Though I’m posting it, this piece would literally not have been possible without the extraordinary efforts, roleplaying, and editing assistance of Jayna and Spencer, not to mention the GMing talents of Eric A. stepping in to help us delve into the mysteries of the Fae. . .
Author’s note: This journal takes place in the days immediately following the in-game activities of Session 4, circa November 26.
It was a break period on a frigid December afternoon on the Claremont campus. Students were milling around, a febrile tension in the air. The holidays were right around the corner—and the dorms had the bright-shining decor to prove it!—and the Winter Formal right before that, but no one seemed in a mood to relax. Between finals, finding dates, and fighting off the forces of evil intent on destroying reality itself, the young heroes-in-training had a busy schedule.
Deaglan stared intensely at his phone, sprawled out on the common room couch. The Blandriod 9 Update prompt was finally reaching its lengthy conclusion. “Ugh, I just wanted to make a caaaaaalllllll.” Deaglan’s last word droned dramatically as he fussed with the contacts menu.
Alea Arlisson. Elflight.
He tapped the entry to call, and listened to the ring tone, mildly exasperated. At last, she picked up. “I’m gonna start making sending stones for everyone, these phones are crazy!”
The voice on the other end responded quizzically. “Yeah? Deaglan? Did something happen?”
“Yeah, you troll! You popped out of that dreamscape without letting us know if you were okay! And Phoros! Bobby, Simone, and Sorrel, and literally everyone was worried!”
“Yeah, sorry about that, but given the situation- and other things- I wasn’t thinking about sticking around to catch up on old times. I’m sure you can understand. You can let them know I’ll be fine, just have a lot to think about, so I probably won’t be the best to talk to for a while”
She paused for a few moments after saying that, and continued. “Yeah, that really was a crap thing for me to do. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make anyone worry. You’ll let them know too, won’t you?”
“Yeah. Ugh, Sorry for calling you a troll… But this is kinda serious. Bobby really needs to talk with you. His patron is, well, doing bad things… I think.”
“Bobby needs my help? Yeah, sure, I’m more than willing to help, is he with you?”
Deaglan lifted his head up in one hand, peering at his surroundings like some sort of amusingly macabre periscope. He spied Bobby, hands stuffed nervously under his arms, leaning against a wall just outside the common room, talking quietly with Cybersoul. They’d been talking out loud a lot more often ever since…oh, right. He promptly placed his head next to the phone, as his body stood up and began pacing.
“Uh, sorta? I’m not near him or Cybersoul because I don’t want Twilight Dorkness listening, and I have to prepare a space to block it out. Partly because we think it’s trying to get you, but also because if it hears us talking about it, not-good-things will happen to Bobby and Cybersoul, I would guess.”
“Wow, that is serious,” Elflight responded. “How long for you to set up a safe space? I can be there once I’m done here—probably best given how serious this sounds.”
Deaglan chewed his lip in thought, realizing he may not have enough help to get the space prepared. “Could you meet us at Kuzkin’s office?”
“Kuzkin? Sheesh, that guy is a bit too dramatic, but yeah, I can meet you there.”
“Yeaahhhh…I made an agreement not to practice or perform magic without being in a designated space…given…things. Not important! Anyhow, meet us after classes today? I could probably use the assistance getting it prepped?”
“If I’m there to help you, then we can get to the details quicker, I’ll be there! Though I do expect you to head straight to Kuzkin’s office immediately. I don’t want to hear him recite ALL of Shakespeare again…don’t ask.”
“Well, excuuuuse me, Princess.”
“Hey, easy with the Princess, I’m still getting use to the concept…”
“Uh huh. See ya soon!”
Deaglan collected his head and phone, and signaled the other two: plans over lunch, and rituals after classes!
Kuzkin’s old theater, a cluttered expanse of half-assembled sets and discarded costume-wear, was perhaps not the most…orderly place to conduct complicated magic, but the room had a certain natural flow to it that seemed to encourage the workings nonetheless.
