Aetherius Saga #12: Bonding

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Previously on Aetherius Saga…
Jon the Compassionate, Sage of Water, had arrived at the Kingdom of Xanad with Storm the Red. After his failed attempt to purify the Black Prism at the behest of Cerise the Just, Sage of Nature, he seeks a moments peace. Unfortunately, a mysterious assassin has other plans for the Sage and his Knight. The pair manage to defeat the assassin but seeing how helpless he was, Cerise tells him to find Zam the Persistent, Sage of Lightning, so he can examine the Black Prism and teach Jon to fend for himself…

Leaving the Kingdom of Xanad by foot; it took Jon, Storm, and Tella roughly a week walking eastward before they reached Elysium. Their destination was the singular opening in the Elysion Mountains that separated Elysium from the rest of Poluyim. While there were sporadic mountain passages, this was by far the easiest to navigate and locate without prior knowledge. But even after reaching this opening it’d take another two weeks to reach the town of Endymion. At most it’d take a month, assuming there weren’t diversions along the way. Fortunately, the trip to Elysium was more forgiving than their return from the Colsana Archipelago.* The Mystic Woods were fairly peaceful in comparison to the Mystic Jungles. Not that it mattered, wildlife had an innate affection for Jon that largely kept them from being hostile.

*Aetherius Saga Chapter 9

The Elysion Mountains was one of the highest mountain ranges in all of Zeratal, second only to Agni’s Peak. Aside from being the main entry in Poluyim into Va’ Sif, it encircled all of Elysium. Extending north and creating the entire border separating the Magma Fields of Va’ Sif from both the Highlands and Ga’ Zir Desert. As well as separating the Ga’ Zir Desert from the Highlands and Kingdom of Orion. For Storm who had only been to two different regions of Zeratal before this adventure, seeing the Elysion Mountains was somewhat intimidating. He dreamed of greatness but the two months he spent with one of the Sages and traveling across the land wasn’t what he expected. Now all that stood in their way was a gentle river.

“Please tell me we don’t have to go into a forest again.” Storms attention was focused entirely on his gauntlets. “It’s not good for my armor. Did you know I still had webs stuck in my joints to get out?”

“We don’t have to go into a forest again.” Jon answers honestly. Beyond the river was a week’s walk through some grasslands. Then two weeks more through jungles. Similar, but technically different. Not that he needed to spoil Storms mood with that fact.

“Thank the heavens.” Following Jon who had Tella sitting on his right shoulder, they continue along the riverbanks. The Aether in Elysium hummed in Jon’s presence.

“What do you think we should do Tella?” Jon asks glancing at Tella.

“Mew.” she responds.

“Same, I don’t mind walking.”

“We don’t have to walk?!” Storm grabs Jon by the shoulder and begins shaking him. “Doitdoitdoitdoit!”

“Jeez, fine…But you owe me…” Jon sighs. “Again…” His thoughts continue. In three steps he enters the river. He closes his eyes briefly as something begins to move towards him from beneath the surface. A large turtle the size of a small boat raises its head just above the water so its large black eyes are visible. “Hello, there friend. Would you mind giving us a ride?” his request is answered. The turtle turns its head so they can easily get on its smooth shell. Storm eagerly jumps at the opportunity. “Happy now?”

“Yes, I am. Why didn’t you do this sooner?”

“Because as much as I like the Arrau I don’t want to use them only to get up and down a river. Seems like using them.” The Arrau was a special breed of massive river turtle only found in Elysium. Their primary job was to act as a ferry across Elysium for travelers. A task they had no problem doing for non-hostile visitors.

“But you ride horses.”

“This is different.”

“How?”

“It…it just is!” Jon adamantly defends himself.

“For a Sage of Water, you really don’t like doing anything Sage like.” Storm comments aside.

“I will turn this turtle around and make you walk.”

“I’m sorry my Sage.” he apologizes.

With the help of the Arrau, the two-week walk could be handled in several days without having to navigate around the river. During the day Jon spent most of his time drawing all that they passed. The Fairies that called Elysium their home, the towering Endymion in the distance, the Arrau they rode, and even Storm. At night he watched the stars and thought to himself. He was excited to see Zam after years. Of all the Sages he’s the only one he had always had a good relationship with. But he worried what he might think of him now. Elysium was the first place he went to after being freed from Caldra and he had yet to properly return.

“How much longer till we reach Endymion?” Storm asks while shining his breastplate. Keeping his armor and weapons in pristine condition was a skill he was justified in being proud of. Even if his efforts were often undermined minutes after performing them.

“A few hours till we can get off our friend. Then it’s just a days walk through the jungle and woodlands.”

“Seriously?!” Storm blurts out. “Not that I mind the adventure. But why couldn’t Cerise have lent us a horse or an urba?”

“Because they can’t cross the rivers and get startled by the Arrau easily.” Jon says petting the Arrau. Its skin felt smooth and pleasant to him. Tella turns up her tail and jumps from his shoulder. “You jealous Tella?” He snickers. Tella walks to Storms side instead as if to spite him. “You know for all our traveling you find a new thing to complain about every day. How did you run a Guild?”

“Simple, I was amazing! It just happens I am…slightly less accustomed to such long ventures. I mean I’ve traveled from Poluyim to the Everfrost Isles and back but that was always with a convoy. No offense my Sage but this is a far less prepared and thought out trip. N-not that there’s anything wrong with it.”

“No, you’re right. I always just wandered from place to place with only the clothes on my back, Tella, and whatever I could fit in my bag. Never thought it was easy or how others might deal with it.”

“Or how lonely it must be! I mean if it weren’t for me it’d just be you and the Familiar who isn’t even here all the time. I miss all the attention personally but for a Sage, it has to be a little relieving getting solitude.”

“Yeah.” Jon replies lowly. At sunset, the pair finally disembarks from their shelled transport. With a gentle pat on the head, it leaves back to where it came. Taking the lead, Jon proceeds into the jungles. All they’d have to do now was walk forward and they’d find themselves at Elysium’s front gates.

Ugh, no wonder those Eternals always looked so shabby. They must travel through these awful conditions on a daily basis.”

“And saving your ass every time.” Jon thinks to himself. “It’s gonna start raining soon.” he says, putting up his hood moments before the sound of thunder echoes through the jungles.

“At least it’s just rain…” Storm sighs. Grabbing his shield, he holds it over his head as the sky opens and rain pours down from above.

The rhythmic sound of the raindrops hitting the leaves accompanied by the ambient wildlife and insect noise was deafening. If the rain were pouring down any harder he’d be blind as well as deaf. Storm could see Jon talking to him but could only follow his body language. Eventually arriving at the roots of a massive tree. Beneath them was enough room to make a temporary shelter. They could rest easy, there we no predators native to Elysium for fear of the Dragons that called it home.

“Impes Stigma.” Sheathing his sword in flames, Storm creates a small fire to keep the pair warm.

“Huh…” Jon says in surprise letting down his hood.

“What?”

“I figured you’d start a forest fire.” he answers semi-jokingly.

“Ha! Shows what you know! I’ve been practicing.” he sticks out his chest proudly and sheaths his sword once more.

“Thank you, Storm.” Jon smiles sitting close to the fire and removing his tunic to dry. “It’s gonna be dark soon so might as well stay here for the night.”

“Couldn’t you just make it not rain?” he asks amidst taking off his armor. As much as it pained him to dirty his armor after polishing it he didn’t want to get sick either.

“Yeah, I could.” Jon says glancing to the side. At the entrance of the shelter stood a small Tapir. He signals for it to approach and after shaking its fur, sits next to him. Allowing him to pet it across its head. “But that wouldn’t be right for the little guys living here. Just because we have the power to alter the weather to our whims doesn’t mean we should.”

“Is that why you don’t use magic a lot?”

“One of the reasons yeah. My stuff gets a little…large scale so I try to only do it when I absolutely have to.”

“Right.” Storm slowly responds. His attention focused on the scars Jon had. It was only the second time he went topless around him and Storm had almost forgotten they were there at all.

“It’s rude to stare you know.”

“Sorry, my Sage!” Storm quickly apologizes. “If you would permit me to ask my Sage. How did you get those scars? You’ve never come off as a warrior.”

Jon stops petting the Tapir and sits in contemplation on what to say if anything. “I grew up in Cedar Village. It’s a small farm town to the north of the highlands right next to Neith’s Cove. Used to be a farm boy but always found myself doing art instead. That or playing with the animals. Never knew my parents so I was raised by the whole village.”

“Uh huh.” Storms tone and expression full of boredom.

“Do you even care about my story?”

“Of course I do. I just expected…maybe you were like a secret underground fighter and hid it from the world.”

“That’s dumb.”

“I was complimenting you.”

“You get the skimmed version now. The Kingdom of Orion came, I got sold, awoke as a Sage, and got freed. You can fill in the blanks on how I got the scars.” The rain intensifies with his annoyance.

“Your Sage powers were too tough to handle?” Storm gives his best assumption. Jon just stares at him.

“How dense are you?” he thinks to himself. “Yeah let’s go with that.”

“That settles it. I shall train even harder to make sure you don’t have to use your massive power and risk harming yourself further!” Storm’s face glowed with determination. Jon’s glowed with confusion.

“Thanks, I guess.”

Next Issue

COMING SOON

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