Naiara: Chapter Four - Caelumarcis

Chapter Four - Caelumarcis

The year 426 of the 4th Age, sixty-five years ago, during the 10th month of Leonis, The middle of autumn in the mountains where the sky elves soared.

Kalinyra was performing her daily tasks, dusting around the library. However, she did not use a feathered tool to collect the dirt and dust; she waved her hands and wings as all of it would gather into a ball suspended in the air before her outstretched hands. Young Arienh and Naiara stared from over their books in amazement seeing their mother's magic at work, even a minor power that their mother claimed was very simple for her to perform. Kalinyra then walked outside, stained glass doors swung opened to an outside balcony as she approached, where she condensed the collected debris into a ball and launched the projectile as far as she could away from the city for it to disperse in the wind and down the mountainside.   The sisters clapped excitedly at the wondrous display of the arcane, but their mother didn't seem too pleased with her daughters, "You are supposed to be studying, feminas. You've seen me do this countless times before."   But each time was as entertaining as the last, both of her children wishing they were capable of such magical talents. Naiara had previously been told that the gifts of the arcane were unfortunately not for her, and that very few could naturally do such things. Arienh did not show any signs of being gifted, but she also had yet to be tested. She was twenty-four years younger than Naiara, but due to the long lives of elves, Arienh was still in her childhood while Naiara was just entering into adolescence. Those that were gifted were quickly secluded and trained in careful conditions to help harness their raw power and to protect others from it. Those that mastered their talents are held with high regard, like Kalinyra was to Caelumarcis.   Naiara could only wonder what happened to those that did not succeed in their training. She's heard a little bit of the stories of powerful elven wizards when her people lived in the isle of Vanras to the east over an age ago. Vahryn and Vartha lead her people into significant expansion and the rise of an empire that rivaled the gathered hordes of goblins, orcs, and trolls. But they also brought with them much death and destruction, ending with a meteor crashing unto the island and leaving a powerful storm and vortex in its wake that has never stopped. The winged elves were forced to retreat to their ancestral city of Caelumarcis, where they once again followed the will of their blessed creator, Asadela, the lady of the air.   As the children got back to their studies, their mother turned her gaze from her daughters to someone approaching from behind them. "Artifex Falaern? You honor us with your presence, what brings you here, elder councilor?"   The elder bowed gracefully before all of them. "I am merely out for a stroll. I did not mean to intrude or interfere with any of your duties."   Falaern was the eldest of the council, his hair long and silvered with his advanced age. Many suspect he was on the verge of choosing a successor, although he seemed to show no interest in choosing just about anyone. Falaern held the highest honor within the city, as he was the Eldest Keeper, with the wisdom and many memories of previous keepers before him. Although there was no official leader of the Caelumarcis Consilium, most respected his great wisdom without question.   "What are you reading there, puella?" He asked Naiara, who showed him the cover of the book, in part to hide her shyness behind it. Arienh did the same, even though she was not the one being questioned.   Kalinya went to Naiara's side and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, "Speak up femina, the Eldest Keeper has asked you a question. It would be very polite to answer."   Falaern chuckled, "It's alright, disciplus. I have read every book in this hall, or know of its contents. Tis the story of Pyrravin, one of our greatest huntresses in ages past. She who has hunted every creature known to us at that time, and even some we have forgotten."   Naiara excitedly reported, "She rode a Bonacho into a Tarasque's mouth, and jumped away just in time as they both exploded!" A bonacho being a bull-like animal whose excrement was very combustible, and a Tarasque being a fearsome monstrous terror that devasted the lands it inhabited. Both creatures were regarded as myths and legends of old.   Falaern smiled, amused at the child's excitement, "That is indeed what the book claims. Pyrravin is not a heroine of ours that we should easily discredit, but know that some things may be slightly exaggerated by the one that originally wrote it. She followed the path of the Ashelynni, the wandering elves, seeking to explore and seek out all manner of unnatural threats."   The elder continued to ramble on as if he recalled a distant memory. "And she undoubtedly faced a terrible creature deserving of the Tarasque's reputation. But the Tarasque we know of is one of thirteen terrors our world shall hopefully never see. Along with the Behemoth and the Leviathan, they are ancient devourers that come from the void, seeking to end all life."   Naiara listened curiously, as did her younger sister Arienh distracted by the tale from her reading. Kalinyra interrupted, "Elder, please, let us not speak of such terrors should it incite their imagination and keep them from sleeping at night."   He nodded and smiled, "Yes, of course, I apologize. Things have been preoccupying my mind as of late, and I'm afraid I was speaking about them out loud."   Naiara looked up at her mother, "What's an Ashelynni?"   "Followers of Asadela's chosen champion, Ashelynn. But you should ask your father who could tell you much more than I." Naiara's mother answered to the best of her ability,   The elder saw this as an additional opportunity to teach, "Ashelynn is the greatest huntress of the Pantheon, chosen by out divine patroness, but she was once an elf. One of our kin, but not with wings like we have. She belonged to the woodlands rather than the mountains and the sky. She earned the lady of air's favor after hunting down a terrible dragon that destroyed her home and all of her people, but she helped all that she could in her search for the evil creature. The Lady of the Hunt inspired many elves to wander, to leave the comforts of their homes so that they may protect it from afar."   Both the children were intrigued by the elder's stories, amazed at how knowledgeable he was about them. "When I grow up, I want to be a huntress like Ashelynn and Pyrravin! Maybe even a champion of the Stormlady!" Naiara excitedly exclaimed.   Falaern laughed at the innocence of the child, "Then we shall all have to watch your progress with great interest! You are, after all, approaching the age to participate in the trials. But I don't wish to rile you up too much; this is a library after all. We must respect it with tranquility and quiet voices before your mother tosses me out for disturbing the peace."   Kalinyra shook her head as she smiled smugly. "I would never do that to you, Eldest. It is a quiet morning after all, and there is no one else to disturb in these halls at the moment."   The elder nodded and thought for a moment as if trying to recall his purpose here, "While I am here, I do have something I'd like to inquire about your insight on, disciplus, if I may interrupt your duties for just a moment longer."   Kalinyra nodded then looked at her girls, "Feminas, why don't you take a break and go find your pater. He said he was going to visit elder Ilimitaire at the gryphus stables. Maybe you can go and help with the hatchlings?"   It didn't take much encouragement for either of her children to race towards the door. Both excited for the opportunity to play with the baby gryphus, instead of reading their assigned lessons.   As they ran out of the grand library to begin their journey across the city, Naiara surprised her younger sister as she jumped off the edge of a platform. Typically reserved for landing winged elves or gryphus, she glided down from it, landing on the dirt path below. Arienh took care to land and run alongside her older sister than flying to their destination, although she had difficulty at times keeping up with Naiara.   The city of Caelumarcis was mostly a bunch of majestic towers and raised platforms surrounded by a high enclosed wall, with an aqueduct system leading from the mountains that surrounded them. The lower area of the city in-between structures were dirt pathways with dense gardens on either side with fruit-bearing bushes and trees worked by the city's gatherers. Very few structures had stairs or any access to the ground below, as most of the Caelumani did not need them, building platforms as designated places to land for the sky elves and the gryphus.   Towards the middle of the city was a plaza with a tall evergreen hemlock tree surrounded by a shallow pond that the aqueduct system poured into like a fountain. It was a peaceful area where many gathered in search of tranquility. Elders also gathered crowds here to deliver lessons or to council individuals in need.   Here at the plaza, Naiara, with Arienh trying to catch up to her ran into their Greatfather, Nementh, who was all alone with nothing but his thoughts sitting on a long wooden bench as he gazed upon the tree. Naiara stopped and curtseyed before him, "Hello Greatfather! Are you okay?"   He smiled at his great-daughters, "I am well, I was just lost in my thoughts is all. What brings my filias out here today?"   "We're going to look after the baby gryphus!" Arienh excitedly said from behind Naiara.   He laughed, "Indeed? Elder Ilimitaire would greatly appreciate your generosity and support, I'm sure." He stood up and examined Naiara for a moment, "How are your wings doing young Naiara? Have you been doing your daily stretches?"   "She's almost ready to fly greatfather; you should have seen her dive and glide off the platform at the library!" Arienh proclaimed, knowing her sister was a little sensitive when it came to talking about her wings.   Naiara nodded proudly, "Yes, I've been stretching my wings, but they ache a little. I don't think they're getting any better. I don't know if I'll ever really be able to fly."   Nementh stood behind her and examined her wings. She giggled as he massaged them, being slightly ticklish there. As he rubbed between the radius and the humerus of her wings, however, there was some pain and discomfort.   "Your wings hurt there?" Naiara nodded. "Relax on those particular stretches for a time then, and try to do circles with your coracoid here." He said as he touched the part of the wing that connects with her shoulder.   "Also spread wide your metacarpals and try to flex them when you can. And try to wave them like you would your hands, without flexing or straining the rest of your wing, especially the middle here where you said it aches. Allow that time to rest and continue your stretches when you no longer feel any pain." Nementh continued.   Naiara smiled and hugged her greatfather, as did Arienh. "Run along now filias, and assist elder Ilimitaire. He is in much need of your services." And so they did as Nementh returned to his meditation.   The Gryphus stables were on the edge of the northwestern wall, which fortunately had stairs leading up to them. They found their father Bemarmir outside, talking with the elder gryphus caretaker, Ilimitaire. They interrupted their father's talk as the hugged either side of him.   "Daughters!? Abandoning your book reading already?" The priest said with a smile as he rubbed both of their heads, messing up their hair.   "Mater said we should come and bother you, then help elder Ilimitaire with the baby gryphus!" Arienh said excitedly.   The elderly caretaker chortled, "That's very kind of you to offer. I could also use some help with the larger ones, young Naiara, if you don't mind." And she did not mind at all.   The children ran off into the opened stables where the gyphus were being corraled and began to check on them one by one, much to the younger gryphus's excitement.   Gryphus are chimeric creatures larger than a horse, but with the body of a mountain lion and the wings and head of a falcon. They are very territorial omnivores that the Caelumani had tamed long ago. Not only were they prized as battle mounts and watchful guardians, but they were also a valuable commodity when it concerned their eggs. As they need to maintain their growing population, the excess eggs are a delicacy for the Caelumani and were traded for various goods with their neighbors during more peaceful times.   Most of these gathered here belonged solely to the city for use, and not to just to a specific person or family. The strongest of those raised here would go on to be trained by the Aerlanciarii, or the air lancers and gryphus riders of Oblituris, a defensive tower to the northeast and on the other side of the mountains from Caelumarcis. Those with certain disadvantages or weaknesses were given for the druids of Arventus to tend and care for.   They loved berries and fish, and feral flocks of them had been known to ambush whales that came too close to the beach. But they often were preyed upon by harpies, sirens, giants, and the very rare and dangerous Roc. The great bird was also known to the Caelumani as the King of all Raptors. They were thought to have been used by the now-deceased titans as mounts in ages past. Previous records of their sightings have shown The Caelumani always fleeing from the terrifying Roc, as all attempts to follow and defeat it has led to their downfall or demise. The great beast is a bringer of terrible winds and storms that have rendered many unprepared sanctuaries to ruin in the far past.   After concluding his talk with the elder, Bemarmir went in to check on his daughters. “Have you ever seen a roc, pater?” Naiara said to her father.   He smiled, shaking his head, “No, one has not been seen in quite some time. Some say they stay far to the east across the Vanras Sea in the great mountains of Hrimthammar. Or maybe to the south beyond the fractured mountains of Ashkremos, or so I have been told. They prey upon the giants of Thrysk and Zareyn, and keep them from bringing harm to us. Perhaps it is the lady of air’s will that they do so as a means of protecting us.”   Naiara remembering the attack on the city of her birth, Stelladomus, “Those giants still ruined our old home, though.”   “Yes, they did. And I believe we lost the lady's favor for our disobedience. We spread our reach too far and left our defenses spread too thin. The Caelumani sought to take territory left abandoned by empires of old, and we invited the danger of many enemies upon our doorstep.”   Naiara looked back upon the gryphus she was feeding a fish to as she scratched it around its beak. It's face scrunched up, and it sneezed upon her.   "Eww!" Naiara shrieked, trying to get the phlegm off of herself as she dropped the fish.   Arienh giggled as she watched her sister from the opposite side of the stables, where she was petting a gathering of gryphus barely a year old and desperate for attention.   Bemarmir tossed her a cloth to help, then knelt next to her, rubbing and ruffling the feathers at the gryphus's shoulder, right between its wings, "This spot here is a difficult one for them to reach, there's not one I've met that doesn't like being scratched here. They enjoy it so much that you can often put them to sleep this way."   After cleaning herself off to the best of her ability, she joined in on scratching the gryphus between the wings as it rested. "Falaern told us about Ashelynni today, and mother said you'd know more. I told him I want to be just like Ashelynn and Pyrravin, or a champion of the Stormlady. Do you think it's possible?"   Bemarmir smiled, "Yes, it is possible. Although it has been some time since Asadela has graced us with her presence, I have seen her floating cloud citadel in the sky, as she and her champions descended and called forth our strongest warriors to ascend and join her ranks. Perhaps we should ask Greatfather Nementh what would be the best way to prepare for your trials?"   Naiara smiled and nodded and was filled with hope, then moved on to the next Gryphus needing to be fed.

