[Main Chapter] Where There Is No Echo

Anaxas' oldest and most prestigious University of Sorcery, the de facto cultural capital of the kingdom and a city in its own right.
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Wed Jan 02, 2019 2:20 pm

10th of Dentis, 2718
H arper Moore seemed unfazed by Fionn's hesitance and confusion, and so he took his time with his examination, glancing up at the young passive while he bent toward his damaged torso through the thick glass of his spectacles. The visuals told him enough of a story and it was clear that he was both disheartened and filled with an unspoken empathy for what else was written into the history of the young man's skin,

"I don't want to bring anyone back from the dead, no, but I do want to fix all of this." He blinked, tilting his head in indication that he meant the boy's injuries, "You should sit down, though. I'm not a Living Magus by any means and neither is Professor Devlin, but I can certainly set you right before sending you home, if you'd like, that is?"

Instead of telling Fionn what was going to happen, what he must do, the galdor gave him the luxury of a real, glorious choice. And, even more, he waited for an answer.

Should the younger passive agree, he would offer him one of the somewhat stiff, uncomfortable chairs in the small examination room of Laboratory Beta, shaking his head about the need to remove clothing or lift his shirt again, Harper explaining quietly that he had quite a clear picture of what damage had been done with his Quantitative Analysis, rattling off Fionn's injuries as if he was explaining data to a room full of students.

While the two non-magical creatures in the room would have no idea what kinds of conversation were at all possible with the mona that seemed to refuse to listen to them at all, the way in which Moore spoke was with a familiarity and appreciation that would have been enviable among galdori. His theoretical mind bordered on a form of reverence for the sentience that granted his kind the power they wielded, and it would have shown in his choice of phrasing and the tone of his voice had anyone other than Castor known what he was saying or doing.

Out of genuine respect for the boy, Harper didn't touch Fionn, which he would have preferred for Living conversation, finding the connection an aid to more effective healing. However, to the bespectacled galdor, the young man had been manhandled enough and he wasn't about to add any awkwardness to the moment, so he simply raised one hand in his direction as if about to explain something important and began to cast. The boy would feel a warmth fill him from the outside in, seeping in through the bruised areas of his flesh like comfortably heated bathwater, seeping into muscle, and seeping into bone. There would be no pain, but a slight tingling sensation would reach the tips of his toes, fingers, and nose as the Professor's anesthesia inclusion did its job.

The sensation of being healed magically was still an odd one given that an individual could actually feel the tickle and twinge of muscle and bone repairing itself at some dizzyingly accelerated rate, but there was no suffering in it.

By the time he was done, the passive was probably in better health than he had been in months.

Professor Moore didn't even appear to break a sweat.

Professor Devlin stood somewhere in the middle of Harper's casting as if he worried the young thing would object, clearly hovering nearby just in case, answering questions as he did so, hands in the pockets of his robes,

"I'll walk you both back personally. Don't worry about the rest, really. I've been working the beautiful system of Brunnhold since long before either of you young men were born. Let's leave it at that, shall we? It will be as though nothing happened—what—well—" Castor had the scoundrel's gall to tweak his nose and smirk, rolling his shoulders in a shrug about the whole thing as if he was planning on playing the whole thing by ear and didn't even have a solid plan. He knew how his own kind thought and he knew Mrs. Rogers quite well. Apparently, he also knew his own level of authority and his place under the watchful authority of Headmistress Servalis so well that he didn't even have a care in all of Vita about the safety of two passives,

"—of course you are worth something. Both of you. All of you, honestly." Professor Moore sighed when he was finished casting, reaching up to remove his glasses with one hand and rub his face with the other, "We're doing this because we believe everyone else is wrong, though of course I've had to be creative with my wording of that in order to not lose my job. But, by the Good Lady, that's why. I have made some recent strange discoveries and I believe—"

"—Harper, slow down. They're not ready for the full barrage of your theoretical calculations. They're not even volunteers, my friend. Give them time."

