The fox-girl went to the door and knocked.
"Is it important? I have a lot of paperwork to get through." What seemed like it could be actual mild annoyance was present in her tone.
Her ears picked up a quiet sigh, and then: "Do that, then. Come in."
She carefully opened the door and stepped inside.
Ezra stared at it for a second, and then up at Rayna, who was slowly pulling herself down into the nearest chair. "...It's a magic crystal," she said flatly. "Surely you've seen them before."
"Well..sure." Now that she really thought about it, Rayna could 'remember' seeing people pull out small, glowing crystals and pull elemental magic from them—including Ezra, during the fire giant fight. They were frequently used by people who didn't have much magic capacity themselves, to be able to draw elemental power for spells from—but Rayna had always used her illusions, and when she became interested in magic Lynn had discovered she already had enough talent of her own to enchant arrows consistently without help. "But..have you ever seen one this size? On a monster? And Nora said it had a lot of different elements in it, too," she said, recounting the things that were actually unusual about it in light of the fact that magic crystals were Quite Normal.
"Huh. I've never really tried that before...but it sounds plausible," Rayna nodded. "Let's see..."
The fox-girl leaned forward a bit, staring deep into the crystal. She tried to "look" at it, specifically through the veil of time...to "see" where it had come from, who had made it. She wasn't aware of it at the time, but exercising her powers in this way gave her eyes a faint visible glow. She only saw it set into that staff, being swung around by an ogre for a long while, at first, but then she tried looking deeper—farther back—and regretted it instantly.
"Tell me what you saw," she said quietly as Rayna began to recover her breath.
"It was..." She took a deep breath, trying to get a hold of whatever didn't hurt too much to think about. "Th-there was a hand closed around it, then holding it up. Like to the light? A little bigger than mine. Messy long nails, scars across the wrist," she said, running an index finger across the opposite wrist to illustrate the direction. "It was—there was a voice, but it was like twelve voices but it was one," she said, fully aware that it sounded like nonsense. "They—it, was saying, 'A gift. Now go...' That was where I stopped Looking."
"Now, take this but try not to think about it until your head's fixed," the Captain said, carefully wrapping
"I thought you were busy with paperwork?"
"It'll have to wait." Ezra brushed past her, walking briskly out of the door.
"Hi~," Rose gave a friendly wave, totally oblivious to the expression. "Are you an herbalist?" Well, Mira thought as she leaned over and got a look at the girl herself, at least she wasn't making any assumptions based on apparent age.
"...That I am," she said after brief hesitation. Perhaps she was surprised at a lack of comment on her "age", too? "Can I help you with something?"
"My friend here is a nature dragon," Mira said, finally coming fully into view. The girl's eyes toward her were...much more curoisity and intrigue than anything else; if she even knew she was looking at a witch then she wasn't terribly afraid of them. "We thought she might know a few useful facts about plants that aren't so well known."
"I'd be glad to!" Rose said. "Right now I only know I knew some stuff not in a couple of books, so maybe they were just outdated."
"...Indeed." Another adjustment of Vae's glasses; Mira could tell she was a little surprised at that being taken so graciously. Now that she'd been close to her for a moment, the witch's powers were able to inform her Vae was, indeed, at least a young adult and not some sort of child prodigy. The youthful appearance probably just ran in her family or something.
"Hm~mn. I usually call them glowies," she said.
"Terminology isn't a very fair test; she's been alone for quite a long time without any reference books to learn it from," Mira said.
"..Allow me to rephrase the question, then. What do you know about it?"
"Oh! Well, glowies aren't really plants at all," Rose said, "they're uh, like mushrooms? Fungies. They like to soak up magic in the soil around them. I don't keep very many in my forest since that's my magic they're eating then, and I sorta need it for stuff. But the brighter it glows, the healthier it is and the more magic it has, and if someone eats it then it can refresh their uh, magic stuff."
"Hmn." Vae gave a thoughtful expression. "That isn't implausible, given their respective properties, but I would have to actually try it out to know for sure whether you are correct. At any rate, you've convinced me you may know some worthwhile information. We will perhaps need to take some time to correct the linguistic gap..."
"You and her have different names for the same plants," Mira explained.
"Oh! Yeah. Um, I can also like 'sense' what kinda plant I'm looking at if I've seen one like it before, but I guess if there's something you don't have here I'd have to show it to you in my forest. Or..try to describe it if I don't have it."
"Oh. I'm sorry!" the dragon-girl said, not happy to be interrupting someone.
"It's no trouble; for the moment I'm only making productive use of that wait. I can draw up a list of times to...wait. You don't exactly have a mailing address in town, do you?"
Vae nodded to the witch. "That would be most helpful. Now, please excuse me; I'll have to ask you to let yourselves out." With no further warning she whirled around and left through a nearby interior door.
"One or two nice scents at a time is one thing, but that was just sensory overload for me. I can't even imagine what it's like with a sharper, foxy nose, but I guess she just got used to it at some point."
"Struck me as some sort of eccentric genius," Mira said. "Those are usually the best kind, though. At least she agrees you might know something good."
"Heheh..well, I won't deny that. Even trying to 'carelessly' drape a too-big coat over her whole body just makes it worse. It'd be smart not to say that to her face, though. Or in earshot. I think she probably gets enough comments about her appearance as it is."
"Uh..right," he said, recovering himself after a moment and forcing his eyes back up to hers before they could get lost in the writing. "It is, closely associated to my area of research. What's all...this?"
"That's.." Jacob had difficulty coming up with the right words for just how bad of an idea it was.
"A terrible idea, yes," she said, agreeing with him. "However, they invented a large amount of magic along the way which has never been seen since.
"I know the ancient tongue the journal was written in, but I am no mage. It contained an impenetrable wall of jargon which I either left alone or tried to translate literally, and technical diagrams I'm not qualified to make heads or tails of."
"So you...what...want me to help you finish translating this?" he said. "What language is it in?"
"One too old for you to know. And no, I've done all the translation I think is feasible. What I want from you is to make sense of their methods, enough to put together a spell that does just the opposite."
"The opposite...?" Jacob had to back the conversation up a few lines to understand her meaning. "You want a spell to purge Chaos out of people?" he said. "That doesn't...a normal soul's very existence naturally rejects chaos to such a degree that a spell like that has no practical purpose. It..shouldn't, anyway, it.." He stopped, staring her dead in the eyes for a long moment.
"The library keeps thorough records of which books are checked out, or even removed from shelves, and by who. I haven't read every one personally, but I have a general sense of the contents of every book that isn't in the restricted section," she said. "I know enough about your research, and the kind of spells you have already successfully learned, modified or invented for your own use, to know that you're my best bet for this. That's why I want to commission this spell from you, and not somebody else.
One could be forgiven for thinking that I planned this out well ahead of time, to ensure that Rayna was the one who showed the Captain the crystal. As a matter of fact, the first scene of this part didn't even occur to me until after I had part 78 already queued up.