Episode 70

Knocks sound out from the exterior door of the modestly decorated living room. Lalyanpha gazes at Mylo, and smiles brightly to the four year old. “Guess who that is?”

Mylo’s attention span manages to grant enough time for him to blink his orange-speckled brown eyes in thought, before launching off the couch in sheer excitement. “Grandpa! Grandma!”

Lalyanpha quickly grabs the energetic child by the sides before he escapes her reach, tosses back her long golden brown hair, and glances over towards Mason. “Could you-”

With a laugh, Mason nods his head of dirty blonde hair and winks to Lalyanpha. “Already on it, Laly.”

He walks up to the exterior door, and opens it. He grants a respectful nod to Kallentesson, and smiles to the older evuukian woman behind him. “Come on in. Fair warning, you’ve got about five seconds before the little one is released.”

As soon as Kallentesson and the woman cross into the living room, Lalyanpha lets go Mylo to the awaiting arms of a kneeling Kallentesson. Sweeping the child up into his arms, Kallentesson hugs Mylo and playfully ruffles his dirty blonde hair. “How’s my favorite grandson?”

Mylo excitedly rambles breathlessly a clumsily compressed version of his day so far to an eager grandfather. Mason addresses the woman with a smile and points outside. “Lasosopha, is there anything you need me to help you two bring in?”

Lasosopha shakes her head with a calm smirk, and pats Mason lightly on the arm. “Oh no, dear. Not right now. We’ll worry about that later. Right now...”

She steps forward next to Kallentesson, leans on his shoulder, and gazes lovingly at Mylo. “I want to see my little grandchild.”

Mylo tries in vain to split his attention between grandmother and grandfather, and decides to focus on Lasosopha for the moment. Kallentesson hands over Mylo to his wife, and gazes his orange eyes into Mylo’s orange-speckled brown eyes with a proud grin. “The orange is really coming out in his eyes.”

Lalyanpha chuckles lightly, rolls her eyes with a humored smile, and sighs. “Yes, it is. The genetic specialist we saw says the evuukian coloration will most likely win out.”

Lasosopha glances between Kallentesson and Mylo’s face with delight. Kallentesson steps over his daughter, and warmly embraces Lalyanpha with a loving greeting in evuukian. Afterwards, Lalyanpha quickly wipes the hint of a tear at the corner of her eye with a happy smile. “I’m fine, father. Just busy keeping Mylo out of trouble.”

Mason stands next to Lalyanpha and extends out his hand to Kallentesson. “So, how was the resort with the houses?”

Kallentesson grips Mason’s hand tightly with a stoic hint to his posture and Mason responds with equivalent response to his subtle challenge. After a test of handshake strength, Kallentesson nods to Mason with a slightly annoyed smirk. “Same as they usually are. For as many deals are made, drama is born. Decided to skip watching yet another archery competition, and the pool party is really just for the young ones to be wild. By the gods, the new generation is too much at times. Had to break up one fight yesterday.”

He pauses a moment, reaches into his pocket, and pulls out his aetherphone. “Speaking of which...”

Quickly navigating through menus, he pulls up a picture of Modoran and him posing, and shows Mason and Lalyanpha. Both Mason and Lalyanpha quickly recognize the evuukian in the picture, and look to Kallentesson a bit surprised. Mason nods at the image on the screen and tilts his head to the side. “Wow, he’s usually pretty slippery from the cameras. Surprised you got him by himself.”

Lalyanpha lifts a curious brow to her father. “My gods, how did you manage that? Especially, with the family history and all? Did not think he’d stay in the same room with you, much less grant you a picture.”

Kallentesson shrugs his shoulder with a guilty grin. “Well, let’s just say I did him a favor and he returned it. Also, he got the rest of the team to sign a promo picture for you two.”

While Mason and Lalyanpha exchange glances, Kallentesson winks, steps over to Lasosopha and Mylo, and shows the picture on the aetherphone. “Guess who I met, Mylokia...”

Mylo’s attention snaps over to the glowing screen, and his eyes focus on the picture. Moments later, his excitement surges and he yells out. “Moddorren!”

Lasosopha strategically lowers the energetic child back down on the floor. Mylo looks to his audience and eagerly hops around between the adults. “Come see the tree house!”

After a few repeated attempts, Lalyanpha and Lasosopha eventually get lead away by Mylo towards the back door through the kitchen. Mylo pauses before going outside. “Daddy, Grandpa!”

Mason leans into the kitchen, nods to Mylo, and reassures him. “In a few minutes Mylo. Give grandma the tour.”

Kallentesson lifts an intrigued brow and eyes Mason. “Tree house?”

Shrugging his shoulders, Mason briefly grits his teeth and rolls his brown eyes at himself. “Mostly a really tall deck around a tree at the moment. But, he’s loves it.”

