Chapter 23
Dreams and Reality

Vigau, Arielle, Bonaventure

Giger was quickly losing his patience with Yugo. He seemed out of it from the moment he arrived for his lesson and was now just sitting there in a daze. Giger took a piece of ring chalk and bounced it off Yugo's forehead, snapping him out of it at long last.
"What?" a confused Yugo asked. "Sorry, Master. Were you saying something?"
Giger permitted himself an exasperated sigh.
"Yugo, I'm quite sure I'm not giving this lesson for my health and I doubt your father is paying me to talk to the empty air while you daydream."
Yugo looked at him somewhat hesitantly. Giger sighed again.
"Alright. You obviously have something to say, so out with it."
"Master," he said hesitantly, "I had another dream."
Giger rolled his eyes.
"Not again..."
"No, Master, you must listen to me!" Yugo insisted. "It's never been this clear before. I saw the lycée, the Lycée Werner Duchamp. There was a girl. She was trying to make a magic circle when this creature attacked her." He paused for a moment, the muscles in his neck twitching as he remembered it. "It, it tore her apart... Then it started to attack other girls..."
Yugo had this haunted look about him. What he saw had shaken him to his core. The last thing he needed was to fixate on it.
Giger attempted a deflection, assuring him, "It was just a nightmare, Yugo."
Usually this was enough to quiet him down, but not this time.
"Master, this is going to happen! I know it!"
"Master Falkner," Ramstein said, "surely you cannot deny the possibility that Master Duchamp has the gift of precognition. After all, you yourself have investigated these dreams of his and confirmed their accuracy."
Giger shot Ramstein a mean glare. He should have kept his big stupid beak out of it.
"Quiet, Old Bird," Giger said harshly.
It was too late, of course. Until now, for all Yugo knew, Giger would simply dismiss his dreams every time he brought them up and that was the end of it. Thanks to Ramstein, the cat was out of the bag.
"Master, you--"
"It's nothing," Giger said hastily, again making a poor stab at deflection. "Coincidence. Forget about it."
Yugo refused to back down.
"I can't!" he insisted. "Master, we have to do something!"
"I'm not going to risk my neck after all these years for some half-trained apprentice's dream."
This did not deter Yugo in the slightest.
"Master, if you won't do anything, I'll go alone," he said.
His newfound assertiveness was becoming very annoying.
"Fool, what can you do?" Giger snapped. "You're still an apprentice and not even a very good one. The Witch-hunters will have your hide the moment you try to use your powers."
"What's the point of these powers if we don't use them for good?"
"They make money," Giger said, "provided we don't do anything stupid that gets us caught."
Words cannot describe the look of disappointment on Yugo's face. Giger knew that look all too well. It was the same look he gave Mordekai thirteen years ago when he said he was not going to do anything about Kamellia. He was lying in a failed attempt to protect him, but Giger did not know that at the time. How much he and Mordekai were alike set his teeth on edge.
"I've misjudged you, Master," Yugo said, "I'm going."
Giger said nothing as Yugo left. After Yugo slammed the door behind him, Ramstein gave him a reproachful look.
"Master Falkner, really..."
"I'd hoped to discourage him," Giger said. "Precognition isn't a gift. It's a curse. It could ruin him. I've seen it happen. You've seen it happen."
"And it may not," Ramstein replied. "I have seen far more than you, Master Falkner, and I know it is a double-edged sword, as is all magic. I believe in young Master Duchamp."
Giger sighed.
"Go with him, Old Bird. Keep an eye out for him."
Ramstein fully understood the implications of the request, what it could mean for him and for all of them.
"Are you certain?" he asked.
"Yes. Keep him out of trouble and be careful yourself."
Giger took a collar out of his pocket and put it on Ramstein. It would provide some protection from the detectors. The fact that he had it on hand did not escape Ramstein.
"You have a plan," he noted.
"Not much of one," Giger replied. "Take care, Old Bird."
"Good luck, Master Falkner."
Giger opened the door and Ramstein flew out. He then went over to the couch and said, "Happy, transform."
Happy transformed as he was told. Once he was in his human form, he asked, "What do you need?"
