OSTFRIESEN CASTLE - MAGICAL CONTAINMENT CHAMBER
Hollow Grounds sits in the middle of a rather spacious room that's barely furnished save for a few chairs and a couple of tables, all of which are occupied by books and scrolls and a small stack of parchment paper. The air in the room feels oddly still, almost 'dead' in a way, as though something is missing that is otherwise ubiquitous in the air all around the rest of the castle.
Hollow Grounds carefully makes notes on a piece of parchment paper spread on the table in front of him. His horn glows in an odd medley of colors, an inky purple-black swirling about with a softer golden glow. Hovering before him are two small orbs of magic, one bright gold, the other the unmistakeable black of dark magic.
Narrator: There is a knock at the door followed by a familiar voice from outside it.
Promethea: Ser Hollow? May I come in? I would speak with you.
Hollow Grounds brings the two orbs closer together, but stops just short of touching them to one another when Promethea's voice reaches his ears. He responds after a moment, using the proper protocol for communication in and out of the chamber. "Of course, Lady Promethea. It is safe to enter, I am merely conducting some small tests at the moment."
Promethea opens the door and steps inside, barring the door behind her. "Ah, it's been a while since I came here. Perhaps I ought to try to stretch my abilities more so that I can make use of this place again." She walks over to where Hollow is seated and looks over the orbs. "What are you doing exactly?"
Hollow Grounds gives the orbs a little bit of a spin around each other in the air, though it seems to accomplish nothing. "I am simply conducting an experiment to see if my suspicions about my magic and my... 'other' magic are correct." He pauses and looks towards Thea with a little smile, "You wished to speak with me, though?"
Promethea looks over the orbs one last time, then turns away. Sadly, or perhaps not, her elemental magic had only weak interactions with the more traditional magics of ponies. She pulls out a chair from the table and takes a seat facing Hollow. "I heard that there was a guild-sanctioned assassination attempt on Millennia and that you were there. Is this correct?"
Hollow Grounds nods and sets his quill down as he turns to better face Promethea. "Yes, I believe you heard about the aftermath of that incident rather quickly. It was quite the audacious attack, even for the Guild."
Promethea nods. "From the details, it sounds like you were perhaps the only pony short of the princesses who could have stopped it."
Hollow Grounds glances back at the orbs for a moment as they hover in front of the tables. "Truthfully, we were lucky. The assassins did not account for my dark magic while weaving that time prison. It allowed me to break free after I'd already been ensnared."
Promethea nods. "I see... and what became of Millennia after the attack? She isn't in any of the wards or clinics in Ostfriesen and no one can remember seeing her since that day. I have had quell some rumors that the assassins were ultimately successful."
Hollow Grounds tilts his head curiously. "She is in none of the wards or clinics?" He taps his chin for a moment, "She mentioned that she wished to recover from her injuries in a place that she trusted, and intended to stay well out of sight until she healed completely, I recall."
Promethea nods. "I started asking after her because she's a hero to many of the orphans and they were worried, but when I couldn't find her, I became more worried." She frowns a bit. "Do you think we should trust her or might it better to tell the Princesses? If the assassins attacked again in secret, we might never know."
Hollow Grounds nods. "I already told her that I would report the incident to the Princesses. I also shared my concerns with her about a potential attack while she's vulnerable. It may be a good idea to mention this to the Princesses as well,if only for Millennia's safety."
Promethea nods. "I'll take that on, then." She frowns a bit. "But why was she targeted? That's the question. She was boastful, certainly, but no more so than many other adventurers. Who would want her dead badly enough to pay for assassins of that calibre?"
Hollow Grounds shrugs and shakes his head. "If only I knew the answer... Millennia hinted that this was not the first time she has been the target of an assassination, so I imagine it would be someone or a group with very deep coffers. That does not narrow it down much, sadly."
Promethea sighs. "It would be easier if she were less cryptic about who she is. Even the Adventurers' Guild doesn't know anything more about her than can be easily gleaned. No one there has seen her out of armor, she pays her dues in normal coin, and takes her quests as is proper for her rank within the guild."
Hollow Grounds hums. "Indeed. She also appeared averse to the idea of removing her armor to let the doctors examine her burns, even though she was nearly cooked alive in it. So I imagine the clinics and wards would likewise have very little information about her..."
Promethea nods. "And of course the Healers' Guild cannot be compelled to release such information, even if a private healer knew anything." She frowns a bit, her mane beginning to smoke from frustration. "I just wish she wasn't such a mystery."
Hollow Grounds nods in agreement. "It would make things much less frustrating, but I suspect she has her reasons for it. And I also suspect that she keeps herself mysterious in the event of something like the recent assassination attempt happens. The less one knows of the target, the harder it is to successfully attack them."
Promethea nods. "Well, that is what I came to ask you about. Thank you, ser Hollow."
Hollow Grounds courteously dips his head. "Of course, Lady Promethea. I am always happy to assist wherever I can."
Promethea turns to look at the twin orbs of magical energy. "How exactly does this experiment work?"
