A Fire So Pure
by Josh Vogt
Part III: Cast In Shadow
As Philiel clutched his arm, Ayrion waited until the last breath before flicking them out of phase with existence. He flung them through the flames and back into physical reality so they stood right behind Serelna.
She stared at the chamber’s exit, obviously expecting to see their charred remains. When Ayrion plucked the object from her hand, she squawked and whirled, gawking at their sudden appearance on the dais. Ayrion turned the object this way and that.
“Intriguing relic you’ve dug up, m’lady.”
It appeared to be a jagged crystal shard as thick as his thumb, surrounded by a latticework of fine silver threading—though the hair-thin weaving didn’t flex no matter how he squeezed. Its heat simmered against his palm.
“Give that back!” Serelna grabbed for the relic, but Philiel darted between them, hands raised, weapons dormant.
“Ah-ah,” he said. “Grabbing things without permission is rude. As is trying to burn people alive.”
She glanced back at the doorway. “How did you…” She studied them with renewed interest. “I’ve heard of people capable of that. Never known anyone strong enough.”
“Conversation!” Philiel clapped. “Excellent. So you’re capable of more than wanton destruction.”
Serelna’s lips drew down in puzzlement. “You aren’t Olarm’s troops.”
“No, we’re not.” Ayrion bowed. “We’re mere observers of your exploits.”
She scowled. “Spies?”
Up close, she looked frail, almost childish in stature. Ayrion marveled at the inverse nature of her physical frame to the power she wielded. She contained plenty enough to reduce the hold to smoking pebbles. She probably didn’t even realize how close she stood to destroying the very lives she meant to save.
“Don’t think of us as spies,” he said.
“Though we have been spying on you,” Philiel added.
Ayrion shot his companion a glare. “We’re more…admirers of your skill.”
She huffed. “Sure you are. I’ve never seen you two around here before.”
“You’re right,” Ayrion said. “We’re travelers come to witness the unfortunate subjugation of Ettleston by Lord Olarm.”
“Now I know you’re liars, whatever else you may be.” Serelna tore fingers through her ratty black hair. “No one beyond Ettleston cares about what happens within its walls.” She looked between them, wary. “Who are you? What do you want?”
Ayrion gestured with the relic. “We’re here to offer you a far better life than you’ve ever imagined.”
“What’re you saying?”
Philiel sighed. “We’re saying your potential is being wasted with this rabble. We’re giving you a chance to join something far bigger than yourself. Far better than running around setting random buildings on fire and killing guards.”
“We are members of a superior race of beings known as elans,” said Ayrion.
“Never heard of them.”
“You wouldn’t have.” He smiled kindly. “We go to great lengths to ensure our existence remains secret from most.”
Her eyes somehow narrowed further, needles that tried to pin him down. “What do you have to hide? And what do you mean by superior, huh?”
“You really shouldn’t ask him too many questions.” Philiel strode over and leaned against a wall, arms crossed.
“Why?” Serelna asked. “He that bad a liar?”
“No. He just loves to lecture.”
Ayrion tucked his legs under him so he floated in midair. “I’ll try to explain as best I can. Once I’m done,” he wobbled the relic, “I’ll freely return this to you.”
“Fine.” She dropped to sit on the dais, elbows plunked on her knees, fists clasped under her chin.
Ayrion launched into the speech he’d prepared. He revealed how the elans lived alongside the other races, eternal, yet needing to recruit mortals to procreate. Only the worthiest candidates could join their ranks, and she’d certainly proven herself such. He stressed all the benefits she’d experience. Gaining enormous control over the powers she already wielded, if not augmenting them further. Immortality. Being among the elite of the world. A chance to steer her own destiny and that of countless other lives. The possibilities were truly endless.
Once he finished, silence draped the chamber for several minutes. Serelna frowned into an unknown distance, mulling over it all.
Then she rose, stretched, and yawned. “Sounds like a plum deal.” She held a hand out. “Can I have my nexus back?”
Ayrion’s brow lifted. “Nexus?”
“Got a better name for it?”
“I suppose not.” He placed the nexus in her grasp, and she clasped it to her stomach.
“Thanks.” She stepped back. “But no thanks on the rest.”
“Pardon? You’re…declining our offer?”
She matched his incredulous look. “What? You think I’m just going to run off and leave everything I’ve been fighting for behind? You think I give a rat’s hairy ass about your plots and secrets when I see people dying under Olarm’s rule every day? Who do you think you are?”
“As I said, we’re elans—”
She swiped a hand. “Not what. Who. You think you can just tromp in and try to take control of my life?”
“We’re not attempting to—”
Her glare cut him off. “Want to prove you really offer anything worthwhile?”
He lowered his legs and returned to standing. “What would you have me say?”
“Not say. Do. If your people are that powerful, help me take down Olarm once and for all.”
Ayrion bowed his head. “While I sympathize, elans don’t often meddle in mortal affairs or day-to-day quibbles.”
“You’re saying the people here aren’t important. That you’re too good for them.”
Ayrion winced, but Philiel nodded. “Sounds about right.” He shrugged at her glower. “Not a moral statement. Just can’t deny facts.”
She snorted. “Then good riddance to you useless lot. My people need me. They won’t stand a chance without me.”
“And you’ll go to your death with them,” Ayrion said.
“At least I’ll die making a difference.” Serelna headed down the dais steps.
“Hang on,” Philiel loped over and planted himself in her way. “No one said you could leav—”
A sphere of flames burst into being around Serelna, forcing Philiel back. She strode forward without missing a step, a golden goddess at the center of the sun. Her voice gained the snap and crackle of a bonfire.
“Stop me if you can.”
Philiel jumped aside as she stalked by. He looked to Ayrion, who held a hand up in caution. Violence would only drive her away faster.
She turned at the threshold. “If I see either of you again, I’ll find out just how immortal you really are.”
“And we’ll show you just how young and stupid you really are,” said Philiel.
She snapped an arm out and several flaming orbs spun out from the fiery shield. Philiel dodged the first two, but a third smacked into his chest and sent him flailing in a spew of embers.
Ayrion threw himself across the space and caught the other elan before he collapsed. When the pair steadied, he looked up to find Serelna had vanished.
Philiel dusted ash off his burnt tunic. “Can I suggest an alternate approach? We smack her unconscious and drag her before the council before she gets lippy again.”
“No.” Ayrion shook his head. “We can’t force someone through the transformation.”
“She’s proving more trouble than she’s worth. What say we just let her slag herself and all the rest?”
“Every candidate worthy of the elan legacy is precious,” Ayrion said. “Priceless, even. We can’t give up, even if she’s more stubborn than most.” He frowned. “We can’t sway her with words, though. We have to do something.”
Ayrion tapped a cheek in thought. “How about joining a rebellion?”
A Fire So Pure is set in the Third Dawn Campaign Setting and is a 4-part series. The Third Dawn fiction pieces are designed to give a glimpse into the different cultures that call Ksaren their home.
About the Author: Josh Vogt is a freelance writer whose works include Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes.