Ordos began his assault, drawing his sword out of nowhere as he dashed forward. The 6 mages at the rear began to form defenses but as soon as they condensed their aura Gaius could see it all immediately fly towards Ordos and then they all disappeared.
“The mages are faring better than I did,” Duncan thought to himself as he recalled the nauseating feeling of being siphoned.
With the mages being ineffective against Ordos, the warriors began to launch their coordinated attack. The Bow in the back shot first, her arrow guided by her Aspect flew towards Ordos. As the arrow approached within 5 feet it immediately bounced away and shot towards the approaching Spear. With the second it took for the Spear to dodge the incoming arrow, Ordos struck at the Sword in front of him. Their swords clashed for a brief second and the lustrous sword of the royal guard instantly grew dim as the Aspect of the Sword within it disappeared. The second of disorientation caused by the dispelling of her Aspect was all Ordos needed to deal her a lethal blow.
Because of the nature of this mock battle, the guardswoman grunted as his sword rested on the nape of her neck.
“One down, and he did it so quickly,” Gaius thought to himself, though he was not the only one surprised.
Tulia and Duncan thought along the same lines, “This is the real power of an Antimage?”
Ordos dodged the immediate spear thrust and countered with his own; he was able to apply pressure to the Spear while dodging arrows. While the two were exchanging blows the three Shields formed a triangle around them. With practiced precision the Spear blocked a strike from Ordos and immediately back-flipped out of the formation.
With their comrade cleared the three shields began to illuminate and just as a beam of energy left each of the shields and shot towards Ordos, two of them were siphoned while the last was reflected to the Bow. Two of the siphoned Shields fell to the knees as sickness briefly overcame them, and without waiting for them to recover Ordos glided towards them to deliver each a fatal blow. As Ordos made his way to the last Shield, errant ice lances and balls of miasma condensed and flew towards him from the mages.
The spells quickly filled the room with their overpowering aura, yet just as quickly they vanished, causing the mages to blanch.
Ordos calmly and casually approached the last Shield with renewed vigor and began his second assault.
The Shield, Spear, and Bow guards assembled into a formation. Ordos then dashed towards the Shield as arrows whizzed by his face, barely dodging each one. As he got close enough to the Shield, the Spear behind the Shield began to thrust to bar his path. The combination of the whizzing arrows, spear thrusts, and the occasional shield bash kept Ordos busy, though each time the guardsman imbued their weapons with their Aspect Ordos would immediately siphon or dispel it.
The rhythm of the fight started to shift. The guardsman started to shows signs of fatigue as each dispel or siphon would cause a severe drain on their energy. Though fighting without their auras were an even tougher order when confronting this master-at-arms. Ordos finally was able to land a killing blow on the Shield after he dodged two swift spear thrusts. With their vanguard down, the Spear and Bow behind quickly fell.
Throughout the whole fight the 6 mages were useless against a master Antimage, so when the 6 warriors were defeated the 6 mages relented. Ordos slowly and lightly landed a finger upon his liege.
“Valiant effort, go rest up while we finish breakfast,” Viktor instructed his royal guard, “I’ll think of a suitable punishment later.”
Master Ordos calmly moved towards his seat at the table in a relaxed manner. “I merely displayed the 3 fundamental abilities of an Antimage, do you know what they are?” he asked as he slowly sat down.
Gaius studied the fight within his mind’s eye as he replayed it to the best of his abilities. “Each time an Aspect, martial or elemental approached him something happened. One time he absorbed it, another it just disappeared, and another time he reflected it?” Gaius thought to himself. He asked himself questions and answered them by observing the fight.
“3 abilities,” Gaius said, “I don’t know what you call it but you draw their Aspect within you, another is completely making the Aspects disappear, and the last way you manipulate their Aspects is to bend it.”
“Very observant. Siphon. Dispel. Reflect are the three fundamental Antimage abilities. But these three are just a small portion of what we can do,” Ordos said cryptically. “Any other questions?”
“I think I’ve tried to use the Siphon ability before, but both times, I was knocked unconscious. My mother and father even said that I was leaking the aura that I Siphoned?” Gaius asked as he remembered the two incidents within the Golden Bark Village.
“Ah yes, it is a natural desire to Siphon auras, but it is very important to ensure that you do not Siphon and absorb more than you can handle. The body and soul of person can be compared to a cauldron, it can overflow. Though the body of a Voidwalker is akin to a cauldron their souls are not. The soul of a Voidwalker is different, it is more like a window. Auras can go through the window to return to the void and in doing so will Dispel the Aspect.”
“How hard are they to train in?” Duncan asked.
“Hmm, the easiest and most natural ability is Siphon. Unguided Voidwalkers often take from their natural surroundings into themselves without their knowledge. Usually such a thing is driven by the comforting sensation of absorbing essences. Dispel is the second toughest as it requires one to concentrate and guide the essences through the soul and into the Void. The last and most difficult by far is Reflect, though redirecting errant spells are hard enough it is even more difficult when you attempt to aim them at moving targets.”
Gaius contemplated for a while before he asked, “Earlier, you said ‘antimages that serve the crown’ what do you mean by that?”
“The Aspect of the Void is unique to other Aspects of Heaven or Earth, in that it allows one to completely negate and return the essences of Aspects back into the void. Imagine the destructive forces of mages—their powerful spells that can destroy cities instantly vanish because of one Antimage. With such power, the Kingdom of Alir has been cultivating strong Antimages since the Founding. Though other countries have their own versions, our techniques and methodologies are second to none. So you may see a rogue Voidwalker, but they would be no match for an Alirian Antimage.”
“I see, you mentioned that there are other things Voidwalkers are capable of?” Duncan continued to ask as he had an inkling of an idea what he meant.
“Yes, though I am not at liberty to expand on this topic to the uninitiated,” Ordos said.
“When can I begin?” Gaius asked with a grin, his first real smile filled with happiness since his parents were able to identify him as an Antimage.
“When you turn 12,” Ordos said flatly.
Just as easily as Gaius was filled with happiness he was instantly filled with dread, “two years?” he said.
“Why?” Tulia asked.
Ordos shifted his gaze towards her as he answered a question with a question, “Is it possible for someone to train in an Aspect before their Awakening?”
“Obviously not,” Tulia replied with a bit of annoyance.
“Same principle applies to Antimagic training,” he curtly said.
“But he clearly is attuned to the void, you cannot train him in that?” Duncan asked.
“The boy can train as a Voidwalker anytime, though it won’t take long to master two of the abilities. It is his training as an Antimage that must wait,” Ordos corrected.
“Why the discrepancy?” Duncan pressed.
“Boy,” Ordos said to Gaius as he shifted his gaze to the young man, “what is an Antimage’s strength?”
“Your stamina. Energy, you’re able to fight without exhaustion,” Gaius said.
“Yes, that is one of them. What is our weakness?” he continued
“Hmm, your lack of long ranged attacks?” Gaius guessed.
“Not a bad answer, though easily remedied with the correct choice of weapon. No, our weakness is martial prowess. Mages have magic to defend themselves from attack, warriors have their Aspects imbued into their weapons to defend themselves, what do Antimages have?
We are able to negate all magical spells, but what of an arrow with no Aspect imbuing it, a sword slash, or a spear thrust? That is our weakness, expert warriors are the bane of Antimages, which is why martial prowess is the core of all Antimage training.”
“But, earlier you were able to deflect the oncoming arrow of that royal guard?” Gaius inquired as he recalled the resplendent fight.
“Yes, that is because the guard was not adept in fighting Antimages and imbued his arrows with his Aspect. But what if he shot the arrow at me without his Aspect, what could I do then but dodge? One arrow is doable, but what of 10? 100?
Now another secret that you may not know is that though Heavenly Aspects have two Awakenings, Voidwalkers have three,” Ordos said calmly.
“Three? Wait, two Awakenings?” Gaius asked surprised.
“Oh, you didn’t even know ordinary Heavenly Aspects have two Awakenings?” Ordos asked surprised.
