A harsh bloom of light against the backdrop of a dark sky and the roiling waves of the English Channel. The water boiled, steam rising from it and obscuring the sky. Even so the light of the tremendous blast remained, casting an ominous glow upon the horizon, coloring the sky a fierce, blinding white.
An invisible force rippled over the surface of the Channel until, with a sharp crack like a thousand bolts of lightning striking at once, the wave passed through Ominar. Waves broke against the coast, devouring much of the shipyard. Windows rattled in their frames, and by the sea, many outright shattered.
The earth shook. The air vibrated. Power winked out and did not return for a time. Then the wave passed them over, dissipating into the distance. The city was left with only devastation and silence.
2:15AM - 4:00AM
The first post was on Twitter. A picture of a mostly white backdrop, timestamped for the pitch of night. Three words captioned the image: “Qu’est-ce que c’est?”
French, of course. ‘What is this?’
86 images followed. 17 were near ground zero.
46 of them had flesh among the shrapnel. 12 were traffic cameras. 6 were immediately wiped for violating Terms of Service.
The last 12 had emojis. Such as it was; not everyone understood the gravity of what they were seeing. The rumbling was merely an earthquake; the lights were fireworks, perhaps?
What they didn’t realize is the light was across the English Channel, not on the coast. What they didn’t realize is that it wasn’t fireworks. It was something altogether worse.
“Hey, what was that earthquake at like 2?”
“Has anyone seen Aimee DuPuis? She’s my girlfriend overseas. Please contact me if you have any info.”
“I swear that these military tests are getting shittier and shittier. We all need to defund this defense stuff somehow. War’s not the answer.”
“Guys. I think an Exeo just died.”There it was.
“Isn’t there a prae dignitary in Solhavre right now?”
“I think an Exeo might have just died.”
The beginning. The precipice of chaos, where a thousand digital voices scream out in agony, and then, the greatest, most terrible cacophony.
The first headline was perhaps the worst one. National Enquirer. Tabloid.
”PRAE EXEO DEAD: LICENTIA TO BLAME?”
Plastered right on their Facebook. Ruralites were the first to read it, as they always were. They chomped on the sensationalism and ran with it.“These Polly cunts can’t be trusted. #I’mwithSolhavre”
“Who the fuck do licentia think they are? You can’t kill people and get away with it. Vampires. #I’mwithSolhavre”
“My best friends are Prae. I haven’t seen them. They’re probably fucking terrified and hiding from those god damn nackie fucks. #SolhavPrae”
And lo--the rallying call, in no time at all. It trended before the sunrise, and it spread like wildfire in the morning dew.
The news flickered dully on the television screen as the morning coffee brewed. A fresh pot. It was a necessary evil, at 4 in the morning. Of course, Naomi had been awake for an hour by that point, and she’d been watching. Rapt attention.
Central Ominar - 1:34AM
Uptown and southwest of the coast outside a quiet 24 hour cafe, two well-dressed figures sat at a small table. The night sky was prominent above them, though the stars were lost amidst the light pollution of the city. The man of the pair placed a card down on the table, but said nothing, his eyes on his female companion, expectant. However, before she could respond, his eyes flickered, a bright luminescence pouring from them in a brief flash.
A ripple passed through the air. He stood and turned, facing the northeast. His gaze seeming to pierce through the natural obstructions in the city to gaze upon the coast.
Vis everywhere was flowing in that direction, pulled by an unseen force. “Brace yourself,”
he warned, though he knew that she would feel it too.
She might notice the consistency of his body become somehow more solid. Denser. The air around him continued to ripple and form eddies of faint blue light and shadow, locked in a dance.
As her companion rose from his seat, the woman’s sienna colored eyes glanced from him to the sky. She felt something not-so-gently tugging on her vis. As the flash--no, the plume of light filled the night’s sky, she too rose from her chair. “Crow. What’s happening?”
Her voice was soft, a lilt of winter dancing through it as she questioned the man.
Swiftly, the calm night air was burned away by the tremendous bloom of light. Crow stared, shaking his head. “I’m not sure,”
he replied. Deep within, yet far away, something stirred. He swallowed and--tentatively--drew on the well of power. To Yvette the dance of vis about him would flare and then expand outwards, forming complex patterns. Half turning towards her, eyes intense, his hand touched the side of the metal table and pushed.
It was thrown, clear across the street and he used its absence to close the distance between them, his left arm raising, fingers splayed. The dancing field of vis solidified, he braced himself, placing his other hand on her shoulder. She found herself locked in place before a powerful blast shook the street and set the air a quiver. They remained standing by virtue of Crow’s vis.
