Blackroot Academy, a prestigious clandestine school of arcane, profane, and mystical arts accepted you, and you flourished. Now you are on the precipice of graduation with only one final night to study. Tomorrow, you will face your rival, an equal to you in talent and prospect, for one final exam, to determine the shape your future holds. Everything will be decided tomorrow. But tonight, you have only your thoughts and memories of the four years in these halls.
Game Content WarningsThese are content warnings that are from the game prompts and are present in all playthroughs.
Playthrough Content WarningsThese are content warnings specific to this playthrough only.
Word Count: 8,349 Played: Dec 25-29, 2022
A/N: The game says to draw the Rival Cards after all the Suit Cards, but since I specifically wanted to build up a relationship between the characters, I drew them along with each Suit Card.
Name: Bassel Bodick (he/him)
How did you receive the letter?: It was carved backwards on the bathroom door and could only be read by reading it in the mirror. Fortunately no one else could see it but me.
What loose ends did you tie up?: I had to help get my old roommate a new roommate and I had to resign from my job as a railroad stoker. (the people who shovel coal into the furnace)
What do you hope to gain by becoming a mage?: Respect. Prestige. Power.
How does the Speaking Gem talk to you in dreams?: In the dream, I’m surrounded by darkness and smoke. I can’t see the coal fire, but I know it’s there, and I’m surrounded by the sparks of fire. When each spark hits my skin, I know what the gem is saying to me, though it never speaks with human words or ideas. I just know.
Area of Expertise: Glass, never seen glass break in their presence, never been hurt or cut by it.
(I have a bunch of hard lines about rivalry so I drew 3 cards and picked which one I thought was the most appropriate)
Name: “Temple” Florian (xe/xem/xeir)
Strength, (My list has it as VIII) the “Gentle Leader”
The Devil, A “drug dealer”
Card 3: The Empress, “the prophet”
A religious fanatic/cult leader who adopted the title Temple. Xe believes that xe will lead the people into a more prosperous age if xe can convince everyone to follow the correct path. Xe has somewhat of a following among the staff and students.
Me: 3, House of Panthers, grace, agility, Ruthlessness, at the edge of the forest
Florian: 1, House of the Celestials, discipline, Passion, indifference. Overlooks the Lake
You find a forgotten section. Who did you bring? Did you translate the runes? What did you find? What escaped?
Missed Connections, Bad Relationships, Power Struggles
Elemental magic, eyes glowing in the dark.
If I had known it would get this far, I would have killed xem that first night we were alone.
I can’t stop lying to myself about what caused this. Those damn runes weren’t to blame. I’m not to blame. Even xeir own visions aren’t to blame. Xe was always going to end up like this.
I think about that night a lot. Xe was always a bit pompous but in a charming way and when xe showed interest in me I took them out to the old ruins that I found when I had been wandering the forest. It was alone and we could be as loud as we (I) wanted.
I hadn’t explored much beyond the first few rooms, there was really no need, since there was evidence that this place had been used by other students for the same reasons we were going to. But xe could see better in the dark than I could, since they got those glowing eyes.
I had asked xem about it once, but they brushed it off as a gift from one of xeir god, or something. (I’ve had to scrub the memory of their names from my own mind so that I don’t awaken or invoke or what the fuck ever xe calls it.)
Xe still had visions back then, but nothing as strong as now, and as far as I know, nothing like what happened that night.
I just wish we had fucked and left.
Xe were more interested in all the runes carved into the walls than xe was in me, and I don’t know how xe could read them, but followed and attempted to translate them out to me, but eventually just kept reading them all in whatever the fuck language they were in originally.
Xe led us down to the center of the writing where xe stood, eyes glowing, mouth open, and completely nude. Xe stood there, speaking the language for a long time, then eventually went very very quiet.
Xe suddenly turned to me, and I knew, I knew then and there that something was wrong. This wasn’t the same person. Xe began to babble and speak about some great plan and shit.
I guess I was the first person to receive one of xeir sermons.
I was scared. I wanted to tell myself that xe was just sick. But I knew. I knew. I should have killed xem. I’d say I’m sorry, Florian, but… fuck you.
You attempt portal magic, it goes bad. Where did it go? Who did you lose? What scar do you have, and have you recovered?
Beginnings, innocence, spontaneity
Potion class, how did you get the ingredients, did you drink it?
That night left more of an impression on me than I care to remember. I couldn't stop seeing the symbols for weeks.
