Seventh of the considerations a Blue Mage must make: A companion in battle turns against you, raising a weapon to attack.
Having cast the Whitegate open with his own power Seraph stood in the Imperial Plaza, livid, seething with monsters’ rage, and called out the leader of the Immortals. The essence of every spell he had absorbed shuddered to be contained within his form. At once restrained yet ready to erupt. Stones cracked under his footsteps. Some, in the archways, fell out of place, but were reduced to sand before striking the cobblestones below. A number of Imperial soldiers formed a perimeter between Seraph and the Imperial Center, but kept a good distance from the raging Blue Mage. Their uncertainty was palpable.
“Useless” came the voice of Yasfel, one of Raubahn’s more direct subordinates. “If you cannot stand your ground, flee. Leave the problems of the Immortals to their own kind.” At his cue, a number of Immortals appeared as if from nowhere. “What brings you here, Abomination?” Yasfel taunted.
Seraph looked about. Many of the regular guards remained. A ring of Immortals sat as a second ring of offense outside of them. Seraph restrained his energy, but prepared a spell that would not surge immediately. “I’m just here for Raubahn, Yasfel. Bring him to me, or take me to him, let us conclude our business, and I shall go.” Seraph’s voice came out a low guttural growl.
“Raubahn has no dealings with your ilk. As the one you slayed was not worth his time, likewise, he has no need to sully his hands with you” Yasfel continued dismissively.
Seraph scoffed. “Funny thing, that, as I was of such import before when he ambushed me. I think, now that I’m prepared for the lot of you, he should really face me himself.”
Yasfel remained at attention as the Immortals had a way of doing, hands held at the small of his back. The Imperial guards continued to distance themselves from Seraph. The Immortals were too calm, especially Yasfel.
The barrage of spells would have reduced Seraph to naught if he not acted preemptively. He lacked the subtly of proper Immortal training, but his power was comparable to those many years his senior. Long ago Seraph had been made a fool of by Sabotenders, a species of mobile cacti. His return to the Altepa desert to steal their power had been one of his proudest moments. As Seraph drew on the memories a spray of a thousand needles connect true with all his would be assailants.
Yasfel was the only one to see what was coming. It helped him little. In a burst of aggression Seraph amped up the potential of his spell, causing more damage than normal. The non-magical guards fled. The Immortals were knocked out of completing their spells. A spray of one thousand needles to contend with shifted their priorities. While not severe, this warranted their attentions to a number of healing magics. Yasfel sent out a wall of flames to stop Seraph, not as phased by the onslaught as his minions. Seraph faltered but nary a step, and he grabbed Yasfel by the collar of his uniform. “I survived the full focus of my attack Yasfel. You will have to try much harder to stop me. I thank you though… the little Wacampamoura were most reluctant to use…” Attuning with Yasfel’s energy, he understood the name of the spell. “Thermal Pulse. I suppose I didn’t need them after all.”
Yasfel’s eyes widened. “…you couldn’t have… that’s impossible! You can’t pull a spell from a still-living subject! Especially not another Blue Mage!”
Seraph smiled behind the veil of his keffiyeh. “Perhaps you are as good as dead? I told you once to go to Hell, Yasfel” he said, pulling him in close. “You should have listened. Hell is here.”
His subordinates having retreated, Yasfel was left alone to suffer the brunt of Seraph’s attack. Terror was a part of this game. The Immortal lieutenant was completely right. To date no Blue Mage had learned a spell from another, save for techniques specific from the Mamool Ja people. If Seraph was viewed as an Abomination, he thought he’d use it to his advantage. It’s not his fault if onlookers can’t tell Fire-based magics apart.
Leaving the Immortal officer singed the entry way, Seraph pressed on towards the palace proper. It seemed Yasfel was overconfident, and brought to bear all his cards at once. There was little resistance. The further in. No other Immortals seemed to be present. Many of the other guards simply did not want to risk a confrontation with a rampaging Blue Mage. It was not until he breached the palace itself that a viable threat revealed itself. While the Immortals followed Raubahn and Yasfel, the more traditional soldiers followed the commands of the Serpent Generals.
