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The Last Spell 9.1

by SilverNight


Just after Leilan spoke, Shane had to reach forward and pull him to the side, allowing two people to pass their group. The pair walked by them and right through the illusory wall, without breaking their stride or hesitating. Whatever this place was, they were used to it, and Shane was still reeling from being able to step through the wall.

“Is this place even supposed to be for public access?” Dawn asked, uneasiness in her voice.

“We were able to walk right in,” Leilan said slowly. “But I doubt we were supposed to.”

“Hang on, let’s get out of the way,” Shane muttered, moving along to stand by the railing and away from the wall— or was it really the door? “If we shouldn’t be here, we shouldn’t act like we have no idea what we’re doing.”

And he had no idea what they were doing.

This could have been a normal trip, Shane thought gloomily as the Heirs joined him. When was the last time I ran into trouble in Crystal City? I had plans for meetings, dinner and tourism where all I had to worry about was being on time for everything. Now I have to make sure this adventure doesn’t schedule me for a visit to the hospital.

“We should look around here,” Kaja suggested, taking in the setting with what looked like a hunger for exploration. Her brown eyes were bright with eagerness. “I bet there’s something to learn about the First Spell.”

“Hold up,” Leilan said, frowning. “We’re here for Favia, not a wild goose chase.”

“I didn’t say we couldn’t look for her too,” Kaja retorted. “Besides, Favia’s probably searching for information about it more than she is for that runaway mage. There’s no reason we can’t help her out.”

“I can think of many reasons,” Shane said. “Such as, everyone in this place looks like they know how to kill us or are rich and willing enough to pay someone to.”

“I knew it looked like a place for white-collar crime,” Kasumi said.

“Kasumi, none of us know what you mean by that, and I’m not sure you do either,” Shane sighed. “Murder is not a white-collar crime.”

Kasumi made a frustrated noise. “Just look around,” she said, gesturing broadly. “Doesn’t this place look nefarious? Doesn’t it also look like everyone here is unbothered by it? I’ll bet anything that these people are used to getting away with things.”

Shane tried to watch out of the corner of his eye rather than stare. He’d seen all the weapons and magic, but he hadn’t yet thought about why everyone else here seemed to have them. The more he thought about it now, the less it seemed like it was for a good reason. He heard maniacal laughter in the midst of the conversation, the sound sharp and sinister.

“Does anyone else think we’re in a little too deep?” he asked very quietly.

“That’s just how you think of things,” Kaja responded, and Shane had to clench his jaw to keep himself from snapping at her.

“We could split up,” Dawn suggested hesitantly. “There’s a lot of ground to cover, and we could handle being in two groups, right?”

Shane exchanged a glance with Leilan, who seemed to share his doubts that Kasumi could avoid offending anyone, Kaja wouldn’t start a fight, and Dawn wouldn’t wander off and get lost.

“Shane, you go with Kaja,” Leilan said slowly, after a long moment of thought. “I’ll stay with Kasumi and Dawn.”

Kaja nodded in satisfaction, while Shane gave him a look that said Is it my turn to pay penance or something?. Leilan’s response was a helpless shrug.

“We’ll meet back here in twenty minutes,” Kasumi said.

Shane caught Leilan’s shoulder before he turned away. “Don’t walk into a dense crowd. Don’t draw attention to your wallet. Don’t watch the distractions. I feel like this is a place that you could definitely get pickpocketed or mugged in.”

“I wasn’t born yesterday,” Leilan protested, before a slight look of amusement passed over his face. “I was born in Amber City, actually, so I know about pickpockets and robbers.”

Kaja cut their goodbyes short by marching away, and Shane had to hurry after her to catch up. He may have looked a bit out of place in this crowd, but her fierceness helped them both fit in. Kaja towered above people, even among these more intimidating than average ones, and he hoped that it would discourage people from messing with them.

“What are you even hoping to learn about the First Spell?” Shane asked.

“A way to get it for ourselves,” Kaja said simply, like it was obvious.

“To… protect it?” He had the feeling it wasn’t what she meant.

Kaja clucked her tongue, shaking her head like she felt sorry for him. “Shane,” she sighed. “To protect Aphirah. People obviously can’t be trusted with magic, and our stability’s at risk because of it. Having better control of it would curb our crime problem. Wouldn’t it be so easy if there was an artifact that could do just that for us?”

“Too easy, I think,” Shane said. “Whenever magic, whether it’s a spell, artifact or a mage, has been used on that large of a scale, it’s never gone well. Remember the Summer War?”

“You never shut up about it. It’s like your favorite area of history.”

It wasn’t his favorite area— if he had to pick a favorite period, he would have chosen a more peaceful time that was better for Aphirah— but it was one of the events that fascinated him the most. Since the founding of the Houses over two millennia ago, Aphirah had only had two wars, and the Summer War was the only civil war it had ever had. It was rare that a single development held so much of the evidence for figuring out how Aphirah’s identity and behavior changed in a crisis like warfare.

