Skip Navigation

In All Reflections

Victim of Magic


Published: May 28, 2023
Warnings: Medium Violence, Gore/Body Horror
Wordcount: ~3,100w

World: Fragments / Alpha Timeline
Characters: Preponderant Respite, Cascade Circe

Blurb: Prompt: "I could never seem to hang onto her. She was constantly going, like the mere notion of there being anything worth slowing down for was for no one but fools."



It’s over.

He hits the ground - skids, feels the grit and the dirt tearing up his skin as he slides. Dust clouds throw themselves into the air, choke his lungs - he hacks, once, feels something thick come out of his throat. 

A battered arm forces itself out from under him. Palm pressed to the ground, through a wave of searing agony up-down his muscles, he pushes himself onto his knees. It takes only a half-second, but it stretches for an eternity as the pain clears his mind, briefly, of all other thoughts.

He hears the air whistling as it’s displaced before the impact. A sharp hoof nearly shatters the part of his skeleton holding his shoulders together, and he topples backwards. Magic snakes to his collarbones to begin repairs, but there’s already another punch swinging.

He catches this one, but it’s over.

“You know it is,” Cascade Circe says, above him.

His hand instinctively wraps around his stomach, comes away smeared in red blood and acrid liquid gold. On trained impulse, he lunges - digs fingers full of poison into one of the gaping cuts he’d left in Cascade’s side. 

The victory is short. One of Cascade’s knees buckles, and his halo splutters in indignation, but he seals hand around Respite’s and rips that bloodied fist out of his guts. Another hand is already reaching, smeared yellow, for his face - but this, too, is caught, and it’s over.

Leg. He swings it up, aiming for Cascade’s ankles, but he shifts. No matter - angle adjust, going for crotch. This collides, but Cascade’s tail only flicks in irritation, and in a moment he’s shoving Respite down, magic swirling into tight cuffs around his wrists, pinning them above his head. 

He bares his teeth, but Cascade’s chuckle far above him is smug and confident. Too smug, too confident. The defiance in him surges, demands that he bite that smirk right off of Cascade’s face.

But it’s over.

His legs surrender; they crash against the ground, unwilling to fight against the increasing strain, the pain eating at his strength. His arms squirm against the cuffs, but he can barely muster enough magic to read the spell - let alone pick at it to unlock. 

A dozen curses conjure themselves in his head. But all Respite manages is a weak, tired, “Fuck.”

Cascade pats his leg, almost condescending. He can hear the smirk, even if his head is tilted away from that brat’s face. “Let it out of your system.”

They’re so far from the magic circle. He has no idea if the other cultists succeeded. He can’t taste any magic, so no, maybe not? But his head’s still spinning. 

He coughs again, this time with a mucus-filled glob of blood. Cascade’s tailtip flicks once, punctuated by a deeply displeased click of his tongue. A hand presses itself to Respite’s throat, and he instinctively snarls - but healing magic pumps through his skin to his veins, and he unwittingly relaxes under Cascade.

“That’s it,” he hears far above him, soothing, “that’s it.”

The hand travels. It visits his head, pets over loose locks of hair as it fills him. It glides, gently, to his broken shoulder, strokes with wanton affection. It doesn’t hesitate, wrapping around one of the scars riddling his torso, and pumps magic from an unseen font.

It doesn’t help, of course. They both know it won’t. The scar trembles, shrivels slightly - but the raw gold greedily chews up most of the gifted supply, nestled in his open wounds like a parasite. He can feel Cascade tremble for a brief moment - in rage, in disgust, he knows.

For a long moment, neither of them move, only the sound of breathing. Then Cascade shifts back onto his own legs, off of Respite’s hips, pulling the other with him. In the next second, they’re standing - Cascade is standing, Respite leaning on his shoulders.

He glances back towards the circle, but he can’t see anything past the trees. Their fight took them too far. He had to be more careful about that. Scoria-

“Stop.” Cascade’s hand, around his jaw, turning his head, “Look at me.”

