Astoreth lifted the entire bundle containing tent poles, fabric top and sides, cot frame, and the rolled futon along with the rest of her camping furniture as if it were a few sacks of groceries and teleported away. She returned in the exact same spot seconds later without the luggage. She’d carried it to the storage building on her property in Svyatlyshche with the instant translocation and left it for one of her wards to stow away.

It was the morning after Isaac’s birthday and the three veterans were preparing to end their unauthorized intrusion upon the cadet’s hunting trip. All that was left to do was the saying of goodbyes and farewells.

Astoreth bent at the waste to grab the sides of Isaac’s head and kiss him with fierce and possessive energy. She stepped closer to press her body against his before breaking away and saying, “That one named Ostap. He was whining about you holding him back to that Paza boy. Don’t let him think my man is weak.” She smirked up at Isaac and her eyes danced with a proud light. “My man isn’t weak.”

“You get small?!” Jin exclaimed excitedly. Astoreth had shrunken down to her taming form while sharing her intimate moment with Isaac. The infernal pokegirl looked down at herself in shock and shot up to her usual towering height so quickly Isaac had to take half a step backwards.

“Don’t. Tell. Anyone.” Astoreth’s eyes were wild and her gaze was darting around in paranoia that someone outside of their little ring witnessed her lapse. Her tail was whipping around erratically behind her and she kept making aborted flapping motions with her suddenly manifested wings like she wanted to take to the skies.

“I won’t, Nee-chan!” Jin’s eyes were glowing with wonder and amusement. The dumb grin was stretching wider by the second.

“She won’t, Star.” Chandrakanta placed a steadying hand on Astoreth’s shoulder and peered deeply into her eyes. “It’s okay.” The infernal relaxed but was still consumed by disbelief and confusion at her own subconscious actions. “Good luck hunting today, Isaac, Jin. Keep your spirits up and Isaac, you can always reach out to me across the bond.” She pulled both of them into a tight hug. She made a show of checking her own height as she stepped back but quickly smiled apologetically to the fuming infernal.

Elena shook her head and pushed a strand of hair back in place, neither motion fully concealing her amusement. “You’ll be fine, Star. It’s good for you to let your guard down.”

Astoreth’s fluster vanished as she locked eyes with the Grandelf. “You’re one to talk.”

Elena stiffened except for a couple of quick twitches in her ears. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She replied in a frosty tone. “Anyway, it’s getting late in the morning and we don’t want to keep the hunters waiting.” She kissed Isaac on both cheeks and did the same to Jin. “You two are doing great together. I’m glad things worked out this way and don’t forget to keep an eye out for other pokegirls you could be helping.”


The East European forest steppe was an ecoregion composed of broadleaf forests that stretched over 2000 kilometers starting at the Urals and growing West past the Dnieper river. This had been before the tectonic destruction caused by the titanic battles between the first generation of legendary pokegirls as well as their successors, but the trees had survived even if not as a single contiguous feature.

The territory of Queen Vershnyk had been established at the edge of the band of trees where it touched the northern shores of the Dnieper, and it was along the edges of these woods that Isaac, Vardan, Ostap, and Symon were hunting. They were running short on time and while their academic goals had been met, Ostap was still facing the prospects of farmwork rather than festivals over the harvestime break. The party was on the hunt for plant types. If only the forest itself would cooperate.

It was the only way Isaac could explain the trouble they were having navigating. Tangles of limbs seemed to be more underfoot. Branches stretched across the path and snapped back towards the face when pushed aside just a bit quicker than expected. Paths revealed themselves only to fade into the undergrowth going forwards and back; leaving no route to follow. The humans and non-Elf pokegirls all were fighting against the impression that they were not welcome.

