Early morning, Spring season.

“Nothing to report, like usual.”

Sigh. The skies around Belsegallia have long been purified of the Cloud Fae, and an encounter is unlikely, but we should always remain vigilant. We will depart in another five minutes to resume our patrol.”


Knightess Georgia L’irosha sat back down onto the plate of magically solidified clouds that she and her patrolling squadron of Belsegallian knightesses were resting on for a short while before they resumed their regular sweeps of the airspace north of Belsegallia. A short distance away, a few of the other knightesses were clustered around each other and making small talk while a handful of them rotated into and out of watch duty. Neither she nor any of the women under her command had seen any combat for a few decades now; most of the patrol routes were maintained purely as a precaution at this point, including the one that her squadron was presently assigned to.

Georgia raised her hand to the wind. The air was thin and freezing cold several kilometers in the sky like her patrol was, though they neither needed nor wore any cold-weather gear. Thin, cool, wispy clouds stretched out into the radiant morning sky of the Belsedori’s homeland as far as the eye could see as they were buffeted by high-altitude winds. Below them flowed the ever-distant, deep blue waters of the ocean; a part of the terrestrial realm, where few Belsedori ever ventured. The home of the Belsedori was, after all, the air: whether it was the frozen, free blue of the starry night sky, or the misty fog, shining snow, and bright autumnal forests of enchanted Belsegallia, the Belsedori felt much more comfortable at altitude than at sea level. Georgia thought about how nice it would be when she returned to her home after her sorties to find her consort waiting for her wearing an apron and holding a (relatively) hot meal for her as he always did.

But just as Georgia and her squadron were getting ready to leave, she spotted something flying in the air below them. As it proceeded, Georgia perceived that it was not one entity but multiple traveling together; she saw both large humanoid shapes and perhaps a few smaller ones within the group. It was additionally traveling southwards, and, by extension, directly towards Belsegallia.

This was something that would need to be dealt with.

Knightess Georgia quietly ordered the squadron to prepare to interdict the unknown party, tightening the her hands and their enchanted steel gauntlets around the polearm that she was carrying as she did so. After everything was ready and the unknown entities were at the most ideal point of interception, the Belsegallian patrol squadron jumped off of the enchanted cloud in unison and flew in air combat formation to intercept them.

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“Ryesli, are you sure this is the direction home?” Queen Fortuna kept her secondary wings outstretched as she glided through the skies. Ryesli flew in front of her, keeping the rest of the squadron of Aural knights afloat by sheer magic alone. The non-Riaaki travelers shivered uncontrollably, despite being bundled up in as many layers as possible.

What the group was after was a trace of illegal magics that Lumina had sensed several hours ago, but quickly lost trace of. Ryesli insisted on taking Fortuna to the safe house while the rest of the knights would hunt down the illegal magic, despite Fortuna insisting on coming along until the Queen gave up the fight.

“It has to be up ahead.” Ryesli seemed to waver a bit, but only in voice.

“T-there’s p-p-p-people… I think…” Lumina had set her outermost layer on fire, yet shivered violently as if she was taking a simple ice bath. “Aura f-feels… t-t-tense…”

“We’re probably there then.” Ryesli folded her secondary wings in, stretching out her primary wings and flapping upwards. Fortuna would shake her head, surveying the sky island before the group.

There was a certain uncanny feeling about the place, as if a mysterious force kept everyone’s minds away from identifying the place as Riaaki Landing. Ryesli would shake off the feeling until landing right before the Belsedori guards.

“Ryesli, are you sure you’re not lost?” The tall man with ears like a cat whispered quietly. A subtle scent of lavender rose through the air, bringing a sense of calm through the team. Diffusing potential situations was Kade’s specialty after all, luring criminals into custody without so much as drawing out his sword.

“I think Her Majesty should take care of… things…” Ryesli craned her neck up to assess the strangers, feeling somewhat intimidated despite Kade’s magic.

“Yes.” Fortuna stepped in front of the Aural Knights, making herself seem as tall as possible. “Who might you fine folks be? Where does my team find itself?”

Who gave these odd Riaaki human things growth potions?

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Georgia stood back for a moment to assess the strangers. Although some of them vaguely resembled the terra-dwelling “humans” that she had heard varying descriptions of from some knightesses in Larinata, none of them looked like people that lived in the skies or lands around Belsegallia. Most of them seemed to be bothered by the ambient temperature, indicating that they were also terrestrials like the humans. The small, birdlike creatures stood out to her the most; they were closer to Cloud Fae than Belsedori in size, and their wings and lack of vulnerability to the cold together suggested that they were aerial natives like the Belsedori.

