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Seph had produced an uncovered wagon being pulled by a large strange animal, similar to the ‘horses’ he had seen in the city, but much thicker built. It had looked like someone crossed a water Buffalo with a grizzly bear and then replaced all semblance of hair with rough cracked looking skin.

With very little effort Seph lowered the girl onto the blankets that had been laid in the back of the wagon. Then mounted the drivers seat and produced a thin whip to drive the thing forward.

Phil and Adam sat on the tail end of the wagon discussing in whispered voices as the forest trailed around them.

“So, what do you think, Adam?” Phil asked fidgeting on the hard wooden surface of the wagon.

“Think about what, sir? I’ve heard a great many things.” Adam spoke in a quiet whisper, but his voice still carried more than Phil would have liked.

“Well joining the Order. Do you think I can do it?” Phil asked in hushed urgency. He had made his decision, but he found himself wanting Adams input on the matter.

“I remind you that is the point of our coming here.”

“No that isn’t what I meant.”

“Then what do you mean?” Adam injected before Phil had a chance to explain himself.

“Well what I mean if you need me to be completely literal.” Phil sighed. “Do you think I can survive the emotion turmoil that she described without becoming some evil tyrant?”

“I’m not sure that was completely literal. But I do believe I understand your meaning now. I know only what I’ve seen you accomplish thus far, and it seems considerable to me. It was your power that brought me to life and with it I feel like I have a sense for the inner battles you already engage in the recessed of your mind.”

Adam paused his speech and peered into Phil’s eyes before continuing. “I do believe that you are capable of more than you might realize. When you witnessed another taking a life, no matter how comfortability it was being done you protested, when the screams of one in distress filled the air you ran towards the danger. You seem to think first for the lives of others and second of your own life. I admire this in you and think of you as a friend because of it. You would be able to overcome whatever challenge awaits you with this new power.”

Phil’s lips twitched into a smile and was about to thank Adam when Seph called out.

“Jump out and gather those bodies. The Ah’ehra won’t want their warriors being feasted upon by the wild life.”

It hadn’t taken them long to gather the remains of the three fallen Ah’ehra, Phil even had time to find what remained of his pack a ways down the road. Gathering the bodies was, however, one of the most unpleasant things Phil has had the fortune of doing. Arms and limps had been ripped off and half feasted on with organs strewn about the walkway. After finally collecting all of the body parts and piling them at the back of the wagon covered with a thick blanket Seph had brought, Phil and Adam sat at the end with their feet hanging off.

In silence they rode through the misty forest. Phil was unable to enjoy the sweet scents of the trees and wet mist over the pungent smell of dead bodies stinking at his nose. After almost an hour of silence Phil recognized the large tree trunk wall in the distance, cutting through the fog.

“We’re almost back.” Phil said. “Won’t be long now.”

“Where do you go when your life is ended?” Adam asked.

Phil noticed that Adam had turned and looked at the remains of the corpse, partially exposed from the tarp covering.

“That is a theologically charge question you’ve just asked me my metal companion.” Phil joked trying to lighten the mood. Adam didn’t seem to notice and continued staring at the bodies. “Some people think that after you die your mind travels to some version of paradise or torment.”

“If your mind continues on to some distant place,” Adam paused mid-sentence. “Will I go there as well when I die?”

Phil was silent. Was it normal for golems, basically magical AI, to question their mortality and spiritual existence? Phil thought of the only other golems he had seen, Zarrick kept several and they all seemed rather cordial and polite. And then there were the black golems that stood as sentry's over the black portals. They didn’t seem any more than robots that followed a set of specific orders. Why then did Adam seem to be questioning himself? Had he somehow passed his emotional distress to the golem during the activation ritual?

“I’m not sure.” Phil finally said. “Adam I’m not even sure there is anywhere to go after death. Is it so hard to believe we just die, and our minds are gone?”

“I want to believe there is an afterlife.” Adam said in a hushed almost eerie whisper.

***

“Leave the wagon and I’ll send some Ah’ehra out to fetch the bodies.” Seph commanded as she hopped down from the wagon. “You, metal man, carry the princess.” She pointed at Adam and gestured at the injured girl who had slipped back unconscious.

“His name is Adam.” Phil found himself saying defensively before he could stop himself.

