Already graded! Sample chapter for application. I forgot this actually counted.

There was a knock on the door. Whoever it was didn’t really have to knock. Inillis had harbored himself in a smaller room in the Arcanum’s vast tower. The room was in a state of being half lived-in. Most of the higher portions of the towering hickory bookcases were undisturbed; the rows of alphabetized tomes and journals sat undisturbed. Moving down, sections of books had been pulled out and stacked in the corners, to make room for the cheap and short novels that Inillis imbibed in. Other spots stripped of books held tools, old scrawlings of failed enchantments, and various glassware dusted with spent powders of terra regia.

There was a desk in the center of it, bearing scattered diagrams of an art most would frown upon. The various authors of the diagrams were attempting to explain something unexplainable, so that readers could visualize the unseeable. Inillis was studying the mortal soul. Behind the desk, away from the door, several blankets and cushions had been put down. It served as both a couch and a bed. The point is that Inillis was living in a room that wasn’t his. Whenever some aspiring mage wanted something, they barged right in. Of the people who bothered to knock, most of them were friends. The Demvir opened the door.

“Ah! You’re home. Good. How are you doing?”

He was being greeted by Lucien, a terran engineer who would occasionally need a part or two reinforced with enchantments. He leaned on his oversized shovel as he talked, and used the pause to wipe some dirt on his baggy work pants.

“I’m perfectly functional. It’s been a peaceful segment of time, to the point of being monotonous,” Inillis responded. “This is unexpected, may I assume you have news of your own?”

Lucien slowly nodded, “I found something you’re going to want to see.”

“That’s it?” the Demvir asked. “You don’t need anything enchanted, you just want me to look at something?”

Inillis could hardly imagine what Lucien had in mind. It was probably some useless machine the laicar made to set the table perfectly, or a weird bone he dug up, or a cluster of rubble that happened to be vaguely phallic. In Inillis’s experience, the laicar loved vaguely phallic shapes.

Lucien frowned. He leaned back as if he was going to walk away, but both of them knew better.

“I guess I could care less whether you look at it or not, but it’s Demvir stuff. I’m telling you as a favor.”

“Hmm.” Inillis straightened his hat. Now Lucien had his attention. "I happen to be unoccupied anyway at the moment. I could stand to accompany you to whatever this is.”

The man flashed a genuine smile.

“I knew you’d come around.”

With a quick heel-pivot, Lucien began heading back through the library. Inillis followed, but with a more measured style of enthusiasm compared to the terran’s excited shoving and hustle.The two journeyed out of the library and down a labyrinth of corridors and alleyways. Minutes passed and Inillis noticed less of the polished metal of new buildings. The litter on the roads was replaced by bits of stone and framework. Several minutes further down, roaches, rats, and other unseen vermin stalked the growing shadows. They were headed toward the old ruins.

Inillis’s guess was proven when Lucien approached one of the lifts for descending into the ancient remnants. It was an older lift, leading to adventures that had already run their course, but the Demvir could make out a couple working lights on the controls. The walls were short, and the floor made of grating. It looked like the type of lift that would certainly sway back and forth on the way down. He wasn’t looking forward to that.

Lucien stepped on, and fiddled with one of the levers.

“About a week ago,” the laicar began, “I got lucky enough to be volunteered for cleanup. Some idiots left a whole expedition’s worth of machinery down there, and it’s up to me to bring it back up.”

“Thrilling.” Inillis resolved to be patient enough for Lucien to get to the point. The Demvir tentatively stepped on as well.

“So I get an excuse to be down there for as long as I want, and go wherever I want. Altrax gives me supplies, lets me use their lift, everybody’s happy.”

As the man spoke, the two began lowering into the darkness.

“So it’s a piece of machinery then? This thing you’re showing me?”

“Well yes… but not one that was left behind by the adventurers. I’m down there, cleaning up, when I notice a seam in one of the walls.”

The demvir ventured a guess. “It was a fake wall. One that everyone missed but you?”

“Sure enough. I would have never found it, honestly, if I didn't make half a dozen fake walls myself for a particularly paranoid client.”

Lucien was quiet after that. There were no more spoilers for whatever it was. The farther the two got from the city, the less ambient light there was. Inillis glanced up, slightly anxious about descending further into the shadows on a rickety platform. His own glow from his eyes and joints became steadily more noticeable, as did the clicking of the gears of the lift.

Finally, the lift stopped. Lucien took out a flashlight, throwing a beam of illumination across the ancient ruins.

“It’s just around the corner here.”

Inillis followed him down a corridor until they reached a small room. There were rocks and carved pieces of what used to be an ornate ceiling piled up around the ceiling. In the dead center of the room was a demvir.

The chassis of the metal person was split open down the middle of the torso, pushed out by the jagged boulder piercing upward from beneath them. From the wound, there were exposed gears, plates of metal, and miraculously, an intact core glowing a light blue. Inillis stared in ghastly silence. They had no business disturbing this person’s tomb.

“I’ve had enough,” he said quietly.

Lucien grabbed his arm. “Just wait.” The terran was still excited about something.

Inillis waited, still shifting his weight away from the room. The carnage drew his attention unwillingly. There was a small flash of the demvir’s blue core, like that of a firefly, before a line of gears moved and clicked. The line ended at the wound, and the flicker of life halted.

“See!” Lucien tugged at Inillis’s arm and pointed with his shovel, “it’s alive! I think I can fix it. It’s pretty clear which things hook up with what.”

“They’re alive then? That’s fortuitous. Extraordinary, actually. That’s…”

Inillis rubbed his brow. This wasn’t a tomb at all, it was a birthday.

The Laicar explained, “I figured you’d want to be here when I did. Officially welcome it to Terminus and all.”

“I owe you much gratitude, friend. Thank you. It would be an honor to deliver the first words to a fellow demvir.”

Inillis sat down, leaning against the wall. He had some decisions to make. What would he say? What even could he say that would be adequate for this? It was the mother of all first impressions, and could shape this person’s perception of everything. Whatever he said would have to be perfect.

Time passed as he thought. Lucien dragged a set of tools from behind a boulder, picked up the wounded demvir off of the spike, and got to work. The terran must have been preparing for this for a while. Inillis realized he was somewhat on a deadline. The whole reveal was dramatic enough to earn his respect, but it would have been practical to know some of this in advance.

You have been granted a second chance in a broken world. Welcome to Terminus. Welcome to-

No, that didn’t really tell them anything. It was as good as saying nothing. Lucine bent the internal framework into shape with a crowbar. It was a delicate motion, despite the bulk of the tool.
We have given you life, and to repay this debt you must-

Absolutely not. As tempting as it was to take advantage of the situation, this was crossing a line. This was not his birthday. He needed a proper birthday gift, perhaps a bit of wisdom to pass on.
Inillis put his hands on his temples and leaned forward. He spent several minutes searching for the right words to express everything he had learned. Lucien had connected a line of gears. The rest of the work had to go a bit quicker to avoid damage the next time the demvir tried to awaken.

The world around us, the people, the society, is a fragile thing, held back by self-imposed limits in a foolish attempt to-

He was getting closer, but that still felt wrong. That was his perspective, and it should be up to them to agree or not. That would have to be a lecture for another time, after they weren’t as vulnerable. Didn’t he have a piece of wisdom more basic? Even comforting?

There was one thing he could say. The first words he ever heard himself. If there was anything a demvir ever needed to hear, it was that. Not only did the phrase leave the receiver some choice, it encouraged it.

“The Demvir are free."

Satisfied, he stood up and helped Lucien with his work.