Naiara: Chapter Seven - Convalescence

Chapter Seven - Convalescence


The year 491 of the 4th Age During the 8th Month of Geminus,
After a valiant stand and lamentable tragedy.

  Naiara stood before her family home in Caelumarcis once again. Her family home was now hollow and filled with much sorrow. So much had happened in the past twenty years, but leaving it still felt like yesterday to her. She recalled seeing her family one last time, embracing her parents and her sister. And the being gifted a family heirloom by her father.   She looked down and was surprised she still held it at her side in her clenched fist. She raised it and looked upon it, still lit in blue-white fire from the oil used to light the beacon, also covered in that horrid black ichor, which was now oozing onto her hands.   "What is this, what is going on?" She heard her younger self speak as the words left her mouth.   She turned around to see the city in ruins and covered in a sinister creeping shadow. All the friends, family, neighbors she remembered were laid out on the ground dead upon the cobblestone pavement. And then she saw the red flaming eyes of the barghest once again stepping out of her home. It lunged at her, but she swiftly stepped to the side and swung her axe through the creature. It tumbled on the ground, ablaze in a bright white light as if it had been struck by a ray of the sun's light above. The creature faded into nothingness, but in the radiant illumination, an image appeared of her younger sister Arienh, smiling at her as she hovered up into the sky, disappearing in the light of the sun.   Naiara felt cold as the light faded, and every bone in her body ached. She didn't have the strength to stand as she felt a sharp, stabbing pain in her back. She tried to reach for the source of her anguish but could not. She turned as she lay on the ground, only to see a menacing visage of her greatfather, Nementh, holding her clipped wings that were withering away like ash before her widening eyes.   "Pathetic." She heard him say, but the voice was not his own. It was a dark, deep, and unnatural voice that sent a chill up her spine.   Next to him was her father, Bemarmir, holding the masterfully crafted axe that she was given. "Unworthy." She heard him say, but again the voice was not his. It belonged to something sinister and malevolent.   And on the other side of her greatfather was her mother, Kalinyra holding the beating black heart of the barghest that she previously thought destroyed, "Weak." Her voice was loathsome and venomous, but each of them wounded her like the dagger-like pain in her back.   She then felt warmth flow over her, like the heat of a fire on a cold winter's night. A figure towered over her, but she could not see through her hazy eyes. "Resist." She thought she heard a calm voice say. Was all of this a terrible nightmare that she couldn't wake from? Was the battle with the barghest not over? Would this ever end?   She remembered holding the hand of her dying sister, but she could no longer feel her presence. She couldn't see, so her hand searched blindly for either her sister's grasp or her weapon. Then a strong hand rest atop hers, the calm voice repeated, "Rest."   The warmth flowed over her once again, and she couldn't help but comply as she drifted back to a more peaceful sleep.  
  When members of the Vigilate arrived, the rays of morning's light shined upon the grove of Druiarbor. The weak Naiara rested her hands upon her sister's who held both her scimitars flat across her chest pointed downward. She had passed her trial and would be accepted into the Hall of Honor in Caelumarcis, as a paladin and champion against the void. They would see her remembered in stone. Her valiant example as an inspiration for all those joining the Palatinus in defense of their people.   In the distance, Nelthunael spoke with Elyithon about what had transpired here so that he could report it back to the elder council. "The honor belongs to lady Naiara as well."   Her mentor knew Naiara's handy work in all of this; he trained her in everything he knew after all. "I mean no disrespect high one, but things work a little bit differently down here than in the clouds where you are from. They won't take her back or honor her deeds. They'll blame her for the death of her sister, an initiate who should have never been out here in the first place. They'll clip her wings and toss her out or put her on trial and make an example out of her publicly. Either way, it's best to say she wasn't involved, or to say very little about Naiara at all."   Nelthunael looked upon Elyithon with disappointment and then turned to look upon Naiara, still sitting with her dear sister. "Do what you believe to be the best course of action then, captain. I cannot interfere with your politics, I can only see to the lady's recovery."   She stayed there on the ground for some time, recalling everything that had just transpired the night before. She couldn't stop seeing the creature she faced, as it continued to torment her even in its defeat. Faint sounds seemed like something else as if the barghest had returned to finish her off.   Nelthunael placed his hand upon her cold shoulder, "You must rest." She didn't know how long she had been lying there on the ground.   The Vigilate had already left, Elyithon and the others taking Arienh with them by gryphus. Naiara didn't know what to do with herself, how to cope, how to forgive herself. She kept reliving the memory over and over in her head. She then remembered the bright white light and flaming blue wings. She had never seen one of Asadela's champions before, and to arrive in such a manner unheard of, it didn't add up to her.   "You lied to him, you didn't come from the clouds." Naiara said spitefully.   He removed his hand from her shoulder and said plainly, "No, not exactly. I came from higher up."   "She knew your name, called you a herald."   "I am Nelthunael. I am an explorator, not a herald, unfortunately."   She tried not to choke on her words as her grief was still too intense. She clenched her hands into fists, "Was this your fault?"   He paused, not entirely sure how to answer, "I was involved, but I was forbidden to deal with this threat. I may have interfered too much with the divine mother's plans."   She stood up weakly and glared at him, "Who are you? What are you!? Why did my sister have to die!? Why did you bring this peril upon us!?" She advanced towards him and started to beat upon his face and chest with her fists, which he took without flinching or responding until she collapsed. He caught her and eased her down to the ground.   He paused before responding, allowing her a moment to calm down, "I am Nelthunael, and I come from the stars. I abandoned my service to the divine mother, the lady of light to pursue the breach in our defenses by the void. I was forbidden to deal with it, but for some reason, I could not let it pass; I arrived too late to dispose of the threat myself. Your sister was blessed by the divine mother to answer this challenge. Somehow she knew my name and mistakingly called me a herald... unless this is all part of the Divine Mother's plan, I do not know for certain."   He frowned as he gazed around the grove. "I was too weak to save her from the damage inflicted. I could only ease her passing and your pain. I tried to save you both, and I have failed. I am sorry."   Naiara didn't know what to think anymore, she didn't quite understand everything he was saying, her mind already troubled by recent events. She began to hurt once again, her bruised, fractured, and broken bones all over her body, reminding her that rest might not be a terrible idea. She tried to rise, but couldn't find the strength to. Noticing the effort, he lifted her from the ground almost effortlessly then laid her to rest upon her bed within Druiarbor's chambers.   She would have fallen straight to sleep if not for the strange sounds coming from her home.   "She is sorry as well, and mourns for the loss of your sister." Nelthunael translated, somehow able to understand the great tree. She thought back to all the times she thought it could hear her and how much it tried to help aid them in the battle against the barghest. She could only imagine how injured its roots were as well. She quietly thanked the tree as she faded into sorrowful slumber.  
  Young Naiara was back at one of her favorite places, the Gryphus stables in Caelumarcis, where elder Ilimitaire raised and tended to his flock.   She was feeding fish to the younger gryphus, and had almost run out of food when she noticed one last guppy remaining. She went to reach for it, but it slipped out of the bucket. She crouched down to the ground to pick it up when she saw a large shadow rising above her own. She rolled out of the way and turned to look at her assailant. The gryphus had turned into a monstrous shadow beast, and once again lunged it terrible maw at her.   "The light spreads itself thin, and the shadow pours in to devour its prey! You cannot resist us! You will never again know rest!" The barghest grew in size over her as she recoiled, its terrible darkness blocking out all the light in the sky.   She was jolted awake once again and recalled the terrible pain in her body as she lay back down. She did not know how much longer she could last, every moment of peaceful rest ending in a terrible and terrifying defeat.  
