Secret of Mana


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          Square-Enix polishes another offering from their vault. Another classic comes to the modern era: Secret of Mana.

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Anecdotes of Blackness


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          This is a collection of stories that, when considered together, can help inform you on my perspective of Race in America.

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Mirror, Mirror



Mirror, Mirror, In the Dark
To light a fire I need a spark
I need a candle to light the way
To see me to the break of day
The path I walk, on hidden ground
The air, too cold to feel around
In fear, I work to make it bright
To grant shelter, warmth, and light
To see me to my humble goal
I ignite a bit of my precious soul
For an instant, in a flash
The Mirror gleams, and then a crash
To broken fragments do I reach
The pieces still do lessons teach
An edge too sharp breeds a wicked cut
A surge of pain to break the minds’ old rut
From the wound a gout of blood
And from the eyes, tears fall and flood
The easy answer now broke apart
To be pieced together with a solemn heart
Because Mirror, for an instant I could see
The answer revealed was no more than Me

The Beast Within – Marks VIII



~To become Immortal and wield Blue Magic, you must first consider: What is Destiny?~

          The twilight leading into the morning slowly grew lighter. The stars in the night sky were swallowed up by the suns’ light as it peered more and more over the horizon. The sea sparkled in kind with its own hued light. A corridor of magic opened on a path along the upper walls of Whitegate, the tension of the weaving a blink of an otherwise easy sunrise. In this space, in the dead of morning, the city slept. No one saw the ornately garbed Immortal set foot onto the stones, heard the gold soled bottoms of his charuq as they landed upon his adopted home. The only souls to bear witness were those housed by Seraph himself, power gathered across his travels.
          Unable to help himself, he lost himself to the memories of arrival in this foreign city and how the warm stones first greeted him. Of the enigmatic soothsayer who, instead of revealing the tapestry of fate, caused the Elvaan to seize it. Of the hands that had borne him up, of those whose grasp he evaded, and those who gave a push but were missing…
          What seemed like it was just a few moments in time had spanned hours. A boat had drawn into port, and fresh faced adventurers could be seen stepping into Aht Urhgan for their first time. One of them, taking the whole of the city in noticed watchful eyes from above. Gaining the attention of their compatriots, the collective gaze of the group went upward. Even Seraph’s hearing did not extend from this far. But…


          All the workers at the dock turned their eyes upward.

          “Guardian of the Empress…”

          Seraph had been away too long as to be mindful of what his attire represented. For him, it was a means to an end. To focus a torrent-swelled river to an intended course. For the people of Aht Urhgan…

          …was he guardian?


          …Beast to be put down?

          He proceeded along the upper pathways of the city. The attentiveness followed him. A mix of awe and terror seeped out of the mouths of children. As Seraph descended a set of stairs, parents shooed away their charges as subtly as they could. Approaching one of the guards of the city, they straightened up considerably. So ornate the unique cloth, purple and white, spilling out from leather armor while brandishing spears. All things in Whitegate that were simple in the Middle Lands of home were lush and ornate in the Near East. Seraph requested Sanction, special dispensation granted to mercenaries from the Middle Lands, which stirred confusion within the guard. ‘What high and mighty Immortal need suffer the permissions of commoners when favored by the Empress?‘ they must have wondered. Seraph proceeded toward The Imperial Whitegate, a structure that shared its name with the city, which was ornate and wrought with gold as the least expensive of the metals in it. The monolithic wall housed the seat of power of the Empire of Aht Urhgan. When last he came here it was to to accept his next mission as one of the Empresses’ favored soldiers.

          Now it was time to continue to walk along the path he had chosen.

          Under the eyes of more soldiers, ever vigilant, Seraph laid his hands on the archway which would take him to the palace. It was cold and unyielding.

          The time was here.

          The Justice one seeks will be branded as Vengeance by another. Seraph would not sleep until these scales were balanced. Under his hands, the gate began to open. The guards were called to attention. Seraph’s being, one soul fueled by one hundred and twelve more, focused their collective into one word. One name. One sound which would open the floodgates within him and spill wrath, wreck, and ruin upon the world.


          So much led to this point. His recent life, in an instant, came to the forefront of Seraph’s mind. What was the word Waoud had chosen so short yet so long ago…?

~ What is destiny?”~
~“It is what one must decide for oneself.”~

Transformations – Marks VII



Disclaimer – 28 December 2017

          Much like anyone who has developed a skill I cringe looking back on earlier works. I know this work will be a hard to read and is not formatted in the best way. However my writings past, present, and future will all be made with the same heart and spirit. I love writing. I love sharing what I make. I take pride in all the works I produce. This is simply from my earlier days. Back then, I didn’t know what I was going to make out of this blogging gig. So I wrote, and I posted. If I got hung up on it being perfect, I never would have shared it.

          Since then I’ve read and learned. The results that came from 150% effort in the past come from 30% now. That is just how growth works.

          I may come back and edit this one day to bring it in line with my present standards. This is likely if my written works prove to earn my daily bread. Or if I have no pending articles (ha) and find myself bored. Still, I would not have made it where I am without this stepping stone, humble as it is.

This said, none-the-less, I hope you enjoy reading this offering.

Jasper H.B. a.k.a. zerohourseraphim

Night is more than darkness; sleep more than dreams. The mind is the One Truth of a particular Immortal.

In a wholly blackened space Seraph gained awareness. An air, warm yet biting, extended from within him. somehow found footing. Red lights, numerous and brilliant like stars, winked in. Sparkling all around him it took a time to gain a memory of where he was. Much changed, he was in his inner world again. Strands of energy began to extend from star to star, forming constellations. Every creature he had ever seen, all those which held the potential of Blue Magic, formed in the dark sphere. The forms of these slowly showed life, imitating the beings they represented in real life. One by one, a sizable number moved from red to blue. Each creature was one which essence had been pulled into his being. As each one darkened, they pulled in closer and closer, until they were absorbed in the form consciousness held to. Some, halting their shift and their advance, held within the limits of a very luminous violet. These had already given a spell. With violet being the result of the ends of the spectrum it could only be surmised that there was more these creatures could offer, if only greater depths of strength could be attained. Nebulae floated beyond all these, representing potential in unseen forms.

Enthralled by the beauty and the empowerment, he attempted to take a step forward to revel more fully in it and found he was stuck to the spot.

“Now now… I can’t have just wandering wherever you please.”

Flowing as blood from every pore the essence of the magic he had taken in came out of him. It did not pool out over a flat area. At this he discarded the idea that he was standing on some semblance of flat ground. Instead of dripping off him, it continued to flow. Slowly, it coalesced into another form. Feet, legs, torso, arms, and head. Slowly revealed was a mirror image of Seraph. His form, from head to toe, was an unusual tint of blue. The hair blended as one the blackness, as well as an odd smile. Literally spanning from ear to extend Elvaan ear, the teeth too perfectly aligned all throughout. Not quite a happy expression, it seemed to be at least pleased that he held his ‘Keeper’ trapped. Blackened eyes also contrasted the strangely colored flesh, white pupils rolling about. It blinked a few times, testing its more physical shell, then locked its ill colored eyes on its host.

“If I were to just let you parade about, you’d be liable to leave me behind” it said, it’s voice a twisted mocking of Seraph’s own. It resounded seductively, velvety, silky, dripping with promise. Seraph felt a tug at his foot. Apparently, it attempted to moved forward and leave him behind. “Likewise… If I lose control you will make it next to impossible for me to regain my footing in this world, and that is only before you are practiced at it. I have already lost a great deal of time to you, during which I was parted from my friend.” A surge of emotion washed down through the Elvaan, and once it coursed through his feet it surged up the Other, bring the latter to its knees. A pain struck Seraph, and in a mirrored fashion he came to his knees just the same. Knee to knee and fist to fist, the pair looked at each other in the eyes.

“Your peoples’ sin will do you in, Scion of Arrogance” it hissed, teeth extending to vicious points. A liquid dripped, falling upwards as it looked to Seraph. It streaked up his face, burning with a cold fire, and carried on. “I know I am arrogant, and as such I abide by cautions’ way to not succumb to it.” It laughed, more of the liquid falling against his perceived gravity, moving swiftly into the heavens all around. “And yet you jumped in at the first chance of harnessing the power you see before you? You were warned, boy! And you call that caution?” it said, hissing growing louder. Seraph realized that it came not from his Other, but from all around. It raised one hand up, straining to do so with its will alone, but still managing. “You have almost been the death of me!” it said, shaking its left fist before it was brought back to the ground.

Seraph’s anger welled up, another emotional surge being released, bringing the two forehead to forehead. “And you haven’t been! You’ve almost been the death of me!” An unusual division seemed to separate the two. Their motions were in perfect sync but by force. It looked at Seraph, empty eyes even emptier. “Just what do you think I am?” it asked. A questioning look spread across its face and Seraph could not tell whether it was mimicking of leading his own actions. Raising his head he looked about at the constellations, remembered the wind and how it was so familiar, and down and the blue hued creature tied to him like a shadow. “This reminds me of the feelings from when I grew up, to the point in which I gave into Blue Magic. Looking at you, I cannot help but recall so often being warned of the energies’ propensity to take over its vessel…”

It laughed. “You mistake me for that vile thing? I am hurt Seraph.” It’s voice, in truth, did sound indeed sound wounded. “No… I am the one thing that has held back that ignoble bastard back.” Seraph looked back the being. What else resided within? “I can’t have you dying on me just yet. I have a great deal to prove.” A Truth, a shade of potential, dawned on Seraph. He laughed, and in time, it laughed too. The only thing audacious enough to pass judgment, the only other thing that Seraph has held the whole of his life, keeping held back and constrained.


“Personally, I prefer ‘Will To Live’, but it matters little” it said. “You and I are, as we have always been,” Seraph admitted, “such titles are useless. We merely are.” It laughed again. “Oh, NOW you’re wise and well spoken. Let me ask you something then Oh He Who Heads the Circle of Sages… What do you intend to do about this?” Feeling a tug at his right hand, Seraph could see his ‘Will To Live’ attempting to raise its left hand. Moving in time with the sensation, the pair raised their fists. It led, the back of its hand facing the back of his. “This place is infinite. Every iota of your being wishes to be expressed without, all at the same time.” Archaic emblems flared on the back of Its hand. Foreign to Seraph, they each felt as though they represented one of the many professions he had seen. Pulsing in a rhythm, a few breaks indicated one that he missed and behind It, more nebulous formations appeared. Seeming to hold to more regular cohesion, these were the crests of his lacking jobs. It reflected surprise, and still being allowed sway turned its head. This gave Seraph license to look behind him. Places where Its spittle had fallen or ascended or adhered to whichever way gravity was going in this place gave way to lighted crests, shining bright with the experience he gained. When the two as one returned to facing each other, Seraph noted one sigil, prominently displayed, and hung his head.

“Knock that off” It said. “You’ve got MUCH more pressing concerns. You can see here all the powers you can use. But you have chosen but one to give predominant expression.” On the back of Its hand now revealed the Mark of Zahak. Seen as it should be, the two headed snake held the regality originally intended. On the leftmost serpent the neck was banded, showing having been touched by the staging point posted Immortals. Beginning to shine bright, Seraph had to brace himself as a surge of power came from It and back to him. “Fallen of the Zodiac, Final Threshold Against Sin, Tamer of the Beast from the Dark…” It said, hand trembling. “…I am…can… barely stave of what you’ve let roam free…”

Memories flooded Seraph, numerous… nigh indiscernible. In the small space of time he recalled much, and much made sense. After returning from Al Zahbi the first time, seizing the first bits of magic, Seraph went wild with the power, wholly intoxicated. Saint found him, coming along when Hinamori told him of what Blue Magic really was. He had already cut himself off, and was not easy to find. Find him he did. Adventurers lived their lives chasing rumors, and rumors of an ill equipped Elvaan, ragged and horrid, spread like wildfire. While fledgling Blue Mage still regarded the sound of his name, he sight of Wyvern and Dragoon was not enough to bring him out of his haze. The timely appearance of a fist sized Ruby caught Seraph’s eye, a voice within it reaching deep into the out of control. The voices of the two magical entities sang together, allowing Seraph to act freely. Having their friend back, the duo welcomed the third of their blue clad trio back. ‘For old times sake…’ Saint had said.

In a short amount of time he had exceeded his capabilities as Thief and White Mage. Having been found on Qufim, they first went around to Jeuno, and Seraph found resonance with creature taming and the arts of song. Thrilled to see other interests unfolding, they carried on. Heading straightaway to Windhurst, Seraph tuned in further, discovering what the Ruby’s inhabitant desired. Saint, Lumi, and Blue making three they went around, finding the environs which empowered the entity. This didn’t halt Seraph’s advancement. Hunting skills were honed before getting too far from Windhurst. Harnessing of darkness itself came when they returned to Bastok and the honing of a working talent with assassin skills after making the long trek to Norg.

This took a long time. Time… they traveled through time. To the Shadowreign Era. He led him to other outlets of magic use. Ages old. Schultz’s Martial Theory. The Kriegstanz Dance. Returning to the present, and taking Seraph home, he rose to the fullness of his heritage. While there Seraph asked Saint if becoming a Dragoon was impossible. He shook his head. Walking through Western Ronfaure he gave him every detail of his coming into the tradition. A shift in the weather managed to stir the creature in the Ruby once more, and requested he go to La Thiene Plateau. Telling Saint, the Elvaan ran on ahead. They had parted by an animate Abyssea Cavernous Maw. Coming face to face with Carbuncle, the power to contract with the Terrestrial Avatars themselves was added to his fold.

No… this wasn’t right… just too much… Memories bent and flowed together.

A rainbow over the nearby Crag of Mea, Seraph doubled over in pain.

No… the pain was present. The memory… what… what couldn’t he see?

Seraph left the circle of pillars. Night had fallen over La Thiene and Saint had proceed on to Jugner. Following, Seraph found Saint. Another Maw… more pain, memory blending of when he first stumbled within. The two laughed, marking Seraph’s continued good fortune. ‘What haven’t you learned?’ Saint asked jokingly ‘Puppetmaster, but I need to head back to Whitegate for that, Samurai, Corsair… Dragoon of course’. A look of dismay crossed Saint’s face. ‘…you just haven’t stopped… have you?’ Seraph replied with a blank stare. ‘What do you mean?’ Carbuncle’s voice had faded. The only thing soothing Seraph with was now tangible and without. A surge of power, spilled forth. Not only the collected spells, but the methods of combat, each having a bit of sway converged, raging, pulling him down to his knees. Blue electricity arced from his eyes, wholly absorbed of the color. His jaw, hanging open, energy flowing between his teeth, flowing in and out the very bone. Dragoon and Wyvern rushed over. Swiftly swirling inward and then pushing out, the two could not reach their friend.


‘Not strong enough…’ came the Dragoons’ words. ‘…can’t even help…’ Memory skipped, Saint was gone, then in the same position. ‘… Waoud…’ Saint fell backward, barely held up by his polearm and Lumiere. ‘…everything…past and present…’

What is he saying? I don’t understand… can’t hear… the wind, like before… The memory staggered back a few moments and began again. Saint was standing.

‘I’m not strong enough. It’s your burden, Seraph I know… but I can’t even help.’ Saint looked at the height of the vortex. He knelt, then as was the Dragoon way, launched himself not sky, but truly heavenward. Attempting to make it above the barrier, it raged out of control at the apex of his jump meeting him as he came down. If not for Lumiere the Dragoon would have landed fatally. Barely standing up he shouted ‘Damn you Waoud!!! What did you do?!’ He fell backward, barely held up by his polearm and Lumiere. ‘What did you curse Seraph with? You said it was just his power… but what inborn element eats at someone like this?’ Saint reached out, Lumiere tried to pull his hand back, but he pressed on, every element ripping at his armored hand as it tried in vain to cross Seraph’s wild threshold. ‘I brought him all these powers, everything past and present…’ His gaze fell back onto the Cavernous Maw. ‘But he still has a future…’


Saint stood, walked over to the Maw. He said over his shoulder ‘I’ll come back Seraph. I’ll get stronger, and whatever comes at you from within or without, I’ll be able to make it through. I just need a bit more power…’ He was smiling, but Lumiere’s heartbroken outcry betrayed Saint’s armored facade. Placing one hand on his Wyvern companion, and raising the other, he was drawn into the Cavernous Maw. Into Abyssea.

And he was gone.

Saint hadn’t left just to increase his own power. He left because he felt he needed more power. Not because of any external danger. He left… “Yes… because of you.” Because his power had grown so quickly. “There was nothing in this world that you did not take into yourself willing.” Because he had opened every door. “And you wouldn’t stop there.” Dejected, trembling with too many emotions, a thought passed his lips. “What am I?”

“What?” It laughed. “You are what you eat. So… everything it looks like.” Seraph’s emotion poured out like a stream, crushing him in return for lashing out, but he didn’t care. Let his Will To Live be broken. “And then what?” It whispered. “I don’t care!” “You’d better. Saint is right, you have a future. But he can’t protect you. Not from yourself. Your power is you, and will live out its desires riding your body if you let it win. Your form will belong to it. It will reshape itself, and you will cease to be.“

“Like you said,” It continued “we are one and the same. I have no intent to die, which is how you made it back to Jeuno. I took you back there. You think Saint would have set off for so long without telling Rai? Why do you think he was running out of town in the same section you were coming in from?” Seraph, all the pieces in place, revealed to him more of a puzzle that he didn’t know needed to be solved. Did Rai know all of this?

“I enjoy my Self. You’re fragmented. If you can come together, then you’ll survive. I am the Serpent Holder, Ophiuchus. When you are at your best, I won’t even be a worry for you, and neither will this…” The Mark of Zahak flared bright again. Opening Its palm the same symbol twisted within. The area became suddenly, oppressively bright. Ophiuchus placed the hand to where Seraph could reach out to touch it. In the white field one snake head appeared behind It, brands of the Serpents shining off of it. Freed from his companionable movement, Seraph turned, and saw another serpent, jaw equally unhinged seeming to extend from Earth to Sky. Looking quickly about, the two were connected. A living Mark of Zahak, as was the one on his neck. Realizing this, the two heads lunged at each other in an effort to devour the other. Seraph and ‘shadow’ were right in the middle. The jaws met together, throwing the two into absolute darkness.

Not a sight. Not a sound. But a thought…

“So what do you choose?“

Reaching out he pressed his hand to the place he remembered his Others’ to be, now being the reflection.

“To Live.”

“That’s good enough for me.“

Seraph opened his eyes. Feeling Makar leaning against him he carefully rolled so his little friend could continue sleeping. As he looked about, he felt the extension of his magic. Breathing out, he drew in a long, slow, deep breath and drew all his magic back within him. Once all his energy had fully returned to him, the odd sound of of someone in the very middle of knock ruined the Elvaan’s efforts of trying to keep his friend from stirring. “Kupo… who’s come to call at this hour?” Makar shielded himself from light flooding into a window. “Ouch! I guess this is a reasonable hour… why’d I sleep so long?” The knocking resumed, and Seraph began to start putting on his still borrowed armor. Looking at his Charuq, he decided not to wear them just now. “Oh my! Who is it?”

“My name is Waoud… I have come to speak with Seraph.” The Moogle, checking with his charge to see if he was ready, willing, and able to see guests, also assure he actually knew ‘Waoud’. Getting an affirmative nod from Seraph, Makar loosened the seal on the door and allowed Waoud to enter. As usual, he was dressed in his simple attire. His hood obscuring his face, the light from the window alighting fiendishly off the lenses of his glasses. “Good Day, Young Master Seraph.” “Good Day, Diviner of Heretics’ Way.” The two bowed, as was becoming their custom, and Seraph offered the bed to Waoud for a place to sit. Makar, bustling as swiftly as he could, tidied it up for use by the guest. “I do not mean to insult your hospitality, but I am here in my capacity as a servant. While I only aim to deliver favorable portents, I know not how long I will be. If I may sit on the floor at no imposition to you I would be happy to do so.” Seraph nodded, and he too sat on the floor opening his arms wide. Following in stride, Waoud did the same. Makar, flitting about, began preparing beverages.

Watching his friend, Seraph remarked “I would have offered you something myself, but I can never find anything in rented rooms or barracks. Do you have a particular weakness?” Waoud looked oddly at Seraph. “Is there a particular beverage you’d prefer above others?” A note of understanding passed over his face. “Ah, I see. A simple chai will do if you can furnish it.” Makar nodded, looking to and fro, when Seraph held up a hand. “An Immortal saw fit to put in a good word for me at the Teahouse. I have some that he favors, if it wouldn’t slight you.” Waoud put a finger thoughtfully to his chin. “Oh… the type that Waudeen is accustomed to? I have never had the pleasure. I’d happily share some with you.” Seraph stood and went to his bags, and pulled out a few portions of the leaves. The scent was strong and bitter, but the taste when brewed was slightly sweet and rather easy on the palette. Makar brought a platter, a pot of water, and two cups. Seraph grabbed a third, and set it down. Makar took the cue, making a noise of joy known to come only from Moogles.

Tea steeping, parties sitting, and pleasantries dispensed, Seraph asked what brought Waoud to him for a change. “I wandered Al Zahbi and Whitegate, as I often do, at night. Use of magic within the city is forbidden, so I found it odd to feel of all things the tingle of Blue Magic. No Immortal would dare, but when I followed it to the barracks, I could only assume that it was not one of the city inhabitants. I was able to discern it was you.” Recalling how each staging point had its own feel, separate from the surrounding areas, and from each other, this was not hard to believe. But the sudden knocking… As each Immortal struck him at the staging points, and their magic was concentrate the outside world became accessible to the senses. “Just how long had you been knocking?” Seraph asked. He laughed. “That time, only twice. I knocked once, divined when you would awaken, and returned then. My reputation as a seer would be ill considered if I were not able to foresee such a trifle.” He laughed at his own self evaluation.

Seraph leaned back on his hands. He was going to have to figure out a way to harness more control if such an incident would turn out to be a problem. Makar, checking the pot, began moved to pour Waoud’s tea. Seraph halted him, and did so himself. As he began to fill Makar’s cup, Waoud stopped Seraph and did so. And as the Seer attempted to fill Immortals’ Moogle jumped in. The three tapped their cups together, drank fully, and followed the impromptu filling ritual again. They held a small laugh.

“I take it you had a territory established, akin to the staging points?” Waoud asked. Seraph nodded. “Yes. It seems I needed some time to think. It happened as I slept.” At this diviner leaned in close. “Ah… the stars align and with the soul combine, two eyes to three to breach the veil of time.” Makar looked at the Seer, who seemed pleased with his little rhyme. Pom pom bobbing he looked to Seraph, who eyed Waoud with a piercing gaze. Suddenly wanting to be anywhere but here, he looked down quickly, but found his cup empty. “…kupo…” came a defeated whimper. Seraph and Waoud reached for the pot at the same time, and host acquiesced to his guest. All the while he was trying to figure out if that was a bit of luck on the part of the Seer, or if he had seen into his dreams.

A bit embarrassed at the apparent spot on appraisal Seraph was struck dumb for a response, but he did not simply wish to reveal that it was perhaps what occurred. He thought as quickly as he could, how to speak without saying anything.

…what would Shantotto say?

“Here in the Near East, cries the hunger of many a Beast. By Cadesent light so Astral, are dreams thus pastoral. Each night a new trial, and rules broken, how vile. Fledgling and Master must stave off disaster. Only with the subsiding of the moon can one discern their worthy boon, but only if by sun they do not swoon so the day does not come too soon.”

Makar stared up at Seraph, who’s features were inscrutable. Waoud, likewise, looked at the Elvaan. What his thought process was could be anyone’s guess. He faltered and looked down to the Moogle. The little housekeeper extraordinaire could only shrug and give a very perplexed “Kupo.” Waoud, though in private, chose not to be potentially bested. Waoud thought on this. “My… it seems that you see your own fate. A straightforward view of your own state. Not all are so fortunate. This is a true gift.” His reply said as much (or perhaps as little) as Seraph’s had to his original statement. His left eye flashing crimson he looked up after a times. “How ominous… The Symbol of Trials. Your fate lies beyond the gates of nobility.”

Seraph nodded, and reached for Waoud’s standard fee. “Please My Friend. This fare is quite more than enough for payment. I do hope to have the opportunity to do this again one day.” Seraph leaned his head back. ‘Gate of nobility’ he thought. Whenever Waoud’s eye flashed in his presence, he had been taken into contact with Raubahn. It was odd that the Seer was here as he said himself he’d not be needed for a time. Focusing, he came upon a memory. After he had left Aisha at the Automaton Workshop, he had heard the chime in his mind he had come to associate with Waoud. As he passed through the Way of the Devout he thought he had felt Waoud beyond. Perhaps there was a sympathy between them? Just like when Immortals were about, or when other creatures wield Blue Magic themselves…

…beyond the gates of nobility… gates… Whitegate…

Rising, Seraph swiftly began to gather his things. Makar watched, more than half a pot of tea left which he had no intent on letting go to waste, with Waoud sipping cautiously. “You have been given the first part of your Immortal armor already? How fortuitous.” He looked at Seraph’s chosen attire. “You do not wear them?” Seraph picked them up and shook his head. “These are for Immortals. They hold a duty to this land, but I do not hold the same conviction. Besides… I am barely controlling myself. Right now. I do not think I would be a good reflection upon them.” “It is difficult to admit to your limits and stay within them. It is a show of wisdom” Waoud replied, nodding. Seraph, while opening the door, told Waoud to stay as long as he wished. “I thank you for your considerable hospitality. May I offer a final word in return?” Seraph nodded. “The Immortals command respect. You have not been accepted into their ranks lightly. Do as you please when no others are about, but for the sake of stability, adhere to the mantles of your station.” The Immortal-reluctant then left, heading to the Imperial Whitegate to see if he may make sense of Waoud’s foretelling.

The door closing, Waoud took a sip of his tea, enjoying the natural contrast it provided against itself. Makar did the same upon his scale. “Are you still thinking about what he said?” Seer asked of Moogle. “Kupo” came a polite reply, clarified by a nod. “You know him better than I. Did it make any sense to you?” Shaking his head once in each direction in a definitive fashion Makar replied “Ku. Po.” Draining his cup, he posed a question of his own. “For that matter, I don’t understand what you were talking about. What’s going on between the two of you?” Waoud pinched the bridge of his nose. “I knew before his… response. Now I am unsure. Forgive me my tiny companion, but I think it is best that I take my leave. A walk and some air will do wonders for me. How odd that this troubles me so that I have a headache…” Bowing, and finishing his cup of tea, Waoud stood and left the mercenary barracks.

Makar, left to his own, shook the teapot and found a sizable amount left. “I hope one day the other races evolve pom poms. Life will be so much easier then.” Aiming the spout for his mouth he drank the rest down swiftly and happily. “Oh… such good tea…” Laying on his back, stomach filled to the brim with exotic flavors, he allowed himself to get back to sleep. How had he slept so long in the first place?

“Impossible” said Harjeel. “We only recently measured the subject’s cobalt values.” “The possibility for this cobalt spike was part of our original calculations.” Among a group of three gentlemen, two discussed the severity of the situation openly, certain of their solitude within the Imperial Ward. However, both of them failed to realize the ominous air that passed between them. “But we never could have predicted that a subject progressing so smoothly would experience such a rapid transformation…” Luqrabah added, giving sway to the fact that everything they had thought had been incorrect. “Mortal will is a fickle thing” came a third voice. The other two looked about, trying to hone in on who had spoke. “This result is not surprising.”

Dropping his veil Raubahn revealed himself, moving at attention with his hands behind his back per his norm. “Ah… it is you. If the subject is discovered, there will be an Imperial inquiry.” Luqrabah spoke, phrasing it as almost a threat. Raubahn’s gaze bore down, and Laqrabah retracted. Harjeel was undaunted. “Agreed. The army is not overly fond of the Immortals as it is.” Allowing a small scoff to be audible he allowed himself to sound overbearing. “The army commanders are wise enough to know when to close their eyes for the good of the Empire, and the Empress.” Silence passed between the two other men. “In any case the ‘subject’ is far too dangerous an opponent for the average soldier, or an entire division of soldiers for that matter.” Harjeel leaned forward, his face bright with the realization. “All the more reason to-” Raubahn raised a hand. The sound of metal coming across the ornate floors towards the three caused the lesser two to listen closely. Raubahn listened as well, but he could already tell the steps were too light to be on he had groomed day in and out. “You will excuse me,” he said stepping between the two men “our solution has arrived. Leave this problem to the Immortals.”

From an open corridor stepped out someone… odd. The cut of his clothes signified him as being male. His white armor, covered in metal strips, was a stark contrast to the comfortable dimness of the Imperial Wards’ passageways. Hair, platinum silver revealed him as an Elvaan, but from the way his hair was had become locked was unprecedented, even to those who had seen much. He was looking away in the opposite direction at first, but when looking the other way his body betrayed not surprise, but comfort. The three other men looked at each other with some terror, sharing the same thought. ‘Who sees Raubahn and is comforted?!‘ As he began walking, the metal sound began again. Looking down to his feet, the armor did not match. In fact, they were a very ornate pair of Charuq. Of… blue… charuq.

This boy, simple and ramshackle as they thought he appeared, was too an Immortal.

Stopping a good distance from Raubahn he didn’t shrink or wilt. It was not just the famed pride of the Elvaan, but something more. Their stares having earned attention in return, the Elvaan Immortal marking them, some recognition seeming to flare across his face. They could not discern who, but he seemed to recall one and looked to the other two for confirmation. The Immortal commander began to speak, drawing his subordinates’ full attention. “Seraph. A soulflayer in the early stages of development has been sighted in several sections of the Undersea Ruins. You are charged with the elimination of this threat.” Raubahn had a break in his speech, and apparently Seraph heard all he needed to as he turned away to leave. “Hold…” came the words of the senior. “…do not underestimate this creature. Even at this stage of growth, it likely possesses a higher intellect and greater command of magic than you.” The one called Seraph turned back, looking Raubahn over. It almost seemed as though the two were sharing words only they could pick up on. And perhaps they were. Satisfied with whatever he had gleaned, the junior Immortal nodded, and Raubahn replied “This briefing is over.” Seraph bowed. “Now go!” With that the Elvaan had righted himself suddenly. He began to twirl, magic flowing from his hands. Feet tapping the ground a plume of smoke emerged. Jumping into the air, corkscrewing, smoke and magic rose up and the he was… gone. Merely gone. It held no subtly akin to the Immortals, but it was a marvel to watch.

Luqrabah went back in his thinking. “Wasn’t that one of the new recruits?” “I believe so” Harjeel mused. “Can he withstand the truth?” Raubahn turned, seemingly unphased by both the performance of his counterpart and the questions of his cohorts. His words were detached. “We will soon find out. If he cannot survive this duty, then so be it. The weak will be destroyed.” The third man, unusually silent, spoke up. “…we must consider the possibility for a third stage of development…” Raubahn turned on his heels. “A third stage Wathdeeh?” Outside of his established norm, the Immortal commander laughed, sending a chill down the spine of the other nearby. “Who is responsible for this failure in the first place?” Harjeel, chastised, remained silent. “When a problem arises, all you can do is talk in circles. Are you good for nothing more than empty debate?” He looked about, and none of the other ‘men’ met his gaze.
Frustrated, he began walking away, though speaking loud enough for him to easily be heard. “If you fear the truth will be revealed, all we need to do is destroy it like the beast it is. Even should we experience transformations, we will not allow the Empress and the Empire to suffer for it. That has always been, and will always be, our only concern…” A distance away now, he pulled up his own veil, removing himself from their perception. Now unseen, he put two fingers to his forehead in an attempt to still his mind. His earlier headache had developed into a powerful migraine. For now, he could rest. Perhaps inside that space of time this whole matter would be behind him.

As the ornate gates drew open before him Seraph began hearing a commotion from the plaza beyond. “Hey you!” pausing in his stride, a second shout came. “Yeah you! In the fru-fru shoes!” Turning to the voice, he could see an Elvaan Samurai coming his way. “Fru-fru?” “You heard me.” Marching forth he came within inches of Seraph’s face. Fists on his hips he leaned over, coming almost nose to nose with Seraph. “See… I’ve got something really important to ask you…”

“Do you like bacon?”

The guards at the gate looked the adventurer bearing the unusual question over. They then gave the recipient the same, but noticing the Charuq he wore, and left him to his own. Having thought to have taken them off Seraph marked this well. Blinking in surprise Seraph did the only thing he could and answered truthfully. “Well, yes. I haven’t eaten any in some time, but I have fond memories of it.”

Seemingly pleased, the Samurai stood straight up. He breathed deep, and moving next to Seraph threw an arm around his shoulder and walked him over to a group of adventurers. A Mithra Puppetmaster, and oddly three other Immortals, stood watching him. “This guys’ fine in my book!” he exclaimed. “And you are…?” Apparently all the intensity severity that Rai seemed to project was not a staple result of training, this Samurai smiled broadly. “Me? I’m Nabasheen, from Moghat. You didn’t know?!” Looking to the others standing by, they pointed to their pearls. It seemed as though Seraph had found himself among friends.

“Hey there” came a greeting from one of the fully suited Immortals. “I’m Zakurai.” The other nodded as Seraph looked him over. “Zendak.” The two Humes stood together, seeming to have been inside their own discussion. The last Immortal was clad in a blacked uniform, and happened to be another Elvaan. “I am Lemochu. A pleasure Seraph.” The two exchange a small bow. Finally the Mithra she introduced herself as Shoro. “What did you have going on at the Palace?” she asked. “I’ve been charged with a mission of Soulflayer extermination…” Thinking on it felt unusual, considering the number he had seen roaming about in Arrapago Reef. If the threat were that grave, he thought he would have seen a task force charged with their extermination.

The whole of the group grew silent, exchanging cool glances. While still present, even Nabasheen’s smile lost some luster. He was still the first to speak up. “Gah… I hate those things. How about we just go after the whole lot of em! We’ll start with the one you need to get though. Where is it at?” Seraph thought back to his briefing. “I don’t have an exact location at all. I was only told ‘somewhere in the undersea ruins’. I’ve been there once before, and that barely narrows it down. Between the size and the necessity of teleportation I don’t think I’d ever accurately look the place over.” Looking them over couldn’t help but form a question. “In my time here I rarely ever seen even one adventurer outside of town, let alone a whole group. What are you all doing here?”

“Our duty” came an all too practiced response from the other men. They looked at each other bewildered, leaving Shoro to explain. “Except for myself, everyone standing here has some experience with Blue Magic.” Gesturing to Nabasheen she continued. “Some prefer other methods of warfare.” Zendak spoke up. “We heard rather roundabout that an attack force was on its way to Al Zahbi. Figured we’d come to help.” Zakurai seemed a bit impatient. “Yeah… but by the time we got here someone had diverted it. I had gotten all geared up for nothing…” The other Elvaan Immortal stood up, and he and Seraph had a quiet glance at each other. The rest of the group looked between the two. Finally, he spoke. “We were figuring out what to do with all of us here, when we noticed that another Moghat member that none of us knew was nearby we decided to kick back and wait on you.” Shoro nodded. “And here we are.” Nabasheen pointed to the nearby Chamber of Passage. “And here we go!” With a laugh the group set out. Upon a group made up mostly of Immortals, the Passages’ watchmen straightened up. Bartering for clearance, they teleported to the Nyzul Isle staging point.

Shoro was the first to arrive. She deployed her Automaton Zero, who ran around examining the architecture of Nyzul. Nabasheen was next with the Immortals following, all having an outward reaction to the established territory of another of their kind. Samurai looking to the Mages, he tried to get his bearings. “Where should we start?” They looked outward and found their senses somewhat hampered. All except Seraph. “I’ve got an idea. Hold on.” Spotting Shahayl in his accustomed position he progressed over the Immortal sentry. “Hello again Seraph. Have you come to explore the Ruins today?” Looking back he saw a number of other Immortals, and looking down that the once Blue Mage had risen in the world. “Oh… So that rumor was regarding you? Congratulations.” Seraph bowed. “Have you been aware of any unusual activity? Any presences that don’t belong or have been avoid your direction contact?”

Shahayl blinked. “You’ve been sent out with that?” “I have.” “I had not thought you would have come along that quickly. Perhaps I had misjudged you initially.” He closed his eyes, honing into the whole of the area. He opened his eyes, and looked down behind him, gaze piercing through the floor. He pointed to a nearby teleportation pad. “They are within an area in that direction. That pad will take you to them. Proceed carefully. Logic is not a good companion here. Take your time.” “My thanks Shahayl. Take Care.” Breaking from his trance the Immortal shook his head “I will be fine.” Seraph ran over to the teleportation pad, his group taking his sudden motion as a lead and sprung into action. The group of seven set out to the next portion of the Undersea Ruins, hunting down the fledgling Soulflayer.

Seraph came out first and looked around. Having appeared in a dead end he swiftly moved to allow the others space to phase in. He extended the warnings of caution to his companions from Shahayl. Nabasheen, professing to be familiar with this section (which looked like every other section that Seraph had seen previously) took point. Lemochu, in like fashion, seemed to be confident of his location, and followed in a close second. The two Elvaan proceeded carefully, keeping track of just where they were. Zakurai proceeded lithely reviewing a piece of parchment close to a stoic Zendak. Shoro and Seraph walked in the back, talking. She also seemed to be listening to which direction was best through Zero, who occasionally ran ahead then returned to the front ranks. Interested in Zakurai’s document, Seraph asked after it. “It’s called a Testimony” he reported. At mention of it Lemochu and Nabasheen took a look back, then continued moving ahead. “Supposedly there is one for every job. Written on this one are the words of Blue Mages. It’s a precious thing. You can learn of those that came before. I’ve even heard that no two are alike.”

“Really?” Seraph walked forward. He look at the Testimony with significant interest. “I’d seen one before, but it was of a job I held no interest in.” Snapping his fingers, he intended to call out his grimoire. Instead, he looked foolish snapping with no result a few times over. “What’s that about?” Zakurai asked. “I’m not sure…” Turning back to the Testimony it was in a script Seraph could not understand. “You can read this?” Zakurai nodded. “From what I’m told, the script can only be read by one potent enough to gain knowledge from it.” Shoro pulled Seraph back. “That’s not all true…” she whispered. “Only one person can possess each Testimony at a time, and one of each type. That one belongs to Zakurai. You could take it from him, but you’d have to make sure he couldn’t come back for it…” Zendak piped in. “If it has to be ‘one potent enough’, why do you have it?” he playfully jabbed, raising laughter from the whole party. Even Zero let loose an unusual laughter. “Ha ha… Raubahn asked me to get one and meet up with him. Said there was some important mission… I was thinking of going and seeing him about it when Seraph came out. I’m a little nervous about the whole thing.” Hearing his name caught his attention, and he shot forward “You should have. He was actually in a good mood today, considering.” “How’s that for rare…” came Lemochu in response.

Sharing in this laugh, Seraph was brought a lot of comfort. He was still nervous, but this was the first laugh he had shared with other adventurers for what felt like a very long time. He caught himself, and drew his smile back, earning a playful nudge from Shoro. The group moved into a large open area. While not as large as the staging point, a large broad window allowed a few out into the sea itself. Again, Seraph found himself thinking about the force of the water without. No matter how vicious his assault had been at the hands of the Immortal Meyaada the force of nature was significantly more terrifying. Perhaps it was its lack of perception that made it so dangerous. Everyone spread out. While there was one corridor in and out, the procession leaders had stopped, discussing how to continue. Apparently, a number of teleportation tiles lay ahead, and they were attempting to recall where they led.

This was the first time here that he wasn’t on a mission. He was neither alone nor guarding another so Seraph took this time to look over the architecture. Everything was so well preserved it was startling. Taking a deep breath, he noticed for the first time how… dry it was. Amidst all this water there wasn’t rot, or in this case rust considering all the metalwork. Running his hand along a nearby pillar he was enthralled by the decorated bands topping and rooting the structure to the rest of the Ruins. The floors were equally embellished, beautifully, and Seraph lowered down to his hands and knees to get a better look. Most of the group turned and looked on in confusion, especially the Elvaan. Nabasheen was absolutely mortified, and Lemochu watched on his younger counterpart with abject horror and embarrassment Being to drawn into the intricacies of the area he didn’t notice this at all. Having only seen this level of detail on earrings and rings, his only frame of reference was this being created by a veritable army of Goldsmiths. The near silent sliding door was the only thing that had been in motion. Remembering Ghastad’s apron, it appeared that the local Automaton workers were related to the Middle Lands Goldsmith guild, and he began lamenting his inability to have Tandem with him.

Again, he began snapping his fingers. In absolute and utter confusion Zendak made he way over to his Elvaan cohort, who had his nose to the floor, with one hand raised a slight bit snapping for no reason. “Just what are you doing?” Seraph, focused, responded reflexively between finger snaps. “I’m… trying to compare… construction of this area… to that of Automatons.” At this, Shoro and Zero made their way over. “You have an actual Puppetmaster here you know.” Getting frustrated, Seraph was still more honed on asserting his ability. “And I was going to ask you over… just… after… I…” He clenched his fist, and the charge of power surging through him was one that was comparable to when he first happened across the potential of Scholar. At that point it was asked that he proved the aptitude of his magical ability. At which point he let flow an untapped potential of his magic. He felt as though his magics would be more powerful, but it was not something he had practiced with. Neither before nor since had he unbound himself so. All the Blue Mages made tentative stares to one another, Zendak moving Shoro back a few paces. His fist struck the ground as he stood, little currents of energy trickling out. In his mind he recalled his dream, his personified sentience fighting to maintain control. Finding a block, he found a path around it. Still flowing with the energy he kept himself in check. Raising his fingers again he focused. “…cut it out Ophiuchus…” he said aloud silently.

As you wish…

Seraph snapped again, the normal eldritch weaving heralding his grimoire’s unveiling. “Finally!” The area was inundated with a flux of power. “What in the…” Eye level to the Elvaan appeared a grimoire.

A huge grimoire.

Zero was beneath it, and a panicked Puppetmaster recalled her Automaton, which fled in less than simulated horror. Now observing the tome as he had the Ruins, Seraph was confused. The back seemed to be covered in snakes’ skin. A Mark of Zahak reminiscent clasp held the whole of the massive missive shut. “I wouldn’t have pegged you for the Scholarly type” Nabasheen observed. “It is certainly an… unusual pairing for the Blue Mage practice” Lemochu added. Returning to where he first summoned the volume, Seraph lifted a hand. With willful intent the bottom of the grossly oversized tome swung down as though the top were on some invisible hinge. It came to rest on the floor. The cover had undergone a noticeable alteration.

