A/N: For the record, I was supposed to write this yesterday, but got stuck with overtime at work. The life of an accountant: if you dont' do your job, people don't get paid for theirs and then they get cranky.
Right after waking up, Asheara could feel that there was something wrong. This feeling was pushed aside a bit as she was tackled down by three girls that she recognized as her daughters. The troubling thing was that it took her a moment to recognize them. She could see and feel that all three of them were overcome with emotion, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on why that would be the case. They acted as if she had just recovered from a disease, but she couldn’t remember being sick.
Now that she thought about it more, she couldn’t remember several things. It was like there were holes in her memory. It wasn’t like she had trouble remembering it like she had forgotten or that it was just escaping her, but instead there were big gaping holes where memories were supposed to be. She knew there should be memories there, but some of her memories simply cut off in the middle. She looked at her daughters crying from joy.
Daughters. Three of them. Wasn’t there supposed to be five of them? Wait, didn’t Selvaria die? Somehow parts of that seemed to be missing too, but she was certain that her daughter was dead. There was a wave of grief, the pain of losing your child would never disappear completely, but she realized that she had mourned the death of Selvaria before and had come to terms with it, at least as much as she could. That was four. Wasn’t there a fifth daughter?
Asheara had to really reach to find any memories of her youngest daughter, but finally managed to make some connections. Neleh! That’s what her name was. Her baby girl. Wait, baby girl? Wasn’t Neleh only two years younger than Elsaria? Then she should not be a baby anymore, seeing as Elsaria was in her arms, and was clearly a young woman. She could even remember Elsaria growing up. Then why couldn’t she remember anything of Neleh besides her being a baby?
Now Asheara got a very bad feeling. She clearly had memories missing in a way that suggested intentional removal. She didn’t know much about magic of the mind, but something like that could probably be done. The more she thought about it, the more certain she became that a big portion of the missing memories had something to do with Neleh. If they had been removed on purpose, then why?
She suddenly felt a feeling of dread. What if those memories had been removed because her baby girl was dead? Maybe she had been unable to cope with the loss of her children, and this was someone’s fix to it? Maybe that’s the ‘disease’ her daughters were so glad Asheara recovered from? She could see a tired looking celestial looking at them, and somehow she could feel that the celestial was most likely the person who had ‘cured’ her. Did she dare to ask questions? What if she broke down again? But how could she live without knowing what had happened to her baby girl?
Asheara was just about to start asking questions when she heard a voice in her head, a clearly female and a very caring voice. “Your youngest daughter is alive. I would say alive and well, but that isn’t entirely correct at this very moment.”
Asheara was just about to ask who the voice was, when a realization hit her. There was something about the voice that didn’t leave any room to question her identity. ‘My goddess, you grace me with your presence.’ She tried sending her thought back to wherever the voice had come from.
She could hear something akin to a smile in the voice when it came again. Something akin to, because there was also a tinge of sadness in it. “You will get answers to your questions in time. I just wanted to reassure you a bit. The celestial is not the right person to answer your questions and neither are your three daughters present here. Neleh knows the best what’s going on, but I would prefer it if you didn’t ask her for a while. To give you some peace of mind while waiting, I’ll say a few things myself.
Yes, you have lost some memories, and yes they are mostly related to your youngest daughter. Yes she knows about it, as she was the one to make the choice about removing them. Yes there was a good reason for it. The removal of those memories allowed your safe return to the rest of your family, but it came at a cost. Your instinct might be to rush to help your daughter who might be suffering, but you would only make the matters worse if you went now. Give it a little time, and be patient. As a side-note, your other daughters aren’t aware of all the details, and I would be a little careful about answering too many of their questions, lest they blame themselves for what your youngest had to pay for your return. Say your memory is foggy, you’re otherwise fine and dodge the rest. You will not be lying to them if you do that.”
Asheara thought for a moment, and decided to trust her goddess who had bothered to help one of her chosen people. That did bring up a question though. ‘Not that I’m not appreciative, but why does our family warrant the goddess to personally interfere?’
Now the smile was clear in the voice when the reply came. “The answer to that is part of the memories you lost. Your youngest daughter is important to me, and to the rest of the world. More so than you could ever realize. She’s also my Chosen. In a weird way, you are my mother-in-law.” The voice gave a final chuckle before disappearing. Asheara could tell that there would be no more answers for now.
It took a good hour of comforting her other daughters and getting reacquainted with them. When they discovered that her memories were a little spotty, they volunteered to fill those gaps to the best of their ability, and Asheara decided to ask some questions about the three of them on details that she had trouble remembering. She was glad that all three of them had found some kind of path in life, and Delia had even found a lover. Asheara could tell that there were some issues there, but real relationships always did. Just look at what had happened with her and her now ex-husband.
