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File 163519765057.png - (137.30KB , 406x700 , 14-1.png )
1013588 No. 1013588 ID: de852d

Chapter 14
+18 Adult content

First thread: https://tgchan.org/kusaba/quest/res/860238.html
Wiki: https://tgchan.org/wiki/Moot_Point
Previous chapter: https://questden.org/kusaba/quest/res/990619.html#990619
17 posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
>>
No. 1013894 ID: 769845

Don't you? You can persuade the air to carry you. Can't magic be considered as a way of communicating with the world? Also you did fuck someone who's part of the sky, so.
>>
No. 1013914 ID: 094652

"Well, you can't make a lengthy negotiation with a rock. You can't shake hands with a cephalopod. But you can pick up a stone. You can feed a fish. Things like that, and those who claim to speak for them, however true that may be."
>>
No. 1013918 ID: 815672

Mortals are gone sooner sure, but you have to admit we make use of our time. Our lives are a story of the connections we make.
>>
No. 1014042 ID: de852d
File 163581134743.png - (161.26KB , 666x700 , 14-6.png )
1014042

“Right… well, normally, yes.” Casey says, thinking about the night spent with Flashing Feathers that gifted her with wing spells etched into her shoulders. “For a long time it was considered impossible for non-fey to wield. Tuvara-Malli found a way to make contracts with oneself, which allowed her to teach fey magic to mortals. Its not as powerful as true fey spellcasting, but it was revolutionary.”

“Very impressive.” The skeletal ghoul nods sagely. “Never really understood how magic worked, to be honest. Lord Hekal made it all seem so easy. He could pick it apart like a clock and put it back together without missing a tick of the second hand.”
>>
No. 1014044 ID: 96c896

Too bad we can't show Hekal the book.
>>
No. 1014069 ID: 3ed3c3

To find Hekal, we need to think like Hekal.
>>
No. 1014093 ID: 30b9f6

>>1014042
You speak as if he could pick up new magics at the drop of a pin. Now why was that, I wonder? Natural talent combined with the acquired skill of ages? Or did he somehow enhance his own capabilities, like the fey would when calling on natural allegiances?

Maybe - in line with your clock analogy - he had power over time... or maybe his own perception of it? That sure would be helpful to be able to take all the time one needed to understand something.

(Tap the book meaningfully, wistfully.)

At any rate, Hekal's abilities and his true story remains little known. If you weren't so busy trying to translate the book before the, um, deadline, you'd be interviewing Graves for historical details day in and day out. It's certainly become clear there was a lot more to the histories of Augustine's time than what survived.
>>
No. 1014105 ID: c0641b

>>1014042

Interesting turn of phrase, but then, Lord Hekal was a fey himself, and doubtlessly had an innate understanding of magic.

But perhaps Graves can give us more insight, having known him so closely for, oh ... centuries.
>>
No. 1014175 ID: de852d
File 163598720752.png - (156.89KB , 461x700 , 14-7.png )
1014175

“How did Hekal get so powerful?” Casey ponders.

Graves shrugs, “No one really knows. His life before becoming a vampire lord is a complete mystery. Much of his raw power came from mana wells, but he preferred to wield it like a tool, rather than a cudgel.”

Casey eyes the skeleton curiously. “Then, did you know him well?”

The undead thinks for a moment and admits, “For as closely as I worked with him, I can’t say really knew the man. I don’t know if anyone truly can. He was dour and serious; distant to everyone, even his closest allies. Talking to him felt like you were interrupting some vast, dangerous calculation he was attempting to solve. While I owe him for returning me to life after death, to him… as far as I can tell, I was just useful.”
>>
No. 1014197 ID: 028f23

An intriguing figure. He seems devoid of outright charisma and yet he commanded the devout loyalty of thousands, if not more. The impression we have seen of his people does not match the legacy of a dour and withdrawn man. He seems to have been more passionate about research than rhetoric.

I'd wager then, that his actions were what earned their loyalty, and perhaps belied something of his true character.

A man that utterly dedicated to his studies and yet still principled must have had some overarching goal. Something that drove him further than the arrogance and thirst for life of the other lich lords. Whatever that was may be the key to discovering what happened to him and Augustine.
>>
No. 1014245 ID: ab33cc

Must've been fun at parties.
>>
No. 1014268 ID: f78c68

>>1014175
Nevertheless he inspired a fierce loyalty in his followers. As vampire lords go he did not seem unstable and his goals seemed admirable.

