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((Part of Sielic’s Snapped campaign.))

 

 “Morning mail,” the courier announced as he strode into the room, the door closing behind him. A young man with a clean-shaven face, he carried himself with an assured gait of youth.

 

“Thank you, Alphonse.” Arialynn did not rise from her desk but greeted the courier with a nod. Atop the desk lay an impressive mountain of paperwork. Still partly armored, the lady knight appeared elbows deep in the latest slew of papered nonsense. As Alphonse deposited the latest mail atop the pile, he gave an apologetic smile.

 

“Sorry, ma’am,” he said. “I just bring the mail, I don’t write it.”

 

“It is fine,” Arialynn replies as she took up the parcel of letters. Frowning, she eyes the top letter. “This is dated. Where did this come from?”

 

“Westguard, ma’am. There was a delay in letter delivery thanks to new Alliance security. The breach months ago changed a lot of protocol.”

 

“I see,” Arialynn replies, eyeing the letter. “None appear urgent. I will get to them in a moment.” 

 

“I can sort through the least important ones,” the courier offered, taking up the parcel and tearing into some of the letters. “The proprietary ones are always marked with a seal anyw –“

 

The change was immediate. The young man’s face contorted, the muscles beneath the flesh twisting in fiendish ways. A colorless powder spilled from an envelope onto the desk, its grains so fine that some alighted into the air and dissipated immediately. A bubbling foam erupted from the courier’s mouth and he collapsed to the floor. More powder from the envelope spilled, its grains innumerable. 

 

The powder coated the desk, lurching toward Arialynn as a boiling wave would over parched sand. Without comment or cry, the lady knight leapt back from her desk, a shield of Light encasing her. In spite of her quick reaction, she still felt the poisonous particles slip down her throat and claw down her lungs. She grimaced as she would toward a foe barreling down on her on a battlefield. Like a responding blow of a hammer, she summoned a cleansing spell to bludgeon away the poison that worked to strangle her breath. The poison reeled from the spell but did not dispel entirely. The lady knight recognized an expert’s meticulous work.

 

The courier lay on the floor, writhing. Through the shaft of sunlight shining from the window, the lady knight could see the powder drifting through the air, spreading the poison through the room. Infecting it.

 

Silently, Arialynn evaluated the poison as it attempted again to assail her lungs. A tingling sensation in the tips of her fingers indicated oncoming paralysis. At her feet, Alphonse went completely still, contorted in an unnatural position. She mentally checked off these two characteristics, reaching a dark conclusion.

 

A knock came at the door. “Justicar! Everything all right?!” The urgent rush of voices sounded through the door. The door handle began to turn.

 

Keep that door closed! she commanded. The handle went still. The stunned silence from the door’s other side was palpable.

 

Arialynn renewed the cleansing spell, bringing her internal battle with the poison to another draw. Still, it attempted to worm its way through her as her potential future lay still at her feet.

 

Quieter, but with her tone as harsh as stone, she spoke again, mindful of every breath she drew in the poisoned room: “Seal this room. No one comes inside. Ensure there are no cracks beneath the door or in the windows. Get Jaffar and Zen immediately. Tell them to bring everything they have. Go. Now.”

Author Ari
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