Amaris hadn’t moved much by the time Cassandra had returned, her focus remaining on the slithering creature while the mage checked in on her belongings.
“I’m going to sit on the porch, I’ll probably be out until after sunrise. I might go out for a little bit, but call me if you need me.” The countess looked up with a soft smile and an understanding nod.
“Of course, enjoy the morning.” She responded, standing from her chair to see the mage out the door before returning her gaze to Getsuga. The reptile had snaked his way around her wrist in an embrace of sorts that she was unlikely to break free of before he was ready.
“Come on you little troublemaker. I have a surprise for you.” Amaris grabbed her bag before retreating back to her room, shutting and locking the bedroom door behind her. Approaching the vanity, which she had repurposed into a desk of sorts, Amaris sat and awaited Getsuga’s relocation to around her shoulders. Once her hand was free from the reptile, she reached into the bag and pulled the book she had retrieved from Princess Ryner.
Despite her earlier conviction, Amaris found herself hesitating now that she was alone with the item. It somehow felt heavier than before, as if just knowing what manner of secrets it held added physical weights. The countess carefully placed the book on the flat surface before her, holding an unnecessary breath as she gingerly flipped the cover over.
Amaris found herself somewhat relieved by what she saw before her. At some point she must have gotten it into her head that the entirety of the piece would feature gruesome rituals and barbaric practices of old. It wasn’t much of a leap considering how much fear surrounded the item, not to mention the effort the princess of all people went through to keep it safe. However, instead of finding magic circles or incantations, the pages before her contained details of ownership. Whatever entity that had written the book had clear thoughts on who should be allowed to possess the knowledge within.
“If I’m reading this correctly, the contents of this book were meant only for the main branch of the family, specifically those belonging to the same line as Nalth ‘the first of his name’. Makes sense as to why Her Majesty had to draw blood from me in order to clear things up.”
This is the Marivaldi’s magic, not a mage’s, and I don’t know if your blood has the power to break it. Ryner’s voice rang through Amaris mind, the line on her cheek where a knife had been pressed stinging as if to emphasize the point.
“She didn’t sound sure that it would work, meaning the direct bloodline might be coming to an end. I wonder what that will mean for the future of these pages.” Her voice grew softer as she read on, wondering if there would come a time the book could never be unsealed. Intrigued, Amaris turned the page to reveal what looked to be a log of somesort; a list of names, a few of which were complete strangers to her. Nalth sat at the top, his handwriting like a crown sat upon the names of all the others the book had fallen into the possession of.
Violet eyes softened as they read the final name in the list, fingertips brushing across the red font spelling out the name ‘Ralmevik’. She could picture the man sitting just like she was now, eyes glued to a piece of family and cultural history. Surely the circumstances of his introduction to such a book differed from her own, but she couldn’t help but to wonder at what point he had accepted the responsibility of caring for such information. Was she ready to take on the same responsibility? … Was she even capable of it?
The feeling of Getusga shifting around her shoulders interrupted her chain of thoughts, the youth realizing she had been staring at the names for quite some time now.
“You’re right m’dear. By accepting this book I made a promise to Lady Ryner and father. I will not allow the contents of this book to vanish from this world without knowing what it was about it that drove father to his grave. I might very well be one of the last of line capable of unlocking its secrets, perhaps it’s fitting I should be the one to decide its fate.” The moment the words escaped her lips, a sudden feeling of being pricked graced the countess’ fingertip. She quickly withdrew her hand from the book, her blood once again dripping onto the pages before her.
Amaris watched with curiosity as the crimson droplets moved of their own accord, flowing lightly beneath her father’s name to spell out her own. The letters seemed to glow brighter for a brief moment before settling to the same shade as the others; a quick swipe of the finger revealing a certain permanence to the word. Both hands immediate drew as far away from the book as they could, folding themselves neatly together in front of her chest.
She had no words to describe what she was feeling. There was a great deal of surprise and immense awe, however, the autonomy the book seemed to possess was beyond anything she had been prepared for. At least when the first spell had been broken, Ryner had cut her face manually. Amaris was quite certain this time around there had been nothing to prick herself on, and she certainly had not written her name with her own hand despite the resemblance to her actual handwriting.
Get a hold of yourself. You aren’t going to learn a bloody thing if you keep freaking out like some newborn whelp. It was just a name, there is nothing to fear about that. Shaking her head, Amaris reached out to flip the page once more but found herself stopping short. Exhaling slowly, the countess closed the book before pulling it close.
“What am I doing? Ryner wasn’t even sure I could unlock the book in the first place and now I’ve gone and done something that doesn’t appear to be reversible. Tell me dad, am I in over my head this time?” She asked to no one in particular. A small, cold nose nudged her cheek gently in response. Amaris laughed a bit as she reached up and patted the king snake’s head.
“You always know just what to say. How about we take a break and get you fed, how does that sound? We’ll see what’s next after I’ve had a moment to calm my nerves.” Placing the book back down on the vanity, Amaris pushed herself to a standing position and retreated to the other side of the room where Getsuga’s habitat still stood.
“Lucan says that those inds wouldn’t have much of an issue burying you six feeet under and I’d rather keep my head long enough to learn enough magic to fuck them up later.” Dakota’s eyes trailed back to Damien as he spoke before returning to the group passing by. The longer the mage stared the deeper the pit in their stomach grew. It was a familiar feeling, the very same one that was often felt when deciding to face off against the biggest thug on the playground. Unlike back home, however, this kind of thug was not one that could be beat with some quick footwork and some dumb luck.
