A Final, Dying Ember
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International Center for the Study of Unified Thaumatology: Three Portlands Campus
May 23rd, 2014

Despite Dr. Hans Vogel's preaching about safety and the danger of Applied Evocation, there was no escaping a singular, unavoidable fact: it was an applied school of magic. As such, the capstone for the course was a simulated duel — a student versus a specially designed golem within the Evocation Hall's main containment ring. The winner was the first to three points, as determined by a panel of Evocation specialists observing from the audience. Ultimately, it was a chance to display all you had learned over the course of your education and prove you wouldn't immediately get yourself killed in the field.

It was not going well for Beatrice Ross.

The fledgling evoker panted as she continued to dodge the golem's attacks. It was large, brass, and vaguely humanoid in shape. A series of wands were built into both its hands to simulate a simple array of spells a fellow thaumaturge may know in the field. Over the course of the last seven minutes, she and the great automaton had managed to exchange blows to bring the score to an even 2-2. She just needed to get in one more hit. Unfortunately, the damn thing was now on the defensive, and her energy was running out.

A projectile of force whizzed past Beatrice, causing her to roll across the stage and slam into the containment field. She hastily picked herself up, and locked eyes with her opponent. Streams of sweat trickled down in front of her goggles.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, what do I do. I can't get anything past its deflection field. Unless-

The series of wands on the golem's right arm shifted. It began to stomp forward to claim its final point.

STOMP

Beatrice did her best to clear her thoughts…

STOMP

She selected the spell in her mind and made the mental calculations…

STOMP

Balled up her fists…

STOMP

And ran towards the golem, sliding under a blast of wind. As the column of air raged above her, she forced her hands onto the golem's torso, and let her spell loose. The golem flew backward through the air and collided with the containment ring's invisible wall.

It let out a horrid mechanical whirr as Beatrice maintained her concentration, pressing it against a wall of unyielding force. The brass began to glow red hot.

"Ms. Ross, release," Dr. Vogel said from the judge's table. "You've won."

His voice was distant, and the words passed over Beatrice without her understanding.

"Ms. Ross!" he shouted. "Release!"

The golem let out a long howl. Components melted off and flew to the ground below. She needed to finish it off before the thaumatological backlash set it in. With how powerful this spell was, it was going to hit her like a truck. Ross's lips turned into a confident smile.

"MS. ROSS!"

The golem exploded into a series of red-hot chunks of brass, breaking through the containment field with a thunderclap and showering the unfortunate nearby audience with debris. The golem's wands then detonated, releasing a menagerie of magical energies.

Ross looked on in horror. Her mouth fell open. She hardly noticed the sudden cold of the thaumatological backlash start to set in.

"Alyssa!"

"Someone get a medic!"

"Oh my god! Is she dead?"


Three Portlands
September 24th, 2023

It was hard to effectively sprint after someone through a forest. It was even harder to perform this task when the park was unlit, it was nighttime, and a lightning storm raged above. It was hardest when the person you were pursuing was dressed entirely in black robes, and also a wizard. Yet Agent Beatrice Ross of the SCP Foundation and Agent Robin Thorne of the UIU gave this task the old college try. Occasionally they would get sight of their prey, and fire off a bolt of lightning, a blast of fire, a disembodied projectile of force, or even a classic bullet in an attempt to pin them down. Their opponent was not having this. Already the duo had nearly been skewered by ice and roasted by fire several times.

"They have to be heading somewhere," Ross said through her heavy breathing, desperately wiping the rain from her goggles. "They can't just keep running through here forever!"

"Have you ever been through Kempton Park?" Thorne replied, their voice likewise strained. "They very well could if they knew what they were do-goddamnit!"

Thorne tackled their partner from behind, driving the two of them into the mud with a loud smack. A bolt of light sailed through the area where their torsos had previously been. Without losing a beat, Thorne helped their colleague up, and the chase resumed.

This pattern went on for nearly ten more minutes, coming to a close as the two agents rushed out of the soaked treeline and into a clearing, skittering to a stop. The sky above was open, allowing the area to remain dry. A magic circle was drawn into the ground in silver powder, with a six-pointed star at its center. At four of the points, a large torch was lit, with two torches untouched at the remainder. Standing at the circle's center was a black-cloaked figure, their arms raised in a final gesture of defiance.

