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My Next Life As A Planeswalker: All Routes Lead to The Multiverse!

Chapter Text

It was the first day of a new school year for the Sorcier Academy of Magic. The new students were filling in for introductions and orientation. As they walked through the gates, they were greeted by a second year student.

Catarina Claes had been asked to perform greeting duties at the gates by her friends on the Student Council. Normally, this would’ve been done by a member of the Council, which Catarina was not. But in this case, because of how well-liked Catarina was and how at ease she made people feel, her friends asked her if she could do so, which she was happy to acquiesce to. As the first-year students filed in, she shook their hands and smiled brightly at them.

“Welcome to the Sorcier Academy of Magic!” said Catarina to one of the new students. “I am Catarina Claes, and I’m happy to have you as a classmate!”

“Th-thank you!” said the young woman she was greeting, who blushed as she shook Catarina’s hand. “I am Louise Cox.”

“If you have any questions about anything, please see a member of the Student Council, or if one isn’t available, another second-year student. We’ll be happy to help you!”

This continued on and had been rather cursory. Catarina always enjoyed meeting new people and was eager to find out more about her new classmates. Eventually, a young man walked up to her uneasily. He had messy black hair, wore an ill-fitting black suit, and looked out of sorts and possibly ill. Catarina extended her hand and greeted the young man, “Welcome to the Sorcier Academy of Magic!” The young man seemingly did not notice her extending her hand. After a few awkward moments, she asked the young man, “Young Sir, are you okay?”

“Oh!” The young man snapped out of a seeming trance. “Yes…..I am fine. Sorry.” He then reached for Catarina’s hand and shook it. Catarina felt the young man’s grip. It seemed unusually strong to her. “I am Catarina Claes, and I’m happy to have you as a classmate!” The young man let go and then stood awkwardly before Catarina. Confused, Catarina asked, “Is something wrong?”

“Oh! No, nothing is!” said the young man. “My name is…..Starke. Starke Simmons is my name.” Catarina found the young man’s delivery to be rather odd and robotic. “Young Sir, you don’t look well. Perhaps you should see a nurse.”

“Oh! No! That won’t be necessary. I’m fine…..thank you.” The young man then walked forward and eventually began to blend in with the crowd. Catarina found the whole sequence with Starke odd. He seemed unnatural, almost like a machine programmed to say something. He also looked rather ill. She decided after she was done that she would find her fiancé, Prince Geordo Stuart, and tell him about that young man. She figured that as the Student Council President, he would be able to help the young man better than she could.

Eventually, she finished greeting the new students, and went off to find Geordo. In a rather fortuitous occurrence, she found him rather quickly. Upon spotting him, she waved to him, which Geordo spotted. He went up to her and greeted her.

“Hello Catarina! How did the greeting of the new students go?”

“It went well, though there is one student I’m worried about.”

Curious, Geordo asked her, “Which student?”

“It was a student named Starke Simmons. He seemed ill, and also seemed to fall into a trance. I’m worried about him.”

Geordo heard this and got out a list. He looked over it, and then asked Catarina, “What did you say the student’s name was again?”

“It was Starke Simmons.”

Geordo looked over the list again. He then asked Catarina, “What did he look like?”

“Well, he was wearing a black suit that seemed to be too small for him. He also had black, messy hair, and he looked pale, like he was sick.”

Geordo took this in. “I’ll help that young man. In the meantime, lunch is about to begin. Our friends should all be at a table. I’ll join you when I get that man some help.”

“Okay! Thank you Prince Geordo!” Catarina then set off to the dining room for the orientation lunch. After she was out of view, Geordo quickly made his way to the Dean of Students, Doctor Lawrence Cope. Doctor Cope, whom the students knew as “Dean Larry”, greeted the Third Prince. “Good afternoon, Prince Geordo.”

“Good afternoon, Dean Larry. I want you to check something for me.”

“Certainly, Your Highness.”

“Could you check your list for a new student named Starke Simmons? The list I have is accurate as far as I know, but I do know there can be last-second additions.”

“That won’t be a problem.” The Dean then got out his list of new students and checked it. After running through it twice, the Dean looked at Geordo. “I don’t see that name anywhere on this list.”

Upon hearing this, Geordo was startled. “My fiancée told me about a new student who called himself that. I checked my list but didn’t see him on there, and your list doesn’t have him either. Call some guards. We have a trespasser on our hands.”

 


 

Catarina walked into the dining room, more than ready for lunch. She had been feeling hungry halfway through greeting students, and was now ready to eat. Due to today being orientation, the dining room was packed with numerous students, both first and second-year, as well as faculty and school staff. Lunch on orientation day would be for an extended period, so as to allow new students to interact with each other and second-year students. Catarina had enjoyed that last year when she attended orientation, and was looking forward to meeting new students.

After a short look, Catarina spotted the table she was going to be sitting at. Her brother Keith Claes, as well as her close friends Prince Alan Stuart, Mary Hunt, Sophia Ascart, and Maria Campbell were all waiting for her. About the only thing Catarina regretted was that Sophia’s brother Nicol was not present. Nicol had just graduated, which meant he would not be present with them this year. As she walked up to the table, Catarina waved at the group, who noticed her and smiled. Mary in particular was waving enthusiastically while Catarina walked up to them. Upon reaching the table, she greeted her friends and took a seat.

“Good afternoon everyone!” she said as she took a seat. “How has orientation been going for you?”

“It’s been going quite well Sister,” said Keith. “We’ve been busy keeping things coordinated and flowing smoothly. How was it greeting the new students?”

“It went well. Though there is one student I’m a bit worried about.”

“Why do you say that?” asked Keith.

“Well, he seemed to be ill, and he looked like he was in a haze for some reason. He was wearing a suit that looked too small for him, so I’m wondering if that’s why.”

“I think I know who you’re talking about,” remarked Alan. “I saw someone that fits that description earlier, and they looked out of sorts.”

“Did you get their name?” asked Mary.

“Yes, he said his name was Starke Simmons,” Catarina answered.

“Simmons…..Simmons…..I might be mistaken, but I don’t remember seeing anyone with that name on the list of new students,” said Mary.

Just then, Catarina spotted the student in question. “That’s him right there!” she pointed out to the group. They looked at him, and were wondering what was going on with that young man. He clearly looked uncomfortable and uneasy, though he didn’t appear to be any sort of threat. They watched the young man look around, before he took a seat at a table by himself. Seeing this, Sophia mused, “He might just be nervous since it’s his first day. You are right though Lady Catarina, that suit looks too small for him.”

Maria then turned to Catarina. “Where is Prince Geordo? I’m surprised he’s not here yet.”

“Well, after I told him about Master Simmons, he said he would get help for him. Maybe he went to the infirmary to get some nurses.”

Catarina’s thoughts were immediately contradicted when they saw Geordo walking in with two Academy guards behind him. He spotted the table Catarina and her friends were at, to which he then briskly walked over. He then asked Catarina a question. “That Starke Simmons you told me about, have you seen him?”

“Yes Prince Geordo,” Catarina answered. “We just saw him take a seat at that table over there.” Catarina then pointed out the table to Geordo. Maria then spoke up. “Prince Geordo, why do you have guards with you?”

“There isn’t a new student here with that name. That young man is trespassing, and we need to remove him.” Geordo then told everyone, “Just stay here. I will handle this.” Geordo then motioned to the guards, and began walking to the table where Starke was. Catarina and her friends began watching the scene unfold as Geordo confronted the young man.

They saw Geordo walk up with the guards and talk to Starke. After a few things were said, Geordo then motioned to the guards, who proceeded to each grab one of Starke’s arms. The guards then hoisted up Starke, to which the young man yelped. The commotion drew the attention of the rest of the dining room, who then went silent as the scene played out.

“What have I done?” Starke asked plainly.

“You are trespassing on the grounds of the Academy of Magic. You are not a student here and should not be on this campus.”

Starke began struggling. “I have done nothing wrong,” he responded. Geordo was surprised at the cool, unnatural tone with which he protested. Geordo then quickly replied, “Yes you have. You are not permitted to be on this campus.”

“I was told I needed to be here,” replied Starke, again in the same cool tone.

“Who told you that?”

“An authority greater than yours,” Starke replied.

Geordo had enough of the young man’s obstinance. He looked at the guards and told them, “Take him to the jail in town. He will need to be interrogated.” The guards nodded and proceeded to take Starke out of the dining room. After the guards began taking Starke away, the commotion and chatter amongst the students resumed. Geordo walked over to the table Catarina and her friends were sitting at.

“Catarina, thank you for telling me about him. He is not a student here. I checked Dean Larry’s new student list and he didn’t appear on it. I called in those guards to take him away. This will need to be investigated thoroughly.”

“What do you suppose he wanted?” asked Maria.

“I don’t know,” responded Geordo. “Hopefully we’ll figure that out when he’s interrogated.”

Suddenly, Starke was heard yelling, “LET GO OF ME!” The group looked over and saw the two guards that had been taking Starke with them struggling to keep hold of him. He began to shout some more. “I WILL NOT BE DENIED! YOU ARE PREVENTING MY MISSION!” Starke began to shake the guards off. Suddenly, with a mighty yell, he threw both guards off of him. “MY MISSION WILL NOT BE PREVENTED! I WILL OBSERVE! I WILL REPORT!” The students in the dining room looked in shock as Starke began to convulse violently. A few moments later, he screamed loudly, so much so that many students present were forced to cover their ears. Something then erupted from Starke’s torso. It seemed metallic and covered with an oil that glistened. He then began ripping off his suit, and his skin began to take a dark grey complexion. Shortly after that, other metal appendages with the same glistening oil began erupting from his skin.

Starke, transformed into some sort of biomechanical monstrosity, then yelled out “TERMINATE ALL FLESHLINGS!” A noxious vapor began emanating from his body, which caused several students to feel sick. Seeing the threat that was present, Geordo yelled out, “EVERYONE! LEAVE THE DINING ROOM NOW!” The gathered students, faculty, and school officials did so, leaving through the main doorway or the windows, whichever was closer by. Catarina and her friends quickly got up and ran for the exit. As they left, Catarina looked back and saw Geordo drawing his sword.

 


 

Catarina and her friends got outside of the building. As they got out, they quickly joined up with the crowd of students and school staff. The students that had been sickened by the monstrosity’s toxic vapor were still sick, and other students were helping them. Catarina turned to her friends. “Is everyone alright?”

“We’re fine,” affirmed Alan. “I need to go back in. My brother is facing that thing by himself. Who knows what it’s capable of?”

Just after he said that, everyone’s attention was drawn to the entrance of the building. Geordo was running with all deliberate speed. “Everyone! Leave the area immediately! That monstrosity is going berserk!” The students began to run away, while Alan ran up to try and assist his brother. Suddenly, the biomechanical monstrosity ran out of the building and was charging at the students. Geordo quickly called out to Alan, “Alan! Get out of here!”

“Let me help you!” Alan called back.

“I can’t hurt this thing! I can only delay it!”

“Let me delay it with you then Geordo!”

Geordo, seeing his brother was dead set on helping him, called out, “Don’t engage it with your sword! Use your magic!” Alan did as he was told and quickly conjured a gush of water, drenching the abomination with it. It was no use however, and the monstrosity charged through, to which Alan quickly got out of the way. Geordo meanwhile fired off a gout of flames at the horror, but the attack did not slow it down. The monstrosity then slashed at Geordo with its hands, and Geordo cried out in pain as he suffered a gash on his torso.

Catarina had been running when she tripped and fell. She went to get back up, but suddenly, something landed on top of her and pinned her down. She looked up and saw the monstrosity, its face now made of a blackened, burned-looking metal, staring down at her. The terrifying visage made her scream in fear, and she began crying hard. The vapors it was emanating sickened her, and she began to cough. She struggled against the terrible thing, but it did not let go, declaring, “FLESH IS DEFECTIVE. IT MUST BE REPLACED.” Catarina closed her eyes, waiting for the worst, when suddenly she felt a burst of heat.

Geordo, wounded but still able to fight, had thrown a gout of flame, which hit the monstrosity. It turned around, looked at the wounded Geordo, and declared, “AGGRESSOR FLESHLING MUST BE TERMINATED!” It quickly leapt at Geordo and knocked him down. Geordo began scooting back on the ground and called out, “CATARINA! RUN!” Catarina however was scared to death seeing the deadly abomination stalking Geordo and seemingly ready to kill him. Her friends had run back for her, but before they could reach her, she had gotten up and began running towards Geordo and the biomechanical being. As she ran, she began preparing her Earth Bump spell to try and trip the abomination. She knew she was taking a risk: with her being in a weakened state, casting the spell could put a strain on her body and injure her. But she didn’t care. She needed to try and save Geordo, even if it was a long shot.

As she prepared to cast, the physical and emotional duress she was under indeed strained her. Suddenly, she felt the sensation of something exploding inside her, and a burning sensation washed over her. But oddly, it did not feel painful. In fact, it felt good. The sensation continued, and suddenly, she felt something in her mind and in her body. Something that told her that she now had a new way to do things. Something that imparted the ability to draw on a power she hadn’t known about.

She finished her cast, and stuck her hand out. But instead of an Earth Bump, a sphere of electrical energy flew out from her palm and struck the monstrosity. The horror howled when the sphere hit it, and it appeared to hurt it. The monstrosity then turned towards Catarina, who promptly drew on that power and fired another sphere, which struck the abomination and staggered it. It tried to shake off the blow, but Catarina fired a third sphere which hit. The biomechanical horror dropped to its knees, hurt badly by what Catarina had done. Catarina did not understand what she’d just done, but she somehow knew how to do it. Geordo looked on in disbelief, not believing what he’d just seen.

Seeing an opening, Catarina then felt another source of power she could draw on. She drew upon it, and then cast a spell, which ensnared the abomination in roots and vines that erupted from the earth. It struggled to free itself, but couldn’t. Catarina then drew on more power and began channeling it. A green beam emanated from her hands and began enveloping the monstrosity, which howled as the power overtook it. Then, with a final surge, Catarina completely enveloped it, and the beam stopped firing from her hands. After the beam disappeared, she found a gnarled but verdant tree standing where the monstrosity once was.

Seeing that the threat was no more, Catarina quickly ran over to Geordo’s side. Geordo was still in pain from the wound he’d received on his torso.

“Prince Geordo! How badly hurt are you??” she cried out, as tears began rolling down her face.

“It hurts…..It hurts a lot.”

Alan then ran up to the two. “Geordo, I’m sorry! I tried to stop it, but it just powered through and I let it wound you!”

“Don’t apologize Alan,” Geordo responded. “I wasn’t any better at stopping it. And at least it was me that got hurt and not you.”

“Catarina! Are you okay?”

“I’m fine! We need to help Prince Geordo!”

Catarina held Geordo in her arms. His wound needed immediate treatment, as while it was not a mortal or fatal wound, it was nevertheless significant. Seeing this, Alan told Catarina, “Wait here. I’m going to get a doctor!” Suddenly, she felt another source of power flowing through her, and she got the sense that she could do something to help him. “Prince Geordo, stay still. I think I can help you.” She then began drawing on that source of power and held her hand in front of Geordo’s wound.

“Catarina, what are you…..?!”

An energy radiated from Catarina’s hands, and it began mending Geordo’s wound. Geordo and Alan could only look on in shock as his wound healed. After about a half-minute, the wound was completely mended. Geordo and Alan looked at Catarina.

“How did you do all of that? And how did you know how to do all of that?”

“I don’t know,” Catarina replied pensively. “I just saw that thing looking like it was ready to kill you, and I had to do something about it. I felt this sensation inside me, and then I felt like a new power was running through me. I can’t tell you how I did it. I just did.”

Catarina and Alan then helped Geordo stand back up. Geordo twisted his body around a bit. “It doesn’t hurt. It feels like it’s been completely healed.”

“SISTER!”

“LADY CATARINA!”

“PRINCE ALAN! PRINCE GEORDO!”

The group looked and saw their friends running up towards them. Keith quickly ran up to Catarina and embraced her. “Sister! Are you hurt?”

“I’m fine Keith,” Catarina replied, as she began calming down due to Geordo now being okay. After Keith finished hugging Catarina, Mary followed suit. Sophia and Maria checked on Geordo and Alan. “Prince Geordo, are you okay?” asked Maria.

“That thing gave me a cut on my torso that was painful, but somehow, Catarina was able to completely heal it.”

“How? Lady Catarina doesn’t have light magic!” said Sophia.

“Whatever it was, it wasn’t light magic, but she was able to heal me.”

Before the three of them could discuss this any further, they saw school faculty and officials walking up. She heard them talking among themselves, discussing what had happened and what course of action to take. They seemingly came to an agreement and nodded among themselves. They were followed by other students, who had from a distance seen the entire thing unfold. The Dean, seeing that most of the student body was nearby, made an announcement.

“In light of what has happened, and due to the need to do a complete investigation, the rest of today’s orientation activities have been cancelled. Students, you are to return to your dorm rooms and not leave until word that it is okay to do so comes out from me.” The Dean then came up to Catarina. She wondered if what she’d just done was against some part of the Student Code of Honor and braced herself for the Dean’s words.

“Miss Claes, I don’t understand how you did what you did just now, but thank you. Your actions prevented anyone from being seriously harmed or killed.”

“So I’m not in trouble?”

“No, you’re not,” the Dean assured her.

“Thank you for clearing that up, Dean Larry!”

Catarina was put at ease being assured that she was not in trouble. What had happened shouldn’t have been possible based on what was known about magic. She was just as curious as to how she was able to do what she did. The Dean then spoke further.

“Your actions are going to draw the attention of the Ministry of Magic, but right now I think it’s best if everyone here just goes back to the dorms. The Ministry can wait.” The Dean then turned to Geordo and Alan. “Prince Geordo, Prince Alan, the Ministry will want to speak with you two as well, since you were primary witnesses and directly affected by Miss Claes’s actions.”

“Understood, Sir,” the two princes replied simultaneously. With that, the Dean bade goodbye and Catarina started heading towards the dorms. As she did, she was beset by students.

“Lady Claes, how did you destroy that horrible thing?”

“What did you do to heal Prince Geordo?”

Catarina, not having any answers, responded, “I don’t know. I just felt something inside me burn, and all of a sudden I knew how to do those things. I can’t explain it.”

“Well, it’s a good thing,” remarked a student. “Thanks to your actions, you stopped that monster from harming anyone and saved Prince Geordo’s life!”

“Lady Claes, you’re a true heroine!”

Catarina was flustered at the praise she was hearing, not having expected it. “Um, I wouldn’t say that. I just did what I could.”

“Your actions saved our lives Lady Claes! How does that not make you a heroine?”

“Those powers can’t be arcane. Could they be divine?”

“What god or goddess has smiled upon you, Lady Claes?”

Catarina eventually found it impossible to go any further, as the students were eager to speak to her about what had just happened. Seeing this, Geordo went up to Catarina and addressed the other students. “Your questions will be answered in due time. But for now, please return to the dorms as Dean Larry instructed everyone here.” The students however ignored Geordo and continued to ask questions of Catarina. Seeing as how he was ignored, he again called out, “Everyone, please listen to Dean Larry! Return to the dorms!” Still the students beset Catarina. Finally, desperate for control, he turned to the rest of the group. “They’re not listening to me. Could you please help me and form a circle around Catarina so we can escort her back?”

Keith was amused at Geordo’s request. “You need our help? So you can’t do it all yourself, Your Highness?” Normally, Geordo would’ve simmered at Keith’s barb, but seeing that Catarina was becoming overwhelmed by everyone, Geordo put his annoyance aside. “Please, I need your help.” Keith, who shortly after realized how uncomfortable Catarina was, then said, “It’s not a problem. Everyone?” The group then formed a circle around Catarina. Alan then spoke up. “I know you all have questions, but for right now, please follow Dean Larry’s instructions and return to your dorm rooms!” Geordo then turned to Catarina. “Catarina, just follow us.” With that, the group began walking towards the ladies’ dorm, calling out “Make way!” and “Excuse us!” The group was able to make their way through the students and escort Catarina.

 


 

After a decent walk, they reached the ladies’ dorm. The group walked Catarina to her dorm room. She then turned to them. “Thank you everyone for helping me with the crowd!”

“Lady Catarina, what kind of magic is that?” asked Mary.

“I don’t know,” Catarina replied. “I just found myself able to do it somehow. I’m as confused as all of you are.”

Just then, the door to Catarina’s dorm room opened, revealing Anne. “Good afternoon everyone. From what it sounds like there’s some sort of commotion.”

“That’s an understatement,” remarked Geordo. “A young man who was trespassing here transformed into some sort of monster and attacked. But Catarina was somehow able to destroy it.”

Anne’s eyes widened at Geordo’s explanation. “What??”

“It’s complicated,” added Keith. “But we’ll explain everything to you.”

Just then, Catarina yawned. “I feel tired. I think I’m going to lie down on my bed for a little bit.”

“I think that’s a good idea, Lady Catarina,” remarked Maria. “With everything that happened, you seemed overwhelmed.”

“We can explain everything to Anne,” added Keith. “Go ahead and rest.” With that, Catarina took her leave and walked into her dorm room. She went to her bedroom and sat down on the bed. She then laid down on her back, and within a few minutes, had fallen asleep.

Chapter Text

A few hours later, Catarina woke up. It was early evening, and the sun was setting. She sat up, and after taking a few moments to get her bearings, the events of earlier in the day popped into her head. She had been greeting the new students at the Academy, when a young man who appeared to be ill came up to her. His behavior had been strange, but she had attributed it to him being sick. As it turned out though, he was a trespasser, and Prince Geordo had brought in guards to arrest him. The young man then turned into a biomechanical monstrosity and began wreaking havoc, in the process injuring Geordo. It then sought to kill her, but Geordo drew its attention. Then, using the opportunity, Catarina went to cast an Earth Bump to try and trip the terrible thing, but she instead debilitated the half-flesh, half-machine horror with spheres of lightning, then cast a spell to turn it into a tree. Afterwards, she’d then healed Geordo with a spell.

She sat on the bed, not able to comprehend what had happened, when she then came to a conclusion about everything.

“A monster on campus? Summoning lightning? Healing Prince Geordo? It couldn’t have happened. What a wild dream!”

A few moments later, she heard a knock on her bedroom door. Catarina then called out, “Come in!”

The door opened, and Anne walked in. “Good evening, Lady Catarina. You slept a decent amount.”

“Yeah, I did.” Catarina then spoke further. “I had a crazy dream. I dreamt that some sort of mechanical monster attacked us while we were having lunch, but that I destroyed it with some sort of strange magic. It was so vivid, but I know it didn’t happen. Magic doesn’t work that way!”

Anne stopped and stared at Catarina. Seeing her mistress in denial, Anne spoke up. “Milady, that was no dream. You actually did do that. Your brother, Prince Geordo, and everyone else told me it did happen.”

Hearing this was a shock to Catarina. “It…..It did happen? That wasn’t a dream?!”

“No it wasn’t, Milady,” Anne confirmed. “There was quite a commotion about the incident, but you prevented things from getting worse.”

Catarina had a faraway look come to her eyes. “But…..magic doesn’t work that way! At least not from what I remember from my previous life!”

Anne raised her eyebrows at Catarina’s words. “‘Previous life’?”

“Oh! Haha! I misspoke Anne! I meant magic doesn’t work that way in reality!”

Anne paused a minute, then spoke up. “I don’t know much about magic myself, but I have been assured that you did do whatever it was that you did.”

Catarina was still in disbelief that what happened wasn’t a dream, but decided to concede the point. She then remembered Dean Larry’s announcement. “Is it okay for us to leave our dorm rooms?”

“Yes, it is. A school official said it is okay for students to leave the dorms. In fact, your friends said they would be by in a few minutes to take you to the dining room for dinner.”

Upon hearing that, Catarina felt her stomach growl. “Perfect timing! I’m getting hungry!”

Catarina then stood up from her bed. Anne then walked over to her. “Allow me to tidy you up a bit Milady, so that you’re at least presentable in a public setting.” Anne then proceeded to smooth out the rumpled parts of Catarina’s dress, then had her sit in a chair so she could rebrush and restyle her hair. Just as she finished, a knock was heard at her door.

Catarina stood up and followed Anne to her dorm room door. Anne then opened it, revealing Catarina’s friends. “Good evening everyone! I’m glad to see you all!” Catarina greeted them.

“Good evening Catarina!” Geordo greeted her back. “Are you feeling better?”

“I am. I woke up thinking everything was a dream, but Anne told me that it actually did happen.”

“Yes, it did. The Ministry of Magic has been informed of it, and they’re certainly curious.”

“I think we all are,” remarked Alan. “Magic shouldn’t work like that. But yet Catarina did it.”

“I heard some other students speculating it’s not magic,” added Keith. Catarina heard this and got nervous. “What do they think it is?”

“Some think it’s some sort of divine power,” Keith answered. “Consider me skeptical, because I’ve never heard of any sort of divine powers.”

“There are legends about that sort of thing,” Sophia intervened. “But that’s all they are. Some of the legends in the Church are based on historical occurrences, but it’s all fantastical and consensus is that it’s an embellishment.”

“I’m sure we’ll get an answer one way or another. But for right now, I’m sure Lady Catarina is hungry. Let’s get going!” declared Mary.

The group walked down the hall, descended the stairs, and left the dorm room. As they exited the dorm, a group of students spotted them and began converging on Catarina. Seeing this, Maria turned to everyone. “Same thing as before?” The group nodded and formed a circle around Catarina. “Don’t worry Lady Catarina. We’ll make sure you don’t get bothered too much,” Maria assured Catarina. They then continued walking, with Geordo and Alan turning away students who wanted to speak with Catarina.

Eventually, the group reached the dining room. Mary pulled up a chair for Catarina to sit down on. Catarina took the invitation and did so. She then spoke up. “Lady Sophia and I will go up and get dinner for you. Just sit here with everyone else and we’ll take turns going up.” With that, Mary and Sophia went up to get dinner for themselves and Catarina.

As Catarina sat down, she saw other students looking at her in the cafeteria. Some had looks of admiration. Some had looks of curiosity. A few students, mostly those that were not fond of her, looked at her suspiciously. Catarina began to sink down in her chair. Seeing this, Keith asked, “Sister, what’s wrong?”

“Everyone’s looking at me. I’m uncomfortable being the center of attention like this.”

“That’s understandable,” replied Geordo. “But given what happened, it’s a given that you would draw their attention. Don’t pay the students any mind. Just talk with us.” Catarina did so and began making conversation, avoiding talking about the incident and talking about how orientation went prior to that.

Mary and Sophia eventually came back with dinner for themselves and Catarina. Keith and Maria went up next to get their dinner. Mary and Sophia picked up the conversation and joined in. After Keith and Maria came back, Geordo and Alan went to get their dinner, while the conversation continued. Eventually, they came back, and the group was ready to eat.

Before they could, the Dean and two Ministry of Magic officials walked up to their table. The group’s attention was drawn to them when they walked up. After a moment, one of the officials spoke up.

“Miss Claes, Doctor Cope told us about the incident that occurred, and based on what happened, we would like to speak with you regarding this and also have you demonstrate the magic you used. We ask that you, along with Prince Geordo and Prince Alan, please follow us to the Ministry Headquarters.”

“Oh, sure! That won’t be a problem! I’ll do so after I eat my dinner-”

“We’re asking you to come with us now,” the other official interrupted. Catarina looked pensive. She was hungry, but didn’t want to displease the officials. But before she could say anything, the Dean spoke up.

“Wait a minute! Can’t you see she’s just gotten dinner? Why can’t she eat her dinner first?”

“Well, we are eager to get answers as soon as possible about the magical anomalies from Miss Claes.”

“Yes, but it’s dinner time and she needs to eat. Surely you can wait for her to have her dinner.”

“Need I remind you Doctor Cope that this school is under our jurisdiction?” one of the officials asked the Dean.

“The school is, yes. But not the individual students. I am responsible for them, and I say Miss Claes can have her dinner first.”

The officials shot a look at the Dean, but then conceded the point. “Fine. We only ask you to please expedite your dinner, Miss Claes.” With that, the group set to eating their dinner. As Catarina ate her first forkful, the Dean leaned over to her. “Take your time.” Catarina smiled and continued to eat her dinner with everyone.

 


 

After about a half-hour, Catarina and her friends had finished their meal. The officials, who had gotten impatient as time went on, then spoke up. “Miss Claes, Prince Geordo, Prince Alan, please follow us.” With that, the three of them said their goodbyes to Keith, Mary, Sophia, and Maria, and followed the officials to the Ministry Headquarters on campus.

After entering the building, the three of them were led to a room in order to discuss what had happened with the abomination’s attack and Catarina destroying it. After the three of them sat down, the two officials walked out. A few minutes later, another official walked in. The three of them stood up to greet the official, who then introduced himself.

“Good evening. I am Algernon Palmer. I am the Director of the Theoretical Magic Department at the Ministry.” Catarina, Geordo, and Alan shook his hand, at which time everyone present took a seat. Director Palmer then spoke up. “Miss Claes, as you can imagine, we are very curious as to how you did what you did in stopping and destroying that abomination. What can you tell us?”

Catarina took a moment to think before she spoke up. “Well, I don’t know how I did it. But I can tell you what I felt prior to doing it.” Director Palmer then leaned in. “And what was that?” Catarina took a deep breath before she began explaining.

“The monster pinned me down and said it was going to kill me. It had some sort of noxious vapor coming out of it and it made me sick. Prince Geordo then shot out a gout of flame at it, and it turned its attention to him. I decided to try and use my Earth Bump to trip it, but as I went to cast it, I felt something inside me, like an explosion. I then felt a burning sensation, but it wasn’t painful. It kept up for a while, and then it faded. After it faded, I felt a power running through me suddenly. I continued casting, but then I drew on that new power I felt. And that’s when I fired that lightning sphere at the monster.”

“I see,” remarked Director Palmer. “What else happened?”

“Well, after I injured it, I suddenly felt another surge of power run through me and had something else come to mind. I cast the spell and drew on that power, and that’s when the vines and roots erupted from the ground and ensnared that thing. I then felt like I needed to put more power into the spell, and I did, and after I did so, the monster was completely enveloped by a green light. After I finished, the monster had been transformed into a tree. It was then that I noticed Prince Geordo was injured. I ran over to him, and Prince Alan was going to get a doctor, but I felt another surge of power course through me, and I suddenly got the idea that I could help. I then drew on that new source of power, and managed to heal Prince Geordo.”

Director Palmer then turned to Geordo. “What did you see when Miss Claes healed you?”

“Well, whatever it was, it wasn’t light magic. It felt like a soothing balm was being applied to my wound, and it began mending. After a few moments, it was completely healed, like I’d never been hurt in the first place.”

“Did you notice anything else?”

“I was looking at my wound the entire time, so I didn’t see anything else.”

“Actually, I did notice something,” Alan interjected. “When Catarina was healing Geordo, her eyes turned completely white.”

Hearing this, Geordo then recalled something. “That reminds me! When Catarina cast the spell that ensnared the abomination, her eyes turned into orbs of green.”

Director Palmer took all of this in. “Magic doesn’t cause changes like that.” He then thought some more. “I think at this point, it would help if Miss Claes demonstrates what she did. Miss Claes, would you be able to do so?”

Catarina replied hesitantly, “Well, I can certainly try. But I don’t know how to do it exactly.”

“Please try for us, just to see if we can figure anything out.”

Catarina then nodded her head and said, “Alright, I’ll try.” Director Palmer then stood up. “Follow me to the outside. We have a casting ground which will allow a safe demonstration.” Catarina, Geordo, and Alan stood up and followed Director Palmer outside. After a decent walk, they arrived at the casting ground. Other Ministry workers and officials were present to watch the proceedings. Director Palmer led Catarina to a spot on the ground and pointed towards a wooden target. “See that target? I want you to try and cast that lightning sphere spell and hit the target with it.” Catarina nodded and faced the target.

She looked at it, wondering what she should do. She held her palm out in front of her. She then closed her eyes and began thinking about the spell she’d cast, and began visualizing it in her mind. Suddenly, she felt something flowing into her body. She gathered the power that was flowing through, and after a moment, opened her eyes. She then thrusted her palm out, and the same lightning sphere she’d fired out before emanated from her palm and flew towards the wooden target, striking it and blowing a hole into it. The gathered officials gasped, and then murmured to themselves about what had happened. Director Palmer quickly walked up to Catarina. “What happened when you cast it?”

Catarina described exactly what she did. “I began thinking about that spell, and I then felt a power flow through me. After I gathered it, I then thrusted my palm out and the lightning sphere flew out.”

“I see,” remarked Director Palmer. “I noticed when you cast the spell, your eyes turned completely red.” Hearing this unnerved Catarina. “Red?! Did…..did my eyes look evil!?”

Director Palmer flinched at that. “No! You didn’t look evil! They just turned red for whatever reason. Why does that have you so worried?”

“Well, I don’t want anyone to think that whatever I did came from some sort of evil source or anything.”

Director Palmer was bewildered at Catarina’s words, when Geordo then spoke up. “Director Palmer, don’t mind Catarina. For whatever reason she worries about looking evil and has said she doesn’t want to be a villainess. I don’t know why she’s so worried about that, but that’s just Catarina.”

Director Palmer took this in, and then went to reassure Catarina. “Miss Claes, you did not look evil. And we don’t think your powers are evil. It’s just…..well, we’ve never seen anyone do what you just did.”

Catarina was calmed down by Director Palmer’s words. Suddenly, she felt something in her head and had a thought come to her. “I’m going to cast another spell. But this one is going to be different.” With that, she closed her eyes and raised her splayed palm upwards. She then drew on the mysterious power, and had another vision come into view in her mind, one she hadn’t had before. She then opened her eyes and swung her palm downwards.

Without warning, a bolt of lightning struck the wooden target, obliterating it into splinters. The officials then gasped at the demonstration, and were in awe at what Catarina had just done. She looked at Geordo and Alan. “I don’t know why, but I just began thinking of lightning shooting out from the sky and striking the ground below.”

“Your eyes turned red again,” remarked Alan. “I wonder why your eyes change color like that.”

Director Palmer thought about what he’d witnessed. He then turned to a researcher. “Did your instruments detect anything?”

“Yes sir,” remarked the researcher. “It detected what Miss Claes did, but it didn’t register as arcane exactly. It seemed…..off.”

Director Palmer then asked Catarina, “Can you try doing that again?”

“Uh, sure.” Director Palmer pointed towards another target. “Try directing it at that.” Catarina nodded and repeated the process. This time, she went through the motions more quickly, but the end result was the same: lightning striking the wooden target and causing it to splinter into numerous pieces. Director Palmer looked at the device the researcher was holding and saw the readings. “It’s detected arcane presence, but these readings are off. It’s registering as far more powerful than previous magic it has monitored.”

“That seemed much quicker than the first time Catarina,” remarked Geordo.

“Yes, it was. Almost like since I’d cast it before, I could do so again.”

Director Palmer then turned to Catarina. “We’ve gotten plenty of data for now. We would like you to be back here tomorrow sometime in order to have you try to cast more spells.”

Catarina nodded. “I will come back tomorrow.” With that, Director Palmer bade the three of them farewell and they exited the casting ground. As they did, they saw Keith, Mary, Sophia, and Maria waiting for them.

“Lady Catarina, how did it go?” asked Mary.

“Well, I was able to replicate the lightning spheres. But then I suddenly got the idea that I could throw lightning, and I did.”

Keith and the girls had their eyes go wide when Catarina described this. “Um, you just got the idea?” Keith asked.

“Yeah. I don’t know why, but I got the sense I could do that, and I did.”

“Summoning lightning, turning a monster into a tree, healing Prince Geordo…..Is it really magic?” asked Sophia.

“I’m sure the Ministry will figure it out,” said Maria. “It’s been a long day. Let’s all go back to the dorms.” WIth that, the group walked to the dorms, escorting Catarina so she wouldn’t be bothered. They walked her up to her room, at which time they said their goodbyes and went their separate ways for the night.

Chapter Text

The next day, Catarina woke up, hungry and ready for breakfast. After Anne helped her dress and prepare for the day, her friends met her outside of her dorm room to walk her to the dining room for breakfast. After everyone got breakfast and they began eating, several Ministry of Magic officials walked up to their table.

“Miss Claes, Director Palmer has requested your presence. They would like you to demonstrate your abilities some more so that they can continue to study them.”

After swallowing her mouthful of food, Catarina answered them, “Sure, I’d be happy to!”

“We will of course let you finish your breakfast at this time.”

“I assume there will be no problem if I was to escort Catarina? She is my fiancée after all,” Geordo interjected.

“Not at all, Your Highness.”

“I think you’d want me to come along as well since I was a witness as well,” added Alan.

“That would be fine as well Prince Alan,” remarked another official, not noticing the annoyed glare Geordo was giving over his brother’s unintended interference.

“Well, we were all witnesses too!” declared Mary. “We should all come along!”

“I agree! We can all add our own piece!” added Sophia.

“Um, well, I’m not sure we need so many witnesses…..”

“And why not?” challenged Keith.

“Um, I suppose you have a point there…..”

“Since Lady Catarina’s abilities include healing, I could possibly be of use as well, since I might be able to determine if it is light magic,” added Maria.

Seeing the group was serious, the officials sighed. One of them then responded, “Yes, you can all come with us.”

“Great!” declared Mary. With that, the group finished their breakfast, and all of them went to the casting grounds on the Ministry of Magic campus. As they got there, Catarina recognized Director Palmer from last night. She noticed a strange idol standing in the grounds and asked, “What is that idol there for?”

“It’s a dark magic conduit which the Magic Tools Department has had for some time,” explained Director Palmer. “Based on what was said about that monster that attacked, since it seemed to be mechanical to some degree, and since you somehow transformed it into a tree, we wanted you to try and replicate that for us.” Catarina however was hesitant. “Are you sure? I’m not so sure they’d be happy if I destroyed their property.”

“Miss Larna Smith offered it to us,” explained Director Palmer. “Now if you could please try to demonstrate.” With that, Catarina nodded and looked at the conduit. She could sense the magic in it and the power it contained. As she thought about the spell she’d used to defeat the horror, she began drawing power to herself. After a few moments, she’d gathered the power, and she cast the spell. A green beam shot out from her hands, and it enveloped the idol. She continued to channel the beam into the idol, and after a minute, she had turned the conduit into a vibrant bush. The researchers noticed this and were fascinated. One of them walked up with an instrument and ran it over. “There is no magic in this bush whatsoever. Whatever Miss Claes did, she not only destroyed it, but stripped it of all its magic power.”

“That could be helpful,” remarked a researcher. “Miss Claes might be able to help us dispose of dangerous machines, and we’ve got a lot of those.”

Upon hearing this, Keith became concerned. “What if Sister doesn’t want to spend her spare moments helping you dispose of those sorts of things? She has her own life after all.”

“I understand your concern, Mister Claes, but your sister’s newfound powers should be put to use for the good of all Sorcier, once they’re fully understood, of course,” remarked a researcher.

“I hope you do realize that she might not be available all the time, especially after she and I get married,” Geordo warned the researcher. Keith and Mary glared at Geordo, who paid it no mind. Just then, Maria spoke up.

“Not to interrupt, but I wanted to say that I noticed that when Lady Catarina cast that spell, her eyes turned completely green.” The researchers noted this and became curious. “So when she cast those spells yesterday, her eyes turned completely red. And just now they turned completely green. What is causing that?”

“BARK! BARK BARK!”

Without warning, a dog suddenly ran into the casting ground. Director Palmer then called out, “Who brought that dog here?!”  Upon seeing it, Catarina froze. She did not want the dog to notice her, as it seemed that all dogs hated her. Just her luck, it spotted her and began making a beeline towards her.

“BARK BARK!”

Catarina quickly gathered her skirt up and began running from the dog, while her friends chased after it. Catarina continued to run from the dog, but she then tripped and fell to the ground. She turned around, only to find the dog closing in on her. Just then, she got the sense that she could deal with the dog somehow. She gathered the power she’d felt before, and cast a spell. A flash was seen in a nearby bush, and suddenly, a fox bolted out from it. The fox quickly got in front of Catarina and began screaming at the dog.

“YOWL! YOWL!”

The dog, intimidated by its wild cousin, suddenly turned tail and bolted out of the casting ground, yelping and whimpering as it retreated. Relieved that the dog was no longer a threat, Catarina began to get off the ground when suddenly something grabbed her in a tight embrace.

