Prose Magica

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"The return of the Winter Warmaster... How exciting."

Odette colour.png
Writeup Info
Title Prose Magica
Genres Drama, Tragedy
Author Archivalfag
Timeline Begins several months prior to Magical Girl Noir Quest.
Canonicity Status Canon
Completion Status Ongoing



Ballad of the Seventeenth[edit]

Called out of self-imposed exile, former Warmaster Odette Brighton is assigned to investigate a series of inexplicable disappearances. Over the course of her assignment, Odette stumbles into a conspiracy that threatens to shatter the Seventeenth Officio.

Spoonful of Sugar[edit]

The most hated magical girl in the world tries to turn a new leaf and finds that some sins are not so easily forgotten.

The Exile of Doctor Strauss[edit]

A prequel detailing the four and a half years between Emma Strauss' deposition and the beginning of Spoonful of Sugar.

Prose Magica[edit]

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth[edit]

The Return of the Winter Warmaster[edit]

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 1[edit]

One thousand five hundred feet above the ground, Odette stared out over the city. It constantly amazed her how beautiful the city was at night, like her own private light show. Yellows, reds, blues - all of it melding together to form one perfect work of art. She always tried to find time to look at it, her little notepad clutched to her less than outstanding chest. The nightlife of the city had always fuelled her poetry in the past, so why had it been over a month since she had written anything?

Still, the sight set her at ease. Odette never got enough of watching the window lights and cars whizzing to and fro; she couldn't help but wonder about the lives of all the people she was silently watching over. Every single little dot was a person with a life of their own. How wonderful it might have been if she could still be among them.

The girl watched quietly, her one eye darting back and forth as different lights caught her attention. Most of the time, she preferred to remove her eyepatch while she was busy city-gazing. It made her more comfortable for some reason. Odette brushed a strand of her short, messy silvery-white hair from her face and let out a soft sigh as her small body pressed up against the railing. If only the sight could last forever.

A soft hiss broke the silence in the small chamber as the elevator slid open. Odette quietly fastened her eyepatch back in place before moving back from the windows.

The person inside giggled softly as she stepped out of the elevator. “Good evening, madam.”

Odette snorted as she turned to face her new companion. The other girl was tall, womanly and elegant, everything that Odette wasn't. Her long, straight blonde hair ran down the length of her back while two bright blue eyes peered out from under parted bangs.

“Gerty,” the small one-eyed girl greeted her. “What brings you here?”

The blonde girl smiled gently as she produced a large manila envelope from her pocket, a small heart sticker sealing it. "You have a new assignment. I was told you would appreciate it."

Odette snickered to herself. "I'm supposed to appreciate being allowed to do my job these days?"

"N-no, madam, it's just," Gerty looked down, searching for just the right words to make the best impression, "I was told this was something you were lobbying quite hard for. I-I meant no disrespe-"

"It's fine, it's fine," Odette reassured, raising a hand to silence the taller girl. "Is it about the disappearances?"

"I believe so, yes," the blonde said, trying her best not to stumble over her words.

"Good. Good," Odette replied as she stepped back up to the windows and leaned on the railing. "Expect a text from me in a few hours. I'll have work for you."

"Y-yes, thank you, madam," Gertrude said, giving a small curtsy as the elevator slid open. "I'll leave you to your business."

Odette thought for a moment, glancing down at her notepad quickly before looking back out over the city. The night was alive and here she was, cloistered away in a tiny little pod at the highest point in the city. Since when had this become routine? Hiding away from everyone but those few who she allowed herself to become close with? Years ago, Odette would have dreaded such an experience; being far and away from anyone she could speak to wasn't always her way.

Quietly, Odette turned back just as the other girl placed her first foot in the elevator. For the first time in as long as she could remember, Odette didn't want to be alone.

"Hey. Gerty," the one-eyed girl called back, her eyes cast slightly downward while trying her best to sound less pleading and more as though she were giving permission. "You don't have to go yet, if you don't want to."

Gertrude pulled her foot back and turned to the smaller girl, blinking several times as the thought ran through her mind. "M-madam?"

"Just, y'know," Odette shrugged slightly, turning her head away ever so slightly, "you can stick around for a bit. I don't really mind..."

Gertrude blinked several times before her eyes shot open and her face coloured bright red. "I-I would love to! I-if you would allow me, that is."

Odette nodded wordlessly as she turned back to the windows. The tall blonde took a spot beside her, leaning out over the railing and gazing out over the night. The two stood in silence for several minutes before either of them bothered speaking up.

"You're beginning to a get a reputation, you know," Gertrude said as she stared at the lights. "The great Odette. The shadow that watches over the city. No one ever sees you anymore. You're practically a myth among the newer girls."

Odette let out a short chuckle. "Funny, because half the time I'm the one scouting them out."

Gertrude nodded to herself. "Anyone who knows you well knows where to find you, anyways. It's not exactly a secret amongst the veterans."

"What can I say?" Odette smiled as she spoke. "I'm a creature of habit."

"I must ask, though," the blonde queried, "why is it that you keep my sister and I so close? Neither of us are particularly skilled or experienced..."

"Can't say. Guess I just like having lackeys," the shorter girl laughed. "I've heard they've started calling the two of you 'Odette's Hounds'. That true?"

"I-I hadn't heard that one," Gertrude mumbled, blushing.

Odette shrugged. "Might have just been some bullshit Lotte made up. How is Freddy, anyways?"

"My sister is... Well," Gertrude sighed, rolling her eyes, "she's about the same as usual. I can't say there's been anything too extraordinary going on with her."

"No news is good news, if you ask me," Odette replied.

Gertrude and Fredrica. Vindicare and Eversor. A rarity in the world of magical girls in that they were twins who had contracted together. While Gertrude could be called the model of a young lady, Fredrica was something else entirely. She was brash, crude and loud. It was always easy to pick her out in a crowd because of her black and blue hair and several facial piercings. Odette may have lost an eye, but she still shuddered at the thought of getting her lip or nose pierced. Total opposites the twins were. A perfect fighting force, each making up for the other's weaknesses.

A whirring came off from Gertrude's pocket just as the pair settled into a still silence. She pulled out her cellphone and skimmed through it hastily, brow furrowed as she read. "I'm terribly sorry, madam, but it appears my time is up."

"Ah, yeah," Odette responded, a hint of disappointment in her voice. "That's fine. I'll text you once I look over this."

Gertrude nodded as she stepped back from the window and tapped the elevator button. She thought in silence for a few moments before smiling to herself. "It was nice to talk to you, madam. Perhaps we could do this more often?"

"Yeah," Odette grinned, not turning away from the impressive view. "Yeah, I think that'd be nice."

"Until then, madam," the blonde girl replied as the elevator slid open.

Odette nodded. "Later, Gerty."

In a moment, the elevator closed and Odette was alone once again. She couldn't shake that feeling of loneliness, despite having chosen this self-imposed exile. Few close friends managed to stay in contact with her and fewer still ever stuck around long enough to have a meaningful conversation. After a long while of silence broken only by the occasional soft sigh, Odette tapped the button to call the elevator.


Heidi Dalia. The Night Watcher of the Seventeenth. It was just past midnight as she stepped into the grimy, still alleyway. The pale girl let out a quiet breath as she leaned against a rough brick wall, pulling her long dark hair to her front. Heidi's pale skin practically glowed in the night light, tinted varying shades by the bright neon seeping into the corridor.

A second girl stood silently near the mouth of the alley. Freida Norton, a Callidus and well-known as one of the Officio's most beautiful, second only to one. Many had wondered if the beauty was faked, but one particular run-in with a Culexus proved that theory wrong. Her dirty blonde ponytail fluttered in the wind as cars soared down the busy street just outside the alley.

"You really want to take a break here?" Freida asked, holding herself as she shivered in the night air. "There's a Timmy's just down the street."

Heidi nodded, making a muffled noise of affirmation. The dark-haired girl fumbled around in the pockets of her black costume.

"Smells like hobo in here," the other girl commented, taking a few steps closer.

The quieter of the two searched her pockets for a few more moments before pulling out a small packaged wrapped in parchment paper.

"Is that- You made us lunch?" Freida asked incredulously.

Heidi nodded as she unravelled the package. A pair of plastic wrapped sandwiches. She wasn't terribly good at cooking, but sandwiches she could manage. Just as she removed the last of the paper, one of the two sandwiches fell from her grasp. With a quiet squeal of surprise, she bent down to pick it up amongst the dirty and grime of the alley floor. Dusting off the flecks of filth from the plastic, she held it a bit closer and handed the other to Freida.

But the other girl was nowhere to be found.

Heidi blinked several times before looking up and down the alley.

"F-Freida?" She asked the air.

Only the sound of traffic replied.

"A-are you there, Frieda?" She tried. "That's not funny!"

Nothing but the sound of cars and city life greeted her.



Odette sauntered down the busy streets, scowling. On the one night she just wanted to go home and drown her sorrows in sweets, they had to call her into the office. Even if it did pertain to her assignment, that night wasn't one she wanted to spend at work. She'd barely gotten a chance to look over the contents of the envelope. Worse yet, she'd forgotten where she'd parked.

It wasn't as though her car was generic looking or blended in easily. It couldn't be that hard to miss. Dark blue with chrome trimmings. Vanity plates that said 'SLPY SUE'. Eight wheels. Turret. Ten millimetres of armour. Fifty millimetre cannon on top. Kind of stood out in the big city.

Five minutes into her search, an idea struck Odette. She knew she was close, it was only a matter of figuring out the exact position of the car. With a jingle and a jangle, she pulled her keys from her pocket and pressed the lock button.


That high-pitched, delicate sound. Odette knew it well. It called to her. Sure enough, there it was, just as she rounded a street corner: ten tons of everything she loved about her job. Sleepy Sue, the Puma armoured car. Her pride and joy - and more often than not, her place to spend the night.

Odette hoisted herself up the metal bars running up to the turret and dropped down through the hatch. The inside of Sleepy Sue was always a surprise to those that had never been inside of her. The armoured car was entirely hollow, some might even say bigger on the inside than on the outside, and fairly well furnished to boot. On one end, near the back, was Odette's sleeping cot; the thin mattress seemed more suited to be a prison bed than anything permanent and some nights it sure felt like one. At the front end was her "desk", little more than a few planks of wood held up by some bricks, but it did its job.

In front of her desk, sitting on Odette's favourite beanbag chair, was an all-too-familiar young woman. Her hair was long, straight and blonde with uncut bangs framing her smiling face. Odette frowned at the other girl.

"Lotte," the one-eyed girl grumbled, "the hell are you doing in my car?"

"Just thought I'd stop by and visit my BFF!" The blonde grinned from ear to ear, face a bit red as she waved a bottle of Odette's good mead. "Saw ole Sue here and figured I'd invite myself in for a drink."

Odette scowled, taking a seat on her cot. "Not in the mood. Don't you have anything better to do? Politicians to assassinate? Candy to steal from babies?"

"Ah, come on, O!" Lotte laughed, slipping off the beanbag chair and crawling closer to Odette. "Why the grumps?"

"I don't have time to put up with your shit, Lotte," the one-eyed girl growled, her temper rising.

"Well that's just downright rude," Lotte said in mock offence, pushing herself up against Odette's side.

Odette bit her lip and closed her eyes, fists balling up as her anger simmered. Lotte had made sure all the right places were rubbing on her arm. The blonde wasn't entirely unappealing, Odette had to admit. Despite her forward personality, she had a body to die for; even Odette occasionally found herself staring with envy instead of... other emotions.

"You don't want me anymore?" Lotte whispered into Odette's ear, her breath slipping out like hot velvet. "After all the fun we had, you're just going to drop me like this?"

With a grunt, Odette got up and shoved the blonde off of her, moving to sit in her beanbag chair. She could never quite place her relationship with the other girl. Some nights she was a trusted confidante, the next a heated rival and a one-night fling the night after. Tonight, however, Odette simply wanted to finish her work and go home. She didn't like how her conversation with Gertrude had made her feel. It was alien and uncomfortable.

"Wha- Hey, O!" Lotte cried out. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I was just foolin' around. Everything okay?"

Odette nodded as she pulled out the thick envelope. "'s fine. Just have work to do."

Sleepy Sue's engines roared to life as the silvery-haired girl began to mull over the envelope's contents. Reports, interrogation logs, evidence files, the works. It seemed as though the incubator had been busy with this investigation behind the scenes. At least he wasn't entirely as incompetent as he seemed.

"That fat bastard has you back at it again, huh?" Lotte sneered. "You know, the offer is still open."

"Told you a hundred times, no," Odette grumbled, flipping through paperwork. "I already made one deal with those cunts and that's a mistake I don't intend on repeating."

"It's not that bad," the blonde grinned, leaning back as she swirled the bottle of mead around. "Become warmaster again," Lotte paused and narrowed her eyes. “Get everything you need to bring down the Seventeenth. You're going to tell me that that doesn't sound appealing? After all he's done to you?"

Sure, it sounded appealing, Odette had to admit. Being stripped of her position as warmaster and left out of combat missions for two months and counting wasn't exactly something she enjoyed. Odette snorted out a laugh. "Aggressive, confrontational and conflict-mongering personality". There may have been one or two occasions where she almost got into a full-out brawl, sure. Like that one time with the warmaster of Russia. Or was it Japan? Even then, the two ended up having drinks right after. For a brief moment, Odette toyed with the idea of getting back in touch, but it seemed as though work was finally catching up.

"So you're just going to ignore me?" Lotte muttered as she took a swig from the bottle.

Odette nodded. "That was the plan, yeah."



It didn't take long at all before Sleepy Sue pulled up in front of the headquarters of the Seventeenth Officio. The perks of your usual haunt being only a few blocks away from your workplace, Odette supposed. The building was fairly busy, as it was most times of the day. What was unusual, however, was the amount of young girls entering and exiting. Usually one would see a magical girl head in or out once every ten minutes or so, but right now there seemed to be a constant flow of them.

Odette skimmed through the reports one final time before stuffing the envelope in her pocket and heaving herself up the ladder and out onto the curb. Lotte shortly followed suit, deftly climbing the ladder with one hand while holding the bottle of mead in the other. The one-eyed girl didn't bother questioning it as the blonde appeared. Some things were best left unknown.

"So, what did they call you in for?" Lotte asked, staring up at the massive skyscraper.

"Interrogation," Odette groaned. "Another went missing just an hour or two ago. Apparently, this girl was right beside her when she vanished. Name's Dalia."

"Dolly? Shit," Lotte sighed, shaking her head. "Heidi's a nice kid. Quiet, looks like she wants to tear out your guts, but that's just her natural face. Go easy on her."

The silver-haired girl nodded. "Yeah, I know her. Wouldn't hurt a fly."

Just as Lotte turned to leave, a thought crossed her mind. "Hey, O. You busy after this?"

"Why?" Odette asked, skeptical.

"You seem kinda down," the blonde shrugged, twirling the bottle around a bit. "Want me to stop by your apartment? Maybe I could cheer you up a bit."

Odette let out a long sigh. The offer was certainly better than what she had planned for the night. A warm bed was a few pegs above getting a cake and watching a movie alone.

The shorter girl shrugged in surrender. "Sure. Why not?"

Lotte returned a bright, sincere smile, beaming from ear to ear. She didn't look that genuinely pleased very often, but it was obvious when she did.

"Christ, you don't have to look so happy about it," Odette grumbled. "You perv."

"Whatever," Lotte waved Odette off as she turned to leave. "Spare key is taped above the hallway light, right?"

"I don't recall ever telling you that."

"Later, O! Have fun!" Lotte turned around to deliver a precision wink. "See you tonight!"

Odette muttered to herself as the blonde ran off. If only she didn't have to interrogate someone before she could go home. Especially someone who was likely terrified and traumatized by their ordeal. It wasn't often magical girls just went missing, if ever. As she wearily rubbed her eyes, Odette opened the doors to the First Canadian Place, headquarters of the Seventeenth Officio.

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 2[edit]

Odette pushed open the revolving doors and stepped into the busy, white marble halls of the First Canadian place, headquarters of the Seventeenth Officio. Or at least, the operation's front. The first three floors of the towering office building were more like a small shopping mall than anything business-like. It was the perfect disguise, Odette thought. No one would think it strange for large numbers of teenage girls to be wandering around a shopping centre. There were even a handful of cake and pastry shops that Odette had a habit of frequenting.

The girl glanced up and grumbled to herself as she made her way to the elevator. Did they really have to put it right in middle of a cluster of women's clothing stores? The incubator probably thought he was being real clever with it, but the sights only made Odette more conscious of her rather plain clothing. A black jacket, plain white t-shirt and a scuffed pair of jeans wasn't exactly the pinnacle of fashion, but she rarely put any thought into her wardrobe these days. Seeing the pink and pastel coloured girly clothing, though, that made her wonder.

Odette sighed and jabbed a finger at the down button. Within seconds, the doors slid open with a hiss and the one-eyed girl stepped inside. With one hand, she held down the 'close doors' button, while the other punched in her destination. Two, nine, six, eighteen, fifteen, nineteen, twenty; it had taken her months to remember without having to write it down somewhere. With a clunk of pulleys and machinery, she felt the elevator begin its descent. Exactly nine floors below ground. Odette could still remember when the underground section of the tower was built, green as she was at the time. For the time, it was fun to figure out secret codes and security measures to keep outsiders on the outside. These days, it just seemed to be more trouble than it was worth.

The doors slid open as they reached the lowest floor and revealed a barren, concrete room lined with yet more elevators. Each flank was occupied by three sets while another stood alone at the far end of the square room. Seven elevators, each for a colour of the rainbow. Odette watched the security camera in the corner of the room track her as she strode confidently up to the furthest elevator, coloured with a bright violet.

The girl waited for a few moments before casting a glare at the camera. "Seriously?" She muttered.

"You know the rules, Odette," a cheerful girl's voice called out over the intercom. "You need to identify yourself just like the rest of us schmucks. No hat, no free pass!"

"Oh my g- Fine," Odette grumbled. "Odette Brighton. Clearance level violet. Now open the damn door, Holly."

"Was that really so hard?" The voice replied as the purple doors on the far side of the room slid open.

Odette scowled and stepped in. Her only reply was to flip off the camera just as the elevator closed again.

Holly Corbin. One of the twin Vanus rank magical girls in charge of running the technical and intelligence aspect of the entire Officio. Holly kept track of internal affairs while Molly watched the other Officios. Dozens of rumours circulated about them - very few had ever actually seen one of them in person, fewer still claimed to have met both. Even Odette hadn't actually met either of them in person, despite having worked with them for years.

The interior of the violet lift wasn't any different from the previous, save for the arrangement of the buttons. Seven rows of three buttons, each row a different colour of the rainbow. Odette flipped out her cellphone to double-check her destination before hitting the middle green button. The tired girl took a deep sigh and leaned back against the far wall just as the elevator began to descend.


The elevators in the sub-levels of the building had always baffled Odette. There was a distinct sense of movement, but she could never tell exactly what direction it was headed. Maybe left or right, forward or back - sometimes it even felt like the elevator was going up when it was supposed to be going down. Stranger yet, it always seemed as though no matter which floor was chosen, the ride always took exactly one minute and thirty-nine seconds and never a moment off. The compartment itself was no different than a standard elevator, save the fact it was missing any sort of maintenance hatch. On no small amount of occasions had Odette been tempted to simply break through the ceiling and see what was outside. It never worked.

Exactly one minute and thirty-nine seconds after the doors had closed, they slid open again, revealing a sterile white corridor with a green stripe racing down the centre of the walls. Directly in front of Odette stood a rather peeved looking girl with short brown hair, parted directly in the middle and held in place by a pair of hair-clips on either side.

Odette cringed and put up a pained grin. "Heeeey, Tyler. How's it goin'? Love to chat, but I've got a thing I need to do," Odette forced a laugh and turned to leave, only to feel a hand on the back of her collar. The silver-haired girl slowly turned her head to stare into the other's eyes. "I'd suggest you take your mitts off me. Or do I need to remind you what happened the last time you got a bit too physical?"

"I've been asked to escort you to the interrogation room and observe," Tyler said, voice stoic and professional. "Believe me, Brighton, I have much better things to do than babysit your washed-up ass, but orders are orders."

"Great," Odette grumbled. "Now take your hand off me or you'll be cleaning it off the walls."

"That's no way to talk to a warmaster's aide, Brighton," Tyler growled, tightening her grip.

In an instant, Odette ducked and grabbed the other girl by the arm, sending her careening over the one-eyed girl's shoulder and into the ground, landing flat on her back. The adjutant barely had a chance to blink before she felt a boot on her chest and the razor-sharp point of a spear under her chin.

"And that's no way to talk to a former warmaster, Argente," Odette spat, watching with no small amount of amusement as a thin crimson stream trickled down the dark-haired girl's neck. With a smirk, the spear dissolved into thin air as Odette removed her foot and held out a hand to help the fallen girl up.

"Things like that only prove him right," Tyler snarled, pulling herself to her feet without assistance. "Still don't know why he doesn't have you terminated."

Odette smirked. "Neither do I."

Mumbling all the while, the dark-haired vindicare pulled out a rather brightly coloured band-aid from her many pockets and applied it to the small wound. Though the cut was little bigger than a paper cut, she still found it prudent to prevent infection.

"Winnie the Pooh?" Odette asked, snickering at the bandage.

"Don't even go the-"

"I've got Disney Princess ones," The silver-haired girl said as she turned down the hallway.

"O-oh," Tyler mumbled. Head hanging low in a mixture of disappointment and embarrassment, she followed after Odette, making sure to keep a good distance behind.

Tyler Argente. Aide to the Seventeenth Warmaster, former Vindicare rank leader. For months, she had found herself in a one-sided rivalry with Odette. Somehow she just couldn't bring herself to respect the former warmaster, never mind like her. She couldn't even remember how or why the bad blood started, only that it had been there for quite some time. Tyler had always been someone who had to work for her position - the total opposite of Odette, who seemed to be naturally talented in every way. At the same time, Tyler had always managed to keep a level head despite all of Odette's provocations.

"So seriously," The one-eyed girl piped up as the two made their way through the quiet halls, "where's Terry? Was hoping to see her."

"The warmaster is busy at the moment. Fubey requested her presence for an urgent meeting," Tyler sighed quietly. "I was not informed of the details, nor permitted to attend."

Odette responded with little more than a muffled 'hmph'.

"And," the dark-haired girl added, "for what it's worth, Therese seemed rather excited to see you again."

Odette nodded to herself. " 's been a while."

"Two weeks by our count. She couldn't stop talking about you," Tyler let out another sigh, although more drawn out and exasperated the second time around. "Every time she gets a compliment, she can't help but mention how she's nowhere near your level. 'It's not talent, it's just hard work and luck!' she says. 'I still can't match Odette!'"

"Damn straight," Odette replied.

The pair continued to walk down the barren halls for several minutes, passing the odd occupied break room or interrogation chamber. Green level had traditionally been used for keeping less dangerous persons of interest, such as normal, non-magical humans and non-hostile witnesses.

"Sure is empty," Odette observed.

Tyler nodded, making a small grunt of acknowledgement. "Therese had traffic moved to Green One and Three. She didn't want you to be forced to deal with your... 'fans'."

"How considerate."

Being so well known had its downsides, as Odette had learned. She spent so little time in the building that most of the junior girls clamoured for a picture or an autograph every time she actually showed up. Odette had long gotten used it to it, though it was most certainly an unnecessary hassle.

After several minutes of navigating the halls, the two finally came upon the interrogation chamber, guarded by a pair of eversors. One was shorter, with messy black hair and an enormous battle axe held firm to her shoulder, while the second was tall and thin, her hair tied back into a tight ponytail and a rapier sheathed at her side. Both of their faces seemed to contort into a mixture of shock, fear and reverence at the sight of Odette.

"Mi-mi-mi-miss Odette!" the shorter one yelped as she snapped to attention. "Vindicare Heidi Dalia is waiting for you inside."

"Don't recognize them," Odette whispered, leaning over to Tyler. "Therese's recruits?"

The warmaster's aide nodded silently and stepped off to the side. "I'll let you handle this alone. Don't screw it up."

Odette rolled her eye and shook her head as she stepped toward the solid white door. As her hand landed on the knob, the taller of the two guards turned to her and held out an old picture of Odette in her warmaster's uniform and cap. Back when she still had both eyes, the silver-haired girl noted.

"Tiny wanted an autograph, but she's too afraid to ask. You mind?" she asked, pulling a pen from her pocket.

"M-Mona!" the shorter girl wailed. "Miss Odette, it's fine, really, you don't ha-"

Odette held up a hand, silencing the guard in an instant. With a gentle, practised smile, she took the picture, signed it, and handed it to the shorter of the two. "It's fine. It's my pleasure."

The smaller guard gently took the picture with shaking hands, nearly dropping it several times as she did so. Her bright eyes glistened as she stared at it, as if stuck in some sort of trance.

"Manners, Meg," the taller guard chided.

Her partner fumbled with the picture, trying to put it away when she desperately wanted to keep her eyes on it. "Th-th-thank you! Thank you very much, ma'am!"

Odette winced. "Anything but 'ma'am', please. Just... not that."

"Ah, oh," the shorter girl mumbled. "Um, madam? I-I've heard some others call you that, b-but if it-"

"It's fine. Listen, I gotta get going," Odette smiled gently and lightly ruffled the girl's hair. "Take good care of that. I don't do that kind of thing very often these days."

"Y-yes, of course!"

Odette nodded and stepped into the other room, the door closing with a click behind her. The taller of the two guards looked down at the other, smiling brightly.

"See, Meg?" she said, watching the girl stare transfixed at the autograph. "Just gotta ask. She wasn't nearly as scary as they say."

Tyler absent-mindedly rubbed the bandage on her neck as she leaned against the corridor wall. "I wouldn't be so sure."


"Mornin', Heidi," Odette greeted the sole occupant of the cramped, dimly lit room. Keeping the same practised smile she had used earlier, the one-eyed girl took a seat across from the detainee. "Long time no see."

The vindicare quietly lifted her head, her long, dark hair nearly entirely obscuring her weary face and looked into Odette's eye. "I-it has been a long time. And I... I don't think it's morning anymore."

Odette glanced at her watch and tilted her head from side to side a few times. "It's about one o'clock. Past midnight counts as morning in my books." With a yawn, she pulled the case documents from her jacket pocket and slapped them on the table. "I'm assuming you're a bit fed up with waiting around here."

The dark-haired girl nodded silently.

"Then let's try and make this quick and painless," Odette said, shuffling through the papers. "First things first, can you describe what happened?"

"It was r-right around midnight, I think, maybe a little earlier," the girl mumbled. "We went into an alley for a break-"

"-you just went into a random alley?"

"It was a dumb idea, but I thought it'd be nice to have lunch there," Heidi mumbled bashfully. "I... I made us sandwiches."

Odette nodded as she jotted down a few notes in a small memo pad, then waved her pen at the other girl when she had stopped talking. "Go on."

"I, um, I dropped one of the sandwiches by mistake and," the dark-haired girl's gaze bored a hole through the table as her eyes began to sting, "I bent down to pick it up and when I looked up she was gone."

"Just... vanished?" Odette asked, cocking an eyebrow. "No noise? No... anything?"

Heidi shook her head. "Just gone. She was further down a-and there were a lot of cars outside," she fiddled with a strand of hair as she spoke, frantically replaying the events in her head. "N-now that I think about it, if she made any noise, I probably wouldn't have heard it."

"And then you came here?"

Heidi shook her head once more. "I looked through the alleys and climbed to the rooves. I called it in maybe... twenty minutes later?"

"And there was nothing unusual at all?" Odette asked. "Nothing that stood out?"

"There was one thing," Heidi said, finally looking Odette in the eye, "a weird smell. I don't really know how to describe it. It was sweet, but repulsive. Like flowers at a funeral. Like... death in disguise."

Odette scribbled down the description. She found it hard to believe something sweet could also be so sinister. "I'll keep it in mind. Now, uh, your relationship with Freida Goldman. Were you two close at all?"

"N-no," the girl replied, "we had only met recently. We were assigned to hunt a witch together. All I know about her what others say."

"Yet you made lunch for the two of you and took her into a dark alley alone?"

By that point Heidi was visibly shaking as tears glistened on her pale cheeks. "I-I j-just thought that i-if I could make something f-for us, we could g-get closer."

Odette made a shallow nod as she wrote more. "Not good with people, I take it?"

Heidi shook her head without a word.

"I can relate," the one-eyed girl sighed. "I can't guarantee that we'll find her, but I'll do my best. Is there anything else you feel I should know? Any irregularities in her behaviour or people she seemed less than friendly with?"

"Sh-she mentioned th-that she felt like she was being w-watched the past few nights," Heidi stuttered out between hiccups, "but nothing else. I didn't re-really get to know her we-well."

Odette nodded. "Alright. I think we're done here. Go home and get some rest. Take a few days off."

"U-um," the vindicare stammered, teary, blood-shot eyes staring up at Odette, "i-if you see Fubey, tell him I'd li-like a transfer. I don't... I don't thi-think I'm suited for this ki-kind of wo-work."

"I'll keep it in mind," Odette said, snapping her memo pad shut and rising from her seat. "See you 'round. You're free to leave whenever you're ready. Talk to one of the girls outside if there's anything else you need."

“Th-thank you,” Heidi mumbled.

Odette put her hand on the doorknob, but pulled back after a moment's thought and reopened her memo pad. “Uh, h-here's my number. Just in case you remember anything. Or something,” Odette stuttered as she scribbled down her cell number and tore out the page, leaving it on the table.

With a curt nod, the one-eyed girl stepped out of the room and leaned against the corridor wall, letting out a long sigh. It had been a while since she had to be so professional. She was out of practice. There was once a time when being polite and sympathetic came second-nature to her; some people may have once even called her lady-like. Now she had to force it. Odette let out another sigh, managing to sound even more tired. She asked herself how it had all gone wrong, how the elegant and charismatic Odette Brighton had been reduced to... this. The only answer was the sound of her hard-soled shoes against the marble floor.

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 3[edit]

Therese Witton snoozed soundly, hugging her bedsheets tight to her chest. With a slight, cat-like grin, she licked her lips and turned over, mumbling and grumbling contentedly. Her long, fluffy auburn hair was splayed out across the pink and white sheets, making her look quite the opposite of what one would expect from a warmaster.


Therese's brow furrowed at the noise as she shoved her face further into her pillow.

Bree-dee-deep. Bree-dee-deep.

Therese's eyes squeezed shut. Her mouth flattened and the edges of her lips tightened.


In one single swift motion, Therese cupped a hand around the back of her alarm clock and heaved it across the room, tearing the plug out of the socket as it flew straight into the far wall. The poor clock shattered on impact, sending glass and plastic flying outward in a hail of shrapnel. The warmaster sat up in bed , a groggy, grumpy frown on her face, and turned off her beeping cellphone.

Therese Witton. Warmaster of the Seventeenth. At first glance, she'd look to be the paragon of everything it meant to be a magical girl. Kind, gentle, a peach-pastel coloured costume with an awful abundance of frills. But as anyone in the Seventeenth Officio could tell you, the girl had a temper like thermite and the power to back it up. There were dozens of rumours floating around concerning incidents where she flew off the handle over something minor. Most had at least a grain of truth to them.

A light knock sounded on her bedroom door before it slowly creaked open, revealing Tyler's cautious face.

"W-warmaster?" She asked.

"Mornin', Tyyy," the warmaster drawled sleepily, looking at the dark-haired aide through half-lidded eyes.

Tyler shook her head as she stepped into the room carrying a tray, topped with a bowl of cereal and juice. "You're still half-asleep," the aide groaned, setting the tray down next to Therese. "Drink your orange juice, warmaster."

The warmaster's aide cupped a hand on her cheek as she watched the other girl happily sip her juice through a straw, not doing a terribly good job of hiding how dearly she adored the warmaster when she was sleepy. Slowly but surely, Therese's eyes opened wider and grew more alert as the juice emptied.

As the last of the orange liquid emptied, the warmaster let out a satisfied sigh and looked up at her aide. "That's some good stuff. Mornin' Tyler. What's on the agenda today?"

"Good morning, warmaster," Tyler replied, giving a gentle nod. "It seems we'll be having another easy day today. Fubey wished to speak with you when you woke up. You'll be addressing Valkyrie Squad at ten. They're all a bit... you know."

Therese made a shallow nod, her mouth still on her straw. "Any sign of Frieda?"

"Not yet," the short-haired girl mumbled. "Brighton's on the case, but," Tyler glanced off to the side, embarrassment colouring her face, "you know how I feel about her."

The warmaster rolled her eyes just as something caught her attention. She blinked several times before asking, "Tyler, what happened to your neck?"

"Ah! Uh," the other girl reached up to the Winnie the Pooh band-aid and held her hand over it. "I, uh, I fell. You know. Getting out of the elevator. There's that litt-"

"You were with Odette last night, weren't you?" Therese asked, her voice growing stern.


"You provoked her," she continued as her eyes narrowed, "didn't you?"

"I- No- I didn't-"

"Toooootally provoked," called a sing-song voice from Therese's cell, somehow switching itself to speaker-phone.

"Good morning to you too, Holly," the warmaster answered. "Exactly how long have you been eaves-dropping?"

"Mornin' boss. Just doin' my job, ma'am," the vanus replied, the distinct sound of furious typing coming through the phone. "You should have seen it. Tyler grabbed Odette, and then Odette was all like 'Getcher mitts off me, punk.' and then Tyler was like 'That's no way to talk to a warmaster's aide, Brighton.' and, and-" Holly took took a deep breath, clearly having run out of oxygen. "Long story short, Patchy handed Ty her ass on a platter. It was awesome."

Therese pinched her brow and grimaced, letting out an exasperated sigh. "Tyler..."

"I- That wasn-"

"Please stop talking," Therese growled, turning her head up just enough to look her aide in the eye. "I've been awake for all of ten minutes and I'm already upset with you. If you continue to pick fights with Odette, I'll have no choice but to demote you. Am I understood?"


"Am. I. Understood?"

Tyler simply gulped and stared down, a mixture of shame and anger running through her. "Yes, ma'am."

"Good. You're already on your second chance. I'd rather not have to repeat myself," the warmaster shook her head before taking a deep breath and regaining her composure. "Holly, do you have anything else to report?"

"Uh, lemme see," Holly went quiet for a few moments; only the sound of fingers on keys signalled that the line hadn't gone dead. "May reports that West HQ has had an above average number of witches in the past two weeks, but nothing to be concerned about yet. All quiet in Montreal and Calgary. Maritime HQ fought a witch that looked like a giant lobster girl, but that's neither here nor there-"

"Thank you, Holly. I believe that will be all," Therese interrupted as she heaved herself out of bed. "Can you put Molly on? I'd like an update from her."

"Oh! Yeah yeah! Right away, boss!"

There was a distinct click as the line went dead for a few moments, leaving the warmaster and her second in a rather awkward silence.

"Warmaster." Asked a rather dry voice from the phone as the sound of typing resumed. The voice was nearly identical to Holly's, save how dead-pan and tired the new girl sounded. If they actually put the effort into it, the two could easily pose as each other - some even thought they did on occasion.

"Good morning, Molly," Therese greeted the new voice, picking up her clothes from around the room. Tyler took that as her cue to step out for the time being. "Anything to report?"

"Oh. Oh yeah," the vanus answered, sounding slightly off guard. "Those attacks on our database? The ones I've been working my ass off to fight? They stopped last night."

The auburn-haired girl glanced at the phone as she buttoned up her shirt. "They... what?"

"Totally ceased. A little after midnight, I'd say. Dunno why considering they can't have gotten anything. They clearly had the resources to keep it up if they wanted to, but whatever. I'm not complaining," Therese could almost HEAR the shrug on the other end. "Oh and, uh, there've been a few more reports from the other officios. More of those golden weapons popping up. Maybe we should look into them, just in case."

Therese shook her head. "You know it's not our way to go looking for trouble. Fubey has always said as much."

"Sorry, let me rephrase that," Molly said, managing to sound even more dead-pan than before, "we REALLY need to look into this. Big things are in motion and we're gonna be stuck in the middle of it if we don't act."

"I'll see what I can do, but no promises," Therese replied as she held up different kinds of legwear, then glanced at her phone. "Skirt or pants?"

"Skirt, I guess. But, hotpants and thighhighs would look great with that outfit. You've definitely got the legs for it. Just sayin'."

"Skirt it is then," the warmaster decided, turning slightly pink at the vanus' comment.

"A storm's coming, Terry," Molly's voice changed as she spoke, becoming more clear and stern to the point that Therese almost thought she was a different person altogether. "I don't know about you, but I don't want to get caught without an umbrella. Don't say I didn't warn you."

Therese made a shallow nod, barely noticeable to the inattentive. With another long sigh, she fastened her cap, threw on her coat in a dramatic flourish and stepped out into the hall.


Odette cracked open a tired eye and looked up at her clock. It was already eleven in the morning. With a disgruntled huff, she made to get out of bed... but only succeeded in vainly squirming against the arms holding her back. The smaller girl groaned as she tried to pull out of Lotte's vice grip around her waist. The perennial little spoon. Odette knew that she would be lucky if the other girl woke up before noon.

With no small amount of effort, Odette managed wriggle her way lower and lower until Lotte's arms were around her head. The fact that she could manage such a feat came as bittersweet to the smaller, silvery-haired girl. Just as she was about to free herself, the larger girl pulled Odette in tightly, mashing the back of her head into her sizable breasts.


After a few long, agonizing moments, Lotte's grip loosened and Odette managed to liberate herself, jamming a pillow in the other girl's arms to take her place. It took several minutes for Odette to find her underwear again; somehow her panties had ended up inside of the bedside lamp. She made a muted sigh as she pulled on her bra, always feeling as though the nearly-flat piece of spongy fabric was somehow mocking her. Her jeans and usual white t-shirt, however, were found in a neat pile at the foot of the bed. It had been quite some time since Odette had actually bothered to clothe herself while in the comfort of her own home.

Thankfully, she hadn't been careless enough to remove her eyepatch in the heat of the moment. Odette hated showing others what was under it; it made her feel vulnerable, as though someone knew her darkest secret.

Having gotten dressed, Odette left the bedroom behind and made her way to the little nook that passed for a kitchen. Opening the dirty and scuffed fridge, Odette scanned her collection of various juices, having a bottle of nearly every flavour. She had never liked coffee and drinking in the morning ... Well, she had finally gotten her assignment. It was about time she tried turning over a new leaf. Maybe this one wouldn't shrivel up and fall off the tree. With a nod, she decided that a good day had to start just right. Peach juice. Her very favourite.

Despite not having been home in over a week, everything seemed rather clean, Odette noted as popped a slice of bread in the toaster. Lotte or Therese must have made sure to come by and tidy up while she was out. Everyone always seemed so concerned about her well-being ever since her demotion. She didn't need to be babied just because she had lost her rank, she told herself. After two months of peace and quiet, she was finally getting used to it. Of course, it had to be just then that work fell into her lap.

As she waited for her toast to toast, Odette took up her notepad from the counter and took a seat at the tiny kitchen table. However, upon seeing the lacy, pink, t-shaped piece of fabric hanging off the edge, she quickly changed her mind and moved to the window sill. The sky was growing darker, she noted. She'd have to make it to the scene of Frieda's disappearance before the rain washed any evidence away.

Her poetry absorbed her, despite not managing to write a single word. She didn't pay attention to how long she stared at that blank page, wishing she could come up with SOMETHING just to let everything out. Depression, anger, frustration, all of it had been balled up inside of her for two months now. The world around her dissolved as she stared at the words she never wrote. She stared down from her checker-board tower as a field stretched out before her, measuring a hundred miles in every direction. Odette turned as she heard footsteps approaching from the void behind her.

She made a bemused snort as the figure took its place beside her. "Haven't seen you in a while."

The figure nodded. "Two months, was it?"

Odette chuckled to herself and focused down on the field below them. "Something like that."

The figure took a seat on the windowsill across from Odette, the pair formed a perfect symmetry as she pulled her knee up to her chin. Odette spared her a glance. Silvery-white hair, beautiful blue eyes shimmering like twin oceans, all topped off with a black baseball cap.

"Thought you were dead," Odette stated, smirking at the other girl.

"As did I, but apparently not," the white-haired girl shifted her eyes down to the pad of paper in Odette's hands, then back to the one-eyed girl herself. "Still writing, are you?"

"I try, but my brain seems to disapprove."

Odette looked back down, just as the field shifted for a moment. A brief flash that disappeared as quickly as it came. A battle raged. Magical girl against magical girl, sister against sister.

"What is all that?" Odette asked, gesturing down at the field.

"That which has not yet come to be. It might, it might not. Maybe," the other girl twirled a strand of her flowing hair as she smiled ever so gently. "Either way, we'll see soon enough. It looks like something you'd enjoy, though, doesn't it? Getting to loose that fury and savagery upon whoever you so desire. That's what they called you, isn't? After... you know. Odette the Furious, was it?"

"Was one of my titles, yeah," Odette laughed. "I always liked Odette the Wanderer better. Had a certain ring to it."

The other girl giggled softly to herself. "It does suit you, I must say. Tell me, do you still like sweet things?"

"Love 'em."

"Good, good. At least you still have pieces of your old self. You were so pretty back the-"

"Let's not," Odette cut in, glaring at her conversation partner.

The white-haired girl grinned devilishly. "Touchy, touchy. Did I hit a sore spot?"

"So this is why you showed up," the short-haired girl snarled.

"Honestly, Odette. Look at what you've done with yourself," the other girl chided, her grin growing. "I'd give you my help if you only ask-"

"You're the last person I want help from," Odette growled, punctuating her statement by snapping her notepad shut. "Who are you? My mom?"

"Oh, so you won't accept MY help but you're all buddy-buddy with that- that WHORE. Anyone with eyes could tell how much she's playing the field-"

In a blur of motion, Odette grabbed the other girl by the frilly shoulder-straps of her costume and shoved her against the window frame. "Don't talk about Lotte that way."

"You're really going to stand up for her?" The white-haired girl spat, her beautiful face contorted into an ugly grimace. "After all she did to you, you're still going to defend her?"


"Come on, Odette!" She growled, gritting her teeth. "You remember, don't you?"

Odette's grip loosened as her eye shot open.

"Yes, you remember, don't you? Was it two years ago now? How our lovely Miss Charlotte went and murdered-"

Odette tightened her fingers around the other girl's shoulder straps and screamed, "LOTTE DIDN'T MEAN TO KILL HER!"

Her apartment snapped back into place around her just as the sound left her lips, while a quite whisper found it's way into her ear.

"Don't say I didn't warn you."

Odette's hands were shaking, her breath was ragged and, strangely enough, the open page in her notepad - which she swore she had closed - was filled. Lotte poked her head in from the bedroom and blinked several times before speaking up.

"Uh, y-you okay, O?" The blonde asked. "Heard you talking and then you yelled my name, and not in the good way."

"'m good." The shorter girl mumbled, hopping down from the windowsill and gulping down what was left of her juice.

"O-oh, alright," Lotte peeked back into the bedroom for a moment before returning to Odette. "Hey, you seen my-"

Odette simply picked up the pair of panties clinging to the edge of the kitchen table and tossed them at the blonde's face.

"Thanks, O," Lotte groaned before disappearing back into the bedroom.

After taking a few half-hearted bites of her lukewarm toast, Odette stared into her empty glass and sighed. Screw the time, she thought, she needed a real drink and a grief seed. Or three.

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 4[edit]

Nothing. Two hours of scouring nearby streets, alleys and rooftops and Odette had nothing to show for it. She kicked at a few pebbles at her feet and bit her lip in frustration. A few blood spatters where she assumed Freida had been standing in the alley, but nothing else. The one-eyed scowled as she looked on to the alley below, one foot on the concrete edge of the building. The smell of ozone hung thick in the air as she felt the first drop of rain hit the top of her head, heralding the end of her search.

Whoever had taken the Callidus had to be skilled, that much was certain. It seemed as though blood was only left behind when entirely unavoidable. Odette managed to prop open her umbrella just as the downpour began, quietly cursing the skies for not giving her more time.

Nothing. The word hung in her head as her footsteps rang out on the metal staircase leading down the side of the building. As she reached the bottom, she slumped against the rough brick wall and fished her cellphone out of her pocket.

Nothing. No crime was perfect, or at least that's what she had always been told. People didn't just disappear into the thin air. There had to be something she was missing, she was sure of it. Odette looked through her notes briefly before dialling a number. After a few rings, a nervous but polite voice answered.


"Hey Gerty," Odette replied, adjusting the phone against her ear. "Any chance you're free today?"

"Y-yes, madam, of course," the vindicare said, stumbling over her words for a moment. "What do you need?"

"I'm kinda stumped for now," Odette laughed to herself. One day in and she was already dry on leads. Had she gotten so rusty? "Ask Holly if there were any witnesses to the other disappearances or anyone who might have known them. Ask around, see what you can find. I don't know."

"A-alright. I'll do what I can. Was there anything else you needed?"

Odette pressed the phone to her chest for a moment as she thought. "Any chance your sister is busy today?"

"I believe so, yes. Something about Valkyrie squad having a meeting."

"Shit, that's right," Odette sighed, rubbing her forehead with the hand holding her umbrella. "Pass the same orders on to her. And, uh, tell her I'll try my best to get Frieda back. She can tell the rest of the Valkyries the same."

"I'll be sure to pass the message on. Is there anything else, madam?"

"Uh, n-nah, that's... that's everything, I think," the one-eyed girl mumbled. "So, um, I'll meet you outside the bakery at HQ around, say, uh, six-ish? You know the one."

"Oh yes, the one with those macarons you love so much?" Gertrude asked.

"Ah, yeah. Yeah, that one," Odette paused to clear her throat before continuing, her face heating up ever so slightly. "Thanks. I'll, uh, I'll see you then."

The sound of soft, delicate laughter tinkled through the speaker. "Of course, madam. I'll see what I can find."

And with that, the line went dead. Odette took a deep breath and pressed her back against the wall, her mind mulling over the details of the case. With a few quick motions, she brought up the list of missing magical girls on her phone. The only thing that seemed to link them was that they were all fairly high-ranking members of the Officio. Now even the leader of the top squad in the whole damned Officio had vanished. Odette let out a soft groan and pinched the bridge of her nose. It had been too long since she'd been forced to work with so little.

The rain pounded out a steady beat against her umbrella as she went over her options. She could always bug Holly; having her figure out the most likely next target would be the best idea. Then... Odette glanced up at the rooftops around her. She couldn't quite shake the feeling of being watched. But really, she thought, if the kidnapper or murderer or whoever the hell they were was going after important targets, why bother with a back-number former warmaster who hadn't gotten a real job in months? Odette kicked at a shard of broken glass as she thought. Tyler was right, she told herself. She was a washed-up has-been.

The silvery-haired girl shook her head and thumbed a number on her cellphone. It was a number she hadn't used in months. One that still hung in the back of her mind after having used it so much in her days as warmaster.

One ring. Two. Three.

A click on the other end heralded the voice of the receiver.

"Yo, yo, yo. How's it hangin', O?" Came Holly's chipper voice, the same as always. "Haven't heard from you in a while. Well, not counting last night."

"Uh, oh yeah," Odette mumbled, suddenly recalling the previous night. She had a habit of taking unnecessary and regrettable actions when in a bad mood. "Sorry about that. Just... work and stuff."

"Yeah, yeah. I know how it is," the vanus replied, chuckling to herself. "You've never been a happy camper. Well, you WERE, but-"

"Holly," Odette groaned, rolling her eye.

"Ah. Yeah. Sorry. Bad memories. What can I do you for?"

"I need you to run a prediction for me," the one-eyed girl said. She still couldn't help but glance at the rooftops every now and again. "Looking for the next potential victim. Can you do that for me?"

"Depends," Holly stated flatly. "How much information you got?"

"Looks like they're hitting our big names. They'd need to be strong," Odette shrugged. "Not much else to go on. They're good. Hardly any evidence left."

"Wow," the other girl let out a long breath and Odette winced as the earpiece crackled. "Yeah, that's, uh, that's a doozy alright. I'll pull up the list of victims and work from there. It shouldn't take too-... ah shit wait."


"I forgot you're not- It's just-" the vanus stammered before letting out a long, tired breath. "Uh, sorry, O. Forgot I can't just bump you to top priority anymore. It'll take a few hours to run the algorithms, factor in all possible motives, and... Yeah."

Odette closed her eye and nodded. "I understand. Call me when you have something."

"Will do. Take care."

Odette considered saying something for a moment, then tapped the big, red 'End Call' button with her thumb. Her first real talk with one of her old friends had done little more than confirm what she'd been thinking early. The words wormed their way into her mind again.



Sure, some new kid had asked for her autograph, but wouldn't you know it, it was a picture of Odette from her heyday. Back when she still had both eyes and didn't have messed up nicknames like "Odette the Furious" and the "Wandering Warmaster". Back when people respected and looked up to her instead of feared her like some urban legend.

"'m not a goddamn Sasquatch," Odette mumbled to herself.

But that was enough brooding for one day, she told herself as she picked up her feet and made her way out of the alley. The rain beat a sad tune on her umbrella as she walked, accompanied by the brass section of traffic just outside the corridor. And faintly - oh so faintly - she could smell the sickly sweet scent of flowers at a funeral.


Therese stepped up to the podium and cleared her throat. Twenty magical girls watched her with eager eyes. The warmaster tugged at the visor of her cap, let out a deep breath and began speaking.

"Good morning, everyone," she greeted them, her tone composed and professional. "As most of you have no doubt heard, as of this morning, at approximately zero-hundred hours, Callidus Freida Norton has gone missing."

The wave of shock moving through the small crowd was substantially less than Therese had expected. No doubt they had already passed the rumour between themselves several times over. Still, there were those who simply had to hear it from the warmaster herself to believe it. Several were crying, others simply stared in shock while the majority stood at attention as they awaited further news.

"Some of you may be pleased to hear that our very own Odette Brighton has been assigned the case," Therese gulped and scanned the crowd for reaction, trying her best to hide her nervousness. "Others, not so much-"

"But what about us?!" A voice shouted from the crowd. "The hell are we supposed to do?!"

"Those of you who wish to help can either report to Miss Brighton or standby and await further orders," the warmaster stared out into the crowd as her eyes grew hard. "The rest of you can resume your lives as usual. Let it be known that this Officio will not tolerate vigilantism. If I receive word that one of you has interfered with the investigation, you shall be reprimanded accordingly and without mercy. Am I understood?"

A chorus of "Yes, Warmaster." rose from her meagre audience. Therese scanned the crowd and gave a quick nod before dismissing them. She stepped down from the podium and leaned against the side wall as the crowd filed out. The few that remained seemed to be the crying, those comforting them and several who simply sat in shock.

Therese watched as a solemn looking girl with spiked, forward-swept black-dyed hair and a lip piercing quietly walked up to her. Fredrica Volk; Freddy to her friends. The other half of 'Odette's Hounds'. The hammer to her sister's scalpel, as some said, though, the reverse may very well have been more accurate. Whereas Gertrude tended towards powerful, booming rifles, Fredrica never used anything but her trademark three-pronged switchblade. Often times, she didn't need anything more.

"Mornin', warmaster," the dark-haired girl called out, both hands shoved deep into her pockets. "How 'bout that weather?"

