Nox Inanisque is another crossover in which Louise Summons Yet Another Wacky Familiar, a fic genre that is rapidly approaching the saturation levels of the YAHF (Buffy) or fukufic (Sailor Moon x Ranma 1/2) sub-genres. Still, for all that Familiar of Zero has been used a lot in the last couple of years, Halkeginia makes for a decent playground and I hope to offer a tale that, if not amazing, manages to be decently entertaining. Some liberties have been taken with both canons to make them fit better together, but every effort has been made to be as respectful as possible to both sources.
Also, while these disclaimers have no legal value whatsoever, I'd like to state that I don't own Wakfu or Familiar of Zero/Zero no Tsukaima.
NOX INANISQUE (Night and Void)
A Familiar of Zero x Wakfu crossover
Chapter 1 - The kiss, the dragon and the thief.
And it came to pass that Noximilien Coxen -failed inventor, failed mage, failed husband, failed father- came to the tombs of his dead family for the first time in two hundred years, following his defeat at the hands of Yugo the Eliatrope. There, haunted by the failure in his quest to change history and go back to the days in which his loved ones still lived, tortured by the realization of his own madness and the memory of countless atrocities committed in the pursuit of his goals, he prayed.
It was a prayer made without hope and born of desperation, rather than faith for Noximilien had rejected the authority of Xelor long before and the lord of time is a grim, sad god with little use for mercy. But with the last of the stolen lifeforce that sustained his own withered spark fading away, he had no choice but to beg for clemency and a chance to meet with his family in the divine land of Ingloriom.
What happened next... might have been the result of blind chance. Or mayhaps it was the strange mercy of Xelor, for strange indeed are the ways of the Twelve and strangest of them all is the Master of the Great Hourglass. Regardless of the why, the what is all that is truly relevant to this tale.
Tendrils of magic sent out to explore the universe in wings of grief and hopelessness, found what they were looking for in Noximilien Coxen's plea. With the first part of its task complete, the magic prepared to bring the chosen one before its master and so a portal formed in front of the time mage's prone figure and sucked him in, since he was too weak now to attempt to resist the powerful magical summons.
In this manner, Noximilien the Clockmaker -best known to his enemies and the world at large as Nox- was taken from the World of the Twelve to find his fate in a distant realm.
Sunset approached and a cold wind had started blowing from the east, making it unpleasant to stand still. However, not one of the scions of nobility attending the Springtime Summoning Ritual moved. Except for the short, pink-haired girl who muttered furiously and waved her wand as she moved around the Circle of Summoning, it was as if time had decided to stand still.
This was the fourth time that Louise Françoise le Blanc de La Vallière tried to complete the ritual. Fourth and last, since traditions older than history itself stated that the sacred Circle could only be used four times in the lifetime of a noble, once for each of Founder Brimir's familiars.
Of the many, many thousands of magicians who had used it over twenty generations of man, a few hundred had failed once because their will had flagged in the critical moment or their incantation been interrupted by a sudden coughing fit. Exactly twenty three in the same period had failed twice. And now Louise, heir of the noblest bloodlines in the kingdom and daughter of magicians of great power and greater renown, was but the third to fail thrice.
There was no list of those who failed four times, because those who did were the fausse, the false bloods, whose existence meant the shame of an entire bloodline. In older, less civilized days, the church had considered the fausse abominations cursed by Brimir himself and dealt with them. Harshly. That hadn't changed until after the Ottonian heresy and the ascension of the Germanian plutarchs. Even in this day and age, the fate of a noble who was discovered to be fausse was... unenviable, to put it in the mildest possible terms.
And those in attendance were certain that Louise would fail once again. Well, as a matter of fact, they had been all but certain of her failure long before she had made her first attempt. After all, when one manages to turn every spell from levitation to warming water into an explosion, it becomes remarkably difficult to get people to believe in your skill.
However, as Louise had failed to get even the smallest reaction out of the holy relic, despite her increasingly frantic spellcasting, it had dawned in the other students of the Tristain Academy of Magic that this meant both the fall of one of their number from the ranks of the blessed and the shame of one of the greatest noble lines of the realm. With that chilling realization, even the sharpest tongues and the cruelest hearts had decided without deliberation that mockery would be an insult to the solemnity of the hour and...