I remember the first time I was working with glass. It came so naturally. It was so easy to manipulate and move and to shape. We were supposed to be learning portals, and I was over confident. Nothing had gone wrong for me so far and so I rushed in, pumping more and more magic into the edges, and the glass grew thick and shiny until I could see the railway where I used to work.
It was night, but I could still see the glowing from the headlights of the locomotives. I thought this was right, but I could see the glass starting to crack and the sigils break and form from the edges.
I ignored it and sent my class partner, Lory, through it. She was hesitant, and I should have listened to her. She stepped through and began to cough and scream.
She couldn’t breath and the edges of her clothing began to catch on fire. I pounded on the glass, but I couldn’t go through it to save her.
She screamed as burned and I reached for the nearest metal object, a candlestick, and shattered the glass. It didn’t work. All of it fell to the ground in thousands of tiny splinters. She was gone and I had lost the ring and pinky fingers on my left hand from the blow.
Xe came to see me in the hospital and told me that I would recover, and said xe had seen in a vision all the works that I would accomplish. Xe was starting to talk more esoterically now, and I could barely keep up with the nonsense.
I learned later that Florian had also killed someone that day. Xe was making potions, using ingredients, and xe convinced another one of xeir classmates, Danette, to drink it.
The classmate was found dead the next day. Xe still listened to me in those days. Xe didn’t deny it, but spun some tale about how Danette would have gone on to hurt people, to hurt xem and xeir flock.
I should have turned xem in. I didn’t have any evidence other than an oral confession, so I don’t know how many other lies that bastard would have spun to get out of it. Or maybe. No. Danette didn’t deserve to die, neither did the others. But Florian does.
You have a demon familiar, what shape does it take, what did you both agree to, how has it helped you, where is it now, and what did it want in return? (Listen, people are animals)
Soul-searching, introspection, being alone, inner guidance
You see a group of hooded figures chanting and they force you to leave, what did you see? Who did you see?
The first time my reflection spoke back to me I thought that Asklepios had given me a bad batch. I was about ready to go give him what-for when it convinced me it was real. (I was really easy to convince back in those days. Seems like I just took everyone’s word as their word.)
It told me to call them Lessab and it had a deal for me. It had accepted the “”offering”” and was here to repay its debt.
I had no clue what the fuck it was talking about and eventually managed to suss out that it was talking about Lory.
It pressed its hands against the glass and it began to crack and heat as it begged me to let it help me. I initially tried to convince it that Lory wasn’t a sacrifice, but it wouldn’t listen, and it owed a debt to me even if I refused.
Eventually I relented. It’s still with me now. Sitting and studying in its own little reflection of my lab, always with me, in any surface that reflects and in my own emergency compact in my pocket.
Shortly after I experimented with Lessab on all that it could do. We tested how far it could travel, what it could hear, and if it could see beyond what I could see.
I went down the halls with a ball of malleable glass, sending it far, and wide, seeing what I could accomplish with Lessab.
It told me there were voices from a room further than what I could see and hear. I traveled down towards where it heard them and peered into a darkened room.
The walls were marked with soot and sigils like the swirling pattern that was in the ruins, and around them, in the same spiraled pattern, around 20 people stood in dark cloaks.
There was one person in the middle, and I didn’t need to see xeir face to know it was Florian. Xe stopped suddenly and turned to me, and every hidden face soon followed.
Then xe moved slowly over towards me and I could see xeir glowing eyes even under the hood. Xe reached out a hand and gently stroked my face and told me, now was not my time, before shutting the door in my face.
I stayed in the academy over the break. I had given up my room and job back in the city, and had no real interest in returning.
I didn’t see Florian over the break, but I don’t know if xe returned to xeir home. Xe never even spoke of them before. I guess I never really asked either.
You were flung into the lake by someone. Who was on shore, what words did you give up to live? Have you told anyone, did they believe you?
Fairness, truth, cause and effect, law
Xe have lost xeir reflection, and xe had to lure it back
Sometimes I wonder about everyone that I left behind. Any of the daguerreotypes that I had are all marked with water over the faces, at least as far as I can see. (Asklepios says they can see them fine.) I can’t read the names written on the back either; they all look like they’ve been blotted with water and are too smudged.
Asklepios once said their names out loud to me but it sounded muffled and distorted like someone screaming underwater. I know they are my family, but I guess I shouldn't worry about them anymore.
To my knowledge the lake only took their memory from me, and if Asklepios is fine, then they should be fine too. Lessab refuses to talk to me about them as well when I ask about them. I know it’s lying to me, but what purpose would there be to press it further?
