“Fireball” by Aaron Nakahara
The Par’ven’ashi, or the Kinship of the Flame, is an order of fire-loving mages who embrace emotion as the source of power and magic with a zeal that resembles a religion. They encourage passion in all of its forms, be it lustful, joyful, or violent.
The fundamental truth that the Par’ven’ashi hold most dear is the greater the emotion, the greater the magic can be wrought. They believe the pinnacle of a wizard’s power is when he is full of rage, pain, lust, joy, or any other extreme emotion, and to find and maintain this pinnacle should be the calling of any practitioner of magic. They find this truth to be mirrored in flame; the more you feed it, the higher and hotter it burns. A Par’ven’ashi is a flame, one that is destined to burn brightly.
One of the aspects of passion that the Par’ven’ashi embrace is pain. Pain can fuel any emotional state and is the easiest emotional state to produce at will. To further their embrace of pain, Par’ven’ashi practice a form of ritual self-mutilation. They carve symbols and designs of a spiral nature, their meaning known only to initiates, into their flesh, starting at their torso and radiating outwards. The higher ranking a Par’ven’ashi, the greater the mutilation. Facial piercings are common. Most often, these flesh etchings are shown off by remaining shirtless or wearing an open cloak.
Since the Par’ven’ashi seek ever greater extremes of emotion, any form of attachment or stability is rare. Sexual mores are loose and liasons last only so long as they can fuel the fire. Any children born of the Par’ven’ashi are given away to surrounding villages to raise although the birthing is a valuable emotional memory.
The Par’ven’ashi are organized into monasteries in a strong hierarchy and headed by an exarch. The order itself is ruled by the Fervent Hierarch, always a fire wielder of terrible power. Each monastery is built around a magically sustained central flame, the par’ven, open to the sky, which burns unceasingly and is tended by a dedicated Par’ven’ashi, the sikha. If it goes out for any reason, the monastery is burned to the ground by its own inhabitants a new one founded in a new location.
Students are assigned to masters who teach them, through a variety of unorthodox means, to embrace passion and be as the flame, using it to enhance their magical powers. In return, the students serve their masters absolutely. Powerful students are rewarded with students of their own. All students also learn a form of meditation that they use to center themselves emotionally; to reach an equilibrium from which they can spring into a state of passion.
Frequently, students are sent out into the world to gain experience; new loves, new battles, new scars. This is fed back into their fire magic. Upon their return to the monastery, students share the tales of their exploits while gathered around the par’ven.
Par’ven’ashi are disliked by most others. Their magical talents and lack of restraint means they leave a trail behind them, one that is more likely to be violent than joyful. No one is eager to confront a fire mage however, and so they are tolerated out of necessity. The motives of an individual Par’ven’ashi are usually unclear and changeable but are often centered around pursuit of magical artifacts or around participation in great events, experiences they can use to fuel their emotions.
The motives of the order itself are equally unclear. Dismissed by some as eccentrics, the Par’ven’ashi nonetheless wield great destructive power. They mostly seem consumed by the pursuit and perfection of that power rather than using it towards any political or monetary end. Rumors exist that the order has some nefarious purpose; to summon a great fiery creature, or to turn themselves into pure flame, or to burn the world.