As Seth spoke, another smile spread across Raven's face. They seemed to be doing that a lot lately. "Of course you look great!" she affirmed. "Maybe, yeah, get cleaned up a little bit, I'm not sure what's left from the arrows, but yeah." She shook her head. "I wouldn't change anything."
She turned to the shadow who seemed to be following their conversation with rapt attention. "Sorry shadow, um, I think I may have already gotten what I need to get out of these trials. As long as Seth and I are healthy and healed up, I think that's all I want."
Silvana watched as the shadow spoke, then hovered around her. She felt a little uncomfortable when he tugged at her clothes, then told her the options she had, presumably in exchange for more power. Both options did sound simple enough. But were they really? Once Drew was done talking, she asked the shadow. "What exactly do you mean? See the shadows of others? I can already see the shadows of others. Or do you mean only the shadows of others and not my own? As for my eyes, as much as I like the darkness, I do not want to go blind for it. So then do you mean that I would lose the color of my eyes?" She just had to be sure before she made any further decisions.
"The stone isn't telling me anything, it just eats my light and grows toward it. Much like a plant would angle it's leaves to catch the most sunlight. As for why the prime minister doesn't just let you use us when you want, it is probably because not all of us would necessarily want to help this way or to help keep us from getting tired or too distracted. I'm glad I could help but I really must be off, I wish you luck in replicating this." With that Alexander immediately began to try and find the library, occasionally asking for directions.
The shadow drifted over to Drew, seeming to chuckle as it did so, seeming to appraise him even as he continued to glare at the shadow.
"So, there was nothing you could do and it would all happen anyways.....but you didn't see it as an opportunity to actually try and be somewhat entertaining once in your silly life? How boring! How drab! Can't even think outside of the box for an instant! So unlike your silly kind. I would at least like to see some form of life in you. Makes me feel better about the deals I cut, and the gifts I make." The shadow listened carefully as Silvana posed her question, for the shadow shifted over to her once again.
"I don't think you really understand how many shadows there are out there. Your...'friends' for example, all seem to not be showing off their shadows. I know you've seen glimpses of them...but I don't think you see the entire picture.....or perhaps that is what you want, to see the entire picture? And...I only would like those colorful eyes of yours. You can keep the sight and all of those tiny perks. I just want that unique redness in them. Course, not that it matters all that much to you, I'm sure....Course, if the deal sounds unfair, you can just say 'no', and stop wasting my time. Seems I have other parties interested in my services!" Shifting back to Drew once again after finishing with the explanation, an exasperated sigh escaped the figure.
"So damned picky and methodical! You got through it, didn't you? Though I couldn't claim to be impressed at all with your performance, I guess I could let you say what you are here for. Unless it was just that bubbly sister of yours, in which case I can maybe get you back to her.....Course, maybe you already had something else in mind? Maybe you want to always throw around that lightning?" Again, almost seeming to mock Drew, he tossed a bolt between his hands effortlessly.
As the shadow listened to Seth and Raven discuss, the demeanor changed quickly. The figure stood, and with a wave of its arms the pair were enveloped in a darkness for an instant. Just as quickly, it melted away from them and they were healed, clothes were even better than when they had entered, and they seemed to almost had been pampered when he was finished.
"You know, its damned annoying when this happens. I should charge for this kind of thing, seeing as how I went through all that trouble of having you in here, and then you just....LEAVE. GAH, damned mages, never doing the right things...." Pacing for another moment, the figure sighed, dejected and pointed behind the pair.
"There's the damned door, don't lit it hit ya in the back on the way out...or however that saying goes. Next time, try to actually.....want something? That too much to ask these days? Not having deals is so damned BORING."
While the two made their way out of the doorway back into the 'real world' the shadows which had been following behind them seemed to change somewhat as well. No longer did Seth's wear the war armor with spikes and danger, but instead had smoothed out to a more plain armor for protection, with a familiar robe around himself. Raven's shadow seemed to have a sleeker darkness cloaking around herself, seeming to have the same colored hair as Raven but also seeming to stand....stronger. As if there was nothing to stop her now.
As the pair stepped out of the crystal, Seth looked over at Raven and grinned. "Well....that was....different. You sure about the whole thing? I know its...." He paused, looking around and found...no one in the room. "...its probably too late. Just figured you wanted more out of it than...well, plain old me. Just a pyromancer with problems."
As Alexander arrived at the expansive library, he was directed down another hall of books, to which an old woman was standing about, reading what appeared to be a tome of some sort. The book seemed to be incredibly old, having old leather straps bound around it and a small lock of sorts. The woman herself had white hairs, and was somewhat wrinkled, but seemed to still have a lot of spirit about her, especially as she seemed to quickly flip through the book before noting Alexander's presence.
"Ah, there you are. Figured I would eventually run into....one of you. I imagine there is something you need to ask of me, or some silly thing. Want to do this sitting down, or standing up? I like to sit for big news, but I'm a little old for making all the decisions these days."
So at least she wouldn't go blind. That had been her main concern. But she didn't want to give up the red of her eyes, even if it was for more power. She still didn't understand fully what the shadow meant with how the others had shadows they weren't showing, but perhaps that was the better option out of the two. Silvana nodded to herself before she answered the shadow. "I'd rather keep the red of my eyes, so I'll take the other option instead." Lets just hope I didn't choose wrong...
Nydia shifted uncomfortably as the shadow moved towards Cale and herself. First it mocked her performance and now it was offering her a reward? She had no reason to trust this shadow and pay the prices it requested, yet she found the idea strangely compelling. And while she was thinking it over she noted that the prices it requested of the Nightshade were not so unreasonable. Still, Nydia had her reservations and remained silent for a bit longer.
She looked up at Cale who stood next to her and began to wonder if he was going to ask for anything. Though she felt they had become close over the course of their journey, she now realized that they hadn't actually known each other all that long and that she had no idea what sort of desires he had. And yet she had a feeling that if there was something he wanted he would at least hear what price would be required. Surely there was no harm in that?
