Let’s say Indignation is the name of a large, legendary Iron War warship’s bar back at Vegas Madrugada—A peculiar floating boat city surrounding the Tree of Lif in the middle of the Baltic Horizon Sea—And we’ll get back to that, but yes, we are still on planet Earth, presently in the year 303 of ACE, an unknown Post-Cataclysmic civilisation, just 300 years old (although aided by the previous civilisation’s electric technology, and an alien civilisation’s high tech space war technology – in a broken state – the instruction manual and context went lost in transition.

Yet, the city and Cannon in Siberia are self-building without any active aid—this thing is probably all pre-programmed to do so—and humans haven’t the faintest clue how to stop it from building. What is it building it for, and what does any of it mean, anyway?

Theogenes Atelbaer is one of such curious, homeless Lords from Libertatia Oeselia, and he has been on this grand expedition for some five years now. Theogenes means using his power to determine what it is and ensure the Earth’s population gets its fairest deal. Theogenes Atelbaer believes himself—and the creed he follows—to be best suited for the first contact

Theogenes and Bratka meet at Indignation. Bratka had not anticipated a visit from Theogenes, as Theogenes has been out of touch and away in Siberia for years.  

“I need access to one of our agents,” Theogenes proposes. 

Bratka knows who Theogenes is talking about and skips forward, “She was here just last week. They were passing by and making a stop before heading to Gotland.” Bratka wants to drag the conversation, though, because the cook had only woken up in the middle of the night to cater for the visitor—Bratka wants to buy some time, “Hel had a novice with her—One of yours, I think. The one who fixed the Titan,” Bratka rubs his white stubble. He has gone fat, his skin is red like a lobster, and the crown of hair around his balding head is as white as the zerk’s silver-white. 

Theogenes has no clue what Bratka is talking about. “I don’t need to know that; I need to know where Hel is from now to two weeks.”

“Eysin!” Bratka snaps his finger, succeeding in recalling the new face’s face. Eysin left quite the impression on him the last time she was around. Hel and Eysin had visited Indignation to pick up a package. A loaf of bread from Alexander—He had cooked it himself. “Where Hel is now—You’ll have to ask around the temple or the Gotland Library. If anyone knows, it’ll be the novice—Eysin. Sylrissa hung out with them a lot, too. And if she knows—” Bratka looks at Theogenes, making the face you make when you expect someone to blurt out the correct answer. 

This irritates Theogenes, who blurts out, “I’m not going to see Laos! It would be best if Vinu didn’t even find out I’m in those parts.”

The childish outburst amuses Bratka, who decides to try another topic: “Have you brought back the Scorpio?”  

Theogenes waves his pipe-free arm, “That Kraken couldn’t handle the North Sea. Too cold. We’re leaving them here until we can think of another way to get them across to Baikal.”

“Things seem to be stirring around the Warsaw Pact and the Tree of Lif management. It will do Oeselia some good if Squirro is here to protect them,” Bratka muses. “As for your Hel-problem, I’ll assign Olive to snoop around and figure out where she is. Can I leave your contact information with him?”

“Olive?” Theogenes is confused. 

Bratka explains, “Olive’s been here, winning some matches for Osel; he’ll return to the island tomorrow. I could give him the task.”

“Listen, I don’t know who that kid is. I’d rather Sylrissa contacted me over it, or what’s her face… Can Olive deliver a letter to Sylrissa?”

“Sylrissa is no good when it comes to mobility,” Bratka strokes his stubble again.

“Ah, still under house arrest?”

<<<

Last week, when Hel was at the Indignation bar, Eysin and Sylrissa were there. However, Sylrissa was there without anyone being alerted to it. She continued to be under house arrest and couldn’t risk any alarms going off, resulting in pushing her father to lock her up in a real jail. 

Hel seemed nervous, and she had been disappointed that Imogen couldn’t make it. It was their last chance to meet each other before Hel went on an expedition of her own. Hel had received an interesting lead about the uncharted Siberian territories and felt the need to go without giving EESO or Oeselia the competitive edge against all other players. 

“Only the relevant details,” Sylrissa seemed in a hurry. Something was harassing her. 

“Daegan is there, one hundred per cent,” Hel confirmed. 

“Why would Vinu hide that fact from us?” Sylrissa nearly exploded. 

“But Daegan is not imprisoned there—” Hel continued. It’s a new facility. And according to the hints I picked up back at the 3rd Saucer, a Kraken remains in that facility. Some of the former Navigator Guild folk have shown their faces around.”

