Ferrin walked back to his apartment his mind whirling from his talk with Patrick.
That's not right.
His mind was clear and a center of calm. Control. He was in control. He paid little attention to his surroundings and focused on breathing. Deep, steady breaths.
Like a match dropped in water, the storm of emotions vanished and Ferrin entered a familiar, deadly calm. He let out a breath in a muted, but frustrated sigh. So life it tough, what else is new? Boo-hoo. Get it together Ferrin.
His apartment wasn't a far walk from the guild and he arrived within minutes. He descended the stairs to his door, brought out the key, and then undid the lock-- along with the wards protecting it. Infused in his door was a layer of protective magic that made the flimsy-seeming wooden door as strong as steel. Also, any would-be intruder who managed to batter down the door, would be met with a powerful shock of lightning magic. Though not strong enough to be deadly to a reasonably healthy adult, it would be a nasty surprise and hurt like hell. It’s secondary purpose was to be bright and noisy, in theory thwarting any attempt at a stealthy entrance. However, as wards go, they weren't very powerful or through. It had one charge and was mostly designed to stop a physical intrusion from a single person, relaying on the intruder being careless or ignorant about the trap. It would do nothing if someone were to, say, light the building on fire, throw something expendable at it, or have other, nonphysical mean of entry. All in all, it wasn't an effective means of defense, but it was better than nothing. It was the wizardly equivalent of a chain lock and burglar alarm. On the other hand, it was stable. Most wards had a tradeoff between trigger sensitivity and stability-- Ferrin didn't want the thing blowing up in the face of some poor mailman or the next person who knocked on the door.
The door opened with a creek, Ferrin slipped inside, closing, locking, and arming it behind him. The room was dim and the air smelled slightly musty. The only illumination was from a small rectangular window set high in one wall. The young, dark-haired wizard reached out and touched a light lacrima, which flared to life at his touch. The apartment was small and austere. It had three rooms, a living room with a kitchenette, a bedroom and a bathroom. It was an old place, with stone walls, wood ceiling and wood floor. Set against the far wall was a fireplace and a ventilation system to take the smoke out. No rug adorned the floor and the walls were bare of decorations. What it did have was shelving. Simple, utilitarian, somewhat mismatched shelving which filled the wall space. Most of them were empty, awaiting whatever use Ferrin might have for them, but some of it was in use. Books had begun to fill one side. There were books of all kinds, story books, cook books, how-to, biography, classical literature, historical, and more, with a very large section on magic. On the other end, creeping across like moss growing on a stone, was rows of containers along with what could only be described as an eclectic collection of nick-knacks. Ferrin had a habit of keeping and collecting things he found interesting, or deemed possibly useful which invariably lead to a buildup of random objects in any place he spent a long-time in. Most of his collection came from jobs, either as trophies taken, curiosities found (and/or taken), rewards received, and the occasional "borrowed" object. Plenty of them had been or could be useful in the future, especially with ritual magic.
Back in his time, he had quite a collection, including some very powerful magical objects and rare materials. What he had now was a small shadow of that, an attempt to recreate what he lost. Or was it his way of starting over?
The rest was of the apartment was simple and spartan. A light armchair for sitting, a small couch for reclining, and a table made up the rest of the furniture in the living room. His bedroom contained one full-sized bed, one truck of clothing, and one folding table. The whole place was clean and orderly. The only thing out of place was a book that lay up-side down and open; Ferrin took great pains to keep his places neat and clean. A stranger might remark that the place gave off a temporary vibe, like its occupant was only here for a little while and could pack up and leave at any time.
The place was not ideal. It was small and cold and musty. But it was a roof over his head and a place to sleep. Most importantly, rent was dirt cheap.
Ferrin crossed the room in a few long strides. He lightly snapped his fingers, sending out a weak current of magic. With a quiet pop a fire flickered to life in the fireplace. Without breaking stride, he moved to the kitchenette and with thoughtless movements, fixed a small meal of leftovers. He brought the food out and sat in the chair.
He ate in silence, staring into the fire.
It was quiet.
The fire cracked and popped. He didn't taste the food.
He took the dishes back and mechanically washed them off, leaving them submerged in water in the sink to soak. Now that he had eaten, he took off his boots and placed them by the door. He picked up the light lacrima as he passed it and brought it with him. Walking to the bathroom, he stopped by his bed and gave it a longing look. He had just gotten back from a long and dangerous job, and Ferrin wanted nothing more right now then to lay down and take a long nap. But he didn't have that luxury right now. He was going to go right back out on the trip to Tenrou Island, which would also be long and dangerous. With a sigh he shook the melancholy mood. He had a few things things he need to do before setting out once more. First, he needed to do some maintenance on his arm, then he needed to make sure all his other gear was in good shape, he needed to check his supplies and restock anything that was low, he also needed to brush up on information about the island and dragons, including the information stored in Sasha’s journal.
