I was about three weeks old when things took a weird turn.
My father was working as usual, and I had heard him tell mother that he would be working through the night. It was also a very quiet day for me, because my sisters were out of the house for the first time since my birth. More specifically, my grandparents had taken them overnight off my mother’s hands, so that she could finally get a quiet night to recover her strength. They’d have taken me along too, but mother was unwilling to part with me, which I suppose is normal with a mother and a newborn. She also did mention to grandmother, that I was a quiet and calm baby, so I would not bother her too much. So a day of peace and quiet, punctuated with frequent bouts of mommy-newborn stuff like snuggling, baby talk, and the mandatory work that comes with being a baby unable to take care of my own needs. She spent most of the time resting though, so I could in return spend most of my time in meditation refining my mana, still unable to use it. The lengthy refining process left me very tired though. Meditating can be hard work for such a young body, and I hadn’t had an opportunity like this since being born. So at night I slept like a very small log.
That would probably be why it took me so long to wake up, to the feeling of being carried by someone running on uneven terrain, and to the sound of quiet female mutters.
“…should get a nice price for a highborn elven girl. The slave traders will cream themselves for a change to sell a young girl with an obvious greater blessing of Aphrodite to some degenerate noble in the human or demon lands. Hah, maybe even the beastmen will want to buy her. With her being so young, they can train her any way they like.” The voice let out a quiet but clearly sinister chuckle.
‘Not sure I like the sound of that. Seems I’m being abducted and sold off to slave traders. ‘
I tried to very slowly turn my head to get a view of my captor. I was a little shocked to see one of the maids working at our manor. I’d seen her around a few times, mostly doing cleaning, and actually thought her a bit cute if a bit on the short side. Not like I could currently judge her on that though. It was her bright green hair that had drawn my attention. Her name was Alyndra I think.
“Maybe this will show that bastard Elluin what happens when you start ignoring me, after having me. I thought we loved each other. But no! He went and got that whore Asheara pregnant again, and now look what they’ve got! He was supposed to leave her, but now they’ve got another beautiful daughter together. Well your beautiful daughter will grow up as a sex slave!” The girl was clearly ranting.
‘Oh father. This is why you don’t boff the help. They can make your life so easy and smooth if you treat them as you should, but if you get them mad, they can make your life hell with thousand tiny problems. This is also why you don’t stick your dick in crazy.’ I was at the same time disappointed at my father’s infidelity, and somewhat horrified at my situation. The poor girl was clearly unhinged, and wasn’t really thinking straight. She was obviously running away from the mansion with me, through what looked like some fairly dense woods. With surprisingly little undergrowth, my mind noted idly. She seemed to know where she was going though, so she had a specific goal in mind.
‘I wonder if she has even considered the possibility, that instead of getting paid, I might not be the only one ending up as a slave. The way she’s ranting though, she might be ok with that as long as she can hurt my parents.’ It wasn’t really the prospect of being a sex slave that worried me. I was pretty sure I would be able to kill my would-be owner and escape long before I was any use for any sexual purposes. I didn’t want to be separated from my new family for a long period of time though. And it would most likely take years before I could find my way home, if I really was sold off to some faraway place.
‘Also I was wondering about this before, but how can a baby be beautiful? I mean parents always think their child is the most beautiful thing ever, but I’ve been hearing about this from everyone now, even a crazy maid who clearly hates my existence. I’ve always thought babies look pretty much the same, with the exception of certain beastmen babies, puppies and kittens. Those can be adorable as all heck. But even those aren’t beautiful.’ Alas, that was a topic of thought for another time, as that line of though wasn’t helping.
There were a couple of things I could do to change my current situation. Despite having almost zero combat ability aside from my Touki, and no access to my mana, I did in fact have two cards I could play here. Both came with problems though. My first option was to use the Song of Khali that I had talked about with the Head Judge of the Jade palace. The Song of Khali was a soul attack that, despite the name, didn’t actually require any singing but just to have your voice heard. That said though, the other times I had used this ability, the recipient was unable to do anything to make me stop. This time the crazed elf would most likely try to chuck me against the ground or some hard object like a tree, just to make me stop. And my body was too fragile for that. In addition, although magical power and the ability to sing were not required, the effect would be greatly lessened without these, and I’d have very little control over the ability. Thus I wasn’t even sure how effective it would be.
The other option was the power that had made me exceptional in my previous life in the first place. I could still feel that accursed ability inside me, so it wasn’t gone. I could kill the girl with that ability, but the ability came with a price that I wasn’t willing to pay. There was also another problem. Even if I used either of those abilities successfully; I’d still be left stranded in the middle of a forest with no ability to move around. Also I had no knowledge whether there were dangerous animals, not to mention monsters in the forest. I most certainly wasn’t willing to pay the price for the second ability more than once to keep possible monsters at bay, and the Song of Khali only worked against those that actually had a proper imagination, in another words those with at least a certain level of intelligence. This was because the Song actually turned the targets mind against themselves. I also wasn’t willing to brave death by starvation, in the hope that someone found me in time. I had actually no idea how far we were from our home, and how big the surrounding forest was.
The girl was still ranting, and I was still trying to come up with ways to get out of the situation, when suddenly I heard a whooshing sound and a solid thump. To be precise, it sounded much like an arrow in flight and then hitting a tree.
“Halt right there Alyndra, and put the girl down!” I heard a stern male voice yell.
Alyndra slowly turned towards the voice, and I could see that there was indeed an arrow stuck in a tree right next to us. Elves in general aren’t exactly known for not hitting what they aim at, so I assume it was meant as a warning shot. I could only hope that the man was here to retrieve me, and not working for the slavers.
“Captain Gloridas. To what do I owe the unexpected pleasure?” (Alyndra)
‘She was being surprisingly calm. She must have some plan to get out of this.’ (Me)
“You know why I’m here. Did you really think kidnapping the daughter of House Khalidor was going to be that easy? “(Captain Gloridas)
“Well I got this far with little to no interference. So yes, I kind of did think that.” (Alyndra)
‘She has a point. I was somewhat surprised myself.’ (Me)
“Put her down, and you may yet live through this.” (Captain Gloridas)
“I don’t think so!” Alyndra yelled and threw me into the air.
It was a rather fun experience, but I was hoping I was thrown in the general direction of the good Captain, and that he had the brains to take a soft catch of the vulnerable baby me. ‘Well close enough at least.’ I thought when I experienced the softest catch I’ve ever seen. The gold haired man was holding me in his hands, and looking towards the fleeing back of Alyndra. She had apparently taken the chance to bolt, while the Captain was otherwise engaged.
“Dammit! I can’t chase her with a baby in my hands. And I certainly don’t want to run into a battle where I can’t use both of my hands.” The Captain had a fairly good assessment of the situation. “Well at least we got you back. Hopefully well find her another day. I should get you home.” He looked at my smiling face.
“You actually enjoyed being tossed, didn’t you?”
“I suppose better that, than you being traumatized by all this. Though you won’t remember any of this later on, I think.”
‘Not quite. I’ll remember this alright, and dear old dad will hear about his little dalliance with the maid from me as soon as I find it convenient to start speaking. I’ll make damn sure mother hears about it too.’
It was evening by the time we got home. The trip home had been rather boring on the whole. Captain Gloridas was focused on his surroundings, and I was quite bored. We seemed to have traveled quite a long way, assuming we went even in a semblance of a straight line. It’s a bit hard to tell when you’re forced to stare at the Captains face and armor the whole way. He was a moderately good looking man, his face and eyes showing the years spent as a warrior. He wasn’t all that old though, so he hadn’t gotten that jaded look that old warriors tend to get when they’ve seen too much. His clothing and armor was very practical, with a mostly leather armor with greens and browns being the main colors. Fit the forest theme quite well.
Everyone was frantic by the time we arrived. Mother seemed like a nervous wreck, and she had definitely been crying. Still was actually, but this time from relief. She ran out from the door as soon as she saw us approach, snatched me from the Captains hands and hugged me against her face with a quite a bit more force than was comfortable. I did feel the same though, and I was glad to see her.