Giger handed Happy a slip of paper.
"I have all your instructions here. Can you handle it?"
Happy glanced over the paper quickly, then looked back up to Giger.
"You want me to go out, too?"
"Yes," Giger said, "I don't have any other choice." He handed Happy the choker he used during the Witch-hunter inspection. "Here, this should make you harder to detect."
"Thank you," Happy said, fixing the choker around his neck.
"Keep safe."
Happy bobbed his head and headed out back. This prompted Gally to emerge from her work scrubbing the tub.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"Trouble," Giger replied. "I'm going out. Watch the house while I'm gone."
"Wish me luck."
"Good luck."
Giger sighed as he put on his cloak, muttering, "I'm sure as hell gonna need it."

* * *

Being the son and heir of one of the wealthiest families in town, Yugo could not simply walk around as a commoner would, but there had to be a measure of discretion when it came to his lessons with Giger. His coach waited for him a couple blocks away. He was never so grateful for it as today, for he never in his life had such need of haste.
It was due to his haste that he never stopped to consider what he intended to do to keep his vision from coming to pass. He did not think about his meager ability and limited training. His mind was focused on doing something, anything, and so long as no second thought entered into his head, he would keep on driving forward.
He very well may not have thought of anything else were it not for the sound of cawing and a large black shape swooping down at him, alighting on his shoulder. The unexpected weight unbalanced him, causing him to stumble a few steps before righting himself.
"Ramstein?" Yugo asked. "What are you doing here?"
"Master Duchamp," Ramstein said in a low voice, "a little discretion, if you will."
Yugo promptly clammed up. It was dangerous enough for Ramstein to be out in the open like this, but carrying on a conversation would eliminate any question that the familiar of a rogue wizard was on the loose. He continued on to the corner where the coach was waiting for him.
"The Lycée Werner Duchamp," he told the driver the moment he got to the coach. "Right away."
"The lycée, sir?" the driver asked, thankfully not asking about the large raven on Yugo's shoulder.
"No time to explain," Yugo said. "Hurry."
"Right away, sir."
Once he was inside carriage and the sound horseshoes clopping and the wheels rattling over the pavestones provided some camouflage for their conversation, Yugo asked Ramstein again, "What are you doing here?"
"Master Falkner sent me," Ramstein replied. "He thought you would need help."
Yugo could scarcely believe it.
"After everything he said, he sent you..."
"I would tell you to be honored," Ramstein said, "but you clearly understand the significance of my being here."
Yugo nodded solemnly.
Giger never talked about the familiars in any detail, but Yugo did know that Ramstein was originally summoned by the legendary Belmond Weiss and was one of the few if not the only hereditary familiar in the entire world. To put him at any risk showed just how seriously Giger took Yugo's vision. He had done nothing but dismiss Yugo's dreams all this time and yet for him to do this made it seem like he believed in them all along. Why did he do it, though?
Rather than answer this unspoken question, Ramstein said, "I do not suppose you can tell me anything more of your dream than what you have already told Master Falkner."
"I'm sorry, no," Yugo replied.
By this point, his memory of the dream was fading and it was more a sense of lingering unease that remained. It was a rather weak remnant of such a horrible vision. Ramstein, however, was undeterred.
"In that case, we know very little of what to expect, so there is little we can do to prepare. You show some promise, Master Duchamp, but you have only reliably cast spells of the Second Circle. I myself am capable of spells of the Sixth Circle unassisted."
The stark difference in their ability levels forced Yugo to finally stop and think about what he was doing. Back when mages were still being trained at the Academy, apprentices with any real ability would have already surpassed Yugo when they were children. Giger told him that it was impossible to gauge a person's potential beforehand. All you could do was practice and train until you hit a brick wall. For most, it was around the Third or Fourth Circle. You could never hope to be a master without attaining the Sixth Circle and anything beyond that was exceedingly rare. To Yugo's knowledge, the Seventh Circle was the highest attained by any one person. The Eighth Circle could be achieved by high-level masters working together and the Ninth Circle was more theoretical than anything else. Thinking about it made Yugo feel very small.
