Flammie Tales Book 1: A Wizard's Trials

Chapter 8: The Advancement

I awoke slightly. Only enough to regain my consciousness and dwell on the last memories before falling asleep. It really didn't take me long to fall asleep on the flight Seryn was kind enough to share with me. The faint sounds of breathing and a heartbeat that was not my own told me that Seryn shared in my slumber as well. I had slept quite comfortably, though I didn't know exactly where. I slowly opened my eyes and found myself being lightly grasped between Seryn's arms like a human teddy bear. Seryn was still sleeping soundly snoring faintly with every breath. We were somewhere in the plush forest; I could hear the distant sound of flowing water through the cool air of dawn. The colors on the horizon were beginning to change with the sunrise.

Careful not to wake Seryn, I pushed my way out of her embrace. I sat with my legs crossed and took a look around at the beauty of the surrounding forest when illuminated by the rising sun. Soft greens and browns slowly became more vivid as the sun peeked above the horizon and began its assent into the sky. The sky itself went through its usual transformation from the navy blue color it adapts during night to the bright oranges, greens, and pinks of dawn until finally settling with its usual sapphire color of day. Rays of sunlight whipped past the trees and settled gently on Seryn's face. Shortly after, her light snoring which sounded much like purring stopped.

I turned around just in time to see her mouth wide open in a morning yawn that ended in a cute little high-pitched sigh-like noise. "Good morning, Skyler." Seryn said sweetly as she squinted in the sunlight. "Did you sleep well my little narcoleptic?"

I playfully swatted my hand across her ear. "Actually, I did. I can't help it if I fall asleep any time we fly." She chuckled a bit.

"Maybe someday you'll get to see what it's like to fly for yourself." Seryn said.

"So, where are we anyway?" I asked after a brief pause. "I don't think I've been to this part of Plushtopia before."

"Oh?" She was feigning surprise. "We're actually not far from where you practice magic."

"Really? I really don't remember ever seeing this part of the forest before."

"Can you tell which way to go from here?" Seryn was acting as though she didn't know the way, but she wasn't hiding the fact that she knew exactly where we were.

I shrugged "Like I said, I've never been in this part of the forest before. Nothing really looks familiar."

"Okay," Seryn's eyes gleamed a bit, "I'll teach you a trick. Stop using your eyes to judge your position." I looked at her questioningly. "Close your eyes and focus your senses on the energy of the clearing. Feel for that energy as you recreate it in your mind and locate its position."

"Wouldn't it be easier and faster if you just showed me where to go?" I was a bit apprehensive to try because I didn't want to make a fool of myself.

"Yes." Seryn replied gently, "Easier perhaps, but then you wouldn't have learned anything. It's really not too hard. Just imagine the clearing in your mind and go whichever way you feel it is. Trust yourself. You can do it."

"Oh, alright. I'll try." I was still uncertain of what I was doing, but I closed my eyes and began to focus my senses anyway. I imagined the small clearing where I would practice my magic. I mentally recreated all the scents and smells and noises and energy of the place. I realized that it did have a distinct feel in the air. I tried to focus on where the place was and found it difficult to locate. After some difficulty, I finally felt what I can only explain as a pulse from my right side. I don't mean a physical pulse like the beating of a heart, but one that I only felt in my aura. It felt almost as if something was trying to lead me where I wanted to go. Without opening my eyes I shifted my body toward 'pulse.' It didn't cease. It was as if I was being tugged in that direction. I stretched my aura in that direction and began to feel the energy there. To no surprise, it felt like my training area. I opened my eyes and looked at Seryn. She was gazing at me with a feeling of pride that only increased in intensity when I pointed in the direction of the clearing. "It's that way." I said with a smile. "And not far from here either." I added confidently.

"You're right." Seryn said happily. She slowly stood up and stretched. "Come on. Let's walk and talk." She said as she extended a paw to help me up. I grabbed her paw and hoisted myself to my feet. We began walking together in the direction of the clearing.

"I've never done anything like that before. How did you know it would work?" I inquired still thinking about how I pulled a technique like that off in the first try.

"Truthfully, I didn't." Seryn admitted. "It was really just a hunch that you'd be able to do something like that. After you fell asleep, I just decided to test my hunch by taking you to a place that you didn't recognize. I had you search for the clearing because I figured that if there was any place you'd be able to sense, it'd be there. I mean you spend so much time there practicing your magic that it'd be difficult to not grow attached to it."

"So, it only really works for place I'm attached to? I guess that would make sense seeing as I had to literally recreate the area in my mind. I wonder if there would be a way to attach or bond myself to an area without spending weeks there."

"Maybe. Who knows, you may even start to be able to sense places or things that you aren't attached to. If so, we could use it to…"

"Find Mana." I finished her sentence. "I mean, even if I wasn't able to sense something I wasn't bonded to, I'd say that my destiny is intertwined with Mana's enough to call a bind."

"Maybe." Seryn said slightly skeptically. "Maybe. It sure would be helpful if that was the case, but we're just too unsure of too many things."

"Yeah. Maybe we should just ask Aridos. If anyone would know the answer, I bet he would." I said hopefully.

We reached the clearing after a few silent moments. I quickly spotted my pack where I usually left it and made my way toward it. I sat down next to it with my back to the nearby tree. Seryn settled down next to me with her torso close enough to my legs for me to feel the heat of her body.

We both sat there silently enjoying each other's presence. Soon an unhappy thought came to my mind, one that I simply couldn't ignore. "Seryn," I murmured, "For the time being, you're my familiar, right?" She thought for a moment then responded with a nod. "Aridos brought you to me from the void for that purpose. So when I eventually fulfill my duties as a wizard, are you going to disappear back into the void?" A sudden sense of sentimentality filled Seryn's mind. "I mean, you're bound to this life only by my duty to stop the Black Flammie, right? So once I accomplish that, the chains that bind you to this life will disappear, and when that happens …"

"I don't know." Seryn cut me off. "This is admittedly the first time I have been brought back under these circumstances. Heck, other than my plushie flammie form, it's the first time I've been brought back directly from the void. Every other time I came into this world as an egg and naturally hatched as a flamlet." She paused for a moment to gather her thoughts and memories. "I remember once long ago I was told that the reason I would relive my life so many times was because of the conflict between Mana and I. If that's the case, I may even cease to exist when that conflict finally ends." She admitted.

"If you don't disappear after Mana, will you still help me against the Black Flammie? And if you are still around even after that, will you stay with me?"

"Of course. Skyler, I love you, and completing your duties won't change that." Her words comforted my worries.

"I love you too." I leaned against her and felt her soft fur against my face. Suddenly she got extremely confident and hopeful.

"In fact, I bet our love is strong enough to keep me tethered here no matter what!" She said confidently.

I laughed. "That was so cheesy." I playfully made fun of her choice of words.

She playfully nudged me while joining in with my laughter. "Yeah, I guess I went a little overboard with that, didn't I?"

I felt a sudden wave on energy after finally catching my breath and stood up quickly. I extended my hand to Seryn. "Well then, my dear, care to train?" She nodded and we began to train and develop my magic even further. Little did I know, behind all the confidence and hopefulness, Seryn had a small amount of doubt. With things as sensitive as these, even the smallest hint of doubt can make a world of a difference.

For the rest of the day, Seryn and I worked very hard, and I finally managed to master Flame Lance. With it and Eruption, I now knew both intermediate fire spells. Then I moved on to the 2nd level water spells. Spread and Aqua Laser were fairly easy to master. Then we moved on to the earth spells of Grave and Stalagmite. In that single day, with Seryn's help of course, I was able to learn a total of 5 spells. While we did start at the crack of dawn and went all the way to nearly midnight, that's still pretty damn impressive. At this rate I'd be a master wizard in no time. Or so I thought.

The next day, Seryn and I took it easy and just hung out with each other and Rye. Rye and Seryn told the story of how they met and how Rye was transformed from a human to a Plushie Flammie, and I told stories about my family and some of the wacky things that sometimes happened to us. The day after that, Seryn made me agree to only master one more spell per day. She said she was starting to get worried that I'd overexert myself. I argued that I felt fine, but she wouldn't be swayed. It was nice to spend my extra free time relaxing with Seryn. Finally, a week had passed.

"You ready to go?" Seryn called to me cheerfully from outside my window. "Come on! You've finally mastered all the second level spells. I'm eager to see what Aridos has in store for you next." Actually, I was excited too, but I was beginning to tire of learning more and more magic every day. I pushed those feeling aside when I thought about Mana and how urgent it was that I become more powerful than him.

"I'm coming, I'm coming!" I called back to Seryn before rushing out the door. It was a short walk down the hallway of the deceptively small looking building, but it wasn't long before Seryn and I quickly made our way to the usual clearing. Once there, I snatched my Spell book out of my backpack and quickly flipped to the next section. To my surprise, the entire section only had a single page. It was titled "Meditation".

"Meditation

I bet you were expecting more walls of text explaining various spells and how to cast them. Not this time. Before we move on to any more spells, it has become absolutely necessary for to learn the art of meditation. This skill, when mastered, will be invaluable to you when you are trying to search for something or figure out what you should do next. It is also the quickest, easiest, and most effective way for you to release pent up stress and improve your ability to focus. Be warned though, this skill won't be easy to master, and even when it is mastered, there will still be much to learn about it.

In simple terms, to meditate is to completely clear your mind of any and all thought. Once you have achieved this feat, your mind will be much more powerful and able to accomplish things you thought only possible in your dreams. You will also be able to use your Wizard Sense more effectively while meditating.

To meditate, sit, lie, or stand in a comfortable position and relax. You may close your eyes if you wish. Focus your attention on your breathing. Keep it slow and relaxed and let more of the tension of your body be released with every exhale. Seryn, you should practice this too. It is not a technique exclusively for wizards, and it can be beneficial to any creature great or small. As an added bonus, meditating together can be quite the bonding experience."

"So, Aridos wants us to learn how to meditate." I surmised matter-of-factly.

"So it seems." Seryn replied. "I think we should give it a try." We nodded and sat down next to each other. We closed our eyes and began to relax and clear our minds.

It didn't take too long for me to feel incredibly relaxed. I could feel my own aura endlessly flowing around me, and I could also feel the flowing of Seryn's aura. I could feel warmth and energy flowing from the ground and everything around me. Most comforting of all, I could feel the comforting energy of love flow between Seryn and myself. The experience filled me with a sense of bliss.

Suddenly, the bliss of meditating for the first time was replaced with a feeling of dread. Amidst all the feelings and sensing, I had felt something that was just so out of place. So much so, that I knew exactly what it was. As I focused on the anomaly, I realize that it was a feeling of intense hatred and, for lack of a better word, blackness. My eyes burst open and I jumped to my feet. Seryn was quick to follow, though she didn't seem to have sensed what I had.

"What's wrong?" She questioned urgently. "Is there an emergency?"

"Yeah." I replied grimly. "I just sensed Mana. He's heading straight for us!"

Seryn gasped, "Where's Rye? Is he somewhere safe? What should we do?" Her questions came so quickly, I didn't have time to answer.

"Rye is at the house, probably still asleep. We have to go wake him up and warn him. Then we need to get you two to safety. I'll deal with Mana alone this time."

Seryn looked a little disappointed. She crouched down and let me climb onto her back. She then quickly took off toward the house. "I thought we were going to fight Mana together." She argued on the way.

"Don't worry, I have a plan. This certainly won't be the big confrontation with him. I wouldn't leave you out of that for anything. I just have to show him how much stronger I am and make him back off while you and Rye hide." I explained. Seryn didn't take much comfort in my words.

We arrived at the house. I told Seryn to wait out side for a moment while I went and got Rye. I ran into the house and sprinted into Rye's room. As I thought, he was sleeping soundly. I quickly woke him up and told him that Mana was coming. We both rushed outside to meet Seryn.

I could sense Mana just beyond the horizon. "Quick you two, get inside. Go to the end of the hallway. That's the only place you will be safe." Both Rye and Seryn looked astonished. Rye opened his mouth to protest, but I spoke again before he could. "Rye, I'm sure Seryn will understand, and now is not the time to have this argument. Right now, I just need to know that you both are safe." He nodded understandingly, but Seryn still hesitated. "You can do it, Seryn. I know you're afraid of the dark back there, but don't worry. Rye will be right with you to lead the way. I'm not letting you go back to the void so soon. I'll come and get you when it's safe." She was somewhat reassured, but still she didn't move.

"But what … what if you don't come and get us?" Seryn asked hesitantly.

"Don't think like that. I'll be fine, just go! Mana's almost here!" I could feel the fear flowing from Seryn, but I needed her to be safe no matter what. She took a few paces toward the door, but she still hesitated. Rye opened the door and nudged her inside. I closed it after they were both finally in relative safety.

I didn't have any time to relax. As soon as I shut the door, Mana came into sight and looked amused as he watched me summon my staff. He landed around ten feet in front of me. I was ready for the fight of my life, but I had decided to let Mana make the first move. He only chuckled when he saw me ready to fight.

"Tell me where she is, runt, and I will allow you to live." He offered devilishly.

I simply scoffed. "Did you really expect me to believe you? Even if I did tell you where Seryn is, you would still either kill me or turn me into a shadow flammie, and that's no way to live."

An evil grin appeared on Mana's face. "You're not as naïve as you look." He took a deep breath and shot a beam of pure black energy at me, but I was ready. I smacked the energy with my staff and deflected it away from me and into the ground. Mana's grin disappeared and his crimson eyes glared at me.

Not a moment later, Mana charged at me with his teeth bared and his claws at the ready. I lifted my staff into the air and quickly charged it with my aura. I brought it down hard on Mana's head as he drew close. Normally, a human's strength would be easily out-matched by a flammie's, but I had learned to use my aura to increase the effectiveness of my blows. Mana learned this the hard way when his jaw literally hit the ground. I quickly jumped away from Mana to regain some of the ground I had lost. He got up growling, but I was already ready to let loose with a spell.

"Stalagmite!" I yelled while swinging my staff upwards. To Mana's surprise, the ground beneath him shifted and rose up to fling him into the air. As he fell back down, it did so twice more ending in a dull point.

"Air Blade!" I cast the second spell before Mana had a chance to reach the ground or regain his balance. I huge focused gust of wind blew him far off into the distance. He tumbled in the air and started falling. Before he hit the ground he caught himself with his wings and began to fly away. I had managed to take him by surprise and fight him off for now.

The victory was bitter sweet. It was a fluke, and I knew it. The next time we met, Mana would be ready for anything I could throw at him. With a sigh I turned and made my way to Seryn and Rye to tell them they're safe.

I opened the door and took a few steps into the site of Seryn's grave. "Skyler!" She burst through the woods and tackled me playfully. "I'm so glad you're okay!" She nuzzled me and refused to let go. "How did you beat Mana?"

"Well, I kinda just took him by surprise. I knew he'd underestimate me, so I went all-out and it worked." Seryn finally let go and stood back up. She offered a paw to help me back to my feet and I gladly accepted. "I managed to pull a victory, but he'll be ready next time. I hate to say it, but it's no longer safe here for us. We have to leave Plushtopia."

She sighed. "You're right. I'll miss Rye, but as you said, it's not safe anymore. The only question is where we go from here." She paused for a moment thinking about places where we should be safe. Her eyes lit up as she thought of such a place. "Luckily, I know another place that'll be safe, and guess what."

"What?"

"You're finally gonna meet some other flammies!"

Seryn and I agreed to leave Plushtopia the next morning. A new place awaited us. New challenges and revelations were sure to come.

END OF CHAPTER 8!

Author's Ending Notes: Okay, so it's a little…well…a lot later than I promised it, but I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Chapter 9…isn't even fully written yet ^_^; Sorry, but it's probably gonna be a while before that one.