“So, it does have something to do with that damned guild, after all.” Sylrissa snapped a finger.

“You bet!” Hel continued, “And the Black Rain is in on it, too. It turns out they raided the Navigator Guild’s island.”

“What for?” Eysin mumbles to herself.

Sylrissa acknowledges her presence, “Well, seeing that Reval is about to crack, the Black Rain does need a new home base!”

“I wouldn’t know anything about that,” Eysin said with a silly smile. She had been talking about a difficult period for Reval for the last few months now. Eysin predicted that the recent prisoner transports from the South pose an intriguing threat. What if they wouldn’t move past Reval? Lo-and-behold, the paper blasts of explosions of Reval’s docks. 

“Like the Black Rain couldn’t handle a bunch of prisoners.” Sylrissa rolled her Eyes. 

Hel argued, “They’re not interested in saving Reval. They appear to believe they can take command of the remaining Zodiac fleet.” 

Sylrissa smiled and shook her head, “Of course, Leonard and that idiot Junior think they can join the big fish.”

“Oh, there likely will be a larger coalition built around the new dynamics, and things don’t look too good for Oeselia in that regard.”

Sylrissa seemed confused. “We’ve got the 5th saucer. What can they do?”

Hel shrugged, “I’ll leave this one for Alexander to figure out. Speaking of—Did you bring the bread?”

Sylrissa passes a canvas bag over the table. 

The bread was still warm. It brought tears to Hel’s and Eysin’s eyes. They’d been wanting another loaf ever since they finished the last one—Back a few months ago, when instead of Sylrissa, they sat around this table with Alexander and 5 of his favourite guardsmen, getting tipsy on the fumes and—

<<<

When Alexander and his Five Guards—a band of competent “gladiators” from Oeselia—sat at the table just as Eysin and Hel stepped in, Eysin felt slightly put off. 

Eysin had just been to the Gotland Library, seen all these fantastic lights, architecture, and the strange, unhospitable treatment by a self-important librarian girl, and a very curious, helpful Gotland Orb that had presented herself to Eysin as a little fairy—and she couldn’t talk about it to anyone. 

Had she had the chance to go over it again in her head, which would have been fine—she couldn’t. Alexander would just keep talking incomprehensible gibberish, and Eysin had to pretend to be engaged, as Hel had practically begged her to be polite. 

“You do not want to offend that guy,” Hel reminded her in their zerk’s telepathic channel as they stepped in and saw the table. 

“Well, I’m not going to tolerate rudeness.” Eysin felt she had already expended her willpower on Catherine (the self-important librarian)—another rude jackass Eysin couldn’t absolutely under any circumstance respond with sincere emotion. 

“They’ll suck you dry and leave you in a ditch!” Hel was repeating herself.

When the girls arrived at their seats, all the men got up from the table to sit down together again. 

“Miss Spitfire and Hypervigilant—you look so pale—they’re bringing food and fumes in just a minute,” Alexander grinned nerdily. 

Back in the channel, Hel to Eysin, “DO. NOT. RESPOND.”

>

Once that exhausting evening with tapas and fumes and an endless stream of primarily intelligible philosophical insights mixed with commentary on a ballet performance transmitted to a white wall, radio updates with some foosvol match taking place in Novigrad, and the annoying piece of black pepper doing its slow atomic decay stuck between some of the back teeth, Eysin drank a caffeine shot to keep her brain awake, let her body rest, so she can still go over a few details that happened back at the Library. 

When Eysin, accompanied by a very cold-mannered Catherine, a woman younger than herself, reached the bottom level of the Gotland Library Temple, the lights on the wall displaying glyphs that a human wouldn’t see without the Zerk and the Framewerk weren’t the biggest deal of sensory surprises. 

The Gotland Orb appeared in Eysin’s visions in the shape of a fairy, a winged elf, or a little human with insect wings. And it Spoke to her. 

“Don’t look so surprised; The Sister will figure something is off,” The Orb Said, referring to having to hide this conversation from Catherine. 

Catherine pointed to the large curved wall to the left of the ten-meter-diameter white, glowing orb. The wall looked like hardened sand (but it’s not sand; it’s something much more valuable), and the colourful lights hovering above the surface, changing and laughing, started shifting from their locations and forming a cluster to where Catherine had pointed. 

Catherine snapped, “The Parasitic Purple category is archived over there.” 

