Magical Security Taskforce




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Chapter 22: Golden Sun

Session One

Renee knew Donovan was up to something.

The term was over in two days and Donovan had been eerily subdued the whole time, at least when she was around. Undoubtedly, he had been practicing some things out of the grimoire for the last two weeks, but she hadn't witnessed anything and Molly hadn't received any disciplinary reports or lawsuits. But here, as she watched TV after her peers invoked the fifteen minute rule to cancel her morning class, every time she looked over her shoulder, Donovan was positioned outside Troy's bedroom door, grimoire in one hand and a canister of salt in the other.

“What are you doing?” Renee asked, trying not to get involved but overwhelmed with curiosity. Donovan just chuckled evilly and went about his business.

In this case, his business involved two salt circles right in front of Troy's door. After consulting his 'tome' several times, making slight adjustments to the circles each time, he set the book down, cast a spell, and stepped back. Renee found this much more engaging than the trite talk show she was watching.

“And now... we wait for him to emerge...” Donovan hissed.

“Um... you mean Troy? He has an early morning class. He left three hours ago,” Renee said.

He furrowed his eyebrows. “Hmm... and I am late to mine. Bryce!”

“Sir?” Bryce said.

“Guard the circle and alert me the moment Troy steps into my trap.”

The minion nodded in understanding as Donovan teleported away. Blaine appeared a few moments later to retrieve Donovan's bookbag, but he too vanished. Bryce watched the circle for exactly two seconds before joining Renee on the couch.

“Whatcha watching?”

Renee was more interested in the circle. “Can I see what he did over there?”

“Nope. I'd have to kill you,” Bryce replied cheerfully.

Turns out Renee didn't have to wait long to find out. Ten minutes later, Troy returned.

“Oh, hey. Got out early?” he said to Renee as he entered his room.

Both Renee and Bryce turned around eagerly to see what would happen, but Troy was gone.

“Troy?” Suddenly, Renee was nervous. This was a little too clean a disappearance for one of Donovan's tricks. Bryce teleported away without another word.

Let's follow Troy for a moment. Donovan had created a teleportation circle- a nice little spell in Grimoire 17 that sends the unwitting victim to a specified location. In this case, the Forest of Unspeakable Peril. Not for long, however, as he found himself standing in an identical circle. This circle activated and sent him off again, this time to the middle of the field... currently being used as a shooting range for fire magi.

He screamed as a fireball came his way, but he was whisked away again to the clinic... then the parking lot... then outside a classroom... and then back to room 202.

“Renee!” he shouted, but the cycle repeated itself before he saw her response.

Troy realized that the slightest movement activated each circle. He attempted to hold still around the end of the third pass. Frozen outside the lecture hall, he could at least look at one static image for a moment without getting dizzy. Unfortunately, that image included Donovan, grinning on a bench across from him. Troy opened his mouth to shout back, which began the whirlwind all over again.

From Renee's vantage point, she saw Troy pop in briefly for a second, disappear, then show up seconds later. She wanted to help, she really did, but countering a spell from Donovan's grimoire was above her abilities. Reaching in and grabbing him probably wasn't such a great idea either, out of fear she'd get caught up in it too. This moral dilemma was tabled when Molly burst into the room.

“Turn on Fox Business Network,” she ordered.

“Uh, Molly, Troy's in a bit of a situation.”

Not that Molly would have cared anyway, but she seemed particularly committed to ignoring Troy today. She walked up to the television, barely even reacting to Troy's sporadic screams.

Renee helplessly followed her sister. “I don't think we get that channel here.”

Molly cast a spell. They did now. Renee made a mental note to make a list of stations to request.

On the screen, between the news crawler, stock tickers, network watermark and gratuitous American flag, a news anchor interviewed Darren Silars. A caption identified him as Golden Sun's Head of Acquisitions.

Troy screamed again. Molly cast a silencing spell the next time he came around.

Silars, with that slick smile, was especially good at hamming it up with the receptive interviewer: “With our growing commitment to customer service, what better way to demonstrate it than by opening a new call center in America's heartland?”

The interviewer nodded, smugly adding, “I know I always end up with someone from India, can't help me, may not be able to speak English.”