In a few hours.
Oh, and somewhere along the way, he needed a change of clothes. He sniffed. And a shower. And a shave. “Do you know the difference between a living wizard and a dead one?”
He asked the room. “Preparation. I could tear down mountains, raze cities, and rescue puppies if you just gave me time.”
First things first, he had to do some maintenance. slipped out of his Armament, his spell-reinforced coat, and tossed it on the bed. It landed a bit more solidly then it should have. Beneath it, usually mostly hidden by the sleeve, was his Gauntlet. From shoulder to tip, it was slightly longer then it’s opposite, and much wider. The body of his forearm and arm to the wrist was grey-black, covered by segmented pieces of metal. His shoulder joint was a light and shiny grey. It protruded out, forming a natural pauldron. His arm and forearm were a dark grey. Covering the elbow was a piece of metal not unlike the one protecting his shoulder. His hand was quite wide, the palm was double the size of his normal left hand, and the sharpened, hinged fingers, twice as long as anatomically usual, formed an intimidating-looking silver claw. The palm had the same grey-black color as the rest of the arm, while the fingers were a burnished silver. Set into the palm was a round opening that hid a gun barrel. It could be used to fire physical projectiles or blasts of focused magic, not unlike a vastly scaled-down version of the legendary Jupiter cannon. Deep inside Ferrin’s Gauntlet was a powerful focusing lacrima that served as its core and power source for the magic cannon.
Ferrin pulled out the foldable table and tucked it under his arm. He brought it to the main room where there it was lighter. There he set the table up in the middle of the room, pulled up the chair, and retrieved from various magic storage pockets a brace of tools and brushes, and carefully laid them out. With them he placed a cleaning solution, some refined oil, a very rare and expensive commodity, hot water (kept in a special heating container, powered by a small lacrima), and a bundle of rags. He took a moment to open the small window.
What he was about to do was extremely difficult by himself by, however he didn’t have much choice. To start with, he used a tool to carefully remove the clawed fingers of his metal hand. Underneath were far more practical digits that were less of an impediment when doing finer work that required dexterity. Now, the removal of the arm, a difficult process in itself. It was strongly connected to the anchor which, itself, was grafted into his shoulder bone. He laid his Gauntlet out and held his other hand over the shoulder. Closing his eyes, he focused his magic and began to chant. The chant itself was meaningless, just a series of Latin nonsense and sounds, mean to help him focus his thoughts and magic. The real work was in his head. Using his intimate knowledge of the Gauntlet’s design and applied amounts of metal and force magic, along with unsealing magic, he mentally loosened screws, detached hooks, pushed levers, separated joints, pressed weights, taking it apart piece by piece from the inside. No seam or screw could be found from the outside so it would not fail him in battle, nor could it be taken apart without being destroyed. There was another layer to it too, powerful and complex magic bindings that held everything in place. Those were considerably tricky to undo without outright dispelling the magic, but Ferrin had long hours of practice, in addition to knowing the magic inside and out, due to the fact that he help cast it.
The whole process took ten long minutes of concentration. He could have done it faster, but he was trading time for care. With an audible click, Ferrin grunted as he felt something give. He grasped the loosened joint with his other hand as he undid the last series of magical and physical locks, the toughest and strongest ones that gave it its considerable strength. He had the excruciatingly weird sensation of his arm loosening and sliding off. And finally it did. Ferrin gingerly placed his detached limb on the table. Groaning, he dropped into the chair and wiped sweat off his sucked in a deep breath and let it go ith a groan. He wiped the sweat from his brow with a rag. His throat felt like he had attepted to gargle sandpaper. He left the detached prosthetic where it lay to get a cup of water. He filled it and drank it down. He filled it again and brought it out with him.“You see, class,”
Ferrin rasped. “A task like this needs at least two hands to do properly. However, as I am a supremely awesome, card-carrying wizard, I have a trick up my sleeve.”
Ferrin posed and spoke as if he was lecturing a class. He brought his left hand to his right shoulder and, once again, summoned his magic. “You see, where the body fails…Magic must venture.”
He said softly. He then closed his eyes, steadied his breathing, and composed his thought. This was a powerful working he was going to undertake, one he had been working on for years. The theory was sound, and the spell was merely an alternate of one he already knew, just…applied differently. Strange, ethereal silver mist, an interesting by product of his magic, began to rise from his body. The air around him shimmered like the air over a fire. When he exhaled a puff of Mist streamed out and evaporated, like breath on a cold day.“Aether Construct Magic:”
He intoned, his voice sounding strangely modulated. “Titan’s Arm”
The magic poured out in a rush. The effect was immediate, starting from his shoulder, a silver outline took shape. Like a sketch being drawn in the air, the lines lengthened and changed. They twisted and turned in the air, connecting, growing. The air between the lines became opaque turning a glowing silver color. An arm, an elbow, a wrist, and a hand complete with fingers quickly formed…and clenched into a fist.