  Naiara was still unable to do much but to try and relax, and she was so very tired of trying to sleep. Nightmare after nightmare kept it very difficult to achieve, however. She lay in bed, aching, and bored out of her mind.   She tried to listen to the tree, its subtle creaks and groans she had heard from time to time she now wondered if it had been trying to talk to her this entire time. She could now listen to it clearly, although not capable of understanding it at the slightest. She could sense it cared for her, and after one of her nightmares woke to discover a vine lightly wrapped around her hand and entwined in her fingers like it was trying to calm or comfort her and hold her hand.   She was still angry at Nelthunael, even though she knew if he had not intervened, she'd be dead like her sister, and possibly many more may have fallen to the horrible beast. She didn't know how else to process her grief at this moment than to take it out on something, and she was very bored.   "Do you even sleep?" She asked.   Nelthunael was sitting in a chair across the room, reading one of the many books left behind by the druid that live here before. "Not exactly. I meditate in the sun's rays, it is..." He seemed to hesitate to answer, "Sufficient enough for my kind."   "Do you even eat?"   He shook his head as he continued to read. "You really should rest to continuing recovering your strength. You are still badly damaged."   She scoffed, "And you're avoiding answering my questions again." She tossed an apple at him, missing him as it bounced off the wall and landed on the table that he was at.   He stared at the apple as it rolled and stopped on the table's surface, "I am an elf just like you, I am just attuned differently. The light is sufficient for us, but we eat what your kind would call ambrosia and drink nektar. Occasionally combined and fermented into a wine. They are rather bland, in my opinion, but I have rarely known anything else."   "No apples?"   "No."   "What about strawberries?"   "No."   She continued to list off various fruits and vegetables, to receive the same monotone response. Elven diets consisted mostly of these but weren't limited to a vegetarian lifestyle. They considered animal life precious but knew that certain species could grow in number and outbalance the ecosystem. What meat they did consume was limited, saved for special occasions, or given to feeding the gryphus they have tamed. Nothing went to waste, to honor nature and the creature. She had asked so many questions over the past few days, she couldn't seem to find any way to annoy him, or get him to talk on his own. He didn't seem to eat or sleep, and only left her presence when she drifted off to sleep. She wasn't sure he was capable of reading, as he must have read that book two or three times by now.   "Any interesting pictures in that book, or would you like me to read it to you?" Naiara said snarkily.   "I am able to read, your Futhark script is just a bit different than I am used to is all."   "Futhark?"   "The runic inscriptions made by the dwarves, turned into a flowing script by the elves. The runes have stayed the same, for the most part, but the words themselves have changed since the rule of the Altus Concilium." Nelthunael explained, although Naiara didn't quite understand.   "What dwarves? Altus Concilium? Who are they?" She asked.   He shook his head, "Too difficult to explain without knowing more about your people, their history, and their culture."   Naiara resumed her previous inquiries. "Freshly baked bread?"   "No."   She was getting more frustrated, trying to interrogate him, "Really? How can you not have bread! Next, you'll say no to cake or pie."   "No." He paused for a moment, "We do have ambrosia nektar pies. We prepare what little we have been given to sustain us in as many ways possible for variety."   "Sounds like a terrible way to live."   "It is the only way we know how." He paused again, "The rest are luxuries that cannot be easily transported between the stars as we fight back the evils of the void that seeks to devour everything it touches. What we are given sustains us when the rays of the sun cannot. Without it, we..." He stopped as he looked at the apple, now bruised. He placed the book down and took the apple with him as he went outside.   "Wait!?" She tried to lift herself up in bed, but the pain in her back and her wings reminded her that she was still on the mend. What was he going to say? She wondered. She slowly rolled to peer out a window, and it was getting dark rather early. Perhaps it was becoming cloudy, she thought. Maybe it was time for him to meditate? She had bothered him long enough she supposed and tried once again to rest.  