She had come into these trials in order to aid her companions and protect those whom she had promised Master Rotunz she would look after. Yet she feared that her current strength would not be enough. It certainly hadn't been during the trials and she knew that there were many dangers awaiting them back in the real world. She had always studied and trained as hard as she could and wanted to succeed by her own efforts, but perhaps now it would be for the best to put those feelings aside and ask the shadow for help.
Nydia took a deep breath and paused for a bit before making speaking. "I too seek greater power. There are those I travel with whom I have vowed to protect and those I wish to protect for my own reasons. I ask that you grant me the strength to shield them from harm when I can and better heal their wounds when I cannot." She said before lowering her voice a bit and continuing. "Though I do not know if I have the strength to pay the price you will ask for it...."
"The feathery wings are soooo coool... or maybe something like butterfly wings? Do you think I'd look pretty with butterfly wings?" As if to answer her question, a pair of butterfly wings appeared, shiny, like they were made of colored foil. They fluttered around, first blue, and then orange and black, and then a swirly white. "Eeeee!" Fei ran around after the wings. They were pretty, but she didn't think she would be able to fly with them... they looked kinda delicate and breakable. She would try and fly and rip one of them, because she was too heavy. And they would have to be really big. It would look ridiculous. But she didn't see anyone else with those wings, so she could be the only one with them and when people asked her how she got them she could say "I asked for butterfly wings cause no one else has them" but then they might make fun of her because she couldn't fly...
"Actually, can I have BLUE wings?! No, no, not just blue, but blue with like, purple-ish feathers, and and black feathers at the ends, and white fuzzy feathers that are really soft? Oh and can I have a bird robe? Like one with a hood that looks like a beak? Or no no no just a helmet that looks like a bird head!~ Pleeeease?"
The shadow seemed pretty miffed that there wasn't going to be any dealing, but at least the healing came for free. That made it a win in Raven's newly edited books. It wasn't surprising to get shoved out the door quickly after that, although coming back to an empty room was a little unsettling.
"Well....that was....different. At least I'm not alone. "You sure about the whole thing? I know it's....it's probably too late. Just figured you wanted more out of it than...well, plain old me. Just a pyromancer with problems."
Raven took one of Seth's hands back in hers. "Seth, I think I managed to get two cards fulfilled in there. I doubled up on the shadows and won. I'm more than happy with what I got out of it if you are. That's why I wanted to make sure you were all right with me, like everything. The weight, the skin," Raven pushed her hood back. "my roots." The red was starting to faintly show itself again. "If you're good with all my problems, then I'm going to try my best to handle yours. OK?"
Drew shrugged "Look, I didn't exactly plan on coming here in the first place. Didn't have time to think what I'd get out of this." He growled at the shadow mocking him throwing a lightning bolt between his hands, but tried to keep himself composed. As tempting as it was to at least see the offer, he came here for something specific. Still, last thing I want is this guy trying to use my sister's safety to try and screw me over. And maybe I can work this to my advantage... "Before I say what I want, can you at least let me know if my sister is safe? She's the reason I came here, but I know she's a capable mage. She might have already finished and is waiting back in... uh, the normal world, I guess. For all I know she's already done and you're just trying to take something from me for free."
Once he had said his piece he saw that Silvana had accepted an offer. Well... if nothing else I'll get to see what I might be dealing with.
The shadow neatly rubbed its hands together at Silvana's decision, drawing all kinds of odd shadows and powers around himself, and then seeming to unleash them upon Silvana which quickly wrapped around her. It only lasted a moment, but in that moment Silvana saw her sight do an odd change. It seemed to see everything from a deeper sight, in a way which wasn't all that...natural. After that, Silvana could once again see, and was greeted by an odd sight. While she could now clearly see the shadows of the other mages, she saw several shadows where she had once saw one. It seemed that they seemed to shift in how....real they were when the shadow spoke. Even more interesting was that the shadows seemed to go in different directions when more questions where asked. "And...now you can see your other half! Hahah! Enjoy your partner in crime, my good mage of Darkness...And do try to get along. She will be the source of extra power for you....if you can get along, of course."
However, that sight was for Silvana alone, as for the others saw just a single entity approach Nydia, almost seeming to grin as she asked for more to protect those around her. "Protection...? From what? Though...it doesn't really matter at all! So, what would you like to offer me? Perhaps time? Perhaps a trait? Or maybe a different kind of reward....How about I offer you something similar....are you willing to contest yourself with your shadow constantly, or would you rather....give up on continuing your family name? I think that sounds reasonably fair. The ability to save others, but an inability to continue onward with your line....or to be conflicting with yourself. A simple choice. Discuss with your companion! I'm sure they will have an opinion, much like...." The shadow drifted back to Drew.
"...This fellow. No time to think? I thought that was all you ever did! Maybe I can provide you information about that lovely sister of yours. It is fine though, as I am sure that she is fine...so, what are you looking for today, my silly Airshifter? Perhaps you liked my trick with the lights? Seems to be something you appreciate more than most....But then I am somewhat offended that you would assume I would take something from you for free! I offer all that you wish for the proper price. You won't be leaving here with less.....the trade will be fair! Of course, I imagine that is all a matter of perspective...Which we know yours is horribly skewered. But, besides the point! What do you want again?"
The shadow watched as Fei playfully ran about, nodding as she went through all that she wanted, and how particular it all was. With a grin, the shadow stepped up to her. "If you wish for those wings, I can give you a small....preview. Look, and learn..." The shadow wrapped their arms around her as if in a hug, and suddenly the wings began to be pulled out, the feathers shifting and changing as they continued to grow. After a small moment longer, the figure stepped back admiring their work. "...if that is what looks correct to you, I will take my payment and you can be on your way...As long as you are prepared for the years to pass. Rather quickly, of course. Won't have you here for all that time. I imagine you are very busy!" With the grin still there, the shadow then turned attention again to Gabriel.
"So, come to your choice yet, or is there something more you need to see? Perhaps you would like wings as well? Or powers unimaginable? Maybe something else, a skill that you do not have? Speak, or be left behind in the ways of advancement!" With the last part the shadow made a small flowing movement, as if this was the last time there would be any kind of deal.
