APRIL 4TH, 1619.

In the grand scheme of things, the Continent of Rakutor was generally covered in tropical forests and thick jungles. Towns were scattered loosely, and usually on top of or next to a water source of some kind. The many countries on it took up just about as much space as they possibly could while still generally being about as sparsely populated as a country could get while still being called a country.

If Rakutor were drawn sideways on a map, it would look like a cute little lizard of some kind. The Country of Charlye would therefore take up the space of the head. Of the twenty towns and settlements scattered across the country, its seat of government was situated in the largest of the civilization centers on the country- The Richmond Union.

It was by far the largest settlement of all of them- once upon a time having been many smaller towns that had, eventually, merged together under one banner- that of the countries, and the towns, founder, Charlye Richmond.

From that large city, however, there was a choke point for foot-based travelers. A massive mountain chain upon which only one settlement sat- Lance’s Captown. One had to climb up that mountain, and then down it in order to reach the roads leading elsewhere in the country… well, except for one of them: The town of Th’wrot’gar, lying on the border between Charlye and Gobnic. It was their next major stopping point on their journey to nowhere.

“Hrm,” Elise Eh’yre folded the map of Charlye that she’d bought in the cafe they’d just left, and looked to the road ahead of them: the one that was blocked off with rubble caused by an avalanche from some time ago. “Well, either we climb over the tiny, potentially unstable pile of rocks, or we back track, and find the road that leads us to Lance’s Captown instead, then way-gate over from there.”

“Well, we could always use the way-gate in Richmond’s Union,” Jake mused. “But that’d be another whole two days traveling on foot just to reach the damned thing.”

That would be the case too, if they’d wanted to walk all the way to the primary road’s proper entrance, Elise mused. However, the map she’d bought had been marked by a waiter to show some hiking trails that, while going steeper up hill, reached the first major bend in that road they would have to back track too a lot sooner than two days. Infact, it was barely third of a days hike, according to the waiter.

It’d be faster to go up hill, and head south to… Elise opened her map again, going past Lance’s Captown, and heading… To Manypaths, the other border town. It’d end up being colder, likely, and be more tiring on their legs, but… It’d be quicker than backtracking all the way to the way-gate just to teleport over a stupid avalanch blocked road.

“I think I know where we’re going,” Elise beckoned Jake and Dirk over to the map. “Okay, so we’ll head this way to…”

Further south on that map of Charlye was a small town called Astrome. It was so far south, as a matter of fact, that it was only two town-widths higher up than the busiest port town on that part of the continent- Prina Derse. That extra distance made it less popular of a port town, but still fairly popular all around, as many boats carrying goods to Gobnic would have to sail up the Rakutor’s Mouth channel, passing by every town along that river front just so that they could reach the town of Toungenchek, and from there, carry the goods north-west to Manypaths, and from there, into the parts of Gobnic that weren’t quite so accessible from its sea shores.

But that was all incidental to the fact that Astrome was still a port town, and had all the smells of it when one stepped out of the way-gate.

“Eurgh… fish,” Miri clenched at her nose with her right hand while shifting just enough to ensure Sylia didn’t fall out of her left arm’s secure grasp. “Why are we moving here again? It’s worse than Eggroost was.”

“Because, free house?” Tsukia answered dryly, grimacing at the smell as well.

“Aww, don’t worry! You’ll get used to it,” Kendal laughed. How her Lycan Nose wasn’t going into overdrive at the smell, Miri wasn’t sure, but Kendal didn’t seem to be as badly affected by it as everyone else were.

“I think I remember being here before,” Ayako frowned, also seemingly unaffected. “Was it just after you adopted me?” Meanwhile the others continued to come through the gate, dragging their luggage with them.

“Yup,” Kana Mayoi nodded, leaning on her crutches as she started looking around at the familiar sights of Astrome. “Nahgi invited us over to stay for a while. Partly just to spite her dad, but mostly because our trip plans got canceled without him paying for the resort we were supposed to be staying at.” She sighed. “That was one of the last times, though, before her mother got sick and…” She trailed off.

“OH MIZAR!” Mikari’s hands shot to her nose as she stepped through, “It’s worse than Eggroost!”

“I was just saying that,” Miri agreed with an agreeing nod about her previous ‘home’ town.