The eerie silence that engulfed the four of them was one clue the ritual had started to work. Deaglan glanced over at Bobby and Elflight, fairly impressed with Bobby’s occult know-how, and gracious for his and Elflight’s assistance. He turned to Professor Kuzkin, giving him a thumbs up, signalling to him that the ritual was working fine, before completing the final steps for bringing a magical shroud over them quartet. Cybersoul seemed to be consumed with absorbing the visual and aural phenomena about them as the ritual completed.
Finally safe from prying eyes (and ears), Elflight broke the silence. “Ok, first off, good to see each of you again, and second, this sounds pretty serious. How can I help, Bobby?”
Twilight sat, cross legged in the ritual circle, his face tight and his jacket laid out beside him. Every few minutes, he reached toward the pocket with his cellphone in it with a nervous twitch before guiltily pulling back: best not to get distracted in the middle of a perilous ritual. “Yeah,” he said. “We’re really glad you’re okay, Elflight. Things got pretty insane in that dreamworld theme park. And thank you for coming to help us out…we owe you one.”
“What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t help you guys?” The words were genuine, but Elflight seemed…distracted, somehow, as if something was weighing on her mind. But she stood there still, clearly determined to help her friends however she could. “And you don’t owe me anything.”
Twilight and Deaglan glanced at each other. Elflight obviously had something she was worried about, but neither one of them could tell what it was. Cybersoul, still distracted by the scintillating sensory input of the three-person ritual working, hadn’t noticed anything amiss.
Given the situation, Deaglan decided to focus for now on why Cybersoul and Twilight had asked for this meeting. He looked at them expectantly, waiting for their explanation.
“So, if I understand things correctly,” Elflight said, “you are ‘concerned’, putting it lightly, about your patron, and that it’s after me?”
Twilight glanced at his jacket again, then looked up at Elflight and took a deep breath. “Alright, so. . . I don’t know if you remember, but Deaglan was all freaked out last year about my patron possibly being a Fomorian horror or something, but from what we could all tell, that wasn’t the case. A powerful Unseelie, maybe, but that was the worst of it. We thought.” Elflight listened intently, nodding occasionally as Bobby told the story. “I, uh…I don’t want you to be mad at us,” he went on, “but when we were trying to find you in Annwn/Avalon, we kinda, sorta, uh, talked to the fae god of hydras and deals in there, down by the docks.”
Cybersoul snapped to attention finally, turning their gaze toward Elflight. “Our patron seems to possess a skeleton army,” they piped up. Twilight winced at that, seeming to shrink in on himself. He rubbed at his elbow absentmindedly, his fingers probing bone through flesh as though searching for something.
“What.” Deaglan was lying on the couch to focus on the ritual, but he picked up his head to look at Cybersoul. He was…clearly missing some details.
“And I realize that, you know, those things probably lie a lot,” Twilight continued. “But it said that it helped broker a deal between you and what I think was my patron. I call it the Twilight Darkness. And…yeah. Cy’s right. When we fought our way to you, we encountered some, I dunno. Undead servitors? Reanimated mortals? We don’t really understand. But they were bound up in chains just like the ones I use, and…inside, on their skeletons, was burned a contract just like the one that I signed. Just like the one that…that Cybersoul agreed to.”
“No, those were Fomorians…unless you encountered something else outside the rides?” Deaglan scratched his head, trying to remember the terrifying carnival-creatures. Twilight nodded at him, shrugging: despite having signed a fae deal, the lanky boy was still painfully in the dark about even the most basic facts about them.
Elflight stared at the both of them. The emotions on her face were clear: shock, disbelief, and a stern You should know better than that, to boot. She looked at Deaglan in desperation. “Did you sign a contract as well?”
