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"We're Nexus News! At the great battle between the Chosen One, Sebastian Warwick, and the Dark Lord Noxian! The Chosen One's party have made their way to the magical rift that Dark Lord Noxian is attempting to consume. Wait! The moment is here! The Chosen One is charging in to give the final blow and-"

"And that was the last transmission received from our on-site action news crew. Our condolences go out their families. The aftermath of the battle has been inconclusive. Thankfully, the magical rift was sealed, but Dark Lord Noxian is rumored to be on this plane of existence. Unfortunately, the only thing found of the Chosen One was the Legendary Sword of the Spirit Realm-"

-CLICK-

A brown haired, slightly overweight man sits on the couch in dirty t-shirt and boxers. He tosses the remote onto the makeshift milk crate and two by four table in front of him. He sinks into the old, ripped couch and blows the white streak in his hair out of his eyes.  The news from the weekend continues to press somberly upon his psyche and it weighs even more on his mind today. "Shit, bro... Fuck... Man, I can't believe it. You had your shit together. You got an awesome party... And even THE magical sword. Should have had that motherfucker's ass in a sling after that attack."

Another voice echoes in the room. "I know, bro. I thought I had that bitch. Jackass had one nasty trick up his sleeve."

The man holds his hands up in the air and puzzles. "Well, what the fuck would have been that powerful to take you down-"

He pauses and notices the ethereal, echoing voice next to him. His head slowly pivots to the ghostly figure lounging on the other half of the couch. Blue eyes widen as his pupils almost slam shut from narrowing so quickly. The shriek of "manly" terror achieves an octave short of shattering the nearby glassware. "AHHH!"

He backpedals hard out from the couch, launching himself a meter away before hitting the floor. He continues the backpedal slide through the carpet littered with takeout boxes, dirty laundry, video games, "entertainment" books, and empty cans of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. “AHHH! AHHH! AH-”

The ghostly figure rockets into the air from the couch, oddly holding his hands onto his ethereal ears. He zooms to within mere centimeters of panicked man's face. "BACH!  FUCKING SHUT UP!"

Bach’s mouth seals firmly as he stares wide eyed in pale shock at the ghostly figure. The figure removes his hands from ears. "By the gods, I've forgotten how loud your shrieking is!"

A flash of recognition jumps upon Bach’s face as he concentrates upon the transparent form. "S-s-s-sebastian?!"

Sebastian leans closer and eyes Bach with a slight curl to the corner of his mouth. "Yes."

Bach quietly blinks with horror bubbling into his face. "Oh gods! You've come to haunt me! All those times I got revenge against you- You're going to make me pay now!"

Sebastian holds his hands out and slowly waves them up and down. "No! Calm down, bro! I'm not here to haunt you."

Bach turns his head away slowly, keeping his eyes on Sebastian. "Okay."

Sebastian twists his mouth and averts his eyes momentarily. "Well, not exactly."

Bach slowly mouths out the words, the unease taking hold of his expression. "Okay..."

Sebastian rights his ghostly form in front of Bach. He regains his footing, stands upright, and drifts down to contact the floor. "Long story short. I died, but I'm not dead."

Bach drops his eyelids down slightly and glares. "No shit."

Sebastian glares back with a sneer. "Stop being a smart ass."

Bach gets back onto his feet, walks over to the small kitchen island, and takes a rickety seat in the small combo kitchen/dining area. "Fine."

Sebastian walks next to the same island and recounts quickly. "The Sword was able to capture the magical energy around the area. It captured my spirit as it left my body and was able to recover most of my body and store it within. Bad news. I'm bound to the sword."

Bach quirks a brow. "Good news?"

The ethereal brother cracks a small smile as he eyes Bach. "I can be brought back with a substantial amount of magical energy infused into the sword."

Bach sits up straight for a moment, lost in thought. "I see. With enough energy the sword could restore your body whole, rebind your spirit to it, and then bring you back. Like one of the old school resurrection spells."

Sebastian with a grin on his transparent face. "EXACTLY! It's good to know those years in adventuring school weren't wasted!"

Bach grimaces and grumbles. "Dammit, man, don't bring that up. I know all the shit. Just never cared for the whole risk your life every day thing."

Sebastian grins even wider. "Well, that's why I'm here! I know you know all this stuff! And you can help me out... Right?"

An awkward silence hovers between the two. Sebastian hovers closer to his brother.  Bach leans over to his fridge with intentional avoidance, opens the door, and pulls out a cola with. He uses one of the cabinet handles to pop the cap off. He eventually sighs at his brother. "Ah fuck it! I'll try it for you!"

Sebastian's ethereal form momentarily brightens. "YES! I knew it!"

Bach sets up a swig from his drink. "Okay. So, where are we going to get this ancient power source of magic to charge the sword up? I know it can't be anything common, so... Ancient ruins? Magical rift? Old magi focal points? There's a few things out there, but it'll be a hunt to find one substantial enough."

Sebastian quickly directs his eyes and voice away from Bach. "Lord Noxian's Heart."

Bach eyes spring open as he swallows almost half the bottle of cola in one, painful gulp. He struggles to swallow it down, tears welling, and finally gasps for breath. "NOXIAN'S HEART?!"

