Author's note: Ok, now we come to the chapter where I'll most likely get more feedback than ever before, and cause some people to "nope!" right out of this series. I personally liked how I handled things though, and hope that you all keep enjoying the story. Things needed to be adressed. Thanks for all the comments again!
Selvaria’s Awakening ceremony was closing in fast, and her two older sister’s Delia and Selene were planned to come home to attend the ceremony. Neleh had decided that she would be returning with them to the elven capital of Rhi’a’non whether or not Selvaria was going to end up coming with them or not. She secretly suspected that her upright and moral sister would be happier as a guardswoman or in the elven army. In fact Selvaria’s straightforward and loyal nature would make her excellent in the role of a royal guard. But you couldn’t just apply to become a member of the Legion of the Phoenix. The Legion came to you, if you showed the right qualities. Selvaria had the qualities, and she was doing excellent in her warrior skills, now she needed a chance to show them.
Neleh was justifiably worried that she had delayed her move into the capital for too long. Michael and Gabriel had most likely moved on from that place a long time ago, and were now searching through the elven continent. She had no idea what to do with Michael, but she had an idea on how to deal with Gabriel when she inevitably found her. The plan was dangerous, and might get her killed or worse, but it also had a fairly large upside if it worked. It might not be enough to bring their friendship back, but it would clear the air at least.
The problem was that she wasn’t entirely sure what Gabriel was hoping to accomplish by finding her. She wondered if Gabriel knew herself. The young celestial had always had trouble being honest with herself and others, and it was entirely possible she had gone in search of her out of some vague feeling that it was something she had to do, and didn’t intend to face the reasons behind those feelings before finding her. Well if that was the reason, then her plan was going to be even more effective, if she managed to execute it without getting herself killed.
Before any of that, Neleh would need to have a serious discussion of a different kind with her mother. There were issues they had been pushing off and left undealt with. She’d had quite a bit of time to think and plan in the last few months, and it had become apparent that they would have to deal with those issues before she left. There might be serious consequences if they didn’t.
It was a week before Selvaria’s Awakening when Neleh pulled her mother aside to their garden for a private discussion, and told the guards to not allow anyone to enter.
“We have some things to discuss, and I believe we’ve pushed them away long enough. One of the things we need to discuss is the bond, and the effects it has had on us, and might have in the future.” Neleh started off right away on the important topics. Partially because she knew her mother would try to divert things like she had done the few other times the topic had come up in the last few years.
Asheara sighed. “I know. I knew we’d have to face things, now that you’re going away and I can no longer follow you.”
“First things first, I’ve been spending some time studying the bond. It has become clear to me we can’t break it without severe problems resulting from the backlash. But there is something that can be done. The bond can be traded to another person. More specifically, because it was you who bonded me, I’m stuck with it, but you don’t have to be the one holding the other end. It’s a complicated process, and we’ll need some help to do it, but your end of the bond can be traded away.” Neleh explained matter-of-factly, clearly resigned to her position.
Asheara on the other hand was starting to feel something akin to panic, and felt very defensive. “I didn’t know you disliked our bond so much, that you’d go out of your way to try and get rid of it.”
Neleh gave a small smile. “That’s not why, and you know it. Have I once complained about the bond? You know what I’m feeling, and you know I speak the truth.” And she was right. Asheara had never felt any negative feelings about herself come through the bond. The emotions she had felt were almost purely love and contentment. And that part of the problem.
Neleh kept pressing on. “The more time I spent studying the bond, the clearer it became, that the bond was never intended to be shared among close family like us.” She hesitated the briefest of moments before continuing. “Love comes in many forms and flavors. Each is subtly different from the others, but they all have things in common. Those commonalities allow for the different kinds of love to morph and change, to slowly, or in some cases rapidly, become a different kind of love.” Asheara had paled completely white now, but her daughter carried on. “Something like the bond, the ability to feel the love the other person holds for you and let your own feelings be shown, can work as a powerful catalyst for such change. You know why I’m telling this, don’t you?”
