Neleh had finished her classes a little earlier, and was now overseeing Asheara’s training. The training was pretty simple and monotonous, so it gave her plenty of time to think. Tomorrow was the day she was supposed to take part in a ceremony promoting her into a full priestess. That would probably draw some attention, especially since her mentor as an older priestess was supposed to attend the ceremony. So the Chosen would be elevated as a priestess while the empress attended as her mentor. Yeah, that would draw some eyes. Neleh was still somewhat uncomfortable with being the center of attention. Luckily the ceremony itself would be fairly minor, and only allowed the acolytes and their mentors to attend.
They would normally be expected to host a small party afterwards, but luckily the imperial court was planning on finally hosting the major party in honor of the coronation of the new empress, which was pushed back earlier. The big party was supposed to take place the day after tomorrow and as a result, there was no point in Neleh having a separate party the day before. She’d have to make an appearance at the empress’ big event though. Lot of schmoozing and pointless socializing expected. Maybe she should try to do something to liven up the evening? She did manage to finish the spell for music after all, so it might be a decent chance to try it.
She’d most likely finally meet with the naga at the event as well. She had not been avoiding the meeting exactly, but she had made no effort to make contact either. She knew there would be trouble when she finally did have the meeting, and she didn’t want to set any rumors flaring about secret meetings with the naga. Most competent people were already aware the naga were looking for something or someone, and it might be better if they didn’t realize that she was the objective of their search. It might even be better to have the meeting with the naga in an official setting. It could look a little odd, when the naga made very little effort to make contact with the new empress, but were eagerly seeking out the new Chosen, and a new duchess-to-be in charge of a province with heavy naga presence. Nimue wouldn’t mind, most likely, but some of the other nobles might see things otherwise, so it was better to try to avoid any potential trouble.
There was also the matter of Asheara choosing her new path as a warrior. Neleh had a hunch about the choice her mother was going to make. She didn’t have the power to predict future. In fact, any attempts at divination usually blew up in her face. Fate could not control her, but in exchange the resentful bastard refused Neleh any knowledge of the future as well. But she did get hunches, and they were never wrong. If her hunch was correct this time as well, then she would have to make some preparations.
Asheara wasn’t in bad shape, and was actually taking to her training extremely well. She clearly had gifts as a warrior, but those gifts were sadly underutilized. Her old master Alduin might have been a Medjai, but clearly he hadn’t focused on warrior training when training his pupil. Almost everything else could be fixed or trained from the beginning, and Asheara was still fairly young, despite having so many children. The problem was that there were certain things that had to be done while the body was still growing to reach a maximum effect, and one of these was strengthening the source of inner power, the Dantian, and the channels that allowed the transfer of internal power, the Ki veins.
You could increase your inner power later in life, and most of the growth actually did happen after reaching adulthood, but the rate of growth was determined by the foundations laid down while the body was still growing. That was one of the reasons Neleh herself worked so hard in her own training. If you wanted to slack off, then it was ok to do so later on in life, but now was a crucial time for her to develop the basic foundations of her future. And Asheara had quite severely missed that part of her training while young. To top things off, if Neleh’s hunch was correct, then Asheara would need those foundations on the path she would choose.
There were ways to fix the problem, but that required some effort on Neleh’s part, and would also necessitate some preparation beforehand. She had a plan to fix things, but she wasn’t too keen on what she would have to do to complete that plan. And it would also require her to show some of her knowledge to Azrael. There was no real chance of hiding what she was about to do, and it would be easier if she had Azrael’s help when the time came. Neleh wondered if there was some way to wiggle out of telling Azrael where her knowledge came from. The celestial was bound to see many weird bursts of knowledge in the future, especially if her plans for her duchy would work, but most of it she could explain away as being the ideas of a genius. This however…
They were supposed to go and do some preparations in the city for the upcoming ceremony and the empress’ party this evening. Neleh could acquire the first ingredients of her plan then.
Neleh had forgotten how much time could be wasted shopping for clothes for a big party. She had previously handled her own dress herself with slight assistance from some people, but she hadn’t had the time to do so this time. Partially because she was actually busy, and partially because she now had the ability to make a dress out of magical shadow and had gotten quite attached to the ability. So her experience with clothes shopping was limited. When she mentioned her plan to the others, they had shot the idea down immediately. Asheara did it because she wanted Neleh to use her magic to make clothes out of materials they chose for both of them using her magic. Asheara loved the idea, and had wanted to see it after Neleh created their house out of the ground. Previously Neleh had mentioned that she would need the materials prepared beforehand, for her to be able to do it, hence they were now selecting fabrics and other materials. Wondering what kind of accessories would go with their imagined dress.