Hmm. I don’t see any Cloud Fae here, and there don’t seem to be enough people for an effective raiding party. Although, I also heard somebody address one of the small birds as “Her Majesty” as well; these may be royal guards.

Georgia gestured to one of the pairs of knightesses, instructing them to report to the appropriate countess and duchess. She then stepped forward to address the foreigners and answer their inquiries, her steel-clad talons crunching in the snow and the cold sunlight beaming onto her polished metal armor and cloud-white skin as she did so. Her grip on her longspear was relaxed so as to appear nonthreatening, but she still held it in such a manner as to be able to ready it quickly if necessary.

”I am Lady Georgia L’irosha, knightess and sword of Her Majesty Queen Xana. You stand in the domain of the Kingdom of Belsegallia. Might I inquire as to the nature of your visit to our fair nation?”

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“I see.” Fortuna dipped her head, finding it easier to suppress a bit of anger thanks to Kade. “We seem to be completely lost as I was supposed to be going to a safe house. We are from the nation Aur Spectra, but surprisingly my people knew your people many ages ago. My kind, the Riaaki, was nomadic until my ancestors joined the Aur Spectra coalition of kingdoms.”

A very quick wing shake later, Fortuna resumed her explanation of events.

“I certainly am pleased to see that my guards have gotten this incredibly lost to direct us to old friends, however.”

The non-Riaaki among the group seemed to look at each other with an expression of shock, as if receiving news that they would never have thought of. Ryesli would observe the Belsedori with curiosity, taking note of their mannerisms, feather patterns, and the like.

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Lady Georgia looked at the small birds again. They only vaguely resembled the descriptions of Riaaki that she had heard in fairy tales and myths, but those themselves varied a great deal and never seemed to agree anyway. Of much more concern to her was the mention of the foreigners traveling to a safe house; that suggested the presence of a danger that they were hiding from. Georgia folded her large, pale blue and white wings closer to their shoulders on her lower back and began to gently sway her long, slightly frosted feather tail from side to side as she spoke once more.

”I see. As accidental as your visit seems to be, I believe that Her Majesty and Duchess L’uceta will be interested in meeting somebody of your description. I can escort you to the capital, if you wish; somebody there may also have a map that you can use to return home.”

Lady Georgia stepped back from the outsiders and towards the rest of the Belsedori knightesses. Her appearance was comparable to that of any typical Belsedori woman; she looked vaguely similar to a human, but was about six feet tall and had a slightly heavier build. The most noticeable divergence was naturally the presence of two large, feathered, avian wings which extended from her lower back, along with a short tail adorned with feathers that extended down to slightly below her knees before flaring out in the shape of a dove’s tail. Her straight hair, which was kept short and only extended down to about an inch above the midpoint of her neck, was a pale shade of blue that matched the color of the feathers on her wings, tail, and either side of her head. Her eyes were a light yellow and shone with faint luminescence from under the shade of a metallic helmet that was slightly more decorated than those of the other knightesses.

An observer paying attention to the environment and the group of Belsedori soldiers may notice several details. Firstly, none of the Belsedori were immediately identifiable as being men. Secondly, all of them were wearing chainmail armor and carrying longspears that appeared to be at least somewhat expensive and possibly enchanted. And thirdly, it was beginning to snow; or, more accurately, it was beginning to snow and also rain incredibly cold water at the same time. Rather than freeze into sleet or ice, the rain was instead remaining liquid (and capable of soaking into clothing) at well below freezing temperatures.

sigh. At least it’s not icing on surfaces.”

Lady Georgia turns to address the visitors.

”We should probably be leaving for some kind of shelter soon before the weather picks up; being drenched in freezing water doesn’t bother me all that much health-wise, but I’m quite sure that the terrestrials in your guard detail will find themselves in a different situation if they remain outside.”

“I do find this acceptable.” Fortuna followed Georgia, beckoning for Ryesli to follow. Ryesli seemed to strengthen the field that surrounded the terrestrials, the action doesn’t seem to affect the bird much.

“Very curious that liquid rain falls…” Ryesli’s feathers seemed to flatten against her body, similar to how Fortuna’s feathers quickly plastered against her skin. “Is this liquid rain different from water somehow? Or is it magical?”

