Potions, as with most things, rarely improve once past their sell-by-date apparently.
You know, I think the effects might actually be getting worse?
Events unfold including but not limited to:
The wall to my left exploded outwards for the second time today.
For a few moments I stared at it thoughtfully before turning back to the wardstone in my hands instead, it’s only John after all...
“You fixed the wall?”
After a moment’s pause to make sure he was talking to me I let off a huff and dropped the stone back on my desk while turning to face him with a mildly frustrated frown.
“And you broke it again, color me surprised... asshole...”
John let off a huff of his own and slowly made his way into the room as if he expected some trap or something to be sprung just by his presence.
I’m not entirely sure why but if he wants to act like a fool then let him, I’ve got more important things to focus on at the moment.
“I thought the chair would hold you for longer than that?”
My hands hesitated, half-way back towards the wardstone I’d been working on before his first interruption about an hour ago.
I can’t really remember what happened between those two points very well, side effect of the potion I guess, but I’m clear now and able to work again so why does he have to bother me so much?
“I own this space John, there’s nothing I can’t do in here if I try.”
It’s a good enough explanation as any.
I’m pretty sure whatever I did to get from the chair he mentioned to my desk probably involved the magic of my realm in some way or another, it’s not like I could use my core for anything at the moment anyway so it’s pretty much the only option left on offer.
My eyes flickered over to the once-again broken wall as Sarah carefully stepped her way through the opening and offered me a nervous smile.
Something in my chest ‘thumped’ heavily for some reason but I turned away from her quickly to ignore the annoyance in favor of working, working, working, -rking, -ing-
Focus, stop letting your stupid body with it’s stupid reactions and stupid faults control you Hannah or else I’ll... I’ll... uh?... what was I saying?
With a twitch my head shot up to stare at the two invaders inside my workshop.
Why are they here? John’s probably just hanging around, he does that sometimes, but Sarah wouldn’t be here unless...
AH HAH! It must be testing day at last!
A wide smile practically split my face and I jumped off my chair in a flurry of activity and with a sweeping gesture I moved past them both, snagging Sarah’s wrist in my hand to tug her along behind me.
What’s taking her so long? We’ve got toys to test out!
“Hurry up Sare, daylight would be burning if I could see daylight right now!”
She shot a nervous look over at John for some reason but slowly fell into step behind me after a few seconds of hesitation.
In the time it took for her to get her ass in gear my eyes had drifted slightly and with a thought the flat white roof of my lab folded away to reveal clear quartz with a bright, sun-filled blue sky above it for all to see.
I couldn’t help but smile happily as the rays hit my face, I’d almost forgotten what the warm sun feels like.
I wonder if the test bench over there could be used for sunbathing if I take the metal thingy off of it?
Oh well, something to do later at least, at the moment there’s more important things to do, like finally testing something properly at last!
“Have you eaten anything pork based in the last twelve-hours Sare?”
She looked at me like I’m crazy or something, which was both highly offensive and more than a little annoying at this point.
“I had to resort to using Hebrew for the cold protection runes on the suit because-”
Why did I have to resort to Hebrew again?
There must have been a reason, something about barking dogs and ‘Coke-la-vim’ or something, I think?
URG! Too many ‘somethings’ again!
“Are you okay Han?”
“Never better! Testing time, testing, testing, testing, -ting, -ing-”
A gasp ripped itself from my lips as I ran out of air which helped break me out of yet another annoying bout of that weird verbal tick thing that keeps happening.
“I’ve got a suit for you to try on!”
The look she gave me could charitably be called ‘skeptical’ at best but that’s also irrelevant.
The suit needs testing and she needs it too, she just doesn’t know she needs it yet, but she will!
The wall’s in front of us folded away with a thought from me and my second, storage workshop expanded outwards as its roof rolled back to show the same quartz that now sits above my main workshop letting that nice sunlight come pouring in.
Why didn’t I think to set that up before?... The sun feels really nice...
We came to a jerking stop in front of the matrix-encoding knitting machine thingy that I never really got around to naming properly.
It’s the thing that you put the thing and the thing into to make the thing make a suit, why would something THAT simple need a name for Powers-sake?!
