Ceres was right. Phobos didn’t need empty platitudes and comforting words – she needed a goal to work towards. And our discovery of a possible solution to her mother’s plight had given her that goal.
Now, as I looked up from my perusal of a manuscript on wind shaping, I found her deeply entrenched; stacks of books towering all around her fortifying her within a world of learning. Shadows writhed and twisted unnaturally around her as they bent to her subconscious attempts to put what she read into action.
Instead of the morbid despair that had clouded her eyes for these days past, a determined glint shone within those yellow orbs of hers. If an answer lay within the books in this library, I was sure she wouldn’t rest until she had found it.
Her insomnia hadn’t taken a turn for the better but I preferred that she lose sleep in the pursuit of knowledge than be pursued from her sleep by nightmares.
Deciding not to disturb her, I shifted in my seat to get comfortable and returned to my reading.
~ While shaping a breeze to one’s will – having it move as one pleases – might be the pinnacle of what most mages specialized in control can imagine, I was lucky to stumble upon yet another one of the inexhaustible mysteries contained within the Aspect of Wind.
It was a dreary day – one of the worst moments of my youth. When we are young, our egos are bright, fragile little balls of glass, ripe for the breaking. And the Tournament and subsequently the Swayamvar is a basket where these marbles are placed and thoroughly shaken. Pride clashes against pride and without competence to back that pride up, it is thoroughly shattered. Now, as I look back upon that experience through the lens of experience, I find myself understanding the purpose.
By breaking us, they expected us to stand back up stronger. If we failed to do so, we were not worthy of a share of the limited resources. Understanding returns to understanding, but as a young boy on the cusp of manhood I found defeat a bitter pill to swallow – especially when the intentions of the planning committee were so obvious.
The format of the Tournament and the Swayamvar is never the same a second time, the ones in charge of planning them taking inordinate amounts pride in making each successive iteration more sadistic than the last.
In my time, the Tournament had each mage facing opponents solely of an element antagonistic to their own. Shadow faced Light, Light faced Earth, and Earth faced Shadow. Fire faced Water, Water faced Wind; and as a Wind mage, I faced the wielders of Flame.
They didn’t want us to win, even forcing a draw was just an expectation. Under the most adverse of circumstances, they wanted to see how we would perform. But defeat after defeat ground against my fragile pride. I was the best in the Felidae contingent. I had grown up accompanied by the praises of my elders and peers. The taste of dirt was suffocating.
I wanted to win.
That night, alone in my accommodations, with the blinds drawn and torches unlit, I stared at a lit candle as it burnt down, trying to understand what it was that made the flickering flame burn. The candle burnt to a stub but the answer never came. Fruitless and frustrated, I swept my arm above the table, knocking a teacup over the stub and stormed off to a night of disturbed sleep.
Next morning, rubbing my bleary eyes, I tried to lift the cup, only to find it stuck fast to the table. Putting more effort, it came away with a pop and a near inaudible whistle of wind.
As a Wind mage, how could I miss the change in the air currents, how could I be unfamiliar with the whispers of the wind. For some reason, a void had formed within the upturned cup.
This discovery – a fateful coincidence – was the beginning of my journey to earn the title: Warlock of the Smothering Gale. ~
The rest of the tome went on to describe the detailed process of his – my great grandfather’s – attempts to unravel the secrets hidden within that incident. He had found that air wasn’t a single entity but a mixture of gases. While any water mage can tell you that there is moisture in the air and the formation of clouds will prove them right, according to great grandpa, even dry air could be divided into two parts. One part that supported combustion and another, larger part that smothered it.
By burning candles in sealed containers, getting a feel of the residual air and comparing it to the atmosphere, he managed to gain the ability to wield both sections separately. Realizing that the flammable portion of the air was also the part necessary for life – the part we breathed in but didn’t breathe out, he named the two sections ‘living wind’ and ‘dying wind’ with there being four times the amount of the latter for a measure of the former.
His method of mastery resulted from his use of the dying wind in isolation to extinguish flames and lives alike.
What made things even better for him was that great grandma was a fire mage, giving him a measure of control over fire. So, while his manuscript was mainly dedicated to exercises meant to help a prospective student get a feel for and separate dying wind from the atmosphere, it also contained a section where he detailed his use of the living wind to fuel and amplify his own flames into a much hotter variant – Sapphire Flames – named so for their brilliant blue colour.
While my insight into the Aspect of Inflammation was lacking, I was an Adept in the Aspect of Amplification and a Master of Wind. And as a Tamer, I was in a unique position to leverage this synergy between wind and fire to the fullest.
Ceres had speculated that I needed to reach Grandmaster to advance my magical strength but now, I could feel a new path unfolding in front of me, leading me to vistas never seen before.
Synergy of the Elements.