Darren shrugged off the aside. “Yes, it's that kind of frustration that is leading us in this direction.”

After cycling through a few statistics on Golden Sun, the headline appeared to make sense of it all: “Golden Sun, Inc. Opening Call Center in L. B. Gould, Ohio.”

“Oh, sweet, we made the news!” Renee exclaimed.

Molly shook her head as Darren went over the virtues of his company and how they're creating jobs locally instead of outsourcing like they had always done before.

“How did you find out about this?” Renee asked, noting Molly's dour attitude.

“Uriel contacted me. Golden Sun is run by the Chioni demon faction.”

Renee didn't need to hear any more. She too sat silently as Darren expounded on his company's move as a big business doing good. Head down, Molly stewed for a while, turned off the TV with a spell, then bent over, burying her face in her hands.

“They must have found out about the book. There's no other reason the Chioni would muscle in like this.”

Looking at the blank TV, Renee frowned. “You mean they'd go through all that trouble for Donovan's book?”

Molly stared at Renee, then turned back to Donovan's circle. Troy was still trapped inside, although much quieter now. Whenever he passed through, he stared back at Molly with contempt. She didn't care.

“Donovan did that?” After Renee affirmed, Molly said, direly, “With that book, Donovan was able to do something this demented. Imagine what Darren Silars and Golden Sun could do with it.”


Session Two

For all of Molly's griping about the Chioni barging into town, Kurt actually had to investigate the bastards. Uriel had the same suspicion as Molly: the demons had discovered where Grimoire 17 was and considered it attainable. Kurt's job was to confirm this and deter any efforts to steal it. Obviously, he wasn't being eased into his new position.

Still, he had an opening. Or, to be precise, Golden Sun did. Insidious as they were, all that fluff about creating jobs in America had legs. 'Help Wanted' signs went up immediately seeking new blood in the call center. This was doubly great for Kurt. Not only could he get in with the company he was investigating, he could get some money on top of the pittance Uriel paid him.

If, that is, he could land the job. He adjusted his tie, hoping he had followed the internet tutorials closely enough to fake a decent half-Windsor. Summoning a false sense of confidence, he entered the building.

In a hurry, the place had gone from a calm, stately operation to a dizzying cacophony of office noise. All of the desks were in use, and everyone seemed to be talking at the same time, at least two engaged in shouting matches with customers. Furthermore, corporate planners were roaming the walkways, running full diagnostics on everything to plan future changes. Plans for expansion were literally written on the walls. A secretary rushed Kurt through the madness to Silars' office.

“Mr. Sempman?” Silars asked, grinning and extending a hand.

“Yes!” Kurt blurted, trying not to cringe. Although he hadn't been entered into the MST's public employee record yet, an oversight that proved extremely beneficial here, he was part of a magic family. It wasn't a particularly renowned family, but he couldn't afford to give away anything.

Problem was, taking off anything MST-related left his resume pretty bare. Uriel's office doctored up a brief employment history and provided a few references in on the scheme, but even that could only be stretched so far. Kurt was, after all, fresh out of high school. So, having never punched a clock in his life, despite what was on his application, Kurt sat down in front of the demon interviewing him.

“So tell me a little about yourself,” Silars said. Kurt was thrown immediately. Himself? He knew magic, cars, and the taste of Kathryn's lips. None of those seemed like appropriate responses. Settling for the second as background filler, he kept it general- looking for work out of high school.

Already, he was not doing well, and Silars didn't make it easy on him, exposing Kurt as ill-prepared within five minutes. He asked where Kurt was going to college. Kurt wasn't going to college, but should have lied and said Indiana. Darren asked about the main responsibilities of his prior jobs. Kurt recited what he could remember from the jobs Uriel had made up for him... and nothing more.

Darren got the same information from his copy of the application. “Hmm... and these jobs were here in town?” Kurt nodded nervously. “This number for your old boss has a 513 area code. That's a Cincinnati number.”

Kurt hesitated. It was just for a moment, but he froze up, thinking he was busted. A moment later, he came up with a response: “He got promoted last year and had to move.” Darren seemed to buy it, but that delay couldn't have looked good for such a simple explanation.

The rest of the interview went the same way. For someone who had been so anxious about his job status for so long, he was seriously unprepared for an actual job interview. Even essentials like his typing abilities eluded him. When Kurt shrugged and said he never timed himself, Darren grimaced.

“We prefer at least 30 words per minute here.” Kurt tried not to look surprised at the number. He'd probably need more than two fingers to hit that.

At the conclusion, Darren's final question was the worst of all: “Any questions for me?”

Again, Kurt froze. He had a million- why were they here? What was their purpose? Any interest in mystical books owned by local schoolkids? But after going through the gauntlet of textbook interview questions that a normal applicant would likely breeze through, Kurt had none of his own to volley back.

“Okay then. We'll keep in touch,” Darren said, standing up and extending a hand. Kurt shook it and wordlessly left the office. He could have asked how long before a phone call, but that would have implied that he expected one.

In all, not a good first assignment. The concept was prime agent stuff- getting into a crooked company to investigate demonic dealings. Juicier than most missions, yet it was conceivable for Kurt to succeed, even as a rookie. Instead, he was so worried about making the forged statements work that he couldn't even handle the material that should have been natural. He wasn't exposed as a fraud or a spy: he just bombed the interview.

As he took his walk through the ranks of the employed who had long since passed what he had just failed, he heard someone call his name. Kurt almost didn't recognize Ellen hiding in the rows of identical workstations, but she spotted him and unleashed herself from her headphones to stand up and prevent his escape.

“Mrs. Monroe?” Kurt was surprised, but not alarmingly so- she was a person in town he knew, this was a job in town, people have jobs in town. He was more bothered by the fact that Troy's mother had secured a job here while he couldn't.

“Kurt, are you trying to get a job here?” She seemed surprised too.

“Uh, yeah,” he said, dismayed.

“Really?” Ellen apparently found that hard to believe. Kurt could understand that. After all, depending on how much she had heard from Troy, she knew he had moved two months prior, had secured some work with the MST, and that by virtue he was far too qualified to be a phone monkey.

“You got a minute?” she asked.

He shrugged. “Sure.” She caught Silars before his door closed and announced her intention to take a coffee break. With his approval, she led him away, saying only, “Let's talk.”


Session Three

For all of Golden Sun's evils, the breakroom was huge. Ellen explained that it was slated to become yet another office for even more operators. At the moment, though, the collapsed walls made for a spacious place to unwind, with a table, a counter with coffee and assorted snacks, and a little dust from the renovations.

“I need a break anyway,” Ellen said, pouring coffee into a giant mug.

Kurt nodded. Ellen was but a passing acquaintance, and he didn't care one way or another about chatting with her or doing something more pragmatic like checking in with Uriel. “Can you pour me a cup?”

“Sorry. Employees only.” She sat down and spontaneously launched into a tirade. “One of the many fun policies here. Sure hasn't been the same since these guys took over. I mean before, all the companies I took calls for were at least decent about making things right and not screwing over the customers. Suddenly we're swamped with calls from angry people and we can't help them. So guess who they yell at?”

“Not fun?” Kurt had already figured that out, but just wanted to make sure.

“If there was anything else in this town, I'd quit. But you? Eighteen and you're already driven to this place?”

Kurt shrugged. “If it makes you feel any better, I crashed and burned in there. Say, how fast can you type?”

“Forty words a minute.” She held up her coffee mug. “Forty-five once I finish this.” After a swig to get herself closer to that mark, Ellen said, “But there's nothing else available for you? I thought Troy said you were moving.”

“Yeah, turns out that was just to a new apartment. With a two-month detour to an internship abroad.”

“Okay, so you are still in the MST.”

In a moment of paranoia, Kurt looked around the room for any suspicious mirrors or microphones. He didn't detect any magic in use.

Ellen chuckled. “Room's not bugged, Kurt. They're not that bad.”

Kurt looked her in the eyes and her face reflected his cold expression. “Don't be so sure.” After glancing over his shoulder one more time, he said, “This company has ties to one of the demon factions. The plan was to get a job here so I could investigate them. We think they might be here to steal a... uh...” He paused to phrase it right; he didn't want to scare her even more. “A local artifact.”

She stared back, gravely concerned but not particularly surprised. After suffering such a jolt in her work routine so much, Ellen had no trouble connecting Golden Sun to evil. “I'm not in any danger, am I?”

