Busy Friday


Zorian felt the mana-charged marble approaching him, but didn’t move. He couldn’t tell whether it was aimed to the left or to the right, but he knew it wasn’t aimed at his forehead. He could always tell when it was. Always. He wasn’t sure how he could tell that with absolute certainty when he could not actually pinpoint where the marble was going, but he was grateful for it. He just wished he could replicate that success to the exercise in general.

The marble whizzed past him and he struggled to identify on which side it passed him by.

“Left,” he tried.

“Wrong,” Xvim said in a disinterested tone. “Again.”

Another marble was thrown towards him. This one wasn’t aimed at his forehead either. Not that surprising, really – Xvim stopped doing that when he realized Zorian could identify those with perfect accuracy. It wouldn’t do to give Zorian free points, after all.

“Right,” he said.

“Wrong,” Xvim immediately responded. “Again.”

Zorian frowned behind the blindfold. Did it just seem that way or was he actually getting worse at this as time went by? Something was very wrong here. At the beginning of the session he was getting more than half of them correctly, but now he was constantly getting it wrong. He’d have thought he’d guess correctly every once in a while, through statistical inevitability if nothing else. There were only two possibilities!

That’s why, when Xvim threw the next marble, Zorian quickly wrenched the blindfold off to see what the deal was.

The marble flew straight over his head.

That son of a bitch!

“I didn’t say you could take the blindfold off,” Xvim calmly said, as if Zorian didn’t just catch him red-handed.

“That’s cheating!” Zorian protested, completely ignoring Xvim’s remark. “Of course I couldn’t guess correctly if you’re not even going to abide by your own rules!”

“You’re not supposed to guess, mister Kazinski,” Xvim said unapologetically. “You’re supposed to sense.”

“I was sensing,” Zorian ground out.

“If you were, you would have realized what was happening far sooner, and you would not have needed to take off the blindfold to identify the problem,” Xvim said. “Now stop wasting your time and put the blindfold back on so we can continue.”

Zorian cursed Xvim mentally but did as he was told. As much as he hated to admit it, Zorian had to admit there was a lot of truth in Xvim’s words. He had been mostly guessing over which shoulder the marbles were going, relying on gut instinct instead of a clear perception of its location. But it was hardly his fault he couldn’t reliably track a fast-moving object through its faint mana emissions – according to books, that was a highly advanced skill that took years to master! Honestly, asking a student to master this sort of thing in their third year was completely unreasonable. But completely in character for Xvim, he supposed. At least he no longer had to worry about being hit in the head anymore.

The rest of the session was typical, which is to say repetitive and boring. Then again, what part of school wasn’t boring at this point? He had been stuck in the time loop for little over a year now, and feigning attention during classes was starting to get hard. He was tempted to take a page out of Zach’s book and go wander somewhere else for a few restarts, but he couldn’t. For one thing, it would be irresponsible to waste time like that when he could be working on skills he needed to get to the bottom of this. For another, he didn’t want to attract attention to himself. The memory of their interaction was probably still fresh in Zach’s mind, and there was a possible third party to consider. Completely blowing off classes would be completely out of character for him, and would raise a lot of eyebrows. He was already playing it close by taking Kirielle with him and skipping almost a quarter of his classes to do his own thing, but those changes were at least easily explainable. If his current course of action didn’t produce results, he’d have to drop the masquerade to preserve his sanity, but that wasn’t an immediate concern. He had more pressing problems to worry about, so he put off that issue for later, when and if it became relevant.

His session with Xvim done, he went to the library to report to Kirithishli. Normally he didn’t go to work on Fridays, since dealing with Xvim tended to kill his mood very fast, but he was feeling just fine today. He was getting used to the irritating man’s antics, it seemed.

“Zorian!” Kirithishli greeted. “Good timing! We just got a new shipment today and Ibery had to go home early.”

“Uh, okay,” Zorian said slowly. He was about to ask what kind of shipment arrived, but then he decided it was a stupid question. It was a shipment of books, of course. “What do you want me to do?”

“Just unpack the books out of their boxes and separate them into rough categories,” answered Kirithishli, pointing in the direction of a small mountain of boxes. “I’ll inspect them in more detail later to see what to do with them.”

“You don’t know what to do with them?” asked Zorian, baffled. “Why did you order them, then?”