Adding to the perceived hostility of the woods was the eerie lack of detectable fauna. Birds and insects were hauntingly silent and fled when spotted. They hadn’t happened upon any signs of feral pokegirls for hours and had expanded their search wide enough that they couldn’t track each other by line of sight. They had synchronized their devices to communicate over short range radio and were coordinating their efforts that way, but it slowed them down and multiple times the hunters had spotted potential prey only to radio in and discover it was one of their comrades. Desperation, frustration, and determination saw them push deeper into the woods as the hours stretched on. Now the canopy was so thick Isaac and Jin were hiking through verdant twilight.

“You are being hunted, man.” Isaac whirled towards the direction he thought the voice had come from. Empty shrubs. “These woods are not for your kind. Turn back now.” The voice was a girl’s voice, or that of a small woman. The pitch was too high and sound too shallow to come from a medium bodied individual or larger. The tone was joyless and aggressive and every punctuation seemed hissed in disdain.

Isaac stopped and put his hands up. “I know these lands are claimed by Queen Vershnyk. I cannot speak for my companions but I mean her and her court no harm. I am willing to speak to the others on her behalf if she will allow us to hunt her woods.” Silence hung in the air as the breeze rustled the leaves overhead and a rodent chattered from a branch off in the distance.

“Queen Vershnyk is dead.” The Elf stepped out from behind a tree opposite from the direction Isaac had picked her voice out from. Her bow was in her hand and an arrow was knocked but not drawn. It was a small recurve bow made from dead wood and horn. She was very short, almost childlike in her proportions but had a hardened expression on her face and a scrawny toughness in her muscles. Her undyed tunic and skin were stained with soil and her blonde hair had been mercilessly chopped short into an uneven mess. “A usurper rules these woods and she is only concerned with taking humans as slaves. You and your companions are being drawn into an ambush by her magic.”

“Why are you warning us,” Jin asked. Isaac could almost feel sparks flying from his Witch as she measured up the wild pokegirl confronting them.

“I am still loyal to the memory of our mother queen. She loved humans so I offer you a warning on her behalf.”

“Wouldn’t that make it dangerous for you to stay if Queen Vershnyk’s slayer is in power here?”

The diminutive plant type stepped across the path, the branches of some scraggly briars trailing behind her. “These woods know me more than the usurper. They will not betray me to her. They offer you no such loyalty, man. Turn back, now.”

“I have to warn my friends.” Friends? Were they friends to Isaac? Vardan probably would be once Isaac moved past his hurt but Ostap and Symon he wasn’t sure. He supposed they could be.

“Then do so. I don’t care either way.”

“Well, we’re here hunting for plant types and two of them will likely try to capture you.”

The Elf stopped and studied Isaac with surprise and distrust flickering through her aggressive squinted eyes. “I will avoid them,” she stated with an almost questioning inflection. “Warn them quickly, the usurper's warriors aren’t far from here.”

“Thank you,” Isaac told the Elf, who again was studying him with angry curiosity. “I am Isaac and this is Jin.”

The Elf ran her thumb up and down the fletching of her knocked arrow for a painfully long stretch of seconds. She stepped behind some branches on the other side of the path Isaac had been trying to follow and seemed to melt into the shadow under the leaves. The last bit of her Isaac saw were her eyes, still locked on his and unblinking.

“I am Neasa,” her voice lingered where her image did not. If Isaac were to spell it based on the phonetics, he would have tried something with a Y in the first syllable. Or maybe the Spanish letter composed of an N symbol with the tilde accent mark.

Jin’s attention was fixed so intently on the spot where the Elf vanished Isaac half expected her to start growling and barking like an alarmed dog. He keyed his radio and addressed the other three. “Contact with an Elf-”

“Location?!” Ostap’s voice was distorted by his mic picking up the excess air he’d shouted the question with.

“Unknown, heading…” Isaac looked north of him where she vanished, “southeast. She was aware and claims Queen Vershnyk was overthrown by an unseelie Elfqueen capturing humans as slaves.”