Still, Dakota could not shake the feeling of unease felt at the sight of the leashes and collars connecting mages to vampires and vampires to their property. There was no use trying to fight the practice, especially at this stage, but there was still the sinking feeling that someday Dakota might find themselves exactly where the other students were at this exact moment. Would Joryldin turn out the same way, cave to the expectations of the hierarchy and chain what he was told belonged to him.
“Yeah, fine. Let’s go.” The mage allowed Damien to steer the pair away from the group, a sour expression remaining for quite a few paces before beginning to dissipate.
“So, how do we get to town? We drove through it but I was more concerned with the terrified and attracted conflict about my partner to really pay attention.” Somehow, the thought of Damien sitting in a car next to some random vampire, that more than likely invited himself into a moving vehicle, was an uplifting one.
“You’ll have to point out this terrifying and… what did you say? Attractive?” Dakota chuckled and smirked teasingly before continuing.
“I remember seeing something about buses to town. Maybe we’ll be able to pick something out along the way if we catch one.”
”No, I don’t need anything. Let’s go, before - oh shit!”
Several blocks from the arena floor rose up to usher the last lingering students out. Cassandra rushed ahead of them to get to the doors and out. When they were safely out of the maniac instructor’s reach, she looked up at her partner, just a bit sheepish.
”Sorry, hope you don’t mind the language.”
Noting the impending stone block, Amaris pranced lightly after Cassandra. A small burst of airy laughter filled the space between the pair as they narrowly avoided being catapulted unceremoniously out the door.
“It’s not a problem at all. ‘Vulgar’ words are supposedly a sign of a learned and expressive mind. Use them to your heart's content… when appropriate.” The countess maintained her smile as she took over the lead, seeming to know off-hand the direction of their dorms. While there were many things that Amaris preferred the privacy of the dorms to speak about, she couldn’t allow the journey back to be one of a silence. It took her a moment, but she finally thought of a subject that could bide their time while they walked.
“I’m starting to wonder where the princess picked up her staff. There are some rather… extreme personalities in charge around here. Would you believe it, there is a professor who has made it his life’s purpose to teach anyone and everyone he can about pineapples?”
”Maybe it’s magical. Apparently plants can have magic power too.” She found herself just a half step behind Amaris. It seemed appropriate to her.
“Can they really? A magical pineapple, now that’s something I’d like to see.” Amaris mused, glancing over her shoulder with a half-incredulous look.
”Yeah, we talked about it in spell theory. Maybe you already have! If your teacher had a pineapple with her, maybe it was a magical one.”
The conversation was unfortunately shallow, and Cassandra thought they were waiting to get back to the dorm before having the talk Amaris really meant to get into.
As intentionally shallow as the conversation had been, Amaris found herself surprisingly thrilled by the prospect of a magical pineapple. The professor had seemed so genuinely interested when talking about it, but nothing he said pointed to it being magical in any way.
“I don’t know… I’ve heard of several superstitions surrounding animals and magic, but nothing about plants. That does have to make you wonder, though, about products made from beings that have awoken to their magical potential. Paper, dyes, clothing… Do they maintain a degree of their magical potential even after altering their form?” To an outsider, the topic of conversation might have been a rather odd one; especially coming from a vampire. But Amaris had always been rather interested in magic and its rules, and now… well, she had even more of a reason to.
The ramblings of an over-excited countess found the pair approaching their dorms in what felt like no time at all. Walking up to the entrance, Amaris withdrew her key from her belongings and unlocked the door in one easy motion. She half expected to see more of the royal guard to be waiting for them within but the room before them was still and silent. Shaking her head, the countess entered the space and set her bag down next to the common area’s table before taking a seat. She crossed her right left overtop her left as she motioned with her arm for Cassandra to take a seat for herself.
Cassandra sat. She had her feet flat on the floor, and her hands held loosely in her lap as she looked at Amaris with patient interest.
In truth, she was ecstatic to be sitting down with her partner. It had been so turbulent, between the Astorio count's sudden disappearance, and the unknown image's ejection from the school. She had been operating the last day and a half off of blind optimism and luck.
“Alright now, let’s get to the point before there are any further interruptions. While I have no way to know for certain what sort of an experience you’ve personally had with your previous partner, I do know that Count Varis’ display with one of your classmates is difficult to ignore. I would like to assure you that is not the sort of relationship I am seeking.” Amaris leaned forward slightly to rest her elbows on the table, her fingers weaving together so that her chin could settle atop them.
“I suppose my preferences fall on the more… unconventional side at times. There is little I have in the way of expectations; so long as you can prove to me that you are trustworthy that is really all I require. But trust is something that can take time and it is far from a one-sided ordeal. That is why I would like to start with a contract of sorts, a verbal agreement between the two of us that will hopefully garner a mutually beneficial partnership.” The countess relaxed her posture once again, shifting so that her spine touched the back of the chair she sat in.
“Do you have any objections to this approach?”
Cassandra followed her lead and relaxed significantly. Perhaps too much. She leaned all the way forward, and laid her chin in the crook of her arm, laying on the table.
”That sounds perfect,” she was surprised at the relief in her own voice. ”I think you know I was originally paired with an Astorio. I think one of us would have killed the other, if we’d been left alone too long. I trust you. And I’ll prove myself trustworthy. I promise.”
"Ah yes, the Astorios. They are, as I'm sure you've realized, an aggressive bunch. I regret that your friend had to learn that the hard way." An irritated gaze flashed through Amaris' eyes, the color shifting through subtle shades before returning to normal.
