Forging New Future

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  1. "And so the great ancestors - Aranya of Water, Niellen of Fire, Iraelin of Wind and Geoxer of Earth understood that eternal disputes were the quickest path to damnation, and they reached consensus; it was obvious the four purest elements had to join forces in order to vanquish their barbaric neighbors," Xystar said in a tone he probably deemed as dignified and ceremonious; Sarthas, who had trouble staying awake, didn't share that opinion. How exactly does he manage to talk about centuries long conflict that has shaped entire nation and make it sound like the topic of his speech was something like mucking out the stables? Actually, no, scratch that nonsense. That would probably be one hundred times more exciting, the blond-haired guy thought while supporting his chin with his hand in a manner suitable for a cheap pub rather than for a classroom. Xystar, the only one fascinated by his own story, didn't notice. "The foreign tribes, ineffectual in their loneliness but too foolish to acknowledge it, faced a bitter loss when Aeterna was forged from the elemental unity. Aeterna concentrated..." Sarthas' consciousness finally gave up the battle against boredom and his green eyes fluttered closed as he drifted off to the blessed land without History classes. Of course, the state of bliss wasn't supposed to last for long; a well-aimed slap brought him back to reality.

    "Ouch! What was that for?!" Sarthas protested, rubbing the side of his face. "How dare you sleep during my lesson, young man! You should be thankful I'm too soft-hearted to tell your father," Xystar exclaimed, his expression so furious it could likely repel the fiercest of demons. "Those who don't learn from the history are bound to repeat past mistakes, and we wouldn't want that considering there's a very real chance of you getting chosen for the mission, right?" Sarthas sighed, annoyance creeping into his expression. Hadn't they covered this issue before? "I mean no disrespect to you, Xystar, but I'd say those chances are pretty much microscopic. I mean, I'm the chief's eldest son. I'm obviously no mind reader, but I'd imagine he would want to keep me... well, alive, and sending me to retrieve a bunch of old artifacts hidden gods-know-where doesn't seem like the best tactic to achieve that," he smirked cheekily. It was the kind of smirk that often made girls weak in their knees, but the old teacher only wished to punch him in response. What had this tribe done to anger the powers running this universe to deserve such an irresponsible future leader?

    "Sarthas, I've explained to you many times that getting chosen for the task of renewing our dominance over the land is the greatest honor you could possibly achieve, not some kind of elaborate death sentence. Moreover, as you very well know, it will be up to gods to decide, so you can hardly count on...." Blah, blah, blah. Are we seriously gonna pretend the selection process stems from some sacred arcane ritual rather than from, say, common sense? Come on, Xystar. If you want to scare me into actually paying attention, you'll have to try harder. Plunging the entire tribe into chaos by sacrificing the only suitable heir when you have whole crowds of eager, much more expendable volunteers waiting for the opportunity to throw their entire existence away just to serve the higher good? I don't think so. Sarthas opened his mouth to deliver yet another cutting remark - pointless arguments with his old teacher was his greatest hobby if you didn't count drinking himself to oblivion and bullying anyone stupid enough to show a hint of weakness in front of him - but young man gasping for air suddenly barging in their yurt distracted him from spitting more poison. Huh? Before he could voice that profound question, the guy was on his knees, his gaze practically glued to the ground.

    "Mister Sarthas, your father requires your immediate presence. Members of the Fire tribe have been spotted by our scouts, and you are to participate in preparations of their welcome." What? Already? Sure, the Sparks - as Sarthas laughingly called them in the privacy of his mind where no one could scold him for his horrid manners that could potentially serve as a declaration of war - had been invited the celebration along with two other tribes, but they weren't supposed to show up until after tomorrow. Almost nothing was ready for their arrival, and yet they were apparently knocking on their door and expecting to be treated like royalty! Typical Sparks, really. If it were up to Sarthas, he would have given a giant middle finger to the laws of hospitality and refused to let them in until they could receive them, but knowing their friends, this would more than likely end in unsolicited display of fireworks. 'Allies' didn't automatically translate to 'friends'. Sighing heavily, the young heir nodded and stood up from his comfy couch. "Alright, let's take care of our dear guests. Lead the way."