The Captain was explaining things to my father in the meantime, and over my mother’s shoulder I saw that my sisters were back, and were now running towards us too. Mother knelt down to allow for a group hug with her and my sisters. From their words, it seemed quite obvious they were glad I was safe. I was too, and I was touched by their feelings, seeing as that was a new experience for me.
While we were slowly making out way back inside the house, I gave my father a look filled with enough disappointment, that he might have realized I had understood something from what had happened. His confused face was gratifying to see.
Mother still kept holding me when we went to the meeting room, which I assumed was meant for receiving quests. While we sat down my father spoke to the captain.
“So you are certain that it was Alyndra that took our daughter? Do you know if she had help?”
“I am certain, since she was the one carrying her away and I followed her tracks all the way from here at the mansion. I can’t say with certainty, if she had other help inside the house, since I wasn’t able to capture and question her. I prioritized bringing the child home safely. She was running towards a cove that is suspected to be frequented by slavers, as a location to buy their wares in these lands. I’m confident in assuming that it was her intent to sell your daughter off to those slavers.” (Captain Gloridas)
“How horrible! Why would she do something like this? I told you before to send her away, because she was trying too hard to get close to you honey, but you wouldn’t listen and just dismissed it as a girl that was too lively.” (Mother)
‘Yeah I wonder how that happened’ I thought with heavy sarcasm.
“What’s done is done. Captain, double the guards at the house for the next while, and put out a word that Alyndra is wanted for questioning, with her description included. You saved our daughter Captain, how can we ever thank you for your service?” (Dirtbag *cough* I mean Father)
“I only did what was expected of me. Although…” The captain said while having a thoughtful expression.
“Speak your mind. We are in your debt.” (Mother)
“Well, you have yet to name the child right?” The captain said after a pause eliciting a nod from my parents.
“My little sister died of a disease two months ago. She was the light of my life, and I would be honored if at least a part of her, her name Neleh were to live on.” (Captain Sis-con)
‘Sweet, if a little morbid. I could live with that name. The name I was given in my previous life was an unpronounceable abomination of letters, which I don’t think anyone used after it was given. Afterwards I had always been called either by a nickname, a rank or a curse word, as was sometimes the case. Neleh. I could make due with that.’
“How about that sweetie?” My mother baby talked to me. “Do you feel like being named Neleh?”
I approved, so I laughed and smiled at her. Thus it was settled. My new name was Neleh of House Khalidor. Kind of a mouthful, but I assume people would not use the name of my house that often outside official trappings. I still didn’t know if my family frequented official and social gatherings, but I suppose I would find out later.
There were certain consequences to the whole kidnapping event. The house was more closely guarded, and for years my sisters were always accompanied by an escort while they went outside. My father threw himself to his work, and became a bit withdrawn. If I were to speculate, I think he made himself think that the disapproval that he had seen in my eyes had been just his own conscience come knocking, and decided not to renew his dalliances. At least for now.
My sisters were spooked. Or at least Delia and Selene that had some understanding of what happened were. They were mostly afraid of losing their baby sister, and as a result started spending more time with me. Just staying in the same room, doing whatever they would have usually done, just now in my presence. Occasionally reaching out to touch me. The physical contact reinforcing in their mind that I was still there. I think they might have become slightly dependent on my presence, only feeling safe when they could see me at a glance or touch me. I tried to reassure them with my smiles and laughter, but I don’t think it really helped beyond the moment, even if they smiled happily back at me. As a baby, my options to help were limited. I think somewhere in their minds they felt bad for not being here when it happened. Selvaria and Elsaria were pretty much normal, although they somewhat mimicked their bigger sisters, not really understanding why they were doing it.
My mother might have been the worst off though. It seems her world had collapsed when I was taken. Unsurprisingly she blamed herself, since she was the only one of our family at home when it happened. She felt it had been her duty to protect me, but she had been resting. No one blamed her of course, and deep down she probably also understood that it was not really her fault, but she couldn’t quite get there yet. Hopefully with a little time though. In the meantime though, while Delia and Selene might have been slightly dependent on my presence, mother definitely was. It’s not like she wasn’t happy and she laughed and had fun just like before, but she carried me everywhere and didn’t let me down for anything. She even took to sleeping with me in her bed, so she had me within arm’s reach the whole time. Add to that both Delia and Selene who also wanted to stay in the same room and Selvaria and Elsaria who followed their big sisters around, just having fun. More nights than not, we ended in an adorable puppy pile on mothers bed. Father was either banished from the room, or he hadn’t been sleeping there before anyway. I wasn’t really sure, and it wasn’t talked about.