"No, probably not. Listen, I want to show you two something before you go, as a sort of promise of trust between us, if you will. You can say no. It's—well. It's up to you." The younger professor seemed persistent, replacing his glasses onto the bridge of his nose and turning toward one of the worktables to retrieve a small box. Opening the box, he removed what looked like nothing more than a metallic-tinted crystal on a very thin wire, placing it into the palm of his hand and holding it between them all, "I want to show you two things, honestly. This will be the first—"

Nodding to Castor, who for the first time all evening looked genuinely surprised and caught off-guard, Harper stepped toward him. The older galdor sighed and appeared to relax, gathering his field in a way that would have been considered casual but obvious to any other galdori used to using the mona that hovered around their person for communication.

Moore spoke some more Monite, and this time, his words were very slow and clear, almost as though he was either unsure of them or trying very hard to be precise. Like a plumb to measure with, the professor let the crystal hang by its string between his thumb and forefinger, lifting it between Castor and himself. After a few seconds, the crystal shifted, repulsed away from both galdori as if it were flotsam washed by waves away from shore. It was subtle, but the movement couldn't be missed.

Professor Devlin watched with interest, and even though he'd measured and seen the other professor's device several times now, it was still a curious wonder to behold. The current testing methods of Brunnhold and most other educational institution across the Six Kingdoms involved asking a child who was of age to recite a spell, but what Moore was doing was a completely different method entirely. It bucked centuries of tradition and ceremony and the monic theorist wasn't even at all apologetic for his studiousness,

"I've found a way to measure the existence of a field, which I realize means nothing to either of you because all your life, you've been told your lack of one is proof of your unworthiness. Well," Harper smirked in what could only be called intellectual rebellion, the expression lighting up his entire face, and he gathered the crystal back into his palm,

"I've discovered I can measure something else—can I show you?"

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Fionn
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Thu Jan 03, 2019 1:31 pm

Dentis 10, 2718 | Night
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Fionn found Harper Moore's treatment of him frankly unsettling. A lack of abuse was something that he could accept, not all galdori he'd encountered had been inclined to lash out and punish, and kindness was certainly odd but this genuine concern was very disconcerting. If he'd been looking at him as if he was some interesting specimen, a lab rat, an object then he probably would have felt better. Looking at his injuries was one thing but wanting to heal them? And giving him the choice?

As difficult as it was to believe, there was the man waiting patiently for a response from him and Fionn found himself looking to Lars for some strange reason, perhaps seeking something grounding in this situation or maybe searching to see that he wasn't the only one weirded out by this. His look wasn't a panicked one so it was't likely to cause alarm or make the other go on the defensive on his behalf but rather one of puzzled uneasiness, an uneven line appearing between his brows.

"I suppose.... I might as well?" he replied, lacking his typical confidence, not quite able to accept this. He let his shirt drop temporarily as he took the seat that Moore offered, his posture giving the impression that he was a spooked and cornered animal ready to bolt at any given moment. He moved to unbutton his shirt, deciding that that was probably easier than simply lifting it and was surprised when Moore said it wasn't necessary, rattling off his injuries as readily as if he'd cut him open and looked inside him. He must have done in a way, with magic. Was that Living or something else? The blond was curious - a potential curse for a gated passive but one that he'd never really attempted to suppress - but he was also afraid to ask.

Magic wasn't for the likes of him and asking about it as if he had a right to know about it simply wouldn't do. Not that there would be any harm in telling him about it. After all, what could he do with it? Even if he was given Monite words to recite rather than simple theory, it would make no difference. He'd already displayed enough of his inquisitive mind for one evening, he thought, and he wasn't going to allow it any more free reign. Definitely not.

Instead, the young man simply sat still or as still as possible given that he could feel things moving inside him as the mona worked on him. It wasn't painful and there was a warmness to it but it was still all tingly and weird, things shifting under the sense of numbness. His uneasiness was added to by Devlin's hovering presence, especially as he'd already been asking the man questions tonight and it would be all too easy to allow words to trip merrily off his tongue. Lars by comparison could easily blend into the background, going utterly unnoticed if you weren't looking for him. No wonder Fionn had failed to notice him over the years, although they probably hadn't been in the same wing most of the time; the blond had been bounced around a fair bit as patrons traded their problems.

A frown came to his features as Devlin remarked that he'd walk them back, Fionn not madly keen on the man's continued supervision. Honestly, he didn't want anyone watching him anymore. He needed a break from it and he might actually get a break from it now that Fred was gone. At least until he was replaced, which probably wouldn't be a long time coming. He just hoped that they wouldn't be someone too difficult to make arrangements with, pitiful and mostly useless though they might well turn out to be, as they'd turned out to be with Fred.

