EPISODE ONE (Prologue: Luke) - "The Longest Night"

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story by Mabel Harper & Cassidy Webb

written by Cassidy Webb

Saving the world wasn't a thing Luke Langit would have tried to do if she wasn't in it.

But she was.

So here he was, just minutes from midnight on the longest night of the year, hurrying down the wooded trail off Hermit's Lane, the night-vision agimat behind his left ear amped to full blast as he glanced over his shoulder for the umpteenth time to make sure he hadn't been followed.

It was cold, but not nearly cold enough for the middle of the night in late December. Philly had gotten only one real snow so far this season, back in mid-November. Since then, it had been too warm for snow.

Fuckin' global warming. Even if I do stop the apocalypse, damn mundanes are gonna kill us all.

Luke kept his hooded head down, ignored the jeers of a band of piss-drunk frat boys who roved past him in the opposite direction. Kept his eyes to the trail as a crumpled beer can bounced off his shoulder.

UPenn white legacy sons of bitches...

Whatever. They didn't matter.

Nothing mattered.

Except her.

On that one snowy day in November, he hadn't been able to keep his thoughts from returning to her. To that winter day seven years before, when he'd implanted the last of her agimat. The soft flakes drifting down outside her bedroom window. Her blood drying on his hands, her tender skin bruised, torn, crudely stitched. She hadn't made a sound while he'd worked, even though he hadn't been able to get her an elixir for the pain, or even any halfway decent mundane drugs—just a bottle of Extra Strength Advil from Tito Ollie's medicine cabinet.

Her mom and her mom's boyfriend had been screaming at the far end of the house that day, almost nonstop. Luke had hardly been able to concentrate enough to finish the ritual. But she, high-strung as she was, had been calm, her calligraphed eyes steady on him throughout, never straying.

Their bullshit always seems far away when you're here, she'd said.

Luke knew those kinds of things weren't easy for her to say.

Years fanned past in his memory like pages of an open book struck by a gust of wind. He recalled, like it had been yesterday, a message she'd left in his voicemail last summer:

So Dad just fucking showed up out of nowhere. Doesn't remember who I am, keeps thinking I'm Mom. Fucking drugs finally cooked his brain or something. I don't know what to do with him. And Mom's still fuck knows where, and like...actually, you know what, I don't know why I even fucking called you, 'cause honestly? Fuck you, Luke. I don't even want your help at this point. The most you'll do is give me some schlocky spiel about how you're here for me always and forever, then stop answering my texts the millisecond the shit hits the fan. So like...fuck you. I hope wherever you are right now you can feel in the marrow of your fucking bones how much I fucking hate you and what a fucking piece-of-shit liar you are.

It took all Luke's mental effort to slam the book shut.

You may never know the truth, he thought. Took a deep breath. That everything I did was for you. But it doesn't matter what you think of me, as long as you survive. As long as someday you're happy...

The currents in his mana veins began to thrum strangely, a sign his destination wasn't far off. He wondered if the Martial Magus was close enough to feel it, too. There'd been a time when Luke never would have dreamed he'd stoop to rubbing elbows with one of Ordo Arcanus's hyped-up magic cops, but you made strange bedfellows when you were doing everything you could to stop the world from getting hosed more than three hundred years ago.

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