Gabriel’s entrance had a very hostile feel to it, a natural result of destroying the door. Immediately Yunalesca and several other people used to danger started moving towards the majestic celestial. Nimue, Yunalesca and Alduin were the ones with the most aggressive look, while Rachiel just stood there stunned, not understanding what was happening. Gabriel gave everyone gathered a dismissive look.
“Halt.” Gabriel said her single word carrying enormous power. The power swept through the whole room, and everyone was frozen solid. She had just given an excellent example of what happens when a magician has enough power to simply overwhelm the opponents own defenses. The wave of power swept away the magical formation below Neleh’s feet, allowing her to use her magical powers freely. Neleh immediately struck against Gabriel’s power with surgical precision removing the effects from herself.
“That wasn’t a very polite entrance Gabriel. You could’ve just knocked, and we would have let you in.” Neleh said finally getting her calm back.
Asheara was the only one that understood the significance of the name Gabriel. She’d had a mental image of the celestial after meeting Michael, but what she now saw was beyond anything she had ever imagined. Gabriel was the most beautiful being she had ever seen, with the exception of Neleh. What was the most stunning part though, was the power and majesty the celestial radiated. Asheara had once seen the Chosen of Alarae, the Chosen of the celestials, and had thought no one could top him in sheer presence. Even the dragon they had encountered when Neleh was young didn’t have the sort of presence Gabriel had. ‘This is the being searching for my Neleh?! She practically oozes righteousness and glory, what could have happened between her and Neleh?’ She thought anxiously.
“You know well that politeness is not one of my virtues, Little Flame. Patience is another virtue I’m not so good at, and this whole search for you has been very trying for my limited patience.” Gabriel answered Neleh.
“Oh I’m aware.” Neleh put some power into her own voice. “Everyone except Asheara out.” Her voice was laced with a weak compulsion, while she also broke the hold of Gabriel’s command over everyone except Asheara. Neleh didn’t actually have the power to overcome the natural defenses of the people present, but Gabriel’s earlier command had smashed those defenses. She left Asheara still bound by Gabriel’s power, so that her mother would not be able to interfere and get herself hurt.
Gabriel watched with very slight curiosity while everyone filed out of the temple. She wasn’t interested in others. She was here for Little Flame, and the others were just an annoyance. She did wonder why Little Flame had kept one of them here. She pointed a finger at Asheara.
“Why keep her here? She should have nothing to do with this.” She was actually a bit curious, and she had some assumptions on why the woman had stayed. The woman was pretty after all, and fit Little Flame’s tastes. Maybe she was Little Flame’s new plaything?
“I had her stay, because whatever happens here will affect her too.” Neleh responded calmly.
“Is she your new plaything or something? She fits your tastes. I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be flaunting your new lover at the moment.” Gabriel voiced her assumption with a bit of anger in her voice.
“She’s my mother if you must know. The reason she is involved, is because there is a bond between us. So if I die, she will also die. I thought it at least courteous to let her know what happened, should such event come to pass.” Neleh had gotten some steel in her voice.
At least Gabriel had the courtesy to blush a little. Now that she paid more attention, the two of them did share a resemblance that was more than coincidental. “Bonded, eh? I do hope you don’t think that will stop me from doing whatever it is that I want? In fact I also hope you aren’t planning on relying on the local deities either. I’ve noticed that they have been using their power to hide you, but they know better than to get in the way of the Celestial Host.”
“Of course not. I’m not even sure I’m in need of such protection. We did not part on good terms last time, but I am hoping for amicable solution to whatever grievance you might have with me.” Neleh knew that she was goading Gabriel now, but she needed Gabriel to start being true to herself before any solution could be reached. Anger was one way to get her to become more honest.
“Grievance?!” Gabriel roared, and made a striking motion with her hand across her chest. Neleh was tossed across the room and heavily struck the wall, as if an invisible force had hit her. “What is it Little Flame, don’t you even have the power to defend yourself anymore?” Gabriel tried to goad Neleh into fighting her. For some reason she felt the need to have a fight with Neleh, even if she didn’t understand why.
