Looking between the different beakers each holding different liquids, I began to wonder if any of them would have any effect let alone the effect I was looking for. The red one looked promising since it didn't start bubbling yet, but I could never be sure.
Sitting back, I looked across the stone room and wondered why Zeta never installed a heating system for the underground portion of the tower. The hooks dangling from the ceiling and jars of ingredients and samples on the wall seemed to answer my question for me. Cold temperatures kept it all stable and if I needed to hang something to dry, I wouldn't need to put it in a colder room. Or maybe they were too lazy to install one. Both seemed plausible.
After a few minutes of casual staring, the different liquids started changing color. The red, green, and blue beakers turned black as I wanted. The red one changed from the top down while the green one went from the bottom up and the blue one changed spontaneously. The yellow one started crystallizing and turned orange while the purple one turned clear and started releasing small tufts of pleasant-smelling white smoke.
I turned off the heat and examined them all closely.
The one that was green started bubbling as soon as the heat shut off and boiled over. A failure.
The blue one stayed liquid but turned back to blue. Another failure.
The yellow, now orange one solidified completely and became a crystal of sorts that I'd have to look into the composition of later.
The purple, now clear one seemed to become a sort of perfume, but I'd have to test it later to see if it was poisonous. If not, I could sell the recipe to a perfume shop.
Last, but not least, was the red one that didn't seem to react much after turning black. I examined it intensely for a minute and found no further reactions. I touched the beaker and found it still hot. Slowly, I introduced my mana into it through my finger, careful not to inject too much and cause a violent reaction. Small dots of light began appearing in the darkness, followed by a translucent stream of red from the bottom that swirled around the spots like smoke.
Removing my finger, I made sure not to avert my gaze for even a second. If there was even a minute change that I didn't notice in time, the tower could be gone in seconds. Eventually, the small lights started becoming brighter, then they all suddenly went black, and the liquid turned back to red with a black film bubbling to the top. A failure.
I sighed, sat back, and crossed my arms; unsure of what I was even looking for anymore. Of all the research I looked through and done myself, the closest thing I've found to explaining the properties of my eyes was a book on Celestial Dragons. A type of dragon said to live amongst the stars and travel between galaxies. The only problem was that nobody's seen one in thousands of years. Maybe longer.
With talking to a Celestial Dragon out of the window as a possibility, I turned to trying to recreate the abilities my eyes possessed in potion form. If I could succeed, all I would have to do then is create an anti-potion to nullify those effects. While there was already a spell with similar effects, a potion would have a more tangible presence, making it possible to subvert.
After spending a few more minutes examining all the beakers to make sure no delayed reactions took place, I stood and left the room up the spiral staircase to the hall between the living room, kitchen, front door, and the rest of the stairs leading up the tower.
Once I closed the door behind me, I stopped in my tracks. I felt like I walked into a barrier of some kind. It wasn't like something was keeping me from moving. More like I suddenly needed to be somewhere and not where I was standing.
Knowing tonight was a blood moon, there would be an excess of magic in the air and that would make unexplained phenomena such as the feeling I had more common, if not likely. Regardless, the feeling was simply too strong to ignore.
It brought me to the front door, and I opened it swiftly to an ordinary sight of a stone path through an otherwise overgrown forest had it not been for the faint shimmer in the air farther down the path. Stepping out and looking for the source of the shimmer, I found it came from a trail of faery dust.
My first thought was that the faeries were bullying some poor lost soul who happened to cross the tower path again. They'd eventually turn them back in the right direction, but the feeling I had rejected the idea so I followed the trail.
A little way into the thicket off the path, I came upon a sight I somehow never thought I'd see again.
There was a woman curled into a ball on the ground surrounded by what looked like large canines that periodically disappeared from existence and returned to scratch and gnaw on her. Their barks were silent, and each one had a collar that trailed faery dust as they moved.
Alarmed at the presence of blink dogs, I reached out my hand and summoned my staff. The white specks of light amongst the red swirls in the black were already twinkling with magic as I cast a spell. "Sleep." I waved it through the air and the dogs took notice as a red mist formed over the woman and the dogs as they blinked back into existence within it.
