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

The sound of the ocean crashing against the hull of the worn ship was somewhat soothing. The fear of the overused hulk subsided with every crash, just as long as there were no leaks. The night was clear. While Seraph wanted to spend this time on the upper deck, the fiends wandering this route proved to be a trying lot. The little experience and stores of White Magic at his disposal would not have been enough to see him through. Swallowing his pride more than he already had was a necessity to survival. He had come too far. All there was to do was check and re-check equipment and maybe shoot the breeze with the Mithra guild worker on board. His mind wandered across the circumstances that had brought him here. He was wondering if he was making the right decision?

Leaving the ancestral homeland of San d’Oria was not a difficult one. Seraph, although bearing a moniker of heavenly beings, did not adhere strictly to the devotion of Altana. Lacking such pious resolve the call of the Paladins fell on what was regarded a “blackened heart”. His restless soul left him no peace remaining idle or toiling in the fields, so he lent himself to the ranks of the Reserve Knights. While the most populace of those serving the Kingdom, they were very low rank. The Temple Knights and Royal Knights would have brought forth more renown. Renown was not his goal.
There was always something in the depths of Seraph’s soul. He likened it to being in a plain and being caught in a whirlwind. Amidst this turmoil a scent drifted to him. It promised safety and peace. However, being in the eye of the storm, he knew it to be safe. He did not know where the scent came from. It would call to him, he would be wrapped in it, he would look for the direction from which it stemmed to no avail. “If only it were stronger” he would think to himself. He’d reach out his hand, but the wind easily brushed his hand back to the middle of the barrier. “If only I was stronger…” he would lament. Prophecies and dreams were not the way of the Elvaan. He kept this always to himself, but always yearned to put meaning to his feelings.
The Reserve Knights were only called upon in times of war. Outside of those times they were often allowed their own devices, and many were adventurers. It was through such returning Knights where he began to hear of the world abroad. Tales of frightening creatures and allies alike bearing fell magic. Individuals bearing powers unknown with the walls of San d’Oria’s defenses. Sometimes, very rarely after these adventures were well in their cups, he’d even heard drunken slurs and whispers of those who had somehow come across the power of the Dragon Knights of old. He knew that this was unlikely… but the possibility of a Dragoon to still walk the face of Vana’diel? Such a thing was not to be ignored.
Some of his adventuring friends wanted to show off their new skills to Seraph. They went into West Ronfaure, an area of light forest directly outside of San d’Oria. For the beginner San d’Orian adventure this was prime training ground. His friends had only been as far as La Theine Plateau, the area just south of West Ronfaure. Neither place posed a significant threat. If something did happen they were still close enough to San d’Oria to receive aid. The five Elvaan made up a strong group, so there was little fear of that. From what they said, new adventurers had six possible avenues they could choose from. A debate ensued…

“So when are you going to join us?” asked the female Warrior. Seraph was taken aback. “What do you mean?” he asked. “Oh, come on. You can’t be happy sitting around in town waiting for the next major Orc attack?” she continued. “It would be wonderful if you started up with us. We’ve got enough gil to get you geared up properly. It would be great having another weapons’ specialist.” Seraph pointed towards the rest of the group. The female Black Mage gained the attention of a small forest rabbit by conjuring up a stone and hurling it. The Warrior sighed. Running up towards the fray the male Monk let out a huge cry. “Weapons? Hah!” He hit his opponent with surprising force. The hare staggered. After collecting itself it launched itself above the young Monk’s head and came down feet first, planting a kick squarely on his forehead.

The whirlwind flashed in Seraph’s mind. ‘He’s right… who needs weapons?’

He shook his head, clearing the image. The male White Mage weaved a spell, revitalizing the Monk. The male Red Mage slid in and with an enchanted blade brought about the end to the fledgling foe. “You two are being crass. Again” said the White Mage. The Monk and Warrior scoffed, shoving each other. “Weapons have their usefulness,” chimed in the Red Mage “but some finesse applied to brute force goes a long way.” Seraph asked what was the ultimate goal for throwing their talents into adventuring. They went out in hope of becoming Paladins eventually, or so they said. They each tried to talk Seraph into jumping on board, becoming the sixth in the group. All of them as a second of their respective class of course.             “What about a sixth?” Seraph asked. “You said there are six jobs that confirmed adventurers can sign up for… what’s this sixth job?” The White Mage let sound a haughty laugh. “Have some pride. We are a race of blade and blood. What Elvaan would reduce themselves to being as some Thief?” Seraph watched the Warrior herding a sheep toward the rest of the group. The White Mage turned his attention to healing the wounds incurred from the previous battles. Not having the disposition for battle, the sheep looked desperately for an escape route. However, the Red Mage, Monk, and Warrior kept it well guarded with the White Mage at the ready for more healing. “Compare us to other races we may not be the stoutest magically, but even that is better than being some petty criminal. Really Seraph…” A surge of energy coursed through the terrified animal. The Black Mage and Seraph were the only two to notice this, and she cut off her sentence to begin chanting out a spell. The sheep began lowing. While full of fear, it was soothing.

