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Psynergy and Proxians

Chapter 5: And Then I Stopped Writing (Whoops)

Chapter Notes:

I'm sorry this took so long, with so little to show for it. :( I hope it speeds up soon, but I have about six different things I'm writing simultaneously and it all gets kinda weird.

My hand slipped for about two chapters. I really didn't start this as a drama thing, I swear.

Much thanks to CGA for betareading! :)

Isaac was not speaking to Garet. Nope. No. Nada. Never. Ever.

Something told him this was incredibly childish, but he didn't care. He was still stinging from that comment about the schools. About moving.

It wasn't his idea to move! His mom had moved, and out of grief. Just because he hadn't been with them at the same school for the last three years didn't mean he knew better or wasn't like them anymore or anything, it just meant he'd been somewhere else!

But maybe Garet was at least a little bit right. Things were different.

Isaac sighed inwardly as he picked up a die, playing with it in one hand as he listened to Felix.

"The old sage tells you more about the strangers quite willingly. He regales you with tales of how the village elders had forbidden him from entering the heart of the hidden shrine in the mountain above - the Sol Sanctum - and the rumors that old texts only hinted at, which the foreigners had confirmed.

"He fears they might be thieves, either meaning to steal from the sanctum or perhaps having already robbed it, and tells you as much. The sage also asks if you would be willing to help him enter the forbidden inner sanctum to investigate - just a quick peek to see if his suspicions were right and they really had been inside."

Jenna nodded. "Okay, so basically our first major quest. Do the thing, stop the thieves, get some loot from the shrine-"

"Yeah, sure-" Isaac caught a raised eyebrow from Felix, who coughed.

"Aren't you supposed to be the paladin?"

Oh crap, right. He still had to keep in character, didn't he? "I mean- we can't desecrate the shrine. I'm supposed to be lawful good!"

"So we drag you along, and you blame us," Jenna reasoned.

Isaac opened his mouth, then shut it again. Best to leave well enough alone. He might have had an obligation to role-playing, but he wouldn't push it any farther than he had to.

"Seems solid," he replied. Felix grunted in annoyance, but said nothing.

"Good," said Jenna, "because I'd be doing that either way."

"Wait, that doesn't make any sense," Garet pointed out. "If you need the elders to fix this, why not get them to back you up so you can get extra supplies and stuff first?"

Felix shook his head. "They won't let you, remember?! They already refused Sclater - why would they let you guys in along with him?"

"Let's keep it a secret, then," Jenna suggested. "Don't tell the elders unless it's insanely urgent and you all need backup. How's that sound, Isaac?"

Isaac didn't overlook how she emphasized his name, turning her back on Garet as she did.

"Um... yeah. Sure."

Garet growled something rude. Isaac ignored him.

The adventure continued in tense, uncomfortable silence punctuated solely by the occasional narration. The party made their way up through the town again, dodging a pathetic lone monk whose idea of guarding a sanctum involved pacing back and forth from the entrance to the much smaller Vale Sanctum.

Isaac still wasn't sure what that monk was guarding against back behind the building, since the whole area was practically unreachable, but it did leave the main entrance conveniently unprotected in the meantime. Maybe too conveniently.

He glanced at Jenna. "So, ideas?"

"Isn't it obvious?" She rolled her eyes. "Garet has Gerald use his Barbarian trap-sense skill thing to check for traps. If he dies, we're down a character. If not, we just head in."

"Hey," Garet objected, "that's my character you're talking about. I'm not risking him just so you can check for traps! That entrance is barely even guarded."

"And that's why I'm suspicious," Jenna butted in. "Why would they so utterly fail to protect their greatest treasures? There's got to be something more to it."

"What if the door is just locked or something?"

"Then that's another measure against thieves. I still say someone should check for traps!"

"Ugh, fine." The pair glared at each other. Isaac said nothing.

Felix picked up a die. "You guys know that's the wrong edition, right?"

"What?" Jenna asked.