Kallentesson and Mason idle and stand silence for nearly a minute. Gazing around the modestly decorated living room, Kallentesson relaxes his stance and dons a calm smile. “You two have made a wonderful home here.”

Mason blinks, mentally wanders through some surprise, and nods towards Kallentesson. “I’d like to think so. I mean, it can’t compare to a house’s mansion...”

Kallentesson narrows his eyes mildly incredulously at Mason, and sighs with a frown. “Don’t short change your efforts. Before my brother brought me in on his business... to negotiate with all the people he pissed off, Lasosopha and I lived in a place almost exactly like this one. Gods, how I’ve come to miss those days.”

Mason quirks his brow, cocks his head to the side, and scrutinizes Kallentesson. “You okay? You don’t secretly have some incurable disease and are trying to make amends before it takes you in a month?”

Reflexively snorting, Kallentesson shakes his head and laughs. “Oh, gods no. I just...”

He sighs while searching for the words to match his thoughts, and pieces together the best approximation. “I’ve just come to realize... I just don’t like what I do anymore. The house head position was fine for the longest time. But, I think I only liked it because I had nothing else. Now...”

Stepping over to gaze through the archway into the kitchen and out the kitchen window, Kallentesson points to Mylo and Lalyanpha outside. “There’s better.”

Mason glances out the same window to Mylo and Lalyanpha, nods appreciatively, and smiles. “Yeah, funny how that happens.”

Kallentesson cracks a sympathetic smirk to Mason. “Indeed. Lately, everything has come under a new light. The politics, the business, the houses... It just takes me away from what I want to do.”

He levels an honest stare at Mason and speaks in a genuine tone. “Listen, the both of you have managed to build a wonderful life here that I was too stupid to realize. Let me apologize for how I’ve treated you in the past.”

With wide eyes, Mason glances around in shock and nods with a gracious smile towards Kallentesson. “Wow... Um... Thanks, Kallentesson. That actually does mean a lot.”

Kallentesson smirks and laughs. “Just call me Kal. I think we’re beyond certain formalities.”

Mason snorts and agrees as he walks into the kitchen towards the fridge. “Yeah. Make sense. So, you want a beer? Nothing too fancy at the moment.”

With a humored smirk, Kal steps over to examine the beverage stock. “Don’t worry. I drank Stag’s Standard for the longest time. I’m not THAT fancy with beer.”

Mason grimaces briefly, picks up a can, and hands it over to Kal. “Gods almighty, you drank straight from the stag? Willingly?”

Kal shrugs his shoulders with a tight smile. “Some months, it was all Lasosopha and I could afford to drink. It was her favorite when we were young.”

Pausing in thought Mason’s mind wonders a moment between questions answered, and answers with new questions. Kal draws in a long breath and cracks open his can of beer. “Anyway, I plan on retiring in the next year, and hand over control of the house to my brother.”

Halting mid sip, Mason shakes his head in shock and stares at Kal. “Really? Wow... Well, congratulations on your future retirement.”

Kal frowns briefly and sighs out a faint bit of frustration. “Well, I’m not there yet. Have a quite a few things to take care and a few wrongs to try my best to amend officially before I bow out. Also, need to prepare our business partners to deal with my brother.”

He pauses a moment, lowers his voice, and looks to Mason. “One thing that I’m prioritizing, that I need to you keep secret for now... I am reinstating Lalyanpha officially back in the family... And putting her name back on the registry for the house.”

Mason’s hand reflexively tightens when he feels his beer almost slip out of his grasp. He snaps a wide eyed gaze at Kal. “Holy hell... That’s- Good gods... That’s huge. I mean. As much as I’ve tried to comfort her about it... She’s always missed being part of the family.”

Kal nods and fights to hold back guilt-ridden regret seeping into his voice. “Yes. It’s going to take some effort. But, I think I can get it done. She won’t have any real house duties, or a significant say in family affairs. Regardless, she’ll have every official right to attend family events... With you and Mylokia.”

Blinking blankly a moment, Mason straightens his posture, and smiles with emotion nudging his voice. “Thank you. Just thank you. It’ll mean the world for her.”

Tilting his head to the side, Kal chuckles lightly. “I’m going to try to get it ready for her birthday, but these particular processes take FOREVER. They’re not used that often, and people forget it’s in the laws.”

The two men stand and watch Mylo lead Lasosopha and Lalyanpha around the backyard, pointing out various things with long, excited rambling explanations. Mason finishes sipping his beer and lifts his brow. “We better get out there and give them a break from Mylo.”

Kal nods in complete agreement. “Oh yeah.”

The two men head out the back door into the yard to the joy of a four year old.

Chad, Veevi, Tassilda, Trakenthin, Deedri, and Modoran walk down a path on the resort grounds in the dusk light. Nearby from choice angles, camera crew record their every movement along the way and work themselves in an active orbit around the team. Veevi struts around in pace with Chad, evocatively stretches out in her bikini swimsuit for the cameras, and grins with a wicked hint. “That was SO MUCH fun! Archery competition AND a pool party in the same day!”

