unreal working with you. I really admired your work during my time studying medicine. Thought it was so unfair when the alliance took your license.”

“Thank you,” Paul said. “It’s been a pleasure working with you as well. You’re a very bright, talented young man.”

“Aww, you’re making me blush,” Lucas said.

*****

Femi returned. Her  face had a softer look. Her stance was more relaxed. “The analysis team has confirmed that it is alliance tech,” she reported. “They believe that the alliance wired it to detonate remotely and dispersed it during our short period without internal scanners. We will investigate just how their timing managed to align so perfectly.” She took a deep breath and bowed. “Thank you, for finding this evidence. I was mistaken about your team.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Farah said. “Anyone would have been suspicious.”

“So, when are you going to make them go boom?” Leon asked.

“What my colleague is trying to ask,” Lucy stated, “is what is Turing going to do to ‘rain justice upon them.'”

“We’ll have to have a meeting of the senior staff to decide for certain,” Femi said. “But my recommendation will be to immediately ally ourselves with Akumil. And I don’t think they’ll disagree.”

“Hmmmm,” Lucy murmured.

“What’s wrong, Lucy?” Farah asked. “Aren’t you happy?”

“Now what kind of question is that?” Lucy asked. “Come on, you two. We’ve solved this little mystery. We might as well take a nice, leisurely tour and check on Paul’s progress.”

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The Last Draconian: Prologue

?????

I had to break through. The food was almost gone, the walls were tightening. I hit the side. A small crack appeared from the force of the blow. I hit the crack again and again. I felt nothing but a desire, a need, to see the sun. I had to get out before the darkness consumed me. The crack widened until the shell collapsed, and the world entered.

I was buried beneath the moist dirt. I could hardly breathe. I clawed my way through. For five minutes I dug my way out of the dirt. I cleared my throat and wiped the dirt away from my eyes. I saw the sun for the first time. It was in the middle of setting. My hand was touching something wet and sticky. The crimson liquid would not wipe away.

I glanced around. There was a woman near the hole that I had come from. A spear was sticking out of her. A broadsword had fallen onto the ground and lay by her knees. The eggs near her had been shattered. In my mind I saw a flash, sudden and violent: “Amelia, get the eggs to safety,”— an order from someone. No sooner had she buried an egg than the spear had come, followed by lightning to silence her other heart. I looked around the streets. The buildings had been destroyed. There were holes opening them to the elements and the metal displayed clear scorch marks. A few were still on fire. All the plants had been burnt away. A statue of an armoured woman with an owl perched on her shoulder was destroyed. She looked like the bodies but there was something different about her. Her wings seemed larger and her horns less pronounced. Another flash: the city was thriving. Several people were working on a blinking thing. I saw the thing in the street. It had been destroyed as well. Its metal insides had spilled all over the ground.

Bodies littered the ground. Were these my people? I felt my forehead. Unlike them, I had no horns. I looked over my shoulders at my back. I felt along it. I did not have wings or a tail either. Why was I here?

A man’s head and most of his torso were pinned to a wall. His insides and lower half were on the ground. His left wing and arm were missing. He was caught on the broken building’s jagged edges. A flash: for a moment I was this man. A hooded figure was in the air. He laughed— a hollow echo, not a sound of flesh. A fireball came down from his hand. I felt my left side disintegrate and then nothing. I continued moving.

The city was surrounded on three sides by mountains. The gate that had blocked the west side had been shattered. Several people had been shattered with it. I counted at least five sticking out from under the debris. A flash: the hooded man had been greeted at the gate. “How may we be of assistance, Magi?” At the question he had enveloped the gate and everyone near it in flames. All with one flick of his skeletal wrist.

The flash did not stop. I saw every life end in fire and lightning. I knew everyone’s names. I knew their lives and the lives of those who had come before. In my mind I saw through their eyes as they died. Screaming, I dropped to the ground.

When I awoke the sun had risen. What had occurred was suddenly clear. Sadow had arrived at Drahaven and begun slaughtering my people. He had used a fireball on the gate just as he had done to my father. What I do not know is why. Not one of us had even the slightest suspicion that he bore us any ill will. We have not fought anyone for one thousand two hundred and thirteen years. Even a lich could not possibly live long enough to have a grudge from that. I had been unconscious for twelve hours, seventeen minutes. The back of my head was sore from hitting a stone when I fell. Under normal circumstances I would have been placed on a bed to make the activation of my memories easier, but there was no one left to do so. I was alone.

The incident had occurred three days, fourteen hours before I had hatched. Sadow had already left. In all probability he had gone to his home in the marshes of Strecner. Unless he had changed residence without any of us knowing. It was possible. We were not known for travels abroad. My first instinct was to journey there immediately and take my vengeance, but I stopped myself. A mere hatchling could not hope to defeat a lich who was well-versed in the arts of magic.

Before concerning myself over the matter with Sadow, I had a duty to perform. I constructed a techna to transport my people’s bodies. It was difficult work. My activated memories told me the form that it should take and the schemata necessary to construct it, but my ability to utilize that knowledge was hampered by my lack of practical experience. In spite of the difficulty I eventually prevailed.

I gathered materials and built a mound. With considerable difficulty I managed to pile the bodies onto the mound and set it aflame. I felt tears fall from my eyes. I wiped the moisture away with my index finger.

I retrieved my mother’s sword from where it had fallen near the eggs and took some gold pieces from a chest in the remains of a building. Estimating what my height would be when I had fully grown based on my parent’s heights, I took a cloak that was far too big for me. For more immediate use I took a tunic in my own size.

I had set one foot out of Drahaven’s border when I realized that I had nothing of my father’s, aside from the shared blood. Choosing his name as a memento, I left the desolate city. I would find the magi and I would have justice. No, not justice. Vengeance.

Next Chapter

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