Naiara: Chapter Nine - Magnamater

Chapter Nine - Magnamater


The year 491 of the 4th Age, During the 9th Month of Cankri,
After much rest and revelations from the Great Tree.

  The oversized maple-leaf oak tree that Naiara had called home for the past fifteen years was not just a tree enchanted and shaped by an old druid, it was the druid, and she had a name.   "I am Laranuira, and you were destined to be here, filia. Everything makes so much sense now, and I always suspected you to be a capable druid, but you just wouldn't listen to me. I tried to tell you that before."   The tree had a lot to say, and sometimes it spoke too much, too fast. Naiara had to keep reminding it to slow down, that she wasn't part of its mycorrhizal network. She also had no idea how she suddenly knew what that word even meant. The knowledge of the books that she couldn't quite comprehend was slowly and suddenly starting to make a lot more sense now.   Naiara was huddled up in her comfy bed, still trying to fully grasp everything that has happened recently. There was so much to take it, and it started to overwhelm her. "Please, stop. Let me rest, we'll talk later, tree. Sorry, I mean Laranuira. I need time to think."   She could still sense Nelthunael, who was just as confused as she was. It seemed for all his long years, he had been a disciplined warrior and scout, trained to repress his emotions and keep them under control. But now he was alone and afraid, still by the fireplace where she had left him. Naiara had no idea what to say, how to comfort him, with her own thoughts and feelings all over the place, tearing her apart.   So much has happened over the past few days, and she was still grieving for her younger sister. Her poor battered body ached as well from the rough landing and the battle with the barghest. As she finally relaxed, the calm lure of sleep took over.