"Freddy. Quite the downpour, so I hear," Therese responded in kind.

Freddy nodded as took up a position beside the warmaster. "Just got a text from sis. Looks like we're gonna be helping out."

"Glad to hear it," the warmaster tilted her head a bit closer to Freddy. "Truth be told, I'm glad Fubey finally folded. Odette was starting to show... signs. You know?"

"I know. She's been cooped up in that damn tower since D-Day," Freddy shook her head faintly. "Still can't believe you keep Argente around after that shit."

"Tyler's a good girl most of the time," Therese sighed. "Odette just gets under her skin for some reason."

"Yeah? Well she got her fucking wish," Freddy growled, gritting her teeth. "Odette got demoted because of her and she got to be warmaster's aide!" The black haired girl furrowed her brow as she glared at the ground. "Thought we only got one each."

As much as the warmaster wanted to voice her agreement, Tyler was still a valuable asset to her and, like it or not, a good friend. Playing with the lint in her pocket, she could only think of one thing to say that didn't put her on either side of the line.

"Some people are just lucky, I guess."


Odette stared into her cup of tea lost and forlorn. Her day had started out terrible and only gone downhill from there. She'd had an argument with someone she hoped to never see again, found no solid evidence at the crime scene, had the fact that she was a nobody shoved in her face and now, to top it all off, the bakery was out of macarons. Maybe she ought to take up some other, more appropriate vice, she thought to herself. What kind of hardened, down-on-her-luck magical girl spends her time writing poetry and eating sweets? When she thought of others like herself, she imagined alcoholics and chain-smokers and people who sounded like they were gargling gravel every time they spoke. At least she had the scowl down.

"Ah- E-excuse me," said a rather timid sounding voice.

The one-eyed girl looked up. She had been expecting Gertrude, but this girl was most certainly not her. Her hair was long and dark and looked as though it had never known the touch of a brush. The girl's eyes were a dark brown, the kind that looked almost as if she had enormous pupils and no irises. Strangely enough, Odette could swear she knew the girl from somewhere.

"Um, do you mind if I sit here?" the girl asked, cautiously pointing at the empty seat next to Odette.

Odette shrugged. "I'm not using it," she replied. Though, as the girl sat down, she couldn't help but wonder why she hadn't picked any of the other, unoccupied, benches. Unless-

"You're, um," the girl started, voice shaking, "you're Odette Brighton, aren't you?"

This was why she didn't come to the building anymore. Warmaster or not, she still stood out like a sore thumb. Silver hair, eye-patch – Odette had to admit that she was hard to miss.

"Yeah, that's me," the former warmaster answered. "Look, if you want an autograph or something it's cool-"

"Really?!" The messy-haired girl nearly made Odette jump off the bench as she lunged at her. "Do you think I could maybe get a picture with you? I- I mean, if it's not too much trouble."

"I... yeah, whatever," the one-eyed girl could only mumble after being caught so off-guard.

Odette cringed as the girl shuffled closer - a blatant invasion of personal space - and pulled out her cellphone, pointing it at the two of them.

"Say cheese!"

Odette barely had time to smile before she heard the click of the imitation shutter.

"Did... did you get it?" she asked hesitantly.

The messy-haired girl nodded vigorously as she looked at her phone. "It's great! Thank you so much!"

"No problem, Miss, uh," Odette said, suddenly realizing that she had never caught the girl's name.

"Fennel! Fennel Vance!" The girl, Fennel, answered. Her dark eyes shot open as she looked through her phone. "Um, is... is that really the time?"

The silver-haired girl leaned over, glanced at the screen then nodded. "Looks right."

"O-oh no. I'm gonna be so late," Fennel groaned as she jumped out of her seat. "She's gonna be so mad. Stupid, stupid Fennel! Sorry Miss Odette, but I have to run!"

The girl was gone before Odette even had a chance to raise her hand. She blinked her one eye as her gaze shifted back to the cup of tea in her lap. There was something eerily familiar about Miss Vance, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. She'd always been terrible with faces, even back in her warmaster days. Odette knew that she knew them, she just couldn't figure out where from.

Her freshly resumed stupor was interrupted quickly enough by her own cellphone going off. Odette pulled it from her pocket and clumsily tabbed through the screens. Sure enough, it was a text from Gertrude. It seemed that wouldn't be able to meet Odette and asked if they could possibly arrange something the next day. Odette sighed and quickly typed out her reply, nothing more than a short, terse "sure", before turning off her phone.

There went her afternoon, she thought. Maybe she'd hop in Sleepy Sue and just drive until the sun went down. She'd done it before - simply drove and drove until she fell asleep. More than once she'd blacked out on the rode and woke up on a certain American warmaster's couch. How she'd managed to get from Toronto to Santa Destroy in the span of a night had always been a mystery.


It was nearing midnight when Odette finally arrived at her apartment. It was a grey and dingy old building on the edge of downtown; it was the kind of easy-built cookie-cutter structure that seemed to spring up by the dozen as the city crept outwards. Despite having only lived there for two months - and probably only spending half as many nights there - it still managed to feel like home.

She had her phone out in one hand. Some time in the night, Holly had left a message. Odette hadn't even thought about her earlier call when she'd turned it off. She thumbed voice mail button and shoved the phone between her shoulder and her ear; a precarious balancing act as she went for her keys.

"Hey, O. Holly here," the vanus' voice called out. "Just following up on your request from earlier. So, I've got some bad news and good news. Good news is, it seems like I've got a solid pattern going. Seems like they're going for powerful girls, not necessarily high-ranking. Most of the earlier victims didn't have much of a reputation behind being hard as nails."

Odette dug her hand into her pocket and fumbled with the jangling chain. Her house key, Sleepy Sue's key which were really just for show, the old key to the warmaster's suite that she'd likely never get around to taking off, and a host of others that she no longer recognized. Looking at the fist-sized ring almost made her feel like a janitor. She let out a quick huff and shoved the brass key into the lock, jimmied it just the right way and gave the green door a good shove like it always needed.

"Bad news is, I finished calculating the probabilities on the next victim. Therese and Tyler were up there pretty high, but I doubt anyone could get past their security even if they COULD beat them in a fight. Nobody knows where me and Molly are, so we're out. So, uh, most likely next target looks to be..."

The door gave way and Odette stepped inside, and breathed in a long breath of...



Like the cheap perfume they spritzed on a dolled up corpse for viewing.


Odette didn't bother to close the door as she bolted in, her cell clattering on the floor. Drawers were half-open or pulled straight off the rails. Papers were strewn about, blowing in the wind from the open door. No, the open door simply led into the hallway. A window was smashed, specifically the enormous window she sat in that morning.

The one-eyed girl frantically ran from room to room. The house was empty. Nothing seemed to be taken. The only thing that seemed wrong - aside from the broken window - was a small envelope on the kitchen table, held down by a brick. Classy.

Odette cautiously pulled the envelope from under the brick and tore it open. Its contents were simple: a single sheet of folded eight and a half by eleven inch paper, with several machine-printed lines of text.

Rejoice, Odette Brighton. you have been deemed worthy of Her glorious blessing. 
Pass the tests before you and I shall grant you Her gracious boon. 
With it you may defeat the Usurper and reclaim what is yours. 
Fail, and you shall sing her praises with the rest of the animals.

The Blessed Lady cares for Her children.
The Blessed Lady protects.

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 5[edit]

Odette leaned against the wall outside of her apartment building, tapping her foot in a puddle as costumed magical girls shuffled in and out of the entrance. In addition to whatever frilly, girlish affair they were assigned, each girl wore a white cape with gold trimmings over her left shoulder - the symbol and uniform of the Valkyrie squad, the very best the Seventeenth Officio had to offer. Even Odette remembered a time when she was among their rank, some four or five years previous.

She couldn't help but reminisce about the old days as she waited. How long had it been since she'd actually fought a witch? How long had it been since she'd done the damn job she'd signed up for all those years ago? There were three other fresh recruits when she had first joined up. One had moved out West, to take charge of Vancouver HQ, the other two had been among the first to go missing in the past month. As far as Odette knew, that left her as one of the two members of the Seventeenth Officio that had been around the longest. She couldn't think of anyone left that had been around prior to her, save perhaps Holly and Molly. Those two seemed to have always been members of the Officio.

It was an odd feeling, being one of the last of a generation. Before anyone came Warmaster Brie, the first warmaster of the Seventeenth and the first member of the Officio on record. Odette had always seen her as an older sister figure, which was part of why she'd taken her death the hardest of anyone. Brie had groomed her, in a way, to become the second warmaster. Some said that after her death, Odette changed. A small, imperceptible change, but a change that would nonetheless snowball into something much bigger.

The one-eyed girl shook her head just as she caught the sound of heels clicking on pavement. Odette tilted her head up. Two white-shouldered guards followed in step with Therese Witton, the third warmaster of the Seventeenth. Her flowing overcoat wavered behind her, giving the impression of a king's cloak - an image all the more reinforced by her obscenely tall cap. As she approached Odette, Therese gestured toward the two guards with her chin and watched closely as they disappeared into the towering apartment complex.

Odette held out her hand, expecting the traditional greeting of Eversors. "Long time no- GHRK."

Instead, Therese threw her arms around the silver-haired girl, pulling her in tight. Odette tried her best to return the hug, but it was complicated somewhat by Therese being a full head taller than the tiny former warmaster.

"I missed you," the taller girl mumbled, holding the other girl as closely as she could.

"Ni- Nice to see you, too, Terry," Odette wheezed. "Please don't kill me."

Therese slowly released the squirming magical girl and gently patted her head. "Sorry, sorry. It's just... been a while."

"Two months by my count," Odette stated, nodding. "How's the job been?"

Therese shook her head and sighed, leaning her shoulder on the wall next to Odette. "It's not fair, really. You made it look so easy. I wasn't exactly expecting..."


"Pretty much," the warmaster let out another long breath as she tried to compose herself. "I've been overseas four times in the past month. The others have been helpful but it's still difficult to get used to." Therese smiled as she looked down at Odette. "How's retirement been?"

“It's been fine,” the silver-haired girl mumbled.

“And of course by that you mean it's not fine,” the warmaster replied, saying everything that the smaller girl couldn't bring herself to.

Odette's one blue eye swivelled up, glaring at the rusty-haired girl.

"I'll take that as a yes, then," Therese said, smiling to herself in smug satisfaction. "You don't have to keep this up, you know. This little... self-imposed exile of yours has gone on long enough, wouldn't you say?"

"Doesn't seem like the world's giving me much choice," Odette replied.

"Seems that way," the warmaster smiled as she turned her head up to the apartment building. “What exactly happened? I've been hearing some... strange reports.”

"I, uh, got a bit mopy earlier. Drove around for a few hours," Odette's shoulders slumped for just a moment, long enough that she couldn't quite manage to disguise it as a shrug. "Came home to a smashed window and a creepy ass note."

"Can I see it?"

Odette fished around in her pocket for a few seconds before pulling out the crumpled piece of paper and holding it up to Therese.

"I see you're as careful about these things as always," the taller girl observed, gingerly taking the paper between two fingers, as if it would disintegrate with so much as a sharp breath. With a delicate touch, she unfolded it, her eyes scanning its contents. "This is... something. That's for sure."

"You're tellin' me."

Therese flipped it around, looking the paper over back to front. "What do you think it means?"

"Going line by line?" Odette plucked the sheet from Therese's hands and pursed her lips. "First part doesn't really need much explanation. Tests before me... the disappearances? I need to find who's been taking our girls?"

"Could be," the warmaster offered, shrugging. "It would be a hell of a coincidence if this didn't have anything to do with them."

Odette nodded before continuing. "'Her gracious boon'," she paused and slapped the paper against her palm as she thought. "No idea what that could mean. But 'Her' is capitalized. That's gotta mean something."

"Like a god," Therese mumbled. "Ess. Goddess. Since it's a her and all."

"This 'Blessed Lady'.”

The warmaster nodded, holding her cap in place as she did. "Precisely. Next?"

"Gets weird after that," the one-eyed girl explained, scrunching her brow. "I may defeat 'the Usurper'. The fuck does that mean?"

"Me maybe?"

"Don't flatter yourself," Odette laughed, nudging the warmaster with her elbow. "Not like I want to take you down. The hat looked dumb on me anyways."

"I always wondered why you stopped wearing it..."

"Story for another day," Odette grumbled as she shook her head. "And the last bit about the singing and the animals... I don't really care to find out."

Therese nodded several times as she rubbed her chin. "I'll ask Molly if she can find anything out about this 'Blessed Lady'. Maybe Holly, too, for good measure."

"I've got Gerty and Freddy hunting leads," the silver-haired girl added, "I'll check in with them. I'm guessing fatty'll want to see me."

"A debriefing at the least," Therese smiled as she let out a few muted laughs. "He'll be happy to see how serious you're taking this. Probably expected you to take it slower, if at all."

"Thought I'd let my lackeys handle it, eh?" Odette asked as a smirk crept across her face.

"In much more pleasant terms, I think. But yes."

The former warmaster's smile drooped as she made a few shallow nods. "Seems like the assumption most would make."

The current warmaster looked down at Odette, then slowly leaned over as she rested her head on top of the shorter girl's. "Not everyone," she whispered, smiling gently, "boss."

"You're cruel," Odette muttered as she laughed to herself. "It's after midnight. Go home and get some sleep, kiddo. I'll handle things from here."

"Just a little longer," the warmaster mumbled, rubbing her cheek into the top of Odette's hair. "I order it."



The next day, or much later in the current one, Fredrica Volk stepped out of one of the Officio's many interrogation rooms. Another witness with nothing to say. No, not exactly nothing. Just more of the same. Little noise, the odd muffled scream here and there, a strange smell and always at night. Only one new piece of evidence, and it was nearly useless. A nervous young Vindicare had sworn she'd seen a figure bounding over the rooftops after her partner was taken. A figure carrying something shiny and metallic, something that she'd claimed was golden. Great. So they could establish that it was, in fact, SOMEONE that had taken the girls. Someone with a penchant for gaudy accessories.

Freddy shook her head and leaned her shoulder against the wall. It was always busy at midday, and that particular afternoon was no exception; girls in all assortment of costume passed back and forth, coming and going from various appointments. Occasionally one or two would stop to admire the boyish Eversor - the fact that her costume looked very much like a butler's suit had always attracted the attention of some of the girls. Not that Freddy minded one bit.

She still couldn't shake that sense of failure, though. Having so little to show for the first task the former warmaster had given her in months. Failing in general was one thing, but failing Odette was something that Freddy simply couldn't fathom. The stress had only built as she questioned each witness, turning up with nothing each time. The Eversor balled up her fists in frustration as she looked up and down the hall.

And then she heard it. That distinct click-clack of footsteps that just echoed with authority. It wasn't the warmaster, oh no. Freddy sneered. She was already spoiling for a fight and even her usual fans had sense enough to give her space. But there was one individual who never seemed to be able to read the atmosphere, one whom Freddy loathed above all others. Tyler Argente. Oh how much she'd like to just tear out those damned hairclips and gouge her eyes out with them.

"Volk," the Vindicare called out, picking her way through the crowd. "I'd hoped I would catch you."

"Oh yeah?" Freddy asked, her voice laced with venom. "What for?"

"I simply wished to offer my condolences about Miss Norton, nothing more," the aide said. "I understand it has been hard on the Valkyries."

Freddy nodded, turning to lean her back against the wall. "Mostly for the younger ones, but thanks anyways," she answered. Part of her hoped the other girl would simply leave it at that. Just offer her sympathies and be on her way, but Freddy knew it was only a matter of moments before the other shoe dropped.

"Just a shame they assigned the case to Brighton," Tyler said, laughing to herself. "I spoke to her the other day and she was the same as ever."

And there it was, all the excuse Freddy needed to pick a fight. She barely even noticed the sudden weight in her hand as the switchblade dropped into her palm. Nobody insulted Odette on her watch. The black haired girl grinned, baring her teeth ever so slightly. "Yeah, I heard about that. Rumour is that you picked a fight and got into scuffle. They say she really put you in your place."

Tyler narrowed her eyes by a hair. "What exactly do you mean by that?"

"Just thought I'd give you some advice," the Eversor hissed, putting her arm around the aide's shoulders. "I wouldn't mess with Odette if I were you. Not sure if you've noticed, but she's still pretty damn popular with folk around here."

"Is that so," the aide growled back.

"You've already made yourself a fair few enemies, Ty," Freddy smirked. "Don't want to make them too upset now. The Officio would be a mess without you. Think of all the pencils that would go unpushed."

"Are you threatening me, Eversor?"

Freddy only laughed. "Wouldn't dream of it. Just thought I'd give you a friendly warning," she replied. She'd already lost herself in the thrill of the moment. Her grip tightened around the Vindicare's shoulders, pulling her in tighter, and whispered. "I've heard there's been some disappearances lately. People might not think much of it if you up and vanish."

The boyish magical girl barely had time to finish the sentence before she felt something thump against her neck. In that same instant, the blade of her knife sprung out, seemingly by itself. Tyler held her pistol crossbow under Freddy's chin, while the other girl held her blade millimetres from the aide's throat. Neither of them was in any mood to hold back, and they both knew it.

"Don't think I can just let a remark like that slide, Volk," Tyler growled. "You can't hide behind Odette anymore. No one's going to come rescue you now."

"You think you're tough shit," Freddy spat. "You ain't equerry just yet, and at this rate you never WILL be."

"And I highly doubt you'd put your promotion at risk over something so trivial," the Vindicare paused, trying her best to turn and look Freddy in the eye while keeping the Eversor's blade off of her neck. "Stand. Down. Neither of us needs this."

A second passed. Then another, and another after that. Finally, Freddy nodded as her switchblade retracted of its own accord. She felt the pressure on her neck fall away and dropped her arm from the aide's shoulders. As the Eversor slowly came to her senses, she couldn't help but notice the sizeable audience the show had gathered.

"You're right, you're right," Freddy laughed, backing up and holding her hands in the air. "Why beat you up as an equal when I can wait a week or two and beat you up as a superior, right?"

"Not exactly what I had in mi-"

"But!" The Eversor exclaimed, stepping back up to Tyler and leaning in. "Just remember. You may have caught her off guard and got her eye, but remember who it was that was chopped up into so many pieces that Fubey was out of the game for two days after putting her back together again. So you could at least show a little respect."

"Why you-"

"Listen," Freddy grinned, stepping off to the edge of the crowd. "It's been fun, but I've got stuff to do." She turned to leave, but tilted her head back after a thought crossed her mind. "Oh, and cute band-aid by the way. Really suits you."

Tyler simply shook her head in awe at the other girl's audacity as she disappeared into the crowd. As much as she hated to admit it, there was something to be said for the Eversor's boldness and loyalty. It was almost admirable, in a way. Still shaking her head, Tyler walked away in the opposite direction, the crowd making way for her and dissipating shortly after she made her exit.


Meanwhile, in a darkened room lit only by the glow of a dozen screens, the Seventeenth incubator sat and watched the ensuing scene. The rotund incubator looked less like a cat or animal, as most of his brothers did, and more akin to a clear sack of flour with legs stretched just a bit past its limit. He was so large, in fact, that his enormous girth nearly covered the entirety of the pillow that had been placed atop his desk. The twin prehensile appendages known as the trademark of the Incubators hung limp from his cheeks, just above his mouth, giving the impression that he had an enormous moustache.

The monitor placed directly in front of him showed the confrontation between Tyler and Fredrica, while the one directly right of it displayed only a black screen with bright white text reading "V1 - Sound Only".

"Would those two just get it over with and fuck already?" Holly groaned over the speakers, the sound of typing in the distant background. "See boss, I told you this would happen. I told you! But nope, didn't listen! It's only a matter of time now.”

"I am grateful that you have brought this incident to my attention, Miss Corbin. I'm beginning to understand why my brothers add such violations of privacy to their contracts. However, I hardly believe this fulfils the conditions of your prediction.”

"Seriously? I just don't understand you, bossman," the Vanus sighed. "You spend millions on a state of the art prediction engine, and then when it tells you something SERIOUS, you don't listen."

"Miss Corbin, I am simply taking into account the variables of the human mind," the incubator paused, blinking its crimson eyes as the tape rewound itself and played again. "I apologize if it seems I am disregarding your predictions, but you yourself admitted how outlandish they sounded."

"Has it ever been wrong?" The vanus asked, her voice, for once, coming off as stern and cold.

"Miss Cor-"

"Has it ever been wrong?" She asked again, adding more strength to her voice.

"There is a first for everything.” The incubator's gaze seemed to wander for a moment before snapping back to the monitors. “I apologize, that was rude."

The Seventeenth had always been noted for being far more polite than any of his brothers. He was one of the few who treated his charges with utmost respect, believing this to be the key to optimal results. It had become a running joke among the girls of the Seventeenth - and select other Officios - that Fubey was only doing his best to act more Canadian.

"It's fine, Foob," Holly grumbled indignantly. "You want to ignore the prediction engine, fine by me. See if I care."

"Miss Corbin, I meant no disrepect and I sincerely apologize. However, you understand exactly what sort of measures would need to be taken should your prediction prove correct," the incubator shifted his gaze to the second screen, as if using it to look directly at the Vanus. "Our organization can not afford mobilization of that calibre on a hunch.”

"Ninety-nine point six repeating, Fubey. That's no hunch. I think a point three-four percent chance of failure is an acceptable risk when the fate of the entire Officio is at stake."

"Perhaps," the incubator nodded as his words flowed out into the air. "Perhaps."

With a distinct thump, Fubey rolled himself off the desk and disappeared underneath it. "If I may be so bold as to seek your counsel once more," he began, "what do feel should become of our Miss Volk? As Miss Argente said, it does not bode well for her promotion."

The vanus thought for a moment, leaving only the sound of fingers on keys emanating from the speakers. "I say we just send the video to Odette and leave it to her. Either that or put her on an assignment with Tyler. Make them buddy-cop it up."

"Goodness, I was unaware that you held such animosity for Miss Volk," the incubator replied as he emerged from beneath his desk, riding proud and tall on his Roomba, his fluffy tail swishing back and forth as he clutched the remote in his prehensile moustache.

"Are you- Do I hear-"

"I really must thank the warmaster for her gift. It is most useful."

"She spoils you," the Vanus groaned. She could almost hear the satisfaction in the incubator's voice. "This is why you're so fat. We keep saying you need to go on a diet."

"Incubators are neither fat nor thin and do not require organic sustenance. This is simply the figure which nature has seen fit to bestow upon me."

Hearing that remark, Holly couldn't hold back her laughter any longer. It came out long and hard as she wheezed out a few choice words. "The only thing bestowed upon you is a few too many Timbits, Chubby!"


Later that day, Odette stood outside of the First Canadian Place, leaning against Sleepy Sue and glaring at her cellphone. Fredrica nervously shifted in place in front of her, twiddling her thumbs and fidgeting with the hems of her suit top.

"You want to explain this?" Odette asked, showing Freddy her phone.

The black-haired girl watched nervously as the earlier encounter with Tyler played out before her in all of its glory. She flinched when the two held pulled their weapons and held them to each other's throats and cringed at her own exit.

"I was just, y'know, standing up for yo-"

"Is that so?" Odette interrupted. Her words seethed with rage. If she could, Freddy would have turned tail and run that very moment. "YOU were standing up for ME?"

"Well, yeah, I mean-"

"Are you saying I can't stand up for myself, Freddy?" Odette asked, taking a step closer.

"No! Never!"

"Then why are you trying so hard to defend me, Freddy?" The one-eyed girl asked as she took another step.

"I- I meant no disrespect, warmas-" Freddy caught herself a moment too late. Her eyes shot open in a mixture of shock and fear. "I- I didn't mea-"

She barely even saw Odette move before the shorter girl's hand grabbed her by the collar and pulled Freddy down to eye level. "Listen, jackass," Odette hissed, "because of you, now I have to go and apologize to that cunt. I have to go and clean up YOUR goddamn mess. I have to apologize to the BITCH who TOOK. MY. EYE. Is that what you wanted?"

The former warmaster had a knack for being far more intimidating than anyone her size had any right to be. Freddy could see the fire in her single eye. A chill went up her spine as she noticed the sudden plunge in temperature. The panicking Eversor was suddenly aware that she could see her own breath as the smaller girl's iron grip held her in place. She knew all too well exactly how close Odette was to dragging her into a dark alley and making her wish she could just give up and die.

"I'll do it!" Freddy pleaded. "I promise! I'll do it myself! I'll apologize and grovel and everything! I just wanted to make you happy!"

A sly grin crept across the shorter girl's face. In that instant, Fredrica Volk realized exactly to what degree she had misjudged the other girl. She'd panicked and fallen right into her trap. This was the true nature of an angry Odette.

"Then do it," the one-eyed girl said, holding out her cellphone. "Right now."

"Ri- Right now?"

"Right now," Odette ordered as she began to navigate the device's various menus. "I'll even find her number for y-"

Odette blinked. Her eyes went wide. There was no way...

"Odette?" The black-haired Eversor called out. "You okay?"

It wasn't possible. It SHOUDLN'T have been possible.

The one-eyed girl's mouth hung open. "Oh my god. I am such an idiot."

"What is it?"

Odette shook her head. She didn't want to believe it, but there it was. Staring her in the face. With a pair of unmistakeable dark brown eyes and a long mane of hair that looked as though it had never seen a brush in its life.

"Fennel Vance," she muttered. "I met her yesterday."

"That's," Freddy blinked and wrinkled her brow, "that's impossible. She went missing nearly two weeks ago."

The silver-haired girl nodded. It was a sheer coincidence that she'd accidentally opened up the list of missing girls again. She'd always been terrible with faces. She knew that she knew them, she just couldn't figure out where from. Her voice was muted as she murmured out a simple question.

"So then what was she doing here?"

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 6[edit]

"So what d'you think?" Mona asked, a wide grin plastered on her face as she held one hand on the steering wheel. "Nice, right?"

"Oh yeah," her partner answered. "Yeah, its' a pretty good car."

Megan Laurie and Mona Bernard sat side-by-side in the latter's brand new Porsche 911 Turbo. The car was sleek, fast and painted a stylish silver and Mona was loving every inch of it. The pair sped down the express-way, bickering the whole way as they returned from errands out of town.

"'Pretty good'?" Mona questioned, glowering at her partner.

"Yeah, pretty good," Meg answered, nodding her head. "I like it."

"Come on, Meg," the taller of the two Eversors groaned. "A ham sandwich is 'pretty good'. This is like... Like the BLT of cars."

"Alright, alright, don't get your panties in a twist," the other eversor yielded. "It's nice, but it's not PERFECT."

"Oh, here we go."

"Coulda gotten it in red. Or gold. That would be cool. Silver's kinda plain... And, and I don't mean to alarm you, but," Meg waved her hand at the centre console, "no cupholders. You got this square thing that's just the wrong size for anything, and that's it."

"REALLY?!" Mona roared. "That's what your gonna nitpick? "

"Just sayin'," the shorter girl shrugged, leaning back in her seat. "You'd think a hundred and fifty thousand dollars might be able to buy a couple of plastic rings. So yeah. Sexy car," Meg made a much stronger and more firm gesture at the console, "no cupholders."

"I hate you so much," Mona mumbled.

The pair had been together practically since they were contracted. Inseparable to the last, the dynamic duo of Meg and Mona had never actually been assigned missions alone; it seemed as thought Fubey himself didn't want to break the set.

The straight man of the pair, Mona Bernard, was a good head and a half taller than her partner. Her figure was proud and imposing, her dark chestnut hair always tied back tightly with a black satin ribbon. Even her costume seemed to fit the image - a feminine variation on men's white tie dress, the dress coat having distinctive long, sweeping tails that curled up at the ends. With her intricate swept-hilt rapier and buckler, she would make for an imposing opponent... had it not been for her partner's constant presence.

Whereas her partner embodied elegance and majesty, Meg Laurie leaned more toward the brute force end of the spectrum. She was short and curvy with a mess of short, jet black hair that often fell in front of her eyes. Her weapon of choice was an enormous battle axe, stuck somewhere between a bardiche and a horseman’s axe. Riding her golden motorcycle, Gold-Mane, the sight of the axe wielding magical girl was a thing to behold.

"Hey Mona," the shorter of the two started, "think we'll ever make Valkyrie squad?"

"No," Mona answered flatly.

Meg's mouth hung open in disappointment. "Whaaat? Why not?"

"I'll give you one good reason," the taller Eversor answered, turning the car into their exit. "You remember Eversor karaoke night?"

"My best idea yet!" the smaller girl beamed.

"Which is saying something," Mona said, utterly dead-pan, "considering three people died."

"They got better!"

"That doesn't excuse it!"

"Everyone had fun and complimented it and said they'd love to do it again," Meg pouted.

The taller girl groaned, "Yeah, because it was a bloodbath. Most Eversors love bloodbaths."

"I don't!"

"Neither do I, that's why I said most, dingus."

The car sped through the bustling streets of Toronto, the pair of Eversors bickering all the way. It didn't take long before they rolled into a space in the Seventeenth's personal parking garage. Mona turned to her partner as she pulled the car into 'park' and glared.

"If you slide over the hood one more time, your ass is mine."

Meg made an exaggerated cringe. "You're supposed to say 'no homo' after something like that."

The taller girl simply shook her head as she popped her door open and circled around to the front of the car. From the trunk she pulled a small, unmarked package wrapped in brown parchment paper. Meg sauntered up shortly after, peering at the parcel.

"What do you think it is?" She asked, eyes shining with curiosity.

Mona cocked an eyebrow. "What? You didn't hear?"

The shorter of the two remained silent and shook her head, still mesmerized by the package.

"The girls in Hamilton had a couple casualties," Mona answered, rattling the box gently. "I guess the Foob decided to bring their gems back to home base instead of going out for them."

"Maaan," Meg groaned, "out of twenty, we end up with the fat and lazy one."

“Good thing if you ask me,” the other girl replied. “I've heard stories about the others. I'd take fat and lazy over being seen as livestock any day of the week.”

Together, the two made way for the parking garage's elevator. The smaller Eversor took the package while the other punched in the code to reach the Seventeenth's HQ: Two, nine, six, eighteen, fifteen, nineteen, twenty. The doors slid shut as the lift began its descent - nine floors down by their count - and eventually ended in the rainbow hall.

"Eversors Mona Bernard and Megan Laurie," announced Mona as she stepped to the centre of the room, her partner nervously following suit. "Delivering a special package for Mister Fubey. Clearance level red."

After a few moments the elevator to their left and closest to the entrance opened.

"Cause no trouble," Holly announced, putting on a faux-Russian accent.

The two Eversors stepped into the lift and pressed the first of three red buttons along the top row. The elevator lurched and began moving, seemingly in every direction at once. One minute and thirty-nine seconds later, the doors opened to reveal a short, barren white hallway with a single polished wooden door on the opposite end marked with a large, golden seventeen. The pair couldn't help but notice that the carpeted floor of the hallway was extraordinarily clean - almost as if it were vacuumed daily.

The corpulent incubator sat primly atop his desk, staring down the pair as they entered.

"Timely and efficient. Excellent work, the both of you." The incubator carefully lifted the package with his moustache just as the black-haired Eversor set it down beside him. "I shall set to work on these shortly."

"Any time, boss," Mona replied.

The chubby incubator's office was sparsely decorated; the only furnishings of note were his wooden desk, the numerous monitors lining the far wall, several chairs against the left wall, and what appeared to be an incubator-sized spiral staircase leading from the ground to the top of the desk. Fubey set the package back down on his desk and turned back to the two Eversors.

"In recognition of your recent efforts, I would like to offer the both of you a far more important assignment." He gestured at the screens behind him with his moustache-paw as images and text appeared. Mona shifted uncomfortably as she looked up at the pictures. "Mister Marcus Finn, a close friend of one of our chief benefactors, was found murdered yesterday. Said benefactor requests that we look into the death of Mister Finn privately on his behalf. I trust you will accept?"

The pair looked at each other nervously for a few moments, then nodded in unison.

"Excellent." The incubator clasped his moustache-paws together, then gestured to one monitor in particular, which displayed a short portfolio on Finn. "It seems Mister Finn's heart was pierced, leaving a hole approximately one inch in diameter through his chest. We suspect that the killing is related to organized crime, but we can not be entirely certain." The monitor flashed, then showed a file on a second man. "This is Mister Vincent Rossi, a trusted associate of Finn. Our benefactor suspects that Mister Rossi would have information regarding the murder. You are permitted to use whatever methods you wish to retrieve this information."

"So it's like a murder mystery?" Meg asked, her eyes glistening with excitement.

Fubey blinked. "Something of the sort, I suppose. Though, I would appreciate you taking this a bit more seriously." The incubator nodded before settling down on his desk, his moustache limply flowing over the edge. "Miss Corbin will forward everything you need shortly. You are dismissed, but if possible I would like to speak with Miss Bernard in private."

Mona gave the incubator a stern nod before turning to her partner. "I'll only be a bit. Just, uh, go wait by the car or something."

"Ah, o-okay," Meg answered hesitantly. "I'll, um, just leave you two alone then."

The tall Eversor and the incubator kept their eyes on the shorter girl until they finally heard the click of the door shutting. The monitors slowly each went black as a cascading darkness filled the room. After a moment of total blackness, several automatic pot lights went on around the edge of the ceiling. It was only then that the incubator began speaking again.

"I would like to begin by offering my condolences to your father," Fubey began. "It is always trying to lose a close friend."

Mona nodded quietly. "I only met Uncle Marcus once or twice, but he seemed like an okay guy. I'll pass on the message."

She'd had an inkling of who the 'chief benefactor' had been and it seemed that the enormous incubator felt little subtlety was needed in the matter. It was no secret amongst the Officio's girls that the Bernard family was one of the largest investors in the organization and Mona found precious few people willing to overlook that fact. Meg Laurie was one of them. She never prodded too hard or questioned Mona's status as 'the rich girl'. It was one of the very, very few things she knew to keep quiet about.

"Now, as for the other reason I kept you," Fubey paused for a moment, seemingly to collect his thoughts. "It is just about promotion season, as you are no doubt aware. In the next few weeks, there will be an opening in our most prestigious squad. You have time and again proven yourself an able combatant, which is why I would like to extend the opportunity to you personally."

"You're," the Eversor gulped, trying to process what she was hearing, "you're asking if I want to become a Valkyrie?"

"Of course, this would entail ending your partnership with Miss Laurie." The incubator tilted his head in a sort of semi-shrug. "I understand that you would probably like time to think about the offer. You may have two weeks, after which I will pass it on to another."

"I- I understand, sir," Mona stuttered, nodding. "I'll, uh, I'll think about it. And thanks."

Fubey gestured toward the door with his head. "I appreciate your consideration, Miss Bernard. You are dismissed."


The two Eversors sat in Mona's car, parked across the street from a dingy pub with the name "Harrison's" emblazoned on a bold, sweeping sign out front. The taller of the two watched silently, her gaze centred on the stairway leading down to the entrance. The other girl sat to her left, noisily turning the pages of one of her favourite comics.

"Y'know," Meg started, "I gotta say. Stake-outs are a lot more boring than I imagined."

Mona nodded and grunted in agreement, not entirely paying attention.

"We just kind of sit here and wait," the shorter magical girl continued. "In the movies they just skip to the end. Or show some playful banter. We kinda blew our load early on the banter thing, huh?"

"Mm," Mona mm'd.

"Lucky for us, though, eh?" Meg said, flipping a page. "Guy frequents one of our bars. Whoda thunk?"

"Just be quiet and read your comics please," the other girl groaned. "The hell is that anyway?"

"Miracle Melanie and Murder Marjorie," Meg answered, turning another page. "Rumour is that it's written by a magical girl. Not all that realistic, though. It's like, EVERYONE is a lesbian."

"Well... to be fair..."

"And, like, how does Melanie put up with Marjorie?" The shorter girl continued as she read. "She's a huge cunt and practically rapes her every chapter!"

"Then why are you reading it if you don't like it?" Mona asked, furrowing her brow.

"Oh no, no. I like it," Meg replied. "It's just so crazy. It's not meant to be taken seriously, duh. It's like a parody of being a magical girl. People like this couldn't REALLY exist. The original Japanese version is way bett-"

"Whatever, shut up," the other Eversor hushed, tapping her shoulder. "I think we've got our guy."

Mona pointed to a man just leaving the pub, ascending the staircase. The pair of magical girls rushed to exit the car, then took up a brisk pace as they began tailing him. After a block, they began to notice less and less cars passing by. Mona gave her partner a nod and the pair halted a mere meter from the man.

"Mister Rossi, was it?" The taller Eversor called out.

As soon as the girl had called, the man spun about and with a cry of "Oh hell no!" took off down an alley. The two Eversors nodded at one another as their clothing shifted to their costumes. Mona took off down the alley, rapier in hand, while Meg mounted her golden motorcycle – which had suddenly appeared at her side - and continued down the street.

The man threw down garbage cans and scattered trash as he ran in a vain attempt to slow down the chasing Eversor. The girl leapt over and dodged each obstacle with an agility one would expect from such a thin and lithe form. Still, it seemed as though every time she was about to catch up to him, the alley turned again. The chase continued for at least several minutes before she heard the familiar roaring of engines in the distance.

Finally, the man turned into another alley. A long, straight path leading back to another street. Mona stopped in her tracks just as a bright light appeared at the far end. The man stopped as the light grew accompanied by a loud metallic thrumming. Meg whooped and hollered as the she closed in, sandwiching Mr. Rossi between herself and the pedestrian Eversor. Finally, she pulled the bike to the side, screeching to a halt mere inches from the terrified man.

With the two girls closing on him from either side, brandishing their weapons menacingly, Rossi could do nothing more than press his back against a wall and pray.

"Oh no," he wailed, "no, no, no NO. You're Helk's goons, aren't you? Oh fuck... Oh fuck, oh FUCK! I swear I didn't say nothin' to no one!"

The pair of magical girls looked at each other and shared a look of confusion. Mona stepped forward and pressed her rapier to the man's stomach.

"We're whose goons?"

"You're," Rossi blinked and gulped, "you're not with Helk? Then who the fuck are you?!"

"Security Firm Seventeen," Mona replied, throwing a business card at him. "We just wanted to ask you some questions. Let's start with 'Why did you run?' and 'Who's Helk?', shall we?"

"I- I ran because I was gettin' pulled over by a couple of scary lookin' bitches, that's why!" He shouted.

Mona looked back at her partner, who then shrugged.

"In what fucked up world are WE scary looking?" She asked. "Now tell us who Helk is before I need to making more of a point." She punctuated her statement by jabbing the rapier into his stomach just enough to break the skin.

"H-Helk? Did I, uh, did- did I say Helk?" Rossi stammered. "I meant, uh, 'help'! That's right! HELP! SOMEONE! HELP ME!"

His pleas were answered by one of Mona's fists sailing into the left side of his jaw, sending him to the ground.

"We were told you would know something about the death of Marcus Finn. That right?" Mona asked, crouching down and jabbing her sword to his throat.

"Finn? I don't know him!"

"Oh for fuck's sake!" The taller girl groaned, stabbing her rapier into the man's hand eliciting a loud scream. "TELL US WHAT YOU KNOW."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, Mona!" Meg shouted. "Calm down! Just take it down a notch!"

"You aren't the one who had to chase this schmuck down and get covered in shit! This guy talks now or he gets to write down and cry about losing his tongue!"

"Whoa! Hey! We can talk this out!" The shorter Eversor cautioned.

Mona flicked her spear at her partner. "Back off! I got covered in filth that's probably coated in a nice layer of hobo piss trying to catch this fucker! Now shut up or I'll stick you next!"

Meanwhile, Rossi simply sat and watched the arguement silently, scared out of his wits.

"You think we're gonna get anything out of him if you spill his guts?!"

"I don't know, but I'll sure feel a hell of a lot better about all this!"

"You're gonna spill his intestines all over the alley just cause you got a little dirty?"

"You trying to say something, Laurie?!"

"You're gonna be getting bits of Rossi out of your clothes for weeks if you don't calm down!"

"You know what," Mona said, making a particularly sharp turn back toward the cowering man, "screw this I-"

"I'LL TALK!" Rossi shouted, holding his hands up in surrender. "I'll give you whatever you want! Names, places, whatever! Just don't hurt me!"

Mona blinked, the anger quickly draining from her face. "You'd- you'd do that? For us?"

"I'll tell you everything! Just shut up!"

"Well gosh, Rossi," Meg said, taking a seat beside him and throwing a playful punch at his shoulder, "you're not such a bad guy after all!"

"Alright," the taller Eversor announced, pulling out her phone and setting it to record the conversation. "Now spill."

"Helk. Charles Helk," Rossi started. "He owns a club downtown. Real popular, not my kind of place, called Club Mist. He also happens to be a small time arms dealer. Lets the higher-ups work out of his club for a cut of the profits. I happen to work for him. A-anyways, Finn, right?"

"Yeah," Mona replied. "He was murdered. We were asked to look into it. Any idea who it was?"

Rossi nodded. "The Wolf."

The Eversors blinked, then looked at each other.

"Da big bad woof?" Meg asked playfully.

"S-S-Something like that," the man replied. "About a week ago, Helk calls a meeting. So a bunch of us come in and he's sitting at his desk, same as usual. 'cept there's this girl with him. Real fuckin' scary bitch wearing this outfit that looks like straight-jacket. She's standing there beside him, not sayin' a fuckin' word. Just smiling. Not like one of them psycho smiles, but like, she KNOWS we're fucked. All smug and shit."

"Oh no..." Mona groaned.

"Oh yeah," Rossi answered. "One of yours, I'm guessing?"

"Might be," Mona nudged him with her rapier. "Keep going."

"Right," he gulped. "So crazy bitch has this big ass golden chain in her hands with two huge fuck-off hooks on either end. I don't even gotta say that we were freaked the fuck out. So this guy, Dmitri. Big fuckin' Ukie or somethin'. Real swell guy. The kind of fella that makes you wonder how he got roped up in this stuff. He starts freaking out, thinks she's like some slave or something. Says human trafficking is something he just won't do. So he tries to get the fuck out. BAM!"

Rossi slapped his one good hand on his leg, making Meg yelp. Mona still stared, unflinching.

"She hooks him. We barely even saw her move," the man explained, shaking his head. "Got him right through the throat. She starts yapping about how he made a bad decision and all that shit. That's when we knew he wasn't fuckin' around. Helk said she'd be sticking around, keeping people in line. Said he was in charge now. Never said her name either, just called her his 'Wolf'."

The taller Eversor narrowed her eyes. "Anything else?"

Rossi gulped and nodded. "Y-yeah. We hadn't really noticed, but Helk has this big fuckin' rock on his neck with a golden chain. I ain't no faggot, but it was the most beautiful thing I ever seen. It was blue and twinkling and... fuck it was nice. Then he pulls out this box and opens it. Three more of those rocks. Said they were ten times more beautiful than diamonds and sold for a hundred times the price on the black market. Wouldn't tell us where he got 'em, but he said he found a buyer and that we were gonna be the richest motherfuckers in the city. Or at least, he was. That's... that's all I know. I swear."

Mona reached for a choker hidden under her clothing. After a short burst of light, she held out a small silver rose with a swirling indigo gem in the centre. "Those gems look anything like this?"

Rossi's eyes bulged and he took a quick gulp. "Y-yeah. That's the ones."

"They're selling soulgems," Meg observed, her mouth hanging open.

"Those gems," Mona asked hesitantly, "what colours were they?"

"Uh, lemme think," Rossi mumbled. "One was a really pale orange. Almost white. One was green, with a bit of black in the middle. The other was nearly all black with a little blue around the edges."

The two Eversors looked at each other, sharing looks of shock and concern. The two stood up and leaned into each other.

"We need to tell the warmaster," Meg stated bluntly.

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 7[edit]

Odette groaned. Rain pounded on the steel hide of Sleepy Sue. Her phone was ringing somewhere. All she could remember of the previous day was being frustrated at a lack of leads and getting drunk out of her mind with Lotte. She'd found her culprit - Fennel Vance - but little more than that. Fennel had been one of the Officio's top 'liquidators' as Fubey gently put it. Her speciality laid in terminations, assassinations, eviscerations and a host of other unsavoury ations that would drive any sane girl mad. Odette was only left to wonder why the incubator hadn't kept a closer eye on someone so deep in blood.

The one-eyed magical girl stretched her arm out, feeling around the floor of Sleepy Sue for her phone. After a few moments of unintentionally feeling up, then rolling over, the blonde Callidus, Odette grabbed hold of her smart phone and rolled back into position. For god's sake, she thought, had they really ended up sleeping together twice in one week? Odette sighed to herself. She must have been even lonelier than she thought.

"Yo," she muttered into her phone.

"Odette, it's Therese," the warmaster greeted. "We've got something about the case that you need to hear. Something big."

"Whatimezit?" The silver-haired girl mumbled.

"It's- It's almost noon," Therese replied. There was the distinct burst of static as she let out a long sigh. "I even waited until I was sure you'd be up. I told you that you should stay in warmaster suite. You're starting to slip again."

"'m not slipping," said the small Eversor as she hopped out of her cot and scooped up a pair of jeans. "Just frustrated 'sall." After a moment's thought she added, "'nd maybe a bit hungover. What's the news?"

"Two of our Eversors were investigating a murder," the warmaster answered. "Looks like they've found where your mystery girl is hiding."

"No shit?" Odette gasped as she threw on a bra and fresh white t-shirt. "Where is she?"

"A club downtown, it looks like. Working for a small-time gangbanger. But you really should hear the rest of this in person. That, and I don't think you've gotten a chance to see my office yet. Isn't that right?"

"Alright, alright," the one-eyed girl grumbled. "Your office in the same place mine was?"

"There's only one warmaster's office, Odette."

"I'm not slipping. I promise," Odette smirked as she threw on her jacket. "See you in a few."

"I'll see you then," the warmaster giggled just before the line went dead.

Sleepy Sue's engine revved as Odette pocketed her phone and took a seat at her make-shifted desk. The case files were stilled splayed out across it with lines and paragraphs circled and underlined with red pen. The former warmaster's gaze swept over each page as she let out a long breath. It all seemed so worthless now. After spending nearly a week pouring over the notes, everything seemed to just fall into her lap. With an inward chuckle, she suddenly recalled that working assignment's as warmaster was mostly the same way. She could have others running around gathering information and it still counted toward her own quota. Somehow.

Perhaps, Odette thought, it wouldn't be so bad to try an earn her position back. Therese already came dangerously close to treating her as if she were still her superior. Far too many people did. Odette couldn't decide if it was flattering or troublesome that so many still held her in high-esteem. You don't sit as warmaster for three years and expect everyone to just accept your abdication, it seemed. No matter how callous and irresponsible she had grown.

Odette's thoughts were interrupted by her blonde companion's stirrings, no doubt roused by the dull thrumming of engines. With a strong yawn, Lotte propped herself up with one arm and ran a hand through her hair.

"Mornin," Odette called out, barely bothering to look up from her work. She'd already cleared off the desk and taken out her poetry notepad, lightly tapping her pen against the wood.

"Yo," the blonde greeted. "Where we going?"

"Terry's," the one-eyed girl replied. "Said she has something for the case."

"Can I come?" Lotte asked, grinning from ear to ear.

Odette shrugged. "Up to you. Didn't think you two got along."

"Either that or I stay in the car," the Callidus responded, returning the shrug. "It's creepy to be in Sue alone."

Odette spun around, mouth agape. "Did you just call my baby creepy?"

"Yeah, I mean," Lotte waved a finger around lazily, "you hear that? Engines. WHERE ARE HER ENGINES?"

Odette blinked her one eye several times. "Okay, point."

The blonde gave a knowing nod as the two settled into a comfortable silence. They didn't have much to talk about anymore, it seemed. They'd told each other every story they had, didn't share much in the way of interests and hadn't worked together on any assignments in months. After a few moments, Odette glanced over, only to find the other girl quietly staring at her with an implacable grin on her face.

"What?" The silver-haired girl asked, cocking an eyebrow.

"You're really pretty," Lotte responded almost immediately, almost as if she had been waiting for the question.

Odette's pale face turned a bright pink as she forced herself to look back down at her notebook. "Don't be weird, Lotte. You promised you wouldn't make things weird."

True, Odette had always been told she had a pretty face. It had a certain mature charm to it despite her small stature - the kind of face that seemed liked that of a caring older sister. Or, at least, it would were it not for the near constant scowling and ill temper.

The one-eyed girl found herself tapping her pen and drumming her fingers faster and faster as her mind wandered. She was suddenly made painfully aware of the busty blonde lying buck-naked in her bed.

"Hey," Lotte prodded. "Want to go another round?"

Odette thought about it for a good second before shaking her head and rolling her eyes. "I just got dressed," she huffed. "And we're almost there."

"Ah come on," the blonde drawled, laying the covers over herself in just the right way to show off her curves while keeping the important bits hidden. "Just a quick one."

"I'll throw you out in the rain, Laufson," Odette grumped. "You know I will. And I'll keep your clothes."

"Y-you wouldn't really throw me out naked," Lotte laughed nervously, "right?"

The silver-haired girl simply smiled and turned back to her poetry, humming to herself.

Lotte grunted and lifted herself out of bed, crawling over to the pile of clothes left on the floor. As she looked around the interior of the armoured car, the Callidus couldn't help but shiver and hold herself.

"Do you have the AC on or something, O?" She asked, quickly throwing on as much clothing as possible.

Odette shook her head. "Nope."

Lotte looked around, still holding herself, suddenly looking even more nervous than before, then nodded silently.


The tall Callidus and the short Eversor breezed through security at the Officio's headquarters, making for the first of the Violet-clearance floors - the warmaster's office. The two stood silently in the elevator, dripping wet from the rain, for several minutes until Odette felt a hand prodding her shoulder. She turned her head to find Lotte toying with a crunchy, wet and white substance between her fingers.

"Hey, O," she started, examining the stuff inquisitively, "is this frost?"

Odette shrugged and mumble a quick "I dunno" as the doors slid open.

There were several doors in the corridor; each one an office for the rank leaders. Most were empty for the time being, with higher-ranked magical girls handling business in the other major cities within the Officio's territory. In contrast to the incubator's barren hall, the office corridor was decorated with potted plants and modern art. Odette silently questioned exactly how much Therese had changed. She remembered dimmer lights and muted tones instead of bright pastel shades.

The silver-haired girl knocked firmly on the door furthest door, while her companion cried "ROOM SERVICE!"

After a moment, the door was opened, not by Therese, but by an incredulous looking Megan Laurie. The short, black-haired girl blinked a few times as her bangs fell over her eyes yet again.

"You're not the warmaster," remarked Lotte.

The small Eversor - but not quite as small as Odette, she noticed - floundered about for a few seconds before she was rescued by Therese calling from within.

"Odette?" She shouted. "Is that you?"

"Yo," the one-eyed Eversor greeted, gently worming her way through the door and past the star-struck magical girl.

Therese's office, Odette noted, was rather different from the one she used to call her own. It was modern and chic, with the walls painted a light grey and all the furniture in black. She even had a sofa pushed into one of the corners closest to the door, which was currently occupied by the second member of the Eversor duo, Mona Bernard.

Odette furrowed her brow and scanned the room as the warmaster stepped up to her.

"Was this room always here?" She asked, a look of confusion on her face as she shook Therese's hand.

Therese tilted her head, just as confused. "What do you mean?"

