-----Sariel’s POV -----
The arrival of the dragon had shocked Sariel, Asheara Alduin and captain Gloridas. The animals and monsters on the other hand were more prone to listening to their instincts, and those instincts were telling them to be somewhere else. So the mad rush towards the hill turned into a mad rush in all other directions. The majestic blue dragon seemed content to let them go. That or it couldn’t be bothered to hunt them down. Sariel’s mind started working quickly.
What could bring a member of the dragon race here? Granted the power invoked by the little girl’s ritual had been great, but it wasn’t on the scale that would worry a mighty dragon. Zamekh wasn’t among the strongest of dragons, but he wasn’t exactly far from them either. Even one of the weaker dragons was the equivalent of an army of the other races. The ritual had also been beautiful enough to move Sariel’s soul, but it was unlikely to draw a dragon out of its lair, even if it did have some magical means of seeing what was going on.
“Lord Zamekh, may I inquire as to your purpose here?” Sariel tried a polite approach. Polite approach is usually the best choice with dragons, followed by groveling, which she wasn’t too keen on.
“You do not have the right to ask questions, pigeon.” (Zamekh)
“Pi..pigeon?!” Sariel sputtered with outrage.
“You there, dark haired pointy ear! You are this hatchlings mother, yes?” Zamekh looked at Asheara.
“Y…yes I am, Lord.” (Asheara)
“I was sent here to make sure the hatchling survives to see tomorrow, and preferably many moons to come. You will show me to your lair; so that I may see to it that she comes to no harm.” (Zamekh)
Despite her outrage, Sariel immediately picked up an important detail, about the dragon’s words. Someone had sent the dragon. Of all the things that had happened here, this might be the most significant. Sariel would have paid good money to find out how a little girl had been able to perform a ritual this complex, and even more to find out where the girl had learned it, but those details paled in comparison with what the dragon had hinted at. Dragons weren’t just sent to places. They were not guardian beasts for hire, and even to gain a minor favor from them came at a great cost, because of the dragons’ well-earned pride.
There were exactly two ways a dragon could be sent anywhere. They bowed to the will of a dragon significantly more powerful than them, and in Zamekh’s case that could only mean one the three elders of their dragon race. Or the Protector God and the creator of the Dragons could order them. If it was any other god, then the latter might be more likely, but Satai the God of the Dragons did not take part in worldly matters. The world had felt the touch of Satai exactly three times before. The first time, was when he created the most powerful race on the planet, namely the dragons, the second time was to put an end to a war between dragons and other races, which the other races where losing badly. The third time had been soon after the second time, where Satai had created the system, where the other major gods were able to pick a chosen for themselves, and grant those chosen a part of the god’s power. The whole point of the system was to allow the other races a chance to fight a dragon that went on a rampage. Satai was considered widely to be the most powerful of all the gods.
So either the girl had drawn the eye of the most powerful and the most elusive of the gods, or one of the three dragon elders had taken an interest in her. In either case this just elevated the girl into the most interesting and possibly most important person on the continent. Sariel had to report this to the other celestials by any means necessary, and if at all possible arrange a watchful eye on the girl. The first task was just a matter of getting out of here alive, and the dragon did not seem too interested in stopping that. The second task might be a bit trickier, depending on if the three elves had picked up on the important word. The mother was a mess, and too worried about her daughter to really pay attention. The warrior elf was too busy making sure the area was secure, and didn’t really look all that smart. The third one however, the old male, was someone Sariel knew to be a smart and powerful man. If he had noticed, then he’d want to monitor the child too, so there may exist a possibility to cooperate. If not…
The dragon picked up the child ever so gently by scooping up the ground around her, and started to move as the child’s mother directed. Sariel noticed that the glowing tattoos on the child had faded, except a few star-like twinkles in her hair. This did not seem odd, as such markings of power usually only showed when the power granted by them was used heavily. The dragon and the elves weren’t paying attention to Sariel, so she decided it was time to make a hasty exit. She had most likely gotten everything she could from here anyway.
When everyone had left the area around the hill, a figure in a dark cloak approached. The figure was roughly humanoid shaped under the cloak, and approximately the height and build of an elf. It also had a crystal ball in its hand. The figure was watching the crystal intently, and the crystal showed the image of Neleh dancing her ritual. A deep chuckle could be heard.