She dreamt of a small cold chamber, and everything was strange to her. The walls were shaped like the hull of a wrecked ship that she had seen wash ashore on the beaches of Zephyrus, but they looked made of metal but with the texture of tree bark. She was floating weightlessly and slowly moved towards what looked like a door, but she could not open it.   "This was my home, not too long ago." A familiar voice said from behind her. Nelthunael was meditating in the center of the room.   "Where are we?" Naiara wondered.   "We are about a Luxnavis, a stellar vessel that seeks out the evils of the void to destroy them. To stop them from devouring all of creation." As Nelthunael spoke, still sitting crossed-legged on the floor, the ship creaked and groaned like a ship at sea. Like a tree now more familiar to her.   "It almost sounds like my home with all the noise it's making now." Naiara thought to herself, not realizing she was also sharing her thoughts.   "They are similar. Both are alive and capable of talking to those that can understand them." Nelthunael rose from the ground, looking around the chamber as items materialized where he looked. "I spent much time here, although it wasn't so barren. Weapons, trophies of battle, rewards hanged from these walls. But I was promoted to be an explorator, to scout ahead, to search for the threats within the void. I left my brothers and sisters in battle, my friends Ruaianna, Izrion, Ralzial, and... Esrelliuis." He seemed to be lost in his memories, and Naiara thought she could almost see the people he was talking about as he mentioned them, like they were a distant memory that she had difficulty recalling.   "Is being an explorator, not an honor? You did say you were promoted." Naiara questioned.   He shook his head, "All I have never known was battle against creatures like the barghest and worse. I was sent away from what I excelled at, to search for the enemy but not engage them. And then I tracked a breach, something summoned to the moonworld. I followed it despite being told not to by the Legatus I reported to, that something so small was not of importance. I defied those orders, I traveled as far as my lone vessel would allow me, and even it would only go so far. I had to descend to the planet alone, and I arrived too late. I have failed everything and everyone."   Naiara frowned, "You're being too hard on yourself, we both are. What could have possibly happened if you didn't intervene?" She reached out to place a hand on his shoulder for once, but her hand passed through him. She was the guest in this dream, and she didn't realize she wasn't wholly part of it with how vivid, and real this lucid dream seemed.   The dream then fell away into darkness, the jointly connected dream ended. Naiara then imagined being a sparrow flying between the trees, the hills, and the mountains of Zephyrus. Then a bluebird, as she flew back to Druiarbor, landing on the windowsill and chirped a song.  
  She woke up to a mountain bluebird tweeting at her on the windowsill, Visitor! Visitor visitor." She heard its chirps but also was able to interpret what it was trying to convey, saying someone was approaching, and it did not sound to be a warning of an imminent threat.   "Ahh, the older lad comes again, probably to check on you again, filia." The tree spoke. Naiara rose from her bed, feeling better than how she has typically been feeling. She still leaned on her staff for support, not yet confident she didn't need it yet. She wandered into the living room and saw no signs of Nelthunael. Looking outside, she saw landing her mentor, Elyithon. She opened the door and welcomed him to her home and invited him inside, but he refused.   "I cannot stay long, I am only here to deliver news and check in on you. I just returned from the memorial. I really wish I could have brought you there but was told not to bring you per Nementh's wishes." She frowned and turned her head as she heard something she didn't recognize coming from deep within the tree, like wood bending and tightening. She looked back at Elyithon, disappointed.   "He did ask about you, as did your mother and father. I told them what I could. Arienh now rests in the halls of honor, a peerless sculpture crafted of her as a paladin." Naiara did not know what to say, she could only smile and nod at him.   Elyithon peered around, "Have you been left alone to recover? Has Asadela's champion already departed?" He said, studying her for a moment. "Not to suggest you are still weak, I just noticed you leaning on the staff is all. You appear to be well rejuvenated."   Through the bond they now shared, she could feel Nelthunael's presence nearby, although she couldn't tell exactly where. Was he hiding from her? "He comes and goes as he wishes, gathering and foraging food and supplies from the land." She said, at least hoping that's what he was doing.   Elyithon sighed, "You don't have to suffer alone out here, my student. It will be some time before we send any rangers to the north until Nixautem is safe to be retaken once again. We've had multiple incursions to the south by orcs poking and prodding our defense as Ostidef. I know you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, but you are experienced enough to be a captain. You can train your own rangers one day to patrol the areas you have."   The idea was tempting, but she didn't know how much time she needed to recover. She also needed to figure out what to do with this unexpected bond, if anything could be done. "I need time to think about that, and still time to recover."   Elyithon nodded, "That is all that I ask. Rest and recover so that we can continue to keep Zephyrus safe. I must leave now, orcs were sighted to the south passing the river into our lands. Let us hope it is a hunting party and not another raid!" Elythion bowed, then stretched his wings, hovered up, and flew to the south.   Naiara then turned her attention to the house, examining it for the disturbance she heard earlier. "Laranuira, are you okay? You seem tense?"   "I know the name; I curse the name I forgot. Has it been so long that he forgot?" The tree seemed to shake and groan, birds flying from the canopy of the tree. Her home was very angry for some reason, mad at someone.   She set her staff down then placed her hands upon a trunk-like support pillar, "What is wrong? Whose name is troubling you so much?"   "Nementh, Nem, my old friend, my love, and my heart. Nementh the bard, the songs he once sang for me, for us!"   Naiara had a puzzled look upon her face as she tried to imagine the gloomy Nementh, often lost in his own thoughts in the Caelumarcis plaza, sing. "My greatfather? Nementh is the elder of my house and a member of the Caelumani Consilium."   "Knew him I did, very well! We were united and had children who had grandchildren. We are bound to have greatchildren by now. We were bonded for an age until the bonds were broken." The tree continues to shake and tremble again. "Broken! Discarded, cast away into a distant memory! He accepted the final wisdom of an elder and became a councilor. He ceased to be my Nementh, and became Elder Nem, and did not sing for as long as I knew him afterward."   Laranuira spoke of one of the few ways to break the bond, by accepting and performing the last rites of an elder. They would pass their knowledge and experiences on to a new generation, to lead the next generation. This often changed the individual, who would have the memories of multiple lifetimes, as the elder before them often had the combined knowledge of those before even them. It was seen as the highest honor to an elf, to remember and honor those before them.   Distracted by all of these sudden revelations, she finally realized something that the tree had said, "Then, you are my greatmother, Laranuira?" The tree seemed to calm and become less tense, "How? How did this happen to you?"   