All the dogs stopped moving, fell to the ground, and started snoring in the awkward way dogs do.
I picked the woman up in my arms and returned to the tower, laying her on the bed in what used to be my room. Her clothes were caked in dirt and riddled with cuts and holes from claws and teeth, while her short black hair and skin were no different. She was unconscious, so I took to cleaning and treating any wounds I could find before she awoke. While I couldn't tell what her fit was supposed to be, I could see the eyepatch over her right eye was fully intact.
Once I finished doing what I could, I went to my room to sleep. I took Zeta's old room; they insisted since it was the headmaster's room when the tower used to be a school. I still have a hard time believing that sometimes.
When I awoke and went to check on the girl, she was still sound asleep. Next, I went outside to see if I could find any trace of where she might have come from. The faery dust trails were gone, and so were the dogs. In hindsight, I should have taken one in to examine it and perhaps find its origins. Instead, I was left with nothing but the girl.
Wandering back inside, I made breakfast and some extra in case the girl woke up in the meantime, then went to the third floor down in the basement to the training room filled with wooden weapons and dummies. Today was a training day. I couldn't let my swordsmanship or spellcasting get dull, so I trained regularly between research. After losing myself in hours of practice, I went back up to check on the girl again. Still asleep.
Next, I went to one of the smaller libraries on the first floor and slipped through some of the many books in the line of my research to find where I went wrong in concocting a 'starry eye' potion but found no leads. Refusing to dwell on it much longer, I went back down to prepare more ingredients for making potions. Every failure would bring me closer to success, but upon closer inspection, I found I was missing a crucial ingredient. Faery dust. I didn't have enough to carry out another batch of tests. Maybe I really should have taken one of those dogs.
Sighing, I took an empty pouch and after checking up on the girl one last time, I headed outside into the forest.
As soon as I was off the beaten path, I was immersed in a veil of black and green. Once the shifting colors subsided, I could see vines and trees that curved like snakes and housed a rainbow variety of flowers. In every direction, either resting on or floating in between the flora were creatures of similar size and shape to dragonflies but with butterfly wings and colored more like the flowers dotted around the grove.
A bright yellow one hovered up to me with its humanoid figure and eyes that each took up a quarter of its head. It opened its mouth and made a sound similar to electricity. I didn't know what it was saying, but I understood it to a certain degree.
"I'm here to talk to Hierophant," I said, looking around to see no trace of the blink dogs from before.
The faery touched its face with its hand as if in thought for a second, then fluttered up to and blew in my face to the result of an arc of electricity coming from its mouth to my nose. I touched my nose with my finger and received another shock.
It opened its mouth again, and a high voice echoed out. "You need to stop referring to our king like that or you're going to piss me off."
I smiled. "What's wrong, jealous?"
"Wha- I can't be jealous of a stupid human!" Her wings started fluttering faster and her face turned slightly orange.
"I mean, I'm also familiar with Lilac, Mipha, Syndel, Reomo, and-."
Quick as a flash, she slapped her hand across my nose, turned around, and started fluttering away, all while fuming. "Shut up, he's this way." By the end of her sentence, her voice started sounding more like electricity again.
I followed behind her and she led me to a black tree-shaped similar to a pretzel with white leaves and red flowers. Upon the vines, leaves, and flowers, like a throne, sat a man around three feet tall with green skin textured like a leaf dressed in a tunic made of the white and red leaves and petals.
Every time I came here, the tree was in a different location and I'd have to either bribe or bait someone to bring me to it, but I found that just asking got the fastest results sometimes.
"Azrael," said the king, resting his head on his chin. "What brings you to me at this time?"
"I have a couple of things to talk to you about." I held up the empty pouch. "Also, I'd like some faery dust if you don't mind."
"Take a seat." He waved his hand and a black root grew in an arc beside me and I sat on it. "You could have asked any of the faeries in the grove for some dust, but you came to me. What's so important that you had to come to me directly?"
"I found a woman being attacked by a pack of blink dogs on the edge of the path. Have you seen or heard anything more strange than normal recently?"
