You are Amie Laurent, the Seer of Void.
I’m not surprised you’re the focus of this computer of mine. Even if you are a Derse dreamer, I am well aware of fate. Your allies came to Prospit to seek my counsel regarding your plight of listening to the songs of the Gods in the Veil. It is only natural that I would become your exile and be able to watch you now.
Currently, you’re not awake.
You are, however, on your feet and moving around.
I hadn’t thought the Rogue’s control would be so fine. Then again, she is a god. It makes perfect sense that it must be nothing at all for her to make you stand at the edge of the roof, even if you’re sleeping.
Now. I wonder how well she can make your sleeping body jump.
Hugh kept his anxiety at bay by breathing steadily. The trolls in the city paid little attention to him, save when he passed close. They went about their business: they argued over prices of wares; fought one another; and wandered here and there with objectives he could not guess.
He stopped on a corner, looking about. The trolls continued to ignore him, even as he turned his wrenches idly in his hands. He drummed a heel against the ground; he reached up to scratch at his chin and the faint stubble that had grown there. Sighing, he pulled his com set from his sylladex and made to open Pesterchum. He paused at the main screen, however. The Sburb icon sat next to Pesterchum’s, bright green and almost glowing in the dark lenses of his once-sunglasses. He quickly opened a window for the program.
Amie’s house was as he had left it: deserted. He scrolled through commands until he found “LOCATE.” The house vanished in a blur of white static when he selected the command, and he held his breath. When the static resolved, he saw Amie standing on a rooftop. Her chisel and hammer were in hand, and pulling back the focus revealed why: she was surrounded by underlings. The program’s image flickered suddenly and died.
He bolted for the nearest alleyway. With the levels he had gained, it was easy to leap to the first level of a fire escape, and he climbed quickly to the tenth-storey roof. For a long time, he stood without direction. No matter how many times he closed and restarted the Sburb window, it did not show Amie. Desperately, he rocked up on his toes and looked about. The weak light of Skaia made the rooftops blur together in a haze of gray. He thought to call her name.
The sound of underlings screaming cut off his attempt. Hugh turned completely around in time to see the lightning that arced in purple plasma streaks up from a roof in the distance. Putting away his wrenches, he started to run across the rooftops. He did his best to find a path along roofs that steadily, gradually rose up, but was still forced to drop down once. It resulted in his being lower by three storeys when he arrived, staring up as more lightning arced and fireworks cracked off.
The building before him was a sleek, low skyscraper. The wind about him tried to push him off the roof; he grit his teeth against it. An imp was flung off the roof, shattering into grist when it hit the next building over. He saw the gems tumble down; he did not look after them lest he see the ground far below. With another glance up, he sucked in deep rushes of air. He rocked back and forth on his feet, bounced once on his toes, and dashed. The force of his jump launched him just shy of where he wanted to be. For a moment, he scrabbled wildly to find a handhold anywhere. His fingers latched onto the edge of a window, and he dangled there with his heart pounding. Quickly, he began his clumsy climb up.
Another imp smashed down on the edge of the rooftop when he pulled himself up, the grist flying into his face. It was absorbed naturally; it did not knock him back to ruin his climb. He took to his feet, feeling his knees quake. Amie darted from underling to underling, moving fluidly from defense to attack. There was no tenseness in her body. When he managed to catch a glimpse of her face, it was utterly smooth. Even at the blow of an ogre, knocking her to the ground, her expression did not change. She rolled back and over and returned to the fray.
“Amie!” he shouted. The only response he received was the underlings noticing him. He killed those that attacked him and pushed forward. Though he kept calling out between his strikes, she never turned to him. Every time he came near, she moved away to attack another creature. It was only when she vaulted over an imp with more elegance he had ever seen from her, shoving it back to crash into him, that he paused. He caught a gear and reversed time. He caught her as she landed from her leap, holding her still.
“Amie, wait a second!”
Her eyes were open but unfocused. He shook her hard. For a moment, her head lolled back. She blinked slowly; her eyes went pure white. Sneering, she wrenched forward, entirely out of his grasp, and smashed her head against his face. He stumbled back, swearing loudly and bleeding from the nose. She stumbled as well, blood leaking down her face from the cut his teeth had made on her forehead. Her eyes closed tight, but she opened them quickly. The color returned, and so too did focus. She blinked blearily and reached up to her head and the cut. Taking away her hand, she stared at the blood on her fingers.