The only direct response that he made to the man's words was a minute and curt nod.

When Moore finished his casting, his comment that they were worth something drew a derisive snort from the young man who didn't want to believe it, in spite of the healing that the professor had just done. Healing that he hadn't been obligated to do and which Fionn found himself examining with interest, lifting his shirt to see the full extent of the work for himself.

Amazing. Hard to believe but he certainly didn't look as if he'd taken a beating this morning and it definitely felt much better. It was a real relief. He tucked his shirt in, taking a deep breath and enjoying not having anything twinge as he did so. He grunted, the sound almost managing to sound like thanks as Moore began talking excitedly, the other academic butting into try to reel his colleague's professional enthusiasm in as he rattled on. While that was going on, he moved around the pair, moving closer to his fellow servant. His hands had slipped back into his pockets, the young man the picture of nonchalance as he tilted his head up and away from Lars in a quick gesture that indicated that he should approach. Better for them to stick together, especially now that the Madden was in one piece. If Lars did come to stand at his side then he'd find the younger boy leaning subtly towards him, head at a slight tilt in his direction as well.

When Moore said that he wanted to show them something, presumably to do with his research, Fionn shrugged his indifference but was inwardly quite eager to see what the man had to offer. If he'd had a proper field, it would likely have been oozing his true emotions everywhere. He didn't know what to expect but he wasn't sure whether to be disappointed or simply confused when the man produced a crystal suspended from a wire. A quick furtive glance was shot Lars' way, wondering if he was as nonplussed about this as he was.

Fionn watched the display before him, quite subtle in its results and wondered what on Vita it was meant to show exactly. Understanding dawned when he mentioned measuring the existence of a field, the blond nodding slowly, uncertainly.

"But you can feel a field? Surely that's measure enough?" he hazarded, wondering where this was going but unable to miss seeing the eagerness in the older man, the mischief as if he knew something that others didn't.

"What? Are you going to tell us that you can measure something to do with us? Prove that we're still galdori in here somewhere even though we're broken? Even if you could, what difference would it make for us?" he asked, an edge creeping into his voice, bitterness verging on something nasty. His lips pressed together hard, almost bloodless from the pressure of it. It certainly wouldn't make any difference to him. It wasn't like they were going to let them all go, let them run free and mingle with them as if they hadn't been their slaves. It wouldn't make anything easier for them even if it was possible.
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Lars
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Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:00 pm

Dentis 10, 2718 | Night
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It had always been easy for Lars to stay quiet. It was uncommon for the passive to have much to add to any given conversation unless being spoken directly to, and it was one of the reasons why he had kept out of trouble up to this point. It was hard to irritate the man to the point of sarcasm or lashing out (though when one did, it happened quite quick), and he'd always preferred to stick to himself, stick to the shadows, stick to what he knew to be true.

The older passive kept his gaze on Fionn as the younger professor approached, keeping his hands off of the servant even as he healed him. None of it made sense, not really, and any effect the blonde could feel from the distance wasn't one he appreciated--this was different magic from what he'd felt before; it was that Living magic, wasn't it?

Lars wasn't the healthiest when one got technical about it, but he'd never run into any major issues in need of hospitalization. He supposed the galdori doctors must utilize this kind of magic in their work.

He didn't like the thought of that--healing injuries small and big, bringing someone back to life. Needless to say he was grateful for its existence at the moment, glad to see that his roommate didn't have to deal with the aftermath of Fred's abuse any longer, but it was... an interesting revelation, to know about this kind of magic.

If bodies could be brought back from death... well, was it so wrong to take them there?

It hadn't felt wrong. It had felt right, exhilarating; like an adrenaline rush far stronger than any he'd felt before.

When Fionn stood, Lars approached him, standing next to the younger man lending a small sense of safety in the unfamiliar laboratory. He, as well, leaned closer to his roommate, his blue gaze watching Professor Moore with uncertainty.

The man was kind despite the clear distress their visit had brought, and if not for anything else, Lars wanted to go along with watching his discoveries just to humor him for being so hospitable. He had to admit the display didn't unveil anything new to him; the crystal pulsing away from Moore if only slightly, the explanations hardly providing any more understanding.