"This room," the silver-haired said, cautiously pointing all around, "was this always here?"

"Yes," the warmaster answered, nodding much in the same way one would to a mental patient. "This used to be your office. Remember?"

"Nah, nah," Odette laughed. "My office had those sweet woodcarvings and a throne and..." Her voice trailed off as her face contorted into a look of sad understanding. "What did you do to my office?"

"It looked ridiculous, Odette," Therese replied with a slight roll of her eyes. "You don't expect me to work in an office that looked like something out Lord of the Rings, do you? You want me to sit in a throne carved with YOUR greatest moments?"

"What did you do with my stuff?!" The one-eyed magical girl whined, clearly distressed.

"I threw it away," Therese stated bluntly.

Odette's mouth opened and closed several times as she tried to form words. All that managed to come out was, "Buh-but my throne..."

The warmaster let out a long sigh. "Look. If it's that important, your throne is still in storage. It's," she waved her hand in the air, trying to find the right words, "an icon, I guess. All of the girls from back then recognize it. I couldn't just throw it out like that."

"Good, goo-"

"But I sold everything else," Therese added with a stern look.

Odette nodded to herself, conceding the point. "Fair 'nuff."

It was then that the warmaster suddenly turned her attention to the Callidus, who had taken a laid-back position on the couch with both arms wrapped around the two junior Eversors as she regaled a story of Odette's earliest days.

"And so Snake says to Odette-"

"Laufson, what are you doing here?" Therese butted in, maintaining her serious demeanour.

The blonde looked up and blinked innocently. "What? I'm not allowed to hang out with an old friend?"

"It's fi-" Odette started, but was suddenly silenced by Therese raising her hand.

"The time when we were friends has come and gone, Lotte," the warmaster growled. "If you have no relevance to the case, I would kindly ask you to leave."

"Terry," a calm, cold voice rang out. The room temperature took a dive as all eyes were suddenly on Odette. The small girl took a step forward until she was practically standing on the warmaster's toes. "Lotte's with me," she hissed. Therese felt one of Odette's delicate hands gently alight on her shoulder, then violently pull her down to the smaller girl's level. "Warmaster or not, you do not shush me like a child."

There was a delicate clinking of chains as Therese's hammer materialized in her hand. It had always been a stark contrast to her usual demeanour - and a good reminder of her temper - to see the enormous slab of metal. The hammer was small enough to be comfortably wielded in one hand, but large enough to be used with both for a little extra power. Most striking of all, however, was the shining silver chain attached to the end of the haft, which snaked up the warmaster's forearm and coiled around it.

Odette's eye shifted to the weapon for a moment before returning to glare at Therese. "It's just Lotte. Calm down," she said, her voice coming out soothing yet stern.

The rusty-haired girl glanced down at the hammer, then took a deep breath. A chill went up her spine as she noticed that she could suddenly see the air escaping her lips. With a nod, she stepped back and the hammer disintegrated. "You're... You're right. I, uh, I'm sorry."

"Atta girl," Odette said, grinning as she slapped a hand on the warmaster's back. "Gotta keep that temper in check. If we're gonna rumble, we better make sure to sell tickets first. So what are we waiting for?"

Therese adjusted her cap and cleared her throat loudly, still slightly embarassed about losing herself so easily. "We're, erm, just waiting on Fubey. The incubators were supposed to be having a meeting. He should be here any second-"

As if on cue, there was a soft knock on the door, sounding as if it came from a mere foot off the ground. The occupants looked at each other, as if each expecting someone else to open it. Odette caved first, giving a reluctant huff as she pulled the door open. With a dull whirring sound, the Seventeenth incubator rolled in atop his mighty steed.

"Odette, how lovely to see you," he said as he entered. "I apologize for my tardiness. I was a few minutes late to the meeting and had to stay behind for the Eighth to fill me in. Ah, Miss Laufson has joined us? I trust you are finished with your previous assignment?"

"Oh," the Callidus piped up, "yeah, was going to go see you about that. All taken care of."

"Excellent, excellent," the incubator said, beaming with a look nearing contentment. "A pleasure to have you on board then."

"Fubey, I didn't buy you that for you to ride on," Therese grumbled.

The incubator made the Roomba do a quick three-sixty as he entered the room, then hit a button causing it to go about its usual vacuuming route.

"Ah, but this way I can clean the office everywhere I go."

Odette couldn't keep her eyes off of it as she took a seat on the sofa's arm. "What did the Eighth say about it?"

"He," the incubator started, making a point to avert his gaze, "thought it was a bit silly. In much stronger terms."

The one-eyed girl smirked. "I give him two weeks before he gets one."

"One," Lotte added. "He won-"

The blonde was interrupted as Therese loudly cleared her throat. "Ladies," she said, sweeping her gaze across the room, "I believe we're all present."

Mona shared a brief look with her partner, then nodded as she pulled her phone from her pocket. "This was recorded last night at about, uh," she flipped the phoen around and squinted at it, "just after eleven. We thought we were interrogating a man about a gang-killing. We got a bit more than we bargained for."

With a swipe of her finger, Rossi's testimony began playing. The room was silent - save for Fubey's Roomba going about its route - as the terrified man describe Charles Helk, Club Mist, the girl with the golden chain and finally the soul gems being sold on the black market. No one said a word for several minutes after it ended. Odette nodded to herself as the information processed, each piece slowly falling into place.

"Meg and Mona, was it?" The one-eyed girl finally asked.

"Y-yeah," the taller Eversor answered.

Odette turned to Therese and the incubator. "These two are getting promotions, right?"

"They have only been with us for a month and a half, but," the incubator pondered, stroking his chin with his prehensile moustache, "I suppose something could be arranged."

Therese nodded in agreement, then turned her attention back to the recording. "So I suppose that's it then. We hit the club and see what we can find."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, kiddo," Odette laughed, making a calming gesture. "Hold your horses here. We don't just storm the castle without a plan."

"O's got a point," Lotte added. "That just ain't the way things are done."

"Then what do you propose we do," the warmaster asked, adding a stressed nearly growled, "Odette?" as she cast a glare at the Callidus.

The silver-haired girl paced around the office for several minutes, deep in thought, before finally leaning back on Therese's desk with a satisfied look plastered on her face. "Alright, here's what we're gonna do," she started. "We'll hit them tonight. After we're done here, I'll take Lotte and check out Chuckles' apartment, see if we can dig anything up. That note left at my place still doesn't make sense. I'll swing by when we're done and pick you up. We get Lotte to scout the club, figure things out. We make our plan and then, and ONLY then, do we bust this thing open."

The rest of the girls sat stunned at the sudden strategy laid out before them.

"That... that works," Therese mumbled.

"Odette one," Lotte smirked, chuckling to herself, "Ter-Bear zero."

Odette snapped her fingers and pointed at the blonde. "You shut up."

Meanwhile, the two juniors were whispering amongst themselves, slowly drawing the attention of the rest of the room. After a few moments, the taller of the two cleared her throat while the other twiddled her thumbs nervously.

"We, um, we were just wondering," Mona said, taking a nervous gulp, "if we were still on the assignment. Just, cause, y'know, the thing with Helk is technically ours. I mean, it's okay if you don't want us-"

"That's fine," Odette nodded and shurgged. "I'll pick you two up after we're done too. It'll be a party."

"Actually," Therese said, glancing at the clock on the wall, "I just remembered I have an appointment later. You four okay to hang out until I'm done?"

"We can take care of them until then," Lotte smirked, sidling up to the two juniors. "I can tell them the story of Odette's sweet sixteen party."

"Oh hell no," the one-eyed girl groaned. "Come on, Lotte. Nobody wants to hear that one. Let's get going."

The blonde stood up, then turned to Therese after a thought crossed her mind. "You go on ahead. I need to talk to Ter-Bear in private about something."

After a look of collective confusion, the two junior Eversors left the room followed shortly by Odette and the incubator. Therese sighed as she stepped around her desk and took a seat.

"Well?" She asked expectantly, folding her hands and cocking an eyebrow. "Make it quick."

"Listen," Lotte sighed, taking a moment to collect her thoughts. "I know you don't like me. Jealous that I'm fucking Odette and you're not or whatever the fuck it is. That doesn't matter right now."


"You had to have noticed it," the blonde stated firmly. "The cold. You felt it, right?"

The warmaster nodded slowly. "What of it?"

"'What of it'," Lotte groaned and rolled her eyes, "you fucking know 'what of it'. Today the rain was freezing on her damn jacket." Lotte threw down her arms and shook her head violently, her words panicked. "She's coming back."

Therese glared at the Callidus as understanding suddenly struck her. "So what is this? A warning? A threat?"

"Dunno," the Callidus made a sly grin and giggled to herself. "Maybe both, maybe neither. But I'd watch out if I were you. Even I don't know if I should be afraid or not."


Odette pulled her ear away from the door and stepped back, trying to lean against the wall and act natural. She took a deep breath and looked up and down the hall. For a fraction of a second, she could swear she saw a girl with long silvery-white hair and a black baseball cap grinning at her from the end of the hallway. The one-eyed girl shoved her hands into her pockets, suddenly aware that they were freezing cold.

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 8[edit]

Rain pounded outside. Odette quietly walked through the musty apartment hall, side-by-side with her companion, Lotte Laufson. It was the first time they'd had a chance to work together in too many months. The last time Odette could remember them actually working with each other was some job in Niagara Falls. Something about a nutjob magical girl holing up in one of the seven million haunted houses on Clifton Hill. Therese had refused to come along, inexplicably falling ill the day they were supposed to go. Afterward, the Eversor and Callidus pair ended up going on the closest thing to date either of them had ever been on. Deep down, Odette still wanted to go on the ferris wheel again some day.

"Three-oh-six, right?" Lotte asked as they walked.

Odette nodded without a word.

The apartment was old and dingy, not entirely like the former warmaster's own building. The hall carpet was a dull, pinkish-brown mess while the walls clashed with a bright green. Lining the walls were cigarette smoke stained sconces that really looked as though they ought to flicker every now and then.

"What's up?" The Callidus asked, looking more than a little concerned.

Odette made a slight questioning grunt and cocked an eyebrow.

"You've got that look," Lotte chuckled. "You get it when you're thinking too hard. I'd know it anywhere."

True, Odette was thinking too hard about some things. She had a strange feeling in her gut, as if she were changing somehow. One moment she was grumpy and brooding, the next she felt as if she could snatch the cap from Therese's head and become warmaster again. Some thing, however, weren't worth getting off her chest.

"'m fine," she mumbled. "Don't worry about it."

"Suit yourself," Lotte shrugged, laughing to herself. "But if you were really fine, you'd have made some kind of remark."

"Don't worry your pretty little head about it."

"Good enough."

Soon enough, the two reached the end of the hall and stopped in front of room 306, the residence of a one Fennel Vance. All in all, it looked like any other room in the building, save a missing screw in the six, making it fall over to make a nine.

"I don't really know what I was expecting," the Callidus mumbled as they approached their destination, "but I'm a little disappointed."

The one-eyed girl glanced up at her partner in crime, scowling, and muttered a simple, "What?"

"Was hoping for a shabby, crack den looking place, I guess," Lotte replied.


Odette rolled her eye and raised her foot to kick in the door, only be shoved out of the way by the blonde. The silver-haired girl scowled harder, letting her face do all the talking. Her partner, however, would have none of it. In a flash, she donned her magical girl costume - a black leather skin-tight suit with a plunging, fur neckline. Newly transformed, the Callidus clapped her hands together and then - in a display of magic and showmanship - spread them, conjuring a leather bandolier out of thing air like an accordian, filled with every thief's tool imaginable.

"I love doing that," she cried, grinning from ear to ear. "Let's do this nice and clean, shall we?"

Odette shrugged and mumbled something about making it quick as she leaned against the wall. The Callidus' work was quick and efficient; in mere moments there was a loud clunk of tumblers as the door unlocked. Lotte looked up at the other girl and made an indecipherable head gesture. Odette simply looked confused and blinked a few times in response, shaking her head.

"Make with the sparkles," the blonde mumbled.


"What if she's in there?" Lotte asked, standing up again. "You're not gonna suit up?"

"You know I hate doing that," Odette pouted, turning a shade pinker.

"Oh come on! No one's here!"

Odette tapped her foot nervously before finally conceding the point. With a second flash, a long black cloak fell from her shoulders, draping her completely. Her left shoulder bore a delicate looking metal pauldron, fashioned to look almost like a wing. The girl held the cloak closed tightly from within, trying her best not to expose what was underneath it.

"Happy?" She groaned.

Lotte smirked and nodded. "Shy Odette is good too. Let's do this."

The shorter girl nodded silently. Taking her cue, Lotte turned the knob with great caution and delicacy, careful to make as little sound as possible. As soon as the doorway was clear enough, the pair slipped in like ghosts. Much of the apartment was left in disarray, as if the girl had been in a hurry to leave. Drawers were left out, shelves cleared and their contents strewn about on the ground. Odette was suddenly reminded of her own apartment after it had been broken into.

"I'll look around here," Lotte said as she scanned the room, "you check the bedroom. If there's anything good, it'll probably be there."

Odette nodded and took off at a brisk pace for the other room. The apartment was a fair size; the only rooms were the living room, bedroom and bathroom. The bedroom was left in the same state as the rest of the apartment - the bedside table's drawer was pulled out and it's contents dumped, clothes were thrown from the open closet, even the bedsheets were pulled up and the mattress not set on the frame properly. The one-eyed girl had to wonder what Fennel could have been looking for that was so important.

As she stepped over the objects on the floor, something caught Odette's eye. On the bedside table was a manila folder, printed with a large stylized seventeen in the corner. Fennel's last assignment. It looked almost as if it were left for Odette to find, sitting out in the open like that. Odette took a seat on the bed and flipped it open.

Sure enough, it was a termination order - Fennel's speciality. But as she read further, Odette's blood ran cold. Her eyes shot open and she nearly bit her lip hard enough to draw blood. The room temperature plunged and the bedroom window crackled as frost began to grow inward from the edges. Odette wished there was some kind of mistake, but there it was in front of her eyes, signed by the Seventeenth incubator himself, dated for three weeks previous. It looked as though the assignment was given out the day before Fennel went missing. Had it tipped her over the edge?

"Everything okay?" Lotte asked, poking her head through the doorway.

Odette quickly pulled her arms back under her cloak, bringing the folder with them. The frost receded from the window as she nodded and answered with a quick, "Yeah, I'm fine."

The Callidus looked around the room. "If you say so," she muttered, not entirely believing the other girl. "Found anything yet?"

Odette shook her head. "Not yet. You?"

"Looks like she cleaned the place out good," Lotte replied, leaning against the doorframe. "Makes sense, really. She was a pro. You know I worked a job with her once?"

"Seriously?" The one-eyed girl asked, suddenly curious.

"Yeah, just remembered when we were coming here. Couple years back we went after some druglord together. Pretty standard stuff."

Odette nodded and made a quiet "hmph" noise. "So what was she like?"

Lotte shrugged as she tried to put her thoughts into words. "She was... a weird one. Not really like psycho-weird, but she just didn't take anything seriously. Always laughing and joking. The type that'd make some corny pun about 'getting ahead of yourself' while she chopped it off. I get that you have to be a few cards short to do her kind of work but," the blonde took a deep breath and seemed settle down a bit, "I guess she was okay. Had a way of rubbing off on you. By the end of it, I was laughing right along with her."

Odetted snickered. "Weirdo."

"Yeah, yeah," the Callidus laughed. "Like you're one to talk."

"Haven't had a good fight in a while," the one-eyed girl replied. "Hell, this the first time I've worn my costume since I got the boot."

"Well, you ever want that hat back, you come talk to me," Lotte said, a dangerous glint in her eyes. "The offer's always open."

Odette's thoughts flashed back to the folder. The deal offered by the Callidus and her enigmatic friend suddenly looked far more appealing. She tossed the idea around in her head a number of times, weighing the options. Finally she mumbled a short and simply, "I'll think about it."

Lotte's eyes narrowed as her lips curled at the tips, a devilish grin if Odette had ever saw one. She could tell what the Callidus was thinking. She could see that smug statisfaction in her eyes as the former warmaster started to come about.

"That'll do," Lotte replied, nodding to herself. "That'll do."

Odette shook her head and pulled herself up. "Whatever. Let's go pick up the kids."

As the pair left the apartment, the one-eyed girl could swear she heard muffled, tinkling laughter mixed in with the rain. Somewhere, she thought, a girl in a black baseball cap was thinking over her options.


Odette stared out the window of a Tim Hortons, one hand firmly clutched around a hot chocolate while Lotte rested her around the one-eyed girl's shoulders. Across from them sat Meg and Mona, the former nursing a tea and munching on a Dutchie while the latter occassionally sipped at her coffee. It seemed as though Meg had finally gotten used to the presence of her idol after actually trying to start a conversation with her. Mona simply sat back and absorbed Lotte's tall tales with a skeptical eye. She couldn't bring herself to believe the one about the Nineth warmaster's birthday bash, despite Odette assuring her that every word was true.

Aside from Lotte's occasional proddings to verify the veracity of her stories, Odette kept silent for most of the meeting as she mulled over the day's events. She couldn't rightly deny that she was starting to change. Getting back into her groove.

"Hey, O," Lotte suddenly called out, leaning over to her, "didn't you beat the bartender at shots that one time?"

Odette blinked. "The Bartender bartender?"

"Yeah, the one everyone calls 'The Bartender'," the Callidus replied, making quotation marks with her fingers. "The hot redhead."

"Once, I think," the one-eyed girl answered, "out of like a hundred times."

The pair of junior Eversors across from them looked at each other, then pack at the other pair, confused.

Noticing their looks, Lotte began to explain. "Either of you two ever been to Harrison's?"

They both shook their heads. "Been outside it, but never went in," Mona offered.

"Right, so," the blonde began, hunching over the table. "There's two bartenders that work their. A blonde and a redhead. Both are former magical girls. We call the blonde 'The Russian' and the redhead 'The Bartender', even though they're both bartenders. They've got a thing going where if you can match them shot-for-shot, the whole night's drinks are on the house. Only one person's ever won, and you're sitting with her." Lotte punctuated the statement by giving Odette a light slap on the back. "Not even Valnikov could do it, ain't that right?"

"Yeah, cause she was up against The Russian," the one-eyed girl added. "Those two go way back."

"Right, right," Lotte nodded before continuing. "Only folks who know their real names are either dead or plan to carry them to their graves. Foobee let a whole bunch retire quietly right before Odette became warmaster."

Odette nodded quietly. "Right after Brie died."

"Brie?" Meg, the smaller of the Eversor pair, asked.

"The Seventeenth's first warmaster," the Callidus explained. "I didn't really know her that well, but Odette and her were tight. You want to tell this one?"

Odette sighed and turned her attention to the other occupants of the table. Reminiscing about Brie always did strange things to her emotions. On one hand, she couldn't resist telling a good story and didn't want to let the warmaster's memory die out. On the other, talking about her was like a knife in the gut. With reluctant resignation, she mumbled a quiet, "Ok," and sat back in her seat.

"Brie was my big sis," she explained, staring at her hot chocolate, trying her best to avoid eye-contact with anyone. "Figuratively, of course. She was the oldest of the group when they started the Officio system. The bartenders were from the same batch as her, but a few months later. She was beautiful and smart and kind. Everyone loved her. She had this platinum blonde hair that went on forever," Odette smiled and laughed to herself, "and she always wore a this black baseball cap with the warmaster's emblems on it instead of the regular cap."

"About three years ago a Wally finally got the better of her," the silver-haired girl continued, a tear coming to her single eye. "Half the officio resigned. A tenth witched out from grief," Odette took a shakey breath in a vain attempt to steel herself. "I had to pick up the pieces. They leave it to a sixteen year old girl to fix a broken officio and they wonder why we're so fucking weak."

"Odette, it's okay," Lotte whispered, pulling the other girl in tight. "You don't have to tell them if you don't want to."

But Odette simply shook her head and wiped the tears from her face. "Can't let people forget. No one forgets what happened three years ago. Not on my watch."

The black-haired Eversor nodded solemnly, then fumbled around in her pocket for a few moments before producing a small photograph. She gently slid it across the table to Odette. The one-eyed girl picked it up and took a good hard look at it. She'd managed to avoid focusing on it before, but for once she actually wanted to look at her old self. It seemed to be a picture from her inauguration. She still had both brilliant blue eyes, long silvery hair that went down to her waist and a black baseball cap atop her head, emblazoned with the warmaster's iconography.

"That's why you wore the hat, isn't it?" Meg asked quietly.

Odette nodded. She couldn't speak. She could feel the tears streaming down one side of her face. How could she let this happen to herself? At what point in those three years did she just stop caring? She tried to ask herself those questions, but deep down she knew. She knew when she'd lost herself. She knew when she'd stopped wearing that hat and cut her hair. Two years ago, a different Odette took her place.

After a few moments, she felt Lotte's arm tugging at her to get up. "Come on, O," she cooed softly. It was as close as Odette had ever heard the Callidus get to a motherly voice. "Let's go wait in the car until it's time to pick up Terry."

The crying girl nodded and got up, then motioned for Lotte to stay when she tried to follow. Alone, she left the restaurant and made for Sleepy Sue. She had a feeling a certain hat-wearing girl would be there waiting to laugh at her.

As they watched Odette leave with tears in her eyes, Meg turned back to the Callidus and asked, "But why did she stop wearing it?"

Lotte simply smiled a sad smile and shook her head. "That's a story for another day, kiddo."

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 9[edit]

So much rain. Always rain. Odette stared up at the night sky, ignoring the water droplets hitting her face. Waiting for Lotte to finish scouting around the club had ended up giving her some much needed time to think. Her back pressed against the cold steel hide of Sleepy Sue, she idly pondered her position in life. The one word that really seemed to sum it all up was 'shitty'. Granted, things were starting to look up, but it was still a turd no matter how much she tried to spit shine it. That just made it a turd covered in spit.

Inside, the two younger Eversors had managed to rope the warmaster into a game of Go Fish while they waited. It took a few rounds for Meg to get over her fear of winning against Therese, but she managed to come around soon enough. Odette cringed once more as she heard the tiny girl sound another victory cry from within. She was still a bit sore about finding someone the same size as her with such a nice figure. It felt like every one of her shouts was something personal.

Odette looked up and down the streets for a moment, then cautiously pulled a pack of cigarettes from her pocket. After Freddy had told her they came in flavoured varieties, well, she simply had to give it a try. For some reason she felt an obligation to fit her new grumpy, brooding image. Holding a protective hand over the smoke, she managed to get it lit and took her first puff-

-then immediately spat the whole thing out of her mouth on reflex. She coughed and hacked, a fist pressed to her chest. It didn't taste like cherry. It didn't taste like cherry at all.

"Odette, are you okay?" Therese asked as she poked her head out of the armoured car's turret.

The coughing girl simply gave a thumbs up, unable to speak through her wheezing.

"Is- Is that a lighter?" The warmaster asked in an accusatory tone. "Were you SMOKING?"

Odette shook her head, quickly stashing the lighter back in her pocket. "No, ma'am," she wheezed out.

Therese huffed and pouted, shouting, "Fine, but if I catch you smoking I'll- I'll-"

"I get it, Terry," Odette groaned, still trying to catch her breath. "Go play cards."

The warmaster conceded with a sigh and receded back into the armoured car. Once again, Odette was left alone with her thoughts. It seemed that she'd have to settle for sweets and poetry instead of smoking and drinking. But then again, she thought to herself, it wasn't as if people like that really existed. It wasn't healthy to romanticize that sort of thing.

More and more, Odette found herself feeling lonely when she was left alone like this. She used to relish the chance to just be able to sit and think. Now it felt more and more like a punishment. She could have gone in to play cards easily enough, but... It just seemed like her presence would make things awkward. It was like going out for drinks with your boss. Except, she wasn't their boss. Not anymore, at least.

The world melted around her as she looked over into the eyes of the girl in the hat. Her presence would normally put Odette on edge, but for once she just welcomed the company.

"Come to laugh at me?" The one-eyed girl asked.

"A little," the one in the hat conceded. "But I don't think I need to. Seems you're doing my job for me these days."

Odette nodded, at a loss for words. For the time, she'd just let the other girl speak her peace.

"You've noticed it yourself, haven't you?" She asked, leaning her head against Odette's shoulder. "The North Wind is blowing again, just like our dear Charlotte said. But why was she keeping it a secret, I wonder."

"Does it matter?"

"No, no. I suppose it doesn't," the girl in the hat laughed to herself. "A few weeks ago you couldn't even remember Miss Valnikov's name. Imagine my surprise when you were telling stories about her earlier."

Odette nodded again, this time a far more shallow one.

"Wouldn't it be nice to have those times back..." It was less a question and more simple wishful thinking. "You have a good reason to take your post back now, don't you? Hid it under your bed, hm?"

The one-eyed girl took a deep breath. She just couldn't get the termination order out of her mind. She'd shoved it under her cot while she thought about what to do with it. Should she talk to someone about it? Would it be better to confront the incubator directly? Odette just couldn't sort her thoughts out and the hat wearing ghost certainly wasn't helping.

"I think I'll leave you on a better note this time," the girl said, adjusting her baseball cap. "Good luck with finding this monster. And take care of yourself. I know you don't like to admit it, but I really do care about your well-being."

Odette smiled gently and muttered, "I know you do."

Some time passed before Lotte finally arrived. The Callidus found Odette humming some unheard tune, smiling with her eyes closed as she did. For a few minutes, Lotte simply stood and watched the girl revelling in the rain. When Odette finally opened her eyes, she found the blonde looking on thoughtfully, with her hand on her chin.

"How- How long have you been there?" Odette stammered.

"Long enough," the Callidus answered, grinning. "You're such a cutie~"

"Oh shut up," the one-eyed girl groaned. "Did you find anything?"

"Oh yeah," Lotte answered with a grin. "Come on, let's round up the gang."


Ten minutes later, Odette peered around the corner of a building in a darkened alley. Two men were guarding the club's back door, unarmed, but with a pair of metal pipes conveniently leaning against the wall by the door. Odette turned to Mona, who leaned against the wall beside her, and informed her of the situation.

It had been agreed that the two Eversors would break in through the back while the other three tried to get into the club's VIP lounge. Lotte had reasoned that Helk had to be in one of the two locations.

"I'll take care of these two," Odette whispered. "Wait here."

The tall girl nodded, shifting into her costume in a flash. Odette, on the other hand, refrained from doing so. Instead, she simply walked out into the light and strode up to the men, making sure to look as unimposing as possible - not difficult task given her stature.

As she neared them, both men stepped up to her.

"Hey, little lady," one of them called out, "looks like you're a little lost. Y'shouldn't be here."

Odette continued walking, only stopping when both men put their hands on her shoulders.

"I guess you didn't hear m- GHURK."

The man gurgled as a spear shot up through his throat, just as one did to his partner. Odette withdrew her two spears from the men as her cloak unfurled down from her shoulders. Mona let out a low whistle as she stepped out from behind the building and admired Odette's handiwork.

"I'd heard stories about the Silver Lady," she said, a distinct tone of admiration in her voice. "Meg wouldn't shut up about you. Guess she wasn't lying. You sure as hell look the part."

Odette - Hat.png

Under her cloak, Odette's costume was not entirely unlike a traditional magical girl outfit, albeit a bit more armoured. A banded platinum metal breastplate wrapped around her meagre chest atop a frilled top with equally frilly shoulder straps. Delicate white gloves stretched all the way up to the middle of her upper arm adorned with shining vambraces, matching a pair of pure white thighhigh stockings with plate greaves on her legs. A delicate white pleated skirt hung from her waist under a set of faulds, completing the ensemble. The entire costume conjured images of warrior-princesses, and Mona could only marvel at the sight of the fabled Winter Warmaster herself.

Odette let out a short breath of laughter as she flicked the blood from her two spears. Each one had a dark wooden haft and an intricately designed silver head, matching the platinum metal of her armour. She twirled them about for a few moments, getting herself used to the feeling once more. Both spears were perfectly balanced, equally good for throwing as they were for melee combat. Odette had always preferred spears over other weapons. They could be thrust, swung or thrown and were easy to use for a novice, yet deadly in the hands of a master. Satisfied, she gave Mona a nodded and motioned for the door.

"Quick and efficient," Odette said. "No dawdling. We clear one room, we move onto the next. These asshats are responsible for selling soulgems as fucking accessories. Remember that."

"Don't think I'll forget. Glad I have a competent leader," Mona laughed. "You're the boss."

They broke down the door in short order, hurrying through to the other side to find a trio of men playing cards at a table. The men looked shocked at the sudden appearance of the magical girls, scrambling for their weapons. Odette impaled the first of the thugs and gave a hard push downward, driving the spear into the floor. The second barely had time to react before Mona's buckler smashed into his face with a sickening crack as her rapier ripped through his chest.

The third man backed up against the far wall and made for a gun at his waist, but was stopped as one of Odette's spears soared through his ribcage and stuck him against the wall. The gun clattered to the ground as his hand went limp.

The one-eyed magical girl cocked her head at the gun. "Take it."

Mona raised an eyebrow and looked utterly baffled. "What for?"

"Might be useful," Odette laughed. "And you can get that whole pirate-swashbuckler thing goin'."

The taller Eversor shrugged and conceded, picking up the gun and stashing it in her inventory. "You're the expert."

"Damn straight."

Thankfully, there was only one door leading out of the room. The two girls nodded at each other and Odette waved a hand at it. Mona grinned and violently kicked it down before dashing through. There were only two goons this time, though, both were armed and ready after the commotion

Without a second thought, Mona charged the closer of the two, who held a revolver in a shaky hand. His hand dropped to the floor with a wet thump, followed by his gun. Spinning around to recover, the Eversor drew her sword across his throat in a spray of blood, splattering her costume. Odette had already taken care of the other thug - she leaned an elbow on the end of her spear, which was currently occupying the fallen man's chest cavity.

The pair scanned the room, spotting two doors. Mona glanced at the silver-haired girl and cocked an eyebrow.

"Which way, boss?" She asked.

Odette waved a finger back and forth. "Eeny, meeny, miney, this one," she chanted before rushing to the door on the right side of the room.

The other door led to an L-shaped hall, with one man in clear view at the opposite end. A spear sailed through his mouth and burst through the back of his skull.

"Nice throw," Mona whispered.

The blood-soaked magical girls continued down the hall, ignoring the bathroom doors, until a second man sprung out from behind the corner, bringing down a tire iron from above his head. Mona deftly shoved it aside with her buckler, then pulled the pistol with her free hand and fired a shot up through his chin.

Odette nodded, clearly impressed. "Nice shot."

After turning the corner and smashing through the next door, they were greeted by a single man. He was greeted by a rapier to the lower intestine. There were only two doors, one on the left wall and another that seemed to lead into the club proper.

The next room wasn't entirely what they expected. It looked like a hastily put together teenage girl's room, with a cot instead of a full bed and poorly painted pink walls. On the far side of the room was yet another door with faint traces of blood stained on the floor.

"Guess this is it," Odette mumbled.

Mona nodded without a word and the duo stepped up to the door. With great care, the one-eyed girl quietly turned the knob and peered through. A darkened staircase led down from the top, with absolutely no care taken to clean the dried blood off of the steps. The pair looked at each other and shrugged before cautiously descending.

The room at the bottom was simple and square, with a single light dangling from the middle of the ceiling. Blood covered the concrete walls, which were pock-marked with holes and dents. Directly under the light was a battered and bloodied fellow duct taped to a cheap plastic chair. The two girls approached and Mona's eyes widened as she noticed the freshly reopened hole in his palm.

"Rossi?!" She cried out.

With a groan, the man looked up and stared at her with one eye, the other swollen shut. He grinned maliciously, a couple bloody holes in his gums where teeth once were.

"Heya sweetcheeks," he said in a voice barely above a whisper. "Long time no see."

"Caught you snitching, eh?" Odette asked, circling around him.

"Pretty much," he answered. "They're not here, if you're lookin' for 'em."

"Then where are they?" Mona asked, seizing his hair and pulling his head up.

"Helk's haulin' ass out of town," Rossi moaned. "He should already be at the airport by now."

"And Fennel?" Odette asked as she paced around the bound man.

"Fennel? That her name? She's off making one last hit. She figured you'd be here, Odette," he sneered. "Looks like you cleared out the welcoming party, just like she said."

"Where is she?" Odette hissed, suddenly holding a spear to his throat.

"Funny story," he laughed. "I thought I recognized ponytail here. You're Bernard's kid, aintcha?"

The corners of Mona's mouth contorted as she bore her teeth at the man. "The hell does my father have to do with this?"

"Oh? Oh you don't know?" Rossi let out a sharp laughing followed by a fit of coughing. "Yer dad's been gettin' in with the wrong crowd. He's been lending money to some baaaad people. He was on Helk's hitlist anyway, but when I told him that it was his daughter that got me," the bloodied man snickered, "well, Helk thought he might want to bump him up the list a bit. You'll probably find the Wolf at your place."

The tall girl's rapier clattered to the ground and vanished in a torrent of sparkles. "No... No..."

The two ran up the stairs, the one-eyed girl chasing after Mona. Odette pulled her cellphone and hit speed dial. After a few rings, Therese picked up.

"Odette? Did you fi-"

"HE'S AT THE AIRPORT," Odette shouted. "Send Lotte around the back, tell her to follow the bodies. Fennel's going after Mona's dad."

"What?!" Therese screamed. "We're on our way!"


Therese and Meg had rushed out of the club without a second thought. The two stood at the street corner, Therese tapped her foot impatiently as she thought.

"Megan? It was Megan, right?" She asked the other girl.

"My friends call me Meg-"

"Do you have a ride?" The warmaster snapped.

"Y-yeah!" Meg answered eagerly. "We can take Gold-Mane! But... don't you have a company car?"

"I kind of," Therese looked away as a bit colour rushed to her face, "got mad at it. And stuff."

"O-okay," the smaller Eversor mumbled.

The golden motorcycle appeared beside her and revved impatiently. Meg mounted up with Therese clinging to her shoulder with one hand and brandishing her hammer in the other.

"Let's ride," the warmaster grinned, a manic gleam coming to her eye.

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 10[edit]

The street lights flashed by as Sleepy Sue weaved through traffic on the busy Toronto streets. Odette's leg tapped unconsciously as she sat on the floor, silently sharpening one of her spears. Mona was nearly hanging out of the armoured car's turret, shouting directions while her wet ponytail whipped around violently.

The busy sounds of traffic eventually melded into quiet suburbs with the occasional over-hanging lamp. It had been less than five minutes since they'd left the club, but Odette had enough sense to know that they were probably already too late. Soon enough, the car rolled up in front of the gated driveway of the Bernard home. Odette whistled as they pair jumped from the turret and stepped up to the wrought iron bars.

"Damn," the one-eyed girl mumbled, "Casa Loma ain't got shit on you."

"Yeah, yeah. What's the plan?" Mona snapped.

"You head in the front. I'll circle around back," Odette whispered, trying to figure out a plan in her head. "Keep my number dialled on your phone. I'll try to find you if something comes up."

Mona nodded and, in a single bound, leapt over the stone fence around the lot. Odette quickly followed suit, disappearing into the darkness around the edges of the wall.


Mona fumbled with the key to the front door as she shoved it into the hole and gave it a hard twist. She'd never imagined that she'd be breaking into her own home. The past two days had seemed so surreal. Being offered a position in Valkyrie squad, teaming up with not one but two of the Seventeenth's warmasters and... having to chase down a killer after her father.

The house was deathly still as she stepped into the front hall. Not a single light seemed to be on in the entire building. The only sound was that of her own breathing and the steady thrumming of rain on the rooftops. It occurred to her that not a single thing was out of place. There wasn't even any water on the floor - which could only mean that the other girl hadn't come in through the front. For a moment, the tall Eversor almost believed that she'd gotten their early, that the psychotic she was hunting was too late. But of course, she was smarter than that.

How long had it been since Fubey first paid her a visit? She could never forget that day. He had been waiting with the warmaster outside of her highschool. "Good afternoon, Miss Bernard," he had said to her. "Would you be so kind as to give me a moment of your time?"

She'd just moved to the city back then. Jim Bernard had never been a terribly successful man. He jumped from job to job, always changing cities. Her mother had left them long ago, back when Mona was still too young to realize what was going on. "Mona, sweetie," her father had said, "I think this is the one! I'm gonna make your mother regret ever leaving us."

"I wish my dad's business could be successful," she had said to the incubator. "So we can live his dream."

A smell struck her as she put her hand on the door to her father's study. It was sweet, yet hateful. A smell that instinctively threw up all of the red flags in that primal part of her brain. With a turn of the knob, Mona pushed the door open and stepped inside. The study was much bigger than it had any right to be. Bookshelves lined the walls with old tomes that no one had ever bothered reading. A golden chandelier hung from the ceiling, unlit and still.

And there he was.

Slumped over his desk. Just like all the nights he had fallen asleep doing work. All the nights that were made worth it by his success. But as the metallic scent of blood rushed into her nostrils, she knew.

With a scream of "Daddy!" she rushed to his side. She could see the hole straight through his chest. Tears streamed down her face as she heard a sharp, girlish gasp from somewhere above her.

"You call him daddy?" An all too cheerful voice asked as the clinking of chains rang out through the room. "That's cute! You're cute! Gotta love a cool girl who gets all sweet and innocent~"

Mona spun around without a second thought, pointing her rapier outward. Fennel Vance hung upside down from the chandelier from her golden chain, a messy sea of dark hair hanging down further. A flash of lightning lit up the room for a brief moment and Mona could see the enormous grin plastered to the other girl's face as she swung back and forth.

"You... you killed my father," Mona growled.

"No shit," Fennel replied, leaping from her perch and landing back on the ground, golden chain in hand. "You aren't the one I'm looking for but," the Wolf held up one of her enormous hooks, gleaming in the moonlight and coated with fresh blood, "I could go for a little warm up."

Mona dashed at her father's killer, her teeth bared in a vicious snarl. Once, twice, three times her rapier clashed with Fennel's hooks in a shower of sparks. Her teeth ground together as she put all of her strength into the blows, each one deftly turned aside by the other girl. With a roar of anger, Mona kicked off the ground and performed an elegant pirouette, aiming to backhand the other girl with her buckler.

In a display of flexibility, Fennel leaned back to dodge the blow and cast her hook over the taller Eversor's shoulder. Mona glanced back, watching the hook tear through her father's books and crack through the shelves with ease. She remembered her opponent's presence a moment too late - turning her head only to have her vision obscured by the soles of Fennel's feet.

Mona tumbled to the ground, managing to catch her self only an inch before her head slammed into the marble floor. She heard a dull clinking just as a sudden pressure clamped around her ankle. A snort of laughter filled Mona's ears as she felt herself lift off the ground. It felt as though her guts were about to spill out of her mouth as she was jerked upward at speeds usually reserved for race cars and roller coasters.

Then she hit the ceiling.

A distinct crack sounded through the study as her whole body slammed into the marble. Mona groaned in agony. It felt as though she'd just been hit by a truck. However, the rush of adrenaline suddenly dulled that pain when the chain loosened.

A moment later, gravity worked its magic, slamming her back to the floor. Using her sword for support, Mona forced herself to her feet, unsteady as they were. It would take a lot more than that to keep her down. Or, at least, that's what she told herself.

"Alright, kid," Fennel sighed. "It's been fun. It really has. But if you don't stay down, I'm gonna have to stop goofin' off."

Mona rolled her neck and cracked her shoulders, giving her rapier a whirl in the air. "I'm-," she coughed violently and spat out a mouthful of blood, "I'm just getting started."

Fennel rolled her eyes and with a short huff, cast both ends of her chain into the ceiling, smashing through it with ease. The chains unfurled from a seemingly endless spool at the girl's feet, going on and on into whatever space laid beyond.

Mona took the opportunity to charge forward, holding her rapier up for an overhand slash. But she had underestimated her opponent. With a flash of brilliant gold, both ends of the chain shot back through the ceiling on either side of her.

She snickered. "You miss-"

Pain shot through her body.

Both hooks snapped back and tore into her. One went up through the left side of her ribcage, cracking bone and piercing organs. The other impaled her inner left thigh, easily ripping through the tender flesh. Mona screeched as both hooks pulled back in opposite directions.

Her leg went first. She felt it dislocate, then tear from her body as the hook pulled it back to the far side of the room. The rest of her went flying into the opposite wall before her world went black.

Fennel smirked, taking the opportunity to admire her own handiwork. The hooks detached themselves from the two pieces of magical girl before retracting back into her hands.



Odette never got a phone call, but after the scream she knew exactly what to do. She crossed the yard in a matter of seconds, leaping over hedges and gardens as she went. Her spear thrust into the soft ground as she vaulted up to the window, a sudden gust of wind catching under her cloak and sending her further upward.

She didn't even want to think about what she'd find on the other side of the glass. She'd been through this kind of thing far too many times to have any optimism left. Odette knew it'd be a lucky break if Mona was still alive.

The glass shattered as she tumbled through, holding her cloak over her face. The glass rang out as it hit the floor, an orchestral symphony heralding her arrival. The former warmaster dashed her cloak over her shoulders as she rose to her feet. Her pure ivory costume shone through the room as she took a deep inhale and her single eye scanned the surroundings.

The scent of blood hung thick in the air, but never did she wince or wretch even as her eye ran over the broken body of Mona Bernard.

"'bout time you showed up!" Fennel called out a sing-song voice. "I was starting to worry that you'd chickened out!"

The Wolf licked her lips as she gazed upon Odette, a rhetorical, theatrical gesture. Odette's eye simply hardened in response.

"You killed Mona's dad?" She asked, her voice stern.

"Ayup!" Fennel's reply came in the same cheerful tone as she always seemed to use. "Real quick and painless! I'm a professio-"

"And you hurt Mona?"

This time it was Fennel who grew cold. "Don't interrupt me." She cocked her head back at the bigger part of the junior Eversor as a devilish grin curled her lips. "Wasn't so quick and painless for her. Hell, she still might be conscious!"

The one-eyed girl nodded. "Right," she muttered, her breath coming out as vapour.

Odette seemed to disappear in a blur of white before Fennel's eyes. It was only the jingling of the chandelier that alerted her to the silver-haired girl's location, but by the time it reached her ears Odette was already gone. With a subconscious flick of her wrist, Fennel shot one of her arm-sized hooks at the hanging fixture.

The former warmaster was fast, Fennel thought to herself. Just as fast as she'd heard. It had been said that everything the Silver Lady lacked in brute strength she made up for with raw agility. The pale blur zoomed around the edges of the room, leaving ruined bookshelves in her wake where her spears had pierced the walls to act as hand-holds. Fennel's golden chains lashed and whip, a moment too late every time. All the while, the Wolf was forced to dodge hurled spears as she swung about on the chandelier.

In the blink of an eye, Odette seemed to disappear from the edges of the room. Fennel's neck craned just in time to see tiny, pale fingers wrap around her large collar and HEAVE her from her perch. She felt wood crack under her weight as she soared through the door and into the hallway. She prayed a silent prayer as she realized what a terrible mistake Odette had made.

The silver-haired stalked out of the room after her, a spear clutched in either hand. She let out a short snicker as she watched the other girl take off down the corridor.

"Running away already?" Odette called out. "I didn't even think we started yet!"

Fennel turned on her heel and leaned an elbow against the wall. "Come at me then."

Odette eyed the hall carefully. The other girl was twenty - no, thirty feet down. She could probably cover the distance in a matter of moments. But she knew better than that. She could see the predator pacing in the Wolf's eyes.

"Why don't you come here?" The one-eyed girl asked, her eyes narrowed.

"Ohoho! We got a clever one!" Fennel giggled and snorted in a most unladylike fashion. "What's Fennel got in store, I wonder? Hm? Come on, don't be shy!"

Odette tapped her foot nervously. She could take the bait. She could simply waltz down the hall like the other girl clearly wanted. Or maybe it was all a ruse. Maybe she was just toying with Odette.

"Hey, hey!" Fennel called out. "Little Mona, she called him daddy, y'know? Isn't that ADORABLE?!"

Odette released a short breath, halfway between a growl and a laugh.

"She sang like the rest! Right at the end when I ripped off her leg!" The Wolf's words came out dark and animalistic with a certain primal joy in her work. Odette had known a great many people like that - many of them fellow warmasters. "They all sing in the end. The Blessed Lady was so pleased! Only that ponytail girl gave in, though. Didn't need her by then anyways. Made a pretty penny off her soulgem!"

The one-eyed girl suddenly stopped, her foot still in mid-air. She could feel her hands growing colder. A chill ran up her spine as she felt the familiar sensation of icy cold right down to her bones. Under any other circumstance, she would fight it back. But not now. Now she needed it, as loath to admit it as she was.

Fennel blinked and Odette was already halfway down the hall. She was moving faster this time. Too fast. She propelled herself down the ice-covered floors using her spears as makeshift ski poles, bearing down . The air hung crisp and cold as the window panes cracked and popped while frost glazed them over. Fennel could see her own breath. And she grinned.

The chains slipped from her hands like a pair of serpents. They flew through the walls, dousing the corridor in a mist of plaster and wood splinters. The first shot out just behind Odette, close enough to knock her foot as she skated down the hall. A second burst out from behind a painting just ahead before crashing through the opposite wall. Soon enough the hall was filled with shining golden chains criss-crossing back and forth as they slid ever forward.

Still, Odette pressed on. Sparks flew as her spear collided with the chain still in Fennel's hands. It was a perfectly even match, Odette noted. Both were combatants were far better suited to mid-range fighting. All bets were off for this match; it was simply a matter of who had more aces up their sleeve.

Fennel took a quick leap back, which was swiftly answered by a javelin soaring past her cheek. The chains continued to pierce through the walls both in front and behind the two clashing titans, forcing them to duck and jump every other second. Ever more the chains flowed, ever forward through the ether from whence they came. The one-eyed girl couldn't even tell which part of the mansion they were in anymore. It all seemed to meld together as she pushed the Wolf through room after hallway after room.

The Wolf's retreat was suddenly blocked off as she felt her back hit a railing. With a grin, she realized that they'd made their way to the entrance hall, with it's sweeping wooden staircase, ornate Corinthian columns and enormous, gaudy chandelier. Her grin quickly vanished from her face as Odette's boot collided with her chest and sent her tumbling over the edge.

One of the hooks shot out and wrapped around the chandelier. Fennel cackled with pure, child-like glee as she spun around, riding it like a swing carousel. This time it was her foot that met the side of Odette's head - who had jumped up on the railing, ready to tackle the flying girl.

Odette was swept off her feet from the blow. Her hands desperately grasped at the railing for purchase as she fell, only one of them managing to get a hold as her spear clattered to the floor below.

With panic in her eye she reluctantly let go, dropping to the floor in a low crouch. Odette ducked as a hook flew past her head, hanging from the spinning chandelier. She quickly picked up her spear and batted a second aside as it swung by much too quickly for her liking.

Fennel hung upside down below the centre of the chandelier, striking acrobatic poses as she directed her hooks about like a conductor. The serpentine chains lashed and whipped at Odette as they passed, forcing her to block as her back was pushed up against one of the columns.

The Wolf had managed to work herself into a near-perfect defensive position. Odette's single blue eye flickered back and forth as she watched the hooks spin and lash out, scanning for an opening. It seemed that the space was only open for a single beat.

Odette took a deep breath. She only had one chance. She'd have to time it perfectly.

A hook lashed out at her. She grabbed it and heaved, stabbing her spear between the links and pinning it to the column. The chandelier jerked and tossed about as it suddenly started spinning in the opposite direction.

The second hook lashed out. Odette grabbed and yanked, placing the sole of her foot into the loop.

She flew forward as Fennel recalled it, her spear aimed forward at the Wolf like a jousting knight.

A third hook appeared from the corner of her eye, bursting from the checkered marble floor. It missed by inches as it wrapped around Odette's waist, winding her and sending her flying back against a column.

The one-eyed girl spat out a mouthful of blood as she rose to her feet. Ribs were probably broken. Organs might have been crushed. Definitely some internal bleeding.

"You have three," Odette laughed, leaning on her spear.

Fennel shook her head and the former warmaster was suddenly made aware of a delicate clinking behind her. A sudden spike of gold rose from below her field of vision in a spray of blood. She couldn't feel the pain. Only the sudden sensation of a foreign material piercing just above her heart. With a jerk, she felt it lift her off her feet, dangling her like a slab of meat in a butcher shop.

There was a light thud as Fennel dropped to the floor. A single golden chain ran from her hand and disappeared into the ceiling as she walked forward, running her hand up it. She ran a hand down Odette's cold cheek and whispered in her ear,

"I have four."

The wolf cackled as she pulled a syringe from behind her back and jabbed it into Odette's neck. The one-eyed girl's one eye slowly closed as her world turned black.

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 10.5 - Nightcall[edit]

K rocked her head left and right. Her neck cracked as her helmet clicked against her shoulderpads. Gloved fingers tightened around the steering wheel. Her eyes stared at the watch wrapped around it. Three minutes past midnight. Only two left before show time.

K. The enigmatic left hand of the Seventeenth's lead Culexus. Some said she was the ghost of warmaster Brie returned from the grave. Others said she was in posession of Odette's left eye. All they knew for sure, was that she was called the Khan.

K's white suit had become a trademark of sorts. A pure white racing suit from toes to helmet underneath a white satin jacket with a golden scorpion on the back. That, and her white 1970 Dodge Challenger. The car was just as mysterious as its owner amongst the Officio. No one could figure out if she'd always had it or if it was a part of her magical girl kit - there were even rumours that it could drive itself and had a mind of its own. Some went so far as to swear they'd seen K talking with it, actually holding a conversation.

A pair of loud, booming shots rang out from inside the building. K's hand wandered to the police scanner on the dash, slowly turning the volume up.

"-possible shots fired-"

The Culexus let out a short chuckle that came out as a burst of vox-corrupted static. No matter how much he tried, the incubator could never quite manage to get the police on his payroll. Then again - she thought - if he did, she'd be out of a job.

"-approximately two minutes from location-"

K's fingers thrummed on the steering wheel. Four minutes past midnight. Any other person might have been nervous, but K was used to jackholes leaving everything to the last second. She made a deal, and a deal she would keep.

Her eyes drifted across the parking lot, still wet from the rain that had stopped just moments ago. A tall girl with long blonde hair stepped out of the building's back door first, an enormous rifle held lazily over her right shoulder. She sauntered toward the car slowly, then popped the trunk. Her eyes kept flicking back to the door nervously as she fumbled to unscrew the barrel.

K leaned over the passenger seat to open the door and flip the seat up. Her left hand tightened on the wheel as the blonde slid into the back seat. Thirty seconds.

The metal door to the building squealed open as a boyish girl with ragged black hair ran out at a full sprint. In her hands was a silver briefcase, clutched tightly to her chest. K leaned over again to flip the passenger seat back into position - just in time for the second girl to leap in and slam the car door shut behind her.

"Go, go, go!" The black-haired girl cried, trying in vain to keep her voice down.

K had already slammed on the gas by the time she reached the second 'Go'. She almost found it patronizing that her colleagues felt the need to tell her to go. As if that wasn't the entire reason she was there in the first place. K knew her job. She got a call from Holly. She told her where to be, at what time and for how long. That was it. When the timer ran out, K did what she did best; she drove.

