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Fallen Abodes and Wizard Robes

conclave / kɒn.kleɪv / (n) 1: isolated elven society 2: Kingdom’s toy

A scattered pile of wooden shambles rested at the foot of the towering irontree. Parts bore resemblance to chairs, a table, a wall; likely a home before its fall. The wooden contours retained their polished facade and offered a glimpse at the quality of craftsmanship; the time taken to perfect each edge. An elf from centuries long past carved the ironwood panels and beams with loving care, joining them with the precision found only in an expert's craft made for family, not profit. This heap, and dozens of others, did no justice to its maker.

Aeleatir: a sodden heap of former glory.

Elven colonies suffered such fates across Turan. Self-exiled from their culture, colonists hewed to tradition in opposition of their kin. While initially given economic support from Xanthun and treated as diplomats by their neighbors, they rarely survived intact. Xanthun elves, prone to changing direction or reversing course in traditions, technology, and diplomacy, would grow tired of supporting "defectors" they neither cared to remember nor bothered to think of. Left adrift, a colony was an easy target.

Aeleatir managed better than most, owing to the efforts of Aele the Explorer, whose name remains carved into the obelisk at An'Xan Aiki, having never returned to erase his name from its long list of lost or forgotten captains. The expedition learned from history and brought the seeds of mighty irontrees, magical expertise to stir growth, and craftsmen skilled in canopy structures. With the requisite tools and knowledge, a bustling settlement of elves hidden by height and dense foliage blossomed into existence nigh overnight in a portion of the Singing Forest. For one hundred years, the local humans of Aemark treated them as an annoyance at worst and a convenient source of well-made tools at best.

Then came Markus the Fourth in 680 Post-Agranthor; PoA.

Little more than a splash of ink, the swish of a quill, and a kingly seal of wax whisked away Aeleatir's hopes of quiet happiness. To their credit, the elves staved off the Aemark Kingdom's sabotage for nearly a year. Irontrees are notoriously hardy against all manner of conventional and arcane assault and elves kept knowledge of their weaknesses close. Supply lines tracing through the treetops sustained them through a months-long siege, but it was all for naught. Whatever concoction the Kingdom's alchemists dreamt up ate away at the irontrees, rasping and steaming as it tore through root, trunk, and branch.

Aeleatir surrendered after the first boughs fell. Though the massive trunks of the trees stood proud, the branches were dying. Slowly, every walkway, every home, and every memory of the elves' home would fall as slovenly debris to the ground, moss inching its way over their forms and erasing the mark laid upon the world. A treaty was signed, granting conditional citizenship in exchange for their loyalty and dignity.

Three and a half centuries later, in the shadow of Aeleatir's glory, a modest and subdued Elven village remained. The Old Man would tell tales of Aeleatir, the "jewel of the east, most noble of its kind" while children matured under the heel of Aemark's boot, knowing not the alternative. The Elven Conclave, as it was so named, did not bustle; it did not blossom. It endured by pledging its offspring to their human King. Not every child, but every magical one; fledgling wizards pre-indoctrinated and ready to serve.

A bunny! Its tail is so floofy!

Of course, none of these thoughts crossed Shikya Enellami Aeleat's young mind, occupied as it was by the emergence of a cute brown critter from a collapsed home. Perhaps the centuries-old Elven craftsmen appreciated their rubble becoming a haven for rabbits, but more immediate concerns prevailed in Shikya's head. What should I name it...? Maybe Fluffy-Buns. Other appropriately flamboyant names, such as "Lord Wiggly-Nose," flicked across her consciousness as she lay prone in the grass, sunlight dancing between the remnants of the canopy city and falling in shafts to the forest floor.

Master Hoppy-Foot progressed through the underbrush, scouting out the expanse between it and a particularly tasty set of leaves. Shikya, unnoticed, watched her new companion edge further away from its makeshift home, preparing a dash to its favorite munching bush. Shikya, holding her breath, silently cheered Whiskers on as it thumped its rear foot, testing and loosening the powerful muscles in its flank. C'mon Whiskers! You can do it!

"What're you looking at?" asked a too-near voice. Startled, Shikya spasmed inelegantly and flipped her head back to find her best, and only, friend crouching and straining her eyes toward the wooden pile. Sheyla Enellami Aeleat was light-footed in much the same way a drunkard wasn't and preternaturally gifted in the art of surprise. Or perhaps Shikya was simply oblivious. Annoyance at the interruption faded into excitement at the prospect of sharing her fuzzy friend with Sheyla. We'll finally have an ayleth to play with!