“No, no,” he reassured. At least he was confident in this. “We don't get civilians involved and Golden Sun won't want to either. Their reputation's bad enough already.”

Suddenly, she chuckled. “They probably pay better than the MST.”

“Yeah, I'm just a rookie field agent. I could have used the extra money.”

“I remember what Frank took home when he was doing that. Guess we both have to stick it out for now.”

Kurt nodded, but there was nothing similar about their situations. Ellen was in a bad job serving what could be evil incorporated. But she faced no danger other than stress accumulation. Salary gripes aside, there was nothing wrong with his job, and loved being back in town. He was just uncomfortable with being thrown in the position despite doubts about his ability to defend himself, Molly or her students should demons strike. As a field agent, Kurt was no longer shielded by the taboo of attacking MST students, and he had to admit that it made him a little nervous. His performance on his first assignment, which could be ranked anywhere from 'disappointing' to 'epic failure,' wasn't encouraging.

As Ellen chugged her coffee as part of some one-sided toast to workplace misery, Kurt's phone rang. He pulled it out: Ellen was surprised that it was not just any cellular phone, it was a full fancy PDA device.

“You have a Blackberry?”

“It's for magi. Gathers data on nearby magic use. We call it a Bloodberry.”

“They have such neat toys.”

Kurt nodded and put the Bloodberry to his ear.

“How'd it go?” Uriel asked.

“I think I need to take a keyboarding class,” Kurt replied. “I'm not expecting a call back, let's put it that way.”

“Hmm... for someone whose job status was in limbo for so long, I would have thought your interview skills would be better.” Kurt shook his head unhappily. He wasn't sure if Uriel was joking, but it wasn't funny either way. “Did you learn anything about their plans?”

Kurt scoffed. As if Silars exposed his company's evil plans to any idiot who applied for a job there. “You know, he didn't say anything about that. He's not a Bond villain.”

Uriel chuckled. “Never know. Don't most interviews end with the applicant getting to ask questions?”

This time, Kurt knew he was joking, and it still wasn't funny. “Thanks for the warning,” he said, bitter.

“Looks like we'll have reassess our strategy. Where are you right now?”

“Still at the office actually. Talking with Ellen Monroe.” Kurt looked at her and mouthed 'the boss,' in case she hadn't figured it out.

“Who?” Though she was enlightened, Uriel was not.

“Troy Monroe's mom. She works here.”

“Troy Monroe?”

“Molly's recruit? Half the reason I came over here to begin with?”

“Oh yes, the good one. I hope you're not having this conversation in front of the uninitiated.”

Kurt shuddered at the accusation. He was innocent, but it still hurt that Uriel would even suggest something so clumsy. “No, no, she's up on this. Troy's dad was in the force.”

“Really?” Uriel said, intrigued by the coincidence.

Before Kurt could respond, Ellen refilled her mug and said, “I need to get back to work before Mr. Silars sends a search party after me. You know your way out?”

“Uh, yeah,” Kurt mumbled, now holding two conversations at once.

“Maybe I'll see you around. Whatever you're doing, good luck,” she said, with just the bare minimum of sincerity. Then Ellen was out the door and back at her post.

Now technically a trespasser, Kurt stood up and walked out, returning to the Bloodberry. “Sorry, uh, yeah, I didn't expect to see her either. She wanted to ream me out for going for such a crummy job.”

“Interesting. Well, if you didn't get it, we'll just have to look at other plans. But that's good to know. I will contact you when we figure something out. Later.”

“Yep,” Kurt replied, hanging up. He was out the door, across the street, and about half a block away before he picked up on it, and the moment he did he stopped in his tracks. Turning back to the building, he realized that he may never have the right to enter the Golden Sun's offices again. And his supervisor just learned that somebody inside not only had access, but was sympathetic to the MST.

All he could do was shake his head. “I shouldn't have said that,” he muttered.


Session Four

If the Chioni really were after Grimoire 17, even Donovan grasped the apparent danger. He wasn't all that concerned with the evils they could unleash; he just didn't want to be without his book. Keeping that in mind, Molly got through to him and he took the threat seriously.

So Donovan's first task upon returning from Central was finding a good hiding place for his tome. One remote enough that only he or his minions would have access to, but close enough so that it could be retrieved in a moment's notice. Surely there was a niche for the book that no Chioni would consider searching, and the answer came easily.

In his infinite genius and delusion, the dark room at school seemed like the perfect spot.

Getting inside during summer break required a certain degree of stealth, at least in Donovan's opinion. After having Blaine and Bryce shut down the alarms, Donovan teleported his way through various closets until ending up near enough to the dark room to make a break for it. His minions were waiting for him.

“The alarms were already off,” Blaine explained.

“The doors weren't even locked. Guess some faculty are still working,” Bryce added.

“Excellent. What better enigma to fool our enemies than an unguarded fortress?” Donovan waxed.

He opened the door to hide his treasure. Somebody was inside waiting for him.

“Hello, Donovan,” Kendrick said, pleasantly, as one would when greeting someone he hadn't tried to kill.

Donovan wasn't buying the friendly attitude. He glowered back. “You...”

Kendrick smirked. “Yes?”

“You and I have met before.”

Bryce, thankfully, had a better recollection. “Uh, Donovan, he tried to kill us last year.”

Holding up a finger, Kendrick corrected him. “Actually, minion, according to the official account, Donovan tried to kill me.”

Scoffing, Bryce replied, “Whatever. And don't call me minion.”

“Minion- stand guard outside,” Donovan ordered. “Clearly he and I have unfinished business.”

Bryce didn't protest, walking out and shutting the door. Blaine stood in the corner in case of any hostilities. With the room now lit only by a light ball in the center of the table and that funky wall marking, Donovan deemed the environment moody enough for the confrontation.

“Now... why have you returned?”

“Just checking up on you. Seeing if you've learned anything useful in three terms.” Kendrick's smile broadened. “I was hoping you would recognize me. I would have loved to see your attack magic.”

Donovan frowned. “Attack magic? Surely you are joking.”

“Surely I am. Still unsatisfied with their teachings?”

“Their path to world conquest is long and painstaking. But fate has intervened with a shortcut.” He held up the briefcase holding the book.

“Is that so?” Kendrick replied, leaning in and raising an eyebrow.

“Indeed. But it is to remain secret.”

Snickering, Kendrick said, “Donovan, have you ever heard of the Freedom of Information Act?” He opened a folder on the table, filled with forms.

“No. But whatever it is, it is no match for my Tome of Vincent Wagner!” Donovan responded by pulling the book from the case and slamming it on the table.

Kendrick was in awe. Not only at the majesty of such a fine grimoire, but also at Donovan's bravado for putting it on full display in front of a known enemy.

Or, more likely, because Kendrick was all prepared, eager even, to detail the excruciating process he had gone through to find out about the book and its new owner. As an organization with such vital duties, the MST was subject to the same open records laws as any government agencies. So Kendrick put a few requests in to get information on significant magic artifacts and their owners, cross-referencing them with the name Vincent. That's how he stumbled upon Grimoire 17. Further research led him to discover that the grimoire was slated for transfer soon. As the heirloom clause was in effect, the transfer would logically be made to Vincent's heir. More digging told him that Troy, Yuki and Kurt were the only locals with a parent in the system, with Donovan listed as unknown. Kendrick found names for the fathers of the former three, none of which were Vincent. So the process of elimination led him to Donovan, and a simple plan to wait in the dark room until his inevitable return, where Kendrick would triumphantly explain how he came about this information in one long, messy paragraph.

With that part of the plot foiled, Kendrick was a little upset.

“But the real question- have they taught you how to use it?” Donovan didn't answer- answer enough for Kendrick. “Because I may have a few suggestions, if you're receptive.”

Kendrick wouldn't get an answer, and this time he needed one. Instead, a knock on the door interrupted any proceedings. For a moment, Kendrick panicked. Anyone else from the MST, and they'd likely be more hostile.

“Who's in here?” Thankfully for Kendrick, it was Claude.

“My minion has failed me,” Donovan observed.

Claude threw the door open, clearly in no mood for any improprieties, but also with the embittered look of a student in good academic standing in school during summer vacation. Needless to say, he was in no mood for anything resembling funny business.

“Hey, no visitors allowed. Did you check in with the front office?” Claude asked Kendrick.

“No, I didn't,” Kendrick replied, smirking at Molly's twerpy assistant.

“Then you'll have to come with me. Don't make me call Molly.”

Kendrick's smirk vanished. No possibility of turning Donovan over, nor sacred book was worth a confrontation with Molly. He stood up and began walking.

“I was just about to leave anyway. Donovan, I shall see you soon. Please consider my proposal.”

Claude rolled his eyes, then noticed the book Donovan was paging through idly. The intricate diagrams within drew Claude's interest. “What in the world is that?”

Donovan snapped back to Claude, eyes wild. “The Tome of Vincent Wagner!”

Kendrick slapped his forehead and pulled Claude away. “Just some relic he got from the family attic. None of your concern. Since when has any of this club's actions been threatening?”

Claude cleared his throat and led Kendrick to the nearest exit. “I'm just doing my job. Can't be too careful after some punk burned the garage down last year. Be happy Madame President isn't here today.”

“Yes, I've met Miss Pearson. Your threat is valid. This is my exit?”

With a nod, Claude opened the door for Kendrick. Kendrick nodded back and walked out. “Toodles,” he said, mockingly.


Session Five

Technically, taking an interest in Grimoire 17 was not part of Kendrick's overall mission. But on full display in front of him, the thing just oozed magical energy and only a fool would have ignored it. He was sure he could justify the expenses of pursuing the book, so long as he successfully obtained it.

Now that he had confirmed that Donovan held it, Kendrick considered the task of actually taking it the easy part. He had kept tabs on him for almost two years and was well aware of Donovan's penchant for idiocy. The first step was cornering Donovan in a place where Claude wouldn't interfere. This meant taking a page from Claude's playbook and stalking his subject outside his home.

On this bright summer morning, Donovan was nowhere to be found, but Bryce was mowing the lawn and Blaine vacuumed the living room inside. Unsettled by two minion magi reduced to domestic work, Kendrick sighed and approached Bryce.

“Good morning, minion.”

Over the roar of the riding mower, Bryce spat back, “Didn't I tell you not to call me that? Would you like it if I called you demon?”

“I don't recall your name. Where's Donovan?”

“As you can see, Donovan's mom has him doing chores today. And my name's Bryce.”

“Seems you and...” Kendrick turned to the window, unable to remember Blaine's name either. “The other one-”

“Call Blaine whatever you want. I don't care.”

“You two seem to have a handle on things.”

Bryce nodded. “Perhaps, but he's not leaving the house anyway. Probably upstairs meditating or whatever the hell he does when we're not around.”

“So he wouldn't mind if I-”

“No,” Bryce declared, suddenly adamant. He turned the mower off and stepped in front of Kendrick. “Don't even try. He already turned you down once, so there's no point in persisting with someone as stubborn as Donovan. You're lucky we haven't reported you to the MST already.”

Kendrick frowned. How did he end up with the one minion in the world that showed traces of a backbone?

“You're luckier than I, min...” He caught himself as Bryce glared back. “Bryce. If I were reported, I'd have no reason to cloak myself and withhold my magic. I'd kill you and teleport away.”

Bryce thought about that for a second. That was a better reason than his official excuse: last time Kendrick showed up, Bryce got stuck with all the documentation paperwork.

“Besides, I'm no longer after Donovan,” Kendrick said, only half-lying. “I'm after his book.”

With a dismissive chuckle, Bryce laughed. “Then why are you here? He put that away for safe keeping. You'll never get your hands on it.”

“Really?” Kendrick smiled. “Thank you, that saves me a lot of trouble!”

And off Kendrick went to the dark room. Walking, as he still couldn't use magic.

Not really worried about Claude, but watching for him nonetheless, Kendrick slinked through the hallways. Then he realized he'd be less suspicious walking normally as if he was supposed to be there.

The door to the dark room was unlocked, thus sparing Kendrick the fun of smooth-talking a janitor into letting him in. Holding the door open long enough for the ugly remnants of the prior year's vandalism to reflect the light, Kendrick looked around. There, on top of the bookshelf, was Vincent's briefcase.