Sebstain snaps a point right at Bach. "Yes, and you must be the one to plunge the sword through it."

Bach sputters and coughs, swinging back away from the ghostly finger. "ME?!"

Sebastian puts his hands up in the air off to his sides. "You're my twin!"

The bottle clanks on the kitchen island and Bach hastily wipes his mouth. "Fraternal twin! The sword knows that, right?! You did tell it that, right?!"

Sebastian shrugs and rolls his eyes. "As long as we share enough chromosomes, it'll work!"

Bach places his hands on his head and then throws them forward. "DUDE! Lord Noxian almost wiped you clean from existence! And you want ME to try that?!"

He leans in to glare at his brother. His brother returns the favor and the two stare each other down. Sebastian speaks firm tone.  "Listen, we don't know where Lord Noxian is and his power is weak. He won't be trying anything soon. Plenty of time to get YOU into fighting shape again."

Bach crosses his arms, sighs, and drones in a lower tone. "You do realize, I was never really in a fighting shape."

Sebastian grin tinges with devious hints. "Well, I guess we ALL are going to have to work extra hard to get you there, whether you like it or not."

Bach’s eyes spring all the way open. "We ALL?"

A door bell rings out and sounds out throughout the small house. Bach scans around for the source of the noise. "I have a door bell?"

Sebastian shifts partially into the kitchen island with a sly smirk. "Well, they're here. My party. Or actually... OUR party."

Bach's expression melts into one of nervous dread. "All them?! The Half-emin, Grath, Fvalian, and that Evuukian?!"

Sebastian with an evil ear to ear grin. "Yes. All of them, ESPECIALLY the Evuukian want me back among the physical living."

Bach stares at his brother, his head turns side to side as his eyes examine his brother from different angles. Sebastian backs away after noticing. "What?"

Bach pulls his mouth to a corner and perks an eye brow. "You and the Evuukian?"

Sebastian puffs his chest confidently with a sly smirk. "Yes."

Bach laughs and shakes his head. "Holy shit! I thought their whole cultural bias thing would never allow it."

The flash of ego subsides and Sebastian crosses his arms, motioning his head to the door. "Well, officially. Could you answer the door? I don't want to keep them waiting."

Bach walks over to the door and realizes the state of dress he's in. He musters a bit of courage and carefully cracks the door open. "Oh hey... Everyone!"

The half-emin, grath, fvalian, and that evuukian stand at the door step to Bach's small rundown house in the small outskirt town. None have the most amused expressions, except the Fvalian. She gives a greeting smile, with her sharp teeth.

With a few remaining shreds of confidence, Bach smiles and holds a finger up to the group. "If you give me a few minutes, I'll get ready and come on out. I wasn't expecting to travel so soon."

The large, muscular Grath woman grumbles in a low tone. "Hurry. Up."

Bach nervously grins shifting towards a grit as the door closes. He looks expectantly at his brother. Sebastian bounces his eyes to either side. "What?"

Bach springs his hands to the sides and bobs his down. "Dude? Privacy? I gotta dress."

Sebastian rolls his eyes and waves his hand as he drifts towards the front of the house. "Oh, right. Sorry, being on the adventuring road so much, you start to not worry about that."

Sebastian slips through the front wall of the house to meet the greetings of his party members. Bach pauses for a moment and thinks about what his brother just said. "Damn bro."




The party intensely discusses future plans. The tall, muscular grath woman acquires a large map from inside a modified humvee and rolls it out upon the hood in one motion with her long arms. The fvalian hops out of the driver’s seat over the top of front window through a large, opened top roof hatch. She lays down on the back of the hood, stretching her lithe frame along the edge of the map to keep it down. She immediately taps out point on the map with a claw tip. The half-emin steps up in front of the grill and flips the hood of her short cape off. Placing her hands on the sides of her waist, she picks at her belt of pouches with long black nails. She sighs and glances with her golden eyes to the fvalian on the hood. She leans forward and places a nail point on another part of the map. “Cideeda... We talked about this! There’s no reason for Noxian to go back there!”

Cideeda’s long, furry tail flicks out from behind her and she aims at the same point from before. “I know, Sotalia! But, you can’t deny there might be some stuff left. Maybe notes or some clues to where he may have gone!”

Sotalia straightens her back and stands a moment to ponder before grimacing at the bright sun beating down. With a frustrated sneer, she pulls the toque off her head, letting down her dark red hair and revealing her swept back horns. “What is with the weather around here?! It was near freezing last night at the hotel, now it’s damn near summer weather!”

The grath woman wipes beads of sweat off her forehead, shifts a number of blonde hair braids, and removes her armored leather jacket. She walks over towards an open door, leans into the vehicle, and tosses it in the back of the humvee. “Not the worst change in weather experienced. Surprising still.”

Sotalia nods to the grath woman. “I know!  Do you have to just keep two seasons of clothes out all the time?”

Cideeda rolls her eyes and turns over on her back, letting her legs and arms drape over the vehicle to stretch. “I’ll agree with Dretphi. But, better than it being as cold as it was on that mountain getting here.”

Sotalia and Dretphi each nod in agreement, before continuing the debate over where to go next.