“What the fuck?” Hugh yelled. “Jesus Christ, what was that for?”
Her head snapped up at his voice. The blood in her face vanished. She took a step back.
He coughed, spitting out the blood that had slipped into his mouth. For a long while, they stared at one another. Hugh suddenly noticed the silence and swung about. The underlings had stopped moving; they watched the duo with blank faces. They turned away and retreated. Their shuffling nearly buried the sound of running feet, but it called his attention instantly. When he turned back, he saw her sprinting away.
“Amie! Amie, wait!”
She disappeared from sight before he even started to follow. He stood stupefied, hand outstretched, until a shriek rang out. Amie reappeared suddenly, held off the ground with her shoulders grabbed by a troll Hugh had never seen. He was skinny, tall, and curling ram’s horns came from his hair.
“Chill the fuck out, babe!” the troll said. “And don’t try to slip into the Void for hiding, ‘cause I’ll bring you right the fuck back out!”
Her wild struggling paused for a heartbeat before she kicked him hard in the stomach. He wheezed and dropped her. She landed lightly, perfectly balanced, and bolted to the side. When the troll tried to follow, he was tackled from behind. Indigo stained yellow eyes looked up to Hugh, and he stopped breathing. The woman stood leisurely, keeping one booted foot on the troll’s back. She tiled her head slightly, looking at him with her small glasses on her nose. The hood of a long, dark green cloak was pulled up on her head, buttoned around her horns. A scarf of light teal-green was over her face, and a sigil like a three-tailed flame was emblazoned on the chest of her shirt in the same shade. Wings, sectioned in fragments and colored in waves of indigo and black, were gently buffeted by a wind filled with snow.
The man rolled over, slapping the woman’s leg away. He flipped up onto his feet and wiped the orange-brown blood from his cut lip. He smiled and said, “Hey there, my most favorite of bitches.”
She looked at him mildly.
He flicked his eyes to Hugh, gesturing to the woman with his thumb. “Know who this is, man? Motherfuckin’ Grand Highblood.” He hitched his thumbs in his pockets, leaning down to put his face close to hers. “Devaki Rapoto. What the fuck are you doin’ here, you delicious bitch? Messin’ with the Seer?” He reached out and stroked the backs of his fingers against her crooked horn. “Fuckin’ fun to mess with humans, for sure. But you know what?” He grabbed her horn, forcing her to tilt back her head. “The babe I’m flushed for? Vita? Rapoto, she wants the Seer safe. That means you can’t go fuckin’ with her.”
His free hand swung up and around to smash into his throat. Gagging, he released her horn and stepped back. A scowl came to his face, and he straightened slowly. “Hey, human. Name’s Kijani Nijole. Vita said I should help you with your Seer. You go try to—”
“You won’t find her,” Devaki said.
Hugh stared at her.
Kijani smirked. “Wow, Grand Highblood. Can’t believe you’re talkin’, much less to a couple of lowbloods like us. What, ain’t ya gonna use us as your voice?”
“Why would I use you for my voice, Kijani?”
He threw back his head and cackled. “I missed you, you tasty bitch!” He jerked his thumb at her again, grinning at Hugh. “Get a fuckin’ load of her, man!” He turned back, leaning closer once more. “You sure you don’t want a little black fling with me? Mahima don’t have to know.” He drew in a slow breath through his fangs, eyes closing partway. “Because damn do I want to fuck you till your bones break.”
He sneered a smile. “Picky bitch.”
Hugh’s voice burst from his mouth: “Where’s Amie?”
Devaki blinked and turned to look at him. Her head tilted again. “You’re not going to find her. I won’t let you.”
He shook his head fiercely, hands closing to fists. “Tell me what you’re doing to her!”
“God dammit, tell me!”
She shook her head.
“Tell me or I’ll—”
“No,” she said. “You can’t make me talk. You know that.”
“Then I’ll tell Azriel what you’re doing and he’ll make you talk!”
She sighed heavily, the hiss of her breath muffled by the scarf. “He won’t tell you anything. This is his plan.”
