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 particularly strong wave struck the boat, knocking Seraph off his chain of memories. With no way to check the time below deck he went over to the Mithra saleswoman. “Hello therrre! I’m Pashi Maccaleh, rrrepresentative of the Fisherrrman’s Guild. Something I can help you with?” Among Humes, Galka, Tarutaru, and Elvaan, the Mithra are also among the favored ‘Children of Altana’. Their race bears many characteristics of felines, probably smaller cats. They possessed tails and ears with balance and hearing to match.
“Good day Pashi” Seraph began. “I was actually wondering about the time.” Pashi nodded and leaned back to a tube and moved a small cap. “Time, Captain?” she spoke. A somewhat inaudible reply came back. Pashi nodded and recapped the tube. “Three hours until the new day” Seraph spoke. Pashi was surprised and her face showed it. Seraph tapped the end of his ear. “They may not be Mithra ears, but they still hear quite well My Dear.” The Mithra laughed, purring a little while doing so.
“As you hearrrd we still have some time beforrre getting to Aht Urrrhgan. Why not stay and talk with me?” Seraph nodded. “I’m happy to be stuck below deck in the company of one so lovely. What would perk up those ears of yours?” Pashi seemed taken aback by the stream of flattery from the Elvaan before her. “You’rrre the first I’ve seen on boarrrd in some time. An adventurer by the looks of you. Tell me of yourrr journeys.” Seraph laughed lightly. “I haven’t been adventuring long. It has been only a few weeks in fact. My immigration to Bastok is still recent…”

Left with only ten gil to his name, Seraph wandered the streets of Bastok. He found himself stumbling around. This place was unfamiliar to him. Mythily had given him an Adventurer’s Coupon and told him to find a city guard to assist him in redeeming it. Along with that he was given a map of the city and the surrounding areas. He found himself referring to it often. He followed the path south from the municipal area, called the Metalworks, into the Bastok Mines.
Seraph found this city a direct contrast to San d’Oria. The Humes and Galka proceeded with a determination that clashed with the air of dignified relaxation exhibited by many Elvaan. The presence of stone was significantly higher than that of wood. There was no forest to deafen the suns rays. Also, the fact that two cultures lived side by side astounded Seraph. Looking again at his map Seraph marked his position. He looked around, but to no real use. Everything was new to him. He had no way to truly get his bearings. “Seraph?”
The voice came from a figure standing in full plate mail. It shown a deep blue like a sky during morning twilight. A visor shaped as a dragon’s beak obsured Seraph’s view. It took him a moment to connect who it was. “Saint! I see you got my message.” His conversation partner looked up at him. With the sun able to light part of his face Saint’s smile was now plain to see. “No… I didn’t. I just got back into town and was restocking. What are you doing here?” Seraph took a step back and lifted his arms. “Can’t you tell?” Saint looked over his Elvaan friend. “You’re kidding…” He began to laugh. “An Elvaan Thief. You’re just going against every norm, aren’t you?” Seraph nodded. “Just about. New day, new life.”
“A brand new face in Bastok. So… what have you done?” Saint asked. Seraph held up his map and his coupon. “Remained thoroughly lost I’m afraid.” Saint pointed a thumb over his shoulder. “You were almost there. That woman over there can redeem the coupon for you. Go trade it to her. I’ll stick around. We’ve got to get you going, eh?” Seraph nodded. While he walked away he could hear Saint holding a conversation, but with who he wasn’t certain.
“Excuse me… I was told that you would accept this?” Seraph held out the coupon before him. “Ah… a new adventurer I see. I am Arva, and if I can assist you, you need only ask.” Seraph smiled weakly. “My thanks Arva. I am… unfamiliar with this lifestyle.” She smiled disarmingly. “All must begin someplace. I imagine your journey is rougher than most.” “How do you mean?” Arva’s brow furrowed, showing that she wished to pick her words carefully. “Among some there is bad blood. Humes and Elvaan… there is still some distrust. Of course, I do speak of mindsets that are dying out. This age belongs to people such as you: Journeying the world and drawing out its mysteries. Fortunately there are many who respect kindness and ability regardless of the form it takes. I’m sure you will find such people along your way.”

