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Velles 19th

Location: Zengali - Mezegol
Day of the week: Victendes
Time: Evening
Characters: Zarina, Biby, Horus, The Blue Beauty, Ayla, Taleja @Ti, Vuvu @dragonpiece, Leon @Jumbus

Like an orange blur, dusk had passed and made way for the clear, starry skies of Severa. Before she could regain some lucidity, Zarina found herself gawking at the burial ceremonies from afar, shoulder leaned against a tree and overall looking mightily suspicious. How did she get here? The details of it she could hardly recall, like a routine she had done a thousand times. But she was there, body restored but mind not quite whole.

Widows cried, men lost their bravado and children stayed strong from their hurting, singular parents if they didn’t join the mothers in anguish. It was like any other funeral, with the themes of the sea not unknown to the coastal girl. She owed it to the men that had lost their lives to be there, but she did not have the courage to, as an outsider, impose herself as the one who couldn’t have done more. She knew they wouldn’t see it that way, but it was a good excuse to save herself some more grief.

A smart decision, she had come to find, as all this time lost to an ailing mind had produced a most curious fruit, still fresh in the mind and intangible - begging to be made real. Inspired, and with the sounds of celebration in the horizon, Zarina had a mission.

One blue chicken. Twenty seven contestants. One Virangish. One little Hippoboi. One shadow.

Zarina stood among veterans and savvy locals, a fish quite literally out of water with a strange animal in her bag. In an act that resembled a certain degree of self-consciousness, she left the bag onto one of the many tables used by the people to share the many feasts shared for the event. There was a conspicuous bump inside of it.

“Winner gets the chicken?” she inquired with a lazy index finger pointed at the animal’s cage.

"That is right missy! But she is a favourite this year. Will you be bringing a team?" the young host inquired with immeasurable cheekiness.

Zarina shrugged. “I don’t think so, no.” her gold hues brushed through the many that had now taken the role of gawkers. “More glory alone, right?”

A wave of chuckles and snickers resonated in response.

"Courageous! You are taking the true gauntlet. Know you will have to do so without magic. Are you still ready?"

“Hmm? Oh yeah, sure.”

The other contesting didn’t stop in their condescension.

“Delusional foreigners again, the thresher has them all worked up up there.”

“Brave girl, heh heh.”

“Laugh all you want, we still have all these fools to deal with.”

Before long, they were all set to begin the game. Once the shot was fired and the panicked chicken unleashed, all sprinted, including Zarina. She was going to play the game like anyone else, there was no doubt about it.

Many frontliners already met some unfortunate accidents with their overzealous efforts to catch the unusually swift and rowdy avian. A couple already gave up after feeling the pressure from the over two dozen men and women. Zarina, looking to still be in some zoned-out state, simply stayed with the peloton. None had gotten too close yet. Not until a good six or so had blown off the event in favour of another opportunity opening.

The fat had been trimmed a little. And then the first incident occurred. A young and athletic woman just … Didn’t feel all that energetic anymore. Like she hadn’t slept all night. She nearly tripped! Eyelids heavy and calves a tad number, she opted to sit out. The same happened to some of the more aggressive runners.

Soon enough, Zarina was one of the more invested players by simply remaining content with her job. The mages sensed no real drawing from her form, or any participant either.

They were like flies. Eventually, only a few not-so-threatening obstacles remained, and of course the chicken. The lazulite avian she was keen on saving - none could doubt her reasons, as a Darhannic. Given that a few of the drowsy and worn out contestants were also aligned with such a goal, suspicion had no real direction. The chicken faltered too, barely able to flap its wings and scratch an unburdened Zarina from gently sweeping it into her arms in a maner that it quickly found a desire to roost.

A winner, one that many were unsure to celebrate for. Well, the contestants anyway, but the cheers of the audience that had been paying as much attention to their meals, ware and other events as the competition itself wailed with their vuvuzelas.

Chicken secured, back into a cage for the Virangish to claim. So too was another avian - a black one that had been hopping from rooftop to rooftop with a little something in its unusually dextrous wings.

"Zazzy Zazzy! I follow! FOLLOW!" rapid nods came from the pitch black monkeybird holding none other than Biby.

“You did a very good job, Horus.” praised the mildly content owner. Biby, on the other hand, was antsy and quickly hopped back into his portable bag-home, while Horus was allowed to visit a few colourful things before being brought back home for bedtime.

Zarina’s grand revelation brought her to the next destination: Vuvu. Few foreigners found value in these obnoxiously loud instruments. The Virangish was no different. But there was something they were good at: Being loud and far reaching.

A sack full of magi was dropped before the Vuvuzela queen. It prompted a curious set of blinks from the woman. Nearly a hundred of these coins! For vuvuzelas?!

"M-miss!" the great Vuvu, said to be quite the terror, was caught off guard. "If it is a joke, it is of bad taste! After a funeral, Stagfulaizah ahidi …"

“Not a joke.” said the teen with the regally blue chicken still in a cage held in one hand and a hipped sticking out of her bag over the opposite shoulder. She smiled. “I want as many as you can offer. And a carpenter. I definitely need a carpenter.” the way she talked, one would think monotone, but it was more so overly casual for the situation. Crazy was one’s first conclusion. Was this why so many had died?

Vuvu furrowed her eyebrows. "No. I don’t trust this money." she waved in dismissal.

“Why?” a confused Zarina tilted her head.

"It’s suspicious, and I have a reputation to maintain! What if others want a treasure from Vuvu? Eh? Today is not a day for greed."

“Vuvu.” Zarina spoke after a brief pause. “You will be the hero of Zengali. I know you will. Your Vuvuzelas are the key.” she spoke with conviction and a completely unflinching expression. “I need at least twenty. And-”

A finger rose for Vuvu to stand by and then it reached for the inside of her top - a leather jacket that resembled what many other sailors wore. Out came a black scale - or rather a fragment of one. One of a kind, unlike any dragon scale one had seen before, and Zengali had its fair share of exotic animal imports.

"Is this to, as they say, sweeten the deal?" a sceptical Vuvu regarded Zarina, wary.

“No. It’s my bail for your treasure.” the item was posed right by the bag for the woman to claim. “I will return it. You can keep my treasure.” a more expression look came to be, one that pleaded.

Vuvu reflected for a moment. What did she truly have to lose?

