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Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Purifying Fire - Chapter 3

Welcome to the Western Wood.

The Purifying Fire - Chapter 3

Constant communication with the forest is important, and so Chandra is sent on a mission to be escorted by the elven chief, Samir Mia Kaludi , to go down to the woods. And this time she decides to bring Brannon along with her. As they walk, Samir as distressing news of the Order of Heliud's intrusion into the forest by way of their ghost wardens.

Brannon cried, "I've heard of ghost wardens! They've got flowing white hair, and white armor, and no real legs, just wispy trails of magic dust where their feet should be! the float around in silence, spying on their masters' enemies!"

They're being used to monitor the forest, and while reports claim that they have no hands yet can shoot lighting from the stumps of their arms those are actually exaggeration. Although the energy bolts they shoot do sting. There have even been reports of the Order taking control of other smaller forests, and they've actually cut every single tree down only to replant them in neat and tidy rows in the name of efficiency! Naturally the result was the disturbance of the forests flow of mana.

The Order of Heliud is getting out of hand and Mother Luti believes they must be taught that both fire and forest know no mercy. Samir agrees. The ghost warden presence in the name of protection is only a first step. Samir remains a chief powerful enough to never have his leadership challenged, thanks to his abilities as a summoner, but he's sad to also tell Chandra that support for his stance against the Order isn't as strong as he would like.

The encroachment into the forest has been a large enough concern that Samir actually made the trek to the city of Zinara. There he saw first hand how they put plants in pots and trim trees to restrict their growth in an appalling imitation of life. He stubbornly refused to leave the Temple grounds until he was granted an audience with Walbert III himself. There Walbert only said that he was ensuring unity throughout the land in the name of safety and order. That the ghost wardens are just there to alert his summoners to send help should any help be required. When Samir continued to voice concern about what is being done, Walbert just offered him titles in exchange for helping to encourage his people to accept this new way.

Samir has no doubts that after the Western Wood is under control of the Order, Keralia Keep is next. Brannon asks why they hate fire so much and the chief says they don't hate fire exactly.

"I think what they don't like," said Samir, "is the nature of those who wield it. The Order of Heliud believes that no one is above the law. The law equalizes." He shrugged. "Isn't it true that you Keralians believe there is no law greater than the will of fire? You believe fire burns the criminal and the prosecutor equally, yes? The Heliuds believe that the righteous may pass through fire unscathed."

Chandra frowned. "What are you talking about?"

"I am talking about the Purifying Fire."

It's believed that long ago a man named Heliud and his followers were exiled from the city of Thold. They traveled across the sea with the belief in their leader and his guidance by the Divine Will. They arrived where Zinara now stands, but when they arrived many of his followers were beginning to doubt he would actually lead them to their promised new home. Heliud was exiled by his followers, weak and emaciated, only to return a few days later in perfect health. He claimed he found a white flame that he threw himself into a form of penance. He said that the fact that he emerged stronger than before was proof of his righteousness. Heliud took one of the doubters, Zin, to this sacred flame but only Heliud returned. Zin himself is honored this day as the catalyst necessary to test Heliud's rightful place among his people. As for the Purifyig Fire itself, only a select few are allowed to see it, but it's believed to be a source of pure mana.

Walbert is the new custodian of the Purifying Fire and his ambitions are quite clear. First he outlawed fire magic within his territory, then he sent ghost wardens to patrol the forest, and now druids have been arrested for the ancient practice of summoning creatures for ritual combat.

Chandra is infuriated and asks more details about these ghost wardens of theirs. How effective are they as spies? It turns out, quite effective. There's a ghost warden watching them right now and Samir has no idea how long it's been there.

The ghost warden doesn't make a sound, doesn't blink, and doesn't move. Chandra asks if its master can see through its eyes at all times or if it needs to make some kind of report. Samir says he thinks they work like alarms and are used to summon patrols to their locations and Chandra decides they should kill it and test that theory.

Chandra blazes with fire and the ghost warden finally reacts by shooting her in the stomach with a beam of white light. Chandra feels like she's been stung by the largest wasp to ever live but she's fine otherwise. They help her up and chase after the fleeing spirit.

The impatient Chandra decides it's a waste of time to run around bushes and decides to just force her way through the one before her, only to find that idea is a big mistake. The bush is too thick and the thorns cling to her clothes. She has to burn her way out. As soon as she does so she realizes she made another mistake as the that act of destruction causes an enraged tiny oufe to drop on her from the tree above.

"I'm sorry about your bush! But I don't have time for this!"

She continues her pursuit while conscious that the little guy continues to chase her. Soon the one oufe becomes two, and two becomes a whole pack of oufes. Chandra doesn't have time to deal with them. She needs to kill that warden so she tells Samir to handle them. With that out of the way she throws up a wall of fire to block the warden's retreat. All around her she can hear the shrieking of oufes and the sound of approaching hoofbeats, but the ghost warden is all that matters. It tries to fight back, but three fireballs later the ghost is eliminated.

Samir warns her about the coming soldiers, but she sends more fireballs their way as well. As they flee she yells out to them.

"Leave this forest! Never come back! Tell Walbert what you have seen! The Order is finished here!"

Brannon interrupts her victory by letting her know that Samir thinks it best that they leave. He can barely keep the oufes at bay with his tangle of vines, and they are quite ready to strip her flesh from her bones to feed it to the wolves.

* * *


Killing the ghost warden and attacking the soldiers probably wasn't the brightest of ideas, but it certainly fits within her character. It's becoming increasingly clear that this book has a much lighter tone than that of the brooding Jace in Agents of Artifice.

Will Chandra just stumble her way out of everything by relying on her raw power and instincts? It'll be interesting to see if that can be pulled off effectively. I tend to like characters who put some thought into how they approach things. A little bit is fun, but I can imagine that if this keeps up it may get stale. Another possibility is that the seriousness of the coming war and the possible destruction of her friends and home may help her to learn that not every problem can simply be blown up.

Whichever way this goes, the problems are only going to escalate from here.

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