The black-haired girl hunched over, desperate to catch her breath.

"You had me scared there for a second," the blonde said, a slight laugh decorating her words.

"I had ME scared," the other replied between breaths. "How was I, Khan?"

"Ten," the Culexus answered in monotone, her head never turning away from the road.

"Is that my score or-"

"You had ten seconds left, Fredrica," the blonde answered, speaking for the Khan.

"Shit," Freddy breathed, leaning back and placing an arm on the window sill. "The hell is this anyways?" She asked, giving the briefcase a good rattle.

"We don't ask questions, sister," Gertrude replied. "We do as we're told. Such is the way of things."

"I at least like to know who it is I'm stealing from," the black-haired Eversor grumbled, still looking the steel case over. "'s professional courtesy."

"-possible sighting on an early model white Dodge Challenger leaving the scene-"

With a single sentence from the police scanner, the car's occupants went silent. The leather of K's gloves crunched as her grip tightened around the wheel. A familiar sensation crawled up her spine. The car continued down for two more blocks before the Culexus suddenly shifted into reverse, backing the car down an alley with expert precision. The headlights went off and the car went still.

A flicker of light began to grow along the edge of the alley's mouth. The eyes of the three girls focused on it intently, none of them daring to breathe. Freddy's leg shook unconciously as she balled up both hands in front of her mouth. The police car slowly passed, K silently praying all the while that she'd parked far enough back. As gradually as it appeared, the cruiser vanished as it passed the alley. Leather crunched as the Culexus tightened her grip on the wheel.

"-Dundas and Manning clear-"

The twins breathed a sigh of relief - only to be interrupted when K suddenly slammed the car into reverse, using only the rear-view mirror as she sped backward. As soon as the alley widened into a dimly lit back street the tires screeched as she pulled a quick one-eighty.

K always tried to keep her jobs quiet. None of that action movie bullshit where the driver seemed to try his level best to attract as much police attention as possible. She could barely bring herself to see those films as comedies. Besides, K had a sixth sense for cops. And a seventh for knowing streets. And an eighth that told her how to operate any kind of vehicle as if she'd been behind the wheel for years.

Not once did she ever want to take back her wish, despite being cursed to be an existence that made others sick by her very presence. Not once, despite never being able to see her family or friends again. Not once, even on the jobs that just made her want to tie her client to the rear bumper and drag them down the highway until it stopped being funny.

Not once.

K's Challenger wove through side streets and residential districts like needle and thread. Any police cruisers that came into sight were always one step behind, just a moment too late to see the ghost car. Deep down, the Culexus wanted to try working jobs in somewhere more dangerous, where the cops came after you with helicopters and SWAT teams at the drop of a hat. Maybe she'd take a vacation to Santa Destroy some time. Just for a little spice in her routine.

There were dozens of parking garages in Toronto; only nine were connected to the Officio's parking network. Empty garages across from office buildings where the lights never seemed to go out, but no one ever entered or left. There were always a few of those in every city, K had noticed. They were often unmarked, or belonged to an obscure company that no one had ever heard of. If they had lawns, they'd seem perpetually mowed, despite no gardener ever being seen. Most of them belonged to an Officio. K idly wondered about the select few that didn't.

It took longer, but K's route was the easiest. She didn't need speed. Just a bit of stealth and patience. Soon enough, the car rolled up in front of a run-down garage just a bit too far from any major city attractions. It had an automated toll booth. K hated them, even knowing that this one wasn't entirely automated. As she rolled down her window, the Culexus jabbed a finger at the 'Request Help' button. After a short beep, a familiar voice called out from the speaker.

"How can I help you?"

"Delivery," K muttered in reply.

Hydraulics hissed as the gate lifted, allowing her entry.

"Come on through, Khan," Holly said through the speaker. "Call me as soon as you can. Got something urgent for you before you head out west."

The car bumped and bounced as it drove down into the depths of the garage. Each floor was silent and empty, an eery stillness pervading throughout. Two, three, four... Finally the Challenger rolled down to the nineth and final floor. Unlike the rest, every spot on the nineth floor was filled save one. The cars were all different though a sharp eye could tell that the license plates of each and every one ended with a one and a seven.

K rolled into the single free lot, nestled between some fancy foreign car and a pickup truck. She wondered exactly what kind of magical girl would dare drive a pickup. As if they didn't already have an image problem.

And then she remembered one who did.

The three magical girls exitted as the car came to a halt. Gertrude quietly retrieved a suspiciously heavy looking guitar case from the trunk while Freddy passed the briefcase between her hands impatiently. It wasn't until they reached the elevator that they finally spoke up.

"Guess this is it, huh?" Freddy said. "Was nice seein' you again, Khan. Say hi to Harry for me when you get home."

"Likewise," Gertrude added as she pressed the elevator's button. "It was lovely working with you."

K nodded. It wasn't until after a pause that lingered just a bit too long that she replied with a simple, curt, "Thanks. I'll tell her."

The twins nodded as they stepped into the elevator. The Culexus silently returned it, not looking away until the doors hissed shut.

Now alone in the silence of the garage, K made her way to a bank of payphones. Several were out of order, one seemed to be missing its phone entirely. The Culexus picked up one and dialled a number that had slowly been engraved in her mind over countless years.

One ring.

Then two.

"Yo," came a somber, calm voice entirely unlike the Vanus that K expected.

"Molly?" The Culexus asked. She fought to keep herself from asking what the outward-eye was doing answering Holly's phone.

A long pause followed.

"Yeah, hey Khan," the other half of the Vanus team finally answered. "Sis is a bit of a mess right now. Stuff happened. I'm covering her workload."

A second pause came as K thought for a moment. She could have sworn that she was greeted by Holly coming in to the garage. Though, it may have been Molly and K simply didn't notice. Their voices sounded nearly identical at times.

"I was told there was something urgent," K said. It was more of a statement than anything else.

"Yeah, uh, listen," the Vanus replied, seeming as though her train of thought was a bit muddled. "I need you to run a pick up job. One body bag. Disposable car. You'll be picking up one of ours in critical condition. Girl named Mona Bernard. Need you to slip in before police catch wind of it."

K didn't say a word as Molly continued, rattling off the address and a series of simple instructions.

"We don't know what happened yet. She called in, asked for back-up then passed out. Retrieve her body and soulgem, along with any pieces. You'll be driving Sue back."

The Culexus nearly dropped the phone. It had always been her dream to try driving the fastest ride in all of the Officios. But if she was returning it, then that could only mean-

"Yeah. Odette's gone. Can you do the job?"

K's only answer was a quick "Yeah."

"Good. I've already got into the police records for the gig with the twins. The official cause of the supposed gunshots was a misheard champagne cork. Nothing more."

"But gunshots don't-"

"Doesn't matter," Molly interrupted. "Get to work, Khan."


It was nearly one in the morning by the time K pulled up in front of the Bernard mansion. Odette's armoured car silently stood guard outside the main gate like an enormous steel watchdog. K slid out of her borrowed Japanese sedan, the leather of her pants squeeking against the leather of the seats.

She couldn't help but feel dirty and wrong as she dropped down through the hatch in Sleepy Sue's turret. It was like cheating on her lover. The interior, K found, was not quite as the rumours said. It was not entirely hollow, in fact quite the contrary. It was cramped and claustrophobic, with all of the parts one would expect from the Puma.

K squirmed into the driver's seat with no small amount of difficulty, then took a deep breath as she rested her hands on the steering wheel. That familiar sensation wormed its way into her brain. The feeling of suddenly knowing something that she hadn't mere moments ago. She knew exactly how the vehicle worked and how to push it to peak performance.

The white-suited Culexus took the opportunity to drive a few laps in front of the gate, revelling in the feeling of achieving one of her biggest dreams. Under her helmet, she wore a grin not unlike that of a child taking the bike they got for Christmas out for its first ride. Finally deciding she'd had enough, K lined it up with the gate and just the right angle, then slammed on the gas.

Tires screeched as the armoured car flew forward. It smashed through the wrought iron with a percussive cacophany of clanging and banging. If the neighbours weren't already calling the police, K figured they would be now.

The trip up the drive took far longer than K had expected. The path wound through trees and bushes while Sue rumbled over cobblestones.

K simply stared as she pulled up in front of the mansion. The entire south side of the building was pock-marked with holes of splintered wood and plaster. Parts of it looked as though the house was barely holding itself up.

A rubber-handled claw hammer materialized in her hand as she stepped up the front door, a black body bag hefted over one shoulder. The first swing only managed to dent the door knobs. Wood splintered and caved on the second. On the third, the knobs were smashed in, allowing K to kick down the door.

The entrance hall was even more of a mess than the rest of the house. Smears and pools of still drying blood added to the rest of the scattered debris.

She needed only to follow the path of destruction to find the broken magical girl. Mona had managed to sit herself upright against one of the book cases, a smear of crimson marking the distance she'd dragged herself. K had to admire her tenacity. Even with a gaping hole in her side and a missing leg, she'd made it that far.

Quickly searching the girl, K found her soulgem: a swirling orb of purple in the centre of a silver rose pendant. A subdued and classy piece of jewelry. It seemed to fit Mona, from what little K could assume of her. The gem still looked clean enough to last a few more hours. It would be close, but K could get it to the incubator on time.

The Culexus laid the sack in front of the fallen girl and quietly unzipped it. She gently picked up the girl's body, stowing her away with care. It only took a moment to find the missing piece of Mona against the opposite wall. K placed it right where it should have been, had it been attached.

Mona's body was lifted in a gentle bridal carry - it was the most K could do for her. It wasn't until she was already at the doorway that she noticed the dead man slumped over what K could only assume was his work desk. If this was the Bernard home and the girl was a Bernard then that meant-

K shook her head. The deal was to retrieve the girl. Nothing more. She let out a long sigh, transformed into a drawn-out burst of static by her helmet. If only she could just wish away the world's suffering, she thought. If only things were that easy.

Despite this, she put one foot in front of the other and found herself leaving the building.

The night called.

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 11[edit]

Therese thrummed her fingers on her desk. Everything had gone wrong. The plane had already left by the time she had reached the airport, taking nearly a half dozen soulgems to the other end of the country. Worse yet, a serial kidnapper was unaccounted for and she had somehow taken one of the most powerful girls in the Officio with her.

"God DAMN it!" The rusty-haired girl shouted as she slammed a fist on her desk. "What the FUCK happened last night?!"

A second girl sat across from her, her bangs pulled aside by a pair of hair-clips looked on with an expression that said all that she wanted to.

"This isn't your fault, you know-"

"I'm the WARMASTER for god's sake!" Therese yelled, seething with rage. "And I can't handle one girl and a bunch of no-name thugs?! Do you understand what that says about me? What that tells the other girls and god forbid the other warmasters!"

"You know what I think," Tyler said, giving the warmaster a knowing look, "I think this is Brighton's fault-"

"Oh shut the hell up, Tyler!" The warmaster groaned with a roll of her eyes. "You just don't know when to quit, do you?"

"Think about it!" The aide countered, leaning over her superior's desk. "Holly told me what happened. She said that Brighton over-ruled your plan and you went with it! You just let her boss you around!"

"MY plan?" Therese replied. "Even I know that my plan was stupid. What would we have gained if we just stormed the building, hm? A PR nightmare-"

"Time." Tyler stated bluntly. "You could have beat them to the punch. But instead you let Brighton waste time feeling the place out, sniffing around for shit like a dog-"

"You're honestly going to play this card NOW? I can't believe you," Therese shook her head while her hand reached under the desk and wrapped around her enormous warhammer. "My mentor- My FRIEND might be DEAD and you're going to turn this against her?!"

"We're not the police, Terry. We don't need to abide by those sorts of procedures. If we think someone is up to something, we don't sit around with our thumbs up our asses waiting for evidence. We kick their fucking teeth in and make them wish they never crossed us."

"We're not some street gang," the warmaster replied through gritted teeth, "we need to operate efficiently and with a modicum of restraint. In a moment of thoughtlessness I forgot that and Odette kindly reminded me."

"Will you EVER stop brown-nosing that degenerate?" Tyler shouted, standing up from her seat to pace about the room. "Jesus, you keep looking for excuses why this is somehow not her fault-"

"And YOU keep looking for reasons to shove her face in the dirt!" Therese roared. Bursts of static crackled and popped at her fingertips as she bit her lip, almost to the point of drawing blood. "You are seriously testing my patience here, Tyler. I don't know how Odette pissed in your cereal, but if you hope to keep your position you will get your pathetic vulture ass out of my office THIS INSTANT."

Tyler gave the warmaster a stern nod before turning on her heel and exiting the room without a word. Therese gritted her teeth and closed her eyes before flicking her hammer into the air, then bringing it crashing down upon her desk, cracking it in two.

"DAMN IT!" She cursed, breathing heavily.

She respected the previous warmaster far too much to openly admit that her own plan would have been a better option. It was a reckless, foolhardy plan, but it would have worked. Therese shook her head, desperately trying to get the thought out of her mind. Her eyes flicked to the PA system built into the ceiling.

"Holly!" She roared, her lip still quivering with rage.

A moment passed before the intercom crackled to life and the Vanus' voice rang out. "What's up, boss?"

"Send someone to clean up my office," the warmaster grumbled, scooping up her cap from the desk and fixing it on her head. "If anyone needs me, I'll be in the training room."

"Aye-aye, cap'n," Holly answered. "The boss wants to talk to you whenever you're available, but take it easy. Nobody needs another warmaster flying off the handle. Not again."

Therese only shook her head as she exited the room. "Whatever."


"Well, that's just peachy."

Mechanical fingers tapped at a glowing blue LCD screen, a distinct sound of whirring servos and hissing hydraulics in the background.

"Clean up crew to the warmaster's office," Holly called out over the building's PA system. "Clean up crew to the warmaster's office. Thank you."

The Vanus' work station was unlit, save the back-lighting of the numerous screens that surrounded her, while wires criss-crossed over the floor, leading to and from enormous computer towers and server cases. The Vanus sat in a large beanbag chair, her chin rested upon one knee, wearing little more than her usual pyjamas. Her long, raven black hair tapered down her back, over the chair and splayed out across the floor. Holly couldn't remember the last time she'd bothered cutting it.

A ham and swiss sandwich slowly appeared over her shoulder, clutched by a pair of thick, metal grippers. The mechadendrite reached just far enough to allow Holly a bite before pulling off to the side, out of her way. Her prosthetic hands tapped at the control interface once more, calling up an image of the Seventeenth incubator curled into a round, white ball upon his desk.

"Wake up, Chunky," the Vanus called out, "your warmaster just messed up her office. Again."

The incubator's body barely even moved as his thick head swivelled up to look at his own monitor. His prehensile moustache unfurled, then tapped at his keyboard with slow, lazy motions. After a few moments, his response seemed to sail through Holly's speakers without his mouth moving an inch.

"That hardly seems reason to wake me. The warmaster's anger management problems have been a well-documented segment of her employment."

"I'm going to sound like a broken record here but," the Vanus's prosthetic fingers stretched over her interface as she let out a long sigh, "it's not too late. She's not warmaster material, boss."

"Even if the matter were on the table to discuss," Fubey answered, tapping through screens as he spoke, "I dare say that we don't have very many options."

"Options? Harry could do it. Hell, she'd be great at it. The helmets already see her as some kind of team mom."

"My reasoning for her lack of consideration remains the same as it was two months ago," the incubator briefly pulled up the file of the Culexus rank leader before dismissing it just as quickly. "A Culexus warmaster would garner far more attention than it is worth. We get by as we do by keeping a low profile."

"Or maybe you could have trained Therese a bit more instead of tossing Odette like a bag of flaming piranhas..."

"Will that be all, Miss Corbin?" Fubey asked, turning his head to look directly into the camera in the corner of his office.

"Yeah," Holly answered, running a mechanical hand through her long, silken black hair, "yeah. That'll be all. Cunt."

"Good, good. Tell me, how does Miss Bernard fare?"

"Stabilized," Holly mumbled, taking another bite of her sandwich. "Should be waking up any time now."

"Excellent," the incubator replied, clasping his moustache together. "I believe I shall go visit them shortly. Will that be all?"

"Yeah, whatever."

"Don't forget, I do expect that memo to go out to everyone today. Good bye for now, Miss Corbin."

A second mechadendrite placed a large pair of headphones over the Vanus' ears as the image of the incubator blinked out of existence. With another few keystrokes, Holly's enormous sound system came to life, filling her ears with thrumming bass and lighting the room with bouncing LCD bars. The incubator had seen to it that her prison be furnished with any amenity she could possibly ask for, with the sole exception of human contact, of course.

Holly shook her head, then finished the rest of her sandwich - just in time to answer yet another summons. Such was life in the Crow's Nest. Such had been the Vanus' life for as long as she could remember.


Mona cracked open a sleepy eye. Late afternoon light filtered into the room through shut curtains. Everything seemed to ache; all of her pains melded together as one, stretching over her entire body. Her eyes adjusted slowly, trying to make out the shapes of her surroundings. The walls were an off-white, thin tubes snaked around and over her every which way and a blurry, black sphere hovered a couple feet over her bed.

"Mornin', sleepy-head!"

Mona groaned, trying to pull her head up, but getting stuck with her ponytail caught under her back.

"Hold on, hold on. I gotcha."

Someone reached behind her head, pulling her hair around in a blatant violation of her personal space. She could only think of one person with the audacity to do so. One single person who really didn't seem to abide by the rules of social etiquette.

"Meg," Mona groaned.

"Heeeeya, buddy," Meg drawled, a bright grin plastered across her face. "How you feelin', champ?"

The bed-ridden Eversor groaned as thoughts and memories from the previous night trickled into her mind. Her father was dead. Last she remembered, she was down a leg. Probably had most of her internal organs punctured or out-right torn to pieces. Mona sighed as she gave her partner a squinting glare.

"Pretty shitty," she grumbled, resting her head back against the pillow. "What happened last night?"

"Um," the shorter Eversor bit her lip and furrowed her brow, "that's... that's kind of a big question. Where should I start?"

"I'm assuming dad's..." Mona trailed off, her eyes wandering. The other girl could only look down and nod silently. Mona nodded in kind, her head bobbing up and down as she struggled with the thought, eyes stinging and growing hot. "Di- Did," she stammered, fighting to form the words on the tip of her tongue, "did Odette get that bitch? Did she keep her alive?"

"That's," Meg mumbled while her fingers tangled in the sheets, "that's, um... Nobody's heard from either of them. We, er, we think that she took the warmaster with her. F-former warmaster, that is."

Mona blinked, confusion suddenly halting her tears. "What?"

The other girl simply shook her head. "Nobody knows what happened. Nobody's saying anything about it either. Foobers is keeping it all hushed up," she mumbled. "I heard," Meg sniffed as a tear rolled down her cheek, suddenly losing control of her voice's volume, "I heard some other girls saying he was going to just let her go!"


"I don't know!" Meg shouted, wiping her eyes with a sleeve. "It's just a rumour or something, I don't-"

"Alright, alright," Mona sighed with a sniffle, "it's just a rumour. Don't get so worked up, dummy. So, uh, any- any word on dad's funeral?"

"Oh, uh, yeah, hold on," the other girl reached into her pocket, producing a well-used notepad, then quickly flipped through pages of doodles and other scribbles before reaching the one she wanted. "They, uh, they're postponing it until after you're out. The boss pulled some strings with the company and stuff. So no worries there."

"That's- that's good, I guess," Mona mumbled, fighting to put on a smile. "So, um, how am I?"

"You, uh," Meg flipped a few more pages over in her notepad, "you're about as fixed as necessary. Your leg is intact, but a lot of your guts are still reforming. Gonna be on soft foods for a while."

"Skip to the part where you tell me when I get out."

"Uh, lemme see," the short Eversor squinted, her eyes flicking back and forth as she read, "looks like you'll be in for a couple weeks. Gotta do a little therapy to make sure everything's in order and they want you here for that."

"Great," Mona groaned. "This is going to be a fun two weeks."

"Yeah, I figured you'd be bored a lot, so," Meg bent down, grunting as she placed a stack of books on the side of the bed, "I prepared some reading material!"

"Tell me that's not what I think it is."

"Every translated volume of The Steamy Adventures of Miracle Melanie and Murder Marjorie!" Meg shouted with glee as she gave the small pile a few good slaps. "You can probably get through the whole ba-"


"Whaaaat?" The smaller Eversor whined, her eyes nearly tearing up again. "Why not?"

"I'm not reading your damn lesbian comics, Meg," Mona stated as she sat up and crossed her arms. "That's final."

"Oh, come on," Meg said, trying her best to wiggle over in her seat to nudge the other girl with her elbow. "How 'bout I leave them here and, y'know, maybe you read them... maybe you don't... who knows?"

Mona heaved a sigh and shook her head. "Just... Just put them under the bed or something if you leave them here. I don't want the nurses thinking I'm into your weird cartoons."

"Hey!" The other girl shouted, slapping a hand down on the books once more. "These have deep and intricate plots that someone like you couldn't even begin to understand!"

"Just the other day you said that it was stupid bullshit that you weren't supposed to take seriously."

Meg squinted. "Uh, y- No. Nope. Uh, that- that doesn't sound like me. I'm pretty sure, uh, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't say something like that."

"You did," Mona stated pointedly, narrowing her eyes.

"Well, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on that one then."

Mona rolled her eyes and slumped back down on the bed, shimmying down under the covers. "If that's all then I'm going back to sleep," she muttered as her eyelids grew heavier. "I'll cry when I have a whole heart."

"Oh, just one more thing then," Meg said as she stowed her memopad away. "Everyone got an email from Chunkbey a couple hours ago. Apparently he wants everyone in the Officio to report to him by the end of the month to amend our contracts."

"Is he allowed to do that?"

"I guess," the short Eversor shrugged, thumbing through her smartphone. "He says whoever doesn't report in will lose their grief seed payment until they do. He wants to change it so that he can keep an eye on us through our soulgems like the other Officios do. I heard a lot of the other girls were really pissed about it."

"Makes sense," Mona grumbled. "Tell him he can come and do mine whenever he's free."

"Alright, I'll send him a text or something," Meg replied, taking a seat and putting her feet up on an adjacent chair. "This is gonna be so lame. Incubator or not, I don't need my boss knowing what kind of porn I look at."

The bed-ridden girl propped herself up on her elbow and and furrowed her brow, squinting at Meg. "You're not going?"

"Nah," she answered, "I've got time off until you're better, so I can stick around until they kick me out. I guess the boss didn't want to chance sticking me with a different partner. And, y'know, in case you need anything or something."

"Ah. Ok then," Mona murmured, pulling the sheets further over herself, just past her mouth. "I mean, you don't have to..."

"That's what friends are for, dork," Meg laughed.

The taller girl rolled over in bed, trying to hide how red her face had become. For years she'd never had someone close enough to call a friend. She'd always moved around too much or been too intimidating to approach. She'd known that they were friends, of course, but something about hearing it said aloud hit her right down to her core.



Lotte Laufson stepped down the stone stairway leading to a cozy pub nestled below ground on a busy street corner. It was a place frequented by just about everyone in Seventeenth who fancied a drink before, after or even during work. It was a homey, well-kept establishment, furnished with mahogany and polished brass. There was always some band or singer playing on the low wooden stage; more often than not one of the Officio's own girls. Lotte herself had long been something of a favourite among the bar's regulars. She'd grown a penchant for slower, more somber tunes, playing a contrast to the owner's habit of singing foot-stomping folk songs with her low, growling, cigarette-stained voice. More often than not the two ended up performing together, with the Bartender's guitar backing up Lotte's vocals.

The Callidus slipped in almost unnoticed amongst the usual racket, nervously tugging on her parka jacket. She moved along the edge of the bar at a brisk pace, eventually sliding into a booth already occupied by another - a shorter girl wearing a deep crimson hoodie with the hood pulled up, nearly obscuring her face.

"It's damn chilly out," Lotte remarked, shivering as she nudged further into the booth.

"I'll say," the other girl responded. "Is it always like this up here? I heard Canada was cold, but this..."

"Things get unpredictable at this time of year," the Callidus explained as she leaned over the table, rubbing her cold hands together. "Freezing one day, hot as hell the next."

Lotte's companion nodded as she made a muffled grunt of acknowledgement. "I'm guessing you didn't call me here to talk about the weather."

"It's about Odette."

"Christ, you have a hard-on for that chick," the hooded girl laughed. "I shoulda known considering she's damn near all you ever talk about."

"She's gone."

The girl blinked. "I'm sorry, what?"

"Vanished," Lotte stated. "We think that crazy hook bitch took her. Well, we're pretty fuckin' sure, but we don't know where, why or how."

"Well shit," the hooded figure muttered, bringing a hand to her chin. "That's a bit of a wrench in our plans."

"Puts a hell of a lot more than a wrench in them, if you ask me."

"Lotte, lemme tell you something," the girl said, leaning over the table. "If we let one girl disappearing get in the way of our plans, we wouldn't have shit. Gimme a day or two and I'll have something. Our plans may get delayed, but never stopped. We know how to play blackjack, if you catch my drift."

"Yeah?" Lotte snorted. "Well counting cards won't get you shit if the dealer suddenly says we're playing craps."

"That supposed to mean something or are you just being a snarky jackass?"

The blonde gave the hooded girl a sly grin before she slid her cellphone across the table. The other girl took it, then read it slowly. After a few moments she shook her head and passed it back.

"Shit," she muttered, holding a hand to her forehead. "Well that changes things."

"Like I said," Lotte replied with more than a hint of derision in her voice, "the game's changed. You've got a month before you're boned. After that, I can't help you and neither can anyone else in this Officio."

"No, no," the stranger said, shaking her head. "Shit, Lotte, you don't get it. This means EVERYONE in your Officio has to report in. Even the retired ones."

"What's your point?"

"The Seventeenth probably has one of the highest numbers of retired magical girls. The nice kind of retired, with spas and shuffleboard and shit. These girls get a small amount of grief seeds as a pension," the hooded figure explained as she began to gesture with her hands. "Now, their soulgems are marked as inactive so they don't accumulate grief, but every now and then... Y'know. You don't get magic powers and then sit around with your thumb up your ass all day. So they need grief seeds every now and then."

Lotte leaned further over the table, a look of confusion and slow realization coming to her face.

"Let's be optimistic and say they get two seeds a month," the other girl began to count off on her fingers as she went. "If our numbers are right, you've got somewhere around four hundred retirees. That's eight hundred grief seeds going out per month. Eight hundred a month means nearly ten thousand per year - and remember, that's being optimistic and assuming these girls are half-way responsible, which I really doubt."

The girl leaned forward to the point where Lotte could actually make out most of her facial features. She looked distantly familiar, like someone she had seen every day but didn't actually know. A wicked grin crossed the girl's face - a grin that sent shivers down even Lotte's spine.

"So say someone decides to off a couple retirees. Maybe they get someone of a certain set of talents to take their place and collect their seeds, or hell, maybe the proper paperwork just so happens to get lost along the way," the girl's teeth flashed in the dim light of the pub. "Your fat ass incubator's been a big help to a certain little niche of the black market."

Lotte's mouth hung open. "And he doesn't even know it..."

The hooded girl made a shooting motion with her fingers as she let out a short chuckle. "Bingo. And if he suddenly starts keeping records of this shit, that's bad news for all of us."

"Well shit, Surrey," Lotte said with a shrug. "I'm sorry, but that's not exactly my problem, now is it? Just means I can't hang out with bad influences like you."

"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up," Surrey muttered, waving the blonde off. "Go sing us something. I've got work to do."

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 12[edit]

Early morning light filtered through venetian blinds, casting a striped shadow over the jumble of sheets covering Charlotte Laufson. Her face had buried itself in her pillow while long, blonde hair splayed out and cascaded over the covers. With a groggy groan, she reached out to her bedside table, not bothering to lift her head as she groped and grabbed for her phone. The Callidus rolled over and stared at the screen with a tired, squinted eye still sore from crying herself to sleep. Wednesday. Five days since Odette had disappeared.

The first day had been easy enough. Sure, she had been worried sick, but the former warmaster had a habit of dropping off the face of the Earth for a few days at a time. Lotte had found ways to keep herself busy that day, to keep her mind off of what Odette might be going through. In the end, she'd spent the final hours of it wasting away on a bar stool trading memories with the Bartender.

Things got harder on the second day. The incubator had done Lotte the cruel kindness of giving her the week off to rest up. His caring always managed to carry that certain edge to it. Give her a week to stew in her sorrow. Give her a condo that cost god knows how much money as a parting gift for her abdication, while the person she cared for the most got nothing but a pink slip and an eviction notice. Maybe that was his plan all along.

By the fourth night, all she could do was think about all the things that she wished she'd said and done. Lotte couldn't even remember the last words she'd said to the little ex-warmaster. She'd never even worked up the courage to ask Odette to move in with her, even after her apartment had been broken into. Even Therese had offered to let her stay in the warmaster suite.

The Callidus pulled herself out of bed with a grunt and yawned as she made her way to the kitchen, still dressed in nothing more than her t-shirt and underwear. She cracked an egg and watched it fry as she rubbed the sleep from her pink eyes. A tired sigh escaped her lips as she played with the frying pan. With Odette gone, all of her mistakes seemed to come rushing back, fresh as the day before.

Lotte's eyes wandered to a picture frame long turned down. She couldn't forget it if she tried. In the middle was Odette's nervous, smiling face, freshly appointed as warmaster - her flowing white hair still long and her baseball cap tucked under one arm. Lotte herself - then Callidus rank leader - leaned over with her arm wrapped around the warmaster's shoulders, trying her best to mush her breasts into Odette's face and make her blush for the camera. Therese stood to the warmaster's left trying to hide her anxiety and look professional after just being named Eversor lead after Odette vacated the position. Harriet Blinde, the Culexus rank leader, loomed in the background with her black hooded cloak draped over her hardsuit, one piercing, yellow eye peering through the shattered hole in the left side of her helmet.

And then there was the girl that Lotte didn't allow herself to forget.

The scent of burning egg assaulting her nose shook the blonde from her stupor, making her flail about for a plate to slide the egg onto. In her absentmindedness, Lotte realized she hadn't even remembered to make toast for her breakfast. The Callidus sighed as she fished around in her freezer for a couple slices of bread. Popping them in the toaster, she leaned back against the kitchen counter, once again having little more to do than lose herself in her thoughts.

Two years ago. That was when it happened. Miranda Farewell was her name, but everyone just called her Mimi. She was the youngest of the rank leaders, having only been contracted a year and a half before Odette came to power. Her costume looked just like traditional funeral garb, lace veil and all. Somehow, Lotte had managed to butt heads with her from day one. The kid was all too intent on following rules and procedures; she was talented - greatly so - but lacked the experience and wisdom that came with age.

In reality, as Lotte had come to admit to herself, they had both simply been vying for the warmaster's attention. Nothing more than a couple of teenage girls with a crush on the same person.

The Callidus huffed as the toast popped. Her mind wandered as she ate her breakfast in silence, dwelling on the past and thinking about the future. As she finished the last bites of her slightly-overcooked egg, her brain switched to the present and she became aware of her current pitiful state. Following a deep breath, she glanced out the window and across the city, then muttered a quiet observation.

"I need to get out of the house."


Wind whistled through the skyscrapers of Toronto's financial district - an unseasonable cold that clung onto the spring as though trying to claw its way back into being. Gray clouds hung over head, a matching ceiling to the towering concrete walls of the city. Lotte shivered as she wandered aimlessly through the streets, her hands shoved deep into the pockets of her favourite fur-lined parka.

For the second time in her life, she couldn't simply calm herself with mindless hedonism. Her mind couldn't settle on any one thing to do. She'd alright spent enough nights perched on a bar stool. No way was she going to let herself become some whiskey-drenched alcoholic. The only person she cared to share her bed with was absent; that being the very source of her current restlessness.

One hand left her coat pocket and reached deep into that of her pants. The Callidus pulled her cellphone up with a haste that surprised even herself - the pocket nearly turning inside out as she yanked it. She stared at the screen as she trudged onward to nowhere. Her thumb flicked up and down, skimming through her gratuitous amount of contacts. Lotte couldn't help but find it funny how she knew so many people, yet there were so few that she was willing to confide in.

Therese was out of the question. They hadn't been on the best of terms for at least a year - even worse after Odette's impeachment. There were Odette's two lackeys - or fan girls as the Callidus saw them - but Lotte had never interacted much with them, despite being so close to the former warmaster. She wasn't even sure where the twins had come from, exactly. They just seemed to appear one day and follow Odette's beck and call.

Lotte couldn't bring herself to bother the Bartender or the Russian any more than she already had. They'd already been far too kind to her as it was. She considered visiting the Eversor in the hospital for a moment just as her eyes focused on one person she hadn't considered. Lotte's thumb hovered over the call button for a timid moment, then tapped it as she inhaled and put the phone to her ear.

A ring.

Then two.

After three rings, her call was answered by a nostalgic, slow, raspy voice distorted through a perpetually broken vox.

"Ah. Yo, Harry," Lotte greeted the Culexus rank leader. "It's Lotte. Long time no talk, eh?"

The Callidus grinned sheepishly as the Culexus greeted her in kind. It had been months since they'd spoken, even after staying close throughout Odette's tenure as warmaster. There was something refreshing about talking to such an old friend. Harriet had been contracted only a year before Lotte, around the same time as Odette had. The two were well-known as the two longest serving magical girls still active in the officio - each having somewhere near seven years under there belt. All who had come before them were either dead or retired, it seemed.

"Yeah, just figured I'd see how you were doin' and stuff," Lotte said, finding herself strangely nervous all of the sudden. "You, um, you've heard the news, right?"

She paused as Harriet voiced the affirmative, her slow voice making her sound all the more somber.

"Yeah, it's... Yeah. I'm- I'm doin' alright. Been better," the blonde stammered as she tried her best to put on a collected face. "How 'bout you?"

Harriet had always had an uncanny knack for seeing right through people, however, and this time was no different. Lotte pursed her lips, her walk becoming something more akin to a trudge as she weaved through pedestrians.

"Y- Yeah. Yeah. Okay. You got me," she conceded. "I'm a fuckin' wreck. What do you expect?" The Callidus paused briefly as she caught herself before her rant to go on any longer. "I... Uh, I'm sorry. That- That wasn't-" Lotte nodded as Harriet did her best to calm the Callidus. "I know, I know. Can't hide shit from you, ya creep. So what about you? Heard you went a little quiet after O got the boot."

The blonde kept strolling through the cold and windy streets while listening to Harriet slowly explain the state of her being. She had been one of Odette's closest friends - her reaction to the one-eyed girl's dismissal being evidence enough to that. The few people around Harriet had noted that she became more cold and distant, especially toward the incubator and the new warmaster. Lotte made a timid chuckle as the Culexus explained that the feelings between them were mutual - that she, too, had been worried sick.

"I thought as much. It's just... Christ," the blonde answered, "I just can't sit still. I need to DO something but I can't do shit because Terry and the fatass haven't said shit to anyone about anything and I just- FUCK. What the hell are they dragging their feet for?! The best girl this officio's ever seen goes missing and they just sit there picking their asses and I-"

Lotte paused as Harriet urged her to stop and take a deep breath. She could already feel her cheeks running hot and could only imagine how red her face was.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Lotte muttered, shaking her head, "I didn't mean to snap at you like that. You don't need this."

Something about Harriet's slow speech was oddly calming to the flustered Callidus. She had always been the voice of reason amongst the previous set of rank leaders. Despite her usual appearance and the sound of her voice, she had a certain motherly charm. Harriet was a calm observer, always prepared to give a frank opinion and a good word of advice when needed.

"Charlotte," the Culexus began, her vox-corrupted voice coming through like the grating of sandpaper, "it seems to me that you have been rudely and abruptly been made aware of your own mortality." She paused as short crackles of static popped from the phone's speaker. "I believe that you would do well to take heed of this lesson. Do not dally in your pursuits, whatever they may be. I have watched you for far too long and my patience for this matter has worn thin over the years."

"And..." Lotte paused and bit her lip, trying to force the words out. "And what if she doesn't come back?"

"Then you have truly been taught what happens to procrastinators in the harshest of manners. But you and I, we both know that Odette does not fall so easily."

The blonde nodded and gulped as the thoughts sank in. "Hey, uh, any chance you might want to come down and hang out some time?" She asked meekly, idly fiddling with a strand of wind-blown hair. "Been a while since we've had a get-together or anything."

Lotte nodded again as the Culexus gave her response. " That's cool," she muttered, hanging her head, "Yeah, I understand. Some other time then."

The two said their good byes and Lotte slipped the phone back into her pocket as she pushed herself off the wall and back into the street. She didn't know exactly how long she had walked for, but the sky seemed to grow a darker shade of gray by the time she found herself in front of the stairs down to Harrison's bar.

It was a homey little place nestled a floor below ground on a busy street corner. A large wooden sign with carved, sweeping font hung on the wall over the stairway, proudly announcing the place as having been established in 1924. Lotte had always wondered whether or not it was true. Black, wrought iron bars fenced in the stairs, decorated by an enlarged, framed copy of the menu.

The single white door jingled softly as Lotte entered, shivering as she pulled her coat on just a bit tighter. A woman with long, shimmering blonde hair was on stage, playing a violin while singing a slow, mournful melody in what the chilly Callidus could only assume was Russian. With a nod at the redheaded Bartender, Lotte took her seat and rubbed her hands together, desperate to get warm.

"Afternoon, Shirley," said the Bartender with a sharp grin as she leaned over the counter. "Had a feelin' I'd be seein' you again."

"Got nothing better to do," Lotte answered before adding, "and don't call me Shirley."

"For free drinks I can call you whatever I want, kiddo," the redhead retorted, pulling a bottle of her best whiskey from her sleeve with a dull glow. " So any news?"

"Yeah, they found two people," Lotte grumbled. "Their names are Jack and Shit."

"Christ," the Bartender muttered as she fished around under the counter for a glass. "Snowflake's really fucked up now, huh?"

Lotte smirked and let out a half-hearted chuckle. "She'd kill you if she heard you call her that."

"Ask me how many fucks I give," the redhead said, finally setting a few ounces of whiskey in front of the Callidus. "Go on, ask me."

"Tell me, Red," Lotte asked as she put the glass to her lips, "how many fucks?"

"Not a single one!" she exclaimed with a snap of her fingers. "Ruskie and I damn near raised that little twerp. I can call her whatever the fuck I want."

The Callidus swirled her glass and gave the Bartender a smirk. The redhead would have been beautiful if it weren't for her speech. She was rude, crude and had a voice like gravel in a blender after her years of smoking. Lotte's chin found it's way to her hands and she rocked her head back and forth, staring into her drink. She didn't even like whiskey, but it's what the Bartender insisted on giving her as of late. The label on the bottle was a faded gold with bright, crimson font reading 'Harrison's Finest'. She claimed it was specially imbued with magical girl powers to go down easier and get you drunk all the faster for it. The best you could find, or so the redhead claimed.

"Hey, Red?" Lotte asked, still cradling her chin in her hands. "Mind if I ask you a bit of a personal question?"


"What's it like to, y'know," Lotte gestured to the ring on the Bartender's finger with her chin, "have somebody and stuff?"

"Can't complain," the redhead answered. "I get to wake up with a hot blonde in my bed every morning. If that ain't the best thing, I don't know what is."

"So do I. Doesn't seem that great to me."

"Haha," the Bartender responded in monotone, "lookie here, folks. We got a fuckin' comedian."

"I'll be here all night," Lotte said with a grin. "But seriously, how is it?"

"Honestly?" The Bartender leaned further over the bar, lowering her voice. "It's the best. I mean, that's what newly-weds always say anyways, right? But damn, it's... It's somethin' else."

"Still can't believe you two finally got married."

"Eh, took us a while to get there," the barkeep added. "We got contracted, what? Nine years ago? Only reason we lasted so long is each other." She lowered her head to look the Callidus in the eye, a strangely sympathetic gesture for the usually uncaring Bartender. "Why? You gonna finally pop the question to Snowflake when she gets back?"

"No! I mean, well, yes, but... ugh," Lotte took a deep, strained breath to reorder her thoughts. "Not THE question. I was just thinking of asking her if she wanted to... retire together. With me. And stuff."

"And stuff." The Bartender nodded, changing her posture to lean back on the bar on her elbows. "Can't say it's a terrible idea. A bit late to quit while you're ahead, but at least you ain't hit rock bottom yet. Well, you didn't. Snowflake kind of did for a while there. Better late than never is basically what I'm trying t'say here."

Lotte made a muffled "hrm" in acknowledgement before taking a second sip of her drink. "I was thinking, since O likes her peace and quiet, maybe somewhere up north. One of those sleepy little towns with like ten people all named Frank."

"Even the girl?"

"Even the girl."

"Y'know," the Bartender started, that terrible grin never managing to leave her face, "I never understood the appeal of all that small town bullshit. Call me a city gal, but it weirds me out when there's no noise. No action. Feels wrong."

"Certainly explains your big mouth," Lotte replied with a smirk of her own.

"Well ain't you a cheeky little shit," the Bartender growled, pinching one of the blonde's cheeks.


"'ll teach you to talk back to your elders," the redhead said with a certain note of pride. "Oh, by the way. Your friend with the lame ass hoodie's been checkin' you out for a few minutes now." She pointed unenthusiastically behind Lotte to a dimly lit corner of the pub. "What fuckin' chump, sittin' in the corner like some kinda mysterious stranger all broodin' an' shit."

Lotte glanced over her shoulder, peering into the corner booth. Sure enough, there was the girl in the dark hoodie giving her a teasing wave.

"Ah hell," the blonde muttered. "When did she get here?"

"Few minutes after you did," the Bartender replied, pushing herself off the bar counter. "Looks like you've got yourself a stalker, Shirley. Who is she, anyway?"

"Just a friend," the Callidus answered quietly. "I'll go see what she wants. Talk to you later, Red." She paused, then after a moment's consideration added, "And send me over a damn mojito."

"Yeah, yeah," the Bartender mumbled as she waved Lotte off. "Later, twerp."

Heaving herself out of her seat, Lotte shoved her hands in her pockets as she wove a path between tables and past the all too young looking cocktail waitresses. She swore she could see the slightest glint of a pearly white grin beneath the darkness that unnaturally veiled her face.

"Hey pretty lady," Surrey called out as Lotte slid into the booth. "You come here often?"

The blonde narrowed her eyes, her brow forming a nearly straight line. "How did you know where to find me?"

"We like to keep tabs," the hooded girl answered with a sly smirk. "Get it? Cause we're in a bar and-"

"What do you want?"

"No fun, Laufson. No fun at all. I need a bit of information, same as usual," replied Surrey as she swirled her finger around the rim of a glass in front of her. "We've got a new plan, but we'll need a few things before we can kick off the fireworks. You in?"

"Depends," Lotte said, "you tell me what it is you need first, then we'll talk."

"Well," Surrey started, "it's like this. Turns out this whole... whatever you want to call it with the contract amendment actually works out in our favour. Everyone's mighty pissed, and consider everything else going on... All we need now is to give the officio a little push in the right direction, and it's split clean in two."

"Get to the point," the blonde groaned, "I wasn't exactly hoping my night would turn out this way."

"Night?" The hooded girl let out a snort of laughter. "Laufson, it's four in the afternoon."

"That early, huh? Shit..."

"Yup, so don't you start slippin' on me. We still got need for you," Surrey said, a bit more accusatory than Lotte would have liked. "What I need right now is a few things about the key players here. Who's at the top of the food chain, so to speak. Specifically, your warmaster."

"Terry?" Lotte asked, laughing to herself. "You want to know about Terry? Last I checked, you could look her up on the internet."

"Yeah, well," Surrey averted her eyes as her constant smirk tugged at the edges of her mouth a bit more than Lotte was comfortable with, "there are some things you can't find so easily. We like to get what we can before we starting tapping phones and bugging offices. I want to know what makes her tick. Where we can... put a little pressure to give her a gentle push in the direction we want."

"You want to know her weaknesses."

"More or less."

A waitress slid Lotte's drink onto the table without a word, after which the Callidus took a slow sip through the straw. "Well. There's always her anger issues. That's the big one that comes to mind," Lotte offered, "but you probably already knew that."

"Her episodes. Yeah," Surrey nodded, "we've heard of them."

"A couple years ago, right after, y'know-"

"The Miranda incident."

"Right," the blonde replied, her head hanging a fraction lower than before. "After the 'Miranda incident' if that's what you want to call it. Harriet nearly killed herself trying to keep Terry off me. You shoulda seen the size of the needle they jammed in her to sedate her. Took three of them to finally put her down."

"That tough, huh?"

"Shit yeah," Lotte snorted out a laugh before taking another sip of her drink. "She's a fuckin' monster when she gets mad."

"Stronger than Miss Brighton?"

"I... I don't know. In a fair fight I'd say it's a toss up," the Callidus prodded at her straw as she tried to think the hypothetical fight through. "O's got speed and smarts, but Terry's got brute strength. Not too bright, though."

"No?" Surrey asked, her interest suddenly piqued.

"Terry's never been the sharpest tool in the shed. Very 'storm the gates, guns blazing'," Lotte chuckled, gesturing wildly. "She isn't what you'd call 'leader material', exactly. Hell, most of the senior girls still want O back in power on account of the fact that she actually DID stuff when she wasn't pickin' fights. Terry just sits around and looks nervous. The Corbins do most of her work for her, as far as I know."

"At least she's not one of those warmaster's that just screws around playing grab-ass with the other girls," the hooded girl commented, sounding more than slightly annoyed.

"Honestly, I think I'd prefer that kind of warmaster over this," Lotte replied. "'least that way there'd be some sense of leadership."

"To each their own, I guess," Surrey conceded, leaning back in her seat to rest her elbows atop the backrests. "So she's got the administrative talent of a bull gorilla and she's not looked upon well for it. Anything else come to mind?"

"Just one thing and I don't even know if I'd call it a weakness," the blonde absentmindedly bit her lip as she turned the thought over, "but she's got this aide that's a bit of a... problem child."

"I've heard of her. Argente, the one with the hairclips, right?"

"Right," Lotte murmured, taking another short sip of her drink. "I think Terry only keeps her around cause she's good with the books, but," the Callidus leaned over the table, lowering her voice as she spoke, "she's got this real hard-on for pissing on Odette. She wants her dead more than anything in the world."

"What for?"

"Hell if I know," Lotte shrugged. "Some say it's cause Odette passed over her when choosing a new Vindy leader, but I don't know. Ty's not a fighter. The girl hardly ever gets combat missions, usually just book-keeping and meeting with people."

"And how is her relationship with the," Surrey hesitated for moment before putting emphasis on her next words, "current warmaster?"

"With Terry? First word that comes to mind is 'sycophant'," the Callidus snickered and shook her head, "next would be 'brown-nose'. You get where I'm going with this."

"Right, right. And the warmaster herself?"

"Terry tolerates her, but not a whole lot beyond that. Hairclips isn't exactly subtle or cunning with her... vendetta against Odette, or whatever you want to call it, so Terry gets mighty pissed whenever she tries anything. Other than that," Lotte shrugged as she began to run out of words, "Ty's the only person to put her name in for Equerry consideration so far, so Terry's been dragging her feet and hoping someone else wants the position. That's about all I can think of that'd be of any use to you."

"Oh, I think you've given me plenty," Surrey flashed a wicked grin beneath her hood before leaning over the table. "Now, we gonna talk payment now or later?"

Lotte thought for a moment as she processed what precious little she understood of the hooded girl's objectives. After a long drink she put her elbow to the table and held her chin in her hand, a smirk creeping across her face.

"You keep asking me for information," she began, gesturing with her other hand, "getting me to try and pull Odette into your schemes, making big promises that I don't know how the hell you expect to keep, and I just can't figure it out. One moment you seem to want one thing, the next you want another. I thought - for a while - that you wanted to put O back in power so you'd have someone higher up under your thumb... Seemed logical enough." The Callidus narrowed her eyes, resting her chin on the back of her palm. "But now this? Going after Terry? Splitting the officio in two? You talk like you want a war here."

"Could you be a bit more specific with your question?"

Lotte's smirk vanished in an instant as her voice went cold. "What exactly is it that you're trying to achieve here? I don't like being fucked with."

"I'm afraid that's a little out of your price range, Laufson," Surrey smiled in a way that seemed to tip-toe the borders of innocent and condescending. "Anything else?"

"Is Odette coming back?" The blonde asked. "Surely you and your connections should be able to figure that one out. Or is that out of my price range, too?"

"That's two questions. Which would you prefer me to answer?"

"Don't be a smart ass."

"Will she be back?" Surrey giggled, a sound that sent shivers up Lotte's spine. "Signs point to yes."

"Good," Lotte responded as she slid out of the booth and shoved her hands deep into her coat pockets. "Then leave us the fuck out of this and don't contact me again. I'm done with you and your people."

The hooded girl merely continued to laugh to herself as the blonde stormed out of the pub. A small flame flickered to life at her fingers tips. She watched as it danced before her eyes, rolling and tumbling it over and under her fingers and across her hand.

"The return of the Winter Warmaster," she whispered with glee, her eyes glistening in the fire's light. "How exciting."

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 13[edit]

One thousand five hundred feet above the ground, two girls stared out over the city. Green and red lights draped the buildings, tall blocks of glass and concrete crowned with a coating of frost. The two of them gazed without a sound; the silence spoke every word they would need. Cars zipped by as the lights danced in the night for the girls, reflecting in their twin pairs of eyes.

The first was tall and wore a black baseball cap atop flowing golden blonde hair. She was graceful and elegant, her face beautiful and her body womanly. She wore a black winter coat and a pair of scuffed denim jeans - a care-free contrast to the air that surrounded her.

Her arm was wrapped around the shoulders of a much younger girl; the top of her white-haired head didn't even reach the blonde's shoulders. Her bright eyes, the colour of the winter sky, twinkled as the city lights reflected off of them, darting back and forth as different pin pricks of brightness caught her attention. In her hand was a brand new notepad, clutched tightly to her chest as if she feared it would somehow fall through the window before her and disappear into the streets.

"Odette," the blonde started, moving her hand up to ruffle the shorter girl's hair before she came to rest her cheek against the silvery mess, "what is a legend?"

Odette's eyes shifted up as she didn't dare move her head. "My lady?"

"A legend," the blonde repeated, gesturing with her free hand for emphasis. "We are immortal. We fight monsters no god would dare to dream, and we are forgotten. Our songs unsung, our stories untold. We live, we die, we fight like heroes and the world is none the wiser. Sounds to me like the stuff of legends and yet," a near-silent hint of a sigh wisped through her lips, "here we are."

Odette remained silent as she slowly turned her head up to face the Warmaster. The city lights reflected off of the blonde's somber eyes, a melancholic smile curling her lips ever so slightly. Odette had found her in such moods with increasing frequency in the past weeks. At first, she was worried that the Warmaster was finally beginning to succumb to the strains of office, but it had slowly begun to seem like something far more - something Odette had no hope of placing with all of four years of experience.

"I've been doing this job for a very," the Warmaster hesitated and hugged the shorter girl more even tightly, "very long time. I can't even remember the first witch I fought, but I'm sure that we must have been friends. And then I kept fighting and the people around me kept dying. First a few, then dozens, then hundreds.” She paused again, her eyes sinking to floor. “I'm sure I've seen at least a thousand magical girls die around me and I remember so precious few of them."