She leans against Chad, wrap her arms around him, and consuls him with a sympathetic tone. “So, sorry you got knocked out of the semi-finals.”

Glancing briefly down towards the still damp pink hair of Veevi, Chad shrugs his shoulders and dons an amused smirk. “Actually I’m kind of okay I didn’t get too far and Modoran mercilessly beat me.”

He looks over his shoulder towards Modoran with genuine curiosity. “Archery competitions must be serious business with the Evuukian Houses.”

Modoran nonchalantly nods and shrugs his shoulders. “Yeah. It’s an old tradition they’ve had for centuries. Most children raised in a house are expected to know how to use a bow and arrow. They used to settle arguments of honor with archery challenges not too long ago.”

Deedri smiles and gazes up towards Modoran, brushing her long, multi-colored hair over her shirt covered shoulder. “You held your own in that contest, I thought you we going to win it for a while.”

Lightly chuckling, Modoran shakes his head and puts his hands in his pants pockets. “Oh, no. There were a few famous archers in that competition that would have easily beaten me if I faced up against them. They were just playing well enough until they got into the finals. Then, they could be serious.”

Trakenthin glances up from his aetherphone, lifts an inquisitive brow at Modoran, and asks with hints of accusation. “Seems certain house members wanted to challenge YOU.”

Modoran’s dark blue eyes widen briefly as he grimaces, and he calmly plays off his nerves. “O-Oh? Well, you know... Being the one Evuukian on the team with a dark evuukian lineage, I’m not surprised a few wanted to see how they measured up.”

His eyes dart around and quickly scan the immediate area, before his posture relaxes back down. Veevi glances over her shoulder to Deedri, and frowns with a slight droop of her fuzzy ears. “I’m really sorry, you couldn’t find your bathing suit Deedri. It looked really cute. You can borrow one of mine for tomorrow if you don’t find it.”

Deedri blinks to attention, searches her mind for the current ploy, and smiles appreciatively, hiding a telling curl in the corner of her mouth. “Oh! Uh, thank you, Veevi. But, I’m sure it’ll turn up. I just bought it earlier today, so it couldn’t have gone that far. And, I didn’t mind being the backup medic in case anything happened between the flying arrows and water today.”

Tassilda barely contains her knowledgeable smirk as she eyes through Deedri’s guise. Resting her hands upon her towel wrapped waist, Tassilda tosses her raven black hair back off her bikini top and struts with an extra bounce in her step. A few cameras focus on her and away from the conversation between Deedri and Veevi. Stretching her arms over her head, Tassilda yawns. “I can’t wait to get back and take a long shower.”

As the group passes a small building for restrooms, Modoran breaks off from the group and motions a thumb point over to the bathrooms. “I’ll catch back up with you all. I need to use the facilities. Been holding it since the finals of the archery competition.”

After simple acknowledgments from everyone but Deedri who perks a suspicious brow, Modoran quickly walks over to the small building and enters into the men’s side of the open entryway. A small detachment of recording crew break off from the orbiting mass and wait outside, as the rest of the team leaves the area. Minutes pass. More minutes pass. Eventually one of the crew checks their aetherphone for time, and sighs. A phone alert chimes from everyone’s device, and they all investigate it. Excited and eager expressions overtake them, and they rush down the path, as extremely faint, argumentative voices resembling Tassilda and Veevi drift away.

Seconds later, Modoran slowly peeks his head out from around the entryway corner, searches the immediate vicinity, and slinks out. He swiftly slips into the growing shadows of the evening ambiance, sneaks down a narrow side path near the bathrooms. Keeping out of sight, he blends into the surrounding resort scenery and eventually settles to a seat on a decorative metal bench near a calming pond. Breathing a long sigh of relief, Modoran checks his aetherphone, navigates to his messages, and nods as he reads. He checks the narrow, secluded path through bamboo forests and exotic plants, and waits.

As his attention drifts off into to simple, captivating game on his phone, two groups of three quietly approach the bench from either direction of the path. On opposing sides, Hektoran and Mishavalla close in. Mishavalla concentrates as faint flows shimmer along the ground near her two associates. Hektoran keeps pace with a young male evuukian focusing upon a similar magical spell. Modoran grits his teeth, quickly taps upon his phone screen, and eagerly plays the game on the screen. Hektoran grins evilly, and laughs loudly. “What are YOU playing, Modoran?”

Modoran’s dark blue eyes spring wide open. He slowly lifts his head of short white and light gray hair, turns to either side, and studies the situation in sheer, utter bewilderment. He mouths to himself in shock. “How the fuck...?”

Hektoran steps up to the standing Modoran, smiles with sinister intent, and postures pridefully. “This time... You won’t be getting away.”