At this point, the collective train of thought was derailed when Vallière completed the incantantion for the last time and finally managed to get the Circle of Summoning to do something. Keen eyes and quick minds, however, quickly grasped that while the glowing of the Elemental Pentagon inscribed inside the circle was perfectly normal, the angrily red glow of the standing stones that marked the tips of the Pentagon most definitely wasn't.
All sense of propriety overruled by survival instincts that had grown hyper-sensitive over a year of proximity to Louise's explosions, much diving for cover ensued.
Vallière who had been looking in wonder her triumph, feeling hope replace the despair that had threatened to crush her heart moments before, turned to protest the unsightly behaviour of her peers.
That was when it happened.
It wasn't one of Vallière's explosions as the cowering students had feared. Rather, it was a pillar of light that erupted out of the Circle, bright as the sun and tall as the sky. However, the release of energy was nothing short of titanic in scale -every drop of willpower that Louise had been able to provide gathered and concentrated by the summoning artifact to bring the destined familiar from the other side of an abyss of time and space- and the shockwave that it caused floored everyone still standing and deafened everyone with the roar of a hundred thunderclaps.
Jean Colbert, whose pre-academic professional career and general fascination with chemistry had granted him some handy experience in dealing with the aftereffects of loud and noisy, was the first to recover. He stood up and started assessing the extent of the damage, while dusting himself off.
Students? Dazed and still down the lot of them, but no readily apparent injuries to be seen. Good enough.
Familiars? Scared out of their minds and some of them running around, but seemingly uninjured. Good.
The holy Circle of Summoning? Shrouded by a cloud of dust. Colbert pointed his staff up and with a trickle of willpower, manipulated the temperature of the air to turn the cold afternoon breeze into a nice, strong wind that blew away the dust in short order.
Fortunately, the image of a crater in the place of the relic that had briefly flashed through his mind turned out to be inaccurate. The stones and the marble platform with the elemental pentagon still stood, just like they had since the days of the Founder, except for the shape that now rested in the center of the circle and the blue flowers that now ringed the structure. Admittedly, the latter were unexpected, and hence worrisome. Just to be on the safe side, Colbert poked one of them with the tip of his staff.
Since it failed to explode, release a cloud of poisonous pollen (a long story), start talking (a longer story) or mutate into a vine-tentacled abomination (a rather short story, actually, but one that isn't relevant to this tale), the professor decided that it was probably safe enough to ignore the plantlife, enter the circle and check from up close what had been summoned by Vallière's lightshow.
His first impression had been that the new familiar was man-shaped, which he confirmed now that he was close enough. In fact, it looked like an... embalmed corpse with a metal mask hiding the face and armor of some kind protecting the chest, while bandages covered the rest of the body. Bizarre. Perhaps not the strangest creature ever summoned, since the old chronicles had recorded some truly outlandish familiars, such as goblins, hydras or krakens, but...
It was the sand flowing from inside the bandages that refreshed Colbert's memory. It also caused a chill to run down his spine and made him step back.
Impossible, whispered a part of his mind.
But the description matched too perfectly for it to be anything else. Information about these things was scarce, since it required dabbling in realms of blasphemous magic, but Saint Ignatius' Annals of the Fourth Crusade gave a good overview. Somehow Vallière had summoned a mummy, one of the unliving guardians of the sky-tombs of the ancient shaman-kings of Ptah. Supposing that they survived the next few minutes, the poor girl was probably going to fall under inquisitorial scrutiny and that was...
... that was irrelevant, since there was no telling if they were going to survive at all.
The abomination was still inactive, Founder be praised, but there was no way to say how long it was going to continue like that. First things first, Vallière had to complete the ritual and bind the monster as her familiar. It wasn't much of a hope, but perhaps this would be enough to replace the geas that must have been broken in order to pull a mummy out of the sky-tomb it had been created to guard. If it turned out that it wasn't... Well, Saint Ignatius' work detailed in some detail the three days' rampage of one of these things against Albionese crusaders who had damaged its skytomb to resupply their vessels with Windstones.