“Alright, immediate surroundings,” Kana clapped her hands once everyone on the team save Lizzy had come through with their luggage. “Just behind the gate, we’ve got the Plaza Market. Fresh food gets delivered by boat, typically. If they don’t got something in, try Trader Trent’s, he’ll special order it, I guarantee you.” She pointed over towards a large warehouse on the river, “That’s the warehouses. Best to avoid them if you don’t like the smell. And over there…” She turned towards a building that had a large sign reading “TRINITY BANK”, and paused, “Huh. Well, I guess that’s the bank, now.”

“Didn’t that used to be the Mayor’s Office?” Ranagi frowned at the building.

“I think Nahgi said they moved to a more secure-able building just…” Kana turned her head a bit, and saw a the building just across the street from the bank. “Ah! Yeah. They traded buildings. Bank is where Mayor’s was, Mayor’s is where the bank was.”

“That’s weird,” Faye said as she put her arm around Mikari’s shoulder. “Never knew a bank vault that wasn’t more secure than a Mayor’s office. Wonder what the Mayor’s hidin’ that they need a bank vault.”

“Wouldn’t they just move the vault with the bank?” Mikari asked.

“Bank Vaults are usually one of the first things put in, with the rest of the building built around them,” Faye answered. “Can’t really move a vault from one building to another, even if it’s just across the street.”

“Local mysteries aside,” Miri interrupted as Sylia started to complain about the smell as well- by crying as babies are known to do. “Can we get moving to the house now? Lia’s getting fussy.”

Kana and Ranagi shared a look, and Ranagi said, “I’ll get the heavier stuff. Tony, Al…lan?” The pause was noticeable to the people paying attention. “Willing to come with me and wrangle up some Rakutors to carry all this stuff?”

“Yeah, sure,” Tony nodded. Alec, that is to say, Allan, rolled his eyes and nodded just the same.

“Hey! If you’re recruiting Lycan arm power,” Ayako giggled, “I’ll help too!”

And so, the four of them quickly went off towards the stables to find mounts to carry everything with.

The town of Astrome was largely housing, with a few businesses scattered here and there. Most of the people who owned a business here typically lived above their shops as well, which meant that available space was at a premium, and most housing within the town walls was already bought, paid for, and now lived in by the owners. And that which wasn’t, were rentals already filled up.

“…And because of all of that, we decided that buying a house here would draw too much attention,” Ranagi explained as the four of them walked across the large bridge that crossed the large river that cut through the upper half of the town.

“Then why are we here?” Tony asked. “Surely the house you got for all of us isn’t out in the wilderness.”

“Yes and no,” Ayako snorted. “Did you and Nahgi do what I think you did for housing?” She looked to Ranagi, who nodded.

“Yeah, instead of buying a new place, or just buying the land and building fresh, we just decided to take old places already under our names and start reworking them to serve our needs,” Ranagi said as they got off the bridge and started walking up to the stables- full of horses and Rakutors waiting to be ridden, or carry heavy items. “Hey!” he greeted the stable master. “Got any pack mounts for rent?”

Astrome’s walls loomed behind them like the bastion of safety they supposedly represented. It was the walls just in front of them, however, that screamed “Fortress.” Maybe it had something to do with the new wards that had been applied by the Spriggain girl waving at them from the tower overlook.


“Heh.” Kana smiled, “Welcome to the Old Llewellyn Manor, everyone,” she said to the group as Ranagi unlocked the front doors, and started leading the pack-Rakutors through the heavy gates. “Or welcome back, for those of you who remember being here before.”

“Wow,” Ayako whistled. “I definitely remember this place.”

“It’s really impressive,” Cah’le said.

“C’mon, I’ll give you guys the tour!” Kendal said, grinning as she went to follow her father through the gates. “I still remember the layout of this place!”

And so, the team of teenaged detectives all followed the fox-type Lycan through the doors.

Kana could only sigh as she looked up at the gates. “I just hope Nahgi has the right idea about this.” Because if Ahr’tur was still alive… no, even if he wasn’t, this place hadn’t been a well kept secret, even if it had been left to its own devices for a few years.

The layout of the grounds was fairly simple. The walls met the solid rock of the mountain behind the property to form a nearly perfect oval-shaped circle of land. Part of that circle was taken up by the rock wall that the waterfall poured down, filling the large pool that was marked off with a wooden deck. Like was the case for all first time visitors, and even some long time residents, the fact that there was a set of diving boards mounted off of that rock wall, extending out over the water pools was an eye catching sight that made one stop and stare.

The Manor itself took up a large chunk of the back half of the oval of land. It was a large, towering, three story, one basement building built in the old-world style that had been popular pre-Cataclysm, speaking to the building’s age and history.

That it still looked brand new and freshly constructed spoke wonders towards the people who had first built it and enchanted it to stay pristine. Kana and Nahgi had often debated whether the Lamia’s childhood home had been created by the Creators or not- the magic was just so perfect in how it held together.

But, then, they came to the mind boggling idea of why the hell one of the creators would have put in a diving board and quickly dropped the idea.

The rest of the manor’s available land space was overrun with trees and out of control garden plants.

“Holy shit,” Kana breathed out as she stepped into the yard, “…were the gardeners not taking care of this place?”

“Nahgi says that after her mom died, her dad fired the groundskeepers,” Ranagi shook his head. “I don’t get it. You’d think he’d want to keep the land well kept.”

“We’re going to have to trim all of this back, aren’t we?” Kana sighed.

“Not right now,” Ranagi sighed as well. “But here and there over time? Yeah. Eventually we’ll cut it all back.”

“Long term project then,” Kana laughed. “Wonderful.”

“You did sign on for this, Kana,” Ranagi looked at her with a concerned glance. “You didn’t have to join on.”

“You say that, but you, Nahgi, and I all know I am not breaking up this team in such a big way,” Kana remarked, narrowing her eyes slightly into an annoyed gaze. “Not after the last half a year where Mikari’s been stuck under Ahr’tur’s watchful eyes.” She shook her head and scoffed, turning her gaze at one of the rather overgrown trees. “That man had no right interfering with our lives like that. I’m sure he was the one who insisted Mikari join that stupid class after she reported a flawed spell, just because he knew she worked with us.”

“I know, I’ve heard Mikari complain about Waatt not even taking her concerns about the spell stability seriously.” Ranagi paused, then added, “His name was on the deceased list, you know.”

“Was it now?” Kana sounded disinterested in the subject, preferring to focus her gaze stubbornly at that tree, as if willing it to move with her mind alone.

“Apparently he got killed helping Ahr’tur try to fend off the bombers,” Ranagi continued. “I’d say that’s Karma, but it’d feel a bit spiteful to say that considering all he did was give Mikari the option to join a class.”

“Call me spiteful, then,” Kana started walking off. “’Cause I’m calling that Karma.” She paused, and looked over her shoulder, “And I we both know it wasn’t as simple as ‘offering’ her a class to take.”

Nothing else needed to be said as Kana Mayoi continued to walk off.

“Welcome to the manor interior!” Kendal and Lizzy both introduced at the same time as they lead everyone inside.

The ground floor was made up primarily of a Dining room, full of tables and chairs that looked like they had been ripped straight out from their various Mystryal apartments…

“Wait, is that our SOFA?” Ayako asked, grinning as she ran over and leaped onto one of the sofas that had Definitely been in her apartment.

“Sure looks like it.” Miri stared, then turned to Lizzy to ask, “You guys moved our furniture over?” 

“Yup!” Lizzy nodded. “We got most of it done about an hour ago.” She turned to the rest of the group, “if you find a room and it’s empty, feel free to claim it and we’ll move your furniture in there when it shows up. But if your stuff is shoved in there already, it’s yours if you want it, unless you decide you wanna trade someone else for their room.”

“Fair enough,” Tony nodded.

“Right!” Kendal clapped her hands- and pointed off to the immediate right from the entrance, “Over there is the Kitchen! And just behind me is the back door.” She then pointed to the left of the house, “That way is the stairway!”

“I’ve claimed downstairs as my lab and bed room,” Lizzy informed them. “There wasn’t a whole lot of space down there anyways for extra beds as it is, though. Just a lot of old furniture Nahgi said she’d move out when she gets a chance to swing by.”

“Also, the toilets and showers are down there too!” Kendal added. “Separate rooms, I think?”

“Yeah,” Lizzy nodded. “Opposite ends of the basement.”

“Good to know,” Tsukia mused. “What’s upstairs?”

“Bedrooms, offices turned into bedrooms,” Lizzy began counting, “closets shoved full of junk until we can move them into bedrooms…” She then turned to Miri, and smiled. “You’ll like your room.”

