The view from the Chancellor's window would have been breath-taking in any other situation.

Aswen shifted under the weight of the blanket the doctor had placed over him, eyes blankly locked onto the field of bloodflowers in the courtyard. His fingers played with the vial of blood he'd snatched from the corpse.

"… Preposterous that it remains unsolved." The Chancellor said, twitching his heavy moustache uncomfortably.

Aswen twitched his head up, ear catching at the Chancellor's words. He tore his gaze away from the view, placing his attention solely on the conversation between the Chancellor and the constable.

The constable was a Hemomancer, or so the man had told Aswen. He specialized in investigating the use of Blood Magic in criminal cases, so he'd taken a number of samples from the scene. All logic dictated that he also hand over the Suicide Vial, which probably held the most information of all the blood in that room.

And yet Aswen simply couldn't bring himself to do it. He couldn't fully place his trust in this constable, this officer of the law he'd never met before. Certainly, the man was a fully-qualified graduate of the Surgery, a Surgeon in his own right, but…

Aswen couldn't believe a result he hadn't gotten with his own two hands. If that meant lying to the police in order to find out about the two kidnappers… Then so be it.

"This may well be the first lead we've gotten in this case in a long time," the constable was already replying. The man had told Aswen his name, but Aswen didn't think he could possibly retain any information in this state. "We've already had five disappearances from the Surgery, and this may be confirmation that they were all abductions. We have a solid avenue to pursue, so if you could allow me some leeway-"

"The Surgery prides itself on the perfect working environment for its students," the Chancellor replied, his low voice cutting through the constable's measured tone. "If I were to interrupt that for a widescale investigation on cases that may not even be connected, our reputation would surely be ruined! The Surgery is already on a knife's edge from the Whisper incident mere months ago."

The conversation had fully captured Aswen's attention now, and the mention of the Whisper incident brought memories flooding back.

Back then he'd felt much as he did now – shell-shocked, too surprised at the sheer suddenness of the incident to form any coherent response.

The ultimate goal of the Surgery was, supposedly, to find the true 'core' of life, and bring that to fruition to create a living, sentient, independent life form. The Whisper had supposedly been the culmination of that – advances in the field of Pneumomancy, Breath Magic, had lead many to believe that breath was this 'core' – attempts to harness that, however, had unleashed what amounted to a sentient plague on the city.

It had taken a dozen Surgeons to finally dispel the cloud roiling above the city, and the Surgery had only narrowly avoided taking full blame for the incident by fully disavowing the trio of Surgeons who had created the Whisper in the first place.

Those in the Osteomancy department had the most distance from the situation, so Aswen and his peers had mainly just looked on in fascinated horror.

The conversation had carried on even whilst Aswen's still-overwhelmed brain worked through the words.

"… Allow you access only to Mr. Tomall's room. Mr. Tomall himself may be placed in alternate accommodation, where, if he proves willing, you may direct further questioning." The Chancellor concluded, and stood from behind his broad wooden desk.

The Chancellor, like many Surgeons, had a body far too developed and refined to be entirely natural. Many Cholomancers made use of the fact that their Bile Magic could affect flesh to sculpt their features into whatever they perceived as the ideal – resulting in a visage that Aswen could only think of as uncomfortable.

The constable rubbed at his forehead at the Chancellor's proposal. "Might I discuss this with Mr. Tomall himself now?" He finally asked.

The Chancellor waved a hand, seating himself once again.

Aswen stood, shucking the blanket and following the constable outside.

The corridor outside the Chancellor's office was made of the same rich, unidentifiable wood that his office was, and furnished with similarly plush chairs.

Aswen took a shaky seat once more, and the constable sank into the one next to him.

"I'm going to look into assigning a detail outside of whatever accommodation the Chancellor puts you into." The constable said. "Whoever these people were, if they come after you again, we'll catch them."

"… How come I escaped?" Aswen asked, voicing the question that had been on his mind since the constable's comment about other disappearances. His eyes were stuck on a landscape painting hanging on the wall across from him. "If there have really been five other disappearances… Why am I the first to stop them? They weren't particularly… Co-ordinated, or even very good at what they were doing."

When no answer seemed forthcoming, Aswen turned to face the constable- who bore a slightly consternated, almost-baffled look.


"… Well, I can tell you that there were no signs of struggle in any of the other cases we investigated," the constable told him, rubbing one hand over the top of his head, through the thick hair that lay artfully tousled there. "Either they were all completely separate cases, or you were just the first to be able to fight back effectively."

"… Or I got lucky," Aswen frowned. He found it difficult to believe he was the only student prepared for any kind of emergency.

"Or that," the constable acknowledged. "But… Well, I took a glance at your room. You're very dedicated to your craft, Mr. Tomall."

Aswen nodded slightly, recognizing the compliment. "I have to be. Some of the students here have had private tutors since they were children, some of them have natural talent that I just can't compete with. If I'm not spending time on my projects then I'm wasting it. Why should I be here, and not someone naturally better than me?"

The constable had an eyebrow raised, and Aswen stared at him with mild confusion. After a shared moment of bewildered silence, the constable chuckled a little and shook his head.