Standing off to the side a fair skinned, delicate figure, confidently rests a hand upon a large sheathed sword at her side. Sebastian’s ghostly form glides over to her side. She smiles gently as he approaches. “So, did he agree to help us, Sebastian?”

Sebastian pridefully puffs his chest out with a heroic grin. “Of course, my dear!”

She breathes a sigh of relief. She twists her foot inside her boot and discomfort flashes on her face. She places the sword down to her side and kneels down slightly. After undoing a few boot belts, she eventually works her leg out of the knee high boot. “The finest artisans crafted these boots for my family and, yet, they still manage to find every loose rock in area!”

She energetically shakes her boot until a stray rock tumbles out. Balancing on one foot, she slides her leg back into the boot, taking a few moments to readjust her fine clothing back to proper.

Cideeda waves over to Sebastian and evuukian woman with a toothy grin. “Hey! Aristespha! Sebastian! You two going to join in on his argument or do you want to be ALONE.”

Aristespha checks the sword, resumes a distinguished posture, and gazes lovingly over to Sebastian. “Let’s not keep them waiting.”




The group eventually settles upon a rough plan. Sebastian takes the lull in the debate to look over towards Bach's house. The Cideeda’s long, tufted ears perk towards the house. The rest of the party stops the discussion and quietly glance at the house. Sebastian hovers over his ethereal form and sticks his upper body through the front wall. He pulls back out for a moment to puzzling, before going all the way through into the house. Cideeda’s ears perk again. "That sounds like the kick starter of a motorcycle."

"MOTHERFUCKER!!!"

The ethereal, booming, echoing eruption of sound seizes the attention of everyone. Sebastian launches out of the building with his ghostly figure billowing red with ethereal flames. "THE BASTARD SQUEEZED HIS FAT ASS THROUGH THE BATHROOM WINDOW AND IS ESCAPING ON HIS BIKE! GET HIM!"

The rumble of a motorcycle blasts. Tires spin and gravel peppers the back of the small house. The party throws everything into the humvee, each jumping aboard. Cideeda floors the accelerator and spins out towards the back road behind the house.

Sebastian stands on the roof, floating in sync with the humvee, and glares at angrily at the man on the side-car motorcycle a few dozen meters ahead down the back road. "WHERE ARE YOU GOING, BACH?!"

The Bach looks behind him to see the ethereal figure, flaming red with rage. Bach snaps his head to the front, screams in fright, and opens up the motorcycle all the way.




Bach drives the motorcycle as fast as it will go. The small town streets remain thankfully empty on an early holiday morning. Local knowledge works to his advantage, power-sliding down back streets and access roads. This forces the humvee to take longer routes, but eventually the humvee’s better overall speed keeps the chase going. Sebastian launches from the roof of the humvee towards Bach. He attaches himself in front of the motorcycle, holding onto the handle bars opposite of Bach. “I THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO HELP ME, BACH!”

Bach shifts his head left and right around Sebastian’s ghostly form, each time meeting the enraged, transparent face of his brother. “DAMMIT, SEBASTIAN! I’M TRYING TO FUCKING DRIVE HERE!”

Sebastian forces his face forward. “FUCK YOUR DRIVING! WHAT ABOUT HELPING ME?!”

Bach narrows his eyes at his brother and a strange, faint blue glows from his pupils. “Well. Maybe you should mention needing to destroy a world ending horror BEFORE asking your brother to help! Full disclosure, man!”

Sebastian continues his ranting. “FULL DISCLOSURE!? I was trying to be nice! Because YOU are GOING to HELP ME whether you like it or not-”

Bach nods his head and raises it, eyes pulsating blue. Sebastian breaks his rage upon sight. Bach cocks the back of his left hand away from the handle of the motorcycle and stares at his brother. “Full disclosure. This might sting.”

With a blur, a loud resonant clap follows the impact as the back of Bach’s hand pushes into Sebastian’s shocked face. His ethereal figure tumbles loose from Bach’s motorcycle and flies right back into the sword on Aristespha’s lap. The four in the humvee can only glance wide-eyed. The sword stirs in Aristespha’s lap and Sebastian reforms next to her with a frustrated expression. Sotalia spins in her seat to Sebastian. “How the fuck did he do that?!”

Sebastian grumbles in a low tone. “I told you. My brother, despite being as human as he is, is full of surprises. He was ranked the same as ME in adventuring school.”

Dretphi draws herself forward from the back seat and positions herself between Sebastian and Aristespha. “How do you want us to capture him?”

Sebastian sighs with irritation tainting his tone. “Alive.”

Dretphi rolls her eyes and slowly shakes her head.  She eyes Sebastian and awaits a further explanation with a stern expression. Sebastian groans he twists his mouth, averts his face away from Dretphi's stare, and glares forward at the motorcycle in front of the humvee. “No... Permanent injuries. Please.”

Cideeda pulls herself over the steering wheel and focuses her eyes on the motorcycle. She returns to her seat and reaches a cupped hand through the open roof hatch, forcing some of the flowing air above into her face. She sniffs the air carefully. “It’s a biodiesel engine! Sotalia, how cold can your freeze spell get?!”

Sotalia pivots herself to Cideeda. “Below freezing easily.”

