Blood and pus oozed from Tomas’ fingertips as he read The Elemental Contracts by Franz Luminous; a book he has read frequently since his childhood. “There’s a balance between sacrifice and reward when contracting the elements. But how is my sacrifice measured? And is it mutually beneficial for the spirit and myself,” he pondered as he pulled the back cover to the last page. He could have published his own treatises on questioning Franz, if it wasn’t considered heresy to acknowledge magic. He sat in his Elm Wood chair, the materials taken from the Elven forest in the Northeast, and flipped the book over. Opening the now dark brown front cover, which was originally pristine white, Tomas was ready to once again decipher the secrets hidden in Luminous’ masterpiece.
It wasn’t always heresy to acknowledge magic. But when the Great Vosha War decimated the human race, the newly elected king made it so. Tomas’ father was one of the first men to be immolated for the new empire. Before he was subdued, Fernando passed his favorite book to his son, “Tomas, keep this close to you. Never let anyone know you have this. Especially your mother”. Fernando was a good father but a horrible husband, it came with the job; he was an historian after all, a much more active profession than most. Tomas would always ruminate about his father, especially when he looked at the condition of his prized possession. Tears cascaded off his face as he read the acknowledgement for the 100th time: “to my dear friend and colleague Fernando, for without whom I would be lost in the Void”.
Like most children of a good parent, especially young children who mythologized their early departed ones, Tomas was fascinated by his father's very existence. He wished he had more time with him, but his mother took that away from him. He didn’t know it until much later in life, but she was the one who turned Fernando over to the Church. Not for being associated with Franz or for being an historian, but for being in possession of blasphemous teachings. And as he burned by the hands of pyrokinetics, he stared Tomas in the eyes and shouted from the altar “Follow the Great Fire”. This was of course a reference to a passage in the book but no one at the sanctum has ever read it.
Tomas was lost in his recollection of that moment. He could have sworn he saw his father smile as he was charred black and his body contorted. There was no screaming, no theatrics, just a man being burned alive in front of his son. Tomas paused as he reached the chapter entitled “Among the Pacts of the Four Supreme Elements”. This was the section that gave him the greatest difficulty for it was missing many of its passages. And it was the first chapter to mention the Great Fire.
He closed the book, slouched in the Elm Wood chair and ran his bloody pus filled hands through his already washed hair. Forgetting that his blisters opened, Tomas slowly walked into the bathroom and turned the faucet for hot water. This of course was all possible because of Luminous’ discovery of elemental manipulation but the church and the empire credited it to an innovation in city planning and management. He found it comical that a governing body would discredit the opposition yet steal and profit off their work. Of course he knew that most regimes achieved their zenith through suppression and theft. Especially if the ideas were beneficial to the populace and filled the pockets of the leaders.
After washing his face Tomas prepared himself for his pre-work rituals. He filled his tub with myrrh, cassia, cinnamon, calamus, and olive oil, a recipe he read on a scrap of paper for the practice of anointment. He submerged himself in the concoction and held his breath. This was his means of relaxation. As he slowly raised himself from the tub he observed his wounds “being a historian is harder than dad made it seem. Why couldn’t he leave a manual”. Of course Fernando meant to teach his son but he was surprisingly sacrificed for the greater good. He emerged from the tub and lathered honey on his torso, wrapping himself with long strip bandages. He stared at his deformed body and laughed, “today’s the day I kill her”.
He stared at the ripped photo of his mother, at least of the woman who he thought was his mother. Strangely enough he could not remember her face, yet knew how many buttons his father had on his jacket before it burst aflame. Ten buttons, nine were oceanic blue and the one outlier was gold. Tomas has worn that button on a string necklace since he dug through the rubble at his father's feet. This woman had to be his mother, especially because the last three had no relation to him. Luckily for them he didn't kill innocent people, although he couldn't know their other sins.
