Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.
“Clarity keeps journals of her experiments,” Mireya said slowly, after a couple moments spent deep in thought. “I don’t know if she’d write down what we’re here for if it was meant to be a secret, but maybe there’s some notes about Sparrow’s plan, if she was trying to stop it with magic.”
“Do you know where she keeps them?” Dawn asked.
“She hides them. I’ve never actually seen them in the flesh, but I’ve heard about them.” Mireya rounded the workspace island. “This could be good, because maybe it means they weren’t discovered, but also bad, because we have to search for them.”
“They could be Concealed,” Dawn suggested. “It seems like she’d prefer that to a hiding place, and she can do it easily with magic.”
“You might be right.” Mireya tapped her foot as she thought, causing more broken glass to crunch under her boots. She’d have to spend a while prying shards out of the soles once this was all over. “If I were Clarity, too brilliant for her own good, where would I hide my secret notebooks?”
A seemingly empty space on the shelf would have been a plausible spot, but they would have walked over them along with the glass, and they would be sure to notice that. Clarity would never keep them by her synthesizing workspace, because fires weren’t uncommon at all when experimenting with Flare.
Now that Mireya thought about it, it would be impractical for Clarity to deactivate and recast a spell every time she added a journal entry— not to mention that Concealment wore off fast, and certainly wouldn’t last between the time she left her lab and would return. It had to be down to an artifact, one that could always keep something hidden. There was a small workspace near the back of the lab, a table attached to the wall that was her designated space for artificing items. It was somewhat rare that she did, as her work didn’t focus on it, which was the reason she’d opted for the label of Alchemist instead of Artificer when both terms described the same magical power. Still, that was the place where she’d artificed items like Cyrin’s jetpack and blade.
Mireya moved over to the table, examining it for a moment before she carefully moved her hand over the surface, then underneath. At first she felt nothing, but then her fingers brushed against something soft and wrinkled like a cloth. She grabbed it, yanking it away. The invisible fabric, when removed, revealed a crate of variously aged notebooks.
“Found them,” she crowed.
Dawn hurried over to her. “You’re such a genius.”
“You’re a genius, too,” Mireya said with a laugh as she pulled the crate out from under the table. “You were the one who thought of them being Concealed.”
Dawn grinned shyly as she took a notebook and flipped it open. “Thanks. Let’s get reading.”
Mireya grabbed three notebooks from the large pile, leading through them. Two of them had handwriting that didn’t quite look like Clarity’s today— she’d seen it start out neater before it had become more rushed as her workload increased— so she set them aside and started on the third, which looked like it was newer.
“What is the meaning of the Fortune’s name?” Dawn asked, and Mireya was confused until she looked over and saw that she was reading aloud from a notebook.
“Oh,” she said with a laugh. “That’s sure to be a very old entry. Try another book.”
The third one she’d grabbed didn’t seem any more promising, so Mireya scanned the crate for the least dusty volume and grabbed it. A quick flip through it showed her that the last twenty pages were empty, which was a strong sign that it was the newest.
She didn’t have the time, patience, or scientific knowledge to read each of Clarity’s paragraph long entries for a rundown of an experiment, so she scanned quickly as she flipped through pages, scanning for code words. Flare, deterioration, synthesis, spontaneous combustion (it came up an alarming amount), Concealment, magic purity, Force, flux…
She’d never heard that term regarding magic before. Mireya frowned, giving the line it appeared in a closer look.
…From observation, the synthesized spell was even more unstable than the shadiest of Hetavare magic and an alarming deep yellow in color quality-wise, seeming to be in some state of flux. It can’t fully stay in the form of the spell it was cast as, but it also can’t fully turn into another, resulting in magic that could be not only near useless but dangerous…
Then, at the end of the longer than usual entry:
…Will look into it more first thing tomorrow, attempting to recreate it.
Of course Clarity would look into something useless and dangerous. She’d try to turn it into something useful and fun.
Mireya flipped the page to look at the next day’s entry, only to frown. The entry took up the next spread of pages, which meant it probably extended into the next as well. Clarity’s writing was speckled with several mentions of flux, which now seemed to be her general way of referring to the magic she’d created.
…Repeating the Chant experiment reproduced the same result of unstable flux magic…
…This time, I started with a smaller amount of Chant alongside the Force I combined it with, and a similar result happened with the Force sometimes acting as it should, pushing away items on the counter (note to self: sweep glass on floor), but this time it seemed like it partially turned into Tremor at one point, because it caused the counter to shake. Yesterday it switched between Force and Flare, so next time I think I’ll try using Flare alongside Chant…
…Has really no one tried using Chant with other magic to make it vocally activated? If they got flux magic like I did, I can see why they’d be frustrated enough to stop…
…Will try again tomorrow, of course.
Feeling her heart starting to race, Mireya flipped to the next entry, scanning it further.
