RevenantSeraph t1_ja3kfm9 wrote

You can check my personal sub for more of my other works, as well as any continuation of this one, which is fairly likely to happen as I like the characters and scenario.


RevenantSeraph t1_j9uefop wrote

Frightening either way.

Now you've got me imagining a GAU-8 designed to be wielded by a full size dragon. Fuck, the equivalent weapon in this world probably references dragons in its name. Either out of reverence, or because it's designed to kill them.


RevenantSeraph t1_j9t4xeg wrote

It's definitely complex, only made more so by the fact that shape shifting - and for that matter, dragons in general - are magic, and magic doesn't care much for the laws that the non-magical parts of reality operate by. 'It's magic' is absolutely a plausible explanation for just about anything in their universe. Magic makes the impossible possible. Thermodynamics, conservation of mass - these are things that most proper college-educated wizards acknowledge as real while simultaneously violating the shit out of them for party tricks.

Physically, a dragon's strength and speed aren't really diminished by transforming. Halcida could still very much toss Dura's squad around for a bit, until she wound up eating hot magical death from Ven's rifle, or with Dura's sword in her. Their senses aren't diminished either; they still have an aerial predator's visual acuity, and a sense of smell much better than any human, elf, or orc.

The notion of being weaker comes from the other gross physical changes - not having their scales makes them more fragile, not having wings makes them unable to fly without an outside option (a spell or device), and the glands that generate their breath attacks are physically smaller and not capable of generating the same level of raw power behind the attack. They do give things up by transforming, and many will take steps to make up for those losses; some wear armor, or carry a big honkin' weapon, because they feel vulnerable at human scale.

However, they gain other things in exchange. Primarily, hands built for the same scale and level of dexterity the rest of the world operates on. Dragon claws aren't great at manipulating objects built on human scale. They gain the ability to interact with the rest of a very cosmopolitan world on a level that doesn't frighten the average person. Plus, fast cars and jewelry and plush furniture, among other things - the 'treasures' of a modernized world - are easier to really enjoy and make use of when you're not too big for them.

Plus, the dragons of this particular point in the setting are a millennium and a half into the world-spanning rule of a spellcaster who absolutely has the means - personally, politically, militarily, economically - to wreck them if they don't play nice. The ones that didn't choose to do so didn't make it to this era of their world. A dragon the age of Halcida (a mere two hundred years old, equivalent to roughly a 20-year-old human) is a more 'tame' version of the grand, prideful beasts of old. Still powerful, still frightening on a visceral level to smaller creatures, but cognizant of the fact that if they get along they can be movie stars and business tycoons and enjoy wealth and power just like Great-Grandma used to.

Ultimately, transforming has benefits and drawbacks; it's also just respectful when dealing with smaller people that you don't particularly feel like terrifying the piss out of, or if said smaller people can make your life miserable by dint of being an agent of an authority they know they should be wary of.

Sorry I replied a novel at you! I just like engaging with people about my work. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.


RevenantSeraph t1_j9sx4qc wrote

No lie, asking a dragon capable of doing so to shapeshift small is probably standard procedure for exactly that reason - easier to put down before they can cause too much carnage, if that's what it comes to. Just because they're smaller, though, doesn't make them that much weaker...

As for the PCness, though, that's very real. The Witch Queen's conquest of the world all started with her destroying and replacing an elven government bent on race-driven conquest. She doesn't look fondly on racism, and she's...not a nice lady, when she isn't fond of a practice. It only follows that people working for institutions bearing the Royal seal and name would be held to a high standard in that regard. Richard must have hid it very well until that moment.


RevenantSeraph t1_j9swyf6 wrote

You honor me! He's one of my inspirations in how I write and build a setting. I may keep going on this later; I have ideas. If I do, it'll be on my personal sub. I can ping you, if you like.


RevenantSeraph t1_j9s1uea wrote

Thank you! I appreciate the kind words. The world is one I've been writing in for a while, though I hadn't had a chance to touch on the concept of the Royal Inspector's Corps just yet, so thank you for a prompt that inspired me to do so!