He walked out of the bathroom, steam dampening his bandages and began to dress himself in the official garb of the Royal Sanctorium. He was only a monk so he wore an azure hooded cloak with the insignia of a great golden dragon on the cuff of the right sleeve. He infiltrated the church to track the woman he vehemently believed was his mother; whether or not she was he would finally leave the city. He spent five years tracking these four separate women, hoping that one of them was indeed the monster that ruined his life. At first he wanted to ask her questions but the curiosity grew into anger and then the anger grew into murderous intent whenever he tried to think of her.
Tomas was particularly annoyed about his memory problems when it came to his mother. How could he remember his father with such clarity but not the woman who technically raised him as a single parent. Maybe it was the trauma from the abuse but Tomas couldn't remember anyways even with the scars on his back. He wasn't a man who would turn his back to danger or run away, these wounds were from his youth.
As he wore the azure hooded cloak the light in his eyes transformed from specks to large illuminating spheres. Tomas wasn't a classically attractive young man because of his postural kyphosis. Yet, his face was chiseled perfection, its geometry conforming to the theorems of nature. Many women overlooked his posture because of his welcoming smile and enchanting face. He also warranted interests from some men but never felt inclined to seek their companionship. Aside from his rounded back, Tomas' body was firm but not large enough to be intimidating. Strong enough to fight an Orc for a few exchanges but not any prolonged battles.
He felt disgusted with himself. He resembled the people who burnt his father. This was the only way to enter the church and find her. The only way to alleviate the pain he felt because of his guilt. Tonight was the night he would commit matricide or yet again target an innocent woman who had the few identifying features of a picture from his childhood. "Elidi, I need you today. My life might be in danger, can you protect me?" he whispered into the golden button around his neck. A small crackle of light shone from the button and responded, "of course my love". Elidi was a fire familiar, Fernando housed her in his jacket's golden button. She was the reason why it didn't burn.
Since that night in the sanctum, Tomas was essentially raised by Elidi. He credited her with the honor typically fit for a good mother. "Did you find her yet Tomas? How many times has it been since you called me out like this? endangering your life over grudges, I told you this won't help your guilty conscious" she always berated him like this. Especially before his he lurked in the shadows to murder for a respite. "With you Elidi, I will always be ok," he told her lovingly like a child saying I love you for the first time.
One of the tenets of the church was "everything marks us," a belief that sin left an imprint on the soul: whether human or any other race. Tomas fundamentally disagreed with such preposterous ideas, mainly because he was disgusted with the church. The fact that he drove himself to infiltrate it proved that he drove more by revenge than by ideology. "You know, you look very handsome in that cloak Tomas, just like your father although he never did wear one did he," Elidi remarked, swinging her feet as she sat on the golden button. She wasn't always this tiny; as a familiar she had mastery over fire and could change her size at will. She was simply enamored with the home Fernando constructed for her within the button and often chose to remain this tiny.
Tomas smiled at her remark, he knew very well he looked almost exactly like his father. Except of course for his rounded back. Many believed he was a half breed , but relationships between races were extremely rare. Simply because the church and empire forbade it. They usually, if not always, worked in tandem to enact laws. Since the end of the Great War pro-human sentiment rose in the empire and many people became hostile towards the other races.
Adorned in the uniform of a Royal Sanctorium monk Tomas kissed the golden button and whispered "may the Great Fire protect me;" Elidi joined the prayer with a blushing face, Tomas did just technically kiss her. He finished grooming his auburn colored beard and parted his mostly black hair to the side. Placing the royal necklace over his neck, the pendant gleaming with hematite, prasiolite, lazuli, coral, and quartz, Tomas felt a sting underneath his robe. These gems represented the 4 cardinal elements and the supreme energy of the Void: hematite; according to the doctrine of the church the gems held the balance.
“Do you have to put on that ridiculous necklace? You do remember that it dampens my protective powers” Eilid grumbled. “Yes yes, I know full too well what this haphazardly design warding can do to a real elemental. I only need it to enter the chamber of the congregation.” he said, patting Eilid’s head with his index finger. She swooned. She would normally project herself into a larger form but was reserving her power, just in case Tomas needed it.