Ascension by Gwen Montealto

Other churches should count themselves lucky, Sernix thought as they descended the spiraling steps to the sanctum with Marsi in tow. Other churches didn’t need to feed their gods. Privately, Sernix considered the Legion to be little more than a glorified pet; powerful though it may be, it boasted intelligence equal to your average mutt.

“Okay, buddy,” Sernix sighed as they reached the bottom of the pit, approaching the swirling portal that cast its sickly light upon them both. “Snackie time. Are you hungry, O’ Great Wretched One?”

“Is it necessary to baby-talk the abomination this way?” Marsi asked. He was a relatively new addition to the palace staff, brought in to serve as a beacon for magic and a nagging secretary. Sernix had been told he was set to be the lynchpin in a grand ritual of their Monarch’s design, but in the meantime, he had to put himself to use. How Marsi ended up in Sanctuary Rosai, Sernix could only guess. He was a sylvi—one of those elementals known for their ability to radiate magic from their own bodies, and thus, having one as a familiar was a sign of prestige.

Mostly, though, he was an ass.

Sernix nodded gravely. “But of course, Mesyr Vegress. We treasure our deities, do we not?”

A sound like thunder echoed from the portal. The Legion’s response was a hammer to Sernix’s skull, and they hissed in pain. They’d been doing this for years, but they would never get used to the sensation of having their soul gnawed on by an unknowable horror. When it was over, they stumbled backward, and a pair of hands reached out to steady them from behind.

“Incredible, isn’t it?” Sernix said.

“Incredible how you can subject yourself to a seizure every month, yes.” Marsi ushered them back up the stairs and checked his watch. “You’re due to speak before the masses in a few minutes. Ascension draws near.”

“Ascension! Thus far, no one’s told me what this Ascension actually entails. Rumor has it that you have something to do with it.”

“I have a contract with your monarch. Let’s leave it at that.”

“So cryptic,” Sernix sighed dramatically. “If only I were privy to your dark secrets.”

Marsi gave an amused smile, gesturing to the temple doors as they approached. Before Sernix could push them open, footsteps sounded from behind them, and they turned to see a Savant making her way down the hall. She gave the two of them a withering stare.

“Late again, Kaliste,” she hissed. “Busy flirting with the slaves?”

“Piss off,” Sernix groaned. “Don’t you have Benefactors to dissect?”

The Savant huffed. “Mind your tongue. You may be the Monarch’s pet, but you’re as replaceable as any worm. As for this one—” She stuck a claw-tip under Marsi’s throat. The sylvi didn’t so much as flinch. “I’m under no obligation to keep my claws off you. You’d be far more useful in the laboratories.”

“If you must know,” Sernix drawled, “he’s instrumental to our sovereign’s plans. Wouldn’t look great on your record to scratch him up.”

“Sylvies come and go,” the Savant said, though she withdrew her hand. “You’d do well to avoid growing attached. These types don’t feel pain.” She sneered, sauntering past them both. “They don’t feel at all.”

Sernix kept an affable smile pasted to their face as they spoke before the crowd—a shifting mass of human and pixie faces, their eyes gleaming at the promise of exaltation; a promise Sernix suspected would hardly make a difference in the long run. They yearned for magic, for the chance to grab life by the throat, but there was a difference between magic and money.

Among the pixie members of the congregation, not one was a Savant in a pressed tunic, nor a Custodian leading a cabal of nymphs. Not even a jeweled Acolyte, keepers of the faith though they were, bothered to show up. The higher castes had little use for exaltation when they thought themselves the chosen people of the gods, and the threat of invasion kept them on their toes, but even so, they usually loved to flaunt their wealth and beauty. Did they really care so little now?

“The Legion beckons!” Sernix proclaimed. “The best part? It costs nothing but your soul!” They laughed heartily. The audience chuckled along in mild discomfort. “Oh, don’t you all fret, it’s not as bad as the media would lead you to believe. Stings a bit, but what’s an ant bite in exchange for a better life? The Monarch herself invites you all to the grand event. Anyone who is willing will be welcomed with open arms.”

It was a performance they’d orchestrated many times before, prodding the desperate toward debt. Exaltation was a mundane process, all things considered, and the worst of it was the condition of servitude to the Sanctuary. Though exalts were granted the ability to perform arcane feats, proper training and education weren’t covered by the contracts. In the end, it was merely a ploy for higher castes to snatch up fresh slaves. Sernix was no better off; they’d once been a starving young Benefactor, had eaten up the notion of a better life with as much fervor. Under present circumstances, they liked to think they played well enough to the Monarch’s tune to keep themself alive. Others of their caste would kill for a scrap of what they had.