His right arm, where there was once was nothing, and before that, metal, there was now a softly luminescent, ghostly arm.
Ferrin held up his new, silver appendage and examined it with a critical eye. It seems some congratulations are in order. The spell worked.
A powerful voice echoed out from deep within Ferrin’s mind.
And It wasn’t his.
Ferrin nodded absently. “It will do for now. The magic formula isn’t perfect yet. Just sustaining this is taking too much magic energy and concentration.”You have progressed well and quickly for a mortal. At this rate you may achieve adequacy in a few centuries.
Ferrin arched an eyebrow at his arm. “A complement? From you?”
For the next half-hour, he used a combination of the disassembly magic and tools to take apart most of his arm. Everything seemed to be in working order. Progress was slow, as maintaining his magic arm and performing disassembly magic at the same time was taxing to the very limit of the aether wizard’s capabilities. Nevertheless, he soldiered on, pausing only to recast the spell when his concentration lapsed and the arm vanished. About halfway through the process, he abruptly let out an acidic curse and his magic arm vanished. In the core of his Gauntlet, now exposed was the vitally important focusing lacrima that powered it and controlled the lesser lacrimae embedded throughout the prosthetic arm. It was small, about the size of a large marble, and spherical in shape. Despite its size, it could manage enough magic energy to power a city. Such a thing was very rare and exorbitant expansive, due to the quality of the crystal required and the expertise needed to craft it.
And it had a crack in it.
It was a small one, fortunately. However, even a small crack would notably impair its performance. But the biggest problem was that the crack created a fault, and that fault could buckle under stress. Best case scenario, the lacrima would shatter, rendering his arm limp. That would be inconvenient, but manageable with a bit of golem magic that could animate it for everyday tasks. Worst case scenario, it could explode, releasing all the magic energy it contained in one massive boom. Either way, his combat power would be massively hindered. “Dammit, dammit, dammit.”
Ferrin cursed, repeatedly, following them with several more, much more vile, ones.
The focusing lacrima was the same one that had been first built into it, and it had been through a lot, including a full-scale war. Ferrin realized, feeling like an idiot. Of course it wore out. It could be replaced, but ordering a new one would take time and money and lots of both. Neither of which he had.“I am just going to have to make do with it.”
Ferrin said with a sigh, remaking the temporary arm. “I hope Tenrou is not going to be as exciting as I fear it will be.”
Fifteen minutes later, he finally leaned back with a groan, finished with the disassembly. Besides the core, nothing else was amiss. Now he had to clean out the mud, grime, grease, rust, ash, and blood.
Yes. Blood. His last job had been a messy one.
The cleaning process took fifteen more back-aching, eye straining, curse-filled minutes. Finally, he oiled the parts up and let it sit.
Finally done, Ferrin let his magic arm vanish and leaned back in the chair. He closed his eyes and stayed like that for a minute. His eyes were watering from the fumes let off by the cleaning solution. His hand was covered to the wrist in machine oil, on top of the travel grime he still bore.
With the creaking and popping of joints, Ferrin got up and staggered through the bedroom and into the bathroom. He tore off his ragged clothing, which was too far gone to save, and soon was under the water in the shower as hot as he could stand it. In total bliss.
He lingered there, letting the running hot water sooth his weary, aching body and refresh his mind.
A good while later, a cloud of steam billowed out with the wizard as Ferrin emerged from the shower dripping wet. One-handed, he dried himself off and wrapped a towel around his waist. He opened pulled out another outfit, similar to the one he had been wearing. He dressed his the lower half, but left his upper body bare for the moment; a shirt could get in the way of reattaching his Gauntlet.“Break’s over, dæmonion. Time to earn your keep.”
He said, issuing a mental summons.
And suddenly, it was there
, a mental presence, more like a force, doing the mental equivalent of hovering behind him, peering over his shoulder. You have become more creative with your names.
Ferrin snorted. “You like it? Dæmon is the Latin word for the Ancient Greek, daimōn, which could mean god, godlike, power, or fate.”
It rippled. I am no god.“That is not the end of it. Daimōn is derived from an even older language, so old it does not have a proper name, the word meant ‘provider, divider or divider of fortunes or destinies’. In ancient times, some humes believed that dæmons were benign spirits, beings of the same nature as both mortals and deities. Sometimes, however they were liked as to evil spirits, like demons.”
