Sarfina was gathering her thoughts in front of a sturdy oaken door. She had her hand already raised to knock, but hadn’t moved for almost a minute now. She was considering how to best present her thoughts, and how to get the person on the other side to go with her plans. She knew the benefits were there, but the issue was not easy to solve. It would require a personal effort by the person on the other side of the door. Effort of the kind that he didn’t want to go through.
Sarfina was shocked out of her thoughts by a voice from behind her. “Are you just gonna stand there looking stupid, or are you going in? You’re not the only person that needs to talk with the commander.”
Sarfina snapped around to find Sarge standing behind her. “Just gathering my thoughts.” She replied a little defensively.
“Gathering dust more like it.” He scoffed back.
“Fine, fine, I was lost in thought. Is your matter urgent?” Sarfina asked almost hopefully. If she allowed Sarge to go first, she could get a bit more time to gather her wits.
“Oh no you don’t. I’m not missing this bit. If you’re that shy about going in, then it has to be interesting. I wouldn’t miss this for anything.” Sarge grinned at Sarfina. They both knew he’d find about this soon anyway, so there was no use in trying to keep him outside.
Sarge marched to the door, knocked and then pushed Sarfina inside half-forcefully. “Look what I found outside commander! Can we keep it?” Sarge asked with a joking voice.
“Captain, Sarge. What brings the two of you here?” Commander Wolfhart greeted the two, acknowledging the joke with a slight smile.
“I’m here just for reports, but she should have something interesting for us.” Sarge replied, still grinning.
“Captain?” Wolfhart prompted.
“Commander, I believe we have what I would call a problemtunity.” Sarfina blurted, half of her planned points flying out of her head.
“A what?” Both of the men asked at the same time.
“A problemtunity. A problem and an opportunity rolled into one.” Sarfina explained.
“You’re going to have elaborate more than that.” Wolfhart frowned.
“So, Dee is getting to the point where were are starting her weapons training, and we went to the Cauldron of Blood so that she could see the different styles and weapons in actions.” Sarfina explained.
“Get to the point.” Wolfhart commanded. He didn’t have the time nor the patience for long stories.
“I am. She picked a style for herself, and while we talked about why she would be suited for that style, she told me something that we should take seriously.” Sarfina was still a bit too slow in getting to the point.
“Well get to it. Don’t keep us in suspense.” Sarge barked instead of the commander this time.
“Two of the skills we listed on her skill sheet where the ability read the flow of power in people, and the ability to read mana. We didn’t give those abilities the attention they deserved. Apparently her ability to read mana includes identifying spells both those being cast as well as those long since laid. As for the first ability, she can recognize a being’s race from the flow of power inside them. I watched her identify a vampire that didn’t give any indication to his nature.” Sarfina’s voice had a little pride in it, for some reason.
Sarge looked surprised, but he didn’t quite realize all the implications, while the commander did. He was tapping the table with his finger, thinking this through. “Well then. It seems we have a real gem on our hands. As if we didn’t know that already but this just solidifies things. This is the opportunity; I’m guessing you’re going to get to the problem part next.”
“Her choice of style is a bit…problematic. She chose flow and control. Both myself and Taeral are good at the flow part. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we’re elves. Flow is in our blood. That part we can teach her. Control on the other hand…” Sarfina left the rest unsaid.
“Yeah, we don’t have people that focus on control, simply because it might be the hardest aspect of fighting. I thought Taeral had some skill with it? At his rank he damn well should.” Wolfhart pointed out.
“He’s focused on the bow mainly. He can teach the basics, but that’s it. We’ll start Dee’s training with the common style of our order and by training her with both the bow and with the flow part of her chosen style, but after that she’ll need a proper teacher.” Sarfina was silent for a moment before continuing. “We both know a person that would suit our purposes.”
Sarge also realized who they were referring to. “We were considering having her trained among the scouts. Who better to train someone like her than one of the Blades?”
Commander Wolfhart grunted in acknowledgement and unwillingness. Blades were the ten strongest members of the Radiant Sun. They had the authority to act unilaterally in the name of the order to solve any and all problems that crept up, without running it by those in command. The Blades were not part of the normal hierarchy of the order, in fact they were purposefully kept out of it so they were answerable only to the Grandmaster of the order. In practice though, the Blades could and often did take command of any other members nearby in order to solve any problems that crept up.