Sernix stole a glance at Marsi. The only sylvi in the crowd, he was a diamond among pebbles, even standing more poised than the rest. He nodded in silent affirmation, and Sernix’s smile shifted into a wicked grin. They lifted their hands, drawing arcane power from Marsi himself. Tendrils of light sprung from their fingers, snaking through the air and twisting into the shape of a shining entity; a facsimile of the Legion, an angel of light. Hushed murmurs rippled through the congregation. Some fell to their knees.

Someone in the crowd coughed loudly. “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to show us the actual deity you serve?”

Sernix froze, eyes locking onto the owner of the voice. A human man wearing a dark coat stood amidst the throng, and Sernix’s mouth curled into a snarl. Zuno.

“Mister Varano,” Sernix greeted, pulling the smile back onto their face. “It seems our Legion’s glory has blinded you! Open your eyes and heart. See for yourself the entity who promises your salvation.”

Zuno looked unimpressed. “Right,” he said dismissively, then addressed the crowd with, “the Monarch’s right hand speaks pretty words, but don’t be so easily swayed. They only seek to take advantage of us. I myself was once exalted, and look what I have to show for it!”

He pulled back his sleeve and raised an arm, exposing skin streaked with branching scars. The crowd murmured anxiously. “They promised me magic if I allowed their Savants to experiment on me. It wasn’t worth what they put me through,” he spat. “This is the god they worship!”

Arcane energy crackled across his arms as he cast a spell. A new illusion took form—a writhing mass of limbs and faces twisting in agony. Someone screamed. Sernix’s eyes scoured the room, trying to pinpoint the source of his power. They landed on Marsi, who was staring at Zuno with a strange intensity in his gaze.

Sernix cursed under their breath, struggling to intercept the new illusion. Thankfully, they didn’t have to try for long; a Mercenary marched in and grabbed the man from behind, pinning his arms behind his back and dragging him off. The second illusion dissipated, leaving Sernix with a shaken assembly crowding around them, demanding answers and pleading for blessings they could not give.

Sernix cornered Marsi in the gardens. “You were helping him.”

“I did nothing of the sort.”

“Oh, please. You were glowing like a dolled-up bride. Don’t pretend otherwise.” Sernix scowled. “One slip up, Mesyr Vegress. One! That’s all it takes to be thrown away, skinned alive, eaten. Keep that in mind.”

Marsi kept silent. An ornate statue of the Monarch loomed before them, her multitude of wings fanning out like a throne behind her. Sernix was often reminded of her generosity, how she’d plucked them out of poverty and elevated their status beyond what was befitting of their caste. In spite of it all, they felt nothing but scorn. How many people were scrubbing a Custodian’s claws or being pinned to a table by a Savant, all because of Sernix? Because of the Monarch’s commands?

“How do you know him?” Marsi asked.

Sernix scoffed. “If you must know, Mister Varano has been a loud, witless thorn in my side since I first got here. Always protesting against one injustice or another. Fine, yes, he was taken advantage of, but we all were! You don’t hear any of us complaining.”

“Out loud.”

“Out loud,” Sernix agreed. “That’s reality for you. I expect he’ll be dead within the year. Good riddance! One more fiasco on my hands and I don’t know what might happen to me. They’re probably chopping him up as we speak.”

“I wouldn’t count on it,” Marsi said. “He’s more resilient than a cockroach. Many times as clever.”

Sernix waited for elaboration, but none came. They sighed. “Look. You’re entitled to your secrets. I respect that. Maybe he’s a friend, maybe you want to help him save people. That’s perfectly reasonable. That being said, there are risks to consider—not just to yourself, but every other clown in this circus.” Sernix frowned, crossing their arms. “I don’t know what the Monarch has in store for you, but it’s probably nothing pleasant. You bleed magic. I assume you’re meant to be the centerpiece of her secret machinations. It’s a wonder you’re not quaking in your polished boots.”

“No use giving in to fear,” Marsi murmured. “I made my choice. I’ll follow through.”

Sernix considered him for a moment, then said, “I know you love to rib about my bad decisions, so humor me. Just how did you end up a slave to our kook of a sovereign?”

