10th of Dentis, 2718
"Mister Madden. Mister Savatier." Castor Devlin greeted them with a nod and a formal use of their last names unlike the passives had probably heard for years except in mockery. His pronunciation was elongated as if he considered their names carefully, as if he wanted to remember them for posterity. There may have even been the hint of a smile in the dark, the older galdor quietly tucking away their names into the shadowy recesses of his secretive thoughts, his dark gaze lingering for a moment longer than may have felt necessary on Fionn. Someone had a sister if the professor was remembering names correctly, and he set aside his curiosity for another, more appropriate moment,
"Forgive me. Our kind is more or less the same, you and I both being born of galdorkind, with the exception that, yes, the mona appears to refuse to flow properly along the ley lines of those born passive like yourselves. Otherwise, biologically speaking, we are identical, obviously. To what end? Well, that's the secret on the spice rack, isn't it?" The shorter, rounder man led the pair of younger men through the dark and spoke as though they were his peers, no hint of conceit in his tone. He didn't sugar-coat anything, either, nor did he necessarily attempt to explain some of the austere, intellectual terminology he used, "Some passives indeed go their whole lives without experiencing a diablerie, and plenty of faculty here in Brunnhold would love to pat themselves on the clocking back and say it's because you all are so safe and well-cared for here. Clearly. Look at you."
There was a wave of Castor's left hand in a dismissive fashion, the ring on his finger clearly a wedding band, sparkling in the warm glow of the light he'd created to guide them by. He snorted a sarcastic noise that could have been somewhere between a sound of disgust and a chuckle, disapproving of the pair's treatment and making sure they both saw him for who he wished them to know him as in this moment—a friend.
"The current monic theory on diableries is that they are some kind of traumatic explosion of monic will, most of the time some uncontrollable, destructive outburst. This is, quite frankly, chroveshit with no educated foundation other than some academic bastard's warm fuzzies for not beating his servants. Yes, most diableries are very dangerous and destructive, but not all of them. Some happen frequently. Some happen rarely. There's something more at play, and Professor Moore and I are aiming to figure it out, all underneath the noses of our stuffy, stuck-in-their ways peers. Harper explains it all better. I mostly just keep the faculty at bay and make our research sound far more harmless so that we can continue our work. Digging at the foundation of society is somewhat risky business, wouldn't you say?"
Professor Devlin was either selling tickets to enter Laboratory Beta as a volunteer or he was on some kind of soapbox, visibly passionate about both the academic pursuit of proper passive understanding as well as some form of actual equality. He rolled his broad shoulders and turned them all down one last, dark hallway. The ceiling was lower now and the passage much tighter, requiring them to walk in single file. He lowered his voice while he led the way, his magical illumination flickering as if he was growing tired of maintaining it even though Fred's body remained comfortable. Avoiding answering what kind of experiments were going on behind closed doors he condoned, he replied mysteriously instead,
"If we knew what we were trying to discover, would it be called discovering? Right now, we're trying to understand ley lines and the ley fabric of Vita. From there, we hope to figure out what makes passives different from their galdor parents. I can't say we can cure or fix anything, but perhaps with proper understanding, we won't have to? It's all very theoretical right now. Anyway—"
Castor trailed off, the older galdor pausing in front of yet another door and digging out the keys from his vest. He'd set a swift enough pace to be panting, having traveled so much already this evening from the wilderness outside of the fortress-turned-university where he'd hidden his aeroship. Unlocking the door and placing a finger to his lips, he whispered, "I don't expect visitors at this house, but we shall see if Professor Moore is still awake or asleep in his books."
Through the door was another maintenance closet of sorts, a set of stairs leading up to another door that opened into the main hallway of the Parford Wing of the Sciences Ward. At this late hour, the hall appeared entirely abandoned and none but a door had any light filtering from around the threshold. It was, of course, to this door down this hallway that Professor Devlin led them all, quiet and purposeful, not bothering to knock so much as opening the door and ushering his charges in, body and all, without a hint of shame,
"Harper, I've brought some guests."
