Chapter 24 - Book of Fates



The Fates decided the knight will ask for Dawn’s help in the heist. See the results here.


My wise Fates, you show admirable loyalty trusting Dawn with the new plan. The duo has been through a lot. A lot worse, one might argue, than mere demonic reconstructive surgery.



***

Ren pauses on the doorstep of Compie’s lab. “Wait,” he says.


“For what?” Compie asks.


The knight didn’t answer immediately. Dawn has believed in me throughout this whole journey, the knight thinks, I shouldn’t do this without her.


Dawn could even be useful in reaching the orb, if she agrees to the plan. The Eternal Knight is no mouse when it comes to stealth, especially with a growling demon for an arm. But the young elf suffered through enough emotional and physical trauma to never forgive the box its betrayal. He couldn’t let her meet Compie. Not that Ren forgave it either. However, the advantages of allying with the box now outweigh the drawbacks, he told himself. Something deep inside him stirred, angry and doubtful. He looked at his new arm, but it was still.


“Stay here, Compie,” he told the box. “It will be better if I do this myself.”


***


Ren found Dawn alone in the chapel, sleeping on the platform, surrounded by a sea of offerings and swaddled in blankets. The handmaiden was nowhere to be seen. Some bodyguard, he thinks as he climbs the steps to the top of the altar.


“Just a little longer, prince knight sir,” the girl murmurs drowsily when the knight shakes her shoulder. “The castle in the clouds is so shiny and I’m the queen and...”


“I need you to wake up now.”


Dawn sighs and reluctantly sits up, eyes unfocused. Still, she smiles when she says: “What a day. Can you imagine — me bringing so much joy to people? Not even in my wildest, most romantic dreams did I expect to experience such fulfillment. Cato always said that I would do great things if I only applied myself. Do you think this was what she had in mind?” She stretches and yawns. “Prince knight sir, could you get that blue light out of here? It’s awfully hard on the eyes...” She blinks, looking straight at its toothy, ghostly source. “What is that?”


As Dawn leans toward it, eyes wide, the demonic skull on Ren’s shoulder stirs, impatient and ravenous. Ren can feel its hunger seep into his own soul. It permeates the boundaries between them, mixes with his own being. The knight can now see the magic contained in the elf before him — hear it thumping within his head. Like an aura, light and pink, raw magic pulsates around Dawn in time with her heartbeat. Magic that could be his, if he only... tore her to pieces…


Ren flinches back, pushing out the impulse to feed. Dawn mirrors his movement, drawing away from the arm’s reach, a spooked expression on her face.


“Dawn,” he says quickly, “listen carefully for some of this will come as a shock. While I was out, I met the wizard who is responsible for the flying houses. He agreed to help me with my arm and told me about a plan to save the whole town.”


Dawn blinks at the knight, apparently still somewhat sleepy, “Prince knight sir, your eyes are glowing too…”


Ren waves it aside, and pushes the lie out: “The wizard summoned a demon from the abyss to replace my arm.” If he’d had breath, he would have held it. Dawn looks from his glowing eyes to the demon arm, and back again.


“It’s... it’s... magnificent!” she said, earnestly. “I have seen nothing more impressive in my life and I’ve seen the Grand Archives of Ritain, the Black Mountain keep of Frost-Law, and the Desert of Lost Hope. It looks powerful! I imagine it will make your oar strikes legendary, although the real magic perhaps lies is the flair it will add to your demeanor. Oh, how menacing it looks! I wish I had a blue light coming out of my eyes. We would be quite the pair, wouldn’t we? Do you think this wizard could get me a demon companion too? What about its name? It must have a name! How about Auria, like the capital of Lakesea? It has that blue glistening quality of the lake during a warm summer night. Does it sleep or does it always stay awake? You know, now that there are two souls inside your armor, you will never feel lonely again! Oh, prince knight sir, I can already imagine bards across the empire singing of the two of you! And what about the plan to save the town?”