A questionnaire was given, but attention was diverted to the sheer mass of popularity the Mbita and Chika service had garnered. Slow business, but good business. However, Zarina did not have all night. A breather was perhaps not the worst idea, and the fabric she was about to propose was going to be tactically used to usurp some attention.

Then appeared familiar faces. A blonde girl, one she had far too much fondness for despite the glaring flaws and warning signs. A distraction. A deterrent. And then there was another blonde, this one a man. A ghost, she felt almost. How? She did not know. Was she growing delusional? Was all this just some massive daze? Or did she die from the thresher attack?

The fabric initiative had to be delayed. A disruption in her unusually smooth plan. Where to next?

The chicken woke up. She could not think. A break was in order - an excuse to go back to her group’s retreat. There, she’d find Taleja, and ensure the cup had fallen into her scholastic hands. From there, the intellectual of the group could reinforce her theory. But the night was not over. There remained one more step to her operation.

For an established socialite and rumoured dancer, Zarina failed to deliver any sort of notable performance. The festival raged with energy and she partook enough to avoid ringing any concerning looks, but there was little excitement in this one's spirit. Monotone and distracted. Anxious, even. Information on the recent incident had spread with the memorial ceremony she felt obligated to attend. It was no surprise that, once she had found the boisterous Sun King between tents, hidden in plain sight, she lacked the distinct excitement many others were keen on showing off before the big day.

“On a scale of one to that Enthish girl you brought over, how anxious has tomorrow really got you?” was her opening, a clumsy attempt at humour. Clumsy due to the poorly veiled fact that it was actually genuine. “I'm not feeling any of it.” she confessed, arms crossed and handbag slightly squeezed to her side. Inside rested a hippo that curiously studied the performer's demeanour. Uninteresting, it concluded, a total lack of yum. It hid back in to nap.

“I'm not quite sure what to do once we actually do the job, either.” and with this second confession, a blue ribbon wrapped around her index finger emerged from her hand that had been previously tucked inside her elbow. “I've asked Ayla to join us, if you don't mind.”

Leon practically frolicked up to Zarina still buzzing off the night's events. "Zarina, I would pick 0. But I don't believe that was an option." It was an exaggeration but not entirely untrue. The actual threat of the Thresher was the furthest thing from his mind, a confidence fueled by lacking knowledge.

He extended a hand to offer Zarina to dance but she retracted a little. It was then he took noticed of her crossed arms and reserved posture, then difference between them was night and day. Leon knew Zarina to be strong of both ability and will, so whatever had got her like this was not to be ignored. His expression turned to concern for a friend.

He considered asking if she was alright, but she spoke with direction, he didn't want to deter her from it for now. "Of course I don't mind. It sounds like we three have a lot to discuss."

Ayla approached and wrapped her arms around Zarina, giving her tall friend a hug. “So, you are our big bad competition, eh?” she teased. “The amount of factional one-upmanship when we all share the same goal is ridiculous. How are they going to determine if it’s a Sovereign Pact cannonball or a Central Alliance one that scored the killing blow? And ultimately, does it even matter if the threat has been dealt with?”

She sighed and looked at the pair. “Enough of my ramblings. What is the goal of our discussion?”

Abdel, Dayanara, Qadira, Niallus, Oksana, Johann, the Yasoi 'Victims'

Velles 19th

Location: Zengali - Mezegol
Day of the week: Victendes
Time: Daytime -> Late Afternoon
Characters: Zarina, Biby, Penny @Force and Fury, Rikard, Yvain @jasbraq, Taleja @Ti, Guy @dragonpiece, Keanjaho, the rowing crew.


Captain Bean-Man

Off to the Seas

It Came from the Depths

Velles 19th

Location: Ersand'Enise - Animal Farm
Day of the week: Victendes
Time: Morning / Daytime
Characters: Zarina, Nu, Biby, Penny @Force and Fury, Rikard, Yvain @jasbraq, Taleja @Ti, Guy @dragonpiece

Zarina hovered over the calm, misty waters of the cordoned off deep sea section of the animal farm in search for both solitude but also a reassuring presence. It had been rough the past two weeks and she had just about reached the limits with people in general. The cool sea air reminded her of a time far less complicated.There were very few beasts to disturb her quietude in this section as they all preferred the abyssal depths and artificial trenches made for them.

There was one exception: A pair of black, beady and predatory eyes that emerged from the waters like that of a crocodile, albeit longer. Under them was a large shadow, one big enough to cover the area of a shed. It had been attracted by the familiar presence - prey, it always thought - only for it to float completely immobile once it reached the surface. The tune became familiar after a week. It meant food. And its mistress always provided.

“You’re a big, dumb and menacing piece of work.” she spoke after a breather without ending her tune. “But not vicious. I would even say-” the beast-mistress angled herself to ‘lie’ on her stomach while floating a good twenty feet above the water surface. “Innocent.” she tossed a large slice of tuna into the water, and it slowly sank into the behemoth’s antenna.

The woman that had approached Zarina had laid out the details before her group had been made known. If there was one student in Ersand’Enise to deal with such Behemoths, it was her. The whole conundrum had her wondering what could cause the sudden aggression. The reputation of these threshers lent one to conclude it was the norm but serial strikes on ships was deviant behaviour.

Her mind wandered into the possibilities, but each time she pictured the potential destruction and slaughter an abnormal animal could do, she could only imagine herself and what she would have done to that boy, Fiske, had she not been quelled beforehand. She was going to kill him without paying any credence to his side of the story, much like a beast would. Her eyes hollowed, mind divorced from her surroundings. It took Nu’s stirring, her Bluewater Behemoth, to snap her out of it.

“You’ve had enough.” she decided before dousing the critter with an unpleasant chemical spell to convince it the session was over. “Like clockwork.”

Too many parts of the equation were missing, she figured. These things did not want or revel in glory like humans, nor were they close to intelligent. With a sigh and without a solid hypothesis, Zarina dove into the trenches blind. For now.

The meeting Penny conducted had done its job: They were gathered and Zarina could get a feel for the group. A particular sight had her posture stiffen just a little more.

Yvain. It took a lot of willpower to not just utter that name with disdain. The guy had supposedly humbled himself, but nearly being blasted to death and causing the mess that had burned a few bridges for the teen that only sought to help would understandably leave one sour for some time.