Thorne and Ross raised their pistols and fired.

The cloak fell to the ground completely empty.

"Got ya!"

A sudden blast of force from behind the agents slammed them face-first into the dirt. Skeletal hands emerged to grab their wrists and firmly trapped them on the ground.

"You don't know what you are doing!" Ross shouted, frantically looking around for their assailant. The cloaked figure stepped before them, heading to the circle's center. Ross continued to shout. "You have no idea who the fuck you are dealing with here, pal!"

"I know exactly who I am dealing with, Ms. Ross." His voice was masculine and calm.

From within his robes, he pulled out a series of four large mason jars, inside of which was a shimmering silver mist. One by one, he placed a jar at the base of each of the four lit torches.

"Angela Volkov. Hans Vogel. Irida Kemp. Daxton Parker."

He then drew back his hood. Underneath was a familiar tan face, covered in uneven stubble. With tired eyes, he smiled at them.

"Edmund Bray," he said.

"Edmund Bray?" Thorne asked, recognizing her former pupil. "But you're-"

"Dead?" A chillingly familiar voice interrupted. Another cloaked figure entered the circle. "It's surprising how easy it is to disguise a body when the soul is removed. In fact, few people do their due diligence after that point. A simple illusion spell and you can even disguise the DNA. No one even noticed Mirza was missing."

The voice sent a shiver down Ross's spine.

"No," she whispered to herself as this second figure also removed her hood.

The woman was deathly pale, with bleached-out long hair. Her eyes were sunken and glowed with a faint necrotic light. She gave Edmund a peck on the cheek, smirking at Ross and Thorne.

Her name was Alyssa. In 2014, Ross had accidentally killed her during the Evocation Capstone.

"How?" Ross went on. "I don't understand."

"Surely you've heard of a revenant, dear," Alyssa said.

"So that's it then?" Thorne asked. "You came back from the dead, killed all these people, all due to some innate drive? Revenge?"

"Then she would cease to be," Edmund answered. "We tried to just wait it out. When she arrived on my doorstep all those years ago, I was so overjoyed. We thought we lucked out. But revenants decay. The forces that brought them back to seek revenge don't last forever. No! We have bigger plans than that. It took some digging, but I've created a way to ensure that when she kills Ross not only is her purpose complete, but she also stays around. Five souls strongly connected to Alyssa via memory, and then the bitch that killed her. A permanent necromantic shield against revenant decay. Forever."

He tightly squeezed Alyssa's hand as tears began to well. She gave him a soft smile and he closed his eyes, falling silent for a few tender moments. It was then Ross felt something sharp land on her left elbow. Turning her head, she noticed Crowe, Thorne's familiar. The agent looked to Thorne, who gave her a wink.

"There is a quick release by the elbow joint," Ross whispered. The semi-spectral bird tilted its head and then began to peck around.

"You have no idea if that will work," Thorne called out. "I can think of a million ways that could backfire. You could easily destroy her in the process."

"It's worth the shot," Alyssa replied. "In for a penny, in for a pound."

Crowe pressed down on the button that released her prosthetic from the rest of her body. Ross smiled, even though the feeling in her left arm below the elbow was now gone. She gave Thorne and Crowe a nod.

"We were engaged!" Edmund went on. "You took so much from us, Ross, and we didn't even fucking know you in school. And then you just got to walk away. Like some kid pulling a flower off its stem. You didn't know what kind of damage you did!"

"Edmund, I'm so sorry," she said in a low voice. "I left Three Portlands because-"

"What! You're going to tell me now how it haunted you?" Alyssa snapped back. "How it kept you awake at night?! You became a goddamn skipper afterward. What the fuck do you think you can say or do at this point?"

Ross fell silent.

"Well, I guess the debt has finally come due," Edmund stated. He began to approach, his hands glowing with a crackling purple. "Eye for a fucking eye, Ross."

Ross waited for her former classmate to close in. She cleared her mind. Made the mental calculations. Balled up her fist. Then threw her feet forward, pivoting on her still-pinned wrist. With all the finesse she could muster, she attempted to cast from her left foot. A clumsy wave of force lurched forward and sent Edmund and Alyssa tumbling across the clearing.

