In the early 1900s, the nation of Aetheri came out of its long interdimensional isolation and revealed to the humans of the Symphony Archipelago that they were not alone in the multiverse. Things swiftly got ugly after that.
In the early 1990s, Aetheri's leadership changed, and in the Archipelago, a tiny broken family of half-siblings banded together in the face of the bile and hate that was boiling up between the humans and the non-humans.
In the early 2000s, that family was split apart. Hawk Press and his sister Liya Kiski both begin a long and exhaustive journey towards understanding the difference between friend and enemy--and between the family you're given, and the family you make.
"So," Vlad said cheerfully, passing one of the mugs of steaming liquid to Shinobu. "Who's this?"
Yoshi seemed flustered already. "O-oh, um--Vlad, this is Liya."
Vlad stuck out his newly freed hand to Liya and winked. "Vlad du Russi," he told her. He smiled, and showed a surprising amount of sharp teeth in doing so. "Nice to meet you. Has Shinobu insulted your family yet?"
"Um," was all Liya managed, shaking the proffered hand.
"Yoshi," Shinobu said, "Look at this mug Vlad got me for my anniversary."
She was showing Yoshi the writing on the front of the mug; he had to bend a bit to read it properly.
"'#1 Boss,'" he said doubtfully. Shinobu wrinked her snout in a grin.
"Isn't that kitschy?" she said happily; Vlad just rolled his eyes tolerantly. "Do I get a new book, by the way?"
"Oh--yes--" Yoshi swung his bag around to his front, in order to dig through it.
"Good!" Shinobu said. "I filled up the last one with just notes on Celtic fae."
"Another hand-made special?" Vlad asked, and abandoned his spot next to Liya to look. Yoshi had retrieved a purple journal from his bag; it was stitched down its spine with thick white twine. "I can't compete with that!"
"I'm kidding, sweetie."
Liya hovered by the door, now well and truly out of the conversation; Shinobu and Vlad were talking about the kitschy mug now, and Yoshi was listening even if he wasn't speaking. Liya shrank back a bit and glanced around the office uncomfortably.
Immediately her eyes fell on what was plainly a newspaper, which looked as though it'd been tossed carelessly on the small table just beside the door. The headline and all the writing was in looping Aetherian script, but the picture was what got her attention--it was a blurry, speckly photo from the air of an asphalt street. Two thirds of the picture was thick, noxious black smoke; in the center curled a massive white serpent with a blazing red crest, wrapped around something that was clearly crumpled and in flames. The smoke obstructed everything in the photo, except a cluster of vehicles just before the snake--a boxy black truck and a patrol car on its side--and at the back of the truck, a smudge of color that meant people, maybe.
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