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16+ Language

The Last Spell 32.1

by SilverNight


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

“What time is it in Amber City?” Kaja asked, while Leilan pulled up Marius’ contact on his communicator.

“Late morning,” Leilan said, placing in his earbuds.

Kaja hummed. “So it’s a good time to call.”

“Actually, I’d have a better chance of reaching him at three in the morning,” Leilan admitted. “The man hardly sleeps, and when he does, it’s always at the strangest times.”

Kaja let out a snort. “Can I make a bet with you that you’ll wake him up, then?”

“I wouldn’t make a losing bet like that.” Leilan pressed the call button.

For a while, there was no response, and he began to actually worry that his friend would sleep through the call, or wouldn’t be able to answer. He could really use Marius right now. But after a long moment, he heard the call start, and some faint shuffling sounds on the other end.

“Hello there,” Leilan said, giving Kaja a thumbs up.

There was a yawn on the other end of the call, and he could imagine Marius rubbing his eyes. “Why are you calling me at—” A pause. “Oh. Eleven in the morning.”

“I’m calling to report the demise of your sleep schedule,” Leilan said seriously, unable to resist the slight joke even now. “The funeral’s at four this afternoon. Don’t sleep through it.”

“Ha. Funny.” Marius let out a huff of laughter through his nose. “Anyway, what’s the newest problem? What’s happening with your dabbling in crime?”

“It’s… a little past dabbling now,” Leilan said slowly.

Marius paused. “Should I get coffee before I hear this?”

“As good as that would be, this is a little time-sensitive,” Leilan said regretfully. “Sorry.”

Hurry up, Kaja mouthed at him, and Leilan did a quick little hand gesture to express helplessness.

“Okay. I’ll live.” Marius sighed. “What is it?”

Leilan dropped his voice, scanning the area as he spoke. “We’ve had some trouble with the First Spell. We had possession of it for about twenty-four hours, but it got taken by someone else before we could decide what to do with it. And that person is mostly planning something at the Houses’—”

“Sorry, what?” Marius interrupted. “Slow down. Who has it?”

“A man named Julian Sparrow,” Leilan explained. “He’s a crime lord, running an underground lawless empire out of Crystal City, and is probably a large reason why the city is so out of control lately. He helped set us up with the thieves who stole the First Spell with us, but that was a plan for him to steal it from us. Now we’re trying to get it back from him.”

There was a heavy silence.

“It’s okay if you’re judging me,” Leilan said. “I get why.”

“No, not judging you. Just processing.” Marius hesitated. “So… this is bad, yeah…?”

“It’s not good. But we should already have it back by now,” Leilan said. “However, he may have a plan to go to the Houses’ anniversary celebration and cause havoc there—”

“Oh, shit, I forgot that was happening soon,” Marius blurted. “Did I oversleep? I need to get ready to fly there.”

“Marius, you still have time,” Leilan said pleadingly. “Please, I need you for a little longer. I’m sorry I’m dumping so much on you right now, but I have more to share, and it’s very important that you know specifically. Please.”

“Right. Of course. Sorry.” Marius sighed again. “I just— things are all over the place— I haven’t been sleeping much over— Sorry. Please go on.”

“I’ll make it quick,” Leilan promised, feeling a twinge of guilt. “So, the event might be a target. We’re hoping to stop Sparrow’s plans in their tracks once we get the First Spell, but we thought someone who would be there should know of the risk. We can’t get the celebration canceled at this short notice, but someone should be warned, and it can’t be our Houses.”

“Is there something I can do?” Marius asked, sounding worried.

Leilan paused, then answered, “Just be on guard. We will be there, and hopefully our plan works, so Sparrow won’t have the First Spell to use there.”

“Got it. I’ll be cautious.” Now Marius only sounded weary.

Leilan waited for a moment, wondering if he would say more, but he didn’t. Concern for his friend flared up.

“Marius,” he said quietly. “Is there a reason why you’re not sleeping much?”