Dawn’s reversion to chattering dazzles the knight. It takes him a moment to recover, and to move on from hiding Compie, but he explains, “We must sacrifice the orb the villagers use to grow food underground. It contains enough magic to lift the whole town off the ground. Nitanna is opposed to the idea as she doesn’t want to risk losing the town’s food source. I thought maybe you’d be able to help change her mind. If not, we must steal it.”


Dawn nods. “Surely Nitanna wouldn’t be opposed to saving her town? Losing a food source is worrisome, but we should tackle this situation one problem at a time. Cato always said it’s better to be alive and worried, than dead in the ground. Cato is the wisest person I ever knew, so I believe we are doing the right thing.” Dawn gets up, smooths out her uniform, and beams at the knight. “I knew a perfect solution would present itself. I could request Nitanna to give us a tour to the farm grounds and broach the subject when we’re in a grabbing-distance of the orb. Oh, I never thought I would be part of a heist!”


Ren feels a pang of guilt for not being completely honest with the girl. Always looking at the positive side of things, Dawn is ready to offer him unconditional support. What will happen to them when the lie catches up? Better not think of that now.


“Let us summon Nitanna.”


“Before we do that,” Dawn cocks her head, evaluating the demon arm, now gnashing its teeth at no one in particular, “I’m a little worried your arm might scare off the villagers. Personally, I love it, of course. You could leave it as is, but we could try to disguise it with some paints and flowers or whatever trinkets we find here? Or we could just cover it with a blanket. What do you think, prince knight sir?”


That went better than expected, violent cravings excluded. Dawn has a way of rolling with the punches. But I doubt others will be as accommodating to a demonic limb as she was.


Option 1: The knight decides to let everyone see the arm. He has nothing to hide.


Option 2: The knight decides to cover the arm with a blanket. A cool cape never hurt anyone’s reputation.


Option 3: The knight decides to let Dawn disguise the arm. Somehow. He’ll leave it to her.


***

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Author's note:

The Real Coast of Ferax




If you for a moment think nature is not out to get you, you're going to end up gobbled up when the plant monsters attack.


Previously we've talked about how the location and creature design was inspired by the stunning views of Portuguese coast and Kaya's botanical curiosities — but we've never told you about our greatest enemy which inspires the persistent, creeping, monstrous habits of the Noxis. We're of course talking about coastal mold.


In a location where the humidity is constantly over 90% these buggers are the norm and fighting them is useless. Best you can do is just prolong your inevitable defeat. There was a time the city-people inside us freaked out at the sight of mold. Now we've come to expect it like proper coastal natives. Life without mold sounds like a fairy tale about an era long lost. This is what we imagine the survivors in Ferax feel like.


Some of the things we’ve lost to mold so far include, but are not limited to: a bunch of art tools, our clothes and shoes, a spice rack, two cutting boards, a rolling pin, couple of books, and an oil painting. RIP.

Two days after last de-molding.

The Noxis spores were also inspired by the invasive mold spores from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. In the comic/movie by Miyazaki/Ghibli, the spores poison and consume everything in their way. While extremely threatening to the last remnants of humankind, ultimately they’re a neutral entity and necessary to reviving the ecosystem of the planet.


Unlike Nausicaa though, the Ferax curse does no good for the continent. It's more like a zombie mutation that's been programmed to reset society to satisfy one person’s thirst for revenge. It might've been tragically childish for King Cirus to ruin a good continent, but he sure knew how to prove a point.


Fortunately, our little mold doesn't turn anyone into a mindless super mutant or reset society, just annoys us constantly. Nobody's ever died from mold, right? We also have to remember that it is the freaking ocean that we're living next to, so some extreme humidity is to be expected. Just like the good people of Ferax, we may not be destined to win the war, but we can at least survive the onslaught.


See you next week!

Love,

Kaya & Silver





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