For several minutes the ground shook and the air with it, though the shockwave dissipated far more swiftly. Miles away, closer to the unseen coast, he heard glass patter against the ground. A hunger stirring after roughly five minutes of waiting, defenses up, he cut off the flow of vis from the depths and let go of Yvette, pulling away slightly.
As the table between them flew across the street, Yvette glanced up at Crow. He had closed the distance between them, vis rolling off of him in intricate waves. She watched him calmly as his hand fell on her shoulder, locking her into place, his other stretched out in front of them. She could just barely
see the half dome vis shield he’d put up around them as the shockwave hit it. Though, he had protected them from the push of the wave, some of the harsh wind still managed to get passed his barrier, causing the precursor’s silken white hair to lash out behind her.
The ground beneath them shook violently, and Yvette watched as small cracks burst forth from the concrete. Thankfully, it looked like the cafe, and other buildings around them weren’t suffering the same fate as the street, though she could clearly see lights begin to flicker. Once the quake stopped, and Crow finally stepped away, Yvette took a moment to survey the area of the city they were in. The lights in most--if not all--of the buildings were out.
After a moment or two of silence, Yvette spoke, “What... was that.”
He wasn’t sure and that was a disturbing thought for a man who dealt in information.
The brisk air of Solhavre's port was in great contrast to the sky looming above it, hundreds of floating lanterns giving the sky the illusion of being a canvas in some artist's painting of a refulgent starscape. Fandaniel si Louviere looked up at the glimmering lights with no small amount of admiration, taking in the beauty of the scene in a rare moment of reflection and introspection. She had travelled from Valence up to Paris, and from Paris to Solhavre, in her journey towards Ominar, and she had done it subtly
, a manner largely unbefitting her rigidly lawful nature - and as she found herself drew back into her thoughts, she smiled beneath the cloak and hood she had donned to keep her from both the cold and from plain sight. She had picked an unfortunate night to travel discreetly - with the visiting dignitary from Priscus - but her plans could not be delayed any further. As she attempted to (extremely obviously, unfortunately) keep herself to herself, she made a note to check the time on her phone. 01:03, November 7th, 2054.It has been a long time coming,
she reasoned with herself. They won't stop--none of them--until they win. With each of us that dies, victory slips further away.
The words thrummed in her mind like a furious rhythm, the staccato of their meaning hammering away at her relentlessly. She had only realised that she had felt this way for years until she had seen
, and it had taken no small amount of loss for her to peel away the veneer of righteousness that had occluded her sight. The Louviere family had to change, or they were all lost. Even with the thirteen Scions, there was no way that they co--
And then the blasting of horns and a metallic voice across a tannoy slammed her into the waking world once more. "Le bateau 01:15 de Solhavre à Ominar partira sous peu. Veuillez présenter votre carte d'embarquement à la porte. The 01:15 boat from Solhavre to Ominar will be departing shortly. Please present your boarding pass at the gate."
She had to admit that English still struck her as a little odd. She knew the language - intimately - but it was a recollection that wasn't quite hers. She felt like someone else had borrowed the space inside her head where languages were kept and was seamlessly transitioning between her mother tongue of French and English whenever she heard either language. It had never been particularly odd to her until she heard both spoken in rapid succession. The moment of confusion was enough to get her going, though, and she boarded the boat without incident. At 01:15 exactly, the boat left the harbour and Fandaniel waved the soil of her country goodbye, for a time.
The sailing was smooth, without incident. Despite the chill, there was very little in the way of wind and the vessel barely broke the glassine water. The floating lanterns illuminated only the surface of the sable sea, mere impressions of light, and the bitter chill of early spring cut through the illusion of warmth provided by the airborne display. A small smile crept across her face as she leaned onto the railing, taking in a deep breath. Moments of introspection were a rarity she seldom had the time or inclination to enjoy--though this once, it had been nice. She thought about her daughter, who was set to meet her in Ominar after many years apart. She thought about the Taeryn family, who she would have to find and convince to help her. And as she thought of those things, she ticked them off of a mental list and instead decided to focus on the journey.
Fifteen minutes in, Fandaniel could sense something was wrong
. Not only could she feel the ambient vis being wrenched towards Solhavre, but the same instincts that guided her in battle screamed danger. Every sense blared at her to get away from the port city, and though it had visibly hit her first the same realisation dawned upon the other passengers promptly. The air felt like the calm before the storm, charged with some unseen force of agitation, and then in an instant it exploded. Fandaniel's perception became nothing but white fire, and it was through instinct alone that she brought up a massive shield of her vis to shield the vessel she was travelling on from the initial wave of force. A few seconds later, the explosion hit and rattled the shield severely, before breaking cleanly through with much diminished force. The heat and the force knocked most of the passengers cleanly onto their backs, and the tannoy of the vessel blared loudly with warnings to everyone to get to shelter within.
