~To step into the life of an Immortal, and wield Blue Magic, the fifth consideration of any initiate should be: Would you choose a tumultuous life where fame and fortune were attainable, or a tranquil life where both were forever beyond your reach?~
A booming voice jarred the young devotee back to the waking world. The basement within San d’Oria’s cathedral housed an area called the Reliquary. A number of elaborate candelabras lined each wall, casting the faintest of lights throughout the spacious chamber. From the door one of the attending priests had crossed to the far end of the Reliquary. He had found a soundly dozing Seraph on bended knee.
“What is it Pagisalis?” Seraph responded quickly, shaking off the stupor of what seemed an impromptu nap. He spoke to Pagisalis, garbed as all the priests were. Topped with black cowls and mantles, in blue robes that extended down to wrist and ankle both, all trimmed in white, and belted at the wait. Piety did not soften their demeanor in most cases, but instead seemed to give it harder edge.
A curt shake of the priests’ head was directed at Seraph. “This is not a place for remaining idle or finding succor for the body. If your soul is in disarray, that is another matter.”
Holding a hand out towards the candle holders Seraph raised a question. “Can a craftsman not even be suffered while he meditates upon his own work?”
With a defeated chuckle and a sigh Seraph walked out the Reliquary door. He shut the double doors behind him. Up the stairs and around the corner he strode out into the early morning San d’Orian sun. The moat surrounding Chateau d’Oraguille, the building which housed the monarchy and was the political center of the bulk of Elvaan culture, glistened with the rising sun. The well manicured grass framing the stone streets of the city was as crisp and vibrant as it always was. A fountain at the square flowed with pure water. All was well and idyllic in the city.
Seraph had found his niche making jewelry, and through it earned a comfortable lifestyle. Many within the confines of the Elvaan culture limited their use of finery, but he was often enough called on by those residing and regularly gracing the upper class. These commissions allowed him the time to set down to his work and craft each unique detail. The deep pockets of his clientele afforded him the luxury of not needing to adhere to conventional scheduling. Plus adventurers had demand for his wares. As Seraph had other distractions, and no taste for adventuring himself, this pleased him greatly.
Seraph went home, in the southern reaches of San d’Oria. Opening the door the scent of tea greeted him. However, the smiling face of his wife was nowhere to be seen.
“Lu…” he cautiously called out.
A burst of wind slammed the door into his face. “You know I hate those cutesy nicknames.
“Come on Lelu…” Seraph playfully called through the door.
A current of lightning jumped through the doorknob. “What did I just say?”
“You Mages are so stoic, Ms. Vulilu” he called.
Workings of earth and water had been combined into a ball of mud. They greeted Seraph as he opened the door.
“We also wield the forces of nature with some acuity. You’d do well to remember that.” Vulilu was a childhood friend. While he had no affinity for the magical arts, Seraph understood Vulilu’s passion and supported her at ever step of the way. Their group of friends once aimed to be Paladins, but the most ambitious of them only rose to a position in the city guard. It was a simple life. Seraph never found himself at want for anything beyond Ronfaure.
“Go get yourself cleaned up, Dear. I’d like to take a walk before I head off to teach.”
Still blind, Seraph found his way to a washbasin. After getting all the dirt off his face, he drew more clean water from a larger barrel. As the water stilled a reflection of himself beaten and bloody at deaths’ door was completely missed as he dipped his hands into the bowl.
“Can you avoid getting it into my hair and ears next time? You know how my clients can be…”
“Speaking of,” Vulilu began, raising her voice. “What about that commission?”
“All finished! Thanks for the reminder. I’ll deliver it while I’m out.” Seraph found a clean shirt. A lovely shade of blue with ornate gold ornamentation. Joining Vulilu, the couple began their walk toward Ronfaure.
“What’s so special about this piece?” she asked.
“I have no idea” Seraph replied. “This adventurer gives me this shirt as a down payment, tells me to wear it once I’m ready to deliver. Wanted a copy of a coin, but made of pure gold.” Opening a converted ring box, Seraph revealed his commissioned piece. On it appeared a conjoined snake, bearing two heads, connected by their tails. The back of Seraph’s neck felt warm looking at it.
Looking to Vulilu, he found her hand moving his hair out of the way. “There was still a bit of mud. You missed a spot.”
Time seemed to still. Even without any renown, Seraph lived a content life. The walk to Ronfaure proceeded as life did, without incident. Just the people, birdsong, wind, and the smiling face of his wife.
For the briefest of moments time did stop. Seraph noted it, but then it was gone.
“Run!” Xaran, their friend in the guard, was leading a small group of citizens back into the city. Seeing her friends, she jogged over to them. “Sorry Vulilu, you’ll have to postpone today’s classes. Some damned fool of an adventurer bit off more than they could chew. There is some monster running around. A dragoon, of all people, is keeping it at bay. But…”
“…they’re alone” Vulilu finished.
Xaran nodded grimly. “Precisely. I’m impressed that their holding their own. I have no idea what manner of creature they’re even fighting. And… Miss! You can’t go out there!”