Kaja glanced at him curiously, but Leilan held up a finger, signaling for her to wait a moment.

“Yeah, I guess there is. Uh…” Marius laughed weakly. “Remember that stolen prototype I told you about?”

“Yes,” Leilan said quickly, but Marius continued before he could share the thoughts the group had had about it.

“Well, the family thinks it’s my fault. Apparently, I was given security clearance to the lab the very day it was stolen.”

“They think you stole it?” Leilan asked, widening his eyes.

“Not that I don’t want to hear your half of the conversation, but like, keep your volume down,” Kaja whisper-hissed.

Sorry, Leilan mouthed.

“They don’t think I did it personally, but they do think I got someone else to do it on my behalf. Like how you hired those thieves to do the work for you,” Marius said, and Leilan decided not to explain that the Heirs had gotten a little over-involved in the theft. “And now my family is mad at me, I have no alibi, and I’m meeting an investor at the event who will be livid.”

“Saints. That is messed up, I’m so sorry.” Leilan pinched the bridge of his nose. “Once this is all over, we’ll get you out of hot water next. Who’s your investor?”

“Casper Bridger,” Marius said seriously, and Leilan wanted to groan. “He’s helping to pay for some stupid satellite, and apparently this tech was important for that. I have hated every necessary business interaction with the man. I’d call him a son of a you-know-what, but his mother was actually an icon and I’d hate to disrespect her memory. So I’m out of insults for him.”

“Oh, I know Casper,” Leilan said, quickly taking note of the satellite comment. “Met him ten years ago at the same House event, actually. He swore at Dawn and her sister for ‘taking too long’ in the buffet line. I’ve disliked him since that very moment.”

“Great to know he’s been awful for a decade or more,” Marius said, letting out a sigh. “Probably has been for forever. Also, wasn’t Heather an Heir by then, too? I’d have been scared for my life to be harsh to her.”

“Yeah, well, he didn’t bat an eye,” Leilan said. “He’s rude indiscriminately.”

“Not surprising.” Marius hummed. “Anyway. I’ll figure this out. I just have to convince him and my family that I’m too incompetent to pull off something like this, which won’t actually be that hard.”

“You’re perfectly competent, and I don’t want them thinking you’re not. Just convince them of your honesty,” Leilan assured him. “It’ll all work out.”

“Thanks, Leilan.” Marius let out another yawn. “Alright. I either need to go back to sleep, get some coffee, or get ready for the trip to Starlight City. But it’s good to hear from you.”

“It’s good to talk to you as well,” Leilan said, smiling slightly. “And I’ll see you at the event.”

“Tell him to avoid the paparazzi,” Kaja said.

Leilan chuckled. “Oh, Kaja’s here too. She says to avoid the paparazzi.”

“Not even a hi? Well, I guess that is our goodbye.” He could hear Marius’ smile in his voice. “You know the drill.”

“He says, ‘won’t that be hard,’” Leilan said to Kaja, and she smirked faintly.

With a slight laugh, Marius hung up, and Leilan was struck by a thought just as he took out his earbuds and placed them away again.

“Oh,” he said. “I forgot to tell him about the astronaut and the battery.”

“Do you want to call him back really quick?” Kaja suggested.

“I might do that,” Leilan said, going back to his screen, but a notification from Kasumi popped up over it. Kaja raised her wrist to see it for herself, having evidently received it as well. He saw it was from the same casual chat where he’d alerted the Heirs to the incident in the safe room, and he exchanged a look with Kaja.

“Let’s read this first,” she said.

Leilan nodded, opening the message.

>ok-sue-me:

I can’t explain in a way that will make sense, but you all need to find your way to the top floor of the other building. We need two cars ready to be called.

Leilan scanned the message, frowning. It took him a moment to realize that Kasumi had texted with proper capitalization and punctuation, even though that was not her style. Even if the content itself wasn’t alarming, that would’ve been enough to put him on edge.

