~Consideration the sixth: You stand on the precipice between life and death. Would you choose to live life as a beast if it would save you from falling into the shadowy abyss of the underworld?~
Awakening in Whitegate, the smells of Shararat Teahouse were powerful, more so than Seraph had ever recalled. Wasuhd sat near him, and put a hand to his mouth. “It’s okay Seraph. Dad said it was okay to keep you here. You suddenly appeared in really bad shape, but we know Blue Mages, can bounce back with some time.” Seraph sat up slowly, while his friend continued filling Seraph in. “We don’t know why, but the others are looking for you. The shop is closed until you can slip out, but… we can’t help you after that. Be careful!”
Seraph nodded, and embraced his small Pharatrie companion. As he stood Ratihb came around a corner. He showed Seraph a back door with a hidden stair which led to the port. A detachment of Immortals could be seen patrolling the area, scouring the barge back to the mainland. Changing his clothes quickly, he waited until they gave the all clear. A final boarding call was given. Seraph rushed the ticket booth, paid his fare, and boarded the ship with no one being any the wiser.
Or so he thought.
“Sheadon, my old friend” echoed a familiar voice. Seraph tried to listen, but his own emotional strain was taxing the limits of his stability. Seraph could feel the presence of an Immortal on the deck above. He reluctantly began replacing his Magus Armor, damaged as it was. He couldn’t risk being detected. Not now.
“What is it, Seer? Unless you’re heading to Mhaura today I can’t chat with you. Blasted palace guard held me up looking for a fugitive. I’m off schedule.”
Mock surprise was apparent to Seraph’s ears. “I am sorry, My Friend. And so soon after being the only ship to sail for a time. Much the same with you, the Immortals came to me. My augury indicated that I may help find this law breaker. Are there any stowaways on board, or perhaps familiar faces?”
“By Altana! I don’t have time for… PASHI!!! Is there anyone down there who shouldn’t be?”
Pashi Maccaleh jumped across her counter and checked the cargo hold. “No, I don’t see…” At this moment she saw Seraph. Happiness crossed her face, seeing her old friend and chatting buddy. But the severity of the Elvaan’s features, the desperation in his eyes pleading for silence, dashed that. She glared seemingly through the deck.
Apparently, she had noticed the deceit as readily as Seraph had. Elvaan and Mithran ears were known for their sharpness.
“Pashi!?” called the captain again. Two pairs of footsteps made their way down the stairs.
Nodding to her friend, Pashi darted back to the landing. “Whew! Sorry. Just found some pointed-eared Tarrru. Spewing like a Malboro. I’ll get that cleaned up. We might be better off if we can get sailing as soon as possible.”
A flare of red light went unnoticed by all save Seraph.
Sheadon’s gruff voice barked at Pashi. “They got a ticket?”
“Yes, Sir!” Pashi stated, in a playfully rigid yet mocking salute.
“There you have it. Can I get going now? It’s not like I can push this tub to make up for lost time.” Sheadon’s footsteps led back to the bridge.
Pashi stayed where she was, maintaining eye contact with someone. Eventually, these footsteps ventured off the ship.
And so it was, Seraph pulled away from Whitegate as he had originally come to it.
“Yeesh! I just lost a life.” Pashi hugged Seraph. The ship began pulling way from the dock. Once he could feel the ship pushing away from the city, Seraph venture with Pashi onto the deck. “Who was that weirrrdo?”
Seraph risked one glance back into the ocean mist. In it he could see the crimson eye of Waoud upon him.
“’…hadn’t told the truth.’” Why it had taken so long to realize was a mystery, but Raubahn knew all Waoud did. It is not that the two were connected, but they were one. “That puts ‘One, Yet Many’ on its head.”
“Hm?” a curious Pashi wondered aloud.
“I’ll explain everything on the way. It’s a long trip after all. It is good to see you again, Pashi.”
Even after telling Pashi all she had missed, the boat still had a way to go. Seraph affixed his Moghat link pearl. “Anyone around?” No response. Seraph set his head back against the bulkhead below deck.
It was no secret that adventuring was a dangerous profession. A.M.A.N., the Adventurers’ Mutual Aid Network, designed a number of safeguards in the event those that set out would be able to make it back home safely. A variation of Warp scrolls activated due to the presence of lost blood. In the worse case scenarios, after an hours’ contact the holder would be brought back to their mog houses for emergency medical care. One could conversely go to select points in each city. This also allowed restorative White Magic to be used in the field on an unconscious person, although this would leave the recipient in a weakened stated. The former is what allowed Seraph to escape. It was a good thing that he hadn’t left all his gear with Makar.
