A New World, A New Beginning

Shadow of Zero I

They say that people will do anything if sufficiently desperate.

Even jump into a strange green portal out in the middle of nowhere, as an example.

With a Drow war band only moments away from killing me for my oh so valuable blood, hide and organs, I could find reason in those words. Spontaneously formed magic gateways were not exactly common, but they weren't exactly unheard of ether in the lands of The Forgotten Realms.

Don't ask how I got there, much less how I became what I am now, it's a long story, a Very Long Freaking Story.

Oh yeah, let me introduce myself. I had a name once, dirt common, normal, HUMAN. But that's not my name anymore. When dealing with magic one doesn't give out one's name freely, and frankly it would just be… Weird… to call myself my original one when I had lived an entirely different life now for well over a good hundred years or so.

More so with the whole reincarnation deal.

So now I had a new title, one gifted to me fresh out of the shell, Levethix'moxt, or 'little wizard' roughly translated.

Friends, what few I have, call me Lev.

So yes, here I am diving deep into this weird, freaky, greenish, magical, portal type… thing, and viewing an effect I vaguely likened to a stargate from a lifelong past.

I guess this is how THIS story, if not my own, begins…

I arrived in smoke, not a very good sign, but not too bad one… Voices!

"Another F-" The voice was female, and I could see it belonging to a rather curious red headed female human with dark skin, and damned near Molten eyes, as the smoke cleared… well they would be molten provided they hadn't regressed to pinpricks. "e-e-e" she started stuttering once she got a clear look at me.

The others present were having similar reactions. All but one where young, they were wearing uniform robes and outfits, the only older one was wearing a variant. I noted I was in the courtyard of some castle, so my guess was some sort of wizard's academy.

That was good and bad, on one hand, me and wizards did not always get along, on the other, they weren't Drow.

"Elf." The smallish blue haired one whispered, staff held out at the ready.

Ok that one brought me up a little short. "Elf?" I asked aloud before I realized it. "Elf. Seriously. That's what has you worked up?" considering I was wearing a form not dissimilar to my earlier pursuers, you'd think generic elf would be the least of their worries, or the first thing they noticed.

Unless I was in another realm and the elves here were hostile to humans…

Couldn't rule it out. And given the Teacher's sudden defensive posture…

"Woh! Calm down… I'm not looking for a fight." I explained quickly. "Could… someone explain to me what's going on?" I looked behind me, portal closed… That was good.

To be honest I might take trying to fight off the war party rather than bust out of a magic school, but potently facing both was something even a Darastrix'sjach much older and stronger then I would hesitate at trying.

"This is the Tristan Academy of magic." The man up ahead said very slowly as if talking down an armed gunman… Swordsman… whatever. Man, what the hell was up with this place? Did the elves here take their cliff notes from The Brothers Grim?

A chill went down my spine at the thought of that. Maybe this place Was more akin to the classical depiction of elves… after all the word Eldritch came from the root Elfish.

And if that was true… I was unjustly wearing the skin of one.

Only the thought of the panic that my Real form might provoke stopped me from dropping the Drow shape I was using right then and there.

Right Lev, hold together… you are Darastrix! A King Serpent! One of the eldest and mightiest creatures of the realms!

Fuck that! I was barely an adult! Not a Jennu'ithael! I barely had any magic resistance as it was!

But they didn't know that…

Maintaining my guise of 'Freaking out confused drow dude.' I raised an eyebrow and started to visibly calm. "So… you summoned me here Why?" I asked

"Ah… you see it's a little ritual that the second year students perform to call a familiar." He winced slightly.

I blinked. "Wait. You called me as a familiar?" I saw no companion animal with the man, perhaps he had lost his and had called me as a replacement? He seemed competent enough, and a good performance would assist the new mages. As it was, being a familiar to an experienced compliant mage was far from a bad deal on my end. It offered more safety and easier access to resources while I was still relatively young and venerable.

"No…" he looked to a slight figure I had all but ignored up to now.

She stood at four feet and change, a faded, pink mop of hair that fell well past her waste, and skin so white you could mistake it for parchment… then again that could just be the fear.

Her eyes had also shrunken to pinpricks, and she was dressed like the other students despite being quite possibly the youngest one there… wait no, out in the crowd there was another young girl with a sky blue drake of some kind, she was the one who had pointed me out earlier, how had I missed that? So what did that make this kid? A prodigy?

Well again not to bad… though much more risky, a lavish lifestyle of a seasoned researcher/teacher was much less likely to get me stuck with a lance, in comparison. The opportunity was however still genuinely a step up from my current status of 'hide until old enough to kick the asses of anything else on planet'

"You then have called me?" I asked her, looking her in the eye. "Don't worry, I take no offense." I explained. "Just want to know what's going on here." I put on my best paternal smile.

Really should have considered the face I was using when I did that. Dark elf + wide smile = Evil. Forgot that.

Well at least I wasn't wearing MY face when I did that, poor girl would likely fall over.

"Y-yes." She said in a quite squeak.

"Right then, Introductions, my name is Levethix'moxt. You?" I stated in as warm a tone as I could manage, no sense in scaring her off… she didn't even know what I really was yet.

"l-Louise." She stated trying to master her trembles and not really succeeding.

"A pleasure!" I grinned. "Now you want me as a familiar right? Kinda odd choice, but I can see were your going with it." Ok ego was fed a little there, I mean not to toot my own horn, but I could certainly kick the ass out of any cat. "I think you can talk me into it." I stated, best not sell myself to cheep.

She fell over in a dead faint, and I blinked. "Was it something I said?" I asked the Teacher.

Shadow of Zero II

In the end I had assured the man 'A professor Colbert', the students, the OTHER teachers, and was on the way to do the same for the headmaster.

Louise was being carried by the balding man; apparently we had to stick close until she could complete whatever weird ritual had brought me here.

Which was… tolerable at least to me. Though honestly I was a little worried about bonding with a girl who fell over just from meeting an 'elf'. "So what's the deal with you guys and the elves around anyway?" I asked the prof as we walked up the spiraling staircase to meet up with the head of this shindig.

Don't look at me like that, my vocabulary is the product of my parent's generation, Both sets.

He shivered slightly. "Let's just say our people don't get along well. Why do you ask anyway? Are you not an elf?" He questioned with a suspicious eye.

"Kinda." I started, "Technically what I am is known as a Drow Elf, or dark elf. Not quite the same as the other subspecies." I explained, and technically it was true, I was currently a dark elf. "I'm just curious about the local culture, were I came from humans and elves mostly got along." I added in earnestly. "I mean there was some specism, and they tended to live primarily in their own settlements, the lifespan issue alone insured there was a bit of a cultural drift." I sighed at that, I got why we couldn't all get along, I really did, but that didn't mean I liked it.

He nodded a little slowly, but seemed to be coming around… this was good, with luck I could get a reputation of 'mostly harmless' well routed into the general mentality of locals in short order, hopefully even before people realized I wasn't exactly what I claimed to be!

Accepting a strange foreigner was one thing, but letting a King Serpent into one's midst was another entirety. You could get away with it in the larger settlements, but it'd be iffy in a small place like this.

Louise made a soft sound, and seemed to start coming out of it. "wah… what?" she blinked a few times.

"Rise and shine!" I chirped… and hoped she didn't faint again.

