Heyyy, yes I know it's been over six months since I last updated and this fic is now very much not canon compliant. At least this chapter is half the length of all the previous chapters combined.
Originally this was going to be a single chapter covering the events of both "Night Patroll"/"Terra Incognita II" as well as "So I'm Dating a Sorceress" and "The Exorcism of Claire Nuñez", but due to the length I decided to only have it cover the events of "Night Patroll"/"Terra Incognita II" in this chapter; another chapter is going to finally get around to the Clairegana-and-Douxie confrontation and not just the aftermath.
It was a normal day at the Zimue records store.
Which was to say, it was absolutely boring, but there were enough customers around that Nimue couldn't practice magic… or even really do homework for her independent study courses, considering that her manager was here today.
The door opened and closed with a blast of warm late May air.
Nimue shivered and grabbed the counter as the flashback overtook her.
Nimue-the-first did not leave her lake often. She was busy enough with her forge, and she didn't care much for most people, especially not in crowds. She frowned as she saw wagon tracks on the road; she was getting close to a village or at least a farm. She preferred for her adopted son and his family to visit her rather than the other way around. They may be royalty, but she was a sorceress and far older. They could show her some respect.
Instead, she'd be paying her last respects to her son and her daughter-in-law.
There was a war outside her lake, and there was dark magic fueling it beyond what the Gumm-Gumms could normally use. It had been a long time since she had last seen Uther's stepdaughter or her green-eyed gaze, but Nimue-the-first knew that Morgana had corrupted herself and was fueling the war. That, or the war was fueling Morgana; Nimue-the-first could feel it in her bones.
Nimue's bones ached as she was released from the flashback to her first lifetime. She glanced around, trying to figure out just what had caused the flashback this time. However, there was nothing new in Zimue, nothing that would've set her off, and definitely not anything that would've caused her to flash back that far. Nimue inhaled deeply, trying to see if maybe Douxie was cooking something up next door, potion or otherwise. That had set her off once. She had been tempted to tell him then and there the truth about why she had magical powers, but she had stopped herself. Wizards were normal. Relatively rare compared to most of humanity, but normal.
Reincarnation, as far as she knew, was not. Heck, every legend about King Arthur returning was propaganda, so it wasn't like he'd reincarnate, much less anyone else from her first lifetime.
It was kind of lonely, walking around with so many memories of bygone eras, but it had been Nimue's life since she was twelve. Besides, the magic was more than enough to make up for it.
Then again, Douxie would never practice dark magic, and even if he wanted to surely Archie would stop him. She squeezed her eyes as she manned the register. She felt worse with every customer, though it was possible that she just was getting a headache and mistaking it for dark magic. Dehydration, maybe, as ironic as it was.
A girl stepped to the front of the line, holding the new Papa Skull album. She had a white streak running through her dark hair, with multiple colored hairclips and a matching Papa Skull shirt. She looked a little sick, a little sleep deprived, a little younger than Nimue.
Nimue gulped as the girl placed the album on the counter. The girl smiled shyly before coughing into her elbow, loud and shaking.
Magic radiated off the girl as Nimue rung up the album. It was old, and it was dark.
Perhaps being the only one with magic and memories from bygone eras would have been for the best, as lonely as it was.
The girl walked out, taking most of the dark magic with her. There were some traces of it lying in the air like a miasma.
Nimue quickly swiped her hand over her pocket to make sure her phone was there. She'd ask her manager to let her take a break, text Douxie, and the two of them would go after the girl with the dark magic. Hopefully she was just some kid with latent talent who found a dark magical spell on the internet.
"I'm taking my lunch break," her manager told her right before she could open her mouth. "Make sure we don't get robbed."
Nimue made sure her back was turned to her manager before she grimaced and hoped that she had enough hay fever that it was distorting the amount of dark magic she was sensing.
"Nimue, calm down and talk a little more slowly," he said. They were both on break, her from her day job and him from band practice with Ash Dispersal pattern. Specifically, Hank and Raoul were off to grab burgers for their lunch.
Nimue took a deep breath. "Look, this girl came into Zimue and there was something bad about her. Like, I could feel the dark magic coming off her in waves."