Two competing signals were picked up in response, both expressing profanity but one in Ukrainian and another in Romanian. Ostap refused to relinquish the radio frequency longer. “Markiyan, close in on her and we’ll get her in a surround.”

“Negative,” Vardan speaking this time. “Head back to camp, we need to get back to Dnipro and report this.”

“I’m not going back to camp when we’ve finally spotted an Elf! I don’t want to be picking-”

Isus Hristos, I will buy you a full belt of Elves if you shut up and follow protocol regarding a threat to human lives in near wilderness!” Total dead air followed Vardan’s outburst.

“Heading back to camp.” Ostap’s confirmation was totally lifeless after conversion to and from an electronic signal. Isaac turned around to head back as well but jumped with a start when the Elf was behind him a few paces down the route he was about to backtrack.

“I was traveling with two others. I had to leave them in the hollowed out trunk of a tree. There.” She gestured towards an old dead oak. The foliage of the forest floor pulled away to show a narrow track leading to it. “They were taken by the Nothing this morning. Give them to your friend. A slave’s life is better than the unlife of eternal sleep. Or being taken back to the court after fleeing.” With that Neasa vanished again.


Isaac sat with Jin swinging her legs under the bench next to him. They were waiting at the Dnipro stage station, the same one that was in the middle of the farmlands outside the city limits where his first day at academy started. The Lisnyky Sapfirovoyi Lihy, Sapphire League Rangers, concluded their interviews with Vardan and Symon five days ago given how little they knew or encountered regarding the situation with the Elf Queendom formerly ruled by Queen Vershnyk. Isaac was kept longer to go over his exchange with Neasa. Ostap Borisov was the cadet they were most interested in, or at least his pokegirls.

It had been requested of Ostap to tame the two Elves he’d received from the ordeal to awakening and then remain for them to be interviewed as well. This meant he and Isaac were technically late for the final muster of the trimester but given the urgency of the matter and frequent cooperation between the Rangers and the Voronas there had been little trouble in having an extension granted to the two cadets. A stage wagon had even been hired to take them down to Zaporzhizhia; as soon as Ostap was released. Isaac was left waiting because they were not grateful enough to hire two wagons, and they occasionally called him in to go over some minor details once more since they were unable to make use of psychic interrogations.

Ostap came around from the other side of the staging station with Luba trailing behind him. The cadet sat down on the opposite end of the bench from Isaac and his Titodile stood behind him. She glanced towards Jin but the Witch only smirked aggressively rather than conjure any magical electricity. “Markiyan, Isaac.” Ostap started, “Thanks for letting me take those two Elfs. They’re perfect for my pa back home and they both seem really grateful to be out of those woods. Apparently the culture of the court changed really fast…”

Isaac had been wondering about that. He couldn’t remember the name, his brain kept offering ‘Gabby,’ but that was a mean idea he had given how much the farm boy had carried the conversation while walking. Given how reliant his family’s farm seemed to be on the aid of Queen Vershnyk’s Elves, would they still be able to live out here the same as before? Even if they could survive without the magic of the Elves, the loss of the cooperation between the communities was just sad.

Ostap broke Isaac’s musings after the silence dragged on for longer than Isaac would have needed to respond. “Anyway, now I can get down to Olepo over the break. Last year at the festival I met these girls from a nomad tribe. The Dorbens. Man, there’s just something about them that’s magical and I think one of them is really into me. We’ve been writing letters all year and she wants to meet there again.” Ostap continued talking about his interest in Dorben nomad girls for quite some time and it was the most levity Isaac had seen in his fellow cadet the entire time they’d worked together.


Magnitude, when referring to the sort of spellcraft Isaac had been learning first from Elena and now from the academy, was the quantity of magical energy invested into the spell at various points throughout its casting. In other disciplines it may be referred to as the amplitude or even pressure of the spell. It was an intuitive concept for anyone working on magic to grasp but the difficulties came when two spell casters wished to discuss and compare their arcane work.