"You!" She stated shocked and surprised. "It wasn't a Dream!"

"Nope, summon, me, familiar ritual, fainting, all real." I added in cliff notes form. "We really got to talk about that by the way… what exactly where you looking for in a familiar? I'm not especially fond of the whole combat thing if you were hoping for a legendary warrior or something." I continued. "To be honest I'm really more of a bookworm, I've worked mostly in Libraries, and universities then anything." An offered shrug. "Really not much more than a traveling scholar."

And there was truth to that. I still had a more then modest amount of gold and trinkets within my handy haversack of course, but the real treasure lay in the secrets and knowledge I had gathered over my century long life.

It was in my nature to 'collect' things, and frankly I viewed my horde of secrets to be more useful than simple wealth. My personal collection expanded greatly on my genetic inheritance, gave me options simple gold could not, and was hopefully something I could one day pass down to the next generation, giving any progeny I sired a much better chance of surviving the death world I had so recently called home.

Mystical powers, supernatural strength, and impossibly strong hide were nice, but intelligence, wisdom, and experience had a good history of trumping them.

She coloured a bit, "Can you let me down?"

"Ah! Certainly." The balding man said at once. "I am sorry Ms Vallière." He replied setting her down.

She took stock of her surroundings and seemed to give into dread once more. "The Headmaster's office..?" She stated in despair, and then rounded on me. "What did you do!"

"Nothing! Nothing!" I said holding up hands warningly. "Just a routine check in… apparently elves aren't very well liked around here, and I didn't want to cause any big commotions." I explained.

She looked aggravated, but seemed to cede on the point.

"If that's alright, shale we enter?" Colbert commented, seeming more than a little amused, and… proud? of the young girl's antics.

The door opened, and one thought immediately shot to my head.

"What is the deal with your bangs?" I couldn't help but ask the elder stereotypical Dumbledore/Gandalf-esk senior mage.

Shadow of Zero III

"Familiar!" Louise outright shrieked.

"Technically, not your familiar yet." I pointed out… well pointedly. "And I mean seriously! Look at it, it just somehow… fuses into another layer of beard… How do you do that? Magic right? It has to be magic." I said nodding to myself

The man merely stroked his magnificent beard of weirdness. "I am actually rather surprised you asked, you se-"

"Stupid familiar!" A wand came out, and started aiming for me.

My hand clashed forth before I even really noticed with reflexes honed by living in The Freaking Forgotten Realms. Snatching the implement from her hands, in a practiced motion, I twirled it in my hand and pointed it back. "Right sorry." I waved off. "Just wanted to check in with you. This lovely young lady here." I gestured with the wand, wondering why this seemed both so familiar, and so hilarious to me. "Summoned me to be her familiar. I'm not here to wage horrific bloody war, kidnap your maidens, or any of that stuff." I said waving the whole thing off.

"I see… you are not upset then?" he queered, being very pensive.

"Nope." I handed back the wand to the young girl who had apparently just now realized what she had done, and gone that paper shade again, really it was kinda cute. "Way I see it this is actually a really good deal for me. I might not look it, but I'm still pretty young, the relatively lax job of being a mage's familiar, is really a great opportunity to duck the bigger responsibilities" And dangers "of the world, while I gain a chance to learn a bit more about magic and the world." I explained.

"Young?" This time from the balding man. "How young?"

"Older then the guy with the awesome Beard, but younger then the castle." I elaborated. This place had the timeless feel, smell, and marks, that only could be accumulated with well over hundreds years of use, magic reinforcement or no.

"Ah." The elder mage nodded. "So you are fine then being Ms Vallière's familiar then?" he asked.

"I have a few terms." I admitted, and noted the deflating form beside me. "Nothing big. It's simply that I am very obviously, not a simple animal, treating me as such would be rather improper wouldn't it?" I put my money on the hook of propriety being as big a thing here as it was in most 'upper crust' societies.

"Indeed." He again stroked the beard of awesome… seriously, how did he do that?

Louise seemed ready to object, but was quickly shut down on that, both teachers sending her rather heated glares.

"Right… so… I'm not obviously going to sleep in some stall meant to keep animals." I started the bargaining.

"That's not a problem, traditionally, a familiar sleeps in there master's room." Colbert chimed in.

I nodded, I could work with this. "Reasonable enough… Lab access?" I inquired.

"Lab access?" That one confused him.

"Lab access." I continued. "You know… arcane research? Inventing new spells, and investigating into the nature of magic and the universe?" I continued.

"Such things are more typically personal endeavors." The elder man began. "While we do, undertake some research here, the academy is meant primarily to educate."

I grimaced at that. "You at least have a well stocked library?" setting up a lab would be troublesome. I'd still do it, but it was work I had hoped to avoid.

"That we do have." The elder nodded and drew on his pipe.

"You're a researcher?" Colbert asked much more excitedly.

"More a… wandering scholar. I have invented a spell or two, but mostly I just like learning things." I explained, looking at Louise. "I have served as tutor in the mystic arts on a few occasions however!" I added quickly.

That seemed to pick her up a bit.

I moved to my final point. "Lastly… Money." I said, "I'm not going to ask for any sort of payment, room and board is certainly enough for simple duties, but I would rather like to keep claim to any funds I earn on my own here." This was a tricky subject, as now and then you got a mage who used their familiar as little more than a money farm. I needed funding for my research! "Such is agreeable with you?" I asked Louise directly.

She frowned at that, again not happy at all with how things were turning out. "It seems… reasonable." She let out with no small amount of bitterness.

I clasped hands and grinned. "Then we have an accord! Finish your ritual." I instructed.

At this she blushed a little, looking down, then leaned forward, taking her wand and circling it over my head, then pecked me.

I opened my mouth to question that, when a sharp burning sensation distracted me.

Searing into my hand, with sufficient heat or power to leave wisping trails of smoke, was a glowing green rune circle. I watched it openly, clenching my teeth as it burned its way into my skin, into the unseen flesh beneath it, deep Deep into my magic aura, and quite possibly into my very soul.

Powerful stuff. Freakishly powerful stuff in fact… what exactly had I just signed up for?

Showing her the rune I raised an eyebrow. "Thanks for the warning." I deadpanned.

She looked more vindicated then apologetic. "Sorry." She replied, fighting down a smile.

I twitched.

I was not amused by my 'bed'. The pile of hay was far from the worst thing I had slept on, but frankly ever since I had developed enough might to take humanoid form, I had found the 'luxury' of a warm bed to be one I most certainly would invest in. I sighed. "Alright, no. This will not do." I reached into my haversack and started digging around. ''Alchemy fire… no, trail rations, no, standard ten foot pole… why did I pack that again? Ah bedroll." I pulled lose the much larger item forth from my pack, ignoring the rather odd faces Louise was making as I spread out the finely spun cloth, fine drow silks with gold lacing, stuffed with celestial goose feathers, enchanted for temperature control and comfort.

Like I said, I invested.

A quick snapped summoning of my own, and a small group of fiendish monkeys (well apes technically) were under way arranging the hay pile was cleared into a more evenly aligned lining for the floor, as to provide a slightly more comfortable surface for said bedroll then the ground itself.

Observing there work I nodded. "Tawura'bensvelk droti!" I praised them, and then gave the nod for them to dismiss themselves, setting down the overly elaborate sleeping bag on my own.

