Previously on Aetherius Saga…
Jon the Compassionate, Sage of Water, has completed his journey to the Colsana Archipelago and received his Neithan Mark. Unfortunately, on the return trip to Poluyim, his ship is sunk by a Kraken with tainted Aether. Jon attempts to purify the beast but it dies in the process leaving only a peculiar Black Prism behind…
To the southwest of Poluyim hidden within the Mystic Woods was the Elven Kingdom of Xanad. One of the few places in outside of the Colsana Archipelago where the Aether was constantly visible. Courtesy of the Tree of Armon, quite possibly the oldest tree in all of Zeratal. Its massive trunk large enough to hold the entirety of the Elven species and reach above the tallest mountains. The Elves were a carefree and curious race, trusting the good nature of others above all else. But the moment that trust is broken you’ll never be trusted again so long as they live. A fact that has made Elves become a rarer and rarer sight outside of Xanad’s borders.
A slender Elven woman with deep red hair tied back in a ponytail sits atop a massive chrysanthemum playing a small hand-held harp. Her beautiful naked figure rivaling a Sirens. The Aether sang alongside her in an accompaniment of flutes and ocarinas.
♫ Deep within the forest I doth wander ♫
♫ Traveling wherever the leaves may guide me ♫
♫ This green world before me ♫
♫ Untouched by man ♫
♫ Paradise unlike any before it ♫
♫ Searching for a place to call my own ♫
♫ O’er hills and through mountains passing lakeside and the plateaus ♫
♫ Until I can find it I won’t falter ♫
Her song comes to a halt when a trio of fairies fly to meet her. They were three-fourths of fairy quadruplets born within the Mystic Woods. Elaria the First, Clai the Third, and Tearn the Fourth would keep the Elven woman appraised of recent events.
“Lady Cerise! We have terrible news!” Elaria cries woefully.
“Bad! Bad! Bad!” Clai adds on.
“What they said.” Tearn says lowly.
“What’s wrong?” Cerise inquires while still playing her harp.
“It’s awful Cerise! We found Jon-”“
“That is awful.” Cerise cringes, missing one of her notes.
“He was with a bunch of unconscious people by the coast!” Elaria continues.
“Out cold! Out cold! Out cold!” Clai adds on.
“What they said.” Tearn says lowly.
“Fine…let’s go save him…again…”
Cerise nimbly and majestically races through the forest following the Fairy trio. Not a single step or effort wasted. It was captivating like a ceremonial dance. Within minutes she finds Jon overlooking the sea. Storm and a female Sea Faun passed out a short distance from him. The numerous crew and passengers from the Kraken attack having yet to awaken. Cerise’s first response is to kick Jon in the side.
“Hi, Cer…” Jon groans in pain.
“Remember how I said the next time we’d meet it’d be because of something dumb you did? Told you so.” Cerise the Just was the Sage of Nature and while she didn’t hate Jon she was…frustrated, to say the least by his actions. “What did you do this time?”
“This time it actually wasn’t my fault.” Jon defends himself
Cerise looks at the boat wreckage visible from the coast and then back at Jon. “Really?”
“A guy has a few boats sink around him and you just assume that because I’m on shore with a wrecked boat in-sight that it was my fault.”
“YES!” Cerise vents her frustration at Jon. “How does a boat even sink with you around it? That’s like if trees died around me. It’s impossible!”
“Just…” she sighs punching the bridge of her nose. Trying her best to not just leave Jon. “What happened?”
“We got attacked by a Kraken.* ” Cerise stares at Jon intensely. “I know I was confused too. I didn’t think they were small enough to even fit here. Where there’s a will there’s a way I guess.”
“You saved everyone here?”
“Good work…more or less.” Cerise begins to focus her Aether. The deep green hue surges into the ground and spreads a series of vines out to the still unconscious group. Wrapping around them gently and moving them into the forest. “They’ll be taken to Gadra for proper care.”
“Wait, leave that one.” Jon points to Storm. “He came with me.”
“Does Ly’ Jug know you’re seeing other people?” Cerise asks freeing Storm from her vines.
“It’s not like that. He’s a friend.” Jon stands frustrated looking down at the somewhat shorter Cerise.
“You don’t have non-Sage friends.”
“He owes me his life.* ”
“See? Told you so.” she gloats crossing her arms.
“Why can’t you let me have nice things?”
“I let you have nice things when I don’t think it’ll backfire.”
“You’re such a pessimist sometimes.” Jon frowns.
“No, I’m a realist. If we’re gonna argue let’s at least do it at my place.”
“We can but I’m gonna say I won this argument.”
“You are such a child…”
It takes about five minutes of awkward walking to reach the Kingdom of Xanad. The first thing Jon thought about was how everyone was staring at him. The second was if it was because he was with Cerise. The third was a twinge of jealousy about her home. She lived only a fourth of the way up the Tree of Armon. It still left her high enough to see the Southern Plains and even the Elysion Mountains that act as a border around Elysium. To get up to it the Tree of Armon itself would lower its vines to bring people up and down as needed. Her home proper doubled as a courtroom. Cerise was not just Sage but was also a respected and feared judge. She was fair to whatever crime came her way but at the same time, this would sometimes lead to…extreme punishments. A massive rose acted as her chair while vines the podium. The last thought he had was how heavy Storm was to carry. Wet clothes and armor were an unpleasant combination.
Jon wipes his brow and rests Storm on the floor. “Thank the Elementals!” he falls backward and tries to catch his breath. “Why didn’t you help me?”
“What? He owes you another favor now.” Jon whimpers at her casual disregard for him.
“What if I lost my glasses? Would you have carried both of us?”
“Of course not. I’d just leave you wherever you fell.” Cerise’s bluntness knew no bounds.
“I can’t believe we’re friends.”
“Same. So…” Cerise sits down on her flower bed and crosses her legs. “Aside from a Kraken what brings you here?”
Jon sits up before responding. “I was going to see Zam about something. But with the whole boat sinking thing, I thought you’d help me out with the people. Thanks by the way.”
“Since I am here I do have a question.” He stands up and begins cleaning his glasses lenses. “Has anyone been acting odd lately?”
“Nothing more than usual. Why?” she asks as Jon stands and puts his glasses on once more.
“For the last month or so I’ve been running into a lot of people and animals with tainted Aether. The Kraken was tainted too. I tried to purify it but it…died in the process. All that was left was this.” Reaching into his bag, Jon pulls out the Black Prism which floats suspended in an Aetherial barrier. “Whatever it is it has A LOT of tainted Aether coming off of it. I’m talking Sage level tainted Aether.”
Cerise gets off of her flower and immediately walks over to examine the Black Prism. Her mind racing all the while. “Have you tried purifying it?”
“Didn’t get the chance yet. Honestly, I just want to sleep before dealing with it.”
“Why isn’t that a pretty thing?” a black haired fairy with a teal hue sings while she lays on Cerise’s shoulder. Marceline the Teal was her name, and she was Cerise’s loyal familiar.
“Not sure. I wanted to ask Zam about it myself.” Jon answers.
“En garde foul beast!” Storm blurts out as he awakens suddenly. Jumping to his feet and drawing his weapons. His blood pumping as he searches for an enemy that’s long gone. Jon, Cerise, Marceline, and Tella can only look at him confused. “Um…that’s what I’d say to any potential enemy. Hahahaahaha!” he tries to cover himself.
“This is Storm the Red. He’s been following me since I saved him from a Sevela. You get used to him.” Jon introduces the group.
“Please, hold your applause and gasps of awe.” Storm says proudly as he sheaths his weapons. “Heh, unless you can’t. In which case, by all means, applaud and bask in my greatness.”
“Charming.” Marceline snarks.
“Storm, this is Cerise the Just and Marceline the Teal.”
Storm stays silent and stares at Cerise. “I was joking about basking in my greatness my Sage.”
“He’s cute in a dumb kind of way. You got a good catch Jonny boy.” Marceline teases.