An arrow passed between Seraph’s legs, and planted itself right in his path. This expert shot would have come from none other than the Galeserpent General Najelith. Even tracing the trajectory, he could not find from where she made her nest. A regionally renowned Ranger, she was responsible for the Empire’s archery and marksmanship. She set a high standard.
The leader of the band was the first to catch up with him. “You should feel honored, Brother” came a greeting from the Elvaan Rujhadeen. Known as the Skyserpent General, his overall responsibility was for the well being of the army. “We are not often mobilized against any singular threat, save the advancing Beastmen hordes when we are besieged. It is telling that the Empress sees you as a greater threat to have pulled us from our positions.” While he ascribed to being a Paladin, he was much different that Curilla. He wielded a massive two-handed sword. He attacked as heartily as any front line combatant. Readying himself, Seraph turned to face Rujhadeen.
“Seeing how he left poor Yasfel and the rest of the palace guard, I couldn’t blame her.” Seraph came around blades first, striking at the voice behind him. Connecting with a raised shield, he realized too late that somehow the Springserpent General had flanked him. Mihli Aliapoh, a White Mage, was combat oriented. Bearing a club and shield she would not be left on the back lines when the fighting came. “If the circumstances were different, I’d be thanking you Immortal.”
Putting as much force as he could, Seraph broke the standoff and physically pushed the Mithra mage back. “I am no Immortal.”
“With that level of carnage, you could have fooled me.” Galadar had caught up to the group and held his position in the doorway. The Flameserpent General was aptly titled, as he was more than casually pyromaniacal. As a Black Mage he was never seen using non-Fire magics, and he opted to use a scythe rather than staff. “I’m not certain what you toasted that tosser with, but I’d love to test it against my own flames.” Jamming his blade into the ground, Galadar began focusing a spell with both hands.
“Galadar, stand down!” Rujhadeen ordered.
A shadow flickered over the mage as he prepared his attack. Seraph looked up, and jumped towards Galadar in the nick of time. In his place, an ornately equipped Galka landed, burying his fist into the ground where Seraph had stood. None other than the Stoneserpent General himself, Zazarg never failed to impress on the battlefield. It is well known that he once fought in the Crystal War of the Middle Lands, by far making him the eldest and most experience of the Generals.
Seraph used the clearance to aim a spell at Galadar. Its force was enough to both distract Galadar and cause him to lose his footing. In rage he removed his scythe and aimed to charge the Blue Mage but found himself stuck in place, hampered by the side effect of Seraph’s latest spell. This didn’t escape the notice of Zazarg who was wheeling around with another attack. Something made him pause, and retreat slightly from his quarry.
Rujhadeen shook his head. “That’s one way to get Galadar to comply I suppose.” The Elvaan watched the Hume struggle in vain. He then looked to Zazarg. “What’s got you on edge?”
Zazarg seemed pensive, an odd expression for a Galka. “I know that Blue Mages use enemy techniques. The move he just used… I haven’t seen that trick since the war.”
“What’s so strange about that?” Mihli asked.
“The creature that used it was wiped out by the Beastmen. They were mostly found near Bastok, in Grauberg. The peistes they’d…” Zazarg looked like he was about to wretch from the memory. “…they’d regurgitate digestive fluids in desperation. I can’t count how many times I had to keep new recruits shielded while they got themselves dislodged.”
“Gah!” Galadar was able to move again, and stumbled a step before regaining combat footing.
Zazarg continued without paying his Hume companion any mind. “This Blue Mage is, age-wise, a child. There is no way he should have this technique. I have no idea how, but he knows what would otherwise be a lost art. We should be careful.”
Vying for a formation, the other Generals fell into place. Seraph stood in the middle, undaunted, allowing the Generals to form up to their comfort. He began to chuckle aloud.