“LADY CATARINA! ARE YOU HURT?!”

Seeing her friend in a panic over the incident with the dog, Catarina quickly went to reassure her. “Mary, I’m fine. The dog’s gone.” Mary continued to embrace Catarina while the rest of the group and Director Palmer ran up to her. “Miss Claes, I’m so sorry that dog ran into here, and I’m sorry it bothered you.”

“For some reason dogs don’t like Lady Catarina,” Sophia remarked. “They always chase after her and bark at her.”

Catarina then spoke up. “Mary, I’m okay, you can let go of me now.” Mary obeyed Catarina and let go of her hug. As Catarina settled down, she felt something ruffling her skirt. She looked down and saw the fox that jumped out of the bush nuzzling her. Cautiously, she crouched down and came face to face with the fox. Upon seeing her face, the fox immediately began wagging its tail as if it was a dog and yapped happily at her. Hesitantly, she began to pet it, and the fox responded positively, yapping happily and wagging its tail more frenetically. Director Palmer then spoke up.

“Before that fox jumped out, there was a glow in that bush. Did you do that Miss Claes?”

“Um, I think so,” Catarina responded. “I just felt like I could call for something to get that dog away from me, and I gathered in that power and released it like before.”

“Lady Catarina’s eyes turned white this time,” Maria remarked. “I saw that glow, but it didn’t seem like it was light magic at all.”

Seeing this, Director Palmer then decided to end today’s demonstration. “I think that’ll be all we need for now. Miss Claes, thank you for your demonstrations. Everyone else, thank you for your observations and help. This is most curious and we’ll need to look into this further.” With that, the group then began leaving the grounds. As Catarina walked back to the dorms with her friends, she again felt something nuzzling her skirt. She looked down and saw the same fox that she had somehow summoned looking at her.

“Whaddya know? There’s actually a canine that does like you!” Alan remarked, smiling as he said it. Catarina wondered what she could do about this fox, knowing the dorms wouldn’t be happy if she brought a fox to her dorm room. She looked at it and said, “I’m okay now! You can go home!” The fox yapped happily and then ran off. Alan noted the scene with curiosity. “That fox seemed to understand and obey you instantly.”

“I don’t know how or why, but it seems like I established some sort of bond with it.”

“In the meantime, today is the first Settlement Day. Why don’t we go around and help some students out?” asked Catarina.

“That sounds like a good idea. Though we’ll stay with you, since there’s still students talking about what you did, Lady Catarina,” remarked Sophia. With that, the group went off to help the new students.

 


 

Word had begun to spread about the incident at the Academy of Magic. The reports varied in details, but the general story was similar. A student turned into some sort of flesh-and-metal abomination and began wreaking havoc, in the process injuring Prince Geordo. But then Catarina Claes had intervened, incapacitated the monster, and then destroyed it, turning it into a tree. Then she somehow healed the Third Prince. The story seemed too unbelievable for many when they heard it, but then confirmation came out that it did happen, and that the Ministry of Magic was investigating.

As word spread, an official from another organization heard about the incident and gathered details. After hearing the same story from multiple sources, he decided the matter was something he needed to report to his superior. As he walked into the White Cathedral, he wondered what his superior’s reaction would be to the reports of what had happened.

The official knocked on the door to his superior’s office, to which a voice said, “Come in!” The official then opened the door and greeted the figure at his desk.

“Good evening, Archbishop Nolan.”

“Good evening, Monsignor Braden,” the man at the desk greeted him. Monsignor Braden then walked in and took a seat in front of Archbishop Nolan’s desk. After a few moments, Monsignor Braden spoke up.

“Thank you for agreeing to meet me on such short notice, Your Excellency. The reports I heard were rather surprising, but after hearing them, I wanted to relay what I had heard.”

The Archbishop leaned forward. “What are these reports?”

“The reports were that some sort of monster attacked the Academy of Magic, and that it seemed to be unstoppable. In its attack, it wounded Prince Geordo Stuart.”

“And then what?”

“A young woman single-handedly destroyed the monster. Reports were consistent: she debilitated it with lightning spheres, then trapped it and turned it into a tree. Afterwards, she then healed Prince Geordo completely from his injuries.”

The official raised his eyebrows at the description. “That is what the reports were?”

“As unbelievable as it sounds Archbishop Nolan, I have been assured it did happen.”

Archbishop Nolan then spoke further. “Has any determination been made about how that young woman did what she did?”

“The Ministry of Magic believes it’s arcane in origin, but from what I understand about magic, what she is doing violates most of the laws of magic.”

Archbishop Nolan put a hand on his chin to think about what he’d heard. Indeed, what he knew about magic wasn’t compatible with what the young woman did. “I agree with that. Which in that case, it might not be arcane. I think we would be best served looking into this ourselves and seeing what exactly it is.” He then asked Monsignor Braden, “What is the name of the young woman that did this?”

“It is Catarina Claes, Your Excellency.”

Archbishop Nolan was familiar with the name, considering the status House Claes had within the kingdom. “Well, we still need to look into this. I am tasking you with investigating Miss Claes and discovering what the origin of this power she now possesses is. Given what has been said, it might not actually be arcane.”

“Yes, Your Excellency.” Monsignor Braden then had a question, “Do you think-”

“It’s possible,” Archbishop Nolan responded. “But we can’t be certain until we look into it ourselves and make a determination.”

Chapter Text

The second semester for the Academy of Magic had begun, and the first day of class was as it had been for Catarina the previous year. The second-year curriculum would be more challenging for her, but with the help and support of her friends, she was sure that she would pass and graduate. It also represented a return to normalcy for her. After the incident with the mechanical monstrosity had occurred, she had found herself inundated with inquiries from fellow students and had needed her friends to escort her to get anywhere. But after the school got back to a sense of normalcy, and with it being made clear that Catarina was not to be bothered or asked about the incident, the frequent requests had stopped. The rest of the Settlement Days went normally and things were back to normal.

After the first day of classes, Catarina walked to the cafeteria with her friends for dinner. As she got there, she saw Director Palmer as well as several other officials from the Ministry of Magic. They walked up to her and greeted her.

“Good evening Miss Claes. We hope things have been going well for you,” Director Palmer greeted her.

“Yes, they have. Things have been getting back to normal. I’m just here to get some dinner.”

“If you wouldn’t mind putting it on hold for a little bit, we’d like you to come with us to the casting grounds at the Ministry so you can demonstrate more of your unknown magic.”

Catarina’s stomach grumbled. “Well, I’m kind of hungry…..”

“I promise it won’t take very long,” replied Director Palmer. Seeing the look in his eyes, and not wanting to hinder him, Catarina responded, “Well, I guess that’s okay…..”

“Sister, I’ll go with you,” Keith quickly added. “When you’re finished, I can bring you back here and we can have dinner then.” Catarina looked at Director Palmer. “Would that be okay?”

“Yes, that’s quite alright,” said Director Palmer.

“Well wait a minute,” Geordo interrupted. “I am her fiancé, so I should be present as well.”

“With all due respect Your Highness, I think Mister Claes is more than capable of escorting his sister-”

“I said I am her fiancé, so I should be present as well.”

Director Palmer looked at Geordo and saw he wouldn’t budge from his demand. Not wanting a conflict with the Third Prince, he conceded the point. “That is quite alright, Your Highness. But just you and Mister Claes. We do not need witnesses for anything else. This is just going to be Miss Claes demonstrating her magic.” The rest of the group was shocked at Director Palmer cutting them off like that. Catarina looked at them and said, “It won’t be long! I promise!”

“Well, alright. We’ll wait for you!” declared Mary.

With that, Catarina said her goodbyes to her friends and went to the Ministry’s casting grounds, escorted by Geordo, Keith, Director Palmer, and the Ministry officials. Eventually, they reached there, and Catarina saw that several wooden targets had been set up like before.

“All we’re asking for is just for you to call lightning a few times. The first two targets, try and use the spheres. The second two, call down a bolt to strike it.”

Catarina nodded and said, “I will try.” She looked at the targets and began visualizing the spells in her mind. This time it came quickly and easily for her. She fired spheres of lightning from her right hand, and impacted the two targets. Then she called down lightning and obliterated the other two targets. The researchers saw this and were intrigued.

“Interesting. Miss Claes was able to do it much more easily.”

“It seems like whatever magic it is, she’s at least got some proficiency.”

A researcher then had a question for Catarina. “What did you do just now to cast those spells?”

“I just visualized them in my mind, and then drew power into me. After I drew enough, I was able to cast the spells.”

“According to the records we have, you have earth magic. When you say you draw power into you, is it the same sensation as when you use earth magic?” asked another researcher.

Catarina then came to realize something about her newfound power. “Well, no. When I used my earth magic previously, I felt like I was drawing power from myself. But when I use those lightning spells, and for that matter the other spells I’ve used, it feels like I’m drawing power from something else.”

“Do you have any idea where you draw it from?”

“Uh, sort of. I feel like I drew it from the earth itself or something. But I don’t know why I feel that way.”

The researchers murmured among themselves about what Catarina just said. After a few moments, they spoke up. “Thank you Miss Claes. That will be all for today.”

Catarina was glad that the promise that it wouldn’t take long was being upheld. With that, Geordo walked up to her. “Catarina, kindly allow me to escort you to the dining room.”

“That won’t be necessary Prince Geordo! I can do it!” Keith declared.

Seeing this, Catarina offered each of them a hand. “How about you both escort me?”

Both Geordo and Keith were not happy with the arrangement, but decided for Catarina’s sake to do so. “That’s quite alright.”

Just then, a voice called out, “Miss Claes? Please wait a moment! There’s some unexpected visitors here that are requesting to see you.” Catarina, Geordo, and Keith were curious to hear that, but decided to oblige. They waited for a few minutes for the unexpected guests, wondering who it could be. Finally, two Ministry officials walked in with the guests. Catarina immediately recognized the “guests” as an official and two priests from the Church of Sorcier. Upon seeing them, she immediately became worried, wondering what was going on and why they were there. Geordo and Keith also noted their presence with curiosity.

“What does the Church want with Catarina?” Geordo wondered. “Normally they don’t cross paths with the Ministry of Magic at all.”

Keith, noticing the tone of Geordo’s voice, spoke up. “We should wait and see what they want. But I’m suspicious as well. If it comes down to it, please help me protect Sister, Your Highness.”

Geordo, seeing that Keith was on the same wavelength as him, replied back, “I will absolutely do so. That is a promise.”

The Church official walked up to Catarina. “Good evening, Miss Claes. My name is Monsignor Patrick Braden. I am the Secretary for His Excellency, Archbishop Joseph Nolan of the Church of Sorcier.” Nervously, Catarina greeted Monsignor Braden. “Good evening, Monsignor.”

“I am here with Father Richard Blanton and Father John Knowles because we have heard about what you did in saving the Academy from that monstrosity. After hearing about that as well as the new powers you have developed, we have some questions for you and would like you to demonstrate your new powers for us.”

Director Palmer then interjected. “Monsignor, why is the Church interested in Miss Claes’s new arcane capabilities? I can assure you we are investigating this thoroughly.”

Monsignor Braden turned to Director Palmer. “Director, we are very familiar with magic and how it works. What Miss Claes has done does not follow the known laws of magic. We believe it could be something different.”

Upon hearing that, Catarina became extremely nervous. From what it sounded like, the Monsignor was saying that her power was not natural. Suddenly, she became worried. Was her newfound power from an evil source? Was she in danger of being condemned by the Church? She began to sweat, and her stomach gurgled, as she still had not eaten dinner. Monsignor Braden then turned to Catarina. “Miss Claes, would you mind demonstrating for us your powers?”

“Well, um, I’ve yet to eat dinner, and I’m kind of hungry.”

“Please Miss Claes, we're not asking for much,” said the Monsignor. Catarina, intimidated by the Church official, said, “I’ll do so right now then.” With that, she turned to Director Palmer. “Could you bring out a few more of those wooden targets?”

“Yes, I can do so Miss Claes.”

“Please also bring some sort of mechanical device. I want to see Miss Claes turn it into a plant like was reported to us,” said the Monsignor. “For that matter, has anything else been discovered about your powers, Miss Claes?”

Catarina, caught off-guard by the question, responded, “Well, I can summon woodland creatures…..”

Monsignor Braden’s eyes widened upon hearing that. “Summon woodland creatures? Well then. This is more interesting than it had been previously.” Catarina saw the look in the Monsignor’s eyes and the faces of the two priests with him. They were not betraying any emotion or thoughts in their minds. Catarina began to think to herself, “Oh no! They must think my powers are demonic or something! They’re going to condemn me!”

“Miss Claes, would you be so kind as to begin the demonstration?”

Intimidated, Catarina replied, “Um, yes, I will.”

With that, the demonstration began for the Monsignor and his two aides. She first showed them her lightning-based powers, calling both the lightning spheres as well as the bolts from the sky. While she did so, Father Blanton and Father Knowles took notes on what they’d seen. Next, she demonstrated turning a mechanical object into a plant. Another magical tool had been offered by the Magical Tools Department for the demonstration. Like the lightning spells, turning the object into a plant came easily, and the process of converting the machine went much more quickly than it had. Father Blanton and Father Knowles took more notes as to what they saw. Monsignor Braden turned to Director Palmer and asked, “Is there any effect besides turning the machine into a plant?”

“Well, when she does so, it seems to wipe away the magic imbued in the object, as if it had never existed.”

Monsignor Braden took this in. “Even when magic is removed from an object, there should be a residual. That there’s nothing is most curious.”

After that demonstration, Catarina then summoned a fox like she’d done the day before. Again, because she’d done it before, it came easily, and after a flash of light, a fox appeared from where it originated. Catarina recognized the fox due to some distinctive marks on its fur. “I recognize this fox! It’s the same one I summoned before!”

“Interesting,” remarked both Director Palmer and Monsignor Braden. The fox was happy to see Catarina, and it nuzzled her skirt. She crouched down and began petting it. “If we’re gonna be seeing each other, I’m going to give you a name.” She then thought for a few moments. “How does McCloud sound?”

“YAP YAP!” The fox wagged its tail happily at Catarina’s declaration. Geordo and Keith were confused by Catarina’s choice of name. “McCloud?” they both muttered. Afterwards, Catarina then said, “That’ll be all for now, McCloud! We’ll see each other again, I’m sure!”

“YAP YAP!” McCloud then bounded off towards the forest.

 Monsignor Braden and the two priests noted everything they saw, and after Catarina finished, the Monsignor had a question. “Miss Claes, do you remember how you got these new powers?”

“Well, when that monster attacked, it was going to kill me, but Prince Geordo drew its attention. I was weakened because it had an air of death around it, but I decided to try and cast my Earth Bump to trip it. But seeing Prince Geordo being stalked by it scared me, and then I felt a sensation inside of me, like something inside of me bursting into flame.” Catarina quickly covered her mouth, damning herself for her choice of words. The Monsignor heard this and raised his eyebrows. “And then what?” Catarina stammered, not wanting to potentially condemn herself. The Monsignor then said, “Please answer my question, Miss Claes.”

“And then I felt a power flowing inside of me I hadn’t felt before. And suddenly, I could call lightning and enveloped the monster, turning it into a tree.”

Monsignor Braden again betrayed no emotion, and merely said, “I see. Well, we have some more questions for you Miss Claes. If you could kindly take some time to answer them for us, we would appreciate it.”

“That will have to wait.”

Catarina turned to where the voice originated, and saw the Dean walking towards them. “Monsignor, I understand your curiosity about Miss Claes’s new powers, but she is a student here and the dining room is closing soon. Miss Claes is probably very hungry now and needs to get some dinner. You will have to wait until tomorrow to ask any further questions.”

Monsignor Braden looked at the Dean. “That is fine. But I will want to speak with her first thing after classes tomorrow.”

“I would prefer tomorrow she get dinner first-”

“Dean Larry, it’s alright. Monsignor, I will be happy to speak with you after classes tomorrow,” Catarina responded. Monsignor Braden, satisfied, said, “I look forward to speaking with you tomorrow.” With that, the Monsignor and his two aides said their goodbyes and took their leave. After they left, Keith spoke up. “I’m now feeling pretty hungry myself. Let’s go get some dinner!”

“I couldn’t agree more!” said Catarina, who took one of Keith’s hands and one of Geordo’s hands, and let them escort her out, with the Dean walking with them. As they walked out, Geordo turned to the Dean. “Dean Larry, thank you. Catarina was getting intimidated by them.”

“Your friends asked me to go to the Ministry and see what was going on. They said you were all told it wouldn’t take long, and then it did, so they asked me to see what was going on.”

“The Church is now involved and has taken an interest in Catarina. Quite frankly, I’m curious as to what they want from her.” Hearing this, Catarina was worried. “Do you think they might condemn me or something?”

Geordo looked at Catarina. “I don’t think it’s that, but I’m confused why they’ve taken an interest in you.”

“Sister, you needn’t worry. Prince Geordo and I are here for you. If the Church has a problem with you, they have a problem with us,” said Keith.

“Likewise with me,” added the Dean. “I will never allow them to do anything to a student on this campus. Though as Prince Geordo said, I don’t think they want to condemn you. In fact, do they even condemn people anymore?”

“They haven’t for a very long time. It’s been several generations as a matter of fact,” replied Geordo. “But this is a new situation for everyone. Still, I think it’ll be fine.”

Catarina wasn’t so sure. This seemed to be an unexpected doom flag for her. The Church of Sorcier had a clear interest in her, and it didn’t necessarily seem like it was a positive interest. She would need to figure out a way to dodge or soften the blow of this doom flag.

 


 

The next day was a regular school day. Word had gotten out about the Church of Sorcier’s sudden interest in Catarina, which caused a lot of murmurs among the student body, curious as to what was going on and what their interest in the daughter of House Claes was. Catarina saw she was becoming the focus of attention again, but put it out of her mind, wanting to go about her life as normal. Eventually, the end of the school day came, and as Catarina got out of her last class for the day, she was met by Monsignor Braden and his two assistants, Father Blanton and Father Knowles.

“Good evening Miss Claes. I assume you remember our arrangement from yesterday?”

“Yes I do Monsignor,” replied Catarina.

“Good.” He then turned to Father Blanton and Father Knowles. “Please do the tasks I have assigned for you.”

“Yes, Monsignor,” replied the two priests, who then walked off. Seeing this, Catarina was curious as to what they were doing. “Monsignor, where are Father Blanton and Father Knowles going?”

“They are just doing some further investigating into the phenomena that you have demonstrated,” replied the Monsignor. Catarina heard that and became even more nervous. She wondered what they could possibly be looking into and what their investigation entailed. Monsignor Braden then spoke up. “As I said, I have some more questions for you.”

“O…..Okay,”

Just then, Geordo came walking up to the two of them. “Good evening Catarina, good evening Monsignor. I hope you weren’t planning to ask my fiancée questions without me present.”

Monsignor Braden looked at Geordo. “Some of the questions I’m going to be asking are of a personal nature, and I do not want her to answer them with the presence of someone nearby.”

Geordo heard this and was suspicious. “Why would you need to ask personal questions of Catarina? For that matter, what is the purpose of what you are doing?”

“As I said before Prince Geordo, we are investigating this phenomena, and want to get to the bottom of it and find a definitive answer to it.”

Catarina was even more alarmed. She wondered what these questions would be, and began to assume the worst. Seeing the look on her face, Monsignor Braden replied, “We aren’t going to have an answer for some time. In fact, it’ll probably be a few months before we can draw a conclusion.” Catarina was not assured by the Monsignor’s words and began to be terrified. She then saw the look Geordo was giving, and seeing he was also suspicious, she said, “Actually, if Prince Geordo could be with me when I answer your questions, I would be fine. I’m fine answering whatever you want if he’s present.” Monsignor Braden took this in and then replied. “If you say so, Miss Claes.”

“Let’s go to the Student Council Room. There isn’t anyone present there right now, and there’s no business to attend to today, so nobody will come by.” Monsignor Braden nodded, after which Geordo led Catarina and the Monsignor to the room.

After they got there, Catarina and Geordo sat on one side of the council’s table, while Monsignor Braden sat on the other side. After a few moments, Monsignor Braden then spoke up. “I would like to ask you some questions about yourself, Miss Claes.”

“O…..Okay…..”

Monsignor Braden then took a moment to think before he asked his question. “Miss Claes, what kind of person would you say you are?” Upon hearing the question, Catarina was unsure of how to answer. “Well, um, I would say that I’m a typical noblewoman, but I’m not really. I don’t act anything like a noblewoman would.”

“And why is that?” asked the Monsignor.

“Well, one of my hobbies is gardening, which I know nobles don’t really do. I grow vegetables and harvest them. I give them to my friends and others so that they can put them to good use.”

“Do you ever take money for them?”

“No, I don’t. I just give them away.”

“Interesting,” remarked the Monsignor. “Why else would you say you’re not typical?”

“I also like climbing trees a lot, which I know nobles don’t do, but I find it fun.”

Monsignor Braden raised his eyebrows at that. “That’s something I wouldn’t expect from a noblewoman certainly. Anything else?”

“Well, according to my mother, my brother Keith, and my maid Anne, my manners aren’t very good. I mean, I always figured it was better to be nice than proper, but apparently I tend not to act very properly in a lot of ways. But I don’t want to conflict with anyone. I just want to get along and not cause any conflict.”

Monsignor Braden raised his eyebrows. “Not cause conflict? Why are you so worried about that?”

“Um, well…..I’m afraid of doing something wrong and making people upset with me, and I don’t want that!”

“Is there any particular reason why? Have you ever done anything wrong that made someone else upset?”

“Well, Mother often scolds me for my behavior, and sometimes Keith and Anne get exasperated at what I do, but I don’t think I’ve done anything that would make anyone else upset.”

Monsignor Braden then had another question for Catarina. “Miss Claes, would you say that you’re a good person?” Upon hearing the question, Catarina began to panic. They must be here to condemn her. Geordo was also disturbed at the question. “Monsignor, that’s kind of a loaded question, don’t you think?”

Figuring her doom was coming, Catarina decided to answer the question to try and soften the blow. “Well, no, I’m not a good person. I know I’m not. I am a villainess, and I am headed towards doom.”

“Catarina!” Geordo cried out, “What are you talking about?”

“I mean, I don’t want to be a villainess. I try to be a good person, I try to get along with people, and I try to live a good life, but I know that’s not what is in store for me! I know I am headed towards doom, and in fact my doom is inevitable!” 

“Catarina, you don’t need to say anymore,” Geordo interrupted.

“I’m just destined to get in the way of people and make them upset! I’ve probably done so many times without knowing it! I don’t want to, but I probably have! It’s fate that will condemn me to a doom ending, and I’ll meet an unfortunate end sooner or later! I just want to delay it as long as possible!”

“Catarina! Please stop!” Geordo pleaded with her.

“I just ask that if I am to be condemned, that you let me say goodbye to everyone!”

Monsignor Braden’s eyes had widened at Catarina’s rambling description of herself as a villainess. He was stunned, not sure of what to say. Finally, he spoke up. “Um, thank you Miss Claes. If you don’t mind, could you let me ask Prince Geordo a few questions?”

“Y-Yes.” With that, Catarina left the Student Council Room and waited outside. As the time passed, she wondered how she would be condemned. Would she be forced to go into a convent? Would she be confined to house arrest? Or worst of all, would she be put to death by the Church? She trembled as she thought of the possible fates in store for her. Finally, Geordo and Monsignor Braden walked out of the Student Council Room. “Miss Claes, Prince Geordo, thank you for your time. This is much appreciated. I thank you for answering my questions, and I thank you Miss Claes for being so open.”

Catarina then nervously asked, “So…..has a decision been made?”

“As I said before, it’ll probably be months before we finish our investigation,” replied Monsignor Braden. “But we will keep you informed as to when we make a determination. Miss Claes, Prince Geordo, have a good night.” Monsignor Braden then took his leave. After he was out of sight, Geordo spoke up. “Catarina, what was all of that about being a villainess and being doomed? You’re nothing like that!”

“No Prince Geordo, it is true. I am a villainess and doomed to an unfortunate end.”

“Why did you say all of that?” Geordo asked.

“Because in case the Church is going to condemn me, I want to try and soften the blow. I don’t want to be executed or anything!”

Geordo heard this and was bewildered. “Catarina, it’s been centuries since the Church has condemned someone to death. In fact, they no longer have the authority to do so. And it’s been generations since they’ve even condemned someone. That’s not how they operate anymore.”

“But what about what you said, that this is a new situation with my powers?” Catarina asked.

Geordo looked at Catarina. “Catarina, I promise you that nothing bad will happen to you. The Church of Sorcier doesn’t have the influence it once did, and they know their limits. Besides, even if they wanted to condemn you, that would mean they’d have a problem with me. For that matter, our other friends would have problems with them too.” He then took Catarina’s hands and looked her in the eyes. “Please Catarina, calm down. I promise you no harm will come to you.” Seeing the sincere look in Geordo’s eyes, Catarina hugged him. “Thank you, Prince Geordo! I’m just scared. I don’t want anything bad to happen to me.”

Just then, Catarina’s stomach growled. “Why don’t we head to the dining room for some dinner?” Geordo asked. Catarina smiled and said, “That sounds good!” With that, the two of them began walking to the dining room. As they walked, Catarina had a question for Geordo. “What did the Monsignor ask you?”

“He asked me what kind of person you are. I was completely honest with him.” Nervously, Catarina asked, “What did you say?”

“I told him about the color you’ve brought into my life and how much I love and cherish you. I also said that you’ve been a good influence on me and that you make me want to be a better person.” Hearing this, Catarina smiled. “Thank you, Prince Geordo! I appreciate our friendship too! And I’m glad to hear that you can look at me as an example of not what to do!” Geordo stared at Catarina, in disbelief that she took his answers to Monsignor Braden that way. But then again, he knew Catarina’s opinion of herself wasn’t that great. “I don’t mean it like that, Catarina. I don’t know why you think you’re a villainess or a bad person, but you’re not.”

Just then, they arrived at the dining room and saw their friends gathered. “Lady Catarina! We’ve been waiting for you!” declared Sophia. “Prince Geordo and Master Keith told us about the officials from the Church coming by to ask you questions.”

“I was asked questions by one of the priests too,” said Maria. The group looked at her and asked Maria, “What questions did they ask you?”

“Oh, they asked me what Lady Catarina’s like and what she’s done. I was upfront with them and told them how wonderful you are, Lady Catarina!”

“A priest came by to ask me questions as well,” said Mary. “I said the same thing, about how bright a light Lady Catarina is in my life! I told him that Prince Alan would say the same things.” She then turned to Alan. “I think they’re going to be by in a few days to ask to speak with you.”

“Well, whatever they want to know, I will answer their questions. Still, I’m curious why they’ve taken an interest in Catarina.”

“I have noticed they’ve been rather vague, like they don’t want us to know something,” replied Geordo. “I wish they could at least give us an idea of what they want.”

“Well, let’s not worry about that for right now. How about we get some dinner?” asked Keith. Everyone took Keith up on his suggestion and went into the dining hall for dinner. After they finished, they went their separate ways for the night.

 


 

“As you are aware Praetor, the sleeper agent that had been sent disappeared suddenly.”

A figure was reporting to its superior. The monstrosity that had attacked at the Sorcier Academy of Magic had been sent there with orders to observe and report back to them what they found. The ones that had sent the abomination had sent it to a place that had been previously unknown to them. Not knowing anything about the location it had been sent to, they had been eager to gather information.

“So then we still know nothing?”

“Not as much as we would’ve liked, but we still did find out something.”

The superior, curious, asked their servant, “What was found out?”

“The agent reported that they were in a place called Sorcier. They had managed to infiltrate a magic academy on that plane, and found that the magic used by mages there was pathetically weak despite the abundance of mana there.”

“I see,” said the Praetor. “Anything else?”

“The weaponry present is primitive, and would be overwhelmed by our superior technology.”

The Praetor took this information in. “We will want to be careful. Do any of our enemies know of the existence of this plane?”

“No, not as far as we are aware.”

“Then send a couple more agents to this Sorcier place,” ordered the Praetor. “If they can confirm our agent’s findings and we can confirm none of our enemies have found out about the plane, then it will be ripe for conquest. The worthy who submit shall be compleated, and the weak and those that refuse us shall be destroyed.”

“I will do so immediately, Praetor Elesh,” replied the Praetor’s minion.

“While it has taken time for me to establish my dominion over the other Praetors, they have fallen in line. The word of the Argent Etchings will be spread throughout the Multiverse, and The Machine Orthodoxy will spread its dominion elsewhere.” Praetor Elesh then paused, before speaking up again.

“And once we conquer that plane, New Phyrexia can use it as a base for the conquest of the rest of the Multiverse.”

Chapter Text

Catarina, along with Geordo and Keith, headed to the casting grounds of the Ministry of Magic. As it was the weekend, Catarina’s presence had been requested in order to allow her to demonstrate her new powers to others in the Ministry of Magic. The Theoretical Magic Department had invited other departments to the session to observe what Catarina was now able to do. As they got there, they saw both Director Palmer and Monsignor Braden waiting for them.

“Good morning Miss Claes,” Director Palmer greeted Catarina. “Thank you for accommodating our request to demonstrate your new magic to others in the Ministry. Monsignor Braden also wished to observe with us, and we agreed to it.”

Catarina, noticing that Father Blanton and Father Knowles were not present, asked him, “Where are the other two priests that came with you?”

“They are doing work in the investigation,” replied Monsignor Braden. “They did not need to be present in order to do their work.”

“Monsignor, please forgive me, but what is the purpose of your investigation? You’ve been very vague as to what you’re looking for, and it’s making my fiancée worried,” Geordo interjected.

“I can tell you that we are investigating Miss Claes’s new powers as well, to try and figure out their source. Other than that, because of the sensitivity to the Church, I cannot reveal anything else.”

“Well, is Sister in trouble with the Church or anything?” asked Keith.

“No, she isn’t in trouble, but we cannot disclose anything more than that.” Catarina was unconvinced at Monsignor Braden’s answer. Geordo and Keith themselves found the Monsignor’s vagueness to be a problem as well. Why would this be a sensitive matter for the Church?

“Monsignor, I assure you that the Ministry of Magic is investigating this new arcane phenomena thoroughly. We will find the cause of it one way or another,” said Director Palmer.

“Are you certain it’s arcane?” the Monsignor challenged Director Palmer.

“Of course I am! Why wouldn’t I be?”

“This doesn’t act or behave like magic normally does. Have you considered it might be something else?”

“No, not at all," replied Director Palmer.

"I'm not saying it is or isn't arcane. But given how unusual these powers are, we have to consider all possibilities," explained Monsignor Braden.

Director Palmer looked at the Monsignor with suspicion, before turning to Catarina. “Miss Claes, we can proceed with the demonstration.”

With that, Catarina did as she was told, demonstrating her lightning-throwing abilities, her summoning of McCloud, the fox that she had summoned previously, and turning a magical device into a plant. As the demonstration went on, Catarina began feeling a sensation in her each time she drew on the power she was suddenly able to access. She also began feeling something inside of her, whispering knowledge of a new type of spell. She looked at Director Palmer and asked him, “Could you get another wooden target for me? I feel something inside of me, like I can cast something new.” Director Palmer’s eyes widened and he said to an assistant, “Bring a new target for Miss Claes.” The assistant did so and, after a couple of minutes, a new target was set out for Catarina. She then addressed the gathered observers.

“I am going to try a new spell. I felt a sensation in me like I had a new ability.” The gathered researchers all focused their attention on Catarina. She then began drawing on power in order to fuel the spell. To her surprise, she felt a second source begin to flow within her body, as if she was drawing power from two different places. Finally, she finished, and put her hands out, firing a bolt which shattered the wooden target. After the target splintered into multiple pieces, she felt a refreshing sensation come across her. Just then, a researcher spoke up. “That looks like one of your lightning abilities. How is that new?”

“Actually, after the lightning struck the target, I noticed the devices picking up an energy flowing from where it struck the target pouring out and going into Miss Claes,” replied another researcher. “Additionally, her eyes first turned red, and then they turned white.”

Director Palmer then asked Catarina, “What did you feel?”

“I felt like I was drawing on two different sources of power, and they were very distinct.”

“How so?”

“Well, the first source I drew on, I got the sensation that I was pulling the power from the highest peaks of a mountaintop. It was as if I was drawing in power from the peak itself to cast that spell. I then felt a sensation of a sunlit meadow in the afternoon when I drew from the second source.”

“I see,” remarked Director Palmer.

“BARK BARK!”

Just then, another dog rushed into the casting ground. Unlike the first time a dog had run in, this dog was a bigger dog, and upon sighting Catarina, it growled at her. Catarina backed up, intimidated by the big dog, when suddenly, McCloud bolted in front of her. It yowled at the dog, hoping to scare it, but the dog continued forward, like it was going to attack McCloud. Catarina wondered what she could do, when suddenly she felt the same sensation she had before just before she’d cast that new spell. “Don’t worry McCloud! I’ll help you!” She held out her hand, and a green glow emanated from it. The same green glow then enveloped McCloud, and the fox suddenly grew to a size three times bigger than a normal fox. McCloud then looked at the dog.

“YOWL! YOWL!”

The large dog, intimidated by the suddenly giant fox, quickly turned tail and ran away, yipping in fear as it ran out of the casting ground. Director Palmer then called out, “I thought we handled the dog problem previously!”

“It was a dog from a visiting family that had gotten loose,” replied an assistant, who had chased after the dog. “I’m sorry Director Palmer!”

“Well, hopefully it finds its way back to the family.” Director Palmer then turned to Catarina. “Well, that was an interesting new power you demonstrated. What happened when you cast it?”

“The power I drew on felt distinct as well. As if I was in the middle of a vast woodland and drawing power from the trees themselves,” Catarina responded.

“For that matter, I noticed Catarina’s eyes turning green when she cast it,” remarked Geordo.

Keith then spoke up. “Is the fox shrinking?”

The gathered group then turned and looked at McCloud. Indeed, he was shrinking, and eventually shrank back down to his previous size. “It appears the effect was temporary.” Director Palmer then turned to Catarina. “Well, it seems like you’re gaining new powers. This is indeed interesting. We will likely call on you soon to demonstrate your new powers again. Please let us know if you learn something else new. That will be all for today.” With that, the gathered observers began to disperse. Catarina dismissed McCloud, then reunited with Geordo and Keith. Monsignor Braden then came up to them. “Miss Claes, those new powers you displayed were most interesting. It seems like there is much to learn and discover. Please keep the Church informed of any developments. I must find my two assistants now.” With that, Monsignor Braden then took his leave. Geordo and Keith then began escorting Catarina away from the casting grounds.

“The mystery of your new powers just keeps deepening,” remarked Geordo.

“It’s going to be a very long time before anything is definitively figured out,” added Keith. He then turned to Geordo. “It looked like the Monsignor and Director Palmer have some sort of disagreement.”

“Yes. What got me was the Monsignor’s assertion that Catarina’s powers might not be arcane in nature,” said Geordo. “But what else could they be?”

Just then, Catarina’s stomach growled. “I could go for some tea and sweets right now!”

“Then why don’t we do that?” asked Geordo. “Keith, you’re welcome to come along with us.”

Keith was surprised at Geordo’s invitation. Normally, the Third Prince wouldn’t have wanted him around. Seeing the look on Keith’s face, Geordo leaned over to Keith. “Catarina’s been feeling very uncomfortable lately with the Church’s involvement. I think she needs as many calming influences around her as much as possible for now, so I’m willing to put aside our differences for her.”

“Prince Geordo, thank you. I’m glad that at least you see the same thing I see with Sister’s state of mind. Quite honestly, as much as we disagree, we do see some things similarly. Let’s just try to keep Sister calm and help her go about things as much as possible.”

“Prince Geordo? Keith? What are you talking about?”

“Oh, nothing important Sister!” said Keith. Catarina looked at them a little longer before facing forward again. With that, the three of them began seeking their friends.

 


 

Father Blanton was walking towards the front gate of the Academy of Magic. He had interviewed Sophia about Catarina, as well as some of her other classmates, asking about what she was like and her character. As he walked forward, he heard a voice call out, “Excuse me Father! I have a statement to give about Lady Catarina Claes!”

Father Blanton turned around and saw a young noblewoman running towards him. He stopped and waited for her to reach him. “Good afternoon Father! I am Noelia Flores!” she greeted Father Blanton, curtseying to him. “Good afternoon Miss Flores. I am Father Richard Blanton of the Church of Sorcier,” he greeted her plainly. “You said you have a statement about Miss Claes?”

“Yes I do!” she declared. “I’ve heard you’re interviewing other students here about Lady Claes, and I wanted to give a statement to you, particularly because there are some things that concern me about her, especially her newfound powers.”

Father Blanton raised his eyebrows at Noelia’s statement. “Concerns you say?”

“Yes, Father Blanton. I am of the belief that Lady Claes’s powers are unnatural, and I think this is a matter the Church needs to get heavily involved in.”

Father Blanton had not been prepared to take additional statements, but decided to do so due to Noelia’s words. He took out a notebook and a pen and got ready. “So what concerns do you have?”

“Well, Lady Claes as you have likely heard is not a typical noblewoman. She is very odd and acts nothing like you would expect a noblewoman would. At first I was under the belief that her manners were poor, but given what I’ve seen previously, and especially some recent things, I’ve become concerned that she is getting her power from a sinister source.”

“Why do you say that?” asked Father Blanton.

“Well first, there’s the fact that dogs are uniformly hostile to Lady Claes,” replied Noelia. “Now there’s nice dogs and mean dogs, but it seems that all dogs, no matter what, are immediately hostile towards Lady Claes.”

“I see,” replied Father Blanton. “And why do you think that is a concern?”

“They say that dogs can sense things that human beings can’t, both physical and metaphysical. Given their behavior, I believe they sense something in her that is evil or malicious,” Noelia stated. “But it goes beyond that!”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because I saw Lady Claes with my own eyes performing a strange ritual, and I believe that is what gave her the powers she now has.”

Father Blanton looked at Noelia. “Please explain, Miss Flores.”

“I saw her in the woods at night. She had set up candles in a strange pattern and was talking in some sort of tongue I don’t remember hearing before. When I observed this ritual, I felt a sensation surrounding me, like some sort of dark presence,” Noelia explained. “And as she kept going with this ritual, the presence got stronger and stronger. Eventually, I saw some sort of being appear in front of her.”

“And what else?”

“She promised fealty to it in exchange for power, which the strange being agreed to give her.” Noelia then feigned concern. “I believe Lady Claes has contracted with a diabolical force, and that is very dangerous for us all. I believe the Church needs to get involved and deal with it immediately!”

“The story you’re telling me is rather concerning, Miss Flores. Do you know of any other witnesses to it?” Father Blanton inquired.

“Yes, I do!” Noelia then pulled a stack of aurics out from her dress pocket and handed him the money. “These are the witnesses to what I have just told you. There’s thousands of them! For some reason, her fiancé and her close friends are all in denial about what’s happened and refuse to do anything. That is why I am here, to tell you the truth because of my concerns!” Noelia then looked at Father Blanton before she continued. “I assume this will be properly dealt with?”

Father Blanton looked at the money Noelia handed to him. “Yes, Miss Flores. I promise you it will be dealt with.”

“Good! I’m glad I was able to give that statement to you!” Noelia then curtsied to Father Blanton, “Have a good afternoon, Father Blanton!” Noelia then walked away, smiling to herself at what she believed she’d accomplished.

After watching Noelia leave, Father Blanton put the money into his pocket and put away his notebook and pen. He then resumed walking towards the gates of the Academy. When he got there, he saw Monsignor Braden and Father Knowles waiting for him.

“You’re late Father Blanton,” said Father Knowles. “What was the delay?”

“A young woman came up to me and gave me a statement about Miss Claes. It was vastly different from the statements I’d gotten before, claiming something sinister about Miss Claes was going on. Something about making a pact with an unknown being to get her powers.”

“Who gave the statement?” asked Monsignor Braden.

“It was a young woman named Noelia Flores,” said Father Blanton.

“Miss Flores mentioned Miss Claes entering a pact with an unknown being?” asked Monsignor Braden. “And she says she witnessed this? Did she say anyone could back her story?”

“She said thousands could,” replied Father Blanton, who then turned to Father Knowles. “Did you hear anything of the sort Father Knowles?”

“Nothing like that at all,” replied Father Knowles.

“I’ve documented her statements, and we can investigate from there,” said Father Blanton. Monsignor Braden raised his eyebrows at all of this. After a few moments, he then said what he was thinking.