It scared Odette. It scared her to hear her mentor say such things; her mentor, who was a bastion of positivity and enthusiasm every day, no matter what misfortune befell her. It was a rare day when the blonde even spoke about her past at all, never mind act so reminiscent. To Odette, her teacher had never looked so old as she did that night.

"I'm tired, Odette," the Warmaster murmured, almost as if she didn't want the silver-haired girl to hear it. "I think," she hesitated, as though reconsidering her words for a brief moment before continuing, "I think our next witch hunt shall be my last."

"You're going to retire?" The question seemed as if it should have been obvious and yet, somehow it wasn't.

The blonde's body shook against Odette's as she laughed quietly. "Something like that."

"But what about the Officio?" The shorter girl's question sounded far more pleading than she intended. "What- What's going to happen if you leave?"

"You'll manage," the Warmaster's care-free response did nothing to ease Odette's mind. "Why do you think I made you Warmaster-in-training, hm? Did you think I would always be Warmaster?"

"Of- Of course not, but..." Of course she did. Odette couldn't imagine a world without the woman who had practically raised her. Being Warmaster-in-training... That was a contingency plan. A 'just-in-case' that would end up necessary. At least, that was what she had always told herself.

"You'll do a fine job," the blonde assured her, rubbing her cheek into Odette's long, silver hair. "Someday you'll become the hero I never could be. 'The Winter Warmaster' they'll call you." The Warmaster ran her hand through the shorter girl's hair again as she lifted her face. "I'm sure of it."

Odette looked up at the lights twinkling in the blonde's big, blue eyes. She saw a girl who could have been no more than twenty. She saw an old woman who was several times that age. But more than anything else, she saw someone who had seen a lifetime of grief and anguish and had finally, at long last, had enough.

Her name was Brie Eldridge, First among the Seventeenth.

Five days later, on a cold winter morning, she taught Odette what it meant to become a legend.


After nine days, Odette remembered. Her body was battered and broken; the golden hook still pierced her chest just below her left shoulder, hanging her as if she were little more than a piece of meat in a butcher shop. Her eyepatch was adhered to her face with dried blood that trickled down from her scalp. The wound in her chest had long since faded into a dull ache that stung every time the wind picked up and tore it open anew. The once white and platinum costume that she still wore was dirtied and caked with blood from the cuts and bruises that decorated her body.

Odette's mind slowly churned to life like a car starting for the first time in months. Memories of the past several days trickled in as her body began to respond to her commands once more. Her fingers and toes cracked and twitched as new life flowed into them at long last. The girl wheezed as her lungs pulled in the first breath of air they'd felt in days, the taste of fresh, cold air washing over her tongue as life was quite literally breathed into her. For the first time in years, Odette felt cold.

But the cold belonged to her.

With a shallow breath, the fingers of her right hand arched. That hand balled up into a fist. Every muscle in her body tensed for a brief moment.

Then she felt it.

The feeling spread from her chest, down her arms and legs, up to her head then out to her fingers, her toes and her ears. It wasn't quite warmth - that was a feeling she would have to reluctantly go without for the time being - it was more a simple absence of cold. That would be enough to keep her moving.

Odette's mind turned over once more as she regained feeling. A rough groan escaped her lungs as they continued to work; forced, painful breaths slowly easing out until they almost stopped hurting. Thoughts began to pour in as more than simple pictures and images. Words formed. Ideas. Passions. Regrets. Everything flooded in at once as if a dam had finally cracked and burst within her head.

Three years ago, she had brought the Seventeenth Officio back from the brink of annihilation with her own two hands. When half of the Officio had deserted and another tenth witched out from grief, it was by Odette's word that the remnants had held the line. It was by her hand alone that Brie's legacy lived on.

And it was by her hand that it had slipped away and crumbled before her eyes.

By her hand that the Seventeenth had become one of the weakest of the Twenty.

"Every girl who wants a cake", as the Bartender had put it - though not without her own colourfully-worded spin. That was what the Seventeenth's policy had become following Brie's demise. A proud bastion of strength turned to a laughingstock before Odette's eyes. For the first time in years, she saw what she had become. She was a perfect mirror of the masses that once followed her. Proud and awe-inspiring for a time... Before everything slid away. After Miranda's death, Odette had become little more than a dog off its chain - snapping and picking fights at every opportunity while her Officio deteriorated around her.

An Officio of legends turned to nothing under her command.

She would have said something if she could; something witty or poignant as she always used to. There was a time where she was known for her charisma and gravitas. Now, however, her chest was too weak and her throat was aching and dry. Instead, anything she might have had to say came out as a cough that shook her body and ripped the stuck flesh away from the golden hook.

It was only by harnessing the sensation of that pain that she managed to pry open her single eye at long last. Surprisingly, it didn't take long at all for her lone pupil to adjust after being closed for days. The world around her was painted in shades of black and grey by the yellowing moon that hung overhead. It wasn't quite at its peak - that would have meant something to her if she was in any condition to think about it.

Crickets sang, playing their own distant fanfare for Odette's reawakening. She was in a forest, she could tell that much. She had been hung from a tree at the edge of a clearing, at the very center of which she could make out an illuminated box. The more she squinted, the more lines began to form as the shapes around her became distinguished. The contours and shadows of the box slowly came into focus, proving to be a wooden cabin with lamp left on porch - the light barely reaching across the clearing. Every now and again, Odette could make out signs of movement through the windows.

With a second flex of her hand, she felt the wind begin to pick up as cold, crisp air flowed between spread fingers. Odette's hanging body swayed in the breeze, cradled as though the wind were a mother rocking her child to sleep. It whistled between the branches and trees, singing a shrill lullaby for the child of the cold. With her one hand, she motioned once more, calling to the northerly and bidding it play her a symphony.

As she felt the first snowflake touch and melt upon her nose, a smile crept up Odette's battered and bloodied face. Her hand clenched into a fist; the windy canon ceased.


Fennel Vance stepped up to Odette, craning her messy-haired head from side to side as she stared up at the hanging girl. One hand idly spun one end of the golden hook while the other hand tugged lightly on the chain, making the one-eyed girl bob up and down lifelessly.

"Odette," the Wolf muttered, giving the chain a stronger tug.

No response.

"Odeeeette," Fennel drawled, tapping her foot anxiously. "Shit, if you die on me I'm gonna be in a shit load of trou-"


The word came out as a wheeze through a burning throat. It was as much a demand as it was a plea. Fennel nodded, tilting her head from side to side as she did. "Water, huh?" She said, a bemused grin appearing on her face. "Y'know what? As a reward for bein' such a trooper, you got it! I'll be right back, you hang tight."

Odette tried tell the other girl to go fuck herself. Instead, it seared her aching throat and came out as a long bout of coughing - a bout of coughing that then rocked the hook sticking out of her shoulder and made her bite her lip almost hard enough to draw blood. She stared down the other girl as she skipped off to the cabin, lip quivering and twitching in a mixture of pain and fury.

The silver-haired girl didn't know exactly how long it took Fennel to return with that blessed bottle of water. Something told her that she must have slipped out of consciousness some time during the wait. A heavy clinking sounded as she felt her body slowly drop toward the ground, prompting her to open a heavy-lidded eye. Just as she felt the tips of her toes brush the ground, a bottle of water was unceremoniously jammed into her mouth and tilted up. She coughed and sputtered at the sudden sensation before Fennel yanked the bottle away.

"Hah!" She barked, shaking the chain still clutched in her other hand, adding a high-pitched echo as it jangled "Oh man! You should see your face right now! Okay, okay, that was mean. For real this time."

The second time, Fennel allowed Odette to place her lips around the mouth of the bottle and lifted gently, allowing the suspended girl to drink properly. It wasn't until the bottle was empty that the Wolf pulled it away, smiling wickedly at her captive.

"So whatcha say?" She asked. "Ready to throw up your arms and praise the Blessed Lady? Or whatever you want to do, really. Up to you. I ain't gonna tell you how to be one of Her champions. Not like it's m-"

Fennel halted her musings and cocked an eyebrow at Odette. Her body seemed to be spasming with growing intensity and it took the messy-haired girl a few moments to realize that she was, in fact, laughing.

"The fuck are you havin' a chuckle abo-"

And that's when Odette did it. With a sudden exhale, she spat. Funny as it was, it was the only thing she could think of. She'd managed to force herself only to drink as much as was absolutely necessary. The water seemed to distort and twist in mid-air, shimmering unnaturally as it flew. Fennel barely had time for the event to register in her mind. She let out a horrid screech and dropped to her knees as the glistening mass struck her face. The golden chain hit the ground as both hands raced to clutch and claw at the site of the impact.

"MY EYE," Fennel wailed, her voice cracking as she screamed. "IT'S IN MY FUCKIN' EYE!"

Odette's body collided with the ground, no longer held aloft by the hook impaling her chest. The other girl's gaze twisted up at her. She glared with a single blackened eye, a jagged shard of ice jutting from the other. Her snarling face was decorated with dozens of cuts and slices from smaller shards that ran the gamut from those no bigger than paper cuts to a ragged gash slicing open one side of her mouth.

"You bitch!" Fennel snarled, wiping the blood from her cheek on one sleeve as she picked up her golden chain once more. "You FUCKING BITCH!"

Odette had only just finished dusting her self off when she felt the other girl yank her closer. She stumbled and nearly tripped as the chain was reeled in, finally stopping when she was nearly face to face with the Wolf. Yet, still she continued to laugh and giggle as if there was some unspoken joke that Fennel simply wasn't getting.

It wasn't until she had already opened her mouth to speak that the messy-haired girl finally understood. Her one remaining eye widened in a mixture of confusion and fear as the first snowflake came to rest on Odette's shoulder. In seconds, one snowflake turned to dozens, dozens turned to hundreds and hundreds became a blizzard.

Fennel's hand shot out toward Odette's throat, then passed right through it as though the smaller girl didn't even exist. The Wolf's face contorted in rage while her target flashed a wicked grin - one that mimicked her own frequent expression - as her body seemed to fade into the snowstorm. In moments, Odette was gone; only dancing snow marked the place where she once stood.

"I have to hand it to you," the one-eyed girl called out, her voice carried on the wind, "you really gave me some time to think. I needed that."

Fennel's head turned around at a speed that made Odette wonder how she didn't snap her own neck. There the Winter Warmaster stood in the middle of clearing, her face still bloodied but her costume fresh and clean. The hole in her chest was iced over, providing a much-needed numbing cold. Her figure seemed to shimmer and shift as the snow passed between them, her features changing subtly. One moment her hair was short as it had been for years, the next it was down to her waist. Fennel could even swear that for a brief second she wore a black baseball cap - the same that had been past down from her predecessor.

"Come on then," Odette beckoned, cracking her knuckles. Her voice seemed to speak as two; one whispering quietly through the air, the other a howling, raging gale. "Show me what this Blessed Lady's chosen are made of!"

That was all the reason Fennel needed to charge. Her feet fell through an inch of snow as she rushed her opponent, a hook clutched in either hand. Her anger, however, blinded her. She never stopped to think why her opponent had stopped to call out to her. She didn't question why Odette seemed to do so while appearing entirely unarmed.

As the first golden blow struck her, the silver-haired girl burst like a bubble into a million twirling snowflakes. A split-second later, her shin slammed into Fennel's ribcage with an audible crack.

The former Warmaster felt exhilarated as fresh adrenaline pumped through her veins. She had realized her biggest mistake in her last engagement. Her spears forced her to fight at mid-range, exactly where the Wolf was strongest. She had to get close - get right up in her opponents face - in order to nullify Fennel's advantage. So she decided on the simplest path. She wouldn't use her spears at all.

Fennel's spine twisted as she brought one hook around in a downswing. Odette, however, was faster. One hand caught the Wolf's wrist while she brought her heel down on the girl's foot. She wasn't in any mood to fight honourably.

A moment too late, Odette noticed the chain coiling around her foot. Fennel yanked hard, bringing the silver-haired girl to the ground. She had no choice but to roll away as hook after hook struck the ground. The chain went taut as she reached her limit. Suddenly remembering something a fellow Warmaster had taught her during one particular sparring match, she shoved herself off the ground with one arm and swung her leg around in a wide arc. The chain tangled in Fennel's legs and swept her off her feet while Odette pulled herself up and delivered a violent stomp to the other girl's right elbow.

Fennel swore as she pulled herself up - only to find that Odette had disappeared yet again. She squinted into the storm with her one remaining eye as she listened for footsteps. It was as if she had fallen into an entirely new world. The trees, her cabin, everything seemed to have disappeared into the blizzard.

Every so often, Fennel swore she could see movement. Figures moved in the snow, distant enough that she couldn't quite make out their features. A chill crept up her spine as she realized with a silent horror that the pair weren't alone in the storm.

It was then that Odette reappeared. Her quick footsteps crunched through two inches of snow. Fennel barely had time to dodge a spear aimed at her knee, moving so that it instead sliced an inch deep cut in her thigh. Her hook pierced the bottom of the former Warmaster's black cloak, catching her as she tried to run past.

As the chain jerked and tore at her cloak, Odette did the one thing that no opponent ever seemed to see coming - she threw a snowball. It hit the side of Fennel's face with a satisfying "whump" and the girl howled in pain once more.

"THAT HAD ICE IN IT," she screeched, clawing at near-invisible pins of ice that dotted her cheek. "WHAT IS WITH YOU AND THRO-"

Odette took the opportunity to knock the air out of Fennel's lungs with a firm blow to the gut. The Wolf doubled back, swinging her chains in a wide arc as rage and frustration overtook her. Her other arm hung limp as her vision went red. The silver-haired girl had managed to throw her in a blind fury, and with that, the fight was already over.

The former Warmaster disappeared into the snow again as one hook soared through the air where she once stood. The next second, she was behind Fennel. Odette seized her opponent by back of her collar and took another handful of fabric, then HEAVED. The Blessed Lady's chosen blinked as it dawned on her that she was suddenly soaring through the air. Another moment later, she crashed head-first through the window of her cabin and collided with the floor while the golden chain clattered and slid to the other side of the room.

The one-eyed girl stepped through the broken window, shards of glass crackling under foot as she slowly strode over to her opponent. Fennel tried desperately to crawl over to her weapon, her one good hand out-stretched toward it, grasping in vain. That was, until a silver-headed spear nailed her hand to the floor.

"Shit," Fennel muttered. With one hand impaled and the other arm broken at the elbow, she knew when she was beaten.

Odette slumped down into a nearby armchair and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. She reached behind herself and pulled that old pack of cherry-flavoured cigarettes out of her cloak, along with a lighter. She lit one clumsily - the second one of her life - then took a long drag on it, coughing and sputtering as the smoke entered her lungs.

"Didn't know y'smoked," the grounded girl observed, still pinned on her stomach.

"I don't."

Fennel made a muted grunt of acknowledgement, then groaned as she tried turning herself to look at Odette. "'s a filthy habit. Doesn't really suitcha, if y'ask me."

Odette nodded before putting the smoke out on the icy patch on her chest. "You got a bathroom?"

"Uh, yeah, yeah," the Wolf answered. "It's just," her head jerked toward a door on the far side of the room, just beside where the golden chain currently rested, "over there. Girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, I gotcha. Take yer time, I ain't goin' nowhere any time soon."


The one-eyed girl pulled herself out of her seemingly extraordinarily comfortable chair and made her way into the tiny closet that called itself a bathroom. There was little more than a toilet, sink and, fortunately, a mirror. After a moment's hesitation, she forced herself to do what had to be done.

She reached up and, with both hands, slowly pried the eyepatch off of her face. She winced as the dried blood around the edge was pulled free of her face, forming an eyepatch-shaped ring around the socket that once held her left eye. Currently, however, it was occupied by a swirling, glistening black and blue orb - Odette's soulgem. She stared at it for some time before palming the last of her on-hand grief seeds and tapping it to the gem. It wasn't entirely pure, but it would last for the time being.

Odette spent some time cleaning herself up. She was amazed at how there always seemed to be more dried blood that she hadn't washed off. Finally, thinking herself presentable enough, she stepped out. One hand subconsciously reached down and picked the golden hooks off of the ground and slung them over one shoulder. A moment later, she found Fennel's soulgem and pocketed it after her costume shifted back to her casual clothing.

"How do I get out of here?" Odette asked, lighting up a third cigarette.

"Yer gonna wanna go out that door," Fennel thrust her head at what appeared to be the front door. "Then you keep going down the dirt road. Make a left at the paved one and there should be a gas station with a payphone about a mile down."

"Thanks," the former Warmaster muttered a second time. She was amazed at how helpful the other girl was went they weren't trying to kill each other.

Odette tossed the remainder of the pack of cigarettes into a trashcan near the front door, followed by the one she was currently smoking and the lighter. She watched until she saw smoke begin to rise before stepping out. Fennel called something after her, but Odette's mind was already long gone. She didn't remember much of the walk to the gas station, or much after it at that.

She called HQ. Holly answered. Someone cried. The world went black and Odette slept easy knowing that the Winter Warmaster had returned.

The Coldest Night[edit]

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 14[edit]

"How is she?" A voice asked.

"Stabilized," a second voice replied. "She should be waking up any second now."

"Great, great," the first voice paused for a moment, taking a deep breath. "Thanks for doing this, Red. It... It really means a lot."

"Ain't no sweat for Snowflake. Gotta keep the old lady's girl alive, after all."

"You look pretty swell in that outfit, by the way."

"Oh for fuck's-"

Odette groaned. An all too familiar tingle ran through her body - the feeling of freshly regenerated tissue and organs. It felt as though she'd just gotten the best sleep of her life. Her mind was refreshed, her body felt new. It was really as much as she could have asked for, given the past week. Her one eye blinked open and she winced as blinding white filled her vision.

"Speak of the devil."

The one-eyed girl pulled herself upright, blinking and squinting until her vision finally adjusted. The room was typical of the Officio's sickbay; a standard hospital bed, a couch to her right and the door at the far end of the left wall. The tables on either end of the couch were covered with cards, bouquets and what Odette sincerely hoped were boxes of sweets. The couch itself was occupied by the retired Vindicare only known as the Russian, polishing her rifle with a rag. Her wife, the Bartender, fiddled with medical equipment to the left of the bed, dressed in what appeared to be a light pink nurse's outfit, complete with a little cap. Finally, at the end of the bed sat Lotte Laufson, stroking a white blob in her lap that the former warmaster could only assume was the Seventeenth incubator.

Odette rubbed her one eye and let out a long yawn. Her brain still hadn't fully shifted into gear as she greeted the room with a simple, "Mornin' guys."

All eyes suddenly shifted to the one-eyed girl - even those of the moustachioed incubator. A moment passed in silence. Then another, and another after that.

"So, uh," the former warmaster started, "can anyone maybe get me some juice or something?"

Everything seemed to speed up the instant she stopped speaking. It was as if time had stopped for a few precious seconds and was suddenly trying to catch up to where it should have been. The blonde at the edge of the bed burst into tears, launching the incubator off of her lap as she embraced Odette in a smothering hug. The one-eyed girl's vision went dark as her face was abruptly swallowed by a soft and pillowy sensation.

"I was worried sick!" The blonde cried. "I thought you- you- you were dead, you s-stupid- stupid... STUPID!"

Finally relinquishing Odette's face from the grasp of her cleavage, Lotte sunk lower, burying her own sniffling face against the former Warmaster's chest. "I- I thought..."

"Come on, Lotte," the silvery-haired girl muttered, still barely awake as she ran one of her delicate hands through the Callidus' hair. "You didn't think I'd die that easy, did you?"

"You should've seen her," the Bartender said, passing a glass of juice into Odette's free hand. "And here I thought we retired from babysittin' you two dumbasses."

The one-eyed girl took a quick sip of the orangey-yellow juice, then nodded contentedly. "Peach."

"Your favourite. Still remember."

Odette nodded again, suddenly shifting her gaze to the redhead's clothing. "Cute outfit."

"Come on! It's standar-"

"She is wearing because it is making her look cute!" The Russian interrupted, rising from her seat to step over to her partner and plant a kiss on the redhead's cheek. "Is okay for her to do the dressing up some times, too! Believe or not, she is still girl on squishy inside parts, even when she makes the grouchy pretends."

"Th-thanks?" The Bartender muttered, half a question.

"But," the blonde foreigner added, taking a seat beside Odette, opposite the still-sniffling Callidus, "do not be mistake. Your big sisters did much worrying. It is good to see you safe, malenkaya." She punctuated the statement by ruffling the smaller girl's white hair and planting a motherly kiss atop her head - forcing Odette to turn her head away bashfully.

"I, um," the former warmaster mumbled, trying to regain her words. "Th-thanks, everyone. This, uh, this really means a lot. I didn't... I didn't think-"

"That's your problem, shorty," the Bartender butted in, "you don't think."

The Russian snapped her gaze to the redhead and made a "Tsh!" noise to silence her wife.

"I guess I didn't really think people would miss me all that much," Odette concluded, almost whispering as she reached the end of her statement. She gave a last sheepish shrug as her eye shifted between the three girls in the room, unsure of who exactly to address. "I'm... I'm sorry, guys."

"Stupid!" Lotte cried out again, pounding the silver-haired girl's chest with her fist - all without lifting her head.

"What she said," the Bartender muttered, smirking.

"Yes, yes, you are two of the same kind," the Russian laughed as she rose from her seat, hooking her finger under the redhead's short sleave. "For now we will leave the little ones. You must return uniform to supply closet, yes?"

"But they don't keep them in the- Oh," the Bartender paused as a grin slowly crept across her face. "Ooooh, yeah. Yeah. Definitely gotta return it. To the supply closet."

"Yes, dorogaya," the blonde sighed. "Subtlety is not strongest suit, is known. Now come."


With that, the couple disappeared through the door, leaving Odette alone with the Callidus who had found her way into the former Warmaster's arms. Her mind was still clouded in a painkiller-induced haze - even the edges of her vision seemed a bit fuzzier than normal. The last thing that she could remember was leaving the cottage in the woods. Everything else melded together in one big blur that seemed to waver between dream and reality. She could pick out bits and pieces, but couldn't entirely make sense of them. Odette could swear that it was none other than the white Culexus herself that had driven her back. Then there were the images that didn't seem to match up with anything. A pastel shade of pink. A pair of jagged, crystalline talons coloured with the dusky crimson of dried blood. A ragged, empty eye-socket. And gold - something about gold that seemed to invade every dark crevice of her mind.

The silver-haired girl's brief musings were interrupted as Lotte began to stir once more, turning her face up to look Odette in the eye.

"Hey," she muttered, red-eyed and sniffling.

"Hey," Odette greeted her in return, smiling gently.

"Ah, erm, excuse me," a Fubey added, rolling out from under the hospital bed. "I apologize, but I believe we agreed that I would be allowed to speak with Odette first, Miss Laufson."

The blonde groaned as she seemed to slither off of the bed. "Yeah, yeah. You won," she grumbled. "I'll see you in a bit, O."

Odette waved as the Callidus stepped out of the room. The incubator balled himself up like a big, fat coiled spring, before launching himself at the edge of the bed. Fubey made it halfway up, his paws out-stretched as he clawed at the sheets, grunting and groaning to heave his entire mass up onto the bed. He placed himself in the one-eyed girl's lap, staring at her with his beady red eyes, his face inexpressive.

"My god, you've gotten fat while I was away," Odette remarked.

"You know full well that I am the same size as I always was, Odette," Fubey replied, blinking.

The former Warmaster shrugged and giggled to herself, a lazy, painkiller-adled smile on her face. "My mistake. You're just as fat as you always were."

"Are you quite finished?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm good," Odette laughed, waving a hand at the incubator. "I'm sorry, go on."

"Thank you," Fubey said with the slightest hint of derision. "When you were found, you were extraordinarily close to becoming a witch. It is no small miracle that you were returned to us intact. I look forward to a full debriefing when you are in better condition. Might I ask how you are feeling now?"

Odette looked up and down herself, then replied, "A bit tingly. Pretty tender, but otherwise okay."

"Excellent. When we found you, you were in... rather poor condition, to say the least. Once the ice was removed from the wound in your shoulder, your arm very nearly fell off entirely. While it was a simple matter to heal the injury, you will note that a scar has formed in its place. While I am aware that you detest retaining such blemishes, I was unable to remove it, despite my best efforts."

Odette peered down, hesitantly lifting the light hospital gown away from her chest. There, just below her left shoulder, was a circular scar, no more than an inch across, marring her pale skin exactly where the golden hook had pierced her. It looked, strangely enough, unusually similar to a bullet hole in glass. Odette had always made it a matter of pride to allow any injuries to heal completely, a habit picked up from her predecessor. 'Scars are for magical girls with something to prove,' as Brie had always told her.

"But, I take it you are not feeling any mental side effects?" Fubey asked.

"I don't think so," the one-eyed girl responded, blinking. "Why?"

"Good, good," the incubator nodded. "When you were found, you were clutching a set of golden chains and hooks rather tightly. I assume they were the ones mentioned in Mister Rossi's account. According to Miss Laufson, you were also repeating some phrase involving 'angels'. You have no recollection of this?"

Odette shook her head. "Nope. After I left the cabin, everything's kind of hazy. I didn't even know I brought those things with me."

"Interesting," Fubey nodded again. "As I said, you were holding onto them rather tightly. Regrettably, the Russian was forced to break some of your fingers to remove them."

"Ah..." The one-eyed girl muttered.

"Yes... I may still schedule you for a class two psychological evaluation, just to be sure," the incubator continued. "The hooks have been placed in our maximum security vault until we can determine whether or not they possess any anomalous properties. Currently, only yourself and the Warmaster have been given clearance to handle them. Miss Corbin has been assigned to investigate any previous reports of such weapons from my brothers. It had been brought to my attention earlier, but the reports seemed irrelevant at the time."

"And what'shername?" Odette asked. "The little shit?"

"Miss Vance?"

"That's the one. I brought her gem back, right?"

"Indeed, you did. She has been placed in holding cell nine-oh-one," Fubey answered. "I would suggest interrogating her prior to your debriefing. She is to be detained indefinitely until we are confident that she can provide no further useful information."

"The ninth circle?" Odette asked with a devilish grin. "Thought you would have decommissioned that place by now."

"They are still perfectly adequate silent rooms, despite their secondary function being inoperable."

"Until now," the silver-haired girl added, smirking.

"Yes," the incubator agreed, his voice seeming to trail off, "until now. I am quite pleased with your handling of this assignment, Odette. Your behaviour has, for the most part, been exemplary. I look forward to utilising your talents once more, assuming you are willing."

"It'll be good to be back, if you'll still take me."

"As I said," Fubey replied, "it would be an honour to see you return to service. You will be pleased to know that Miss Bernard has made a full recovery. I believe she wished to speak to you about her father's funeral. The only matter remaining is that of a recent amendment to the Officio's contracts. Due to the incident with Miss Vance, I have deemed it prudent to add a remote observation clause. With respect to your privacy, I have not amended your own contract as of yet. All of the girls have been given until the end of the month to report in. Should you miss the deadline for any reason - barring anything too extreme - your supply of grief seeds shall be cut off until I am able to perform the amendment. Is this agreeable?"

"Guess so," the one-eyed girl shrugged. "Seems to work just fine for the others."

"Wonderful. I believe that will be all then?"

"Yeah," Odette nodded, trying to think of any unresolved matters, "yeah, I think that's it. If I'm gonna be running combat missions again, I've got a bit of a shopping list for Holly. Just a few things that would have come in handy earlier."

"I will see to it that you get what you need. I believe we have kept Miss Laufson waiting long enough, then. Good afternoon, Odette."

With his peace said, the incubator leapt off of the bed and disappeared beneath it. After a moment, a dull whirring was heard as Fubey pulled out, riding atop his roomba steed. One arm of his prehensile moustache seemed to extend unnaturally as he made his way to the door, using it to grasp the knob. Just as the incubator was about to open the door, Odette called out to him once more.

"Ah, Fubey, one- one more thing," she stammered. "About the past couple years. I, uh, I'm really sorry. For everything. I... I'm gonna try to make things right."

The incubator froze in place, the hand of his moustache still resting on the door knob.

"One day of good does not make up for two years of wrong, Odette," Fubey replied, slowly turning his head to look the former Warmaster in the eye, "but, it is certainly a start. I look forward to our next meeting."

Odette watched as the incubator rode out of the room, smiling at the absurdity of the sight. After several moments, Lotte stepped back into the room, this time wearing a pink nurse's uniform, near identical to that worn by the Bartender. Her eyes were still noticeably puffy and red - though, the flow of tears had finally been stymied. The Callidus made her way to the top of the bed, her stride lacking its usual enticing swagger. The one-eyed girl shifted over, making room for the blonde to take a seat by her side and allowing her to hold one of Odette's pale, dainty hands.

Lotte glanced nervously at the former Warmaster and held her hand tightly, as if fearing that she would disappear at any moment. "So, um," she said, "how are you feeling?"

"A little sore," Odette answered, giving the Callidus a weak, but reassuring smile. "Been through worse. Probably. Got a neat scar, though," she added, pulling her hospital gown aside to show off the circular blemish. "Tubby says it won't go away."

"Huh," Lotte muttered, tilting her head to look at it. "Weird. So... what happened?"

"Not really sure," Odette replied, shrugging. "I slipped up at the mansion, next thing I know the little shit's got me strung up in the woods like a slab of meat. Don't remember much of it. Just that I woke up feeling... refreshed, I guess. Like, suddenly I've got some kind of," the one-eyed girl waved her fingers through the air, trying to find the right words, "inner harmony or something like that."

"Really?" The Callidus asked, with no small hint of disbelief.

"Yeah, I don't know," Odette shrugged. "What about you? Anything exciting happen while I was gone?"

"Well, um, a couple things, I guess," Lotte said, anxiously chewing her lip. "I- I decided to stop talking to those people. Y'know, the, uh, the ones that-"

"Said they'd make me Warmaster again?"

"Yeah," the blonde mumbled, "them. I don't know what they want, but I don't think I want anything to do with it anymore."

"You said they were from another Officio, right?" Odette asked. "Probably wanted someone in power who was under their thumb or something."

"Whatever," Lotte grumbled, shaking her head. "Doesn't matter now, anyways. I'm done with them."

"Good to hear. And the other thing?"

"Ah, well," Lotte murmured as her breath caught in her throat. Her hands fidgeted, holding onto Odette's one hand even more tightly. "It's just- A-actually, maybe now's not the best time, anyways, y'know? It can wait until you're better a-and-"


"It's nothing. I just-"


The Callidus bit her lip and groaned, almost bringing herself to tears once again. "God, fine. It's just... I was wondering if maybe, y'know, since you've got this new lease on life and everything, maybe you might want to... retire. Together. With me."

"Ah..." Odette's voice trailed off. She couldn't quite think of exactly what to say to the blonde sitting at her side.

"I- I mean, we've both been doing this for a while, right? You're going on to seven years, I'm almost at six. Maybe we could find a nice quiet place... You could do your poetry or whatever. A-and, y'know, Red and the Rusky, they, uh, they were a couple years younger than us when they retired, right? I just thought, I don't know-"

"But, we aren't..."

"I know, but maybe-"

"Lotte," Odette smiled gently, squeezing the Callidus' hand. "I, um, I'm grateful for the offer. I am. Really. But, I was kind of planning to get back into the game. I already told the boss that I would, anyway. I was even thinking that I might put my name in for Equerry, assuming Therese didn't settle on that shitstain Argente."


"I just," the one-eyed girl shrugged, not quite able to look Lotte in the eye, "I don't want to be like some of the other Warmasters. I don't want to let myself just fade off into obscurity and be remembered for being a screw up. I know I'm not what Brie hoped for, but I can at least try to fix my mistakes."

Lotte nodded silently. She didn't dare stop looking at the hand she was holding. She couldn't let Odette see her crying again. "Yeah," she muttered, voice strained. "Yeah, I understand. I should... I should probably g-"

As she was about to stand, Lotte felt Odette squeeze her hand once more, holding her back.

"Hold up, I'm not done yet," the former Warmaster stated. "I appreciate the offer, and... I'm sorry I can't take you up on it, but... maybe we can compromise a bit?"

Lotte blinked, her attention snapping to the other girl against her will. "What?"

"I was just thinking that, y'know," Odette started, rocking her head back and forth as she tried to find the right words, "my apartment got trashed and it was a bit of a shithole to begin with. I heard the building might have bedbugs, too. And there's this one outlet that doesn't work and the super won't return my calls and basically what I'm trying to say is... If you're cool with it, maybe I can stay with you for, say, the indefinite future?"

"You," the Callidus muttered, her eyes widening in disbelief, "you want to move in with me?"

"I guess that would be a better way of putting it, yeah. Assuming you want some washed up deadbeat like me hanging around."

"Of- of course, that would-" Lotte tried to force words out, coming out as mere half-sentences. "I mean- Yeah, I-"

"I get it," Odette said, waving the blonde over. "Now shut up and c'mere. I'm cold."


Therese Witton drummed her fingers on her desk, anxiously swaying back and forth in her chair. She couldn't seem to take her eyes off of the black Warmaster's cap sitting at the corner of her desk. Over the past week, she had felt more like a Warmaster than at any point in her two plus months of office. There was no one to hold her hand, to pick up the pieces if she screwed up. It suddenly seemed so real. It was exhilirating.

"Warmaster," Holly called out over the intercom.

Therese glanced over, only offering a quizical, "Hm?"

"Odette's woken up, if you want to go see her."

"Oh, yeah," the Warmaster answered. "Yeah, I will in a bit."

The intercom was silent for a moment before Holly's voice came through again. "Everything alright?"

"I'm fine," Therese replied dismissively.

"You're sure?" Holly asked again. "You know how we've talked about bottling things up."

"I'm FINE, Holly," Therese insisted. "I'll go see Odette in a little while."

"If you say so."

Following the distinctive click of the Vanus disconnecting, Therese leaned back in her chair let out a sigh of relief, tilting her head back as far as it would go. It had seemed so real. Yet, as soon as Odette returned, that old feeling came crashing back to her like being shaken out of a dream. That hollow, oppressive feeling that she was nothing more than a substitute, keeping the seat warm until Odette was ready to take the position back.

She was relieved, of course. How could she not be? The person who had taught Therese everything she knew was safe. Her mentor, her comrade, her friend. Which was why it made her sick to her stomach to know that deep down, in a part of her that she didn't want to admit existed, she was disappointed to see Odette return.

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 15[edit]

Heavy breathing and jingling metal mixed with a howling gale. Odette ran, feeling the crunch of snow beneath her steel boots. It was still powdery and fresh - no more than an inch thick - making every step a fight to keep from slipping. She pushed forward, an arm held in front of her face to shield against the blinding snow. The world beyond a foot in front of her was a solid wall of twisting, swirling white. The cold bit at her skin and chilled her bones. Rime crept its way up the black cloak trailing down her back like a white shadow, raking her with icy talons.

Still, Odette ran. She couldn't afford to stop and breathe. Figures emerged from the edges of her vision as she moved, veiled in the blizzard. They grasped with desperate hands as cold as death. They begged for her to stop and look at them. She had to keep moving. The sound of blood pumping pounded a steady marching beat in her ears.

The silver-haired girl stumbled. Pain seared through her gloved hand as it scraped against the rough ice on the ground. As Odette regained her balance, she shoved the hand under her cloak and against her side. It forced her to lower her other arm, exposing her face to the biting cold. Snow and ice stung at her eye before she could shut it. A single, thin streak of ice ran down her cheek where tears had once been. The wind shrieked past her ears - a mournful, wailing noise.

Odette spared a quick, pained glance over her shoulder. It kept pace with her while maintaining an impossibly relaxed and deliberate saunter. No matter how fast she ran, it always seemed to keep pace with her. Odette ran ten metres and she'd turn around to find it two steps closer. Every now and again she'd mutter a quiet, "No, no, no," to herself, pleading for the world to pull over and let her off.


The cold had a way of sapping one's strength. She was stumbling more than ever; her legs begged her for rest. Soon enough, Odette fell to the ground. She couldn't be entirely sure if she'd tripped or if her feet had finally surrendered ahead of her mind. The icy ground stung her hands as Odette desperately tried to pull herself back up. Instead, she only succeeded in crawling a handful of feet before something smashed into her ribcage and knocked the wind out of her.

"I told you, didn't I?" An all too familiar voice asked. "Look at me."

Odette nearly dug her face into the snow. A hand seized a shank of her white hair and forced her face up, its fingers crackled as they moved and felt unnaturally rigid.

"LOOK AT ME!" The figure screamed.

She did. Odette stared at a face that was broken and twisted beyond recognition. It was deathly pale and tinged blue with frost. One eye was nothing more than a ragged, empty hollow. Worse yet were the figure's hands; from the elbow down, they were coated in what Odette could only imagine was frozen blood. Each crystalline, talon-like finger ended in a jagged point that poked and cut into the fallen girl's scalp.

Despite her best efforts, she couldn't quite tear her gaze away from the eldritch mirror image whose glare bore a hole through Odette's soul.

"There's a good girl," the mirror cooed, brushing a few stray strands of long, angelic white hair out of her face. "Look at yourself. Look at you, scrabbling around like an animal. You had a CHANCE. WE had a chance. You know, I bet that if you walked in right now, Therese would roll over and let you be Warmaster again. Instead... Instead, LOOK AT WHAT YOU DO!"

Odette's shadow yanked on her hair again, forcing her to arch her spine painfully.

"You come home with your tail between your legs, begging for them to let you prove yourself again," she spat, her face contorting into an expression of purest hate. "Well aren't you just the prodigal daughter. And then- And then you... I don't even want to say it. Not only do you sleep with that FUCKING whore, you MOVE IN WITH HER?! And I know what you plan on saying to her. Oh, do I know. You promised. You promised yourself, you promised US! Mark my words, Odette Brighton, you will regret it," the mirror image hissed, bringing herself so close that their noses almost touched. "You will suffer."

With her peace said, the twisted figure released Odette. As her head hit the ground, the ice began to crackle and pop. The last thing she saw before the ice gave way and plunged her into the waters below was a strange, misplaced glimpse of pink.


Icy waters gave way to cold sweat as Odette's eyes snapped open. She was home. It had only been her home for a span of a few hours, but it was home nonetheless. She wasn't just shivering - she was shaking so hard that she could barely move. Tears streamed down her face as she sat upright, hugging her knees. The blonde to her left recoiled in shock as her hand brushed up against Odette.

"Holy-! Jesus, Odette!" She cried, sitting up. "You're freezing!"

The one-eyed girl didn't respond. She only shook and whimpered faintly with each breath. Lotte gathered up every blanket on the bed, then wrapped Odette with them and hugged her tightly from behind.

"Hey. It's okay, I've got you," the Callidus cooed as she rocked Odette gently. "I'm here. You're safe."

Lotte kept whispering to her, reassuring her. There was a time, a bit shy of three years ago, that such things were a nightly ritual. It almost brought the blonde girl to tears seeing Odette like that again. Every night after the first Warmaster had died, she'd stayed with her. It had taken a month for Odette to finally be able to sleep undisturbed. The Callidus had almost become an expert at soothing her. She wrapped Odette in the sheets and held her, making sure to keep talking, never for a moment letting the other girl think that she was alone.

Just like old times, Odette stopped shaking - or at least calmed down to a slight shiver - after just under ten minutes. Lotte pulled her in closer and kissed the back of her white hair.

"You okay?" She asked, her face still buried in the other girl's hair.

Odette nodded without a word.

"You want a hot chocolate?"

The one-eyed girl shook her head. "Just stay like this," she mumbled, just above a whisper. "Just a little longer."

Cold as she was, sitting there buck naked, Lotte obliged. She knew enough not to say anything more. The fact that Odette had turned down something sweet to keep being held told the blonde all she needed to know. Neither of them quite knew how much time passed after those few spared words. To Lotte's surprise, it was Odette who chose to break the silence first. Only three words were spoken. Three simple words that were enough to open the floodgates and finally drive the Callidus to tears. Odette didn't even deign to lift her head as she muttered that which she had kept herself from saying for two years.

"I forgive you."


Several hours later, sunlight filtered in through the windows and threw stripes of light over the sleeping pair. Odette groaned softly as her brain churned to life. She was still mostly draped across Lotte's chest, her head cushioned by pillowy softness. The one-eyed girl pushed herself upright, stretching and yawning. A quick glance at the clock told her that it was already nine in the morning. As she tried to pull herself out of bed, Odette felt the Callidus' hand wrap around her own.

"Stay," Lotte murmured, a sleepy grin on her face.

"I'd love to," the silver-haired girl answered, giving the blonde's hand a squeeze, "but I've got work to do."

"It's not going anywhere."

Odette rolled her eyes and laughed at the Callidus. "Remember that 'fresh start' thing I was talking about? Besides, the quicker I wrap this case up, the quicker I can take you out somewhere nice."

"You- You mean like," Lotte muttered, suddenly sitting upright, "a date?"

The silver-haired girl laughed again as she lifted herself out of bed and began scouring the floor for her clothes. "Figured that'd get your attention," she said, unable to wipe the grin off of her face. "Yes, y'doof, like a date."

Lotte blinked. "This is real, right? This actually happening?"

Having thrown on some underwear and scooped up and armful of clothing, Odette leaned over the bed and gave the stunned blonde a firm flick on the forehead. "Real enough for you?"

"Well- I- Okay, um," Lotte stammered as she tried to find her words, "at least let me make you breakfast before you go."

"I can do breakfast," the one-eyed girl replied, throwing the blonde a winning smile. "But first, I should probably get cleaned up."

Lotte nodded several times before everything seemed to register. Her eyes were still sore from crying earlier in the night; no doubt she had a pair of streaks down her face to match. It wasn't until she heard the dull roar of the shower being turned on that she finally pulled herself out of bed and threw on a t-shirt and pants as quickly as she could. Lotte had always managed to stay cool when it came to matters of the bedroom, but what came afterward was a different matter entirely. Usually she just said her good-byes and the two went their separate ways. Now she had to think of breakfast, not to mention the fact that the one-eyed girl LIVED there now.

By the time Odette stepped out of the shower, Lotte had already set down a glass of peach juice and a plate of blueberry toasted waffles. The blonde silently cursed herself for being so frugal with her grocery shopping. The one-eyed girl dried her silvery hair with a towel as she took her seat, letting out a satisfied sigh.

"Man," she started, taking a sip of her juice, "that was nice. I haven't had a hot shower in months."

"Wait, you," Lotte cocked an eyebrow at the other girl's comment, "you haven't had a shower in months?"

"A HOT shower, I said," Odette clarified as she began working on the waffle. "Just took cold showers at home, since I didn't want to run out of hot water. Not like it bothers me, anyway."

The blonde let out a quiet "hmph" as she rested her head on her hand, idly watching the former Warmaster eat. "So what's on today's agenda?"

Odette swallowed a mouthful of waffle, then tilted her head from side to side as she thought. "Gonna go interrogate that little shit," she answered. "Gotta talk to Holly about some stuff and get Sue back. After that, I dunno. Oh, need to talk to, uh, what's her name? Bernard, I think. How 'bout you?"

"Probably gonna go back to bed," Lotte sighed. "May's in town, so I might go hang out with her later."

"Mm. We should go see one of her shows together."

"Yeah?" The Callidus asked, her eyes going wide. "What, um, what if she sees us? Like, together? I'm never gonna hear the end of it..."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Odette laughed. "Were we supposed to keep the whole 'dating' thing a secret?"

"Well, no, I just- I thought that you-"

"Relax, Lotte," the silver-haired girl rolled her eye, smiling gently. "It's not like it's some big secret that we were already foolin' around. Even Foobs picked up on it."

"O-oh," Lotte murmured as her gaze wandered around the kitchen. "Dating, huh..."

"We've kinda been doing things in the wrong order, eh?"

"I guess so." A smile tugged at the edges of Lotte's lips as her eyes found their way back to Odette. "So, um, does that mean I can call you my- my girlfriend?"

"Beats me," Odette shrugged, taking a bite out of another forkful of waffle. "It's not like I've done this kind of thing before, either. But, I don't really mind it..."

The blonde nodded, smiling to herself. "Odette is my girlfriend," she muttered, trying out the phrase. "Odette is my girlfriend..."

The one-eyed girl simply laughed and shook her head. "You are such a dork."


It was rare for the Warmaster to call upon Fredrica Volk. It was rare for the new Warmaster to call upon anyone personally, for that matter. Sure, they had been partners for assignments in the past - one might have even called them friends - but the Warmaster seemed to have distanced herself from her old friends over the past week. Some said she was too broken up over Odette's disappearance, others that she was finally taking her job seriously.

Freddy shifted her weight as she stood at attention before the Warmaster, itching to fix a clip from her white shoulder-cape that was uncomfortably digging into her shoulder. Therese typed away at her computer, a large, flat, rectangular box sitting off to the side of her desk. The junior Eversor had already been waiting some time, trying to keep herself from imagining why the Warmaster might have called her in, or what the box on her desk might contain.

"Right," Therese finally announced, pushing her keyboard away. "I'm sure that you've heard the news about Frieda Norton by now, yes?"

Freddy nodded. She had heard, alright. The rumour going around was that her soulgem went and witched out at an airport in Calgary. Still, Freddy remained silent.

"You have my condolences. She was one of our best Callidus, third only to May and... Miss Laufson," the Warmaster stated, with no small hint of disdain in her voice as she spoke the second name. "Now, with the leader of the Valkyries gone, that leaves me in a bit of a predicament, as I'm sure you can imagine."

The boyish magical girl nodded a second time as she slowly began to realize what the contents of the box must be.

"You are well-respected among their ranks. Recommended by Odette herself, as I recall," Therese nodded as she pulled the black box in front of her and pried the lid off, revealing a black shoulder-cape, nearly identical to Freddy's own. "Which is why I believe it would be fitting for you to be Miss Norton's successor."

Freddy's eyes went wide as a mixture of surprise, joy and confusion coloured her face. "Terry, I-"


"Ah, Warmaster, I- I'm honoured," the Eversor gulped, trying to sort out her words. "I really am, and, I don't mean to be ungrateful, but... does this mean I won't be getting the promotion to, um, to Rank Leader?"

Therese cocked an eyebrow as a wry grinned crept up her cheek. "And what makes you think that, Fredrica?"

"Well, it's just, y'know," Freddy stammered, fidgetting with the hem of her jacket, "traditionally, a- a Rank Leader couldn't be a member of the Valkyries. It's- it's how we've always done things and-"

"Traditions change, Freddy," her superior replied as she leaned back in her chair, giving the junior Eversor a smile that seemed so very unlike her. "This is no longer Odette's officio, or Brie's for that matter. Out with the old, in with the new, as they say."

"So... so you're saying that I am getting the promotion?"

"If you'll accept it, that is. It's been a long time coming, if you ask me."

"Wing Captain and Rank Leader..." Freddy murmurred, letting the thought trail off.

"The very first."

"Well, shit," the Eversor laughed, grinning sheepishly, "if you put it like that, how could I say no?"

"Excellent!" Therese smiled, clapping her hands together. She lifted the box from her desk, holding it out to Freddy in a rather reverent manner. "Then by all means, try it on."

The black-haired Eversor nodded, sighing with relief as she finally got to unclasp the white cape from her shoulder. She picked up the black one with all the respect any Valkyrie would give it, feeling its weight in her hands. It was silk - top quality silk, at that - in contrast to the cotton of her old one. The pair of golden clasps that every Valkyrie's cape bore were adorned with round, brilliant cut diamonds. It was awe-inspiring in a way. All of Freddy's idols had once worn that same cape; Odette and Therese, along with just about any past or present Rank Leader in the Seventeenth.

"I've got some big shoes to fill, huh?" Freddy asked, unable to supress the smile on her face as she put on the new cape.

"You'll do just fine, Freddy," the Warmaster assured her. "There will be changes around here in the coming weeks, and I look forward to having someone of your talent by my side."

The boyish Eversor saluted, thumping a fist over her heart. "I won't let you down, my lady."

"I should hope not," Therese laughed, waving the newly-appointed Wing Captain off. "Dismissed. I'll give you a couple hours to prepare something to say before we make it official."

Freddy bowed her head without a word before she turned to leave. After hearing the click of the door closing, Therese spun about in her chair, twirling a pen between her fingers.

"'My lady', huh?" She laughed, smiling from ear to ear. "I like the sound of that."

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 16[edit]

Sleepy Sue's engine rumbled as the armoured car meandered down the cold streets of Toronto. Within, Odette sat on the floor, staring blankly at her laptop's screen. For the first time in months, her head seemed clear. She thought of the case, of Lotte and a new start. Her mind wandered to the image of the blonde Callidus' face and the thought of her touch, making Odette smile and blush like only a teenage girl in love could. For years she'd forced herself to ignore Lotte's advances, whether out of anger or fear. Something had changed inside of her. She was no longer Odette Brighton, Warmaster of the Seventeenth. For the first time in far too long, she was happy enough to just be Odette, the girl who eats too many sweets, writes dorky poetry in her spare time and works for a fat cat with an enormous moustache.

Shaking herself out of her content stupor, Odette got back to looking over the history of Fennel Vance. It occurred to her that she ought to have done a more in-depth look much earlier, but her earlier melancholy hadn't exactly proven to be the best state of mind in which to work. Contracted for just about four years, Fennel's file seemed to have more redacted missions and details than anything else. It was to be expected of someone in her line of work; the Seventeenth may have been a bit more picky about its clients than others, but there were still a good many that ought best be left out of official reports. One thing in particular about the blacked-out information caught Odettes eye, however. It appeared that - relative to her current state - Fennel was entirely average during her first year. She was described with words like 'friendly' and 'personable', if a bit on the quiet side. Her second year consisted of but a single, censored assignment, after which she seemed to take on her current, morbidly lighthearted demeanour.

Odette stared at the black lines for some time, mulling over what could possibly have happened and whether or not it was important enough to call in for further information. It looked to be about the size of four short paragraphs, further adding to the mystery. A single assignment with four paragraphs worth of information that took an entire year. The one-eyed girl groaned as she conceded, reaching into the pocket of her jeans to find her cell.

"Mornin', sunshine!" Holly answered after only a single ring, accompanied by the non-stop sound of typing.

Odette rolled her eyes and grinned, laughing at how casual the Vanus could be after not speaking for over a week.

"Good morning to you too, Holly," the silver-haired girl replied. "Sorry I didn't call you earlier. I really meant to, but-"

"Busy night?"

"In a manner of speaking," Odette laughed, humming a bit to herself. "Miss me?"

Holly paused for a moment, as if debating whether or not to make a joke. "Aaaah hell, you know I did, shrimp! Even I can't joke about it when you drop of the face of the Earth all of the sudden."

"And yet, you still have the nerve to call me 'shrimp'."

"Your vertical deficiencies are fair game. So what's up?"

Odette huffed loudly before turning her attention back to work. "Take a look at Vance's file. There's a whole year censored and judging by everything else, it looks like something big happened then. Mind unlocking that for me?"

"Uh, yeah, gimme a sec," the Vanus replied, followed by a momentary silence. "Mhrm. Looks like that's ultraviolet level information for whatever reason."


"Ayup, so I'm gonna have to run it by Terry or Tubs. Gimme a few."

"Take as long as you need," the one-eyed girl replied.

