Chapter 1: Something Rotten
"There's something I want you to see. I'll send you the location."
That was the last message you received from Alice. Urgent. No fuss. Delivered via majestic dove. Very much like Alice from the last month or so of getting to know her.
And now here you are, in a graveyard of all places. You walk gingerly over the plots of ground to her location, which appears to be next to a gaping hole in the ground. You see Alice staring quizzically at the disturbance while a man beside her is waving excitedly at you.
By all accounts the two should be mortal enemies, Alice being a top ranking Illudo and Robert being an equivalent ranking Marcana, but ever since meeting you in the Sorting Trials and training you, they have become nicer to each other. You might even say they are very good friends now.
As you stumble your way to their spot, you can see the hole with much more clarity. It's not simply some clean, unearthed plot of land waiting for its next occupant. It's very much the opposite—this is definitely a grave that was previously occupied. A wooden coffin that is still partially buried in the ground looks busted open, shards of wood and splinters embedded in the sides of the pit. The sides of the ditch seem to have been dug out not by a shovel or simple tool, but something more barbaric, more organic. You feel your back rumble as Chester pops out of your bag, looking intently at the area.
"Thanks for coming," Robert greets, a halfhearted smile on his face. "Both of you," he appends, motioning towards the rabbit on your back.
"I know you are inexperienced in this new role, but there is something going on that I think only you are equipped to handle," Alice addresses, finally looking at you.
"Alice and I have been finding more and more of these unearthed graves and we are… really kinda freaked out to be honest." Robert huffs out, trying not to look too much at the mangled pit in front of your feet.
"We've talked to our contacts—"
"Our friends," Robert interjects.
"—and no one knows who is doing this. Whether it is manmade or…"
"Something else." He gulps. Chester quickly shrinks back into your pack.
Something else? Isn't this by all accounts a world of infinite possibilities? What would something else be?
"We need you to talk to Gemini, the leader of the Marcana, to see if it's some sort of magical instability, a trainee who's too into destructive magic, or something greater."
"I would talk to her myself," Robert interjects, trying to save face, "but Gemini has locked herself in her meditation chamber in anticipation of the ceremony tonight. The chamber can only be opened by herself and… you, actually."
"Them?" Alice says mirroring your thoughts.
"By ancient decree, leaders of either side need to be available to the Bearer of the Mark of Merlin, so her chamber has a fail-safe opening for them." Alice looks surprised at Robert.
"I know things..." Robert responds sheepishly.
"Well, with these excavated graves appearing more and more, I would say we don't have a lot of time if this is something serious. You should get going."
And with that, you are unceremoniously dismissed. Alice goes back to examining the grave while Robert levitates debris away for her to get a closer look.
As you walk away, you realize that you aren't exactly sure where Gemini's meditation chambers are. You have heard rumblings that the Marcana headquarters are directly to the south, so you decide to venture that way in the hopes of gaining information from locals.