CHAPTER ONE: THE FOOL
Oh Spirit of the Light!
And grant me the words
to beckon the ear of Emulguy!"
It was midwinter and I knew without pushing aside the curtains and opening the windows that the roads were covered in snow. From. The outside, my home was more or less a modernized cave that we oftentimes referred to as our den. Outside, the sound of bird song gave way to many relaxing sounds of rising crescendos and the swell of rushing wind rustling through the branches of large pine trees covered in ice.
I was too busy concentrating to look up, but I knew my brother Adrian was gazing down at me with the same grandiose look of indignation I've come to know and hate. My patience was beginning to run away with the wind and the storm clouds in my head were beginning to thunder.
Adrian cleared his throat, "Brother, listen."
My brows furrowed. I had been meditating.
"Amos," Adrian called once more. He snapped his fingers.
I opened my eyes and glared at my eldest brother, "Can't you tell I'm busy?"
Adrian's jaw set, "You won't light that candle like that, Amos. Even I wasn't that good at your age."
I closed my eyes once more and tried to relax, "That's why I'm going to be better."
At the young age of five, Adrian had mastered the ability of Soul Location. It was the psychic ability granted to those attuned with the Furnace Anchor that allowed the user to locate nearby souls. At the age of ten, while I was eight, Adrian had mastered Soul Stamping which physically manifested in the form of a large iridescent seal drawn on the floor beneath you. I was eighteen and still haven't mastered a single skill.
I was envious to say the least.
Adrian smirked, "You know, you'd probably have an easier time if you sought a mentor and actually began with the basics instead of jumping straight into pyrokinesis."
I sighed and glanced about the room. None of the candles were even beginning to smoke.
"You know, Adrian, as much as I enjoy our pointless banter, I'd much rather do this on my own instead of wasting my time with the spiritualists in the temple. Is that okay with you, Sensai?" I scoffed, sarcastically.
"Amos, I'm serious. Fire is more than an ephemeral substance, it surpasses the material and transcends the spirit." Adrian said, matter of fact.
Pfft. "Brother, spare me the metaphysical mumbo jumbo. If you want to help me, tell me something that's realistically beneficial."
Adrian shook his head and chuckled, "Fine, let's try something. Turn towards me and lay your palms up."
My brother sat cross legged in front of me and placed one of the red candles between our persons. For the first time, I was actually excited that he was here. He was twenty and so he had already succeeded the Sünberet Rite of Passage. His power was already sufficiently well endowed in comparison to me, but I wouldn't admit that to him. I was convinced that even though I was a late bloomer, I was going to do more than just catch up.
"You're going to help me make the flame bigger by reaching into the Furnace Anchor."
I rolled my eyes, "How am I supposed to一"
"Shh. Listen. Close your eyes and meditate," he instructed as he put his hands in mine. They were ice cold and were a bit clammy.
Adrian took a breath in for a few seconds and exhaled. Just as he continued to repeatedly breathe for what was only mere moments, his hands began to rise and fall in temperature.
"Follow my breathing," Adrian said through closed eyes, "Feel your body warming."
I did as I was asked. I closed my eyes and began to breathe; inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Still, my body refused to change in temperature as his hands did.
"It's not working," I said impatiently.
Adrian exhaled a final breath, "Don't worry, it takes time. Focus on the rising and falling of your chest, then imagine what it's like to feel the heat of the flame against your skin."
Again, I did as I was asked. At first I didn't feel anything, but after a while my core felt hot and my palms began to sweat. I don't know what it was but I felt something inside me, like a knot in my stomach, but it felt good, like a rush of adrenaline pumping through me. It was hot. It was power.
"Amos! Stop!" Adrian demanded as he pulled his hands away. I had opened my eyes for a second, but I could see that the flame on the candle had grown significantly by three feet tall with wax pouring down the side of the single-armed candelabra.
I had done it.
"Adrian! Holy shit, I did it! I really一"
My brother stood and kicked aside the candle holder and the wick went out, "Are you trying to effing kill me?"
I looked at him with confusion, "What do you mean? You told me to一"
"If you had pulled any harder, I could have spontaneously combusted and killed you in the process. Sweet mother of Christ, what the hell was that?" Adrian scorned, "You're supposed to exert your will outward, not inward."
I felt myself becoming irritated, "Well you could have warned me this was a death trap! How am I supposed to outwardly exert my energy if I don't一"
Adrian sighed and hesitated before sitting back down, "Calm down and let me explain."
He pointed at my chest where my heart is, "The Keyriki are born with an attunement to the Basin Anchor and the source of their energy comes from the heart. That is why the Basin within all of us represents our emotional self."
Then he pointed at my forehead, "The Irynna are born with an attunement to the Vortex Anchor and the source of their energy comes from the mind. That is why the Vortex within all of us represents our logical self."
Adrian grabbed my hands "Shh, listen. The Syfury, however, are born with an attunement to the Substance Anchor and the source of their energy comes from the body. That is why the Substance within all of us represents our physical self."
He pulled away and stood the candle he knocked over between us once more, "But the Abbaroti are born with an attunement to the Furnace Anchor and the source of our energy comes from the soul. That is why the Furnace within all of us represents our spiritual self."
I crossed my arms, "This is all very interesting and all, but what does this have to do with anything? All I wanna do is learn how to light an effing candle and I can't even do that."
Adrian pursed his lips, "Think about it this way, the reason you can't exert your energy outward is because you're focusing with your logical self, not your spiritual self. For us, an Aedenian is only as powerful as your spiritual body. The temple priests say that if you are pulling inward, then you aren't meeting the requirements necessary for mastering the whims of the spirit."
I was silent for a moment. Never was I a spiritual person let alone the type to engage in weekly communion or prayer. I was proud of my increasingly pragmatic ways no matter how my brother Adrian or my father Mathias might disregard it. They seem to have taken an overly trusting reliance on the Abbaroti priesthood while I maintained a more realistic approach in my life.
I pressed Adrian for more detail despite my skepticism, "What requirements are those?"
Adrian smiled, "Taking an interest now are we? Very well, I'll tell you. But if you want to learn more, you'll have to go looking for an Abbaroti priest. Who knows? Perhaps you'll find a mentor."
Pfft. As if.
Adrian shared with me a grave expression, opened his palm, and a ball of fire flourished into existence, "You have to master these qualities first before mastering the soul itself second: self-control, decisiveness, and introspection.
It was our father who taught me that 'although the soul is a fire element because it is a force that consumes, it is also a guiding light that may lead you out of the darkness.' Amos, you must be well aware, but this is the year that you partake in the Sünberet Rite of Passage. Maybe you should take it seriously."
I rolled my eyes and turned away from him, "That tradition is a waste of time. I know what I'm doing."
Adrian shrugged, "Okay, well have fun sitting and doing nothing at all."
He got up and left the meditation room with his chin held high. It was almost as though he expected that I would follow his advice and seek out one of the temple worshippers for help.
Breathing in silence, I sat crossed legged with my back towards the door. I never knew my brother to just 'pop in', but then again, he was right. The Sünberet Rite of Passage was drawing closer and all I had to show for it was my melee skill in sword fighting and my knowledge on Origin's most pronounced history. How was I going to prove myself to my father if I couldn't even light a candle? Ever since we were children, Adrian had been better at everything I was interested in. So I always played like I lost interest and now I had fallen behind. Deep down I knew what I had to do...
The Abbaroti Temple of Sünbere was unusually packed for the evening and it did nothing for my nerves. I was staring up at a large staircase lined with alabaster statues of bowing men and women all along the sides with bowls of burning charcoal. The front entrance was enormous and a large stone terrace supported by spiraling columns of marble overlooked the crowded masses. By the time I reached the top, I was a sweaty mess and my long blonde hair was partially soaked.