Azrael and Kanako shot the plan down just because they loved shopping. It wasn’t hard to imagine that Kanako would, but the sparkly eyes of Azrael had really caught Neleh off-guard. The celestial was trying on dress after dress after dress, in anticipation. Apparently the celestial loved parties as well. Finally Neleh managed to escape, saying she had another errand to run. She quickly made her way to one of the best blacksmith’s shops in the city, famed for having access to many rare materials and creating many great and rare items. She was greeted by a receptionist when she arrived, the actual masters of the shop working in the back.
Neleh knew she would most likely have to use her new rank to get what she wanted, because it required quite a bit of cooperation from the owner of the shop. “Would you be so kind as to call the owner of the shop? Tell him the Chosen has a request.” Neleh told the nervous girl who had clearly recognized her.
The girl ran into the back, and after few minutes a large and muscled beastman came from the back. He was clearly a member of the tiger tribe. “So what can our shop do for the new Chosen?” The man asked after a short pause to evaluate Neleh.
“Do you have access to a decent quantity of high grade Moonsilver?” Neleh asked. Moonsilver was not among the most common of smithing materials. It was fairly rare as a resource and it had a few properties that made it a niche choice as a material. Moonsilver was able to achieve extreme sharpness, able to pierce through most materials. Unfortunately it was also weak against certain kinds of impacts, making it almost useless as a material for weapons and armor. You could make great arrowheads with it, but that was just about it. It was also great conductor for magic and internal power, so it could be used as a small part of other items to increase their conductivity.
“We have, though we haven’t had much occasion to use it lately. What’s this about?” The smith asked suddenly curious.
“I will require a fair amount of your Moonsilver and the services of both you and your smithy for a few hours. We are going to make something, and unfortunately I’m going to have to make it mostly myself so that the end result will match my needs exactly.” Neleh said, knowing the smith would not be happy to share the use of his smithy to an outsider.
“I’m sure I could make pretty much anything to your specifications.” The smith found it a little insulting that his abilities were underestimated so badly.
“Good smith, my presence is not a result of my distrust towards your abilities. The problem is that we’re doing something new, and it has to be done without the slightest of deviations from what I have planned. The problem isn’t one of skill, but simply that you aren’t me, and can’t know my thoughts exactly, no matter how much I will try to explain.” Neleh explained patiently.
“Alright. I’m not too happy about it, but you have gotten me curious.” The smith grunted.
They moved into the smithy part of the building, and the smith retrieved the Moonsilver. Neleh had the smith start smelting the metal, melting the material, and removing impurities. Neleh herself used her fire magic to make sure the forge achieved the exact temperature she wanted, and further utilized her magic to remove any and all other impurities. She also took a few materials from her ring and mixed them in with the metal, to the surprise of the smith, who had no real idea what she was doing. He wouldn’t know, that Neleh was creating a new material not found on this world.
Once Neleh was happy with the composition of the material, she used air magic to draw a small amount of the liquid metal to float in front of her, forming the metal into the shape of a thin long needle, and additionally used a mix of fire and earth magic to add several engravings on the length of the needle, so small it was almost impossible to see. She repeated this process many times, although the engravings were different every time. Finally she has a set of 72 needles, after an hour of work. The smith had to admit that, he would not have been able to repeat the performance despite his skill. The effortless way Neleh had controlled her magic was beyond his skills.
“I’m going to need a container for these.” Neleh requested. “Preferably something that allows me to keep them separated.” The smith came back with a fair sized black wooden box that had a large coating of a foamy material inside. This allowed Neleh to stick the needles inside, and the foamy material kept them in place, separated and in order.
After thanking and paying the smith, Neleh went back to her errands with a sigh. She still needed to visit a herbalist and an alchemist to create some mixtures that were necessary for her plans. She idly wondered if her three companions had even changed shops in the time that she was gone, or were they still going through the offerings of that same shop.
The promotion ceremony for the acolytes was surprisingly muted. Due to the presence of the empress, the vicinity of the temple was kept clear of unrelated people by the Legion of the Phoenix. There would not be any commotion during the ceremony, but Neleh would most likely be forced to answer several questions at the party tomorrow. The rest of the acolytes were awed by the presence of both the empress and the Chosen, completely forgetting that it wasn’t so long ago that Nimue had been one of their teachers and Neleh had been one of the acolytes. The ceremony itself was fairly simple. The high priestess officiating the ceremony lectured them on the sacred duty of a priestess and reiterated the ideals that all servants of Elune should strive for. The acolytes were all too hyped about the big moment to pay real attention, while the mentors had heard the same litany several times before, and were pretending interest while thinking about other things.
