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TS34: Looks Back

The retrieval point from the Abyss was nearby in the center of one of the school courtyards. The distortion of space made it difficult to tell where they were going. The walls seemed to buckle inward in odd shapes, waves of stone where straight stones used to be. The stairs were the worst, uneven and warped, but the only ones that were actually impassible on their own had stairs built within the abyss.

At the point itself was a small garden, a bed of polished pebbles in front of a pond surrounded by flowering trees and two stone sculptures. The first was of oriental design, a stone pillar devoted to the elements that rose out of the far edge of the pond. The other was a simple pillar in the center of the courtyard with a purple amethyst gemstone set into a groove on the top.

South walked up to the gem, and slid it to one side of the groove. “Most of these safe points are simply checked once a day. We have an Abyss runner on staff who jumps in for ten seconds at dusk and dawn to make sure no one is out here. Since she might miss you, we also set up this signal. First, she always checks the gem, so if it’s moved, she will find you. Second, while detections spells into the abyss are difficult, we have one that regularly checks if this gem is moved.”

A young female horse jumped into existence nearby. “Hello, I’m Magus Tamera Frost. Break into twos and I’ll get you out in pairs. South, you got five minutes.” She stepped to the side and vanished again.

South explained, “Magus Frost will give a formal introduction when we’re all back in Atlantis. So, pair up, and form a line by the pedestal. Aden, I want you in the first pair back. I didn’t realize you had a magically controlled issue.”

Aden sighed, but accepted South’s choice. Reluctantly, he lined up with Mug to head back. “Why doesn’t she make a portal, like you did to get us here?”

“That’s my specialty, and it requires a lot of magic. When you’re dealing with the Abyss, you want to make sure to use the most efficient magic.” South shrugged. “Magus Frost can open portals, but for rapidly getting people in and out of the Abyss, jumping is a lot easier and more efficient.”

Magus Frost jumped in again. She took Aden’s and Mug’s hands and jumped out.

Jove watched as his classmates were transported back to Atlantis. Julius took his hand, “I’ll go with you.”

Jove’s face felt warm with embarrassment. He looked towards Chris for help, but the wolf just shrugged. If he did have feelings for Jove as Rai said, he did not feel jealousy.

Magus Frost jumped in and out with the other students. Jove hung back, still embarrassed by Julius hanging off his arm. Chris made no move to find a pair, and kept a slightly defensive position nearby. When it was just them and South, the teacher offered, “Jove, cross over with Julius. I’ll follow with Chris.”

“Or not.” A sense of danger filled Jove at the new voice. It called, “Abyss Seal.” In response, a large circle of magic runes spun into existence on the ground around the shrine. It settled into a foot thick ring of glowing white chalk.

South had his weapons out before the newcomer finished speaking. “Show yourself!”

“Now now, no need to be rude.” The speaker came into view, an older fox wearing a simple gray robe. “We’re all friends here. Well, no. I’m here to deal with Jove, but South, we’re old friends aren’t we?”

South looked at the old fox. “Who are you?”

The fox smiled, “I suppose you don’t remember, and in the Abyss, your magic can’t tell you. At the moment, I’m going by Merlin. While I was going to wait, I am annoyed that someone snapped my neck this week.”

South lunged forward and twin scimitars slashed downward. Jove watched as magic ran throughout Merlin’s body. The gray clad fox blocked the blades with his forearm, which the blades were unable to cut. Merlin’s magic did not weaken. Even in the Abyss, Jove could see it regenerate.

The fox’s eyes flashed a black that seemed to radiate outward from the sockets. Black chitinous plates erupted from his skin, and dark twisted red and black horns from his forehead. A pair of black batwings tore out from the back of his robe.

“Nice try South, but I’m Merlin.” The now-demon laughed, “My magic works here.” He smacked the bear with his other hand, sending South reeling back into the pond.

Julius pulled Jove away from Merlin, standing between them.

Chris drew a brass hilt. With a gesture, a white blade sprouted. “Hobbled mages don’t bleed magic.”

“And what can you do with that sword, little wolf?”

Chris growled, “It’s a knife.” He swiped at the ground and marred the circle with a deep groove cut into the stone floor.

Almost immediately, Magus Frost and Azarias jumped in. Merlin laughed, “Raphael, are you still alive?”

Magus Azarias glared at the older fox. “Frost, get South out of here. Now!” He took a breath, wasting precious magic on calming himself. “Hello Dominus. You’re supposed to be dead.”

“I get that a lot,” the demon replied. “I’m going by Merlin now.”

Jove watched Azarias’ magic. It seemed to cycle inside the winged snake, nothing escaping. Azarias demanded, “Leave.” His eyes never left Merlin.

Magus Frost waded into the pond. She took South’s hand and they both vanished.

There was a pause, and Merlin asked, “Do you claim him?”

Azarias shook his head slightly. “Alterius non sit qui suus esse potest.”

Merlin looked at Jove, then back to Azarias. “You believe him capable of that?” He narrowed his eyes and felt his neck. “Very well. Jove, I will see you another time.” With that, he flexed his wings. “I regret I will not see Raphael explain how he just saved your life.” He laughed, and lifted off the ground with a single flap of his wings. With a second flap he was sailing away.

Julius demanded, “What did you say to him?”

Azarias sighed slightly. “Technically, I said Jove was his own person. I guess after breaking his possession of Mark, Jove earned that.”

“No.” Jove objected. “His magic was different.”

Chris said, “You can’t tell that without your magic.” Something in Chris’ tone implied this was best discussed later.

Jove nodded, “It’s just a guess.” Although it wasn’t.

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