It hadn't been pretty. In the slightest. And the kicker was that THAT mummy hadn't been defeated by the Crusaders, but by an elven army. That had taken severe casualties doing so.
"Miss Vallière!" And he was quite proud of himself. His voice hadn't even quivered.
He got a groan for an answer. Turning his head, he saw the girl advancing towards the circle on unsteady legs, under the hostile gazes of the rest of students.
"Miss Vallière, if you could come here and complete the..." He had turned his head just in time to see the mummy's hand twitch. Colbert gulped and continued, his voice now a couple octaves higher in pitch. "Complete the ritual now, please. It is important."
The professor looks unwell, Louise thought, while biting the inside of her cheek.
It just wasn't fair. She worked harder than any of the morons who were glaring at her, so why couldn't she ever get a spell to work right.
To date, this had been her greatest success in terms of magic. Which was just depressing to think about. But, hey, strange beam of light or not she had apparently managed to summon some kind of familiar, so this was definitely one for the win column. And let's hope that Mother agrees.
Alas, optimism deserted her as soon as she got a clear view of what magic had delivered her. Tears welling up in her eyes, she turned to face professor Colbert with a scowl in her face,
"I know what it looks like, Miss Vallière, but it is almost certainly alive. I am not mocking you. And it is of the utmost importance that you brand it right now," said Colbert in unusually blunt manner. "These creatures are... dangerous and very powerful, but they are beholden to the protection of their master, so if you make it your familiar, it will obey you in all things."
"Extremely. It is really quite important that you use Contract Familiar now."
Although the others had apparently decided to keep their distance, having chosen discretion over valor in matters concerning the Zero and magic, the conversation had been loud enough for them to overheard. And, if the muttering was any indication, the hysteria of the usually mild-mannered professor Colbert was making everyone nervous.
"Professor, if that thing is so strong, there is no way that a screw-up like Vall... Aaaagh! Put it out! Put it out!"
Blinking in disbelief, Louise confirmed that yes, her eyes hadn't deceived her. Mid-way through the tirade of Montmorency the Fragance, Colbert had whipped his wand towards her and left the young water mage standing in the center of a narrow ring of fire.
"Miss Montmorency, please don't move. And shut up, because if you say another word it will be your eyebrows. Are we clear? Good. We can talk later about polite behaviour and basic courtesy, but right now I think that it is better if we deal with the small matter of the deadly creature that may wake up at any moment and Kill. Us. All, if we don't let Miss Vallière concentrate. Miss Vallière, if it is all the same to you, do you mind doing this now?"
Louise nodded, wiped her tears with her sleeve and advanced towards the... towards her familiar. Any doubts she might have harboured about this being some cruel joke prepared to taunt her had been dispelled and her questions could wait. Right now, it was her duty twice over to form the magic contract and ensure everyone's safety...
She knelt, already muttering the spell. "Pentagon of the Five Elemental Powers! Grant your blessing upon this humble creature and make it my familiar!"
Now to seal the contract with a kiss...
Naturally, it was just then, with Louise's lips hovering a few centimeters above the creature's head, that the eyes of its mask opened with the faint sound of metal sliding over metal to reveal twin pools of bottomless blue.
She recoiled in shock and tried to move away, but the thing jerked into movement faster than she had thought possible. A hand, cold despite the bandages wrapping it, closed around her throat. There was a flash and she suddenly found herself being held in mid-air, a good dozen meters above the ground.
And then It spoke with a voice that was like the chime of a broken bell, but rather than addressing her it craned its neck hither and thither, as if looking for someone in the crowd below.
"Show yourself, Yugo!"
And then professor Colbert struck.
Celestial Lance was a spell that combined the effects of Hell Blast (fire-fire attack spell that generated extremely high temperature flames) and Fire Lance (fire-fire-air spell that focused fire in a narrow stream). The result: a beam of blue-white fire, potent enough to incinerate a soldier in full armour from a distance of five hundred steps. Overall, one of the deadliest triangle spells in existence.
Seeing it splash harmlessly against a shimmering barrier that the mummy raised with a wave of his free hand was, to put it in the mildest possible terms, discouraging for professor Colbert. Nevertheless, at least it seemed to have been effective in getting the attention of the monster, since the now half-closed eyeholes of its mask were looking straight at him. It was quite uncanny how he could tell that it was frowning, despite the lack of facial features.
