Under Control

rating: +102+x

December 6, 2023

The plaza was awash with all sorts of activity — odd for this time of night, but not odd for this town. A group of ambient soviet factorypunk enthusiasts known as "hhh"1 chose tonight to astrally project thaumic facsimiles of their music into the dreams of every sleeping Three Portlands resident who has an "R" in their name.

The point was less to appeal to the Roberts and Rebeccas of the world, more to signal a certain aptitude to those who weren't called. Publicity stunts like these attracted anartists like moths to a fucking flame, and that's just what Adam Rowe was counting on.

His hand slipped into his trouser pocket and fished out a worn, crinkled business card.

NO PULSE? No Problem!

With our Factory-certified ██████ ████, you'll be feeling GOOD as ██████ in less than threes!

For information and pricing, contact Jam█th ███to█ at 5█3█ ██████ Drive, Three ████lands!

God knows how long that card has been in Adam's possession. Long enough to bear signs of the skipper info-blockers' attempts to remotely declare half of it unreadable. This incompleteness had been a thorn in Adam's side for the past few days, as he was forced instead to trace the lines of contagion between the card and the person who created the garish design.

This had been hard going — apparently, this intrepid individual doesn't spend much time in Three Portlands, so the lines just go nowhere most of the time. And when the creator is in Three Portlands, they aren't there long enough for Adam to triangulate their location and get there in time.

But tonight was different. Right when hhh's signal went out (which woke Adam Rowe right up) the card started to ping all over the place. They were coming to check out the music, and Adam was going to be there to greet them.

The crowd had been amassing for forty-five minutes now, clamoring around a big, round stage in the center of the town square. Countless other spectators sat on roofs or belayed on walls, specks of light on commercial brownstones and sleek glass edifices. In the air, buzzing drones circled the stage in slow, rhythmic cycles.

Adam stood back, away from the crowd, tacky business card held high. From here he could feel the card's tonal links. The dealer was in the crowd. He approached the back of the spectators, pressing between them and squirming onwards.

It was difficult to see what was going on — Adam's view was obstructed by damp denim and vinyl jackets, moving elbows dangerously close to his face as the crowd started to pump up. He was almost to the stage when he felt the link in the card terminate. Looks like this is it.

A bald woman was standing in front of him, marveling up at the stage. He tapped her on the shoulder. She turned her head, smiling warmly. She had pointed horns grown from her temples.

Adam cleared his throat. The yells of the crowd were thundering in his ears. "Are you Jamoth?"

She nodded. "Jameth. You have my card!"

Adam smiled back, nodding. "Séance dust. Do you have it?"

Jameth cocked her head. "Sure, friend. Gimme your card."

Adam grimaced, snapping his fingers. A white index card appeared between his fingertips. He passed it over.

"Thank you, friend." She raised her right index finger to the sky, and with a dull pop a small baggie of lime dust dropped, right out of nowhere, straight into her palm. "I'll be in touch. Try not to have too much fun!"

Adam took the baggie gingerly. He nodded. "Don't think that'll be a problem." With a cordial wave, he began backing slowly out of the crowd. As he departed the plaza, a clanking rendition of L'Internationale had begun to play.

When he got back to his room at the roach motel, he set the bag on top of the dresser and breathed to himself. "One down, two to go."

One week earlier…
November 29th, 2023

The two of them had approached him at midday, cornering him as he walked down the street and politely asking him to come in to a nearby coffee shop for some words. He obliged.

They led him in, past the counter (with menu scrawled in barely-legible Latin) and a mass of tangled pipes that continually seeped espresso.

The first of the two, an imposing figure in nigh-opaque black sunglasses and a tracksuit, pulled out a chair and beckoned for Adam to sit. The other, a tall, pantsuited woman with straight brown hair and black-rimmed glasses, sat across from him at the tiny table. She smiled blankly.

He ventured. "So, how's it going?"

"We're representatives from a subsidiary of Redzone Security. We'd like you to sign on as a temporary consultant."

Adam narrowed his gaze. "Oh, I'm not really looking for freelance-"

She raised her hand. "Allow me to rephrase. We believe that this contract would be beneficial for both parties, should you accept. Otherwise, well, we can't ensure that information about you won't fall into the wrong hands."

Adam turned to his right — the big one was blocking his exit. They tapped their sunglasses, producing a red flash. He was being recorded.