“Well well. Information about a dragon being involved in a ritual should fetch a grand price from the other members of Consortium. I could probably also retire with the money this crystal will fetch me. There will be a bidding war to purchase the recording of a fair elven child performing a grand ritual never before seen, and dancing and singing with grace that can move one’s soul. It’s too bad the lizard disturbed the magical formations around the hill, or I could sell the information on those too.” The dark figure let out a gleeful laugh.
She couldn’t form a coherent memory of the trip back home. She tried later, especially when Neleh asked her what had happened, but it was just a blur in her mind with some images standing out. The most pressing one being the image of her little girl in the dragons grasp naked and fragile. She’d seen her daughter’s unconscious form too often for her peace of mind, and that image just exemplified everything. Her daughter had suffered too much, in some cases it was her fault, while in others she was helpless. She’d always had a special relationship with her youngest daughter, even if a parent should not have favorites among her children, but even if you didn’t consider the bond, the fact remained that Neleh was special. And she had come too close to losing her too many times. Something in her mind was coming close to a breaking point.
Once they came close to the house, the noise of the guards and the servants roused her from her thoughts. Of course the people were making noise, they were shocked to see a dragon approaching. And even if their mansion was slightly outside their home town, it was still close enough, so the town guard was also running around preparing. Though, for what was a bit unclear. What could the town guard do against a dragon anyway? Luckily captain Gloridas had rejoined them, and although he too had been rattled badly enough to not go ahead and warn everyone, he still had the presence of mind to go and explain things to the guards, and shoo them off, so as to not anger the dragon.
At that point Alduin took over things. Once Zamekh found out that the mansion was their home, he handed Neleh off to the maids and negotiated something with Alduin. Asheara was torn for a moment between going with Neleh, and helping her teacher deal with the dragon, but her worry over her daughter won over. She helped the maids clean her daughter’s body, which had gotten dirty due to all the dust kicked up by the dragon and the trashing she had done while in agony and surrounded by the white flame her ritual had summoned. Asheara could tell the difference in her daughter’s body immediately. It was a lot stronger and sturdier, with some actual muscles showing, while somehow still retaining the look of a little girl. She was also heavier. As if her body had become more dense, like she now had soft steel under her skin instead of flesh. And if you looked really closely, you could see very faint outlines of the patterns that had glowed on her skin earlier. Only if you knew what to look for though.
She had put Neleh to bed, and was standing by her bedside, when Alduin walked into the room.
“Are you well enough now to handle a few matters?” Alduin asked gently, clearly referencing her earlier behavior.
“Yes. I am sorry master, to show such an embarrassing side of me. I’ve simply seen Neleh hurt too many times. I don’t know what to do.” Asheara said while almost bursting into tears.
“Don’t worry child. I’ve heard some of what you’re talking about, and can understand you being unsettled. Although I had hoped my student could handle things with a little more grace.” Alduin reassured her in an almost joking matter. Asheara knew he wasn’t completely joking though. She had shown a shameful side of herself to her master, who had always valued highly the ability to retain a cool head no matter the situation.
“Zamekh is gone. He did however cast a protective spell over your home. It’s a protective shield that will prevent most attacks, while drawing strength from the local ley lines. The spell will also strike at anyone that comes inside the area affected, intending to do harm to your daughter. I also suspect it also allows the dragon to keep an eye on whatever goes on around here, so be careful. I’ve only once seen a protective spell that complicated, and that one is protecting the royal palace of Rhi’a’non. It’s impressive what the dragons can do with magic when they set their minds to it.” Her master sounded sort of wishful. Unsurprisingly though, because the magic protecting the royal palace was put in place by Elune herself.
“Now care to explain to me what happened out there? I have never witnessed a ritual like that, and why in the goddesses name was Zamekh drawn there?” His patience was clearly finally giving way to his curiosity.
“I wish I could tell you, but I can’t. The ritual was all Neleh’s doing, and I don’t think even she anticipated the dragon.” (Asheara)
“Wait, you mean to tell me, that your daughter came up with a ritual that complex by herself? What is she, like 4 or 5 years old?” (Alduin)
“A little over 4 yes. As for the ritual, that I cannot tell you. It is her secret to keep or share.” Asheara knew that her daughter was already going to be drawing some attention both from the celestials, and from her teacher, but it would be better if they thought she had found the information somewhere. She would not be able to handle it, if anyone tried to take Neleh away. And they would try if they knew she had access to information like that from her dreams. Asheara also knew her daughter had not told the whole truth about her dreams, but did not mind because she loved her special daughter, and would continue to do so, no matter what.