That day at the lake was when I understood the full influence that Florian had over people. I can’t say for certain that xe ordered, or even suggested that I should be killed, or hurt, or even threatened. But that doesn't matter when you have a fanatically following, or even a jealous one for that matter.
I never knew who it was, they wore the same dark robes that I saw that evening and I suspect it could be any number of people.
I guess it’s fortunate that the lake was sentient enough for me to bargain with my life, and unfortunate enough that the water wasn’t clear enough with a reflection for Lessab to help me. It probed my mind for what I was thinking in what I thought were my last moments and, though I can’t remember accepting the offer, took those memories for my life and figure was gone when I emerged.
Lessab and I had discussed where it went when I wasn’t being reflected. It was cagy, and I still have no definitive answer, but I asked it to search for Florian’s reflection, to see what xe was planning, to see what xe wanted, to find out fucking anything about what was going on.
Florian was without a reflection for the next two weeks. Xe didn’t say anything, and merely smiled and looked my direction when asked about it. Lessab appeared reflecting him the next day.
It wouldn’t talk to me, or acknowledge me but Florian, in that tender, gentle way, spoke to me, in front of everyone, saying xe knew I wouldn’t mind if I borrowed it so xe could trick xeir own into coming back. It is what xe had foreseen.
That bastard knew I couldn’t speak out without causing a scene, so all I could do was smile and pretend it was fine.
Lessab didn’t return to me for at least a week. It refuses to say anything about what happened.
A ghosts follows you and tells you a traitor hunts you. How did you pay the ghost? How did you interpret the message?
Hope, faith, purpose, spirituality (My card depicts a woman lying face down in a river)
Students go missing, they are found in the forest around a pillar, which shatters and collapses
I had been seeing something in the corner of my eyes ever since the lake incident, but when I turned to face it, it always disappeared. I thought I was seeing remnants of my own death, or eye floaters, or some kind of nonsense from being tired.
Lessab was the one who finally told me it was a ghost, and suggested that it could go talk to it. I rigged up a large mirror in my dorm, this was before I got a lab, where I could see it clearly without having to turn to face it.
The ghost looked like it had been drowned--a victim of the lake, I suspect. I suppose I had attracted its attention when I was plunged into the waters myself.
The ghost stood several feet back away from me, and I watched as Lessab stopped mimicking my movements, turned away from me, and approached the (reflection?) of the drowned man.
It croaked and sputtered, water gushing from its mouth and onto the mirror’s floor. I heard it from behind me, but I knew better than to turn to look this time.
Lessab spoke with it for barely two sentences before the ghost melted in a sudden burst into a puddle on the floor.
When I turned to look at the real floor the puddle was there and in it my reflection, ready with answers.
Lessab confirmed it was from the lake (as I suspected), a student that had drowned a decade before and had come to warn me about more attempts on my life (as I also suspected.)
I asked Lessab who it was, but it just shrugged. It then said that the next one wouldn’t be from Florian’s flock. I should have known who else wanted me dead, but at the time I was clueless.
Lessab then told me that the ghost wants to be banished. I asked if the puddle was the ghost and it shrugged again.
I was able to evaporate the puddle with the fires within, and I haven’t seen the ghost since, so I suspect that worked. At least well enough for me not to be bothered.
Florian’s flock had grown substantially as well. Even the staff had started to notice at this time. I think one of xeir little rituals in the woods had gone poorly. I only heard about it afterwards, but a group of missing students were discovered with a pillar in the woods.
I took a look at the site a while later, and there were stones placed in the same spiral pattern as the people in the black cloaks. None of the students will talk about it, and all claim they don’t remember. (Fucking liars, every one of them)
The staff increased security around the parameters of the woods after that, with large living stone works.
You find a room of forbidden artifacts that haven’t been touched in a while. What did you do with the discovery? Did you take any items?
Resistance to change, letting go of the past, personal transformation,
A professor, a part of a secret association, entrusted xem with a chest, who was it, what did they teach? What was inside and how did xe open it?
By the end of the year, even some staff was under the god’..s of name, yeah. The ones whose names I’ve blocked out. The one Florian is associated with, X.
The only professor to get caught though was Prof Sidsel, who worked in Oracle Recognition. He was fired and removed from office. I guess back then they took this seriously. And I was the only one at the time to recognize his connection to Florian.
Sometimes I wonder if
I will kill xem, it’s the only way. I am doing the right thing.
I asked xem about Sidsel later, but xe denied it. Or rather, asked too many questions until I gave up asking them myself.