The snakeskin design worked around to the front, tapering the edges and leaving the middle a barren background. As before, it shimmered with shifting colors, still centering around mostly varying degrees of blue. The Mark of Zahak had moved further down, now sharing prominence with another figure. An effigy of Shiva, Terrestrial Avatar of Ice, now graced the book as well. Her hands held lock together with her palms up, the Mark of Zahak resting within them. Between the crown of Shiva’s head and the narrow line of faux snake flesh lay the title the archaically represented title ‘Hopes of Man and Beast Entwined in Blue’, differing slightly from its previous incarnation.

Shoro and Zakurai found themselves moving forward with Seraph. “It’s beautiful” whispered the Mithra. Zakurai moved a hand out to trace his hand along the spine. The clasp on the opposite side undid itself, unseen to him, but caused Shoro to take a step back. The book flew open, pages moving at an incredible speed, generating a blast of air that pushed the Puppetmaster back into her Automaton, which actively braced her and kept her aright. Zakurai was not so fortunate, and was seen reeling backward in an ungraceful roll. The only effect upon the books’ owner was that his hair and the hanging portions of his armor were taken by the wind. “That’s enough of that” he said. Promptly closing, the book floated in the air again, at the proper height to which it usually did.

Turning, Seraph went to help his fallen brother. “Sorry about that. It has a moderate dislike for Immortals.” Everyone looked at him bearing the same question in mind. “Then how do you manage it?” Zendak posed, to which Seraph laughed out “It was smaller yesterday.” “Why’d it go berserk on me?” Seraph thought about it. Considering what Aisha had said about them being of one mind, and having read the tome himself, he had the perfect way to prove it. “It thrives on information as we do on spells.” “So what?” quipped Zakurai. “A runic portal lays at each of the staging points, along with an Immortal. Most don’t seem to know what the most unusual thing is about runic portals. Do you?” Thinking, Zakurai answered reluctantly. “They… teleport you to and from staging points?” In a warning action, the book ‘snapped’, suddenly opening and closing emitting a loud sound. “Plus…” Seraph said, slowly looking around. “…I’m not fairly versed with reading faces. It’s hard for us” nodding to the book “to tell Immortals apart…” Nabasheen lost it, laughing so hard he fell to one knee. “Seraph’s grimoire thinks all the Immortals look the same!” he inadvertently exclaimed to the whole of the linkshell. “Your book is racist, Seraph” came a reply. A round of greetings went out to Tenatzen, leaving Seraph a touch confused. Lemochu nudged Nabasheen with his toe, who had to use his great katana to stand.

Closing the distance, the two leading Elvaan came over to the rest of the group. “We should carry on” Lemochu said. “We figured out which way we could go.” Zendak proceeded around, and Zakurai followed suit, heading toward the open tunnel. “What about… your book?” Nabasheen asked. Shoro was still looking it over out of what Seraph assumed was idle Mithran curiosity. “Whatever you do, make it snappy” Lemochu said. Taking the line too seriously, Seraph snapped his fingers again, and the grimoire disappeared in an eldritch folding of energy. The younger Immortal plastered an odd smile on his face. Nabasheen laughed, their fellow Elvaan shook his head and walked away. “Help us Altana… there’s two of them.”

An unfolding magical displacement took shape, a nearby teleportation pad had activated. Having been inert, it seemed to be designed only for reception. However, nothing seemed to appear. All but Shoro were aware of another presence “What is it?” she called across the parties communication. “Another Blue Mage” Naba replied. Quicker than any could react, Seraph’s grimoire appeared again, this time in its more manageable size, and jerked oddly in the air. A hollow ‘thunk’ came from it. “…that was unusual…” Zendak noticed. “Not so much.” Seraph said. “It hit something.” He, Naba, and Shoro were the closest to the intricate tile work, and it was slowly obscured by a grounded Immortal, holding their head in pain. Seraph knelt down, offered a hand out and spoke aloud. “Sorry about that” he said, recalling the book. The Immortal looked up, startled at the presence of another, and pushed themselves back.

Taking in the immediate group, they calmed a little. “…help…must…flee…” came their voice, interspersed with deep breaths. Seraph nodded. “I understand. You are trying to escape. We can help. What is chasing you?” Curious as to what would cause an Immortal to run away, Seraph patiently waited for them to form their answer. They continually looked at the pad they were on, it apparently having used up its power. “…Immortals…” they said. “Yasfel.” An Immortal… running from them? Why? Seraph never heard of them defecting… “What’s the hold up?” asked a nearing voice.

Lemochu’s voice.

Uh oh.

As Lemochu came into view the Immortal came up into a crouch, a truly animalistic stance, and let loose a cry fueled by at least three dozen creatures. Seraph opened both hands to the Immortal. “Look at me…” Doing so, the Immortal relaxed, though his gaze kept snapping back and forth to Lemochu. “…we have no intent to hurt you. Just calm down and let me speak to them.” Footfalls, then Zendak and Zakurai must have come close, because again the Immortal cried out. Magic raised up off of it, frightened, yet terrible. It backed away, then looked at Seraph again. Seeing the inherent calm in his eyes they calmed again, nodding to him. Seraph smiled.

‘…focus… I must…’ her thoughts were disjointed. Too many not her own. She could not make sense of what was going on. Her magic was flowing outside of her control. Ready to strike. The red-armored Elvaan had one hand on their sword. The Mithran Puppetmaster… a mere thought and the construct would be upon them. Yasfel worked with no one.


Straining, she managed to keep her energy from surging outward. If… Yasfel… worked alone, then why were there three other Immortals here? Had she become that dangerous that more must be arrayed against her? No… she couldn’t have. This Elvaan… he was so simply clad. She had seen adventurers from the Middle Lands, mercenaries mostly. He’d had some experience, but he had a long way to go. If one so inexperienced was not frightened, was still so kind, then there was hope. There was nothing to fear. He spoke simply, but with certainty, breaking through this haze. He calmed her. He smiled, and she did the same. His smile broadened in response. Even behind this dreaded Keffiyeh, with most of the world fearing the face that could not be seen, he could see her.

He stood and turned to his group, explaining that they need to help her. She was so relaxed, so at peace. She could feel this extend out, her magic calming in time. She dropped her head, so tired. Alzadaal Undersea Ruins… it seemed fitting to live out her last days here. How long had she been running? Who would have imagined help in this place? Who would have imagined help from this precious boy adventurer, literally in shining armor? His greaves did not match the rest of the attire. She scrutinized them. They were… familiar. The word… Charuq.

Fear. Sudden and overpowering. She began to cry.

“…no… Immortal… you?”

She stood, rose… too high… She reached out to touch him, this Elvaan, would be savior. The other Elvaan, the red one and the black-clad Immortal, grabbed the white garbed one and threw him by his shoulders. He landed behind the group. She reached further and… her hand… not her own… no… too late… could not be saved any more. No more time. Taking the Keffiyeh from her head she could feel her rage seething, her body changing. His smile… just once more… The Boy Elvaan… “GIVE HIM TO ME!!!” screamed her new voice.

While having trouble telling them apart, Seraph had gotten very good at reading some emotions. The squint in her eyes showed a smile. Happy for the gesture Seraph stood and turned to everyone else. “I don’t know what’s happening. I’ve never seen this before, but we can help her, right? Nabasheen… Lemochu… What can we do?” Unseen by Seraph, the Immortals’ energy had erupted again, stronger than ever. As she rose, writhing tentacles grasped from where should have been her jaw. An odd sound, the semblance of speech, echoed to his ears. Trying to turn, Lemochu and Nabasheen grabbed the shoulders of his armor and flung him skyward, and behind the group. A turn and a small flip in midair afford Seraph to see what was happening. The Immortal was floating off the ground. Her… hand…? What happened to her arm? She reached up with the hand that remained and threw her Keffiyeh aside. Landing on his feet, he lost sight of the front of the group, but could see the Immortal losing the battle within herself.

“GIVE HIM TO ME!!!” came a clear demand.

Her body erupted, limbs bulking out to sizes greater than her norm. The fabric within her Magus Armor strained around these new limits. Modesty was not a concern… this new form held no specified gender. Still, it was not unfamiliar to Seraph. “Soulflayer…” he said aloud. He remembered his time in Arrapago Reef, the feedback. The Mamool Ja Blue Mages pulsed, but the feeling he remembered was constant. Just like when the Immortals appeared to seize the Seagull Pharatrie. Just like the Soulflayers in the Reef.

Just like now.

A desperation formed in the eyes of the Soulflayer. It came lunging for Seraph, but was hit with magic from all the surrounding Immortals. The Soulflayer… no… she… the former Immortal… A barrage of lighting struck all the nearby participants. Undaunted, Zero circled around and began attacking the assailant. An errant bold struck Shoro, the spell working its way outward. Seraph stepped forward, and was struck himself. Seraph, possessing only an ill developed reaction of flight, drew his weapon. Immortals and Automaton cleared out, and gave the Samurai clearance for a powerful technique from his great katana. Holding a solid stance and using both hands the attack made a solid strike, downing the Soulflayer. Still alive, it seemed to accept its fate. It was overpowered and outnumbered. The body twitched, seeming to be acting of its own volition. Its head rolled, and catching sight of Seraph, sword drawn, a cry erupted. Nabasheen, wholly in accordance with his training, drew his blade back again, preparing the ending strike. Their eyes met…

Seraph stood in the southern port in Whitegate. It was strangely silent. No boats, no people, the water didn’t move. It was all too quite. He looked around, then he realized… he was standing in the port, atop the water. Focusing, he realized he was in another Immortals mind, just as he had done with Raubahn many times. A bit in front of him, he saw air bubbles coming from the water. Running ahead, he could see the Immortal beneath, bound and twisted up in shadows. Not knowing what to do, Seraph punched the ground, but found his hand flowing through as though the water had its normal properties. It was an odd thing, kneeling atop the water with hands passing beneath the surface, but he was able to draw out his tormented counterpart. Bring her above the waters’ surface her head rolled with no will of its own. She was unconscious Here, in her mind, her blonde hair hung in front of her face, wholly unkempt.

As in Raubahn’s domain, Seraph focused and saw blue fire in his hand, his scimitar heading his call. With a tentative slash, he severed a shadow holding the Immortal. Pained, it shrank beneath the waves. “Leave me” came the Immortals’ voice. “I can’t do that” he replied, separating all the cords from her left side. He set her down, the water remaining solid for her, as he did the same to the other. Now free, she stood. “…why?” Seraph shook his head. “Because I did not know. I could have, but I didn’t piece it together.”

She looked away. “You are an Immortal. These are our ways.”

Seraph eyed her. “I can’t accept that. I have hope for myself. I have to try to give it to you.”

“Boy…” she said, looking back at him. “Foolish Boy. You cannot have everything.”

“Is that not also our way?”

She smiled, full of sadness. “Yes, but I am gone. You wish to help me?

Seraph nodded.

“Then kill me. End this” she said, the sight of her physical self overlaying how she remembered herself to be. “But remember this.”

“I will.”

Separation, displacement, and going back to himself.

“Boy… I would have your name.”

“Seraph. What is yours?”

A laugh. “…I am merely a tigress under a setting sun…”

“…Nabasheen… wait!” Seraph yelled, and stopped him from attacking. “We can’t just let…!” “I know… but let me.” The Samurai looked back to the other Immortals, their swords drawn. No one could tell what was happening. The Soulflayer breathed heavily and labored, the gaping wound on its chest oozing profusely. Seraph stood in front of the transformed Immortal. Her size had increased dramatically. On its knees and slumped over it still required Seraph to look up at it. Eyes, burning with fury, had no strength to act. Drawing out his Scimitar the creature responded, calming. Looking it over, Seraph tried to find the best place to strike. The Soulflayers’ hand reached up. Nabasheen and the Immortals trained their many gathered blades in a prepared assault, Automaton adding it’s odd hinged cleaver, and Puppetmaster drawing back an additional punch. The oddly extended fingers pointed to the inside of the wound. Seraph, drawing an understanding, assumed that the heart was in the same place. Seraph put the his blade into the sundering, odd ichor flowing over his armor. The tentacles seemed to betray many similarities to a cephalopod, as this body lacked a proper skeleton. Finding the heart was easy, although he was elbow deep into the creature. A pained whine came from the Soulflayer, and then a sharp, gurgling exhale. Seraph the blade out.

The demonic aura lessened, and a magical one returned. The Soulflayer fell toward Seraph, but quickly transformed into the woman he had seen. The blood of the creature was now of a Hume again, an unusual copper against the cold gold floor. Catching her, Seraph knelt down, holding her as close as he could.

She coughed in an attempt to speak. Seraph looked to her and waited. “Boy… Why is there such sorrow in you?” Seraph recalled his own memory, with Saint trying to reach out to him. “Because there is nothing that I can do to help you.” “That is my weakness. You must grow in power. You must… Hope.” She smiled, though it pained her greatly. Such a thing didn’t matter in her state. “My headdress… the Keffiyeh…” she reached for it. Commanding Zero, the Automaton retrieved it, handed it to the woman, the returned to its Masters’ side. “…I can do nothing else for your future. I give you a memory of pain and misery. See the world as I have. Take it, as is our way, and grow stronger.” She pressed the keffiyeh to his chest. “I may not walk this path any longer… I never intended to kill my brothers or sisters…” Reaching up a hand, she tapped his face. A smack? “You would have all this be in vain?” Seraph sighed. He could not do so. “Seraph… sweet boy… do not give up. This is your path. Not the Immortals. Walk your way.” A simple nod was the only reply he could furnish.

Again, the teleporataion pad activated. The Immortal in his arms looked up, and Seraph’s party turned around to face the arrival. Yet another Immortal had shown up. Looking from one to another, most of the group couldn’t place this one. Seraph, without seeing him, could. “Yasfel…”, the Immortal who he had met inside the Aydeewa Subterrane. One whose hand he took and led him to where he was now, seemingly full circle, to him again. He granted Seraph new life, and made him the adjunct of death. Fueled by indignation, Seraph’s magic became heat, quickly drying the blood caked on both him and the floor. Taking his head in her hands she looked to Seraph, focusing his attention. “Do not let him take me. I don’t want him to have the satisfaction of delivering me to their scientists.” Finding an outlet for his anger the air around him quickened, the promise of ignition drawing ever closer. Putting a head to his chest the dying Immortal whispered, allowing only the closest keen ears of an Elvaan to hear. “I will be watching you. You saw me behind the veil, and I will see you from beyond The Veil. Do not let this world triumph. It ends and begins with you.”

Seraph nodded.

“Boy… you had better always smile. Yours was my salvation. I’ll accept no excuse Seraph.” Threat delivered, her eyes met his. Seraph did as demanded, giving a genuine smile. At peace, her life left her body, smile gracing her face.

“Very good Seraph” came Yasfel’s voice. “I imagine she just moved from the teleport pad, yes?” he asked, directing the question to the other Immortals near him. Lemochu and Zendak gave no reply. One seemed to be squeezed from Zakurai. “She was blocking my arrival. So good I did not lose her…” Pulling her body in tight, Seraph fulfilled the most immediate request. Taking from her form the essence of who she was, he was flooded with her memories. The two joining in time, dancing powerfully within, Seraph turned the power outward. Fires raged high fueled with a fallen Immortal. The group parted from Yasfel and moved along the perimeter of the blaze. The Immortals took off their own keffiyehs, revealing their faces for what may have been the first in a long while. Nabasheen kneeled down, and after bathing it in the fires to give back all the Immortal had given, he planted his sword into the floor. Shoro said a prayer, a staple of White Mage learning, in the native Mithran tongue. Even Zero, inert construct though it was, placed a hand over where a mechanical heart would have been assumed to be.

Out of all those surrounding them only one lacked compasion. The ranking Immortal, Yasfel.

He moved forward once he saw no one aimed to stop the fires. “What do you think you’re doing?! That is a valuable specimen…” As he neared the blazes’ edge, Lemochu and Zendak trained their blades at his throat. “Insubordination!” Emerging from the fires, still burning, stood an unscathed Seraph. His clothes, and what was now his Keffiyeh, were unmarred. Without direction, they died down. And also without fuel.

The body of the once twisted and once saved former Immortal was no more. The fires consumed even the ash.

“Go to Hell Yasfel” Seraph said, putting a finger in his chest.

The muscles in his exposed neck tightened. “You think I’m at concerned with your emotions? We have a duties to perform. And you have impeded one of mine.” A surge of magic pushed back all of the group. Three Immortals, Zendak, Lemochu, and Seraph, though closest, felt the surge coming and grounded themselves. All the others were pushed back signifcantly. “I did not come here for a fight, but to evaluate. I can deliver the former, if that is your deepest wish.” “Then why are you here?” shot Lemochu. Yasfel looked to him, thrown off by the unusual attire. “You know full well. There are many rights of passage. To have the spirit of the Beast set free, for it to be given our orders’ blade claw, for it to be clad in our armor… and one of the last is to be told the truth.”

Seraph looked about. “What truth?” he asked, standing up to Yasfel again.

“Persistent…” he said. “May we?” he asked, looking to Seraph’s cohorts. Those who had experienced Blue Magic moved away. Shoro had to be hefted by Nabasheen. Zero had to be dragged by two others. After they had a semblance of privacy Yasfel began.

“While it may seem that it does so, our Magus Armor does not enhance the magic of a Blue Mage. While wearing it, one is thrust to the edge of their limits, forced to gaze into the abyss. It brings you to the edge of the Beast. It then unshackles the power you are subconsciously repressing. This is not easy on the conscious mind.” Yasfel looked down at his hands. “I do not think I find it trying. I have never so much as sneezed out of turn. But… for those less… formidable, there is one other useful property. It is to defer what you have witnessed. It helps to allow the wearer to retain their accepted physcial form.”

“Magus Armor is designed, specifically, to supress the physical ‘transformation’ of the vessel.”

Seraph looked down at himself. He had no problems with maintaining his motion as of today, but he had been wearing his Charuq the bulk of the time. Noting his subordinates thoughtfulness, he continued. “This said, do not rely on it to save you. Just as guarding the Empress is our appointed task, transfomation is the fate of those who drown themselves in blue magic, and fail to control the power raging within.”

Yasfel walked past Seraph, looked where the female Immortal had been, and moved a foot over the surface. He was disappointed at finding nothing of worth. “Losing the ability to maintain their form, the mortal vessel is destroyed. Judging by the injuries I could witness, and the blood on yonder Samurai’s blade, I assume you saw one of the more gruesome results. What you have seen could very possibly happen to any one of us.” Seraph looked to Lemochu, who seemed to have heard the admission. He and Nabasheen held their heads down. Shoro looked shocked, trying to force Nabasheen to look at her and give her an answer. While beyond outside of their range, Zakurai and Zendak seemed to know what was just said, based upon the others actions.

Seraph looked back to Yasfel. “Oh… you look perplexed?” he said, an odd expression in his voice. “If you know this is so, then why do you keep awakening new Blue Mages? If the result is us slaying our own, then why keep making more? If you didn’t get it right the first hundred times, why don’t you slow down instead of just dragging another into this?!” Yasfel laughed, a robust yet empty expression. “It is science. Tell me that the Summoners of Windhurst never had an incident when contracting with a Fire Spirit or Ifrit himself. Were your own countries’ Paladins always so noble? Or does it take work to perfect the Divine arts for combative purposes?”

“Be fortunate you were born in this age” Yasfel said, looking somewhat to Nabasheen. “In days gone by your pretty face would have been fused with a soulflayers’ tentacles. A little difficult to renounce demon-kind when your share the phsycial traits of one.” Yasfel walked a distance away. While looking to Seraph, he projected his voice, ensuring that even the Humes easily hear him. “This is the way of the Blue Mage, the path you ahve chosen. It cannot be undone, the evolution not stopped.” Pointing to Nabasheen “There is no going back. Do not forget…” He began looking to each party member in turn. To Shoro “…our desire is our strength” he said, a hideous smile in his voice. “Hunt down the beast and gorge your fill!” he said to Lemochu, who seemed to be the among the better developed of the present mages. “Seize the power to forge your destiny!” he directed to Zendak and Zakurai.

He focused in again on Seraph. “Remember when we first met… Show me the will that allowed you to take my hand!” His sudden enthusiasm was met with chill stares. Seraph was still seething the most. Yasfel sighed. “The vessel changes shape to meet its needs. Even outside of Blue Mages this occurs. Call it evolution.” He pointed to the keffiyeh Seraph gripped tightly. “But those who lose their mortal form are no better than monsters…” Seraph drew his blade and charged. The elegant curve went well with a flawless motion of attack, but Yasfel caught him by the throat and hefted him off the ground. Nabasheen brought his blade to the ready, and while he too was about to draw his blade, Lemochu stopped him. Yasfel smiled, watching Seraph helpless in his grasp. “How will you fair? Will you keep your mortal form until the end. Heh… No matter.” He tossed Seraph to the ground. The Elvaan slid across the smooth and polished floor. It took him a moment to sit up.

“Your actions do you credit Seraph. They show promise within the Immortals. You have faced the truth and taken the life of a colleague you never knew.” Scrutinizing the headdress he found nothing on it that he could take back. Exhausted with the effort he tossed it towards Seraph. It too slid, but stopped a good distance from him. The workings of spells spiraled up Yasfel as he began to disappear from sight. “You have earned your ‘reward’. Hm…” Yasfel moved over to Seraph, his body slowly fading. “…you may now understand the meaning behind his questions… Why Raubahn bothers so with his facade…” As Yasfel faded completely he continued his complaint. “Such a waste of energy that Waoud…”

Seraph sat on the floor for a long time. Eventually the group made their way over to. Finally not wound up, Seraph was letting everything soak in. “Seraph…” came a concerned Zakurai. “There may not be anything here… but lets head out of here, eh?” Nabasheen suggested. Seraph did not respond. His eyes were closed, he was deep in thought. His two companions stood. Lemochu just shook his head. Suddenly in motion, Seraph crawled over to the keffiyeh of his fallen sister. Looking at it, he turned, and began removing his charuq. When he was done he put on the matching shoes to his armor. He placed the charuq into one of his bags, but hung the keffiyeh off his hip. When he was done he stood, and marched towards the group, and without stopping stated “I want to leave this place.”

Marching orders given, Lemochu and Nabasheen directed Seraph to which tiles to take. The group followed suit, and they soon found themselves exiting into the Caedarva Mire. Seraph breathed in the air, remembering his time here a short while ago. He also remembered the Immortal guarding the passageway. Ensuring the rest of the group was out, he turned to them.”Thank you. I… probably would have handled that differently. I can’t really call myself an Immortal.” Lemochu and Zendak nodded, with the former replying. “I understand. Immortals need Blue Magic, but Blue Mages do not need the Immortals.” Seraph nodded. “Thank you. Present company excluded, I really want nothing to do with the Immortals right now. However, I have to persist on as Blue Mage.” A round of bows from the other Blue Mages gave Seraph space to depart. He moved to leave out. It was foolish, but he needed to burn off some steam. Time to see if he was any more prepared for those bloody Imps.

Nabasheen and Shoro watched Seraph walk away. “Is he going to be okay on his own?” she asked of the assembly. Being the only one unfamiliar with Blue Magic personally, she didn’t know what she faced. “Hard to say” Zendak said. Zakurai shook his head. “I don’t see why he wouldn’t be. He’s a bit behind me yet, but he’s holding together just fine.” Lemochu looked to this Elvaan counterpart, who seemed to be embroiled in some argument with the guarding Immortal. “I think it’s best to just let him be for now. Each Blue Mage handles things differently. Everything from life to battle.” He looked to Nabasheen with a wry smile. “And some of us like to run, hide, and bury it.” The Samurai hit the shoulder of his fellow Elvaan. “He’s still honed in to the linkshell. If he needs something, he’ll say so. And if he doesn’t, we’ll just let him be.” The three Blue Mages furnished Warp scrolls and soon whisked to their respective home points. “You’re still worried about him.” Nabasheen pointed out. Shoro nodded. “Alright… let’s go.”

“You again” said the female Immortal. “Not babysitting today?” Echoing his earlier sentiments he plainly stated “I want nothing to do with the Immortals right now.” Breezing past her, she wondered what was going on, then saw the keffiyeh at his hip. “Where did you get that? she asked, grabbing his arm. “From our sister, now fallen.” She released Seraph. “Then she did not escape… was Yasfel following her?” she asked. He nodded. Standing still, the Immortal seemed to shuffle her emotions, burying the truth deep. When she spoke she was completely composed. “I see. That is most unfortunate. When I… we…” Faltering, she slowed her speech, keeping still her sadness spilling outward. “The loss of any fellow Immortal is trying.” Seraph was still less than pleased, but could see that this Immortal had concerns beyond duty. “Stripling” she said, resounding the only designation ever foisted upon him in her presence. “How did she die?” Seeing Nabasheen and Shoro drawing closer he spoke definitely. “She died human, and smiling. She is at peace. I ensured Yasfel could not take her.” She nodded. “…for what it is worth… thank you.”

“You will have forever to cry. Choose now to be at ease Nasheefa.”

“…my…” Looking up, the guardian Immortal Nasheefa looked at Seraph. His features had altered somewhat, but his eyes were her eyes.
She watched the Elvaan walk away, two other adventurers passing her without incident.

“…my setting sun…” she whispered to herself, head bowed.

Seraph drew his blades and set out against his target. The Imp gave a laugh, throwing lightning at him from well outside of the Blue Mages’ attack range. ‘Not even close’ he thought to himself. A hyperactive Automaton shot past and body checked the Imp. Loping behind, the Samurai came up sword prepared with an attack. Flying above the Automaton the Imp put a hand to its hip. Horn missing, it assailed Zero in vain, ripping with its weak claws. As it tried to flee, Shoro’s hand extended, an invisible command sent to Zero. A sudden barrage of clipping snaps took off the Imps wings. It fell to the ground, atrophied limbs making escape impossible. Behind this came Nabasheen, attack unveiled. The powers of the two attacks combined, the element of Wind erupting.

With its death Seraph fell to the ground. His head rang, ears thrumming. The essence of the Imp had reacted to his Blue Magic, and he could feel the basis of a new spell. But it was out of reach. He flashed back to his own mind, the projections of the stars. The Imp flared bright, refusing to be drawn in. Drawing on the determination he had sworn to show, he reached out, pulling the fleeting life of the Imp into himself. Shoro looked on as a thick cloud of red spread up around Nabasheen. The Samurai seemed to react as well, his memory heeding him of the process happening. He turned to watch as Seraph, hands extended, forcibly drew the energy of the Imp into him. The red cloud phased into blue. The Immortals’ eyes shot open wide, and opening his mouth he seemed to breath in fully the new spell. He paused, then doubled over, hands held around his stomach.

Shoro reached out, but Nabasheen held a hand on her shoulder.

Slowly Seraph stood, breathing heavily. “Stupid… bloody… Imp…” he said.

Nabasheen laughed, and Shoro breathed a sigh of relief. She then walked over and punched Seraph. “Don’t do that again.” Seraph laughed, some blue vapors coming out. He held a hand over his mouth. “Sorry… That’s impolite. There’s really no ‘chew and swallow’ with this whole process.” Shoro’s face twisted in disgust. “Oh… that’s just gross! Naba…” Her Elvaan friend was laughing. “He makes me want to work on Blue Magic again!” “You can’t be serious?” Shoro asked, sounding dire. “After everything that happened today, now that I know, you’re considering it?” Nabasheen nodded. “Yeah. I mean… look at him. Charging in against monsters no one else at his level would have a right dealing with. Facing his over perversion. And to hear Sogomi and Rai tell it, he’s already been through this area once before on his own. He’s got the backing of two of us already. He’s might be crazier than the lot of us. Why not learn from him?”

Shoro looked between the two of them. Seraph seemed to have regained full control. “What is it?” He breathed in and out several times. “Frenetic Rip. I can’t use the spell yet. It’s still beyond my ability to use.” Nabasheen rolled in more laughter. “And he can’t even use the spell yet! How classic.” Shoro shook her head. “Can we just go home?” Nabasheen nodded. “Yeah… Hey Seraph! Where are you heading?” “Back to Whitegate I suppose. I should probably report back to… Raubahn…” Remembering what Yasfel had said… He referred to the two as the same person. They did share the same glowing eye. Seraph just never got the feeling he was speaking to the same person with the two of them. But, being more familiar with the inner worlds it would make sense that there could be a great division.

At least it made sense why Waoud always led to Raubahn.

“Want to take the ferry?” Shoro asked. Nabasheen looked at her oddly. “That’s odd. No one takes the ferry anymore.” “Yeah… I know. It’ll be fun.” When Seraph began walking, Zero quickly ran to his side, and the four made their way through Nashmau. The ferry had some time to reach arrive. Getting to talking the group had back and forth in regards to why they were adventuring. Hearing that Seraph just got his own Automaton she grabbed him and ran to a merchant in town. This particular Qiqirn, a rat like beastman, sold attachments which improved the performance of Automatons when activated. The duo looked over several of them, and the Immortal considered their applications. Nabasheen advised them that the ferry returning to Whitegate had arrived, and the two quickly set off, climbing aboard with plenty of time. Seraph remained below deck again, just wanting to rest and citing exhaustion. Both his friends understood and left him to his own. Seraph closed his eyes, drawing into his own mind. Still cast in pitch darkness he focused, calling up his first meeting with Raubahn, under the guise of Waoud. The Immortal commander asked his barrage of entry questions… an entry exam, under the veil of an eccentric fortuneteller. The memory began taking shape. Suddenly, the barge rocked. Seraph, wholly unattentive, felt Blue Magic flowing into him. “Regeneration… what in the…” He ran up the stairs, witnessing Naba trying to foist the body of a dead Sea Monk of the side of the boat, Shoro complaining wildly about the waist of perfectly good sushi. When Nabasheen ceased his arguing Shoro looked back to see Seraph. “Would you two mind not killing anything that I can snatch magic from while I’m trying to meditate?” Shoro looked a bit embarassed, while Nabasheen subtly kicked the still flailing beast off the side. The Mithra marked the splash with several manners of distress, but was elated when Nabasheen showed he held onto two of the writhing tentacles. The Mithra seized them happily. He wondered if how he was unsettled was how Shoro was when he absorbed the Imps’ life force.

Docking at the port, the trio left the ship and progressed into Whitegate proper. Shoro stopped in at the Automaton workshop to hand off a few attachments she had purchased. “That was a nice haul” Nabasheen said while rubbing his neck trying to stretch out a muscle. Upon her rejoining the group Shoro and Nabasheen unconsciously followed Seraph. Having gained spells which he couldn’t yet use, ascending to the point to where he could utilize them was his next order of business. In that vein, so was new equipment. Taking out Kushdeel’s list, he proceeded to the Auction House to check prices. “I’ll be right back” he said, and left the two near the lobbies’ sole entryway. The attendant remembered him, and quickly brought up a list of the items Seraph had looked for, including prices. They hadn’t changed at all. Thanking the attendant, he turned away.

Looking at the returned Elvaan Shoro noticed the dejected look on his face. “What’s wrong?” Seraph looked at the list again, then handed it to her. Nabasheen looked over her shoulder. “What’s this?” Sighing, Seraph explained. “These are the items that are the makings of the rest of an Immortal’s armor.” Nabasheen looked over the list, his eyes growing wide as he went on. “What’s a karakul?” he asked. Seraph slumped over dejectedly. “I wish I knew. Between spell hunting and trying to catch up with my friend I haven’t been willing to slow down and build up a store of funds.” “There’s better armor out there that would suit you” Shoro said. Seraph spoke with a smile, but had a rather dry tone. “With the way I’m going I could use every bit of help I could get.”

The three were silent.

“Like Nabasheen pointed out, there are items there I haven’t even heard of. All I do have is this…” he said, taking out a piece of flan meat he had retrieved from his recent outing to Navukgo. “I could go off and find the rest of the base materials, but the creatures are probably out of my league, just like this one was” he said, squeezing the little gelatinous steak. “Then there comes the crafting of the actual materials, which would cost more money to hone than just buying the things pre-made. And the amount of time it would take for any of these paths… don’t get me started…” Seraph continued to rant on, arms flailing, hands punctuating specific points. He began pacing, simulating a timeline which always collapsed in upon itself in a paradox. Shoro looked to Nabasheen who shrugged his shoulders. “Seraph… how much would it cost again?” Pausing momentarily he used one hand to mark off each item, another to count off some denomination which he retained mentally. After checking and re-checking he voiced the total, “150,000 gil, give or take”, and then continued to carry on not having missed a beat. Reaching into her bag she took out a little more than the amount he had stated it. “Seraph…” she said, causing him to turn around at the sound of his name. She walked forward and put the collected currency in his hand.

“What is this?” Shoro stood silent. Seraph looked down and counted through the amount. It took a surprisingly long space of time before he realized the amounts’ significance. “…Shoro?” She shook her head. “Take it. I have plenty.” Stammering with his mouth agape he tried to deflect the kindness. “But I can’t… this is more money then I’ve ever seen at one time… and… but…” She put a hand to his shoulder. “I don’t need it just now. You do. Use it.” Seraph’s eyes looked at her, then glazed over. “This would reduce months’ worth of work to… nothing.”

Seizing the Mithra in a hug he picked her up off the ground and spun her around several times. “Thank you thank you thank you thank you!” Setting her down, Shoro wobbled a bit. Seraph marched back over to the auction house counter, muttering with a vengeful glee all the while. “I… could be done…” he trailed off, smiling to himself. “…let’s see how you like this Kushdeel…” Without even putting the money into his pouch he set it on the counter. “All of them” he said to the attendant. Pulling up the individual lists Seraph started bidding on them all. One by one each item was his. His loaned wealth dwindled down. But, before the end, he had crossed off every item off of his list. Desperate though he was, he managed to retain the whole of his own coffers and some of Shoro’s. He had the items bundled in a small sack. He had no intention of holding them that long. He moved back to the waiting duo. “Well?” they said in unison. He packed the bundled items. “Every last one.” Shoro jumped up in celebration, but had to steady herself on Nabasheen’s shoulder, apparently still a bit dizzy.

He opened his hand to her, offering back to her his remaining gil.

“What is this?” Shoro asked, returning Seraph’s earlier confusion. “It’s what’s left. Minus a few gil for my necessary operating costs.” Looking at it, followed up Seraph’s arm, trying to maintain focus. “If you don’t stop with all the politeness I’m going to toss my sushi all over your shoes” she replied, some humor in her voice. Nabasheen laughed. “Wow… she’s serious.” Seraph put the money in his pouch reluctantly. Then, in an absolutely unnecessary act, genuflected to Shoro. “Thank you. Hopefully I can retain my solidarity of Self long enough to repay you.” Shoro seemed literally choked up. She may have merely been trying to keep down the aforementioned sushi. Elated though he was Seraph had a realization which stalled his enthusiasm. “That could be me one day…” he said trailing off. In one hand he held his purchased items and the salvaged Keffiyeh. Looking to his one open hand he finished “…one day soon.” He looked at Nabasheen who appeared dejected. “You’re a good guy Seraph. I don’t think…” “…that bad things happen to good people? Will my good heart stop me from transforming into a demon? You’re a Samurai. You know about binding a sealing them. Do any demons have something inherent that would stop you from killing one?” Nabasheen said nothing. Seraph began walking away.

Samurai know about demons. Their training empowers them against them.

He turned back to the group. “Wait… you all knew this could happen to Blue Mages? We can become Soulflayers? We become demons?” Seeming to worry Nabasheen answered carefully. “Well… I did have an idea…” “What about you Shoro?” She nodded. “I’m not as experienced as you are with it, but yes, it was a concern of mine” she said looking to the Samurai. Seraph looked back at Nabasheen “Familiarizing yourself with potential demons doesn’t bother you?” The two looked to each other. “What are you getting at?” Seraph stared Nabasheen dead on. “Does Rai know this?” Nabasheen nodded swiftly his broad smile still on his face. “I imagine. I probably mentioned…” He realized the same chain that Seraph now grasped. “Oh wow. Seraph, no…”

The young Immortal stormed away toward Kushdeel’s.

“Rai.” Nothing.

It was only a theory.

“Rai.” Still no answer.

He shouldn’t let his anger get the better of him.



“Do you know what’s going on right now? What I had to go through today?“

“Yes. Lemochu gave me a heads’ up.“

“How long have you known?“

“For a long while. I haven’t been close to any Blue Mages in the past. I didn’t remember it at all until Saint left so abruptly. It all came flooding back then, and it made sense, especially if he didn’t know the truth. I may have responded the same way.“

Pausing, Seraph mulled over his next question. It could change his life significantly. “So you’re watching me…?“

“Because Saint asked. Because you’ve done right by him, and you by me. If you do fall, I can make sure you do so honorably. I sleep safe in the knowledge I’ll do it myself.” A phantom shifting of Rai’s weapon sounded in his head.

“So why help me at all?“

“You stood no chance of winning if you stayed where you were. If you don’t beat the fabled Beast at its strongest, then you won’t really have won.“

There was a long silence.

“Like I told you, I wouldn’t have vouched for you with Moghat if I didn’t trust you. Saint saw something, left you on your own, because he thought you could make it. Don’t win for me, for him. Conquer this thing for your own sake.”

As he made his way around the corner Seraph could see Lathuya leaning on the counter per her norm. She seemed bored, but lit up when she saw Seraph coming. She called down the lane happily, but began shrinking back as he got closer. Seraph could hear a knock, supposedly on Kushdeel’s door. Seraph was pouring off anger, but surprisingly his magic stayed under control. “H-hello Seraph” came a very nervous greeting. “Good day Lathuya. Where is Kushdeel?” As if cued he emerged from the door with a flourish, draping garments unfurling as the air moved through the suddenly open doorway. “I am here!” he said excitedly. When his entrance was met with one blank and one seething glare he dropped his arms. “Can’t I have any fun?” He walked to his respective side of the counter. “Well, now that you’ve ruined THAT… what do you want Seraph?”

Setting the package of items up, he opened them for the master craftsman’s inspection. “I am here for the rest of my armor.” Kushdeel picked up some of the items and looked them over. “All fine specimens. You gathered them rather quickly… just a short time ago you yourself claimed it would not have been so hastily. Did you collect them yourself?” Seraph was not in the mood for games. “There are here, amassed before you, are they not?” Kushdeel eyed the veiled response. “Oh… so you bought them somehow? Hm… I don’t know if the armor will be as potent as it should be…” A small pulse of energy was easily noticeable. Seraph was, again, losing his patience.

“Now Kushdeel. I am not in place to be delayed.” Taking the keffiyeh from his belt he set it too on the counter.

Maiden and Master looked to their customer and the headdress he furnished. “Now where did you happen across this? Such things are attuned to their owners unless…” Kushdeel scoffed. “You would do well to recall that the use of magic inside the city is forbidden except when a call to defense is sounded, but always here in Whitegate proper.” He leaned in close. “You should also be aware that I of all people am not one who is intimidated by the Immortals.” “I am not here to intimidate. If this armor is to do as I believe, then I am need of it immediately.” The Master Craftsman nodded. “If it is as you say, so must it be.” Kushdeel moved back to one end of the counter and set his head in one hand. “The items are in order, but that speaks in no regards to payment…”

Seraph slammed down a total of eight Imperial Mythril coins, facilitating the full fee of the armors’ construction.

Kushdeel looked the fee over. “My my… I’d not have thought you able to procure such payment so quickly.” Seraph laughed sourly. “Blue Magic does not an Immortal make, but sufficient gil in the right hands does good standing provide, even here in the bosom of the Empress.” Lathuya held a hand over her mouth, and Kushdeel’s sudden laughter rolled out of him. “Now that is a mindset I enjoy!” Taking up the payment, he had Lathuya begin moving the items to his work station. “I will do as I am able. I do not work on more than one piece of armor at a time. What you want is not mere clothing, and there is an art to what I do. It will take some time to complete.” Seraph nodded, walked past the stores’ counter, and sat down beyond the entryway to the open air storefront. “Then I shall wait.” And with that, he sat down with his legs crossed, back straight and parallel to the wall. Kushdeel shook his head. “Heh… the youth these days.” The sound of his closing door, and a surprised sigh from Lathuya were the last sounds Seraph bothered to recognize for some time. Setting down the Keffiyeh and his Kilij, he closed his eyes and waited.

Sword and Headdress used by Immortals

When Seraph looked back up he found himself in the still of the night. His body was a touch stiff from sitting in such a demanding posture, and he reclined onto the wall. He was confused to find the wall soft. He turned, and a small plush hanging had been attached to the wall behind him. “Oh… sir. He’s back.” Seraph turned the other way to see Lathuya sitting on the counter, speaking to the back of the store. “Kushdeel insisted we jar you from whatever trance you may have been in, but I thought it best to leave you to your own.” Coming around the corner in all manners of seriousness was Kushdeel. “We should talk. Come.” He turned and returned to the back of the store. Seraph took his armaments and followed. Trying to to collect the impromptu upholstery Lathuya shooed him after Kushdeel.

Having entered the doorway Seraph could see a domicile further back, but a cramped workshop shoved into what should have been the welcoming area pinched the two close together. “I was uncertain just how long you were going to sit their like a statue. I was positive you could have been nudged into some comfort, but Lathuya tried to no avail.” Seraph looked around. “If you are looking for your armor” Kushdeel interrupted, “it is prepared. I am not one to rush my work. However…”

Kushdeel pulled up a stool and sat down. “What is it that you aimed to gain coming here?” Seraph answered quickly. “I only sought to understand myself. I came from San d’Oria because nothing between homeland and this place furnished the answer I needed. I found what I was looking for here, and could go no further besides.” “The Immortals…” Kushdeel began solemnly. “…do that play into your Self?” Seraph shook his head. “They are proving themselves further and further from me. But I am still learning. I will take what is of use, and leave the rest.” He laughed. “Sorry… my time as a Thief betraying me.” Kushdeel placed his hands on his knees and seemed to have a heavy weight on his brow. “I would like you to listen to me, without interruption. Can you do this?” Seraph nodded, and the other Elvaan began.

“I have seen a great many Blue Mages before you, and I plan to see a great many Immortals pass my way after you. My job is to furnish them in armor. I am not sure what you know, but there are side effects that no one is told about. You are, essentially, drugged. ‘Why… let’s unlock ultimate power within you. Oh, go on and develop it.’ They could warn you against the transformations, the deterioration. It is rare that any come and see old Kushdeel once they have been fully served their attire. Often times, I hear word soon after that they have succumbed to the Beast. I try to do what I can to prevent this. I care for every piece of armor, construct it with pride and hope. I never cut a corner, never overlook a detail, never let a tassel have a thread out of place before it leaves my hands. Even with all I can do, it is up to each individual. Often times I am left in the dark and all I see are morbid reminders of those I thought had promise. A shattered blade. A malformed creature dragged in by the Imperial alchemists. Knowing I did not make your keffiyeh for you, knowing that each piece is inexorably bound to one wearer only, I can only surmise how you got it.”

Kushdeel rose and brought out the three piece of armor he finished.

“The Shalwar” he said, holding up a pair of leggings that flared before reaching the bottom. “These will help to ground you, and allow you to focus upon your castings.” A pair of gloves, with holes to allow the fingers to be used without hampering dexterity Topped with gold it was gloriously wrought as it was temptingly dangerous. “Bazubands… these gauntlets are a physical extension of the power to take in your foes essence. You will be able to interact more tangibly with the death knells of the fallen and claim their life as your own. Lastly… the Jubbah…” He laid out an ornate cloth chestpiece. White sleeves with gold bands on the sleeves, with blue cloth and gold fastenings down the front. “…this will hone your talents, bringing you and your Beast further into synchronization”

“Since you first came to me a few short days ago you have not grown noticeably in power. I do not know if you can handle wearing this armor. Those with more control are brought to their knees. I cannot advise you taking it so lightly. I should not have given it to you at all but… eh. It is your life.” Kushdeel packed the clothing into a tight bundle, placing the keffiyeh with it. “Have you ever lost yourself to the Beast Seraph?” The Blue Mage nodded. “I see. Then you know the first signs of when you are at risk. I would suggest stilling yourself. Not until you and it speak on solid ground would I try to bring it to a boil.” Handing off the parcel, Kushdeel led Seraph back outside.

“Kushdeel, I have a question.” The elder Elvaan nodded. “On your list, I saw that the materials for my clothing were grouped into each piece. Why tell me that I needed two, two and four Mythril pieces instead of just saying I needed eight?” Nodding again, he answered. “The journeys of a Blue Mage are a personal one. The order of the pieces is based upon need. Some are voracious and only care for the bazubands to tear out more magic. Some wish to increase their attunement with the Beast, or at least focus the monster through a tighter hole. That is where the jubbah will serve. It is why I did not hesitate to make an exception with you. If you need the full armor, so be it. I can only warn you.” Seraph nodded. “How often do new Immortals gain their Keffiyehs as I do?” Kushdeel balked. “By killing another Immortal? Almost never! Empress forbid… how would there be so many if that were the case?” Seraph stood, taking his packaged clothing and started walking away. He threw out a question. “Why then, were there no materials for keffiyehs on your list?” A long silence passed before Seraph walked from view.

Watching the young Elvaan go Kushdeel smiled in spite of the bitter truth he knew. “Far too observant that one.” Waving to Lathuya to take the rest of the day off, the Master Craftsman grabbed his tackle box and rod and set out. Perhaps a more somber spirit was needed to attune to Aydeewa.

Checking his coin, he had a substantial sum of standard gil, but his Imperial currency was sorely lacking. Unable to thusly return with any sort of ease to the Middle Lands he made his way to Al Zahbi. When requiring teleportation from the Middle Lands one had to go through Salaheem’s Sentinels. When wishing to travel in the other direction, two brothers Taru had the magical clout to close the divide. The elder was quite skilled able to plant travelers down on a pins’ head in either Jeuno or to whichever nation they were aligned with, for a fee. The younger was willing to provide the same service for free, but…

…well… he had a long way to go.

He’d heard tales of adventurers being left in the strangest of areas. Sometimes they’d landed right as intended in the Grand Duke Palace at the top of Jeuno’s structure. Most oft, they’d be in on of the areas outside of Jeuno, stranded atop towers, pillars, and ruins. The axiom ‘You get what you pay for’ was often whispered when relying upon Shihu-Dahnu’s. However, having no funds, the price was right. Having found Shihu-Dahnu safe and sound in spite of beleaguering attacks, he greeted the Elvaan nervously. “Oh my… um… Hello… May I be of assistance?” Seraph crouched slightly, coming eye level to the Taru who stood atop a crate. “Still practicing your Trans-Warp spell casting.” Nodding, Shihu-Dahnu nudged the crate. “Yes… I still don’t have the hang of it. My brother…” “Don’t worry about him” Seraph said. “You will do well enough in time. Being low in coin and gifted with time if you should happen to land me outside of Jeuno it is of no consequence.” The young Taru nodded. “…thank you…” Seraph stood. “I did not mean to diminish your skills. Relax.”

Taking a deep breath the Taru nodded and began drawing in the energy for the spell. “Seraph!” came Shoro’s voice. Making an about face he saw she and Nabasheen coming up on him. “I’m glad we caught you.” He looked between them. “Sorry if I worried you. Storming off is…” Shoro flicked his forehead. “Right… I’m being overly polite.” Nabasheen nodded. “Apparently we can do that. In that vein, we were going to take you spell hunting. Got the time?” Seraph laughed. “Yes, actually. I was just saying to our friend here…” He’d forgotten about the Warp spell. And apparently, Shihu-Dahnu needed all his focus to coalesce the working, and when he opened his eyes Seraph was not where he had intended. Seraph tried to jump back in place, but the young transporter tried to move the spell. Seraph ended up being pushed by the Warp spell as it moved a slight bit while closing. “Um… oops.”

Seeming to be only a moment later, Seraph appeared midair and mid-motion, landing on slatted planks. Rolling into a kneel, he rubbed his head and checked for injuries. Finding none he didn’t feel a need to worry. Calls both physical and linkshell based rang in Seraph’s ears.

“Where’d you end end up?” Nabasheen asked playfully mocking.

“Seraph, you alright?” resounded Shoro.

“Something happened to Seraph?” echoed the majority of the shell.

“Who goes up there?” came a voice sounding from below. From below?

“I’m fine everyone. Just give me a moment.” Moving to the edge of the assembled boards in the direction of the voice Seraph looked over and found himself looking down at another Elvaan. “Ah… hail kinsman.” The Elvaan appeared to be one of the Royal Knights, and looked about shocked. “From where did you come… and just how did you manage yourself up there?” Seraph jumped down with an acrobatic flourish and stated “I blame errant Taru-portation.” The Knight looked at him most curiously. “I am… sorry…?” Seraph blinked and sighed. While he was apt to slip into it quite readily, he had been away from San d’Orian culture for quite awhile. The near unrelenting expectation gone, he had loosened up quite a bit. Lifelong San d’Orian, especially the Elvaan, did not have an “off switch” in most cases. Loosening up was, almost assuredly, a sign of madness. Adventurers were accepted as they held their use, but most of the citizens had to adhere. The innumerable magics housed within him may or may not have added fuel to this particular fire.

Seraph breathed in. He was in a forest, dappled with light from the moons’ glow. The smell recalled him to Ronfaure, but this place was so much older. Stagnant pools of water, moss, decaying greenery beneath his feet, and the scent of far flung winds long trapped beneath the ancient boughs filled his lungs. So much time was here, this place was untouched and remained as it was. Not harvested as the forests of Ronfaure these trees were ancient and strong. A well sharpened axe would be needed to take the bark, but there was no chance of the whole of the forest being consumed by living hands. Holding doubts that this place could even be destroyed by fire, Seraph was intoxicated with an ethereal and absolute peace.

This place was Immortal.

Between inhaling and exhaling he took a long look around. His sight extended far. Many creatures rife with the potential for Blue Magic roamed here. They were soon overshadowed by all the rest of this lush wood. The trees thrummed with their own life, the essence of life roiling off them threatening to sear Seraph’s altered eyesight if he did not look away. The potential energy was deep and sleeping. In the darkness he felt as though he were looking at the sun behind clouds. It was too bright to snuff out, and even obscured in total one was aware of its magnificence.

As he breathed out the sounds of less threatening wildlife echoed in chorus. The wind picked up with a whisper. Laughter and pain were shared here. Among the auspicious musings were the voices of the undead. Longing for release from this world, their dirge added to the beauty of this place. One could not come here and be forced not to stop and admire it. It was severe and overpowering, but welcoming and wondrous

Stretching his hands out he could feel himself enter into an endless cycle with this area. This place giving, himself returning.

Breathing in once more he opened his mouth, allowing himself to taste each bit of musk that floated in the air, savoring the awesome tangibility of this… this… paradise.

Having evaluated all this in mere seconds Seraph languished in returning to the physical coil, having spent an eternity with Bliss. He recalled the severity of his potential condition. Of the concern of his fellow linkshell members. And, most pressingly, the confused Royal Knight before him. Filled with the still air of this place he began speaking in a more expected timbre. “I apologize. I find myself truly displaced by my journey.” The Knight nodded. “Aye… the ways of magic are fraught with such discombobulation” A pulse of life ran through Seraph’s feet. Energy from his hands leaked out, reaching out to become as one with the area. “Forgive my folly, but I was intending on happening inside Jeuno proper. Where do we happen to be?” The Knight looked about. “My… you are well off your mark friend. This is the Sanctuary of Zi’Tah.”

Zi’Tah… yes.

Seraph breathed again, in and out, and let himself attune to this place. He did not aim to dwell here, but as it was when he first entered Whitegate, he had unmistakeably returned home. Seraph had no intent to make this like a staging point. Indulging the sagacity for a time wouldn’t hurt. A deep low wind began to blow, Timeless One and timeless place responding to each others’ call. The Royal Knight, disturbed by the unusual shift in the environment, continued pack. “This is a good night to depart. The winds are ominous indeed.”

“If you are setting out Jeuno way, you are more than welcome to come with me” said the Royal Knight. “Results of Conquest have been tallied, and we lost this place to Bastok of all possible insult. I will be going the long way home, as soon as the representative from Bastok makes it here.” Seraph looked about listlessly, drawn beyond compare to every facet of this place. A towering monolith of fashioned living stone stomped about near a glowing rock. So beautiful, the both of them. “If I am ready to leave before you are, I may take you up on that off. Thank you Good Knight.” Seraph drew his weapons and made his way toward the twice tall being. “Take Care of yourself with those Golems, Boy! They have nasty uses of elements.”

Seraph walked over to the golem. It seemed as enamored with the rock glowing at its crown before it as Seraph was. As it turned, it took a moment for it to realize the presence of another. Still flowing in and out of the tides of the area while also interested in the Golem, the Blue Mage was abuzz with the areas’ energy. The Golem seemed to be a guardian of the natural sanctity of this place, and the Elvaan before him seemed a natural resident. Their eyes met and nary a thought seemed to trouble either of them. Paying no heed to him the Golem went about its business.

As it walked past the metal of Seraph’s Kilij scraped against the low hanging arm of the Golem. The sound drew Elvaan from his trance, and the shift in energy alerted the Golem to one that may consume this place. To the golem, the interloper felt as the metal clad one did nearby, a Sunderer of the Wood, a Trodder Upon Sibling Stone. A mighty fist drawn back and sent flying into the earth. The Blue Mage, veering well around the attack, returned a strike in his own time. By both Guardian and Beast was the battle joined.

The Royal Knight watched on from afar. He was concerned that the fresh faced Elvaan had walked into his doom, and was for a time confused at the fact that the Golem did not attack even though arms had been widely drawn. In spite of the armor worn, the young man was light on his feet. Most of the attacks were dodged entirely. Side swipes were met with crossed swords, and some type of daintiful maneuver around the limb, setting the massive creature off balance. The young Elvaan seemed to be toying with the brute, cutting into it just enough to keep it interested. He hadn’t seemed so able just a moment ago, though his dismount from the roof was impressive. The Golem, agitated, lifted its arms up and the air began to still above it. It was focusing in the element of Ice, preparing to raze the combatant with the power. Even from afar the temperature dropped. At once the embattled Elvaan stilled, and before the attack could be used, used a focused assault to fell the Golem. As the Golem fell to its knees, defeated, so did the boy Elvaan, body contorted in pain. Had he suffered a more mortal blow than could be seen? Just as the Royal Knight began moving forth, the Boy sprang up, seemingly unphased and none worse for wear. A trio of bats flitted about, moving as one as they went on their hunts for prey. Seeking the Boy out, they flew to him quickly. Again, he lightly tagged the creatures. Again and again, small attack, dodging theirs. Was this the extent of the young mans’ abilities? If this is what passed as an adventurer there was much concern to be had. Sufficiently riled, and ready to begin feasting, the bat trio came in from three directions to attack. Again, there was a small pause by the Boy Elvaan, and he began drawing in magic power. Ah… this would explain much. It was the rare mage who experienced the front line of battles. A Red Mage most likely. At the same time the stored power was unleashed, so to was the attack from another Golem. Seizing sword and looking about the Royal Knight saw no other Golem. A notorious fiend known as Huwasi stalked about, taking particular umbrage to any and all foreign to the wood. None to be seen, the spectacle distracted him from his watch. The bat trio had, in the meantime, met their end, and again the adventurer fell to his knees. Much less winded he popped back up and looked around. Again he began drawing in power. And now to see…

A bat trio attack.

Had the boy…

So the Royal Knight watched. When fighting a large green Fly… he used the attack. A Goblin, an identical bomb. Leeches, techniques to siphon magical essence. Even without their presence undeads knack for stealing life itself. After such a rotation, focusing once more, the sharpened pillar of ice claimed another victim. This boy… this… creature was taking all of the abilities of the fiends into it. Each and every one it felled granted him another gift. Seeing the Bastok area overseer coming the Royal Knight packed his belongings and set out. “This area is all yours” he said without stopping.

He would have to report this… and figure out how not to sound mad when he did so.

As the Bastok overseer arrived to set up at the outpost Seraph watched the Royal Knight dart away swiftly. “My… what got into him?” asked the overseer aloud. Not knowing, the Elvaan went over and began assisting in set up. “Many thanks Seraph.” While he had not been in Bastok for long by anyone’s’ standard he had gained a small level of renown. It made the going much easier when those affiliated were able to gain an immediate recollection of him. His reputation in San d’Oria and Windhurst was sound, though he had done no respectable works for those respective nations. While somewhat known throughout Jeuno, he seemed to have troubles every now and again with the Tenshodo.

“What brings you here?” Calliope asked. Being able to relax significantly more Seraph spoke. “An accident by Taru-portation.” A look of confusion spread across her face. “I am… sorry?” The Elvaan laughed, and couldn’t help it. Apparently the statement itself fell along the edges of sanity. “Seraph” rang out a curious Mithra’s voice. Excusing himself, Seraph spoke to Shoro. “Sorry about the delay. I am in Zi’Tah.” A small pause. “You really got set off course. I think that’s a first.” “I plan to tell Shihu-Dahnu to rebrand his services. Seems he can reach everywhere his brother doesn’t service.” “Planning to head back to town soon?” “No, actually. I am… at peace here.” The full weight of this sentiment was not lost the Mithra who had shared the trials of the past day. “I think I’ll stay for some time to come. Clear my head.” “Alright Seraph. Take care of yourself out there, okay?” “But of course. I may not be honed into the linkshell channel, but feel free to call on me should the whim arise.” “Got it!”

Seraph returned to the outpost. Having been squared away the overseer and a regional purveyor took their positions, adhering to their tasks. “How are your supplies?” Seraph called out to the overseer. She nodded thankfully. “Good for now, but we’ve just arrived. I imagine more wouldn’t hurt as we’re here for a long haul.” Nodding to the overseer, “I’ll pick some up. I plan to be in the area for quite awhile.” Overjoyed Calliope saluted, and attuned him more concretely to this place. Next to them the purveyors’ duties included furnishing teleportation back to ones’ home nation. Once again, the flow of moogle magic made the task significantly less taxing, and the trip would be of no cost to any traveler who requested it. and Seraph set out back to Bastok.

Arriving in front of Conrad in the Bastok Mines, Seraph thought carefully on what to do. Going to Crying Wind, a Galka who guarded the southernmost gate of Bastok, he procured a Warp scroll and outpost supplies. On a frivolous whim he checked the auction house for Near Eastern furniture. Sadly none was available, nor had been for quite some time. As it seemed a defunct venture he made his way home, having not called on Makar in a small while. “Hello Seraph!” came a happy greeting. “Welcome home!” exclaimed Tandem, surprisingly active. The duo milled about the room, keeping items in check, tending a small plant, and general being busy. As the Automaton darted in front of the fire its white-gold dome and purple hued chassis glimmered in its light. “I thought Tandem had been out of range?” Seraph posed openly. “I am able to remain active while in range” it said. The Elvaan shook his head. Perhaps landing in Zi’Tah was ‘in range’? “Did you enjoy your time with Waoud?” Seraph asked, betraying no reason to worry his friend. “Oh, yes, quite. He’s a rather interesting individual, wouldn’t you say?” Laughing Seraph said “He certainly puts the ‘dual’ into the word.” Makar paused, and flitted over to him. “How do you mean?”

Seraph stalled, but saw no reason to lie. “He is not all he appears to be. Be wary of him in the future. In fact…” Taking his hand to his Unorthodox linkshell, he had it produce a small black pearl, sufficient in size for a moogle. “I know it clashes with everything you own, but wear it. In the event anything should happen, call me up.” Makar’s little eyes welled up with tears. “Oh… Kupo! My Master is so caring!” The pint sized pantry man hugged his chosen charge, who returned the gesture in kind. “You should be fine here I imagine, but it is better to be unnecessarily proactive rather to be unprepared.” Eventually separating himself from the over-elated and teary eyed Moogle, Seraph pressed through the cities’ back alleys to Port Bastok.

As he drew close to the exits he established communication with Clearite. During the last moments of their meeting they had settled on a few places to rendezvous should the situation arise. Coming on the site, he waited for some response. Instead, Seraph was met with a sudden exasperated sighing sourcing from behind him. “Seraph, Seraph, Seraph. You’ve been a busy Blue Mage.” Clearite leaned against the wall behind him. Wearing plate mail of a mute grey she seemed to be doing well enough. “‘Beware the Immortals’ I said. You’ve done anything but. Delivering trinkets, taking out their enemies for them. I’d almost be willing to bet good gil on your full induction.” Seraph looked to her in confusion. “Well, if you know all that then you’ll also be happy to know that I’m picked up an Automaton to use.” Taking the bait she answered quickly. “No, I didn’t. Such a thing falls well beneath my concern…” “…and that of the Pharatrie I surmise.”

Clearite stopped. “What makes you say that?” Seraph crossed his arms and stared down his Elvaan counterpart. “Because if you had gotten your information from Aisha she’d certainly have mentioned that. Instead you’ve carried on about every little thing as related to the Immortals. As I doubt you’re connected within those ranks, the answer was easy.” Scoffing, she waved at Seraph dismissively “I had greater hopes for you. Maybe you weren’t so foolish as to get entwined. I have no intention of sticking around lest the trail you’ve been set on is to reel me in.” “That’s not why I’m here” Seraph said insulted. “Then why are you back here? Couldn’t cut it with the…” “I made a promise to you, didn’t I? Clearite stopped, thinking back. “No… I don’t think you did.” She began to set off again. “I did agree, albeit passively, to speak to you and Aisha about the Immortals themselves. Or does that information no longer interest you?” Sufficiently stalled she turned cautiously. Seraph called out his grimoire and the page holding his temporary Warp scroll began to activate. “If you are still curious, bring Aisha and make your way out to Zi’Tah. I will be there for a long while.” A sphere of Black Magic absorbed Seraph, parting him from Clearite, leaving the Elvaan lass to consider adjusting her agenda.

Day was dawning. Delivering the supplies he was given leave to come here directly by way of Conrad. Seraph was tired, and rightly so, but chose to set out and explore Zi’Tah a bit more. Many creatures were aggressive as Seraph wandered. He fought them, a bit remorseful that his path to bettering himself and control would cost he lives of so many. A variety of large cat called a Couerl stalked about a distance away from the outpost, and posed a great challenge. This was comparative, as it didn’t truly tax his skills overmuch. Losing track of time night fell, and a number of undead Hounds seemed to replace the Couerls. This pattern held many times, and through it all Seraph progressed on. Though he kept the lines open, no summons were asked of him from Moghat or Makar. No direct messages from Clearite or Rai. Seraph kept utilizing his magic, ascending to his limits. Feeling the end as being too close, he began to wonder if he’d lost track of his senses again. He reached out to Clearite first.

“Yeah?” Seraph breathed a sigh of relief. “Ah… I’m still cohesive. Sorry to bother you. I have merely been out of touch for awhile.” A pause. “…you’re still in Zi’Tah?!” Seraph laughed. “Well, yes. I said I would be.” Another pause. “Make it to the outpost when you can. We’ll meet you there.” Just as Seraph arrived a pair of teleportation auras formed into Clearite and an unusually sour Aisha. Asking if it was acceptable to use the interior of the outpost, the three were directed inside.

The Beast Within

Omens – Marks VI



Disclaimer – 28 December 2017

          Much like anyone who has developed a skill I cringe looking back on earlier works. I know this work will be a hard to read and is not formatted in the best way. However my writings past, present, and future will all be made with the same heart and spirit. I love writing. I love sharing what I make. I take pride in all the works I produce. This is simply from my earlier days. Back then, I didn’t know what I was going to make out of this blogging gig. So I wrote, and I posted. If I got hung up on it being perfect, I never would have shared it.

          Since then I’ve read and learned. The results that came from 150% effort in the past come from 30% now. That is just how growth works.

          I may come back and edit this one day to bring it in line with my present standards. This is likely if my written works prove to earn my daily bread. Or if I have no pending articles (ha) and find myself bored. Still, I would not have made it where I am without this stepping stone, humble as it is.

This said, none-the-less, I hope you enjoy reading this offering.

Jasper H.B. a.k.a. zerohourseraphim

A sinking feeling gripped Seraph. His body would not respond according to his will. He felt as he did back in Caedarva Mire. On the verge of death, losing out to the power he held within, with none around to come to his aid. His memory called out. Someone did come. When there was no one else, someone did emerge.

You were lucky that time.

Maybe so” Seraph thought in reply. Still, it meant he now had the chance to grow stronger still, to learn how to be greater than this all consuming power. Demanding his body to move worked to no avail. The Immortal’s Scimitar he had recently earned slid nearer to him, and of its own volition his hand reached and caught it. The blade instilled a sense of purpose, a reason for being… prey to be taken down, focusing the Beast’s killer instincts. In that moment its control on the physical faltered, and Seraph regained mastery over his form. He sat up and turned, putting his feet on the floor, leaning completely on his Scimitar.

Seraph had worked too hard. This sword was, in comparison to what he could already wield efficiently, a trinket. Such a hard journey for a reward that he had surpassed. But for now it seemed to be the only thing keeping him sane. Sighing, his stirring awoke Makar. A large yawn overtook the Moogle. “Kuuuupooooooo… My… awake already?” Seraph nodded. Floating over he looked at Seraph’s neck. “You’re having trouble sleeping… nightmares about your magic?” Again Seraph nodded. He reached up and touched his neck. His recent endeavors had earned him recognition, but his power had begun stirring without as it had troubled him within before he found his way to Whitegate.

“The part of your Mark of Zahak that changed after your meeting with the Immortals looks as though it aims to devour the other” reported Makar. Feeling carefully, he could discern what his friend was pointing out. Standing, he went over to where he had laid out his armor from the night before when he returned. “Kupo?” came an inquiry from the Moogle. Seraph laughed. “That doesn’t give me much to work with My Friend.” Still groggy, Makar shook his head. “Just wondering what you’re planning.”

Thinking back to the previous several days Seraph gauged his capability against the beasts he had scuttled by. While outside his reach, laying between himself and they were the creatures of this land. Seraph felt confident, but he had to admit one bitter truth. He was now in a battle, and if he wasn’t careful, he would lose. “I need to grow stronger Makar” he finally said. Dipping in height, the Moogle seemed saddened. “So… are you going off again?” Being half armored he thought it an odd question, until he understood just what Makar was asking after. “No, no… I won’t be doing that again. It was foolish, and I lost myself once.” Sliding on his mail and gloves, he strained against the material. “I’m more vulnerable now.”

While he wouldn’t use it he slung it across his back. It may be little more than decoration, but it was something he needed now. When he arrived at the lengthy dresser he looked at the assortment of group items he held. The Heroism Pearl, shining blue like the sky. Fourteen Drawings, a rich violet. And his own linkshell, Unorthodox, black like slinking shadows. He could have waited until there was an actual need for it to open it. However, he would wear this with pride.


Sighing heavily he equipped the shell, finding the silence deafening. It seemed as though the influence of the Beast was not the only thing he was succumbing to. “I’ll be the first to admit that I need help” he said aloud, not to anyone in particular. Makar responded anyhow. “The only person I can think of is Rai.” Outside of himself and happenstances of random kindness Rai was the only surefire connection to this world. He could go back to San d’Oria, but in his state he would cause more harm than good. He stretched, happy to be moving again. The last few days without Dancing had made him more than a little stiff. He was happy to be back in his favored form. Deciding that the only course was the best he sent word off to his Samurai associate asking if they could meet. Setting the Corsair’s Die aside tentatively, he picked the swords he aimed to fight with and set out into Bastok.

Not being accustomed to walking around without some plan, Seraph began to think of what to do next. He hadn’t taken but a few step into Bastok Mines when Rai’s voice rang in his ear. “What’s going on Seraph?” he asked. “I didn’t know you could speak at a distance like this” Seraph mentioned. A short laugh came from the Samurai. “Linkshells can speak outside their set groups. It’s just their main use.” Seraph, previously having no need of the function, hadn’t thought of using it that way. “It’s a little odd hearing from you” Rai continued. Seraph leaned against a small wall in front of the mog house exit and gave Rai a small rundown of his ordeal across the ocean.

Listening silently, Rai spoke up when Seraph finished. “I have seen that before. It’s a shame you had to deal with it. What are you planning to do now?” Running a hand through his hair he admitted defeat. “I have no idea Rai. I’ll probably head back to Whitegate. My magic is starting to lance out of control.” A silence followed, one so long that Seraph called out to Rai again by name. “Sorry…”  came a swift apology. “I know you don’t head up to Jeuno a great deal, but how soon could you get here?” Perplexed, Seraph began moving around the wall to Conrad, taking out enough gil to furnish teleportation. “I can be in Qufim in a few seconds, but I’ll have to hike back to Jeuno from there.” Handing off his money to an overworked but still chipper looking Conrad, Seraph was sent to the middle of the continent, back to Qufim Island. He wondered just what Rai had up his sleeve.

After his form coalesced, Seraph stared up at Delkfutt’s Tower. One of many structures on this continent made out of cermet, a ceramic metal compound, it loomed ominously over the rest of Qufim. The remainder of the island itself was rather bland. It lacked in vegetation, but this did not stop varieties of wildlife from roaming the land. Crabs were prevalent, as well as Leeches. Pugils, a type of fish, could be seen roaming near water. Varieties of squid were not unknown of. A tribe of bipedal Gigas’ made this place their home, and one of these decided to test their mettle against him. It was not long ago that Seraph had trained here on his own. In spite of its size the Gigas was no match. A testament to how far he had come, the loping, bare handed swings of the Gigas were almost at a standstill. Dodging many of them, parrying some with his swords, and merely taking the rest, the frustrated foe got sloppy, and quickly succumbed to Seraph. A pet Leech carried on attacking after its former master was no more, drawing more of its ilk into the fray. Functioning on instinct, many of them tried to siphon of Seraph’s magic power. Surprisingly they succeeded, but left enough for him cast one final spell. If for no other reason for the rampant irony, Seraph loved using Blue Magic. Calling on a spell learned from a previous Gigas, he struck all the Leeches dead, gaining their magic stealing ability for himself.

These fiends laid to rest Seraph continued east, then south. There were a number of times he had made his way across this landscape in parties of other adventurers. A few roamed around even now, causing a smile to show on the his face. Ever assailed by Goblins the Blue Mage took pride in letting loose a bomb and watching the dismay creep across the fiends’ face, and the confusion of the random parties he aided. For a time they’d be safe to carry on as they grew stronger. While wishing to assist, Rai was waiting on him.

Passing through a few natural corridors he came upon the tunnel leading back to Jeuno. Waiting at its mouth were fellow adventurers looking to travel together to hunt on these fields. One seemed to be shouting into the tunnel. Nodding to many of those in waiting he proceeded forward. An unusual being with five eyes and a sword dancing above its head was of the family of monsters known as Weapons. While difficult to think of how these creatures could possibly be natural, it was more a trifle to think of who would have intentionally produced so many. The being hunched over as it walked, stalking this bottleneck for prey. Normally these beings stayed more toward the city trying to catch adventurers off guard as they passed, but some were smart enough to place themselves where there was no way to pass them safely. And it worked. Seraph could see a small party on the other side of the beast.

As he approached, the Weapon marked Seraph as its superior and tried to slink away. The party had to run back toward Jeuno to avoid its attention. Turning back, the adventurer shouting into the tunnel turned her attention to him. “Hey! That thing doesn’t like you?!” Shaking his head he answered “…not anymore. I’ve been ambushed here several times. I assume your friends are trying to get past?” The Hume woman nodded. “This is a great place to train” Seraph continued “if you can get to it.”

Calling up a memory Seraph turned his Blue Magic into crackling lightning and threw it at the Weapon. Dismayed, it’s hands were forced. It began weaving spells to enhance its fighting prowess. Timely draws viciously against each eye prevented them from coming to fruition. Dancing wildly, Seraph toyed with the Weapon. It suddenly lifted its arms, and the sword above it came moved in a wide circle around it. The flow of Blue Magic dripped tangible to Seraph, and he countered by draining the very life essence from the Weapon, taking this new technique with it.

Cheering and applause came from the top of the tunnel, and wary adventurers from deeper in. The threat averted they ran past the drained being, offering thanks. Bowing, Seraph subtly used the jig that put him just out of phase, vanishing from the perception of those above. A small round of wonderment followed. The rest of the trip was uneventful. Another Weapon wandered, but nowhere that adventurers were unable to pass. Unheard and unseen Seraph again found himself in Jeuno.

Knowing Rai to meander in Port Jeuno Seraph took a good look around. Even amidst the hive of activity he was not difficult to find. What was different was that he was speaking to another fighter. This one, a Taru, was clad in black plate armor and carried a sizable sword. As he neared he began to pick up on their conversation. “…from Qufim you say?” asked the Taru. Rai nodded. Placing one hand to his ear he phrased a question, which Seraph heard. “Where are you at?” As he came up to the pair his glamour disintegrated, and he was face to face with a bemused Samurai and an unimpressed Dark Knight.

Apparently this trick had been done.

Offering a small salute, Rai walked a small distance away from the Taru and the Elvaan, almost seeming to be standing watch. This was all rather odd behavior for the Samurai, and Seraph couldn’t pin what was going on. Returning his view to the Taru his sight crossed over. Oddly, the potential for Blue Magic did not exist at all. If it did, it lay buried deeper than Seraph could see. More unusual still… the essence lay outside of the perfect harmony most possessed. He seemed somewhat at odds with the world.

Blinking a few times, the worldview returned to normal. The Dark Knight seemed to be evaluating the Blue Mage in his own way. After a moment he asked “So you’re Rai’s friend?”. “That I am” replied the Elvaan. “I am known as Seraph.” The Taru nodded in reply, and stretched a bit. His overall disposition seemed to soften at this confirmation. “Just making sure. I’m Sogomi. Nice to meet you.” Seraph bowed, and the Taru continued. “From what Rai has said you recently had a falling out with your linkshell.” Struck for a moment, Seraph wondered for a moment who this was that Rai was so open with him.

“You’ve been told correctly” Seraph answered. Tapping his helmet, Sogomi seemed to indicate the linkshell Seraph now wore. “You seemed to have bounced back quickly enough.” Seraph could not help but to shake his head. “I am the only member of Unorthodox. This is to remind me to never leave another in need, especially if they are in my care. And, if I can turn to no one else, then I will learn to do things on my own.” Sogomi crossed his arms. “This is a rough world Seraph. Going it alone is foolish.” Nodding, the Elvaan replied “Foolish, but not impossible.”

Seraph took the Immortal’s Scimitar from his back and let Sogomi look it over. Rai’s attention diverted somewhat as his Elvaan friend presented it. “Blade of the Immortals…” Sogomi whispered. Motioning in affirmative, Seraph kept his story as short as possible. “This was my reward for making it to the staging points of the Aradijah continent. I was allowed assistance, but finding none I made my way to them on my own.” Sogomi hesitated at this, and shot a glance over to Rai. The Samurai turned slightly, and a conversation seemed to unfold between the two. After awhile Sogomi spoke aloud again. “You went from Whitegate to every staging point on your own?” “I did.” Sogomi crossed his arms again and looked down, seeming to lose himself to thought. “What are your aims now?” His grip on his Scimitar tightening, Seraph had to fight to keep his voice clear. “I have to grow stronger. I am nearly lost unto myself, but I have access to nearly every type of power known to this world.”

“That’s certainly a startling claim!” Sogomi almost shouted. “I know Blue Mages are powerful, but I thought you had to be further along to claim that.” Replacing his Scimitar to his back Seraph quickly corrected himself. “I simply meant that I’m aware of every type of job that adventurers can use. I am waiting for an Automaton to be completed so that another Taru can begin showing me how to use them. In fact I have even had words with Zeid…” Seraph cut his sentence short. His Taru companion seemed to be awash in memories. By the dour shift in his expression, none of them seemed to be without pain. “…I am sorry…” Seraph began. Sogomi waved his hands disarmingly. “Don’t worry about it. The burden is mine to bear.”

Reaching into his chest plate he began speaking again. “You have gone far in your search, and from what Rai has said, in a very short time. It is with pride that I…” pausing mid-sentence Sogomi’s gaze drifted. “…check her out!” Seraph followed the Dark Knights’ watchful eye. What appeared to be a female Ninja came into town from Sauromugue Champaign clad in an ornate armor that was wholly unfamiliar had drawn the bulk of Sogomi’s attention. “…here you go!” he exclaimed, tossing up a small red jewel and pursuing after the Ninja. Rai watched his Taru companion dart away as Seraph caught the jewel.

In his hand he now held a red linkpearl.

Rai came over, patting Seraph’s shoulder. “Do right by The Hat” he said, a smile on his face and pride in his voice. He left Seraph to his own ends, and wandered into the midst of Jeuno’s activity. Left to his own, Seraph began the trek up the Jeuno’s central tower to meet the Sentinels’ representative. Seraph held misgivings of equipping this pearl. His previous two shells, which seemed to thrive before he joined, almost seemed to fall apart. Worse yet, this represented a great deal of Rai’s trust.

“The Hat”, Rai’s affectionate term, was short for Moghat. Even before Seraph began adventuring he heard of Moghat from Saint. A very strong linkshell, all of the members were still well above Seraph’s current level of skill. Being the low man was better than being the only man. Seraph tucked this new pearl away. He meant no insult, but stepping into Rai’s pool would be a great test. As he proceeded through Upper Jeuno, Seraph stopped to speak to Luto Meriwah. Having waved him down, she remarked on having seen Clearite lately, seeming to look for another weapon. Seraph bore that in mind, and thought to keep an eye out for something akin to her. He asked after Palometa, and was relieved to know that she was safe and seemed to be going about her daily life.

Continuing towards the outskirts of town, Seraph found the person to furnish teleportation. After accepting his gold, Seraph was offered a warning that Naja Salaheem was in a particularly combative mood today, and that he should stay on his toes. The energies of the teleportation spell took effect, and Seraph was in Whitegate but a few moments later. He sighed aloud. Sure… warn me of the danger, but have me land in a place where I can’t help but pass her potential sight. As he drew nearer to the headquarters of Salaheem’s Sentinels the normal sounds of a mace smashing against wood and stone, and groans of those that could be considered his felled associates echoed from within. There was a sudden silence. Seraph rolled his eyes, brought up a number of defensive magics, and readied a small orb of fire. It oscillated from blue to red as it took full shape. Through a small hole the Blue Mage caught sight of a small glint of light. “Ah… therrre you arrre, foolish Serrraph” came the vicious cooing of a Mithra. “I’ve found you.”

Something banged into the door, and the next second a fellow Elvaan came careening through. Still intact, this was not meant to last. The mace on Naja Salaheem burst through, eyes glinting with deadly focus gleamed through the hole. The head of the morning star burst through again, blowing the door off its hinges and into Seraph’s direction. He unleashed the blast of fire in his hand, reducing the door to cinders. Seraph prepared for the normal song and dance as the fire diminished into dark blue waves. He began drawing his other sword, and crossed them into a timely defense from another assault from the morning star. Naja Salaheem smiled at the Elvaan.

“I rrread updates on Middle Land teleporrrtation from the past week, my sweet Elvaan” she purred. “It seems as though a parrticular Private: Second Class wants to shirrrk his duties.” Salaheem leaned onto her weapon, trying to push Seraph back. Her efforts were in vain. The differences of their frames allowed Seraph to maintain his footing. “I think you are mistaken Naja Salaheem. I have accepted no duties from you to shirk. In addition, I’ve only just recently returned to these lands.” Seraph began charging up a spell, which caused Naja to jump back and prepare a swing. Knowing her propensity to aim for the head, Seraph channeled the energy into hardening his body against attacks. Oft times it did little good, but for “conversations” with Naja it was a true boon.

As expected, an arced attack came towards Seraph’s face. He allowed it to connect full on. His defense, while barely holding, did as he needed it to do. Naja’s upper body shook at the unrelenting obstacle it met. She lost the grip on her weapon and staggered backward. Seraph caught the mace. As Naja shook her head in an attempt to recover he held it out to her. She blinked in an unimpressed fashion and took back her weapon. “You’rrre more annoying than when I last saw you” she stated.

Seraph, trying to retain a level of deference that Naja would be accustomed to, replied coolly. “Is there something you would ask of me?”  As he asked he sheathed his weapons in a flourish and imitated the bow so often given to him by the natives of the Near East. Nonplussed Naja carried on. “I thought I had told you to check in and get a run down on Assault missions?” Seraph shook his head. “You had mentioned it before I went to speak with the Immortals, but not since I returned. I’m really not up for any missions at the moment.” Focusing again, he coalesced the orb he used earlier, but it quickly sputtered into an amorphous blue cloud that quickly dissipated Naja opened her mouth to counter, but then stilled herself. “Go and do what you need to do. Come back when you’rrre done.” Seraph was taken aback. “Why the change of heart?” he asked. She held up a piece of parchment, not unlike the one she tricked him into signing.

By decree of Her Highness, the Empress, and on behalf of the Immortals, the mercenary known as Seraph is to be exempt from any and all missions, per his choosing, until a point in time by which his superiors deem otherwise.


“This came in with Nareema’s rrreport yesterday” Naja explained. “It looks at though you’ve got a bigger fish interested in you.” Seraph looked the not over several times. “This came with no official summons?” he asked. Shaking her head, Naja dismissed him and returned inside her office, kicking a scrap of charred door. Seraph turned away, moving to where Waoud was often found. Not seeing him, he recalled feeling the resonance between he and the Mamool Ja Blue Mage. Focusing on the tell tale chime he often heard, he sent out a wave of his own energy. He felt a sympathetic resonance moving toward him, and saw Waoud coming toward him. The seer had an unusual look on his face when as he drew closer. “Good day S…” he tried to begin. Seraph held up his hand. “Take me to him Waoud.” With that, Waoud’s eye gleamed crimson, thrusting Seraph’s perception into a place not so far away.

Seraph found himself awakening to be an odd sensation. It appeared as though he blacked out. He found himself inside a cage. Confused, he reached out to the bars. His body exploded with Blue Magic energy, and he was brought to his knees. Trying to grab the bars to help him stand, he found he could not command his hands to close. Raubahn moved into his field of vision from wherever he had been hiding. The aura normally surrounding Raubahn was nowhere to be seen.

Kneeling down and extending his hand, the Immortal commander began to speak. “The phenomenon assaulting you is a result of Blue Magic invading every cell of your body. It seems you contained it, but pushing yourself… your excursion these past several days… The vessel that you have become has reached its limit.” Commanding not his body, but his magic to move, Seraph grabbed Raubahn’s wrist. The Immortal nodded. “Your pleas… I hear them. Your physical form struggles to contain this energy, and it leaves your soul crying out in agony…” With his other hand Raubahn gripped the one that now grabbed him.

Meeting Raubahn’s gaze, Seraph’s eyes were filled with a mixture of pain, anger, and helplessness. As though he had just come out of a pool of water, magic that was liquid dense flowed off Seraph. Raubahn shook his head in displeasure. “This is my private domain…” Seraph dragged Raubahn to the cage bars still clutching his outstretched hand. In an attempt to speak, it came out slurred. “ArrRRapaaaagoooooooo…” Shocked at his own voice, the Elvaan contained himself. Raubahn nodded. “Yes… it does resemble that place. I imagine that you too will one day have such power that your affinity will be given physical form.” As Seraph relented, Raubahn righted himself and continued speaking. “The magic I have devoured gives me the power to have a place separated from the outside world. Isolated from reality, the state of a soul’s deterioration is far more obvious.”

Seraph’s will weakened, and so did his grip on Raubahn. At the opportunity the Immortal stood. He watched as the fledgling Blue Mage attempted to follow, but could not. “Do you lack even the strength to stand?!” Watching for a minute as Seraph tried in vain, he knelt down again. “The lengths you have gone to. That you have survived this long without incident… you must have gorged yourself on the essence of your enemies to reach this condition. And you still aim to continue?”

Seraph thought of Saint, and the memory coalesced into tangible form. Working its way into the shape of a great Wyrm and honed by his will Seraph had license to stand. For a few moments he stood looking eye to eye with Raubahn. Looking on in awe, the Immortal returned his “pupils'” stare. Taxing himself greatly the energy surged and exploded, reducing the Elvaan into a heap once again. Nodding solemnly Raubahn nodded. “Very well. I cannot help but note the depths of your ambition.” Taking a few steps back he said “You have seen for yourself that our road is not easy. You fate lay with you. It is not for me to prevent your self-destruction. Your limits are your own to conquer.” Seraph slammed a fist onto the cage floor. Raubahn continued speaking as Seraph’s energetic projection became more and more feral.

“A resilient spirit to control the fear…” Seraph forced energy to draw into his legs and stood.

“To see past the drunken allure of the savage magic you devour…” Into his torso, that breath and magic pulsed in time.

“A willingness to discard your very self…” his mind cleared, retaining control over his being and his magics.

“The ability to achieve your desires…” The tide of power subsiding, Seraph stood as one with the magics that had ruled him just seconds before.

“…these are qualities that every Blue Mage must possess.” With Raubahn clear of the cage, Seraph released a surge of raw energy, shattering to pieces the faux metal found in this mental construct.

The Elvaan stepped away from where the memory of a cage had been, coming into reach of Raubahn once again. The senior Blue Mage placed a finger in the middle of his subordinates’ forehead, and again the magic roiled forth, threatening to crush to dust every iota of Seraph’s being. This time, he remained standing. “There is no salvation for you. Either you wait for oblivion to claim you, or continue to writhe within the energies of your foes. You stand at a fork in the road.”