"Run for it! I'll hold it off! Alert the headmaster!"
The rustling and shouting told him that at least some of the students had decided to obey him, but he didn't dare to avert his gaze for even a second, just in case the mummy disappeared aga...
It disappeared again in a flash of blue light. How was it doing that?
Another flash behind himself. Colbert whirled and crouched down on one knee, while loosing a hastily conjured Fire Bolt. Not much of a spell against an enemy of this caliber, but there hadn't been time to muster willpower for anything greater than that. This time, instead of the barrier, the mummy deflected the bolt with a lazy backhand, without moving from the spot or loosening the hold on Miss Vallière's throat (who was still kicking and beating her captor to no avail, in spite of her face turning an alarming shade of purple).
Still crouching and focused in the mummy, the professor started gathering willpower to counter the thing's next move. A dozen seconds later, however, the mummy still seemed quite pleased with the impromptu lull and raised the arm holding Vallière until she was level with its face. It observed her intently for a couple heartbeats and then opened its hand and let her fall. Before she touched the floor, Colbert caught her with his magic and levitated her well away from the circle.
The same echoing, metallic voice from before.
"You left yourself open to spare the young lady harm. Foolish, but commendable."
Colbert offered no answer and wracked his head for the specific wording of the section of the Annals that described mummies in an attempt to understand this behaviour. If what Saint Ignatius had written about the one that had wiped out the Albionese contingent was half-way accurate, that one had been too busy crushing humans with avalanches and summoning sandstorms to strip fresh from bone to do much talking. He was also quite sure that the tale hadn't mentioned that mummies were capable of levitation. Or moving from place to place in the blink of an eye.
Is it just me or is it starting to seem that I have made some kind of horrible mistake?
"Well, if we are done with the traditional acts of introductory violence, I propose that we skip the next few chapters and rush to the climax," continued the thing, now with an incongruously chirpy tone of voice, while moving in a slow circle around Colbert, arms crossed behind his back.
"I don't know who you people are and, frankly, I don't want to know. And you don't know who I am or you wouldn't have brought the children here. This is obviously a mistake of some kind and an easily solved one, at that."
"What are you talking about?"
"Send me back to the tombs."
"What tombs?" Had his first guess been right, after all? At this point, professor Colbert was quite flabbergasted by the strange behaviour of the mummy. This thing was nothing like the feral engine of destruction that his books had described, even if what it proposed was impossible.
"The place from which I was kidnapped by your portal."
"The familiar summoning ritual cannot be reversed. It is not just sacrilegious. It is impossible."
The mummy made a show of inspecting his arms, before answering, now with a clear note of irritation in its voice.
"You have me mistaken with a drheller, my good sir. Or with a fool, since we stand inside an obviously functional portal generator and opening a way back to the place I want to go to is just a matter of reversing the flow of energy. So... are we going to do this the easy, nice way or the nasty and painful way"
"Nasty and painful it is, then."
Colbert immediately started to back away, while the mummy floated high above the ground and somehow summoned to its hand an odd-looking sword.
Which he then used to fire a beam of blue light towards Colbert, which the professor managed to deflect with an angled Fire Wall, but still got hit by the shockwave of the ensuing explosion.
And that's when Jean Colbert discovered something fascinating, the implications of which led to much pondering for the months to come.
As a former soldier, Colbert was no stranger to the concept of taking enemies by surprise through use of stealth. As a natural philosopher, Colbert was aware of the fact that sound travels at specific speeds.
But he had never realized that in addition to the traditional concept of stealth as a careful, slow approach in which one tried to make as little noise as possible, it was entirely possible for a sufficiently swift projectile to reach its target unheard just by being faster than the sounds it caused. This he discovered when a projectile formed by approximately two tons of angry, blue reptile hit his enemy with a dive-bomb that knocked the mummy out of the sky.