“Ugh…” Jon groans at the joke. “It is nothing like that. We just met.”
“You know you’re getting awfully upset about a joke.” Marceline taunts once more.
“I’m honored but we’ve just met.” Storm interjects.
“See? Now can we stop prying into my love life and just sleep?”
“We can but on one condition.” Cerise answers him sternly. “You need to try and purify that thing. Not to question your barrier but you’re no Dakarai.”
“No buts Jon. If that thing was dangerous enough to make purifying a Kraken lethal we can’t risk it harming others by just existing.”
“Fine…” Jon sighs agreeing with Cerise. “Just give me some space okay?”
Jon waits for the others to back away from him as he kneels and begins to channel the Aether. His pure Aether funneling slowly into the Black Prism but there’s no change. Taking a deep breath he tries once more. The Aether swirling around him going violent and mixing with the Black Prisms Tainted Aether. His veins become stained and his eyes turn black. A single phrase echoes through his mind in an unending loop.
“Iblis ayc’pb…” his voice echoes repeatedly as if possessed by an otherworldly force. The once blue Aether now jet black. It whips through the air, tearing through the branches nearby. Cerise continuously creates more vines and tries to mitigate the damage with her own Aether.
“Jon!” Cerise calls out to only the repetitive sound of that alien language. In a desperate bid, she uses one of her personal spells. “Sectuo!” she shouts; using it she could cut off the flow of Aether to a person or object. A useful tool for disarming possible threats. She banked everything on the idea if she used it on Jon he’d be free from whatever trance he’s trapped in.
Sectuo successfully cuts off the Aether connecting Jon to the Black Prism. But the gamble almost costs everyone their lives. With nowhere for his Aether to go, it erupts throughout the Tree of Armon. His unparalleled connection to the Aether magnified his already unmatched Aetherial strength. The knockback was enough to knock Cerise out cold and soaring towards the edge of her home. Storm finally showed his worth in saving the Sage, catching her in his arm. One hand holding her, another with his sword stabbed into the floor, and the shield on his back facing the epicenter of the explosion. His armor and shield all covered in vibrant red crystals. Courtesy of his spell Gemma Stigma, his weapons and armor were now covered in durable Aether Crystals.
As the dust begins to settle Storm stands slowly and ends his spell. He surveys his surroundings and finds Cerise, Tella, and Marceline safe. Jon remained at the epicenter unconscious with the Black Prism lying next to him unaffected. The words that Jon said in his unholy trance seemed to whisper from the Black Prism itself.
“Are you okay?” Storm asks Cerise trying to shake her awake.
“I’ll live.” Rubbing her head she stands and begins to wobble towards Jon. “Marceline, I’m counting on you.”
“I’m fine, thank you for asking.” Marceline pouts shaking her head.
“We don’t have time for this Marce.”
“I know I know.” Marceline flies up and begins to sing.
♫ Weary mind and tired souls ♫
♫ Hear this song and feel my light ♫
♫ This plea to heal all of your woes ♫
♫ I’ll pray this song with all my might ♫
♫ Let the pain fade from this world ♫
♫ A new day comes, the pages turned ♫
♫ The fairies song has been unfurled ♫
♫ The body healed, its health returned ♫
The Song of Healing was a passed down through generations by the Fairies and Sylvanus. It carried across the Aether and began to heal those caught in the explosion. Storm could only imagine how bad things could’ve been if he weren’t there. Cerise was more concerned about what the Black Prism was that it couldn’t be purified. Ten minutes pass before Jon reawakens with an unmerciful headache.
“Did I do it?” Jon asks confused as to what transpired.
“Not even close.” Cerise answers in deep thought.
“Any idea what you were saying while zoned out?” Marceline asks Jon as she lays down on his head.
“Zoned out? What do you mean?” Jon asks back confused. “I remember trying to purify the Black Prism then waking up.”
“Memory loss is never a good sign.” Marceline turns to Cerise for guidance on what to do.
“I’ll deal with you and this…thing…tomorrow Jon. Now I have to make sure everyone’s still alive.”