What had happened there? Those memories were also partially gone, but she could feel that there was no longer anything between her and Elluin. Then had she found someone else after their separation? Somehow she felt that the answer to that was at least partially yes, since she had some faint recollections of feeling something stronger, but that too seemed to be lost along with her missing memories. She knew things were over with Elluin, but had no idea what had happened with this new person she might have found. Maybe that too would become clear with time.
Suddenly a new name popped into her head. The memories about this name were also fuzzy and fragmented, but she also got a feeling that this person would most likely have some answers. “Could one of you find Shiori for me? I think I’d like a word with her too.” She asked her daughters.
As Asheara sat in a room waiting for Shiori to come, she tried to both discover where she was and gather all her memories of the person she was waiting for. The place felt familiar, but she couldn’t tell why even if her life depended on it. She had the feeling that she could tell the contents of every drawer and closet without even opening them, but she didn’t know why. She knew she would be able to find a bathroom even without being given directions, and could even tell that there were several, and a large number of baths in the floors below. Somehow she also knew that there was an open air bath at the back, and a beach just a bit further. Yet she had no idea where this place was, and couldn’t have even told what continent they were on.
When it came to Shiori, her memories were incredibly fragmented. She had an image of a small girl covered in blood that had been tortured by bandits, fragments of memories about training together and a weird motherly feeling. She knew that the girl was smart, but couldn’t say why she knew that. Yet, she had this weird confidence in the girl. It was taking an oddly long time to get her though. Delia had said that it would only take a minute, and it had been at least twenty.
Asheara was currently alone. Elsaria had gone to get her something to eat, mumbling something about Asheara not eating for a long time, even though she didn’t actually feel any hunger. Delia had gone to get Shiori, and the celestial had disappeared somewhere, most likely to rest. Selene had wanted to stay with her mother, perhaps to make sure everything was alright, but she had her work as a priestess. She had said that she was willing to skip that work, but Asheara had felt that to be a little blasphemous considering the goddess had just paid them a visit, and had assured Selene that she would be fine. In fact, she didn’t mind some peace and time to think.
Finally the door opened, and a beautiful young woman entered the room. She had these weird black clothes that looked almost like a uniform, and in fact something inside Asheara recognized the clothes as the uniform of the Order. The woman had intelligent looking eyes, set in a face that seemed both delicate yet powerful. The most attractive feature were the stern but lively looking thin eyebrows that were currently a little scrunched in a frown for some reason. The face was framed by a dark and wavy hair that came down to her chin. The whole face was a weird mix of beauty combined with a feeling that she could easily blend into the crowd despite her striking features, if she so chose.
‘That’s weird, she seems too old to be the Shiori I was thinking about.’ Asheara thought in a slight confusion, before deciding to chalk it up to her missing memories. More worrying was that the young woman was clearly not very pleased to be here.
“You seem angry for some reason.” Asheara stated simply.
“That would be because I am. Very angry in fact. Angry at you, angry at myself and angry at a certain idiot that once again decided to carry all the pain herself.” Shiori replied a little acidly.
“Can you tell me why? I have a feeling that you hold most of the answers I’m seeking and I would rather we not have this conversation while you are so angry.” Asheara asked.
“I’m angry at you because the person more important than this world to me is in pain because of you. It’s your fault, yet I can’t really blame you since you had no choice in the matter. That annoys me even more. If you had caused this on purpose, I could simply tear you to pieces to satisfy some of my anger, but you didn’t and I can’t. In fact, it would make things even worse. So I have to settle for hating you instead.
I’m angry at myself for not being able to prevent this. I’m angry at myself for not seeing this coming beforehand, and not being able to do something to at least soften the blow to the center of my world. I’m angry at myself that I allowed things to get this far, and most of all I’m angry at myself for not being able to take her pain away. I would gladly carry it in her stead if I could, but I can’t.
I’m angry at her, because she put the happiness of others ahead her own happiness. I’m angry that she hid this from me until it was too late, and I’m angry that she chose to carry the burden alone. Even now she is choosing not to burden the others by keeping the information from them, and keeping her own pain private. Well the rest of you can burn for all I care! Only her happiness matters to me, and it makes me angry that she does not see things the same way. Yet I can’t blame her for it, because that too is part of what makes her so important to me. If she wasn’t as she is, then I would not be here either.” Shiori’s scowl made it clear how much she hated Asheara at the moment.
For some reason Asheara had no trouble guessing who Shiori was talking about. “Can you tell me what is going on? I would help you ease her pain, if I am able.”
“Oh I will tell you, but not because you ask. I will tell you so that you know what you have caused, and the burden your happiness has placed on her shoulders. After I’m done, I’d rather you didn’t help. You have done quite enough damage, and can stay away from now on. It’s about time someone else take care of her in your stead.” Shiori replied maliciously.
Asheara was standing on a balcony overlooking what she now knew to be Nexus. Shiori had told her many things, yet also left more unsaid. She had told her of the bond, and the pain the severing had caused Neleh, and the pain it continued to cause her even now, even if her daughter decided to hide that. She had told her how Asheara had been one of the few people who Neleh could really put her faith in, and how Asheara was supposed to be a rock of support in the great storm surrounding Neleh. That was now gone, and could not be rebuilt.
From what Shiori had told her, Asheara knew that she been closer to Neleh than her other daughters, but she could also sense there were things that Shiori had chosen to leave out. How much was left out, she could not say. She had heard enough to know that it wasn’t a good idea to go close to Neleh at the moment, and also enough to know that she owed Neleh for the ability to continue life with her other daughters. She had lost one daughter to regain three others.
While lost in thought, Asheara could suddenly hear the conversation between two voices, one of which she recognized as Delia. “Don’t lie to me! You might be good at hiding your feelings, but I’ve known you long enough to know that you’re in pain. What is going on? What are you not telling me?” The voice of her angry daughter became clearer as the two voices got closer. It was clear the anger came from worry and caring.
A melodious sound that seemed to carry the sound of music replied to her. If Asheara had to guess, the person replying had to be an expert songstress. “Let it go Delia. There are some things better left unsaid. This is a time of joy. Our mother has returned to us. Don’t mar it with questions you don’t want answers to.” The voice was at the same time so familiar, yet something she couldn’t remember. That of course told her the identity of the speaker right away.
“Fine then, be like that. If you don’t want to talk to me, then that is your choice. I just hope you won’t keep everything inside, as is your habit, and talk to someone at least.” The voice of Delia sounded, and Asheara could see her striding out from a garden nearby.
After a moment, Asheara could see the back of another person leaving the same garden. The woman was dressed in a fairly revealing white dress that left the back open, although covered by her long black hair that twinkled like the night sky. Just enough skin was visible to reveal a clear and perfect skin in the fairly light complexion so familiar to Moon Elves. Asheara could tell the woman was athletic, with soft looking skin hiding explosive strength and muscle. The woman walked with a grace only found in those who had mastered their bodies through mastering physical combat. It was difficult to judge height from this distance, but the woman seemed fairly tall for a female elf.
Suddenly the woman stopped, and turned towards Asheara, as if sensing her presence. Asheara suddenly realized that she had been hiding her presence by some instinct that she didn’t quite recognize. Such thoughts were instantly wiped as she saw the woman’s face. Red lips highlighted the clear and perfect complexion as the rest of the face had almost an ethereal feeling to it. The most shocking part were her deep blue eyes that drew everyone’s attention to drown in their depths. These eyes carried the wisdom of ages, yet the face had this ageless quality to it. Asheara wouldn’t have been able to tell the woman’s age, because she appeared at the same time to be someone who had just come to the full bloom of womanhood, yet carried the gravitas and calm of someone that had seen the rise and fall of empires.
The first thought that came to Asheara was that Elune had come to visit them again, this time in flesh. Such appearance could only belong to that of the goddess. That’s why she uttered a small whisper of “Elune?” before being interrupted by a strange voice.
“You’re not wrong, but you’re not right either.” A girl aged roughly six years old stood near her. The girl seemed to be a mix of elven and demon heritage, and had a striking silver hair. She also looked a lot like the woman she had just seen. As she looked back towards the garden, she could not see the beautiful woman anymore. The woman had disappeared as if the whole thing had been a mirage.
“What do you mean?” Asheara asked as she turned back to the little girl.
“Elune looks identical to her, but that was not the goddess.” The girl replied with a small grin.
Suddenly something clicked in her mind. “Neleh?” She asked, already knowing the answer.
Asheara gave a small sigh. “May Elune grant her strength to get through this.”
The girl gave a small laugh. “Oh don’t worry. She isn’t someone so weak as to need the help of mother to get through this. She might not look like it, but she has strength beyond anything you can imagine, and this is nothing but a small bump in the road for her.”
Something in the girl’s words had stood out to Asheara. “Mother? Who are you?” She suddenly started making some connections in her mind about what she had heard since waking up.
“Oh silly me for forgetting to introduce myself. I am Sinestra. I suppose I should call you grandmother?” The girl tilted her head in a cute way, and seemed to be testing out the word in her mind.
“Grandmother? From your words, I’m to assume your parents are Elune, and I’m guessing Neleh?” Asheara asked, reeling a bit due to the realization. ‘Daughter-in-law indeed!’ She thought a little bitterly.
“Bingo, again. See, you can do it if you put your mind to it.” Sinestra said in a chipper voice.