Seraph nodded. “Oh…” Arva opened a small box on her hip. She placed the coupon inside and brought out a few coins. “I’m authorized to provide small stipends to new adventurers for our nation. May it serve you well Seraph.” Seraph bowed respectfully and returned to Saint.
“Getting along well I trust?” Saint asked. “It appears so” Seraph replied. “It seems I have many prejudices to overcome myself.” Saint shook his head and laughed. “If you are considered prejudice I hope the entire world is like you. I have a gift. Here.” Saint extended his hand. In it was a sparkling pearl. “A link pearl I assume?” Seraph took hold of it. He’d heard of these baubles before. He was uncertain of the exact properties, but there were shelled organisms which had the ability to relay spoken word. When the shell produced a pearl anyone who held one was able to tune in to the same channel of thought. Many organizations both personal and formal used linkshells. And apparently, Seraph was now among that number.
“Do you know how to tune in?” asked Saint. Seraph nodded, and with a bit of focus voices began filtering in to his ears. The chatter was mostly benign until…“Everyone say hello to Seraph!” rang out Saint’s voice. A number of greetings and questions resounded in reply. “Hi Seraph!” “Hello Seraph! How are you?” “New to the adventuring game?” “Wherrre ya from?” “Yay! A new face! We’ll have a blastaru!!!” Seraph focused his own voice to answer to each voice in kind. “Hello everyone. I am well. Yes, I am in fact new. I am just starting out, and officially I am from Bastok. As for having a blast I will leave that to the providence of the mages. I am just a Thief.” Speaking out with his mind across a linkshell was a new experience
The question and answer phase continued on for some time. Saint proceeded to lead Seraph around town, making sure to go at a slow enough pace as not to lose his companion when he was overwhelmed with responding to every stimulus. Seraph was introduced to locales and locals. Shopkeepers, gate guards, teleportation workers, auction houses and residential areas. It was a whirlwind tour of everything Bastok offered.
“Well, I guess it’s time to find out if it’s just the monsters at home or if it’s all of them. What do you say to some fighting outside of town?” Seraph eyed his equipment. “Sure… this certainly is not what I was raised to consider ‘ready for combat’”. Saint nodded. “I fully understand. We all start off like this. You’ll get into your own step sooner than later, especially with me to give you a leg up.” Seraph could do nothing but smile at this. Back in San d’Oria he had to deal with the limitations of his upbringing. While readily aware of much of the world, San d’Orian pride emphasized the power of their Paladins. It was the stifling arrogance that made them somewhat blind to all other paths.
A pair of voices rang out in both Seraph’s ears and head at the same time. Looking to where he physically heard them come from he saw two people waving. Saint made a beeline towards them, saluting to them as he neared. “Thane, Akacia… this is Seraph. Seraph, let me formally introduce you the linkshell leaders.” As he was introduced, at first to Thane and then Akacia, he nodded to them both in turn. Thane, a Paladin, was backed by Akacia, his apparent love. A long lasting couple, both on and off the field of battle he was certain. The conversation between the three carried on, and Seraph checked and rechecked his equipment, adding tidbits of information when he could. However, he began to feel a very ominous presence.
Seraph kept his eyes open. From the entry leading from South Gustaberg he saw what he thought was the source of this feeling. Very ornate armor adorned this fighter. Between his studies and Saint’s stories this must have been one of the Samurai, trained in Far Eastern combat techniques. Sensing a lull in the conversation Seraph turned back to his group. They had noticed he was distracted. In response, he motioned over at the Samurai. From the visored shadow of his helmet Saint’s smile broadened. “Rai!” he called out.