"Blink dogs, eh? Doesn't sound very weird to me."
"These ones wore collars."
"What would that have to do with me?"
"They were coated in faery dust."
"That is mysterious." He nodded slowly. "And that's my problem... why?"
I scoffed. "I guess it isn't. Just thought you'd know something, but it's fine if you don't know if something's happening right outside your domain."
He shrugged. "I don't need to, you're there. If anything happens, I know you'll take care of it."
"That's what it means to live symbiotically." I looked down at my shoulder to see the yellow faery who guided me sitting on my shoulder, listening intently. "In that case, would you mind helping me with something?"
She looked at me, looked away, and folded her arms.
I stood and went back the way we came, with her still on my shoulder. Once we were far enough away from the other faeries, I cast 'dark shroud', creating a bubble of unnatural darkness around us.
"I'm about to make you an offer you can't refuse," I said, opening my hand near the faery.
Her eyes somehow widened more than they already were and she turned bright orange, then covered her face with her hands and started buzzing in my ear.
"I know you can speak my language." I tapped the top of her head and she calmed down, removing her hands and turning back to yellow. "I kinda need to understand you for this."
She stood and fluttered onto my hand, then said, "Okay," her voice crackling like electricity.
"You've heard about this from the other faeries, correct?"
She nodded vehemently, with her face in her palms again.
"Then do you know what we're going to do?"
She nodded again.
"Do you want to do it?"
She turned orange again and nodded harder.
"I need you to talk to me."
"Okay," she said, nodding again.
"Good." I pushed a finger against her chest. "Growth."
She started glowing bright red and started growing. In a second, she was too large to hold in my hand, and in a moment, she was the same proportional size as me. Which meant she was up to my chest in height. Her hair flowed gently behind her, even though there was no wind.
"I'm big." She examined her body, then looked me up and down.
I reached my hand out to her and said, "If we are to start, I need your consent to ravish your body in exchange for some of my blood."
She nodded and gave me her hand. "I give you my consent."
"If you wish to stop at any point, just speak the name of your king."
The temporary contract had been set.
A brief period of silence followed as we began. Not soon into it, her wings began beating uncontrollably, releasing a bright yellow mist that gleamed like glitter, and I cast 'whirlwind' to gently catch the dust falling from her wings and deposit it into an open pouch.
Eventually, she became so ravenous that she sank her teeth into my shoulder and drew blood, which she drank. Her teeth were as sharp as daggers, and they were effective. It took all I had to make sure she didn't go overboard and after, I filled a vial with sweet golden honey she produced during the act before casting 'shrink' to put her back to her normal size.
While she reeled from the experience, the sound of violently crackling electricity that was her voice wouldn't stop as she started babbling in a language I understood.
I cast 'repair' to fix the holes in my shirt and ‘heal’ to fix the holes her teeth left in my shoulder. Not long after, I dropped the spell of darkness around us and carried the exhausted little body in my hands to the nearest leaf large enough to hold her and laid her down on it. I walked away with what I came for and she was drunk on my blood since it contains enough pure magic to put her into a stupor. She even told me three of her seven names; Absinthe, Reflorne, and Anlerias, amongst her endless chatter.
Once I was back on the walkway leading to the tower, I heard sniffing and growling farther down the path toward the road. I saw nothing in that direction, so I followed the sound and thought I found nothing until I felt a set of sharp teeth sink into my arm. The jaws locked in tightly as a stream of red rolled down my now ripped sleeve.
It was then that I realized that because I was virtually coated with faery dust, I couldn't see the subtle fluctuations in the air around the enchanted collars the dogs wore. Those dogs were now attacking me.
Taking a step away, I pulled my arm straight back, making sure the dog couldn't drag me down. The struggle lasted for a second before something else came in contact with my leg. It didn't have the time to clamp down completely before I shook my leg violently to shake myself loose.
At the same time, my other hand brushed against something sharp and I acted quickly. As soon as I was sure that it was a set of teeth, I turned my hand and grabbed what was likely the bottom jaw. With a firm grip, I lifted it, dragging it through the air like a flail, and slammed it down on top of the one with its jaws firmly clamped on my arm.