Affiliated. Guy was neither hot nor cold to her. From what she understood between Penny’s recently revealed (to her) status and this guy’s position, he was bound to her. Still, the shady nature of this operation’s premise had any sort of politics make her anxious.

Unknown quantity. She saw the odd interactions between Taleja and Jocasta. Perhaps the most brilliant student of their cohort. Perhaps a mind over emotion was what they would need to crack this.

Good kid. Finally there was Rikard. A powerhouse and known quantity. Smart but a child. The Venomhand’s brains were going to be crucial to keep a plan going.

Princess. A leader, perhaps? Or was she truly the hothead some might have suggested she was? It was either her or Zarina that would realistically take the reigns if personalities were to matter. Given who attended, however, perhaps the old legged royal was the better pick.

And there’s me. Someone’s gotta know what they’re doing, after all.

“Agreed.” Zarina crossed her arms as she regarded Yvain. “Let’s keep the trigger-happiness to a minimum, even when that big thresher is upon us. The smart thing would be to keep it alive to see what’s causing it to go mad. Hopefully without hurting our misguided peers.” her eyes narrowed on Yvain. “Or even our own allies by mistake.”

Out of her messenger bag loaded with supplies emerges the golden head of Biby, the house hippo, fully prepared for a trip. Why did she decide to bring it? One would have to find out, or just ask. The young and smol beast yawned wide and curiously ogled at every moving thing.

“That said, if the port’s in immediate jeopardy, we kill it. Straight up.” Zarina declared, solemnly.

Gear: Hetzelburg Homburg, Conquistador’s Gauntlets, Many Moons Armband, a singular silver coin.
Currency: Ỽ5
Consumables: Puffchicken Egg Salad with spratz cream coffee.
Familiars: Biby

Velles 19th

Location: Ersand'Enise
Day of the week: Victendes
Time: Daytime
Characters: Abdel, Dayanara, Qadira, Seviin @Force And Fury, Penny, Johann, Xiuyang @Emeth, Lunara @BlackRoseSiren, Niallus @Echotech71, Oksana @Ti, Ashon, Dory @jasbraq, Fibonacci, shady Zeno.

When it was Abdel’s turn to read the document, he feigned indifference. The name Doridax was well known among the Yasoi and the decently informed. The young tethered had cut back on his part-time investigative endeavours for more spare time once his finances were in order but the connections he had made on the job remained solid.

A rich kid in Belleville. It feels tailored for me. he looked up to give a general glance to his potential associates. All were of a higher class or foreigners. Except perhaps for Ashon whose Yasoi-ness would have its boons, and Seviin should there be any sort of Tarlonese encounter. I’ve got a good hand here. Let’s see where this goes.

“I can check with a couple of guys I know, see if they can give us something more about any unusual activities in Mud- Belleville.” Abdel spoke courteously with a consistent air of neutrality befitting the image he sought to project: Normal and non-partisan. The money was good, but the Doridax name could be a pipeline to things money couldn’t buy. Goods and information alike. He smiled at the others, to Seviin in particular. “But I agree with you, Sister. I think this city is in need of more citizen behaviour. We did put our necks on the line for it.”

With that he turned away from them. “We can meet at that Terrace in a couple of hours and work from there. Gear up and all that until then.” with that, Abdel walked away.

“At least three thousand magi? Really?” a flabbergasted Abdel Varga was sitting before an old table in front of a Thalak souvlaki shop, Zeno Bucks in hand, with a middle-aged gentleman wearing a worker’s beret.

“Not just. I'll I've been sitting on this but I do owe ya' after what you did for my kid.” spoke the man with a husky voice. He leaned in to whisper the next bit. “They’ve taken a few gems that didn’t belong to them from monkey-land.” he snorted and spat by his foot at the mention of anything Yasoi.

Abdel, unfazed by any additions made by his contact, peered at the old parchment piece covered in folds. “And this is legit?”

“Sikes and a few others say they’ve seen some Yasoi kid a few times. As far as I can tell, the kid never made it back over the wall.”

The tethered teen bit the nail of his thumb as he pondered. Their meeting was soon and he had to make a decision. “Wouldn’t hurt to check, then.” he concluded with a shrug before chugging down his drink.

“Hey Cap’n Skugg.” the man that reeked of tobacco reached out for Abdel’s shoulder as he stood up. “With this sort o’ money at play, you may wanna watch your back.” the warning was enough to get the young bounty hunter to sit back down. “It’s bound to get many eyes on it soon. And if you’re going to belleville …” he looked over his shoulder, clearly wary.

“Spit it out, Fibonacci.”

“Watch out for these long-ear Cola-guys. Complete ball-breakers. If they’re not behind it they’ll definitely want a piece of that cake.”

An unimpressed Abdel cocked his brows. “I’ll be sure to watch out.”

Armed with two Skuggvars and an attire that made him appear no different than the average workman’s quarters dred, although with much better hygiene, Abdel presented himself to the residence indicated on the invitation. He instinctively removed his worker’s beret once in view of it, revealing well groomed, dark hair he had combed to the side. His perfume was also of higher quality than his projected look - a Maura perk, perhaps?

The two beasts he had with him dismissed any notion of Abdel being just a common street dweller - this was the hunter with the massive hounds, one that was hard to ignore when he was on duty. “I was told some folks needed a person finder?” was his introduction, one he had used a few times before when he found a job, with a toothy smile that went wonders with his growing acne on his chin.

Gear: Hungering Helm, Slayer's Helm, Black Beast's Blade, Unruly Dragon's Bridle, Screamer's Collar, Skuggvar backpacks.
Currency: Ỽ1
Consumables: Risotto al Formaggio di Capra di Mare.
Familiars: Dayanara, Qadira

It was early in the afternoon following the Trials. The closing ceremony had been a fiasco, with sonic mages drowning out the crowd's whistles and boos with canned applause. Marceline had no love for Perrence and its aggressive brand of nationalism, but they had a right to be angry and, at the end of the day, the academy's corruption had been laid plainly bare for all to see. Then, portals had opened and people had gone home, but not all of them. A solid half had stayed and would be here for at least another couple of days.

