Naiara: Chapter Eight - Nixautum

Chapter Eight - Nixautem

The year 477 of the 4th Age, fourteen years ago, During the 15th month of Sagittarius, At the turning of the year and the final days of winter.

"I still can't lure Shae over here. She wants the treats I keep tempting her with, but she just won't pass under the stone circle. It's so cold out there." Malyrra said as she laid down in her bunk in the wall, talking to Naiara on the other side of the room. She was laying down in hers, facing away while covered in a blanket of dark wolf furs, resting after a long day of patrolling.   "Be thankful she's still staying around here, the fields to the north are full of burrowing bunnies, and Lake Shawen is home to some exceptionally well sized Trout. I'll try not to give Shae any ideas." Naiara jested at her friend.   Malyrra was about to burrow underneath her furs when she remembered the current season. "We're almost a week away from Origo. We've gotten to know each other pretty well over the years, but you've never really talked about it, do you mind if I ask? There's so many."   Naiara, trying to sleep, when suddenly she couldn't as she recalled the horrors of Stelladomus so long ago. Though she was only five, a toddler, elves had a keen recollection when it came to special memories like birthdays, feasts, and festivals. The same occurred for tragedies and traumas. Some are capable of forgetting their past, and others are haunted to relive it for the rest of their lives.   Her friend was asking her about Origio, a week known as the Time of Remembrance. It was a ceremonial festival dedicated to their ancestry during the last week of winter and the year. A time of sharing stories, sharing secretive family recipes during feasts, and remembering those that came before. Families would set out special slow-burning candles that lasted for most of the week, igniting them on the first night of Origio.   Naiara sighed as she rolled to face her friend. "Most of my family perished in Stellasdomus. There was Rallinthyra, my greatmother. Estelyr, my grandmother. Luirlanfir, my grandfather. Kerryth, my aunt. Nyvorlas, my uncle. Tyialha and Vesrayn, my cousins. And I dedicate my last candle to elder Aerenwas, the owner of my family's axe and a ranger of the Vigilate long before me."   Malyrra head hanged low, "That's terrible, I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought it up."   Naiara shook her head, "Its okay, actually nice to talk about it. And what about your ancestors?"   Malyrra held the two candles and rolled them in one hand. Syllisha, my mother, died shortly after I was born. And then Cohnyl, my father. He's a mage of Arxarae, and was too essential to raise me by himself. I don't even know if he's still alive. I was raised in Oriasyli, at the temple of Morkel. They thought me to be some aspiring arcane prodigy, like him, but I can't cast a simple spell, I can't even snap my fingers."   Sihnion then burst through the door in a panic, exhausted and unable to speak as he tried to catch his breath.   Malyrra jumped out of her bunk, surprised, "Sihnion! Relax! I didn't take any of your precious rocks or read any of your letters you are sending back home to your family or to miss lovely golden locks, Ecaerys."   He simply shook his head, "There's fire and smoke in the mountains! A dragon attack? Maybe feral drakes?"   Naiara grabbed a simple spyglass and ran outside the house to the stone circle to observe to the north. There was indeed a rather large fire on the horizon in the mountains, and at its center, it burned a bright green.   "It's a beacon, but it has been destroyed. Nixautem calls for the Vigilate." Naiara said as she put the spyglass away and began walking over to the beacon to light it.   "W-wait! Won't that alert whoever destroyed the beacon of our presence here? It could be a trap, maybe Nixautem isn't in any danger." Sihnion questioned.   Naiara looked as Malyrra and offered her the spyglass, "Take Shae and scout for us while we prepare?"   Malyrra nodded, "If its nothing, then I'm getting us some trout for dinner from that lake for you to cook for us, lady Naiara!"   Naiara was in no way the leader of this little group, but both of them respected her focus and wisdom. Malyrra was the best archer and scout, even when she wasn't flying around on Shae's back. Sihnion was the best at tracking and identifying threats, almost able to tell how long ago such tracks were made. Naiara, however, was the fastest and most stealthy being grounded for as long as she has.   Together they complimented each other well enough to perform their tasks when the need had arisen. If this was a significant threat to Nixautem, this would be the first time they'd be able to test their teamwork in a battle.   Malyrra returned half an hour later, "Nixautem is under siege! Orcs and goblins from the deeps perhaps, it was too hazy to tell for sure, but they need us!"   Naiara had set aside all of Malyrra's gear and replenished her supplies. "Take Sihnion with you and find a good vantage point to observe. Then come back for me."   Sihnion interrupted, "I-I'm fine, I can fly there on my own, really."   "We're all tired from patrolling the region. Shae is the most rested here, we need to reserve our strength for the battle to come. We may not get to rest for quite a while." Naiara explained herself, Sihnion nodding as he understood, as he reluctantly hopped on the back of Shae with Malyrra.   "Don't worry Sihnion, Shae doesn't like you either. You never bring her any snacks." Malyrra said jokingly as they departed for Nixautem to the north.  
  Nixautem was a struggling mining colony in the frozen mountains, north of Zephyrus. It was initially built by the Nixvani, their snow elven cousins, but was found abandoned. After the fall of Cinisautem in the Ashekremos mountains to the southeast, it became a valuable source of iron for the Caelumani. With the razing of Stelladomus, many of the survivors there found a home in Nixautem.   Beyond its valuable ore, mountain goat ranching, and ice fishing for the arctic salmon in an iced-over lake nearby, Nixautem also grew their own crops, some of them even thriving in the icy conditions. And for the plants that did not flourish, they adopted building technique of the snow elves, building specularium, houses dedicated to growing their crops indoors, providing sunlight and warmth through the use of glass and mirrors.   Overlooking the city from a cliff to the south, things looked grim. Their enclosed stone ramparts reinforced by solid walls of ice were crumbling and riddled with holes from a siege. They were being bombarded from a distance by boulders of varying sizes. Naiara, as she laid prone on the ground looking through her spyglass, was paralyzed.   "Giants." Naiara said.   Malyrra pointed to the mountain to the northeast, "We might be able to trigger an avalanche on top of that ridge and bury them for a moment. Won't kill many, but will put an end to their rock tossing for at least a little while."   Sihnion shook his head, "That'd take a banshee of a scream to trigger, and I don't think Shae, or you can quite accomplish that together."   Malyrra smirked, "Not what I had in mind, that'd be too much fun to prove you wrong. We can use our magefire oil, although it's going to take all that we have. Bury our bags in the snow, pour one vial in the bag then fly away. If we all trigger an explosion at different sections of the ridge, it'll bury them." Malyrra was pretty proud of her plan, but noticed their companion's silence, "What do you think, lady Naiara?"   