The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (2024)

Chapter Text

For the two days that followed the successful recapture of Digale Island, the CATTs worked exceedingly hard to get everything settled down and repaired. Not long after Hooty’s past was revealed, Luz, Samael, and most of the Hexsquad were ordered to go to sleep and spend the rest of the afternoon napping and getting back their strength. Luz, having lost her halo due to her Seraphic Art, was essentially dead to the world until the next morning, where she awakened to find that as her halo still hadn’t returned, her magic felt off. Thankfully, Lyra had used her prior lessons with Luz to make the other Teleportation Circle connecting to CATTs Cradle, allowing the CATTs still on the mainland to move over to the island, so Camila was able to take care of her, and reveal that she’d made a second, hidden Teleportation Circle in the Fingers to the west of the Right Palm Union Pillar, so they could still get back to the Isles with ease even after Mason destroyed the one at CATTs Cradle to cover their tracks.

All the CATTs were now living on Digale Island, except for Mason who remained behind in the desert with only Abomaton Knights for company, so he could clean up the evidence of the CATTs being there and maintain his cover for the coming inspection. With the huge influx of people, the CATTs had the manpower to effortlessly fix the damages done to Digale Town by Hooty, fixing it all up in less than a day, then doing the same to the Digale Demon Village, which was renamed to Rani Village and turned into a kind of POW camp for the Vanily family, their loyal servants, and the Divided Wings of Rani. They were treated well, with Steve and Katya being placed in charge and using Carnar’s Divider Feather (which Hooty coughed up) to keep the Wings of Rani docile for now. The Divided Orbs for the Wings of Rani were found hidden away in a vault within the hunting lodge, and had since been moved to the HQ to keep them safe, though they had not been destroyed in order to make it easier to keep the Divided Wings of Rani under control. The death of Carnar was also reported to Lady Anja and their daughters, Jana and Mana, but none of them were overly concerned; Carnar had been an unpleasant man, and they didn’t mourn him. Jana and Mana were instead pleased for Hanu and her new lease on life, and Jana almost immediately bonded with her father’s Hiralco Palisman (whose name was revealed to be Kikinak) after declaring she’d be like Hanu and become a better person than her father.

The hunters’ lodge up in the Palm Jungle was also torn down and burned by the Demons of Digale Town, as an act of justice for the discrimination they’d faced, and just as Hunter had said the previous day, the Beast-Keepers of the CATTs had rounded up the Patdregs and corralled them into a sealed off section of the jungle, where they would be able to roam free and kept fed by the Beast-Keepers. Carnar’s pet Radtodon and Mukhambu were cared for by Edric at the Blight House, and they seemed to be responding well to his friendlier approach, though he’d suffered some bumps and bruises that Viney and an exasperated Emira had to heal up.

That first day of repair had also been a day of meetings and stories, as Hooty was introduced to everyone (namely Lyra, Camila, and Vee), and Lilith and Hanu told everyone what had happened with Flora and Carnar, as well as their new form and Palisman respectively. Hanu Grove was met with universal congratulations and praise, while everyone was extremely happy to see Lilith master Harpy Mode, become fully accepting of herself (which brought a newfound confidence and positivity to her demeanour), and finally come together with Amity to become a mother-daughter duo. Vee had joked that this meant Eda and Lilith would become in-laws as well as regular sisters someday, when their adoptive daughters married. That had made everyone laugh, but also brought on the talk of family names for the Blight Children; Amity decided to take the name Blight-Clawthorne, while Edric and Emira chose to remain as just Blights, rather than Blight-Deamonnes. When Amity had asked why, they’d smirked at Darius and said: “If Mom wants us to take his name, he needs to put a ring on Dad’s finger first!”

Darius had responded by chasing the two of them around playfully, letting out his more light-hearted side.

Then there had been the introduction of Hooty to the others. Samael, Emiliel, and Simi all loved him, and he immediately became a hit with all the children being cared for by the CATTs, to the point that Amity got Luz’s permission to give him the official title of CATTs Playground Monitor, with the role of playing with all the children and having fun with them, which he took to with great joy. He was even given a boon for his new position; a prototype jetpack made by Alador, which had been designed for those CATTs members without Palisman, so they could fly like the Wings of Rani. However he hadn’t found a way to make it compact yet strong enough for a full grown adults, so only the surprisingly light Hooty could use it. Camila had also made a point of petting Hooty and thanking him for being a good friend to her daughter, and Vee had nervously done the same, though Hooty scared her a bit. She would warm up to him with time, but the fact he had just eaten two people did make it a little nerve-wracking being around him, especially as his way of putting misbehaving children in time out was to “Owl Pellet” them.

Since most of the repairs to Digale Island were finished the day after recapturing it, the next day was spent preparing for future operations. Luz was still out of commission due to lacking her halo and her power, so they couldn’t actually go on their next mission yet, but since they’d already decided on the next destination before the inspection scare; Manubrium, all they had to do was prepare the plan. They spent the morning on that, then split up to achieve a few different goals; with King, Samael, Mason, and Lyra going on a trip to Titan Cradle Island to see if it would make a decent back-up hideout and to check on the Palismen kept there by the Bat Queen, while Camila took Luz back to the Divine Realm alongside Vee, Lilith, Eda, and Amity to see if they had a method to help Luz get her Halo back faster. Camila didn’t normally like going to the Divine Realm for help or giving Luz a shortcut to recovery instead of proper bed rest, but she was tired of chasing her daughter back to bed with la Chancla whenever she insisted on trying to help around the island, even without magic (of course, Camila would have never hit her and Luz knew that, but it was something of a game between them and got a laugh out of everyone who saw them).

These two trips were a mixed bag; Luz had returned from the Divine Realm with her halo restored, as Lord Camael had revealed a Seraphim’s halo could take anywhere from days to weeks to return, but another Seraphim could sacrifice their own halo to restore it faster. One of the Thrones that served as Lord Seraphim of Crest Kindness before Camael had volunteered for the task and happily donated his halo to restore Luz’s; a sign that the Crest Union was very happy with their young Seraphim and her progress in the war with the Divider. It was also another sign that they were willing to keep trying to mend the rift between Luz and Crest Kindness over the tragic incident with her Papi. However the trip to Titan Cradle Island had been a resounding failure; they’d arrived to find the entire island converted into a Wings of Rani base, where hundreds, if not thousands, of Angels lived in a series of skyscraper like buildings built directly into the ocean around the island, with barriers between the buildings to wall off the island (which looked to be thankfully untouched. There had been no sign of the Bat Queen or the Palismen, which was worrying, and it appeared that each building had a new Teleportation Circle built on it, allowing the Wings of Rani to use the place like a transport hub. The news of the failed trip had been depressing, as had Mason’s belief that taking the island would be next to impossible with their current forces, but at least Luz having her halo back meant they could continue their other plans the next day.

Lastly, the CATTs had interviewed each of the captured Wings of Rani members with Blabber Serum to find out what they knew about the Divider’s plans, the locations of their friends, and any other useful information, such as Terra’s location and what she was up to. Unfortunately, most of them knew nothing at all; they’d volunteered for Division shortly after coming to the Demon Realm and there was no point giving information to the Divided that they didn’t need to know, so they’d been left in the dark. The only ones who knew anything were those who’d been divided later, and even they didn’t know anything the CATTs didn’t already know, such as the identities of certain Overseers. This was another disappointment, but considering they’d had a lot of successes so far, the CATTs weren’t too upset, and instead focused on getting rested and prepared for the next day’s mission.

When the next day came, the Hexsquad and CATTs elites were up bright and early to take care of their final meeting before the mission. They all gathered together in the CATTs HQ meeting room, with only Mason being absent since he had to stay at the Desert Union Pillar until the inspection was over, to avoid being caught unawares and having his cover blown.

“Okay guys, today is gonna be a big one again! We’re taking on Manubrium, which is gonna be the toughest fight so far.” Luz declared, looking confident and energetic with her halo restored and Stringbean happily coiled around her neck and sleepily chewing on her tail orb, like an adorable Ouroboros.

Darius nodded; “Manubrium is the largest city on the isles, and it’s Union Pillar is actually the special facility that Belos’ castle was converted into. Freeing the place and rescuing the Divided there could very well double our forces and give us a real fighting chance at taking on the Wings of Rani in open warfare. If we capture the capital, the balance of power will officially swing back into our favour.”

“But it isn’t going to be easy.” Lilith declared, using the map table that had been brought over from the Union Pillar to point out Manubrium and Belos’ Castle. “The castle and the city are a good distance apart. Not as far as the Eclipse Lake Pillar was from Cartilia, but still enough that it won’t be easy for the same strike team to go to both locations. Not only that, but the Bard Coven Headquarters, where Raine and Scooter are based, is on the southern edge of Manubrium in its own district, which means it is as far from the castle as it can possibly get without being outside of Manubrium. Getting from one to the other would require travelling through the most densely guarded city on the isles.”

“Which is why we’re sending two strike teams, as well as having the rest of our forces incite riots within the city to rally the people against the Wings of Rani AND attacking smaller outposts throughout the Titan’s chest to draw away reinforcements.” Darius continued. “It will be touch and go though; we need people to remain hidden and observe where reinforcements are coming from, as the Wings of Rani will definitely send reinforcements from Titan Cradle Island now. We’re astoundingly lucky we discovered it and the new Teleportation Circles before we launched another attack, but that means we’ll need to keep an eye out for where the reinforcements teleport to, so we can find and destroy the circles, or at least be prepared to retreat if that’s not possible.”

“But that’s all the big picture stuff. All of us are gonna have one job that we’ve got to focus on.” Eda said, making sure their younger members didn’t feel overwhelmed.

“That’s right. So I’ll remind you of the teams and jobs.” Luz smiled, making tiny illusions of her friends to put on the board; “Starting off, we have the strike team that is going to Belos’ Castle, whose job is to take out any Divided Orbs and the Division Ritual Circle, as well as evacuating any of our old friends and allies based in the castle. Hunter, Lyra, Gus, and Willow will handle that, since Hunter and Lyra know the place and can sneak in through the shadows, Gus has a Palisman Fusion and can use illusions to cover your infiltration, and Willow is a general powerhouse and the best leader. You’re in charge Willow; I know you won’t let us down.” Luz said, giving her first friend a thumbs up.

Willow grinned; “You got it, Luz! You can count on us!”

“Glad to be working with you, Captain!” Hunter smiled, while Lyra and Gus held hands and looked glad to be going together. Willow smiled and blushed happily; she was looking forward to this!

“Next up is the second strike team going for the Bard Coven HQ. That’ll be me, Mom, King, Skara, Boscha, and Miss Kyrie.” Luz declared, nodding to the relevant people; “Mom has the best chance of dealing with Titi Raine, King and I will be able to support her, plus I’ll be able to hopefully heal Scooter. Kyrie is coming along to help with him, since his mind might not be fully there, and Skara and Boscha are coming to hopefully deal with Severin.”

“And find my little brother! He’s gotta be there too!” Skara smiled excitedly.

Luz nodded, then continued; “I shall be your fearless leader for this mission! I will be tough but fair!”

The rest of her team snorted, knowing Luz was more likely to be soft as a marshmallow… but still fair.

“Next up, we’re going to have a third team inside Manubrium itself, causing some chaos. Amity, Matt, Tia Lily, and Samael; between your Palisman Fusion, ability to make walls to block off streets, Anti-Magic, and Seraph level magic, you should be able to handle anything. Tia Lily is in charge, and your job is to stir up the populace against the Wings of Rani and try and destroy any Teleportation Circles inside the city.” Luz continued. “But if that fails, you’ll be the ones in charge of helping as many people escape the city as possible!”

The third team agreed, though Matt raised his hand; “Uh, not to question you Luz, but I feel like the odd man out here. How useful is making walls gonna be?”

“This is a dense city.” Darius answered; “And while the Wings of Rani can fly, the Abomaton Knights can’t. They’re also programmed to avoid reckless destruction of property, so if you raise walls in the streets, you can block them off and force them to take longer, more convoluted routes to their targets, slowing down or even tricking them into labyrinths.”

Matt grinned; “Which would take a ton of enemies out of the equation without needing to fight them! And if I use illusions on the walls to make them look like natural parts of the city, the Abomatons won’t know what to do!”

“Exactly! That’s why I’m sending you instead of Steve, who isn’t as good of an illusionist.” Luz smiled.

Matt puffed his chest out proudly, while Steve grinned and patted his head.

After that, Luz gave out the rest of the assignments; Hettie would be in charge of a support team of healers, which included Camila, Hanu, the Combat Healers, Viney, and Emira, with some extra support from Vee and Treble to keep Abomatons away. They would be tasked with healing those who needed it, and generally supporting the CATTs. The rest of the CATTs would be leading attacks on outposts around the Chest, though Darius would be remaining behind to command the forces on Digale Island, since they couldn’t leave the place completely undefended, even with their Wings of Rani prisoners kept docile and under control.

Once the plan had been gone over completely once again, Luz smiled determinedly; “This is going to be a serious fight. Probably even harder than Rani’s Eden, Cartilia, and Digale combined. We’re so close to Rani’s Eden and the place is going to be ridiculously well-guarded and defended… and we sadly don’t have a lot of intel on their defences. But if we succeed here, we might just be able to drive the Wings of Rani off the Boiling Isles entirely, and completely dismantle the Divider’s big plan before he even returns! That’ll buy us a ton of time to figure out how he was sealed in the past, and bring him down.”

“Luz is optimistic, but I don’t want to give you all false hope.” Darius frowned; “This is a long shot. Conquering Manubrium and capturing Belos’ Castle would be amazing, but the chances of success are astronomical. That’s why our primary objective is freeing the Divided and rescuing as many of our friends as possible. If you have to retreat, then retreat; we can’t afford to lose any of you.”

The others all exchanged serious looks, a feeling of apprehension filling them. However they’d come too far to back down now, so they steeled themselves and nodded. The meeting was adjourned and everyone headed out to spend some last moments with any family who’d be staying behind. Willow, Gus, Matt, Hunter, and Lyra all hugged family members that would be staying behind, while Luz was smothered a little by Camila, who reiterated the importance of being careful. Sure Camila was going on the mission too, but it was with a different unit from Luz, which worried her greatly (even if she was also pretty excited, feeling like she was going on an away mission like the ones she read about in Cosmic Frontier). Even Vee got this lecture, though she was going to be with Camila in the relief team.

Skara and Boscha, the only Hexsquad members without family present, stood off to the side together, the former apprehensive and the latter looking both sympathetic to her girlfriend and antsy.

“This is it. We’re gonna get back my Dad, Uncle Scooter, Raine, AND finally get a chance to see my little brother and meet him properly. I’m excited but terrified! I hope I get a chance to show off my new Bardic Spells!” Skara smiled shakily, clutching the book of human songs that she’d turned into Bardic Spells. Melody rested on her shoulder and chirped comfortingly at her partner.

Everything will be okay, Skara. Your friends haven’t failed so far. You’ll be back with your parents by nightfall.” Melody reassured her, the Cricket Palisman’s voice sounding as soft and melodious as her name would suggest.

“It’s not my friends failing that I’m worried about. This is going to be my big chance to show how good of a Bard I am by saving my family! And also the perfect chance to show off to my little brother, and make my Mom see that she was wrong about me and Dad! That Bards ARE cool and powerful!” Skara declared. There was a lot on the line for her and she was afraid she’d screw things up.

Boscha rolled her eyes; “Skar, you’ve got nothing to prove to that woman or anyone else. You’re an awesome Bard and your little bro is gonna see that, if he’s not completely brainwashed and stupid.”

“B-But he’s been with Mom for almost six years! Who knows what poison she’s been spewing in his ears! And I don’t know anything about Lord Mace Secuna, but if he’s like Mom…” Skara fretted. She was afraid that her little brother would either be a spoiled brat or hate her before she’d even gotten a chance to meet him!

“Mace Secuna is no one special. A mid-rank nobleman who is a member of the Construction Coven.” Boscha said dismissively. However the three-eyed girl knew her girlfriend very well; Skara had a secret love for gossip, even if she despised the drama that surrounded that gossip. Hearing a juicy tidbit like that was sure to get her excited.

“The Construction Coven!? There’s a nobleman in the Construction Coven!? And Mom married him!? Their coven is considered so low-brow by the nobility though!” Skara gasped, eyes sparkling with interest.

“Oh yeah, Mommy was always jabbering on about it. Apparently Mace Secuna’s father was the architect that designed and built Belos’ castle. Belos made the family nobles as a result. Mommy heard that Mace insists he’s just an architect, but secretly likes to get his hands dirty and disguises himself as a common Witch. But word is that he ALWAYS wears a Concealment Stone, even when in his normal appearance, and that his son wears one too.” Boscha continued.

Skara’s eyes grew huge; “Asher wears one too…? But why?”

She’d seen her little brother only once, and only from a distance, but she’d thought he was adorable. However, had he been forced to hide his appearance for some reason? Most people did that to hide scars or physical afflictions, or just to make themselves look presentable when they couldn’t be bothered to actually dress up (the Blight Twins used to be prime examples). However if it was a physical affliction, it’d be odd for both father and son to have it, and Skara had a hard time believing a woman as proud as her mother would let her husband or son forego making themselves look properly fancy.

“What could the reason be…?” Skara mused, fascinated by the secret. Maybe when she found Asher later, she’d be able to find out the truth!

Boscha smirked, seeing that her plan to cheer Skara up had worked. There was nothing like some gossip and a mystery to brighten her beloved’s mood. Skara seemed to realise what she’d done too, as she turned and kissed Boscha on the cheek.

“Thank you, my Muse. I can always count on you to make things better.” Skara smiled brightly.

“Anything for you, my Ambrosia.” Boscha replied, blushing as she softly used her own pet name for Skara. She’d die of mortification if anyone else heard her being so sappy, but Skara loved that stuff and Boscha couldn’t deny her anything. She was rewarded for her use of the name by Skara blushing adorably and capturing her in a deep kiss.

When they separated, the girls exchanged blushing smiles, but Skara could see a tightness around Boscha’s eyes, indicating that she was feeling tense and trying not to let some emotion or another show, in fear of ruining Skara’s mood. Skara tutted and cupped Boscha’s face in response.

“Anything for you too, my Muse. So do you want to tell me why you feel so down?” she asked. Boscha opened her mouth to answer, but Skara spoke again before she could; “The truth, please. I’ve known you for a long time Boscha; you can’t hide anything from me.”

Boscha chuckled dryly; “I guess not. Am I so transparent?”

“Only to me. Now spill; if you can’t trust me, then who can you trust?” Skara asked.

“That’s true. It’s… I miss my parents.” Boscha confessed, averting her eyes; “Once we complete this mission, I’ll be the only one without any family with the CATTs. We rescued Park’s and Gus’s family, as well as Amity’s, on the first day we arrived, and Matt’s family was already safe. Then Luz got back her Mom and Aunt, and Amity got her Mom, and Hunter and Lyra were adopted so they got their Dad… everyone has family here accept for me.”

Skara frowned sadly, seeing that this was hurting Boscha more than she wanted to admit; “I know it’s hard, Boscha. But we WILL save your parents too. In fact, I bet we’ll go get them right after this mission! If we just ask Luz…!”

“No, I think she’ll say we should go to the Beast-Keeping Coven next.” Boscha cut her off, averting her eyes.

“You mean her grandparents.” Skara sighed; “Boscha, I know how it looks, but Luz isn’t being biased here. She’s not just picking her family first.”

“Not intentionally or consciously, but she is still doing it.” Boscha argued; “She always has a fair reason; we didn’t know the Valkyrie was Eda when we went there first, but that’s how it worked out. And taking out the Dragons before those places became too protected was important, but her Aunt just happened to be in the perfect place to make going to the Knee the best strategic option. Even now, going to Manubrium… it objectively feels like the right decision, but it also means Luz’s family gets back another member and… and I guess I’m just being bitter.”

Boscha sat down on a rock on the edge of the beach where she and Skara had been watching the ocean as they waited for the others to be ready. “I know I’m being unfair to Luz. She’s not making these choices for her own selfish reasons… but it still makes me feel bad inside that her family keeps growing again and I’m alone. And it bothers me that going for her grandparents after this still makes the most sense, since it would also mean getting back Eberwolf and possibly her entire army of Beast-Keepers!”

Skara felt sympathy for her girlfriend, especially since it made sense. If they didn’t know Luz as well as they did, they really would assume she was playing favourites and getting her own family back first. And in truth, Skara had felt some similar resentments for being one of the only ones left without family… but now they were going to get her family back and that resentment had vanished, while Boscha’s remained. Her poor girlfriend couldn’t help the way she felt, even though she knew it was unfair, and it was clear that missing her family, the stress of fighting so hard to save everyone else’s first, and the guilt she felt over those feelings was getting to her. To make matters worse, there really was no good strategic reason to go for the Potions Coven and the Left Shoulder; the CATTs had Eda and Boscha herself for potions expertise, and the Wings of Rani didn’t seem to need the Potions Coven enough for capturing them to be a strategic win for the CATTs. Aside from the Right Foot, where Luna Miphari was Overseer, pretty much every single Union Pillar with their allies posted there was a higher priority, which meant if they attacked the pillars in order of value, Boscha would be waiting a long time to get her parents back.

But it wasn’t just her parents that were eating at Boscha’s mind; “To make matters worse, we’ve still got no leads on the Plant Coven and Amelia! All we know is that Terra is up to something and most of the Coven has gone missing! That can’t be good! Especially since that freak Mandragora is still out there and I can feel it in my gut that she’s related to this too!”

“I know, I’m worried too. I know that Luz, Hanu, Willow, and Eda are all really worried about it too, given their pasts with Terra and the Mandragora. But we know this started before the Divider left, and as far as he’s fallen, he wouldn’t let them do anything too terrible.” Skara reasoned.

Unfortunately, Boscha didn’t agree; “Just like he wouldn’t let Odalia take over Bonesborough and brainwash Darius and Alador? Just like he wouldn’t let Carnar Vanily discriminate against or hunt Demons?”

Skara recoiled, and Boscha nodded grimly; “I know. I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind… the Divider left to chase the Archivists, and people took advantage of it. Who knows what Terra and the Mandragora might be doing now that he’s gone, especially since none of the Wings of Rani seem to know anything about it!”

That was another fair point; Carnar had only been emboldened enough to start his Demon hunting again because the Wings of Rani were too distracted by the CATTs’ victories to keep checking in on him… but if none of them knew about Terra and thus weren’t checking in on her, she could have been getting up to something nefarious the instant the Divider was gone!

“I-I see why you’ve been stressing so much. Have you talked to anyone else about your worries?” Skara asked.

Boscha nodded; “I talked to Camila and Darius. They sympathise and tried to comfort me, but it’s clear they don’t have answers and are worried themselves. I refuse to talk to Luz about it; we only just got her back from a pretty dark place and I don’t want to send her into another freaking depression spiral…”

Both girls shuddered at that; seeing Luz so down for so long had been horrible. Boscha liked to think of her as a secondary rival, and seeing a rival so broken just plain hurt… especially one that Boscha had come to respect.

However Skara could also see that stress and fear were beginning to have a bad effect on her beloved girlfriend, and said; “I think you should talk to the CATTs therapist after this mission. I know several of the others are already talking to them again. It isn’t healthy to be carrying this level of stress, and I don’t know how to help you.”

That was tough to admit, but as much as Skara wished she could sing or kiss all Boscha’s worries away, there simply wasn’t much she could do besides be supportive. And she was right about the others going to the CATTs therapist now that they’d retaken Digale and found them still living there; Skara knew for a fact that Luz, Hunter, and Lyra were all visiting them, and that Amity and Hanu had been giving it some serious thought too, while Camila was trying to gently encourage Vee, Treble, and Samael to give it a shot as well, though Skara wouldn’t reveal any of that, even to Boscha. Telling her that others in their friend group were doing it to encourage her was one thing, but revealing their identities was another.

For her part, Boscha actually looked to be considering it. She hadn’t said a word to her parents or Skara, but she had paid a visit to the CATTs therapist before, to talk about her hyper competitive mindset. The advice she’d been given had helped her tone things down without changing herself into a completely different person, so maybe their advice could help her with her current stress?

“I-I’ll consider it.” she ultimately replied.

Skara smiled brightly and kissed her cheek again, and since the two were as stocked up on potions emergency glyph notes, and other supplies as they could be, they sat together and watched the sea for a while longer, until it was finally time to begin moving out.

Everyone was called back to the HQ to be arranged into their teams, then assigned an airship, before boarding it and then being sent through the Teleportation Circle that Luz, Camila, and Lyra had created, linking them back to the Right Hand of the Boiling Isles. With three Angels able to trigger the circle’s magic, they were able to take turns and avoid straining their voices. Luz’s team, heading for the Bard Coven HQ, was the last to leave Digale Island and begin the flight westward to Manubrium. Each CATTs member had been given a Concealment Stone with a random disguise, and their airships had also been outfitted with a Cloaking Enchantment by Alador, who’d finally completed the upgrade after studying Gus’s Fused Form and its illusory powers. This enchantment had two functions; rendering the ship invisible, and disguising it as Wings of Rani transport, with the people onboard also being disguised as Angels and the Divided. It made it a lot easier and safer to travel the skies, though the CATTs still had to be careful, as their frequent airship escapes had led to an increased air presence by the Wings of Rani.

The team of Luz, King, Eda, Boscha, Skara, and Kyrie would be the last to arrive in Manubrium, as they planned to infiltrate while disguised as members of the Wings of Rani, and so needed to know ahead of time if there were magic checkpoints like those in Rani’s Eden, to avoid being detected. Amity and Lilith’s team would be dropping into the city while invisible, and they’d be tasked with finding out if such checkpoints existed, then letting Luz’s team know.

As they travelled, Eda smiled at Luz and King; “You know, I think this is the first heist that the three of us have done as a family since the Conformatorium!”

Her children blinked as they thought back over their adventures, and found that Eda was correct; while the three of them had been on adventures together often, this was the first time all three were going on what could be called a heist since Luz’s first day on the Isles.

“That’s almost a year ago now. Time has flown by.” Luz smiled, feeling nostalgic.

“Yeah! So much has changed! We’re all super cool freedom fighters now!” King fluttered around his Mom’s head excitedly.

“Indeed! Such as you two getting another year older! I missed Luz’s 15th Birthday, and King will turn 9 in a couple of weeks. He’d turned 8 only a few days before Luz showed up after all!” Eda mused. “I need to find a good present for the both of you.”

Luz smiled and rolled her eyes; her Mom didn’t like that she’d missed her Birthday, so had decided that she’d throw her another party for all her Demon Realm friends to attend on the anniversary of the day she became an Arch-Angel, and the day she officially became Luz Noceda-Clawthorne. Luz personally didn’t mind, since it wasn’t like her Mom had just forgotten or something silly; she’d been brainwashed and stuck in a whole other realm!

“Honestly, I don’t need a present; I just want to be able to relax with all my friends and family!” Luz said, before adding; “Including Rasiel… I know we can get him back somehow, I just don’t know how.”

Eda and King nodded, and Skara and Boscha tuned into the conversation too. “The Divider and Rasiel do feel too different to be the same person… maybe if we can figure out how he was sealed up in the past, we can copy it but only remove his “Divider” personality and turn him back to the Rasiel we all know and love.” Skara suggested.

Like the others, Skara had been fond of Rasiel; on occasion, she would play the harp while he sang, or he would help her with her own singing by gently and patiently walking her through it. It was thanks to his teaching that she could harmonize Vocal Bardic Magic with others, mimicking the power of Angelic Choir Magic. Even Boscha had liked him; he’d taught her some Angelic Alchemy techniques, just as he’d done for Amity, but had focused more on transmutation with Boscha, showing her some tricks and tips to better manipulate the materials she had to hand, as well as how to efficiently transmute water and even air itself into useable ingredients for her potions.

Boscha nodded and added; “Can’t the Seraphim tell us more about how that happened anyway? It seems like some kind of karma thing that the Divider was specifically Divided, but I wonder how that was even possible. Not to mention that it seems important that his soul, body, and glyph markings were held by Titans, but his memories were sealed off in the In-Between Realm. It’s almost like people knew what would happen if Rasiel was freed without his memories…”

“That’s true! And without those memories, Rasiel was a naturally nice guy! Considering Titans held those first three tombs… I wonder if the plan was originally for him to be released later, only without his memories? After all, Belos’ old diary suggested that the Priests of the Temples knew how to open the tombs, and why would his captors reveal that information to anyone if they wanted to keep him sealed?” Luz theorised.

King looked intrigued; “That does make some sense. But then those jerk Archivists came and ruined everything by wiping out my people… Which I think is gonna be a big problem for us when it comes to sealing the Divider back up again.”

“Why is that? Do you think we’ll need more Titan Magic to stop him?” Eda asked.

King and the three Hexsquad girls all nodded, recalling Gabriel’s story from Luz’s Hearing. Luz explained; “In the past, it took the entire Council of Seraphim, an army of Witches and Demons, the Sephiroth known as the Guardian, and THREE Titans to defeat him and seal him up. We can easily manage the Seraphim, and probably the army too. We might even be able to manage the Sephiroth, if we can find a way to break the Anti-Archivist barrier and give Samael his powers back… but anyway we slice it, we only have one Titan, and King is pretty young still.”

That made everyone frown, but King did have something he’d been mulling over for the last couple of days; “I’ve been thinking about that, and I think that you might be able to act as the second Titan, Luz.”

“Me?” Luz asked, eyes widening.

“Yeah!” King nodded; “You’ve got the power of nine different glyphs! You already have a ton of Titan Magic, but you normally convert it into regular Angel Magic… what if you did the opposite and converted your Angel Magic into Titan Magic with the glyphs?”

That thought made Luz pause, as King was right. Since getting the glyphs, Luz usually cast magic by either conjuring the glyphs themselves, or by channelling their power into her wings to create regular Angelic magic. That was why the lines appeared connecting the glyphs to her wing joints, back before she ascended into a Seraphim. But what would happen if she instead channelled her Angelic Magic into the glyphs and created more Titan Magic? The full power of a Seraphim being channelled into the power of two separate Titans AND their young son? That had to do something!

“Maybe I should try that out. It’ll still be a little while before we get to Manubrium.” Luz smiled, looking excited; “If it works, then I might have a secret weapon to use in the fight with the Divider!”

King grinned; “That’s what I thought! I got the idea after seeing Hooty go all Wild Titan Mode!”

Eda shuddered as her eyes glanced to Luz’s scar; “I’d really hoped to never see that kind of thing again…”

“You and me both, Mom. It’s not much fun being on the other side of something like that.” Luz agreed, suddenly feeling nervous.

If Belos was correct and telling the truth (which was always a gamble), then the reason for the frenzy that she’d gone into was that even a tiny amount of magic bile causes a Bile Overload in creatures that don’t naturally produce it, and Luz definitely counted. However, Hooty had gone through a similar frenzy, despite supposedly containing all of the Titan’s Humours, on account of being a Primordial Demon. Did it effect him because he didn’t technically produce and use Titan Bile, but just contained it as part of his body? Or was it because the bile in him was from Orion and the bile that triggered the frenzy was from Cassiopeia? Or perhaps, just maybe… the bile had effected Luz and Hooty differently because they’d already had Titan Power. Luz knew nothing about any other people who’d been injected with someone else’s magic bile, let alone that of a Titan, so whose to say what effect Titan Bile would have on someone without Titan Power already.

If the Titan Bile-Induced Overload truly was the cause of Luz’s earlier frenzy, then simply channelling her Angelic Magic into the glyphs and converting it to Titan Magic shouldn’t be a problem. But if the frenzy was caused by having more Titan Magic than she could handle, then she might be creating a bigger problem, rather than a solution.

Deciding to give it a limited test run, Luz moved to the bow of the airship, away from any important machinery, and sat down in a meditative pose; “Mom, I’m going to try and see if I can actually convert my Angelic Magic into Titan Magic. I’ll start slow and small, but just in case I lose control, I need you ready with Anti-Magic.”

“Got it, Owlet.” Eda agreed, switching to Harpy Mode.

“Skara, please be ready with a song to put me to sleep. Boscha, you’re on sedative duty. King, be ready with Monster Combos to hold me down for Mom.” Luz instructed, becoming a lot more serious.

The others all agreed and got into positions, with Skara transforming Melody into a harp, while Boscha whipped together some quick and simple sedatives using her Combat Potioneer’s Belt, and King prepared his glyphs. Once Luz saw they were ready, she closed her eyes and began to summon up the magic in her heart and willed all of her glyphs to appear (which caused the light and darkness glyphs to glow through her closed eyelids). She then took a deep breath and focused her magic into the glyphs, causing all of them to glow and for lines of coloured magic to go from her wings to the glyphs, and then from the glyphs to King’s incomplete glyph ring.

“I-I think it’s working…” Luz whispered, feeling her magic changing without leaving her body.

Eda and the others gasped as they watched Luz’s hair slowly darken, starting at the roots and then spreading to the ends, going from white to silver, then to dark grey, and then to pitch black. Her halo began to flicker and glitch, like some kind of faulty illusion, and the tips of her feathers began to turn purple, as even Luz’s Divine Regalia began to darken from white and gold to black and gold. However, as Luz felt her Titan Power reaching the same threshold of power as an Arch-Angel, her heart rate suddenly went through the roof and she began to panic. Her heart was beating too fast and her chest was becoming tight as she struggled to breath, causing her to begin panting.

Stringbean hissed fearfully and loosened her coil around Luz’s throat as the girl began to hyperventilate, instead gently nuzzling the side of her head against Luz’s cheek. Luz tried to tough it out, but her friends and family watched fearfully.

“Luz, I think you should stop now! You’re about to-!” Eda began, only to be cut off by Luz suddenly gasping, her eyes flying open to reveal her sclera had turned black. Her body felt like she was running a marathon at a full sprint, and she could feel herself losing control as her mind raced.

The moment Luz realised this, she stopped channelling her magic at all, resulting in her glyph markings (except for King’s) disappearing and the lines connecting them and her wings to disappear with them. In an instant, Luz’s halo returned to normal, and the colour of her hair, Divine Regalia, wings, and sclera returned to their usual white. Slowly, Luz’s heart rate returned to normal and her breathing levelled out as she flopped backward out of her meditative pose.

Eda and King rushed to her side, the former dropping her Harpy Mode, and promptly cradled the girl between them; “Luz!? Are you okay!?” Eda cried.

“I-I’m fine. Everything is settling down again. I just need a moment to catch my breath.” Luz panted.

“It looked like it was working, but then…” King trailed off.

“I-It DID work… but it worked too well. As soon as my Titan Magic reaches the same level of magic I had as an Arch-Angel, I start losing control.” Luz answered softly, looking distracted.

She didn’t say it, but it didn’t feel like she’d lost control because it was simply too much power… but rather that the power had caused her to panic.

It can’t just be the amount that caused the panic. It was less than my Seraphic Magic…” Luz thought, before several images flashed through her mind; images of her rampaging and battling Eda outside Belos’ castle. The memories made her break out in a cold sweat, causing Luz a grim sense of realisation; “Oh…”

“Oh? What does “Oh” mean here!?” Boscha demanded.

“Easy Firecracker.” Eda said, “Give her a minute.”

Boscha growled; “This was a stupid and reckless idea!”

“Hey, it was an awesome idea, and it nearly worked!” King stomped his foot; “How else are we gonna get more Titan Power!?”

“That’s not what I meant! Doing it here and now, on our way to a mission is what was stupid and reckless! What if it had gone wrong and Luz lost control!? Even if we’d pacified her quickly and easily, we’d still lose some strength and Luz could have been put out of commission! We almost sabotaged the entire mission and put everyone in danger!” Boscha fumed.

Eda and King frowned, and Luz could see them getting defensive, while Skara was trying to calm Boscha down. Luz was sure Boscha’s anger wasn’t entirely because of what just happened, but even so, Luz felt she was right to be angry. “You’re right.” Luz said contritely; “It was dumb of me to do that. I should have waited until after the mission, when we were in a safe place. I endangered us all… I’m sorry.”

The apology deflated Boscha a little, who grumbled; “Even when you admit I’m right, I still end up feeling like the bad guy…”

“You’re not. You were right to scold me, and I don’t hold it against you.” Luz reassured her.

Boscha sighed and sat down on the deck of the airship; “Well so long as you’re sorry… but what was with the “Oh?” Did you figure something out?”

Luz nodded and looked sheepishly at her friends and family; “Yeah… I didn’t lose control because it was too much power, but because I panicked. I felt like I did back at Belos’ Castle and… well… I started freaking out inside and lost control.”

Eda frowned severely; “You probably have some serious trauma after what happened to you with your first Titan transformation.”

“Well, what you saw was my second actually. Belos tested it out on me before you showed up.” Luz reminded her Mom, making the Owl Lady fume.

“I swear when I see him again, I’m gonna do more than punch him in the nose!” Eda scowled.

Luz snickered, remembering Lilith punching the man, while King said; “So you need to move past that trauma before you can fully use the Titan Power?”

“That seems to be the case.” Luz nodded. “I’ll talk to Mami and the CATTs therapist; they might have some ideas for helping to keep my cool.”

That made King nod; he was sure his idea would work and give them another powerful Titan ally to fight the Divider with. They needed all the help they could get!

The rest of the trip to Manubrium passed quickly after that. Boscha and Skara talked softly to one another while Luz did some simple magical exercises to re-centre herself under the watchful gaze of Eda and King. Thankfully, since she hadn’t actually consumed any magic with her attempted Titan Transformation, instead just changing the type of magic it was, Luz had turned it all back and she was now at full power again. Kyrie Crane, who’d been piloting the airship and keeping out of the situation since she had no experience with Titans, kept a close eye on the skies as they reached the city of Manubrium. The team all looked out across the city, and marvelled at it; while it wasn’t in the same league as the colossal Gran Seraphia, whose image still hung in the sky due to the distortions, it was still a very impressive and diverse city.

Manubrium was the first city of the Boiling Isles, and had the rather silly and amusing nickname of “The Layer Cake” due to the way it was built. As the first and oldest city on the Isles, it had been built upon, rebuilt, and renovated countless times in the last 4 millennia, resulting in the city having a series of layers. Ruins were usually repaired rather than destroyed, so old buildings were built upon with newer architectural styles, giving the whole place an even more chaotic style than the rest of the Boiling Isles. No two buildings were the same, and unlike places like Pancrea City, the districts actually got wealthier the further they moved from the centre of the city. The dead centre was almost in the same state it had been when it was first built, as the people of the Isles considered it a cultural heritage site and preserved it, so the families that lived there weren’t allowed to do much to repair it beyond it’s original state, and since they buildings weren’t allowed to be bought and sold, many families were either stuck there, or had moved away and now rented the ancient buildings to the poor. The dead centre of the “Historical District”, as it was called, was actually the remnants of an old Titan Temple, where the Heart of the Titan had rested before Belos claimed it and moved it to his castle. Only some old pillars and broken tableaus remained, but it still fascinated many.

As one got further from the Historical District, the city got richer as the restrictions on repairing and altering the ruins got laxer, allowing them to do more to improve conditions and modernise. There weren’t neat rings or tiers like Pancrea City or Cartilia, instead forming districts in a kind of random hodgepodge like most cities on the Isles, with the sole exception being the outer most district which formed a ring around the city. This was the “Wall Ring”, which served as Manubrium’s wealthy district, which was built atop the tall and wide city walls. This was where places like the Titania restaurant were located, and also the homes of many noble families. It was also where the two great gates could be found; the Northern Gate which led to the ravine containing Belos’ Castle, and the Southern Gate which led to a smaller high class entertainment district, which was primarily occupied by the Headquarters of the Bard Coven.

“You know, I’d really like to visit Manubrium without worrying about being captured and arrested one day.” Luz commented with an amused smile.

“It’s a pretty nice place. There are districts here that mimic the cultures in different parts of the Isles, and all kinds of fun stuff.” Eda grinned; “Raine and I came here often as kids. I’m pretty sure our names are still tattooed onto the back of the bakery in Little Cartilia.”

“Don’t you mean carved, or spray painted or something?” Luz asked.

“Nope! The bakery was made from a giant Mammoth Orc. Those guys are so dumb that they don’t even feel pain, and they can survive pretty much anything, so people sometimes build their homes or businesses inside ‘em.” Eda explained with a smirk.

Mammoth Orcs were basically gigantic boars that had tusks and thick fur like a Woolly Mammoth, and they truly were incredibly stupid, to the point that they can “hibernate” for centuries just because they tried doing two things at once and their brains shut down. An old wives tale even claimed that they were so long-lived and hard to kill simply because they’re too stupid to know when they’re supposed to be dead.

Luz wasn’t sure if she should feel sorry for the beast or amused by the idea of it having Eda and Raine’s names tattooed on its backside. She was also questioning the sanity of someone who’d open a bakery inside a gigantic pig… health and safety standards were lax when magic was involved!

Putting that aside, Luz summoned her scroll and kept an eye on it, waiting for the report from Amity or the others to let her know if it was safe to go ahead. After a few more minutes, Luz received a message from Amity on Penstagram, which made her frown.

“Bad news. Amity says there are checkpoints between districts and at every gate and airship dock in the city. No signs of those magic turnstiles, but there’s a good chance we’ll still be discovered if we try to get through a checkpoint.” Luz reported.

The rest of the team frowned, and Kyrie finally spoke up; “So what’s the back-up plan?”

“We go in through the shadows, right Owlet?” Eda looked to her daughter.

Luz nodded; “That’s right. We’ll land the airship outside the city then get as close as we can to the wall closest to the Bard Coven HQ and then go through the shadows. It’s day time, so they can’t effectively use spotlights and no matter how hard they try, they won’t be able to erase all shadows.”

The others readily agreed, and Kyrie moved the airship to the woods just to the south of the Entertainment District, outside of the city. Using the ship’s cloaking enchantment to keep it invisible, they then flew down and secured it to the treetops with invisible vines, then used Concealment Stones to disguise themselves as a squad of Angel Healers, with Luz as their High Angel leader. King remained hidden inside his Mom’s hair, with only his head poking out and kept hidden by the illusion. Once they were landed and prepared, they stealthily made their way to the walls, were Luz conjured an illusion of some Demon Birds to distract an Angel who was patrolling atop the wall. While he was looking away, they all ran up and pressed themselves against the wall, then joined hands so Luz could take them into the shadows.

Now safely out of sight, Luz said; “Next stop, finding a good place to extract before I waste too much magic.”

Shadow movement was draining, and moving multiple people increased that drain exponentially, so it was difficult even for a Seraphim like Luz to move five other living things at once. Thankfully she had Restorative Potions to help her out, but she still had to be careful not to waste magic by recklessly moving from shadow to shadow. With this in mind, Luz peered out from all the shadows she could see from her current spot, but found none of them to be fitting, so moved them all to the furthest shadow she’d seen through, then looked through the new shadows that were now in range.

As Luz did this, Eda turned to Kyrie, Boscha, and Skara; “Remember our cover; we’re specialised Healers who’ve been sent to speak to Scooter Crane in order to find out what potential allies that Kyrie Crane might have, now that she’s in the CATTs.”

Kyrie smirked; the Wings of Rani weren’t above interrogating the families of those who were known enemies! That was how they’d discovered Ruby and Vorpelle Leonis after all, and now the CATTs would use the tactic against them!

After a moment, Luz gasped; “Aha! Found a good spot! We’ll be coming out behind some supply crates just a short distance from the Bard Coven HQ. I don’t see any more guards or checkpoints, so it should be safe.”

“Let’s hope your infamous luck with stealth missions doesn’t strike!” Skara teased, making Luz chuckle before they all emerged from the shadows.

True to Luz’s word, they arrived just inside the walls that surrounded the Bard Coven HQ, allowing them to look up and see it for the first time (at least for King, Boscha, and Luz).

“Welcome to the Grand Symphonia Concert Hall. AKA the Headquarters of the Bard Coven.” Eda introduced softly as they all gazed up at the colossal building.

The Grand Symphonia Concert Hall was certainly deserving of the descriptor: “Grand”! The building was roughly the same size as the Sydney Opera House, and had the look of a temple dedicated to music. The main “body” of the building was a huge arena-like round structure that was modelled on a drum, and around this central structure was several smaller attached buildings modelled after different musical instruments, all made of white Titan Bone and copious amounts of gold and royal red detailing. There was a Cello, a Flute, a Trumpet, a Violin, and even some less common cultural instruments such as a set of bag pipes and even an Ocarina, all of them lovingly recreated as parts of the building, and appearing to be designed as if they were functional! Like someone had been making miniature instruments for the Titan himself! A few segments were eve made of wood and appeared to be incredibly finely crafted, and the strings on the cello and violin sections of the structure appeared to be made from interwoven cords of gold and silver. Finally, the entrance of the hall resembled the front of the Greek Parthenon, with a triangular roof of white stone held up by pillars, though the pillars were made of red marble and shaped like famous Bards from ancient times, and atop the entire thing was the upper body of a giant golden woman, who had Titan-like horns and wings, and wielded a staff with a Treble Clef as the topper or Palisman.

“Whoa…!” Luz gasped, jaw hanging open; “The Demon Realm really knows how to do impressive buildings! Look at this place!”

“It’s the pride and joy of the Bard Coven.” Skara smiled, loving that Luz’s reaction was just like hers when her father had brought her here as a little girl; “The main concert hall itself is where all the greatest Bards of the last 3000 years have performed! Whenever a new Coven Head is inaugurated, they perform a show here for the entire Coven and select guests. Nobles used to trample each other for the chance to get a ticket, and they’d be sold for exorbitant prices! Though since Raine never became the official Coven Head and Dad was made Coven Head during a Civil War, Belos decreed they wouldn’t be wasting time and money on the show.” Skara said, feeling bitter about that last part.

“I didn’t hear anything about a show when the Divider made Raine Storm the new Coven Head either, so I guess he didn’t want to waste time on a show either…” Eda sighed.

Luz shook her head; “We’ll fix that! When we win and take back the isles, we’ll let them have their concert! It’ll be the biggest and best that the isles have ever seen!” she declared.

Kyrie smiled; “That’s a nice thought, but we should get a move on before we draw attention.”

They all agreed, and walked as a group into the Concert Hall, passing beneath the golden statue and between the red pillars, where they then had to climb up a series of steps to reach huge mahogany doors that were wide open. An Angel guarded one side of the door while a Bard guarded the other, allowing Luz to see the uniform of the Coven Bards for the first time; it was very similar to the old BATTs uniform worn by Raine in the past, but it also featured a red overcoat with black and gold cuffs, and a matching red cowl. The Coven Bards also wore masks with no facial features and musical symbols etched on their faces, signifying their rank; the door guard having a Minim symbol, indicating that he was fairly low rank.

As they approached the door, the two guards bowed politely but did not stop them or speak, allowing them straight through. They pretended to know where they going, entering the building with purpose, but they’d barely stepped through the doors and into the foyer of the hall before they were stopped. The foyer was a large circular room with multiple tiers, and which looked almost like the foyer of a castle, though there was a large reception desk directly opposite the front doors, which was staffed by Divided Bards. It was one of these Bards that called out to the group and gestured for them to come over, and with Wings of Rani and Knight Golems stationed everywhere, the team didn’t dare refuse.

“Welcome to the Grand Symphonia Concert Hall, Lady Angel.” the receptionist smiled. They were androgynous and not wearing a mask or hood like the guards, revealing their snow white skin and cyan hair.

“Good day. My team and I were sent to speak with Master Crane.” Luz said, keeping it simple so she could avoid lying as much as possible. Boscha had a pain relief potion prepared for her, but it wouldn’t prevent the pain of lying, only soothe it after the fact, so lying would still be uncomfortable.

“Oh? Head Witch Crane is not in good health, and we’d like to avoid stressing him.” the receptionist said, their expression becoming blank. Luz noted the use of Head Witch as Scooter’s title… clearly the Coven still gave him that respect even if he wasn’t officially their Head any longer. At the same time King, still hidden in Eda’s hair, noticed the Angels in the room taking a keen interest in them, but Luz and the others kept their cool.

“Recently Head Witch Crane’s niece, Principal Kyrie Crane of St. Epiderm defected to the rebellion following their attack on the city of Cartilia. We were sent to speak to Head Witch Crane about any associates of his niece that he may know, in case she should try to contact them to aid the rebellion.” Luz said, speaking in a painfully blank tone as her throat burned with the lie. It was an agony she hadn’t felt in a while, but she toughed it out, and thanks to her naturally golden eyes, she could pass off her forced neutral expression as the result of Division.

The Receptionist’s expression remained blank too, and they exchanged looks with the other two flanking them. They then looked back to Luz and said; “I am sorry, but I do not believe we will be able to accommodate you. Head Witch Crane has not received the Lord Divider’s Blessing and we cannot risk stressing him, for the sake of his health. Please understand.”

“Considerations have been made for that.” Luz said formally; “I am a healer of great skill. I will question him gently and try to improve his condition.” This part technically wasn’t a lie, so she avoided further burning.

The Receptionists again exchanged looks, and Luz noticed them tapping their fingers. On the surface, it seemed to be a nervous or irritated gesture, but seeing as they couldn’t feel those emotions, Luz guessed they were communicating in code. Eventually the one she’d been speaking to replied; “Be that as it may, Head Witch Whispers has ordered that nothing be done that might cause Head Witch Crane stress.”

“In that case, simply allow us to provide healing. Once we have given him treatment, Head Witch Whispers may see fit to change their mind. At the very least, we want to ease any suffering he feels.” Luz replied, not missing a beat.

That seemed to ease the Receptionists, and one of them pulled out a Comm-Pact and erected some kind of soundproof barrier with a clap of her hands, likely calling someone higher-up for their opinion. Meanwhile the male Receptionist to their left asked; “Who sent you here?”

Luz almost frowned as her friends tensed; this was a tricky one. Luz didn’t know the names of any high-ranking Wings of Rani besides Raguel, who was known to be captured. That meant she had to name an Overseer, who would almost certainly be contacted to confirm their story. Darius, Eda, and Lilith were out, since all were known to have been rescued, and Mason wouldn’t work as he had no Wings of Rani under his command. No other Overseers had been freed, so they wouldn’t corroborate their story… that left only two options.

“I was sent by Overseer D’splora of the Throat. She wishes to prove her devotion to redemption by sending us to help.” Luz lied, once again forcing a monotone to suppress the pain in her throat. Her friends were getting antsy behind her; if she kept lying, her Mom would likely abandon the plan and go in spells blazing just to save Luz from the pain!

The three Receptionists all gave her a blank look, then looked to some of the Wings of Rani. One of them, an Arch-Angel, nodded sagely and the Receptionists relaxed. It seemed like they bought the story… the Angels of the Throat and Skull had all been divided from what Luz could tell, so her pretending to be divided too worked in their favour.

The Receptionist who’d been taking a Comm-Pact call then gestured to a fancy waiting area off to the side of the foyer and said; “Head Witch Whispers has approved you to visit with Head Witch Crane. Please wait over there for an escort to take you to him.”

Luz nodded and took her group over to sit down, keeping their guard up and their Palismen ready to go under their disguises. The waiting area looked like it been ripped from a fancy sitting room in a manor; the chairs were plush and comfortable, and the table (laden with tea and cakes) was finely crafted and expensive. As soon as the group sat down, Boscha began making a cup of tea for Luz and subtly slipped the pain relief potion into it before handing it over.

“Here, my Lady.” she said softly, doing well to keep her cover.

“Thank you.” Luz replied, accepting the tea and doing her best to drink it slowly despite how desperately she craved relief. Thankfully the relief came soon, and she sighed happily. “Delicious.” she said honestly, as Boscha fixed some tea for everyone else too (sans the potion). They all drank and chatted softly, making small talk about the décor and how amazing the Concert Hall looked from just the outside and the foyer. Eda used her pickpocketing skills to slip a cake to King whilst pretending to eat it, since he couldn’t have any of the tea, and only a moment later they were approached by another Female Bard, who happened to also be a Lamia Demon, resembling a witch from the waste up, but a snake from the waist down.

“Good day, my Lady. My name is Ekana, and Head Witch Whispers has asked me to show you all up to Head Witch Crane’s room. Would you please follow me?” she asked very politely. She wore her hood up, so her hair was hidden, but the rest of her face (which was strikingly beautiful) was still visible, including her venomous green eyes. The eyes lacked any golden rings, informing Luz and her team that she was undivided.

“Of course. Please lead the way, Ekana.” Luz smiled, standing up.

The Lamia Bard escorted them up the stairs to the left of the reception desk and took them all the way up to the third floor, which was the highest one accessible from the foyer. From there, they were led down a corridor that went around the rounded edge of the Drum Building, as Ekana said; “Head Witch Whispers said that I should offer you a tour, though I personally don’t believe that’s prudent. Head Witch Crane’s health is fairly poor and any treatment you give will be appreciated as soon as possible. That said, I can give you the tour if you wish.”

The disguised Kyrie and Skara both became antsy at that, so Luz smiled and said; “I think it would be better if we go straight to Head Witch Crane’s room. Perhaps you can give us a quick tour of the places we have to walk through to get there?”

Ekana smiled; “Yes, that would be fine. We of the Bard Coven are proud of our Headquarters.” she said, slithering along. “This is the Drum Building, or also known as the original Symphonia Concert Temple. It and the foyer and facade you passed through earlier were built 3000 years ago to worship the Goddess Symphonia.”

Luz’s eyes widened a little in surprise, before she schooled her features; “I wasn’t aware Witches and Demons worshipped any Deities; only the Titan.”

“The Symphonia Cult was a heretical order that split off from the Faith of the Titan 3200 years ago. It was built around a powerful female Witch who named herself Symphonia, and claimed to be the bride of the Titan. You saw her statue as we came in.” Ekana explained.

Skara nodded; “I heard this story before. Some people claim Symphonia was a madwoman who really believed she was the Titan’s wife and the mother of music. Others claim she was a con-artist. There are even those who claim she was an Angel trying to control us. No one knows the truth though; she became a recluse in her old age and died peacefully. The original Concert Temple was built to honour her and her cult, who thought she’d ascended to be with the Titan.”

Ekana gave her a strange look; “You’re well informed, Lady Angel.”

“I-I heard about it from some Witches we met as we arrived in the city. They gave us directions to get here and told us the story.” Skara quickly lied. In reality, she’d been told the story by her father, all the way back on her first visit.

Ekana once again gave her a strange look and said; “How odd. Few outside the Bard Coven know this story. But you are correct; Symphonia lived and died 3100 years ago, and this temple was built 100 years after her death. It remained active for 700 years, before the Faith of the Titan took action and destroyed the cult. It was allegedly because the Cultists were trying to construct a Wind Temple, which was forbidden on the Boiling Isles back in the Savage Ages.”

Luz and her friends nodded; Wind was not one of Orion’s elements, so it would be odd to build a temple to it on his body. The Faith of the Titan had likely seen this as one more sacrilege and finally wiped them all out. It was a sad and pointless waste of life, but it was millennia ago, so it wasn’t worth being concerned about.

“So what happened after the cult were kicked out?” Boscha asked as they continued to walk down the long, rounded hall. Aside from busts of famous bards and preserved instruments and portraits lining the walls, there wasn’t much else to see at the moment, hence why they were having a history lesson.

“The Temple was considered too historically important to be destroyed and so it became a museum with artefacts from the Symphonia Cult. It lacked popularity though due to religious fervour against heretical cults, so it was instead converted into the Symphonia Bard College. This building has amazing acoustics, fitting for a place built in honour of the “Goddess and Mother of Music”, so it was a good place to educate other Bards. The College was popular as both a school and a retreat for Bards, and a place for them to demonstrate their skills, so it gradually attracted new students and patrons, who came to attend the shows. It even became the headquarters of the Bard Guild, who started the Head Witch Concert tradition. Then when that monster Belos showed up and unified the Isles and ended the Savage Ages, the College was shut down and the Guild became the Bard Coven, keeping this place as its headquarters.” Ekana explained.

“Fascinating.” Luz said honestly, “When were the other instrument buildings added?”

“During the time of the College and Guild. They were added one at a time, as the College’s wealth grew and prospered. No new ones have been added since the Savage Ages though. People see Bards as entertainers and respect us in that regard, but as a school of magic, Bardic Magic is looked down upon. As such, when the Guild became the Coven and its focus shifted from shows and concerts to serving as a Union of Bardic Magic Users, it’s popularity went through the floor and suddenly, we weren’t good enough. Recruitment was low and so the funds we were allotted by Belos were equally low. If not for wealthy patrons and nobles who choose to fund and occasionally even join the Coven, we would have been forced out of this building decades ago. What popularity we have is the result of the Head Witch Crane, Head Witch Cadence, and Head Witch Whispers.” Ekana answered, perking up a little upon seeing that her audience was interested in what she was saying.

As they walked, Eda (who’d heard most of these stories before from Raine, who’d given her a secret tour of the place once when they were a fresh-faced Hexside Graduate) noted that the hallway they’d been walking down was actually a single massive circle going around the circumference of the Drum Building, and Ekana seemed to be leading them to the section directly opposite the foyer. She led them out of the hallway and through a door that had golden brass instruments engraved on it, which led them into the Trumpet Building. The Trumpet Building was a lot like the Drum Building on the inside, but its hallways were winding and convoluted, making it had to keep a mental map in their heads.

Ekana led them up some stairs to higher floors as she continued with her tour; “While the Drum Building has the Concert Stage and most of the original college classrooms, which are now used by our top members as offices and places to teach their apprentices, the Trumpet Building houses apartments for our elite members. Most of our members live in the various buildings, with the mid-ranks like myself living in the Cello Building and the low ranks living in the Bag Pipes Building. The Violin and Ocarina Buildings hold smaller stages for smaller shows, as well as practice rooms and common areas for the Coven. Our destination is the Head Witch’s Apartment on the top floor; inside the Mute.”

Boscha, Kyrie, and King were all confused, not knowing what that meant, but Skara happily informed them; “A Mute is that bulbous thing that Bards place in the opening of a Brass Instrument like a trumpet to alter its volume and sound.”

“Correct!” Ekana smiled, looking back at her; “You know a lot, Lady Angel. You must be one of the Angels fascinated by Bardic Magic; there are a lot of you. It’s part of why the Wings of Rani and the Bard Coven get along so well, and why so few of us have been divided.”

That was a good point; aside from the three Receptionists, none of the unmasked Bards they’d passed had been divided. That could be useful if their covers were blown, as it’d hopefully mean a ton of Bards would come to their aid without them needing to hold out until the Divided Orbs were shattered by Willow’s Team at the Castle. However, it did make Kyrie curious.

“Forgive me, but I’m not very familiar with Bardic Magic.” she said truthfully, not knowing much despite her Uncle being the former Coven Head. “What exactly do my fellow Angels find so fascinating about it?”

Ekana gave her an odd look; “I should think it would be obvious even if you’re not familiar with it. Our Bardic Magic and your Choir Magic are fundamentally the same; it’s probably the magic type that is most similar between our two Realms.”

Skara couldn’t help herself from answering; “Bardic Magic primarily specialises in the use of instruments, with vocals usually just being a compliment without any magical components. On the reverse side, Choir Magic uses vocals almost exclusively, and instruments are only played for accompaniment and don’t usually have magic either. However aside from the medium, and the fact Bardic Magic favours solo performances while Choir Magic favours harmonizing in groups, the root of the magic is basically the same. There are no spells that one type can cast but not the other.”

This wasn’t news to the rest of the disguised CATTs; it had been something Luz, Skara, and Rasiel had talked about often in the past. But it was news to Kyrie, who was surprised to learn that Witches, Demons, and Angels all shared this one particular type of magic. Aside from raw elemental magic, it seemed to be the only kind that was fundamentally the same for both Realms.

Ekana was once again impressed by Skara’s answer and said; “Correct again! Now I’m certain; you’re a Choir Angel, aren’t you? No other kind has your love of music!”

“Eheheh you caught me!” Skara smiled nervously.

“If that’s the case, you should stay here until Monday morning at the earliest. Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night, we hold a concert here that anyone in the city can attend, free of charge. It’s really been keeping people’s spirits up in these uncertain times!” Ekana grinned, looking excited as the end of her tail wagged a little even as she slithered up the stairs they were climbing (which itself was an unusual sight to see).

“A concert?” Boscha repeated.

“Yes! Our weekly Paradise Performance! Every Friday night, the Bards of the Coven put on a show of different songs and performances from here in the Demon Realm. On Saturday night, the Angel of the Wings of Rani return the favour with songs from the Divine Realm. Then on Sunday night, we combine our efforts and perform songs together, with Bards singing, Angels playing instruments, and everyone bonding over a mutual love of music! It’s truly a sight to behold and heaven for the ears!” Ekana declared.

Skara began to almost bounce with excitement, barely restraining herself for the sake of their cover. The Paradise Performance sounded so fun! And it was further proof that without all the Division nonsense that the Divider was pushing, their people could get along great and make things better for everyone! Music really did bring people together!

“So, these performances and the camaraderie they bring are what keep the Bards from being divided?” Kyrie asked.

Ekana’s smile became a sad one; “Partly. You already know that your people don’t divide us unless we break the law, but we do enjoy more leniency here. I think your comrades are loathe to divide us for another reason though.”

“And why is that?” Eda asked.

Ekana went quiet for a moment, then softly answered; “Some songs can only be expressed with sorrow or anger. Not all music evokes positive feelings, and while the Divided can still perform those songs… well, it’s not the same.”

The disguised CATTs went quiet after that, not knowing what else to say. Inwardly, Luz and Skara were both thinking the same thing; this was proof that dividing negative feelings from people could also result in the loss of something good, as there were many forms of art that carried negative feelings. Sombre music, tear-inducing paintings, famous tragedies… so much was lost when negative emotions were stripped away!

Skara felt her resolve grow; music and art was about freedom of expression, and cannot exist if people are not free to even feel the way they wanted! She already had plenty of reasons to oppose the Divider, but now she had even more! And unbeknownst to her, she was about to get another one.

The mini-tour ended as Ekana led them to the top of a spiral staircase that stopped just outside the Mute of the Trumpet Building. She then turned to the disguised CATTs with a serious expression; “Beyond this door are the chambers of the Head Witch, where Head Witch Crane is currently staying. But before we go in, I would like to make a humble request…”

She coiled her tail, mimicking a kneeling position, then bowed her head; “I would ask that you temporarily return Head Witch Whispers and Head Witch Cadence to their original selves!”

The CATTs all blinked in surprise; Ekana was quite bold to ask such a thing from people whom she thought were among the Wings of Rani!

“That is… an odd request to make.” Luz said, trying to find the words without giving up her cover just yet.

“Please, I know this is presumptuous to even ask, but I must! It only needs to be for short time! A few weeks at most! I will even offer myself to be divided in their stead, as collateral! Many of my fellow Bards will offer the same!” Ekana cried, not raising her head.

“Why are you asking this? Why only undo the division temporarily?” Luz asked.

Ekana’s eyes became tearful; “Head Witch Crane is old and while he has hung on for longer than expected, he will not live more than another few weeks at most. I have no doubt that even your healing will not prolong his life any more… but Head Witch Whispers and Head Witch Cadence absolutely must be their true selves during his final moments! To force Scooter to spend his last days with his beloved apprentices in such a state, unable to even feel sadness or mourn his passing… it’s just too cruel!”

The CATTs recoiled, all of them feeling a sense of horror at the realisation that the Divided couldn’t even feel sad that a loved one had passed, or mourn them. The most they’d be able to do is fondly remember them; that truly was horribly cruel! Kyrie and Skara; Scooter’s biological and honorary nieces, couldn’t imagine being beside his death bed and just feeling… nothing. While loss and mourning was painful, it was still important! Unequivocal proof of how much their Uncle Scooter meant to them.

“We will do it!” Skara blurted out, becoming overcome with emotion and breaking her cover.

Ekana’s eyes widened, seeing the tears shimmering in Skara’s eyes even through her disguise. Luz and the others were immediately on-guard, ready to act if Ekana chose to expose them, but thankfully the young woman was smarter than that.

Ekana slipped an inconspicuous ring off her finger, which caused a minor concealing spell on her to vanish, revealing her snake tail ended in a rattle. She shook it and cast a Bardic Spell, silencing the area (since Bards tended to have excellent hearing), then said softly;

“You aren’t normal Angels, are you?”

“No. We’re here to undo the division and save our friends, including Scooter.” Luz said honestly. “Two of my companions are his nieces; Kyrie Crane and Skara Cadence.”

“Wait, Skara Cadence? Head Witch Severin’s Little Princess?” Ekana smiled, looking delighted as the two ladies removed their Concealment Stones. “And Kyrie! Head Witch Crane talks about you all the time! He’s been asking for you on and off for a while! He’ll be so glad to see you!”

Skara and Kyrie both smiled, the latter saying; “We’ll be happy to do everything we can for Uncle. But did you say he’s been asking for me?”

“Yes. But the Wings of Rani refused to summon you until it was time. Your job at St. Epiderm was deemed too vital.” Ekana explained.

That made Kyrie scowl, and Skara chimed in; “Is there anything you can do to help us out, Ekana? Any help you can offer will be a big deal for us!”

The Lamia woman nodded; “I can try and spread the word to my fellow Bards. We have ways of communicating that the Wings of Rani haven’t deciphered. Just give us the word and we’ll keep the Angels distracted. I should also warn you that Head Witch Whispers is inside with Head Witch Crane; they never leave his side for long. If you want to get Head Witch Crane out of here, you’ll need to go through them.”

Eda smirked; “Oh, don’t worry about Raine Storm! We can handle them!”

“We shouldn’t fight them if we can avoid it. Let’s try and stall them until the Divided Orbs are broken.” Luz countered.

“Oh trust me, with our luck, a fight is inevitable. But we’ll give stalling them a try at least.” Eda agreed.

“In that case, I’ll show you in.” Ekana said, giving Kyrie and Skara a moment to restore their disguises before going in. Once they were properly disguised again, Ekana dropped her silencing spell and knocked on the door before opening it, revealing the Head Witch’s Apartment.

The Mute of the Trumpet Building had been turned into a small two story apartment made of crystal, so the walls were all basically windows that provided a great view of Manubrium to the north, the forest to the south, and the rest of the Concert Hall to the west. The first floor was double the size of the second one, which was like a loft suspended above the second half of the first floor. On the first floor was a kitchenette, a dining area, and magic fire pit surrounded by couches, with musical instruments scattered all over the place. The second floor was home to the bathroom, a guest room, and the master bedroom, where Scooter was staying.

Upon entering the apartment, the disguised CATTs saw it occupied by four Wings of Rani; two guarding the entrance to Scooter’s room up on the loft, and two guarding the interior of the door leading out of the apartment. They were all High Angels, making them fairly elite, but that was no issue for the CATTs. The only real threat was sitting at the grand piano beneath the loft, playing a beautiful song. It was Raine Whispers, looking almost exactly as they had back on the Day of Unity. Their hair was a little longer and still as white as snow thanks to the curse, and they were dressed in a while and gold version of their old CATTs uniform, but they were otherwise unchanged and seemed perfectly happy, playing their song with their Palisman Rena lounging on top of the piano.

Without even opening their eyes, Raine spoke up; “Thank you for bringing the Healers, Ekana. You may go; enjoy the rest of the day however you please.” they said pleasantly.

Ekana bowed her head; “Thank you, Head Witch.”

She then shot the CATTs a meaningful look and bowed her head before excusing herself, closing the apartment door behind her. As soon as it clicked shut, Raine stopped playing and opened their eyes, looking towards the CATTs as they walked over to them. Their eyes, bearing the gold rings of division, briefly looked a bit confused by Luz and Eda, leading to them watching the two for a moment despite their disguises. They then shrugged and smiled, getting to their feet and gesturing for Rena to jump up onto her shoulder.

“Thank you for coming. While I’m not sure how much more can be done, I’m sure that if anyone can help Scooter now, it’ll be a powerful healer such as yourself.” Raine said, smiling at the disguised Luz.

“I shall endeavour to do my best. I will be taking my time though; someone of his advanced age will need a delicate touch, so I don’t want to rush things and make mistakes.” Luz said truthfully.

Raine nodded, their smile not wavering; “Perfectly understandable.” they said, before clapping their hands, getting the High Angel Guards’ attention.

“Ladies and gentleman, you are dismissed. You may take the day off as well.” Raine said.

The High Angels looked confused; “Is that wise, Head Witch? We’ve already had reports of rebel attacks in the area, and unrest in the city. Surely extra protection wouldn’t go amiss?” one of them said.

“Normally I’d agree, but Scooter cannot handle too much excitement so I’d like to limit how many people are in his personal space. I’m sure these four accompanying the Overseer Flora’s healer will be able to handle any threats.” Raine reasoned.

Again, the High Angels didn’t look convinced, but Raine WAS the Head Witch and thus in-charge, so they ultimately obeyed and left the apartment. Eda noticed the way Raine watched them go, before smiling a little wider as they turned back to the CATTs.

“Right then, please follow me. Remember to keep your voice down and try not to overexcite him.” Raine warned gently, before leading them to the short staircase up to the loft. They went to the master bedroom and after Raine knocked gently and let them in, they were greeted by a sight that had their hearts all sinking, especially Kyrie and Skara.

The room looked like a hospital room, with a special hospital bed, a cabinet of medication and medical tools, and even some magical versions of Human Realm medical equipment, such as an IV stand. Laying in the bed was Scooter, who looked like he’d aged twenty years since Luz had first met him at Skara’s birthday party. He was very thin and frail looking, his already pale red skin having faded so much that it was almost grey, like the middle of some very overcooked beef. His moustache was bigger and bushier than before, and had turned totally white, as had the short crop of hair atop his head. His body had withered and his hands were shaky as they slowly moved through the air, conducting an imaginary orchestra as he absent mindedly hummed along to a song no one else could hear. Aside from the IV connected to the crook of his arm, Scooter also had a strange looking sea shell on the end of one of his fingers, and a series of little white patches on his arms and neck, which appeared to be glowing with runes. Beside Scooter’s bed was a floating tome with a quill beside it, which frequently stopped to write down some new health information, clearly acting as some kind of vitals monitor, likely using the shell and rune patches as sensors.

“Oh Titan…!” Skara whispered, feeling her heart break. Scooter looked positively ancient, and didn’t appear to even notice them walking into the room.

“As you can see, his condition is not good. The last healer who saw him said that he’d likely live no more than another 4 weeks… that was a week ago.” Raine said, their voice and expression both having no emotion.

Luz wasted no time in going to Scooter’s side and beginning her own examination, casting all the diagnostic spells she could. As she worked, her expression grew grimmer and grimmer, and it took every bit of self control Skara had not to rush to Scooter’s side and try to speak to him. Boscha was holding her back by subtly holding her hand, while Eda stood close enough to Kyrie that she could subtly bump their shoulders together to offer some silent comfort to the woman. All this proved in vain though, as Raine suddenly spoke again.

“Please, feel free to drop your disguises.” they said casually.

The CATTs all turned to him (though Luz didn’t pause in her spell casting). “What disguises?” Eda asked.

“Nice try, Eda. But I know it’s you. I knew you were all imposters as soon as you took your second step into this apartment. I knew who each of you were by the fifth step.” Raine said, smiling a little.

A tension filled the room as each of the CATTs (except for Luz), began slowly moving to surround Raine. They made no attempts to fight or stop them, and simply kept giving Eda a small smile.

“If you’re so sure…” Eda said slowly as King emerged from her hair but remained hidden by the Concealment Stone, “…then prove it. Who are we?”

Raine smiled a little brighter; “As I said, you’re Eda. The girl performing the healing is Luz. I suspect you have King in your hair or on your back or shoulder. The woman beside you is probably Kyrie, and the two young ladies over there are Skara and Boscha.”

The CATTs gaped in shock, and numbly removed their Concealment Stones to reveal their true forms (with Stringbean removing Luz’s, since she was occupied). Eda could scarcely believe it.

“Okay, I know you’re good Raine Storm, but not that good! How did you figure it out!?” she demanded.

“Simple. When you all walked in, the sound of your footsteps didn’t match your disguises. No one but an experienced bard would notice, but the sounds of your footsteps and the actual visual was about a quarter of a second off. That only happens when the height of the illusion and the height of the person walking don’t match up.” Raine explained, before winking; “I was a spy and rebel too, my Edamame.”

Despite the potentially dire situation, Eda couldn’t help but blush at the nickname, and smile at her lover’s impressive skills; “Okay, you got us there. But how did you know exactly who was who?”

“Again, the sound of your footprints. Everyone’s is subtly different due to height, preferred footwear, their weight, their usual gait, and so on. I recognised Skara’s immediately, as she’s not grown taller enough for the sound to change much. Boscha was next, since I’m familiar with it after all the times I saw you with Skara.” Raine grinned, “Kyrie was tough as I’m less familiar with her, but the sound of her cloven hooves is distinguishable, and since you were coming to see Scooter, it made sense. Then Luz sounded off; her gait was the same but she sounded heavier, so I figured it was because of her extra wings, since I’d heard she was a Seraph now. And lastly Edamame, you sounded heavier too, but when I estimated by how much, I figured King must be on your shoulders or something.”

Once again, the CATTs all gaped in shock; Raine’s hearing was on a whole other level!

Eda chuckled and shook her head ruefully; “Our luck with stealth missions is really in the toilet! But forget all that for now. So Raine, if you figured us out then why did you send the High Angels away? Why let us in here? Surely you don’t think you can take all six of us alone?”

Raine smiled coyly; “Oh, I think I’d stand a better chance than you think, but…” their face became blank again as they pointed to Scooter; “This is why I didn’t expose you. We’ve had Angel Healers of normal, High Angel, and Arch-Angel ranks coming here to try and help Scooter, but none succeeded. Once I heard Sparks had become a Seraphim… oh, I’m proud of you by the way.”

“Thanks Titi!” Luz smiled a little, still focused on her spells.

“…but once I heard of her ascension, I know I needed to let her try. The Divider spent a lot of time with Scooter but refused to heal him, or even divide him from his sickness. A Seraphim is our final hope, and I’ve never known a finer healer than Luz.” Raine finished.

“Wait, so you’re able to defy the Divider’s orders?” Boscha asked, intrigued.

Raine shook their head; “As one who carries the Lord Divider’s Blessing, I am honour-bound to obey his laws. As rebels, I need to capture you and deliver you to the Castle to be blessed. But as Coven Head, I am also required to do all I can for the well-being of those under my command. That means Scooter. As protecting and caring for my people trumps apprehending rebels, I can choose to offer you community service as a healer, in lieu of being immediately arrested and given our Lord’s Blessing.”

The CATTs exchanged looks; even if Raine was now under the Divider’s spell, they were still the same Raine. Their lack of confidence had been removed too, but their cunning and sense of justice remained. They were still going to need to fight them, but at least they’d bought a few moments of peace in which to try and help Scooter.

“Thank you, Raine! Even brainwashed, you’re a nice person!” Skara beamed, before rushing over to Scooter’s side. Despite everything going on around him, he still didn’t seem to notice what was happening. Kyrie moved to Scooter’s other side, and Boscha went to stick close to Skara, leaving Eda and King to watch Raine, who kept a respectful distance from Luz.

After a few more minutes of Luz casting spells, she groaned and ran a hand through her hair; “The results from my spell aren’t great… it looks like…” she looked to Raine; “Titi, can you tell me more about what got him in this state?”

Raine nodded and explained; “Well he was already old and starting to go a bit senile, but he was otherwise healthy for his age. It began to decline when Belos forced him back into service following Severin’s defection to the CATTs. Then on the Day of Unity, his magic was stolen by a Basilisk and he was partially petrified. All that damaged his health and we haven’t been able to treat it.”

Luz bit her lip, and Skara pressed her; “Luz, I know that face. What is it that you don’t want to tell us?”

“I-I don’t think there’s anything I can do.” Luz confessed, looking down at her hands; “My magic can’t fix this.”

“W-What!? But how!? You’re a Seraphim! A super healer one too! You can regrow limbs, surely you can fix Uncle Scooter!” Skara cried.

“Is his problem resistant to magic, like the Common Mold or…” Boscha trailed off, not wanting to bring up the poison Vitimir had killed Manny with.

“No. It’s simply old age.” Luz said.

“Old age?” Kyrie repeated.

The young Seraph nodded sadly; “That’s right. His body has simply reached the end of its rope and its failing. Healing Magic can ease his suffering, but I think he’s already loaded up to the horns with that. His body is barely sustaining the energy to keep itself alive, and when a person gets like that, it means the tether between the body and soul is fraying. Nothing but Necromancy can effect that tether, and once it finally snaps… well that’ll be it.”

“So you are saying that Scooter is doomed?” Raine asked softly, their expression unnervingly blank.

Luz nodded once again; “I’m sorry, but this is natural causes. His body is frail, but the soul is hanging on tight… If I use a ton of Healing Magic and give him an Angelic Blessing, I can likely prolong his life for a couple more weeks, giving him a total of 5. But that’s it.”

“B-But there has to be more you can do!” Skara cried, tears beginning to trickle down her cheeks, “He got worse because of Belos! That monster has to have done something to Scooter! Something you can cure!”

Luz shook her head; “It’s stress and psychological damage, Skara. Things like that can’t simply be healed by magic!”

“Please, at least try!” Skara begged; “You’ve got Titan Magic! Plus that Seraphic Art thing, right!? Please use it on Scooter!”

Luz bit her lip and slowly reached for her halo, but Boscha suddenly snapped; “Don’t you dare, Luz!”

The Seraph stopped in her tracks, and Eda immediately moved to take the girl’s hands and gently hold them, both as a comfort and a restraint. Skara turned to Boscha with a heartbroken look; “Why Boscha!? We could save him! We could-!”

“Doom us all to buy a very old man a few more days.” Boscha cut her off. Her expression was stern, but her eyes were soft and sympathetic. She hated talking to Skara like this, and not supporting her… but Skara herself had taught Boscha that enabling someone to do the wrong thing because she were scared of losing or disappointing them was just as bad as doing the wrong thing herself.

“Boscha, please! He’s my Uncle Scooter! He’s the only other family that Dad and I have left!”

“I know.” Boscha said, clutching Skara’s hands tightly between her own; “I know and I’m sorry. But this isn’t something Luz can fix. It isn’t something any of us can fix. It’s harsh to say this, but Scooter is just plain old. He’s gotta be in his 80s by now, and Demons of his species don’t live that long.”

“65 is the average for Cantor Devils. Uncle Scooter is also half Witch though, which is why he was able to live this long.” Kyrie said softly, tears streaming down her face. Unlike Skara, she was old enough to accept this reality, even if it broke her heart. She’d felt it in her bones that saving Scooter would just mean letting him live out the last of his days surrounded by loved ones, rather than the Divider’s Drones.

“You see? Even Kyrie realises it. Scooter has led a good life and he still has a few weeks left. We can make him comfortable and happy, but that is all.” Boscha said softly.

Skara’s lips trembled as she tried not to break down sobbing; “C-Can’t we at least try? W-What if we get him to the castle? Maybe we could use the Divider’s power to save him! The Divider has caused so much pain, ripping people asunder, so maybe we can use his power for good! To take away some of the wear and tear? To give Scooter a while longer at least!”

It was one last, desperate attempt by a teenage girl to save a loved one, and an attempt that even Skara knew was wrong deep down, but it represented a single frail hope. Everyone looked at her with pity, save for Raine who lacked the ability. Instead, Raine said;

“I asked the Divider if such a thing was possible myself. And while it is possible, it would also be unnatural. Mortals are not meant to defy the natural order.” Raine said in a monotone.

Skara opened her mouth to argue, but shut it again fast. This was not an argument she could win, and not one she truly wanted to win. She didn’t want her Uncle Scooter to spend the rest of his life as only a part of who he truly was. Cutting away chunks of his life just to prolong that life would be a disgrace…

Still, she couldn’t stop herself from breaking down in sobs. She fell to her knees beside Scooter’s bed and held his hand, placing her forehead against it as she cried. Boscha knelt down behind her and rubbed her back, gently cuddling her and whispering words of comfort. Luz was in silent tears too, wishing she could do more even as she put a hand on Kyrie’s shoulder as the older woman silently cried as well. The woman seemed grateful of the comfort, which Eda also gave, patting her lightly on the back. Even King and the Palismen came out to give comfort to Kyrie and Skara; Melody chirped sadly as she rested on Skara’s head, Maya made little bubbles as she pinched the end of Skara’s sleeve, and Owlbert came over to rest on her shoulder and gently nuzzle her, while Stringbean moved from Luz’s neck to Kyrie’s, King hugged Kyrie’s legs, and the Principal’s own Giraffe Palisman Camelo appeared by her side to nuzzle her.

Only Raine offered no comfort and received no comfort; their expression remaining painfully monotone. It was enough to make Eda furious… Raine couldn’t even properly mourn their friend and mentor. It was cruel and unfair! However, as she looked at their face, she did see a slight twitch to their eye… maybe part of the Old Raine was still present, within the curse.

As his hands were held by his nieces, Scooter wasn’t able to conduct his imaginary orchestra any more, making him slowly look around at what was going on around him. He heard Skara’s sobs and looked to her, whereupon his face became one of anger and distress.

“W-What is this!? Who made Little Skara cry!? And when did she get so big!? If someone played a mean prank on her, I’m gonna beat them up!” Scooter declared crossly.

Even through tears, Skara managed to laugh at her Uncle’s words; “No one made me cry, Uncle. I’m just sad! And I’m almost all grown up! I’m 15, remember? You came to my birthday party.”

“Of course I did! I came to all of my little Skara’s birthdays! But 15? Where has the time gone?” he sighed sadly, pulling his hand from Skara’s grasp so he could cup her cheek. His hand trembled with age, and the tips of his fingers felt rough and hard from a lifetime of playing musical instruments.

Skara couldn’t think of a single thing to say in response, especially as she doubted Scooter would really understand in his current state anyway. Even now, as he watched her silently cry, his expression became one of confusion as a fog filled his mind again. He looked around the room, not truly seeing anyone until his eyes fell on Kyrie.

“Oh! Little Kyrie! You’re here too! But you’ve gotten big too! I don’t understand why everyone suddenly looks so big! And why am I so tired? Can I get out of bed and play? I promised Deamus that I would teach him how to play the Lullaby of Lethargy today.” Scooter mumbled, losing his grip on reality and slipping back into his stupor.

Raine leaned over to Luz and whispered; “He is talking about Deamus Zamort. No doubt you remember the stories of him.”

Luz frowned; Zamort was the name of the Bard Coven Elite that helped his Emperor’s Coven buddy victimise Katya. Unless the Divider had found a way to cure petrification too, then he was likely still a statue following Belos’ experiments, though if he was still in the castle basem*nt or not was beyond Luz.

Seeing her expression, Raine continued; “Deamus, Severin, and I were like flesh and blood children to Scooter. It hurt him deeply when Deamus betrayed us all by becoming corrupt. He let his talent go to his head and believed he could do as he liked.”

“And then you stopped him.” Luz replied.

“I did. And yet now, in Scooter’s addled mind, Deamus is forever the little boy that Scooter lovingly taught everything he could. When a person is stripped of their negative feelings and memories, only the good remains.” Raine said softly.

Luz shook her head softly, then pulled out her Ocarina; “You say that like it’s a good thing, but I noticed you weren’t smiling. You want to feel sad, but you can’t. The Divider won’t let you… but the Divider hasn’t effected Scooter. There’s no orb I can break to make this better… but I can at least help a little.”

With that, she brought the Ocarina to her lips and began to play a song; one that Severin had composed and taught to Luz one afternoon on Digale Island after the visit to Belos’ Mind. Luz still remembered how she’d felt so lost and confused, and had been dealing with the Palisman Souls, but Severin had decided to ease her mind by teaching her this song; one he’d only otherwise shared with his daughter and best friend, Raine. Severin had claimed to be doing it to make up for all his excuses when refusing to join the CATTs, but after learning what the song did as a spell, Luz had realised that he was trying to help her deal with her latest burden.

Everyone’s attention turned to Luz as she played a beautiful yet haunting and sombre song. It was the kind of song that left one deep in thought if they allowed themselves to be lost in it, and both Skara and Raine recognised it immediately. Then Luz began to channel her magic into it and a soft red and gold aura filled the room, and a moment later, Scooter blinked a few times and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. He then sat up a little and everyone except Raine, Skara, and Luz were shocked to see his eyes becoming focused.

“Ah, that song. Severin’s little pet project… I should have known he’d teach it to you, Luz.” Scooter said, smiling with nostalgia.

“Uncle Scooter! You recognise Luz!? Does that mean you know what’s happening?” Kyrie asked urgently.

“Indeed, my darling Kyrie. My mind is clear… and it will remain so for as long as Luz plays that song.” Scooter said.

“What is it? I’ve never heard it before.” Boscha asked, looking to Skara.

Skara smiled tearfully; “It’s one my Dad composed… it’s a song that is supposed to help those with aged minds think more clearly. It improves memory, reasoning, and so much more… but it has no permanence. It only lasts for as long as the song is being played.”

“The Cadence of Clarity.” Raine whispered reverently. “A song Severin composed just for Scooter.”

The rest of the CATTs exchanged puzzled looks, and King piped up; “Wait, so Skara’s Dad knew this would happen? That old man Scooter’s brain would go all fuzzy when he got old?” the young Titan asked bluntly.

Scooter chuckled; “He did! Cantor Devils like my mother have shorter lifespans than most Demons because they’re extremely prone to mental degradation. Thing’s like the Forgetting Fog and Dementia are common for us and often result in us dying. Severin was afraid I’d suffer the same fate, so composed that song. It works, but since it has to be played constantly, it was deemed a failure. Though perhaps some Angelic Magic will make the effects linger a bit.”

Luz wasn’t interested in finding out just yet though and continued to play, putting all her focus into it. Now that Scooter was in his right mind again, Skara and Kyrie both gave him big hugs and pestered him on how he was feeling. Thankfully he was well; potions in his IV kept him pain free, and he wasn’t suffering while in his senile state, so he had nothing to complain about. Rather he spent all day lost in pleasant memories, unable to remember the bad parts that came next.

“Kyrie my dear, I’m glad to see you with the CATTs. You’ve been far too lonely as of late; your work at St. Epiderm is wonderful, but do try to make yourself some friends.” Scooter said to his niece, rubbing her head between her horns.

“I’ve got no time for dating; besides, people don’t tend to go for single parents with hundreds of kids.” Kyrie joked, thinking of her students.

“Well unless one counts Little Skara, I was never going to live to see my grandchildren anyway. But I wasn’t talking about dating, you cheeky thing! Just make some proper friends! Perhaps Raine and Severin would be a good place to start!” Scooter grinned. “Still, I want you to know I’m proud of you.”

Kyrie beamed tearfully; “Thank you, Uncle Scooter. I’m sure if my Mom was still alive, she’d be proud of her little brother too.”

“Careful now; I’m not about to die quite yet! Save things like that for when I’m about to croak!” Scooter laughed heartily. He then turned to Skara and pet her head.

“Little Skara; I am so glad to see you safe and sound. I was worried about you; when the Divider told me that he’d placed you in the Human Realm, I was sure I’d never get to see you again. Yet here you are! I bet you’ve had quite the adventure.” Scooter smiled.

“It’s definitely been crazy! I’d tell you all about it, but now probably isn’t the best time… or the best company.” Skara said, turning a little to frown at the Divided Raine.

Scooter nodded grimly; “Indeed. It pains me to see my apprentice and successor in such a state. And I’m sorry to say your father is in the same state. He comes to visit often, playing this song… though I wish he didn’t. If I am to spend time with these bizarre puppets of my old friends, I’d rather do it while my mind is addled.”

Raine’s eye twitched a little, something that didn’t go unnoticed by Eda. Scooter didn’t though, and continued; “So tell me, how have you been? I hear you helped kick that old tyrant Belos to the curb!”

“I did! The whole Hexsquad and I pummelled him in the Day of Unity, the Divider kinda had to finish him off and stop his Draining Spell, but he was only able to do it because we beat Belos and got his wings back!” Skara said proudly.

“Marvellous performance, my dear. And what about your time in the Human Realm? I imagine that must have been difficult.” Scooter said, his face falling into a sad frown.

“It was tough, and a long four months, but we made the best of it. Luz’s Mami, Camila, took us all in and cared for us. You’d like her; she’s a really nice lady.”

“A really nice single lady, by chance?” Scooter asked.

“Uh, yes and no. Her husbands passed away, but she’s quite devoted to them. I don’t see her ever remarrying.” Skara answered, a little flustered by the odd question.

Scooter sighed; “That’s understandable. The song of love is one that can only be sung with certain special people after all. Forgive the rude question, Luz; I merely worry for Severin. The man deserves to find love with a kind and loving woman.”

Luz kept her eyes closed as she continued to play, but the corners of her mouth lifted a little to show she was smiling at him.

“Now, on the topic of love…” Scooter gave a knowing look to Skara, and then Boscha stood beside her; “… is there something you’d like to tell me, my dear?”

“Oh! Yes! Boscha and I are dating! She actually asked me out during the battle with Belos! We’ve been dating for months now!” Skara chirped happily, a faint blush on her cheeks as Boscha fidgeted a little beside her.

“Marvellous! And has she treated you well, my dear?” Scooter asked, a flash of something dangerous in his eyes that made Boscha gulp.

“She’s been the best! We do argue sometimes, but that’s my fault as much as hers.” the young Bard replied.

Scooter nodded, then looked to Boscha; “And you, young lady? Has young Skara treated you well? I would be quite cross to learn my youngest niece has grown up to be a selfish or unreasonable partner.”

Boscha shook her head vehemently; “She’s not like that at all! She treats me amazing. Better than I probably deserve.”

“You sound like you need therapy, young lady.” Scooter said in a deadpan, getting a startled laugh from most people in the room. Even Luz’s playing was very briefly interrupted as she snorted in shocked amusem*nt, but she kept playing an instant later and Scooter didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects from the interrupted song.

Boscha raised an eyebrow; “Well you sure are blunt!”

“I’m old! I no longer have the time to waste beating around the bush! That said, you seem like a wonderful young lady, Boscha. I haven’t forgotten how you stood by my Skara’s side through the drama with her mother. If you can stick with her through that and the fight with Belos, and through her inevitable grief, then I believe you two will make sweet music together.” Scooter said, smiling kindly.

Skara and Boscha both blushed, but they smiled too. However Scooter’s smile soon fell as he became serious.

“On the topic of your mother, I’m afraid I have some potentially disturbing news.” Scooter began, his face becoming dour; “The Divider, in his insanity, has placed her and her family here in Manubrium and assigned her to be Severin’s direct subordinate up in the Castle. He has also placed young Asher in the castle, but noticeably kept Lord Mace down in the city…”

Everyone’s eyes widened, while Skara gasped; “What!? What exactly is the Divider doing!?”

“I’m not entirely sure; he didn’t say it in as many words, but I think he hopes Severin and Amaranth will rekindle their old relationship.” Scooter revealed.

“But why!? It was an arranged marriage! They were never close! Plus Amaranth remarried!” Skara exclaimed.

Scooter winced a little; “You’re right that their marriage was arranged, but the two were closer than you think. Your mother is just not an outwardly affectionate woman; image meant everything to her. But your father told me that she was quite the loving wife in private. I can’t say what was going on in that woman’s head, but the Divider claimed that after he divided her, Amaranth admitted to still having some love in her heart for Severin… and for you too.”

Skara scoffed; “She abandoned me for choosing to be a Bard, and spread rumours that I was Dad’s Bastard Love Child with Raine! I couldn’t care less what she has in her heart!”

“That is fair, though in the interest of truth, the Divider did claim that he removed a LOT of regrets from her. I suspect Amaranth’s actions were determined by her oh-so-important image. I can’t be sure of course, but that’s what the Divider told me.” Scooter explained.

Eda frowned; “Why’d he tell you this anyway? It’s weird that he talked to you so much.”

“I was his confessional.” Scooter said; “He’d play this song on an old guitar and spill his guts. I guess it was easy to do that with a man who he refused to divide, and who had one foot in the grave… I think the song gave him clarity too… but let me tell you; that is a man who dearly needs therapy. He argues with himself constantly, second guesses his decisions even while telling me about them, and seems to have a strong conscience that he basically ignores. There were times when I could have sworn I was talking to two different people.”

The CATTs exchanged looks; that lined up with Eda’s report of her own Division, and Mason’s report of what had happened next. It seemed the Rasiel they knew, and the Divider who’d replaced him, were all twisted up together and making some questionable decisions in their conflicted mental state. It was almost like Rasiel was trying to sabotage the Divider, and the Divider was trying to make the case for why Division was better than letting people continue on as they were.

“But back to your parents, Skara; the Divider seemed to think that since they still shared some affection now that their animosity is gone, and that your mother still loves you, then trying to get them back together is a good plan.” Scooter frowned.

Skara growled; “Of all the stupid things he could do…!? Is he really that insane that he’d force a divorced couple back together!? Especially when one of them is married with another family now!?”

“I’m not sure he’s forcing them exactly. More like he stripped away the bad feelings that caused the divorce, then kept them both in close proximity in hopes that they’d rekindle their old relationship. I did tell him it was foolish, but he seems to think it will work out… and worse, he claims he is doing it as a favour to you.” Scooter revealed.

“A favour to me!? He’s officially lost it! Does he really think I want my Mom and Dad to get back together!? At this point, I’m only surprised he didn’t try and get Alador and Odalia back together!” Skara fumed, struggling to control her temper.

Scooter chuckled; “You look so much like your father when you’re angry, my dear. If it makes you feel better, the Divider’s plan is failing completely. He can’t force them to feel things that aren’t there, and all the affection Severin and Amaranth have for each other is based on their mutual love for you. Even if you don’t believe Amaranth has any such feelings for you, I think she truly does care…”

“Based on all the “regrets” the Divider removed, right?” Skara frowned, not sure how to feel about that information. If it hadn’t come from an Angel and if she didn’t trust Scooter as much as she did, she’d have claimed it was all a lie. If Amaranth really did regret what she did and still loved her daughter… well, Skara wasn’t sure if she even wanted to know for certain.

But she did know one thing; she needed to end the Divider’s little family counselling plot!

“I need to go and find my Dad and set all this straight! But I don’t want to just leave you…” Skara said, becoming teary-eyed again.

Scooter tutted softly and pet Skara’s head; “My dear, I have had enough encores. All songs must end eventually, and if my time is near then so be it. I played my heart out from the dawn of my life all the way to the twilight. I still have a bit of time before the curtains close on my performance of a lifetime, but you still have your whole grand concert ahead of you! So stop wasting time on this old man and go do what you know you want to do; save your family and free my two foolish children. It’s probably cruel of me to say this, but I actually want Raine and Severin to cry at my funeral!”

That last part was said jokingly, but the core feeling behind it was earnest; Scooter wanted his two children in all but blood to be themselves once again.

Skara smiled sadly and looked to Eda and the others; “Can you take care of things here? If Dad is at the castle, I want to go help him.”

Eda and Kyrie both nodded, and King didn’t feel like he should give his opinion on the matter; all of them knew that if it was their Dads, they’d be rushing after them too. Luz stopped her song and nodded as well; “Go Skara. Mom, King, Kyrie and I will handle Raine and getting Scooter out of here.”

“Glad to hear you didn’t mention me.” Boscha smirked.

Luz smirked right back; “If I’d told you to stay, you’d have run off anyway. Go be with your “Ambrosia”, Boscha!”

Boscha flushed; “You’re not supposed to know that nickname!”

“Oh please, we all know it! You two aren’t as subtle as you think! Besides, it’s cute!” Luz giggled.

Scooter, who found his mind still retaining its clarity without the song (even though he could feel it slowly slipping), laughed heartily, especially as Skara hugged Boscha and kissed her, before sticking her tongue out at a giggling Luz. “It warms this old heart to see that you have such wonderful friends, Skara! Now get going! Smash your way out through the window; I don’t think I’ll be living in this room after today anyway.”

Skara nodded as she and Boscha summoned her staves, only for Raine to dart at them; “Did you think I would just let you leave? I indulged you all because I thought it would help improve Scooter’s quality of life, but now that you’re done, I will apprehend you so you may be blessed!”

Raine turned Rena into a violin and immediately began to play a song, but they were suddenly hit by King, who roared at them and knocked them through the door and off of the loft with a sonic roar, causing Raine to hit the ground on the first floor of the apartment with a loud groan. Luz then shot light beams at the glass wall of the bedroom, shattering it and creating an easy path for Skara and Boscha; “Both of you go. Send a Penstagram message to Willow to let her know you’re coming to support her. The rest of us will defeat and capture Titi Raine and get Scooter out of here.”

“Right! Thank you Luz! And I’ll see you soon, Uncle Scooter! And Dad will be with me too!” Skara declared, before racing off into the sky with Boscha right behind her, each of them using their concealment stones again.

Raine, showing surprising speed, got on their own staff and shot off after them, whistling to shatter the glass wall on the apartment’s first floor. However Eda flew down to intercept, yelling an apology as she slammed her taloned foot into Raine, sending them careening down towards the roof of the Drum Building, which was actually made of crystal. Eda then began firing small bolts of golden magic shaped like feathers, while Raine switched their staff to a Violin again and started deflecting the bolts with expertly timed notes. King flew down to help his Mom, and Luz turned to Kyrie and Scooter;

“I’m going to put Scooter into an enchanted slumber. Then I’m going to send you both into the shadows, where you’ll be safe. It’ll be cold though, so remember the fire glyph!” Luz told Kyrie, handing her a notepad from her hair and drawing the fire glyph on the front page to give her an example.

“Alright! Are you sure you don’t want my help fighting?” Kyrie asked.

Luz shook her head with a smile; “This is Clawthorne family business. We’ll get Titi back ourselves; you focus on caring for Scooter.”

With that, she sang the Lullaby of Lethargy, putting a grateful and slightly befuddled Scooter into a peaceful sleep, before sending him, all the medical equipment, and Kyrie into the shadows where they would be safe. Once that was done, Luz checked to see if Skara and Boscha had escaped and saw that they’d put on their disguises again and were flying towards the castle. Considering Luz could also hear a distant commotion from the city itself, thanks to Amity and Samael’s team, she was confident few, if any, people would even question them at the moment.

Certain the two would be safe, Luz then flew down to the top of the Drum Building, where Raine was battling Eda and King. As soon as she landed, Luz prepared a lightning bolt to knock out Raine quickly, then flashed behind their back, ready to hit them with it. However, Raine suddenly snapped their fingers and created a powerful sonic boom that had all three of the Clawthornes flying backward, as well as deafening them for a moment, forcing Luz to stop and heal herself while King did the same for himself and Eda with a pair of Healing Glyph Combos. As they took the moment to heal themselves, the Clawthornes were left unable to respond as Raine began to play their violin, reaching the crescendo of a song just as they’d restored their hearing.

In an instant, all three of them found their bodies glowing with a red and gold aura, and they began to slowly dance in place, performing a ballroom waltz with non-existent partners. As Raine continued to play, they smiled and said; “I’m afraid this battle is over before it began. Enjoy this song, before you receive the Lord Divider’s Blessing.”

The trio frowned; Raine was underestimating them… it seemed that when the Divider used his powers on the Bard, he took away their lack of confidence… but that seemed to have the side effect of Raine being a little too sure of themselves. They forgot who they were dealing with!

Eda suddenly began to burn with Anti-Magic flames, using the control tricks Lilith had devised to make it safer for her to use. As the flames covered her ears, Raine’s spell immediately broke and Eda fully transformed into Harpy Mode, whereupon she smirked at Raine.

Luz broke free a moment later, actually singing along to Raine’s song and causing the aura around her to turn white and gold, shifting control of the spell to her, which also resulted in King being freed and Raine being made to dance instead. Raine’s eyes became blank once again, but Luz could have sworn she saw a hint of pride in them… right before Raine whistled sharply. The loud sound made Luz wince and stop her singing, freeing Raine.

“It is always a delight to hear you sing, Luz. If you accept the Lord Divider’s blessing, you could perform here tomorrow night, with the other Angels.” Raine complimented, drumming their fingers on the edge of their violin bow, causing the edge to glow with red magic and extend outward, forming an almost magic lightsaber-style weapon.

Luz felt King activate the power of his incomplete glyph, using the mark on her chest to speak to her within her mind and give her his plan. The result made Luz smirk and retort to her Titi; “While I’m sure it would be an honour to perform here, let’s not get ahead of ourselves! We’ve still got tonight’s Demon performance to go first! Let’s hear from one of them now!”

King suddenly leapt at Raine, causing the Bard to swing their bow at the little Titan. King flapped his wings though and flew over the swing, then as he was directly above Raine, he roared out; “WEH!” and hit Raine with the full power of his sonic roar.

Raine groaned in pain as they were smashed into the floor, causing cracks to spread from the point of impact. The Bard then tried to stand up, but Luz and Eda both darted at them at full speed, making Raine realise that they were outmatched. Raine was an excellent Bard, but they were one person against the Anti-Magic wielding Harpy Owl Lady and the young Titan Magic wielding Seraphim, and now that their plan to keep them dancing had proven to be a failure, they were in a bad spot.

But Raine would not give up! They may not be able to win in a battle, but they may just win in a show!

Right before Eda and Luz could impact with them, Raine whistled sharply, making all three Clawthornes wince and cover their ears, giving Raine a chance to clap their hands together and create a powerful sonic blast which knocked their attackers back AND shattered the crystal ceiling of the Drum Building, causing Raine to fall down into the building itself. They caught themselves by swapping Rena back to staff form and promptly disappeared into the darkness of the unlit central room.

Luz, Eda, and King quickly recovered once the ringing in their ears faded and they picked themselves back up. They then looked down into the darkness of the massive room beneath them.

Eda eyed the darkness warily; “From what Ekana said, that’s got to be the main concert hall, where all the shows take place. It’s weirdly dark for so early in the day…”

Luz picked up a piece of the crystal ceiling and examined it; “It looks like the roof works like a kind of magical tinted window. They can adjust how much light comes through it, probably so they can make it dark for day time shows.”

“Well it’s got a hole in it now, so we’ve got a spotlight! Now lets get down there before Titi summons the Wings of Rani!” King declared.

His Mom and Sister nodded and the three of them flew down the hole, with Eda insisting on going first and having Luz and King follow behind. As they descended, they noted that it was a bit strange that despite the noise of King’s roars and the breaking glass, there didn’t seem to be any commotion… Was it just because everything was soundproofed? Or had the Bards heard what was going on and were now staging a coup against the Wings of Rani? It was impossible to tell; when it came to Bardic Magic, it was dangerous to rely solely on hearing!

The trio of Clawthornes landed in the spotlight, with Luz’s angelic glow illuminating a wider area, revealing nothing but a flat wooden floor beneath them, which was now littered with crystal shards. Suddenly, the sound of a flute appeared from the darkness, and the crystal shards all glowed red and began to float in the air. Luz instinctively threw up a barrier to protect the three of them, but rather than pelt them, the crystals floated up towards the ceiling and repaired the hole, slowly causing their spotlight to vanish and leaving Luz as the sole source of light in the room.

“Come on out Raine!” Eda yelled, “You know you can’t play around in the dark with me while my kids are around! Camila would have my head! Literally!”

King looked confused while Luz blushed; “Ew, Mom! Don’t be gross!”

Eda chuckled, and as expected, Raine did too… though their friendly chuckle took on an eerie quality as it echoed from all around them, making it impossible to tell where Raine actually was.

“As you wish, my Eda. Let’s turn on the light!” Raine declared.

The sound of a clap emanated from the darkness, and suddenly the entire room was lit up, allowing them to see the whole place as Raine once again spoke; “Welcome to the heart of the Bard Coven’s Headquarters! The Concert Hall known as Symphonia’s Altar!”

Symphonia’s Altar was a massive room that was a combination of a theatre, concert hall, and coliseum. Unlike a traditional Concert Hall, the stage was not at the front of the room but rather in the dead centre, and was large and circular, like a raised arena floor. Surrounding this stage was a deep ring-shaped put, which served as the orchestra pit, where those who played accompaniments to the rare singers, dancers, and poets of the Bard Coven could perform while the main act did their thing on stage. Beyond this was standard theatre-style seating; rows upon rows of comfortable chairs all arranged in rings, which slowly got higher and higher with each row, so those in the back could see as well as those in the front. The walls of the room had several spectator boxes around it too, each one made of gold and red crystal, and decorated with statues of Symphonia playing different instruments.

“Whoa! The Demon Realm really goes hard on the fancy buildings and stuff! Between here and the Divine Realm, I’m starting to think Magic makes people really into elaborate aesthetics.” Luz gushed, absolutely adoring it. It looked like just like the Eleganto Contrarium; an arena for elaborate magical and verbal duels that was featured in the first Azura Movie!

“I’m pretty sure the only reason humans don’t make stuff like this is because it’s hard without magic.” Eda commented.

“I’m glad you two are enjoying the décor, but we’ve got a super Bard Titi to defeat!” King said, feeling anxious. He could smell Raine’s scent coming from all around, and feel their magic from all around as well! Combined with Raine throwing their voice, it was impossible to tell where they were, making King extremely nervous. He didn’t like fighting people he loved, and Raine was one of those people!

Luckily, Luz knew how to raise his spirits; “You mean we’ve got a Titi to defeati!”

Sure enough, that got King howling with laughter, while Eda and Raine both groaned. The groan had noticeably not come from all around this time though, so as fast as lightning, Luz shot towards the source of the sound and created a barrier around a seemingly empty seat towards the back of the room. The air within the barrier flickered, and Raine suddenly appeared within it, looking blank-faced.

“Amazing! You caught on fast!” Raine praised.

“I tried holding back against Lars back on Rani’s Eden and it got me into a world of hurt. I’m not taking chances this time.” Luz smiled.

Raine nodded; “Comparing me to a Supreme Dragon? That’s some high praise, Sparks! I’m not as powerful as one of those… but I’m still pretty resourceful.”

With that, Raine snapped their fingers and Luz suddenly yelped in pain as she felt a series of sharp stabs into her back, as Rena jumped out of seemingly nowhere and dug her claws into Luz’s back. This broke Luz’s concentration and caused her barrier to break just as Eda and King were rushing to her aid, while Raine slapped a glyph note onto themselves and disappeared.

“Invisibility Glyph Notes! No fair!” King complained, forgetting he’d taught Raine just as he’d taught Eda and Lilith.

“All’s fair in love and war, and I’m afraid this is both.” Raine said, suddenly appearing on the centre stage again.

Eda and King turned their attention back to Raine as Luz used a Bestial Blessing to give herself a monkey tail, which she then used to pry Rena off of her back. Luz then tried to seal Rena in a barrier, but before she could even finish the spell circle, Raine summoned Rena back to them and made her into a violin again. They played a brief note just as Eda reached them, causing a barrier shaped like musical bars to appear between them, blocking her attempted grab. She tried to decay the barrier with Anti-Magic, but as soon as she damaged it, a cacophony blasted out that made her flinch back, allowing Raine to drop the barrier and play two quick notes, summoning magical bolts shaped like musical notes that shot at Eda and King. One hit King and knocked him out of the sky with a “Weh!?” and the other hit Eda in the forehead with enough force to knock her head clean off her shoulders. Thankfully Luz caught Eda’s head, while she sent Stringbean to catch King.

“You always did lose your head when you got too excited, Eda.” Raine teased as Luz stuck Eda’s head back on. They had already begun playing another song on their violin, using the distraction of the Clawthornes to their advantage.

“Don’t get cute with me, Raine Storm! It won’t stop me from taking you down!” Eda declared, shooting some feathers burning with Anti-Magic while King used his Monster Glyph Combo to summon large Titan arms to grab Raine, and Luz shot a beam of light at Raine’s bow (since she couldn’t risk hitting the violin and hurting Rena). All this failed though, as a barrier of wind formed around Raine, whipped up by their song.

“This is the Giocoso of Gales!” Raine smiled, their song becoming bright and cheerful as the winds, which had a pinkish red tint, blew out and hit the Clawthornes. Eda and King were almost blown away, but Luz transformed Stringbean into a Boa Constrictor themed whip and used her to lasso them both back to her, then conjured her own spiralling barrier of winds, which she clashed against Raine’s. The two gales, spinning in the same direction, pushed against one another until they merged and became a single massive tornado of silver and red wind, obscuring visibility and blowing so hard and so loud that Raine’s song couldn’t be heard any longer. A moment later and the winds suddenly stopped as all sound seemed to stop too, leaving Luz, Eda, and King stood back on the centre stage with no sign of Raine anywhere.

“Back to square one… Dang it. I don’t think a bad pun will be enough to make Titi show themselves this time.” Luz frowned. She thought about using a wide-range, omni-directional attack, but didn’t want to cause too much damage or draw attention from outside the room, since they’d been lucky so far.

“Mom, just how dangerous of a bard is Titi?” King asked, looking around. They had to be pretty good, if they could somehow disguise their scent and magic.

“The best dang Bard the isles have ever seen. No one is better, and aside from maybe the Mini-Musician, I doubt anyone will surpass them in this generation.” Eda said seriously. Her word was biased of course, but it still made it clear how dangerous Raine was.

“I thank you for the review, Edamame. I don’t wish to toot my own horn, but I am fairly strong. Though you’re also right that Skara is better than I was at her age… once she is blessed by the Lord Divider, she will compose the great anthems of paradise!” Raine declared, their voice coming from everywhere once again.

Luz looked around carefully; “Skara doesn’t want that, and the real you wouldn’t either. Bards especially need all emotions to compose their best works!”

“Let us find out if you are right then, Sparks! Our little duel so far has been a fine prelude, but now it is time to begin the concert for real! Allow me to perform for you…”

A violin tune began to play, and the instruments in the orchestra pit began to glow and rise up into the air, then spin slowly around the very edge of the room.

“… the ultimate Bardic Show! Magic’s Ten Movements!”

The woodwind and brass instruments began to play on their own, playing a deep and haunting melody; “The First Movement: Oceanic Overture!”

As those words were spoken, Raine’s Bardic Magic conjured water from the playing instruments, flooding the orchestra pit and causing a huge tsunami-like wave to emerge from it to try and sweep over the Clawthornes. Luz simply raised her left hand and released a wave of ice magic, freezing the tsunami and the water in the orchestra pit. However the Oceanic Overture didn’t end and more water came blasting out of the instruments, slowly melting the frozen parts as it began to flood the room. Eda conjured some Hooty Golems out of the thicker ice and sent them up to try and clog the instruments, even channelling her Anti-Magic through the surface of the golems, but the water blasting out of the instruments was so high pressure that the golems were sliced apart before they could get within touching range. When her golems failed, Eda tried to rush the instruments herself, only to get blasted by the water herself as they tracked her wherever she flew. They overwhelmed her so much that each of her limbs was blasted off, forcing King to help put his Mom back together.

“This isn’t good! Raine has the home field advantage!” Luz scowled as she released more and more ice to keep the water at bay. Half of Symphonia’s Altar was now flooded, and if not for the impromptu barrier of ice Luz had made around the stage, they would be underwater themselves.

But then Raine’s voice rang out; “The Second Movement: Bestial Ballad!”

The drums began to play a thunderous beat, synchronising with the Oceanic Overture to produce a sound that Luz couldn’t help but think of as a mix of jungle and beach themed music. Suddenly, parts of the water began to glow orange and fuse together to form water constructs in the shapes of sea creatures like Sharks, Krakens, and even a Selkidomus… all of whom began attacking Luz’s ice barrier, slowing cracking it. The Water Kraken tentacles began reaching over the icy wall to grab at the Clawthornes too, causing the reassembled Eda to hit them with a lightning spell. This destroyed them, but as the song played, yet more of them were created.

“The Third Movement: Abominable Allegro!” Raine cried out, as the harps began to play an upbeat tune, accompanied by the flutes that switched over from the Oceanic Overture. This song caused the water shot by the flutes to turn pink and become abomination-like water golems, which had the consistency of gel and began swarming the trio of Clawthornes even as the water kept coming and the water beasts kept bothering them with their tentacles or trying to smash through their ice. It was getting to be too much, as Luz kept freezing the water to avoid being flooded, Eda kept zapping the tentacles, and King began roaring at the faux-abominations to splatter them.

“At this rate, we’ll be overwhelmed way before the tenth movement!” Eda groaned, already using more of her blessing than she’d like.

“You’re right… King, take you and Mom into the shadows, then leave the room! I’ll take care of this!” Luz declared.

King didn’t need to be told twice and used a combination of darkness and lightning glyphs to move himself and Eda into the shadows, yelling; “We’ll be back in one minute!”

Luz nodded, and as soon as her family were safely out of the way, the light glyph glowed in her eye as she used Stringbean to conjure a huge ball of light that she shot into the air. Luz then used Stringbean to draw a huge spell circle with an eight-pointed star inside. A wave of her hand caused ice glyphs to appear at each point and a giant one to appear in the centre, before the circle collapsed into a bowling ball-sized orb of magic, which Luz grabbed with Stringbean and then blasted up into her giant light orb. The light ball turned blue and erupted with freezing light, while the same freezing light radiated from each of Luz’s wings, totally flash-freezing everything in the room except for Luz herself, just like Zara had done in Cartilia.

With this done, the instruments, the water, and the constructs were all frozen solid, making the room eerily silent once more. Luz panted, feeling a little tired after using such a big spell, then looked around for signs of a frozen Raine, only to find none.

“Nothing…? Where the heck has Titi gone now…?” Luz muttered. A moment later, Eda and King returned from the shadows and were shocked to see the entirety of Symphonia’s Altar turned to ice.

“Well I guess that’s one way to resolve things. I’m still not used to your crazy Seraphim powers.” Eda said, patting Luz’s head.

“Honestly, I’m not used to them myself. But more importantly, that attack have frozen Raine too, but they’re nowhere to be found.” Luz said; “My spell froze everything the light touched, and the ice spread a little to get those shadowy spots too, but there is no sign of them.”

King sniffed the air; “I can smell them everywhere in here.”

“Then their magic is probably permeating through the air, and the smell of it is confusing your nose.” Eda theorised.

“You are correct. Well done, Edamame; you always were able to see through me.” Raine’s voice suddenly sounded out once again. Their voice was accompanied by the sound of bells, playing a somewhat bizarre tune as Raine’s face appeared in the reflection of all the ice.

“The Fourth Movement: Mirage Minuet.” they said, making all the ice shimmer and release cyan light, which changed the world around the Clawthornes into a wide open sky, with the stage they stood upon becoming a snow-topped mountain in the middle of a clear day. The ground beneath the stage-turned-mountaintop was nothing but a sea of clouds, and even though they knew it was just an illusion, they all felt their legs grow a little weak at the massive height they appeared to be at.

Luz began casting a spell over her own eyes to try and see through the illusion, but the song continued to play and the illusion won out against her spell.

“Dang it, so long as we can hear the song, we can’t break out of the illusion! We need to plug our ears or something!” Eda cursed.

She went to do just that, when Raine’s voice spoke again; “The Fifth Movement: Builder’s Bolero!”

Suddenly, the sound of heavier drums and other percussive instruments began beating a rumbling rhythm, and golems made of ice and stone began to crawl up onto the mountaintop illusion, appearing to emerge from beneath the clouds but instead likely coming from the orchestra pit beneath the illusion. Luz immediately blasted one with a light beam, and King used the beam-variant of his roar to do the same to another, while Eda used her Anti-Magic to decay two of them at once, but more just rose up to take their place.

“More minions! Titi is trying to tire us out!” King cried, his throat starting to get sore.

“Elemental, Beast-Keeping, Abominations, Illusions, and now Construction… Raine is using songs to mimic other magic types! Just how power are they!?” Luz exclaimed, turning Stringbean into a moth-themed battle axe and chopping the head off another golem. “Aren’t they cursed!?”

“The Divider must have blessed them!” Eda growled, “And I bet they’re also using some enchanted instruments, and probably some kind of magic from the Altar itself! I hate to say it, but we ain’t beating them unless we can find where they are or somehow outlast all their magic!”

Luz opened her mouth to talk, but Raine beat her to it. The sound of a piano filled the air as flowers suddenly began to bloom on the bodies of the golems, causing vines to shoot out and try to bind the Clawthornes.

“The Sixth Movement: Floral Forte!”

The golems, now reinforced with plants, began to swarm the three Clawthornes a bit faster, using vine skeletons to move more efficiently and actually gain enough flexibility to bend out of the way of blows and spells. Luz continued to attack with her Palisman Axe, which she used a fire glyph to set aflame (not hurting Stringbean, since the fire was made from her own magic), as she tried to preserve her magic as much as possible. At the same time, Eda had actually dropped her Harpy Mode to preserve her power too, and was instead flinging potion bombs from inside her hair. Meanwhile King was using ice glyphs to hydrate his throat after so many roars, and fire glyphs to blast the golems coming their way.

“Grr, this is never gonna end! Luz, get ready! It’s your turn to take Mom into the shadows! I’m turning this mountain into a volcano! Just cover me for a few seconds first!” King yelled, conjuring some giant Titan Arms with his Monster Combos and having them begin carving a giant glyph combo on the ground of the stage. The combo heavily featured fire and earth glyphs, and a few ice ones too, which made Luz realise quickly that King hadn’t been exaggerating about his intentions! As soon as he was finished with the combo, King yelled “NOW!” to Luz, and his big sister dove over to Eda and dragged her into the shadows, where they could stop and watch what was happening.

King used one of his Titan Arms to keep the golems at bay, then used the other to give him the old fastball special, launching him high into the air, until King was flapping his little wings and hovering just beneath the centre of the ceiling. King then slapped a fire glyph onto his snout and used the beam variant of his roar, sending an echoing “WEH!” throughout the hall. His beam and the fire glyph combined to make it look like King was firing a serpentine dragon made of pure flames from his mouth, which crashed down into the centre of his glyph combo. The result made the entire room tremor as the combo activated and promptly exploded into flames, before lava erupted from the glyph. King had literally turned the illusory mountaintop into a volcano, causing lava to explode outward in all directions and begin pouring down its side, filling the hidden orchestra pit and sending balls of fire everywhere.

The fires caused by the eruption began to spread and soon the illusion on Symphonia’s Altar shattered, revealing the real (and heavily damaged) room. The removal of the illusion also revealed that all the ice Luz had made had melted, even in places the fire and lava hadn’t touched. The heat wasn’t enough to have melted such thick ice without direct contact, making King realise something else had gotten rid of it. Luz and Eda then emerged from the shadows and flew up alongside King, both noticing something was up too.

“Well we just wrecked this place… I feel kinda bad about that, but we can’t afford to let Titi overpower us!” Luz declared.

“You’ve got that right! But I’m starting to think Raine Storm isn’t doing this on their own… removing all that ice has gotta be hard to do alone so quickly.” Eda said.

At that moment, King’s Volcano Glyph Combo finally stopped working, having run its course. But as soon as the eruption stopped, a new song played out from within the crackling flames; it was a song that used a steel drum, and had quite the beat to it as Raine’s voice called out;

“You’re impressive, King! But nothing I can’t handle! The Seventh Movement: Etude to Elixirs!”

The window above them began to glow yellow and a strange yellow liquid began to rain from it. Luz put up a barrier to protect herself and her family, but the liquid didn’t damage anything; instead it swelled up into foam the instant it touched something, acting just like a fire extinguisher! It put out the fire caused by King’s combo in a matter of seconds, and even cooled the lava in the orchestra pit until it was totally solidified, after which the song was accompanied by another that used bells and flutes to play a relaxing melody.

“The Eighth Movement: Restorative Rondo!” Raine declared, as the yellow ceiling and all the foam suddenly turned a deep blue. This blue foam and ceiling then seemed to absorb all the smoke trapped in the room by the fire, clearing the air and making it safe to breathe. The blue foam then moved on its own to the fire damaged parts of the room and began fusing into the damage, repairing it.

Luz was amazed; “Potions magic to put out the flames, then a song that uses healing magic to purify dangerous smoke and construction magic to convert the absorbed smoke particles into raw materials to repair the damage…! Even if they’ve got help, Titi Raine is incredible!”

“My thanks for the compliments, Sparks! Now my next movement would normally be the Sonata of Spectres, but that kind of Oracle Magic would fail in present company, so we’ll have to go for something a little different…” Raine’s voice echoed out. The sound of chimes joined the orchestra, and Raine announced; “The Ninth Movement: Crystal Ball Concerto!”

The crystal ceiling turned purple and looked like it began to melt as droplets fell from it and formed crystal balls, which then glowed purple themselves and began shooting shards of crystal at the trio, forcing Luz to keep up her barrier to protect them, which unfortunately also left them trapped.

“You two handled the first and second sets, so I think it’s time for your old lady to shine! Luz, King; you know what to do!” Eda grinned, taking her Harpy Form once again and transforming Owlbert into her Cittern, which she then began to slowly strum.

Luz and King didn’t need to be told twice and once again jumped into the shadows, with Luz leaving the barrier with enough juice to last a few seconds, giving Eda a chance to finish what she started.

“Here’s a classic you should remember Raine! It’s the song that’ll bring you back to me whether you like it or not!” Eda declared, fully igniting herself with Anti-Magic flames as she began to play her favourite song: Raine’s Rhapsody.

As Eda played, her aura of Anti-Magic flames extended beyond her body, burning the air itself as it was saturated with her magic and the magic of Raine, allowing it to spread without any visible source. It burned through the entire room, causing every speck of magic within it to be consumed and destroyed, eliminating the effects of Raine’s songs without causing any physical damage whatsoever. As the wave of Anti-Magic flames burned through the room, Luz and King returned from the shadows after having briefly left the room entirely to avoid being caught by the flames, and watched in awe as Eda played passionately, showing just how skilled she really was at the Cittern, and harnessing Lilith’s control techniques to keep herself from burning too. They then watched as something unexpected happened; the Anti-Magic burned away a series of barriers and illusions over the viewing boxes on the walls of the hall, revealing that each one was actually occupied by a trio of Angels, with the Violin Box at the very top of the room’s north side instead having Raine, flanked by a pair of Arch-Angels.

“Angels!? No wonder Titi Raine was so powerful, even with the Divider’s Blessing! They were conducting this show, not performing it themselves!” Luz exclaimed.

“I can smell them all now, and feel their different magic!” King noted; “I bet they used their powers to disguise their scent and magic as Titi Raine’s!”

“Those barriers must have kept out Luz’s ice and King’s fire, while illusions made it look like the boxes had been hit, but were empty! Dang Raine Storm, you really are crafty!” Eda grinned up at her lover.

Raine’s expression was blank as they stepped forward and held up Rena’s staff, which they transformed into a small conductor’s baton.

“You three really are in a league of your own. The Son of the Titan, the Owl Lady, and the Seraphim of the Demon Realm… but I’m afraid this show is not over yet! This performance has Ten Movements after all!” they declared, waving their baton.

In an instant, all the Angels (who were holding the instruments that had been playing the songs so far) began to play, harmonizing perfectly with each other and playing the songs of the other nine movements together, weaving a symphony that was as beautiful as it was potentially dangerous! The original effects of the songs didn’t activate, but then the Angels began to sing together in a choir, which caused gold and red magic to rise out from each of them, coalescing together into a colossal orb of magic that formed outside the room, appearing on the other side of the crystal ceiling, where Raine’s baton was being pointed. A barrier of bardic magic then formed around the centre stage, trapping the Clawthornes. Eda tried to decay it with Anti-Magic, but just like before this resulted in a loud sonic blast that stunned her; the Angels had trapped sonic energy within the barrier in such a way that damaging the barrier caused the energy to explode outward.

“The Final Movement: Grand Symphonia Finale!” Raine declared, waving their baton like a wand.

The massive orb of magic began to shape itself into a single huge construct of red and gold magic, taking the form of a Lycan-like creature. The construct, being twice as tall as the Grand Symphonia Concert Hall itself, looked vaguely like a beautiful woman mixed with a fox; having a woman’s face and upper body with the claws, lower body, and ears of a fox, as well as nine massively long tails that swayed behind her. The humanoid aspects also happened to look just like the statue on the front of the Coven HQ, making Luz realise that this construct was modelled on Symphonia, mixed with a nine tailed fox; likely as Raine’s own creative touch.

The construct then punched down into Symphonia’s Altar, smashing the crystal roof and then slamming all nine of its tails into the barrier Raine had put up to keep the Clawthornes trapped. This broke the barrier and unleashed the sonic energy inside completely, forcing Luz to put up another barrier to protect them. However the construct’s tails than continued to rapidly slam down on the barrier, forcing Luz to keep maintaining it as the construct put its hands together in prayer and began to actually sing an aria in a beautiful angelic voice. As it sang, the sunlight itself began forming into musical note-shaped light blasts that shot down at Luz, Eda and King, slowly trying to power their way through their defences.

“Ugh, this is getting tricky!” Luz groaned, focusing on keeping her magic up. She could maintain the barrier for a very long time with her Seraphic reserves, but it was still a struggle to keep up the flow of power while under constant assault.

“I can use my music and Anti-Magic again to take them all out in one go, along with their construct, but it’ll take me a moment and it would take out you two as well! My control isn’t fine enough to ignore things entirely yet.” Eda frowned.

“Maybe just channel it into a weapon, like Luz’s light construct weapons! Then we can use it to attack and destroy the construct! Once that thing is down, we can knock out Titi Raine and get them to the shadows where it’s safe! With them out of the way, we can totally beat the Angels!” King suggested, an idea already fully forming in his head.

Luz agreed immediately; “I can do it if Mom can! But someone will need to distract the construct for a few seconds while we prepare!”

King grinned; “Leave that to me! I’ve been practicing with Samael! Let me show you my new trick!”

With that, King flapped his wings and gave a little “Weh!” causing a barrier of his own to appear around the trio. It was a golden barrier with his parents glyph markings on it, which appeared inside Luz’s barrier and around the trio.

“This is my glyph barrier! I did some experimenting with Samael, and Titans can conjured barriers with glyphs on them! Since I can control what appears, I can even make my parents’ glyphs appear, using the barrier like a giant glyph note! Which means…” King grinned as the familiar Monster combo appeared on the surface of the barrier. He then roared up into it as Luz dropped her own barrier, causing a colossal Titan Skeleton to emerge from the glyph combo, easily reaching the same size as Raine’s construct.

The shock of this caused the Angels’ choir to falter for a second, making Raine’s construct flicker and stop its attack for just an instant, which was all the time King’s Titan Skeleton needed to begin grappling with it, wrestling all nine tails under one of its arms while using the other to strangle the construct and disrupt its singing.

Eda and Luz were amazed, but King was panting hard; “I can’t hold this forever!” he cried, having to use a lot of focus to control his conjured skeleton.

“Just buy us a few more seconds, King!” Luz told him, transforming Stringbean into an owl just like Owlbert. She then had her turn into an owl-themed hilt of a sword with no blade coming from her upward facing beak, but this was soon rectified as Luz created a blade of light by channelling magic through Stringbean, turning her into a pseudo owl-themed lightsaber with a golden blade. “Mom, pour the Anti-Magic into the light! I’ll keep channelling magic so it never runs out!”

“Got it, Owlet!” Eda declared, playing Raine’s Rhapsody once again and brushing her wing against the blade, channelling Anti-Magic into the sword itself, causing it to become a sword of black and gold flame. Luz made certain that her magic was flowing enough to ensure the Anti-Magic didn’t spread to Stringbean, then began to softly sing, further enhancing her wings with Bardic Magic to help boost her speed for what was about to happen.

Using the power of King’s linking magic to synchronise themselves perfectly, the Clawthornes unleashed their own combination.

“Take this! Crescendo of the Clawthornes!” they shouted together.

Luz flapped her wings hard and flew up at rapid speeds, passing through the hips and ribcage of King’s Titan Skeleton. King made it open its mouth, allowing Luz to fly out of it and directly into the Symphonia Construct’s face, allowing her to pierce her Anti-Magic sword directly into the construct, causing the whole thing to rapidly ignite as the magic within was corroded by the Anti-Magic. Using her Bardic Magic to coat herself and make it safe for her, Luz dove into the Construct, getting herself coated in Anti-Magic too, and shot like a shooting star towards the box Raine was hiding in. The Symphonia Construct exploded behind her as the Anti-Magic destabilised it, and the flames on her sword and body allowed her to effortlessly smash through the barrier around the box. The instant she smashed through it, Eda stopped channelling her Anti-Magic, causing it all to disappear and rendering it safe for Luz and Stringbean.

Luz swung her sword back and forth, destroying the Arch-Angels’ instruments and then using Bardic Magic to mimic King’s roar, screaming “WEH!” at all three of the box’s occupants. The Arch-Angels were smashed backward into the walls with enough force to knock them out, while Raine was able to counter the sonic force with a sharp whistle of their own. Luz had expected that though, and immediately swung at them with her sword, aiming for their wrist so she could make them drop their baton. Raine responded by whistling a song that caused red and gold magic to coat their fox-themed baton and turn it into a sword of magic that was shaped like a Treble Clef. They then parried Luz’s blow, engaging their niece in a magic sword duel.

At the same time, the angels forming Raine’s Choir stopped singing and flew to try and attack Luz, only for King to use the last of his strength with the Titan Skeleton to spin around and sweep most of them out of the sky, sending them squawking to the ground. Eda quickly threw sleeping potions at those who’d hit the ground without being knocked out, then once they were asleep, she turned Owlbert back into a staff and flew at the Angels who’d evade King’s attack, using King’s Titan skeleton as a source of raw materials to make skeletal Hooty Golems. The extra morbidity of Owl skulls on long skeletal bodies made them extra terrifying and panicked the Angels, whom Eda was then able to swiftly knock out, ending the threat of the choir.

Back in Raine’s viewing box, they and Luz continued their sword duel, but it was clear that Luz had more experience with a sword than Raine, who repeatedly tried to whistle, clap, or stomp their feet to launch some sonic attack at Luz, but whenever they did, Stringbean would shake her tail orb (which served as the pommel of Luz’s sword) and it would rattle and release a wave of Bardic Magic, cancelling the spell before it could effect Luz. Finally, after two straight minutes of sword fighting (during which Luz had a whale of a time), Raine made the mistake of trying to use their “superior” adult strength against Luz by trying to bring their sword down on her with a double handed chop, only for Luz to effortlessly side step and slash their wrists, chopping their hands clean off. Normally such an attack would be brutally unthinkable, but with Raine’s curse in effect, all Luz’s spell did was pop their hands off magically (in fact, Luz’s light blade didn’t even have an edge sharp enough to draw blood without excessive force).

The moment their hands popped off, Raine gasped and Luz used their moment of shock to smack them in the back of the legs just hard enough to make them fall to their knees, before she trapped Rena in a barrier and conjured a second light sword. Luz then held both swords to Raine’s neck like a giant pair of scissors as she grinned.

“Well Darth Titi, you’re mine now!” Luz grinned cheekily.

Raine and Eda, who flew up to meet them along with King, looked at Luz strangely while King cackled; “They can still sing, Luz! Dooku them!”

“What them!?” Eda exclaimed.

Luz hummed theatrically; “I don’t know… should I? It’s not the Jedi way…”

King cackled evilly; “Do it!”

With a grin, Luz sliced the swords forward and knocked Raine’s head off, before using a brief burst of wind to cushion the fall so it wouldn’t hurt them. Raine’s handless and headless body was then bound in light chains that Luz made from her second sword, while their hands were grabbed by King (who used a plant glyph to bind them tightly so the fingers couldn’t even move) and their head was picked up by Eda, who kissed them on the cheek.

“What just happened?” Raine asked blankly.

“I’m not totally sure, but I think you got your butt kicked.” Eda grinned, “That was a dang fine show though. If you could, I’d tell you to take a bow!”

Raine rolled their eyes; “Ha ha, very funny Eda. But it seems I really did lose. And after all that work too. I hope the Wings of Rani aren’t too hurt.”

“I’ll check on them and heal any injuries while tying them up.” Luz said, creating a homunculus to carry Raine’s bound body. She giggled giddily as the slime golem (shaped to look like Amity) tossed them over its shoulder; Luz always felt so proud when she made a successful homunculus!

“Though that raises a good question; how the heck did you prepare a whole choir of Angels!?” King demanded, stuffing Raine’s hands into his Mom’s hair.

Raine smiled; “Oh, when I received the call from the receptionist about Overseer D’splora sending healers to help Scooter, I smelled a rat. I’d never heard of Flora D’splora being made an Overseer, and certainly saw no reason for her to send someone to help Scooter. So after inviting you up, I told the guards in Scooter’s room to prepare an ambush in Symphonia’s Altar if I dismissed them. When I saw it was you, I did just that and they gathered a good chunk of our forces here. Though I’m surprised to see that there aren’t any of my fellow Bards.”

Luz, Eda, and King exchanged looks; Ekana must have rallied the Bards against the Wings of Rani after all, but not before the ambush was already set up. They wondered if a quiet battle really was raging outside the soundproofed hall.

“Well, thanks for the answers, Raine Storm! Now I think it’s time you take a nap!” Eda grinned, before sticking the neck of a potion bottle into their mouth and forcing them to drink.

Thanks to the magic of the curse, it still found its way to their stomach and Raine began to drop off to sleep, managing only to mumble; “Love your new hair…” before succumbing to sleep.

Eda blushed and chuckled; “Always the romantic. Glad that part of them didn’t get divided!”

With that, she stuffed Raine’s sleeping head inside her hair too, while Luz sent their body and the homunculus carrying it into the shadows along with Rena (whom she cast a sleeping spell on) to keep them out of the way. Once that was done, King and Eda took a moment to catch their breath and recover some energy while Luz examined all the unconscious Angels. She healed those who were injured, then used Construction Magic on the remains of King’s Titan Skeleton to create bone cages and handcuffs to keep the Angels fully restrained, before giving them each a single sip of one of Eda’s sleeping potions to make sure they stayed asleep.

With that done, Luz, Eda, and King used invisibility glyphs to sneak out of the main concert hall and back into the foyer, where they began to hear the sounds of battle. Bards and Angels were battling just outside the HQ, and the sounds of distant battle could also be heard from Manubrium itself as Amity, Lilith, Samael, and Matt did their job well and kept the forces in the city occupied.

“We’ve got Raine and Scooter, so we should begin making out way to the castle to help the others… but first, let’s give the Bards a fighting chance and weaken the city’s defences a little more!” Luz declared.

Eda and King nodded happily, and the three of them got to work.

________________________________________________________________________________

[Meanwhile]

The Castle Strike Team felt a strange sense of Deja Vu as they approached Belos’ former castle, creeping closer by hiding in the shadows of one of the lookout towers. This was the second time Hunter, Willow, and Gus had snuck in in search of something, and the last time had been the Day of Unity, which had unfortunately ended up backfiring on them thanks to Belos’ trap for Luz. Willow was determined not to let that happen again this time, so she was taking care to scope the place out very meticulously before going ahead.

However, Willow and Gus also hadn’t seen the castle since it was refurbished, so it was quite a shock to see the foreboding building turned into an actually rather beautiful looking castle, which glowed with Divine light and was surrounded by a moat of crystal clear water. The crystalline central tower that shone in so many colours was a particularly pleasant sight. Willow was also pleased to see that gardens and other botanical works had been created in the area, making it look a lot more natural and less devastated.

“This place looks so much nicer now. It’s hard to believe how much Belos poisoned this place…” Gus whispered.

“You’re right. It’s a shame, but we can’t waste time admiring the view though; we need to find the room with the Divided Orbs. I’ll bet that it’s either in the basem*nt where we snuck in before, like in the Union Pillars, or it’ll be near the heart, meaning the throne room.” Willow whispered back.

Hunter nodded in agreement, then said quietly; “They flooded the moat, so the path we used to sneak-in last time has either been flooded too, leaving the basem*nt dungeon inaccessible, or barriers have been put up to keep the water out. Either way, that path is no good.”

“Maybe I could get us in through the shadows? That’s not an easy thing to defend against.” Lyra commented. That was true too; shadow travel was rare, as even those with Darkness affinities rarely learned to control the element itself, instead learning Abomination and Oracle Magic. It had a weakness in the form of an exorbitant magic drain, which also made it unpopular among Darkness Wielders, so few if any places bothered to ward against it. Hettie and her spotlights were only the second time Lyra had seen defences like them.

“Let’s hold off on that until we know we need them. We can’t be reckless with our magic when sneaking into a place like this! Especially your magic, Lyra.” Willow said; “You are our emergency evacuation route after all! If the worst comes to worst, we’ll need you to get us out. For now, let’s find another route.”

Hunter and Lyra hummed as they examined the castle; “That’ll be tough…” Lyra mumbled; “It’s hard to tell how deep the remodelling went just from looking from the outside. Who knows what secret passages are still a secret, or even still exist.”

“I can spot at least two that’ve been closed up. The old crack in the side of the landing pad has been fixed, so we won’t be able to sneak into the service tunnels beneath the landing pad. The west ramparts are also being diligently patrolled… in the past, Coven Scouts used to go there to goof off and gamble on Hexes Hold ‘em games.” Hunter mused.

Gus put his Amplifier over his eye, then drew a magnifying spell to make his vision zoom in through it as he searched for an exploitable opening. He was tempted to suggest walking in under invisibility, but knew that would almost certainly fail; the entrances and exits likely had sensors of some kind. Eventually he noticed a window on the west side of the second floor that didn’t appear to be latched and had no visible guards anywhere near it. He pointed it out to his teammates, and Hunter said; “That corridor is pretty far from the throne room and not super close to the basem*nt either, but it will be easier to get to the basem*nt dungeons than the throne room.”

“Should I scout it from the shadows, Captain?” Lyra asked, looking to Willow.

“Yes, but be careful!” Willow said.

Lyra nodded and jumped into the shadows, then moved through the shadow world to spy within that corridor. Having a set destination in mind meant she didn’t need to go searching around, which reduced the cost of her shadow travel, and since she wasn’t leaving the shadow world either, the magic she used was fairly negligible and was easily off-set by the magic Waffles provided. She peeked around at the corridor through the shadows and saw only a single lone Coven Scout; the first Lyra had seen since the Day of Unity. Under the Divider, the Emperor’s Coven Scouts now wore white versions of their old uniforms with some silver decorations that fit the aesthetic of the Wings of Rani. The scout’s eyes were hidden by their mask so Lyra couldn’t tell if they were divided, but considering they were lounging rather lazily, she assumed they were still themselves.

Quickly returning to the others, Lyra reported what she’d seen and Willow smiled; “Good work, Lyra! You too Gus! We’ll take that window! Follow my lead; I’ll take the guard out!”

“I’ll make us invisible to mask our approach.” Gus volunteered, before casting his spell. The four of them then flew towards the window, carefully avoiding the patrolling Angels, who were accompanied by Quetzalcoatls now. Sneaking past the Dragons and their noses was difficult, but Gus could disguise their scents with olfactory illusions, making it safer.

They arrived at the windowsill of the unlatched window and after double-checking that no more guards had appeared since Lyra had scouted the place, Willow carefully opened the window just enough to let some ivy creep in from her wooden bangle. She directed the ivy to the scout, creeping along the wall out of his sight, then suddenly grabbing him and wrapping around his arms, legs, and throat. This bound him and let Willow choke him unconscious, after which he slumped to the floor and the teens opened the window and slipped inside. As soon as they touched down inside the castle, Hunter gave himself a Bestial Blessing that gave him the ears of a Lepus Rabbit (which looked either silly or adorable, depending on if you asked Gus and Lyra or Willow) then pressed them against a nearby door. Hunter then opened the door, grabbed the unconscious scout, and stuffed him in a small closet within the room.

“That takes care of him.” Hunter whispered, dismissing his blessing (much to Willow’s disappointment).

“Stuffing him in a bathroom supply closet… I don’t envy that guy!” Lyra chuckled.

“It’s not as bad in there as you think. It’s been upgraded and now it looks actually useable!” Hunter smiled. Private bathrooms in the castle, used by guests or high-ranking residents, were usually clean and well-kept, but the communal ones for the rank and file? Well, that was a different story.

“Come to think of it, this place looks a lot nicer on the inside too, compared to when I came here on that tour on the day Belos made Lilith kidnap Luz.” Willow commented.

She was right too; the interior was much brighter, with the white walls and ceilings polished to a shining ivory white, the gold polished and replaced with Aurum (distinguishable due to a slight swirling pattern in the material), the flaming torches replaced with glowing crystals, and the dark green carpets replaced by red ones. Not only that, but the statues of Belos were replaced with various statues of different unfamiliar Titans (there appeared to be four varieties), as well as statues of Luz, King, Eda, and Amity, and the tapestries with the Emperor’s Coven Sigil on them had been replaced with white banners bearing the mark of the Wings of Rani. However while it was prettier and generally nicer to look at, Willow couldn’t help but notice that everything was basically the same at it’s core… this was still Belos’ seat of power, but with a nicer coat of paint, just as the Divider was still trying to take over and change the world to suit his desires like Belos had done, but in a “nicer” way.

Shaking those thoughts off, Willow turned to her team and spoke quietly; “Okay, we’re closer to the basem*nt, so should we check there first? As long as we find the Divided Orbs and break them, then the mission is a success after all.”

The rest of her team nodded and fell into step with Willow, who showed her skills as a captain by organising their formation. They floated on their staves to avoid making noise, with Willow at the front so she was the first line of defence, Hunter at the back since he was the hardest to sneak up on, and Gus and Lyra kept side by side in the middle, ready to unleash an illusion or evacuate them through the shadows at a moment’s notice. Gus kept them invisible as much as possible, with Willow keeping them loosely tethered together with some ivy so they didn’t get separated as they travelled the winding halls of the castle. The place was teeming with Coven Scouts, members of the Bard Coven, Wings of Rani members, Abomaton Knights, Knight Golems, and even bureaucrats and city councillors, who all appeared divided and were dressed in simple white and gold robes as they went about various administrative tasks. The teens also found long winding pipes of glowing magic, which seemed to flow through the castle like the veins they’d seen at the Union Pillars. Since those veins had connected the core in the basem*nt of each pillar to the magic circles carved on the top of them, the team believed they were on the right track.

Navigating the castle was difficult though, especially as some areas appeared to be off-limits to different types of people, meaning guarded checkpoints had been set up to keep everyone but the approved few out. This forced the teens to get creative, using Lyra and Hunter’s knowledge of the castle to find alternate paths or secret passages, most of which had been built to allow Belos to move around in his cursed, slime form without being seen like that. Those passages had been discovered by the Divider’s forces, but rather than sealing them up, they’d become pathways for the Abomatons to easily get around with their own slime-like forms. When the tunnels weren’t feasible due to the Abomatons or some other issue, Lyra would get them through with her shadow travel, and in other cases Gus would use illusions to trick people and get past them.

At one point, they even spotted the semi-familiar face of Councilman Nelumbo, Jerbo’s father. That had answered the question of where he’d been sent to after he was divided for protesting the Wings of Rani, like the other Bonesborough Councillors had said. If Councilman Nelumbo was present though, then Jerbo had to be in the city too, which gave the team an extra bit of motivation to win the day.

Finally, after a slow and tense trip, the team arrived at the entrance to the basem*nt of the castle, which they found to be locked up tight and heavily guarded. With no other secret ways down there, they were once again forced to rely on shadow travel, chipping away a little more at Lyra’s magic reserves but at least managing to reach their destination. What they found was both disappointing and intriguing.

The entire basem*nt dungeon had been refurbished into a single giant room that had the same tiered design as the Union Pillar basem*nts. However there was no sign of a Division Ritual Circle, any Divided Orbs, or even a central power core. In fact, the veins of magic they’d seen running through the castle seemed to be sending magic down into this massive chamber rather than taking it away. There were four tiers to the room instead of three like the Union Pillars too; the top tier containing several large crystals that were being fed different types and colours of magic from up above, and the second tier was full of bookshelves that were stuffed full of tomes, grimoires, and scrolls of all kinds, with some looking ancient and some looking brand new. Gus thought he could even spot some Human Realm textbooks!

But the real shock came with the third tier, which contained dozens of stone statues of various people; the final victims of Belos’ petrification experiments, which the Hexsquad had discovered on the Day of Unity but been unable to save at the time due to Luz being kidnapped. They were being carefully maintained and examined by Witches and Angels of all kinds, as the fourth and bottom tier was revealed to be some kind of research lab that seemed to be dedicated to finding a cure for petrification. It seemed that even the Divider’s power couldn’t easily undo petrification; it wasn’t something that could be cleanly removed from a person with division alone.

The dead centre of the lab had Belos’ repaired Petrification Statue, which was being poked and prodded as researchers poured over Belos’ notes. There were also a few other things that ranged from curious to distressing, such as some feathers that belonged to Eda, a hair brush that Willow could have sworn she’d seen Luz using before, and even some vials of golden blood. It looked like the Divider had taken the items from the Owl House in hopes of finding a way to get Luz’s Panacea Magic out of her DNA so it could be used by others.

“Well this is kind of unsettling.” Hunter shuddered, “It’s creepy that they’re using parts of Luz and Aunt Eda like that, but I guess they’re at least not doing anything nefarious with it.”

“Yeah… but unfortunately it means coming down here was a waste of time… dang it, I made the wrong call.” Willow scowled.

Her teammates shook their heads in disagreement, and Lyra said; “You made the best decision with the info you had. We all thought the same thing. Besides, this place was closest so it made sense to look here first.”

Willow frowned as they began heading back the way they came. As Lyra moved them through the shadows back to a safe spot outside the basem*nt, Willow couldn’t help but argue; “But our friends could be in trouble, and this delay could have really hurt them and the mission!”

“Willow, it’s fine; this was like a ten minute detour at worst. Our friends are strong; they can survive ten minutes!” Gus reasoned.

“He’s right, Captain.” Hunter said; “You made the right call with the information we had.”

“I guess. I won’t make that mistake again though! If the Divided Orbs aren’t in the basem*nt, they must be in the throne room with the heart! But let’s follow those vein things the other way, just to be sure.” Willow decided, still feeling a little frustrated with herself.

Her three teammates gave her smiles and little salutes, as well as a “Yes Captain!” that had Willow smiling as they continued their trip. As they moved through the castle just as they had before, they began to see a lot more Angels whispering worriedly to each other, as well as some undivided Coven Scouts muttering to one another.

The first group they heard were a trio of Angels;

“There have been attacks at a Supply Camp AND one of the Signal Jamming Watch Towers. The Rebels are gunning for the city, the castle, or Rani’s Eden and are trying to keep us spread too thin.”

“It’s working too. Our forces are massively outnumbered, and even with all the good we do, the locals are so scared of Division that they flock to the Rebels’ side whenever they can…”

“It’s getting harder to get resources from the Divine Realm too. Our contacts within the Union are basically all gone now, and with the Heroine of Paradise having the Union’s support against us? Things are looking grim.”

“Raguel is gone too and we’ve lost Valkyrie and two Supreme Dragons! If the Lord Divider doesn’t return soon, then all his plans will be back to square one and these past months will be for nothing.”

“We’ll just need to hold out as best we can. The Heroine and her friends cannot resist the Lord Divider. Once he deals with the Archivists, all this will be over. It’s just a matter of time.”

They’d then heard some fearfully whispering scouts hiding in an alcove together.

“The Angels are being spread out across the Chest Region. The Rebels are on the move!”

“What should we do? This could be our chance go to AWOL!”

“They aren’t sending any Witches and Demons; they don’t trust the undivided with stuff that important, and they’re too scared the Divided will be turned back to normal in the middle of the fight!”

“So should we try and join up with the CATTs instead?”

“Would they even let us in? The Arch-Angel of the Boiling Isles got upgraded to a Seraphim, and I bet she’s peeved at the Emperor’s Coven for all that Belos did!”

“She let the Golden Guard and Silver Sentinel in! And we weren’t divided like a lot of the others, since we weren’t bad enough people, so they’ll give us mercy! Probably.”

In response to that, Hunter had touched Willow’s hand and traced words on her palm with his finger (since they were still invisible), asking for permission to reveal himself and try to get the Scouts’ support. Willow had hesitated, but decided to trust Hunter and gave him a pat of agreement.

Smiling, Hunter and the team made themselves visible again (after Gus used an illusory barrier to ensure no one outside it could see or hear them). The scouts squealed in fear, but Hunter and Lyra soothed them with a gesture.

“It’s alright; we aren’t here to hurt you! We’re here to stop the Wings of Rani and free the Divided.” Hunter explained.

“We heard your conversation, and would like to request your aid.” Lyra continued.

“Y-You want our help?” one of the scouts stuttered.

“Yes.” Willow nodded; “The CATTs would be happy to have you in our ranks! I know Luz would welcome you with open arms, even if you’d have to take an oath not to betray us.”

The scouts exchanged looks; “Really? Just like that?” one said.

“Just like that. We can always use allies!” Gus grinned.

“And the Isles are your home as much as they are ours.” Lyra added. “So I’m sure you want it back and free.”

The scouts all nodded in agreement; “That’s true… what would we need to do?”

“Gather as many of your friends as possible and get them together. Don’t tell them we’re here, but make sure they’re ready to fight! As soon as a commotion starts, attack the Wings of Rani!” Hunter ordered.

They all nodded and saluted; “Got it! Is there anything else we can do to help?”

“You could tell us where the Divided Orbs are, where Overseer Severin Cadence is, and where any other strong people are?” Willow suggested.

The scouts exchanged looks and began pointing in different directions; “The Divided Orbs are in the Heart Chamber. The old throne room got torn out and turned into the Heart Chamber; follow the tubes upward to find it.”

“Overseer Cadence lives and works at the top of the Crystal Spire normally. Former Head Witch Secuna also lives in the spire too, but she tends to wander between there and the lab in the basem*nt.”

“There’s no one else that strong here, besides a couple of Arch-Angels. One patrols outside the castle and the other is inside… Oh, and Overseer Cadence’s bodyguards. They’re a couple of strong Bards that patrol near here when they aren’t with the Overseer.”

The Teens grinned; that was useful information! If they could avoid the Arch-Angel and the bodyguards and get to the Heart Chamber, then this would be easy! However the scouts did have one last bit of useful intel.

“Getting into the Heart Chamber is going to be next to impossible though. It’s locked up super tight and has heavy security! No one but Angels are allowed near it! Even the Knight Golems and Abomatons are normally kept away, since control of them can be hijacked.” one scout explained.

Willow frowned; “Do you have any idea how to get in?”

“There are keys, but not even the guards at the doors have them. The Overseer has one, the Arch-Angels have one each, but that’s it. The keys also need Angelic Magic to make them work from what I heard, so even the Overseer can’t get in on his own.”

Lyra smiled; “Or I can just take us in through the shadows.”

Her teammates nodded, and Willow said; “We’ll try that first. Now you scouts get going! Remember that when the Divided start turning back to normal, that’s your signal to fight!”

The Scouts nodded and gave salutes, then went on their way. Once they were gone, Willow’s team continued their trek to the Heart Chamber, noticing many Angels were rushing about and trying to cover multiple jobs at once as some of their forces were called away. Apparently there were disturbances in the city of Manubrium, and they’d lost contact with the squads guarding the Bard Coven HQ. The Teenage CATTs smiled at that; it seemed like Luz’s and Amity’s teams were doing their job well!

They managed to climb another few floors until they eventually reached a large locked door that led into some kind of hallway, which Hunter and Lyra insisted they go inside.

“This hall is the Relic Hall! Going through it will be faster than going around AND we can nab the relics!” Hunter grinned; “They’ve all mostly lost their magic, but if we can recharge them then they’d be super helpful!”

“And what better way to recharge something than with Seraphim Magic! I’m sure Luz and Samael could fix them up!” Lyra added.

Willow didn’t need much convincing; it was a shortcut to their destination and a potentially lucrative one too; that was worth checking out!

Giving a nod of approval, Willow then examined the lock on the door. “I don’t sense any magic… anyone here know how to pick locks?”

Lyra stepped forward and summoned Shade from her Oracle Stone. There were no Angels around, so he was able to slip into the door’s lock mechanism and unlock it, making the door slowly open up. That made the team smile, though they were also a teeny bit disappointed; if the lock wasn’t magical and the room wasn’t guarded, then it probably meant the relics weren’t worth protecting.

Sure enough, when they walked into the hall, they began examining all the different relics and found that very few, if any, had any magic left. The Abomination Coven’s Titan Clay had hardened into a purple chalky material that couldn’t even be poured out of the bottle, the Green Thumb Gauntlet was weaker than Willow’s existing Plant Magic and had started to rot a little, the Oracle Sphere and Silver Tear Mirror had both become cloudy and cracked, the Healing Hat looked like a mundane and dusty old hat, and the Beckoning Bell had lost both its magic and its clapper, so it couldn’t even ring! The relics of the Construction and Potion Covens; the Bag of Abodes and the Amber Phial, weren’t even present any more! The enchantments on the former had likely started to fail, causing the mansion inside it to begin growing back to its true size, while Luz had smashed the Amber Phial over Lilith’s head during her escape attempt months ago.

The only relic that looked to still have some power AND to have been maintained was the Winderfly Harp. Willow suspected that since Severin was the Overseer of the Heart, he’d likely had the harp looked after. It was also possible that since it required more skill to use than the other relics, the harp simply hadn’t been used as much and thus wasn’t as worn out. Though Shade reported to Lyra that it was still pretty weak magically.

Even though many of the relics were useless, the team decided to take a select few with them. Gus took the Silver Tear Mirror and planned to fix it up, while Hunter did the same with the Beckoning bell. Willow was tempted to take the Green Thumb Gauntlet for herself or the Titan Clay for Amity, but decided against it; the gauntlet was likely too far gone to repair, and Amity didn’t need the Titan Clay with her new magic and fusion form. Willow did take the Healing Hat though, thinking Luz would get a kick out of it.

Lastly, Lyra took the Oracle Sphere and began idly channelling some magic into it. Surprisingly, even though it was cracked and cloudy, the sphere reacted and conjured a glitchy, shadowy version of herself. This version was bizarre, and appeared to have been misshapen by the damage to the sphere, as it had wings but no arms. However, it did do something unexpected, which was summon a shadowy replica of Shade that pulsed with black and purple magic. Images of Angels then emerged from the sphere too, but the Shade Replica crushed them easily, shrugging off their fake spells with ease. Lyra was so startled that she stopped channelling her magic, deactivating the orb.

“W-What was that? It looked like a version of Shade that could fight Angels!” Lyra gasped.

I do not understand… where they Dark Angels like you, Mistress?” Shade rasped.

“It didn’t look like it to me. Those images were purple, instead of black like the ones of you and Lyra.” Hunter said.

“The Oracle Sphere was supposed to show you your best self, right? It looked a little messed up, but I think it was showing you a way for Shade to defeat Angels!” Gus grinned excitedly.

Waffles tweeted in agreement, and Willow said; “Let’s take the Sphere too. If we can fix it and find out how your spirit can be used on Angels, we’ll gain a HUGE advantage!”

Lyra nodded and stored the sphere away in her satchel, along with the rest of the relics they were pilfering. Willow then went to take the harp, thinking it’d be a useful tool for Skara, when the door on the other side of the Relic Hall opened up. The Teens weren’t close enough for Lyra to take them all into the shadows, and there was no sufficient cover to hide them from view, so Gus quickly cast an invisibility spell to hide themselves, whereupon they all remained very still as two new people walked into the hall.

These people were very familiar to them too; they were Amber and Derwin, Raine’s other two apprentices alongside Katya, and the members of the original Bards Against the Throne organization; the BATTs, which later became the CATTs. They both looked the same as they had on the Day of Unity, but their old BATTs uniforms had been replaced by the usual white and gold variants. Their Palismen were also present; Derwin’s ferret Palisman Dulcett was resting on his shoulder, while Amber was petting her caterpillar Palisman Riko as the little creature nestled adorably into her hands. Derwin also happened to be carrying a bucket that contained metal polish, a cloth, and some kind of gold crystal; it appeared that they were the ones in charge of tending to the Winderfly Harp. Unfortunately, by the look of the golden rings on their irises, it was pretty clear that they were Divided too.

“Well, it looks like the scouts were right. We’ve got some intruders, Derwin!” Amber chirped happily. “Some of our juniors from the CATTs already pilfered the placed! They took four different relics!”

The invisible CATTs all glowered; had those scouts been caught, or had they turned them in!? Either way, they’d somehow spilled the beans!

“You’re very right, little sister.” Derwin said, petting Amber’s head with his free hand and making her purr happily, “But the Winderfly Harp is still here… considering its condition and the fact it’s a harp and thus useful to Skara, I can’t see why they’d leave it behind.”

“Oh, I think I can!” Amber grinned, whistling a short tune that caused the doors on both sides of the hall to seal themselves shut, with a red and gold barrier of Bardic Magic over them. The hidden teens cursed; the only way out now was to fight or take the shadows, but since Gus had made them all invisible in a rush, Lyra couldn’t see her teammates to pull them into the shadows, and they couldn’t see her to get to her either!

“Oh? You believe they’re in the room still, Amber?” Derwin asked with a curious smile.

“Yup! They’d never leave the harp behind when Skara could use it, so the only reason I can think of for it still being here is that we arrived before they could take it and run. No one but the two of us comes in here either way, so there’s no reason for the door to be open.” Amber explained. She then called out; “Willow, Gus, Hunter, Little Sentinel! You might wanna come out! We already know you’re here!”

Amber didn’t know the new name Lyra had chosen for herself yet, but knew she’d chosen to abandon the one Belos gave her, so opted to just use a title instead, while Derwin turned his Palisman into the form of a Bassoon. He played a short tune that caused clouds of smoke to emerge from the end of his instrument, filling the room with thin smoke. It wasn’t enough to obscure vision, but it was enough for Derwin and Amber to see the silhouettes of the hidden teens.

“Found you!” Amber cheered, turning her own Palisman into a flute. “Come on guys! You might as well come out! We know you’re here!”

Bitterly, the teens dropped their invisibility and faced down the two Bards, each of them brandishing their staves as they prepared to fight. “You caught us. But you were stupid to seal yourselves in here with us! You should have sounded the alarm, because now we can defeat you!” Hunter declared.

“How scary!” Amber giggled, “But we’re not gonna fight you. Derwin, keep ‘em busy for a moment while I play the Lullaby of Lethargy!”

Lyra frowned; “You’re bluffing. You’d put your own partner to sleep too!”

Derwin shook his head with a grin; “Oh no she won’t. Amber is a Dhampyr! The magic in her voice and breath can only effect those she chooses!”

The Teens were shocked; they’d known Amber had a Bat Demon parent, but not that said parent was a Vampire! They had the ability to charm others with their voices, and that property was transferred into any music made with their mouths! Their half-Witch offspring, the Dhampyrs, had the potential to unlock the same power too!

Instantly, the young CATTs prepared to attack while Derwin stood in their way and Amber began to play the Lullaby of Lethargy on her flute. However, as she played the first few notes, Gus caught Amber’s eye and the girl winked at him as the ring of gold around her iris turned pink. The boy gasped and lowered his staff, making his friends look at him in shock. At that moment, Amber’s song began to take effect, and it was Derwin who suddenly found his eyes drooping. The poor man didn’t even have a chance to think about what was happening as he fell asleep on his feet and fell forward. Amber stopped her song in time to catch him by the back of his shirt and lower him down to the ground slowly, making sure he wasn’t hurt. His Palisman, Dulcett, had fallen asleep too and reverted to animal form, so Amber gently placed it on her step-brother’s chest after rolling him onto his back.

“There! Now my bro can take a nap for a bit, and we can talk safely!” Amber chirped happily as she looked at the teens; “Sorry for the trickery there! I needed to get Derwin’s guard down so he wouldn’t suspect me.”

Willow, Gus, Hunter, and Lyra all lowered their staves, but didn’t put them away completely. “What’s going on here? Amber, are you not actually divided?” Willow asked.

“That’s right!” Amber grinned, pointing to her eyes as the ring around them turned into a spiral of green, while the rest of the iris turned vibrant purple, before her eyes returned to their normal silvery colour; “I use Chromatic Eye-Drops to make my eyes change colour so I look Divided. Then I just act cheerful all the time and I pass for one of the Divided! It works shockingly well!”

“I’m a little confused… you’re pretending to be divided, but this other person actually IS divided?” Lyra frowned. “But wait, does this mean the scouts from early didn’t betray us? Or was it just luck that they betrayed us to you?”

“No luck involved! Those scouts told me about you when they were trying to rally some of the other undivided. I’m sort of the boss of the undivided in the castle. By the way, the name is Amber and the snoozing guy is my step-bro; Derwin. Nice to meet you, little Sentinel!” Amber grinned.

“Um, it’s Lyra. Nice to meet you too.” Lyra replied, a little unsure of the energetic young woman.

Hunter just patted his sister and said; “Don’t worry about her. Amber is actually one of the founding members of the CATTs. She’s just a little… excitable.”

Meanwhile, Willow rushed to hug Amber, who beamed and giggled; “Oh, it’s great to see you kids again! Being stuck here in this castle with only the Divided and Coven Scouts was really starting to get me down! If it weren’t for the fact Derwin and Severin still act the same as before when they’re happy, I swear I’d have gone nuts!”

“We’re happy to see you too, Amber! But we’re a little confused! How did you escape being divided if Derwin didn’t?” Willow asked.

That made Amber’s face fall, and she suddenly looked ready to burst into tears; “It was all my fault…” she confessed, sitting down beside Derwin’s sleeping form. “I screwed up really badly…”

The teens looked at her with sympathy, especially Willow; “I know the feeling… what happened?” she asked.

Amber sighed and averted her eyes; “It was a few weeks after the Divider took out our base on Digale Island. Since Derwin and I have a home here on the isles, we were brought back here along with Katya, but because of the travel restrictions and the fact we had to go to our homes, we were separated; Katya got stuck in Bonesborough and then disappeared with Steve, while Derwin and I got sent back to our parents’ place here in Manubrium. Derwin wanted to take things slow since we didn’t know how to stop the Divider, but I got impatient and decided to attack a caravan that was carrying people from the smaller settlements of the Chest to the castle so they could be divided.”

“I’m guessing it didn’t go well?” Lyra frowned.

“Oh, it went great! At first…” Amber replied, beginning to blush in embarrassment; “I got a bit overwhelmed, but Derwin came to my rescue and we freed the prisoners! Then we kicked the Wings of Rani’s Angel butts! But then a trio of Arch-Angels showed up and we got trounced. All the prisoners were recaptured, and Derwin sacrificed himself so I could escape. I tried to stop him and refuse to flee without him, but he used a song to make me run away… By the time it wore off, I was already out of the city, and Derwin had been dragged off with the prisoners.”

The teens frowned; three Arch-Angels was a lot to deal with! Heck, one Arch-Angel was way beyond most groups of Witches and Demons! But Gus noted something odd.

“How come Derwin’s song effected you for so long? I thought the effects of Bardic Songs only lasted for as long as the song is being played, unless they create something physical. Derwin wouldn’t have been able to play it long enough with all those Angels, and you’d be out of hearing range too, even with your Dhampyr hearing.” Gus pointed out.

Amber perked up; “It’s because Derwin is a genius!” she said proudly; “Different Bards can do different things with their music and magic; I can use my heritage to make sure it only works on who I want it to, and Derwin created a kind of magic that he weaves into his songs! He calls it a Magic Earworm, though I just call it Catchy Magic! It means that a song he plays will get stuck in the target’s head and keep effecting them until the magic he poured into them runs out. It only works on one person at a time, but it’s really effective!”

“Wow, that’s pretty impressive!” Hunter praised, “And it’s clearly useful, since it saved you. If Derwin hadn’t done that, you’d have been caught and divided for real.”

“Yeah… I know it worked out for me, but I still feel rotten that my impatience caused the situation to begin with! I was just so desperate to do something after being cooped up on Digale Island for so long, then not being able to do anything against the Divider and being sent home to my Mom and Dad like a little kid… I screwed up so bad.” Amber said miserably, before suddenly perking up again; “That’s why I decided I’d stick close to my brother even if he was divided! I managed to buy a couple of bottles of Chromatic Eye Drops from this centaur who gave me a great deal on them, and used them to make myself look divided! I then just waltzed right into the castle!”

“Just like that!? I get that we hadn’t gotten back and caused trouble yet, but was security really that lax?” Lyra gasped.

Amber shook her head; “No, I just got lucky. I saw a divided farmer delivering food stocks for the castle and just grabbed a crate from the back of his wagon and started walking into the castle. The farmer assumed I was from the castle and helping his farmhands, and the Angels assumed I was one of the farmhands! Then I just pretended like I was transferred from a different area to be with my brother and family in Manubrium and no Angel ever questioned me. I eventually found Derwin, who’d been sent to be Severin’s bodyguard by Mops Raine, and then Severin accepted me as another bodyguard! And that’s the whole story!”

The teens listened avidly, and when Amber was done, Willow couldn’t help but whistle; “That was a crazy amount of luck and cunning! You did awesome, Amber!”

“Aw shucks, it was nothing!” Amber grinned bashfully, her ears wiggling happily. “But enough about me! I’m guessing you’re here to save everyone, right?”

“That’s right. Luz and her team are at the Bard Coven HQ dealing with Raine right now, so we’re here to destroy the Divided Orbs.” Willow said, “We’re going to use Lyra’s shadow travel to get inside.”

Amber shook her head; “Sorry, but that’s a no-go. I’ve tried everything in these last couple of months, but nothing I did could get me in there. Not even shadow travel!” she revealed, before using her flute to play a song that sent her into the shadows, then back out again to prove she could do it. “Vampires and Dhampyrs are good at Darkness Magic, so I learned shadow travel specifically to try and get into the Heart Chamber, but it didn’t work. There’s some kind of barrier around it that isolates it from the shadow world.”

“Dang it! That’s gonna complicate things.” Lyra cursed.

“Yeah, it sucks but it’s not that surprising; the Titan’s Heart is in there too, and it keeps that big flying island above us in the sky! If someone messes with it, down comes the island and we’re all smushed! It’d kill tens of thousands of people here, on the island, and in Manubrium.” Amber said.

That put a wrinkle in their plans, but it only really added an extra step as far as Willow was concerned; “Well then, we’ll just need to get a key. And now with you here, it’ll be easier! You can get us close to Severin so we can ambush him and take his key to the Heart Chamber!”

Amber stared at Willow for a second, then gave a broad grin and reached into her pocket, then pulled out a rather ornate looking key made from crystal.

“A key like this, for example?” Amber grinned cheekily.

The teens gaped, then Gus burst out laughing; “Ha! I swear Luz has infected us all with her weird paradoxical luck!”

“How did you even get that!? Did you take down Severin or an Arch-Angel on your way here!?” Lyra exclaimed.

“Of course not! I lifted it from Severin weeks ago!” Amber said casually.

Willow raised an eyebrow; “And he didn’t notice it was missing?”

“Nope!” Amber grinned, making a popping sound with her mouth; “Severin doesn’t really have a reason to go in the Heart Chamber. Officially, the Overseers are supposed to be present for any divisions, since they’re supposed to give like a debrief to the Divider’s latest victims. But the Divided Severin is kinda weird… he spends most of his time in a weird emotionless stupor because he’s worried about Skara or Scooter. The Arch-Angels here said that it was making the Divisions a lot more stressful and traumatic for the Divided, since seeing Severin like that freaks them out, so they excused him from them. I lifted the key the next day and he doesn’t even know it’s gone.” Amber said proudly, before adding; “Not that it helped at all. It needs Angel Magic to make it actually work in the lock, and I’m fresh out of that!”

“Not any more! You provided the key, so I’ll provide the Angel Magic!” Lyra smiled.

Amber grinned and freely handed the key over to her, then used her flute to play a tune that sent Derwin and Dulcett into the Shadow World, where they’d be safe and out of the way, and where they’d also be trapped if they woke up before the division was undone. With that taken care of, Amber also grabbed the Winderfly harp and handed it Lyra too, who put it in her satchel with the other relics they’d appropriated.

“Alright! Now, I don’t wanna step on any toes here, so who’s the boss of this team?” Amber asked.

Willow raised a hand and was secretly gratified by Amber nodding approvingly and saying “Yeah, that makes sense.” The excitable young woman then said; “I’ll follow your lead, Boss Lady Willow! I’ve also asked some of the Coven Scouts to clear a certain path to the Heart Chamber. It’s pretty slow and convoluted, but it was the only one we could clear without drawing too much attention. It’ll take a bit of time, but if we do it right, we won’t run into any security!

“Good job! Lead the way, Amber!” Willow praised.

Amber gave a little salute, then unsealed the hall and began happily leading the teens towards the Heart Chamber. Hunter and Lyra could immediately tell why Amber was taking them on this particular route; it led them down underused hallways with mostly empty rooms that had seen little use over the years, and which had no real reason for most people to visit. There was nothing important so it wasn’t even worth patrolling. This made for a slow and dull infiltration, but at least they could be safe and actually chat a little, and Amber and Lyra found themselves doing the lion’s share of the chatting, since Amber didn’t know Lyra yet and was determined to fix that.

Amber was quite the chatty person and full of energy, as well as very emotional; when she was happy, she was beaming and humming and practically dancing with every step, and when she was sad, she looked to be on the verge of tears with shiny eyes and quivering lip. By contrast, Lyra was still somewhat shy and soft-spoken, even if she’d come a long way thanks to all the socialising she’d been doing. She found Amber to be a little exhausting (and perhaps a little unintentionally insensitive at times), but overall a pleasant and friendly person. Lyra answered her questions about life as a Grimwalker and Dark Angel, and Amber in turn answered questions about being a Dhampyr.

“Not a lot to tell, really. Vampires are basically just Bat Demons, like Minotaurs are Bovine Demons, and Satyrs are Goat Demons.” Amber had said; “Take one of those and make them half Witch, and you’ve got a Dhampyr like me and my little half-brother Rogier.”

Lyra, who’d never met a Vampire and only heard rumours and the Human Realm stories of them, asked; “So do you like drinking blood or hate garlic?”

“Vampires have sensitive sniffers, so they don’t tend to like strong smells. Mom is a garlic fiend though; give her Garlic Bread and she’ll love you forever! They don’t really drink blood though; that’s an urban legend that came from one of the natural abilities Vampires have; blood manipulation. But a Vampire can only control their own blood normally.” Amber explained; “Vampires also have all the powers of a bat, just much bigger, and they have that control over the magic their voices produce that I mentioned earlier. Oh, and they have mild paralysis poison in their fangs.”

Lyra hummed; “Huh, so I guess Vampires biting the neck of the victims was more about paralysing threats than drinking blood.”

Hunter chuckled; “I could have told you that, sis! The blood thing also comes from the fact that a bite to the jugular can easily cause someone to bleed out and die! A Vampire bites someone’s jugular and gets a face full of blood, leading people to think they drink blood.”

“Oh! I get it now! What Vampire traits did you inherit, Amber?” Lyra asked.

“Pretty much just the senses and the magic voice. I’ve got fangs but no poison, though my little bro Rogier has it. I’ve also got these little wings but they’re too small to fly. Neither me nor Rogier can control our blood much though… Rogier can sort of make his bubble a little, and I can slow mine down, but that’s about it.” Amber explained. “Maybe I should pick your brain a bit, Hunter! I could find a Bardic Song to copy the power of the Wild Heart spell and get me some proper Blood powers and Bat Wings!”

Hunter smirked; “That might be a bad idea. You’re a lot to deal with already; if you went feral then you’d be impossible!”

Amber huffed; “How rude!”

The teens chuckled, and Amber soon laughed alongside them, especially since she couldn’t deny that Hunter was probably right. After that, conversation moved to updating Amber on the past several weeks, including Lyra and Hunter being adopted by Darius. That earned them both some hearty congratulations and hugs from Amber, and also reminded Lyra of something she’d thought of earlier.

“I’ve been meaning to ask; you called Mx. Whispers “Mops Raine” earlier. Why is that?” Lyra asked.

Amber giggled; “Oh, that’s because they’re like a Ma and a Pops! Katya says Pops, Derwin says Ma, so I say Mops!”

Lyra tilted her head curiously; “So you see Mx. Whispers as a parent?”

“Sure I do! Katya and Derwin do as well! Especially Katya! They’re the closest thing to a parent that Katya has! Me and Derwin already have a Mom and Dad, but they and Mops Raine get along really well! It’s kinda like how Amity has her parents, but then also has Lilith.” Amber explained.

The teens winced at the comparison, and Willow said; “Well, actually…”

She then explained what had happened with Odalia in Bonesborough, and then what happened between Lilith and Amity on Digale Island. Amber’s eyes widened as she listened, then when the story was over, she could only say; “Huh… that’s a lot. Would it be crass to make a comment about Amity trading in her Mom for a better model?”

“Maybe a little.” Gus said, trying not to smile. The others were in the same boat too, especially Willow, who had a very hard time not laughing.

“Well, for what it’s worth, I did the same with my Dad. Just without the murder.” Amber admitted.

That made the teens frown; all but Lyra had known that Amber’s mother had remarried with Derwin’s father, but they hadn’t known anything about the circ*mstances, which definitely seemed less than ideal. They kind of wanted to ask about it too, but given the way Amber described the situation as “trading in for a better model”, they could tell something bad must have happened to make her parents divorce. Luckily for their curiosity, Amber could tell that they were wondering about it and had no issues telling them.

“Curious about what I mean, huh? Let’s just say my bio-Dad is a piece of work. He and Mom were having relationship issues and were on the brink of divorce, but he didn’t want that, so he suggested they have a kid together to “complete their family”. Mom wasn’t so sure, since she never wanted kids before, but decided to go along with it and thus created me. Shockingly enough, adding a tiny living being that cries a lot to a stormy relationship was like adding oil to a fire, so it just made them fight more, but now they didn’t want to divorce because they didn’t want me to be effected.” Amber said, looking thoroughly unimpressed with that reasoning.

She wasn’t the only one either; Willow had heard Camila comment about something similar while watching some corny human soap opera, and she’d said that a lot of unhealthy couples “stay together for the sake of the kids” when it would really be better for them AND the kids if they just divorced.

“So, I’m guessing your bio-Dad’s grand scheme blew up in his face?” Willow said.

Amber smiled bitterly; “Nailed it! A normal kid would be stressful, but I’m not exactly normal. I’m kind of hyper- don’t make that face, I know what I’m like! But yeah, I was a hyperactive kid, even worse than I am now, and drove both my parents nuts. My bio-Dad had never been very loving, likely since my presence made things worse and not better, and he eventually lost his temper and lashed out and hit me. I was like 4 or 5 at the time. Jerk backhanded me so hard that I hit the wall and woke up in the Hospital of Phalagia, where we lived at the time. Never actually saw him again after he hit me though; Mom said she beat him up for what he did, then divorced him. We moved to Manubrium once I was out of the hospital. It was ironic; Mom never wanted kids, but she was a great Mom! She lost her patience with me sometimes, but she never hurt me or did more than yell. That’s why I didn’t kick up too much of a fuss when she started dating Derwin’s Dad, or when they announced that they were getting married.”

“And clearly that worked out for you, since you seem to like your new step-dad and step-brother, as well as the resulting half-brother.” Lyra said.

“You got that right! I was kinda scared of Dad at first and tried to be on my best behaviour, but that didn’t last since I’m not known for my self control. But Dad was always gentle and patient, and never lost his temper with me. If I acted up, he’d put me in time-out by picking me up and holding me really gently until I calmed down… it was nice. And Derwin found me challenging and exasperating, but he said he really enjoyed the “challenge” of being a good big brother to me. Clearly Mom and Dad weren’t put off either, because when I was about six, Mom became pregnant with Rogier and our little family was complete… at least until Raine helped me find a place for myself in the Bard Coven and helped Derwin through a crisis of confidence. They became our unofficial third parent then, and Mom and Dad accepted it like Luz’s Mami accepted Eda, or Alador accepted Lilith. And that’s pretty much my whole life story, ha!” Amber giggled.

The teens all smiled, glad to see that things had worked out for Amber in the end, even if things had been tough. Lyra and Hunter felt a new kind of kinship with Amber too, having suffered at the hands of a less than ideal “parent”… though Amber’s story also made them realise that it seemed no family was free of troubles. Pretty much every member of the Hexsquad either had at least one parent who was a bad person, at least one parent who’d passed away, at least one parent who’d walked out on them, or some other family drama caused by a parent doing something wrong unintentionally. The only one who didn’t have something like that was Matt, whose issues had stemmed from school instead. And that seemed to extend to many of the Elite CATTs! Eda and Lilith had their troubles with their parents, King’s Titan parents were dead, Samael’s mother had disappeared, Raine’s parents had passed away, Katya was an orphan too, Darius’ parents had been neglectful AND died, Eber had lost her mother and had killed her cruel father herself to take over the pack, Hettie had lost her parents, Mason’s Mom had been petrified by Belos, Osran’s parents were long gone, and Severin’s parents had been the ones to arrange his marriage to Amaranth in the first place, and were also deceased. And of course, there was all the drama Odalia had caused between Alador and his parents, and the recent stuff with Hanu and her parents! Plus the Basilisks only having Belos as any kind of parent/creator, and Camila growing up with Crest Chastity.

“I think I’m starting to understand why the CATTs became so close to each other, and so loyal… pretty much all of us have some kind of traumatic family issues, and found relief from that in each other. Everyone understands and is connected by that pain. We grow closer by being there for each other, and formed a family of our own.” Lyra mused.

The others looked at her with surprise, but as they thought about it they found themselves agreeing with her. Even Willow, whose parents were both alive and good people, had suffered because of a poor decision they’d made without realising how it had hurt her. The only other person like that in their group of friends was, ironically, Boscha. Her parents were loving and good to her, but her Mom had still spoiled her and filled her head with strange ideas, causing her to have all kinds of issues.

“I think you’re right.” Willow said, putting a hand on Lyra’s back; “The CATTs are one big family that chose each other. That’s why we’ll fight so hard to save each and every one of our members! We won’t leave a single family member behind!”

Amber, Gus, and Hunter all pumped their fists in agreement, and Lyra beamed, then whispered so only Willow could hear; “I’m glad… but something tells me that you and I will be even closer family someday. Perhaps sisters-in-law?”

Willow went pink in the face as Lyra playfully winked at her, before the Plant Witch huffed good-naturedly and playfully noogied the Dark Angel.

The conversation did its job very well, and helped pass the time until they finally arrived at their destination; one of the entrances to the Heart Chamber. According to Amber, Belos’ throne room had been gutted and turned into a large cylindrical room with Orion’s Heart hanging in the dead centre, and there were only four entrances that were all on the same floor, despite the room spanning several floors. The entrances were in the four cardinal directions, and Amber had led them to the western entrance, which was rarely used since the rest of that part of the floor was used as a storage space for all of Belos’ old junk and décor (the Wings of Rani weren’t ones to waste anything, so stored it all away), meaning few people ever went there. While invisible, they peeked out and saw a pair of High Angels guarding the door, wearing fairly thick armour.

“Okay, we need to get rid of them. I could try a sleeping spell, but I can only specifically target one person at a time. If I try to get both, the spell could effect you guys too.” Amber whispered.

“Maybe I could open portals to the shadow world inside their ears, and you can then play through those? It’s not the first time I’ve done that.” Lyra whispered back, remembering doing the same with Skara’s music back on Rani’s Eden.

Hunter shook his head; “Let me and Gus handle this one, Sis. You and Amber have already helped a ton.”

The girls looked at him curiously as Hunter whispered something to Gus, who smiled and nodded. Gus cast a spell on Hunter, disguising him as a High Angel in the same armour as the door guards. At the same time, Hunter gave himself two Bestial Blessings, which were concealed by Gus’s illusion. He then whispered his plan to Willow, wanting to make sure he got the permission of his captain, which she happily granted a moment later.

The disguised Hunter then walked out of the hallway they were hiding in and approached the doors to the Heart Chamber. The High Angels were on alert immediately.

“Halt, Brother. What brings you here?” one asked.

“I’m sure you’ve probably heard of the commotion that the rebels are causing in Manubrium, and at the Bard Coven HQ. Well the Overseer was worried that the rebels would target the Divided Orbs here in the castle, so I was sent to support you both. Three High Angels is better than two.” Hunter lied, moving to stand between the two with his back to the door.

The High Angels looked a bit surprised, but since he wasn’t trying to get into the room they were guarding, they decided to trust him for the moment. Not completely though; they remained on guard and one of them summoned a Divine Communication Mirror. “I’ll just call the Overseer for confirmation, alright? We’re on high alert after all.”

Hunter smiled and nodded; “Of course, go right ahead.”

That helped the two High Angels relax a little further… at least for a couple of seconds, before they each felt a jab in the back of their necks, followed by their bodies seizing up. They collapsed to the ground paralysed, and the others quickly came out of hiding to put them to sleep with some Sleeping Nettles. Gus then dispelled the illusions on Hunter, revealing that he now had two cat-like tails that each ended in a scorpion stinger.

“What are those?” Amber asked.

“My Bestial Blessings! The twin tails of a Nekomata and the poison stingers of the Antares Scorpion. One sting will paralyse, two stings will render someone comatose, and three will be instant death for anything smaller than the Titan!” Hunter smiled, before dismissing the blessings. “Now let’s get inside!”

Amber nodded and handed the stolen key over to Lyra, who slipped it into the lock. The key fit, but wouldn’t turn, so Lyra channelled some magic into it and sure enough, the key turned and the lock clicked open, allowing her to pull open the door so the team could sneak inside. Gus made them all invisible so they would be safe, then passed through the threshold of the door and gazed around the room, feeling a strange shimmering on their skin as they entered.

As Amber had described, the Heart Chamber was a large cylindrical room that was spread over five floors. The bottom floor had the Division Ritual Circle, and the very top floor had the heart of Orion still beating away as always, connected to numerous crystal veins that drained magic from it and directed it elsewhere in the castle. Orion’s Heart looked different from when Lyra and Hunter had last scene it though; it’s previous decayed green colour had been replaced by a healthier purple colour, and the heart was also a bit larger too, and faintly glowing. The third floor had a large orb suspended in the middle, which also drained magic from the heart, as well as from the Divided Orbs that lined the shelves on all five floors. There were more Divided Orbs than in any Union Pillar the group had seen, and even more than on Rani’s Eden too! Thousands of them lined the shelves… or rather, previously lined the shelves.

The Divided Orbs were being methodically pulled off the shelves by dozens of urgently working Angels, all being directed by a pair of Arch-Angels. The orbs were placed into neat racks within crystal crates, and the crates themselves were enchanted with little bird legs and large wings to help them walk and fly on their own. For whatever reason, the Wings of Rani were moving the orbs, though judging by the shelf space and number of crates, they hadn’t actually moved any out of the room yet.

Before the CATTs could really react to this though, one of the Angels looked in their direction and gasped, pointing them out.

“REBELS! The rebels are here!” he shouted.

Suddenly, every Angel in the chamber turned their attention to the shocked CATTs, who suddenly realised they weren’t invisible any more. Gus cursed; the shimmering feeling they’d felt upon entering must have been some kind of dispelling field, which cancelled any spells cast on them.

One of the Arch-Angels snapped their fingers, and the door the CATTs came through sealed itself shut; “It looks like Overseer Severin was correct that they’d be coming for the orbs. Good thing we began moving them when we did!”

The other Arch-Angel then snapped their fingers too, and an alarm began to sound throughout the castle; “Now everyone will know you’re here. You’re in the perfect place too; accept the Lord Divider’s Blessing, young ones. We do not want to hurt you.”

“That includes you too, cunning child.” the first Arch-Angel added, pointing at Amber.

“Aw farts, guess my cover is blown…” she grumbled.

Lyra gulped; “Willow, if those defences work like Amber said, then I can’t get us out through the shadows!”

“Then we’ve got no choice but to fight our way out! A cornered CATT becomes a lion! Let’s show these Angels their mistake!” Willow declared.

The odds were against them; two Arch-Angels and at least three dozen Angels of lower ranks were present against only five CATTs… but the CATTs were not going to lay down and be divided! The Wings of Rani would hold back to avoid damaging the orbs, ritual circle, or heart, but since the CATTs only cared about the heart, they didn’t need to do the same!

Hunter used the Wild Heart Spell to take his Wild Form, Gus used his Palisman Fusion, and Silver sent Amber into the shadows so she could play buffing spells through shadows in the ears of the teens (since the room’s defences just isolated the shadows inside and outside of it from each other, rather than nullifying them all together). Willow then used her Power Glyph, as did the others, causing an explosion of green, cyan, orange, and purple magic, before she and her team unleashed a battle cry and leapt into the fray.

Outnumbered or not, they were not going down without a fight!

________________________________________________________________________________

[Meanwhile]

The alarm going off from inside the castle had startled Skara and Boscha as they hid on the castle roof, plotting how to break in. They’d managed to sneak this far after fleeing the Grand Symphonia Concert Hall, but the heavy security had stopped them getting any further. However with that alarm sounding, the security was racing off to try and find the source, only to be blind-sided and attacked by undivided Coven Scouts.

“It looks like Park and her team tripped the alarm. That’ll make this tough, but at least we’ve got a way in now!” Boscha smirked.

“You’re not wrong there, my Muse! Hopefully in all this chaos we’ll be able to find my Dad, and my little brother: Asher!” Skara said, approaching the entrance to one of the castle towers. It had been guarded by a pair of Angels and Abomaton Knights a moment ago, but all but a single Angel had raced off and left the path clear as soon as they’d heard the alarm.

Skara used Bardic Magic to make their approach silent, then before the Angel could turn and see them, Boscha struck him in the back of the head with her staff, knocking him out cold. With the Angel now unconscious, the two girls tied him up with some abomination slime that Boscha had made, then hid him out of sight before going into the tower and descending down the central stairs to the top floor of the castle’s main building. There wasn’t a lot of commotion on this floor, with most of the Undivided being stationed on the lower floors, so there were still a sparse few Angels and Knight Golems around, though no Abomatons; those had thankfully been sent to defeat the rebelling Coven Scouts.

“This place is huge and it’ll take forever to find your Dad or Brother in all this chaos! That’s assuming Asher is really in the castle at all.” Boscha whispered.

“He’s here, I’m sure of it! Amaranth would want to keep him close, and Uncle Scooter said the Divider placed him here, so he has to be here.” Skara replied.

Boscha hummed then began preparing a potion using her Combat Potioneer’s Belt. “In that case, we’ll have to use a trick to find him and your Dad. I’ll make a Pyxis Potion, but I’ll need a drop of blood or a hair from you.”

Skara didn’t hesitate to pluck out a long silver hair and hand it to her girlfriend, before asking; “What is a Pyxis Potion?”

“It’s a basically a magical compass. Once it’s brewed and DNA is placed inside, it’ll point to everyone within a one mile radius that shares some of that DNA.” Boscha explained as she worked, using controlled fire and a few whistles of Sonic Alchemy to quickly throw together a haphazard and oddly clear liquid. She then placed Skara’s hair inside it and the girls watched as it dissolved into bubbles. “Once we spill a drop, it’ll split up and point in the direction of people with your DNA. It’ll be gold when pointing at you, silver when pointing to a parent, child, or sibling, and bronze when pointing to a grandparent, aunt, uncle, grandchild, or half-sibling. The brew is pretty weak though and won’t detect anything beyond that.”

Boscha then conjured a pipette and used it to extract a single drop of the potion and then release it on the ground. It immediately split into four smaller droplets, with a gold one pointing at Skara, two silver ones pointing to the east, and a bronze one pointing to the south. The silver and bronze ones were also swirling oddly.

“Okay, the swirling means the target is below us. If it jumps, then the target is above us.” Boscha said.

Skara looked between the drops; “It looks like Dad is with Amaranth… dealing with both at once is gonna be hard, especially with them both being divided. Let’s go get Asher first, then we can hide somewhere until Willow’s group breaks the Divided Orbs.”

“Assuming they don’t screw up.” Boscha said snidely, getting a roll of the eyes from her girlfriend.

The two used the tower staircase to descend another floor, whereupon Boscha used another droplet of the potion and found all targets were still lower than them. They repeated this process until they reached the floor that Severin and Amaranth were on, as their marker droplets stopped swirling. On the next floor down, their droplets jumped a little just as Boscha said they would, and continued to do the same for the next three floors, until they finally arrived on the floor with Asher. They left the tower staircase and began rushing around the floor as fast as they could, occasionally ambushing Knight Golems and Angels, then knocking them out swiftly with sonic attacks and potion bombs, all while Boscha kept using the Pyxis Potion to triangulate Asher’s location. This eventually led them to a room at the end of a hallway, which was guarded by a High Angel.

The two girls didn’t hesitate for an instant; Boscha shot a blast of fire at the High Angel before she could react, while Skara plucked a string on her harp to create a gust of wind that fed the flame and intensified it, causing the High Angel’s armour to be heated by the flames. It wasn’t enough to cause burns but the High Angel still screamed until Skara prevented the sound waves from escaping. Boscha then sent an abomination infused with a paralytic poison to grab the High Angel as she frantically tried to cast cooling spells on her armour, and one slap across the mouth by the abomination later, and the High Angel was paralysed. The girls then reached the door and found it sealed up with a barrier, though Skara could hear two voices inside; one younger and one older.

“There’s someone in there with Asher. Probably a bodyguard or something. Take ‘em down quickly! I’ll bust down the barrier!” Skara declared. She then transformed Melody back into a staff, then used some Bardic Magic to make her vibrate and pulse with red and gold magic. She then smashed the staff against the barrier, using her father’s trick to make the barrier shatter like glass. Boscha then tried the door knob but found it locked, so she splashed some acid on it to melt the lock, then kicked the door open, allowing her and Skara to charge in.

Upon entering the room, which was very clearly a child’s bedroom, they found no sign of Asher but instead found his protector, who happened to be a familiar face to the two girls.

“Jerbo!?” Skara exclaimed in shock.

“Skara? I’m glad to see you safe and sound.” Jerbo said with a neutral smile. His eyes had the gold ring of the Divided, and he wore the same white and gold uniform as the Coven Scouts did under the Divider.

“Huh, so this is where you ended up.” Boscha commented; “We heard you and your family got hauled off!”

“Indeed. My family and I didn’t yet understand the Divider’s Blessing, so we-” Jerbo began, only for Skara to impatiently knock him head over heels with a wind spell to the face. He landed on his stomach with a groan, and Skara immediately sat on his back and pulled his arms behind him so she could tie them up with some conjured harp strings.

“Wow, that was quick. Good job Skara!” Boscha chuckled.

Skara grinned sheepishly; “Hehe yeah; I wasn’t interested in listening to another “Accept the Lord Divider’s Blessing” speech, especially not from Jerbo here. The real him would never accept twisted authority like that.”

Jerbo, his face blank, protested by saying; “I am the real me. The only me too. I’ve lost all my worst qualities and nothing more.”

“You’ve lost your free will! Life is meaningless without the freedom to choose how you live it! The real Jerbo knew that.” Skara retorted. “Now be a good boy and stay nice and quiet! You’re my friend so I really don’t want to hurt you.”

Jerbo opened his mouth to speak, but Boscha immediately used a wad of sticky yellow potion to seal it shut, preventing him from saying a word.

“She said quiet! Skara, I’m gonna drag this guy out of here while you take care of your kid brother. We’ll be just outside.” Boscha said, pulling out a bottle of Fog Brew.

Skara nodded gratefully and watched as Boscha dragged a weakly struggling Jerbo out of the room. Privately, Skara was happy to have evaded a fight with Jerbo for another reason beyond just being friends with him; the boy was tough! He was the second best Plant Student (behind only Willow and ahead of Amelia) AND Abomination Student (behind Amity and ahead of Boscha) in all of Hexside, so a fight with him would be tough! Especially since he had some fledgling skill in Bardic Magic too.

Putting that thought out of her mind, Skara turned to the closet of the bedroom, where she could hear her little brother. Jerbo must have made him hide in there as soon as he’d heard the fight with the guard just outside the door. Approaching the door, Skara knocked on it slowly and said; “Asher? It’s safe to come out! I’m a friend! I’m here to rescue you and turn your Mom back to normal. If you come out, I can take you to your Dad too.”

“Y-You know my Mommy and Daddy?” came a soft little voice that melted Skara’s heart.

“I do! I haven’t met Lord Mace personally, but I know of him. And I’ve met Lady Amaranth.” Skara replied.

There was a moment of silence, followed by; “I’m not supposed to go with strangers… who are you?”

Skara gulped; here was the moment of truth! “My name is Skara Cadence and I-”

She didn’t even get a chance to finish her sentence before the closet door flung open, making her stagger back. She lowered herself into a crouch to steady herself, and then looked up to get her first ever close-up look at her little half-brother; Asher Secuna.

Asher appeared to be a fairly average little Witch Boy of about 5 years old, with skin that was darker than either his mother’s or Skara’s, being closer in colour to Severin (though Skara knew Lord Mace had even darker skin than her father, so this wasn’t a surprise). His eyes were a dark blue, and his hair was a silvery white, to the point that he could probably pass as a Cherub. However his hair was also quite long and wild, forming a mane-like style similar to Eda’s and Eberwolf’s. He also had a wide, somewhat flat nose and an adorable smile, which showed off a pair of little fangs poking out from his top lip. He was dressed in dark purple dress shorts, a pale cream short-sleeved button up shirt, and a dark purple waist coat with a matching bow tie. He looked like an adorable, dapper little gentleman, and the way he smiled at Skara with bright, sparkly eyes made her heart nearly burst.

“S-Skara? You’re Skara!?” he gasped, eyes full of wonder.

“I am. Do you know who I am?” she asked, hopefully.

She was answered by Asher throwing herself into her, knocking her on her backside and cuddling her tightly. He wrapped both his arms and legs around her torso and held on like an adorable little koala. Skara squealed with delight and hugged him back, nearly bursting into tears when Asher happily said; “I know you! You’re my big sister!”

Skara had been so afraid that Amaranth would poison her little brother’s opinion of her before they could formally meet, so to see him so happy to see her was a dream come true!

“That’s right! And you’re my little brother! I’ve wanted to meet you so much!” Skara said, rubbing her cheek against the top of his head.

“I wanted to meet you too! Mommy told me about you, and Daddy said you’re a Bard!” Asher said, looking up at her adoringly.

“Mom talked about me?” Skara said, surprised that her mother would say anything about her that wouldn’t make Asher think less of her.

Asher’s face fell a little as he nodded; “Before, she told me that I had a big sister whose Daddy was her first husband, Lord Severin. She didn’t like talking about you though, and when I asked, she’d get upset. She still told me stuff about you though, even though it made her sad. Then Daddy told me that Mommy doesn’t see you any more because she did something really bad. They wouldn’t tell me what it was until a few months ago though. Then Mommy was blessed by the Lord Divider and told me everything she did.”

That shocked Skara even more; her mother being upset when talking about her made sense, but the fact her husband had openly told Asher that it was Amaranth’s fault!? Perhaps Lord Mace didn’t agree with his wife’s actions after all! And for her newly divided mother to tell Asher the full truth… Skara wondered if she’d done that of her own volition or if the Divider had forced that situation.

Scooter’s words from earlier suddenly rang out in her mind; he’d said that the Divider had found love in Amaranth’s heart for her, and removed a lot of regrets… just what did her mother really think of her? Did she truly regret what she’d done in the past (before the Divider had taken those regrets away)?

Feeling curious, Skara had to ask; “Asher, what has it been like living here in the castle? Are things okay with your Mommy and my Daddy?”

Asher nodded, but looked a little unsure; “Mommy is nice, but she was always nice to me. I like living in the castle; it’s got fun stuff to explore, but I keep going places I shouldn’t and so I get locked in my room a lot. Mr. Jerbo is nice and teaches me, and plays with me too! He’s my tutor, and he said you’re his friend and the best Bard at Hexside! And Lord Severin is very nice to me too! He’ll sometimes play with me and showed me some cool Bardic Magic! He mostly tells me stories about you though; Mommy likes those as well. But…” Asher suddenly looked a bit tearful; “I miss my Daddy. He’s not allowed in the castle, and I’m not allowed out of it, so I can’t see him! Mommy let me have her scroll so I could call him, but it’s not the same…”

Skara’s heart went out to her little brother, even as her feelings towards her mother grew more conflicted. The Divider’s madness had ripped this poor boy away from his father, which Skara could never forgive! The only silver-lining was that this whole mess had finally given Skara the chance to meet him! She would have to make sure she and Asher were able to keep seeing each other in the future! Considering Lord Mace had ensured Asher knew it wasn’t Skara’s fault that the Cadence family had broken up, she was sure he’d be alright with that. The tricky one would be Amaranth…

Skara wasn’t sure what to make of her mother or what Asher had been telling her. She liked listening to Severin’s stories about their daughter? She’d never badmouthed her to Asher? That wasn’t like the woman Skara had in her head… that wasn’t the woman who’d abandoned her for choosing to be a Bard, and then slandered her father by calling Skara his bastard love child with Raine… Was it possible Amaranth had changed? Skara didn’t know, but she wanted to find out! At the very least, she wanted an apology from the woman for all the heartache she’d caused their family!

Turning her attention back to Asher, Skara smiled and said; “We will get you back to your Daddy by the end of the day, I promise! And we’ll get your Mommy back to normal too. And now that I’ve finally met you for real, I don’t want to let you go! So we’re going to see a lot of each other from now on! We’ll play and I’ll tell you stories and teach you magic and everything I can!”

Asher gasped and smiled as large as he could; “Really!?”

“You bet! I’ve got five years of spoiling you to catch up on!” Skara grinned. “But we need to get out of here first. We’ll get you some place safe before we do anything else, okay? And here;” she turned Melody back into her cricket mode and gently handed her to Asher. “This is Melody, my Palisman! She’ll keep you company until we get you to safety; that way you won’t be scared.”

“Okay!” Asher beamed, cuddling Melody gently.

Skara smiled and stroked his cheek, but found herself surprised to feel something off… his skin felt furry! There was no visible hair on his cheeks besides the usual peach fuzz pretty much all Witches had, but this had felt much thicker.

Shaking that off, Skara set Asher on his feet and took his hand (which also felt weirdly soft and furry) before leaving the room, finding Boscha and the bound Jerbo stood behind a barrier of oddly coloured abomination slime. It looked like Boscha had hidden their location by making a wall of slime and then using a Camouflage Concoction to make it look like a natural part of the castle. Boscha turned to look at the siblings, and smirked; “Found the little guy, huh? He’s pretty cute… for an Ankle-Biter!”

Asher snickered while Skara rolled her eyes with a smile; “Charming as always, my muse. Asher, this is Boscha; she’s my girlfriend. And don’t worry, her bark is worse than her bite.”

“Hey kid. Good to finally meet you.” Boscha nodded.

“Nice to meet you! You’re pretty!” Asher complimented with all the innocence of a small child. Boscha smiled smugly at that, then blinked in surprise as Asher said; “You’ve got three eyes! Are you a Demon?”

It was an innocent question, so Boscha answered; “I’m a Witch, but I have Demon Ancestors.”

“You don’t hide it?” Asher asked, looking confused.

That made the girls scowl, but then they remembered he’d attended St. Epiderm in the Baby Class before the reign of the Divider, so he’d likely seen a lot of prejudice towards mixed races.

“I don’t. I am who I am, and I refuse to hide it! The people whose opinions I care about don’t care about a person’s blood or ancestry.” Boscha declared; “No one chooses what they’re born as, so it isn’t something people should be ashamed of.”

Asher’s eyes shone as he absent-mindedly grabbed his bow tie; “So it’s really okay to show it? But what if your Demon parts are from Demons that people don’t like?”

“No one who judges others based on their species has an opinion that’s worth listening to.” Skara said, patting Asher’s head as she remembered what Boscha had told her before, about both Mace and Asher supposedly wearing Concealment Stones. “And for the record, I’m not one of those people and neither is Boscha. If you’re hiding something, then you can show us without fear. But only if you want to.”

The little boy looked up at his big sister with hope in his eyes. Strangely, he then looked over to the captured Jerbo, who simply smiled and nodded at him. Upon seeing this, the boy pulled at his bow tie, revealing that a blue Concealment Stone was hidden inside the knot of the tie. As soon as it was removed, there was a puff of cyan smoke and the real Asher Secuna was revealed, and the reason for the furry feeling Skara had gotten from his cheeks and hands became very obvious.

Asher was a half-Demon, having features from a Demon… a Black Lion Cait Sith of all things. Suddenly, Skara and Boscha realised why Lord Mace wore a Concealment Stone, and why his son wore one at St. Epiderm; Viney’s experiences as a Half-Witch, Half-Cait Sith there were enough to make anyone worry about their child being in the same environment. And having a Cait Sith as a noble, and one in the Construction Coven of all places? The nobility in Cartilia would have been furious to know such a “creature” was among them. Cait Sith had reputations as thieves, wanderers, con-artists, and Beast Demons (despite being Bipeds) and suffered a lot of discrimination from the nobility of the isles… and to make things worse, no one even remembered the source of these reputations beyond stereotypes about cats!

The fact that Asher would likely have suffered like Viney had if his true form was known to the school made Skara furious, especially considering how adorable he was! His nose was replaced by that of a lion, and his upper lip took on a more-lion like shape. Every patch of skin on his body was also covered in pitch black fur, and his hands were actually more like paws with usable thumbs. He also had a tail that ended in a black ball of fluff (which Skara found to be darling), but his ears were Witch-like (despite the fur on them) while his eyes were those of a Witch too. Like Viney, he was a Witch with Cait Sith DNA, but the blood of his father had a much stronger effect on Asher than Meesha’s blood had on Viney.

“You look really cute!” Skara gushed, “And now this mane of hair suits you even more!”

Asher’s tail wagged behind him, more like a puppy than a lion, as he soaked up the praise of his big sister. As Skara stooped to pet him, Boscha looked to Jerbo and softly said; “You knew, didn’t you?”

“I did. The fact he was Skara’s brother is only half the reason I volunteered to be his tutor. The other half was the fact he reminded me of Viney.” Jerbo said in the usual blank, divided tone.

Boscha nodded, having suspected as much; “Viney is with us and the CATTs. Once we fix you, you’ll see her again.”

Jerbo didn’t react, likely because he couldn’t, and so Boscha created another abomination to pick him up and carry them as they made their escape. She then turned to Skara, who was still gushing over Asher’s true form, and said; “Babe, we’ve gotta go. Grab Asher so we can get out of here!”

Skara nodded with a smile and picked her little brother up, then carried him on her back, much to his enjoyment as Melody nestled herself into his hair. “Okay, we’re good to go!”

Boscha then lowered the wall of slime she’d made and turned it into a squad of six normal abominations, which she then sent out to attack random Angels, Knight Golems, and Abomatons around the area, so they’d all be distracted and the girls could make their way back the way they came. Reaching the tower they’d come down from was the hardest part, since the fighting in the castle had spread out so it was almost everywhere, but they managed it with only a small run in with a squad of three normal Angels. They had tried to stop them by trapping the escaping teens in a barrier, but Skara had effortlessly busted it down and Boscha had used a Fog Brew to make a cloud of smoke, allowing them to get past the Angels with ease, though Boscha also whistled as they moved out of the cloud, using sonic alchemy to turn it into a mild paralysis gas, which had the three Angels seizing up.

Finally, they reached the tower and began climbing back up to the roof. As they ran, Skara said; “Are you doing okay back there, little brother?”

“I’m okay! This is scary, but I’m brave!” Asher declared. He really was quite frightened, being a five year old boy in a war zone, but between Skara’s comforting presence and Melody softly chirping a calming song to him from inside his hair, he was able to keep calm.

“Heh, you’ve got the real heart of a lion, kid!” Boscha joked.

“Yeah! I’m super brave!” the boy chirped happily.

“Though speaking of lions; your Daddy is a Black Lion Cait Sith, right?” Skara asked. “That’s why he wears a Concealment Stone all the time?”

“Uh huh.” Asher replied; “We used to live in the Diamond Dust District in Cartilia and Mommy said that people there didn’t like Cait Sith very much. So Daddy’s family hide themselves with Concealment Stones. Grandpa and Grandma wear them too.”

“Huh… do you know why your Daddy doesn’t just move away?” Skara asked.

Asher nodded; “Grandpa says “Our family helped build Cartilia, and we won’t be chased out of it like a misbehaving house cat.” Daddy doesn’t like it, but says we can’t abandon Grandma and Grandpa, so we all have to stay.”

Boscha frowned; “Stubborn old geezer! Doesn’t he realise he’s hurting his family? Though I guess I sympathise… being told you don’t belong somewhere you helped build has gotta suck.”

“That’s what Mommy says. She wanted to send me to Hexside instead. Principal Crane is really nice, but Mommy says St. Epiderm hasn’t changed enough to be safe for me. Oh! But don’t tell her I told you that! I was sneaking around when I heard that and I’m not supposed to know.” Asher said.

Skara perked up at hearing that; she’d have to see if she could convince them to send Asher to Hexside anyway; it’d be great to have her little brother in school with her! “What magic do you like anyway, Asher?”

“Um… I don’t know. Daddy used to teach me Construction Magic, and Mommy taught me Abomination Magic, which Mr. Jerbo taught me too, but I haven’t decided what I like best yet.” Asher answered.

Skara opened her mouth to sing the praises of Bardic Magic, but then hesitated; what would Amaranth do if her son decided he wanted to become a Bard just like her daughter her? Would she abandon another child and family? Would she be bitter and angry? Would she outright forbid it and make Asher miserable? Skara didn’t know, but she didn’t want to be the reason Asher’s relationship with his Mom fell apart.

“Well you’re still little.” she eventually said; “Take your time and try out all the magic you can, and find what feels best. Maybe even multiple types of magic, like Jerbo!”

Asher nodded enthusiastically, and the rest of the trip back to the castle roof went quickly and quietly, with no signs of any other Angels or opponents. Once they finally reached the castle roof top and emerged out into the open air, the teens prepared to fly off to safety, aiming to take Asher into the city and hide him and Jerbo some place safe. However almost immediately upon getting outside, Skara noticed a barrier had been erected over the rooftop, leaving everyone trapped inside.

“What the heck!? This wasn’t here before!” Boscha exclaimed.

“Don’t worry, I’ll bust it down! I’ll need to borrow Melody again, little brother!” Skara said, snapping her fingers and summoning her Palisman to her hand in staff form. She then channelled her father’s barrier breaking technique and slammed her staff against the barrier, only for it to not budge an inch and instead send disorienting vibrations back up Skara’s arms, making them go numb for a moment.

Skara shuddered, having no idea what she’d done wrong, but before she could question it, Boscha screamed; “GET DOWN!” and swept Skara’s feet out from under her, making the girl fall forward. Boscha caught her to stop her hitting the ground, but as Skara was about to question what was going on, a tendril of abomination slime whipped through the air where her torso had just been. If she’d been standing, Skara would have been caught and tied up, along with Asher.

Boscha pulled Skara back to her feet, and the two were faced with a pair of familiar faces; Amaranth Secuna and Severin Cadence. The both of them were divided, with Amaranth dressed in a white and gold ballgown that hugged her curves and left little to the imagination, while Severin was wearing a three-piece suit that was also white and gold, and looked like a Human Orchestra Conductor’s attire.

“An ambush!” Skara scowled, “Dad must have set up the barrier! I bet the frequency of the magic inside is constantly shifting, so the barrier breaking trick won’t work.”

Severin stepped forward, smiling with pride; “You’re very correct, Skara. Oh, it is so wonderful to see you again! I’ve been eagerly awaiting your return, though I do wish we were on the same side.”

Skara bit her lip; “I wish that was the case too, but I won’t let myself be brainwashed by the Divider!”

“Brainwashed? Oh, my darling girl; this is not brainwashing! The Lord Divider has simply freed us from all those nasty feelings we had before, leaving us with only the good ones. There is nothing to be scared of! In fact, once you receive the Lord Divider’s Blessing, you will never feel afraid again!” Severin beamed. He began to approach his daughter, opening his arms for a hug, but she pointed her staff at him shakily.

“Please don’t come any closer. I don’t want to fight you, Dad.” Skara said, on the verge of tears.

Severin shook his head with a blank expression; “My poor daughter. I will save you from all those bad feelings. Just accept the blessing and you’ll-”

He didn’t get to finish his sentence before Boscha growled and shot a fireball at him. It was weak and meant only to ignite his clothes to keep him distracted, but the fireball was engulfed in abomination goo and snuffed out by Amaranth, who stepped forward too.

“Young lady, my daughter is trying to have a moment with her father. Please don’t interfere.” Amaranth said in a blank tone as she wielded her Scarab Palisman.

Boscha pointed her Crab Palisman right back at her; “This “moment” is stressing out my girlfriend! So dang right am I going to interfere!”

Amaranth and Severin both blinked in surprise, the latter beaming as he looked at his daughter; “Your girlfriend? The two of you are dating!? When did this happen!?” he asked excitedly.

“During the battle with Belos.” Skara answered. “Now how about you tell us how you knew to ambush us here!?”

“Oh, that was simple; those Angels you paralysed with the gas saw you heading to that tower and running up the stairs. They were found and rescued by their allies, who then called me. Amaranth and I then decided to wait here so we could deal with you ourselves, as your parents.” Severin replied. “But on happier news; I’m so happy for you! I’ve known you’ve been crushing on Boscha ever since that drama when you were little! It’s wonderful to see you together again, my Symphony!”

Skara blushed; “Even when divided, he manages to embarrass me!”

“Aw, you had a crush on me back then too? How cute!” Boscha couldn’t help but tease.

“It was different back then! We were little kids and I loved you for standing up for me! It wasn’t until later that my crush became serious.” Skara confessed.

Boscha grinned again, though her smile then fell as she glared at Amaranth; “I guess we’ve got you to thank for that! You sucking at being a Mom is what caused that whole mess!”

Amaranth’s expression remained blank, but she nodded; “You’re correct. I allowed my pride and the poison that my mother poured in my ears to overpower my better judgement and did something terribly cruel. There is no excuse for it, and I would like to earnestly apologise to you, Skara. From the moment I said those things to the moment the Lord Divider blessed me, I regretted what I’d done.”

Skara scowled; “I don’t want to hear it. You’re not sorry right now; you literally can’t feel sorry! So save the apologises for when you’re the real you again!”

Amaranth tilted her head; “I suppose I can see why you’d feel that way. In that case, let me give you the feelings I can show…” she looked her daughter in the eye and smiled lovingly, making Skara’s heart pound inside her chest. “I have always loved you, Skara. Even when I let my pride say otherwise, I loved you. And despite what I said in the past, I am incredibly proud of the young woman you’ve become.”

Skara clutched at her heart as tears formed in her eyes; she felt so confused! After all she’d done, how could her mother truthfully say she’d always loved her!? What kind of twisted mind did she have!? How far had her pride forced her to go!?

Asher snapped her out of her confusion by yelling out to his Mom; “Mommy, please don’ fight with Skara! She just wants us to be a family again! With me, you, and Daddy being together!”

“That is a fine idea, little Asher.” Severin chimed in; “The Lord Divider means well, but your mother and I are not in love. The affection we have for each other is based on the gratitude we each feel to the other for helping bring out daughter into the world. Once he returns and we convince him of this, we can all be a happy family! You with your Mommy and Daddy, my Symphony with her parents and girlfriend, and the two of you together as siblings. Truly, it will be a paradise for us!”

“But for that to happen, you will all need to be blessed by the Lord Divider. We will bless all three of you; that will finally let us be together in peace.” Amaranth declared.

“Over my dead body!” Boscha yelled. “Sorry Skara, but we’re going to have to fight these guys. Your Dad’s barrier won’t fall so long as he’s conscious, and if we get the Divider’s feather from him, we can control the Knight Golems and Abomatons to help the others!”

Skara grimaced, truly hating the fact she was going to have to fight her father. But she steeled herself and gently lowered Asher from her back and placed him on his feet; “Asher, run and hide back in the tower. You’ll be safe there.”

“B-But-!” Asher tried to argue, only for Skara to gently shush him with a finger to his lips.

“Please hide. We don’t want you getting caught in the crossfire.” Skara told him.

The poor boy sniffled, but nodded and rushed into the tower, where he then peeked out to watch his family fighting. Boscha ordered the abomination holding Jerbo to take him there too so he’d also be safe, and the instant they were both out of the way, Severin summoned his Palisman, Carabace, and turned him into a cello so he could play a quick tune that caused the tower entrance to be covered by a barrier, keeping Asher and Jerbo safe from the ensuing battle. The rest of the towers that opened onto the roof were sealed in a similar way, ensuring Skara and Boscha had no way of escape without smashing through the floor. They wouldn’t even be able to break into the crystal spire that stretched up from the centre of the roof, as that too was protected by a barrier.

Skara and Boscha stood across from Severin and Amaranth, each one staring the other down. The girls were a mix of stress, regret, and anger, while the adults were blank faced and resigned to fighting.

“Skara, let me take your Dad on. You shouldn’t have to fight your own father, and I think you’ve got some things to work out with Amaranth anyway.” Boscha whispered.

Skara wanted to object, but Boscha was right; besides, in a Bard VS Bard battle, her Dad would beat her any day!

“Okay. I’ll take Amaranth, you take Dad. Use earplugs where possible; Bardic Songs that directly effect the body won’t work if you can’t hear. That’ll protect you from some of Dad’s songs, as well as mine.” Skara warned.

Boscha nodded and created some abomination ear plugs. The advantage of such a thing was that it let her decide what sounds would be let through, and she quietly ordered the abomination to only let her hear Skara’s voice, meaning they could stay in communication. With that done, she told Skara what she’d done, then twirled Maya in staff mode, and declared; “Sorry Pops, but you’re going down!”

With that, Boscha flew at Severin, surfing on her staff like Gus did and using a jet of intense flames to propel her towards the man at top speed. She then conjured a Grudgby Ball and tossed it at Severin, forcing him to leap backward. She tossed two more, and then pulled out a Human Realm Baseball and threw that too. Severin dodged the second Grudgby Ball too, but deflected the third with his cello. He tried to dodge the baseball too, but a fire glyph that Boscha has placed on it suddenly activated and changed its trajectory, blasting it back towards Severin. He blocked it with his cello, only for it to be revealed to be a tiny abomination disguised as a baseball (which was how the fire glyph was remotely activated). It burst to reveal that it contained an explosive potion, which thankfully didn’t damage Carabace’s sturdy shell, but the blast was still enough to knock Severin flying backward, making some considerable distance between him and Amaranth. Skara then pulled out some emergency barrier glyphs provided by King and threw them down, setting up a pair of barriers that completely divided the castle rooftop in half, preventing Severin and Amaranth from helping each other! At least as long as Boscha could keep Severin from using his trick to smash the barriers down.

“You’ve grown a lot, Boscha. I never pictured that I’d ever have a Witch’s Duel with you! I feel almost like a father duelling a suitor to see if they’re worthy of their daughter’s hand!” Severin chuckled.

Boscha, who could read lips (something she’d learned from Skara for situations like this), replied with; “Oh I am more than worthy! This is your future daughter-in-law kicking your butt and bringing you back to your senses!”

With that, she conjured a pair of abominations and then whistled, causing their chemical make-up to change. Severin didn’t know what the change actually was, but he didn’t intend to let them touch him anyway. Instead, he played a short song on his cello that caused his muscles to swell until he had the physique of a body builder, allowing him to effortlessly swing his cello at Boscha. The distance between them was too great for the blow to have a chance of hitting her, but the reason for this became clear when a huge sonic blast was sent at her via the swing. The sonic blast hit one of the abominations and splattered it like a water balloon, but this caused it to erupt into smoke, revealing that Boscha’s Sonic Alchemy had turned a portion of it into a modified form of Fog Brew, derived from Dry Ice.

Thick fog filled their side of the roof top, and the other abomination charged at Severin through the fog, but he easily avoided it by stepping to the side and poking it with his bow, sending sonic waves through it and making its body ripple and melt as the magic holding it together was countered. This released even more fog, yet Severin paid no attention and began walking towards Boscha, using his keen hearing (along with a minor magical enhancement) to locate her through the fog.

Meanwhile, Boscha had used the fog cover to quickly use her Combat Potioneer Belt and some prepared compounds in test tubes to brew a Tincture of True Sight; a rare potion that allowed the drinker to see the magic and souls of people, but not their physical form. Such potions were rare because it made the user blind to anything but magic and souls, but Boscha had modified it and applied some to her third eye with a dropper, allowing her third eye to see Severin through the fog while her other eyes could still see normally.

Now able to see without trouble, Boscha conjured tiny fireballs on the ends of her fingers and began shooting them at Severin.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this… Will-O-Wisp!” Boscha cried as the fireballs rushed towards Severin. She never imagined she’d mimic Luz’s habit of naming her attacks, but as she fired mini-fireballs like a machine gun, she secretly found it to be oddly fun.

Severin heard the crackling flames and saw the soft glow of fire through the fog and evaded them, but they came so fast that dodging forever was a dangerous idea. Instead, he began playing the Bolero of Fire; a song that rendered the listeners fireproof for as long as it was played. However, Boscha couldn’t hear what song he was playing, so when she saw the fireballs collide with him and set him ablaze, she stopped her rain of fireballs, only to watch in confusion as Severin pulled off his upper body clothing and tossed the burning rags to the ground, all while using magic to move his bow so the song would keep laying. This left him naked from the waist up, but also confused Boscha, who decided to attack with more fireballs in hopes of actually forcing Severin to defend, so she could lure him into a trap like she’d done with her fast ball abomination.

Severin enchanted his bow so it would move on its own and keep playing the Bolero of Fire on his cello, even as he swung it around. Then right as Boscha’s next wave of fireballs struck him, he dashed through them and ran at the girl, wielding his cello like a giant war hammer. Boscha saw him coming and threw down a flash bang potion to stun him, which worked as it made the man’s sensitive and enhanced hearing backfire and hurt him, making him scream in pain and recoil. His bow kept playing the song though, so Boscha’s follow-up attack; a flaming whip strike, didn’t do any damage as it wrapped around his waist and yanked him towards the three-eyed girl. Boscha had used a tendril of flammable abomination goo to do it, and as he staggered towards her, she shaped some regular slime into a baseball bat, which she swung at Severin’s legs. With his ears still ringing from the flash-bang, he wasn’t prepared for this and yelped in pain as the bat cracked against one of his shins with enough force to make him fall to one knee. Boscha had held back enough to avoid actually breaking the man’s leg though, and now that he knew she was within melee striking range, he quickly clapped his hands together to create a sonic boom, blasting Boscha off her feet with a cry of surprise.

Boscha hit the ground fairly hard, but she rolled with the fall and was back on her feet within seconds, whereupon she shot two more tendrils of flaming abomination slime at Severin, trying to get his wrists. After seeing him react more to the blow to the shin than the burning tendril around his waste, she figured he was playing a song to make him fireproof, which meant he had to keep it up or risk being burned. This gave her the perfect chance to try and overwhelm and bind him before he could switch songs and break free.

Severin found his wrists successfully bound, so switched tactics; he began to whistle the Bolero of Fire and released Carabace back into his Sea Turtle form. Immediately, Severin winced a little; whistling made his song less effective than playing it properly, so while the fire didn’t burn him, it did begin to get uncomfortably hot. Boscha was unaware of the shift due to her self-imposed deafness, and while she did see Carabace return to animal form, she didn’t hear the Palisman slapping his flippers against the ground to drum out a beat, playing a simple Bardic Song of his own; the Song of Sky-Swimming. It allowed him to swim through the air for as long as he performed the song, so while using his front flippers to drum the song against his own belly, he used his back flippers to actually swim and propel himself towards Boscha at surprising speed. He aimed at her legs, forcing her to jump to avoid him, then land on Maya’s staff and begin flying away to avoid the turtle. Carabace chased her for about a minute as Boscha tried and failed to hit the weirdly evasive turtle with some abomination slime, but once she was far enough away, Carabace suddenly changed course and shot back towards the abominations holding his partner down with their tendrils. Boscha realised her mistake too late, and Carabace smashed through each one like a cannonball, freeing Severin.

The Bardic Overseer immediately turned Carabace back into a cello and swung him at Boscha, sending a gale of wind at her that knocked her out of the sky. She was low enough that a fall would only be mildly painful, but she still unleashed a jet of fire as she fell, slowing her descent and allowing her to land safely on her feet. Boscha was barely back on solid ground before Severin attacked her, once again playing the Bolero of Fire with his cello as he used sonic booms caused by stomping to launch himself at Boscha. She blocked with her abomination bat, but the bat was splattered, getting slime in both her eyes and Severin’s. Thanks to the fog, Severin was still using his hearing to navigate though, meaning he was able to grab Boscha anyway, then toss her to the ground. She hit the ground hard and groaned in pain, but thanks to her Grudgby experience, she was used to taking hits like that and promptly rolled over to toss a potion at Severin. The potion was a Lightning Magic Bomb that she’d hidden up her sleeve, zapping Severin and making him scream.

With lightning pulsing through his body, Severin fell to the ground himself, giving Boscha the chance to get back to her feet and recreate her abomination bat, which she raised to smack Severin in the head. Just as Boscha was preparing to land the knock out blow however, she heard Skara’s voice screaming out from the fog.

“Boscha! Help me!”

The three-eyed girl gasped and turned towards the source of the voice, but was confused to find her Tincture of True Sight showing Skara still battling Amaranth on the other side of the barrier, and seemingly doing pretty well! Boscha tried to piece together what was happening, only for her to suddenly feel Severin’s fingers lightly brushing against the tips of her ears. Severin cast a spell that launched a tiny sonic attack to pierce Boscha’s ears, causing the abomination ear plugs she’d created to melt and drip out, restoring Boscha’s earring in time to hear the Lullaby of Lethargy being played on Severin’s cello, all on its own. Boscha gasped and tried to cover her ears, but Severn swiftly grabbed her wrists and held them together behind her back as the song took effect.

“N-No…! Skara…” Boscha managed to groan out as her body was overcome with exhaustion. Finally, she could do nothing but succumb to sleep as Severin gently laid her down on the ground.

“A Bard, and one that is Coven Head level such as myself, is not an opponent you can easily take on, Boscha.” Severin said to the sleeping girl. “Especially when you discuss your plan within range of my hearing.”

When Boscha had told Skara what she was doing with her abomination earplugs, Severin had heard with his enhanced hearing, meaning he knew that Boscha would only be able to hear Skara’s voice. That was why he’d avoided using songs on her and instead opted for casting songs on himself and using direct sonic attacks. Boscha had still proven formidable though, so he’d lured her into a trap; as soon as she thought she’d won, he used Bardic Magic and his Tempo-matching abilities to perfectly mimic Skara’s voice and even throw it like a ventriloquist. Since the abomination earplugs couldn’t distinguish between the real thing and his imitation, they had let the sound through and Boscha had been completely distracted, handing Severin an easy victory. It was an easy mistake to make, especially as Boscha, for all her exceptional skill, was just a child against the second best bard on the Isles (since Raine and he had both surpassed Scooter by this point).

Using a simple wind spell to clear the fog, then lifting Boscha onto his shoulders and grabbing her staff (Maya was stuck in staff form after being put to sleep by the lullaby), Severin began heading over to the other battlefield; it was time to see how his daughter was fairing against her mother.

________________________________________________________________________________

[Meanwhile]

Once she’d erected the barriers between her battle and Boscha’s, Skara barely had time to dodge as a jet of abomination slime was shot at her by Amaranth, who conjured it from the pink ball of the stuff that her Palisman held at all times. Her Palisman’s name was Ankh, and he’d been carved by Amaranth when she was younger than Skara, based on the golden scarab beetle known as the Khepri Beetle, which was actually a relative of the Rusty Smidge. Amaranth had always been fascinated by their ability to gather dung and other repulsive things and then roll them into highly polished golden orbs, which actually sold for good money. She thought it was a good analogy for Abomination Magic, turning the ugly into something valuable.

Skara was much less enthusiastic about her mother’s magic, especially as it was pointed at her. The sludge she’d just dodged slid down her barrier and pooled on the ground, whereupon is rose up to form a slender abomination that wielded a bow, which fired abomination arrows made from its body. Skara whistled sharply, knocking the arrows away with a sound wave, but was then forced to dodge again as Amaranth shot another jet of goo at her, which formed yet another abomination archer. With two of them now rapid firing arrows at Skara, the girl decided to go on the offensive before she got overwhelmed. She strummed several notes on her Palisman Harp, causing bolts of magic shaped like musical notes to go flying at Amaranth.

“You really do have a talent, my dear.” Amaranth smiled, pointing her staff at Skara and making the ball of slime on the end expand into a barrier that absorbed the projectiles. Amaranth then drew a series of spell circles with her free hand, causing sections of the slime barrier to launch themselves at Skara, forming new archers as the girl dodged them.

“Dang it, I don’t like how being complimented by you makes me feel! It’s freaking confusing!” Skara snapped, “But if you want to see talent, I’ll show you some! Let me show you what the music of the Human Realm can do when combined with a little Bardic Magic!”

With that, Skara began using her harp to play a song she’d learned in the Human Realm; specifically the riff of the song “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC. The song caused Skara to be engulfed in an aura of lightning as her fingers danced furiously across the strings even while dodging the enemy’s arrows. Then, as the lightning aura reached its zenith, Skara headbanged in the direction of one of the abominations, causing a lightning bolt to zap out of her aura and hit it, blowing it to smithereens.

“Now you’ve been Thunderstruck!” Skara sang with a large grin.

Amaranth stared blankly, completely unable to react with the appropriate level of surprise to watching her daughter destroy an abomination with Human Hard Rock music. That expression didn’t shift as Skara continued to play the song, headbanging at each abomination in turn and destroying them one after the other, until all of them had been vaporised. The final headbang was directed at Amaranth herself, who received a nasty electric shock as a result, making her cry out in pain and recoil. She caught herself though, and began rapid firing weak bolts of pink magic at Skara, trying to overwhelm her. The bolts would do nothing but sting if they hit, but they were meant to interrupt her playing rather than truly hurt her, so Amaranth wasn’t worried about the lack of power.

The woman’s plan worked, as Skara did stop playing so she could run and dodge the attacks. The young Bard was pleased that her first Human Bardic Song in a real battle had worked so well, but was also disappointed by the low power… Human songs had a strange quirk to them when turned into Bardic Spells; they didn’t perform as well if they were played on the wrong instruments, without the vocals, or without all the parts. Basically, the further the song was from the original in performance, the less effective it was. In addition, the songs had rather simple functions based on the titles of the songs, though this made more sense to Skara; when it came to magic, the name of a thing was important, so the name of a song often summed up its purpose. That was why a song like Thunderstruck revolved around literally striking the target with thunder (or rather, lightning).

As Skara dodged the weak spells and planned her next move, Amaranth weaved in a few blobs of abomination slime into the mix of magic bolts, causing a swarm of little gremlin-shaped abominations to rise up and swarm towards Skara from behind. Skara’s hearing was as acute as her father’s though, so she heard them coming and erected a barrier to keep them away. This also gave her the opening to play another Human Realm Song: Counting Stars by OneRepublic. The song caused dozens of golden balls of light to emerge from Skara’s harp and began orbiting around the top of her head, forming an almost galaxy-like halo, and then when Skara got to the chorus of the song, she dropped the barrier and played her heart out, even singing along to the music, though she blushed a little due to still not being that confident at singing.

“But baby, I’ve been, I’ve been praying hard. Said, “No more counting dollars, we’ll be counting stars!”

With those words, her halo of golden orbs began firing out in all directions, firing at the gremlin abominations, Amaranth’s magic bolts, and Amaranth herself like actual shooting stars. The golden orbs were light magic too, so they pierced and destroyed the abominations without difficulty, and even countered Amaranth’s magic bolts. Amaranth tried putting up her abomination barrier again to defend herself from the swarm of stars, but they tore right through it, turning the tables on her by making her run around and dodge; something she found hard to do in heels!

Eventually, Amaranth was forced to get on her staff and take flight, sitting side-saddle on it as she flew around within the limited airspace of the barrier. She flew as fast as she could to evade the stars, but found that even her fastest, fanciest flying wasn’t enough to shake the attacks, resulting in her being hit hard in the back and knocked to the ground. She barely managed to lower her altitude enough to avoid being badly hurt by the fall, and she still ended up landing hard enough to receive some bruised ribs.

Amaranth groaned as she got back to her feet again afterwards; the stars had burnt her, but were fairly weak, so she’d actually taken more damage from the fall itself. The second wave of them was still coming too, but Amaranth blocked them by instead using some simple Earth Magic to raise rocky barriers to protect her. The projectiles circled around her, trying to find an opening to reach their target, but soon had to give up. Amaranth kept this rock barrier around her until she heard her daughter stop her song, at which point the older woman began conjuring a large amount of abomination slime, which built up inside the mound-like barrier. Then, when she was ready, she blasted the top off her own barrier from within and had the slime shoot out of it, forming a volcano-like eruption of slime. The slime then shaped itself into a giant abomination that charged right at Skara. The girl was taken by surprise, but was quick to cut the abomination down to size by casting a wind blade spell, slicing its limbs off and cutting the body into four pieces.

“Nice try, but you’ll need to do better than that!” Skara declared.

Amaranth smiled; “You really have become a wonderful Witch. But I’m afraid I’m no slouch either.”

Skara narrowed her eyes, then suddenly found her leg being grabbed by an abomination that was leaking out from between the bricks of the roof. As it turned out, the giant abomination was a cover to have Skara looking up, while Amaranth had also created a smaller abomination in the shape of a Drimoge; a kind of purple mole with a spiral horn on its forehead that allowed it to dig like a drill. This Drimoge Abomination had then dug through the roof, hidden by Amaranth’s rock barrier, and tunnelled under Skara before subtly drilling cracks in the stone and then leaking through it. It had even timed its drilling to line up with the rumbling of the giant abomination’s footsteps, and then the impact of its pieces hitting the ground. Skara cursed and went to slice away the restraint, but the pieces of the abomination she’d cut up suddenly reformed, each one becoming a regular sized abomination that swarmed her. She reacted fast enough to blast the first couple away with a whistle, but when she took a breath, they managed to grab a hold of her and bind her tightly, restraining her hands, both legs, and covering her mouth to stop her whistling or screaming.

“I would love to hear more of your singing, Darling. But it’ll have to wait until after you receive the Lord Divider’s blessing.” Amaranth said, walking over to her daughter and laying a gentle hand on her head, petting it; “Don’t be upset; it really was a wonderful show.”

And it’s not other yet!” Skara thought, before beginning to hum. The sound was muffled by the gag over her mouth, so Amaranth didn’t notice until it was too late. She assumed simple humming wasn’t enough, and would normally have been right; but since Skara had incredible Bardic skills and still had her hands on her Palisman for a helpful magic boost, Skara was able to generate enough sonic magic to release it as a shockwave that blasted the slime away from her mouth. The effect nearly dislocated her jaw too, but Skara endured the pain, then as soon as her mouth was free, she unleashed a sonic shriek that blasted the rest of the slime off her while also sending her mother flying back. Amaranth was knocked all the way into the barrier that prevented them from escaping, groaning with the impact.

“That hurt.” she said blankly as she slowly picked herself up. “You keep impressing me, Darling. You’re your father’s daughter through and through.”

Skara grimaced; “Will you stop complimenting me!? You’re freaking me out!”

Amaranth tilted her head, still looking blank; “If I am making you uncomfortable, then I apologise. I was under the impression that compliments were a good thing.”

“Only if they’re real!” Skara snapped, feeling like she was losing her cool.

“I assure you that my compliments are real. Those blessed by the Lord Divider do not lie unless necessary. Needless deceit is an impurity that is removed from us.” Amaranth explained.

“Shut up!” Skara yelled; “I don’t want to hear it! I don’t…” she ran a hand through her hair in frustration and distress; “I don’t want to hear how the woman who abandoned me is secretly actually proud of me!”

Amaranth went silent and her expression became painfully blank. Skara wondered if the feeling she was missing in this instance was shame and sorrow, or pride and anger… not that it mattered of course. The woman eventually replied; “The actions I took were unforgivable. Despite knowing it was wrong, I left you and your father, and allowed those rumours about you to spread. It was reprehensible and I always regretted it. At least until the Lord Divider came.”

Skara’s heart hammered in her chest, and as her emotions got the better of her, she screamed yet again, using Bardic Magic to mimic King’s roar and send her mother flying again. Amaranth was clever though and rarely fell for the same trick, so the moment her feet left the ground, she swung her staff at the ground, causing a grappling hook of slime to shoot out and stab into it, anchoring her and keeping her from hitting the barrier again. When Skara was forced to stop screaming so she could breathe, the end of the hook suddenly shot out beneath her and bound her legs together, having threaded through the floor. Amaranth yanked on it as she landed, causing Skara to be knocked onto her backside. She then cast a spell to make the hook extend and try to wrap around the rest of Skara’s body too, but the girl was quick to use her hands to play a cutting note on her harp before they could be bound, freeing her and letting her scramble back to her feet as she glared at Amaranth.

Amaranth’s speciality as an Abomination Witch was precisely constructing the tools and abominations she needed for any given task. She could produce the perfect abomination for any task that an abomination could be used for, but the downside was that her creations were designed ONLY for that one task, and when they were faced with something they couldn’t deal with, they were easy to counter and destroy. With this in mind, Skara was sure it was only a matter of time before her mother found a way to make abomination slime that was resistant to the power of her music; the ones Amaranth had made so far had already been ordered directly by magic as they couldn’t hear, so as to avoid being effected by Skara’s spells. That convinced Skara that Amaranth was likely doing the same thing as Boscha and blocking out her own hearing to protect her from Skara’s Bardic Magic; as the ex-wife of a legendary Bard, there was no way Amaranth didn’t know that weakness. Of course, it didn’t stop all Bardic Songs, but if Skara was going to take her out like she wanted, she was going to have to clear the woman’s ears out!

Taking advantage of the fact Amaranth could read lips, Skara began to angrily shout gibberish at her, causing the woman to pause her attack as she struggled to understand what the girl was saying. Skara made a show of angrily tapping her foot as she gesticulated wildly, further confusing her mother while actually tapping another Human song; “Rock you like a Hurricane” by the Scorpions. Being played solely by the tapping of Skara’s foot, the wind it kicked up was extremely weak and formed nothing but a simple breeze, which Amaranth didn’t even notice, dismissing it as natural weather since they were on a rooftop. She completely forgot that the barrier keeping Skara in was also keeping the wind out, so Skara was able to build up the wind and then, just as Amaranth was focused entirely on her lips in an attempt to understand the gibberish she was spouting, Skara suddenly began playing the song on her harp too, and singing along.

Amaranth recoiled in shock, but since Skara had also built the song to a crescendo with her tapping, the instant she added the harp and singing, the wind spiralled into a full hurricane that trapped Amaranth in its vortex, spinning her around wildly. Amaranth tried to use her staff to shoot some grappling abomination slime again, but she was being spun too fast and any slime she created just ended up splattering and getting sucked up into the hurricane too, resulting in it actually getting stuck to Amaranth. Skara then switched tactics, using raw Wind Magic to keep the hurricane spinning as she swapped songs to “World so Cold” by Three Days Grace, causing the temperature within the barrier to drop drastically and turning the hurricane into a spiralling snow flurry. Amaranth tried to use her own Ice Magic (as it was an elemental component of Abomination Magic) to counter the snow, but the spinning and rapid temperature drop caused her hands to become numb and her staff to slip from her hands. With her hands too numb to even draw a spell circle and her mind addled by cold and dizziness, Amaranth was completely defenceless, and when Skara’s song finally came to an end, the wind stopped, the temperature returned to normal, and a solid chunk of ice containing Amaranth fell to the rooftop of the castle, creating a small crater but otherwise remaining totally intact.

Seeing this, Skara sighed with relief and collapsed to her knees, feeling worn out. She reached into her ponytail (that hair storage really was a handy spell) and pulled out a Bile Booster, which she swiftly chugged down to recover her strength. Human Songs had another downside to them too; since they’d not been designed with magic in mind, they were incredibly inefficient with how much magic they used, so even after only playing a handful of them, Skara felt like she’d just played a full concert.

“I need to study these songs and bring down the magic cost. They’re powerful and unexpected in this world, but way too tiring!” Skara said, before glancing over to her frozen mother. Ankh was frozen in the ice chunk too, having turned back into beetle form in an attempt to fly back to his partner, only to be frozen even faster than she had been.

Skara averted her eyes quickly, feeling a lot of complex emotions around her mother. Amaranth was not a good woman and never really had been; she’d been arrogant, prideful, and willing to do anything to preserve her own image, even if it meant slandering her own child. It shouldn’t matter to Skara that the woman still felt some love for her, or had once felt regrets… none of those things made Skara feel better.

Forcing her mother out of her mind, Skara turned to where Asher was watching from inside the tower that had Dad had blocked off with a barrier. The boy looked conflicted, but smiled at Skara when they made eye contact, then began to wave. The barriers were made with Bardic Magic and were sound proof, so Skara didn’t hear a word he said, but she could read his lips, smiling as she saw him saying; “Wow! My big sister is even stronger than Mommy! Bards are so strong!”

It made Skara feel warm and fuzzy inside, and gave her a bit of vindictive joy to know that her little brother looked up to her and thought Bards were amazing now. Though her warm feeling passed when Asher’s eyes suddenly widened with shock as he began pounding on the barrier and shouting. He was so panicked that it was hard for Skara to understand him as she began rushing over.

“Asher? Baby brother, you need to calm down! I can’t understand you!” she said, trying to speak slowly and with hand gestures to try and make him understand. Finally, he screamed something she understood loud and clear.

“Behind you!”

In an instant, Skara felt a shift in the air and dove to the floor just in time to avoid being knocked head over heels by a strong gust of wind aimed at the back of her head. She then rolled to the side to avoid a wave of red and gold magic that tried to trap her in a barrier, before spinning around and brandishing Melody in staff form. What she came face to face with broke her heart, as she found her father Severin smiling at her. He was naked from the waist up but was otherwise completely fine, and he had his Carabace cello slung over one shoulder like a war hammer, Boscha slung over the other, completely unconscious, and Maya trapped in a little wind-chime cage on his hip.

“Dad…!” Skara gasped.

“Hello, my Little Symphony.” he said kindly; “You’ve done some impressive work. Amaranth is no slouch! She earned her old title of Abomination Coven Head with genuine skill and ability. You should be proud of your strength and talent. I certainly am.”

Fighting the bubble of warmth that praise gave her, Skara growled; “What did you do to my Muse!?”

“She is merely asleep. I’d never do more than strictly necessary to a child, especially one I care for so much. Boscha is to be my daughter-in-law someday after all!” Severin said casually, still smiling.

“Then I’ll just have to wake her up! Hand her over!” Skara demanded, pointing her staff at her father’s face.

Severin’s face went blank, but he shockingly complied and gently placed Boscha on the ground, then stepped back. Skara knelt beside her sleeping girlfriend, before quickly using a Bardic Barrier to stop her father from getting to Amaranth and freeing her. He’d easily be able to destroy her barrier if he was given a few seconds to match his tempo to Skara’s magic, but he knew she’d never give him the chance, so he decided to instead bide his time and watch his daughter try to wake Boscha. As proud of her as he was, he knew she couldn’t match him! His skill in Bardic Magic had allowed him to knock down the glyph barriers and approach Skara in silence, without her having a clue what was happening while she was distracted by Asher. If not for the boy being able to clearly see him and Skara’s sharp senses catching on to the shifting air caused by his wind spell, he would have taken her out in an instant.

Skara shook Boscha to try and wake her, then gently tapped her face, spoke softly in her ear, and even opened one of her eyes, but nothing she did made the girl stir. As Skara was beginning to panic, she noticed a faint glow inside Boscha’s ears.

“This is… a deafening spell?” Skara frowned. “But that shouldn’t keep her from waking up at my shaking!”

“It doesn’t. It just makes sure you can’t use any other Bardic Songs that directly effect her.” Severin freely explained. “I matched it to the tempo of your magic, so short of doing something drastic to change that tempo, you won’t be able to undo it.”

Skara growled; “And how are you keeping me from shaking her awake!?”

“Oh, that’s a clever little trick that I learned from one of Raine’s apprentices, and my bodyguard; Derwin. He developed a “Magical Earworm” that causes the spells performed with it to linger in the victim’s mind even when the song has ended. It’s shockingly difficult to use, but I was able to master it… Boscha will not wake until I remove the enchantment and stop the Lullaby of Lethargy going on in her head, or until the magic I put into the enchantment runs out. But since I had a good deal of time after putting her to sleep, I was sure to layer in a lot of magic. Without my cooperation, Boscha will sleep for days.” Severin explained, his pleasant smile never leaving his face.

Skara glared at him, but the man was unfazed; “Can we end this fighting now, my Symphony? We can let this end nice and peacefully, and go back to being a happy family. Isn’t that what you want?” he asked.

“Of course it’s what I want… but I don’t want it like this!” Skara roared, adding some Bardic Magic to her voice, turning the roar into a sonic blast. Severin swung his cello down and blocked the blast, dispersing its force by matching its tempo with his own magic and then countering it effortlessly. Skara then screamed like a Banshee, releasing an omnidirectional sound-wave assault that nearly made Severin go deaf, before he deafened himself like he’d done to Boscha. Seeing this, Skara began playing the Medley of Mists; a classic Bardic Song that produced a thick fog, similar to a fog brew. She knew her father’s hearing was second to none, but his other senses were fairly average, so once the mist rolled in while he was deafened, he’d have only two choices; try to fight through the fog, or allow himself to hear again, allowing Skara to get him with another song.

Severin realised this too, and tried to disperse the fog with a wind spell. However Skara didn’t stop playing, producing more and more fog and making Severin’s barriers work against him, as the fog had nowhere to go, and so long as Skara kept playing, the magic that made it wouldn’t break down and let the fog vanish. Skara and her father both knew that she couldn’t play forever though; her magic would run out eventually, and Severin could just wait her out, so Skara decided to be tricky.

“Melody, since this harp is your body, can you move the strings on your own?” Skara asked.

I can, Skara. My former partner would turn me into a flute and have me play his songs myself, while he sang and played the lute. A harp is new for me, but I can feel the pull on my strings and remember them. Do you want me to keep up the Medley of Mists?” Melody asked in a small voice.

“Yes. Please do. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to play another song with my other harp; my birthday gift from Dad.” Skara replied.

Melody didn’t say anything in response, instead silently making her own strings move and play the song, though Skara did get the impression that Melody was pouting. The little Cricket was a good friend; she would always listen to Skara, softly offer her opinion on things, and shyly do her best to keep Skara on the straight and narrow, often talking her out of youthful indiscretions, such as sneaking out of the Noceda home one night with Boscha, Matt, and Gus to try and join a Human “Night Club” (Skara had listened, but her friends had been caught and Camila had been very disappointed in them, grounding all three for a week). However Melody was also a possessive and jealous little creature; Skara was hers just as she was Skara’s, and didn’t like her playing other instruments, riding other staves, or petting other Palismen. She wouldn’t complain of course; she was too mild-mannered and loyal to her partner, but that didn’t stop her from pouting.

Still, in this instance it was too important for Skara to worry about that, so she whistled to conjure some harp stings and used them to tie Melody’s harp form to her belt, where the Palisman continued to play the Medley of Mists. Skara then pulled out the red, butterfly-themed harp that she’d gotten from her Dad for her 15th Birthday and began to play “Counting Stars” again, creating dozens upon dozens of little balls of light, which she sent towards her father. The fog was thick enough that Severin didn’t see the first ball of light until it was too late, suffering a blow to the thigh as a result, making him grimace. He suffered three more blows to his back, spinning around to try and stop any further hits there, and was lucky enough to catch one of the attacks out of the corner of his eye before it hit, successfully blocking the fifth star with his cello.

Light attacks… Does Skara know the Prelude of Light? That isn’t a song taught at Hexside… did she learn it from my library?” Severin thought, very aware that Skara could hear him through the mist, while he could not do the same. “She doesn’t want to hurt me any more than I want to hurt her, so she’ll pick away at me with small and weak attacks to make me unblock my ears so she can use some other song to defeat me. Perhaps the Lullaby of Lethargy?”

Another wave of shooting stars came flying at him, but Severin deflected them with a sonic barrier. “Nice try, my Symphony. But my barrier will hold up longer than your magic.”

That made Skara scowl for a moment, before she decided to adjust her tactics, inspired by something her mother had tried. With Melody maintaining the mist and Skara still playing “Counting Stars” with her other harp, the girl began to whistle a third song, essentially requiring her to power three songs at once and mentally focus on performing two of them. It was hard, but the whistled song was a simple one; the Tunnelling Tune. It created a small spiky mass of magic than spun like a drill and tunnelled into the stone rooftop and began working its way beneath her father and his barrier. Once this tunnel was complete, Skara began to sing “Counting Stars” again to accompany her harp playing and make the spell stronger, granting her the necessary control to have the stars fly into the tunnel and use it to reach Severin.

The Overseer was caught completely off-guard and found himself bombarded by dozens of tiny light blasts, each one inflicting a stinging burn that made it hard to concentrate. He tried to instinctively plug the hole they were coming through, but in his surprise and panic, he foolishly used his foot and found himself being struck on the sole of his foot, burning through his boot. He yelped and hopped backward, then lost his balance completely as another star hit him in the chin, causing him to topple over. The blasts kept coming though, so Severin began whistling to blast them back with sonic shockwaves, but still they just kept coming, and Severin couldn’t stop them all. With no place to dodge too and no way to safely get back to his feet, Severin was forced to drop his barrier and use a wind blast to knock himself away from the hole, then back onto his feet. His right foot hurt due to the burn on the sole, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle.

“This is harder than I thought. Perhaps holding back on her wasn’t wise after all.” Severin said blankly, before suddenly finding himself smashed head over heels by a sonic boom to the face, courtesy of Skara, who’d used his distraction to get close to him. Severin hit the ground on his back, and Skara jumped onto his chest and clapped her hands against his ears, breaking his deafening spell. Startled, Severin tried to raise his cello and bow, but Skara whistled sharply, making Severin scream in pain and instinctively try to cover his ears, dropping his Palisman Instrument in the process. However, Skara’s legs were on his biceps and kept his hands from reaching his ears as she began to play a new Human Song.

The full lyrics weren’t appropriate for singing to one’s father but regardless; as the spell began to take effect due to the playing of her harp, Skara sang the words; “You’re poison, running through my veins! You’re Poison!”

As the chords of Alice Cooper’s “Poison” ran through his mind, Severin was briefly bewildered (and secretly entertained) by the unfamiliar song, before he began to feel sick to his stomach. He felt like vomiting as his vision became shaky and his head began to pound. His tongue suddenly felt thick in his mouth, and a foul taste and smell overcame his senses.

“Ugh… this song… it poisons the listener?” Severin groaned weakly as Skara stood up and got off him, knowing he was too weak to move now. She’d practised this song with Boscha, and it had made even her sick to her stomach, despite having an iron gut thanks to her own training with poisons. Her dad was physically stronger, but he wasn’t resistant to poisons, so it should effect him even more.

“Sorry, Daddy.” Skara said sadly as the mist began to disperse now that the Medley of Mist was no longer being played; “I didn’t want it to be like this, but so long as you’re Divided, I can’t go easy on you.”

Severin, despite going green in the face, smiled up at her shakily; “Oh Skara, I know… you’re a good girl. That’s why I need to give you the Divider’s Blessing…” his face became blank; “Forgive me for this. Carabace, do it!”

Suddenly, Carabace returned to his sea turtle form and launched himself at Skara. The girl was shocked, but dodged out of the way just in time, but as Carabace flew past her, he turned his head towards her and suddenly spat something out. It was some kind of potion bottle, which Skara recognised as being from Boscha’s Combat Potioneer Belt. The bottle hit her and the thin glass shattered and vanished, releasing the potion. It was a Lightning Magic Bomb, and the resulting blast of electricity made Skara scream in pain and convulse, dropping her Palisman Harp and ending her song. The effects of “Poison” immediately vanished from Severin, though he too was caught in the shock and winced in pain. However since he’d been mentally prepared for it, he shook it off fast and was able to get back to his feet and summon Carabace to his side again. He then immediately turned him into cello mode and began rapidly playing the Lullaby of Lethargy to try and put Skara to sleep.

His plan almost worked, but Skara drowned out his song with a sonic scream, which also made Severin wince. Skara took the opportunity to summon Melody and begin furiously sending musical note projectiles at her father, who began swatting them away with the bow of his cello.

“You took one of Boscha’s potions after knocking her out!” Skara accused as a storm of breves, semibreves, minims, crotchets, quavers, treble clefs, and bass clefs flew from her harp strings and shot towards her father.

“I did. She used another dose of that potion to great effect against me, so I just had to make use of it myself. I hope you did not suffer too much.” Severin replied, batting the projectiles away. There were so many that he was now using his cello and large sweeping swings to deflect them safely.

“No more than I’d suffer whilst being divided to suit your new master’s twisted sense of morality!” Skara snapped as she felt the drain on her magic. She needed a new plan; her Dad had already deafened himself again to prevent himself being affected by more of her songs, and he’d never let her out of sight again after the trouble it caused him the first time. If she tried to play the Medley of Mists, he’d immediately recognise the way she plucked the strings of her harp and would act to stop her.

My best bet is to use an unfamiliar song, meaning a Human Realm one! I’ve got enough gas in the tank for one more if I make it quick. Melody, I’ve got another plan but you aren’t going to like it…” Skara thought.

Do what you have to, Skara. I’ll support you.” Melody thought back.

Nodding seriously, Skara unleashed as many note projectiles as she could in a rapid burst, forcing her Dad to raise his cello in front of his face to block them. This obscured his vision and allowed Skara to quickly swap her Palisman Harp with her Butterfly one while Melody hopped away. Skara whistled a Mirage Minuet to disguise her Butterfly Harp as Melody, while Melody did the same with her legs to make herself invisible as she got into position. When Severin lowered his cello, Skara began playing her new song.

“Time for another dose of music like the Demon Realm has never seen! Have a taste of the Human Bard: Katy Perry! I think you’ll find the results… explosive!” Skara declared.

She then began to play the song “Firework”, making her father panic. He didn’t recognise the song from the finger strokes, and that unnerved him, especially since he’d read his daughter’s lips and understood what she’d said. Something explosive was not going to be good for him, and music by a Human Bard… that had to be something amazing! The last one had certainly entranced him even with the horrible effects!

“I don’t know what you’re playing, my Symphony… but I cannot allow you to complete it!” Severin declared, preparing to send a powerful gale of wind at her to knock her over. However just as he pulled his cello back for the swing, Melody suddenly jumped at him from the side and kicked him in the side of the head with her cricket legs. She packed some serious punch in them, and the blow was enhanced with a sonic boom to really knock him for a loop. He staggered and tried to recover and continue his wind spell, but Melody was faster and began jumping all over him, kicking him this way and that, not giving him a chance to attack. Just as he was about to unleash a sonic roar to knock the cricket Palisman away, Skara’s song finally took full effect, giving Melody’s legs a glowing aura. The song had been sung for her, not Severin!

With her glowing legs, Melody kicked Severin in the chest just as Skara sang the words; “’Cause baby, you’re a firework!”

The point of impact really did explode like a (admittedly small) firework, burning Severin’s chest and making him cry out in pain as he was sent toppling backwards. His hit the ground hard, and Melody (whose leg was mildly damaged by the explosion too) hopped back to her partner, jumping into the girl’s hands.

My Skara… did I do good?” she asked shyly.

“Better than good! Oh, my poor Melody! Look at your little leg! Don’t worry, I’ll fix it right up!” Skara cried, on the verge of tears. She’d held back the magic on the song as much as possible to minimise the damage to both Melody and her Dad, but it couldn’t be held back completely.

Cradling Melody in her arms, Skara began to sing another Human Song; this time the Healing Song from the Tangled Movie (which the Hexsquad had been amazed to learn worked very similarly to how it did in the movie). It caused her hair to glow gold like in the movie, and the glow spread to her hands and then to her Palisman, restoring Melody’s leg.

“I swear, next time I’m going to be the one using Firework on myself!” Skara promised. Melody chirped and booped Skara’s nose with one of her antenna.

Don’t be silly. I’m older; I should protect you. That’s what I want.” Melody told her. “I wasn’t able to protect my last partner, so my heart’s desire is to protect you. No matter what.”

Skara beamed and kissed Melody on the head; “You’re too good for me… I don’t like that you’d let yourself be hurt for me, but you’re free to do what you choose.”

Melody chirped happily, and both she and Skara looked over at Severin, who appeared to be unconscious. Skara took a step towards him, planning to tie him up and gag him so he couldn’t use music against her when he woke up, but as she took a step, she suddenly staggered and fell onto one knee.

“I guess I really did use up all that I had left. And I already drank my emergency Bile Booster. I guess I’ve got no choice now…” Skara sighed as she reached into her hair and pulled out the Power Glyph she’d been given by Mason.

However, the instant she pulled it out of her hair, her father suddenly leapt back up and launched himself at her, letting go of his cello to decrease his weight and releasinga sonic boom by slamming his foot against the floor as he jumped at Skara, allowing him to reach even greater speeds. He jabbed Skara in the abdomen with his bow, but at the speed he was travelling, even a gentle jab was enough to wind Skara badly and knock her onto her back. As she gasped for air, her father plucked the Power Glyph from her hand and examined it.

“This is Mason’s work. No one else on the isles can produce Power Glyphs of this level! So he is helping the rebels. That’s useful information to have.” Severin mused, before doing the worst thing he could in this situation; he placed the Power Glyph on himself. Immediately, Skara gasped as an overwhelming amount of power flooded out of her father, giving him an incredible aura of red and gold magic.

“No…!” Skara cried as she felt the magic coming off her father in waves. The man smiled softly at her and offered her his hand to help her up, but she just crawled backward fearfully as Melody jumped up and kicked his hand away. Severin’s face went blank once again as he shook his head.

“Skara, please surrender. Your magic is depleted, mine has grown massively with this glyph, your only back up is unconscious, and you’ve got no way of escaping. There is no need for more fighting.” he said.

Skara shook her head; “So long as I’ve got breath in my body, I can keep fighting!”

Severin’s shook his head once more, though Skara could swear she’d seen a hint of pride in his eyes. She expected him to try and bind her, but instead he turned and walked over to the frozen Amaranth, much to Skara’s horror. She knew what was coming next and tried to buy time by frantically asking; “How did you stay conscious after that explosion!? I could have sworn it knocked you out!”

“It very nearly did.” Severin answered, rubbing the mild burn on his chest. “But I was already channelling Wind Magic with Carabace to hit you with a gale. When Melody attacked me, I was able to coat myself in some of that Wind Magic before the worst could happen. It was a close thing, but it mitigated the damage. Now…” Severin raised his cello and infused it with magic; “…time for your mother to join this family talk.”

Skara tried one last-ditch effort to attack her father by using a couple of emergency glyphs to shoot a fireball and icicle at him, but he easily deflected the icicle with the bow of his cello, and side-stepped the fireball so it hit the ice and helped thaw it a little. Skara cursed, but she didn’t have many glyphs; her pride as a Bard meant she avoided using other magic, even to the point of not carrying more than a handful of glyphs. It was a mistake that was costing her now, though she doubted it’d make a difference at this point.

With his daughter’s final gambit failing, Severin smashed his cello into the ice, and combined with the vibrations he sent through it, the ice easily shattered and a shivering Amaranth fell from it, along with Ankh.

“Brr… that was not a pleasant experience.” Amaranth shivered, slowly getting to her feet. “Thank you for the assistance, Severin.”

“You’re welcome. I’ve worn out our daughter, so I think it’s time to end this. Do you need help warming up?” Severin asked, ready to bust out another song.

Amaranth shook her head though, instead picking up Ankh and gently rubbing him to warm him up, then transforming him into a staff and conjuring a coat of abomination slime for herself. “Ah, there is nothing quite like the warmth of a fresh abomination.” she said, then looked to Skara. The poor girl felt so weak and frustrated that she was almost in tears, but she was still showing defiance.

“You truly are a talented young lady, Skara. You have my utmost respect. If you’d had your father’s years of experience, I suspect you’d have won.” Amaranth complimented.

Skara felt that strange gripping sensation in her heart again as Severin turned Carabace back into a staff and snapped his fingers, removing the barrier that kept Asher inside one of the towers. “Come join us, Asher. You are part of this family too!” Severin said kindly. “Your father is too, and he will join us as well once the Lord Divider understands the situation.”

Asher shook like a leaf as he crept forward just a little, holding onto the door frame of the tower. He wanted to rush to his sister’s side, but he was petrified of the two Divided Adults that he’d just watched fighting her. After a moment, Amaranth shot a spell at the abomination holding Jerbo right beside Asher, causing it to melt now that its creator was unconscious.

“Jerbo, be a dear and bring Asher here. Gently, please.” Amaranth requested.

Jerbo smiled and nodded, then offered Asher his hand, which the little boy reluctantly took. The Divided teen than walked Asher over to the group, and Amaranth opened her arms for a hug, but Asher instead pulled free of Jerbo and rushed over to Skara, who got to her feet to hug him.

“Skara! I don’t like this! I don’t want you to fight any more! I don’t want Mommy and Uncle Severin to hurt you!” Asher cried.

“I know, baby. I don’t want to fight and hurt them either… but I can’t let them divide you or I like they were divided.” Skara said, smiling bravely even as terror gripped her heart. She was in-between two impossible situations, and carefully pulled the boy behind her as she weakly stood between him and their parents.

Severin smiled softly; “Skara, you’ve done enough. You’ve fought long and hard, achieving so much against the likes of Belos, and even the Wings of Rani! No one can say you didn’t try your hardest. But it’s time to accept reality; the Lord Divider cannot be defeated, and his blessing can only make things better. Just accept it, my Symphony… you’ll live a life of happiness, free of all desire. You’ll want for nothing!”

Skara shook her head vehemently; “That’s not what I want! And the Divider only making things better!? Don’t make me laugh! Uncle Scooter only has a few weeks left, so tell me Dad; are you going to stand beside his deathbed, watch the man who was like a second father to you die, and feel nothing!?”

Severin’s expression became neutral as he paused to think about his answer. Eventually he said; “I will feel joy that his pain has ended. That he is at peace. Isn’t that enough?”

“NO!” Skara screamed passionately; “That is not enough! I can barely believe I’m hearing this! I can never imagine watching someone I love die and only feeling happiness! That is disgusting and ghoulish! I don’t even like the idea of only feeling happy when someone I hate dies! Uncle Scooter deserves to be mourned after all he did for you, for me, and for this family! While I had Boscha to support me after what she did…” the girl glared at Amaranth, who had the good sense to stay silent, “… you had Uncle Scooter and Raine to support you! How can you not even mourn the man who did so much for you!?”

Severin tilted his head; “You’re saying it’s better to feel sorrow and mourn someone’s death, than to be happy that their suffering is over and celebrate their life?”

“I’m saying it’s better to feel both!” Skara cried, “Mourn his loss AND celebrate his life! That’s what he wants! That’s what I want when I finally die! That’s what you wanted too, before you became… this!”

Severin shook his head; “The Blessed have no grand desires. We have simple wants; to be with out loved ones, to do the things we enjoy. We have no need to strive for more and are content and happy to serve the Lord Divider’s dream; he wants to create Paradise, and we all work to achieve that. You will too, soon.”

“Never!” Skara spat.

“You don’t have a choice.” Severin said, completely emotionless; “I am your father and you are my child. That means that it is for me to decide what is best for you. And this is what I have decided.”

Skara reared back as if she’d been struck; her father had always let her make her own decisions and respected them, even when he didn’t agree. Sure he’d forbidden her from things and told her no plenty of times as a child, but what parent didn’t? When it came to the important things, he’d given her the freedom to choose, never doing more than sitting down with her and making sure she understood the consequences of her choices.

But this? This was different. This was not the man she called Dad. This was a puppet of the Divider that wore his face and Skara would not stand for it!

“This is my life, Dad. It is mine to live, and I will live it how I choose! I have that freedom, and I will use it to fight you and the Divider and anyone else who wants to take it from me! And not just my freedom, but the freedom of others too! The freedom of Asher, my friends, my family, and everyone on this isles! That is what I choose!” Skara declared. She felt a rush of power in her chest as she took a step forward.

“I will create a world where people are free to pursue their desires! The desires that help drive so many people to do amazing things! It was desire that made me aspire to become a Bard like you and Uncle Scooter and Raine! It was desire that made Boscha my girlfriend, and gave me such a huge group of loyal friends; friends who support each other as they fight and struggle for their own desires!” Skara continued. She took another step, the feeling in her heart becoming a burning sensation that slowly spread throughout her body. She only had enough magic left to let out a flicker of an aura, yet the emotion she put into it was intense enough that Severin and Amaranth found themselves stepping back, while Jerbo edged away to the side, gulping as he went.

“I won’t fail! I refuse to fail! Not after Uncle Scooter put his faith in me to bring you back to your senses! Not after Luz put her faith in me when she let me come here to save Asher and face you! Not after Boscha put her faith in me when we split up to fight the two of you! They all had faith in me and trusted me to do what I said I would do, just as I have faith in all of them! Faith that Luz and her family have defeated Raine! Faith that Willow and the others are still fighting their hardest! And faith in Melody and myself, and our power to rise up against you no matter what!”

Skara took another step forward, and her parents took another step back; “And finally… I will fight for the little brother who believes in me! To create a world where he is free to live however his heart desires! So listen up: I AM SKARA CADENCE, THE FUTURE GREATEST BARD IN ALL THREE REALMS! AND I AM NOT GOING TO LOSE!”

She pointed defiantly at her father, and smiled challengingly as Melody sat on her shoulder and flared her little wings; “And that is the life I chose!”

Severin and Amaranth both stepped back once more, feeling a strange stirring in their chest as pride burned through them. They then gasped in shock, alongside Jerbo, as a silver light emerged from Skara’s chest and took the form of the wind glyph, which was now etched into the girl’s chest.

“T-The wind glyph!?” Jerbo gasped.

To compound their shock, they all noticed a twinkling in the distance to the south, coming from Manubrium. That twinkling got brighter and more intense as they suddenly realised it was a beam of intense silver light shooting straight towards them. The Divided Trio leapt back, but Skara remained still and was hit in the chest, where her new glyph had appeared. The two silver lights combined and created an overwhelmingly bright flash, which blinded everyone and caused Skara to be engulfed in the light.

Slowly, Skara opened her eyes and discovered that she’d been transported into some kind of endless white void, with Melody floating in front of her. For a moment she was afraid something horrible had happened and she was now dead, as if the burning in her chest had been a heart attack, or the beam of light had killed her. However she quickly gathered her thoughts and realised where she actually was.

“A white void with my Palisman… this is what Amity and Gus described! And with the glyph that appeared on me before I came here… that means I bonded with the wind glyph!” Skara cheered. She then looked at Melody and scooped her up; “And you too! I fully bonded with you! We’re gonna be a duet in one now!”

Melody chirped happily, then said; “That’s right. The aspects of wind are freedom, faith, and desire. You showed that you understood and respected those aspects and became one with the wind glyph! And from the very start, you respected and cared for me.”

Skara giggled; “Well of course! You’re my Palisman! We’re friends and partners! Practically sisters from different Misters, ha!”

“This is why I chose you, my Skara. You’re free-spirited, loving, and truly kind. You respect the choices of others, and support them in their goals and desires. You believe in people, like Boscha. And deep down, I think you believe in Amaranth too, even if you don’t want to admit it.” Melody said.

Skara’s face fell; “Ugh, that woman confuses me! I shouldn’t feel so good being praised by a woman who abandoned me! Especially one who is now praising the very thing she abandoned me for.”

“I understand.” Melody said, “But you feel that there is more to the story, and you want to know and understand. A part of you desires the truth. Things are not always what they seem after all; just like with me and my old partner.”

Skara’s eyes widened a little; she knew very little about the Melody’s past and previous partner. She’d been told the same abridged version that Melody had been willing to share with Luz back in the Bat Queen’s forest; Melody’s former partner had been a famous Bard of the Savage Ages, but a scandal that wasn’t their fault caused them to lose everything, and ultimately sever their bond with Melody before ending their own life. It was a tragic tale and Skara wanted to know more, but…

“You know you don’t need to talk about it if you don’t want to.” Skara said, repeating the same words she’d said when she first learned about it.

Melody chirped and nuzzled against Skara; “This is why I love you so much, my Skara. The day I chose you, I was resigned to telling you the full story… but then you said those words to me and suddenly I was free to choose. I chose to keep my secrets and you respected that and never once asked again, telling me only that I could talk whenever I wanted. Well, now I want to… to share the truth.”

Skara nodded with a sad smile; “If this is what you want, then go right ahead. You know I’ll listen.”

Melody nodded and began; “My partner was named Senarune, and they were the finest Bard on the Isles almost 500 years ago. They loved music just like you, and performed for that reason only and not the money. They became famous and their name was praised across the Isles…”

Skara gasped softly, but didn’t interrupt. Senarune wasn’t well-known in the modern era, but any Bard aficionado would recognise the name! They were the first witch to create and perform the Ballad of Motivation! Their works were legendary! But they had met a bad end due to politics, making Skara realise where this story was going.

“Senarune was sought after by a wealthy lord, who warred with his neighbour. He wanted Senarune to marry his daughter and use their Ballad to power up his soldiers to destroy the neighbour. Senarune refused and left, but the lord swore revenge. He proclaimed that my partner had taken advantage of his daughter, then rejected her and left her with child. The child was tested and turned out to be their biological daughter; the result of a Bloodline Potion brewed with hair stolen from Senarune during the meeting with the lord. When my partner declared it was impossible, the lord denounced him and so did all of the nobility. In the Savage Ages, the nobles were dangerous to cross, and people refused to have anything to do with Senarune. Their own family abandoned them to avoid the stigma, and no one would even listen to them play their music any longer. People lost faith in them, and they in turn lost faith in people. The sorrow grew too intense, and they sent me away. I never saw them again…” Melody finished, tears in her eyes.

“Oh, Melody! I’m so sorry to hear that!” Skara cried, tears in her own eyes too. She hugged the little cricket and gently stroked her head, as Melody cuddled against her.

“I told you this story, my Skara, because I too lost my faith in people. I couldn’t trust people after how they turned on my Senarune. I agreed to be a part of Palisman Adoption Day solely because I felt like I owed a debt to Luz and Amity for saving me and my fellow Palismen from the Mandragora, but I had no intention of bonding with some random child… but then I met you. A girl who wanted to be the best Bard in the world, and make sure no one looked down on Bards again… all while deep down, you were terrified of being rejected.” Melody’s shiny red compound eyes stared into Skara’s grey ones. “I saw a child like my Senarune, who wanted to be the best, to make others enjoy what they do, and feared that no one would listen. I felt the connection, and here we are today. I have never once felt regret for that day… or you, the girl who made me believe in people once again, and made me want to see you succeed.”

Melody nestled herself against Skara’s heart and looked up at her as the girl, extremely touched, cried.

“Thank you for telling me that, Melody.” Skara sniffled; “I promise, I’ll never give up on that dream!”

Melody nodded; “I know you won’t. You’re stubborn. You’re a hurricane that will sweep up everything around you into your dream, and I… I will become your wings. I give you all that I am, my Skara… and I since my body is about to become one with yours, I promise I won’t pout if you have to use another instrument.”

Skara giggled at that last little joke, and hugged Melody with all the love in her heart. An incredibly bright light spread from them and filled the void, and the dividing line between Skara and Melody disappeared as they melded together and were thrust back into the world.

The vision had happened entirely within the mind and souls of Skara and Melody, and despite it feeling longer, only a split second has passed outside in the real world. Severin, Amaranth, Jerbo, and Asher had all sealed their eyes from the light, but as it began to die down, Skara came into view once again in the form of a Palisman Fusion.

Fused with Melody, Skara’s physical body hadn’t changed very much, but her clothing was completely different (and arguably still a part of her body now thanks to the fusion. Her outfit consisted of a pale silvery grey and red sleeveless dress. The upper body of the dress had a red collar and a simple red pattern around the glowing wind glyph on her chest, with silvery grey sections on the back and sides. The lower body of the dress, separated from the upper body by a black belt beneath Skara’s ribs, flared out like the silvery grey petals of a flower, or more accurately, the folded wings of a cricket. It was open in the front, revealing that Skara had silvery grey shorts beneath the dress, and the front of the lower body continued the red pattern of the upper body. Skara’s feet were covered by knee-high red boots that had spikes on the back of them that resembled the spikes on a cricket’s legs. This matched her arms, where she wore red fingerless gloves that stretched up to her mid-bicep, though instead of spikes, they were decorated with black stylised quaver notes on the elbows. The outfit was completed by a pair of black earrings that were shaped like beamed eighth notes, and a red ribbon trying back her ponytail, forming a pair of antennae like protrusions. Then it came to the actual physical changes Skara had gone through beyond her outfit; her hair was largely unchanged, but the black undercut she had on the back and sides of her head had become the same red as her boots and gloves, and her eyes had lost their pupils, causing the entire iris to become a red compound-style eye (though the white sclera remained present). Lastly, Skara now bore a pair of semi-transparent insect wings on her back, which looked just like a cricket’s (sized to fit Skara of course), and attached to these wings were a secondary pair of red ones, which seemed to function as the protective cover for the main wings when they weren’t in use, but looked a little like a cape.

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (1)

“Whoa…” Skara breathed as she looked down at herself, flexing her fingers. She felt amazing; as if she was at full power! No, she felt better than that! This felt like she was wielding a Power Glyph! “With this, I feel like I could do anything!”

Asher gasped and looked at her with sparkling eyes; “Skara, you look super cool! How did you do that!?”

“I fused with my Palisman. It’s a new trick that some of my friends and I can do thanks to Luz and King! With this, not even Mom, Dad, and Jerbo can stop me!” Skara declared, releasing a powerful aura of magic.

The aura made the Divided Trio step back once more, before Jerbo summoned his Palisman Baskerville and used him to conjure abominations made of dirt, which shot vines from their hands to bind Skara.

As daintily as a fairy, Skara hovered into the air, her new wings a blur of movement as she waved her hand at the abominations and their vines. In a flash, they were all shredded to pieces by razor sharp wind blades. Jerbo gasped at how quickly and cleanly they were torn to shreds, but he didn’t have long to feel concerned before Skara began to sing.

“Here’s a repeat of an earlier song! Let me re-introduce the Human Bards: The Scorpions!” Skara declared with a bright grin as she began to release sound waves from her wings. The sound waves, charged with Bardic Magic, began to perfectly mimic the original song’s drums and cymbals, as if they were being played by the real instruments. Skara then summoned her Butterfly Harp back to her hand and began playing it as if it was a guitar, and with her new and improved Bardic Magic, it sounded like a real electric guitar! With the backing track now in full swing, Skara began to belt out “Rock you like a Hurricane”, and while it was her own voice, she sang it with all the confidence of the original singer, losing her previous nerves when it came to singing.

Previously, this song produced a small localised hurricane around her target, but with her Palisman Fusion and all the power it granted, as well as with the song being performed in full with its original sound, the spell caused the sky between the castle and Rani’s Eden to be covered in clouds, which then twisted into a genuine full-size hurricane that came spiralling down onto the roof of the castle, effortlessly shattering through Severin’s sonic barriers thanks to Skara’s incredible control over sound waves in this state. Jerbo and Amaranth tried to avoid being caught in it by anchoring themselves with abomination tendrils, while Severin tried to play a song of his own to control the wind and stop himself from being sucked in. Both these attempts failed however, as Skara kicked her legs out and shot wind blades at all three, cutting the abomination tendrils AND the strings of Severin’s cello. The hurricane touched down on top of the castle and immediately tore straight through it, drilling all the way down to the ground floor and ripping out a huge chunk of the building. Severin, Amaranth, Jerbo, and all the people on the floors directly beneath them were caught in the winds and spun around wildly, rapidly becoming disoriented. Aside from Skara, the only one spared was Asher, as his sister bent the winds around him to ensure he wasn’t harmed.

Of course, the hurricane didn’t otherwise discriminate between friend and foe, or the living enemies and their automaton soldiers, so Skara ensured the hurricane didn’t do more than spin them around at high speed and make them terribly dizzy. With the kind of focus only achievable with two minds blended together, Skara then began finely manipulating individual wind currents to eject rubble from the hurricane, then any people that weren’t Angels or known to be divided, causing all of them to be dropped gently into the moat that surrounded the castle. Skara also avoided letting the hurricane get too close to the central tower, where the beam that sent power to Rani’s Eden originated, as she didn’t want to risk destroying it or the Titan’s Heart; even with her incredible power, she didn’t think she could keep the island from falling from the sky with wind alone!

Once she was sure the Witches and Demons she’d caught had been released safely, Skara slowly reduced the speed of the hurricane by slowing the tempo of the song, until eventually the wind wasn’t spinning fast enough to keep people aloft and the hurricane dispersed, dropping people into a giant pile on the ground floor of the castle. The heaviest ones; the Knight Golems had been dropped first, followed by the Abomatons, which provided a nice squishy surface for the Angels to land on, along with Severin, Amaranth, and Jerbo.

Naturally, Skara’s hurricane didn’t get every single person in the castle, only ensnaring the majority of the people in the south-west corner, but a massive hurricane tearing through the castle and taking out a quarter of the people inside was not something the remaining three-quarters would miss, so many of the Angels came running with their troops.

“O-Overseer Cadence!?” one High Angel cried. “What in the Seraphim’s name happened!?”

Severin pointed up as Skara slowly descended into the hole she’d made, Asher floating beside her in a sonic barrier she’d made to protect him.

“My daughter happened.” Severin said, unable to tear his eyes away from her.

Amaranth couldn’t either, but sitting atop a huge mound of abomination goo meant she was in her element.

“Jerbo Darling, be a dear and help me move all this raw material. My daughter has acquired quite the power-up; a suitable defence is required.” she instructed, drawing spell circles with both her staff and her free hand.

“Yes Ma’am!” Jerbo said, doing the same thing. The two combined their magic and began manipulating the pile of slime from the fallen Abomaton Knights, blending it all together into a single colossal Abomaton. Skara was a little surprised, but not intimidated in the slightest as she began to play yet another Human Song, using her harp to mimic a guitar and the beating of her wings to mimic the other instruments.

Skara grinned and declared; “The bigger they are, the harder they fall! Or as the great Bard Freddie Mercury once said… ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST!”

A blast of magic erupted from Skara and slammed down on the Abomaton, turning both it and the pile of Angelic Knight Golems to dust. It literally dried the Abomaton out and made it crumble into purple powder, while the golems rusted like they’d been bathed in Rusting Rhododendrons. This resulted in all the Angels, as well as Severin, Amaranth, and Jerbo, to fall once again and hit the ground with a groan now that their cushion had vanished. Thankfully the fall wasn’t enough to hurt, and many of the Angels had already recovered and begun flying again before this point, so they began firing magic bolts at Skara.

Skara countered by throwing up a sonic barrier to protect her as she planned her next move, only to then hear Melody’s voice in her head.

Skara, be careful. Our power has increased massively now that we’re tapping into the power of the Titan, but it isn’t limitless! All the fine control you’ve needed to use and all the magic you spent on performing those songs has weakened us! We’re down by a third already!” she warned.

“My bad. This power is just so incredible… I finally understand so many things too! My Wind and Bardic Magic both feel so much more powerful! I bet this is the experience of Senarune that was carved into you!” Skara declared. “But you’re right, let’s turn it down a notch. There’s something I want to try anyway.”

Confident that her barrier would protect her, Skara closed her eyes and began to focus on both her hearing and her magic sense. In the past, her father had taught her that his ability to read the Tempo of people’s magic was akin to listening for the song within their magic. Only the greatest of Bards could hear how magic sang within a person; Scooter, Raine, and Severin were believed to be the only ones on the Isles who could do it, and only Severin could match his own magic to the tempo of others. He’d known he’d never reach the level of talent his mentor and fellow apprentice possessed, so had instead opted to use his natural empathy to train this particular ability, as a way of matching Raine’s raw talent. Skara had never been able to do it before; she’d been a bit too young and emotionally immature to read and match the tempo of others, and her ability to hear it had been far too underdeveloped… but now that she had bonded with Melody, Skara could hear a chorus of souls all around her.

“So this is what Dad listens to when in battle… it’s beautiful, but haunting. The Divided sound especially strange… it’s like half their song is missing. I’m not sure I can stand it for long.” Skara mused. She suddenly heard a shift and opened her eyes to see her Dad had launched himself at her and was preparing to swing his cello at her, aiming to smash her barrier. With his skills, he likely could, so Skara decided to just drop the barrier and blast her father away with a gust of wind. He flipped through the air and landed safely, while Skara then turned her attention away from him and towards another song she’d heard… or rather, four songs.

“It sounds like Willow and the others could use some help. Since the Divided haven’t turned back to normal yet, they must be delayed. Well, might as well go help them!”

Without a second glance, Skara whistled sharply, using her father’s Tempo Matching ability to ensure her whistle only effected the Angels and Divided around her, making them all stop in their tracks and clutch their ears. She then used this moment to race straight for the Heart Chamber, which she blasted her way into by slicing the closest door apart with wind blades.

She arrived to find a shocking scene; all the Divided Orbs were trapped inside a single gigantic spherical crystal barrier, which had vines and shadows struggling to try and break through it. Scattered around the heavily damaged room was dozens of unconscious Angels, puddles of destroyed Abomatons, and mounds of scrap metal from the Knight Golems. However over a dozen High Angels filled the room (most looking worse for wear), while a pair of tired looking Arch-Angels stood behind them, being protected and managing the barrier. In the dead centre of the room’s lowest floor, in the ruins of a destroyed Ritual Circle, was Willow, Gus, Hunter, and Lyra.

The four teens were battle-worn and exhausted, their Power Glyphs and Bile Boosters having long been exhausted. Through Willow’s Grafted Plants, Gus’s Palisman Fusion (which had since worn off due to lack of strength), Hunter’s Wild Heart form, and Lyra’s Divine Tarot, they had managed to defeat a huge number of Angels without falling; a feat that was incredible and wouldn’t have been possible without their teamwork and the power of Gus’s Tactile Illusions. But numbers still overwhelmed them, and all four now looked on the verge of collapsing.

The destruction of the door drew everyone in the room’s attention, making them turn to the source of the attack. The Wings of Rani were all on guard, while the Hexsquad members took one look at Skara’s new form and grinned tiredly.

“Skara! To think you’d be the third one to unlock that power… it looks like you went through something major!” Gus smiled.

“Oh, it was nothing too crazy. Just fighting for my freedom against my brainwashed Dad and Mom, rescuing my little brother, and coming to terms with the fact my Uncle Scooter only has weeks to live.” Skara said with a sad smile of her own. “How about you guys?”

“We were doing well until our Power Glyphs wore off.” Hunter said, panting a little; “Now we can barely move a muscle and we can’t get through that barrier to break the Divided Orbs!”

“Think you could lend us a hand?” Willow added, Lyra nodding beside her. The Dark Angel still had a habit of becoming selectively mute whenever she was exhausted or stressed.

Skara opened her mouth to answer, when she heard a soft sound behind her and flew to the side to avoid being hit with a sonic blast shot at her by her father, who seemed to have finally figured out the right sound frequency to smash her barrier. Skara could always change the frequency if she wanted, but decided that it was better to go back on the offensive and end this.

“Asher, I’m gonna tuck you out of the way over here for a little bit. You’ll be safe though, I promise.” Skara said, moving the spherical barrier she was carrying him over to the Titan’s Heart and gently placing him atop it, between the pipes attached to its blood vessels. It was the safest place for him, as no one would dare risk using magic that close to the heart, for fear of damaging it and bringing Rani’s Eden down on their heads.

“Okay Skara! Are you gonna kick butt with another song?” Asher asked excitedly.

Skara laughed imperiously; “But of course! Or rather… they are gonna kick butt with another song! A Bard is most powerful when they have an accompaniment, and our magic is the most diverse form of supportive magic there is! Willow, it’s time for you and your team to end this battle!”

“Then take it away, Maestro!” Willow grinned, already feeling a little pumped up.

Skara grinned in response and an entirely unfamiliar song played; a song that everyone could hear, but thanks to Skara figuring out her father’s Tempo Matching, only Willow, Gus, Hunter, and Lyra experienced its effects. With the use of her wings, her harp, and raw magic to manipulate the wind and create sound, Skara produced the sound of an entire orchestra as its effects filled her friends. Those effects caused Skara and her Hexsquad friends to feel pumped up and ready to fight, even as their hearts were filled with cheer and joy. It was a feeling of camaraderie; a shared experience that united them and empowered them, allowing them to better understand and utilise each other’s powers, and work together flawlessly. It also took the magic of everyone effected by it, pooled it together, and then distributed it evenly among them, meaning that Skara took a heavy penalty to her magic, but the others gained back enough to keep fighting.

“This is a song I composed for myself! A song akin to the Ballad of Motivation, but one that not only motivates the CATTs, but brightens their moods and enables them to control themselves even in a Bile Overload! A song named for the true home of our little makeshift family; the Anthem of the Owl House!”

In a flash, the members of Hexsquad sprang into action with renewed vigour, blending their skills together into a medley of magic. The High Angels inside the room threw themselves at the teens, while the remaining forces outside the chamber (at least those not fighting in other parts of the castle) came rushing in to try and help their fellows, alongside Severin, Amaranth, and Jerbo. Lyra stopped the flood of newcomers by raising the shadows in the doorways, then using elements of Gus’s magic to “freeze” the shadows into impenetrable black crystals. Skara then sang an aria as she continued the Anthem, allowing her to control the wind currents and keep the two Arch-Angels, Jerbo, Amaranth, and her Dad out of the way as their subordinates were defeated. Willow and Hunter used a combo that had Hunter produce a series of roots from his back with his Wild Heart form, while Willow grew her Artillery Seed Pods from them, unleashing a huge barrage of explosive seeds that rapidly overpowered the High Angels. They tried to set up barriers to protect themselves, or return fire with light blasts, but with their enhanced teamwork, Gus and Lyra came to the rescue and easily dealt with both of these problems by having Gus produce countless hexagonal pieces of ice, which contained Lyra’s shadows frozen inside them to act as portals. With Lyra’s magic being boosted by the Anthem of the Owl House and holding her staff, her shadows could devour the light blasts (weakened as they smashed through the ice coating) and then redirect them through other shadows inside the High Angels’ barriers, resulting in them bombarding themselves.

It took mere seconds for the remaining High Angels to succumb to the power of this reinvigorated assault, alongside the few other Angels that slipped in with Severin before Lyra put up her black crystal barrier. This left just the Divided Trio and the two Arch-Angels, and the Hexsquad quickly split up to defeat them, with Lyra and Hunter going for the Arch-Angels, Willow going for Amaranth, Gus going for Jerbo, and Skara going for Severin even while playing her song. The resulting battle was quick, and for the Wings of Rani, utterly devastating.