“I don’t think it’ll take long to investigate the veracity of those statements.”

“I agree, Monsignor.”

Chapter Text

The next two weeks went by uneventfully for Catarina. The Ministry and Church were continuing their investigations. The Ministry was convinced her newfound powers were arcane in nature, but they could not reconcile them with how they knew magic worked, and continued to have Catarina demonstrate them. Monsignor Braden was present at the demonstrations, while Father Blanton and Father Knowles continued speaking with Catarina’s peers. Things however had settled into a pattern, and Catarina went about her life as she mostly had in her first year.

One day, after classes, as Catarina walked out of her last class of the day with Geordo, she was greeted by Monsignor Braden.

“Good evening Monsignor,” Catarina greeted the Church official. “What brings you here today?”

“Miss Claes, I have brought with me some writings which purport to have hidden and lost knowledge in it that was supposedly used in ages past by officials in the Church,” the Monsignor explained. “It had come to my attention, and I had been told that it documents some of the phenomena that you have demonstrated.” He then took some pages out of his suit jacket pocket and handed them to Catarina. “What I would like you to do is to study these and see if you can possibly make sense of them. If so, we would want you to report to us what you find and, if possible, demonstrate for us what you learn.”

Catarina took the pages from Monsignor Braden and looked at them. They appeared to be in an older form of Modern Script, one which she could read but would take time for her to decipher. “I will do so, Monsignor,” Catarina replied.

“Are you expecting anything in particular?” Geordo asked.

“No, we aren’t. We just want Miss Claes to try and make sense of those.”

“And can you give any more specifics as to what these do?”

“Due to the sensitivity of our investigation, I cannot disclose anything further.”

Catarina heard this and got nervous. “Monsignor, I’m hoping I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“No, you haven’t,” replied the Monsignor. “But as I said, due to the nature of this investigation, I cannot disclose anything further. When we are ready to discuss our findings with you, we will notify you.” Catarina’s mind was not put at ease with the Monsignor’s answer. Not noticing this, Monsignor Braden bade Catarina goodbye. Seeing the look on Catarina’s face, Geordo spoke to her.

“Catarina, I can see you’re scared about what’s going on. I too have my reservations. Even if something were to occur that could threaten you, I promise you that I will do whatever it takes to make sure no harm comes to you.”

“But Prince Geordo,” Catarina replied, “if I’m not in trouble, why can’t they outright say what’s going on?”

“I understand your frustration, and it frustrates me too,” Geordo replied sympathetically. “But I know how the Church’s condemnation process goes, and it’s not even gotten to that point yet. This is just an investigation. If they’re going to open those proceedings on you, they would have to give forewarning so that you can prepare to defend yourself. But you won’t be alone. I, your brother, and all of your friends will fight to the ends of the earth for you. Please, don’t worry about being condemned until they say so.”

“I don’t know Prince Geordo,” Catarina replied. “I just wish they could give us some idea about what they’re doing. Besides, knowing my luck, it’ll be open and shut for them.”

“Catarina, I don’t know why you think so terribly about yourself,” said Geordo. “You haven’t done anything wrong.”

“But what about my new powers? What if they violate Church doctrine in some way?”

“Catarina, it’s not going to do you any good to worry about it,” replied Geordo. “Please calm down. Let’s wait until the Church completes its investigation. And I promise you, I will have your back no matter what.”

“O-Okay.” Internally, Catarina was worried. Seeing this possible doom flag via the Church and now knowing what could happen terrified her. And while she did consider Geordo a friend, what if their investigation turned up something that would give Geordo no choice but to abandon her?

Before she could think any further, her stomach growled.

“Why don’t we meet our friends for dinner now?”

“That sounds good! Let’s go!” declared Catarina, who promptly moved past the conversation they’d just had.

With that, Catarina walked with Geordo to the dining room. The group had their dinner and discussed how the day went. At Geordo’s suggestion, they did not mention Monsignor Braden’s visit or the pages he’d given her. After everyone finished dining, she went back to her dorm room for the night.

As soon as she got back, Catarina sat at her desk and pulled out the pages Monsignor Braden had given her. She started reading them, and saw the pages had seemingly unconnected passages about wondrous feats, the gods, angels, holy persons, and so on. She could not make any sense of the passages, but had a strange feeling come over her, like it was imparting some sort of knowledge on her. Still, she couldn’t exactly comprehend what was going on. Eventually, she decided to turn in for the evening, and after crawling into bed, quickly fell asleep.

 


 

“My Mistress…..I am waiting for you My Mistress…..”

Catarina was woken up by those words, confused as to what she was hearing. After slowly coming to, she laid in bed, waiting to hear more. After a minute, she had not heard anything and decided to go back to sleep.

“Please…..call me by your side, Mistress…..”

Catarina heard those words and became alert. She was wondering what she was hearing and whether it was real. After not hearing anything after a minute, she again decided to go back to sleep.

“Allow me to serve you, as I have served my previous Mistress…..

Catarina was now fully awake and hearing the voice calling to her. She then called out, “Anne, is that you?”

“I am not your servant Anne. But I am your servant.”

“Who…..who are you?”

“I am someone who will serve you. I will fight for you. I will do what you need. I am at your service, Mistress.”

Catarina looked around. “Why can’t I see you?”

“Because you must summon me first. I am speaking to you through the planes. You have awakened me, and I am now ready to serve you, as I served my previous Mistress.”

“Who…..who was your previous mistress?” Catarina asked.

“She walked the planes and had an army of us to serve and fight for her. And now you have found me. Please, call me by your side, Mistress.”

“I…..don’t know how to do that,” Catarina replied pensively.

“Yes you do.” The voice then paused before continuing. “I must go now. Please, remember what I have told you.”

“Wait! What are you saying? How do I summon you?” Catarina cried out. She was confused as to what she’d heard. She got out of bed and began looking around frantically. “Where are you? What do you mean you’re speaking to me through the planes?” Suddenly, a pair of hands from the darkness grabbed her shoulders. Catarina screamed in fright at being grabbed so suddenly.

“Lady Catarina! Calm down!”

Upon hearing those words from Anne, Catarina began to calm down. Anne felt her charge shaking, to which she quickly went to reassure her. “Lady Catarina, it’s okay! You’re safe!” Anne then embraced Catarina. “Please calm down!” Catarina quickly relaxed and let Anne continue to hug her. After a few moments, Anne let go of her embrace and lit a lamp in Catarina’s room. Catarina sat down on her bed while Anne stood before her.

“That must’ve been a terrible nightmare you had Lady Catarina.”

Catarina took a moment to gather her thoughts, then spoke up. “I don’t know if I could call it a nightmare, Anne.”

Anne heard this and was confused. “Why do you say that?”

“I heard a voice calling out to me. It was calling me its mistress and saying I should call it and summon it. It was a soothing, calming voice. It said I had awakened it and that I was its new mistress.”

Anne took all of this in. “Why did you sound worried?”

“Because it kept on telling me to summon it but not saying how. It just said that I already knew…..” Catarina then had something come across her mind. Suddenly, it felt like a puzzle was being fully constructed inside.

“Milady? Are you okay?”

Catarina smiled at Anne. “Yes Anne. I’m fine. In fact, I know how to call that voice to me now.” She then had a thought come to her. “Anne, please write a letter to Monsignor Patrick Braden. It’s related to those pages he gave to me to study. I think I’ve figured it out.”

 


 

Two days later, after classes, Catarina went to the casting grounds at the Ministry of Magic. She was met there by Geordo, Keith, Director Palmer, Monsignor Braden, Father Blanton, Father Knowles, and other researchers. After she arrived and greeted everyone, she turned to Monsignor Braden.

“Monsignor, after I read those pages, I heard a voice in the night calling out to me, asking me to summon it and saying I was its mistress. I think I’ve figured out what I’m supposed to do.”

“Then by all means Miss Claes, show us.”

Catarina nodded her head, and walked a decent distance away from everyone. She closed her eyes and began drawing on the power of the sunlit fields. As she gathered it, she saw an image come into her head. Eventually, she raised her hand, palm out, up into the air. She opened her eyes while she did so, and everyone noticed her eyes had turned pure white. As she released the power, a portal formed above her and began opening. As it opened, light emerged from it, and soon, a figure began descending from it. As it came into view, everyone was in shock as to what was coming out.

An unearthly beautiful angel, bearing a sword and in the guise of a teenage girl, descended to the ground. After landing on the ground, it turned and looked at Catarina, who was in utter disbelief at what she had just called to her. The angel smiled, walked over to Catarina, and then knelt before her.

“I am ready to serve you, My Mistress.”

Catarina could only stammer at the angel’s beauty. She was unsure of what to say, racking her mind as to what she should do next. Her stomach then growled, after which she then spoke up.

“Um, I’m kind of hungry.”

Geordo and Keith both put their hands on their foreheads, and then smiled. That was just like Catarina to say that. The researchers were in disbelief that was what she asked for. Monsignor Braden could only bury his face in his hands. Seeing the looks on everyone, the angel spoke up.

“No, it’s quite alright,” the angel replied, who then turned to Catarina. “I will get some sustenance for you immediately, My Mistress.”

“Oh! Thank you! Could you get me some sweets then?”

“I will be happy to do so!”

The angel then held its hand in front of it, to which a portal opened. It then stepped through, while the portal remained open. A few moments later, it returned holding a basket with some sort of sweets she hadn’t seen before.

“These are ambrosia sweets. Please have some.”

Catarina took the basket from the angel and took a sweet into her hand. She bit into it, and her eyes widened at the taste, which had a strong apple flavor. She squealed and quickly took another bite, to which the angel smiled. Catarina had eaten four of the sweets before she realized her friends might want some.

“Prince Geordo! Keith! Come here and try these! They’re delicious!” Georod and Keith walked over to Catarina and each took a sweet. They bit into them and their eyes widened at the taste. “You’re right Sister! These are delicious!” declared Keith, who quickly took another bite. After a few moments, Catarina then realized she hadn’t asked for the angel’s name.

“My apologies! I didn’t greet you formally!” she quickly declared. She then curtsied to the angel and said, “My name is Catarina Claes.”

“I am pleased to meet you, Mistress Catarina,” the angel replied, smiling at her. “My name is Ayla, and I am your servant.”

At that point, Monsignor Braden, Director Palmer, and a couple of researchers from the Ministry of Magic walked up. Monsignor Braden was the first to speak up. “Miss Claes is your mistress?”

“Yes. She had partaken of knowledge that first awakened me, and then alerted me to her presence. I called out to her that I was ready to serve her, and that is why I am now here before you.”

Monsignor Braden’s eyes widened at Ayla’s affirmation that Catarina was now her mistress. “Miss Ayla, let me apologize for Miss Catarina for having you get sweets for her. I’m sure that’s not exactly a task fitting for a warrior like you.”

“No, it is quite alright,” replied Ayla. “I am merely a Page.”

“A page?” asked the Monsignor.

“Yes. There is a hierarchy with angels. I had just started my service to my previous mistress when she died. After she died, I fell into a long sleep. Mistress Catarina awakened me, and because she has the correct alignment, I am now her servant. With faithful service, I can move up in the hierarchy. Perhaps I could even reach the status of Exalted or Baneslayer.” Ayla then smiled. “My Mistress’s request was one suited for an angel like me.”

The researchers from the Ministry were deciphering some readings that devices they had taken up with them had picked up. They turned to Director Palmer and showed him what they found. Director Palmer then called over, “Monsignor, you might want to see these.” Monsignor Braden then walked over and saw the readings the researchers had picked up. Eventually, Ayla spoke up again.

“Is there anything else you need, Mistress?”

“Um, no. Thank you for the sweets!”

“It is not a problem!” Ayla said to Catarina, smiling at her. “Should you need someone to protect you or anyone else you know, please do not hesitate to summon me. If that is all you need for now, I will take my leave.”

“That’s fine!” said Catarina, smiling as she said it. With that, Ayla opened up another portal and stepped through it. The portal then shut behind her.

After several awkward moments of silence, Monsignor Braden spoke up. “Well, that was certainly something. Thank you Miss Claes.” He then had a request for everyone. “Please keep this to yourselves. We don’t exactly want to cause an uproar with news that Miss Claes seemingly summoned an angel.”

“Monsignor, what do you mean ‘seemingly’?” asked Father Blanton. “Isn’t it apparent?”

“This investigation isn’t over yet. We still need to look into this more.” Monsignor Braden then turned to Catarina. “Thank you again. We will be taking note of this and looking further into it.” With that, Monsignor Braden, Father Blanton, and Father Knowles took their leave. Director Palmer then spoke up. “Miss Claes, this was very helpful for us. Thank you. You may leave now.” With that, Catarina, Geordo, and Keith all left the Ministry complex and headed to the dining room. As they walked there, Geordo spoke up.

“I hope you didn’t ruin your appetite with those sweets.”

“No, I’m still hungry!” Catarina declared. “I wonder what’s on the menu tonight?”

“Sister, you really couldn’t think of anything else to say other than you being hungry?” Keith remarked. “I mean, she said it was fine, but there were many other things you could’ve asked.”

“Like what?”

“Well, you could’ve asked her where she came from!” he said. Catarina thought about this. “Yeah, that’s a good point. Maybe the next time I summon her, I can ask her.”

“It would be wise to speak with the researchers and have them help you come up with questions,” said Keith. “I hope you’re not going to ask that angel for sweets all the time.”

“I won’t Keith, though those ambrosia sweets were really good…..”

“Actually, they were. Just…..don’t make it an everyday thing, Sister.”

 


 

“Monsignor, I understand you have reservations about my decision, but surely you realize the benefits of it!”

“Your Excellency, I don’t have reservations. I have objections.”

Several days had passed since Monsignor Braden, Father Blanton, and Father Knowles witnessed Catarina summoning the angel. They had reported this to Archbishop Nolan, who then had come to a decision about the investigation into Catarina’s newfound powers. He was communicating his decision to the Monsignor, not expecting him to object.

“I don’t understand why you would have objections,” replied the Archbishop. “Isn’t it evident?”

“No, it isn’t Your Excellency. The kind of investigation we’re doing takes months to do properly, and it’s only been a few weeks. There’s so many more steps to take!”

“Well, I would argue the evidence is overwhelming,” replied Archbishop Nolan.

“But it isn’t overwhelming,” Monsignor Braden argued. “Father Blanton, Father Knowles, and I saw the readings on those devices! They detected arcane presence in that so-called angel! I’d say it’s a real possibility that isn’t an angel. It might just be some unknown magical being that takes that form.”

“It wasn’t overwhelmingly arcane, was it?” challenged the Archbishop.

“It was significant enough that I still have doubts.” Monsignor Braden then spoke further. “Your Excellency, I am sorry, but I cannot agree with your conclusion.”

“Monsignor, you, Father Blanton, and Father Knowles have gathered the evidence. You’ve witnessed her acts. You’ve observed her powers. You’ve gotten testimony from her peers. It all lines up with what has happened in the past with this sort of matter,” argued Archbishop Nolan. “With things lining up like they have, why wouldn’t it be prudent to make the conclusion I’ve come to?”

“Because the investigatory process is nowhere near complete,” Monsignor Braden reiterated. “We haven’t followed all of the procedures.”

“But that’s assuming normal conditions,” countered the Archbishop. “I think we can agree these conditions are unusual. Father Blanton concurred and has expressed the opinion that my thoughts are correct.”

“Your Excellency, I think you’re being too quick to jump to a conclusion, and forgive me if I am speaking out of line, but you seem to have other motivations.”

Archbishop Nolan was surprised at the Monsignor’s challenge. He hadn’t expected him to object as much as he had, nor challenge him like that. But seeing that Monsignor Braden had indeed figured that out, he decided to be upfront.

“I’ll admit there are other motivations,” admitted the Archbishop. “Monsignor, you’ve seen it with the rest of us. The Church of Sorcier is losing relevance as the years go on. We are fighting to stay a part of people’s lives. There will always be faithful, but they’re dwindling, and soon we may become completely irrelevant. That’s why we need to act quickly, so that we can lay claim to Miss Claes before the Ministry of Magic can.” He then paused. “But given how much this has lined up with previous occurrences of the same kind, I am certain that I am correct with this, and I truly believe that what the Church will declare has actually happened.”

“Did you explain this to Father Blanton?” asked the Monsignor. “I know he truly believes it and has no other motivations, but even with your statement just now, I have no choice but to question whether one reason weighs more than the other.”

“I can assure you that both of my reasons are equally valid, Monsignor. Honestly, I don’t see why you think this is a problem.”

“It’s been ages since we’ve made such a declaration, Your Excellency,” replied Monsignor Braden. “Making such a declaration in this day and age is going to cause an upheaval. It’ll cause an upheaval with Miss Claes, her family, the nobility, and Sorcier as a whole. I don’t think we’re nearly prepared for what this announcement will do, and I think your decision has come too quickly.” Monsignor Braden then paused. After a few moments, he sighed, and then continued.

“That being said, this is ultimately your decision, Your Excellency. I have made my objections clear, but that is all I will do. If you wish to push forward, I will follow your decision, even though I disagree with it. I only hope you have explained this to the other bishops.”

After hearing Monsignor Braden’s words, Archbishop Nolan took a few moments to mull things over. He then came to a decision.

“We will begin preparing for the announcement. We will make it this coming Tuesday at noon. Monsignor, you will bring Miss Claes that day, prior to the announcement.”

Chapter Text

“Milady, it’s time to wake up! You need to get ready for classes!”

Catarina slowly woke up as Anne shook her. After a few minutes, she had fully woken up, to which Anne helped her prepare for the day. Anne drew a bath for Catarina, to which Catarina bathed and cleaned herself up. Afterwards, Anne helped Catarina dress, brushed her hair thoroughly, then styled it in the usual way. After Anne finished up, Catarina got her school bag and headed off for the day.

As she left the classroom after her second class, Catarina found a familiar figure waiting for her just outside. She wondered what they were doing there, especially since classes were going on at this moment.

“Good morning, Monsignor Braden. What brings you here at this time?”

“Good morning Miss Claes,” the Monsignor greeted her back. “I am here because Archbishop Nolan has requested your presence this morning. I am here to bring you to him so he can speak with you.”

Catarina was alarmed upon hearing this, and she quickly tried to get out of it. “Um, well, I’ve got classes right now, and I’m not sure my professors would appreciate it if I was absent without warning-”

“Miss Claes, I have spoken with the Academy’s officials and explained what is going on. Your professors will be notified that you will be absent for the rest of the day.”

“Does it have to be now? Why can’t it wait until after the class day is over?”

“There is going to be an announcement made, and His Excellency has requested your presence prior to the announcement,” explained the Monsignor. “Now please come with me.”

Seeing she had no way out, Catarina hesitantly began following Monsignor Braden. As they walked towards the front gates, Noelia Flores spotted them. Seeing Catarina being escorted by a Church official, she quickly walked up to the Monsignor.

“Good morning, Monsignor!” she greeted him, curtseying as she said it. “I assume you got my statement regarding Miss Claes.” Upon hearing that, Catarina was even more alarmed. She knew Noelia Flores didn’t like her, and hearing that, it sounded like Noelia had said something to make the Church conclude that Catarina was a threat.

“Yes, I did Miss Flores. And that is all I will comment on the matter,” Monsignor Braden replied plainly. “Now we must get going.”

“Well, as long as you got my statement, I’m sure it’ll work out,” she remarked, smiling cruelly at Catarina. Catarina began to shake, wondering what Noelia said that would result in her condemnation. With that, Noelia took her leave and began walking to her next class. Monsignor Braden saw how Noelia reacted and remarked to himself, “Sorry to say you’ll be disappointed, Miss Flores.”

As Catarina continued to follow the Monsignor, she heard two voices call out to her.

“Catarina!”

“Sister!”

Geordo and Keith quickly ran up to her and Monsignor Braden, at which point Geordo spoke up. “Monsignor, can you tell me where you are taking Catarina?”

“Miss Claes has been summoned to meet with Archbishop Nolan, Your Highness,” Monsignor Braden replied. “I am here to bring her before him.”

“What? Why does the Archbishop want to speak with Catarina?” inquired Keith.

“It’s about a very important matter. I have already informed the school officials about Miss Claes’s absence.”

“Can you inform us as to what this is?” asked Geordo.

“I would rather wait until she speaks with the Archbishop. I do not want to cause an uproar here.”

Seeing Catarina shaking in fear, Keith then spoke up. “Monsignor, would you mind if Prince Geordo and I came along with Sister? She looks rather uneasy, and I think if we went with her, our presence would calm her down.”

Monsignor Braden took a moment to consider their request. “I don’t think that’ll be a problem. Please come with us.”

Monsignor Braden led the three of them to his carriage at the gates of the Academy. After everyone got on, the carriage set off for Sorcier City, to bring them to the White Cathedral, the Archbishop’s seat of power.

As the carriage made the journey, Catarina was frightened beyond belief. Surely she was being brought before the Archbishop because she was going to be condemned. She began thinking about how to plead for mercy. At this point, as long as her condemnation didn’t result in her death, she would be fine. Seeing Catarina looking nervous, Keith quickly went to reassure her.

“Sister, don’t worry. Prince Geordo and I are here for you. I’m sure whatever’s going on, it’s not going to be anything drastic.”

“Don’t worry Catarina,” Prince Geordo added. “We’re here for you.”

Monsignor Braden then spoke up. “Well, it is drastic. At least I think it is, but Miss Claes shouldn’t worry. Not for the reasons she seems to be at least.”

Catarina wanted to begin pleading for her life right then and there, not having heard the Monsignor say that she shouldn’t worry. But she couldn’t say anything at this point. All she could do was wait while the journey to Sorcier City continued.

 


 

After an hour-and-a-half, the carriage arrived at the White Cathedral in Sorcier City. Both Geordo and Keith helped Catarina out of the carriage, after which Monsignor Braden stepped out. After he did, he motioned the three of them to follow him. They stepped into the Cathedral, to which the Monsignor led them up a long flight of stairs. He led them to Archbishop Nolan’s office, after which he had some cathedral caretakers bring in chairs for the three of them. After the three of them sat down, Monsignor Braden spoke up.

“I will go get the Archbishop now.”

With that, Monsignor Braden left the room and went to get the Archbishop. As the three of them sat in the room, an uneasy silence descended. Finally, Geordo spoke up.

“Catarina, don’t say anything when the Archbishop comes in. Let him explain what he has you here for and hear him out.”

“But this can’t be anything good!” Catarina cried out.

“Sister, while everyone in the Church has been vague about this, I’m sure nothing bad is going to happen. Just calm down. In case it does, we’re here for you,” Keith tried to reassure Catarina. “Just make sure that you address the Archbishop as ‘Your Excellency’. Try to at least have some propriety.”

For what seemed like an eternity, but was really only a couple of minutes, Catarina, Geordo, and Keith waited. Finally, they heard the door open, to which they looked back. Monsignor Braden stepped in, followed by Archbishop Nolan. The three of them stood up to receive the Archbishop, to which he greeted and blessed them. After doing so, he sat down at his desk, and signaled for them to sit down. Shortly after they sat back down, Archbishop Nolan began speaking.

“Good morning, Miss Claes. I’m sure you’re wondering why you’ve been brought here.” The Archbishop paused, but before he could resume, Catarina quickly got out of her chair and got down on her knees.

“Your Excellency, I know why I was brought here!” Catarina declared. “It’s because of my new magic powers! You think I’m evil, and you brought me here to condemn me!”

“Sister, what are you doing?!” Keith cried out in exasperation.

“Your Excellency, I don’t want to die! I don’t know why I have these powers, and I don’t know where they came from, but I didn’t want them! I don’t want to be condemned and put to death! I just want to live!”

“Catarina, please stop!” Geordo pleaded with her.

Catarina did not listen, and instead clasped her hands. “Please, Your Excellency! I’ll do anything you want! I’ll accept confinement in a convent and become a nun! I’ll accept lifetime house arrest! I’ll even accept a lifetime in prison! I just don’t want to die!” she cried out, as tears began running down her face. “I beg you, Your Excellency! Have mercy on me!”

Catarina prostrated herself and continued to cry. Geordo and Keith both put a hand on her back while they looked at the Archbishop, who was shocked and confused at Catarina’s reaction. After a moment, the Archbishop got his bearings back and spoke up. “Miss Claes, please look at me.” Catarina slowly raised her head up, and saw the Archbishop, looking confused.

“My Child, what led you to believe that you were going to be condemned? For that matter why do you think the Church has the power to hand down death sentences?”

Catarina stopped crying and stared in unblinking incomprehension at the Archbishop. Hearing that, Keith began to explain. “Your Excellency, Sister was worried about the Church’s investigation because Monsignor Braden and his two aides were very vague and didn’t really explain why they were there. She was convinced that she was going to be condemned despite mine and Prince Geordo’s reassurances. For that matter, while we didn’t assume that, we were also confused as to why all of this was going on.”

Archbishop Nolan took in Keith’s words, and then spoke up. “Monsignor, how did this miscommunication happen?”

“Your Excellency, I did say to Miss Claes that she wasn’t in trouble, but given what I’ve seen from her personality, she had difficulty accepting that.”

“It is true,” replied Geordo. “Once Catarina gets an idea in her head, it’s tough to shake it from her.”

Catarina then spoke up. “So…..I’m not going to be condemned?”

“No, My Child,” Archbishop Nolan replied. “In fact, the reason we brought you here is because a wonderful thing has happened!”

After getting off the floor and sitting back down in her seat, Catarina waited to hear what the Archbishop had to say. He then had a question. “Have you ever heard of the Living Saints?”

Catarina shook her head no. Keith also had no idea what the Archbishop was talking about, while Geordo spoke up. “I’ve heard of stories about people the gods smiled upon and imbued with some of their power in order to serve them in life due to their righteous way of living. I know that Church history has spoken of such people, but they sound too fantastic to be true.”

“Your Highness, those stories were written by witnesses to their deeds and feats. I can assure you that the stories have basis in fact and have been meticulously detailed,” replied Archbishop Nolan. “But it has been centuries since a Living Saint has graced Sorcier with their presence. Until now that is.”

Keith looked at the Archbishop in disbelief. “What are you-”

“When Monsignor Braden first reported what she’d done, it sounded very similar to those stories about the Living Saints and their feats,” the Archbishop continued. “Because of that, I had Monsignor Braden, Father Blanton, and Father Knowles investigate your sister and her powers due to the similarities. We believed that there was a chance that she was blessed by the gods as well, and we thus began looking into her and investigating her.”

Catarina looked at the Archbishop in bewilderment. “Your Excellency, I’m not a saint! I’m nothing close to that! In fact, I told Monsignor Braden that I am a villainess! I’m not a holy or blessed person!”

“Catarina…..” Geordo moaned.

Archbishop Nolan however had an immediate answer. “My Child, what you say is true. But it is true of everyone. We are all sinners. We all have evil within us. Not many are willing to admit as much though. The fact that you do means you have strong moral character.”

Catarina was in disbelief that her declaration of her villainess nature was taken as a good thing. Geordo and Keith meanwhile were amused at the Archbishop’s interpretation. He then continued.

“The powers you have demonstrated have been consistent with those of past Living Saints. The ability to call lightning, turn machines into verdant life, heal others, and call animals and angels to your side have all been described in previous records of Living Saints. That being said, those alone are not enough. The character of the person also has to be beyond reproach, and in speaking with your peers, we have found that to be the case too.”

Catarina was even more confused at the Archbishop’s statement. “What was said about me?”

“You have been described as having an open, kind heart and a love for everyone, even those that have wronged you. You were also described as being very generous and willing to help others in need. We heard the things said about you, and they were consistent in praise for your gentle and moral character. Almost universally, you were described as doing what is right and not what is expected for someone of your social status, and we were impressed at how much you were praised.”

“You said it was near-universal,” Keith interjected. “It wasn’t completely universal?”

“It wasn’t. There were those that had negative things to say about your sister, but they were few and far between, and Monsignor Braden and his two aides dismissed them as jealous slander,” Archbishop Nolan explained.

Geordo then asked, “Are you saying that you’ve come to the conclusion that Catarina is a Living Saint?”

“Yes, we have,” the Archbishop answered confidently. “The final proof for our investigation came when Miss Claes summoned an angel to her side. That, along with her previous powers being demonstrated as well as her upright and moral nature led us to the conclusion that Miss Claes has been chosen by the gods to be their Living Saint.”

The three teens stared in disbelief at Archbishop Nolan’s declaration. Catarina finally spoke up. “Your Excellency, I think you should take another look into this! I’m not a Living Saint! I know I’m not!”

“My Child,” the Archbishop responded, “I understand that this is a lot to take in for you. But let me assure you that we are confident that is the case. I also understand that the weight of this all must be crushing. But the Church will be here to support you and help you in achieving your divine mission.”

Just then, a knock was heard at the Archbishop’s door. Another Church official opened the door and stepped in. “Your Excellency, we are ready to present the Living Saint to the people.”

Upon hearing this, Keith shot up from his chair. “You’re going to announce this publicly?!”

“Of course we would! It’s news that should be spread far and wide!”

“Your Excellency, forgive me, but you’ve made a massive mistake!” Geordo declared. “I agree that Catarina is a good person, but this sort of thing is just too much!”

“Your Highness, let me assure you that we have prepared for the reverberations that this announcement will have,” Archbishop Nolan replied. “Now please, come with me.”

Seeing that Archbishop Nolan was completely serious, and not wanting to start a dispute between the Church and the Royal Family, Geordo yielded. “Catarina, please do as the Archbishop says.”

“I agree Sister,” Keith added. “Please listen to the Archbishop.” Catarina stood up with Geordo and Keith and began following the Archbishop. He led them to the outside of a balcony, where a Church official was waiting.

“The Protodeacon will be making the announcement shortly. Miss Claes, please be ready to step out when the Protodeacon finishes.” Catarina nodded nervously at the Archbishop’s instruction. After a couple minutes, the White Cathedral’s bells began ringing to signal that it was noon. They then continued to ring jubilantly, to which the Protodeacon stepped out on the balcony. After the bells stopped ringing, he began his announcement.

“My Brothers and Sisters in faith! A wonderful thing has happened! The gods have blessed us with their direct influence in our world!” Upon making the announcement, Catarina, Geordo, and Keith heard a loud cheer go up. After the cheering ended, the Protodeacon continued. “A young woman has been discovered by us that the gods have smiled upon, and they have invested in her their power, so that she may do good in the world! By virtue of the authority vested within him, His Excellency, Archbishop Joseph Nolan, has declared this person, Catarina Claes, to be a Living Saint!” The crowd cheered wildly, so much so that Catarina, Geordo, and Keith felt vibrations from it. Finally, the Protodeacon stepped away and left the balcony.

After the Protodeacon came back in, Archbishop Nolan spoke up. “Miss Claes, please present yourself to the people.” Catarina nodded nervously, and stepped out on the balcony. Upon doing so, another cheer went out, and Catarina looked at the crowd, which numbered in the tens of thousands. She stared in disbelief at the crowd, who were cheering her and shouting praise at her. All she could do was raise her hand up in greeting weakly. Somehow, the Church came to the conclusion that she, a villainess, was instead a saint. She knew that for her own good, she would need to refute that in some way.

Back inside, near the entrance to the balcony, Archbishop Nolan spoke up. “Prince Geordo, I would advise you to begin looking for a new fiancée.”

Geordo quickly faced the Archbishop. “What??”

“Miss Claes is going to be serving the Church, and as it stands, I will not sanction a marriage between you and the Living Saint. Or anyone marrying her for that matter. I will allow you to keep the engagement for now, but it will eventually need to be broken.”

In normal circumstances, Keith would’ve been thrilled to hear that the Archbishop would be forcing Geordo to break his engagement to his sister, but what the Archbishop said startled him. “Your Excellency, what do you mean Sister is going to be serving the Church?”

“Mister Claes, due to your sister’s direct connection to the gods, she will be serving the Church, to do good in the world and bring hope to others.”

“Forgive me Your Excellency, but you’re basically dictating what Sister will be doing and taking away all her agency! How is that fair?”

“My Child, I understand that this is sudden, but let me assure you that your sister will be treated well.” After a pause, Archbishop Nolan continued. “You’ll want to make the most of your time with your sister. When she begins her service, you will not be able to see her nearly as often as you do now.” Keith stared in horror at the Archbishop’s words. Seeing this, Archbishop Nolan elaborated. “It won’t be until she turns eighteen, so you’ll have plenty of time to say your goodbyes and spend time with her.” The Archbishop then turned to the direction of the balcony, smiling at the reception that Catarina was getting and the positive response to the declaration that Catarina was a Living Saint.

After a few moments, Keith turned to Geordo and spoke to him in a low tone. “Prince Geordo-”

“I’m with you, Keith,” Geordo replied knowingly, also in a low tone. “We’re going to have to find a way to force the Church to reverse this declaration. There is no way I’m going to let them take her away from you, me or anyone else.”

Keith stared in shock at Geordo. He then smiled. “I know we haven’t seen eye-to-eye a lot. But at least we agree that Sister’s well-being is of utmost importance. I’ll be happy to work with you in that regard.”

“This isn’t going to be easy,” Geordo warned Keith. “How do we get the Church to reverse a declaration based on faith like that?”

“Prince Geordo, let me also say that I have always respected your capabilities. I’m sure you’ll find a way to do this.”

“Keith, thank you for your belief in me. But for this, I know I’m going to need help.”

Archbishop Nolan did not notice the conversation between Geordo and Keith, as he was focused on the next step. He turned to Monsignor Braden.

“I’ll give Miss Claes time to let this all sink in. Though I’m kind of surprised, because I would’ve expected her to be enthusiastic about being declared a Living Saint. Regardless, next Tuesday I will want to speak with her and explain what is expected of her.”

Monsignor Braden’s reaction was again unanticipated by the Archbishop. “I would advise you not to do that, Your Excellency. If you tell her that, it will destroy her.”

“I don’t see why it would. She should be happy to serve the gods and touch people.”

“Your Excellency, those of us in the Church made a conscious decision to serve the gods. That’s not the case for Miss Catarina considering what you’ve declared her to be. She will have her agency taken away, and being told that will upset her.”

“Anyone who wouldn’t want to serve the gods is a fool. I expect you to bring her here next Tuesday.”

Monsignor Braden, knowing what Catarina’s reaction would be, knew he had to do something. The Archbishop’s lack of understanding of how Catarina would feel, along with his motives being political more than anything, made him come to a conclusion.

“I’m going to have to continue the investigation myself.”

Chapter Text

The carriage ride back to the Academy from the White Cathedral was uneasily silent. The Church’s declaration of Catarina being a Living Saint was a startling move that neither Geordo nor Keith had anticipated. While Archbishop Nolan was confident that the Church was prepared for the aftershocks of such an announcement, Geordo and Keith were not so sure.

Finally, the just-proclaimed Living Saint spoke up.

“How…..how did the Church make such a huge mistake?? Why do they think I’m a Living Saint when I’m nothing of the sort??”

“Catarina, we agree with you, and we’re going to help you with this,” Geordo assured her. “We need to find some way to get the Church to reverse their declaration. It’s not going to be easy, particularly with how stubborn the Church is, but we’ll figure out something.”

“Sister, you’re not a Living Saint, I can agree with that. But what was all of that about being a villainess and evil?” asked Keith.

“Because it’s the truth! I am a villainess, destined to get in the way of peoples’ happiness! I don't want to, but it's happened anyway!” Catarina declared.

Keith was bewildered at her declaration. “How so?”

“Well, for you, you always seem exasperated around me! Not because I’m cruel or anything, but because Mother is insistent you watch over me at all times! I’ve occupied all of your time, and I’m sure you resent me for that!”

Keith was utterly bewildered at Catarina’s words. “What are you talking about? I don’t feel any resentment towards you!”

“Catarina, if there’s any resentment from your brother, it’s directed towards me,” Geordo added.

“And for you Prince Geordo, I’m keeping you bound to an engagement you don’t want! I’m just standing in the way of you finding the one you truly love! I’ve told you before that you're free to break the engagement, but you refusal to break it must be because of some form of propriety. You're trapped in a loveless engagement, and it's all my fault!”

“Catarina, I can assure you that’s not the case,” Geordo replied. “You’re not standing in my way.”

“If anything, I’m the one standing in his way,” added Keith. Normally, neither Keith nor Geordo would’ve been so direct, but seeing the state Catarina was in, that had to be put aside. Catarina however did not hear their answers.

“All I’m doing is screwing things up, and now I’ve somehow tricked the Church into thinking I’m a Living Saint!”

“Sister, please stop blaming yourself!” Keith pleaded. “None of this is your fault!”

“You don’t understand Keith. It’s destiny. I’m a villainess, and nothing can be done about that. I thought I had avoided my doom, but apparently I haven’t.” Seeing the state Catarina was in, Geordo spoke up.

“Catarina, I assure you we’re going to get all of this fixed. We’re going to get the Church to reverse their decision, and there won’t be any repercussions for you. We know it’s not true either. But please, you’re not a villainess. The Archbishop was correct when he said that you’re kind-hearted and an upright person.”

“Likewise Sister, while at times I might get exasperated by your actions and behavior, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I am blessed to have you as a sister, and nothing will ever change that!” Keith added.

Upon hearing those words, Catarina smiled. “Keith, Prince Geordo, thank you! I’m always worried about doing something to upset someone, and your reassurance that I haven’t done anything to upset either of you is reassuring!”

Catarina then thought about the announcement. “That was kind of silly for the Church to declare that. I’m sure it’ll be good for a laugh among our friends, and especially our other classmates.”

Upon hearing those words, Geordo and Keith quickly realized they hadn’t thought about how the student body would react. Many, especially the religiously-inclined students, would accept the declaration at face value. They realized then and there that they needed to act quickly. Geordo leaned over to Keith. “Keith, I’m going to visit the Ministry of Magic and speak with Director Palmer. Please escort Catarina back to her dorm room, and while you’re at it, speak with the rest of our close friends. Tell them that we need to meet at Catarina’s dorm room tomorrow so we can escort her to her classes.”

“Understood, Your Highness. We’ll be able to handle this.”

After the carriage arrived back at the Academy, Keith began escorting Catarina back to her dorm room, while Geordo headed to the Ministry of Magic’s headquarters. After arriving at the headquarters, he went to Director Palmer’s office and knocked on the door. After Director Palmer bade for him to come in, Geordo stepped inside.

“Good afternoon Your Highness,” Director Palmer greeted the Third Prince. “How can I help you?”

“The Church has made an unprecedented move,” replied Geordo. “They’ve declared that Catarina’s powers are the result of the gods blessing her with their powers and that she is a Living Saint.”

Director Palmer’s eyes widened at Geordo’s explanation. “You can’t be serious.”

“I am Director Palmer,” replied Geordo. “They’re trying to claim Catarina as theirs. Archbishop Nolan has already said that the expectation is that Catarina will be serving the Church.”

“WHAT?!” Director Palmer cried out in outrage. “That’s ridiculous! Miss Claes’s powers cannot possibly be divine in nature! They’re arcane, but the exact arcane nature is not known due to how unusual they are.”

“The Archbishop claimed that previous records of theirs of Living Saints in the past match up with Catarina’s new powers.” Geordo then walked up to Director Palmer’s desk. “I need the Ministry to come up with overwhelming evidence that Catarina’s powers are arcane, in order to force the Church to rescind their declaration. You need to figure out exactly how they work, and quickly.”

Director Palmer looked at Geordo. “Your Highness, I promise you we’ll discover the precise nature of Miss Claes’s new powers. We will disprove the Church’s theory. I promise you that.”

“Good,” replied Geordo. “Just as a personal request, don’t tax Catarina too much, and do not do anything to harm her. Please allow her to live her life as much as possible.”

“We will do what we can to help her live a normal life.”

 


 

“Have you confirmed what has happened?”

“I have gotten confirmation that indeed, someone ignited their spark on a plane we didn’t know existed.”

Two people were talking to each other about the phenomenon that they had sensed a little while ago. The ignition of a planeswalker’s spark was a rare occurrence, and when one ignited, other planeswalkers would feel it across the multiverse. What made this unusual was that when this ignition was felt, the mana signature they sensed was completely foreign to them. The Multiverse was a vast place, and while a good portion of it was known, much of it remained hidden from others, either by design or simply not being noticed. In this case however, what had once been an unknown plane was now known to those that knew of the Multiverse’s existence.

