The Promotion (Sequel WIP)

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Re: The Promotion (Sequel WIP)

Postby Berserker » Thu Jul 02, 2015 2:02 am

Oogh, it has been a while since the last update, hasn't it? Kinda starting to wonder if I'll ever get to the end of this but ah well, it's fun to add bit by bit. So, in an effort to spoil those of you who still read this, I have an about 22-page update to throw. However, I do hope to write more concrete pieces of the duo in order to keep them as current as everybody else.

Go on! Feast!

Flees

----Willowy ribbons and wisps flitted through the dry air, forming miniature canopies and gazebos of intricately-worked spellcraft. Their forms seemed to wane in complacence, meticulously weaving themselves, coordinating which was the thread and which the needle, into all manner of patterns—not so much a goad for attention as a simple exclamation of their temporary being. Fortunate that was so, for Tali paid it no mind at all.

She had seen magic at work a million more times than was necessary to know that it lived, breathed, and reveled in its fleeting moments.

“After this, you know what we should do?”

“We already have plans, if you recall,” Tali murmured dryly.

“Wait wait. You know what we should do? We should take a break. You know—“

“Relax for a ‘spell’, I get it.” The demure leopardess took in a sigh, turquoise eyes lifting to the top rim of their sockets in relent of her current work. She brought her hands down by her sides, filling her lungs with- the incense-filled air that smelled of mint and pine, as it always did.

Those bookshelves were in need of a good dusting too, Tali thought. They lined every wall of the circular structure—practically comprising the walls themselves with how deep-set most of them were. They stretched like towers toward the triple-storied sky, with a stepladder propped on every quartered section of the library, though the leopardess often mused at how little she used them.

The lavished chandelier above her and its silver brilliance glistened like an overhead moon in the dim, warm light of the Magus Library. It was comforting and inviting. It reminded her of what she’d be missing out on—and what sanity she would have kept—if she’d just stayed at home.

“A poor spot to be making jokes,” Sven offered.

“Yes, yes, I understand and have made the due apologies worthy of the situation. I can’t fix it any faster with all this… delay. So please, allow me to prepare.” Tom hovered near and far, bobbing through the air as if fastened to some invisible current. After a small time spent flitting from one corner of the Loom to the next followed by a sojourn to the reagent wing, he returned with a small satchel clutched between his pages. Tali appeared quizzical at first, but then her features softened pleasurably.

“Found what you’re looking for?” Sven squeaked. The velvet bag was dumped onto the table with little ceremony, its floating captor returning to Tali’s shoulder. Sven padded forward and dared to give it a brief poke. “…What is it.”

“Funny you should ask. Tali and my combined efforts may be sufficient to channel powerful magic, but without an arcane conductor I doubt we could so much as defibrillate its pulse. So…”

“…! You’re entrusting my life to some dust in a pouch?!” It could be argued that Sven was less than pleased.

“Please, Sven,” Tali soothed. “I know you don’t believe in manmade magic, but it’s the safest thing we can do. Just have some faith, okay?” Her gentle gaze was a tribulation in and of itself to overcome.

“Faith? It’s not faith that’s the problem, it’s…” not confidence in you, not confidence in you… hell and a half, there was no way to say he had trouble feeling secure without implying he didn’t trust her. And it wasn’t her that she didn’t trust. “It’s nothing. I’d never have this be my last few moments, so keep what work you must do delicate. Um…” Sven’s half-inch figure steepled its fingers sheepishly as the mouse looked off to the side, “Please.”

“Fair warning, I’m no surgeon.” The leopardess quickly backtracked. “Lucky for you this isn’t a doctor’s operation, it’s a mage’s. And what better mage do you know?” She squeezed out a nervous laugh.

Sven crossed his arms, stuffed to his brim with reluctance. The table before him was a mess of glossed papers and the fresh scent of first-opened tomes. But Tali’s right, he admitted. If she has faith then I guess I do too.

“You could have said nothing and I might have felt a little safer,” Sven squeaked. “But I trust you.”

Agh, she could barely handle it when he said things like that, and while so small. So vulnerable…

Shyly her arm did snake forth toward the diminutive mouse, soft and thin fingers curling as if ready to grasp. Her massive hand opened, halted, then opened again. Picking him up proved too distressing—she didn’t want to make him uncomfortable! Finally she settled with two quick and concise rubs of her fingerpad over his fuzzy head. His motionless response, devoid of uncertainty, was exactly what she needed to feel better.

“Just do me one favor, okay? Stay quiet and still. I’m… not sure if that counts as two favors,” she whispered blearily in an attempt at levity, drawing her arm back. “I promise nothing bad will happen, but I do need to focus as best I can.”

“I-I can do that.” The stutter was out of something quite far from fear.

“Sweet as a sonnet, you two are.” Tom’s single eye flashed, forcing the twine wrapping the pouch’s neck to unravel obediently, falling to a circled heap. The same force then hoisted the pouch sideways, allowing its vermillion grainy contents to pour onto the table, forming a perfect rune free of breaks in the linework. “Yes, think of us as your guinea pigs, not the other way around. If something goes wrong, we’ll be getting the brunt of it.”

Tali’s posture briefly buckled. “Does either party have to be nervous for you to be happy? Doesn’t matter who chokes first?”

What followed was the most sincere laugh she’d ever heard from a book. “What, because you and I can’t handle ourselves?” He telekinetically tossed the used-up reagent bag into a wastebin by the front counter.

“Snrrk.” She almost was able to stifle her own girlish giggle in return—almost. Things would be fine… she knew they would.

Fine then, Tali reasoned, no point in drawing this out.

Tali’s focus lashed back before her. The magic in the air intensified. It hummed and vibrated, power abounding—the very arcane fabrics of the immediate atmosphere twisted and churned with Tali’s violent concentration. Her eyes shut tight, blue wisps billowed between her lids, her toes scrunched and clutched the carpet, yanking it until its surface curled into miniature hills and valleys.

All she needed was a spark. A sign, a hint that the foundations of cordest were beginning to shatter beneath her efforts. Her quarry was resilient, however; she had expected as much coming in, but feeling it attempt to tug back and sabotage the disenchanting process that would unweave it was more than worrying—it was somewhat mortifying.

Cordest, wild magic, had a will of its own, as all magic did. It was just stronger than other magic, and Tali had no choice but to say smarter. What semblance of sentience did magic truly possess?

The leopardess let her eyes fall and darkness followed. The hems of her robes fluttered as if gusted by turbulence. Tali felt the tantalizing rush of power; the forces she tampered with knew might without bounds. She felt that rush familiar to all magi, yet she turned it down just as easily, locking her in a perfect state of equilibrium. The only limits to magic that existed were a mortal’s ability to channel them.

Not everybody was so aware of those limits. But then, nor did they have such broad, nearly nebulous depths to stretch their sorcerous muscles…

“Wonder what Ethro would have to say about us,” Tom droned against the convulsing pounds of magic simmering from within his closed pages. “Only a few years post-academic, and yet here we are, tackling cordest.”

“Now that’s a sobering thought.” It gave pause to remember that she suffered very few constraints when incanting, enchanting, and otherwise dabbling with all things arcane, where any number of peers would have long bent and broken, physically and mentally, to the force of will belonging to wild magic. In most cases not minutes after beginning to tamper with it.

That was sobering.

“I can say for sure they’d be proud,” Tali toted. “Assuming ‘minutes spent not blasted with flames’ is a measure of progress, care to give us a grade?”

Part of her missed her years under the iron fist of academia.

The book shifted, single eye rolling up and down the length of his spine devilishly. “What grades are supposedly good again? Just so I know what not to give you.”

“You always have to make something of it—ah!” Tali gritted her teeth and shot a knifelike glance into the empty space before her. “Really is an eye-opener when it pulls back! It’s like a game of tug-o-war, but I can’t even see what I’m supposed to be pulling and releasing, only feel.”

“You’re being toyed with,” Tom returned. “Cordest may be aware that you’re trying to destroy it, but it thinks that you can’t.”

Tali grunted admonishingly. “I’ve lasted this long, haven’t I?”

“Means little, I’m afraid. I willingly admit right now that I resonate pretty deeply with any other force in the world that views you with as much satire as I do. But don’t let that stop us halfway down the road; I await your cue.”

“Ooh, you’re gonna get a lot more than that,” Tali gnashed.

“Hmhm, I have heard that one before.” Letters on his spine alternated bright flashes. “You know, you lasting so long is actually rather fascinating.”

“Hey thanks,” Tali sputtered. “Your skills are consequentially insignificant too.”

“Don’t—ugh. I was kidding when I said it means little.” For once, Tom’s brutal honesty shone through in a way that Tali didn’t want to swat away like a fly. “I’ve always known you were some level of exceptional, and take it with a whole salt shaker when I say this, but I’m finding it difficult to compare you to anybody documented within me so far. Fifteen whole minutes of weathering wild magic—and at your age.”

The leopardess rocked her head thoughtfully. “Haven’t seen my professors in too long, huh? You’re starting to sound like them.” She raised her hands and clenched her fingers around the air, feeling ethereal reins fasten around them, and her eyes settled low. “I’m twenty-two, by the way.”

A furrowed brow betrayed her bitterness. Uncharacteristic, she knew, but it was hardly her fault that the school, like any, managed to bedrock their own good name beneath hundreds of attempts at staking even the most discrete amounts of her already-tight purse. That had only intensified after her rise to local fame, with Ethro clamoring for even a modicum of credit for the job they hadn’t done.

Tali had thanked them—publicly even—as a collective experience that had allowed her skills to flourish, but she knew better than to do more.

“Hey hey! I’ll not have you talking bad about Ethro. My place of hailing and the home of so, so much failure. I loved every second of it. I remember your classes in particular—whoof, what a bunch that was.”

“And I the miscreant among them? Give it a rest, they did fine. I’d rather be peers to the curious than the boring. Besides, you have at least one complaint with the place, Mr. Phone Attendant.” The spotted serpent that served as a tail coiled and flicked in repeated attempts to muster the edge of the table.

Tom performed the bookish equivalent of a shrug, an undulating of both his covers. “Ethro would be delighted to pry off the proceeds of your shows, it’s very true. I wish they would start using the Leybox a little more often, just so I could have the delight of burning their messages,” he hummed, memories lobbying just past his single glazed eye. “Never give a mouse a cookie. You know why? They’ll just eat part of it and leave the rest of it unfinished and gross. Truly a waste.”

“I don’t think that’s how the saying goes,” Sven chimed from his spot on the table.

“And wouldn’t you know?” Tom returned gleefully.

“Ahah, right,” came Tali’s voice, albeit slightly strained. “Ethro tries to suss donations from me whenever they can. But can you blame them?” Tali let her cobalt gaze drift to the side, struggling to retain focus. Keeping a conversation and channeling magic was markedly difficult. “One of their top students became a star practically overnight. On top of that they’re a specialty school that only teaches one thing; it’s a wonder there are as many enrollments as there are.”

Tom expressed something below satisfaction. “I hope you don’t expect to make me believe they make poor off teaching a subject like magic. Even if it’s ‘one thing,’ it’s one thing that’s covers such a broad variety of subjects and is so difficult to understand that it can take lifetimes for the likes of some minds. They have to easily—easily—be one of the highest grossing institutions the world over. And what next? Wave their prestigious flag high, so very high, and pretend that they aren’t all at once?” Oddly, his tone lost its judgment. He almost seemed impressed. “It’d shock me not at all.”

“Well, no. You’re right. But… to expect them to just stand, clap proudly and turn their backs to the success of a recent graduate is a smidgen ignorant.” She paused, and likely would have put her hand to her chin if she wasn’t preoccupied. “Especially when they’d nudge just about any of their other students for the same thing as long as it keeps their infrastructure healthy and hale. A bit plump, of course…”

“And all that comes full circle because I’m not done ribbing you about your talents,” Tom whistled in a way that Tali almost might pin to be eager. Intermittently, his single eye rolled. “…Unless you’ve been taking tutoring from a master while my cover was turned, I like to think that sustaining direct pressure from cordest for this long is fairly improbable.”

Sour concession.

Tom was right. Tali was, and had been since birth, what she could only describe as a vessel. Her body was like a living, fleshy conduit draped with fur, keen to the ethereal fabrics that curtained everything she could see and feel. Even as a child she could bear the weight of magical stress far better than any of her peers.

The leopardess loosed a breath, sucking the same air right back in. “Right. I’ll try to word what you’re talking about. You see, I feel magic when I use it. Most practitioners feel it in their fingers and in their heads as it travels through their psychic being, until it’s ready to be channeled. But for me, I can feel it anywhere—move it anywhere. It can flow in and out freely and I can… pretty much contain it.” Her brow furrowed meaningfully. “And I can contain a lot of it.”

“An ocean to everybody else’s pond?” He seemed distant, yet curious all the same. A wonder how he did that.

“I was empty when I started,” Tali muttered softly, yet steadfast. “But now, I feel like I can do anything.”

However, she never understood why she was so. Was it merely luck, or something more? Perhaps during her years as a kit, she felt the surge of something small, a spark--

Tali gasped. The pull of cordest ebbed.

“Forgive me for detouring, but I feel something!” Tom exclaimed.

“Same. Now!”

Tom sprung to life and split his pages. Seething with the accumulated arcane fibers of the entire chamber, Tali let the magic in the air abound between her hands. The invisible reins bobbed beneath her fingers as she released them. The bulbs above began to wane and flicker; the only luminance that remained was courtesy of quilted threads of spellwork flitting through the musky air.

Light amassed, dust was purged from their acute residences—then, eyes flashing open with smoky turquoise trails, Tali’s hands heaved forth in a mighty push, and all was let loose.

A barrage of blue bolts flooded from her sleeves and unleashed an assault. Every missile was a simultaneous manifestation of her will and show of arcane obedience that attacked every invisible atom of wild magic in a fit of rage. An invisible war began to wage between reality and the shadowy realms of the ether, explosions of light bringing lambency in brief bursts.

Every flash was not long for the inevitable return to darkness; Tali’s eyes repeatedly dilated and shrank before she mustered the presence of mind to fling her cape forth to shield her face. Ethereal crackles sailed through the air, wispy and hard to pin.

All of a sudden, the room transfigured; the floor and walls began to shift and angulate as if pulled by either side in opposing directions. Slanted mockeries of their original forms, they bent and twisted, taking on a dilated, muted texture whose raindrop shapes cascaded down and seeped into the floor like water.

“W-what the--?” Tali’s control waned briefly—

“Do not let it distract you!” the tome called from her shoulder. “F… th! D…’t” Further words were utterly lost as the air stifled and it took Tali the entirety of her willpower to keep herself from making a joke about Tom sounding about the same as normal. The leopardess instinctually scrunched her toes as the liquid magic began to thicken, pooling over the floor that was now flooded by twin inches of azure tar.

It felt like the world was becoming undone—sound, sight, touch, and everything else she could possibly understand, all melded into one hideous amalgam of grey senses. And worse, where she would normally feel magic seeping through her body, she now felt something creeping, slithering… something sinister.

“I… oh no.” Tali weighed everything; was it worth continuing? The reins between her fingers swayed and swung from her quarry in an attempt to dislodge her. The ethereal war never ceased; bolts of magic appeared from the shadows and catapulted into reality.

The fearful mage’s eyes followed this way and that. “N-not the shelves!”

Hither and thither her pupils darted like hummingbirds jailed in cyan cells. A cold blast whizzed just past her nose, illuminating the ridge of her golden muzzle for a brief second, a comet, a bringer of disaster however small. And as Tali eyed its trajectory—neverminding the several dozen others that would likely bring about the same fate—she dreaded.

Crunch

A very real explosion of wood and paper careened through the air amidst the impossible sounds that cordest taunted her with, and Tali looked on with horror. What little remaining of the room that had not melted into an eldritch mess was a single shelf layered into the wall—shattered beyond recognition, its only memoirs in the form of the books that lay splayed over the magical mire, its remains set alight in cognizant blue flame.

“S…” a stutter. Her eyes dilated to the size of dinner plates. Her mind refused to register everything, the melting, the dissonance, the raw will of chaos given sound and form—

Everything fell muted. And then, she realized with a tidal surge of terror’s waves, that cordest was inside of her.

“Stop it!” she screamed.

Her fingers clenched… and finally failed. The reins between her claws dislodged. It was an admittance of defeat.

In that very same second, everything ceased. The magical battle was lost; clutching its victory sweetly, cordest allowed the room’s dimensions to resume their normal states. The opposite of a flash occurred —a mere blink of reality’s eye and suddenly there was no moor, no arcane hail…

No chaos.

The leopardess opened her eyes again, not knowing they had been shut. All was normal save the bookshelf, which did not survive the assault. “Finally everything makes sense again,” Tali sputtered.

“You let go,” Tom huffed. With all due finality worthy of the moment, he shut his pages.

In response she practically fell forward, propping herself up despite her quaking knees with her open palms against the table. Simultaneously, the fluttering pages and remaining magical bolts, the wayward soldiers of the war lost, fell to the ground with flaps and thumps.

“I had no choice,” Tali swallowed fiercely, reveling in the prominence of her returned senses. “I… I can’t handle it any further than that. It felt like my mind would be crushed out of sheer extrasensory. And any undue damage to the Loom…” she looked on. The destroyed shelf was no mirage. “Maybe with some more practice, I could decipher what was real and what wasn’t. But this magic—it’s a predator.”

Tom hovered close and settled himself onto the table before him, splaying out with exhaustion down the center of his pages. “In the moment where you stopped responding to what I was telling you and started muttering to yourself, cordest was trying to shake you off.”

Tali eyed him incredulously. “What, by freaking me out?”

You sounded normal to me, she jabbed in her mind. Dang, that would have been sharp. Should’ve said that.

“That is exactly it,” Tom urged. “A frightened mage will not tamper with what she fears any more. It will bend your senses until you’ve given up—at least, that’s what my sources say. You felt cordest inside of you, insistent on allowing it to travel through your psyche like regular magic does. Never let that happen again, Tali.” His lettered spine glowed dimly, likely out of some expression of disappointment.

“What is that supposed to… you know I didn’t want that to happen to me!” Tali stamped a paw, noting duly that the ground was no longer wet. Oh, but lord did she enjoy the familiar chafe of carpet fibers between her toes, and she didn’t wonder for a second why.

Tom’s tone regained some degree of levity, but remained rather thoughtful. “Though it slipped through, you resist cordest well. Weakness of the mind is a disease endemic to magi, and yet…”

Tali hardly had an idea where he was going with it, so to her, the natural reaction was to ignore him. “Mental constitution. Another facet of myself I didn’t know I had,” she said dismissively. “They just keep popping up like weeds today, don’t they?”

“Oh, believe me I noticed. Under the helm but over the shoulders, that’s what you are.” If he had feet, Tali assumed he’d be tapping them. “Ugh… you were so close and yet you insisted on throwing it away!”

Ah, that’s what he meant. He seemed frustrated. How awful.

The feline bit her lip. “Tom, don’t be stupid. I can bear its weight, but I do have one thing most people don’t. That’s limitless space. And since when were you in a position to be upset?”

The feline let her lungs fill with the energized air. Then, exhale. Inhale. Exhale. It was easy. It always was, right? …Yeah, at least until you have to consciously make yourself.

...Hm. What satisfaction was there in leaving a blank answer? No, she had to address things directly. “You aren’t wrong, okay? I’ve noticed it myself. The fact that I’m different, capable of so many things… I’ve always known, but never known why.” Her turquoise eyes went aglow once more, resting upon her literary companion.

“Your modesty is simply adorable.” The book’s tonal wavecrests ushered in a gale of red flourishing across Tali’s cheeks, which he delighted in drinking in. “Listen, none of that changes the fact that you were a top percentage student, Tali. In fact it would be foolish to say they have nothing to do with each other. Maybe your professors saw in you what was unique. We are all different snowflakes, aren’t we? A pattern for every occasion on earth, as they say.”

Tali turned her head away from Tom until she felt the heat in her cheeks fade of their own accord. Then, steeling herself, she looked him dead in the eye. Spine. Combo thing. “Interesting proverb that you literally just made up, though I admit it has a clever ring to it. But while we’re off telling stories I assume we’re also going to go over things that I’m capable of that you don’t know about, or things that I am not capable of that you say you know about. Where to begin?”

Tom seemed to ponder several nothings, at least if Tali could give him the benefit of the doubt that he could think at all. “There could be a few gaps in my extremely official annex of your abilities, what with how often you prove it incomplete and how little I care. But if there are, would you really tell me?”

The leopardess was remarkably unoffended. “I would.” She tilted her head to think, locks of her golden hair flowing like gilded rivers down her shoulders. “I want you to visualize an ocean. An empty one—a dry basin. Now you start filling that basin up with water until it’s full. But then, even when it’s full, you keep going. The water floods the land around it, doesn’t it?” Tali shot a glare, brow furrowed, and at last took to the nearest chair with a gentle ease into the cushion.

“So cordest really is that dangerous to you.” He paused, single green eye staring, unblinking. “That… is what you’re talking about, isn’t it?”

A sigh and nod. “All I’m saying is you suddenly started treating me like I’m some kind of ridiculous prodigy, but facts are facts, cold and hard as they are. I do have a weakness: cordest can infinitely proliferate inside me. Without boundaries, it could keep doing whatever it wanted if I slipped up and let it in. That’s why I gave up.” She shuddered.

“I understand.” Tom shook himself and his letters fluttered with color. “I apologize for being so foolhardy. To think, I give you credit for that. It was wrong to assume so much when we know so little—” He paused, likely formulating words. “—And of all things, even I am in no place to be expecting you to mend mistakes you didn’t make.”

Tali nodded firmly. “Aww, well… you know you’re awfully sweet when you want to be.” At least, when he had humility. “I didn’t want that to happen. I’m not—”

“Not ready?” Tom took to the air once more and hovered contentedly behind Tali, prompting her to turn and face him. “Even given the failures of today, I think I’m happy enough with the results.”

Tali’s brow furrowed with full suspicion. “I heard not a scrap of contrition in those words of yours.”

“All I mean is that you haven’t changed a bit, not even since first we met. And that, my dear Tali, hardly has to be a bad thing. So cautious... yet you don’t half-heart a prospect once you’re in the middle of it. These are qualities I respect you for.”

“I-I—of course not,” Tali managed but not without the briefest of shy stammers. Compliments—why did they fluster her so? Maybe it was that they were so rare from Tom. “There would be no point in doing so. There is such a thing as wasted effort, and… oh I shouldn’t have to explain this to you, we’ve had our years at Ethro,” she said, tone softening to a squeak as she realized nobody was making it worse than herself.

“And yet here we are,” Tom said gleefully. At this point it was easy to tell he was in it for Tali’s reaction more than any breed of sincerity, though the latter still had spades of prevalence. “Aw. Are you reminiscing?”

“You—hey, come on, I’m n-not in the mood for this! We have work to do,” she backtracked. Her palms clasped the edge of the table like daggers in reverse grips. Her rear inched over the edge of the table as she took a gentle seat, golden paws now dangling over the carpeted forest with one thigh crossed nervously over the other. “To-do list, remember? Humoring nostalgia is hardly at the top!”

Tom noted Sven’s precarious position and, amused, floated an inch closer. “We could always admire the yearbook if you’re this far in denial. What’s the harm in going over your photos—especially the one with that awkward smile and the class robes that Hammel designed?”

Tali’s hands squeezed tight over the table’s rims, a raging blush painting her golden cheeks red. “Oh come on, who was supposed to think orange and pink would look like that?! I’m fine with some blues and purples, thank you very much… s-so none of that was up to me!””

Aversion tugged her further in a vain attempt at getting comfier, hardly caring that she was breaking her own rules of not sitting on the furniture. A shadowing pair of celestial bodies shaped by the width of Tali’s robes rolled closer toward the grey mouse. The leopardess whose size rivaled buildings stacked atop one another was less than aware of the happenstance posed by her tush as she shuffled cutely backward. Contrarily mindful was Sven, who was forced to take steps backward that had no hope of covering the same distance as the room-sized hips that bore down closer and closer until...

Squeak!

Tali went utterly mum at the… oh, what would she call it—the ‘smoosh’ she felt beneath her. And redder than half of Christmas was the poor leopardess. “Oh my gosh. Um, um, why the hell was he—were you—”

“I think he forgives you,” Tom said.

****

“So you’re sure you’re fine? Any undue anything and I—”

“Positively spotless, I assure you.” A mouse’s word was worth no less even if smaller, though a fretting Tali had trouble believing as much either way. The colossal cat’s eyes glowed dimly from over the ridge of her short muzzle, a dizzying height that slightly blurred with the distance set between it and the diminutive mouse, even from a table’s vantage. “That barrier spell is still lingering.”

“I… meant the disenchanting,” Tali murmured, voice growing softer with every word. Biting her lip nervously, she swung her hood right back up to obfuscate all but the most forward glance of her face.

“R-right, right,” Sven said, mildly incredulous. Conversation was spaced with a gauche air. “If anything, I’d hope you didn’t take too poorly from it all. Though all this talk of your abilities has me fairly complacent,” Sven huffed, though attempted to disguise it with a bit of uptalking.

Tali nodded and did her absolute best to keep her cool. It was much more complicated than words could make it sound.

Patience and prudence, caution before cauterization. The latter was a favorite set of words taught to her by a private tutor from many years past, made in good fun to the former, which were those of Ethro and words to live by. Strange, she thought, that she abided by them all less and less every day. Nothing made that more obvious than today—had a friend paid for it, she honestly wouldn’t know what to do. Maybe she could fare to cling to them a little tighter.

The feline raised a hand to think—and oh lord what a miracle it was that she could do that now. No more distractions… though the stress from the antics of ten minutes prior remained. Her violet sleeve slipped down to her elbow, revealing a lithe river of topaz garnished with coal. Her fur rippled against the soft indoor breeze as she tapped her chin, deeply engrossed in yet another book.

“Eighteen years, two-hundred-twenty-three months, and uncountable cycles of the celestial bodies.” Tali let her fingers peruse the dusty tome pervaded with vestigial medicines and antidotes, all things she would never need, tracing a path for her eyes. “And yet through that much time spent studying the subject, you’d think one would know all there is to know about it.”

And like her fingers did her eyes fling from end to end, sentence to sentence, spurring the gears in her brain. Part of her wished the words used were a bit more… fanciful. Less trite. More imaginative? With stress and confusion came to the leopardess a need to look at things; to read, specifically, often while standing. It never mattered just what she happened to pick up, either.

She’d learned a plethora of things this way; many of them useless. Garden gnomes don’t properly plant themselves, after all. But it certainly did help when they tried to paint a picture.

“Nobody has, nobody ever will,” Sven scoffed. An air of pessimism wafted a stink clear over his shoulders. “It is simply the way things are. Par for the course is the adopting of whatever comes to you, not the other way around. But I suppose that’s why you’re the famous one and I’m the one cursed by a coloring book.”

“Don’t let me butt in, butt more of your sort could do well to adopt the Tali adjustment, at least if the alternative is that. It’s just ass-inine. So these arse your friends, Tali? I can’t say I’m impressed.”

A claw traced the latticework of letters that stretched the length of three paragraphs, curling up as it grazed the final segment which, she noted, involved a treatment to burns using magical residue scooped from the ground after spellcraft, simmered in a pan, and spiced over bread. “Can the jokes. And also, friendly reminder that I don’t need your opinion as to my friends,” Tali said whilst burying her head deeper into the book.

“Gracious me. Mages are just the rudest, aren’t they?”

“Shush, this is a library.” Yes, yes, curative toadstools that only worked if a toad actually sat on their caps—now that was enough nonsense for two people. Still, she had to get back to the matter at hand at some time or another. She snapped the book shut in her palm, swinging the same arm down like a limp noodle, and took to genuine thought. “Okay… I think it’s time we prioritized sorting out our itinerary over prattle, with the first addendum being that the disenchanting process was a failure. In a sense.”

Tom wriggled at her side, once again fastened to her waist but not locked shut—for now. He seemed content to move on. “In a sense? Madame, I fail to see how we succeeded in any way. Not that it could have been avoided…”

Tali wagged a finger. “It was a learning experience. That counts just as much as any tried-and-true ace. Plus if I got it right the first time, I wouldn’t really know how to do it again. Though there are some things I would have liked to know before starting. Tom.”

“Heh. I, er, helped as much I could…”

“Right. So since it didn’t end up working, we’ll have to fall back on that plan of yours. I’m um… let me think.” Tali seemed to break away from the topic, eyes sliding from one side to the other. What was reflected in their cyan shells consisted of toppled tomes, tipped tables, dust-rimed shelves and… that dilapidated pile of wood and soot that was once one of the latter. What an eyesore.

Plumes of beryl smoke billowed from her eyes as she cast a prompt spell, irises flashing a single color. A contained, cleansing flame of equal color burst to life over the wreckage, consuming it in seconds. Only empty space remained, free of ash or burn marks—as if the magical fire had devoured those just as greedily.

It did for now. She would have to check the Loom’s annals and replace the books already lost, however. Magic couldn’t save those without a to-the-letter knowledge of their contents… and she had far from that kind of confidence.

She snapped back briefly. “We have to keep track of time. This adventure beneath Ethro can’t wait until tomorrow; my normal duties have since multiplied, I’m sure you remember. The letter from school, then my upcoming show—not that I’d miss a day tending to the Loom, either.”

“You too… that’s right,” Sven thought aloud. Far was it from him to turn down a demand, especially not from Ethro; he too had gotten the letter. He would admit it right then and there if anyone were to listen that he bent easily, even to unprecedented requests such as that one.

The leopardess turned quiet again, as she was wont to do mid-thought. Her none-too-threatening frame straightened to its full, somewhat tall height in a remarkably contagious stretch in all directions before returning to modesty, rendering her a cordial shape.

The violet robes she wore suited her well; the charming interlocking of many fabrics was a velvet mix that bore an equally opposite ratio of spots to her fur, clearly a treasure cherished by the kitty ever since acquisition. They described her to a T: well-kept, orderly, and free of excess.

Better, her fine garb accentuated the contours of her figure, draping loosely about her and stopping just at her ankles. Every sashay of her gentle hips as she rocked in deep thought, the rhythmic flick of her tail in tune to a song Sven could only imagine, the soft rumbling purr of her breathing going in, out, in, out. It all had a calming quality he couldn’t hope to describe. Tying it all together was the simple fact that her comparative size amplified such rosy elegance in every possible way—and that was without mentioning her far superior traits of intelligence and charm, especially when she was worried or nervous…

Natali DeCoryza, ever the light in a world marred by itself, and for that he’d always been trace amounts of envious. Her once-meek figure was worth several dozens of his fragile rodent self at such a size, if only he were so grossly incandescent. Alas, such thoughts were mere folly, as they always had been; there was little time for admiration in this busy world, and less in his for relationships.

However, Sven could feel the palpable silence and decided against letting it continue. “Thinking?”

“Yeah. This place is a mess,” Tali finished with the slowness of thought spacing out her words. “Gah… today’s been one hell of a day. We’re not even close to done with any of it, b-but… but we’ve gotta take it one step at a time, yeah, that’s what we have to do. It’s the only way to get to the end of this nonsense. Lord… Sven, I am sorry beyond words that you were dragged into this.”

“Think nothing of it,” Sven said with a courteous bow. “I’d be angry if it was anything other than an accident.”

A soft smile radiated across Tali’s soft features. “I’ll think as much of it as I please. Proper rest will be a foreign entity until you’re back to normal.” The leopardess composed herself remarkably quick. “The next step is, of course, to clean up after ourselves.”

“Nooooooooo…” Tom whined lengthily, waving about like a baby rattle.

Tali rolled her eyes. “Oh stuff the complaints, Envelope. I promise I won’t give you the responsibility of putting anything where it belongs. I know that’s too much for you.”

No no, she thought. As librarian, this all fell to her either way. That wasn’t to say she didn’t enjoy some tidying up; an instantly gratifying process every step of the way, as it was.

“Oh really? You think as a book I don’t know how to sort myself?”

“You couldn’t fit yourself through a door without my help, let alone a shelf,” Tali remarked sharply. “You’re more than free to be my janitor for the day if you so please. Go on and toss the loose papers, would you? Scrape some gum under the tables, I dunno.”

“Oh, now that’s just acid in my paragraphs. But honestly, must we? It’s like you said—we have our agenda ahead of us.”

Tali rocked her head left to right. He wasn’t wrong, but… “We have time enough. I care about the Loom, Tom… I really do.” Her fluffy tail curled around her thigh like the shyest of serpents. “It’s like a second home to me. I won’t shirk my responsibilities when we’re already in the position to mop up after our mess.”

The leopardess let her tail flick hither and thither as she disengaged from conversation entirely, eyes finding their way in the space between the floor and her own two feet. She shut them; lips pursed in a brief incantation of whipping wind as intangible gales swirled around her flapping cloak. Tali let her head sway and found herself adrift in the quicksand of her own mind within moments, thoughts and shapes splotching the empty blackness of her closed eyelids.

Breathe in, out, in, out… filling and emptying her lungs with the magical air was oddly calming. But then—

Something clicked into place, and immediately her eyes sprung open as she found herself trying to swallow her heart back down, pounding all the way. Growing meant potentially putting her multiton, multimile self in the middle of an entire civilization that wasn’t built to house her; it meant lives on the line like cards on a table. It had never happened in that excess heretofore…

But couldn’t it at any time?

“Mmf.” Tali bit her lip amidst the slow breeze of spell-wind. It always had been a little scary… but, no, it was a silly fear! That’s why she had to do this at all. That was why she wanted to give it a try in public; to wring the fear like a towel and leave it to dry. Continuing to avoid it so much would simplify her into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and she’d be damned if she let that happen.

She’d been through seven songs and a dance to play them all. It wouldn’t hurt to push the envelope one more time today.

I can do this, Tali assured. She gripped that thought with a fist of iron and brass and envisioned the levy that held back her true size. She began the meticulous process; or what once was. She had grown so accustomed to growing and shrinking that becoming one end of the size spectrum was a snap, ingrained into muscle memory.

It was hitting a midpoint that she had trouble with. First time for everything, she supposed.

The gates in her mind inched open and her body shot up a foot in height with something close to that across. Another two feet and w-wait wait, not that fast, not that fast! Maybe she could stifle it with a bit of—oh hell above and heaven below…

The catwalks on the second and third floors blurred less with distance as the leopardess found she could make out every snail-sized engraving on the wooden infrastructure. That wasn’t good. Again, her eyes fell down—the growth slowed, stopped, then heaved up again in spurts and oh, no, no, no, that wasn’t right!

Ugh, leave it to her magic to act up at just the wrong time.

Wait, she got a grasp! Okay, medial, middle of the way, ambivalence, intermediary… wait, this was good. She wasn’t bumping up against the second floor. Yes, yes… no, no no! Wait, yes! Yes! No! Augh… hold on, yes again! Stay that way, stay that way you unwieldy behemoth! And at last her wobbling girth settled to a reasonable pace of upward motion, just quick enough for her ears to graze the next few slots of missing books.

Unsteady paws dug deep into the carpets, tearing out sections of blue flooring with the scrunching of her thick, curling digits, each already the size of chairs. The thick, billowing tail swishing behind her summoned gales that threatened to uproot whole desks at a time; her thighs kept her steady in a permanent semi-crouch that made absolutely certain that she would never rise to the fullness of her height, as were she to relent, her ears would poke just over the catwalks stretching from section to section of the second story.

Phew, just a couple pawprints and pieces of fabric. No damage that couldn’t be undone. All outcomes considered by the feline as she rocked her head from left to right, it was almost…would it be taboo to say exciting?

No. Nonsense. Prattle. Breaking the mold was always a little bit fun, but… only in moderation! She had to focus if she wanted it to stay moderated, after all, which was why—oh for the love of the lord. She looked down toward the ever rising distance between her and her own paws; another four feet had passed during the course of her thoughts.

“Wait, Tom? Sven? Where’d you go?” Tali asked. Oogh, she could really use that moral support.

Moments of silence went by. Wait no, not silence—there was a muffling behind the nearest bookshelf. “Nope, no gum on this table. Sven doesn’t see anything either.” Tali heard the clattering of pages and leather, then the backwards metal grate of a chair being scooted out of place. Oh whatever, Tali thought. It’s not like you can’t just float under there. “Nuh-uh. Nothing here. Goodness, your patrons are quite the polite bunch!”

“Smartass.” She huffed. Another few feet—goodness, she needed to start putting those away! Leaning down like the craning of a building with one arm held to her chest, the enormous leopardess scooped up an array of wayward tomes from the table, then rose again. “Just make sure not to hurt the mouse.”

Tali hummed with a sweep of her eyes over the ever-dwindling pillar of knowledge. There were many empty spots dotting the otherwise immaculate aurora of book spines tucked neatly away, all of them courtesy of her. Thankfully this batch seemed more or less in order for this section of the library, with several volumes of “Arcane Etiquette and You” cradled neatly in her arms, ranging from “Volume I: How to Appease Your Spells” all the way to “Volume IX: Incantations are the way to Wincantation”.

“Found anything?” Tali asked dryly, her booming voice sending a single wave rattling the tome-lined walls. Wooden jostles created a brief cacophony. Oops. Better keep that in check. “Erp… I dunno about this.”

“You wanted to do this and you will see your silly fear through to the bitter end. Don’t you dare give up on me, young lady!” Argh, she almost wished she could peg that one stupid eye of his just so she’d have something to look at; at least that would make her feel better. Now there weren’t any books her size to read. That was the real problem.

“I did say that,” Tali lamented, remembering not to raise her voice. Oogh, her poor stomach…

…But wait, how tall was she? Two, four, six, eight… over twelve rows of books tall. And she was doing fine! No awkward spurts, no chaos, no nothing. Tali’s heart rose as she eyed her dwindled surroundings. Tables, chairs, the main counter… she could see them all!

“W-wait a second… Tom, Tom! Guess what? I did it anyway, Tom—I grew a little in public!” It took all of her composure and a mental reminder that her voice carried weight to prevent a squeal of pride.

“So you did! I suppose that does mark an unprecedented success where the rest of today was oh so difficult,” Tom called from the other end of the Loom. “Now, next time you want to try it when there are people around?”

Tali’s legs buckled, one hand gripping her other wrist tightly. “Oh… there’s nobody here but us?” She sighed, giving a good sweep of her robes. There went some of the legitimacy of the whole process. “That’s, um… an excellent idea.”----
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Re: The Promotion (Sequel WIP)

Postby gadabout » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:54 pm

Puns, puns and praising of the sun, you sir have just won in my book >:I

Lets hope her coming out her coming out party isnt too chaotic now, this was a good bit of character development and Id like to see more I say >:I
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Re: The Promotion (Sequel WIP)

Postby Berserker » Sat Jul 11, 2015 4:44 pm

gadabout wrote:Puns, puns and praising of the sun, you sir have just won in my book >:I

Lets hope her coming out her coming out party isnt too chaotic now, this was a good bit of character development and Id like to see more I say >:I


Hah. I was wondering if anybody would notice my not-so-subtle slip in of Soulsyness, buried deep within the darkest cockles of Sven's monologue.

As for Tali, she'll be fine! When she musters the bravery to try growing in public again, yes. The leopardess at least tests her limits cautiously and makes sure she's in as complete of control as she can be at all times, so I'm certain she'll get over her fear one day. Thanks for reading, Gad, and I'm glad you enjoyed!
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Re: The Promotion (Sequel WIP)

Postby TendoTwo » Wed Sep 23, 2015 10:49 am

It is great to see some more backstory about Tali and Tom, especially about the nature of how magic works with her and the particular way she is "gifted" about it.

Having her be tempted to but resist the urge to grab Sven was adorable!

Though to be honest, while I am glad to see Tali and Tom discussing such things, it felt a bit taken out of the story considering WHEN they were discussing it exactly. Considering how dangerious what they were attempting is, especially with Tom mentioning that it's surprising she didn't burst into flames in mere seconds after starting it, I am surprised they were both talking so casually about so many subjects during the whole thing. I would have assumed they would have needed to concentrate, not sling verbal jabs at each other. Though the other thing that surprised me was how quiet Sven was throughout this whole thing, I know I mentioned that last chapter. I think that while Tali and Tom are the main characters of the story, you might be focusing a little bit too much on just them. Considering that Sven is the one who is currently under the influence of a shrink spell that they have no idea how to break, he was pretty quiet during the entire ordeal while Tali and Tom was talking back and fourth.

Speaking of which: :lol: :lol: :lol:

I certainly wasn't expecting that to happen. I was thinking just where is Sven and why wasn't he saying anything ever the whole attempt failed, especially when Tali sat down on the table I could have sworn he was on. I didn't take Tom as the kind of person (kind of book?) who would have tricked her into sitting on poor Sven when he was the opportunity came up.

..... also wasn't expecting Tom to let loose that hurricane of puns a short while later. Nice subtle reference to the "burn" by the way :wink:
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Re: The Promotion (Sequel WIP)

Postby Berserker » Sun Oct 04, 2015 11:45 pm

@Tendo Oof, sorry I missed this! Haven't been exactly a regular on the site for some time. The critique is greatly appreciated and I'm happy you enjoyed it in spite of the ones you had to present.

Aye, the real goal of this chapter was to explore Tali's particular talents as up until now, it's simply given that she's "really really good" and supported by back-and-forth encouragement by Tom. I thought that was worthy of further clarity in addition to her fairly regular demonstrations. As for the whole disenchanting process seeming a bit undersold, I can see what you mean. I wanted to get across the strain while also making it known that Tali was handling herself surprisingly well and could for the most part manage a conversation at the same time. At least, until the cordest began to infect and overwhelm her mind. I think I could have toned some of it down though to keep it concise.

With Sven... yeah, I have to completely agree, but I do have an excuse! It was getting a little too long as it was, and so my ultimate decision was to have his side of things shed more light upon next chapter. That being said, Tali requested that he stay still and quiet while the process was happening, just to assure that he of all people would remain safe. I think I've found the solution though; slide the dialogue and descriptions back a bit, and split the spotlight a little more evenly.

Haha and I'm glad you enjoyed the cuteness littered throughout! Tom's a mischievous mind, almost to a fault. If that mouse is seconds away from being sat on and it won't actually harm him, hell yeah he's gonna give that push. As for the burn, it was unintentional at first but then I realized how fitting it was. Glad you caught it. |3
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Re: The Promotion (Sequel WIP)

Postby TendoTwo » Tue Oct 06, 2015 7:17 am

No need to apologize, I understand that this board has been (sadly) kinda.... vacant lately. And it's not as if I didn't take my time until I finally got around to reading it either.
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