Some would be at the party. In fact, almost everyone who was someone would be. That was why she was here, in Zarina's backyard, setting up tables. The pets were playing. The sky threatened rain just enough to make her apprehensive, and that, in turn, was enough to make her forget her greater apprehension. She and Tku had baited the bull during the auction. Juulet would be coming for her at some point. She had all of the pieces ready. Now, she just needed to put them into place and execute the plan. She turned to Zarina. "So, what did we need from The Groove, again?" she asked, "I'm probably gonna head there once the tables are done." She glanced up at the clouds for a moment and then back at her friend.

“Uhh, like, the power to conquer the sun. And maybe some magic wine.” answered Zarina as she was rehearsing the roles of her animals for the party. Always keen on putting the family to work in the traditional Virangish style, it seemed her past experiences were transferable to the education of beasts. “If you can find some helper demon, or somehow bring a small ab here for a quick energy boost, I'm game too. But otherwise? I just need more Champagne, mi hermana.”

Osman's training was paying off, and as Marci was preparing for her departure, a successful delivery of wine and shrimp-on-cream biscotti was made. The confused mollusk had its beady, dark eyes look up to Marci expectantly.

Quickly, still bustling about, Marceline responded in kind to Zarina's teasing remarks. Then, ambushed as she was about to leave, she reached into the little pouch she'd taken to carrying around for Domino and pulled out a treat for Osman. "I guess you've earned this, huh, little guy?" She nodded in Zarina's direction and hurried upstairs, bounding the steps two at a time. It came with an ease and agility she could not have imagined two years prior when it seemed as if she were headed for a short life mostly spent confined to a wheelchair.

She made her way to her desk, caught her breath, and grabbed some paper and a quill. Dipping it in ink, she began writing.

Dear Zarina,

The first thing I want to say is sorry. I'm writing this because I don't know how to say it to your face and I'm worried that you'll try to stop me if I do. You're probably standing outside of our secure deposit box doing the weekly pickup right now. When you get home, we'll talk. Until then, I ask that you listen.

By now, there's a good chance that Juulet is either dead or there was an attempted murder against her. That was me. I didn't do it out of hot-blooded anger or some sense of justice. I didn't ask others, except for Fiske, to get involved, because I didn't want to put them in danger. In this case, the less that you knew, the safer you were. You've... always been the big wing under which I've nestled, the big sister protecting me, ever since we met. I never had a blood sister and you're better than any I could've ever asked for anyhow. I didn't tell you nothing because I don't trust you; I'm telling you now because I do.

This was something personal, though, and if I've been caught, then the consequences are mine alone to bear. In short, she murdered Manfred. It was Juulet. Dami knows she's done all manner of horrible things since. She tried to kill Fiske and, I'm quite certain, Xiuyang too but, first, she was there in Mandelein when Manfred, Ismette, and Qasem died. Dory was the only survivor of that ambush and, irrationally, I suspected her at one point. Then Jocasta confirmed that she'd seen Juulet too. Forgiveness doesn't matter here. It's about the danger that she represents. Juulet is a mad dog who needs to be put down, for our collective safety and because she took Manfred from me.

I know there was some speculation as to why I took the items that I did from The Trials and, hopefully, it's clear now why I did: the magic disruptor because, without the Gift, she's just some skinny one-legged girl with a god complex and twisted black heart, and the twenty-five hour copy of myself so that, if she somehow overcame that, it wouldn't actually be me dying during the ensuing rampage. I'd just have the awful memories from it. Here's hoping that didn't happen. Yes, I'm committing murder. No, I don't do it lightly. Sometimes, bad people need to go away, or be made to, and it doesn't just happen. Good people or, at least, people like me need to do it.

I'm sorry for telling you this way, big sis. I just love you and I was worried you'd try to talk me out of it and I'd listen even though I feel, right now, in my bones so strongly, that she needs to die for what she's done and the threat that she represents. You're just... so good-hearted. You're the best. I mean that, from the bottom of my twisted black little heart.

Marceline Hoh Escarra

With that, she let it dry for a moment, folded it up, and sealed it in an envelope. She grabbed the keys to the box on her way downstairs, offered a cheery wave goodbye, and issued a promise to be back soon with the goodies. Ten minutes later, she'd left the envelope where it would wait until Lepdes. She took a deep breath, turned about, and headed for The Groove.

Zarina stood motionless before the opened letter box she or Marci checked every week or so, although the recent revolution had delayed the habit by a few days. Her eyes were wide, hollow and fixed on the unfolded letter. Her hands became clammy from holding the same position for well over five minutes and her back wasn’t appreciating the posture either. Eventually, as the reality of its contents set into the tired teen’s mind, her hands began to shake and her heart rate skyrocketed.

Marci is Dead.

That was all that rang in Zarina’s mind. That was the only way to explain what had happened. To suffer another loss in which she was completely powerless was utterly devastating.

Once again, she could do nothing to save her sister.

Lethargic, Zarina zoned everything out. The paper fell to her feet and many passersby stared in her direction in silent worry.

Marci cannot be dead.

Her next mantra sprang life back into her paralyzed body. She broke the unspoken convention of keeping temporal magic under wraps and brazenly teleported from to the limit of her range until she reached the one place she knew she could find information on Marceline’s whereabouts.


The pinkie-side of her fist pounded against the door of the commons dorm many of the Tethered lived in. “IZZY! LUISA! FELIX!” she yelled out with no regard as to how angry she sounded. Dangerous even. If she did not get what she wanted there, she had another, far less pleasant lead to exploit.

While Isabella did not live here anymore, Luisa was home. "Zarina! What is it!?" The door unbolted itself and the door swung open. Her eyes flicked up and down the unexpected visitor for a second or so, her expression one of worry.

Zarina stared at the wheelchair-bound girl that opened the door. She had the attention of the tenants. Now what?

“...” she needed a moment to catch her breath. “Marci ...” the Virangish's voice was meek and gravelly from the exertion. “Do you know where she is?”

For a moment, Luisa studied her, hands moving from her wheels to her lap and fingers threading themselves together. She swallowed. "You think she's dead?" the girl asked with some worry.

Zarina closed her eyes and let her head slump down. “Gods, I hope not, Luisa. But something did happen.” she looked up through her hanging hair toward the girl on two. “Something bad. You don't know where she is, then?” a rhetorical question. She slammed her fist to the door frame, magicless of course. “Fuck. I need to speak to Jo, then.”