Douxie decided not to ask her just how she knew it was dark magic, though he did wonder. For someone who had had no training outside of spell books on the internet and his father's attempted tutelage of the two of them, she progressed remarkably fast. Douxie hoped that Nimue wouldn't be able to sense years-old dark magic. "Okay, do you want me to fake being sick and go after her?"
"Uh… she left the shop an hour ago."
"Why didn't you tell me sooner?" Douxie was secretly glad. Nimue's reaction to dark magic users scared him.
"Because my manager already doesn't like me and this was the soonest I could go on break… it could be hay fever, but I made sure to take my allergy meds and I don't think it is."
"Okay, okay, well, what does this girl look like?"
"Uh… brown or black hair with a white streak, green, wait, no, brown eyes…" That certainly didn't narrow down the field that well, but it did help affirm the fact that there was something about the girl Nimue had seen that had her spooked. "Oh, yeah, she was wearing a Papa Skull shirt, and hairclips? Uh, like, two, no, three, no, there might've been more… it'd be easier if I could show you."
"Nimue, we both know that the extent of your drawing abilities are runes and stick figures."
"No, not a drawing, there's surveillance video in the store, and she came straight up to the register."
"Isn't that illegal? Somehow? We don't need the law coming in and messing things up somehow."
"I mean, technically the improvements on your pipes might also be illegal since you didn't tell your landlord about them and they're also giving you extra water."
Douxie grimaced; he still wasn't entirely sure if one day he'd have to deal with the magically enhanced water turning what was supposed to be his dinner into a potion of some sort.
Zimue closed at 7 PM every day, so at 9:30 PM Nimue snuck out of her house to break in. Her parents thought that she was sleeping after having prepared for finals she'd be taking. She wore a beanie and long sleeves to cover up her dyed hair and magically induced tattoo.
"Douxie, I thought I told you to do something that would make you less recognizable," she said. He was wearing what he wore every day, except he didn't roll up his sleeves.
He dramatically placed his hood over his head, and then awkwardly tucked his dyed bangs behind his ears. "Why'd you want the water bottle?" he asked, pulling one out of his pocket.
"For this," Nimue said, sighing wistfully. She preferred shopping for clothes in the women's section, but she missed having space in her pockets. She took the water bottle, uncapped it, and then upended it. As she handed the water bottle back to him, she made a swirling motion with her other hand.
Another good reason for wearing long sleeves: her tattoo was probably glowing right now.
A thick fog surrounded the two of them and the storefront.
"Oh. Cool," Douxie said.
"Wish it could've been a smoke bomb instead of a steam bomb, but this is good enough, I guess," Nimue said. "Besides, we don't want to set off a smoke alarm."
Douxie knelt next to the door, pulling out a pair of straightened paperclips. He inserted them into the lock, wiggling them around. His expression grew frustrated, and he closed his eyes. When he stood up once more, he held the lock with one of his hoodie sleeves.
"I thought you could pick locks," Nimue said. "Well, without magic, anyways."
"Last time I picked a lock I was in foster care, and before that…" Douxie stared off into the distance, a morose look on his face.
Douxie blinked and put on an obviously fake smile. "Eh, tragic backstory stuff."
"That joke stopped being funny halfway through ninth grade." Nimue pushed past her friend and opened the door. Fog filtered in, covering the cameras. "Okay, so we keep the security footage over this way."
Douxie closed the door behind him. "You know, I don't even know if the magic shop has security cameras."
"Good thing mystery dark magical girl came here, then." Nimue pulled up the footage. "And good thing my boss showed me how to go through this in case we ever get shoplifted from or anything. Not that we probably will, ever. At least, if we do it's probably gonna be on my day off. And, there!"
Douxie looked over her shoulder at the slightly grainy video, taking a photo of the girl. "She goes to our school. I saw her outside Mrs. Barros's office last year. I think she's a year younger than us?"
Nimue groaned, standing up and beginning to erase the evidence that she and Douxie had broken in. "If she's a year younger than us, then she might be a member of that stupid pilot program where freshmen could graduate in a year and a half."
"I can ask the guys; they might know since they still go to actual school."
"Make sure you get a name; it might make it easier to go after her."