Xe tried to sway me again, flattering me, telling me that glass is associated with scrying, and that we could be powerful together.
Xe showed me a small dark orb, it was about the size of their palm, but was so tiny in mine. It was pure black and reflected me, only me and entirely me.
Xe touched my face again and whispered to me, “think of what we could do together.” Xe spoke the names of xeir god and placed my hand on top of the sphere.
Bastard. Fucking bastard.
I ran. I didn’t know what else to do, I just up and ran through the corridors, any direction just away. Like a child.
I couldn’t shake the feeling of xeir hand on mine and so I shook it, pounded it, and banged it against a wall in the dark corridor.
It moved under my fist and at first I thought that I had destroyed part of the foundation, until I saw that it was a concealed passage. This wasn’t surprising given the many corridors of the place, and the ruins, and all the other things here.
I spent the next month exploring the passage in order to occupy my mind. Most of the rooms I found were empty, or full of wrapped furniture, or other useless things.
But I eventually found a vault. It was enchanted to look like another room covered in dust and wrapped furniture, but I could see everything clearly in the mirrors I used to amplify the light.
Dispelling it was simple, as if the illusion was an afterthought to the hidden depths. Everything in here was something out of legend and something out of time.
A true Hand of Glory, a set of Necropants, the Crook of the False Shepard, the Painting of the 5 Deaths, and so on and so forth. Everything in here was exceptionally dangerous and only one thing called to me.
It was the Glass Needle. It feels stupid and cliche to say that it was made for me. I know it wasn’t, but it was made for people with my specialty.
It was thinner than a hair, and as long as my palm and could pierce and stitch together anything. Anyone.
The last person had given themselves a few extra appendages, and I was missing a few too many for me not to bring this with me.
The ball that year was miserable. This was the first time both me and Asklepios had worn suits, though I suspect it was more because they refused rather than couldn’t afford. They still didn’t wear a tie and had half the buttons undone on their shirt.
I danced to the music, successfully convinced Asklepios not to spike the drinks, and spoke with the higher magicians and wizards, and unsuccessfully convinced Asklepios not to spike the drinks. They were escorted out promptly and the drinks reverted back to their original contents.
It would have been really funny if it had succeeded though.
The arch wizards were surprisingly not judgemental of my background and I felt at ease talking to them. Florian was there as well, charming everyone, but we didn’t speak until the dance.
It was a partner swapping number or else I wouldn't have spoken to xem at all. Xe was wearing an extremely daring outfit that barely covered anything.
Xe looked… I wanted
Xe smiled at me and said xe had something for me. That I would be safe that night. I laughed and pretended not to be interested, but xe insisted. Xe said xe had seen a future in which I wasn’t alive, and xe had taken care of everything for me.
Lory’s brother, Gerard, was found dead later in the hall. He was missing half his limbs and Florian told me of the derringer in his pocket. Apparently they didn’t check for regular weapons, just magic ones.
Florian whispered in my ear that it was for me, revenge for sacrificing his sister, before slipping away into the night.
I found Gerard’s hand later wrapped in a parcel on my bed with a note that said “for your need(le)s.”
The skin didn’t match, but no one noticed I took up the habit of wearing gloves.
Kaden Note: Original my card was the 3 of Cups, and Rival’s was Ace, but I flipped them because I had better ideas
Someone tried to poison you, you survived, but awoke in a vat of blood. What did the pool steal from you?
Desire, resources, skill
Someone tried to poison xem, xem survived, but awoke in a vat of blood. What did the pool steal from xem?
Xe found a way to bind people to xem, spiritually
Florian was no longer trying to hide xeir own following at this time. More and more of the students gathered and listened to xem preach about the future and how xe knew the right way.
Xe was always surrounded by an unquestioning devoted flock who always seemed to know where xe was, and what xe wanted. I didn't know they were bound to xem at the time, but I knew it was unnatural.
I needed to find out more as they grew in numbers. Nearly a third of the student body was under xeir sway at this time. Were they all so scared of the future that they would throw away their own ability to make choices just to follow some pretty asshole?
Fuck! It didn't help that xeir predictions always came true.
I confronted xem about it eventually. Xe smiled at me and said that everyone was bound together through magic. I was ready to call bullshit, but something about it sounded right. I pressed harder and xe told me their souls were all intertwined and they would receive some blessing through xeir soul being connected to some god and the flock being connected to xeirs.
Xe asked me if I wanted to become connected too and smiled knowingly. They knew my answer. But I didn’t want to give them the god damn satisfaction so I lied.
I said yes.