Shane rolled his eyes anyway at the comment like it was true. “Well, I’ll bring it up again if you’ll let me.”

To his surprise, Kaja slowed her pace slightly, making conversation between them easier. “Do your worst.”

Shane paused, making sure that it actually was fine before he continued. “Threo Summer was a great threat to Aphirah for nearly two decades, back several centuries ago,” he said. “He got support for a revolution in the East, fought a war, and came close to succeeding in breaking away an entire region from Aphirah. He almost certainly would have managed his goal, if—”

“He went insane,” Kaja interrupted. “Lost his mind and couldn’t lead a force anymore. It’s almost hard to believe Aphirah was ever scared of him.”

“You’re missing my point,” Shane said. “He was powerful, as a Minor Mage and a leader. He had control of the situation, and it looked like he’d get everything he wanted. But then Summer tried to control all of Starlight City with Rationale in a battle. No one had ever wielded that much magic on that kind of scale before, especially not with that kind. It was too much for even him, one of the most capable of mages. The Rationale didn’t work and it went after his mind instead. He went mad, and he lost the war. Tampering with all of Aphirah’s magic is on a whole different scale, and it could be much worse.”

“Unlike Summer, I can hold on to my sanity,” Kaja said dismissively. “Controlling magic’s going to be well worth it if it’s possible.”

Someone stepped in their path, with far too much purpose for it to be anything but deliberate. She was clearly a mage, from the MagicBox attached to her belt, and her arms were folded over her chest as she stared at them with a glare. She didn’t look quite as strong as Kaja, but was almost as tall, and the way she raised her head said she was ready to fight against her. Not the kind of person Shane would have crossed the street to avoid, but he definitely didn’t like being in her way now.

“You two talkin’ about banning magic?” she said, her voice low and threatening. “We tolerate aristocrats here because they bring in the money and jobs, but we draw the line at them trying to ruin our careers.”

“You might have misheard us,” Shane said coolly, his heart starting to hammer despite his smooth outward demeanor. “We’re bound in another direction. This way, Kaja.” He grabbed Kaja’s forearm and tried to tug her away.

But instead, Kaja threw him off with with a shake of her arm that twisted his wrist, and while he winced and rubbed at it, she stared down the person in their path with a venomous glare. “What, are you some kind of criminal? I don’t see why else that would make you worried.”

The mage seemed surprised, before her face split into a grin, and she let out a shrill laugh filled with real amusement. “Hear that?” she called out, still howling with laughter. “Oh no, how terrible, you’ve managed to find a dirty criminal in the Arcade of all places. Keen eye.”

Laughs rose up from the other people present nearby, and he saw some slow down to watch better or stop entirely to stand by the mage. Shane frowned, moving closer to Kaja as a feeling that something was very wrong crept over him. The mage had called this place an arcade, giving the name some importance, which was what Kasumi had heard about the space behind the wall before. If she didn’t respond badly to being called a criminal, and everyone present wasn’t concerned either, then…

Maybe everyone here was a criminal.

“We should leave,” Shane murmured to Kaja, glancing behind him while trying not to turn his head too far in that direction. There was still space open behind them as bystanders gathered nearby, leaving a clear escape path.

“I’ve got a plan,” she whispered back, and relief swept over him until she turned back around. “Well, are you looking to fight?” she shouted at the mage.

“Not that kind of plan,” Shane hissed.

“Fight?” the mage asked. Her fingers flicked the MagicBox open, dipping into the lightning-like glow. “We could fight—”

“Stand down, stand down,” a voice said, and then a man stepped into the ring of people around them, raising his arms and smiling appeasingly. He hadn’t pushed his way through the crowd, but rather, it had parted for him. Shane scanned the apparently-influential person’s appearance, noticing dark brown hair tucked up in a ponytail, freckles on pale cheeks, green eyes, and mechanical prosthetic legs that looked like a lightboard. “It’s just newcomers,” he announced to the crowd, not seeming to speak to him or Kaja at all. “They’re probably very nervous right now, which is probably because we’ve failed to give them a warm welcome, haven’t we?”

There were nods and grumbles of agreement, and as Shane watched, mystified, the crowd surrounding them dispersed as people left the scene behind. Only the mage who had challenged them remained, lifting her chin defiantly again— but more to the man this time than the two of them.

“Leave them be, Pia,” the man said, with sympathetic understanding. “If they’re still causing trouble later, I won’t stop you, but let me show them the ropes for now.”

After a moment of hesitation, Pia nodded, shooting one last glare over her shoulder at them as she walked away, and then the crowd that had been ready to start a brawl one moment had been subdued the next.

The strange man turned to the two Heirs now, smiling in a way that Shane couldn’t help but admit was charismatic. “My apologies for that,” he said with a laugh. “This place is getting frustrated with its clients, and Pia’s an aggressive one. What’s your business here?”

“We’re very grateful that you stepped in, but our business really lies elsewhere,” Shane explained, trying to pull Kaja away again, but she didn’t budge.