Recognizing the same group from before, Modoran sneers his upper lip, grumbles in frustration, and slowly shakes his head. “I don’t know how the fuck you even knew I was here, but still... This is a bad idea. You all should really drop this.”

Mishavalla readies herself into a casting pose, trains her piercing yellow eyes on Modoran, and grins sharply. “Last night we’re here, so last chance to settle this.”

Hektoran nods to the two pairs of evuukian comrades, and the pairings secure the exit routes, waiting for action. Hektoran puffs out his chest, glares eagerly at Modoran, and cracks his knuckles. “You know, just take your beating like a proper house reject. It’ll be a lot easier on us... You not so much. And you wouldn’t want to leave any mark on us, since it’d just cause you so much trouble for assaulting house nobility, so recklessly.”

Studying the scene, Modoran parts a devious smile, laughs darkly, and narrows a stare into Hektoran. “Oh... Really? As if leaving bruises and marks me is going to help you out... Since I’m certain your great uncle will know exactly what happened after yesterday!”

A sudden, stark realization erupts simultaneously in the youthful, naive minds surrounding Modoran as they contemplate their shared gross oversight. With a final few gestures, Modoran finishes an incantation and vanishes from view. “Bye!”

Hektoran snaps back to awareness, notices Modoran disappearing, and yells out. “MISHA! REVEAL HIM! HURRY!”

Stumbling into the casting of the spell, Mishavalla quickly runs through the gestures and repeats an incantation from memory. The two pairs of perimeter guards hold their arms out and carefully watch and listen for any sign of Modoran. Anger swells into Hektoran’s face and he attempts to turn around. His body tries to twist, but his shoulders remain held in place. Puzzling at the strange forces, Hektoran grunts as his body hops up from the force of several fist sized, sudden depressions into his gut. Hektoran doubles onto the ground, barely holding himself up, and covers his mouth when he reflexively wretches.

While the male and female evuukian pair near Hektoran watch their leader collapse into a vomiting fit, Mishavalla releases a colorful pulse from her hands. The wave of glittering particles expands quickly, and coats all it contacts in a sparkling layer, including the transparent form of Modoran. Hektoran’s pair of escorts lunge at Modoran. The duo release a flurry of punches and kicks that Modoran deftly dodges when possible and weathers the rest. Slipping into a few opportunities, Modoran returns a similar barrage of attacks at the pair. The exchange continues at a feverish pace in between struggling grapples. In a lapse of judgment, Modoran side steps into the perfect path for muscular evuukian man’s shoulder check, and flies back and over row of metal garbage cans. As he lays there, he returns to full opacity.

As Mishavalla helps Hektoran stand back up from a pool of his stomach’s previous contents, Hektoran’s accomplices approach the trash pile Modoran is in. A sudden plume of inky black mist erupts from Modoran and obscures the area. When the four evuukian lackeys defensively form around the expanding dark miasma, five Modorans leap out from the cloud into dramatic, taunting poses. Hektoran wipes the remainder of the vomit from his mouth, steps up into the line with the other four evuukians, and readies himself for a fight.

Mishavalla’s suspicion narrows her stare at the multiple Modorans, and she studies the animated, mocking batch. After a few moments, her eyes notice a distinct lack of a colorful, sparkle on each of the illusions, and she starts to open mouth. Modoran’s hand seals Mishavalla mouth, and he hoists up her away from the group towards the nearby pond. “Hush! Don’t ruin the surprise for them.”

Flailing around in a mix of shock and anger, Mishavalla slams her elbows down into Modoran’s side, attempts to backwards head butt him, and claws behind her after him. After mostly dodging these attacks, Modoran swiftly drag Mishvalla to the bank of the pond, grins mischievously, and laughs. “Remember our favorite game?”

Blinking confused, Mishavalla notices the body of water and her yellow eyes spring open in past frustation and rage. Modoran readies himself, and tosses the lithe Mishavalla right into the pond. She falls with an angry scream and flailing splash into the drink. A reminiscent smile appears on Modoran’s dusky bluish gray face, and he chuckles to himself. “That brings back memories.”

As he swings around to dart off, and Mishavalla’s pair of friends intercept. Within the melee exchange, Modoran fends off the assault and manages a number of well placed kicks and punches. Stepping forth to start initiate a throw, Modoran's momentum halts unexpectedly as Hektoran’s pair of friends each snatch an arm. Quickly Mishavalla’s duo go for a leg each. Modoran tries a fake out, and kick towards the groin on a male evuukian. Unfortunately, the evuukian catches the attack, and glares at Modoran in disgust. “Dirty motherfucker...”