Men in maroon robes were accompanied by children dressed in their Tuesday best as they trekked down the smooth cobble steps. I felt immensely underdressed as I wore a pair of blue jeans, a white t-shirt, black sneakers, and my favorite leather jacket. I carried with me, in my pocket, an old letter of recommendation I had received from my father.
As I passed through the grand opening I noticed the inscription embellished on the top of the doorway: "So rises the martial sun, so falls the slumbering moon."
Whatever that meant.
The lobby was packed with far too many people gawking at old artwork and statues. In the very center of the room, an archaic fountain stood with an old Aedenian philosopher I recognized as Abbaphis Abbagore. He was standing at the top with one foot placed firmly on a large obsidian stone while carrying a large iron poker in the left hand and a stone woven basket in the right. The tip of the poker was on fire and water poured from the stone basket into the pool below.
"Excuse me, Sir. May I be of some assistance?" Inquired a voice.
I turned to face a bald man dressed in maroon robes. His collar was lined with gold thread and he wore a silver pendant that resembled the Tree of Life.
Slightly embarrassed, I said, "I have a letter of recommendation."
The man nodded, "Splendid. What have you brought to prove your devotion?"
The bald man sighed, "I see... Well! Come along!"
He led me down a hallway on the other side of the lobby and I noticed that the walls were barren; void of decor or artwork.
As we walked, the bald man said nothing until he finally motioned for me to stay put and disappeared into a dark room whose doorway was covered with beads. A faint orange glow emanated into the dimly lit corridor. I had only waited what seemed to be mere moments before a voice spoke through the curtain of wooden beads.
Tentatively, I walked through the small passageway and surveyed my surroundings. There were shelves upon shelves filled with books and various plants that rustled about with a slow sinister movement. In the center of the room, a woman surrounded by lit candles sat on a maroon rug accompanied by the bald man who guided me here.
"Welcome, Amos Blood of the Emawgee Tribe," said the bald man as he gestured to the rug in front of the silent lady. She was dressed in a maroon robe with three gold threads lining her collar. She too wore a silver pendant.
"Make yourself comfortable and call for Sipsy if you need anything," said the bald man. I wanted to call him back the moment he walked out of the room, but I was bombarded with this sudden easiness that was hard to dissuade.
You are the son of Mathias Blood? The thought was a voice that invaded my head with an intensity. It wasn't frightening, just surprising.
I turned to the woman in the maroon robes, "Um...yes?"
I have been expecting you for sometime. Your eldest brother has much to say about you.
I looked at her with a look of disbelief, "You're Master Saida Denoir, the last Guardian of Origin..."
Master Saida smiled, Yes, Amos. I am the last Guardian and soon there shall be more. I walk a fine line, young one. I see also, that you too are unique.
I sat down cross legged in front of her, "What are you doing here in Aedena? I thought you were Irynna born?"
From her robe, she placed a small circular white candle between her and I. She gazed at me with an intense curiosity and lit the candle without barely a wave of her hand.
I am first and foremost a Guardian of Origin and so I am as much an Aedenian as I am Irynnan. But I think the real question is 'what are you doing here?' Master Saida asked.
All this time I wanted to prove that I was better than Adrian at something who consistently proved repeatedly that that was impossible. It seemed that I would always be second to my eldest brother. But why was I here? Power? No. I wasn't the ambitious type. Knowledge? Sure, but for what specifically? I knew deep down that I didn't want to just learn to be able to throw fire from my fingertips. I was more than that.
"I'm not sure, Master," I replied. I was afraid of disappointing her, but yet I could not deny her an answer. In this I have failed.
Amos, you are not alone in your endeavors. I have mastered the anchors and though as old as I may be, I have not stagnated. I have seen your Soul Stamp and it should not only assure you of a brighter future, but the world as well. I will be honored to assign you a mentor, but first you must leave and return with an answer.