The air of the place still tasted of rot and dead. The bitter tinge that signified being within the bounds of Arrapago Reef would not leave. However, as Raubahn had said it, he now stood at a junction in a road. “Listen well Seraph. Should you decide on a life consumed with this struggle of your power, I can show you the path.” Lifting a pointed finger, Seraph’s focus shot him through Bhaflau, Wajoam, Halvung, and Mount Zhayolm. At the end was a dark cavern to which Seraph had never been. “Travel to the Navukgo Execution Chamber. There, Flan resist the Imperial Army. For a more seasoned Blue Mage it is a simple task. For you… not so simple perhaps.” The area grew dark until it was merely Raubahn and Seraph standing looking at each other. “Be tempered by the obstacles you overcome. Show me the strength of your will.”

Coming out of his trance Seraph shook his head. His displacement seemed much more tangible this time, the effects significantly more taxing than he had recalled feeling before. Stumbling a step backwards, Waoud watched the Elvaan as he regained himself. As he did, he nodded weakly to the seer, who bowed humbly. Parting from Waoud, Seraph considered his next steps. He turned his face skyward. Realizing the time, and just where he was, he thought to check in on Ghastad in regards to Iruki-Waraki’s Automaton. Moving swiftly, he made his way back to the Automaton workshop.

Nearing midday, all the workers were in full tilt retrieving parts and assisting other Puppetmasters in fine tuning their partners. Aisha sat on a small stool, and next to her what appeared to be the Automaton he had retrieved from Arrapago Reef, merely refurbished. She marked his entry while Ghastad had his back turned, seeking some elusive tool. “Serrraph!” she said, throwing herself at the Elvaan. “Ooooh…. thank you, thank you, thank you! The Automaton is done, and I have so many notes that my head is still spinning!” Ghastad took an unusually funneled screwdriver from his mouth and set it on his worktable. “Ah… I’m happy to see you. Come right over here.”

Doing as instructed Seraph went over next to the Automaton. He knelt in front of it. It seemed completely inert. After a few moments Ghastad let out a sigh. “Oh my… this was unexpected…” A small whimper escaped from Aisha. “Did we do something wrong?” Seraph watched Ghastad shake his head and stroke his chin. “I’ve done this process several times before. I don’t know why the Automaton wouldn’t respond…” Seraph turned his attention to the sitting construct and tapped its chassis a couple of times. Focusing a bit of Blue Magic through his finger he tapped its face. It suddenly sprung to life, upending one end of Ghastad’s worktable. Moving quickly, Seraph danced around Scholar and Goldsmith(?) catching tools and small gears that went flying. Dismayed that he could not be on both sides he watched helplessly as some workings nearly fell between the floorboards. The Automaton sprang into action, grabbing each small piece of his future kin and setting them down on the worktable as Seraph did.

Ghastad laughed and patted Aisha on the back hard enough to stagger her forward.

Seraph tilted a head quizzically at the Automaton who mirrored the action. They moved around the table until they were toe to toe. As the Elvaan knelt, the Automaton lifted on the ball joints of its feet as high as it could until they were eye to eye. Seraph nodded, and the Automaton did in return. “Good day” he said, testing the waters. “Greetings” returned the Automaton. Looking to Aisha, she covered her mouth as she laughed quietly. Turning back he said “I am Seraph. It is a pleasure to meet you, and I thank you for your help” motioning to the table. “I Have No Designation” the Automaton said with the same conviction as Seraph had relayed his name. “Likewise, it is pleasurable to make your acquaintance. I am happy to have been of service.” It punctuated the sentence by stretching a hand out in the direction of the table as Seraph had done.

Seraph stood, and Ghastad walked to his side. “Your friend does still need a name” he reported. The assistants came up the levels of the workshop, excited at this apparent tradition among new Puppetmasters. “Zero is a popular one” reported a Tarutaru. A Hume woman chimed in “Some are happy to keep it simple with a more official designation.” Seraph shook his head. “Although designed to be a partner, Automatons can still be unique.” Aisha flipped through her grimoire, seeming to look for some type of inspiration. Ghastad, arms crossed, seemed to be musing as well. “I agree. It is the type of thing we can always change.” Seraph winced at this. “That may be… but I’d only do that if it was wanted. Respect is a large part of working successfully with another in tandem.” Ghastad smiled at this and was about to speak when the Automaton was strangely vocal. “…in tandem…” it uttered.

Everyone stopped and looked to Seraph. As no one had spoken directly to the Automaton it was surprising for it to speak. They thought it was something Seraph had directed. He knelt in front of the Automaton again. “Well… it’s your name. Do you have any say in the matter?” The Automaton nodded. “Respect. Through you I understand the concept. Pride. The sin given to the Elvaan people. I am… proud to have your respect and…” Looking around the room, the Automaton seemed to be looking for something. Everyone followed its gaze until it fell on the Hume woman. It pointed to her, and mimicking her voice, repeated “Some are happy to keep it simple with a more official designation”. It turned back to Seraph, and in its own voice continued. “…happy to work in tandem with you.”

The shock on the woman’s face cause a roll of laughter to erupt. “It seems that ‘tandem’ is the catalyst to your awakening, as it stands. Would you like to be called Tandem?” Seraph asked. A small pause was met while the Automaton slumped down. “Affirmative!” it said, erecting itself again to much less disastrous results. “I, Tandem, am happy to have been of service.” Ghastad, standing between Aisha and Seraph, but a large hand on each of their shoulders. “And there you have it. Tandem and Seraph… welcome to the ranks of the Puppetmaster!” In unison Seraph and Tandem bowed. “Thank you for all your help Ghastad” said the Elvaan. “Think nothing of it” Galka replied. “If Tandem ever needs any work you just bring him in to see me again.”

Now a trio, Elvaan, Mithra, and Automaton left the Workshop. The former two moved along easily enough, but Tandem seemed to be having some difficulty. Aisha laughed. “Seraph, you’re thinking too much. Just rrrelax. Don’t worry about it. Just move.” Trying to comply Tandem moved forward as he did. “Therrre you go.” While practicing walking Iruki-Waraki came bolting around a corner. Seraph and Aisha dodged out of the way, but Seraph’s computability with Tandem left much to work on. Automaton and Puppetmaster collided. “Watch where ya plod, ya clod!” came an angry uproar from the Taru. Tandem’s yet unfashioned voice replied “Many apologies Master Waraki.” The utterance of his name caused the Taru pause. Looking up at the Automaton he looked and first saw Aisha, then the other way and found Seraph.

“I just saw you running by a little while ago and I was wondering what you were up to.” Iruki-Waraki looked over the Automaton. It bowed and stated an introduction “I am Tandem. It is a pleasure meeting you.” Looking from Automaton to Master Iruki-Waraki shook his head. “Like I told Shamarhaan, there’s really nothing for me to show you.” The Taru passed something off to Tandem, who dawdled over to Seraph and handed it off. “That’s an Animator. You’ll be able to get more precision operation out of Tandem that way. Each Automaton is tied to its Master. If you ended up bringing me one, it would have been mine.” He shoved a thumb back at Tandem. “The fact that you’re walking it yourself means its already yours. Congratulations” he muttered, walking the way he came as he did so. Seraph put the Animator on his belt, and watched Waraki head around the corner.

Setting off to follow, Aisha pulled Seraph in another direction. “Leave him be” she said. “He’ll be in a dourrr mood for who knows how long. Believe it orrr not, Taru know how to sulk.” Having a much easier time with it, Seraph had Tandem running about in order to get a feel for operation. Aisha watched the dizzying pace of the Automaton as it circled the pair. Seraph’s grimoire appeared. Opening to a blank page amongst all the other jobs Seraph had attained. The title of “Puppetmaster” headed the page, with a number of details regarding Tandem. The Automaton seemed to hone in on this focus, and peered into the tome. Seraph laughed, shaking his head at this pair bound to him. Fluttering in front of Aisha, it bobbed up and down in time with the pairs footsteps.

“What is it?” she asked looking to Seraph. “You mentioned having a lot of notes on Automatons.” She nodded “Of course. I was working with Ghastad on Tandem’s construction for days. I know Tandem better than you do, and probably Automatons on the whole.” Seraph nodded to his bound book. “And now my grimoire wants to know.” Her tail stood straight on end. “It wants to know?! What does that mean?!” The Elvaan laughed. “You tell me. You’re the Scholar here.” She started flipping through the volume.

“Tell me about the Quadav” she asked. “They’re centered around Beadeaux and tend tend to stretch between the Rolanberry Fields and the Northern and Southern sections of Gustaberg.” Nodding, she continued. “Do you think anything odd about them?” Seraph grew contemplative, then said “I hadn’t thought about it. But, if I had to surmise something, I’ve heard of creatures called Adamantoises. I think the Quadav could be smaller versions of them, still bipedal.” Grabbing Seraph she directed his view to a page about the Quadav. Before their eyes a small note  regarding what Seraph just said was appearing on the page.

“I have not seen that before” Aisha reported. “It did this when I met the Immortals at the staging points” Seraph recalled. He closed his eyes and focused, information on the runic portals opening to the pair. “There. Most of them knew nothing…” Aisha then pointed to each of those who gave no information. “And you’re upset with them over that?”  Seraph was taken aback. “What? No. Why would you say that?” Looking at where she pointed there were small, terse notes implicating a small amount of anger in regards to their lack of knowledge, all save for Nareema. “What do you know about Dragoons?” Upon that the book slammed shut, Aisha having to draw her hand back quickly so that it was not caught within the books bindings. “What was that about?” she demanded on toe point. “Sorry…” he said, tapping the book several times. Tandem did the same. When it opened again the Automaton took to looking at the picture of itself. “I have a close friend who is a Dragoon… Anyhow… I know they are as one with their Wyverns. I can remember when I first met my friend, I had regarded his Wyvern privately, but then found out that they had shared the experience.” The Scholar nodded. “Somehow, your own affinity for knowledge has linked you tightly with your grimoire. Your… ‘cultural repression’ seems to have granted it a persona, on that is more outward. It seems to emerge when you are hesitant in learning something you feel entitled to.”

Nodding, Seraph posed a question. “So I think I should know about Automatons?” Aisha nodded. “Apparently so. You still owe me a rundown of Blue Magic…” she said teasingly. While he picked up on the lightly barbed remark his grimoire shut close. Aisha laughed at this. “But it is awfully cute, for a book.” She called out her grimoire. “I’m typically the driving force in my search for information. I don’t think that is to say you aren’t, but the influences of your seized magics, and perhaps even a latent mimicry of your Dragoon friend, have forged the connection you now have. I would think, as you grow in power, you will come to be in greater control of it. It’s like a child now. It just needs some direction.”

Opening her grimoire to where she made her notes on Tandem’s construction, she handed it off. Automaton and Master poured over the information. As they read, she carefully eyed Seraph’s tome copy over the information as their eyes glanced over it. Page after page, the three moved in time. Tandem “recorded” what it was viewing as Seraph read over every note. With two sets of eyes the process was quick, with them overlapping, confirming what was taken down by Aisha. As one or the other turned to a new page the Elvaan’s grimoire did the same on its own, copying exactly what they took in.

Once they were done, Aisha recalled her grimoire, and Seraph’s disappeared, its unique appetite sated. “What’s on your agenda now?” she asked. “I’ve been charged to remove a threat plaguing the Imperial Army.” Nearing the rented rooms the Scholar slowed her pace. “That’s a rather large task. You, on your own, are to remove a threat that an army can’t handle?” Seraph laughed, having just realized the full scope of his duty. “I hadn’t thought about it. It does sound rather hopeless. I don’t have any other options. I don’t have anyone I can…” Remembering the new linkpearl he pulled it out and held it in his hand. “…turn to…” Aisha looked on and laughed. “You change linkshells more than the moon changes phases.” Shaking his head he tucked it away again. “But, on a more pressing note, I need to get Tandem back home. As much as I want to test the capabilities, this task isn’t the place to start.”

Aisha agreed. “Now there’s a Scholarly mind at work. You Blue Mages are awfully brash. I’ve been sleeping on a workshop floor for days… I’m going to head on home for a little while. Take Care of yourself Seraph. Going their separate ways the Blue Mage entered the rented rooms with his new Automaton companion. Finding a place to sit, he waited for Makar to show up. Tandem looked around tapping the mostly metallic furnishings, then tapped its own frame trying to find any that were similar. Having not noticed the particular construction before, he found an unusual liking for it. Much of San d’Oria’s craft work was in wood. Metals were reserved for armaments. Bastok made more use of the metal readily found in its boundaries, but most of these that he had seen were bronze and brass constructs. Outside of the cold and massive iron gates separating the staging points the majority of metal were ornate golds. While his Scimitar was quite simple, it was still an ornate working.

Makar’s entry warping appeared. “Sorry for the delay!” came a swift apology. It preceded the Moogle, coalescing in Seraph’s ears before the form set in his eyes. “Kupo? What have we here?” Makar floated over to the Automaton. “I am Tandem. A pleasure to meet you.” Surprised, Makar wheeled backwards in the air, nearly hitting the wall. “Kupo?” Seraph laughed, and explained. “This is my Automaton. I can’t make use of it for what I have to do, so could you take young Tandem back home?” Tandem ran over to Seraph, who passed off the Animator. The Automaton then made his way over to Makar. “I’m not sure of the effective range of my control. Could you find someplace to sit comfortably in the event Tandem powers down?”

Nodding thrice, Makar sat atop the Automaton’s head. “Be back in a jiffy.” Seraph waved to the pair, Tandem returning the gesture. Enveloped in the Black Magic spell, the two faded from sight, warping to Bastok. Alone in the room, he began considering the path that lay before him. For what it was worth, he knew a great deal of it very well. The path shown to him by Raubahn diverged slightly, leading him away from the staging point guarded by Waudeen. However, he marked that would be a good starting point, and would cut down on his traveling time significantly. Beyond that it looked grim. Getting past a large majority of the beasts between staging point and Execution Chamber, the name itself having ill forebodings, would be relatively easy with his glamour and left dispatching the Flan the only obstacle.

Flans were of a more cohesive magical structure than the Hecteyes he’d fought before. While the latter was more inside his reach now, and probably a fair match, all of the beings on this side of the sea were above his head. And if the Imperial Army was having trouble Seraph held major doubts that he would be able to survive, let alone subdue his charged prey.

Makar’s magic caused a fluctuation in the area as he returned. The little Moogle was panting hard. He was so exhausted that he floated all the way to the ground. “Automatons are heavier than they look, kupo…” Walking over Seraph picked up his companion. “I take it shut down immediately?” “Oh, yes. As soon as the vortex closed.” Seeming to have regained some strength the Moogle staggered out of his Elvaan friends’ grip, but was still rather breathless. “Heading out… again?” managing between wheezing mouthfuls of air. “That’s the plan. Raubahn has charged me with another task. This one shouldn’t have me away as long, but it can’t be completed with stealth. I don’t think my cunning will see me through without enough power…” Again he pulled out his new linkpearl. Makar looked at it with fascination. “A new linkshell let you join! Which is it?” Taking it the Moogle rolled it around in his palms. “That one is a gift Rai afforded me.”

“Kupo…?” Makar returned the pearl, mulling over Seraph’s claim. Finding his hesitation, the Elvaan affixed it to his ear in conjunction to his own Unorthodox linkshell. “…wait… through Rai? You don’t mean… You’re in MOGHAT?!” Saint had come into his moghouse during the early days, and mention had come up of the linkshell. “Kupo… wow! Those are some heavy hitters. Calling one of them should have you fixed up in a jiffy! Why haven’t you…” The Elvaan looked knowingly at his Moogle companion. “Oh… right. You haven’t had such great luck…” “I’ve still got a ways to go before I’m in the same arena as them. Not as much as I once did, but some.” “Just move forward” Makar said, patting Seraph’s shoulder consolingly. “If this is the best path, walk it. If not, power through until you get to the next plateau.” Seraph nodded, and playfully gave his friend a shove. “I’ll see how it goes. I should be back by sooner than not. I am only going out once after all.”

Stepping out of the mercenaries’ quarters he made way past an area attunement crystal. Using it, he progressed onto Salaheem’s Sentinels Assault coordination office. Here, a number of attendants offered a variety of missions to subdue a number of threats to the Empire. The Immortals seemed to hold back a great deal of these uprisings in their respective areas, but strike forces were the preferred method of confirmed eradication Figuring that this would be enough for word to return to Naja Salaheem, Seraph made his way back to the Chamber of Passage, and for the first time as an official outbound traveler. He wondered suddenly after Shahyl, the unusual Immortal guarding Nyzul Isle’s staging point. Seraph laughed to himself at the turn of phrase. He realized his worldview had expanded if he was able to find normalcy and oddity among a group as varied as the Immortals were. The Taru attendant, remembering the out of the ordinary request, recalled Seraph favorably, but was still required to deduct the projected trip from the Elvaan’s standing within the Empire. Ensuring his destination, he was cleared to proceed to the Halvung staging point. Having a small tag attuned to the proper frequency, Seraph found it easy to guide himself to his destination.

Unlike before, Seraph kept his awareness primed, seeking if he could confirm Nareema’s words. Indeed, it did feel as though his body was being reassembled. More importantly all his magics were in the right place. There seemed to be no chance of them surging outwards. Stepping from within the sigil Seraph turned and gave a greeting to Waudeen. The Immortal came over to him. “Ah, young master Seraph. A pleasure to see you again. What brings you here today?” The younger Elvaan deferred to his elder in a number of ways. That Seraph could one day be in a similar position to Waudeen was not lost on him. Being frank he answered “A hunt. Raubahn charged me with its completion” Waudeen beamed. “Ah… your first true mission. I wish you the best of luck! As you know the beasts here are vicious. I hope fortune smiles on you, and your prey finds you near to here.” Seraph chuckled. “That is an odd thing to hope for. What makes you say this?”

Waudeen considered for a moment “It is merely because there have been reports of a number of abnormally empowered Flan giving much grief to our soldiers. I can only hope as you chase your quarry it does not take you too far to the West.” Seraph exhaled a dispassionate laugh from behind an empty smile. “No… he would not have…” Waudeen, normally not being too keen, picked up on the conclusion right away. “Is Raubahn mad, sending you on such an errand?!” The area began rippling with heat. It both honed in upon and projected out from the Immortal. “At least tell me you have some assistance?” Silently, Seraph shook his head. Disappointed, Waudeen’s rage slipped into sorrow. “One part of madness above one part of foolishness. The paths we walk aren’t easy… but don’t let it be the death of you. I remember being as you are now. If you manage to succeed in your task, make it back alive. I will be listening for favorable word of your return.”

“I am sorry Waudeen, for worrying your so” Seraph said in parting. “I assure you, I will not do anything foolish.” With that he walked to the iron gate. Taking in and releasing a tense breath he stepped out into Mount Zhayolm once again. The volcanic stench of sulfur rocked his sense of smell. Shaking it off he proceeded carefully forward. Rounding one corner and following a natural hall a trio of bombs, which seemed to be bound together magically, darted to and fro before him. Readying his blades, he prepared to attack. However, upon assessing his opponent he determined that even at his fighting prime he stood no chance against his foe. Watching the fiend carefully he back away, returning to just outside the gate. He slumped against the wall.

A few times he had happened across a few irregulars. These adventurers seemed to operate outside of any linkshell that Seraph could discern, and they could tell that he had hit a wall in his training. They had suggested he go see Maat. Many within the upper echelons of ability on the Quon and Mindartia continents spoke of his training as legend. He seemed to be skilled in the ways of the Far East as well. As Saint had spoken of him, he asked if he seemed skilled with Blue Magic. The answer was a shaky ‘No, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did’. He wouldn’t say much else, but he had mentioned that if ever there was a time when a roadblock was reached to find him. When Seraph had, Maat sent him on a journey of self discovery. If he could return with proof, the old man agreed to share some of his insight with the young Elvaan. Even with his abilities now surpassing what was once natural to him, Seraph had to admit that they had not been expanded enough.

Looking skyward he could not see clearly past the clouds of soot spewed by the volcano he traversed. Every step tentative, he decided to take a chance, and he attuned his perception to the Moghat linkpearl. The silence of his Unorthodox linkshell was quickly replaced with a stream of contained, yet witty, banter. For a third time in his short career he began his introductions.

Hello Moghat” Seraph said aloud. “Ah… there he is!” came Sogomi’s voice. “I was worried about you for a little while. Welcome to Moghat, Bro!” Rai added. “Oh… Rai’s friend?! And new to the ‘Hat too. Welcome to Moghat! I’m Twinsevens.” A quick message shot directly to Seraph from Rai. “That’s the boss.” Returning a thank you to his Samurai friend, he responded across the linkshells’ channel. “A pleasure to meet you, at least in this fashion for now. Hello to everyone else as well.” A slew of greetings resonated in kind. Conversations quickly returned to their former scheme, but Rai shot across a question publicly “What held you up?” Laying his head against the heated stone Seraph told a slight falsehood. “I had to check in near here in Whitegate. I have to head out and take Flan. Unfortunately I don’t know what I’m walking into. I was told ‘Flan’. I don’t know if was singular or plural.” Twinsevens and Rai both sounded off horrid replies. “Can’t really hit them hard enough. They just bounce back into shape” Twinsevens said. “Even my sharpest blade can’t slash them apart fast enough. They just fuse back together.” An agreement came from Twinsevens. “I completely agree. So much easier when there’s a skeletal structure to hammer down.” To himself, Seraph let loose a small breath. It was sounding a lot like with Heroism, but he decided to give this linkshell a real chance. “I’m heading out to the place where they’ve been sighted. I’ll do as I’m able. Is anyone free to back me up?”

                “Let me” came a very swift reply.

                “Ah… perfect!” came a shout from Twinsevens. “Seraph was it?” came the voice again. “That’s right.” “Where are you at?” Seraph looked at the iron gate to his right. “Just outside the Halvung staging point.” A small stint of silence. “I’ll be there in just a short while, if you can wait.” Resounding a small laugh the Elvaan answered. “Not a problem. I’ll admit to being out of my depth here. I appreciate the consideration.”

Listening to the flow of lava, Seraph lost himself, and track of time for awhile. Rai’s voice seemed to come on the edge of a dream, but he soon remembered that the two could speak candidly. “Sorry…” the floating Elvaan replied. “…what was that?” “I checked in on the area you’re in. Sogomi let me know what you went through. Why didn’t you call me up before?” Sighing, he replied. “Saint drew me into adventuring. I was with him and Fourteen Drawings until he disappeared and they broke up. I could have turned to you then. I’d heard of Moghat though… I know how powerful you all are. I wasn’t ready… in fact, I don’t think I am ready to stand with you all.” Rai’s voice was steady. “You’re standing with us now. That’s proof enough.” “Rai… I have the pearl, but not the power it typically represents. I was offered a place in Heroism outside of anyone I knew originally. It was a place for me to make a name for myself. You’re backing me now…” Rai cut him off. “And you’re worrying too much. We’ve all worked hard for my place. Moghat trusts me. I trust Saint. He trusts you. No one may know you as we do, but you haven’t lost the chance to prove yourself. Seraph… just relax. If I didn’t trust you, I wouldn’t have vouched for you.

Using silence, Seraph acquiesced to Rai’s viewpoint. He was correct. Seraph had never taken a slow step since he set out as a Thief. He’d clawed his way through his enemies, learning his chosen trade, and applying himself to the power of benevolent magics just as fervently. Saint took Seraph on a whirlwind tour of the world, and at his behest, followed him to Whitegate. Honing the revealed powers of Blue Magic he soon surpassed the skill he portrayed as both Thief and White Mage. After a few more lessons, he was left to his own. Even when his support collapsed he carried on. Even in less than fertile ground he clawed to greater plateaus of power. It was time to test this new field he found himself in.

Removing his blades he stood and took a few practice stances. Dancing in his narrow safety zone he channeled energy up and down each of his swords. The Immortals’ Scimitar on his back sang in reply. “Um…” sounded a small voice. Remaining in his posture Seraph looked about, surprised by the Taru White Mage standing nearby. “Seraph?” Blades pointed outward, sparks of Blue Magic dancing on the edges, with one leg lifted in an uncompleted step he replied. “That would be me…” The Taru nodded. “I’m Tiberiusara.” “Hello. How are you today?” the Elvaan asked, nodding cordially. “I’m well enough” Tiberiusara said, a wry grin stretching up one cheek. “Ready to go and knock out these Flans?” Dropping out of his stance, he put his swords back on each hip. Seraph prepared to weave his glamour to get past the enemies. “Hold on…” came the Taru’s voice, holding his cohort at bay.

Summoning a grimoire of his own, the White Mage seemed to also be a Scholar, and applied Sneaking and Invisibility magics over the both of them at once. “And impressive display” Seraph remarked. “It’s useful. I know how fickle Dancer’s abilities can be.” Unseen, Seraph nodded out of habit. From what could be discerned there was very little regularity in how long the effects of Spectral Jig, a Dancer’s stealth inducing technique, would last use to use. While not his primary training, one equally talented as he could use the move at the same instant, and there was no telling whose would last longer. “My thanks Tiberiusara.” The Taru laughed. “You’re a real stick in the mud aren’t you?” “How do you mean?” “You’re going to keep using my full name, aren’t you?” Seraph thought this to be a silly question. “Of course. It is how you introduced yourself to me, and we have just met. After some time I may use another name, but that is if I figure out one accepted or hear the same.” A brief silence passed, then the Taru laughed. “The Elvaan hold onto their societal norms just like most Taru do… Just call me Tibs. Everyone does.”

With that, the duo set off. The conversations passed in outward silence. Stealth would be useless if their voices gave them away. As the way was bottlenecked it was some time before Tibs asked just where they were heading to. “West, to the Navukgo Execution Chamber” Seraph reported. “That’s an awfully out of the way place. You’re being sent all the way out there? Through all of this…” Seraph surveyed the area. A group of Wamouracampa were milling about rather harmlessly. At least while Seraph was hidden, so he thought. “It is to be a test of my abilities” he replied. “It’s a death sentence” Tibs countered. “Some time ago finding a group of adventurers heading out this way would have been no bother at all. But since the Cavernous Maws became suddenly active, especially those leading to Abyssea, most have delved into that other world.” A question sprang forth that long plagued Seraph. “This land is still in danger, is it not?” “Depends who’s answering. Besides, most of us adventurers were allowed free reign as mercenaries. The good of the Empire doesn’t interest many, especially considering that the Maws only appear in the Middle Lands. Plus, Abyssea is more lucrative. What good mercenary would ignore that?”

Willfully negating his cloaking spell Tibs opened a metal gate. Significantly smaller than that of the staging point, the duo moved beyond it. One hand renewing his spell, the other pointed outward. Wamouracampa, long cocooned, opened ahead giving way to full grown Wamoura. “You’re able to follow me, correct?” “With no problems” Seraph replied. “You have an impressive amount of magical potential in your wake.” Proceeding onward, Seraph followed closely to Tibs and the two weaved well behind all the Wamoura. Together with their lesser evolutions the area was rank with Blue Magic to be seized. The energy clawed at Seraph’s mind, crying out to be taken. Fortunately, his mind was not so far gone to jump outside his bounds.

Passing a number of Trolls and lesser Flans (none of which seemed to be particularly troublesome) the pair reached the Navukgo Execution Chamber without incident. Extending his senses the Blue Mage felt no tremors of Blue Magic, no enemies… no life at all outside of his companion. This place didn’t seem to reek of death, but the lack of life was startling. Taking a rare opportunity to look around he was able to find a number of dead ends. Normally maddening, it was a welcome change to indulge his exploration itch. “Seraph… this way” Tibs called out. Following the sound of his voice, Seraph soon came across his Taru companion heading down a tunnel. An ornate door lay at one offshoot of the tunnel. Standing at a split in the path, Tibs tried to discern which path was correct. He didn’t notice his Elvaan charge venturing off. Seraph, powerfully enamored, touched the door. As with most gold it was deceptively and cool to an unexpected degree, especially with it being housed in an active volcano. Drawing his senses to bear he felt the familiar essence of Flan beyond. “…Seraph…?” Tibs called out. “Over here…” Seraph sounded out. Once the two were together Seraph pushed the door open and went inside.

“Here?” Tibs asked. The room they found themselves in was vast. What was such a massive chamber doing in this place? Magma falls slid poured down around the chamber. It must have flowed out somewhere, but Seraph was not particularly interested to discover just where that was. The ornate area was a spectacle to be sure… and that when Seraph noted it, a singular entity that seemed to be pacing back and forth. The Blue Mage drawing his weapons was enough of a confirmation for Tibs. While called upon for their Healing talents, White Mages were also well equipped with a number of Enhancement spells. Not unfamiliar with White Mage abilities himself, Seraph was not surprised at the varieties of Protect and Shell. These spells bolstered defenses again physical and magical attacks respectively. Those used by Tibs were several magnitudes higher than anything Seraph had ever produced. On top of that spells of Haste, quickening attack speed, and Stoneskin, negating some damage, were applied to the both of them. Seraph looked back, and with a nod from Tibs, the two were ready.

The duo charged ahead and soon a sluggish black mass could be seen rolling around the area. Seraph was the closest and drew its attention. Snapping around suddenly, ferocious red eyes locked on him. A guttural scream was released from a mouth lined with razor teeth, and arms shaped of the gelatinous mass reached up. As one arm came to bear on the Elvaan he could feel a magical charge coming from within his opponent. Having his blade stroke serve as both attack and defense he bent under the arm coming at him. Just as Rai had said, the flan fused together as quick as it had been cut. While deflected, he was still grazed by the attack, and it was powerful enough to break through the Stoneskin spell. The Flan twisted upon itself, amorphous body twisting in an unnatural skein. Focusing the brunt of the spell it meant to completely take Seraph out.

Divine energy coalesced well behind the fiend. Silently and without warning, radiant power struck the Flan. It slumped forward, mouth nearly enveloping the Elvaan. Seraph crossed his swords to keep the creature from inadvertently making him its next meal. Now wholly disinterested in the Blue Mage before him the Flan didn’t turn this time, so much as its face simply melted into its body and emerged on the other side and seeped aggressively towards the source the attack.

The Flan had turned on Tibs. Whatever attack the White Mage had just unleashed, it caused the foe to forget wholly about the Elvaan. It readied another magical assault, this time targeting the diminutive powerhouse.

In most group scenarios, there lay a hierarchy overall in battle formations. Fighters in front, mages in back. While a Mage himself, Seraph’s talents often allowed him to be on the front line with the other, more physically stout compatriots. After a party had been together for awhile a rapport developed. Everyone cared for everyone else. However, there was an unwritten rule which Seraph knew even from before his adventuring days: Assaults on the backline, the Mages, was an egregious affront And under no circumstance were White Mages to suffer attacks.

This situation was unlike most. Seraph, being the weakest of the party for all intents and purposes, comprised the back line. Old habits die hard, and the Flans’ shift in focus was not one he could stand. You didn’t allow the Healer to get attacked. Simple rule. Just as its spell was to be released, Seraph hit the creature as he had been struck by the Quadav many times over, stunning the Flan. For a time it slumped over, and the energy is drew together broke apart. Much in vain the Elvaan’s blade again slashed feebly against the Flans’ flesh. In time, White and Blue Mages released spells at the same time. A Banishing spell fell in the midst of multiple attacks from Seraph, punctuated by a burst of air generated from the Elvaan. Tibs, relentless, pounded the Flan with its mace. Caught in confusion the face of the Flan stretched, the mouth too wide as it eyes slid to both sides of its body, watching the two assailants simultaneously. It could not decide where to focus. Every time the focus fell on the White Mage, the Blue Mage would strike with a righteous fury. As it turned, the White Mage’s surprisingly relentless result forced its attention back. It again tried a spell, focusing on the both at the same time. In kind the Flans’ opponents prepared theirs. Tibs drew in more power, the influx bolstering the power of his White Magics. Feeling envicioused, lighting arced along Seraph’s swords, fueled by his Blue Magic. He thrust the swords into the fiend, the discharge filling the jelly-like creature, again stunning it. As it slumped over, Tibs released his assault, another powerful bolt of Divine power striking the quivering mass. Being more than its form could bear, the Flan melted into the floor. A few pieces flopped about. Stabbing one with a sword, it stuck, and he raised it to look at it.

“I guess that’s it then” Tibs said. “I suppose so” Seraph agreed. Thief instincts seizing him, he wrapped the flan remain in a cloth and placed it in one of his bags. “What’s that for?” Seraph shook his head. “For study.” With a snap, Seraph’s grimoire appeared. “Information is to my friend as enemies techniques are to me.” Punctuating, the grimoire disappeared Seraph felt a presence, and his eyes darted about. Tibs began charging another vicious spell. “Something wrong?” Focusing, Seraph felt another Blue Mage, and then a warp spell. “No… just my keeper” he said, shaking his head. “I need to head back. I have a Warp scroll. I feel silly asking, but will you be alright on your own?” Tibs nodded, producing his own scroll. “Never let it be said that I’m unprepared.” The two moved in time, and nodded to each other as the spells took their individual effects.

Seraph found himself back in Whitegate and began making his way back toward Waoud. “That’s much Tibs” Seraph said over the linkshell. “Not a problem” he replied. “Got it smacked down?” Rai asked. “Something like that… Why didn’t anyone tell me that Tibs is a Holy bomb waiting to go off?” Seraph asked lightly. A choral laughter rang out from the linkshell. “It’s something everyone learns in their own time” Twinsevens said. “And with that… Welcome to Moghat” Rai said. Seraph shook his head as he came up on Waoud. “Hello Seer.” “Hello Mage.” “I apologize for earlier. I am simply… strained from recent days.” Waoud bowed. “I certainly understand. What I have foreseen has paled in comparison to what you have actually faced. I am sorry to have not given you greater guidance, considering how often you have come to me. It means much that you still trust in me after all this.” Seraph nodded, exhaling a breathe. “You seem ready…” Again, Waoud’s crimson gleaming eye led Seraph to slip into Raubahn’s world.

Seraph’s form buckled, but he maintained his composure this time in the midst the Immortal commander. “I have just received a report from the Imperial Army. You have succeeded in your task. Though outclassed, you brought adequate help. Your own skills were proudly noted by your observer. You’ve honed well your skills as a Blue Mage. I myself commend you.” Seraph was taken aback by this admission. “This is an auspicious day in development and progress.”

“I congratulate you Seraph. In recognition of your achievement I give you leave to don the Magus Armor representative of our order. This will identify you as one of us… This marks your entrance into the ranks of the Immortals. Welcome.”

Seraph was flabbergasted. This was not at all what he sought. But now he was an Immortal?!

Raubahn, undaunted by his newly inducted subordinates silence, continued. “Visit the store named on this envelope They will provide you with the armor you have earned.” He stepped forward, placing the parchment in Seraph’s hand. “While you have your own goals do not forget: Our lives are devoted to the protection of the Empress. Nothing more, and nothing less. We are beasts that owe our existence to the forbearance of Her Magnificence.”

Returning to his outward perception Seraph wondered just what Raubahn meant by his closing words. Moreso, he wondered after Raubahn’s sudden change of opinion. Just the day before he had said that he was not ready to be an Immortal. It had not struck him then, but Seraph had no intent to become one of the soldiers in Raubahn’s charge. He turned and started walking away. “Young Master Seraph” Waoud called. “You have dropped this” he said, handing over an envelope identical to the one given by Raubahn. “If I may say… should not need to turn to me for some time. I have seen this portent before. It is rare, but has happened enough for me to recall. Should you return here to Whitegate, you will be welcome to speak with me, but for now, follow the instructs in this letter. I bid you safe travels Immortal.”

The two bowed to one another as many times before as they parted ways. Waoud seemed to have a strange finality in his tone, and his bow was much deeper than it normally was. The extend cordiality was a shock  to Seraph. He looked over his shoulder as he walked away, and Waoud kept one hand extended gracefully until the two could no longer see one another. Looking now to the envelope there was nothing to speak of within as near as could be discerned, save for a large drop of wax, pressed with a seal that had imprinted the Mark of Zahak while it was still warm. On the front, the stiff brown paper had only a few lines of plain script.


Cursory Clothier, Coordinated Compliments

and Archaic Accoutrements

Chartered under the Empire of Aht Urghan

Aht Urghan Whitegate

Balrahn Way

Following the whole of Whitegate quite well by now, Seraph quickly found his way. Set on one of the cities’ upper sections and at a dead end he’d actually been to this storefront before. However, at the time there were no wares being offered. In fact, there was no indication that this place was even owned by anyone, save for the proprietress manning the counter. Perhaps it would not be and he could gain the armor of which Raubahn spoke. Remembering the young girls’ name from having spoken to her before Seraph greeted his fellow Elvaan with a warm wave and humble bow. Lathuya, a beautiful woman with long white hair, returned the amity but in a much detached fashion.

“What can I do for you?” clothier began. “Hello again Lathuya. I know it has been some time since last we spoke. I was hoping to get a look at your wares today. I have long wanted attire showing off the skilled craftsmen of the Aradijah continent. I speak highly of it.” Thinking her male companion to be making a pass, she deflected the flattery in an all-to-practiced manner. “I thank you highly of your praise… Seraph, isn’t it? As you can see we are currently out of any stock. Our typical clientele provide us with custom orders. It is why our stalls are normally so bare, but why we stay in business.” She stopped, and considered what she had said. “If you are ever in the need to have something tailored specifically for you perhaps we may be service at that point.”

Seraph hesitated in merely forcing the envelope upon the girl. He did not want to think he was strong arming her. His impression of the Immortals were that they used their enigmatic natures to coerce others without much work, at least inside the bounds of Whitegate. Having thought of a different approach he decided to try again. “I have actually been considering just that as of late. Perhaps you would have something that would set off this sword?” Removing the weapon from his back, he set it on the counter before Lathuya, who looked over it carefully. “Is this some kind of joke? You are obviously a stranger to these lands. This is crafted rather closely to the scimitars the Immortals carry. I would not try to earn their attention by making some costume simply to sate your vanity.”

Subtly availing him not, Seraph became much more direct. “This is a bit off topic, but I find Kushdeel to be an awfully unusual surname.” Again, Lathuya rejected what may have been an apparent attempt at flirtation, but clenched her eyes and fist shut as she replied. “Kushdeel is not…” she paused, shock creeping over her face as confusion caused her to relax. “I never mentioned any Kushdeel. How do you even know that name?” Holding out the envelope in an outstretched hand Lathuya seized upon it. She read over the script on the front without much regard, her glasses sliding down the bridge of her nose. “I can be certain where you got this from. We do not make public our trade. Hm… Wha-?!” Finger having touched something raised she turned the envelope over and she could now see the seal affixing the back in place. Eyes narrowing, Lathuya seemed at first unphased. Then her eyes widened. “The M-Mark of Zahak!” She pushed her glasses up trying to ensure she wasn’t seeing things. As she slowly began looking back up her gaze crossed the blade, still on the counter before her. “So this Scimitar is actually…” She continued, meeting Seraphs’ patient stare. “Which would make y-you… you’re an Immortal?” He met her stammering with a simple nod.

“Oh my” she said, placing the small parcel down, pushing it and weapon back to their owner.

All at once her mouth seemed to be unable to form words. She tried, but no sounds emerged. She swallowed, coughed, and walked to a small door behind her. “Oh… I just insulted an Immortal… I thought he was flirting and he just…” Having realized she found recaptured her voice without, she swiftly came back to the counter where Seraph was replacing the Scimitar on his back. “A thousand pardons!” Seraph lifted a hand in supplication. “It’s alright Lathuya. You did not know. I’m foreign to this place. I can only assume what you must go through on a daily basis. Am I to take it that you are not the ‘Kushdeel’ I am to meet here?” “Oh no!” Returning to the door she threw it open. Seraph leaned to his left. While the sun was high no light reached beyond the doorway.

Closing the door Lathuya returned in an absolute flurry of motion. “You see, the master craftsman… He’s… well, He’s not here,” she began, seeming to be walking on eggshells with every word. “It’s not ready, that is to say…” she took a deep breath, seeming to steel herself for the obvious admission, “your armor is not yet complete.” She crossed her arms, losing herself to her thoughts. “He KNEW this was coming… My boss has a cruel streak I fear. And then it always falls to ME to apologize to the customers…” Realizing that was to be an inner complaint has slipped to other ears she again feel into apologies. “A thousand thousand pardons” punctuating each word with a swift bow.

Seraph put a each hand to one of Lathuya’s shoulders. Standing her straight seemed to bring her into the moment and she calmed down. “It’s not your fault. I can’t rightfully blame you for his actions. Is it not something that you can complete in his stead?” She blinked. “You would suffer to wear what I would craft?” Seraph broke away, sitting on the stone bannister across from the counter that served to keep people from casually falling to the lower level. “Is there some reason why I shouldn’t?” “You… don’t know what Magus Armor is for, do you?” Seraph shook his head. “I’m, well… you can see how it is… I should be further along than I am, but with all these flights of fancy…” Feeling her drift again Seraph tried to steer her back to cohesion. “It’s of no matter. I accept the treasure for whatever it is.” Through this Lathuya had continued to speak to herself. “Lathuya…?” Still, she paid no heed. This was going no where. “Where might I find Kushdeel?”

“What’s that?” she said, coming back to the conversation. “You want to know where he’s gone? Oh, even if I knew where I couldn’t follow…” Seraph smiled at that. “I had no intention of sending you after him. That would be impolite.” Eying the newly branded Immortal she saw the full meaning of his words. “Oh! Why hadn’t I thought of that. Surely you would be able to find a way. My m-most humble apologies. I did not mean to bring your skill into question.”

“Perhaps the most fitting way to say it is that he “runs away” when orders start piling up. The term hes uses is “goes fishing”. However, he does not like the open seas, and we are sorely lacking in rivers. Beneath the Wajaom Woodlands is a network of caves…” Seraph recalled the place aloud “…Aydeewa Subterrane” completing Lathuya’s thought. “Why… yes! I was about to advise getting a map lest you never find your way out, but as you seem to know of the place, I’ll defer to your abilities.” Seraph shook his head. “I made it out once… but that was a unique instance. I do not possess a map of that place.” “Oh,” came a saddened reply, face drooping. “Well, if you don’t mind waiting, it would be safer to allow the boss to return in his own time. I know he’ll get to work on your armor right away. Whenever chooses to return. IF he chooses to return…” Blinking at slip of the tongue, she fell back into her placating. “A thousand thousand thousand pardons…”

Seraph stood. Resigning to an event with no timetable did not sit at all well with him. “Lathuya, I think the willingness to convey at least six thousand pardons as you have can afford me a bit of information. Do you know of an Immortal called Yasfel? I met him in the Subterrane some time ago. He patrols there…” Calling up her memories she replied with “Actually, yes. I do know that name” ever so carefully. Continuing with his train of thought, he posed another question. “Do you know if the area Yasfel patrols would be connected with any ease to where Kushdeel chooses to fish?” Lathuya beamed. “No! It wouldn’t be! Master Kushdeel, as you can see, likes to get away from his work. He’d ensure that it would be someplace where he was not bothered.”