How DID he and Augustine come to blows? Over what? Just the mana vents? Prejudice? What a mystery.
>>
No. 1014451 ID: de852d
File 163632175651.png - (155.98KB , 700x386 , 14-8.png )
1014451

Casey taps her pen on her notebook, “He was distant and cold, yet every one we’ve met from his kingdom is still fiercely loyal, even after hundreds of years. How did he manage that?”

“Despite how he sounds, Hekal was skilled at diplomacy. He could be straightforward and blunt, but treated everyone with respect, regardless of rank. He recognized people for their abilities rather than their status and sought out the talent he needed to run his empire. For instance, he recruited Rodwin as his second in command, despite his status as a devil. Or, take me for example…”

Graves opens up one of the books and starts turning pages one at a time, lingering only long enough to glance at each one. “I was a soldier at first and a pretty bad one at that, but I can remember everything I’ve experienced: right down to the smallest detail. It was just a parlor trick: telling you what the weather was like the day you were born, or reading a whole book in less than a minute. But he noticed my gift and I became his living ledger: everything that needed counting or remembering went through me.”
>>
No. 1014452 ID: e7848c

Casey, Graves could probably fill a library with just his memories. There's your energy boost for the day.
>>
No. 1014468 ID: a4cda2

>>1014451
For the hell of it, see if there's anything on an anti-bargast weapon in those memories, just in case.
>>
No. 1014475 ID: b5c538

Wow what? Maybe you should add that to your introduction. Especially to a history buff. Although I suppose you didn't tell him that about you either.
>>
No. 1014477 ID: 3ed3c3

Could Graves perhaps give us any information about Hekal that could help with our search? Where was he the day Hekal Disappeared?
>>
No. 1014749 ID: de852d
File 163660388165.png - (118.17KB , 500x700 , 14-9.png )
1014749

Casey stares at the scribe and puts her pen down. “Wait, you remember everything? Why are you just telling us now? There’s so much we need to ask you!”

There’s a bony shrug, which clatters. “No one really asked. Besides, I don’t know how much help I can be. The truth is, it took some time for anyone to realize Hekal had gone missing. It wasn’t unheard of for our lord to disappear and engage in matters of secrecy. It wasn’t until Rodwin returned that anyone knew for sure that Hekal was gone.”

“Come on, there has to be something.” Casey stands and paces, “Like, what happened the night of the disappearance?”

“I believe on the night in question: I went to bed having memorized the correspondence from two of the converging fronts on the Whittaker Plains, as well as the intercepted orders from the third battalion of cavaliers under sir Thorall Krojen. His troops were in retreat and looking to rejoin the larger allied forces, having been routed by archers attacking from the Great Carrion Woods.”
>>
No. 1014939 ID: 028f23

So nothing immediately helpful, but he perhaps had a better understanding of the ongoing war than anyone else at the time, let alone still "alive".
Was the war just more jostling between Vampires/Liches/Necromancers? Or was there something more substantial on the line? I presume that Augustine was largely an unknown at that point, and simply infiltrated the citadel without actually assaulting it. Considering that Hekal's polity was fully mobilized for war at the time, I doubt she could've reached the throne room by force without the alarm having been raised.
>>
No. 1015143 ID: f57349

Okay, back to basics. Potential jackpot of intel here. Gotta prioritize.

Fetch a world map with grid coordinates, along with a historian or astronomer or some other timeline reference. Figure out exactly where and when Hekal was last seen, and any available context of what he and/or his known associates or enemies were up to in that general vicinity. Then start plotting the barghast's subsequent travels, a list of places to rule out as already thoroughly searched.
>>
No. 1015265 ID: de852d
File 163702452919.png - (128.38KB , 500x700 , 14-10.png )
1015265

“Hmm. So, not a lot of obviously helpful information, but you’re probably one of the best resources we have about the ongoing war at the time.” Casey continues, “What sides were involved? Was it just vampire lords?”

“It was a very fluid situation. There were at least five major factions, but alliances and betrayals were common, so its hard to really pin down the exact numbers. At the time, Lord Hekal was attempting to fend off an alliance of three Fey Courts, as well as the machinations of Telleremenas, vampire lord of the Smoking Pit.”

“Considering all the the conflict, do you think Augustine could have gotten into the throne room without raising any alarms?” Casey asks.

Graves pauses, “Now that I’ve seen the magic your senders use firsthand, I’ve had to wonder about that. Gating directly to our lord’s chambers would require a fairly intimate knowledge of the castle. The whole compound was warded against scrying, and gate magic leaves a trace of thunder once its used: scouting out the location on her own would have been nearly impossible without being noticed. So…”
>>
No. 1015281 ID: e7848c

She must have had help on the inside
>>
No. 1015331 ID: d43396

>>1015281
Or access to someone (prisoner?) who knew the layout.
In fact, who was the architect? Did anyone known for remarkable memory visit the castle, even before the war?

