Part Nine: Ride the Dragon
rating: +18+x


Uh okay I'm writing this at midnight after banging out 3345 words in about 9 hours so my mind's a bit woozy, I haven't touched this series in almost five years, and I haven't reread the full thing yet, but here's basically what I remember so you can read this without going back and reading eight parts of an obscure tale series. Though hopefully you'll want to do that after reading! Be warned for spoilers ofc:

Amy was an ordinary high school girl until she had what seemed to be a psychotic break and began hallucinating. She was locked in a mental institution for a little bit, but released. After her release she was captured and put into much more dangerous custody: the Foundation, who realized she had become host to a powerful knowledge entity known as The Witness.

Trapped and tested on for six years, Amy was rescued one day by monstrous creatures and woke up in a mansion in New York City, where she met Rupinder, a mysterious man who asks for her help, but won't explain exactly with what. With the help of the Witness she learns she is able to use magic, and casts a spell to help her escape.

From there the Witness explains that she must enter the Wanderer's Library to search out for an entity similar to itself, the Warden. She seeks out the advice of a hidden shadow god, Silav, who makes a deal with her: He tells her the Warden and its host are in India, and in return she promises to give it her life story when she dies.

As she prepares to leave the Library she is confronted by Rupinder, who followed her. Again he asks for her help, which she declines. He gives her a method to contact him if she ever changes her mind and leaves. She travels through a Way to the Warden's village, only to find that the Foundation has gotten there first. As they are just about to capture her, she calls Rupinder, who arrives and slaughters all the Foundation agents with a powerful display of magic. From the Witness she learns that Rupinder is likely a millennia old and immensely powerful mage of legend, and agrees to go with him to help.

He takes her to his companions, where she meets his boss/partner: The Black Queen. They are about to launch a rescue mission for an imprisoned Sister of the Queen, and they require the Witness as a guide. They travel to another universe and take a ship to the place where the Sister is imprisoned. On the way Rupinder becomes a tutor for Amy, helping her grasp the finer points of magic, and notes that she's an incredibly skilled prodigy at it.

After rescuing the Queen their ship is caught in a storm and wrecks. Amy and the Queen are stuck on a deserted island together. Guided by the Witness, Amy leads them to the center of the island to a hole in the fabric of reality which she uses to create a Way back to the library, although in the process of doing so she accidentally scatters parts of her Being across multiple parts of the multiverse.

After arriving back at the Library, the Queen and Amy realize that Rupinder and the Sister have not yet arrived. Using a looking glass, Amy discovers that they've been captured by powerful, angelic entities that guard the places between worlds, and along with the Queen and her allies launches a rescue mission. They are able to save their targets, but when they return back to the Library the Foundation is waiting and captures her after threatening to kill her family if she resists. After an unknown amount of time of solitary isolation in total darkness, they offer her a choice: She can join them, or she can return to her cell. She chooses to join.

As a final note, since touching the center of reality, Amy has been undergoing strange experiences: sometimes she will be randomly transported to another universe before returning to Earth shortly. There's something there. It's alive, it's hunting her, and it claims that "you belong to me now".

Amy no longer cared what she felt. She did still feel things, unfortunately, but she no longer let them make contact with her, as if she had hung up her emotions in a museum which she occasionally browsed out of mild curiosity. There’s the guilt, there’s the loneliness, there’s the fear… display objects, nothing more. Inert.

Four and a half years since she accepted the request to join the Foundation. The first seven months had been training, breaking her down bit by bit and reforming her into a weapon. Then, as soon as that was finished, they pulled her trigger. She tried not to remember that first mission. That wound, old as it was, was too raw to touch, too deep to just lock up in a glass case. The Warden, just 14, staring down at a wounded Coalition soldier and sending enough electricity through his body to power a house. Touching a man and feeling him shudder as his body turned to dust. The sound of an empty building after everyone inside it had become a body.

And despite the months of nightmares that followed, despite the voices she sometimes heard of the dead, despite the sickness she felt down to her soul, she had stayed with the Foundation. Kept following orders. Because if she didn’t they would send her back to the dark, and because they let her see her family. Not often. A few times a year in between missions. But enough.