<

Catherine thought Eysin was another hyped-up big shot and was jealous that she could hang out with Hel so much. Catherine had been Hel’s pupil for a while and had formed an unhealthy attachment to Hel. 

“Go save your bears,” Catherine mumbled. 

Catherine found it hard to believe the Library would give access to a novice outsider—Who was the student of ANDRE—FFS—And once you got Catherine started on Andre, she had all the hateful flavours to showcase. 

Andre had betrayed the Gotland Library and continued to work under EESO’s protection, then later under RESO’s protection. RESO allegedly ended up killing Andre for a sliver of worthless treasure—an utterly failed mission that caused EESO to not intervene in any more Revalian crises. And another crisis was about to blow. 

Catherine knew Eysin was wearing that treasure—The Sky Shaman Zerk and Framewerk—as the librarians knew to refer to it. The Library had once gifted it to Andre, and Catherine belonged to a class of people who believed Andre didn’t deserve the zerk or any attention he got. 

“He’s a genius!” Catherine mumbles with irony, recalling that even Hel somehow lost her indifferent composure when it came to the hour of praising idiots of the other wing of the school. 

Catherine stuck up her nose to see if it improved her visual over Eysin and then squealed over the hall, ”Don’t tell me I need to show you how to tether to the node?”

“Nah,” Eysin waves over her shoulder. “It’s all good here. I’m just filtering out the stuff I won’t need—”

But Eysin wasn’t filtering out anything. She had already downloaded all the schemas related to the Purple Parasite and its Extraction. 

EESO had asked for access to extracting the purple “flames” from animals, as the “Bearworld” from the mainland had called for help. Their bears were exposed to an Eesian worm, and an unusual parasite contaminated that worm. 

Instead of doing what she pretended to, Eysin interacted with the Orb, turning her back to it. 

The Orb was alarmed by the state of Eysin’s “Sky Shaman” zerk. The fairy believed this Zerk could never control the Swarm again, but in another breath, it claimed that recovery might be possible. 

Besides, the Orb noted that Eysin’s “set” was missing a piece anyway. The Orb knew to comment as it scanned every last inch of Eysin’s being. And Eysin wasn’t surprised by it—which surprised the Orb. Eysin had somehow figured out the “set” was missing —an antennae component. The very element in the set that may have inspired an unknown actor built “The Umbrella.”

Eysin’s rushed thoughts about it alarmed The Orb—It probably knew who was behind that little invention but felt the need to protect him. The fairy directed their attention towards Eysin’s other bracelets—Unrelated to the Shaman set, but a curious combination—the dual-ring set – The Morphing Staff – The Blindside – had been in the hands of a Sky Shaman wearer in the past, too. 

Then, the third is the unsolved armring. 

Eysin’s head was deluged with memories as the Orb uttered “Angelchrome.”

Eysin knew then that there was a ledger. This armring needed a key to crack, and Eysin had a good idea where that ledger could be. 

Yet, all that excitement over recollecting the conversation with the Orb washed away when Eysin was pulled back into the dingy cabin over the Indignation bar by a notification of a bell sound from the post office. 

A notification from the post office could mean only one thing—Arkion Atelbaer had sent her another letter. 

They wrote letters and had a few calls. They contemplated marriage and kids, laughed about jokes, fought about personal problems, cried about fighting, and then laughed again. And for two years, they had been waiting to know—when? When? When? When can we meet again? 

By the time Eysin, Hel, and Sylrissa met again in the Indignation, deeply drunk on fumes to celebrate Hel’s new journey, Eysin felt detached from the celebration and as if in limbo. Arkion’s last letter reminded her not to try to send one back since the Baltikons would soon be moving, and he wouldn’t be able to receive it and read it. 

Theogenes’ secret visit to the Indignation pushes back the return date for all the expeditors on missions in Siberia since he brought the Kraken back home, and the small Corvette he used to get back to Siberia was off-limits to anyone else. 

When Theogenes returned to the research site near the crater near Lake Baikal, Arkion and his Baltikons had already started heading back to Oeselia. It will be a few month’s journey, as the guys need to survey the area for an eventual return on a larger scale. 

Theogenes must get up to speed on what happened in their outposts during the last months. 

Theogenes is holding a report written by one of the Baltikons, Martin, the engineering wizard. Martin reports continued pressure by the Black Sea Experiment (B-S-E) on the Westmost post. The Baltikons managed to escort the Novigradian research group from the area and integrate them into their own so their research effort could continue in alliance. 