Completely locked down, the four comrades secure Modoran, and present him before Hektoran. Hektoran huffs out his exhaustion, narrows an infuriated glare at Modoran, and punches him square in the chest. Modoran cringes with a reflexive grumble of pain. Hektoran gradually collects himself and resumes his prideful stance as he stares at Modoran. “Well, that’s was fun, but... It’s time to-”

Splashes of wet footsteps slap out on the concrete pathway above the drone of evuukian curses in a furious woman’s voice. Mishavalla storms up with her arm tightly around her soaked, thin shirt, covering her revealed lithe, athletic figure. Her other arm pulls back with growing muscle definition and clenching fist. With a powerful swing past Hektoran, she slugs Modoran powerfully right in the nose, pushing his head back and rocking the four other evuukians holding him. Mishavalla steps away in an indignant huff, and crosses her arms. As Modoran recovers his senses from the blow, Hektoran grins with mean satisfaction. “So, are you learning your lesson?”

Modoran blinks back to awareness, dons a sly smirk, and quirks his brow defiantly at Hektoran. “Not really, but I have learned one thing.”

Hektoran cocks his head expectantly to the side. “Which is?”

Presenting a wide rebellious grin under a stream of blood from his nose, Modoran cackles loudly. “Your sister hits the hardest out of the bunch of you weak loser shits!”

With that prompting, Hektoran and crew take turns to elaborately insult and berate Modoran with a punctuating punch or kick. A minutes later, a distant voice calls out down the path. “Modoran?”

Landing a final punch in the gut on Modoran, Hektoran directs the gathering down the opposite way and leave Modoran unceremoniously on the ground. Sitting up on the grass bordering the path, Modoran groggily inspects himself.

Walking down the narrow path, Deedri’s ears perk up to distant footsteps up ahead and she picks up her pace. Rounding a slight curve in the path, she sniffs the air and widens her auburn eyes from the unsettling familiarity. Rushing down the walkway, her eyes notice a figure slowly standing up and she closes in to an unsettling surprise. “MODORAN?!”

Modoran clenches his fist tightly and cringes with watering eyes, as Deedri flows magical energies into his nose. After a minute Deedri releases hold of the bridge of Modoran’s nose, and slip her gloved fingers out from his nostrils. Modoran vainly tries to collect himself as he lightly touches his freshly realigned nose, and winces through the remnants of the pain. “Oh gods... You weren’t kidding... But... Thank you... Ow...”

Aiming a glowing eyed, stoic frown towards Modoran on the bench, Deedri leans forward and stares right into Modoran’s eyes. “Are you going to tell me what happened now? Or, keep dodging the subject?”

Sporting a weak smile, Modoran awkwardly stumbles around his words and shrinks in his seat under the auburn illuminated glare of Deedri. “I- Uh... It’s complicated, Deedri. It’s nothing you should worry about and-”

Sneering her upper lip as she applies a treated adhesive bandage upon a cut on Modoran’s face, aggravation slips out into Deedri’s tone. “NOT anything I should worry about?! I’m sorry, but the moment I find you beaten up and abandoned in some alley, and have to patch up you... I THINK it becomes something I NEED TO WORRY ABOUT.”

Modoran tries to summon up his nonchalant demeanor and fails miserably upon gazing into the examining stare from Deedri. He meekly lowers his head, sighs deeply, and uncomfortably resorts to the truth. “It... It was... It was a group from another house. I knew they wanted to settle an old score, but I didn’t think they’d go this far with it.”

Deedri’s gaze softens as she kneels down in front of Modoran and watches the untypical emotion upon his face. “Why did they want to settle a score with you?”

Drawing in a pained breath as he watches Deedri apply medical ointment onto a large patch of bruising on his forearm, Modoran slumps his shoulders and averts his eyes away. “It’s for something I did years past. A... um... a crime against their house. Long story short, I orchestrated a theft of their prized treasure and my team got caught.”

Pausing in her treatment of Modoran’s minor wounds, Deedri cocks her head to the side curiously, perks her furry ears, and focuses on Modoran. “Okay...”

She narrows an inquisitive glare upon Modoran, frowns slightly, and waits expectantly. Modoran draws in a long breath, nods towards Deedri, and reluctantly approaches the explanation. “I... WAS a member of a house. Their house was always boasting about this grand heirloom and how it was such a symbol of their success. My dumb ass thought it would be great to take them down a peg by stealing it long enough for them to admit it was stolen, then quietly return it. It’s not uncommon for such pranks between houses. But... The group I put together got caught, and the other house got REAL angry. REALLY... Angry. I took the whole blame for it so no one else in my team got in trouble, since it was my idea. Hence, I was dehoused and changed my family name to even things out.”

Blinking blankly to comprehend the whole extend of the history, Deedri stands up, sits down on the bench next to Modoran, and gestures out an incantation. While flowing magical energy to into Modoran’s shoulder, she process the information and aims her investigative gaze at him. “But, that’s been settled. So, what right do they have to attack you now?!”

Modoran tries to shrug his shoulders with a nonchalant smile, and only manages to squirm with a pained grimace. “Well- Uh... They’re just still sore about it? I mean, technically, we made off with their artifact that they said was protected by their gods. So, they’re just still mad about it? Anyway... They’re just young and stupid like I was. They got some satisfaction, nothing permanent is broken, so not a big deal in the end.”