It was a start. Recalling the path he and Saint took when they set out their, considering the path he fell on and the room where Seraph had met an Immortal for the first time he surmised that Aydeewa may have many other openings, and thought that the southern sections may have some places which flowed in from the sea. “You are going then?” Lathuya asked. “That’s correct. I’ll see if I can find him. At worse, if I fail, it will give me something to do instead of just idling about here.” She returned the envelope to him. “Show this to him. He’ll probably try to play off the fact that he is who he is. This may just convey the… severity of the situation to him.” Nodding, Seraph jumped over the bannister and to the lower levels, making his way out of Whitegate and toward Al Zahbi.

As he passed through the decrepit area he stopped to peruse a weapon dealer. Recalling that Clearite was seeking a weapon, he thought carefully. Not trusting Luto as she said, he didn’t wish to give away her past. Giving homage to neither her Corsair career or her Elvaan heritage, Seraph settled on a scythe. Perhaps the visage of a Dark Knight would suit her well? Placing this too in his bag for the time being, he found a soldier to furnish him with a Warp scroll. Considering the great extent to which he used them he thought it may be sensible to learn the actual spell himself. That would be for another time. Sadly, at the chocobo pen he favored mount was in use by someone else. Renting one of the others at hand he progressed through to the Wajoam Woodlands. Grimoire at the ready, he flipped between the map for the Woodlands and what little he recalled of the Subterrane. Finding an odd offshoot he rode there, and found an entrance worth exploring.

Reveling in how the senses jar memories into place, the smell of Aydeewa greeted Seraph, his days skulking through here as a Thief long past. Watching his footing he was greeted with a steady incline. Having no real lead he began here, walking down through the ever luminescent tunnels. While familiar, his logic had been correct. A damp and salty smell entwined with the area, likening it to the sea, but damp and stagnant. At the end of the incline was a noticeable drop, he saw an Elvaan male sitting in front of a pool. This seemed to be connected to an area of free flowing water. “Bringing himself up to the edge of the drop, Seraph called out to the other Elvaan. “How can I concentrate with you blathering in my ear?!” was the reply that was shouted back. Seraph sighed, and sat down with his legs crossed and began waiting. The other Elvaan, still not having looked back, seemed to calm down quickly. He began humming, voice resonating off the walls.

“…” and Seraph waited.


“…” and waited.


“…” and waited awhile longer.

Seraph closed his eyes and began thinking. If this fisherman had at least pulled something up every now and again it would have been no issue. This was the least productive fishing excursion Seraph ever witness. A pair of brothers in his native San d’Oria, angling obsessed as they were, proved more fruitful. One would think that having fished as much as they have that the seas had run dry. Feeling his magics running inside the wakes of his frustrations he calmed himself. A small bubble of power was tangible to Seraph when he opened his eyes, and the fisherman seemed to be able to tell that something was amiss. He groaned aloud, and shot a very displeased glare. “All my effort has come to naught, thanks to you! I was so close to attuning myself to Aydeewa… Well… what is it? What do you you want!? What, what, what?!”

Still agitated, Seraph spoke calmly. His voice echoed oddly, seeming to reverberate of the still present aura that was pushed outward. “I did not mean to disturb your attunement” he began. “Huh? That’s it? An entire trip ruined because you came along. What do you have to say for yourself!?” Seraph’s energy pushed further out, the water in the pool rippling. Somehow, it forced the fisherman’s line down. Happy, he snapped it up as quick as he could, and was soured to find it empty. Seraph continued, each word spoken cautiously and through strained teeth, willing his power in check. “I am simply seeking a Master Craftsman. I’ve been allowed to make use of Magus Armor as a newly inducted Immortal.”

Laughing, the man eyed Seraph severely. “…Oh no no no. I’m not falling for that one. I know what you are. You’re one of those ‘adventurers’ that have been inundating the port. You just happened across the beautiful Lathuya, and sensing a damsel in distress came gallivanting all the way here to spoil my fun at her behest. If you thought I’d just come along quietly if you spouted some clever story, didn’t you. Sorry, but old Kushdeel is a little sharper than that.”

“Perhaps… but I now know I’ve indeed found the Master Craftsman, and I have no intent to leave before you.”

Taken aback, Kushdeel hissed a small curse having implicated himself. “Then you will be waiting for an awfully long time my young friend. I have no intention of going anywhere! I am an artist! I do not just make clothing. Every piece is a work of superior talent! Each piece must be perfectly honed to its wearer. Resonating my spirit with the aura of Aydeewa is what will inspire my creativity which…” Seraph exhaled, his emotion causing a wave to push outwards. “You can’t even still yourself and let an artist speak of his muse? Hm…? And I was just getting to the interesting part…” He eyed the water he had just pulled his lure from, the liquid bowling as Seraph’s energy pushed outwards. Apparently, he now admitted to the other party in this conversation and his influence.

Keeping a strong front Kushdeel held open his hand. Seraph eyed the upturned palm questioningly. “What? Come on now. If there is truly an order, I surmise you have some document to show me?” Seraph called the grimoire and removed the letter, which had been kept as a makeshift bookmark for aesthetics’ sake. It disappeared as Kushdeel tried to touch it, and Seraph placed the letter in his hand. Looking it over, he gave it a small sniff. “Ah, her perfume. Some love letter from Lathuya, I’ll bet. She really went all out for this little errand, didn’t she? Honestly, I don’t know what to do with that girl…”

Seraph met Kushdeel with a restrained silence.

Sighing, Kushdeel regarded the Mark of Zahak stamped on the back. Breaking the seal, he unfolded the envelope While it appeared that it would have contained a letter, it was in and of itself the WHOLE of the letter. Waste not want not. “…you really should loosen up…” Kushdeel muttered then scanned the note. While his voice was full of joy his face contorted into a disgusted expression. “Excellent. All the materials have arrived.” “So I can expect your swift return Master Craftsman?” Pacing back and forth the angling Elvaan raised his voice. “Master Craftsman… Master Craftsman… Why are you calling me that? My name is Kushdeel… KUSHDEEL I tell you!” He raised the hand holding the letter up and crushed it in his fist. “…oops…” Sighing, he tucked it into his shirt, and began collapsing his rod. “I have to hurry back to town. And you…” he said. “It may not look like it, but I’m a busy man. Do not keep me waiting. I’ll see you back at the store!” With that he used a Warp scroll to take himself back to town.

Seraph sat on the ledge for a small time after Kushdeel had departed. After a small time of concentrating, his energy collapsed, remaining contained within once more. He breathed in and out, it being both relaxing and a strain. Trying to keep himself steadied he was entertained when a small fish jumped out of the pool that Kushdeel had so focused upon. Standing, and using his own scroll, he was taken back to Whitegate. Wasting no time, he returned to Kushdeel’s. Lathuya leaned out of the stall over the counter. Looking down the lane she saw Seraph coming. “Oh, Master Immortal! It’s you!” she shouted, quieting as drawing closer. “You’ll be a fit addition to the ranks of the Empress for certain. Your keen mind served you well. I assume you found him as the Master Craftsman made it back just befor-”

The sound of the the door leading from behind the storefront slamming against a wall cut Lathuya off. Kushdeel, wearing an ornate garb Seraph had never seen, walked forward and set down a pair of boots on the counter, approximately knee high. The toes and soles seemed to be made of gold. Most of the material was some type of light navy, topped at the openings for the legs with ornate designs made of more gold. Keeping one hand on the unusual wrought items he looked at Seraph with very determined eyes. “Ah… you finally made it” came Kushdeel’s voice, both somber agitated

Seraph glanced at Lathuya, who wanted no part of the exchange. “Forgive me… but what do you mean ‘finally’? I had to come after you, and I warped straight back to the city. It took me longer to find and convince you to return than you’ve been waiting here…” Kushdeel continued, not caring much for anything Seraph had to report. “Most uncouth, not giving me your name when we met. No matter, I have your order all ready and waiting.” Sliding the footwear across the counter produced a smooth, almost seductive sound. Both Seraph and Lathuya seemed to swoon at the very unusual noise made. “Standard quality Magus Charuq.” He looked over the younger male Elvaan. “Hmph” came an unimpressed evaluation. “With these you would be a newly recruited Immortal?”

Sighing, Seraph nodded. “Yes. That is a fact I had mentioned.” Railing on, Kushdeel kept speaking. “In spite of your interruption, the disarray caused by seeing the Mark of Zahak did clear my head, strangely enough. It is not a normal happening. In fact, I’m in such a good mood, I made this up for you!” Handing over a small bit of folded material, Kushdeel leaned against the wall with an overly smug grin. Seeming to have reused the parchment that had once been the envelope, what could now be found on the paper was a list. “What is this?” Seraph asked. He began reading… “Two Imperial Mythril Pieces and one each of the following: Gold Chain, Velvet Cloth, Flan Meat, Imperial Silk Cloth. Two Imperial Mythril Pieces and one each of the following: Platinum Sheet, Velvet Cloth, Karakul Leather, Venom Potion. Four Imperial Mythril Pieces and one each of the following: Velvet Cloth, Chimera Bloods, Karakul Cloth, Imperial Silk Cloth.”

“You’re given your first piece of Armor young Immortal. You must buy the rest, and furnish the materials yourself.” Seraph gaped at the list. “…these… I can’t afford any of this… ” Pointing to several items, he exclaimed. “I’ve never even HEARD of these… what are Karakuls?!” Having focused so much on catching up to Saint Seraph had paid no attention to lining his pockets. In fact, everything he currently used had be on loan from him, and Rai had bought his current swords. The only thing he had earned, the Scimitar, was already more an heirloom than an actual weapon. Kushdeel laughed. “You have the armor you have earned and our business is done, yes? May the winds of fortune see you on your way!” Laughing as he went back to what was assumed his work room he rolled out one last jab. “It sounds like you’ll need it!” With that, he closed the door.

Lathuya looked at her dejected Elvaan companion. “This is a time of testing for Blue Mages. Traveling to get all these should put you up against creatures which, as you’ve said, you’ve never even heard of. I can do little but wish you good fortune and swift travels. I do hope to see you again, but I’d rather you take it slow. Come back, even if it isn’t soon.” Bowing, she folded up the note and handed it to Seraph. Grasping his Charuq, he walked away.

When Seraph began his adventurers the Auction Houses were actually contained by area. Recently, they had figured out a way to interconnect them all. Between A.M.A.N. and M.H.M.U., the Adventurer Mutual Aid Network and Mog House Management Union respectively, this didn’t seem at all unusual. Both organizations were wide reaching, and with the Moogles’ ability to warp with ease transport simply had to have the demand to sustain it. The Tenshodo, though running a ramshackle ship to Whitegate, probably held enough sway to get their hands in it. In addition the Middle Lands probably had been wanting to re-establish ties with the Near East for a number of years.

What this amounted to was a greater amount of free trade. The pleased Seraph immensely. While not one who frequented shopping for any reason, the fact that he did not have to go to Jeuno even a bit less made a world of difference. Conversing with a concealed attendant he got a run on how much the items were worth. In total, it would set him back 150,000 gil. That was more money than he’d every seen at one time, and dared to imagine. Saint had informed him of where to go to find items that people wanted. The Dragoon thought it very fortunate to have someone around who would specialize in item acquisition. As he drug himself back to the rented rooms he calculated. To earn that much, in his current state such an endeavor would take… well, a really long time in any case. It was too much for the Elvaan to bear. Making his way to back to the mercenary barracks Makar appeared quickly. “You are just bringing loads in today, kupo!” Seraph set the Scimitar at the head of the bed, and went through the length process of removing all of his armor. How Saint dealt with this day in and day out… Makar eyed the Charuq with unmatched interest. “Those boots have some kick! What are they?”

“Custom made armor for Immortals. I’m quite exhausted” reported the Elvaan. “I’m done for the day. Sorry to be such a bother Makar.” “Rest Well Moghat” he managed to shoot across the linkshell before removing the whole of the device. Closing his eyes, he quickly fell asleep.

“‘…for Immortals’?” Makar whispered to himself, repeating Seraph. He floated over, settling against his friend.

Blue Magic put a silk like cloak over the area. For the first in a long while, Seraph had a dark, dreamless night.


Beginnings – Marks V



Disclaimer – 28 December 2017

          Much like anyone who has developed a skill I cringe looking back on earlier works. I know this work will be a hard to read and is not formatted in the best way. However my writings past, present, and future will all be made with the same heart and spirit. I love writing. I love sharing what I make. I take pride in all the works I produce. This is simply from my earlier days. Back then, I didn’t know what I was going to make out of this blogging gig. So I wrote, and I posted. If I got hung up on it being perfect, I never would have shared it.

          Since then I’ve read and learned. The results that came from 150% effort in the past come from 30% now. That is just how growth works.

          I may come back and edit this one day to bring it in line with my present standards. This is likely if my written works prove to earn my daily bread. Or if I have no pending articles (ha) and find myself bored. Still, I would not have made it where I am without this stepping stone, humble as it is.

This said, none-the-less, I hope you enjoy reading this offering.

Jasper H.B. a.k.a. zerohourseraphim

Seraph landed on a small outcropping overlooking the ocean. It seemed that it was a long time ago when he had stepped off the ship from the mainland. That fresh eyed wanderer, the Elvaan in Thieves’ clothing, had faded. Having realized the whispers of the world around him he had grown in power, learning the techniques inherent to the beasts of the land. He stood looking over the sea again, taking in the feel of his second home, remembering the past and wondering of his future.

A number of other teleportees appeared while Seraph considered how his life had changed since he’d become a Blue Mage. Memories of his lost time in the wilds strained against his mind. The sound of his old bronze sword against the natural armor of his enemies echoed coldly. Channelings of ever greater magic power were called to mind. The memories were not far off from the present truth, and the air around him popped as his energy lanced out. Seraph smiled to cover his dismay. As he gained more power he found himself having greater difficulty in exerting full containment.

Walking along the upper levels he marked his path, imagining a slightly younger self walking the paths of his memories below. Twice now he walked this land entering from the southern sea. Twice now he would find himself moving east through the city. This time however, he knew where to go. However, he did not see Waoud in the midst of the Heretic’s Alley. Following his memories he made his way to Shararat Teahouse.

Making his way around the entryway he was surprised to see Aisha in one of the sitting areas. Rahitb, the Teahouse’s proprietor, gave an acknowledging wave to Seraph and motioned in the Mithra’s direction. Looking again, Seraph noticed that an additional setting was placed. While facing away from the door, Aisha noticed Rahitb’s actions, and turned to see Seraph. Recalling a phrase from an unknown source history wasn’t so much a limited chain of events as a repetition of a cycle. Aisha stood, welcoming her old friend and they sat down together.

“Welcome back to Whitegate Serrraph!” she said, sliding him a saucer bearing a cup of chai. The rich spiced scent filled the air and wafted into his nose. The dairy added a subtle coolness, and it was sweetened just so as not to be overpowering. Seraph nodded to his host, and indulged in a long sip. “Is this one of the many things a martial Scholar studies?” he inquired. The Mithra laughed and shook her head. “Oh no. It is simply something one does for a frrriend.”

Seraph leaned against a wall. The stones had been warmed by the days’ heat, and he found the sensation soothing. His body still ached from his outing into Abyssea. “I take it you’ve spoken with Clearite recently?” he asked. “Indeed” Aisha replied. “It’s how I knew to find you herrre.” Seraph smiled coyly. “If I had seen Waoud in the Heretic’s Alley I wouldn’t have stopped in straightaway. You are fortunate.” Motioning slightly, Aisha’s grimoire appeared in front of her. “The fortuneteller? I wish I could tell you morrre about him. The only information I have on him is that he is often seen where you descrrribed. Outside of that I don’t know what to say.”

Seraph looked over Aisha’s notes. “How much information have you added to your grimoire?’ She caught Seraph looking over her book, and it promptly shut itself. “Not much honestly” she said defensively. “It has a habit of updating itself.” Seraph looked confused. “I haven’t noticed.” Snapping his fingers, a blue covered book appeared in front of him. “Thus far I have yet to pour over this whole volume. I still have to turn the pages myself.”

Aisha was flabbergasted. “You… you’re a Scholar now?!” she asked somewhat horrified. “In addition to everything else, yes.” Seraph’s response was lost on somewhat deaf ears. Aisha had picked up his grimoire and was looking it over. “Most unusual… did you modify this hue yourself?” she asked. Seraph thought on it and shook his head. “You were the one that remarked upon yours updating itself. Perhaps mine is no different. Is it a channeling of magic that allows you to willfully turn the pages?” Aisha nodded. “Yes. I am able to focus on a particularrr Art, Black or White. The grimoirrre attunes itself to my whim.”

Seraph considered what Aisha had told him. “I haven’t gotten so far that I can apply that technique.” She eyed him quizzically. “It’s a rather basic lesson.” Seraph cleared his mind. Channeling a bit of Blue Magic toward his own book it opened and the pages fluttered, revealing several details upon his own magical progress. Here he could clearly see every spell he had learned, the the details of them, how they augmented his baseline abilities, and several other details. Aisha went to all fours and prowled to Seraph’s side as one of her non-humanoid kin, entranced. “Amazing… this is unheard of!” She looked over the pages that were open to her. Seraph saw them and recalled learning Pollen and Sand Spin.

“You don’t have such information on yourself?” Seraph asked of Aisha. The Mithra called her own grimoire to her. “I don’t remember seeing anything…” Seraph nodded. “Try focusing on… White Magic. See what comes up.” Both spellcasters held a hand out over their tomes, focusing on their memories of Divine and Healing spells. Almost immediately Aisha’s book sprang to life. After awhile, it settled on the pages of the White Magics she had learned. Seraph’s took longer to begin, but had much less information to sort through. The two reached their respective destinations at the same time.

Aisha was thrilled. Having learned a new use for her grimoire she focused on a number of memories. Black and White Magics where what she first discovered. After a time she managed upon an section regaling her own life. It was in this section she drew inward and quiet. “What is it?” Seraph asked. Aisha snapped out of her reading at Seraph’s question. “Oh, just reading about when I first picked up this book. Since you have one I assume you know of our world’s connection to the Shadowreign era?” Seraph nodded, and Aisha continued. “I spent a long while there in an attempt to get the materials to create my grimoire. What about you?”

Focusing on the memory Seraph brought the pages to the time he first stumbled across Erlene. In order to be allowed a grimoire it was requested that he bring parchment he furnished himself. Her colleague, Ulbrecht, had muttered something about it attuning the volume to its owner. Flipping the page, Aisha screeched. “You’re kidding me?! What does that mean, you were given your parchments?!” Seraph looked at where Aisha was pointing angrily.

“Oh… there was a Galka in Selbina who wanted older and preserved rolanberries, however, I recalled a Hume male in the Shadowreign era looking for fresh samples as the Rolanberry Fields were all but destroyed there. He seemed to have a surplus of parchment that he was willing to part with in lieu of gil, which suited me fine in this instance. I had also recalled that the duty-free shop in present day Jeuno sold rolanberries for a cost. I simply found out how many the man needed, bought the amount from the Jeunoan store, and gave the appointed amount to this man. I must have filled his stores for a time because he would accept no more from me.” Seraph recalled a conversation with the man. “He was… curious as to where I got my hands on so many fresh rolanberries considering the fields were scorched and war worn… but he got what he needed and didn’t ask any questions beyond that.”

Aisha was breathing heavily, livid with rage. As she spoke she was growling, drawing out her Rs more obviously than normal. She also seemed not to notice this, as her word choice was full of Rs.“Serrraph… gatherrring materrrials and crrrafting the parrrchments took me weeks. WEEKS. I even had to rrraise my crrrrafting skills to be able to make the parrchments in the firrrst place! You mean to tell me that it you completed the same task in…” she halted her sentence and referred to Seraph’s mimetic journaling, her eyes growing wider with rage. “….HOURRRRRRRS!!! You finished in hourrrrrs?!” The angered Mithra was drawing attention from other patrons at the Teahouse. Fuming, she flopped down angrily and resumed drinking her chai. Apparently this signaled the end to the outburst, and the other patrons resumed their meals.

Seraph tried to catch Aisha’s eye, to no avail. “I am sorry… As Clearite pointed out, I am a native of San d’Oria. It’s taken a lot of time and energy to get here, and across two continents, and I have a vicious memory for little details. If I had been around I would have directed you down the same road.” Aisha seemed to be having none of Seraph’s apology. Ratihb began crossing to the duo, his son close at hand.

“Papa… we must do something!” Ratihb’s son cried. “There is nothing we can do about it now” Ratihb replied. His son was not happy about this. “But he might be in trouble! Someone has to help him!” At this point Ratihb had to turn aside and speak to his son. Still, he was close enough to be heard. “Wasuhd, I must mind the store. If I were to get involved, I would never be able to do business in Al Zahbi again. To draw the attention of the Immortals…” He paused and looked towards Seraph.

Seraph shook his head. “Ratihb… you have nothing to worry about from me. The use of Blue Magic does not an Immortal make.” Wasuhd looked between his father and Seraph. “If you’re not going to help him, then I will!” With that he rushed out of the Teahouse. Ratihb sighed, then turned to his customers. He bowed solemnly. “I am sorry you had to see that.” Seraph tried to be as disarming as he could be. “It is not a problem Ratihb. I am in the doghouse” Seraph said, looking towards Aisha, “which is never a good place to be, especially where Mithra are concerned. Perhaps I may be of some assistance to you?”

As Seraph rose from his sitting position Ratihb considered the offer. “’A Blue Mage does not an Immortal make’? That may be the case, but you may be the closest thing to hope my sons have.” Ratihb motioned towards the entry of the Teahouse, where Ratihb began explaining the situation to Seraph. “I am normally busy with managing the this shop. Wasuhd has idolize his elder brother as a result. Mutihb, my eldest son, does not run with the best of crowds. Knowing this we kept the truth of these matters and dealings secret from Wasuhd.” Ratihb shook his head. “As is the way with brothers, the truth matters little. Wasuhd still cares for Mutihb immensely. Even now I’m hard pressed to just leave the Teahouse. If you happen across either of my sons, I would be thankful for whatever help you could offer them.”

Seraph nodded. “I’ll do so happily. I am in fact looking for…” Seraph considered his next words carefully. He was uncertain what the connection was between Waoud and Raubahn, but he did not want to cause a wave by establishing even rumors of connection between the two. Knowing that one led to the other… “…Waoud. He usually can be found in Heretic’s Alley. I am sorely out of luck as he isn’t currently present.” Ratihb nodded. “Yes, I do know of the man. I have heard people speak of him in passing. I’ve had no dealing with him myself. I am sorry I ask so much and can offer nothing in return.” Seraph and Ratihb bowed to each other in departure.

Tail twitching back and forth, Seraph could see from a distance that Aisha was still quite upset. He realized he left his grimoire out. While at this point it would be simple to have it dissipate or to simply recall it, he chose to physically go over and retrieve it. It was the only reason he had to approach her passively. As he neared Aisha looked at him in a huff, but kept his gaze as he neared. “Heading off after Waoud now?” she asked, having regained her composure. Seraph smiled. “Yes, if I can find him. He seems to be the type to be found only when he wishes to be. In the meantime I can try to help out Ratihb. While I’m at it I can try to find one Iruki-Waraki.”

Aisha rose. “That ill mannered little Tarrru?” she said. “What do you need of him?” Seraph found this a statement perplexing. He could not recall meeting a member of the diminutive race who was ever anything but jovial, albeit a slight bit crazed perhaps. “A man named Shamarhaan dwells in Bastok. He was the one who originally told me of this place” Seraph said, waving his hand north west, indicating the whole of Whitegate. “He found my skills and handling of Blue Magic sufficient enough to discuss the particulars of being a Puppetmaster with me. Iruki-Waraki is apparently another practitioner of the lifestyle.” Aisha replied with shock apparent in her voice. “I never would have imagined.” She sighed, hints of apology in her voice. “Mind if I come along? I have only some preliminary notations regarding Automatons. I would love learn as much as I can.” Seraph laughed. “Ever the Scholar. As long as you are not still upset with me I welcome you. I’m not sure if I can learn a Pyrohelix spell just from it being thrown on me.” Aisha laughed in reply. “Ever the Blue Mage. Can you stop thinking with your magically augmented learning capacity for even an instant?”

Aisha clapped her hands in triumph and her massive grimoire faded in a huff of magic power. Seraph traced a hand along the cover of his grimoire. The color oscillated from a light, pale blue to a saturated, deep hued one. The Mark of Zahak took a place in the center of the cover. As the color brightened it was a rich, luscious green. As it deepened, the raising shone gold. Seraph rubbed the back of his neck.

The Mark of Zahak was two serpents, connected at the tails into one body, both slightly coiled and had their mouths facing in different directions. It serves as the official symbol of the Empire. Flags, standards, and the local currency all bore the symbol. Supposedly, it was branded somewhere on the body of every Blue Mage, but Seraph had never seen his own. Granted, this was the first time he had considered it.

The rest of the cover bore  inlaying with archaic lettering, which Seraph found himself understanding. Aisha noticed his focus, and asked after the explanation. “Well… the rough translation is ‘The Archived Hopes of Man and Beast are Blue’. However, that isn’t exactly right. I don’t recognize this word…” Seraph pointed to combinations of characters. “…from what I can gather, they read phonetically as ‘Gigas’. I know of the creatures from the mainland. This word reads the same… but it seems to mean ‘bonding of Man and Beast together as one’. I’m uncertain as to what to make of it…” Seraph shook his head. As he traced his hand along the spine he laughed off the thoughts, tapped the cover once, and it too vanished.

With that the duo made their way into toward the city proper. “What is that?” came Aisha’s voice. She was a step behind Seraph, and he could suddenly feel her finger on the back of his neck. “Does it look like a two headed serpent?” Seraph asked. Aisha replied an affirmative. “It is a branding all practitioners of Blue Magic receive upon their induction, or so I gathered. It should resemble the Mark of Zahak. Do you not recognize it?” Aisha was silent for a short while. “No… I didn’t. I don’t spend as much time here as you may think.” Seraph sighed out a laugh, and moved his hair to again cover his neck. In his time away his hair had matted and turned into thin dreadlocks. Oddly enough, it was quite a functional style, and much more controlled than he had imagined possible being away from civilization for so long. Makar had wanted to do away with it, but helped him tame the style at the Elvaan’s request. Seraph was comfortable with it.

Progressing north, Aisha and Seraph passed through Heretic’s Alley. Seraph let his eyes cover the area. The vantage point of the upper level let him look down even into the alleyways, but he was unable to see any sign of Waoud. Seraph made no obvious showing of his search and continued speaking with Aisha. She desperately wanted to take a look at his grimoire, but he would allow no such thing. He was… defensive. He had come a long way for the knowledge to just give it away. He felt a bit of pride in regards to his accomplishments.

After exiting the Alley, they were in the section of Whitegate known as The Way of the Devout. This housed the gateway leading to the Imperial Center of the city. Aht Urhgan Whitegate was composed of three sections. Al Zahbi was the outer ward, where the drifters, the transient, and oft times the banished resided in constant fear of the Beastman raids. The five Serpent Generals, along with those who answered the call to defense, routed such forces regularly and with a terrible efficiency. Aht Urhgan Whitegate was the busiest section of town. The dealings of more legitimate tradesman, merchants, and artisans as well as the business brought in by mercenaries and adventurers alike meant that there was rarely a dull moment here. The Imperial Center lay inside the rest, protected naturally by the geography, and perhaps more terrifyingly than nature itself by the full power of the Imperial Army along with the entirety of the Immortals themselves.

It was here, huddled at the end of  a closed off balcony the pair found Iruki-Waraki. Clad in mostly black Seraph was uncertain what to make of the Tarutaru. Their small statures overall made age difficult to place, their varied colors and styles in hair made such information nearly impossible to ascertain in that fashion, and the details on the clothing required close scrutiny. Iruki-Waraki looked at the pair very gruffly as they returned his stare. Seraph realized that he wasn’t going to be able to glean anything more from mere observation. “Pardon us, unless I am mistaken you are Iruki-Waraki, are you not?”

The Taru before Seraph looked the Elvaan up and down (though not so much on the latter…). “Who’s askin?” he replied. “I was sent by Shamarhaan. He said to come to you if I was interested in the use of Automatons.” The Taru turned his back and took a few steps away. “Do I look like a teacher to you? You’re barkin down the wrong shrub, bub.” Aisha was about to speak, but Seraph held her back. Traditionally, the Mithra came from a continent far to the south. Many found a new home in the jungles of Kazham, and the rest that Seraph had encountered shared a home with the Tarutaru in Windhurst. Seraph had only been a few times, and he always wondered why the most expansive city belonged to the shortest race… although being hewn from and around a tree of great size probably had more to do with that than not.

Aisha would have had more dealings with the Taru than he, but as this was for his sake, he wished to handle it himself. Seraph turned away slightly, giving the impression that he was to depart. “I have witnessed Shamarhaan’s competency with an Automaton and asked if he may teach me of their operation. At this he laughed heartily and referred me to Iruki-Waraki, citing that Waraki had a greater competency than he. If you are not who I seek, then I will proceed elsewhere to find him. If I fail in that endeavor I will seek another to aid me. I apologize for bothering you.” Seraph began his mock departure, subtly motioning for Aisha to follow suit. Unexpectedly, she piped up with a defeated “…but, Seraph…!” and a few quick glances back and forth. As they put some distance away from Iruki, they had to stifle their laughter. It was good they did too. Before they were too far away came his voice. Very exasperatedly he said “Hold on…”

The Tarutaru turned to face the pair. “I’m Iruki-Waraki. Why Shamarhaan sent you to me I don’t know. I can’t teach you. I’m without an Automaton myself, and a bit of bad blood lay between me and the only person I know of to make one worth using. There is a Galka by the name of Ghastad in town. Get him to make me a new one and I can begin to show you what I know.” Seraph bowed, then turned away and left with Aisha. Opening her grimoire before her she pointed out where Ghastad’s shop would be, and the two swiftly went about their way.

Looking back at Iruki-Waraki, and recalling his sudden pride in his progression, Seraph returned in his memories to lessons at the San d’Orian cathedral. Each of the five races of Altana were cursed with a particular sin. The Galka rage, the Tarutaru cowardice, Humes apathy, Mithra envy, and the Elvaan people were blighted with arrogance. It was something that Seraph found somewhat true and had come to loathe, however, he fell prey to it too often to be holier than thou. “Aisha… I’ll tell you what… give me a little time. I’ll sit down with both you and Clearite. My trials of my time as a Blue Mage will be open to you, grimoire and all.

The lady Mithra’s excitement was soon overwhelmed by a clamor coming from the direction of the Imperial Gateway. They had not yet exited that section of the city before a group came running from beyond the Imperial Whitegate. “Mutihb!” came a young boys’ voice. Seraph looked over towards the source and realized it was Wasuad’s voice. His focus was on another young Hume, and Seraph assumed this was Mutihb, Ratihb’s eldest son. A shudder in the surrounding area called his attention away from the two boys. His experience in Blue Magic and something of the ways of Immortals allowed Seraph a long space of notice… He could feel his bretheren coming.

Jumping from the top level down into the plaza Seraph ran to Wasuad and kept him from interfering with the pirates, keeping the young boy from implicating himself even further. Just as Seraph did a number of Immortals came from behind palings, coming back into the spectrum of sight and the range of hearing allowed to most beings. “Quite the entrance Immortals!” came a defiant challenge from one in the group. Seraph looked at this young man. A tricorne hat adorned his head, and he was dressed in very comfortable clothes in dull blues and grays. A strange gun hung from his hip, but Seraph was unable to get a good look at it. “While we’d love to stay and keep you company, I’m afraid we’ve got some business to take care of. If you’ll excuse us…” The man raised his hand as he raised his voice. “Regroup on the wing of the Seagull!”

In his hand was an explosive. Seraph realized the make. In his training as a Thief he had begun to carry a supply of small smoke bombs. They did little good except as a enjoyable little trick. They allowed him to fade from vision for little more than a second or two. He added it to his experience as a Dancer. This added a small flair to his stealth glamour, letting both physical smoke and and magical energy twist as he faded from perception. In the first few instances he was vulnerable, however after that he was deadened and dimmed. The size of the ball that the man in the hat held hinted at a much more substantial smoke screen. Seraph threw himself over the boy just as the bomb went off. The Way of the Devout was covered in smoke, covering the interlopers exit. “Damn Qultada… blasted Seagull Pharatrie…” came one voice from the smoke. “I apologize Sir Yazquhl!” came another voice, nearer to Seraph. The smoke began to clear. “Don’t just stand there! After them before they go to far!” came an order from Yazquhl’s voice. The smoke had begun to clear, revealing the ordering voice as an Immortal. Seraph felt an affirmative rise in his mind as the other Immortals faded from perception again. Yazquhl met eyes with Seraph. There was a very tense moment as not a word passed between the two. The back of Seraph’s neck tingled, and it felt as though a blade was coming out of his right eye. Yazquhl blinked, the rest of his form hidden beneath the Immortals’ uniform, then he too allowed himself into the chase.

Seraph stood, releasing Wasuad. The young boy bowed, and ran off quickly. Seraph reached out and shouted after him, to no avail. Whitegate and Al Zahbi were set up against invaders. Wasuad knew the streets better than Seraph, and disappeared before the Elvaan could discern which way he intended to go. “You risked much for that child, and at great potential expense to yourself.” Seraph looked to who spoke. He recognized the voice from the time when smoke had obscured his vision. This saluted in the style given over to the people in service of the Empire, waving a hand before him before leaving it facing up an open palm to Seraph. “I am Mafwahb” he offered in introduction. Seraph rose, pressing one hand to his chest in the Bastok style of salutation, punctuating it with a bow. “I am Seraph” the Elvaan returned. When the Hume man met his eyes he was taken aback. He looked about, then met Seraph’s gaze again.

“You… are not one of the Immortals?” both asking and stating a fact. Seraph nodded. “That is correct. I am a practitioner of Blue Magic, however I have not been welcomed into the ranks of the Immortals myself.” Mafwahb nodded, and seemed to relax a great deal. “You are openly concerned for that boy. If I were to tell you what I know, would you be able to help him?” Seraph closed his eyes. He couldn’t sense the presence of any nearby Immortals. However… something nudged at his perception. It didn’t feel vital however. Seraph returned to Mafwahb, who seemed to understand what he was doing. Seraph nodded, and again, Mafwahb relaxed.

“The name he called out was of a Corsair who had just been taken in. This breakout was, from what I noticed, their first overt act. Most of the time they are a troublesome presence.” Mafwahb paused, looked about, and returned to looking at Seraph. The Blue Mage shook his head, and Mafwahb continued. “I cannot tell you why, but the Immortals are particularly ill aligned when it comes to them. Completely intolerant. Word of the young man had just reached me from inside the palace when I saw the Immortals dragging him inside its walls.”

Seraph recalled Clearite. He remembered her unabashed disdain for the Immortals, and less so for him being a Blue Magic practitioner. However, considering all of this, he’d never known her to be particularly troublesome. In fact, she had always been low key. This whole fiasco gave ample explanation as to potential reasoning. Mafwahb huffed in spite of himself. “What am I saying… do you even know what a Corsair is?” Seraph carefully thought on this. He knew of Clearite, but had never seen her fight as a Corsair. He also didn’t want to out her in the event this guard was as equally loose lipped with his superiors. He just wasn’t unfamilier with them.

Seraph voiced his answer carefully. “I know something of them.” Mafwahb nodded. “Sensible. If you have the eyes of the Immortals on you I doubt you’d rub shoulders with that lot. Those forsaken Corsairs are the cause of many headaches. The miscreants have been maurading around the area. However, I couldn’t tell you where they’d be found. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help.” Seraph bowed low. “It is of no major detriment. I know more than I did before. Thank you Mafwahb. I will see what I can discover.”

Seraph made his way back up to where he left Aisha, but found his Mithra companion had vanished. Seraph focused and thought he found her trail. Seraph went to find his map of the area and found it vanished. The maps of Vana’diel were imbued with a type of enhanced cartography. If you were in a group with others you could find their locations on these maps if you were inside the same boundaries. There was no shortage of adventurers, and no need to stop the making of these maps.

That said, Seraph was not one to easily part with his gil. He was not looking forward to buying another map. He sighed heavily. “Another map of Whitegate…” he muttered to himself, horribly displeased. He took a step in the direction he thought Aisha had gone when his grimoire appeared and opened to his map of Whitegate. He looked at it, and sure enough, Aisha was marked on the map, and in the direction he was walking. An added plus. Seraph flipped a few pages and found all the maps he had collected there as well.

Seraph suddenly had the frightening fear that his grimoire may have as much a hunger for knowledge as he did.

He patted the cover, and it disappeared. He was going to have to inquire to Aisha about the grimoire growing. He proceeded to the northern port of the town. This port hosted a boat that led to Nashmau, the adopted hometown of the Qiqirn. After the troubles Seraph had encountered with seabound fiends before, he had no interest in testing his mettle against more. On a far outcropping of the port, Seraph could see Aisha, leaning out with her eyes straining over the horizon. As he walked closer her body slumped in disappointment. She turned and nearly ran past Seraph.

“Oh, there you arrre!” she drew out. She coughed a time or two in effort to get her societial tic under control. Seraph gazed out over the northern skyline. “What were you looking at?” Aisha, having recollected herself, answered with definance. “The Corsairs went north. I lost sight of them. I was far enough away that I wasn’t caught in the midst of their parlor trick. For all Clearite’s warnings, the Immortals are still human. They didn’t see past my spells” she reported with no attempt to hide her pride. Seraph looked at the empty dock. He considered returning to Ratihb to update him but he didn’t really have any consolation to give regarding his sons. Seraph’s eyes passed over the empty port again. He may need to go north after all.

The partied pair made their way through the occasionally hard to navigate maze that is the construction of Whitegate. They had not made it to a branch in their pathway when the hushed mutterings of a Galka and a Taru caused the pair pause, in part due to the content. “Cardians vs. Automatons? I couldn’t really say…” said the Taru. “I’d say Ghastad has been away from the mainland too long, not willing to share the workings of Automatons even with me” quipped the Galka. “I’ve seen many automatons around. They aren’t uncommon. Why all the secrecy?” continued the Galka. “I’ve no clue… but to have found the source, but have no access to the information… It’s truly a puzzle.”

Mithra and Elvaan eyed the pair, then one another, and then the door to their left. The shingle above the doorway proclaimed the establishment as a member of the Goldsmithing guild. “This doesn’t look like the source of the Automatons…” Aisha remarked. The conversationalists turned to Aisha and Seraph. “True enough” said the Galka. “While the guilds from the mainland exist here as well, due to Aht Urghan’s oddities in technology and necessities, they tend to branch out more from what we may be used to.” The Tarutaru chimed in. “The shop seems to be open to all comers. Feel free to try your luck.”

Left with no other options the duo entered the shop. The wooden double doors creaked as they were opened. As many of the buildings in Whitegate the Automaton workshop consisted of three levels. What amounted to an entrance, a waiting area, and an additional area above comprised the layout. At the back of the uppermost tier they found the apparently elusive Ghastad. Aisha ran around, talking to the other workers, touching every little thing, trying to learn as much as she could on a tactile level. In contrast, Seraph when directly up to the Galka-in-charge.

Looking up from his work, Ghastad greeted Seraph. “Ah, greetings. Is there something I can help you with?” Seraph nodded. “I was referred her by Shamarhaan. I was told that you may be able to assist me in working with an Automaton.” The Galka dusted wiped his hands on his apron. “I see… interested in becoming a Puppetmaster? An admirable vocation. I actually have something you can do in payment.” Seraph nodded. A rather fortunate turn. “I have an interest in older Automaton construction. Much of technology here in Al Zahbi is rather old, or retolled and reworked from more ancient technology. I’ve heard of a number of lost souls being bound to the beastmen in Arrapago Reef. I’m willing to be that at least one Puppetmaster may have been among them. If you were to go there and confirm my theory I’d be willing to construct an Automaton on your behalf.”

Knowing that Iruki-Waraki was not partial to Ghastad at the moment, Seraph acquiesced agreement. “In the meantime, perhaps my companion here could remain. She seems to have a fervent interest in everything about Automatons.” Ghastad laughed a hearty laugh, on he had seen only a few times in Bastok. “My my… of course! I’d happily have her! Young Lady, would you care to join me?” The Mithran Scholar was elated. As Ghastad continued to work, Aisha made notes about every little glint and gear that made the Automatons function.

North again… this time to Arrapago Reef. Seraph had heard passing tales of the place. Different varieties of beastmen roamed the Near East land than did those of the Middle Lands. Arrapago Reef was an area that was home to the Lamiae. A good deal of their upper bodies bore resemblance to that Hume females, but their lower bodies were those of serpents. It was a land lost if you were a living specimen. The Lamiae raised the dead to be their puppets and enthralled servants.

Still… why was that land familiar? Seraph had never been, but thinking on it a resonance struck him. Something in the back of his head… something deep. Seraph reached for it, tried to seize hold.

A chime rang in his ears.

Seraph’s eyes went wide with shock. He turned his senses outward. Honing it towards the south he felt Waoud’s presence. “Aisha, I need to…” The Mithra absentmindedly waved to Seraph in one part acknowledgement and one part dismissal. A small wave to the equally engrossed Ghastad was all the departing fanfare Seraph could muster. He bolted out of the workshop and towards the south, slowing as he neared the Imperial Whitegate. Staring at it he felt his gaze pierce through. Waoud was not here… but had he been? It was difficult to say. Focusing again, Seraph found his quarry further south in his normal place in the Heretic’s Alley. Warily breaking his gaze beyond the palace barriers, he resumed his previous sprint.

As Waoud’s small refuge came into view, Seraph could see the fortuneteller gazing absently at the sky. As Seraph drew near Waoud did not allow his attention to slip. “Would you like a divination this day…” he began, then finally angled his head down toward Seraph. “Ah, hello again Seraph.” The Elvaan nodded to the Hume. “You seem troubled. Perhaps I can offer you a piece of solace to help you along this day?” Seraph locked gazes with Waoud as his left eye gleamed crimson. Seraph braced himself for the displacement to come.