Her parents didn’t believe it when she first appeared back in front of their house. She hadn’t been able to tell them anything close to the truth, of course – she deflected it by claiming she’d run away, that she’d had another psychotic break and decided to abandon everything she knew. It wasn’t clear if they believed the story but they also weren’t going to ask any more questions now that they had their daughter back, even if it was only temporary. She got to stay with them for about a week at time before an alert inevitably came from the Foundation that she was needed, and she had to promise her mother and father that she’d return soon. What would they do if they knew how much blood their daughter had on her hands, she often wondered. Sometimes she wanted to break down and tell them everything, but the thought of being sent back to the dark always stopped her, and the force of that thought made her realize something – that she no longer truly felt happiness while with her family. She faked it and faked companionship and faked love but it was like a paper mask, a marvel that it was not seen through.

The Witness was gone. She had no idea where. It was unsurprising that it wouldn’t want to talk to an agent of one of the organizations it considered its greatest enemy. Thinking about its absence was one of the few other things that still managed to move something in her. She could push aside the judgement she laid on herself, but when she wondered what it now thought of her the truth of it seemed too much to bear. For so long she’d hated it, but since her first escape its presence within her had become as natural as her own thoughts. Without it half the world had been torn away. Her skipping between universes seemed to have stopped as well, which she considered mostly a blessing.

But she told herself she did not care about these things. That she would not allow herself to care. When she felt herself beginning to care she reminded herself what she was: a mass murdering attack dog for men trying to strangle the world. She didn’t have the right to care anymore. She’d given up that privilege when she made the decision to become this. The only thing she would allow herself is fear – fear that one day they would decide she was no longer useful and lock herself back in that hidden, dark cell. So she did not let the mask slip. She did not allow anyone to see the emptiness behind her eyes.

The doctor who’d first made her the offer to join them was name Kerrin. Dr. Kerrin had remained her supervisor for every mission since then and it was him that he was truly afraid of. Oh yes, he was nice most of the time. He helped her. He made good conversation. But she knew that with a stroke of a pen he could turn her life black. His eyes were empty too, but he didn’t have to hide it. He seemed to enjoy being what he was. It was useful for him, not just a mechanism. She wondered sometimes if he’d ever cared about anything in the first place, and decided it was unlikely.

She did her best not to think these thoughts as she walked down the neon-light night streets of Shanghai. The Warden (or SCP-7873, or Radhamai Janakiraman, as he preferred to be called) walked next to her with his hands in his pockets and a blank expression. He had grown up from the 14 year old boy he’d been when they first were thrown into this situation together. His shoulders were broader, his eyes sharper. He walked with an earned confidence that seemed to physically part the crowds of people out of his way as he moved. As they walked he was looking at the buildings around them in a way that could have seemed like tourist awe, but disguised a constant awareness for threats. Every once in a while his head twitched as if he’d heard a noise inaudible to anyone else.

Unlike the Witness, the creature inside Radhamai had stuck inside of his host. It disliked the Foundation, but seemed to be willing to tolerate them, or at least value his connection to Radhamai more. This was another thing that Amy tried not to think about. She checked a street sign and motioned to Radhamai that it was time to turn left. They silently walked down the bustling streets, not caring about the stares they attracted. This was not a part of the city that outsiders went to voluntarily. Amy let their looks roll over her and ignored them.

The space between the towering apartments around them was choked with smog and the smell of vended meat. Amy could have easily put up a smell to purify the air around her, but didn’t want to take any chance of drawing more attention to herself. If someone with a modicum of talent who hasn’t a civilian was watching, it would be immediately obvious what she was. She dealt with the filthy air the old fashioned way – sucking it up. Still, she was thankful when they reached their destination, a large apartment complex, and were able to buzz themselves into a more filtered environment. Their destination was on the fourth floor. They took the stairs. Less chance of catastrophic failure.

The door was plain, with one of the metal numbers broken off. Amy knocked twice and waited. The hallway was cramped and dirty. One of the lights was on its last attempt at flickering. She’d been in worse places. The door opened and a balding, skinny man in a too-large black Metallica shirt peered at her through the crack. There was a cigarette between his teeth and he sucked on it as he gave Amy a threatening look.

“What the fuck do you want?” he said, presumably in Mandarin. Amy didn’t speak the language, but it was simple enough to cast a translation spell.

“We’re here to see Lu Shuren,” said Amy. Skinny was a twitchy kind of guy. Twitchy guys used to make her nervous. Now she just felt bored. The bit was the kind of cliché it was easiest to humor, for a little while at least.

“Wrong apartment,” said the man, and began to close the door. Amy reached out a hand. As she did she put a binding on her arm to push back against it. The man, confused by how this small woman seemed able to resist him so easily, started applying more force to the doorknob. It didn’t budge. Amy shoved the door open, sending him sprawling, and stepped inside.

