Sorry about this little delay so immediately after the format change, I ended up merging what was originally pages 1 and 2 together since they encompassed the entirety of this little flashback anyway, but that meant finishing up panels I didn’t have quite ready yet.

The next update will be on Monday the 18th, and from then on, Mon/Fri as originally planned.

I’ll be posting a transcript for each page, to make it easier on people who use mobile/want to run the text through translation services.

At the age of ten, Arthur Chicadino lost a coin down a storm drain and started down a path that would consume millions.

[Image 1]

Now, Little Arty was born a very special boy, and he knew it. Not because his parents told him so, of course. Firstly, because all loving parents do that, which makes the gesture worthless, and secondly, because Arty did not have loving parents. Loving parents did not send their sons to beg for money on the streets, or pluck out their feathers when they talked too much. No, Arty knew he was special because his eyes had a starry glimmer to them.

He learned early on what he was capable of, when he tried to fool his parents by hiding some of his earned coin under his tongue. As he leaned over the sink outside, washing the metal taste from his mouth and the aching from his bruises, he realized he could still hear their radio in the house, crackling loudly. The money his parents took from him had absorbed his magic and become tiny ears for him to spy with. He experimented over the next few weeks to find the limit of his abilities, sucking on seeds and spitting them out near busy intersections, and discovered he could hear several streams of sound in the back of his head, parsing two, five, ten distant conversations at once, just as clearly as if they were right next to him. Young Arty marvelled at the complex world unfolding around him, and the possibilities of this magic raced through his mind.

First, I should destroy my parents, the boy thought. So he did. He infected their house keys and jotted down every incriminating thing he heard them say and do as he panhandled on the streets. Arty found that his father was constantly embezzling money from work for himself and blowing it all at the parlors, while his mother was having affairs behind his back with every able-bodied mammal on the block, and once he’d compiled several months worth of dirt, he left each of them anonymous missives revealing the other’s behaviors where he knew they’d find them. From there, their paranoia and pettiness did all of the work for him, and within a week, their relationship, reputations, and mental states were in complete shambles as young Arty flew into the night, knowing he would manage just fine on his own.

Arty took up residence in the backstreets of charming Sorvail, spreading his bugs throughout the town and absorbing every scrap of information that passed his way. He’d drop 1-Crumb coins behind furniture in the local hangouts and make a killer profit selling info to tourists on the streets. Then he would loan out his pocket change to schoolchildren so he could eavesdrop on their lessons without spending a single day in the classroom. He made friends almost as easily as he made money, he believed; it was easy to get to know a person when you could spend a week listening to their life before you even said a word to them. As he easily obtained everything he’d wanted, Arty’s ambitions began to wane without a greater goal to strive for, whether he realized it or not. With comfort had come complacency, and with complacency came normality, and for a while, it seemed Arty would have been satisfied with the cushy little life he had constructed for himself forever.

But then, of course, he dropped that coin into that storm drain.

[Image 2]

It was such a little mistake. The Nibble had slipped out of his coinpurse while he was paying for a bag of birdseed. Arty seethed as he heard it bounce off the pipe walls. He’d intended to sneak that Nibble into a cafe he’d heard a local politician frequented, but as the coin made its way out into the silt of Sorvail’s cave systems, he found the sound of the underground streams to be so soothing that he quickly forgot why he was mad. As years went by and Arty became Arthur, he couldn’t bring himself to disrupt the connection, as the white noise had become a crucial element of his bedtime routine.

Then one night, some five years later, Arthur was suddenly awakened by strange noises in the caves. Crashes and yelling, and horrible monstrous shrieks filled the back of his head. Metal and magic clanged off of cramped underground walls for some tense minutes, and then finally, it all went still save for the sound of liquid dripping. Arthur was half-convinced he had been hallucinating until a deep voice broke the silence.

“Your ‘precious babies’ can’t help you now, witch. Give up the identity of the Specter of Fate or I start taking off the other arms.” The man’s voice had a tone of nobility and righteousness to it, but Arthur knew it was the kind that was aped, rather than earned, he’d heard it so many times before. But he had never heard anything quite like the horrible voice that answered next.

[Image 3, text reads: “Guo. Ho. Ho ho. ‘Who is the Specter?’ What a silly question.”]

The voice struggled to form words, out of both strain and spite. It darted back and forth between various pitches, lacking an identity of its own. Arthur thought he had learned every dialect there was from living in Sorvail, but this… thing was just alien to him.

“Don’t test my patience,” the man spat. “I’m not giving you a choice.”

[Image 4, text reads: Sinfriochati!]

Arthur heard magical energy surge as the thing screeched horribly, clearly struggling to resist the effect of this spell. The man simply laughed.

“Don’t bother trying to break it. I designed that brand myself, its effect won’t fade until the day you die, no matter what you do to me or how much you magic you throw at it.” Arthur could hear sizzling flesh under the man’s words. He was utterly engrossed in the horror show unfolding deep in those caves away from prying eyes. “Now then, tell me what I want to know.”

“Fine. I’ll. Tell you. You won’t. like it,” she relented. “The Specter of Fate is. Dead. Always was. That is what makes it a specter. Ob. Vi. Ous. Ly. But its memories live on within the stars. Its desire to consume knowledge is born again and again through new flesh, bolstered by the blood of gods-”

“Skip the dramatics! Just tell me who the newest one is!” the man yelled. There was a desperation in his voice Arthur had heard thousands of times, this was a man who’d messed up dearly before, and couldn’t face whoever it was he answered to without getting this information.

“I don’t know. I only know that they are out there. The Lucky Star’s flare has since come and gone, but they have not come forward to me yet.” Poda cackled, sickly. “Guo ho, hohoho, see, I told you. Said you wouldn’t like it.”

“Ugh! Useless bag of dragon blood!” the man cried out. Arthur listened intently as the man fumed and kicked for a few seconds, but then jumped as new sounds of panic filled the space. The man suddenly went deathly silent, making way for the noise of muted choking.

“Guo ho… No no no. Not useless. I am Poda, Hand of the Specter of Fate. I am exactly as useful as a limb need be, even severed from the brain, just as that tentacle currently tightening around your neck was.” Malice was dripping from her words as the sound of metal spikes hitting the floor reverberated around the chamber. “No one can stop Fate. Not the old woman, not her little Veil, and certainly not you.” There was a sickening, meaty noise as the choking was cut short. Arthur had some guesses as to how she finished the man off, and none of them were pleasant.

And then, all that could be heard on the channel was the flow of water once more. Arthur wandered to his bedroom window, still processing what he’d just witnessed. He almost couldn’t believe it. Monsters and magical conspiracies waiting to snap down on anyone who poked their beak too close to the truth. A chill ran up his spine, the witch’s words running through his mind.

[Image 5]

Chee hee hee! How thrilling! he thought.