RevenantSeraph t1_j9rz6qe wrote

Dura was closer to the rifle than Richard was, and as he reached it, he found her foot resting on top of it. He tried to pull it out from underneath before he realized what he was looking at, and gaped up at his sergeant, her tall, broad figure suddenly imposing.

"I'm sorry," she said quietly, "what did you just say?" There was more menace in her quiet tone than there was in her shouts; she didn't have to look to know that Venmys had shuddered a little at the sound. The elf had been on the receiving end of this tone before, and had gone out of their way to avoid it happening again.

"Sarge, lemme have my gun! This dragon is a menace, it has to be our target! It killed me! Why didn't you kill it?!"

Dura sneered down at the human. She'd thought as much; she'd noticed little things since he'd joined. The way he seemed to look down at Venmys, or seemed to treat Conor like he was the one in charge and not Dura. She put the tip of her sword into the trigger guard of the rifle, then lifted her foot and pushed Richard away with her heel. He was still weak from resurrection; there was no chance of him resisting, and he rocked backward, landing on his ass.

"Listen here, Dick," she said. "You being upset about dying? Sure, I can handle that. That's not what's got me pissed off right now. Your open racism is what did it." She knelt down to look into the man's eyes, and gave her lower jaw a little extra jut forward, emphasizing her tusks. "You said the quiet part out loud, you dumb shit. And in a squad led by an orc, no less. Not very smart. I don't know what backwards precinct you came out of, but that shit don't fly in the RIC. Queen don't take kindly to human supremacists - you know, being an elf and all."

Richard looked frightened now, and turned his head to look at the others. Venmys was now looking at him with open disgust, their rifle lowered and slowly discharging back into the storage cells on their armor. Conor had stood up, and was looking at the younger human with stark disapproval. It was Conor that Richard's gaze lingered on, and he said, "You're not gonna just let her talk to me like that, right? Brother?"

Conor sneered as he said, "I ain't your brother, Richard. And she's your Sergeant." He paused, then added, "My wife is Feyblooded - you know, our quartermaster? So don't think your garbage is gonna buy you any points with me."

Richard scrambled to his feet, and stepped backward away from them - then gave a sheepish yelp as he realized he was backing towards the dragon, and stumbled forward, away from her.

Dura laughed. She couldn't help it. "Ven," she said, "get this piece of shit out of my sight. I've got to ask some questions still. We'll deal with this later."

"With pleasure," Venmys said, their alto voice tense with dislike. "Move it, shithead. Outside. Don't test me, or you'll find out how good a knife-ear's reflexes are. Don't think I didn't hear you call me that under your breath the other day..."

Venmys poked Richard with the business end of their rifle, and that was enough to get him to move, walking ahead of them. Which left Dura and Conor to deal with the dragon.

Dura turned back to the dragon, sliding her sword into the holder on her back as she did. "Ma'am, I'm so sorry about this. It's Halcida, right? Are you capable of shapeshifting? If you are, could you please assume a smaller form? It'd be easier to talk to you that way, but I don't mind if you can't."

"No, I...I can," the dragon said, and she closed her eyes, focusing on the shapeshifting power native to most dragons. She began to shrink, taking a human form, her hair and eyes the same vibrant blue as her scales had been. She was reasonably pretty, but most shapeshifted dragons were - as her Captain had put it, with a vain flick of her own silver hair, if you could choose what you looked like, most people would choose to be pretty, wouldn't they?

"I...I was just minding my own business," Halcida said, her voice now quieter and higher pitched, "you know...admiring my treasure? And burst into the cave, and started screaming at me, pointing his weapon at me. I-I panicked, and when he advanced on me, I just...lashed out, I couldn't think of what else to do, I'm so sorry!"

Dura put her hands up, her expression as gentle as her voice. "It's okay. You were defending yourself. I'm not planning to say anything more than that. It's a big world with a lot of different people in it - things happen."

"I'm glad he's okay," Halcida said in a small voice. "Even if he know, a racist...I didn't want to hurt him."

