--------------------A Very Long Time Ago--------------------
A slim figure hunched over a carved, wooden laboratory workbench, muttering to himself and moving around several flasks, each containing differently-colored liquids that bubbled and frothed in unusual ways. The figure held up a deep-blue solution that seemed to continually shift between melting and freezing, and shook it gently a few times. He frowned slightly.
"No, that won't do."
Putting it aside, he picked up another flask, which held a golden liquid that shimmered with unearthly light.
"Still not catalyzing properly."
The figure clicked his tongue disapprovingly as his eyes wandered over the various containers of strange fluid before him. His head perked up as his eyes rested on a flask in the corner, which contained a crimson red liquid that had begun to bubble and emit flecks of varying colors. He gingerly picked up the flask and held it up to the light, surveying it with a look of greedy excitement on his face.
Moving with exceeding care, the figure stood up and moved to a separate, cleaner table, holding the crimson liquid out in front of him. As he stepped into the light shining through the few windows in the room, his face came clearly into view, revealing a spiky mess of bright red hair and sharp, pointed features. The figure displayed a look of unmatched eagerness on his face, rather like a small child being given a present. He gently set the flask on the center of the table, then hurried back into the darkness, moving to and fro and collecting several different scientific instruments, all the while speaking rapidly to himself.
"Last time I tried a pure seithr injection--certainly an interesting response, but-- yes, definitely, a 60% diluted dose should provide the appropriate reaction--"
His hands full of roughly-hewn instruments of bronze and silver, the figure hurried back into the light and placed all but one on the table. Slowly, carefully, he lowered the instrument, a long, slender tube with several valves and levers, into the solution and pulled back gently. The tube began to fill with the red liquid, and after a few moments the figure pulled the tube completely out, apparently satisfied with the amount.
"All right, let's give this a try!"
Just then, the door to the laboratory burst open, flooding light into the room. The figure, startled, jumped backwards and dropped the tube, which shattered on the floor, spilling the liquid everywhere. A well-built man, with a thin goatee and long black hair, stepped into the laboratory, decked in purple and silver attire. He brushed his long black hair out of his eyes and surveyed the room. The red-haired figure looked down desperately.
"Must you always burst in so rudely, Victor? I nearly had it this time!"
"You will address me as General Stahler, Maxim. And the King demands your presence immediately."
The red-haired figure wrung his hands and opened his mouth as if to protest, but slumped rather sadly and nodded.
Maxim quickly cleaned the floor, and followed General Stahler out the door and down the winding staircase, periodically illuminated by torches that glowed a golden-red and flickered fiercely.
"Any idea what he needs me for?"
General Stahler chuckled.
"No, but it must be important. He seemed rather excited when he told me to fetch you."
He gestured back up the stairs to the laboratory.
"Still no luck?"
Maxim frowned, his brow furrowed.
"I am getting so close! But the answer keeps slipping out of my grasp, like quicksilver."
"Well, he's not going to like to hear that. The High Alchemist of Lokasen is expected to produce measurable results."
Maxim drooped sadly.
"Don't remind me."
Ansa looked over at the Kapshen questioning her.
"Listen, kid, just get out of here! Head down to Lower or Middle Avalon, just get out of--"
She was cut short as Zayn rushed her, thrusting her spear out and barely missing Ansa as she dodged to the side.
"Law-breakers, criminals, rebels, you're all the same!" Zayn snarled. "Who gave you the right to protect this city? No one! And yet you walk around, head held high like some kind of folktale hero! Only the Kingdom Guard have the authority and power to do what's right--"
"Do what's right?" Ansa felt anger building inside her like a fire. "You've done nothing but cheat and threaten to get your way since you started with the Kingdom Guard--"
"As a member of the government, I am entitled to certain privelages," Zayn yelled, swinging her fiery lance around in a wide arc that Ansa ducked and rolled away from. "Why shouldn't the people pay us a little tribute? We're protecting them!"
"What do the other officers think about your "privileges"? Or do you have them all hoodwinked?"
"Shut UP!" shouted Zayn, readying another blow. She noticed the Masked Knight moving away from the engagement.
"Citri, stop the Masked Knight! That's an order!"