"The other houses can wait for a moment, though. I think we've put off a few key details for long enough. While I would prefer more time for us both to acclimate to our new arrangements, it's not a risk that should be taken lightly. Since the time table is mine, I would like to hear your preferences on the how… I believe that's a fair exchange wouldn't you say?" There were many things to consider from such a broad statement, but Amaris found herself curious to see which particular details Cassandra's mind would go to first. The most obvious would be method, as there was always the option of equipment over fang… but would that be the only request this mage would consider?
"Well," she started nervously, but Amaris's demeanor reassured her. "Obviously, I've never done it before. I, um, I hear it feels good, though. So I think as long as it's safe and clean, I'll be willing to try however you prefer."
“Excellent! Honest and considerate. Keep that up and we’ll have no issues getting along.” Amaris beamed, a short clap of her hands punctuating her exclamation. She had to admit she was slightly disappointed at the lack of adventure in Cassandra’s response, but it was satisfactory in the sense that she was already learning a lot about her new partner. Having gotten the most important part of their arrangement settled, Amaris decided it was time she reciprocated the education. While they were far from sharing major secrets, it would be a good start to teach the mage what sort of a family she was now tied to.
Rising from her seat, the countess stepped away to the kitchen as she began to speak. Having pulled a mug and tea leaves from their respective homes, Amaris set to brewing the fragrant substance without ever once losing her train of thought. Despite her inability to consume the drink, she had always liked the scent. She found it calming and had noticed it worked similarly for humans, thus sparking the countess to seek techniques from the lord’s wife.
“I do apologize, most of this must seem rather mundane for a conversation requested in private. Be it fortune or misfortune, you have the distinct honor of being paired within the Noble circles. This, unfortunately, can come with varying degrees of complications. Your every move from here on will be watched by someone, sometimes friend and other times… not so friendly. The expectations will be higher for you than some of your classmates but I don’t want this to intimidate you; rather I want this to be a source of inspiration for you. Consider it a challenge to become the very best version of yourself, someone you can be proud of at the end of the day.” There was a pause while Amaris fiddled with some items, allowing the information to sink in before continuing on.
“Even if you decide this partnership is more of a curse than a blessing, you can still count yourself rather lucky.” Surprised to find that the water had already reached the desired temperature, Amaris poured the steaming liquid into the mug with the infusion spoon and returned to the table with the goods. The mug was set before Cassandra alongside a container for sugar and an empty saucer for the infuser once it had steeped to the mage’s preferred strength.
“The house of Marivaldi is a rather unique one. We have what is greatly considered ‘controversial’ ideals. Unlike most other highborne houses the current Lord Marivaldi is actually Embraced, but before, he was a mage for our house just as you are now. To the outside we appear soft on our mages, gifting them with special privileges and spoiling them as if they were our children or pets. We generally allow this thought as it is more readily accepted at the moment than our belief that mages can be our equals.” Retaking her seat, Amaris sat back and studied Cassandra’s expressions for a sign of what might be going through her head.
Cassandra piled an inordinate amount of sugar into the tea, then took a large gulp, leaving the infuser in the cup. Then she added more sugar.
”Good,” she said at last. ”I’ll be your partner, not your servant. That’s all I ask. But don’t treat me like a pet, or like a child. I’m going to hold you to all that talk of being equals. And I’ll show you that I’m worth it. Deal?” She lifted herself to sit straight, and held out a hand to shake.
Amaris’ smiled widened as Cassandra offered out a hand to shake, her words and actions more confident now that they had come to an understanding. She shifted her posture to mirror her partner’s and extended her own arm to accept the deal.
“A deal it is. I’m looking forward to working with you, Cassandra.” While she was confident that she could live by the promises she made, there was still a lingering concern over the times where it might not be so easy. There was little doubt in the countess’ mind that a time would come where she would have to command rather than ask… she just hoped the pair were still on the same page when such a time came.
The sudden sensation of something wrapping around her leg drew Amaris’ attention downward, her expression taking on a playful but disapproving look as she picked the creature up with her arms.
“How did you get out, I thought I closed that door.” She asked before making a realization.
“Oh! Right, I almost forgot. Since you are now officially assigned to a Marivaldi there is no reason for you to be staying with the Astorios; not that anyone would want to room that sociopath. Knowing Her Royal Highness, I’m sure your belongings have already been moved over if you’d like to double check everything. I’ll see about finding you that other key… I’m sure it’s here somewhere.”
Dakota didn’t have much to offer the other mage aside from a shrug of the shoulders. Such behavior wasn’t exclusive to vampires, there had been plenty of it within the mundane world. People were always all too willing to fall in with what the rest of the crowd wanted, even if said person was meant to be in charge. It could be rather difficult to maintain leadership if you didn’t agree with the masses, and most humans cared more for what semblance of power they could grasp than the people their decisions affected… It wasn’t much of a stretch between the two worlds now that Dakota could finally see the other side.
Damien’s laughter brought the youth back to the present as he began poking fun at the solemn vampire.
“I don’t know if it’s so much ‘everyone hates me’ as it is ‘everyone should hate me’. Eternity is a long time to have to feel like that. Maybe a prank or two will cheer him up!” A bout of laughter was interrupted by the buzzing of a cell phone, Dakota glancing at their screen to see there was a text from Jory.
“Ha, would you look at that. Speak of the devil.”
>Hey Kota, I’m headed out to town to run some errands. When I get back I’m probably gonna crash right away, so if we don’t see each other before tomorrow; Enjoy the sunrise, ok? Dakota’s expression shifted slightly, a bit of concern breaking through the initial amusement. The mage tapped at the screen a few times before pocketing the device and returning their attention to Damien.