Cideeda glances at Sotalia before returning her eyes to the road. “Think you can focus it at range with a headwind?”

Sotalia nods confidently with a sly grin. “Oh, I should. And pretty far, too.”

Cideeda points a clawtip out to direct Sotalia's attention to a series of tubes on the engine. “Those are the fuel lines! Freeze them and it should stall the engine out.”

Sotalia rolls her sleeves back and stands up in her seat. Her cape flutters around, as she takes aim with one arm grasping the top of the windshield and the other extended. She holds her hand out and chants while symbols along her arm glow brighter and brighter. “Get me a bit closer.”

With a manic grin, Cideeda floors the accelerator and closes the gap between the humvee and motorcycle. Bach glances back with more worry. Sotalia maintains careful aim with concentration and releases the spell. The humvee tire rolls over a large rock. The beam of energy lances out, hitting a much higher target. The beam contacts the area of Bach’s back above his butt and drags upwards to the region between the shoulders. Bach screams in agony, tensing up and nearly drawing the motorcycle seat into his ass. Sotalia blinks with embarrassment and quickly gathers more energy for another attempt. “Dammit! Stupid bump! I’ll get it this time!”

Another beam of energy reaches out and hits the tubing around the engine, forming a solid layer of misting ice. Bach recovers from the shock of the ice to his back and notices the motorcycle engine sputter. He leans over to see the ice on the fuel lines. “FUCK!”

He snags his backpack in the sidecar, and throws it over his shoulder. He keeps grip on the handle bar and the engine completely gives out to a slowing coast. When the motorcycle nearly stops, he leaps and runs into the forest off to the side of the road. The humvee slides to a stop. The back passenger's side door flies open and Dretphi flings herself out to land in a full break sprint. Bach runs with slight stumbles through the forest floor. Loud snaps and shuffles erupt from behind him. He twists his head back to see Dretphi barreling through the forest. She powers through the dense floor and glides over the terrain without trouble. Bach’s eyes open wide in abject horror, with a slight blue glow, as Dretphi moves right next to him. She reaches out to Bach. As her hand hovers over to grab firmly onto his shirt, Bach speeds forward out of her grasp. She watches in astonishment as not only do his footsteps grow faster but each stride increases in length. With speed unfitting of his body, Bach leaves Dretphi behind. A crackly voice sounds off in Dretphi’s ear from a radio ear piece. “Dretphi! Have you caught him?!”

Between heavy breaths Dretphi responds. “No. He. Somehow. Outran. ME!”

A very confused Cideeda continues on the radio. “What?! How?! Nevermind. We found an access road! Are you still running west!?”

Dretphi flits her eyes up to the sky through the canopy and notes the location of the sun. “Yes.”

The radio blares out with Cideeda’s voice. “Okay. THERE! We found a clearing up ahead. Keep chasing him!”




Bach coughs and sputters, as the forest around him thins out. He watches the upcoming clearing with some relief. As Bach lands his first step outside the forest, Cideeda shoots up from the tall grasses and points a strange shotgun at him. She pulls the trigger and a payload of netting and weights explode outwards. Bach’s luminescent blue eyes witness the expanding mass and he drops into a feet first slide immediately, unnaturally to the grass and dirt. The net aimed for a standing person flies over the prone Bach. Cideeda cocks the shotgun with zeal and she aims down. A pull of the trigger sends another strange projectile with electrical probes out the barrel. Bach sees the blast of the shotgun and the projectile spinning towards him. He raises his hands up instinctively to protect himself, the projectile bouncing away as a golden transparent disc appears. Cideeda cocks the shotgun again and fires. Again, the projectile bounces off the shield. Bach regains his footing, flings the shield right at Cideeda, and knocks the shotgun out of her hands. She catches the golden disc from the rebound off her shotgun. “How the fuc-”

Bach sprints across the field. Aristespha confidently strides out from behind a tree on the other side of the clearing. With a fast chant and gesture, waves of energy pass through Bach. He staggers, each step more lethargic and exaggerated. Eventually, he barely manages to stand, as a curious Aristespha carefully approaches. She aims her gloved hand steadily at Bach. “Strange. Most creatures fall completely asleep. There may be something to your brother’s claims after all.”

Something inside Bach stirs as his head bobs from the effects of the spell. He remains still and standing, while Aristespha’s curiosity shifts to genuine caution. Bach’s head rises back up with the effect of the spell fading and his senses coming back. Shock sparks on Aristespha’s face and she releases another wave of energy, collapsing Bach into an unconscious heap. Sebastian’s ethereal form floats next to her. She snaps her head at him with a harsh frown. “You did not mention how difficult he would be to capture!  Sebastian.”

Sebastian drifts back and shrugs. “I knew he could be difficult, but I honestly didn’t expect he’d be able to pull this much off.”

Cideeda arrives and still holds the golden disc at her side. “Wow! He sure put up a fight! I’ll have to use my specially made restrains on him!”

She passes off the golden disc to Sotalia as she stops from a jog. Sotalia examines the disc with confusion and intrigue. After digging through her cargo pants pockets, Cideeda pulls out a collection of restraints and rope. She puts the devices on Bach, wrapping him up in rope. In between securing restraints, Cideeda pats Bach down, turning out pockets and searching through his backpack. “He was planning to run pretty far! A bit of money, passport, and a fake ID.”