“Ever since he was unable to condense an Aspect, we did not discuss cultivation techniques with him,” Tulia confessed, “though looking back it may be been an oversight.”
“Ah, understandable. Heavenly Aspects have two Awakenings, first at the age of 6 where you discover your affinity as your soul ‘Awakens’. The second Awakening is at the age of 12 where you are able to choose a 2nd affinity to train in. By that age, your soul has matured enough to be able to handle manipulating two Aspects. A Voidwalker also has a 3rd at the age of 18.
A Voidwalker’s Awakenings are different. When you turn 12, you’ll unlock true aura-sight, which you will need during your training,” Ordos said openly.
“What do you mean?” Gaius asked with his interest piqued.
“Right now when you look with your eyes you see the physical form, and it is only when you concentrate that you are able to sense the auras of others, yes? That can be considered the basic form of aura-sight, but it can be very disorienting as auras are superimposed on the physical sight. Though it has its uses it is very limited when compared to true aura-sight in real combat, I bet you are able to see me physically with your eyes, but are not able to see my aura with your current aura-sight.”
“True aura-sight will allow you to see through all things without needing to focus, you will be able to see every aura around you completely, and since everything has aura within it, no matter how small that means you’ll have omnidirectional sight.”
“What about the 3rd Awakening?” Gaius asked excitedly.
“I cannot divulge that to the uninitiated,” Ordos calmly replied.
“Then ‘initiate’ me!” Gaius practically yelled.
“Haha, seems like someone is a bit excited,” Viktor said. “You cannot be initiated until you are at least 12 years old. Though I believe that the Antimage’s Guild allows Novitiates, yes?”
“A Guild?” Gaius asked.
“Although the kingdom pays for the tutelage of Antimages, they are actually they’re own guild. Which is why Master Ordos here cannot divulge certain secrets even to me. Though the guild and its members must swear a blood oath to serve Alir.”
“To answer your question, yes. The guild does accept Novitiates. I was planning to invite you after you’d settled in, though we can do it now if you’d like?” Ordos said.
The sparkle within Gaius’s eyes was all the affirmation Ordos needed. He got up and beckoned for Gaius to follow. Gaius looked at his parents for permission before he followed the old man, his distrust for strangers was outweighed by his desire to learn who he is.
With the little Voidwalker in tow Ordos began to guide him through the palace as they made their way to the guildhall.
“The center of the castle is the throne room, which resides behind these doors. It is where the king meets with his audience. The west and east wings are private quarters for when the king hosts esteemed guests. Each wing has its own kitchen, armory, guardhouse, library, garden, mediation room, training rooms, and bathrooms. The northern wing is where the royal family resides, which is where we have set up your rooms. Someone will take you to them later,” Ordos narrated nonchalantly as they walked through the hallways to the southern courtyard.
“You may have already noticed, but the river-city of Alir spans across Bant River. Because the guild is crucial to the stability of the kingdom, our guild headquarters is located within the castle island right here. Always ready to defend the capital,” Ordos said as he pointed to doorway within the outer castle walls.
“That is the guild headquarters?” Gaius asked incredulous.
“’Rule 3—Sight is the most misleading sense. Though it’ll be easier when you unlock your true aura-sight, even so—if you can help it, never fully depend on one sense. In this case, ‘there’s more to the wall than meets the eye’, as it were.”
As the the pair entered through the door within the wall, Gaius saw a narrow hallway that seemed to span throughout the whole length of the wall to his left and right.
“There are many secret entrances, exits, and pathways throughout the castle island that the guild utilizes to move unseen. This is just one of them, come,” Ordos said as he came to a stop at an unmarked wall.
With a palm upon a random stone, Gaius could not hear, feel, or smell anything out of the ordinary, even when a section of the wall parted for them. “Come, and do not let go of my hand,” he said as he firmly held Gaius’s hand. “Even if people were to follow you, they would surely get lost within this labyrinth without aura-sight. And here is our last line of defense against intruders,” Ordos said as he pointed to the giant statues that guarded the last door.