Even xe was surprised. I fuck. I can still feel xem when xe wants me to feel xem. I still haven’t figured out a way to block xem.
Xe expected me to back out at the last minute but fuck xem. Knowing where xe was would make me able to track xeir movements. Xe would also be able to track mine.
Later that night, xe lead me down into a hidden chamber, where we were completely alone. Even the windows were shuttered and the cups made of tarnished, unreflected metal.
Xe had everything prepared, the dove, eel, a prick of my own blood, and with a sharp arrow through both my chest and xeirs, a sliver of both our souls and matching scars on our sterums.
Xe gently removed the gloves from my hands and kissed the mismatched fingers, telling me that no other of xeir flock received a sliver of xier soul. Only I would.
We both drank the concoction. It tasted like my mouth was coated in metal and I could feel the world spin under my feet.
I fell to the floor and held onto Florian. Xeir hand was shaking, but xe held my head in xier lap and stroked my hair. I thought xem had poisoned me. I should have killed xem, but when I saw xeir face, xeir eyes were dilated and unfocused and xier breathing was rapid.
I held xem tight against my chest on that cold hard floor. Both of us were shaking and I could feel our breaths becoming synchronized. Our hearts are beating together. We were conjoined and we conjoined and were together one.
And later, I don’t know when, but at sometime I found myself alone, standing on my feet. Voices calling to me from all directions.
I knew there was a bright light above, but the space was filled with dark black smoke, curling and encompassing every inch outside and inside of me. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t need to breathe.
And around me there was a whispering congregation judging my every movement, calling me through the smoke, and guiding me towards a river.
The smoke took the form of hands and pulled and shoved me into the waters. I walked into it, above my head and away from the smoke.
It felt divine compared to the smoke and the light.
I awoke sometime later, to Florian staring down at me. Xe kissed me on my forehead, “it’s never easy,” xe brushed the hair out of my face.
I was floating in a shallow pool of blood, surrounded by candles.
I tried to speak but I was too tired. It was as if I had been awake for several days straight and walked hundreds of miles. I could barely get myself out of the water, let alone question why they didn’t need to be floating in what looked like it would take dozens of animals to fill.
I don’t know if xe did other magic to me then, but Lessab doesn’t think so.
Xe helped me back to my room, where I slept for at least two days.
I lied to Asklepios and told them I was hungover for those days. They believed me but Lessab laughed at me the entire time and said I had bad luck with water. Asshole.
You give a presentation with a partner and they tell everyone you didn’t contribute. Everyone is mad. You give a second presentation, over something else, but no one still wants to go over it with you
Retribution, Injustice, corruption
Xe went into the forest, for reasons, and had a vision of the Academy collapsing. Why was with xem? What did they learn?
There were rumors going around that I was the one who killed Gerard. There was no evidence, because I didn’t do it, and there was no witness, because I didn’t do it, and I was clearly seen at the time with the arch wizards and other students.
This didn’t stop everyone from believing it though. I’m sure Florian was the only reason that more people didn’t either try to kill me themselves or at least cause me more harm. Some even began to believe that what happened with Lory wasn’t an accident.
It didn’t trouble me too much until I was partnered with the former girlfriend of Gerard, Estella. She was curt, rude, and dismissive of my input for our project on marble. After she even told everyone that I didn’t contribute. Everyone believed her.
The professor was at least sympathetic enough to let me do a second presentation on a different subject. I was spent and didn’t want to put in more effort so I just gave a presentation on glass. No one cared though and I knew that I would have this kind of trouble again.
Florian’s sermons started to talk darker turns at this point. Xe preached that the end was coming and that xe had seen the destruction of the academy. Xe was also bolder, claiming a spot in the courtyard, standing on top of a fountain so that the statue behind xem framed xem as a divine figure.
I asked one of the staff why they permitted it and they sighed and said this isn’t the first student to become religious, it wouldn’t be the last, and that the academy had to uphold its firm belief in embracing all forms of magic, divine, mundane, and otherwise.
What scared me the most was that I knew xe believed every word of what xe were saying. Xe was terrified but worse, xe was confident in xeir ability to save everyone.
Xe started using the title ‘Temple’ because xe would be the shelter for the upcoming storm. Pretentious asshole.
You see a spirit jump off a tall bridge. You hear the words: They didn’t tell me what I sold. There is a new statue where it jumped with a plaque. What does it say? What do you think the spirit sold?
Tyrant, Recklessness, Domineering
Someone destroyed one of the altars and took xeir private stuff
I could feel Florian go through wild swings of emotions on almost a daily basis. Deep throngs of terror, anger, helplessness, then elation, relief, joy, and happiness bordering on ecstasy.