The acolytes were given a silver necklace with the symbol of Elune to signify their new position. Then the acolytes knelt in prayer, supposedly to ask for the goddess’ favor and swearing their allegiance. Neleh took the same position just to not appear too rude, although there was no prayer of swearing of allegiance involved in her exchange with the goddess.
‘Having fun?’ Neleh asked the goddess.
“I always get a small kick out of your so called signs of humility. You don’t have a shred of that particular attribute. I don’t think I’ve ever had a priestess this dishonest in their prayers and shows of faith.” The ever amused goddess answered back.
‘You wouldn’t have it any other way. You’d die of shock if I suddenly started to act like the perfect little priestess. Besides, humility is essentially downplaying yourself and if I tried to show any, it would be false humility. I have a pretty good idea of my own worth and so do you, so there's no point in trying to downplay it.’ Neleh replied with a grin.
“True enough. Your nature is one of the main reasons I picked you as my Chosen. You’re not perfect, but you aren’t in the habit of misrepresenting yourself either. You don’t pretend to be a loyal servant of mine, but you do my work if it is for a good reason. We can both live with that. Welcome to the life of a priestess.” Elune finished.
Since the ceremony was held in the morning, Neleh was back attending lessons after lunch, earning a wave of congratulations from the other students of her group. It was the afternoon after the lessons when the day finally got interesting. Asheara had sought her out, her face showing that she had made a decision.
“Congratulation on becoming a priestess honey! You made it before Selene. We’ll have two priestesses in the family.” Despite her other concerns, she would of course congratulate her daughter first.
“Thank you. I have an unfair advantage though. I didn’t have to do a full period as a trainee thanks to my position as the Chosen. Otherwise Selene would have gotten there first. That said, it seems you’ve made a decision of some sort.” Neleh said getting to the point.
“Yes, I’ve made my decision concerning my path as a warrior.” Asheara started, and took a deep breath before continuing. “Since it is my position to protect your back, it’s only natural that I’d choose the defensive second path to do so better. In fact I do want to do that as the secondary focus. However, when you mentioned the school of the fourth path, Shinmei-ryú, something just clicked inside me. I can’t explain it, but something just tells me this is the path I was meant to travel.” Asheara finished with an air of certainty.
Neleh sighed. “I suspected as much. Don’t ask me why, but I was also certain that you would choose this path. Maybe it was something in your eyes when I mentioned it.”
Asheara gave a wide smile. “More proof that it was meant to be. Besides, you said it was one of the styles you are the most familiar with, so it makes more sense.” She frowned. “Yet somehow you aren’t pleased.” She sensed Neleh’s apprehension through the bond.
“There are a couple of problems with that. Firstly the combination you chose is a good one, the defense of the second path is a great combination with the offense of the Shinmei-ryú, and fits perfectly if we consider you a bodyguard of sorts. However, the Shinmei-ryú style requires large amounts of internal power to bring out the best of the style, and you don’t really have the power for that. Much of it can be trained, but it will be hard because you didn’t prepare for it as a child. Your Dantian and Ki veins aren’t really up to the task.” Neleh said with a grimace.
Asheara furrowed her brows in thought. “Is there nothing that can be done? I can’t say I’m an expert on the subject, but I’ve never really heard anything on the subject.”
Neleh sighed again. “I already prepared the solution for the problem, I’m just not too happy about using it. It is fairly difficult to do, and there is a possibility of it going wrong. Don’t mind it, that’s my problem. You have another problem to solve. Some of the techniques of Shinmei-ryú can be performed unarmed, but most of them require a very specific type of weapon, and that type of weapon isn’t really used on this continent. I can make the instructions for it, but I can think of only one person really worthy of making a weapon good enough.” Neleh finished with a small grin.
“Oh no, you’re not serious are you?” Asheara said really disliking the idea.
“I am. We’ll have to pay Elluin a visit. I wonder what father will say when he finds out that he’ll be making you a weapon? A weapon that will require quite a bit of effort too. It’s better if we make the trip right after the party tomorrow. It will take some time to finish the weapon, and it’s better if you can start getting used to it as soon as possible. Besides, a small trip will do us some good, since I’ll most likely be really tired after the problem we’ll have to solve tonight and the party tomorrow.” Neleh finished with a grin.