He swallowed and turned back to the woman. "What do you even- what do you need consultation for?"

"Redzone's proprietary data protection method utilizes a necro-thaumic pocket dimension of geas-bound indentured consciousnesses which provide the raw thaumic power necessary to render data fully inaccessible within the infosphere until decryption is required."

Adam blinked. "Uh, go on?"

"Recently, the data-locking procedure has been deadlocked with no apparent external causes. We're fearing a union. What we require is an effective way to necromantically access the souls and make any necessary actions to bring the process back into working order."

He waited for an extra moment to make sure she was done. When she didn't speak, he opened his mouth. "You need a necromancy consultant?"

"That's right."

"You must have gone to my father first, right? I mean, you must know about what he was involved with. Right?"

"Your father was considered for the project, but ultimately decided against. Too difficult to incentivise."

Adam certainly felt incentivized.

"We're not here to talk about your father. We're well aware that you possess your own talents. You're simply more flexible than he is, right? I mean, between you and me, he doesn't really do much for you, does he?"

Adam squinted. "Stop that."

"Stop what?"

"That thing where you imply that you've been following me."

Her eyes flashed down at the table, and then back up. "Sure. We haven't been following you."


"Look, maybe we got off on the wrong foot here. I'm Samantha. Were you to accept, I would be your primary line to Redzone. In return for some very, very minor help, we can offer an increased foothold in the town. You know how much an endorsement matters around here. Perhaps we can help you."

There was a moment of silence. The big one was unmoving, like a big stone totem. "I guess I'll bite. Do I sign something?"

She smiled wider. "You do." From behind her chair, she pulled a single sheet of paper, which she set down in front of him. "Sign on the line, and then flip the page over."

His brow furrowed as he skimmed the dense document. Seemed like a fairly standard non-disclosure agreement.

"F- argh." Adam felt a sharpness through his mind, like his neurons had been tied end to end and twanged like piano wire.

"Standard company geas. This will inhibit your ability to disclose information about your assignment, or take action against Redzone assets or interests. We can't take chances, unfortunately. It will expire in ten days, on the 9th of December. As far as you're concerned, it won't even be there. Not like you'd want to do any of those things anyways, right?" She smiled warmly. The pain began to subside.

"Yeah, right."

"Keep the contract. We'll be in touch."

Samantha stood up to take off, just as a floating platter brought over two glowing coffees. The silent one turned away, and the two left together.

December 7th, 2023

The day after the concert was bright and sunny, by extremely relative Three Portlands standards. Adam was walking down the street to his favorite establishment: the Symposium, which sought to combine two of mankind's greatest pleasures, alcohol and literature. For today's visit, Adam was just passing through the bar-ookstore, on his way to a different library.

He passed through to the fiction section. Here, they had artfully selected companion beverages for each novel. With Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart, they paired a tasteful Chivas Regal. With Borges' Labyrinths, a bitter fernet. With Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, a big 'ol jug of bleach.

Unfortunately, bleach would have to wait for another day. He proceeded to a shaded area of the shop floor, the shelves labeled "Dark Fiction", and then to their neighbor, "Darker Fiction". Trailing down the aisle, he thumbed along the spines until he found the tome he was looking for: Bodart's Radical Reads 2: Working with the Newest Edgy Titles for Teens.

He flipped it open. The pages were hollowed out to contain another, smaller book, bound in featureless black leather. Adam pried it open, started at the top of the first page, and read aloud.

"Lorem ipsum dolor sit…" As he began, a shimmering halo started to envelop him from the head down. He could feel himself become less real, less anchored. As he continued to read, warmth propagated within him, agitated air particles displaced by his coming into being someplace else.

"…id est librarum." As he finished, the book vanished from his hands. He was now among the warm, orange corridors of the Wanderer's Library. He could swear that the Ways get more complicated each time he has to use them.

A cursory glance revealed that he was in the portion of the Library dedicated to cataloguing alternate-universe publications of Spy vs. Spy. Luckily, there was a kiosk nearby, and Adam began to approach it.

At the center of the circular desk was a radially symmetrical, many-armed, many-eyed Librarian. Adam thought the Librarian was looking the other way, but when it cleared its throat(s) he realized it was waiting for him to speak. "Oh, uh. Intersection of Canadian legal documents pertaining to the navy and rituals and artifacts pertaining to sovereign states, please."