And so they went upstairs one floor, and entered the first of two master suites in the manor. It was full up with the furniture from Miri’s bedroom in Ayako’s apartment back on Mystryal, along with all of the baby furniture, crib included.

“Oh… Wow…” Miri headed over to the crib, and carefully laid Sylia down into it, then tucked her in carefully and… Miri turned to smile to Lizzy, “Thank you. I love it. It’s so much bigger here than before.”

“Nahgi said you could have it,” Lizzy explained, “said it was her old room.”

“Oh, wow,” Kendal breathed out, “I can’t believe she gave it away like that.”

“How many rooms are on this floor?” Alec… Allan asked.

“Hrm…” Kendal and Lizzy both got identical looks of memory searching on their faces, then, Kendal replied first:

“Seven on this floor, six normal sized plus this master room, and seven above us, same layout,” Kendal smiled. “Plenty of room for all of us! Especially since I know some of us are going to be double booking.”

“Cough Cough!” Ayako said coughs to fake coughing, then elbowed Tony in the side, “I think she means us! Cough Cough!”

“Yes, I figured that,” Tony chuckled.

“And us, too, probably,” Mikari said, grabbing Faye’s hand, enticing a giggle from the girl.

“That works out,” Kendal nodded. “If Eugene and Olivea ever stay here on any regular basis and have their own rooms, that would leave us with one room left spare for any guests.”

“Don’t forget Aysha,” Mikari reminded Kendal. “She’ll probably sleep with Eugene if she ever stays here.”

“I made sure I sound proofed my lab,” Lizzy dryly remarked, “just in case some of you are loud at night.” That got a few people blushing, to which she added, “And if you want sound proofing on your chosen room first, just ask, and I’ll get it done.”

“So, wait, yeah, with Lizzy downstairs as zero,” Tsukia did a quick head count. “Miri, Tony and Aya, Mikari and Faye, Me, Kendal, Cah’le, Tyler, Alec, Chery- nine…” She paused, “Mayoi… Kaie and Llewellyn?” Kendal nodded at that. “So… eleven… Eugene and Aysha… Olivea… Thirteen? And there’s fourteen rooms total?”

“Yup,” Kendal nodded.

“…Huh, okay then,” Tsukia paused, then said, “so, who wants to bunk floors with who, I guess is the question?”

“Good idea!” Lizzy pulled out a notebook and quickly drew up a diagram of circles, representing rooms. Two of which she added tags for herself and Miri to on the respective floors, then “Nahgi/Ranagi” to the master room on the third floor. “Everyone look around, see what rooms you want, and then I’ll write it down when you’re done.”

And so, they did mull around, examining rooms, figuring out whose already had furniture in place, and then settled on their rooms based on whether they wanted to move their furniture already.

“Aya and I will probably stay with Miri on this floor,” Tony decided.

“Thanks for putting our stuff in one of the rooms next to Miri so we can help with the baby if need be,” Ayako agreed.

“Welcome,” Lizzy noted it down as a check for that room.

“Same for me, room I’ve got my stuff in is fine,” Tsukia decided. “Easier that way for us to keep it there.”

“I’ll take the room you gave me on this floor too, then,” Kendal nodded.

Lizzy checked those two rooms off as well.

“I didn’t see my stuff anywhere yet, so let’s make it easy on Lizzy and just make it so she sound proofs this whole floor?” Mikari suggested.

“Yeah,” Faye nodded. “We’ll take a room on this floor too, the opposite corner from Kendal.”

“I will take one of the empty ones on this floor as well,” Cah’le decided. “My old room at Yaovi’s was on the second floor. I’ll be used to it.”

“Uhhuh…” Lizzy finished marking it down, and then pointed at the empty spot left on the second floor. “That leaves one room left over on this floor. Anyone else want it?”

There were shakes of their heads from those who had yet to take a room.

“Alright then, let’s hit the next floor, then, and see who wants what,” Lizzy decided, and then lifted her pen into the air with a cry of, “Follow me, Third Floor-ers!”

The layout ended up being this on the third floor: Alec and Chery chose the rooms next to each other on the back side, and Tyler chose a corner room next to the master. The other rooms were marked off as empty for the time being.

Kana, when she saw the little map Lizzy had made of rooms later on, decided to take the last spot on the second floor. “Easier for me to get up and down only one floor of stairs rather than two with these crutches,” she explained her logic with a wave of one of the metal objects.

And so the rooms were set.


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