The hotheaded Hume was the first to respond. “You think you’re going to best us HERE of all places?!” Galadar demanded. Pouring all he could into it, Galadar hastily cast a high level spell. Seraph put the sword in his left hand back on his hip. Raising it, he stole the wellspring of Galadar’s magic power using a technique from the marid. Galadar was now without any magical power to utilize. No one noticed save for Galadar himself. Surprised, he tried to cast another spell. “You think you’re going to overtake me? Don’t flatter yourself!” Galadar looked physically strained. To continue bluffing the other Generals Seraph used one of his own fire elemental spells. Normally artillery from Orcish war machines, Seraph’s magic was the semblance of a fist sized gem, molten red and volatile. Galadar tried repeatedly to ignite an explosion, but he no longer had a spell to work with.
Najelith appeared over Galadar’s shoulder with an arrow trained on Seraph.
Again, Seraph chuckled.
“The boy seems to be cracking, sir” Zazarg reported.
“Forgive me” Seraph said aloud. “I merely thought your archer would be shorter.”
The three Generals already looking that direction split their attention partially toward their Ranger companion.
“Up until now,” Seraph continued, “four members, four races. Now there is another Hume. I was secretly hoping for one General from every race.”
The only response came from Galadar attempting to save face by throwing another attack. He did not have enough within him to cast the simplest spell.
Mihli attempted to speak under her breath. “Tarrru-lith would be sort of cute.”
For the briefest of moments both Zazarg and Galadar audibly stifled laughter. Najelith merely sighed, her response being a tightened bowstring.
“Hold” Rujhadeen said. “There is no telling what the energy will do at this point. Galadar, stop feeding into the Blue Mages’ working.”
“Nuts to that!” he screamed. “I… still have… control of my… spell.”
“Just throw another you foolish boy!” Zazarg chimed in.
“He can’t” Najelith reported. “I believe he got desperate and used Manafont, having not restored his magical reserves as he should have. I believe the Blue Mage absorbed the technique, and Galadar’s spell, somehow.”
Manafont, the Black Mage technique, was short lived, very powerful, and could only be used once every few days. Each job had a technique of this nature. The Flameserpent General squandered his. And now, the Serpent Generals were left to think that he had seized the spell itself. Not wasting an opportunity Seraph looked his opponents over. “…we can’t have this a stalemate. I am in quite a rush…” Seraph said, speech slipping into a less human scheme. Eyeing the sphere in his hand he turned it casually. Focusing, he gave it a more flexible cohesion. When he was satisfied…
…he took a large bite.
The Generals stood in stunned silence.
The Blue Mage in their midst, pleased, savored another portion.
“By Prrromathia…” came a surprised obscenity from Mihli. “Is he eating pure magic?”
Seraph nibbled a bit more.
Switching from an offensive to defensive stance, Zazarg shouted “The Immortals can’t do THAT.”
Playing up his act Seraph buried his face into his “newfound treat”.
Najelith slacked in her stance, the arrow she held with confidence a moment before fell to the ground.
It was a simple matter, drawing the energy back in that he had put out. The horror rippling through the Serpent Generals would prove to be solid leverage.
Rujhadeen looked down the length of his sword, Algol. “That may be, but this one just did.”
Galadar was most shocked, and seemed to still be trying to get a spell to launch at the Blue Mage.
Seraph let his eyes flare and laughed a little. “For the record, I’m no Immortal.”
Rujhadeen stepped forward. “You’ve proven yourself a violent entity, Im- Mage. But I know your kind, and such a thing cannot be done.” The other Generals looked to each other aside from their commander. Seraph said nothing. After a short time, Rujhadeen looked around subtly, seeking confirmation. Though he sounded confident, it seemed he was unsure of his own words.
Rujhadeen was right, and Seraph knew it. He wasn’t about to tell them that though. Better to press his bluffs while they were off kilter. The time came to stack the deck. Allowing his voice to slip into its aggressive tone he spoke. “I’m not here for you” he began.
“…certainly fooled us…” Zazarg muttered. Eyes darting, a sudden lance of fire shot out from Seraph’s hand past the Stoneserpent General, though it singed part of his hair. Mihli darted over, patting it out, leaving the Galka suddenly fretting with her to leave him be.
Rujhadeen held up a hand to his companions, and they regressed to their attentive stances. “Then why go through all this?”
Seraph’s voice was amplified by his magic. “Where is Raubahn?”