"We're using fifth edition, remember. No trap-sense."

"You've got to be kidding me," Jenna muttered with a scowl.

Garet sighed in undeserved relief. "Well, that plan's a bust then. Why doesn't Jasmine just throw a fireball at it, anyway?"

"We don't know if a fireball would set any traps off."

This was getting ridiculous.

"Guys," Isaac began.

"Better than sending in a player as a guinea pig!"

"Hey, I said if he dies, not when! Your hit points are insanely-"

Isaac started again. "Guys-"

"And you'd risk one of your biggest assets for that?"

"Biggest asshole, more like."

"Guys!" Isaac shouted, a bit louder than he meant to. Jenna and Garet fell silent, frozen in place - Garet's hands gripping the table like the bars on a rollercoaster, and Jenna practically crouching on top of her chair.

"This is stupid, okay?" He made a point of facing more towards Jenna than Garet. He still couldn't quite talk with Garet - not then, not there.

Jenna nodded. "Yes. How exactly could fireballs trigger a tripwire?"

"No, that's not what I mean!" Isaac sighed, dropping his head into his hands. "I mean... you two arguing. All of us arguing. It's just stupid."

"Yeah, I'm with you on that, Isaac," Garet added. "This is just stupi-"

"No! You're all - we're all being stupid here!" Isaac snapped. Well, no avoiding talking to Garet now. "Look, I'm still pissed, too. I... I can't even believe I'm even talking to you, for what that's worth. But this was just supposed to be a stupid game, and then you had to start acting like a douche, and Jenna kept fighting you and making it worse, and Felix hasn't even tried to do anything about it, and here I am... just ranting at all of you, I guess."

"I got this game out because I thought it would be like middle school again. With all the old stuff we used to do, y'know? But all we ended up doing was being a bunch of asses."

Isaac sighed. "I'm done with this." He pulled himself up out of the chair, folding up his character sheet. "I'm just... done with this dumb game."

He picked up Jenna's character sheet. She didn't seem to notice at first, too distracted by alternating currents of rage and tears. "Hey, wait," she began, "we're still playing-"

"Yeah? Well you're down a player now."

Garet grabbed his character sheet, snatching it away from Isaac before he could put it away as well. "Hey! Just because you don't want to play doesn't mean you get to be a jerk about it!"

"Fine. Go play your game without me."

With that, Isaac stalked out of the library, grabbing his messenger bag and stuffing the character sheet inside.

The walk out seemed impossibly long, with far more rows of bookcases than he remembered or had imagined, and the whole way he kept secretly expecting someone to put in their two cents, to try and drag him back. He'd find some good comeback to that, and head out, or maybe there would be some short but satisfying bout between him and Garet, but nothing happened. Nobody spoke.

He left the room in a dead silence Kraden would have been proud of. The only faintest suggestions of any sound were his own footsteps on the wooden floorboards. He held his breath as he stepped over the threshold, hesitating for half a second as he waited for someone to say something, anything to give him an excuse to come back and make amends.

Silence echoed through the grand room.

Isaac took the stairs as quickly as he could, stepping out into the deserted school hallways. The classrooms were all darkened and locked up in empty, lifeless rows. A single dim fixture overhead blinked on when he flicked the switch by the library door.

He followed the hallways, navigating on three-year-old memories, and eventually the endless pattern of unlit windows and locked-down doors led to the outside. A cool breeze danced through the trees, and the dying lights outside tinted the sky a gentle purple shade. A playground swing squeaked as it shifted in the wind, and Isaac could see the library windows from his spot.

The lights flickered on inside, illuminating the library window with a warm yellow glow. Three shadowy silhouettes moved about inside, chatting. The moments looked slow and forced.

Isaac sat down on the rickety bench in front the main entrance, watching for a few minutes.

That certainly hadn't gone as he planned.

End Notes:
Welcome to 'That One Angsty Chapter Where Everyone Keeps Interrupting Each Other.'

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