Sebastian hovers over her and joins her in examining all the random things in Bach’s backpack. Sotalia pauses from investigating the golden disc. “Where did this come from? Did he have it with him?”

Cideeda pulls her head from backpack looting and thinks back to recent memory lifting an eye brow. “Umm. No. It appeared when I tried shooting him with the stunner rounds. Pretty weird.”

Sotalia glances over to Cideeda with curiosity. “Have you found any artifacts on him?”

Cideeda eyes side to side and then returns to Sotalia. “No. Nothing I think is magical.”

Sotalia holds the golden disc in front of her and squints in mild disbelief. “So... you’re saying he conjured this?!”

With a slight shrug of the shoulders, Cideeda tilts her head to the side. “I guess. I didn’t see him do any kind of incantations. It just appeared.”

Sotalia cranes her head over to Sebastian with a growing glare and narrowing eyes. Sebastian eventually realizes the concentrated attention upon him and glides over to Sotalia. “Yes?”

Sotalia narrows her eyes at Sebastian and takes a step forward to bring her face closer to his. “You said he FAILED out of the mage program!”

Sebastian’s eyes dart around confused with an awkward grin trying to settle on his face. “Uh, yes. He did.”

Sotalia holds up the golden disc in one hand and points to it with the other. “THIS isn’t the work of a failed mage!”

Sebastian shrugs, biting his lip, and tries to averts his transparent face. “Well, what do you call not passing your fifth year finals?”

Sotalia’s jaw drops and she cringes as her mind processes this new information. “Wait! He made it through FIFTH YEAR?!”

Sebastian looks desperately around for a better response. “Yes?”

Sotalia’s grits her teeth and shakes the disc, waving her hand to punctuate her thoughts. “Fifth year is the last year for school work! The only reason for the sixth year is internship hours!”

Sebastian lifts his hands up in the air as he struggles for a response. Dretphi steps up, taking huge breaths and long strides to recover from the long sprint. “Sebastian. There are things you have not told us about your brother. You need to inform us.”

Sotalia points a thumb at Dretphi behind her, keeping her glare upon Sebastian. “Exactly! While your brother sleeps, we are going to have a nice long discussion.”

Aristespha crosses her arms and slants her hips behind Sebastian. “All of us are going to have a nice long discussion.”

Sebastian smiles nervously, pivoting between all the unhappy faces. He only finds difference with Cideeda’s face, as she points to an electronic device freshly fished from Bach’s backpack. “What?”

With the most innocent batting of the eyes, Cideeda asks with glee, “Can I have this?! These are really RARE! I’ve been looking for one FOR. EVER.”

Sebastian grins half-heartedly as he shifts his eyes between everyone else. “Sure. Go right ahead.”

Cideeda squeals with joy and continues to sort through Bach’s backpack. Sebastian shrinks with the walls of his party closing in and points over to the humvee. “How about we get on the road and discuss this further on along the way?”




The world returns to Bach’s senses and conversation hits his ears. As his brain reconnects with consciousness, he assesses his situation. Ropes bind him. He feels the bumps of the road shake the vehicle. And, voices of those he failed to escape surround him. He resigns to the loss. He slowly and stealthily opens an eye to survey the area. Inside the humvee, he lies in the middle aisle between everyone. He glances up to the furthest back seat to see Dretphi laying out on the bench seat with a few pillows for comfort. Seats line either side of him. Aristespha holds onto the sword and sheath across her lap with her driver's side back seat reclined back. Sebastian sits on the opposing passenger's side seat, despite not needing one. Looking down the aisle to the front, Bach watches Cideeda in the driver’s seat flipping through the holographic list of music on his Universal HoloPlayer Pro. Sotalia excitedly points out a selection in the list and taps to start playing it. “I can’t believe he has a copy of this! These guys were totally my favorite band back in my gloom and doom phase!”

Cideeda chirps back with a sly smirk. “I told you this thing is amazing! And it’s got all the unofficial modifications and unlocks!”

Aristespha sighs and groans as she reverts her attention back to Sebastian. “Back to the discussion at hand... So Bach made it to the end of his fifth year and just dropped out.”

Sebastian nods with arms crossed. “Yes. He didn’t even take the final test. Just walked away from it all.”

Sotalia twists in the seat to face towards the back. “You don’t just walk away after all that and getting that high of marks. What happened before he left?”

Sebastian sighs and stares towards the floor board in frowning thought. “Something happened on an assignment he went on with his instructor and a few other students. Things went really bad. Bach was the only one to get out without any serious injuries.”

Sotalia’s face flashes more concern and she focuses upon Sebastian. “What. Happened?”

Sebastian angles his head to the side and grimaces, contorting his mouth. “They ran into a Nightmare Geist.”

Silent looms in the vehicle, save the sounds of the engine and road. Everyone cringes and squirms as the thoughts of such a creature rise up from hearing its name. Bach winces as memories echo. Sotalia breaks the silence. “A Nightmare Geist?! They all lived?!”

Sebastian eyes side to side with a shrug. “Yes. Though everyone except Bach needed to be hospitalized.”