The Baltikons received a timely tip from a B-S-E desertör that their teams would flood the area and take over the Burning Temples, which were under Novigrad’s jurisdiction then. Novigrad had been haemorrhaging for a long time and eventually ran out of means to protect its area. 

Theogenes noted a later entry, and where he expects to see Martin’s name, he sees his son’s—Arkion. 

The Novigradian researchers had found a strange foundry underground in the tunnel complex spanning the crater. The foundry was a large hall with a ceiling formed like a volcano spout, and a deep pool of cool water was underneath. 

In the water, the researchers found large diamonds shaped like “Prince Rupert’s Tears.” One of these tears was gifted to the Baltikons, and Martin kept it despite Arkion’s refusal. Arkion had reasoned that they were guards, not researchers—and those things were not trophies. 

“We won’t be able to evaluate its worth accurately, so it’s not like we’re going to a pawn shop in Berlin and exchanging it for credits,” Arkion scolded him. 

“Well, how about we give them to our researchers?” Martin argued.

“The Burning Temples are Novigrad’s area of expertise. Ours are looking at that,” Arkion pointed up into the sky, where the central gigantic cannon or tower of the Crater City was building itself. “I have a bad feeling about this,” the strange vase said, giving Arkion literal creeps. 

Martin didn’t write this report because he was an idiot. With the B-S-E desertör —and Theogenes was irritated with Arkion by the addition of that useless detail about that desertör—Martin took the Diamond-PRT to the Burning Temple close to EESO’s outpost And died in the flames as the tear absorbed all the purple flames from the temple. 

As the researchers later assessed, the Charged Diamond-PRT was slightly misplaced on the podium—a small cubicle altar some twenty meters away from the twenty-meter-long, narrow entrances of the Burning Temples. After it sucked in all the flames, the Charged Diamond-PRT exploded and was absorbed by the bodies of the rest of the (5) Baltikons, who were trying to save Martin’s (and the B-S-E desertör’s) life. 

The healers initially could not help the Baltikons, as their Framewerks had become entirely unresponsive to the red beads and light. Still, another miracle happened—from the sky descended a swarm none had ever seen before—a swarm not of “dragonflies” but of fist-sized silver-white furry moths. 

“You let them go with that thing in their bodies?” Theogenes bursts into Asya’s tent. 

Asya fears that Theogenes might break something, but he places his fist against a standing table and cools down. 

After discovering what Theogenes is upset about, Asya explains, “The diamond dust isn’t clumped enough for us to extract it yet. It’s basically like sand scattered in their bodies. It’ll take months before we can do anything. But we can extract it eventually, as the pieces appear to be trying to piece themselves together again.”

Theogenes gets irritated again, “Then you should have gone back with them. You’re no longer needed here.”

“But I just got here!” Asya dares to protest. 

“You need to be there when it’s time. It’s a sensitive subject; it’s not like the Baltiokons can tell everyone what’s happened here when they get back—To warn them. We don’t know what might happen to them.”

“How can I return when all the teams have already left?”

Theogenes sits down to think and figures it out, “You’ll take the Corvette. You’ll make it back ahead of everyone, then—Link up with Sylrissa; I think their crew is going around the territory now, purging animals of that same Purple problem.”

* * * 

The once orchestral blend of silence and birdsong shatters as hundreds of birds explode into flight from the trees and bushes. As the rustling ceases, the birds soar high and away, leaving a cascade of frozen flakes to dance skyward from the disturbed branches. The air fills with crystalline shards, and the moisture around Eysin intensifies. She exhales small clouds of mist, her gaze fixed on the visible ground that soon vanishes, giving way to a thicket of dark, menacing bushes. This killer weed has been spreading up north for centuries.

Rumours suggest that if humans chop down too much forest while this weed is present, it increases to such an extent that it eradicates all other flora. As the flora disappears, so does the fauna. This deadly weed has no redeeming qualities, offering neither medicinal benefits nor usable fibres. Its sole purpose is to produce an unstable poison that can kill or cause severe diarrhoea, organ damage, and a shortened lifespan. But Eysin has no time to worry about the deadly bushes now.

Perched on a high branch of a pine tree like a watchful lynx, Eysin gazes intently in the direction of an approaching commotion. She anticipated that a massive bear would come charging her way any moment now.