    After few hours of uncontrolled chaos which sowed various particularly interesting thoughts into Sarthas' head - thoughts like 'I wonder what would it be like to live as a recluse somewhere in the wilderness' or 'Does suicide hurt as much as they say it does' - the preparations were finally finished and our hero in shining armor was standing next to his father, firmly determined not to add yet another diplomatic conflict to his already scarily impressive collection. Okay, that shouldn't be too difficult. I just need to refrain from asking any fat chicks whether they're expecting twins, inquiring if those complex hairdos don't attract lice and... fine, I should probably keep all of my comments to myself, Sarthas thought with a hint of annoyance. It was hardly his fault these people were so freaking sensitive! "Welcome, my friends," his father Ostrel spoke in an enthusiastic tone of someone who had just found out there was a river consisting of beer flowing behind his house, "welcome to our humble village. Words can't possibly express the happiness we feel at seeing your faces again. Servants blended into the crowd of visitors, offering them glasses of cold beverages from tinny trays. "Let us drink to our reunion," he suggested, betting on the certified idea that some alcohol could never ruin anything. Of course, that notion was ultimately dead wrong, and fate was about to prove it. Sarthas put a glass to his lips, unaware of approaching catastrophe, when a careless servant bumped into him. The boy staggered in a chain reaction and the red liquid from his cup spilled forth, decorating dress of a nearby lady. He had to gather his entire willpower in order not to laugh aloud, but even so, his lips were twitching slightly. "Sorry about that, but don't you think your dress needed some bolder adornment anyway?" he remarked with his usual tact. Well, so much for not creating drama. ​
  2. "M-mi-mist-mistress?" A young serving girl, probably only around thirteen, stammered at the door to Serafina's room. The older girl was facing away from the entrance to the tent that she was temporarily stuck in as her tribe as they traveled to the land of airheads and shifty personalities. Serafina's mouth had already tightened into a scowl, her teeth gritting at the annoying uncertain tone of the servant's voice. Scorn playing across her defined features, the tribe's eldest female heir didn't respond to the call: not being one to respond to pitiful calls. Expecting the serving girl to go scurry off with her metaphorical tail tucked firmly between her legs, Serafina was mildly taken aback when the youngster tried again to raise her attention. "Mist-mistress?" Her voice, this time, was a bit stronger and the maroon-eyed heir turned her head slightly to acknowledge the call. Her waist-length braided hair shifting as she moved, Seraphina managed to make her small frame look quite intimidating.

    This intimidation, of course, was not only backed by her superior air - but also by her rather fearsome reputation. Renowned even among the Fire Tribe for her short temper, people tended to live in either awe or fear-induced awe of the woman. Seraphina, more commonly known as Sera within her small group of friends, was not actually that bad; though she made a point of appearing as if she was such. It also helped that she was a high-ranking political figure and was frequently given the opportunity to show off her flare. Why she insisted upon doing so she wasn't exactly sure, though it was most likely because she felt the desperate need to rebel against her mother in any way possible. The Fire Tribe's female leader was utterly ruthless, and after the woman had exiled Sera's younger brother - the only one of her siblings that she had really connected with - the girl had held a personal grudge against her. Exile was a common event among the tribe, as their element was very highly valued and if one was born without the power to control it they were immediately killed - though as a member of the Fire Tribe's heads Serafina's brother had been allowed to keep his life. However, that hadn't prevented the blow from striking any further from Serafina's heart than it had.

    "Mistress, your m-m-mo-moth-" The girl began, starting off strong until she started on the word 'mother'. Finally snapping, Sera whirled around; her eyes seeming to be alight and her hair beginning to fade into a darker shade as it was prone to do when she had lost her temper. "If you don't know how to talk, then refrain from doing so." The Tribe heir said with surprising coldness, her voice seeming to bite at the air. The girl paled and shrunk towards the door, her eyes filling with tears, and Seraphina sneered at her unmercifully. However, the young servant didn't leave, and she tried again timidly. "Mist-mistress, p-please..." She whimpered, and as Seraphina's hair stopped changing color she quickly started again. "Mistress, your-your-your mo-mo-mother w-wa-wants t-t-to s-" The girl froze with fear when Sera's hair began to start darkening again, and she tried to get through the rest of her sentence, "see y-you." She finished, her back against Seraphina's tent's door and looking even smaller than she had in the first place.


