Chapter seven: As Time Passes

Time passed, as it has a tendancy to do. I continued my physical training with GoGo along with my smithy training, as well as continued practicing magic under Goddess' guidance. I also continued having, bedroom adventures with Siren, although the relationship never seemed to really go anywhere. I think what it was is that we were young, stupid and bored out of their minds. Now that I look back on it I realize such behavior was really stupid, and I could have said "no" at any occasion. But I didn't.

Still, it didn't interfere with years of training. My skills as a mage increased tenfold, as did my ability to make things in the forge. Sometimes I got creative and instead of making weaponry or armor or even pots and pans, I'd make something random and out of the blue.

One such day, GoGo had left the forge on some sort of business, and Goddess calmly stood in the doorway, watching me. She tended to watch me and many of her other Espers, so this was nothing new. It didn't bother me that a deity hovered over me either; she was as commonplace as the furnature at this point. Except furnature wasn't full of commentary.

"What art thou doing, Tritoch?" she asked, mildly curious.

"Working as usual, Goddess." I was carefully welding something with fire magic, since my project was a bit delicate.

"Ah, an oblique response." She came to stand next to me. "What art thou working on, then?"

I shrugged in an offhand manner. "A gift. I haven't decided for whom yet. I just...started making it yesterday, and I'm finishing it off today."

"Why create something as a gift before thou dost know whom it's for? Why not plan?"

I paused for a minute, and then went back to my meticulous task. "Hm...I guess the answer to that would be: "because I can". I've made things for people in mind before...but sometimes it can be fun to do something randomly, without any real worry about planning." I finished my welding of thin mythril petal to the head of the rose I was making. I was actually quite proud of something I made with little planning, but I wasn't about to boast about it. "Like this rose here....I started out just making the stem, then added leaves and thorns, and then re-did the petals to make it more realistic. But still, I didn't know I was going to make a rose out of steel and mythril yesterday morning." I carefully began to cool the glowing petals in a small vat of water, watching as the reddish glow faded to the familiar silvery-blue of cool mythril.

"So doing such a thing, on a whim, on inspiration, gives thee joy?"

"Well, yeah. If it didn't make me happy, I probably wouldn't do it."

"Hm..." Goddess sat down on a nearby workbench, seemingly out of place in her flimsy gown and braided tresses. "Is that why you continue to serve me?"

I didn't even look at her, or hesitate in asking. "Of course. If you hadn't found me, I don't know where I'd be right now. I'm very happy here, so the least I can do is be your servant and try to make you happy."

I felt her arms slip around my shoulders, and her kiss my cheek. It tingled a bit. "My Tritoch," she laughed. "...thou art among mine most loyal, and that doth make me happy."

I, a bit embarassed about this show of affection, awkwardly handed her the metal rose. "Then I'm happy. I'd do anything for you."

She pulled away, holding the rose to her face like it was a living plant. "For me?"

"It's not as beautiful as a real rose, and it doesn't smell like one....but it's the least I can do."

Goddess looked up to me, her eyes glinting with joy and perhaps something hidden. "Oh no, there is so much more thou canst do for me. Please mine Tritoch, meet me outside this hut in thine wyvern form in no more than an hour.....'tis time I speak to thee about something of importance."

I bowed. "Whatever you wish, Goddess."

She smiled, and left the room.

I hurried to the dining hall to snag something to eat before my meeting with Goddess. I had no real idea what she wanted to talk to me about, but I figured it was yet another kind of training. I had no idea what sort of training; I had a small academic education at this point..I could read and write, and knew a bit about arithmatic and science. I had spend years learning magic and swordsplay, and learning how to be a blacksmith. What was she going to get me into next, cooking? I hoped that wasn't the case, because whenever I tried to cook anything, it wound up blackened and dry.

Dammit Jim, I'm an Esper, not a chef.

Lich was kind enough to serve me up some sandwiches, even though I insisted he didn't need to. I thanked him, and headed towards the back to sit at my customary table. Surprisingly, somebody was already sitting there.

"Missed dinner again, huh Tri?" The familiar voice said. He didn't have to turn around, his silver hair and tone of voice gave him away.

"Hars?" I said around a mouthfull of sandwich. I chewed and swallowed. "Long time no see."

"Eh." He motioned me to sit down, which I did. "Tri, I have to talk to you about something..."

"Yeah, sure...go ahead."

"Goddess is hiding something from me. I think I know what it is..."

"We all think she's hiding something from all of us." I took another bite of sandwich.

"Really? Is she keeping a cap on your powers?"

"Er, no. She's doing that to you? Why?"

He sighed and steepled his hands before him, staring straight past me at nothing in particular. "Because of my element...I'm a time elemental. No Esper has that ability, none. I've looked, I've asked, and nobody has ever been able to control time like me. I used to be able to see into the past, and into the future...and even into alternate nows. Sometimes it seemed almost like I could exist in those times too."

I was flabberghasted. "That's....amazing. Why didn't you tell us you could do this before?"

He gave a disgusted snort. "Because each time I'd discover a new ability, Goddess would tell me that I wasn't ready for it yet, and seal it away. I can cast some spells, yeah....but I can't see into the past anymore, not even mine. I only got a glimpse at where I came from." He let his hands drop and rest on the table, and stared at them. "Tritoch, I'm not an Esper like you are."