Dretphi shifts her position higher in the back seat. “There are old legends in my clan. Whole villages destroyed by that creature. Most we have ever done is seal them away. Secure the vessel far from anything we value.”

Cideeda’s happiness drains as something more solemn rises. She goes quiet. Her breath occasionally shudders as memories spark and occupy all attention not towards driving. Sotalia rotates her head to Cideeda and gently holds Cideeda’s shoulder. Cideeda’s breathing calms and she pats a free hand on Sotalia’s. Aristespha narrows her eyes at Sebastian. “So, how did they seal... It?”

Sebastian pauses and, after a few false starts, responds with a mix of confusion and uncertainty. “Sealed? It was destroyed- Maybe. No one was sure, but there was no trace of it. Maybe it just left? I don’t know...”

Bach closes his eye and keeps quiet. Sotalia rubs the bridge of her nose in frustration and grumbles to herself. “They didn’t say anything?! Did your own brother say anything?! This is pretty damn significant!”

Sebastian rests his head on his hands and echoes an ethereal sigh. “No! He’s never said anything about it. In fact, that’s when he grew distant, and then just stopped doing the whole school thing. I tried to get him to tell me, but I could tell something bad happened and he didn’t want to talk about it.”

Dretphi settles down into the back seat again and moves some pillows around. “I think we may be able to help your brother.”

Sebastian twists his form to gaze at Dretphi. “I hope so-”

Dretphi stares out a side window and squints in thought. “No. We will. Before he seemed incapable of fighting. Different now. He can fight. Just not fighting.”

Bach continues his silence and feels fatigue washing over him again. An argument against a majority seems fruitless at the moment, and even awkward sleep beats hearing the discussion about him.




Bach wakes to firm tapping of a finger upon his forehead. His eyes greet Dretphi’s as she glares stoically at him from above, her platinum blonde, darker ended braids draping down. “Will you cooperate?”

Bach takes a breath in. “Yes. I don’t have it in me to run at the moment anyway.”

Dretphi leans back into the seat and directs Bach up with a hand gesture. Bach throws himself up to a sit up the humvee aisle. With a few motions and twists, Dretphi undoes the restraints on Bach. He grabs hold of the seat to the side and pulls himself up the rest of the way. He turns to the open humvee side door and steps outside to a gravel driveway. Dretphi follows him a few moments later, her imposing frame maintaining reach. Bach slowly spins around to survey the area. It is remote, out of the way, and only a single road in sight. Thankfully, the house at the end of the gravel driveway seems a really nice single level, ranch style with a full assortment of amenities. Bach scans his gaze across the front the house and glances behind him. “So, this place got cable TV?”

Cideeda leans hard upon the sidecar motorcycle and pushes it past Bach and Dretphi. “Not yet! The installer is coming tomorrow, sometime between eight in the morning and eight at night. At least, they’re honest about it around here.”

Bach watches his motorcycle rolls up into the garage, and a very eager fvalian begins to examine it. He glances over to Dretphi. She shrugs with a slight twist in the corner of her mouth. “She has wanted one. Among other things. She refused to leave without it.”

Bach puts his hands in his empty pockets, pushes the inner cloth back in, and shrugs. “At least it’s here.”

He plods over to the open front door, with Dretphi occasionally directing him via a firm, but gentle, nudge of the hand. As Bach crosses through the front doorway, he notices the house's furnishings and neutral style of decoration. The hard wood floors are nice and seem well cared for. He walks into the big living/dining room and sees Sotalia and Aristespha going over a document at the window bar leading into the kitchen. He points to the couch in front of a big screen television. “Probably best I stay out of the way?”

Dretphi nods once and waves a hand at the television. “Yes. That would be best. Maybe you can find some channels for now.”

Bach agrees and places himself upon a couch seat and reaches for the remote. He idly browses with the settings on the televison’s tuner and listens in on the conversation going on.

Sotalia sits down on a stool and flips through a stack of paperwork. “Well, that’s the checklist. So, everything looks in order. You want to drop this by the leasing office in town tomorrow?”

Aristespha nods as her eyes follow the settling pages. “I need to stop and talk to a few representatives of the local guild office for some work while we get our investigations and... training started.”

Bach narrows his eyes at that remark, watching the television auto-scan for over-the-air channels. Sotalia drops the stack of papers on the bar counter. “Not a bad deal for a six month lease at the price.”

Aristspha smirks as she slides the document closer to her. “My property agent recommended it, and said it would be perfect for adventurers needing a base to operate from.”

Sebastian appears next Bach on the couch. Bach groans as he senses his presence. Sebastian turns to this brother. “Look, bro. I know we got off to a BAD start, but this is important stuff.”

Bach rolls his voice with a growl and he keeps his head forward. “To YOU.”

Sebastians throws his hands to his sides. “To everyone, asshole! Dark Lord Noxian is going to cause trouble again and we’ve been THE group closest to stopping him.”

Bach’s lip curls and he scoots over to one side of the couch opposite of Sebastian. “Man, fuck you. This all about you and I’m just being used as your fuckin’ proxy.”

Sebastian places the palm of his hand on his forehead with a grit of the teeth. “DUDE. This is a chance to get you in the game! Like we talked about when we were in school! All the adventures I’ve been on, you should have been a part of them!”