In the whole, it had been a pretty bad day, perhaps the second worst in a long and quite unhappy life. So far he had been beaten around by that pesky kid and his friend the little dragon (bless their brave little hearts!), accomplished the impossible only to find that that wasn't quite good enough, seen the hope that had sustained him for two centuries turn to dust, realized that he was probably a bit crazier than he had thought (no, really?), been rudely kidnapped from the place in which he had decided to die (first good decision in ages) and then, when he had decided to make his kidnappers fight it out, something had hit him so hard that it actually had hurt. A lot (man up, you big crybaby!).
It seemed that he was destined to die in pain and alone.
Just you and me, as usual.
What did just hit me?
Why don't you open your eyes? That sounds like a good first step.
Nox opened his eyes just a crack. He saw teeth. Big, sharp teeth and lots of them. Very close to his face, too. He opened his eyes fully and saw gleaming blue scales covering a large reptilian head.
Seems so. And this one is neither short stuff, nor the old bastard.
It was too great a coincidence to be sheer chance. Maybe the death of Grougaloragran had driven other dragons out of hiding?
No matter. Mysteries were for the living to puzzle out and he was, by fate and choice, a dead man walking. Nox jumped out of the hole that his impact had opened in the ground and reappeared ten meters up in the air, straight above the dragon's head. The creature's presence may speed things along, but he was still going to go out on his own terms. He would burn out the last of his energy reserve fighting and make these strange fellows regret messing around with things they clearly didn't understand. Maybe this way they would learn the lesson that Galanthe had tried to teach him so many years ago.
It'd be nice to end things on a good note, after so much evil.
All futile, all pointless, all for nothing.
How much wakfu left?
Two dot six five.
About enough for a dozen bolts and a dozen short jumps. Or half a dozen of each. Or for one short stop, if he made it small enough. Lesson time.
As far as rhyme dragons go, Irukuku was nothing special. She wasn't big and strong, like Aunt Nogalacna; slender and fleet-winged, like Grandmother Sorivogu; or skilled with magic, like Big Brother Ariphas. Truly, the only remotely special things about her were her color and her nose.
Her elders had told her that when she had hatched, Great-Grandfather Phaeris had spoken clearly for the first time in three hundred seasons. He had said that her color meant that she was touched by the Goddess and that it was an omen of great things to come. Then, he had started ranting about the Lost and crying for his lost sister, and the younger dragons had been left in doubt. Was the fate of the dragonette as the Eldest had foretold or was it just another phantom spawned by the madness that had claimed the greatest of them all? There was no answer and when Phaeris finally succumbed to illness and old age not long afterwards, the chance of getting them disappeared.
Thus, Irukuku had grown with everyone waiting for a sign -any sign- of this great destiny that supposedly awaited her. But there had been nothing, except for her powerful ability to feel the blue, the strongest of any dragon born in the last three generations. All could see the essence of life with some effort and training and some could even hear it as a whisper or a song in the wing, but she could smell it and perceive it all with unmatched depth of detail.
She could identify people she couldn't see just by the scent of their souls (much to the unabated frustration of Cousin Berchofis, who had always liked pranking the other dragonets with his mastery of the shape-change but had never managed to fool her) and she could also smell the subtle nuances of aroma that betrayed what anyone was feeling. Fear, pain, sorrow, joy, anger, longing... she knew them all and that's why she had leaped through when the portal had come for her. Grandmother had recognized it for what it was and warned her against crossing it, but she had smelled in the magic of the portal the grief that consumed the mage who had created it. Half out of pity and half out of curiosity, Irukuku had decided to answer the call. And that was how she had met Tabitha.
Even though it had been only a few hours, between her nose and the familiar bond she now knew as much as anyone had ever known about the true nature of the mage child. Her choice might have been impulsive, but she didn't regret it. It might not be the Goddess-blessed covenant of Great-Grandfather's tales, but... it was close enough and so Irukuku acquiesced to the little human's demands of staying silent in front of all others and accepted her "official" name without fuss. Sylphid had a nice ring to it, anyways.
And she had always wanted to meet humans.
Then, she had smelled something like she had never perceived before. It was as if someone had taken several life-forces, mixed them all in a noxious melange, left the result to rot in the pot and further tainted it all with sorrow and terror. It was disgusting. Worse, it was unnatural.