"You should," Luisa confirmed. "Listen, Zazz." She took a push forward and reached up to rest a hand on the other's forearm. "I can't just say nothing. I can't leave you in the dark." She shook her head. "I don't know much, okay? Marci... messed with that yasoi maniac - I don't know why - and she lost. She's not alright but she is alive. Jocasta and Izzy have been looking after her."

Answers. All kept from her. It felt like betrayal. Wide eyes shot toward Luisa. “You all knew. Fucking ...” she unleashed steam out of her nostrils as a furious scowl took form on her visage. She really wanted to unleash something, somewhere with Luisa as an easy target. But she had an answer, and the girl looked racked by guilt already.

Wordlessly, Zarina turned around and disappeared. Jocasta's was next with twice as many rude knocks on the door.

There was absolutely no answer.

Zarina grit her teeth. Then, for a moment, she actually used her head. A little drawing was in order.

There was nothing out of the ordinary, and then there was so much energy that it felt as if she was under a thousand feet of water. Jocasta appeared behind Zarina and reached out a hand for her. "Come in. Sit down. Behave," she commanded, "and I will tell you what I am allowed."

Crushed. Utterly so. That was the almighty power of Jocasta.

The respect Zarina had for this woman was immense, but it would never be enough to pardon the condescension she felt in this moment. The angered wildblood had been forcibly pacified, but a look of resentment couldn't be so easily scrubbed off her visage. Still, she took the hand and found the nearest seat to compose herself after taking the Jojo blast.

“Where is she?” she asked plainly, slumped forward with her arms rested over her knees and her chest still heaving.

"Safe from prying eyes, where she needs to be right now. Where she's asked to be." Jocasta answered simply. "I'm sorry you weren't told. The world's been a bit crazy this last week and... she's struggling."

“Prying eyes? Ya'hma. I'm not just some random prying eyes, Jo.” responded Zarina, indignant. “What the fuck happened?”

Jocasta sighed, opening the door and floating in ahead of Zarina until she was seated in her wheelchair once again. "She made a twenty-five hour copy, but those things are exactly alike, down to clothing, thoughts, and impulses. I wasn't aware either until I'd checked." She pursed her lips and set hands to wheels, twisting halfway to head for the dining room. "I think she was convinced that she was the copy. She had a plan. It went awry. Here we are."

Zarina shook her head. The explanation did not make her feel any better. “I want to see her.” she demanded. “I want to be there for her. I need to, Jo.” she looked up to the Tan-Zeno with a mixture of immense frustration and growing desperation.

"First, Zarina, come here." She turned back and held out her arms for an embrace. "I'm sorry for the sudden crush. You were roiling with energy and anger and..." She paused. "I can't take chances anymore." She waved Zarina in with her hands. "Hug me. I need it too. Then we'll talk, okay?"

The anger was still there. It was painful to keep it all in. The hesitation to come in for the hug spoke volumes of how she truly felt.

But she still went in, her long arms coiling around the seat-bound blonde and lifted her slightly for a tight embrace. “I'm sorry.” she whispered, mouth and nose buried into Jocasta's shoulder.

"I'm sorry too, Zazzy." She squeezed tightly for a moment and sighed before releasing her friend. "I was scared." She backed up a push and turned. "Follow me. We walk and talk." She glanced over her shoulder. "Marceline doesn't want to see you." She held up a hand to forestall immediate protest. "It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with her." She shrugged tightly. "She barely wants to see me."

Zarina walked with her friend and listened. She kept her head lowered and her eyes narrowed slightly. She focused on every piece of information, and after clarifications and corrections, she found something to pick at. “But you still see her.” she said, bitterly. “So does Izzy. Why can't I see her? Even once?”

Jocasta took a deep breath and, all at once, she whirled on the spot. She stared up at Zarina, a dozen emotions flashing across her face. "She was forced to overdraw." She glanced down sadly at her lap. "You know what that does to tethered, and she is a tethered, whether she wants to admit it or not."

Zarina stopped and looked down to meets eyes with Jocasta. “You lose yourself faster.” she confirmed, arms crossed. “If you're all doing this then it's much worse than the feet getting prickly.” she clenched her fists and shook her head. “Doesn't change shit, I wanna be there for her. Same way you were.”

Jocasta took a deep breath and released it, her face regretful. She nodded. "She's..." She glanced to the side and her fingers squeezed the folds of her dress so tightly that it bunched up. Her gaze shot up to meet Zarina's. "Like me now, Zarina. She's on two and there's no reversing it and it's ruined her."

Confronted with the severity of the situation, she stood adamant with only her breathing getting louder - heavier. “... All the reason for her sister to be there.” she turned and began to walk again, stone cold and clearly bottling a lot inside. “Then I'll find that little rat that didn't stop her.” she muttered with unadulterated rage in her voice.

"Zarina," came Jocasta's voice from behind her, "Do you love Marci?"

Zarina stopped again. “Of course.”

"And so do I." Jocasta rolled up behind her. "Do you trust our sister?

Zarina exhaled loudly. “After this? I don't know.”

"Do you trust me, sister?"

“I do.” Zarina spoke with more confidence. “I always did.”

"Then listen to me, okay? Losing half of your body like this -" She ran the edge of her hand across her tiny waist. "Is like nothing you can imagine. It's not just the inability to walk, but basic, bedrock things: your independence as a person, your sense of what makes you... you, your vision of the future and what your life will look like, the way you know other people see you and how you're always the one who's different, lower, pitied."

She shook her head. "Zarina, I use the Gift to turn myself over in bed and lift my rear off of my seat every hour so that my bones don't poke holes through my skin." She swallowed and wrapped her arms around herself. "And when I forget and they do, or when I break one of those brittle, weak things, like I have at least thrice since we met, I use binding to put myself back together." She grimaced. "But I don't even feel it right away - not until I check every few hours or until I start swelling up. And then there's the pain in my back: constant and agonizing from sitting all day, or how I have to cool or heat myself constantly because my body can't do it." Her face became awkward, disgusted. "I would piss myself and shit myself were it not for the Gift and how I was taught to use it to assist with those... matters."