Silence rang for a moment, before an intense ringing noise took over as the entire geography of the library began to rotate around the circular kiosk, and a portion of the floor around it, quickly becoming an unrecognizeable blur. Adam was just getting dizzy when it stopped.

The Librarian raised a finger(s), pointing to Adam's left. As he turned to enter the shelves, Adam waved. "Thanks. Have a nice day." He couldn't tell if it responded.

Adam rematerialized on the wet sidewalk outside the roach motel, clutching a marriage certificate and a crude crayon drawing of a sea fort.

The skybox sun had already set for today, but the bike rack was still mostly empty. Probably for the best. Adam wouldn't want any of the other residents disturbing him while he worked tonight.

The nice lady who runs the motel let Adam stay for free, so long as his minor golems helped keep ecto-emanations from gumming up the washing machines. It saved her the trouble of subscribing to Golemancy United's service, and he got a decent place to stay. All in all, it was a pretty good deal.

His room left a bit to be desired, though. Discarded papers, soda cans, and plastic bags cluttered up the desk space next to his thaumic typewriter, and the room's lights were perpetually disabled, replaced by an ambient red glow that emitted from the air itself, a personal touch that assisted in minor castings but wasn't optimal for actually living in the room.

Adam smoothed out the sheets on the twin bed a bit, making room to set his papers on the surface.

First, the crayon drawing, perhaps fit for a fridge somewhere. He had sensed the latent power in it as soon as he passed it in the library. With some minor effort, it could be used as a focus to raise an Aeircan Energy Field, centered on his room.

Adam placed his hand on the paper.

Wax and paper, but they hold something more. A connection to a time only half-remembered, if it had ever existed in the first place. Don't you know what that feels like?

The drawing was open to him.

A memory. Some young bixby draws with crayon.

His magic, sharpened by a life of practice, tentacle of occult sharp like a knife, probing into it, finding what was there.

A creation. Nothing else touches that impenetrable moment.

The energy traveled up his hand. It began to fill the room.

An acquiescence. The moment can live again. Take the power.

He breathed in, then out. And the ritual was complete.

The drawing sat there, apparently unchanged, but the energy of its past had been unfurled. For the next hour, this motel room was, in thaumic terms, a sovereign country. Hopefully, that'll be satisfactory.

He turned his attention to the second piece of paper. A marriage certificate, celebrating the lawful union of Jeannine P. McCormick and AAAAFALSE QR DENIED back in 2013.

Hopefully still valid, because Adam was about to file for divorce.

He typed idly on his typewriter, and the characters appeared on a nearby sheet of paper. The attempt didn’t need to be fully accurate. Hopefully it would be convincing.

Adam pulled the page up, setting it on his desk. An official filing.

It took fifteen minutes of waiting on the bed, reading and rereading the paperwork to ensure he hadn't mucked it up, before a soft rustling outside his room predicated a paper slipped beneath the door. Adam snapped it up.


The witness holds that, in the course of lawful or unlawful actions in the affidavit has no path by which a SOLUTION may be settled. In witness of overwhelming cruelty of the accused party and NO MISUNDERSTANDING as to intentions lawful or unlawful…

Well, now he had its attention. Adam rushed back to his typewriter. An official document, doesn't matter what, granting rights of amendment to legal entities which pursue due litigation against the Person's Republic of Adam.

Ten minutes after that, the first amendment appeared.

HERETO WHEREFORE does the undersigned party seek UNAUTHORIZED PREDATION against sovereign actions partaken by a THIRD PARTY of which there is no LAWFUL RECOURSE in path of…

Adam's fingers clicked rapidly, typing a response.

Hi, I'm Adam. I read about you in the Prometheus Intranet. I need your help.

Stay vague, stay convincing. The geas still ached through Adam's brain.

HEREBY the QUESTIONING PARTY has been DENIED in the process of amelioration which has been concluded in SOLITUDE…

His eyes narrowed.

I am a necromancer. If you tell me how, I might be able to summon you to me. Give you increased influence in this city. Wouldn't you like that?

And the ball was in their court now.

For fifteen minutes, there was nothing. The Aerican field was weakening. If Adam failed to catch their attention with this, his plan could be dead in the water.

And then a rustling under the door. A packet of papers passed under.