>Yeah, sure thing!
“He’s acting weird.” It was a strange feeling to have as Dakota hadn’t really had the chance to get to know the guy at all. But there was something about his sudden disappearances that was setting off the big sibling alarm.
“Hey… Would you mind if we looked for something in town? I wanna check something out.”
Before Damien had a chance to respond, though, Dakota felt something knock into their shoulder. A soft voice delivered an apology but it clearly didn’t belong to the culprit of the insult, the mage making an irritated noise as they called out.
“Tch, I thought you snaggle-tooths were supposed to have superior eyesight. Why don’t you try using it sometime.” Dakota growled out of habit.
“Aw dude, that sucks. Well, I’m glad you’re feeling better now. And this place seems to have everything! Except for maybe a McDonalds… These blood-suckers apparently have a thing for keeping their snacks fresh and healthy. How boring is that?” Dakota vibed with the excited buzz emanating from Damien.
Mood boosted, Dakota began looking around with their newfound friend. Their attention was drawn by some old bat tossing about a pineapple whilst latching onto any passerby unlucky enough to encounter him. The sight was a rather odd one but hilarious all the same.
“Y’know… I think it is. Wonder what the story is there.” Laughter followed the observation while Dakota kept their eyes peeled for something that stood out as being delicious. At the rate they were going, it wouldn’t take them long to reach the parts of town Dakota had yet to explore. The curfew put in place the morning before made it rather difficult to see anything outside of the immediate surroundings.
“So, uh, since you’re actually the first other mage I get to talk to here, is your vampire absolutely terrifying? Cause Ser Lucan insert-massive-title-here is scary as fuck. Damien started, pausing to think about something before following up.
“Sometimes. Like, 65% of the time. Is that a normal thing?” For whatever reason Dakota was surprised, though by what was a mystery. In truth, Joryldin wasn’t scary at all but it seemed everywhere one turned there was some fanged bully to be found.
“Honestly, it might be. I’m starting to wonder if I got a strange one… but considering your vamp is a, what did you call him? Ser? That might have something to do with it. It’s funny, mine kind of reminds me of an old version of myself. All emo angst and not enough rebellion.” Dakota mused with a smirk. It was sort of uncanny the similarities the two had despite their severely different circumstances. Either it would help to bring the pair closer together… or end up with them at each other’s throats; a very likely outcome all things considered.
“I think we can count ourselves lucky. There’s this one kid whose vampire makes him kneel in front of everyone, and I think I actually heard him say ‘Master’. Rumors are flying already, I kinda feel bad for him.” The youth shrugged knowing there wasn’t much that could be done about the situation. It was sort of the expectation, albeit a tad extreme. If the teachers didn’t see a problem with it, clearly it wasn’t against the rules.
Amaris did not miss the sudden tension that accompanied her arrival, the smaller girl dropping her gaze as her posture shifted away. The countess had to force her expression to remain stagnant, attempting to hide her disappointment from the group. In her haste to check in, she had spooked the human and robbed Cassandra of a response to the conversation they had been having. It wasn’t at all a surprising turn of events, after all the young mage had just been introduced to what it felt like to be the china when the bull entered shop. Still, she hated the feeling of being feared, as if she were some kind of monster…
The young vampiress shuffled back a few steps as a young male rushed in to the girl’s side, the recognition in her face a clear sign of their growing bond as classmates. She was a tad curious as to what sort of business the pair might have had with administration that they would have to speak so cryptically about it, but she had learned from her own trip to the building that it was likely to be far from simple. Her mind drifted off as she tuned out the interactions going on before her, having already been clearly rejected once by those it involved, but the sound of Cassandra’s voice dragged her back to reality.
“Were you ready to return to the dorm? Is there anything you needed?”
Amaris stared blankly for a moment before the words fully registered. She was fairly certain that Cassandra was attempting to offer her something, though the hesitant nature of the question suggested she was uncertain. It reminded Amaris that between all the crazy interruptions, she had yet to actually speak to Cassandra about their new relationship. A warm smile replaced her prior expression as she nodded slowly.
“Yes, actually there is. Let’s walk and talk though, there’s not much we can get accomplished if we’re buried underground.” The countess shot a look in the instructor’s direction before turning and leading the way, snagging her belongings on their way out.
“I do apologize for disappearing on you earlier. There were some details from the incident that needed to be addressed, but I believe it’s all been taken care of.” Amaris’ fingers twitched as she fought the urge to toy with the bandage on her face. Instead she wrapped them tightly around the straps of her bag and glanced over at her partner.
“I would prefer to be in for the remainder of the morning, so if there’s anything you need for your classes before we head back let’s get that done first. Otherwise, you and I have a couple of things to discuss in private.”
Arms linked together, the energetic pair set off to leave the arena before the director started threatening people, the tension it caused making the youth laugh a bit. There was little Dakota could take seriously, and somehow, having just watched someone get buried hadn’t been one of them. As the pair marched onward, Damien mentioned something about getting his hands on sugar which made Dakota think of a milkshake. In all honesty, there was little idea of where to go to find such a treat, but there was now a sudden craving for one, and no curfew to stop them.
“Lead the way, oh great one! Mostly because I have no fucking idea where we are since I’ve only been here for a few hours!” Only a few hours? That means he hadn’t been present for any of the orientation materials. A rough way to start any academic career, but there was little doubt he would figure it out as needed.