"He... doesn't understand," the blonde admitted, falling quiet as Fionn spoke from beside him.

Situations like these were what, above everything else, reminded the man of his unworthiness--not proved otherwise, as the professor had claimed to believe. These things didn't make sense, none of it did. Magic was a mad science to the blonde; a curiosity but nothing he would ever experience or understand, because he wasn't capable of understanding.

Wasn't that what everyone else believed? That they weren't capable or worthy of understanding?

Preparing himself to sound stupid, Lars inquired, "what can you measure, if not a field? Is there something else?"

He looked back to the crystal, "he would love for you to show him, yes, but he admits he isn't the most..." trailing off, the man could only shrug a shoulder, visibly overwhelmed with his own incompetence for the scientific and magical.
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Thu Jan 10, 2019 1:43 pm

10th of Dentis, 2718
Harper Moore was relieved when the young passive agreed to his magical assistance and it showed on his bespectacled face as a genuine smile. He was, truly, gentle and careful, but it was also obvious once he leaned away that casting his healing spells had made him visibly more tired. The tingling hint of mint could be tasted on everyone's tongue and while no one else felt the dull ache in their joints as strongly as the monic theorist did, there would be a brief moment of discomfort for everyone in the room before it faded with the shifting of the subject.

Moore was clearly an excitable creature, overflowing with knowledge, ideas, and something else ... something difficult to put a word or a thought to. He moved with a passion that was motivated by a rare sort of altruism it seemed, though it was impossible at this juncture in their meeting for either of the two passives to know anything about his personal history or upbringing.

Once he brought out the small crystal on its thin wire and suspended it between them all, Professor Devlin moving closer to be the control object, Harper couldn't help but smirk at Fionn's obvious commentary,

"Well, yes. Of course a field as we know it can be felt. It's one of the acceptable indications of the genetic differences between a galdor and a passive, even if sometimes I feel as though I'm the only one who calls us the same species in all of Anaxas. There are some quantifiable details about galdori—and in turn, even wick—fields, such as strength and monic saturation and ... well, none of that matters to you two, specifically. But in short answer, yes, the sensation that the gathered mona in a magical creature's field creates is, indeed measurement enough. As for your further questions—"

The younger of the two professors glanced up at Castor, aware that the older galdor wasn't entirely comfortable with his enthusiastic sharing of secrets in order to gain the trust of two skittish, rightfully frightened passives who had no other reason to place their faith in strangers such as themselves given the servitude and oppression they represented. Hazel eyes behind thick glass flicked to Lars at his words as if for a moment confused by the use of third person. It was, unfortunately, not the first time the Professor had been around passives so distanced from themselves as to find such coping mechanisms, but it was still a surprise every time,

"—yes, I have found that I can quantify something about you. About passives as a whole. What am I quantifying? I really am not sure yet, to be honest, but I call it—"

"A nexus." Devlin interrupted, finally something far softer than gruffness in his tone.

"—Ne—uh—it's a working title. Yes. A nexus. I understand that this is all a little over your heads, if only because you have been purposefully sheltered from education since your entrance examination. That doesn't mean you're incapable of observing. Anyway, I have a soapbox I will stay off of in this moment, alright?" Moore added in almost a whisper, furtive and honest but also chagrined. The truth was he was of the belief that passives, being of galdori heritage, were more than capable of academic success, as evidenced in Kingdoms such as Mugroba and Gior.

Did these two even know that freedom like that existed just beyond the borders of their own clocking Kingdom?

Probably not.

Raising the crystal between them, the way the phosphor light that flooded the room hit the smooth-cut surfaces revealed that inside was a very delicate metallic lattice, clearly placed within it by someone's craftsmanship. It was a magically crafted tool of some kind. Moore spoke a few more phrases of Monite, slowly and carefully. Unpublished, illegal, experimental, but very, very real, his conversation with the mona felt like the sharing of a secret and the feeling of someone exhaling a warm breath across the back of everyone's necks crawled down their spines as he finished his words.

The crystal swayed inward as if pulled by an invisible hand—just a noticeable distance, distance enough to be declared quantifiable and real—toward the two passives, specifically toward whoever was closest.