She had seen from high up that the origin was a... thing that seemed to be strangling one of the young humans and fighting one of the older humans, the kindly old instructor with scent of curiosity and old regret. After explaining the situation to Tabitha, getting reluctant permission to get involved and a grand dive of three thousand meters, she had hit the thing hard enough to leave an impact crater in the ground.
That should have been the end of it.
But it seemed that the stinky brute didn't care to play with sensible rules and, just a few moments after the crash, had opened the eyes of his metal face and done something. She had felt his energy pressing against hers and, in an instant, he had disappeared from under her and reappeared above her. Not fair.
Dragon gets it, then.
She is going to kick the crap out of you!
Nox extended his arm and started charging wakfu in the emitter in his right hand, allowing it to build up an ominous glow before releasing a blue energy orb. It hit the young dragon in the left foreleg, causing a smallish explosion and a satisfyingly loud cry of pain. She collapsed in the bottom of the hole, apparently in no hurry to get up and keep fighting which, if he were to be honest with himself, Nox found a refreshing change after Grougaloragran and Yugo's dragonet friend. At the same time, from the corner of his eye, he saw the bald fire user let loose an impressively large ball of flame towards him.
He allowed the fireball to hit him dead on (show-off!) and his reward was to see the man's shoulders sag in frustration, when he emerged unharmed from the fire. Credit where credit's due, though. He clearly knew by now that he was facing an enemy much stronger than himself and he still insisted in fighting, perhaps because he wanted to buy time for the brats he had told to run away. Nox nodded to himself. After today, the man would learn not to fool around with things beyond his ken and become a better...
A blast of intense cold magic hit him, covering his body with a thin layer of frost and interrupting his musings. The attack, he could tell from the concentration and amount of its magic energy, had been meant as a killing blow. Indeed, if he still had bodily fluids to freeze, he would have probably perished then and there (more's the pity). More importantly, the attack hadn't come from either of his known opponents, but from above.
He freed himself from the ice with an omnidirectional blast and looked up, but didn't find her until she attacked with a rain of razor-sharp icicles. She had hidden in the Sun's brightness (clever) and, when he finally looked in her direction, she summoned ice crystals around herself to increase the brightness and blind him (really clever). Alas, blinding him did nothing to stop the servomechanisms in his arm from taking aim and firing an energy bolt that forced her to dive out of the way.
The third challenger turned out to be a small, blue-haired girl, holding a wooden staff that looked too large for her. She seemed upset.
Geez, I wonder why?
With the monster distracted by young miss Tabitha's attacks, Colbert had been preparing something stronger and, he hoped, more effective than his last fireball. But in the last moment he decided to chant something different, rather than waste energy in yet another Celestial Lance. Air around the mummy was cooled and heated according to a pattern supplied by the professor's mind and wind picked up. In a matter of instants, a horrifically powerful tornado formed. And his enemy had been caught and was now being buffeted around by the magical winds, thrashing like a ragdoll.
The thing tried to escape. There was a flash of blue light and, for a heartbeat, it seemed to turn indistinct, almost transparent. But the moment passed and when it did, the mummy was still a captive of the winds. The fire mage didn't stop to think about the reasons behind this failure. He merely let old fighting instincts take over and prepared his will for an attack now that his foe seemed unable to escape or retaliate.
"Burn, you bastard," he muttered, before launching his attack.
The jet of fire that erupted from the tip of the old soldier's wand was a weak thing at first, which had no effect and garnered no reaction from the target when it hit. But Colbert kept up and added a second fire to his spell. Still no reaction, but the flames grew larger. And hotter. From the corner of his eye he saw miss Tabitha stop her attacks and descend towards her familiar, removing herself from Jean's line of fire.
And so Colbert added a third fire. The jet of flame grew even more powerful, until it was a thin column of white hot fire. And this was enough to finally get a reaction. A yelp of pain, barely heard over the roar of the fires. Just that. But just that was enough to thrill the professor like nothing else had since the days in which being the Flame Snake had been something to be proud of.
He let his mind and soul go back to the days in which he hadn't been just a kindly professor, but a defender of the faith. He had been stupid then. And gullible. But he had been fearsome in magic and strength of purpose, too, and before his loyalty was betrayed he had started walking the hard road towards the highest level possible of arcane accomplishment, all to become a better servant for church and country. He had stopped then, after blind stupidity had turned a village into charcoal and ash.