It was at this point when Louise made a rather odd sound. Somewhat squeaking, and half way choked off.

Looking at her, the twitching face, slightly open mouth, and wide eyes, I couldn't help but ask. "What?"

Shadow of Zero IV

"You… magic… bag… monkey…" she started.

"Apes technically." I blinked at that trying to derive sense from it, "What?"

"HOW!" she begged.

"Well… you said it, Magic, a fourth circle summon monster spell, in its secondary use more specifically." I stated in a somewhat confused tone. "Frankly I know it'd have been more efficient to a third circle spell and call up some Formian, but I just never really got along with those guys. Monkeys work for fruit. You can't really beat a pay rate like that." Technically I didn't have to pay them at all, but it was always handy to keep on the good side of anything you regularly summoned, made them much less bitter about the whole spontaneously shifting plains for various trivial tasks thing. I raised an eyebrow. "I don't see what's got you so concerned, you called up ME only a few hours ago, trust me when I tell you that's far more impressive then summoning a few outsiders for a limited period of time."

That seemed to calm her. "I've never seen magic like that." She admitted.

That earned a raised eyebrow. "Haven't you? Interesting." I mused. "Summoning is a basic form of conjuration magic where I'm from. Perhaps we use more different casting styles then I originally suspected." I sat down on my new resting place and made myself comfortable. "Alright, let's compare the basics. Were I come magic comes in two main disciplines, arcane and divine, you seem to be an arcaneist… at least your magic tastes arcane. Arcane magic is mortal magic, it is magic formed of mana and shaped by mortal thoughts and comprehension." I started my lecture, and she nodded in understanding at my words. Good, so far we mostly are akin in this. "The limits of the use of this type of magic are therefore based similarly on one's knowledge, whether it is through study or intuition. Power varies with innate talent and experience, but in general, you can't cast a spell unless you've worked rather hard to learn it in the first place."

She gave me an odd look at that. "And there are people who CAN cast spells they do not know?" she asked.

"In away." I cut off. "Diviners which I mentioned earlier do not prepare their own spells, they do not truly form them, though they do cast them. Instead they offer power through worship to much stronger, higher… or lower… beings known as gods." I continued.

"There is only one god!" She yelled in surprised and indignation.

"Really?" I asked again, blinking. "Weird, well it's not unheard of. Most deities tend to stick to a limited number of realms, I suppose this world is sufficiently far out that one got lucky to hold monopoly over it." I waved away. "We need to talk about the god of this land after this however, I personally would rather know about the local powers of any location I plan on staying in for any extended period of time."

Going back to my earlier point I continued. "Were was I? Oh yes, divine magic. Well the mortal races offer prayer to their patron deities, and in return are gifted power in the form of spells. Now that's a gross over simplification, as there tend to be small tributes fringe benefits and other aspects to it, such as which afterlife you end up when you do end up slipping from the material plane, but that's mostly how the spell casting aspect works. We term most of these casters clerics, sometimes paladins, or others of a more exoteric sort." I elaborated. "It's an interesting relationship, symbiotic in its nature, and I've spent a decade or two learning its intricacies, though I do not practice it myself. But I've slipped topic, what we need to really deal with is Arcane magic, the type I, and I believe you use."

She nodded slowly, obviously still mulling over the revelation of other lands that held pagan faiths that apparently actually got results. "Now Arcane magic, has certain limitations on what it can do, you need to KNOW what it is you are doing, from the outside yes it all seems simple 'magic' but the delicate intricacies, the fine details, are far more complex. This has lead to there being only two real ways to become adept at the use of it." Again a simplification, but accurate enough. "The first is through rigorous study, years if not decades of pouring over alchemical formula, deep meditation, and continuous philosophical ponderings leading to a greater understanding of the world and it's energy. This continues up until you gain true mastery of it, becoming able to tap into the primal power of the world, and shape it to your desires vea shear will!" I clenched my hands sharply before me, popping my knuckles as I did, metaphorically 'grasping' at the unseen arcane powers.

The small girl's eyes were wide at that, and I reminded myself to tone back on the presence… I forgot even outside of my true form I tended to throw my personality around whenever I got a little passionate about things. Useful surely, but also too much at times.

She took a breath "a-and the other method?"

I shrugged. "You just get it." I stated simply.

"Just get it?" she gave me an odd look.

"Just get it." I said again. "Or rather, you instinctively understand these concepts. You don't draw your power from the world, you draw it from YOU." I pointed. "Yes there is arcane study, but that is so much more for refining your power then building it. You just Get magic, it's birthright to you. Instinctively you take and use the power you need, in ways normal mortals cannot. Such power tends to run in family lines, and there is rarely any real formal instruction involved. Given time anyone with such ability will come up with a few spells, and independent study is more than enough to expand on it. An analogy I've heard was that if a Wizard was a mathematician, then a Sorcerer was a poet." I let her connect the dots there.

Something connected in her brain. "Then these wizards, the ones who study for their powers, they are commoners?" she asked of me.

I raised an eyebrow at that. "Not often… they rarely take a lordship of any kind, but typically even a hedge wizard has notable political clout. It's not wise to anger someone who can turn you into a newt." I explained.

"But these sorcerers Are nobles are they not?" she asked in a rather needy way.

I raised an eyebrow. "Well… that depends on the culture really. I've seen magiocracies here and there, they sometimes work, but typically no better or worse than any other monarchy." I raised an eyebrow. "Why is that the set up here?"

"Of course! How could any other way work?" she demanded. "Nobles have power commoners do not! They are inherently superior!"

"Like elves?" I started a less then pleased look on my face. "Look… Like I said sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I've seen Monarchies, Matriarchies, democracies, dictatorships, and a dozen other ways to pick a leader. Honestly I don't really care anymore what system is used in where I stay outside of knowing who to not piss off, and occasionally helping to depose a rotten ruler or two. Some work, some don't. If the 'Nobles' of this land are good rulers, then they earn their name. If they don't live up to the term, then I'm living in a land of bullies and hypocrites, and frankly it wouldn't be the first time." I laid back. "Look I don't really feel like talking any more. We can trade notes tomorrow." I fished out an equally overly fine pillow to my bedroll and slid in to tuck in for the night.

"But." She said.

"Night." I stated a bit more coldly then I originally intended.

Shadow of Zero V

The morning came, and with it the scent of fresh wet grass and stone, the feel of moist air, still heavy enough to form dewdrops, and the sound of songbirds.

I freaking hated mornings.

Blame it on my old night owl habits as a human, or my nocturnal nature as a Darastrix'sjach. Me and bright lights did not get along well. Yes I could tolerate them, which really should tip off anyone that I wasn't in fact a Drow, but I was surrounded by the ignorant, and as such had the blessing/curse of anyone knowing that I should be cowering from the light like a scolded Nuwa'jimos from its elder peers.

So I stretched out, letting out a rumbling growl of a sound, and checked over both the area around me, and myself… the form had held, that was good, I could feel the magic beginning to wane, so I sent a burst to reinforce it. Drow I had arrived, and Drow I would stay… well at least until ether it was needed, or I had a good excuse to spontaneously shift in species.