Seth turned, taking Raven's other hand in his own and directly facing her now. Once again, he found himself looking her over as she talked about how she looked, and grinned as he brought his forehead to hers without a robe blocking the contact. It was different to see her without the robe covering everything.
"If any of that is an issue, we'll work through it the....more normal way. Together, and not with some...shadow thing. Would be more fun that way too...." He grinned, looking at her as she mentioned her 'roots'. "I'm more than good with all your problems. Even the 'roots'." Still slightly hesitant, he let go of her hands to give her a light hug, not sure if perhaps that was a bit much...but worth the risk at this point.
"And if any of the stuff does become too much, I'll let you know so we can do...something....Though, I'll be honest...you're a lot warmer than I expected and its...nice. I mean...if that is good."
That is...how you compliment a Nightshade, right? Gods, this is unknown territory. May I somewhat sound right...
Alexander bowed to the woman before replying.
"We may as well sit, if only because it may be a while. The Prime Minister said I should learn about the history of this land, I felt the library was the place to begin the process. If you can help I would be appreciative. My name is Alexander by the way, feel free to call me by it." He replied as he moved to a seat waiting for the woman to sit down before he would.
Raven could have just melted into Seth's arms in that moment. I don't know if he's this warm because he's a Pyro or just because this just feels so nice... She couldn't overlook the last comment he made however.
"Well yeah, I am a little bit warm. I'm not a reptile," she told him. "But I think I know what you mean, and I...well...you're the first person I've been able to warm up to in...well...ever. So, consider yourself special."
As the woman sat down, she grinned at the mention of the Prime Minister, collecting another book from the shelves before sitting down to listen to Alexander. She slowly flipped through a few pages, pausing here or there.
"History? This place has quite the history....and if the Prime Minister sent you to me, must be pretty serious about you. Maybe make you his personal mage liaison, you think? Not that its any of my business, of course..." The woman spun the book around. It was apparently filled with nothing but pictures. Mages, it seemed, using their elements for all sorts of building. "Ya see this? Back then, people knew how to draw something real nice. History is real easy when you have an artist taking it all in and showing you what it does...." She shook her head. "Shame that everyone got all fussy about who was in charge. Everyone started throwing punches, until there was finally a split. Everyone thinks that there was some sort of huge heroic battle in history....but I'm pretty sure it was nothing quite that exciting. In fact...this city still standing is probably due to mages. Not like...yourself, of course." the woman rambled, only to slowly realize something, and laugh.
"Goodness! I have no manners it seems. They call me Bella. Isabella is the full name, but Bella is just fine. Lot shorter. Kinda like calling you Alex. Imagine that isn't your favorite name though, since you seem so prim and proper. Excuse my manners though, hon. Age tends to make you a lot less receptive about some things. Manners is one of the first to go, if my husband is any indicator."
"Consideration noted. I'm a special circumstance." Seth said, pulling away from the hug figuring that perhaps he was a little hotter than she was used to. That, and it was probably a kind of weird experience. He couldn't claim to know Nightshades, and wasn't sure how the whole physical contact thing went over with them.
"So...Uh....Any ideas where you want to go? I mean, we could try this whole wandering around things, and see where that goes. Could be that this is our chance to go downstairs, or visit some of the winged folks, or...maybe check out the Academy place again. Seems like its still....light outside, even though we seemed to spend a day in there." Seth glanced back at the crystal again, still flowing with the odd...sparks that the Prime Minister had fed into it.
Can't have people seeing that we're...close, I guess. I mean, I wouldn't mind but...maybe she would? I really need some time to get some rules down....Don't want to ruin this.
Drew was almost out of patience, starting to tap his feet and pace back and forth. "Look, how about we save us both some time. Whatever happened in the trial, I'm pretty sure my sister is safe. You clearly have something in mind to offer me, so I'll humor you. What exactly are you actually offering, and what do you want for it? Skip the whole guessing and head games and just get right down to business." Drew wasn't going to admit he was tempted, but maybe trying get the shadow to show what it wanted would in exchange for either thing would make the choice easier.
Phebe thought for a long time. It seemed she didn't need to pass the trials after all, or maybe to the figure she actually had, somehow, done it. It was easy in that case. She took the hand the shadow offered her, and got up on her feet.
"I didn't honestly come here seeking something. While the talk of wings was what originally piqued my curiosity; I was more interested in paying the price for them, but if you'll tell me the price it seems I won't have much choice in the matter."
She hesitated for a moment. In a way, it was everything she had often wanted, but if it could be done then a large part of who she was, of who she had become would be taken away.
"If I tell you what I am willing to pay. Can you tell me what it would be worth?" Even if she had failed the trials in her own eyes, she was glad that no other mages were around at the moment. "I want to be free of my magic. The curse which has haunted me my entire life. I think I would prefer to be human."
Once the shadow was done, Silvana took her time looking around. She did indeed see shadows where the others were. When she looked to her side, she saw some kind of shadow figure that looked similar to herself. She brought her hand towards it, and the shadow did the same, their hands meeting. It felt real, though she wasn't sure what to think of it. Perhaps it could speak? "H-hello?" Silvana said to the shadow a little hesitantly. It didn't answer.
She brought her attention again to the shadows the others had, though why they were so many for them was another matter. She had only one, aside from her normal shadow. Maybe they were different parts of the others? The many different aspects of a person, made into different shadows? It seemed silly to think that, but at the same time, she felt like it wasn't entirely false. Whatever they were, Silvana could now see them and wouldn't be able to not see them. She hoped this wouldn't affect her daily life too much, but she had a feeling this would get annoying fast, and the only thing she could do was to get used to it. Right now, though, she just wanted to get out, which she suspected wouldn't be possible until everyone had been offered a deal and would either accept it or deny it.
"I take no offense to being called Alex. I just give my full name and let people call me whatever they wish, so long as it isn't derogatory." He replied to Isabella.
"As for the prime minister, he has made me a liason. Though for our group I am probably not exactly the leader so why he chose me I do not know." Alexander then realized he himself was starting to ramble a bit and got back to the topic of the history.