    Examining herself in the mirror with visible distaste, Sera eyed the dress that her father had managed to get her into. After tempers had flared between Sera and the beast that called herself a mother, the man had come in and persuaded the girl to be on her best behavior and dress when they met with the Wind Tribe. Sera, while she absolutely hated her mother, adored her father - and so she had complied with over-exaggerated grace to spite the Fire Tribe's female leader, though it couldn't be said that she was particularly pleased with the outfit that had been selected for her. Sure, it was pretty and suited her figure - as it had been tailored specifically for her - but Sera had a tendency to dislike anything that she hadn't chosen for herself. Sighing heavily, she turned her attention to her hair which had been re-braided with threads of black leather to make it look more formal.

    Sera had wondered at the fact that her parents were dressing her so finely, as even though this was a political event they didn't usually care this much - however when the girl had asked about it she had only been greeted with strange glances from between her mother and father and that had been the end of the discussion. Or at least their verbal discussion. Sera's curiosity had been set to rest after a battle in which fire had been countered with fire, in the end resulting in a lot of singed furniture and an over-awed Sera after her father had put forth a particularly powerful flame display to put a final cap on the matter, which she had shut up afterwards. The girl had also learned to set aside the questions that her father didn't want her to know the answers to, having learned the hard way that he wouldn't tell her anything until he was ready. Her mom was a completely different ballpark - the older woman would just flat out never tell Sera anything - but the result in this instance was the same. Sera wasn't going to learn what they had been so queer about until her father wanted her to know.

    Picking at the threads in her hair irritably, the girl took condolence from the fact that her dress was sufficient enough in length to allow her to ride her horse into the land of airheads. Hearing the ringing sound of the gong that alerted people when the Fire Tribe was going to start moving again, Sera slipped out of her tent as a bunch of servants scurried to take it down and pack it up. Her horse was brought to her, a graceful black mare that was painted with red streaks for the occasion, and the tribe's female heir smiled to herself as she saw that her horse was giving the stable hands a run for their money as she tried to pull away from them. Whistling to the mare, Sera couldn't resist letting her smile break out as the horse, named Eithna, reared and bolted away from the poor horse assistance and trotted up to her proudly.

    Swinging herself onto her saddle, Sera pretended not to see the stablehands look embarrassed at their lack of skill as they watched her ride off with the rambunctious horse - who was now being completely docile under her rider's hands.


    Unimpressed by how unprepared the airheads and been at the Fire Tribe's arrival, Sera took a glass of wine from a passing waiter's platter without even looking at the man. Her critical eye, used to perfection - as none of the Fire Tribe's servants would dare put even the smallest thing in the wrong place due to the fact that if they did, the likelihood of a fiery ball of turd falling from the sky and killing them was very high. Sera knew that they had arrived a day or so early, but in her eyes that was no excuse for such sloppy service. The airheads had done alright, but Sera could still see the trails that the tables had left when hastily dragged into position for the outdoor ceremony. Her bad mood fueled by the fact that she was still stuck with the ridiculous dress, and the questions about the encounter with her parents earlier lingering at the back of her mind, Sera didn't manage to see the wine coming her way until it was too late.

    On a normal day, Sera would have burst into a fiery ball of flames, but for some reason when she whipped around with her eyes alight nothing happened. An edge coming off her immediate anger, the girl frowned, before scowling deeply as she realized that the dress must have been containing her elemental powers. Typical of her mother, really. Her mind working quickly, Sera tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together; wondering if the queer looks that her mother and father had exchanged earlier applied to this fire-containing dress. Deciding that there probably was something more to it, Sera nearly retreated into her own thoughts, but was interrupted when somebody said something. Startled out of her revenue, Sera's anger had quickly dissipated. Looking at the offending airhead - who looked decently official, but didn't speak like he was - the girl shook her head resignedly. Part of her wanted to be angry and slap this impudent fool - or perhaps do something worse -, but another part wanted to please her father and so Sera stayed her hand. And he at least seemed decently entertaining, she wasn't likely to get any better company at this grueling political convention full of middle-aged to ancient people.