Neleh slowly got up, and coughed a bit of blood on the ground. “I will not fight you Gabriel. There’s no point in trying to make some sort of last stand, when the difference in our power is so obvious. And you forget. I promised you two things when we met. One of them was that I would never raise my hand against you, and I keep my promises.” Neleh had a slightly mourning tone in her voice. Asheara had started to cry. She could feel Neleh’s conviction through the bond. She would rather die than raise her hand against this celestial.
“Promises! Do you remember the other thing you promised?! You also promised me that you would never lie to me or betray me, and look how that turned out! You and your promises aren’t worth the dirt you’re standing on.” Gabriel screamed with clear feeling of loss in her voice. Asheara could hear the pain in her voice. There had been something for the celestial that she had loved more than life, and she had lost that something.
“I’ve never lied to you Gabriel. I might have not always told you everything but I never lied to you. As for betrayal, any betrayal you might even consider accusing me off is just in your head. That was always the looming shadow between us. There’s nothing you would’ve loved more than to put your full faith in me, and just trust me implicitly. But you were never able to let go. You’ve been too immersed with people who just want to use you. And now you don’t have that kind of trust inside you anymore. That’s why I made those promises in the first place. That was what you wanted more than anything, someone that you could just trust enough to be yourself with. But you didn’t have that kind of trust in you.” Neleh had tears in her eyes now as well.
“How can I trust someone that so openly worked with the forces of Inferno?! I loved you Little Flame! And what do you do? Song of Khali indeed! You could’ve just told me, instead of me having to find out about your dalliance from others.” Gabriel made another angry striking gesture, and Neleh flew across the room again.
This time Neleh had some trouble getting up from the floor. Her Ignasia were repairing the damage to her body, but she could feel that she had broken several of her ribs in addition to her arm. “Was that the only thing that was necessary to make you think I had betrayed you? Some rumors about a spell named after Khali? The reason I didn’t tell you was because I had not yet finished the Song of Gabriel, and I didn’t think you’d want a torture method named after you, unlike Khali.” Now there was anger in Neleh’s voice.
“Song of Gabriel?” Gabriel asked in a faint voice, not believing her ears.
“Yes. As it happens, invoking the feelings of pleasure and joy and love directly into one’s soul is much harder than causing pain and fear. You never allowed me to explain, because you were too quick to judge, and throw away one of the only friendships I’ve treasured. All because you can’t trust anyone.” Neleh now had real tears running from her eyes. She looked towards Asheara and broke the spell holding her. “Mother, transfer the bond to her.”
Asheara now understood why Neleh wanted the bond transferred to the celestial. If the majestic celestial had trouble with trust, then what better way to know someone’s true heart than the bond? She knew Neleh intended to say her peace for once, and wanted to make sure that Gabriel knew she was speaking the truth. She started casting the complex spell Neleh had taught her.
“What are you doing?” Gabriel asked with some alarm.
“Making sure you know I speak the truth. Just accept the bond, and for once you can know for certain that what I say will not be a lie.” Neleh said, while she could feel the bond transferring over to the celestial.
She had known the lure of truth was strong enough to let Gabriel lower her guard. Neleh could feel the hurt and insecurity through the bond. Inside one of the three most powerful beings in the universe was a hurt little girl, that had never been able to feel the love and closeness of a family, and who had always felt betrayed by those around her. She could also feel the love Gabriel felt. The love that was buried and that Gabriel had tried to sever, but had failed.
Gabriel in turn could feel the conviction and honesty in Neleh. She could also feel the hurt and betrayal. Hurt and betrayal caused by Gabriel herself. Hurt caused by losing one of the only friends Neleh had had in her old life, someone that had been important. Betrayal at being doubted by someone Neleh cared for deeply and betrayal at having their friendship thrown away because of some trivial reason.
Gabriel fell to her knees crying.