Maybe I could pass it off as some odd elf magic… eh, best first find out the local lore on the pointy eared ones before I showed too much more. I got lucky with the summoning earlier, but if I indented to keep myself hidden, I best not act too far out of bounds…

Why was I hiding again? Serpent King remember? The true highborn, the monsters that devils feared to cross?

No! Bad ego! Still young! still venerable! Just blend in like a good youngling and maybe I'll live to see my second millennium.

But they all seemed so weak…

NO! BAD! Appearances could deceive, and there magic was strange to me, learn, observe, then act.

Grunting I sat up strait and brushed myself off… maybe a change of clothes?" I sniffed my shirt.

Still good.

Looking over at Louise, I noted she was still resting. So I made my exit quite. Calling to the deep shadows cast by the morning light, I slipped out of visual sight, and made my way to the door.

It was time to do a little scouting.

Moving through shadows was… odd, it's hard to describe really. You needed to watch were you put your feet.

They clung to you, making you like them, transparent, but not unseen, a void in light, devourer of light, you could stray from there embrace, but you would be noticed as you did. Night would seem the ideal time to move about, the darkness deeper, and invading.

But that didn't take people into account.

Torches cast light, spells cast light, little glowing crystals, little heated bits of steel, light, light, light. The darker the night, the more those hindered by the lack of light sot to correct it's absence.

Torches were a relatively minor hazard if mounted; they still cast shadows, if held however they prevented you from closing to a certain range. Lanterns tended to be directed, but one false sound and it would swing with such speed even the most graceful would have problems dodging its beam. All could be compensated for, with effort, time, and skill.

But no one lit light in the morning, people treaded through the deep but pale shadows fearlessly and casually. There was more than enough light to see through the transparent things after all, nothing hidden in them but the darkness itself.

Only the shadows themselves.

More importantly, people were active in the morning, groggy yes, but that was more an aid then hindrance. They were sloppy.

And sloppy people tended to be loose of lips.

I moved down the hallways easily, the overly dramatic light gothic architecture offering me a wide road to travel. Wizards, got to love them.

No, not wizards, mages. I didn't yet know the kin of these spell weavers, but I knew them to be more akin to a sorcerer then that studious sort, Louise's reactions last night had told me that much. I held so many questions as to the nature of this land, and the strange Magus' who held lord over it.

Dear gods was I Shakespearian when I was hungry.

Ah well, two birds, one stone. If you wanted to know something about a ship or fort, there was always one reliable source.

The cook.

As the freaky colored bird said, fallow your nose!

I hit a wrong turn once or twice, but soon enough I found myself traveling through to a large wide open hallway, that held numerous fine wooden tables. From there I located a servant and began stocking them.

Not in the creepy perverted sense mind you, more the hunter pray sense… actually that sounded worse, let's stick to perverted.

Openly admiring the well shaped form of the black haired lass I fallowed her unseen into what could only be a kitchen. There were mean and women dressed in plain clothes and aprons working over stoves, fires and cutting boards. It seemed a feast was in preparation.

I licked my lips, and it had nothing to do with said lovely lass having just bent over to pick up some dropped bit of cutlery.

"Did you hear?" One of the younger men, who I immediately labeled 'Gofer one'. He wore no apron, and had the manic energy only a clumsy foolish male could hold in their youth. To anxious to be trusted with fine food preparation, but ideal for gathering gossip or more simple tasks. Didn't seem a bad sort, perhaps too eager to prove himself going by his tone and posture. "I hear one of the nobles summoned an Elf!" he exclaimed, the apparently, very important news.

"An elf? Been listening to rumors again have we?" the much boarder man, who at once struck me as 'head cook.' He held himself with strong posture, and was well aged, and well fed. For a servant to have grown as large as he has, they would have had to have ether lived a very successful life, and to hold themselves with such pride, especially when they lived as 'a lower class' they would truly have to be the master of their art.

Besides he smelt of more types of food than any other two cooks down here put together. My guess was he was dancing around coordinating things, too busy to settle on any single meal.

One of the female cooks, well looked after by her looks, but starting to see the later years of her life, she smelt of the large man, his wife? "It's True. I heard old man Osmand talking to that nice professor Colbert about it last evening. Creature's supposedly very polite for highborn, but very strange. They thought it was from far off."

"His skin's black as coal." The boy said, bolstered by his apparent 'victory' "Hair white like chalk, and red eyes. But he's got the pointed ears and everything!"

The old man rolled his eyes. "Well if it is an elf. And I'm not saying it is. What are you wasting your time talking about it for? We only have two hours to prepare for the Noble's big day with their new pet's and you'll catch the switch if any of those spoiled brats finds there meal wanting." He warned. "If your so obsessed with this elf, then find out what it wants for breakfast."

"A simple sandwich will do." I said stepping out of the darkness, and beading away its hold. "Maybe some fruits. It's been a good time since I've tasted any." I requested with a smile. "Anyone need a hand?" I offered.

It was always wise to be nice to the help after all.

Shadow of Zero VI

Everything at once stopped, if not for the crackling of flames, and the sizzling of meats and oils in there pans, it would be silent. I blinked. "Uh… is there a problem?" I asked looking a little at a loss.

The big guy stepped up first and foremost snapping out of it. "Of course not sir!" he said graciously. "It's just we did not expect your fine company." He stated.

I sighed. "Please, none of that Sir stuff. I mean really when you think about it we are all in the same boat are we not?" I tracked as one of the younger ones, the young woman in the maid outfit I had fallowed actually, rushed around to retrieve me a few bits of sliced fruit. "I was just wondering if I could lend a hand. It seems we may well be working together for some time after all." I tried to explain… this did not seem to be going well.

"Ah, well sir… Mr. Elf sir." He began.

"Lev. Call me Lev." I stated sighing. "It's short for Levethix'moxt if you really want to go formal, but honesty that's a bit of a mouthful. If you don't want me dancing around in your kitchen that's fine, but really, I'm just here to offer my own assistance if it's welcome. I am not sure what the elves of this land have done to terrify you people so, but really I am from a very distant land! I have no idea of the quarrel behind all this, and honestly wish no part with it." I frowned. "Or is it the bond of servitude I am held by to the Lady Vallière?" I guessed.

Slowly people started to move back into normal actions for the preparation of food, and I found myself offered a tray of assorted fruits by the lovely, if terrified young woman with hair as dark as my skin. Taking the tray I smiled at her in an apologetic way. The large man eyed me cautiously. "We need someone to help wash the trays before they head out." He stated slowly, keeping a firm eye on me.

"That's fine. I have some time before my master wakes." I gave the pile a glance, nothing to caked on really. "More than enough time to finish off a simple task like that."

He gave a slow nod. "Siesta, you help Mr. Moxt here with it. Make sure he doesn't miss anything." A calculated move on his part, see if I was honest or just looking for an opportunity to blow up over any little offense. The task itself was also a wise one to test me on, no direct handling of any food, preventing me from potentially poisoning anyone easily.

I rolled my eyes at it, playing up the roll of foolish youngster. Damn this form was going to be hard to work through… still easier then my natural state.

For a moment the image of me in the form of a Serpent King doing dishes flashed by, and I almost laughed. It had happened when I was younger once or twice, still not powerful or experienced enough to take human form, but that was when I was still small enough for it to be more cute then ridiculous.