The flames had mostly gone around the vessel by the time Fandaniel's vision returned to normal, and as soon as she could see again she leaned over the side of the railing and looked towards Solhavre. She watched the city vanish into the inky depths below, and quickly turned to assess the damage in Ominar. Solhavre was simply gone--she could save none there--but there were people in Ominar who would surely need assistance. Her thoughts turned to Yvette, and she waited for the boat to arrive to properly assess the damage.
The boat's arrival at the crumbling cluster of debris sinking into the sea was fairly swift. Fandaniel's shield had only saved the boat from the very worst of the impact, and though it was structurally intact enough to have sailed them to Ominar without joining Solhavre beneath the waves, it was very clearly in a state of disrepair. Still, as Fandaniel surveyed the area she had gotten to disembark from the boat to, she noted that it was markedly
more intact than the infrastructure. Any part of the port that had actually been in water was simply gone--no trace of it having existed remained at all--and even the vis in the air felt cloying with smoke and heat, and just a tinge of something sweetly pungent. The unloading and loading bays had suffered the brunt of the force that had actually made it to land, and piles of twisted metal and odd bits and pieces of no longer recognisable goods were splayed out across the concrete like the blood from a wound. There were clear and distinct trails of detritus into the ocean, which filled the area with a gentle hissing sound, sputtering like too-hot oil in a pan. The destruction lessened as Fandaniel wove her way inland, crossing broken slabs of asphalt which once comprised the roads with the trained ease of one used to cleaning up battlefields. Many buildings at this point were only superficially scarred, grey scorch marks coating the walls like ivy, but there were clear cracks in the older buildings, and shattered glass welcomed the shaken residents of the buildings like a carpet.
There were, remarkably, very few actual
casualties. Those on the docks had likely died instantly, and the majority of the force that would have killed the rest was cushioned by the stacks upon stacks of cargo. Those injured had already been taken care of by the emergency authorities--who had most of the area remarkably under wraps, considering the damage to the roads--and people were scrambling enough to not notice one woman sprinting her way through the haze of the smoke and the remnants of the blinding white light that had accompanied the initial explosion. The power lines had been damaged--badly--and the buildings would require extensive repairs to get back to their old selves, but Ominar looked considerably better than Solhavre, that much was certain. Rather than check her phone to see where Yvette was (figuring that service in the area would be unreliable at best), Fandaniel extended her senses into the surrounding vis. Sensing a fellow Scion came to her as naturally as breathing, and it took her very little time to find the shining light of her daughter's vis in her extrasensory periphery--along with a notably darker and denser presence. She had allies, it would seem, and that was something to be thankful of.
5:53 AM, Ominar Harbor
There was a boulder in the street. Not just any old boulder; it was a cobbling of mortar and brick that had so decided that, in the clamor of terror and chaos, that it would, in fact, decide to take a nap in that very spot.
Which, of course, proved difficult for the passers-by, among whom happened to be Ominar’s public services, ranging from a small train of ambulances to a fire engine that looked about as red as its driver’s face.
In the din of confusion among the bevy of trucks and cars, some had decided to attempt to persuade this boulder, suggesting it should find a new place to come to rest.’But no, Ser Boulder, you cannot simply rest here; we’ve all jobs to do, and you are impeding our progress,’
implored their arms, pressed intimately up to its rocky surface. ’We really would have preferred that you had stayed up on your building, for it is truly worrying at our patience,’
added the magitech that some of the specialists were carrying.
But, of course, the boulder would not listen. It was a boulder, and it had no ears.
Until Naomi showed up, ticker-tackering away on her phone, ears and tail whicker-winding this way and that as she bobbed and weaved between the maze of metal and men. One unlucky fellow caught a faceful of fur, leading to a staccato of coughing and sputtering. “Shit! Sorry, I didn’t see you there.”
Noted Nao, briefly looking up from her screen to catch a glimpse of her surroundings. It was then that she realized that Google Maps was really quite incapable of properly measuring recent events, as the road had looked perfectly fine on the screen.But lo, there it was. The infamous boulder.
Thankfully, however, Naomi had come prepared. Hecatoncheires, 20 strong, floated around her, softly orbiting around Aldous and George, those massive hands she was never seen without.
Her fingers went limp, phone held by the barest grip. Springing to a sudden, alert sort of life, Hecatoncheires began to assemble itself before her, clicking into place as she watched the colored dots fit into the patterns she knew so well. In moments, there was a finished assembly, a rune she’d only recently memorized for this specific occasion.
And, of course, this rune was very persuasive, specifically to earless boulders. It did not cause the boulder to rupture and explode, nor anything with nearly so much aplomb; it simply punched a hole cleanly through it, with one long, perfectly cylindrical rod--save for either end, which maintained the shape of the boulder’s outer edges--sloughing off and onto the ground.