  Naiara found herself battling the barghest once again, this time where it all began, at the blighted felcave where she swore she placed an arrow right between its eyes. The barghest mauled her sister once again to her horror. She hacked it over and over again with her axe, but this time she could not pierce its hide, and it was resistant to the magefire oil. Was this how it was going to be from now on? Reliving the same dreadful nightmare over and over?   The beast once again combusted into a white-blue flame and faded back into the darkness. "Resist." A calming, echoing voice said to her again.   She couldn't bear the torture anymore, seeing the fate of her sister repeated over and over. She screamed, "Stop!" And it echoed repeatedly.   Had she said that out loud? She felt awake, although slightly hazy and numb. It was dark, save for the dimly glowing bioluminescent moonflowers that grew around the house, mostly in the ceiling. For the first time in what felt like forever, she was able to rise from her curtained bed. She took it slow, as she knew behind the numbness lurked the painful trauma that wracked her injured body. She had a staff nearby to assist with walking, as she slowly stepped out of her quarters.   The embers of the fireplace were dying in the living room, formerly the barracks that members of the Vigilate would use. She missed Sihnion and Malyrra, especially their amusing bickering. She peered out into the living room and noticed the door to the tree was ajar. Nothing seemed out of place, but she wished she had her axe with her right now but had no idea where it rested.   Last time she saw it was in the chest cavity of the creature... no, she didn't want to dwell on those thoughts right now. She wasn't even confident that this wasn't a cruelly twisted living nightmare as all of her other restless nights have been.   She looked through the ajar door outside to see Nelthunael. Was he meditating in the dark? She called out to him, but there was no answer. She then tapped him with her staff, "Hey! Buzzard!" A colloquialism used by the Caelumani to mean big yet unintelligent. She alternately could have called him broadwing, but she tried to avoid using the term with regards to her own wings.   He did not respond at all. Naiara tapped him a couple more times, "Hey?" She then noticed a bruised apple roll out of his hand, the same one she had thrown at him earlier. She carefully knelt down with assistance from her staff and placed a hand on his neck to check for a pulse. He was cold, and his pulse was weak. She shook his shoulder, trying to wake him as she grew concerned. She then dropped her quarterstaff and grabbed him under the shoulder to try and pull him inside. She heard popping from her poor bruised bones, but fortunately did not feel them at the moment, knowing she'd probably have to deal with the pain of that later. She lifted with all of her strength, and dragged him inside the house and rested him near the fireplace, throwing in more fuel for the ember to rekindle with as she poked and prodded the fire.   She then went to recover her staff and the apple as she closed the door, glancing out into the darkness once again around her home. An entire field of moonflowers had sprung up and blossomed from the ground providing a dim light across the grove. She had never seen them grow outside the tree and wondered if this was her home's doing? She smiled, admiring the scene before her, those little lights in the darkness. She then closed the door.   The fireplace began to glow once again with flame, as the home began to warm up. She carefully sat next to Nelthunael, trying to see if she could rouse him again. She gazed upon his now pale statuesque face, resting her hand upon his feverish brow and forced open his eyes. Beams of white light glowed from within, and she felt odd and out of place. She then saw nothing but light as it faded and descended into darkness.  
  She heard the sound of metal upon flesh and then sparks, bringing light to the surrounding dark grove that had become twisted and corrupted. She saw the fiery red eyes in the shadow and a beam of light erupting from its face. She instinctively reached for her precious axe, when she felt the presence of her lost quiver and bow. She recovered them from her back and opened fire upon the beast, firing arrows that left a bright white trail behind them. This time they struck true on the target, as it continued to erupt with beams of light. She saw a darkened form, with spear and shield thrusting the weapon through the barghest. She fired her last arrow into its pincushioned hide, then retrieved her axe from her hip. She reenacted their previous battle, as she chopped its vile head off, Naiara hacked into its chest one again to destroy it's heart, as it faded away into nothingness.   All that was left was a greying angelic elf, Nelthunael seemingly old and weary, more so than any immortal elf she has ever seen before. Even after a thousand years when elves became venerable, they still retained their youthful appearance, if appearing a bit frail. The eldest of elves choose when they wish to pass on and are usually able to pass on their wisdom to another to continue their legacy. For the Caelumani, this was typically left to the eldest of the community, or to a chosen leadership or council.   Naiara felt pain in her back as she lay upon the ground. She felt a steady hand upon hers and a familiar warmth passing over her. This time though, she jolted awake and retracted her hand. "Stop! Your killing yourself!" She said, looking upon the pale Nelthunael, his expression grim.   "There is no other way to help you. I am diminishing." He responded.   