“She’s texting properly,” Kaja muttered, evidently thinking the same. “Saints. How bad is it over there?”

“Doesn’t seem good,” Leilan said slowly, fingers flying as he replied back.

>the-dad-friend:

First, are you okay? And less importantly, do you have the First Spell?

Dawn sent in another message just after he did.

>painting-the-dawn:

Are Shane and Cyrin with you too?

“Yes, that’s a good question as well,” Leilan murmured.

“We don’t need to wait on a reply to start moving,” Kaja said. “How do we get up, assuming Shane destroyed the staircase?”

“Mireya said there was a skybridge on the level above it that doesn’t go through the Nest itself, and there are staircases over here outside of the gridlock,” Leilan said. “You’re right, we should hurry. It could be an emergency.”

Kaja didn’t respond, but he saw her worry in the furrowing of her brow as they went to the nearest staircase. Ignoring the people standing at the railing to gawk at the chaos below— where the Force barriers had not been dismantled yet— Leilan led the way up. As they got to the top, he scanned the floor, finding the skybridge directly ahead on the edge of the Arcade just as his wrist buzzed again.

“It’s Kasumi again,” he told Kaja, who nodded and kept looking ahead as they moved. Leilan pulled up the message.

Oh, Saints. It was a paragraph, which was not good coming from Kasumi.

>ok-sue-me:

I’m personally okay, but I need you to get here. The First Spell wasn’t with Sparrow, and I don’t think we can get it on this operation. Cyrin and Shane are with me, but they’re both in trouble. The rest I can’t hope to explain over text. If you could hurry but not get caught, that would be great.

Leilan stared at the message. Shane and Cyrin were in trouble? What did she even mean by that?

It led his mind to assume the worst, but he wasn’t even sure what the worst was.

A new message from Dawn came through, and he had to blink to refocus his vision and be able to read it.

>painting-the-dawn:

Mireya and I are on our way. I’m calling the cars.

The words didn’t have a strong tone of worry, but Leilan knew she and Mireya were probably frantic. He started to think about asking whether they’d found the ‘surprise’ in Clarity’s lab, but before he could formulate a message, someone violently shoved him to the side.

Leilan let out a yelp of surprise, pushing back against the other person, but they were too strong. He slammed into a wide pillar, and before he could struggle away from them, there were hands on his shoulders pinning him against it. He resisted uselessly anyway until he heard a familiar grunt, and he realized through his panic that the person who had barreled into him was Kaja.

“Will you shut up and hold still?” she growled to him, peeking at something around the pillar.

“What are you doing?” Leilan protested quietly, trying to push forward against her hold, but she didn’t budge. Saints, she was strong.

“I said, shut up and hold still,” she snapped. “Sparrow is leaving the skybridge, and I don’t want him seeing us here. He’s met both of us before.”

Leilan froze, craning his head and failing to see around the pillar. Sparrow had left the top floor?

“Who’s with him?” he whispered.

“No one we know. Just a small group of his followers.” Kaja kept watching for a moment longer, then pulled him over. “This side of the pillar, quick.”

Still shocked, Leilan moved to take cover on the next side of the pillar, cheek pressed against it in hopes to get a view. He saw Sparrow and several others pass them and take the stairs down, presumably to check out the chaos they’d caused with the spell stones. He didn’t even realize he’d been holding his breath until his lungs were burning by the time they were out of sight, and he gasped faintly for air.

“Come on,” Kaja ordered, grabbing his shoulder and tugging him toward the skybridge. “This is our chance to get there without being caught.”


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Sun Oct 08, 2023 9:42 pm
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IcyFlame wrote a review...



Yes yes yes! I have tried to be patient, but I'm very keen to find out what's happening with our friends! I completely echo Plume's sentiments, but it is nice to get another chapter <3

I have mixed feelings about switching to Leilan's pov. I think it's needed to take a step back from the situation, and I was kind of expecting it too, but I want to read more Cyrin and Clarity xD

“As good as that would be, this is a little time-sensitive,” Leilan said regretfully. “Sorry.”

