The Elemental Healer


They sat together on an old table, in a house that did not look well kept on tidy for ages. Although the interior was as decrepit as outside, the only things that seemed to have any shine was the table and kitchen. Not even the stove or chimney was well kept, cluttered with odds and ends amongst a few personal belongings scattered about in a manner that was not the most ordinary. Together they sat over at the table meal of roasted rabbit and a cold stew of vegetables that had been made before, and left to settle on the table until the rabbit was ready.

While Zoe showed little manner of decorum devouring her soup and rabbit meat with a spoon or utensil, Anthony had used his own personal utensils set up on the table in a perfect position. His manners reflected a manner of a nobleman, with his napkin and fork and spoon set aside, practically nibbling on his foot to savor each bite. This didn go unnoticed by Zoe who simply turned an eye at him before stuffing a big helping of meat in on hand while sipping her soup in the out.

”Sorry the place isn tidy. ” She said after finishing her sip. ”Im not a big fan of guests these days. ”

”Im aware, you were not that easy to track. ” He put down his utensils. ”Ive spent the last two years trying to find you. ”

”Well, as a healer, lets say… ” She bit into her rabbit again. ”I have to keep my interests mobile. ”

”Understandable, since healers are quite the commodity, especially in the lands of the great beasts. ” His eyes turn to hers with an inquisitive stare. ”Im curious, you could have made a good living in the luxury states of Brontes, maybe even the middle region of Kenos. Why choose to wander the lower states of Gratis and the Slums? ”

”Thats funny coming from the house of Erebus. ” She laughed with her mouth full. ”Don you come from long lines or warriors dating back to the Second Era or something? ” She stopped eating and relaxing in her chair. ”Nobility is all the same, titles and lineage, what does it matter? You can find a gem inside a rock but it doesn make it less that important. Your mother knew, she came from the slums, I was raised in the lower states, we were practically neighbors but I became a professor. ” She laughed at the poetry of the next comparison. ”Is it garbage or an antique? ”

”I beg your pardon. ” He didn see the difference.

”Nothing kid, its not important. ” She shrugged off to get back on topic. ”Tell me, whats the son of Erebus doing out here talking to old fossils like me? ”

”To be honest, I need a teacher. ”

”Didn your mother tell you Im retired, kid? ”

”She made mention, but she said you had a…unique way of teaching that helped her through in her institution days. ”

”Ha, you should hear my old colleagues comments. ” She laughed as she remembered her old nicknames. ”Mad as a brass boar, rapid as a jade wolf, the siren of sanatorium, my personal favorite. They just couldn see the full potential of mage craft, to them it is always the same. If it doesn kill its not used in this program… small minded, a lot of them. ”

”Its exactly that approach that Im interested in Ms. Zoe. ” She wanted to correct the grammar of the ”Miss ” part, but she figured that was as close as she was going to get. ”Im in a unique position in which I require your assistance in mage craft, something that has eluded me my whole life. ”

”Surely you jest. ” She smirked. ”Your mother had her first awakening when she was 5 and your father was a late bloomer, but still had good genes on his side. What circle are you at now, third, fourth? ”

He hesitated to answer for a moment but knew that had to be completely honest if we were going to move forward.

”…Ive never awoken past the first circle. ”

The very mention of that caused her to nearly fall from her chair in surprise. Having her complete attention at this point, she sat back down in her chair and started him straight in the face. She was no longer the person he knew before, as she wiped the crumbs of food and placed her hands on the table.