Hollow Grounds looks back at the two orbs. "I am simply taking two orbs of pure magic, one for each kind of magic I possess, and am trying to see if my hypothesis regarding destructive interference is correct. I suspect my normal magic used to be quite weak in the past due to the fact that I often attempted to mix both together at the same time, for the same spell."
Hollow Grounds brings the two orbs closer together, but doesn't quite touch them to one another just yet. "I believe the two types of magic interfere with each other in such a way that they either cancel each other out, or dark magic takes priority when both are used to fuel spells."
Promethea nods a bit. "I see..." She watches the experiment otherwise quietly.
Hollow Grounds focuses his gaze on the orbs as he carefully brushes the two against each other. The surface of the golden orb seems to ripple and crackle slightly, and he winces as a tickle of magical feedback jabs into his horn. "Nngh... Certainly some sort of interference..."
Promethea looks to Hollow as he winces, then turns her attention back to the orbs.
Hollow Grounds picks up his quill again and makes a couple of notes. He turns his gaze back up to the orbs again as he moves them a little further apart, and then seems to brace himself as the orbs waver back and forth in the air. "This next step is necessary for experimentation, but... I am not looking forward to the inevitable headache..."
Promethea looks to Hollow. "Is it dangerous?"
Hollow Grounds shakes his head. "It should not be dangerous. If I had to guess, from what we just saw, the dark magic orb will... short out the other one, if I make them contact each other more forcefully. That will likely just result in a jolt of feedback... At least, that is what I am praying happens."
Promethea nods. She summons forth her armor from the amulet around her neck anyway, just to be safe. She rests a hoof supportively on Hollow's shoulder. "Do what you must."
Hollow Grounds nods and takes a deep breath before slowly letting it out again. He glances between the two orbs for a moment, then swiftly brings them together before he has any second thoughts.
Narrator: The orbs crackle as they try to merge with one another, but after several moments of back and forth, the golden orb of magic seems to crack, shatter and dissipate. Hollow rocks back in his seat at the same moment, recoiling and bringing a hoof to his forehead as he tries his best to maintain his magic in order to record the results. However, the magical aura around his horn flickers and fades as he leans forward to rest his head against the table with a groan.
Promethea quickly checks Hollow's vitals. Once she's sure that he's okay, she takes her canteen from her hip and proffers it next to Hollow's lips.
Hollow Grounds lifts his head after a moment and looks at the canteen. He then smiles and takes a grateful sip from it before he slowly pushes himself back upright. He continues to massage his head a bit. "Thank you, Promethea... I am fine..."
Promethea puts the canteen back to her hip and crouches down to look Hollow in the face. "You don't look fine. Can I do anything to help?"
Hollow Grounds nods a bit. "Perhaps two things, I think... First, if you could tell me what happened when the two orbs collided, please? I may have, er... lost focus at that moment."
Promethea does her best to recall those moments. "They merged and fought and then it was like the dark orb took the other one inside it and crushed it like a egg..."
Hollow Grounds blinks, then sits up a little straighter. "So the dark magic orb was intact, then? Hm..." He reaches for his quill again and starts writing down some more notes on a fresh sheet of parchment, "Was there anything else of note before I lost my grasp on the magic?"
Promethea shakes her head. "Not quite intact, but strong enough to break the other one... but it all dissipated after that moment... I don't recall precisely."
Hollow Grounds nods again as he makes a few more notes. "That would be about the time the feedback hit me, then... Thank you for the information." He chuckles as he sets the quill down again, "...And I think I know the other thing with which you could assist me, Promethea..."
Promethea straightens up and cocks her head after taking a drink of water. "How is that exactly?"
Hollow Grounds takes a moment to rub his head a little more. "If you happen to have a couple of aspirins on hoof, I believe they would be quite helpful in quelling this dreadful headache..."
Promethea laughs. She summons her armor again and takes out the small field medical kit she has. There's no aspirin, but there is a pain-numbing poultice. She massages the poultice together to activate it and then presses it into place on Hollow's scalp and around his horn. She lashes it down gently with the cloth sling, but not as tightly as she would do were this on a mission or battlefield.
Hollow Grounds sits still as Thea secures the poultice in place on his head, and he chuckles as it begins to soothe the pounding in his head. Over the course of several seconds, he starts to visibly relax. "Ahh... My thanks, milady..."
Promethea smiles. "Of course." She idly summons up a similarly sized ball of flame and floats it in the same place that Hollow's orbs were for a few moments before dismissing it. "If you ever have need of some elemental magic to study, let me know."
Hollow Grounds eyes the orb of flames with visible interest, then nods and smiles at Promethea once she dismisses it. "I shall certainly keep it in mind, milady. It would be quite an opportunity!"
Promethea offers a small bow of respect. "I would love to chat more, but sadly about a hundred orphans will want their storytime soon..." She heads to the door. "Until the next time."
Hollow Grounds bows in turn. "It would be best to not keep the little ones waiting. Until we next meet, Lady Promethea. Thank you again for your assistance."
Promethea heads back out into the endless hallway, leaving Hollow to his work.
Hollow Grounds lightly rubs at the edge of the poultice as he turns his attention back to the notes he's written. He shuffles the stack and starts going over them all, then picks up his quill and begins writing his conclusions on the experiment.