"Then what exactly are you?"

"A dragon."

"Oh sure, that sums it up. I knew you were a dragon anyway. How does that not make you an Esper?"

He was quiet for a minute, and then he answered. "Because I saw my parents, I remember them, if barely. They weren't human, although they had human forms. They were dragons...dragon gods, to be exact. Which would make me..." He didn't need to finish the sentence.

"So...what are you going to do about it?"

Harsghalt made a frustrated sound. "I don't know, I have no frickin' idea. Goddess has me neatly planted under her thumb, and I can barely squirm at this point. What would be better for her than to have her own baby godling to bend to her will? Not only that, but one with the power to alter time, space and the very existance around us?" He slammed his fist on the table. "It's not fair! I don't want to live my life out as her shitty little pawn! I want to find my parents, to learn who I really am and what I can really do, not serve a devious goddess in some war I don't understand."

My ears perked up at the word. "War?"

He looked up at me and narrowed his silver eyes. "You don't even know what's happening?"

"I'm afraid not, but some things are getting crystal clear now. Like the training with magic, and then with swords. And then I was trained as a smith: to make armor and weapons, no doubt."

"You catch on quick. Yeah, we're at war...that's where I've been for the past few years. I've been fighting other Espers, the troops of Doom and Poltergiest in a bizzare three-way war. From what I've seen, it's a war where nobody's the good guy or the bad guy. We're all just pieces on some gameboard that the three goddesses are moving around at their whim, as the part of some game. It's a pointless war, and now it's starting to effect the humans too. All for what? So the three goddesses can have their fun and try to out-do each other in what they view as a fun little competition."

"I knew it had to be something, but I didn't know it'd be this. This is insane."

"We all think it's insane, Tri....but would YOU go against a god? Would you rebel? Even I'm afraid to try. I'm going to keep fighting, and try to ride it out. Hopefully in a few years this disgusting war will end." He stood. "I'd better get going, I only have a few more hours left of freedom before I'm shipped back to the front lines. I imagine I'll see you there soon."

I watched as he left the dining hall, my mind dizzy with all the information I had just recieved. So that was it? That's why the goddesses created the Espers? Not out of accident, but to create magical troops of mythical monsters? And what about me? I knew that's what Goddess had in mind now, that's what she wanted to speak to me about. But the one thing that screamed at me the most was the thought of Nartch, and why it was destroyed. In that spat between Doom and Poltergiest, there were no Espers fighting; only the two goddesses towering over the town, flinging magic all over the place. Nartch wasn't destroyed out of an accident, or because two goddesses had lousy aim with their magic. Nartch wasn't razed and I wasn't created by some sort of fluke. It had all been planned. I was made to fight, and nothing more.

I looked down at my half-eaten sandwich. Suddenly I wasn't very hungry anymore.

* * *

Within an hour's time, I was waiting outside the smithy, in wyvern form. I was sour about how Goddess had duped me, and how she had manipulated all the others. Still, I wasn't going to let that show in our meeting. I lay coiled there calmly, with my wings slightly spread and my arms folded over my chest. My lower set of arms rested on the ground, one of them tapping irritably on the grass. I really didn't want to let her see me angry, but it was fairly hard to do seeing that my life was a joke. I was made to fight, made to serve.

Wouldn't that make you angry? Wouldn't you want to bite the person in two that did that to you? Okay, bad analogy but you get my point.

Goddess walked around the corner, still holding the metal rose I gave to her earlier. She smiled lightly at me. "Tritoch,"

I fluffed up the feathers on my head and neck like a chicken, and then flattened them. "Goddess,"

"Thou dost seem...annoyed?"

"Something a friend was saying earlier. Don't worry about it, I won't let it interfere with our meeting here."

She smiled again and sat down on a large rock. "Ah, good...for thine mind must remain clear." Goddess looked up at the moon. "Tritoch, did I ever tell thee that there wert two moons?"

I glanced up at the moon. Even with my one bad eye I could make out every crater and valley. "No, I never knew that."

"That is because the second moon is gone. It was destroyed in a great battle. The Dragon god Bahamut sought to make it his home, but when it was destroyed he disappeared. He was mine ally of sorts."

"Ally in what?"

"Thou art sly, Tritoch. An ally in the constant battles that mine sisters wage against me. Battles that have taken place since the fall of the second moon." She looked at me with her clear blue eyes. "Battles that continue, even today. Which is why thou art here now, Tritoch. As a duty, thou must serve me in these fights."

I knew that was coming, but I still felt a twinge of fear when I heard it. "In a war? But..."

"There are no buts, Tritoch." she snapped coldly, cutting me short. "Thou art mine Esper, and as mine Esper, thou shalt fight in my name. It is why thou wert trained so, why thou spent years here. I spent time training thee so thou wouldst survive. I would not send thee out if I doubted thine abilities."

"Yes, my goddess."

"I wish for thee to create thyself a decent sword, and armor."

"Yes, my goddess." I said a bit more quietly.

"Thou doth have one month before thou art sent to fight against the forces of Poltergiest. Starting tomorrow, thou shalt make thine equiment with the skills mine angel Gorangiath Gonoth'arr taught thee. Hasten to bed and rest, for tomorrow will be a busy day for thee. Goddess stood, still holding the rose, and left the smithy yard, leaving me alone.

And thus I entered the War of the Magi.

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