The tree was now very excited, "Oh, I'm a greatmother! I always knew this, and I've been trying to tell you, filia, but you never listen to me. Always running about with your bow and arrows, and that nasty axe!"   "I've been like this for some time now. It seems like yesterday! Old Nem broke my heart, so I turned back to what I loved. Nature! The birds and the trees, the flowers, but not those nipping ants and beetles! Those get eaten by the birds! Told them not to come around this grove no more, to stay away from the circle." She paused, and then a few moments later remembered what she was trying to say, "Oh right, I learned the ways of the elusive fey, the nymph, the dryad, the naiad. And I studied the eldest tree in the forest, and thought what if I bonded with it? Maybe I could be a dryad, and I just didn't know it. Turns out nope, not a dryad."   The tree continued to ramble, "We elves are so quick to attune with things, different elements. What if I told you that we grew our own wings? That would be heresy! The blessed children of Asadela, growing their own wings! We could just as easily grown scales or gills, fly in the dark like bats, or swim the seas like a dolphin or crawl like spiders on a web. We are the fey! Or so I thought, but I might have made a mistake. Or maybe we are not. But I've told you all this before, filia."   Naiara hugged the pillar and sensed that the tree felt her loving embrace. "Greatmother, please listen. I have a problem I think only you can help me with. It was an accident as I tried to help Nelthunael, who has been very kind to me. I found him collapsed outside, and when I tried to wake him, somehow we've become bonded."   The tree was full of joy, "Oh, and a lovely couple you two will make. I already gave you my blessing, filia. Why are you bringing this up again?"   Naiara shook her head, "No, greatmother! It wasn't to be united, I was trying to help him! His kind is able to bond to heal and bolster the strength of their companions for battle. It's not like our sacred bond, so when I went to help him, we accidentally connected." She just realized she was learning more and more about Nelthunael through their bond, not quite knowing how it worked for him before. She still felt his presence, and it seemed to be closer than before. She again couldn't tell where, how far away, or what direction.   "Whatever you accidentally do is between you and him, filia. This tree knows when you need your privacy!"   Naiara stopped hugging the tree, blushing as she shook her head, "Greatmother, your embarrassing me! It's not like that, nothing even happened, and that's not what I asked!"   "Such a bond is only broken by death, accepting the passing knowledge and memories of another, or extreme distances." The tree finally answered.   Naiara thought about how he mentioned his stellar vessel and how he descended from above. Could it still be out there? After she is recovered, could he possibly be able to return to his people and fulfill the duty that he wants to return to? He did dream of his home after all. She could only wonder.   "But you are still young, are you sure that is what you want? To break the bond that cannot be made again once broken?" Laranuira asked her, and Naiara wasn't sure how to respond. She wasn't sure what she wanted, other than to recover and get back to the hunt at this point. She wanted to return back to the life of a ranger of the Vigilate. Now more than ever before, to avenge those who had fallen on her watch.   She heard something fall outside, and slowly and carefully went to go check. Out front was Nelthunael, with bags and baskets full of stuff. Apples, berries, oranges. Fish? She opened the door and studied him carefully, as he was grinning with all the supplies he had brought, "You were right, this is much better than ambrosia and nektar! So much variety out there." He picked up a bag, "Although I'm not quite sure how this plant here turns into bread, I figured I'd gather a bunch, and you might be able to show me how that alchemy works."   She was stunned, dumbfounded even at how much he had gathered, in such a short time. This was making her decision even harder to make.  
  And they feasted upon the bountiful harvest that Nelthuanel had gathered. And he was delighted to try new things for the first time, after living so long as a sheltered soldier that knew only the taste of the Pantheon's provisions. Through the bond, Naiara shared in his delight, seeing things from a different perspective made her appreciate what she had taken for granted before. But something was troubling her, and she did her best to keep it hidden from him as she felt it wasn't the right moment to bring it up.   His face changed from happy to stern as he cleared his throat and looked her in the eye, "I think I'm beginning to understand what troubles you now."   She was surprised, "It's nothing to worry about right this moment."   He shook his head, "The bond of the Inluminar is different from the Caelumani. It is more sacred for your kind; to us, it is a warrior's bond between my fellow companions. It gives us strength and courage to face the Inanitas, the Nefandus, the nightmarish demons from the shadows of the void. It makes us fearless against them, so they may not attack or corrupt a vulnerable mind."   She thought of what Laranuira said, and then recalled her thoughts on his vessel. "You are homesick, you dream of your old life, of your home. You could still return to your vessel, right? Return to your people, perhaps saying you were lost or something was damaged? Don't you want to return to the fight?"   He placed his hand upon hers, shaking his head again, "I cannot go back, as I cannot ascend back into the heavens with my wings alone. And such deception would be easily discovered by any of my companions, or the living vessel that I traveled with here. I am like you now, an outsider from my people. I accept that, and if I do not diminish, I will stay here for as long as I can."   She saw into his mind and saw a glimpse of worry, of being hunted by someone. "Are you in danger, are they looking for you?"   He thought about his situation for a moment before responding, "As long as I do not abuse my power here, I may be undetected. Rogue Inluminar are often hunted down, however, and brought back for trial, by specialized hunters of my own kind. They are made an example to others. To show the errors of their ways and to strengthen our discipline and focus to our cause. My absence will not go unnoticed forever, and they may perhaps follow my trail here. But I have given them no reason to look for me, beyond my stance of tracking a small breach in our defenses."   She nodded, understanding more of his sacrifice as he fell from above. She wanted to lighten the mood, to start baking a cake or pie seemed like a great idea. She rose from the feasting table and began to prepare dessert.   "I can sever the bond if that is what you wish. I know what it means to you, and that this was accidental, unapproved. I did not mean to trouble you with this." He declared, also rising from the table.   She looked at him and pondered the decision, and did not know how to answer, she was speechless.


Comments

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Uht Ceara
UhtCeara
14 Jun, 2020 15:05

I don't have much to comment on for this chapter, save to say that i enjoyed it. It had character development and progress and gives the reader a reward for paying attention to details along the way.

15 Jun, 2020 13:21

Thank you! It's no secret, I'm no romance author. But I am trying my best here to build up a genuine relationship between the characters, and intentionally left the ending very vague as to what she had decided to build up the tension of what I hope readers are wondering, is will the bond be broken or will it be kept?   And a whole lot of foreshadowing for the upcoming chapters! :D