“Makram ordered you to fuck with my girl Vita’s moirail?” Kijani asked. “Why?”
“Not going to tell you.”
“Babe, either you fuckin’ tell us or I’ll start kickin’ your ass.”
The shine of a smirk came into her eyes. “It won’t be a fair fight.”
He smiled slowly. “You wanna make it fair and have some fun? Or are you just fuckin’ scared to fight me without the Mindgrip?”
Her eye twitched; her gaze went dark.
“I fuckin’ bet that’s what it is.” He snickered, looking to Hugh. “Man, the motherfuckin’ Grand Highblood scared of an orange-blooded troll? Makram picked the wrong person to be his right hand, right?”
Her brows dropped.
A cold coil of fear began to writhe in Hugh’s stomach. “Man—man, stop. You’re pissing her off.”
Kijani ignored him. “Babe, I got you all figured out. You know you can’t beat me, so you run around usin’ the Mindgrip and bein’ a bone-bulge suckin’ coward.”
“Don’t call me a coward,” she said quietly.
“I’ll call you whatever the fuck I want, babe.”
The fear started to crawl up Hugh’s spine. “Kijani, shut up.”
“Man, I ain’t scared of her. Never have been, never fuckin’ will.”
“Your knees are shaking,” Devaki murmured.
Kijani looked down. When he looked up, he locked his knees and sneered. “You’re makin’ ‘em do that, bitch.”
“Not with the Mindgrip. You want a fair fight? Better find something for your strife deck that’s not your psionics. Not really fair for one asshole to have psychic powers when I can’t use mine.”
He looked up in thought. His sneer became a grin. “Nah.”
“You’re the one who wanted a fair fight.”
His grin grew. “Yeah, but you should know better.”
A whip wrapped around her throat, pulling her from her feet and bringing her back against a broad chest. She grabbed at the whip, kicking as she held it just enough to drag air down her throat. Though she closed one hand and summoned up its gauntlet, the knife only skittered along the whip. Her arm was surrounded by purple flames and held out to her side.
Kijani walked forward and took her chin in his free hand. “Rapoto, you know I always lie to you.” He looked up to the arrow-horned troll holding the whip and smirked. “Been a while, my rust-blooded buddy. Glad you got my message, Vilmos.”
“I knew I’d fucking find you,” the man snarled at Devaki. “You’re not getting away. You’re fucking dead, highblood.” He pulled tighter; her eyes pinched shut as she choked.
Hugh reappeared from frozen time and slammed his wrenched into the back of Vilmos’ head. He let go of the whip to clutch at his head, swearing loudly. Devaki landed coughing, hands at her throat. Kijani stared with his mouth slightly open, too stunned to keep the psychic hold on her arm. Pale-faced, Hugh stared back.
“You—grub-fucking—shit-eating—motherfucking—” He whirled to face Hugh, eyes blazing. “I’ll kill you!”
Hugh reacted without fully thinking: he swung his wrench up to slap Vilmos hard across the face. The firework explosion threw him from his feet; Devaki ducked further to let him fly overhead and crash into Kijani. They hit the roof with a great swell of cursing. When a hand fell on her shoulder, Devaki turned with her fist shut and knife out. She waited to strike, and so she did not plunge the knife into Hugh’s throat.
“Can you really fly with those wings?” he hissed.
“Then you get out of here right now.” He walked to stand before her, bringing out his other wrench. “I’ll—I’ll figure out how to talk them down.”
“Look, you scare the shit out of me, but Azriel—trusts you, and I have to trust him. If I’m going to be a leader, then I have to deal with pissed off people.” He looked over his shoulder with a weak smile. “So go.” He turned back to see the two other trolls taking to their feet. “I’ll figure it out.”
Vilmos, black char around his eyes, roared as he pulled back his whip. Kijani scowled, raising his flame-surrounded hands. Hugh grit his teeth and lifted his wrenches. He tried to swallow and couldn’t manage it.
Devaki flitted past him. She caught the whip around one arm and flicked a knife at Kijani with the other. The surprise of her attack let the knife pierce his shoulder, and she pulled Vilmos forward while his eyes were still wide. She jumped up and slammed her heels against his face. He stumbled back, rusty blood spewing from his nose. In her fall, she twisted about to land on hands and knees, and she ran back to Hugh in an instant.