"There is something. That." Harper offered firmly, looking up to meet the gaze of the two young men who'd had no intention of ending up in Laboratory Beta tonight, who were clearly still afraid of all the consequences not only of murder but of the undeniable sign this galdor was showing them without a hint of anger, regret, or impure motive, "Even without this, I can feel it if I pay attention. Not a field. Not an aura. But not empty. You are not empty."

He paused, licking dry lips and resisting the urge to shove his spectacles back up the bridge of his nose in a habitual need for comfort, "So, uh, if you don't mind me imposing one last time before Castor here walks you home, can I ask you if you have ever noticed something among your peers? When alone among other passives? If you haven't, could you—could you—keep this nexus theory in mind and see if you don't notice now that you're aware? I know, this is a lot. I'm sorry. I—I'm sorry."

The flustered galdor stepped back and sighed, squaring his shoulders and glancing awkwardly down at the crystal he placed in his palm, slowly curling his fingers around it and falling quiet for a moment.

"Professor Moore is rather passionate about your cause, which is probably a clocking ridiculous thing to think about, given ... things." It was Castor who spoke up, the older man clearing his throat first and nodding at his younger colleague, "You two have a lot to consider, but I promise you one dead ersehat isn't going to be one of them. It's your choice to think us anything but moony galdori with too much clocking time on our hands, but still. We're not charlatans last time I checked, no matter what the whispers are about our experiments in the dark of your dormitories."

"Change needs to happen, and I will see it through somehow. You two don't have to be a part of any of it, but if you are in any trouble, again, find me. However you can. Or, ignore all this. I understand, either way, Fionn and Lars. I do."

"But nothing needs to happen overnight. We have enough to deal with at the moment." Professor Devlin seemed keen on taking charge, aware that the two young passives were far from their dormitory at an odd hour of the night and that he had willingly agreed to shoulder the burden of a corpse, "Unlike most junctures of your current lives, lads, you have a choice here. Take whichever path you want when you want to and it's that simple. With us. Outside of Laboratory Beta, we all know that's not the truth."

Moore just grunted at that, tucking away the crystal and fiddling with his coat.

"That said, whenever you're ready, I am, too." Castor added in a much softer tone, tilting his bearded chin toward the door in indication of what he meant, "No rush."
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Fionn
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Thu Jan 10, 2019 5:33 pm

Dentis 10, 2718 | Night
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Fionn was in two minds about this situation and the longer he remained here, the greater the pull between the two, each repulsive to the other so that he felt as if he was being torn apart from within. He didn't need Fred or anyone else to cause him distress; he was more than capable of doing it himself. As Moore spoke, excitable and knowledgeable, a fount of information that Fionn was eager to drink from, the passive also found himself ready to simply slouch off. He wasn't the boy he'd once been any more, not the boy who had holed himself up in the Madden library with a variety of books, or talking with his sister about magic and curiosities. The servant was a far cry from that boy, so much having occurred since those comparatively innocent times that he didn't think he'd have anything in common with that lonely, hurting child.

He didn't want to have anything in common with him or acknowledge him at all.

Mostly, Fionn heard what he wanted to hear in the younger galdor's words. He heard field and mona, galdor and wick and heard "not you". These were the things he could not have. He wasn't even high enough magically to be a wick, a damn half-breed. For all his apparent good breeding, he was nothing or at least, the galdor saw him as such. Their view had certainly rubbed off on him in some respects, the young man knowing himself to be something different and telling himself that he was glad of it - glad not to be galdor. It wasn't true gladness but it was a convenient fiction.

However, in spite of all his anger and envy - for that's what they were - Fionn still dredged some sympathy up from somewhere for Lars. It was brief, the young man feeling at least a little pity that the other felt himself stupid when he clearly wasn't. It was fleeting before being replaced with new rage. How dare they make him feel so inferior! He knew why the other blond referred to himself in the third person, knew how degraded he had been so that he was barely allowed to be a person at all. It was unfair that the other thought himself stupid. Sure, Moore didn't treat him like an idiot - either of them - and neither had Devlin but they were drops in the ocean. They were not galdorkind as a whole and he did not entirely trust their intentions in any case.

"A nexus," Fionn stated flatly, eyes narrowed, growing very close to slits when he stated that this was over their heads.

