“This is mostly for the benefit of the other people who will fill your shoes. You didn't honestly think you were going to be the first or only Caretaker, right Glassen?”
“Of course not, Alexi...” A prod at the back of my mind tells me Cadence is stirring, and is less than amused as per the norm. Well... Maybe not exactly as normal. She's not always in a foul mood, but she does tend to be more serious and brooding than the others... Though I still tend to prefer that over the somewhat robotic tone Alexi uses whenever we engage in what little conversation she sees necessary. At least Cadence shows some kind of emotion, negative though it tends to be. Alexi... Doesn't. It honestly scared me when I first started to regain myself, and it doesn't help me sleep any better now. Thankfully, Bridget's there more often than not to bring a sort of balance to the issue.
“Do you always have to be so damn condescending?” I heave a sigh as I step out into a long, large, darkened room; steam hisses from pipes somewhere in the distance as I make my way toward the main console, prepping myself for yet another mild argument between at least two of the three people I have trapped in my mind. More of Alexi's 'gifts,' though something in my gut tells me I'd be incredibly shortsighted to say otherwise. The first step toward wisdom is acknowledging ignorance.
“Do you always have to be so confrontational?” Bridget's voice, though soft, rings through my mind as she gently chides Cadence for perhaps the umpteenth time since they've met. “Alexi isn't like us. Not you, not me, certainly not Glassen. She's simply asking a legitimate question.” Cadence huffs as I sit and reach for a switch, guided less by sight in this blackened place and more by rote memory.
“You're right, she isn't like us. She's just some crazy old alien nutcase that somehow found her way down to Hades for whatever reason, and just happened to be there when Glassen got dragged through. She talks like she just walked out of Satan's court and still manages to find time in her plotting and planning to make Glassen feel like an idiot. How come you're not doing anything about it, huh? Aren't you exactly the kind of person to not put up with that shit?”
I sit back and wait while they bicker, busying myself by focusing on the machinery coming to life around me as the Archive wakes up. The steam I'd heard earlier grows louder as valves open, granting access to the pipes closer to my general location; overhead, near the floor, through the pylons that function as data storage... The screen slowly flickers on, showing Alexi's emblem in the middle before it spreads out into a sort of login screen. I type in the password, and my world brightens considerably as the main display appears; upon a Void-light background rest folders A-Z, holding the formidable library of information Alexi had accumulated and added to (through me) over the years.
Still bent on ignoring the ongoing mental kerfuffle, though admittedly growing somewhat impatient with the contestants- “She's not from anywhere we know! She can't even-!” “-Can't what, Cadence? Need I remind you of our debt to her?”-, I select the “A” folder and start scrolling down the list of sub-folders. Locations, Objects, People... Out of curiosity to see if anything's changed since the last time I viewed her file, I open the People folder and find Alexi's tab, bringing it front and center; I then locate the files of the other two spirits and set them in the background. Might be important.
Name: Alexi N. Aj2Ia*%k
Active: ????? - ?????
Background information: Ascgrfnjbkxjhzlkjnjk@$asd^5jiao)4jn,hzuwnjfsh(i029u3*#&(Y*@&%xEK4@(#*#*(#&#@#(!))&^ASHLAIUW&%7762321jhsJKKKKKKKKKKKHSjdhhhhhhhhhhhhgJbjvbkahsdjyugkbbwuhfs8*&(*y#&$rt897287*#$&hqbrncyaouywuirwebnbaskjdaghkbcuwheuhqjbakajoac.....
To make a long wall of text and symbols short, no. It hasn't changed. Come to think of it, maybe I shouldn't be so surprised... Alexi never was really open about anything related to her, unless the fate of a universe or two depended on it. “Could you two cut it out for one minute?” The arguing, already well on it's way to an end through either Bridget's patience or Alexi's intervention, briefly stops as the two major contributors focus on me and what I have pulled up on the screen. “Oh great, another perfect example of why not to trust Alexi,” Cadence sneers. “You wouldn't happen to speak Garble, would you, Bridget?” I can practically see the dracolich rolling her eyes at the vampire's 'tude.