"What brought about the contention over who should lead, and what did the fighting lead to exactly?" HE didn't know much about this land and since it seemed to be where Isabella was starting it seemed like a decent enough thread to follow for the time being.
The shadow sighed, obviously now bored with how Drew seemed to consistently approach all the scenarios, and set to spinning the lightning around itself in a small show, seeming to suddenly be more interested in it than Drew while he was asking his questions.
"Quite the buzzkill, arn't you? No sense of adventure when presented, no willingness to do a deal, no....NOTHING. Man, last time I work with one of YOU guys." The shadow made a few more bolts dance around him, almost seeming to take on a life of their own.
"I offer change, my boring Airboy. It has to be a balanced change, meaning that growing taller means you have to get fatter, or lose something of equal value. It is such a simple concept, don't you think? Like if you wanted wings, I would need to take something equally as useful...." The bolts all started to edge together into a much larger figure, almost human at this point. "So that is the whole story, Airboy. I offer a change that would otherwise be impossible. Perhaps you don't like the color of your eyes? Skin? Teeth? Maybe you need a smaller nose? Less hair? MORE hair? Or maybe it is something deeper inside....."
The shadow almost seemed to have gotten back to his giddy dance about, only to notice that Silvana was apparently....bored. "Ah, yes yes. I know. This is so BOOOORING, right? You are free to take your door RIGHT back outside. Just don't let it hit you in the...backside on the way out. Can't have you dirtying the doors, ya know." As if summoned, the door that Silvana had used to enter seemed pull itself out of the darkness in front of her.
"Oooooh...A price exchange? An....interesting idea! I've never had someone offer me something like THAT before! I'll need just....a...moment..." The shadow circled about Phebe, seeming to weigh all the options about her, and almost seeming to appraise her like a piece of jewelry. After a few circles, the figure nodded and jumped back into the chair.
"That is an incredible offer. A high price tag, to be sure, to take it ALL off your hands. Though, I would need to ask what exactly are you looking for? Becoming a monster? Wanting to just be human? Enchanted armors and weapons? A long lost love? Maybe ANOTHER companion? So many options for such a fine price! Thanks for mentioning it!" The shadow seemed quite pleased with this particular turn of events, nodding as it seemed to just list off all kinds of random ideas.
"Mm, such a polite young man..." Isabella muttered, before chuckling as Alexander stated that he was some sort of liaison for the Prime Minister. She flipped through a few additional pages of the book before settling on one page in particular.
"Seems you caught me at the right time with the right books around here. Don't worry about being a liaison for the Prime Minister, as he isn't wrong about these things very often. I'm sure you will be fantastic....now where was...? Oh yes, right."
She spun the book so that it was facing Alexander, and it depicted what could be described as a large seating chamber, but it was obvious that sitting was not on any of the minds of those in the picture. Some had conjured elements ready to throw, others pointing fingers, bows, knives, and all sorts of things.
"I'm not sure if you realize it, hon, but mages and humans don't get along. Back then it was still on the sidelines, and overall things went well. But eventually, some got it into their heads that there needed to be some form of 'control' or 'governmental authority' or some council nonsense. What it ended up turning into was mages accusing humans of being horribly unfair, humans calling mages ruthless tyrants needing to be put down, and pretty soon things were escalating. Before anyone knew it, we were all at war. Mages burning cities to the ground, smashing airships to the ground, collapsing cities into the earth....dangerous times to be alive."
Isabella sighed, leaning back in her chair. "The fighting lead to some coalitions being formed, and none of them really the right ones. Humanity purist groups, War Mage groups, and all sorts making all kinds of promises that in the end didn't matter. Eventually they ended up having to play nice when the end was coming for them. Can you believe that? All that fighting and dying, all that technology and high living gone, to learn a lesson that we forgot the instant it was promised that we would survive. I imagine the Gods all laugh at our ways down here more than help. Do you think the same...? In fact, what do you know of history anyways?"
As Fei continued to be excited about her wings, she suddenly seemed to change. It was somewhat subtle as things began to happen, but what was clear is that she seemed to get slightly older. Hair grew longer, grew slightly taller, but by the time the shadow seemed finished, it was clear that the deal had been made, and he was indeed pleased.
"Well! With that out of the way, it seems that you are set to go do what you will outside of here with your wings!....Unless you want to stay with your oddly slow companion here. Your door is right....there, if you want to get going." The shadow made an upward swing of his hand, and the door was pulled from the ground, the same door that Fei had entered into the crystal was now her way out of it.
"Just don't wait up for your friend. He might be waiting for all eternity! Which is fine, not often I can watch a guest for so long just pondering such a simple choice!"
Nydia now found herself faced with a choice between dooming the Freecs line to end with her or putting herself into conflict with her shadow, though she knew not what that meant. It was almost unthinkable for her to choose the first option. She wouldn't be able to bear facing her father if she did that and shirking one of her duties to perform another was not an option to her when she knew she was perfectly capable of performing them both. That left only the second option, though she wasn't entirely sure if that meant her shadow would attempt to physically harm her or something else entirely. Given how cryptic the shadow was, it seemed that there was only one way to find out.
Nydia paused for a brief moment to consider what she was doing. After reaffirming her desire, she took a deep breath and answered the shadow. "Very well, I have made my choice. If contesting myself with my shadow is the price I must pay for the power to carry out my duties, then I shall gladly bear that burden.
Phebe frowned because of the way the shadow reacted. The words were nice to hear though. After all this time, she'd found someone who could get rid off what she'd many times wished she'd never gotten in the first place. She'd learned to live with it, but it wasn't like she had had any choice. Now she did.
The only worry she had was what would happen afterwards, and in the future. It had seemed certain before, but if she went through with this it was about to change. No more training at the academy. She'd probably not be welcomed back either. She'd need to find another life, another occupation.
Phebe listened to his suggestions and went over them in her head. No, she didn't want to become a monster and risk being shunned worse than she already had been once. The way he mentioned humans made her realize that it was a poor choice, and she should be able to get a better deal. She didn't need another companion, if the shadow was to stay by her side. Love had never found her. Enchanted weapons and armor would be useful, even invaluable without her magic.