“I didn’t,” Kirithishli said, shaking her head. “Someone donated their personal library to the academy. It happens from time to time. Sometimes people leave their books to us in their wills, or people who inherit them don’t have a use for them and can’t sell them. A lot of old books are only useful as historical curiosities and sometimes not even that. Most of the books in these boxes will be disposed of, to be honest.”

“Oh?” asked Zorian, opening one of the boxes and pulling out one of the books stacked inside of it. It was a manual about cultivation of plums. The cover said it was published 20 years ago. “I’m surprised by that. I distinctly remember you saying that librarians should preserve everything they can rather than pick and choose what they think is ‘good’ or ‘useful’.”

“Oh shut up,” Kirithishli grouched, taking a half-hearted swipe at him that he dodged. “It’s an ideal to be followed, not an unbreakable law. There is only so much space in the library, no matter how big it appears. And besides, most of these books are duplicates of ones we already have. Stop being a wiseass and get to work.”

Zorian threw himself to the task, unpacking box after box. Kirithishli gave him a huge book that contained list after list of the most common books they received in these sort of deliveries and told him to use it to separate the obvious duplicates from the rest. Using the book manually to find the matches would be a total nightmare of course, especially since the letters were in a really tiny print in order to cram as many words as possible on every page, but Zorian knew it was designed with something else in mind. One of the spells he learned from Ibery in the previous restarts involved making a list of terms you wanted to search for and then connecting the list via divination spell to a target book you wanted to search. It sounded a little pointless to him back then, but now he realized it was made with precisely this sort of thing in mind. And the huge, densely-packed reference book was probably made with the spell in mind, in turn.

Nearly 2 hours and 20 hastily scribbled lists later he had separated the duplicates from the rest of the books and was in the process of leafing through one of the spellbooks he had found in the boxes when Kirithishli finally returned from wherever she had disappeared after giving him his assignment. His rapid progress surprised her, seeing how she had no idea he was so well-versed in library magic, and she apparently also found it a little disappointing.

“You’re no fun,” she sighed dramatically. “I wanted to show you that trick when I came back, after you spent 2 hours painstakingly searching for matches in that monster of a book. The expression on your face would have been priceless.”

Zorian simply raised an eyebrow at her, but otherwise stayed silent. Kirithishli showed her maturity by sticking her tongue at him like a 5 year old, before eyeing the book he was leafing through.

“Found something interesting?” she asked.

“Not really,” Zorian said, snapping the book shut. There was nothing particularly interesting in it anyway. “I sort of hoped I would find a book on powerful ancient magic and the like, but no such luck.”

Kirithishli snorted. “Even if you did find something like that, it would do you little good. Contrary to what various adventure novels may have led you to believe, ancient magic is almost always inferior to what we have available now. Those spells that are lost are usually lost for a good reason – generally for being too impractical, requiring ingredients or conditions that no longer exist, or because they would be considered massively unethical in the modern age. For example, you’d be hard pressed to find participants for orgy ritual magic these days, and Heruan volcanic spells relied on conditions present in one particular volcano that hasn’t been active for more than 200 years.”

Zorian blinked. “Oh. Well that’s disappointing.”

“Quite,” Kirithishli agreed. “And even when those spells can be cast without issue, they tend to be infuriatingly inflexible and long to cast. Mages of old didn’t have the sort of shaping skills modern mages have, so they compensated by making their spells long and hyperspecialized. There were hundreds of color-changing spells, for instance, but most of them differed only in which color the spell changed the affected objects into. It has been a persistent trend in modern times to generalize spells, since better training methods allow modern mages to make up for the spells’ lack of precision with the sheer control they have over their magic.”

“Making a lot of old spells obsolete to a properly trained mage,” finished Zorian. He had always known that most history books presented a heavily idealized image of their ancestors – their portrayal of the desertification of northern Miasina (he refused to call it ‘Cataclysm’, as if it was some natural occurrence beyond Ikosian control) and subsequent exodus to Altazia was proof enough that they were given a sugar-coated version of history – but he hadn’t realized Ikosians were also crappy mages in addition to being shortsighted assholes. “And you have to be one if you plan to get certified. You know, I’ve always wondered why so many really easy spells are classified as first circle ones. I thought it might be a deliberate policy by the Guild to encourage certification, but I guess a lot of those were not nearly as trivial when they were first rated.”