"I fear I may not be of much use," he admitted.
"I do not suppose these second thoughts are strong enough to abandon this venture," Ramstein said.
Yugo did not know if the offer was made for his sake or for Ramstein's own. It did not matter either way.
"No," Yugo said. "For better or for worse, I have to do something."
"I thought as much," Ramstein replied. "Here is something that may prove useful."
Ramstein traced shapes in the air with his pinions, as dextrously as if they were fingers. It was apparently some method of etching a magic circle without ring chalk, something Yugo had never seen before. The invisible lines glowed a bright purple and a worn leather knapsack appeared out of nowhere and fell into Yugo's lap.
"What's this?" he asked.
"Something one of my previous masters set aside for times of emergency," Ramstein replied. "Inside are a rod that will double your power and scrolls with spells prepared well above your natural ability to cast. Simply break the seal and read the incantation. Have an attack spell, a shielding spell and a sealing spell at the ready. This creature you saw in your dream, if you are lucky, you can seal it the moment you see it. If not, you will have to decide whether attacking it or defending yourself is the most prudent choice based on the circumstances. Some say that offense is the best defense and others insist defense is the best defense."
"What does your experience tell you?" Yugo asked.
"That avoiding the situation altogether is the best defense."
Yugo had a feeling that if Ramstein's beak permitted him to grin, he would have done so. While it may indeed have been the wisest strategy, Yugo could not possible avoid this confrontation. If there was anything he could do, he would do it and if he died trying, it was the price he would have to pay.
As he was mustering his nerve anew, the coach came to a stop and the driver announced, "We're here, Master Yugo."
No turning back now.
"That's our cue," Yugo said. "Will you be alright?"
"I will take to the skies to get a wider view," Ramstein replied. "I will not be far."
Yugo shouldered the knapsack and exited the coach. He held up his arm so Ramstein could move to it and get a boost to fly off.
Once Ramstein was in the air, Yugo told the driver, "Wait here. I'll be back."
"As you say, sir."
Yugo took a moment to survey the Lycée Werner Duchamp. Due to his family, he was primarily educated by a governess and a number of specialized tutors, so he never attended a public lycée like the one that bore his great-grandfather's name. It was probably just as well. He could only imagine the torment he would have suffered for having the school named after a relative.
The campus seemed oddly busy with more than just lycéens milling about. Though he knew very little about the public schools, he had a feeling the current situation was out of the ordinary.
He asked the closest person at hand, "Excuse me, what's going on here?"
"This is the culture festival, of course," the person--a woman in her late twenties--replied. "There's been some big talk about this year's events. The drama club is even doing a performance of 'Witchazel and the Grimalkin'."
That had an ominous sound to it. Perhaps that was where he needed to be.
"Where are they having the play?" he asked.
"In the auditorium," the woman replied. "Where else? It's just over thataway."
The woman pointed to a building with a curved roof, much unlike the more angular forms of the other buildings.
"And when is the play being held?" Yugo asked.
The woman shrugged.
"I don't know. Go to the auditorium and ask."
"I will. Thank you."
Yugo made his way to the auditorium. Outside the door there was a table with a couple lycéens.
"Hello," he said to the lycéens. "I hear you're having a play here."
"That's right," one of the lycéens--a girl--replied. "Would you like a ticket?"
"That'll be one sous."
Yugo reached for his wallet and pulled out the smallest bill he had, asking them, "Do you have change for five livres?"
The girl gave him an awkward look and said, "We don't have that much change."
Yugo considered going back to his driver, but he did not want to waste any more time.
"How much change do you have?" he asked.
The girl opened up the cashbox and quickly counted through the money they had on hand.
"Twenty-five sous and forty-two deniers," she said.
He set the five-livre bill on the table and told her, "I'll take what you have. You can keep the rest. Give away free tickets or whatever you like."
"Are you sure, sir?" the girl asked uncertainly. "This is a lot of money."
"Yes, it's fine."
"Well then, here's your ticket," she said, tearing off a ticket from a roll next to the cashbox.
She handed Yugo the ticket, then dumped out the contents of the cashbox and nudged the pile of coins to him.
