Upon regaining consciousness Gwen found herself in the Fade. She felt formless, like she was submerged in a bathtub full of water. The first thing she needed to do was find a sense of self. The longer she remained in this state the easier it would be for the demons to corrupt her.
Remembering all her countless lessons she first focused on her legs, when casting earth spells, it's important to have a strong foundation. Next came her core, the stronger the core the hotter the flame. Then her chest, where conjuring the wind is as simple as drawing a breath. She imagined reaching out her arms, letting the magic flow through them until it reached her hand and she felt her fingers pulse with raw energy begging to be released. The last placed she focused on was the center of her head, the source of healing magic and the place many believed to be the seat of the soul.
As soon as she regained her form, the Fade itself seem to form all around her as well. Being completely lucid in the Fade, she could feel the magic all around her, and her already heightened senses seemed to have been kicked up a notch as she had no problem ‘seeing’ the world around her. She appeared to be on a small island with large jagged trees sticking out from the ground and giant chunks of castle debris floating way above her.
“Alright time to find this demon.” After a few steps forward, she felt something small coming towards her. “Well that was easy.”
“Another unprepared apprentice sent to their death.” Said the small presence. “It’s not fair they do this to you, me, or any other mage.”
The word mage caught Gwen’s attention. “You’re a mage too?”
“Well I was, until the templars determined I failed. Take too long and they become afraid something else will come out.” The presence then grew into the size Gwen recognized to be a person. “You can call me Mouse.”
“That seems like a fitting name, I was surprised when you approach me you were so small.”
“It’s easier to hid in that form, other spirits inhabit this island and not all of them are friendly.”
“And you mean to tell me you are?” Gwen crossed her arms.
“My chance to escape has long since passed, but you still have a chance to return safely to your physical body.” Mouse then shifted back into his smaller form. “I’ll follow behind you, the demon that is hunting you lies further ahead.”
As Gwen continued forward several small wisps of electricity appeared along the path and shot bolts of lightning at her and Mouse. Holding her hand up she formed a barrier that blocked the incoming attacks, which were weaker than she expected. Channeling a fireball in her free hand, she dropped the barrier and threw the spell into the center of the wisps, engulfing them in flames.
“Impressive mage, at this rate you’ll be back in your body in no time.” This was the first time Gwen could freely cast her spells without the risk of injuring her classmates, so she decided to enjoy it while she could.
After several more wisps and zero help from Mouse, the two of them found themselves in a clearing. Gwen felt something further ahead and whatever it was, was angry and it knew she was there. “Let me guess, the demon I’m supposed to face is up ahead.”
“I suggest you prepare yourself; those wisps were nothing compared to this demon.” Mouse warned.
Before continuing ahead Gwen heard what sounded like metal banging together from her left. Deciding to investigate she followed the path which lead to and intense spirit.
“Another mortal thrown into Fade unarmed to fend off a demon. Such a cowardly test those mages created to prove ones worth.” Spoke the spirit.
“What are you? You feel different than the other beings I’ve encountered so far.” Gwen asked.
“I am Valor a warrior spirit, I hone my weapons in search of the perfect expression of combat.”
Looking around Gwen saw plenty of weapons displayed but there appeared to be no raw materials. “How did you create all of this?”
“The same way you conjure fire and lightning, these weapons are not forged with hammer and anvil, but with my will alone.”
“Can you make me a staff I can use against the demon?”
“Of course, but you’ll have to earn it, face me in a duel, if I find you strong enough, I will give you one.”
“And if you don’t?” Gwen was pretty sure was his answer was going to be.
“I will kill you, but at least I won’t feed on your essence.”
“Figured as much, alright Valor I accept your challenge.” Compared to the wisps, fighting him would provide a better benchmark of how powerful her abilities were. Valor grabbed a sword and shield and took a position a about 15 yards in front of her.
“Let us begin!” Valor shouted before charging at her.
Fade or not Valor’s sword was very real and very dangerous. She shot a bolt of lightning aimed at his chest, unfazed he raised his shield and absorbed the blow.
“Those tiny wisps pack a stronger punch than that!” Valor taunted.
In order to beat him she needed to get past his shield. The best way to do that is to draw him in and knock him off balance. After firing a few more bolts as to keep up the appearance of an all-out assault, Valor finally reached her and raised his sword high above his head. Steadying her stance, she reached both her hands out and concentrated a barrier around them and met his strike. The impact knocked them both back but Gwen recovered faster, expecting the blow. As this was probably her best opportunity, she reached her hands forward once more and summoned a stream of fire, engulfing him completely.
“I yield! I yield!”
“I’ll take the staff now please.”
“You’ve more than proven yourself worthy, I wish you luck in the battle ahead.” Taking the staff, Gwen and Mouse started making their way back to the clearing when they felt a different spirit further up the path.
“Careful a demon lies ahead, not the one you need to face but a dangerous one nonetheless.” Mouse said while moving behind Gwen.
“So, you are the mortal being hunted, and is the tiny spirit supposed to be a snack for me?” The demon spoke in a low monotone voice, almost as if it was struggling to stay awake.
“Let us leave, there is nothing to be gained from conversing with it.” Mouse was still positioned at a safe distance..
“Yes begone, surely you have more pressing matters to deal with then bothering a sloth like me.” Gwen remembered learning about sloth demons, and she knew how powerful they are. She needed to tread carefully.
“So, Mr. Sloth do you have anything I could use against the demon hunting me? The sooner I defeat it the sooner I can get out of your hair.”
“Hmm well I suppose I could teach your little spirit companion to take on a more powerful form like myself.”
“I’m sensing a but coming.”
“But I’m much too tired to be doing anything like that.”
“Well I guess I’ll just hang around here and talk to you until you have the energy to teach my friend.” Gwen knew she was playing with fire, but she wanted every advantage that she could get her hands on.
“Do not test me mortal, I could just as easily consume you instead of the demon hunting you.” Sloth shifted from his laxed position to a more aggressive one.
“I’m not some run-of-the-mill mage Sloth, if you want to fight, you best be prepared to lose.” Gwen summoned her staff and slammed it down, cracking the ground beneath it.
Sloth took in the opponent in front of him and returned to his laxed position again. “Fine, if teaching the tiny spirit will get you to leave then so be it. Come forward and pay attention.”
After several attempts, Mouse was able to change his form into that of a bear, though Gwen still insisted his name was still Mouse.
“Alright Mouse I think I’ve spent enough time wondering around, it’s time to face this creature and leave this place.” While excited at the prospect of leaving, she has grown used to being in the fade, but she’ll have plenty of time to explore it fully when she dies and she has no plans of doing that anytime soon. After walking back down the path, they found themselves at the giant clearing they saw earlier.
“Alright demon show yourself!” Gwen felt bubbling heat rise from the ground and take form of a demon.
“Ahh so it has come to me at last, soon I shall travel the land of the living with your body!” The demon bellowed.
“I’m the only leaving here today and I don’t plan on sharing my body with you.”
“You’ll be mine, body, mind, and soul.” The demon then turned its attention to Mouse. “So, this mortal is your latest offering Mouse?”
“I’m not offering you anything, I don’t have to take orders from you anymore!” Mouse then shifted into his bear form.
“We shall see!”
The demon fired a ball of fire at Gwen. With staff in hand she was able cast her spells more efficiently and summoned a barrier to absorb the blast. The use of fire confirmed Gwen’s suspicions that she was dealing with a rage demon. Based on what she studied, a rage demon, while still a threat wasn’t one of the more dangerous ones in the fade which made her curious.
After firing several more blast to no avail, the demon summoned multiple wisps into the battle.
“I guess I should be surprised you would play fair, Mouse deal with them while I focus on the demon.”
The demons only plan seemed to be to shoot fire and claw at her barrier, which thanks to her staff was even more powerful. When the demon came again to strike its claws, Gwen dropped the barrier and jumped back, leaving it to flail at the air. With this opening she shot out a cold blast of air freezing it in its place. Not wasting anytime, Gwen slammed the staff down sending a fissure of earth crackling right at the demon, causing him to explode on impact.
“You did it! You actually did it!” Mouse appeared before Gwen in his human for. “When you first appeared here, I knew you were different but I didn’t actually believe you could best the demon!”
“Best him I did.” Gwen knelt down and picked up a chunk of ice and examined it before tossing it aside. “So, what was that thing about offerings again?”
“I... regret my part in helping that demon but you need to understand how difficult it is to survive in here, that’s why I helped you fight back, to atone for my past mistakes.”
“I suppose you want something from me too, for your help?” Gwen began putting the pieces together.
“I have no doubt you’ll prove those templars how wrong they treated people like us and become a powerful enchanter like the world has never seen before. And with your help, I think I know a way for me to join you and finally leave this place.”
And there it is.
“You know Mouse I’m starting to think that rage demon wasn’t the test at all.” Standing up she turned and faced Mouse.
“W-hat do you mean?”
“The templar already know how powerful we are so a simple test like this wouldn’t prove anything. After all, when dealing with your kind it comes down to a battle of willpower doesn't it?”
“They were right about you.” Gwen felt mouse shift and take on a huge monstrous form. “Any bumbling fool can kill; the true dangers of the fade are preconceived notions, ill placed trust and pride. Keep your wits about you mage, true tests never end.”
As soon as the spirit disappeared, Gwen felt her body grow tired and once again lose consciousness.