I'm thinking there should be a chapter 5,5, but I could make it 6,5 if you feel the ending is too cliffhangerish.
It’s a strange thing to feel like a baby and a real winner at the same time. I was currently taking my first tentative steps after being unable to move around for almost a year. I looked like a baby taking its first steps while holding on to the side of the bed. I also felt like a winner because it took me less than a year to repair most of the damage caused when mother drew on my mana too heavily. I still wasn’t quite at the same point as I was before the event, but at least I was getting around again. Mother and my sisters were cheering me on which also increased to my dualistic feeling of a baby and a winner.
I suppose fathers presence would have helped, had he been around, but he was spending less and less time with us. Mother had basically tossed him out when I first woke up after my long unconsciousness. I think the bond was partly to blame for that. I had discovered another side to the bond not long after waking up. I’m not entirely sure if it should be considered a downside or an upside. The bond allowed one to feel the emotions the other person was feeling, as I had immediately noticed after waking. The new thing was that feeling the other person’s emotions had a powerful effect on your own emotions. In this case, mother had been angry at father, which in turn had made me angry, which had made her even more angry and so on. It could be a pretty dramatic compounding effect if you weren’t careful. Bad if anger is compounded, very nice when the same happens on a more positive emotion. On the other hand, if the other person was able to remain calm while, the other was under a powerful emotion, that could have a really strong calming effect on the emotional person. More practice required.
On the other hand I wasn’t terribly sad not to see father around as much. I had never known my father in my previous life. Odds are I might have even killed him at some point, as is wont to happen among my original race. My sisters and my mother were already a huge improvement over my old life, and no family is perfect as the saying goes. Also my father had already grown distant by the time I was born, due to his infidelity, so it’s not like the change was huge. I did feel a little bad for my sisters though. They clearly missed their father. I should probably try to do something about that.
To that end, I had finally dug around enough to find out why my father was so adamant about having a male heir to his work. Finally it was my mother that told me the reason. A part of the elven smithing on this world required the smith to infuse a part of his life-force into his works. The amount required was not as large as to seriously affect the smith, or to cut into his life-expectancy, but was enough to most certainly kill any unborn child a female smith was pregnant with. And the elven smiths were required by necessity to perform enough work that there was no time for a female smith who was pregnant, to carry the pregnancy to term. There was no certainty about it, but it was also thought the life-force required would make a female smith completely sterile even if she were to stop working. In other words, if the smith was a female, she would be unable to have children. As the secrets were supposed to be passed down in the family, that was sort of a problem for them.
Which also made me realize my father was an idiot. All that was required was that father would pass his knowledge on to me for example, and I would then pass them on to a child that one of my sisters had. As long as those children were of our house and not whatever of house my sisters decided to marry into, the information would stay within the family. I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to bring this up with father since I was quite sure none of my sisters wanted to pick up smithing as a profession, so it would most likely end up being me who would have to pick up that particular slack. On the other hand that might allow my father to spend a bit more time with my sisters without my mother killing him, if it became obvious my father was no longer trying to sow his seed among the maids. I might end up killing him though if I was forced to spend decades learning the trade from him. The compounding anger had left its mark on me too.
On the other hand, I had no specific plans for my future profession. I knew I would learn magic skills and warrior skills so that I was able to protect myself and my family, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to end up in the military or as a hunter. I suppose I could become a magic researcher with my knowledge from my past life, but that would be weird, when I didn’t actually need to do any research, just pretend to. Also it might upset the balance between the races. I knew I couldn’t become a teacher of magic because I sucked at teaching. That was something that had become readily apparent in my previous life. I had considered becoming a musician, what with having knowledge of music from millions of worlds. While I had never played an instrument myself, listening to music had been one of my few real passions in my old life, and I was sure I could learn to play if I wanted. My learning ability was great even if my talent might end up not being all that. I had in fact asked mother to provide me with a musical instruments to ease my boredom while I was bound to a bed. I was getting quite decent with a harp and a violin, even though I had not tried any of the songs from other worlds yet.
Taking up my father’s profession would ease tensions in the family though, and it would provide my father some peace of mind. It was a good enough profession anyway. And it would be a chance to learn new skills and do something I wasn’t too experienced in. In other words it might turn out interesting. I might also be able to avoid the tests of ability that I was meant to take at age 16, on the grounds of already having my future decided for me. I still couldn’t figure a proper way to hide my abilities. I knew several magical means to hide my abilities. Almost too many. But I couldn’t use magic until my Awakening, and I wasn’t sure which happened first, or how much time there would be between the tests. I wasn’t sure if “I’m sorry, can I take a break in the middle of tests so I can go to the bathroom to cast a spell to hide my abilities”-would work.
