Prologue
The Vigau Incident

Vigau, Arielle, Bonaventure

On a morning much like any other, a woman did her daily calisthenics before getting around for work. Because she needed the extra motivation, she had the TV on a fitness show featuring a particularly hyperactive trainer. The trainer's energy did not always rub off on the woman, but it kept her going each morning.
"Alright, everybody!" the bubbly trainer squeaked in her childlike voice. "Let's do some torso twists! Arms out! Feet shoulder-width apart! And to the left! One, two, three! Good job!"
Personally, the woman found her distant trainer rather annoying, but that helped prepare her for a long day of work about as well the calisthenics themselves. Turning to the right ahead of the trainer, she did not notice what was going on outside her window, a small flash in the distance.
"And to the right! One, two--"
The TV went blank, but the woman did not even have the chance to react. A blinding light swept over her. And then... nothing.

~* Many years later... *~

The city of Vigau was in chaos. Raging fires and thick plumes of smoke marked the trail of the Abomination's rampage. The sounds of crumbling buildings, the screams of fleeing civilians and the terrible shrieks of the creature filled the air. Of course the police did not stand a chance, and after several of the Academy's wizards were killed as well, the mayor sent a desperate appeal to the Count to dispatch the Army with its battlemages, but would even that be enough?
The Abomination was clearly in search of something and it very well appeared that it would tear the entire city apart to find it. The Circle of Nine, the leading grandmasters of the Phoenix Guild, were divided over whether giving the Abomination what it wanted was the answer to ending its rampage or not.
However, while citizens fled in a panic and the city leaders were caught in a tangle of uncertainty and indecision, there were a few still bold enough to act.
And among those few was the most unlikely pair. A scrawny youth in his teens and a little girl were crouched down in the center of the street, scrawling on the cobblestones with chalk. In any other time and place, it might look like nothing more than a couple children making their own street art. However, a closer look would tell otherwise.
The youth's blue hair and the girl's pink hair were immediate indicators that there was a touch of magic about them. And it was no ordinary chalk they were using, nor any mere street art they were drawing. The careful lines and precise figures were that of a magic circle and no common one either. Though the youth did not wear Academy robes, he was clearly an apprentice of the Phoenix Guild and the sort of magic he was preparing should be far beyond the level of a simple apprentice.
"Big strokes, Prissy," the youth told the little girl. "The lines have to be smooth."
"Yes, Master Falkner," the girl replied deferentially.
With a pitying grin, the teen looked up from his runes and said, "How many times do I have to tell you to call me Barz?"
"BARZ!!"
The deep, commanding voice did not belong to the girl, of course. The youth turned to see a tall, imposing wizard standing only a short distance away. He wore the robes of a master in the Phoenix Guild and perched on his shoulder was a large raven.
"Master Grummond!" the youth exclaimed. "What are you doing here!?"
"I should be asking you the same thing," the wizard replied.
He looked down at the magic circle and scowled.
"You really think you can contain her at your level? She's already killed three masters and ten adepts. Do you honestly think a Level Four novice can succeed where they failed?"
"I have to try!" the young novice cried. "I have to save her!"
"She's no longer the girl you know, Barz," the wizard said grimly. "I'm sorry."
The novice stood there stricken in silence. He knew the import of his master's words.
"You're going to try to kill her, aren't you?" he asked. When he got no answer, he asked again insistently, "Aren't you!?"
"I will do what I must to save this city and its people," the wizard said resolutely. "She has to be stopped."
"No! I won't let you!"
The tall wizard ignored his apprentice and began to walk on ahead to where the Abomination was currently rampaging. The novice stood by helplessly, his fists quivering in anger. He did not surrender to this helplessness, though.
Snatching up his rod, he ran over to another magic circle he had prepared and shouted, "Mordekai Grummond! I challenge you to a wizard's duel!"
The wizard made a half-turn toward the novice and stretched out his staff. With a single word of power, the novice was sent flying into the wall of a nearby building and knocked senseless.
"Barz!" the little pink-haired girl cried out, running to the unconscious youth's side.
The wizard's grim face softened somewhat in pity for his reckless apprentice. He looked to the raven on his shoulder.
"Ramstein, stay with them. Protect them."
"You intend to do this alone, Master Grummond?" the raven asked.
The wizard smiled weakly.
"I could use your help, old friend, but I didn't expect Barz to be here."
"Perhaps you should have."
The wizard nodded.
"Indeed," he said. "Don't worry about me, Ramstein. Should I fail, take Barz and Priscilla somewhere safe."
"Understood, Master Grummond."
The raven hopped from his perch and fluttered to the ground. Hunching over, his joints twisted and his body grew until he emerged in the form of an old man wrapped in a feathered mantle with keen eyes, a jet-black beard and a long hooked nose. Standing upright, he was nearly as tall as the wizard and though his form made him look no younger than sixty, his movements showed no sign of infirmity.
"I do not need to tell you that this is one of the more formidable Abominations I have seen," the raven-man said.
"I have to try."
The raven-man bowed to the wizard and said, "Good luck, my master."
"The only luck is the luck we make," the wizard replied.
Leaving the young ones in the raven-man's care, the wizard continued down the road to face the Abomination. Even after hours of rampaging, its senses were not quite yet fully attuned. It did not yet know where to find what it sought and was easily distracted by anything that bore the touch of the Source's power.
The wizard cast off his cloak, exposing the large talisman that hung from his neck. One of the Guild's prized treasures, it would surely draw the Abominations attention. And so it did.
The Abomination tore through houses and gardens in its rush to approach him, but stopped short when it came close. It knew he was not like the wizards it had killed before, but perhaps it was not just a matter of the wizard's power. Perhaps the Abomination remembered. Perhaps there was still hope.
"Kamellia!" the wizard shouted in a loud voice. "I command you to stop!"
He pointed his staff at the Abomination and it lowered its body, like a dog flinching from his master's raised hand. Without a magic circle or reagents, the wizard did not know if he would have the power to perform the spell he needed. All he could do was trust in the power imbued in his staff, the amplification of the talisman, and his own hidden potential as the successor in the line of Belmond Weiss.
He began to chant the incantation. He could not stop for anything, even as the Abomination began to shift its weight. It was not cowed by him. It never was. It was just looking for an opportunity to attack and he was no more vulnerable than he was at that moment.

* * *

Back where he had fallen, the young novice woke. His whole body ached as he tried to raise himself up, piecing together the fragmented memories of what had happened before he blacked out.
"Barz, you're awake!" exclaimed the little girl, who was holding fast to his hand.
"You should not rise so quickly, Young Master Falkner," an imposing old man said.
The novice recognized the man as the human form of his master's familiar. But if the familiar was there with him, who was helping his master?
The novice scrambled to his feet, but pain and dizziness overwhelmed him, causing his legs to give out under him.
"Barz!"
Before the novice could say anything, flashes of light lit up the night sky and an ear-piercing screech filled the air.
Clamping his hands over his ears, the novice cried out, "Master Grummond!"
But he would get no answer. The nightmare that would later be known simply as the Vigau Incident had come to end.