Chapter 1: Intersection

My name is Eirien Ward. I am a backup Praetor of sorts: when there is more than the primary agents can handle, I am sent in.

Such is the case for today. I observe the holographic map projected from the data cube in my palm, noting the location of the monster sighting in the map. It’s nearby.

I observe the city below me from where I hover in the sky. Some call Ascera the “city of glass,” and with good reason—most of the buildings, tall and elegant, are composed entirely of the material—or at least something that looks just like it. Even the streets have that reflective sheen wherever a slope would not cause concern for slipping with disastrous consequences.

I reach out with my iethereal senses, searching for the fluctuations that signify the use of magic, but it turns out I don’t need to.

A screech tears through the air, and I pinpoint the sound to a park. In an instant, I shift myself into shadow and descend, appearing on the ground of the park. The monochromatic perception I get as a shadow bleeds away, and my sight lands on the monster before me: a dark blue creature with a sharp mouth and scythe-like limbs, yellow crystals on its body flashing with what must be electric magic. The civilians in the area have all fled, and the park’s trees and structures have largely been damaged or knocked over.

The monster snarls as it spots me—as much as it can without eyes, that is. I lift my hand up, calling upon my own shadow magic to expand my claws’ reach into the ground.

I command the shadows to reach for the monster, and summon a large hand to grab the creature. It screeches and fires off arcs of electricity, but it does nothing against my shadows. I clench my fist, and the monster is restrained, bound by darkness.

I sigh. If the monster appeared here in the middle of the city, it’s highly likely they just transformed. I wonder how many people lost a friend today…

A fluctuation of iether catches my attention, familiarly sharp. I don’t have enough time to react to it before a shadow descends, a whip-crack in the air—a dark form lands in front of me, right next to the monster. There’s a beat, and then bright red blood bursts from the monster’s neck, some spraying onto the glassy ground, and the rest lifted by magic to be absorbed into the claws of the one before me.

Acid green eyes and a too-wide smile greet me. “Thanks for holding it down for me.”

I glare. “Using your magic is illegal here, ‘Blood Demon.’”

I’m rewarded with a sinister little laugh. He stands, revealing himself in full. He looks the same as always: dark blue-gray skin, a dark gray robe lined with edges of shiny black leather. His upper arms are bare but his elbows downward are clothed with wide sleeves to match the robe. He wears long pants of black leather as well, though his stomach and feet are bare. His eyes are slitted, iris colored bright acid-green like his chroma, and sclera colored blood-red. The same red colors the horn coming from his right temple and the talons on his fingers, toes, and tail. He has dark red hair of a different shade, long and flowing in the wind, split by his long ears.

He smiles, revealing the acid-green glow of his mouth as well as his blood-red fangs. “Aw, don’t be such a stickler,” he says, giving a shrug. “I was in danger, and used my magic in defense.”

“Cut the blather, Kiun,” I say. “We both know that’s not true.”

Kiun chuckles. “And we both know you won’t arrest me.”

I clench my jaw. He’s awfully confident, when there really is little in reality holding me back.

“Besides,” he says, interrupting my darkening thoughts. “It’s all these restrictions that are driving us insane. Wouldn’t you agree, ‘Shadow Beast’?”

“Don’t call me that,” I snap. I brush past Kiun without another look, kneeling before the slain monster.

The yellow glow has faded, leaving the crystals the same purple as their blood. The mouth is open, and blood still flows from the fatal slash at the neck.

Nothing more than a corpse, now.

“They were once human, you know,” I say. “Just like us.” I pull out my data cubes, allowing them to scan the body and gather all the necessary information from it.

“Does that look like a person to you?” Kiun asks behind me.

A holographic screen appears, revealing the monster’s identity as a Tien Rukure, last seen as a human last year. They must have wandered into the city somehow… hm.

I sigh, closing my eyes and dismissing the cubes. “We’re looking into ways to reverse the effects of unstable khimaerization. One day, they could be people again. That’s why we only kill them as a last resort.”

Kiun laughs, and I resist the urge to do something violent. I instead pull out my Annihilite, a golden crystal with a black frame, activating the technology’s magic with my own signature and directing it to Tien’s body.

“I doubt that’s possible,” Kiun says, continuing from his laugh. His tone shifts to something darker. Bitter. “This is just the way the world is. When someone becomes a monster, that’s the end of the person they once were. That’s the end of the person we once knew.”

I frown, keeping my gaze on Tien as the destruction magic spreads to the body, blackening it and turning it into crackling dust before that fades to nothingness, too. When the crystal’s job is done, there is nothing of the body left behind. I reach forward and take the Annihilite back into my hand, absorbing it into the shadows of my body.

All this was unnecessary.

After a moment, I stand. “What are you doing in Ascera, Kiun?” I ask, turning around. “Don’t you spend all your time in the Wilderness now?”

“Well, sometimes the Boundary, too,” he says, shooting fingerguns at me. His expression immediately sobers, however. “Have you noticed? More and more monsters are attacking the city.”

I snort. “How could I not? I’m only sent out if there’s more than the regular agents can handle.”

“Ah, yes,” Kiun says, tilting his head and letting his gaze fall to the ground, where my shadows curl around him threateningly. “Don’t want you running out of control, do they?”