Surprisingly Alduin seemed to acquiesce to her decision. “Fine. But let me have a word with her once she feels a little better. I need to know where she got the information. Oh I should warn you. Zamekh’s presence has drawn the eyes of the celestials. They will most likely try to have someone monitor your daughter. Depending on how things go, you might want to allow them to do that, or they might get a bit more forceful in their involvement.”
Asheara sensed that her teacher wasn’t telling the whole truth either. Then again he never did. He was a good teacher, but had always had secrets that he kept close to his chest, and he wasn’t a big believer in volunteering information he didn’t think you needed. Maybe that’s why he didn’t pry further into Neleh’s matters. He would rather investigate on his own. He was a man who was big on secrets, but only really trusted his own judgement.
For once, waking up felt wonderful. Obviously there was the stark lack of pain, which had been present while she went unconscious. Her body also felt much better. Once she opened her eyes and scanned around, her eyes fell on the sleeping form of her mother. Her mother had stayed up by her bed again. She looked so peaceful sleeping there by her side, that Neleh didn’t have the will to wake her up, but also knew her mother would be worried, if she went wondering around, and the bed would be empty when she woke up. And she had caused her enough worry already. So now it was her turn to watch over her mother’s sleep.
It might have been the bond telling Asheara that she was awake, because her mother only slept for what seemed like few minutes before waking up. Neleh tried to make the process more pleasant by flooding the bond with love, and the warm feelings she got while watching her sleep.
“Good morning sleepyhead.” (Neleh)
“Oh honey you’re awake! Are you ok? Is there any pain?” Asheara was fussing and trying to search for any injuries, which didn’t make much sense since she had checked her body over thoroughly the previous night.
“I am fine mother. In fact, I feel better than I have ever felt before. If nothing else, the ritual was a great success.” (Neleh)
“What happened with the ritual anyway? What were those glowing patterns on your body? They’re gone now, except a few twinkles in your hair, but they were really bright earlier.” Asheara was shooting off questions now.
“The ritual was meant to draw upon the power of the heavenly bodies, to strengthen mine. Their power remade some of my body. And the glowing patterns as you called them aren’t gone; they’re simply hidden while I’m not drawing on their power. I’m afraid the Ignasia as they’re called, are permanent.” (Neleh)
“Ignasia? Permanent? Please explain. I need to know what’s going on.” (Asheara)
“Well…you know of the general function of the aura the celestials possess?” She continued after seeing her nod. “Well the Ignasia serve a similar purpose. Instead of drawing on the power of the person’s aura though, they draw on the power of the heavenly bodies and the Ignasia work like a channel through which that power flows. The more power I draw the more brightly the Ignasia glow. Now that I’m not drawing on any power, the markings are not showing at all.”
“Except a little twinkle in your hair.” Asheara corrected with a smile.
“Well, even if I’m not actively drawing on any power, my body passively uses a little bit just to maintain basic functions. The power also passively strengthens my body a tiny bit and tries to remove exhaustion, even if there’s nothing to remove.” She smiled back.
“The thing on your tummy seemed a little different from the others?” (Asheara)
“Yes, it seems I drew the attention of a god or a goddess. I don’t quite know the details of what that meant either and I didn’t have time to figure that part out. That wasn’t supposed to happen, but I don’t think it was anything negative. I’ll need to look into it further to know more.” (Neleh)
Suddenly Asheara got serious, and Neleh could feel a mountain of worry and sadness through the bond.
“Even if this time ended well, we have to stop doings dangerous things. I don’t think my heart will able to handle any more situations like this. I’ve had to watch by your bedside too many times, hoping for you to wake and be alright. I don’t think I could handle something like this happening again.” (Asheara)
In her mind Neleh knew her mother was right. Her mother had been extremely possessive, and dependent on her ever since the kidnapping incident. And Neleh could feel through the bond, something changing in her mother. And that change was probably not towards a less possessive and dependent direction. She was getting worried about her mother.
“I will try to avoid danger in the future. At least now I won’t be quite as helpless as I used to be. If we get into a situation where you’ll have to draw on my power again, now my body will be able to handle it. That said, there’s no way to avoid danger in life entirely, and if there was, one would be bored to death.” (Neleh)
“Just try to not do anything too dangerous. The dragon showing up this time was too much. I know dragons have not been talked about on your lessons, and I don’t know what your dreams have shown about them, but dragons are not like rest of the races. We can’t afford to antagonize them.” (Asheara)
“Wait what?! There was a dragon involved? What the heck happened last night?!” Neleh asked in shock.