He closed the door behind them, tempted to lock it but not wanting to spook the pair of passives he'd led all the way through secret places beneath Brunnhold, not after his lengthy explanation of his purpose in life lately. Laboratory Beta was more like an office, at least the first room, with book shelves and a lounge-like seating area with comfortable chairs. A phosphor lantern and some candles kept the foyer lit, and there were two doors that led in opposite directions from the room they paused in for only a heartbeat or two. One door was open, and Castor stepped past Fionn and Lars and Fred's body, which was slowly growing heavier as if the Professor's magic was fading. He felt like a balloon being filled with water,
"Castor? You're late—was everything—" A worried voice half-whispered, half-called from the room as everyone began to shuffle in, the laboratory proper consisting of one bed, a variety of strange contraptions, and a work table where a younger galdor in glasses was buried beneath a pile of papers and a stack of books. When he looked up, he gurgled a noise of surprise and horror, dropping his quill and all but falling over himself to get around his make-shift desk, knocking a few tomes onto the floor and sending loose papers into the air, a pan of strange utensils clattering after everything. Moore winced, ignoring it all to wave his hands, "—what in Alioe's name are you doing? Who are these people? Is that—is that a dead body? Good Lady—"
"Harper, calm down. These passives are in need of a little assistance. They're good lads stuck in an unsavory spot, that's all. You know me—I'm a sucker for trouble."
"Oh gods. What did you do—I mean—oh—uh—what sort of trouble?" Professor Moore squeaked, blatantly staring at the body, his field tangibly jittery with nervousness, even if he mustered up a bit of a smile and used his index finger to unceremoniously shove his spectacles further up his nose as if he needed the motion to process all of the theoretical situations that had brought two living passives, one dead passive, and his galdor cohort converging into his laboratory. It must have been a lot of thinking, for he fell quiet for a few moments and Professor Devlin waited with uncanny patience, watching the man's face for a heartbeat before he indicated to Lars and Fionn to set Fred on the bed-like spot in the lab, "Need I remind you that Mrs. Rogers is already rather suspicious of our interest in her charges, Castor—"
"—then she should clocking well take better care of them. This one fell down the stairs. Perhaps we can finally get permission to search for physical evidence of ley lines so long as we can keep the body fresh, eh?"
"Chimes and bells. You're serious!" There was a hint of excitement in Harper's voice and for a moment it was clear he'd totally forgotten who else was in the room, eyes lit up behind his spectacles and eyebrows raised high in his forehead. Then, he remembered himself and sighed, shoulders sagging, "Alright, let's hear what the story is, then, and are we waking Ophelia at this hour or can it wait until morning?"
"I'm not clocking waking her. I'm already up for review next week, or so she says—"
"Magister Devlin!" The younger professor hissed the other man's official title in horrified displeasure, "We could lose everything—"
"Calm down, Harper. Let's sort this out first, and we'll worry about the repercussions as they happen. I was clocking serious about private research if this all falls through. Brunnhold is stuck in its ways, after all."
"Anaxas. Anaxas is stuck in it's—oh. Hello. I'm Professor Harper Moore. I'm sorry. I have no manners. Feel free to sit, sirs—"
"Mister Fionn Madden and Mister Lars Savatier." The older galdor added with a wink, moving to cover Fred's body with a blanket, once more gathering his field and speaking in hushed tones several long phrases of Monite, giving Harper his moment with the two passives even though he knew that the other professor would be aware of what he was doing. If he emphasized a last name, he hid rather well, used to communicating with his friend and peer with a level of secrecy very few understood. He began to cast to chill and preserve the body, though of course only the other galdor at all had a clue what he was doing and that it would truly be the end of his using any magic for the day. By the time he was finished, he'd find one of the uncomfortable chairs in the small laboratory and all but melt into it, removing a handkerchief from somewhere on his person to wipe his face and pretend he wasn't panting.
The bespectacled galdor on the other hand was clearly flustered by everything happening at once, and he seemed to need fidgeting nervously with the buttons of his starched, white lab coat to keep himself focused, "—well, Fionn. Lars. Just let me know who your Patron is and I'll make sure to explain—"