He’s too weak to resist, and is met with Cascade’s expression. It is searching, eyes flicking across his features for signs of stress, for things to be concerned over. There is a confidence to it, despite the cuts across his face - already healing over - and the bruises down his battered biceps - already fading. 

Disgust reflexively fills him. Respite narrows his eyes, pulls lips back to show teeth again. 

Cascade gives a little scoff of a laugh. “You’re teethy today. I’m guessing that ritual was important, then.”

“Does it matter to you?” his voice is hoarse.

“Makes me happier to know I disrupted something significant, yes.” Cascade shifts to take more of Respite’s weight onto his shoulders. It’s awkward - he can’t move his bound arms very well - but still secure. “We’re going to be cleaning up that mess for days.”

Arguments bubble in him, but he dismisses them. There’s no point in voicing any - they don’t convince Cascade, and he’d be giving away free information. Information that Scoria would be displeased to have handed to the Mercenaries.

Respite shifts, uncomfortably. It was still possible they’d managed to complete the circle. There were enough sources of magic... he should’ve ambushed Cascade earlier. Then he could’ve guaranteed it. Another failure under his belt.

Stupid brat.

“Where are you sourcing your magic?” he asks, though most of him knows it’s fruitless.

Cascade’s little laugh returns, briefly. “It’s mine. I make it.”

You’re a Gladar, his mind supplies. You’re a weak little Gladar. It’s not yours. Part of it is Provenance’s. Part of it is the dead mortals you used to delight in harvesting from. We’re not so different, you and I.

You’re not a hero. You never were.

You’re not going to save Alpha. None of us are.

But Respite only bitterly glares at the dirt.

As if sensing his words, Cascade pats his good shoulder comfortingly as they trek through the warded forest. He can feel the raw gold in his body pulse at the strength of the enchantments surrounding the area, feel it tremble and strain. 

Some drips out of the raw holes in his stomach, and Cascade pauses to press his hand in and force healing magic in. The gold withers this time, overwhelmed by the quantity, the strength, how gentle but firm Cascade is. It’s a strange sort of kindness.

The wound remains, raw muscle exposed, but Cascade simply wraps conjured gauze around him, and they continue.

“Up for telling me what that circle was for?” Cascade asks, casual. 

Part of him throbs with poisonous pride. It’s a circle for tearing a bitesized piece of Alpha out and throwing it into Psi, he wants to gloat. We finally cracked the code, pieced apart its components, put it back together to accomplish on command. Hail Scoria’s tireless research and wicked-quick mind. 

But that was information that was not to be given.

“It’s an iteration on the Psi ones, right?”

Respite simply scowls. He can feel Cascade grin against him in response, and he states quietly, “There’s a rat.”

“There’s no rat. My mages aren’t blind, you know. We study those things.” Cascade wriggles his fingers in the air, as if emulating some abstract notion of studying. “The Psi symbol in the center is a bit of a giveaway. And the crescents.”

“If there was a rat, you’d say the same. I’ll tell Scoria to cull the ranks again.”

“Shouldn’t you assume by default I’ve got spies in your cult?” Cascade asks, but Respite can feel the tension in him at the mention of Scoria. 

He shifts, gives a shrug with what he can move. “I don’t know how they slip past Scoria’s mind-altering.”

Cascade is silent for a long moment. It’s a small victory - one that kisses his wounded ego and calms it. 

But - “You think I couldn’t overwrite his pathetic attempts?”

“You’re claiming to perfectly mimic his altering to obscure your own underneath?” Respite scoffs. “You’re barely adept at mind-altering magery. Let alone that.”

“Am I?” a wicked grin spreads on Cascade’s face.

His stomach churns in response, and he looks away. Possibilities such as that... are ones that he staunchly would rather ignore. Scoria needed to hear of this, though. He filed it away for later.