“This place is absolutely enormous. I don’t know how anyone can find anything around here. I’m sure if we wander around long enough, though, we’ll find something tasty… you should have seen the welcome party they threw for us. There’s no way we can’t find more of that good stuff on campus.” In their wake was not a single care, just laughter and the sense that shenanigans were inevitable if they were to linger any longer than they had.
As they walked, Dakota continued to think on Damien’s comment about how much time he had been able to spend on the grounds… or rather lack of time to be more precise. There was a bunch of things that had happened over the last couple of nights that he may or may not have had a chance to be a part of, and that made the youth curious. One of the first things that came to mind was whether or not he had been given a chance to meet his vampire… of whether or not he was even assigned to one just yet. But seeing as even Dakota didn’t feel like talking about their own partner just now, there was little will to bring it up in conversation.
“Wait, so you just got here today? Did they lose your invitation or something?”
A sudden CRACK sounded throughout the arena, startling the young mage into an upright position from where they once lay recovering from their own sparring match. It took a couple of moments for Dakota to catch up, but from what it looked like… Sergent Tombstone had, for whatever reason, had to make good on his promise. Had he not been directing medics around, Dakota might never have seen the girl laying on the ground some plenty of feet away.
“Yo.” The mage breathed, eyes widening some at how far the girl had been tossed. While it was far too late to know what had happened to cause such a scene, Dakota couldn’t help but wonder at what transpired. There were so many possibilites, after all, that group was supposed to be the experienced ones… were they not? Maybe she had egged on her partner too hard and paid the price for it.
Either way, care was being administered and the class was being dismissed by a very pissed looking director. It was a shame the class had to end so soon, Dakota had been having a blast. Turning to Damien, the youth offered a helping hand up and the same bright smile they had been wearing since the beginning.
“Well, you can’t say this place is boring. Hey! Do you wanna go track down some snacks, all this action has given me the munchies.”
Amaris neatly folded the cloth and tucked it into her pocket as Eris waved away any concern over the sullied item. The pair turned their attentions to the third member of their group, Amaris admittedly having forgotten about him during her interactions with Eris. She offered a warm smile in welcome as the kid introduced himself, the countess stepping aside to allow Eris to take the lead. While she might never understand what others saw in the slimeball, she couldn’t bring herself to crush the dreams of a fan by trying to sabotage their opportunity to interact with an idol.
Eris seemed particularly interested in the family name Joryldin provided, having been cared for and protected by the house of Nailo, though Amaris couldn’t help but be amused at how close the name was in spelling to the royal’s own. All one had to do was mistakenly swap a couple of vowels… Shaking her head Amaris returned her attention to the present, curious as to why Eris would be so interested in the boy’s family.
He’s probably just in a good mood from all the stroking of his damned ego. The countess thought to herself with a fair amount of disdain. She had to fight making a face at him as he addressed her once again with the suggestion of switching up partners. Nodding her head, Amaris excused herself to the side so as not to be in their way.
If she was to be honest, Amaris hadn’t been expecting much from this particular match up, but surprised she would be… and pleasantly so. Amaris had to hide a bubble of laughter behind her hand as Jorlydin sent Eris stumbling about, the pompous show-off ending up face first on the arena floor. The banter continued between the pair for a little while longer before Eris put an end to Joryldin’s lucky streak with a swift kick to the back of the knees.
Stepping closer to the group once more, Amaris clapped her hands together softly a couple of times. While it was mostly for Joryldin’s encouragement, she begrudgingly accepted that there were a few things she could learn from watching Eris move. She thought to say something to them, but a commotion across the arena seemed to dominate everyone’s attention.
The countess turned with just enough time to see the small, snowy-haired girl from Cassandra’s class slam against the ground and roll to a stop. Following her bath back, it was no surprise who stood at ground zero for the horrible display. Astorio’s representative, Victor as she recalled, stood looking far from repentant for his actions. In retrospect, though, Amaris might have considered there wasn’t a whole lot of time for him to think too hard about it as the fury of the arena director slammed down as promised at the beginning of class.
With a degree of amazement, the countess gazed on as the ground came to life and swallowed the vampire and his newfound prison whole. With Victor contained for the time being, Dracion called for a medic and saw that the students from the group were cared for before redirecting his anger toward the rest of the class. Their time in the arena was cut short as class was dismissed and Amaris noted that even the onlookers were being ushered from the stands.
“The next time you want to grapple just let me know.” The emphasis of his words mixed with the sultry wink sent a shiver of disgust down the countess’ spine. Rather than dwell on her own unpleasant dealings, however, Amaris turned her attention back to the Arena. Her eyes were quick to find Cassandra among the other students as she jogged toward her fallen friend. Amaris thought it a shame that her only introduction to the injured mage was the confrontation with Princess Nox; a confrontation she fled against her vampire’s instructions.
She hung up her gear and made her way across the arena, approaching the pair of mages with a cautious smile. After seeing what Dracion was willing to throw at an Astorio, she was less than keen to stick around in case he wasn’t satisfied with just the one take down.
“I would like to know the same as well, did you at least have fun Cassandra?” Amaris chimed in, eyes glancing around the pair quickly before she returned with a sheepish gaze.
“Ah, my apologies. I’m interrupting again. It’s good to see you’re feeling alright, at least for the most part. This Aine must really be something.” She added as she addressed the white-haired mage, genuinely impressed with how well she was faring after all that had occurred.
Sparring Times with Dakota ‘Nose-Picker’ Brookes & Damien ‘Drooler’ Baker
Interacting with: each other
Dakota hadn’t been completely satisfied with the response they had been given, but there wasn’t much else that could be done about it as the bell rang to signal the end of the class. If what the professor had said was true, in the case a focus was not immediately notable one could potentially be conditioned to serve the purpose… but did that also mean something could be constructed specifically for such a thing? And if so, were there any special requirements to do so other than just hold it ‘for a week or so’.