"Here's your change," she said.
Yugo realized that he did not carry a coin purse, so gauche as it was, he had to resort to stuffing the coins into the pocket of his jacket.
While he was doing that, he asked the girl, "When is the play?"
"One o'clock," the girl said. "You still have plenty of time. You should visit the other clubs while you wait."
"I will," Yugo replied, pocketing his ticket. "Thank you."
"Thank you, sir."
Yugo checked his pocketwatch. It was not even ten yet. What was he supposed to do for the next three hours?
Realizing he had an opportunity to intercept the source of his premonition ahead of time, he began to wander about the campus, hoping to find some trace of what he was looking for. After being turned away from unauthorized parts of the school four times and having experienced the stomach-churning carnival fare of three different student-run food stalls, he was no closer to finding what he was looking for, but it was almost time for the play to begin.
He looked up to the sky and caught a glimpse of Ramstein flying circles around the area. Hopefully he would see it coming and warn Yugo in time.
The attendees slowly filtered into the auditorium. Yugo took an aisle seat near the middle, what he hoped was an optimal position to intercept whatever it was that was coming. Looking around, he saw about sixty people in the audience, ranging in age from a couple babies to a few grandparents. They were all in danger and he was the only thing between them and the stuff of his nightmare.
A single spotlight shone in the center of the stage and a green-haired girl with glasses walked out. Taking up her position in the center of the stage, she paused to adjust her glasses before addressing the audience.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Lycée Werner Duchamp Drama Club's performance of 'Witchazel and the Grimalkin'. Our story takes place over two hundred years ago, after the Great War but before all wizards and witches were brought under the guilds. In those days, any wizard or witch could be their own master. Their fame would spread and young people with the gift would travel far and wide to seek out these master to become their apprentices.
"Kriemhild the Mistress of the Morning Mists was the greatest witch in all Willenkamp and our story begins when she is approached by a young girl whose heart's desire was to study under her. Witchazel was the daughter of simple peasants, but she was born with the gift and when she turned fourteen, she set out on a journey to find Kriemhild to be taken in as her apprentice."
The green-haired girl walked offstage as the curtain rose to reveal a forest backdrop. The spotlight followed a purple-haired girl dressed in a peasant's rags.
"Wait!" she called out.
Another light shone to the right of the stage to reveal a figure in a black hooded cloak with its back turned to both the girl and the audience. Besides the cloaked figure was a hunched shape mostly hidden from view.
"You're the great Kriemhild, aren't you?" the girl asked. "Mistress of the Morning Mists?"
"What if I am?" the cloaked figure asked in turn.
"My name is Witchazel," the girl said. "I come from Brodheim. I've heard of your fame and I've sought you out because I want to become your apprentice."
"I have no interest in taking on an apprentice," Kriemhild replied.
"Please! I, I have the gift. I want to learn how to use it!"
Kriemhild turned to her.
"Yes, you do have the gift," she said. "But what is that to me?"
"Don't you want to train someone to be your successor?"
"Fool!" Kriemhild boomed. "You think you can succeed me!?"
Kriemhild threw back her hood and cloak. The dress worn by the girl playing Kriemhild had a scandalously low neckline. Did no one see the costumes before the play? Yugo could only imagine the complaints from offended parents and other self-appointed guardians of public morals.
Witchazel fell down on her hands and knees, pleading, "Don't be angry! I only want to learn from the best! Where else can I go?"
"You can go to Hell for all I care," Kriemhild told her.
She raised her arms and a ring of candles around her lit with tongues of red flame, then burst in a shower of sparks. The audience gasped at the surprising special effects for a lycée play, but Yugo was even more stunned. There was no doubt about it. The lighting of the candles and the explosion of sparks were magic, weak magic but magic nonetheless. He looked around to see if anyone else in the audience recognized it for what it was. Did the detectors not cover the campus grounds?
While he was wondering about these things, the play continued.
Kriemhild pointed to Witchazel and told her hunchback companion, "Krampus, get her out of my sight."
Yugo could not tell if the part of Krampus was being played by a boy or a girl. Krampus was all hunched up to look smaller and moved with a hopping hobble to drive off Witchazel.