The infamous Rai. His reputation proceeded him. Saint had spoken of him many times. At the sound of his moniker the Samurai turned with a practised certainty and progressed towards the group. Seraph noticed that one hand was resting on his blades’ handle at all times. Not at all unfamiliar with the bond between a warrior and their weapon, it was all too easy to see how much time Rai was spent honing his skill. The battle hardened duo saluted one another. Saint offered an introduction which Seraph punctuated with a bow. Rai nodded in reply. Some would have viewed this as being given a cold shoulder, however Saint had earlier explained: “Rai is the type to let his blade do the talking for him.” As there was no need of blades being drawn, truly, there was nothing to say. The gathering soon broke apart. Thane and Akacia went their way, Rai his, leaving Saint and Seraph to head out on their way.
Saint took Seraph to South Gustaberg. There, Saint took ample care to show Seraph the ropes. All the while Lumiere was happy to see a familiar face. After some explanation he set Seraph loose on the unsuspecting creatures of the desolate plane. “Hey Seraph” Saint called out. “Hm?” Seraph’s reply was audible to the whole linkshell. Saint tapped one of his ears. “Oh… right” Seraph said, one-on-one this time. “Are you getting the same feeling from the creatures here?” Seraph stopped for a moment. “I am actually. The lizards less so, but everything else, yes.” Saint shook his head. “I still have no clue as to what it could be.” While contemplating a summons for Saint came across the linkshell. A nod and salute was the only exchange needed between the two. Saint was needed, and Seraph was able to fend for himself. The strain of battle was new to Seraph. His body soon grew tired. It had been a long session, and he decided to head back to town.
The journey through South Gustaburg was a short one. However, instead of Bastok Mines Seraph found himself in the Markets district. The evening bustle was something he had hoped to avoid. No matter. He was here now, and tired. Although… where was here? Seraph sat at a nearby fountain and opened his map. The sound of the water soothed him. He was reminded of the Cheval River back in East Ronfaure. The past and present flowed into Seraph’s exhaustion, and sleep claimed him.

“That’s all?” Pashi asked, a little upset. Seraph held his hands outstretched, defeated. “I don’t have any wild tales of felled creatures, dread demons, and narrow escapes. I’ve only been at this adventuring gig for, oh, a couple weeks now.” Pashi was flustered. “What?! How have you come so farrr in such a small span of time?” “With a lot of help from my friends.” Seraph recalled the many battles he’d taken part in so far. “Sometimes it hurts more than helps.”
He then looked around and noticed he was the only passenger aboard. “Pashi, why is this vessel so empty?” She began stroking her hair absentmindedly. “The Empirrre has long been seeking aid to fend off the horrrdes of Beastmen. Many of yourrr kind head off to become mercenaries on their behalf.” Seraph thought on this a moment. “Are the horrrdes so vile that so few return?” Pashi blinked as Seraph covered his mouth realizing what he had just done. The two shared in a hearty laugh. Through her tears she managed to stammer out “No… The Empirrre cares for those it claims. Including providing teleportation to and from Whitegate. After that, this ferrry truly becomes a long ride.”
Having recovered after a short while Pashi resumed the conversation. “Well, I haven’t seen many Elvaan on this boat. What takes you to Whitegate?” Pashi asks. Seraph sighed. “To be honest… a quest for power, or so I‘m told.” Pashi leaned forward on her shops’ counter. “More of yourrr short storrry?” Seraph nodded.

The sound of metal against metal awoke Seraph abruptly. “Are you well?” said the construct. “I am… well.” Seraph said in reply. “Who are you speaking to my friend?” came a voice from a distance down the stairs. “I know not” spoke the construct. It tilted it’s head quizzically at him, while the voices’ owner came and stood behind the construct. “Ah… a fellow Elvaan. It is good to see a brother in this city, no matter how far flung. I am Shamarhaan, Puppetmaster.” Shamarhaan bowed, and the construct mimicked the action. “I am Valkeng” said the construct introducing itself. Seraph stood and dusted himself off, introducing himself in kind.
“You are still new to this town, and the adventuring profession itself so I gathered?” asked Shamarhaan. “That I am” Seraph answered. “I’ve only just begun my travels in the past few days.” Shamarhaan nodded. “I see. What is it that brings you to Bastok young Thief?” “A friend is offering his assistance in figuring out what the stirrings in my mind portend.” Seraph regaled Shamarhaan of the feelings in his mind. The resonance he felt with the beasts of the land, of the inner struggle to escape his confines. Shamarhaan listened coldly, the color seeming to drain from his face on numerous occasions. “You have spoken to all the different families of adventurers in this land?” Seraph nodded. “And of the lands beyond?” Seraph thought carefully. “The only peoples with ways of lands beyond are the Samurai and Ninjas.”
“Tell me my young friend… where would you say I were from?” Seraph looked carefully first at Valkeng, then at Shamarhaan. The construction of Valkeng was an unprecedented sight to Seraph’s eyes. Shamarhaan’s clothing was completely foreign to him in a city full of foreign peoples and their cultures. Seraph shook his head. “I can’t tell at all. From your manners and speech to your name and… partner… I have no precedent in describing you.” Shamarhaan let a hearty laugh bellow.
“You have spoken of the fighters of the Far East. I have adopted the Near East as my home and its ways as my own. My abilities are those of a Puppetmaster. Valkeng is my Automaton. We work together as one to a variety of ends.” Valkeng danced about, responding in a mock joy of those who passed by. “There is much of the Near Eastern lands that are both ancient in their ways and modern in their application. If all the ways of this continent have given you no answer, perhaps it is time you looked beyond its borders.” Seraph listened overwhelmed by ample shock. This was a definite answer, something very tangible. “Shamarhaan… I give you my thanks. I hadn’t even heard of this land to explore. How would I get there?” Shamarhaan thought for a moment. “My… it has been some time since I’ve found myself traveling to Aht Urhgan Whitegate. These days I think it would behoove you to inquire to the Tenshodo out of Jeuno.” Seraph nodded with a fire in his eye. He tuned into the linkshell and pinned down Saint’s presence. “Saint… you wanted to get me to Jeuno? That’s become a priority. I have a lead.

Shamarhaan shook his head as Seraph walked away. “Goodbye Sweet Elvaan” came a voice from Valkeng, the automaton bowing as if a final farewell. “May Altana’s grace extend to he and I both” said Shamarhaan. “May she show mercy to that boy for the power he bears and forgive me for setting him down the path to harness it.” Shamarhaan had been desiring a plate of squid sushi for his next meal, but found himself suddenly lacking in appetite of such fare.

Where are you now?” came Saint’s voice. “Still in Bastok. I’m still trying to figure out how to get to Jeuno. However I thought I’d pick up an application for the Tenshodo while I’m here.” “Good idea. You know, I’m starting to think those ears of yours have more than physical hearing to them.” Saint’s laughter echoed in Seraph’s mind… a very odd sensation. “Tell you what… Warp out to Valkurm. I’ll be following you shortly.” Seraph sighed in his mind. “Saint…” “Don’t worry. There aren’t any cactuars out in the Dunes.” “Little pests…
“Cactuarrrs?” Pashi interrupted. Seraph ran a hand through his hair. “Are you familiar with them Pashi?” “Only vaguely.” “Ah, I see. Cactuars are cacti whose roots take the shape of what functions as legs. They also attained a level of sentience. Rather unusual beings to tell you the truth.” Pashi’s tail twitched wildly. “I’ll say. Why don’t you like them?” she asked. Seraph found something hard in his hair. He worked it out with care. “Because I’m still finding their needles in places I’d rather not have needles.” Seraph handed the almost invisible artifact to Pashi who held it with some apprehension.
Seraph stepped into his Moghouse. For adventurers these places acted as their own little havens. Rooms were available in every city, but there was nothing like the place you could call home. If nothing else this was advantageous enough to switch from private citizenship. Inside was Makar, his moogle attendant. Moogles were unique creatures. They looked almost like bear cubs except with catlike ears and bear like wings to keep them aloft. Of course, you can’t forget their distinctive pom-poms atop their heads. Always willing to help, Seraph was originally reluctant at Makar’s presence. However, after repeated talks Seraph was convinced that Makar accepted his role willingly. Since then he’d found a fast friend.
“Ah… good day Mr. Z-” Seraph waved his hand in the air. “Makar, we’ve been through this. Chosen names only.” Makar bowed, his wings flapping furiously. “So sorry Seraph. Are you heading out?” “Yes I am. I’ll be meeting Saint and heading towards Jeuno. I happened across a direction to explore. It looks as though I’m not the only one around that feels the life of fiends.” “Marvelous, kupo!” Makar darted around and helped to pack items into the carrying bags Seraph had acquired.
Seraph had a theory. It seemed that the more diminutive in size races came in the more likely they held some verbal tick. Makar seemed less likely to use a “Kupo!” except when very agitated, be it a good or bad source. Other moogles made it almost a form of punctuation. Some Tarutaru seemed… adamantaru ataru speaking-weaking in such fashion as to play into their societal wheelings, causing greataru strife in everyday dealings. Mithra held their Rs most curiously. The Humes seemed to speak casually, while the Elvaan (himself included) lacked such a setting overall. The Galka seemed to speak little, listen much.
“Hm… Ginger cookies, kupo?” Seraph looked at the small bag Makar was holding up. “Ah, I was wondering where those had gotten to. Hold onto a few if you’d like. I’m not sure if they’ll survive this trip.” Seraph laughed. Ginger had long been one of his weaknesses, and this present from Akacia was a goddess-send. Makar happily at one and pocketed a few more.         “Have you seen the dagger I’ve been using?” “Hanging on the bed.” Makar hovered over and slung the sheathed weapon to his friend. “Thank you…” While still not having gotten much money as of yet, Seraph truly thought on getting more furniture. Being from San d’Oria made him grow accustomed to such lavish accoutrements. “I should be fine from here on. I’ll be with Saint, so I should be fine otherwise.” Seraph placed a water crystal near a potted plant under the window. “Could you make sure to take care of this Makar?” “But of course, kupo!” Makar replied, holding one little paw(?) skyward in triumph. “Take Care on you trip!”
It took Seraph little more than a few paces to exit his Moghouse in order to meet Conrad, a teleportation facilitator. Teleportation proved to be very useful for getting around. Seraph enjoyed seeing the numerous sights that Vana’diel offered. However, in current cases it was the preferred method. “Young Master Seraph, is it not? How may I assist you?” Conrad offered in greeting. “Good day Conrad. I’m just off to the Dunes… Zulkheim region, correct?” Conrad nodded with a smile. “Very good Young Master! You are learning quickly.” Seraph reached into his pouch to retrieve the proper fee for the service. “Save your coin My Friend. Do you not feel that resonance in the air? The benevolence of King Kupofried allows me to teleport you at no personal cost!” Before He had the chance to utter any thanks Seraph found himself in the Valkurm Dunes. Ah, to be blessed with brisk business.
The air was dry, but the scent of the gulf close at hand occasionally wafted over the sands. Night was falling, and Seraph was happy to begin this trip at night. The heat was not a bother, but sunlight reflecting off the sands proved an annoyance he’d rather do without. The outpost was packed with other adventurers. One group nearby could be seen decimating several members of a large variety of insect. The pounce of an airborne wyvern alerted Seraph to the potential presence of “Saint”, Seraph said finishing his thought aloud. Saint looked around, eyesight still coming into focus from the teleportation. “Ah, good. You’re here. Before we head out, there’s something to do that ought to help out.” Seraph placed on a helmet given to him from another member of the linkshell. The coming night air made the shielded face of the helms’ design bearable.
“What do you have in mind?” Saint had already launched himself skyward, deftly spearing a nearby crab. “Have you ever noticed that most all fighters you come across seem to be using more than one school of expertise?” “Actually I have” Seraph responded. Saint shook his head while smiling. “Ever watchful as usual. I checked in with someone who was nearby. The old man who helped me get started happens to be in town for the night. I had a friend check in and see what their price for a new student would be. We’re getting your checklist now. Maybe we could have Rai show you a thing or two he learned from working as a Samurai? Certainly helped me.”
