An Empty Vessel

The bustle of the capital struck Seraph immediately. The architecture was bright and exuded a soft light, even under the night sky. The stones making up stairs and archways were worn with time. The scent of the sea mixed with exotic spices. When compared to Jeuno there were fewer people, but indeed this added to the richness of the place. Seraph took in a deep breath. Never before had he experienced such a sensation. Somehow, someway, it felt as though he had returned home.
Seraph looked back to Pashi. He promised her he’d come back to see her, especially if this land held what he sought. He found the exit from the docks, and began wandering the streets of Aht Urghan. It was difficult to discern a layout. Comprised of a ground level and upper tier there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to where shops and establishments were placed. Having grown accustomed at gathering information Seraph focused his hearing and followed the loudest spot.
To his pleasant surprise he found not a pub, but a teahouse. Open to the air the scents of exotic spices he first encountered were at their strongest. He found himself immediately perusing the counter indulging his senses in the wares. “Good Morning My Friend!” came a voice from behind the counter. An older Hume man smiled broadly at him. “Welcome to the Shararat Teahouse. What would be your pleasure?” Seraph’s eyes darted back and forth, considering the full fare. “I’m unsure. I will try everything eventually. What would you recommend?” The man viewed his wares. “Coffee will only do after sunrise. You are new to Aht Urhgan, yes? Then we will start you off with a chai. It is one of the best introductions I can offer. Please, sit wherever you would like. I’ll bring a pot to you.”
Seraph took a look around. Instead of having sets of tables and chairs, the tables were lower to the ground. All parties would sit on the floor on pillows provided. This allowed a display of tapestry and other textiles that was impressive. He was also instilled with a sense of equality. There would be no need to having differing heights in sitting implements. All would sit and recline equally. If ever he would gain a close Taru ally he would have to sit down with them here at some point. He sat down near a duo of adventurers who seemed to be embroiled in a tense conversation.
“…there isn’t much information” said one, a Mithra. “You’re kidding… not even you have details?” said her companion, a female Elvaan. The server brought Seraph’s chai to him. “I am Rahtihb. Simply ask if you need anything else.” A mutual bow was exchanged. Seraph turned to the two ladies near him. “I am sorry to intrude, but may I ask of what you speak?” The Elvaan looked at Seraph and smiled. “Ah, piqued your interest did we? Just battle strategies.” “I see… I’ve not been on this trail long, but perhaps I could help with a breakthrough.” Seraph picked up his cup and pot, signaling Rahtihb in a request of two more. After sitting with his new companions, the Elvaan female looked around carefully.
“You still smell of Ronfaure… you truly are inexperienced.” Seraph nodded, defeated. “I’m sorry… I didn’t mean that as an insult. My name is Clearite. There is a tradition of pirates in these lands. I am one of their number. While outdated, there is a feud between we Corsairs and wielders of Blue Magic. They’re a tricky lot. I was asking my friend Aisha her take on it.” Seraph took another look at the Mithra as he poured her a cup of chai. “Are you a Corsair as well?” She shook her head. “No… I’m a student of martial theory. A simple Scholar by trade. Are you familiar with the phenomenon of Blue Magic?” Seraph shook his head, and Aisha nodded in reply.
She snapped her fingers, and an ethereal book appeared on the table. Holding on hand outstretched its pages flipped in a flurry. When they stopped, Aisha reclined a little. “‘Blue Magic is a phenomena through which the power inherent in one being is forcibly attained by another.’ To be honest, I don’t even know HOW this occurs in the first place. I’ve travelled to this land only recently myself to explore this. It’s wholly unheard of.” Seraph shook his head. “I’m sorry… but I don’t see what the big deal is. I know a little magic myself. I’ve met many others who do.”
Clearite leaned forward. “Not like this My Friend. I’ve crossed blades with many a Blue Mage. The fights have never been the same. Not once. Sometimes you run into a newcomer and their magic isn’t an issue. Other times I’ve been hacked at by the sheer force of their spells. Other times I find out I have a lack of medicine for status effects I get…” “I’m still not understanding” Seraph interrupted. “I know some White Magic. If I’m together with a dedicated White Mage we have the same types of spells, just to different degrees. I study a scroll and I can use the spell.”
Aisha’s tome went mad again, going nearly to the front of the book. “The official founder of my order once said ‘The resourceful general employs his enemies as well as his allies.’ From what I have gathered of Blue Magic thus far it may be the source for this wisdom.” Clearite again looked around cautiously, then spoke in a hushed tone. “It is said Blue Magic is the power of the very beasts of this world.”
For the first time in a long while the tempest inside Seraph surged forth. Nearly dropping his cup he managed to set it down and placed a hand on his head. Aisha placed a hand on his, and he could feel a healing energy extend from her. “Are you alright?” she asked. Seraph stammered out an affirmative, but it felt distant. Since leaving San d’Oria Seraph had still experienced surges from the life around him, but it seemed that… something jumped out, given new life by words to express itself. “I simply think I know of what you speak” he finally managed to say. Clearite’s eyes widened in mix wonder and horror. Aisha drew out several pieces of parchment and ink to write with, her tail twitching excitedly.
Seraph shook his head. “I’ll need a moment to gather my thoughts. Magic is not unheard of. Why is Blue Magic so confusing?” he asked his partners. After a knowing glance they answered. “Magic is normally a study, not actively learned” responded Aisha. “What of the Summoner’s arts?” retorted Seraph. “They enter into pacts with the elements, both of lesser and grander forms, culminating in the manifestation of the Terrestrial Avatars. Could Blue Magic not simply be a pact made with the beasts of the land?” Aisha’s eyes lit up, and she began scribbling on the parchment. Clearite nodded. “I suppose so…” “If that is the case, then you only need worry about what beasts a Blue Mage has fought. Of course knowing such information beforehand is difficult” replied Seraph.