I narrow my eyes at him before looking away. “Something like that,” I murmur. A few seconds pass before I look back at him. “So, what? Do you know something about the monsters—?”


I startle slightly at the voice, turning to see the familiar face of Maron Klaer landing in a rush of water. She’s wearing her usual outfit of a dark purple shirt with lighter purple sleeves and robe flaps concealing where her body transitions to her fish-like tail—a gray-teal thing with white tips like the four fins coming from the sides of her head. The heels of her disembodied prosthetic legs click against the ground.

Her maroon hair flows in the air, framing her face—teal, like her tail and fins, with white markings. Her irises are a brighter teal, with pale yellow sclera and white pupils. She parts her mouth in surprise upon catching sight of Kiun, revealing her array of sharp pale-yellow teeth.

Klaer’s eyes narrow. “What’s he doing here?”

I shrug.

“He is right here, you know,” Kiun says dryly.

Klaer stares at him before her face splits into an ominous grin. “You’re right,” she says. Her eyes begin to glow, and globules of water glowing with the bright teal of her chroma begin to form. “So, Kiun Narx. What are you doing here?”

Kiun’s own easygoing expression falters briefly, but he quickly recovers and laughs. “And I think that is my cue to go,” he says cheerily.

He starts running in my direction, and I prepare to attack? Defend? I’m not sure, but he only places his hand on my shoulder, quickly leaning in to whisper, “Keep in mind what I said, Eirien.”

And then he presses down, using my shoulder as leverage to launch himself into a leap away.

I’m unfazed, of course, only watching him as he goes. I look back at Klaer, who still has her magic floating around her.

After a moment, she allows her magic to dissipate, looking almost disappointed as she does it. “Eirien, how are you feeling?” she asks.

I sigh. “I’m fine, Klaer. This was nothing.” I turn away from her, ignoring whatever expression she makes at the response. “How much have monster attacks increased in the last month?”

There’s a pause before she answers. “It was rare to see more than one a week not too long ago,” she says. Her steps approach. “But now they’re coming in almost every day. Even more than one in a day sometimes, like today…”

I glance back at her, seeing her with a troubled expression. “How did things go on your end today, come to think of it?” I ask.

“I drove it back to the Wilderness,” Klaer says. “The attack was by the Boundary, so it didn’t take much for it to flee.”

“I see,” I murmur, letting my eyes slip shut. “Much better than my end. Kiun killed the one here before I had the chance to sedate them.”

There’s a touch on my shoulder, and I look up to see Klaer in front of me, brows furrowed. “You can’t save them all,” she says softly.

I know, I don’t say. I instead step back, pulling a teleportation ring from my shadows. “I’m heading back.”

The ring glows with its lilac chroma, expanding from its palm size to the full radius, wide enough to encompass me. It floats above me before I feel the familiar dizzying sensation of spatial displacement.

Then, I am gone.


Eirien Ward

[AIR-ee-en WARD]

A khimaera who works as a Praetor to hunt down monsters who wander into the realm of Civilization. They are quite powerful, more than they were able to handle on their own at first - which is how they came to be known as the "Shadow Beast."

Affiliation: The Praeta

Age: 21

Species: Khimaera

Chroma: Silver Shadow

Class: S

Gender: genderflux

Pronouns: they/them, she/her

Orientation: demiromantic, asexual

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Kiun Narx


A khimaera who spends most of his time in the Wilderness, unbound by the law and order of Civilization. He has appeared in Civilization to cause trouble a number of times, earning the moniker "Blood Demon" and getting a "Detain or Expel on Sight" designation from the Praeta.

Affiliation: none (exiled)

Age: 27

Species: Khimaera

Chroma: Acid-Green Blood

Class: A

Gender: male

Pronouns: he/him

Orientation: aromantic, pansexual

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Maron Klaer


A long-standing member of the Praeta. She lives in the Ascera Academy in the same housing unit as Eirien, unofficially their handler and something like their friend.

Affiliation: The Praeta

Age: 36

Species: Khimaera

Chroma: Teal Water

Class: A

Gender: female

Pronouns: she/her

Orientation: lesbian

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Technology Highlights

Data Cubes

Fragments of "Syne." Syne can record anything observed by the cubes into their infinite stores of data. They can also be used to communicate with or via Syne. All Praeta have a cluster, and almost all citizens keep at least one cube with them.

Chromatic Basis: Sky (Blue) Data

Annihilite | Destruction Crystal

An artificial crystal that converts natural iether into a destructive chroma. It can be manipulated like a user manipulates their own magic. Upon activation, it will disperse its iether over a target, and then completely and wholly return the target's matter to natural iether. It replenishes its own stores of iether over time. Each one is locked to a certain user's iether signature to prevent misuse.

This technology is also key to waste management in society.

Chromatic Basis: Gold Annihilation

Teleporter Ring

A ring composed of spatial iether. Upon activation, it can be linked to an existing teleporter matrix to transport the user to that matrix. Requires training and a license to use—all Praeta receive one. Normal citizens typically use one stationary matrix to teleport to another.

Chromatic Basis: Lilac Space