Every practitioner of magic produced a differing base level of magical energy within themselves and even relatively short distances apart could drastically alter the ambient magical energy available to pull from the environment. So the difficulty in exploring magic as a science was in setting up proper control conditions. Magical theorists were vehemently split about whether such a thing was even possible while more practical minded researchers concerned themselves with working around the gaps in knowledge to maintain all of the magical arts, goods, and services humanity had come to rely upon.

Isaac’s presentation was to include a practical demonstration of the concept as well as a case study relevant to the matter. Isaac had chosen what was considered to be the very first magical ritual designed by the Sapphire Conservatory of Witchcraft as the subject for both the demonstration and case study. It was a terribly simple ritual that the textbook had described in a single sentence but it had captured Isaac’s curiosity because of who had been credited with developing the procedure and why. It was intended for magical initiates to establish as close to a mutual baseline with others as possible.

The participants all collectively conjured a ball of light in the center of a circle they either stood or sat around. The ball of light would remain a single uniform color if the level of magical energy, it’s magnitude, was consistent. Different colors emerged from different magnitudes. If the magnitudes contributed by the participating mages were unequal, the ball of light took on multiple hues and its form bulged and contracted as the conflicting levels attempted to harmonize. Once the participants could maintain uniform color and shape for three different colors the ritual was considered a success.

It was dismissed now as childsplay but what it had done at the time was provide all of the league’s earliest students of magic a means to mutually understand the phenomenon of magnitude outside of their own unique experiences. Rather than attempting to convey the qualities of spellcraft subjectively they could refer to the necessary magnitudes as a color which corresponded to the color produced by the ritual. All participants then intuitively knew how to translate the magnitude of that color with their own methods. It was the establishment of a common definition that allowed the Conservatory staff to dive into the world of magical research and development over two decades before the school of Vale was willing to divulge its methods.

It had all been developed by Izaak Tkachenko, and was the accomplishment that the Vrachs recognized as being of worthy merit to adopt the first head of the Konservatoriya into their family.

To conclude, Isaac drew up the graphical representation of Tkachenko’s Ball of Light using the Tkachenko model, explaining the components as he did. He had a piece of chalk tied to a string to use as a drawing compass. “Besides magnitude the Tkachenko model also has its period, which is the duration of the spell from start to finish, as we know.” He placed the chalk as directly north of the center of the circle he was going to draw as he could perceive. “It’s just like a circle in geometry or the face of a clock. Zero degrees or twelve o’clock is the start and end point.” He drew the circle and then placed the chalk compass down before rolling the drafting tools built into the board in place to make the line segments. The resulting image resembled a child’s drawing of the sun with a central circle and radiating arms if not for the mathematical precision it was drawn with. Isaac finished the diagram by adding a few arcing lines and two much smaller circles at the ends of the longest two arms. “These lines are the different magnitudes we needed to maintain to create the spell and the arches are where we had to make a smooth transition in magnitude rather than instantly dropping it down or raising it up.” Isaac then scratched a series of symbols, letters, and numbers on the board next to the diagram. “And here’s the same magical diagram in Vale formula, which the school quickly adopted once it was shared. Because the Tkachenko model gets exponentially more complicated to draw as the complexity of spells increases.

“The Tkachenko model is really only relevant to historians in Sapphire’s wider magical community now. We could have been behind by at least twenty more years if not for Izaak Tkachenko’s work, though. You’ll notice this specific diagram was incorporated into the first logo of the conservatory because of how significant his model was at the time. It was still represented abstractly in all but the latest redesign.

“So that was my presentation on spell magnitude. Understanding magnitude is vital for all spell casters because it affects the stability of your spells. Without enough power the magical energy dissipates into the environment and with too much the finer processes decay too quickly as the magic goes wild and attempts to escape. Izaak Tkachenko’s early explorations into spell magnitude were the key to the Sapphire League’s collective understanding of magic before international cooperation was possible and we all need to achieve a greater understanding of the principles ourselves if we want to reach our own, individual potentials.” He’d written his conclusion with one particular audience member in mind. A little Witch from Edo who was avoiding looking the presenter in the eyes by pretending to be deeply invested in note taking..