And Asheara did. She now felt the same terror she had felt when Elluin had kissed her for the first time. But unlike when she was young, she now knew that terror wasn’t based on any fear of her daughter. It was based on her fear of her own feelings and desires. She had fought those desires when she was young, and again after she had gotten pregnant with Neleh, effectively getting separated from her husband. Feeling like she wanted sexual things, she had pushed those feelings away constantly. She had simply decided she wasn’t interested in things of sexual nature anymore, because that seemed like the smartest and safest thing to do. Her body disagreed though.
Asheara’s emotional level stayed high, so high that it scared her. She’d grown more or less comfortable with her youngest daughter and the bond. She thought she only loved her as family, but now she wasn’t so sure. Knowing Neleh had a mental age far beyond her form had allowed her to think of her daughter as something else. As someone else. She felt a tug inside her that screamed for her to be closer to that someone. That had allowed her to imagine her own sweating naked body against hers, and feel a thrill. Feel like it was something to be desired instead of avoided.
“I think I’m in love with you.” Asheara whispered, not really meaning to say it out loud.
“And that’s why I have to go, and why we need to get that bond off you at some point.” Neleh whispered gently.
“And what if I don’t want to let you go? What if I want to hold on to the bond with both hands?” Asheara asked almost petulantly, not noticing their roles getting reversed with her becoming the childish teenager and her daughter being the responsible adult.
“That is something we could discuss, if I thought you really felt that way, but I don’t. The bond is affecting you too much, clouding your judgement and real emotions. If you still feel that way after a few years from getting the bond off you, then that’s another thing. But I don’t think that will be the case.” Neleh sounded almost sad, and definitely did when she continued. “Besides there’s another reason you can’t carry the other end of the bond. You know of what happens to the surviving person if their partner dies?”
“Yes. Someone explained it to me. The grief from the loss will result in their deaths.” Asheara answered, now a little confused from the sudden change in topics.
“That is one of the possible results yes. A less known, and probably buried on purpose, other result is that the surviving party can go mad with rage and will seek to wreak indiscriminate revenge. Against the world if no-one else is available. The first possible result is bad enough, but I know myself well enough, that should something happen to you, I would end up with the latter result. And that could end up being catastrophic.” She had resignation in her voice. And a little bit of fear.
That confused Asheara. Neleh was many things, but she had never felt her daughter afraid. “Catastrophic? Surely you exaggerate. I mean it would be terrible, if something was to happen to you after my death, but why would it be catastrophic?”
“Because, for some people blind rage is much more dangerous than any other emotion. For them and the world they inhabit.” Both Neleh and Asheara turned around quickly when they heard the male voice, spotting a black winged and regal celestial landing in the garden. “Is that why you rebuffed Gabriel, Little Flame? Because you were afraid of what might happen if you got too close to her, and something happened to her?”
“Michael…” Neleh’s voice carried many things, top among them a warning of what would happen should he continue on that topic.
‘This is Michael?!’ Thought Asheara in half panic. He had finally found them.
“You look great Little Flame. I much prefer this to your old looks.” Michael continued with clear mirth looking at Neleh up and down her body.
“Why are you here? Surely you didn’t come here just to tease me, and mess things up for my new life. I’m warning you, that should you push me too much I’m willing to pay the price to see you gone.” Neleh now had anger and steel in her voice.
Michael laughed. “Save your empty threats. We both know you hate your power. I wonder how many lives it would take to kill me? No matter, as much as I love messing with you, and believe me I do, I did have actual business here. I’ve come with a message and a warning.”
“If you’re here to warn me about Gabriel, I already know she’s here. I have some thoughts on how to deal with that.” She said with caution in her voice.
