Transformations Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pride.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…what?

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

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

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

…No…

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

And he was gone.

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

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

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

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

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

So what do you choose?

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

“To Live.”

That’s good enough for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…what would Shantotto say?

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

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

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

…beyond the gates of nobility… gates… Whitegate…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you like bacon?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As you wish…

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

A huge grimoire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lemochu’s voice.

Uh oh.

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

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

Yasfel…

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

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

Fear. Sudden and overpowering. She began to cry.

“…no… Immortal… you?”

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

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

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

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

Just like now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is that not also our way?”

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

Seraph nodded.

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

“I will.”

Separation, displacement, and going back to himself.

“Boy… I would have your name.”

“Seraph. What is yours?”

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

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

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

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

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

Seraph nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The three were silent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The young Immortal stormed away toward Kushdeel’s.

Rai.” Nothing.

It was only a theory.

Rai.” Still no answer.

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

RAI.

Seraph.

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

Yes. Lemochu gave me a heads’ up.

How long have you known?

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

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

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

So why help me at all?

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

There was a long silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…well… he had a long way to go.

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

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

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

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

Seraph, you alright?” resounded Shoro.

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

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

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

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

This place was Immortal.

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

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

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

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

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

Zi’Tah… yes.

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

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

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

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

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

A bat trio attack.

Had the boy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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