The youth mage started getting frustrated at the thought, wondering what sort of item would not only be effective but convenient as well. There had to be something that would match Dakota’s personality, not to mention magic type, but that was difficult to determine without any idea of what to expect from the elusive affinity. Heaving a sigh, Dakota shot Cassandra a toothy grin and a wave of the hand.
“Let’s chat sometime! I’m off to Self-Defense, I’ve been pumped for this class all night.” With an excited pep in their step, Dakota took off at a brisk pace toward the arena where the class was to be held. The anticipation helped ease the flow of thoughts that plagued the student about their affinity, considering one of the options the professor had mentioned… A diviner, whatever that was, sounded like someone who could potentially help solve the riddle they were currently facing. But there was something about it, or the name at the very least, that Tinley didn’t like. Dakota had wondered about it, but it just didn’t feel like the way to go. Not yet at least.
Jogging into the arena, Dakota filed away their belongings into the designated area and settled in to await instruction from the man in charge. He was a gruff dude and far from afraid to show off, a trait that must have proven itself necessary considering they types of beings he had to teach. Standing among vampires and mages, the scales of power were definitely imbalanced, but Dracion seemed the type to keep everything in his space well in check.
Dakota might not have been some skilled warrior with fancy techniques or weapons training, but the youth had seen their fair share of back alley fights. The type where at least one participant was leaving in an ambulance, if they were lucky. Never once had the youth been responsible for a death, but they knew better than most what sort of damage could be done if serious about it. Today, it sounded like, would be more of an exercise in restraint than anything else.
Remember, it’s just a scrimmage. And who knows, you might end up paired with someone with more experience than you. No need to worry. Private pep talk received, Dakota pranced over to the gear and suited up, deftly working the bindings to keep everything where it needed to be on the toned frame. The mage could feel a buzz of energy building up within the gut, excited nerves of stepping into a subject not hellishly outside of their experience. After all that had gone on during the night, it would be nice to kick back and let off some steam.
Damien grumbled as he tried to find all the appropriate straps and buckles on the gear. Between grumbling about the hard ass up front and having to deal with someone likely more suited to fighting than himself, Damien didn’t notice the other person at his assigned position for a moment. Truth be told, fighting wasn’t something he was fond of. Sure, play wrestling with his friends and siblings was one thing but Damien hadn’t ever thrown a serious punch in his life. He’d never needed to! Until now apparently. Damien sighed and glanced around, startling a bit when he realized someone else was there.
“Oh shit!” Damien swore as he jerked back instinctively. “Sorry, sorry. Name’s Damien! This is kinda my first time doing this so uh, go easy on me?” Damien hoped that his luck wouldn’t fail him now; that somehow, his partner in this awful class would be just as inexperienced and he could avoid the learning how to punch thing.
As Damien jumped so did Dakota, eyes widening in surprise at having startled someone else despite not having really done anything. The moment of panic was short lived, however, the small burst of adrenaline fading as quickly as it had arrived as Dakota broke out into the signature grin.
“Hey, no worries. The name’s Dakota, friends call me Kota though.” Friendly eyes sparkled as the mage laughed the last of the nerves off, extending a hand out in welcome. Despite the warm front Dakota had put forth, there was no helping the creeping feeling of nerves working back up in their gut. As usual, it seemed the world had different plans to what the youth had asked for.
“I’ll do my best but I can’t make any promises. Besides, I doubt Sergeant Tombstone over here will allow for any grievous injuries anyhow.” Dakota joked, pointing a thumb in the direction of the arena director with a mischievous glance. In all honesty, the new mage was probably overthinking things. The conditions in the arena were far different than anything they had ever experienced before, so the likelihood of reverting to old habits was low at present.
“Sergeant Tombstone.” Damien chuckled as he shook Kota’s hand. “Fucking great. But you’re probably right. He’ll just stick us in the ground for a while apparently.” Damien’s nerves settled a little as Kota joked around. He beamed at the other mage. Finally someone who didn't leave the stick in their ass constantly.
That wasn't fair. Lucan was just looking out for him but it chafed. Damien was a damn adult and this vampire who snatched him from his home was making walk on eggshells everywhere. Was this mage life? Constantly worrying about the next time they pissed off a vampire and hoping they can keep their head low enough that even if they do, nothing comes of it? Damien shook his head.
No need to think about that now.
"So, how do we go about this? We just go for it?" Damien asked as he looked around at some of the other groups. He shrugged and put up his fists. "Got any tips for a loser like me?
“Be fast, don’t get hit? Hehe that’s sort of a given though.” The youth mirrored a similar stance, arms up with fingers curled in the familiar form of a fist. For the time being, they were only about level with the chin allowing full visibility of the surrounding field.
Eyes swept the groups to see what each were working on, the instructions being rather vague as to what exactly they were supposed to be doing. It seemed each group had its own ideas of what to do, a small chuckle at seeing Joryldin staring at one of his partners. His group seemed to be getting down and dirty with some failed attempt at grappling, but it looked like the mage’s partner was in rather high spirits for the time being. A comforting thought. Returning back to the pair at hand, Dakota had a thought about how they should proceed.
“For me there is no think, just do. How about you come at me and I’ll defend for a bit while you get comfy throwing a punch? You don’t have to worry, I can take a hit.” The youth added, shifting the position of their arms upward to signal their readiness for the exercise.