“What concerns me though is that it appears New Phyrexia has discovered the plane as well, and given their ambitions to subjugate other planes, they may see this one as a possible target to take over.”

“Then we should visit there, and find who ignited their spark.”

“I agree. When we find who it was that ascended, we should do everything we can to teach them what we know and about the new capabilities they have.”

“And also prepare should New Phyrexia have designs on the plane.”

“I think it’d be best if you called the rest of the group together and went over our plan. I am going to see an old friend of mine. He would find what’s happening concerns him since New Phyrexia is involved.”

“Good idea. I’ll find the rest of the group and bring them up to speed while you talk with your friend. Keep in touch with me and let me know when you’re coming.”

Chapter Text

“It’s morning, Milady! You need to wake up!”

Anne gently shook Catarina awake for the school day. After a couple of minutes, Catarina was fully awake. Anne drew a bath for her charge, and after Catarina bathed, Anne helped her get dressed and began styling her hair. As Anne brushed Catarina’s hair, Catarina began talking to Anne about the previous day.

“I’m still in disbelief that the Church believes I’m a Living Saint. I don’t know how they could’ve possibly come to that conclusion. I’m nothing like that! I’m not a pious person at all. I’m not even that nice!”

“Lady Catarina, your self-perception is rather misinformed,” Anne replied. “I think sainthood is a bit much, but you are a very kind and loving person.”

“Well, it won’t be too big a deal I think,” Catarina concluded. “People here know who I really am, so I don’t think they’ll pay it any mind!”

Hearing this gave Anne pause. Word had spread about the Church’s proclamation, and Anne had seen just how quickly word had spread.

“I wouldn’t be too sure of that, Milady.”

“Eh? Why do you say that?” Catarina asked.

“Well, early this morning, as I was having breakfast with other maids, several of them came up to me to ask me a favor.”

“A favor?”

“Yes.” Anne then took a deep breath before she began explaining. “They gave me letters to deliver to you. They are asking you to intercede with the gods on their behalf.”

“W-w-what?!” Catarina’s reaction was expected by Anne, and she’d pulled her brush away so it wouldn’t get tangled in Catarina’s hair. “Me? Intercede with the gods? I can’t do that!”

“I am fully aware, Milady. But they believe you can, so they asked me to deliver those letters with their requests to you,” Anne explained. “If you could please sit back down, Milady.”

Catarina had a faraway look come across her eyes as she sat back down and looked in the mirror. Interceding with the gods on behalf of others? This couldn’t be happening. It was too ridiculous to be true. “Anne, please tell them that I’m not a Living Saint and that I can’t do that.”

“I already told them that you would deny it. They responded that they were willing to be patient because they figured you would be in denial at first,” Anne explained. “I’ll try to avoid bringing it up or talking about it with them. Hopefully this situation will be cleared up in some way.” Anne then got back to brushing Catarina’s hair. The rest of the hair styling went on in utter silence, as Catarina was in disbelief that there were people taking the Church’s proclamation seriously.

After Anne finished up, Catarina got her school bag and went to the front door. As she opened it up, she saw Prince Geordo, Keith, and all of her close friends just outside waiting for her. This was odd, as while one or two of them would often meet her for the class day, seeing all of them was odd.

“Good morning everyone! Um, why are you all here?”

“Good morning Catarina,” Geordo returned the greeting. “We’re here because you’re going to need an escort to classes today.”

“An escort? Why?”

“You’ll see why in a few moments.”

Confused, Catarina nonetheless decided to roll with it. Geordo and Keith both stood beside Catarina, with Mary and Alan leading the way and Sophia and Maria shoring up the rear. They walked down the hallway, to the main staircase, and then exited the ladies’ dorm. As they exited, a significant crowd of students was waiting for them. Upon seeing Catarina, they gasped and began whispering to each other.

“It’s her!”

“I heard she called an angel to her side!”

“How fitting that she turned out to actually be a saint!”

“I feel unworthy being in the presence of such a holy person!”

Catarina looked at the gathered students, some whispering to each other, some of them diverting their eyes, some of them looking at her in pure admiration. She was uncomfortable at being the center of attention like this. After an awkward and silent minute, she spoke up.

“Good…..Good morning everyone!”

“Good morning, Your Holiness!”

Catarina was taken aback by the greeting from the students. “‘Your Holiness’?!”

“You are a Living Saint, aren’t you?”

“No! I’m not!” Catarina declared. “I’m not a Living Saint! The Church’s announcement was a mistake!”

Catarina’s declaration had the opposite effect, and the admiration of the gathered students increased. “How humble of Her Holiness! Just as expected from a Living Saint!”

Keith then turned to Catarina. “Sister, just walk with us and ignore what’s going on. We’ll get you to your first class without any distractions.”

Catarina nodded, at which point her friends began escorting her to the Grand Academic Hall. As they walked, a young nobleman walked up to her.

“Good morning Saint Catarina. I humbly ask you to please intercede on behalf of my sick mother and have the gods hear my family’s prayers.”

Catarina was even more taken aback. “‘Saint’ Catarina?!”

“That is the proper title of address for a Living Saint, is it not?” asked the young nobleman.

“But I’m not!” Catarina protested. “I’m not a Living Saint! Please, don’t address me as ‘Saint Catarina’! ‘Lady Catarina’ is fine!”

“Your humility is an example to live by!” the young nobleman declared.

“I’m not being humble! I’m telling the truth! And I can’t intercede on behalf of anyone! I’m not a Living Saint!”

The young nobleman began to look disappointed at Catarina’s declaration, when another one of his peers walked up to him. “Saint Catarina has likely not learned yet the proper way to do so. I think there’s a specific manner which the Church has to teach her.” Upon hearing this, the young nobleman nodded his head. “When you are ready, please intercede for my mother, Your Holiness!”

“Lady Catarina, just ignore them,” said Mary. “We’ll walk you to your class and tell the professor about the situation.” Catarina nodded and kept walking with them. As she did, she overheard the whispers from other students about being blessed that she was their peer and about how the gods had chosen such a worthy and fitting person to serve them. It then became apparent to Catarina that things were not going to be the same. The Church’s proclamation had given people the wrong impression about her, and now she was being asked to do things she knew she couldn’t do.

Eventually, the group arrived at the classroom for her first class. Alan went up to the professor and explained the situation to him, to which he nodded. Afterwards, Maria and Sophia stayed behind, as they shared this class with Catarina. Several other students present were in awe of Catarina. She noticed this and was uncomfortable about it. Finally, it was time for class to begin, to which the professor made an announcement.

“Before we begin, I am sure everyone is aware of the declaration that the Church has made regarding one of your classmates. I kindly ask that you not bother Her Holiness while class is going on and please stay focused on our work here.”

Upon hearing that, Catarina fell out of her seat in shock at the professor referring to her as “Her Holiness”. After a few moments, she sheepishly dusted herself off and got back in her chair. The professor then asked, “Are you okay, Your Holiness?”

“I’m okay Sir, but please, don’t call me ‘Your Holiness’. ‘Miss Claes’ is fine.”

Seeing how uncomfortable Catarina was, the professor acquiesced to her request. “I will do so.” Class then began, and Catarina, eager to have some semblance of normalcy, paid close attention to the professor’s lecture, taking detailed notes and focusing on his words. Normally she was rather lackadaisical about the classroom lectures, but she wanted to get her mind off of what was going on.

 


 

The rest of the school day had passed by awkwardly for Catarina. Due to the attention she was getting, she was forced to alter her regular routine. She had lunch with her friends in her dorm room rather than the school’s dining room because her friends wanted to avoid other students who took the Church’s proclamation as the truth from bothering Catarina. The same thing repeated itself throughout the day: Her friends would escort her to her classes, inform the professor of the situation, and then after class, all be present to escort her to the next class. For the most part, they succeeded in keeping other students away from Catarina.

Finally, the class day ended. Once again, they decided to take out dinner from the cafeteria and eat in Catarina’s dorm room rather than the dining hall. After everyone arrived, they got out their dinners and began eating. Sophia then spoke up.

“How was the rest of your day, Lady Catarina?”

“Awkward and uncomfortable,” she responded without missing a beat. “How can anyone take the Church’s declaration about me seriously? It’s not true! I know it and all of you know it! If anyone took a moment to think, they would see how ridiculous that is!”

“Religious faith can be that powerful,” Alan remarked. “I did expect some reaction, but I wasn’t expecting it to this degree.”

“I don’t think anyone was,” added Mary. “Does the Church realize what they’ve done?”

“No, they don’t,” Keith answered. “They made this declaration without even thinking about how it would impact Sister’s life. But this is tricky. We can’t exactly confront the Church head-on. Even though their influence is not what it once was, they still have enough influence that going against them openly would be seen as uncouth.”

“Well, I’ve already spoken to the Ministry of Magic,” said Geordo. “About the only way the Church would be willing to reverse their declaration is if her new powers are proven beyond doubt to be arcane. They’ll be working on that, and hopefully they’ll have enough evidence to force the Church to rescind their declaration.”

“I hope the answer comes quickly,” Catarina declared. “Saying that I’m a Living Saint is ridiculous! I’m not a Living Saint! No one is listening when I say that!”

Upon hearing this, Maria spoke up. “Lady Catarina, you might not be a Living Saint, but there’s a reason our peers accepted it so readily,” she replied. “You’re a kind and wonderful lady, and you’re always here for me and the rest of your friends no matter what! You’re admired in the school for how kind you are! There were students who called you a saint even before the Church said you were!”

“That was ridiculous then, and now it’s even more ridiculous!” said Catarina. “I don’t know how people could see a villainess like me as a good person!”

“Lady Catarina, please stop calling yourself a villainess!” Sophia protested. “It hurts to hear you say things like that about yourself! You’re not a villainess!”

“Well, unless things get fixed quickly, I will be one. Eventually the other students will lose patience with me for not interceding on their behalf with the gods and think I’m being cruel or abusive.”

“Catarina, please don’t be so pessimistic,” said Alan. “I’m sure the Ministry will find definitive proof that your new magic is arcane and not divine.”

“I’ve told the Ministry about the situation,” added Geordo. “They’re going to investigate this thoroughly, and I’m sure they’ll turn up proof.”

“The sooner the better,” declared Catarina. “I just don’t want to make people angry with me.”

The group was concerned. The Church’s proclamation and the attention it drew was affecting Catarina badly. She was beginning to go down a spiral of depression and self-loathing, and the cheerful, happy girl they knew was slowly beginning to disappear. The group sat in awkward silence, with no one sure how to respond to Catarina. Eventually, Mary spoke up.

“The Ministry will figure all of this out Lady Catarina. I know they will!”

 


 

A carriage rolled up to the White Cathedral, its passenger on a mission to speak with a Church official she’d spoken to some time ago. Her plan to have Catarina condemned by the Church had failed miserably, and she wanted answers.

Noelia Flores stepped out of the carriage and walked into the Cathedral. She went to a desk where a secretary was writing out some information and got right to business.

“I wish to speak with Father Richard Blanton. It is an important matter.”

The secretary gave Noelia instructions on where Father Blanton’s office was. After getting them, Noelia walked through the White Cathedral and took several flights of stairs before she got to his office. She knocked on the door, upon which a voice called out, “Come in!” Noelia entered Father Blanton’s office, upon which the priest greeted her.

“Good evening, Miss Flores. Is there anything I can help you with?”

“Yes, there is! I gave you a statement about Lady Claes expressing my concerns, and yet you seem to have ignored it! You instead declared her a Living Saint! What is the meaning of that?”

Father Blanton took a moment to gather his thoughts. “We did take your statement into consideration, but our investigation found that there was no validity to it. Not only was there no proof of what you claimed to have happened, but other statements we received directly contradicted that and instead showed Miss Claes to be of high moral character.”

Noelia was exasperated that she was so quickly dismissed. “Did the money I give you mean nothing to you?”

“Oh, your donation? It did mean a lot to us. That was a very generous donation, and the Church thanks you for it.”

Noelia began to seethe when Father Blanton’s response reached her ears. “That ‘donation’ as you put it wasn’t without conditions. Are you really so stupid as to not realize what my intent was?”

Father Blanton looked confused at Noelia’s statement. “‘Without conditions’? What does that mean?”

Noelia fumed at Father Blanton’s ignorance. “The money I gave you was to ensure that you condemned Lady Claes! That you would accept my statement at face value! That was not a charitable donation! I was expecting you to condemn Lady Claes and eliminate her as Prince Geordo’s fiancée! You were supposed to order her to be confined to a convent and forced to live as a nun!” After pausing, she then continued. “I want my money back. You’re obviously too stupid to understand subtlety! I gave that money with that expectation, and you didn’t pick up on it!”

Suddenly, Father Blanton’s expression turned from seeming blissful unawareness to accusatory. “So what you were really trying to do was bribe me and by extension the Church into getting Miss Claes condemned and confined to a convent?”

Noelia tensed up at Father Blanton’s change in tone. “It wasn’t a bribe! It was a subtle suggestion!”

“My Child,” replied Father Blanton, as he continued to glare at Noelia accusingly, “You just admitted that you attempted to bribe me, slandered one of your peers, and also conspired against someone engaged to a member of the Royal Family.” He then paused, upset that his suspicions were confirmed, before continuing. “Those are serious crimes. I am afraid I will have to report that to the authorities.”

Noelia began to have fear wash across her, knowing the potential consequences of her actions. “You…..You can’t do that! I told you that in confidence and was confessing my sins! Your priestly code forbids telling the authorities crimes I confess to in confidence!”

“Miss Flores, that applies only in a confessional setting. Our meeting right now is not taking place in such a setting, and you did not say you were confessing any sins. The privilege of priestly confidentiality does not apply.”

Noelia began to shake in terror. The charges that could be brought against her could theoretically go all the way to treason, and that could possibly warrant a death sentence. She began to sob at the thought, at which point Father Blanton, taking pity on Noelia, then spoke up.

“Clearly you regret your actions,” Father Blanton replied sympathetically. “So I am willing to give you a choice. If you want your money back, I will give it back to you, but I will have to report your admitted crimes to the authorities. If however you allow us to treat it as a donation and admit your sins, I will allow you to invoke the privilege of confessor confidentiality, and I will keep this to myself.”

Noelia was backed into a corner. She began trying to think of other ways to get out of this situation, but none came to her. Finally, she conceded defeat. After calming down, she replied to Father Blanton’s offer. “The money is a donation to the Church. Forgive me, for I have sinned Father Blanton! I'm sorry for my sinful actions!”

“My Child, hold your head up,” ordered Father Blanton. “I will consider this to be a confession of your sins. For your penance, you will pray the full Plead To The Gods tonight before you go to bed. After you do so, you will be absolved of your sins.”

“Yes Father!” declared Noelia, who began to simmer at this low-level priest outmaneuvering her and trapping her in a situation where she lost either way. Her parents would wonder what happened with all the money, and while the sting of her giving away that much would be lessened now that it was officially a donation to the Church, they would still question her motives.

“You are free to go, My Child. Go forth, repent, and sin no more.”

Father Blanton’s words bit at Noelia. “You’re one to talk!” she shot back. “You know what they say about throwing stones in glass houses! And just so you know, I have something on you! You are as corrupt as they come! Cross me again and I will report you to the authorities for extortion!”

Father Blanton glared at Noelia. “Miss Flores, if you do that, you will breach this confession’s confidentiality, and I would be obligated to report your actions-”

“No! I am sorry! I won’t say a thing!” pleaded Noelia. “I am truly sorry for my sins!”

Father Blanton looked at Noelia suspiciously. “I’m glad we’ve come to an understanding. Go forth, repent, and sin no more.”

Noelia then took her leave and exited Father Blanton’s office. She was enraged at the turn of events that had happened. Father Blanton had humiliated her, and her plot to eliminate Catarina was a catastrophic failure and had cost her a lot of money. She turned her ire back to Catarina. If the Church wouldn’t get rid of her, she would have to find a way.

Chapter Text

The next day, Catarina woke up, and with Anne’s help prepared for her school day. She was greeted again by all of her friends, who then escorted her to her first class of the day, which she shared with Maria and Alan. She sat down at her desk, ready for class. She noticed several students looking at her with admiration, which made her uncomfortable. Previously she had been able to interact freely with her peers. Now they were viewing her in a light that made her distant from them, and she hated it.

Before class could begin, two Ministry officials walked into the classroom and spoke with the professor. After a brief conversation, the professor spoke up.

“Miss Claes-”

“I beg your pardon sir, but she should be addressed as ‘Saint Catarina’ or ‘Your Holiness’,” a student corrected the professor.

Catarina quickly stood up. “‘Miss Claes’ is fine sir!” She then turned to the student that said that. “Please don’t address me that way!”

“My apologies!”

After a couple of moments, the professor spoke back up. “Miss Claes, the Ministry of Magic has requested your presence. The two officials here will escort you to their headquarters.”

Catarina heard this and was thankful. This must’ve been what Geordo was talking about in getting the Ministry involved to refute her Living Saint status and clear everything up. She quickly got up from her desk, taking her bag with her, and began walking with the Ministry officials.

After a decent walk, they arrived at the Ministry Headquarters. Catarina was escorted to the casting grounds and there, she met with Director Palmer.

“Good morning Miss Claes,” Director Palmer greeted her. “We’ve brought you here so that you can show us your powers again. Prince Geordo made us aware of the Church’s declaration, and so we’re going to redouble our efforts to truly understand them and see if we can prove beyond all doubt that they are arcane in nature.”

Catarina smiled at hearing this. “I’ll be happy to demonstrate for you!”

“Then by all means, Miss Catarina.”

Catarina then saw several targets and contraptions had been set up for her so that she could demonstrate everything. She called out lightning and turned several contraptions into plant life. After those demonstrations, she then summoned McCloud, the fox that she had called to protect her from the dog that had run in that one day. They sensed that the fox itself was a natural animal and not at all magical, but the method of her summoning it was undoubtedly arcane, with arcane presence being picked up at the spot where it appeared. This confused the researchers even more.

“How can she call that fox to her? It has to come from somewhere.”

“I know that it’s been mused that realities other than our own exist, but there isn’t any evidence of it.”

A researcher then got an idea. “Miss Claes, could you possibly summon that angel you’d called to you previously?”

“Sure!” declared Catarina, at which point she cast the spell, opening a portal in the air to which Ayla, the angelic page she’d summoned previously, came out. After descending to the ground, Ayla walked over to Catarina and knelt before her. “How may I serve you, My Mistress?”

“Hello Ayla! It’s nothing too difficult,” replied Catarina. “I have some gentlemen here who wish to ask you some questions. If you could do so, I would be grateful!”

“That is not a problem, My Mistress.” Ayla then turned to the researchers. “What questions did you have for me?”

Ayla’s beauty struck the researchers, and at first they were unable to formulate a question. After a moment, one of them spoke up. “Where did you come from?”

“I came from a space between the planes, where I and other angels wait to be called by our Masters and Mistresses.”

“The planes?” asked the other researcher.

“Yes, the planes. Are you not aware of what the planes are?” The two researchers shook their heads no, to which Ayla then began explaining. “The planes are places in time and space, which exist throughout the Multiverse. They are both natural and artificial. Most are natural, but sufficiently powerful beings can create planes.”

“What kind of beings?”

“To give an example, I am an angel from the line of Serra. She created us, and we served her. She created a realm that bore her name, which was her retreat and where other angels lived.”

“What is this realm like?”

“I cannot say. Serra’s Realm does not exist anymore. It was eventually corrupted, and another man named Urza was forced to siphon its power into a powerstone.”

Catarina heard the names “Serra” and “Urza” and thought those sounded familiar to her. They weren’t anything she had heard in her current life, but she remembered hearing the names in her previous life. Something her brothers discussed. But she couldn’t recall exactly what it was.

“So you’re saying that there are beings that can destroy realities?”

“Not all realities,” replied Ayla. “Urza was able to do so due to his power and because Serra’s Realm was an artificial plane. But now, nobody has such power any more. Some time ago, a great conflagration threatened to destroy all reality, but some other mages were able to heal reality.”

The researchers looked at each other. “That’s quite a tale you’ve got, and we’ve got more questions for you.”

Just then, the Dean of Students walked up to Catarina and the researchers. “Miss Claes, it’s lunchtime. I would suggest you pick up some lunch before you head back to classes for the rest of the day.” Upon hearing those words, Catarina’s stomach growled. “Thank you for reminding me Dean Larry! I’m feeling hungry right now!”

“Miss Claes, we still have more questions for you and Ayla-”

“They will have to come at a later time,” replied the Dean.

Ayla then spoke up, “I can get some sustenance for you, My Mistress.”

“No, that’s okay Ayla. You can leave now.”

“As you wish, My Mistress.” Ayla then opened up a portal and flew through it. With that, Catarina then left the casting grounds to get back to the campus, escorted by a couple of Ministry officials. After she left, the Dean walked up to Director Palmer. “Doctor Palmer, I gave permission for you to pull Miss Claes for only her first class. You kept her for the entire first half of the class day.”

“Yes, I am aware,” replied Director Palmer. “But Miss Claes provided significant data for us, and it will go a long way towards disproving the Church’s ridiculous declaration.”

“Please keep in mind Doctor that Miss Claes is a student here, that she is still a teenager, and that she needs regular meals like any other student does,” replied the Dean. “I understand you have a dispute with the Church, but I’m not going to let her be a part of that political battle.”

“Doctor Cope, it might be too late for that. We have to work quickly to stop the Church from fully claiming her.”

The Dean glared at Director Palmer. “The next time you pull her from class, you will inform her how long she is to be with you so that she can leave on-time. I am not going to allow you to go past the limits I set.”

“Fair enough,” responded Director Palmer. “And actually, now that you’re here, could you allow us to take her out of class this afternoon?”

“No, I won’t,” replied the Dean. “She needs to attend her classes and have a regular school life.”

“I hope you’re being just as strict towards the Church for this.”

“You needn’t question my motives, Doctor Palmer. I am not on either yours or the Church’s side. The side I’m on is Miss Claes’s.”

 


 

After being escorted back to the dining room, Catarina headed towards a table she sat at every Thursday. She had friends outside of her close circle, and today was the day of the week that she would meet her closest friends from outside that circle, three girls named Francine Ridgeway, Emily Carrington, and Samantha Bale. She greeted them as she always did. “Lady Francine, Lady Emily, Lady Sam, good afternoon!”

“Good afternoon, Lady Catarina!” her three friends greeted her. Upon hearing that, she smiled brightly. “Thank you!”

“‘Thank you’? What for?” asked Francine.

“Thank you for not addressing me as ‘Saint Catarina’ or ‘Your Holiness’. I’ve had students addressing me with those terms, and it makes me incredibly uncomfortable.”

“I can imagine it would, Lady Catarina,” replied Sam. “I find it sudden that the Church has declared that you’re a Living Saint. From what I understood, their investigatory process is supposed to take months.”

“I can confirm that actually. And truth be told, there’s even those within the Church that disagree with Archbishop Nolan’s decision,” added Emily.

The other girls looked at Emily. “How do you know that?” asked Francine.

“My Uncle Louis is a bishop in the Church, and just yesterday he stopped by the Academy to visit me. He told me that Archbishop Nolan’s declaration has been controversial in the Church. Some immediately agreed with the Archbishop, while some disagreed, either because they feel a proper investigation hasn’t been done or because they don’t believe Lady Catarina’s powers are divine.”

“I find it interesting that the Church is split over this,” replied Francine. “From what I’ve seen, both here at the Academy and when I was in town, most people accepted the declaration immediately.”

“Well, Uncle Louis also believes that Archbishop Nolan did it because he wanted to give the Church some relevance,” Emily elaborated. “But a majority of bishops agree with his decision, so at this point it stands.”

Catarina then had a question for Emily. “Out of curiosity, what side does your uncle fall on?”

“He’s not come to a conclusion either way,” Emily replied. “He wants a more thorough investigation, and I understand he’s written a letter to Monsignor Braden asking him to look further into you. Don’t be surprised if he shows up here again.”

Catarina took this all in. “Well, all I care about is that this gets cleared up. I know I’m not a Living Saint like the Archbishop thinks I am. It’s ridiculous that anyone could think a person like me could be that!”

Catarina waited to hear a response of concurrence from the girls, but she heard nothing. She then looked at them and saw the confused looks on their faces. “What?”

“Lady Catarina, what do you mean ‘A person like you’?” asked Sam.

“They think I’m a Living Saint, but the truth is I’m not a good person at all. The Church’s mistake is a massive one, thinking a villainess like me is a saint.”

The three girls had their eyes go wide hearing Catarina say this. “Lady Catarina, how can you think that?” asked Sam. “A villainess? I mean, maybe you’re right and perhaps it is a bit much that the Church declared that you’re a Living Saint because of your powers, but it’s not true that you’re not a good person. You are!”

“We all like you because of how kind you are! And we’ve told everyone how wonderful a person you are and how willing you are to help others!” declared Francine. “At least personality-wise you fit the bill.”

Catarina looked at them. “You really think so?”

“You stood up for both me and Lady Emily, and Lady Sam does the same for us because you inspired her! How couldn’t we think you’re a good person?”

Catarina was put at ease hearing this, though she still had a lot of uncertainty in her mind. “Isn’t it possible I did that because I have selfish motivations?”

“What selfish motivations?” asked Emily. “Have you ever asked us for anything when you stood up for us? Do you ask anything of us to be our friend?”

“Well, no, I don’t think I have.”

“You haven’t,” confirmed Emily. “You did it because you’re a kind-hearted lady who sees people and not titles.”

Catarina was reassured hearing this from them, but she knew what she was in Fortune Lover . She didn’t think she was out of the woods yet. “Thank you, Lady Emily. And thank you Lady Francine and Lady Sam for thinking so highly of me. I just do what I do because I think it’s right.”

“And we wish more people would, Lady Catarina,” Francine answered.

The girls wrapped up their lunch and went their separate ways for the afternoon. Class went by with more of a sense of normalcy for her. While her friends still escorted her, it appeared that their message that they were not to bother her or ask her about the status the Church conferred on her had reached other students, though now they seemed hesitant to interact with her at all, which Catarina found isolating. After classes ended for the day, she had dinner with her friends, and then spent the night doing schoolwork before turning in.

 


 

“Good evening. I’m glad you could all come and we could discuss the problem that is Catarina Claes.”

Noelia Flores was in her room. She had invited three other girls, Estella Morel, Imogene Baylor, and Annabelle Dickinson, to discuss Catarina and the Church’s declaration. The four girls were united in their dislike of Catarina, finding her odd behavior to be an embarrassment to the nobility, not to mention her refusal to consider a person’s status to be by extension a weakening of their statuses as well. Estella then spoke up.

“Somehow that idiot has stumbled into even more favor. It baffles me that she has the friends she does. How a graceful and perfect lady like Mary Hunt would willingly associate with her baffles me! That Prince Geordo sincerely loves Lady Claes is even more infuriating!”

“Not to mention that the stinking peasant Maria Campbell is now untouchable because of Lady Claes’s protection of her,” added Imogene. “That low-birth commoner’s presence is a blight upon the Academy, and she should’ve been driven off a long time ago!”

“It’s because of her that nobody cares that I am from House Dickinson,” declared Annabelle. “My status seems to mean nothing anymore. Who do the girls from the baronies and viscounties think they are to address me without my express consent? I’d rather not deal with the rabble of the nobility like them!”

“Exactly,” replied Noelia. “Which is why we need to deal with her.”

“But how?” asked Estella. “Thanks to her friends, she has a level of protection from intrigue that near anyone would find impossible to break through.”

“And with the Church’s declaration, going against her now would draw the wrath of the Church,” added Imogene.

“You saw what happened last fall when those girls went against Lady Claes. They’d turned out to have been manipulated, and it was only because Lady Claes didn’t want them punished harshly that they escaped without serious repercussions,” said Annabelle.

“And that’s why I have you here,” replied Noelia. “So we can try to think together of a way to destroy Lady Claes.”

“But even with our statuses, the status of her friends would crush us,” said Estella. “It’s going to be difficult to find a way of being rid of her.”

The four girls present then began trying to think of ideas for how to take Catarina down. For several minutes, they wracked their minds trying to think of how to do so, but every idea that came to their heads was immediately dismissed as nonviable. Eventually, Annabelle had a breakthrough come to her.

“What if we don’t take Lady Claes down? What if she instead destroyed herself?”

The other three girls looked at Annabelle. “And how would she do that?” asked Imogene. “She wouldn’t ever do anything that would ruin her.”

“She doesn’t have to do anything. She just needs to admit it!” declare Annabelle.

Noelia looked at Annabelle with confusion. “Please explain, Lady Dickinson.”

“What I was thinking was that we could have an affidavit prepared in which Lady Claes would admit to things that would destroy her reputation and leave her ripe for the picking. All we would have to do is trick her into signing it, deliver it to the right people, and then her reputation is destroyed!”

Estella smiled at this. “I like that! Have her be the unwitting instigator of her own doom!”

“If you remember, there was that incident at the beginning of the school year where several ladies had their rooms burglarized and later found their dresses among a pile of refuse. The affidavit would have Lady Claes admitting that she was the one responsible for all of that. Once she signs it and we give it to school officials, the authorities would be brought in due to it being a criminal matter, and thus Lady Claes is eliminated for good!”

“But you know her friends would rush to her defense!” countered Noelia. “They wouldn’t ever abandon her.”

“They wouldn’t, but their parents would force them to!” declared Annabelle. “A signed affidavit has much more weight to it than a mere accusation, since it would be a sworn admission! She’d essentially admit that she did it under oath. This would require an actual legal investigation, and to avoid the taint that Lady Claes would have on her, their parents would make them disassociate with her. Without them, she would be vulnerable, and that’s when we strike! And even if the affidavit is refuted, the damage to Lady Claes’s reputation would be so grave that it would be impossible for her to ever recover!”

Imogene smiled wickedly. “That’s a brilliant idea! Lady Claes would destroy her reputation, and we would be able to act against her!”

“This all sounds wonderful, but there’s another problem,” Noelia interrupted. “This would need to be drawn up by a lawyer, and no competent, credible lawyer would ever draw up such a thing!”

“Actually that won’t be a problem!” declared Imogene. “One of my older brothers is a lawyer, and he’d be happy to draw one up for me! I could explain that I’d just want one to show others what such an affidavit looks like! I mean, legal intrigue is a part of noble life after all. My brother would think it helpful to have ladies and gentlemen here know about such things!”

Noelia smiled at Imogene’s solution. “Excellent! Does anyone have any more concerns?” The other three girls shook their heads no. “Then that settles it! Lady Baylor, have your brother draw up that ‘sample’ affidavit, and then we’ll think of a way to present it to Lady Claes and have her sign it. And once she signs her name to it, she’ll be ruined for good! Either it’s accepted and she’s punished, or her reputation becomes so toxic that she’d be abandoned, at which point we could finish the job!”

“Just one thing, Lady Flores. People already know you’ve tried to act against Lady Claes in the past,” replied Annabelle. “And she’s even aware you dislike her. She wouldn’t trust you!”

“But she isn’t aware of your level of dislike for her!” declared Noelia. “With a few honeyed words, and given how naive she is, you could present it to her as something else and she’d sign in heartbeat!” The girls present nodded in agreement. They’d come up with a way to deal with Catarina that would leave them unscathed, and her downfall would be gleefully witnessed by all of them.

Chapter Text

Friday came, and Catarina attended class. It seemed that things had calmed down, and that the student body understood that she was not to be bothered or asked to perform any duties that a Living Saint would be asked to do. As a result, after the first couple of classes, her friends saw it was unnecessary to escort her as she was not being bothered.

Lunchtime came, and Catarina entered the dining room, looking forward to having a nice lunch and socializing with her peers. After picking up her lunch, she saw some first-year students eating at a table. She decided to see if she could sit with them and discuss how their lives at the Academy were going. She walked up to the table and greeted them. “Good afternoon!”

The students at the table were struck dumb upon Catarina greeting them. Some of them could only gape at the Living Saint approaching them. Others diverted their eyes. Seeing this, Catarina asked them, “Is something wrong?”

Finally, a male first-year spoke up. “N-no! Not at all Saint Catarina!”

Catarina sighed at being addressed as such. “Please, don’t address me like that. ‘Lady Catarina’ is fine!”

The male first-year then spoke up. “My apologies, Lady Catarina. I just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t being blasphemous if I addressed you incorrectly.”

“Young Sir, please don’t take the Church’s word. I know I’m not a Living Saint.” She then asked the young man, “Is it okay if I eat lunch with you?”

“We would be honored, Lady Catarina!”

Catarina smiled and sat down at the table with them. As she sat down, she saw that there were two girls continuing to divert their eyes. Worried about this, she asked, “Is something wrong? Does my face look harsh? Do my eyes look too piercing?”

One of the girls leaned over and whispered into the ear of the young man that had spoken to her. After hearing the girl’s explanation, he explained. “They’re diverting their eyes because they feel unworthy of being in the presence of you.”

“Please, don’t do that,” Catarina requested. “It makes me uncomfortable to be viewed as a holy person when I know I’m nothing of the sort.” She then turned to the girls that were diverting their eyes. “Please, look me in the eyes.” The girls attempted to acquiesce to her request, but after only a couple of seconds, they diverted their eyes again. Not wanting to make them uncomfortable, Catarina sighed. “If you’re more at ease doing that, then I don’t mind.” She then turned to the young man. “What is your name Young Sir?”

“It’s Matthew. Matthew Summerfield.”

“Pleased to meet you Master Summerfield!” Catarina greeted him. “How has your time here at the Academy been?”

“It’s been going well,” he replied somewhat nervously. “It took some getting used to school life here, but I’ve adjusted.”

“Why don’t we get to know each other better?”

Catarina and Matthew then began discussing their lives, their families, and their interests. Over time, Matthew began to feel more comfortable around Catarina, though none of the other first-years at the table joined in, too in awe or intimidated by Catarina’s presence. Their conversation took up the entire lunch period, and by the end of it, Matthew was in good spirits and seemed to put the fact that Catarina was declared a Living Saint out of his mind. As the lunch period ended, Catarina and Matthew said their goodbyes to each other. As Catarina began to leave, one of the girls then spoke up.

“L-Lady Ca-Catarina, It w-w-would be an honor if you w-were to address the group my older sister has started.”

Catarina smiled. “I’d be happy to! What is this group?”

Matthew turned to the girl that spoke up. “Missy, you heard what Lady Catarina said! She doesn’t want to be viewed as a Living Saint! The group you want her to address would be something she’d hate!”

Catarina heard this and became anxious at what she was about to hear. “What is this group?”

“P-promise you w-w-won’t get upset?” Missy asked.

“I won’t.”

“It’s the S-Society of Saint C-Catarina C-C-Claes.”

Catarina immediately dropped her tray to the floor upon hearing that. Missy and the other girl immediately recoiled in fear, worried about what Catarina would say next. Catarina quickly calmed herself down and sighed. “No, it’s fine. I know you don’t mean anything by it. Just, if you could please tell your older sister to disband that group, I would appreciate it. I’m not a Living Saint.”

“Y-Yes Lady C-Catarina!”

Matthew looked at Catarina apologetically. “Sorry.”

“No, it’s not your fault. Please don’t think I’m upset at any of you. Have a good day.”

With that, Catarina left the dining room and headed to her next class. Just when it seemed like she would not feel as isolated as she had, she was back to square one. A society built around her and taking her Living Saint status as the truth? It was ridiculous! It appeared that this wasn’t going to be going away any time soon, and she was even more determined to be rid of the Church’s declaration.

 


 

After class ended for the day, Catarina headed to the Ministry of Magic headquarters of her own volition. She was determined to be rid of her status once and for all. When she arrived, she asked the receptionist where Director Palmer could be found. After being shown where his office was, Catarina headed there. After she arrived, she knocked on the door and heard a voice call out “Come in!” She opened the door and found Director Palmer, along with someone else she hadn’t been expecting.

“Good evening Director Palmer. And good evening Monsignor Braden,” she greeted them, curtseying as she said it. “Monsignor, it’s a surprise to see you here.”

“Good evening, Miss Catarina,” the Monsignor returned the greeting. “Let me just reassure you that I am not here in any capacity for the Church, but of my own volition.”

Curious, Catarina asked, “Why are you here then?”

“If you could close the door, I will explain.” Catarina did as the Monsignor requested and closed the door. After doing so, he then had a request. “I ask that you keep this in strictest confidence. Only you, Director Palmer, and I can know this. I can’t have anyone else find out about this. Can you promise me that?” Catarina nodded her head, after which Monsignor Braden began to explain.

“I am in agreement with you Miss Catarina that Archbishop Nolan has acted too hastily in making his declaration. The investigation I was tasked with normally takes months, but it was only a matter of weeks before His Excellency decided to come to a conclusion. One I feel is mistaken. I am here to gather more information of my own accord and try to make a definitive determination.”

Catarina’s spirits were raised upon hearing this. “So you’re trying to disprove that I’m a Living Saint too?”

“Not necessarily,” replied Monsignor Braden. “I feel it is inconclusive at this point and am not leaning either way. This is so I can make a definitive conclusion as to whether that is the case. It’s still possible you are a Living Saint, but I’m not satisfied with the information that’s been gathered.” Catarina frowned upon hearing this. Seeing her reaction, Monsignor Braden spoke further. “I’m trying to figure out one way or another what the case is, but I feel it unfair to you that Archbishop Nolan has moved so quickly. I am going to advocate for you no matter what.” Catarina felt better hearing that, knowing that at least one Church official was on her side.

Monsignor Braden then spoke further. “Director Palmer explained to me that the angel you summoned had some interesting things to say. Perhaps you could call upon her again, because I have some questions.”

“That won’t be a problem!” declared Catarina.

“Let’s go to the casting grounds, so that things don’t get disrupted here,” suggested Director Palmer. The group then headed to the casting grounds so that Catarina could summon Ayla. Catarina drew power into her and released it, opening a portal above from which Ayla emerged. After she landed, Ayla walked over to Catarina and knelt before her. “How may I serve you, My Mistress?”

“Ayla, Monsignor Braden has some questions for you after he heard what you told me and the other researchers here. If you could accommodate Monsignor Braden, I would appreciate it!”

“I would be happy to, My Mistress!” replied Ayla, smiling as she said it. Ayla then turned to the Monsignor. “What questions did you have of me?”

Monsignor Braden then began with his first question. “According to Doctor Palmer, you mentioned you are of a line of angels created by someone named Serra. Was she a god?”

Ayla laughed at the Monsignor’s question. “No, she wasn’t. Many believed that she was divine, and there was a religion formed in her name elsewhere, but she was not a god. She was extremely powerful, but she was mortal, and she did eventually die.”

Monsignor Braden’s eyebrows raised at Ayla’s answer. “So your creator was not divine at all?”

“No, she was not,” confirmed Ayla. “She created us with her magic. We existed to serve her will. We continue to serve it even after her death.”

“And what is that will?”

“To protect the weak, ensure justice, and give comfort to those that need it.”

Monsignor Braden then mused, “So angels aren’t divine agents of the gods then.”

“Well, to clarify, I am not a divine angel,” Ayla responded, having overheard the Monsignor. “But there are gods, and they do have angelic servitors.”

“Are you familiar with any of these gods?” asked the Monsignor.

“Yes, I am. There is Heliod, God of the Sun, Karametra, God of Harvests, Erebos, God of the Dead, and many others.”

“I’m not familiar with any of those gods,” replied Monsignor Braden. “Director Palmer mentioned that you said there were other realities besides this one. Are they present in those realities?”

“They are present in a place called Theros, though I have heard whispers that they might be present in other planes. I do know that with sufficient power, the gods can be summoned to where they are called.”

Monsignor Braden heard this and was startled. “It’s possible to call upon the gods?”

“Only very powerful beings or those with their favor can do so,” Ayla explained. “But yes, it is possible.”

“Might you be able to read some of our scripture and see if it matches anything you’ve seen?”

“Unfortunately I am not overly familiar with religion,” replied Ayla. “I would not be able to make sense of any of it.”

Monsignor Braden furrowed his brow. Hearing all of this, he now had more questions than answers. A thorough investigation might take years at this rate.

Just then, a voice called out, “Catarina!”

Catarina, Director Palmer, Monsignor Braden, and Ayla looked over and saw Prince Geordo and Keith walking up to them. Keith then asked, “Sister, what are you doing here?”

“I came by myself,” replied Catarina. “I want to get answers as soon as possible as to what my powers are.”