“When you put it like that, it makes a lot more sense.” Clearite replied. “Much easier to wrap my head around. But if that’s so, why not just go after such creatures and use their power?” Seraph got a full hold of himself. “Because it doesn’t work the same. My example was just a comparison.” Aisha edged closer to Seraph. “Why are you so certain?” Seraph looked at her, then Clearite. “Just as you inherited the Corsair tradition, I think that likewise I am predisposed to Blue Magic.” Hate flared in Clearite’s eyes, but Seraph continued unabated. “Summoners focus their power to the semi-divine expressions of might. It seems that Blue Magic draws on everything else.” Seraph began telling the duo of his inner world and how all the beasts looked to him.
“Think of it like this: Every variety of magic has a particular resonance. White, Black, Dark, Blue, Summoning. Sentient beings can, with some work, shift their resonance. You will see a White Mage and Black Mage specialize respectively, and those such as Red Mages having some type of dual resonance allowing them to draw on both.” Aisha nodded. “That’s sensible. I have the ability to bolster my own abilities within a given ‘resonance’. Please, continue.” She gave up writing and began to magically transcribe to keep up with the flow of thoughts. “Summoning can be considered ‘High Magic’ as we have the ability to do it, but not without outside help. Without the beings to draw on, a Summoner is powerless.”
“However, this is all layered. We can use all these magics at the same time. Sentient beings, including Beastmen, and many creatures of this world have another resonance. This is the power of Blue Magic. When I see a creature they exuded a power. I see it like a steam roiling off of them. Sometimes, this increases. I watched a Monk friend of mine get kicked in the face by a hare, and this “steam” grew more dense. What if a Blue Mage learns to align their resonance with something they see in monsters, specifically while enacting a unique skill, thus making the powers of another their own?”
Clearite had calmed down several degrees, but hearing this jarred her. “It wasn’t right… One mage I fought used spells at a speed I’d only seen a Red Mage accomplish. Another was fighting with techniques on par with a Samurai…” Aisha was ecstatic. “So they can mimic not only the power of the beasts of the world, but of sentient beings? They can bear the ways of other classes? But I wonder what abilities they possess uniquely…” Something tickled the edge of consciousness, splitting Seraphs’s attention. He began hearing a chime. He did not know where from. The linkshell was inactive. What could that be? “This… has been maddening… yet enlightening” remarked Clearite. “Oh yes indeed” exclaimed Aisha, drawing out more pens and parchment. The flurry of ensorcelled quills going about their appointed tasks was stupefying.
“While all this is good to know, it still doesn’t help my original predicament. How does one go about countering Blue Magic?” said Clearite to Aisha, whose ears drooped. “Well… if Blue Mages have the power to, in essence, become the compilation of magic and skill around them… I can only surmise that you’d do well to defeat such a foe in their infancy. The more time allowed, the more power they gain, the greater their breadth of ability.”
Seraph again turned inward, the tempest howling ravenously. A pale light shined through the vortex, the chime pulsing in time with it. Focusing again on his companions, he felt pulled. “Forgive me, but I do think it is my time to leave” he said, standing and gathering his equipment. “Thank you. I think I now know why I was sent to this land.” Clearite scoffed. “You’d do well to remember what I’ve said. If I find out you have been tinkering with Blue Magic you’d do well to tell me. That way I can at least do you the courtesy of finishing you off last.” Aisha tried to soften Clearite’s tone with a bout of laughter. “Not before he tells me everything of the craft. I may be added to the affored honorable mentions inside the grimoire addendums yet!”
Final goodbyes were exchanged, with Aisha insisting of she and Seraph having a way to contact each other. At the archway leading to the streets Seraph turned and bowed to both his host and conversation partners. He then turned and began walking through the upper tiers of the city. He listened for the chiming again. However, there was nothing but the sounds of the night. Seraph closed his eyes to try to center himself again. The chiming sounded… this time from right behind him. He turned, but saw nothing.
When Seraph brought consciousness back to his physical shell he saw a curious man standing before him. Shorter than Seraph he wore a style of clothing common to Aht Urhgan. A hood was pulled over his head shading his face. A pair of glasses reflected the light from the early morning sun. He looked up at Seraph. His eyes were passive with disinterest. Seraph looked carefully at the figure. Nodding, he began to turn away. At that moment he heard the chime again, coming from the man.
“Who might you be?” asked the man. “…Seraph” he replied, cautiously. “Ah… a visitor from foreign shores? Or perhaps… An earthbound celestial? One who was ascended now fallen?” Seraph turned back fully towards the strange man. “You speak in wizened riddles. Who are you?” The man at once bowed. “I am Waoud, a humble seer of Al Zahbi.” In reply Seraph offered his own bow, puzzling Waoud. “Oh… I thought you foreign to our land, but you hold a familiarity with our ways.” “Quite the contrary Waoud. I have been here but a few hours. The customs here are strangely like those I developed for myself.”
Waoud smiled slightly, moving a sleeved hand to hide it. “A stranger in a strange land, and yet you are not unfamiliar with maintaining your sense of self.” Seraph was puzzled by these words. The chiming in Seraph’s mind grew louder. “Your scent gives you away just as your visage does to one who knows how to see it.” The chime rang in both Seraph’s mind and ear. Waoud’s left eye gleamed with a flash of crimson light. “Perhaps you would risk your new life among man to recapture the essence of immortality?”
“Immortality?” Seraph didn’t know what to make of this. “I am afraid such things are folly. Death comes for all living beings.” Waoud did not hide his smile this time. “A wise answer of one so young. Many adventurers of your land find their way here to become mercenaries. I gather that your purpose may be a bit more grand.” Seraph shook his head. “I can make no claim to the scope of my goals. I merely seek knowledge.” Waoud stretched out his arms. “These lands hold many secrets. If you took in these truths, would you not seek more?” “I am not greedy. I need only as much as would satisfy my thirst.” Waoud, again, seemed pleased at this answer. “There is much to be said of one willing to go defy imposed limits to sate any form of hunger.”
“You do not seek a conventional goal it would seem” Waoud continued. “Fortunately for you I possess unconventional sources of information. Perhaps you would benefit from my assistance?” Seraph nodded. “Most excellent. I know not what you seek, nor will I pry. However I would like to know of you presently to discern the path of your future. Destiny brought you to me My Friend, so it is of destiny I shall speak.”