With a deft flick I switched hands grasping Sarah’s wrist and used my now free Righty-hand to grab up the bundle of soft, stretchable black material with Sarah’s name stitched on the back of it.
My thumb ran itself over the material a few times just because it felt nice and a little hum slipped out of my lips before I could stop it but that quickly passed; allowing me to turn back to the important matters instead.
“Put this on!”
Sarah looked at me like I was crazy for a few seconds.
When it became obvious that she wasn’t going to take the suit from me I growled low in my throat and dropped her wrist to focus on the room around me instead.
It’s testing day! Why is she being so annoying and stubborn on testing day of all days, days, days,-ays, a’s, a’s?
Uh... What was I doing?
Oh! Sarah, the suit!
“I can’t believe you’re finally here to try it out properly!”
My grin seemed to make Sarah a bit uneasy for some reason?
It could have been the little bouncing motion I did when she looked at the suit in my hands too I guess, but my money’s on the grin.
Stupid Arista face!
“Well? Come on! You don’t have to strip or anything, I thought of that part already, you just gotta put it on over your clothes.”
She still looked at me weirdly for a few seconds before glancing back towards my workshop where John appeared to be slowly making his way towards us with careful steps.
“Don’t worry, it’s REALLY baggy! It’s easier to produce with the runes on it in large scale anyway.”
An awkward silence fell between us all with John moving ever closer like a Predator stalking a particularly jumpy deer of some kind and Sarah looking progressively more desperate for some reason.
“What’s the suit do Han? Has it been tested before?”
Sarah let out a nearly explosive breath of relief when John finally spoke up.
My eyes cut over to him automatically and my face scrunched up in annoyance.
Of course I’ve tested it!
What kind of amateur does he think I AM?!
I’ve got one of my own already and it’s not given me any problems at all in weeks, since that unfortunate incident with the vocal-control rune being a bit too sensitive when I was working on the dagger prototype at least.
John must have seen the expression on my face for what it was.
Either that or he read my mind somehow... or, maybe I said all that out-loud?...
Who knows? Not important anyway!
“Put the suit on Sarah.”
She jerked around to glare at him and a whole conversation played out on their faces in some weird dialect of twin-speak I don’t completely recognise.
Whatever they said, it ended abruptly with a head-nod from John towards me and a reluctant huff from Sarah before she snagged the suit with her name on it from my hand and shook it out to find the opening at the back easier.
I watched on with avid fascination as she carefully slipped one foot into each equally spacious leg of the black jump-suit and pulled the top part up to slip her arms inside.
When she had it on as much as possible I gestured for her to turn around with a giggle and quickly pulled seam, using the in-built nature of the seam’s runes to seal the suit shut right up to her neck.
“Okay Han, she’s got the suit on, now... what does it do?”
My hands kept themselves busy checking each junction point and wiping ambient magic across the practically invisible seams of the suit to activate the rune clusters centered around them, but it wasn’t such a hard task that I couldn’t answer him on that one at least.
“Thermal protection, heat and cold, it’s also a magical regulation system working as a secondary magical focus in its own right... like a wand, but not crap...”
Plus all the other junk built into it, of course, those important parts barely took up a space from the left shin to knee on this thing by the time I’d worked out how to make it in the first place after all.
The suits are important, and the faster I can get them both into them the better for everyone involved because... because...
Why am I doing this again?
Something, something... a lot of something’s but something specific, something to avoid yet protect at the same time, what is it that I- AAH!
The world around me exploded for a moment and like a cresting wave, memories that I’d practically forgotten thanks to the power of my little clarity potions crashed down upon me with all of the raw, unfiltered emotions attached to them that I could imagine.
Mum, being frozen solid before shattering into tiny fine particles of snow.
Edith’s wrinkled old face frozen, stone-cold in a huddled pose within the crater of Wizard Island.
Seconds later the world was back around me and I collapsed to the floor with a gasp of air.
Two people screamed my name at the same time, one moving to help me despite the silly looking black onesie she had on and the other almost dropping whatever he’s got tucked behind his back in his rush to reach me.
My eyes fixed on the panicked face of my sister, my Sarah, and nothing else mattered anymore.
Not my fear, not my worries, not even the burning pain in my chest from my cores latest attempt to tear itself violently apart in response to my emotional distress.
