Magical Security Taskforce




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Chapter 17: Leveling Up

Session One

The problem with attempting to describe Reggie's room to anyone who hadn't been to Reggie's room was the lack of words to explain what actually happens inside. The feeling of euphoria within Reggie's room was so overwhelming that Troy couldn't remember how it had arisen.

Kathryn tried to help: “Let's put it this way- better than sex, almost as good as sex, or is sex?”

Suddenly unsettled, Troy replied, “K-Kathryn, you know I've never...” He didn't feel comfortable saying it in front of Renee, but you get the idea.

“So what did you do in there?” asked Renee.

“Saying it doesn't do it justice. You have to experience it for yourself. He's got an opening tomorrow night.”

“An opening?” Kathryn said, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah, it's pretty popular. He said he'll let us in tomorrow because we're friends with Kurt and he heard about our thing with the Zukoni.”

“No thanks,” Renee said, sitting back down on the couch. “Doesn't seem like my kind of place.” She noticed that Donovan had not moved. “Right, Donovan?”

Donovan narrowed his eyes. “Hmm... the important question is did this Reggie dispose of the young one?”

Kathryn gasped. “Oh yeah, where's Yuki?”

Yuki entered later, still catching her breath. “Something tells me I don't think I should be going in there,” she announced. She headed into her room, then stopped to look at Troy.

“Probably not,” replied Troy.

He smiled. She giggled. “Maybe once a term's okay,” she added.

Before Yuki could get into her room, Molly burst through the door, fresh off of killing Kurt. She glared at Yuki. “Did he at least fix your potion process?”

“Oh yeah, he fixed me up good!” Yuki replied. Molly shuddered.

“Sorry Molly, but if Troy and Yuki are endorsing it, then I have to see it for myself,” Kathryn said.

With a sigh, Molly replied, “Unfortunately, I am powerless to stop Reggie's power. Do as you must.”

Molly marched towards her room. Only Renee tried to stop her, asking, “Do you know what goes on in there?”

“Of course.” Molly stopped. She extended a hand towards Troy, then muttered, “Nothing but bread and circuses,” then entered her room and shut the door behind her.


By the next day, the curiosity had gotten to Renee and she too wanted to be part of the envoy to Reggie's room. Since Troy was in on it, and Kathryn was going to be, she had no desire to be the odd one out. The three of them were surprised when Donovan also decided to tag along. He had seen Molly's reaction, and had to know what sinister magic was keeping the commoners so entertained.

After three hours inside, three of the four left in smiles and uproarious laughter.

“That was... incredible!” Renee exclaimed. “Can we do that again next week?!”

“I should hope so,” Kathryn replied, snickering. “I think I left quite an impression on them!”

“I'll say!” Troy shouted. “So Kathryn... better than or almost as good?”

Kathryn grinned slyly. “Depends on who you're doing it with. This is a good alternative, I'll tell you that much.”

“It's definitely more fun with friends.”

“Yeah.” Kathryn looked at Renee. “But damn... I wasn't expecting that out of you. Totally blew me away. Nicely done.”

Renee giggled. “Thanks... surprised me too. Didn't think I had that in me.”

“I...” Troy began, then threw a hand up. “I'm not going to discuss it.” All three laughed.

Kathryn threw an arm around each of their shoulders. “Night to remember, huh?”

“Oh no!” Renee cried. The word 'remember' triggered something Renee had forgotten. “My purse!”

“D'ya leave it back there?”

“I must have. I'll catch up with you!” Troy and Kathryn nodded and Renee ran back to the room.

She passed Donovan on the way. He stumbled out into the hallway, trying to keep his balance. The time he had spent in Reggie's room was easily the most frightening three hours he had experienced in his life. His pace, his breath and his heartbeat staggered as he tried to compose himself.

Even scarier than Reggie's room itself was the ramifications of it. If Molly had no way of competing with the force of Reggie's room, what chance did Donovan have? It was a conundrum so great that he had only one observation:

“I must grow stronger,” he said to himself. Unlike Troy and Kathryn, Donovan was not returning to room 202. He was exiting the building.

Now with her purse, Renee saw Donovan leave. His steps were methodical and his shoulders were slumped in resignation. Like most things Donovan did, she found this curious.