    "And don't you think that you should have a better selection of wine?" Sera tossed back casually, putting her wineglass back onto a waiter's tray - though she hadn't taken more than a small sip from it. "I think that a grape wine probably would have matched the color of my dress better..." She mused, eyeing the man's twitching mouth and deciding that she would slap him later if she got the chance.
  3. Contrary to the popular opinion that depicted Sarthas as a poor, maladjusted individual with social intelligence of a wet napkin, the guy was actually fairly skillful at reading people. He had to be; the art of successful trolling demanded ability to gauge his victim's reactions, decipher their motivations and apply the procedure most likely to anger them to the point of spontaneous combustion. Moreover, the whole analysis couldn't last more than few second otherwise it would lose all effectiveness. Hell, if he had been born few centuries later in a certain alternate reality that didn't support usage of magic, he would have certainly become a brilliant psychologist. Sure, he would have also attracted a numerous lawsuits on his head and driven some of the more unstable patients to ritual suicide, but nobody claimed he was perfect. His instincts, however, failed him this time. So, no hysterical outbursts concerning her ruined dress and my reprehensible lack of compassion? No tears? Not even a hint of anger? Impressive, unknown beauty. Truly impressive. Shame you have no idea who you're dealing with here. Something told him her nerves of steel would have actually made her an ideal partner in crime had they met under different circumstances, but Sarthas couldn't hand her an olive branch after she had demonstrated her blatant disregard for his antics. That stood against everything he believed in! Nobody ignored him.

    The young heir opened his mouth to deliver yet another socially unacceptable remark, but his father's iron grip on his shoulder that could be roughly translated into 'one-more-misconduct-and-you-can-reserve-your-spot-on-the-graveyard' convinced him to shut up. He may have enjoyed flirting with danger, yet this hobby kinda lost its appeal when possibility of getting into trouble changed into one hundred percent certainty of being beaten into bloody pulp. Sarthas quite valued his skin, thank you very much for asking. "It's refreshing to see you youngsters taking everything with humor," he smiled, his friendly tone sharply contrasting with the amount of strength used on crashing his shoulder. "Still, I'd like to apologize on behalf on my son. He doesn't have a modicum of tact in his body, probably because he grew up without his mother and I have shamefully neglected this aspect of education." Ehm, I hate to break it to you, dad, but if my education was up to you, I would be probably climbing trees like a monkey and communicate through various shrieks. "Your tent is ready, so you're free to change your clothes and then you can join us all for the feast held in your honor." Turning to the other guests, the chief's smile grew wider. "I'm sure you must be hungry from your travels; hungry and tired, but sleeping on an empty stomach is never a good idea, so let's take care of this problem first."

    The chief led the small crowd to a plain covered in tables; no matter how barbaric it probably looked to the strangers, people from the Wind Tribe preferred to eat their meals under the sky where they could be closer to their beloved element. Sarthas suspected it was just a fancy excuse for not having to bother with building a decent dining room whenever they moved to a new territory, but he approved of this little cultural oddity. Eating outside had its undeniable merits, the most prominent of them being the fact you could act like a pig and nobody cared. The cooks had been working for a great portion of the day, and numberless exotic scents were permeating the air; it was mostly cuisine of Wind people - aromatic and spicy enough to start a fire in your mouth - but the cooks had also researched eating habits of their guests and prepared meals familiar to them in case the highly specific tastes of the natives didn't suit them. Sarthas sat down to his designated place, his mind still occupied by thinking about the girl. Sparks weren't exactly known for accepting insults with a smile on their face; hell, there was a bigger chance they would establish a charity organization for the poor, oppressed tribes that weren't a part of their little union than they'd ever forgive you for wounding their precious ego. Could she be an exception, one of those boring people with personality of a doormat? Sarthas could swear on his dubious honor that for a moment, he had sensed the fire circulating in her veins. Fire yearning to consume her entire being. Was she just sending out mixed signals?

    Well, there's only one way to find out, Sarthas thought deviously. Let's see whether I can find the limits of her patience. As if gods themselves wanted to show him they rooted for his plan, the girl returned from the guests' tent and sat down not too far away from him. That signified she must have been someone important, but Sarthas' brain only registered the sweet, sweet opportunity to strike. Looking around to eliminate the possibility of someone witnessing his heinous act, the boy picked up a piece of meat from his plate, aimed at the girl and threw it at the fair maiden. Haha, score! Sarthas celebrated his small victory when the meat landed into her neckline elegantly while putting on his best innocent face. This should be entertaining.
  4. Clenching her small hands into fists, Sera's nails dug into the skin on her palm slightly as she anticipated another remark from the airhead - hoping to contain her temper this time and continue to act at least decently civil. However, she was spared the effort when the tribe leader of the winds himself came over and put a seemingly placating hand on the boy's shoulder; spelling an end to their short discussion. Forcing a polite smile, Sera bowed gracefully to the tribe leader; making a small hand gesture where she touched her two forefingers to her forehead, lips then forehead again that was a fire tribe custom for formal greetings. Not particularly caring about what was actually said by the older man, the girl did note that he seemed to be trying to make excuses on behalf of his son - as Sera had certainly not needed to know the details on the boy's mother and upbringing.