Alright, that's enough, I think. “Your proclivity for snarking at the obvious and trivial is as reliable as ever, Cadence,” I sigh, “As is your habit of ignoring the people you depend on.” Sweet silence fills my mind as Cadence disengages from her 'talk' with Bridget to soak in what I just said; the subsequent “oh no she di'in't” air lasts for a whopping ten seconds before outrage starts to settle in. “'Scuse me?” Taking the opportunity that having her attention focused on me presents, I pull up her file. Try evading that. “You know what I mean. Alexi is pretty secretive, but that doesn't mean she'll never speak up about anything. Your advisers, on the other hand... What happened there?” “...”
Name: Cadence/Kadenz Brandt
Active: 1405 AD - ????
Background information: Born and raised by Clan Brandt for ~90 years in a rural village near the Alps. Overthrown by a collaborative effort between a rival clan and vampire hunters, went into self-imposed exile. Found by Caretaker Glassen and held while her physical body recovers.
“So, what happened?” “Pardon?” “A hundred years is usually long enough to get a rough grasp on how things work, right? Your clan was, according to you, pretty high up there, if not the highest there was,” I press, “So how did it go downhill?” “I thought I already told you that story. Twice, even, since I had to tell it again for Bridget.” I pinch the bridge of my nose. “You don't have to go over every lurid detail of your history to get to the coup, Cadence. I just want to know how people as shady as the Winters managed to get the drop on you.” The hotheaded spirit sighs, and I envision her sitting cross-legged on the floor of her assigned 'realm.' Surprisingly, what follows isn't an explosive rant... Just tired resignation, like a grizzled Vietnam-era soldier telling about his part in the war.
“That same question is something I've been asking myself almost since the night it happened. Only answer I can give right now is that they were the best set to jump on my pride.” Cadence starts to tell her tale, the weariness and frustration in her voice bleeding into me; the screen in front of me dims along with my outward awareness as the vampire's voice briefly becomes a faint, unintelligible hum... It snaps back into focus just as a door to my left bursts open- “Miss! They've breached the main Hall!” My head snaps in that direction, beholding an out-of-breath female stepping into the room.
Speaking of which... I notice the room I'm in no longer resembles the Archive. Gone are the pillars, pipes, and glowing display, and in their place are stone walls and the few bits of furniture Cadence allowed in her room: A small but comfortable-looking bed, a chair (currently my seat) and end table near the foot of the bed, and the thick rug in the middle of the floor... All set gently aglow by the nearby fireplace, the flame within relatively small on what's left of its log fuel. The flickering casts deep shadows behind the sparse décor and on the face of the not entirely unexpected guest.
“What?” I bark out the one-word question, my voice no longer my own; the other party jumps, nervousness crossing her features as she struggles to catch her breath and elaborate on her exclamation. “The Hunters have broken into the main hall, miss,” she reiterates, “and the other clans have already been-” “-How many are there?” Scaring her isn't my goal, but I can't quite seem to keep the rage contained to my thoughts alone... Are they mine, though? “Miss!” I jump slightly at a touch on my arm and focus on her again; the look on my face must be something, since she lifts that hand from my arm to tug at her shirt collar. “Th-There are two dozen, miss, not counting what's left of...”
I huff and stand up, feeling a set of weights on my back briefly lessen as I stretch them out, then bring them back in with a slight shake. “Let me guess, the other clans were too busy beating on each other to pay attention to the army at our doorstep, which made them easy pickings for the greenhorns?” Unsure of how to respond, the girl briefly opens her mouth- “This,” I start, growling out my frustrations, “this is why we've been having so much trouble. Their memory isn't worth a shit. Why do we even bother? For a bunch of 'immortals,' they have a really hard time retaining basic rules like 'don't piss off the Church' and 'don't antagonize half the villages in the damn country!' Just-”
A heavy impact causes the stones in the walls to tremble, interrupting my tirade and causing the girl in front of me to bury her face in her hands. “We're doomed...” Growling with annoyance, I march forward and, in a manner somewhat belying my observable mood, gently push her back toward my bed-and by extension, my window. “There's a ticket for a carriage and some rope under the pillow. Should be just long enough to get you down to the ramparts... You can get to the town from there.” Without waiting for a reply, I duck through the doorway and jog down the corridor, following the sound of vicious fighting, swearing, and the smell of both human and vampiric blood alike. How did they-
Time and my surroundings blur together until I'm standing on the ramparts I'd mentioned to the girl earlier, snarling at a white-haired, seemingly young woman who's visual response is a frosty smile. “You didn't truly expect to win this, did you, Brandt?” She sneers. “Your clan is obsolete, and frankly, has always been ill-suited to the task of ruling the courts. How you survived at all is beyond me.” Rage boils through me, taking physical form as fire swirling in my hand. “Because when we came to power, we made sure cretins like the Winters,” I spit the clan name, “don't get into power. Part of that effort included rebuilding the court system from the ground up, so shit like this doesn't happen.”
The head of the Winter clan bares her teeth in a psychotic grin, the air around her head condensing and solidifying into icy spears ready for launch. “And has that worked out for you, dear?” She asks sweetly. “Because it seems to me that your mother-” “Don't talk shit about my mother!” Red and orange fill my vision as the waiting flame in my hand suddenly flares into a stream, headed straight for the Winter lady; she sidesteps easily, lifting a hand to her chest in mock surprise. “My my, have I struck a nerve? It's rather hard to tell, with how easily you Brandts take such heavy offense...” I don't bother to dignify the prods with a personal response... At least, not right off the bat. “So...”
I ready a fireball in the usual spot, taking to the air and maintaining a steady hover; I keep my gaze focused on her, but my actual target lies to her right. “With that in mind,” I start, gritting my teeth, “what makes you think pissing me off is such a good idea?” Winter seems to blur out of sight for a moment, but I don't bother moving yet. After all... “You tend to focus rather exclusively on what's in front of you, as with any lower brute when angered.” ...Self-awareness isn't her strong suit. As she moves to swing from what I know is her vantage point behind my head, I cease my flight and drop...
...Right in front of a barricaded door, where I loose the fireball I'd prepped and turn to watch her reaction. At first, it's simply mild confusion; as the flames eat through the wood and liquefy the metal in the span of five seconds, she sends a look that almost says, “Why would you waste a shot?” I reorient myself and shoot back upwards with a powerful thrust of my wings, arrowing up behind her just as two of the Hunters I'd seen in the hall take notice and shout to some men manning a ballista. The expression on Winter's face stays confused for a moment longer, until comprehension replaces it.
“You dare-?!” One of my hands finds its way across her mouth while the other snakes around her wings, pinning her against me. “What's it look like?” My hand heats up with the flame from earlier as a warning, and I turn us slightly in the air just in time... For the ballista to launch a silver-tipped spear with an oddly white shaft. Time stands still and my panic in that instant makes my blood run cold. Putting out the flame and hurrying my escape, I plant a foot in the middle of Winter's back and push with all my strength, putting me just enough out of the way that I don't suffer her fate. The spear runs her completely through, easily piercing-if not outright destroying-her heart.
She doesn't even have time to suck in a shocked gasp before her body starts to disintegrate, the ashes blowing away in the wind and flickering as they pass through moonbeams. Of course, since I was busy not paying attention to the exact arc the spear took, I found myself with a nice, round hole straight through my gut. God, it burns... Silver by itself isn't lethal, definitely not in any place that isn't the heart, but the shaft-which splintered somewhat under the strain of going through both of us-must've been Alps-native larch, which is the only thing that can really do Brandts serious damage... A weakness shared by the Winters, if the empty space in front of me on the spear is any indicator.