"Hey, Nimue?" Douxie asked. She threw a glance over her shoulder as she locked up the store.
"What are you going to do to her, once we find her?"
"I don't know exactly, but she's got dark magic. She's dangerous, and we're the only non-dark wizards in Arcadia. We need to stop her."
Douxie gave her the same sort of faraway, morose look that he did whenever he accidentally shared a detail about his childhood before foster care. Without a word, he turned away and walked to his apartment.
Nimue let the enchanted fog roll away and began to walk home. She tried not to think about Douxie's question too much. Anyone who used dark magic had to be evil since they'd know better than to use it. They deserved what was coming to them.
"Hey, does this girl still go to our school?" Douxie asked, holding his phone out to the other members of Ash Dispersal Pattern.
"What, do you wanna ask her, wait, no, sorry, forgot you were gay," Raoul said. Honestly, Douxie was still a little surprised that he had even had to come out to Raoul and the other guys last October. After all, Douxie trying out for Ash Dispersal Pattern had been him trying to confess his crush to Hank back in freshman year. Not that it mattered, anymore, since all the other guys in the band were straight and Douxie had moved on from his crush six months after the band had formed. "Uh, I don't know?"
"Nimue saw her at the record store, fiddling with a ring, and she dropped it. Nimue found it after she'd left, and she wanted to try to find a way to give it back to the girl. I remembered seeing her outside of Mrs. Barros's office last year, but I've got no idea about if she's in the year-and-a-half program."
Hank walked over and squinted at the photo. "She doesn't go to our school; she transferred to mole high. She's friends with my ex; the girl's name's Claire. Do you want me to go over?"
"Dude, Mary isn't gonna get back together with you," Dominic said.
"No, well, I have no idea about Hank's ex. But no, I'll go over," Douxie said.
"Hand out the Battle of the Bands flyers when you get there, will ya?" Douxie took the stack of papers from Dominic. Good, now he actually had a reason to go there.
Multiple female students of Arcadia Oaks High swarmed Douxie, but not as many of them grabbed the flyers he was passing out. None of them were Claire, either. One of them mentioned the nickname that Nimue hated. Personally, Douxie wasn't sure why it was such a problem; Hank had gone through a phase where he'd called everyone by their first initial, but there were two guys with a name starting with the letter "d" in the band and Dominic was significantly shorter than Douxie. Therefore, "Big D" and "Little D".
A girl pushed through the crowd and tripped, dropping her books. Douxie knelt next to her helping her grab her books, and then he felt the waves of dark magic coming off of her. Something about them felt familiar, but how? Douxie placed a smile on his face.
"C-Bomb, is it? Consider me blown away, because you are nuclear." If she knew that he was a wizard, then she would understand that this was a sign of respect. A sign that he recognized her power, but also a sign that he recognized the danger she radiated.
She smiled back but said nothing. Hmm. Maybe Nimue's theory of Claire being an inexperienced wizard who accidentally cast a dark magic spell was possible, but that powerful without knowing how to sense for magic? That was strange. Perhaps she was goading him?
A boy in blue walked up to them, slinging his arm around Claire's shoulder. "So, what brings you to our humble school?"
The boy placed a hand on Douxie's chest, pushing Douxie away as Claire began to cough. That was nice of him. Something about the boy felt oddly familiar, and not just because Douxie remembered seeing him at Benoit's multiple times. No, Douxie almost felt caught in a feedback loop, like he had sent his own magic outwards and then it got sent back at him. Almost. The magic that got sent back felt purer, less tainted. Innocent, and not yet marred by necromancy.
"The Battle of the Bands is coming up," Douxie said as he handed a flyer to Claire. "Ash Dispersal Pattern – that's my band – will be crushing this." And maybe the hand motion Douxie made was a little too threatening, but there was something odd and Douxie felt like he had to do something to show a little of his strength. Not too much, but enough to make himself seem like he wasn't a victim. "But, we're encouraging others to give it a shot."