Damien mirrored Dakota’s stance as best he could, the nerves in his stomach bubbling up again. His parents had clear cut views on fighting and while it wasn’t outright forbade, it had been strongly discouraged. Getting into this situation just screamed wrong and Damien had to take a deep breath to get himself to focus again. It didn’t really matter what his family thought here, did it?
He shuffled forward, tensing in expectation of a retaliatory strike, and jabbed at the other mage, following with a jarring transition into a punch towards the stomach. Frankly, his body felt oddly unresponsive to the actions but he just went with what he’d seen before.
Dakota could just about feel the apprehension as Damien made his approach, the quick jab dodged easily with a side step but the gut punch a light hop backward. It was a simple ‘one-two’ probably something picked up from someone else, but it was good. Varied. Flashing a quick smile Dakota nodded in encouragement.
“Not bad! You have to be sure though. If you don’t mean it, it’ll come back and bite you in the ass.”
If there was ever a time for a “do this, do that” vampire, now would have been a great time. They were perfectly fine breathing down your neck when you were just doing your thing but now that he needed someone giving instructions, poof. What a backwards fucking place.
“I am sure.” Damien grumbled as he got back into position. “Sure I don’t wanna hit you.” But Damien approached Dakota again, this time a little less hesitant as he focused on landing a hit. He made the same combination, a quick jab into a stomach punch but this time he moved quicker, trying to take the uncertainty out of the first hit, and he stepped forward through the second. He remembered the little backwards movement and tried to keep pace with them.
Sensing a shift in determination, Dakota readied themselves for the next move. It seemed that advice had been heeded, the first jab more direct and body tensed for a reinforced follow up. For an unfamiliar subject, Damien was a pretty quick study. The mage couldn't contain their excitement as the grin on their face grew just the slightest bit wider.
Standing ground, Dakota shifted their torso away from the initial jab putting themselves directly in the path of Damien's follow up. Dropping the defensive arms, the mage used both hands to catch the fist aimed at the gut with a forced step back to absorb the blow. The sound of knuckle slamming against palm was far worse than it actually felt, the stinging sensation very brief for the youth. Normally such a block would be less than ideal, and probably not Dakota's go-to but the situation was anything but dire.
“Now that's what I'm talkin’ about.” Dakota chuckled as they shook the pins and needles from their palms.
"People do this for fun?" Damien gripped as he shook his hand. It wasn't as bad as taking a tumble on the concrete but it sure as hell didn't feel pleasant. "What is the point of this anyways? We literally give our blood to things way stronger than us. Why can't we just chill behind them? Isn't that why we have magic and stuff?" Damien stayed in position as he talked, still not really understanding what was happening. Fighting seemed pointless when you cool get snapped in two by a pissy vampire.
“Fun, exercise… survival. Stress relief for me personally. But I think you have some of this backwards.” The youth responded with a shrug.
“You ever notice how many of the security details around here are mages? Besides, I'd rather rely on my own strength than that over there.” A tilt of the head motioned to the group containing Dakota's wispy looking partner.
Eyes shifting back to Damien, Dakota noticed he hadn't moved from his stance quite yet. Expression turned mischievous, the mage shifted their weight forward and extended the same arm in a quick jab toward the other's nose. There was a small amount of curiosity about whether Damien would have the reflexes to deal with the sudden strike or if the punch would have to be pulled short to avoid crunching cartilage.
"It doesn't-Wait, you said your friends call you Kota? Does that mean I'm-" Damien recoiled with a screech a second too slow as Dakota threw a quick jab. He closed his eyes expecting the hit and opened them slowly when he didn't get one, going cross eyed at the fist in front of him. "What the hell? What kind of dick takes a cheap shot like that?!
Dakota dissolved into laughter as Damien finally realized what was happening. Between the shriek, the cross eyed expression, or the immediately grumpy response, the young mage couldn't decide what amused them more.
“Sorry, sorry! I couldn't help myself with you just standing there like that. But boy do I wish I had a recording of that, you're great!” Swiping away an escaping tear, Dakota cleared their throat.
“No, really. I am sorry. You were saying something?”
"Oh now we're talking?" Damien's irritation melted out of him at the infectious laughter, as he dropped a little lower and smirked playfully just as he threw himself at his partner's legs. It was a move forged in the harden pits of the living room floor, where all mayhem broke loose on rainy days as the more rowdy siblings tussled with pent up energy. He patched onto Dakota's legs, trying to drag the mage down on top of him so he could flip and pin them.
“And you called my shot cheap.” Dakota retorted as arms and legs entangled, the pair of mages sent tumbling to the ground. The scene was a familiar one, no doubt Damien being one of at least one other sibling as Dakota was. Fist fights might have been one thing unfamiliar to some but elder sibling dominance was something that could put them both on the same playing field. Dakota fought against Damien's grip as they tried to find a way around, fully prepared to deliver their infamous knuckle sandwich; a delicacy reserved for only the rowdiest of trouble makers.
Damien would admit he found this far more fun than throwing punches. He cackled as they pair fell and immediately started rolling and twisting into all of Dakota's joints as he tried to cut off her range of movement.
"All's fair in love and war! Damien shot back, grunting with the effort of holding onto the stronger mage. Damien knew he wouldn't be able to overpower Dakota, lean was a generous description after all, but he did know how to throw himself around enough to be annoying. He slipped his leg in between Dakota's and tried rolling onto of him, trying to bring the knee with him and force him to submit.