Bach sighs as he flips through the channels. “If you weren’t ethereal, I’d tell you to the eat corn out of my shit right now.”

Sebastian meanly eyes Bach as he settles opposite to Bach on the couch. “Well, if I wasn’t ethereal, I’d shove you head first into the shitter to suck my shit!”

The two maintain silence on the couch and continue stare angrily at the television screen. Minutes later, both actually pay some attention to what playing on the TV. Sebastian cringes and grumbles. “Could you change it? I can’t.”

Bach flips the channel to the weather, something a bit more tolerable. “Already on it.”

Silence falls again until Bach drops his head and sighs. “Goddammit. I want to help you Sebastian. But, holy shit, there’s GOT to be a better route than going to Noxian to get you released.”

Sebastian leans in to whisper to Bach. “That’s what I thought too, man! But, Aristespha was pretty adamant about Noxian.  The swords seems really tuned in on him.”

Bach sinks into couch cushion and lets his eyes search his mind. “Well, that’s the currently known source of that type of magical energy. But- There’s GOT to be other places. Most artifacts just need that type of energy, doesn’t matter where it comes from. Okay, listen, Noxian is basically a conduit of really old school Elder magical energy. Rawest energy stuff. Most magical energy sources today are really tame in comparison to that. But, all them derive from Elder and Elder used to be the only source for a very long time.”

Sebastian scratches his chin. “I see. There’s got to be some old ruins that might still be an easy source of that Elder energy.”

Bach turns his upper body to Sebastian and gestures with his hands. “Exactly! Even if there isn’t enough in one location, there’s probably enough residual around to charge up the sword. So, we explore some ruins, find enough Elder energy, charge up the sword, get you back, and we both get back at Noxian.”

Sebastian cracks a smile and punctuates with a waving finger at Bach. “I like this. Either way, you still need to get you into fighting shape.”

Bach settles back to his half the couch and sighs. “Fine. I’ll try. But, let me try to find a better route to getting you back along the way.”

Sebastian smirks as he shifts back to his side of the couch. “Deal. Either way, it’ll be good to get you fighting again.”

Bach rolls his eyes and shrugs. “Sure.”

Sebastian thinks for a moment and uneasily glances at Bach. “Hey, your house back in that town- Umm- Do we need to do anything to handle the rent or-”

Bach shrugs and falls back into the couch cushions. “Not really. My lease was up this month, already sold most of my non-valuable stuff to make last month’s rent. I didn’t expect my deposit back when I signed up for the place. So, about the only thing I didn’t cram into my backpack and the sidecar was the television and that thing was on its last legs anyway.”

Sebastian resumes a stare a the television. “Yah, that place was a real hole in the wall. Plus, you’re a shitty housekeeper, bro ”

Bach shakes head and eyes Sebastian. “Fuck you. It’s called depression, asshole.”

Sebastian tilts his head to the side. “Fair enough. Honestly, I haven’t been anywhere long enough lately to really live in a place.”

Bach gazes at the television. “So, how’s the whole dead and ethereal thing been for you?”

Sebastian scratches his head and rocks his head side to side in thought. “You know. Not bad. Not good. It’s been... Interesting. I can get away with A LOT in this form.”

Both Bach and Sebastian settle in and watch television. Channels flip as the two catch up and other members settle in.




The sun rises slowly in the early morning, as the dew glitters and life stirs in the area. Standing in the middle of the large field near the house, Sotalia paces in lecture to Bach. “Okay, so let’s find out what you can do. Stand up here. I want you to cast the standard mage bolt you learned in first year.”

Bach rises up shakily, yawning and wiping the sleep from his eyes. He shambles up to the spot Sotalia directs him to with a finger. She crosses her arms and waits with strongly scrutinizing stare. Bach points out into the vast area of the field in front of him. “So... any target you want me to-”

Sotalia dismissively waves in the general distance of grassy open expanse with a quick eye roll. “Just cast it in the air, it should dissipate before it hits anything.”

Bach sniffs through the morning haze and stretches his arms and back out. “Okay.”

His arms gesture through the motions of the spell, exaggerating points and drifting lethargically on others. His incantations jumble and the magical phrases back into each other sloppily, leaving the distinctions between them near indecipherable. But somehow, a perfect mage bolt forms from his hand and flies off into the distance. It eventually stops by hitting a tree, a kilometer away.

Sotalia glares with a developing facial twitch she vainly tries to suppress. “That was THE sloppiest gesturing and the worst pronunciation I’ve EVER heard. But, somehow-”

She takes a deep breath in, places her hands together, and release her bubbling tension through a long sigh. “Okay. Let’s try something that is more sensitive to proper spell work, the Hover Disc spell.”

Bach shrugs nonchalantly and goes through the motions. He pauses at movements to scratch, yawns at parts, and leaves the verbal and gesture components out of sync at the end. But, somehow a large hover disc forms without any trouble. Sotalia’s glare intensifies to a glower and she pops individual knuckles of her long, black nailed fingers, each snap neutralizing a tiny amount of building frustration. “Step. On. It.”