The crab, while dead, still writhed in defiance skewered on Saint’s spear. He motioned to the underbelly, and Seraph removed it with care. Lumiere brought back what appeared to be some type of larva, probably having to do with another of the nearby insects that was now flopping maddeningly on the sand. “Now the hard part. We need to knock down some of the nearby ghouls and hope their skulls remain intact and absorb the aura that animates the rest.” Seraph blinked at the array of items being gathered. “Just what am I learning again, Saint?!” Saint laughed. “I said it would be helpful. In the end it is. In the now, the process makes no sense. Hm… I wonder just how far Maat’s decrepit old fingers reach…” “Maat?” Saint sighed. “I hope a time where you are forced to deal with him never comes. At least for your sanity’s sake…”
The group of adventurers that Seraph had marked earlier were running towards the trio followed by a group of animated skeletons. “Well, there are all the ghouls” Saint remarked. Seraph noticed the mages lagging behind. The fighters looked daunted, hanging back to attract the most attention, but their magically geared cohorts did not have the same physical stamina as their partners. Seraph drew his dagger and ran between the battered group, beginning to earn the ire of the ghouls himself. Saint’s laughter again rang in his head. From the sky above Saint threw the spear with enough force to obliterate a skeleton to Seraph’s left, Lumiere unleashing a stream of magical power taking out opponents to the right. The formally fleeing group held their line with renewed vigor, the tables having been turned.
Seraph kept a close eye on the foes. The first three skeletons to fall each yielded one of the skulls Saint mentioned, the remaining three following suit. He grabbed them all and waited for the bone dust to settle. “Thank… you…” came an exhausted breath from the back of the group. Seraph turned and took a good look at this group, and was surprised by the unlikelihood of it all. Standing before him were his five friends from San d’Oria.
“I must thank you. I see that there lays some honor among thieves after all” spoke Xaran, the female Warrior, heading up the group as usual. Seraph nodded solemnly in reply. Saint dropped from above pulling his spear from the ground. “Ah… I don’t believe this…” said Galav, the monk. “An eternity of thanks Master Dragoon.” Saint looked shocked at the accolade. “Remember, Dragoons are rare in the modern day, but exalted in the histories of the Elvaan” Seraph shared with Saint privately. Saint subtly acknowledged the reminder, but shared aloud “I’m just glad to be of help. What were you doing picking a fight with those things?” Novenaux, the Red Mage, answered “Some nearly senile old man told us to get ‘magicked skulls’ along with a couple other items in exchange for training. We were only attacking one at a time to be safe, but a lapse in the healing brought all of them on us.” Bahne, the white mage looked completely distressed. “It was my fault. I was not being nearly as watchful as I should have been.” Saint shook his head. “Oh, trust me, such a thing happens. You get used to it, so don’t be so hard on yourself. We all have to learn at some point.” The group made their way towards the town of Selbina, where the ‘nearly senile old man’ was taking shelter.
A small port town, Selbina was a host port to a ferry running one of the easier routes between the Quon and Mindartia continents. A few simple huts comprised the towns’ construction. Not at all run down, it had a simple and relaxed feel. The familiarity of wood construction was a welcome sight to Seraph. The rest of the his Elvaan companions failed to indulge so, however they had probably been home more recently. At the docks’ farthest flung from the town entrance was Isacio, he who promised training. “Ah… so this group belongs to you Saint?” said Isacio, his memory apparently retaining its edge. “Oh no, just this one” Saint replied, patting Seraph on his shoulder.
“Hm… I see. Young Thief, I feel you will grow strong under the tutelage of this Dragoon. I digress for now. The items I require?” Isacio purposed. Seraph stepped forward and handed forth a full set of the necessary sundries. “Ah, very good Young Master. The hunt went well for you. I’m sure you unique talents were of help. And the rest?” The group of Elvaan shifted uneasily. “The first two items were of no bother, however the skulls eluded us” reported Galav. Isacio straightened with what appeared to be a massive weight. “I see. That is very unfortunate.” Isacio began to but the lid back on the crate. Seraph reopened his bag. Vulilu, the black mage, watched carefully. “Actually, I think our fleet fingered friend may have something to add in that regard.” Seraph set down five additional skulls, one for each of his former nation-mates. “Honor among thieves indeed” said Vulilu, taking a nudge at Seraph.
