The next few minutes felt like a blur to Kyrik. Panic set in almost immediately, to the point where he wasn't aware he'd stopped breathing until his lungs nearly exploded.
A murder, in Falmari!? Impossible!
The instant he regained his mind, he tried to call Methir, only to be blocked again. Hearts thumping still, he reached for the only other he had direct contact with; the archmage himself. After a few seconds, they telepathically connected.
"Kyrik, I am in the middle of-" An older - yet somehow youthful - voice answered with some annoyance before Kyrik cut him off.
"Someone's been murdered, Jirmen!" Kyrik practically shouted in his mind.
"Impossible. The wards prevent murderous intent." Jirmen answered with doubt.
"Then tell me why I'm standing over a body with a bone embedded into the spine!"
"I will be there in a second." Jirmen's tone changed from faint annoyance to one of urgency.
Crack! A flash of white appeared behind Kyrik and from it came a bipedal figure not unlike a shriker. Unlike them, he was canine in species with long black ears, brown fur, and a tail that had the end cut off. A lycon, a nearly extinct race as of five years ago. In his right gold-plated gauntlet, he gripped a long, bronze staff with a shimmering orb at the tip.
"Impossible." Jirmen stomped up to the body, white robes and cape billowing from his rapid movements. "How did this happen?"
"I don't know." Kyrik answered nervously as Jirmen cast an anhk into the air that dispersed invisibly; an illusionary spell that would mask their presence as well as the body. "What are we going to do?"
Jirmen remained quiet, blue eyes locked onto the orb as his greying muzzle contorted in anger and bafflement. Raising his staff, a blue ankh burst forth and created a dome to shield outside eyes from spotting the bodies.
"I need to check the wards again." Jirmen said. "Something must have drained them."
"I can call the spirit." Kyrik suggested. "I think it's still inside; maybe it'll help?"
Nodding, Kyrik stood on hind legs again, this time projecting his will outward into the body. There, he met another, rapidly fading. Anger and confusion ravaged the spirit, and if Kyrik didn't subdue it quickly, there was a chance of becoming a revenant.
With a gentle coax, Kyrik sent his intentions to the spirit, who became receptive once clarity took over.
Above the body, a ghostly apparition of the dragon appeared. His expression was identical to the emotions he felt, although much more subdued. Defeated. Accepting of his fate already with a hint of both sadness and relief.
"I'm dead." The dragon said with an echo. "Aren't I?"
"Unfortunately." Kyrik winced. "I'm sorry."
"I don't...funny how when you think of dying, it seems fine, but when it happens..." He turned his gaze to Jirmen, who kept one eye on the spirit and another on a rune that he rotated with his palm. "Bit late to check the wards." He said with dark humor.
"This is going to be the last death anyone has here." Jirmen answered distractedly. "What happened?"
"Not sure. I overslept after draining myself practicing last night. Had to drag myself out of bed and couldn't even fly I was so tired. Next thing I know, I'm on the ground. I didn't even feel the attack. I just knew I was trapped in my body."
Jirmen pointed his staff at the bone, runes appearing over the orb. "I see." His brow furrowed.
"The bone trapped the spirit, didn't it?" Kyrik asked.
"Yes." Jirmen confirmed slowly.
"The skill required to do that..." Kyrik muttered to himself. "Is there a trace to the spell?"
"None. Whoever did this covered their tracks well."
"I didn't even see a shadow." The dragon said. "Besides, dragons aren't easy to backstab." A quietness fell over him. "What are my parents going to think? I...never really thought of it before, not when...this is wrong. This wasn't what I expected. This wasn't what I wanted."
"It was thrown." Jirmen stiffened, ignoring the admission of the dragon. "That is the only way it could've lodged in your spine."
"I drank a lot to ease my personal pain. But now that I am dead, there is just...I don't...it doesn't feel real." The dragon continued mournfully. Kyrik struggled to keep him on track, the connection between the two already destabilizing as the realization of death crept in. "To be stabbed in the back by someone who couldn't even be bothered to approach me..."
"I'm sorry." Kyrik murmured. "The best I can do is send you to the afterlife, where you'll be at peace. What's your name?"
"Never thought it'd be me who'd be sent away." The dragon said. "I don't know if it'll help, but I'm a necromancy student. My name is...was...Tarith."
"I'm sure it will, Tarith. But, before you go, I must ask if you had anyone who may want to hurt you."
"No one that could break the wards. If anything, it was friendly competition. Was with my 'arch rival' when I was drinking."
"No, I kept to myself and didn't really wander, not that Falmari has a bad side."
With nothing else to gain, Tarith gave his consent and Kyrik created the action of opening a door or gate with his claws. Behind the dragon, a portal opened. The dragon blinked in shock, staring back at Kyrik with recognition.
"You're a reaper." Tarith said in awe. "No one else can open direct portals."
"Half right." Kyrik smirked.
"I thought your kind vanished." The dragon said blankly before fading into the portal. "Thank you."
The portal snapped shut, leaving Kyrik alone with Jirmen.
"Would it kill you to show sympathy?" Kyrik asked lowly.
"If I stop to mourn, someone else may die." Jirmen answered distractedly. "I will do so after. For now, we must keep this under wraps."
"What in the world?" Methir jogged over to them, horror on her face at the sight of the body.
"Where were you?" Jirmen regarded her not coldly, but certainly not as kind as Kyrik would've liked.
"I went to go get some training turrets, but someone moved them to another district. Took me much longer than I hoped."
"I tried contacting you, but you were blocked." Kyrik said with worry.
"I didn't put up a ward." Methir regarded the body with interest, specifically the bone. "Did you already call the Warlocks?"
"I did. But I need you to take Kyrik away from here."
"What, why?!" Kyrik whipped his head so fast to Jirmen he thought his mask would fly off. "Without me, you wouldn't be able to talk to the spirit!"
"And whatever did this drained the wards so strongly that the attack not only was able to bypass, but was strengthened by them." Jirmen responded with calm authority. "I am not having you be a target."
"You know I can help you, though!"
"And that is true, but you are far too young to be in the sights of a murderer."
"That is a bad excuse! You know what I am!"
"I'm not arguing the point any further, Kyrik." Jirmen said with finality. "Methir, please."
Kyrik vibrated in agitation, huffing at being shoved to the side because of whatever reason came up. First was his lack of social integration, then his darker powers, and now his age. It was like no one except Methir knew what to do with him!
Given Jirmen's intent when they first met, it made sense.
Kyrik snapped around and began walking away. If Jirmen thought he was going to sit this one out, he had another thing coming. He was tainted by death itself; Kyrik had seen far more bodies than anyone else his age.
But until he could wiggle in again, the most he could do was leave.
"Age? Really, Jirmen?" Methir asked with a raised brow.
"He is not ready to tackle such a situation." Jirmen answered as two dragons showed, dressed in warding cloaks and runed armor. Warlocks, the guardians of Falmari. Trained in both physical and magical combat, they would be more than a match for most foes.
"I was your apprentice for thirty years, I know when you lie." Methir folded her arms. "It's been five years, Jirmen; I think that he's proved his benign intentions."
"I have no concern about his intentions; his emotions, on the other claw..." Jirmen dismissed the rune in his palm. "You seem to forget what will happen if he loses control."
"Is that why you stifle his growth?"
"The less he knows about the darker arts, the less chance he has to learn unfortunate truths."
Methir scowled deeply, tapping her talon on her suit. "Jirmen, do you know what UPR is?"
"Universal Positive Regard." Methir explained with a hiss. "Kyrik is in desperate need of that, especially from you."
"I can't praise someone continuously, Methir."
"You miss the point, Jirmen." Methir rolled her eyes. "You don't have to kiss his ass or pander to him, but you have to support him. The poor drake has been carrying crushing guilt for five years and you regard him with coldness half the time! You're slamming the door on him!"
"I'm not slamming the door, Methir."
"Perhaps not, but you are certainly shutting him out. You are the only other one who knows what he really is, and if you aren't going to open at least a tiny bit, he will shut you out like Magthra. And if something were to happen to me, he'll latch onto the nearest one who shows him positivity. Imagine if Azulia were to catch wind of this."
Jirmen stared unwaveringly. "Perhaps...you are accurate." He turned away slightly.
"You two are basically in the same boat. Use that as common ground." Methir turned to chase after Kyrik. "I mean it. If something happens to me, you are all he has left."
Kyrik sat upon the edge of a tall golden tower, looking out over Falmari. While not the tallest building, it was by far the most frequent place he went due to it being a library. Stories upon stories - in both senses - made it able to accommodate hundreds of the thousands who lived here.
Unlike many of the buildings here, the design of the library was lyconic in design, one of the few remaining pieces of their race. A sole pillar made the length with multiple open, branching paths leading to different studies and sections of the library. Shimmering portals acted as easy access between the floors, although staircases did exist in the instance of an outage.
Despite being predominately golden, bronze made most of the walkways and balconies such as the one Kyrik resided upon. Behind him, a floating globe of arcane zapped at any spec of dust. The curator of the library, a djinn named Aquar, created them to keep the place spotless. Kyrik considered himself lucky the djinn was on a lower level, not wanting to run into the four-armed floating creature lest she go off on another tangent and throw another book because he didn't immediately know the difference between daemon and demon.
Despite the murder, Falmari looked as pristine as ever. The iridescent buildings made from different materials refracted a rainbow along the roofs from the angle of the sun. From here, Falmari was still a bastion of magical wonder. From here, it was like nothing was wrong. Yet despite the rooftops churning like rainbows under the setting sun, Kyrik felt a darkness growing in the heart. The bright surface was masking a shadow below, one Kyrik couldn't trace.
His thoughts cut off when a mocha muffin was shoved in front of his face.
"How'd you know I was here?" Kyrik took the muffin from Methir's palm.
"When you get in a mood, this is the one of two places you go." Methir sat beside him as he took a bite out of the muffin. He could tell immediately it was from Izenth's, a small bakery a few blocks away. Unlike many, the owner cooked traditionally, not using magic. Perhaps that was why Kyrik adored the food so much.
"I suppose that's true." Kyrik shrugged. "The whole age thing is dumb."
"I agree, and I told him this." Methir dangled a leg off the side, the other bent. Although she was by no means old, she looked considerably younger in this pose. "Believe it or not, Jirmen does care."
"I know he does but he has a funny way of showing it." Kyrik pouted through the muffin. "He wasn't always like this, was he?"
"He's always been distant but the past five years has...made him colder." Methir turned her gaze skyward in thought. "I would say give him time, but it's been five years."
"I know he lost Aurgal and Aura, but..."
Kyrik knew very little of the twins that associated with Jirmen. Back before the Seraph, Ephiral, fell from the skies and burned the lycon homeland of Bryzio to a volcanic wasteland, they worked together in capturing magical artifacts. Jirmen usually had to remain behind to run Falmari, but the twins, being demigods, could go back and forth. When they perished to stop Ephiral, it was only a week before Kyrik was thrown into their life.
"It was a bit more than that." Methir said with a hint of reluctance. "I can't speak for Jirmen, but he raised them almost like his own. Their father vanished and mother couldn't take care of them on her own. When they died, it was like losing his family."
"I...see." Kyrik fidgeted. He didn't know why it never crossed his mind to think of that.
"He just doesn't want to suffer that pain again, but you're going through your own. He is trying. I just think something needs to punt him toward you."
"Maybe." Kyrik's tail flicked. "I just wish he was as around as you are. I know he's running a city and all but...you have a life."
"Oh please, I can leave you alone in a library and you'd never know I was gone." Methir lightly slapped him on the shoulder. Kyrik smiled slightly. "Still, you are right. But I can't complain; you certainly keep it interesting."
"I can't, that's the best part." Methir grinned widely. "But, I do want you to keep your distance from this. For now. This murderer may have been watching and saw your powers despite the illusion spell."
"Then they should be afraid. Nobody hurts anyone under my watch." Kyrik puffed his chest.
"Kyrik, remember the promises you made." Methir reminded gently.
"I never forget them. But I can't let anyone get hurt when I can do something about it."
"I know, but you can't do everything."
"But I should be able to. I've been infused with reaper powers, and they're guardians of life. I should be the same."
"Death happens, Kyrik. Sometimes, you can't stop it. Don't punish yourself for not being everywhere at once." Methir placed her palm on his back. "Tell you what, I need to go get some Ghost Tears in a bit. Why don't you come with me?"
"I suppose." Kyrik finished the muffin. He both loved and hated how it made him want to immediately grab another after eating. "I do need the exercise; I missed my flights the past few days."
"I think if you get any thinner, we'll start seeing ribs." Methir jested. "Alright, meet me in the Magus Tower in ten minutes; I need to grab the harvesting tools."