I don’t know how many of these feelings were brought on by the visions themselves, but I had heard stories from friends and family who were the religious kind. They said that some people were overtaken by “the spirit” when they attended services. I suspect some of this was from that as well.
I took long walks to clear my head to distinguish between my own feelings and that if xeirs. It was exhausting.
I was on the bridge between the two largest towers of the Academy. This is one of the few places I felt at peace and was able to clear my head.
I’ve been saying that I’ve wanted to kill Florian since that night in the ruins. I don’t know if I have. I want to believe that I did, but I’ve been lying to myself to try to convince myself. I still wanted to believe that xe was harmless.
This is when I saw one of the first consequences of xeir following. I heard it at first, or rather I heard nothing. The wind had stopped and all around me everything was motionless.
A figure wearing the same dark robes stepped towards me, through me, and over the edge of the bridge. I couldn’t move, all I could do was watch it vanish out of sight into the mists below.
Then I heard, like a whisper in my ear and through my bones, “Xe didn’t tell me what I sold.”
Then all at once everything came crashing back and I stumbled to my knees and before me a dark statue stood where the figure had jumped.
I can no longer write the description, since I’ve scrubbed it from my mind, but it was of one of Florian’s god. The plaque on the description had the name of the god and it wormed its way into my dreams and on my tongue.
I found myself idly writing it when I wasn’t paying attention, and saying it like it was a cuss I had known since childhood.
Even Lessab seemed frightened by it, telling me to stop saying its name.
I don’t know who that spirit was. I tried searching any sort of newspaper or new source about students dying or going missing, but there was nothing. It’s likely it was simply a warning or a vision from Florian’s god…or I don’t know.
I needed answers for this thing, but I knew xe would be too cagy to explain anything to me.
Since xe had so kindly given me a piece of their own soul, I knew exactly where xeir hiding spots were, and when xe went to sleep as it was the only time xe didn’t have tumultuous emotions.
The damned fool only warded it against magic and not physical items and it was easy enough to slip a mirror under the door, angle it just right, and have Lessab unlock it.
Seems most people in this place only think of magic as a solution to anything anymore.
I wonder now in hindsight if xe wanted me to find it, or xe knew I would.
It was a simple altar, with the dark orb resting on a wooden pedestal in the middle of a room with the same spiral pattern carved into the stone.
It didn’t take much work to scratch out every one of them. The orb sat on top of a large chest and inside it were human bones arranged in a grotesque spiraled pattern.
They matched perfectly with the missing parts from Gerard along with the derringer Florian had claimed he had.
I took the entire crate with me when I left.
Gerard was good and dead but the rest of the body was still useful to me.
I took it into my own private lab and burn the bones, clear in the reflection of Lessab as another sacrifice, further binding it to me.
For the next couple of weeks Florian whipped everyone into a frenzy saying that their beliefs were under attack. More fights broke out in this system than any other.
Florian didn’t believe any of what xe said. This was a calculated tactic, divide, separate, ensure that those of the flock were only safe with xem. Xe gave me a look and a smile during one of xeir sermons as if to say thank you.
At the start of the semester more and more students were missing. Officially they dropped out and, given Asklepios was one of them, most people believed it.
I don’t. Something isn’t right. At the time I wasn’t sure what Florian was capable of but if the bones of Gerard meant anything, how many other bodies were there?
At the start of the year Florian attended classes less and less, preached more and more as xeir sermons became more incoherent, more rabid, and more desperate. Xe was frightened nearly all of the time and overcome with complete frustration at xeir flock, and near savage devotion to their god.
Xe came to me once in the middle of the night.. Xe sat on my bed, placed, xeir head on my shoulder and xeir hand in mine. This was the most relaxed xe had felt in months.
In the quiet I found myself mouthing the name of that god again, and xe was pleased. Xe said to keep it on my lips at all times and kissed me before leaving.
I knew immediately that I had to scrub it from my memory at all cost and that Florian would only become bolder in this year.
Your rival wanted to discuss something over chess. Do you join them, or do you leave? What rumors happen because of it?
Joy, success, celebration
A ghost visited xem and told xem the path to hell had been revealed and xey could find every answer but give up the ability to forgive.
Florian called for me one day to meet xem down in the library. Xe had sent one of xeir little lackeys to deliver the message to me. It was in an envelope sealed with wax and signed with a kiss.