“Oh I heard. You’re bonded with this woman, who I assume is your mother. Congrats on that by the way. You intend to transfer the bond from her to Gabriel. I’m actually tempted to stick around and help you with that. It would be very entertaining.” The mirth in his voice was back.
“Wait, you want to transfer the bond on to someone hunting you?! I’m not condoning this!” Asheara was upset enough about Neleh dismissing her feelings, but now she was going to be bonded to some tart from her old life that couldn’t let go and accept her loss.
Neleh sighed. “That’s only one possibility. Ideally the bond should go to someone I plan to spend the rest of my life with. Unfortunately that would result in the problem I mentioned if something should happen to that person. At least the bond would be safe with Gabriel.”
Asheara was getting angry and confused. “I still don’t understand why it would be such a tragic thing. It’s not uncommon for a person to get angry if something happens to their lover.”
Michael decided to answer her. “Unfortunately Little Flame is not like other people. In her case that could be the worst thing that could happen for this world. I hate to admit it but she is right. Gabriel would be perfect for holding the bond.”
“Michael!” Neleh said the warning clear in her voice.
“She deserves to know as the holder of the bond. She needs to understand why her life is currently perhaps the most important thing in this world, and act accordingly. You have this beautiful dragon made defensive spell around your home, and she needs to know that it was put there as much for her benefit as it was for yours.” He was on a roll now. “Your daughter has obviously told you some bits and pieces about her past, but did she ever tell you about how worlds are really created?”
Asheara nodded confused. “Yes, but I don’t see the relevance.”
“Well she probably also mentioned, but you didn’t pay attention to, that universe always has a habit of keeping a balance in things. If there are such hard working creators at work, why aren’t there more worlds out there? I mean the Primordial Creators have been at it for eons.” Michael had a smile now, noticing the worry in Neleh’s face and the slow understanding in Asheara’s.
“You mean…” Asheara didn’t want to finish.
“Right. If there are beings with the power to create, then there must be those with the power to destroy. Not all choose to utilize that power for its intended purpose. Especially if they’re born to a race that symbolizes life, even if the members of that race are busy trying to kill each other.” Michael grinned at Neleh. “But the power is still there, even if unused. Now imagine such a being in a blind rage.”
Asheara now half in shock stuttered out. “But Neleh doesn’t’ have that kind of power. I know, because the reason we have the bond is because I had to draw on her mana.”
Neleh answered her in quiet whisper. “Not all powers use mana to fuel them.”
Asheara got suddenly worried. “You don’t mean your own life do you? I’ll never allow you to use such power if you’ll use your own life to do so.”
Neleh’s whisper was even quieter and you could hear a pin drop in the resulting silence that followed. “If that was the case then there would be no problem. No, the life force used isn’t my own.” After the silence had gone for a while, Neleh finally remembered something. “Right, Michael you said something about a message and a warning?”
“Indeed. As much as I enjoy watching you struggle, I wouldn’t come all the way here and spend years looking for you just for that. I have a warning from Onoel and a message from Tian’Zun. Onoel says that “the Enemy is coming back” though the old bat failed to specify a time frame. Tian’Zun wanted me to tell you that he had bargained with the local deities. They know you pushed the Enemy back the last time, and in return for hiding you from your enemies, they expect you to defend this world from the Enemy. Also in return for taking in the most dangerous soul in all the Planes, they will have a few more services they will require from you.” Michael finished with a grin.
Neleh choked a laugh. “They clearly aren’t’ doing all that good of a job if you found me. And how do they expect me to defeat the Enemy when I lost most of my power when I reincarnated? They don’t really expect me to use my powers of destruction for that? They know that would be the end of this world if I drained all the life from it.”
Michael laughed. “Of course not. They don’t expect you to defeat the Enemy, that’s what both the Celestial Host and the forces of Inferno are for. Well that and to fight each other. They simply expect you to help defend this world. I’m led to believe they are planning to offer their own power to use instead of the lives of this world’s inhabitants. You should probably get some training in a temple or something. You’ve never practiced borrowing the power of others and you’ll probably need to practice with something less complex first.”