"Whiskers," Shikya stated matter-of-factly while pointing towards the shrubbery hiding the rabbit. Sheyla's eyes scanned the ferns and obscuring leaves for signs of movement or animal life.

"Whiskers...?" Shikya's eyes swung back to the underbrush and spied a distinct lack of fluff. Gone. Whiskers whisked away... She harrumphed, hanging her head into the lush grass and sighing. Sheyla raised an eyebrow in response. "Hunting rabbits again?"

Shikya rolled over to her back, propping herself up on her elbows and replied, "I don't hunt them. I watch them. At least until somebody scares them away..." The mock edge in her voice dragged a smile out of Sheyla, a mirthful and fitting expression.

Then the smile shifted to a smirk; similar, but distinct in its surety. To an adult, it would seem out of place on a child, but to Shikya, it was just Sheyla... and an indication she was going to lose an argument. "How do you know it was me? You were flopping around like a fish a moment ago."

"Well, I wouldn't have if you didn't sneak up on me!"

"Wouldn't it have run away if I didn't 'sneak' up? Should I snap a few branches on my way over next time?"

Shikya pouted at the logic, willing it to change. It didn't. "Maybe..."

Sheyla poked Shikya on the forehead, as she was wont to do after pushing Shikya into a logical corner, claiming victory. Doubling-down on the pout, Shikya rubbed her forehead while Sheyla dropped to her knees, smirk morphing into a wide grin.

"Guess what? I've got something to show you!"

"Is it another puzzle? You know I'm bad at those...," Shikya mumbled.

"No, it's much better than a puzzle." Sheyla held out her right hand in front of her, as though holding a large ball from the bottom. Curious, Shikya sat up and examined her friend's hand. There was nothing there; only skin and air. Is this a trick? Is it invisible? She thought Sheyla's skin a tinge brighter than it should be, like her own, but this was normal.

"What are you d-" Shikya started to ask before she noticed a small purple wisp rise out of Sheyla's palm. As the tendril of smoke coalesced into a murky sphere hovering inches above her hand, Sheyla narrowed her eyes and held her breath, concentrating harder, pushing more of whatever power she had into her hand. Shikya watched, enchanted by the softly rotating and shifting mass of energy, when a quiet rustle emanated from the ground between them. A few fallen leaves rose slowly, lifted by an unseen force and drawn to Sheyla.

She continued her efforts while her hand shook slightly and the tips of her fingers turned an incandescent red. Shikya could feel the heat from them, briefly worrying her friend might burn herself, but Sheyla seemed to not notice. The floating sphere pulsed, growing to twice its size. Below, the grass singed as the magic intensified. Magic! Sheyla's a wizard!

"Ow!" Shikya yelped and snapped her hand back as a burning leaf brushed her hand. The fluorescent ball dissipated into nothingness as Sheyla broke her focus, rose, and stammered out an apology.

"Shikya! Oh-my-g-...I'm so sorry... I didn't..." Sheyla, noting the embers from the charred greenery, hastily stamped out the remnants with her feet. "I-I shouldn't have..."

"That's so amazing! You can do magic!" Too excited to care about a small burn, or the possibility of a brush fire, Shikya asked, "How did you do that?!"

Happy that Shikya sustained no permanent harm, Sheyla smiled, sighed, and slumped back to her knees. "Remember those humans from last year? The ones with the robes, magic, and all those stories?"

"Yeah!" It was a special day, despite the Old Man's grumbles about Kingdom interference. They wore expensive-looking black, gray-sleeved jackets with golden adornment and cloaks of different colors. They told tales of wizardry, of great battles with dwarves and orphics, and how magic could heal the sick and create objects out of nothing. One evoked a pile of snow, the first time Shikya had seen it. She even threw her first snowball (with high accuracy, to which the evoker's hair could attest). Another conjured illusions of cities and vistas of which neither Sheyla nor Shikya could have dreamed.

"They came back today! One wanted to do an 'attunement test' and I passed! They're going to teach me magic!" Hardly able to contain her exuberance, Sheyla clapped her hands joyfully and bounced on her knees. "C'mon, let's go back and you can do the test too! We can be wizards together!" The mood was infectious and Shikya grinned madly as they ran back to the Conclave. We get to learn magic!


