Capital City: the city of sinners. That's what they called it but Olivia wasn't sure how much sin actually occurred. Queer ponderings on lonesome nights consumed her these days. Besides her family, ponderings were all she had to stave off her loneliness. Her sister and her father were out seeing a theatre show, so she had only those queer ponderings and one small task.
She found herself facing her mirror applying midnight blue eye shadow. She'd spent almost an hour anxiously deciding how she'd look on her venture. Her blood curdled at the idea of going out into the world but she remembered her father saying that going outside once in a while was key to keeping sane. She noticed her hand shaking as she tried to gussy-up. She concentrated hard on it to stop.
She finished with her eyeshadow and snapped the case back together before taking a look at her reflection. She tried to smile but she looked like a reanimated corpse imitating human life so she stopped. Instead she smoothed out her dress. It felt so good to be in a dress. It was a deep purple garment trimmed with lace. It was a bit… patchy. Men had no breasts and so she had to make adjustments to the top for her significant bust. She had torn the left sleeve once and just removed most of it, making the arms uneven. She liked things to be a little wrong.
It was at that moment her brain realized that she was wasting time.
Stalling is not gonna get me anywhere, she decided and she took a deep breath to try to calm her racing heart rate. Absentmindedly she took her pair of blue gloves off the chair as she moved away from the mirror to the door. She took one final look at her glass-trapped twin before pushing through the door into the dank living room beyond.
The television chattered in the background, spewing forth news of some tragedy occurring on the other side of her savage world. Set must've left this on, she decided. She gave the TV little regard as she slipped her simple blue gloves over her scarred hands. No-one would see them while she did her one small task that night.
She was about to push the off button when she heard a word from the news: 'Schismists'. The Schismists where an elusive band of rebels that piqued her interest since she shared something with them: the abomination of magic. Due to that commonality she dallied to hear the story and thus delayed her one small task. She moved around to the front of the TV to get a better look at what was happening through the glass.
"-the Schismist terrorists have now destroyed another house of law. Their recent activity in this year after previous inaction now has the Archon on high alert," the newswoman explained while pictures of a ruined House of Law moved across the screen. Olivia recognised the institution and knew its name: Dis. "The leader of Acolis claimed in a recently made statement that defeating these terrorists is one of the largest and most important tasks of the year."
The leader of Acolis, Olivia thought, but not the actual leader of the Houses of Law.
The screen switched over to the Archon addressing rapacious reporters. She was a powerful sight in her grandiose, gold-plated armour. The red gem which symbolised House Acols was at the centre of her breastplate.
"We must show these terrorists the people will not tolerate their crimes of murder, rape and torture," the old lady of Acolis declared from behind a pair of large, circular spectacles. The glasses magnified her gold-flecked green eyes and made her glare at the cameras all the more unsettling. "Their thievery and intimidation are not acceptable and are a cost to us all, whether pure, mixed or fray. A few may believe their sabotage is only a concern of the rich, but it affects some of the most innocent members of society who are taken care of in Houses of Law. These people are now dead or have nowhere to go due to the Schismists. The defeat of the Schismists is critical and will be one of the most important tasks of the years to come."
The news lady returned and said her closing words. Dis, the House of Law was not far out of the city; Olivia knew where it was for her personal safety. A seed of curiosity had been planted in her heart. She imagined herself at the supermarket and a group of thirty suppressors discovering her secret; taking her away and imprisoning Sethaline and her father in Kronelot for the rest of their lives. Dis seemed like a far nicer way to get out of the house… no suppressors at least. Despite the probable danger she felt compelled to investigate the ruins. It was just another queer pondering for a lonesome night and a minor delay for her one small task, but she thought she could afford it.
She exited the apartment and took the stairs because she liked to. A few minutes later she passed the bored manager in the lobby and was out on Old Sinner's Street. It was a dark night and her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. She spotted her car, a terrible black thing and went over to it. She caressed the top slightly while opening the door and sliding inside. The engine choked as she tried to turn it on.
"Come on sweets," she murmured to the car as if it could hear, tapping the familiar chinks in the wheel as she did. The car was shitty and uncomfortable but it felt like home; more home than the apartments on Old Sinner.
Eventually it came to life and she began to drive. As she darted through the streets of Bloodtown, she absentmindedly took the list from her pocket and put it on the dashboard. Driving was rehearsed and she went through the motions that she had repeated a hundred times before. The traffic was modest since it was the middle of the week. Thinking of the House of Law, she diverted from her path and went on her way out of the city and into the woods. Soon her road turned to one less travelled and became dotted by oaks and Grand Argents. The daughter was usually shining in the sky but now it was obscured by the tangle of endless trees.