Mother’s constant presence prevented me from meditating, but I didn’t really mind. I had come a bit too close to losing my family and I appreciated their presence. A month after the event, I finally found out what father’s profession was, while listening to his talk with mother. He was apparently some sort of Eldarinwe master smith. From what I understood, his work wasn’t just the traditional smithing, but that our family and two other families were some kind of specialty master crafters. One family per elven clan passed down the secrets of the elven master crafting along their family line.
Apparently the work was part smithing, part jewel crafting and part enchanting. The only reason I even knew this much, was because father talked about a project he was doing for the lord of the area we were living in. The works of the three families were in high demand. I still didn’t understand why he was so insistent on having a son though. As I mentioned before, I had seen several female master smiths of various races in my old life. I was also at least somewhat familiar with the methods of the elven smiths on other worlds, and there was nothing in them that specifically required a man. In fact the greatest elven smith I’d known was a woman. It couldn’t be just patriarchal tradition, could it?
We got into an interesting situation when I was about five months old. My two oldest sisters were supposed to resume their lessons with a pair of teachers, but they still hadn’t gotten over the dependence they had on my presence and neither had my mother. So we all attended these lessons. I was a little afraid mother would get bored with these lessons, but she seemed happy just being in the presence of her children. She also wound up helping with the lessons on occasion. I was quite happy to attend the lessons myself. Finally I had a method of finding out more about this new world I was on, and in a fairly structured manner no less. The information was also more reliable, than the random hearsay that I got from listening to the maids and cooks talk. The best part was that I was effectively attending two lessons at the same time with one teaching the very basics to Selene and the other teaching a bit more in-depth stuff for Delia.
The lessons on reading, writing and math were rather dull. I already knew perfectly how to read, though it took me a few days to learn the letters used by the elves, and I probably knew more about math than the teacher would ever learn. Also, they didn’t exactly hand me a pen so I could try my hand at writing. I think it was about at about this point that mother started to have suspicions that I understood more of their talk than I was letting on. This was when I zoned out the reading and writing lessons, and started to pay more attention to the other teacher. Mother wasn’t stupid, and after spending every waking hour with me for months, she could already tell perfectly well where my attention was. And in retrospect I think it might have been a bit odd for a baby my age to pay rapt attention to a teacher that was doing nothing but talking. And he wasn’t even dressed in bright colors or anything. At this point she started paying more attention to me, and every time she helped with a lesson, it was like she was also trying to see if I was learning the material too.
I would have liked lessons on magic, but apparently that wasn’t on the curriculum for my sisters yet either. History and geography were the lessons that were most useful to me. From these I learned that there existed eight major races in this world, several minor races and a whole cornucopia of various monster races. The major races were defined as such, because they all had their own protector god. Or conversely I should say that each of the major gods had chosen one of the races as their favorite, and that race thus became known as one of the major races and flourished in this world.
Of the major races Elves, Fairies, Beastmen, Humans and Demons lived mainly on their own rather sizeable continents. Dragons were the by far the most powerful race, and they were scattered in small groups or in their lonesome on the various continents. The Naga mostly lived in their cities under the ocean, but maintained a couple cities on each continent for diplomatic and trade reasons. The last of the major races, the Celestials inhabited a couple of floating islands that moved between the continents, and they mostly acted as a go-between when the other races got into an argument or even a war with each other. They also sometimes intervened if a disaster got out of hand, or if one of the races was getting superiority over the others. Apparently this had happened a couple of times in the past, with almost every other race being guilty.
I personally wasn’t too keen on the presence of Celestials on this world. I’d had a few run-ins with the Celestial Host, from the Heaven Realm, and while I had some friends among them, I also had angered quite a few among them, namely the leader of the celestial host among them. I thought Gabriel was rather unfair in her anger, but there was little I could do about it now. I just hoped the Celestials of this world had no connection to them…