Today, I tried Chant with both Flare and Tremor to see whether it would create flux magic again…
…The Tremor attempt proved true, as it immediately fluctuated between other forms and became unstable. The Flare attempt, strangely enough, didn’t activate at all with voice commands…
…This thought is almost too obvious to write down, but this experiment is unsafe to perform with Salve, even by my standards of experimental danger…
Mireya blinked, rereading the entry. She remembered the Flare and Chant experiments that Clarity had brought to her apartment, the ones that had set her table on fire twice, before they’d known about the First Spell. Had she still been figuring it out and passed off an old experiment as a new one in front of her and Cyrin?
She skimmed through the next several pages, her thoughts buzzing until she read Sparrow’s name, and then they all froze. Clarity’s tone, while mostly impartial and clinical in her previous entries, seemed to express her true thoughts in this one.
Sparrow came by the lab as I was working on flux, and demanded I show him what I was doing. For some reason, I felt worried about doing so, but I didn’t have much choice, so I demonstrated what adding Chant to spells did. I tried to focus on the aspect of what I’d been hoping to do with them, which was create a vocally activated spell, but he was much more interested in what it had resulted in— that is, their instability. I saw this excitement in his eyes that I didn’t like at all.
He told me that he wants this to be the focus of my work, and that I should keep him updated on anything else I discover…
…I have a bad feeling about this. Before, flux was all I wanted to work on, but his reaction to it makes me think I should have stopped. He’s already thinking about all that he could do with it, and I don’t like what he might be thinking of.
I was thinking I’d tell Cyrin and Mireya about this once I had something concrete to tell them, but he specifically ordered me not to. So, my lips are as good as sealed.
“She makes a lot of interesting discoveries,” Dawn remarked, flipping through a notebook.
Mireya hummed distractedly, already flipping to the next mention of Sparrow.
…The good news about Sparrow’s visit in the middle of today is that I know what he wants to do. The bad news is that I don’t like it at all.
He said he’s been looking into the First Spell (???) for being a way to propagate flux magic, turning unused, uncorrupted magic that he has no control over into it. This, theoretically, would make all such magic impossible to use safely, and make his mages the only ones with functional magic. It could even turn into a monopoly on magic…
…I couldn’t attack his idea directly, so I argued that the First Spell is practically a myth (I’m not wrong) and that too much of that plan depends on its existence. He snapped that it did exist, and that I’d be helping him find it. Not that he wanted me to help, that I would be.
I just want to tell someone about this.
“Dawn,” Mireya said, out of the blue.
“Hmm?” Dawn looked over from the notebook she was reading through.
“I found Sparrow’s plan for the First Spell,” Mireya said, rushing her words. “Clarity discovered a way to make magic dangerously unstable on accident, which she’s calling flux magic. She started researching it, but Sparrow found out about it, and he got ideas for it. He wanted the First Spell to replace all magic except for the supply that he and his mages have with flux so that it would be unusable, and then he’d either be the only one with the ability to use it or make everyone who wanted to use it in his service.”
With a frown, Dawn took the notebook from her, reading the passage Mireya pointed to quickly. “Saints,” she said quietly. “Poor Clarity.”
“Something’s wrong. He has her in his power somehow, and she hasn’t been able to do anything about it or let Cyrin and I know.” Mireya placed her head in her hands.
“But she must have been able to do something about it,” Dawn said. “She had a surprise here that was supposed to help us. It must have been for flux, whatever it was.”
Mireya sat up immediately. “Keep reading.”
Dawn flipped through pages, getting closer to the end of the written portion, until she paused and pointed to a passage. “Right here.”
I’ve decided there’s no way to keep Sparrow from the First Spell. He’s going to have Cyrin and Mireya find it by “accident”, and then he’ll make me send them off to collect it. It will end up in his hands, because I’ve come around about its existence, and I can’t stop him from getting it or from using my friends.
There is one thing I can do. I worked on how to undo flux today. I’ll have to tell him there’s been no progress on flux itself from my time in the lab. It’s an excuse that will only work a limited number of times, but it’ll have to last until I have it finished. It’ll have to stay a surprise until he’s ready to act, or there won’t be stopping him.
I started with silent Chant magic rather than vocal, hoping to…
“She had a plan,” Mireya whispered, looking up from the page to Dawn’s face. “She was going to stop him from ruining magic.”
“But she got found out somehow.” Dawn closed the journal. “She must have known she was running out of time and was trying to warn you when she called you, but she still couldn’t tell you what was happening.”
“She has to be in so much danger right now,” Mireya said, quickly checking the map on her communicator. “Maybe they haven’t found her yet. I’m going to check where she is—”
She blinked, staring at the dot for Clarity’s location, and she was quiet for long enough that Dawn had to lean over to look.
“What the fuck is she doing there?”