“I can understand that,” replied Geordo, “But it’s dinnertime, and when you didn’t show up, we all became concerned.” Upon hearing that, Catarina felt her stomach growl. “Good thing you reminded me! I’m feeling hungry!”

“I think I have enough for now, Miss Catarina,” said Monsignor Braden. “Thank you for your time and summoning Ayla to speak with me.”

Ayla then turned to Catarina. “Do you need anything else, My Mistress?”

“No, it’s quite alright Ayla. Thank you for your help!” With that, Ayla took her leave, opening a portal and stepping through to wherever it was she resided. After saying her goodbyes to Director Palmer and Monsignor Braden, Catarina left with Geordo and Keith. As they walked to the dining room, Geordo spoke up.

“Catarina, did you actually go to the Ministry of Magic headquarters of your own volition?”

“I did,” she confirmed. “I want to be rid of this status of being a Living Saint. I found out from a first-year student that there’s a group of students who formed a society based on the ridiculous idea that it’s true! I want to be rid of it as soon as possible!” She then had a thought come to her. “Prince Geordo, has the, ugh, Society of Saint Catarina Claes applied for official recognition yet?”

“Yes, they have,” he replied.

“Can you deny that to them?” asked Catarina.

“Unfortunately, we can’t Sister,” replied Keith. “Religious groups are permitted, and unless there’s a valid reason, like it being a front for some purpose that goes against the Student Honor Code or something illegal, we can’t deny them recognition.”

Catarina’s eyes widened. “So you have to let a group of students venerate me?! That’s…..I can’t believe that!”

“As silly as it sounds, yes, we have to,” Keith replied.

Catarina began to feel even more depressed. “I want to be rid of being a Living Saint as soon as possible. The Ministry needs to prove my powers aren’t divine!”

“I understand your eagerness to do so Catarina,” replied Geordo. “But please, be calm and be patient. I don’t want there to be a situation where you overwork yourself. I promise you we’ll have this dealt with.”

Chapter Text

The night of the Spring Student Ball had arrived, and Catarina had been looking forward to it. Normally, she looked at these events with a sense of dread, as she was not a graceful dancer and she cared little for the dull socializing that was expected of any lady that attended. This time however, the change in setting would be a welcome one for her. The past week had been uncomfortable, what with her being viewed as a figure of veneration, but compared to that, the drab exchange of pleasantries with other ladies was preferable.

The appointed hour to dress and prepare for the Ball had arrived, and after finishing up bathing, Catarina stepped out into her bedroom and saw Anne getting out a dress for her. When she saw the dress that she had gotten out, Catarina stilled, as Anne had seemingly chosen a dress which did not suit her at all.

“Um, Anne? Where did that white dress come from?” asked Catarina. “Why not my usual blue dress or something else I’ve worn before?”

Anne knew that question would be coming and sighed, dreading having to explain it to her mistress.

“Milady, Miss Clara, a maid for one of your fellow students, made this dress for you for the Ball. She felt that as a Living Saint, you needed a dress which would be suitable for your status, so she asked me for your measurements. I told her that you don’t accept that status and that you wouldn’t be happy, but she was insistent, and this was what the result was.” Anne saw the look on Catarina’s face, seeing her charge was upset. “It’s fine Milady. I’ll get another dress.”

“No, that’s quite alright Anne,” Catarina sighed. “I’m sure Miss Clara put a lot of work into the dress and made it with nothing but good intentions. I’ll wear it.”

Anne had been grateful for Catarina’s selflessness over the years, but she could see Catarina would be miserable wearing the dress. “You don’t have to do this, Lady Catarina.”

“No, it’s fine. I’ll wear it. I don’t want to make Miss Clara upset if she finds out I didn’t wear it.”

“If you insist, Milady.” Anne then helped Catarina put on the dress and adjust it. Much to Catarina’s dismay, the dress was a very conservative one, which covered her all the way up her neck completely. Normally for a springtime ball, something lighter and airy would be worn, and this was nothing of the sort. It was uncomfortable and restricting, but Catarina knew it was made from a place of love, so she decided to go along with it. Anne then sat Catarina down and began brushing her hair. After she finished brushing it, she got up and went to the dresser, where she pulled out a box. “Miss Clara made this to go with the dress.” Anne opened the box and pulled out a weaved crown of white roses. Catarina was taken aback by it, which Anne saw. She was about to put the crown back in the box when Catarina said, “No, I’ll wear it Anne. It’s okay.” Anne walked over and put the crown on Catarina’s head.

“Let Miss Clara know I appreciate her doing this for me,” said Catarina. Anne saw her charge was miserable, to which she then said, “Milady, I’m glad you’re willing to sacrifice so much for the sake of others, but sometimes a little bit of selfishness doesn’t hurt.”

“It’s okay Anne. This’ll get cleared up. Hopefully everyone at the ball will see this, see how ridiculous I look in it, and then realize how ridiculous the Church’s declaration is.”

Anne finished preparing Catarina, putting on some makeup and handing her a pair of gloves to finish the look. Catarina was fully prepared, and waited for her friends to arrive to escort her.

Fifteen minutes later, someone knocked on the door. Anne went up to answer it and, after seeing who it was, turned to Catarina. “Your friends are here, Milady.” Catarina walked up to the door to greet them. As she got into their view, their eyes widened at what Catarina was wearing.

“Good evening Catarina,” Geordo greeted her. “That dress is…..well, words fail me right now-”

“It’s ridiculous, yes Prince Geordo,” Catarina responded. “But a maid for another student made it for me, and I didn’t want to make her upset if she found out I didn’t wear it, so I told Anne I’d wear it.”

Normally, Alan would’ve found amusement seeing Catarina wearing a dress like that. But seeing how miserable she was, he felt her misery and sympathized with her. “Honestly, the ridiculous part of all of this is that the Church made a determination so quickly. I thought those sorts of investigations took months.”

Catarina was about to tell Alan about her encounter with Monsignor Braden, but she then remembered his request to keep his investigation quiet, so she held her tongue. Mary instead walked up to Catarina and said, “Lady Catarina, don’t worry about it! I’m sure you’ll still have a fun time. That dress looks rather constricting I must say though.”

“Look, let’s not talk about the dress anymore,” said Keith. “Let’s just get to the ballroom. They’re going to be introducing us, and we need to be there so things can get started.”

With that, the group made their way to the ballroom. Catarina noticed Keith escorting Sophia and was curious about this. “Sophia, is Keith taking you to the Ball tonight?”

“He is!” Sophia replied. “Brother asked Master Keith to escort me, which he agreed to.”

“That’s nice!” exclaimed Catarina. “Though unfortunately it means Maria isn’t being escorted by anyone.”

“It’s quite alright, Lady Catarina!” Maria declared. “I’m fine being by myself. Besides, the one I would want to escort me isn’t available.”

Upon hearing this, Catarina had an offer. “If you want Maria, Prince Geordo can escort you! Prince Geordo, would you please escort Maria?”

“No, that’s not who it is, Lady Catarina!”

“Oh? Did you want Keith to escort you?”

“No, not him either.”

“Then who?”

“Someone…..close to my heart,” she replied, smiling and blushing at Catarina. The rest of the group shot Maria a look. Catarina meanwhile was confused. “If it’s not Prince Geordo or Keith, then that means…..I’m going to have to redouble my efforts to make sure Prince Alan stays in love with Mary!”

 


 

The group entered the building and headed to the ballroom entrance. As they got there, the stewards lined up the couples that would be individually introduced to the attendees. Catarina and Geordo were at the front of the line, followed by Alan and Mary, and then Keith and Sophia. Maria headed off into the ballroom, to join the rest of the student body and wait out the first dance.

After a short wait, it was time to begin the ball. Catarina and Geordo stood in front of the door, waiting to be introduced by the doorman. A steward signaled to them that the doorman was about to announce their entry. Shortly after, the doorman made his announcement.

“Prince Geordo Stuart and The Exalted Catarina Claes!”

Geordo began walking forward with Catarina on his arm, but after a couple of steps, he was pulled back by Catarina. “Catarina?”

“What did the doorman just introduce me as?!”

Geordo, who hadn’t been paying close attention and had only half-listened to the introduction, asked Catarina, “What do you mean what you were introduced as?”

“Geordo, the doorman introduced Catarina with the title of ‘The Exalted’,” Alan replied.

Geordo was in disbelief hearing his younger brother’s explanation. “You can’t be serious.”

“He did!” Catarina answered. “Prince Geordo, please have the doorman reintroduce me! I’m not going to be introduced as ‘The Exalted Catarina Claes’! If anything, it should be ‘The Damned Catarina Claes’!”

“Sister, please don’t joke like that!” Keith protested.

“I’m not joking! That’s what it should be!”

Seeing Catarina upset at the introduction, and knowing she almost never asked him for anything, Geordo quickly offered a compromise. “Catarina, I’ll have him reintroduce us, but ‘The Damned’? Where did that come from? Let me speak with the doorman.” Geordo then walked up to the doorman.

“Is there a problem, Your Highness?”

“Yes. Did you really just introduce my fiancée as ‘The Exalted’?”

“Well, that is the proper title for a Living Saint.”

Geordo did a double-take when he heard this. “You have got to be joking.”

“I am not, Your Highness. I have the style guide right here.” The doorman handed it over to Geordo, who quickly thumbed through it and found that the doorman was correct. The fact that was actually the proper title was incredibly silly to him. He quickly turned back to the doorman. “Please reintroduce us, but introduce my fiancée as ‘Lady Catarina Claes’. She doesn’t want to be introduced as ‘The Exalted’.”

“As you wish, Your Highness.” Geordo quickly walked back to Catarina and took her arm into his. The doorman then made his corrected introduction. “Prince Geordo Stuart and Lady Catarina Claes!” This time, Catarina walked arm-in-arm with Geordo and entered the ballroom. As she entered, she noticed the other students looking at her. Some had complete admiration in their eyes. Others diverted their eyes, as if they felt unclean and unworthy to look at her. Catarina was unsettled by this. What was supposed to be a fun night was quickly becoming a chore.

Geordo led Catarina to the center of the dance floor, where they got into position for the first dance. After the other notable students were introduced, the band began playing a waltz, to which Catarina and Geordo began dancing to. Wanting to get her mind off of the doorman’s introduction and the reception from the students, she focused hard on dancing with Geordo and not making any mistakes in doing so. This did not go unnoticed by the Third Prince.

“You seem to be focused on the task at hand,” Geordo remarked.

“I am,” Catarina replied. “First there was the doorman’s ridiculous introduction, and now I find out the students aren’t listening to me when I tell them not to revere me.”

“Catarina, I understand what you’re going through with all of this, being put on a pedestal and looked at like that. It happened to me when I was younger, and it still happens. You just need to ignore it and go about life like you normally do.”

“It’s kind of difficult when other students feel unworthy to even talk to me! At least you can approach others and have a regular conversation!”

“Point taken,” Geordo conceded. “But don’t worry. We’re going to disprove this and get the Church to retract it. It might take a while, but we’ll do it.”

After the song ended, Geordo bowed to Catarina while Catarina curtseyed to Geordo. The two of them walked off the dance floor, other students getting out of their way while they exited. As they left the dance floor, Catarina heard other attendees talking about her.

“Prince Geordo is blessed that he’s going to have a Living Saint as his bride!”

“Her Holiness is going to make our country even better with her works and deeds!”

“When do you suppose the Church is going to begin teaching her how to intercede with the gods?”

Catarina was even more miserable hearing those words. They expected things of her she was simply not capable of. If this went on too long, they would be upset at her for her refusals to intercede, not understanding that she wasn’t capable in the first place.

Seeing Catarina looking miserable, Maria spoke up. “Lady Catarina, why don’t you go to the refreshments table? There’s some delicious sweets and drinks there, and I think you’d enjoy them!” Catarina perked up upon hearing that. She’d forgotten about her favorite part of these sorts of events, and was feeling hungry. “I’ll do that right now! Thank you Maria!” With that, Catarina took her leave and headed to the refreshments table.

When she got there, she saw a decent line had formed of people waiting for sweets and beverages. She got in line and began to wait for it to move. A few moments later, a female student standing in front of her turned around and saw Catarina waiting.

“Oh! My apologies Your Holiness! Please feel free to go ahead of me in line!”

“No, it’s okay!” replied Catarina. “I don’t mind waiting!”

“Are you sure?” asked the female student. “I can have someone ahead of us get you whatever you want to drink or eat!”

“Please don’t treat me any different, I can wait!” Catarina insisted.

“Your patience is a virtue, Your Holiness!” the female student complimented Catarina, not noticing that Catarina was unhappy at the praise. She wanted to again correct the student, but seeing as how her previous requests to not address her as “Saint Catarina” or “Your Holiness” went unheeded, decided to keep silent.

Just then, a student who had gotten their refreshments walked up to Catarina. “Saint Catarina, if you wish, I can give you my cake and punch.”

“It’s not necessary,” Catarina replied.

“But it’s going to take some time before you get there.”

Suddenly, Catarina had a rare feeling come over her. “Actually, I’m not hungry anymore. But thank you for the offer.” Catarina then got out of line. As she did, she was approached by some more students.

“Your Holiness, my parents have asked me to ask you if you would be willing to meet them.”

“When does your training for your mission start?”

“How frequently do you speak with Archbishop Nolan?”

“I hope to live up to your example, Saint Catarina!”

Catarina began to feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable at the questions and comments, not to mention the seriousness with which they were stated. Catarina was unsure of what to do when thankfully, Keith intervened.

“If you could pardon us, Sister needs to get to her next dance.”

Keith then took Catarina by the hand and led her away. “Keith, thank you! I had no idea how I could answer them.”

Keith, noticing the lack of crumbs on Catarina’s face, asked, “Sister, did you reach the refreshments table?”

“No. Other students kept offering to let me cut ahead or offered me theirs. I lost my appetite and got out of line.”

Hearing this startled Keith. It was not like Catarina to lose her appetite, and he was concerned upon hearing that. “Listen, why don’t you dance some more with our friends?”

“Better than being revered openly.”

Keith led Catarina to Geordo, who took her hand and led her back out to the ballroom floor. They got into position and began to dance. As they did, she heard more comments.

“We are blessed to be in the presence of such a holy person!”

“Whoever made that dress did a wonderful job! It’s fitting for a saint!”

“Do you suppose the gods have told her what her purpose is?”

By the end of the song, Catarina had heard enough. She was becoming more miserable every minute she spent here, and she needed to get out. “Prince Geordo, I’m leaving. I’m not enjoying myself, and I’d be more comfortable back in my room.”

Seeing the look on Catarina’s face, Geordo acquiesced. “I understand. Unfortunately I have to stay here, being Student Council President, but I can have your brother escort you back to your room.”

“No, he’s Sophia’s date tonight. I’ll just go back by myself.”

“Are you sure?”

“I am.”

“If you insist. I’ll tell everyone you’re not feeling well.”

Catarina walked off the dance floor and said her goodbyes for the night to her close friends. She then began leaving the ballroom. Other students noticed this, causing a commotion. As she left, she heard Geordo speak up. “Everyone, my fiancée is not feeling well, so she is going to turn in for the night. I ask that you leave her alone.” Geordo’s request was heard, and Catarina was able to leave without being bothered.

 


 

Catarina walked across campus, and eventually got back to her dorm room. She opened the door and found Anne tidying things up in her room. Anne was surprised at seeing her mistress back so soon.

“You’re back early, Milady.”

“Yes,” Catarina moaned. “I wasn’t having any fun. The students aren’t listening to me. They still address me as ‘Saint Catarina’ and ‘Your Holiness’, and they ask me questions about my mission and give me unwarranted praise. How they could believe the Church so easily is beyond me.”

“Well, I can agree that the students are being a bit silly about all of this, but remember what I said. You are a kind and loving person, and while you may not be a Living Saint, at least in personality you fit.”

Catarina wanted to refute Anne’s words, but having heard similar things from her friends, she began wondering if they might be true. Relieved her mistress wasn’t going to argue the point, Anne continued. “Let me help you get out of that dress and prepare you for bed.”

Anne helped Catarina out of her dress and dressed her in a nightgown. After putting on the nightgown, Catarina crawled into bed and began to fall asleep. “Goodnight, Milady,” Anne said as she left the room. After a few more minutes, Catarina was fast asleep, ready to put the memory of this night behind her.

Chapter Text

Monday had come, and Catarina had looked forward to classes. At this point she was desperate to do anything to get the whole situation off of her mind, and diving headfirst into classwork was her best escape at this point. The professors were bewildered at the sudden change in Catarina’s studying, but they found it a welcome one, so they did not say anything.

Lunchtime had come, and Catarina headed off to the dining room to get some lunch for herself. Due to her friends’ schedules on Monday, Catarina was alone for the lunch period. She had ever since the beginning of the school year eaten lunch by herself in her room to avoid the unwanted attention she’d been getting, but she decided to have a bit of normalcy by dining by herself in the dining room. She entered the dining room and picked up some lunch for herself. After doing so, she began looking for an open table when suddenly two girls approached her.

“Good afternoon Lady Claes!”

“Oh! Lady Baylor and Lady Dickinson! Good afternoon!” Catarina greeted them back. “How are you?”

“Oh, we’re doing well,” replied Imogene. “We noticed you looking for a table. Would you like to sit with us?”

Catarina had seen Imogene and Annabelle before, but she otherwise didn’t interact much with them at all. She was just grateful that someone else addressed her as something other than “Saint Catarina” or “Your Holiness”. “Yes! I’d be happy to!” replied Catarina. Imogene and Annabelle led Catarina to their table, one that was in a less-traveled part of the dining room, and Catarina sat down to dine. She began eating her lunch, gobbling it down due to her hunger. Imogene and Annabelle were taken aback at Catarina’s eating habits, but quickly put it out of their minds.

“So how have you been, Lady Claes?” asked Annabelle.

After swallowing another mouthful of her lunch, Catarina answered, “Well…..I’ve been fine…..”

“We noticed you leaving the Mid-Spring Ball early,” replied Annabelle. “Prince Geordo said you were sick, but you looked more upset than sick.”

Seeing they could tell she wasn’t really fine, Catarina decided to be upfront with them. “Well, no, I’m not fine.” She then looked at the two girls. “I assume you know about what the Church said about me.”

“Yes, we did hear that,” replied Imogene. “We found it curious that the Church declared such a thing so soon.”

“It’s ridiculous!” Catarina cried out. “I’m not a Living Saint. I don’t know why my new magic powers act the way they do, but their thinking that I’ve been chosen by the gods is absurd! I’m nothing of the sort! I’m not holy or blessed! I don’t even think I’m that nice a person!”

Feigning concern, Imogene asked, “Why do you think that? Other people I’ve talked to think highly of you Lady Claes.”

“I don’t know why,” moaned Catarina. “I mean, I try to be nice to people, but I know my face intimidates them. My status is probably the only reason no one’s complained about me, but as soon as people realize I’m not a Living Saint, they’re going to be upset with me, and my doom will come!”

Annabelle leaned over and whispered to Imogene, “Her doom? What is she talking about?”

“Just let her keep going,” Imogene whispered back.

“Honestly, I just wish I could be rid of this status,” replied Catarina. “I don’t want to be a Living Saint. I want to be free of it, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”

Hearing this made Imogene and Annabelle’s eyes widen. Perhaps tricking her into signing the damning affidavit would be easier than they realized. Quickly, Imogene came up with a story. “Actually Lady Claes, I think we can help you!”

Catarina turned to them. “Really? How? I’m all ears!”

Annabelle smirked. Catarina was playing right into their hands, and with but a signature, she would destroy herself. “We know you’ve been denying the Church’s declaration, and we think we can help.” Catarina focused her attention on them, which gave Annabelle the go-ahead to continue her false explanation. “Lady Imogene’s older brother is a lawyer, and the Ministry of Magic is planning to file suit against the Church, because their declaration has some irregularities to it.”

Imogene then pulled out the affidavit which would damn Catarina. “This is an affidavit my brother prepared. He asked me to bring it to you. This is a sworn statement from you in which you state that you are not a Living Saint and that the Church is mistaken,” she explained. What she explained was true in a twisted sense, but certainly not the way that Catarina would state it herself. “If you sign this, it’ll help the case against the Church.”

Catarina looked at Imogene with confusion. “Can the Church be sued in legal courts?”

“While the Church does have some special privileges, they are still subject to the same laws everyone else in the country is subject to,” Imogene replied. “So yes, they can be.”

“I see,” replied Catarina. Imogene put the affidavit on the table, and Annabelle pushed it towards Catarina. “All you have to do is sign this and we’ll take care of the rest,” replied Imogene.

Catarina brightened up upon hearing this. “All I need is a pen and I’ll be free of this ridiculous status!”

“Yes, you will be,” Imogene affirmed, hiding the reason why. Annabelle then got a pen for Catarina so she could sign. Before they could turn to the signature page, a voice suddenly called out to them.

“HOLD IT!”

The girls at the table looked at the voice and saw it was Helen Sanford of the Sanford Marquessate. “Lady Sanford, good afternoon!” Catarina greeted her. “How can I help you?”

“Your Holiness, what are Lady Baylor and Lady Dickinson trying to make you sign?” asked Helen.

“It’s just an affidavit where I refute my Living Saint status,” said Catarina.

“Yes, that’s what they said, but I have some concerns.” Helen then suddenly grabbed the affidavit off of the table and began reading it. “What are you doing Lady Sanford?”

“I’m just reading over this document-”

Helen then saw something which startled her. She continued reading closely, at which point Imogene and Annabelle began to look fearful. As Helen read, she became angry, and began reading even more closely. Finally, after finishing, she turned to Catarina.

“Your Holiness, this affidavit has you admitting that you were the one that burglarized the rooms of those ladies early in the school year and destroyed their property by throwing it into a refuse pile!”

“Oh, is that what it says?” Imogene weakly began lying. “I must’ve picked up the wrong-”

“This affidavit is wholly false and would’ve had you admitting things you didn’t do!” declared Helen.

Catarina was shocked hearing this. Before she could react, Helen turned to Imogene and Annabelle. “Why were you trying to have Lady Claes sign this?” Imogene and Annabelle shook as they held onto each other. “Answer me!” The two girls began to stammer.

“We…..we…..”

“ANSWER ME!!”

“IT WASN’T OUR IDEA!” Imogene cried out. “WE DIDN’T WANT TO, BUT WE WERE FORCED TO DO IT!”

Helen glared at Imogene and Annabelle. “By who then?”

“It…..it was Lady Noelia Flores and Lady Estella Morel!” Annabelle cried out. “THEY INTIMIDATED US INTO TRYING TO TRICK LADY CLAES!” Annabelle then began crying for effect. “They threatened both me and Lady Baylor into doing this! We didn’t want to, but they claimed to have information that would ruin our households!”

“Lady Claes, we’re sorry!” Imogene said to Catarina. “We didn’t want to do this, but they forced us to! We’re sorry we tried to trick you!”

Catarina looked at the two girls with concern. Seeing their fright broke her heart, and she wanted to help. “Lady Baylor, I’m sorry that you-”

“Saint Catarina, please don’t,” replied Helen. She then turned to Imogene and Annabelle, and proceeded to tear up the affidavit. “You said it was Lady Flores and Lady Morel that put you up to this, right? Well, I’m going to deal with them. In the meantime, I expect you to apologize to Her Holiness right now!”

“Lady Claes, we’re sorry!” Imogene and Annabelle cried out.

“Address her properly!” Helen demanded.

“Lady Sanford, I'm not-”

“Saint Catarina, we’re sorry! Please forgive us!” the two girls pleaded. Seeing them, Catarina quickly went to assure them. “Lady Baylor, Lady Dickinson, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”

Helen then turned to Imogene and Annabelle. “Good, at least you two have common sense. NOW GET OUT!” Intimidated, Imogene and Annabelle quickly beat a hasty retreat, leaving the dining room. After a few moments, Helen turned to Catarina. “Your Holiness, are you okay?”

“Yes, I am,” Catarina replied. She then thought about what she’d just heard. “I’m going to speak with Lady Flores and Lady Morel. I must’ve done something-”

“Your Holiness, please. My friends and I will be able to handle this,” Helen interrupted Catarina. “You needn’t get your hands dirty.”

“I still want to talk to them-”

“Please, Saint Catarina! Don’t worry yourself! I will handle it with my friends!”

Seeing the look on Helen’s face, Catarina replied, “Please promise me you won’t do anything drastic if you insist on speaking with Lady Morel and Lady Flores.”

“I won’t, Your Holiness!”

Just then, the tower clock bells began to ring. “Looks like I have to get going now. Have a good rest of the day Lady Sanford! And thank you!”

“It’s not a problem! Have a good day Saint Catarina!” Catarina was irritated hearing Helen address her like that, but seeing as how no one was listening to her request to not be referred to as such, she sighed and headed out of the dining room. After she left, Helen then thought about what had happened. She then turned to how she would deal with Noelia Flores and Estella Morel.

“No action is drastic when dealing with heretics.”

 


 

Afternoon classes had ended and had gone by uneventfully for Catarina. Once again, she buried herself into her classwork, doing so with even more vigor due to the incident at the cafeteria. The whole scene was still fresh in Catarina’s mind, and the fact that Noelia Flores and Estella Morel had planned for her to sign that affidavit shocked her. She wondered what she might’ve done to offend them enough that they wanted her to do that. She knew she would have to speak with them as soon as possible.

As she walked back to her dorm room, she saw Noelia and Estella among a group of students. She was grateful, as she would be able to get some answers from them about what she might’ve done to make them upset. She began walking to them when she then began hearing the students near them speaking.

“How DARE you attempt to slander Her Holiness!”

“Heresy is still something the Church can sanction you for!”

“What dark force has you under their thrall?”

Catarina heard this and was startled. She looked again into the crowd, and saw Helen Sanford in front of the other students. Catarina immediately became concerned, wondering if Lady Sanford had organized this. She then had a question for Noelia and Estella.

“Lady Baylor and Lady Dickinson confessed everything! You were using them as pawns to try and destroy Saint Catarina’s reputation! What do you have to say for yourselves?”

Noelia and Estella shook at the mob gathered before them. Noelia began to say something, but before she could, Estella spoke up.

“Lady Flores deceived me! I didn’t know that was her intent! I was manipulated like Lady Baylor and Lady Dickinson were! I had no knowledge of what she intended!”

Estella then quickly began to run off, holding her skirt in her hands as she bolted. Noelia saw this and yelled out, “LADY MOREL, YOU TRAITOR!” The mob then turned their attention to Noelia.

“So you admit it then,” Helen remarked. “You admit you’re a heretic!”

Noelia, intimidated but defiant, quickly fired back, “Lady Claes’s Living Sainthood is a lie! She is nothing of the sort! Either she or the Church have deceived you!”

“How dare you wish harm on Her Holiness!” declared another female student.

“HERETIC!” cried a male student.

“The Church has ways of dealing with people like you!” declared another male student.

Noelia quickly dropped her defiance and began shaking in fear at the students confronting her over the plot. Helen then spoke up.

“Saint Catarina is a figure to look up to! Her kindness and compassion are without limit! She has likely forgiven you despite your heresy!” she declared. “But none of us are Saint Catarina, nor do we possess her limitless compassion.”

“The Church is going to have some words for you! Don’t be surprised if you get excommunicated!”

“Your status won’t help you! All are equal in the eyes of the Church!”

Catarina then saw Matthew Summerfield, the first-year student she’d spoken to the previous week, walk up to Noelia. “You know what the punishment is for heresy, don’t you Lady Flores?” Catarina then looked on in horror as Matthew held his hand out, palm upward, and ignited his fire magic. Noelia cowered in fear and covered herself up.

Upon seeing that, Catarina quickly took action. She ran towards the mob and quickly got in front of Noelia and held her arms out.

“STOP THAT! ALL OF YOU!”

The mob of students, who had been angered at Noelia’s actions, began to calm down. “Saint Catarina?”

“Master Summerfield, how dare you threaten Lady Flores with fire magic! That is utterly abhorrent! You should be ashamed of yourself!”

"Saint Catarina, I was only trying to scare-"

"Intent doesn't matter! Threatening to harm someone with magic is disgusting, whether or not you were actually going to do it!"

Matthew quickly extinguished the flame he’d conjured. Indeed, he began to feel ashamed after hearing Catarina admonish him.

Catarina then turned to Helen Sanford. “Lady Sanford! I told you not to do anything drastic! Instead, you whipped other students into a frenzy! If Lady Flores had gotten hurt, you would’ve been the one ultimately responsible!” Catarina’s beratement snapped Helen out of her fury, and hearing the Living Saint’s explanation made her begin to tear up.

“As for the rest of you, this is not a dispute any of you should handle! Clearly Lady Flores has an issue with me, and I need to settle it with her!” Catarina then paused. “If there is something about this that would require the Church’s involvement, they’ll handle it! You are not the ones to judge Lady Flores over her dispute with me!”

The crowd, which indeed had been whipped into a frenzy, calmed down. Hearing Catarina’s admonishment made them feel ashamed and embarrassed at what had happened. After a minute of awkward silence, Helen then spoke up.

“Your Holiness, please forgive me! I only meant to send a message to Lady Flores about her sinister act! I didn’t mean to upset you!” Helen dropped to her knees in front of Catarina, tears rolling down her cheek in utter shame. Relieved that the situation had been defused, Catarina spoke up.

“Lady Sanford, it is not me you should apologize to. It is Lady Flores whom you owe it to.” Helen then quickly stood up, dropped to her knees before Noelia, and cried out, “Lady Flores, please forgive me! I was upset with you, but I took things too far! I’m sorry!” Noelia could only stare in bewilderment at what was happening.

Catarina then turned to the other students. “For that matter, all of you owe Lady Flores an apology. Master Summerfield, you should apologize first.” Matthew then stood in front of Noelia. “Lady Flores, I should not have threatened you with my fire magic. I am utterly disgusted at myself for what I did.” The other students then began walking up to Noelia and apologizing for their words and actions. As they apologized, Noelia simmered in fury. The girl she regarded as an obstacle and an enemy had been the one who intervened for her, and she was humiliated. She began trying to rationalize what motive Catarina would have for doing so.

Finally, all of the students had given their apologies. Catarina then spoke further. “This dispute between me and Lady Flores is something I need to handle myself. I ask that you leave Lady Flores alone and not discuss this matter with anyone else. I do not want anyone else involved.” The students agreed, then dispersed, walking away sheepishly over the incident. After they had left, Catarina turned to Noelia. “Lady Flores, are you okay?”

“This doesn’t change anything, Lady Claes.”

Catarina recoiled at the bitter response from Noelia. “No, Lady Flores, you misunderstand! I never intended for this-”

“You may not have intended for this, but you certainly benefited from it!” Noelia shot back. “Now your false Living Saint image will be perpetuated, and you’ll be able to manipulate the student body even further!”

“Lady Flores, I am not a Living Saint! I’m not trying to perpetuate anything!” Catarina pleaded. “In fact, I wanted to speak with you, because you’re upset at me for something, and I wanted to ask-”

“YOUR EXISTENCE IS WHAT MAKES ME UPSET!” Noelia shouted at Catarina. “You are a pathetic excuse of a noblewoman, and yet you have the entire school wrapped around your finger. Your ‘kindness’ and ‘compassion’ is all an act! You know it, I know it, and so do the students here not blinded by you! Your actions are all for your benefit and no one else’s!”

Catarina was shocked hearing those words from Noelia. All she wanted to do was get along and avoid her doom flags, and based on what Noelia was saying, she was acting selfishly trying to do so. Noelia then continued.

“If this was a just world, your mother would’ve disowned you for the shame you bring on House Claes and locked you up in a convent! Prince Geordo would have me as his fiancée, a fiancée he could be proud of! Your brother would be able to find a woman to marry instead of dealing with your idiocy! I would have the favor of the Student Council. Instead, you make everything worse for those around you, and you have everything that in truth is rightfully mine! Neither I nor anyone else will forgive you for how much worse you make their lives!”

Catarina heard Noelia’s words and began believing them. Even when she wasn’t trying to be a villainess, she still was. Seeing her words had an effect on Catarina, Noelia finished.

“Your downfall is coming soon, Lady Claes. I will destroy you one way or another. That is not a promise. It is a guarantee. Living Saint or not, I will crush you. Everything that happened today is your fault, and you will pay for it!” Noelia then stormed off, infuriated at the humiliation she’d just suffered at Catarina’s hands.

Catarina stood by herself, thinking about what Noelia had said. She thought she’d avoided the worst doom flags, but apparently, she hadn’t. She’d done something to upset Noelia, and her declaration that it was unforgivable, as well as saying everything was her fault, damaged Catarina’s already fragile psyche. It appeared no matter what she did, her doom was always going to be present.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Catarina was woken up by Anne. The incident with the students threatening Noelia had been upsetting to her, and she wanted to work on fixing whatever she’d done to make her unhappy with her. She resolved to seek out Noelia after classes and figure out what she had done.

Anne noticed Catarina looking upset and inquired of her charge, “Lady Catarina, is something wrong?”

“Oh, it’s about Lady Noelia Flores. She’s upset with me, and I need to figure out what I did to make her so upset so I can make amends.”

As soon as Anne heard that, she knew she would have to correct her mistress. “Milady, I highly doubt you actually did anything to make Lady Flores upset. She hasn’t liked you for a while, and I don’t think you could ever get in her good graces, though that’s through no fault of your own.”

“I have to try, Anne. I have to make amends to her.”

“Milady, what Lady Flores would demand of you would likely be impossible for you to meet. I would suggest you just let it go and ignore Lady Flores.” Anne then spoke further. “Milady, I am always here to support you. If you ever need any help, please feel free to let me know. I will always be by your side, no matter what.”

“Thank you Anne,” Catarina replied. With that, Anne helped Catarina prepare for the school day. She helped her bathe, dress, and styled her hair. As she opened the door, she saw Geordo standing before her.

“Prince Geordo! Good morning! What brings you here right now?”

“Catarina, I heard from some other students that Lady Noelia Flores tried to trick you into signing an affidavit. Are you okay?”

Hearing this, Catarina became upset. “I told everyone involved not to speak of this with anyone! Lady Flores has a dispute with me, and I need to make things-”

“No you don’t,” Geordo interrupted her. “You don’t need to do anything to make things right with her. Lady Flores just doesn’t like you, and she’s trying to tear you down. Quite honestly, her actions were an affront to you, and given your status as my fiancée, criminal charges wouldn’t be out of line.”

“Prince Geordo, please!” Catarina begged him. “Lady Flores has gone through enough! Lady Sanford gathered a mob, and Master Matthew Summerfield threatened her with fire magic!”

“I am aware,” replied Geordo. “I am going to have the school administration deal with the students that threatened her. Their actions were out of line, though she did bring it onto herself to an extent.” He then explained further. “I warned Lady Flores that she is to stay away from you and not interact with you at all. I warned her that if I find out she approached you or see her anywhere near you, I will crush her. If she stays away, then I’ll leave her be.”

Hearing this frightened Catarina. Seeing her fiancé’s black-hearted side come out so openly was terrifying, and she considered herself lucky that she had never experienced his wrath directed towards her. But still, she was grateful that Geordo had decided to deal with the other students involved too. “Prince Geordo, thank you! That situation was scary, and I was afraid Lady Flores was going to be hurt.”

“I’ll admit this has gotten out of hand,” replied Geordo. “But don’t worry. The Ministry will get this sorted out.” Catarina smiled, and she and Geordo said their goodbyes. Afterwards, she headed off to her first class for the day.

 


 

The class day went by normally for Catarina, who once again focused on her schoolwork and trying to take her mind off of everything that had happened up to this point. Ever since the Church’s declaration a week ago, she’d felt isolated by her peers at the Academy. Most of the students took the Church’s declaration sincerely, and she was now viewed as a figure of veneration rather than the classmate she had been previously. The incident the previous day where Noelia had been confronted and threatened had been greatly upsetting, as the idea that others would be willing to do harm in her name was utterly terrifying.

When lunchtime came, Catarina began walking to the dining room to pick up her lunch and eat with her friends. As she walked to the dining room, she ran into three familiar figures.

“Monsignor Braden? Father Blanton? Father Knowles? Can I help you?”

“Good afternoon, Miss Claes,” Monsignor Braden greeted her. “Archbishop Nolan has requested your presence at this time.”

“We have spoken with the administration here, and they have agreed to excuse your absence,” Father Blanton further explained.

“Oh. Well, that’s good, because I really need to speak with His Excellency about this declaration. Things are starting to get out of control.”

“We will let you pick up your lunch and you can eat in the carriage we-”

“No, that’s not necessary, Father Knowles,” Catarina responded. “I want to see the Archbishop as soon as possible.”

“Miss Claes, are you sure?” asked Father Blanton.

“Yes, I am,” Catarina replied.

“Okay….but if you are hungry, let me know. I can have one of the nuns whip up something for you if you wish.”

With that, the group headed to the carriage, they boarded and headed to the White Cathedral in Sorcier City. Catarina was not in the mood to say anything, and the trip was awkward and silent.

 


 

Finally, the group arrived at the White Cathedral. Monsignor Braden led Catarina to Archbishop Nolan’s office. Catarina sat down in a chair while she waited for the Archbishop to arrive. After a couple of minutes, the Archbishop walked in. Catarina stood up to greet him. After exchanging pleasantries, the Archbishop sat at his desk, while Catarina sat back down.

“Good afternoon, Miss Claes. Thank you for being willing to come here on such short notice.”

“I’m glad I have a chance to talk to you, Your Excellency, because things are getting out of control.”

“Out of control? How so?” asked the Archbishop.

“Well, ever since the announcement, I’ve had my fellow students addressing me as ‘Saint Catarina’ and ‘Your Holiness’. First, I still think it’s a mistake that you declared me a Living Saint, and second, it’s made me distant from my peers.”

“Well, that is to be expected, My Child,” replied the Archbishop. “It’s a momentous occasion when the gods choose someone to be their representative in the world. It’s a good thing that you’re so revered!”

“I can’t interact with my classmates normally anymore!” Catarina protested. “I’ve been feeling isolated because almost no one is comfortable interacting with me. I hate being revered and idolized like this!”

“I don’t understand why you would think this is a bad thing,” replied Archbishop Nolan. “Being chosen by the gods is a wonderful thing!”

“Your Excellency, no disrespect intended, but did you even hear what Miss Claes told you?” asked Monsignor Braden.

“I did, but I struggle to see what the problem is.”

“Well what about the fact that others are now so deep in belief that I’m a Living Saint that they’re willing to threaten and possibly harm others in my name?”

Hearing this startled everyone in the room except the Archbishop. Father Knowles then spoke up. “Please elaborate, Miss Claes.”

“Yesterday, a group of students confronted a classmate of mine named Noelia Flores over what they perceived as a slight against me, even though it was my fault. They began denouncing her as a heretic, and one of the students even went so far as to threaten her with fire magic!”

Monsignor Braden, Father Blanton, and Father Knowles recoiled at hearing this. Father Blanton then muttered to himself, “Even if Miss Flores did act against Her Holiness, she didn’t deserve that. Simple penance would be enough.” Archbishop Nolan however, after hearing this, took a few moments before he smiled. “My Child, it means those students are true believers, and their admiration is very high if they’re willing to do that.”

“Your Excellency! That is wholly unacceptable by those students!” declared Father Blanton. “Being as fanatical as that is asking for danger!”

“Father Blanton, I will put out a statement saying that no one except a Church official should handle issues such as that,” replied Archbishop Nolan. He then turned to Catarina. “Miss Claes, I had you brought here because I wanted to explain to you what will be expected of you when you begin your service to the Church.”

Upon hearing this, Catarina was startled. “What do you mean ‘service to the Church’?”

“My Child, you have been chosen by the gods to serve them and do their work in this world. When you turn eighteen, you will begin your service to the Church. When it begins, we will begin teaching you what is expected of you, and giving you direction and assignments for you to undertake on behalf of the Church,” Archbishop Nolan explained. “I have requested you to come here in order to let you know that this will happen, and so you can begin to prepare for the changes in your life.”

Catarina heard this and began to become fearful. This sounded like an expectation from the Church, and it sounded like her life would be dictated for her even more than if she would somehow end up actually marrying Geordo and becoming a princess. Fearful at what she would hear next, she asked, “What would these changes be exactly?”

“Well, you wouldn’t see your friends or family as often as you do know. It’ll likely be months in between visits. There is a lot of work to be done, and you will need to devote most of your energy to serving the gods. You will live in housing provided by the Church, and you will be given thorough instruction on how you are to act, dress, and interact with people. You will also be expected to follow Church dictates. This means abstaining from alcohol, sweets, and certain foods, as well as living simply and with only necessities.”