Atlas dodges the furious bears’ attacks as he sends Eysin a message about the one that has escaped and is headed her way. “If you can’t sedate it, just kill it. It’s one of the big ones and extremely aggressive right now! Ohhh-” Atlas cuts off, narrowly avoiding a swipe of sharp claws.

Eysin didn’t intend to face any bears directly. Her primary role is instructing the hunters to extract the so-called “Eesian parasites” from the bears’ brains. These parasites are an unusual purple marble-like material that has infested the bears. However, This time, the parasites are unlike any they have encountered. The bears aren’t consuming the grey goo inside the worms, even though the worms are present at the conservatory, and indeed, some of the grey goo has been partially devoured. Instead, the bears are infected with something different.

Catching sight of the approaching bear, Eysin quickly dons her mask and activates Crisis mode for a few seconds to determine the location of the purple highlight indicating the parasite’s presence. She knows it will be somewhere in the bear’s head. “Aw,” she mutters, charmed by the creature’s endearing ears. But the bear is enormous: roughly three times her height and this realisation makes her stomach churn. Overwhelmed with fear, Eysin considers activating the Trance to save herself. Then, she spots the purple highlight and remembers that the zerk makes her nearly invincible. 

Dismissing using the Trance, Eysin zerks up and repeats, “Sedate it, shear the spot, shave the spot, extract, and call for transport. Did I mix the sedative right?” She shakes off her concerns. Her left-hand wears the Kaestus glove coated in a glowing yellow liquid. She also summons her weapon, the Morphing Blindside, a javelin. 

“What if I miss?” Eysin asks Atlas through the Zerk’s radio.

“As I said, Atlas sounds strained. Feel free to execute the bear if it’s too much. Ouch, motherf…” The comms cut out.

Eysin smears some yellow substance from her glove onto the javelin’s head and refocuses on the bear. Her peculiar zerk vision offers little assistance. The bear ambles slowly and erratically, its anger evident. It appears someone has already injured one of its hind legs. It grunts and huffs, then stretches up against a tree. What is it looking for?

Eysin realises it has stretched up at the tree she had climbed earlier. “Oh, damn, you know I’m here, huh?” And as she says that, the bear moves to a position that blocks her clear shot.

“Motherf…” Eysin mutters, echoing Atlas, and leaps forward several trees. At such heights, she finds the experience far from calming.

Eysin must remind herself not to think about it—just focus on the bear. Skillfully suppressing her thoughts, she manages to leap silently and flawlessly from one tree to the next. No branches fall, and no trees rustle from her gentle landings. But to her disappointment, the bear is no longer where she had expected.

Eysin holds her breath, attempting to ignore her pounding heart and listen more intently. It has become eerily quiet. Suddenly, the tree she is on shakes and falls, revealing the bear as the culprit. She tumbles like a ragdoll, quickly recovering as the bear charges. Scrambling up another tree, she leaps from one vertical trunk to another, swings around the fourth, then turns back and hurls the javelin. 

The javelin flies with incredible speed, like a dart. The velocity, the whistle—for a split second—adrenaline, victory, and ecstasy fill Eysin. Eysin imagines the bear being struck, roaring, and collapsing in the blink she has held back.

Instead, the tree Eysin lands in falls, too, and the bear keeps pace with her, charging up the falling tree and accelerating its ascent. Eysin throws herself aside, scrambling up another tree to reach where the javelin landed.

“Okay, I’ll leave it to your hands,” Eysin tells her Zerk and Framewerk as she approaches the lifeless javelin. She switches into the zerk’s trance, transforming into a calculating war machine suit. She sprints and rolls over the javelin while the bear charges after her. With a swift motion, Tranced Eysin flips around, throws, and flawlessly pierces the bear’s right front paw.

The bear returns to all fours, sniffs its paw, roars once more, and then crashes into the powdery snow, succumbing to a deep sleep and breathing peacefully as if in a sugar crash.

Eysin snaps out of her trance and focuses solely on finding the bag she had left hanging on a tree. Speechless, she remembers that the next step is to shear the fur closest to the parasite, shave the skin, and extract it.

While perched on the bear’s neck, struggling with the thick, coarse brown hair, she can’t resist touching its adorable ears.

“Is everyone alive?” Atlas asks over the radio. Green lights illuminate their visors as everyone confirms their survival. “Send me your locations; transport is on its way. See you all back at camp.”

***

The responder teams from Osel and Ceremony stay in a spacious, comfortable wooden house in the heart of the conservatory. They enjoyed a delicious supper of Solyanka, black bread, beef, butter, marinated cucumbers, mushrooms, meat jelly, mead, and cherry beer. The conservatory staff certainly knows how to throw a feast.