But he still remembered the lessons and now, in defense of something infinitely greater than the interests of a corrupt church, he forced himself to walk the last few steps towards square magic. And a fourth fire was added, giving Colbert's flame the strength of sixteen.
"Burn, I say!"
And burn it did. Just for the span of a few moments, hell came to Earth and the monster caught in the center of the hellfire, howled like the damned. With gritted teeth and his will stretched to the breaking point, Colbert kept up the tetramagic attack for a dozen heartbeats, until his will and body gave and he fell on his knees. Exhausted as he was, he still smiled when he saw the creature fall from the sky like a blaze. And, exhausted as he was, he could do nothing when he saw his foe get up and look at him directly through those expresionless blue eyes. The bandages that covered it were still burning in places. There were points in which its armor had been melted away by the magic fire. And, in spite of it all, it still stood.
"That actually hurt, you know. A lot," it said with its chime-like voice, while bringing its hands close to each other. "And I think that I have had quite enough of that. Let us bring an end to this tale of bravery and foolishness."
There was a flash of light.
And the world stopped.
Louise de La Vallière was in considerable pain after being almost strangled, on top of severe emotional distress. She wanted to cry, to shout, to do... anything that might assuage the terror that gripped her heart and provide some relief. But there was nothing she could do at the moment. Literally.
She couldn't cry or shout. She couldn't speak. She couldn't even feel her own heartbeat.
Her entire body was petrified, just like the world around her. .
She was completely paralyzed, a prisoner inside her own unmoving flesh. And she wasn't the only victim in this unnatural tableu. Professor Colbert and Kirche's weird friend and her dragon familiar were also frozen where they stood. Even the wind had stopped blowing.
As a matter of fact, the only thing that moved in this still world was the thing she had summoned. It was now kneeling in front of professor Colbert, talking to him. She could hear its horrible high-pitched voice, but she couldn't understand its words.
Founder, what have I done? she thought. But, of course, she knew what she had done. She had failed. She hadn't been fast enough to seal the contract. And thanks to this latest (and perhaps greatest) failure of hers, they were all going to die without a chance to even defend themselves.
She wondered what Mother was going to commission for her tombstone once she learned of all this. Louise de La Vallière, a Zero to the end, perhaps?
A fury, angry and terrible, sparked in her heart and burned away the fear. She was a noble. She was Louise Françoise le Blanc de La Vallière, daughter of Karin of the Heavy Wind. She refused to die a failure!
And though her flesh was petrified, her will and magic were still hers to command and so she poured them both into the wand held by her frozen hand, trying to give them shape and purpose through force of mind alone.
"Well, stranger, I think that that's all I..."
Nox shut up when he felt it. Pressure against the edges of his magic, pushing against the fragile web of wakfu he had used to halt the world in a frozen second. Pressure coming from that little girl he had manhandled a few moments ago. And the pressure had a feel to it that was strangely familiar.
How can she...
The first explosion caught him when he was halfway to standing up, along with the backlash of his magic being broken. He was knocked down. No matter. Just a few moments left now.
The second explosion hit him dead on. Combined with the effects of extreme wakfu depletion, that left him quite dazed and unwilling to even try to stand up again, to the point that when the pink haired girl (with smoke curling up from her hair and clothing) appeared in his field of vision he only blinked rather stupidly a couple of times.
He didn't react when she knelt next to him and didn't register that she was muttering something. However, when she lifted one of his unresisting arms and kissed him in his hand... that registered. As a matter of fact, that and the distant toll of a bell was the last thing Nox felt before darkness claimed him.
While the extraordinary events in the Tristain Academy of Magic came to a temporary end, less extraordinary events (though no less grave, in their own way) were taking place some one hundred and fifty kilometers to the southwest, near the palatial manor of Duke Gaston Dantes d'Anjou.
Said events were embodied in the forms of a sixty feet tall stone golem moving through the countryside faster than a galloping horse and a laughing figure of indeterminate gender perched upon the golem's shoulder.