The Skyserpent General eyed the Elvaan before him curiously, and looked around. The Immortal commander was not one to slack in his duties. Ever. In fact, there were few occasions in which Raubhan would not overstep his bounds always proclaiming to be “serving the Empress”. Some of these had encroached on Rujhadeen’s own delegated tasks. The fact that any attack on the city and citizenry, the guards, the breaching of the Imperial Whitegate, an all-out casting aside of the Immortals, the shifting stalemate with the Serpent Generals themselves… any one of these potential threats to the Empress would have brought Raubahn out. The fact that they happened in conjunction and by a rouge Blue Mages’ hand without so much as a raising of the hairs on ones’ neck, thus giving the presence of the Commander away… it did leave one glaring question. Rujhadeen’s blade dropped from a ready stance to where the swords’ ornate tip touched the ground. “Where is Raubahn?” Rujhadeen echoed.
Seraph felt the resonance of Blue Magic before anyone saw the source. Yasfel was shambling along, still in pursuit. His gait was ragged, but he would know full well that the spell in his hand was a bluff. Unless… still feeling Galadar’s essence he let much of it flow into the spell in his hand and it flared. This snapped Rujhadeen out of his stance. His sudden attentiveness surged the other Generals into action, and they surrounded Seraph. He raised the spell above his head and began letting it whip out seemingly at random.
Before rounding the corner Yasfel shouted “Do not hold back Galadar! Do not give The Beast a chance to…” As he came into view he stood dumb, looking at the swirling pyroclasm above. He quickly realized that the Flameserpent General was not in control of this spell, but he could feel his essence within it. “You fool! What have you managed to do now?!”
Galadar spun about. “Me? You’re blaming me for this?! You can’t control even your own!”
Rujhadeen shouted across the argument. “Yasfel? Where is Raubahn? Why has he not so much as made an appearance?”
Yasfel became uncharacteristically tight lipped.
“This is not the time for your secrets, Mage” screamed Zazarg.
Yasfel spoke hesitantly. “We had accepted that Seraph had been slain, but Raubahn was not convinced without a body. He knows how… resourceful adventurers are.” He came further into the room. It was obvious that his words veiled the truth. He continued undaunted. “We did not expect him to be alive, let alone return here. Raubahn searches a-” having almost spoken too much, he silenced himself.
“Oh… so he does know!” Seraph screamed. The fire above his head began focusing into a tight orb above, honed in to attack Yasfel.
The Generals looked to each other, uncertain how to react. Rujhadeen, ever the commander, attempted to stabilize the situation. “Immortal!” he shouted. The spell only grew in power. Was this the Potential he’d heard whispered about? “Seraph!” The spell stopped condensing, and Seraph looked at Rujhadeen. “It is the way of the Immortals to solve their own problems, is it not?”
Seraph touched the veil of his Keffiyeh, remembering the horror that was wrought to wear his garb. “So I’ve been told.”
Rujhadeen nodded. “I assume then that you were considered a threat as well. The evidence in the wake of your return… well… it speaks volumes of itself. I’d say the claim was valid.”
Seraph looked about. As he laughed the flame above him rippled.
Rujhadeen continued. “I do not know why death is the only path you adhere to. But if Raubahn set you on it, and if he made himself your reaper, then I have no problem adhering to the ideals of the Immortals.” He sheathed his sword. Confused, the other Generals relaxed their stances.
“Rujhadeen… what are you doing?!” exclaimed Yasfel. “Slay this abomination! Serpent Generals… this is your duty to the Empire!”
“It is said in the Scriptures of Balrahn…” Rujhadeen began.
“‘…a fire to fight a fire…'” Galadar said, giving a side eye to Seraph’s spell.
“‘…a thief to catch a thief…'” Mihli followed.
“‘…a beast to kill a beast…'” Zazarg finished.
One by one the Serpent Generals holstered their weapons. Save for Najelith. She held her aim steady.
“Najelith…?” Rujhadeen said.