As soon as she had said it, Odette realized how little the bureaucracy bothered her. A week earlier and she would have been sent into a slump over not having her old clearance. The Eversor drummed her fingers on the keys lightly as her mind began to wander yet again. Almost unconsciously, she opened a side window of a fresh document and began jotting words down. Thoughts of love and the future that had suddenly appeared in front of her.

"Hey! Hey!" Holly called out. Glancing at the clock, Odette realized that she had managed to zone into her poetry for five whole minutes. "Alright, so bad news. Terry's not answering her phone for whatever reason and Foob's having tea with the Seventh. You know how he hates being disturbed during their tea parties."

"So..?" Odette queried, scrambling to jam the phone between her cheek and shoulder. "Guess I'll take a rain-check on this one?"

"Well," the Vanus started, "I could just go ahead and unlock it... I doubt Foob would mind. I mean, with you being sane again and Kelzang coming to visit, I could tell him half the Officio died and he'd probably be okay with it. As long as it's for work, it should be fine."

"And Therese?"

"Terry doesn't check these things and besides, she's your biggest fan. What's the worst that could happen?"

"I don't know, Holly," the former Warmaster muttered. "I can wait, it's cool. Besides, don't you have to follow the three laws or something?"

"Don't be a smart ass, tiny," Holly scolded. "If anything happens, I'll take responsibility for this one."

"If you say so..."

"One, two, aaaaaand," a few more firm key presses rang out through the phone, "refresh."

Odette did as she was told and hit a key, refreshing the page. Suddenly, the wall of black lines filled out, replaced with text littered with the numbers and acronyms she had come to except from incident reports. Nothing about it seemed terribly out of the ordinary - it seemed to be an entirely standard training mission - until her eye ran across two words that Odette had hoped to never see again:

Varrigan City.

As it turned out, Fennel had been volunteered for a particular training mission. One that entailed being dropped into the city without outside contact and eking out a living for two weeks until extraction. A ninety percent mortality rate. How the seemingly mild-mannered Fennel Vance managed to take part was unthinkable; the fact that only a single member of her four-girl squad arrived for extraction spoke well enough for their success. It wasn't until an entire year later that Fennel - along with an unidentified individual - arrived for an entirely different training squad's extraction. In the face of such an unprecedented situation, the Eighth and Seventeenth agreed to take her home.

"Christ, kid," Odette muttered, feeling just a twinge of pity for the girl who had tortured her for over a week. "What did they do to you?"

Somehow, she had managed to survive in the closest thing to Hell on Earth for an entire year. She never spoke of what happened in the city, nor told anyone who was with her when she left, only ever calling the figure "Sensei" or "The Wolf". Odette read it over and over, as if expecting to find some hidden answer to the obvious question. How did she do it? Even before it had become a ruined, mutant-ridden hellscape, it was already a horrible place to be for a single day, let alone an entire year.

Odette let an exasperated breath run through her nostrils. "Thanks, Holly. It might not be related to the case, but it'll give me some serious ammo if she doesn't want to talk."

"No problem, doll," the Vanus laughed, before adding, "So hey, chubby said you wanted to requisition some supplies or something?"

"Oh yeah, almost forgot," Odette exclaimed as she suddenly remembered. "Since he wants to get me back to the fight, I figured I'd knock a few things off my Christmas list."


"Alright, let's see. First, can you get me a bullet-proof cape? We started talking about it right before I got fired, right?"

"Expensive. I'd have to run it by Fubey, then start development from scratch... Like hell I'm going to those asshats in the Four-"

"But you can do it?"

Holly sighed. "Let me run a quick search on the latest tech. I'll see what I can come up with," the Vanus was silent for several moments before speaking up again. "I can dooo: blade-proof, bullet-proof... Ooh, chainsaw-proof, I didn't even know that was possible..."

"While we're at it, think you can make it work as a glider-thingy? With some magic wind thrown in, I could probably make it fly pretty well."

Holly paused for a single second, accompanied by the sound of a keyboard being pushed away. "Odette," she started slowly, "are you asking me to make you a batcape?"

"Mmmaybe? Can you handle it?"

"I'll see what I can do," the Vanus grumbled. "What else?"

"Grenades, please."

"Like," Holly said, trying to pick her words carefully, "frag grenades?"

"Yup," the one-eyed girl replied, bright and chipper as she switched the phone to her other ear. "Maybe, like, an assortment? Frag, smoke, flashbangs, all that stuff. That'd be swell."

"Do I want to ask why?"

"They would have helped a lot with that last job."

"So would a rocket launcher! And I know what you're thinking, don't eve-"

"Can I get one of those, too?"

Odette could actually hear the servos whine as Holly clenched her robotic fists in frustration. "Fancy cape and grenades. Fine. That it?"

"A pony would be nice."

"Well, yeah," the Vanus said. "A regular sized horse would be way too big for you, shrimp."

The silver-haired Eversor pursed her lips and pouted. "Guess I deserved that one."

"Trying to do you a favour here, small-fry," Holly muttered. "Show a little gratitude, why don'tcha?"

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Odette said, trying her best to stay serious. "I'm grateful, really. This'll help a lot. Thanks... for everything."

"D'aww, you know I was just playin' around," the Vanus replied. "I'm glad to see you in such a good mood for once. It's... refreshing? I don't remember you actually joking around like this since... For... For a long time."

"Since Mimi died."

"I didn't want to say it, but yeah," Holly said, pausing for a moment, "since Mimi died. Even then, you serious'd up pretty hard after Brie went. You've been through a lot, kiddo. I think she would've been pretty damn proud of you. You did a hell of a lot better than a lot of others."

Odette forced out a chuckle and shook her her, grinning meekly. "I don't know about that, but thanks. I just- I don't know. I just want to do my best, that's all. And for what it's worth, I'm sorry for the past couple years. I'm going to do things right this time."

"I know you will, kid. I know you will. Take care."

"Later, Holly. Say hi to Molly for me."

Odette hung up and breathed a long sigh of relief. Somehow, talking to the unseen Vanus felt like another weight was lifted from her shoulders that she didn't even know was there. After a few minutes of rereading Fennel's file, the one-eyed Eversor gathered up her things and got out of the car. It had probably already been parked outside of the main building for some time, for all she knew; Lotte's condo was significantly closer than her old apartment.

As she passed by women's clothing stores on her way to the elevator, Odette made a mental note to have the Callidus take her shopping at some point. For the first time in far too long, she was perfectly fine with just letting herself be a girl. Her jeans and leather jacket combo were comfortable enough, but they weren't exactly the height of female fashion. Lotte, on the other hand, seemed to have "a guy" for every possible article of clothing or accessory. She always seemed to know exactly what was in season - though, Odette reminded herself, looking good was very much a part of her job.

Taking the pair of elevators down to the holding cells, the silver-haired girl made sure to smile the whole way and nod or say hello to passers-by. She even made sure to switch into her costume as she strode down the halls. Just about every she saw was in some way awe-struck at the sight of the fabled Odette Brighton, especially in such good humour. She had heard about the reputation she had garnered following her self-imposed exile, but it still shocked her to see just how stunned everyone seemed to be to see her.

It wasn't long before she reached the double doors of Block Nine, nicknamed "The Ninth Circle" by just about every girl in the Officio. Standing somewhat less than alert were the ubiquitous duo of Mona Bernard and Meg Laurie, the latter giving a curt nod and a restrained smile, while the former simply called out across the hallway, jumping and waving.

"Yo!" Meg shouted. "How's it goin', boss?"

"Nice to see you, too, uh," Odette snapped her fingers as she tried to remember the girl's name. Spending a week hanging from a tree had a way of sapping one's memory. "Laurie?"

The shorter girl's eyes lit up as she seemed to fade into a star-struck daze. "She remembered my name..."

"How you holding up?" The one-eyed girl asked, turning her attention to the taller of the duo.

Mona shrugged, giving Odette a neutral look. "I can do my job well enough. Nights are harder. Times when I don't have a lot on my mind."

"Has a way of creeping in, don't it?" The former Warmaster reached up to place a hand on the taller girl's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "You ever need to talk or anything, feel free to give me a call. I've got time these days."

"Thanks, but, uh," Mona grinned sheepishly, glancing over at her smaller companion, "I've been staying over at Meg's place. Our- my place is a bit wrecked after... everything."

"Oh," Odette nodded slowly as her lips spread into a wide grin. "Oooh! I didn't realize you two were- Oooooh."

"What?" The taller Eversor blinked before her eyes went wide, suddenly realizing what she had said. "Oh no no nononono, I meant- I didn't- We're not- NO."

"It's alright, I understand. Magical girl life's a lot easier with a warm bed."

"Meg!" Mona shouted, grasping for assistance. "Tell her what I meant!"

"Ah?" The shorter of the pair muttered as she finally snapped back to reality. "Ah! Nah! Nah, we ain't like that! We just watch movies and play video games and read comics, SPEAKING OF WHICH!"


"Hold on, I've got it here somewhere," the black-haired girl stuck her tongue out, obviously putting great effort into searching her inventory.

"Meg, no-"

"Got it!" Meg handed a single, soft-cover book to Odette, beaming with excitement. "Think of it as a get well present! Or a welcome back present. Or something."

Odette blinked as her eye ran across the title. "The Steamy Adventures of... Um."

"I got Mona hooked on them. They're actually really," Meg paused, searching for the right word, "entertaining?"

"They're... not BAD," the taller Eversor added. "But, feel free to just... not."

The one-eyed girl blinked again, taking in the cover and skimming through the pages. "The one in the glasses reminds me of someone, but I can't remember who... Huh. It'll come to me."

"So you'll read it?!"

"I guess," Odette said with a shrug. "Got nothin' better to do. Thanks, kid."

"Yes!" Meg shouted, doing a short fist pump. "Told you she would!"

"Whatever," Mona grumbled. "If you're quite finished, I have actual important stuff to talk about with her."

"Ah- Oh. S-sorry," the shorter Eversor muttered, suddenly realizing her faux pas.

"As I was GOING to ask you earlier," Mona started, "dad's funeral is in a couple days. I'd be honoured if you wouldn't mind coming. I know we don't really know each other that well, but, well, you WERE right there and all..."

"Oh, uh, yeah, of course," Odette replied. "Guess I gotta go dress shopping tomorrow, huh?"

"You... wear dresses?" The taller Eversor asked, cocking an eyebrow.

"I am still a girl beneath my cold, hardened exterior, believe it or not."

"I- I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like-"

"Chill," Odette laughed as she waved the girl into silence. "I'm just playin' with you."

"Ah- Yeah," Mona laughed. "Um, hey, there is... one thing I wanted to ask you about. In private, if it's alright."

The one-eyed girl nodded and shrugged. "Sure, but I'm a bit booked right now, so just ask Holly for my number whenever you get the chance."

"Will do. And, uh, give her a good hit for me when you get in there, if you wouldn't mind."

"I'll make sure to," Odette replied, opening the door to the next wing. "Stay out of trouble, you kids."

The double doors slowly shut with a long, drawn out hiss. Mona let out a long, deep breath and craned her neck, leaning her head against the wall as she stared blankly at the ceiling. Her peace was interrupted in a matter of moments when she noticed the shorter Eversor staring up at her, a wide smirk plastered on her face.

"So," she started, sidling up to the taller girl, "what's this about talking in private, hm?"

"Y'know, Meg," Mona groaned, "usually when someone says they want to talk in private, that means they want it to be private."

The black-haired girl gently elbowed her companion in the side, saying, "Awww, come on. Ain't nothin' you can't tell me."

"God, fine. Just... training tips. Routines and stuff. That's all."

"Yer lyin' to me."

"Am not."

"Are too."

Mona sighed and rolled her eyes, leaning against her side of the hallway. She knew better than to feed the other girl ideas. Instead, she would let the silence speak for her. It was a new kind of anxiety that pressed her into secrecy. She wasn't entirely sure how to break it to her best friend that she - and she alone - had been approached to join the most prestigious group in the Seventeenth. Part of her still didn't quite believe it was true, while another part of her didn't even think herself worthy. Most of all, she didn't know if it was worth leaving her one and only friend - if such an honour was worth losing Meg Laurie, the first colleague who didn't see her as 'that spoiled rich girl'.

"Hehe," Meg chuckled, taking a sledgehammer to Mona's tranquil silence. "She thought we were lesbians."

"God damn it, Meg..."


Nine identical doors numbered 901 to 909 lined the far wall of the Seventeenth's maximum security holding area, dubbed 'The Ninth Circle' by the girls. Odette stepped into the deserted corridor, the sound of her footsteps echoing throughout as her metal boots clanged against the marble floor. The hall was sparsely decorated, with only a handful of chairs along the near wall, with a container full of old magazines on either end. The one-eyed girl stared up at a solitary camera nested in one corner of the room.

"We good?" Odette asked.

"She's surprisingly well behaved," Holly answered through the room's PA. "Sitting nicely, cuffs still on. Head in whenever you're ready."

Odette nodded at the camera and took a deep breath. From under her long, black cloak, she produced her battered notepad, along with a sheaf of papers clipped together. She had always preferred analog notes over digital, when the situation allowed. As she went over her notes one last time, it struck her just little she'd written in her notepad since that fateful day two- no, a week shy of three months ago, she reminded herself.

After another breath to steady herself, she put on her professional face and opened the door to cell 901. As soon as she crossed the threshold, she could feel the familiar sense of weight and itching in her gums as the room robbed her of her magic. In the center of the room, behind a stainless steel table, sat Fennel Vance, showing Odette a smug grin that only made her want to punch it off the girl's stupid face. Her hair was still long and unkempt, but appeared somewhat better groomed than last they'd met. Odette had, however, not noticed how much the other girl's costume resembled an unbuckled straitjacket in their earlier meetings. It seemed so oddly fitting.

"Mornin' Vance," the one-eyed girl called out, twirling around her own chair to sit in it reverse, leaning forward over the back rest. "How are things?"

"I want my phone call," was the Wolf's only response, bemused grin still decorating her face.

"This isn't prison," Odette laughed, matching the girl's expression. "You don't get a phone call."


"You didn't answer my question," the former Warmaster pressed. "How are you doing?"

"Booooored out of my miiiiind," Fennel drawled, leaning her chair back.

"If you cooperate, I can grab you a magazine on the way out."

The messy-haired girl smirked and let out a short snort of laughter. "Pretty sure they haven't been replaced since Brie kicked it."

"Quite possibly," Odette muttered as she reached under her cloak. "Quite possibly... Shall we get to business?"

"Well, I was trying to have a conversation, but SUUURE," Fennel grumbled, rolling her eyes and waving her hands in an exaggerated gesture, "let's do what YOU want to do."

"Good, good," the one-eyed girl replied, unphased, as she leaned back and pulled out her notepad. "Now, we have a vague idea of why you kidnapped these innocent girls. Something about this..."

"Blessed Lady."

"That's the one," Odette said, holding a pen to her notepad. "Elaborate."

Fennel blinked, then shook her head with a look of stern confusion. "What?" She asked, dead-pan. "That's... You're not even gonna threaten me? No intimidation? No yelling or rage? Just a 'Hey Fennel! How ya doin! So how's about that Blessed Lady, huh?' Like.. Seriously?"

"Would you rather I hurt you?"

"No, but like, I expected some kind of 'TELL ME WHAT YOU KNOW OR I'LL DO'... some kind of unspeakable torture, I dunno," the messy-haired girl shrugged, "you fill in the blank."

"Not the type."

"I guess, but it's just... it's unnervi-" Fennel blinked as her eyes widened in sudden recognition. "Oh. OH. Oh, you're good."

Odette shrugged sheepishly, making a show of absorbing the praise. "I do my best," she replied. "Gets old, after all. Only so many ways I can tell people how I'll power down the room, give you a little cut, dig my finger in there and slowly freeze every vein in their body - incredibly excruciating, by the way - then call Fubey in so I can do it all over again."


"Was that intimidating?" Odette asked, maintaining an unphased look. "I never know."


"Getting back to the Blessed Lady," the former Warmaster interrupted, redirecting the conversation. "Explain to me why you saw fit to kidnap eight- no, seven innocent girls."

"Eight. You're- You're, uh, forgetting yourself. You were right the first time."

"My mistake. Carry on."

"Right, um, okay," Fennel puffed up her cheeks and exhaled deeply. "Baiting the hook, essentially. You get it? Cause I used-"

"So you're saying... what?" Odette twirled her pen around, shaking her head. "I was the aim the whole time?"

The other girl pointed a finger from each of her hand-cuffed hands, grinning. "Bingo! Well," she corrected herself, "sort of. I mean, if they decided to call on the big B, then that's a win in our book."

"Why me?"

"It's obvious, isn't it?" Fennel replied, giggling. "I mean, think about it. Big churchy-culty thing, looking for the poor and the down-trodden. Big tough Warmaster suddenly dropped in the gutter. Makes sense, don't it? Who better to go after?"

"I see. Looks like you fucked that one up," Odette laughed.

"Sure does look that way, don't it?" Fennel replied, returning a laugh of her own.

"And where do those golden hooks fit in?"

A sly, wolfish smirk crept up the messy-haired girl's face as she listened to the question, answering, "Beats me. Can't say I rightly know either. Didn't seem all that special to me. I wouldn't think too hard about them."

"Is it getting a little chilly in here," Odette said with a cold smile, "or is it just me?"

"Hey, if you want to give them a look, feel free. They're," Fennel paused, thinking, "wherever you put them?"

"Maximum security vault."

"Vault, right. Yeah, don't just leave them lying around in the open. That might be a bad idea."

"I'll remember that," Odette replied, making a quick note.

It seemed too easy. It was more like a friendly - albeit tense - conversation than an interrogation. Fennel offered little to no resistance and seemed to be answering the questions to the best of her ability. It was perhaps worse than if she had resisted. This way, Odette couldn't be sure if she was telling the truth or making it up as she went. The Wolf knew the game just as well as she did; no doubt Fennel had put the screws to her share of captives over the years, as well.

Odette decided to stow her burning curiosity for the sake of staying on track. Once again, she reached under her cloak, this time pulling out a wrinkled, flattened sheet of paper - the same one that had been found in her apartment two prior. She slid it across the steel table, watching as the other girl cocked a curious eyebrow.

"The night I first saw you, my apartment was broken into. We found this waiting for me. Care to explain?"

Fennel picked it up with both hand-cuffed hands and examined it closely, squinting and turning it this way and that. Finally satisfied, she placed it back on the table and nodded.

"I believe, and this is just my own personal opinion," she said, "that this is a message."

"Why did you write it?" Odette growled, her patience starting wear away.

Fennel's cheeks puffed up as she tried to maintain her composure. "You- You think I wrote this?" Fennel asked, slapping a hand on the table as her roaring laughter slipped free. "You- Oh god. Oh that's just rich. Listen, Odette. Can I call you Odette? I'll call you Odette," she waved her hands and spoke between fits of giggling. "I tried the whole 'Teehee! I'll carve out your skull with melon-baller!' routine, I really did. It just- It's not ME, y'know? Some people can pull it off, but not me."

"Then who?"

"Hell if I know!" The messy-haired girl answered. "One of the higher-ups or someone!"

Odette blinked. "Higher-ups?"

"In the Church," Fennel answered. "What, you think I've been doing this ALONE? Come on, Brighton! Think a little!"

Putting a pen to her notepad, the silver-haired girl narrowed her eyes. "Names?"

"None under your jurisdiction."

"Indulge me."

Fennel let out a long, strained breath, rocking back in her chair. "Let's see... Main contact is a chick that goes by Daedalus. The Architect. She's the one who gave me the note. Probably wrote it, too," she leaned over the table, gesturing with her hand as she spoke. "Real hoity-toity sort. Got them big long curls, blue ribbons in her hair, big fan of tea. You know the type. I'm, like, ninety percent sure she's ex-Eighth, but she sounds English or some shit. So who knows?"

"So she's one of the people in charge," Odette asked, "this 'Daedalus'?"

"Nah, nah. Word is she did some big favour for someone important," Fennel shrugged. "I don't know. I stay out of the loop as much as I can. They're all pretty fuckin' loopy over there. 'Golden Land' this, 'Chosen Ones' that. Devoted as I may be, that ain't exactly my scene, y'understand?"

The one-eyed girl nodded, jotting down notes. Holly was already recording all of it - and probably already had enough leads to book her schedule for next month - but taking personal notes was something that had been ingrained in Odette's mind from day one. It seemed, for the time being, that there wasn't anything left to ask, aside from the one, golden question.

"So," Odette started, folding her hands over the backrest of her chair, "I think we both know what I'm going to ask next. You want to fill in the blank for me?"

Fennel chuckled. Three, poignant laughs, as though she had been working from a script. Odette could immediately tell that she had been looking forward to the moment.

"Why have I been telling you all of this so easily."


The messy-haired girl smiled to herself - a smug grin that made Odette just want to punch it right off of her face. "Two reasons. Two simple reasons. One, I enjoy toying with you, but I assume you've already gathered that-"

"I have."

"-and two," Fennel's face darkened as her grin grew imperceptibly more sinister, "it doesn't matter. In the time it would take you to reach Daedalus, I'll be out of here, you'll be long dead and there won't be anyone left to go after us."

Odette eyed the other girl. She was hoping to find some sign that she was bluffing, that Fennel had just let everything slip and was scrabbling to cover up her mistakes. Instead, she found nothing but cold certainty in the Wolf's face. Odette snapped her notepad shut and shoved it back under her cloak as she made to get up.

"I think we're done here," she said. "See you in a couple days."

Fennel smirked and gave a delicate, mocking wave good-bye. "Ta-ta, Odette~"

As she tucked her chair in, a stray thought crossed the one-eyed girl's mind. It was juvenile and malicious, but worth it. One final statement to get the last laugh.

"Hey, kid, one thing before I go," said Odette, smirking as she turned around. "If you're planning on getting out, you might want to pick something other than 'the Wolf'. It's rude to take someone else's name."

All at once, Fennel's face twisted into a vicious snarl as she opened her mouth to yell. Then, as if on cue, Odette's cell phone rang, loudly echoing through the cramped room. The silver-haired girl held up a finger to silence the 'Wolf', not even bothering to turn around and face her. Checking the call display, Odette recognized Holly's number instantly.

"Yo," she greeted the Vanus.

"Hey, uh, just a heads up," Holly said nervously, "you've got some company waiting right outside."

Odette cocked an eyebrow. "Who? If Lotte came to visit me at work, I swear-"

"Nah, it's... Well, you'll see."

"Vague and mysterious, thanks," the Eversor grumbled. "You get enough data?"

Holly grunted in acknowledgement. "It'll take me a bit to analyze all this. I'll have something by tomorrow."

Odette nodded and the two said their good byes. As the door unlocked with the heavy thunk of numerous tumblers, she couldn't help but get excited for a brief moment. Perhaps it could be just Therese or someone else she had forgotten to visit after her recovery. It was then, as the door hissed open, that the realization struck her. The Seventh was visiting. That could only mean-

"Aiiiyah!" A voice screeched from across the hall. "This not how you treat guests! Stupid Crow tell me to come all way down to smelly basement and you KEEP ME WAITING?!"

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 17[edit]

The past few days had been a strange experience for Odette Brighton. She had been stabbed, punched and kissed, nearly witched out and fell in love all within the last forty-eight hours. Now she stood face to face with colleague of dubious seniority, unsure whether or not she should be afraid or happy to see her.

The shrine maiden was at least a head taller than Odette, dressed in traditional Japanese garb with her hair tied back with a gigantic red ribbon. The two locked eyes for moment, sharing a stern look of meaning that only they could discern, before both broke into matching grins and shared a firm, strong handshake that just as quickly turned into a sisterly hug.

"Been long time, Snowflake!"

"So it has, Armpits," the one-eyed girl laughed as they pulled apart. "Holly neglected to tell me you'd be stopping by. I figured you'd be meeting with Terry, not some washed-up loser."

"Tch," Xiaomei muttered, giving a vague look of annoyance. "Sparky dumb like billy goat and even less fun. Besides, Fatty say you finally get over bad case of stupids."

"And you had to come see for yourself."

"Exactly! So how it feel being lowly peasant again?"

"I dunno," Odette shrugged. "I figured I'd at least get rid of you, but it looks like I'm not so lucky, huh?"

"Since when you been lucky?"

Odette's gaze wandered as she tilted her head. "That's... That's a fair point," she replied. "So, you want to go get lunch or something? I think I still owe you one for last time."

"Free lunch?" The Chinese girl narrowed her eyes and nodded, making a rather satisfied sounding noise. "This is good start, Snowflake. Very good start..."


Water trickled softly between rocks draped in vibrant, green moss. In a small, square-roofed pagoda, two incubators sat across from each other, alone. One, looking much like the rest of his brothers - albeit with a billowing, crimson scarf - looked out over the garden, absorbing the serenity of the carefully arranged landscape. The other, wide-bodied and sitting primly atop a bright red pillow, lifted a small teacup to his lips and drank deeply, closing his eyes as he savoured the taste.

"Exquisite," Fubey breathed, almost more of a sigh than a word. "Absolutely exquisite, brother. You must return my compliments to Miss Marigold. Her cultivation techniques are simply unmatched."

A smile came to the other's face as he continued to observe the garden. "I believe the only technique she uses is love, brother," he replied, softly and serenely. "It can do a great many things. The perfect pot of tea is, as they say, only the tip of the iceberg."

Fubey regarded his older brother with an intrigued eye. He had always been the most thoughtful and, perhaps, eccentric of the incubators. Some saw him as naive, others an idealist, and even more believed him insane. To Fubey, however, he was his most treasured brother. The fat incubator chuckled as his gaze turned to the outdoors.

"Perhaps," replied Fubey, "but I was under the impression that it had more to do with magic, does it not?"

Kelzang lifted one of the small cups to his lips and took another drink, letting out a soft chuckle as well. "I suppose so, brother," he said. "But, in either case, you deserve no less than the best, what with the week you have had. I am glad to hear young Miss Brighton is well again, both in body and mind."

The larger incubator nodded before taking another sip of tea. He had, admittedly, been worried nearly as much as her closest friends; not that he would admit it to anyone other than his brother.

"As am I," Fubey said, sounding somewhat down-trodden. "I admit, I may have acted rashly these past months. Had Miss Vance not disappeared, I fear that I would have gone through with the Ymir Protocol..."

The Seventh turned to look at his brother. "Now, Fubey," he said, "you have far more sense than to do such a thing. You would nev-"

"But I did, brother," the Seventeenth interrupted. "I say that not in reflection, but as a fact. I had already sent out the order. It is only by some divine intervention that she never learned of my error in judgement."

"I," Kelzang paused and looked down into his tea, "I see..."

"I failed Brie," Fubey continued. "She asked that I look after Odette. I was supposed to care for her, not ki-"

"Brother, please!" The Seventh pleaded. "If that is truly the case, then let us be thankful that nothing came of it. Odette is well, and that is what matters most. The past is best learned from, not dwelt upon."

The larger incubator nodded and took a long sip of tea. "I apologize, brother," he paused, then took a another drink as he considered his next words. "Do you... Do you think Brie would be pleased with Officio if she saw it now?"

"Now there is an interesting question," Kelzang said, giving a short chuckle. "Miss Eldridge was a... rather difficult person to please, as I recall. In a way, she reminded me of Xiaomei, back in her youth. I imagine that she would certainly be upset that things did not unfold quite as she had planned... but, yes, I believe she would be pleased."

Fubey gently swirled his tea around in its cup, watching the scattered leaves dance as he absorbed his brother's words. Never had there been a magical girl who meant more to him than Brie Eldridge. A small part of him was arrogant enough to believe that none of his brothers had ever cared for any of their girls more than he did for her. With her at his side, he had never felt as small before his brothers as he did the past three years.

"But, hrm," the Seventh started, taking a lengthy sip as he chose his words, "to create the 'perfect' magical girl. A noble goal, certainly. I would say she fared better than most others who have tried. Misguided, though, I think."

The larger incubator looked up at his brother, tilting his head as he asked, "Explain, brother."

Kelzang turned to look out at the garden once more. "A flower alone is nothing more than a flower, no matter how beautiful it may be. It serves no higher purpose and, in time, it will grow old, wither and die. But, look then at this garden, brother."

As the Seventh gestured outward with one ear-hand, Fubey followed his brother's gaze. It was something the two Officios had built together many years previous, a sign of everlasting friendship between the two. Kelzang had overseen the planning whilst girls from both Officios designed and built it. Even now, one girl from each was assigned to maintain it every week.

"When placed with love and care, even a simple daisy can help create a sight more precious than the most beautiful lotus," Kelzang explained. "By our actions, we allow each part to achieve its highest potential. From the smallest pebble to the tallest tree, each works together to create something more beautiful than any one part alone. This is true harmony, brother; many parts working toward a greater good."

Fubey looked into his tea cup once more, nodding to himself as he pondered the thought. "An Officio... is a garden, is it?"

"And, remember, dear brother," the Seventh added, pointing at the fat incubator, "it is only by the skilled hand of a gardener that the garden is able to become beautiful."

The Seventeenth laughed softly and shook his head, saying, "If only I could be as skilled or brave as you, Kelzang. Perhaps then our brothers might take me a seriously. I dare say, they might show me a bit more respect were I as unpredictable as the Ninth."

"They might," the scarfed incubator replied, "but is it not better to be loved than feared? Your magical girls adore you for your policies, even though our brothers may not. Is that not enough, brother?"

"I suppose you have a point," the Seventeenth conceded, sipping at the last of his tea, "but I must admit, I do very much miss my prized lotus."

"Miss Eldridge?" Kelzang chuckled. "I believe the amaranth would suit her better, would it not?"

The incubators laughed and spoke for some time, reminiscing of the past and discussing the future just as they always did. Eventually, a girl with long, raven hair and skin like porcelain stepped up to the tiny pagoda, bearing a tray with a fresh pot of tea and cookies. She smiled brightly with a peaceful sincerity, bowing her head as she set the tray down without a word and began to unload its contents on to the table.

"Ah, thank you, Miss Dalia," Fubey said, nodding to the girl as she refilled his tea cup.

The Seventh bowed his head, thanking her as well. The girl bowed her head in kind, never saying a word even as she left.

"Your new tender seems very at home here," Kelzang said, watching her as she walked away. "What is her name? Miss Dalia, was it?"

"Heidi Dalia, yes," the larger incubator answered. "A very quiet and humble girl. I thought she would do well here."

The Seventh's gaze wandered back out over the garden as he poured himself a fresh cup of tea. "Sounds very much like someone I know."


"-nd so now we're living together."

"So, what?" Xiaomei waved her chopsticks at the Canadian. "You going to settle down now or something?"

The pair dined in a noisy, bustling Chinatown restaurant with a name Odette could barely remember much less pronounce. Little old ladies jostled between tables, bringing out food and shouting orders in Chinese as they went. The Warmaster and former Warmaster made an odd couple - one dressed in a flamboyant shrine maiden outfit, the other wearing a modest, unfashionable ensemble of jeans, t-shirt and jacket. Odette had long since stopped bothering to master the use of chopsticks and prodded a plate of noodles with her fork.

"'course not," she responded, shaking her head. "You know me. I'm thinking I'll put my name in for Equerry, since a friend of mine is already lined up for Rank Leader. I'll be damned if I'm letting that bitch Argente take the post."

Xiaomei gave a snort of laughter as she shovelled another mouthful of rice into her face. The concept of having to volunteer for a position before being considered had always been one of the Seventeenth's many quirks.

"You never had Equerry, did you?" Asked Xiaomei, giving the other girl a wry grin. "Nobody want the job, huh?"

"Oh, a couple people did," Odette forced a hollow smile. "You remember Mimi, right? Miranda?"


The former Warmaster shook her head as she twirled noodles around her fork. "It's fine. It's been two years, I figure I oughta get over it by now. Time move on and let it go."

Xiaomei smirked. "Took long time, but you finally grow up. Old Lady would be proud," she said, before pointing her chopsticks at the former Warmaster. "Shame you still so short, though."

"Just can't give a straight compliment, can you?"

"You should be happy I give compliment at all!" The Chinese girl smirked as she took a long sip of green tea. "So what else you going to do with new found wisdom, hm?"

Odette had to think for a moment. She hadn't exactly given everything much though beyond moving in with Lotte and finishing her assignment. There were a few matters that she would have liked taken care of, but the future was a blur aside from those select few things.

"I'll probably go out to the compound and visit Harry," she said at last. "We used to be bestfriends and I haven't seen her in months..."

"How she doing these days?"

"Stable, last I heard," Odette replied. "She can walk a bit with a cane, but usually she uses a wheelchair. The Vennies say she's probably only got a few months left. Khan takes care of her most of the time, but all of them chip in however they can. Secundus is still training to take over the position. You remember her right?"

The Vindicare shook her head.

"Monica? Lightning bolts on her helmet?"

"Ooooh! Lightning face girl! Yeah, yeah, I remember her. But we never talk before, I think."

"She's a really good kid. Reminds me of Harry back when we were first contracted."

Xiaomei laughed and took another sip. "I used to wonder if there anything between you two. Guess that wrong, huh?"

"Hell, I used to wonder about us myself," Odette shrugged, giving a sheepish grin. "Hanging out with her all the time sure gave me a hell of a tolerance for Culexus magic, though."

The Chinese girl snorted, sputtering in her tea, and slapped the table. "You- You remember time you get in argument with Malal? She keep trying to make you throw up-"

"And I just kept getting acid reflux from hell, yeah funny." The Eversor smiled, cold and hollow. "Until all of you guys started betting on how long I'd last before blowing chunks."

"Four minute!" Xiaomei nodded. "Good record! Won Xiaomei twenty dollar!"

Odette shook her head. "Right. So that's the extent of my plans. You should call me up if you get anything fun. Nothing interesting happens around here that often."

"Maybe. I think about it," the other girl teased. "So, ah, what about little sister?"

Odette nearly choked on a mouthful of noodles. As much as it pained her to realize, the though of her sister hadn't crossed her mind in a very long while. Hearing the ever-belligerent Xiaomei ask about her certainly didn't help her shock. After several seconds of violent coughing and sputtering, she said, "Vida? What- What about her?"

"You not going to go and see her?"

"Xiao, I haven't talked to her in YEARS."

"I just giving suggestion. Little birdy tell me you still keep picture of her in wallet, yes?"

Odette froze and flushed a bright crimson. Of course she did. She always had.

"W-what's it to you?"

"Why you so embarass? You ashame of meimei or something?"

"No, it's just-"

"Then show Xiaomei! Lighten up! Why you have to act like super serious big shot?"

Odette grumbled quietly, but said nothing as she reached into her back pocket. With a low grunt of effort, she produced her wallet, opened it and handed it across the table.

"That's, um," Odette murmurred, "that's this year's school picture."

A wide, toothy grin broke out across Xiaomei's face as she stared at the photo. The girl looked similar to Odette - short silver hair and shimmering blue eyes - but was noticeably taller, better endowed and had softer, more feminine features, unmarred by time and battle.

"Uwooooh!" The Chinese girl exclaimed. "She cute! So this where tall and boob gene went! How old you say she is?"

"She's, um, she's sixteen, turning seventeen this year," Odette answered, quickly adding, "and shut up!"

Xiaomei giggled, then handed the wallet back. "So Snowflake melts when she talk about little sister. I keep that in mind~"

"You do the same thing when I ask about Dahlia!"

This time it was Xiaomei's turn to blush and stammer out an embarassed response. The two old colleagues continued catching up and bickering for nearly an hour more before word came from Holly that the incubators' meeting had concluded. Odette settled the bill - far more than she had expected - and the two said their good byes. It wasn't until Xiaomei had already reached the door that she stopped.

"Ah! One more thing!"

The Chinese girl reached into her sleeve, and after a moment's fussing pulled out a tupperware container full of cookies.

"Dahlia hear about incident and make these for you yesterday. YOU SEND THANK YOU LETTER OR ELSE!"

Odette's eyes twinkled and a child-like grin came to her face as she accepted the package. "Ahhh! I- I need to save these for later. Nothing from you?"

Again, the prayerstick appeared in Xiaomei's hand and struck the other girl's head. "You get to eat lunch with beautiful, sophisticated Spiritual Liege of Seventh Officio herself! You should be grateful!"

"Whatever you say," Odette laughed. "I'll see you soon, hopefully."

"You keep in touch this time. Jiejie not going to hunt down stupid Snowflake down just to say hi, okay?"

"Fine, fine. Get outta here, Armpits."

Again, Xiaomei reached for the door, only to stop short.

"Ah! One more thing! Uncle want me to deliver message. He say, Fatty not show it, but he worry about you a lot while you went missing. He call Uncle almost every day while you gone. So don't forget he care about you," the Chinese girl stopped, then finally opened the door. "That it. Now, if you excuse me, I going to go throw up now."

As the two left, in a secluded corner of the restaurant, a woman with a snake's eyes closed her newspaper. Neither the Warmaster nor the ex-Warmaster had noticed her in the slightest, despite the fact that she had arrived several minutes after they had. She smiled, laughing to herself as she got up, and tossed a handful of change on the table. The woman pulled her black trenchcoat on, then tugged a matching fedora down over a short mass of vibrant green hair. Her job was about to get much, much easier.

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 18[edit]

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 18

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 19[edit]

"Mornin', Sunshine!"

"Good morning, Holly," Odette said, just barely getting the words out before a long yawn. "How are things?"

"Same old, same old. You?"

Odette tapped a few keys on her laptop as she settled into her seat at the makeshift desk inside of Sleepy Sue. The Vanus' chipper voice rang out through the computer's speakers, the two quickly establishing a morning routine over the past couple days. The Eversor took a sip of tea from her travel mug, shrugged, and began to mull through her emails.

"Can't complain," she replied. "Soft bed. Breakfast waiting for me when I get up. I could get used to this kind of life."

"Well aren't you lucky. I heard about the thing with Therese yesterday. Everything alright?"

Odette gave a half-hearted shrug, not looking the slightest bit bothered. "She said she'll think about it. Couldn't really ask for anything more," she said. "You finish that report on the- the thingy?"

"Blessed Lady? Sure did," Holly replied. "Thirty pages. Sent a copy to you, Foobs and Terry. You want the short version before you head in?"

"That'd be lovely. I missed having a secretary."

"Check yourself, shorty," the Vanus grumbled. "A few other Officios are big on the Blessed Lady thing, but it never really caught on here. Promises some kind of magical girl heaven, basically. Accept it's, y'know, like a normal religion. Or cult or whatever. Different groups, different beliefs, some are more violent than others."

"Well that's a new one. Think we'll have more problems like this?"

A burst of static came through the speakers as the Vanus gave an exasperated breath. "Most likely, but I have no idea what we're supposed to do. There's no playbook for this. Do we just let things run their course or do we try and nip it in the bud?"

"Not that it's my decision, but I'm gonna say that going full inquisition is a bad idea," Odette said. She clicked a few times, bringing up the Vanus' report. "How about those hooks Vance was using? There was definitely something wrong with them."

"I know. Not part of her kit, for sure," Holly replied. "I caught a few scattered mentions of mysterious golden weapons, but nothing concrete. Best I can say is we get them analyzed then lock 'em up until we know where they came from. Vance definitely knows something, so we'll probably get someone back in with her. Y'know. Once the walls start to close in on her a little more."


"Hey, I thought you wanted a vacation. You're free to keep poking at her if you want."

Odette chuckled, tilting her head from side to side as she thought the idea over. "I'll get back to you on it. You want me to take a look at those hooks later?"

"If you wouldn't mind. I'd rather not pass them onto a hapless lab tech if something bad happens," Holly replied. "Just don't spend too much time around them. Look for any kind of markings and leave them. Maybe you'll find a clue or something."

"Understood. Any leads on that Daedalus character?"

"Jack shit. I've got a reference to someone going by 'the Architect' and that's it. I assume they're related, but we'll probably have to smack Vance around some more and track her down the old fashioned way."

"I always liked honest detective work."


"Honest by magical girl standards," the Eversor laughed. "Remember who our neighbours are, now."

"Point. That'll be all then?" Holly asked.

"For now, yeah. Guess I'll talk to you in a little bit."

"Later, O," the Vanus said. There was a brief pause as she hesitated to close the call. "And just remember what I said. Don't spend too much time with those things. There's something funny going on here and I don't like it."

"I'll be fine, Holly," Odette groaned, rolling her eyes. "I've been doing this for seven years. I know how to play safe around bad hoodoo."

"Right," Holly muttered. "Right... Okay. Take care, O."

"Same to you," the little Eversor replied. "Stay out of trouble."


"You're panicking too much, Therese."

"I'm not PANICKING, I just," he Warmaster paused, biting her lip, "I don't know what to do!"

The Warmaster of the Seventeenth paced behind her desk, her hands fidgeting and her eyes constantly glancing about. Dark circles hung under her eyes - a sign of the sleep that hadn't come to her that night. Tyler Argente leaned against a far wall, idly browsing the book shelves along the edges of the room.

The waters of Therese's mind hadn't been calm since the previous day. She hadn't counted on Odette being so eager; so hasty to right her wrongs. She should have known, though. It was a virtue that had been taught to every girl in the Officio since its earliest days. No one walked away from a mistake without trying to fix it, and Odette had taken the lessons of the first Warmaster to heart more than any other.

"Right, and that's what we call 'panicking'," Tyler replied. "You always get too emotional like this. You just need to sit down, take a few deep breaths and think about this rationally. Okay? I don't even see what the big deal is. She asked you to be Equerry, yeah? What's the problem there?"

"You don't UNDERSTAND, Ty. This- God, you don't get it!"

"Then fill me in, huh?"

"Its," Therese stopped, pinching her brow as she fell into her leather chair. A deep breath, count to ten, just like her therapist had said. "Alright, listen. Everything we're about to talk about doesn't leave this room, okay?"

Tyler glanced up at the security camera in the corner of the room - the security camera that had been promptly switched off as soon as she entered the room. "Okay. Just talk to me. I'm your friend. What's wrong?"

"I don't know what's wrong with me, alright?" The Warmaster inhaled through her nostrils and exhaled through her mouth, trying her best to calm down. "I used to think - when I first got this job - I was just filling in until Odette got better, y'know? I hold down the fort for a few months, she comes back, we go back to the good old days. I had no problem with that."

"And now?"

"And now, I don't know. When she was gone, it felt like she wasn't coming back," Therese explained. "It started feeling like this was for real, you know? Like I was really, seriously the Warmaster. I wasn't just some temp and I didn't have to make sure everything I did would be fine with her. I didn't have her shadow hovering over me. Then she came back and..."

"She came back and..?"

The Warmaster leaned over her desk, running a hand through her rusty, auburn hair. She didn't quite know how to phrase it. No - that wasn't true. She knew exactly how to phrase it, she simply didn't know how to make it sound like anything more than a frantic teenage girl's trifles.

"She came back and," Therese murmurred, feeling a pain in the back of her throat, "she came back and everything else came back with her. I don't want to spend my entire career in her shadow, Ty. I don't- I don't want to just be known as Odette's replacement. I got to feel what it was like - what it was REALLY like - to be Warmaster and now I just..."

Tyler shook her head and slowly stepped around the Warmaster's desk. She put her hands on Therese's shoulders, giving a tender squeeze as the Eversor's body quivered. "Then listen to me, because I want to be very clear," Tyler said as softly as she could, "turn her down."


"Shut up and listen, Terry," her aide said, her grip on the Warmaster's shoulder tightening. "I'm not saying this because I'm her competition. I'm saying this because I'm your friend. I don't care if you don't pick me, just don't pick HER. She nearly ran this Officio into the ground then suddenly she begs forgiveness and that's all it takes? No. A few days of right don't make up for two years of wrong. You understand what I'm getting at?"

"I guess," Therese mumbled. "I don't know. I think I should talk about this with someone else. I-"

"Then do that," the Vindicare replied as she slowly let go of her superior. "Your inauguration is in two weeks. You don't HAVE TO pick someone by then. Hell, Brighton never had an Equerry at all. Just don't freak out and take your time to think about this. It's a big decision and you have enough to worry about as it is."

The Warmaster nodded and slowly sat up straight. She looked at her aide, a gentle, grateful smile finding its way to her face. "Thanks, Ty," she said, to which the Vindicare nodded in return. "I've got some things to finish up here, then... I think I'll take the rest of the day off and unwind a little."

"You sure could use it," said Tyler, as she found her way to the door. "I'll leave you to your work. Call me if you need anything, alright?"

"Will do," Therese answered. "And thanks... For always being here for me."

The Vindicare gave one last smile - tinged by a moment's hesitation - before she stepped out of the office. The Warmaster stretched, cracking her knuckles as she switched her computer monitor on. After a few clicks, emails by the dozen filled the screen, filled with every variety of report and request imaginable. Finances, squad activities, inter-Officio relations - she had grown used to it all by now. She had learned which ones could be skimmed for details and which warranted careful reading. Or at least, she was sure she knew the difference.

It was at the very top of the list that she found something that piqued her interest. Bright, bold red text reading 'URGENT' prefaced the title of a report compiled by Logises Holly and Molly Corbin. She had heard the words 'Blessed Lady' hear and there over the past few months, along with the occassional brochure slipped into her paperwork, but had never paid it much mind. And yet, what started as vague disinterest in the report slowly but surely turned to fascination as she read on.


"Odette Brighton. Clearance level violet."

Purple doors hissed as they slid open on the far side of the bank of multi-coloured elevators. Odette gave the security camera a slight nod as she stepped in, then poked one of the indigo buttons inside. The doors klunked before the lift shuddered as it began its descent.

The former Warmaster had exactly one minute and thirty-nine seconds worth of alone time in the elevator as it dropped. There wasn't exactly a whole lot to think about, all told. She was curious about the golden hooks, worried about the sudden entrance of a new faction from stage left, but... that was someone else's problem now. She wasn't Warmaster anymore. Her assignment was almost over and - had she felt less obligation to the Officio - she could forget all about it after turning her report in. Knowing that the option was there gave her a certain feeling of freedom that she hadn't paid attention to before.

Her thoughts were cut off as the elevator door rumbled open, revealing yet another sterile white hallway, this time with perfectly symmetrical rows of thick metal doors on either side. Not a single soul was present in the hall as the Eversor stepped out. The hall was monitored by a single security camera at the far end of the hall, along with all manner of invisible sensors that Odette had memorized. With the press of a button, the twin Vanus could flood the entire hallway with lake water, drowning anyone unfortunate enough to have tried to break into the Seventeenth's maximum security vaults, as rare as that was.

"They're in vault two," the Vanus said over the PA. "You don't come out in ten minutes, I'm sending someone in to get you. Capisce?"

"Christ, Holly," Odette replied as she punched her security code into the second door's keypad. "What are you so afraid of?"

"You read the report."

The one-eyed girl paused to look at the security camera, a stern look flattening her brow. "I'll see you in ten."

Tumblers clunked and klanked as the heavy steel door unlocked. After a moment, the gears went silent and the door squealled open. Immediately, Odette was hit by an odour that was growing uncomfortably familiar. Sickly sweet decadence. Flowers at a funeral.

The tiny Eversor coughed and quietly swore to herself, involuntarily taking a couple steps back. She forced herself to enter the room, the door shutting itself after her. Not a single camera or speaker decorated the interior of the perfectly cubical vault, only a single stainless steel table bolted to the floor in the centre of the room. A musty dufflebag sat on the table - no doubt the closest thing available after the hooks had been pried from Odette's hands.

Odette unzipped it slowly, cautiously peering into the bag. The hooks glinted as she folded the bag down around them, looking almost as if they had never been used.

"They're calling."

The Eversor looked them over with her one eye, not having worked up the nerve to actually touch them. There were two hooks, each one as long as her forearm and connected by a heavy chain. Her eye itched. She was astounded at just how clean they were, both looking dazzling and luxurious - gaudy, even.

"They want you."

Odette reached out, her pale hands shaking. The chain jangled as she picked up the first hook. She tested its weight, tossing it lightly in her hand. It felt strangely comfortable to hold. The weight was perfect - heavy enough to do serious damage when thrown, but light enough to make throwing easy. She could hear her heart beating like a wardrum in her ears.

"You want them."

Odette set the hook down, then ran the chain through her hands. She noticed, as she did, that each link of the chain was embossed with an XII. The percussion in her ears was speeding up. She could hear a distant crackling, popping sound, but paid it no mind. Something felt wrong about the hooks, something dark and predatory waiting just beneath the surface.

"Take them."

She forced herself to tear her eye away from the hooks, suddenly bringing her nose-to-nose with a horribly familiar figure. Ice-flecked white hair. Pale, blotchy blue-tinged skin. Eyes of the purest cobalt blue she had ever seen. Claws of ice and frozen blood.

Odette froze, staring herself in the face. She suddenly realized where the crackling sound had come from: Rime coated every surface of the room.

"Oh," the ghost gasped, feigning surprise, "you finally noticed."

The figure stepped around the table, Odette's one eye still locked on her as she went.

"Take them," it whispered. "After all you've been through... You've earned them."

Odette felt a sickening sensation in the pit of her stomach. Her hand smacked down on the table as she tried to keep herself upright. The room was spinning and the pounding in her ears was deafening.

"How many of your friends have died?" The figure asked. "How long can you keep this up? Pretending that nothing is wrong. That you're perfectly fine." A single icy talon found its way under Odette's chin. "You're broken, Odette Brighton. You've been broken for a long time. Your own incubator tried to have you put down like a rabid dog..."

The former Warmaster slapped the frozen claw away. Mustering every ounce of strength she had left, she shoved the dufflebag off the table, and the hooks with it. Everything seemed to meld together after that.

Her demon vanished as the door to the vault screeched as it was pulled open. Red light filtered in from the hallway. When Fredrica Volk found her old mentor, she was sitting on the ground, eye wide in shock.

The Rank Leader called her name. "Odette," she screamed, "ODETTE." She snapped her fingers in front of the one-eyed girls face, then slapped her when she recieved no response.

Odette blinked as she slowly came to her senses. She looked at the boyish, black-haired Eversor as if she'd seen a ghost. "Freddy," she muttered, her eye glancing around wildly. "What happened? Has... Has it been ten minutes?"

Fredrica blinked, shaking her head in disbelief. "Odette," she said, "you've been in here for half an hour. Holly saw ice coming through the door and called me."

The smaller Eversor looked down for a moment, then back at the Rank Leader. "I need to see Fubey."


"So in conclusion: We go after Daedalus, and you bury hooks in concrete and dump them in the fucking lake."

The incubator of the Seventeenth sat atop his desk, staring at Odette with his constantly expressionless face. The Eversor had delivered her report, then set about explaining her encounter with the golden hooks - leaving out the part about the frozen ghost that had accompanied her. The incubator - to his credit - had sat quietly through the entire account, only speaking up to ask short, simple questions. Fubey nodded slowly as she finished speaking, taking a moment to process everything.

"I see," he said. "You are certain that there is no value in keeping them?"

"One hundred percent."

He nodded again, his gaze shifting as he thought. "Very well. I will make arrangements for their disposal. In the mean time, Miss Corbin has informed me that you wish to take some time off. Is this so?"

"I- Yeah," she replied, feeling a twinge of guilt. "Just a week, maybe two. I don't know. I need some time to get things sorted out."

"You have my permission, then," Fubey stated. "No longer than a month, but do take your time, if you feel it necessary. You are a valuable asset to this Officio, Odette. Your physical and mental health is important. I look forward to seeing you, ah, 'back in action', as they say."