It was a shitty drug den of an apartment, just as she’d expected. The only thing that looked remotely cared for was the 70 inch tv hooked up to a shiny PS5. A fat man sat on a ratty couch in front of it, holding a controller in his lap and looking at Amy in shock. She glared at him and he looked away. She took a step towards the skinny man, whose eyes seemed to be as wide as they could go. Radhamai stepped into the room behind her.

“We’re here to see Lu,” said Amy again. “We know he’s here. We know everything about your little racket.” Come on strong, but not too fast. Not too hard. No need to go all in during the first round. She snapped a finger at the fat gamer. “You. Bring him here. Twig, you don’t move.” She glanced down. There was a faint outline of a gun beneath his baggy shirt. Maybe a 30% chance he was brave enough to pull it.

“No need,” said a voice from across the room. “I’m here.” She looked over to the kitchen entrance. Standing in the doorway was a young man in a white hoodie. The red characters on it, her translation spell told her, read “Ride the Dragon”. She could see a few abstract tattoos on his face and he was smoking on something that wasn’t tobacco.

“You know who we are,” said Amy. Lu sneered.

“Cops,” he said. “The big scary Coalition cops. I know you.” He looked over at the fat man. “What the fuck are you looking so scared for, Zhou? We knew they were coming.” He turned back to meet Amy’s gaze and didn’t flinch away. “Just surprised they didn’t send more heat.”

“We’ll be enough,” said Amy. “If you’re lucky, we might just be here to talk.” She didn’t break his stare. “And you’re wrong. We’re not Coalition.”

Instantly the man’s expression changed. Only for an instant, but the realization that passed over his face was unmistakable.

“Oh, fuck,” he said. “Oh, fuck me.” Amy had to respect it. He was clearly frightened, but he was keeping it under control. Holding his shit in place better than most people when they found out who they were dealing with.

Movement to her left. Skinny was going for the gun. He’d barely gotten it out of his jeans before a metal spike erupted from the floor and pierced his wrist. He screamed and dropped the gun. Amy looked back at Radhamai, who was still standing still with his hands in his pockets, looking like he was barely paying attention.

“Thanks,” she said. He nodded. She turned back to Lu. “Fortunately I’m not going to hold your lapdog here being stupid against you. Fresh starts all around.” She motioned to the couch next to Zhou. “Sit.” Once he did she slid into the chair beside it. It cracked as she put her weight onto it and instinctively she putting a binding spell on the old wood so it wouldn’t snap. Radhamai stayed standing, looming behind the couch. Skinny was still lying on the ground, moaning about his skewered hand.

“You know why we’re here,” Amy said. “It’s understandable. You’re some dumb kid who failed out of college and decided to start messing with things humans shouldn’t be messing with. You figured out you could do some cool tricks, maybe contact some things from beyond this world, and started dreaming big. You thought it’d get you a bit of cash and maybe laid a few times, so you got deeper into it, started making connections, learning. Then one day you strike it big – the Insurgency wants your help. Wants you to start manufacturing stuff only you have the skills to manufacture.” As she spoke she cast her senses over the room, letting them echo off the furniture and into the walls until she found what she was looking for. She nodded to Radhamai. “In the bathroom. Under some loose tiles by the sink.”

Radhamai left the room and came back a few minutes later holding a bag full of vials the size of Amy’s pink finger. The insides flickered with glowing, vibrant colors. He took a red one and reached to open the top.

“Don’t!” cried Lu, spinning around with more genuine panic in his voice than Amy had heard so far. Radhamai didn’t care. He popped off the black stopper. Instantly a point of red light burst out of it and began zipping around the room in wide loops, like a Christmas light had somehow got its hands on a jetpack. It circled the room a few times before stabilizing its course directly towards Zhou. He leaped up, tried to scramble away, but the light was too fast. It slammed into his forehead and there was a crimson flash that blinded everyone in the room for a few seconds. When Amy’s sight returned, Zhou’s body was lying on the floor with half its head missing. The gore glowed with red light. Amy looked back at Lu. He was starting to seem green around the edges.

“Souls,” Amy said, her voice emotionless. “Souls of families killed together, souls cut into a thousand pieces and fused with essence of books from the Wanderer’s Library. Powerful familiars, if you can control them. Or powerful fuel.”

“I… I just did what they told me,” Lu stammered. “I just used what they gave me.”

“And you never got curious, huh? Never snooped around a bit? Never asked any questions? Sure, you can try to tell us that.” Amy leaned forward in her chair. “But before you do, let’s make a deal.”

She took Lu’s silence as an invitation to continue.

“You tell us where we can meet your employers. We leave. We take the souls with us. You live. You forget all about everything you’ve learned and go on with your life.” Again she met his eyes. It looked like tears were about to start spilling over any second now. “Think, Lu. We’ve got you by the throat. With the Insurgency at least you’ll have a head start.”

She’d often seen people break before. There was a moment in there eyes where you could see whatever was inside of them vanish. One second there was life, the next only resignation. Irises reflecting the abyss they stared into. Sometimes it was instantaneous. Sometimes it needed a few seconds for the light to disappear. With Lu it was like watching a switch flicked off. He nodded, swallowed.

“They gave me a phone. It doesn’t do anything but ring sometimes. They tell me what to do. I can give it to you.” He stood up and walked slowly over to a cabinet, out of which he took a black brick-like phone that looked at least 20 years old and brought it over to her. It was heavy, had no features other than a speaker, a microphone, and a button with a green picture of a phone on it. Amy could not detect any magic on it. Technology wasn’t her strong suit, but knowing the Insurgency she felt confident that they would have some sort of failsafe on it to alert the other side if it was stolen. Didn’t mean there wouldn’t be information, though. She slid it into her pocket and stood up.

“We’ll know if you break your word,” she said. Stepping over Zhou’s body, she exited the apartment with Radhamai behind, still holding the bag of sacrifices. As they were walking down the stairs, she looked over at Radhamai. “Does this feel funny to you?”

He shrugged.

“I find very little about this job funny,” he said.

She took the bag from him and held it up to her face. Dozens of dancing lights, bursting to be free. If she held her ear close, she could almost imagine she heard crying.

“This thing’s gonna be sitting in a box until the Earth rots,” she said. “At least that’s what they tell us.”

Radhamai didn’t reply. They reached the end of the stairs and stepped out onto the street.

“They’re underestimating us,” she said. “They think because they took away the Witness and the books that I don’t have other ways of finding what I need to know. These past few jobs, Rad, they’re connected, but not in the ways they’ve told us. You must have noticed it too. They’re having us follow something and lying about what it is.”

“They lie to us about many things. I don’t try to keep track.”

She was about to respond when the phone in her pocket rang. The pair stopped and stared at it as she pulled it out of her jacket. They looked at each other. She pressed the button to answer.


“You’re not as clever as you think you are,” said an elderly woman’s voice. The call clicked dead.

The bag in her hand exploded. Immediately dozens of sparks of light burst out into the air around them, tumbling over the heads of hundreds of shocked pedestrians who must have thought it wasn’t a fireworks display. Unfortunately, these lights weren’t lifeless, and they didn’t fade away. They zipped rapidly, rising higher and higher, paused for a second, and shot back towards the Earth.

Amy was already moving, trying to cast a spell that would intercept them before they reached their targets, but there were too many, too fast, and fine control was never her strong suit. She managed to cause a few to burst harmlessly in the air, but the vast majority got past her. In just a few seconds they began to explode, and the people around her began to scream. Blood splashed the street as torn up corpses, burning with light, fell to the asphalt. These lights didn’t disappear like the one inside – they flew back up and descended again to keep ripping through whoever came in their way. Amy desperately tried to pull them back, but she could do nothing. A few popped out of existence – must be Radhami’s work, she thought – but most kept tearing through the people below, again and again again.

She saw it just out of the corner of her eye, a green glow hurtling towards her, and managed to jerk away right before it collided with her hand. She took a step forward and felt something slam into her back. Instantly pain erupted through her – pain like she’d never felt before, pain burning and stinging and lashing. She tried to scream but her mouth would not open. She tried to move but she was already falling, and as she hit the ground the world went black.

She woke lying on the sand in a desert, so vast she could see nothing but sand in every direction. The sun was at its midpoint in the sky and even standing under it for just a few seconds felt like she was beginning to burn. There was no other pain. She reached to touch her back and felt only smooth, unharmed skin. Pushing herself to her feet, she saw a piece of sand nearby moving. A small lizard burst out and darted away. She followed its motion, and as it disappeared into the distance saw something standing far away. Seven feet tall. An extra joint in each arm. A wolf-like head. Her hunter.

After four years of silence, she was back here. This time, she thought, I won’t run away. She crouched down, ready to fight, trying to draw in energy. None came. This world had no magic to give her. Just then she felt something inside of her that had been absent for years. Something she thought she’d never feel again. A familiar voice in her head.

I am very disappointed with you, Amy.

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