She looked back and forth between the two Blue Mages. The first holding in his minds’ grip an attack fueled by the essence of her companion. The second, an official in her army, brutalized by the first. Looking to Yasfel she felt nothing but livid rage pouring off of him. Thought to be of the superior stock of the Empresses’ personal guard, here he was battered and nearly broken. The other… this… ‘Seraph’… for all the destruction he caused, he was at peace. The fires he held were constant, but cool. They did not reach out beyond his control. He was not consumed by his power, or driven mad by what she could only see as vengeance.
She had heard stories of the Immortals. She remembered other promising young members, suddenly vanishing. Had they too been deemed “unfit” or “dangerous”? How many young souls had been stamped out simply because of the whims of a few? If after all this time they could not be more discerning in selecting the strongest… then perhaps it was time that the Immortals learned a hard lesson. Yasfel’s weakness was apparent. Raubahn left to attend to his own concerns. The Immortals needed to take a good hard look at themselves. Her keen eyes told her one thing: Seraph would make a poignant reflection.
Seraph watched carefully. Rangers were a dangerous lot, and Seraph knew that striking her would shift all focus to him. Though quiet and watchful, she was beloved.
Najelith address the younger Elvaan directly. “Seraph. You are a Blue Mage, not an Immortal. You make that distinction.” Though not a question, Seraph nodded. She continued. “The road of the Immortals is… ‘time honored’. They would keep what is old to suit them. You have not given up on your future. You have not succumbed to the fabled Beast Within. Blue Magic is a part of you, not the other way around. ” She lowered her bow, returning her arrow to its quiver. “Show them the future. Pave the way that they forget to walk.”
“You’ve all gone mad…” Yasfel whispered.
“Oh… I don’t think so” said Galadar. “How many times have you personally told us to refrain from getting into ‘Immortal matters’?”
“Silence Galadar… this is no time for your prattling…” snapped Yasfel.
“Gahahaha!” Zazarg began laughing, cutting the Immortal off. “Let this be a lesson to you. You want to handle problems yourself? Fine. Want to break in on our duties? So be it…”
“…but if you want the clout, handle the troubles yourself” Mihli said.
“Blasphemous…” Yasfel said, backing away. “Your heads will roll for this!”
“Serpent Generals!” Rujhadeen’s voice erupted.
Yasfel froze. “You wouldn’t dare…!” he spat.
Rujhadeen waved a hand dismissively. “Clear the area. Give the two some space.”
Yasfel looked to each of the Serpent Generals as they walked away in opposing directions, both giving the two Blue Mages a wide berth, but also establishing a perimeter. “What are you doing?”
Rujhadeen neared Seraph, and as he did so the renegade Mage withdrew the cloud of fire magic, darkening the Skyserpent Generals’ face. “It is time for the Immortals to deal with the Immortals’ problems.”
Yasfel scoffed. “The stripling uses Blue Magic, but he isn’t one of us, just as he said” he said while continuing to back away. A sudden strike against a wall by Zazarg down the hall stopped Yasfel cold.
Rujhadeen looked to Seraph, then spoke again. “I was at the Shararat Teahouse recently, procuring a bit of a special blend. The proprietor was elated to have his son recently returned to him and we had a short talk. From the one who watched out for his boy he shared a most unusual phrase. You should like this Yasfel, as you almost said it verbatim. ‘Blue Magic does not an Immortal make’.”
Seraph turned and looked at Rujhadeen. Seraph blinked in surprise several times. Something about Elvaan military leaders was leaving him to think to be wary of them in the future.
Looking between the two Yasfel shouted out “What are you going on about?!”
The two Elvaan focused again onto the retracting Immortal. “I ask you then… what makes an Immortal? If its not Blue Magic, is it rank?” Opening his hand to Seraph he continued. “This one is fully garbed as one of your order. To all the world, he is an Immortal. Perhaps it is skill? If so, he has bested you. Is it, truly, Immortality? He has fought Raubahn and lived to tell of it. In fact, he has returned to bring the match to an end. ‘…a beast to kill a beast…'” he echoed. “No matter how I look… this may be our house, but he came in through your door.” With that, he proceeded to walk away to reinforce the imposed perimeter. Before he was out of earshot he let echo one last phrase. “Immortal, I leave you to your own devices.”