“That, but you also have to consider things from the perspective of the spell’s maker,” Kirithishli said. “It’s a lot more prestigious and profitable to make a 1st circle spell than a 0th circle one. So they almost never classify a spell as anything less than 1st circle, and the guild allows them get away with it, probably for the very reason you stated. A determined person could probably get the guild to lower the classification on a lot of those spells, but you’d make a lot of enemies, especially the spell crafter interest groups. It would be a thankless task, and you’d constantly have to watch out for people trying to roll back the changes.”

Zorian digested this information in silence. He had no intention of involving himself in such high-level politics, of course, either in the time loop or outside of it. If there was one thing his parents had driven into his skull with their endless sermons, it was that his strengths did not lie in that area. Granted, that probably wasn’t what those sermons were designed to do, but that wasn’t his problem. Still, things like these were useful to know. He’d have to prod Kirithishli for more stories in the future.

- break -

When Kirithishli told him to go home, Zorian was all too happy to oblige her. It had been a long (and boring) day, what with the regular classes, his session with Xvim, and working in the library, and all he really wanted was to go back to Imaya’s place and relax. Sadly, it was not to be, because the moment he stepped out of the library he was accosted by a shady-looking man that had been waiting for him just outside the entrance.

Well, maybe ‘accosted’ was a too strong of a word – technically, the man in question was just leaning on a pillar next to the entrance, not blocking his path or even speaking to him. Nonetheless, the moment the man glanced up and their eyes met, Zorian knew the man had been waiting for him, and him alone. Middle aged, dressed in a cheap, rumpled suit and unshaven, he almost looked like one of Cyoria’s many homeless people, but there was a confidence in his posture that didn’t fit that image.

He halted in his tracks instantly, and an uneasy silence descended on the scene as they both analyzed one another. Zorian had no idea who the man was or what he wanted to do with him, but he wasn’t inclined to be charitable. He had not forgotten the way he was assassinated in one of the initial restarts, and had no wish to repeat the experience.

“Zorian Kazinski?” the man finally asked.

“That’s me,” confirmed Zorian. He didn’t think lying would work, and it would be better to have a confrontation close to the library than to get ambushed in an empty street on the way home.

“Detective Haslush Ikzeteri, Cyoria’s police department,” the man said. “Ilsa sent me to be your divination instructor.”

Zorian didn’t know what to say. Ilsa picked a detective as his instructor? So much for his idea of talking his new divination instructor into teaching him the restricted divination skills he needed to actually investigate this time loop business. Why did it have to be law enforcement, of all things?

“That’s great,” Zorian said flatly. “I was wondering when Ilsa would find someone.”

If his lack of enthusiasm bothered the man any, he didn’t show it. He turned and walked away, gesturing Zorian to follow after him.

“Come on, kid, let’s go find a tavern to sit in,” he said, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jacket.

Oh yes, a tavern – the perfect learning environment. Gods, not only was the man a detective, he was unprofessional as well. His unkempt appearance sort of suggested it right from the start, but Zorian always tried to not judge too harshly on appearances alone – too many people did it to him, and he always found it very annoying.

His thoughts must have been more visible in his demeanor than he thought they were, because the man quickly started to justify himself.

“Come now, don’t look at me like that,” the man said. “It’s not like we’ll be doing anything too serious today. It’s been a long day for both of us, I think – you’re tired, I’m tired, we don’t know each other, and we’ll accomplish nothing if we just jump straight into lessons right away. Hell, maybe we’ll decide we don’t like each other and call this whole thing off. So today, we’re just going to share a drink and talk.”

Okay, so maybe Haslush was smarter and more capable than Zorian gave him credit for. He had to stop judging people so quickly. Though…

“I don’t drink alcohol,” Zorian warned.

Haslush gave him a curious look. “Religious taboo?”

Zorian shook his head. He was never very religious – the gods have been silent for centuries, and as far as Zorian was concerned that meant they either killed each other off or abandoned their creations to fend for themselves. Hell, listening to some of the stories from the age of gods, he couldn’t help but think humanity was better off without them – they had a disturbing tendency to throw around plagues and curse entire cities on the flimsiest of pretexts. He didn’t think it was a coincidence that humanity only started to advance, both socially and technologically, after the gods had fallen silent.

“Bad experiences,” he simply said, not wanting to discuss that topic any further.

“Ah,” Haslush said, content with his answer. “That’s okay, you can order some fruit juice or something. Hell, I can even show you a spell I use when I’m on duty but don’t want to offend people by refusing an offered drink.”

Now that sounded useful! Zorian looked at Haslush and the man correctly interpreted that as permission to go on.