I took the tray and began working water and soap over it, pushing hard to get the thin layer of caked on grime out of it. Someone had chicken last night it would seem. It wasn't helped that the water was cold. "Do you mind if I heat the water?" I asked 'Siesta' beside me. "Just a small cantrip. I know you can't afford to waste the warm water on something like this." Indeed every free stove was working on cooking, frying, or boiling some dish or another.

That got me a dark look, hidden behind acceptance. "If you wish." She stated.

I frowned slightly at that, and then smirked slightly, I had an idea. "Here, watch closely." I worked my hands in arcane sigils and uttered a single word, my voice taking on a slight bit of reverb as I did. "Prestidigitation"

The water jumped from lukewarm to lightly steaming in a moment, not hot enough to scald, but more than enough to melt off any grime on the trays. I cleaned the first tray in moments.

She worked her own with a bit of bitterness, I had seen a flash of surprise, and wonder when I had preformed the cantrip, but it had faded quickly.

Now to exploit that. "I could teach you that you know." I offered her casually.

She looked up, then back down. "No… Humans aren't like elves, we are not all nobles. I can't use magic."

"You can't use Innate magic." I corrected. "This is just a little bit of wizardry. No innate talent needed." I explained.

"No no… it's not talent, I just don't have any magic." She tried to explain.

I wasn't about to hear it. "Were I come nether do most elves." Partially true, they had their innate power, but that was a passive thing, not active magic. "It was something that confused me last night when I spoke with my new master. It seems that the local powers hear only use innate magic, sorcerery, not learned magic, wizardry." I explained. "We have innate casters in my home land as well, I count myself among they're number, but to really understand it, I studied with wizards for a time." I stated clearing another tray. "So many are just content to use what comes naturally, to never really try and understand it you know? It seems so foolish to me. I've seen men and woman born with no more power than a housecat, who could bring down even king serpents with a few well placed words, tapping into the might of the world itself, rather than their own mortal reserves." I recalled images of battles past, brothers lost, blood spilt. "I've always tried to… be aware. To know what was happening in the world around me, how it worked, how things interacted with one another." Another tray.

I turned to look at her, and noted I had her full attention now… and that of most of the kitchen staff. "I could teach you some of it if you liked… the big stuff takes years of course, but one or two cantrips are simple enough that it wouldn't take more than a couple hours for two or three weeks." It was after all the Darastrixi who had gifted the mortal races with the knowledge of magic in my own realm… was it not my duty to do the same here? To at least… put them on their way, give them a chance to realize their potential. I turned back to the trays, washing another. "Well it's something to consider anyways." I stated with the same casual air.

I was finished my job in less than thirty minutes, and was drying my hands, now well wrinkled, on a cloth. "Well the Sun is well up by now… I supposed I best return before my master seeks what has become of me." I stated. "It was a pleasure meeting you Siesta." I stated with as warm a smile as I could manage.

She blushed a little, and my grin grew. Still got it.

"About those… Cantrips you called them?" She asked.

"Yes?" I asked looking out at the door.

She fidgeted a little. "Could you… really teach me them?"

"One or two." I offered. "Simple spells, nothing major, cantrips are meant to be easy, they help build the way to the big stuff, but I know a few minor tricks that could likely be of use to you." I explained for the second time of the day.

"But you could teach me them." She repeated.

I smirked. "Given time, I could teach them to a housecat… actually I think I did that once. It was a bet I think." I thought back to my earlier days at an academy not unlike this one, frankly with all the studying, misadventures, I was surprised I recalled anything from my social life.

She took a deep breath and bowed. "Then please teach me magic!"

I blinked externally, showing no feeling but surprise. "Sure… I'll find out when a good time is with my master, and let you know when I can."

Internally I let lose a full maniacal smirk.

Just as planned.

Shadow of Zero VII

I slipped back into my master's room only a few moments after she had awoken.

Louise was looking around in confusion, and then her eyes narrowed in anger and frustration. "Stupid familiar!" she muttered heatedly.

I chose that time to step forth. "You called Master?" I tried to keep the cheeky smile of my face… I really, really did.

She was up like a shot. "Where did you come from!" her hands jerked up in surprise and her eyes traced my form, then my surroundings, there was no where I could have hidden.

Hum, now there was a problem, if I gave her more clues she'd discover my affinity for darkness, being a diurnal species, odds are the social norms dictated 'darkness bad'.

Fear leads to anger and all that…

"More importantly, were did go?" she demanded eyes hard and angry.

Quick to anger my master was, I'd have to work on curing her of that. Spell casters with short tempers tended to result in a lot of bodies on the ground… or ash, or newts, or cheese.

I shivered on the memory of the cheese. That was one Messed Up Gnome.

"I was out helping in the Kitchen Master." I informed. "I needed to be sure your meals were being prepared to a proper standard." Ah aristocrats, was there any type of person easier to manipulate?

She frowned deeply at that. "You should check with me first before doing any such thing. The actions of the familiar reflect on those of its master." She lectured.

I wondered for a moment how teaching the local servant's magic would reflect on her image. Oh well, I had already decided on that path, no turning back now. "I see… would it be possible for me to assist the help regularly in the afternoons then? Just a few hours when you held no need of me." I requested.

"We will see." She intoned in what was likely her best regal voice… oh this would be fun. It had been a while since my last fosterling. The human mage I had last raised/tutored in magic had already nearly been a grown man. A Sorcerer in search of the secrets of both his heritage and the nature of his power.

It had started rough, for the opposite reason actually, the boy was far too humble, but over time I had managed to mold him into something of worth.

I was a bit curious as to where he was now, Little Jono would be starting into old age soon if he hadn't taken measures to extend his life.

I chuckled a tired tone. "My thanks."

She narrowed her eyes again. "You think I'll let you get away with everything?" she stated warningly. My guess was she didn't like the tone I had used.

"No no, of course not." I held out my hands though admittedly I wasn't doing the 'humble' bit well. Well actually I was, but I wasn't being very humble for a mortal.

Her hands twitched.

I rolled my eyes, right, time to deflate some egos. "Really master, it is rather early for this. Shale we at least go seek breakfast before we hammer down the fine details of my employment?"

She was about to make argument before a well timed reaction sounded from her stomach. She flushed deep at that. "Very well."

Ah blindsense, is there any problem you didn't solve?

The two of us walked down and reentered the dining hall, me a respectful distance from Louise. She held a new confidence in her steps as we traveled I noted. Perhaps the minor victories I was allowing her were helping to boost her ego?

Possible, I'd vary my behavior some and see how she reacted.

Interestingly we did not seem to be heading to the dining hall I had earlier discovered, rather we left for the outside, were a large assortment of tables had been set out for us.

Selecting one from the outer edge, I took my own seat as she did the same.

A familiar face was shortly serving us. I smiled widely. "Ah Siesta! It is good to see you." I greeted with what warm I could managed.

The reaction in both master and servant was prominent.

Siesta blushed slightly and bowed her head. "It is nice to see you too Mr. Moxt." She stated. "What would you two enjoy for breakfast?"

My Master's reaction was one of barely contained anger. "You know this servant Familiar?"

"Quite." I said with a nod. "Siesta was the one who helped me sort myself down at the kitchens. She will with your blessings, be educating me on much of how things are done in this land later this evening." I explained. "We did agree that I was to be aloud personal projects I remind you."