I also wasn’t all that sure about whether I wanted children of my own, which would give my sisters the freedom to have theirs, if I took on father’s profession. I mean I loved the idea of having a family and children of my own. But I was female now. Which meant the other partner in crime as it were, would need to be male, and I wasn’t all that sure I was ok with that idea. In my previous life I had been firmly in the camp that preferred the company of women when it came to all matters sexual, and at least in my mind I still was in that camp. I had heard theories on the formation of sexual orientation, and there was a definite nature versus nurture element in that debate. I had never really paid that much attention to it myself, since I already knew my own preference, and the preference of others was their own business, but I thought that I might now be an interesting case study. I knew love and attraction had a strong instinctive and hormonal component, while my old mind was solidly in the “liking the fairer sex”- camp and had been for hundreds of years. I was too young to know what reaction my body was to have when I became of sufficient age, and how much that would affect my mentality.
All this was purely speculation for now though, as my current weak body was almost comically unsuited for that kind of profession, and the onset of sexual interest was probably still a fair few years away. Even my oldest sister Delia had not shown any such interests developing and I suspect elves were late bloomers in that area anyway. I would need to start by doing something to improve my currently weak body, and I had already decided on a course of action that would yield the best results. And I needed to start now for the greatest effect. For that, I would need my mother’s help. I decide to request that help once my sisters were done congratulating me on my regained mobility, and had gone for lessons.
“Can I have a word mother?” (Neleh)
“Of course honey.” Mother stopped; clearly a bit surprised that I did not want to join my sisters on their lessons.
“As you surely are aware, my body is currently in a fairly bad condition. Partly due to what happened with the Darkhunter, but I didn’t have the strongest of bodies to begin with.” I started carefully, not allowing emotions besides calm through the bond.
“I’m sorry honey; I can’t apologize enough for what happened. It’s all my fault your body is in the state that it is.” Mother clearly still carried guilt from what happened.
“We knew there was risk in what we tried, and I certainly don’t blame you for what happened. What’s passed is not what I wanted to talk about anyway. What concerns me is the future.” Mother had already gotten used to me speaking with knowledge and skill beyond my years, even if she still considered me a child. “I know of a way that could help me fix things, and allow me a much better life.”
“You mean something from those dreams of yours don’t you? I’m not sure this is a good idea. I know you have learned things from them, but I’m still not sure we should trust them.” (Asheara)
“While caution is a good trait while dealing with the unexplained, we cannot continue as is. We need to be prepared should something similar happen again. We are bonded and I’d rather I was of help to you, rather than a source of worry.” I continued with a smile. “Besides, even if it doesn’t’ work, all that will happen is that I will look foolish, and you’ll get a good laugh out of it.”
“I could never laugh at your expense honey.” (Asheara)
“Of course you can. It’s a sign of closeness to be able to laugh at the others expense without hurting their feelings.” (Neleh)
Mother gave an odd look, and the bond gave a feeling I could not quite follow. I elected not to follow it though.
“I will need your help though. What I have in mind requires some time, and a certain kind of location. I also need you to stay close and stop any interferences until what I have in mind is complete.” (Neleh)
“All right. I still think this is a bad idea, but I will go along with it.”
I was a little shocked and a lot confused when Neleh explained what she needed. A week later I was taking her to a fairly tall hill inside the forest near our mansion. She had me draw several complex magical patterns in specific places around and on the hill. While this was going on Neleh was eating and drinking as much as possible as well as stretching herself, testing that her body moved just as she wanted it to. I was getting worried. Whatever she had planned would require physical exercise and it was going to be with little to no breaks, because she had asked me to provide her body with strength and nutrients the same way I had done while she had been unconscious for a year.
She also made me swear not to interrupt her no matter what happened, and to make sure no one else interrupted me either. We had enlisted the help of captain Gloridas to help keep any stray animals and monsters away, although Neleh had insisted that they would know to stay away, and that she was more worried about people interrupting. What got me worried was that the whole process was supposed to take ten days, and it was clearly dangerous if something went wrong, even if she had insisted that she knew what she was doing. I trust my daughter, but I’ve already come too close to losing her on too many occasions. But I also know how important this is to her, and how frustrated she has been about her weakness. I could feel it through the bond even if she tried to hide it.