Deedri eyes widen, her furry ears drop down to the sides of her head, and she grits her sharp teeth with a growl. “Not a big deal?! You got ATTACKED! This wasn’t a bar room fight or a heat of a moment dispute! This was premeditated and you could have been seriously hurt! This NEEDS to be reported!”

Wave of nervous energy runs through Modoran’s body, and he turns his head to gaze at Deedri uneasily. “Uh, it’s- No. There’s no need to do that. It’d just cause more drama and trouble. I mean it’d just be my side versus their side, and it just wouldn’t go well and-”

Gently resting a hand on Modoran’s shoulder, Deedri looks directly into his eyes, straightens her posture, and focuses her stern, supportive voice at him. “This isn’t right. You NEED stand up for yourself. They shouldn’t be allowed to do this! If fact, I remember reading up about laws against house members seeking vendettas against non-house citizens.”

Modoran pauses in thought, entertains an idea briefly, and shakes it away. “Yes, but... It’d just bring up a bunch of old drama and-”

Deedri slightly tightens her grip on Modoran’s shoulder, summons her courage, and levels a defiant stare at him. “Maybe it NEEDS to get brought up. If you aren’t, then I AM. My party member and friend just got attacked, and I NOT going to let it go. You shouldn’t either.”

Slowly turning his head to meet Deedri’s auburn eyes, a nonchalant smile gradually appears on Modoran’s face and he eventually nods in agreement. “Yeah... Yeah... You’re right. I just... It’s just not fun dealing with it. I don’t know... Maybe it’ll be different this time around?”

A happy smile graces Deedri’s face. Suddenly her furry ears perk towards section of open space above the walkway, her eyes flash brightly auburn as she grits her sharp teeth and curls a hand of clawed fingers at the ready. “Who’s THERE?! Drop the invisibility spell!”

Two evuukian women materialize into view on the walkway near Modoran and Deedri. Modoran glances over to the pair, lowers his face in mild embarrassment into the palm of his hand and slowly shakes his head. “It’s okay, Deedri. These are my sisters. The people I was waiting for out here.”

The older sister bows with a graceful and collected demeanor, tosses her long light gray hair back, and glances over to Deedri with dark blue eyes. She presents a grateful smile upon her dusky bluish gray skinned face. “Our apologizes for startling you. We were delayed getting here. And when we arrived we weren’t sure what was going on and didn’t want to intrude on anything.”

The younger sister with short white hair grins wide with dark blue eyes, and barely contains her energy. “Also, you were doing a REALLY GOOD job at talking sense into our brother... So, we didn’t want to interrupt!”

A light tint of embarrassment colors Deedri’s cheeks. Modoran straightens his sitting posture, points to the elder sister, and gestures to the younger sister, while sighing with brotherly annoyance. “This is Massadenia my eldest sister. And, Linanania, my youngest sister.”

Massadenia bows again at the address, glances at Modoran and Deedri, and motions down the pathway. “Not to rush anything, but it might be best we get moving, if possible.”

Modoran slowly rises up from the bench, stretches out his soreness, and nods in agreement. “Yeah. I don’t think I want another surprise round. And...”

He smiles genuinely to Deedri. “I really don’t want to make any more work for you tonight.”

Deedri pops up from her seat, help Modoran stand up all the way, and checks for any other immediate issues. “Well, I wouldn’t want to keep your from your family since that’s why you came out here. But, stop by my room so I can apply another round of treatments.”

Linanania lifts a curious brow as she walks next to Deedri. “You’re not coming?”

Puzzling at the response, Deedri asks confused. “I didn’t think I’d be allowed to?”

Massadenia smiles as she glances over to Deedri and leads Modoran in front of her. “Oh nonsense. Mother would be absolutely furious if I didn’t invite and bring along the woman who healed her... Precious little boy.”

A quiet stale, annoyed groan drifts out from Modoran. Massadenia presents a delighted grin. “So, please join us. It’s nothing official, I promise.”

Modoran walks ahead under the graceful guidance of Massadenia, while the energetic Linanania and cautious Deedri talk about random subjects.

Aristespha, Bach, Cideeda, Dretphi, Sebastian, and Sotalia wander slowly down a dusty, decorative stonework hallway. Overhead lamps dimly light the quiet passages and occasional sign indicating present location or official warning. Aristespha stops in front of a sealed metal doorway, checks the map on tablet, and sorts through a few information prompts. She furrows her brow, points over to the mechanical entry, and turns to the group. “This one has not been explored. It’s been sealed since this site was first discovered.”

Sebastian’s ethereal forms drifts in front of the sealed doors, and glances over for confirmation from Aristespha. “Nothing else on file, dear?”

Flicking through a long section of text, Aristespha shakes her head and smiles towards Sebastian. “Go ahead, Sebastian.”