A patent, filed for a process by which an informational entity is given increased ambulatory ability within a pocket dimension, in exchange for unspecified assistance.

Adam smiled. Two down, one to go.

One week earlier…
December 1st, 2023

Two days after he signed the contract, he received a message on his phone.

"Consultant Adam Rowe, please report to your local Redzone office for work."

When he arrived at the office, a large, glass building made of right angles and rectangles, a receptionist had welcomed him in and pointed him to a concrete staircase leading into the earth. A basement. How odd.

When he made it down the stairs, Samantha was waiting for him.

"So nice to see you again, Mr. Rowe."

"You say that like you didn't call me here." The basement was small, smooth concrete walls enclosing several cheap plastic folding tables set up in the center. "A basement in Three Portlands?"

"It was custom-built. Closer to the core, makes it easier to access other Spaces. Or so I'm told."

Adam folded his jacket, setting it on a table surface. "So, what do I- uh."

She was holding out a vial of something, covered with a plastic screw-lid. The liquid inside shone blue. "You'll need to drink this."

He took the vial. It was about the size of his thumb. "Focusing solution?"

She nodded. "Of a very particular sort, yes. Should bring you close enough to observe the pocket dimension, without putting you inside it. A form of protection, as it were."

"Right. Can't just dive in." Adam paced a lap around the ring of tables, vial in his palm. "No sigil machines. Is that why you need me?"

She smiled. "Observant. Our sigil machines were overloaded in our last attempt to breach the dimension. A natural talent like you won't need machines like that, will you?"

"For most things, yeah." Adam shook his head, getting out the last of his reservations.

He unscrewed the lid on the vial and turned it over his mouth. The blue slime slid down his throat, and he could feel the pulse of a beating world wash over him.

His knees grew weak. He collapsed, into a plastic chair that must have been moved beneath him.

He was travelling, but he was staying in the same place. He skimmed the surface of another world, his hands creating ripples in the water- no, the fabric of the boundary. Adam was in two places at once.

He felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Samantha, speaking. "What do you see?"

Adam opened his mouth and felt the blue mist seep out. "There's an egg-shaped envelope, full of souls. It's pressurized. So dense. Who are these people?"

The hand moved off his shoulder. "Oath-breakers. Dead employees. People who don't read the fine print."

He was gliding between worlds, limbs flat like blades. Void burned his skin but he accelerated more. "You just take people? Who disobey?"

A sigh from behind him. "Adam, this is the security business. Without the trust of others, Redzone has nothing. You can't begin to understand."

Adam inhaled the skin of worlds, lungs filling with blue dust. "I think I could." He started to cough, and the vision left him.

Samantha was opposite him, across a table. She pushed a plastic cup of water at him. Cautious, he took a sip, to calm his throat. "Thanks."

She folded her arms. "What do you think?"

He put the cup down. "I think, well, a union is possible. The pocket dimension is close to overload, it could burst. In days, even."

Samantha's face twisted. "We don't have the resources to remake such a thing. We'll need specialists." She was making a list to herself.

"So, what happens if you can't fix it?"

She nodded. "If we can't fix it before it's too far gone, we won't have a choice. We'll starve it of energy, shut it down, cut it off from Portlands. Wait a few years for the souls to forget. And then we'll start it up again."

"Oh," Adam said. "Okay."

An egg full of tortured souls. A few days before the chance is gone.

"Well, let me know if you need me before my geas runs out."

Adam quickly and quietly made his way out.

December 8th, 2023

Adam stood at the base of the marble steps built up to the looming facade. On either side of him, thick pillars rose up to meet the sloped roof, a singular courthouse looking over Three Portlands.

It looked entirely different from the last time Adam visited, save for a single static detail: the bronze nameplate hung over the door, upon which "E. Rowe" was inscribed.

He knocked on the door. It opened on its own a moment later, revealing a dimly-lit hallway. In the center of the hallway, a man with sunken eyes and a grizzled beard stood.

Adam waved. "Hey, dad."

Eustace Rowe squinted. "Come in."

The old man led him down the hall, straight to a circular chamber that must have been the kitchen. Eustace had been cutting up some blood avocados, and the stained knife was still on the cutting board.

Adam swiveled, examining the building's smooth construction. "You, uh, changed it a lot since I was last here."

The man leaned against a granite counter. "These changes will stick, this time. What are you doing here?"