Once we were finished, she sat in the middle of the hilltop waiting. She had said that whatever she had planned could only begin at a specific time. We waited until nightfall. It was the magical moment when the day had not quite yet given up dominion, with the last rays of the red sunset coming over the horizon, and the night had not yet quite yet asserted its power, with only the first stars starting to shine in the sky. Then Neleh finally rose and started to move.
She was dancing, but this dance was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. She started slowly almost languid and shy. A slow plea of a fair maiden towards the skies. Her movements picked up speed, her small feet taking her across and around the hill. Sadness and urgency now shined as the emotions invoked by her movements. Asheara could feel tears rolling down her cheeks and couldn’t move enough to wipe them away. Out of the corner of her eye she could see captain Gloridas also watching and openly crying. Neleh’s movements became faster and faster, her hands and feet leaving streaks of light from the tips of her fingers and toes. It was as if she was battling a thousand invisible foes with grace. Her movements signaling desperation and anger, yet every movement was executed with a millimeter precision as if dodging an invisible blade only a hairs breadth away. And finally the forceful movements with absolute certainty that carried the majesty and authority of an empress.
It was the most beautiful thing Asheara had ever seen, and she had seen the courts of the major races, the flying islands and cities of celestials and the underwater kingdoms of the Naga. She had been a very successful hunter and had seen it all, but nothing compared to this. A lone girl of early years giving out her plea and offering to the heavens. This moment was magical. Before she noticed, the night had almost passed and the first rays of the rising sun where coming to the eastern sky. And she could feel a power gathering. The more her daughter danced, the more power gathered around the hill. Where would this lead?
First night and day had almost passed. She was in good condition, and should probably thank mother for providing her with strength. She had been worried whether her body was up to the challenge of the precise movements required. Luckily her Ki veins had repaired enough that she could use her internal strength to wipe away her exhaustion. She’d suffer some pains once this was over, but that was a minor price to pay.
It was a good thing that there was a way to perform magical rituals aside from casting spells. Magical rituals that could be performed by even those that had no mana or magical ability. Or like in her case, unable to access their mana. Many of those rituals were performed with song and dance, and were at the heart of many a religious ceremony. Not all such ceremonies had to be directed to the gods of the various worlds. The one she was performing now was a plea directed towards the heavenly bodies. The heavenly bodies had their own power. Even the planet they were living on had its lay lines and places of power, so why would the others not have their own? Power that was unused due of the distance and difficulty of transfer. Unless you had the required knowledge to perform the ritual required to bring that power to you. Power that could be utilized in a fashion similar to the aura of the celestials. So she performed the dance the ritual was controlled by.
Even with the power supplied to her by her mother, and the ability to wipe away exhaustion, the ritual was a burden on her tiny body. But the ritual had to be performed now, while she was still young. The amount of power she could use would increase while her body grew to adapt to the power, and the pathways of power inside her would form to accommodate the strange power. It was almost a good thing her current pathways were in a bad state, so the new pathways would be able to easily form to replace the old ones and destroy the old ones at the same time. That would hurt like hell though.
For now she danced. The power around the hill continued to grow. She was getting slightly worried, because the power could already be felt from a significant distance even if one wasn’t paying attention. The instincts of animals and monsters would keep them from interrupting, though she could already see some of them gathering on the edges of the clearing that surrounded the hill. They were here just to watch. They knew better than go against the power of the heavenly bodies. She wasn’t so sure the so called intelligent races would be smart enough to do the same. Intelligence often clashed with instinct. She just had to hope anyone that came to see what was going on would realize the importance and sacredness of the ritual and would not interfere. Or that mother and captain Gloridas would poke enough holes in them to make them more considerate.
On the sixth day she added her voice to the ritual. Her haunting song using a language never before heard in this world. A voice telling of the wonders of heaven and the glories of fallen empires. A young voice carrying the sound of a lonely flute, instilling in those listening the lonely distance of the endless void, and the sadness of a people long gone. She used some of the same effects from her soul that made up the Song of Khali. The voice carried her plea to anyone listening and to the heavens.
By the end of day nine she was starting to feel the effects of her long ritual. She knew she could carry on for the last day, but she’d have nothing left after. The power gathered was already so large that she was certain that the powers to be on this continent had noticed. It was only a matter of time before their representatives would arrive to see what was happening. She could only hope that the first ones there that could go against her two helpers were not hostile. And that she and her mother would be able to leave before something bad happened. She had miscalculated a bit. She hadn’t thought the power gathered would be so obvious. That’s what you get for performing a ritual she had never done before, in her old life.