I'm glad he's said this because I was sat here wondering why now was a good time to make a phone call. They're in the middle of a heist and he has to make a call? I agree with Plume, the tone shift felt a bit weird. Like it made sense to be slower paced and less high stakes but the flow just didn't fit completely for me.

“I’ll make it quick,” Leilan promised, feeling a twinge of guilt. “So, the event might be a target. We’re hoping to stop Sparrow’s plans in their tracks once we get the First Spell, but we thought someone who would be there should know of the risk. We can’t get the celebration canceled at this short notice, but someone should be warned, and it can’t be our Houses.”

This is actually a pretty good summary to have at this point, and adds that time bound element that I'd not hugely counted on yet.

So did he just call Marius for him to be on his guard? The conversation with Marius was interesting, but it felt like it wasn't actually necessary to have at that point in the middle of heisting.

“Oh, I know Casper,” Leilan said, quickly taking note of the satellite comment.

OH

Leilan scanned the message, frowning. It took him a moment to realize that Kasumi had texted with proper capitalization and punctuation, even though that was not her style. Even if the content itself wasn’t alarming, that would’ve been enough to put him on edge.


This immediately makes me think it's not Kasumi messaging? So I'm concerned.

Ok I feel like we're building to something big and I'm both stressed and keen to move on and read the next part. Ack!

See you for the next part!

Icy




SilverNight says...


Thank you Icy! The feedback on how the transition between chapters feels is double noted!



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Sun Oct 08, 2023 2:07 am
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

AH finally! But also, writing is a process. Do not feel bad for taking your time. But I am so glad to finally be reading this part given where you left the last one off.

In a way, I am glad we switch to Leilan's perspective; he's just the calming presence I need after everything that went down. Especially since he's chatting with Marius, arguably one of the most chill characters in this story. It did feel a bit like whiplash though, not exactly in a bad way; it just felt like 100 to 0 between chapters, since the last one was so high in stakes and just. Everything. I feel like it would have been a little more pronounced if I'd read them in succession, which might be something to think about.

In that same vein, it felt like the conversation—as time-sensitive as it was, as Leilan mentioned—didn't feel as urgent as it should have been. I guess it's because the danger isn't super super imminent, but again, there was a bit of lapse in stakes from this chapter from the last one, which felt like a bit of an odd tone shift.

That being said, I enjoyed the exchanges between Marius and Leilan; you do a great job of showing their comfort with each other, even though this is the second time we've seen them interact. Overall killing it on the dialogue, per the usual :)

Specifics

“Casper Bridger,” Marius said seriously, and Leilan wanted to groan.


Ohhh this feels like it's setting up something.

>ok-sue-me:

I can’t explain in a way that will make sense, but you all need to find your way to the top floor of the other building. We need two cars ready to be called.


Leilan scanned the message, frowning. It took him a moment to realize that Kasumi had texted with proper capitalization and punctuation, even though that was not her style. Even if the content itself wasn’t alarming, that would’ve been enough to put him on edge.


Firstly, love Kasumi's chat name. Secondly, I was a little unsure about the realistic-ness of her typing style change? I get that you wanted to convey the automatic uneasiness that comes with such a stark change, but I feel like an incident like the one that happened with Shane and Cyrin would make someone less likely to be as perfect with their messages and typing.

Overall: great work, and excited to read the next bit of the chapter! (Though maybe excited is the wrong word; more like needing to batten down my emotional hatches in preparation for the reactions of the other characters to the Cyrin/Shane situation.)




SilverNight says...


Hey Plume! Thank you for the review, especially insight on the tone shift and how high the stakes were ^^

Ohhh this feels like it's setting up something.



SilverNight says...


Now why would you guess that? ;)




Knowing too much of your future is never a good thing.
— Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief