NFG Season One - Cutscene: Going My Own Way

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Description: A mysterious note delivered after her fight with Chevy sends Iris to a moonlight meeting in Metro Park with more serious implications than she could have imagined.

The envelope had come from an NFG crew member as everyone was clearing out of the arena, and there was nothing notable or special about it. Unaddressed ("the gentleman said to hand it to you, miss") and holding only a little printed card, with a location in Metro Park, and a time -- that evening, late.

When Iris arrived at the location from the letter, she found it to be not any sort of public place, but a small island in the middle of one of the park's larger natural lakes. Barely a spit of land big enough for a handful of people, covered in trees. An odd place to meet, and a hard place to get to unnoticed... unless you could, say, teleport across the distance, which is exactly what Iris does.

"Well, I'm here," she says, into the darkness on the little island with its little grove of trees, and only silence greets her. Breathing out a sigh of exasperation, the magus finds a particularly sturdy tree and leans against it, crossing her arms over her chest. "Lovely. I suppose I can afford to wait a bit." And so wait she does, observing the placid stillness of the lake, seeing the reflection of the moon at its zenith carving a line of white across the ink black of the surface.

"So, you lost. This is the end for you," comes a woman's voice, midway through this reverie. The sound of it, though, and the nearness of it, make Iris's eyes suddenly open sharp and wide, meaning she is looking intently when a figure in a white turtleneck and a black coat steps out from behind a tree, brown hair tumbling down her shoulders, blue eyes behind a pair of narrow, elliptical glasses.


Iris doesn't ask how it's possible. What would be the point of that? They're both wizards; having a very flexible definition of what counts as 'possible' is part of the job description. But it's impossible to contain her surprise, which is genuine. Her sister DIED. That was what everyone -- the executor of the estate, Oglesby, distant relations, everyone -- had told her. A very sad passing at 29 years of age.

Yet the woman standing before her is, if not Iris's sister, then an amazingly good replica.

"No, I'm not a ghost," the other woman says with a light shrug. "It was... explaining would take a long time. I imagine you're going to beat the story out of me at some point, anyway, so I'll save it for then. But no, I didn't actually die. I just... took a little trip."

The younger Brit finds herself grappling with an enormous number of feelings, all in one go: relief that her sister isn't alive, confusion at the situation... and perhaps, more than anything else, the feeling that ends up exploding out of her in her words: anger. "You've been ALIVE? All this time? And never thought 'hey, I should find a way to let my sister know I'm not actually dead' at some point?!"

For her part, Celica Osterlund is a picture of calm collectedness, next to her comparatively hot-headed younger sister. "I couldn't. You know that I would have, if I'd been able to," she says, attempting to soothe Iris's rage. "I can't even tell you where I was, but it wasn't of this earthly plane. I had..." A pause, a sigh. "I want to tell you, and I can't. I'm oathbound not to. Actually, not just an oath; a geas."

That gets Iris's attention, cutting through her fog of frustration and anger enough to make her wide-eyed as a result. "An actual *geas*?" Rune magic is proof that words have power; oaths do, too, as a result, but a geas is the most binding of magical oaths, and breaking one can often have extreme consequences.

"That's right. But while I was... where I was, I could keep watch on you. And..." A pause, then Celica shakes her head, looking off to the side. "It wasn't the only reason I left, but I realized that everyone thinking I was dead might be... a good opportunity to test something. To find out... and, specifically, something about *you*. Which I doubt you're pleased to hear."

Celica's comment sinks in, and Iris's brow furrows. Her sister's right: shock at the geas news aside, what Celica says brings Iris's anger to the front anew. But she decides to give the benefit of the doubt, and puzzle things out, first. Eventually, Iris speaks, slowly, as she puts the pieces together. "You wanted to see what I would do if I was left in charge," she says, studying Celica's face. "You wanted to know if I would throw it all away or if I'd come back and be a good little girl and follow in your footsteps."

Breathing out a sigh, the elder Osterlund sister hangs her head a bit. "Not exactly, though I can hardly fault you for thinking that." Crossing her own arms over her chest, Celica studies Iris just as intently as the younger sister had been doing to her moments ago. "I wanted to see what you would do in my place, yes. But I also wanted to see if you were strong enough to do what needs doing."

"Oh, really?" Iris snaps, unable to keep the venom from her tone. "And now that I've failed to win the tournament, you've come back to let me know I'm just as inadequate now as I was the rest of my life where I failed to be another little you, is that it?" The words are hurtful, raw, but Iris couldn't stop them even if she'd wanted to; everything Celica's said has just made years upon years of feelings unsaid erupt to the surface like a pyroclastic flow.

There's a long pause, and a pained look crosses Celica's face as she holds her reply, while Iris feels the internal cauldron continue to churn. But when her sister speaks, it's with resignation, even exhaustion. "Iris. What did you tell the Panesh woman, just the other day? About what this experience taught you."

Blinking in surprise, having expected anything OTHER than this question -- especially about a situation Celica couldn't have been reasonably privy to -- Iris thinks back, and then is suddenly haunted by the sound of her own words in her inner monologue:

'I thought: maybe I'm not as good at what Celica did as she was, but maybe I'm a throwback to a different time, talent-wise. Maybe in a weird, insane, coincidental way, the NFG was me finding out where my talents were SUPPOSED to be used.'

" *wanted* me to forget about the family line," Iris says, realization dawning, voice shaky with the implications of what she's saying, if it's true. "That was your plan the entire time, wasn't it? You knew I'd never stop comparing myself to you unless you weren't there to be compared to anymore."