Version Three of my draft, and written using the pro version of Grammarly.


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Uht Ceara
22 May, 2020 09:56

This chapter gives a nice sense of progress both in terms of the bigger picture - knowing where the characters are later in the story - and on an isolated level. There is a level of intrigue here, both about the nature of magic, and about whatever secret the elder is perhaps sharing with their mother. On the level of the reader, it is also really rewarding when you do things like mentioning a memory and then show the actual situation, as you did with the gryphus. I also liked the way you used the natural inclination of the elder to give information, this way it doesn't feel like aid/butler dialogue as it makes sense for him to be explaining these to characters who don't know this. My critique would be about the way you describes the gryphus. Since you already did this in chapter two, albeit with less information, it feels a bit repetitive. Maybe use the childlike impression to describe it, eg Naiara head barely grazed the creatures haunches and she had to make sure to keep her fingers away from its beak. It wasn't hungry now of course, omnivorous creatures had been known to occasionally snack on the fingers of their caretakers etc. The other issue I came across is actually part of the previous chapter. When Ariehn appeared, twenty something years has past and she was still in training. This bothered me and i had to extrapolate that elves in this world have long lives. You then confirmed this in this chapter, but maybe move that explanation forward a bit to avoid confusion. Lastly, again a nod to speach, is it consdered normal for a child to refer to their parent as 'Mother' or do they use affectionate terms, as young kids are want to do, like mama, mom, momma? You did hint that they do have such terms, such as pater, so make sure to carry that through

26 May, 2020 14:42

In many ways, I wanted to write things so that they get the point across, but aren't perfectly clear until perhaps a second reading. Subtle things here and there that once you re-read it, it makes things much clearer.   I see your point on the Gryphus, and I will try to make the information less redundant in my next draft. And I also agree with your point on the elven lifespan, that was not something I made clear and need to explain earlier.   The primary language of my world is very Latin based, and in non dialogue I refered to Kalinyra as their mother, but during Dialogue they would use "mater" to be more affectionate. Same for Pater, filia, and so on.   Thank you very much for your input, I cannot express how grateful I am!