Not entirely kind in their treatment then. They did think them idiots, creatures of ignorance and that just made this seem all the more patronising. His lips were pressed together hard, teeth grinding softly as his jaws moved, gaze fixed at a point beneath their faces. It didn't stop him from seeing the crystal raised, the young man unable to stop himself from moving that little bit closer to get a better look at it and the mechanism that seemed to be fixed within. It also didn't stop him from seeing the way it swung towards him, subtle compared to what had happened with the galdori but definitely there.

He couldn't deal with this. Not now, not ever. It was pointless. This whole thing was cruel and pointless.

They weren't empty. Well, thanks. He'd needed a galdor to tell him that. She was glad that he had a galdor to assess his worth. His humour was certainly taking an ill turn and it wasn't likely to improve while he remained in the presence of these men. Therefore, the eager question was met with a derisive snort, the words that came from his mouth a sneer.

"No, I haven't noticed anything. I don't go around looking for non-fields in other passives. I've better things to be doing."

The truth was that he didn't want to hear any of it right now, didn't want to acknowledge it, didn't want to absorb it. So instead, he turned away, hands in his pockets, wandering idly to peer at various instruments and paraphernalia, not really seeing them as he bounced from place to place. Lars might want to stay, to talk with these men, to be a good and helpful scrap because these men might pat him on the head and say, "Good boy" but Fionn didn't want to stick around, that much was clear. Instead, his mind was moving onto other things, earlier matters. The only thing he cared about right now - or let himself care about - was the fact that Fred was dead and he didn't have to worry about his corpse.

Now, he just wanted to leave.

"Okay, great. Can I go now? Lars?" he questioned, gaze tilting to find the Hessean, managing to raise a brow in question in spite of his now sullen disposition. Needless to say, of the two parts of his mind, one was a clear victor and it wasn't the curious part. His displeasure was clear, radiating from him as he waited to go.
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Lars
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Thu Jan 10, 2019 10:14 pm

Dentis 10, 2718 | Night
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"He doesn't know what that word means," the older passive barely even whispered, his visage far from upset at the use of words he didn't know, but rather he spoke as more of an afterthought; a confirmation for himself that he didn't understand. The word kept being thrown around and he didn't get it--quantifiable, quantify, quantified--and he could draw assumptions as to what the clock it meant, but it made the situation all the more daunting to be seeing things so far over his head.

Lars' steel gaze flicked to the older professor when he interjected, allowing them the name they had given whatever passives had "around them" as a galdor or a wick had a field. He wasn't completely surprised at the idea of his kind having something of the sort--they were born of galdori after all--but it was far from expected to hear. If anyone believed these sorts of things, if people like Professor Moore and Devlin truly believed in these things they called a nexus, why would they tell them? It wasn't as if it benefited galdorkind whatsoever, and it would only be fuel for other passive sympathizers. The professors knew what it meant, that was why they were so secretive about all of it, but it still begged the question.

Why them? Just because they stumbled upon Professor Devlin with a corpse?

A glimmer of hope rose in his chest that begged to believe that the professor had perhaps felt potential in them, but it was quickly pushed down with everything else, the passive's expression vacant even as he listened.

The second display with the crystal, this time pulsing so slightly towards his roommate, was the apparent evidence of a nexus. Things were easier to understand when they were shown, for the older passive at least, and reluctantly the blonde nodded his head.

"So... a field pushes it away more, but a nexus still pushes it some. A human wouldn't make it push at all, then?" tried Lars slowly, his tone betraying the lingering confusion, but there was something else underneath. A note of curiosity, maybe, that tugged at the edges of his words, simple as they may be.

Glancing back to Professor Moore, the passive shook his head, "he doesn't think that he's felt anything, but... maybe. He's never thought to check."

Fionn's change in attitude drew his attention, the older of the two passives shifting on his feet as if finding discomfort in the irritation, but kept his gaze steady on the professor.

"He can try, if it'll help," offered the blonde, "thank you, professor," a glance to Fionn and the man continued, "yes, okay."

The man was not an adamant or stubborn one and wasn't going to push the younger to stay, not when so much had happened in the night. Lars stepped back, away from the professors and their fields, closer to his roommate and the displeasure that seemed to radiate from his form. He had never thought to check for anything even remotely resembling a field around his fellow passives, but perhaps he had been wrong in thinking he had never felt it. He supposed he would have to start paying attention.