He was back inside the vortex inside his mind. He clashed against its edges.

He shook the effects off. The offending party was not so lucky. All except the Black Mage were knocked to sleep. Seraph guessed there was a very definite range. Spell complete, the Black Mage let the assault fly, felling the sheep. Seraph exchanged a look with the Black Mage, then walked to his downed comrades. He shook them all awake. “Yes… some determined fighting force, pulsing with Elvaan and San d’Orian pride. Picking on rabbits and sheep and getting put to sleep by the latter.”
The rest of the group gave a defeated laugh. While impressed with his friends’ progress and skills, he wasn’t full convinced that joining up with them was what he wanted. His head ached. The party wanted to finish off their day heading to the Lion Springs’ Tavern in Southern San d’Oria. Seraph wanted to take the long way around and clear his head. The group said their temporary farewells and went their separate ways. While heading to the Northern San d’Orian entrance he kept thinking about all the minor foes his friends had fought. Bats, crabs, even the Orcs caused a strain on his mind. He was accustomed to it, but it grew in intensity. He had to find some solution to this problem… something to silence the storm raging inside.
Seraph reached the gate leading into Northern San d’Oria. He nodded to the guards who carried on their solemn vigil. As he came further up the hill he saw a Hume exiting the city with a carrying two pole arms. Both points struck him as unusual. While other races were more common these days they still stood out. Humes being the most prevalent among them. It was the use of a pole arm. He’d never seen a Hume wielding one, let along carrying two for whatever reason. Just then the human noticed his presence.

“Ah, hello! I have a question… do you have any use for this spear?” He held out the weapon in his left hand for Seraph’s evaluation. Seraph took the weapon in his hands and looked it over. “I’m afraid not” he replied. “Spears and the like just aren’t my style. Thank you for the offer though.” Seraph returned the spear to his owner. “Oh well… I suppose I’ll just have it auctioned off then… Sorry to have bothered you.” Seraph deflected the apology with a shake of his head “No need for that. Actually, I want to ask about the one in your right hand. That appears to be of San d’Orian make.” The Humes’ smile broadened. “Good eye. I was just awarded this. Fascinating, isn’t it?” He held it in an outstretched hand. Seraph looked over this weapon, and nodded his approval. “Forgive my lack of knowledge, but I’ve never seen such a pole arm used by a Warrior or Paladin. This is… an unusual item… Was this a custom order? Are you famous where you are from?”
The Hume laughed. “I suppose this pole arm is one of a kind. You know of Miaux? I got this from her.” Seraph readily recalled her. He’d seen her often around the Blacksmithing and Woodworking guilds. “I wouldn’t say famous, but I am known of in Bastok at the very least.” Ah, a Bastokan. Bastok is a republic to the southeast of San d’Oria, across a small desert and several plains. It serves as the home to the Hume race, and the Galka reside there as well. The latter are… a very hearty breed. He placed the spear in a holder on his back. “Why is it that you would ask?” Seraph thought on the question. “Not to be prejudiced, but a Bastokan Hume Warrior coming all the way to San d’Oria for a pole arm is unusual. Bastok has competent smiths. Moreover, you came all this way and not only claimed your treasure, but a rare one at that. It simply causes me to wonder as to the truth behind you.” The Hume blinked in surprise. “‘…the truth behind me’? The only thing behind me would be Lumiere.” Seraph looked in confusion. “…you named the spear Lumiere?” The Hume laughed. “Oh no… Lumiere is my wyvern companion.” He opened a hand and a pulse was sent out. It resonated skyward, and from the rebound flew down what could only be identified as a fledgling dragon. “That would make you a Dragoon then…?” Seraph stammered in surprise.
A Dragoon. In the flesh, pulled from the annals of time itself. “You were heading out… I shouldn’t keep you any longer” I said to him. He looked for the position of the sun. “It is getting late…” Seraph nodded. “Forgive my troubling you, but would you mind if I attended you to the outpost, if that is indeed your destination?” The Dragoon nodded to Seraph in reply. Lumiere let out a happy screech. “Lumiere has taken a liking to you I see. I’m Saint. I’d be pleased if you joined us.” The new trio began walking towards the outpost. “I am Seraph. A pleasure to meet you.” Lumiere darted about.
The outpost held a variety of uses for travelers. Most often they were used for the sake of teleportation to and from ones’ home nation. “Saint and Seraph… an odd alignment of names” Saint remarked. “Let us not forget of Lumiere and his light” Seraph added. He took a good long look at the wyvern. This creature did not cause a strain on his mind as did the others in the area. “Is something wrong?” Saint asked. Seraph, being a good distance behind Saint with Lumiere, faltered a step. “Sorry if I surprised you. Lumiere and I have always been as one. When you were looking so intensely at him I could feel it.”
Seraph decided to inquire to Saint about the troubles that plagued him. “You say you get this feeling from all the normal creatures around here?” Saint asked in summary. “Not all of them, but many. Some of the Orcs too” Seraph responded. Saint’s brow furrowed as he contemplated. “I’d have pegged that as a Beastmaster trait. They can persuade animals to fight for them. I’ve never heard of one coercing a Beastman though.” Seraph sighed dejectedly. He thought that one well traveled may have had a more knowledgeable insight. Lumiere playfully bumped into him. Again, Saint responded to his wyverns’ perception.
“I’ll tell you what… when I’m running around I’ll keep my ear to the ground for anything that sounds like what you’ve told me. There are many crazy things in this world. Someplace should have an explanation for you. Have you ever thought of adventuring yourself? It may foster you an answer.” Seraph considered the irony of the question, that it took his friends all day to no avail, but this man a short jaunt to the outpost to seriously pursue it. “I have, actually” Seraph said aloud. “I haven’t found a job suitable for me.” Saint shook his head. “That shouldn’t stop you.” Saint looked to the sky again. “I think I’ve been out much later than intended. If I’m ever back this way I’ll keep an eye out for you. Take Care Seraph.” As if on cue Saint, Lumiere, and Seraph saluted in the individual styles of Bastok, a Wyvern, and San d’Oria respectively. A small laugh echoed while Saint and Lumiere were teleported back to Bastok.