He looked to his handful of pearls for all the connections he had. What was he going to do? What could he do?
The rickety barge eventually docked in Mhaura. The town was empty, as it usually was. Finding his way just outside, he used nearby field resources to repatriate to Bastok. He slid into his mog house to an awaiting Makar. While normally full of good cheer, the Moogle could see that his Elvaan friend was not in a place for frivolity. Plus, his tattered clothing told most of the story. Seraph shrugged out of it and into his bed. He went to sleep quickly. Makar went about his duty, mending Seraph’s fighting gear. It was hard work, as his pom pom kept drooping down in the way.
Seraph awoke to a jovial clamor. Apparently the Moghatters had returned to the fold. Reaching over, Seraph picked up his pearl apparatus and set it to his ear. He then nudged Makar. The Moogle was dazed, having put hard work in bringing Seraph’s swords and armor back to fighting shape. Seraph flashed a thankful smile to his friend. He took a deep breath, and spoke to the linkshell.
“’lo Moghat,” Seraph said, drawing a rousing clamor from everyone.
“How’d it go with that Testimony?” inquired Allslove.
“Not well at all” Seraph replied. Amidst other ongoing conversations he took the time to detail what had transpired.
Nabasheen eventually caught wind. “That’s insane. Don’t get me wrong. Maat is off his rocker, but at least he tells you he wants to fight…”
Before becoming an adventurer, Saint would return to San d’Oria and talk about his adventures. At one point, Maat had put it to Saint to retrieve a Testimony of a Dragoon and return in order to prove ready to further master the job. As he recalled, Saint’s first battle did not go so well.
“I’ve got new armor. I’ve got the best polearm. I’ve even asked other Dragoons how they beat Maat” Saint reported, obviously agitated. “I didn’t do badly, but I didn’t win.”
Seraph sipped at his tea. “What did the other Dragoons say?”
Saint thought back. “Start in on Maat, switch it up to take out his wyvern once he calls it, then focus in on the old man again.”
Seraph set down his empty tea cup, twisting it as he thought. “That’s ludicrous.”
“Excuse me?” Saint asked, jarred out of his own fuming.
“Hm? Oh… That isn’t how I would take you out.”
Saint’s laughter came pealing out, full and genuine. “You could beat me?!”
“At some point, perhaps.” Seraph’s voice was full of a challenging smile.
“Alright. Let’s hear it. What does the non-adventurer have to say about the prevailing strategy.”
“It just doesn’t make sense.”
“You said that.”
“Heh… Indeed so. Remembering what you told me, Lumiere will protect you while you’re petrified, paralyzed, or similarly debilitated, correct?”
“He’s loyal to a fault” Saint confirmed, patting Lumiere’s head to keep him at ease while he was curled on the ground.
Seraph nodded. “But what happens when you get knocked out?”
Saint plainly stated the answer. “He keeps his distance. I have to call him back.”
“And how much damage does Lumiere help you with?”
Saint thought about it. “It can vary. Basically, the longer he’s out and the stronger my attacks the more ferocious he becomes.”
“Why worry about Maat’s wyvern at all?”
“Because the longer it’s out the more it hurts me.”
Seraph waved his hands defensively. “Okay… How close were you to beating Maat?”
“Pretty close. He took me out, but was breathing hard when he did it.”
“You think maybe two or four more solid hits would have done him in?”
“How many attacks did it take to knock out the wyvern?”
With Seraph having closed the circle, Saint lit up and looked at Lumiere. The wyvern had perked up, spreading his wings and took to the air, excitement spilling off the pair. “If I just focus on Maat, and trust my partner here to heal me… I don’t need to worry.”
Seraph nodded. “That’s what I think. Just accept his wyvern is going to hit you. Like you said, trust Lumiere to watch over you. If he wants to divide and conquer, just attack head on. He can’t call his wyvern twice if he’s knocked out.”
Saint took up his polearm. “Worth a shot. I think it’s time we had another word with Maat, Lumi.”
In his own excitement Seraph forgot about this important event. It paralleled his own rather completely. Saint had to know how to beat himself. Seraph had to know how to take down who he could become.