"Now!" Ross shouted. Her hand glowed red hot, incinerating the bones that gripped her. She punched the ground, the heat vanishing into the earth. Thorne's bindings turned to dust. Ross then sprinted forward, swiftly cutting the distance between her and her foes.

"Look away!" Thorne shouted. They quickly cast a spell: a small ball of light flew through the air and exploded into a blinding flash. Alyssa and Edmund were caught off guard as the pair scrambled to get to their feet.

Recovering their pistol, Thorne then took aim at the mason jars at the base of each torch. One by one, they shattered each with a well-placed shot. The silver mist within each dissipated. The contents slowly faded back into the fabric of the universe.

Edmund stumbled as his vision slowly returned. He could just make out his fiance when Ross came into focus.

"Shit! Ross, no!"

He felt a strong hand grab him by his shirt, and launch him forward, driving him once more into the dirt. There was a metallic click right behind his head.

"I would strongly suggest you remain still and think about what you have done," Thorne said.

From his spot on the ground, he turned his head to look back at Alyssa. She stood defiantly at the center of the circle. A seething rage filled her eyes as she looked down the barrel of Ross's pistol.

"I love you, Edmund," she called out. "I'm sorry we couldn't make this work."

"I love you too, Alyssa," he called back. "Thank you for the extra time."

The revenant nodded, a sad smile on her lips as she looked away from her lover, the rage rushing back as her eyes returned to Ross.

"Go on," she said to Ross. "You already did it once. What's round two going to be?"

Ross's finger began to curl up on the trigger. She then relented and shook her head.

"We're in your jurisdiction, Thorne," she said. "It's your call."

Thorne looked at Alyssa, then at Edmund, and finally to the four shattered mason jars around the clearing. They shook their head.

"Ghosts don't go to prison, Ross."


Portland, Oregon
September 28th, 2023

Agents Beatrice Ross and Damion Creed sat once more upon a bench within Portland's Park Blocks. Creed squeezed Ross's hand tightly as the pair enjoyed a coffee and watched the various civilians go about their lives, wholly oblivious as to what lurked only a pocket dimension away.

"I really wish you had told me," Creed said. "I could have helped."

Ross shook her head.

"This was something Thorne and I needed to do alone," she replied, squeezing his hand in return. "If it's any consolation, Spencer also didn't know at the time."

"That actually does make me feel a little better," Creed chuckled. "And I can't say I wouldn't have done the same thing if I was in your shoes."

He gave her a gentle peck on the cheek. Ross's lips curled into a reassured smile.

"Do you think I did the wrong thing? To Alyssa and Edmund?"

"I'm not sure there really was a correct answer there," Creed sighed. "And it's not like the Foundation would have kept them in containment."

Ross fell silent as her eyes drifted to the pavement.

"Did it haunt you?" Creed asked. "Her death, I mean. That's why you came here right? Joined the Foundation?"

"Yeah, it did at first," Ross answered. "But after I joined Tau-51 I just… pushed it aside. Forgot about it? Christ, Damion, what the fuck is wrong with me?"

Creed opened his mouth to speak but paused as Ross began to look around. A familiar aura was drawing near. Ross and Creed's hands untangled from one another.

"We really have to stop meeting like this," Thorne said as they took a seat next to Ross on the other side of the bench. "Agent Creed."

"Agent Thorne," Creed replied. "Always a pleasure."

"How did things end up on your end?" Ross asked. "I can see Spencer didn't literally bite your head off."

"He certainly tried," Thorne chuckled. "We've wrapped up the last bits of the investigation. The case is officially being labeled as closed."

The UIU agent handed their former mentee a small package.

"I took the liberty of speaking with the families of the victims, including Angela's. I recorded the sessions. Figured you might want some closure of your own, what with you living in the shadows."

"Thank you." Ross smiled. "You didn't have to."

"I wanted to," Thorne shrugged. "And thank you, Bea. I couldn't have done it without you."

"You're a terrible liar," Ross snickered.

"I really am," Thorne replied.

Without another word the UIU agent stood, brushed themself off, and began to depart.

"Remember everything we practiced, Bea," Thorne called back over their shoulder. They then vanished into the crowded Portland streets.


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