Waoud began asking Seraph question after question, patiently waiting for each answer.
“What is destiny?” Waoud asked, alluding to his own statement. “It is what one must decide for oneself.”
“Does the accomplishment of a goal require sacrifice and hardship?” the seer posed. “Sometimes, if one does not have the time to find another way.” Waoud seemed puzzled at the reply, but proceeded forth.
“You hold in your hands a forbidden scroll. Reading it will bring you untold wisdom, but cost all that you own.” Waoud allowed Seraph to form his reply. “I would read the scroll. That which I own can be regained.” Pleased at this, the soothsayer continued.
“If the loss of one life would save ten thousand, would you offer yourself without hesitation?” Seraph replied without missing a beat, nearly cutting off Waoud’s sentence. “But of course.” Hume eyed Elvaan questioningly, but carried on none-the-less.
“Would you choose a tumultuous life where fame or fortune were attainable, or a tranquil life where both were forever beyond your reach?” Seraph laughed lightly. “I would take both paths.” A small smile crept across Waoud’s face.
“You stand on the precipice between life and death. Would you choose to live life as a beast if it would save you from falling into a shadowy abyss of the underworld?” Waoud’s eyes turned dour. Seraph replied with an unusual intensity. “I possess the strength to fall and retain my humanity.” Waoud spoke on seemingly unphased, but seemed to withdraw his demeanor.
“A companion in battle turns against you, raising a weapon to attack” was Waoud’s next offering. “Nothing occurs without good reason. If I can find the cause, I can avert the results.”
“A loved one is afflicted with a terrible illness and has little time left to live. You are asked to end that life by your own hand.” Seraph shook his head at such a horrible consideration. “I would have to seek a cure. Through love my friend would understand.”
“You are in the midst of a fierce battle. The enemy lying at your feet was once a friend. His breath is ragged and weak.” Seraph recalled Rai and Saint. He knew what he would do if he faced one of them. “I would heal him as best I were able. Change is a constant.”
“A superior to whom you owe a great debt orders you to act in a way that violates your sense of justice.” Seraph recalled his friends from San d’Oria. His hand tightened into a fist, the material of his glove stretching audibly. “I would still follow my own way. A debt can still be paid.”

Waoud considered well all of Seraph’s musings .“You don’t charge straight in” Waoud said. “You watch your enemies with care. You strike with precision at his weakest point. In the process you seek to steal a piece of them if you are able.” His left eye gleamed. “Oh… what is this? You exude a faint aura of magic…” His eyes narrowed. “Yes… yes… how strange. You claim to serve your own ends and have even taken up the guise of a simple thief to that effect. Yet, you bear the most benevolent of magics.”
“I am simply following my own call” Seraph said. “I’m not out to make a name for myself. I had to have some way to move around. Fighters are always called to assist others. Who would want to associated with ‘a simple thief’ such as I? Well… outside those who wanted an item for themselves. Such people keep their secrets, just as I now do. Plus a mage is always in demand, and I had no desire being stopped to heal, assist, or simply rain down magical might on a foe.”
Waoud smiled. “And yet here you stand constrained as a White Mage.” Seraph was paused. “Let me ask you… do eldritch energies call out to you? Does the world itself tug at your soul?” The eye gleamed, and for the first time Waoud’s voice shifted from whimsical to almost sinister. “Has the cry from the Beast within brought you to this land?”

Seraph lost himself to his own mind. This time however, he was held down by an unseen force. This power held him to the spot. For the first time the winds began to die down. Through them he could smell something inhuman. The winds still cast up too much debris to see anything. Trying to stand did no good. He could scarcely breath. He was bound to the spot.
“Is it time to awaken?” Seraph pushed himself up as much as he could. The voice seemed to come from his own shadow. “The sleeping might. The untapped potential. Five children of Altana, cursed by sin. Five points from which all power flows. You are of this world. You draw power from above, and beneath. Unbind the chains, and the beast will consume you. Lower your guard, and your own power will devour you. All your paths lead to destruction. Your quest for knowledge has sealed your doom.” His shadow began to crawl over his skin. “I am the fruit of your quest for knowledge. Reap the whirlwind in which you have sown.”

A surge of will broke Seraph of his minds’ cruel hold. Again Seraph found himself in Whitegate under the eyes of Waoud. His demeanor still spoke of the sudden seriousness he had acquired. For a moment, their eyes we locked. Then Waoud softened again, causing Seraph to take a small step back. Waoud was resting a hand on his shoulder, his left eye seething crimson light. “Can you see your fate as clearly as I can? A ceaseless serpent… the Sky flows into the Gale, over and into the Earth, constraining the Springs and clashing with the Flames… only to ascend to the Sky again. You are in the middle of this circle of power, able to grab any point and give in fully to the energies around you. Destiny sides with you, if you so choose it. Ignore it, give into it, or ascend beyond it… How each path ends I cannot say. Your time to choose is now, and there is no way to slip past this fate.”
The light of his eye softened, returning Waoud‘s face to naught but a bespectacled seer. “You needn’t worry friend… You were paused but a moment.” Seraph shook his head. “That was unusual. Did you…” Waoud raised a hand to stop Seraph’s inquiry. “Words are but a medium. A seed. You seek knowledge, and I merely wish for you to bear fruit in your search.” Seraph placed a hand on his forehead. The images in his mind were growing with ferocity. Recently, he began having phantom feelings of what he saw. And now, it felt as though his skin crawled as his shadow had.
“Have I unsettled you?” Waoud asked. Seraph shook his head, but even his silent action lacked conviction. “Please, be at ease. If what I say will help, I am glad. If not, feel free to disregard it as mystic ramblings. The power of truth in these words is yours and yours alone.” Seraph staggered backwards, bracing himself on a wall. “So… what comes next?” he asked. Waoud shook his head. “Only time and will can answer that. More immediately than a future far flung is a manner of remuneration.” Seraph raised his eyes to Waoud. “…payment…” he managed weakly. “But of course!” exclaimed Waoud. “This is a service I provide. The skills are time honed. I will admit… I find the signs unusual. Perhaps an equally unusual payment.”
Seraph stood, finally having some semblance of control. “What would you have? I did not bring anything but what I felt necessary for this trip.” Waoud drew back, pondering an answer. “I am acquainted with an elderly woman. Bedridden. However, she often speaks of rare minerals of the Middle Lands, your home. Stories of a ‘sunlit sand’ often pass her lips. I think if she were surprised with such a prize… it would truly give her joy.” Waoud recalled where he was, and bowed. “I am sorry. It is inhospitable to trouble you so. I do you disservice by saddling you with a burden. Please… may my words be gift and reward, raw and unfathomed though they may be. See where they might take you, and may fortune smile upon you.”
Taking his disturbed tone as a cue to depart Seraph bowed to Waoud, though his back was now turned while he departed on his own. In a short time Seraph had gained a great deal of information. However the value of it all, if any existed, eluded him. Stopping to ask an Imperial Guard Seraph learned the locations of Rented Rooms for adventurers and mercenaries. He decided it would be best to take a small break. “Seraph… you around?” Saint’s voice came in clear as a bell across the linkshell channel. “It depends upon your definition. I’m in Whitegate.” “Already?! That was fast. I thought I’d have been able to meet up with you. I’ve got clearance to warp out there. Stick around… I’ll head out now.
Seraph was always happy to have Saint around. With a lack of leads their two heads may be able to come up with something tangible more quickly than one. “Thanks Saint. By the way… do you know of any type of ‘sunlit sand’?” There was a noticeable pause. “Not offhand. Why do you ask?” “No particular reason. I heard someone asking about it while I was here.” A new voice chimed in over the channel. “Sunlit sand you say? I’ve heard of such a thing in Valkurm. Try looking there.” A note of happiness rang through Saint’s voice. “Is that you Bowdee?!
The two entered into a conversation leaving Seraph to his thoughts. While not definitive Waoud was kind enough to offer his advice. A kindness served should be returned, or so Seraph felt. However, it was a long way back to Valkurm, and he was just there. Seraph dove into his bag, looking for something to eat, when he saw something gleaming on the bottom of his bag. What he drew out were grains of sand, shimmering with their own luminescence. ‘Sunlit sand… but how?’
Seraph then recalled the skulls he had packed away. Maybe he had happened upon some of the enchanted sand at that point? Rather fortunate in any case. Seraph was beginning to channel an unnaturally high luck. Quickly gathering up the grains in a piece of spare cloth he rushed back to where he found Waoud, hoping he would be nearby. He seemed to be conversing with a local in the framework of a divination. Keeping his distance until the business was done Seraph then handed the makeshift pouch to Waoud.
Waoud stood flabbergasted. “You have done good for me in bringing me this treasure from afar, and with such haste. Whatever reputation you have gained as a thief in your home is well earned.” Seraph was somewhat distracted. His visions had become more intense since meeting this man. “Seraph?” called Waoud, drawing Seraph’s attention back to Waoud speaking. “I apologize Waoud… my mind is a maelstrom of late. Please, go on.” The fortuneteller nodded with a perplexing grin on his face. “Take this artifact to the Aydeewa Subterrane. Seek the ruins there. A companion of mine can be found there. The woman I spoke of is in direct relation to them. I would go in your stead, but I am not allowed to leave the city you see.”