When she thought about it, Donovan was the only one who didn't seem to enjoy himself in Reggie's room. Renee was too busy having fun to ask him why, but it did strike her as odd. This was only a culmination of all the strange things Donovan did. More than anyone else in the unit, she felt compelled to find out more.

For starters, where the hell was he going? Full of energy after the visit to Reggie's, Renee was determined to find out. She had been disappointed thus far by the lack of little adventures at this academy; now was a good time to start one of her own!


Session Two

At first, she maintained her distance from Donovan, eager to see where he was going at ten at night without actually interrupting him. All the campus facilities were closed and even if Donovan could be suspected of attending some late party, all of the good ones were back home in Hall D. The fact that Donovan was leaving the building at all was interesting, and Renee was determined to get to the bottom of it.

Once the first gust of January wind blew, however, Renee realized that she had not quite thought this out. It was still cold, there was still snow on the ground and the clothing and the footwear to help Renee deal with either was back in her room. She couldn't go back for fear of losing the trail. Donovan didn't have a coat either and he was still moving. Renee forced herself to continue along, rubbing her arms for warmth.

She was not satisfied with her sneaking process. As much as she wanted to hide behind dumpsters and trees and stay low to the ground, she was already uncomfortable with the snow on her Mary Janes. Instead, she walked along the plowed path twenty feet behind Donovan. He never turned around, so she didn't need cover anyway.

Eventually, Renee figured out where he was going- the Forest of Unspeakable Peril. This made her even more intrigued. As the only public campus locale that had any sort of fantastical quality, the FUP was legendary. Now the possibilities were endless: perhaps Donovan had some evil pet that he bred in the woods. Perhaps a secret society that put a bit more flair into their magic practice. Even the outside chance that he was meeting a girl (or guy!) for a quickie. These were all exciting theories and she wanted to know more.

Donovan stood at the entrance. And continued to stand at the entrance, hands on his hips. Renee kept her distance, waiting for him to do anything. She sort of got something- he shivered. This was a relief; at least he was susceptible to the elements and could either take time out to dress warmer (allowing her to do the same) or reveal an alternative that she could take advantage of.

“Blaine. Bryce.”

“Sir!” Blaine and Bryce arrived, dressed for the elements. Bryce gave Donovan a spare coat.

Renee grumbled. “I so need minions.”

“The hour of judgment is near and the situation is dire,” said Donovan. “I must grow stronger, and quickly, or succumb to this evil.”

“That still doesn't explain why we're out here,” said Bryce, echoing Renee's thoughts.

Donovan pointed to a spot on the ground and said, “There.” Renee squinted, but all she could see was a rabbit. It was an adorable little thing, but she didn't see how it was relevant to Donovan's ranting, and he sure didn't seem the type to interrupt his spiel for a cute widdle bunny.

Blaine and Bryce watched it silently. It shook snow off its ears, finding a grassy patch on the ground to nibble at. Renee cautiously stepped closer. She may have prioritized stalking Donovan, but she was the type to interrupt her mission for a cute widdle bunny. That thing warmed her heart: if it could survive these elements, maybe Renee could get by a little longer.

Then Donovan summoned one of his energy balls and launched it at the poor creature. The attack collided with the rabbit, knocking it to the ground. Terribly shaken but unharmed, it jumped to its feet and hopped away.

“What did you do that for?!” Renee was livid and marched up to him. She couldn't tolerate such an act, even if she was trying to lay low.

He turned around and glared at her. “And why are you here?”

She returned the glare. “To see what you were up to! Is this what you do for fun?!”

“Fun?” he spat, offended by the word. “This is not fun. These are desperate circumstances that must be overcome in order to succeed.”

Renee tilted her head, completely lost. Shame on her for expecting a coherent answer, and asking a follow-up question. “Huh? Succeed at what?”

Donovan turned away, hands on his hips. “I fear I had underestimated my rivals. They grow stronger every day, while I had too much faith in my abilities. Now I am left with the task of catching up, and only through many hours of training will this be possible.” He turned back to Renee. “I do not expect you to understand my plight.”