“Adam.” Seph said with a harsh sarcastic voice. “Would you please help the dying girl before she slips off into the road and dies at the feet of her people?” The request wasn’t needed as Adam had already climbed up and begun picking the girl up.

“Of course.” Adam said his voice sounding emotionless and cold as when he was first activated.

Seph just snorted in response and they made their way through the tunnel and into the clearing.

Seph took the lead and waved Phil to walk next to her. He was ready to announce his decision.

“I’ll do it!” He said a little more enthusiastic than he meant. Feeling foolish he turned his head and pretended to be studying inner cut out tunnel.

“And you are sure you wouldn’t prefer death?” Seph asked, her face a emotionless mask.

“I choose to live.” Phil’s response was barely a whisper as he imagined demons burning inside of him and influencing him to do things he knew he ought not to do. But as the fearful emotions danced in his mind he steeled himself and was at peace with his decision. “A healthy lust for power might just be what I need.” He tried to sound as if he was joking but it came out in a squeak instead.

***

They hadn’t taken more than a dozen steps towards the Mother Tree when D’ahn appeared from behind a large bush with two of the more wild looking Ah’erhans.

“What has happened here?” D’ahn called out as he caught sight of the group. Then seeing who Adam carried unconscious in his arms he gasped. “She has fallen to a soul eater?” He asked in a frantic tone.

“Not exactly. A deatren attacked and I was able to drive it off, but a great boar was already feasting on the remains and it would appear it caused the most harm to her. We brought the remains of her guard detail, but their souls had been taken already” Seph responded in her cool confident voice as he waved Adam to hand over the girl.

“What of the seed? Did she have it on her or has the soul eater claimed that as well?” D’ahn’s voice was frantic and close to hysteria.

“I saw no sign of it.” Seph said in her same even tone. She inclined her head slightly and spoke in a softer voice. “I’m sorry D’ahn. Will you be able to save her?”

D’ahn looked up from his frantic head wagging before finally responding. “We should get her to the Ah’turadah council at once. Thank you fire caller for saving her life if it can be saved.”

“Actually, if it wasn’t for these two I fear I wouldn’t have made it back in time to save Per’ahah’s life.” Seph said motioning to Adam and Phil.

“The shlepo and his chukar?” D’ahn said in disbelief. He stared for a moment with his eyes wide before turning and leaving with the girl.

“They will do what they can for her. I need to grab some supplies so that we can begin your training. Meet me at the wagon in an hour.” And with that Seph disappear into the crowd that bustled around the great tree.

“Phil,” Adam said his voice weak. “I am in need of repairs, for now I must retire to the portal to regain the strength I have lost.”

Phil looked at the golem in concern wondering what had happened to cause him to tire so quickly. Stepping forward and pulling the cloak aside Phil examined Adams metal body. The damage to his forearms remained but didn’t seem to be hindering his movement in anyway so Phil continued to inspect the remaining damage. That is when he found what he assumed must be the cause of the damage. Just below the main chest armor one of the interlocking plates had bent in an odd angle and pressed inward. Peering inside through the odd hole it created Phil saw that the edge had pierced Adams inner core and a faint light seemed to slowly drip from it.

“Can you bend this piece here back in place.” Phil asked Adam pointing to the bend plate. Adam strained his neck to see the plate Phil pointed at and upon seeing it nodded. Reaching into his chest he tugged at the plate with great effort and powerged to bend it ever so slightly, but it remained in an off angle. However, Phil noticed as he peered inside the golem, although there was still an opening in his chest plate the core was no longer being pierced by the plate and the dripping stopped for the time being.

“I am beginning to heal now.” Adam whispered as he fell to one knee. “But the energy required is beyond what I can give right now, please bring me to the gate.”

Phil quickly lowered himself and positioned under Adam’s shoulder. It took them longer than he would have liked but they made it to the grove before Adam lost consciousness. Phil saw visible relief cross over the golem’s strange metal face as they grew near.

“Leave me for now.” Adam said with renewed vigor. “I can feel the energies of this place seeping into me. I will return when I’ve recovered.”

“But Adam,” Phil tried to protest but Adam waved him away and finally Phil relented having a mind to do his own task before returning to the wagon to meet with Seph.