Looking over, Seraph saw his client running out into the forest. Without thinking, he fell into a run after her.
Xaran stumbled in her speech. “Seraph! What are you doing!”
Without giving it another moments’ thought, Vulilu ran after her husband.
The monster was strange. Somewhat human. Tentacles fell down from where a jaw would be otherwise. It floated off the ground, and was assailing the dragoon with magic.
“Ah… Goldsmith! The commission is completed?” The woman who had commissioned the coin was leveling an unusual firearm at the monster. While she shot true, the monster paid her no mind. “Blasted Soulflayers. I’ve only fought one before. This is more than a little awkward.”
“How do you mean?” Seraph asked.
“’Clearite, I told you that lamp would be trouble.’ For once I should have listened to Qultada.”
Seraph looked around. “Lamp?” Behind the Soulflayer was a gold lamp. A hypnotic blue jewel rested atop it.
“Normally such lamps imbue an area with a particular element” Clearite explained. “This one, apparently, held something less benign. It was to be your reward for a task completed.”
“Get the lamp!” the dragoon screamed. The Soulflayer held him at bay with a torrent of flame. The dragoon had a companion wyvern doing what he could to break the attack.
Shards of ice erupted from the ground beneath the Soulflayer.
Looking over his shoulder again, Seraph saw Vulilu. Even though she just finished one casting, she was already beginning the next.
Clearite shoved Seraph forward. “Go grab that lamp. This thing is following magical essence. That dragoon is tied to his wyvern, and me and this saucy mage here are attacking with spells on our own. You’re the only one it will ignore. But that will let you get the lamp and stop this creature.”
“Are you mad?” Vulilu snapped, interrupting her casting. “My husband is not a combatant.”
Clearite launched a wind infused attack in the Black Mages’ stead. “And I’m not asking him to be. But we either need to beat this thing or tame it. We can keep the Soulflayer distracted. He just needs to grab it by the tail and show it who’s boss.”
Vulilu looked doubtful. The dragoon was steadying themselves. Clearite fired another shot.
Seraph had, in this time, removed the coin from its box. He flipped it into the air. He then made a full on run towards the Soulflayers’ lamp. Strangely, the entity watched the coin. Time slowed, and the world grew dark.
Seraph felt cold and alone. He couldn’t move. Was he bleeding? cold. He had to get up…
The world came back to Seraph. Vulilu, Clearite, and the Dragoon stood around him, watching. In his hand was the lamp. It glowed much as it had before. Seraph turned around and saw the Soulflayer behind him, dangerously close. But Seraph did not falter.
“You do not have long, Child.” Four voices spoke as one, though no mouths moved. “The Sun Sets on you as it does for us all. Choice is powerful. You may choose the peace of this world, short to live as it is, or you may awaken. New beginnings, ill omens, and transformations await you if you rise. But pain. So much pain.”
“Stay with me” came Vulilu’s voice.
“Give me life” proclaimed the Soulflayer.
“Guard yourself…” Clearite let slip.
Seraph looked to the Dragoon, face still hidden. Looking up, he revealed himself as a Hume. The sky had darkened. Where there should have been stars were instead monsters.
“What is thy desire?” came the mixed voice.
Seraph held out his hands. Vulilu seized his right hand and the Dragoon his left. Clearite moved behind him, going back into the city walls. The Soulflayer reached into him.
“The future is mine” Seraph said, a wound opening across his chest. He closed his eyes, pain flooding him. “I choose a path in which I have earned peace. I choose a life fraught with conflict. I choose because I…”
Seraph screamed aloud. The sudden torrent of pain surprised him. He did not know where he had gone.
A blade still kept Seraph pinned to the ground, Raubahn spoke with apparent disappointment. “I see… you had not been completely honest.” Raubahn poured more energy through the blade, inflicting ever greater harm to the young Blue Mage.
A single word. A calm point in the storm. His clothing was torn. The complicated bindings severed. He was could feel himself slipping into his power.
He allowed it.
The ground he was encased in exploded. Raubahn was sent careening back and prepared his guard.
Seraph floated above the ground.
Raubahn, winded, launched a taunt. “By all means… Give yourself over. There will be no question then that this was inevitable.”
“No Raubahn. Even if I am broken, you do not get to win.” Seraph pulled himself back, removing the power from himself, and collapsed onto the ground. “You can fail. You can kill those who grow to match, or overtake, you. I have a future. I… will not…” The strain too much, Seraph lost consciousness.
Raubahn dragged himself over to Seraph. He looked down onto the Elvaan Blue Mage. He did not take pleasure in his victory. That was the problem with adventurers. They had no sense of higher purpose. Killing and looting. He fought for the Empress, the people. He could not allow himself to fall. As he raised his blade, using all the strength he had remaining his eye flared, and as his sword dropped Seraph warped away.
This… would be a problem.
~“Would you choose a tumultuous life where fame or fortune were attainable, or a tranquil life where both were forever beyond your reach?”~
~“I would take both paths.”~