Despite how cynical I had always been about all things spiritual, I found myself to be immensely disheartened by her apparent hesitancy. It was one thing to reject an idea, but it was quite another to be rejected by an idea. I felt appalled at myself for not amounting to the standards of a mastered sorcerer.
Especially by the last Guardian.
"Master, I must ask you to reconsider turning me away just yet. How will I know why I'll want to be here if I don't know what I'm getting into?" I refuted, the easiness feeling was beginning to slip as soon as I begged the question.
But she patiently replied, Very well, what do you propose?
I thought for a second, then I responded, "Teach me one lesson about the basic requirements of mastering the Furnace. I only ask that you answer three of my questions."
She seemed to think for a bit, pondering my request at great length. Finally, she nodded.
What is your first question?
"Master, my brother had taught me that to successfully hone the energy within the Furnace, you must practice self-control, decisiveness, and introspection. He also more or less said that the soul is a consuming flame, but it is also a guiding light," I replied softly. My confusion was not lost on her.
You wish to know the correlation?
I nodded, "I wasn't sure what he meant."
Master Saida stood and gestured towards the candles.
Like these candles, young one, the soul is an ethereal substance, but with little restraint, comes great disaster. A wild flame is destruction. And so, the same holds true for the soul. Put too much strain on a flame, however, then it will suffocate. Same also holds true for the soul.
Master Saida crossed her arms, But a perfectly tamed flame becomes, least of all, a threat. Only then does it become a light to guide your way out of darkness. The soul is no different.
I still wasn't understanding, "Adrian said that I couldn't create a flame because I was thinking with my logical self and not my spiritual self. How do I think with my spiritual self?"
Master Saida smirked, You start by seeking answers to the bigger questions. Instinct is the biggest impulse that every living creature has, but you, my Aedenian pupil, are far more susceptible to its whims because of the attunement you carry. Fire is a frenzied element. You must practice self-control just like you must control the flame of a hungry inferno.
"So I just need to self-reflect?" The question spilled out of my mouth before I could consider if it was worth asking.
She sat down cross legged once more, waved her hand, and the wick on the small circular white candle that lay between us went out.
That's almost right, deary. Reflection on all life in general is good for the soul, but if you aren't careful where you tread, it will become corrupt. Too many journeys at once and you'll find yourself more lost than found. Too little reflection, however, isn't conducive to an abundant soul. You will find yourself miserable and a slave to your baser instincts. You would only become clouded and ignorant.
"Wait, but what about一"
Farewell, young traveler...
And with that, the candles that surrounded us flickered out, it was pitch black for only a moment before the small circular white candle that lay before me flickered to life.
Master Saida was gone.
To the rest of the world we were the Emawgee, the Sacred Flame of Identity, and the Holy Guiding Light of Origin. In many sacred texts, Abbaphis Abbagore, the sole patron of all Aedena, was a man who walked into the mouth of Eviaphan and stole back the sun using Emulguy's hot iron poker. It was said that when he was swallowed, the prophet had to evade legions of evil spirits and find his way through the heart of King Yuwaises grand labyrinth that once lay beneath the Irynnan floating city of Eura.
Silently, I waited across from my father who sat at his desk while he filled out paperwork. Occasionally he would glance up at me with a plea for patience, curse varying insults about today's council meeting under his breath, and then shuffle through his papers in a hurried fashion. Even though he was the chief of one of the three better known Abbaroti Tribes of Aedena and worked hard to keep his reputation, I would be impressed if paperwork alone brought an end to my father's reign of influence.
"Father? I wish to discuss something with you," I said impatiently. He had made eye contact with me at least a dozen times.
"Amos, I can't be bothered. You're father is very busy," He replied as he jotted down what looked to be extremely time sensitive notes. Every word he scrawled was in a rush in a race he couldn't quite find the end of.