“It’s a neat little alternation spell that converts alcohol into sugar,” Haslush said, raising his right hand to show a plain metal ring on his middle finger. “I have it imprinted into this ring so I don’t have to visibly cast it – visibly casting a spell on your drink is often resented even more than outright refusing it, believe it or not. The moment I touch the glass the deed is done.”

“Convenient,” Zorian said appreciatively. That spell would have saved him so much trouble over the years. “But I thought organic matter cannot be restructured through alternation spells?”

“Usually not, but that’s because most of them are impossibly complex and poorly understood, not because organic compounds are somehow impossible to replicate,” Haslush said, studying various tavern signs as they walked. Apparently he wasn’t merely looking for the closest one. “Both ethanol and glucose are fairly simple molecules, and quite well understood, so there is no difficulty in converting one into the other.” He suddenly stopped in front of a nearby sign, studying it for a moment before turning to face Zorian again. “I think this is a nice place. What do you think?”

Zorian’s experiences with taverns were very limited and generally unpleasant, so he simply gestured Haslush to go in before following after him.

It wasn’t as bad as Zorian had feared: the insides of the tavern were dark and the air was a bit stale, but the tables were clean and the noise was manageable. Haslush picked an out of the way table in the corner and cast a long, complicated spell on it after they both ordered a drink. Probably a privacy ward of some kind.

Zorian expected the man to start interrogating him the moment the spell snapped into place, but it didn’t play out like that. If Haslush was interrogating him, he was doing it too subtly for Zorian to notice. Hell, the man didn’t even ask him about Daimen, which was always nice. Gradually, Zorian began to relax and started asking questions of his own. Questions like ‘how come a detective has time and inclination to tutor a third year student in divination magic’?

“Hah,” snorted Haslush. “A good question. Usually something like this would be the last thing on my mind, but yesterday my commander dumped a really silly case on my lap. Apparently there is a rumor circulating around the city about mentalist spiders lurking in the sewers, and I’m supposed to check it out.” He rolled his eyes with a sigh. “Mentalist spiders, honestly…” he mumbled.

Zorian struggled not to let his surprise show and somehow succeeded – largely because Haslush was paying more attention to his drink than to him at the moment. He started a rumor without even realizing it? He supposed he shouldn’t be surprised, since he had told Taiven about the spiders right in front of Imaya and his sister – between Taiven and those two, they probably blathered about it to a dozen people at least.

“Anyway, after work I went to meet with my good friend Ilsa so we could complain about our problems to each other over a drink or two, when she told me she was having problems finding a divination tutor for you. And at that point I realized I have a perfect solution for my problem. I could pawn off the case to some other poor schmuck, help a friend in need, and settle a long- standing argument between me and my commander in one fell swoop. See, a couple of years ago the bureaucrats in Eldemar decided to launch an initiative for getting more mages interested in career in law enforcement. Only, instead of doing something concrete to attract new talent they asked mages already working inside the police force to go introduce the profession to mages in training on their own initiative.”

“Ah,” said Zorian. “So you’re supposed to do things like this anyway?”

“Yeah, but I’ve been kind of slacking off in that regard, so my commander is constantly nagging me about missing my quota. Can you blame me though? We get paid extra for doing it, but it’s a pittance considering the hassle.”

“You know better than I do,” Zorian shrugged. “How does, er, ‘introducing me to the profession’ get you off the spider case, though?”

“I don’t have time to do both,” Haslush said. He frowned for a second and then shook his head, as if to clear it. “Yup. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

The discussion petered out after that, and Haslush promised to meet him again at Monday. Zorian was lost in thought as he went back to Imaya’s house, wondering whether anything would come out of the whole spider investigation. Probably not, considering how seriously it was taken by Haslush, but still. He’d have to prod the man for additional details after a week or so.

- break -

Zorian tapped his foot impatiently as he waited for Imaya to open the door. He had the key to the front door, but that was no help – Imaya had an annoying habit of leaving the key in the lock, and today was no exception. He couldn’t enter without her help.

She probably liked it that way.

The sound of unlocking brought his attention back to the door itself, which flung open to reveal a concerned-looking Imaya staring at him.

“Umm… did something happen?” he asked. Did Kirielle do something stupid while he was gone?

“I should be the one asking that,” she said. “Where were you? You were supposed to be back hours ago.”