”Your pin says fair, my fingers say war.” Dakota could feel the decreasing range of movement, but as Damien tried to roll the pair the leg became the focus. A smart move… but ultimately futile. Managing to wriggle an arm free, the mage shamelessly hooked the tips of two fingers on either of Damien's nostrils in an attempt to momentarily gain control of his head.
Damien let out another screech as Dakota shoved his fingers in his nose and he reflexively spit on the other mage, releasing his hold on him and slamming his head forward with the hook of the fingers to hit the closest part of Dakota he could. He never learned, always going for the legs when the hands always got him in the trouble he couldn't handle.
“Aaaaw, dude. That's so groooooss.” Dakota smirked, failing to hold back laughter. Between the drool and the fingers now knuckle deep up someone's nose, there was no winning for either party anywhere in sight. Feeling Damien's grip relax some, Dakota was quick to wriggle free the other arm to catch the descending forehead before it did any real harm.
“Alright, alright. I giiive. You're gonna hurt yourself if you keep that up.” The youth heaved, sides now thoroughly aching from the amused snickering.
Damien blinked for a few moments and giggled alongside Dakota as he caught his breath, moving aside to give the other mage some breathing room. He sprawled out on the grounds, his giggles turning into outright laughter and his cheeks ached from smiling.
"I win! Damien declared triumphantly, eyes sparkling as he beamed. "If that's what this class is going to be, I'mma love it! Even if you are a dirty fighter. Nostril hooks, ew."
@Gisk Cassandra is mentioned in the beginning as something Dakota said before change of class.
Cold eyes shifted back to gaze upon the pestering voice of Eris Samael, an unfortunate sight to befall for the countess. She had hoped Varis’ lectures would be the only course she would share with the space with the so-called ‘super star’, but luck would not be with her on this matter.
“Seeing as how we are their betters, I think it’s obvious that whatever personality they have is irrelevant. Mages can hardly control themselves without our intervention. If anything, that question should be followed by another, simpler one: what can I, as their superior, do to break them in as quickly as possible so as not to linger in the transitional phase for too long?” Her stare was icy as the man spoke, his question serving little purpose other than to be a menace. The peeved countess had a thought to snap back at her classmate, but held her tongue and allowed the man to finish his piece. After all, the last thing she needed at this moment was to start trouble with so many of the other nobles in such close proximity.
It seemed, however, a sliver of luck found her in the form of Dame Patel’s etiquette. For a brief moment, the teacher brushed aside the peacocking blonde to address her instead. It was only to be expected as Amaris not only outranked Eris but she had asked her question before he had as well… still, she would take her small victories where she could get them.
She listened carefully to the professor’s follow up explanation, careful to maintain a present and intrigued visage. There were some great tips and bits of information, but Amaris found it to be plagued with a savior’s complex. While she much preferred their treatment of mages to those like Varis, and Eris apparently, the attitude about it had always rubbed Amaris the wrong way. There was no use in picking a fight about it, however, as there wasn’t much good in winning it here.
It wasn’t until she began talking about the differences in introvert and extrovert socialization. In all honesty, it was a subject she had failed to take into consideration until now. She had figured the mages would just figure it out for themselves, gather around the beings with like-minds and avoid the ones that brought them displeasure. Previously, Amaris would have thought to intervene only if necessary to defend against an outside toxin… perhaps she should be putting more thought into investing instead.
For the time being, Amaris found herself satisfied with the information gleaned from the lesson. With a soft smile and an appreciative nod of the head, the countess settled in to process the Dame’s words. There was much of it she had to consider if she was expected to cultivate a beneficial relationship with Cassandra, and the pair were already behind most of the other students. I looked like she was getting along well with one of her classmates from before, the white haired girl paired to the Eve representative. Maybe I could ask her about the girl later, see if it is a relationship worth pursuing. Geez, who knew a mage could be so much work?
Interacting with: Cassandra @Gisk and Professor Tinley
Dakota couldn’t hide the grin from Cassandra’s affirmation to the note sent. The mage had been too complacent in waiting for a perfect opportunity when all that had to be done was create one. A simple note was only part of the solution however, leaving the rest in Dakota’s hands to carry across the finish line. Hopefully the mage didn’t end up making an entire fool of themselves trying to make a friend, but this classmate of theirs seemed pretty cool.
The youth would have to wait to dwell on the daunting task of socialization at a different point in time though. Tinley squashed Dakota’s thoughts about using what would have been an awesome ‘generic’ magic alternative. Apparently it was a little more complex than ‘general’ vs ‘speciality’, but rather a conversion process of one type of magic to produce different results.
What a pain. Dakota grumbled to themselves, sinking back in the chair with a displeased expression. The disappointment was not to last, however. After answering a couple of questions, the topic took an exciting, albeit, morbid turn. A somber face was overtaken by pure fascination as video footage of various magical accidents were displayed. Disfigurement of limbs and facial features were among some of the cooler sights, but the scene to take the cake belonged to a girl using water magic out in a forest.
Dakota watched with bated breath as the water remained suspended in the air, a look of pure satisfaction and joy plastered to her face before she suddenly just… vanished.
“Woah, that’s wicked.” The mage breathed, scribbling furiously onto the notepad to be sure nothing would be forgotten. Once more the floor was opened up to questions, but for once Dakota was at a loss for words.
Focuses and Resonance and something called Dissonance? The magic wands had been an expectation but from the sound of it, they weren’t a necessity; other objects could be used as well? Failure to use one of these focus items could potentially result in disfigurement or straight up disintegration though, which meant they were very, very necessary.
“If they do all that work, don’t these focus things have any sort of requirements? Why doesn’t everyone just use wands like you’ve got?”