***

“I am a blacksmith.”

“I realized you are a blacksmith, but can you help my friend, you know the chookar.” Phil tried his best to match the pronunciation of what D’ahn had called Adam. “He is made of plates of Adamantium and Sep-er the flame caller told me you have experience working with the metal. If you could just straighten and mend his damaged plates?”

The marbled skinned man stared at Phil for a long while, before finally responding. “I told you I am a blacksmith. Send him and I will help if I can, however he will be required to make payment of my choosing.”

“I’m sure he will be happy to help anyway he can!” Phil said, sighing with relief before turning to leave the soot filled hut.

Phil made his way back to Adam to inform him of his intent before going to meet with Seph. It didn’t take him long to find his way back to the grove of trees and when he did he found Adam standing at attention with his eyes glowing brightly.

“Adam!” Phil called concern creeping unto his face.

“I am fine my friend. I am merely communing with the void entity that powers these portals. I am learning so much.” Adam’s voice trailed off and he let out something akin to a sigh.

Phil was unsure if he should be concerned or not, but the idea of his friend talking to someone that identified itself a void entity dis-hearted him.

“Adam I have good news. I’ve spoken to a blacksmith and he has agreed to help repair you. His name is Ife’ah and he is just to the right of the Mother Tree, not far from here. It is the only hut that has three separate chimneys.”

“I need addition charging so that my core can sufficiently heal and shield itself. I will ask for him by name when I am finished. Please Phil leave me now.” Adam didn’t move from his place or even spare a glance towards Phil.

He wasn’t entirely sure it was logical but he felt cast away as he left the grove of trees and made his way to meet Seph at the wagon. Be safe my friend. Phil thought sparing a final glance behind him.

The trip back to the cottage was quiet and uneventful. Phil kept to his own thoughts and Seph offered nothing by way of conversation. After unloading several sacks of goods the silence was finally broken.

“Before we begin and now that you are finally alone.” Seph said after stowing away several sacks of the strange fruit and other foodstuff. “That golem that walks with you, Adam, how has he come into your possession?”

“I aided in his activation less than a week back.” Phil finally said. “I provided the power flows needed to give him life. Is it all that uncommon for a new golem to be created?” Phil asked now wondering if Adam was some prize that should be kept close and hidden. Zarrick had told him to have the golem keep its hood up but that by the end of his journey he could prove to be a faithful companion.

“If you can’t keep your tongue from lying then I will remove it.” Seph spit with malice in her voice. She stood glaring at Phil seemingly awaiting a response.

“I don’t understand why you assume I am lying.” Phil said. “That is what happened.” He added as her glare deepened.

Seph stared long and hard until finally relaxing her glare. “Golems are a thing of the past. The technologies that created them are the same as the portal builders and they are long gone. If Zarrick has truly discovered how to make golems again then times are more dangerous than I realized.”

“He mentioned that he was nearly a thousand years old.” Phil said. “At the time, though, I didn’t realize that made him an oddity. Maybe he is a member or the portal builders’ race?”

“That’s impossible.” Seph said, then turning she disappeared into her cottage and came out with a long pipe, which she lit with the tip of her finger. The green flame flared for a moment and lit the pipe. After she took several long puffs on her pipe she continued. “Did Zarrick say what he really wanted from me?” She finally asked.

Phil squirmed under her gaze. Notwithstanding her shortness with her, he was already preferring her company to Zarricks. Could he tell her the truth and maybe she could train him without the need of Zarricks contract and expectations of favors returned? No. Best to keep the plan he had until he was sure he could protect himself.

“Only that you would be able to train me as an Eldritch Knight.” Phil said. “You see I have a group of people after me and I am to weak to defend myself, so he suggested I try to train with you. This place is remote enough to keep me safe as well.”

A whiff of the smoke reached his nostrils and it smelled bitter and strong, not like any smoke he had smelled before. “Wh-What is that?” Phil asked between coughs.

“Yvettel weed, it grows in abundance here. If you dry it out after it has been soaked in rato root it provides you with an abundance of clarity of thought.” Seph said enjoying another puff, holding it in much longer than Phil thought necessary, before blowing it out again with a sigh. “You aren’t telling me everything. I can’t imagine what Zarrick would want from me though.”