The first Arch-Angel barely had time to let out a single light blast before Lyra shocked him by beginning to sing a song that Skara had taught her and Luz back in the Human Realm; the Nocturne of Shadows. It allowed her to control the shadows with just her voice, leaving her hands free to cast other spells, which she used to cast a simple illusion, making the Arch-Angel think he was facing 5 different Lyra’s emerging from the shadows she’d raised. However when the Arch-Angel tried to defeat all of them at once by conjuring a golden bo-staff and swinging it around, Lyra’s illusions burst and revealed the Iron Vines she’d made with a plant glyph and sent into the shadows behind her back so they’d emerge from the same shadows the illusions did. The iron vines quickly ensnared the surprised Arch-Angel, and Lyra promptly knocked him out with a jolt of purple lightning.

The second Arch-Angel, a female one this time, didn’t fare any better against Hunter. He manipulated the roots growing from his back and fired the Artillery Seed Pods Willow had grown, forcing the Arch-Angel to constantly fly around to avoid them, eventually flying in front of Orion’s Heart to ensure Hunter wouldn’t dare press the attack. This was what Hunter wanted though, and he swiftly thrust his tail into the ground, where it had been secretly carving a darkness glyph. It went into the shadows cast on the glyph and emerged from the shadow the Arch-Angel was casting on Orion’s heart. The Arch-Angel didn’t see it until it was too late, and the tail promptly wrapped around her and froze her solid with the help of an ice glyph and some ingenuity inspired by Gus.

Speaking of Gus, he was currently engaged in an epic duel with Jerbo, in which both fought with incredible skill and strength… or at least, that was what Jerbo believed to be happening. In reality, Gus had used a lightning glyph to send a bolt of lightning at Jerbo’s feet, making him yelp as he dodged backward. With his mouth open for a split second, Gus was able to use a darkness glyph to send one of his smaller scales through the shadows and into Jerbo’s mouth, carefully slipping it into his gums beside one of his molars, similar to a sliver of a popcorn shell. This allowed Gus to trap Jerbo in a Tactile Illusion, then bind him with vines from a plant glyph. Jerbo would remain in his illusion for a bit, his body thinking it was moving normally even though he was completely tied up… Gus was even nice enough to make Jerbo think he was winning!

Then there was Willow’s brief skirmish with Amaranth. If there was one thing that Willow had learned during her disastrous time in the abomination track, it was how to thoroughly ruin an abomination, so as soon as Amaranth tried to create a small squad of regular abominations to keep Willow busy as the woman herself went to help her ex-husband fight Skara, Willow just pierced the abominations with tree roots and had them spread and grow inside the abominations, turning them into her own puppets that swarmed Amaranth. The woman was forced to disable her own abominations, melting them into inert sludge, but this still left the root skeletons, which Willow grew and expanded until they took the form of a pack of wolves, with vines and bark growing over them to serve as flesh and muscle, before green grass grew on top to act as fur. These wolves leapt at Amaranth and tried to savage her, forcing her into the air with her staff. She shot a tendril of slime at Willow and caught one of her wrists, but the girl just grinned and yanked on it, proving her superior strength by bringing Amaranth down to her level. She then grew grass on the floor in the shape of the darkness glyph, and used it to send vines into the shadows, making them emerge from the shadows on Amaranth’s own body, rapidly tying her up. Finally, as Amaranth struggled to break free, Willow pulled her close and produced a small flower from her bracelet, and blew the pollen into Amaranth’s face. This was a Stupefying Sage flower, and it’s pollen trapped Amaranth in a hallucination that completely pacified her.

Finally, Skara and her father engaged in an aerial duel of their own as Skara whistled, hummed, and bellowed out various sonic attacks while kicking her feet to send gales of wind at her Dad, who in turn tried to defeat Skara by using the bare minimum of attacks to keep her barrier up and make her keep attacking him in return, having figured out her magic was being rapidly spent.

“This can’t last forever, my Symphony!” he declared, “Your magic will run out, while I still have the strength of the Power Glyph I took from you. You chances of victory are virtually nil. Please stop this now so we don’t need to fight any more.”

But Skara didn’t stop; she kept fighting with all she had and simply refined her magic usage over time, minimizing how much she used while maximising its effectiveness, as the power of the song effected her too and further boosted her abilities. Skara even figured out how to make wind blades with enough accuracy to carve glyphs and glyph combos, which she used to create a plant glyph beneath Severin’s feet. When she activated it, vines and tree roots shot up to tie him up, but he managed to cut them all away with wind blades of his own. He immediately transitioned from this to trying to play a song of his own, having repaired his Palisman Cello’s strings, but as soon as he tried, he found himself hit in the face with a sonic boom that sent him flying backward, hitting the wall hard.

That was the moment that the other four Hexsquad Members finished their battles, and upon seeing this, Skara stopped her Anthem to save her strength.

“Skara, we’ll help out here too! Severin won’t stand a chance against all five of us!” Hunter declared.

“No, leave Dad to me alone! I want to finish this with my own hands!” Skara declared as she prepared to do just that.

The rest of the Hexsquad agreed immediately and stepped back, trusting Skara to handle the situation on her own like she said, while Severin pulled himself back to his feet and threw up a quick sonic barrier, before rapidly playing notes on his cello. Skara recognised immediately that he wasn’t playing an actual song, but rather building up Bardic Magic for a big blast, so she opted to do the same, using her harp and wingbeats to build up magic of her own.

“Forgive me my Symphony; I do this for your own good!” Severin declared, his expression painfully blank as he unleashed his stored up magic in the form of a red and gold beam that blasted its way towards Skara from the centre of his cello.

“Right back at you Dad, in more ways than one! Have a taste of AEROBLAST!” Skara cried, sending a beam of silver Wind Magic straight back, alongside the Bardic Magic she’d prepared. The two beams spiralled around each other and became like a tornado as it ploughed into Severin’s spell and initially proved to be evenly matched.

Skara had used up a lot of magic, though she’d regained what she’d given to the others, and Severin’s Power Glyph began to wear off, putting them on roughly the same level. Even while firing their spells though, both Bards continued to play and even sing to further strengthen it, with Skara singing in a soprano and Severin singing in a baritone, their voices oddly complimenting one another even as they warred against each other.

For several long seconds, it looked like the clash would never end, but then Skara’s beam began to overpower Severin’s little by little as he struggled to keep up his singing. He was inexperienced as a singer since it was a rare talent for Bards, and so not only was his singling less effective, but he also found himself running short on breath very quickly, while Skara was able to hold the same note almost infinitely due both her practice with Luz, and her ability to control the wind so finely that she could manually inhale and exhale simultaneously by moving the air through her nose and into her lungs as her singing released it again.

Severin couldn’t match this, and bit by bit, he was put on the back foot until he finally couldn’t resist any longer. Closing his eyes with resignation, Severin felt it as Skara’s Aeroblast completely overtook him and slammed into him with shocking force. The spiralling magic caused Severin to go cartwheeling through the air until he slammed through the wall of the Heart Chamber and landed in the hallway outside it, conscious but almost completely unable to move.

As Severin lay there, utterly defeated, he used his limited movement to turn his head and look over at his daughter with pure pride in his eyes. “My daughter… this is why I’ve always called you my Symphony. The finest thing I have ever composed… and now you’ve surpassed me. You mastered songs of the Demon Realm and Human Realm, and even composed your own… I know it’ll only be a matter of time before you master the music of the Divine Realm and open up a whole new world of music. I can hardly wait to see it.”

Skara heard her father’s words, being the only one around whose ears were sharp enough, and smiled sombrely, before turning her attention to the Divided Orbs and saying; “Tell me that when you’re yourself again!”

She flew down to stand with her exhausted friends, all of whom were leaning on each other or their staves to stay standing; with Gus back in his normal form, and Hunter dropping his Wild Heart form too. Unfortunately, the barrier around the Divided Orbs was still up, despite the two Arch-Angels who made it being defeated.

“I thought taking someone down also took down their barriers!” Lyra groaned.

“This barrier must be the result of an enchantment, so the source is likely something else inside the barrier.” Hunter said. “Probably a ring, an amulet, or a ward stone. Similar to King’s Barrier Glyph Notes.”

“Whatever the reason, I’ll take it down!” Skara declared, before using her Bardic Magic to imbue her palm, then slamming it into the barrier. She used her father’s Barrier Break technique, sending magical vibrations through it until the frequency of her magic and the barrier’s magic perfectly aligned and the barrier shattered like glass. The destruction of the barrier caused all the Divided Orbs (as well as a small glowing crystal that had been maintaining the barrier) to fall to the floor below, shattering in a massive cascade of broken black shards, which was followed up by the unleashing of every prismatic shade within them. The shades flew back to their owners, and every divided person within the Manubrium area and the surrounding region of the Titan’s Chest suddenly found themselves returning to normal; including Raine, Severin, Amaranth, and Jerbo. Those last two were also freed from their bindings, and Amaranth was freed from Willow’s Stupefying Pollen (Jerbo had already snapped out of Gus’s illusion when the boy defused from Emmiline).

As the two newly freed witches came to their senses and began looking around groggily, Skara brought her brother down from the Titan’s heart and released him. Immediately, Asher hugged his sister in thanks, than ran over to his mother and leapt into her arms.

“Mommy!” he cried.

“Asher!? Oh thank the Titan you’re alright!” Amaranth cried.

“Thank Big Sis Skara! She protected me, and saved you! She was super cool!” the little boy gushed.

Amaranth looked over to Skara, and to the girl’s surprise, she stood up and hurried over to her, holding Asher in one arm. She then threw the other arm around Skara and hugged her tightly.

“Oh Skara, thank you! Thank you so much! After all that I’d done, I never imagined that you’d… well…”

“Save you?” Skara said with a frown, feeling incredibly conflicted. Part of her wanted to shove Amaranth away, but the other part wanted to relish the embrace. She ended up taking the middle ground and giving the woman a moment before gently stepping out of her grip.

Amaranth looked at her with incredible shame; “There are no words I can say that will come close to justifying what I did, Skara. You have a right to hate me.”

“And you think that hate means I wouldn’t help my little brother?” Skara scowled.

“No, I know you’d always save him. You are a wonderful person, just like yours and Asher’s fathers… But saving me too? I never imagined you’d be willing.” Amaranth confessed.

Skara opened her mouth, intended to bitterly say that if the orbs hadn’t all fallen and broken at once, she might not have done. But that wasn’t the truth and she knew it… heck, Skara couldn’t even say she wouldn’t have done it if not for Asher! Skara would have saved Amaranth in a heartbeat, because she refused to let her own bitterness leave a person’s life in ruins, no matter how deserved it was.

She refused to do to Amaranth what she’d done to her and her father.

“I just did what was right. Don’t read into it.” Skara huffed, averting her eyes.

Amaranth smiled sadly and nodded; “I thank you all the same.”

“Me too.” Jerbo said, shaking the fog from his mind. “That felt so strange! Only feeling positively or not feeling anything at all is such a disorienting experience.”

“Are you okay, Jerbo?” Willow asked.

“Yeah, but I need to find Dad! And Mom is still in the city too! We all got arrested and divided for protesting the Divider! Someone in the crowd with us stupidly attacked the guards at Bonesborough and we were all punished for it! Since Dad was a Councilman, he was brought here to be an administrator, while Mom and I stayed in the city. But since the Divider knew I was friends with Skara, he brought me here to be Asher’s tutor. I haven’t seen Mom in weeks!” Jerbo explained, looking anxious.

“We’ll get you to her soon, and your Dad too.” Hunter said.

“We might want to move quickly.”

Skara gasped and turned around to see her father limping into the room, using his staff to support his weight.

“The Wings of Rani are disoriented by the Divided being freed, but we don’t have long before they get reinforcements. I’d wager they’re already on their way.” Severin said, wincing a little because of his wounds.

“DAD!” Skara cried, flying up to him and pulling out her healing glyph combos. She hadn’t needed to use them on herself since her Dad hadn’t hurt her in any significant way during the fight. The moment she got to him however, Severin wrapped her in a tight hug.

“Oh, my little Symphony! Words can’t express how I’ve missed you, nor can they articulate just how proud of you I am! Your music, your magic, your new form… they are all immaculate! I think you’ve even grown more beautiful in these past 4 months.” Severin said, kissing his daughter’s cheeks and forehead over and over.

“Maybe a little. Boscha definitely says it enough! Which reminds me, you need to break the spell you cast on her! That earworm lullaby is keeping her asleep!” Skara said, beaming with joy to have her real dad back.

“I can do that easily, but I need to be near her. And we really should get out of here; I’m not joking when I say we don’t have a lot of time. The Wings of Rani will be coming in force once they realise the people here have been undivided.” Severin said seriously.

Skara nodded and looked to the others, seeing everyone getting on their staves and preparing to leave (Emmiline was too exhausted to fly, so Gus hitched a ride on the back of Baskerville with Jerbo). “Let’s get to the rooftop. Once we’ll there, I’ll call for all the Undivided in the Castle to meet us there so we can escape together.”

The others agreed, and they immediately flew out of the Heart Chamber, leaving it ruins save for the heart itself. They then headed out through the destroyed part of the castle and flew out through the hole she’d made earlier, returning to the rooftop. They found Boscha still sleeping within a protective barrier Skara had made for her, and Skara immediately flew over with her father and dispelled the barrier, after which Severin cancelled the Magic Earworm and stopped the Lullaby of Lethargy playing in the girl’s head. Skara, feeling cheeky and still riding high on her Palisman Fusion, then decided to wake Boscha with a kiss, making their friends grin.

Slowly Boscha opened her eyes and stared at the grinning Skara; “Am I still dreaming? Because I think I just made out with a fairy that looks like Skara.”

Skara giggled; “Better; you made out with your girlfriend who became the third person in the Hexsquad to awaken her Palisman Fusion!”

Boscha blinked, her mind still waking up. She then gasped as realisation hit her and she leapt to her feet, dragging Skara up with her. “Skara!? You fused with Melody!?”

“I did! And I beat Mom and Dad and helped Willow’s team undo the Division! We’re now about to retreat from the Castle! Our primary objective is a big success!” Skara grinned.

Boscha gaped, then frowned; “Dang it… you had to fight your Dad because I messed up!”

“My Muse, you lost to a Coven Head level Witch with incredible skills and a power match-up that really didn’t favour you; don’t be so hard on yourself! Besides, you fighting Dad bought me time to put Mom on ice, so I didn’t have to fight them both until after I got my awesome new power up! I even got to unveil my Anthem of the Owl House!” Skara boasted even as she comforted her girlfriend.

Boscha’s guilt couldn’t stand up to the sunny smile Skara was giving her, making her smile right back; “You’ve been working on that song for a while! If I hadn’t heard it so often as you practised, I’d be jealous I didn’t hear the debut!”

Skara opened her mouth to talk, but Willow cleared her throat; “Guys, not that this isn’t fun to watch, but we need to evacuate the Undivided and meet up with the others so we can begin getting out of here!”

Boscha frowned; “Is capturing the city not on the cards now?”

“No.” Severin shook his head; “After what the CATTs did in Cartilia, the Wings of Rani changed their game plan. If the Divided are suddenly freed, all Wings of Rani in the area are to abandon their posts and converge on the Union Pillar, or in this case, the castle. We’re about to be swarmed by every Angel in the Titan’s Chest, plus Rani’s Eden. I’d wager the only reason they haven’t already gotten here is because they’re afraid we’ll destroy the Titan’s Heart, but that won’t stall them for long. If we try to hold the castle or the city, we’ll end up under siege and the people will suffer. It’s better to take the smaller victory and run.”

The three-eyed girl couldn’t argue with that, so simply nodded as Skara took a deep breath and shouted a message to the entire castle, ensuring everyone could hear it; “ATTENTION ALL ENEMIES OF THE WINGS OF RANI! WE ARE THE CATTS! EVACUATE TO THE ROOF OF THE CASTLE IMMEDIATELY AND WE’LL GET YOU TO SAFETY!”

As soon as she finished the message, Hunter said; “You realise this’ll make every enemy in the building come after us too, right?”

“Yep! Don’t worry; most of us have still got some fight left in us!” Skara smiled.

Sure enough, Severin, Amaranth, Jerbo, and Boscha were all still healthy enough to fight, and had enough magic reserves to keep it up for a decent while. And as Hunter predicted, Angels began to swarm them while the Undivided Coven Scouts and other castle residents rushed to be evacuated, helping out in the fight too. Some of the Undivided were instead running for their lives though, flying away or actually running over the bridge and back towards Manubrium in order to escape. As this was happening, Willow pulled out her scroll and called Luz and Amity, both of whom said they were on their way with their own teams and evacuated people, having achieved what they needed to in their own assignments.

But on the rooftop, the battle raged for another few minutes. Alongside the newly Undivided Coven Scouts rushing to help them was Councilman Cal Nelumbo, Jerbo’s father, and the duo of Amber and Derwin, the former looking exhausted herself. When the barrier had gone up around the Divided Orbs, Willow had sent her to go and find either Skara or Luz, as no one else they knew could power through it. The fighting in the castle had kept her from getting away, though thankfully Skara had ended up where she needed to be anyway, and Amber had come racing back after seeing everyone was returned to normal.

“Guys, everyone is out of the castle! We need to begin the evacuation!” Amber yelled, her bat-like ears wiggling.

With only a couple of spells left in her after all the fighting, Skara took a deep breath and screamed, using a Banshee-like screech to make every Angel in the castle rear back and clutch their ears, while using her Tempo-Matching to ensure no one else was hurt. Everyone with a staff took flight and carried as many passengers as they could, while others used other methods to fly, like summoned beasts, winged boots, and even a stolen Airship that had been parked behind the castle. As one massive convoy, they began to fly westward from the Castle, making a beeline for the sea as the Angels recovered from Skara’s scream and gave chase. They didn’t pursue the group for very long though, as a squad of CATTs airships carrying Hettie and the support team, as well as most of the Elite CATTs and Hexsquad members, appeared and began firing a barrage of spells, forcing the Wings of Rani on the defensive. Samael and Luz then made an appearance, and their fellow Angels immediately turned and flew back to the city to secure it. Skara watched them go, then looked towards the city and saw fleets of airships flying off in all directions, while the citizens of the town fled aboard them or ran out through the gates, taking the opportunity to try and escape before the Divider’s forces secured the area.

“We’re leaving behind a lot of people…” Skara frowned.

Luz, flying close enough to hear her, flew over and nodded sadly, the wind glyph noticeably shining on her foot and connecting to the incomplete glyph on Luz’s chest.

“It sucks, but we can’t save everyone. We gave them a fighting chance and got as many people as we could out.” Luz said. “But we can’t evacuate and support the people of an entire city, especially the biggest one on the isles.”

Amity then flew beside them on her staff and added; “Samael, Matt, Lilith, and I did manage to gather the families of those who don’t normally live in Manubrium though. Lord Secuna is with us, and so is Jerbo’s Mom. We’ve got Scooter and Raine with us too, though they’re in the shadows with Kyrie. And a bunch of Bard Coven members are with us as well! Plus with your new form and the Castle Team’s success, the campaign here in the Chest went as well as we could have hoped! Occupying the Capital was always gonna be a long shot!”

Skara sighed; “I guess you’re right. At least we’re all safe and alive!”

“You got that right, Crickid.” Eda grinned, also flying over with King on her back, trying out a new nickname. “You’ve got a story to tell us by the way!”

That was certainly true, and Skara and the Castle Team wanted to know what had happened in Manubrium and the Bard Coven HQ too! With this in mind, Luz took charge and had the Hexsquad and Elite CATTs, as well as their rescued friends, the family of those friends (plus the Secunas) land on the CATTs’ flagship; the Owl Ship (which was a large, frigate sized airship with an Owl figurehead). That same ship was also being piloted by Alador and hadthe Twins aboard, as well as the Support Team. The rest of the rescued people were flown to different airships in the fleet, based on which ones their families were aboard. Then once everyone was settled on an airship, they all activated their invisibility enchantments AND their submersible modes, before flying towards the coast and diving below the water, while the illusionists among them disguised their entry. Once they were all beneath the sea and sailing merrily towards the Right Palm, the group on the Owl Ship were able to have some family reunions while Hettie, Camila, Viney, Emira, and Meesha worked overtime to get everybody healed up.

The first of these reunions was the Nelumbos; Jerbo and his parents Cal and Kimmi. His father Cal looked a lot like a slightly older Jerbo, who managed to somehow be skinnier than his son, while Jerbo’s mother Kimmi was a short woman of only 4ft 9, but with a rotund build and very thick muscular arms. Cal and Jerbo had lived at the castle together, but Kimmi had been stuck in the town most of the time and rarely saw them, so she was ecstatic and basically bench-pressed her husband and son with delight. Then there came Jerbo’s reunion with Edric, which had the Blight Boy happily tossing Jerbo in the air and catching him, before kissing him sweetly as the two expressed how much they missed each other. Even their Palismen; Baskerville and Orthie reunited with a lot of cuddling and excited playing!

Then there was the reunion of the Bards; Luz removed Scooter and Raine from the shadows along with Kyrie, and the trio of Katya, Amber, and Derwin hugged each other and then dragged a delighted Raine into it too, while Severin rushed to Scooter’s side. Ironically, all the excitement seemed to have put some more life back into old Scooter, and after a quick performance of the Cadence of Clarity, infused with Derwin’s Magic Earworm, Scooter was basically back to his old self again. His health was no better, but he at least felt more like himself. Raine’s reunion with their all-but-adopted apprentices brought the older Bard to the brink of tears, and reminded them of their earlier reunion with King and Luz! After they’d been undivided, Raine had excitedly hugged King and Luz (and Eda too, but they’d seen each other often even while divided) and both children had been ecstatic to see their Titi, who had nothing but proud words for them and their skills in battle, as well as amazement at how they’d both grown. Their apprentices had been just has happy, and Katya even re-introduced Steve as her boyfriend, making the poor man quite nervous. Raine, Amber, and Derwin had congratulated them as a result, though there was some subtle threats from all of them, making sure Steve treated Katya well.

The last major reunion was that of the Secuna Family. The moment Lord Mace Secuna had seen his son, he had rushed over to him and hugged him tightly. Mace Secuna’s appearance with his Concealment Stone in place was that of a very dark-skinned Witch with a muscular build and large rough hands. He was good-looking (though not in the same league as Severin, in Skara’s opinion) and had the same wild mane of hair as his son, but coloured pitch black with a matching beard that could rival Dell Clawthorne’s! His eyes were a dark amber, similar to Tiger’s Eye gemstones, and his wide smile revealed pointed canines that put other Witches’ fangs to shame. His outfit was also similar to his son’s, but with a cravat instead of a bow tie, and dark brown pants instead of dark purple shorts.

“Asher! Thank the Titan you’re alright! I’ve missed you so much!” Mace cried, actually tearing up as he hugged his son.

“Daddy! I missed you too! It was lonely without you! Mommy was divided, so she was all weird! And Uncle Severin was too, though he was really nice to me!”

Mace looked over to Severin, who was still by Scooter’s side, and exchanged nods of respect with him, before going to his wife. He grabbed Amaranth and held her to his chest, then kissed her cheek lovingly. “My wife, I am so glad to see you safe as well. I’m glad at least one of us could be there for Asher.”

Amaranth smiled and stroked his cheek; “As am I, my husband. However it seems it was my daughter who was truly there for him. She is the one to defeat me and save us all.”

“Yeah! Big Sis Skara was super cool!” Asher gleefully told his father.

Mace turned to Skara, who still didn’t know what to make of her mother’s attitude towards her. “Miss Cadence, you have my most sincere thanks. Considering what my wife did to you and your father, you’d be within your rights to hate my family… but you still protected Asher and saved my wife. I am in your debt.”

Skara awkwardly waved him off; “You’re welcome. Asher is my little brother after all, and I’ll do anything to protect him. And saving Mom… well it was just the right thing to do.”

Everyone, especially Severin, Raine, and Luz, gave her extremely proud looks, and Mace smiled and bowed his head to her; “You’re a credit to your father, Miss Cadence.”

“She is indeed.” Severin grinned.

Skara smiled bashfully, as Melody giggled within her soul. “You’re embarrassing me, Dad! Though speaking off…” she looked back at Mace; “You can ditch the Concealment Stone if you want. We can all see Asher’s true form, so there’s no need to keep it secret. We won’t judge you for being a Cait Sith; Viney’s Mom is too, and Viney has Cait Sith features just Asher.”

She pointed to the two ladies, and Meesha the Snow Leopard Cait Sith smiled and waved as she healed Lyra, while Viney paused in healing Gus to show her tail and pull up one of her pant legs to show the furry, Snow Leopard leg.

That was a surprise to Lord Secuna, but after seeing how comfortable Asher was in his own skin, and seeing no one looking at Meesha and Viney with anything less than respect, he decided to remove his Concealment Stone and reveal his true form as a Black Lion Cait Sith. As a pure-blooded Cait Sith, Mace looked like a literal Black Lion that walked like a Witch and had a slightly more Witch-like body type, including hands with working thumbs. His fur was pitch black and it was hard to tell where his face stopped and his mane began, but he was also strong looking with striking eyes and sleek, glossy fur. The reveal was met with approving looks, making Mace smile. This smile grew wider as Amaranth kissed his cheek and ran her hands through his mane.

“You CATTs are an accepting bunch. I’m starting to wish I’d joined up with you… If Amaranth hadn’t been made Coven Head, and if I’d known before the Day of Unity that Head Witch Mason was on your side, I would definitely have joined!” Mace smiled.

“Better late than never, big guy!” Eda grinned, “We’re always looking for new members! The only requirement is a total disregard for authority!” she joked.

“Or just Belos’ and the Divider’s authority.” Luz added.

Mace and Amaranth both smiled and agreed to join on the spot, wanting to fight for their family and their home. Asher wanted to as well and tried to point to King and Samael when he was told he was too young, only for Skara to silence him by telling him that King was a Titan and Samael was a kind of Super Angel.

Asher was disappointed, but then said; “Fine, I’ll join when I’m a grown up! And I’m gonna join the Bard Coven too, and be an awesome Bard just like my big sister!”

A deafening silence answered this declaration, as everyone on the Airship knew the whole drama between Severin, Amaranth, and Skara had been caused by Skara choosing to become a Bard, and then being rejected by her mother. Slowly, all eyes turned to Amaranth for her reaction, but the woman was just staring wistfully at her son. A tear trickled down her face, and to the shock of everyone, she actually knelt down and kissed him on the forehead.

“I bet you will. Just remember that it is a lot of hard work; you’ll need to start learning an instrument. If you pick one you like, your Daddy and I will get you some lessons. After that, it’ll all be a result of how much effort you put in. Do you think you can work as hard as Skara and Uncle Severin?” Amaranth asked. Her tone was very clear; she was being supportive, not trying to discourage Asher.

Asher nodded determinedly; “I can do it! And I’ll learn to play ALL the instruments!”

Amaranth giggled; “Let’s start with one. But if that’s what you want to do, then we’ll support you.”

She then looked up and made eye contact with Skara, as a lot of emotions passed between the two. The regret in Amaranth’s eyes was palpable, and Skara recognised the look for what it was; a silent apology, and a confession of guilt for failing to do for her daughter what she was now doing for her son. Skara felt a twinge of bitterness and jealousy, wishing she’d received such support, but she refused to hurt Asher by showing that bitterness, especially as she also felt some genuine relief and happiness. Amaranth really was trying to be a better mother to Asher than she’d been to Skara… it was too late to change what she’d done to her daughter, but not too late to change for her son.

“I’d be happy to help you find an instrument to get started with, Asher. I helped the Seraphim of the Demon Realm find her first instrument too after all!” Skara boasted.

Luz giggled and pulled out her Ocarina; “Still haven’t mastered it, but I’m getting there! Listen to your big sis, Asher! She knows her stuff!”

Asher nodded seriously, and the rest of the CATTs and their newly rescued allies smiled at Skara and Amaranth, proud of the former for her treatment of her brother, and a little bit impressed by Amaranth moving past her previous issues with Bardic Magic.

With the reunions out of the way, everyone except Alador (who was steering their ship beneath the waves) sat around together and exchanged stories of their missions. Most of the teams outside Manubrium reported the same thing; they’d launched sneak attacks on their targeted facilities and settlements and rallied any undivided natives to help them against the Angels. Then once the Divided were freed by the team at the castle, the Wings of Rani had abandoned their posts and raced to the capital. The CATTs had given chase and picked off some of them, leaving them unconscious and forcing their allies to stop and help them, which slowed the Wings of Rani’s counterattack.

Amity’s team in Manubrium had basically turned the entire place into a citywide version of a Human game show; the kind that had obstacle course challenges, like Wipe Out and Gladiators. Samael had taken the lead and begun working with Matt to create huge game boards and obstacle courses, which Samael would then trap the enemy in and challenge them to escape, while Amity helped with her homunculi and Lilith used Anti-Magic to keep the Angels from ruining Samael’s game. At one point, they even turned the entire city into a giant game of Pac-Man, with the Collector riding around on a giant ball that harmlessly swallowed the Angels in its path. The people of Manubrium had loved it, and with an entire city of people turning on them and the power of the Collector baring down on them, the Wings of Rani had been helpless to resist, and were forced to become Samael’s playthings while Amity and Lilith helped some of the Undivided escape, or corralled the Divided together out of harm’s way. As a result, they’d achieved their goals and now Samael was worn out after thoroughly enjoying himself, though he was idly eyeing Asher and planning to introduce himself and make friends with Skara’s brother once he had enough energy to have some proper fun again.

Then the others then told their stories too, starting with Willow, who told the story of what happened in the castle before Skara and Boscha showed up, including what they’d learned from Amber. She’d also unveiled the relics they’d stolen, and handed over the Healing Hat to Luz, who decided to put it on. It didn’t really have any effect, but she did find her magic regenerating slightly faster after her fight with Raine. Speaking of said fight, Luz had gone on to explain what happened at the Grand Symphonia Concert Hall, which culminated in the battle with, and defeat of, Raine.

“I wish I could say it was a close battle, and while I did have these three on the ropes a few times, I ultimately stood no chance! A Mother-Daughter-Son trio like them was too much for this old Bard!” Raine chuckled.

“Oh don’t sell yourself short, Raine Storm! We only won because we’re EXTRA amazing! Any other trio would have lost!” Eda praised them.

Raine rolled their eyes, then looked to Camila and Vee; “So, you two are the other half of Luz’s family! It’s good to meet you!”

“Like wise.” Camila smiled, shaking their hand; “Luz and King had many wonderful things to say about their Titi! I also hear that I have you to thank for first saving Luz from Belos after she first used that horrid Titan Bile on her.”

Raine blushed and nodded; “Ah, yes. I did do that, though she returned the favour by saving me from Petrification the next day.”

Vee giggled, her tail wagging; “You seem really nice! Your magic smells sweet and soft, but also really strong. It’s kinda like a blanket on a cold day.”

“Oh! Thank you, Vee! I’m glad you like it! Did you, uh, want to eat some? If you can take just a little, then I don’t mind.” Raine offered somewhat nervously.

“No, I don’t need that. I’m just saying that I think you must be a really nice person. Not many people smell both gentle and strong!” Vee complimented. Raine’s “vibe”, for lack of a better word, reminded her a little of Masha! It was comforting to her, especially since she missed her Enbyfriend.

Samael raised his hand sleepily; “Hey, I’m a Noceda-Clawthorne too! Auntie Eda is Auntie Eda, so you have to be my… you’re not an Uncle or Aunt. You’re like the Watcher… Luz, what do I call them?”

“Titi is the gender neutral Spanish word for an Uncle or Aunt equivalent.” Luz answered with a smile.

“That! You’re my Titi Raine!” Samael declared, floating over and depositing himself in their lap. “King says you play pretty music. Can I hear some?”

Raine was a bit bewildered by the Star Child, but he was so innocent and Eda, King, and Luz were all smiling at him and nodding along with his words, so Raine couldn’t help but begin gently stroking his hair. “Of course. I’ll play for you any time. I heard a bit about you from the Wings of Rani, but I’d love to hear more.” they said, having learned their true identity as the Collector. “But we still need to hear Skara’s story first!”

Samael briefly pouted, but as Skara was still in her fused form, his curiosity overpowered his desire for Raine to play a song, so he just snuggled into his Titi’s lap as all attention turned back to Skara.

Skara then told the story of her and Boscha’s infiltration of the castle, leading to Skara’s meeting with Asher, her fight with her parents, and her fusion with Melody. She didn’t include the conversation she’d had with Melody about the little Palisman’s first partner though, and Boscha filled in the last missing piece by explaining how Severin had tricked and defeated her, making the girl scowl with embarrassment. None of the others judged her for it though; Bards really were a difficult foe to face, with their number one weakness usually being the time it takes to cast their spells and how “squishy” they could be compared to specialists of other magic types… unfortunately, that weakness didn’t apply to Scooter and his apprentices, as they’d been trained to deal with them (explaining Severin’s physical strength and Raine’s acrobatic and resourceful skills).

That made Boscha feel a little better, but she was still down in the dumps over failing to do more. Everyone else had succeeded in their missions, but she’d been the weak link and she hated it. Making excuses for herself just left her feeling pathetic.

Once the story was complete though, the Hexsquad and CATTs had made a point of congratulating Skara on her fusion with Melody, and the girl finally defused from the little Palisman, returning to normal. Now that they didn’t have each other’s energy any more, Skara and Melody were both utterly exhausted, but since Severin had refused to hurt her as much as possible, Skara was uninjured and decided to cuddle with Melody, much to the Palisman’s joy.

Following the stories, everyone settled down together and relaxed as they enjoyed the trip back to the Right Palm, where they would be taking the Teleportation Circle back to Digale Island. They were taking it slow since they could use the rest, and the view beneath the sea was actually quite beautiful and made for a relaxing trip.

When they finally arrived at the desert and sailed past the fingers, they finally surfaced and flew back into the air, hiding behind the fingers themselves so no one on the Isles could see them. Then one by one, the airships flew over the large Teleportation Circle they’d constructed, and were warped back to Digale Island. Luz, Amity, Camila, King, Eda, and Raine disembarked from the Owl Ship and stood beside the circle, the latter five keeping Luz company as she repeatedly sang the song to activate the circle. They intended to go and visit Mason at the Union Pillar to see if the Inspection had happened yet or if he knew anything about how the Wings of Rani were reacting to the mission in the capital, but first they had to get everyone else home.

Once all the airships and the others were all sent back to Digale Island, Luz clapped her hands together and smiled.

“Alright! Now we just need to check in with Mason and we’re home free!” Luz said.

“Thank the Titan for that! I’m exhausted! The rebellion game is hard on these old bones.” Eda complained, cracking her back.

“Mom, you’re not even that old! You just didn’t do any pre-battle warm ups on the way to the city like I told you too.” Luz smirked.

“Boo! Cammie, our daughter is being like a parent again!” Eda whined.

Camila rolled her eyes, then said; “Luz, leave nagging Eda to Raine and I!”

“That’s right; we’ll nag her to take care of herself while you relax.” Raine grinned.

“Wait, no! I take it back, Luz can handle the nagging!” Eda panicked.

Luz and King both giggled at the adults, especially as Camila and Raine really did begin nagging Eda a little (even as Raine began giving her a massage and Camila cast some muscle loosening spells to help soothe Eda’s fatigue).

Amity watched the scene with a chuckle, but as they began walking out of the clearing with the hidden teleportation circle, she noticed something odd.

“Hey, is it just me, or is this place a little more verdant than before?” Amity asked.

The others began to look around, and sure enough, the previously limited greenery around the edge of the Palm Desert and between the Titan’s Right Fingers had grown quite a bit… it looked like Willow had used some Plant Magic to make the place a bit more vibrant. Had she done it to hide the circle better? It was a subtle change that most people wouldn’t notice, but it did further obscure the clearing from outside.

Just as Luz was about to open her mouth to comment on it, things rapidly went awry. The ground beneath them suddenly shook hard enough for all of them to be knocked off their feet, not having expected such a sudden quake. The instant they hit the ground, cracks appeared around Amity and a massive flower tore itself out of the ground beneath her. The girl didn’t even have time to scream as the flower’s pollen put her to sleep, and green vines wrapped around her, before the flower closed around her and disappeared back into the ground, taking Amity with it.

“NO! AMITY!” Luz cried, trying to fire a light blast at the plant. She was too late though; she was still tired from the day’s mission and had been caught totally off-guard.

She was just about to dive into the hole that the plant had emerged from when a new plant rose out of the hole as well, identical to the first one. The only difference was that this plant, resembling a giant Rafflesia flower, was already closed and instead opened up to reveal a person. This person was a female that resembled a Witch, but had green skin and eyes, and vines for hair.

She was a Mandragora… an unfamiliar Mandragora.

“Luz Noceda-Clawthorne, Seraphim of the Demon Realm. I come with a message for you from my mistress.” she said; “Mistress Arboriel, Queen of the Mandragoras, summons you to her court.”

FAN ART SHOWCASE + BONUS ART BY ME!

Hello everyone! Once again we are back for an awesome showcase of fanart drawn for this story by some wonderful artists, as well as three pieces of art drawn by me and inspired by some of these pieces!

This time we have some more familiar faces returning: Aeiou, DangerousDice, Fantasma Arana, and Mafuyukkiyu, as well as three new faces: Desthoom, Dragon Warrior, and Skystorm!

Starting off with Aeiou, we have two pictures of awesome and disturbing monster art! The first of which depicts our dear Raine Whispers as the Bat Beast!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (2)

Next up is the even more horrifying visage of Titan Hooty!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (3)

Following that is a set of five pictures drawn by Dragon Warrior, depicting Subject Zero and the Four elder Basilisks in their newly evolved forms from Chapter 2 of this season! Starting with the Abyssal Basilisk; Subject Zero!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (4)

Then there's the swift and calm Subject One AKA Una the Quicksilver Basilisk!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (5)

Third up is Subject Two AKA Dex the Magma Basilisk!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (6)

Fourth on the docket is Subject Three AKA Treble the Forest Siren Basilisk!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (7)

Finishing up Dragon Warrior's art is Subject Four AKA Fyra the Symphonic Basilisk!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (8)

On the subject of Basilisks, Mafuyukkiyu has drawn their version of a Treble Headshot, which looks pretty dang close to my imagination of their human/witch/Forest Siren face!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (9)

Our fourth artist of the showcase is our second newcomer; Desthoom, who very kindly drew three pieces for this story, including two scenes that will be appearing in earlier chapters now too! We'll start with the non-scene art first; a fine rendition of Nelle and Colas Blight; the Blight Grandparents!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (10)

After that, we have Luz's daring battle with the Mega Owl Beast after awakening her Plant Glyph!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (11)

And then the terrifying sight of King and Amity in their rage modes after Luz is stabbed back on Titan Trapper Island! They are out for blood in this one!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (12)

Following that is Fantasma Arana's work; they're always good for some awesome Character Art, and this time they included a single scene piece too! We'll start with everyone's favourite Bardic Bat: Raine Whispers!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (13)

Then we have Raine's muse; the notorious Owl Lady in her new Season 3 get up!

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We finish Fantasma's full colour pics of this showcase with their scene piece; the Harpy Sisters side by side and ready to fight Titan Hooty!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (15)

But that's not the last of Fantasma's pieces; this is a sketch they drew of their mental image of the three Supreme Dragons in Human Form; Lars, Godric, and Zara!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (16)

This starts something of a theme for the rest of the showcase, and transitions nicely to the art of DangerousDice, who drew their own version of Witch Form Lars!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (17)

And from Witch Form Lars to Dragon Form Lars, we have this amazing art by Skystorm, depicting Luz and Lars clashing in Pulvoltary! This might well be my favourite piece of this showcase!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (18)

And since the theme of the Supreme Dragons has cropped up, I decided to finally draw their Dragon Priest/Priestess forms myself! They may not be as good as the art we've had today, but I'm eager to show it all off! So in order of their appearance, we have:

The Ice cold lady with the fiery temper: Zara the Ice Wyrm!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (19)

The burning hot man that's always down to chill: Godric the Fire Drake!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (20)

And last but certainly not least: The electrifying devotee with the calm demeanor: Lars the Thunder Wyvern!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (21)

With that, the fourth showcase comes to an end! It was a long one, especially with my little bonus, but I'm very happy to show it all off! A huge thank you to Aeiou, Dragon Warrior, Desthoom, Fantasma Arana, DangerousDice, Mafuyukkiyu, and Skystorm!

And remember, if you have any fanart you'd like to send, either link it to me on Imgur or Deviant Art, or send it via the discord!

The Angel of the Owl House - Chapter 52 - OwlHouseAngel (2024)

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