“This is unfair,” Kendrick muttered in amusement. He expected better from Donovan than to leave the book in an obvious spot in an unlocked room in a public school. Plus, as a Hokoni, he was all about fair fights, be they battles of sword or of wit. But he couldn't turn down such charity and took the briefcase.

Ever prepared to discover that this was too good to be true, Kendrick looked down to snap the case open, and instead saw the floor glow. With such brilliant contrast against the dim light of the wall markings, he was momentarily blinded. By the time his eyes adjusted, he saw a circle surrounding him. He took a deep breath and knocked on its boundary. Yep- a binding circle.

Kendrick looked inside the case but by now he already knew it would be empty. Naturally, he was a little irritated that he fell for such an obvious trap, but also relieved that Donovan was at least smart enough to create it.

The chessmaster himself teleported in soon afterwards, armed with the true grimoire and a royal smirk. “So... the hunter has been caught in the spider's web,” Donovan intoned.

Flashing a smile, Kendrick nodded his head. “Hello, Donovan. Well played, indeed. I am at your mercy. Surely your genius is nothing short of infinitesimal.”

“Naturally. You were a fool to challenge Donovan Dunmar, keeper of the tome.”

But Donovan did not use the 'tome' here. He set it on the table and charged up his own spell. Although Kendrick's fulsome smile didn't waver, he was suddenly a little nervous. He had seen the Zukoni battle, and knew Donovan's circles were very strong. But Kendrick also assumed it was a two-way barrier he was stuck in. Could Donovan have laid a trap he could fire into with no chance of his prey escaping?

Donovan poured his energy into his dark ball, then hurled it at Kendrick, who braced himself in case the threat was genuine. But no- this was a two-way barrier and the ball ricocheted hard off of it. So hard, in fact, that it bounced straight back and into Donovan's face, where the ensuing explosion dropped him.

Kendrick's mouth fell open as not only was the attack serious, it was bad enough to knock Donovan out... thus removing the circle. He was absolutely agog as he stepped into freedom. Normally, this would call for some sort of smarmy remark, even with no conscious soul within earshot. But he was absolutely at a loss for words.

Thankfully for him, there were plenty of words in the now abandoned and now unguarded Grimoire 17. Kendrick flipped through it, casually taking a glance at some of them. He'd have plenty of time to get more intimate with it. He picked it up, shrugged, and walked to the door.

Before he left the room, he stopped and chuckled. Not because his mission was successful, and not because Donovan had truly demonstrated his infinitesimal genius. Kendrick had forgotten something so key that it would have undermined his stroke of good fortune.

Stepping over Donovan's body, Kendrick returned to the shelf and grabbed the briefcase. No way he'd be able to make his escape with such a powerful book naked in public.


Session Six

After five rounds of knocking, Kurt finally opened his apartment door. Only a crack though, and even that begrudgingly.

“Molly, this isn't a good time,” he said, half-wincing.

Molly didn't care. “Kendrick stole the grimoire,” she replied bitterly, holding Donovan by his hair and clutching tighter.

Kurt blinked, looked at Donovan as he tried to appear as poised as someone being dragged by the hair could, then turned back to Molly.

“Goddamn it,” he huffed, then shut the door. From the outside, Molly heard him yell, “Kathryn! Get dressed, we have a problem!”

Other than her eyes flying open in shock, she had little outward reaction to hearing that. Although she did yank down on Donovan's hair.

“Unhand me, woman,” he muttered.

Kurt and Kathryn were out, dressed and ready for action a few moments later. Not that they were at all pleased with the interruption. Still, Kurt adopted some professionalism. “Where's Troy and Renee?”

“I'd like to keep them out of this if possible.” Molly sneered at Kathryn. “But since Kathryn's already here... where's your staff?”

“Yuki's got it,” Kathryn replied, between slow, cleansing breaths to rid herself of the dual feelings of ecstasy and the need to ring someone's throat.

Molly pinched her ear. “Yuki.”

And with minion-like response, there was Yuki. “Ma'am!”

“Staff her.” Molly pointed to Kathryn.