Catarina heard this and was horrified. “What?!”

“That is the life of a Living Saint. It is not an easy or luxurious life, but it is one for a servant of the gods such as yourself,” replied Archbishop Nolan.

Catarina began to have tears form in her eyes. “I have no say in any of this? What if anyone objects??”

“There cannot be any objection. Yes, the Church does not wield the power it once did, but if a Living Saint should appear, the temporal authorities have agreed that they fall under the jurisdiction of the Church,” Archbishop Nolan explained.

“But what if that’s not what I want to do with my life??” asked Catarina, as she began crying.

“Miss Claes, you don’t have a choice. Your life will be dedicated to serving the Church. Yes, it is not an easy life, but you must understand that you have been chosen by the gods to serve their wills, and that we are who will direct that.” Archbishop Nolan then paused before he continued. “I understand that this is a lot to take in, which is why I told you now. This way, you can mentally prepare for when that time comes.”

Catarina buried her hands in her face and began sobbing. Monsignor Braden and Father Knowles sympathized with Catarina and put their hands on her shoulders to try and comfort her. Archbishop Nolan meanwhile didn’t understand why Catarina was reacting like she did. “My Child, this is a wonderful thing!”

“Your Excellency, you’ve just basically told Miss Claes that her life is being dictated for her. Considering her age, don’t you think it’d be understandable that she would be upset?” asked Monsignor Braden.

“Wouldn’t any of you be happy if you have been chosen as a Living Saint?” challenged the Archbishop.

“Yes, but that’s because I’ve wanted to serve the gods ever since I was young. Becoming a priest was my dream. Clearly Miss Claes wanted to do something else with her life!” answered Father Knowles.

Archbishop Nolan, still not understanding why Catarina was upset, replied, “Miss Claes, this isn’t a bad thing like you think it is. You will be revered and hailed as an example to live up to!”

“But I’m not!” she cried out. “I’m not a Living Saint! You’re asking me to do something I can’t!”

“My Child, you are! And you are capable! I promise you that!” Archbishop Nolan’s answer did not work like he thought it would, and, frustrated that his answers to her questions were not positively received, had a stern response. “Miss Claes, you are going to be serving the Church whether you like it or not. I would advise you to prepare for your new life, because it is coming sooner than you think.” Archbishop Nolan then paused before he spoke up. “That is all. You are free to go, Miss Claes.” Monsignor Braden and Father Knowles led the still sobbing Catarina out of the office to take her back to the Academy. Father Blanton, who had stayed in the room, was now having second thoughts.

“Your Excellency, let me just say that as a theologian, you are without peer. But with all due respect, as a communicator, you could stand to improve, and quite frankly, your answers made you seem unsympathetic to what we will be asking of Miss Claes.”

“I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to be chosen by the gods to serve their wills,” replied Archbishop Nolan. “It is a life that will see Miss Claes venerated and celebrated by the faithful.”

“Sir, you don’t understand because you’ve wanted to serve the gods your entire life and see things strictly through a theological lens,” explained Father Blanton. “Your inability to understand that some people want to live normal, unassuming lives is a flaw of yours.”

“It’s not my problem that Miss Claes doesn’t see the good in this, that’s hers. And besides, surely you see the benefits of having such a person in the Church.”

Father Blanton sighed. “Yes, I do. But perhaps Monsignor Braden’s objections have some validity to them.”

“My decision will not change. She is a Living Saint and will be serving the Church.”

 


 

The carriage ride back to the Academy had allowed Catarina enough time to finally process everything and calm down. But she was still devastated by what she had heard. From what it sounded like, her life would be dictated to her by a higher authority and she would have no say in the matter. She needed to get rid of that Living Saint status as soon as possible, and at this point, she would do whatever it took to accomplish that.

After she got back to campus, after she left the carriage, she spoke with Monsignor Braden and Father Knowles. “Monsignor Braden, Father Knowles, thank you for comforting me. I didn’t know that was expected of me, and I need to prepare.”

“Miss Claes, let me just say that I told His Excellency you would not be happy to hear that,” said the Monsignor. “But he is incapable of seeing what others see, and only thinks about how he would react. It’s a deep flaw of his.”

“Monsignor, you should request the Ministry of Magic send you any new data they obtain,” suggested Father Knowles.

Catarina looked at Father Knowles. “You know about what Monsignor Braden is doing?”

“Yes, I am aware. And now I think I’ll be actively helping him with his research.”

“Well, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get a definite answer,” replied Catarina. “I’m ready to head off to the Ministry right now.”

“I would suggest you wait until tomorrow,” replied the Monsignor. “Right now Miss Claes, I think you need to rest. But Father Knowles and I will get their reports and continue to look into this. Have a good evening.”

With that, Catarina said her goodbyes to the two priests and headed back to her dorm room. When she got there, she found Mary, Sophia, and Maria waiting for her.

“Lady Catarina! I’ve baked some sweets for you!” Maria greeted Catarina. “Please have some!”

“No thank you Maria. I’m not hungry.”

The girls heard Catarina’s response and were shocked. Catarina had difficulty restraining herself from Maria’s sweets, and to see her refuse so quickly was unlike her. Immediately, they knew something was wrong. “Lady Catarina, we heard that Archbishop Nolan had requested your presence. What happened?” asked Mary.

“He told me that when I turn eighteen, I’m going to be serving the Church, and that most of my time will be taken up doing that. He said I should begin to say my goodbyes, because after I begin, I won’t see you all that much anymore.”

Maria dropped the basket of sweets she was holding, while Mary and Sophia recoiled. “What?!”

“That’s what I was told. I’m going to the Ministry tomorrow to demonstrate my powers some more. Hopefully, they’ll be able to get proof that they’re not divine.”

“I’m not going to let the Church tell you what you can and can’t do!” declared Mary. “I’ll be here to support you Lady Catarina!”

“I should ask Father and Brother if they can help,” added Sophia. “What the Church is claiming might not hold up legally nowadays.”

“We don’t have much time. I’m going to be spending as much time as possible with the Ministry. I have less than a year-and-a-half before I become a permanent servant of the Church.” Catarina then paused before she spoke further. “I’m sorry, but I’m not in the right frame of mind to spend time with you all. You’ll be miserable if you stay around me. Just give me some space. I need more time to let this all sink in.”

Maria wanted to object and stay by Catarina, but seeing the look in her face, she relented. “We understand Lady Catarina. Just don’t overdo whatever you do with the Ministry.” The girls then said their goodbyes to Catarina and left.

Catarina went into her bedroom and laid down on her bed. Somehow, the situation had gotten even worse. She thought about everything, and after some thought, came to a conclusion.

“I’m going to get out of this, even if it kills me.”

Chapter Text

The next day, Catarina woke up early. Due to the events of the previous day, with Archbishop Nolan’s declaration that her life would be determined for her the moment she turned eighteen, Catarina was even more determined to be rid of the Living Saint status they’d bestowed on her and stay out of the Church’s grasp. She had less than a year-and-a-half before she would essentially become the Church’s permanent servant, but surely the Ministry of Magic would be able to disprove the idea that her powers were somehow divine.

She went about her morning classes like normal, burying herself in her schoolwork to get her mind off of the Archbishop’s declaration. When lunchtime came, she went to the school’s casting grounds in order to practice her new magic. This did not go unnoticed by her friends, who went looking for her. They found her in the midst of firing some spheres of lightning at a metal target.

“Sister, what are you doing?” asked Keith. “It’s lunchtime! Aren’t you hungry?”

“No, I’m not,” replied Catarina. “I’m just getting ready for after classes. I will be heading to the Ministry of Magic to demonstrate my powers some more.”

“Well, I don’t know what you could possibly do for them, considering you haven’t learned anything new,” replied Alan.

“I have to get rid of this status!” declared Catarina. “I don’t want to have my life dictated for me when I turn eighteen!”

“This doesn’t have to be your burden alone Lady Catarina,” Mary responded. “We will help you with that!”

“You have Student Council duties to attend to! I don’t want you to neglect those!”

Maria then spoke up. “I will come by later while you’re there so you can get yourself some dinner. I’m sure you’ll be hungry by then, even if you’re not now.”

“Thank you, Maria! Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine!” Catarina assured her. With that, her friends departed and headed back to the dining room. Catarina continued to cast the lightning spheres, and while she was casting, she felt a sensation come over her, like she could draw more power.

The lunch period ended, and Catarina went about her classes. She again buried herself in her schoolwork in order to have the day go faster. Despite this, her final class of the day, Advanced Ancient Script, was a chore, as even with her newfound focus, she struggled with the class, as Ancient Script was never a strong suit of hers.

Finally, Advanced Ancient Script ended, and Catarina headed to the Ministry of Magic. After checking in, she found Director Palmer and other researchers waiting for her.

“Good afternoon Miss Claes,” Director Palmer greeted her. “Have you found yourself able to do anything new?”

“I don’t know for certain, but I got a feeling when I was practicing my new magic during lunch that I could draw on more power and use it,” Catarina replied.

“Then by all means, show us if you can.”

Catarina stood back and began drawing power into her. She felt it flow into her and gather, and she closed her eyes. She continued to draw power into her, and as she did, she began visualizing a sphere of lightning. But this was different from the ones she’d cast before. She envisioned it dancing around, as if it was following someone’s commands. Suddenly, she began feeling the ability to draw more power into herself, and what she drew in exceeded what she’d felt previously. Finally, she finished, opened her eyes, which glowed red, and held her hands out.

A large sphere of lightning began materializing in the middle of the ground. It crackled and rumbled as it came into being and took form. The gathered observers looked on in shock as the sphere materialized. Finally, it was done, and Catarina looked at what she had conjured. She then held her hand out and began using it to direct the sphere. Much to everyone’s shock, the sphere followed her manual commands, and matched its movement with her hands.

“That’s…..what is it?” asked Director Palmer.

“It’s like I can command it,” replied Catarina. “It’s following whatever I do.” Catarina then saw some targets that had been set up for her. “I think I’m going to try and send it against those targets.” Catarina pulled her arm back and thrust it forward towards the targets. The lightning sphere rumbled forward and plowed through multiple targets, reducing them to splinters and kindling. Director Palmer and the researchers gaped at the awesome power Catarina demonstrated.

“That is…..what do the readings say?”

“There’s some unknown presence in it. It’s natural lightning, but something is binding it and holding it together,” replied a researcher.

Catarina by this time was much more confident in her direction of the sphere, and she commanded it freely. She could direct it against a target and make it dance around. The researchers were in awe at the raw power being demonstrated, having never seen anything like it before. She then directed the sphere against a stone target, and while the target did break, the sphere dissipated into nothing after it struck. Director Palmer turned to Catarina. “Can you summon that again?”

“Yes, I think I can,” she replied, and after drawing more power, summoned another large lightning sphere. “Please keep demonstrating with it. This is vital.”

Catarina did as she was told, and continued to direct it and command it. She lost track of time, and eventually, a voice called out, “Lady Catarina!”

Catarina turned to the voice and saw Maria, keeping her promise to come and get her. “Hi Maria! I’m just demonstrating this new ability I’ve gained!” declared Catarina, making the lightning sphere dance for Maria. Maria was in awe at first seeing Catarina direct the sphere so freely, but then she quickly turned to the topic at hand.

“Lady Catarina, I’m here because the dining room is going to close soon! You need to get dinner!”

“Actually Maria, I’m still not hungry. I’m fine! I want to demonstrate this some more!”

Maria was in shock hearing this. Catarina had always had a healthy appetite, and seeing it disappear was unnerving to her. “Even so Lady Catarina, you need to eat-”

“Miss Campbell,” Director Palmer interrupted her, “Miss Claes has said she is fine and wants to continue demonstrating her newfound ability.”

“Sir, Lady Catarina hasn’t eaten anything all day, and even if she isn’t hungry, she should-”

“Miss Campbell, you heard Miss Claes tell you she’s fine.”

Maria turned to Catarina. “Don’t worry about me! I’m okay! I feel fine!”

“Lady Catarina-”

“Miss Campbell, do we need to have you escorted off the grounds?”

Maria recoiled upon hearing that from Director Palmer. Seeing him turn hostile like that was something she was totally unprepared for. Catarina, having heard that, turned to Maria. “Maria, I don’t want you getting in trouble. Trust me, I’m fine!”

“Well, if you say so, Lady Catarina.”

“She does,” replied Director Palmer. “Your concern for your friend is admirable, but I think you’re worrying too much. If Miss Claes says she’s fine, then that settles it.”

Defeated, Maria quickly conceded. “I understand, Lady Catarina. Have a good night.” With that, Maria left, looking back at Catarina with concern. Director Palmer then spoke up. “Now then Miss Claes, could you please continue demonstrating this new ability of yours?”

For the next several hours, Catarina summoned, directed, and commanded the lightning spheres she was now able to manifest. After a little while, Director Palmer spoke up.

“Miss Claes, I wanted to make an offer to you. We are aware that the Church is going to try and claim you as their servant. However, we are willing to advocate for you.”

Catarina heard this and was encouraged. “You are?”

“Yes. We would be willing to take the Church to the courts and fight the law that says they are able to claim you for themselves. However, considering that it is the courts and the gravity of this case, it could take some time. It could potentially take years.”

Catarina was immediately scared at the thought that it could take years to do so. By that time, she might already have been in the Church’s service for a considerable period. Seeing the reaction he was hoping for, Director Palmer spoke up.

“However, we can delay them.” He then got out some documents from his coat. “These are documents which would put you under our protection. All I need you to do is sign these and everything will be alright.”

Catarina heard this and was encouraged. She took the papers out of Director Palmer’s hands, eager to sign. But then she remembered the attempt by Noelia to trick her into signing the affidavit. She knew she had to be careful, so she began reading the documents. Director Palmer was surprised at Catarina’s course of action.

“Miss Claes, is there a problem?”

“I want to read these first. I was almost tricked into signing an affidavit that would’ve had me confessing to things I didn’t do, so I want to read this to know what I’m signing,” Catarina explained.

“Miss Claes, I can assure you that there is nothing to-”

“Miss Catarina!”

Catarina and Director Palmer turned to the voice that called out for her and saw it was the Dean of Students. Catarina quickly greeted him. “Good evening Dean Larry! What brings you here tonight?”

“Miss Catarina, it’s past 11 o’clock,” said the Dean. “You need to turn in for the night. You have classes tomorrow. What the Ministry wants can wait. I’m sure you’ve done more than enough for them tonight.”

Upon hearing that, Catarina began to feel tired. “Wow! I hadn’t realized so much time had passed by!”

“Yes, a lot of time has passed. Please return to your dorm room immediately and go to bed. I’m sure your professors wouldn’t like it if you fell asleep during class.”

With that, Catarina turned to Director Palmer and handed the papers back. “I’ll read these later. In the meantime, I hope I was helpful. Dean Larry, Director Palmer, have a good night!” With that, Catarina left the Ministry grounds and began heading back to her dorm room. Director Palmer then turned to the Dean. “So how did you find out about this?”

“Miss Maria Campbell informed me that Miss Catarina was here. I went to check if Miss Catarina had returned to the dorm just now and found she hadn’t,” replied the Dean. “I understand your interest in Miss Catarina, but she needs meals and sleep. I also know that Miss Catarina is vulnerable to being taken advantage of. I am going to be keeping a close eye on you. You had better not coerce her into doing something she doesn’t want to do.” After delivering his warning, the Dean took his leave and headed back to the campus. Director Palmer took in the Dean’s words and came to a decision.

“Until further notice, Doctor Cope is not to be permitted entrance into the Ministry Headquarters. We still haven't been able to determine whether her powers are arcane, but I’ll be damned if we lose her to the Church before we do.”

 


 

“Milady! You need to wake up! Please wake up!”

Anne shook Catarina firmly, desperate to wake her up. Catarina had arrived back at her dorm room late, and she had fallen into a deep sleep shortly after she’d gotten back. Anne continued to shake Catarina until she heard her moan.

“Anne, just give me five more minutes…..”

“Milady! The class day is going to begin soon! You need to wake up!”

Eventually, Catarina forced herself awake, though she was clearly not fully rested. She took a few minutes to fully awaken, at which point she stretched and yawned. “Good morning, Anne…..”

“Lady Catarina, I understand you are desperate to have your Living Saint designation removed, but you mustn’t overwork yourself!” Anne appealed to Catarina. “The Church has already disrupted your life, and it seems the Ministry of Magic is willing to allow you to disrupt it even more for their benefit!”

“I know…..but I need the Ministry’s work finished quickly! I can’t just sit around and wait for them! I have to give them what they need!”

“Lady Catarina, you need sleep and meals like everyone else! You didn’t eat anything yesterday. That’s not good for your well-being!”

“I just wasn’t hungry, Anne…..”

Anne saw the look in Catarina’s eyes. Her desperation was beginning to eat away at her psyche, and she was falling into an abyss of depression. Seeing her charge in such a state broke her heart, and she knew if this continued, Catarina would suffer greatly.

“Milady, please slow down, both for your sake and mine. The Ministry will do everything they can to help you, and your friends will as well. Lady Sophia has told me that she’s informed her brother Master Nicol and her father the Prime Minister of what’s happening. They are looking into this. For that matter, Prince Geordo and Prince Alan have also contacted their father about the fight developing between the Church and the Ministry.”

“I’ll try Anne, but if I can do things to help the Ministry’s case, I’ll do them. I’m going to see them after class today.”

“Milady, I am going to come by the Ministry headquarters at seven-thirty so you can have dinner. Please promise me you’ll have something to eat before you go to bed tonight.”

Catarina saw the look in Anne’s eyes. “I promise, Anne. I’ll eat dinner tonight.”

“Good. Now let’s get you prepared for the day. I’ve got some breakfast pastries so you can eat while I style your hair.”

With that, Catarina took a bath and then with Anne’s help dressed for the day. She then sat in front of the mirror while Anne styled her hair. She ate a croissant and a danish as Anne worked on her hair. Eventually, Anne finished up and Catarina set off for the day, heading to her first class.

After morning classes, Catarina began walking to the dining room for lunch. While she did, she noticed other students either looking at her in total admiration or diverting their eyes. Her isolation from her peers had been straining, but now it was worse. She lost her appetite and walked off, desperate to be by herself.

Catarina spent her lunch break by taking a walk in the nearby woods. As she took her walk, she saw a snake slithering in the path ahead of her. As she watched the snake, a thought came into her head, and suddenly, she felt like she had something new to offer the Ministry when she went there after classes.

Catarina’s afternoon classes came and went, and she walked to the Ministry grounds. She arrived and was greeted by Director Palmer. “Good afternoon, Miss Claes! How are you?”

“Doing well.” She then remembered Anne’s request. “Director Palmer, my maid Anne will be coming by at seven-thirty in order to take me to dinner. In the meantime, I think I have something new to show you.”

“Well, I’m interested to see what it is. Please show us!”

Director Palmer led Catarina to the casting grounds, where a group of researchers were waiting. She stood before them and said, “I think I can summon something new.” She closed her eyes and began thinking about seeing the snake in the woods. A picture came into her head of a snake surrounded by a bloom of pink-white flowers. She then drew on the verdant power of the forest she had used before, opening her eyes, which glowed a deep green, and held her hands out. Upon doing so, a burst of pink-white petals suddenly materialized, and when they settled, the researchers found a cobra where the burst occurred.

“That’s…..what is it?”

“It’s a cobra, Director Palmer.”

“Yes, but I mean what makes this cobra special from a regular cobra?

Catarina then sensed something. “That power I’ve drawn upon? It feels like it can do the same thing.”

“Are you saying this cobra can cast spells?” Director Palmer asked incredulously.

“No, but it feels like it can draw that power and pass it onto me.” Catarina then got an idea. “I’m going to try and draw power from it and cast some spells.” Catarina then reached out to the cobra, which looked at her and flicked its tongue. She then felt it passing power onto her, and she was able to harvest and hold that power. After a little bit, she pointed to some targets. “I’m going to cast some spells.” She then fired a sphere of electricity at one target, shattering it. Next, she called lightning down to splinter another target. She then used the spell she’d used previously which fired a bolt of lighting, shattering a target, and drew vitality into her.

“That’s quite a demonstration,” mused Director Palmer. “You took almost no time in casting those.”

“I could try it again if you want,” Catarina offered.

“Yes, please do,” responded Director Palmer. Catarina acquiesced to his request and again cast the spells rapid-fire. Afterwards, Director Palmer spoke up. “That’s quite a show you put on.” He then got the documents out from his coat. “Now, there’s the matter of getting you to sign these papers.”

“Director Palmer, I must insist on reading them first. I don’t want to sign something that would harm me.”

“Miss Claes, there is nothing to worry about. Please just sign-”

“Lady Catarina!”

Catarina turned and saw Anne and Geordo. “Oh! Good evening Anne!”

“Milady, it’s time for you to go to dinner,” Anne greeted her charge. Catarina then remembered what Anne had said. “Oh! That’s right! I’d forgotten about that!”

“YAHHHHH!”

Geordo’s cry got everyone’s attention, to which they were treated to the surreal sight of the Third Prince shaking in terror at the cobra Catarina had summoned. “S-s-snake! SNAKE!!”

“Oh! I’m sorry Prince Geordo! One moment!” Catarina then waved her hand, and with another burst of lotus petals, the snake disappeared. It took Geordo a few moments to calm down. “Catarina, what was that snake doing here?”

“I summoned it,” Catarina replied. “It let me draw power from it and I was able to cast my lightning spells much more quickly.”

“That’s…..I don’t know what to think about that,” Geordo replied. “Anyway, let’s go to the dining hall for dinner.” Geordo then turned to Director Palmer. “How has your research gone?”

“We’ve gotten a lot more data, but we still haven’t determined the exact nature of Miss Claes’s new powers. It seems arcane, but it doesn’t read like that exactly.”

Upon hearing this, Catarina was again depressed. She then pensively asked, “Doctor Palmer, how long is this going to take?”

“Well, unless there’s a sudden breakthrough, it could take months, if not longer.”

Hearing that made Catarina recoil. If it would take “longer”, it might be too late. She then spoke up. “I’ll be back here tomorrow after classes! And this weekend too!”

“Catarina,” Geordo interrupted, “You need to slow down. We’re all working hard on this, and my father has been informed of what’s going on. He will do what he can to protect you. Please, promise me you’ll take a few days off from these demonstrations.”

“But Prince Geordo-”

“Milady, please! You need to calm down!” Anne pleaded.

Catarina heard this and acquiesced to her maid’s request. “Okay Anne. I promise both you and Prince Geordo that I’ll relax for a little bit.”

“Good,” replied Geordo, smiling as he said it. “Now come on, let’s get some dinner.”

“Okay, though I’m still not hungry…..”

Anne was alarmed. Catarina had barely eaten anything over the past two days, and she was spiraling downward in her desperation to refute the Church. She began thinking that maybe she would need to inform another party of the state Catarina was in.

Catarina, Geordo, and Anne then left the Ministry grounds to go to the dining room. After they left, Director Palmer then turned to another researcher. “Not having her here for the next few days is rather inconvenient. Seeing what she’s become capable of has been fascinating. That and we really need her to sign these papers.” He then thought about how he could make Catarina break that promise, when suddenly an idea came to him.

“I think Miss Claes would be willing to come back sooner if some correspondence from the Church reaches her on Saturday…..”

Chapter Text

Saturday had come, and Catarina woke up early. Her state of mind had been terrible, as even with her trip to the Ministry of Magic on Thursday being cut short and not going on Friday, she’d not slept well and still had not eaten much. She’d worked hard to avoid her doom in Fortune Lover , but now it seemed to be coming anyway, and she felt time was running out for her.

After she woke up, with Anne’s help, she prepared for the day and was waiting for her friends to head to the dining room. She finally felt hungry and was looking to have a nice hearty breakfast when a knock was then heard on her door. Anne went to the door and opened it, which revealed a messenger.

“I have a message for Miss Catarina Claes.”

The messenger handed an envelope over to Catarina, who opened it and took the letter inside it out. She then read the letter.

 


 

Miss Claes,

Upon further review of Church canon and various laws, we have found that we are able to have you enter our service sooner than we originally believed. However, we are aware of the law which states that you are to complete your education at the Academy of Magic, and for the time being, we will follow that law.

Earlier this week, we applied for a waiver for your mandatory education so that we can expedite the beginning of your active service to the gods. In the meantime, you will continue to attend the Academy and take its classes. Should our waiver be granted, we will arrive as soon as possible in order to begin your mission.

We are eagerly awaiting your service in the Church.

In the Name of the Gods,

Joseph Nolan, Archbishop of Sorcier City and Supreme Head of the Church of Sorcier

 


 

Upon reading this, Catarina began to panic. It seemed the countdown was going even faster than she’d originally believed. Anne saw the look on Catarina’s face and asked, “Milady?”

“Anne, please tell my friends that I can’t meet them for breakfast,” replied Catarina. “I need to go to the Ministry of Magic!”

“Milady! What about what Prince Geordo-”

“I know what he said!” Catarina cried out, “But I don’t have time! I need to go!”

Before Anne could react, Catarina bolted from her room and began heading towards the Ministry of Magic headquarters. She was willing at this point to do whatever it took to keep her away from the Church.

Anne took a look at the letter, which Catarina had dropped, and read it. Upon reading it, she was startled by what the contents were. She’d already written to Catarina’s parents about the state their daughter was in, but at this point, she didn’t want to wait any more. She decided right then and there that she was going to go to Claes Manor and inform her parents of the desperate situation. Before Anne left, she wrote a note explaining what had happened and the letter from Archbishop Nolan. She taped them to the door and set off to find a carriage to get back to Claes Manor.

Twenty minutes later, Keith, Geordo, Alan, Mary, Sophia, and Maria all showed up at Catarina’s door. They saw the note posted on the door, which Keith took and immediately read. Upon reading it, he went pale. He then turned to everyone.

“Anne’s gone home to inform Mother and Father about what’s going on. Catarina ran off to the Ministry of Magic because of a letter Archbishop Nolan sent.”

“A letter?” asked Geordo. “What letter?”

“This must be it.”

Geordo immediately took the letter into his hands and read it. Upon reading it, he was furious. “The Church is going to stop at nothing to claim Catarina. I’m going to see Dean Larry immediately and talk to him about this.”

“I’m coming with you as well,” replied Alan. Keith also nodded and said, “Let me come with you too.”

“In the meantime Prince Geordo, the girls and I will go to the Ministry headquarters to inquire about Lady Catarina,” said Mary. “They’ve proven themselves willing to take advantage of Lady Catarina, and we can’t let it get any worse.”

“Agreed,” replied Geordo. With that, the two groups split up.

 


 

Geordo, Keith, and Alan reached Dean Larry’s office and knocked on the door. After knocking, they heard a voice call out, “Come in!” The three boys immediately entered the Dean’s office and saw the Dean seated at his desk. “Prince Geordo, Prince Alan, Mister Claes, is something going on?”

“Yes there is,” replied Geordo. “We just got notice that the Church has applied for a waiver earlier this week to have Catarina excused from having to complete her second year at the Academy. We came here because we wanted to ask you to tell the Academy Board to deny the waiver.”

Upon hearing this, the Dean was startled. “Why would they ask for such a waiver?”

“Because they want to claim Catarina as theirs, and as long as she’s required to continue attending here, they can’t,” explained Alan.

“We need to stop them in their tracks and prevent the Church from making such a move,” Keith finished the thought.

The Dean looked at the three boys. “I don’t think that’ll be a problem, though…..when did you say this waiver was submitted?”

“Earlier this week,” explained Geordo.

Upon hearing this, the Dean raised his eyebrows. “If you could wait here for a minute, I’m going to speak with President Carling.”

Dean Larry got up from his desk and left his office. Geordo, Keith, and Alan waited for the Dean to return and tell them what he found out. A few minutes later, the Dean came in and looked at the boys with concern.

“President Carling has said that no such waiver request from the Church has arrived.”

Upon hearing this, the boys were stunned. “They would’ve had it personally delivered by a courier,” mused Keith. “And the letter said it was sent earlier in the week. It would’ve gotten here by now.”

Geordo stood up. “Something’s not right. We need to look into this immediately.”

“Especially since the letter caused Catarina to go into a panic and run off to the Ministry of Magic,” Alan further elaborated. Upon hearing this, the Dean became concerned. “I’m going to come with you as well.”

Geordo, Keith, Alan, and the Dean left the administration building and began heading to the Ministry headquarters. As they did, Mary, Sophia, and Maria ran up to them.

“The Ministry isn’t letting us in!” Sophia cried out. “They refused us entry and refused to let us see Lady Catarina!”

Upon hearing this, the boys were shocked. “It looks like the Ministry has decided to play dirty as well,” mused Alan. Upon hearing this, the Dean then spoke up. “I’m going to head to the Ministry myself and get Miss Claes.”

“Thank you Dean Larry!” replied Maria. “I’m worried about Lady Catarina.”

The Dean nodded towards them and headed off to the Ministry headquarters. After he left, Keith explained the situation. “Dean Larry said that he was told by the Academy President that the Board did not receive any sort of waiver request. The letter however said it was sent earlier in the week. Something isn’t adding up.”

Geordo’s attention was then pulled towards two familiar figures. He saw Monsignor Braden and Father Knowles walking towards them. Immediately, Geordo walked up to them, with the rest of the group close behind. Seeing them, Monsignor Braden and Father Knowles greeted the group. “Good morning! We’re here to get more data from the Ministry of Magic.”

“Monsignor Braden, Father Knowles,” Geordo began. “Could you explain the meaning of the letter Archbishop Nolan wrote to Catarina saying the Church can claim her sooner than they thought? And for that matter, can you explain the Church applying to have a waiver for Catarina’s remaining mandatory schooling at the Academy?”

Both the Monsignor and Father Knowles were confused hearing this. “What? That…..hasn’t happened,” replied Monsignor Braden. “If Archbishop Nolan had done that, then I would’ve known about it. I am his Secretary, and such a thing would’ve passed by me. And given my skepticism, I would’ve utterly refused to send it out.”

“Then what is this letter?” asked Keith, as he handed it to the two priests. They looked over it, and upon reaching the end, their eyes widened.

“This wasn’t written by the Archbishop!” declared Monsignor Braden. “Archbishop Nolan signs his letters with ‘Very Sincerely’! He’d never sign a letter with ‘In the Name of the Gods’!”

“Furthermore, whoever wrote this is ignorant of the Church!” declared Father Knowles. “Archbishop Nolan’s title is not Supreme Head, and he would never sign a letter that way! His proper title is ‘Leader’!”

“Funny. He acts like the supreme head,” Alan snorted.

“Well, I can concede that he can act it at times, but that’s absolutely not the case! He’s only the leader of the Church and that he needs a majority of bishops on his side.”

“What about his declaration of Catarina being a Living Saint?” asked Mary.

“He did that unilaterally to try and steal a march on the Ministry of Magic,” confessed Monsignor Braden. “A number of bishops signed off on his declaration, but there are bishops still opposed. He’s trying to lobby them to his side. It can’t actually be official unless he gets over two-thirds of the bishops to agree with him.”

“That isn’t important!” declared Sophia. “What we need to do now is go to the Ministry and get Lady Catarina out! I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the ones that sent that letter to make her come to them!”

"In the meantime, Father Knowles and I are going to discuss what we can do to calm things down," said Monsignor Braden.

"Monsignor, Father Blanton sent a letter to The King about everything. I'm sure His Majesty won't like what he reads," remarked Father Knowles.

With that, Catarina's inner circle headed to the Ministry, while the Monsignor and Father Knowles headed off to go back to Sorcier City.

 


 

As the group headed to the Ministry, they ran into the Dean of Students, who was looking concerned. “Dean Larry? What’s wrong?”

“The Ministry denied me entry,” explained the Dean. “The guards refused me entry, saying that they were given strict orders not to let me in.”

The group was alarmed hearing this. “They’re being that bold?” asked Keith.

“Yes. They outright refused to let me in, saying that higher-ups have ordered them not to admit me. They know that the students here are under my watch, but they’re ignoring that.”

Geordo heard this and began getting angry. “Well then, if that’s the case, then Alan and I will have to get her out,” replied Geordo.

The group then continued to the Ministry headquarters. Finally, they arrived at the entrance and found guards there. Geordo and Alan walked up to the guards, who saluted them. “Good morning, Prince Geordo and Prince Alan. What brings us the privilege of your presence?”

“We are here to take my fiancée back to her dorm room,” Geordo curtly replied.

“I am sorry, but we have been given strict orders to not admit anyone who wishes to-”

“I don’t think you heard my brother,” replied Alan. “We’re here to get Catarina and bring her back to her dorm room.”

“Prince Alan, I understand, but our orders were-”

DAMN YOUR ORDERS!” Geordo yelled out. “I’m giving you a new order: Alan and I are to be let in. That is a royal order!”

The guards, who had been stone-faced, suddenly looked fearful. “My apologies, Your Highness! We will let both of you in.”

Alan, who was surprised at the obstinance of the guards, then asked them, “Were you threatened at all?”

“Yes!” replied a guard. “We were told if we admitted anyone, we would be dismissed and brought before the Court of Discipline for disobeying orders!”

Geordo then shifted his anger from being directed towards the guards to another target. “I promise you that will not happen. We will have words with Director Palmer over this. Now in the meantime, please let us in.”

“Yes, Your Highness!” The guards then stood aside, to which Geordo and Alan immediately headed towards the casting grounds. They did not find Catarina or Director Palmer there. They then decided to head to his office. When they got there, they knocked on the door. Director Palmer called out, “Come in!” Geordo opened the door, to which he and Alan saw Catarina sitting at Director Palmer’s desk, reading some documents. Director Palmer was taken aback at the appearance of the princes.

“Prince Geordo! P-Prince Alan! What are you doing here? The guards were under strict orders to not let anyone in!”

“We are here to collect my fiancée and bring her back to her dorm room,” Geordo replied, simmering anger in his voice. “And furthermore, the supposed correspondence from the Church was confirmed by Monsignor Braden and Father Knowles to be fake.”

Upon hearing that, Director Palmer began to shake. A visit from the two priests today had not been anticipated by him. His plan to have Catarina make herself a ward of the Ministry of Magic was about to be ruined.

Just then, Catarina walked up to the two princes. “Prince Geordo! Prince Alan! I’m just reading these documents-”

“Catarina, you’re not going to sign anything,” replied Geordo. “We’re here to take you back to your dorm room.”

“I’m fine though!” Catarina protested. “I’m reading this carefully-”

“Catarina, you’re a mess,” Alan countered. “You’ve barely slept since what Archbishop Nolan has told you, you’ve barely eaten, and you look terrible. Further, it looks like certain elements in the Ministry of Magic are taking advantage of you.”

“But I want to do this! I might be forced to enter Church service any day-”

“That letter was a forgery!” Geordo interrupted. “Monsignor Braden and Father Knowles declared it to be such when they read it.”

“It was?” asked Catarina. “But still, I don’t want the Church claiming me!”

“They won’t! We promise! You don’t need to sign anything the Ministry gives you!!” Geordo pleaded.

Catarina looked at Geordo and Alan. They were dead-set on bringing her back to her dorm room. “Okay, I’ll go with you then.”

“Thank you Catarina.” Geordo and Alan each took one of her hands. Before heading out, Geordo then spoke to Director Palmer. “My father is going to have words with you about your underhanded actions. The lengths you were willing to go to manipulate my fiancée disgust me.” With that, Geordo and Alan then began leading Catarina out of the Ministry headquarters.

Catarina, Geordo, and Alan then reunited with the group outside. “We’re going back to Catarina’s dorm room. We should wait until Duke and Madame Claes arrive. There’s a lot to explain.”

Upon hearing that, Catarina became fearful. “Mother and Father are coming here? Oh no, what did I do?! Keith! What do I need to apologize to Mother for??”

“Nothing whatsoever, Sister,” Keith replied. “You didn’t do anything.”

“But why would they-”

“Because Anne is worried about you!” Sophia interrupted. “Quite frankly, we’re all worried about you as well!”

“Please, Lady Catarina! We’re here for you! We won’t let you be treated like a piece of property to be fought over!” pleaded Mary.

Catarina wanted to argue some more, but the lack of food and sleep over the past several days was finally catching up to her, and she was too exhausted to think or make an argument. She meekly replied, “Okay,” and allowed her friends to lead her back to her dorm room.

As they walked back, Geordo spoke up. “I bear responsibility for this. I’d told Director Palmer that I needed the Ministry’s help to disprove the Church’s declaration, but that they should let you live your life and not stress you too much. It seems Director Palmer figured if he could manipulate you, then technically the Ministry wouldn’t be doing so. I’m why you’re in such a terrible state right now, Catarina.”

“Prince Geordo, you’d made your instructions clear to the Ministry,” said Keith. “I’m sure you didn’t intend for them to make Sister sign whatever they wanted her to. And besides, the Church has an equal part in this. Director Palmer knew what he was doing and wouldn’t have tried to hide it from you if he felt he was following your instructions.”

Geordo was grateful for Keith’s absolvement, but still felt guilty about the whole affair. Everyone stayed silent while they escorted Catarina back to her dorm room.

Chapter Text

Catarina was in her dorm room with her friends, waiting for her mother and father. Her exhaustion had grown greatly, and she now wanted to sleep, but she kept forcing herself awake to be able to greet them. An hour after they'd gotten back to her dorm room, a knock was heard at the door. Geordo answered the door, opening it to reveal Duke Claes, Madame Claes, and Anne. Upon seeing her, Luigi and Miri Diana walked up to Catarina while Anne went to talk to Keith. Catarina was still nervous at their appearance, and swallowed hard. “G-g-good afternoon Mother and Father.”

“Catarina, Anne told us about what’s been going on and what the Church is attempting to do,” Miri Diana responded. “We want to let you know that we will not let them claim you.”

“Mother, Father, it’s not just the Church that’s trying to claim her,” Keith interrupted. “The Ministry of Magic is also trying to do so. They sent her a letter which they tried to make look like it was written by Archbishop Nolan and make her sign some documents. They’ve come to realize how easy it is to exploit Sister’s personality and are doing everything they can to claim her before the Church can.”

Upon hearing this, Luigi and Miri Diana were shocked. They then looked at Catarina. “Catarina, Anne told us that you’ve barely slept and eaten since what you were told by the Archbishop about entering their service. Is this true?”

“I’ve eaten and slept plenty!” Catarina protested. “I mean, I had a croissant and a danish the other day! And I slept a couple of hours last night! I just need to get rid of that Living Saint status!”

Seeing the depressed and exhausted state their daughter was in, as well as what Anne and Geordo told them, and seeing that their daughter was now in the middle of a political battle between the Church and the Ministry of Magic, Luigi and Miri Diana came to a decision. “Catarina, we’re taking you home,” declared Luigi. “Things have already gone too far, and we can’t let you continue to run yourself into the ground and let the Church and Ministry fight over and take advantage of you.”

Catarina, exhausted but using all her effort to think, then asked, “But what about my classes-”

“That will be taken care of,” Miri interrupted. “We’re going to bring you home so we can get this all sorted out. If the Ministry and Church can’t get access to you, then we should be able to get everyone to settle down.”

“O…..Okay…..”

With that, Anne went and began packing some clothes and other items for a trip home. Luigi then spoke to Geordo and Alan. “We anticipate that the Ministry, Church, or both will try to get your father to give a royal order to allow access to Catarina. Have him deny their requests.”

“Absolutely!” Geordo and Alan declared. Miri then turned to Sophia. “You should also appraise your father about the situation and where it’s gotten to. Keith, please go with Sophia when she sees her father.”

“Yes, Mother.”

“Understood, Madame Claes.”

Luigi then turned to Mary and Maria. “Miss Mary, Miss Maria, please inform the Dean of Students that we are pulling Catarina out of school for the time being, and that she is to be excused for an indefinite period of time.”

“Yes, Duke Claes!” Mary and Maria replied.

Finally, Anne finished packing, and with that, Luigi and Miri Diana began leading Catarina to their carriage. As they walked by, they noticed students watching them and whispering about what was going on with the Living Saint and why her parents were there. They ignored the chatter and continued on. Eventually, they arrived at the carriage, and after they all got on and stowed Catarina’s luggage, they headed off.