That lessened her anger notably, and she now eyed me again appraisingly. "Very well." Not sparing a glance to the black haired maid, she spoke out her order. "Crapes, with cream, and a fine dark tea." She stated.

"Fruit is fine." I told her politely. "Perhaps a cold cut sandwich if you can."

She nodded and hurried off, and Louise frowned. "You shouldn't speak to the help like that." She stated.

I raised an eyebrow. "Odd, in most cultures I find it wise to be as kind as possible with one's servant. It helps cut down on the accidental poisonings." I elaborated trying to force down my cheeky grin.

Dark tea in the morning? Really? I near shook my head at that.

"Regardless she will soon be an instructor of mine, and an Instructor should always be greeted with the highest respect." I stated firmly. "That will apply when I begin teaching you by the way. I will not tolerate you only half listening to my words." My eyes flashed. "The magic I will be teaching you is Dangerous, if used without care people will die." There was no could about it. Even with the devil's own luck, eventfully a fireball could go rouge, a spell would backfire, or a summon would shake loose of it's bindings.

She snapped to attention at that. "Teach me magic?" she asked, then her eyes widened. "Eleven magic!" she leaned in surprised.

I broke her of that swiftly. "I'm not sure what the elves of this land use." I stated firmly. "It is likely as alien to their schools of magery as it is your own, but it is a widely used, well developed, ancient branch of sorcerery, refined well over a million years in use."

She gulped back. "A million years…"

"My people." I began. "Taught this form of magic to the mortals we share lands with. At first it was a simple thing, to make a servant more useful." Not unlike what I was doing with Seista now that I thought about it, and speak of the devil, she had snuck back up on us and was now listening closely. "But it had evolved rapidly. Most couldn't learn the more refined arts, the more powerful and complex spells." I stated begrudgedly. "There simply wasn't time in their lives to discern all the details. But they took well to it, and many found themselves magi of the ninth circle or even beyond it in as little time as a decade!" I stated in emulated surprise. "Imagine it, the highest levels of magic, wielded by a mortal with less than ten years practice. Something that even the mightiest King Serpent would take millennia to learn!" admittedly those were the outliners, the literal one in a thousand of even the practicing mortals. Added in most darastrixi were rather lazy about acquiring power, being much higher up on the food chain.

Fighting down that ego continuously with the knowledge of exactly how poorly I sacked up to a lot of other things in that deathworld that was formerly my home was actually one of the key reasons I was as good a mage as I was. Honestly, a magus of the fifth circle at only a hundred and thirty? It was astounding by the standards of my kin.

Both girls were rather surprised at that. "Really?" Louise leaned in. "You could teach me this?"

"Well most of it… at least get you on the path." I explained quickly.

Siesta however was curious about another thing. "What's a King Serpent?" she asked.

I blinked, had I actually said that? Reviewing I noticed I did. Ah… cat out of the bag or no? Eh, maybe a few hints.

"A King Serpent, or rather a Serpent King, is the original spell caster of my land. The absolute apex predator, with only the mightiest of Infernal, and gods to hold challenge to their power." I began. "The Ancient ones, The Beasts that Devils feared to cross. Darastrixi'vis, The True Dragons." I intoned deeply, letting lose a bit of my aura of terror.

So I was a bit of a ham, it came with the territory.

Shadow of Zero VIII

"Dragons." Louise deadpanned, I got the feeling she'd normally "Your best spell casters are big dumb lizards?"

"Big yes, dumb, very much no, Lizards… that's actually a common matter of debate. They hold a lot of traits similar to most reptiles, but at the same time there are several key differences." I started in.

"What do you mean dragons aren't dumb? They're animals, just foolish beasts like any other creature."

I raised an eyebrow. "Common Animals… are you sure you're not referring some manner of drake? Or perhaps Wyvern?" I questioned with a raised eyebrow.

"They are all dragons." She ground out.

I blinked. "Ah… it seems this land lacks there highborn kin… fortunate for you." I added. "Alright imagine a dragon, an immortal beast, winged, graceful, and larger than anything with functional wings has any right to be." I smirked slightly at that. I held out a hand and called out power, bringing it forth to a well practiced highly useful spell. "Silent Image." modes of light gathered and formed into a illusionary form of a true dragon, I went with a Silver, nice proud regal, and not to dissimilar from my own form. "They come in many shapes and sizes," I started cycling through various species and age groups, providing small copy of Headmaster Osmand, for scale, then started having them interact in a manner realistic to each breed.

It was somewhat amusing to watch the old man run for his life from the fiery breath of the Red Wyrm, one moment, to holding a conversation with a much younger Brass a few seconds later. "Now image them intelligent, at least as smart as any man quite often a great deal smarter. Add to this that they are born with the memories of their ancestors, not in the foreground of their mind, but more a background thing, like having a library built into your head. Give them lifespans that reach beyond ages, countless millennia, to build and hone on that sharp intellect." The Brass became a gold and Osmand was now the one being taught.

"Give them magic, mighty magic, that even in utter sloth grows with every passing year." A blue interrupted the lesson and the two began to fight, ripping into one another with claw, fang, breath and spell. My eyes darkened, and both girls remained rooted to the spot, watching the silent play before them as I continued my narration. "Give them scales stronger then steel, harder and thicker as they age, their muscles stronger, there forms larger and more powerful, never losing the grace of their youth." Both dragons began to grow in size and power, the gold called a storm, the blue a variable army of immaterial undead. The gold crashed through their number unhindered, its white hot flames backed by a spell ripping through their ranks as effortlessly as a normal flame consumed loose paper.

"And make that magic of theirs hate any lesser to it, turning aside all but the strongest of spells, let their breath rip open glowing tracks of land like the hateful wrath of a scorned god!" I rumbled maliciously, as the sky born duel switch to take place over a large city side, the people underneath running screaming silently in panic as the two titans raged, spells, and arrows, all were thrown up uselessly to splash against their unyielding hides. A line of lighting missed the gold and ripped open a street, blasting common house and sturdy guard tower to molten ruble alike. Men went flying, some lucky enough to be only caught by the heated shrapnel, crippled or broken like toys. The less fortunate had been touched by the energy itself, and were cooked alive within their own skins, flesh rupturing and igniting under the colossal heat of the electricity burning through them, leaving remains that were more ash then bone.

The gold managed a key strike, pinning the blue and tarring into it, bringing the full bare of its superior weight and strength down on the smaller dragon. The blue resisted, striking with claws, lashing out with horn and fang, every breath spat a literal curse, as it could call no more lighting, the ground shook before their movements, carts and buildings crushed or knocked flying. Shattered before the fury of their blows.

"And make them patent."The gold finished it, and Osmand slowly approached cautiously. "Make them with the wisdom and experience of their countless years, adaptable, proud, but never forgetting those who helped or harmed them." The gold smiled at the old man, as he had been one of the many to strike at the blue who had attacked them, his efforts had been largely fruitless, but they had been there. It pulled forth gold from the sky and tomes of knowledge, showering them upon its loyal friend… and then it turned its gaze on the town. The ones who had struck out at it indiscriminately, and its anger flared, even as an illusion the dragonfear formed, the primal terror from within, and it began approaching, a slow ponderous pace, it held no fear of the combined forces before it. It knew that no matter their combined forces, no matter their spells, there arrows, there lance or their swords, they held no true weapon that could stop it. Men in the town held themselves, shivering in fear. Many began to break down as the creature approached, wills broken, they fell in balls weeping in mortal terror, or fleeing for their lives.