All that matters is Sarah and that suit!
“...Must be prepared, must be safe...”
Sarah reached me in practically record time and hugged me tightly to herself like I’d fall to pieces if she didn’t.
“Be prepared Sarah.”
“Be prepared? Han, what are you saying?”
She shook me a little in her arms but it didn’t help the frustration building inside me at her ignorance.
She’s so slow! She’s always been slow, my slow Sarah...
“Han, breathe, okay? Breathe, come on Han.”
Her hand came up to slap my back harshly and with an explosive gasp of air that I hadn’t realised I was holding in, I lunged forward to slap my hand to her chest forcefully.
“Alice is bad!”
The voice activation spoken and my job done at last I sank into Sarah’s arms in relief.
At least she’s safe now, all I have to do is get John and Eris into their suits before I can finally stop all this insanity...
“Oww! Han, what the hell?”
Gah! I must have gone too long without my potion while strapped to that chair!
My backup batch I had to dip into must be a bit out-of-date too, I can’t even remember the last time I thought to replace it so the effects obviously aren’t quite what they should be and-
How can I call all my w-work, ‘insanity’?!
My heads not w-w-working right and I’m acting irrationally, thinking too much, feeling too much, doing too much an-and...
John leaned down between us but despite me opening my mouth to answer him, his eyes were on Sarah, not me.
When did they become friends?
They have their own form of twin-speak, and now he’s more worried about her welfare then mine!
“This is padded or something, but even so- Oh God, what's happening?!”
The suit shook a few times, vibrating its contents as it went, and before either of them could react properly it exploded into action.
Long draping sleeves flapping wildly and the legs inflating for the moment or two it took for the internal diagnostics to take effect before turning all her clothing beneath the suit into their constituent parts and storing them away in several rather tricky sets of transmogrification spells triggered by those same, ever so useful, spell storage rune-sets John came up with, for later use.
I worked out that, THAT little trick would be necessary to stop them from interfering with the process to come the first time I put my suit on weeks ago!
The moment that every last item on her person had finally disappeared was pretty obvious to anyone watching because, with a hiss of escaping air from the back of her neck, the whole suit grew taut and promptly shank from an almost spherical, at this point, bubble suit to a skin tight model that looked a thousand-times better in my opinion.
I couldn’t help but let off a relieved laugh of victory as the last few steps took place and magic rolled visibly across the suit on her skin in an array of elements until the suit regurgitated her clothing in a surprisingly smooth set of external transmogrifications to recreate her clothing from their stored parts before the suit promptly disappeared from existence as far as anyone watching it would be concerned.
The suits not really ‘gone’, it’s just invisible and practically intangible, John’s little trick with the self-sustaining runes having been refined by someone who actually knows what they’re doing for once in this perfect application of it in action, which is only mildly more impressive than the other ‘spell-runes’ it took for us to reach this point in the process.
“Success! Protection from heat and cold, no-one can freeze you alive in this thing for sure... Hell, if my math is right you could go to space for all it matters with a few minor precautions and some form of thrust device.”
I grinned proudly at the pair of them as Sarah slowly came down from her growing panic attack and John let out a gusty breath, obviously realising that Sarah was never in any danger to start with an-
“Frozen alive? SPACE?! Han, what the hell are you-”
Sarah spun on the spot in her crouched position at my side and swung out her arm to slap my shoulder with painful force again just because she could.
“Did I say frozen, who said frozen? Sorry, not sure where my mind went for a second there.”
The pair of them stared at me in disbelief as the memories surged forth again and my eye twitched a little from the effort it took to hold them back once more.
In the end all I managed to do was give off a slightly awkward, off-key laugh for them by way of reassurance this time but it was weak at best honestly and I doubt even I’d be convinced by it given the circumstances.
I need another dose of my Potion damn it, and fast!
This isn’t good, and to make it worse Sarah’s got me practically pinned under her much larger size at the moment as they-
“Okay, where are they?”
My thought processes stumbled to a halt as my eyes drifted up to John’s suddenly stern face in confusion.
“Don’t give me that look Hannah, you’ve obviously got some secondary source of the stimulant potion you’ve been abusing to a stupid degree and it’s obvious that, even by your own messed up definition of ‘sanity’ at the moment, this new load of the potion is defective in some way from your actions alone.”