Seraph blinked, and in that instance he again found himself with Raubahn. The cold caves and cages that Seraph met the leader of the Immortals in led the young Blue Mage to consider starkly after the true nature of this man. Raubahn was staring off in the distance. Still covered in a blue aura he was difficult to see. However, Seraph found that it was easier to see through. Without turning Raubahn began speaking. “Well… if it isn’t the ‘potential’.”

Raubahn turned to face Seraph. For a moment the concentration of the senior mage faltered. As the azure haze relented Seraph caught a quick look at Raubahn’s eyes, wide with surprise. “No longer an empty vessel I see.” Raubahn walked toward Seraph, quietly and subtly evaluating the progress of the young Blue Mage. “Unusual…” he began again, a note of surprise twinging his voice. “You have grown much, and yet you maintain your mortal form in spite of the power you wield.”

Seraph looked down at his own hand. Yes, he’d felt like he’d lost himself in the wilderness for a long while. His memories were still a mess. He could remember going off and open training in several different areas after gaining prowess as a Blue Mage, but he couldn’t remember when. Some memories of Saint rose high, but were impossible to order. For all he tried the memories of his time away from the world were locked out to him. Had he slipped from the mortal coil somehow? Looking inward Seraph could not admit to feeling as anything other than what he had always been.

“You have not experienced such a loss of self?” Raubahn pointedly inquired. “That is both impressive and unsettling.” Raubahn was circling Seraph, looking him up and down. “Tell me… do you know where the Mark of Zahak has taken root on you?” Seraph nodded. “From what I’ve been told it lays on the back of my neck.” Seraph moved his collected hair from the nape of his neck. “Ah… quite the common placement of manifestation.” From behind him Seraph felt the energy pouring off Raubahn intensify.

“What is the meaning of this heresy?!” he asked, wrath and concern augmented by his control of this place. Seraph, grossly uncertain of what was meant, could do little but stand try to look at the Immortal. Raubahn moved with a determination and prevented Seraph from budging and inch, but held his hair out of the way. Something about the Mark caught his attention. “Unprecidented. Your Mark uncoils. I do not know what to make of this.” Raubahn released Seraph’s ponytail and took his former position looking out over a gloomy and ruined landscape. While silent the energy pouring off of him sparked and crackled the air around him.

Seraph felt the back of his neck. Is that why Aisha asked after it? It was difficult to make out through his gloved hands, but it seemed that the serpents in his Mark had indeed uncoiled, and they seemed to be slithering around his neck. The tide around Raubahn relented before he spoke up again. “Your past may not have led you down a path I know, but it is obvious to me that your future will. Trust me at my word: The path of mortality is now and always sealed off from you. Is this a truth you can accept?” Seraph considered the words and their weight. He recalled his short journey into Abyssea, his battle with the undead that threatened Palometa. He felt that this was his path. Seraph lifted his voice that Raubahn could hear. “I have already done so.”

Raubahn turned slightly and nodded at Seraph, a crimson eye gleaming through his maelstrom. The same eye as Waoud… “I am glad that you understand your fate.” Raubahn faced Seraph fully. “You are new to these lands in a relative sense. It is time for you to travel to the five staging points in search of even greater power. Azouph. Dvucca. Mamool Ja. Halvung. Ilrusi Atoll. At these five places you will find your fellows… those who strive to be more than mortal while fending off the madness that erodes their souls.”

Seraph again tried to recall what he had lost, but to no avail. Raubahn responded to Seraph’s sudden drawing away with a slight withdrawing of his own. He pressed a hand to his chest, then returned to his normal at-attention stance. “Some are vessels that merely mimic the shape of men and women overflowing with savage energies, while others have achieved a balance between the nature of mortal and beast.” As was customary Seraph could feel Raubahn beginning to expel him from his mental sanctum. “They have long walked the road you now stand upon. Burn their lessons into your heart, and forge your path with renewed vigor…”

Seraph opened his eyes and was again face to face with Waoud. However, Raubahn’s voice echoed in his mind a warning. “…for no other paths remain open to you…”

A small, scattered crowd had gathered, watching the two men. From the whisperings the both of them had apparently been standing still, gazes locked, for some time with no apparent life between them. Calmly yet theatrically, Waoud began speaking aloud, applying ample melodrama. “Ah… I see a symbol of guidance. Four lamps surrond a mystical gate. The opening of this gate will lead you to distant lands.” Waoud lifted his hands, motioning to each direction in kind as he continued.

“To the land east of Nashmau, beyond the Deadmist Marsh. To the land west of the city of Mamook. To the land that lies in the northeastern shadow of Mount Zhayolm. To the land that lies west, across the sea from Nashmau to the land that lies in the nother caverns of the Arrapago Reef. As all roads lead home, return to this place when all your travels are done.” His grandstanding completed, Waoud gave a deep performers’ bow, and a small round of applause rose from the bystanders. Seraph bowed in kind, leaving the revelers to their own devices. As he passed by he caught a great many whispers. It seemed that, in the places Waoud named, were the strongholds for each of the areas’ beastman clans, or at the very least places they held a large amount of control and sway over. It sounded like a great deal of trouble.

Weighing his options carefully, Seraph was paying little attention to just where he was going. Unexpectedly, a door to his in front of him to his right splintered apart, pieces grazing that side of his face. That warning was fortunate, as a couple of bodies came flying through landing on the lower level. Seraph moved well away from the broken barrier, narrowly avoiding the follow through of a morning star that would have clipped his head. Seraph landed in a low crouch, one blade drawn in his right hand, his left holding a sphere of searing ruddy flame ready to explode.

A Mithra in a low stance perched on the broken remains of the door. The mace in her hand slid down the wall, it’s spiked head leaving grooves in the wall. Seraph listened cautiously. The men below didn’t seem to be moving, and the apparent assailant didn’t seem to be giving chase. Seraph let the ball of flame die down. The change in environment signalled the warrior, still sitting on the ruin door, to the presense of another. This caused the Mithra to jump down from the door and square up a distance from Seraph. “What’re ya doin’ standin’ arrround here? You’re just getting in the way. Can’t ya see how busy I am?” Seraph took this opportunity to stand and look over the raised stonework. Three people were tangled in a heap. Their count could only be determined by the differences in armor they wore. Othewise, where one ended and the other began was impossible to tell.

“What’s your deal anyway?” she said, snapping Seraph away from his evaluation. “I was just passing by and… happened to be in time to ‘admire your work'” he replied. This gave the Mithra woman cause to smile. She slung her mace over her shoulder. “Oh… ya got business with me…?” As she asked she looked Seraph over. As she formed her evaluation her smile diminished. Before Seraph could reply she continued on her own. “…nope, never seen ya before. Your lack of fashion sense, that slack-jawed face, and that slouching posture… ya can’t possibly be from around these parts.” Seraph had never met a Mithra nearly as tall as he, and years of Elvaan cultivation didn’t allow for slouching when relaxed. He was hardly slack-jawed. The armor was borrowed, so he couldn’t really begin to defend that…

“You’re a forreigner, aren’t ya?” asked the Mithra. Seraph laughed a bit. “Yes… but I’ve been told by a seer that I have a keen grasp of this culture.” The Mithra leaned, looking past him. Following her gaze, she caught sight of Waoud. He turned, knowingly, causing the Mithra to right herself, her smile returning. “Oh rrreally. Heheh… You’rrre just the type of person I’ve been looking for. Follow me. I’d like to have a talk with ya.” The Mithra kicked what was left of the door as she re-entered the building. It swung on its hinges which didn’t last long. Once Seraph neared even they gave way, falling to the ground. Disregarding this, he followed the Mithra inside.

The interior of this store was identical to that of the Automaton workshop. The Mithra’s display in regards to the door was commonplace. Seraph could see several places in which stone had been replaced in what could be neat mace or body sized indentations. Making her way up to a table not dissimilar to Ghastad’s she turned to face Seraph. This work area, instead of having scatterings of gears, tools and oils, had instead a variety of papers and parchments, stacked deep. The Mithra leaned forward on her mace. “So ya came to be a merrrcenary, did ya?” Seraph was taken aback by this sudden question, though it felt more like an acqusation. “Honestly, I was just passing by. I would have been on my way, but I have issues with being dogpiled.” The Mithra narrowed her eyes. Perhaps it was his turn of phrase? “You’re pretty naive if you think you can get a lie like that past Naja here” she proclaimed, pointing a thumb at herself. Naja seemed to be in the midst of her own delusions.

And then he remembered. Naja Salaheem, the leader of the illustrious Salaheem’s Sentinels, gave herself over to the service of the Empire and led the only approved group of mercanaries on the continent. Seraph heard talk of her by her subordinates on the mainland and learned her to be straightforward, brash, and aggresively undiplomatic. This was a case in point. It was widely reputed that while always carrying her morning star she never used it. Seraph found this to be a falsehood.

“Ma’am, honestly I did not return to…” Seraph was cut off by Naja’s mace impacting the table. “Don’t you lie to me. I can see it in your eyes!” She did not seem to be as keen as other Mithra he was accustomed to, as the only thing that might be seen in his eyes of late would be occasional surges of Blue Magic that spilled forth. “I am here only because I have business with the Immortals.” Naja’s ears perked up and she set her mace down on the table in front of her. “Now you’rrre speaking my language! Your long journery has been worthwhile. We’ve been waiting for ya.” She picked up a small box and set it in front of Seraph.

At this, she began going into a schpeel that Seraph had heard before. “…official Empire business…” While patient, especially in his personal dealings, waiting due to another could be quickly trying. “…only mercenary organization the rrroyal family puts its trust in…” He was uncertain how much more of the sales pitch he was willing to endure. “…the best, the crrream of the…” Seraph felt a need to carry on quickly. The sound of the Naja’s mace against the table and her voice in a sudden high yell forced his focus back on her. “…so don’t go thinkin’ ya can slack off!” Elvaan and Mithra locked gazes for an instant. Seraph cracked first, years of contained emotion relenting to the tension. Naja took this as weakness and returned to her offensive.

“Now do ya get it? First, ya gotta show me what you’re made of.” Naja nudged the box off the table, Seraph’s reaction of catching it seemed to signify acceptance of a task to the mercanary commander. Seraph undid a latch on the box. Within were five smaller boxes. These however, were sealed, and could not be opened. A small clattering sound could be heard as Seraph tilted the box in his hands while he looked over the design.

“Mothers here use stories of the Immortals to scarre their kittens into eating their vegetables. The Immortals are the Empress’ personal bodyguards, and they only hire the best of the best Blue Mages around.” Seraph looked up at Naja at this. His own words echoed cruelly in his mind: ‘Blue Magic does not an Immortal make’. “Common folk like us aren’t even allowed a glimpse of Her Rrroyal Highness. But the Immortals, they’re different. They have special perrrmission to attend the Empress at close quarters.”

“Is this sinkin’ into that thick skull o’ yours?” Naja asked. Seraph’s experience with the Immortals, while not as extensive, was much more personal than he imagined Naja’s to be. He allowed her to assume he was feigning ignorance. She shook her head as she continued. “In other words, ya can’t get anywhere in this nation without going through the Immortals first. So before ya do anything else, I need ya to go deliver these supply packages to each staging point and make yourself known.”

The irony of this demand was not lost on Seraph. While he was already heading out to meet the Immortals for his own purposes he couldn’t help but goad Naja. As he spoke he unleashed a pair of defensive spells. “And if I refuse?” Naja pointed her weapon right in Seraph’s face. “You’ll see what happens when I don’t hold back.” Seraph eyed the carrying case in his hands. He set it down with an apparent disregard for Naja’s instructions. Thinking he was blowing her off she let loose with her mace. One spell gave Seraph a barrier preventing all damage to a degree, the other reducing any physical damage inflicted by almost half. Connecting full on with these subtle weavings, it was as though the attack came into contact with a darksteel wall. Naja lost the grip on her mace. Seraph chuckled to himself.

“I didn’t say I would not do it Naja. I think learning a bit of calm and patience would suit you well. You don’t want anyone carrying your standard on such an important errand unable to appreciate the beauty of such a parcel?” Seraph asked while opening his bag. He kneeled down and set the case inside, picking up Naja’s mace and placing it where the reliquary had been on the table. Naja eyed his carefully, trying to figure out what had happened. Giving it little thought she made another attempt at flaunting her clout. “All I want is for you to do as you’re told and not bungle it up. The Immortals are an important connection for this organization.”

Naja took up her mace. She continued speaking while looking it over for damage. “They guard the Empress, ensure the safety of Al Zahbi, and manage affairs dealing with Assault. Wardens for these outings are stationed at every staging point.” Seraph nodded. Fortunately Naja read this correctly. Seeing his understanding she carried on. “No matter how high and mighty the Immortals are, I’m surrre they’re tired of being stuck out in the middle of nowhere with nothin’ to do. They’ll probably be glad to see ya. Deliver these packages, and let ’em know who ya arrre! After that, if ya manage to make it back alive, we can start thinkin’ about exactly what to do with ya and talking about your contract.”

Seraph smiled. “Some Immortals are already aware of me” he said, allowing a small surge of healing magic to obviously flow and negate what scuffs he suffered. The application was not from his White Mage training, but was instead a widely known Blue Magic spell. Naja stood with her mouth agape, nearly dropping her mace again out of shock. “You may want to consider the possibility that some may be more closely tied to the Immortals than they let on.” While she was still silent, he departed. Outside, Seraph shook his head. He again succumbed, however slightly, to his arrogance. He began moving on, when a shout came for the door to be replaced. Nary a second later Naja’s asssitant, who stayed out of the way while they spoke, came flying out of the doorway, landing a bit further than the still piled group from before.

Seraph was not known to show signs of stress easily, but he often ran a hand through his hair when he was in somewhat paniced thought. As he did so this time, he tapped the linkpearl given to him by Stormraven. Seraph realized he hadn’t actually tried using it. It was difficult to discern what unnamed horrors he might face having only stepped beyond the relative safety of Al Zahbi once. Seraph focused. Several moments of silence passed. All at once a torrent of voices hit Seraph’s ear. The linkshell members were apparently in a frenzy of activity. It took awhile to get a word in edgewise. “Hello everyone. I’m wondering if anyone knows anything about paths to the staging points on the Aradijah continent.” The torrent of activity seemed to take little notice of him.

One voice piped up in reply. “Seraph? Stormraven’s friend? I heard about you from Dacove.” Dacove? The name slammed a bit of Seraph’s memory back into place. After Seraph left Bastok and was wandering everywhere he had come across a Blue Mage of similar level to he. They teamed up for a short time to learn a spell. At this point Seraph was not wearing a linkpearl. Dacove, being the leader of a shell, offered Seraph membership. In his Hunger he declined, citing a need to go be alone.  Seraph shook the memory into place. It would be an anchor for the rest of his time lost to his Beast.

That was a while back” Seraph relayed. Seraph was unable to catch a name, but got information regarding his journies. The good news was that he did not have to go back and forth. However, he had to at least get to each of the staging points at least one time. As the conversation continued a number of other people in the LS added in their opinions, regaling Seraph with how difficult that trip would be. They whole of the group asked after his range of expertise. Hearing his upper limit, most wrote it off as a fools’ errand. Seraph acquiesed. “This is true, but it is something that I need to do. Is there anyone who would be able to assist me?” Seraph’s sole reply was silence.

Seraph entered the rented rooms and removed the linkpearl. It was functioning properly. Seraph set it aside for now. After updating Makar with the information available it was agreed that the limitations of a Dancer’s glamour would not do. With a bit of work Makar helped Seraph realign his energies so that he could more amply use his White Magics. Afterwards, Seraph tried inquiring to the linkshell for any assistance. Still, he gained no reply.

Shoring up what resources he had on hand, Seraph considered what else he knew. From what had been learned the armies of Whitegate had small outposts in many areas of the land. In these places a variety of missions were conducted. Until just recently only vetted soldiers could assist the Empire. Naja Salaheem and her forces were now allowed to add their arms to these endeavors. Watching over each of these staging areas was a lone Immortal. They alone maintained these areas for those in the Empress’ service as a safe haven and preparing ground for missions. These points were scattered and relatively disconnected. However, those without not on missions sanctioned by the Empire had to make their way to each individually. Otherwise it had to be paid for. Each place had its own resonance, and if you were unaccustomed to a place you could not get there on your own. As of now, Seraph was going to have to go to each place on foot.

Another terrifying fact reared its head. A number of the beasts Seraph heard of had senses so sharp that magical defenses rendering him silent and invisible became useless. Pawing through his grimoire he found a means to lengthen the time his spells would last. He was uncertain where he had seen this before so that it could be found now, but he decided to question that later. At the very least he wouldn’t need to worry about those creatures who could not make him out.

“Makar, have you noticed this marking on my neck?” The Moogle nodded. “Oh yes. I’m quite familiar with the Mark of Zahak. I was happy to see it on you. I hadn’t listened much to hearsay from other moogles about them, but I knew it meant you were a Blue Mage as soon as I saw it.” Seraph pulled down his collar. “Does it look any different than before?” Makar blinked “How would such a thing change…?” he asked laughing while moving closer.

“…kupo…” he stammered shocked. Seraph laughed dryly. “I assume it has then?” Makar nodded solemnly. “The first time I saw it looked like this…” Makar pulled out a bronze piece minted in Whitegate. The Mark of Zahak on it looked as would be expected. “How I missed this I don’t know… but somehow the snake heads have reached around your neck.” Makar felt along the band around Seraph’s neck. “Kupo? It’s responding to your growth. I imagine that as you continue to increase in power it will keep changing.” Seraph nodded and pulled the material of his armor back up over his marking and set out to leave. First his grimoire and now his Mark of Zahak. Too many questions…

Accepting Makar’s well wishes of safe travels Seraph made his way into Al Zahbi. It didn’t look as though the beastman hordes posed any direct attacks on the city today. After stopping at the auction house to pick up the glamour friendly mantle he went directly to the chocobo stables. “Neither Dacove nor Stormraven would happen to be around, would they?” Seraph asked of the linkshell. Several curt negative replies came in. Seraph knew what this meant.

In a number of linkshells Seraph was privy to the leaders were a bit idealistic, but this attitude helped fashion the actions of the shell from a top-down viewpoint. Of times, sackholders ended up as “beta wolves” high enough on the food chain to be deferred respect, powerful enough to go off on their own. Without an alpha to lead disarray would occur, and linkshell members would fall to their baser instincts. Seraph was not above this at all. However, as one of his “baser instincts” was to increase the power of the pack such things went unnoticed by and large.

If Dacove was away, and had been for some time, it means that the betas had no one reigning them in. This meant that Seraph was on his own. Seraph sighed mightily, paid his gil, and set out towards the first staging point. Strongly appreciating the utility of his magically bound and free floating grimoire he opened his local maps. From what he could discern two of the staging points lay on this landmass, and three others to the north, across a relatively inland sea. He decided that he would begin with those closer before working his way to the harrowing unknowns.

Again, Seraph could recall his travels with Saint. The last time he was here his Dragoon friend was leading him right into the jaws of the beast, and unwittingly onto the path of a Blue Mage. Now he was alone, walking…

The chocobo, seemingly incensed, sounded the creatures tell-tale “Kweh!!!” very loudly. Seraph laughed. “Alright… alright… riding along my path.”

….riding along his path towards an unknown future. Unbeknownst to Salaheem, a slip of paper had made its way across Seraph’s line of sight noting a number of paths to each staging point. His grimoire seemed eager to physically pounce on the information at the time, but was satisfied to leave scanning it to Seraph, now allowing the details to be given perfectly. It now highlighted with a red line a favorable pathway to the Mamool Ja staging point. “You’ve earned a spell scroll, Little One.” Seraph was not caught up on his white magic training so such a promise was not unfounded. The grimoire disappeared in something that could only be described as a happy fwump.

He worried about that book. He really did.

Spurring the chocobo steed forward, Seraph progressed west. As he rode along, he marked the unusual energy exuded by creatures denoting sources of magic he could absorb and mimic. Part of the thrill of being a Blue Mage was he gained a pretense to explore. San d’Oria was beautiful, no doubt about it. Home is home, but he remained there the whole of his life. As a Blue Mage seeing the world was part of the subtext. Tearing out pieces of souls bearing magic was a greater subtext. While not the most altruistic of endeavors, the breadth of experience Seraph had gained in a short time could not be replaced easily.

A variety of flying bird, called Colibri, densely populated this Wajaom Woodlands, which was a surprising fact. For a long while Seraph had never seen them in the Middle Lands, until he traveled to the Shadowreign period. Seraph was uncertain just why the Colibri were extinct in the current era in his homeland, but many other adventurers couldn’t be happier. These birds were well known to have exceedingly watchful eyes. They would often zoom in and snap up any morsel of food they could spot. They had learned that fighters and those that hunted them often had food on them, and they happily availed themselves.

The trouble of this was that most food carried by adventurers had some augmenting effect. Seraph had not carried any since his supply of cookies had run out, but even simple treats like that provided a boon. In their case, he could earn magic power more readily as he resting. This was not too annoying in battle, but front line fighters, Saint included, had stories of particularly sharp and lucky Colibri snapping up a snack that improved physical strength or accuracy. Sometimes, fighting these became a test of base capabilities Restoring health and magic reserves to full was relatively easy. Naught could be hunger except food.

A number of other animals, some familiar, lay across the projected path. A variety of spider had an exotic twist with black and yellow patterns, resembling bees and hornets quite completely. Tigers were a familiar sight, nearly unchanged. Something gnawed at Seraph’s senses. It wasn’t the promise of blue magic, but there was something living, something aware, that he couldn’t make out. Per the norm, the chocobo seemed to care little. What made them so unappealing to assail to every being on Vana’diel was not something Seraph knew.

Trained to only venture so far from the city, the chocobo began to pull at the bit. From what he could see, Seraph was nearing the area that officially indicated Mamook. He considered a charge in, but stealth was going to be his ally on this outing It was best to be cautious rather than rowdy. Plus, having raised a chocobo himself, he did not want to place particular strain upon anothers’. A small band of the Mamool Ja marched around totems, warnings to any who sought to trespass.

Fools rush in where angels dare to tread… Seraph wondered after his namesakes. Dismounting the chocobo a good distance away he set it back toward Al Zahbi. He opened his grimoire to ensure his route, and then began casting a full paling to cover his movements. A lesser used spell magically masked the scents put off by its recipient. While often mocked for making use of the spell, it had been learned and Seraph was going to use it no matter how silly it made him appear. He couldn’t be too careful. Besides, no one else was around.

Seraph ran deftly around the Mamool Ja. The bipedal lizards had a variety of vicious weapons hewn from wood and stone, some appearing to even have teeth of untold creatures protruding from them. All of the brown skinned Mamool Ja seemed to be fighters and foot soldiers. Some were blue, wearing high collars and were magically adept. The forces of magic took all kinds, but beastmen were always worth being wary of. Many adventurers considered them fodder. Seraph was not that strong, plus any being able of cunning and subtly was to be respected.

As one of the Mamool Ja turned, Seraph jumped over its tail. He was confident of his magics working at this point. Coming into range of both sight and sound without any warnings being set off put the Elvaan at great comfort. He shot back to an earlier thought as he made his way into the tunnel separating Wajaom from Mamook proper. “…no one else was around.” Since Seraph left Al Zahbi there wasn’t sign of another adventurer. No monsters being slain, no foot traffic signaling even regular party activity, no soldiers on patrol… nothing. Seraph pressed on the torch lit path bearing in mind this crucial fact. A failure here would probably result in the young Blue Mage never seeing civilization again.

The full facets of his paling wore as he began seeing more Mamool Ja, so Seraph backtracked and reapplied his magical shielding. The timely finishing of his invisibility spell was fortunate, as he heard a particularly energetic group of Mamool Ja storm down the tunnel. As they neared the mouth leading into their city the one in the lead, one of the blue variety, halted the others. Seraph watched as he paralleled the precautions Seraph took just a few moments ago.

While keeping his distance, Seraph had to get closer. What was going on? Listening intently, Seraph could still not understand the Mamool Ja’s speech. Watching carefully, Seraph could see the grass and plantlife shift in the direction the blue Mamool Ja had walked off to. It was quickly coming up behind another magic Mamool Ja, this one a great deal larger than its kin. The larger one was looking around, but Seraph had no clue for what. Satisfied, it turned, and it looked straight where the other Mamool Ja was making a beeline towards it. An odd hiss reached Seraph’s ears, and the larger Mamool Ja brought it’s staff into a downward swing. It connected with the smaller Mamool Ja, negating its paling. The three Mamool Ja Seraph was hiding behind caught the larger ones’ attention with their laughing. Dodging quickly into the tunnel they soon ran off. Peeking low out the tunnel the large blue Mamool Ja pointed to several places, then left them to their devices. These were orders, as the brown Mamool Ja proceeded into place.

Seraph called out his grimoire. It was wholly see through. He ordered a page to open and only what he was focusing on was highlighted. He concentrated on the Mamool Ja, particularly the one he had just seen. ‘Mamool Ja Treasurer’ became visible, an image of it beneath its name. The page was empty except for one pair of words. ‘True Sight’.

This was going to be a problem. Seraph wasn’t certain where the Treasurer was heading to in such a hurry, but it might be a good idea to follow it closely. At the very least, while it was attentive and focused elsewhere it would be less likely to look around and spot Seraph. Seraph began running quickly. While unable to make use of the Dancer skills in battle the retention of superior agility was high. Watching the Mamool Ja for any that seemed to be particularly more mindful of their surroundings than normal, Seraph followed close to the Treasurer.

The path led south, which was both convenient and terrifying. Hoping the Treauser would soon step off his path didn’t seem to be what was going to occur. Instead, one courtyard quickly led into another. The Treasurer began calling to him more Mamool Ja. It seemed that, unlike the soldiers of the Empress, those residing in Mamook were on guard. Against what Seraph could not infer. This area seemed to be some type of choke point. It seemed that, akin to the Treasurer, these could also see beyond magic. Seraph watched carefully for a time, opening his grimoire. He paged to the new Mamool Ja he sighted, but it said nothing new. After a moment, some information became available. ‘True Sight’ could be read. The room they were in was large enough for Seraph to skirt beyond the edge of their eyesight if he were careful.

Looking carefully, the Mamool Ja were engrossed in a conversation. Going to his left seemed longer. It was difficult to tell, but part of it was cut off from his vantage point. There was no telling what type of sentry waited on the upper level. The path in front of him was less spacious, but certainly clear. Seeing that, Seraph ran quickly along the curved wall he could see. The opposite path had been devoid of guards as well. The Elvaan was glad in his choice of pathway. The three soon turned into the questionable offshoot Seraph had avoided. He quickly dodged into yet another courtyard. He foolishly paid little heed to the enemies in the next room. Luckily they were of the normal variety and paid no attention to him as he found himself in another tunnel.

Something stalled Seraph in his tracks.  An immense fulcrum of blue magical energy came into his awareness. It did not feel as overbearing as did Raubahn’s, but from the plateau upon which he stood it absolutely towered. Spinning around quickly, Seraph saw a Mamool Ja giving off the telling waves he associated with spell learning. Suddenly the energy folded in, then pulsed out. Seraph’s eyes widened, his knees buckled. Beastmen drawing upon the same powers as the Children of Altana, the five aligned races found in the Middle Lands, was not unheard of. Considering that it took several entities to fully unlock his capability to learn blue magic Seraph had to wonder where the offshoot was between the beastmen and those dwelling in Whitegate.

Not being the only one picking up on the feedback, the Mamool Ja blue mage let out another pulse, looking dead at Seraph. It couldn’t see his Elvaan counterpart, but it knew another of its kind was close. Seraph turned and tore up the tunnel. Fast.

This tunnel was dark and lacking in the Mamool Ja. However, it was full of the black and gold spiders seen from Wajoam Woodlands. The ground bound path remained clear of webs. Seraph was mindful of his footing as he made his way through here. Soon he saw light from outside, but the way there was steep. Slowly, he worked his way around and upward, and found his way back into the open air. Again, he could feel his spells fading, even with the extensions granted to him by his new mantle.

Falling again into a dead run he kept his hand on the right wall, still reeling from his recent discovery. As his spells faded he slumped up against something solid and at first warm, then cool. He had come up against an iron gate. Seraph wondered after its purpose, and his grimoire popped out in response. This was the threshold to the staging area. This was odd, considering the absolutely predominant use of gold and other fine materials used in every facet of Aht Urghan construction. This gate was a dark contrast to the bright city he had come to adopt as his second home. The fall of night came quickly so it seemed. Seraph pressed his way into the fortified area beyond.

Reflecting, Seraph found the Mamool Ja were an interesting race. The fact that Blue Mages were also among their number stuck Seraph dumb, and he had no clue with how to respond. Fortunately, he went unnoticed by their number and was now safely upon the grounds of the staging point. This clearing had an overbearing silence. Seraph let his eyes graze the environment. Only a few icons could be made out. A barrier wrought of eldritch energies was in one holed off area. Seraph presumed that these are where Assault missions were carried out. A flow of power betrayed an inbound traveler. Another arcane sigil cornered with four lamps was the target of the spell, forming a tunnel straight from Whitegate. The traveler made their way directly to a lone tent. At this tent was stationed the Immortal that Seraph had been charged with meeting.

Seraph opened his eyes wide and extended his senses. The odd silence gave off the same feeling Seraph got from his dealings with Raubahn. It seemed that, at some point, Immortals gained enough sway to claim a broad territory. However, this was a physical sensation, not the one that took place in Seraph’s mind using Waoud as a medium. What was their connection, the two of them? Likewise, this place pulsed with an unusual energy. Opening himself up it was though he were in a wide open field.

The adventurer broke away from the Immortal and made his way towards the magical barrier. Seraph watched until he entered. As he passed from the field of vision Seraph turned his attention towards the Immortal. He likewise turned his attentions onto the approaching Elvaan. “This is the Mamool Ja staging point. You are on Imperial territory.” Seraph bowed, and reached one hand into his bag. Being constructed of very well worked magic it was allowed to contain a more than you would think by looking at them. His was of a Goblin/Moogle hybrid. Goblins giving the physical space while Moogle magic let items like beds, aflame weapons, and sensitive potions all be placed together without destroying one another.

That said, it was rather easy to lose track of something. It seemed this box was given low priority and “sank to the bottom” if such a thing were possible. “What’s this?” asked the Immortal, patience dwindling. Having to separate from his originally suave presentation, Seraph reached both hands into his bag until he found the box. The bags were and adventurers goddess-send, but of functionality not style. Bringing it out caught the attention of the Immortal again. “You have something to deliver? Out with it now.”

Seraph opened the box, and removed one of the slimmer packages. The black metal case gleamed in the low light as he handed it to the Immortal. Upon it was a small inlay of a wildcat head, which served the Salaheem forces as an emblem. He looked it over, running his hand along the surface. Upon finding the seal he seemed to read the top of the package. Holding it up to get a better bearing on the words, Seraph could see the Immortal with a broad grin. “Ah… a supply package. That would make you one of Naja’s messengers?” Seraph nodded, replying while placing the carrying box back in his bag, hoping it would float near the top for the next time.

“You have done a great service to me” the Immortal carried on. “This package contains a berry oil from the far southern continent of Zhwa. Even in such a small amount it takes days to extract. A valuable thing to have indeed. For those like me, stationed in forsaken lands without any trimmings of home, little things such as scents go a long way to granting comfort.” The Immortal tucked away his newly given treasure. “You will have to pardon me. Might I repay your kind service with a bit of information?” At the utterance of the offer Seraph’s grimoire sprang out beyond his volition. The Immortal seemed most entranced by it. As it fell open, an entry on Zhwa Berry Oil was being fashioned, much to the fascination of the stationed soldier. “My… what quaint wizardry.”

Seraph laughed. “I’ve had to come to admit recently that it has a mind of it’s own and the same hunger for knowledge that I do.” Seraph looked at the Immortal, whose gaze was suddenly piercing. “I’m not one to turn down any type of information. Please, what would you tell me?” The Immortal nodded, pointing to the structure surrounded by four lamps behind him.

“Hopefully you will find this information valuable. Do you see the glowing blue design a bit behind you?” Seraph was going to reply, but an image based on his current point of view was appearing upon the grimoires pages. The Immortal laughed at Seraph’s bewilderment of his own tool, then continued. “That is a runic portal. They are used for transport to distant locations. As you have probably experienced yourself, a few hours walk from here will take you to Al Zahbi, but with the runic portal you can be there in the wink of an eye! Not only that, but if you travel to capital from here, henceforth you will be able to return to this place using the same method! You’ll need approval to make use of the Chamber of Passage however.” Seraph had not known that. He’d heard talk of a Chamber of Passage, but he did not know that they furnished instantaneous travel from the city to the staging points. Seraph thought of how he may use this to shorten his journeys.

The Immortal bowed. “If you should ever have urgent business here at the Mamool Ja staging point, you can make good use of the runic portal.” Seraph bowed in kind, wondering how to broach the true purpose of his visit. “My thanks…” The Immortal looked up in shock. “Oh… my apologies. I am Daswil.” Seraph nodded, “And I am Seraph. My thanks Daswil.” he said, and turned slightly to leave. Seraph’s grimoire floated up and down impatiently, turning to a blank page. “Now you’re being greedy” the Elvaan said. He suddenly felt silly, chastising a book as he would a child or a pet. Terrifyingly, it probably had the at least enough sentience to match, so he had to regard it as such. What would Seraph himself be curious in?

“Might you know more of the portals specific workings?” The Immortal, a Hume male, was at a loss. “Well… they are a product of the great wisdom of Aht Urhgan’s honorable alchemists. It functions by wondrous principles…” The Immortal eyed Seraph’s grimoire as he paused. “…that are completely unfathomable to me. But you don’t need to understand how it works to be impressed by the runic portals. Simply use them, and you will truly understand their excellence.” The grimoire’s pages fluttered rapidly, almost resembling a growl of an animal in warning. “Now you’re just being rude” Seraph said, tapping the book, causing it to disappear.

“You can drop the act My Friend” said the Immortal. “Where is it?” Normally given over to shock at times like this, Seraph could not help but smile. He revealed his Mark of Zahak. Even from behind his headdress Daswil’s smile was apparent. “I could not be certain, but that mark… Well, well. Well, indeed…” Daswil’s laughter shook the area, the boundary of the area relenting. Seraph looked about. Suddenly the grounds seemed much less potent, but it seemed that the Immortals power had grown in response. Daswil held up the bottle he had just been handed. “Were Naja’s little errands not enough to satisfy your lust for power?” Seraph shook his head. “This land may be cultivated by the Empress, but my goals are my own. What I desire lays beyond all this.”

Daswil tucked the bottle away. “Wonderful! That is how it should be: Mortals striving to be more than ordinary. Simply look at those among the Mamool Ja likened to us. ‘Savages’ giving into further savagery. This is a prime example of the world teaching us to evolve as such.” The energy of the area began to further concentrate into Daswil. The young Blue Mage could again hear the sounds of the Bhaflau Thickets which lay just beyond the walls of the staging point. Seraph focused upon Daswil and recognized the pattern of energy he exuded. He knew what attack was coming, and not looking forward to what was next. “Ah… you are learned, and know what is coming. So good in one so young.” Daswil laughed again. “You’ve brought a smile to my face! Let’s see if I can’t do the same for you.” The wave of energy coalesced, and the attack characteristic of the cactuars assailed Seraph once more. This time, he was stronger and able to retain his composure, but barely.

Daswil knelt before the nearly fully felled Seraph, pride in his voice. “Oh-ho, you’re stronger than you look. Your ambition has tempered your will.” Seraph staggered, but soon steadied himself enough to stand. Daswil let his laughter roil forth, this time the energy which maintained the sanctity of the area returning from whence it came, drawing a veil of silence over the two again. The lack of concentration of power made the Immortal feel that much more like a mortal being again. “You know how to get on my good side. Best of fortune to you, young Mage.” Seraph made his way to the sigil that would furnish his return to Whitegate. Moving carefully, he noted what felt like the heavens trembling above him. The goddess herself seemed to laugh at the irony of events from somewhere beyond the scope of Seraph’s perception. As the power of the staging point sent him flowing back to Whitegate, he could feel an odd vibration in his neck.

Slowly but certainly, Seraph dragged his way back to the rented rooms. Upon this return Makar was in a panic as he helped Seraph remove 1,000 needles from his person. Again.

While he had survived, this was a less than stellar start to his rounds to the staging points. Drawing out his grimoire from wherever it hid Seraph plotted out his next journey, hoping to smooth out any wrinkles for his next trip. It looked as though he would be heading through Halvung, the dominion of the Trolls, up Mount Zhayolm, and the staging point beyond. Makar kept plucking, flustered. “…Cactuars aren’t even living on this continent. How did you find one AND upset it, kupo…” The path started the same as before but branched off after just a short while taking him northeastward.

Removal done, Seraph bundled the needles together. He recalled his having given a stray needle to Pashi Maccaleh, the Mithra on the ship that brought him to Whitegate. Perhaps when he maintained his promise to her this would help remind her of who he was. Pleased at the thought he picked up his bags and returned to the city. The odd feeling in his neck subsided. Perhaps it was the crude acupuncture he had been subject to? Not willing to test the theory for some time he made his way back to the chocobo stables. The attendant was somewhat perplexed at his return. The chocobo he had ridden had apparently just returned from a long day of grazing the Woodlands. When Seraph explained his venture out to the staging point, she was put at ease. Offering him another bird of burden riled up Seraph’s previous mount. Blue Mage and Chocobo Handler laughed at this, and Seraph was allowed on his way.

Out in the Wajoam Woodlands again, Seraph proceeded west, sharply turning north once the path allowed. “You just don’t like being penned in, do you?” Seraph asked the sizable yellow bird. “WARK!!!” came a belted response, accompanied by a burst of speed and a small jump over a rise in the terrain. Seraph had to smile and was pleased to have such a headstrong companion. The sudden lack of assistance was a hard blow to roll off of. Every little bit helped.

A short time later Seraph’s map switched from the Wajoam Woodlands to the Bhaflau Thickets. Leading the chocobo across the projected route Seraph couldn’t tell any difference between this area and the last. His map led him true, and the lack of discerning features meant little. This was only true for a time. Several sensations hit Seraph at the same time: A rushing onslaught of blue magic energy, a vibration in the ground, and his chocobo pulling at the bit. Responding to them all at the same time bird and Blue Mage managed to avoid a stampede.

The creatures, called Marid, seemed to be in a hurry to get away from something. By staying in a corner they careened by harmlessly, leaving one to wonder what they were in such a hurry to escape from. Ready to return to his map Seraph felt small alarms in his senses that he had once in the Wajoam Woodlands. Again, he could see nothing. His chocobo seemed unsettled at the same time, and began shaking vigorously, as though it were trying to dry off. While looking down Seraph noticed the offending party.

Small insects, known as Chigoes, inhabited these lands. A time or two Saint had told Seraph of parties of Black Mages that would draw a large number of these creatures and reduced them to nothing with their magics. While small and, even to Seraph’s honed senses, invisible they were deadly. They carried some type of vicious plague in their bite and it was impossible to catch their presence until they were already upon you. As of now they crawled everywhere over Seraph’s armor. Saint had also warned that they lived on the Marids and that attacking them would sometimes cause the chigoes to try to find a new home on the offending adventurer. The stampede had probably been enough to shake those on Seraph loose, and they found rider and mount suitable. As of now they seemed benign, content to just crawling about. Beginning to brush them loose Seraph aimed to keep them that way. A few landed on the chocobo, and it shook them off promptly.

Spurring the bird forward as not to negate their joint work Seraph called out his map. He was aimed in the right direction he was to go, but he saw no path. As he was trying to figure out the discrepancy the chocobo galloped forward at full speed, darting through a high growing plant into a passageway obscured by such growth. Coming out the other side Seraph noticed a gap in the map where the channel was. Noting this on other areas of the map he figured out why this place was known by the Thickets.

Continuing west and north as pathways allowed the two passed several more grazing marid, prowling tigers, and foraging colibri. As they had come upon Mamook, so now did they come up on Halvung. Like before, the chocobo was significantly less than thrilled to head into a beastman heavy area. Moving a good distance away the chocobo found something it wanted to peck at. Seraph dismounted and applied his spells of stealth. “You be careful heading back. Something frightened the marid and I don’t know what.” Tearing at the leafs it had found, the chocobo raised it’s head and release a piercing “Kweh!”, causing all the nearby Trolls to point their attention towards it. While not understanding the Trolls once can surmise intent. Gestures were made, indicating a few commands being given, and they made their way over to the chocobo. A conversation unfolded, and Seraph could only guess at the meanings.

(It is one of the yellow-birds) came a proclamation from an auburn Troll. It had some type of mechanical ranged weapon slung over one shoulder, and pointed warily at the chocobo.

(Yes. It probably means one of the small-bodies is nearby) grunted a gold armored Troll, who wielded a club and shield. It was looking around as if searching for the rider. Seraph moved cautiously between them.

A garbled sound came from the auburn Troll, but Seraph had no clue as to what it meant.

The gold armored Troll replied, while patting the chocobo on its head. (…shameful in any case. Leaving the yellow-bird behind.) The auburn troll patted its stomach. (Yes… these have no good meat.) They removed some greens from each of their packs and fed them to the chocobo. Elated and sated, it fed then rummaged more closely towards the entrance, wondering after more greens. As the Trolls made their way back to the bottlenecked entrance to Halvung Seraph slipped inside before they’d have any chance to be any the wiser. A large sound echoed out the tunnel, unfamiliar to Seraph. The chocobo, like the marid before, ran away with a swiftness.

Seraph had been able to see Mount Zhayolm from afar. From Port Ephermad in the northern section in Whitegate it was possible to see the mountain, which was in fact a volcano. Judging by the high use of metals in the Trolls arsenal, it was safe to assume that the heat of this place was used to help forge and smelt their armory into existence. Halvung was a tunnel network that connected Mount Zhayolm to the a good portion of the Aradijah continent. Seraph moved just quickly enough as not to accidentally stumble into one of the exposed veins of magma.

A number of cave dwelling bats littered the path, as well as a variety of Crawler called an Eruca. On the mainland Crawlers were known to spin themselves in cocoons. On the one hand, harvesting these cocoons allowed for a large variety of silks, threads, and other clothes to be made. On the other, they boasted the capability to defend themselves to a staggering degree. While not preventing damage in total, it allowed for the mitigation to be about half. It was one of the spells he used against Salaheem. Having made good time here it was still night, and the Eruca slept. Knowing better than to count his blessings Seraph moved down the tunnel to an offshoot.