I feel my lips twist into a grimace as I yank the spear out, painfully aware of the shards left in my body, and start an unsteady flight to my last hope of sanctuary: A cave system that tunnels under and through the Alps, shown to me by a friend I'd made while I was still living in the village northeast of there. As I descend through the opening and land on the stone floor, I turn to stare at the sky for a minute longer... The stars and the embers match pretty well. I'll be seeing more later; right now, I need to work on not getting caught with my pants down again. With that in mind, I turn and hold a heated hand to the edge of the cave mouth, melting through the stone near the bottom.
It takes a few seconds for it to do its work, but by the time the entrance collapses I'm already well on my way to the main network. I'd set up a temporary home here, complete with a heavy stone coffin I had handmade for this exact kind of incident. I head over to it and shove the lid over, leaving enough room for me to sit up once I'm inside; when that's done, I look down and examine the wound. The hole itself isn't very big, but that turns out to be something of a problem in itself: because of my healing, I can't reliably see what I'm doing to try to get the larch shards out. Short of torturing myself in all sorts of interesting and disturbing ways, there's really only one option. Not that it's much better.
Spontaneous combustion (read: people catching fire for no obvious reason) is usually more than a little lethal to vampires, but because I'm a Brandt, my power means I don't have to worry about dying to it. At least, not permanently... And right now, it's looking like my best shot of not winding up like some desert war victim. I can worry about fixing this later... Right now, I need to purge this stuff. Embers fly up from the coffin as I burn from the inside out, reducing everything to ash. It'll take me a long time to recover, but I don't think I'll have to worry about being found here... And it gives me time. Time to think. Time to wonder how I can fix this mess, if there's anything left to fix. I hope she's okay.
I blink, and my surroundings are the same as before Cadence started telling her story. Her memories... “And that's how I wound up in the crypt you found me in,” Cadence finishes. “I'd been waiting in there for centuries while my body regenerated, though I'm pretty sure the only reason it took that long was because of the larch mixed in.” “So, to put all this in short form,” I start counting off my fingers, “You acted too simplistic to handle the courts, tried to take on a small army by yourself, then sealed yourself in some old cave for hundreds of years to heal up from a potentially fatal injury? How are you not insane?” The vampire shrugs, feeling distant. “Beats me. Maybe I'm used to it.”
I fight the urge to let my forehead slam into the desk in front of me, replacing that with my finger and thumb on the bridge of my nose. “Thanks, Alexi...” “For what?” Cadence's puzzled voice interrupts before Alexi can answer. “She's not the one who-” “I know she isn't,” I snap. “I'm just curious as to why her idea of 'help' includes taking in mentally and/or emotionally unstable people to function as pieces of me after... After...” I can't say I regret not being able to finish the sentence. “That certainly does seem a likely source of confusion.” Bridget finally speaks up, having remained silent that whole time. “Although, I would like to object somewhat to your assessment of our health and fortitude.”
Alexi doesn't bother to personally answer the 'question' I had, though something tells me she planned for the others to step in. Whether that's an odd form of mercy or yet another refusal to take me seriously is beyond me, at least for the moment... Coming back out of thought, I clear my throat. “I'm not saying you guys aren't tough, it's just... Why would she choose people who've been isolated in some way for long amounts of time? Why people who were beaten in...” It clicks, and Bridget seems to know it, but that doesn't stop her from spelling the rest out. “Why she chose people who were beaten in their own battles? I believe it was because she knew we would be better able to empathize.”
“Wait just a second,” Cadence interjects. “'We?' I'm not saying I don't like the kid or feel bad for her, but-” Shock floods my system, but the mental evil look Cadence gives me stops me from capitalizing on the silence. “But,” she continues, “I wasn't aware you were ever IN a battle, given your attitude, Bridget.” The dracolich in human form smiles apologetically from her snow-covered birch forest realm, though there's a slight twist of wry humor to it and her eyes. “It's been some time since I joined, so I had assumed you'd seen the...” “Seen what?” Cadence demands. “What did I miss?”
I sigh and snap to get her attention, pulling up Bridget's file from the minimized state it was in.