"He'll be fine," Conor said, smiling behind his beard. "A little weak for a day or two, but it's nothing he doesn't deserve for being an idiot. Now, can we ask you some questions about what's been going on around here lately?"

"With the disappearances? I'd...I'd heard about that, I've been keeping an eye out when I go out to stretch my wings." Halcida's expression settled a little, the fear ebbing away into an eager look. "I want to help, I live here now, so I should be a good neighbor, right? That's what Papa always said we should do. And I saw something the other day, a bunch of cars driving along the highway, but...they were weird, they had some kind of shadowy stuff around them. It was hard to see them."

"Can you show us where?" Dura's tone was excited now. Finally, a break.

"Yes, I can! I could fly you there, if you want!"

Dura held up a hand, smiling. "I like your enthusiasm, but one thing at a time. I've got to get my soon-to-be discharged rookie back to the local chapterhouse so he doesn't get killed by my arcanist for looking at them wrong. Is it alright if we come back tomorrow, and you can show us then?"

"That'd be okay. I'm...I'm so, so sorry about all this..." Halcida's expression became anxious. "Can you tell that man I'm sorry? Maybe...maybe he's just afraid of dragons. I don't blame him, I'm a little scared of my older sisters..."

Dura gave Conor a look, then smiled at Halcida. There was no reason to shatter her optimism by telling her racists seldom had good reasons to be hateful. "I'll tell him, sure. We'll see you tomorrow, Miss Halcida. Have a good night."

"You too," the dragon said as Dura turned to leave the cave, Conor following close behind.

After a moment of walking, he asked quietly, "How are we gonna deal with all this?"

"Well, first, we're getting that enormous pile of shit out of my squad," Dura said with an undisguised snarl. "Then, we're gonna track down this shadowy caravan and figure out what they're up to. No more people are gonna vanish from this province on my watch."


RevenantSeraph t1_j9rz5z1 wrote

"Oh, shit! Go, go, go!"

The three remaining members of Dura's team raced through the cavern, weapons at the ready. Venmys was their heaviest artillery, their Arcanist's Rifle primed and crackling with energy; Conor was a little more lightly armed, a simple handgun in one hand and a holy symbol in the other, venerations to the Watchful Eye already flowing between his lips.

Dura, she preferred the old ways, like many orcs did. A sturdy sword and hardened armor that'd let her close the gap, regardless of what they were facing. Her multiple braids streamed behind her as she led her team in, the brass rings at the ends tapping against the back of her mithral breastplate as they went.

They'd been sent to look into the disappearances that the local precincts couldn't answer; the first point of contact, they'd decided, should be the dragon that their data showed had taken up residence here recently - perhaps she'd noticed something, with the powerful senses dragons were gifted with. Or, as Richard had pointed out, perhaps she was responsible. The disappearances had started shortly after her arrival in the area.

Dura was keeping an open mind. At least, she was until she heard the bellowing roar, and the sound of Richard's voice, first yelling in anger, then screaming in agony.

Now, the three of them charged into the deepest part of the cavern, and what greeted their eyes was not pretty. Richard was on the ground, eyes glassy and vacant, his Royal Inspector uniform - still new to him, their squad's rookie - rent down the front with great claw marks. Dura could see the bone of his ribs through the gashes; she heard Venmys swallow hard - the elf had no head for gore - and saw them raise their rifle out of the periphery of her vision.

"Royal Inspectors, don't move!" Venmys' voice rang off the stone, and Dura looked up from Richard's corpse to see what they had their crackling rifle trained on.

Sure enough; a dragon. Though, smaller than Dura had been expecting, barely an adult. And...she was cowering. Her claws were raised as she pressed herself against the back wall of the cavern, eyes wide and dilated, smoke curling around her face as she practically hyperventilated.

"Please, no, please, don't shoot! I didn't mean it! Please! Oh, by the platinum scales, please, please, help him!"

Conor had already reached Richard, sliding on his knees to look over the man, his brown eyes already glowing red with magic. "He's gone," the holy man's voice said, the gruff and pressured tone quite different from his normal jovial boom, "but not far. We're just in time."