“We’re here,” Cascade says, the hubris still in his tone. 

Indeed, they are. A pool of water lays in front of them, in a clearing between the trees. Though it is unassuming and small, it is surely the reason for the extensive wards surrounding the woods. 

Respite stares at it. There is no reflection. He frowns.

Cascade’s hand presses between his shoulderblades, forces him to kneel. He collapses willingly, letting his knees take the brunt of the impact with a thud. 

The surge of pain wakes him a little, widens his eyes, dislodges the tired willingness to go along with Cascade. He tenses, but does not make any further motions - his strength is not yet returned. 

Cascade shifts next to him, and crouches gracefully in a single motion. He extends a hand towards the pool, a cup magicking into his outstretched arm. 

Flippant and dismissive, he scoops up a glassful of water as if it were nothing. He offers the cup to Respite’s lips with the simple command of “Drink”.

Now close to his nose and tongue, he can both smell and taste the raw magic within the liquid, and his brain clicks. This is not water - this is raw Magninium, light blue in color. 

“What is the s-” he chokes as Cascade tips the cup and magic pours into his throat. 

He splutters, but the primal-deep surge in his body is too exhilarating to close his mouth. Cascade tips the cup until it is emptied, and the blood-taste in Respite’s mouth is only residual. 

“-The source,” he finishes, as Cascade scoops again. 

“Does it matter?” he says, with a raised eyebrow, as he presses the cup to Respite once more. But he finishes: “There’s an enchanted sword buried deep in this thing. It’s hundreds of feet deep, and the sword is at the very bottom. It leaks out enough magic to form the pool. Satisfied?”

A bountiful sword at the bottom of a lake. 

“My sword,” Respite says, eyes wide. “From-”

“-The wars with Bereave, yes. I was under the impression. It has your old insignias engraved on the hilt. Very nice etching on the blade itself, by the way.”

His stomach flips, over and over. His gaze flicks to the pool, as if it would drain away and show his ancient, withered sword half-broken and half-rotted in its bed. 

Designs and designs of his lost swords flicker over the fantasy, transposing themselves over the mystery below, offering an answer to the question of their disappearance so long ago. A part of him aches, craves, rots. 

There was no point in asking to see it. That war was over - long over, long gone, before even Scoria had been born, before Cascade mattered. It died and it took with it the last of Provenance’s hope and most of both of their wills to fight. He’d been an idiot to not give up alongside his friend.

“Want me to pull it out?” Cascade asks, with a smile.

“No,” he says, past the next mouthful. 

Each cup is a surge to his low magic, compels him to lick his lips and open willingly for the cup when it rises. It’s pathetic, he knows, but it tastes so good - his body aching, capacity always drained, eager to restore its equilibrium. 

Cascade’s other hand has snaked low, pressing into the small of his back and rubbing firmly. It’s meant to be comforting, but it feels more like a distraction - a reminder of Cascade’s presence, next to him, when really the world could just be as small as him and the endless source of magic beside him. 

Despite himself, he closes his eyes. 

“That’s it,” Cascade purrs, a deep noise, a satisfied noise. “Isn’t that so much better?”

The free hand glides over several of the gold-scars. They ache, slightly, but the gold irritating them has shrunk and withdrawn itself. It feels nice. It feels warm. It feels like maybe he can stop thinking for a long, terrible moment, and let Cascade wrap arms underneath him and carry him back to his terrible little hideout.

But he can’t do that. They both know that.

Really, Cascade has no right to make such a startled cry as the gold dagger, summoned from the cult’s armory, stabs cleanly through his thigh and nearly into his calf below. He’s swinging, hands open to catch, but Respite is already up onto his feet and running.

His pace is swift, but footing unsure and wobbly. In hindsight, a few more cups wouldn’t have - he ducks his head, nearly grazes the bolt of magic that explodes around a tree branch and wraps itself around it like a net - wouldn’t have hurt, maybe could have given him more leeway.