A chorus of Troll voices echoed through the cavern. Listening carefully, he was able to determine that he had heard it before, just at the mouth of Halvung. This is what set off the flight instincts of first the marid, then his chocobo. This was the first time he noticed a rumbling in the ground. Listening more closely Seraph discovered an unusual rhythm. Dmm-clang-dmm-dmm-clang. The choir of Trolls began to emerge from all directions. Next thing he knew, Seraph was having to dodge wave after wave of Troll passing his way. The bulk of their army was heading out, and quickly to, heading toward the way he came.

…the way he came…? Back towards the city.

Thinking quickly, Seraph decided to press on. He fell into a hasty run again, letting his grimoire float ahead of him without caring what might see it. At this point he was about equidistant from the staging point or the entry to Al Zahbi. Ahead, he could see no Trolls in his path. If he tried to double back he’d have to push his way through the very Trolls themselves and every wild creature as well. Assuming the latter weren’t scared out of their wits already they’d be liable to lash out at Seraph if he were discovered. The path was clear with only a few Trolls at key positions. His spells held, so he was not concerned. He soon emerged into the open air and could greet Mount Zhayolm.

Open air was a bit of a stretch. The stench of sulfur mixed with oddly with the open sea nearby.

Seraph had little time to sight see, and darted past a gaggle of flightless birds. At his thought the grimoire flipped to them. These were Apkallu and he’d heard of them previously. They too exuded the potential for acquired blue magic, and he would certainly remember them here. North here, west there, avoiding running directly into the slimes in the tunnel… an abrupt halt. A number of sizable armored creatures were huddled around a cocoon. Erupting from within it was some type of large winged insect. It is difficult to give insects such human traits such as deference, but this is what this emerging being enjoyed. It was still weak, soft from being inside its cocoon. Part of his Elvaan pride was hacked at for playing to a stealthy path, but while he lived he could reconcile that. So he stuck close to the wall and proceeded north again, Seraph discovered a gate which reminded him of the one found in Bhaflau Thickets.

Touching the door with the mere intent to act on it caused his spell of invisibility to fade. He made his way inside quickly to the area of safety held beyond. He turned back, opened his grimoire, and considered the path taken. Evolving Wamouracampa, burly Trolls, and the odd Apkallu. He was glad that he had finally reached his destination.

There was little use in biding his time. As with the other staging point there was little else to do here but rest or speak to the Immortal. “Ah… what brings you here?” came the voice of the Immortal. Seraph thought it was a Hume male, from the timbre of the voice. However, as he drew closer ears betrayed him as a fellow Elvaan. Seemingly older, Seraph had learned better than to judge the strength of an Immortal by their physical form.

Seraph, slightly out of breath, began speaking. “…Trolls…mobilized..Al Zahbi…” The Immortal chuckled. “Be at ease Young One. The Trolls focus toward Al Zahbi, but neglect to often watch us here at the Halvung staging point. We keep close surveillance on matters of strategic import. As soon as they began to prepare their assault word was sent back to Whitegate. You’re companions and mine are surely ready for their arrival.”

The younger Elvaan was happy to hear this. Breathing a sigh of relief, he was able to speak without excessive labor. “I am glad at that.” When next the Immortal spoke a smile could be heard in his voice. “You ran all the way here to inform me of that? Quite dedicated.” Seraph shook his head. “I am also, in part, here on behalf of Naja Salaheem. I am to deliver this to you.” Reaching again to his bag he found the box where he intended it to be. Opening it he removed a smaller case, and handed it to the Immortal. The focus look of his eyes softened “You brought a supplies package for me! Why didn’t you say so sooner. Might you know what it is?” Nodding, Seraph replied. “Not directly, however, I have learned it to be oil from a berry native to the continent of Zhwa…”

The Immortal drew into his own outward thoughts. “Ah… I recall the indescribable fragrance. I am caked in the stench of fighting and pain. If I am ever granted audience with the Empress again at least in some fashion, I will not offend her with my smell. I feel she should be protected from all vestiges of war.”

Waving to a small blanket nearby the Immortal continued. “It may not be much, but as the day is late, please rest. Allow and old man the kindness of sharing in some tea?” Seraph had pushed himself to come all the way out here, and found the gesture too inviting to refuse. “You say this is on behalf of the proprietress of Salaheem’s Sentinels?” continued the Immortal. “That would make you a mercenary from the mainland?” Seraph nodded, but his face hinted at unspoken details. “You need not divulge all to me” assured the Immortal. “But if you can, tell me of San d’Oria. It is a long while since I have walked in the woods of Ronfaure.” And so Seraph did. The Elvaan people did not change much, so much of what Seraph relayed caused the Immortal much joy. Consistency was a comfort, he said, which may be why he was not driven mad watching over this place. As the tea was poured and passed between the two, the Immortal looked at Seraph quizzically “You did not sound unhappy in our ancestral home. What brought you all the way to this forsaken place?”

So Seraph told him of his perceptions of foes, without mentioning his awareness to blue magic. None-the-less, the elder Elvaan’s eyes widened in horror. “It would seem that you were born with the curse that I submitted to. Rather unfortunate. I know not what has brought you to this land, but I must stress that you be wary of my brethren, of the Immortals. I would go so far as to tell you to leave and never return.” Seraph nodded solemnly and said nothing.

He began drinking in the silence, and was surprised at the tea. It belonged to a variety usually found in San d’Oria. However, it was unusual to see it sold. It was a leaf first cultivated during some of San d’Oria’s more hurtful history. At one point their Kingdom stretched over the mainland continents, delving near to both Bastok and Windhurst. Over time they were pushed back, and it was at this time this tea was first consumed. As it brought painful memories it was rare to drink. This counted as only the third time Seraph had done so.

Watching Seraph looking deeply into his teacup the Immortal laughed. It seemed out of place considering Seraph’s weighty contemplation. Not perceiving the truth, the Immortal spoke on what he thought troubled his young companion. “I would guess you are only passingly familiar with this blend? I hate to admit this, but part of the reason is that the Empress herself enjoys it, and retains some good favor with the Elvaan of Aradijah by keeping it in stock here. If you ever wish for some, speak to Ratihb at the Shararat Teahouse and he will furnish you with a bag or two.”

Seraph, having finished his cup, stood. The Immortal rose with him. “There are duties to which we must attend…” he began. The elder Immortal, again overlooking the full subtext of what was said, responded swiftly. “You are all too correct. It is promising to see the young aware of how the world must care on. So I will go back to my duties…” He bowed. “I, Waudeen, thank you immensely for your concern and company. I will certainly share these acts of goodwill with my superiors. May I ask who I should mention is responsible for the delivery?”

At this, Seraph pulled at the collar of his attire, revealing in part his twisted Mark of Zahak. “I am Seraph. The gift is a token of goodwill from Naja Salaheem but I am here not solely on her errand.” Waudeen’s eyes widened, and a heavy sigh escaped his mouth. “You have chosen the life of a Blue Mage it would seem.” Seraph nodded, again hiding the Mark of Zahak.

Waudeen’s stance relaxed. The sphere of influence in the area seemed to slack it’s strain as well. “Even with my nose for such things, I did not sense such ambition. My advise was premature… you have already given yourself over to our way of life.” Waudeen’s eyes narrowed, but it was difficult to tell from what emotion the signal stemmed. Seraph offered an explanation. “This is a means to an end for me. The power of Blue Magic feels as a birthright to me. My soul finds safety in this place, in this way of life.” Waudeen nodded solemnly. “If you are intent upon this path. There is only one thing left for me to do.” The Immortal’s eyes trained Seraph into an unbreakable gaze. “If you are ready to accept your destiny, brace yourself.”

Quicker than Seraph could react the power of the area flowed through Waudeen into a stream of fire that funneled out of his swiftly outstretched hands. The sheer power was staggering. Seraph’s body tensed up in shock, the river of fire proving to be the only thing holding him up. When the attack subsided, he fell to the ground. Seraph lived, but his neck burned. He reached up and touched it, finding that his Mark was the source. Seraph steadied himself to one knee, and Waudeen dropped down likewise to him.

Waudeen placed a hand on Seraph’s shoulder and began speaking. “Well done” Waudeen said. “You cling to the mortal coil. This is an occasion for both joy and remorse.” Waudeen laughed and turned inward for just a moment. “It is always accompanied by complicated emotions…” Waudeen shook off the memory and continued. “The way is neither smooth nor easy, and you cannot turn from the road you have chosen.” The grip on Seraph’s shoulder tightened for just a few long moments. “Stay vigilant against the beast within.” The Immortal helped up his less developed counterpart, with the latter nodding in affirmation at the warning. Waudeen’s voice had a small hint of pride in it. “Be Well Seraph.” The two bowed.

As he was about to turn, Seraph thought to try his luck here. “A question Waudeen… do you know precisely how the staging points operate? I know what their function is, just not how they perform it.” The older Elvaan was silent for a long time. “Sadly, I cannot tell you. It is one of the many curious creations of the royal courts’ alchemists.” Seraph’s grimoire appeared, fluttered it’s pages in what sounded like a young child spraying spittle with their tongue, and vanished again. Waudeen blinked rapidly and looked at Seraph. “I am sorry for that” the younger Elvaan said apologetically. “That is rather difficult to explain…” Waudeen recovered himself then held up his hand. “It is of no consequence. It took me a long time to learn that there are some things I just will not understand. Perhaps that… device can learn the same.”

Seraph nodded, and placed himself in the midst of the teleportation sigil. “There is little I can do for you away from this place Young Mage. If you ever do return or have business in the area, hasten here if you need assistance.” Waudeen bowed. “If you do not make it too often and you lack in funds, mention my name and have Ratihb place some of the tea on my bill. Remember this place, and your elders, and of what fate my await you. Go in safety and peace Seraph.” The young Blue Mage bowed in return. Now attuning himself with the staging point he swiftly found himself back in Whitegate.

His neck, still burning, Seraph made his way back to the section of rented rooms. Upon voicing some concern, Makar checked his adventurer friends’ neck. “Now there is one white and one red brand around the left part of your Mark, just below the serpent’s head.” The Elvaan regaled the Moogle of what had most recently happened. Makar nodded and stated “I think the two are related.” Seraph made an unusual connection. “There are five staging points, and five Serpent Generals? Isn’t one of the the Flameserpent? Perhaps this brand corresponds… the other gave no such feeling, no elemental attunement…” Makar counted off on his little moogle fingers. “Perhaps that is of the Skyserpent? General Rujhadeen is the Skyserpent General.” Seraph thought carefully, then nodded his approval. This elated Makar to no end. “Yes… he whose blade that will pierce the heavens!” exclaimed the ecstatic Moogle, who bobbed in the air while spinning in place, one paw pointing skyward. Seraph made his way towards the door.

“What, kupo?” voiced Makar. He had stopped spinning, but still had his hand skyward. “One day I’m going to figure out all about the Moogles. I just hope that understanding doesn’t cost overmuch” Seraph replied. “Best of luck, Seraph! We’re a mysterious lot we Moog…” The grimoire popped up between the two, pages open to Makar. Reading over them caused him to go into a tizzy. “KU-PO-PO!!!” he stammered, slamming the book, pushing it at Seraph, and forcing the duo out the door. When Seraph opened the tome there was a section which read “Everything You Always Wondered about Moogles” in archaic lettering. Seraph laughed and recalled the book. That may be worth looking into later.

Having traveled to the two staging points upon this part of the continent, it was time to travel North. The route across the Silver Sea was publicisized as being a short one. However short, the boat was not currently here. Not being one for a swim led to finding meaningful distraction. Seraph’s own experience with travel by barge and ship is that they always got worse as he progressed. He was not going to take any chances. Seraph stopped in at the Shararat Teahouse and informed Ratihb of what little he knew on his sons. While relieved that at any forward progress, he was worried about where his eldest son had run off to, and that the youngest had followed so earnestly. Thankful for being appraised Ratihb furnished Seraph with some beverages and food for his journey. Having learned of his ideal route Ratihb thought it would take several days. Nashmau was home to the Qiqirn. They were hospitible to all comers, especially those with accepted currencies, but their cuisine usually “…takes some getting used to…” Ratihb said, and would speak on it no more.

Upon returning to the northern dock the ship was just coming in. Paying his fare to board, Seraph did just that. Perhaps it was his time away, the nostalgia rolling over him, but this barge seemed much more well worked than the one leading from the mainland. Although, the Tenshodo must work covertly, whereas this was a route offered freely by the Empire. It probably was from her coffers that this vessel was maintained.

Seraph breathed as the ship left the port. It was constructed the same as the one leading from Mhaura, even down to the attendant from the Fisherman’s Guild. Working his way up to the deck, he nodded at the attendant, also a Mithra. With them being centered in part out of Windhurst it was not too shocking. Placing a hand on the door and focusing outward, there was a lack of life on the other side. Having developed his expertiese in Blue Magic he was able to accurately sense the life of even potential hostiles near him.

He opened the door tentatively. No creatures from the deep were on board. The air here was a great deal cooler than he had imagined, and a fine mist lay on the deck. Not taking any major chances, Seraph sat down in the doorway. Looking back and forth, he reflected back as he often did. The Near East did not fail to be rewarding It held everything that an aspiring fighter could aim for. Uncertain of what would come next once returning to the mainland was frustrating.

Seraph opened his hand, and in them held the two pearls he had been given. Honing on the one from Fourteen Drawings he again found it silent. Focusing his intent he crafted a message to anyone who would likewise tune into it at a later time. This was a limited privilage, and one he felt would be his last time making use of. ‘Uncertain of what has occurred in my absence Anyone who knows, seek to get word to me-Seraph‘ After that he began listening in on what transpired among Heroism. The party previously in Abyssea has disbanded, and seemed to be at rest from their long outing Their voices were not a part of the din any longer.

Putting his head back against the doorway, Seraph thought on the oddity of his predicament. Somehow, in the whole of the world, he found himself alone. It had been rough going since he returned from the wilds and had finally recalled his senses. Closing his eyes, his memories had cleared. At the same time, his inner world had… stilled. The wind was not howling as it had before. The eyes that had borne down on him were significantly less in number. Focusing on the memory of each vanished set, another memory of an enemy from which he had taken a spell.

Well, maybe not that alone when you considered it.

Senses flaring, Seraph rolled inside the doorway as he felt the presence of an potentially aggressive entity. A small winged being appeared on the deck of the ship. Looking at it, one would almost think of a moogle. Arms and legs seemed too small for the body, atrophied by nigh exclusive use of the wings. While not topped with a pom pom an antennae adorned its head.

As the ship creaked allow with the waves, he timed closing a door with the sounds. As he returned to the cargo hold below deck he checked his equipment. Some time ago, at Saint’s behest, he had bought a sword called a Kilij. He had only recently been skilled enough make full use of it. He might have to discuss a few rounds with Rai, but Seraph often thought that weapons had some type of soul. He felt a resonance akin to that he felt when he learned Blue Magic, but some items in the world would not suffer use from those it did not approve. Could ones’ will be forced upon an item regardless? One could only guess. There were easier avenues than fighting an object over a thing like that.

Dancing had allowed him to use two swords with great competency. However, he and Makar had suppressed that in order for him to access more readily his White Magic. When he had first began using two jobs, Seraph had asked Makar just how that worked. Why couldn’t someone draw on all their training at the same time? The Moogle shrugged, saying he didn’t know. Responding to the inquiry, Seraph’s grimoire appeared, open to a page on Blue Magic.

In his own time with the ability, Seraph found he was unable to use every Blue Magic spell he had learned at the same time. Raubahn often alluded to the danger of ‘The Beast Within’. The competing energies of to much foreign influence could be the result in a further hastening of ones demise. Pleased with this thought he focused it towards the grimoire who added it to a swiftly filled page. Was it getting bigger? It hadn’t been this hefty when he’d been talking with Aisha. Flipping through it he stumbled across a page belonging to the enemy he had just seen.

‘Imp. True Sight.’ Fantastic.

A clamor came from above as he felt the life essence of the Imp falter. As if in reply the voice of the captain was echoed to him by the Fisherman Guild worker: They were now docking in Nashmau. In most cases aggressive entities, either by intelligence or instinct, avoided massing on cities. However, creatures of the waters were no less territorial than those dwelling on land. Ships passed right through these boundaries often to no trouble. As had been seen some came to seek retribution. And if they happened to still be on board when they got into a city? Local guards pelted them from afar until they fled or died.

The ship pulled in, and the all clear was given to depart. Passing through customs the Elvaan was now in Nashmau, a few steps closer to tying up many loose ends. This city had become populated by the Qiqirn, beastman bearing an affinity to mice, rats, and other rodents. Long snouts, sensitive noses, and a propensity to enjoy hording shiny things (including money) were all traits that loaned themselves to this.

This city was built very similarly to Whitegate. Perhaps it was the lack of the polished entryway to a palace, but this place seemed much darker. Taking a deep breath Seraph could smell loamy earth. The scent of long decomposing matter inundated this place. Sensible, since Caedarva Mire surrounded the town. It was actually likely that Nashmau was put claimed directly from it. The last of the local beastmen were known to claim bodies from the marshes to add to their undead hordes. Such a thought was rather unsettling. Cheap though he was, the acquisition of a map was important.

However, being able to trade upon local standing was also important. Seraph did not have enough to his name to get himself a map. The grimoire appeared, saddened that it could not add more information to it, but furnished the directions still retained from Naja’s desk. Nashmau had three exits into the Mire, each in a cardinal direction excluding the one facing the sea. Azouph or Dvucca Isles, or a place called Ilrusi Atoll. Checking again, this place was found in Arrapago Reef. Being the only place he had any additional business in this seemed like the best place to begin.

A floating crystal in the middle of town furnished what was called a home point. Seraph always thought it was some type of territory. In the event of an adventurer being gravely injured it was possible to be pulled back to an area of safety. Individual dwellings were common. On the mainlands outposts could be attuned to, making training in far off locales an easier venture. Lacking both amenities, these crystals could be used in the event of catastrophe While not home, it would save the effort and time of returning to Nashmau by boat. Once consumed, a warp scroll could send its user to a home point as well. Attuning himself, he proceeded out the northern gate of the city.

Out of the shelter of the city walls, the smell intensified. The smell of death, decay, and rot was rampant. You’ll get used to it Seraph caught himself thinking. He had absolutely no intent to stay in this area that long. Getting to work, he raised his paling and began the trek north. Notation was blending from one area of the notes to the other. From what could be made out he was heading towards two staging points. A rather convenient thing. The Azouph Isle staging point lay right on off the path towards Arrapago Reef.

Synthesizing the information, the grimoire’s advisement read to keep a hand on the left wall. The path quickly opened out east, and a small rise in the terrain forced him in that direction. A familiar sensation struck his head, and Seraph ducked down. He looked up, and at first saw nothing. Trusting his senses he remained low, continuing to move. Coming over the lip of the potential drop was an Imp. On his well hidden but attuned pages it read ‘Heraldic Imp. True Sight’. The little beast chirped something in an unfamiliar language.


It looked back and forth. Releasing a sound that could only be compared to a sigh, it screeched. It raised hands and head skyward, then floated back up the way it came.

(Want to scorch the living… and  tired of these chigoes…)

A large thunder-based attack resounded. Seraph was not caught in the attack, and he pressed on. The wall opened into a larger area. The area held no threat. Continuing on, another area opened before him. If he went right he would find himself at the Azouph Isle staging point. Considering his ability to teleport to either Nashmau or return to the staging point itself he thought this to be a very sound maneuver The area bottlenecked, and well inside waited another Imp.

Just floating there. Watching the path leading to the iron gate.

It was far enough away that peeking around the corner did not gain its attention. Such heightened magical sight seemed to have its limits. Even so, it did not move or wander. It merely stayed put. Releasing a heavy sigh there was no choice but to continue northward for now. Stupid Imps. Rai and Saint never spoke of the Near East as their stomping grounds, or at least so rarely that it went beyond notice. He wondered if they had this much trouble with Imps.

Seraph made his way northeast. Surprisingly, running right past him was another adventurer, a Ninja. Speaking across the linkshell channel on accident, he was surprised to get a response. You’re a member of Heroism? the Ninja asked. “Yes, just recently joined. What are you doing here?” There was a small pause. “Sorry… Imp slaying. Magian Trial.” The Magian Trials were a series of empowerment rituals to strengthen weapons and armor. A trio of Magian Moogles were responsible for all the duties related to the tasks, and they made camp in Jeuno. As far as Seraph was concerned they were in league with Maat. Bah… old codger…


“Slaying Imps you said? How familiar are you with this area and Arrapago Reef?” Seraph asked to his shell-mate. “Fairly well acquainted… why are you…” Another pause… and then… “What are YOU even doing here?!” Apparently limitations of Seraph’s powers had been discerned. “I have to head to the staging points. There are plenty of Imps between here and there, and I could REALLY use the cover. Would you be willing to help?” A small beat. “Sure.”

            Seraph finally caught a break. This should speed up matters sufficiently. “I have a note saying I’ll need a Lamian Fang Key to get into the to the staging point. I’m getting close… have you happened across one?” The Ninja responded… “Yeah. For some reason there’s a small island dead drop that normally has one. Tell you what… wait there and I’ll come back around to you.” Seraph returned an affirmative. After taking a scrutinizing look around he could the island where the note and Ninja had both indicated that the Keys could be found. It lay about half a dozen paces away across a span marsh water. Stepping into the bog, he found himself weighed down.

Up until this point he hadn’t walking into any of the fetid waters in the Mire. Creatures known simply as Doomed rest in them. What they were was completely unknown, but the appeared readily in places where many had died, or where wastes of war and death were rampant. In addition, they were off his set paths. He was suddenly glad for this, as it would have made his journey take a much longer time. What an odd thing… It wasn’t physical. Somehow the marsh had some magical influence, making him to unable to move faster than a purposed shuffle. Getting to the island, eventually, he sat down and picked up the key.

And waited.

A nearby Doomed slept dreaming whatever such vile beings dreamed of. Seraph checked the note. Having the key, he was clear to move through the whole of Arrapago Reef. “Clear” not being a good word as he’d have to avoid Lamiae and their servants, but he’d have the ability. Route confirmed he honed his vision, directing it as far as it would stretch. A hill stretched in front of him and it swarmed with Heraldic Imps. Where had these creatures come from, and in such numbers…

…hadn’t their numbers been recently reduced?

Seraph asked after the Ninja across the linkshell. Checking the map, he was no longer in the area. Looking to the sky the moon could barely be seen through the tops of the high growing vegetation. The sheen on the moon had altered its glow. Each day was given over to the sway of an element and the color of the moon was believed to reflect this. The Magian Trials were often related to this. The Ninja probably only earned credit on his kills if they happened while a particular elment held sway. That time having passed, it appeared as though they had moved on.


Seraph and marked the locations of the Imps. While his spells would have held out he would have to be crafty as touching the marshes’ waters would again slow him down. He took a deep breath and pushed himself as fast as he could to counteract the negative backlash. Just the opposite occurred. A quickening effect seized his body, and Seraph in the midst of the Imps before he realized it. Not wasting the boon he ran up the natural inclinations, however he was spotted once he reached the top. While training as a Thief he had the ability to augment his speed to this level. He smiled, because he knew just what to do.

He ran.

The Imp began preparing a spell, which alerted all its cohorts to do the same. The first one connected, revealing Seraph plainly. Fortunately the constant healing afforded by his aligned magics kept him further from Death’s grip than he would liked to have been. It was still a harrowing strike. Powering through in spite of the foul beasts, he was able to escape the range of the other spells, and the current boon of the marshes propelled him all the way to Arrapago Reef.

As the natural enchantment wore off, Seraph was forced to stop and rest. Looking upon the desolate graveyard of ships, he could see visages of a variety of Undead. In his current state they would respond to his wounds, feeling one who could be drawn into their fold. Pulling back he used both Blue and White magic he restored his body to prime condition. Still, taking no chances, he rested. He was not going to tempt his fate and try to make it through without taking the precaution of using his palings.

As he rested his mind opened, and he felt a familiar sensation.

This jarred him out of his sleep. Apparently this journey was wearing on the young Blue Mage. His magical essence restored, he wove his spells as had become an unwelcome necessity. His wounds sufficiently bound by his magics he carried on. Arrapago Reef was a desolate place. In honesty, it would be impassible in its natural state. A number of battered hulks had crashed and settled in the spans between land masses allowing for passage. Convient, but this left a number of dead bodies ripe for harvest.

Down a hill Seraph came upon the first rotting ship. Planks made a very sparse bridge up to the deck. Hissing and moaning echoed in the otherwise silent environment betraying the presence of the Lamiae and it’s corpse hewn servents. Walking carefully, the boards creaked under Seraph’s weight, betraying his presence in spite of his spells. A sharp sound from above, then silence. Running the remaining way up the incline he hunkered down in what proved to be a narrow alcove.

Lamiae slithered by, followed by blackened undead. Unlike the Wights, animate skeletons, that he was accustomed to on the mainland, these seemed to be composed also of some flesh. These were directed by the Lamiae to scour the inlet from which Seraph had just come up. Slithering down the ramp to supervise, this opened up a clear path upon which he could proceed. Shifting on the decks’ planks influenced a number of sections near Seraph, signs that the ship as a whole remained together in a strained balance. Metal scraped against wood, and odd clicking, clockwork sound moving in time.

At first, Seraph was concerned that a part of his equipment was stuck. Neither Kilij nor armor had snagged. Looking towards the source, found an item of great interest. Ghastad had directed Seraph to this area specifically, and now he could complete this portion of the request… if only he could get to the rusted and antique Automaton that he now saw. Just like with the iron gates which shielded the staging points, reaching towards this object with any intent would negate the glamour of invisibility.

Looking to Automaton and Lamiae, he kept an eye on both, and worked his way around the ship. The path leading away from this area proved to be the way that he needed to proceed along. An idea formed, but he would need to be quick. Getting on his stomach, he crawled up to where he hung over the Automaton. With the Lamiae still looking away, he grabbed his prize and hauled it up to him. Once it was secured, he recast his invisibility spell. A curious hiss shot in his direction.

(What was that?!) The Lamiae peeked up towards Seraph. (Bah… rotted Hume-craft. Patrol we are told, but to what end? Long has the Astral Candescence laid with that blasphemed Empress and the hands of her servants. What need is there to patrol?) Seeing nothing of interest she went back down the planks to retrieve her thralls.

Proceeding downhill onto another inlet there were a group of Apkallu. Seraph found the bright green birds to be startlingly out of place, moreso because none of the surrounding life seemed to be attacking them. As they didn’t notice him, he decided that he would act in a similar fashion. A small cave just beyond housed two more Lamiae. The cave held what amounted to two tiers connected by a curved path along the caves’ edge. At the end of the curve was a gate. Running his hand across the frame he discovered a small keyhole. Addressing his not this gate was the one which required him to use the Lamian Fang Key. Droping his glamour once more, he inserted the key. The gate buckled open, slowly. Trying to retrieve the key proved difficult. It would not turn the way it had come. Still, Seraph tried. Eventually, the key broke off in the hole. Exasperated he slid through, and replaced his cloak. The gate began to shut, moving on an unseen mechanism.

The path behind him both secured and barred off he progressed forward. A number of ghosts floated past, unaware of his presense, as he made his way down the tunnels he found himself in. A particular junction held a number of pathways. Without a proper map Seraph opted to duck beyond another gate and check his path. Strangely this area held no enemies, but a few cages.  The sudden calm weighed again on Seraph’s mind. While it had not happened since he could recall, the Mamool Ja, Trolls, and Lamiae liked to capture inhabitants of Al Zahbi if they could. While not malicious to the captured, it had a tendency to harm the infrastructure and economy of the already ravenged Al Zahbi.

Breathing in and out several times, he forced this thought from his mind. He then realized the familiarity with this place. It was almost the same as the area he was drawn into during his conversations with Raubahn. Touching on of the cages, he was in fact certain of it. What connection could there have been? Had the leader of the Immortals himself had been held here at one point?

These are all questions that would have to wait to be answered. Rest would be nice, but Seraph was unwilling to take it. He still had a long road ahead of him. While clear now, there was no telling what might wander in here. His path assured, he set back out upon it. Opening the gate by which he entered, he applied the full magnitude of his paling. Repeating the drop, open, and reapplication at the next gate he returned to the open area of Arropago Reef.

As he moved along he came to a high peak and could see the whole of the area. Shambling undead and the Lamiae keepers and several rotted hulks littered the landscape. Far to the north lay the staging point Seraph sought. But much closer he heard the bickering voices of living men. Looking down he could see the group of Corsairs that had plagued the Way of the Devout. So this is where their ship had carried them. He quickly picked out the one who seemed to lead the Pharatrie, strange gun resting on his shoulder.  “Why should we let a boy join our group?” came the voice of an aggitated Elvaan female. “Look… he’s just a kid, cut him some slack” came Muthib’s voice.

Climbing onto the edge of the ship he looked down at the group. He’d heard the voice of Ratihb’s eldest son, and found him swiftly. Whle the rest of the players were difficult to make out, one was significantly shorter than the rest. Seraph had to assum that this was Wasuad. At least the young boy was safe. The leader of the Pharatrie pointed his gun up towards Seraph’s vantage point. “Who’s there?” he demanded. Seraph allowed his glamour to falter, revealing himself to all present. As string of gasps and sharp inhales followed. The Corsairs all prepared themselves for a fight. “An Immortal? You want us to let your child of a brother to join our crew and yet you have the audacity to lead an Immortal here?!”

Wasuad, with the bravery only a child could bear, ran up to the leader. Jumping as high as he could, he pulled the pirates’ arm down. “Wait Qultada! He’s not an Immortal!” Wasuad shouted defensively.  “He’s a friend of my father’s! He just happens to be able to use Blue Magic!” While most of the Corsairs turned to Mutihb, who could offer no confirmation, Qultada eyed the boy with equal parts curiosity and cunning.

Qultada waved his free hand to the crew. With some hesitance they lowered their weapons. Wasuad noticed this and backed away himself. “This child is many things, one of them being honest” Qultada said. “If what he says is true, what brings you here ‘Mage?” he asked, almost spitting the last word. Seraph thought about it. Revealing that he was on an Immortal-related errand was not going to help his case. For that matter, toting himself as being on a mercaneries’ errand wasn’t going to fly well with a group of outlaws either.

While there may be but one truth, often time such a thing has many sides. “Curiosity, Qultada.” The Corsair leader lowered his gun entirely. “Come again?” Seraph looked behind him, checking for anything that may surprise him. Seeing none he turned back to Qultada, looking ever more perplexed. “I am here for my own ends, but I was asked to watch after Wasuad by his father. And as you have said, the boy is honest. Not being from this land I have heard many things. And having the Immortals at my ear I have not heard anything positive. The truth is many-fold, and I want to see what your side of it is.”

Qultada laughed. “Who would have thought? We’re moving along mage, and we will care for the boy. He is a bit young to attempt our entry procedure, but perhaps you could complete it on his behalf? Find something linked to our history, then find us again. If you can manage that, then there is some redemption for you after all.” The group, including Wasuad, moved away. Seraph quickly veiled himself against sight. The yelling had brought scores of the undead and their keepers. An unusual breed of undead attended this lot. Wrapped in bandages they seemed to be more alive than the others. However, as they paid him no heed he ran right by.

Seraph felt a touch of pride at being able to portray an Immortal as well as he did, especially against those who regularly aligned themselves against them. While this journey caused Seraph to surrender to a very realistic take on his limitations, perhaps he had come further than even he was willing to admit. The journey north twisted many times, but still remained rather straightforward.

Regarding the note often he felt he was going the right way, but it was hard to decide. One of the reasons Seraph splurged so on every map he could was to prevent getting lost as often as possible. Still, he was able to tell much by his vantage point earlier. He stayed set on his path. In the back of his mind, he began feeling an odd tug. Akin to the silent orders and affirmations exchanged between the Immortals earlier, he wondered what could be causing this. Perhaps Raubahn’s consciousness somehow extended to this area. But just as he thought in regard to the cages… why?

An unusual feedback hit Seraph, as it had when he saw the Mamool Ja use Blue Magic. He saw nothing wielding magic, but slowly a being came into view. Hovering a small distance above the ground it was draped in illustrious robes. However, the resemblance it bore to any of Altana’s children ended there. It’s face held a mass of tentacles where the jaw and mouth should have been. It wielded a staff, and the feedback resulted from it. It didn’t pulse, it was constant. What was this?

Looking to his grimoire he found no clue. It seemed that information would connect as soon as Seraph realized it. His note did have information every now and again regarding some monsters. Consulting it, he found the last step he knew he took in Arrapago Reef. Beyond that it said: “Make your way to E-7 to reach the next portion of the map. Beware Soulflayers, as they are True Hearing.” In reply, a page flipped open and visage of the creature linked to its name and warning.

True Hearing… Looking to the terrain, it was difficult to establish a free and clear path. Assuming that there was an operative range that it could hear, it just became a matter of moving past it when it was not liable to hear you. It would have to move just right for him to pass. Making his way down the hill, Seraph waited. Moving carefully, he shadowed the Soulflayer as it moved further down the path, skirting as wide a radius as he could manage. When the fiend turned, he sidled a small way along the wall and waited. Hopefully, it would pass far enough that it would allow him to run along. It having done so Seraph repeated the process with the next two.

This was ridiculous…

Coming away from the Soulflayers’ grounds the note read that something called “Merrow No. 5” might reside in this area. The grimoire showed this fiend. Apparently, it was mentioned in regards to Besieged. More fortunately than that, it wasn’t present now. He was almost there, and entered a small cave network. Inside… a smattering of more Heraldic Imps. First True Hearing… now True Sight. Seraph was livid, but his anger served no good now. Moving with swift caution, he kept pillars that supported the cave between he and the Imps, hoping that avoid one would not put him in the field of vision of another. Miraculously it did not, and he finally found the gate leading to the staging point. Looking over his shoulder ensuring he was clear, he dropped his glamour and entered.

Once inside the safety of the Immortals’ territory he took his space to fume. He thought he abhorred Cactuar. Soulflayers and Imps were going to get theirs one day. No… he still hated the cactuar more. He ran his hand through his hair, discovering another needle left by Daswil, the first Immortal he visited. Breaking the spine in his hand, he made his way towards this staging points’ Immortal. Lost in his own rage he had not paid ample attention to his restraint. The intent of wrathful Blue Magic seethed out of him.

“Wait” came the Immortal’s voice, snapping Seraph into a modicum of control. “You bear the mark of Zahak. You and I walk the same path Seraph.” He was about to form a reply when she lifted her hand. A shift in the immediate environment was coupled with her gesture. Wait… how did she know his name? “No words are necessary” she continued. “There is only the duty that I, Meyaada, must perform.” The energy saturating the air condensed into a maelstrom around Seraph. After a time it subsided, leaving Seraph gasping for air. “You live I see” she said. “We are done here. Be on your way.”

From bended knee Seraph held up a hand to get Meyaada’s attention. “Yes? What do you require?” Seraph attempted to speak, but ended up coughing out a mouthful of water. “You wish to tell me something, yes?” Meyaada seemed happy with her solitude, and was less than keen at even a fellow Blue Mage Elvaan’s presense. “What is it?!” she finally demanded. Already withdrawing the third of the smaller boxes, he held it in an upturned hand as he regained his footing.

A wry gleam could be seen from Meyaada’s eyes. “A supplies package for me?” She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. “Ah… the scent of the oil is heavenly.” Looking over her fellow Elvaan she sighed. “Thank you. Outside of occasional soldiers not much activity occurs around here. I appreciate the effort undertaken to such a forsaken place.” Seraph, finally able to get a word out edge-wise… “You are welcome” he uttered, simultaneously making his way to the runic portal. Having water in places unpreventable he acquiesced to the experience relating him to the Springserpent. Meyaada barked his name.

“Are you certain this is the path you wish to walk?” she asked. Looking back towards Arrapago Reef, he remembered just these travels he had taken alone. The training it took to be strong enough to make it on his own. “I’ve traveled too far down this path. Whether I wish to walk it or not, I am here. Besides, even closed, there is no denying a door once opened.” Meyaada did not respond. There was a small serving of tea that Ratihb had granted him, and he left it with Meyaada. Perhaps, along with the oil, it would help bring her a small comfort. He nodded, and in cordial reply Meyaada mimicked the action. Seraph walked over to the runic portal. Attuning himself as he had twice before, he considered his path. He still held the capability to return immediately to Nashmau, but having this portal open would indeed be useful.

A small amount of focused intent and will left Seraph back inside the Chamber of Passage. Removing the single use Warp scroll from his bag he remembered the Automaton. Considering it would work from anywhere, he figured he may as well drop it off an allow Ghastad to get to work on it. Passing Iruki-Waraki caused a small fit from the Taru who caught up to Seraph in a rush.

“He actually made you one?!” came an impassioned question on behalf of the Tarutaru Puppetmaster. Seraph quickly debunked that theory. “No… Ghastad wanted to research older models. I happened to find this one. In exchange he’s going to furnish me with a frame. When its done I can return to you that you may use it.” Mouth still hanging wide with surprise, Iruki-Waraki nodded, allowing Seraph to proceed along his way.

Pushing open the doors to the Automaton Workshop with his shoulder, he held the worn out construct gingerly. Excited gasps came from the workers as he made his way up all the tiers. At the end Ghastad, Aisha still at his side, hadn’t noticed his arrival. “Excuse me… Ghastad…” Seraph called out. Aisha was the first to respond, hearing a familiar voice. “Oh, Seraph! There you arrre! It’s been days. Where have you…” Her tail straightened and her body stiffened. Reaching out she pawed at the air several times, until she managed to tap Ghastad on the shoulder.

This finally brought Ghastad to the world outside his automaton… but only for a short while. “Hm…? Oh… Your friend has returned Aisha. And he’s brought a model of Automaton that I requested. And such a fine specimen.” Ghastad took the frame from Seraph and looked it over. “Yes, yes… this will let me find differences in modern and more original construction. I thank you very much. We’ll be done with this in just a few days. Your new frame will be ready after that time. Afford us just a bit of patience.” Seraph looked behind him. “I am surprised it will take that long. Your assistants seem to be chomping at the bit to get started.” Ghastad laughed. “Right you are, however… Ms. Aisha has been most diligent in your absence. I am going to take the opportunity to show her an Automatons’ workings from the ground up.” Aisha perked up extremely at this declaration. Seraph nodded. “I’ll leave you to it then. Aisha, I know I still owe you an exchange on Blue Magic, but perhaps I could look over your notes once the new frame is complete.” She crossed her arms in a mocking anger. “Oh, if you insist…” She smiled as he walked out the door.

Now seizing the warp scroll he began focusing broke the seal on its energies. One moment he was on the southern shore looking at a northbound port, where as now he stood in Nashmau with a port facing south. As he could find in Bastok, there were guards here which furnished the warp scrolls which Seraph was so heavily reliant upon. The energies were very dense, and only one could be held at a time. Replenishing his singular supply he looked to where he had to go next.

Having cleared three of the staging points, the last two on his list were Azouph and Dvucca Isles. Both lay relatively close to here. Recalling that his path was barred to the Azouph staging point before, he thought how realistic it was for the self same Imp to be waiting in the same place. How long had adventurers waiting to claim the hides and prizes often furnished by exceedingly fell beasts? The answer to that was a startlingly long time. In this rare case the devil Seraph didn’t know was much preferred to the one he did, so he set out toward the west exit of Nashmau.

Again, Seraph found himself in Caedarva Mire. His note indicated that the path to his goal was an extremely short and safe one. Barely any enemies along the way. After his prior ordeal he was happy to look forward to a relatively relaxing trip. Seraph paused. When a walk through a marsh filled with undead creatures and rather annoying Imps is remotely considered “relaxing” it was certainly time to re-evaluate ones’ life. Listening to other adventurers, getting hit with techniques to use them was a touch ludicrous as well.

Perhaps it was time for a vacation. In the meantime, he wrapped himself in his paling and sallied forth. Sure enough, he quickly found the branch in his path. A lone Immortal stood guard. While not the Immortal he sought, this was the proper path. As he was preparing to drop his glamour he heard a scream. It sounded of a young boy.

The boy sounded like Wasuad.

The Immortal seemed aware of this, and of Seraph as he approached. He didn’t bother to remove any of his spells. “There’s a boy in trouble!” he began. “I am not strong enough to help him. Will you come with me.” The Immortal shook her head. “I will not leave my post. We are not all fit to be Immortal. If it be the fate of you two you shall perish this day.” The tide of anger caused a surge so potent that it nearly undid Seraph’s workings. “Then I pray that you live an eternal life with which to guard your tunnel.”

With that, a furious Seraph tore up the hill. Sunlight dappled down, even to this murky earth. Qiqirn wandered around a graveyard, through which another Imp floated. “What did it say when one Imp in an open area no longer daunted him?” Seraph thought. Moving around the fences and avoiding line of sight with the Imp Seraph continued a short way northward. Knowing not which where this path led he looked around for some clue. As he walked forward his toe kicked something metallic. While unfinished and in similar disrepair as the Automaton he found, it looked to be a gun. Looking at the face of it, the barrel ended in a six sided pattern. This was akin to the model that Qultada had pointed at him. Having no other semblance of a clue he ran ahead.

The place Seraph ran into was similarly desolate as Arrapago Reef had been. However, this place wasn’t swarming with the undead and their keepers. What an unusual space. Had he been any other race besides a Mithra, what was an argument held at length would have gone below Seraph’s notice. Rushing quickly he found a wall. At a distance it was innocuous, but upon closer inspection it gave way and allowed entry. A grounded Galka lay before Qultada. His crew, while marking Seraph’s abrupt entrance, let him to his own devices.

Qultada made his way over to his Blue Mage counterpart. “Well well. Twice you’ve managed to find us. It seemed that you picked up my name someplace along the way” remarked the Corsair leader, referencing the last time they met. “I would have yours, if you’d please.” Seraph nodded and stated it plainly. Continuing on, he held out the artifact he found. “I heard Wasuad scream. I wasn’t certain if he had come this way, but I found this.”

Taking the gun from his grasp Qultada nodded, an unusual smile gracing his face. He laughed. “Most unexpected Seraph. Looks like you’re in luck Wasuad.” The boy came running out from a place unseen. “It looks like Seraph came through. It’s not much, but welcome to the Pharatrie.” Qultada handed Seraph a small die. “I’m not too big on speeches” continued the Corsair. “Our lineage is based quite a bit on luck. As you know the power of the Immortals is pervasive, but we endure. Fight as we do. Maybe you’ll bridge the gap between your kind and my own.”

Seraph took the die. It looked simple enough, but such things rarely were. “What of the boy now?” he asked. Qultada rested his gun on his shoulder. “Well… that is a bit of a predicament. We aren’t really in a place to take him back…” Wasuad jumped up. “I can make it on my own! Any self respecting Corsair would be able to.” Qultada looked to Seraph then said to Wasuad “We survive by being smart, prepared, and lucky. Foolishness is on the other side of a very thin line.” Seraph admired the boys’ spirit. “I’m journeying to the staging points anyhow. The one near Dvucca Isle isn’t a rough trip at all. I’ll take him with me. That will be the swiftest return we can provide.” Wasuad nodded at this and ran back towards the entrance. Seraph and Qultada shook hands, and the former Elvaan ran off.