“Well no use in wasting time.” Seph said through smoking puffs. “You will find several large boulders and a few smaller pines behind the cottage. Clear away a thirty foot perimeter using only your hands and refrain from using your power to heal yourself unless I expressly give you leave to do so. If you get hungry there is a bag of broto fruit and dried buka meat inside.” Seph sat on a stump resting close to her cottage and closer her eyes to the world while she smoked.

“I can stop myself from healing?” Phil asked. Up to this point he had just kept all of his flows open and with concentration he was able to increase the flow, but he wasn’t sure how he could control a specific aspect of the flows.

“You come to me as a blank slate.” Seph said between puffs of smoke. “Okay, let me have a look at your connections.” Her eyes flashed an emerald green and stayed glowing a light shade of green as she scrutinized Phil.

He could feel her probing him. It felt like small tentacles worming around under his skin and it didn’t take long before he began to feel sick.

“Please stop,” Phil said, “I think I am going to throw up.”

“I’m done.” Seph announced. “You have made some very intuitive choices for the paths between nodes. You feel the node right here.” Seph stepped forward and pressed her hand against his stomach.

“Yes,” Phil said, “Remembering that one being a main connection point for several of the low nodes.

“If you bypass this node and connect below it you will keep yourself from healing. Start with that one and later I will teach you to bypass each node in turn.”

“Why would I want to stop healing,” “Phil asked feeling a bit frantic. Did she mean to kill him after all?

Seph just laughed and said, “You will learn that you don’t always want each node running at all times, otherwise you will drain your well of power within minutes of a fight. Especially if you are as unpracticed as a new babe.”

Phil nodded absently as he shut his eyes tight and began his meditation practice that Golder has taught him. It came much quicker than the times before and soon his eyes were filled with the light of his nodes and well of power. Something new caught his attention as he focused his senses towards his core. Just beside his core of power was a thin film of dark green. It made the bright blues of his inner core seem dull. Was this the flame, he wondered.

Forcing himself to focus on what he had been told to do he found the node in his lower stomach.

“Okay I see the node, but how do I make the flows go around it?”

“Same way you created your first connections. Will it.”

Phil remembered the odd stretching he had felt when Zarrick had forced his connections and doubted that was what Seph meant. So while watching his stomach he focused on the lines of power that flowed from his chest down into his stomach.

He imaged them diverting around the center. Nothing happened. He imagined several other flows being created that would start this new path. Nothing happened. Then as he watched the flows he had an idea. He imagined that his hand was pushing the line of flows to the side, half on one side and half on the other. Splitting them to flow around the node point. Just as he finished imaging the act the flows parted and his head exploded in pain.

Just as fast as the pain hit, it was gone. Phil opened his eyes and he saw Seph grinning.

“Imaginative, but dangerous.” She said. “The flows of power aren’t stretchy things that can be easily manipulated like that, but what is done is done. You should be able to do a similar method in the future. The first time always hurts a little.”

Phil realized he had reached his hands to his temple and was rubbing it absently and stopped.

“Get to work.” Seph ordered.

As Phil rounded the corner of the cottage his spirits fell. Half a dozen trees and several very large rocks lay scattered about. He had figured the training would be hard work, but this first task seemed a bit silly. Taking a moment to consider how he would accomplish the task without tools he remembered his enhanced strength. Might as well give it a try, he thought, walking to the closest boulder. It was half buried in the dirt but still stood up to his waist.

After struggling to get a hand hold he finally thought he had a good enough hold on the awkward object and lifted. A grunt escaped his lips and his grip slipped. Sighing Phil started digging at the soft ground with his hands around the rocks edges.

***

After about an hour of hard word he had powerged to dig out and slowly push the large rocks to the edge of the clearing. Turning to the first tree Phil tested the trunk by giving it a push, it didn’t budge. He looked up at the tree towering at least twice his height and found himself cursing Seph’s name. How is this going to help me at all? Wringing out his hands he forced himself to take a few long slow breaths. He didn’t understand her methods, but he knew he needed to press on.

Phil dug at the dirt around the roots with his enhanced strength, but the work was still slow going. His fingernails stung and his joints were being to ache from the hard work. But he pressed on, not wanting to complain about the pain or risk using his power and upsetting his teacher.

He dug a wide hole around the tree exposing as many of the roots as he could before finally setting upon the tree with his full strength. It creaked and resisted but after a short while with the sound of snapping roots it fell. Seph picked that very moment to come check on his work.

“You aren’t done?” She said stopping just beside him. “Heal and eat. You can sleep when you’ve finished.”

Why don’t you clear it out you old hag. If I knew all she wanted me for was landscaping I’d have asked for a shovel instead of a weapon from Zarrick. Phil painted a smile on his face while silently wishing Seph couldn’t read minds.

He didn’t wait to get back into the cottage to heal his aching body. Instead he collapsed unto the ground and shut his eyes tight. Releasing the stint that allowed his power to flow around his lower node that seemed to control healing was easier than he expected. It took only moments after imagining it being released and the normal flows continued with only marginal pain. I guess she doesn’t know everything, that didn’t hurt much at al-. Phil’s thoughts were interrupted by a quick searing headache that lasted only moments, but the memory of the pain lingered.

Besides the pain he had just felt he was encouraged by his ability to manipulate the flows of magic. He was learning a new skill and it felt good to learn. Just a week ago manipulating unseen inner forces inside his body would have seemed like just an impossible task. But that was on Earth. Now he was in the Haven, a world of magic and wonders.

“Napping?” Seph’s voice asked just above him.

Phil opened his eyes slowly, not wanting to leave the colorful world of magical flows of power behind.

“I wasn’t sleeping, sorry.” Phil said, battling internally between his anxiety and his frustration at Seph. “It’s easiest for me to manipulate my flows when I can see them”

“And you see them better with your eyes closed?” Seph said titling her head slightly. “How well can you fight with your eyes shut?”

“Can you teach me to be better?” Phil asked back, his aches and pains had bled away as his body healed and he was surprised that he still felt irritated. “Better yet why don’t you teach me how to use that green flame, then I can burn the trees down and not have to dig another damned one up.”

Calm down. Calm down. No! You need to learn and she is wasting your time giving you dumb chores that won’t help you at all!

Several long exaggerated breaths later Phil calmed himself enough to realize that Seph had moved to sit on the fallen tree, staring at him.

“The fire already burns with in you and I can see it working on you,” She said, “We have a lot of work to do.”

***

Phil worked at bringing yet another tree down by digging the roots and pushing with his new found strength when Seph appeared around the corner of the house. She had stripped the armor free and wore a red loose tunic blew around her form in time with the breeze that occasionally cut through the trees around them. The green of her eyes seemed to glow and pulse as she stared at him. The power behind the gaze was not at all dimensioned by her old age, if anything it helped make her look more intimidating.

“Tell me the real reason Zarrick sent you,” Seph said as she leaned against the dark wood of her cottage. As she spoke the trees around them grew quiet of all wild life. It was as if the trees themselves held their breath.

Phil push himself off the ground and faced her completely, while wiping sweat off his brow. The faint outline of green glowed from her right fist. He met her eyes and could almost feel the intensity of the rage behind them. Her other hand held a piece of paper that Phil recognized as something Zarrick had given him.

“You went through my things?” Phil said, he rung his hands out and struggled to keep his anxiety in check. What would she do if she knew he was only here to plunder the Eldritch Knights treasures?

“As an initiate to the Order of Mixana you have no things,” She growled more than said, taking a slow and measured step forward while the flame in her enclosed first pulse and grew larger.

“I can explain,” Phil said taking a step backwards without realizing until he nearly fell over a newly fallen tree. “It isn’t what you think.”

Seph stopped and the fire withdrew from her hands as she unfurled the rolled up piece of parchment in her hand. It was his identification papers from the city that Zarrick had given him, not the picture of the amulet.

“First you show up in his armor and now you use his name on these identification paper work,” Seph’s raged seemed to deflate and her face fell. “Do you want me to kill you? Is that why you have come. You want me to break my pact?”

Phil was confused and his face made no attempt to hide it.

“I don’t understand.” Phil said honestly. He was very confused at that was happening. At first he had assumed that she had found the drawing and put two and two together, but now she stood in front of him on the verge of tears. Who was she talking about? What name had been on his papers?

“Philip Doetrex.” Seph said in a quiet whisper he eyes finally raising to match Phil’s. The same strength from before flared in those eyes and Phil found himself taking a half step backwards. “He was the head of the Pale Riders. His armor was unique, even among the Riders. You come here with his name and his armor and expect me to believe it’s a coincidence?”

“Yes?” Phil said in a questioning tone. “My name has always been Phil and Zarrick added the other stuff, I expected he just wanted it to sound more authentic. I had no idea it was a real name and the armor, like I told you before, I thought Zarrick made it himself. He said nothing about it belonging to someone else.”

“I believe you,” Seph said, “For now.”

Phil let out a sigh of relief and reached for the paper that Seph was holding. She recoiled and eyed Phil with a curious grin on her face. Before Phil could so much as think about what to do next the papers went up in a puff of green flame.

“Hey!” Phil yelled, “I might still have needed those!” Despite her intimidating stance and presence Phil felt a flare of anger growing in him. She thinks she can go through my things and then burn them all up! I’ll burn her up.

“Oh, did I upset you child?” Seph asked condescension think in her voice. “Are you ready to give up and let me kill you?”

“Are you insane?” Phil shot back. He could feel his anger beginning to boil up and he couldn’t stop it. “I won’t let you push me around! You can’t just burn up my things!”

“You have nothing!” Seph screamed back at Phil. “You are nothing!”

The anger inside of Phil reached a boiling point and he had trouble thinking. He just wanted to hurt her. He wanted to burn her. As the thoughts passed through his head an explosion of warmth spilled out of him in every direction. Through a hazy film of green Phil saw fire shoot off in every direction for a split second before his head swam with fatigue and he fell to his knees.

His vision swam with spots and he noticed with a measure of confusion that all around him the ground was scorched. Had he done that? Why had he been so angry? His anger was gone and he felt silly for having thrown an adult temper tantrum.

“Not bad.” Seph said. “Now that we’ve unleashed your first outburst of flame, how would you like to learn to control that fire?”

Phil looked up, his mind still swimming with spots and saw that Seph appeared completely unharmed by his outburst of flame. In fact, he noted, the ground was only scorched for a few feet all around him, his flame hadn’t even reached the tree line.

“Yes,” Phil finally said. “I would like that.”

***

It didn’t take Phil long to realize he wasn’t going to enjoy his training with Seph. She insisted that the task she was giving him was simple and then pointed out each flaw he had until he was boiling with the ridiculous rage that seemed to come from nowhere.

“For the last time,” Phil said, feeling himself getting angry again. “How in the hell would I know how to feel fire? You can’t just tell me feel the fire and expect me to know what you mean.”

“Can you feel the power you unlocked during ascension?” Seph asked, she was sitting on a half burnt piece of tree and leaning her back against her cottage while eating a strange pear shaped fruit.

“If I concentrate and close my eyes.”

“Fine lets try it your way.” Seph said sighing and throwing the remains of the fruit aside. “Close your eyes.”

Phil closed his eyes and began the meditation breathing he had learned from Golder. “Okay I am ready,” Phil said.

“Stop,” Seph said. “You wont being finding your ‘happy place’ to interact or view the flame. Instead you will think about how pathetic you are. How you are wasting my time. How you will likely die to the next boar or wolf we encounter and I will keep your metal friend as a house cleaner.”

Phil closed his eyes ever tighter as he listened to her insults. I will not die! He screamed inside his head. And to his surprise he thought he heard a faint response, but as fast as it appeared it was gone, and Phil couldn’t make out what it had been. His anger boiled and he started to feel himself heating up.

“Good!” Seph shouted, “Now focus on that anger. Feel the rising flames. See where it goes to fuel itself.”

Phil focused on the anger and with his eyes closed he began to imagine what it might look like. A thing inside of him that was apart of him and separate at the same time. A thing that fed off his soul, his power, fed off of him!

Like a light switched being flicked Phil’s eyes shot open and yet he could still feel it. It was like vision but at the same time very different. He saw his own well of power and the nodes, but not with his eyes. He knew them and he saw something new that encompassed his center.

A ball of ever burning green flame that pulled in the blue light of the power it surrounded. The flame was feeding off of his well of power.

“I can see the flame.” Phil said. His voice rough and on the edge of anger. He was strong, nothing would stand in his way. He had power, true power. He was power.

“You are standing on the edge of anger and clarity.” Seph said, her voice soft and barely a whisper. “Control the anger and direct it. Pull that flame and bend it to your will.”

Phil focused on the great ball of fire and imagined, like he had with his power, a tendril of power snaking away from his center and reaching up to his arm and the node that rested in his palm. Warmth tickled at his palm and Phil looked down. To his surprise a small amount of flame burned around his hand. It wasn’t acting like normal fire either. The dark emerald green of the fire seemed to pull in light directly around it instead of spreading out white light. It burned at a steady rate and barely fluctuated, but most surprising was how it felt.

It was as if his own body was the flame. As if his hand had been stretched to the form of the flame that now danced across his hand. He was the flame and the flame was him.

“This feels incredible,” Phil said. He wasn’t sure what else he could say to describe how he felt. Every part of him vibrated with power and the warmth that pulsed through him felt like an endless release of endorphins. This power was addicting.

“Now release it.” Seph said.

Phil unlocked his eyes from the fire and stared at Seph. Why would I ever release this power! No, she can’t make me. He decided.

“I’d rather not.” Phil said. He was surprised that he no longer felt overwhelmed by his anger. He was still angry, but it felt normal and he felt in control.

“Release it now.” Seph said.

Phil locked eyes with her and noted with a tilt of his head that she had a peculiar look painted on her face. It was very similar to the look Alice had given him on many occasions when she knew Phil was trying to do something stupid and she was worried for him. The sudden appearance of Alice in his memories had a strange effect on his anger. It began to fade and sorrow filled the growing void.

The flame flickered and withdrew back inside of Phil. As the flame returned to his core the feeling of pleasure also faded. What remained was an emptiness that staggered Phil.

“All power comes with a cost,’ Seph said, lowering herself down beside him, “Our rage fuels out emotions with a sadistic pleasure that is hard for most to control. I thought you were about to surrender to it, I am glad you found a way to control it.”

“I feel so empty,” Phil said letting his head sag down. “If I could have I think I would have kept that power flowing forever.”

“Now you see why our lust for power can be so troublesome,” Seph said. “For all the other Orders, that have spoken with me in the past, this strange overpowering lust for power and addiction is unique to us. They each have their own challenges and all of the boons feed off of some emotion, but we appear to have gotten the worst of it. We are done with practicing the flame for today. Finish with the trees and I’ll grab you a hammer to crush the rocks into gravel. When you’ve filled this area in enough gravel and evenly distributed it you can rest for the day.”

Phil watched her disappear behind her cabin and laid himself down on the ground. It’ll be worth it, he told himself, not entirely believing it.

It was late by the time Phil was finished. Seph had built a large fire pit in the middle of where he was working and it provided able light for him to work into the dark night. The sound of animals moving just out of sight of the fire had kept Phil on his guard, but so far he hadn’t seen a single animal while he worked.

Seph walked around the corner and Phil wiped more sweat for his dirt covered face.

“With how much I am sweating I feel like I should be a lot thirstier than I am.” Phil said as Seph sat beside the fire on a stump she had placed.

Seph looked at him in with raised eye brows. “You never cease to amaze me with your ignorance.” She said keeping a critical eye on him. “Ascension does the body use its resources better, it is the broto fruit that is keeping you hydrated. It is one of the most common meals in all of Haven. Most ascended keep a bag of seeds with them, I’m sure you could pick one up in Ah’rowva.”

Phil recalled the pear like fruit Seph has finally given him after he reminded her that he hadn’t eaten and was feeling weak. It was pear shaped but that was where the similarities ended. You could peal it like an orange and the flesh inside was more citrus than fleshy. It was mostly green with patches of warm reds except for the blue tendrils that snaked all through the fruits skin. The inside flesh was a faded blue color and tasted like a mixture of strawberries and a strong citrus tang.

“That will be enough for the night.” Seph said. “Tomorrow I will begin teaching you the Dalam.”

“Dalam?”

“Yes it is tradition for an initiate to do the Dalam three times a day. It will help bring your flame out and later I can teach you to use that spear.”

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TimothyMcGowen

Bio: I am a writer, father, and husband. I love to share my stories and hope you enjoy them!

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