“Gabriel, you knew that I took no part in the wars between the Celestial Host and the Inferno. You knew I made no moral judgements about your respective positions. If I could deal with you, then I could also deal with them. But you decide that my dealings were a betrayal, when I couldn’t even betray the Host that I wasn’t a part of.” Neleh knew Gabriel was hurting, but she had to make her point for good before healing could begin.
Thus she went for the hardest part that she knew would really hurt Gabriel. “That’s also one of the main reasons I didn’t return your feelings, when you told about how you felt. How could I dedicate my life to someone that had so little faith in me, and would try to turn me into someone I’m not? One of the main reasons you loved me was because I didn’t try to use you. But if we had gotten involved, you would’ve tried to turn me into an asset for the Host, to use me against the Inferno. You wouldn’t have thought it in those terms of course, you would’ve just thought it as helping you, as a lover should.”
Neleh could feel through the bond that what she said had hit home. The bond was filled with shame and sadness. “If I had trusted you, could you have loved me?” Gabriel asked still crying.
“I halfway did already. But I knew nothing good would come out of it in the end. Add to the trust issues the fact that Executors of the Celestial Host don’t tend to live all that long, because they are constantly throwing themselves into danger. It almost broke me when I lost you as a friend, try to imagine what would have happened if I had lost you as a lover in battle. There are very few things in the universe more dangerous than a destroyer mad with grief.” Neleh said with a voice that spoke of loss.
After a lengthy period of silence Gabriel finally asked. “What happens now? With the bond in place, I don’t have the problem with trust anymore.” She sounded afraid of the answer, but almost a little hopeful.
“Hard to say. The person you fell in love with is dead. I’m some of what made that person who he was, but I’m also different. I’m not even the same gender anymore. I have a life here on this world that I’m happy with, and a family that needs me. And you have a Celestial Host to return to. We also can’t pretend that the pain that existed between us didn’t happen. I can’t say whether there will ever be a future for us or not, but we both need time. Maybe someday, who can tell? You know where to find me, when you’ve found your own answer.” Neleh’s voice carried some finality.
She knew it would be a disaster if they tried to renew any relationship right now. They both needed to deal with their feelings, and they also needed time to get some perspective on things and to get rid of some of the pain and baggage. Neleh was surprised to feel the bond going back to Asheara.
“Take good care of that bond, woman. I will return to claim what is mine.” Gabriel said while getting up and walking towards the door.
Neleh was even more surprised to hear Asheara’s answer. “You may claim it as yours, but by the time you return it will definitely be mine for good. You had your chance, now it’s my turn.” The heat in her voice was astonishing. There was also a wave of love flooding through the bond. Asheara had felt a terrible emptiness when the bond had been moved from her. It had been as if all the color in the world had been drained away. She would never again let the bond be transferred.
Gabriel turned back with raised eyebrows. “Try your best child. Little Flame is not such an easy person to please and hold on to. Once you’ve been at the top of the universe, it’s hard to settle for less. What can you offer for Little Flame? Will you not just turn into a burden for her, as she grows stronger? Will you really be so selfish as to become the shackles that bind her down, instead of letting her fly free? Some love that would be.” Gabriel had anger in her voice when she finished.
“At least I can offer her a home to return to. Unlike you I will not bring her more problems, and will instead provide her a safe haven where she can lay her head to rest, without being worried about more trouble creeping in. There are many kinds of love that can exist between lovers, and your vision of two beings standing together against adversity isn’t the only way.” Asheara did feel the celestial hussy had a point. It was time she also returned to her training. It would not do for her to become a burden for Neleh. She should at the very least be able to provide the safe haven she mentioned.
“Interesting. Struggle child and do your best. We will have our reckoning when I return to claim what is mine. You are free to make your best effort until then.” Gabriel now had a grin. She could see some light at the end of the tunnel, and she had a new goal.
“While it’s nice to listen to you two deciding my future for me, I do believe I am the one who chooses my own path.” Neleh said somewhat peevishly.
Both Gabriel and Asheara gave a small shake of their head. “It’s better you stay silent when you don’t understand.” They both said.