I had no reason not to go and when I arrived xe was dressed in the same outfit from the ball sitting, crossed legged, with a glass of wine in front of a glass chess set.
Xe held out xeir hand and offered me the seat across from xem.
“The first move is yours,” xe smiled at me.
“I don’t know how to play,” I didn’t move.
“That’s all right, I’ll show you,” xe touched each piece individually with their finger. “Each piece has their own set of moves, their own rules, their own destiny.”
Xe paused a long time while remaining eye contact before continuing, “You know your opponents moves just as well as your own. All the possibilities are there for you to see.”
Xe moved a couple pieces around the board, showing how everything worked, and removing a couple pieces, “sacrifices, are important, and necessary.” Xe looked up at me and I tried not to react, but xe could still feel every emotion though our connection.
“The key,” xe reached across the table and placed xeir hand on my hand that was missing the fingers, “is get people to move how you want them, into the right position,” xe moved the pieces across the board in whatever fashion chess players do, “and you have everything where you need it to be… to win.”
I pulled my hand away, “Why did you call me here?”
Xe paused for a while, thinking, calculating.
“I had a dream,” xe uncrossed xeir legs and recrossed them the other way, “or a vision, or a visitation.
“A visitor… someone you used,” xe smiled, “to know.” I glared.
“She told me of the path towards [xeir god], and that she could take me there, should I so desire,” xe took a sip of the wine.
“But there would be a sacrifice. I would know all that I could,” xe gestured towards the board, “know not just the possibility of moves, but the ones that will happen.”
I crossed my arms and said nothing.
“But there was a price,” xe continued. “I could never forgive.” Xe paused again waiting for my reaction.
“Forgive what?” I finally asked.
“In general,” xe smiled and leaned back.
I uncrossed my arms, recrossed them, uncrossed them again, then finally asked, “In this vision what did you do?”
Xe smiled at me and placed one hand under xeir chin. I was getting nothing from our connection either.
“Is this all what you called me here for?” I finally asked, sitting up straight in the chair.
“I thought you ought to know,” xe still smiled at me.
Fucking rat bastard.
I picked up the queen in front of Florian and stood up. I towered over xem as xe remained seated.
I reached out with my hand towards xeir neck but stopped and brushed away some hair from xeir face. Xe looked amused.
I leaned in close to xeir ear and whispered softly so that I couldn’t even hear myself, “Are you certain of your pieces?”
I placed the queen, now in the shape of a pawn, back down on the board as I turned to leave.
You are guided by a shadow in the catacombs and you find an artifact and a letter written in code. How do you decipher it? What was the artifact and what magic did it awaken?
Duality, Union, Partnership
Xe saw a vision of mages holding swords and a dark portal opening above them. The book xe was reading has a new page in it.
Ever bolder, Florian now had “”scripture,”” or so xe claimed. Xe spoke of a vision of a dark portal entering the world and how this vision had been etched into the pages of whatever book xe was reading.
Xe believed what xe, of course, and the page had been changed to reflect what xe was saying, but whether or not xe changed it xemselves I have no idea.
Xe had a funny way of saying just enough half-truths and leaving blank spaces for others to read their own meanings into whatever it was xe wanted.
Members of the flock even made little booklets to pass out, praising and talking about the god too and I found myself saying its name more and more frequently to the point where I had scratched it into the headboard of my bed when I slept.
It was starting to invade my dreams too and I would spend long hours just wandering around in the basement catacombs to avoid sleeping.
The fourth year was more of a guided study, less classes, more personal experimentation and projects so there was no need to keep a “”proper”” sleeping schedule.
I found myself wandering down through the ruins where Florian first had the visions of xeir god. I ended up in this place when I wasn’t paying attention.
I kept my glass around as a mirror so at least Lessab was for company. It was the one who pointed out that we had been followed by a shadow with no owner.
It wasn’t malicious and even Lessab was curious to see what it wanted from me, so I followed it down deeper into the catacombs, far away from the spiral and to a small chamber.
There was nothing in it, but the shadow refused to move away from a single spot. In the head of the shadow I discovered that there was a concealed compartment in the wall and in it, a small chest with a small metal rod with a loop on one end and an encrypted letter.
I had no idea how to read it, and knew nothing of codes or ciphers or any of that nonsense.
When I went to sleep that night, I set up a mirror with the words clearly reflecting, allowing Lessab to work on it. It wasn’t too happy about it, but it’s here to help and serve me, so I set it about doing tedious nonsense I hate.
It took it three weeks to finally crack the code. Lessab explained that it was an ear hook, meant for extracting things from inside the ear, mainly earwax. At least that’s what the mundane usage is for.