While curious as to Waoud’s unusual boundaries he set off to meet with whomever he counted as a colleague. Saint’s voice rang clear. “I’ve arrived…” Before either could answer Seraph nearly breezed past his friend. “Ah… so here we are. Enjoying yourself?” asked the Dragoon. Seraph nodded. “I feel as though I am in an all too familiar overcoat here. It is as though I’ve come home.” Saint smiled with a nod. “I know the feeling. I’ve always had a place in Bastok. I’m happy you’ve found one of your own” Seraph looked out over the sea to the south. Mid morning was approaching and the sun gave the waters a look of roiling flames.
Saint threw a light jab to Seraph’s shoulder, bringing him out of his thoughts. “Where were you heading to anyway?” Seraph pointed to the west, and he and Seraph set off. “I’m looking for a place called the Aydeewa Subterrane.” Saint nodded in affirmation. “I know right where that is as a matter of fact. We’ll grab some chocobos and head straight there. This place is very dangerous. We’ll have to be careful.”
The duo walked through Whitegate and it’s outer ward, Al Zhabi. The deterioration escalated the more towards the edges of town. From what Seraph had gathered, and from what Saint confirmed, troubles with the Beastman in this reason had escalated steadily instead of diminishing as they had done in the Middle Lands. In fact, the city itself was constantly under attack by raiding Beastman hoards and their cohorts. Coming in enough numbers and with great enough force to breech the city defenses on a regular basis the regular citizens lived in a constant danger. This was the reasoning behind an influx of adventurers lending their skills as mercenaries in the service of the Empire’s defense. It was in this derelict section where the chocobo stables could be found. After renting mounts the pair set out toward the Aydeewa Subterrane.
The trip was not a long one, so Saint said. In no time at all they reached the Subterrane. “Now… just where are you supposed to meet up with this ‘colleague’?” Saint asked. “I didn’t get directions that specific. I was just told they were on patrol. Any way we can take a look around?” Saint nodded, casting a paling over them both, removing them from notice of most predators. Delving deep into the underground they looked for any signs of a patrol. However… “There’s no one here” Saint pointed out. “How odd…” replied Seraph. “Who exactly told you to come here?” Saint asked. “A fortuneteller. Very enigmatic gentleman by the name of…” Seraph kept an eye out for anyone, but neglected to watch where he was going. “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaoooooooooou…d!!!” came the name of the soothsayer while Seraph tumbled and came to an abrupt halt. “Seraph… Are you alright?!” “Yes, I’m fine. My stealth is holding. Try to find a way down. I’ll look for one back up.”
The two went their slightly separate ways. After a little time Seraph happened across an odd structure. “Saint… I’ve found a clearing. The beasts nearby are maintaining their distance. I’ll wait here, alright?” Saint did not reply. “Saint…?” “You will find your comrade unable to reply to your queries” a voice resounded. A man cast aside a paling of his own, revealing himself to Seraph.
Wearing an ornate garb of whites and blues with inlaid gold and the face concealed by a regional headdress Seraph couldn’t make heads or tails of the ominous presence before him. The eyes of this man were one of the few exposed areas of flesh. His eyes looked questioningly at Seraph. His hand moved to the hilt of his sword as he circled as a predator would prey. Seraph lower his hand towards his weapon in kind waiting for this person to turn aggressive. Part of Seraph reached out. He felt it as his shadow, the one newly voiced and sentient. “Ah… the new potential.” The man took a controlled stance, but his hand moved away from his weapon.
“’Potential’?” Seraph echoed, straightening and moving his hand from his dagger. “Yes. I am Yasfel of the Immortals.” Seraph flashed back to Waoud’s words, him having mentioned the path to immortality. Perhaps the seers’ language was more straightforward than not. “Are you an acquaintance of Waoud, Yasfel?” asked Seraph. Yasfel nodded. Seraph held out the pouch of suns’ sand. “I was told to give this to you.” Yasfel nodded again.
“I was told you sought knowledge. Knowledge breeds power in capable hands. I am here to confirm your desire for such a power” Yasfel said. “I don’t know how you’re familiar with Waoud, but as I said to him, I have no desire for power” Seraph replied. “Is that the case? Interesting. In any event, I regret to inform you that the Valkurm Sunsand you have brought me was a part of a test you had no knowledge of enlisting in. That work was, in and of itself, for naught.”
“That said, it is obvious how far you willingly go in your search for knowledge, however you choose to apply it. I praise you for your steadfastness, even without evidence of goal or reward.” Yasfel closed the distance between he and Seraph. “I stand before you as one who holds the key to unlocking your potential. You have felt the oppression of the Beast within? Been reduced to nothing by the cry of its power? We Immortals are not tamers. We do not convince or train. We do not make pacts or contracts. We dominate. We rule. We subjugate. Worse… we become the Beast itself.”
Seraph pondered what was being said. “Become the Beast? The waves of power I feel… what are they?” Yasfel continued his rant as if Seraph had not spoken, or perhaps Yasfel believed all would be answered when he was finished. “Consider the words found within the Scriptures of Balrahn, and consider the path that has led you here: ‘A fire to fight a fire. A thief to catch a thief. A beast to kill a beast.’ You wield life magic, but a small step and you could impair it. You wear the guise of a thief, so you show a willingness to do what must be done. You feel the beast… would you not become one with it?”
An unusual pressure was gathering around Seraph. It felt as though his waking nightmare began seizing his body. “This power comes at a price, which you have begun to pay. Can you feel it? A piece of your very soul is being exchanged for the door of knowledge opening. Can you tell what piece it is? Or is such a thing beneath your notice?” The power dragged Seraph’s body down. “Listen to me… If you are willing to pay the price, if you can bear the burdens and freedoms that a Blue Mage wields… then take my hand.”
Yasfel kneeled in front of Seraph, keeping him aright. Seraph lifted his hand as much as he could, and while Yasfel kept his hand outstretched he would not move his any closer. With much effort Seraph took Yasfel’s hand in his own. “Your life now belongs to the Empress and the Empire.” A force began to rip Seraph’s body apart. “Listen to me and remember… Blue is the color of monster’s blood, and the color of our future.” Eldritch forces pulled Seraph’s full being apart, sending him across space to another location. Yasfel stood, alone, except for the Dragoon who just saw his friend get pulled apart. Saint and Lumiere made a dual pronged attack, but not before Yasfel was able to restore his paling and move beyond their reach, leaving Saint to ponder his next move. Yasfel’s voice coldly echoed “…assuming we have a future…”

Again Seraph was thrust into the world of his own mind. For the first time the storm subsided and he could see what lay beyond. Fiends made of shadow, all with burning eyes focused on him, huddled around and poised to strike. ‘Their scent…’ he thought. ‘By Altana… their scent is what broke through the whirlwind. Why does such a place exist within me?’ And why… did these creatures not attack? He felt an instinct seize him, a yearning more powerful than he had ever known. He focuses his will at every set of eyes and screams. Instead of pushing them away, the sound drew them closer. Still, he continued screaming until the shadows overtook him. The voice of the Elvaan gave way to the cry of every creature. Each one in turn rang out their own torment.

‘…no…’

Each beast clawed at his soul. Each tearing a piece away for themselves. From the inside out Seraph was being destroyed, consumed by that which he foolishly drew in. Slowly, but with certainty, each creature regained its form. Innumerable eyes bobbed and slunk away from where they had sated their hunger.

‘No.’

Without feet to give chase, without hands to grab them, he began to fight. The flow of the myriad eyes slowed to a crawl, and then stopped. Again, cries rang out. More fervently did they now try to escape. By sheer will alone Seraph pulled his assailants back in.

‘I am my own. My own soul. My own body. My own power. You will not take it from me.’

A fright compelled the shadows. They tore at themselves, doing anything they could to break the bindings. Those with hands even ripped at their torsos, trying to tear out the source of their distress.

‘It is too late for that.’

A smaller shadow was dragged back to where the visage of Seraph stood. With it, he felt substance return to his form. He grabbed the next nearest shadow, and following suit from before brought it into his body. He could feel the essence of his foe at one with him. His eyes flashed with a dark light.

‘You are mine.’

Suddenly, the whirlwind picked up. However, it trapped all the shadows inside its center. He brought the edges of the funnel closer. Some of the shadows fought for their survival, striking at Seraph. But each met the same fate. They lost themselves to Seraph. With each of them he felt greater power. He began lashing out. Taking on the greatest of them. One by one all were absorbed in his being. The whirlwind grew stronger in reply. Soon he was the only one left.