“Uh…” Zorian floundered. “What’s the problem? It’s not like I’m coming in the middle of the night or anything…”

The annoyed look she was giving him told him he shouldn’t have said that. Not that he understood why – its not like there was a rule saying he had to rush back home after class, after all. Back in Cirin, his parents never cared what he did in his free time, so long as he didn’t neglect his duties or embarrass them in the process. It was an alien feeling to have someone concerned for him just because he didn’t come home on time.

“Look, I’m sorry but I had to meet with my divination instructor after class and the meeting sort of dragged on,” he said. “Really miss Kuroshka, you’re going to lose your nerves if you freak out every time I’m late from classes. It’s not the first time I’ve been held up after class, and its certainly not going to be the last.”

She sighed and shooed him inside, apparently somewhat mollified by his speech.

“In the future, try to notify me when you’re going to be late,” Imaya said. “Surely there is some piece of magic that can transfer messages within city limits, yes?”

That was a good idea, Zorian had to admit. “I’ll see what I can find,” he promised.

“Good,” Imaya said. “Your sister has been asking for you for a while now, you know?”

Zorian groaned. “She hasn’t been a bother, hasn’t she?”

“No, she’s a little angel,” Imaya said, waving his concerns away. Zorian silently rolled his eyes at the idea of Kirielle being an angel. If Kirielle was so nice then why did Imaya want him to come home so badly? “She spent most of the day drawing, playing with the magic cube you gave her, and talking with Kana. Or should that be talking at Kana? I swear, that child is far too quiet. I have to talk to Kael about it one of these days. It’s not normal for a child to be so withdrawn…”

Zorian quietly nodded, pleased that the cube he made was such a success. It was nothing special, just a simple stone cube with a bunch of light-emitting sigils arranged into a childish puzzle. He found a design in one of the books Nora recommended to him back when she had been tutoring him in spell formulas and decided making one would be doubly useful: it would give him some practical experience using spell formula and give Kirielle something to pass the time with.

“Sounds like she had fun today,” Zorian remarked. “What did she need me for, then?”

Imaya gave him a strange look. “You’re her big brother. She doesn’t need a special reason to miss you.”

“And the real reason?” Zorian pressed.

“Kana dozed off and your toy ran out of mana and went inert,” Imaya finally admitted after a second of silence.

“Ah,” Zorian nodded. He noticed the design had very little in the way of mana storage, but he wasn’t feeling confident enough to redesign it while creating the cube. There was a reason why the cube had such rudimentary mana reserves, after all – large concentrations of mana tended to explode if handled inappropriately, and the cube was meant to be practice for beginners. Beginners that could totally botch things during the first couple of tries. Considering how much problems he had with simply recreating the design on the stone cube, he felt he had made the right choice when he had decided not to mess with the base design. He would simply make more of them if Kirielle still wanted to play with one – it was good practice, anyway. “She’s in her room, I guess?”

“No, she’s in your room, reading your books,” Imaya said casually.

Zorian’s eye twitched, resisting the urge to march straight into his room and throw Kirielle out. In reality, he was lucky to have a room to call his own at all. Imaya still hadn’t found anyone willing to rent the other room in the house, and Zorian was grateful for it, since it meant he could keep the room for himself. Unfortunately, his ability to keep Kirielle out of it was completely nonexistent. Kirielle had no inhibitions about coming and going there whenever she pleased, and Imaya was even less inclined to stop her than their mother had been back in Cirin. She seemed to find Kirielle’s behavior ‘natural’.

And the little imp knew it! She knew she could get away with just about everything, since Imaya liked her better than she did him, and she exploited it to the hilt. That’s why, when Zorian loudly entered the room, she completely ignored him. She was lying on his bed with an open book in front of her, her feet comfortably resting on his pillow. As he watched her, she reached towards the plate of biscuits Imaya had brought her, intent on scattering even more crumbs over his bead sheets.

“Hey!” she protested. “Those are mine! Get your own biscuits!”

Zorian ignored her and studied the plate full of biscuits he had snatched away from his demonic little sister. “You know, originally I just wanted to get your attention and stop you from making an even bigger mess than you already have, but they do look kind of tasty…”

“Nooooo!” Kirielle wailed as he opened his mouth, threatening to swallow a handful of biscuits at once. She seemed reluctant to leave his bed to get them back, though. She probably knew he wouldn’t allow her to claim her spot back easily should she ever relinquish it, clever little imp that she was.

“Tell you what,” he said, closing his mouth and putting the biscuits back on the plate. “I’ll give you your biscuits if you get rid of all the crumbs you put on my bed.”

Kirielle immediately swept her hands over the sheets a couple of times, pushing all the crumbs to the floor in front of the bed. Her task done, she flashed him a cheeky smile.

“Ha ha,” said Zorian humorlessly. “Now go get a broom and do it properly. I’ll eat a biscuit for every minute this mess remains in a room.”

He punctuated his words by shoving one of the biscuits into his mouth. They were quite good actually.

Kirielle let out a cry of protest and jumped off the bed in a huff. She unsuccessfully tried to retrieve her plate of biscuits, but when she realized she couldn’t make him give it back (and when he ate a second one) she instead ran off to get a broom and a dustpan. Apparently she also complained to Imaya, because several minutes later she showed up with another plate of biscuits, ‘so he didn’t have to steal from his little sister’. Whatever.

Sadly, even after he recovered his bed from Kirielle’s clutches, she still returned to his room. Currently she was sprawled over his chest, having collapsed atop of his when he closed his eyes for a second.

“Why are you still here, Kiri?” Zorian sighed.

Kirielle didn’t answer at first, being too busy climbing over Zorian’s body like he was an inanimate object that didn’t feel pain and discomfort. Once she lied firmly on the bed with him, having wriggled sufficient free space for herself, she spoke.

“I’m bored,” she said. “Your puzzle broke, by the way.”

“It didn’t break,” Zorian said. “It just ran out of mana. I can make you a new one tomorrow if you want.”

“Okay.”

A short silence descended between them and Zorian closed his eyes to take a little nap.

“Zorian?” Kirielle suddenly prompted.

“Yes?” Zorian asked.

“What’s a morlock?”

Zorian opened his eyes and looked to the side, fixing Kirielle with a curious expression.

“You don’t know what a morlock is?” he asked incredulously.

“I just know they’re these white-haired blue-eyed people,” Kirielle said. “And that people don’t like them very much. And that Kael is one. But mother never wanted to tell me what the deal with them is.”

“She didn’t, huh?” mumbled Zorian.

“No,” confirmed Kirielle. “She said a young lady like me shouldn’t talk about those kind of things.”

In the interest of avoiding an argument, Zorian refrained from making a snide comment about whether or not Kirielle qualifies as a lady. Not even a derisive snort. Someone should give him a medal for self-control.

“Basically,” Zorian said, “they’re a race of underground humans. Though most of them don’t live underground anymore. The disappearance of the gods hit their civilization hard, and the other denizens of the Dungeon have largely driven them out to the surface. Ikosian settlers sort of helped the process along by kicking them while they were down and burning down a couple of their more prominent settlements.”

“Oh,” Kirielle said. “But that doesn’t explain why people don’t like them. Sounds like they should be angry at us more than we should be at them. And Kael doesn’t look like he hates us.”

“Kael is probably totally ignorant of his ancestral culture. I understand a lot of morlocks are. And the reason people don’t like them is that the old morlocks had some pretty barbaric customs. They liked sacrificing people to their gods, and seemed to have been cannibals,” said Zorian.

“Cannibals!?” Kirielle squealed. “They ate people!? Why!?”

“Hard to say,” Zorian shrugged. “Ikosian settlers were more interested in condemning them for their practices then understanding why they did what they did.”

“Well yeah, they ate people,” Kirielle said. “That’s evil and disgusting. Don’t tell me they’re still doing that?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Zorian scoffed. “The authorities would never let them get away with something like that.”

“Oh,” said Kirielle. “That’s good. Is that why people don’t like them? They’re afraid the morlocks are going to eat them?”

“It contributes,” Zorian sighed. “I lost count of the number of rumors I’ve heard about morlocks supposedly kidnapping children off the street to eat them or what not. But there is more to it. The morlocks had their own brand of magic, which is currently banned just about everywhere, but a lot of morlocks still practice it. The guild calls it ‘blood magic’.”

“Sounds sinister,” Kirielle remarked.

“It does, doesn’t it?” Zorian said. “There is no official information about what blood magic actually is, but most people think it has something to do with sacrifice. The story is that morlocks could use a ritual killing of a person or animal to power their spells. Modern morlocks can’t exactly kill a bunch of people at whim, but supposedly they still engage in animal sacrifice, both for magical and religious reasons.”

Kirielle snuggled in closer to him, shuddering.

“I’m glad Kael and Kana aren’t like that,” she said.

“Me too, Kiri,” said Zorian, patting her on the head. “Me too.”

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