Marsi tensed. For all his dignity, he was a tightly-wound string ready to snap. Sernix had glimpsed him pacing the palace corridors, staring with glazed eyes out the windows like a young nymph awaiting their Custodian’s return. Though he concealed it well, he was growing agitated, sparks of magic flashing in his eyes at times. Out of self-preservation, Sernix had elected to place themself in his good books, and an odd friendship had grown from there. It wasn’t an ideal start, but nothing ever was.

Marsi indicated the statue before them, the Monarch’s many arms outstretched toward the heavens. “Much the same as the rest of you, I signed a contract. This was my end of the bargain. I thought I’d be making a difference.” He frowned, something unreadable in his eyes, and said nothing more.

Sernix clicked their tongue, reaching out to pat him on the shoulder. “Well, then. Best exercise more caution next time, hm?”

“There’s no next time,” Marsi said darkly, shrugging off their hand. “Not for me.”

The Monarch hummed as she fussed over Sernix’s coat. Pushing a small mirror in their face, she cooed, “Isn’t that delightful?”

Sernix gave a strained smile, though the look wasn’t half bad. Being handled like a doll was just another ‘perk’ of their station. “Resplendent as always, Mother.”

She crooned in delight, already rifling through her assortment of cosmetics. Though she had offspring of her own, the Monarch suspected them of plotting her demise behind her back. Sernix supposed she enjoyed playing parent to those who had no chance of succeeding her. None but her own children could molt into the form she currently occupied, all wings and arms, not to mention the ability to command those beneath her with nothing but her mind. But although she played favorites, Sernix was a Benefactor; one performing in less grimy establishments, but a Benefactor nonetheless. Every word and action warranted caution.

Questions tugged at their mind. Carefully, they said, “That sylvi—Marsi Vegress. He’s crucial to the Ascension, as I understand it?”

“Oh, yes, him,” the Monarch said absently, dabbing at Sernix’s face with a brush. “Powerful specimen. Very important.”

“Will he be hurt?”

“Of course not. He is a sylvi: fire and earth in the shape of a living creature. They may resemble us, but they don’t feel like us. Shall we expect him to make something of his life? Get a job, fall in love?” She clicked her tongue. “There are more productive means for his ilk to contribute to our society.”

Sernix restrained a scoff. “And what of the Ascension itself? What does that entail?”

The Monarch’s gaze grew distant. She straightened her posture. “We are a smaller territory than others. It is only a matter of time before we are overtaken by our rivals, and thus, we must find ways to survive. To ascend.”

“So the Ascension will… bring us elsewhere?”

The Monarch laughed. “It will protect us, dear.”

“Every caste?”

“Everyone. It will be glorious.”

Sernix shifted uncomfortably. “How exactly is that going to happen?”

The Monarch hummed. “You will soon see. I will say this much—the sylvi is a well of magic, enough to feed a god ten times over and still burn as bright. When the time comes, he will be our salvation, and I?” She smiled, baring rows of teeth. “I will be more than just a Monarch.”

Though tempted to press further, her eyes had taken on a dangerous, hungry gleam, and Sernix bit their tongue. Roaming the corridors that night, they found Marsi on a balcony, shining as magical constructs danced around him, and didn’t miss the way his hands shook as he maintained the spell.

Weeks passed, and Sernix nearly forgot their concerns. Marsi Vegress was an utter mystery. He had no qualms knocking on Sernix’s door at ungodly hours in the morning to soothe their persistent migraines, yet took amusement from rambling about esoteric nonsense just to drive Sernix mad. He could stand in silence as higher castes purred thinly-veiled condescensions his way, but would turn his nose up and lecture Sernix over a stained tablecloth. Sernix wanted to peer directly into his head; they liked to think they weren’t imagining the tinge of affection to his tone at times. They enjoyed the sound of his voice, the way he chose his words. They entertained childish thoughts of hiding him somewhere far away from all this.

Once, they found him walking with Zuno in the gardens. So he had gotten away. That was… reassuring, at least. One less victim to weigh on their conscience. From behind a hedge, Sernix strained their ears to hear.

“We could run,” Zuno said. “Somewhere we’d both be safe.”

“Pixies are vengeful beings. They would hunt us relentlessly. We’d have to fight for every scrap of peace.” Marsi’s voice was quiet—soft in a way Sernix had never heard before, and to their confusion, they felt a pang of envy. “You have good intentions—always have—but you should know when to cut your losses.”