He set his gun down, and withdrew several small gems from a pouch on his belt - diamonds, Dura knew. They glowed between his fingers as he invoked his god, a favorite deity of the healers of the Royal Inspectors, and begged for the return of their comrade to this world.

Conor had this. He was her second, and she trusted his judgment more than anything else in this world. If he said he could save Richard, that was good enough for her. She looked back up to the dragon, who was, if anything, trying to press herself further into the stone, as though she could meld into it. Perhaps she could.

Dura spoke up in a clear voice, and said, "Step away from the wall. Wings folded, claws where we can see them. Nice and easy. My friend doesn't want to shoot you, and they won't if you don't give them a reason to."

Venmys muttered to themselves, "Wanna bet?" The dragon wouldn't hear it over the sound of her rapid breathing, but Dura did; she gave the squad's arcanist a scowl. There was no hate in Ven; the elf just liked to shoot things. With a rifle like that, Dura couldn't blame them, really, but she still tried to keep the arcanist in check.

Dura turned her attention back to the dragon, who was slowly moving away from the wall, obeying her instructions.

"Good, good," Dura said gently. "Nice and easy. This doesn't have to go any worse than it already has. Just stay cool while my healer does his thing, then we can talk. Alright?"

This was why Dura was the sergeant for this squad. She had a knack for keeping things calm, and getting to the heart of a situation quickly. Being handy with a weapon was just a plus; she was a born investigator and negotiator. And now, her instincts told her there wasn't anything to worry about here. The dragon was frightened, alarmed by what was happening. There was no anger there, no ferocity.

"A-alright," the dragon stammered, slowly walking forward, the motion somewhat awkward as she walked on two legs toward them.

Dura's eyes flicked back towards Conor, still kneeling next to Richard's body, bearded chin moving as he gave word to the prayers that would summon their squadmate's soul back from beyond.

She heard a choking gasp from Richard, then a harsh cough. She felt the tension in her chest lighten as her rookie came back to them. Good. One less thing--

She heard Conor's wordless exclamation first, then saw Richard moving, scrambling towards his dropped rifle. He was ranting wildly as he went.

"You fucking scale-skin, I'm gonna blow your Gods-damned head off for that! Fucking menace!"

The dragon squeaked - actually squeaked - in fear, and backed away again, pressing herself against the stone wall as Richard made for his weapon.


RevenantSeraph t1_j69fir7 wrote

An uproar could be heard from outside; there was a thud that shook the building, and the sound of men yelling. Some in pain, and some from the adrenaline of a combat joined. Sounds that were familiar to Courage.

"Sounds like she's taking the slow way," Courage said. "Doesn't want me to be caught up in any kind of carnage. That's not good for you; she likes to take her time, when she does this. And she's not any less tough."

"What do you mean?" The leader glowered down at her, one hand on a dagger at his side. "I swear, call her off, or--"

"Or what? You'll kill me? We've already discussed that option, and the fact that it isn't one you have." Courage couldn't keep the laughter out of her voice as she listened to the presumption of this kidnapper, as she heard him desperately try to reassert control of the situation. "Let's discuss the ones you do have. Your options, you foul-smelling oaf of a man, are to die quickly and painfully, die slowly and painfully, or let me go, and maybe live long enough to die on someone else's time. Choose carefully. She won't be any less angry after killing your men. Red dragons are notoriously hard to calm."

The yelling below continued, and the sounds of steel clashing. The inside of the room was quiet as the two men standing over her processed this, and then there was an almighty bang from below, the sound of a heavy door crashing off its hinges and to the floor.

"Think quickly, gentlemen," Courage said, "time is almost up. If she gets up here and you're still here, standing over a tied-up me, you're as good as charcoal. Sand's running, boys. Time to act."

The two of them moved immediately, lunging for the open window facing away from the door and presumably out to the back of whatever little compound they had here. It was only a second story window, which was fortunate for them as they leaped out of it without any rope or support. Courage could hear grunting as they landed, and then they were scrambling away, towards whatever cover they might be able to find, no doubt.