She didn't understand, "What was that? Why are you doing this?"   "I wanted to help, I wanted to save you both. I failed her, but I do not wish to fail you. I have taken the corruption of the void from you, to fight off myself. And now my task is nearly complete, as I will see you fully recovered, and only then will I go."   She had been hearing him all this time in her nightmares. He's been fighting alongside her all this time. "Where will you go, back to the stars?"   He shook his head, "They will not take me back. I will diminish."   "What do you mean by that?"   "I will rest and pass into the sanctuary. The trinity fates will determine if I am worthy and deserving of the great hall, the promised lands of paradise, or to the great judge's court." She knew he meant to say in as obscure of a way possible, that he was dying. And for some reason, she could feel his growing weakness, where there was previously much endurance, strength, and resolve.   She threw the apple at him again, striking him in the chest. He caught it before it rolled away and gazed upon it. "Eat that apple."   He looked confused, "Why?"   "It might not be your divine ambrosia or your celestial nektar, but you said it yourself those are bland to you anyways. Treat your palate to a crisp, firm, juicy honeyed apple freshly picked from this very grove."   He did so, and visibly became delighted. Naiara smiled and felt relieved as, for some reason, she could sense the strength slowly returning to him. And then for the first time, she saw him smile. And she then felt very nervous as she realized something was amiss.   "Wait!? Did we just...?"   He looked confused, not understanding.   "Did we just bond!?" She cried out, concerned. She did not mean the bond of a friendship, but the life bond of the elves. The elf-bond was a connection once made, very little save death could sever it. It was an intimate connection between the two individuals, usually reserved for a partnership, or in most elven societies, the union of marriage. They could sense each other's presence, their emotions, well-being, and occasionally enter into a lucid dream together, and experience shared memories, deal with past traumas and turmoil. When his eyes were lit with light, she saw into his spirit. She had entered his mind to battle the barghest that he had thought to fight alone. And now she could feel the enjoyment of tasting an apple as if for the very first time, through him.   "What bond?" He asked. For all his years, did he know nothing about being an elf, and only about being a warrior?   "Oh, no..." She signed, frustrated. Bonds like these weren't usually made accidentally. Nelthunael might have been attempting to bond with her all this time, as he tried to heal her without realizing its significance for her, or the Caelumani. For in proximity, the bonded drew strength and bolstered each other. He then sighed as well, similarly to her, as he took another bite into the apple. "Stop that!" She shouted, feeling as if she were being mocked.   "That is not good at all..." The echo of a distance elder and feminine voice spoke slowly.   She tried to stand, but part of her was still weak and aching, the numbness starting to pass. "No, no, it's not!" She then looked around, not realizing who she was talking to, and there was no one else in the room. "Wait, who said that?"   Nelthunael bit into the apple again, speaking as he chewed his food, "The tree."   Naiara looked at him, surprised, "The tree can talk?"   The distance elderly voice spoke again, "You can hear me now, filia?"


Comments

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Uht Ceara
UhtCeara
2 Jun, 2020 14:16

The beginning of the chapter is really masterful. It shows how she is beginning to change, from being the helpless child at the feet of giants, to a warrior who can attack the Barghest. You've also manages to capture an element of PTSD dreaming - not the exact memory dreamed over and over, but warped to include new fears and elements that build on what is already there. The way you structured the chapter gives a good flow and progression (i know i use that word a lot, but it is so important). Just e careful again to stay true to character, Naiara already suspects that the tree should talk so she should be more validated than surprised by this at the end of the chapter.

3 Jun, 2020 10:53

Thank you and I'm very happy the chapter was liked as I feel I struggled with how best to deal with her traumas in her dream/nightmares, and not confuse the reader with the passage of time like my flashbacks, as the demonic spirit of the Barghest continues to torment her.   I see your point with the tree, and I agree it should be something I express a bit differently,y. Less shock and surprise and more excitement that what she suspected finally is revealed to be true.

Uht Ceara
UhtCeara
7 Jun, 2020 19:05

Yeah, trauma can be such a difficult thing to navigate, but i really think you did a good job with it here