What it’s really for is extracting memories from the mind. Lessab didn’t have any answers for why it was in the wall or who put it or who wrote it, but said that there were clear instructions on how to set about using it.
It didn’t work for complex ideas, or memories, but simple things, say the name of a god, it could extract easily.
To use it, all I had to do was concentrate over and over on the name, chant it in my mind like a meditation, and shove that thing into my ear while activating the magic.
It was horrid. I could feel the name squirming around as I pulled it from my brain and squashed it onto a piece of paper before burning it.
I hadn’t thought of just taking words from places before, and it became easy to see a tree and pull the details from it onto notes, like a shorthand script made from magic.
A statue you walk passed every day has blood. You can sense illusion magic. Was the blood an illusion, or did it hold something worse? Who did it?
Disaster Avoided, Delayed Disaster,
Fourth year students are responsible for a giant ritual spell to keep the academy safe. Someone stabbed xem during the spell. Who was it, who helped them, and will the protection spell last since it was interrupted?
More and more of the students have been missing. The staff claims that they are dropping out, but everyone knows better.
Most ones that have been disappearing are the ones who have spoken out about Florian’s cult, though a few members have also disappeared. A few sacrifices to avoid suspicion? Or did their families discover and pull them away?
Florian had also found a way to block me from feeling and sensing where xe was. Xe didn’t do it always and I had a suspicion I was only feeling what xe wanted me to feel. That bastard knew exactly how frustrated it made me feel.
As the sermons grew more and more frantic more and more about fire and brimstone I started causing more problems for them.
I knew Florian wouldn’t let any of them kill me, and should they try, like one of the little cronies at the lake, then I was ready this time. I was always on my own guard and I took to carrying a knife with me at all times.
Their actions grew even more bold as more and more of the staff began to side with Florian. Xe would offer advice and tell people futures that would come to pass. Xe was an oracle and people fell under xeir spell.
I had found another bone altar, like the one they made from Gerard, through a portal that was hidden behind a statue.
It had been marked subtly with blood, illusion magic no doubt showing where the moving entrance was located.
Through it was a chamber with the same spiraled pattern carved into the floor like all the other rooms and had the metallic taste of blood.
Lessab had been working on deciphering the symbols and said they were a purification of the self to lend power and self to the god.
The jumping spirit said they had sold something. I still do not know what, but I suspect this god wants something in return for it’s “gifts” it’s granted to Florian. I couldn’t let this continue.
The first time I tried to kill Florian was during the barrier ritual. All fourth year students were responsible for aiding a choir ritual that protected the academy from the horrors of the worlds beyond and within.
I stood with all the rest of xeir flock in robes that I had stolen and stood behind xem as xe sang in unison with the crowd.
Near the end, and passed the point of the most magic, a safe place for it to be interrupted, I slipped the knife deep into xeir side.
Xe screamed and gasped. I shouted out too, pretending I hadn’t been the one who did it, screaming that xe had been stabbed.
Xe clutched onto me, laughing, and shaking xeir head. “Now is not the time, now is not the time,” xe laughed again and again.
We were soon surrounded by staff and other flock members and they carrier xem away into the infirmary.
We were both questioned, I said I knew nothing.
Florian claimed that xe did not know who had hurt xem. Xe was lying, and I thought back to our conversation at the chess board.
Do you feel as though you have studied enough?
No. This isn’t about the exam.
Do you trust your Rival to play fair?
Yes. Xe is a rat bastard, but not a cheater
Are you nervous?
More than I’ve ever been in my life.
Do you even want to win?
Greater things are at hand.
(from Game and added onto)
The Headmaster and faculty rush to congratulate your Rival. Visiting scholars clap your Rival on the back.Celebrations surround you. A ceremony that follows calls the exam honorable and commends you on your spirit. Even though you didn’t win, you’re still a powerful magic user, and there’s much you can do following graduation.
I fingered Gerard’s derringer in my pocket, knowing what I had to do. Thinking long and hard and watching Florian, surrounded by xeir flock and adoring staff and visitors.
I had my hand on the trigger and seconds away from making my decision when one of the other instructors placed their hand on my shoulder.
“This is only the beginning, now is not the time,” she whispered into my ear and slipped a card into my pocket.
She was gone when I turned around to look for her. The card was cold to the touch and had a strange, reflective symbol on it, but only showed myself, and I knew this was the name of another god, and a tickle told me in the back of my mind it was in opposition to whatever held sway over Florian.