Twilight hadn’t noticed this exchange, too anxious to get the full story out in the open. “And,” he said, “between whatever deal you were trying to make down there seeming like it ended up with you getting trapped by some seriously bad fae dudes, and those creepy—okay, yeah, Fomorians—and some of the stuff that Twilight Darkness said to Cy when they brokered their deal, I am getting really worried about exactly what kind of power we signed on with.” He wrung his hands together, finally finished, waiting for Elflight’s judgement and utterly unable to look anyone in the eye.
Elflight paced back and forth, the gravity of the situation at hand becoming clearer every moment.
Twilight tried to let the silence sit, but he was too nervous. “It said,” he piped up, “that the more things we do in its name as its emissaries, the more…strength it gains. Not just in the fae realms. But here, too. On Earth.” He waved one hand feebly around, brushing against the shimmering borders of the magical shell encasing the group and making it ripple.
Deaglan was relieved to have at least some good news for Elflight. “Pfft. No, I didn’t make a deal,” he said. “But, my substitute for Parent Teacher Conference did try to assassinate you…she didn’t say who ordered it, or why though…” He tried to keep his voice matter-of-fact, but could only barely manage to hide his contempt for the action.
“Ok,” Elflight said, coming to a halt. “That is a lot to take in, but how can I help with this? What are you asking me to do? And Deaglan, you need a new substitute parent, or else we can’t be friends anymore…”
“Fair…that’s a talk for later…” Deaglan muttered. Kathryn the Red was not the best maternal stand in, though she might well be the most murderous.
Twilight tapped his fingers nervously against his leg. “Look, the terms of your deal are yours to keep, if you don’t want to tell us. But please: anything you can tell us about what we’re actually dealing with could literally save us… both.” As he finished, Twilight somehow seemed to draw into even himself more, sparing a haunted glance at Cybersoul, and went quiet.
Cybersoul had seemed pensive most of the time Twilight had been doing a lot of the talking, but they looked up now, and gave him a wry look. “I will not let it take you, Twilight,” they said, sounding as if they had all the confidence in the world. “Elflight, we wish to know of the deal you made, and why.”
Twilight blushed and hoarsely whispered, “Sorry, Cybersoul, I didn’t mean to talk for you. But I am worried about you being pulled into this.”
Elflight pondered for a moment, thinking about the situation. “I can’t…” She paused, before continuing, “I can’t tell you WHAT Twilight Darkness is because I don’t know…for certain. I can tell you what I think it is, I hope THAT at least can help.” She let out a slow sigh, then went on.
“From what I can tell, it’s a dragon: very old, and very powerful. The problem lies in how it keeps itself hidden. Entities like this are dangerous because they are able to obfuscate themselves, making it hard to find information on them, and what’s worse is that the information you do find tends to contradict itself.”
All three of the students seemed to freeze at the word “dragon.” Deaglan’s head teetered on its necky perch; he barely managed to steady it in time.
“I, uh. Huh,” Twilight managed to sputter before falling silent with the rest.
“No Deaglan, Twilight Darkness would be a terrible substitute parent,” said Elflight, trying to break the tension a little. She nudged Deaglan, trying to calm his nerves a bit with the bad joke. Deaglan huffed, grumbling his response. “I’d rather my own show up.” He focused his attention on the ritual once more, turning away slightly.
Twilight smirked at the humor, shaking his head in a cascade of black and silver hair that he then had to swipe away absentmindedly. “Yeah, Deegs. As fun as it might be to have you stuck as like, my…fae-half-brother-twice-removed? I don’t even know how that would work. But it’d be one screwed up family.” Deaglan snorted in response, adjusting some components of the ritual. Twilight pressed the point. “Don’t lose your head over it.”
Cybersoul tilted their head to the side, refocusing the conversation. “A dragon is a large, serpent-like legendary creature that appears in the folklore of many cultures around the world. Beliefs about dragons vary drastically by region, but dragons in western cultures since the High Middle Ages have often been depicted as winged, horned, four-legged, and capable of breathing fire. Dragons in eastern cultures are usually depicted as wingless, four-legged, serpentine creatures with above-average intelligence.” They look back at Elflight. “What agreement did you reach with it?”