Nao would perform this magic no less than fourteen times until the boulder realized it was, in fact, no longer a boulder, and conceded the point. She quickly used her two massive palms to roll the fourteen logs of sandstone off onto the sidewalk, creating a single lane of egress for the hapless workers.”Excuse the mess! I’m glad I happened by, honestly. You guys would’ve been at it for hours without some sort of specialist.
...Or at least an actual magitech drill. I don’t think blasting rods are quite meant for this sort of labor.”
She was met by a loud throng of cheering as soon as her work was done, and the dull throttling of engines roaring to life. Naomi, herself, had convinced one of the policemen to let her ride in the passenger seat, quickly killing two birds with one stone.
Riding in the passenger seat of a cop car was one of her bucket list items, and she also didn’t want to pay for an Uber. (”Their rates are insane right now because of the harbor thing,”
she noted, in the process of persuading the officer.)
The rest of the drive was quiet, almost sober, as the two of them drove through the now-ruined parts of town. It was dead outside, but as they grew nearer and nearer to the portside, signs of life began to appear. People of every cut of cloth--prae, licentia, human--were all congregating, working with each other to fix the damage that had so recently occurred. It certainly wasn’t without its spats, however. Prae and licentia, specifically, could be seen arguing in the streets, and some had even come to blows--which the officer was forced to handle. Nao, realizing her welcome had become overstayed, trudged out towards the beach in the hopes of finding her own
locals to interrogate--preferably ones that didn’t want to punch her in the face. Looking the way she did at a time like this, however, Naomi couldn’t hardly blame them.
It would be at the beachside that she found her ‘local.’ However, it wasn’t Ominar that this specific person hailed from.
The woman’s sober face looked like someone had smeared sulfur on her upper lip twenty years ago, and her face had just stuck that way. ”Hey,”
she began, maneuvering around the debris--anyone who was still among the rubble, so close to what was once Solhavre, was worth speaking to.”Do, uh… Y’come here often? Fuck, I’m sorry. That’s terrible. Let me restart.”
Naomi strolled up towards the new face. ”I’m Naomi, your friendly neighborhood visual disruption. You seem awfully alone out here. Do you need someone to...”
A vague feeling of recollection hit Naomi like a sleeping boulder hitting the pavement.”What--Miss Louviere. Oh, fuck, you’re Miss Louviere. From the house meetings.”
A beat followed as Naomi’s stomach dropped cleanly into her bladder.“Hi, uh, it’s--Nao. Chāyì-Popjay. How, uh…”
“How are you holding up?”
Fandaniel didn't break her attempt to stare down the still-smouldering ruin that had once stood among the cliffs across the water. She mourned its loss wordlessly and expressionlessly, and gave thought to the events that had led up to it. She'd been thinking about it for hours, and she was still no closer to working out the how or the why - and as Nao began speaking, her reminiscence took a different path through her memory. She didn't recognise the voice, exactly, but she certainly recognised something
. The feel of their vis, more than anything, but was drawing a blank when it came to a name, or a face, or anything other than the fact that they were a Precursor. Then, as soon as she spoke the name Nao, the recollection hit her like a falling boulder and brought her back to reality."You seem more comfortable now that you are free of their clutches."
she replied, fondly remembering the fierce defiance with which she had acted during all of the House meetings she'd been part of. Fandaniel found them tedious in the extreme, and the presence of one who so palpably did not want to adhere to years of useless doctrine had intrigued her--given her something to consider that wasn't the tedium of talking and talking and talking
."Good. You deserve better."
she stated matter-of-factly, ignoring any of Nao's attempts to turn the conversation towards her, before turning slightly to get a good look at Nao's face. She cracked the beginning of a smile, her lips turning ever-so-slightly at the corners, before returning to her preternaturally dour and solemn look. "Come. You should meet my daughter and her... associate. The Taeryns-"
she nodded curtly to the west, where Nabriales and Sophia Taeryn could very vaguely be seen in the distance coordinating efforts among the authorities "-are also here. We will be discussing a plan of action soon."
And with that she walked off towards the location of Yvette and Crow, regardless of whether or not Nao was following.
There was a slow intake of breath, and then the chirp of a high pitched voice as Sophia called out orders to the team she had been put in charge of. Her bright blue eyes gleamed with purpose, her vis trailing out from her body in spirals as she created platforms for workers to set debris on. As detritus was piled on to the platforms, she moved them out of the way. In the air, to the upper left of her head there were three 9m x 9m vis constructs piled high with rubble.
Whilst she worked, she glanced in the direction of Nao and Fandaniel. From the distance, she simply addressed their presence with a curt nod. It would likely be evident to them that she was using this work to keep her mind off of other things.