‘My form… my power… you will bow to me…”

He could feel the quorum of monsters struggling to escape. To take over and claim the body as their own. Still, he maintained his Self. Focusing within, he broke his concentration without. The whirlwind took him. “If only I were stronger” he remembered saying. But now he was. The beasts within let out another choral roar, but in time with that of Seraph. They were one now. And as one they reached out with their combined might to dispel the hurricane. Seraph opened his eyes with this sudden realization…

And felt weaker than he ever had before. Slowly, Seraph could feel strength returning to his body. Still he could not open his eyes, and he could not move. Voices…

“The Potential is ready for your inspection.”
“His cobalt levels were very low, and I was afraid this would be another failure. Somehow he clawed himself back from death’s grasp.”
“His answers were not wholly honest.”
…the chime… “And you expect what from a Thief? The duty lays with me. It is your fault I bear this Eye after all.”
“Silence… He stirs…”

Seraph finally found the strength to rise and open his eyes. “You should be told who I am. My name is Raubahn. I bid you welcome ‘Celestial One’, as we are now brethren. You, like me, now bear the power of a Blue Mage. Do not become drunk on your accomplishment. You have fallen far and are weaker than even an ordinary babe. A Blue Mage strengthens their essence by taking it from those who would do us harm. This is the path to power. Show me your hunger. This is all the guidance I will give to an empty vessel like you. Now go.” A man at Raubahn’s side let one last message echo as Seraph stumbled to the exit. “If you prove your worth, you may one day find a place among the Immortals.”

Seraph found himself in Whitegate and surmised he must have been transported to the palace. Looking to the linkshell he discovered that Saint had made it back as well. Moving towards his location he found his compatriot in a quarrel with Waoud. “Where is he! You led him there… where did your friend send him?!” While Saint’s spear was not drawn, it was obvious that he was less than pleased with the seer. “As I have said, there is no need for you to rage on so. Your friend returns now.” At that Saint turned, and seeing Seraph ran to him.
“Are you alright Seraph?” Seraph nodded. “Yes… just… drained. Devoid of… essence. And hungry… so hungry…” Saint helped his friend walk. “You don’t sound okay.” Seraph patted the cold armor of his friend. “Nothing to worry about. Waoud. I must speak with him.” The Dragoons’ gaze turned steely onto Waoud. The seer took no notice of him. “Ah… you are return. And a new path of knowledge open to you. May the fruits from this tree be those you seek. Perhaps I can divine the nature of your harvest?” The crimson glow from his eye met Seraph’s gaze.

While not in his own world Seraph was aware of displacement. Wherever he was, it bore the same feeling as the one within him. “You had no need to return here… Why do you stand before me?” Seraph found himself toe to toe with Raubahn. “I don’t know what is going on Raubahn.” He laughed. “You have made the sacrifice and joined the ranks of the Blue Mages. You are a newly made vessel. All the knowledge you seek can now be contained within you, yours to harness at a moments notice. What more could you want?”
Seraph reached out with his consciousness, seeking an exit from Raubahn’s domain. “You have taken the time to find me here Seraph. Let me impart to you Truth, as you are a seeker thereof. As you practice blue magic it will find roots and draw power from your very bones. You can very easily draw too much in and be dragged down by a power you cannot contain. Whatever power you seek, make sure you can contain it. Your flesh is a living flask and can grow to contain more power. Show unto me you have the strength to rival my insight. Seraph… go forth and devour the essence of your foes, before I truly speak out of turn.