Now, the atmosphere is calm, and everyone attempts to unwind after a long, cold day. Some gather around the fireplaces in the hall, while others retreat to their rooms. Eysin and a few other members from EESO and the Brotherhood congregate around the table. The purple substance they extracted from the bears’ heads has transformed into a perfect marble, a flawless, pearl-shaped gem.

Atlas examines it, using his Eesian sight to appreciate the light show—flames swirling inside and around the marble, flashes of light radiating in every direction, clouds bursting. “What exactly makes it a parasite?” Atlas inquires.

If you must know something about Atlas, he’s a master of polearms and has been training Eysin for under a year. He’s not a member of EESO but is a highly respected leader within the Brotherhood. He has a large house, many children (and more on the way), and cares for a pack of oversized, silver-haired hunter-mutts.

The marble has been passed from hand to hand around the table, and now Atlas rolls it back to Eysin. “Has everyone who wanted to see it had a look?” he asks.

No one else expresses an interest in examining it.

Responding to Atlas’ question, Eysin says, “Who knows—It’s just what the Gotland council insisted on calling it.” Eysin takes a turn to observe it with her Eesian sight and appreciates the beauty that everyone else has seen. Eysin supposes the value it holds makes it even more enchanting.

“So, we hand that to the Gotland Library, and they come to fix our temple problems?” Imogen asks. “That’s all it takes?” The job has seemed like a piece of cake to her. “Kind of expensive for a parasite…” If you need to know anything about Imogen, she’s chief in EESO and leads one of the more prominent local factions residing on both Osel and Ceremony. Imogen moved to Ceremony because, through marriage to the late Arthur Atelbaer, she inherited a large, old mansion. A portion of the faction moved in with her after the disputes with the Brotherhood, the more dominant force in Ceremony, were resolved.

“I don’t think it’s a parasite,” Asya begins, then quickly hides her face behind a large mug of tea. She peeks at Eysin. If you need to know anything about Asya, she is an expert healer who knows all the tricks with Eesian and medicines from the local culture. On paper, Asya came along in case someone got mauled by a bear, but under Theogene’s command, she was there to learn all the “Purple” related techniques from Eysin. 

Eysin weighs the marble in her hand, “As I said, they insisted on calling it that—The records that taught the extraction method called it by various other names—”

Feeling relieved, Asya puts her mug down and says, “It’s a heart, isn’t it? It’s like the red ones—but more advanced. They can’t deny it’s alive, right?”

“Ah, it is what it is,” Atlas interrupts, having decided he doesn’t want to get into it. “The temple on Osel, the Terratorium on Ceremony – we get those fixed, we’re fine. If that object is what it takes to solve our problems, I don’t care.” Atlas had been baffled by the response Gotland had to their request to come to help fix the temple and the Terratorium. No monetary offer Vinu Laos presented would satisfy them—and knowing Vinu, he had the capacity to go high.

Eysin keeps saying, “The records were a little poetic about it. I only had a little time to review, as they would only allow me to learn the specifics we needed to extract from these animals. I could ingest this purple bead right now – and you wouldn’t get it out of me—a slightly different method for humans. As for the animals, a mere shard would help the entity gain the functions it needs to control the animal. Some of you might have those shards in you right now, too—but to control a human, a shard is not enough—”

“Sure sounds like a parasite to me,” Atlas waves his hand.

“Well, a parasite, a symbiote—The records called it a Demonstration of Excess, Demons with extraordinary power. They are no parasites—and they are not Eesian, either. The records did not show whether this other species we’re looking at—and I’ve been trying to think about it—mimics Eesian Compression. Or is this species where this compression method originates from?”

“Well, now you make it sound more expensive than a parasite,” Atlas sighs.

“I think we’re selling ourselves short here,” Eysin puts the purple marble into a tiny box. “Curious, what do they do with it?”

“Study it? Sell it to the highest bidder?” Asya takes a few guesses.

“Yeah, I want to hear all about how they sell it to the Nords,” Atlas becomes visibly angry. The Nords had been increasing interest in all things Eesian, and Gotland was neutral enough to ignore the Balts’ pleas not to accommodate their requests so much.

“A deal is a deal,” Imogen interrupts them, sliding the box over the table so Eysin can put the bead in it. It’s not our business what they do with it.”