A/N: Had to skimp on the PR a bit, since one of my friends suddenly called, and told me that it's my duty to accompany them to get smashed. So have mercy on that. Hope you enjoy.
After the tournament, Neleh and her companions had made a hasty retreat out of Rhi’a’non. Her performance had made a bit too big of an impact, so they decided that now was a good time to accept the invitation the naga had made for Neleh. Her performance against the Solaris mage team was already a pretty big deal, even though the elves had several warriors capable of doing something similar. Neleh’s performance had been much more efficient than what most of those warriors were capable of. Neleh was not the only warrior capable of using techniques directed specifically towards fighting mages, but her techniques were significantly more effective than what the others had seen before, especially when you consider that Neleh didn’t use a lot of her internal power to achieve that result. The most important part was that Neleh was too young to be so skilled, as most of the warriors of similar skill were hundreds of years old, if not millennia.
What really got people’s attention was the combination of her performance as a warrior and the spells she used while fighting Aneirin. Aneirin’s use of ‘Wrathful Skies’ was already a big piece of news, since it went beyond anything a mage of her age and rank should be able to use, and she was drawing a lot of attention as well. However, Neleh had used two even stronger spells, ‘Gates of Tartarus’ was about equal with Aneirin’s spell, but the final frost spell Neleh had used was graded as being strong enough to qualify Neleh as a Great Silver. Some people had suspected that she might be strong enough for the rank already before this, but now she had proven it in front of an audience of millions of people.
A Chosen who had enough power as a mage to qualify as a Great Silver, and was also skilled in warrior techniques, while also being young enough to count as a child? That certainly got everyone’s attention. Neleh had quickly exited the arena, made her wish to Nimue to have her excluded from any other wishes and grabbed her companions. She exited the capitol before an hour passed after the end of the fight. While their final destination was to go to the underwater empire of the naga, they would be traveling through the duchy of Jao’e’Tinukai, so they might as well check on the progress of things. Neleh was also planning on visiting the mountain range of the dragons, to make sure the dragons didn’t find it objectionable if they started mining.
They met Estelar near the border of the duchy, where the tired steward joined them with a group of guards to escort them. It wasn’t that he was worried about their safety, but more that he wanted to keep up appearances.
“Hello Estelar. You look tired. I hope you haven’t been working too hard.” Neleh ask with a slight tinge of worry in her voice. She had been pushing most of the preparations on Estelar’s shoulders, and she had made a lot of plans that all needed preparations.
“Well, you do keep me busy, but I personally like being busy so that’s not the problem. It’s the bandits. I had a lot of luck hunting them down until about a month ago. Now it seems like they have all disappeared. Except of course they haven’t, so they must have something in mind. The fact that they all disappeared at once, like they were all following the same orders, has me worried. I’ve ran around trying my best to find them, with no luck, and I’ve had trouble sleeping because I’ve been trying to come up with countermeasures to whatever they are planning. Bandits don’t just suddenly leave.” Estelar replied worried.
“Any estimates on their numbers?” Neleh asked with a frown.
“Hard to say. Estimating the size of bandit groups is always half about guessing. We’ve also heard some rumors about the bandits from other provinces moving into the duchy, but I can’t verify those rumors. If I had to make a guess, their numbers could range anywhere between ten thousand and a hundred thousand. That’s a big enough group to be called a small army.” Estelar said in a grim voice.
“What’s the situation with the Order? Are there people ready to be used yet?” Neleh asked skeptically.
“Not a chance. You wanted the training to be thorough and we are taking our time. You can’t make the sort of forces you want to make in a short period of time. The fastest people have managed to pass the Test of the Bow, and are training for the Test of the Sword. None of them are even close to the Test of Life and Death. If you threw them into battle right now, they would most likely win, but the losses would be too significant. They don’t have the type of skill yet, to ensure their survival.” Estelar replied with a sigh.
“I thought as much. Draw up a list of potential targets the bandits might have in mind, and let’s see what we can manage. They wouldn’t gather numbers like that just to raid a few villages. We might have to ask the army for help. This is a bit too much for us alone to handle. The empress should be sympathetic to our requests, considering she’s the one who threw this whole thing on me.” Neleh said after a thought.
“Understood.” Estelar replied.
“Now, on to other matters. I have a few things to do while I’m passing through the duchy. I’ll have to pay a visit to the dragons living at the mountain range we talked about earlier. I also have to pay a visit to the center of the duchy’s ley lines. I think I have enough power gathered to form the Nexus if I utilize the power from the ley lines. I won’t be able to form too many doors yet, but that can be done later. I’ll also need to pay a visit to the capital. I have a spell we can use to improve our road systems.” Neleh started listing things to do.
“Nexus? What’s that?” Azrael asked, with the others looking equally curious.
Neleh smiled. “You’ll just have to wait and see. I wouldn’t want to spoil your surprise. Oh right, after the little performance at the competition a few days ago, I have the feeling I won’t be spending all that time in the academy after all. I’m guessing the headmaster should have no more trouble letting me take several rank up tests at the end of the next semester. I wouldn’t be too surprised if I was able to take all of them, so we can finally start moving on with our plans.”
“Good.” Estelar grunted. “It’s been annoying doing all those preparations while promising great things to come, but not being able to actually put things into motion or reveal any of the details. Your father arrived to the capital a few days ago.”
“Excellent, we can start the plans with the craftsmen’s guild, since he’ll need some time to teach the others. Move them into the Order house for training. I’ve got the plans for the standardized equipment for the Order members, and those will make for great training for the craftsmen since we’ll need a high number of identical items.” Neleh instructed.
Estelar grimaced. “It’ll be tough to move the majority of the craftsmen in the capital without causing a riot.”
“They’ll go once they learn how much they stand to gain from it. Have them stock up on the everyday work items that the citizens would need them to make during their absence, and anything more complex can be procured by the merchants from the other provinces. I assume the new mines should cover for the materials costs of the Order’s equipment. I don’t want anything besides the best for them. We will expect them to handle great dangers, so the least we can do is make sure their equipment and training is up to snuff.” Neleh said firmly.
“That should be no problem. The two new mines for thorium and mithril are already up and running. As you instructed, the materials have been stored for making the equipment instead of being released for general consumption. We already started gathering the materials for the leather pieces, and once your father gets done teaching the enchanters we should have a ready access to first grade enchanted leather. The moonsilk required for the cloth pieces will take more time, since we will have to wait for the full moon. You know that though, since you came up with the method to produce it en masse. The other materials might take some work, but we can make do.” Estelar listed.
“We won’t need all the equipment immediately anyway, since we will gradually increase the number of Order members as they finish their training.” Neleh replied satisfied.
Neleh was using her golden seraph form while flying towards the mountains where she could sense the presence of the dragons. Her mana sense could detect the mana of four dragons and several eggs. She wondered how the dragons would react to her presence. It would be unlikely that they would react with hostility towards their Chosen, but she wasn’t exactly sure about the relations between dragons, amongst themselves or between them and other races. If it did come to blows, she didn’t have confidence to defeat four dragons, but she should be able to run away pretty easily.
She landed by the mouth of a large cave.
“We meet again, little sister.” A booming voice came from the cave. Neleh could see a large blue dragon walking out of the cave. The dragon was the size of a small castle and was a bundle muscle, sharp teeth and death.
“Hello again, Zamekh. My apologies, for not being able to thank you for your help the last time. You were gone by the time I woke up.” Neleh replied to the greeting with a smile. So the blue dragon had moved from the large elven forest to the mountains. This should make things simpler.
“Don’t mention it. Petitioning the celestial bodies for their power takes a lot out of you. What brings you to our cave? It’s not exactly luxurious, but caves able to house dragons aren’t all that common, even in mountain ranges as large as this.” The dragon inquired a little disgruntled.
“As it happens, I recently became the ruler of the lands where this mountain range is located. I thought it only polite to come and give a greeting. Though what’s this about not having caves large enough? I would think that with your power, you could make a cave anywhere you so choose.” Neleh asked curiously. This could work to her advantage.
“Oh that could make things easier. With little sister ruling these lands, we won’t have to be annoyed by the constant activities of frightened little people feebly trying to kill us. As for the caves, you’re right that with our power something as simple as extending a cave should be easy, but for some reason Satai didn’t see fit to grace our race with too many members skilled in earth magic. Damn caves are easy to make with other magic and using our breath, but the mountains are so fragile that they keep collapsing. It’s just easier to use naturally formed caves and slowly expand them. Our previous cave here in the mountains collapsed because of a shift in the ley lines some months ago. Some big burst of magic in the south. It seems there was some war or some such involving the knife ears. Luckily the females hadn’t laid any eggs at that time, but now we’re stuck in this ratty cave.” The dragon grumbled.
‘Oops, my bad.’ Neleh thought, but of course didn’t say out loud. “You know, this could work for the both of us. I happen to have great skill with earth magic, but I don’t really have the mana to do something big. If you have a few dragons lend me their mana, I could create you a living space big enough for all the dragons in the elven continent. It doesn’t have to be a simple cave either; I can make something a bit fancier. It would actually work for everyone involved. Having all the dragons of the continent in one place would allow us to not infringe on your territory, and you could more effectively stop anything like the event that happened with the Sun Elf capitol from happening again. In addition, you would all be within my territory, so no need to worry about the elves coming to interfere with you.” Neleh suggested with a sincere sounding voice, which the dragon didn’t’ believe for a moment.
“You’re not doing this out of the goodness of your heart. You’ve got too much dragon in you for that, so you should know better. What’s the catch?” Zamekh asked while narrowing its large eyes.
“Two things. Firstly, as it happens, there are quite extensive mining opportunities below this mountain range. If I relocate you, then I don’t have to worry about you getting angry about the mining. Secondly, you’re probably not aware, but I’m also the Chosen of the elven people, for some strange reason. So if one of you gets too much out of line, like what happened with the Sun Elf capitol but without a proper reason this time, this little sister will have to put an end to it. It would be much easier if you were all within a province I control, so I don’t have to go running around the whole continent.” Neleh said with a grim voice.
“How did that happen? Why would Elune lay a claim on one of us?” Neleh was still a little bit confused how the dragon seemed to consider her a dragon as well. Though she could imagine several reasons for it, it was still a bit odd. “No matter, that sounds fair enough. I’ll have some of the dragons gather up for the spell. Having a single large location for us would make things a lot easier for several reasons, and we can deal with you also being the Chosen for Elune. At least you’ll have more sense than some knife-ear.” The dragon finished.
Neleh suggested a location near the southern edge of the province. It was close enough to the forests to work as a food source, and would also make sure that the southern border of the province would be secure. No one would want to march an army past a mountain full of dragons. It was far enough away from the main road leading towards Rhi’a’non to not bother trade, though Neleh wasn’t sure how Nimue would feel about having all the dragons of the continent living so close to the capitol…
They quickly traveled to the assigned location. Neleh’s companions were a little confused about the change in plans, and she refused to explain too much preferring to keep things as a surprise. She just said that they would see a something worth the wait. By the time they reached their destination they could see a large gathering of about thirty dragons with sizes ranging from a large barn to a huge fortress. The others were clearly confused and a bit scared, but Neleh confidently approached them.
Calls of ‘little sister’ from the dragons surrounded her, and many of the dragons gave a nod of their head to acknowledge the Chosen. They all turned to watch her. Zamekh was the first to approach.
“So how shall we do this?” The blue dragon asked.
“Allow me to link your mana pools with mine. I’ll draw from them to cast the spell. You can them review my handiwork and I can use the remaining power I’m holding to make any changes you want. Now would be a good time to make suggestions.” Neleh replied.
The dragons were all too happy to make suggestions. The basic plan included a single huge mountain with a network of wide tunnels reaching into the earth. The interiors would be similar to a huge temple of Satai, and the lower levels would have vents into veins of magma so hot air could get in, and some fine sand for a good environment for the eggs. Some male dragons also asked for some smaller separate caves for the times the female dragons got on their nerves.
‘Time to show the difference between the mages of this world and the mages that have seen the universe a bit.’ Neleh thought. She drew heavily on the mana of the dragons, and made several complex magical patterns in the air. These were something the people of this world had never seen before. They were magical formation called ‘Ri Majon’ that afforded much greater control over the magical elements than normally was possible. When taken further, they could also be used to change the form of the spells completely, but that was not necessary for the moment. This time Neleh was only using them both as a catalyst, and for control, since drawing a magical circle big enough for a mountain would be too much work.
The dragons knew approximately how much power a large spell such as this would require, but with the ‘Ri Majon’ Neleh could severely cut down on the magical power used, yet she still drew the original amount of mana from the dragons. She did this, because she intended to store the excess mana, and use it for her own purposes later on, effectively scamming the dragons for extra mana. Not that they would mind terribly, since they would regenerate the mana used in a few days.
At Neleh’s gesture, a huge mountain started rising from the ground. She masterfully controlled the formation of the mountain, forming the caverns even while the mountain was still rising. The formation of the mountain resulted in slight earthquakes in the surroundings, but not as much as one would assume, because Neleh controlled the forces released very carefully. The large expenditure of mana was felt all around the continent, and by the time the mountain had stopped rising, it was tall enough to be visible from the edge of Rhi’a’non, even without any sensory enhancing magic. Of course, elves had sharp eyes, so they didn’t much need enhancing. The mountain was now the tallest within the whole continent, and possibly the whole planet. If anyone ever asked, Neleh would pin the blame for the magic on the dragons, and no one would most likely go and ask them.
Once the spell had finished, the dragons flew into the caverns to check their new abode, and were beyond impressed. Much of the inside had the shiny appearance of a marbled temple. The roof high enough to allow entry of the biggest of the dragons, supported by marble looking dark columns thick enough to require thirty men with arms spread to surround it. The dragons were happy. They would be able to make any necessary small changes on their own, and they thanked Neleh for her efforts.
As Neleh was walking away from the lonely mountain, she chuckled to herself. She was still holding to almost half of the mana she had gotten from the dragons. She could use this to cast several of the large scale spells she had been planning for her duchy, and didn’t have to expend the mana she had been storing within the gems in her storage ring. Not only that, she had alleviated any problems on mining below the mountain range the dragons used to inhabit, and the dragons now even owed her a favor. This had been a very productive day…