Courage sighed as she settled back against the wall, waiting. Not a couple of moments later, the door burst open, and a woman rushed through, an elaborate flaming greatsword in her hands. She was tall - closer to seven feet than she was to six - and well-built, a clear warrior. She wore no armor, though the slashes in her clothing showed red scale reinforcing the vital points on her tanned body, scale so hard no mundane weapon could penetrate them. Long red hair swung wildly around her face as her head whipped back and forth, looking for anything that might have been lurking in preparation to strike. Even with the tension of combat in her jaw and eyes, Courage couldn't help but admire the beauty of Fer'Atha's human form. Either of her forms was beautiful, really, but this was a different kind of beauty than the lethal, predatory grace of a dragon.

"Go easy, Fer'Atha. I'm here. I'm alright. The ones holding me left." Courage smiled at her partner, flexing her arms slightly to indicate that she was bound. "Cut me loose?"

Fer'Atha's glare was intense, her eyes like cinders in the dark of the room. "Where did they go? I'll make them pay for this, nobody tries to take you away from me, nobody!"

"Fer." Courage's voice was understanding, but firm. "It's okay. I'm...well, I'm not unharmed, but I'm alive. A quick shot of magic from you and I'll be right as rain. Just please come cut me loose, being tied up like this is not comfortable. There'll be time for the rest later."

Fer'Atha blinked at her, and the tension in her arms and shoulders slowly released, the sword vanishing into nothing as she released the magic that had summoned it. She walked across the room and knelt down next to Courage, working her fingertips under the ropes. She bit her nails - black, and sharp as claws - into the rope, and pulled roughly, slicing through them.

Courage sighed, and flexed her shoulders, bringing her arms out from behind her back. "Oh, gods, thank you. I was worried I'd lose feeling in them entirely. Though, that might not have been utterly terrible..." She held up her hands, bruised and damaged, with several of her fingers pointing in unnatural directions. "Looks worse than it feels, I guess. All that pain control training finally came in handy. Help me out?"

Fer'Atha's expression as she looked at Courage's hands was one of mixed concern and anger, and she closed her hands around Courage's broken ones, a green glow surrounding them as the healing magic began its work.

"I...was scared, Mari," Fer'Atha said. "You were just gone, no note or message or anything, I was so scared. I thought your brother and his men had found us, or maybe servants of the Black Dragonflight. I thought I'd never see you again..."

There were tears swimming in those crimson eyes as Fer'Atha regarded her, and Courage smiled back at her draconic partner. "It might be related to one of those things. I'm glad you didn't just burn the place; now we can look for some kind of clue as to who wanted me so badly. But for now, just know that I'm glad you came for me, that you found me."

The healing had finished, but Fer'Atha kept Courage's hands in hers, their gazes locked. "I'll always come find you," Fer'Atha said, her voice low and intimate. "You're everything to me."

"As you are to me." Courage removed one of her hands from Fer'Atha's, and set it on the dragon-woman's cheek. "Now come on. We've got more work to do. Are you comfortable staying in a human form for a little while longer?"

"As long as you like, Mari. What are we looking for?"

"Paperwork, perhaps," Courage said, giving her partner a wry smile. "Or at least, a big bag of gold. These men were paid to take me - let's find out who did the paying and why."


RevenantSeraph t1_j69fhur wrote

They'd taken her while she was asleep. They had to; they wouldn't have stood a chance otherwise, not with her breadth of skills and magic.

Now, Courage was blindfolded, bound, and gagged, slumped against a wall, clad in rough-spun clothing that wasn't her own. Her hands were injured, several of her fingers broken; no hope of using any magic to free herself, not without help.

"...I'm telling you," one of the bandits was saying, his voice fading in and out of Courage's wounded consciousness, "she's familiar to me. I know this woman."

"Yeah," another one joked, his tone implying something salacious, "I'll bet you do. A body like that, I wouldn't mind knowing her too."

A third voice spoke up, one with authority. "The people paying for this made it clear, hands off, no damage that ain't necessary. Had to bust up her hands so she couldn't do any sorcery, but that's it. You touch her, and I'll sell you to make up the difference in value."