Re-entering Caedarva Mire Seraph insisted that Wasuad hold his hand. First Wasuad, then himself, soon both were blanketed in protective spells. Making there way past the Imp, they continued south until they were square in front of the Immortal. Not being experienced with spells Wasuad’s enchantments wore off swiftly. Seraph dropped his. “Ah” said the Immortal. “I see you and the boy are safe. This is good. I assume you would like passage if you come before me? I require an Imperial Silver Piece.” Seraph ensured he had one, as his note had mentioned its necessity. Handing it over he began walking forward with Wasuad.

The Immortal held up her hand. “I am sorry, but this only allows for the passage of one person.” Seraph balked. “You jest, surely. I am taking the boy HOME.” The Immortal nodded. “So you are. Still, this only permits one person passage.” Seraph looked down to Wasuad, who moved a small distance away. Having been forced to maintain his composure Seraph was spoiling for a fight. The Immortal laughed as Seraph reared up on his magical hackles. “You are a fool! Do you not realize that I am your superior?!” Seraph smiled. “Oh, I know you are. If passage is only allowed for one, I can ensure that is enacted somehow. Either I die and he goes through, or you do and it won’t matter.” In reply, the Immortal allowed her power to seethe. Not nearly as cloying as Raubahn’s presence it was still a dense and terrible thing. “I doubt you can do sufficient harm to me Stripling.” Seraph laughed. “You’re right. But I can consume enough of you to make you forever useless to the Immortals again in this lifetime on my way down. Care to risk that?”

The Immortal paused. She considered this unique threat for just a moment. Soon the energy around her dissipated. “Go” she spat. Relenting his power he waved to Wasuad and the two moved into the area beyond. Slowly, the natural tunnel gave way to an artificial structure. It was ornate, inlaid with golds and metals reminiscent of other crafts of Whitegate, just on a more grandiose scale. Following the notes’ instructions the pair happened across a teleportation panel. As they placed themselves on it a surge of energy shot through the structure. Yet still, they were enveloped in the energies and shot off to wherever it led.

Looking about at their destination, Seraph found himself looking upon a runic portal. Was this Dvucca Isle? His expectations not denied, he saw an Immortal standing guard over a sealed off area. Giving Wasuad a small tug they walked over to this Immortal. “My…” he began. “…an unusual pair, especially to be wandering through this place.” Seraph nodded. “I am merely trying to see the boy home. We were on our way to the Dvucca staging point from Nashmau. Are we in the right place?” He shook his head. “I am Shahayl, and I guard the Nyzul Isle staging point. I will attribute your arrival to the unusual power surge. It was most unusual, but has been happening with an alarming frequency of late.”

Seraph sighed, and Wasuad tugged at his hand. The Blue Mage nodded to the boy. “I assume that this runic portal will suit us just as well in his hasty return as any other?” Seraph asked. Shahayl nodded. “You are quite correct.” Seraph bowed, and began walking back towards the runic portal. Wasuad ran all around. “Seraph, look! We’re underwater! You can see fish swimming!” Miraculously Seraph had overlooked this caveat. They were indeed underwater. Everything held, but it was disconcerting none the less. Wasuad was enraptured. While he stared in wonder, Shahayl walked over to Seraph.

The Immortal asked in a low voice. “You are one of Raubahn’s lauded Potentials, are you not?” Ensuring Wasuad was a great distance away, Seraph nodded. “He has called me such.” Shahayl stood inscrutably in reply. “I see. My duties here are not so great that I cannot do you a small favor. Let us return the boy Whitegate. I will furnish your return here.” Shahayl called Wasuad over, and the three took the runic portal back to Whitegate.

Wasuad was not only happy to have returned home, but surprised. Shahayl quickly made his way over to the Chamber of Passage watchman to explain his request. Kneeling, Seraph spoke to the boy. “That was amazing!” said Wasuad. “It is a useful thing. There is one closer to where we were…” Wasuad stood on his toes and whispered in Seraph’s ear. “Talacca Cove.” Seraph nodded, and would remember the name. “We will go to the Dvucca Isle staging point one day. It will offer us quick passage back there should we need it. Now hurry home to your father. And be careful what you say to him.” Wasuad nodded and smiled. “No problem!” As he ran away Seraph was not at all concerned. At one point the city was unknown to him, but now he had experience with what lay hidden on the continent. Shahayl made his way back, furnishing a runic portal permit for Seraph. “Shall we?” he asked, and the two made their way back to Nyzul Isle.

After they re-materialized the pair walked silently toward the teleportation panel that had mislead Seraph to this place. “So you have met our brethren?” asked the Immortal. “Some” came Seraph’s reply. “Outside of the one who guards this place coming from western Nashmau, I have met three Immortals, all at staging points. To fulfill Raubahn’s, and simultaneously, Naja Salaheem’s… requests, I have to visit the last two. I find it odd they did not mention you…” Shahayl laughed. “This is an easy watch. I do not need to establish a perimeter like the others. Plus each and every entryway is guarded by a fellow Immortal. I fall below Naja’s notice because this is not a harrowing place. Plus her mercenaries still find their way here regularly. She has no desire to illicit my good will.”

Shahayl held up his hand. “Wait for the next surge, then quickly make your way onto the panel.” Seraph nodded to the Immortal. “Take Care around the Empire” he offered. “It is easy for one to become entangled in the hands of its influence.” Seraph nodded, and a thought struck him. “Out of curiosity… why are the Immortals limited to Humes and Elvaan? For that matter… why are so few Tarutaru enlisted in the Empress’s service? Every race makes up the Serpent Generals except the Taru.” Shahayl blinked, wondering after this for the first time. “Interesting… I could not say. That may be better answered by Raubahn or Rujhadeen to tell the truth.” Shahayl looked up. “Ah… be ready, a surge approaches. Safe journeys Seraph.”

Seraph jumped on the panel as a surge coursed through it. The energy had an usually purple tinge to it. As he arrived at his destination, he checked the note again. Proceeding forward he found another Immortal. “I am heading to Dvucca Isle” Seraph stated. “Is this the proper outlet?” The Immortal nodded and allowed him to pass. Applying his paling he set out along his way again.

Shahayl felt when Seraph’s footfalls ceased moving across the Alazdaal Ruins interior. Once the Blue Mage was gone, The Immortal exhaled, a wave of purple energy flowing out from him. His perimeter restored, he sensed no roving beasts within his boundaries. “Perhaps your eye will be the one to counter Raubahn’s, Young One.” He returned to his attentive stance, governing the Nyzul Isle staging point. What a fool, the Immortal commander, leaving one such as he to gather such power.

Seraph’s path was not long, and he soon found himself at yet another gate, this one furnishing entry into the Dvucca Isle staging point. Having been delayed did not help Seraph’s patience at all, nor did the knowledge that he was nearly complete with this task. Walking directly up to him, Seraph revealed his Marking to the Immortal. A sober nod was given to Seraph in reply. “You bear the mark…” The Immortal slipped into a dour yet passionate laugh. When he recovered his tone sounded annoyed. “So they send the striplings to me now?” he shouted skyward. He brought his gaze to bear down upon Seraph, his voice raised high. “Do you wish to shed your mortal shell?!” Seraph shook his head. “Not at all. I have no intent to lose myself so wholly to this power.” Seraph let a bit of energy flow obtusely over his armor.

The Immortal shook his head. “Foolish child… is there nothing worthwhile which binds you to your former life?” Seraph immediately thought of Saint and Rai, and other members of his first linkshell. He was about to respond, but then halted. His mind returned to San d’Oria. Vulilu shot through his mind at high speed, quicker than he could stop it. “There is” Seraph said. “I’m not going to lose them. I can have everything. What is the point of power if I can’t retain everything I want?”

Seraph stood toe to toe with the Immortal, who grew more and more livid. “You are changing right before their eyes. If you continue what makes you think they will stay near you? Will they even recognize you?” Seraph thought for a moment. The Immortal crossed his arms in a very haughty fashion by Seraph’s hesitation and silence. Eventually, he answered. “I don’t know. I can only hope that they won’t simply remember me as I was, but accept me as I have become and know me to be the same person they met long ago.” The Immortal continued his cold gaze. “What will you aspire to once your fall is complete, Young One?” Seraph laughed aloud, recalling how Waoud sometimes alluded to such an end. “If I fall completely I can aspire to anything. Wouldn’t you agree that our fates are the same in that way?”

The Immortal reeled back. “Me? I…” He averted his eyes, placing a hand to his head. “…but…no.” He seemed to consider much to himself. Soon he came back to conscious attention. “That is for me to pursue. What is your name, young Mage?” the Immortal asked under a note of wonder.

“I am Seraph.”

“And I am Nahshib” replied the Immortal, finally giving his name. “You have chosen the same path as me. I ask you to steel your heart and consider fully what fate now has in store for you.” Bitter air flowed inward, twisting in towards the Immortal. “Are you ready? I will give you the chance…” The winds picked Seraph up off his feet, tearing viciously at him with no regard for his well being. “…this is your last chance to perish as a mortal!” came Nahshib’s voice through the tempest.

Seraph knew this sensation all too well. For the first time he felt without what he felt within his own mind. A monster lay without, he lay within steady in his own might, and he was surrounded by a vile wind.  Seraph’s body arched, his eyes flared open, and he absorbed the wind into him, falling to the ground. As Nahshib knelt in front of him Seraph looked up, blue energy lancing out of his eyes. “So you are unscathed. Congratulations, and my condolences for the loss of your mortal existence. But this is not the end of your path. Tread carefully Seraph.”

Seraph focused on returning home, but recalled a secondary task he was charged with completing. Reaching into his bag he withdrew the fourth small box. “Something more?” asked Nahshib. Accepting the box from Seraph he looked it over, somewhat puzzled. “A supplies package… you’ve met with Naja Salaheem? Daswil sent word to me that recognition can be attributed to an Immortal through one of these.” Nodding, he set it away. “I never imagined I would see one so early. I am new to the Immortals after all.” Looking Seraph over caused the Immortal to pause. “Have you yet to be inducted into our ranks?” he asked. “Of course I haven’t.” Nahshib raised a hand. “I am not saying the trek has been at all easy, but judging by your handling of it I would think that you were one of us.”

Returning the box to his belongings, Seraph could see one lone slim case glittering from within now. He was almost complete. “I thank you for the compliment” he said, bowing to Nahshib as he made his way to the runic portal. “Familiar with the device then?” he posed to Seraph. Nodding, he snapped, and revealed his grimoire. “Quite. The information is limited, but the application is straightforward. As you are more newly inducted to the Immortals perhaps you know something of Raubahn.” Nahshib was taken aback. “I’ve only met him a couple of times. What are you wanting to know?” Seraph thought carefully what to ask. “What is his connection to Waoud?”

The Immortal stopped to think. “I don’t actually know of any Waoud. From what I’ve seen Raubahn is a rather lonely operator. I’ve never seen him speak with anyone directly if it didn’t involve a mission or a necessary exchange of information.” This was unexpected. Were Blue Mages usually handpicked? If so… what was Waoud’s role in Seraph’s case? The grimoire, sensing his confusion, vanished in a huff.

Attuning to the portal, Seraph again found himself in Whitegate. However, he had no inclination to dawdle. Using the warp scroll he held, he was returned to Nashmau. One staging point was left and he knew right where it would be. As the runic portal would send him back to Whitegate he did not bother with getting a replacement scroll. He was tired, excited… many emotions at once clouded his judgment Running to the eastern exit, Seraph discovered breathing to not just be easy, but pleasing. The power of the Galeserpent could now be felt in every inhalation.

Seraph cast his paling and ran towards the northeast. There were no creatures that would be able to see through it, and he moved with confidence through Caedarva Mire. He returned to the bottleneck that had so hampered him before. And now, as before, a lone Imp watched the path. It did not fly in place, but merely sat on the ground. This was not going to end well at all, but Seraph had no other options. Remembering Imp behavior from earlier in the Mire he knew this one would begin hammering him with magic as soon as it could. Seraph just needed enough time to get the gate open. It had never been easy before, and that was when he didn’t have to worry about keeping himself alive.

Drawing his sword he could only hope that fortune was with him. Casting a few spells to deflect the damage he incurred he hoped it would be enough to let him do as he needed to. Seraph put his focus on the door. If he were fortunate, the glancing blow would be enough to hamper the first spell being cast. That should give him the time to slip into the gate and close it shut behind him. As soon as Seraph was close the magic of his paling proved useless. The Imp saw through his guise and sprang into the air. The elemental power of Thunder flowed through the Imp, and as Seraph passed he swung his sword. He missed, the Imp lifting itself another foot, but he clipped a horn from its belt. Kicking it as he ran Seraph reached the gate and began pushing in.

It was to no avail. As he began pushing the spell struck him. The raw voltage caused his body to spasm and he jolted back from the gate. The Imp, laughing, reached down to its waist. Apparently, it searched for its horn. While the last group of Imps were close enough to see their prey, they normally used their horns to alert their kin to viable prey. Being with the horn sent this one into a frenzy. The potential for Blue Magic washed off the Imp, and it ripped into Seraph with its clawed hands.

His body could bear no more, and he succumbed to his attacker.

The Imp floated above him, laughing. As Seraph had done many times the Imp just faded… laughing all the while, its bloodlust sated. Seraph held magics that would restore a beaten body, and one that would do so for himself. However, evaluating his recent journeys he found it to be useless. Oft times he was, at his best, far out of his depth. Case in point. At first he ensured it was applied, but after the first couple staging points it seemed superfluous. Being surrounded by masses of enemies all able to put him into the dirt he didn’t foresee one situation: A singular enemy that would have ventured away.

The will to survive hammered within Seraph’s form. The energy which normally restored his body raged out of control and began to try to seize it. A craze arose within him. There was a way to warp away when ones’ life essence flowed so loosely, but Seraph could not manage to focus on it. His flesh distended, and looking within, he found the magics he consumed giving him new shape. Something… familiar.

Unable to stand against his fate, he fell to the challenge. The Beast began to win. Seraph lay writhing, fighting to maintain his Self. Untold hours passed.

The gate opened, and a White Mage exited into the Mire. Seeing the young Elvaan writhing on the ground she evaluated his condition. Being several magnitudes of power greater than Seraph’s training she wove a spell the likes of which Seraph had not seen. Upon its completion he was restored completely. While weakened, he did not experience the normal blacking out akin to such an ordeal. His experience with Cactuars was not remembered right away, but it was confirmed later on after a few retellings.

Stretching his gloved hands and feeling his frame, all felt in order. Looking within, his form was his own again. “My thanks…” Seraph uttered. In a dialect he couldn’t place, a response came. Bowing, he hoped that the message of his gratitude was understood. Pulling himself past the barrier, he left Caedarva Mire, and for the last time at that.

Upon passing the iron gate Seraph could hear boisterous speech. He allowed himself a few moments rest while he recovered his strength. The last thing he wanted was to test this last Immortal at anything less then his best. For the ensuing minutes he could hear some loud proclamations, but heard no replies. When he was ready, he wandered further into the safety of the area, looking around very confused. “I, Nareema, will carry out the Empress’s orders through fire, ice, and storm!” The raving came from the Immortal herself, a definite break from the stoic and inscrutable lot that was the standard. Nareema halted abruptly in her speech, arms still raised in the air. Her demeanor changed, sounding at once as a startled child… “Oh… welcome to the Azouph Isle staging point.” …then changed again, sounding more threatening than any other Immortal Seraph had come across. “You got something to say to me?”

“Yes… just a moment…” Seraph began turning just enough to retrieve Nareema’s portion of the Zwha oil. He blinked, and when he opened his eyes the Immortal stood right in front of him, looking him in the eyes, but on tip toe. Seraph balked, and backpedaled slightly. “I know why you’re here…” she said. “…you want information on the staging point, don’t you?” Before Seraph could either deflect or object, his grimoire appeared. However, it seemed to droop, several instances of such a promise weighing heavily on it. Nareema eyed the floating book, and stroked it along the spine.

“Oh my… what a wonderful little medium!” she resounded. The pages fluttered back and forth which made Nareema giggle. “But so sad… do you not know about staging points?” Seraph made his way to the duo. Nareema had the grimoire facing her so she could read it. It opened to a page which held preliminary information in regards to them, and rude notes detailing the other Immortal’s lack of knowledge. “They did not know, you say? How surprising! Perhaps I can be of help?”

On the opposite page an image of Nareema began taking form. Delighted, she leaned on the grimoire, having it support her weight. “Let’s see… the blue devices are properly known as ‘runic portals’, which you know…” she began, tracing her finger along the words. An odd tingle flowed back from the grimoire. “…and yes… they were created by our alchemists. Ah… here is something you don’t know my little friend… It is not just magic as in a scroll, which furnishes a type of magical bubble. These portals actually take you apart and puts you back together at the other end!”

Seraph blinked in surprise, trying to absorb what he had just heard. It translated to the grimoire, and it took a moment for it to take down her words. Once they appeared , she nodded and continued. “Scary isn’t it? I was scared at first too. I mean, the entire contraption is simply beyond belief! It’s hard to believe that such a thing could exist on Vana’diel!” The Cavernous Maws flashed to mind. To date, Seraph did not know what created them, but he assumed some deity had a hand in their appearance. To travel through time and dimension… that was truly a providence beyond the skein of mortals. That such a device, similar in purpose, was created by less than divine hands… there was still much to learn of the ways of the Aradijah continent.

“…I really don’t get it… how could you body be disassembled, and then each individual molecule meticulously reassembled in Al Zahbi’s Chamber of Passage… does that make sense to you?” Nodding, the Elvaan suddenly re-evaluated his use of the runic portals. He had made light of them before, simply believing them to be akin to the Warping and Teleporation spells he had often used been privy to. If this was the process being employed.. he could only hope everything was still where it was supposed to be.

The grimoire was utterly elated. In bobbed up and down, picking the Immortal Hume off her feet. It then disappeared in a very spectacular array of color, obviously pleased with what it now knew. It was the little things. While laughing, Nareema still looked at Seraph. “It may be frightening, but once you use it traversing between here and Al Zahbi will be of no large matter.” She returned again to the tops of her toes. “But that’s not why you’re here, is it…? I know better than that… your face says it all!”

While much more inviting, Nareema was perhaps the most aggressive Immortal he had spoken with to date. Smiling for a change, Seraph revealed the Mark of Zahak, twisted though it was, on his neck. Nareema’s eyes grew wide, and she took a few steps back. The stability of power in the area wavered, quaking, vibrating up through Seraph’s legs. “Blue…” Nareema said, gripping her head. “…muddies the purest waters…”  She looked again at Seraph. “It is the mark of a Blue mage…” She began screaming, the ground beneath echoing in reply. “I cannot bear it! Cannot…” She backed away further, her whole frame seeming to sag. “Leave me be… I cannot bear it…”

This was not possible. Knowing now the process, Seraph would not leave with it remaining undone. Nareema stood listlessly, not standing at attention as Seraph was accustomed the Immortals doing. Instead she stood wavering like grass in the wind. “Nareema…” at the sound of her name her head tilted and rolled around until she was again looking at Seraph. The vacancy in her eyes was that of a new meeting. But instead of being filled with wonder and excitement hers were merely cold.

“Blue…?” the word did not connect for an instant. She suddenly stood upright and attentive, but sorrow overtook her voice. “You are blue…?” She suddenly seemed to be listening and respond to one Seraph could not perceive. “No… you didn’t… The Immortal’s request…” Nareema slid down to the ground. She nearly sobbed. “The sadness and despair…” Seraph knelt to make an attempt to console her. “…the triumph…” she whispered, looking up a remember accomplishment crossing swiftly in her mind. He placed a hand on her shoulder, and one of her hands touched his… but it didn’t feel human. Their eyes locked, Nareema staring longingly at Seraph. “No… I mustn’t.. mustn’t…”

She tore her hand away, and her hand fell to the ground, fingers gripping around fistfuls of dirt. “I am a vessel…” she murmured without any conviction. “Blue and despoiled, I must perform my duty.” She reached her hands up to cup Seraph’s face. The scent of the ground filled his nose as the soil rubbed against his face. “I must perform my duty. It is your fate… but perhaps…?” She drew close, meeting Seraph’s gaze. Her sad eyes were hungry, and he could feel her breathing despite her covered face. “Farewell.” Through Nareema the earth focused and bore collectively onto Seraph. There was no escape, and none was necessary. Soon the upward surge of earth subsided.

A sad smile pulled at the corner of Nareema’s eyes, her voice at once both elated and resigned to defeat. “You survived! That is good, and that is bad. You have embraced the life of the Beast…” You must struggle forward as I have. So, go… Leave me…” Seraph reached behind the veil and touched Nareema’s too cold cheek. She closed her eyes, indulging in the touch. Seraph than stood to leave. Remembering his other purpose, he ensured he left Naja’s gift with the Immortal.

He knelt down, setting the small package on her leg. She gripped it, fingers touching his again. Power lanced unseen. Too cold, to removed from humanity. Her face lit up, her emotion again genuine happiness. “Oh… it’s magnificent. Look how it gleams. The scent I remember.. so fresh… so pure!” Seraph looked at Nareema’s eyes, recognizing the flash of memory behind them. Again, she was overcome with apparent sadness, but still tears did not flow. “You have lost your freedom.” she said, gripping his hand. As he stood, her brought her up with him. “…I was free…” She was disjointed in her speech. Something rang out in the back of Seraph’s mind. Some hint of connection, coming from the same place Seraph had ‘Heard’ the other Blue Mages. “The color of our blood, our souls… they are the same. We are the same, you and I…” Collecting herself, she drew the package to her chest, holding it with both hands. “If you would ever like to… talk… with me again, the runic portal. Don’t forget about it.”

Hearing the now empty box inside his bag he knew that it was time to return to Salaheem. The last of the runic portals enveloped Seraph. He stood within the boundaries of the sigil, attuning to the energies enclosed within. Nareema looked on him with with an inhumanly longing gaze in an unreadable stance. Bowing to Nareema, she did so in reply. Before total dissolution, Seraph let his hand trace up and felt his neck. The Mark at his neck felt stilled, the solidarity of the Stoneserpent now added to him. This was what Raubahn had asked of him. All five Serpent brands were now added atop his own shifting Mark of Zahak. Closing his eyes for just a moment, he found himself back in Whitegate when he opened them. Naja Salaheem’s errand was run. Raubahn’s request found itself completed. And the grimoire, which had suddenly become more active, seemed to be sated for now as well. Seraph breathed a deep sigh of relief.

Being at peace, his attention sank low enough to notice the conversations of the linkshell again. There seemed to be some type of upheaval in Heroism. Apparently, since Dacove had not been around as of late a large number of shell members were going to establish their own so that someone would have the typical administrative capacity that Heroism now lacked. Seraph removed the linkpearl from his ear. He considered tossing it aside, but such was not his way. He put it in his bag and was determined to put it somewhere in his moghouse alongside his Fourteen Drawings pearlsack to remind him of his past. One broken and forgotten, the other promised and not delivered upon.

Seraph marched onward, staving off his rage. He decided to go on to see Naja Salaheem first. Her assistant had apparently replaced the door. Seraph had either been gone for a long while or he did fast work. Seraph figured the latter, considering the high probability that it was a standard task. Thinking ahead, Seraph called on his defensive magics. As he was using white magic as of late he added to the mix magical shadows that would allow him to escape attacks, if only narrowly. Seraph entered the office and squared himself as he looked at Salaheem, feeling confident in his preparations for negotiations. “Oh… you’rrre back” she observed blithely. Seraph set the empty box on her desk which formerly held the bottles of Zhwa oil to be given to the Immortals. “Herrre to give up?” she perked up immensely at voicing this thought. “The Immortals at each of the non-Nyzul staging points have been made aware of the generosity of Salaheem’s Sentinels upon my behalf.”

Naja opened the box. “Are you kidding?! How could you mess up such a simply assignment?!” Seraph eyed Naja, confused. “You gave me five bottles, and there are five Immortals scattered about five staging points. It is sensible to conclude that each delivery was sound.” Naja growled. “This is why I hate forrreignerrrrs!” She came around the front of the table, grabbed the box, and shoved the open container in Seraph’s face. “There were five bottles…” she then slammed the lid shut. “BUT ONE BOX!!! I wanted ya to give the whole kit and caboodle to ONE OF THE IMMORTALS YOU…”  Quicker than lightning Salaheem turned, at once setting down the box and retrieving her mace. The power a full rotation of her speedy Mithra body would have completely obliterated the Elvaan’s defenses and floored him, instead she missed, connecting instead with one of the magical projections. Not anticipating a complete miss Naja lost her balance. Seraph sighed as she betrayed another attack and missed again, taking another construct in lieu of his face. She smiled viciously, her next attack rising up from a crouch, connecting straight in his chin.

Beware always the set jaws of proud races, especially those augmented by magic. Naja connected with Seraph’s spells, mace sliding from her hand, the hard heads of weapons and owner meeting. Embellishing the truth, Seraph continued. “I met with each of the Immortals without incident. Nareema’s report may come a little later, but it should corroborate with the others.” Naja nodded. “Nareema is so…” she caught herself, ears twitching rapidly. “…well, she does her job. Like you’ve done yours. Ya made it back in one piece, and I’d chalked you up to being chopped liver by now!”

Having returned to her usual boisterousness was a bit of a front. She still rubbed one hand to the other, but still held her mace. Seraph’s unbreakable expression gained a softened reaction from the mercenary overseer. “Heh, sorry about that… I’m sure it was a walk in the park for an adventurer like you.” This was exceedingly far from the truth, but he was not about to give Naja the satisfaction of this truth. “Don’t think badly of me” she said. This seemed odd. She was almost… docile. “I have a lot on my plate ya know. Everrry wannabe from herrre to Rrrabao wants to join up. I gave you a task, and you fulfilled it. Knowing the value of what they were carrying I’ve had some cubs turn tail and run.” She spun her mace on the top most spike on its head. “Never ended well, mind you, but they trrried.”

Seraph nodded his agreement. In his mind this Zwha was akin to the Mithra homeland. Never had he been himself, and he only heard tales of Mirtha coming from there. Even Saint hadn’t mentioned the place. “Although I’m morrre than a bit upset, I can’t deny your skills. Going to all the staging points, and on yourrr own… that’s no easy feat! You’ve gotta be pretty famous, rrright?” she asked, bubbling with typical Mithran enthusiasm.

Something gnawed at the back of Seraph’s mind about her sudden change in character. Maybe there was something to what she said… apparently many adventurers signed up solely for teleportation permission. On paper they were squared away. Perhaps her gruffness was just a part of the screening process.

“I wouldn’t say so” he replied. “I try to remain low key. ‘The best reputation is no reputation’ in my book.” Salaheem laughed at this. “And so humble! Maybe I’ve already heard about such a special guy from all the other mercenaries. They don’t make ’em like you anymorrre…” she said, leaning in close. “I don’t think you’ve told me your name yet…” Taking a step back, Seraph looked to Salaheem’s assistant, who swiftly busied himself with some paperwork at his disposal. A finger under Seraph’s chin directed his gaze back to Salaheem, who was on all fours on her desk. “Well, what’rrre ya waitin’ for? I just want to know who I’m ‘showing my thanks’ to…”

Something’s definantely up. Now she’s flirting? Too much experience with too many Mithra was telling Seraph one thing: Salaheem wanted something? But why was she so keen to his name?

“…oh, what’s wrong? You don’t want to give your name to poor little Naja?” she said playfully. Seraph was trying to figure out what Naja… what Salaheem’s angle was, and quickly. Crouching on the edge of her table now, she leaned closer, her tail dancing over one of Seraph’s ears. “C’mon… What would it hurrt?” she purred. Eying the Mithra, the Elvaan finally gave her his name. Speaking carefully he tried to see any betrayal of intent in her eyes. “It’s Seraph.”

Sliding seductively off the table Salaheem pursed her lips, leaning against the Elvaan. “Seraph…” she mimicked, whispering in his ear. “Serrraph” she emphasized, drawing out R in a low growl. She then pounced away, becoming more and more worked up. “Serrraph! Rrrowrr! That name just SCRRREAMS ‘power’!” Salaheem reached across the desk for something, her tail twitching playfully. That is, until she caught Seraph’s glance, and let it run up her leg as she smiled over her shoulder. Turning again to the assistant he had turned around, and was pinching the bridge of his nose. He knew something.

Seraph’s attention was recalled by Salaheem sounding out his name. “S-E-R…U-F”? Edging closer, she seemed to be spelling it out on a scrap of paper. The characters, while Mithran, were well known to him. However, while she thought they said ‘Seruf’, the character for the R was one meant to be held long and low, making it more into ‘Surf’. “Salaheem?” he called out. She turned, a saddened look in her eyes. “Seraph, call me Naja. Please…” she pleaded.

“You’rrre from the mainland, aren’t ya?” she asked, completely sullen. “Since you’ve done what you needed to, you’re going back rrright?” He nodded. “That is my plan…” She crumpled up against him. “You ran all over Aradijah for me. I’m just a working girrrl. I don’t have anything to give you for going to all the trouble for me. Well, except my heart… Maybe… I could wrrrite you? It isn’t much I know, and you’rrre probably real busy…” Here it comes said part of Seraph’s instinct. “…I just can’t figurrre out foreigners’ names. What’s the point of sending a letter you’d never get?” Putting a small distance between them she continued. “Could you write your name down for me?”

that’s it? asked the same area of instinct.

“If you wrrrite it down, I can copy it, then I know my letterrrs will reach ya!” She pulled him by the hand, put a quill in it, and led him over to the table. She discarded the small scrap she had been working on, and pointed to a blank page coming out of the bottom of one of the many large stacks. Seemed to be part of completed work orders, judging by the top sheet. “That isn’t need Naja. Really” Seraph deflected. “You pronounce the name beautifully. I’m certain porter moogles or auction house attendants can facilitate the recipient information.”

Good, good. chimed the hind-brain. Now get out of there…

Seraph turned to leave, and began walking towards the door. “I even bet that your assistant would help out!” The assistant spun on his heels waving his hands in front of him. The action screamed ‘Don’t drag me into this!’ Confused, he turned to see Naja glaring at him with her former, trademark anger. Seeing that she had been caught, Salaheem now spun around, sinking to her knees, head buried in her arms, as audible sobs came from her, becoming again disheartened. What is going on here? Seraph was suddenly torn. Leaving a lady to despair was simply not his way, but the assistant was making motions at the door. Sighing, he walked back over to Naja. The assistant slumped over in defeat.

As he reached Salaheem again, he was seized in the sensation of being pulled into his inner world. As this happened, an odd image sprang into his mind. He was suddenly back in Arrapago Reef, staring into the eyes of a soulflayer. However, this one seemed less far gone. It wielded no staff, did not float off the ground, and seemed to be wearing not the typical soulflayer robes, but a simple white garment. It hands seemed wrong, its head rounded, and it’s skin was not pale or yellow as he had remembered, but instead more of a husky read. The tentacles on its face quivered as it shouted “IT’S A TRAP!!!”

Seraph came back to the world jostled. While blinking a few times he was aware of Salaheem’s hand on his, the quill in it, tip pressed to parchment. His senses fully returning he began hearing in the middle of her sentence. “…begging now… how unbecoming. Won’t you please do this one last thing for me? I’ll wrrrite, but you don’t have to make anything out of it. Please…” Seraph shook his head. “…write?” He then focused in on the parchment. “…right…” Still not having reconnected fully he followed the suggestion and he wrote out his name.

Naja looked at the signature. “Oh… S-E-R-A-P-H. I see now. My… what an… in-ter-rrresting name…” She stood, pulling the piece of paper up as she rose.

She began reading…

“‘I vow through rain and through wind. Running not from storms of arrows, and fearing not blasts of magic. To defend in times of beastman attacks and to venture out in times of peace. In sickness and in health, through curses and petrification. I pledge myself, to Salaheem…'”

…wedding vows… that was a little quick…

“…oh… sorry… Uh… let’s see here… ‘to Salaheem’s Sentinels…'”

… her mercenary organization? What was…

“‘…for all eternity…'”

By Altana… not vows. Still binding. The contract…

“‘…Signed Seraph.'”

And there it is. Seraph… you’ve got bruised pamamas for brains…

            Everything fell into place. She had said before that after the task was done that they would discuss a contract for Seraph. Not knowing what she meant he had disregarded it. He was now forced to wonder just how many times Salaheem had had such contract “discussions”. The actions of the assistant suddenly made a great deal of since.

            Thoroughly pleased, Salaheem was smiling and giggling to herself. “Tee hee hee. Yes, yes. Brilliantly worded… as always. Anyway… I now prrronounce you an official employee of Salaheem’s Sentinels. Congratulations!” The shock had sobered Seraph up quickly. “Hold on a moment…” Her mace came crashing down on her table again. “You’re gonna love worrrking under me” she cooed, mocking her earlier flirtatious tone, laughing all the while. “Welcome to the world of bein’ a Private Second Class. I’ve got plenty to keep ya busy!”

Seraph had not joined the ranks of Blue Mages to become an Immortal. At least, not in the sense that he would serve the Empire of Aht Urhgan. In his mind, if that’s all he wanted, he would have stayed home and become a Paladin. In his mind they served the same purpose. This was a turn in a direction that he had no interest in. He clenched his fist, a bit of power coalescing into it. He could feel his neck twinging. In his mind, his power stopped at five points, each time gaining a boost of power. Perhaps his outing had a more dramatic effect than he would have been led to believe…?

Watching his stance carefully Naja rounded her desk. “Well what’re ya grrrumblin’ about now? Ya don’t like ‘Second Class’ bein’ part of your title? Tough luck! I don’t care how spoiled ya were in the west. Knight, Musketeer, Wizard… don’t mean a thing to me. You’re a mercenary now, and a rookie at that!” Seraph’s eyes flared open and he extended both hands outward. The flow of Blue Magic surged through him. However, it seemed that his mental displacement had crossed some of his energy.

While he meant to project an orb of fire outwards, hopefully to burn the document Naja now held, the energy was maintained inward. A breed of monster called a Bomb was known to explode. Why, oh why, was it possible to mimic THAT attack? Fortunately Seraph switched his energetic make up before the spell was brought to bear. He breathed a sigh of relief.

Which was more important is hard to say… A second after this he could see Naja’s mace coming around at him. He then realized he forgot one important thing: He had not reapplied any of his defensive spells after Salaheem’s original slew of attacks. At all. The look of worry in his eye betrayed this fact, and the Mithra assailant fully committed to her swing.

Two things happened very quickly at this point.

Worth primary note: Seraph was sent flying out of the office, ruining the newly repaired door.

The other event actually happened first. Naja’s mace, connecting as it usually did with Seraph’s head, caused problems, as it always did. She seemed to catch Seraph in flux, and the self destruction spell seemed to jarred back into place. An explosion took place in the office with Elvaan fuel, harming Naja, her assistant, and Seraph himself. Big explosion, small area, with him at the epicenter gave him substantially more range than even Salaheem normally attained. This added boost gave Seraph enough time in the air to apply a small healing spell and his paling spells. Landing on the lower level of the city, he planned his escape route. Though weakened, he doubt Salaheem would pose an imminent threat inside the bounds of the city even if she gave chase.

As if on cue, she came out of her office, face covered and coughing. “Nice try Serrrraph!” she shouted. “I share this city with the Immortals. You don’t think I wouldn’t Blue-proof my parchments?” Seraph watched her abject confusion. She scanned the area but couldn’t see him. Her ears perked up, but she couldn’t hear him. She even sniffed the air to find his trail. Looking back into the office, she couldn’t not pick it up. It stopped in midair. Slamming her mace on the stone bannister she stormed back inside as she shouted. “…In any case, you’re dismissed. You’d better return for duties soon. You’ve got a lot of slack to pick up!” Ah, not since being in back home was accustomed to someone maintain so many airs Seraph limped away to continue his rounds through Whitegate as a number of Immortals came to check on the commotion.

Thinking, Seraph drew up score.

Seraph 3, Naja 0, Draw 1. The most recent instance would have granted her a point, but Self-Destruct makes a draw so he thought.

Slowly pulling away from Salaheem’s office Seraph finally returned to Waoud. The fortuneteller watched him all the way from the archway leading from Port Al Zahbi. He smiled, expecting his return. Once Seraph was close, Waoud’s left eye gleamed it’s crimson glow. Again, Seraph was connected to Raubahn’s domain.

Raubahn nodded solemnly at Seraph’s arrival. “So, you have returned from your journey. The Immortals have submitted their reports.” Seraph was somewhat shocked at the haste of this revelation. However, having seen the staging points, and subsequently the runic portals, for what they were such a matter would be a small trifle. “My evaluation is that you are still not fit to join our ranks.” Seraph’s anger flared, and his magic wished to go right along with it. He contained it, and himself. “Raubahn, do you have any clue what I went through to get to each of your Immortals?” Raubahn showed no emotion. “Enlighten me.”

And Seraph did. As quickly as he could he told Raubahn of his journeys, each of them solitary, while still completing multiple tasks all at the same time. He even threw in that he sighted Corsairs at one point but gave up nothing else about them.

After Seraph finished Raubahn looked down thoughtfully. “Yes… that actually fills in a number of gaps in the submitted reports. My information had you registered as a mercenary for some time, and that you were tied into a group of adventurers with like connections. When I originally charged you with this task I thought you would walk one of those avenues. But such a feat…” Raubahn grew silent, then looked up at Seraph. “It seems my information was in error. As such, I tasked you unfairly.” Seraph accepted this with a nod, straightening up.”You did not simply walk the easy road” Raubahn acknowledged. “I stand by my ruling. However, I will recognize your continuing growth and dedication.” Raubahn, very uncharacteristic of himself opened his hands to Seraph. “Greater heights of power await you… let the desire that burns within you guide your way.” Cobalt flames flared up in Raubahn’s hands. He extended them to Seraph. Once he reached out, the flames jumped to him and a distinct weight pressed Seraph’s hands. “You have taken the first steps, but this is only the beginning. I present you with this Immortal’s Scimitar, a fitting blade for the path you must continue to carve. Wield it well.”

Seraph returned to his outward perception. A sword laid in his hand, one he oft saw used by those among the Immortals. He eyed Waoud for a moment, confused by how the inward occurred outward. Waoud’s only reply was a strange smile. Placing this sword on his hip, Seraph brandished it with pride as he made his way westward. He thought upon spending the night in Al Zahbi, but he had run all over the two parts of the continent and wanted nothing more than to be in his own bed. There was a Tarutaru in the bounds of the city proper who would teleport one to their home nation. At this point a warp scroll would lead him back to Nashmau, and he had no desire to be deeper into the Aradijah continent at this point.

He acquiesced to one small stop, again at the Shararat Teahouse. Ratihb was thrilled to see him. “Wasuhd came back, safe and sound. He told me he encountered you numerous times. Thank you for sticking with him. I don’t know what you did, but he’s been a great kid lately, even helping out with the shop.” Ratihb laughed. “He swears what transpired is a secret. Whatever you two went through, I’m sure something good must have happened.” The two spoke a little while longer, and Seraph mentioned the Immortals at the staging points, particularly his fellow Elvaan. As thanks, Ratihb would send some of the valuable San d’Orian tea to them all. A mutual bow was exchanged in parting, and Seraph resumed his path to the west part of Whitegate to head home after his long journey.

As he walked, someone called Seraph’s name from behind him. One of the higher ups from Heroism called out to him. “Seraph… be awhile! I’m glad I caught you… How’ve you been?” Seraph took the Immortal’s Scimitar off his waist and held it out to her. “Oh, that’s gorgeous! Wait… that’s one of the Immortal’s swords, isn’t it?! How’d you get that?” Seraph replied dryly, trying to keep all venom from his voice. “I earned it.” She nodded a few times. “That’s impressive. Have you heard? We’re starting a new linkshell since Dacove has been missing for awhile. I came to give you a new pearl. I’m leading the linkshell.”

Seraph returned the sword to his waist. “No offense, but I’ll have to decline.” Shocked and taken aback she asked for an explanation. “Will the new shell be comprised of the same members from the old shell?” She replied affirmatively, reiterating that it is why she was here looking for him. “Then that is where I decline.” Seraph provided a summary again as he had once for Raubahn. As he had admitted, she gave him his triumph fully, admitting that it was a nigh impossibility. “I have been asking for assistance for days now. At any point in time even one other member more experienced than I would have made a world of difference. If I had not trained sufficiently to hide myself at length the going would have been impossible. No one came. No one responded to my appeals for assistance.”

Anger rose in his voice at this point, blue energy crackling over his forearms. “Even when I happened across one of the linkshell members who was killing the very enemies I needed distracted I received no help. This is the most heinous trial I’ve had to face yet. And I did it alone.” Calming, he continued. “It is nothing against you as you weren’t around, but I don’t feel it worthwhile to stick around when I’ll end up doing things myself anyway. I’ve no problem helping others, but not when it is wholly one sided.” Seraph bowed. The new linkshell leader did so in return. Half-heartedly he extended an peace offering, saying that they may one day fight together after he felt he had gained sufficient power. That water on the bridge, he made his way to the teleporation Taru, and returned to Bastok.

Once he was back home he made his way to Port Bastok. In this section of the city unopened linkshells were available for purchase. He did not bear the power or the experience to be a leader, so he thought. At the very least, he held onto his motivation, and that would have to be enough. At this point, Seraph wanted nothing to do with another linkshell.

However, once word had gotten around that Fourteen Drawings had gone under he had gotten invites from every shell and sack holder that had come across him. Feeling no desire to deflect and deny membership invites every hundred yalms, Seraph parted with his gil, which was not something Seraph did happily. Ever. Spending the 8,000 gil on an new linkshell was a worthwhile investment in his peace of mind. If he was just holding a pearl the invites would still come. Being seen as a master of his own would allow him to be left alone. For awhile at least, this was a wonderful boon to Seraph.

Making his way back to the moghouses Seraph and Makar shared an ample meal. Seraph was famished after his days-long endeavor. Regaling his Moogle companion with his tale, they both lamented at the end. It was going to be a long road ahead, but one that Seraph would walk. He had no other choice toward his goal, or so he thought. Leaning his Scimitar against his bedpost he started to relax. Stilling his mind, he ensured that all was aligned and that his Beast was sufficiently bound. Seeing this was so, Seraph drifted. Looking around he admitted that he really needed more furniture, and shortly passed out on his bed.