These people are boring.

Shikya flicked at a chip of bark which had ungraciously attached itself to her pants, idly wondering how long she had been sitting in Old Man Aele's ceremonial room. When she and Sheyla returned from the woods, the robed humans immediately ushered Sheyla into another room, whispering excitedly and promptly ignoring Shikya. The Old Man shooed her over to the side, hastily shushed her, and returned to talk with the two men. They both wore jackets of black and gray, but one's cloak was colored a deep violet on one side and red on the other while the other's was jet black on both. Both of them had the same slight unnatural hue to their skin as Sheyla and herself.

Shikya eavesdropped on the first portion of the conversation, which consisted of gushing about Sheyla's remarkable talent, but lost interest as it veered into political topics. After five minutes of chatter, she flipped her feet up and laid lengthwise on the bench, comfortable despite the lack of cushioning. Elven carpenters knew their craft and perfectly shaped the appropriate material.

Too young to understand what "treaties" were or what "citizenship" meant, Shikya thought they may as well have been speaking Kaokutian. Grown-up stuff is lame. Her attention shifted back to Sheyla's magic; to the purple orb and glowing fingertips. Shikya held her own hand aloft and examined it, first the back and then the front. She scrutinized it, but found nothing new except a chipped fingernail and a bright red spot where the singed leaf fell. I wonder what kind of magic I have...

"You know she's going to have to come with us sometime. The earlier, the better." This pulled Shikya away from her musing, and she turned her head to listen more carefully, dropping her hand to her stomach. Sheyla's... going away? Her eyes narrowed with suspicion.

The Old Man's shoulders lifted and then sagged as he sighed deeply. "I am well-aware, but Sheyla is still young. Aemark may be our Kingdom, but the Conclave retains certain rights. As you are well-aware, one of those rights is caring for our own until they come of age." She couldn't see his face, but from the tone of voice, Shikya could easily imagine the consternation on the ancient elf's face. She was quite familiar with it, having been scolded for her wanderlust more than once.

The righthand human with the jet-black cloak frowned as his eyes turned hawkish, which sat well with his overall demeanor. "I'd rather not remind you of your position, Aele Enel-la-mal Aeleat." Shikya found it weird to emphasize the third syllable in Aele's mid-name, the significance lost on her. "Do you know how rare a dual-attunement is? Every day outside of the Academy is a day wasted. We need to teach her." To punctuate the statement further, he gesticulated with finality, slapping a fist into his opposing hand. "Now."

Old Man Aele pulled his hands behind his back, grasping an opposing wrist with one hand, and drew in a breath as he did so. Ordinarily, it would appear a genial gesture filled with patience and calm assurance, but Shikya recognized it as his 'you are in so much trouble that I'm going to throw you out the nearest window and on your ass' stance. Kick him out on his butt, Old Man. Sheyla's not going anywhere. Though more than four hundred years old, the elf managed well enough, though Shikya doubted he could toss a grown man. He began to growl a response, but the human on the left interrupted.

"Now hold on, Yal Harlick, I'm sure we can come to an agreement. We wouldn't want to separate so young a child from her family." In contrast to his companion, this one, middle-aged and turning a smidge gray in the hair, wore a soft and inviting expression, full of empathy. "What if we were to instruct her in the fundamental concepts while she continued to live here, at the Conclave?" Harlick glared daggers, if not claymores at him but remained silent. "The Academy is not terribly far, and we'd still start much earlier than we normally would with a student."

Shikya breathed her own sigh of relief as she saw the aged elf's posture slip back into calm. "Yes, I suppose this could work..." Although the tension between them lessened, she sensed the wizened elf felt he had bargained for the lesser evil rather than a victory. "Shall we dis-"

Another human, a younger woman with a yellow-and-black cloak and noticeably brighter sleeves, entered the room from an adjacent one, with Sheyla in tow. Sheyla gave a wave and grinned, while the woman clapped her hands and exclaimed, "Medias! She's-got-a-lot-of-potential-we-should-really-see-what-we-can-do-to-teach-..." She drifted to a halt as the kinder of the two men, presumably Medias, held up his hand while Harlick's eyebrow twitched a quick tempo and harrumphed haughtily. Jerk! I bet he smells funny! Shikya had the good sense not to voice her opinion.

Medias smiled with grace. "We were just about to discuss that, Kel," he said as he turned towards Shikya, who thought herself forgotten, and invited her to come with a small wave. "Meanwhile, why don't you take young Shikya here and test her." Shikya’s heart lurched as anxiety welled up, but she slid to her feet and walked over.

Medias gestured softly for her to stand in front of the woman. Kel adopted a crouch, meeting her at eye-level. "Hey, Shikya. We're going to do a little test in the next room. It'll help us determine if you have magic or not. You want to find out?" Like Sheyla, her smile was kind and Shikya grinned back, nodding as her chest thumped slightly less intensely. Kel stood and gently pushed on Shikya's back to lead her to the side room. Nervous, she glanced back at Sheyla, who cheerily mimed poking Shikya in the forehead as support.

The room was well-lit by the afternoon sun and the discussion in the ceremonial room quieted both as the room's curtain was drawn and the others moved towards another part of the home. "Sit, sit," Kel all-but flopped to the floor and crossed her legs, eschewing the actual seats entirely. Shikya sat down likewise, and the woman continued with a grin, "I'm Kelindra Elnamalyel Cuthridge, but you can call me Kel; Kel Yel if you want to be formal."

Having found her voice, Shikya responded with formality, adhering to custom when addressing humans, "My name is Shikya Ennelami Aeleat ov Conclave. I am pleased to meet you, Kel Yel." She grabbed and shook Shikya's extended hand in the awkward human way of greeting.

"Pleasure to meet you Shikya, but you don't need to be so formal... unless-you-want-to. I-mean... don't worry so much about it..." Shikya nodded warily, unsure if the shifts in cadence were intentional, unique, or a weird quirk afflicting all human women. "Anyway, Sheyla mentioned she already showed you what she did for her test, so you know the kind of thing we're looking for: glowing colors, changes in temperature, moving things. But I'm going to teach you how to do it." She extended her hand out, palm up, just as Sheyla had in the forest.

"Start with your hand out, facing up. ... Good." Holding the position, Shikya eyed Kelindra as she touched several points on Shikya's hand: the center and tips of her fingers in turn. "Each of these spots is what we call a 'mana vector.' These spots are where it's easiest for wizards to imbue mana, which is magical energy, into a 'structure.' That structure gives rise to..."

She shook her head. "I always do that. Ignore what I just said. Think of these spots as little holes for your magic to shoot out of. What you're going to do is concentrate and focus as much as you can on your palm and your fingertips." Shikya, nodding, furrowed her brows and focused hard, forcing herself to think of nothing else.

A few seconds passed. Then fifteen… and then a minute before Kel interrupted.

"Okay. It's not an easy thing to do. I mean, I-was-twenty-before-I-managed-anything-magical-so-I-can-emp..." She breathed in, calming herself. The admission did little to ease Shikya's disappointment in herself. "Let's try again, but this time I want you to imagine there's a... light in your stomach and heart..." She tapped Shikya's torso a few inches above her belly button and then right in the sternum. "Think about this light moving to your shoulder..." Another tap. "Down your arm.." Yet another tap... "...and then to your hand." A gentle squeeze this time. "Keep repeating that image in your head."

Frowning a little, but determined to try, Shikya brought the image to the forefront of her mind. Long moments passed, but nothing happened. Longer moments came and went while Kelindra waited patiently. I have to do this. She's going to leave someday. I need to be a wizard!

A soft, ringing emanated from nowhere and Shikya saw... something. It was quite unlike Sheyla's purple wisps and sphere or her glowing fingertips. Instead, looking past the air where the magic should be, the wood grain on the wall seemed... distorted, as though it were behind misshapen glass.

She tried to focus on the strange and shifting space, but the effect vanished. Her quizzical thoughts distracted Shikya from the test, and she dropped her hand. Examining it front and back, she was unsure whether she had seen the distortion at all. Kelindra put her hand on Shikya's shoulder, startling her out of reverie. "Hey, don't get frustrated. Let's try once more."

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19 May, 2021 11:55

This is a really fun read so far! I love how much personality each character has, I can really see the love for your world in them. I'm excited to see where the story takes them all!

19 May, 2021 14:55

It warms my heart to hear that! It'll take a while to catch up to where I am on v0.9, but I'm hopeful this will turn out more complete and improved. <3

Snarky and Sarcastic to the End