Day One, 3:24 pm-
Fin sat in a plush, overstuffed leather chair, waiting outside of Magister Rochester’s office. The reception room was fairly large, filled with twenty or so of the same chairs. There were several paintings on the walls, abstract pieces that mainly consisted of splashes of red and black paint. In the center of the wooden floor was a large circle of dark marble, inlaid with the silver insignia of the Conduits. The large, double oak doors to the Magister’s office clicked open, and Xander and Grace walked out. Their faces were taut, lips thin and straight, and their eyes were distant.
“How’d it go? Fin asked.
Xander shook his head, and he and Grace left the room.
“Conduit Grayson Fin, please, come in.” Magister Rochester’s voice was flat, neutral.
Fin stood and walked through the double doors. They closed silently, except for the soft click of the latch. The Magister’s office was just as impressive as the reception room, only slightly larger. Bookshelves lined the wall, filled with books of all sorts. There were books on old wars, books on the theory and practice of magic and science. There were even recreational books, like the popular series Moonlight.
“Have a seat, Fin.” The magister motioned to more of the overstuffed leather chairs. They were arranged in a half circle, facing the immense, car-sized, black marble desk. It had the Conduits insignia inlaid in silver in the front.
Fin shifted his sword, and sat down. “Sir.”
“Do you know why you’re here?”
Fin leveled his grey eyes at the Magister. “I disobeyed you. And insulted you in front of the mundane forces and the other Conduits.”
A smirk danced across the Magister’s face. And then it was passive again. “That is a part of it, yes.” Magister Rochester folded his hands and set them on the desk. “You have always been one of the more spirited, and dedicated, Conduits here. That is both good and dangerous. Grace tells me you almost burned your sword.”
“I take this solemn oath, to become a Conduit of justice, grace, mercy, and vengeance. To protect the weak in the world. To serve as a shield and a sword. I will strike down my enemies and shield my allies. I am a Conduit, and I swear this on my soul.” Magister Rochester’s brown eyes were locked on Fin. “I took the same oath as you, Fin. You saved a lot of people today, but at what cost? You almost lost your soul.”
Fin gripped his hilt tightly. “Someone had to do something! Who knows how many innocent people would have died! And don’t tell me that one Conduit is worth more than that.”
Magister Rochester shook his head. “You don’t understand, Fin. If we die on the battlefield, our souls grounded through our swords, we risk everything. If your sword burns out, where do you think all of that energy is going to go? That backlash would blast your soul from your body, and you would become the very thing you are trying to fight.” Magister Rochester glanced out of the window by him, watching the haze of fires and battles drifting by. “Are you willing to risk your humanity defeating an enemy that has none?”
Fin sat in silence, the Magister’s words resonating through his head. He leaned forward, resting his chin on his hands, elbows propped on his knees. He looked out the window, watching as a group of helicopters flew by. “I just felt like I had to do something. I can’t leave people to die without at least trying.”
“I understand that, Fin. That’s what makes you such a great Conduit. But you have to find a balance. If you become a Soulless, is it worth it? And yes, you saved a lot of lives, but at what risk? You almost burned; how many Soulless did you kill?”
Fin sunk back into the plush chair. “Just a few.”
Magister Rochester leaned forward, eyes peering at Fin. “Your display of power was impressive, but impractical. A large, area focused attack like that will take far more energy than single, tightly focused attacks.”
“But the beams don’t do anything to them.”
The Magister smiled. “Maybe not. But you were able to get meteorites to kill them. The three of you should take a breather. Get some rest. I’ll open up the archives for you; see if you can find anything that might help us from the War of Souls.” Magister Rochester’s smile faded away, and his eyes seemed to cloud over. “And pray that we can prevent this from turning into another war.”
“Yes, Magister. Thank you.”
“You’re free to go, just keep in mind what we talked about.” Magister Rochester looked down to his desk, shuffling through papers and glancing at his computer.
Fin left, the click behind him from the doors echoed faintly in the reception room. He was surprised to find Xander and Grace waiting for him in the hall. They nodded at him easily, but their hands where white on their swords.
“Well?” Xander grumbled.
“We need to hit the archives. See if we can find out more about the Soulless, and a better way to kill them.”
Grace reached up, her fingers almost brushing his cheek before she dropped her hand and patted his shoulder. “Are you doing okay, Fin?”
Fin squeezed her hand. “Yeah. We just need to find a way to kill the Soulless without killing ourselves.”
Xander sighed. “Time to the hit the books then. God, I thought I was done with this studying crap.”
They turned a corner, teleported, and walked through the silver doors of the archives. The room was huge. Thousands upon thousands of bookshelves lined the walls and made up aisles that covered the large expanse. Right after the doors, there was a small section of desks and computers. Like everything else in command, the Conduits had spared no expense: oak bookshelves, marble desks, and large leather chairs.
“Where do we even begin?” Fin wondered.
“Just gonna throw this out there, but I’m guessing the War of Souls.” Xander was standing by the group of desks, looking at the books that surrounded them.
Fin walked to a bookshelf, grabbing a book titled A Field Guide to Indigenous Magical Beings and Creatures. He flipped through it absently, beautiful illustrations blurring through the pages. “Any idea where those books would be?”
Grace pointed off into the distance. “Over there. It has its own section.”
“How do you know that?” Fin was still holding the book.
Grace smirked and pointed at the computer in front of her. “I looked it up. Do guys really never look for directions?”
Xander guffawed. “Alright, let’s get going. I imagine we’ve got a lot of reading ahead of us.”
Fin slammed the book shut, an image of a man surrounded by fire, air, water, and earth flashing before him, with the word “Elementalist.” He put the book back, and followed Xander and Grace into the far corner of the archives.
After several hours, and just as many trips, they had a small mountain of books on the desks before them. There were still piles of books on the handcarts they had found, making moving the mountain a little easier. The archives were silent, except for the turning of pages, tapping of computer keys, and the scratch of pen against paper. Every now and then, one of their heads would pop up, and they’d mention something that they thought was important. They searched through book after book, taking pages and pages of notes. Finally, after hours, the room was still, its silence only broken by snoring. They were asleep, heads on the desks in whatever book they had been reading.
An archive clerk came in, and gently woke them. She told them that she would keep the archives closed, and keep their research where they had left it. Fin, Xander, and Grace all nodded groggily. They walked out of the archives and toward their quarters. Fin stopped just outside the silver doors and looked back. He hoped the answers were in that mountain of books and notes they had; that it just needed to be unearthed. And soon. He turned, and followed Xander and Grace, happy to find sleep and comfort in his bed.