"Enchanted weapons and armor sounds like a fair deal to me. I've always liked a good bow, but run out of arrows too often. A hunting knife is useful too. Any great type of medium armor." That was everything she'd needed before, plus armor, but it would be a shame to walk away with too little if the figure was willing to give her more. He appeared eager to get the price she had put on offer. "I suppose a halberd shouldn't be too much to ask for my powers as well?"
She had bargained with traders, and hoped it wasn't any different with the shadow figure. "I'd be gracious if she could be a bit more talkative too." Phebe nodded to her shadow.
Well, she had asked for the items she wanted in exchange. Would he give them to her and take her magic?
Silvana would have wanted to see what the others would get, but there was nothing further for her to do there. With her new shadow double behind her, she went through the darkness door she'd used before, and was out of the trials and back in the real world.
The first thing she noticed were Seth and Raven who had clearly finished before them. Then she noticed their shadow doubles, and all the other shadows around them. Seth's weren't much of notice, but one of Raven's who noticed her showed that she was not happy with seeing Silvana. It stung her a bit to be again reminded of her previous idiocy, but she wouldn't let it phase her too much as she walked towards them.
"I see that you two managed to finish the trials before me." she said, sounding a little tired. Which matched how she felt since she was honestly a bit tired after that whole ordeal, and her newfound powers of seeing multiple shadows of other people made it so her vision was kind of obscured by the shadows. She closed her eyes and held one of her hands over her face, using her thumb and index finger to rub her eyes a bit before she took her hand down again and opened her eyes. She was curious what they got out of the trials and what they may have given up, but at the moment she didn't want to ask.
Drew listened to what the shadow had to say, remaining oddly silent the whole time. Didn't offer anything about what he'd offer for Fei's safety... looks like any time I try to get any info him he just goes right back to trying to sell me a deal. So much for outsmarting him. He sighed in frustration, but decided to take this chance to actually take an offer into consideration. A change, huh? Isn't that why I came on the ship in the first place...? Not normally one for things like fate or chance, but it all just seems to come together a little too perfectly.
He sighed, taking a moment to think of what to say next. This is something I need to do. I hope... "A while ago on the ride over here, I was asked what I wanted. And I didn't have an answer. I guess now I have a better way to say it. I want purpose. I doubt you could really offer me that, but even if you could, I wouldn't take it. It's too easy. No, I want something simpler."
Holding his right arm in front of his face, Drew spoke. "For most of my life, my direction came from this." he clenched his fist and sparks started flying, with the electricity arcing between the hairs on his arm. "Just constant studying and comments about how much more I could learn about it." he lowered his arm, relaxing again. "I could keep going, but I feel I'm just wasting my time. I want it to be over. I want to be the mage the teachers tell me I should have been. The mage my parents keep telling my I could be. The mage..." he sighed, lowering his head, muttering "...The mage my sister thinks that I am."
He shook his head, looking back up, more confidence in his voice. "I want to master what I've been learning since the day I learned I was a mage. I want to reach the end of this path I've been walking for so long. To see what purpose is waiting for me beyond it."
Changes. That's what the shadow was offering. Cale glanced at his hands, how different he was from the child he was but that was expected. People change by themselves but this... thing was offering changes otherwise not natural in exchange of something equal of value. The offer was enticing. Then Nydia spoke out.
"Very well, I have made my choice. If contesting myself with my shadow is the price I must pay for the power to carry out my duties, then I shall gladly bear that burden."
She offered her own shadow as the cost for the change. He pondered what he could give the shadow in return for something equal of value. It was hard deciding what could go and what was equal of that. A few ideas had already popped up in his head by the time another mage spoke out with another question. Then his mind drifted back to his endless toil on the farm he was shackled too. He then wondered why. He wondered why had his parents abandoned him. The question has forever racked his mind but until now had he the chance to figure it out.
"What is the price of figuring out why my parents abandoned me?" Cale asked.
Fei wiggled her back, trying to move the wings. They fluttered a little, blowing wind around the blank void. Her feet left the floor for a second too, but then she fell face first onto the floor. Was a lot closer than she thought it was. She got up and dusted herself off, flapping the wings again with a big smile. OF COURSE she wanted the wings. "Maybe more white. Just white and black and blue, I think." she pointed on her wings to where she wanted the colors. Maybe she should just get IRIDESCENT WINGS. ALL THE COLORS. But then that might get annoying if the sun was on it, and it was reflecting rainbows everywhere... actually, that might be awesome too! But what if it annoyed people... How was she going to swim with wings, anyway? She swam a lot... Maybe she should just ask for fins! Yeah, she'd be the first person with fins! Or maybe even a mermaid tail! But if she was a mermaid, she wouldn't be able to walk very well... "Are wings waterproof? Like, like duck wings? I want to dive into the water! OH that's going to be so cool! Like I could be flying and then WHOOSH into the water and I could catch fish and stuff! Yes I want the wings! Please please please please!"
"I know quite a bit of the history of my own land, though the history of this land I am far less knowledgeable on. Especially ancient history. As for the gods, I imagine they can only hang their heads at times as their creations try to wipe each other out half the time. The other half the time you are probably right, our machinations must be quite comedic to the powers that be." Alexander replied as he continued to look through the book.
"Just don't wait up for your friend. He might be waiting for all eternity! Which is fine, not often I can watch a guest for so long just pondering such a simple choice!"
"I'm thinking. Please don't rush me." When you could have anything you wanted, but only one thing, it was quite difficult to choose. Gabriel wasn't about to talk Fei out of her decision. She seemed fine with it, even if the price was a bit weird. What did this shadow being get out of aging Fei four years? There had to be some profit in the deal for this... person, otherwise it wouldn't be making these deals. Whatever the profit was, Gabriel didn't see it.
So... what did he want? A set of wings for himself? The idea had seemed appealing earlier, but now... not so much. Now it seemed like something that didn't quite have the impact he wanted for himself. His overall goal was far too much to ask for, Gabe reasoned. That left a third option, an increase in his magical talent. But he didn't fancy a straight upgrade. No sense in getting one thing out of this.