The Blades were the order’s strongest trump card, and also a visible face of justice when they acted in official capacity. The whole of Pantheon knew that the appearance of the Blades heralded the resolution of any problems and the removal of dangerous threats. Some of those more in the know also knew to hope never to have the Blades come into their neighborhood because the Blades really lived by the creed of solving problems no matter the cost.
Despite being the trump card of the order, they were usually also the final solution used to solve problems because they tended to leave behind nothing but devastation. This was partly because the severity of the problems they were called to solve. Usually by the time they were called, the only way to stop the problems from spreading was to cleanse it with fire. Sometimes when the problem went to ground, the only way to solve it was to leave no ground for it to go to.
As the scouts were an elite group of the order, it was no surprise that three of the ten current Blades had come from among them. Usually they left the scouts behind at that point, though the scouts did have a motto of ‘brothers for a day, brothers for life’. One of the Blades was still among the scouts, traveling the wilder parts of the Pantheon where other scouts couldn’t or wouldn’t go. He also happened to be an expert in the control aspect of fighting that Dee wanted to learn. The problem was, would he want to take Dee in as a student and a disciple?
“I know you two aren’t on the best of terms at the moment, but you used to be the best of friends. Can you do something?” Sarfina pleaded the commander.
Wolfhart grunted in reluctance. “I’m not sure if my recommendation would help or hinder Dee at this point. I haven’t spoken to Razark in years. That bridge might be thoroughly burnt.”
The two had been almost like brothers at one point, but a certain event had driven the two almost to blows. The two had had a fundamental disagreement during the event due to differences in their ideologies. The aftermath had driven Razark to join the scouts and seek a level of power that ended up being much beyond Wolfhart’s capabilities. The two hadn’t met ever since.
“Nevertheless, I can’t approach a Blade as a simple captain. If we want him to train Dee, you will have to use your connections to approach him. Think for a moment. Someone with Dee’s gifts and potential trained by someone as skilled and powerful as Razark? Think how well her talents suit his style!” Sarfina pressed on. She knew how unwilling the commander was, but this was important. Especially now that she knew about Dee’s ability to read mana and the flow of power.
The commander knew Sarfina was right. He gave a small sigh. “Alright, have it your way. I will make the attempt. I still think this might do more harm than good, but I will do it. I will only do that after she finishes her other training though! Make damn sure she’s a disciple worthy enough for a Blade! If I stick my neck out, I want Razark to be tempted by her skill and not just the possibility of humiliating me.”
“Aye sir!” Both Sarfina and Sarge said and saluted at the same time. Sarfina because she wanted what was best for Dee, and Sarge because he really wanted to see the meeting between Razark and Wolfhart. He wanted to see the commander squirm. Even though the commander was his friend, schadenfreude was one of his favorite past-times after all. Besides, this fit his hope of Dee becoming strong enough to kick everyone’s ass. Word about his defeat to a little girl had not spread yet, but he didn’t want to be the only victim when it did.
Meanwhile back at the mansion, another discussion about future teachers was taking place. Dee was once again going through the notes she had received when she visited the Threads of Fate. The more she went through the information she received and the discussion she’d had with the old seer, the more a certain thought coalesced in her mind.
“You look like you’ve come to a decision concerning your future teacher as a psion.” Croestia suddenly said, prompting Dee out of her thoughts.
“I believe I have.” She replied with a smile.
“You took your time with this. It’s not like you to be so indecisive.” The voice commented.
“The trouble of dealing with people who can see the future. On one hand you’re tempted to go along with their wishes because they should know the outcome, right? Except they might not be steering you towards the best outcome. At least not the best outcome for you. Her organization seems to have some level of interest in the outcome, and I’m pretty sure they will try to direct me towards the path that is best for them instead.” Dee had a very mixed opinion about that particular organization.
“It’s also pretty hard argument to make if things don’t go perfectly, because you don’t know what would lie at the end of the alternate path. There’s really no way to prove they shortchanged you.” Croestia replied thoughtfully.
“Additionally, the old crone seemed to be playing games with me. She clearly seemed to be pointing me towards the third option, but if she has seen anything about my nature, she should know I’m liable to pick the other option out of spite.” Dee pointed out.
