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Just beyond the veil is a world where dreams walk about.
Swirling mist obscured his vision. The world was blank, with no smell, no taste, no feeling. His body was stiff and uncooperative as he tried to shift his line of sight. No luck. With a silent sigh, he turned his senses to his ears, getting a fraction of movement there. Pushing harder, his ear moved further, then stopped.
Something was coming. He could hear the thinnest wisp of a song, barely a few notes strung together. Weak and far away, it beckoned to him. He strained his ears further, trying to catch another note. As if it were trying to frustrate him further, the song grew quieter until only the memory remained.
With an irritated sigh, he withdrew from the Shadow World. In a breath taking rush, his senses returned. Light hammered his eyelids as he lay his ears flat to shut out the cacophony of noise. Slowly the deprived senses adjusted to normal levels and he cracked open an eye. Wincing, he hissed at the bright noon suns.
Nearby, a smooth golden furred unicorn lay chuckling at his reaction. “So how was your dive, Amoren?”
“Good day, Lady Kylie.” The grey-brown gryphon mumbled, as he squinted to block out more light. “Same as always, I'm afraid. I can hear her song, I know it's a she now, but it's so faint.”
Kylie nodded. “It happens sometimes. She may not be ready, or not close enough.” She stood up, shaking out her long fur. Her collars and neck charms jangled loudly against one another and Amoren pressed his ears flat against his skull again. “Sorry. I came to get you for class. Come with me.”
Gingerly he climbed to his feet. The ground felt solid and comforting under his hyper-aware muscles. He willed his body to calm down and unwound his long tail. He hadn't realized it was coiled so tightly beneath him. “Will dives always leave me feeling so… so… Drained?”
Kylie glanced back. “Only until you find your familiar. Then you don't have to force your energy past the barrier into that world. When you bond to your resonant, they become both a channel and an energy source for you. Diving's a breeze after that.” Her hooves glinted gold at him as she walked ahead.
“How did little Amos do it?” Amoren muttered aloud.
Kylie stopped in the doorway of a large building. “Don't compare yourself to Amos. He was special. As was Kaden. If Amos hadn't resonated so young, he would not have survived at all. Kaden, on the other hand, just had really good timing.”
“Yes, they did have a very natural resonation with my partner, but she easily resonates with our kind.” She smiled gently at the Mage Apprentice. “Your resonant will come for you. Don't worry.”
“Yes, Lady Kylie.” Amoren bowed his head respectfully.
With another nod, she led him into the Academy of Magickal Creatures. Her rank collar easily identified her as a mentor, while his was the smooth grey of a High Apprentice. Soon he hoped to trade it for the white collar of a Mage Adept, when his resonant came. Stiffly he adjusted his collar and dipped his head to a group of Adept students in the hall.
“Kaden, come with us. Class will begin soon.” Kylie's voice ran out. A dragon separated from the group and fell into place beside Amoren. The male leaned over and bumped Amoren companionably.
“Hey, Ren-ren. How's it going?” Kaden quipped, stepping away again.
Amoren's nares flushed. “My name isn't Ren-ren.” He dropped his head and composed himself. “Please call me by my name.”
“Kaden, behave.” Kylie admonished as she turned down another hall and broke into a swift trot.
They followed her as she ducked into a side room. Kylie's `family' lay scattered on various couches, along with the two other members of her Advanced Resonant class.
Kaden picked a seat beside fellow dragon, Ayla. Amoren nodded a greeting. She reached up a talon and tipped her top hat in an amused manner. Amoren made his way to sit by Virva, a smoky faerie cat. Near Ayla sat a florescent green gryphon.
“Amoren.” Lemidicus snorted as if he were an afterthought.
After everyone was settled, Kylie began. “As of now, half of you have Resonants, and half do not. Normally, you would be moved to another class to train further, but we are short on mentors at the now, so we will keep this little group together.” Turning to the board behind her, Kylie proceeded to lecture on advanced energy flows.
Amoren settled into a more comfortable position as she warmed to the subject. On a whim, he reached out and carefully wormed a tendril of his energy into his Shadow World counterpart. He could hear the song again, a little stronger than before.
Carefully tied that slip of energy to his physical ears and opened them. Satisfied with the connection, he turned his attention to Kylie and her lesson.
“Okay everyone, it's settled.” Missa clapped. “Next week we will meet under Oakey, then head over to TMKD studio for the open house.”
As the various students around her began to gather their things, the long haired leader called out. “Be ready to adopt. Bring your money.”
One more person hung back, lingering in the shade of the large oak tree. With a wolfish grin, Missa grabbed her arm. “Is Shannon ready to be a Wood Parent?” She jumped up and down, still clutching the other girl's arm.
Shannon couldn't help but smile at her friend's antics. “I just hope I have enough money. I'm gonna sell back my textbook to get some extra cash.” She disentangled her arm and grabbed her large red bucket.
Missa picked up a matching blue one. “Oakey Dokey! Just remember, you can't decide on looks alone. Your woodbaby has to feel right!”
“How did you choose Kaden again?” Shannon asked, scooping loose bits of trash into the bucket.