“I’d rather not get into that at the moment, it’s…personal,” Elflight responded. Cybersoul looked unimpressed, but didn’t press the issue further.
Twilight winced visibly, interjecting. “No, it’s okay. I understand. Maybe you could tell us how you learned about it, or how you got into contact with it? Any little thing that might help us look into this on our own. Like, getting my powers was literally the best thing that had ever happened to me. And now I’m terrified of them, Elflight. I just want to understand.” Finally looking up at her, his eyes were wet; a faint trail of black mascara was beginning to run down his right cheek.
Elflight’s expression softened as Twilight made his plea. She relented. “I’m…looking for my father. I have so many questions, and so many things have changed. I needed answers, however…I still don’t have them.” She looked away from the students as she spoke.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know,” Twilight responded, reaching out toward her, but then seeming to think better of it. “Look, we’ve all gotten rolled up in stuff bigger than any of us. But we are friends. And we can figure it out together.” He seemed to be picking up steam, his voice rising a little over its usual husky baritone. “How did your searching for your dad get you to Twilight Darkness? Or…why did you think it could help you?”
Elflight returned her gaze to the trio. “That’s the selfish answer, there’s more to the deal than that though. I was trying to find another way to stem the coming evil, and to…save you guys…” She seemed to be chastising herself more than answering by that point. “Stupid, making a deal with an evil being to stop evil…I know.”
“Hey, if it’s any consolation,” Deaglan added quickly, “apparently I’m doomed to become something worse than that when I get older, because my mother made a deal?” There was no mirth in his voice, though the attempt to “cheer” her up seems genuine. “Like Twilight said, I’m sure we can work through all this together.”
“Exactly, Deaglan. We’re all looking for ways to stop whatever is coming down on us, too. And we’ve made some…mistakes along the way… " Twilight brushed a hand against his cheek absentmindedly; the fading mark of a fist-shaped burn still faintly spelled out “HATE” on his face.
Elflight eyed the wound on Bobby’s face, but didn’t press the matter. Everyone had their own scars. Silence once more descended over the group.
Cybersoul spoke up, breaking the second silence with a question. “If a dragon is a large flying lizard, why would it want our help with anything? It said it was not ‘real’ enough, what does that mean?” On an encrypted local storage drive, Cybersoul wordlessly added “Dragons, but not enough” to their ongoing “List of Things That Are Real.”
Elflight seemed to reach an internal decision of some sort. “Look, I hate this predetermined crap, but if you want the details, here’s what I know. Sometime in the future, and I don’t know when exactly, all the students at Claremont are trapped. I don’t know how, or why, but you all will be trapped somewhere…else.” She paused, looking at each of them. “The deal I made is to get you back.”
Deaglan tilted his head a bit further than it should, causing it to wobble noticeably. “Was the place we were trapped in occupied by some fiery hellbeast? Baleful and full of hate?”
Twilight nodded, closing his eyes as he began to remember all the strange occurrences from the year. “Yeah, some of us have been having some pretty scary visions of our own.”
Elflight shrugged slightly, her expression drawn. “What I saw was broken piece of what will happen, and it was hard to make out details that weren’t you guys, but it’s quite possible. A lot, and I do mean a LOT was going on.”
“Fair,” Deaglan replied, nodding—as much to steady his rapidly sliding head as in agreement. “It’s hard to focus when your vision is mostly being blinded by every endangered soul…” An idea seemed to strike him, and he continued, faster now, “So, you said kids earlier, not students…are you up to date with recent, uh, happenings?”
Sensing that might lead down a more significant path, Deaglan reconsidered that point, for the time being at least. “Wait, I’m getting side tracked…let’s focus on the details of this deal Twilight and Cybersoul have.” Deaglan nudged Cybersoul and Bobby, who had been following the back and forth between the two fae as best they could. “What can you tell us about the deal you made?”