Name: Bridget O'Malley (Current)
Race: Frost Dragon/Dracolich
Background information: Former member of a breed of dragons named Reód. Killed in battle by a great black dragon and cursed into undeath, fled North to wait for news and justice. Found by Caretaker Glassen and held until the black dragon is found and destroyed.
Cadence's surprise fills my mind as she reads the entry through my eyes. “Wha...? I mean, I knew she was some kinda undead drake, but what the Hell happened?” Bridget sighs, and I visualize her icy blue eyes gazing off into the distance; she's far less hesitant to tell her story, though I find that somewhat surprising given the absolute crap she's been through. Like, seriously... How does she do it?
“This was thousands of years ago, you see,” she began. “Humans were much more primitive in their own rights, though there were a handful from different tribes that stood out for their magical prowess. Their intelligence and willingness to learn was unmatched by other humans, who were generally more focused on keeping their tribes afloat with hunting, fishing, farming, and warfare. Of course, this ability to stand out eventually led to a terrible war, and it earned the ire of many dragons.”
“-We cannot just allow them to rampage across the wilds! They will destroy the balance and drive everything into ruin!” I turn to face the source of the voice, which is deep and urgent; the Archive has once again melted away in the blink of an eye, replaced by a massive cavern filled with dragons of many different colors, shapes, and sizes. The one speaking, an Eastern lóng, is large, but certainly not anywhere near as big as the wyvern he is addressing. Sitting on a pile of stones in the middle of the cavern, he-the Elder-is massive, easily towering over all the other great serpents present. “We must do something now, or else they'll all-!” The smaller finds himself interrupted.
“They will burn out eventually,” the Elder's rumbling voice booms. “Let their precious magic destroy them from the inside out- their end matters little in the eyes of eternity.” A deathly hush fills the room, replacing the clamor of outraged, fearful, and curious dragons. Shock fills the eyes of the first speaker, his great jaw opening and closing as he scrambles for something to say in light of the Elder's words. “You... You mean to leave them to their own devices? They'll destroy everything! We can't just-” The Elder silences him again by lifting the tip of his massive tail and slamming it down. “We will not intervene in mortal affairs. They come, they go, they return. What little they harm will recover.”
The smaller dragon turns to face me, a desperate light in his eyes fueling his words and causing his limbs to tremble just so. “Perhaps it will,” he concedes without turning back, “but what of those of us who rely on the environment? If the forest is burned away, then the Cleth will lose their basis of existence and cease to be. If the frost of the North is permanently melted by Wildfyre, the Reód will suffer the same fate, and the others will be forced to seek shelter with the Benn in what's left of their domain in an attempt to escape the rising water.” He pauses to glance pointedly at the other dragons in the cavern, eyes stopping to meet the Elder's. “If we die,” he growls, “you will die with us.”
The other dragons in the cavern begin to stir uneasily, caught between growing existential panic and fear of angering the Elder. It seems, however, that one of them has neither in mind; only a cold, calculated resolve. “If I had only followed my instinct to mistrust that dragon, I could've averted so much chaos and death... Alas, I was far too oblivious and trusting, and the first thing that black creature did,” Bridget's voice echoes through my mind, tinged with sorrow and bitterness, “was murder the Elder.” Indeed, as she spoke, something as dark as the deepest shadow in the room flashed across my vision, somehow moving faster than an arrow, yet crawling slower than a snail.
The very air seems to freeze as the object disappears cleanly through one side of the Elder's horned skull and out the other, leaving no trace of any wrongdoing... Other than his eyes, which widen in shock before glazing over. He simply... Stops. No breath fills his lungs, no muscles twitch, yet something somehow forbids gravity to claim his body. That same dark magic might well be what keeps the rest of the cavern from immediately going into a furious uproar, though I suspect my grief-addled mind prevents me from seeing the world as it truly is, and how it will be... I shake my head to clear it, and as the first whispers pass through the crowd, the black dragon steps out into the light-
-Firelight, which I barely dodge by tucking in my wings and diving as hard as I can; even then, the searing flame scorches the tip of my tail, earning a grunt of pain and annoyance. I roll onto my back mid-flight to target my assailant, the lining of my maw freezing spittle and air moisture as I prepare to blast him with icy missiles. The black drake, the same one who had slain the Elder, barrel rolls out of the way just as the deathly cold projectiles reach it, grazing the tip of one of his wings. I have little time to ponder on the nature of that failed attack before a shadowy bolt of agony lances through my own wings, forcing me to drop the rest of the way to the ash-covered earth far below.
My impact makes a rather large furrow in the ground, breaking the larger, more prominent spines on my back and almost assuredly crippling whatever flight capabilities I might've had once the pain faded away. Growling, I barely manage to roll myself onto my belly so that I can stand once more, but the sight of the battle is even more disheartening than my early grounding. Dragons on both sides lay wounded, dead and dying across a wide swath of burning ground, with the occasional human sorcerer still casting elemental magic to try to defend their positions or reverse some of the damage. Useless, I mourn. All of this bloodshed... For what? Is humanity to blame for our hubris?
The distinct set of thuds heralding the landing of a large quadruped reaches my ears through the din of war; I whip my head around on a long neck, watching the black dragon settle into position. To my surprise, instead of poising to strike, he simply settles onto his haunches and folds his wings into a less threatening position. The voice that comes out of that dark throat is smooth, far too soft for the gravity of the atrocities lying around us... The one we're standing in now. “Battle was inevitable, Reód. Either the Elder in his aged stubbornness would have sat by when the humans eventually came to lay waste to our kind, or I would do what I did; cleanse our kind of his foolishness and mitigate losses.”
I shake my head, dismay flooding my soul. “And what of the humans? We taught them our ways; are we not responsible for this? Are we not to-” “-The humans,” the black dragon interjects, “have always been foolishly proud of their mortal position. All the Elder did was embolden them with the power they hunger for. Do you not despise him for leaving you to right his wrongs?” Cold fury shoots through my core. “The Elder,” I hiss, “knew very well what he was doing. He would not have surpassed us all so mightily in age were he wrong about humanity.” His glassy white eyes narrow.
“He knew that most are not the needlessly cruel savages many make them out to be,” I continue. “If they were, he would not have had his finest aids, myself included, instruct them in our way. I will admit, he has... Changed, since those years. But if he taught us anything, it was that compassion is a better answer than... This.” The black dragon looks incredulous for a moment, but any dim hope of swaying him is dashed the moment I see him lift a claw charged with what I thought was the same magic I'd come to dread... He speaks again, and this time his voice is hardened with something I can't quite understand. The magic spreads, interweaving with strips of white and gold.
“I knew all along you were one of his closest allies, and that is why you are still breathing. However, since your interference could well ruin what I have planned for this and all worlds...” I barely have time to twitch before he slams his claw down, causing the energy to run wildly through deep cracks in the earth. Cracks, I begin to realize, that surround my position in front of him. Hiding my new volley of frost bolts behind bared teeth, I take careful aim at his heart, slowly leaning onto my front limbs and raising my wings- “-Foolish.” “!!!” The frost gathering in my mouth suddenly loses all means of breath propulsion, sliding along with yet-unfrozen liquid down to the hole in my throat.
“Ghhhkk...” I can't feel anything anymore. Not my wings, which should've still been screaming from the same magic bolt and landing impact, not my legs, not my tail... Even the wound itself, which I surmise spans the entire width from front to back, is numbed, though I likely have the cold to thank for that truly small blessing. I can't feel myself fall, either, joining my brethren-both Reód and not-on the battle-scarred earth. The ground trembles slightly as the black dragon comes to observe his handiwork, though he strangely doesn't appear to be in any way celebrating his victory. He makes the reason apparent, however, though a final, whispered message that will chill me for years:
“So long as your bones remain, death will never claim your soul. Fly away or remain here, it matters little; we will meet again, perhaps thousands of years hence. Until then, little Reód...” Wingbeats fade from my hearing as he takes flight, leaving me with the fallen on the field. The surroundings come back to me eventually, but they are those of the Archive, not the battlefield.