As the carriage set off for Claes Manor, Catarina felt her eyes getting heavy. The past several days, with her talk with Archbishop Nolan, the demonstrations for the Ministry of Magic, as well as the overall lack of food and sleep, had taken a heavy toll on her. She fought to stay awake, knowing that it would be rude to fall asleep and not wanting to make her mother upset. Suddenly, she felt her shoulders being grabbed.

"I'm not asleep! I'm awake!"

"Just relax," replied Miri, as she guided Catarina to lie down. Miri guided Catarina's head towards her lap and placed it there. "Please rest Catarina, you need it." Catarina, unsure whether her mother actually said that, nonetheless obeyed the command. She closed her eyes, and within moments, she was fast asleep.

"You poor thing! You're exhausted!" Miri stroked Catarina's hair while she slept. She then turned to Anne. "I already know from what you’ve told us about what the Church is expecting, but how much time did the Ministry take with Catarina?”

"As much as they could get away with,” Anne responded. “Before they’ve ‘forgotten’ that Lady Catarina was not to stay with them past a certain time, but lately they’ve openly disregarded any such things and just keep her there unless someone came to get Lady Catarina. From what Master Keith told me, they were trying to deny anyone looking to get Lady Catarina entry into their headquarters today.”

Miri heard this and was upset. "Do they not realize that my daughter is a human being? Do they not realize that she isn't some sort of tool or object they can call upon at their whim? For that matter, does neither side realize that we are her parents and have a say, or that we would have obvious objections to them laying claim to her?" Before she could get any more upset, she went back to looking at Catarina and stroking her hair. "Don't worry Catarina. We're here for you."

Luigi then spoke up. "Anne, we're going to keep Catarina on the grounds of the estate for the next several days. She's clearly overwhelmed by everything and needs to get away from it all."

"Understood, Duke Claes."

After an hour-and-a-half, the carriage arrived at Claes Manor. As they entered, Luigi spoke to the gatekeeper. "If anyone comes here wanting to see my daughter, you are to refuse entry to them unless it's one of her close friends or there's a royal order. And I highly doubt the latter will come into play." The gatekeeper nodded and the carriage continued forward, stopping at the entrance of the mansion.

"Catarina, we're home."

Catarina woke up, in a daze and not entirely aware of where she was. She yawned and stretched, and began heading off of the carriage. Just as she exited, she felt herself getting swept off her feet.

"What.....what's going on?"

"Father will carry you to your bedroom," replied Miri. "Just relax." Catarina, still unsure whether she heard her mother actually say that, nonetheless obeyed and let Luigi carry her.

Luigi arrived at Catarina’s bedroom and laid Catarina down on her bed. As soon as she was laid down, she fell into a deep sleep. It was the middle of the afternoon, but given the lack of food Catarina had eaten over the past five days, she would likely wake up hungry. “Anne, stay here with Catarina. We’re thinking she’s going to wake up later hungry, and when she does we’re going to explain to her what’s going on.”

“Understood, Madame Claes.” With that, Luigi and Miri left Catarina’s bedroom, while Anne stayed in the room, ready to greet Catarina when she woke.

 


 

"Thank you all for coming here. I have gathered information about the occurrence, and we are now ready to act."

Four figures had gathered to discuss the ascension that had been sensed by them. They sat around a table and began discussing what they knew.

“So from what I have found in my observations, the plane this occurred on is ignorant of the Multiverse, of planeswalkers, and even of magic to a large degree,” said the meeting’s leader.

“Ignorant of magic? How? An ignition occurred there!” declared another figure.

“Yes, but no one seems to be aware of any of the magic that person is using,” replied the leader. “Some are saying her power is divine, but it is clearly arcane. The spells she is casting are fairly rudimentary magic, though unknown to the inhabitants.”

“What magic do they know then?” asked another attendee.

“Elemental magic, and only elemental magic,” answered the leader. “They can harness blue, green, red, and white mana, but the only spells they know of are elemental. Fire, water, wind, earth, and light. They do not know of summoning or most other kinds of spells.”

“It sounds very primitive,” replied the fourth member of the group. “If that’s all they know, and New Phyrexia has designs on the plane, they would easily take it over.”

“For that matter, we could probably take it over if we wanted to,” mused the second attendee. “But of course that’s not why we’re going there.”

“The one of us not present has spoken with his old friend,” replied the meeting’s leader. “He in turn has spoken with the Mirran Resistance and found that New Phyrexia is planning something, though they seem to be gathering information as well.”

“Most likely to see how much of their strength they would need to conquer the plane,” replied the third member.

“At this point we should visit the plane and seek out the one that ascended.”

“We’ll inform them of what happened, and for that matter, we should find out why magic there is so weak and primitive,” declared the fourth member. “Whether they like it or not, they’re going to be a part of the Multiverse as well.”

“By the way, have you figured out what they call where they are?”

“They are in a country called Sorcier,” replied the meeting’s leader. “Since that is the place of interest for us, we will refer to the plane as ‘Sorcier’ as well.”

“Do you know who it is that ascended?” asked the second figure.

“Their name is Catarina Claes,” responded the meeting’s leader. “I have not seen her, but she is apparently a young woman of high standing. Once we get there, we can probably find her fairly easily.”

“Then what are we waiting for? Let’s get going!”

The four figures then called the meeting to a close, at which point they began chanting among themselves. After a little while, they then teleported away. The leader disappeared in a flash of blue light. The second attendee had red and orange flames surrounding them before their disappearance. A storm of golden light signaled the third member’s teleporting away. The fourth member then turned a transparent purple before they too disappeared, headed towards the plane they now knew as “Sorcier”.

Chapter Text

“Uhh…..”

Catarina woke up, feeling more refreshed than she had felt in days. She looked outside the window in her bedroom and saw it was late at night. Then she saw she was in her bedroom. She then remembered the letter she’d gotten from Archbishop Nolan, going to the Ministry of Magic in a desperate panic to provide them information to disprove her Living Saint status, Geordo and Alan coming to get her and bring her back to her dorm room, her parents taking her home, and then her father carrying her to her bedroom.

“Good evening, Lady Catarina.”

Catarina looked over and saw Anne. “Good evening, Anne.”

“You needed that sleep. You’ve been running yourself ragged, though considering what the Church and Ministry did, I’m not surprised.”

After a couple of moments, Catarina asked Anne, “Why am I home again?”

“Your mother and father felt it would be best given what’s going on for you to be home,” explained Anne. “They felt the situation was getting out of hand and did not appreciate what the Church and Ministry were doing to you. They’re actually waiting for you now for dinner.”

“Dinner? What time is it?”

“It’s about ten o’clock,” responded Anne. “They knew you’d wake up and probably feel hungry. They want to explain everything to you.”

Catarina took this in. “Anne, give me a few minutes. I need to think about how to apologize to Mother and Father for this.”

“Lady Catarina, I can assure you that won’t be necessary.”

“Why not? They felt compelled to come and get me, and furthermore, there’s Lady Flores’s issue with me. I’m sure Mother and Father have gotten complaints from Marquess and Marchioness Flores by now.”

“Milady, nothing of the sort happened,” replied Anne. “And after I told them what you were going through, they agreed that they needed to see you.” Anne then shook her head. “I don’t know why you blame yourself for everything, but please don’t apologize to them. They’ll explain everything.”

“They can’t be happy right now.”

“No they’re not,” replied Anne. “But it’s not you they’re unhappy with. Now let me help you dress for dinner.”

Anne helped Catarina put a simple dress on, then tidied her up for dinner. After she finished, Catarina walked to the dining room, where she found her parents waiting for her. Nervously, she greeted them.

“Good…..Good evening, Mother and Father.”

“Good evening, Catarina. We know you’ve been through a lot,” Luigi greeted her back. “Please sit down. We’re going to have a late dinner right now. You must be starving.”

For the first time in days, Catarina heard her stomach grumble. “Actually, I do feel hungry,” she replied. She sat down at the dining room table and waited for dinner to be served. After a few awkwardly silent moments, she began thinking about the situation and felt guilty it had come to this. She knew what Anne had told her, but she still felt compelled to say what she was about to say.

“Mother, Father, I’m sorry for this whole mess.”

Both Luigi and Miri looked at Catarina in shock. “Catarina, you aren’t at fault for this,” Miri replied.

“I had to have screwed up somewhere. First my new powers manifested, then the Church concluded I’m a Living Saint, then I angered Lady Noelia Flores and had her tell me she’ll never forgive me, and now I’ve run myself ragged into the ground and forced you both to come and get me.”

“We don’t blame you for that, Catarina. Given what others were telling you, there was a reason you acted like you did,” Luigi tried to assure Catarina.

Miri then asked, “What did you do to anger Miss Flores?”

“I don’t know,” replied Catarina. “But I made her really upset. So much so that she threatened some other girls into trying to trick me into signing an affidavit that would’ve had me confessing to the incident at the beginning of the school year where someone broke into several ladies’ dorm rooms, stole some dresses, and threw them into a refuse pile.”

Hearing what Noelia had tried to do made both Luigi and Miri upset. “We’re…..going to have some words with Marquess and Madame Flores,” said Miri. “That she tried to do that is an affront to House Claes and to you.”

“But before that, let’s discuss what’s been going on,” Luigi suggested. “Anne told us that you’ve been feeling miserable for a while now.”

“I have been,” Catarina admitted. “Ever since the Church declared that I’m a Living Saint, I’ve been miserable. First there’s the fact that a lot of the students believe what the Church said and treat me like I am a Living Saint, addressing me as ‘Your Holiness’ or ‘Saint Catarina’, diverting their eyes because they feel unworthy to even look at me, thinking I can intercede with the gods on their behalf, talking about how blessed Prince Geordo is for having me as his fiancée, it’s all ridiculous!”

“I can share that sentiment,” replied Miri. “I went to a tea party and some other noblewomen approached me and talked about how blessed I must feel to have a Living Saint as my daughter.”

“I keep telling people I’m not a Living Saint and not to address me as if I am one, but they keep doing so anyway. They’re not listening to me!”

“Knowing what you’re like, I can see why you’re so upset,” replied Luigi. “To be placed on a pedestal like that and have people unable to see you as anything but some idealized version of you.”

"Now all of this is going on.....Maybe I should’ve just signed that affidavit instead. It would’ve been better than all of this."

"Catarina! That's ridiculous to think!" Miri admonished her daughter.

"Is it?" Catarina challenged her mother. "People are buying into a lie about me! I'm not a saint! I never will be! The Church made a massive mistake declaring me a saint! And it's not just because they misunderstand my new magic powers! It's because I'm not even a good person!"

Miri's and Luigi’s eyes widened at Catarina's declaration, shocked that their daughter thought that. Catarina continued on. "Now I'm expected to be someone to look up to, and I'm just going to let people down, especially when they realize what I really am! Lady Flores was right. I'm just a dumb rich girl who screws everything up and gets in the way of people being happy! I'm not a saint! I'm a villainess, and I always will be! I trapped Prince Geordo in an engagement for something that wasn't his fault, I've gotten in the way of Keith's love life, and I've just brought trouble wherever I've gone! How the Church could think I'm a saint is beyond me! I'm a lousy noblewoman, I'm not a good daughter, and I'm not even a good person! Things would’ve been better if I’d signed that affidavit and been forced into exile! Prince Geordo could find someone he truly loves, Keith could find a woman he loves rather than deal with me, and I wouldn't continually make you ashamed to have me as your daughter!"

Miri and Luigi were hurt hearing Catarina talk so poorly of herself. they'd known that the whole ordeal had taken a toll on Catarina, but hearing their daughter express such a terrible opinion of herself was crushing.

Catarina then concluded her thoughts. "I should just tell the Church I've deceived them and willingly go into a convent myself. It'd be better for everyone."

Luigi was struck speechless at Catarina castigating herself. Miri found her daughter’s poor self-image to be heartbreaking. Both of them had no idea what to say. At the last second, Miri got a hold on her emotions and thought about how to defuse the situation. Miri knew her daughter was an emotional girl, and that when she was heavily affected by something, the impact would be greater than it would for anyone else. Finally, Miri decided on a course of action.

She walked over to where Catarina was sitting and said, “Catarina, please stand up.” Catarina did so, and shortly after she did, Miri wrapped her daughter in her arms, embracing her tightly. After a few moments, Miri spoke. "Catarina, we don’t know if you are or aren’t a Living Saint. And yes, you can improve as a noblewoman. But what you said about not being a good person is completely false."

Catarina looked at her mother, shocked to hear her say that. Seeing where his wife was going, Luigi walked over and embraced Catarina tightly as well. “Have you ever thought that there’s a reason why so many of your classmates readily accepted the Church’s declaration?”

“No, not really,” replied Catarina. “I don’t know how they could possibly believe that.”

“Well, there’s a reason why they would, and for that matter why many of their parents do as well. It’s because you have a kind and open heart.”

“A kind and open heart?!” Catarina replied incredulously. “That’s ridiculous, I don't-”

“Catarina,” Miri interrupted, “Do you know how often I’m approached by other noblewomen who have nothing but praise for your kindness? It’s something I hear all the time. At first I thought it was ridiculous I’ll admit, but then I began hearing what you did to earn your good reputation. You reach out to others and offer to be a friend regardless of their station. You do everything in your power to be there for and help others. You stand up for and protect your peers from being taken advantage of or bullied by others. And you do it without asking for anything.”

“Your close friends have all told us about how much you mean to them and what you did for all of them,” added Luigi. “They’ve told us that you make their lives better just by being around them. Prince Geordo doesn’t think you’ve trapped him in an engagement. Your brother doesn’t think you get in the way of his love life.”

“And I know I might be to blame for you thinking it, but you don’t bring shame on House Claes,” Miri continued.

“But what about all the times you’ve scolded me for behaving improperly or not acting like a woman of my station?” asked Catarina.

“Well, yes, I get frustrated with you about your habits and your manners. But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really affect House Claes that badly. It can be embarrassing to us, but you could be doing far worse, like being arrogant or abusing your station. That and most houses are willing to overlook your odder behavior,” Miri explained. “You’ve affected our family positively as well. Because of you, our household is a happier place than it would’ve been without you. You accepted Keith as your brother without hesitation, and our servants have said your appreciation makes them glad to be serving us.”

Catarina’s eyes widened hearing this. After a bit, Miri continued. “Yes, you’re not a good noblewoman. But you are a good and noble woman. I don’t know why you think so poorly of yourself, but please stop. Yes, I can get frustrated with you. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love or appreciate you.” Catarina began to get emotional hearing that from her mother. She leaned into her parents’ embrace, allowing them to hold her more tightly. Luigi then continued.

“Catarina, please stop thinking so terribly of yourself. It’s disheartening to hear you express such a negative opinion of yourself. Like your mother said, it’s not true, and we don’t want to ever hear you say those sorts of things again.”

“You’ve frustrated me and driven me to my wits end at times Catarina, but your behavior never hurt me. Hearing what you said about yourself though was worse than anything you’ve ever done before, because it did hurt.” Miri then paused before she finished her thoughts. “I might scold you over those things and wish you could behave like a woman of your standing, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you or that you’re not a good person.”

Catarina was reassured hearing this. Then she began to regret what she'd said. “Mother, Father, I’m sorry about what I said about myself! And it’s not because you scold me all the time Mother! It’s just the way I feel!”

“You shouldn’t. It’s ridiculous if you really believe that,” Luigi responded. “Please, stop focusing on your flaws and think about your strengths!”

“We know the last few weeks have been trying for you Catarina. That’s why we brought you home.” Miri and Luigi then let go of their embrace. Catarina then asked her mother, “What do you mean?”

“You’ve been caught up in a political fight between the Ministry of Magic and the Church of Sorcier through no fault of your own. Both sides see you as a prize to be won, and now they’re willing to be underhanded in trying to win that fight,” explained Luigi.

“We brought you home for your well-being and protection Catarina. The Church was saddling you with unfair expectations, and the Ministry was taking advantage of your good nature to try and come out ahead of the Church,” Miri elaborated. “After Anne came here earlier today, we knew we had to get involved to protect you and resolve this issue in a way that’s fair to you.”

“So for the time being, we will be keeping you here. After things settle down, you’ll be back to normal,” Luigi finished.

“Now unfortunately Catarina, this means that you can’t leave the grounds of our estate,” explained Miri. “But this isn’t a punishment. It’s so we can protect you from all the unwanted attention and to prevent the Church or Ministry from trying to take you forcibly. The way their fight was going, it would’ve gotten to that point eventually, so we’re preventing that from happening.”

“But while you’re here, you can feel free to spend your time however you wish. You can also sleep in, and we’ll make sure you have plenty to eat, especially sweets. We don’t anticipate this taking too long, but it may be a week or so. But while you’re here, please relax,” Luigi said to his daughter.

Finally at ease about the whole situation, Catarina smiled. “Mother, Father, thank you! I promise I’ll make this up to you some way!”

“Just don’t be too rowdy, Catarina,” Miri requested of her daughter.

A maid then walked into the dining room. “Duke and Madame Claes? Dinner is ready.”

“Please bring it in. I’m sure Catarina is hungry,” Luigi replied.

After a couple of moments, dinner was brought in. Catarina’s appetite had finally returned, and she was eager to have a meal. After dinner was placed in front of her, she began eating, though she did make an effort to restrain herself despite her hunger due to her mother and father being present. Luigi and Miri were relieved seeing their daughter’s healthy appetite in action. After Catarina finished her plate, Miri asked, “Are you still hungry? You can have another helping if you are.”

“I think I’d like that!” declared Catarina. Luigi then turned to the table maid and said, “Please bring Catarina another helping.” The maid nodded and brought Catarina a second helping, which Catarina proceeded to eat eagerly. After finishing up, Luigi then said, “How about some dessert?” Catarina’s face brightened, to which he told the maid, “Bring some dessert for my daughter.” The maid nodded and left, and after a few moments brought in a tray of sweets, which Catarina eagerly partook of, though again, she restrained herself from eating too fast. After having her fill, Catarina began to feel tired. “I think I’m going to bed now. Mother, Father, thank you again!”

“We’ll always be here to help you Catarina.” Catarina stood up, at which point her parents walked over to her, embraced her, and kissed her on her forehead. “Don’t worry about waking up early. Sleep in. You probably need more rest.” Catarina smiled and headed to her bedroom. After she left, Miri spoke up.

“I’m going to write a letter to Madame Flores about what their daughter attempted to do to Catarina. I know Catarina thinks she did something to upset Miss Flores, but I know for a fact she didn’t, and if Madame Flores doesn’t know what her daughter tried to do, she should.”

 


 

“I understand you have important news for me.”

“Yes I do, Praetor Elesh. And it’s not what you would want to hear.”

Praetor Elesh and her minion were speaking with each other in the Praetor’s throne room. Ever since they’d discovered Sorcier, they had been observing and sent a sleeper agent to observe and watch. The sleeper agent’s sudden disappearance puzzled them, though the information it had managed to gather was valuable. Now, they had an answer.

“Our agent was obliterated by a mage on the plane.”

“But I thought you said the mages there are pathetically weak,” responded the Praetor.

“Yes, but our agent went berserk when he was found out and went on the attack. It appears that his attack was the impetus for a mage there to ignite their spark and enable them to destroy him.”

The Praetor took this in. “If that has happened, then that means the ignition will have drawn the attention of other planeswalkers. They would sense the new planar signature and want to investigate it.”

“Indeed,” responded the minion. “And it is likely through them that the inhabitants of the plane will learn of the existence of The Multiverse and also explain the nature of our sleeper agent when they hear the story.”

“That is most inconvenient,” replied Praetor Elesh. “Urabrask and Sheoldred’s factions are again rebelling against me, and Sheoldred’s sheltering of the Mirran Resistance means our plans to conquer that plane must be put on hold. I will need to put down Urabrask and Sheoldred again and beat fealty out of them.”

“I have already sent emissaries to Jin-Gitaxas and Vorinclex.”

“I would rather not have to enter into an alliance with the heretic Jin-Gitaxas,” replied the Praetor. “His belief that the Father of Machines was imperfect is a blasphemy that needs to be wiped out. Though he’s made it difficult to do so due to his paranoia making him take every precaution possible.”

“I understand your distaste, Praetor Elesh, but New Phyrexia must be united in order to carry out your plan.”

“It is something done out of necessity. Once we conquer the plane, I will destroy him and unify New Phyrexia under our faction.” The Praetor then took time to think. “In the meantime, send an Infiltrator to the plane. And have them try to find someone who will aid us and weaken them from inside.”

“I will send Xeria. Her work in Kaldheim was a key to our successful incursion there, and I imagine she will produce similar results.”

Chapter Text

Algernon Palmer was walking to the State Room in the Royal Palace. After what had happened the previous day, Geordo and Alan informed their father, King Edmund, of Director Palmer’s manipulation of Catarina. Director Palmer had gotten the summons from King Edmund and realized that Geordo’s threat of The King having words with him was being carried out. He walked up to the door of the State Room, and nervously, knocked on it.

“You may enter.”

Director Palmer opened the door and saw King Edmund, seated at his desk, giving him a stern look. Director Palmer swallowed hard and walked into the room. “Please close the door,” The King ordered him, to which he complied. After doing so, Director Palmer walked in front of The King’s desk and stood before him.

“Please take a seat Doctor Palmer.”

Director Palmer did so and waited for The King to speak. After a few moments, King Edmund began the conversation.

“I was informed by my son Geordo that among other things, you disregarded instructions from Doctor Lawrence Cope regarding my son’s fiancée Miss Catarina, as well as deliberately took actions to try to deceive and manipulate her into agreeing to make herself a ward of the Ministry. Is that true?”

Director Palmer took a few moments to think about how to respond. “Your Majesty, it was necessary for the Ministry of Magic to do so. The Church of Sorcier is trying to lay claim to Miss Claes, and her new magical abilities need to be thoroughly studied.”

“On one hand Doctor Palmer, I understand your wanting to get to the bottom of the matter,” replied The King. “But on the other, I was informed that you were demanding her time without any regard to her as a person and looking at her as a prize to be won, not to mention taking advantage of her kind nature.”

“Your Majesty, The Church has declared her a Living Saint and will claim her the moment she turns eighteen.”

“She is not even seventeen yet,” replied The King. “And besides that, did you even think of asking for an audience with me to discuss this?”

“I did not think this would warrant your attention, Sir. And Miss Claes was willing to do what we asked of her.”

“It was clear to everyone except Miss Catarina that you realized how easily you could manipulate her and exploited that without any second thoughts,” replied The King. “Just the fact that you would do that to any student does not put you in a positive light. That you did it to my son’s fiancée and then proceeded to disregard Doctor Cope and even attempted to prevent my sons from seeing her shows that you cared more about getting an upper hand on the Church than actual research.”

“Your Majesty, the Church, particularly Archbishop Nolan, were trying to steal a march on us. I was merely fighting fire with fire,” Director Palmer responded.

“But that doesn’t mean you lie and manipulate, or ignore the regular protocol,” responded The King. “Your disregard of Doctor Cope’s instructions as well as your manipulation of Miss Catarina demonstrates to me that you have abused your position in the Ministry. I need people I can trust, and I can no longer trust you.”

Director Palmer’s eyes widened upon hearing that. The King then got straight to the point. “Effective immediately, you are dismissed from your post as Director of Theoretical Magic. I have asked the Ministry Board to investigate your actions and compile a report. That report will be turned over to the prosecutor, who will decide whether or not to press charges. But regardless, you will not work for or serve the Ministry in any capacity ever again.”

The now former Director Palmer took a moment to let this sink in. “I understand, Your Majesty. Allow me to offer my sincere apologies.”

“I’m not who you should apologize to. Miss Catarina and my son are whom you owe them to.”

“Understood, Sir.”

Just then, a knock at the door was heard. The King answered, “You may enter.” The door opened, revealing a chamberlain. “Your Majesty, Archbishop Joseph Nolan is requesting an audience with you.”

“Please send him in.” The King then turned to Palmer. “You may leave now.” Palmer nodded his head and left the State Room without saying a word. A couple of minutes later, Archbishop Nolan walked into the State Room along with Monsignor Braden, Father Blanton, and Father Knowles. “Archbishop Nolan, I understand you have something you wish to speak with me about.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” responded the Archbishop, as he sat down in a chair in front of King Edmund’s desk. “It is in regards to Miss Catarina Claes. From what I have been informed, she is currently at Claes Manor and her parents are refusing to let anyone see her. I am here to ask you for a Royal Order to compel Duke and Duchess Claes to allow us access to Miss Claes.”

“I will do no such thing,” the King responded immediately.

Archbishop Nolan was stunned at the King’s quick response. “Your Majesty, the girl is a Living Saint, and her parents are refusing access to her! Her parents are hindering her mission!”

“From what I understand, while a majority of bishops and archbishops agree with you, there is a sizable and significant minority that are questioning your declaration,” The King answered.

“Yes, there are a number of them that disagree with me, but I assure you they will realize the truth and agree with my decision!”

“I also received a letter from a Church source stating that there were some irregularities with the investigation, and that you decided on this with the investigation nowhere close to complete.”

Upon hearing that, Archbishop Nolan was furious. While it was known that some bishops disagreed with his assessment, the fact that The King was made aware of the internal goings-on of a Church investigation was unexpected. Immediately, he turned to Monsignor Braden. “Monsignor, don’t think I didn’t know about yours and Father Knowles’s correspondence with the Ministry of Magic. The fact that you were willing to inform an outside party of the details of a Church investigation without my consent-“

“Do not blame Monsignor Braden and Father Knowles.”

Archbishop Nolan turned to the voice that spoke those words, stunned at whose voice it was. “Father Blanton?”

“I wrote the letter, Your Excellency.”

The Archbishop was struck speechless momentarily by the fact that the one among the three that had readily agreed with him was the one who disclosed the questions about the Church’s investigation. “You…..you agreed with my assessment initially! What have Monsignor Braden and Father Knowles done-”

“I was naive in thinking you had no political motivations in naming Miss Claes a Living Saint, Your Excellency. I started to question your motivations when you brought Miss Claes to you and explained what she would be doing as a Living Saint. Your clashing with the Ministry of Magic made it evident to me, and I now regret endorsing your conclusion in the first place.”

Archbishop Nolan was angered at Father Blanton’s change of mind. “Don’t think you won’t get out of this unscathed. I will-”

“Your Excellency, should you retaliate against Father Blanton, that’ll cause an uproar with the other bishops and archbishops,” Monsignor Braden responded. “You’ve already used a lot of capital with your declaration.”

Frustrated, Archbishop Nolan turned to The King. “Your Majesty, the laws of this country are clear. Once the determination is made, that settles it. She is bound to enter our service at eighteen.”

“Yes, I am aware. But given the nature of your spat with the Ministry, and given the letter that the Ministry forged and how it was accepted at face value before it was proven a forgery, I along with several others would not put it past you to try and claim her before then through other means, whether legal or another avenue. Not to mention that your own protocols were not followed in making the determination that Miss Catarina is a Living Saint. Plus, I know that two-thirds of the Council of Bishops have to agree with you to make the decision official and binding, which it is not yet.”

The King then paused before continuing. “But beyond that, let me explain why I am denying your request for a Royal Order. First, issuing such an order would essentially be an endorsement by the Sovereign of your investigation, and from what Father Blanton has told me about your hasty decision, I cannot do that, especially since it’s clear that your primary motivations are political and not religious in nature. But more than that, you are asking me to overrule the wishes of Miss Catarina’s parents. They do not want the Church or the Ministry of Magic to have access to her because they are concerned for her well-being. The only way I would even consider such an order would be if such a thing would be critical for the health of the kingdom, which this is not.”

“In that case, the Living Saint will be serving the kingdom with her duties under us, so I would consider this to concern the health of the kingdom.”

“But it will not affect the existence or sovereignty of Sorcier. That is what I consider to be critical. I have made my decision, and will not change it. I will not issue any order to compel Duke and Duchess Claes to allow you access to their daughter. And until further notice, any attempt by the Church to force Miss Catarina into an audience with you or any other Church official will be considered a kidnapping and subject the Church to legal prosecution.”

Archbishop Nolan, knowing he had no way to compel the King politically, turned to an ecclesiastic threat. “If that is the case, then let it be known that I will not sanction any potential marriage your sons may enter into. I am fairly certain the nobility would not agree to an unmarried man assuming the throne-”

“Your Excellency, if you won’t sanction it, another bishop or archbishop will,” Father Knowles interrupted. “I already know at least a dozen that have said they would if you didn’t.”

Archbishop Nolan was stunned into silence by Father Knowles’s statement. The King then glared at the Archbishop. “My decision is final. Do you have anything else to discuss with me?”

“Your Majesty, you are directly hindering the Church's mission and denying us our privileges-”

“Did I misspeak, Archbishop?”

Defeated, Archbishop Nolan stood up without saying a word and left the State Room, with Monsignor Braden, Father Blanton, and Father Knowles following close behind.

 


 

Catarina woke up in the late morning. As she woke up, she thought back to the previous night and the talk she had with her parents. Hearing them, especially her mother, speak so positively of her had helped her feel better about the situation at hand. She still needed to be rid of her Living Saint status, but hearing them affirm that they were willing to protect her and prevent the Church from claiming her warmed her heart.

“Good morning, Lady Catarina.”

Catarina looked over and saw Anne, who had happiness and relief on her face. “It appears your talk with your parents did a lot to ease you.”

“It did, Anne,” Catarina affirmed. “I didn’t know Mother had such a positive opinion of me.”

“She doesn’t show it very often, Milady, but she does appreciate you and what you’ve brought to House Claes.” Catarina smiled at Anne’s words. With that, Catarina got ready for her day, taking a bath and donning a simple dress. She then began heading downstairs.

As Catarina walked down the stairs, she heard her mother speaking to someone.

"I thought I ordered these to be delivered tomorrow!"

"The order was to have the seedlings delivered today."

"Oh dear! Our gardener Tom has today off. How did I make this mistake?"

"Unfortunately Madame Claes, I cannot take them back with me."

"I suppose we'll have to keep these here then. What we'll do with them, I don't know."

Upon hearing this, Catarina got an idea in her head. Tom wasn't here, but she was, and she could plant them. She went back to her room and changed into her gardening outfit. She then went to the front door and saw the seedlings. Catarina looked around and saw nobody was nearby. Figuring the coast was clear, she then took the seedlings and proceeded to make her way to her garden on the grounds of the estate. If anything, this would allow her some normalcy after the Ministry of Magic and Church of Sorcier's demands for her time began to overwhelm her.

Unbeknownst to Catarina, her mother was watching. But unlike previous times, Miri was glad her daughter was doing this, and she smiled after seeing Catarina carry the seedlings off. Just then, Luigi walked up to Miri.

"Did Catarina take the seedlings?"

"She did," Miri confirmed.

“Good. This should allow Catarina to relax and get her mind off of everything that's happened,” Luigi responded.

Miri then thought about the situation. “To think there would be an instance where I would be happy to see her gardening. At least it shows me she’s beginning to get back to normal. For her that is.”

Just then, a maid walked up to Miri. “Madame Claes, there’s two girls at the front gate who say they’re friends of Lady Catarina and are here to visit her. The gatekeeper doesn’t recognize them, but they insist they are friends of your daughter.”

Upon hearing the maid’s explanation, Miri decided to look into it. “Please lead me to them.” The maid did as she was instructed, and as she got to the front gate, she saw two girls who she also did not recognize.

“Good morning. How can I help you?”

“Good morning, Madame Claes!” one of the girls greeted her. “I’m Tammy Morrison, and this is Penny Abbott! We’re friends of Lady Claes here to visit her!”

Miri was suspicious upon hearing that. Her daughter had mentioned to her the numerous friends she’d made at the Academy, and she did not recall hearing either name. The two girls also looked somewhat older than the average Academy student. Miri then turned to the maid. “Tell me, did Miss Joana come back yet with the romance novels Catarina requested?”

Upon hearing this, Penny leaned over to Tammy and asked, “What self-respecting noblewoman reads romance novels?”

Her suspicions confirmed, Miri turned to the two young women and glared. “My daughter does. If you were truly her friends, you would’ve known that.”

“EEP!”

“Now then, Miss Tammy and Miss Penny, who sent you?”

Tammy and Penny held each other, shaking at the Duchess’s imposing presence.

“Please answer my question, ladies.”

“We…..we…..”

“ANSWER ME!”

“We were sent by the Church of Sorcier!” replied Tammy. “Archbishop N-Nolan has reque-que-quested Saint Catarina’s presence!”

“So the Church hasn’t gotten the hint yet,” Miri replied. “Well then, let the Archbishop know that I am not going to allow him to see my daughter. I am not going to allow the Church to take my daughter away from her family and friends and force her into involuntary servitude.”

“B-but you’re impeding the will of the gods! You are hindering your daughter’s holy mission!”

“House Claes has questions about that,” replied Miri. “We would prefer a more thorough investigation.”

Penny then spoke up. “You’re risking damnation from the gods for impeding their wills!”

“If the gods would damn me for preventing my daughter from being forced into the Church’s involuntary servitude, then I will gladly accept damnation!” After a pause, she then spoke up. “I kindly ask you to leave at this time.”

The two girls then looked at Miri in shock. “You…..You don’t actually mean-”

GET OUT!!

Tammy and Penny screamed in terror at the imposing Duchess and immediately fled with all deliberate speed. Miri waited for them to be out of her sight before she walked back to the mansion. When she got there, she saw her husband waiting for her. “That was quite a show.”

“They didn’t hear me the first time,” replied Miri.

With that, Miri and Luigi re-entered the mansion, waiting for Catarina to finish planting the seedlings before they would have afternoon tea.

 


 

“There it is.”

Four figures walked up to Claes Manor. Their search was coming to an end, as they found the home of the one they were looking for.

“There’s been quite a lot of talk about Catarina Claes,” remarked one of them. “Hearing what she’s done, it’s obvious that it’s arcane, but that it’s so unknown that the religious authorities have declared her some sort of holy person is something on another level.”

“I agree,” remarked another. “Well, now that we’re here, we’ll be able to sort things out.”

The gatekeeper at Claes Manor spotted the four figures, and needed to look twice to make sure he was seeing what he thought he was seeing. A large humanoid lion with one eye, a red-haired young woman, and a black-haired woman in thieves’ leathers were being led by a figure wearing a hooded blue cloak. The gatekeeper became nervous as he saw them walking up. Finally, they stopped in front of the gates, behind which the gatekeeper was standing. The figure in the blue cloak then spoke.

“Good afternoon. I understand this is Claes Manor.”

“Y-yes it is,” responded the gatekeeper. “What business do you have here?”

“We are here to see Catarina Claes,” responded the figure in the blue cloak. “There is an important matter we wish to discuss with her.”

“I am under orders to not let anyone in,” replied the gatekeeper. “I have been instructed by the master and mistress of this house to deny anyone except her closest friends entrance.”

“Would it be possible to speak with the master and mistress of this house?” asked the lion man.

“I do not think they would be willing to entertain you, especially since we have had others attempt to gain access to Lady Catarina,” replied the gatekeeper.

The black-haired woman then spoke up. “I can sense it. The one who ignited their spark is here. I’m sure they have a lot of questions. We have answers. Please bring the master and mistress of this house to us.”

“I am not going to bother them with a random inquiry from strangers like yourselves, and I again doubt-”

“We’re not asking you,” replied the red-haired woman, who then disappeared in a burst of flame. The gatekeeper wondered where she'd gone, when suddenly with another burst of flame, she reappeared behind him. “We’re telling you.” The red-haired woman then teleported in another burst of flame back outside the gates.

The other three rolled their eyes at the confrontational nature of the red-haired woman. The gatekeeper, scared out of his mind at the demonstration, immediately responded, "Y-y-yes! I'll bring them to you!" The gatekeeper rang a bell to summon a maid, then asked a question of the group. "Who should I say wishes to speak with Duke and Duchess Claes?"

The figure in the hooded cloak then lowered the hood, revealing a young man with white facial tattoos and unkempt brown hair. After a moment, he then spoke up.

“My name is Jace Beleren, and we are The Gatewatch.”

Chapter Text

Luigi and Miri walked up to the front gate, led by the maid the gatekeeper had summoned. There, they saw the four strange visitors who had requested their presence. Luigi and Miri were not sure what to think of them. They clearly were not like any people they knew, especially the lion man, but they claimed to have answers as to what was going on with Catarina. After walking up to the gates, and after some silence, Luigi hesitantly greeted the visitors.

“Good afternoon. I am Duke Luigi Claes, and this is my wife, Duchess Miri Diana Claes. I understand you requested our presence.”

The young man then spoke up. “Good afternoon, Duke and Duchess Claes. My name is Jace Beleren, and these are my comrades.” First, the lion man walked up. “This is Ajani Goldmane.” Next, the red-haired woman walked up. “This is Chandra Nalaar.” Lastly, the black-haired woman walked up. “And this is Kaya. Together, we are part of an organization called The Gatewatch.”

Miri was suspicious of them, especially after the maid explained that they were there seeking Catarina. “I understand you want to speak with my daughter. What is it you want with her?”

“Your daughter Catarina has accomplished a feat which drew our attention and made us aware of this plane’s existence. We are aware of her powers and can tell you the nature of them, but it is vital that we speak with her to explain what is going on.”

Luigi was confused after hearing all of this. “What do you mean ‘this plane’? What do you know about her powers? And why do you need to speak with her?”

“It’s a lot to explain,” Jace responded. “To explain what I mean by a plane, it is a self-contained world in what is called The Multiverse. I hail from Vryn, while Ajani comes from Alara.”

“Different worlds?” asked Miri. “Are you actually saying you’re from a different world than ours?”

“Yes, we are.”

“That’s…..quite a claim. It sounds wholly unbelievable.”

“Actually, I can prove it,” responded Kaya. “I have the ability to transport another to a different plane. I’ll show you now as a matter of fact.” With that, Kaya reached through the bars of the gates and offered her hand. “Take my hand, and I will show you.”

“Forgive me, but you are total strangers claiming to be from other worlds and seeking our daughter, who has been the center of a political battle,” replied Miri. “My husband and I aren’t going to blindly trust you.”

“Well, what if we showed you proof?” asked Jace. “We have heard of things your daughter has done. Chandra and Ajani can replicate a couple of those.”

Chandra then stepped forward. “I understand your daughter is able to call lightning. Fire’s more my thing, but I also know a couple of lightning spells. It’s just not as versatile as fire.” Chandra then held her hand out and began drawing power into her. A few moments later, her eyes turned red, and a bolt of lightning struck the ground behind where The Gatewatch was standing. Luigi and Miri were dumbfounded seeing Chandra do that, calling lightning like how they had heard Catarina did, and Chandra’s eyes turning red, like how they heard Catarina’s had.

“For that matter, I also understand your daughter summoned an angel to her side. That’s something I can do as well,” added Ajani. Ajani then drew power into him, and then held his hand up. His one eye turned white, and a portal opened, to which an angel stepped out. The angel walked over and bowed to Ajani. “Lord Ajani, how may I help you?”

“I just called you here to show the master and mistress of this house that I can call angels like their daughter Catarina did.”

The angel heard Ajani’s words and had something come to mind. “Catarina…..Catarina…..I’ve heard that name recently. A page named Ayla said she was summoned by a mage named Catarina, in a world where summoning magic isn’t known.”

Duke and Duchess Claes’s eyes widened. The fact that the angel that Ajani had summoned knew of their daughter and also knew the name of the angel Catarina had summoned, which she had written them letters about, was proof that these strangers knew what they were talking about.

Finally, Luigi stepped forward. “Miss Kaya, I would be willing to let you transport me to another ‘plane’ as you call it. I am willing to take the risk in doing so that I can verify yours and your companion’s claims.” With that, Luigi reached out, and Kaya reached her hand through the gates, grabbing a hold of his hand. A few moments later, both Kaya and Luigi turned a translucent purple and disappeared. Miri’s eyes widened seeing her husband disappear with Kaya. Jace then turned to Miri. “It might be a bit before they return.”

Ten minutes later, Kaya and Luigi appeared back from where they had originally teleported from, appearing a translucent purple, before turning back to normal. Upon doing so, both Luigi and Kaya doubled over, feeling nauseous. “Sorry. I should’ve warned you that the trip would make you feel ill,” replied Kaya.

After taking a couple of moments to recover, Luigi turned to Miri. “Miri, what Miss Kaya claimed was true! She did transport me to another world! I think they actually do have answers to everything that’s happened with Catarina.”