His legs swung him about and pelted him toward the edge of the roof. He leaped as Devaki did, bounding to the next rooftop. What might have been an undignified crash landing was guided into a safe roll he did not know how to make, and he sprang back to his feet to keep running. For a terrifying moment, he could not see her and thought she had abandoned him. His dash suddenly swerved to one side, and his next jump was a dive that aimed his hands at Devaki’s outstretched arms.
Floating on her wings, she heaved him about and tossed him to the wall of an alleyway. He hit it with hands and feet, and rebounded down unconsciously. He slid on the steel wall a moment before jumping back again, and he soon arrived at the ground. Devaki stood there waiting for him and gestured for him to be quiet. He slumped against a wall, working to keep his panting silent. Gulping air, he closed his eyes.
“They won’t follow us,” she said.
He looked at her, meeting the gaze of her narrowed eyes. “Oh—oh good.” He slid down the wall until he was sitting on the ground. “Holy crap—I hit him in—in the face.”
She crouched down slowly and balanced on her toes to stare at him. “Why’d you do that?”
“Be-because Azriel said you’re his right hand. That means—he trusts you.” He rubbed at a stitch in his side. “You guys still scare me, but—I don’t know.” He snorted a laugh. “Hey, this time you’re talking. Makes it a little easier to not be piss-my-pants scared when I know you can talk.”
Devaki regarded him in silence. She watched him draw deep breaths; she looked at his face as his cheeks lost their heated flush. When he spoke again, she listened.
“Are...are you really not going to tell me what’s going on with Amie?” he asked. “‘Cause—look, I know Azriel’s your emperor and he has all these big damn plans, but she’s my sister.” He looked at her with his brows knit and rising up in pleading. “I’m her leader and her brother. I want to make sure she’s okay, and there’s something happening to her. Can—Devaki, can you please tell me what’s going on?”
Her eyes widened slightly. She tipped back, rocking so her feet settled flat on the ground. Slowly, she sat down with her legs drawn up to her chest. She looked down and tugged the scarf off her face. With a small twitched of her head, an earpiece appeared in her undamaged right ear, and a microphone coming from the temple of her glasses rested on her cheek. The lenses of the glasses became screens, and her eyes darted back and forth. When the lenses were pure bright white, showing the bags beneath her eyes in sharp contrast, she paused. She took her glasses off and held them in her hands with the microphone and earpiece turned up.
“Az?” she said quietly.
Hugh heard the reply: “What’s up, serpent sister? You have to talk louder.”
“Can we tell the Heir what’s happening?”
“That’s weird of you to ask.”
“He’s here right now.”
“What? Why?” The voice grew louder. “Brother? What the fuck are you doing there?”
“Vilmos and Kijani are here,” Devaki said. “They’re trying to find her.”
“If Ildiko is there, it’s not to find our Seer sister.”
“Yeah. He tried to kill me again.”
“So can we tell him?”
Hugh leaned forward. “Azriel, please tell me what’s going on! If you do, I can help your plan—I can make sure we don’t mess it up! Man, you know she’s really my sister. I need to know what’s up.”
“I’m your time brother. And—and you’re the emperor. I’m asking to know what’s going on to help keep your people—your brothers and sisters safe. Please.”
“He hit Vilmos in the face,” Devaki said with a small smile. “Vilmos had his whip around my neck, and the Heir hit him in the face.” A pause. “He helped me, Az.”
After a moment, a rush of static told of chuckling. “He fucking helped you, sister? How about that.”
“Can we tell him?”
A pause. “Brother.”
“You swear to me that you’re not going to screw this up.”
“Because if you don’t listen all the way through and go flipping your shit, you will fuck everything up so bad we won’t be able to go back and fix it. You fuck up, it screws with the alpha timeline. I’ve got a few corpses of us showing me that. So swear to me that you’ll listen to her.”
Devaki jerked. “Me? Az, I can’t explain it.”
“Sure you can. You need to talk more often, sister.”
Her head twitched down. “Yes sir.”
“Good girl. Don’t worry, brother. She really does know what’s going on. Now tell him.”
Slowly, she put her glasses back on. The earpiece and microphone vanished, and she stared past Hugh’s shoulder. After a moment, she nodded and opened her mouth.