To whom that was directed was to be left between the two of them.
After “discussions” with Yasfel again left him in a ruined heap, Seraph approached Rujhadeen. “It seems Raubahn continually returned to the Jade Sepulcher after our battle.” Nodding, Galadar and Mihli worked together transfer Seraph to the battlegrounds.
“Good riddance” muttered the Hume mage.
Seraph was finally able to relax. He found wide range attacks lacking in elegance, so he had not practiced how to fight large groups. He was not certain he was going to make it through that scenario. Some creative license saw him through.
He no longer needed to fear a Beast within. He was not broken as some of the other Immortals had been. He felt and saw no abjuration as Raubahn professed. He was not perfect. But he accepted his power and worked with it, and it aligned itself with him fully. The souls he had harnessed into spells surged according to his will, and he listened as they cried out for Raubahn’s power to be added to their own.
His body strained. There was an effort for his power to spill forth, taking him over, and he had to admit that his own will would not have kept it in line at this point. He became aware of the clothes he wore. Kushdeel’s attire was doing what it was supposed to do. It helped to keep the Beast in check.
‘The wise general employs his enemies as well as his allies’” Seraph recalled, the words of Schultz having more resonance than ever before.Tiberiusara had helped clear out the task that led him to his charuqs. They bore him proudly across the ground. Lemochu, Nabasheen, and Zakurai, and Zendak journeyed with him as he took the Keffiyeh from his fallen sister. The Setting Sun gave her very life for it. Shoro, in her ceaseless grace, gave him the raw capital to fund the rest of his attire. Clearite helped him rise to the skill necessary to use all these tools to their fullest. With and through them he focused more honed strength than ever. Allslove, Onyx, and Twinsevens used their respective might in returning him back to this place. Moghat stood with him, even from afar.
He held the power torn from his enemies and was protected, even now, by his friends. He looked to his right hand at the sword Rai had given to him. He looked to his left. It lay empty. It held naught but void. It was a veritable abyss, much as where Saint had departed to.
Seraph remembered his old friend and the days where they would sit back in San d’Oria and just talk about the world. Where Seraph would listen to stories about the Vana’diel through Saint’s eyes, taking to the skies with Lumiere. Seraph’s power fluctuated for a moment. He realized he let his rage get the better of him, and let his power drive him. Somewhere out there Saint was on his own, trying to gain enough power to protect Seraph from himself.
Seraph finally felt he could stand up for himself. So now, he would just have to catch up to Saint and show him what he could do. Seraph didn’t have to come back here. There were other avenues to having the power to find his far gone friend. He could have easily stayed on the mainland and followed one of them. But he was here now. There was a challenger before him. And would it do any good to shy away?
“Hell no” Seraph said aloud, phantoms of Rai and Saint’s voices echoing in his mind.
The powers of this place inhibited the memories of his other training. He could not draw upon it, and was left to fight as he had before. He would not be at his best, but he would have sword and spell to wield, to face a threat as dangerous as himself. It would be just enough. It would have to be.
As Seraph redoubled his focus, his power exploded, shaking the hall he now stood in, causing the water to ripple in time with his breathing. At some point the knot holding his hair had come undone, and now his hair flowed freely under the cloth of his keffiyeh.
Cut a path straight through. Keep walking. Grow stronger. Find Saint.
Seraph began his normal process to fighting. Quickening his motions, boosting his defense, augmenting his attack. Blade held out to his side, he managed his weavings until his full power was restored. Seraph closed his eyes, and saw himself in front of a wall of water. The form of his Beast stood ready in the reflection. Behind it, moving in time with them both, Seraph could see the souls of every monster he had to pry the makings of a spell out of.
‘…he who is one, yet many…’ echoed the voice of the Shiva, Terrestrial Avatar of elemental Ice. ‘. Seraph couldn’t help but smile. He couldn’t help but laugh. The laugh roiled through the arena. Soon, the monsters echoed their pleasure with Seraph’s.
~A companion in battle turns against you, raising a weapon to attack”~
~ “Nothing occurs without good reason. If I can find the cause, I can avert the results.”~