"Thanks, Fooby," the Eversor smiled, patting his head. "We done here?"

The incubator hesitated for moment, before nodding again. "I believe so. You are dismissed."

Odette turned to leave, but stopped as a thought ran across her mind. She couldn't help but remember what the ghost in her nightmares had said. The form she had found in Fennel's apartment. She didn't want to mention it, but it wasn't something that could be left alone. Her hand clenched into a fist as she turned back around.

"Was there something else?" The incubator asked, his head cocking to the side."

Every part of her screamed at her to drop it and leave, but her mind was already set. "Fubey," she started, gulping, "what - exactly - is the Ymir Protocol?"

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 20[edit]

"What - exactly - is the Ymir Protocol?"

Odette asked the question clear and blunt, locking eye with the incubator. For the first time in many years, she saw Fubey's eyes go wide with... something she couldn't quite place. Surprise? Shock? Fear, even?

"I'm afraid that is classified informa-"

At the sound of rustling paper, Fubey stopped. From her pocket, Odette pulled out a crumpled piece of paper, flattened it, then placed it on the incubator's desk. It was a standard termination order, neatly filled out in the incubator's own hand and stamped with the seal of the Seventeenth Officio. The order had been given to a one Fennel Vance, its target being none other than Odette Brighton. The only cause given was 'Protocol 81 - Ymir'.

"Fubey, I've been contracted for seven years now, don't pull that shit on me," the Eversor growled, her finger tapping the form. "I'm giving you a chance to explain yourself before we have another incident on our hands. What is the Ymir Protocol?"

The incubator refrained from answering her directly - instead he let out a short, exasperated sigh and pointed to one of the two sofa chairs in front of his desk. "Please have a seat," he directed her, before opening a desk drawer with his moustache-hand. "Would you care for a drink?"

"I- What? No," Odette shook her head in confusion after taking her seat. "Listen-"

"Are you sure?" The incubator asked, brandishing a bottle of Harrison's whiskey and a pair of tumblers. "It's quite good."


Fubey shrugged - or as close as he could get to a shrug with his tiny, chubby shoulders - as he poured himself a glass. "Suit yourself."

Odette stared, stunned by the sight of her employer indulging himself. She had never seen him drink, but at the same time, she had to admit it wasn't entirely unexpected. Fubey had always been the type to fall into depressed slumps rather easily.

"Didn't know you drank," she remarked.

"I believe we've known each other long enough to stop keeping secrets," the chubby cat said, before taking his first sip. He let out a heavy breath, then asked again, "You're quite sure that you don't want any?"

"I'm sure."

Odette swore she heard a muted "Hrmph" come from the incubator as he set the glass down. "Where to begin," he murmured, trying desperately not to make eye contact with his charge. "The Ymir Protocol, to put it simply, is a contingency plan. Should your mental state, ah, deteriorate to the point where witch transformation is imminent, well, ah..."

"You kill me," Odette filled in the blank.

Fubey nodded silently -almost sheepishly- as he took another sip. "To put it bluntly, yes. In its current state, we-... I believed that our Officio would suffer immense losses in the case that you, as they say, 'Witch Out'. The loss of life would far outweigh any potential gain."

"So you retire me," she said, choosing her words a bit more carefully, "before I reach that point."


Odette's composure slipped for a moment, lacing her next words with venom. "But I never did, did I?"

"I- No. No you did not," the Fubey answered. He couldn't bring himself to look anywhere but into his drink. "The order was rash and I wish with every fibre of my being that I could erase my moment of thoughtlessness. The day after Miss Vance was given the assignment, I tried contacting her to repeal the order. However, by that time she had vanished. Now that we know you were her primary target... I suppose I gave her exactly what she wanted."

Odette wanted to say something. She wanted to tell him how much of a load of bullshit that was, how she would quit the Officio forever, and yet... She knew he had a point. The Seventeenth wasn't exactly the toughest on the block, and she knew it. It was exactly the kind of decision she had been trained to make. She didn't want to admit it, but she knew she would have done the same thing in Fubey's position.

The silver-haired girl closed her eye and pressed her palm against her face as an exasperated sigh escaped her lips. "You fucking idiot..."

"Yes, thank you," the incubator muttered. "I apologize and am prepared to take whatever measures necessary to make amends, if possible."

"I- Fubey, listen-" Odette stammered, trying to sort out her emotions and speak at the same time. Slowly, she stood and reached out, clenching her fist, then relaxing it, as if about to retract it at any moment. Finally, she let out a long breath and held her hand out-stretched. "Call us even?"

Fubey looked at the hand, then back up at Odette. "Two years of poor Warmastering against one assassination attempt?" He asked, a hint of amusement colouring his words. With one of his moustache-appendages, he took Odette's hand and shook it lightly. "One of us is getting a bargain, but I can not for the life of me tell whom..."

Odette smirked and sunk back into her seat. "I'll take that drink now," she said. "But just one. I, uh, I'm going out with Lotte in a few hours."

Fubey laughed softly to himself and did as she asked, handing her a glass. "I must say, I am rather surprised. Pleased," he said, "but surprised. I did not expect you to take this so well."

"Turns out spending nine days hanging from a tree gives you a lot of time to think," the Eversor replied. "The last thing we need around here is more bullshit from either of us. I was serious when I said I wanted to make things right this time. No more grudges. No more secrets."

"I dare say, that almost sounds too good to be true," Fubey mused. "But if that is the case, there is one more thing I wished to speak to you about. A proposition."

"Shoot," Odette said, before taking a noisy sip of the whiskey. It burned her throat, forcing her to let out a wet hack. "Nope, still can't stand it..."

"Should the Warmaster decline your offer to become her Equerry or if you were to rethink it, I would ask you to consider becoming my personal aide," he said, bowing his head slightly - a gesture that only served to show off his multiple chins in place of a neck. "I would be honoured to have someone of your skill acting as my hand."

'I thought Holly and Molly were your aides."

"To a degree, yes," the incubator replied, taking another sip. "But I could certainly use someone who could act directly when necessary. There are a number of matters that could already use your attention."

Odette let out a long breath, leaning her head back against the chair as she thought. Though, as she did, she couldn't help but realize that there wasn't much to think about. Being Equerry could only let her do so much, but to be the incubator's personal aide? Odette had heard the position referred to as a 'Hatless Warmaster' before, and she couldn't exactly disagree with the term.

"I'll think about it," Odette finally answered. "After my vacation, of course. I mean, assuming the offer will still be open when I get back."

"Of course."

The former Warmaster couldn't help but smile and quietly giggle to herself . "I guess that's that then," she said, bringing her glass to her lips again and drank... then promptly spat it all back into the glass. "Nope. Can't do it."


"Joe baby, trust me. I know what I'm doing here."

The green-haired woman spoke into the phone with a tone just on the edge of frantic. She leaned back in her recliner, twirling her black sunhat around her finger again and again. She was called Prime; the first, the original, the leader of a leaderless organization.

"-no, sorry, bad choice of words," she said, giggling slightly. She spoke her words at rapid-fire speed with a light Southern accent, never stammering or tripping over herself. "I know you don't trust me, Joe. I don't trust you either! That's why we have a good business relationship! Mutual mistrust makes the world go round, sweetie. But, listen, hun, this ain't my first rodeo, alright? You gotta understand-"

The apartment around her was a cluttered, disorganized mess. Another green-haired girl wearing hot pants and stockings with a black waistcoat over a striped dress shirt sat on a sofa to one side of the Prime, anxiously shuffling and reshuffling a deck of cards. Curiously, a pair of short black devil horns jutted out from beneath her hair, like a pair of tiny mountains emerging from a forest canopy. The name given to her was Mathilda Herzog, but everyone had come to call her simply Tilly.

"Fine, finefinefine, we'll speed things up," said Prime after being interrupted. "You want two weeks, I'll give you two weeks, but I'm tellin' you right now, it's gon' be messy. Someone traces things back to you... or - heaven forbid - the little princess... Well, that ain't gonna be my fault, now. We understand each other, hon?"

To Tilly's left sat a third, taller girl, fiddling with her phone in one hand and dropping a slice of pizza into her mouth with the other. She looked nearly identical to Prime, save for a fedora and necktie in place of Prime's sunhat and ribbon.

A rustling and hissing exuded from her bosom before a small, scaly head slipped out from between her shirt buttons. The snake darted out, snatched a dangling piece of pepperoni, then disappeared beneath her top again. The snake charmer's current name was Ingrid Pech, an arbitrary designation given for convenience, same as the rest. The Black Mamba hiding in her cleavage, on the other hand, was called Lenny, and that was its true name because snakes have no use for pseudonyms.

"Thing's gonna get fat," Tilly muttered, leering at the girl beside her.

Ingrid grinned and shook her head at the girl, hissing playfully.

"Well it ain't gonna go as well as the last time, but we barely had to do anything there," Prime continued, shooting a glare at the two girls to her right. "I mean, we already lost one of our big girls inside, and the one left is dumb as a bag o' rocks. Dedicated, sure. Passionate, even! But stupid, so she's only gonna get us so far. Not everyone can play the game like Elly... Yeah. I understand. So how's the princess doin', anyways?"

Across the coffee table from Tilly and Ingrid, a fourth girl sat cross-legged directly in front of the enormous television, her eyes blood-shot and transfixed to the screen as she flipped through a channel every second.

Unlike the others, she wore a traditional two-piece business suit with a checkered tie and thick-rimmed glasses. Her unkempt hair was a darker shade of green than the other three, decorated with a pair of pink streaks framing her face.

If one paid close enough attention to the rapidly changing channels, they would notice that a fair number looked suspiciously like security camera feeds and private communications. Her name was Shion Ranko, the house communications and information expert.

"Aw, that's adorable!" Prime laughed. "Call me if that little slut wants to start taking her job a little more seriously, m'kay? Tell her I said hi! Alright, gotta go, sweetie! Talk to you later! Buh-bye~"

Prime let out a long, heavy groan as she hung up the phone and squeezed the bridge of her nose. By the time her hand dropped from her face, Prime's good humour returned and she began to address the other girls in the room.

"Alright, ladies, you all heard! As of now, we're officially in crunch mode, so put on your big girl pants, and- Oh for god's sake," she said, gesturing toward Shion, "one of you wake her up."

With two fingers, Tilly picked a card out of her deck and threw it with a practised hand. The card spun through the air before a corner lodged itself firmly in the back of the spellbound girl's head. For the first time in hours, Shion blinked, then slowly turned to face the other girls with bleary, distant eyes.

"Hrm?" She groaned, still half in a trance. A beat passed, then, "OW, FFFUCK!" She screeched, yanking the lightly bloodied card out of her scalp. "UNNECESSARY."

"But funny," Ingrid remarked, snickering.

Tilly, on the other hand, opted to remain silent, instead giggling with an impossibly smug grin plastered to her face while Shion fumed.

"Ladies, please," Prime said with a hollow, chilling smile on her face, "can we just - for a moment - please focus?" The three girls promptly settled down at the sight of their senior's expression. Ingrid gave a slight nod and Prime continued, "Thank you. Ladies, we have been planning this job for months. We have two weeks ahead of us that will make or break this entire operation. Everything's already in place, all we need now is a spark to set off the fireworks. I would have liked a little build-up - bit of 'dramatic escalation' if you will - but old Joe's gettin' cold feet and wants the show to start before the new Warmaster's official inauguration. From this point on, there will be no screw ups, no procrastination, and absolutely no FUCKING AROUND on the job. Each of you has a reason for being here, and I have a reason for KEEPING each of you here. If I stop having a reason to keep you, then I start having a reason to put you out of service. Am I clear?"

The three girls in front of her each nodded in unison.

"Good," Prime said, before she began to bark out orders of each of the other magical girls, pointing to them as she did. "Ingrid, we already talked about your next job. I want that done tomorrow. Understand?"

"Consider it done~"

"Mathilda, I need you to make the plant as soon as you possibly can. I want the Warmaster in our pocket before the week is done."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Shion, contact Vance and give her a status update, then sit tight and keep monitoring things until further orders."

Shion adjusted her glasses and nodded without a word.

"And me?" Asked a fifth voice from behind Prime's chair. Another girl, at least as tall as Prime and Ingrid stepped forward from the corner of the room, placing her hand on Prime's shoulder. Her face was unnaturally shadowed beneath the hood of long, bright orange, short-sleeved coat - Surrey Reid, the closest any of them came to Prime's second-in-command. None of the others - save for Prime herself - seemed to notice that the fifth girl had been in the room the entire time. The gambler's poker face momentarily slipped into shocked surprise, the snake-charmer smirked and laughed to herself, and the technician glanced at the others, trying to make sure that she wasn't the only one caught off-guard.

"You, my dear," the senior said, patting the newcomer's hand, "have the dubious honour of keeping this ship afloat while I step away for a few days to meet with some of our friends."


Prime murmured a quiet affirmative, then said, "Can't exactly pull this off in two weeks without her help."

"Well then," Surrey said, looking up at the others, "let's kill us an Officio. Hydra dominatus."

In perfect synchronization, each of them clasped a fist to their chest and echoed her in perfect, unearthly harmony.

"Hydra dominatus."

Prose Magica: The Ballad of the Seventeenth Part 21[edit]

Two months, she had been contracted. In two months, her life had been battered, broken and reshaped into something that would have seemed utterly alien before. Her father had struck it rich. She found a true best friend. She had met and - if she was being bold - become friends with the most powerful magical girl in the country. She had lived in a true mansion for all of a week before her father was murdered and the mansion nearly destroyed in the process. Now, nearly two weeks later, she was back to the suburbs, living with her new best friend's family like one long sleep-over.

But all of that aside, perhaps the strangest thing of all was how... normal it all felt. Her old world had been ripped to unrecognizable shreds and Mona Bernard simply nodded and took it in stride. It was as if she had forfeited her normal, teenaged girl life upon contracting and already knew that everything was bound to fall apart sooner or later. She just had to pick up the pieces and glue them back together. Make something tougher. Something stronger.

For the third time in the past ten minutes, she pulled out her expensive new smartphone to check the time, as though waiting for a call that would never come. Across the room, Meg Laurie laid across her bed, playing yet another video game starring big-eyed characters with unusual hair. It was the only thing Mona ever saw her play.

The smaller girl rolled over on her side and cocked an eyebrow at Mona. "You okay?" She asked. "You keep lookin' at that thing like when people check the fridge and expect new food to appear."

Mona was shocked for a moment, then laughed and shook her heard. She didn't even realize that Meg had been paying attention. "Just... It's nothing, don't worry about it."

"You wanted to call Odette, right?" Meg asked. "Thinkin' about doing that?"

Mona sighed, then smiled at her friend. "Why do I bother?"

"I'm in your head Bernard!" Meg waved her fingers by her head like a pair of antennae. "I know all your secrets!"

"But it's seven o'clock..."

"C'mon, she went to go talk to whatshername at two in the morning," Meg argued, twisting around to sit on the edge of her bed. "Do it, nerd."

"But that was-"

"Doooooo iiiiiitttttt."

"Fine," Mona groaned as she heaved herself out of her beanbag chair. "I'll be right back."

The other Eversor flashed her a bright smile and a thumbs up as she stepped out of the room. Mona hadn't gotten around to adding Odette's number to her contacts - it felt far too personal - and so had to check back and forth from Holly's text to get the number right. Numbers had never been her strong suit. She leaned back against the wall just outside of the bedroom and stuck the sleek phone to her ear, still holding it rather clumsily after being used to cellphones that looked and felt like small bricks.

The phone rang over and over, giving Mona a sense of relief, thinking the former Warmaster might not even pick up. But the fourth ring was cut off by sounds of shuffling cloth before an increasingly familiar, and out-of-breath sounding voice answered, "Yo, hey, what's up, kiddo?"

"Uh- Hey," Mona replied, "is, um, is this a bad time? I can-"

"Nonono, well- I can talk," Odette said, sounding just the slightest bit guilty. "What's up?"

"I was just wondering if I could talk to you about the thing I mentioned early. I kinda wanted to get it out of the way before the funeral, but if you're busy-"

"Hey, no worries," Mona was constantly astounded at how friendly Odette sounded, especially compared to the rumours. "Sounds like something you might want to talk about in person, though, right? How about I swing by in a little bit and pick you up?"

"I, um," Mona stammered, caught off guard. "If you're sure it's no trouble..."

"Great! Fifteen minutes good for you?"


"Actually, make it twenty-"


"OW," Odette shouted over the phone, "that hurt! Fu- Half an hour? Is that good?" It sounded more like the former Warmaster was asking someone on the other line. "Women. Okay, thirty minutes. See you then! And, uh, tell your friend I said hi."

"She'll," Mona paused, a bit incredulous that Odette even remembered Meg, "she'll like that. Thanks. Later."

"Good, good. Take care, kiddo."

As the phone went silent, Mona nearly collapsed against the wall. It didn't feel normal anymore. The understanding of who Odette was, the fact that she was dropping her business to visit Mona, on top of casually casually calling her 'kiddo'. It wasn't normal at all. Her back slid down the wall as Mona lowered herself to sit on the floor. A moment to collect herself, that's all she needed. Just a moment to make sure she wouldn't cry.

She wasn't sure how long she'd been outside when she felt an arm around her shoulders. It probably wasn't long, knowing Meg. The shorter Eversor pulled her close, rubbing her shoulder and whispering comforts.

"C'mon, Momo," Meg said, smiling gently, "gotta get ready. Can't have you lookin' all red-eyed and puffy-faced, right?"

Mona nodded, wiping her tears away with a sleeve.

"Here," Meg said, shoving a tissue into Mona's hands, "blow."

Mona did. A few tissues later and her nose was already feeling hot and sore. She could only imagine how red it must have been. Meg squeezed her shoulder and the pair sat together on the floor until they heard the low hum of an engine pulling up to the house. Mona was pulled to her feet and hurried along into the bathroom while Meg rushed down to meet their guest so fast that she nearly fell down the stairs.

By the time Meg reached the front door, Odette had nearly done the same. The door juddered and squealed as it opened, not quite fitting the frame properly.

"Yo, hey," Meg said, "she's just getting clea- getting ready. You wanna come in for a little?"

Odette laughed and shook her head. "Nah, nah. Nice and cold out here. Rough night?"

Meg opened her mouth to say something, but couldn't find the words. Instead, she just nodded.

"Been there," Odette said. "Too many times, really. How about you? Holdin' up okay?"

"Ah, y-you know," the dark-haired girl said with a shrug, "I'm still working through the whole 'Odette-freakin'-Brighton is at my house' thing. Just wish... y'know..."

"Under better circumstances, yeah. I've got a feeling I'll be swinging by more often. Hopefully you'll see me around the office more, too."

"Oh! You know what you should do is- is- um, actually..."


"Well," Meg gave a sheepish grin, "I was gonna say you should come visit some of your fans, but I dunno if you'd want to do something like that..."

Odette shrugged. "Wouldn't hurt. Might help get some of that old Warmaster swagger back."


"Sure, why not?"

"Oh man. OH MAN," the junior Eversor said, practically bouncing in place with excitement. "THIS IS WHY YOU'RE THE BEST! I gotta tell everyone. Oh man, oh man... MOMO, HURRY IT UP!"

"I'M COMING," Mona called back, moments before appearing at the top of the stairs. Though her face was cleaned, Mona's eyes were visibly red, even from the doorway. The tall Eversor wore the same plain, navy and white tracksuit that she usually wore for training, clearly in no mood to get dressed up, even for eminent company.

"Yo," Odette waved, then cocked a thumb at the steel behemoth waiting at the curb. "Ready to go?"


"Are you watching closely?"

"I'm watchin', I'm watchin'."

The Bartender kept close watch as the deck fluttered in front of her eyes. Across from her sat a golden-eyed girl with long, feathery pink hair topped with a gigantic, purple witch hat. She never seemed to break eye contact with the redhead as she shuffled the cards - never once looking down as her fingers moved faster than the Bartender thought humanly possible. She was Callidus Rank Leader, professional stage magician, comedian and three time winner of the annual Miss Seventeen beauty pageant, May White.

May flicked a card up, holding it between two fingers "Is this your card?"

The Bartender shook her head. It was the two of spades, not the four of diamonds.

"Damn it, I thought I had that one..."

"You're slippin', kiddo."

May pouted and her purple cloak flapped as she reshuffled the deck. "One more time..."

The Bartender's eyes wandered across her establishment. It was a busy night, to say the least. Normally, she could expect maybe a dozen patrons on a week night - tonight, however, the building seemed packed to the brim. Almost every booth and table seemed to be filled, leaving the cocktail waitresses very little room as they flitted back and forth. On the other hand, perhaps owing to the presence of the Rank Leader, not a single soul sat at the bar itself.

At last, the pink-haired girl slapped the deck on the table. "Pick any card!"

The Bartender rubbed her eyes and considered the cards for a moment, before splitting the deck in half and taking the middle card, eliciting a smirk from her companion. The smirk, however, faded as the Bartender flipped up the ace of diamonds.

"Well," the redhead muttered, "it would have been pretty impressive if it worked, I guess."

May groaned, then swiped the deck off the table and stuffed it into her pocket. "Whatever," she grumbled. "Can you get me another coaster? My drink's sweatin' like a blind lesbian at a fish market."

The comment got a snort out of the Bartender. "Every time," she said, shaking her head as she reached under the table. "Hang on..."

May's eyes seemed to twinkle as an enormous grin crept onto her face. From under the table, the Bartender produced a crisp, new deck of cards, still wrapped in plastic.

"You're shitting me," the redhead laughed.

"Come on, open it up! Look at the top card!"

"See, this is what I like about you, May. Even the simple things can be," the Bartender tore open the pack and picked out the top card, "eeentirely underwhelming..."

A strained, painful laugh escaped May's lungs as the Bartender turned over the queen of hearts.

"Bullshit," the Rank Leader said, though neither her lips nor the rest of her face seemed to move an inch.

"You still need that coaster?"

May shook her head, then began to look through the cards. Her brow seemed to furrow harder and harder as she did, before she finally asked, "It was the four of diamonds, right?"


"It's not in here," May muttered. A moment later, she fished the first deck out of her pocket and repeated the search. "It's not here!"

"Is this another trick?" The Bartender asked, snickering.

"No! It's really gone!" The magician patted herself down and checked her sleeves. "I don-"

"Hey, what's that in your drink?"

May's head jerked up to her neglected piña colada. There, sliced down the middle to garnish the rim, was the four of diamonds. It was then that she realized the voice that had tipped her off didn't belong to the Bartender, who was already doubled over laughing.

"You BITCH," May hissed at the patron leaning back against the bar beside her.

"Aw, c'mon, kiddo," Lotte said with a wink, dressed in the latex, fur-lined catsuit that was her costume, "Red's right, that would've been really good if it weren't for me."

"This is- I'm your boss now," May pouted, crossing her arms and slouching over the bar to sip at her drink, "can't do this to me..."

"So how'd she do it, huh?" The Bartender asked the newcomer. "Free drink if you tell me."

"Nice try," she said, smirking. "Un mojito, s'il vous plaît."

With an annoyed grumble, the redhead went about making the drinking, leaving the two Calliduses to themselves. The senior of the two spun on her stool to face the bar, still grinning at her junior. May had always been Lotte's star pupil, so she found it only natural to tease the magician whenever she could. She still remembered being there for May's wish four years earlier. Something about wishing to impress people and put smiles on faces - she couldn't remember the exact wording, but it was the same innocent kind of wish that always made for talented magical girls.

May took to being a magical girl like a fish to water. Somehow she even managed to handle a career of stage magic and a smattering of stand-up comedy on the side, to boot. Had she been contracted only a year earlier, she might have even beaten Lotte out for the title of Rank Leader. As good as she was, though, May never managed to work her way into the old circle of friends that dominated the senior posts in the Officio. She never seemed to want to either, always being content to stay on the sidelines. Maybe it was easier to manage her career that way.

"So how's the new job?" Lotte asked. Her costume slowly disintegrated into particles of light, revealing a turtle-neck sweater and skinny jeans underneath. A moment later, the Bartender slid her drink in front of her.

May loosed a long and loud groan. "I don't know how you did it," she groaned. "One day they're smuggling booze into their bunks, the next they're sneaking out at night to go clubbing."

"It's good practice, really."

"And now all of this bullshit lately has them all riled up," May's expression sank as the brim of her hat seemed to droop further over her face. "They already want to go back to the old days with you running the rank and Odette in charge, and now Fubey does this whole invasion of privacy thing? How do you think that's going over with the prettiest princesses in the Officio?"

"Well obviously it'll ruffle some feathers, but is it really THAT bad?"

"If I had a nickel for every time I heard 'Warmaster Brighton wouldn't have let this happen', I swear. Worst part is the Vindicares being all gung-ho about this. Congratulations, Terry, you turned a grudge into a full-on blood feud-"

"Whoa, whoa," Lotte said, gesturing for May to be quiet. "Slow down, there. It's gotten worse? I haven't heard anything about this."

"Yeah, 'cause you're semi-retired," May explained. "We don't want to drag you back into that mess. And, well... yeah, okay? It's gotten worse. Feels like there's a scuffle every other day. Someone talks shit, someone gets hit. Makes me wish I was in Fred's place. At least with the Eversors I could just kick their asses if they got in trouble."

"I don't think it works quite like that," Lotte remarked. "So what's Frenchie doing about all this? Can't you guys do... I don't know, something?"

"Chloé? Christ, don't even get me started! She does so little that half the time I think she's just egging them on when I'm not looking."

"Wouldn't put it past her, I guess."

"So I figured I'd take a little time off, go do a few shows," the magician swirled her straw around. "Left Mercy and Sigma in charge of the place-"

"Mercy and Sigma 'Once Ate a Crayon On a Bet', THAT Sigma? The hell are you doin' to my rank, White?"

"Best twenty bucks I ever lost. But okay, maybe it's more like Mercy's in charge and she has her little cheerleader there for support. Can we just talk about something other than work?" May asked, trying to look a bit cheerier. "So what about you, huh? My little birdies tell me that retirement's been treating you pretty good the past few days."

"Hah, you could- you could say that," Lotte stammered, turning a bit pinker.

"So what're you doing here instead of spending time with the bae?"

"Please never use that word again," the blonde said. "Odette had to go look after some kid whose dad just died, because... Well, besides the dead dad thing, you know how O gets. Always has to be responsible for everyone else's problems."

"'Dead dad thing', very classy," May laughed. "I can see why Popsicle likes you so much."

"Shut up," Lotte laughed, "it's not like you even know the kid."

The pink-haired Callidus snickered and took a quick sip of her drink. "But I get what you're saying," she said, finally pulling the card off of her drink and flicking it at her senior, "she's got that whole- what's it called- reparation complex? That sounds like it might be a thing. Always feels like she owes the Officio more."

"That's pretty much it, yeah. Some days I worry she wants to go out with a big heroic sacrifice, just like the old lady."

"'s why you gotta tie her down, Shirley," May said, nodding at her own sage wisdom. "Give her a reason to stop sticking her neck out for every stray kitten that crosses her path. You know what I mean?"

"Don't call me Shirley."

"Point stands."

"Easier said than done," Lotte murmured. "I already tried asking her if she wanted to just settle down. Didn't work, but I still got this far. It'll take time for her to get used to a quieter life."

"You sure seem to have adapted to it fast."

"Eh," the blonde shrug, "things are never as simple as they seem."

May smiled and let out a soft chuckle. "Guess so," she replied. The magician's gaze wandered off to the stage at the far end of the building, where the Russian looked to be finishing up the night's performance. "Hey," May said, tilting her head in the direction of the stage, "you feel like giving the good people a show? Been a while since both of us were here at the same time."

Lotte turned to look at the stage, then glanced back at May as she thought. After a moment's consideration, she sighed, smiled and said, "Just let me finish my drink first."

The Final Verse[edit]

Prose Magica: A Spoonful of Sugar[edit]

Prose Magica: A Spoonful of Sugar Part 1[edit]

'Doctor' Emma Strauss silently scribbled in her notebook, barely paying attention to the girl opposite her. A single light illuminated the room, reflecting off of Strauss' circular eyeglasses. A lonely antique gramophone played the graceful tune of "Blue Danube" in one corner of the room, to which the good doctor occasionally waved a finger. An elaborate chemistry set was borne on a table along the opposite wall, the sort that would give even a university a run for their money. With one gloved hand, the 'Doctor' gently picked up the soulgem on the table in front of her, then dropped it into one of two beakers.

“Experiment number forty-sree, beginnink now.”

A quiet splash sounded through the darkened room before a dull series of clinks as the soulgem settled to the bottom of the beaker. Immediately the bound girl began screaming and roaring, pulling the chains around her wrist taut as she reached for beaker in vain.

"Und how does siz van make you feel?" Strauss asked, staring down at her clipboard in a futile effort to keep her amusement from showing through.

The other girl screeched through gritted teeth. "PAIN. ANGRY. TAKE IT OUT!"

"Good, good," the 'doctor' cooed, "you are gettink much better at zis. Just a few moments lonker, darlink. Zen you vill get ze dreamy juice."

The girl chained to the wall was wearing little more than a dirty, stained tanktop and underwear. Her veins bulged an ugly purple, criss-crossing spiderweb patterns over chemically-enhanced muscles. Bloodshot eyes stared at the 'Doctor' with dilated pupils. She desperately reached and snatched at the beaker, flailing like a chained animal.

"Sirty more seconds, dear," Strauss mumbled as she jotted down a token few notes. "You are beink very stronk, very brave. Just a little lonker."

"GIVE IT TO ME!" The chained girl roared. A trail of blood had begun to run from one of her nostrils.

Strauss allowed a sly grin to creep up her face, showing off her wickedly pointed teeth. With a pair of tongs, she gently plucked the soulgem from one beaker, shook it off, then dropped it into the second. The results were immediately apparent. The bound girl slumped back against the wall and collapsed against her bindings, donning a look of pure euphoria as her brain abruptly switched gears. Her eyes rolled back into her head and a series of short giggles bubbled up from her mouth every so often.

"Zere ve go," whispered the 'doctor', watching with a look of utmost satisfaction. "Vhat a brave little girl you are. Und brave girls get ze dreamy juice!"

Strauss leaned back and adjusted her spectacles, holding a hand to her chin. The hyperdeliriant was one of her best selling products, inducing a near-catatonic state of bliss and available by injection or direct application to the soulgem. It even seemed to slow the corruption of a soulgem by a marginal amount. Though, she would never dare test the substance on herself. It did one well not to sample one's own product.

There was a time, long ago, when Emma Strauss was the warmaster of the Thirteenth. The first Venenum warmaster. It was an honour that brought great expectations and promise - which made it all the worse when she became the first warmaster to be expelled from her own officio. Unethical, inhumane practices they had told her. As if the entire magical girl song and dance wasn't already. Now she was stuck peddling drugs that would kill a normal human out of the basement of a one-story bungalow in the middle of nowhere.

Strauss kept a close eye on the euphoric guinea pig, still jotting down notes. The ugly, bulging veins slowly receded over a short few minutes, but the whites of her eyes were still painted with branching red veins. The 'doctor' quietly set her clipboard down on the table, then lifted the beaker containing her victim's soulgem.

"How are you feelink now, Milica?" Strauss asked, genuine curiosity touching her words.

"Muh- muh- muh- haaaa- mu- ahaha- much-ch-ch behehetter," Milica giggled. The girl was clearly still lost in her own little world.

Strauss let out a distinct "hmph" before setting the beaker down. "Fascinatink."

The gem was certainly corrupted to an extent, but not nearly to the length that Strauss had expected. A grief-retardant wasn't exactly something that interested her, but it would certainly sell well enough. Such was life as a small business owner.

Strauss had found the girl on her doorstep some months back. Everything about the wretch seemed to paint her as the perfect picture of a typical junky. Her hair was a mess, her skin blotchy and pale. She seemed to twitch nervously every so often and always held onto one arm; as if keeping it back from mugging the good doctor for more drugs.

Milica Djalic. Strauss had always kept a meticulously perfect file on each of her subjects. The girl had gone by the nickname "Red Hands" after a strange quirk left them constantly bloodied up to the elbow while in her costume. The 'Doctor' had only been interested in the phenomena for a few moments before she began to pump the girl full of various chemicals on a daily basis.

Her silent reminiscing was suddenly interrupted as the door bell was rung and a dog began yapping on the floor above. The bespectacled German nearly kicked over the table as she jolted upright, swearing as she rose from her seat. One hand swept up her top hat from thin air and placed it gently upon her head as the other took her cane, which was used to lift the needle from the gramophone.

There was a slight hunch to Strauss' stance as she quickly ascended the wooden stairway. The steps creaked and groaned with every heavy footfall, as if threatening to give way at the slightest pressure. As she reached the ground floor, the 'doctor' was greeted by a short, fluffy dog jumping and yapping at her excitedly, begging for attention.

“Do ve have a visitor, Fritz?” Strauss asked, giving its head a vigorous rub. “Go downstairs und play vis Milica, Fritz. Mommy needs to serve ze customers now.”

The dog did as it was told, promptly scurrying down the steps to lick the face of the bound girl. Strauss gently kicked the basement door shut before making her way to the front. One bespectacled eye peered out of the peephole – an addition which she had insisted on installing.

“Who is it?” She called out, her voice taking on a sing-song tone.

“It's Ofelia, Doctor,” came the reply in a soft, gentle voice.

Strauss grinned a sharp-toothed grin and pulled the door open, pulling herself down into a low bow as she did.

“Fräulein Navidson,” she greeted the new-comer, “alvays a pleasure to see my favourite customer. Do come in! Is it time for our appointment already?”

The girl who entered, a one Miss Ofelia Navidson, was dressed in a frilled blue dress, the sort that almost begged to be accompanied by a parasol and a haughty attitude. She had been coming to see the 'doctor' regularly for several months – far longer than Strauss had kept her favourite test subject chained up in the basement, at the very least. Her blonde hair was worn in long, spiralling curls down her back, along with two over her shoulders. She seemed the exact opposite of what one would expect of Strauss' clients.

“Two in the afternoon, just in time for tea,” Ofelia answered, smiling gently with just a hint of a darker tone “as usual.”

“Forgive me, forgive me. I just get so caught up in my vork. Is like zey say” Strauss laughed, leading the blonde girl to her tiny kitchen table as she flashed a wicked grin, "time flies ven you are havink fun."

“It's perfectly alright, dear doctor,” the blonde answered, taking her seat, “how has business been?”

“About ze same as usuval, I suppose,” the 'doctor' answered. She quickly prepared a kettle to boil before taking a seat opposite her customer. “Ze Tenss has been tryink to pressure me into takink more orders, but I simply von't have it. Und zen, ze Tventiess has been shovink a great amount of interest in ze hyperdeliriant. Interrogation purposes, so he claims. Not zat zis is any concern of mine, of course.”

"As it should be, I imagine."

Strauss shrugged and threw the blonde a smirk. "Zat is only good business. You have come for ze usuval, ja?"

"You don't have time to sit and chat?" Ofelia pouted, feigning offense.

"Vell, I have anozer appointment in two hours, betveen zat und furzer tests..." The 'doctor' trailed off, bobbing her head from side to side as she thought. "I suppose I could make some time for relaxink."

"Do you still keep that girl of yours around? What was her name..."

"Milica," Strauss answered as she rose from her seat to fetch the kettle. "Und ja, she is still here. I could not ask for a better test subject. So villing, so desperate," the 'doctor' made that same wicked grin that always seemed to find its way to her face, "it varms ze cockles of mein heart."

"What exactly is it that you consider her, hm?" Ofelia asked, thanking the 'doctor' as she poured each of them a cup of tea. "A prisoner? A slave? A pet, maybe?"

Strauss laughed quietly to herself, her eyes flicking upward to look at the blonde over the rims of her glasses. "Zat is... a complicated qvestion."

"Perhaps a friend then?" The blonde asked, finishing her question with a punctuating sip.

The 'doctor' nearly choked on her own drink, her spectacles clattering to the table. "I sink- I sink you are over-sinkink sinks a bit much, ja? Vat she is does not exactly matter, does it?"

"I was just thinking," Ofelia shrugged as she twirled a finger around her golden curls, "I would throw in a little extra something. But only if you buy her a decent meal with it. Is that agreeable?"

"Ach," Strauss groaned, scowling as she replaced her glasses, "do not tell me you have suddenly decided to start carink for zis... zis junky!"

"I can't exactly deny that," the blonde's finger ceased swirling her hair as she gently placed the tea cup on the table before sliding a narrow, blue, rectangular pamphlet across the table. "But you'll consider it, won't you?"

Strauss flipped through the pamphlet, squinting at it with an eyebrow cocked as she read. "Vat ze fuck is zis?" She mumbled. "A brochure for some kind of... religion? A cult?"

"The Blessed Lady watches over all magical girls, dear doctor," Navidson explained, taking the 'doctor's' free hand as she donned a look of utmost sincerity, "no matter how wayward their soul. No matter how far they may have strayed from the path of righteo-"

"Und you hand out fucking BROCHURES?" Strauss took back the hand held by the blonde and pinched her brow. After a moment, she let go and took a deep breath before speaking. "Ofelia, my dear Ofelia. You are vun of my favourite customers. You are punctuval, polite und you do not ask too many qvestions. I vill not allow you to stain a perfectly good business relationship vis zis... zis... solicitink!"

"Doctor please-"

"HALT DIE KLAPPE!" Strauss yelled. She took another deep breath as she squeezed her eyes closed. "Ve vill do business, und zen I vill show you to ze door. You vanted ze mark four combat stimulant as usuval, ja? Ze mark five vill be ready in just a few veeks-"

"A-actually," Ofelia stammered, gulping, "I was hoping you could perhaps sell me the mark two at a reduced rate. I imagine you have a large surplus stock."

"Ze mark two?" The 'doctor' asked with an incredulous blink. "Ofelia, I vould caution against such a sink. Ze mark two is extremely addictive und plagued by side effects... Zere is a reason I have a surplus of it. It vas my greatest mistake. Vhy vould you even vant zis?"

"Times are tough these days," the other girl responded, her eyes wandering. "The- the economy you know."

Strauss snorted and waved the blue pamphlet in the air. "Zen vhy don't you pray to zis Blessed Lady of yours for some money, hm?"


"I tell you vat," she began, "I vill sell you vun dose of mark four at a reduced rate, just zis vonce, for my favourite customer."

"Doctor, I need more than just a single dose," Ofelia replied. Her words seemed to grow more desperate as the argument went on. "I- I need MORE."

"I vill not sell my best customer ze mark two," Strauss countered. "Zis is not up for negotiata-"

"SELL ME THE MARK TWO!" Ofelia roared, her voice distorting and deepening between words.

The 'doctor's' eyes widened as realization slowly dawned on her. "Mein gott," she whispered, "you have already tried it, haven't you? Somevun gave you ze mark two. Who did zis to you?"

"Just sell it to me," the blonde muttered, "I swear to you that I won't be any problem."

"You say zat now, but-"

At that the other girl lunged across the table and seized the 'doctor's' wrist, her hand squeezing nearly hard enough to snap bone. A slight curl came to Strauss' lip, a faint snarl as she suppressed the urge to stab a pair of syringes into the other girl's eye sockets. She made it a rule not to deal with addicts - or at least not ones doped up on combat stims strong enough to easily kill a grown man.

"Just. Sell it to me."

Strauss sighed, then shook her head. "Fine," she growled, "vun order of ze mark two combat stimulant. Zat is five millilitres. Full price."


"You vant your filsy drugs, you vill pay full price!" She shouted, slamming a short, narrow silver case on the table. "Zat is one grief seed und ten sousand dollars per millilitre. You pay zis or you get NOSINK! Am I understood?"

Ofelia sat back in her chair and took a deep breath, choking down her rage. "Fine. Five millilitres. Full price."

"Zen ve have a deal."

The two girls nodded nearly in unison. Strauss shifted the briefcase to the side of the table before placing an identical one in its place. Ofelia nodded, then laid a small sack upon the table, along with several stacks of hundred dollar bills along with one extra, as she had promised. The two exchanged goods without a word shared between them; the silence only ever broken when one of them sipped her tea.

It wasn't until Strauss showed the blonde to the door that she finally spoke, and only one sentence then before locking up.

"May zis Blessed Lady have mercy on your soul."

The 'doctor' leaned back against the wall upon shutting the door, pulling aside the curtain to watch Ofelia's limousine pull out of the driveway, bounce over the speed-bump at the end, then finally disappear around the corner. She felt dirty. Ashamed. The mark two had always been one of her greatest mistakes, one that seemed intent on haunting her to her grave. It was one thing to ruin lives intentionally, to create a dependency on purpose. That was entirely within her control. Playing with an addict was one of her favourite hobbies. For it to happen by accident was another matter entirely. It was a mistake.

And mistakes would not be tolerated.

Everything seemed to blur together as she made her way back to the basement. She was sitting on the wobbly stool in front of her equipment before she knew it. Strauss sighed, working quietly as Milica patted the dog curled up beside her. The 'doctor' rolled the stool over to her testing table and removed the girl's soulgem from her concoction, giving it a few good shakes to dry it out.

"Ih-ih-i-i-is s-so-something wr-wrong?" Milica asked, rubbing her eyes as she came to. She'd had that damn stammer for as long as Strauss had known her.

"It is fine, my dear," the 'doctor' muttered. "Vhat vould you like for dinner? My treat."

"Re-re-re-reall-l-ly?" The girl asked. She hadn't been offered something in that way for as long as she could remember. "Di-di-did suh-somethi-thing ha-ha-ha-happ-pp-ppen?"

"Do not vorry yourself, Milica," Struass answered, looking down at her own hands. "Now vhat vould you like for dinner, hm?"



Milica's brow scrunched for a moment as she thought. "Theh-theh-then a suh-steak puh-puh-please!"

"Two steaks it is zen!" Strauss laughed. "I vill go buy zem after my second appointment. Get some rest vhile you can."

The girl's chains jingled as she readjusted herself, using the dog as a pillow as she laid herself down. Strauss took up a spark lighter and flicked it a few times, igniting a Bunsen burner on the table. She stared into the flame for some time, playing with the air valve as silent thoughts drifted to and fro in her mind. It relaxed her when she was in no mood to mix chemicals, as rare as that was.

She had done terrible things in her days. She had hurt innocent people. She had killed people who had claimed to love her. The closest thing she had to a friend was chained up in her basement like an animal.

The 'doctor' hadn't even noticed that she still held the blue brochure in one hand, crumpled and crushed from her stresses. She idly read it, laughing and musing to herself as she skimmed its contents. A goddess of magical girls. Strauss couldn't even begin to comprehend the foolishness of the concept. With a long sigh, she placed it in the flames and watched them dance around it as the pamphlet blackened and burned. Her eyes drooped in a solemn expression as she stared at the burning brochure. A single murmured question escaped her lips as she watched it turn to ash.

"Vhat god could love a creature like me?"

Prose Magica: A Spoonful of Sugar Part 2[edit]

A deserted parking garage, three stories below ground. Alex shook her head. Something felt wrong, and she'd told her comrades as much over and over. She took a deep breath of the stale air, shifting her weight onto a different foot as she huddled behind some white sedan. The silence was deafening. Every muscle in her body ached to get up and -do something-. But, she was a professional. She did her job, and she did it with precision and efficiency. Her fingers tightened around the grip of her pistol. They itched for action.

Her earpiece crackled to life, nearly making her jump straight out of cover.

"Any signs of movement, Alex?"

"Negative, Kay," she whispered in response. "Nothing yet."

"Understood. Remain on standby."

Alex glanced at the figure huddled beside her. The other girl was breathing a bit too heavily for comfort, and Alex could feel her shaking through the car. There were seven of them; that one being Maggie, if she remembered right. The newest of the batch. Short orange hair that barely made it past her ears, topped off with a big yellow bow. Her costume had always weirded Alex out. It looked like someone had thrown some short-sleaved officer's jacket over a white one-piece swimsuit and called it a day. Her fighting style was even more half-assed - she just hucked exploding cannon balls at things. Alex couldn't help but admire the simplicity of it.

Then there was Kay - the intrepid leader. Tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed with a pure white maid outfit. Alex had always been surprised that she hadn't ended up as a Warmaster or even a rank leader somewhere. She used some giant space cannon like none of them had ever seen before. Kay always gave them pills whenever one of them accidentally ended up too close to the beam. Radiation poisoning or something. Apparently even magical girls had to worry about that.

Alex scratched at her messy black hair. The gasmask perched on top of her head kept making her sweat and itch too much. They'd all been given them prior to the mission. Alex figured they looked spooky as hell when they switched the thermal imaging on. Big, glowing red eyes. Anyone with any sense left would shit themselves as the sight of their squad. It was just too bad that Kay said they were after someone even scarier.

She looked over her shoulder, peering at another magical girl brandishing what looked like a raygun from the fifties three rows down. The other girl flashed a toothy grin and a thumbs up, which Alex answered with a smirk and a nod. How she had ended up on point with the new girl was a mystery. Sure, they had a Callidus hiding top-side watching the security cameras, as if that was somehow reassuring. Jiang - some Chinese girl with her hair in those weird buns and a stupid black and yellow jester hat. Alex was ninety percent sure that wasn't even her real name. The rest of them were further into the garage, spread out behind cars and pillars.

"Kay," the radio started up. Jiang. "I- I think I see someone on camera three. She's-" The Callidus paused. "She's got a cane? I think? And she's- she's waving at m-"

A sickeningly crunched sounded from the Callidus' end. Alex could make out the sound of too many bones snapping as something hit her. Hard. Something made a squelching thump - probably the girl's body hitting the ground.

"KAY!" The Callidus screamed. A serious of wet coughs sputtered through, sending static over the radio.

"KAY! THERE'S-" Another series of coughs, along with a different sound in the background. It sounded like something metal slowly being dragged over concrete.

"Oh god, no. OH PLEASE, NO!" The girl pleaded. "KAY, THERE'S A SECOND ONE! I REPEAT TWO TARG-"

The grinding sound ceased for a brief moment, before a high-pitched scream was cut short.

Then silence.

Alex's leg was shaking. In the blink of an eye, their squad was down to six. The mission had barely even started. Jiang was supposed to disappear as soon as she spotted the target, but... Two. No one had said there would be two targets. Just the crazy doctor. A god damn CRIPPLE! The black-haired girl ran that horrid grinding sound through her mind over and over. It was heavy, whatever it was. A hammer maybe? A sledge hammer? That had to be it. But there was no way in hell the crippled doctor could carry something like that.

The whole squad was silent. Not a single peep out of any of them. She needed to hear something, anything.

"Kay?" Alex tried. "Orders?"

I took a moment for the squad leader to respond. "Check your equipment," she said. She sounded shaken - unlike the usual calm and cool Alex had come to know and rely on. "Stay- Stay calm, everyone. There are still six of us and two of them. We can..." Her voice trailed off for a moment before she seemed to remember other people were listening. "We can handle this."

She didn't sound so sure.

So Alex waited. Time seemed to stretch on and on, with only a stray cough here and there breaking the silence. Maggie grew more anxious with every minute. Alex almost worried that her breathing would give away their position. She checked her watch. It was nearing one in the morning. It had been over ten minutes since Jiang went dark without the slightest sign of the target. TargetS, Alex mentally corrected herself.

She couldn't help but imagine what could be taking them. Maybe they'd left? They figured out that it was a trap and got the hell out of Dodge. Seemed reasonable enough. Alex was about to volunteer to go check when something thumped against the car beside her - Maggie.

The younger girl was breathing even more heavily than usual. She coughed and sputtered before her body went limp, falling over onto the ground. Maggie seized, her hands grasping at her throat as foam began to bubble up from her mouth.

"Shit!" Alex muttered. "MASKS!" She screamed, pulling her own gas mask down. "EVERYONE, MASKS!"

Then she heard it. That awful grinding, speeding up and growing louder.

A delicate tinkling sounded against the ground behind her as a cluster of objects scattered among the cars and rolled to the ground. A series of pops echoed through the garage as dense, pale green smoke billowed outward.

"SMOKE," someone called out.

The grinding sound sped up as it rushed Alex's position, joined by a howling, screaming fury. She managed to flick on the thermal imaging just in time to see an orange blur leap straight over the car she had been using for cover. The target screeched with rage as it charged one of Alex's squadmates. The thermal vision made the girl's head look like little more than a pumpkin as it exploded into dozens of orange flecks that splattered over the cars.

Alex fired until the magazine ran out. It was hard to miss the roaring monstrosity as it made a bloody mess of her squad. Yet, nothing seemed to stop it. The orange mass of heat jumped over another car, bringing down her hammer on another girl in an overhead strike. It missed her head entirely - instead separating her left shoulder from the rest of her body.

Her name was Brooks. It was Brooks, Alex was sure of it. She tried to get up again, despite missing a full quarter of her body. She was rewarded for her tenacity with another savage blow to the sternum, shattering it and everything behind it. The hostile girl slammed her hammer into Brooks' torso again and again until her torso was little more than a pulpy mess of tissue and bone fragments.

Alex's breath caught in her throat as the girl turned to look her straight in the eye.

The creature threw her head back in a high-pitched, manic cackle before disappearing behind a car. Alex took a deep breath and ducked back into cover, taking the opportunity to reload. She was panting. Jiang, Maggie, Brooks... who else? There was a fourth. It was Maxine, wasn't it?

"Kay," Alex whispered. "Kay, are you there?"

After a moment's hesitation, the squad leader responded. "Alex? Is that you?"

"I'm here. Who else is still up?"

"Just us and- and Emily I think-"

"I am sorry to say," a third voice cut in, "zat fraulein Emily is no lonker vis us. You have mein deepest condolences. Vile I am sure zat you all have had a great deal of fun today, I am afraid zat ve vill have to be wrapping zis test up. I sank you for all of ze vunderful data zat you have provided for me tonight."

Alex's head snapped up as she heard a bang echo through the garage. She could hear the grinding again - distant and growing quieter. Holding her breath, she peered over the hood of the car and disengaged the thermal vision on her mask.


There was no sign of movement in every direction. Only neat rows of blood-splattered vehicles and concrete pillars. She slid back down, holding her knees close to her chest. Her eyes wandered to Maggie's motionless form lying beside her. Every now and again the girl's body would spasm as a bubble rose from her throat. She didn't sign up for this. She didn't sign up for any of it.

They were supposed to be hunting a cripple! A Venenum, even! Hardly any combat capabilities! It should have been like fish in a barrel for a squad of six Vindicares and a Callidus. Now there were two left - soon to be one if the other girl was going after Kay.

Alex rocked back and forth, hugging her knees as tears welled up in her eyes. She had to make up her mind. Cut her losses and run or stay and risk being turned into a human piñata. Kay was still somewhere in the parking garage. Probably. Assuming that thing with the sledge hammer hadn't already found her. Whatever it was, nobody could call it human any more.

The black-haired girl slipped a hand into her pocket and pulled out a quarter. Heads - she'd play the hero and go after Kay. Tails - she'd run. She flicked it up and watched it tumble in the air. It barely left her hand when she heard the scream. By the time it hit the ground, Alex was already on her feet.

She sprinted out of that garage like a bat out of hell. It was a primal, instinct-driven flight born from man's earliest days being chased by predators. Up and up she went, clearing each floor in a matter of seconds. She had to survive, she told herself. The sound of heavy, ragged breaths reached her ears. She couldn't tell if something was chasing her or if they were her own. Either way, it didn't matter. She smiled as she caught sight of the entrance barricades, giving her a final burst of speed.