Elflight seemed to have arrived at the same conclusions, as she nearly spoke over him, “So, what were the deals you guys made with Twilight Darkness?”
“It’s fine, Deegs. We’ve got a lot on our plates,” said Twilight quietly to the other boy.
Cybersoul’s fans kicked on, making a quiet whirring sound. “It said I had used its powers too many times. It offered further use of them as payment for my role as its emissary. It said it wanted to become more ‘real.’ It was after we saved your… dragon.” Cybersoul seemed to register something there, slowly tilting their head to the side. “If it is a dragon, is it similar to your own?”
Elflight smiled a little at that. “I would love to be able to answer that question, however your previous statement about Dragons is more true than you probably realize. Dragons can come in all shapes and sizes.”
Twilight had nodded along to Cybersoul’s story, his facial expression growing steadily more… complicated, to say the least, but Deagan could still make out the waves of guilt coursing through him. The faint rattle of chains emanated from nowhere at all, making Twilight wince, and the sound quickly went quiet. He sighed, audibly, and spoke. "And, uh…my deal was…well, me being young and upset and really desperate to be a real hero. I initially tried to work with a fae named Calistrato, but that arrangement…didn’t work out like I hoped.”
Deaglan started a little; he wasn’t sure he’d ever heard that before. Another time, he reminded himself.
Across the ritual circle from him, Twilight continued, “Twilight Darkness found me when I was…well, to be honest, really, really low. It said it could help make me a real hero. Make people look up to me, think I was cool and powerful and heroic. That all sounded…like exactly what I wanted to hear, now that I think about it. In return, all I had to do was—like Cybersoul said—be its Emissary in the mortal world. Bear its magic and its name while learning to become a superhero. I think there was some kind of actual contract involved, but honestly, that time in my life is weirdly…hazy. Visiting the fae realms is weird like that."
“So Twilight Darkness feeds on the suffering of others,” said Elflight, almost absentmindedly at first. She looked up at the others, fire in her eyes. “Big surprise there.”
Twilight flinched back, as if struck. “I’ve helped a lot of people, though,” he said meekly, almost uncertainly. “I mean. . . would something evil, like…even let me do good?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to dismiss what you’ve done.”
“No…it’s okay. Like you said: making a deal with evil to stop evil,” he replied, shifting his hands as if weighing invisible objects between them. “But…if I can keep finding ways to turn this power I have toward good, I will. But I’m scared of making things worse.” His voice shook a little, and he went quiet again.
At that, Elflight did reach out and put a hand on his shoulder. “You are stronger than you realize Bobby.” She smiled at him, though he did not look up to see it. “Alright, so: emissaries. It almost sounds like it’s wanting you to build up faith, branching out into this world.”
“It said it would become more real when we used its powers,” said Cybersoul.
“Huh. That’s…yeah, that’s a good point. And…” Twilight paused and glanced at both Deaglan and Elflight sheepishly, “No offense—but a lot of my experiences so far with entities like that make me think it might be a bad thing for Twilight Darkness to become anymore real than it is now.”
Cybersoul’s internal processes continued to hitch on that linguistic peculiarity. “How can something be more or less real? ‘_Real_’ is a boolean."
“A what now?” Deaglan asked.
“A boolean.” Cybersoul looked at Deaglan, pausing briefly to consider how to word their response. “A…a yes-or-no question. Something is #real or it is not.” Although no one actually heard them say the word “hashtag,” the others all definitely heard it somehow. “How can the Twilight Darkness be incompletely real? This seems impossible.”
Elflight paused for a moment before answering. "There are a lot of things in this world that seem impossible, yet aren’t. Several of the students at Claremont are perfect examples of the impossible being possible!” She turned to Deaglan, tilting her head comically to the side. “He can survive without his head, for example. And don’t get me started on magic…” They all unconsciously glanced at the gleaming magical barrier around them; visible just beyond it, Professor Kuzkin could be seen pacing the stage. His mouth was moving dramatically, but they couldn’t hear whatever it was that he was saying.