"Here," he said, reaching into his coat and pulling out a slip of card. Inscribed upon it was, presumably, the constable's name: Herritt Otis. Below that, it read 'Surgeon of Hemomancy,' and below that, an address. "My home address. If you ever feel like there's nowhere else to turn… Feel free to come and visit me."

Aswen took the card hesitantly, his confused expression fixed. Herritt clapped him on the shoulder, then stood. "Stay safe, Mr. Tomall."

And with that, he left.

-Blood, Bone, Breath and Bile-

The new accommodation the Surgery had moved him into was not modest, Aswen could give them that much. A relatively cosy cottage, to be sure, but lavishly furnished and adorned with all the tools a burgeoning Osteomancer could need. There was even a small shrine to Ossum in the corner, in case he bought into the superstition that prayers to the gods would affect his craft.

Aswen didn't.

Indeed, as much as he admired the workshop, it's dizzying array of tools and countless labelled, intricately laid-out bones – he couldn't help but feel cynical about the whole thing.

Especially after hearing that the Chancellor had refused an investigation on the basis of reputation.

Aswen was sure this was a bribe, to make him keep silent on the whole event. Well, he had good news for the Surgery's benefactors – he had no intention of publicising his near-kidnap. All the same, he felt no guilt in taking advantage of the provided facilities.

Aswen pulled the Suicide Vial he'd lifted off the woman's body out of his pocket, moving to place it on the workbench in front of him- then hesitated.

In the wake of his new cynicism, he suddenly felt as though he couldn't entirely trust the Surgery – he'd never thought it a particularly virtuous organisation, but that feeling had intensified now, and how could he be sure they wouldn't inspect his quarters?

Aswen hesitated for a moment more, than placed the string about his neck, tucking the Vial beneath his shirt. He took a moment to survey the cottage once more- then about-faced, and left.

The cottage might have meant safety, what with it's central location on the Surgery's main campus- but Aswen had other goals in mind.

He took a moment to inspect the signpost on the path nearby, orienting himself with what he could remember of the map he'd gotten used to back in his first year. This cottage was as near to the Surgery's centre as it was possible to get, which meant that the main laboratories and workshops would be to the southwest.

The Osteomancy Department was closest to that of the Cholomancy, which would be to the southeast of him. They worked most closely with them due to the connections of marrow and tendon, which fell under a Bile Mage's purview. They also retained some links with the Hemomancy Department, northwest of Aswen's new cottage.

The Osteomancers were most distant from the Pneumomancers, in the northwest. There was little crossover in their work, and in four years of studying at the Surgery, Aswen hadn't met a Pneumomancer he liked.

Now properly oriented, Aswen set off into the heart of the Osteomancy Department.

The journey wasn't short – the Surgery's main campus was a broad, sprawling stretch of land in the centre of Cardian, with little consideration made to the rest of the capital.

Still, Aswen knew this corner of the campus like the back of his hand, and a journey that might have left an ordinary citizen walking in circles was – almost literally – a walk in the park for him.

He found himself, after a good half-hour of walking, at the entrance to the C-Wing dormitories, only a short walk from his original place of residence. He took a breath, then pushed open the heavy wooden doors of the entrance.

Myra's room was on the first floor, so from the lobby it was only a short flight of stairs separating him from her.

Aswen was apprehensive. It had been almost six months he'd last had a full conversation with her, and they hadn't parted on the most… Cordial of terms.

But she was the only Osteomancer he knew that could help him.

He climbed the flight of stairs, and knocked on the door.

For a moment there was silence from within, and then the beleaguered, irritated footsteps of the woman who lived here.

Her soft, heart-shaped face greeted him at first with the raised eyebrow and subtle, sarcastic disapproval she gave anyone who interrupted her, the door half-open between them. When she realized who was calling, however, her face lost all emotion.

"Aswen." She uttered the statement without inflection, and Aswen offered her a hesitant nod.

"Myra." He paused, wondering for a brief, delusional moment if she would invite him in. They remained silent for an uncomfortable length of time before Aswen worked up the courage to speak again. "I… Was wondering if I could ask you for a favour."

Her jaw tightened and her eyebrows drew together nigh-imperceptibly. "I'm in the middle of something."

Aswen hesitated for another crucial moment before speaking again. "Myra, you know I wouldn't ask unless this was important." Her eyes narrowed slightly, and Aswen knew she was about to close the door. "Wait! Myra, just… Wait." He took a deep, shaky breath. "Last night… I was attacked. In my own room. Two Hemomancers tried to kidnap me… I was able to fight them off, but I don't know anything about them. I can't defend myself if I don't have the right information."

Myra still seemed hesitant, her index finger and middle finger tapping out an alternating rhythm on the door frame.

Her nervous tick, Aswen couldn't help but think affectionately.

Finally, she pulled the door fully open and moved back into the corridor.

"Fracture and Snap save your ass, I'm guessing?" She threw the question over her shoulder, her tone finally taking a less confrontational turn.

"Ah… I had a new one, Grind, as well. Saved my life." Aswen offered in response, fighting to keep the smile on his face minimal.

"Hah." She stated the word rather than actually laugh. "Canid series was finally worth it, hm?"