“They kept us here for years, cutting your skin, bleeding you for magic. They burned magic into me and I sat through it all. And for what? Mediocre potential that they keep out of our reach even after everything they put us through? The only thing that kept me going was you, healing me. We stuck by each other, and that’s not going to change.”

“I bargained for your freedom,” Marsi said sternly. “Your life in exchange for my compliance. I was promised that no harm would come to you, but you should never let your guard down. Any loophole can and will be exploited against you. You have a whole life to live—I don’t. I’m just a sylvi.”

“You are a person,” Zuno snapped, gripping Marsi’s shoulders. “You deserve more than this.”

They went on that way for a while, Zuno pulling out every argument he could muster, Marsi digging his heels in. Eventually Sernix slipped away, leaving them to their spat. On impulse, they scoured the archives for information on sylvies and were met with thorough research on their arcane properties, though hardly any on culture. Notes remarked snidely on sylvies’ lack of expression—how little joy and meaning they must experience if they couldn’t laugh and love as most did—and Sernix scowled, their stomach turning. Though Marsi could be stoic and difficult to parse, he was far from emotionless. Then again, Savants viewed Benefactors as fodder; their arrogance wasn’t surprising.

There was a word that cropped up and drew their eye. Kindred. Sernix read the papers, then read them again, and for lack of any real clarification on the term, they headed for Marsi’s chamber at the crack of dawn and presented him with the research.

“Why the sudden interest?” he asked, bewildered.

Sernix grinned. “Mostly the fact that I stumbled upon you and Mister Varano’s lovers’ quarrel in my backyard.”

Marsi froze, mouth open to defend himself, but Sernix cut him off with, “Relax, Mesyr Vegress. I’m not going to sell you out. I’m curious, is all. Been doing some light reading. Is he your… er, kindred?

Marsi considered them for a long time. “… He is.”

“And what is that?”

“Something we sylvies keep close to our hearts. A lifelong partnership between individuals, an emotional connection, a solemn agreement. Similar to your romantic relationships, though usually not as intense.”

Sernix tilted their head. “So sylvies feel things, then? Sylvies can love?”

Marsi snorted. “In a sense, though I’ll never understand the fixation on it. There’s a reason for the misconception; our experiences differ fundamentally from yours. But I suppose Zuno is living proof that other species are capable of seeing the world as we do. Human relationships are formed on the highs of passion—things most sylvies never experience. He told me he’d never felt like he belonged among his own kind. It was only after we met that it clicked, that what we have was something he wanted. Believe me, I was skeptical at first, but… I think it worked out, for the most part.”

His voice sounded far-off, wistful. Sernix pushed down an odd feeling in their chest. “I see. And I suppose if a human could feel the same way you do, it’s possible that other entities could as well.”

Marsi shrugged. “Perhaps, but I wouldn’t count on it. In your case, pixies are rather sensual beings, though I don’t mean that as an insult. We operate on different wavelengths.”

Sernix coughed. “Yes. Of course. But on the matter of the Ascension—” They frowned, leaning forward. “You said you traded your life for his.”

His expression turned into a distant stare. “That I did.”

“You’re going to die, Mesyr Vegress,” Sernix said urgently. “Used and thrown away. Doesn’t that scare you?”

“If I fold now, none of us might survive,” he said tersely. “I have to wonder why you’re so concerned, Mesyr Kaliste. You’re not the one at risk here, nor are you the one who gets left behind.”

Sernix fought a twinge of hurt that rose in their chest, hissing, “Ah, yes, because I’m only ever worried about saving my own skin. Gods’ sake, is it so difficult to believe I might care about you?”

“How short-sighted. In the grand scheme of things, my existence means nothing.”

“Oh, don’t feed me that Acolyte nonsense. Listen to me, you nihilistic piece of shit. I care. Against all odds, you’re my friend, and I care, whether or not it does me good at the end of the day.” They laughed bitterly. “As a matter of fact, so long as we’re throwing out earnest babble, one might go so far as to say I’m terribly fond of you. That I’d hate to go about my days without your nagging, even. That’s something. That matters, and so do you. We all do.”

Marsi looked at them the way one might attempt to sort out a complicated puzzle.“You’re a strange creature, Sernix Kaliste.”

“I pride myself in confounding you,” Sernix said with a tired smile.

“But as you once said, there’s no way to fight back without damning us all.”