He moved closer to his companion, looking to Professor Devlin in the hope that he would take them back quickly.
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Fri Jan 11, 2019 1:55 pm

10th of Dentis, 2718
"Of course you wouldn't—you can't look for something if you don't know where to find it." Harper's chagrined retort wasn't hurt or angry so much as apologetic, the awkward attempt at keeping up with Fionn's path to processing things not entirely as successful as the Professor would have preferred. A theorist and abstract thinker despite his genuine beliefs, he found himself too often in this situation and yet struggled to get around it every time. Gated passives were all damaged people in their own way, and he didn't even mean that in terms of their magical abilities. Galdori society had broken them to their rules—almost. It wasn't as if the two passives were at all entirely mindless or without their own wills: the dead body in his laboratory examination chair was evidence of that,

"I'm sorry. That's not what I meant. I—"

"Not everything makes sense to me, either, and I'm a Magister, Harper. You can't expect everyone to understand everything at once. A good education takes time—at any age." Castor smirked, aware of the air of impatience that had begun to seep into the atmosphere of the small room crowded with strange instruments and confusing science.

Professor Moore looked at Lars with his questions as if eager to make use of the confusion he'd caused, "Well, I'm not sure what a human would do as they're not allowed on campus and I cannot test them. Currently, I've designed this simple test to measure something, and I'll admit I don't even think I'm testing for presence of mona anymore. The opposite directions help me keep track of whatever the differences are. I have yet to test on functional passives or galdori based on the ranking of their test scores for more of a data set. I have yet to test under the conditions of a diablerie. Without going into the details of the spells and theory involved because we don't have time to catch you up on classwork this evening, yes. A nexus does something. A field does something. They do opposite things. Why? Well, I'm working on that."

This was all new and in its academic infancy and even the younger galdor of the pair lacked the language to describe what, exactly, he'd actually discovered. It was far more than anyone else had in centuries, for as far as he was concerned, that small motion signified a very big, very real invisible breakthrough.

"I have found that I feel a nexus when I have spent my day alone and find myself in the presence of one or two passives. I, being a galdor surrounded more often by other galdori, am somewhat so desensitized by the sensation of fields that I must concentrate to separate them from each other in a crowded room, let alone to notice something so different ... and so ... quiet—" He struggled with the proper phrasing of things, it was clear by the scrunching of his bespectacled face and the way he paused before calling a nexus quiet, "—the same may be true of gated passives, surrounded by each other and their nexi."

While Professor Devlin was neither surprised nor ruffled by the discomfort that began to more obviously express itself in the youngest of the two passives, his dark eyes watching Fionn shift on his feet as if he were a small mammal about to bolt. This had all been enough. Too much, considering the Gated creatures had been through only the Circle knew what before Castor had been almost mowed over by a corpse. He looked up to Harper as if to curb the monic theorist's enthusiasm once again,

"I think these lads are done, my friend. If they want to hear more, they can find us in their own way."

"Oh, gods, I'm so sorry. I can't help myself. Yes. Uh, here." Digging into his pocket, Professor Moore produced a key ring. Fumbling with the thing, chewing his bottom lip between his teeth, he eventually chose a single key and offered it to the two passives, "This is a key to the sitting room out there of Laboratory Beta. It won't get you in the lab, mind you. But, um, if you ever—and I mean ever—need somewhere to lay low and not be noticed and neither myself nor Professor Devlin are in—" Harper refused to admit that he slept on the settee in the lounge more often than he slept at home lately, a bit of color rising to flush his pale cheeks beneath the frames of his spectacles as his voice wavered, "—then please come here. I know, getting here is complicated, but I also know you know the campus better than any golly. I mean it. If you accidentally feel like getting into monic theory, have fun with my library."

He smirked, but Devlin cleared his throat and straightened his vest with an authoritative sort of flair, waving an open hand toward the door, "We both mean it, no matter how strange or suspicious it sounds to you both. Let's go, then. I've got a story to spin, after all. I'll be back for that one tomorrow, Harper."

The younger galdor blanched at the realization that his colleague meant that he'd be hiding the body for the remainder of the night, however much or little of it was left, and his shoulders sagged, "Fine."