Saint, these are my some of the people I used to run with back in San d’Oria. If we could, I’d like to head out as quickly as possible” Seraph shot to his partner. “I see. Isacio will show you what he needs to. I’ll be waiting just outside of town.” Indeed, Isacio proved worthy of his reputation, and demonstrated a method to adhere to two disciplines at the same time. After giving his thanks Seraph made a beeline for the town exit. Vulilu seemed to be close at his heels. A small gathering of moogles near the drew caught his attention. Drawing over to them to sort some items and begin applying Isacio’s teachings gave the Black Mage ample opportunity to close the gap.
“You are useful in a fight” she said. Seraph nodded. Vulilu looked at him quizzically. “Hm… that’s right. You haven’t said a word. Were you silenced somehow? I carry a small store of Echo Drops for just such an occasion.” Seraph shook his head. “So… that means it’s a choice.” She backed up a couple steps. “I know it’s you under there Seraph. Act as you want, there are eldritch traces about you that I’ll always be able to sense.” Seraph looked around. “Don’t worry. Everyone else went to the inn.” Seraph removed his helmet, shook out his hair, and promptly tied it back.
“We were all wondering just where you had gone” she said. “But here you are, a thief. Where did you go, and so quickly?” Seraph paused. “Vulilu, understand… I don’t want the others knowing I was here.” She nodded. Seraph exhaled. “Alright… I went to Bastok. I’d love to tell you why, but I don’t know just yet.” Vulilu nodded again. “Saint has been a big help. He’s taking me to Jeuno. From there I’m going to look for a way to head out to a place called Aht Urhgan.” Seraph quickly recanted his run in with the Puppetmaster in Bastok.
Vulilu seemed impressed. “I didn’t know you had come such a long way in a short time. Together we haven’t made it to Jeuno yet.” “Would you like to go?” Seraph offered. “It may not be much of an issue for Saint to look out for us all. There is something to be said in regards to strength in numbers.” “No… no… the aspirations of the group don’t run that high. We’re still focused on becoming Paladins and serving San d’Oria. Do…” Vulilu looked pleadingly at Seraph. “…do you think you’ll come back home after you find what you’re looking for?” Seraph met her gaze, but could not return its intensity. “Little of my heart lays within the Kingdom’s borders. When I do go home, I doubt it will be San d’Oria I return to.” Seraph spoke with the one of the moogles, who imbued him with another set of skills. He left the helmet with Vulilu, and headed out to meet Saint.

“She likes you, you know” Pashi said. Seraph nodded. Pashi purred. “What came next?” she asked. “Saint and I made our way from Selbina east to the Pashhow Marshlands and Beadeaux. You are familiar with the Quadav? They are the shelled Beastman on the Quon continent. Beadeaux is their stronghold. We passed through there and Saint made sure we grabbed a testimony. They are old parchments that seem to be written in regards to each job class. He said I would need it if I were to deal with the Tenshodo. We continued north through Rolanberry fields until we reached Jeuno.” “How did you like the big city?” Seraph pinched the bridge of his nose. “As you said, it is big. And busy. I’m not used to so many people in such a bustle and a rush. Worse yet, the swell of adventurers made getting around a little difficult. I think I spent as much time being lost as I did apologizing to Tarutaru I tripped over. I am glad I am as tall as I am, although I did bump into some imposing Galka as well. In any event, I finally did find the Tenshodo.”