Silence settled like a thick fog between the two of them. Sernix worried that they’d made a misstep—that he thought less of them, somehow—but then Marsi reached out to place a hand over theirs, a desperation in his grip that didn’t show on his face. His voice wavered when he said, “Should I accept my fate or should I fight?”

“… I don’t know, Mesyr Vegress,” Sernix said quietly. “I don’t know.”

Zuno sipped his coffee. “How much do you know about coalescence?”

It wasn’t difficult to find him; Sanctuary records were incredibly thorough. Zuno had stared at Sernix in shock when he’d found them dressed like a vagrant at his doorstep. It took some effort to convince him that Sernix wasn’t there to apprehend him, that they wanted Marsi safe and nothing else, but Zuno had remained rightfully cautious, throwing out questions a mile a minute, eyes darting suspiciously in anticipation of an ambush. Eventually, though, he conceded, inviting them inside.

At his inquiry, Sernix’s antennae pricked in interest. Coalescence was how the Legion was able to exalt simple creatures. It was the process of melding souls together, granting them the ability to bend reality to their whims, provided at least one entity was magical. They told Zuno as much.

“The marrying of a mortal soul to an ancient entity. Your people were quick to identify the similarities between such a process and your own molting rituals—turning from one form into another,” Zuno explained. “When your Savants held Marsi and me in their laboratories, the Monarch would visit to discuss her plans. Marsi was of particular significance.”

“She said she would become more than a Monarch,” Sernix said.

That seemed to perturb Zuno. “You’ve been taking exalts by the dozens. Didn’t you ever wonder why she needs so many?” When Sernix didn’t respond, he continued, “Your Legion always hungers. For her to achieve whatever she’s going to do, she needs to pay a price. She just isn’t willing to sacrifice any of her people to do it.”

Sernix swallowed. There had been pixies among the exalts. Benefactors and Mercenaries: the lower castes. “And Marsi?”

“We were kept in the Savant laboratories together, though for different purposes. They would push Marsi to his limits, increasing the range and potency of his power by any means necessary.” Zuno’s mouth twisted into a scowl. “My friend. My kindred. He saved me once. I need to get him out of this.”

“So do I,” said Sernix. “We are, all of us, trapped. If even just one can actually get away from it all, it’d be worth it.”

Zuno nodded. “What is he to you?”

“Does it matter?”

“You’re a survivor, not a fighter. He has to mean something for you to endanger yourself like this.”

“…I may have indulged in rare comforts,” Sernix sighed. “For all his pedantry, he was kind to me, and I owe him one. More than one. Under better circumstances, I’d want to be his kindred, if he’d have me. If he didn’t have you already.”

“He cares deeply for you. Now I think I understand why,” Zuno said, shrugging. “Possessiveness isn’t normally a factor in these sorts of relationships. I won’t argue if he wants to take you with us.”

“Seriously?” Sernix laughed, breath hitching in their throat. Slowly, they stood and said, “I think… I think I’ll fight this time. At least I’ll have done one good thing in this life. Always fun to leap into harrowing circumstances on a whim, hm?”

“Finally, some damn sense from you.” Zuno smiled, the somber look in his eyes reflecting Sernix’s own fear—that they would fail catastrophically or die triumphant. Either way, Marsi would be left without them by the end of it. It was selfish, but the thought of Marsi running off, that Sernix would never see him again, made their gut twist.

It was better than leaving him to rot.

“They’re keeping him in the sanctum,” Sernix shouted over the din of people flooding the corridors, dodging elbows and bodies hurling themselves forward in an attempt to avoid fusing into one another like melted candy. The walls bled magic, tendrils of light pushing their way through the cracks. “The Monarch should be there, too.”

Eventually Sernix and Zuno staggered into the throne room and practically hurled themselves into the pit. The portal was a discordant vortex, tendrils of pure light lashing out all around Marsi, who hovered in the center of the sanctum, his body aflame with magic that was being drawn into the portal. Below him was the Monarch, slumbering in a bulging chrysalis of arcane essence. Sernix realized with dread what she was attempting to do.

“She’s trying to coalesce with it,” Zuno said.

Shit,” said Sernix. “Not just that. She’s trying to pull it through.”

“Marsi,” Zuno said urgently. A chilling cry came from the other side of the portal, and Marsi mirrored the sound.

Sernix’s mind raced. They had no plan; they’d barely pieced together the specifics of the Monarch’s plot until it was nearly too late. What was there to do?