“So she was faking her prodding?” Croestia asked with interest.
“Or she might have thought I would think of that. A trap within a trap. Again, this is the trouble of dealing with someone who can see the future.” Dee sighed.
“Or she could’ve been honest in her recommendation.” The voice couldn’t help but point out. “So what will you do.”
“I’m going to ignore that aspect completely. Trying to play mental games with a seer is a fool’s errand, and I refuse to be the fool. Instead, I’m going to evaluate my two options purely on their merits and completely ignore the possible futures aspect.” Dee chose to ignore the mind games.
“You could always train under both masters. First one, then the other.” Croestia pointed out the obvious possibility.
“I have a feeling that it won’t be that simple. I’m getting the feeling that the options are somehow mutually exclusive. Who knows, they might even be enemies. Something to keep in mind though.” Dee replied thoughtfully.
“So we have choice A, a female teacher who is more powerful and skilled, but not your style. Then we have option B, a male teacher more your style, but who will come along later. Also might result in sadness and heartache. Possibly someone you might develop feelings for?” Croestia posited a possibility based on the seer’s words.
“That’s one interpretation, but not the only one. There are many things that could lead to sadness and heartache. Besides, even if the heartache was due to love, we have no reason to assume that the target of that love would be the teacher. Another student is a possibility, or just someone I meet due to studying under that particular master. In any case, I’m no stranger to pain and sadness, so that won’t sway my decision one way or another.” Dee said with a small grunt. Something vague like heartache was not enough to make a difference.
“But you have come to a decision, yes?” Croestia prompted.
“Of course. Once I got rid of the mind games, the choice was obvious.” Dee replied with a grin.
“Option A?” Croestia guessed with a clear smile in her voice.
“Option A. What I lack is a wider knowledge about psions and a better variety of powers. If I want to just improve my own style, I can do that perfectly fine on my own, once I learn more about psionics. In fact, having someone too close to my own style might limit my imagination. On the other hand, being exposed to a completely different style might give me more ideas.” To emphasize her words, Dee ran her powers along the blade she had received for training.
The sword was a standard issue long sword used by the templars. While she still had trouble forming her psionic power into a weapon or a shield according to the skill given to her by Croestia, she had quickly figured that it was much easier to combine that power with an already existing weapon or shield. She would still achieve the same effect but with half the effort. The power vastly increased the cutting power of the sword or the stopping power of the shield.
Naturally she still trained in attempt to form a complete weapon out of her psionic power, as mastering the skill would enhance the current effect of running the power along the metal sword. Besides, there was still the surprise factor of pulling a weapon out of thin air that would be extra useful with her extra hands. Luckily she felt like what she was now doing was increasing her mastery of the ability. It was like the form of the blade she was wrapping in her power was being memorized and would allow her to use that form easily in the future. Maybe she should later on try using other weapons in a similar way to master those forms?
There was also the added fact that she had already practiced wrapping objects with her power, since she often surrounded her claws with a layer of energy to increase their lethality. That’s what she had used to kill Malik as well. That power allowed her claws and now her sword to cut through any magical or ki fields protecting the target. Assuming she used enough psionic energy to achieve that effect of course. It would be foolish to assume a little bit of psionic energy allowed you to cleave through powerful barriers. That’s not how world worked unfortunately.
“The big question now is how will we find enough time to be taught by a psion teacher while at the same time training as a templar?” Dee said thoughtfully.
“If I may, I may have a solution.” Croestia suddenly said. Dee waved for her to continue. “I think you should suggest Sarfina an apprenticeship period of few years under that teacher. The seer said that you can meet that teacher after turning fourteen, while the templars dislike training people younger than sixteen. Unless I’m guessing wrong, that commander guy wants to train you as a scout, and group like that will definitely not take you in so young. You will be spending time repeating physical exercise and weapons training for few years anyway, so why not suggest about a two year period where you’re improving your psionics instead.”
“That might actually work on many levels. It would assuage Sarfina somewhat as she’s still a bit leery about my training while this young, and she most likely will stick with the sixteen limit as well. Additionally, the templars might forget my origins if I’m gone for few years. Besides, I’ll be more useful to them if I improve my psionics.” Dee also mused.
“The only problem is…” Croestia started saying.