Seraph made his way through Jeuno. The constant shuffle of the crowd eventually began wearing on his hearing. He dove into what appeared an inn to gain some solace. “Welcome to Neptune’s Spire” came the voice of a bored Mithra through a yawn. “I am Ghebi Damomohe. How may I help you today?” Seraph turned in shock. “I apologize. I was simply trying to gain a small respite from the crowds.” She seemed unphased by this. “Oh, I see. We don’t run a charity, but if you’d be willing to buy a rice ball or two I could see fit to let you stay awhile.” “Ah… that actually sounds wonderful.” Seraph began pulling out his money pouch. “I’ll have three rice balls, as well as a kabob and a stack of those crackers.” “Well aren’t you just the hungry little Elvaan?”
While counting out the proper fee, the testimony fell out of his pack. He had folded that around the Tenshodo application, they being somewhat related. Only partially revealed, Ghebi seized upon the parchments with a hitherto deceptive speed. “My my… you’re the clever cub…” A member of Jeuno’s Ducal Guard came in at that moment. With great care Ghebi removed the application and replaced it with another piece of paper. She handed him the food he had ordered, leaning in quite close. “Welcome to the Tenshodo” she hissed playfully, tapping the testimony. “Your room is just at the back of the hall, sir. Please enjoy your stay.”
Confused by her sudden change in demeanor Seraph packed the food away. He held onto the testimony and began following the hall. He nodded to the Guard, who seemed unimpressed at Seraph’s presence. He began to open the door he was directed to, and an attendant on the other side kept it just open enough for Seraph to slide in. The attendant closed the door behind him. Seeing the testimony in his hands he directed Seraph down the stairs, to another door.
Just beyond lay a shop lined with various types of paraphernalia of what looked to be Far Eastern origin. Many people in matching red armor milled around. It seemed to be an overall jovial atmosphere, but a little dim nonetheless. “Ah… you are a new face. Welcome to the Tenshodo!” The roar came from a Galka to Seraph’s right. He found that he was eye to eye with many Galka. This one was one of the exceptions, a good head taller than Seraph himself. “Just looking around?”
It just hit him where he was… He had stumbled across the elusive organization without even realizing it. “Actually, I was seeking passage to the Aradjiah continent and was informed that this organization could help me realize that end. Is this true?” The Galka laughed. “Just speak with Faursel over there. He’ll get you squared away.” Hearing his name Faursel waved his Elvaan companion to him. “So… another hapless soul called to the lands of the Empress?” said Faursel crassly without so much a formal introduction. “We can arrange that easily enough. Won’t be cheap, I can tell you that.” Seraph nodded. “I was told this would cover the fees of passage…” He handed the testimony to Faursel. “Aren’t you well connected? And in luck… this item will do nicely. Relics of the past sell well. I’m actually handing in the recent additions to the list. Wait here. You’ll be set to go in no time.”
Seraph was struck by the oddity of the haste of his progress. In less than a month he’d gone from uncertain to having the answers just beyond his reach, but well within sight. Faursel came back, handed him a boarding permit, and told him he was free to set out at any time from Mhaura. Seraph gave his thanks and goodbyes, giving a subtle wink to Ghebi as he passed as she was still plagued by a Ducal Guard. He made his way to Upper Jeuno and made use of a chocobo pass he’d been given a short time ago. He told them how far he wished to go and they gave him a steed worthy of the journey. He checked in with his linkshell every now and again during the ride, ensuring he was heading the right way. After some time he found himself in Mhaura, the boat docked for the night. He was told he could rest at the inn and that someone would awaken him for departure.

“And now herrre you arrre” said Pashi. “A lot has happened forrr you in a shorrrt time.” “Quite true, Pashi.” “So you still have no idea of what you’re looking forrr? The rrresonance of beasts? The binding airrrs about you?” “No… I don’t. I wish I did.” Pashi was flustered. “So terrible…” A call came from the captains’ quarters. Whitegate was in sight, and they’d be coming to port in just a few minutes. “Well… we’rrre herrre.” Checking for sea creatures on deck and getting an all clear the two stepped out to watch as the land before them drew closer. “This is it. You rrready?” Seraph looked out at the continent, new to his eyes with no idea what to expect. His path to Aht Urhgan was reaching an end. Now it was time to find out what brought him all the way across the ocean.


An Empty Vessel