Her cheeks flushed red and, after a moment her eyes flicked up to regard her friend. "Those are things people on four don't know, because they don't see them and we tethered don't talk about them. They're things that Marci is coming to terms with, learning her way around." She shook her head a second time. "I shouldn't even be saying this, but I need you to understand that this isn't about you. It's about her shame, her vulnerability, and her embarrassment." There was a weak shrug. "She needs time. She needs space. She needs to find her own answers." Jocasta swallowed. "Around us, she's 'normal'. She has people who know what she's going through, who can help her learn, who she feels won't judge." She held up a hand again. "I know you won't, but it's perception that matters here and not reality. She loves you, but she can't face you. She can barely face us as it is, so I am asking you, my best friend, to back off - please - for her and for me."

The restless Zarina grew ever more frustrated with not getting what she wanted. All that mattered was finding Marci, no matter what she had become, and be there for her. Because she was her sister. And she'd move the world for a sister.

But the reality of the situation unfolded right before her under the form of the woman she respected the most. Jocasta's accursed state of existence was the living proof she needed. Zaz's restless legs came to a stop, and eventually she let her rear drop onto the nearest convenient surface. “I let this happen. I was so up my own ass handling that Dami-forsaken party to pay attention.” she wallowed in guilt, jaw clenched and fingers pressed against her skull.

“I may not understand, Jo, but you know, right?” she looked up to her Tethered teacher and best friend. “You know I'd do anything for you guys, right? I'd stake my life for you, especially for Marci.” she shook her head and clenched her fist enough to have her partially mutated claws to dig into her palm. “I won't force myself into her life. If she's that determined to cope this way, then I'll respect it. But I ain't gonna do nothing.” the head shaking increased as blood trickled down her pierced hands. “That pathetic rat of a boyfriend of her's - he's fucking done.”

"We needed that party, Zarina." Jocasta was implacable. "Dare I say it may have saved lives." She glanced over her shoulder in the direction of the kitchen, but twisted back, thinking better of it. "And I know how much you care. That's why I both trust you with my very life and know that you need tempering sometimes." Jocasta's voice became firm. "Fiske is a fool and I'm no fan of him either but, if you care for Marci as I do, you know her well enough to know that she'd have done it with or without him and she'd not have been stopped." Jocasta sighed, casting another tired glance over her shoulder. She threaded and unthreaded her fingers in her lap. "She was riding a high: win after win - and starting to believe in the myth of her own invulnerability; the infallibility of her own genius." She locked eyes with Zarina, searchingly.

With no target to direct her grief and rage, Zarina shifted her gaze with a focus on keeping it toward the floor. The unhealthy clenching did not cease and the breathing only got heavier. “You're far too accepting of this situation, Jocasta.” spoke Zarina with unshaken resolve in unleashing her anger as she met Jo's eyes. The damaged palms had already healed, leaving only rapidly congealing blood on her hands. “WE could have stopped her. WE could have changed this, you and me!”

The angry teen seemed to be looking for something, and after failing to find anything to put in her hand, she stood up and mercilessly stomped the chair she sat on. She really need to break something in a tantrum. “FUCK! That sack of shit could have opened his cocksucking mouth! SOMETHING had to be done! I could have DONE something!” and after a show of brutality and releasing far more anger than stemmed just from this specific predicament, she fell on her rear and his her eyes. She was crying.

Jocasta reached down and swung her feet from their footrest. No sooner had they thumped limply upon the floor than she had pushed herself to perch at the edge of seat. Clumsily, she levered herself onto the ground beside Zarina, wrapping both arms around her from the side. "Feels unsatisfying, doesn't it?" she admitted. "Fuck, I know it does." Idly, she stroked Zarina's hair, combing some of the tangles out of it, but she wasn't as gentle as she might've been had not some anger sparked inside of her as well. "Would be so much easier to hurt someone for this and, for the record, I swear to you that I will rip Juulet limb from fucking limb." She squeezed a bit tighter and, even without magic, her arms were strong. Then, she pulled back.

"But Marci's alive. She survived something that, by all rights, should've killed her. You know I haven't sugarcoated any of what comes next, but we tethered have the Gift. We can manage, and she will too. Just... be ready for her. Don't treat her any differently when she's back but don't like... avoid it: her... disability." Jocasta shrugged awkwardly. "It's not always an easy balance to strike, but I think you'll get it." She managed a supportive smile. "You have a way with people, and it's just Marci, after all: cute lil' shit that she is."

Sitting beside Zarina, Jocasta straightened, pushing her bottom off of the floor for a few seconds. "At the end of the day, she's her own person and made her own poor decisions. The past few days, when I haven't been busy risking my neck for some change around this place, I've been watching over her, and everything that's run through your head, well... It's run through mine too." She shrugged. "I've gone over what I could've done differently so many times I've lost count. I've thought of smashing Fiske's face in for not stopping her. I've been angry at you, to be honest, but this is nobody's fault but hers, much as we both love her, and that evil bitch Juulet's."

Jocasta sighed, nervously tucking some hair behind an ear. "I know I maybe sound insensitive or apathetic. I'm sorry if I'm not validating your rage well. We all need that. I've just... had longer to think at this point and come out on the other side of it. She took a deep breath and released it. "Ahn-Dami punished Marci for a mistake, but Vyshta spared her life." She posted her weight on one arm and leaned to the side. "Our sister will be okay. She isn't right now - she feels stupid, broken, and shocked - but she will be, I promise, and she'll come back to us. She'll come back to you. I trust that little Brandæble. She'll sort it out. Okay?"

Copious amounts of sobs, tears and snot had to be go through before Zarina composed herself. Jocasta's delicate handling of the situation paid off, even if time was the biggest actor in making the young dragon run out of energy to spare for wallowing. She had held onto her blonde friend quite tightly until they were made to part.

Brushing her face from the unflattering mess of mucus and dried tears, she looked up to Jo with red and still quite damp eyes. “Fuck, I'm a moron.” she spoke like there was something stuck in her throat. “I was gonna do the exact thing she did. Take out my rage on someone and have it backfire somehow.” she shook her head while aggressively rubbing her left eye with the bottom of her palm. Sniffles. “I just wanna see her, y'know? It's ... It's a lot, after everything that's happened.”

The still whimpering teen reached her hand out to hold Jocasta's without ever pulling her in. It was merely to have a connection with someone - to feel someone she trusted. “I can't lose more. Not after Miret, and Tommy, and now Marci ... Even if it's not forever.” she clenched the hand just a little. “It's why I'm asking you to not go after that psycho. If she comes for us, we'll deal with it. But ...” her second hand cupped the back of Jo's hand. “I don't want to lose more people that I cherish. Especially not for wretched nations, old power mongers or foreign monsters.”