In the following weeks Seraph took up his research with renewed fervor. His friends began coming to him, concerned with the questions he was asking regarding the animus of wildlife and Beastman alike, spouting theory on Altana’s blessing and how everything was interconnected. The detachment that Seraph had kept hidden from his own people was now coming to the forefront. He also inquired many times after the history of Dragoons.
Saint also returned on several occasions. He’d heard word of a suit of armor supposedly worn by Dragoons in ages past. Seraph quickly relayed any information he had to forward the search of his new friend. Keeping true to his word the two also spoke at length about other prevalent abilities demonstrated by adventurers. Seraph heard tales of Dancers who used their bodies as magical conduits to produce all manner of unique effects. The power of the Dark Knight was heralded as they risked their own lives to boost the destructive output against their foes. He was regaled of fighters from the Far East known as Ninja and Samurai. The deadly accuracy of Rangers and the soothing songs of Bards. Still, none sounded as though they shared the same troubles Seraph. Saint sighed. “I didn’t want to mention this, because this sounds nuts.” Seraph perked up at this odd admission. “What is it?”
“Recently, I saw a Taru. You know… little guys, huge magical punch? I was out in the Altepa Desert. Robes, staff, usual mage get up, right? We got into a fight. Lumiere and I were doing alright. We’ve got a lot of practice out there. Anticans can be trouble…” Seraph shook his head. “What are Anticans?” “Well… think of an ant, make them into a Beastman, and give them natural armor plating. Anyhow… several of its friends showed up to express their… displeasure. Next thing I know I feel the wind pick up speed. I could have sworn it was a dust storm, but from overhead dove Garuda.”
Seraph’s mouth gaped in surprise. Garuda was one the Terrestrial Avatars. Each one of them literally embodied a force of nature. Garuda was the Terrestrial Avatar wielding the power of Wind. “My sentiment exactly” Saint continued.  “I didn’t know what to think… so I just kept attacking. The Taru kept up a barrage of magic, both harmful and helpful. I figured we just had a really good patch of luck.” Seraph reclined in his chair hearing all this. “That is an awfully outrageous tale.”
Saint leaned forward. “There’s more. When all the opponents were defeated the Taru walked up next to me. He waved at Garuda, and she just vanished. The Taru was standing there and said ‘That’s a lot of strain to keep her out… but Anticans hate wind.’ This Taru is a Summoner. Apparently he goes around making pacts with all the Terrestrial Avatars to call on their power at his will. Summoners are to Windhurst what Dragoons are to San d‘Oria, in a sense.”
“I talked with him about this” Saint carried on. “His power, though awesome to behold, also comes from without. However, thus far it is the closest thing I’ve heard to what you’ve told me. He asked me to pass along a phrase… ‘He who is One, yet Many’. Does that bear any significance for you?” Seraph shook his head. “Not particularly.” Saint stood up. “I was afraid of that. Oh well… Given any more thought to being an adventurer?”

Seraph smiled. “Perhaps… I’m still not certain just which path I should take. You’ve told me all these spectacular stories of fighters and mages… but even now I still haven’t heard a tale that just… clicked.” Saint nodded. “I can understand.” With that Saint and Seraph both stood and exited the Lions Springs’ Tavern. Upon this parting Saint left Seraph with the means to send word to his Moghouse in the event he was ever in the area of Bastok.
Seraph went home that night deep in thought. He’d reached out through Saint to no avail. It looked as though he would have to leave San d’Oria after all. He packed up as much as he could, found a vendor, and sold what he owned. He guised himself in a way to tear him away from his past. In line with this new persona he stole upon the rare airship leading straight to Bastok. His first order of business was doing as he promised and sending word to Saint. Next he asked around and found the immigration office. Paying all the necessary fees left him with aught but ten gil. “Well well…” said Mythily, the immigration officer. “A new adventurer. A pleasure to have you in Bastok. Here… take this to get you started.” Seraph bowed, the action feeling a little out of place.

Mythily shook her head. “A Bastokan Elvaan Thief. Of all the things I thought I’d never see.”

The Road to Aht Urhgan