Courage gave her head a slight shake, trying to snap herself back to awareness. She'd been captured, that much was clear, and it sounded like it wasn't a whim that had led to it - this was a job for these men, someone had paid them to take this risk. Courage certainly hoped they'd been paid well, and that they'd already spent it, because they seemed to be missing one important piece of knowledge: her partner.

"Go tell the rest of the lads," the third voice said, "to get the wagon ready and figure out amongst themselves who's goin' on the delivery. I'll take a dozen; don't want anyone stealin' our prize from us on the way."

"Right, boss," the second voice said, and Courage could hear his footsteps leave the room, a heavy wooden door slamming shut behind him.

"I'm telling you, boss, I know this wench." The first voice spoke again, his tone suspicious, and she could hear footsteps approaching her now. She felt a hand wrap around her chin and begin moving her face, tilting and turning it to take in her features. It surely wouldn't be someone recognizing her as Princess Marielle; there was nothing left of that soft little girl now, nothing but the name that only a select few were allowed to use. Long blonde hair chopped to shoulder length, and all the roundness of her face gone, burned away in the crucible of her life to reveal the angular steel underneath. Marielle had been harmlessly pretty; Courage was, at this point, dangerously beautiful, and deeply unrecognizable as what she had been once.

"Wait..." The voice spoke again, and the hand let go of her face, the boots moving away from her again. She heard the sounds of clanking metal; possibly her armor, and her weapons. "I do recognize this woman. This armor, the sword. This is..."

"Well? Spit it out," the leader's voice said, his tone impatient.

"I was a soldier for the kingdom of Harrenscourt. You know, the place that got burned by a red dragon about five years back?"

"Aye, you've mentioned that before."

"Well," the first voice said hurriedly, "the dragon had a rider, someone directing it and fighting alongside it. A woman."

There was quiet for a moment, though it was only quiet to those who didn't have Courage's skillset. She could hear what was coming, could hear the wingbeats growing closer through a window nearby; she could feel what was about to happen. The brigands couldn't, though, as wrapped up in sudden revelation as they were.

"You mean to tell me this woman...she's..."

The leader's voice was cut off by an earsplitting roar. Courage couldn't help herself; she began laughing, the gag muffling the sound. A second later, the air was rent by a deep, menacing voice, shouting loud enough to be heard in the neighboring kingdom.


The two men were silent. There was a beat of hesitation, and then footsteps approached Courage again. She felt fingers slide beneath her blindfold and her gag, pulling them out of place. She could see the rough-looking men standing over her, see their wide, fearful eyes and the sweat suddenly springing from their brow. She flexed her jaw, licking at her lips a bit to restore moisture to them, and as she did, the leader spoke.

"Call it off," he said roughly. The face that owned the voice was no less rough or terse; he was a stocky man, with a week's growth of stubble and shaggy brown hair. His arms looked like he'd definitely done his share of labor in his time - either that, or swinging of weaponry. "Call it off, or I run you through with your own sword, woman."

Courage smirked up at the man. "You kill me, and she will know it. And she'll make sure every single one of you dies in the most horrendously painful way she can think of. And Fer'Atha, she's very inventive. Very clever. She'll invent new forms of torture just for you. So no, I think the only thing I'll be calling right now is your ridiculous bluff. Let me go, and you might live to see tomorrow."


RevenantSeraph t1_ixdlrmp wrote

I have lived in this place forever. I was born here. It is all I know. The void that surrounds it is my home, and though others would view it as cold, I don't. It reveals all to me. It always has. The flashes of sight and sound, the pillars of light that appear and disappear. All of creation has served as my teacher of history.

I don't remember my mother and father. Perhaps I never had them. Perhaps they will return for me. Perhaps they already have. I don't know. The sequence of events that happen here are distorted. They've become that way only recently; or maybe they always have been. But my memories are clear enough.