Miri then turned to The Gatewatch. “My husband is willing to hear you out, and I trust his judgement. But before you can see my daughter, I insist that we be present, along with her closest friends. We’ve had both the Ministry of Magic and the Church of Sorcier acting to try and claim her, and we do not want you trying the same thing.”

“That is not the case at all,” replied Jace. “And that is completely fine. In fact, having more to hear our explanation will make things much easier for all of us.”

“I will send urgent messages to Catarina’s friends, requesting their presence here two days from now,” said Miri. “Once they are here, then we will speak with you. We are hoping you can provide answers to what is going on and settle the dispute between the Ministry and the Church.”

“I can tell you that your daughter’s powers are in no way, shape, or form divine,” replied Jace. “We look forward to speaking with you, your daughter, and her friends to explain everything.”

With that, The Gatewatch said their goodbyes and left the front gates. Miri then turned to Luigi. “What was that other world you visited like?”

“It was a massive city, which spanned as far as I could see. Miss Kaya called it ‘Ravnica’.”

“I still don’t trust them,” replied Miri. “But you seem convinced, and at this point, having any sort of answer would help. At the very least they weren’t demanding and willing to accommodate our requests.”

With that, Luigi and Miri headed back into the mansion. They walked back to the tea room, where Catarina was waiting for them. Seeing them, Catarina asked, “Mother, Father, who asked to speak to you?”

“They were four strangers who claimed to be from different worlds and were able to replicate some of your new powers,” replied Luigi. “They called themselves ‘The Gatewatch’ and said their names were Jace Beleren, Chandra Nalaar, Ajani Goldmane, and Kaya.”

Upon hearing the first two names, Catarina stilled. For some reason, the names sounded familiar to her. She thought about it and realized it was something from her past life memories, but couldn’t quite figure out what those names meant. She kept on thinking about the names.

“Catarina?”

“Oh! I’m sorry Mother!” replied Catarina. “What did they want?”

“They wanted to speak with you. I’m suspicious of them, but they were able to replicate some of your powers. One of them was able to summon lightning, and another summoned an angel that mentioned Ayla, the angel you wrote about in your letters.”

“They will be meeting with us on Tuesday. Your mother and I will send out messages to your friends so that they are present here when those strangers come back.”

“One of them did say your powers aren’t divine, so you may be free of the Church soon,” Miri finished.

Catarina brightened up. “That would be a relief! I will prepare to meet them with everyone!”

With that, Catarina went about the rest of her day. While it went by normally, the names “Jace Beleren” and “Chandra Nalaar” stuck in her head. She couldn’t figure out where she heard those names in her past life. Eventually, Catarina turned in for the night.

 


 

“Whaddya mean Jace is overrated?! He’s the best planeswalker out there!”

“He’s being shilled nonstop by the game’s creators. They also pay way too much attention to him!”

“What are you two arguing about?”

“Oh! Chihiro! Koji’s just refusing to see the awesome that is Jace Beleren.”

“Shinji, he’s an overrated, overhyped walker. Now Chandra Nalaar, she’s cool!”

“‘Jace Beleren’? ‘Chandra Nalaar’? Who are they?”

“They’re planeswalkers in Magic: the Gathering. Here, lemme show you Chandra.”

“.....She’s SO cute!!”

“You think so? This deck is built around using her! You think you’d like to learn how to play it?”

“Chihiro, you’re in an uphill battle. Blue wins. Period.”

“Don’t get me started on how the design team has a bias towards blue.”

“Well, just show me how to play!”

“There’s quite a bit to take in, but you’ll get the hang of it. Now to start…..”

 


 

Catarina woke up the next morning, having dreamt of memories of her previous life. The names “Jace Beleren” and “Chandra Nalaar” had sounded familiar to her when she’d heard them the previous day, and now thanks to her dream, she knew why.

In her dream, she recalled her brothers Shinji and Koji playing a game called Magic: the Gathering, a card game where players took on the role of mages who entered into magical duels, using spells, creatures, enchantments, artifacts, and other cards to do so. She had walked in on them arguing about two of the game’s protagonists, Jace Beleren and Chandra Nalaar, who were planeswalkers, powerful mages who possessed the ability to travel between planes, which were self-contained worlds in what was known as The Multiverse.

After bathing and getting dressed, Catarina sat at her desk and began trying to recall what she knew about the game. In her previous life, she had been taught to play by her brothers Shinji and Koji. She wasn’t as into it as her brothers, but she enjoyed the game because she found it to be a good way to bond with them. What had truly interested her was the lore in the game, and she began recalling everything she could: The Multiverse, mana, planeswalking, how magic worked, and so on. She began writing everything she could recall in a notebook. Anne noticed this and asked her charge, “Lady Catarina, what are you writing?”

Quickly, Catarina came up with a believable lie. “Oh! Mother and Father told me about the guests that are visiting tomorrow, and how they can answer all the questions we have! I’m just writing down potential questions to ask.”

Anne smiled hearing this. “That’s a good idea, Milady. It’s a good idea to think of questions to ask. In light of that, I will make sure you are not disturbed.”

Catarina smiled and replied, “Thanks Anne!” Anne then left Catarina’s room, after which Catarina began recalling everything she could. As she recalled everything and wrote it down, she then thought about how it related to her current situation, and what the implications were.

“Does this mean that Sorcier and by extension Fortune Lover are part of The Multiverse? That the magic of The Multiverse exists here?? That Jace Beleren and Chandra Nalaar are real people as well?!”

Catarina continued to think, and had more thoughts come to her head.

“Have people here been using magic incorrectly? Have I somehow learned how to tap mana from the land to power spells?”

Thinking about all of this began to overwhelm Catarina, and she took a moment to sort her thoughts. She then decided to think about the magic she had previously used, and then began recalling spells from the game.

“The lightning spells I’ve been able to use must be Shock and Lightning Bolt. When I destroyed that monster at the Academy, it must’ve been some sort of artifact creature that I was able to use Naturalize on. And what Prince Geordo said about his wound feeling like it was being covered by a soothing balm, that must be Healing Salve!”

Catarina stayed in her room for the entire morning, writing down what she knew and what she could recall. She then realized that she now had some answers, but now many more questions were raised. Where was that artifact creature from? How did Jace Beleren and Chandra Nalaar find her? What other spells might she be able to use?

Shortly after noon, Anne knocked on the door to Catarina’s room. Catarina put away her notebook and called out, “Come in!” The door then opened, revealing Anne.

“Milady, it’s time for lunch. Your mother would like you to join her for it.”

“I’ll be right down.” With that, Catarina took a look over herself in the mirror and did some tidying up. She then left and began heading to the dining room for lunch. As she did, she began thinking of the oddity of this situation.

“I died in my previous life and woke up in the world of Fortune Lover. But now it turns out that the world of Fortune Lover is part of The Multiverse. So I’m in a game within a game in a sense. Freaky!”

 


 

Catarina arrived at the dining room and greeted her mother. As she sat down at the table, Miri spoke up.

“Anne told me that you’ve been thinking of questions to ask that Gatewatch group. I’m impressed that you had the foresight to do so.”

“Ah! Yes! I mean, there’s so many questions that I have that I think I should be prepared!” Catarina quickly replied, concealing that she now knew some answers. She wished she could explain to her mother what she knew, but it would likely be confusing for her to hear, and also raise suspicions about how Catarina knew those sorts of things.

“Your brother and your friends all responded. They will be here tomorrow in the morning to meet with our guests as well. Miss Sophia asked me to inform you that her older brother Mister Nicol will be here too.”

“Ah, that’s nice!” declared Catarina. “I haven’t seen Master Nicol since he graduated!” Lunch was then served to them, and as they ate, Catarina asked, “What’s been going on ever since I’ve been here?”

“The Ministry official that was abusing your trust was dismissed from his post by King Edmund. From what the Prime Minister told your father, the Church asked His Majesty for a royal order to let them have access to you, but King Edmund refused it. From what I understand, King Edmund was informed that the Church made their decision too quickly, and that a significant number of bishops are asking for a further investigation.”

“Well, hopefully this Gatewatch group can provide answers and make any further investigation unnecessary.”

“On that note Catarina, are you feeling better? Have you been getting enough to eat?”

“I am, Mother. Thank you for asking!”

“I had Miss Joana go out to get some new romance novels for you. On another note, would you please join me for tea later in the afternoon?”

“I’d be happy to, Mother!”

Catarina and Miri finished their lunch, after which Catarina went back to her room and continued to recall what she could about Magic: the Gathering. As she did, she circled back around to planeswalkers, and then recalled how one became a planeswalker.

Planeswalkers had what was called a planeswalker’s spark, which was an inherent part of their being. The spark was the potential to become a planeswalker and had to be ignited in order to unlock it. Typically, it was done when one went under some sort of physical or mental duress. She thought about the sudden awakening of her powers and began thinking.

“When that biomechanical monster attacked me, the toxic fumes it was emitting sickened me, and then it went after Geordo, which was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. Then I cast that spell and…..No, it couldn’t be!” 

Catarina continued to think about it, and everything seemed to fall in place. She’d been under considerable physical and mental strain during the incident, and she remembered the feeling that washed over her. But then she quickly came to another realization.

“I can’t have a planeswalker’s spark! I’m not the protagonist! Maria is! If anything, she would be the one to have it! But then again, from what I remember, someone having a spark is completely random. So that means…..”

At that point, Catarina stopped thinking about it and moved on. Deep inside her mind, she knew it was possible that she had a planeswalker’s spark and had ignited it. But she did not want to believe it. Having access to such an enormous amount of power scared her, and if it was true that she had a spark and ignited it, she felt she was prone to be corrupted. She did not want to admit the possibility of having a planeswalker's spark, so she stopped contemplating what she recalled from her past life.

The rest of the day went by normally. As Anne helped her get ready for bed, Catarina spoke up.

“I’m anxious for that meeting with those strangers tomorrow. I really want a full explanation on what’s happened to me. Hopefully it’s nothing bad.”

“I think we’re all anxious for that Milady. Everyone else wants a full explanation for what’s happened to you as well. And hopefully this group can give that to us.”

Catarina and Anne finished up, and Catarina crawled into bed. She thought about the impending meeting with The Gatewatch as she laid in bed before she fell asleep.

Chapter Text

The next day, Catarina’s friends arrived at Claes Manor. The messages they’d gotten from Madame Claes requesting their presence drew quick responses from them, and they agreed to come by, getting excused from their classes for the day in order to meet the strange mages that supposedly had answers about Catarina’s new powers. Around ten in the morning, they arrived, and Catarina reunited with her friends. Mary was the first to embrace her, followed by Keith, Geordo, and the rest of her friends. She found out from them about how her sudden absence from school made rumblings among the other students, who wondered what was happening.

The group, along with Anne, went to the parlor, where they all waited for the guests to arrive. After a half hour, Madame Claes entered the parlor.

“Our guests have arrived. Hopefully this will give us some clear answers as to what is going on with Catarina.”

“I’d heard about our guests for today,” remarked Prince Geordo. “They’d been sighted and caused a lot of murmurs as to who they are. What you’ve told us about them claiming to be from other worlds makes me suspicious.”

“I can’t say I trust them either, but they were able to replicate some of Catarina’s powers, and one of them supposedly showed my husband one of those different worlds, which convinced him they knew something,” Miri responded.

After a couple of minutes, Luigi walked in with Jace, Chandra, Ajani, and Kaya. The group was struck silent by their appearances, especially Ajani’s. Luigi then introduced them to the assembled group.

“Thank you all for coming here to meet our guests. These are Jace Beleren, Chandra Nalaar, Ajani Goldmane, and Kaya. They claim to have answers for what’s happening with Catarina, and based on what my wife and I have seen, we have decided to hear them out.”

“Good day,” Jace greeted them. “We are The Gatewatch, and we have come to inform you what has happened with Catarina.”

“Good day,” Geordo greeted him back. “I am Prince Geordo Stuart of Sorcier. With me are my brother Prince Alan Stuart of Sorcier, Master Keith Claes, Master Nicol Ascart, Lady Mary Hunt, Lady Sophia Ascart, and Miss Maria Campbell.”

Catarina, her friends, and The Gatewatch then proceeded to introduce themselves to each other individually. At one point, Chandra walked up to Catarina.

“Hi! I’m Chandra!”

“Good day! I’m Catarina Claes!” Catarina then looked over Chandra. She didn’t look anything like she remembered from the card art in her past life. For one, she was wearing more clothing than she remembered, and second, didn’t Chandra have pink hair?

“Miss Catarina?”

“Oh! My apologies Miss Chandra!” Catarina replied. She then continued to look over her, and said what came to mind. “I think you’d look good with pink hair!”

The rest of the group heard Catarina’s remark. “Catarina, where did that come from?!” asked Alan in exasperation. “Of all the things you could say, suggesting she would look good with pink hair?!” Alan then began to laugh at the seemingly random remark from Catarina. Chandra meanwhile looked horrified. “I most certainly would not look good with pink hair! I don’t even know why you would suggest that!” The rest of The Gatewatch snickered to themselves at the thought of the pyromancer sporting pink hair. Catarina’s friends simply smiled and shook their heads.

“Please excuse Sister. She’s just like that,” Keith explained.

“It’s not a problem,” replied Chandra. “Just…..never say that again!”

Afterwards, Catarina, Luigi, Miri, her brother, and her friends all took seats to hear what The Gatewatch was going to tell them. Jace stood in front of them and began to explain why they were there.

“We are here because some time ago, we sensed the ignition of a planeswalker’s spark. Such an occurrence is worthy of our attention, but for us it was especially noticeable because we also detected a mana signature that was unknown to us. We investigated, and found it originated from this plane. We then investigated the nature of this plane, and found that much of what we know is unknown here, so we sought out the one that ignited their spark.”

“You’re going to have to explain what all of that means to us,” Geordo interrupted. “‘Planeswalker’s spark’? ‘Mana signature’? ‘Plane’? What does that all mean?”

“We’ll start with what a plane is,” Ajani answered. “You see, this plane, Sorcier, is a part of what’s called The Multiverse. The Multiverse consists of planes, which are self-contained worlds linked to each other. Each of us hails from different planes. I am from Alara. Jace is from Vryn.”

“You’re saying that there’s worlds beyond ours?” asked Mary.

“Yes, and Sorcier is linked to those other worlds in The Multiverse,” Ajani explained.

“I beg your pardon, but ‘Sorcier’ is the name of this country,” replied Nicol. “There are other countries in this…..plane as you call it.”

“Well, we decided that since this plane was not named yet, and because your country was the focus of our attention, we would refer to the plane as Sorcier,” Kaya replied.

Alan snickered at this. “I’m sure the neighboring countries wouldn’t like that our country is also the name of this world.”

“There’s really worlds beyond ours? That sounds wholly unbelievable,” remarked Keith.

“Why don’t I show you then?” asked Kaya, who offered her hand. “Take my hand and I can transport you to another plane.”

Keith was hesitant to do so, to which Luigi walked over and put his hand on Keith’s shoulder. “You can trust her. She actually transported me to another plane two days ago. You can see it and relay to everyone that it’s the truth.” After hearing his father reassure him, Keith took hold of Kaya’s hand.

“Fair warning, the trip will make you nauseous when we get back. But I’ll suffer that as well.”

“Wait, what-”

Kaya and Keith suddenly turned a translucent purple and, after a couple of moments, disappeared. Miri then spoke up. “It might be a little bit.”

Ten minutes later, Kaya and Keith reappeared, first in the translucent purple, then changing back to normal. Kaya doubled over, while Keith collapsed to his knees and began to gag. Catarina ran over to Keith quickly. “Keith! Are you okay??”

“Just a little sick,” replied Keith.

“Should I get a bucket?”

“A bucket…..Sister! If I had to do that, I’d run out of sight!” He then wretched again, but after taking a deep breath, began to feel better. After taking time to recover, he then turned to the rest of the group. “It’s true! Miss Kaya transported me through some strange space, and then we arrived in a place called Innistrad.”

“What was it like?” asked Sophia.

“It was during the night. I felt like I was surrounded by death and corruption. I think I saw a werewolf. I don’t know if it was one, but-”

“It was,” Kaya remarked.

Sophia got excited hearing this. “Werewolves are real?! Oh my! I want to visit there someday!”

“I’d rather you didn’t Sophia,” Nicol replied to his sister. Nicol then turned to The Gatewatch. “Don’t mind my sister. She’s very much into romantic stories, fantasy, and fairy tales.”

“Eladrine would be a better place to visit,” remarked Chandra. “It is very much a fairy tale realm.” Sophia’s eyes widened hearing this.

“Okay, so you’ve proved that worlds beyond this one exist,” said Geordo. “What did you mean by ‘mana signature’?”

“We’ll need to first explain what mana is,” replied Jace.

“Well, we know what that is. It’s the arcane energy within a magic-capable person used to fuel magic,” replied Geordo.

“But it’s much more prevalent than that,” Ajani replied. “Mana is necessary for life to thrive. In places with little or no mana, living things weaken and die. Mana is produced by the land itself, and in addition, mana can be produced by animals, objects, even people. But just because one does not produce mana doesn’t mean they can’t draw upon it and use spells.”

“If you’ve been thinking that mana is only produced by and can only be drawn from yourself, then that would explain the magic here. Though that discussion will have to wait,” said Jace.

“This plane is rich in mana,” Ajani explained. “But because there are many places in The Multiverse where mana is prevalent, it’s difficult to single out. It was only when the planeswalker’s spark was ignited that we detected the unique mana signature of Sorcier and were able to locate it.”

“But if mana is so prevalent, then why can’t we use anything other than what’s in our bodies?” asked Maria.

“It might be that you don’t know how to tap mana from anywhere besides your body,” said Ajani. “There is a way to tap mana from the land and other things.”

“Okay, so you’ve explained the planes and mana signatures, but what’s a planeswalker’s spark?” Geordo asked.

“A planeswalker’s spark is an inherent part of a person with arcane talent,” Chandra began to explain. “You see, I, along with my companions, are planeswalkers. We possess the ability to travel between the planes. Additionally, we can draw mana from The Multiverse itself to power our spells. Most mages can only draw mana readily available to them on the plane they’re in. We however have greater access to mana.”

“A spark represents a person’s potential to become a planeswalker,” Kaya elaborated. “But not everyone has a spark. It’s a rare occurrence for a person to have one. And in order to become a planeswalker, the spark needs to be ignited, which usually happens through physical and mental duress. Having a spark is rare, but igniting it is even rarer.”

“We discovered Sorcier when a mage ignited their spark, and we followed it to here,” explained Chandra.

Catarina thought back to the incident with the mechanical monstrosity. She remembered the feeling of an explosion inside her and the burning sensation she felt when she went to cast her Earth Bump. She then remembered being able to sense and draw upon new power. Her eyes widened when she realized what that possibly meant.

“Lady Catarina? Are you okay?” asked Mary.

“I’m fine. I just…..Miss Chandra, when a planeswalker’s spark ignites, what does it feel like?”

“When it happened to me, I felt like my insides were exploding, and then felt like I was burning up. But it felt good.”

Catarina gasped at hearing this. “There was a student that turned into a monster, and I was trying to cast my Earth Bump spell to trip it when it went after Prince Geordo, but then I felt that exact same sensation! And that’s when I got my new powers! I also began feeling like there was power flowing through me, and that I could harness it!”

Geordo, having heard that, and remembering what Catarina had said she felt after she destroyed the abomination at the Academy when discussing the incident with the Ministry of Magic, came to the same realization.

“Are you saying that Catarina-”

“Yes,” Jace interrupted. “Catarina ignited her planeswalker’s spark. She is now a planeswalker like us, and based on what we’ve seen here, the most powerful mage in this plane.”

Catarina hadn’t wanted to believe that was the case, but after Jace’s confirmation, she began to feel overwhelmed. After a moment, she found herself wobbling, and shortly after felt herself collapsing to the floor.

 


 

“Catarina!”

“Sister!”

“Lady Catarina!”

Catarina woke up, surrounded by her friends and being held by Geordo, with Keith attempting to also hold Catarina, much to Geordo’s annoyance. The revelations that had taken place over the past couple of days had radically altered her perception of the world. Before, she was “just” reborn into Fortune Lover and had doom flags to dodge. Not only was The Multiverse of Magic: the Gathering real, her new world in this life was a part of that. Even moreso, the fact that she had a planeswalker’s spark and had ignited it when facing that biomechanical abomination was an utter shock to her. She now had access to a power that was greater than any this world knew. She began to become fearful about having such power at her fingertips. This did not go unnoticed by everyone.

“Catarina? What’s wrong?” asked her father.

“After hearing what our guests have told us, and about how I have access to the power they have…..I’m scared! What if it gets to my head? What if it corrupts me??”

Miri sighed in disappointment. Despite her and her husband’s reassurances, her daughter’s terrible self-esteem was still prevalent. “Catarina, please stop thinking the worst of yourself,” she gently chided her daughter, knowing she was still in a fragile place mentally.

“Knowing you Lady Catarina, this won’t corrupt you at all,” Maria tried to reassure her. “You’re one of the most selfless people we know!”

“But you know what they say about power corrupting!”

“That’s only if one holds power for themselves or holds onto it for power’s sake,” Alan responded. “Those who wield power to help others and change things for the better don’t get consumed by it.”

After taking a moment, Catarina calmed down. With Geordo’s help, she stood back up and faced The Gatewatch. Geordo then had a question for Jace. “So because Catarina ignited her…..planeswalker’s spark, she’s now the most powerful mage in the world?”

“Easily,” Jace responded. “With how primitive and weak magic is here, Catarina completely outclasses every other mage on this plane.”

Geordo was immediately outraged at Jace’s assertion. “Our magic is ‘primitive and weak’?! How dare you slander the Kingdom of Sorcier so freely!” he declared.

“We have observed the magic in your kingdom,” responded Ajani. “I apologize for my companion’s bluntness, but unfortunately it is true.”

“I will not ignore a slight against the kingdom like that!” declared Geordo. “If you really think it’s so weak, then why don’t you test my might against yours?”

“That goes for me too!” added Keith. “You’ll be surprised at what I’m capable of!”

“You’re not getting away with that! We will have to settle this with a magical duel!” declared Alan.

Nicol, normally not one for confrontation, agreed with his friends. “I think that is the only way to settle this dispute.”

“Very well,” declared Jace.

Miri then stepped in. “If you really insist on settling this with a magic duel, let’s go outside on the grounds of the estate. But let me warn you that if any damage occurs to our estate, whoever is responsible will be held liable by us.”

“That’s quite alright, Madame Claes,” declared Geordo. With that, the group then began going outside to settle the dispute.

Chapter Text

As everyone was walking outside onto the grounds of the Claes estate, Catarina began to feel nervous. She knew from her past-life memories that Jace was far more powerful than Geordo was, and that he had a myriad number of ways to defeat Geordo. Catarina spoke carefully, not wanting to reveal what she knew.

“Prince Geordo, I don’t think a duel is necessary for this,” Catarina explained.

“Catarina, Mister Jace’s remarks and Mister Ajani’s concurrence were an insult towards our country. I have to defend our country’s honor,” the Third Prince responded.

“I don’t want you getting hurt though! You’ve heard what they’ve been able to replicate with my new powers! What other things might they be able to do?”

“That is yet to be seen and I am confident in my abilities.”

“But Prince Geordo-”

“Please Catarina, I have to defend our kingdom’s honor.”

Catarina gave up, upset that she was unable to convince Geordo to back out. Jace, having heard the conversation between Catarina and Geordo, and having heard Catarina’s fears, whispered to her, “I won’t hurt him. I promise.” Catarina was assured, knowing from her past life that Jace would honor his promise.

After everyone got outside for the duel, Geordo and Jace set up for it. Geordo stood a decent distance away from Jace, ready to show him the might of magic in Sorcier. The assertion that magic in Sorcier was primitive and weak was an insult to the kingdom that could not be allowed to stand, and he intended to demonstrate to the so-called planeswalker just what he was capable of.

Jace then spoke up. "Why don't you take the first move?"

Geordo smiled, thrilled that the mysterious mage in blue robes was going to allow him the advantage. Geordo accepted the offer by getting into a stance so he could unleash a gout of powerful flame. As he gathered his power, he envisioned what Jace's reaction would be to the powerful barrage he was about to unleash. Then the moment came, and Geordo swept his arm forward, to which Jace held his hand out. Instead of a gout of powerful flame, a pathetic stream of sparks flew out harmlessly from his swing forward.

As Geordo stood there, eyes wide and unable to comprehend what had just happened, Jace smirked. "Rudimentary counter-magic was all it took for me to stop you." Geordo quickly raised his hand up to try and shoot a burst of fire at Jace, only for Jace to again raise his hand and cause Geordo's attempted spell to be reduced to an unimpressive shower of sparks.

As Geordo stood there, dumbfounded by Jace's effortless countering of his spells, Mary and Keith smirked. "Don't worry, Your Highness! Failure is an opportunity to learn!" Keith remarked smugly. Mary giggled at Keith's barb, happy to see the Third Prince taken down a peg by the strange spellcaster. Geordo didn’t know whether to be humiliated at being so easily outclassed by Jace, or annoyed that Keith had decided now to resume their rivalry.

Geordo tried once more to shoot flames at Jace, but Jace again reduced his attempt to a stream of sparks. Jace then waved his hand and Geordo suddenly found himself unable to move. He tried to break free, but the magical bind Jace put him in prevented him from moving. Finally, after a couple of minutes, Geordo yielded, unable to act against Jace. “I concede our duel. My position is hopeless.” Jace waved his hand again, and Geordo found himself able to move. Geordo then walked back to everyone, humiliated by Jace’s effortless defeat of him.

Keith smirked even more at Geordo’s failure, which did not go unnoticed by the Third Prince. “Keith, you did say that our guests would be surprised at what you were capable of. Why don’t you show them?” Ajani then spoke up. “I will duel you.” Keith quickly accepted, seeing this as a chance to outdo the Third Prince. “I welcome your challenge!”

Quickly, Catarina rushed over. “Keith! Don’t! You saw what Mister Jace did to Prince Geordo! Mister Ajani will probably defeat you easily as well!”

“Sister, Mister Ajani doesn’t know what he’s facing with me.”

“But neither did Mister Jace with Prince Geordo, and you saw what happened!”

“I know I can beat him! You'll see!”

“Keith! No! I won’t let you-”

“Sister! Please have faith in me!” Keith begged his sister. Keith’s words struck a chord with Catarina, and she yielded. “Just…..be careful. Please!”

Jace then whispered to Ajani, “Whatever you do, don’t hurt him.”

“I promise.”

Keith and Ajani then got themselves set up, standing a decent distance away from each other. Keith looked at Ajani, relishing what he believed was his chance to upstage Geordo. While Geordo's fire magic might've been undone by Jace, he knew his magic would be much more difficult to deal with. Ajani looked over at Keith and called out, "I will allow you the privilege of the first move, as my companion allowed your friend." Seizing the opportunity, Keith quickly conjured a massive earth golem.

Keith looked over, expecting Ajani to be awed by his demonstration. Instead, Ajani looked at the golem with pure indifference. Ajani then made his move, and began gathering mana for whatever he was about to cast. Seeing an opening, he shouted out, "Take that mage down!" as he directed the earth golem to charge Ajani.

Ajani continued gathering mana while the earth golem beared down on him, seemingly unconcerned by the large magical conjuration headed towards him. Ajani finished, and he cast the spell, to which a portal opened and several winged angels flew out. Ajani then looked at the golem and pointed a finger at it, to which a white beam fired out. The beam hit the golem and quickly dissolved it into nothingness. Keith felt a surge of vitality run through him as it happened, and quickly prepared to conjure another golem. Before he could, he then found himself surrounded by the angels Ajani had summoned, with no hope of escape. Seeing the situation was hopeless, he called out, "I yield!" Hearing this, Ajani called out "Stand down!" and the angels sheathed their swords.

Keith looked around and saw the unearthly beautiful creatures staring at him. Overwhelmed by how many were looking at him, he quickly passed out. Mary, curious about this instance, then turned to Geordo. "So did he faint because of how overwhelmed he was by the show of force, or because of the beauty of those angels surrounding him?"

Geordo smirked, elated that at least he wasn't alone in being humiliated by these unfathomably powerful mages. "Yes."

Ajani then snapped his fingers, and the angels disappeared. Catarina quickly rushed over to Keith’s side and helped him come to. After Keith woke up, Catarina walked her brother back to the group. Nicol then spoke up. “In light of all of this, I feel we need not go any further. As unfortunate as it is, we must concede your point.”

“During your duels, I did feel something,” said Kaya. “Both Prince Geordo and Keith tapped mana from their bodies to cast their spells. Jace and Ajani however tapped theirs from leylines here in Sorcier to fuel their spells.”

“I can sense that many of you have bodies which produce mana,” added Chandra. “But what you produce is a pittance to what we and Catarina can access.”

“But there is good news,” Kaya continued. “All of you are capable of tapping mana from leylines in Sorcier to fuel spells.”

“We are?” asked Geordo.

“Yes, you are,” replied Chandra. “I sense you have an affinity for red mana, Your Highness. That is my specialty, and I will be happy to teach you how to cast more powerful fire spells. Spells powerful enough that Jace can’t stop them like he stopped yours.”

“For that matter Your Highness, you also have an affinity for blue mana. You would be able to learn the counter-magic I used against you,” replied Jace.

Hearing this confused the Third Prince. “‘Red’ mana? ‘Blue’ mana?”

Jace paused for a moment before realizing what Geordo was asking about. “Ah, yes. We should explain that.”

“Mana comes in five colors,” Ajani began explaining. “Those colors are blue, white, green, red, and black. Each color represents certain concepts and has their own strengths and weaknesses, and each mage is aligned to colors of mana. Some have one color, some have multiple. I am aligned with white and green mana. Jace’s alignment is blue, Chandra’s is red, and Kaya’s black and white.”

“Blue mana is the color of the mind and of logic. It allows great insight and precognition, but at the cost of strength,” explained Jace.

“Red is the color of the body and of chaotic impulse. It gives access to might and destructive power, but at the cost of defense,” Chandra added.

“White is the color of the soul and of order. It offers protection for the self and others, sometimes to a crippling degree. Green is the color of life and interdependence. It offers defense and the ability to survive, but its offensive capabilities are mostly limited to brute force,” Ajani continued.

“And black is the color of death and ambition,” Kaya explained to finish. “It can get what it needs at any given moment, but the price to such power is high, with even life capable of being that price.”

The group stilled at Kaya’s explanation of black mana, due to their experiences with dark magic. Seeing this, Kaya went to reassure them. “None of the colors are inherently good or evil. What matters is the person using them. A morally upright black mage for example would never draw life from others to fuel their spells and would only use their own life force. Similarly, white’s love of order can include anything up to and including complete tyranny and unquestioned obedience to authority.”

“Additionally, each color has two other colors that are allied, and two that are opposed,” Jace further elaborated. “To take me for an example, blue allies with white and black, but is opposed to green and red. However, the so-called “enemy” alignments do not mean incompatibility. For example Prince Geordo, your alignments of red and blue are opposed to each other. But there are spells fueled with opposing colors, and an opposing color can offer something another color lacks.”

“All of this is…..very interesting,” said Geordo.

“What about me?” Catarina asked.

“You are the rare mage that is aligned with more than two colors. Your primary is green, but you also have access to red and white,” said Ajani. “Because of that, I will offer myself as your primary mentor, with some help from Chandra.”

“And one more thing,” said Jace. “If the belief here is that the only people that can use magic are those whose bodies produce mana, then there are those with the potential to use magic that are missed. In fact, there is someone here who has the capability to tap mana and cast spells despite their body not producing mana.”

The group heard this from Jace and, after some thought, realized there was only one person present among them that fit that description. They all turned to that person.

“M-me? Use magic?!” said Anne, who to this point had only observed and not said anything. “Y-you must be mistaken! I have no capability to-”

“I sense it,” replied Ajani. “You have the ability to tap into the leylines that provide white mana. You might not be able to use powerful magic, but you do have the capability to use it. I’m sure there would be some spells which would be helpful for you.”

Anne could only gape at Ajani’s declaration. After a moment, she spoke up. “If learning to…..’tap mana’ as you put it would help me serve Lady Catarina, I will be happy to attempt to learn so.”

“You will learn so. I promise you that.”

Then Geordo had a thought come to him. “Are angels typically aligned with white mana Mister Ajani?”

“Typically yes. Why?”

Geordo then smiled. “If you say that Anne is capable of tapping and using white mana, could she possibly summon an angel?”

“That would be well within the realm of possibility.”

Geordo’s smile got even brighter. “I think we have a way to prove to the Church that Catarina’s power isn’t divine and force them to reverse their declaration! Mister Jace, Mister Ajani, Miss Chandra, and Miss Kaya, please teach us all you know!”

“Well, that would take a while,” replied Jace. “But I think we can get you up to speed on tapping mana and using spells quickly.”

 


 

Noelia Flores was in her dorm room, studying for an exam that was going to take place the next day. She heard a knock on her door, which her personal maid Cecilia answered. Shortly after, Cecilia walked up to Noelia.

“Lady Noelia, your mother and father are here to see you.”

Curious as to why her parents had suddenly come to visit her, she responded, “I will come greet them now.” She stood up and walked to her dorm room door, greeting her mother, Marchioness Leonora Flores, and her father, Marquess Alfonso Flores. After they exchanged greetings, Marquess Flores turned to Cecilia.

“Cecilia, we need to speak with Noelia about an important matter. Would you please allow us some privacy to have our discussion? Just wait in the hallway. We will let you know when it is okay to come back in.” Noelia stilled, because in the past, when her parents would make such a request of Cecilia, she had done something to upset them. Cecilia nodded to Marquess and Marchioness Flores and responded, “I will do so.” Cecilia then took her leave and left Noelia’s dorm room, shutting the door behind her. After doing so, Noelia spoke up.

“Mother, Father? What brings you here?”

Marquess Flores then pulled a letter from his suit jacket. “Your mother and I would like an explanation from you about the actions you took described in this letter from Duchess Miri Diana Claes.”

“What actions?” asked Noelia, feigning ignorance.

“According to Madame Claes, you attempted to trick her daughter Miss Catarina into signing an affidavit which would’ve had her admitting to criminal conduct. What was the meaning of that?”

“That’s…..that’s a lie!” declared Noelia. “I did no such thing! I am being slandered by House Claes! Why are you accepting it as the truth?”

“Noelia,” said her father, “We know Madame Claes would not throw out such an accusation unless it was true. Prior to coming here, we spoke with several other students, all of whom confirmed it happened.”

Noelia went white upon hearing this. As far as she had known, her attempt to get Catarina to indict herself on criminal charges was not known to anyone outside those aware of it. Somehow, Madame Claes had been made wise to what she’d attempted. “How…..How did Madame Claes find out what I’d done?”

“Miss Catarina told her about it,” responded her mother. Upon hearing this, Noelia was furious. “Lady Claes had accepted fault for angering me! She even apologized to me, even though I refused to accept it! Now she told her mother about this private dispute between us!”

“Firstly Noelia, Miss Catarina still believes she is at fault and did something to upset you. According to Madame Claes, she mentioned it in passing and without expecting her to act on it. And secondly, do you not realize Miss Catarina’s status? As well as who her close friends are?” her father admonished her. “For that matter, what did Miss Catarina do to upset you?”

“Her mere existence upsets me!” declared Noelia. “That stupid, uncouth girl has somehow gained the favor of Prince Geordo, Prince Alan, and the Student Council! Further, her interactions with Miss Maria Campbell and other students of lower standing are making a mockery of the hierarchy in this country! If anything, I know her status better than she does!”

“But trying to get her to indict herself for criminal acts?”

“I’m just righting a wrong!” declared Noelia. “In a just world, she would’ve been gone a long time ago, either banished by her mother to a convent, or isolated due to her bizarre behavior and utter stupidity! Now because of her, nobody cares that I am from House Flores! The stinking rabble from the barony and viscounties approach me as if they are worthy of my attention! And Lady Claes's protection allows that unwashed bumpkin Maria Campbell to exist here and stain this school! Surely you must realize what I say about Lady Claes is true! She is unfit to be a prince’s bride, unfit for the nobility, and unfit for Sorcier!”

“Noelia, that’s enough!” her mother snapped at her. For several seconds, silence permeated the room. Her mother then spoke up. “I do understand Miss Catarina is…..odd by any stretch of the imagination, and she doesn’t have the grace of a woman of her status. But that’s not important. Miss Catarina did nothing wrong, and your actions against her would easily be viewed harshly by the rest of the nobility.”

“Furthermore, I don’t know why Miss Catarina would upset you so,” said her father. “From what interactions I have had with her, she is a charming and kindhearted young lady. I wish more of the nobility could be like her. Quite frankly I think you could learn some things from her.”

Noelia seethed at her father’s assertion. “Learn things from her?! I am superior to her in every way! Why are you siding with that dumb girl over me, your flesh-and-blood child??”

“We aren’t ‘siding’ with her against you, Noelia. But given her status, especially now that the Church has declared her a Living Saint, as well as her having done nothing wrong, your attempt to get her to indict herself was stupid, and it could’ve harmed our house as a whole.” Marquess Flores paused, before continuing. “Madame Claes could’ve pursued further action against us, but she isn’t right now because she knows her daughter would be upset that she told us all of this. She wanted to bring it to our attention and speak with you about it.” After another pause, Marquess Flores finished up. “I expect you to apologize to Miss Catarina for your actions and make clear to her that she did nothing to offend you.”

“But she did-”

“You are to apologize to her!” her father interrupted. “Your actions reflect badly on you and House Flores as a whole.”

“Furthermore, that donation you made to the Church…..your father and I are beginning to suspect it was not entirely out of the goodness of your heart,” added her mother. “Your actions are giving us a lot to think about.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your position as heiress of House Flores is not a birthright,” responded her mother. “We are starting to reconsider how our house will pass when we are gone. Your actions from here on out will determine whether you are suited to be heiress. If we determine they are not, then your sister Nina would be the next.”

Noelia was shocked hearing that she could be passed over as heiress. The thought had not come to mind, and as far as she was concerned, her actions wouldn’t warrant such a drastic move by her parents. Her father then spoke up. “Now then Noelia, do we have an understanding?”

“Y-yes.”

“I’m glad you were able to understand our position,” responded her father. “You are lucky House Claes isn’t pursuing this any further. Don’t give them reason to change their minds.”

Noelia had an upset look come across her face. Her parents’ beratement of her and their praise of Catarina was something she had not been prepared to handle. Seeing her daughter looking upset, Marchioness Flores then spoke up. “Noelia, this doesn’t mean we don’t love you. We’re doing this because we do love you. We don’t want you to act in a way that could end up being self-destructive. Please understand that,”

“I…..I do.”

With that, Marquess and Marchioness Flores embraced their daughter and said their goodbyes. They then left her dorm room. After a couple of minutes, Cecilia walked back in. Seeing the look on her charge’s face, Cecilia asked her, “Is there anything I can do for you, Milady?”

“No, there isn’t,” replied Noelia. “I’m just going to go for a walk in town. I need to clear my head.” With that, Noelia took her leave and left her dorm room to wander around Magus Town.

As Noelia walked around the town, she began grumbling to herself. “That stupid girl Catarina Claes! She’s made the Academy worse off, she’s made me miserable, and she’s even won the favor of my parents, who should know better! Oh, if only there was some way to be rid of her!”

“Ah, so you wish to eliminate Catarina Claes, do you?”

Noelia turned to the voice that said those words, shocked that someone overheard her grumbling. She looked and saw a black-haired young woman whose features looked sharp and had an unnatural air about her. “I can help you towards your goal and give you what you want.”

“Who are you?” asked Noelia.

“I am one who can show you how to crush her and eliminate her,” responded the woman. “I sense great potential in you. Potential that is untapped. Potential that tells me you have the ability to be the greatest mage ever seen here.”

“How can I trust you or what you’re saying?” asked Noelia.

“I can understand your skepticism,” responded the woman. “So let me offer this: I will help you unlock your power. There will be a price for my services, but it will be determined later what that price is. For now however, I will do this for you out of charity and because our interests align.”

Noelia took a moment to think. “So no conditions right now?”

“None whatsoever.”

“Alright, I’ll hear you out,” replied Noelia.

“One last thing. This is to be kept in strictest confidence. You are not to tell anyone of our relationship. There would be…..complications if you disclosed this to the wrong people.”

“You have my word.” Noelia then shook the woman’s hand, and noticed her grip seemed unusually strong. She then asked her, “What is your name?”

“Call me Xeria.”