It was, of course, none other than Fouquet, the Crumbling Dirt, the famous and infamous mage thief. Perhaps the most successful and certainly the boldest criminal of his time, the scoundrel had become something of a living legend for the commoners of Halkeginia and the hero of many tavern songs sung by those who enjoyed hearing of one willing to flaunt so openly his disregard for the laws of the land.
After a string of robberies in Albion, Romalia and Germania, Fouquet had come to Tristain six months before and announced his presence by assaulting the Royal Mint in broad daylight. That attack had ended with the criminal scum vanishing without a trace after leaving a whole company of the Royal Guard buried to their necks and taking a single silver coin ("for wine" said a rather insulting note found afterwards in the crime scene).
The sheer gall of it all had caused a bit of a panic among both nobility and the rich commoners, who had rushed to reinforce the magical protections of their vaults and armed their guards in largely futile attempts to persuade Fouquet not to attack them. Indeed, some thought that the bandit was taking these displays as a challenge and was making a point out of stealing from those who boasted the mightiest defenses.
Somehow, the criminal mage always knew were to find the vulnerabilities of his targets and how to best exploit them. It was widely believed that Fouquet had to have accomplices, but even after putting all suspects through the most rigorous questioning no clues had been found.
The Duke d'Anjou, Fouquet's victim de jour, had put his hopes in the fortress-like design of his manor, his small private army and his strongbox (one of the best designs of its kind, built by the great Trevi of Romalia with metal enchanted to withstand the combined assault of two square mages). Nevertheless, his castle had been infiltrated, his servants fooled and when Fouquet found himself unable to crack the strongbox with his enchantments, he had decided to turn that whole section of the manor into one of his golems, incidentally destroying about a third of the building.
That had happened roughly half an hour before. Half an hour that Fouquet had spent mocking his pursuers and fanning the duke's fury by keeping himself almost-but-not-quite within reach. Every time somebody managed to get within musket range of the thief, the Crumbling Dirt pelted the would-be hero with rocks the size of cantaloupes or opened in the path a mud pit or kicked up a dust cloud.
Finally, shortly before nightfall, the golem accelerated and disappeared from sight in the forested hills near the village of Jura. The duke had his men comb the area and, shortly before sunrise the next day, a stablehand managed to locate a pile of stones which were identified as the material used by Fouquet to create his golem. Unfortunately, no traces of the thief or the stolen strongbox were found afterwards.
One week later, the stablehand who located the stones, a young boy called Sestus, was fired by the rather impoverished duke along with two dozen other servants. Thus, the boy left the D'Anjou estate a mere three weeks after being hired with a month's salary and the leather pouch he had found atop the remains of the golem.
It would be a long time before anyone saw Sestus again.
END CHAPTER 1.
Notes: Since Wakfu hasn't been released in any of the English speaking markets and there are no good online resources in the English speaking sections of the Internet, I include here the most important Wakfu terms and concepts that show up in this chapter.
Eliatrope: A race of horned humanoids with the ability to manipulate wakfu to open teleport portals (their powerset is essentially identical to the portal gun from the videogame of the same name) who created the first civilization in the World of Twelve.
Noximilien 'Nox' Coxen: The primary antagonist in the first season of Wakfu. A follower of Xelor with time magic, as well as a genius clockmaker, Nox decided to go back in time after his family died as a result of him growing obsessed with an Eliatrope artifact.
Since time travel was absurdly energy intensive, he spent two hundred years killing things to collect their wakfu and storing it in the Eliatrope artifact. In the end, after genociding an entire species, he managed to go back in time, but it didn't work quite as well as he had expected (understatement of the year).
Immediately afterwards, he lost control of the Eliatrope artifact, which shut down his wakfu powered clockwork death-bots and he decided to go to the tombs of his wife and sons to die in peace.
Wakfu: A primordial magic/lifeforce that exists in all living things and manifests as a blue energy. Essentially, the Force.
World of the Twelve: The primary setting of Wakfu, a generic fantasy world ruled by twelve gods.
Xelor: The god of time in the Wakfu setting. His followers are also called Xelors very often.
Yugo: The last Eliatrope and kid leader of the hero party that tried to foil Nox plans.