Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and violence.
Even minutes later, Cyrin’s ears were still ringing from the static, and his head with it. He’d climbed to the roof to sit down, with his legs stretched out in front of him and his back against the railing. It was all there was to do to recover, at times like that. He’d tried counting breaths while staying still and calm, but his chest felt tight and he could feel his hands shaking, even with his palms pressed against the concrete. His thoughts were wandering in all directions.
He could only hope Shane wasn’t worried, or wondering if something was wrong. There wasn’t a way to tell him. Well, there was, but it meant being honest, and he wasn’t about to fully open up about it. Shane might keep his name and identity secret for him, but that was another thing entirely.
When their head felt clearer and their shakiness subsided, Cyrin let out a deep breath they’d been holding, allowing their head to fall back against the railing. Above, the two moons were half-full and close together, barely visible behind a mountain peak. Cyrin followed the motion of a blinking satellite as it crossed the dark, starless sky. Their thoughts were still wandering, unable to focus on what they should be doing right now, but at least there were some more useful thoughts in the mix.
What about the spacewreck and the astronaut? They were still baffled at their possible involvement in this. Cyrin found it plausible enough that the battery in the Fall had come from the fallen satellite— or as plausible as it could be, at least— but how was an astronaut linked to the First Spell? He couldn’t possibly have come from the twenty-year-old spacewreck. About to embark on the newest one, maybe, but then why was he out running errands in his spacesuit?
That’s right. There’s a new satellite spacecraft.
Cyrin furrowed their brow. They hadn’t heard about the satellite for the first time from Mireya— they’d already heard of it, they were sure, but they couldn’t remember the context. Had it been Clarity? She might’ve mentioned it along with…
That thought went spiraling into the lingering buzzing in the back of their mind, and Cyrin closed their eyes for a moment. Saints, they really needed to remember their meds.
With a sigh, he opened Shane’s location on his communicator. He hadn’t moved much since he had started his climb, and he wondered what meant. Perhaps this stage was taking a while longer than he’d first anticipated.
There. Shane’s location in the Arcade started moving towards Cyrin’s position. He and Kasumi were on their way to Sparrow.
Cyrin got to his feet again, using the railing for support as he glanced at the skybridge below. They would cross it, he knew, and then move to the opposite side of the building and take the elevator up. He would meet them there just as they would meet Sparrow. His part of the plan was so astonishingly simple that he almost wished he had more to do out of boredom.
He’d been planning on taking his time crossing the roof and dropping down to the right level, but he heard a strange hissing sound behind him. It might have been gas escaping from a pipe, but it sounded more familiar than that, and the noise had a different, lower pitch. He glanced over his shoulder to check it out.
A large viper had appeared on the roof behind him, watching him with yellow eyes and flicking the air with its tongue.
Cyrin bumped into the railing as they backed up, the air rushing from their lungs. They could hardly take their eyes off the viper, even when Pia materialized behind it. Through their panic, they had to search for the reasons they wouldn’t have noticed a Concealment spell until they decided that it must have been an artifact.
“Is this snake scarier?” Pia asked mockingly, flashing them a fake smile.
Cyrin tore their gaze away from the viper and to her face. “You’ve gotten better at making them look that way, I suppose. I would have gone for a new illusion, though, and I’m kind of offended you think I’d fall for the same trick twice. Can’t you think of anything better?”
“Funny.” Pia’s grin widened. “I’m kind of offended that you think I’d try the same thing again.”
The snake’s tail coiled as it stared at Cyrin, rising from the roof. The city light made its body cast a faint shadow on the ground.
Not a Projection.
Cyrin threw themself to the side just as the viper lunged for them. Its fangs sank into the empty air as they crashed on the ground a few feet away. They used their momentum to leap to their feet rapidly and then backed up as it swiveled its head towards them again, seeming to completely ignore Pia even though she was the closer one to it.
“Fine, clever,” they said, hating that they had to say it. “How the fuck did you willingly get a venomous snake onto a city roof?”
“You’ve heard of snake charmers from the South, right? Ever wonder how they do it?” They couldn’t spare Pia a glance, now that they had to keep their eyes on the viper, but they heard the wicked glee in her voice.
“Can’t say I have.”
“Well, I’ll enlighten you. The truth is, they don’t actually have any talent to do it. They’re just mages.” Pia walked slowly behind the viper again, her black braid of hair sweeping over her shoulder. “They use Rationale. It’s so much easier on animals than humans that it’s almost surprising no one’s thought more of it.”
If Rationale wasn’t Clarity’s Hollow, he was sure she’d be interested in hearing this. She had a tendency to dabble in areas of magical science that she thought were being overlooked.
“Great, so you hypnotized a snake to do your bidding,” Cyrin said. “It does sound easy. Even a bit lazy and cheap, maybe?”
Pia scowled, and the viper rose up again, its tongue flicking the air menacingly. “I’ll be proud of anything that gets you to shut up and die.”
He had trouble thinking of any snake bite with more unfiltered venom in it than those words. Hopefully, he wouldn’t be finding it out tonight.
The snake was fast, but its reaction wasn’t immediate. It gave a signal that it was planning to strike, with its tail coiling and uncoiling. Cyrin saw it then, just a moment before it lunged again.
That one moment was enough. His Concealment blade was hardly in his hand before it was flying through the air, meeting the snake’s neck at the halfway point to him. The viper spasmed for a few moments, soon flopping limply on the ground and going still. With a flick of his hand, Cyrin summoned the blade back to his hand with its Force magic, and looked back up at Pia.
Pia clicked her tongue with irritation. “I keep forgetting you have that thing.”
“That is kind of its point.”
She shrugged, rolling up her sleeves. “Well, I did think it would be a little boring, honestly. At least now, I get to have some fun with this.”