Skylar Lundquist checked her reflection in the mirror of the old apartment she had rented. The flat was cold and dark, but she didn’t care – she was glad that she had managed to find anything at all in the short time she had been in Arcadia Aranea. The West City wasn’t exactly known for its new housings and clean streets – from all the four city divisions, the West City was the most ramshackle, dirty, electricity-lacking and lawless. From the little she had managed to gather from the rushed introduction she had obtained on the Hindenburg Hovercraft that had brought her into Arcadia Aranea, Skylar had known that the West City would offer her the perfect base from where to start her investigations.
Besides, she wasn’t planning on staying in Arcadia Aranea for long. As soon as she’d accomplished her mission, she would return…
At least, that was what she told herself as she let her brown eyes run over her familiar frame. There was no reason for staying and anyway, her departure would soon be discovered and it would only make her life harder if she didn’t go back.
Skylar had dark red hair that tumbled down in gentle waves to the top of her breasts. The color was rich and in the gloom of the room, it seemed almost black. She briefly considered dying her hair, but then decided against it. Where she was planning on heading, it was most unlikely that anyone would recognize her. Dressed in the body-hugging black leather jacket, the black top that accentuated her breasts, but not in an overly sexy way and the black jeans and boots, Skylar was convinced she would blend in easily. Reaching for her left arm, she felt the reassuring pressure of her wand there and relaxed. As long as she had it on her, nothing bad could happen.
Turning around, Skylar cast a final glance around her quarters. It was sparsely furnished and contained only the basics – a bed, a bathroom, a cupboard and a small stove and sink for cooking and washing. The carpet hadn’t been cleaned in decades and it would have cost her a small fortune if she hadn’t employed some of her dazzling magic to convince the sleazy landlord into believing that she’d already handed over the uncalled-for sum. She wouldn’t leave behind any of her personal belongings. The small black suitcase she had brought along with her had been minimized to the size of a small wallet and was inside the inner pocket of her leather jacket. Everything she needed was in there. The apartment was simply for cover purposes should she attract anyone’s unwanted attention.
It was time. She couldn’t afford to waste too much of it and anyway, she was only a tourist. Closing her eyes, Skylar called up the map she had seen of Arcadia Aranea on the Hindenburg Hovercraft. Aside from the four city sections, she had caught sight of a destination that had seemed the most promising. Although she knew that she’d be walking into known Vulpes Caeli Territory, she trusted herself to be able to keep a low profile and after she’d memorized the way there, she opened her eyes and after a last glance around her, exited the apartment.
She was up on the third floor and the stairwell was a nightmare of darkness, skew steps, spider webs and decay. Wrinkling her nose, Skylar uttered a curse under her breath and hastened her pace, not wanting to meet anyone within the apartment complex – the least she was seen there, the better. Managing to navigate over the half-dead body of a drunken beggar near the entrance to the lobby, Skylar left the building and shrugging her shoulders, stepped out into the metropolis. That night seemed to have hit the West City with electricity, so she could see where she was going.
Accompanied by the sounds of sirens and distant gunshots, Skylar turned north and began to navigate derelict streets. In the shadows hunched figures lurked, but she ignored them, trusting that they would leave her alone as long as she left them alone. Reaching for her left arm for reassurance, she straightened and took on a more self-assured stance as she crossed a deserted intersection and finally the first whisperings of techno music reached her ears, telling her that she was drawing closer. Jumping elegantly over burned-out rubbish bins, Skylar turned a final corner and finally came to a stop across the street from Enigma.
Despite its unfortunate luck of having been put up in the West City, Enigma had prospered and become one of the most-frequented clubs in Arcadia Aranea. It was so popular that even citizens from the better sections frequented it, as was confirmed when Skylar let her eyes wander over the queue that was steadily growing longer in front of Enigma. Glancing both ways as she crossed the street to step up behind a group of under-dressed giggling females who had obviously come from the North City, Skylar fixed her eyes onto the entrance of the club, trying to calm her beating heart as she struck a nonchalant pose.
What would she find inside? It was a shot in the dark, but when she’d heard the name on the Hindenburg Hovercraft for the first time, something had told her that it should be her starting place. She knew next to nothing about Arcadia Aranea aside from what she’d read off the brief informational brochure and one or two things she could remember having heard before. She had certainly never dreamed that she’d have to travel so far from home and knew it would cause an uproar when it was discovered. But here she was and she needed to find him as quickly as possible.
In no time, the queue had grown behind her and Skylar tuned her ears off as her intuition intensified, telling her that she was in the right place. Turning slightly, she saw that the people behind her were likewise dressed in black like her and while not as wealthy as the females ahead of her, they certainly came from the South City at least. Behind them was a group of rowdy young adults who looked worse off, their tattoos giving them away as being members of a gang. It was obvious that they could only belong to the Vulpes Caeli. That they were lining up to enter told Skylar that they weren’t important enough, otherwise they could surely have bypassed the queue altogether.
Craning her neck to see the entrance, Skylar spotted two mean-looking bouncers. They were armed with electronic devices over their eyes and Skylar winced, instantly guessing that they were for enhanced detection. She had known that Arcadia Aranea was far from being as advanced as Cyber Polix was with regards to technology, but she ought to have guessed that they’d implement it at some point.
Reaching as inconspicuously as she possibly could for her left arm, she uttered a spell under her breath, making the magical wand invisible. She added a double layer of Mesmer over it, hoping that would do the trick and then concentrated on her breath, trying to make herself relax again. If the bouncer also checked her heartrate, they would see that she was nervous and might not let her into the club.
Just as she was beginning to calm down, laughing voices attracted her attention from behind. Automatically turning to look when the women in front of her gasped, their eyes widening, Skylar found a group of four adult men walking towards her. While two men didn’t interest her in the least, her brown eyes came to rest on the tallest in the group.
The man was older than her, attracting her attention to him due to his height and dark hair. It had been cut in a taper fade way and was windswept. He had a mildly amused smile on his face, but his brown eyes were distant, as if he weren’t really there, but somewhere else entirely. He was muscular, his black leather jacket accentuating his athletic body as well as the tight-fitting black jeans. His black boots were expensive and he strode with self-confidence, exuding masculinity and stirring something within Skylar that she didn’t want and couldn’t need, yet still she was unable to avert her eyes.
His cheeks were free of stubble, his nose long, his upper lip perfectly curved while his lower lip was slightly thicker. His eyes were large, the eyebrows bushy, but trimmed. And while his friends roared, his lips slightly turned upwards, but he remained in a world of his own. He was extremely handsome, but something told Skylar that he wasn’t someone who could be approached easily.
As he passed by her, not sparing a glance in her direction or anyone in the queue for that fact, Skylar let go of him with her eyes and turned to the blond walking slightly behind him. He was almost as tall, but while the brunet exuded detachment and self-chosen solitude, the blond-haired man exuded cheerfulness, recklessness and warmth. He had dark blue eyes and was attractive, yet not bordering on beauty as the brunet. He was one of the men laughing the loudest and when his eyes went towards the queue and he caught Skylar watching him, he winked.
It's a world where magic exists alongside technology that ranges from military to cyber punk, interspersed with elements of advanced air travel. This world consists of four main domains that differ in regard to geography, climate, political system, the general population and culture. Each area can be subdivided into smaller regions and as the series progresses, the map will become steadily more detailed and complex. Read more about Universitas Antiquita.
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