Everyone gathered were staring at the front with complex expression their faces. Some of the acolytes of the local temple looked more confused, while Faylen was doing her best not to laugh. Mazatl’s face was twitching and showing goddess only knows what feeling. “Alright acolytes, here we have a perfect representation of why just going through the motions doesn’t work.” Mazatl somehow managed to turn the disaster into a lesson.
“That bad huh.” Dee mumbled. She had been shown an example of how to do this particular ritual dance. She had thought that she had copied the movements pretty well.
‘Worse. They’re being nice.’ Croestia replied silently.
“Dee, you copied the movements perfectly. Even the bend of your fingers was exactly the same as what Priestess Shala showed us. However, that was it. There wasn’t a shred of emotion in your movements. They were technically perfect, although you did also copy the few mistakes Shala made, but without emotion the movements seem hollow.” Mazatl explained further.
She turned to the acolytes who had been gathered for the same lesson. “You should all take note. The technical execution of the ritual is less important than putting your heart into it. This isn’t some kind of dance competition. Now, if you are doing a high ranked ritual, then the technical side starts to matter more, but at your current level it’s more important to get the movements close enough and put your heart and soul into it. With experience, you’ll also get the technical aspect right, but even then your emotions matter just as much.”
Mazatl turned back to Dee. “Now try again, but this time pay less attention to the movements, and instead try to show some emotion with your movements. Put something of yourself into the ritual that you want to show to your deity.”
Dee though for a while. In the end, all she had to draw on was her own life and what had happened to her. Her movements started sharp and angry, depicting the flames of war, suffering and persecution. The sharp moves gave way to slow and languid movements with some playfulness, depicting peace and curiosity. The curiosity and peace were cut short by tortured movements depicting pain and darkness. This pain and darkness lasted for a while before once again giving way to hope and the possibility of a new life.
Mazatl didn’t have much trouble figuring out what the different movements represented, as she was familiar with Dee’s life with the assassins. She didn’t have a clear picture about what had come before that dark time, but she could make an educated guess. Many demons had felt the fires of the War in Heaven and the Holy Purge. Although Dee’s depiction of the feelings associated with that where somewhat naïve and simplistic, it was still a fair depiction of what sometimes happened after a war was lost.
What Mazatl didn’t notice, due to Dee hiding it from the people watching, was Dee’s final pose giving the middle finger towards the statue of Lumen inside the temple they were in.
Umbra couldn’t stop laughing. Dee’s two ritual dances had been a sight to behold. The last gesture towards Lumen’s statue was just the cherry on top of the cake.
“Oh shut it. I doubt she would be much nicer if she dedicated her ritual to you.” Lumen rebuked, while also trying to hide her grin. “That said, displays of emotion really aren’t her thing, are they?”
“Well, she’s still young. She really hasn’t gone through enough to really have weight behind her emotions. Even the darkest moments of her life pale in comparison to some other people. She hasn’t felt true love, suffered true loss or faced the true horrors of war and betrayal. She has the beginnings of a family, but no real family. Most of her life since the assassins has been fairly low-key. There were some ups and downs, but on the grand scale of things? Not so much.” Umbra waved her hand in dismissal.
“All of that and more is still in her future.” The old man said calmly.
“Her dancing still beats her singing.” Lumen pointed out in a burst of laughter.
Dee could howl at the moon with the best of them, but singing songs of praise? Not her forte.
“The irony is that she’d do well with singing if she did it in her angel form. Their vocal chords are practically designed for singing. Even their normal speech has a half singing melodic tone to it.” Umbra once again pointed out.
None of the three paid much attention to Death who in turn wasn’t taking part in the frivolities. She was looking at something else entirely. It wasn’t until she found what she was looking for and smiled a victorious smile that the old man finally paid attention. Death’s face was covered by the hood of her cloak, but the old man was attuned to her moods, having spent so much time together.
“What’s got you so happy Death?” The old man asked.
“It’s open.” Death replied simply, not at all minding that she had been found out. It was too late for the others to do anything now.
“What is open?” Lumen asked, suddenly becoming aware that Death seemed to be happy about something.
Death pointed a finger at the image of Dee. “Her Domain. It’s already open, and she has started laying the foundation.”
The three others became alert right away. “How? She isn’t immortal yet. Not even close. She should not be able to open her Domain yet.” Umbra pointed out, trying to convince herself.
“Funny thing that. Just because you don’t know how to use your power doesn’t mean you don’t have the power. She might not have enough skill to use her power near the level of an immortal, but the three of you made damn sure she had enough power to technically qualify as one. All that holy power laying there unused. All she needed was a little push. I’ll have to thank that poor little dragotaur for donating its soul for a greater purpose.” Death’s voice was definitely gloating.
“What foundation?” The old man noticed something the other two didn’t pay attention to earlier. “What is she building?”
“That’s for me to know and for you to find out. We all knew she wasn’t going to have a simple totem, or a simple soul space. For the rest, you’ll just have to wait and see. It’s too late to change anything now anyway. Once she has started to lay the foundation, it cannot be changed anymore.”
The three others knew Death was right. They all had plans about what would happen when Dee reached the rank of an immortal, but it seems Death had jumped ahead of them. Even with her Domain opening Dee wasn’t actually an immortal, but there would be consequences. Some positive, some less than positive.
With their dismal ritual lessons over, and Mazatl officially giving up on Dee’s singing and dancing for now, they finally had time for something else. There had been a question bothering Dee for a while now, and Mazatl seemed like the right person to ask. The saurian had been her teacher so far, so might as well continue with that trend.
“Mazatl, there’s a question I want to ask.” Dee started the ball rolling.
“Hmm? Ask away. It’s my duty to teach.” Mazatl prompted, now curious. Topics that Dee brought by herself had usually been interesting.
“Well, you taught me about the various ranks that people could have. We sort of glossed over what happens when a person reaches the tenth rank. I know I’m only a class six psion and the priest rank my deities gave me is almost a joke, but it did raise some questions. You told me there’s a difference between the ranks before rank ten and the ones after, but you didn’t really explain all that well what the difference is.” Dee explained her problem.
“Ah right, I guess this is something you should know. Seeing as your deities also ranked you above me.” Mazatl slightly grumbled to herself. “Do note that much of this information is anecdotal and speculative, as the immortals rarely like to share information about their powers, and only the higher ranked communities have immortals in their ranks. Even if a lower ranked community does develop an immortal, they usually get recruited to the high ranked communities to keep the balance. The immortals are the true war assets of the truly high ranked communities after all.”
“Anyway, immortals. The ranks below ten are largely denoted by their respective level of power. To gain a higher rank you generally need to just increase your level of power and learn more spells and techniques. The tenth rank is different however. I mean yes, the ranks above ten still denote power, and a rank eleven individual is still stronger than a rank nine, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. There’s a very specific thing you must do to qualify as an immortal, as the name implies. It is theoretically possible to have a rank nine person to be stronger than a rank ten person if you measure their combat ability only and the rank nine person has not qualified as an immortal yet.” Mazatl was now in full lecture mode.
“The thing separating the immortals from others is opening what we call their soul space. Later on within their soul space also resides what we call their totem. We’ll get to totems in a minute, but let’s just focus on the soul space first. One of the main things about soul space and the totem is that they grant their owner great amounts of vitality. This vitality can manifest in many ways, but suffice it to say that those with soul spaces are much harder to kill than those without. Hence those with the rank being named immortal. “
“The soul space alone grants the owner immunity against ravages of times. Usually it also grants immunity against non-magical diseases and poisons but that one depends a bit. A wound that would kill a mortal almost instantly could be nothing but a scratch to an immortal, but that again somewhat depends on the person. I mean you already possess great regenerative abilities, and a wound that would be lethal to me would be just an annoyance to you. That carries over, so the exact details are a little fluid. I’ve heard about immortals that have come back from having their entire bodies destroyed, but that’s fairly rare and mostly only applies to someone who has also finished their totem.”