The growls were momentarily replaced with whimpers as the one biting me let go and the other one refused to dig its teeth into my hand as I let it go.
"Sight." I focused on my eyes and cast the spell, allowing me to see through one of the many layers of invisibility surrounding the dogs. Now, they were each surrounded by a static-like outline as they teleported around me. "Bind." Ropes made of magic appeared around the silhouettes, restricting their movement and hopefully preventing them from teleporting more. "Levitate." I raised my injured arm, and the dogs floated a few feet off the ground.
Approaching one of them, I reached for its collar and it snapped its jaws at me. In retaliation, I flicked its snout, then dragged my fingers across its collar. Some of the faery dust came off on my fingers and I took a quick moment to examine it.
"As I thought," I said, noting its profound lack of substance. This resulted from many layers of heavily applied enchantments. Only an actual enchanter could do something like this, but it still had its weaknesses. One could either see the dogs but not hear them, or hear them but not see them. They couldn't be both quiet and invisible at the same time while still keeping their normal teleporting ability.
Assuming the three before me were the only ones, I took them into the tower, put them into one of the few empty rooms, and cast 'anti-magic chamber' on the walls. Now, there was no way for them to escape and I could examine them as necessary before their owner inevitably came for them.
A few more days passed before the woman finally awoke. When she did, I was checking up on her. Her eye popped open suddenly, and she sat up, looking around frantically.
"Feeling alive?" I said, taking a step back from the bed.
"Yeah, where am I?" She looked around a bit more and shivered.
"You're in my tower. I found you while you were getting attacked by blink dogs in my walkway."
"Wait, are you magic?"
"Well, I'm a lot of things," I said with a smile. "I guess magic could be considered one of them."
Her face lit up like a firework. "Can you teach magic?"
I scoffed at the wave of nostalgia she threw at me and said, "Hold on. I don't even know who you are or why you were being attacked. Mind clearing that up first?"
"My- My name is Beatrix. Beatrix Roche. I was looking for a magic teacher."
"And the dogs?"
"Um..." Her eyes darted around a bit and she looked down at herself. "I don't know. I didn't see them coming. It just happened so fast."
"Well, they belonged to someone and not anyone who lives around here."
"But where is 'here'?"
"Tell me where you came from and I'll tell you where you are."
"I'm from..." She sighed. "Roland."
"You're in Gullanda right now. Not that far by air, but I'm assuming you didn't fly over."
"Can you please teach me magic?" she pleaded. "I know I can. I just don't know how. Nobody in my village would teach me..."
It was my turn to sigh. "Do you feel well enough to move?"
"I think?" She turned her legs off the bed and stood, popping a few joints in the process.
"Alright, follow me." I led her to the arcane assessment room on the first floor. The books were still piled up on the floor since I never bothered to move them and the desk stood as it always had. "Regardless of what you say, I need to test your aptitude for magic." I tapped the desk in the middle of the room. "Sit and place your palms on the table."
She did so, and before I could blink, her eye changed. It turned completely black, and twinkling lights filled it like the night sky.
She was like me.
"Is something wrong?" She asked.
"Hold on and don't move your hands." I snapped my fingers and in a flash, a book appeared before me, open to the page I needed. Taking the book in my hand, I turned it around and showed her the same image I was shown nearly twenty years prior. "This is what your eye looks like right now."
A look of fear ran across her face for a split second. "What does it mean?"
"It means I have no choice but to teach you." I put the book down in front of her. "You can move your hands now."
She picked up her hands, and her eye returned to its normal dark brown. "What about this?" She gripped her eyepatch and lifted it, revealing that the other eye looked the same but without having to draw out her magic. "It always looked this way and people were always afraid of me... Especially if they were magic..."
I smiled and said, "It's almost like you came here looking for me specifically."
I focused magic into my eyes, triggering their change. "To quote an old friend; 'If destiny exists, you just found yours'. Like you, my eyes are stars, you see."
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