"Go, girl!" 'he' shouted, shooing Witchazel away. "Trouble Mistress no more!"
Witchazel ran away screaming, but this was only the beginning. The first act continued with a series of Witchazel's attempts to get Kriemhild to accept her as an apprentice. Krampus' ability to run her off continued to diminish with each attempt and the increasingly annoyed elder witch ultimately resorted to striking Witchazel blind. Appropriately enough, the stage lights went dark as the curtain fell.
After a few moments of darkness, the single spotlight shone in the center of the stage and the narrator returned.
"For three days Witchazel crawled through the forest in darkness. She cursed Kriemhild for cursing her, but unlike the great Mistress of the Morning Mists, her curses carried no weight to them. Faint from hunger and thirst, she thought she would have died there, but she had an unexpected benefactor..."
The narrator left the stage and the curtain rose again to reveal Witchazel crawling around on the ground. Krampus the Kobold hobbled onto the stage and tossed her a waterskin.
"Take, drink," Krampus told her.
Witchazel felt the waterskin then held it uncertainly.
"Why are you helping me?" she asked.
"No good for girl die," Krampus said. "Promise to go and I break curse."
"But I only want to learn from her."
"No learn. Be witch bad. Bad like Mistress."
Witchazel drank from the waterskin.
"Slowly," Krampus warned her. "Drink too fast and make sick."
When Witchazel was done drinking, Krampus pulled out a heel of black bread from his knapsack and gave it to her.
"Eat," he said. "Eat and regain strength."
Witchazel took a bite of the bread, making a face when she did.
"You promise to go?" Krampus asked.
Defeated, Witchazel said, "Yes. I'll go."
"I break curse."
Krampus extended his clawed hand to her, chanting, "Mistress' curse of dark undone, give light to eyes, bright as sun."
Witchazel's eyes opened. She touched her face, almost disbelieving that her sight was restored.
"I can see..."
"Yes, yes, girl can see," Krampus said. "Now you go. I show you way."
Rising to her feet, Witchazel said, "No. I can find my own way."
"As girl say," Krampus replied. "Remember promise. You go. If no go, Krampus eat girl."
The threat did not seem too serious and with that, Krampus hobbled away. The stage wen dark except for a spotlight on Witchazel. The girl took another bite of the bread then tossed it aside.
"If Kriemhild won't have me, then I'll be my own master," she vowed. "A master needs a familiar."
Witchazel held up her arms and intoned, "Spirits of the forest, hear my call. Children of the night, heed my voice. I call on you, Grimalkin. Descend on silver moonbeam and serve me."
Never mind how an untrained girl could suddenly summon some ancient spirit. It was just a fable, after all.
The circle of candles from before lit with blue flames and a girl in a grey cat costume was lowered from the ceiling. Momentarily taken out of the story, Yugo was surprised the school administration allowed a stunt like this. Were they even paying attention to what was going here?
When the Grimalkin touched down on the stage, she began, "Who calls the--"
She was interrupted as a chill breeze blew through the auditorium. The blue candle flames were snuffed out around the girl playing the Grimalkin. A little red flame like a will-o-the-wisp appeared, then several more lit up in a circle. These had no candles. They were a purer, stronger magic than what the girls were using. In the center of the ring of wills-o-the-wisp was an actual Grimalkin, a silver-furred cat--more like a cross between a small panther and a jackal--with glowing cherry-red eyes.
Yugo's stomach sank. This was it. The creature from his dream.
The Grimalkin stood up, cocking its head at Witchazel to size her up. Witchazel, sensing the menace it represented, started to back away slowly. The Grimalkin hissed, then lowered its head as it readied itself to pounce. Yugo hastily dug around in the knapsack Ramstein gave him, looking for a sealing scroll, cursing the low lighting.
The girl playing the Grimalkin said something, too low to hear from the seats, but it was enough to get the real Grimalkin's attention. It switched targets and leapt at the girl.
"Look out!" Witchazel cried, throwing herself between the girl and the Grimalkin.