I had only my uncle. He raised me from an infant to what I am now. An adult, though whether I am twenty or two thousand, I couldn't tell you. He built a home here for us, willing the environment to grow larger, from a few simple platforms to a place with enough space for a girl to grow and play and learn. And learn I did, from him, and from my mentor, who taught me the ancient ways, control of the elements. Most only get one, he said, but because of who my parents were/are/will be, I get two. Not quite one of the Magi of old, but closer than most humans will ever get again.

For the longest time, I was happy. I knew nothing about the rest of creation, my uncle and my mentor content to simply let me grow at my own pace, though I can't say how long that pace actually was. Once I was old enough to understand, he took me to view the pillars. I only barely comprehended what he had to tell me, at first. Or maybe I always understood. The pillars showed history. Days of dinosaurs, and of knights, and of automatons. Glaring sunlight and singing winds. Black omens and luminary heroes.

I loved it. It took time to interpret them at first, but I learned. Eventually, the pillars could show me everything, though any time I attempted to move closer, to move through the pillars and experience these places for myself, something stopped me, would always stop me. Not yet, they seemed to whisper. Not now. Wait for the epoch.

There was only one point in time that I could not see fully, only glimpsing the corners of it. A burning castle. Colorful soldiers, metal-clad knights, the colors of kingdoms stained bloody crimson and firey orange. A drake overcome by a lion. A viper ascending to glory. And heroes fallen to a fate they couldn't forsee. But these glimpses are all the pillars would allow me. I was never allowed to clearly see it. The pillars would not, have never, will never allow it. I don't know why.

Once I had become a young woman, my uncle bade me farewell. Had he ever been here? No, he's always here. But not anymore. He left me his hat and coat, and told me I knew what I needed to know to take his place. It was time for him to rest. He stepped into the void and became a part of it. He never existed, and is always watching over me from the swirls of light and sound beyond. My mentor has stayed, though he has gone very quiet. He says that he must save his strength, that he has a role yet to play, though he's already played it. He helped me with my uncle's things, using his arts to make them fit me. Or maybe they always did.

And so I waited alone. I kept a journal for a while, a long while, or maybe a short while, before giving up on it. There was nothing to document. The pillars were going dark. I didn't know what was happening. My home was unmaking itself. Perhaps more than just my home.

Then, an event I could not have seen, did not see, happened. A brilliant flash of light, and an all-encompassing sound as a strange, hammer-headed thing crashed into my house. I had been viewing the last of the pillars when it happened. Destiny at work; if I had been home, I would be dead.

When I went to investigate, I saw three figures standing within the half-destroyed building, people I did not know, though I knew I would know them well. A green-haired woman clad in armor, an enormous sword across her back. A blue-haired young man, with a pair of guns holstered at his hips. And a cloaked woman with a wolf's face, and the ancient arts brimming at her fingertips.

They fretted over their thing, golden and bronze, with a space for people to sit, perhaps pilot it.

"Will it work again?" the wolf-faced woman asked.

"I think so," the blue-haired man said. "No major damage. Whoever built this built it to survive some serious collisions. The problem is that the power source is dying. It got us here and shut off. It needs to recharge."

"Fix it," the green-haired woman said tersely. "We don't have time to mess around."

I cleared my throat as I stepped forward. "In this place," I said, "time is all there is. Or perhaps there is none. What will happen, has yet to happen, and has already happened, all at once."

They wheeled around, drawing weapons and readying spells, but I walked past them calmly, brushing fingers over the thing they had arrived in. This was what I was waiting for. I could leave now.

My fingertips drew slowly over the words emblazoned on the front of the thing. Neo-Epoch.

As I touched it, I felt an echo, a resonance inside the thing. The timeship. Its power source was dead, but I could revive it. It was the same as I was. Born in a place where time was everything and nothing. The combined creation of powerful beings. And a necessary facet to stop the break. It sang this knowledge to me as I felt my essence bolster it, and the thing - Neo-Epoch - flickered back to life, lights and sound emerging from within.

I turned back to the three, who were watching me warily, and smiled, removing the dark bowler hat from my head to let long orange hair spill around my shoulders. I bowed before them.

"I am Leene," I said. "Welcome to the End of Time."