Naiara heard the plan, as she tried hard not to think about her past traumas at Stelladomus. "I'm sorry. It sounds like a good plan, but we probably don't want to fly directly over them."   Sihnion looked around, "How about we circle behind the city, travel over the frozen lake, then fly up to the ridge. Shae can drop off Naiara first, then Malyrra can head to the highest point of the ridge, while I aim for the middle."   They all agreed to the plan, as Malyrra and Naiara rode on the back of Shae, Sihnion flying behind them as they left the cliff they were at to travel behind Nixautem.   Most of its towers had already been toppled at this point, their greenhouses shattered. Those trapped within were either taking shelter in the mines, or in the lower levels of their homes. Some houses were built into the ground for retaining warmth. Those defending the walls were helpless, as the giants were too far away for arrows, and if they had any siege weaponry, the giants had already destroyed them, for there were no signs of any. All that the people of Nixautem could do was hold out until help arrived.   Seeing the helplessness, she was reminded of her youth. The raiding giants came unexpectedly, climbing the mountainside in the cover of night and over their walls. Her mother and father were lucky to survive that day, for no alarmed was raised, but the screams of the innocent slain. They don't know if they came for territory or possessions, or solely for the thrill of the hunt. Her parents fought their way home to retrieve their daughter, moments before the roof collapsed. They flew from the city to a safe distance, to see Stelladomus set to the torch as the giants took everything away from them. Most of her extended family perished that dreadful night. If not for Elder Nementh, they would have had nowhere to go.   As they reached the ridgeline, Naiara gazed down from the high ground at the giants. There were maybe twelve of them, and they had dug themselves a quarry, and those that were not throwing rocks at the city were using crude picks to break the slabs of stone into more manageable projectiles.   Naiara hopped off of Shae, Malyrra then continued up to the highest point of the ridgeline, as Sihnion flew overhead behind her. She dug as deep of a hole as she could and placed her bag, waiting on the others to reach their spots before lighting the rest of her magefire.   As she saw Malyrra and Shae take flight, followed by Sihnion, she popped the cork off the vial of magefire oil and threw it into the bag in the hole she had made. She then started to run, finding it difficult in the snow to get enough speed to glide off the mountain. When she heard the first explosion, she lost her balance as at ground began to shake, and dived into the snow. With the second explosion, she started to panic, having felt the shockwave it created. She wasn't confident she had made it far enough to avoid the imminent detonation from her satchel. She tried to stand, but her world turned upside down, as mighty clawed feet swooped her out of the snow by her legs.   The third explosion knocked the air straight out of her lungs, and her ears were ringing. They began to descend towards the ground near Nixautem when suddenly Shae screeched loudly, and they started to spiral in the air, before crashing into the snowdrift below.   Naiara recovered from her dizzyness to see Malyrra holding Shae's head in her lap as she comforted the pained creature. She had taken a hit from a brittle stone that broke upon impact, with shards of it piercing her.   A giant shouted at them in a coarse language unfamiliar to them as he approached. He was easily ten feet tall and wore the hide of a mammoth while wielding a steel maul in two hands, its haft made from ivory.   Sihnion descended from behind the giant and thrust a spear into his upper back as he landed on him, holding onto the spear, with his feet pushing into his shoulders. It shouted from its injury and cursed in his harsh language, as he reached behind him and grabbed the lancer, ripping the spear from his back in the process and slammed him hard onto the ground in front of him.   Malyrra fired an arrow at him, and stuck him in the gut, which did little but sting him, and draw his attention towards her. He swung his maul at her, dodging under the first swing, firing another arrow off into its chin, but as the swing came back around, she took the brunt of it on her right arm. She went into a spin as she flew a few yards away, the archer lying broken and unconscious.   Naiara went underneath his legs as her axe hacked into his left knee. The giant turned and swung wildly, trying to pulverize her as he slammed his maul into the ground. The force of the impact knocked her onto her back. She rolled to the left as he tried to slam the hammer down upon her. She would have been crushed on the very next blow, if not for Shae. The gyphus had jumped upon the giant, its beak diving into its neck. The giant repeatedly punched the gryphus in the face, but Shae was relentless and continued to burrow talon and its beak deeper into it.   Naiara got back up on her feet and ducked under another swing of the maul with the giant's free hand. The giant was still struggling with its other hand to pull the grappling gryphus off of its back. Naiara hacked her axe at its weapon hand as it passed over her head. She then rolled towards it, avoiding another slam into the ground by the maul, and then she repeatedly struck the back of its left foot. Her last strike severed its tendon, and the giant fell forward under the weight of the ferocious gryphus, that ripped out a significant portion of its jugular vein.   Sihnion slowly crawled over to Malyrra to check on her with his left leg having been broken. She was alive, but her right arm and wing was a distorted bloody mess. Naiara and Shae stood over them defensively, as more giants rose from the snow began to approach, then they slowed to a halt.   Naiara looked behind her to see the rallied defenders charging forth with spears and shields, a volley of arrows flying overhead towards the giants. As the arrows struck them, a barrage of javelins descended from the sky, as a squadron of Aerlanciarii, gryphus riders, flew overhead. The giants began to retreat, but one by one they fell to the ground as arrows and javelins rained death down upon them.   Naiara fell to her knees exhausted next to Sihnion who laid on his back, as Shae curled up next to Malyrra, shielding her with one of her wings.  
  The people of Nixautem were saved, but the giants from Lythos would soon return. After tending to their wounds, Sihnion was able to walk with assistance from a staff and was, fortunately, able to still fly. Malyrra, unfortunately, lost the use of her right arm and wing, effectively ending her service as a member of the Vigilate.   Naiara and Shae remained to help escort the people of Nixautem away from the city, as gryphus riders from Oblituris helped transport them to Sedorsum, the closest haven nearby.   Malyrra and Sihnion were both taken to the Vigilate spire to help recover from their injuries. Shae went with them as well, as she would not be easily parted from her rider.   Naiara returned to Druiarbor to continue her duties, but this time she was all alone.