"In answer to your question, I want - well, not 'want'. 'Want' just sounds rude. I would like a magical artifact to bolster my abilities as a mage. Something to expand my abilities beyond Hydromancy... though it could have a hand in the increase in my own limited talents as well," he began, uncertain if his rambling would be a hindrance or a help. He continued regardless, intent on clarifying:
"Maybe this artifact could be imbued with a few spells outside of my own discipline... a fire bolt, maybe, could be one of them. I could use access to fire to practice my water magic on. Oh, and if it were a staff that would be good. Staves are cool."
Raven was actually a little disappointed when Seth pulled back, but it was understandable. Guess this really isn't the place to be trying to get super close. "It did seem like we were in there for a long time. We sure did a lot, bringing about an apocalypse and everything. After that, I'm good with whatever. I guess we could-"
"I see that you two managed to finish the trials before me."
Raven turned, not expecting another voice in the empty room. She almost had the mind to ready an attack before recognizing the Nightshade from the opposing team in the trials. Silvana sounded, well, like Raven did before entering the portal. But while Raven did that by choice, Silvana looked like she was dead tired and that was the best voice she could muster. She did not look well. Good.
"Well, we're just coming out on top of everything today," she replied confidently. "Winning all the trials and beating all the tests. You know how it is, right?"
The shadow was almost gleeful as Nydia went with the second choice, seeming to pull some form of blackness out of itself as it did so. As it wove it around, the shadow of Nydia looked at it suspiciously, and it's eyes darted back to Nydia for a moment before the dealing shadow let the darkness flow into Nydia's shadow, and it slowly became more defined. The shadow changed, seeming to become much more elaborate, eyes gaining the same color that Nydia had. More elaborate robes, almost seeming to be made for a master. As the shadow was changing, Nydia could feel her own energies increase, the light within her seeming to pulse to bursting for a moment.
"Heehee....Done and done! I don't think you have too much to worry about....yet. Unless, of course, you plan on stabbing your shadow in the back! Which I'm sure you plan on doing eventually, since you are a creature of the light and all....but, there you go! Have fun! Now...." The shadow turned, and then seemed to pause at Drew's suggestion. For a moment, all the mirth and jokes seemed to abandon the shadow, and then stepped close to Drew.
"Seeking purpose...? That is....a dark path, Airshifter Drew. A very dark path to want to have it cast upon you. Do you seek an end to trying to make the lightning your own, ultimately able to cause more than....just sparks? Or is it that you seek...something more dangerous? Both are open to you, and you can still go another direction....." The shadow did not seem to stray from Drew, but seemed to be split off in its attention as another part of the shadow seemed to claw free, and approach Cale, looking him over intently.
"Information always has the trickiest price....so I make it simple. A part of your...shadow, for the information you seek. Does that seem fair? Or do you want to instead continue onward not knowing? All up to you now!" With the two shadows now watching the pair closely, waiting for an answer, a door slowly rose from the darkness for Nydia to exit from, if she so chose.
"Mmm....A tall order. A bow without arrows, a knife of enchanted design, some armor to it that sleek form of yours, and a talkative shadow? What an odd choice.....I think..." The shadow paused, almost as if acting for dramatic effect, and then laughed.
"I will accept your terms. The magic you have, for all that you have requested. Even that silly halberd that you want. The bow properly enchanted with all the arrows you will ever need....and a proper set of armor so that you will survive. Do we have a deal, or are you going to change your mind? Because once you shake this hand....." The shadow extended the hand, with the darkness still spinning all about it. "....There is no going back. Unless, of course, you come to visit again to get it all back!"
While the shadow held out the hand, out of the darkness seemed to rise an armory cabinet of sorts, with a glass door showing the armor of simple design, the bow which seemed to be still morphing into an impressive hunters bow, the small knife, and even the halberd.....and lastly was a jar with an odd light bottled within it.
"A shake of the hand, and the doors will open."
The shadow again found itself turning back to Fei as she celebrated her newfound wings, and gave her a small bow, and a wave of the hand, the wings changing in slight colors as he did so. "You are quite picky, but then again they are your wings! So...with that color chosen, you are all ready! Now let me handle your friend here...." The shadow turned back to Gabriel, listening intently with a small grin the whole time.
"Mmmmm....An artifact, you seek? So boring! Maybe you would prefer to have the power directly in yourself? Only will cost you an arm! Not like you need both of them anyways!" At the look Gabriel put on for THAT offer, the shadow laughed. "Joke! It was a joke! Sheesh....so serious. Fine fine....." The shadow sat down for a moment, seeming to flip through a book as it appeared from the shadows.
"Hmmm....I guess I can part with it...a staff that will let you amplify your power....but it will be at an increased price for that silly extra you want. An additional power? I think....you can either pay the price, or your shadow can pay the price. Half of your shadow right now....or giving up a chance of ever being your strongest. Do we have a deal...?"
Isabella gave a small nod to Alexander, and then closed the book. She grinned at Alexander as he looked up at her after doing so.
"There is only so much in the books though. The more important stuff is only whispered....and in scrolls or other things that are not...here. They are probably why you were directed here..." Isabella began, leaning a little closer. "You've seen the crystals, I know...They are...important. Why this city is here, really. Those crystals are history for this city. They...well, in a few things, the reason the world is supposedly still standing as it is depends on those crystals. So....whatever is making that storm grow now is...well, its probably living in those crystals. But it is also picky, in case you haven't noticed. Can't just send anyone in there. Have to be tougher, special, and different in many ways. Supposedly...the Prime Minister read what to find and do, but good luck getting him to tell you that." Isabella grinned, and leaned back in her chair.
"But the best history lesson is a mystery. What the crystals are even doing here, and what they are for. That...is the extent of my knowledge. Well, the stuff I tell people, anyway. It is hard to know what is really history, and what is legend at this point. So much...history here. Can't believe I have only read half of it....Sorry. Anything else, Alex? I don't mean to sound all mystical like some card reader or something. What I'm saying is...History is a mystery to us because sometime back then we did something wrong. And it would be a good idea to hopefully not repeat it."
