Chapter 2- Jon, the Sage of Water

 

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Previously on Aetherius Saga…

After years of traveling Zeratal; Jon the Compassionate returns to his home of Cider Village along the northern coast. But rather than a warm homecoming he finds the town being threatened by the Crustavo, a species of pseudo-humanoid Crabs. Their Elder summons a Leviathan to battle him but Jon dispatches it with ease. In the process, he reveals himself as the Sage of Water, one of the Seven Sages of Zeratal…

To many, the Seven Sages were just myth and fairytales. It was difficult to conceive of individuals with enough power to challenge the Elementals. But standing before Jon, the Crustavo Elder knew that the stories were true…and it terrified him knowing he had now made an enemy of a Demigod. Jon walked slowly and calmly towards him but fear kept him and his followers from moving. Jon reaches for the Crustavo Elder, places his hand on the back of his head, and pulls him closer so their foreheads are touching.

“Be at ease.” Jon says peacefully. The sudden kindness confused the Crustavo Elder yet he calmed down in an instant. The Aether began to swirl around the pair. Jons was a pure and clean white while the Elders a dark blue hue with black stains in it. “All this pain and anger…You don’t need to hold onto all of this.” Mixing his own Aether with the Crustavo Elders, the black stains begin to fade and it turns into a light blue shade. Releasing him, Jon smiles sincerely. “All will be well. I promise.”

“Why are you doing this?” The Crustavo Elder asks.

“Wouldn’t you help someone in need if you had the power? Isn’t that why you were taking tributes from Cider? You need to protect your young but simply don’t have enough people to go out and hunt as you used to.”

“You knew?” he asks in shock.

It was a little-known fact that due to hunting by Guilds across Zeratal, the Crustavo have become an endangered species. They once ruled the known sea but when it was discovered that their shells made good armor and weapon materials they were hunted. The Nomads of Va’ Sif had already been eating them as a common delicacy and even their organs were used for medicine. Being hunted closer and closer to extinction they had no other choice but to fabricate a lie to get materials and food from unwary villagers. In reality, the Yagyu Clan had no interest in Cider Village.

“Actually…at first I didn’t. But then I saw it in your Aether as clear as day. I promise you, I will not allow harm to come to your people any further.” Turning to the sea, Jon kneels and prays. His Aether glowed bright and spread into the water and ocean beyond the cove. Even the highlands and Cider become enveloped in his warm glow. “So long as this place remains protected. So long as this land remains pure…all shall be protected by my light.” His enchantment made, Jon relaxes and stands up. Tella jumping on his shoulder and rubbing against his face. “If you work with the people of Cider you can both live in peace and harmony. Neither of you will have any reason to despair.”

The Crustavo Elder was humbled by Jons actions. He stopped the Leviathans attack and was now protecting both the village and his species without having to take a single life. If he had been here sooner then how much strife could they have avoided? “I thank you great Sage for what you’ve done.” he says kneeling before Jon.

“Please, you don’t have to do that. We’re all equals just trying to get by. I’m just here to help anyone and everyone I can.” Jon says with his trademark smile before leaving Neith’s Cove. It saddened him that the Cove was damaged in the fight but it pleased him being able to save what was left of a species. With the Crustavo now pacified, the people of Cider exited their homes and greeted their saviors return joyously.

“Thank you great Sage.” The Village Chief, Rosalind of Cider, says with a bow. Rosalind was once the right hand of the former Chief of Cider, Chief Gram. A pragmatic woman, she believed in equal exchanges above all else. As the Chief, she wore elegant tan robes that covered the length of her body. It was accented by black and blue designs along the collar and sleeves. Her hair cut short to not obscure her vision while working.

“Please, no bowing! I’m not any different than I was before. You don’t have to be so formal.”

“It’s only right. You saved our home and we have no way to repay you.”

“You don’t have to repay me.” Jon says with a smile before his stomach growls.

“How about we hold a feast?” Rosalind suggests.

“No, I couldn’t ask you to do that.” he tries to hide his hunger. He may be a demigod, but he still needed to do all the basic things like eating and sleeping to survive.

“You were always a kind and polite lad.” Rosalind muses nostalgically. “Fine, we won’t hold you a feast.”

“No! Well…maybe we could do a little feast…” Jon blurts out. He spent so much time walking and tending to others he’d often neglect his own health and wellbeing. He didn’t even remember the last time he actually ate.