Another possibility would be that a prisoner had been brought to the castle, and used as a teleport homer.
>>
No. 1015334 ID: 30b9f6

>>1015265
Another obvious question: What happened in the aftermath of Hekal's disappearance? How did all the wars get resolved and Augustine's faction end up on top of it all?
>>
No. 1015368 ID: 028f23

Huh. An interesting point.
How do we follow up on that? We can hardly go around waking up every revenant on the Barghest asking them if they betrayed the trust of their liege lord centuries ago.
We have so many pieces and no idea how they fit together yet. We need a lead.
>>
No. 1015471 ID: de852d
File 163720604248.png - (139.84KB , 700x500 , 14-11.png )
1015471

“Then that means she had help from the inside…” Casey finishes. “Someone gave her info on where to gate. Any idea who?”

Graves shrugs, his bones clattering against one another. “No idea! There’s only a few that would even have access to our lord’s chambers, and they’re all fiercely loyal.”

“What happened to the war after Hekal went missing?” Casey asks.

The undead stares off into the distance, as if watching history unfold inside his skull. “Rodwin had us pull our forces back and consolidate them. The vacuum left on the battlefield allowed two of the fey factions to pour into the gap, and immediately turn on one another.” Their bones sag as they shake their head. “Several of our generals took off on their own, joining allies and enemies. It was a whirlwind of magic and betrayal. Its kind of a miracle the world held together through it.”

“Rodwin believed that our lord was somehow still alive. Our remaining forces defended our lands for as long as they could: and when defeat seemed inevitable, he took our last bargast and marched north to lands so cold and blighted no one would follow.”
>>
No. 1015473 ID: 769845

The lord's chambers... could it have been someone who used to have access to them? A former friend, even an ex-lover? Not to be indelicate or disrespectful, but is there any chance Hekal had some... secret relationships, in the past?
>>
No. 1015482 ID: ab33cc

So what faction is considered to have "won" in the end? Is the war even considered to be over?
>>
No. 1015501 ID: 028f23

Perhaps it may be even closer than that.
If noone but a trusted few had access to Hekal's quarters, and we know that Augustine was perhaps the most accomplished Sender in history, is it possible they may have collaborated, parlayed, or met at some prior point? Before it all went sour and they evidently became enemies?
Rodwin had obviously never seen her before, but Hekal had been a power for some time before he was cursed and taken in, if he had known the previous Warden.

Augustine may have been illiterate and from poor roots, but as we've seen from Graves, that didn't stop Hekal from considering or valuing those with potential and drive. Is it possible that she wasn't simply working her way through a list of vampire lords and necromancers? Might there have been a previous interaction between the two?


Our understanding of both individuals basically begins and ends with their most noteworthy achievements. Their lives before that are utterly blank. Heck, even after.

It's probably not something he would have shared, but was Hekal's age something Graves would know?
>>
No. 1015584 ID: de852d
File 163737875553.png - (143.11KB , 700x500 , 14-12.png )
1015584

“We know some of what happened next: the end of the Wild Age left the world in chaos. Major conflicts tore the world apart until the First Guardians sealed the mana wells and cut off the flow of dangerous magic.” Casey nods. “It would be good to get some more specifics, if possible.”

“I can only tell you so much about that.” Graves shrugs again. “I spent much of the last five hundred years in a tomb with no body.” He pats the pile of books, “In fact, I was going to skim as much as I can, so that I have plenty of reading material when I’m re-interred.”

“You know, you’re here to work on translating the tome, not brush up on reading.” Casey’s lip twists at the corner.

“I’m working on it!” The undead insists, “Its all up here…” He taps his skull again.

“If you say so.” Casey stretches and jiggles some feeling back into her legs. “I’m going to go get some air.” She announces.

“Seeing as I no longer need such things, I’ll remain here.” Graves goes back to turning pages without looking at her.
>>
No. 1015585 ID: de852d
File 163737876550.png - (145.62KB , 544x700 , 14-13.png )
1015585

The mouse rolls her eyes and steps out into the corridor. Her footsteps echo against the precisely cut stone floor of the Sender library, tracing her way through the labyrinth of the college. She passes the occasional student, hurrying this way and that from some late-night errand.