The older Osterlund looks pained as she speaks, rather than triumphant. "That's right. I sent Oglesby and Nanny to watch over you, at first, but eventually I realized they would do more harm than good, so I called them back."

"Right before the Rumble," Iris mutters, looking at nothing while she works it out. "When I was thinking of giving it up. They would have talked me out of it."

This gets a slow nod from Celica. "And then you picked yourself up, and dusted yourself off, and you kept going," her sister says, and a bit of gentleness -- approval, even -- finally makes its way into her tone of voice. "Even if you lost fights, you kept going. You tried new things. You actually made truesilver, which I would never have thought to do. But maybe the most important thing is you stopped doing magic *my* way and started doing it *yours*."

There's a pause before Celica speaks again, voice quieter. "I'm sorry I never tried to tell you this before. Maybe I could have spared you a lot of pain. But you've done things I could *never* do. I'm not a fighter like you are, Iris. I don't think on my feet. And... I can't tell you the details," she adds, looking suddenly solemn. "But there are things coming, in the future. Things where a magus who knows how to take a punch and think on their feet will be needed. Where YOU will be needed... and, honestly, your friends in the NFG, too."

Despite herself, and the torrent of emotions she's dealing with, Iris nevertheless quirks a faint smile. "Did you really come back here from whatever dimension you were in to tell me there's a prophecy of doom coming and this was my test to see if I'm the Destined Hero that can stop it?"

For the first time since she arrived, something like a sly grin crosses Celica's face, and the familial resemblance between the two sisters becomes far more apparent. "Ha! No, you're not a destined hero," she replies. "But maybe someday you'll be the exact person in the right place that the world needs at that moment, and that matters. I've got my regrets about how this went down, and my part in it. But I couldn't be prouder of the person standing in front of me right now."

A long silence passes between the sisters; Celica has said her piece, and Iris has a lot to digest, all things considered. Eventually, though, it's the younger sister who breaks the silence. "I'm not gonna lie to you, Cel," she says, carefully, "it's gonna take a bit to get over the 'faked my own death so my sister finds herself, also I was probably watching the whole thing by scrying' thing. We're definitely going to have a longer chat about that in a more comfortable setting, geas or no."

This gets a ripple of laughter from Celica, who nods. "More than fair. I'm going to stay in the manor with Oglesby and Nanny," she adds, before tilting her head with a faint smirk. "Unless the current owner of the place objects...?"

"God, no," Iris says, instantly, putting her hands out. "You three have a marvelous time. I love them both, but it's been nice not having them looking over my shoulder." The sisters share a laugh at that, both in their shared affection for the family servants and a shared understanding of their... interpersonal quirks.

"Truthfully, I think I'm going to travel," Iris adds, once the laughter dies down. "Who knows? There might be people out there who need the exact kind of help I can give. And if I'm really going to lean in to this magical artificer business, I'm going to need teachers about making things." A pause, then a grin. "Unless you suddenly became a master blacksmith, wherever the hell you went."

Another laugh, another shake of the head. "I didn't. And in truth, I have to return there, for now. I've got... responsibilities, now, and I really am quite sorry I can't talk about it, but: geas." Celica shrugs, although only in a family of wizards would you find people who can turn 'a binding magic for life with serious consequences; what can you do I guess'? into a shrug-able thing.

Stepping up to one of the larger trees on the little island, Celica reaches out and starts to trace a pattern of runes on its surface; when she's done they glow white, then vanish, and the tree's branches droop down as if it were alive, forming an archway that shimmers a vague green color that highlights the elder sister's face as she turns to Iris one last time. "I'm going to have to keep making this trip from time to time," she explains, gesturing at the sylvan portal in front of her. "But most of the time I'll be at home, doing the work I need to do. Doing magic *my* way: the boring, book-based, nerd kind, as you put it once. So if you need me, you know where to find me."

A ghost of a smile, there, at the memory, from Iris, before Celica continues. "But as much as I'd like to catch up, I hope you'll be out there doing it *your* way, now. And I'm sorry that your time in the tournament is over, but at the risk of sounding corny... I think your way is pretty cool, little sister, and while I'm sure you'll have plenty to say about my methods, if I had to be the proverbial bad guy all over again to help put you on that path, I'd do it in a heartbeat."

For her part, Iris is silent after that, long enough that her sister begins to wonder if perhaps she stepped wrong. But when the younger Osterlund finally speaks, it's with the faint glimmer of tears at the corner of her eyes. "Thanks. Really. But to be honest... to me, the most important thing you've said to me all night, after the past year or so, is 'you know where to find me'."

Upper crust Brits are not exactly known for their free-flowing shows of emotion, and indeed, Celica's response is not particularly effusive; a closing of the eyes, a smile, a nod. And then she steps into the portal is gone; with her passing, the tree's branches slowly unfurl back upwards until it's as if they'd never moved at all.

Iris is left alone with her thoughts, on this little island. Still... she made her style of magic her own. She made good friends. She took her craft in directions that hadn't been seen on Earth in hundreds of years. Her sister is *alive*. And she made it to the quarterfinals of the tournament.

Did she win her fight? No. But there's always tomorrow. It feels like the entire world is spread out before her, now: so much to know, to try, to do, and do her ow way.

All in all... a pretty good day.

Log created on 13:38:52 11/21/2023 by Iris, and last modified on 16:32:15 11/21/2023.