“Does anyone out there know of a sword technique that incorporates a jump?” Seraph asked his linkshell.
A new voice piped up. “I can think of one called Savage Blade. Might be a bit above your head though.”
Seraph openly scoffed. “If you can show it to me, I can probably learn it.”
“Oh, is that so? Head to the guards’ barracks in San d’Oria. We’ll see if you’ve got what it takes.”
Seraph set out at once, thanking Makar again for his help. Once touching down in his native home, Seraph went towards Chateau d’Oraguille. Waiting outside was the Hume Paladin he had spoken with. They ventured inside where a red haired Elvaan female intercepted the incoming duo. “Ah, Tenatzen! What brings you here today?”
Motioning to the Blue Mage at his side he answered her question. “Curilla, meet Seraph. He was recently inducted into the ranks of my linkshell. He was competent in his skill with a blade when he joined, and has grown quickly.”
Curilla’s one eye grew wide and she saluted in the style of San d’Oria. “Though rarely seen in this time, I know well the reputation of the Immortals. To have one come all this way is astounding, and an honor!”
Seraph bowed in return, as was customary in Whitegate. He had never seen any Immortal defer to anyone, but he was here to ask a favor and he knew all too well the ways of San d’Orians.
Curilla continued. “What is it that brings you hear all the way from the Aradijah Continent?”
Seraph said, definitely and without room for questioning, “I seek the Savage Blade.”
Curilla eyed the pair cautiously. “I recall the day you came into here seeking training Tenatzen. You were as he is now.”
Tenatzen nodded. “That’s true. I was patient and… ‘consulted’ with Maat. After a time I realized a new plateau in my ability. My friend here has shown his patience, I would say, in coming here from the Near East. That is no small task in and of itself. If at all you doubt his skill, test it. I feel that even you would find it sufficient to master the technique.”
Sizing up the closest person she’d ever seen to an Immoral, Curilla retrieved a curved blade with no pommel from behind her. She tossed it at Seraph. He caught it and looked it over. This sword felt weaker than he was accustomed to. Somehow… constrained.
“The issue is not his skill. I agree with your assessment, Tenatzen. However, the blade does not” Curilla said, pointing at the sword. “If the Sapara of Trials will not grant you its power, there is no other way for the technique to be imparted to you. I am sorry your trip ended at such a wall.”
Seraph looked between the two San d’Orian fighters. Every part of his being told him that this technique would place Seraph on more even footing with Raubahn. Simply knowing that this technique against him…
Seraph’s anger flared. For the first time since his failure against Raubahn, Seraph’s energy poured out of him. The binding in his newly repaired clothing strained against the onslaught of magic he exuded. His pupils dilated, and soon his eyes were covered in a bright blue. “You mean to tell me the only thing stopping me is the will of one sword?! It sounds as though the two of us need to have words. May I?” he asked, gesturing to a nearby practice dummy.
Curilla made an open motion, allowing Seraph to make use of the training grounds. “We both know he will not accomplish this taks.”
“Oh… I think he’ll manage” the Hume Paladin whispered to Curilla.”If there is one thing Seraph knows, it’s about drawing forces out of otherwise inert shells.” Curilla nodded, and Tenatzen voiced the approval. “Go ahead Seraph. I’m sure you can pull it off. And if not, it’s into the river you go!”
Seraph laughed, an odd reverberation coming from his channeled magic, and he began to attack the dummy. It was quite different from attacking any living thing, but it was just enough combat tension to allow him to focus. Bringing one will to another, Seraph brought to bear his inner world against that of the Sapara of Trials.
The Sapara was long silent. It was as though Seraph shouted at a wall.
After a time Seraph had tuned into the blade enough to use Vorpal Blade. While his most powerful technique, there was not much variety in how it could be used. Still, as he used it he focused on creating an affinity with the ability. Using his magic he unleashed an attack taken from the Lamaie of Arrapago Reef. When you took away their weapons, they would go hysteric and attack with their bare hands. Once Seraph had this spell, he found that he could stir up the winds into an attack under his own power. The strength of the spell made up for the lack of elemental sway.
Curilla eyed the younger swordsman. “I know it is possible for two fighters to work together call for the elements, but he can do so on his own?”