Casey steps out onto the hillside and leans against the guardrail overlooking the lights of the city. Above her, the statue of Augustine looms in the night sky, her back turned and silent. Her mind flashes to thoughts of Madam Moot and Hekal locked in combat. Or…

“What if… there was no fight?” She says to herself.
>>
No. 1015586 ID: de852d
File 163737879845.png - (123.13KB , 500x700 , 14-14.png )
1015586

Elsewhere in the College of the Senders, Clio hurries back to her dorm from a study session.
>>
No. 1015587 ID: 815672

How goes the studies?
>>
No. 1015594 ID: f8fa51

>>1015586
You look tired. Time to get home and drop into bed, huh?
>>
No. 1015609 ID: 2de4fd

Girl have you been running yourself ragged over there? You look like you need sleep. Or at least a relaxing massage for a few hours.
>>
No. 1015621 ID: 5ea209

>>1015585
Hekal did, in fact, trust Hekal...

>>1015586
I know College Face when I see it. At least it seems things are going well
>>
No. 1015624 ID: 4e2458

>>1015586
What’s the hurry? Got plans?
>>
No. 1015651 ID: fd0201

Lookin' like you got some eye baggage goin' on there. You been gettin' enough sleep? No trouble's sleepin', I hope. Gettin' enough to eat too? And to drink? Gettin' stuck into your studies and forgettin' to eat or drink'll sneak up on ya.

How've you been gettin' along with your fellow students? They been friendly? Made any friends here yet? Nobody givin' you hasslin' I hope. You gotten hazed yet or is that somethin' that they don't do here? Or are folk kinda standoffish?

You doin' good with your studies? Keepin' up with 'em? Been gettin' extra tutorin' to bring you up to speed and all? Has Gabe been 'round to help teach you a thing or two about Sendin'?
>>
No. 1015753 ID: de852d
File 163755045662.png - (119.51KB , 500x700 , 14-15.png )
1015753

Clio yawns and takes another peek at her notes. Through the fog of post study haze, she sighs. Her aptitude for gate magic put her at the head of her class in all but one way.

Her mouth twists wryly as she looks at the scribbled calculations regarding spirit wards. Compared to the complex interactions of distance and momentum built into gate magic, it seems simple: building a volume of mana that blocks spirits from passing through. But for some reason her attempts at spellcasting never result in a stable ward field.

Having spent several hours in a practice room scarred from generations of student magic, the cat feels her mind turning to soup. While her natural mana supplies allowed her much more leeway to practice with, exhaustion from so much calculation eventually set in. Maybe tomorrow she can talk with her teachers about what she’s doing wrong.
>>
No. 1015754 ID: de852d
File 163755046461.png - (134.80KB , 552x700 , 14-16.png )
1015754

Still engrossed in her notes, Clio bumps headfirst into someone in the hallway, scattering paper everywhere.
>>
No. 1015755 ID: f8fa51

Hastily apologise and try to pick up your notes while you figure out who you just bumped into.
>>
No. 1015757 ID: 96c896

Time for an anime trope.
>>
No. 1015758 ID: a63e3f

Lightly swear under your breath, then catch yourself and apologize to whoever you collided with as you crouch down to help pick up their papers.
>>
No. 1015890 ID: c0641b

>>1015585

I suspect this was the truth all along. Moot and Hekel forged a pact to end the wars and he voluntarily disappeared, ensuring the Guardians would be able to stop his rivals by stifling the mana wells.

>>1015754

Oh dear, Clio, but I hope you had those numbered.
>>
No. 1016084 ID: be028a
File 163781052554.png - (80.66KB , 700x500 , 14-17.png )
1016084

Clio scrambles to pick up the scattered notes, apologizing frantically.

“Shit! Sorry! Sorry! Shit! I’m so sorry!” She claws her papers into a pile and looks up. She blinks at the empty hallway, looking forward and back, finding herself alone.
>>
No. 1016086 ID: e7848c

Oh sweet, ghosts. You're aware of them, right?
>>
No. 1016088 ID: a63e3f

Huh... You sure you ran into someone and not some... invisible surface? Did you feel the touch of skin or fur at all when you collided? Hear a "oof" like you'd expect from a person that's been run into? Could somebody have magic'd a force field across this hall as... I dunno, a prank? Better test if there's something still here.

Scoop the rest of your notes up and stow them in your book, then poke your hand about at about the point you collided with whatever it was. Whether or not you touch anything, pull out a blank piece of paper and wave it about in that volume as well to test if an inanimate object collides with anything or not.
>>
No. 1016102 ID: f8fa51

Wow, you must be more out of it than you thought. You definitely need to take a nap.
>>
No. 1016140 ID: 6c5f9b

Literally walking into the fourth wall is probably not good for your head.
>>
No. 1016157 ID: 2de4fd

What was it that first gave you the impression that it was someone that you bumped into? You're smart, think back a few moments. It might give you something to go on.
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