My eyes glazed over slightly as he spoke, too many words, too fast...
My head hurts and it’s only getting worse at the moment thanks to my ever-growing need for more potion!
“I don’t know what your-”
I trailed off mid-sentence as John turned sharply away from me and stormed off towards my main workshop rather abruptly.
It wasn’t really an intentional thing but my eyes had cut across the length of my now connected workshop areas to stare at the cupboard with my potions supplies stored safely inside it as my brain tried to catch up with his words at a horribly slow pace.
Judging by the speed he was moving at and the direction he was taking, the sneaky bastard must have seen my unintentional tell because he zeroed in on the cupboard with barely a moment’s hesitation.
The doors flew open and he chose THAT moment to hesitate, much to my frustration.
I kicked my legs in a vague attempt to get free from Sarah’s bulk but if anything all that did was make her tighten her grip on me, which is highly counter-productive in my book!
“...What have you done Han?...”
John turned around and the horrified look on his face would be rather worrying if I wasn’t so focused on finding another way to break free from my annoyingly clingy sister instead.
“Ayahuasca, Betel nut, Hericium mushrooms, Jimsonweed... Erythorxylum Coca!”
He shook his head in disbelief at my rather nonplussed reaction to his yelling tone and glanced back at the cupboard full of raw materials I keep piled around my reserve stash of completed potions before looking back at me with wide, almost frightened looking eyes.
“Powers, are you TRYING to kill yourself? Coca, Han, pure unprocessed alkaloid cocaine!”
Sarah gasped from above me but I ignored that in favor of focusing on John this time.
It’s become perfectly clear to me that I’m not going to get out of Sarah’s grasp until she LETS me go sadly...
“It’s all balanced John.”
I made sure of that when I made the potions to start with, everything’s balanced, for every cancer causing Ayahuasca root I threw in a cancer fighting Hericium Americanum stem for Powers sake!
“How the HELL do you know if it’s balanced or not?! You’ve NEVER been good at potions!”
Well... he kinda has a point there?... I’VE never been good at potions personally.
I never had a chance to learn about them honestly, mostly because it’s such a dying skill that even Edith never bothered to deal in them generally and ingredients are becoming a bit rarer as time goes on with the world becoming more industrialised.
That doesn’t mean ARISTA didn’t know centuries worth of information on the topic which I JUST so happened to steal from her when I dived into her section of my mind in search for her worst nightmares, along with a load of other skills and knowledge which I’ve abused to unbelievable levels when working on everything from the new safety suits I designed to protect us all, to practically all of my gadgets and tools that I’ve been making over the last few months.
John nailed it on the head a while ago when describing Arista in general, she knew a LOT of things, but she just had NO imagination for using the things she knew in an ‘outside the box’ way!
When you get your head around the basics of it all, like the plant reaction tables and which ingredients are likely to explode when mixed with which other ones under a new Moon, then Potions is practically just Applied-Sympathetic Magic with a rather fun level of challenge added into the mix from how many variables are involved ranging from ingredient potency to age of the plants involved and even just simple things like the current room temperature!
“My rune-covered distillery is in the cupboard two desks over from your left, the rest of my ingredients are in the cupboard on your right. I know what I’m doing and I NEED that potion John!”
He glared at me harshly and I flexed my arms slightly in an attempt to grab him from across the room somehow in my frustration, but Sarah was ready for me apparently because she barely even twitched as she wrestled my admittedly weak escape attempt back into nothingness.
“Grief, emotional distress, nightmares and a damaged, unstable, core... you tell me John! You tell me RIGHT now to my fucking face, that I don’t need an emotional suppressant in order to avoid doing something stupid which could, at best, kill me and at worst kill everyone around me!”
Mages and intense emotions don’t mix well, that’s always been something useful to keep in mind.
When I first learnt how to use my magic, just having a loud noise happen near me was enough to have me setting fire to things instinctively.
That was several long years ago with an awakening and possibly thousands of stolen cores being hammered into my own core in a truly horrifying way added into the mix to boot.
Me lacking emotional or magical control in the old days was bad but a few first-degree burns a week is NOTHING when compared to the kind of damage I could do right now if my magic decides to go crazy again!
It’s enough of a struggle at the moment just keeping myself relatively calm despite the memories trying to batter their way back into my head and John’s current angry glare.
“I need one of those potions John... I need it, please?”
His eyes tightened down in rage and all I could do was wince as tears formed in the corner of my eye from desperation.
“Please John? Take samples, find a better solution, HELP ME!... I don’t care, jus-just give me some more potion before I hurt someone by accident...”
I didn’t need to flick my eyes towards Sarah’s position at my side but it happened anyway, much to my frustration, and John seemed to accept my logic thanks to that small action alone if I’m any judge of his facial expressions at least.
He hesitated for a moment or two longer, fixing me with a rather intense stare which was only made more intimidating by my currently restrained position and the slight blur to him where the tears in my eyes were gathering awkwardly at the edges of my vision, but eventually he turned back towards the cupboard and snatched up one of the vials full of green goo inside with an angry huff.
“I’ll need two doses John, I’m too sober and that batch has gone off, so its effects are weaker.”
He froze in his crouched position, slowly letting off a frustrated breath through his teeth before reaching in to snag a second vial as he started to stand up again.
“You can’t be serious John?!”
I grunted in mild pain when Sarah’s arms tensed around me as she called out in confused anger at him.
“We can’t give her any more of that crap! Look what it’s done to her?!”
John paused in his slow walk towards us and his fist tightened slightly around the vials in his hand as he obviously forced himself to keep moving despite his misgivings.
“She’s right Sarah, she was out of her mind before but she’s clear at the moment and she’s right.”
His free hand came up to brush through his hair like he always does when he’s upset but he carried on speaking anyway after a brief pause.
“We’ll have to find another way to fix this, I can’t risk things going wrong at the moment if it will hurt either you or her... she’d never forgive me if I did...”
Sarah shifted uncomfortably as if she wanted to pull me away from John when he stepped closer to us and knelt down at my side, she didn’t actually pull away though, the serious look on John’s face and the determination in his voice apparently being enough of a shock for her to stall her protective instincts for a few crucial moments luckily.
He put his free hand under my chin and tilted my head up so that our eyes could meet in an intense stare off which said more than words ever could between us.
He doesn’t like this; he hates it in fact...
He’s angry at me for making him do this.
He’s angry at himself for not getting here sooner and probably even for letting me escape into my realm in the first place all those months ago.
The biggest thing I could feel burning in those sharp blue eyes of his though was the pain this was causing him.
He knows that this potion isn’t right, he knows that it’s a trade-off which hurts me both physically and mentally in order to protect myself and the world at large from the even worse potential consequences of my messed up emotional state and magic in general... but that’s not much of a comfort at this point sadly...
“Thank you John.”
He winced and looked away from me before huffing out another breath and turning back again, his thumb flicking the cork off the end of the first vial in his hand.
“Don’t thank me for this Han, I’ll find a solution quickly and fix this mess for you, I promise.”
Gently he pushed my head slightly further back and poured the foul tasting liquid down my throat in one go before tossing the vial away in frustration and moving on to the next vial in his too-tight fist.
The potion was already going to work, not quite as powerfully as it should but I could feel the effects and the almost euphoric feeling of empty-ness taking over my mind already.
A limp smile formed on my lips as I let my head droop slightly further into his warm palm.
“I know you will John-boy, what’s a Moriarty without his Holmes, huh?”
A giggle pulled itself past my lips but that died away pretty quickly as the humor of the statement I’d just made fled from my brain with another wave of potion-influenced haze leaving the whole thing as an almost abstract statement of fact in my mind.
John huffed heavily to himself before flicking the cork off the second vial and quickly forcing it down my throat.
The moment its contents had finally disappeared into my mouth he let off an angry yell and threw the vial across the room where it shattered with a sharp crack of sound.
For a few more seconds my gaze focused on the wall it had struck, but then the potion kicked in properly at last and my eyes rolled back in my skull, pulling a gasp of pain from my lips as my limbs tensed up under Sarah’s tight grip.
“You can let her up now Sarah, she’s safe... just-”
The weight on top of me eased off slightly as John trailed off almost uncertainly, as if he didn’t even want to consider what the end of that sentence should be.