Aswen could only nod in response as he moved fully into her workshop.

Scattered about the room were lenses of various size and thickness, as well as countless chisels and scalpels. Segments of bone littered every available workspace in much the same way that they had his own – he could identify knucklebones, vertebrae and phalanges from multiple animals, bats and owls most common among them.

"Right," Myra began as she slid smoothly into the seat situated at her desk. "I'm going to need a bone sample if I'm to conduct an augury."

Aswen nodded, already carefully peeling off the free edge at the end of his thumbnail – it was fairly common for Bone Mages to keep them long for when they needed a sympathetic link to their own skeleton.

Myra accepted the nail with two fingers, already gathering a trio of knucklebones already resting on the worksurface and sliding the nail into a hole bored in one of them. She left the knucklebones on the desk, and pulled out the drawer directly below her death, which contained a wooden board with various carved pieces of bone set into the service.

Scryboard, Aswen noted absently, eyes laser-focused on her actions. He'd seen a lot of Bone Mages in action, but Myra was an expert augur, and he was unlikely to see such an in-depth process happen in front of him again.

She also pulled a thick notebook with a grid-like page design out, laying it down next to her Scryboard.

"I don't suppose you have a bone sample from the attackers?" Myra asked, an edge of sarcasm to her voice.

"I didn't get the chance," Aswen responded, not taking his eyes off the Scyboard. "The room's locked off and the bodies were removed."

"Mm." Myra nodded, then grabbed four straight, finger-length pones from the scattered cluster. Aswen frowned.

"I don't recognise what kind of bones those are," he began hesitantly.

Myra turned to him, eyes narrowed in contemplation, and he could tell she was weighing up whether she should reveal her secrets to him. Finally, she shook her head and a smile crept onto her face.

"That's because they're not animal bones," she said, an indeterminate kind of glee lighting up in her eyes.

Aswen frowned, restraining his instinct to outright contradict her. Although- now that she mentioned it, he had seen bones of a similar type before. "Bone Ivy?" He said, his voice inflected with disbelief.

Her smile told him he was right.

Aswen wrinkled his mouth for a moment, mulling that over. There were incidences in nature were magic had affected plants of some kind or another, causing otherwise-impossible phenomena. Bone Ivy was one such example, a creeping vine that grew bones like pitons to drive into the material of whatever they were climbing. There was also Bloodflowers, Breathwheat, and Bile Fungus, but…

Their products were inert. The bones the Ivy produced had no value in the craft, they simply held no inner potential. They were useless.

Clearly, Myra knew something he didn't.

"They're a bridging agent," she said, cutting through his contemplation, clearly impatient to explain her discovery- and yet still managing to retain affected sarcasm. "They don't have any potential themselves, but they enhance whatever magic they're in the presence of. An all-purpose enhancer."

She was outright grinning now, her usual smirk turned into full-on joy.

"Careers are made with this kind of thing, Myra," he replied, mind still working through this information. The amount he could use this for… If it was effective in augury, then it would be a miracle for his constructs. "This is history at work. Right in front of us." He could barely keep the awe from his voice.

Myra rolled her eyes, but couldn't quite keep the smile off her face now. "I wouldn't go that far. It obviously needs further investigation – but as of now, it's a useful addition to all of my auguries." She shook her head, before turning back to the Scryboard, slotting the Ivy bones into empty divots at compass points. "We'll start with casting history – see where you've been, to calibrate."

She tossed the knucklebone with my fingernail slotted in onto the Scryboard, and Aswen observed closely – this was the magic at work.

A casual glance would not have revealed anything odd- the bone appeared to bounce off a few of the inserted bones on the board and land fairly naturally somewhere in the far right of the board. But an Osteomancer's trained eye told Aswen differently – the bounces were unnatural, sending it skittering off in unpredictable directions and almost seeming to curve in mid-air.

Myra made a series of notes in her book, but they were either deliberately encoded or in some kind of personal shorthand he couldn't decipher.

"Now we cast the present, to see where you are right now. That'll let us finish the calibration, and see where the future will take us." She had taken the nail from the first knucklebone as she talked, and now inserted it into a second, before tossing that one across the Scryboard as well. Aswen's eyes tracked the bounces, the curvature of the trajectory even more pronounced this time.

Once again, Myra jotted down a series of notes in her notebook.

"And now the future- this will be the most uncertain part. I'm assuming you want to look at your immediate future?" Myra didn't even look as she tossed the knucklebone. "That gives us more accuracy at least, but this is still essentially supposition."

When she tossed it this time, the knucklebone seemed to fly almost directly towards an extremely specific spot on the Scryboard, bouncing off just three bones before coming to an unnatural stop in one corner. Myar wrote down once more in her notebook, then gave the entire thing a once over.

She frowned.

"Problem?" Aswen asked, a similar question spreading to his expression.

"Just confusing." She pointed to three lines she had written in incomprehensible shorthand. "This line indicates emotion – I'm seeing fear and anger, but also determination. This one indicates health – several injuries, none crippling, but potentially dangerous. And this line indicates location- apparently, within the month, you'll be at the Red Reservoir."