"That… is what a true dragon is, that is why they are known as Serpent kings. For that is what they are… Serpent, Kings. Lords of the sky and earth. The creatures that Devils fear to cross. Darastrixi'vis." I spoke the words again in the same dread tone. "If this land is far from there reach, then you lead blessed lives Master. Blessed… or cursed." I began. "Because the dragon is so mighty for a reason…"

The city buckled and collapsed in on itself, falling way not so much down, as In, and… things, began to crawl forth, beasts both human like and not. Dread princes, and fiends, warring on each other as the demons and devils clashed in an orgy of violence lesser, yet so much worse than that seen before.

The Dragon roared without sound and crashed into their ranks, ripping through infernal and abyssal alike.

The illusion disappeared and I brightened at once. "This really is good tea!" I chimed taking a sip, black tea for breakfast, I never would have imagined it.

At their silence I looked back at them, and noted them both frozen in place… ah yeah, dragonfear, really needed to tone down on that. "Uh… was it something I said?" I asked.

I heard a thump behind me, and noticed that the vast majority of the people out at the gathering had closed in to see the light show, and caught the full unrestrained burst my aura of terror.

On some unseen signal the rest started falling over including both my master and apprentice.

"Oh dear." I muttered… I really had to stop doing that.

Shadow of Zero IX

Looking over the group of passed out individuals I noted two big exceptions.

The first was the other small girl, the one with blue hair; the second was her equally sky blue drake, who was admittedly openly cowering behind her. I looked at her and breathed in deep.


That blue creature behind her… it wasn't a drake. At first I thought it some exotic breed of lesser dragon, but no, it was highborn, a little further distant in relation then most, but I wasn't exactly one of the better known breeds myself. Rising, I made sure my master was comfortable, sat Siesta down in my chair so she could rest more easily, and made a token survey of the other felled students, then made my approach.

A staff was shoved in my face. "Peace." I held up a hand. "I was just curious." I said.

"Why?" She intoned in a quite serious voice.

"Her." I pointed at the blue figure behind her.

"No." She stated, and then pointed at the felled gathering behind me. "Why?"

I blinked, and then blushed sheepishly. "Ah… that was an accident. Sometimes I can get a little over dramatic in my rants…" I trailed off. "It wasn't intentional, and in the end rather harmless. It might hammer down the point to not underestimate a creature simply because it is not human…" Her eyes were unyielding.

She eyed me. "Fake." She intoned.

I suspected she might see through my disguise, no good giving anything away however! "That little illusionary display? Not anything that actually happened of course, though a rather realistic scenario if I do say mysel-"

"You Are fake." She intoned.

Ah… so she had seen through me. "Yes." I replied, leaving out. "I am a fake… or rather I'm wearing a form not my own."

"Why?" she demanded.

I shrugged, "Elves are common were I came from, when I was summoned I was in an elfin settlement. I had no idea that the dragons of this land hid themselves." I looked pointedly at the blue form behind her.

The staff shot forward, and finally I saw emotion in her eyes, fear. It was only there for a moment, just a heartbeat, but it was there, and it was strong. "Secret." She informed me strongly.

I nodded slowly. "I have no intent of revealing or endangering ether of you." I stated empathetically. "I was just… curious. It has been years since I've seen kin. I am a stranger to this land, I was hoping we could share information." The dragon behind her was only a little smaller then I was as my true self, but I got the feeling she was much younger. Her eyes held a Naivety that only the young could bare. She had lived an easy life I could tell, the kind I had dreamed off in years past. Were there others here? Had they found a better path? Or did they hide themselves for another reason?

She pointed at me again. "Secret." She stated, as the blue dragon lowered her head beside the mage girl's, looking at me now with a mixture of curiosity and fear.

I must have looked pathetic really, but I was lonely. I was ripped from my home, I had only just started laying roots, and I had just found out that I was supposedly the only one of my kind here. Then this… it was a wound I didn't know I bore.

But I could survive it. "Secret." I replied hardening my heart. "Perhaps another time." I said with a polite bow. "Until then I best tend to my master. I wish you each a good day ladies."I bowed to one, then the other, and about faced.

Walking over I gathered up my tiny master, not even as tall as the short height my current state held, then Siesta, the girlchild who I had hope to educate in the mystic arts of wizardry, and brought them back to the castle.

I didn't look back, I wouldn't look back. I had already plans in motion, already things to do, and I held the time of eternity before me. I could wait, I would wait.

But I most definitely held a new objective to work towards.

Siesta was dropped off with the other servants; they had taken her with more than a few distrustful looks. I left the burden of detailed explanation for her. I doubt they would trust my words as things stood. I alerted a patrolling staff member, a young woman with long green hair that the students outside had fallen faint, and wore a face of suitably contained panic as I did. She saw through the outer layer of expression, but not through my true guise, and rushed off to their aid with no other words.

I brought Louise herself to her room, laying her on her fine bed before I routed myself down to wait for the inevitable backlash.

Harmless was no longer an option, not with such images of mythic creatures and epic battles in my head. The people of this school would forever associate me with the mysteries of that simple illusion, of the dread feeling as my aura took hold of them, though they would likely not realize I was its direct source. I needed a new mask to wear among these people, a new guise to blend into the surroundings.

The eccentric arcaneist? No, that was more likely to put fear into them then any, the still held me as an elf, and with my strange magic's and the reputation of elves in this land that would make me feared.

Play with the fear then? Work with it? Battle hardened survivor of a war torn land?

Ironically close to the truth, but still not suitable. People would both react with overdue caution, and would likely attempt to draw my strength against their enemies…

Strength, wasn't that a joke. Yes I was dragon, darastrix'vis, but I was barely into my adult years, the biological equivalent of a human in there later teens. More than that, I was one who focused mostly on the arcane aspect of things, of learning lore rather than gathering treasure or building and raiding large grand hordes. I was the dragon equivalent of a computer nerd. Yes I held considerable mystical power for my age, but my experience in combat was almost entirely on the defensive, fleeing from those who would seek my body parts for spell reagents, or simply to fearful to allow a king serpent in their lands.

No I was NOT playing the warrior if I had any option in it. I tried that road once and… no.

Enigmatic then? Just keep to the edge, toss out hints, and in general do my best imitation of what a wise immortal fairy creature should act like.

It held possibility, it explained the terrible images I could bring forth, after all, I was a timeless thing was I not? Of course I had seen horrible battles. The demons and devils were outsiders, but was that not what I myself was? An otherworldly being, not quite mortal, not quite right, why should I have not seen similarly otherworldly terrors along my long travels?

It was a bitter option, forcing a distance I had hoped to avoid with the locals, I would be an outsider… but I would be something safe. Something definable, something they could understand… or understand they couldn't understand anyway.

Ah well… it wouldn't be the first time I played that road. It was bitter, but it offered the right mix of fear and curiosity for me to interact how I needed to.

Blasted draconic fixation. Blasted hair trigger aura of terror, blasted perfectly rational fear at creatures who could eat you for breakfast!