"I went to the temple today," I interjected.
My father paused and looked up from his work, "Oh?"
I nodded, walked around his desk, and picked up a rather queer looking contraption that rattled when you dangled it, "I met Master Saida."
His eyes widened, "Master Saida? Temple?"
I refused to smile, though I knew he would be proud. If it was all the same, I was just as proud. I would not give him, nor my brother, the satisfaction of knowing that they were right. After all, I did want a mentor, but I couldn't find a good enough reason to seek one. At least, a reason enough for the last Guardian of Origin.
Suddenly, I felt compelled by a thought, "I went looking for a mentor, but she refused to assign me one when she asked me why I was there."
He raised a brow, "And you told her?"
My jaw set in frustration, "I said I didn't know."
My father nodded, smiled, and suddenly his paperwork was a forgotten annoyance rather than an egregious task that demanded his attention, "Amos, do you know who you are?"
I was slightly disappointed by his question so I rolled my eyes and set the strange rattling instrument back on his crowded desk, "Do any of us really know who we are?"
I thought out of anyone who could help me, my father would, but judging from his question, I felt the strong urge to bypass the uncomfortably long discussion on the meaning of life.
Master Saida's voice rang through my head once more: You start by seeking answers to the bigger questions...
Father leaned back in his desk chair, crossed his arms, and gave me a serious look.
I cleared my throat and stood straighter with pride, "I am Amos Mathiat Blood, second eldest son of Mathias Creden Blood, chief of the Emawgee, Lead Councilmen of the Abbaroti Temple of Sünbere, and Guiding Light to all who've lost their way."
My father closed his eyes and shook his head, "No, Amos. I did not ask you who I am."
A loud bang sounded as his hand slammed the surface of his desk and I jumped back in surprise.
"I am Mathias Creden Blood. I am the thoughtful servant of all Emawgee. I am the impatient father of two and the ambitious leader of my nation!" My father spoke confidently as he stood. He raised his palm and an iridescent seal with symbols I could not comprehend drew itself on his flesh in a scarlet light.
"I have slain the Hyrogan creature Maphet Du Kreda for the sake of my people, I have crossed the Sea of Transition to lands hidden deep within Kyroka, and I have walked through the translucent flames of the Sünberet Hearth to witness its secrets."
The candles that surrounded the room ignited with flames three feet high, and my father's scarlet eyes began to glow, "By Emulguy's creed, I am named Unu-maugi-du-kyra-gani!"
He who unravels smoke.
The burning candles went down and my father's seal disappeared just as his eyes went back to normal. I had cowered next to the large bookcase on the wall not far from my fathers desk. In all my life, I had never seen my father display his power in such a way. I had not even once before witnessed him summon his Soul Stamp. Yet there it had been. It made me feel ashamed because if I thought I had known my father before, I knew now that I had been wrong all these years.
My father approached me with kindred eyes, "Anybody can take your life or put you through hell, but no one can take away what you believe or remove the parts of you that makes you who you are."
I was breathing heavily and beads of sweat rolled down the back of my neck, "What makes me who I am if I am not your son? Or an heir to the family name?"
He placed a comforting hand on my shoulder, but his expression was solemn, "Only you can decide who you are, but make no mistake. When you are named, it will be because of your purpose and all you believe in. Not because of where you come from."
Lifting his hand from my shoulder, he reached for a book on the second shelf on the bookcase behind me, "Take this," he said as he gave me a look. There it was, pride I've never seen before.
The book was made of thick black leather and its cover was embossed with the imprint of someone's Soul Stamp that read with various symbols amongst three capital letters: A.M.B.
I met my father's eyes, "The cover!"
He chuckled and crossed his arms, "That is what your soul reads when I reach out to you. Now that you're of age to partake in the Sünberet Rite of Passage, I believe it is time I give you your own grimoire."
I ran my hand across the surface of the leather-bound book. It was heavy. I could tell that my father had put a lot of great effort into manufacturing it for me. Then something puzzled me so I dared to ask.
"Father, these symbols. They carry the meaning of my truest name?"
My father nodded, "Yes, they very well do. Keep in mind though, Amos," he continued to say as he rested a finger on the cover, "It will not be revealed to you until the day of your naming; the day you succeed the Rite of Passage and prove yourself worthy in the Trials of Consummation."
I watched as he walked back to his desk, "But father一"
"Go! You have much to study," he exclaimed as he ushered me away with a wave of his hand.
Slightly annoyed by his suddenly evasive behavior, I hastily left with my newly acquired grimoire and raced back to the sanctuary of my meditation room just down the hall to my father's study. When I got there, the door was cracked and all the candles were out (which in retrospect might have been a good thing).
I knocked, "Hello?"
Shrugging, I walked in without the slightest hesitation then一 BAM! I was knocked to the side by an unprecedented foe and the steely taste of blood dripped from my nose as I was slammed against the far side wall. I heard the door slam, lock shut, and as I struggled to regain my composure, the unknown assailant held me back as he pressed a knife to my throat.
"Move and I promise I won't hesitate," threatened the voice of a young boy. The blade in his hand shook apprehensively. Beads of sweat lined my brow and my disheveled hair matted the sides of my face.
A long silence passed and I braved a slow motion for his hand on my shoulder that had me cornered between a bookshelf and the wall. He jerked but we otherwise remained still.
"I don't think you'll hurt me," I finally replied with a soft-spoken bravado. I rested my hand back on the floor beneath me and focused on controlling my heavy breathing.
Just then, the plethora of candles that were spread throughout the meditation room lit up as flames swept the room like a wave. I could finally see that my assailant was only a boy with a skin and bones frame, and a shaved head. His eyes were gaunt as though he hadn't slept for days and his small face was sunken as though he hadn't eaten for longer than that.
I grimaced as he tightened his grip on the athema resting beneath my jugular, "I am Imua Rona of Suul and I was sent here by the Prophetess of the Western Mist."
My jaw set in anger but I swallowed my pride, "What do you want from me?"
He didn't say anything at first. Instead, he risked a glance to the room around him and looked back at me with a mixed expression of both relief and bemusement.
"You don't know how to cast any magick...?"
Quickly, I used my right arm to swipe his knife away and our hands covered each other as we grappled with the pommel of his weapon. Toppling over one another, I let go the moment he switched from pushing the blade inward and started pulling the dagger outward in an attempt to remove it from my grasp. I held my breath as I watched him fly backwards in between retrieving a predominantly decorative sword hanging from the wall.
"Looks like I don't need it," I replied confidently.
Imua glanced between me and my sword. I just knew I had him, yet before I could do anything else, his eyes glowed cherry red and he spoke saying, "Su-mela-drô-gadra!"
"FUCK!" I said cursing beneath my breath as I dropped the sword at my feet. The pommel had nearly started melting in my hand in an instant. I had disarmed just in time.
But my right palm had been burned.
"What in hell did you do?" I exclaimed.
Imua couldn't answer right away as his increased breathing robbed him of speaking full sentences. So he stood there, his legs shaking violently while he forced himself to reply. He appeared to be too exhausted to fight let alone stand.
"Master Saida... must find... Amos..." Imua managed as he doubled over.
"Hey!" I exclaimed with surprise. I raced to his side and I elevated him off his back. He was as light as a feather and frail to the touch. I was almost too afraid that if I moved him too much, he would bruise. At first he had been just an unknown assailant but whoever this boy was, he had been looking for me and judging by his present state, it was for a long time. Was it possible that he was alone? He couldn't have looked to be anymore older than thirteen.
I slapped his gaunt cheeks lightly, "Hey, wake up!"
Briefly, he opened his weary eyes, "Run..."