Ferrin continued, with cheerful blithe. “But it is generally agreed on that they were not the same as deities or gods.”
The being eyed him. And the ion?
Ferrin’s smile grew. “As in small, or servant. A portmanteau of minion that is technically a word. So, you are my little dæmon.”Amusing.
It rumbled, conveying the exact opposite. Get on with it. You want information.
Ferrin rolled his eyes and nodded. “You can see my intentions here. I need everything you know about dragons, and your take on the girl, Sasha’s, journal.”Very well.
For the next roughly fifteen minutes, the two talked back and forth. It knew little more about dragons then what Ferrin knew, all it could say is that they were magical-physical beings of incredible power, not unlike itself, which was a magical-spiritual being. Humans being spiritual-physical beings and human wizards being magical-physical-spiritual beings.
They concluded with the mutual renewed interest in studying one of the creatures up close. But then…About the hume who called himself Time Lord.
Ferrin stiffed. No.Magus,
It warned.Shut up. Not another word.…as you wish.
And it withdrew.“Tsk.”
Ferrin tsked. His mood had immediately soured at the mention of Patrick. He buried the thoughts deep and began the painstaking process of reassembling and reattaching his Gauntlet. This required his whole attention, and helped him avoid dwelling on unwelcome thoughts.
Soon, his Gauntlet was reattached. He briefly went through a serious of movements that tested its range of motion. Everything was in order; he felt no hesitation. Perhaps the crack in the lacrima was merely superficial? He hoped so.
He finished dressing and pulled out more food. All that magic usage made him hungry again. He idly snacked as he laid out his coat and started to do an inventory check. He found he needed a few things but they could be easily bought at the market. Next, he requiped Shiden, his long, curved blade. He used more oil and a rag to thoroughly clean the blade and hilt, after unwrapping it. He checked the grip wrap, which was still in good condition, before rewinding it around the hilt. Finally, he ran a whetstone over the edge, grinding the magic sword to razor-keen sharpness. Next, he requiped his surprise weapon, a length of weighted chain about 142 cm long, made of a series of nine sections of rods, connected by loops, terminating in a sharp bullet-shaped piece. It was a chain whip, at once a beautiful and dangerous weapon. Ferrin had spent some time learning to use one, at first because it was cool, then in earnest as he found how dangerous a weapon it could be. He was by no means an expert, but he could rely on the surprise and unfamiliarity factors to finish a fight. His third and final weapon was a simple length of ashwood, a staff carved from a lightning-struck tree. A wizard’s staff. Eventually. He still hadn’t finished laying down the enchantments yet, so it was currently just a slightly magical stick.
All three weapons were in good repair. He dismissed them. He pulled on his coat, it’s familiar weight settled on his shoulders.
Everything was set. He extinguished the fire and left his apartment. His first stop was by his landlord’s place. At first, he seemed irritated at the disturbance, but when Ferrin explained he was paying this month’s rent and next month’s in advanced the irritation vanished. A brief walk through town brought him to Magnolia’s market, where he purchased the supplies he needed.
He had no intention of returning to the guildhall, instead he sent a message via a runner to Jamie, informing her that he was going to go ahead of them and catch the next train leaving to Hargeon, and meet them at the docks there.
Ferrin slept the whole ride there. He hit the seat and went out like a light. He hadn’t realized the extent of how tired he was until the caffeine gave out. At least the nap was restful.
From the train station, Ferrin headed straight to the port. Locating the ship that was hired by Phoenix Wing was a simple matter of asking a few questions and a glint of coin. Once he found the right ship, he spoke with the crew, informing them who he was and why he was there. That done, he found a spot on the railing where he could lay and watch for the arrival of the rest of the wizards. He drank in the salt air and hummed as he listened to the gull’s cries. Ferrin loved the sea. He sea was like magic. It was vast and deep and mysterious. It was beautiful and dangerous, awe-inspiring and grand. Poets have written songs and poet about it. Stories were told about it. And yet it was utilitarian. It provided food, transport, livelihood. It sustained life and it took life.
Ferrin closed his eyes and waited with a contented smile on his face.
It wasn’t long before everyone else arrived. As they approached the ship, Ferrin leapt off the rail, down to the docks with an easy grace. He addressed them all with a flamboyant bow and a matching smile, gesturing widely as he spoke. “Ladies, Gentlemen, Friends, Guildmates, Others…and Patrick. Goodday. I am Ferrin Astra, of a certain guild,”
Here his grin stretched wider. After a significant pause, he brushed up he sleeve, revealing his Phoenix Wing tatoo. Of course, that was the obvious conclusion and only half the truth. “Right this way.”
He said, indicating the gangplank that lead up to the ship. Still wearing his grin, and feeling rather pleased with himself, he followed them aboard.