Jocasta didn't quite know what to do, so she simply hugged back. When they finally separated, she breathed deeply, wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, and forced a reassuring smile. "I'll speak with her, when she's up to it. For what it's worth, I agree that it isn't healthy for her to be shutting everyone out like this. I think she'll come around soon, even if we don't exactly see her around campus for a bit." Jocasta shrugged. "It's just a big adjustment - a lot to learn."

For a moment, they lingered there in silence. Then, came the second part. "I'm a target as long as I live, Zaz. That's the nature of it." She sighed nervously. "But I can promise that I'll never make any unnecessary enemies. My wild days are done. I'm with you. Okay?"

fter a few deep breaths, Zarina appeared to be coming to. There even was a trace of a smile when she looked back into Jocasta's eyes. “I won't lie, I kinda need her too. I don't have the patience to keep Zeno Bucks family friendly on my own.” she partially joked after a loud sniff. “She'll be in my prayers until she's ready.”

The Virangish then reached for the back of Jocasta's head, just over the nape and pulled her in. Their foreheads met before she spoke. “Then when danger steps into our home, we all face it together, yeah? Nothing good ever comes when we wanna bear all those burdens like fairy tale heroes, habibi.” she turned her head slightly and smooched her sensei's cheek. “Thanks for being the voice I needed. I'd be lost and do something terrible otherwise.” she beamed a genuine grin at Jo. “Remember, I'll always be on your side. Just like I promised back in Torragon.”

Jocasta returned the small kiss, though she blushed considerably. She gave a small nod to go with it. "I know you will." She breathed. "I know and you have no idea how much it helps to have that." She smiled back. "But I never want you to risk yourself for me, okay?" She swallowed. "You and Marci, Ayla, and Yalen: you're good people with bright futures. We stand together -"

She snorted at the irony of her word choice, but then continued. "If anyone comes to hurt you guys, but I won't have you go out of your way and risk yourself for the monsters who come for me. They're on a whole different level." She pulled back a bit and flexed her rather impressive biceps. "But I'm pretty strong, you know. Right?" She smiled and reached forward, placing her hands on each of Zarina's shoulders. "What I need most is your support, your belief, and to know that you're safe." She slumped back a bit and sighed. "The Gods crafted me as I am for a reason - I have to believe it. There's no two ways about it: I stand out and I'm not about to let that strength go to waste. I'll be the next Hugo Hunghorasz if that's what's needed, and I'll do better than he ever did." A determined look came over her face. "Fairytale time, suunei!"

“Fairy tale time, Sensei!” dragon Zarina just smirked at her. “... I'll get you a new chair, promise.”

The Trials had finally ended. What was a simple, action-packed week felt like months to some, but it was all worth it for the big top ten (and then some) as they claimed their prizes and bid generously during the auction. Zarina’s invite punctuated this chapter of their lives with what was hoped to be a positive note and she was still hopeful despite the very recent developments and accelerated tensions. There would be no such things during this homebrewed gala. When 1:00 HD hit, the party officially begun.

“Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!”

At the main entrance door that remained open during the whole evening was none other than Horus wearing a hat similar to Zarina’s Homburg. A popular face and voice to greet the guests, with hats and other items gathered by the short but conveniently dextrous young Monkeybird to be stored in one of the nearby closets. The house had been arranged to accommodate for an influx of people, with tables added to the drawing room decorated with many appetisers. But the bulk of the activity was actually in the yard where three rows of tables were set with more foods and drinks aplenty.

Ellermane Bleu, courtesy of Desmond’s catering, was the main alcoholic beverage to go with the bite sized goods on the tables, but soon came a butt of Hegelan-approved beer to be set by the archway between the indoors and outdoors. Maat, the second and more colorful Monkeybird, made sure to tend to the nozzle.

““More? More? MOOOOORE! SLURP!””

Then came Osman, the newcomer land octopus carrying trays of biscottis with cream and shrimp as well as glasses of Meattu champagne. His tentacles stretched out to reach for finished glasses to switch them with a newly filled one. A brilliant server, to be sure, even if it couldn’t quite grasp any sort of order, it knew when to take an item and when not to.

Zarina, clad in a brilliant gold dress of both Virangish and Torragonese inspiration and long trumpet sleeves, was playing the role of host to a T, making sure to greet as many guests as possible with the usual politeness and pleasantries - even to those she didn’t quite remember. Big smiles, loads of energy, and an offering of expensive drinks to keep the mood up were her go-tos. Oh, and of course, she wouldn’t hesitate to show off her fancy new House Hippo in her handbag. The little critter was a tad overwhelmed, but also found itself consistently fed.

Technically Correct had arrived precisely on time, finding Johann to be one of the earliest arrivals to help the hostess prepare for the evening. Others such as Ayla, Ashon, Marceline and Kaureerah were there from the start by virtue of actually living there. And the Zeno Bucks staff worked to keep the dishes coming and the venue clean (as well as helping the animals/mascots).

The Soul Sisters were expected to arrive soon with a whole stage prepared out back dedicated to them and all other performers. Until then, Gonzalo, the barista stationed in the Workman’s Quarter, was the tune of the evening with his Laud, along with his troupe of merry musicians. There wasn’t a minute with some music.

Welcome to the Trials End Party at Zarina’s! Feel free to enjoy, reach out to people, do your own little skits for entertainment and so on! This is an opportunity to exchange with friends, new or old, before the world makes this difficult for you. Ellermane Bleu effects apply to all those who drink it.

Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-dub.

Abdel’s head pounded to the systolic rhythm that hammered relentlessly, causing him to rudely wake up. His heart was not beating fast, but it was beating hard, so much so that it overshadowed the intense prickling in his feet that caught up quickly enough.

It was impossible that he felt those so early, he had taken an aberration just a few days ago! His hands hastily reached for his limbs to find a wound, only to come out empty. He was, in fact, feeling las hormigas with the painful dullness that came with their endless gnawing. Distraught, her smacked his palms over his face to wallow, only to find a wetness on them.

Blood …?