“Th... That's not the end... Is it?” Cadence's question is hushed, uncharacteristically hesitant. Bridget shakes her head. “As you can see, no... It likely will not be the end for many years yet. You see... The black dragon used a forbidden spell, the likes of which I had only heard whispered of by the Elder, to bind my spirit to my bones. The rest of my body eventually withered away, deprived of any means to keep it alive after that mortal blow. I found myself faced with a dilemma: Stay near the drakes and be destroyed by them for my undeath, or attempt to preserve myself for an unknown time so as to find that cruel being and avenge myself, the Elder, and my comrades.”
“That sounds rough... Moreso than simply turning yourself in,” I murmur. “Again, how did you not go insane?” Bridget chuckles dryly, icy blue eyes wandering up to the clouds covering her 'realm.' “Mostly by sleeping and fidgeting with the ice surrounding me, though I gave up the latter once I realized the cave I had built was... Not of the most stable construction. Watching the water and snowflakes come down through the few cracks in the roof of the cave became my favorite pastime.” “Must've been, if you put up with it for thousands of years,” Cadence snorts. “Oh, speaking of those... Do you know just how long you were stuck down there?” The dracolich blinks, not looking down.
“Likely around five millennia, if the current date is any indication.” “Damn...” Is all Cadence can manage. For a while, silence dominates the atmosphere, in and out. In a tentative attempt to lighten the mood somewhat, I decide to ask what is quite possibly the dumbest question I could think of: “Hey, Bridget?” “Yes, dear?” “Do you snore in that form?” Cadence shoots me a disbelieving look, and the frosty girl blinks several times. “Do I... snore?” I nod. “I mean, I would think that wouldn't be an issue, what with being mostly bones and sinew... I just thought it'd be funny if you did.” Cadence winces and hangs her head, Alexi finally turns her attention toward us in a way we can see, and Bridget...
...Simply grins-“I daresay that's why the walls were so unstable in the first place!”-and devolves into laughter. Cadence slowly shakes her head, but she doesn't look embarrassed anymore; relief loosens my tense shoulders, and I cast a quick glance at Alexi, who has the barest hint of a smile on her face. Naturally, Cadence takes notice and, being her usual self... “What're you smirking at?” Alexi shrugs, the expression not leaving her face. “Contrary to popular belief, I'm not as unfeeling as you might think. In fact, I must say I'm glad you three are getting closer. She needs it.” She nods at me to emphasize that last bit, then turns to head back into her oddly quiet jungle-esque area.
“Hold on a sec,” Cadence says. “Aren't you gonna tell us some crazy story?” Alexi turns back to see her standing next to me and Bridget, the latter having gotten over her bout of mirth to pay attention. “I admit to a certain amount of curiosity, myself. After all, you are the one who led her to us, yes?” I nod, opting not to pitch in just yet. Alexi briefly cocks her head to one side, calculating what to say in the matter. Her eyes flick up to the sky, through which the main Archive console screen can be seen in a foggy haze. “I don't believe there's time for that,” she says with a hint of regret. Before Cadence can object, she continues, “Glassen needs to rest. As it is, she's pushing forty-eight hours.”
Bridget jumps and turns to stare at the time, looking more than a little guilty. “She's quite right... Which universe are we visiting her apartment in?” Alexi waves her hand. “She has a room in the Archive for this exact situation. It resembles the one in her apartment quite nicely, I think... At any rate,” she turns to me, “you had best be headed there in the next half-hour. Sleep is still a must, unfortunately.” I nod at her and pilot myself to the nearest door, feeling incredibly tired now that Alexi brought it to my attention. Speaking of her... “Hey, Alexi?” “Yes?” “Are you ever going to tell us your story?” Thoughtful silence, at first; it breaks when I step out into my room. “Soon, I believe.”