Isaac bowed his head to the class and took his seat to the sound of their unenthusiastic, polite applause. He had been the last member of the class to present so they were more interested in Miss Ghe, the G-Poindexter teaching the class, stepping up to the podium to dismiss them. “Thank you, cadet Markiyan. That concludes all of the presentations for the trimester. You have all received your grades for the research and writing portion of the project and all presentations were satisfactory, so you should all know how you fared for the final project. Official grades will be available at the start of next week. It has been a pleasure instructing you all in the fundamentals of magic this trimester and I hope you all have a bright, magical future ahead of you. Class dismissed.”

The other cadets were all slowing down to come to attention right outside the lecture hall so there must have been another school officer out in the hall. Isaac therefore didn’t rush to gather his things to leave and instead looked over Jin’s “notes.” She had modified the structure of the light ritual so that its output would have been intense enough, and covered a broad enough spectrum of light, to leave sunburns on the participants. She even had illustrated Miss Ghe flinching away from the volatile ball of light and her skin radiating little squiggly heat lines. Jin’s drawings were childish from how hastily she doodled but the specific shape of the figure’s hair and glasses gave away the intended subject matter.

The bottleneck at the door had dispersed so Isaac and Jin left without discussing Jin’s magical schematic. The officer was the Bramage serving as chairwoman of the Zaporzhzhia academy’s department of magical education, Lieutenant Maia Bramahe-Vorona, standing with a Grandelf with gently wavy blond hair falling down to her jaw line. “Elena?” Isaac asked before his attention snapped to the Vorona Corps officer he should be acknowledging. “Sir!”

“As you were, cadet. I was having lunch with an old acquaintance and she wanted to poke her head in the door while presentations were going on. I believe you know Mizz Hrandelf-Vrach?”

Isaac wasn’t sure what was going on and his mind was too busy speculating so all he managed in response was a simple, “Yeah…”

The Bramage smiled knowingly. “Well, I would like to talk with Miss Ghe about her thoughts on her class this year. Elena, cadet,” she nodded to them before stepping through the door. Isaac, Jin, and Elena were left relatively alone in the hall.

Elena could have looked like she was bearing a neutral expression but there was a gentle smiling curve to her eyes. “Nice presentation, Isaac. What did you think Jin?”

“Oh, yeah. Yeah I already knew all of that stuff but Isaac did a good job.” The Witch didn’t walk back her statement even under the questioning glances of both her tamer and her mentor.

“How were the rest of your final projects?” Elena asked since Jin was refusing honest conversation.

“I got marked down on my report on Kamianske. They said I overlooked the archeological value of the pre-pokegirl artifacts. It’s just mass produced plastic junk.”

“And the feral observation report?”

“They liked that one a lot more. Although they admit that I got really lucky with recording most of the Griffon attack on the herd, the instructor said my observations of the Ponytaur herd were enough to earn high marks. One of my classmates thinks I should hire a Videogirl to edit the footage to try to sell to documentary makers. I don’t think it’s that good, my hands were shaking really bad.

“It wasn’t part of my report, but they also were impressed with my decision making regarding learning about Queen Vershnyk. That was mostly Vardan though…”

“That Elf spoke with you, not Vardan. She must have thought you were the most trustworthy.”

“Or the least dangerous,” Isaac commented in the spirit of self-depreciation.

“You just try too hard to not seem dangerous. Come on, let’s go get your things and head home. I want to hear more about this Elf.” Isaac wasn’t sure what else there was to share regarding Neasa, but it would be nice to be able to talk with Elena regardless of the topic of conversation.


(-[|]-) End 5.2 (-[|]-)

"Isus Hristos" "Jesus Christ" Romanian