Only, surprisingly, Renee did. After sorting through his melodramatic rambling, she realized that she was in a similar position. Renee had come into this thinking she had an advantage over Troy and Kathryn. Her passion for the concept of magic and her sister's seemingly innate ability were supposed to push her to the top of the class. This never happened. While Renee never struggled, she had yet to find anything that could set her apart from the rest of the pack.

Meanwhile, as evidenced by the Zukoni battle, Troy was on fire learning the ins and outs of water magic, while Kathryn's physical abilities held a sorcery all their own. Renee, on the other hand, was pretty much useless. She regretted not studying harder during the fall semester and now found herself trying to find a way to keep up. Her goal was to become as proficient as Molly. Somewhere in Donovan's rhetoric, Renee realized that she probably needed to start working towards that.

“Actually... I kinda do,” she replied, looking away. “I don't like lagging behind anybody, but you see what Molly can do and what Troy's learning... I want to be up there with them.”

Donovan snickered. “The path to improvement...” He gestured into the woods. “ within.”

“What's in there?”

“Dark creatures, evil beasts to test my abilities. They will draw out my primal instincts, where I shall learn the true nature of my powers. Only from battle after battle will I gain the insight to challenge my enemies.”

Again, stupid rhetoric but again- Renee understood. “Oh... you're leveling up!”

He narrowed an eyebrow at her, but she went on: “I, uh, know this sounds kind of weird, but... would you mind if I tagged along? I know you've got Bryce and Blaine with you, but I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to have one more in your party.”

“Hmm... very well. We do seem to have the mutual quest of destroying Troy Monroe.”

“Um... right.” Renee quickly dismissed that thought and said, “Just, uh, one thing- mind if I head back to the dorm to get, uh... fully equipped. I'm freezing.”

Donovan scoffed, but assented. Renee teleported back to the dorm to get her coat, sneakers and maybe a snack.

“Wait... is that what we're doing out here?” Blaine said.


Session Three

A quest would imply some exalted objective assigned from on high. A hunt would imply targeting one specific animal with appropriate weapons and (hopefully) motive. An expedition implies preparation beforehand. So we're at a bit of a loss to describe what Renee, Donovan and his minions were trying to do in the FUP. A safari, perhaps?

Whatever they called it, they weren't having much luck scaring up an adversary. Both held light balls and waved them about, hoping to find something they would match up favorably against. In Renee's case, preferably something evil that nobody would miss.

Ten minutes in, the woods had been silent, save for branches swaying in the wind and the occasional hooting owl. Despite the lack of action, Renee was enjoying herself. She was dressed comfortably, the branches above provided some canopy from the snow, and the whole concept of trekking through the woods at night just seemed fun. This ominous atmosphere suggested that something interesting was going to happen, and it would likely involve some weird creature straight out of her fantasy stories.

Truthfully, the reason for the silence was that almost none of the 'weird creatures straight out of Renee's fantasy stories' were nocturnal, at least among those living in Central Academy's Forest of Unspeakable Peril. According to Mr. Smittle, the academy's game specialist, there was no sense importing animals that were only active at night if classes to show students how to identify, train or hunt them were during the daytime. Besides, stocking weird fantasy animals was expensive. There's a reason manticores aren't native to Indiana.

Even so, something was awake and made its presence felt. Renee felt a sharp, painful slapping sensation on her left calf. She jumped, shrieked, and held her light ball down to see what had hit her. It was a snapped-off tree branch, now lying a foot away. Given where it had hit, she wondered what had happened. She couldn't have tripped over it; it was too far away and not tethered to the ground. And if it hit her in the leg, it couldn't have struck her from above. The only other possibility...

“Guys, I think something threw this at me,” she said in a hushed voice, drawing a snicker from Donovan.

“Nonsense. Who would dare-” Donovan's rebuttal was cut short when a branch struck him in the knee. Then assorted sticks and scraps of bark hit both of them.

As the onslaught continued, Renee and Donovan summoned shields (that is to say, stood behind Blaine and Bryce). “What is doing that?!” Renee shouted. She and Donovan were now safely beyond speculating whether or not something was attacking them.

“It's probably an argopelter,” said Blaine, magically raising the ground in front of him to intercept most of the wooden paraphernalia.

“A what?” Renee had a good working knowledge of weird fantasy animals. But this was a new one.