With Gabriel gone, all the people previously present during the Awakening ceremony came back inside. Gabriel’s power had actually made sure they weren’t able to hear what was going on. Gabriel hadn’t really cared about them, but it was almost instinctual for her to make sure outsiders weren’t listening in on important conversations. Solana noticed that Neleh was injured and quickly ran to her. Asheara was already giving Neleh support, and now she was supported from both sides.
Yunalesca had apparently called for reinforcements, because there was a fairly sizeable group of Inquisitors following her in. She waved for the other Inquisitors to stay near the door when she saw the celestial was gone. She approached Neleh with Nimue.
“Alright, I think it’s time for some explanations. That celestial obviously knew you, and you seemed to know her too. I already asked you this before, but what are you? Even the most powerful demon lords don’t’ have results like you had during your Awakening, and you’re not even at the proper age for the ceremony yet.” Yunalesca was now less angry and suspicious. Instead she was now more curious. She had reacted with hostility before, but she’d had some time to think, and realized that Neleh had given no reason for hostility so far. Just the opposite, in fact.
“I’m afraid I’m just what you are seeing in front of you. The proper question to ask is ‘what was I before?’ Some of that ‘before’ simply carried over.” Neleh said trying to limit the questions.
“Before? I think I understand. You’re talking about reincarnation aren’t you?” Nimue asked with slight shock.
“Something like that. And before you ask more, part of the process is that the old life is left behind. Some of mine simply came to seek me out. I’m not allowed to say more.” (Neleh)
“Will there be any more of your old life seeking you out? You can answer that at least.” Yunalesca asked.
“Most likely not. Not for a time at least. For now it’s best if you simply think of me as a girl that knows a bit more and has a bit more potential than usual. Basically the same as you thought before the ceremony.” Neleh had a grin on her face.
“A bit? I’ve never seen results like that. And what’s with your fire affinity and all those blessings?” Nimue asked now clearly amused.
“Let’s just say that the gods have certain plans for me, but those won’t come to be for some time.” Neleh tried to be evasive.
“That’s not exactly true. I have plenty of plans for you, and those won’t be as far in the future.” Elune said with a laugh.
Yunalesca suddenly gave a grunt. “I suppose I’ll have to call you Lady Neleh now. What with being the Chosen of Satai and all that.”
Everyone listening suddenly remembered that part of the ceremony. One by one they knelt on one knee giving a sign of respect. Kneeling for the Chosen was not required, but it was slightly different when one was just revealed.
“Oh get up. I’ll not have you treat me like that. As far as I’m concerned nothing has changed. I would in fact appreciate it if word of my status as Chosen was not spread around. Rachiel I realize that you’ll have to make a report, but can I request that you make the report directly to the Chosen of Alarae? Also if you would be so kind as to stress that I would consider it a favor if the news were not spread around. I believe your instructions concerning me will change now anyway.” Neleh got an affirmative answer from Rachiel, who was all too happy to oblige.
“So what’s the plan now?” Asked Nimue. “Even if you want to keep a low profile, the word will get out sooner or later.”
“For now, I’ll live as I have. I’m due for training with the Inquisition.” Neleh looked at Yunalesca and got a nod. “Now that I’ve had my Awakening, I should probably also attend the academy as a magic student. I trust my qualifications won’t be an issue?” Neleh looked both at Nimue and Maylin. Both had wide grins on their faces.
“I’m sure we can squeeze you in. I was hoping you had a bit more talent, but I guess we can lower our standards this once.” Maylin said, eliciting a laugh from everyone gathered.
“Well then. Training awaits, and then we can see what kind of trouble I can get myself into.” Neleh said with clear amusement. Hopefully she wouldn’t take too much after the constantly amused goddess, since Elune seemed to already be rubbing off on her…
Author's note part two: So this kind of marks the ending of the first arc of the story. I'll take a few days to plan out the next part of the story, which I hope you'll all enjoy reading. In the meantime, I know my writing can leave some questions hanging, so I'll try to answer any questions presented in this thread. I'll try to answer anything that isn't a horrible spoiler. So if you're curious about some part of the story, fire away!