    Vaguely surprised by the fact that this unruly, impolite child was heir to the wind tribe, Sera made a mental note to attempt to avoid him for the rest of the meeting. She doubted that anything good would come out of their interactions, as her overwhelming desire to slap him was still present. And the last thing that she needed was to get into trouble for slapping the heir of the airheads. "You are most kind, sir." Sera responded to the tribe leader's comment, knowing full well that he probably had already moved on and wouldn't be paying any further attention to her. Slipping away back towards the tents of her tribe, Sera did her best to prevent herself from casting a glare at the boy airhead as she left. Comforted slightly by the fact that she would now be able to change out of her ridiculous fire-proof dress, the fire tribe's female heir disappeared into her tent.

    Still trying to push the memories of the short interaction with the wind tribe's heir to the back of her mind a few minutes after as her servants scurried around tying up her dress, Sera gazed stolidly at her reflection in the tent's mirror. As her new dress was an article of clothing that she had chosen herself, she was much more content with it. She had chosen a dress that would be at least wouldn't burn if brought next to fire - as she did plan to take precautions - but wouldn't constrain her at all. Stepping out of her tent, Sera made her way back to the area where the two tribes were lingering. Moving so many people, especially with so many side conversations going on, was no quick task - and she was outside, changed and all, while a good few people were still lingering around. However, it was clear that the next destination would be the plain that was covered in tables, and Sera accordingly made her way towards the area.

    On the way, however, she managed to bump into her mother - who blinked once upon seeing her daughter in a different dress. Quick to pull Sera aside, the girl had to speak quickly in order to avoid getting sent back to the tent without food for the night. Even after having spun off her whole tale, Sera's mother still looked rather skeptical as her daughter walked haughtily off. Settling herself at her spot on the table, Sera waited to be served; exchanging glances with her father briefly and doing her best to not look towards the offending airhead from earlier who was accordingly sitting near the front of the table with her - as benefited their statuses. Making polite small-talk with her eldest sibling, Sera clasped her hands over the knees of her crossed legs. When her sibling moved away to talk to somebody of more importance then her, the girl began to regard her food.

    However, even as she began to reach for her utensils, Sera felt something land on her neckline. Head quickly turning and fixing upon the face of the boy from earlier a split second before his expression turned innocent, the girl felt a fiery hatred suddenly spring to life within her veins. Clenching her fists, her fingernails dug into the soft skin of her palms. Feeling herself starting to heat up, Sera looked up to the sky to attempt to calm herself. Despite her attempts, it was quite obvious that she was fighting a loosing battle; as was evidenced when the meat laying on her neckline began to sizzle and cook. Somewhere at the back of her mind, Sera was grateful that she had chosen a dress that would put up with her rapidly rising skin temperature, but the rest of her mind was flooded with anger and the desperate attempts to calm herself.

    Fingers shaking from her concentration on not blowing up completely, Sera carefully removed the piece of meat from her neck - frowning slightly at the fact that it was now burned to an absolute crisp. Noting that the table was starting to fry from the heat radiating from her, Sera quickly but gracefully stood up and walked over to the offending airhead - a carefully crafted smile adorning her features. Her temper calmed as she started to formulate a small plan, Sera stepped up to the boy and placed a slender hand on his shoulder. Saying something unintelligible in a bright tone, smiling amiably, she dropped the charred piece of meat onto his plate in a manner that would be impossible to see for anybody except him and herself. Beginning to channel all of her energy to her arm, Sera smiled even wider when she saw the air around her right hand start to shimmer.

    Exchanging a smile with her father, who seemed surprised at the friendly manner at which his daughter was corresponding with the wind tribe's heir, Sera looked back down at the boy. "Listen. I really couldn't care less about who you are or how powerful you might be, but you should know that sabotage is a game for two - and I can play as capably as any." She said, somehow making her cheerful tone sound menacing. For good measure, she brushed her hand against a small bare patch of his skin as she withdrew - the burning heat radiating from her fingers more than adequate enough to create quite a jolt; should she have persisted, the heat could have easily created a severe third degree burn. Walking lightly back to her seat, Sera slipped back into her spot, carefully ignoring her father's inquisitive glances.
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