“They live in tree holes. If they sense something encroaching their territory, they'll throw sticks and stuff to scare it away.”

Renee blinked. “Really?”

“Yeah. Otherwise they're pretty quiet and keep to themselves.”

“That's pretty weak for a fantastic monster.”

Blaine shrugged. “Well, they can't all be unicorns.”

A stray stick evaded Blaine and Bryce and struck Renee's sternum. “But that's all they can do?” Blaine nodded. Renee cracked her knuckles. “Then it's going down.”

Keeping the minions in front of them, Renee and Donovan pushed forward toward the argopelter's tree. Sure enough, the base of the tree was hollow and spitting forth artillery. The four flanked the tree, which in theory should have prevented them from getting attacked. But instead, a furry arm reached around and threw a twig at Donovan's ankle. Sensing the four intruders so close, it desperately slashed with both arms, as if armed with knives instead of two pieces of bark.

“Allow me,” said Donovan. Braving the fury of loose impediments, he brought his hands down to the tree trunk and cast his light ball. The sudden illumination blinded the argopelter, giving Renee an opening to reach in and snatch it by the ears.

When she pulled it out, she saw a frantic little animal, about the size of a woodchuck. It flailed around, tittering and flinging ammo it didn't have with its arms.

“That is one angry argopelter,” Bryce mused. “So how do you plan on finishing it off?”

For starters, Renee had learned a basic binding spell, which she applied to stick the argopelter's arms and feet to the ground. Then she turned to Donovan and shrugged. “That's all I can do.”

But Donovan was already prepared. He summoned up an energy ball and fired point-blank at the creature. Thankfully, he threw it hard enough to knock the argopelter out (that or it fainted), because there was still no destructive force in that thing.

Renee undid the binding spell, verified that the argopelter was down and raised her hands in triumph. “Victory is ours!”

Donovan laughed jovially, but ignored Renee's request for a high-five. “Excellent. Now- on to the next adversary!”

But Bryce had a second thought. “So, just to clarify- we're out in the woods to fight monsters to make you two stronger... but neither of you know any attack magic?”

“A mere trifle,” scoffed Donovan. “If my energy blast fails to dispose of the enemy, we shall merely incapacitate it, allowing Blaine to deliver the finishing blow.”

“Oh... goody,” muttered Blaine.

“That works for me,” said Renee. With one battle over, her enthusiasm was stronger than ever. They could continue to probe deeper into the forest, battling what they can find, defeating what they can defeat and teleporting away when they can't.

Marching alongside Donovan, she pointed down the path. “Like Donovan said- on to the next adversary!”


Session Four

Over the next hour, Blaine cast a fair bit of finishing blows. Renee and Donovan rustled up a pack of those shadeling creatures they had faced in exams. Even without smiters, they had little trouble gaining the upper hand. They fought, they won, they moved on.

The animals they came across were hardly challenging. They encountered a squonk, a sad little creature so ugly and miserable that students knew it better as an emo pig. Its only defense mechanism was melting in a pool of its own tears. This didn't work so well when the temperature was below freezing.

The hodag, on the other hand, had plenty of claws, quills and sharp teeth. Renee and Donovan got a workout evading it, but once they figured out how to keep their distance, they felled it nevertheless. Unconventional as their journey was, it was a good opportunity to practice routine weaving spells like warding, binding and shields. Furthermore, this hodag actually resembled a moderately dangerous monster. Being able to defeat it, even with Blaine's help, boosted Renee's confidence and sustained Donovan's over-confidence. Keep this in mind so you don't find their actions in the next encounter quite as jaw-droppingly stupid.

By now, they were deep into the woods. This far in, the magical properties of the forest had altered the ecosystem to its fancy. Sort of an automatic climate control to make sure the more legendary fauna didn't die out in the extremes of summer and winter. Renee noticed the increased temperature and unzipped her coat. Donovan didn't seem to notice.

Upon taking a step and submersing a foot in stagnant water, he did notice that they had just entered a marsh. This gave them enough pause to stop and survey the surroundings before proceeding. Good thing they did, because thirty yards ahead, disguised in the tall grass and under a thicket of trees, was a giant nest. Cautiously, Renee and Donovan cast flight spells to get an aerial view of what inhabited it.

Renee gasped once she saw the creature inside. A large reptile with brown scales slept in the nest, its head buried under one of its mammoth wings. Its body snaked around the perimeter, culminating in a long, barbed tail. She added it all up and could barely contain herself.

“Oh my God... a dragon!” she exclaimed within a hushed voice.

Donovan furrowed his eyebrows, unimpressed. “Foolish girl. That is no dragon... clearly, that is a wyvern.”

“What?” Renee said, but then she took a second look. “Oh... you're right... I see...” She focused her light ball on the reptile's lower quarters. It had only one pair of legs, while its wings represented the other set of limbs. “Yep, that's a wyvern. Shucks.”

They landed, Renee still disappointed. Donovan glared at the nest. “So... how do we defeat a wyvern?”

That effectively destroyed Renee's sense of disappointment. Instead, she did a double take. “Wait, are you serious? We can't attack that thing!”

“Why not? After our victory over the hodag, why should a wyvern stand in our way?”

“Donovan, it's a freaking wyvern! I don't know what books you're reading, but those things have, like, poisonous tails! And talons and wings and nasty pointy teeth and all that! I don't care how many experience points we've earned today: we're not ready to slay a wyvern.”

“Hmm...” Despite that, Donovan turned to his minions. “Your assessment?”

“Yeah, wyverns are dangerous. Plus I don't think the academy would like it if we killed one. They're on the threatened species list,” Blaine said.

Bryce nodded. “Blaine and I might be able to take him, but I wouldn't recommend you and Renee trying it.”

Donovan grumbled, but with all that dissension, he had to concede something. “Very well... we shall wait here and observe you and Blaine fighting it.”

Never in his life had Blaine more wanted to be capable of the glare. Instead, he heaved a sigh as he and Bryce inched towards the monster. “Way to go, Bryce,” he muttered.

“Don't sweat it. It's sleeping. I'll just get a binding circle around it and you can knock it out with... well, whatever you do to knock out wyverns.”

Blaine stopped in his tracks. “Okay then... I'll let you get up next to it to get that circle down. I'll come in after that.”

Since Bryce had gotten them in the mess and had no room to argue, he slogged forward, alone, and climbed the nest. The wyvern looked even more unfriendly up close; in spite of its claws, wings and size, it was more snake than dragon. Worse yet, its tail guarded two eggs. This was a mama wyvern and Bryce was standing ten feet away from her kids.

He nervously raised his crystal and began to spin it. A circle of this size would require a bit of energy. All he could do was shut up, do his part and get the hell out before she saw him.

Suddenly, he heard a wing rustle and the wyvern stirred. That was enough to freak Bryce out. He lost his grip on the string and the crystal's momentum carried it far, far forward... smacking the serpent in the eye. Wyverns, of course, were susceptible to the same involuntary sleep motions as the rest of us; a little wing movement or a head shake didn't mean it was waking up. Smacking it in the eyelid with a crystal, on the other hand, was as good as playing Reveille. The eye opened, spotted Bryce, and the wyvern lifted its head and hissed angrily.

Before it could make any progress destroying Bryce, Blaine hit it with a gust of cold air. Being cold-blooded and all, the wyvern did not react well to sudden cold bouts. Slowed but undeterred, it flapped its wings, rising into the air with its attention now on Blaine. It flew towards him, knocking Bryce out with a talon along the way.

Blaine backpedaled, but he really had no chance. Going to the left or right would have done little good, ducking would have made him an easy target for the wyvern's tail, while flying was even worse with the serpent already in the air. Renee saw this, jumped out of the hiding spot she and Donovan were in, and cast a protective shield for Blaine.

A great move on paper, but there were two problems. One was that the basic shield she had learned only covered magic attacks, which the wyvern was definitely not using. The second was that Blaine, out of options, had elected to teleport away. The wyvern lashed out at where Blaine had been and got a mouth full of bog. It shook its head, spat out the grass, and saw Renee right out there in the open. No, she hadn't done anything to it, but by this point the wyvern was so pissed that it may as well just attack anybody in the general area. Charging in, the wyvern let out a shrill shriek.

In fact, so did Renee.


Session Five

Renee's instincts took over and she dove out of the way, narrowly avoiding the wyvern's talons. Of course, agile as she was, she ended up face down in the marsh and only a couple yards away from the monster. This was why Blaine had decided against dodging. Unfortunately, Renee wasn't at the point where teleportation seemed like an apparent and viable option. Especially since her trigger was hard to pull off when face down in a marsh.

The wyvern, who learned from its experience with Blaine to use its talons instead of its mouth, flew higher to see where its prey had gone. Not very far, it realized. Unable to easily get to her feet and barely able to turn around to see the thing, Renee had to settle for shielding her head, bracing for impact, and hoping the clinic was open this late. The wyvern reared back, ready to strike once more.

Below it, Renee saw Donovan charging up a spell. Until then, she didn't think she could be more afraid than she already was. But now Donovan was trying something, and that was as bad a remedy as the problem. She tried shaking her head at him, but her body was no longer responding. Donovan fired his energy blast at the wyvern just as it dove after Renee.

She heard an explosion, but dismissed it as illusion- a representation of the pain she felt as the wyvern's claw tore through her coat and lacerated her right arm. Its second talon clutched at her shoulders, but released with only a scrap of coat and no skin. Damage enough for Renee; she clutched her arm and tried to defy her lack of breath and cry out. She forced her eyes open to see if the wyvern was finished with her.

It was still in the air, higher now, jerking around and hissing wildly. Renee could only draw one conclusion: Donovan's attack had inflicted pain. Unlikely as it was, two things confirmed this: one was that Donovan stood out, hands on his hips and smirking boastfully. The second was that the wyvern resolved to overcome its agony and charge after Donovan next.

Donovan appeared ready and charged up another attack, but the wyvern was too fast. This time, Donovan could have only wished for a bite or a scratch: the monster's tail whipped around and drove into Donovan's leg.

Pain? Poison? Absolutely, but Donovan seemed to ignore both, firing off another shot. The wyvern tried to fly higher to dodge it, but the ball collided with its tail. If Donovan had any success with his attack before, he could not repeat the feat a second time. The black orb fell to the ground. Donovan gestured to try again, but by then the poison had spread and his leg went numb. This obviously hindered his spellcasting, especially as he toppled over into the marsh.

Clutching her wounded arm, Renee tried to crawl towards Donovan and avoid the wyvern. This was, of course, impossible in the wet muck, but with Donovan down and likely poisoned she had to do something. She didn't get far before the wyvern flew down behind her. She heard and felt every flap from its wings and could sense it yards away, ready for that last, decisive strike. Renee closed her eyes and thought that maybe she didn't have to do anything to help Donovan, that teleporting away and leaving him for dead was an acceptable option. Not that she could teleport with a busted arm. Her only two options, really, had been to stand still and wait for the wyvern to kill her or move towards Donovan and meet certain death halfway.

Another explosion rattled through the woods, and again Renee thought it was just a noise to accentuate the wyvern tearing through her. This time, however, she felt no additional pain. Behind her, the wyvern laid dead, although she couldn't see what had done it in. But off to her side, standing a hundred feet away, stood the answer of whom had done it in.

The academy's game specialist, Mr. Smittle, wore a black coat, black boonie hat, and the scars of all the creatures that dared show attitude with him. It was his classic look, which would have been less frightening were it not for the 16-gauge shotgun that was also part of his ensemble. He approached Renee, not wading through the marsh- more like ignoring it.

This would normally be the time for Renee to heave a sigh, burst into tears or hail her conquering hero. But Smittle would have none of that. “Which one of you bastards attacked that hodag?”

Surprised by the question, but eager to get the pleasantries over with and turn to the matter of first aid, Renee answered, “Well... Blaine had the final shot. But he took off.”

“I know. He came to get me- said you two were in a fix.”

“But what about the hodag? We're not in trouble, are we?” Renee extended an arm towards Smittle, assuming he'd help her up. He didn't.

“When you attacked the hodag...” Smittle lifted his right leg. A second, larger hodag was gnawing on it, tearing through his pants with both claws and teeth. The instructor looked at it with disdain, but was otherwise unflustered. “You forgot the alpha male.”

Smittle clutched the hodag with his right hand and tore it (and a chunk of his pant leg) off his person. He flung the beast into the distance, pumping his shotgun before it landed. Once it did, Smittle aimed, fired and earned his second clean kill of the night.