"Oh, I'm just, uh, well, I wanted to talk, and-"

His father cut him off. "Is this about your boyfriend? Something happen to him?"

Adam's brow furrowed for a moment. "No, he's in Europe, actually. We're thinking of, uh, moving here. To Three Portlands."

"Europe. Typical." He rolled his eyes. Adam ignored it.

"But I actually came to ask if you had an electronic exorcism device."

His breath rasped when he laughed, satisfied in his assumption's approximate accuracy. "And why is that?"

The gears of geas locked up in Adam's mind. "I'm staying in a roach motel, and the room's full of bed-demons. I only need it for a day." He didn't even need to lie, the words just gushed as if they had been the truth all along.


"Yeah, I figured you might have one lying around. From the old days. Right?"

"I just might." He shifted his weight against the counter turning to face Adam more fully. "Tell me, though. What do you know about Redzone Security?"

His blood chilled. His face couldn't betray anything. "Not much, really." Adam couldn't control himself. The non-disclosure geas ruled him.

"Really? And how about that job they offered you?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." Adam was frozen in place. His body wasn't his. The probability field of the geas had collapsed solely to the possibility of denial, and Adam could not act other than to deny.

"Think I can't tell when you're in Portlands, Adam? Think I couldn't smell that geas on you when you walked in the door?" He was smiling. It was a game. "Fucking pathetic. You should know better."

Adam's body was silent. His mind was locked.

From behind Eustace, an object not unlike an oversized tape recorder came from the door, propelled by some unseen force. It landed in the old mage's outstretched hand, and he then held it out to Adam's front.

"Take it, get out of my house. Come back when you're not under control."

Adam's hand grasped the edge of the device. He managed to nod, and he felt himself turn, and begin walking out the door.

"And Adam," Eustace called after him, just before the door shut. "Give 'em hell for me."

Once he was out of sight, Adam felt the geas relinquish control. He breathed heavy.

Three down. Only one thing left to do.

It was late at night when Adam finished constructing the summoning square as dictated by the patent.

A cube, constructed of paper, decorated with symbols of power. A simple way to bridge a notional gate between the overworld and Three Portlands. That should be enough.

On his desk, he had set up his thaumic typewriter to transcribe voice commands, a line of communication to the legal entity he was inviting to his room.

Now, he lay down on his bed.

At this point, it was only a matter of time before Redzone shuffled their pocket dimension into storage, and Adam lost any hope of connecting to it, of committing metastatic jailbreak of a thousand lost consciousnesses.

There was no more time. He had to act now.

He felt the presence in the room, the force of a mind alien to his own. He clutched a bag of green séance dust in one hand, and in the other he cradled the oversized tape recorder.

He switched the exorcism device on. A disk on its front began to spin, slow, like a record player.

He brought the bag of dust to his lips and inhaled sharply. The powder filled his mouth and lungs, filtering him down a few levels of consciousness.

"I know you can hear me. The contract is on my desk. Just, just, be careful. It's connected to my head."

A sudden draft washed over him. He was fading out.

The entity latched on to the piece of paper that defined Adam's obligations to Redzone and began to modify.

Contradictions began to form. The geas was garbled.

Adam's head stung, his extremities lost feeling.

His mind was sinking, the dust leading it deep into the ground. His brain had a hotline straight to the ideological center of Redzone Security.

Adam lost consciousness to the refrain, NOTWITHSTANDING FALSE, ABSTAIN, ABSTAIN, ABSTAIN

Adam's mind came to in a blank white void. He was standing. Somewhere in a motel room, his physical body was experiencing the throes of Cuchulainn syndrome. Temporarily, his mind was no longer obligated to follow the geas.

In front of him was a stairway, leading further down than he could gauge. From it came a red glow.

Adam began to descend. Katabasis. He must commune with the dead.

The glow filled his vision. It was only a few steps before he was unable to ascertain what was in front of him. He continued.

The light faded, giving way to a pulsing violet. There was a door in front of him. He pushed it open.

He no longer skimmed the surface of another world, but was entirely immersed.

There was no air here, for it was too dense with the vacuous bodies of the dead. Anything else would be pushed out, into the nothing between somethings.

Some faces he saw contorted in frozen moments of great emotion. A laugh, a scream. Others followed him with empty, suspicious eyes as he waded among them.