Louise made a sound. Up already? That was fast… well best get to work. I had a new reputation to work on after all, and the quickest way to do that would be to start training up my new apprentices… I knew Louise's type. Now that she had seen strength like that, she would stop at nothing to have it for herself.

And I was the only way she could get it.

Shadow of Zero X

"Wah… again?" She blinked a few times.

"Yes again… we really must work on strengthening your constitution master." I chided, shaking my head in faux disappointment. "A small illusion like that and you just pass out? For shame." In truth I was actually quite impressed, even the boldest of knights were often shaken by dragon fear, and my aura of terror was particularly potent for my age, honed well from my continuous practice in the arcane arts. Hum, maybe if I continued to expose her at regular intervals' I could build up her resistance… it would be handy if we ever got in a scrape and I had to go all out.

She was flustered by that, I had hit a button, handy to know…

"What was that?" she asked. "Those images…"

"A basic first circle illusion, 'Silent Image'. As the name suggests, it generates a simple, silent image." I explained. "Handy for distractions or as you saw illustrations. Combined with another little spell 'ghost sound' you can actually make a rather convincing play all on your own." I explained. "Though holding two spells simultaneously can be difficult, and the spell itself has a great number of limitations, mostly in range." I added in.

"Illusion, first circle? It was all fake then?" she asked still not fully out of it.

I nodded. "A made up scenario… admittedly based on an actual fight between two dragons I once witnessed, but for the most part made up. Just a realistic little story to show you the meaning behind my words."

She shivered at that, torn between disbelieving me out of shear unwillingness to believe in such things, but somehow Knowing that I spoke truth.

My guess on that one was the familiar bond.

"Your world really holds such creatures?" she asked quietly.

I nodded, and offered her the tray of fruit I had brought with me. Our meal had been interrupted after all, I selected an apple for myself as I did so. "Yes. And many others like them to be honest. I fear that in the lands I come from, both human and elves are rather low on the food chain." I explained with a bit of morbid humor.

"The enemy of my enemy." She muttered, and I raised an eyebrow at that.

Noticing my words she explained. "Just something my mother told me once."

I nodded, I shelved the subject to be explored later. She continued. "I guess I can understand how humans and elves would work together in your world then." She said shivering again. "To deal with things like That."

"Not all dragons are evil. They are intelligent, rational beings just like any other… they just happen to be very dangerous ones." I stated slyly. "I myself befriended more than one on my travels. Most of my magic was learned from dragons." To be specific my ancestors. "But that is not what has your interest now is it?" I asked.

"Magic… you said you've seen humans who could fight things like that. But I thought magic didn't work on them?" she asked, confused on the apparently contradictory points.

"No, Lesser magic doesn't work on them. You need something powerful, or to simply Be powerful. Some creatures are innately resistant to certain spells as you most likely know." She nodded. "Dragons are rather resistant to most magic, and normally immune to at least a few types of spells. But strong enough ones will overcome their resistance, and harm them." I eyed her carefully. "You might just be capable of such magic given time."

Her eyes widened at that. "Really?" She stated with far more surprise then I had anticipated.

I nodded, well she managed to summon me to begin with, the only other dragon caller of the group had been a girl I'd hesitate to take on in a fight, and she had only brought forth a young one, much less resistant to such things. What was a disintegrate spell compared to that? "I happen to have a fine eye for talent." I informed her, and then smirking poked her on the nose. "I think you have it." Rising up, I took back the tray, and she quickly snatched a few fruits off it.

"What are these circles you speak of then?" she asked. "Last night you called that summoning 'fourth circle' and that illusion 'first circle' when you talked about mages, you mentioned nine." She said.

I raised an eyebrow openly impressed. "You listened. Good. I'm not sure how the magic here works, but where I come from it operates in a strict ranking system of one to nine… well technically zero to ten, but that's more detail then I care to go into." I waved it off. "These ranks are often called levels, or circles, or degrees. The term doesn't really matter that much. What does is that with every advance you increase, the power, complexity, and the difficulty dramatically. A simple attack spell can be more than twice as powerful then it's processor." I smiled ruefully "In truth I myself am only a mage of the fifth, and I've put a lot more effort into getting there than most." I stated firmly.

"pentagon magic?" she whispered wide eyed.

"Pentagon?" I question, then sat back down, and offered another fruit, she was half way through her pear, and I picked up one in kind. "You know It occurs to me, that I have been explain a great deal of the magic of my land, but you still haven't told me much of the magic of this one. I've surmised a few things, but I'd really like to have your take on it."

She took an orange this time, and began to slowly peal it. "Well here magic is done only by nobles." I nodded, having surmised as such. "Nobility comes from magic." That sounded like some sort of propaganda. I really must visit the library here soon. "There are five main elements to magic, Fire, Water, Earth, Air, and the lost element of Void."

That confused me. "Lost element? How do you lose an element of your magic system?"

She shot me a look. Good, I didn't want her completely cowed, just respectful. "Magic passes down in bloodlines, as do elements. There have been a few exceptions, but for the most part that is how it is."

"Ah… so it's not just magic, but the element itself that passed down? So a water mage is unable to use fire magic?" I guessed/questioned.

She nodded at once. "Normally. However, you can use different magic from different points." She started.

"Points?" I quested again.

Another look, best be a bit more cautious less she give up in frustration… "All mages are ranked." She started. "Similar to your 'circles' only with our magic, a mage can only reach four." She stated this while looking a little… sheepish? Well four points of power actually reminded me of creatures such as warlocks or dragonfire adepts, both of them use 'invocation's that only reached up through four tiers of power. "These points most often are of the same element. A dot earth mage is likely to become a line Earth mage." She started.

"But not always..." I summarized. "And when you have two… sub elements?"

"Yes!" she nodded. "Like Tabatha, she uses both water and wind to make Ice." She frowned a bit at that, and grimaced like an ugly smell had come across her nose.

Evokers? Wu-Jen? No, go in open minded… this was an entirely new branch of magic.

I couldn't help the giddy feeling the surged up through me at that. Obviously the magic was complex enough to warrant a school. They must have expanded on elemental magic's in ways I could hardly dream of. I leaned in obviously interested. "Ah! Familiars!" I said with a sudden realization. "That one girl had a lizard with a flaming tail, and that boy had a dire mole of some kind. How could I miss it? All are elementally aligned."

She nodded, looking surprised at my deduction. "Yes, a familiar represents what a mage's element is. They are an extension of the mage, and as such as much a part of them as any limb." She quoted poetically. Cute.

I at once started categorizing familiars to the mages I had seen them linked to. This kind of strategic data was invaluable, I could now tell the type of attack an enemy would send at my simply from viewing there companion. Such an odd yet intriguing branch of magic!

That brought me up short however on one thing. What did I represent?

Dragons were elemental creatures, they breath forth primal forces, embodied them, lived as them to an extent.

The thought struck like a lightning bolt.

I looked up at Louise and the words came across my tongue. "Master… what is your element?

I was Darastrix'sjach, a shadow dragon.

She looked down in shame and rage. "…I… don't know. I summoned you right? So I must be a mage. But none of the basic elemental spells work for me." She added in shamefully, as if confessing a hideous secret.

My 'element' if you could call it that was the absence of light, of life, negative energy.

A void.