—rewind reset: 20 minutes ago—
—anlaceAgent [AA] began trolling aspiringCarver [AC]—
AA: Are you all right?
AC: yeah i’m
AC: i’m fine
AC: devaki can you just talk to me?
AA: I’m fucking talking to you right now. What else do you want?
AC: no i mean
AC: i’m using a microphone right now
AC: it shows up in pesterchum like i always type
AC: but i don’t hear you
AC: i just see text and i can’t
AC: my head hurts really badly right now and it’s hard to read text on a tiny screen
AC: i thought
AC: maybe you could just talk to me
AC: because you started trolling me out of nowhere
AC: oh my god devaki please
AA: It won’t be any comfort to you.
AA: I’m not skilled at talking.
AA: It won’t be anything like when I type.
AC: i don’t care
AC: i don’t want to read text right now
AC: and i can’t talk to my friends either
AC: i just need to hear someone’s voice
—voice chat enabled—
AA: There. Now you can hear me.
AC: no it’s not
AC: just keep talking to me
AA: About what.
AC: i don’t know
AC: just talk
AA: Tell me why you’re crying.
AC: i’m not crying
AA: I’m sick of this.
AA: My chat program lets me see you.
AA: I saw you run into this room and sit down crying.
AA: And now I can see your head’s bleeding.
AA: What the fuck is going on?
AC: you can see me?
AC: jesus christ how long have you been able to see me?
AA: Stop crying.
AC: don’t order me around!
AC: god dammit
AC: i’m scared and hurt and i’m so tired from hearing that horrible singing
AC: and you’re yelling at me to stop crying?
AC: just turn your stupid microphone off if you’re going to
AA: Stop crying.
AA: I’ll make them
AA: WHO’S DOING THIS?
AA: WHO’S MAKING YOU CRY?
AC: devaki wait
AA: TELL ME SO I CAN KILL THEM
AA: TELL ME NOW
AA: I’LL KILL THEM
AC: devaki stop!
AC: oh god please stop yelling like that!
AA: Then tell me what’s happening.
AA: Tell me who’s hurting you.
AC: devaki what the hell?
AC: why did you start shouting?
AA: Because you’re crying.
AA: I can’t
AA: It makes me angry.
AA: SO FUCKING ANGRY
AA: TELL ME
AC: devaki stop it!
AC: i’m not going to tell you if you keep yelling at me!
AA: who is it
AC: they’re making me listen to singing
AC: out on derse
AC: oh god devaki
AC: the queen and her agents
AC: these two
AC: these two guys
AC: they look exactly the same and they sound the same
AC: she called them jack
AC: and they brought me to the queen and said it was because i’m the seer of void
AC: because i can see how things fail
AC: and they said if i ever told my friends what’s wrong that they’d kill liam
AC: they have liam locked up somewhere and they’ll kill him if i try to run away
AC: but oh god
AC: the gods sing to me all the time
AC: they want me to kill my friends
AC: so derse can win
AC: and then they can
AC: can eat skaia
AC: and now i woke up on some roof in the middle of the city and hugh was there and he was trying to help me and i hit him in the face with my head because the gods wanted me to do that
AC: and some guy troll grabbed me when i tried to hide in the void and run away
AC: because i can’t be near my friends
AC: oh god devaki
AC: i don’t want to kill my friends
AC: devaki i don’t know what to do
AA: Listen to me.
AA: I know who the woman was.
AA: The troll woman who threw you off a roof before.
AC: oh my god how does that help me at all?
AA: Because that was me.
AA: I don’t know what we did
AA: But I’m going to be there in your game.
AA: And I’m going to find out what to do.
AA: I’ll go to Prospit.
AA: The White Queen will know what to do.
AA: Seeing you cry pisses me off so bad I can’t deal with it.
AA: So I’m going to make sure you don’t have to cry anymore.
AC: are you
AC: you’re screwing with me
AA: I’m not.
AA: That was me. I’m sure it was.
AA: And I know I’m not smart like Azriel
AA: But I’m going to figure out a way to help.
AA: Because you don’t hate me, and you help me calm down.
AA: And I don’t want to lose someone like that.
AA: So don’t cry anymore.
AA: Tell me what you need.
AC: talk to me a little longer