“…whether she’ll let me go alone.” Dee finished Croestia’s thought. “You know, I don’t’ think she’ll have much choice. She can’t leave herself for such a long period. She can’t assume Mazatl will drop everything for few years. She also doesn’t seem the type to stop me from learning if we present the idea properly. Who else would go along with us?”
“Taeral, maybe?” Croestia made the only suggestion that they could think of.
“I seriously doubt that. I think our dear ranger is a bit more important of a person that the two of them are letting on. I doubt he can leave either.” Dee shot that idea down.
“Not that I disagree, but what makes you think so?” Croestia asked.
“Nothing concrete. It’s just a feeling. He seems much more powerful than he has shown so far. He also has this…feeling of authority. He tries to hide it, but he’s clearly used to giving orders, not taking them.” Dee replied thoughtfully.
“Now that you mention it, I think you might be right. It’s not obvious, but if you’re looking for it…” Croestia had to agree.
“Back to the plan, I agree. That might be the simplest and best option. We might want to wait a few years before presenting it though.” Dee suggested.
“I would suggest not waiting too long though. She will have her own plans for you. Best not to spoil them at the last moment. Besides, I think you might be a bit too fond of secrecy. Sarfina might not like all your plans, but she might agree to them or even help you if you carefully explain. I know why you are like this, considering, but in this case it might be doing more harm than good.” Croestia pointed out.
Several minutes passed as the two of them were lost in their own thoughts. Finally Croestia voiced a question that had been bothering her for a while now. “There’s something I didn’t find when you shared you memories, and I’ve been leery to ask ever since, but since we are talking about the future…”
“Just say it.” Dee could sense where this was going. She was slightly surprised it had taken Croestia this long to ask.
“What are your goals? What are you planning for your future after all this training? What do you want?” Probably by accident, Croestia asked the fundamental question that was the driving force of change and chaos.
Dee had to consider for a while. Much of this was something she was vaguely aware of, but hadn’t put into words before, even in her own mind. “I want to see mother again. I want to find out where I came from, and why I am the clusterfuck of races that I am. I want to kill the angel that separated me from Selvaria, and perhaps take revenge on the angels conducting the purge. I want to find out what makes this world tick and I want to learn. Learn almost everything I can. I want to eat all the best food in the universe and I want to hear the most beautiful songs and read the most moving stories. I want to see the universe and I want to stand on top of the tallest of mountains. I want to fight the most powerful creatures and bathe in their blood as a sign of victory. That last one might be just my demon heritage showing.”
Dee was quiet for a while as her slight hint of a smile turned into a look of sadness. “Perhaps most important of all, I want to become strong enough that I no longer need to be afraid.”
Croestia couldn’t help but quote one of the old sayings that stayed with her even as her personality was lost when she exchanged masters. “True bravery isn’t the absence of fear, but the willingness to go on despite of it.”
Dee shook her head almost angrily. Angry at herself not Croestia. She knew the saying as she had read it in several books. “I don’t want to be brave. I just want to no longer be afraid.”
Although she didn’t show her fear or let it prevent her from acting, that didn’t mean she wasn’t afraid. She was afraid of the angels finding her. She was afraid of turning into some hideous monster due to her heritage and due to what had been done to her by Zabaniya. She was afraid of the assassins coming to find her to take her back in. She was afraid of losing this little bit of peace she had found. She was afraid of spending the rest of her life alone and hunted.
Most of all, she was afraid that all this with the templar and Sarfina was just a figment of her imagination, something her mind had conjured up to cope with her situation. She was afraid that soon she would wake up and find herself back on the operating table of the assassins, or that her mind had broken and she was now one of the kids who had given up and receded into the deep recesses of their mind.
“Well that’s a long term goal if I’ve ever seen one. To no longer be afraid means you have to become the most powerful being, and by a wide enough margin that others won’t try to rise against you. To become an object of fear and not subject to it. You’ll have to rise above the deities and the beings involved with the War in Heaven. Stronger than the beings within the first circle of this world.” Croestia said, making sure that Dee understood the magnitude of her goal.
“If that is what I must become to no longer be afraid, then that is how it must be.” Dee said simply. It didn’t matter if the goal was distant. All that mattered was that she was taking steps towards that goal.