Tenatzen confirmed. “It’s something all accomplished Blue Mages can do. Seraph taught this to himself. He’s only recently begun honing the skill. Keep watching.”
“I don’t care how powerful you are!” cried the Sapara within Seraph’s mind. “You’ll not draw out Savage Blade from your blood this day.”
Again, Seraph focused on resonating. This time, he called on the technique Red Lotus Blade. In conjunction he called on a spell wrested from the undead, walking Shadows of fallen soldiers of old. The two combined, the resulting force being a searing display of light and heat.
Curilla was now maintaining her composure, but the awe could be heard in her voice. “He commands the making of Darkness and Light within his own form…”
Tenetzen acquiesed. “Up to now I’ve only seen this readily done by the Samurai of the Far East. He’s seen Savage Blade used before, and is convinced that there was one power he had yet to absorb that would allow him to use the power of Light itself.”
This did not go unnoticed by the Sapara. “I am impressed. Were I to grant you this skill, you would come to wield the power of Light?”
Seraph, in his mind, affirmed. “I know it to be so. My opponent, who I first saw use this technique, may not. It is unlikely, but possible.”
The dummy, windtorn, gravity riddled, and fused into uselessness, had enough, and fell off the stand. Curilla looked at the Blue Mage. “My… the blade has awakened. But still…”
Seraph focused for a moment, a blue current streaking over the sword.
Curilla looked on, then asked “How do you feel?”
Seraph reflected. “Somewhat… empowered.”
Curilla nodded. “Then you have subjugated the Sapara of Trials. You may now begin your path of learning. When you no longer feel as you do now, the Sapara has taught you all it could. Return it to me, and we will send you along your way. Tenatzen, watch over him. As you have unlocked the technique I leave it in your hands.”
As they left the Chateau d’Orillague Tenatzen shoved Seraph playfully. He would have landed in the moat below. Seraph, as gracefully as his Dancer experience permitted, retained his balance and continued walking along unruffled. “I’ll have to remember that you’re elementally adverted to water.” The Paladin laughed as they carried on.
Seraph was in need of a place to train. He thought of going deeper into Zi’Tah. That wood calmed him. Unfortunately, he was anything but calm. Instead of opting east, he warped to the west out to Cape Teriggan. Similar to Zi’Tah, nature triumphed in this place. This is probably due to a Protocrystal being in both areas. Just as lightning and thunder were ever present in his favored wood, in Teriggan it was more likely to be blustery than not. Far away from the cities the monsters which roamed knew no fear and no quarter. As that is what Seraph would have to overcome back in Whitegate, he felt it appropriate.
Setting down on the sands, Seraph was struck by the familiarity of the place. From his own experience, the Valkurm Dunes had offered his first experience in group training. Outside of the local wildlife and the winds, it was a very similar place. Seraph could also recall how he first heard about this place. Saint spoke of it regarding when Rai was perfecting the technique known as Tachi: Rana. Headstrong, Rai attempted to hone the technique by using it thirty-thousand times. The winds were swift, and the sands unsteady. Little memory was in this place of his mentors’ efforts. Even so, Seraph raised his blade in determination and went to work.
“You’ve done well” Curilla reported, upon Seraph return.
“I thank you for the opportunity” Seraph responded. After handing the practice weapon back to the ranking Temple Knight, the two started at each other. “More to the point, thank you for humoring me.”
And odd emotion flashed across Curilla’s face. She was surprised, but also seemed to expect to be.
“You had little way of knowing I was not from the Near East, but rather from here. As such I know the Temple Knights. In fact…” Seraph shook off the memory of his childhood friends. “Even if one is skilled enough to execute the technique, one needs to be at a point where they can first learn it.”
“Why do you think I would be wasting my time letting you practice a technique you could not use?” Curilla said, a playful mock to her voice.
“Because you are first and foremost a leader.” Seraph brought his hands into his view. “When I was first introduced to you, I was not in a balanced place. I was angry at my failures on the one hand and prone to lashing out. I was doubtful on the other which led me to hold back. I am not back to ‘normal’ just yet… but I can function.” Seraph clenched his fists, and a rush of energy poured off from him.
Curilla nodded. “You’re battle ready at least. It says much that you realized this.”
“Thank you for saying so. Due to my doubts and the magics in this armor I have held back. Now, I think I can open myself up safely.”