Then something pricked her hip.

Her legs seemed to simply cease functioning as she tumbled into the rear bumper of a van while her gun skidded underneath it. The mask was torn off of her crying face while her elbows and knees scraped along the ground. Alex groaned, forcing herself into a sitting position. Her eyes widened as she yanked a dart out of her side. Her legs refused to work, not budging an inch as she tried to get herself up. She was paralysed.

It was then that she heard it. It wasn't the grinding of metal, nor the banshee screaming of the girl who had massacred her squad. Only a rhythmic thumping with a couple of seconds between each one.

Alex panicked, grasping at the van desperately trying to pull herself upright. She had barely gotten onto her knees when something hard and thin collided with her side, throwing her onto her back.

"I vould ASK," came a voice, "zat ze test subjects NOT LEAVE ZE TESTINK AREA."

Doctor Emma Strauss stepped up beside the fallen girl, then placed dug a knee into Alex's gut, putting her weight on her cane. She observed the test subject from behind her circular glasses for a few moments, grinning through wickedly pointed teeth. The doctor adjusted her top hat as she leaned in closer to her captive.

"Vhat is your name, fraulein?" She asked. It sounded so sincere, so innocent.

The other girl was breathing heavily, panic-stricken and sobbing. Strauss couldn't even tell if her words were reaching the wretch.

"VHAT IS YOUR NAME?" She yelled, seizing the girl by the throat.

"A-A-A," the girl swallowed hard, forcing back her tears, "Alex. A-Alex Madison."

"Alex?" The doctor suddenly shifted back to her more friendly demeanour as she relinquished her grip. "Zat is short for Alexandra, ja?"

Alex nodded quickly.

"Such a pretty name," Strauss remarked. "Und who are you vorkink for, Alex?"

"N-n-n-no one," Alex stammered, trying to speak between her sobbing. "We-we're b-b-bou-bounty hu-hunters."

The doctor chuckled to herself. "I sink zat vas a very poor life decision, hm? Goink after ze Sirteents' bounty, ja?"

The girl nodded.

"Und how much is DOCTOR EMMA STRAUSS wors zese days?" The doctor asked, adding emphasis to her full name. "No less zan-"

"Te-ten thousand e-each," Alex answered, "and e-enough grief seeds to r-re-retire."

"Ten sousand?" Strauss repeated the number incredulously. "TEN SOUSAND?! I am INSULTED! Zose dummkopfs could barely tell hydrogen cyanide from hydrogen peroxide visout me!"

The doctor clicked her tongue as she reached into her cape and produced a battered old clipboard. Alex watched as she spent a minute filling in details with a pen attached with a string. After a moment, Strauss turned to her captive once more.

"Now," Strauss started, tapping the pen on the clipboard, "on a scale of vun to ten, how afraid vould you say you are? Vun beink how you feel playink vis a little puppy or kätzchen, ten beink permanently catatonic."

"I- I don't-"


"I- I don't know!" Alex wailed, fresh tears streaming down the sides of her face. "A-a-an eight? I don't know! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?!"

The doctor made a muffled grunt of acknowledgement as she tried to stifle her laughter. "Good, good. You are beink very brave, Fraulein Madison. Ve must all make sacrifices for ze furzering of science."

After another few moments of notes, the horrid sound of metal grinding against concrete picked up again. It was far slower this time, growing louder and closer. For the first time, Alex got clear view of the beast of a magical girl that had decimated her squad.

She was short - no more than five feet tall at most. Her hair was long, straight and coloured a dark green. It seemed as thought she was wearing nothing more than what was once a white sundress, now soaked with blood and perforated with more than a dozen bullet holes. Alex could smell the sheer volume of blood even from where she was lying. The girl's face was obscured by a gasmask of the exact same make as Alex's own, and what she had thought was a sledge hammer turned out to be little more than a pipe welded to a thick, solid wedge of steel. Fresh blood seemed to constantly trickle down from her hands - one of them clutched tightly around the back of Kay's collar, dragging her limp body along the ground.

"Kay!" Alex screamed.

"Ah! Milica!" Strauss clapped, pulling herself up. "Just in time! And vun captive unconscious, as ordered! Toll!"

The doctor crouched down in front of the unconscious squad leader, lifting the blonde's chin to inspect her. She carried on for some time, checking the body for injury, before finally standing back up and giving Milica a pat on the shoulder.

"Very gut, very gut!" She exclaimed, marking several things down on her clipboard. "Vun unharmed, vun unconscious... Somevhat beaten up, but in perfect condition. Subject shows exemplary control over her actions und handles each objective vis ease. Vell! It seems to me zat ze first field test of ze Mark V vas a complete success, vouldn't you say Milica? How are you feelink?"

Milica's head twitched unnaturally as she tried to respond. "G-g-g-got a bi-b-bit of a he-head ache, D-Doc."

"To be expected, I suppose," Strauss muttered, jotting it down. "Did you remember to brink me vhat I asked for, Milica?"

"O-oh y-yeah!" The blood-soaked magical girl promptly dropped both her weapon and the squad leader's body before pulling out a handful of soulgems. "I a-almost f-f-forgot!"

"Oooh, you are just a darlink!" The doctor squealed, taking the gems for herself. "I could not ask for a better subject! Ve vill go far, you und I! Now take off zat mask, you look silly."

"I th-thought it made me lo-look s-scary..."

"Oh ja, so s-s-spooky vis your speech impediment," Strauss muttered. "Let's see... eins, zwei, drei, vier, fünf! Perfect! All accounted for! Now vhat do you sink ve should do vis all zese soulgems, hm?" The doctor's eyes flashed back toward Alex - who was trying desperately to reach her gun under the van. "Anysing you vould like to do, Milica?"

"I- I thi-think I- I w-want-," she stammered, her head jerking and rolling around on her shoulders, "I w-w-want t-to SMASH 'EM UP!"

Alex's head snapped up at the sound of Milica roaring. "Wha- NO!"

"Now do you remember vich is vich, Milica?" Strauss asked in an almost motherly tone.

The girl pulled the gasmask from her face, stared down at the assortment of gems, and blinked. Her brow crinkled as she thought, finally mumbling a muted, "N-no..."

Strauss sighed and touched her fingertips to her forehead. "Milica, Milica, Milica... Vhat vill I ever do vis you?"

"I-I'm s-s-suh-sorry, Doctor..."

Strauss let out a long, deep breath before laughing and tousseling the girl's hair. "Oh vhat ze hell! I can't stay mad at you vis results like zis! Go on, have fun. I need to go speak vis Fraulein Jiang."

"Th-thanks, D-Doc!"

As the doctor slowly hobbled off, Milica crouched down to look straight into Alex's tear-filled eyes. As she did, she wiped a few messy strands of hair out of her vision, smearing her face red with fresh blood.

"L-le-let's ha-have some FUN."


The heavy steel door of the security room slammed shut behind Strauss as she stepped in. In the middle of the room, a girl with a black and yellow jester hat idly spun about in a swivel chair, humming some tune to herself. A sledge hammer and a dead, badly beaten security guard rested on the ground off to one side of the room. The Callidus hopped off of her seat and walked toward the doctor, dizzy and wobbling.

"Welcome back, Doctor," Jiang greeted. "I trust everything went well?"

"Stupendously so!" Strauss replied, clasping her hands together excitedly. "I do not sink I have ever had a first field test go so vell! Of course, zere are still some minor adjustments to be made, but zat is to be expected."

"Then our work today is concluded?"

"It pains me to say zat it is," the doctor said with no small amount of sorrow in her voice. "It vas a pleasure vorking vis you, Fraulein Jiang. I vill send a full report to your Officio in ze mornink, alonk vis payment for your services, of course."

"The pleasure was all mine, doctor," the Callidus responded, bowing her head. "Our incubator wishes me to pass on that he is looking forward to our future business arrangements."

"Of course!" Strauss laughed. "Und tell your varmaster-"

"Spymaster, doctor."

"Ja..." Strauss narrowed her eyes and peered at the Callidus over her glasses. "Spymaster... In any case, ze offer for tea is alvays open."

"I will pass on the message, but you must understand," Jiang shifted uncomfortably under the doctor's gaze, "she is rather... picky about the company she keeps."

"As alvays," Strauss muttered, sighing. "Zat kinder needs to lighten up, I sink."

"Most people would say the exact opposite," the Chinese girl giggled.

The doctor smiled, flashing her jagged shark-like teeth. "I am not most people."

As if on cue, there came a light knock at the door. A moment later, Milica's head poked through the opening before she slowly stepped into the room, still dragging her maul along the ground. The girl clutched at her stomach with a bloody hand as she stumbled in, groaning faintly.

"H-Hey, D-D-Doc," Milica mumbled, trying to hold her lips together between words, as though she were about to be sick. "A-a-and Miss J-Ji-Jiang."

Strauss blinked and tilted her head. "Vhat's wronk?"

"I- I, u-um," the bloody girl stammered, nearly whispering, "I a-ate one..."

The doctor let out and exasperated sigh as she began to rummage around under her cape. "Vhat have we talked about?" She asked, in the same parental voice that she seemed to reserve for Milica alone.

"D-d-don't e-eat so-souls..."

"Und vhat did you do?"

"I tho-thought it wo-wo-would look s-scary..."

Strauss shook her head and pulled out a vial of clear liquid. "Next time, sink about how scary you vill look srowing up in ze garbage can, hm?"

Milica nodded glumly and took the vial, then sauntered over to the trash bin in the corner of the room. Strauss couldn't help but smile at the bloodied girl. She didn't seem stupid, just a bit on the slow side. The doctor winced slightly as she began to feel something resembling maternal feelings toward Milica.

"Kids," she muttered, chuckling softly.

Jiang glanced around the room before stepping over to the numerous monitors that lined one of the walls. Alex was huddled over the broken body of her late squad leader, sobbing. Her body was visibly shaking even from the security camera's blurry video feed. The Callidus sighed and shook her head.

"They were good girls," she remarked, "if not the brightest. A bit too desperate to get out of the magical girl game, if you ask me."

"As ze stupid often are," Strauss added.

Jiang nodded, then stretched out her hand toward the doctor. "I suppose this is as good a time as any for us to part ways, Doctor. It has been a pleasure."

"Likevise," the doctor replied, shaking the Callidus' hand. "I hope zat ve vill be able to vork togezer again some time-"

The loud crack of a gunshot echoed through the building. Jiang's gaze snapped back to the video feed, where Alex's body lay still beside Kay's. Strauss remained nonplussed, only flashing one final, toothy grin.

"Good help is so hard to find zese days."

Prose Magica: The Exile of Doctor Strauss[edit]

Prose Magica: The Exile of Doctor Strauss Part 1[edit]

The phone clattered to the ground, shattering into a dozen pieces. Strauss could see her hand shaking, stiff and frozen in position, but her grip gone. Her breath roared through her nostrils.


It was the one thing that she had never factored into her calculations. All of her life's work, gone in the blink of an eye. Every sacrifice - every ounce of blood, sweat and tears - wasted. For what? One worthless, quivering girl? The wretch could barely muster enough nerve to form a complete sentence when she arrived. Strauss had made her strong. Physically, mentally, every part of her had been molded into the perfect killing machine.

An assistant had once referred to the procedure as 'deus ex machina' - god from a machine. She wasn't quite a god, the Doctor had to admit. She still bled, as mortals did. She could still be killed. But it was a start. Now, that cowardly, idiotic failed experiment that called herself a 'doctor' had her. The imbecile that could barely even speak German after all their years together. Strauss closed her eyes and took a moment to compose herself.

"Na schön," she muttered under her breath as she clasped her hands together. "Zen I dearly hope zat you vill be able to live vis ze conseqvences of your actions, Oberhaupt Direktorin."

The Doctor took a deep breath as she sat down at her desk. It was a nice desk. Big and mahogany, with her name plate on the front and everything. She would miss that desk. Her office was as big as she'd always wanted. There were book shelves filled with medical science books, filing cabinets filled with her own research papers, even a few potted plants that she'd taken a liking to. Every doctor's office needed a fern, and maybe one of those little waterfall fountains with the tiny fishing men. Display cases along the walls showed off her collection of antique surgical equipment. Her favourite was the hand-cranked skull saw. She'd even let Valnikov play with it on the odd occassion. After she... opened up more, the girl would cackle madly as she spun the crank as fast as she could, making "BRANANANANA!" noises like a chainsaw. Strauss was somewhat disappointed that she'd never gotten around to letting the child try it out for real.

"Sorne, get in here!" The Doctor called out to her Head of Security over her intercom.

After a hurried, nervous "Jawohl, Doktorin." from the other end, Strauss leaned back in her chair, then took off her glasses to rub her tired eyes. A heavenly, comfortably leather chair with a headrest at just the right height. She'd never found another quite like it, no matter how hard she'd looked. It would probably have to go, too. As she waited for her security officer to arrive, Strauss bent under her desk, grunting and straining as she pulled her computer onto her lap. She disassembled it with nimble fingers - a well-practiced skill - and had the hard drive removed and placed in her cape's pocket by the time she heard the first knock on her door.

"Herein!" Strauss shouted, shoving the computer back in its place.

A thin girl wearing a green padded vest of a security officer stepped into the room, thumping a fist over her chest as she stood at attention. The entire right side of her body was scarred, mangled and burned, her right eye a solid sphere of white. Long, jet black hair grew from only one side of her disfigured head. Her name was Captain Eliza Thorne, one of the Doctor's very first test subjects - with the scars to show for it. Strauss replaced her glasses and leaned over her desk, rhythmically tapping a pen as her gaze fixed on the Head of Security.

"Ekaterina Valnikov has been kidnapped," she said, dead-pan. "How vas ze Culexus able to infiltrate ze buildink? I find it hard to believe zat she had proper ausorization, hm?"

"Er, Doktorin," the girl stammered, struggling to keep her composure. At least this one knew how to properly address her superior in German. That managed to set her on a level above Madaraki on the competence scale. "It seems that the Culexus, Malal, was in posession of an ID badge. The guards didn't believe it was suspicious."

Strauss tapped the pen at an ever so slightly quicker pace. "An ID badge," the Doctor's face twitched subtly as she repeated the phrase. "Und did zis ID badge belonk to her?"

"N-no, Doktorin," Thorne responded, now visibly shaking as she stood at attention. "We were unable to find out who it belonged to. It, erm, was worn backward, Doktorin."


The Doctor held her head in her hands, nearly ripping out her hair as she fumed. The security officer was close to tears as she apologized over and over, still at attention. It had never been wise to upset the Doctor. Captain Thorne knew that better than anyone else. Which was why it surprised her immensely - and terrified her on an entirely new level - when Strauss finally looked up, looking calm and composed as ever.

"Tell your best men to pack my sinks," Strauss instructed as she rose from her seat. She slapped her pen against her hand as she circled the security officer, dictating her orders. "I vant everysink in mein office on a plane to storage facility six-two-six visin two hours - write zis down if you must. Vunce zis is done, I vant all lines of communication vis ze outside vorld severed. Everysink. Phone lines, cell towers, internet, post office, carrier pigeon, ze vorks. Find me vhen all of zis is complete. In ze mean time... I have cleanink to do."

"D-Doktorin, but that would mean-"

Strauss stared at the shivering girl over the tops of her round glasses.

"Protocol Ten vill commence in six hours."


Strauss stared over a crowd of a dozen nervous men and women in sterile, white labcoats in the dank, green-tinged observatory lab. The Doctor was flanked by a pair of stone-faced men with assault rifles casually slung over their shoulders. The scientists were the best and brightest that Strauss could find - or at least those smart enough to abide by proper security protocols. Each and every one of them looked utterly terrified as the Doctor stepped up to a makeshift podium made from an up-ended examination table and cleared her throat.

"Good afternoon, ladies und gentlemen," Strauss began, as if no different from a routine meeting. "As many of you have no doubt heard, zere have been some changes in ze management of ze Sirteens. Naturally, zis means zat many of you vill, unfortunately, be out of vork. It has been an immense pleasure to vork vis each and every vun of you, und I can say from ze bottom of mein heart, it vill be sad to see you all go-"

"D-Doctor, please--!"

A bang rang out as the man's body crumpled to the floor.


Strauss' glare swept over the room, along with the smoking barrel of her pistol. Satisfied that no one else would dare interject again, she holstered the weapon and continued.

"AS I VAS SAYINK. I vill alvays look back fondly at ze many memories ve have made togezer. Like ze time ve accidentally locked Annabelle in ze rhinoceros cage over night!" The Doctor laughed with a twinkle in her eyes. "Or- Or who could ever forget ze first time zat Doktor Cheong forgot to disengage Butterfingers' stimulant injector ven ze interns vere cleaning his cell! Or ze second time! Or ze sird time! It alvays makes me laugh! Vhat fun ve had!"

"I sink... Vhat I am tryink to say here is... Each of you has a very special place in mein heart zat no vun else could ever replace," Strauss said as she placed both hands over heart in an uncharacteristically delicate gesture. She then turned around to address her guards, waving a finger in the air in a circular motion.

"Kill zem."


Half an hour left. Strauss snapped her golden pocket watch shut and grinned. It wasn't her usual maddened, shark-toothed smile; it was closer to a snarl than anything else. She had been taught a valuable lesson regarding her own fallibility. She had been blinded by her own success. Everything had gone far too well for her plans to continue unchallenged. But, there would be plenty of time for revenge. Emma Strauss was a creature of patience.

All that was left of her office now was a barren desk, empty shelves and single red rotary phone sitting on the Doctor's lap. In just a few more hours, someone would charge into the building, hoping to capture the legendary Doctor Strauss. Instead, all they would find would be the broken husk of what was once Varrigan City and a cruel reminder of what had been allowed to pass there.

A sharp knock at the door caught Strauss' attention just as she was about to doze off in her chair. A moment later, Thorne stepped into the office, saluting with a scarred, mangled hand before standing at attention.

"Doktorin, the preparations are complete," she stated. "Your helicopter is fueled and ready to take off. The men stand ready to carry out Protocol Ten."

Strauss nodded solemnly. There was only one final order of business that remained.

"I vill be alonk shortly," the Doctor responded, waving the girl off. "If you vouldn't mind, I vould like a few minutes alone to... say good bye."

Thorne nodded, amazed at the uncharacteristically sentimental display, then stepped back out of the room.

The Doctor took a final, deep breath as she lifted the bright red phone off of its reciever. Long ago, before Strauss herself had taken up residence in the city, a hotline had been built. It led from the Horzine Biotech headquarters directly to the Warmaster's office onboard the Rafflesia, in case some emergency required her attention while she was away. Now, with preparations for Protocol Ten underway, it was the sole means of communicating with the outside world from within Varrigan City.

Everything had to be timed perfectly. Strauss had waited until the Rafflesia was far enough away that they could not possibly reach the city in time to stop the coming purgation. With any luck, Chief Director Madaraki would still be busy celebrating the fall of Doctor Emma Strauss. It seemed unlikely that anyone had even set foot in her office yet. It was perfect.

The phone rang once. Twice. Three times, before Strauss' own pre-recorded message greeted her, followed by a long beep.

"Good evening, Oberhaupt Direkt-" Strauss stopped to compose herself, snickering. "Entschuldigung, CHIEF DIRECTOR Madaraki. I vould first like to congratulate you on your ill-gotten promotion, you disgutink abomination. Very vell done, bravo, I couldn't have done it better myself. Secondly - und I do hope you are still listenink, because zis is important - I vould like to pass on my sincerest regrets for vhat vill soon come to pass. By ze time you hear zis message, Protocol Ten vill have been carried out, und every man, voman, und child in ze city of Varrigan vill likely be dead. I believe ze city has a population of... seven hundred sousand? I sink zat is right, check mein computer if you vould like to know ze exact number. I'm sure zat you have ze password by now."

"Zeir blood vill be on your hands, Madaraki," she continued, twirling the phoneline around her finger. "Every night you vill lie avake in bed, sinking of ze mistakes you made zis day, sinking of every life lost because you just had to steal vun, measly little fraulein. You vill tell yourself zat zey vere just ze dregs of society, zat of all zem vere nosink more zan punks und ganksters. Nein, zose vill probably be ze vuns zat survive. It is ze innocents, ze weak und ze children zat vill die first."

"Hundreds of sousands for vun life. Zis is ze price of your 'mercy'," Strauss hissed. "Auf Wiedersehen, you vile creature. I hope it vas vorse it."

With her grim message delivered, the Doctor hung up the phone and placed it on her desk. Taking up her cane, Strauss hobbled to the doorway and looked back into the office one final time. She remembered how excited she was the first time she saw it. Finally, after all her hard work, getting a big, new office. For once, there was actually enough room to put things on display, to show off a little. Now it was gone.

Strauss stepped into the hall, flanked by Thorne as she slowly hobbled down the green-tinged halls of the Horzine Biotech headquarters. It felt so recent that she'd gotten upset at the builders for mistakenly ordering green-tinted flourescent bulbs. As time went on, she'd come to enjoy it, however. Coupled with the ever-present sterile scents of sanitizer and cleaning products, it gave the building a certain sinister air that made it so endearing.

The ceiling tiles had been converted to transparent grates ever since one of the Doctor's failed experiments had escaped and taken up residence the vents and ceiling spaces. For months, staff would occasionally disappear when left alone in the halls for too long and complain about a scratching sound behind the walls. In the end, they found a heap of skeletons stashed in a forgotten maintence corridor, once the creature had finally accumulated enough grief to turn into a witch. Much of the staff would find themselves having panic attacks at the mere sight of any spiders following that particular incident - which provided the Doctor with some interesting material come April Fool's.

Enormous glass windows decorated the walls, showing off the interiors of break rooms and offices. Strauss was frightening - some might have even called her a monster - but even she wasn't above joking around and discussing projects with her staff over a cup of coffee.

"Doktorin," Thorne asked, bending down to look at the Doctor's face, "are you okay?"

"Ja, ja," Strauss waved her off. "I am fine. Ze- Ze cleanink supplies, ze smell makes mein eyes vater. It's nosink."

The security officer knew better than to press any further. The two walked together through the halls in silence for some time. Every now and then, the sound of marching feet or the cry of some experiment echoed through the narrow halls. Strauss had already spent her final hours in the building saying good bye to each of Thorne's 'sisters'; something which the security officer was fortunately not present for.

Only ten minutes remained by the time they stepped out onto the tarmac. There, an idling private helicopter awaited the Doctor with its loading ramp down. The sky was painted in colours of orange and grey as evening began to settle in over Varrigan City. Everywhere she looked, crewmen ran to and fro, tending to a bevy of waiting Apache gunships and Chinook transports parked along the edge of the airstrip.

Strauss made a single, slight nod of resignation as she looked up at the helicopter.

"Vell, Sorne," she muttered, turning to the other girl and stretching out a hand, "it has been a pleasure vorking vis you."

The scarred security officer blinked, taken aback by the sudden act of respect, then took the Doctor's hand and shook it.

"It has been an honour, Doktorin."

Giving Thorne a final pat on the shouler, Strauss stepped up to the helicopter and began to clamber in. After a few moments of struggle, due mostly in part to her bad back, she took her seat as the pilot handed her a clunky headset. The Doctor tapped the microphone twice as the chopper began to lift off.

"Testink, testink," she muttered. "Zis is on?"

The pilot responded with a silent thumbs up.

"Ah, guten Abend, everyvun!" She called out. "Protocol Ten vill now commence! Initiate phase vun!"

Peering out the window, Strauss watched intently as a group of five Apaches took off. The first phase of Protocol Ten was simple: destroy every bridge off of Jefferson Island and burn the harbour. Every one of the pilots had been run through strenuous background checks and training to ensure that they were able to carry out their sordid task. Her own helicopter was just starting to scratch five thousand feet when a series of explosions rocked the city. Smoke and flame wafted upward from each possible point of egress. None could be allowed to escape.

But that wasn't all.

The Doctor watched as the Apaches turned back toward the headquarters, beginning their second attack run. The transports- along with most of the airstrip - disappeared into a blossoming garden of fire as the attack helicopters swooped overhead. Strauss could swear that she could even pick out the tiny figure of Thorne staring up at her. She almost felt bad about the whole affair. Almost.

"Phase one complete," said a voice over the radio, "standing by."

Strauss chuckled as her gaze shifted just in time to see the red neon sign of the Blood God's Arena come crashing down. She had always hated that awful thing.

"Initiate phase two!"

Assuming the men on the ground were still willing to do their jobs, they would be fortifying the main building. They had all been told that Protocol Ten would entail the systematic destruction of the city. Scorched Earth policy, and all that. Instead, it was quite the opposite - at least to Doctor Strauss. Even from her vantage point, Strauss could hear it beginning. Horrid, animal screams and roars emanated from the Horzine building as each and every one of her hundreds of experiments was simultaneously released from captivity.

It took only a few seconds before she saw the first doors swing open as people began to stampede out of the building. Some of the faster creatures were already on top of them, tearing hapless victims limb from limb. One or two would get shot down, only for something bigger and stronger to emerge from the bowels of the building.

"Ready to go, ma'am?" The pilot asked.

Strauss was silent for a moment, lost in the sight of her creations finally set loose. There was a certain child-like rush to it, like building an enormous tower out of blocks, only to finally smash it to pieces.

"Ja," she mumbled, still unable to pry her gaze away from the destruction. "Take us avay."

Almost in the same moment as she had finished speaking, an explosion tore through one of the upper floors of the building, carrying away several black specks that may have been people. Strauss watched, a satisfied, toothy grin plastered to her face. Her revenge hadn't been delivered just yet, but it was a start. She had gone out with a proper bang and brought down an entire city with her. For the time being, she would be satisfied.

So began the exile of Doctor Strauss.

Prose Magica: The Exile of Doctor Strauss Part 2[edit]

A young girl sat alone in bustling cafe, idly sipping at her coffee as she stared out at the busy streets of Santa Destroy. Her hair was shaggy and unkempt, her glasses didn't quite fit properly over her tired, bagged eyes, and she wore a rather unstylish dull green track jacket, with frayed cuffs from years of anxious fidgeting. She looked like little more than a shut-in, finally emerging from her house for the first time in a week. Which, as it turned out, was entirely true.

The news droned on in the background, a young reporter going on about some crisis in a far off country. Not a word had been spoken about the massacre in Varrigan. Not a single word about an entire city being effectively erased from the map. There had been talk of Horzine Biotech declaring bankruptcy, but very little in the way of explanation. To the outside world, the event - quickly becoming known as the 'Varrigan City Massacre' in the magical girl world - had essentially never happened.

A few minutes past eleven in the morning, a woman walked in and took a seat across from the bespectacled girl. She was tall and buxom, with bright green hair cut short and piercing, narrow yellow eyes. She wore a black coat over a white blouse and tie, topped off with a black sun hat.

"Mornin', Em," she said, giving the girl a smug grin and a wink. Her voice was like silk, with just the slightest dash of Southern sunshine. "Lookin' good."

"Zis is ridiculous," the girl muttered, glowering. "I look ridiculous."

"Aw, that's nonsense, punkin! You're cute as a button!"

"I am not cute," she pouted with crossed arms. "I am Doctor Emma Strauss."

"Well, sure, I mean," the woman said, waving a hand, "you could use a bit of make up, a BRUSH, glasses that fit, some nicer clothes, but... Oh shoot, where was I going with that..."

"Can ve move onto business, please?" Strauss muttered. "Zis is embarassink enough as it is."

"Oh, come on, Em! How often do we get a chance to just sit and chat like this? How are things? Huh?"

"How are sinks? HOW ARE SINKS?! Vell, let's see," the girl began counting on her fingers as she spoke, "I lost my job, my home, my money, my experiments, not to mention all of my eqvipment und now I'm stuck in ze shittiest motel in Santa Destroy! Zat is how sinks are!"

"Come on now, it can't be that bad."

"It is EXACTLY zat bad!" The scraggly-haired girl took a sip of coffee, grumbling to herself. "No sanks to YOU. Please tell me exactly vhy I kept you around if you vere unable to varn me about a full-blown COUP IN MEIN OFFICIO?!”

“Because," the woman puckered her lips and batted her eyelashes, "deep down inside you're lonely and enjoy my company?”

“Your 'intelligence', or lack zereof, cost me EVERYSINK und you expect sit down und talk like nosink is wronk?! Or vas zis all a part of anozer vun of your little plans, hm?”

"Emma, baby, sweetie, honey," the green-haired woman said, in as condescending a tone as the doctor thought possible, "lemme learn you a thing about a thing, okay? You seem - or seemed, as the case may be - to have this little delusion up in that big old brain of yours that you're invincible. Untouchable. No one in their right mind would EVER want to come after the GREAT EMMA STRAUSS, no sir, am I right? Come on. Let's face facts, hon. Was it MY fault that you had jack all for security run by a bunch of Varrigan rent-a-cops and that mangy little pet experiment of yours? Hm? And was it my fault that you cloistered yourself away in your glorified basement and ignored the Officio that you were in charge of? Hm, hm?"

Strauss' lip twitched as she brought her cup up to her lips. She stayed silent, only giving her companion a piercing glare over the rims of her glasses, which was promptly ignored.

"For world-class genius, you can be pretty god damn stupid, Em."

The doctor coughed and hack as hot coffee shot up her nose. "EXCUSE ME?"

"You heard me," the woman said, her patronizing smile disappearing in an instant. "You want my advice, you just ask, but don't pin this whole fiasco on me, now. Alright, sweetie?"

Strauss scowled as hard as she could, but remained speechless. Everything the woman had said was true, and she was far too pragmatic to try and deny it. Even as a timid looking waitress approached the table, the doctor kept furrowing her brow and waved the girl off without sparing her so much as a glance.

"Venti caramel non-fat latte, please," the green-haired woman said with a wink and a smile. "Thanks, hon."

The girl jotted the order down, repeated it back, then scampered off, so as not to risk the ire of the gruchy-looking nerd.

"So," the woman said, leaning over the table, "I'm 'nna take a wild shot in the dark here and say you're in the market for a bit of good old-fashioned revenge, no?"

"Right now, I don't know vhat I vant," the doctor murmurred, her gaze still wandering out the window. "Payback, sure. Vhy not make myself a billion dollars und finish ze Maerorus project vhile I'm at it, hm? I have nosink left, Frau. How am I supposed to get my revenge vhen everysink I own fits in ze trunk of my car?"

"I," the green-haired woman's eyes wandered as she feigned an innocent expression, "might be able to lend a hand. Assuming you ask nicely, that is."

"You? Hah!" Strauss barked. "I already sold my soul vunce before, I do not intend on repeatink my mistakes."

"Listen, sweetie. I'm not gonna bullshit you, because you're smarter than that. This... This 'Malal' character has been a thorn in my side for a good while now. Long story short, I want her gone and I want to know if you're in a position to lend a hand with that. Y'understand?"

"You are tryink to tell me zere is no catch?"

"Mutual interests, honey. You want your revenge, and I want her dead for," the woman waved a hand, her expression less cheerful as she tried to find the right words, "let's say personal reasons. Do we have a deal or do we have a deal?"

Strauss drummed her fingers on the table as she thought over her options.

"Meet me in vun veek," she finally said. "Bring me everysink you know regardink ze relationship betveen Ekaterina und zis... Malal. Ve vill see vhat can be done."

"Sounds like a date. Mind letting your old girl in on the plan?"

"I vill explain vunce I am sure it can be done, and only zen," Strauss said, taking another sip of coffee. "Until zat time, I vill say nosink."

"Keeping the cards close to our chest, are we? Well shoot, hun! You really ARE learning!"

The doctor nodded. She slouched over the table, holding her chin in her hand as her golden eyes flicked up to the woman across from her. "Regardless, I doubt it vill be possible viss only two people."

"Honey, please," the snake-eyed woman gave a wink and a smile, sending a shiver down Strauss' spine. "Why don't you let me worry about the details?"


Strauss found herself in a dark room. Or at least, a dark space. She could recall the woman with the green hair handing her a package and leaving the cafe shortly after, then making her way back to the gaudy little turqouise and beige motel that was her current residence. Everything beyond that became something of a blur, which could only mean-

+Hello, Doctor.+

The voice rang out of the darkness, neither masculine nor feminine. In fact, it didn't seem to speak at all; the words simply appeared in Strauss' consciousness, as though she was present for a conversation that had never existed.

"Guten tag," the Doctor replied, bowing her head as a very slight, reserved smile decorated her face. "It has been some time, Herr Erste."

+Ten months and sixteen days by my count,+ the unvoice of the First replied, cool and emotionless. +I assume that have you received this meeting's agenda from Miss Prime?+

"Ve met zis mornink for coffee, ja."

The Doctor swore she heard a slight chuckle from the darkness. +It's funny, you know," the incubator mused. "Of all the awful human... concoctions, or what have you, each and every one tasted like filth. That is, with the exception of coffee."

Strauss nodded, but remained silent. Her expression of mild irritation said everything for her.

"You're a woman of science, Doctor. I expected you, of all people, to understand," the First said. "Regardless, please, have a seat. Do you have any questions or concerns before we begin our discussion?+

A leather sofa chair materialized beside the Doctor, and as she sat down she was delighted to find that it was just as comfortable as it looked. Her words came slowly as she thought out her question, almost hesitating to ask. "Zere is... vun sink. Tell me, Herr Erste, vhat has happened to my city?"

+Ah. Yes. Varrigan. Quite the commotion you have caused, Doctor,+ despite its unwavering tone, the voice sounded... faintly amused. +The Eighth and Thirteenth have spent quite the sum to hush the masses. Full media blackout, all Officios involved have scrubbed their records of the event. 'The works', as they say.+

"Und ze city itself?"

+The Eighth will be left to do with it as he wishes, however,+ the incubator paused for a moment, and the Doctor could almost hear the smirk in its voice, +in the best interests of our operation, I was obliged to fill my dear brother in on the nature of the city's, ah, newest inhabitants. What happens to it now is entirely in his hands. Though, he did express some interest in constructing a maximum-security penitentiary in the city's place.+

"He vants to," Strauss looked over her glasses at the non-entity, "turn it into a prison?"

+Something of the sort, yes,+ the First replied. +He has always been something of a wildcard, as you know. He always did have his eye on Varrigan after the Thirteenth took control.+

"Und it vould be a fool's errand to invade ze city..."

+Precisely. I could not have my dear brother meet such a dreadful fate,+ she was sure it was amused by now. +Could you imagine, Doctor?+

The Doctor readjusted herself, crossing her legs as she sat back in her chair. "Ja," she muttered, "vell zen. If zat is all, could ve move on to business?"

+Very well, very well. Moving onto the details of the Maerorus Project, there is, ah, good news and bad news," the First stated. +Which would you prefer to hear first, Doctor?+

Strauss hesitated. For the first time, she was staring down the consequences of her miscalculations. Part of her wanted to skip the discussion entirely and carry on living, the fate of her life's work in constant limbo. At least then she would be able to live with the hope of resuming it one day.

After a deep breath to steel herself, the Doctor spoke. "Give me ze bad news first, zen."

+Oh, excellent. For a moment I was worried I would have to find a way to tell you the good news first, and that would be dreadfully awkward,+ the incubator said. +The bad news, quite simply, is that the Maerorus Project will be suspended for the time being.+


+My associates and I have deemed it prudent to place the project on hold for a minimum five year waiting period,+ it continued, ignoring the shocked and wide-eyed Doctor. +At the conclusion of this waiting period, assuming you have not expired, we will review the continued necessity of the project.+

"But- My- My vork," Strauss stammered, "You can't-"

+As a matter of fact, I can. Please do not embarass us both with pleas for sympathy. Must I remind you that it was your own arrogance that wasted billions of dollars and a over a decade of work in a single, spectacular display of ineptitude? Do I make myself clear, Doctor?+

The Doctor let her head down and held her face in her hands, nodding silently. She could already feel a knot in her stomach and a pain in her throat.

+Good,+ the incubator said, not a hint of emotion in its voice. +As for the good news, we are prepared to issue you a regular pension as a sign of our gratitude for your past work. It should be sufficient to live off of, though, I doubt you will find yourself in the lap of luxury.+

"A- A pension?!" Strauss shouted. "I am not some obsolete object to be placed in storage!"

+For the next five years, Doctor, that is exactly what you are. Take solace in the fact that we did not choose to scrap the project all together.+

The Doctor's head dropped into her hands once more. All she could do was mutter a quiet, "Schiesse..."

+Miss Prime will deliver your new living arrangements within the week. Barring any emergencies, you are to remain indoors until that time," the First explained. "Assuming you have no further questions or concerns, I believe we have reached the end of our meeting, yes?"

Strauss nodded again, without a word.

+Excellent. Our meeting is adjourned then," the incubator said. With a moment's hesitation, it added, "If it is any consolation, I believe some of my brothers were eager for you to resume work on Project Valhalla. I will put you in contact with them as soon as possible. Good day, Doctor."

The voice faded into the back of her mind as the darkness closed in. It seemed only moments later that Strauss opened her sore and bleary eyes, finding herself tucked into bed, night having long fallen over the city. The Doctor pushed herself out of bed and reached for the bedside lamp, then reconsidering as her hand touched the switch. For now, she was more content to sit in the dark.

Strauss' eyes grew hot and throat sore. For the first time since she was a little girl, Doctor Emma Strauss cried. It was as if a dam had broken. She held nothing back; tears ran in twin streams down her flushed crimson face.

Somehow, she hadn't fully realized everything that had transpired until then. A small part of her had desperately clung to the hope that she would be able to resume her work after a brief hiatus. Now, she finally understood just how much she had lost, and how much she had truly treasured all that she had created.

Sweet, sad Typhus. Cute little Lil and her furry feet. Clair and the look on her face every time she got a new toy. Butterfingers, her favourite pet. The ever-loyal Thorne. Ekaterina, the one who had rose the highest above them all. Strauss had never loved them as a mother should have, but they were her family nonetheless. And it was likely that she would never see any of them every again, because of the one they called 'Malal'.

As she wept, Strauss could only muster one clear thought through the haze of loss and regret enveloping her mind.

Malal would pay. There would come a day when Malal would lie beaten and broken, begging forgiveness, with only regret and sorrow left in her heart. Only then, as she watched everything she had built crumble before her eyes, would Malal die.

Only then would Doctor Emma Strauss have her revenge.

Prose Magica: A Serious House on Serious Earth[edit]

Two hours. It had taken two hours for Prime to catch sight of her destination. The Callidus couldn't help but feel a sense of accomplishment. Her first journey had taken three times as long. A muted sigh escaped her lips as she pushed her cellphone back into her pocket. The device was little more than an over-sized pocket-watch here, wherever 'here' was.

Prime only allowed herself the rewarding sight of the double doors at the end of the hall for a moment before forcing her vision elsewhere. She strode silently down a narrow hall, only large enough for two people to comfortably walk abreast. Deep, intricately carved mahogany lined the base of the walls, which were papered with scarlet and patterned with gold designs. Potlights ran down the centre of the ceiling, basking the hall with an orange glow.

It was almost exactly like a posh hotel hall, she thought, save for the fact that it had been two hours since she last saw a door. Not a single feature marked the hall - only the ceiling, floor and two walls. Worse still was the complete and utter silence. The only sound that accompanied her was the grating noise of her own shoes scrunching against the carpet. Something struck her as... wrong about the silence. It was as if she expected to hear some some sort of white noise. Whispers, perhaps. Something to make her fears more than irrational. Instead, she was privy only to the sound of her own heartbeat and stifled breathing accompanying her footsteps.

With another quick, shivering shake of her head, Prime withdrew her thoughts once more, clawing them back. She tried to keep her mind occupied, desperate keep herself from being lucid. When she finally reached her goal, she didn't want to remember a single step of her journey. She didn't want to think of the shapes on the walls that seemed to slither just on the edge of her periphery, or the dancing shadows that seemed to be cast by nothingness. For two hours, Prime fought to keep her focus, terrified of what she might behold should she lose it.

For a moment, she stopped thinking entirely. When she finally found her consciousness, she caught herself staring at one of the walls. Of course, there was nothing but simple, blossoming abstract designs. Of course. She used the thought to anchor her mind in the real. There was nothing unusual. And yet, why was it that - in some buried fragment of her mind - she couldn't help but shake the feeling that the markings were laughing at her. She could almost hear it, just on the precipice of perception. But, of course, there was nothing. Only deafening silence. Again, Prime pushed whatever thought she could into her mind and continued on.

Another agonizing hour passed before she reached the doors. They were at least ten feet tall, narrow and peaked with elegant golden angels for handles. She wasn't terribly keen on the angels' gruesome expressions, however. Nor the way they seemed to stare at her, even without irises or pupils. She wanted to blame it on her imagination. She very desperately did. But she knew better.

As quietly as possible, Prime tugged one of the doors open and passed through. She was met with the sight of one of the grand cathedrals of the Church of the Golden Land. Out of reflex, she almost made the sign of the cross before catching herself.

She couldn't help but notice the eerie darkness that shrouded the hall. It took her a moment of awe and two steps before she realized what was wrong. Not a single man-made light illuminated the cathedral - the only light shone through the numerous stained glass reliefs along the walls.

The largest was a grandiose rose window in the apse, casting its light on the altar. In the kaleidoscope of colours, Prime could pick out various figures and scenes. One of the figures, Prime thought, looked almost like a fish wearing a suit of armour. Another seemed to be a candlestick on horseback. None of it made any sense to her.

Prime had once asked Eliphas what the images behind the sanctuary were supposed to depict. Her reply came with a quiet, patronizing laugh and a shake of her head, as if to tell Prime that she could never hope to understand. Indeed, she didn't. "Deliverance," had been Eliphas' answer. After hearing her zealously tainted words, Prime had little desire to press the matter.

As she walked quietly down the right aisle, slowly approaching the altar, she could see several silhouetted heads among the pews, despite there being no mass going on at the time. Some were kneeling in prayer, others bowed their heads, while some simply seemed to be passing the time, admiring the artwork or reading. Strangely, she realized, none spoke beyond the murmured prayers of a few. Being teenage girls, she imagined they ought to be less concerned about religion and more about socializing. Prime couldn't help but admire their respect and dedication.

It didn't take long to find the innocuous wooden door to Eliphas' private chapel nestled off to the side of the right transept. It was too similar to the entrance for her liking - peaked, with the same angel for a handle, only miniaturized. For a moment, Prime considered knocking, but it was impossible for the Apostle not to know she was coming.

With a gentle push, the door creaked open, almost as though opening on its own. The chapel was modest dwelling, furnished with a few chairs around a table and a sofa along the right-hand wall. Even with as few as a half-dozen people it would have felt cramped. Much like the larger cathedral, the only light seeped in through a large window along the far wall, its curtains drawn tightly.

Prime's quarry sat at the table, to the right, sipping from an elegant porcelain tea set. Steam rose from another cup and saucer already set for Prime. The Apostle didn't even turn to look as her visitor stepped int other room.

Eliphas was an unusual looking girl, or so Prime thought. She was small and thin, giving the impression of doll-like delicacy. Next to Prime, who stood nearly six feet tall, Eliphas would have been dwarfed. Her hair flowed down the back of the seat, and would have reached her knees had Eliphas been standing. It was so pale as to be white, but under the proper lighting one would see shimmers of golden blonde.

Prime bowed her head as she took another step closer. "Good afternoon, Elly," she said, fighting to put a warm smile on her face.

Eliphas- Deculture.png

Eliphas turned to face her. Prime almost wished she hadn't. After spending so long in the cathedral, the girl's skin had turned an unearthly grey colour. But it took more than unusual skin pigmentation to rattle Hydra Prime - it was the girl's face itself. Once, she would have been attractive - beautiful even - but that time had come and gone long ago. Her eyes were solid, milky white, and the scars... The scars made a shiver run up the green-haired woman's spine. They were no badges of honour won in battle like those worn by other magical girls. Eliphas' scars were carefully self-inflicted. They showed strange runes and symbols, deliberately carved onto her face as a sign of devotion. The most prominent was an eight-pointed star centred on her right eye, even extending to her eyelid.

"Prime," Eliphas said, smiling with the sort of serene contentment that seemed reserved for the so-called 'enlightened', "come in to my home. Have a seat. What brings you here?"

Prime bowed her head again and did as she was asked. "We need to talk," she said. "Plans have... changed."

Eliphas cocked her head. Her expression seemed change in the subtlest of ways. Something hid behind her smile, and Prime swore that she saw faint movement in the white seas of the Apostle's eyes. "Changed?" She asked. "Changed... how? Has Miss Odette accepted The Word yet?"

"We underestimated her," Prime admitted. "Maybe we overestimated Vance. I don't know. Brighton didn't cave and now she's stronger than ever. Even if we got a last minute miracle, she wouldn't be turned fast enough."

The smile and warmth faded from Eliphas' face almost instantly. "Is that so?"

"Hey now," Prime said, putting on the same cold, biting smile that she often used on her own subordinates. "Your gal is the one that fucked up, not mine."

The Apostle's scars danced as her lip twitched, but she conceded. "So what is your plan now, exactly?"

"Joe's getting antsy," the Callidus explained, resting her arm on the chair's back in an attempt to seem at ease, "he wants everything finished 'fore the Warmaster's inauguration."

Eliphas cocked an eyebrow, incredulous. "That's impossible."

"Impossible is our speciality, hun," Prime laughed. "We'll handle everything, but I need everyone you can lend on standby. They'll get their pretty penny for the trouble, of course. How many can you get me?"

Eliphas thought for a moment, hemming and hawing as she tilted her head this way and that. "Perhaps a hundred," she said at last. "I can't say for certain on the spot. The Black Myriad, the Obsidian Roses," Prime mentally took note as the Apostle rattled off names, "the Mourning Angels, the Children of Bone, and, of course, The Inheritance. I can guarantee those at the very least."

"It'll do for now. I'll have my people run checks on them."

Eliphas nodded, her serene aura returning as she sipped at her tea. "The Word has already spread to the Seventeenth's Vindicare rank," she said, just above whisper. "The Eversors turn slowly as well. Soon our ranks will swell with the faithful once again. You do us a great service, Hydra Prime."

"Now, Elly," the green-haired woman said, "let's not go there, m'kay?"

"It's natural to fear the Truth, Prime," Eliphas replied, her voice soothing, almost motherly. "In time, you, too, will conquer this fear and accept the Black Testament."

"Y'know, I think folks would be a lot more open-minded if you picked better names for things," Prime scoffed. She took a loud sip and chuckled to herself. "'I mean, really. 'Black Testament'? Name that one yourself?"

Eliphas glowered, burying her face behind her tea cup. "You would not scoff if you knew the profundity of the Truth. I know full well of the glimpses you've seen," the Apostle said. "You've walked our halls and gazed upon our wonders. You've watched the barriers between the material and the empyrean crumble. How long do you think you can deny the reality in front of your eyes?"

"Great speech, but lemme ask you a better question," Prime replied. "Why do you care so much? As far as I can see, getting me to go to church would only hurt your little operation here."

"Perhaps you don't see far enough."

Prime couldn't help but snicker. "Sometimes I worry that I've rubbed off on you a bit too much," she said before taking another sip. "Maybe I should be the one trying to recruit you."

"Ah, yes," Eliphas murmured as a wry grin crawled across her face, "Araghast, too, once thought I would be an asset to her cause. Look to what has become of her."

"Araghast was an idiot."

Eliphas simply smirked and took a long sip.

"Snarky little piss," Prime muttered.

The atmosphere lulled into a comfortable silence, broken only by the occassional sounds of slurped tea and clinking of cups on saucers. The longer the silence dragged on, the more Prime found her eyes drawn to the covered window behind Eliphas. The Apostle's words came trickling back into her mind. She had walked the corridors of the cathedral. She had seen the wailing chandeliers and the halls of glass and bone and screams. It was an impossible structure built from a broken mind.

As if reading her mind, Eliphas turned to look longingly at the window. She seemed to breathe in the sight and bask in it, despite the curtains being drawn.

"You're curious."

The words slithered through her lips. For a brief moment, Prime almost thought she hadn't spoken at all, that it had been a figment of her imagination.

"Would you like to look?" Eliphas asked. She turned her head just enough for the white corner of her eye to show. Even without irises or pupils, Prime had the distinct feeling that the Apostle was staring straight at her. No - not at her -through her, at something buried deep inside her very soul.

"Not really," the green-haired woman lied. She couldn't deny that Eliphas was a master orator. She knew exactly how hard to push, and the precise moment and length of time to let up, allowing Prime's own thoughts to get the better of her. Prime only wished that her subordinates had such talent.

Eliphas stood, clutching at a tome that hung from her waist by a golden chain. Very slowly, she strode over and brushed aside a curtain, revealing a sliver only wide enough for her to look through. The Apostle's body heaved with a deep, profound sigh, as though she was never truly at peace until that very moment.

After staring for a time, she turned back, and asked, "Won't you join me?"

"That doesn't seem like such a good idea."

Eliphas' smile deepened, once again taking on that particular matronly air. "I assure you, your brain won't melt out of your ears. Come," she murmurred, "sate your curiosity."

"Peer pressure's a terrible thing, Elly."

"Would you like me to hold your hand?"

Prime glared at the Apostle. She recognized that smug hint of premature victory in the Apostle's expression. "You remind me of someone I hate," Prime muttered as she rose from her seat. "I've got calls to make, sweetie, so I'm gonna call this meetin' adjurned."

"So soon?" Eliphas pouted, stepping away from the window at last.

"While your sermons are passionately delivered, I think both of us have more important matters to attend to, don't you?"

Something dangerous lurked behind Eliphas' smile as she took her seat once more. She wore a very specific expression, caught somewhere between patronizing and... something else that Prime couldn't quite put her finger on. Again, the faintest hints of movement danced behind the Apostle's milky eyes.

"In that case," Eliphas said, "shall I have Daedalus show you out?"

"I'm sure I'll find the way well enough," Prime muttered. She had met the Architect only once before, but was already keen not to repeat the experience. "Y'all should really get some segways down here or somethin'."

"I don't think I will ever fully understand you, Hydra Prime."

"That's the idea," Prime said with a wink, “Elizavetta.” She curtsied, then disappeared through the door, the final seeming to hang in the air for a few extra moments.

Eliphas' lip twitched at the name as she turned her chair to face the window once more. As she felt the green-haired woman's presence fade, Eliphas thumped her gold-gilded black tome on the table and opened it to page marked by a red silk bookmark. Her finger ran across one line, the ink coming off the page like blackened ash.

She rubbed her fingers together to clear off the dust and whispered, "Eques."

+My lady,+ a rough and grating, yet high-pitched voice replied.

"Follow her and find Vance."

+As you wish, my lady.+

The Apostle wiped a second line away.

"Episcopus," she called out.

+Your will, my lady?+ A second voice asked with a voice deep and rich like dripping molasses.

"Assemble The Inheritance. I wish to address them."

+It shall be done.+

Once more, Eliphas's finger reached for a third line, but hesitated. She clenched her fist, debating whether or not to call the final name. Several seconds ticked by before she finally shut the grimoire and shoved it to the side. Breathing a sigh of contentment, Eliphas sipped at the last of her tea.

"Someday, Prime," she muttered. "Someday..."

Prose Magica: Memento Mori[edit]


Prose Magica: The Ghosts of the Seventeenth[edit]


Prose Magica: Dominatus[edit]


Prose Magica: The Legend of the Seventeenth[edit]