With a simple nod, Sebastian phases through the metal and disappears. Bach wanders over towards the opposing side of the hallway, inspects a decaying sign written in an old language, and comments. “It’s kind of nice to have some of the grunt work done for you before having to trudge through these places.”

Cideeda examines the sealed doorway, and her emerald green eyes search along the wall. “Yeah. Saves us a lot of trouble. Still finding a bunch of duds, though.”

Sotalia stretches her arms back in a long yawn and tilts her head to either side. She fights the boredom off her face and idly paces around while playing with her longer fiery orange, wavy hair. “I’ll say. I mean, I’m not arguing the logic behind this. But, gods, it’s hard not to be a little bored.”

Nodding in begrudging agreement, Dretphi alternates between watching different ends of the current hallway. “Only trouble we have had was that security guard. Would not leave us alone.”

Rolling her eyes with a sneer of her upper lip, Sotalia groans out her disgust and shakes her head in commiseration. “I KNOW. That place wasn’t THAT big. Was he expecting us to get lost or something?”

Glancing over from peering through the gap in a ventilation grate on the wall, Cideeda grumbles with a canine revealing twist of her mouth. “That lazy wannabe cop was just looking for a reason to send us away. He was hoping our paperwork had anything wrong with it.”

Sebastian’s head pops through the middle of the metal doors with an excited grin, and he motions for everyone’s attention. “Think we have something! Looks like a research area or archive of sorts. A few documents and a bunch of little artifacts on display.”

Cideeda claps her hands together, rubs them eagerly, and hunts around the frame of the sealed doorway. “Alright! Now how to get this thing open... gently.”

She stands in front of the metal doors, feels around the joins, squints at every corner and crevice, and taps a claw tip on the door. As her furry ears flick around and listen to the finer acoustic details, her eyes sort through the mental images in her mind and she briefly grits her teeth. “The doors are solid, but not really thick. It doesn’t sound like high grade steel or alloy. So, it’s probably a simple hydraulic sliding door.”

Rapping her claws on the door, she directs her voice towards Sebastian’s floating visage nearby and queries. “Did you see a locking mechanism on the other side?”

Sebastian shakes his head a moment, pauses in thought, and phases back through. After a few seconds, he pops his head back out and shrugs his shoulders. “No. The door looks the same on both sides. The control panel is mirrored on the other side.”

Cideeda nods, closes her eyes, and processes the information while tapping her toe claws on the floor. “Okay. Low security door. Probably just a standard design they bulk ordered. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if...”

Stepping methodically along the wall section with the door controls and moving away from the frame, she purposefully hits the lower part of the wall with the bottom her fist, and listens carefully. The rest of the team watches her travel a few meters down, slam hard on section, and stop. She spins around with her ears flicking and searching, and starts tapping around the surface of the wall. Seconds later, she grins toothily and motions everyone over. “There’s a hollow section here. It’s probably a hidden access panel they blended in. Bach?”

Bach blinks to attention and gazes down at Cideeda. “Yes? What do you need?”

Cideeda points to general areas and gestures out her suspicions. “Depending on how they built this place, I think it’ll either be a few magnetically driven locks or spring loaded friction fit from hell. Think you could use your mechanical magic?”

Bach kneels down next to Cideeda, closes his eyes, and places his hands on the wall. Reopening his blue glowing eyes, he grins confidently, and nods to Cideeda. “I think I can manage something.”

Flows of magical energy emanate from Bach’s hands and glide along and into the wall. He focuses upon the task, searches his mind, and twists his face. “Huh. It’s like some twist lock with magnets. Four of them. And... Oh, they painted over the panel joints. Give a me a second...”

Brief thin lines of energy flicker and finely score lines into a meter by meter square of the wall around Bach’s hands. A series of four solid, heavy clicks dully thump from the revealed panel, and Bach grins with satisfaction. “There we go, now we just-”

Confidence disappears from Bach’s face as the panel tilts away from the wall and he scrambles for a good hold on it. “Shit! It’s heavy-”

A pair red armor gauntlets out reach on either side of Bach, and halt the panel in place. Bach glances up with an appreciative smirk and nods to Dretphi. “Thank you.”

Dretphi smiles warmly to Bach, and the two coordinate to ease the panel down to a graceful landing on the floor. Cideeda pulls out a flashlight from her utility vest, clicks it on, and investigates the hollow section. Scanning over the electrical lines, data cables, and hydraulic piping, she peeks further inside and studies the configuration. Minutes later with the curiosity and lighting sources from the rest of the group, Cideeda slides her contorted self back out. “Okay, real simple setup. But, I doubt the electric pump and valves are going to cooperate. One option is to cut lines to release the pressure and pry the door open...”

Aristespha grumbles uneasily and slowly shakes her head. “If we could avoid obvious changes, that would be preferred. There’s only so many law violations I can get overlooked through Grand Library clout.”