Bach gazes down at the hovering disc and places a foot on top. He places his weight on the disc and it does not move, even when he lifts his other foot off the ground. The disc then glides with Bach’s gentle leaning directions. Sotalia’s anger seeps into her thoughts and her eyes meet Bach's. Just as she’s about to react, she notices the faint blue glow in his eyes. Her anger flashes over to curiosity and wonder. “I’ll be damned...”

Bach stops moving the disc around and apprehensively raises a brow to Sotalia. “I’ll be damned- What?”

Sotalia opens up her large satchel and rummages inside of it, eventually pulling out the same golden, transparent disc from yesterday’s chase. Still formed and solid, it shows no signs of decay. An evil grin grows, Sotalia's golden eyes glint with a newfound glee. She pulls off her hoodie and begins stretching and humming a happy, ominous tune. Bach steps cautiously off the hovering disc. “Something happened. I’m not sure what-”

Sotalia circles a finger towards Bach with a sway of the hips. “I know what you are.”

Bach freezes, nervously eyeing Sotalia with a head turning away. “What am I?”

Sotalia arcs her back and pops a few joints. “A Direct Caster. You actually got all the way through the mage school with high marks, so they never tried looking for it.”

Bach carefully witnesses the scene unfold. “Huh? I’m not following you all the way...”

Sotalia now smiles with a spring in her step. She brushes her long red hair out of her face and around her horns. “You see those motions and sounds YOU make, don’t mean anything to you. You don’t NEED them. You just did them to pass the tests, but they don’t help you get into the whole spell casting mindset. Somehow your brain just does that on its own.”

Bach’s eyes scan side to side in a vain attempt for an explanation. “Okay. This has just officially turned weird. Is that magical sparring gear you are putting on- Oh. Shit.”

Bach tenses up and surveys the immediate vicinity. He holds his hands up to Sotalia. She grins with delight. “You see, Bach. I’ve been teaching myself to direct cast, but I’ve never run into anyone that naturally did it. And, to find someone that got through school without anyone figuring it out...”

A brow quirks on Bach’s face as he understands this situation no further. “Alright, still confused at the change of attitude here.”

With a mischievous, evil grin, Sotalia winks at Bach, holding her hand up with a ball of fire forming. “I thought I was going to have to play kindergarten teacher to some oddball dropout. Instead, I’ve just gotten the sparring partner I’ve been wanting, to learn all I could WANT from. Don’t worry. If all goes well, you’ll have my respect.”

Bach’s eyes widen as his expression shatters to worry and fear. A blue glow sparks in his eyes. “That does not fill me with any good feelings! Why don’t we have a nice sit down class and talk about things-”

The ball of fire fully forms in Sotalia’s hand, illuminating her face. “Oh, class IS in session. Right now, your real training begins.”




Cideeda sits at the dining table with various mechanical and electronic bits and pieces strewn about the table top. She plays with the holographic menu, flipping through the contents of the holoplayer. Aristespha turns through old tomes and other scripture, scribing notes in a journal. The ethereal form of Sebastian hovers near her, examining the material. Dretphi sits on the couch, caring for armor and other equipment. The sliding glass door of the living room opens. Sotalia struts in with an ear to ear grin, wiping sweat off her face with a towel around her neck. “That was NICE.”

She continues around the dining table, straight into the kitchen, where she opens the refrigerator, and pulls out a sports drink. Sebastian eyes Sotalia and then examines her previous path. “Where’s Bach at?”

Bach steps through, and drags the sliding door shut. He’s missing spots of his shirt, his pants are now frayed, uneven shorts, and he wears only one shoe. Dretphi lifts her head up as Bach staggers to the couch and drops onto it, opposite her. Cideeda, Aristespha, and Sebastian examine Bach as he stares blankly ahead. In between chugs of the sport drink, Sotalia points to Bach while standing very confidently. “You did REALLY good. After I catch a shower, we’ll continue for the rest of the day.”

Bach blinks, still not moving his head. “You should treat yourself. Take a nice... LONG... Bath. Relax. Take the REST of the day off.”

Sotilia perks an eye brow with a wry smile. “And you miss out on all this great training? I’d like to try some magic homing missiles out.  Don't worry, they're just training versions.”

Sotalia finishes the drink, tosses the bottle into the nearby garbage can, and walks out of the room down a hallway to one of the bathrooms. Attention briefly returns to Bach, before everyone resumes their tasks. Bach stares forward still. “So... Dretphi? Does your training tomorrow include fire, ice, bolts of energy, manic gleeful laughter, and repressed emotions feeding near bloodlust?”

Dretphi rotates her head slightly with a tilt. “No. Just training weapons. Padded armor. Simple exercise routines.”

Bach nods with an neutral expression. “That sounds nice.”

Dretphi analyzes the state of Bach’s attire. “You want a new shirt? I think mine will fit you.”

Bach curls a lip and shakes his head nonchalantly. “Nah... It’d only get destroyed. Thank you, though.”

Dretphi nods and slides over a bottle of water to Bach on the coffee table. Bach reaches out, grabs hold of the bottle, removes the cap, and starts drinking it.  Dretphi cracks a small smile out of the corner of her mouth. “Maybe after training tomorrow, we will get you... battle-ready clothing.”

Bach nods contemplatively. “That would be nice.”