From his nose he found some of it still leaking. It then came back to him, the sacrifice he had done for the others to keep the Arch Zeno in check. It all made sense. Dayanara went to lick his face as he recognized what had happened. Quickly he drew toward their last known location.

Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-dub …

Just one heartbeat, one that came with a less familiar energy signature than the others.

Zarina, Tku, Rikard? Where are you?

No matter where he searched, he could find them. And yet Alassa Tojarra, the reason they had risked their lives, slowly awoke from a chemical coma without an ounce of resistance put onto her. Something had happened. He had to intervene.

Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-dub …

“We’re going.”

Abdel pushed himself off with his arms and took a step-

“Argh fuck!” he growled and slammed his fist onto a nearby surface. The ants were far more intense than he had estimated, leading to an acute pain that quickly vanished. It wasn’t so much difficult to walk as it was unusually uncomfortable. He could only imagine the damage going on down there.

He soldiered on, Skuggvars in tow, until he infiltrated the ruined Enclave.

Once in range, he stomped onto the gravel with his final step to get the magicless Arch Zeno’s attention, hiding the pain induced wince from the gesture. He stood a good thirty yards away from her.

“What did you do to them?” he asked, one hand on Qadira’s shoulder to keep her close, while Dayanara circled around Tojarra.

Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-dub.

Alassa Tojarra was unafraid and her regular pulse was proof of it. Even magically naked, pillaged and defeated she did not falter. It made Abdel a tad tachycardic.

The Arch Zeno shrugged. “They’re gone. Far away from here.” she rubbed her bruised chin. “If you’re here to avenge them, make it quick.” she barely acknowledged Abdel, and only gave a cautionary glance at the nearby dragon.

“I can’t let you go.” Abdel, in an attempt to look stern and immovable, looked rather green with his typically teenage voice. One thing he did nail was a proper stance, but even that looked so little to Alassa’s stone hard posture.

“I will not bring them back.” she spat back viciously as she turned around toward one of the violet buildings. “Kill me or leave, darhannic, but don’t waste my time.”

Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-dub.

Even in her hate and haste, she never faltered. Abdel was intimidated. This wasn’t like Niallus, an easily impressed young man that hardly thought his actions through. This was a titan, even without magic.

“I’m not Darhannic.” he corrected, sounding like a petulant child called a no-no name.

“I recognize your type. And the way you do things. Like that detestable girl.”


“That’s what you savage sand apes do.”

Abdel recognized the heartbeats, the tone and the sentiment. For a moment, he almost thought he had been talking to his shower-thought self. The aggressive voice he consistently argued and fantasised with in his alone time. And there it was, under the form of a hateful woman. Such clarity was short lived as his feet ached once more. Or perhaps this interruption only accentuated his increasingly extreme feelings.

“I can’t kill you. You will bring them back.” he answered somewhat meekly, but made a show of force with a light surge to her nerves, to which she inhaled deeply and flexed her muscles.

“You’re the one that stopped me. Tethered and strong.” she smirked. “I can see you tremble. You’ve done all that just to get me.” Tojarra opened her arms to taunt him. “If you’re not going to kill me, then you may as well let me go. They won’t execute me - not after this. Not with what's become of the world.”


He could barely hear her anymore. His heart was killing him from all the anxiety and hesitation he was feeling.

Just put her to sleep. You must!

Abdel drew to capacity quickly enough. Tojarra didn’t even flinch despite her lack of defences. She only turned her head to grin his way.

She’ll never give them away. I can see it. She’s suffered everything I could do to her before.

The tethered clenched his fist, only to then suddenly fall onto his knee and wheeze out a grunt of pain. His legs shook in overexertion, prompting her Skuggvar to poke his side with her snout.

“You’re finally getting it.” uttered Tojarra with a voice that mellowed from her taunting and resentment demeanour. “You won’t ever find them if you kill me, and giving me to the new administration won’t provide the justice you want. All you can do is …” she began to walk. “Let me go.”

I need to keep her here! I need to do SOMETHING! I need to-

Drops of blood fell from his nostrils once more. In his overthinking he had pushed himself once more. All for nothing. Lost and forlorn as a child that thought himself more mature and harder than he truly was.

-for them!


In the endless ringing to tinnitus in his ears, the merciless pounding of his distressed hard and the cruel pricking of his feet, he found some sort of clarity. No other sounds could penetrate his mind. None except the heart of the woman he had no real control over.


The blood that ran through her body flowed so perfectly. The answer to a question that gnawed at his mind for days was right before him.

The silence enlightened him: There was nobody to cast judgement. Nobody could see what was behind the mask. Nobody other than a prisoner deemed kindred, and the Gods - the very ones that cursed him and his tethered friends into this pitiful existence.

“It’s not for them. Or for their Justice.” he muttered, barely audible to Tojarra but enough for her to stop and turn. “I don’t wanna kill you. Or give you away. Because I agree with what you stand for.” it was still Abdel’s voice, the non-threatening cracked one that oozed of awkwardness, but it was charged with purpose. And his intense gaze under his worker’s beret matched the Arch’s.

“Another one of these pathetic games? Or are you serious?” she shook her head and reconsidered even the notion of entertaining this.

“But I can’t let someone like you just walk free.” he shook his head like she did. “It makes me so angry to see how vapid and cruel this effort for Justice has made you. We could have done good work together if you weren’t such a resentful hag that would sooner see the world burn than let a few clueless peons run free in their sand dunes. Or denigrate someone for where they were born.”

Lub-dubLub-dubLub-dubLub-dubLub-dub …

The tachycardic melody only drove him more as he reached into his only pouch where something uneasy wiggled more and more.

Tojarra chuckled into a laugh. “You don’t know a thing ab-” she quickly turned to the right to face an unusually close gurgle.

Qadira was merely staring at her with no signs of hostility.

With a deep exhale, Alassa Tojarra straightened herself and looked back, only to be greeted by a massive, leathery maw that sucked in the entirety of her head. She couldn’t utter a word, and a few seconds in, she lost consciousness.

The Arch Zeno fell unconscious once more.

Although this time, there would be no friendship circle or ambitions for a brighter tomorrow.

There was only fire and malign inspiration, as the heartbeats silenced themselves into a bitter murmur.

Like my friends, I won’t give up on you. Nor will I let them, or yourself, ruin the work you’ve done, Arch Zeno Tojarra.

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