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”Alchemists like to call it ‘liquefied ice.’ I wish I could tell you why it’s liquefied ice and not just water, but I got buried in alchemist-talk about the ‘properties of essence-altered elemental water ‘ and the ‘residual effects of time-dispelled transmuting enchantments on the physical properties of base materials’ the last time that I asked my consort about it. Hanako always needs to visit Teranata to go buy some obscure-sounding, suspicious-looking liquid or powder, too, so maybe I can bring him with us when we go to see Her Majesty? He’ll certainly be able to tell you more about all of the 38 different varieties of water and water-like substances than you’ll ever be able to remember.”

Lady Georgia continued leading the group towards what was presumably shelter from the rain.

”There’s an ice cave in this direction that many of the knightesses like to take breaks in; it’s not the closest thing to ‘warm’ that you’ll ever find in Belsegallia, but it’s certainly better than dying of a mild drizzle.”

Georgia quickly glances at the non-Riaaki.

”Tell me; what’s your homeland like? I presume that it has exceptionally fair weather, seeing as how terrestrials have such little resistance to even the clearest day in Belsegallia.”

The elf named Lumina seemed to smile, her demeanor more relaxed in Ryesli’s more protective bubble. She would respond to Georgia’s question with a hint of nostalgia, yearning for the warmer days, especially now.

“We are far more suited to the land of Aur Spectra, in an open, grassy field where all sorts of crops grow for us to feast. Temperatures are very wild, being frigid in the winter but summers are perfect.”

Fortuna seems to shake her head a bit, followed by a full body shake in the icy cave. Her feathers now seem to resemble spikes more than anything, no longer the soft puffy white that made most Riaaki jealous.

“The terrestrial kingdoms of Aur Spectra… namely, Sylar, Aoul, and Dhyrosia, are very warm. I have never been, I have lived my entire life in the cloud kingdom of Riaaki Landing where the weather is far nicer. Ryesli would know more, for she is a knight in service at Sylar.”

Ryesli’s mind, however, was fixated on the liquid rain. Such was a trait uncommon to the Riaaki, then again, so was her magical prowess. Most Riaaki couldn’t even dream of using magic as it was absolutely foreign to the species at a whole, yet here Ryesli was, breaking every mould imaginable. Yet her mind would continue to wander back to the reason they flew out here in the first place.

When she speaks, her voice is much softer now, Ryesli is speaking her thoughts aloud, but to herself.

“I would love to speak to as many magic users as possible. The study of magic is incredibly important after all. More knowledge on how magic works can help us all learn how to defend ourselves against those choosing to use their abilities for evil…”

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Lady Georgia seemed somewhat confused by Ryesli’s words.

”You’ll have many opportunities to do that while you’re here, if you wish; every Belsedori learns at least some practice of magic, and most are quite accomplished at it.”

Georgia quickly glances at the entrance to the dimly lit cave, which was still howling with wind and through which one could still see a downpour of rain.

”The rain should subside soon; weather in Belsegallia is very capricious, and neither fair nor inclement weather lasts very long here. While we wait, why don’t you tell me about magic in Aur Spectra? As royal guards, I assume that you studied magic formally; surely you’re all well-versed in the practice of magic in your homeland.”

“Well, the Riaaki typically have no abilities in regards to magic and fighting. It is extremely rare to see one of my kind in service at Sylar. I merely know the knights exist.” Fortuna took a step back, gesturing for one of the nights to speak.

“There are plenty of studies we’ve done at Sylar’s academy in regards the phenomenon we call magic. The way we understand it is that it’s a force, like gravity, or pushing someone. Most of the time it’s small, a quick regenerative, or a minor illusion, elemental magic, maybe even being able to see aura, depending on how well you can affect magic force. The knights of Sylar have a category based system based on how much magic you’re capable of. Templar Knights, the first category, have little to no magic ability but are still extremely capable fighters. Magia Knights have some magic ability that makes them that much more deadly in combat, they typically have proficiency with one kind of magic that helps them. Then are the Aural Knights. We were the most powerful class for the longest time, our abilities with magic are very proficient, plenty of us are very capable of manipulating people themselves, like Kade here, who is really great and bringing people to their knees without even drawing a sword.”

Lumina finishes her explanation, then points to Ryesli.

“Then you have something that shouldn’t exist, said to be capable of breaking reality itself. She gets a mythical class of her own, the Spectral Warrior. Don’t ask me why our ancient civilizations decided to call it that.”

Kade seems to tilt his head to the side, flicking his left ear.