Deaglan started to speak, but then mimed a “Yeah!” at Elflight as she said what he was already thinking. He picked his head up bodily from his shoulders, a curious smoky essence billowing from his neck as he did so, to demonstrate.
Twilight grinned; that sight never got old. “Okay. Well, either way, for now, Twilight Darkness still needs something from us. And we want to look into this stuff more,” he said, frowning slightly at the prospect. “Maybe Twilight Darkness is an ancient evil dragon intent on world domination. Maybe it’s just an Unseelie princeling with really awesome taste in jackets. Either way, can it like…see through our eyes and peer into our hearts and stuff? Like, do you two need to wipe my brain before I leave this circle to keep it from knowing that we want to investigate things more about it, and its motives?”
Elflight shook her head, a thoughtful expression on her face. “Honestly, I think it would only be a boon for you and Cybersoul. Twilight Darkness has an ego the size of Freedom City; it’s going to be completely confident that you can’t find a way to break the contract, or defeat it.” Her mouth twisted into a wry smile, and she continued, “It’ll probably relish in your trying.”
Twilight looked down for a long while at that, his shoulders slumping a little. Seeming to realize it might be good to add more, she continued, “That’s not to say you won’t find a way to rectify this. But I am certain you will need others’ help, especially those who can work away from him to help keep some things secret.”
Twilight did perk up a little at that; having a fairy princess volunteer to help out on the quest seemed like a pretty great first step. “Well, if it’s the case that Twilight Darkness won’t even think we’re up to stopping it…” He poked his head out of the shimmering shield, which felt a little like lukewarm Jell-O on his skin. “Sorry we got all this candle-wax on your stage to try to hide from someone who we maybe didn’t even need to hide from, Mr. Kuzkin!” he shouted before pulling his head back in. He managed a smile, realizing his friends didn’t hear his joke.
“It is always best to be prepared, rather than to throw caution at the wind!” shouted Kuzkin to no one at all, once more cut off from the students. He pondered this for a moment, and then resumed his recitations.
Back inside the bubble, the quartet were quickly latching onto the idea of fighting back actively. “I will see what I can find out in Avalon: find a way to help you with this,” said Elflight, bravado tinging her words with steel.
Cybersoul grinned. “It will not be my first unlikely victory. Thank you for your help.”
Elflight grinned back and shouted “I love your confidence Cybersoul, please don’t change!” Her words bounced around inside the ritual shell for a few seconds.
“You’re right, Cybersoul,” said Twilight. “We can do this. We’ve been a great team so far. And we have some freaking awesome friends to back us up.” Twilight glanced down at the pocket with his phone again, a decisive look crossing his features. He looked back up. “Thank you, Elflight. Seriously."
“My pleasure, though I will probably ask for your help in the future…when everything has died down for you guys.” The other three nodded at that; it seemed like Claremont’s troubles would never cease, sometimes, and heroism was ever needed.
Wordlessly, the three magic-users brought the barrier down around them as one; the spell shattered with a faint, adorable Pop! like a cartoon bubble. Cybersoul and Twilight asked Elflight a few other quick questions about the mechanics of their ongoing partnership, while Deaglan busied himself with cleaning up the ritual, letting all present parties finish their various and sundry patron related questions.
Eventually, however, it was just him and Elflight there, standing on the cluttered stage. “If you are going home,” Deaglan looked to her, chewing on a series of complicated thoughts and long-simmering questions, “is there something else I can ask you?”
“Cool…I gotta clean up this space before I leave, but in the meantime, perhaps you can catch up with Angel, since you’re already here? I kinda want her to be in the know, given some, uh, recent concerns…”
“Yeah, it will be nice to see Angel again. I’ll fill her in.” Elflight bid him farewell for the time being and departed. In the background, Professor Kuzkin found himself suddenly performing the climactic moments of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to an audience of one…but at least this one could hear his work!