Olivia found her way easily enough coming to an abrupt halt upon spotting the abandoned site. How long has it been since the suppressors came? Olivia wondered, opening the car door. There was no stench or thickness in the crisp air of the woods and she had only the light of her headlights to see.
There was a small opening in the leafless trees toward the House of Law. She'd taken the back way to avoid any potential unwanted attention from the front. With her headlights lighting the gap in the trees she made her way through. The hem of her dress caught a wooden limb. She managed to escape without any permanent damage to her dress but her thigh was nibbled by the sharp bark. Little red cuts found their way onto her leg, but she ignored the small stings.
Spires of rubble stuck up from the ground where the walls of the establishment had once been, before they were crumbled by the magic of the Schismists. There were warning signs left behind from when the place was still used. The signs explained the consequences of trespass on the grounds. Olivia was already illegal anyway; if they caught her, trespass would be her smallest concern.
Olivia didn't know how much power the Schismists held but she could tell that much magic had been cast in her vicinity recently. It meant the Schismists were strong. The scorch marks and decimation alone proved that they had formidable skills, almost as if they had been trained.
She was drawn inside the ruins of the House of Law from a sense of curiosity. Perhaps the lack of thrills in her present life took her here, but she didn't know. She felt like an adventurous kid again traversing the ruins. There had been much ruination in her childhood but she at least she had friends back then.
Dis had been completely surrounded by walls but they were broken apart by magic. The inner dregs she found herself in reminded her of some kind of training ground. From what Olivia knew Dis had been focused on training magical individuals, a Seminary House of Law. She knew that Houses of Law were diverse in their functions. They were schools, prisons and hospitals. But in travelling through the dark ruins it was hard to make out what any of the buildings had been. Many of them had collapsed upon themselves.
It looked like a prison. The walls were so tall where they still stood. She could feel the fear of those who'd been here before. That feeling that there had been no escape before the walls came down. Olivia had no love for the Schismists but despite everything she was glad that they destroyed this place.
In the distance she saw a formation of l dust next to a wall giving off a purple light. On the ground right next to it was a corpse. Her stomach twisted for a moment when she saw it. She felt disappointed with herself, and if she'd been out of the moment she would've proudly proclaimed that corpses didn't frighten her but her head caught the hypocrisy and was calling her a lying liar.
She looked closer to see there were fingers of the mountain stripping off the corpse's flesh. The skull was partly bare and the bones she could see seemed almost licked clean. Fingers of the mountain were little brown and gold centipede creatures from the north of Yveny or somewhere and they were ravenous in the face of dead meat. It was arresting to the clear yellow bones interrupted by the dirty, decaying, reddish flesh of the person's muscle. It was being torn into chunky pieces by the fingers; they found no difficulty in their diligent work. She was staring so intently she almost didn't realize a warm, wet feeling running down her left arm. A hundred needles were sent stabbing through her heart.
She looked away to her left arm and touched it just to prove to herself that nothing was there. She spared a small glance back at the bloody mess and decided to not watch the fingers of the mountain anymore.
From what she could make out, the grounds also reminded her of a school; she supposed that it was a place of learning of sorts. She had only ever been to school when she was about six or seven. Several of the interconnected buildings had been blasted apart and it seemed that in the centre there had been three towers. Two of them were almost completely crumbled though and the third had many large chunks taken out of it.
It was then she saw the colours for the first time, gliding around the institution in purple, orange and blue. It meant only one thing; the Difference was shattered and demons would be about. She was certain they would find her desirable. Most people could not see the colours which gave her an advantage in places such as this. Her 'sight' also let her see any demons wandering around the ruins, unless they were especially shrewd.
The colours lit her way, but they all seemed to be coming from the same place. A building with a label she could make out as the ghosts of light glided past: Daemonology & Tartarology. Daemonology… a snazzy way of saying studying demons I suppose… with an unnecessary "a", she thought but she had no clue what Tartarology was.
Daemonology & Tartarology resembled a library which brought a warm feeling to her heart in spite of autumn chills. But as she walked a thought hit her in the head, I should not have come here and I should not be going in. That warm and wet line tickled her arm again and she took in a short breath. Olivia had no clue what kept pulling her in, but some part of her wanted this.