Seraph, during his time on Cape Teriggan, noticed that he couldn’t break through to seize hold of the Savage Blade technique. It became apparent that, though what he told Curilla was true, he knew he was at his limit. There were other routes to power. But the path of the Immortal, of mastering Blue Magic, was what he had chosen. Though he could choose differently, he had decided that he would see his choice through.
“I’ll be back for the blade soon.” Seraph bowed, turned on a heel, and began to walk away.
“Young One” Curilla called. “There was Paladin detachment that returned from The Sanctuary of Zi’Tah recently.” Seraph halted and partially turned back towards Curilla. She continued, a wryness added to her voice. “They were sent to confirm hysteric reports that an outpost guard relayed, stating that something was using monster techniques after defeating them. They returned recently. Strange… they weren’t able to ascertain the validity of the original reports either way. Although… the lot of them seemed almost encouraged. They were tight-lipped as to why, even when ordered.”
Thankful for the keffiyeh’s veil, Seraph allowed himself a broad smile.
“It seems there may be another Blue Mage that’s come to the Middle Lands. They seem to be a frightful adversary. Be cautious if you come across them. I warily imagine what a conflict between two such as you inflict on the surroundings.”
Seraph was curious just how much Curilla was privy to.
“Thank you once more Curilla. Should I cross blades with an Immortal I will go with your faith and the well wishes of the Paladins, and the honor of the people San d’Oria.”
Curilla crossed her arms, stoic yet prayerful. Knowing she was alone she closed her eye and bowed her head. “You’ve never been without them. Open your wings, O Celestial. Fly, and fight well. Your ascent begins and ends with you.”
“Ma’am… who are you speaking to?”
Looking up, she addressed her subordinate. “No one, Vulilu. What brings you here?”
Vulilu entered her superiors’ chambers, and caught a smell of an ancient forest. Reminded of her friend, she prayed for his well being.
In the end, Seraph had prepared as much as he could. Savage Blade was beyond his reach. Clearite acted as liaison with the Seagull Phratrie to help get a beat on the Immortals’ activities. It turns out that Raubahn had not been seen since their fight. However, it was evidenced that he was alive and well. His duties were fulfilled, but he had done them in the utmost secrecy. Closer to home, his friends in Moghat each aided as they could in turn.
Seraph announced his intent at a rematch. Seeing Raubahn’s actions as a grave affront, everyone did what they could. Onyx commissioned a number of goods, including a potent pair of potions, to keep Seraph in the fight. Alls assisted in collecting a second Testimony, though this required sneaking into the Near East as a White Mage from Windurst. Returning home, the remaining members of Moghat offered to take Seraph to every corner accessible via the Middle Lands to help hunt for new spells to grant an edge. When he was ready, cheers of good luck were spearheaded by Rai. Little needed to be said, though Seraph knew the full weight of Rai’s words. Saint was out there somewhere, in a realm apart. Even so, the Dragoon’s backing was with the young Blue Mage.
Waoud, or more accurately Raubahn, asked many questions. Ideal, like any fresh faced youth, Seraph answered with his heart. From the Immortal commander’s perspective, Seraph had lied. The path of a Blue Mage stood as an allegory to his actual life.
We start off weak and not knowing. We pull in our experiences and build on them. Strength, weaknesses, all manner of traits useful and not. We test ourselves. We find out what works, and what doesn’t. But going forward honestly, we do not need to look back with shame. Our potential is infinite. If we push our limits every day, those grounds will grow.
In the previous match, Seraph saw an illusion of a tranquil life back in San d’Oria. As he told Vulilu, that was his future. His past was filled with joy and pain.
In the present, Seraph’s hands pushed at the Imperial Whitegate.
Raubahn accepts his Beast. He won. As a hunter, he drew in his prey. Seraph was hearty prey. Difficult, but ultimately he lost. But as a person, he has learned. Raubahn is an Immortal. Seraph is immortal, patient and unrelenting. His form, battle honed, flared bright, coming into sync with all the energy held in his body. Raubahn had failed to cast him down.
Now Seraph opened the Gates, returning to his lost paradise. He would continue to ascend until he escaped his entrapment in a realm apart.
~“You stand on the precipice between life and death. Would you choose to live life as a beast if it would save you from falling into a shadowy abyss of the underworld?”~
Waoud’s eyes turned dour.
Seraph replied with an unusual intensity.
~“I possess the strength to fall and retain my humanity.”~