Seth gave a small shrug at the observation that they had been in there for a while. This place...really doesn't follow time well, does it? What is with all this odd stuff? However, he grinned at the mention of them bringing about an apocalypse and everything. It was an odd accomplishment to be proud of, but they had survived it...
"I see that you two managed to finish the trials before me." .....and apparently so had someone else...
"Well, I guess we are just on top of things. Not that you should have doubted us in the first place but...." Seth paused as he turned to look Silvana over and associated the voice with how she looked. "...you alright? And..." As Seth took a step forward, he found himself stopping as Silvana's shadow stepped forward threateningly, with Seth's own shadow stepping forward as well with flames of his own.
"That's new. Did you do some silly...deal or something?"
"Yeah, I'm alright. Just a little tired." Silvana said in reply, trying to focus on just Seth and Raven instead of the many shadows that surrounded them. "And I did do a deal, yes. I asked for more power and apparently got this...shadow double for it. I'm guessing she's supposed to help me with that." Her shadow looked as if it would attack Seth's, but Silvana reached out to it. "Don't. He's a friend. Or at the very least, not someone to attack." Her shadow didn't seem to listen, but it stepped back a little. Not by much, but still somewhat.
Silvana walked over to the walls to support herself better. While she wasn't so tired that she'd literally fall to sleep, she felt it would be better to have support just in case. Her shadow followed after her and stood between her and the two others. "I left early, so I wonder what the others might ask for."
The shadow's change in tone caught Drew off guard. The talk of dark paths did worry him, but he wasn't going to tun down the offer without knowing all he could about it. "I do want to be able to do more than I can do on my own. I do want more than just sparks. But what is this dangerous thing you're talking about?" As much as he didn't want any distractions, the shadow did manage to pique his curiosity. No harm in at least hearing what is offered...
She took his hand, and shook it. Only later would she think it strange that she hadn't hesitated, despite feeling insecure many times before in her life when she had to make an important choice. The door to the cabinet swung open, and Phebe walked over to it.
Her hand went for the bow, and she ran it along its white strong limbs. Too many times had she been forced to rely on fire, when her arrows ran out and the beasts were still close by. She checked the knife next. It was smaller than she'd hoped for, but it would serve its purpose well. It had been years since she'd needed one, but she'd make sure to put it to good use.
She wasn't sure why the figure had said the halberd was a silly weapon. It was versatile in battle, and had range to keep more than one enemy at bay, at least for a moment. Sometimes that was all you needed. A good one could block swords, which she'd never trained with. She had some experience with pikes and spears, which she'd been shown how to wield in her youth.
The armor was made of black leather, and seemed to be reinforced in some areas. She took the chest piece from the cabinet, and wondered if she should try to carry it all out of here, or get geared up now. It would be easier to get geared up, though she wasn't alone.
Phebe undressed, so that she could put on her new armor without problem. It did fit her, was even tighter than her clothes, and brought out her curves better than the robes. She was on the fence about it, but didn't complain. It didn't have a helmet, instead there was a mask that would cover the mouth and half the face.
She strapped the knife to her waist, attached the bow to her back and took the halberd in one hand. She could try attaching it later, somehow, maybe. The first thing she noticed was how light it felt to wear and carry it all. She had expected it to be more difficult.
Phebe wanted her father to have been there, as he would no longer have needed to hide her from the tribe. Although, all of that was gone, and she was left with a tear to dry.
There was one more wish she had gotten fulfilled, but not just for herself. She hadn't asked for the shadow in the first place. She'd wanted it gone, because it shouldn't be there, because she didn't need some thing to watch her back. Maybe she should see it more as a friend, and maybe she'd need someone she could trust.
She picked up the jar that concealed the light inside, and went over to her shadow. "As a thank you, for helping me out I suppose. Hopefully you'll get to keep your new form too." At the very least they could communicate. She opened the jar, and tried to get the shadow to consume it, by pouring out the light on her.
"Well, did it work?"
She turned to the figure, instead of waiting for an answer. "What enchantments were there other than the arrows? Also, how do we get out of here?"
"So to go in the crystals due to our power and find out whatever is causing the storm to grow and try to reverse the process if possible. A tall order for a group of what amounts to magical adolescents." Alexander said leaning back and thinking on the tasks that would be ahead.
"I guess legend and myth are the place to start when it comes to figuring out how to get in the crystals or what may lurk inside them if you all haven't codified it all already. The oldest stories pertaining to them, of course we can't treat it as perfect fact, but we can at the very least get a basic idea with any luck. Then we find out the nature of the relationship between the crystals and the storm, what causes it and controls it. Since I presume either crystal or storm is older yet they are both intertwined. Even minor shreds from old tales half remembered through the generations could prove the key. Is there anything you might know pertaining to these subjects? No matter how old, mystical, or even nonsensical they may sound any shred could prove useful." He leaned forward again.
Seth shrugged, letting his shadow worry about the defensive extra that Silvana had brought along. More power because of the shadow, huh? That was an interesting thought. He then realized that Silvana wouldn't have had the shadows from before...at least, didn't have the ones that they had gotten from the trip over. He gave a small shrug, looking back at Raven for a moment.
"Not sure what the others got? So you went in as all together then? That is...interesting. Hope you got what you wanted as a a result of the....deal. Not sure if I like it so far." He said with a smirk, keeping his distance still. "But...you might want to consider getting to bed, or seeing one of those...doctors or something. Gotta be honest, you look pretty bad. Sorry if things were a little....rough in there."
Seth wasn't sure if it had really been her that he had been fighting, or if she had a rougher single trial, but it worked out all the same, since she was able to get the deal she wanted. Though, I don't think she got the same deal that we got....heh.
"So, me and Raven were going to go....out and about. See where everyone else has wandered off to...like the Prime Minister and the like. Right Raven?" Seth said with a small grin. He actually had no idea what the plan was, but it seemed like as good a reason as any to go out.
