Dreams are a recreation of the elements in our experiences. It’s past midnight and I’m the only one awake, alone with my thoughts as Ana and Ulriel sleep. The dream I had was vivid to the point of being a memory and not just a common dream. I write this down even though I have never had any such experiences, not because I believe in premonitions. Rather, I think that these are Ana’s memories that I’m re-living.
One thing stands out to me. There seems to be a contradiction between her stance on the Navori and what she saw. She claims they’re fictitious, but what I saw, (if her memories were even true, or if those memories were even real) was undoubtedly the symbol of the very same cult that caused to me run away all those years ago. I think she’s either hiding something, or what she saw was fake. Either way, I have to think of some way to find out.
As usual, the crystal sample glows gently on the ground as I begin writing my entry. Whether this is a side effect of being in close proximity with the object for extended period of time remains to be seen, possibly an interesting aspect of its peculiarity worth looking into.
That aside, here is what I can remember:
My feet pound the floor, taking me over soot-covered rooftops. A few ventilation ports lie in my path, covering the next 5 meters ahead. My agility enhanced by magecraft and years of training, a surge of heat and adrenaline channel into my legs as I leap high up into the air, easily soaring across them.
A laser burst lances past me, narrowly missing my right shoulder. I pivot around in mid-air, only to see three more coming from my pursuers. I visualize a small platform underneath my legs, and the mana flowing through my veins materializes in a temporary, translucent turquoise square beneath my feet. I tuck my legs in and kick off the ethereal platform. It begins to de-materialize, but that was all I need to vault over these lethal beams.
Those guys were terrible shots, but I was far from safe.
I reach the edge of a factory rooftop, and slink my way down a pipe. The beam weapons stopped firing as the thugs try to make their way across the rooftop, evidenced by the annoyance in their voices and the clattering noises of various rooftop objects being pushed aside.
I reach the ground and pull out my Halo. A metallic housing with circuits and a diamond mana-crystal core, a small infusion of my essence (mana) brings it to life. I glide my hand over the holo-interface, searching for the built-in map. There. Rendezvous point two blocks to the north-east, with our contact running a local apothecary shop as a cover. I turn my cloak inside-out, pulling it over my head as I forced my vitals to return to normal. Stepping out into the street on my left, I enter a night market in the process of closing down, intending to take a detour and lose myself in the crowd.
How did it come to this?
Infiltrate, get the information, and out was the mission. What started from murder of an innocent child rapidly devolved into an all-out gang war that consumed the entire seafaring nation known as Yarmathia. Here, the local government was little more than a facade put up by the ruling mob.
Recent events regarding a theft in classified thaumaturgical devices led us here, guided by a tip. The four of us, Valk, Fin, Cetra, and I were sent here on our first mission as a unit, but without better equipment and experience, we were in deep trouble. A lawless place, the Grand Council had little to no influence here, and with the gang/civil war consuming the entire nation, all ports had either become war-zones or were closed off.
We did not anticipate this. Everyone was on edge, and tensions were high. Even in the night market, enforcers were present; a show of dominance by the Flairs, the very same gang that I was trying to escape. They couldn’t have spread the word that quickly, right? I mean, their target was a Surtnarian woman with brown hair and green eyes, but I kept my head down, my cloak protecting me from their gaze.
A commotion behind, and I turned my head to look. From the corner of my left eye, I saw my pursuers barking orders to the enforcers. Quickly turning around, I made straight for the market exit on the far left just as enforcers started pushing their way through the vendors, demanding to know if I passed though. I sense two of them nearby. Taking them out would be child’s play, but I cannot risk blowing my cover again; safety was priority.
What are you doing, daughter!
IT’S PAST YOUR BEDTIME, WERE YOU SNEAKING OUT TO SEE THAT MAN AGAIN?!
A short-haired, hunched woman pulls my arm, as if she wanted to yank it out of my shoulder joint. To my surprise, she winks at me, and I play along.
I’m sorry mama, but I-
YOU ARE FORBID FROM GOING OUT AT NIGHT, DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!
No, you can’t do this to me-
As I put on my act, the woman pulls me into a nearby alley. We get out of earshot of the market, and the woman pulls her face off, the mask dissipating and revealing a grinning face. The man groans slightly as he stretches to his full height.
I had it under control, Fin.
What happened to staying under cover? he says in the woman’s voice.
It was just a peek, I didn’t expect them to notice.
You never were great at stealth, even after all the lecturing.
And you were never great at sticking to plans. What happened to ‘meeting at the rendezvous’?
Speak for yourself, Ms. I-almost got caught.
He clears his throat as he reverts his voice to normal. I’m fuming a little, since stealth wasn’t my strong suit. What infuriated me more was that Fin could literally get away with literally anything since he was the top of class in espionage.
I take a deep breath and swallow my pride for now. The mission mattered more.
Forget it, let’s meet up with the others.
We head for the apothecary through the back alley. We make a brisk pace and soon arrive at the rendezvous. The door is closed, the lights are on, the signs displaying offers have already been taken in. Even so, something doesn’t feel right, but I can’t put it into words, like a sense of dread creeping on the edge of your perception, setting off whatever bells that your intuition picks up.
I knock on the door three times, then three times again and then twice for our code. Nothing. I repeat that again as Fin keeps a lookout for anyone headed our way. I wait, but no reply comes. Fin walks up to the door and tries knocking, and I take turn playing lookout. The street was empty despite the market being two blocks away. All the doors on the street were closed, and what shops there were were closed, too. Odd.
Fin doesn’t seem to notice as he pushes open the door to the apothecary despite the ‘closed’ sign. I follow him in warily, knowing how quickly he can become elusive if he so desires. Except for a slight stench, the counter looked fine, but there was a pile of some sort in the back of the shop that wasn’t there this afternoon. Fin tenses up, and turns on the lights.
My eyes widen as my chest tightens. Fin falls to his knees, dumbstruck.
My breathing accelerates, and my legs turn to jelly. The way my mother passed away from magisepsis was sickly enough, but this was something else entirely, and I can’t help but vomit.
Valk’s four limbs were stretched out and pinned to the wall with stakes. His midsection was entirely eviscerated, save for the spine. The organs were spewed all over the floor, little more than bloody mince, and his lungs were hanging out from the bottom of the ribcage. His head was tilted back, throat impaled with a spike that ran through his lower jaw. His upper torso exposed, and a brand in the shape of an eye seared on to his chest.
I had only heard rumors about the cult that performed executions like this, but never really thought it true, since no one managed prove they were an actual organization. That meant that the Navori, if they were real, were in Yarmathia, and that meant things just went from bad to worse.
Beneath their massive symbol painted on the wall, was one sentence written in blood: