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Retroversion Dissolution

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You are the SEER OF VOID and you are COMPLETELY ASLEEP.

This is an issue TWOFOLD, but you DON’T KNOW THAT. When you FELL ASLEEP on your planet, you thought that your DREAMS were meaningless WARP AND WOOF. You knew COLOR. You knew SOUND. You never gave it MUCH THOUGHT. You certainly never TALKED ABOUT IT with your MOTHER. You never talked about ANYTHING with her, REALLY. You used to think EVERYBODY had dreams LIKE YOURS.

But then the HEIR told you about THE GOLDEN MOON, and you and your best friend the BARD spent a long time talking about what your dreams COULD MEAN. Even though you BOTH were having dreams that were OF SLEEP, neither of you knew it. And there was NO WAY you knew what was really THE SOURCE of your NIGHTMARES.

You never told ANYONE about those nightmares, because they NEVER MADE SENSE to you. All you HEARD was RAGE; all you SAW was BLACK. There were A LOT OF NIGHTS where you stayed up until SUNRISE because of those nightmares. The BARD was usually awake to TALK YOU DOWN from your PANIC ATTACKS. It’s really NO WONDER why you HAVE A CRUSH.

You are ASLEEP TWOFOLD right now, but ONLY JUST. You SHOULD be having a NIGHTMARE, but you AREN’T. You’re seeing BLACK, but it’s got a DIFFERENT color in it. You DON’T hear anything.

But that’s because there are hands over the ears of your dreamself’s body.

Now WAKE UP.

—searching...—
—DERSE INFORMATION SYNCHRONIZING...—

She wakes with a shadow over her. Even a Derse body takes waking slow, and she barely notices the shadow for it. Only when she curls her fingers and realizes that she’s not on the couch in her house does she react to the shadow. She looks up and stares, and her eyes widen as the seconds pass.

The woman from before stands at her bedside. Her hood is down and her smile is massive. It borders on a wild grin. In a body that she’s never felt before, in a room she’s never seen, she has no idea how to respond to those gleaming fangs. She sits up slowly and keeps her head down. The woman continues to smile.

Very suddenly, the woman skips backward through the room. She lands lightly on the sill of the open window and reaches out one hand to grasp the frame. The fingers of the other hand she crooks toward her. There is no push at her mind, but she stands up regardless. When the woman leaps from the window and falls into the black outside, she abandons pretense and bolts from her bed.

She looks out to find a fairytale kingdom, painted rich violet over black velvet. Tiny black spots move on the streets far below, and she can see a tower in the distance. She isn’t sure she can breathe. Slowly, she leans out further. The woman is nowhere to be seen below. There isn’t even a splatter on the ground.

A hand touches her ear. She turns, and the woman is hanging on the wall beside the window with the knife from her wrist gauntlet stabbed in the stone. Still grinning, the woman pulls her arm away from the wall. She reaches out, terrified that the woman will plummet. Instead, the woman hovers in the air, feet still braced on the wall. She taps her fingertips against those of the hand reached out to her and lets out a quiet chuckle. Her thin black lips part, and she speaks.

She s∞¤ⱴ₪‡-//

—FATAL READ ERROR—
—DESYNCHRONZING—

Amie hit the floor face first. Coughing, hands scrabbling at the carpet, she pushed herself up. She nearly fell back over in whipping one hand up to catch the drops of blood falling from her nose. Wobbling on still drowsy legs, she stood, went into the kitchen, and held her head over the sink. The blood made small, tinny plips against the bottom with each drop, and she sighed. With her clean hand, she turned on the water. The blood sluiced away, traveling from the deep crimson centers to long tails of fading pink. When she held her blood covered hand under the flow, it darkened the sink once again.

A minute passed, and then another. She pinched her nose carefully, flicking her wet hand when the blood was gone. As the water and the blood washed away, she stared at the drain. No matter how hard she tried, she could not recall the woman’s voice. All she could think of was the dark purple of the planet she had woken on, of the tower she had slept in. With her nose still bleeding, she could not move to look out a window toward Skaia.

It took six more minutes before her nose finally stopped bleeding, and she grabbed a clean towel as she left the kitchen. Though her first thought was to go sky-gazing, she paused halfway through the living room. Almost jogging, she hurried to her bedroom and woke her computer. The sight of all the offline messages she’d received made her smile, but a glance at the chumroll showed that no one was online to follow up on those messages.

A name in the trollslum was alight, however. Brows knitting, Amie stared at the anlaceAgent handle. She chewed on her lip a moment. Still biting her lip, she clicked over to the message Vita had left to copy down the captchalogue code there writ. Taking that, she ventured into the basement to fetch a pair of safety glasses. With her phone still in her sylladex, she went up the stairs to the designix, totem lathe, and alchemiter in quick succession. All the items’ cards were punched through, and she cobbled together the Savvy Carver Com-set. She set it on her face; tentatively, she opened Pesterchum with taps of her fingers in the air and began a message.

aspiringCarver [AC] began pestering anlaceAgent [AA]

AC: um
AC: hello?
AC: dev?

AA: What.
AA: What in the fuck?

AC: oh wow
AC: i didn’t think it’d work
AC: this is kinda cool

AA: Why the hell did you call me that?
AC: that’s what your
AC: your uh
AC: moirail...?
AC: did i get it right this time?
AC: anyway CA called you dev
AC: that’s your name right?

AA: My name is Devaki.
AC: oh
AC: sorry
AC: d’you want me to call you that?

AA: What in the grub-fucking hell are you doing messaging me?
AA: I would have thought you’d have told me to fuck right off if I contacted you again.

AC: i’m saying thank you
AA: ...
AA: I beg your pardon?

AC: you were nice to me before
AC: you calmed me down when I was pissed at hugh
AC: remember?

AA: No.
AC: ...huh?
AC: but
AC: no you did
AC: you told me to talk to my friend ‘cause i wasn’t listening to you
AC: i was starting to freak out and you helped me
AC: like not even five hours i think

AA: ...
AA: What?

AC: oh come on!
AC: i’m trying to thank you for being nice and you’re just gonna act like you didn’t do anything?

AA: I
AA: Listen.
AA: These fucking non-linear time games the other assholes are playing, I don’t want to play.
AA: Azriel’s the only one who really gets them, but he’s not here to explain them to me.
AA: I’m trolling you in fucking order.

AC: order?
AC: hey wait
AC: you asked me last time WHEN it was for me that we were talking
AC: what does that mean?

AA: ...
AA: Nothing.
AA: Never mind. You’re welcome for this being nice shit.
AA: What did you want?

AC: um
AC: so
AC: you’re playing the same game as us right?
AC: all my friends aren’t online right now and something weird just happened
AC: i was
AC: um
AC: i was kinda hoping you might be able to explain it

AA: Seriously, what in the fuck.
AA: You come to me first?
AA: Not your sprite? Not waiting for your teammates to get back online?

AC: well
AC: i dunno
AC: my sprite doesn’t talk to me much and we don’t really get along
AC: he’s like my mom
AC: you seem to know a lot about the game
AC: and since you were nice before i thought you would explain it

AA: ...
AC: please?
AA: Ugh.
AA: I just
AA: I
AA: Oh, fuck it. Fine.
AA: What is it?

AC: okay so
AC: hugh said something about this planet he has a body on when he goes to sleep
AC: i didn’t believe him before but i just woke up on there too
AC: but it’s not like how he described it

AA: What does it look like?
AC: really REALLY purple
AC: and there was just this
AC: well this amazing world like out of a fantasy book with towers and a city
AC: and the sky was so black i couldn’t see anything but the planet

AA: ...
AA: You woke up on Derse. On its moon.
AA: You’ve described the planet Derse, furthest from Skaia and past the Veil.

AC: oh
AC: oh wow
AC: then who was the person there with me?

AA: One of your teammates.
AC: no no!
AC: it was a woman i’ve seen before
AC: she has these horns and fangs and gray skin

AA: She what?
AC: oh and she has glasses and these dark purple eyes
AC: she’s
AC: um
AC: god i don’t know
AC: but she was really smiling
AC: and it looked like she could fly

AA: What.
AA: You
AA: Her horns.
AA: What did her horns look like?

AC: ...
AC: wait that was dumb
AC: you can’t see me do that with my hands
AC: one was a little bit curved
AC: and the other one had a hook at the end

AA: ...
AA: What the fuck.

AC: do you know who she is?
AA: No.
AA: No I fucking do not know who she is.
AA: If she’s not one of your teammates
AA: She’s
AA: She must be a Dersite.

AC: oh
AC: um
AC: okay
AC: she kinda threw me off the roof of my house the first time i met her
AC: but it was like she was helping me
AC: do you think i should be careful around her?

AA: ...
AA: ...

AC: hey
AC: devaki are you okay?

AA: Don’t fucking ask me that. I’m always fucking okay. Fuck’s sake, you damn pansy.
AC: okay okay
AC: calm down i was just a little worried

AA: Don’t fucking worry about me.
AA: Ever.
AA: EVER.
AA: Dammit
AA: I don’t need you to fucking worry about me
AA: Don’t need anyone to
AA: just
AA: just fucking DON’T

AC: devaki jesus!
AC: calm down!
AC: i didn’t mean to make you mad!

AA: STOP IT
AC: no
AC: hey no!
AC: calm the hell down you friggin’ spaz!
AC: i just came to thank you for being nice and ask you for help!
AC: i didn’t mean to make you freak out and you shouldn’t be!
AC: please calm down!

AA: ...
AC: c’mon just breathe okay?
AA: ...
AA: what
AA: You
AA: What just

AC: are you doing okay now?
AA: ...
AA: Yes.
AA: Yes I am.

AC: okay good
AC: cool :)
AC: so um
AC: should i be careful around her?

AA: I usually would tell you to be careful around everyone
AA: But I don’t think she’s there to hurt you.
AA: You should explore your world.

AC: huh?
AA: There’s always something to learn on your planet.
AA: About your purpose, your consorts, and your skills as a
AA: What the fuck are you, anyway?

AC: seer of void
AA: Hmm.
AA: Go see if you can learn about your lore and what you’re supposed to be doing on the planet.

AC: okay
AC: that actually sounds kinda fun
AC: i’m gonna go

AA: Wait a minute.
AC: what?
AA: Why are you acting like this?
AC: like what?
AA: Like you don’t hate me.
AC: huh?
AC: hey yeah you were a jerk before
AC: but why would i hate you?
AC: i’m not really good at hating people even though i get mad at them a lot
AC: and i don’t think you’re trying to piss me off as much as you want me to think
AC: you big baby

AA: ...
AA: Fuck you.
AA: Go fuck around on your shitty snowy planet.

AC: ha ha!
AC: okay
AC: is it okay if i pester you if i need help?

AA: ...
AA: Fine.
AA: Go.

AC: okay
AC: later

aspiringCarver [AC] ceased pestering anlaceAgent [AA]

She shifted the Com-set down, itching behind one ear at the sensation of weighted nothingness. Returning to the first floor, she slipped on her shoes and went outside. While her alchemized outfits cut down on the cold, she frowned at the biting wind on the back of her neck. Rocking back and forth on her feet, putting her hands on her neck, she looked around at all the nothing in what had once been her front yard.

“Tim?” she said aloud. “Timsprite?”

“Yes?”

She yelped, jerking back half a step. The sprite hovered before her, arms folded behind his back. “Do you have to do that every time I call you?”

“Did you have to name me ‘Tim?’”

Amie frowned at him. “Are you going to ask me that every single time we talk? Because it’s already super old.”

“I’m only saying it’s not the most unique of names.”

“Holy crap, please drop it.”

He shrugged. “All right. What did you need?”

“What’s my purpose here? Here on Losac, I mean.”

“As the Seer of Void?” He paused; he let out a sigh as his eyes drifted toward the ground. “To divine a way to defeat the denizen.”

“Which is what?”

“The creature responsible for all this snow.”

“Wait,” said Amie. “Even though this place is called the Land of Snow and Crystals, it’s not supposed to be snowy?” She exhaled, lifting her brows. “Well, if it gets me somewhere that’s not so completely opposite Arizona, okay.” Drawing the Firestorm Chisel, she strode off the front step and began shuffling through the ankle-deep snow.

“Where are you going?” Timsprite asked.

“You said I had to figure out how to beat it, right? Maybe there’s something out there I can find about it.”

“In fields of snow and ice.”

She rolled her eyes and did not look at him when he started to follow. “Yes, mom, in fields of snow and ice. Do you have a better place to look?”

“Somewhere that wouldn’t involve constantly being in danger of attacks by underlings, for one.”

“Tim, come on! I can fight on my own just fine! Vita wouldn’t have gone back to her planet if she didn’t think I could do it!”

Silence.

Amie stopped walking. “What.”

“What?”

“You’re doing the exact same thing my mom does when I tell her Vita’s supporting me.”

“I haven’t said a word.”

“Yeah! That’s what she does!” She spun about, lifting a hand to jab a finger into his chest. The wince at the sparking on her fingertip she blended into a fiercer frown than before. “She doesn’t ever say that she’s happy my friend’s got my back or that she wants me to do my best! She just wants me to figure out what it is she wants without ever saying what it is! And I can’t believe you’re going to do that to me when you said you’re here to help me!”

He raised a brow slowly. “Are you done?”

Her eyes widened. “Excuse me?”

“Do you think that I—that she—would be doing anything if it wasn’t for your benefit? What makes you think we’re wrong?”

“Because you make me feel like an idiot baby when I want to do stuff on my own! How is that supposed to be a good thing for me?”

“You’re young.”

Silence. She looked down.

“You need to learn. I’m making sure you don’t get hurt.”

Silence. She took a deep breath.

He frowned. “Answer me.”

Silence.

“Amie.”

“You’re not my mother.”

“That’s correct.”

Amie lifted her head; her brows were knit and her gaze was set. “So I’m going to tell you what I wanted to tell her.”

His eyes narrowed. “And what’s that?”

“I’m going to go get hurt and you can’t stop me.” She turned on her heel. “’Cause that’s how I want to learn. On my own.” She began to walk away. “So you get to put that in all your thinking about me and figure out what that means for you and what you’re going to do from now on.” She did not look back.

She did not know how long she walked before her hands began to twist around the handles of the hammer and chisel. Without thinking, without caring, she shifted them back down. Scowling, she crossed her arms tightly and stomped onward. She kicked at snowdrifts and whispered curses at nameless targets. Her eyes remained locked on her shoes, watching the scuffed toecap pop out of and disappear into the snow as she walked. She kept her head down and her eyes narrow against the anger and the wind that pulled at her hair.

Because her shoes kept her feet warm, it was not as painful as it could have been when she stubbed her toes beneath the snow. Swearing loudly, she hopped on one foot to try and grab at the other to grasp the stinging and push it into submission. She hit the same hard edge under the powder, and she fell forward with a startled yelp. The snow cushioned her fall just enough to keep her hands from scraping, but she could feel the roughness of pavement under her fingertips. Frowning, she pushed and brushed the snow away.

Amie knelt on a road. When she looked up, she saw the snow growing thinner and thinner over the pavement. She finally lifted her head from its long bowed place; her jaw slowly dropped. With hesitation stiffening her knees, she stood up.

She stood on the edge of a city, somehow unnoticed until she fell. Its buildings were made of black steel and gleaming glass; worn gray concrete and smudged windows; beaten wood and broken slats. She turned to look over her shoulder. All that lay there was snow and the faint hills she had traversed. She could see her small footprints and nothing more. Swallowing, she turned back around and began to walk forward.

Though she had closed her mouth when she strode forward, her lips still parted and her eyes widened. She stared up at the buildings so completely unfamiliar to a suburban dweller. The skyscrapers all but stole away the sight of Skaia: the streets were dark and the sky had jumped from predawn to full dusk. She cast long shadows under the sickly yellow light of streetlamps, and she set her feet down carefully on the pavement to be quiet.

That effort, however, was usurped the closer she drew to an alleyway. The noise of motion and speech drifted onto the sidewalk, and she advanced slowly through the path between buildings. Because she did not look from side to side when she emerged, she walked straight into someone.

The sight of gray skin made Amie freeze where she stood. The eyes that looked down at her were colored muddy brown, and ragged fangs jutted up from the man’s mouth. The horns coming from his short black hair curved back simply, as Timsprite’s did. The man reached out a hand, but she could not draw out her chisel with her shoulders so stiffened by fright. The hand landed on her shoulder and, with an annoyed growl from the troll, she was pushed aside. She nodded at him as he walked away; she scooted to stand with her back to the nearest wall.

There were trolls everywhere. They stood haggling at vendor stalls; they walked arm in arm, hand in hand; they argued at the tops of their lungs. At one end of the street, two were brawling: they yanked weapons from their strife decks and went at each other’s throats. No one moved to stop them, instead going on with their own affairs without missing a beat. She saw a spray of bright green splatter on the ground, and her stomach lurched when she saw that the green was blood flowing down one troll’s face.

It was while she watched the wounded troll scream curses at his assailant before absconding that she was approached. Amie jumped when she turned to face him. The man was a troll like any other, all gray skin and jutting fangs on his lower lip. His horns curved out and up to end in an arrowhead point, and the center of his eyes were colored deep dark red. His tank top showed off the musculature in his arms, and the symbol on his shirt, dyed the same color as his eyes, was one she recognized as Sagittarius. He stared down at her, and his large, squared shoulders cast a shadow over her as he advanced. His boots, over the massive feet that stood at the end of his long, jean covered legs, scraped loudly on the pavement.

“He-hello,” she said.

Silence.

“I’m not—” She looked at the wall behind her for a second. “I’m not in your way or anything, right?”

Laurent.”

“Why do you know my name? Did Timsprite tell you?”

His heavy brows dropped; his eyes narrowed. “Laurent the Seer.”

She blinked, lifting a brow as one corner of her mouth pulled into her cheek. “Well...yeah? What?”

He moved to stand in front of her; he put his right hand on the wall beside her. When she tried to move away, he slammed his left hand down on her other side. She discovered he only had his pointer finger and thumb on his hand when she whipped her head about to look at his arm. She fought against the wobbling of her knees and won out.

“What the hell?” she snapped. “What do you want?”

“Rapoto.”

“Wha—who?” She flinched when he took her face in his damaged hand, but could not pull free.

“I want my prey, human. You’re going to bring her to me.”

She opened her mouth to reply, but stopped short. The street had fallen into silence. When she looked past him, she could see every other troll had turned toward them. She looked back to him. “I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

“You do. She’s been talking to you.”

Amie stopped breathing. “You’re one of the things that lives on this planet—a consort. You—you’re a troll like Timsprite. Why do you know about her?”

He tapped her chin with the back of his finger. “Yeah, I’m a troll, but I’m not any fucking consort of yours. Rapoto’s the one who did this to me. To my hand. She’s responsible for all of this.” He released her face, but grabbed her by the throat with his other hand. “I know that she’s watching you. I saw you on her screen before we were brought here.”

She held tight to his fingers, trying to pry them open as her heartbeat began to run wild. “Why do you think I matter? She was trolling me before!” She choked when he tightened his grip.

“I watched you too,” he said. “Your first real strife on your planet? Your breaking the statue to even get in here? You had the Mindgrip on you.”

“The—the what?”

“She had her filthy fucking hands all over your weak mind, making you do all the things you were piss-your-pants scared to.”

“I’m not—”

“We all are, human. She’s always ready to use the Mindgrip on all of us, and she’s been fucking using you like a puppet.” He pushed her harder against the wall. “She wants you for something, making sure that you don’t fuck things up on your own.”

Look, Seer.

“And if I fuck you up, then she’s going to come fix it.”

What does a Seer do? What is her purpose?

She could barely breathe. Her eyes started to close.

A Seer scries. Look, Seer.

Amie opened her left eye. At first, she believed it was from the lack of air, but the more she focused, the more she realized the black spot in the man’s arm, in the crook of his elbow, had not been there before. Its edges shimmered, swaying back and forth in time with a heartbeat. She looked at his face and saw his wild smile. She looked past him and saw the crowd advancing silently.

Frantically, she reached out her hand and punched her knuckles into the black as hard as she could. His arm spasmed, fingers tightening once more before releasing her throat. As she gasped for air, sinking down, the gathered trolls charged forward with a roar. They grabbed the man and wrestled him back footstep by halting footstep. Coughing, wheezing, she stared at the ground. Time, caught in her adrenalin soaked senses, slowed down. The man’s foot came down, and a vast black spot appeared at his heel. She lifted her head.

“Get back!” she shouted. The mob released the man and, before he could run toward her, she drew the Firestorm Chisel and cracked the pavement with a vicious swing. The lightning sped along the break lines and wrapped around him. Tiny explosions were sparked on his skin, and he howled as his body was rocked by the force. She stared. When a hand closed around her upper arm, she spun about with the chisel raised. Her wrist was caught and held still.

“Come on!” the woman troll said. She pulled Amie to her feet before taking her by the hand. In an instant, Amie was being dragged through the streets and dark alleyways.

“Where are we going?” she asked in a shout.

“The Rogue’s Gallery!” was the reply. “He won’t be able to get to you there!”

“Why not?”

“Because the Rogue never lets him in!”

“But—who’s the—” Her question was swallowed up by a yelp when the troll yanked her forward. With her shoulders in hand, the woman leaped down a stairwell leading far into the ground. They landed, heels scraping and sliding on the pavement, before an iron doorway. The troll pounded her fist on the door, and a slat grated open. A pair of blue stained gold eyes looked from the woman to Amie, and the slat closed once more. With a great creaking, the door swung open, and Amie was hurried inside before the door was banged shut.

The room was almost silent. Trolls milled here and there, sitting at tables and at the long counter of the bar in the far corner. If she listened hard enough, she could hear traces of music floating from somewhere. She caught sight of a jukebox gleaming in the dim light on the other side of the room as she made her way to the bar with the woman at her side. They sat on the stools left empty by trolls who stood at their approach. With dark green and dull orange eyes, they nodded when Amie thanked them and went away silently.

“So—we’re...in a bar?”

“Yeah,” the woman said. She lifted a hand, flashing two fingers at the bartender before bowing her head. She let out a long breath, rubbing at the base of one of her thick curving horns. It and its twin had small offshoots halfway up, the tips curling completely around to rub against the main horn. When the bartender arrived with two glasses filled by brown liquid, she waved a hand in thanks and pushed one to sit in front of Amie before picking up the other. “Bottom’s up.”

She stared at the glass, squirming where she sat. “Um...I’m still a minor.”

“A what?”

“A minor. It’s illegal for me to drink alcohol. This is alcohol, right?”

The woman stared, a brow raised over blue eyes, and sighed. “More for me then.” She took a long drink from the first glass, grimacing a moment when she had swallowed.

“What is this place?” Amie asked. “Other than a bar, I mean. You called it a refuge.”

“Yeah.” Another drink; another grimace. “This is the place the Rogue set up for us when she was working her way up the echeladder. We brought her information, she brought back the heads of archagents and huge underlings.”

“Arch...agents?”

“Major players from Derse. They wanted—want—to bring down the players and make sure Skaia burns.” She lifted the glass, but paused to swirl the liquor. “The Rogue, the Page, and the Prince all made plans here on how to bring down the Black Army without there being a lot of backlash against us consorts.” She smirked and snickered. “And they did it.”

“Wait, so you’re all really consorts? But that guy said that he wasn’t.”

“He’s the Heir of Rage. He’s going to get pissed if you confuse him with a consort. But,” she said with a chuckle, “let’s face it. We do look like the trolls from Alternia.”

“Alternia?”

She took another drink. “The planet where all the trolls came from. Like your Earth for you. The Prince thought the Rogue’s planet had us as consorts because she needed to learn how to act as part of a group. And she really fucking did, but it worked out.” She gestured with a small sweep of her hand. “All this? This place and the peace she brought to the Land of Dusk and Cloaks? It’s what the players are supposed to do.”

“But we’re not on that planet,” Amie said quietly. “This is the Land of Snow and Crystals.”

The woman paused. Her head twitched to one side; her eyes narrowed. She set down the glass and closed her eyes tightly. “It...yeah.”

“You’re lying to me.”

“I’m not. This is the Land of Snow and Crystals, you’re right.”

“Then why are there these huge buildings? This is a city, right? I don’t think there was going to be any big city on my planet, and I don’t think my consorts were supposed to be people from a place I’ve never heard of.” She turned in her seat to face the woman square on, hands gripping the cushion of the stool tightly enough that the leather squeaked. “What’s going on?”

The woman’s head twitched again. “Look, I don’t—I don’t really know. We think the Rogue knows, but we can’t fucking find her.”

“But if she’s the person that guy said she is—if she’s Devaki—then she’s been messaging me.”

“She ever tell you where she is?”

A pause. “She said...that she was somewhere where a lot of people were playing games with time. That wasn’t with you?”

“We don’t have any tech that lets us play around with time. Only the troll players have that. We can’t reach her.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Amie said, patting her hands in the air. “Why is it so important that you guys find her right now? You said she made things all peaceful for you guys on your planet.”

“We’re not on Lodac. This is Losac, but—but we’re not sure what’s happening now. It’s like the denizen and its underlings are back, and that maybe it’s not just one denizen. That maybe it’s the Rogue’s and yours.”

“So...I would have to fight two huge monsters?” She swallowed. “On my own?”

The woman sighed. “We don’t know. We found...well, we found a dead troll. The Heir did. She was one of the players from their session.”

“Wait, what?” Her hands tightened on the cushion until her knuckles ached. “And you’re all sure it wasn’t Devaki?”

“No, it was...” She frowned and rubbed at her head. “The...Thief of Doom, I think. She never came to our planet before. We’re not sure why her body was here, but the Heir knew who she was.” She snorted. “You can guess how the Heir of Rage reacted to that.”

Her voice dropped. “He was pissed.”

“He was pissed.”

Amie looked down. “So what am I supposed to do?”

“We need to find the other troll players, but mostly the Rogue, the Prince, and the Maid.” Frowning, she downed the rest of her first glass in one breath and slammed it down on the bar when she was finished. “We’re going to do the same thing we did for the Rogue for you. Getting all the information in the city, and the whole planet if we can.” She met Amie’s gaze evenly. “We need you guys to win the game just as much as we needed the trolls to win. Otherwise we all fucking die.”

She breathed slowly. Her heartbeat was strong in her chest, but it was not racing. She paused and took a deep breath. “Okay. Thank you.” Another pause. “Um...do you have a name I can call you? I named my sprite Tim, but he hates it and I don’t want to give you a name you don’t like.”

The woman blinked. “Oh. The Rogue named me Mitsis when we first met.”

“Mitsis?”

“Yeah. Why?”

Amie smiled, shaking her head slightly. “Nothing. It’s a cool name.” She let go of the cushion and put her hands on her knees, patting them in a broken rhythm. “Um, can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Back when that guy was, uh, choking me? I heard something in my head. It told me to look, like a seer’s supposed to. And then I was able to see where I had to hit him to make him let me go.” She lifted one hand to rub the back of her head, but stopped halfway and put her hand on the bar. “Did I...go insane a little?”

Mitsis snickered. “No, no. You just heard your exile.”

“My what?”

“The Rogue wanted to explain it to me, but she said she didn’t really know how to explain it without the Prince helping her. She gets confused about time stuff.” She scratched one side of her nose. “You should ask her about it when you guys talk next.”

“You sound pretty sure that she’s really going to send me another message.”

A chuckle. “You don’t think she will?”

Amie’s smile returned, soft and slow. “Actually, I do. And I hope it’ll be soon.”

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Hear your EXILE in the meteor laboratory