But he had no way of guaranteeing that Cascade wouldn’t leave him weakened, ripe for the kidnapping and the dragging-back to the hideout, where it was warm and comfortable and smug. And Scoria would be infuriated. 

His hands hook onto a tree branch as he slides into grabbing reach of the woods. They lift him, swiftly though they’re still bound, and he slams his body weight onto the branch. Another net-bolt explodes underneath him, a hair’s breath from where he was.

Usually Cascade did not miss as much as this. 

Respite glances up, meets Cascade’s eyes, and drinks in the desperation and panic on his face. It ruins the attractiveness of his features, but in all honesty, such a thing is a boon.

It gives him enough time to swing onto a higher branch. He’s above the wards now, but when he snaps his fingers, his teleport still fails. A scowl to the cuffs reveals the elaborate nature of their enchantments - they’re tethering him here. Clever, he admits. 

He gets his feet under himself, stands, and leaps onto the next tree. At the same time, his mind is at work unraveling the cuff’s enchanted locks, picking at the detailed little network holding it together. It’s annoyingly impressive - a maze of a puzzle, with many redundant dead-ends to confuse and slow. 

It succeeds in both accounts, enough that Cascade’s hand closes around his ankle. He moves to stomp with the free foot, but a near-miss blast of magic almost topples him out of the tree. 

He regains footing, but it’s too late - with a yank of his ankle and a tug of a magic-leash around his tail, he’s falling. The landing is hard - but not on Respite, as he solidly collapses into Cascade’s lap. Impressively, Cascade only lightly grunts.

Respite moves to shift his feet back under himself, but Cascade’s hands grab his hips forcefully and yank him down with an unfamiliar ferocity. He struggles, but there is no give, no point of weakness. He doesn’t want to slump, but he-

“-Why can’t you just make this easy for me?” Cascade’s voice cracks. Respite freezes. 

He can feel the weight of Cascade’s height against his shoulder, and the smallest shake as the other lets out a suffocated sob. His heart throbs in his chest.

“I just want to take care of you,” comes the whisper, barely audible, “both of you. Why does that have to be so hard? Why do you have to fight me?”

Respite has no answer to that vulnerability, to that confession. So he remains silent, but his eyes are wide. 

This is not the first time Cascade has spoken of such feelings to him, but every time - every time, it is a stark reminder; it is something that pierces through the veil of conflict and distance between them.

Hands trail from up his hips to over his scarred stomach. In a trembling voice, Cascade speaks, “Look what he does to you. What he forces you to do to yourself. It doesn’t have to... why do you let him lord that over you?”

He wants to scream - wants to tear teeth into Cascade’s neck for speaking of Scoria so poorly. But what else can he expect? He says nothing, moves not at all. 

The hands pause, then tighten to wrap around his waist. He shifts, but Cascade’s grip is true. 

And when he next speaks, head lifted once more, his voice rings true and resolute. “You’re coming back with me today, Respite, no matter how much you stab me.”

Respite watches from the corners of his eyes as Cascade holds out the dagger he’d been stricken with. With a surge of magic powerful enough to flare his halo, Cascade closes his fist - shattering the hardened gold into tiny shards that shrivel in the ward’s protective grip.

Respite does not even flinch. There is a reason he never brings his favorite knives to a Cascade fight.

Words and thoughts still fail him. The wavering of Cascade’s voice plays in his head, over and over, obscuring anything else in his mind. 

There is no fight in him when Cascade stands, arms secure around him, and holds him close - holds him tenderly. 

No, there is enough to muster a weak protest in the recesses of his reasoning. But it does not form into a sentence, and he does not speak it, still turning over the moment of intimacy between them, as if examining it from every angle could cement it forever.

But it was over - a thought that came to him as Cascade’s warm teleport enveloped them both. 

Over for now - over until he manages to break himself free and prostrate himself at Scoria’s feet once more, and let it all begin anew.

Back to Top