While Yuki unleashed Kathryn's staff from its container, Molly explained the situation, which hardly made Kurt feel better. “Well, I did have them put an ATB up,” he said, later explaining to Kathryn that meant 'anti-teleportation barrier' and prevented anyone from crossing it. “That way there wouldn't be an easy escape if the Chioni made a move or Donovan f-ed up.”

Something on his Bloodberry raised his eyebrows. “And it looks like someone tried to teleport out of here recently. Once at the school a half hour ago...”

“Enough with the technology,” Donovan blurted. Nose to the air, he pointed randomly. “The tome is calling to its master. It is this way!”

Kurt pressed a couple buttons on the Bloodberry. “Actually... Kendrick just tried to teleport again five minutes ago.” He pointed in the opposed direction. “He's downtown. Given how long it took him to get there from school, he's not driving. But we are!”

He, Molly and Donovan rushed to his car. Kathryn was a little slower, and Yuki noticed. “You don't seem to be in a very good mood.”

Kathryn shook her head. “Funny, I was in a fantastic mood five minutes ago.”


Despite the fortuitous situation that put the book into Kendrick's hands, he cursed his luck as he rode a magenta girls' bike as far away as he could get. It was the only unchained bike on the rack outside the school that had a basket and his initial escape plan had been derailed. Amusing as he found Donovan's idea of a trap, the anti-teleportation barrier was an unforeseen complication and a serious problem.

After attempting teleportation again, in case the ATB only surrounded the school, Kendrick gave up, pulled over, and cracked the book open. The failed attempt at magic would have given away his location anyway, so unleashing the book became less risky. Plus the rewards were substantial, especially if something in there could spirit him out of town.

He whistled at some of the circle spells within. A truly skilled mage could rearrange the entire cosmos with this thing. If Kendrick could get this to his superiors, he could only imagine the hell the Hokoni could unleash upon the worlds. Certainly promising enough to get himself a promotion.

A twitch of disorientation snapped him out of his daydream. He knew what that meant, and it was a potential nightmare: someone had put up a displacement.

“Oh, shoot,” he muttered.

From there, it happened so fast that he should have used the past tense. Out of nowhere, a bolt of energy struck him in the side, knocking over both him and the bike. Kendrick lost his grip on the book, but it only fell a few feet away, and his first move was to dive on top of it. His second was to find his assailant.

Yards away, a car pulled over and Kendrick got a glimpse of a pointed finger from the front passenger side. All four doors opened in unison and out stepped his attacker, Molly, along with Kurt, Donovan, Kathryn and Yuki.

Kendrick was taken aback. “A drive-by shooting?! And you're supposed to be the good guys?”

Kurt and Molly took the lead, with Kathryn to their side and Donovan and Yuki behind them. Molly instructed Donovan to cast a spell countering any teleportation attempt. Surprisingly, he could and did.

“Okay, Kendrick, drop the book and we'll go easy on you,” Kurt said.

Scoffing, Kendrick smirked. “You know I could destroy it. Don't suppose I could get you to cooperate with that threat?”

“Go ahead and try. Those are made pretty tough. And even if you could, we'd just book you for destruction of an artifact. Plus we won't have to guard the damn thing anymore.”

To emphasize that this would not become a hostage crisis, Molly fired off a shot at Kendrick while he was occupied with Kurt. The blast struck the demon in the leg and toppled him.

At Kurt's orchestration, he and Kathryn charged in next. But before they could get too close, Kendrick drove his hand into the ground, sending shockwaves out to knock over the pair. Molly fended it off before it reached her, Donovan or Yuki, but it allowed Kendrick enough time to take flight.

“You may have the numbers, but your abilities are still elementary,” Kendrick bragged, dodging a pot shot from Molly. “Perhaps I should dispatch you with something from my cookbook.”

Before he could open up the grimoire, out of the corner of his eye he spotted a small object heading his way. Kendrick dismissed it as a rock and let it bounce off his shoulder. That's when it exploded, sending both him and the book into a free fall.

From her knees, Kathryn dove after the book. But with a quick, swooping motion, faster than any bird of prey, something above her intercepted it. A second swoop in the opposite direction led Kathryn's eyes to the culprit- and his two associates. One had a handful of the small explosive stones that had brought down Kendrick.

All three wore navy blue business suits emblazoned with the Golden Sun logo.





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