The chrysalis shuddered before them. Sernix pressed a hand against it, their own reflection staring helplessly back at them from its glossy surface. Then their antennae twitched, eyes widening as they realized what they had to do.

“I have an idea,” they said, “But it’ll probably kill me.”

“It’s you or him,” Zuno said, though he frowned deeply at their words. “Not to mention all those people.”

Sernix cursed under their breath. The Monarch wanted to control the abomination, but she couldn’t fight back in this state. “In case this ends horribly, seal off the sanctum. Help Marsi.” From within their suit they drew a blade and stabbed at the chrysalis, viscous fluid spilling out as they tore it open. Sernix plunged their arms inside and took hold of the Monarch’s body, dragging her free. A million thoughts of the punishment they would surely receive after this flashed through their mind. The Monarch hissed and squirmed in their grip, mumbling incoherently. Sernix hesitated, then took the blade to her throat and left her on the floor in a lifeless heap.

The chrysalis pulsed at the disturbance, tendrils of magic shooting out in search of a new occupant. Sernix took a breath and allowed themself to be dragged in. The last thing they saw before darkness closed in was a blaze of light from outside, and as the cries of the Legion rang in Sernix’s ears, they screamed along with it.

Zuno rubbed his hands to stave off the cold of the facility. A Benefactor led him up an elevator and through dimly-lit corridors until they reached a relatively unassuming chamber.

“Our Monarch awaits your presence,” they said.

“Thanks for keeping this on the down-low,” said Zuno. The pixie bowed and retreated back down the hall.

Inside, a window allowed a splash of sunlight to filter in, illuminating the bed at the end of the chamber upon which a figure lay, their many wings splayed out like a flower from their back. Marsi sat at their bedside, chuckling softly as they made a quip under their breath. Zuno cleared his throat and the two turned to acknowledge him.

“Mister Varano!” Sernix beamed. “Nice of you to drop by. Mesyr Vegress was just regaling me with tales of your disastrous exploits.”

Zuno rolled his eyes. “I hope he told you that most times I succeed.”

“And this is one of those times, so congrats on our shared win,” Sernix said, clapping lightly. “It’s not every day one commits regicide and gets an unexpected promotion.”

They indicated their wings with a flourish. Zuno reached out to touch one, feeling the flimsy membrane between his fingers. He murmured, “This is new.”

“Tell me about it,” Sernix sighed. “And here I was preparing myself for indescribable bodily abuse.”

“The higher castes want you dead,” Marsi said plainly. “Rival Sanctuaries are on the rise. We’ll have to deal with that at some point. Or maybe not. Maybe we can escape and live in a shack in the middle of nowhere.”

“Plant a garden,” Sernix suggested. “Zuno can cook.”

Zuno shook his head. “Do you have a plan? What do we do from here?”

Silence stretched out between the three of them. After a while, Sernix shrugged. “I suppose we do what we’ve always done. The higher castes make a mess, we clean it up. Hopefully for the long-term.”

“Are we even capable of such a thing?” Marsi wondered. “A Benefactor-turned-Monarch, an enslaved sylvi, and a human with no sense of self-preservation—”

“I resent that,” Zuno said at the same time that Sernix corrected, “Formerly enslaved.”

“If this is the start of a joke, the gods have a sense of humor poorer than most Benefactors,” Marsi finished.

“I think it’s worth making the effort,” Zuno said, taking Marsi’s hand in his own. “The people are in need of less… oppressive management. Less deceptive,” he added with a glance at Sernix, who winked. “Which is why I’m sticking around, if you’ll have me. I think I could be of help.”

Marsi thought it over. To Sernix, he said, “You’re a Monarch now; the decision is yours. What do you think?”

“Let’s see. I have an eldritch god’s power at my disposal thanks to our ex-Monarch’s stunt, my fellow pixies want me hanged on charges of treason and sacrilege, and I’m now the sixteenth richest person alive.”

Sernix laughed, reaching out to take Marsi’s free hand.

“What’s a few bumps in the road to three unhinged kindred?” they continued, grinning. “We’ve danced on thinner eggshells. I’m sure we’ll do just fine. All of us together.”That was the start of it. It was a road they were more than willing to walk.


Gwen Montealto is a student from the Philippines currently studying animation and storytelling. She takes inspiration from all forms of media and is intrigued by unusual ideas and diverse experiences.