“So... just you or did you bring friends?” Smittle asked, turning back to Renee.

“Yes! Donovan!” Renee brought herself to her feet and slogged towards Donovan. This was a difficult task, as her clothes were completely soaked and probably weighed twice as much as when she had come in. She struggled to stay balanced, since one arm clutched the other, effectively keeping both out of commission. Smittle pumped his shotgun and followed her.

Along the way, Renee said, “Look, you might be wondering why we're in here to begin with.”

Smittle scoffed. “Don't explain. You kids don't respect the FUP. There's plenty of good shagging spots that aren't near wyvern nests.”

All Renee could do was let out a moan of exasperated surprise and keep walking. She couldn't even correct him. Frankly, given what they were actually up to, she probably shouldn't have anyway.

Donovan was turning purple, was already unconscious, and had fallen face down into the marsh. Smittle correctly declared that all of these were bad things.

“Yep... he's poisoned. Should be dead soon,” he deadpanned. Smittle stood there, apparently waiting out his prediction.

“Well, we have to help him!” Renee was a little more active. She knew Molly wouldn't like it much if Donovan didn't survive. Besides, she had her own injury to settle. “Is the clinic open?”

“You better hope so. You know how to teleport, right?”

“Yeah, but I can't cast anything with my arm like this.”

Smittle grumbled. “Jeez, so now I'm a taxi too.”


Session Six

One teleportation spell later, they arrived at the clinic's waiting room. A nice, brightly-lit, carpeted waiting room. Between the marsh muck that joined them for the ride, Renee's water-logged clothes, the blood from her and Donovan's open wounds and the fact that Smittle was filthy by nature, the room didn't stay nice for long.

Smittle didn't care. He walked up to the front desk and pressed a call bell to get some service. Renee gingerly took off her coat and threw it in the garbage.

“I hope somebody's back there,” she said.

Somebody was. Somebody wearing white pajamas and fuzzy pink slippers. She teleported behind the front desk and smiled brightly.

“Sorry I'm late!” she announced.

“Woke you up, eh?” Smittle said.

“Nope, just watching a movie!” It took this long for the woman (or girl- she was either in her late teens or extremely early twenties) to actually scan the room. What she saw shocked her.

“Oh my... Mr. Smittle, is that your gun?! Who makes that model? I want one!”

Smittle cleared his throat loudly and pointed to Renee and Donovan.

She looked at Renee, somehow retaining that smile and hideously chirpy voice. “Oh. Right. Trouble in the FUP, I take it?”

“You could say that,” Renee said. The exhaustion of the night and her wound was finally setting in. Plus, unlikely as she was to admit it, she was genuinely worried about Donovan.

“Say no more! I know what you two were up to!” said the doctor (or nurse, or premed, or intern... whatever she was), in such playful manner that Renee felt sick to her stomach. The added wink didn't help.

She took Renee by the arm, the healthy one, and led her inside. “I suppose, come on and we'll get you fixed up.”

“Actually, uh... it didn't get me too bad,” Renee protested. Compared to Donovan, she was fine. Painful as the attack was, her coat had taken most of the blow and the bleeding was fairly subdued.

“Nonsense, I'll take care of you. What's your name?”


“I love that name! Mine's Kiki! Now have a seat while I get my tools.”

Kiki led Renee to a row of four cots. Renee sat down as Kiki ran to a nearby cabinet. Presumably to get her tools. 'Tools? Did she just say tools?' Renee thought, suddenly worried as Kiki dug through the cabinets.

Yes, Renee- tools. Kiki retrieved a mallet. Not some little thing to test reflexes either: if not for the head's obsidian color and the handle sticking out of it, Renee would have mistaken it for a snare drum. She thought such a large mallet only existed in cartoons or old prop comedy bits, but then again she hadn't been sold on the existence of wyverns until tonight.

Kiki carried it across the room easily enough, but Renee didn't assume that meant it was lightweight. Hell, Kathryn could probably carry a sledgehammer like that. The sadistic smile on Kiki's face didn't help matters.

“Now hold out your arm,” Kiki instructed. Renee didn't budge, so Kiki did it herself.

Renee's arm shook. Kiki restrained it with straps that just happened to be on the cot. “Does this hurt? Because it's just a scratch,” Renee said, granted that the 'scratch' was six inches long and still bleeding.

“Don't know... I've never done it on myself, silly. Now hold still.” Not that Renee had a choice. She closed her eyes and hoped she wouldn't feel anything as Kiki lifted the mallet overhead and slammed it down on the arm.

Legend has it that Renee's scream woke up residents of three surrounding dorms and Smittle later made a personal apology to a group of banshees that he had once accused of having the most hideous cries on Earth. When she was finished, and it took a while, Renee fell back onto the cot.

When she dared open her eyes she saw that her arm was fully healed and pain-free. Kiki undid the straps and smiled brightly.

“Now that wasn't so bad, was it?” Renee was too busy catching her breath to answer.

In the meantime, Smittle dragged in Donovan by the collar, leaving a trail of blood on the linoleum floor. “You forgot one.”

“Oh!” Kiki exclaimed, happy to have another patient. “What's wrong with him?”

“Stung by a wyvern it would seem.”

She looked over him, his leg, and his apparent lack of blood circulation. “So it would. Wonder how long it takes for the poison to kill somebody.”

“Depending on how he's stung, could be ten minutes.”

“Wow! That's strong stuff!” Still, she didn't seem too worried. She turned to Renee. “When did he get stung?”

Renee had calmed down now, although she didn't feel like moving her healed arm. Thankfully her watch was on the other wrist. “Uh... ten minutes... give or take,” she said, trying to be grim. Actually, she was still reeling from the mallet shot, and relieved that Kiki had noticed Donovan at all.

Smittle propped Donovan up on a second cot as Kiki opened a metal cabinet in the corner. Inside were bottles and syringes of all sorts. She scanned the labels below each, mumbling to herself. “Let's see... antidotes... we got Asps, Basilisks, Bees... hey!!”

“What?!” Renee shouted.

Kiki turned to Renee and proclaimed, “These are in alphabetical order!” Using this revelation, Kiki proudly moved to the bottom row and found the wyvern antidote. “Got it!”

“You know how to use that, right?” Smittle asked.

“Of course!” Kiki replied, pulling out a crossbow.

Renee wanted to ask, but when she saw Kiki load the syringe into the crossbow's chamber, decided that she didn't want the answer. She would get one anyway, as Kiki aimed the loaded weapon at Donovan's leg, just below the sting.

“Down the hatch!” Kiki shouted, firing the needle point-blank into his leg. The syringe unloaded all of its antidote into Donovan's bloodstream in milliseconds. Yes, Donovan felt this. His upper body shot upright and his eyes flew open.

Before he could react to the enormous pain, Kiki doubled it by yanking the needle out... then tripled it by slamming his leg with the mallet. Donovan fell backwards and passed out again.

“Another satisfied customer!!” She set the crossbow on the counter, grabbed a clipboard and approached Renee again.

“So he's okay?” Renee asked.

“Yep, now sign these forms.”

Rather than risk finding out what other little devices Kiki was hiding, Renee obeyed. Kiki looked over Renee's shoulder (literally, as in her chin was almost resting on it) until Renee filled out her room number. As soon as “D-202” was on paper, Kiki walked up to a telephone.

She dialed two numbers, then turned to Renee again. “Oh shoot... that was 202, right?” Renee nodded; Kiki resumed dialing.

Renee dropped the pen when she heard Kiki say, “Is this D-202's Guardian? Hi, I'm Kiki Riviera from the clinic and-”

Before Kiki finished the sentence, Molly was standing next to her. “What did Donovan do this time?” she said.

One look at Renee, Donovan, Smittle and the assorted bloodstains and medical weaponry scattered about told Molly everything. Okay, perhaps not everything. But enough for her to fold her arms and glare at Renee.

“Got time for a story?” Renee said, forcing a bashful smile.

“No. Get some rest; you and Donovan have class tomorrow,” Molly said, almost mockingly.

“Class? Oh God!” After an ordeal like that, Renee had completely forgotten that it was a school night.

“And this is why I didn't want you all going to Reggie's room.” With that final word to startle Renee one last time, Molly teleported away, making a mental note to tell Claude to start trailing Donovan instead of Troy.





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