“Well, Kaden was funny. They had just finished putting his body together when he called to me. Almost yelled at me. So I said I wanted the naked one!” Missa looked proud about that. “Then he told me what he wanted to look like. Good thing he likes camo! I took him home and got his shinies.”
She paused for a moment. “They'll usually tell you their names pretty soon. Not Kaden, little punk! He waited a week to tell me!”
“I hope mine is as interesting as yours.” Shannon smiled.
“You have to let the personality develop through you.” Missa replied. “See you next week!”
Virva sighed. The ceiling had lost all interesting qualities a week ago, and there she was, still staring. She really wanted to move her head but could not. Some human had moved her in the Shadow World and in the process had jammed her cable so her head was pointing straight up. To be a cat was to be bored, but this was something else entirely.
A gentle tugging caught her attention. The pull was accompanied by the image of Kylie, calling Virva back to her. Virva stayed where she was for a few more minutes, still staring at the still boring ceiling.
Finally she began to exit the Shadow World. “It just doesn't do to be punctual.” She mused to herself, her words lost in the barrier between Mercutia and the Shadow World. Virva reentered Mercutia with the feeling her physical body was surrounded. She knew some of her fellow students were watching her. She cracked an eyelid and regarded them with mild contempt.
Ayla looked over a Lemidicus and grinned. “You so owe me a lunch! I told you she would take ten minutes to come back.”
Lemidicus glanced at the clock. “I really thought it would be longer.”
A small unicorn colt stood near her face. “Hello Virva! Was your dive good?” Amos asked quietly.
“Hey, kid.” She stretched languidly, feigning disinterest in him and his question. Sinuously she stalked to the largest couch in the room and draped herself across it.
“You're going to share, right?” Kaden eyed her long fluffy tail. It took up much of the room on the couch.
Her reply was immediate. “Of course not. Your proletarian comments deserve retaliation. So the couch is mine. And by the way, that means `no'.”
Kaden proceeded to try to push her off the couch, with no success. After several scratches and a face full of tail, Kaden admitted defeat. He sulked in the corner on a smaller couch, licking his wounds and mumbling under his breath. Virva began to groom herself when Amos came to stand in front of her.
“Could I please have just a little bit of couch, Virva? Please?” Amos pleaded with large eyes. “You can even set your tail on me if you want.”
Virva swept her tail aside. “If I must.” Even with a show of mock reluctance, Amoren noted she allowed Amos enough room to comfortable. Neither did she set her tail on him.
Amoren suppressed a chuckle. “How was your dive, Lady Virva? Anything new?”
“The humans were moving around a lot. I think something is happening.” She replied as she leaned over to groom her leg.
Kylie stood and walked to the center of the room. “Very observant, Virva. There is indeed something happening. The Crafters are having, as they call it, an `open house'.”
“Open house?” Virva asked, interested in spite of her own self.
“It's an exhibition of the Crafters' skill for ordinary humans to see. Resonants are sometimes attracted by this event.” Kylie answered.
She glanced over at the three unpaired creatures. “You three, along with every other eligible Mercutian will dive on that day.” Kylie turned Amos. “Would you go and get the orb display? I will need it.”
Amos nodded and exited quietly.
“Now, most dives are done individually. A special event, such as an open house or fair, requires a mass dive. Many humans will gather at this, so it can be very confusing. This time the dive will be at the home studio.” Kylie turned back to her class. “Can anyone tell me what the condition will be?”
Lemidicus sat forward. “It should be very easy, because it is an often used portal.”
Kylie nodded slowly. “Correct, but what are the dangers of that?”
“The barrier becomes unstable from time to time.” Amoren said. “It will tend to clump or thin in places during an unstable cycle.”
“And as this is not a stable cycle?” Kylie prompted. “What will happen?”
Amoren continued slowly. “That means the barrier becomes more complicated to cross in a mass dive. The thin bits can widen the entrance holes, while the thick clumps could fall off completely.”
Kylie turned to Virva. “If you would, Virva. Please tell us what happens when the barrier is compromised.”
Virva looked up, her eyes clouded. “A magical null is formed. The entire area around the entrance is wiped clean of Life Magic. Like Faefel.” She fell silent and curled her tail around her body tightly.
“Which means no life can survive there.” Kylie finished. “For a mass dive, you will be broken into teams of seven to eight and one expert. The expert will assist by finding a safe place to penetrate the barrier. Then the strongest of the group will pass through followed by the rest in as straight of a line as possible.”
A soft knock on the door interrupted Kylie. Amos stuck his head in thedoor and nudged it open. Behind him he pulled a small cart, with a case sitting in the center. He dragged it to the center of the room and slipped out of the loose harness.
Kylie smiled at her assistant. “Thank you, Amos.” She strode over to the case and opened it with her teeth. Nestled in a swath ofdark velvet lay 16 clear orbs made of colored crystal. Etched over the entire surface were small runes in looping circles, creating a rippled texture across them. Kylie chose a dark toned one and placed it in the bowl shaped depression at the center of the case.
A small light illuminated the orb from below. A thousand points of light danced around the room in countless shades of blue, casting rune shapes on the walls. The rune lights show for a moment before forming a map, suspended in midair. Kylie dimmed the upper mage lights in the room before beginning.
“Now, let's take a look at the layout of the studio.”
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