I can’t remember why he’d be acting so oddly but it probably doesn’t matter anyway, John’s kinda boring like that sometimes!
“Why are we cuddling on the floor Sare?”
Sarah slipped away from me completely and stood up again with help from John, leaving me to roll onto my belly with an appropriately light-hearted sounding giggle of mirth.
Neither of them appeared to be happier, despite my giggle and the wide smile on my face, so after a few seconds of more intense smiling in the hope of getting a better result without much success I changed tactics, pulling my face down into a frown to show them both that they were being unreasonably difficult for once as I went.
“What day is it? Why are you both here?”
The calm, reasonable tone to my voice mixed with what I think was an intense look of concentration happened to be moderately more successful in getting a positive reaction from them at least.
John let out a long breath and stepped away from us to go over towards an open cupboard in my main workshop for some reason while Sarah let out a heavy sniff for some equally confusing reason as she reached out to pull me into an unreasonably tight hug which I returned with another socially acceptable giggle of reassurance.
“Sarah, keep her calm and keep her talking if you can. If she starts coming down again and requests another potion then let her have it but try to distract her as long as possible first, I’m going to take these samples and go work on the ‘Koo-ya-ore’, okay?”
I cocked my head to the side in confusion as he slowly spelt out some weird nonsense-word to Sarah that I’d never heard before, mid-speech, as if it was a perfectly normal thing to do, with his eyes flicking between us worriedly a few times and his eyebrows raised to convey some kind of greater meaning.
In seconds my mind set to work dissecting it and as he left the room through a mysteriously appearing hole that seems to have been blown in my wall from somewhere, clutching some of my potion vials in his hands, I shifted focus onto trying to pin-point the ‘word’ he said and it’s country of origin instead in the hope of finding a better starting point if nothing else.
‘Koo-ya-ore’... It sounds vaguely Asian?
Japanese to be specific, although it could also have been some form of ancient mandarin considering my admittedly rather lacking knowledge when it comes to Asian languages in general outside of the few vaguely memorable incarnations I had in the region that I can’t quite get a grasp on at the moment for some reason.
My eyes drifted over to Sarah thoughtfully but my mind was still kind of busy spinning around that strange Asian word and its possible meanings.
For a moment I considered asking her if she had any idea what it could mean but that idea was quickly dismissed too because... well, Sarah’s not exactly an expert on languages to start with and asking her might be a bit insulting when we both know she’ll be clueless about the whole thing, wouldn’t it?
Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way?
I need to find homophones for it from the languages I actually know instead!
If I can find words that SOUND like the one he used, then trace that words history back, maybe I’ll find a common ancestor somewhere along the same lines which can give me a hint of some sort.
The only word I can think of that sounds like ‘Koo-ya-ore’ at the moment though is the Zulu word for ‘I love you’, ‘ngiyakuthanda’ but even that’s a bit of a stretch at best and it wouldn’t make sense in the context John used it unless... unless?...
“Sare, are you and John dating now?”
Sarah flinched and almost seemed to turn physically green for a moment or two, despite the bright blush that formed on her check moments later in a rather interesting display of odd bodily reactions to a minor external stimulus that had me staring at her progressively paler face with renewed interest, -terest, t’rest, rest...
By the time she opened her mouth to assuage my curiosity I’d kind of forgotten what I asked her initially, which was slightly annoying for me obviously but not completely unexpected.
I’ve gotten good at dealing with this sort of thing lately though, you just have to power on through the frustration until you work out what you missed is all!
With that thought in mind I snagging her wrist up with a tug, cutting her response short into more of a surprised yelp honestly, but at least it got us moving further off into my workshop in the process.
I don’t know why she’s here but I bet she’ll be impressed if I show her my stuff!
Hopefully she doesn’t get jealous or anything, if she does then I can show her that suit thingy I made for her to calm her down instead!
Wait... where did I put that suit thingy anyway?...
Ah, nevermind! It’ll turn up eventually I’m sure.
More importantly I’ve got some cool stuff to show Sarah that she’s just gonna LOVE, I’m sure of it!
Now what workshop did I last have the-
Number Six maybe?... or was it Number Twelve?
Sometimes I really wish workshops came with some kind of in-built filling system!
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