“We’re looking for a missing person, as well as the First Spell,” Kaja said firmly, and he barely held back a sigh. This person really didn’t need to know their plans.

But the man’s eyes lit up, his smile turning into a wide grin. “You’re looking for the First Spell?”

“Yes, but we really can handle it on our own—” Shane started.

“No, no, you must let me help you with that,” the man said, walking away and waving them along. Kaja eagerly followed, and so Shane had no choice but to go along with a shake of his head. “My name’s Julian Sparrow, and I am just the person for you.”


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Mon Feb 13, 2023 2:58 pm
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4revgreen wrote a review...



“I can think of many reasons,” Shane said. “Such as, everyone in this place looks like they know how to kill us or are rich and willing enough to pay someone to.”

I'm with shane on this one - this place seems super sketchy!

“I knew it looked like a place for white-collar crime,” Kasumi said.

“Kasumi, none of us know what you mean by that, and I’m not sure you do either,” Shane sighed. “Murder is not a white-collar crime.”

Kasumi made a frustrated noise. “Just look around,” she said, gesturing broadly. “Doesn’t this place look nefarious? Doesn’t it also look like everyone here is unbothered by it? I’ll bet anything that these people are used to getting away with things.”

I like how before in previous chapters, Kasumi maybe wasn't taken as seriously and got in trouble for doing her own thing, but i think she's right when she says it seems like a white-collar crime sort of place! I know what she means and it's nice to see her get to develop even more.

The dialogue between the characters is also well-written and provides insight into their personalities and motivations. We learn that Kaja is eager to explore and find information about the First Spell, which she believes could be used to protect Aphirah from magic-related crimes. On the other hand, Shane is more cautious, warning the others about the potential danger of being in this place. Shane's fear and unease are palpable as he tries to keep an eye on the other people in the room, and the reader shares his sense of unease.




SilverNight says...


Thank you for all this reviewing, I'm really glad you're enjoying the story! I can add you to the taglist for new chapters if you want-- though I hope you'll feel like skimming the older ones sometime so that you don't miss anything big from earlier :)



4revgreen says...


oo yes please! i'll definitely be catching up with all the chapters!



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Sun Dec 18, 2022 1:43 am
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Shady wrote a review...



*SCREAMS* >:[

How dare you switch me back over to the heirs when you left Mireya on such a cliffhanger in chapter eight -- that's just RUDE >.>

Okay. Fine. I suppose I'll review the heirs BUT I WON'T BE HAPPY ABOUT IT :triumph:

Also, happy fifteenth and final review xD This is my sixteenth review total and at this point, I'm simultaneously exhausted and also close enough that I'm tempted to see if I can get to 20 like Harry did to cancel out his reviews in service to our team xD we'll see how it goes! Way closer than I expected it to be!

“Kasumi, none of us know what you mean by that, and I’m not sure you do either,” Shane sighed. “Murder is not a white-collar crime.”


The only thing I have to say to that is:

Image

“Unlike Summer, I can hold on to my sanity,” Kaja said dismissively. “Controlling magic’s going to be well worth it if it’s possible.”


*shakes her in frustration*

Maybe everyone here was a criminal.


Honestly, this feels kinda... slow? Like... it's pretty obvious that this is the case. He's remarked about the sinister energy and the weapons and such multiple times at this point. Is he really just now putting two and two together? It feels... belated...

“We’re looking for a missing person, as well as the First Spell,” Kaja said firmly, and he barely held back a sigh. This person really didn’t need to know their plans.


Yeahhh honestly, he's right here. Kaja... honestly feels a little stupid to be an Heir ngl. Like... there is no discretion whatsoever on her part, is there? Who picked her? xD

“My name’s Julian Sparrow, and I am just the person for you.”


The greasy little brother of Captain Jack amirite? ;)

~

OKAY! WHEW! That was a binge for the record book xD I really enjoyed this story, though! It's been absolute ages since I've reviewed or read anything of substance so it was nice having something so compelling to keep me turning the metaphorical pages and reading on to see what happens next.

I know you said the lack of security is also bugging you, and I know I've complained several times, but that is my biggest complaint about this story so far. It feels unrealistic. And I'm not sure I know how to suggest improving that, but it is a concern that needs to be addressed, I think.

That being said, it's an absolutely lovely story, and it's heating up wonderfully! And now, you've left me on a cliffhanger with BOTH groups, so I suppose I will wait bitterly for next week and then be too busy to review it for three more months >.> xD

Anyhow. Hope some of my rambling today was at least somewhat helpful and/or encouraging -- you're a lovely author and I'm happy I get to be a part of this journey with you.

Keep writing!

~Shady 8)




SilverNight says...


ou're a lovely author and I'm happy I get to be a part of this journey with you.


NO U <3

sdkjfskfsdjs I know I've said it already I can't thank you enough for the reviewing! It means a lot and I'm really glad you're enjoying it 8)



Shady says...


<3




Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
— Neil Gaiman