There were more of the colours as she went. The wisps of green, blue, yellow and pink traversed through the crumbling bookshelves. The shelves stood as tall as the building which was at least five meters up. Many of the books were gone, too many to not be just be 'low stocks' or something. Perhaps the Schismists had stolen the books? So many great books were kept only in Houses of Law; it made her heart ache to see them lost to so much of the public. The idea of the Schismists stealing them didn't remedy that anguish.
As she walked along the destroyed library she felt herself drawing near something. Passing small formations of l dust and l sand made her realize that the Otherworld was running rampant in the building. Whatever she was coming to give her a feeling that made her whole body buzz with expectation and her nerve endings sting.
She came to the end of the building and saw that the colours were slithering from one of the final rows of bookshelves. She approached that row and found a strange crystalline device with dozens of moving parts. Or at least she thought it was a device. It glowed blue and Olivia sensed that it was at the rupture between the worlds. Merely being in its presence heightened her senses but made that stinging she felt stronger. How in hell did the suppressors not find this here? She stared at it for a few moments but then she had to avert her eyes; it made her tired just looking at it. There was blood riding along her arm again, tickling her wrist.
She grasped her arm at the wrist and stroked its length. There was nothing. There was nothing. She was breathing too much. Her heart was picking up too much of a pace. She tried to lean against the bookshelf and placed a hand upon her forehead before looking back at the strange construction. What in Ethan's name is that?
She looked away from it again. It stung to see it. She rubbed her throbbing forehead and then her eyes when she heard it; a faint whispering. She pushed herself away from the bookshelf trying to comprehend the words. It was infuriatingly incomprehensible white noise and it made her headache worse.
She looked back to the main walkway of the library and saw the faint silver and red spirit of a demon gliding around the place. It was what had been speaking to her, too silent to understand. And she had no l dust on her.
Inhuman screaming ripped through the halls. It hit her aching head like a train and rung again and again and again. She put her hands over her ears to try and stop it, but it only continued crying out like a dying animal. She stumbled away from the strange device through the library and tried to get away from the alarm with no regard to the stalking demon. If it noticed her she didn't care, she had to get away from that sound. She fled out the door using all her strength.
Clumsy steps carried Olivia out of the building, uncaring of any further damage she might inflict on herself. Her hands clenched all over her skull trying to find some release. She tripped on her way, kicking up dust and she felt her head screaming back at the ringing as she clambered back up, racing towards the light from her car. The sound quietened with every step away from the House of Law but still shouted in the background like those goddamned whispers.
With her head still singing she opened the car door and slammed it behind her. The sounds had stopped but it still felt like someone had driven a thick, metal pipe right through her head and every second they gave it a good tap. She leant back and realized she had been hyperventilating. She tried to calm herself down but felt the blood seeping down her arm; tickling, tickling. She could feel her heart still racing and her scars were stinging. She took off her gloves and saw the crystals of l dust jutting out from her wrists and palms, a mark of the magical. The purple minerals shone slightly from her bizarre encounter.
She clutched her hands to her chest and stared out into the forest, she didn't like the look of her hands. For a moment she was mindful of the possibility of more demons but there were no more in sight. It must have been some kind of alarm or something like that, she speculated, allowing herself to think again. She wondered who would make something so horrible.
Straightening her expression, Olivia glanced over to the small list she'd placed on the dashboard and remembered what she was really meant to do. She opened up the glove box and removed a small dark purple sack out of which she pulled a phial of refined l dust. It glistened purple in the light of the headlights. I might as well do the ritual now; it will last for hours.
Any business worth their weight in sand had suppressors looking out for people like her. They would be able to see what she was regardless of any gloves because their eyes were stained with l dust. A spiritus such as her could see things like that as well; it was a stain they shared but unlike them the stain came from within for her. Yet since she was a spiritus she had one advantage: she could trick them into thinking she was something she wasn't.
She removed the stopper from the phial and drank the energizing purple liquid. It touched her spirit and she could feel herself stronger but it wasn't good either, it was painful in a manner she couldn't describe, but she had to do it. She had to survive. Her crystal spires shone brighter and she let her powers be cast upon herself and in one large surge she changed.
It died after a moment and she quickly slipped her gloves back on so no-one would see what she was. She couldn't let them see, for Set and her father's sake. It's just lies, forever and ever, she frowned at the thought and for a moment felt hollow.
She sighed and looked to see her handiwork. To her she seemed like normal, like her spirit was purple but she knew others would see her soul as grey. Like the spirit of a regular, not one which belonged to a magician. Also to her it appeared that she wore her gloves but the spell she cast would make others think she wore no gloves and had completely normal hands. It wasn't real of course but it would do for a time. She still wore her gloves because those without spirits or stained eyes couldn't be fooled by her magic so she still had to conventionally hide her hands.
Olivia returned the phial back into the concealing pouch and put it back in the glove box. Rhythmically she straightened the mirror and turned the key for the ignition, sounding the engine. She pulled out and drove back onto the road. She cursed herself for ever going to that House of Law and wondered what exactly that strange device was. She drove with queer thoughts on her way to her one small (and now delayed) task.
She wondered if that alarm was some kind of recording spell from Acolis or the Houses of Law and if they'd be able to use it to find her. A twinge of guilt impaled her chest as she considered that her family would have to move again. Moving was no concern of hers but she knew Sethaline wouldn't appreciate being separated from her friends. Olivia hated that it was because of herself they would have to move. She tried not the think about it, since everything was fine… for now at least.
Traffic was no different from what it had been before, as she progressed through the city. She thought about that contraption again. It seemed to have shattered the Difference, but she thought that only lots of death or an opulent display of magic could. As the spirits of the dead ascended to the Otherworld they had to break though Difference on their journey; too much of that would shatter the Difference. There was that corpse and there probably would have been more, but the Difference was stronger than a few deaths. The House of Law was a place where spells were cast every day, but nothing strong enough to break the world like that.
Hundreds of years ago the Northern Queen Bree attempted to invade Albion when it was under Patrian control. Bree raised thousands of Northern clans to her army but they failed in their war. The Queen and her soldiers were burned alive in colossal pyres along the Northern border. For decades afterwards the Otherworld and their world had merged in that spot and demons could walk freely through. Thousands of deaths are what it would take, not even just hundreds.
Regardless, Olivia was curious most of all who put that device in the House of Law. Was it the Schismists or some Acolis project or someone else entirely? She had a lot of questions and no answers… and still a burning headache.
She came to the supermarket and took her list out into the cool night. She paused for a moment. Suddenly she felt incredibly self-conscious about her dress and it felt like someone was fiddling with her heart. But instead of leaving she took in a cool breath and decided that the buggers could look if they wanted. A woman in a dress was no crime, but in retrospect she realized she should have dressed more like she was supposed to.
Olivia walked into the pure white light of the store. Glass windows to black night occupied much of the walls. It looked like they were in a fishbowl, someone outside could be peaking in and no-one would know. She heard some sombre tune whisper from the speakers just like always. It forever seemed to be the same time in supermarkets once you ignored the windows. She noticed a suppressor in a blue uniform to her left and felt nervous, even knowing the magic hid her spirit. Olivia spared her a glance not a moment too long though and went about her business. There weren't too many people around as was quite late. She got a trolley and went down the aisles taking what products she needed along the way.
She noticed some people glance at her with confusion. But they kept to themselves about whatever they thought, of which she was grateful. Several minutes passed of her collecting all she needed from the shelves.
Finally she came to the checkout. At the checkouts Olivia was third in line at the one which was open. It was a tiresome wait when a supreme bang sounded. Everyone jumped. Heads turned wildly to see what the commotion was.
A woman with a spear had come in and opened the suppressor's throat. Olivia's eyes widened at the spectacle. Red rivers coursed down the killer's fingers and the blue uniform the suppressor wore. The killer let the suppressor fall, who seemed almost peaceful in her death. But when the killer turned around to face the shoppers, Olivia's eyes widened more. She seemed so familiar. Their gazes met and the killer looked perplexed as well. She had brown skin, dark but Olivia's was darker, short black hair and hazel eyes. Olivia searched her mind for a name…
"Lana?" Olivia whispered.
"Liv?" she replied. "This is weird as fuck."
"Weird as fuck?" Olivia repeated, "Lana… bloody hell, why in hell did you do that?" She looked down at the suppressor. The blood was shockingly red on the pristine floor. It made Olivia feel like blood was rolling down her arm again.
Lana approached her. Olivia caught sight of her spirit; it was an orange spectre, a spirit belonging to a mundus magician. Olivia's eyes flicked to her hands; blue and orange crystal protrusions, smeared in blood. Her spear was no ordinary stick either; it was laced with l sand, a special kind of weapon used only by magicians. It's called a lapitarem, Olivia remembered. It still dripped with blood.
"I had too, Liv. She would've turned me into those Acolis bastards," Lana explained with whimsy. She smiled; it was the same smile Olivia remembered from all those years ago in the mountains.
"We all have to do what we do," Olivia decided.
Lana nodded and Olivia felt understanding, but the checkout counter still divided them.
"You're a magician then?" Olivia wondered. She slinked around the counter to bread the divide.
"Yeah, that's what they were trying to get from us wasn't it?"
"I guess…" hazarded Olivia. Perhaps Avaline didn't want that from her.
"Hey Olivia-" Lana began as there was a whoosh from the opening sliding doors.
"On the ground now!" a shout sounded.
Lana smiled at Olivia. That damned smile from her past. Like a smiling hook trying to drag her back to those years in the mountains.
Lana raised her reddened hands to her head while she still held her dripping spear. She pivoted to the Acolis agent. "Why officer what's the problem?" she humoured her.
"You're in schism, magician, and we've had special reports of escapees from that old House of Law," the agent explained. Olivia thought that she probably was just a low-ranking suppressor. Her mind turned to inquisitors and what would happen if she'd somehow called them up…
Olivia knew the wheels were turning in Lana's head, "I've sure there's been some mistake-" but the suppressor fired her pistol stopping Lana's speech. She swore as it hit her leg, dragging a trail of purple smoke behind it and blasting red chunks of Lana's leg onto the floor.
"Civilian remove yourself from this situation!" the suppressor ordered Olivia. For some reason her legs carried her away from the conflict and she dived behind the counter. The person at the checkout was taking cover as well.
With a newly fuelled fury Lana launched a spell at the suppressor who screamed out on its impact. Lana was hunched though since her leg still wept blood.
From behind the counter Olivia saw that while many of the shoppers had fled, but some were watching behind cover. She noticed some old woman who had glared at her for her dress.
Heart pounding, Olivia peered up to see the suppressor dispel Lana. Enraged, Lana tried to stab her with her spear but the suppressor grabbed a hold of it and ripped in straight from her hands. She throwing herself at Lana and wrapped an arm around Lana's neck.
"L-liffv!" Lana sputtered as the suppressor choked the life from her and spit escaped her mouth. "He-eelp! Help!"
Olivia ducked behind the counter again, breathing far too much once more. She refused to look into the eyes of her old friend.
"L-liiv!" she heard Lana gasp.
She closed her eyes for a moment before dragging one of her gloves off and tossing it to the floor. Her eyelids shot open. Standing, Olivia cast an imaginary terror at the suppressor. And she screamed again trying to swipe away whatever the horror took the shape of in her mind. Lana gasped as she was released and she slapped against the cold floor. She coughed a few times with her mouth hanging right open with a string of saliva hanging down. But when she saw Olivia her expression changed. She smiled again and Olivia immediately regretted what she did. Seeing Lana's hazel eyes and shit-eating grin with the screams of that suppressor in the background made her grimace.
But it lasted only a moment. In an instant Lana was up and had her spear in her hand and was all over that suppressor. Olivia watched as she pierced her throat with the lengthy, black spearhead just like she did to that other one. The life drifted from the suppressor's body and Olivia watched as her spirit began its ascension. Lana's clothes got even more ruined from the blood.
Lana let the body fall right next to the counter and the blood pooled out into a lake of death. Olivia saw that she was being stared at again by Lana. They held each other's eyes for a moment and Olivia decided that she hated that smile.
"Thanks for that one Liv," Lana began. "I really appreciate it." She began limping over to her, not breaking her gaze. "As I was saying-" A squeak hit Olivia's ears and she saw Lana's face twist as she fell straight to down. Her head snapped against the counter before she hit the floor. It happened so quickly a single, flabbergasted laugh escaped Olivia's lips.
Olivia expected her to re-emerge with that fucking grin, all jokey, but she didn't come up. Olivia peered over the counter and saw that…
"Holy shit," Olivia said and her hand instinctively found her mouth.
Lana's head had cracked open and blood was pooling out. Her hazel eyes had glossed over and her mouth rested ever-so-slightly open. She'd slipped on the suppressor's blood pool. If the idiot had been watching where she was going she wouldn't have tread there; she was as dead as a doornail now.
Olivia looked around at the other shoppers and she found the eyes of the old woman who'd judged her. She looked at her in fear. Of course, the spell. Fuck I should've thought, I should have thought, why did I do that why?! she screamed in her mind, but there was no response. That old woman's two eyes felt like hundreds of eyes, judging and scrutinizing. In that instant she felt like nothing. She took a step back from the woman's accusing glare. Her own eyes shifted back to the three dead bodies on the ground.
Olivia made a noise of what seemed to be anguish. She surprised herself with that one most of all. Without doing anything else she thundered out of there into the night, before anyone new could turn up, before she could fuck up anything more. She'd been through enough shit in that night and had failed her one small task.