“Well, it’s settled then.”

“You heard the Chief, start preparing the feast.” A man in similar robes to Rosalind says. Alyx of Cider was his name and he was the Chief’s effective right hand. He talked big even though he just followed orders.

“So, who’s this little guy?” Rosalind asks looking at Tella.

“Tella, she’s been traveling with me for a while.”

“Oh? So you’ve found a companion. I’m glad for you.” her smile begins to turn sour. “Jon…”

“Don’t worry about it, the past is the past.” he interjects with a forced smile.

Cider Village, while largely peaceful, had a period of great turmoil. The Kingdom of Celestia had begun a mad dash to increase its military strength. In the process, it willingly razed villages and captured ideal candidates. The Kingdom of Orion responded in kind. Cider Village was one of many forced under its boot and suffered at its hands. To appease the Kingdom they conceded to it much like they did with the Crustavo. But rather than tribute just food and materials they demanded the youths be conscripted into the command. Before he learned of his Sage heritage, Jon was one of the many who got forcibly conscripted though he never chose to share what it entailed. Rosalind felt great grief over this turn of events. While she wasn’t Village Chief at the time of the incident she hated that such a thing was allowed to happen at all.

“Actually…that does remind me…” Jons face turns serious.

“Yes?”

“Will you give me a place to stay too?”

“…What…”

“You see I don’t really have a place to stay and since you’re already throwing a feast I figured…” Jon grins casually.

“No way! You saved us but there’s a limit!” She shouts fiercely.

“B-but Chief…I thought we were friends…” his eyes fill with fake tears.

“Sage or not you’re just a damn freeloader!”

“I’m not a freeloader I’m just a hermit.”

“Then you shouldn’t mind sleeping outside.” Rosalind responds with a sinister annoyed grin.

“You’re so mean to your savior. Barbarian chief! Where’s your compassion?”

“Don’t you try to guilt trip me!” she steps towards Jon ready to strike him. He may be a Sage, but she still knew him as the child who spent more time drawing than working.

“Tella save me!” Jon cries holding up Tella as a shield to her dismay.

Jon the Compassionate, Sage of Water, was one of the Seven Sages that protected the world. One of the strongest individuals ever born…but for all his power he was still just a young man…and a cheap one at that…But today was a rare opportunity for Cider Village to celebrate. They spared no expense; food, fun, and their private stash of wine were given to all, even the Crustavo. At first, they were hesitant but hearing of their plight and in the presence of Jon, all were welcome. After a long night of partying the village was exhausted and now quiet. Jon sat awake watching as the clouds blew by with Tella by his side.

“You gonna lie around and be lazy all day or are you gonna help clean up?” Rosalind asks the lazy Sage but receives no response. “Hello? You there?” she asks again but receives no response. Annoyed, she throws a bag of supplies on top of him. “I already know what that look means.”

“Is this for me?” Jon asks surprised.

“I can’t have you running off again without anything. I just have one request.” Jon wasn’t very good at hiding how he felt at times. She could easily tell on his face that she was about to leave once more.

“Sure.”

“Tell me where you’re going this time.”

“Well, I thought I’d visit my brother in the Mystic Jungles.” he answers standing to his feet and patting dirt off his pants. “Maybe swing by Cerise’s while I’m in the area.”

“Everything okay?” she asks concerned.

“Everything’s fine.” he says with a smile. “Just haven’t been in the area in so long thought that maybe I’d say hi.”

“Thank you for gracing us with your presence oh great Sage.” she bows. “May your trip be a peaceful one.”

“Um…thanks…” Jon replies smiling awkwardly.

With a wave, Jon leaves Cider for the Mystic Jungles to the West. Covering the largest portion of Poluyim, its thick forestation held many mysteries. Not even the Trelza, the humanoids with cat-like features who lived in its southern region, knew all that the jungle had to offer. All manner of creatures were being discovered every day and were cataloged by the scholars of Endymion. To aid travelers, a number of Aetherial guide posts were left to help navigate. Yet even then many would lose their way. The Gaia Swamp was located to the west and connected to the ocean. It was one of the few locations that were known to be hidden within the Mystic Jungles and was the single largest swamp in all of Zeratal. It’s said to have been created by the tears of the Elemental Gaia itself. Regardless of how he went about it, it’d be a long journey before he’d finally meet his family again.

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