”How old are you, kid? Seventeen, Eighteen? ”

”As of last winter, Im in my Nineteenth year. ”

”What have you been doing this whole time? Been spending money on wine, women and fun? ”

”Ive trained my body since birth to be at the peak of the four inner traits since I was three. ” He told his heritage not with pride but as a lament of his own inadequate features. ”Thats around the time my youngest sister manifested her abilities and she is considered a prodigy. My second eldest sister is convinced that cooperating with other elemental mages will wield promising results, and my eldest, well…shes somewhere in the mainlands, facing demons for the good of the Empire. ”

”Im not talking about family, I want to know about you? What have you accomplished? ”

”Accomplished? ” He talked as if there wasn much to say. ”Around my 8th year, my father gave up on my elemental training, but my mother encouraged me to build on a foundation of knowledge. She taught me the basics, theories, principles, while I kept up with physical training in my spare time. When I came of age, I received work at the National Archives for four years, until my father retired. ”

”Retirement? ” Zoe arrived at a very important conclusion. ”You said you had three sisters, as the first born son, shouldn you have taken over the house when your father retired? Your father never seemed like the progressed type to let one of daughters take his place. ”

”He claimed he loved us so much he couldn choose, so he resurrected an old rite of passage. ”

”You mean, the rite of the crusade? ” She placed her hands in his head and started soothing her nerves. ”That stubborn, old…So he tossed each of you a few coins and sent you on your way, when was that? ”

”About two years ago. ”

”That means, youve got another three years before you have to return home with an ability that surpasses fifth circle magic. ” She muttered in her hands and she placed her palms on the table again. ”An impossible task for his least favorite son. ” She turned her frustrations aside and calmly took a deep breath to speak again. ”So, you want me to learn to teach you in 3 years, which took me nearly four times as long to accomplish. ”

”She said you were late to achieve awakening as well, but you improved yourself through experience instead of teachings. ”

”Forget it, kid, those teachings are not for you. ” She got up from her seat and headed toward the front door.

”You haven even told me what it is. ” He protested following her from his seat.

”Have you ever been desperate, starving, willing to risk your life for knowledge, I don think so? ” She placed the door handle. ”I may have been a step up from the slums, but I had my blood, sweat and tears to be a step ahead of the game. Youd have to risk burning yourself to the bone to get even half as good. ”

”Ive been working as a hunter in the wilds of the Duchy for two years, does that not prove anything? ”

”It proves you
e either lucky or you haven met a real challenge, either way Ill have no part in the death of a son of Erebus. ” She opened the door, releasing the wind outside the dusty house.

The dust brushed against his eyes as Anthony remembered all the trails that had led him to this point, but one thing kept him steadfast despite Zoes objections.

”Im also a son of Orsa. ” He held his hand to chest. ”Living in my house, they valued elemental magic above everything else, but I stand apart. My mother said that we were noted for looking at things differently, but you sound like everyone whos ever been in my life. My teachers, my instructors, even my own kin, but my mother believed I had potential strength beyond everyone else. I just want to prove that his faith in me was not mistrusted, and my father made it clear that if I returned without accomplishment, I will no longer claim my rite as Erebus. You say Ive never been desperate? Well, make no mistake that I would risk everything to see what I can truly accomplish. ”

The old master looked into and right through into body and soul. She examined every bruise and scar, every tear of his fabric, every item in possession as if gazing at the story of his life, until now. He may not have risked his life and limb as most desperate in the slums, but he was intelligent, and well built, and with determination that reminded him so much of his mother and herself.

The rite crusade had rarely been undertaken since tradition demanded that if it was not accomplished, then his children would be disowned. To many it was a way to end their family heritage, for children who had grown too lazy and spoiled to be fit to lead. An impossible quest for the most worthless of individuals, that would either make them paupers or force them to return home more appreciative of their standing. Now, this idled threat for wealth was reality for this man and his siblings, but he embraced the task. Having considered all this, Zoe closed the door and locked it behind her.

”You really want to do this? ” She looked up at him face to face.

”With all my soul. ” She tapped her knuckle just below his stomach in the solar plexus.

”Lets see about that…Bios. ” She limped toward the backdoor and went outside into the field.

”Bios?… ” A peculiar word, Anthony thought, but he got what he wanted, a master trained him.

He followed her outside, to an open field just around the hill and trees. Although it was a slow walk because of her limb, he said not a word until she stopped in the middle of an opening. The field had been flattened and laid out like a mat, a few stones made an outline of a ring to which Zoe stood on one side and Anthony stood at the sidelines. When she was at the right position, she turned to face Anthony in a defensive stance saying:

”Alright kid, lets see what, you know. ”

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