Witchazel screamed as the Grimalkin slashed at her with its claws. Yugo sprang from his seat, taking the rod in one hand and a scroll in the other. He broke the seal and quickly read the incantation. Pointing the rod at the Grimalkin, a fireball swirled into existence in front of him and was sent crashing into the stage. In the burst of flame, one of the curtains caught fire and the audience broke into a panic. Yugo continued to run toward the stage when a shot rang out. He turned to see a man with a pistol trained on him.
"Freeze!" he shouted. "Witch-hunters! You're under arrest!"
There was a Witch-hunter in the audience? Just his luck.
Pointing to the stage, Yugo shouted back, "We need to deal with that thing first!"
"I said freeze!"
Yugo saw a man armed with a club moving around the side to flank him. He probably was not the only one. However, the disturbance drew the Grimalkin. It sprang from the stage to the man with the club. His screams were terrible. The Witch-hunter shouted curses and proceeded to empty his pistol in the Grimalkin's general direction.
Yugo took advantage of the distraction to head to the stage. Five girls were huddled around Witchazel, ignoring the spreading flames around them.
"Margot! Margot!" Kriemhild cried. "Stay with us!"
Witchazel, or Margot as she was apparently called, was bleeding from deep cuts in her back. The wounds looked bad, but Yugo had no way of knowing how bad.
"It wasn't supposed to be like this..." the narrator said distantly.
"Girls, you have to get out of here," Yugo told them. "The whole auditorium is going to burn down and there's that thing--"
He was interrupted by the sound of the Witch-hunter screaming as the Grimalkin attacked him. There was another man with a club as Yugo suspected, but seeing the Witch-hunter attacked, he turned and fled. While most of the audience was running away as well, several followed Yugo to the stage, presumably family to the actresses.
There were some other cries, but all this accomplished was to draw the Grimalkin to them. As it jumped a middle-aged man, Yugo dug through the knapsack for another scroll. He drew out a sealing spell, broke the seal and read the incantation. The Grimalkin froze, trapped in a barrier that glowed around it, but only for a moment. Its eyes flashed and the seal burst around it. Looking at Yugo, the Grimalkin hissed. He was now its prey.
He reached for a shielding spell as it sprang at him, but there was no way he could cast it in time. Before the Grimalkin's claws could tear into his flesh though, a rush of wind swept between them and Ramstein appeared in his human form, tracing a pentacle in the air that repelled the Grimalkin. His fingers continued to dance as he pointed to the burning curtain and a powerful blast of icy wind extinguished the flames.
Ramstein held out his hand to keep Yugo back.
"Leave this to me, Master Duchamp. You should have a healing scroll in there. Save the girl."
Yugo went back to the girls, who were now joined with the adults who came to them. As he was digging in the knapsack for the healing scroll, the green-haired girl--apparently filled with a newfound call to action--rushed to his side digging into the knapsack as well.
"Let me help you," she said, quickly scanning the scrolls and tossing aside the ones that were not what she was looking for.
"Got it!" she said, holding up a scroll with a blue seal. "Hurry!"
Yugo broke the seal and read the incantation. However, when he did, the parchment glowed but did nothing else.
"It's not doing anything," he said.
The girl looked at the parchment and told him, "It says that you have to place the scroll against the skin for it to take effect. Come on."
She went to Margot, pulled away her cloak, then ripped the back of her dress open from one of the tears made by the Grimalkin's claws. She did the same for the chemise underneath and was sprayed with some blood for her trouble.
"Come on, come on!" she said, impatiently beckoning for Yugo to hurry.
Yugo did so, plastering the scroll over Margot's bare back. It did not cover the entire wounded area, but the power flowed from the scroll into her body and the wounds sealed, leaving pale purplish scars behind.
"Margot!" a woman--presumably her mother--cried.
Pale and weak from blood loss, Margot looked up to the woman.
Her mother hugged her and continued to cry. Though tears streamed unbidden, the green-haired girl maintained her composure as she looked to Yugo and said, "Thank you."
Far less composed was Kriemhild, who was bordering on hysterics as she looked at her hands stained with her friend's blood.
"We never meant for any of this to happen... It's not our fault!"