Neleh was feeling resigned, while Asheara was trying to recover from shock. Michael was preparing to leave. “You really do look good enough to eat. You wouldn’t want a little romp just to test things out would you?” She started throwing rocks at the celestials, to send him on his way, while he kept laughing.
Neleh and Asheara both needed some time to recover from what had happened. Neleh needed to come to terms with the news she had heard. Asheara on the other hand had to come to grips with losing the person she just had realized she was in love with, and at the same time she needed some time to absorb what the celestial had told her about the power her daughter possessed, and her new role that required her to stay protected herself, instead of just wanting to protect her family.
Selvaria’s Awakening ceremony rolled in and the results were as expected. She had very little magical talent aside from surprising proficiency in the fire element, which while not enough for her to become a mage, would allow her the use of some fire abilities to add to her skills as a warrior. She decided to get formal training in the elven army. As Alduin Rhys had some contacts in the army that could smooth her entry a bit and put her on a right path, it was decided that she would travel with her sisters to Rhi’a’non to meet the old elf.
Elsaria would be the only one of the sisters to remain at their home and both she and Asheara were already feeling lonely. Elsaria had always been fairly stoic and didn’t show her emotions on the outside. Still, she spent more time than usual keeping in physical contact with her sisters, a hug here and a little holding of hands there. Asheara on the other hand had plans for moving with her last daughter to the capital as well, to stay closer to her family.
She had herself realized that the bond was clouding her judgement when it came to Neleh, and intended to respect her wishes when it came to keeping some distance and transferring the bond when the time came. For that though, she needed to be close by, in case the transfer would need to happen suddenly. And she wasn’t lying to herself this time, when she thought it was for the benefit of Elsaria as well. It would be cruel to keep her back while the others were out in the world, even Neleh who was younger.
Elluin was aware of the plans, even if he didn’t quite know of all the reasons behind it. He didn’t object. He couldn’t follow because his workshop was now here in Aletheia and it would take years to get everything transferred. Years where he could not work in full capacity. Instead he would be able to move back into the manor when Asheara left, which he didn’t really mind. They were separated anyway, and although that made him sad, he just accepted things as they were.
He presented Neleh with the weapon he had made, and it really was his best work. In its weapon form it was red with flame-like patterns and it was rather long, with the end shaped more like a glaive than spear allowing for slashing attacks and working better for wide swings with a heavier and more sturdy head than a normal spear. It still retained some of the spear point allowing for thrusting attacks. Of course it wouldn’t work as well for piercing armor, but that was what the wielder’s internal strength and the weapons enchantments were for. In its hidden form, the weapon took the form of a Kanzashi hair ornament that looked like a long needle with ornate carvings and patterns.
Elluin had invited Neleh into his workshop to see the weapon, partly because he needed to carve the weapons name in.
Neleh turned an accusing glare towards his father. “You spied on my fight with captain Gloridas, didn’t you? It’s obvious you didn’t just suddenly come up with a weapon that suited me this well.”
“I had your mother use her magic to hide us. I needed to see you in action to make a proper weapon for you.” Calmly also pulling Asheara under the avalanche if one was forthcoming.
“Well, I suppose I can forgive you that one. I’m surprised you managed to talk mother into it. Thank you. I’ll make good use of.” She suddenly raised her eyebrow. “You better have made one for Selvaria too. You’re not sending her into the army without a weapon are you?”
“Don’t worry. Her weapon was made a long time ago. She’s much easier to work with.” Elluin grinned at her daughter’s frown. “Now name your weapon, so I can get it finished.”
Neleh thought for a minute. “Tuli - Little Flame.”
Matters more or less handled the sister’s started their travel towards the elven capital. Neleh was wondering what fate had in mind for her this time. She wasn’t sure whether Michael’s visit had made things easier or harder.