Castor glanced at the body of Fred one last time before he let the two passives follow him out, leading them not back to the stair well they'd come up from but through the halls of the Science Wing as if they had nothing at all to fear from anyone. The house was late enough that while a few of the faculty offices were still lit and a few doors were actually open, the hall was mostly dark and silent. No one looked up and questioned Magister Devlin or his charges as they walked out into the Science Ward proper and the cool night air,

"Steady on, lads. We walk like we all know what we're doing, you hear? Because I do." He winked like some spry uncle with a trick and a piece of candy up his sleeve, boldly striding across the campus grounds, past a few inebriated older students laughing and wobbling their way back to their dorms; past a few exhausted sober students heading home after a study session; past a Collie on patrol who may have looked them over but said nothing; and past a member of faculty in his professor robes who bobbed his head in greeting along their way the phosphor-lit sidewalks and streets that made up the most direct route to the Passive Ward. He didn't waver, he didn't cower, and his field was a bastion of confidence.

In through the front doors as if there was nothing at all to worry about, Castor Devlin had the gall to hold the door open for Fionn and Lars as if it was the most natural thing in all of Vita, "Thank the Good Lady you two lads were available for a bit of heavy lifting this evening!" he began loudly, making a show of reaching into his vest and pulling out a handkerchief to dab at a brow that was neither sweaty nor dirty for effect. He spoke so that the elderly galdor at the desk in the center of the main hall could hear him, the woman looking up with wide eyes at the professor and two passives she could have sworn were from a hall that was not on shift right now, "Good evening, Mrs. Knollwood."

"Magister Devlin." Gold-rimmed eyes narrowed at the two young men, her nasal old voice sounding as though it was fresh from the dusty old books rumored to be hidden in the crypts, more akin to the whine of a rusty old door than a sentient being's vocal cords, "Where did you come from? Aren't you two from—"

"—fresh from Laboratory Beta, yes. You know how Professor Moore is, always needing to move this piece of equipment at some godsawful time of night. Fabulous job, Mrs. Rogers did, recommending a couple of off-shift passives to come lend an old man and a wimpy monic theorist a bit of young muscle." Castor was grinning, his warm tone of voice both self-deprecating and yet almost a purr, tucking away his kerchief and making as if to reach for something else inside the pocket of his outer layer, "Do you want to see my work order request?"

"No, Magister. That won't be necessary. I will just make sure Mrs. Rogers remembers to sign out her assignments next time—"

"That was totally my fault, Mrs. Knollwood, and I won't forget again. I swear—" Castor had been here before, that much was clear by the tone of his voice and the ease of which he slid himself into this particular role for conversation.

"Between yourself and Professor Moore, that's six nights this year you have forgotten to sign out your crimps for whatever clocking-odd jobs you mad scientists need them for. And Headmistress Servalis lets you two moony gearjobs teach our children. Good Lady. If you weren't a Magister, why, I'd just—"

"Thank you, Mrs. Knollwood. I'm very sorry."

"—yeah yeah." The old woman looked as though she was about to begin swearing like a sailor from Old Rose Harbor, her gaze sweeping over the two passives, "Go on. Get back to your rooms. If neither of you are up in time for your shifts tomorrow, it won't be the Professor here getting his erse handed to him. Get on." She shooed them angrily, her ire tangible in the crackle of her field before she looked back to the dark-haired galdor who was still attempting to charm her with manners and some boyish smile, "I'll be reporting this to the Headmistress. This is bordering on the ridiculous."

"I understand. Listen, would it be better if I went ahead and filled out some of this paperwork in advance?"

"Actually, I'd never considered that before."

Castor was the epitome of suave calm, leaning against her desk without even offering a farewell to the two passives if they chose to obey the administrator, instead attempting to engage the woman in a bit more distracting conversation with the hopes of keeping her attention and distraction complete, utterly willing to endure the full wrath of her confused judgment for whatever antics she suspected he and Professor Moore were up to.

Perhaps he'd see the pair again, but even if he didn't, the strange galdor hoped he hadn't made a mistake with his assistance, let alone with allowing Harper to let loose the truth of their studies in such intricate details.

Only time would tell, should Alioe choose to bless it.

Somehow.
word count: 1875
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