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Uht Ceara
14 Jun, 2020 14:48

I liked the way you used the Elvish culture to illuminate the past of your characters, it made it feel like a deeply ingrained tradition and worked as cultural worldbuilding. There are a couple of issues though: The first is simply the flow of the situation; I don't know if it happened because of editing, it was probably just a mistake, but the characters are in bed at one point and then holding candles without any logical steps in between. The other thing is the fact that Malyrra seems to remember the time of the year out of nowhere. The pair are both sharing sensitive information, which indicates that this is a custom that is very close to their heart, which means that it will not be far from their minds. The conversation the three have when planning their attack, lacks a certain urgency. There is a battle raging so they would not have to tease and joke, their conversation would likely be composed of terse statements that are not necessarily full sentences. More active verbs could also help. eg. "Magefire." Malyyra said, she pointed out three spots on the mountainside, eyes darting calculating. "We each take one. It will brig the mountain down on them." Once again, and i am sure i say this every time, but your actual battle scenes are excellent, they are really enjoyable to read. Lastly, the last part of the chapter feels a bit like a summary. Try fleshing it out a bit by giving it more context: Is Naiara discussing the outcome with her friends? Is she saying goodbye to them? Is a member of the vigilante telling her what happened?

15 Jun, 2020 13:16

Thank you so much! I believe this was towards the end of my 50k for NaNoWriMo's challenge and is one I didn't give it a thorough pass through afterward. You are absolutely correct on Malyrra's not remembering the time of year that is approaching, as it's just as important for her.   I completely agree with the sense of urgency for the battle needs to be taken more seriously, and perhaps the planning scene can be before their actual arrival there as they scouted ahead. Something I will have to think upon.   The ending definitely needs to be expanded upon, with a proper farewell to Naiara's companions for the time being. Also an opportunity to expand upon the rest of the military that is more distant from where these rangers have been on the fringes of their nation.   Thank you so much, this is extremely helpful!

Uht Ceara
15 Jun, 2020 19:25

Genuinely a pleasure! Really enjoying it