Slowly she could see humanoid shapes gathering around. The first ones to arrive were obviously elves, this being their home continent. She saw her mother talking deferentially in whispers to an old looking male elf. He must be someone mother is familiar with. Maybe he could help. Next was a majestic looking celestial with four pairs of golden wings. She was probably the ambassador to the elven lands. I had heard of her before. Her eyes showed both curiosity and an odd sort of reverence. She was also crying. I guess her soul was more easily affected by my song. She could also sense a shadow watching from distance. After that she had to put her complete focus on the ritual and could not pay any more attention around her. The last part of the ritual would guide the power she had gathered in its rightful place. Some of the powers were not entirely compatible, so she had to be careful in combining them.
The final day was coming to an end. When the sun was setting Neleh finally approached the center of the hill and the large magical formation there, kneeling at the center of the formation with her hands in the air. The power surrounding the hill suddenly surged towards the center of the hill, flowing through the formation to enter her body. A bright white fire surrounded her burning her clothing away. A large surge of golden power surged into her arms. Those around her could see golden red symbol of the sun forming on the back of her right hand, and a phoenix symbol, often associated with the sun, on her left hand, staying there like shining tattoos. A pure white power flowed towards her forehead, and formed the twin symbol of a full moon and a moon sickle right next to it. Silver twinkles of light flowed into her hair forming a starry night sky with her dark black hair. Bright blue light formed the image of their galaxy on her back. A green light flowed to her left calf and a brown light flowed to her right, together they formed the lines symbolizing the tree of life, the symbol the elves used to depict the world they inhabited.
Suddenly she felt divine power mixed with the others. Apparently her ritual had drawn the notice of other powers besides the heavenly bodies. The divine power flowed through her into her waist, forming into ten symbols above her sex. Exhausted, she could only slightly wonder the meaning of that. She knew the worst part was about to come. Suddenly the power flowed through all her body into all her muscles and bones. And then there was pain. Every cell in her body burned. Her muscles and bones forming anew. The paths of power inside her growing to replace the old ones, destroying the old ones in their way. Every nerve on her body was on fire. She hastily tried to cover and block out the bond to her mother, knowing that she was only partly successful, trying to prevent her mother from feeling the pain she was in.
“HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” An animalistic cry of pain and agony split the air.
She had been in a trance for the last nine days. The beauty of her daughter’s dance had entranced her. It had entranced the animals and monsters around the clearing too. And then she had started to sing, the song played her soul like an instrument. Making her feel things she had never thought possible. If she’d had any tears left in her body, she would have cried like a river. But those tears were long spent. She woke from her trance only when she felt her master touch her hand. He briefly explained that the power had been felt all the way in Rhi’a’non, and the Chosen of Elune had sent him to investigate. When he saw Neleh whom he recognized as Asheara’s daughter, he asked no questions, only promised to help. Sariel’s arrival had worried her, but the tears in the celestial’s eyes had told the story of interest and sadness, not hostility. She would not threaten them.
Then the ritual came to an end. She started running towards her daughter when she saw the white flames surrounding Neleh. Only her master and Sariel together were able to stop her from entering the flames to hug her beloved daughter despite the danger. She saw the bright patterns emerge on her daughter’s naked body and hair. And then came the pain. She could feel Neleh masking the bond before the pain hit, but there was no way to block it completely and the agony on her beautiful face twisted into a horrible cry of pain. The mother’s cry of despair matched the daughter’s cry of pain.
The twin cries woke up the monsters and animals surrounding the hill. Those cries broke the sacredness surrounding the ritual. Now the monsters and animals felt hunger, and the cry of a wounded pray sounded in their ears. They started a mad dash towards the hill. Sariel was about to start defending against the mad rush, when she and the monsters were frozen in terror. They heard a roar they all recognized. The mightiest lifeform on the planet had arrived.
A huge blue dragon landed on the hill sending a large tremor through the hill, and almost casually flicking a large group of monsters flying with a swipe of its tail. The dragon curled around the body of the little girl on top of the hill as if protecting her. The dragon roared again.
“What is Zamekh doing here?” (Sariel)
“NO ONE SHALL APPROACH THE CHILD!” The great voice of the dragon thundered in the minds of all gathered.