Their arms gripped around him, weak at first, but it soon became that he could not see, and he could not move. Death all the way up. Death all the way down.

Direction lost meaning in the sea of corpses. People burned of faces and histories and choice, filled with information and trusted to tell no tales.

And Adam was in the thick of things, wedged in the center of knowledge mortals could not know, tidbits shoved in by Redzone personnel.

Do they even know what they're doing? Do they know what this is like?

The grip on Adam's body cements further. He has not gone unnoticed, and the friction against his body is drawing heat.

No, no, it's not drawing heat. The heat has always been here. The souls are just getting Adam acquainted with the broiling.

There was no sight or sound, no smell, or taste. There was just the pressure and heat of a thousand souls on every square inch of Adam's body. The mass had become conscious, perceptive of the mortal among them.

The temperature increased, and Adam's body was filled with fire. He felt tension at his arms and legs; they were being pulled away from his torso. He was being assimilated.

He clutched his limbs close to his body, away from the grabbing arms.

He is Adam Rowe. Not one of a mass.

In his left hand there was a rectangular device with a disc on the front, like a record player, a symbol of the forces that drive away a consciousness.

On Earth, it was a tool. In here, it was an idea. And ideas are indivisible.

He pressed the button beneath his thumb, and the dimension was filled with ceaseless noise, a vibration that began in his body and spread to fill the entire space.

The bodies were pushed away, a sphere of cavitation forming around him. Each soul exited the dimension like air escaping a balloon, flowing to wherever they belonged, like a ripple across the multiverse.

The redness slowed. The fire dissipated. The pocket dimension was empty save for Adam, Redzone's information lost forever.

Adam released his grip on the exorcism device. It stayed where it was, floating in space, a ward. This place was now closed. Redzone couldn't send any more souls here.

The dust was wearing off, and Adam found himself drifting upwards again. The last thing he saw was a suffusion of blue.

December 9th, 2023

His eyes were crusted over and he felt the sting of sunlight. When he forced them open, he found himself back in his motel room. It was morning.

He checked his desk, where his contract lay, changed back to its original form. Like nothing ever happened. Untraceable.

He inhaled deeply, but his breath was cut short by a slamming on the door. Someone was beating it in.

He glanced around for something to defend himself with, but there wasn't enough time. Each knock on the door shook free splinters as a gash formed in the cheap wood.

Moments later, the door fell inwards with a mighty crack.

Standing in the doorway was the imposing Redzone agent he had seen at the coffee shop, still wearing sunglasses. Peeking out behind them was Samantha, eyes orbs of fire as she pushed her way to the front.

"Adam. What did you do?" she spat.

Instinctively, he raised his hands in the air. "Nothing. I couldn't- I was incapable of doing anything."

"We know you did, you must have. You must have done something." She nodded to herself. "You really fucked things up, Adam."

"I don't know what you're talking about." The geas still had a few hours left, and it led his tongue.

Her mouth formed a thin line as she curled her fingers towards him, beckoning the larger agent, who stepped forward. They removed their sunglasses to reveal two scarred craters where their eyes would be.

They approached him and reached out their hands for his neck but-

"Stop, stop!" Adam yelled. "Stop." And the hands paused.

He took a breath. "You think, if you take me, if you kill me, my father won't know? He won't tell people it was you?"

Adam started to lower his hands. "He knows a lot of people. They trust him. How would your reputation fare if people knew you murdered employees who were under geas? Unable to do what you accuse them of? You said that trust was everything. You know you can't risk that."

Samantha cocked her head at him. After a moment her flat expression twisted into a wicked smile.

"You know, you should really watch your back, Adam. Not everyone in this town is as lax as we are." She turned about, and strode down the hallway, the large agent trailing.

Adam took a deep breath, smoothing his clothes with his hands. His door was still broken. He couldn't stay in this motel for much longer. He sat back on his bed, head resting in his hands.

A moment later, he felt a warm hand on his back. His head turned to the left and he could see, sitting on the edge of his bed, the transparent, blue form of a woman.

He watched her, and she wordlessly stared back. Her hand patted gently on his shoulder, and she gave a silent nod. Then she was gone, vanished into the hanging clouds of Three Portlands.

The air was quiet, and full of dust. His room was a mess, splinters of wood scattered across the floor.

But he would make it to tomorrow. And for now, that would have to be enough.

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