"Nevermind whose fault it is," Yugo told her. "All of you, you need to get out now."
In a dull voice without the slightest sense of urgency, the girl who was playing the Grimalkin said, "I'm stuck."
"The harness is under her costume," the green-haired girl said.
Still lacking any emotional inflection in her voice, the Grimalkin girl blushed and said, "I'm not wearing a dress under the costume."
"Then close your eyes," a big laboring man said as he split the costume right down the middle.
The girl was at least wearing bloomers and an undershirt. The big man quickly unbuckled the harness and threw it off her, then took off his coat and put it around her.
"Alright, let's go, wizard," the man said, holding the girl in a defensive embrace.
All the while, Ramstein had been locked in battle with the Grimalkin. It was all he could do to keep deflecting its attacks.
"Ramstein!" Yugo called to him. "I'm going to get these people out!"
"Backstage," the green-haired girl told him. "There's an exit backstage."
That would certainly be easier, but it was not to be. There was a creaking in the rafters and Yugo noticed it just in time.
"Look out!" he shouted, pulling Margot and her mother out of the way just as part of the overhead rigging collapsed.
"So much for the backstage," the Grimalkin girl said.
"It's okay," Yugo told them. "I've got this. Ramstein! We're going to go left! Cover us!"
"Master Duchamp, cast another sealing spell!"
"I tried it already! It won't work!"
"I will strengthen the seal once you cast it."
"Sealing spell..." Yugo said to himself as he rummaged through the knapsack again.
"Here," the green-haired girl said, handing him a scroll. Somehow she had managed to gather up the scrolls she threw away earlier.
"Thank you," Yugo said. "Alright, Ramstein, get ready!" He then told the others, "When we seal it, be ready to run for your lives. Go straight for the exit."
"Right," said a man--apparently the father of a curly-headed girl who had not yet appeared in the play--said.
Ramstein succeeded in casting a spell that held the Grimalkin in place, but it would not hold for long.
"Now, Master Duchamp!"
Yugo broke the seal and read the incantation, pointing the rod at the Grimalkin. Just as the Grimalkin broke free of Ramstein's hold, it was trapped by the seal. Before it could break this seal like the one before it, Ramstein made a series of complicated motions as he chanted, ending on a word of power that caused the seal to glow even brighter.
"Go!" Yugo shouted, keeping his rod pointed at the Grimalkin as he led the people up to the exit.
No sooner had they reached the door than the Grimalkin's eyes flashed so brightly that the entire auditorium was bathed in red light. Glowing red fissures appeared in the seal, bursting in a great wave that knocked Yugo into some nearby seats. He landed hard and every bone in his body wanted him to stay down, but he forced himself up to get the last stragglers out the door.
With that done, he held up his rod defensively, gripping a scroll that did who knows what. Ramstein was struggling to get back on his feet. Yugo could hear the low growl of the Grimalkin even from halfway across the auditorium. Rather than attack again, instead the Grimalkin leapt away, passing through the wall like it was empty air.
"It got away," Yugo said.
"It has amplifiers," Ramstein replied. "Its powers have been boosted to the Seventh Circle."
"Can we stop it?"
"We must try."
Yugo offered him the rod, saying, "You said this doubles your powers. You use it."
"I cannot," Ramstein replied. "I am forbidden to take up any magic weapon. All familiars are so conditioned to control their powers. Someone had to place those amplifiers on that familiar."
"That thing was a familiar?" Yugo asked.
"Yes," Ramstein replied, "but twisted into an Abomination. I fear..."
He did not finish his thought, at least not so Yugo could hear it.
"You fear what?"
Ramstein shook his head.
"Pay it no mind, Master Duchamp. Shall we go?"
Ramstein turned back into his raven form and hopped onto Yugo's shoulder. When they exited the auditorium, the campus was in chaos, with people screaming and fleeing as a disorganized mob.
"How do we find it?" Yugo asked.
"Follow the screams, I suppose," Ramstein replied.
"But which ones?"
Ramstein took to the skies while Yugo followed the direction the Grimalkin escaped in hopes of finding a trace of it. Then he heard it. The whining siren of the detectors going off.
"Oh no..."