The shadow that Drew spoke with nodded quietly, seeming to be much more reverent about the entire situation and risk now. Shifting about, the shadow tossed around the small amount of lightning, gesturing as if to pass it to Drew.
"The danger about purpose is that you may fail without ever fulfilling the purpose. You may decide to take the wrong path to succeed, or may give up those that you thought you would be defending. Or attacking when you before would think to defend. And...the most dangerous thing about purpose is that no one has one. You are asking for something to be set in stone that no others are forced to do. It is....dangerous, and even in your success there may be little fame for it. Is purpose clear? Would you instead prefer the power? Or is a given purpose what you truly would want?"
The second shadow, now with Silvana no longer a concern, hovered about the two mages, largely more concerned with Cale's decision than what Nydia would propose. Since her deal was complete, it would rather see her out the door, but it was no concern at this point, instead seeming to try and pressure an answer out of Cale.
The shadow was now toying with the fires that it had been given, toying around with the energies and making it disappear as it was addressed once again by Phebe once she was finished dressing, with her tighter fitting armor and more refined weapons, it gave a small shrug.
"Just the simplest of enchantments, of course. Never needing to sharpen the weapons, a knife which can be used to start fires....and you'll note that the halberd will not snap like so many others when forced upon with an axe or blade...Not sure how many more demands you truly want, with all these things you now have. A totally different person and demon will walk out of here. Not many can claim that....actually, none can claim that! Always impressive, and I'm sure you will be proud of the changes...."
The demonic shadow blinked at the odd showering of light upon itself, being quite confused about all that was going on, and the odd bottle that was handed to it. "Wa.......huh? How....? I sound so...different." Phebe's shadow spoke, seeming to still trying to get used to the idea of communication.
"I...sound like...this? Not...half bad, Phebe...I think. What is the...need for my power? Should I keep this...body? This is so...odd. Sitting here with these...claws and weapons...." The voice was more of an echoing whisper than anything else, but it was Phebe's shadow speaking surely.
The shadow brushed aside the odd confused shadow of Phebe, and then rose out of the ground the familiar door that Phebe had initially entered through. "So there you go....a way out, with all of your enchantments and demons intact. Thank you for the simple deal...Always a pleasure, of course."
"You act as if all things must be done by the 'experienced' adults with all the powers. They are usually the ones blind to such things. Take more for example, I'm old and not good for much more than reading books, hearing rumors, and just an old guide. If anything, you are going to be my chance to...do something different. As for legend and myth though...." Isabella sat back thoughtfully, thumbing threw a few pages.
"There is always talk that in the crystal of trials we relive a past life. But that isn't quite right all the time...unless some of us are quite related to dragons. Most striking though? They all seem to fall back to the same thing. The storms, the ending, the big....booms that practically wiped everything we thought we deserved out. Cities brought low, many mages smashed to nothing, cities of humans just gone, caught in an inferno...Some claim they saw even more than that. Some saying the saw what happened afterwords...But the most important part is...that dealmaker fellow." Isabella sat back, leaning back in her chair to try and find another book in the shelves.
"He lingers in the world of these gems...offering whatever odd services he can to...some people. No idea why he would be like that...but nothing can be done to study the odd creature. I mostly wish that there was more to know at this point. So many questions with no answer, and so many odd things come from these gems, yet there is no way to really do anything other than assume it is for the best and keep going...though, the discovery of the new crystal means that perhaps we are misunderstanding the purpose of these crystals...." Isabella now turned in her chair, seeming to look through an area that she had looked before.
"...That instead of being guides to the past, they are...alterations maybe? Or perhaps a way to extend power beyond the simple realm of being in a location to do something? Perhaps the storm grows because we are unworth...hmph! Can't find that book. 'Shadows of a Broken World'. Interesting read, and perfect for this situation but...it isn't where it should be! Could you be a dear and help me find it?"
Raven was somewhat distracted while the verbal battle was going on. The more interesting one was going on behind the two, with Seth's shadow moving to defend against Silvana's more aggressive doppelganger. Wait, Silvana wasn't on the ride over with us. How come her shadow's developed a mind of it's own? Is that what she got out of the deal?
Raven was trying to think through the shadowy battle in the background and folded her arms underneath her chest. As she did so, she felt kind of hollow. Did I lose weight during that whole thing? I know it seemed like forever and there was no food, but I could have sworn I had more unwanted padding. Did that dealer do this when I asked to be healthy? No, he couldn't have. He was an asshole. But still...maybe I just need something to eat.
"Huh?" Seth was talking to her. "Oh, yeah, right. Definitely. That's the plan!" What's the plan? I don't know.
A good enough replacement. She thought to herself. In ways, even more than that.
"I'm satisfied, thank you." Phebe said. Although, if she was proud was another question. She believed there were those who would have been proud of her, but what she had done could be seen as both brave and cowardly, depending on what stance you took.
Her shadow was puzzled by the new changes. It reminded her of a child, and that frightened her, but hopefully it would get used to talking in due time.
"Yes, keep that body." She answered one of the shadow's questions. The only one she wanted too answer, and could answer. She didn't want to say that she had no need for it, even if she thought so. It had proven her wrong once already. If it remained by her side, she wouldn't be surprised if it did it again. "Let's get out of here for now, and figure out the rest later... Um." It didn't have a name that she knew of, and likely not one that was unknown to her either. Calling it shadow was impersonal, and could be confused with an actual shadow. "Lilim. I'll call you that, for now. Let's leave, Lilim."
She went for the door, and made sure Lilim came with her. "Always a pleasure." Phebe responded, then stepped through the door back to the real world. She wondered why the figure had said always, twice even, as if they'd met before.
Phebe got back to the room they had entered the trials in, and found a few other mages there. Well, not really other mages anymore, since she wasn't one. She stopped, and didn't say anything. They didn't seem to have undergone any major changes, like herself, or maybe she was too caught up in her own, too nervous, to notice at the moment.
She looked behind her back, and saw her shadow right behind her. "We're back. That was quite the ordeal."
She didn't know what to say to the mages though. She thought of things to say, but nothing came out.