Seraph came to being held up by Saint. “Scroll… in my bag… too tired… must rest.” Understanding completely, Saint gave Seraph the scroll he sought. Reading off the parchment Seraph was returned home to Bastok. Although appearing outside the Moghouse, Makar brought in his friend, laying him to rest and tended to the fire, keeping the temperature to Seraph’s liking. The following morning Seraph awoke apparently no worse for wear. A new member in the linkshell was nervous about fighting, having only become an adventurer herself. As they were both in Bastok he offered himself up to help in her training.
“Good morning!” came the call on the edges of town. “I’m Hinamori!” Hm… another precocious Mithra. Seraph seemed to find them regularly. “I am Seraph… shall we get started?” The Mithra girl was enthusiastic to begin. Seraph didn’t mind at all. The experiences of the prior day still seemed like a dream. It was hard to make out what was factual and what were his own dreamings. Although still weak, Seraph found the will to fight alongside Hinamori. The fiends of South Gustaberg weren’t a threat to either of them, let alone the two working together.
Seraph pointed out quickly that the nearby bees were prone to being caked with hardened honey. Hearing that one could make something of a living off them they became a favored target of Hinamori. Several times over between their barrage of attacks the bees would shake off pollen, causing Hinamori some frustration not being keen on the scent. However, the pair soon realized that the pollen healed the bees when dispersed. Seraph could feel a surge of power when that happened. At first he paid no heed, but by the third bee he began syncing to however the power flowed. Soon, the flow eased greatly.
Feeling confident, the duo began attacking the nearby worms. This large variety burrowed up from the ground in numerous areas. It was quickly learned that they did not like being attacked from multiple angles. Somehow the small creatures stirred up enough force to cause a small sand spin. Like the bees before, this phenomenon grabbed Seraph’s attention. As before he aligned his perception in time with the occurance. This practiced eased the storm in his mind that plagued him his whole life.
After some time it became necessary to rest. Hinamori was enjoying her time out in the field, attacking the bees while Seraph rested. So many had alluded to the power of the Beasts… how did Blue Magic correlate? The answer just wouldn’t come to him. “Seraph!” Hinamori came running back, a stray Goblin fast on her tail. Normally they stayed to their camp, but they did find their way north occasionally, much to the detriment of beginners. Seraph wasn’t in a lofty place to talk. He still didn’t feel up to snuff. Still, he could not sit idly by.
He brought sword and shield to the ready, jumping between Hinamori and the Goblin. The Goblin had no interest in Seraph and continued chasing his Mithra companion. A memory screamed out from Seraph’s mind of the whirlwind that trapped the shadows with him. Somehow, the whirlwind took physical form, and the Goblin found itself trapped with Seraph. Too angered to ask how, Seraph began singles’ combat with the Goblins. Swords crossed, but just as often they met their mark. The Goblin’s assault was relentless, and eventually Seraph faltered, his whirlwind with him. Hinamori jumped back into the fray, distracting the Goblin as Seraph sunk to a single knee.
‘Can’t stop fighting’ he thought. Making every effort to drag himself up, he caught the scent of a bees’ pollen. He looked about, ensuring there was no enemy behind him. Thankfully there wasn’t, and he felt well enough to begin fighting again. The Goblin was losing the fight and fighting with more ferocious determination. He heard a sound that he had come to dread: The Goblin laughed. Moving as fast as he could Seraph body checked the Goblin to get as much distance between the foe and Hinamori. He couldn’t afford her getting hit so badly so soon. The Goblin was unaffected, and tossed its bomb right at Seraph, sending him flying. The Goblin found himself dead, killed with his own explosive, but the noise drew one of it’s brethren. Gunpowder and magic still soaked the air, and Seraph drew the latter into himself. “I… have… HAD IT!!!” screamed Seraph. His wrath coalesced into a bomb of his own, and he threw it dead in the face of the oncoming Goblin, leaving only a smoldering husk and mask behind.
Hinamori looked on in wonder. “Seraph… what was all that?” The words rang in his head and escaped his lips… “…power of the beast…” The bees’ pollen… the worms’ sandstorm… the Goblin’s bomb. He was right. He could mimic the energy of his foes, making their powers his own. He could feel a greater strength as well. His sword arm felt stronger with the addition of the Goblin’s power. “Seraph… I’ve never seen such a craft. What are you?” Seraph stood and looked at his companion. “I am a Blue Mage.”
With that the two finished their days’ training, Seraph bringing into him every iota of power he could sense. By days end no creature in Gustaberg had escaped his notice, or the capture of it’s power. Seraph took Hinamori back to town, and prepared for a trip. He told Makar to take care. Heeding the call of the world, he walked out into the wilderness in order to capture a piece of the souls of everything he met. The world was his, and soon he would be a world unto himself. The Beast Within left the nest of Bastok to find all the prey that he would devour.

 

 

Next: “Out of the Wilderness

2 thoughts on “An Empty Vessel”

  1. Hello, Constructive Criticism here. First things first – make it pleasant to the reader. Line spacing is a /must/, otherwise it creates a negative mood right away. Use more active verbs. You love passive tense. Passive tense = boring. Go easy on description. Rather, I love and adore description, but make sure you vary it with some short active sentences. Avoid words ‘causing,’ because you aren’t writing causation and correlation here. Describe what happens instead. Rather than describing if the character has interest in someone else as the author, let the reader do the work. Give us details in dialogue that will hint at their emotion and feelings. Telling the reader the feelings of the character… is a tricky bit, because it undermines the reader’s intelligence. Be careful in these things. I’m happy you are writing 🙂

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    • I will bear the line spacing in mind. Typically I format things in a pleasing, elegant fashion as I’m writing. Sadly it does not take under the way I post. I’ve been working at that. The reason this work is passive tense is because, quite literally, it is past. Nailing down a present tense has been tricky. In regards to description, I do not feel there is enough of it myself. This is part of my series of fan fiction. My audience for this, in great part, are the friends who play the game with me, so I skip over the description. Both Saint and Rai are Humes… but what do they look like? I haven’t said. I am in a bad habit of (over) explaining everything because it is something that comes from video games, my primary media. I find that it is assumed that we don’t “get the point” in a lot of cases. Sadly it carries into my work, especially this one. I like to think I have avoided it in my own work. Ultimately however, this is all a stepping stone to something more professional. It is also fun. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t do it. And if I took things too seriously there would be nothing posted. Keep up with your critical eye. When I am writing more formal and finalized works, then I will bear in mind my bad habits. Until then I’ll get the idea of the story out and worry about the finite details later.

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