Claire coughed again after congratulating Douxie on Ash Dispersal Pattern's headline performance for Papa Skull last fall. Douxie couldn't help but wonder if it were a regular cold, or if perhaps the illness were magical in nature. If so, maybe he, Nimue, and his father could find –
No. Douxie would have to help her on his own. Nimue and his father thought that dark magic users were evil and dangerous. They would probably advocate for letting Claire die if the illness caused by her own meddling in dark magic, or perhaps the two of them would grant "mercy" to Claire by killing her. They would probably do the same for Douxie if they ever found out the truth.
Two girls rushed over to Claire, exclaiming that they should be a cover band. Neither of them seemed to have anything magical going on, but Douxie was pretty sure one of them was Hank's ex.
"I don't know," the boy said, pushing Douxie away once more. "We're pretty busy with our after-school activities."
Hmm. Were Claire and the boy perhaps trying to learn magic together, much like Douxie and Nimue were?
Claire took the flyer back from the boy and agreed with the girls about starting a band. Douxie glanced to his hands and quickly put them in his pockets. They were empty, and they were trembling. But why? Claire seemed powerful, but not necessarily threatening.
"I look forward to seeing you again, Fair Lady Claire," Douxie said before walking away. Yes. Perfect. That was exactly the right amount of respect to show to a fellow wizard whose diplomatic position towards you was still unknown but was clearly dangerous due to her clearly dark but hidden power. It was good to know that, after a millennium and a half for everyone else and eight years for himself, his diplomatic training as a prince had finally paid off. If only his parents, Merlin, or Uncle Kay could have been alive and in the right mind to see him.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. This whole morning was stupid. Nimue had been so stupid as to tempt fate. She glanced up from the tile she was trying to kill with her eyes when the door opened and closed, and her best friend walked into Zimue Records.
"Everything okay?" Douxie asked.
"We got fucking robbed," Nimue said. "This wasn't supposed to happen to me! If this was going to happen, why not on my day off?"
"Well, at least you have security cameras. Was anyone hurt?"
"No, though the shoplifters played dumb like they didn't know what shoplifting was. Ugh. At least some cop got there so no permanent damage was caused and I didn't even need security cameras. How'd flyers go?"
"Fine, I found Claire."
"And what have you done about her? Fireballs? Potions turned Molotov cocktails?"
"What? No! I'm not blowing up our rival school, and neither are you! No, I just got a feel for her, and I treated her with the proper amount of respect."
"Yes. Given that she's powerful, I called her by the term Lady," Douxie said as Nimue smacked her forehead. "What? There's no need for her to immediately want to kill us for disrespect!"
"Douxie, this is why people think you're straight." She wrinkled her nose. "Please tell me you're just being cheeky when you call me Lady Nimue and not trying to curry favor."
"I'm being respectful to you because you're my friend… but also sometimes it bugs you."
Nimue rolled her eyes. "Okay, so what are we going to do about Claire? You have any ideas about how to fight a dark wizard?"
The door opened and closed, but no human walked in. "You two won't be."
"You told him?" Nimue said.
"No, but he should have," Archie said. "You two are louder than you think."
"I didn't want you to worry," Douxie mumbled.
Archie raised an eyebrow at Douxie. "Between raising you," he said before turning to Nimue, "and teaching you my fur has gotten plenty grayer without the two of you taking needless risks like tracking down a dark wizard."
"But she could be hurting people! And we're the only ones in Arcadia who could save the day! If we pull off some sort of sneak attack – "
"You won't be," Archie said. "If the two of you are to be fighting another wizard, which you won't be, I expect you to fight with honor."
"She's a dark wizard. She's evil."
"Or she's young and hasn't had the training that you have. She might not know the difference between regular magic and dark magic. After all, did you know the difference when your powers first awoke?"
Nimue's breath caught in her throat. Of course, she did; she knew so many things instinctually from her past lives.
"Or Claire's desperate," Douxie mumbled, breaking Nimue from her thoughts. Archie turned to him.
"That's not an excuse to use dark magic, and it's especially not an excuse I want to hear coming from your mouth – either of your mouths," Archie said. "If this girl turns out to be a danger to others, or to be using dark magic while being fully aware of the consequences, then fine. I will guide the two of you in planning an attack. But I do not want either of you getting near this dark wizard without me. Am I clear?"
"Yes, Archie," the two of them said in unison.
"Good. Now, how is studying for finals going?"