“Everything that we understand with magic is through force. That is our best explanation. I would like to add that it isn’t how much magic you’re capable of wielding but how you wield it.”

“I would love to hear about your knowledge on magic!” Ryesli seems to snap out of her thoughts, shaking out her own feathers now to resemble little spikes across her body. “Sorry I wasn’t paying attention. What are we doing?”

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”I believe that we were discussing the phenomenon of magic.” replied Lady Georgia.

”Belsedori also have a categorization system for magic, though it is base on application rather than the caster’s ability as yours is. The first category, and the most common, is spellcraft; the ability of an individual to precipitate the occurrence of magical phenomena such as the creation of light or elements such as fire and lightning, physical healing and regeneration, and the movement of objects by magical means. Every Belsedori can instinctively do this without tools or practice to a minor extent, but more powerful spells can create unwanted secondary effects or fatigue the caster unless proper steps are taken. Most Belsedori carry a small wand that makes handling moderately powerful magic safer and less taxing, and warriors like knightesses wield specially modified weapons that function in the same manner.

The second category is alchemy, which I am less knowledgeable in. Hanako or another alchemist can describe it in more detail, but I know that it functions on the idea of magically dismantling ingredients into their composing ‘‘essences’ and reassembling them into new things with different properties by altering the essences’ relative proportions, adding or removing certain ones, applying spells to them, or with any number of other processes. Alchemy can make everything from mundane drinks and magical potions to specialist metal alloys and crystals for use in the creation of enchanted objects if you know what you’re doing.

The third and final category is artifice. Many of its practices are kept secret, but the basic principle relies on the repeated application of enchantments to an object throughout multiple stages of its manufacturing process; it makes extensive use of many kinds of alchemically produced materials, so Hanako may know more details about its application.”

Lady Georgia takes a moment to look at the entrance to the cave, where the rain outside is becoming less intense.

”The weather seems to be calming down; we should be able to travel to the royal palace now. Although, before we do…”

Georgia draws a small silver bell on a handle from a bag on her belt and rings it.

”As I said previously, my consort Hanako will be able to give you more details on Belsedori magic; knightesses don’t learn too much of the theory about magic itself.”

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“It sounds like your people categorize by how magic is manipulated primarily rather than force required. This is truly fascinating.” Lumina seemed generally interested in the explanation, while Fortuna seemed to zone out a bit. Her mind was no longer in the present but somewhere else.

“Perhaps along the way you may talk about those bells?” Fortuna spoke up, tilting her head to the side. “They sound gorgeous.”

The party from Aur Spectra prepared themselves for wherever the Knightess was about to take them.

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”You mean this?”

Lady Georgia holds up the bell that she had just rung a moment ago. It appeared to be made of a shiny silver-like material, which was intricately engraved and attached to a handle that had a small red ribbon tied around it.

”It’s one of a pair of what’s referred to as Calling Bells. This is a sending bell; when I ring it, the receiving bell that Hanako has will ring itself and point in the direction of the sending bell. They usually only have enough range to be used in a domestic setting, but Hanako spent a lot of time and effort to extend it when he made these ones. They’ve become a somewhat popular gift among Belsedori couples over the last few months.”

Georgia and the rest of the group continued walking to the south, with her ringing the bell again very two or so minutes of walking. Eventually, after about eight or so minutes, a Belsedori descended from flying overhead and landed somewhat close to Georgia with a faint crunch of snow being compressed underfoot. This new individual looked nearly identical to the other Belsedori, but was between four and five feet tall and seemed to be significantly lighter as well. The styling of clothing and hair was also divergent; metallic armor was replaced by a heavily decorated, pale lavender dress, stockings, and gloves, and the visitor’s snow-white hair was kept significantly longer and styled into a crown braid decorated with jingle bells & a large, plain white ribbon tied into a bow. A translucent white veil on a ruffle-trimmed headband dimmed the light of two luminescent white irises, and a small silver bell identical to the one that Georgia carries jingled faintly from its perch on a pure white choker.

The figure skipped over to Georgia, seemingly unaware of the presence of anybody unusual, and then spoke with a voice significantly softer and higher in pitch than Georgia or any of the other Belsedori’s.

”Hi honey! Did you need me to do something?”

”I’m going to the capital; you said that you needed to buy something there, so I thought that you might want to come along.”

”Of course! Although…”

The figure seems to have taken notice of Fortuna and the others now.

”Um, who’s that standing over there?”