Cideeda grins toothily and eyes Bach eagerly. “I thought so... Bach, I’m going to need your help.”

Bach follows Cideeda’s guidance and the two position themselves partly through the access panel frame. Cideeda points out a number of valves, lines, and control mechanisms inside the packed space. “I bet you can easily manipulate the stubborn insides of these and get that door open... And, keep it looking stock.”

Glancing over to Cideeda, Bach smiles with growing interest and thinks through it. “Yeah. Definitely can manage that, but you’re going to have to tell me what, when, and how. I don’t know much about hydraulics setups like these.”

Cideeda winks to Bach with a confident smile. “Of course, that’s why I’m here. Ready for your first lesson?”

Over the next minutes, Cideeda instructs Bach on basics of hydraulic door systems. With pantomimed explanations of different component constructions from Cideeda, Bach threads magical flows into a mechanisms integrated with the aged devices, and weaves control lines together to handle signaling. The rest of the team watches in fascination as Cideeda navigates the system and Bach fashions magical manifestations to manipulate the setup. With a number of flow threads in his hands, Bach gazes over to Cideeda expectantly. Methodically stepping through the process, Cideeda recites an ordered list of instructions and waits for Bach to perform his tasks. A series of valves creak and briefly fight against the magical might, but relent with a surge of energy. Flows of energy from Bach travel down a thicker magical cable woven into hydraulic pump and reservoir assembly. With careful focus from Bach and Cideeda’s percussive coaxing via the butt of a large flashlight, a large hydraulic ram retracts, and one door of the dual sliding door arrangement pulls slowly into the wall.

Cideeda smirks and sarcastically declares in a mocking tone. “Oh, look. I think these doors must have finally opened after years of age... We should probably invest it.”

After quiet and modest celebration, the team swiftly slips through the doorway. Everyone slowly spreads out into the large room of faintly dusty desks, tables, and shelves. Sotalia rolls her shoulders uncomfortably and surveys the room suspiciously. Her golden eyes widen when she looks upon a nearby long shelf of labeled magical trinkets and oddities, and the long nailed fingers on her hand flex in anticipation. Aristespha calmly lifts Sotalia’s hand and leads her away, shaking her head to Sotalia’s pouting frustration.

Slowly approaching the center point of the room, the team shines lights in searching sweeps of the area. Bach halts in place, studies his feelings, and pivots around hunting for something.


The team pauses, and attention collectively gathers on the sword at Aristespha’s side. Sebastian’s visage stabilizes and he wanders his pointing arm towards a direction. “I think it... It felt something over... There?”

Flashlight spots, magical torch illumination, and a series of drifting glowing orbs light up the back wall of the room. As the brightness increases, the circular outline of an energy dais contrasts the rest of the floor. Everyone’s attention locks onto the uncomfortably familiar magical device. Sotalia rests her hands at her hips, and narrows her stare. “I thought I felt something weird in the room.”

Bach remains still and stares uneasily at the dais. Fighting his nerves, he grits his teeth and states an uncomfortable fact. “Yeah... Felt it, too. There’s... There’s a good amount in there.”

Sebastian nods, and gazes to Aristespha. “Well, I think we have a way to fix that.”

Aristespha glances back, smiles lovingly to Sebastian, and eagerly draws the sword out. “Yes, we do.”

Hovering with a mix of relief and satisfaction, Sebastian stares at the stonework circle. “Let’s drain this thing dry.”

Coming back from a thought, Bach holds a hand out to halt Aristespha’s approach. “Not all of it.”

Sotalia blinks confused and irritation rises in her voice. “What do mean? No. We don’t leave anything behind for Noxian to get.”

Bach turns around to face Sotalia and the team and sighs. “I know. I know. But... We can’t drain it completely. Otherwise, he’ll KNOW something is not right. If he’s expecting some power and finds none, then he’ll start to suspect something and change up his plans... Yet again...”

The team mulls over the suggestion. Dretphi nods in agreement and ponders out loud. “Leave enough for it to... smell... correct. No more.”

Sotalia defiantly crosses her arms, and narrows a glare at Bach. Meeting Bach’s gaze, Sotalia internally argues with herself and telegraphs the progress on her face. She grits her teeth and grumbles. “I DO NOT like the idea of giving Noxian anything.”

Cideeda sighs, glances over to Sotalia, and frowns. “Me neither. But, we got to make it look convincing enough, otherwise this whole catching him in the act thing falls apart.”

Sotalia slowly nods after some final deliberation. “Yeah. You’re right...”

Stepping next to Sotalia, Cideeda flashes a sly grin and holds out a small camera device. “Would helping me choose the right camera angles make you feel better?”

A smile graces Sotalia’s face and she rolls her eyes at herself. “A little.”

Aristespha pans a gaze around the room and lifts an intrigued brow. “And, while we’re... Unofficially here... Let’s see what this room was for.”