“That brings us to totems. Totems embody the source of an immortal’s power. They are the embodiment of what gives them their strength. A totem can be basically anything, but it always depicts what gives them strength. A lighting focused mage might have a bolt of lightning as their totem, but another lightning focused mage might have a dragon made entirely of lightning. Totems are not created equal. I seem to recall I told you before that immortals differ from others in that their focus and training is focused on one thing only. That’s due to their totem.”
“The aforementioned lightning mage would focus on the use of lightning because their totem gives them power over that element. The destruction they can cause with that elements will go above and beyond anything they were capable before. A healing focused priest might have a holy spring as a totem and might find out that healing doesn’t tire them at all, and they can perform miraculous feats of healing due to their totem with no limits on their holy power usage. The specifics depend on their exact totem and how they utilize it.” Mazatl finally finished, giving Dee the change to ask the inevitable questions.
“Are the immortals forced to focus on just one thing? Seems rather restrictive to me. Wouldn’t it be better to not have a totem at all then? That way they’d retain their other abilities.” Dee asked the first thing that came to her mind.
“Ah, you misunderstood. The immortals don’t lose access to any of their other abilities; in fact those abilities grow in power normally. Your power doesn’t stop growing just because you’re an immortal. It’s just that the totems give them such an absolute advantage in that one field that the immortals focus on the power gained from that totem. The priest with a healing totem can use other holy spells just fine, and should use them if the situation calls for it, but only when necessary. I’ve heard of warriors capable of ripping a planet in two when they reach rank thirteen, because they can utilize their totem to accomplish such feats. They couldn’t do that without their totem.” Mazatl explained.
“Is there no way to have more than one totem?” Dee asked the obvious follow up question.
“Yes and no. No you can’t have more than one totem, but there’s something else. Some beings are simply so powerful that a normal soul space and totem aren’t enough. This is where things get really theoretical. There are certain special people whose soul space is called a Domain instead. Their soul spaces are much more powerful, and they can exert the power of that Domain in the real world and not just on their bodies. What that results in depends on the individual in question. I haven’t actually met any people with Domains so I can’t speak to specifics. Anyway, the people with a Domain don’t create a totem exactly. They do build something similar, but as far as I know the end result depends on their personality and destiny.” Mazatl was quiet for a moment before continuing.
“I’ve heard of a great emperor who had created a golden crown within his domain and not only did it improve most of his abilities, though not quite as much as a totem would improve one ability, but his commanding presence was also greatly enhanced. Others found it nigh on impossible to avoid following all his commands. Incidentally that person is still alive, and as far as I know he is ruling one of the single digit communities within the first circle of Day city. I’m sorry I can’t explain more, but this is simply information that I don’t have access to. People with Domains are simple not seen outside the second circle.” Mazatl apologized for her lack of knowledge. Something that rarely happened.
“Well, I’ll find out more later on if it’s necessary.” Dee said simply. “So are there any more uses for the soul space than holding the totem and providing vitality?”
“Ah right. You can store some items that are important enough for you. A warrior can keep his weapon there. A mage can hold a spell book. That sort of thing. The items inside the space can never be stolen, and can usually recover even when destroyed. Really though the main point of the soul space is the vitality. The larger the space is the more powerful. Usually that also holds for the totem, but that might not be necessarily true. Usually the soul space also gives an insight to your personality, but at that point your self-awareness should be enough already. Someone else might find it interesting however, if you were dumb enough to allow someone to see within your soul space.”
“Alright. Thanks for the lesson Mazatl. And sorry for my singing.” Dee apologized genuinely sorry. Mazatl had been so enthused about the whole thing.
“Don’t remind me please.” Mazatl shuddered.
“You’re still coming to the party tomorrow, right?” Dee made sure to ask. They were throwing another party to send off Dee, as she was returning to the second part of basic training the day after.
“Of course. Wouldn’t miss it for anything.” Mazatl replied.