The Faerie Blade: Chapter 19

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Chapter 19: Kaelyn at the Crossroads

Kaelyn was just trying to fill her belly, but she got a lot more than she bargained for when she decided to save the life of a Faerie.

 

She shrugged my arm off as she looked vacantly down at her meal. “Then how come I’m not ready for the second dance?”

 


 
Author's Note: Here's chapter 19 of The Faerie Blade. Further chapters are available on Patreon.~Amethyst.
 


 Chapter 19: Kaelyn at the Crossroads

Over the next few days, I was very busy as our troupe traveled eastward. It was a good thing that Fae do not require as much sleep as humans because I needed all of the extra hours that I could get. I continued to wake well before dawn to have my lessons in using a sword alongside my cousin. First, Sharai would guide my body through the movements, and then have me try to replicate it on my own before briefly taking over my body once more to instruct Shava.

We would keep going until breakfast, and then after eating, our caravan would be on the road once again. When I wasn’t driving the wagon, I would be either having lessons with Master Nirlyn or practicing with Vesha. We practiced our preferred instruments, vocal work, and various other tasks set by our Master, though we would also occasionally take breaks so I could feed and care for Zaiya. These breaks to care for my owlet also allowed Vesha and me to snuggle and talk.

Despite my feelings and attraction to the Dragonkin, we were taking our relationship slowly as we tried to get to know one another better. As much as I was attracted to her and wanted to give a relationship between us a chance, I was still getting used to the idea that two women, let alone two women of different species could have such a relationship. Vesha seemed to realize that, and she was giving me time to adjust.

Once the caravan stopped for the day, Korine and I would have lessons on the basics of spellsinging with Master Nirlyn while the camp was being set up for the night and the evening meal was being prepared. After dinner, I would return to our wagon to feed Zaiya and put on my Tien’jin and the sparse clothing that Zenna had made me for practicing my dancing. Then I had my dance lessons with Selice.

As self-conscious as I was while dancing in little more than scraps of cloth and my Tien’jin, I did have to admit that Master Niryln had been wise to encourage these lessons. The various exercises that Selice would put me through to warm up were helping me to become more aware of my body and how it could move. Those first few nights, Selice was still trying to get used to having wings while in my copied form so we mainly focused on those exercises, teaching me basic movements of Fae dancing, and experimenting with what movements would cause the crystals of the Tien’jin to create sounds.

Usually, by the time I got cozy in my bunk each night, it was not long before sleep claimed me. I was exhausted, but I was determined to keep it up. I could feel that all of the work that I was putting in was beginning to show results and I needed to keep pushing myself. I desperately wanted to master using Neva’kul so I could get vengeance upon the Demons, send them back where they came from, and ensure that they and their nameless God would never plague our world again.

As much as I wanted that though, I also wanted to become a Bard worthy of my mother and my Master. My mother had taught me to love music, but I did not appreciate how truly talented she had been until I met Master Nirlyn. She said that many of the songs that my mother had taught me had been her own compositions, and I wanted to create music like that too. Few bards have the potential to become a master in the guild, but had my mother not chosen to take a leave to have a family she could have been one of those few.

She was a rare talent, Master Nirlyn said. She had taught me well and Master Nirlyn believed that I had inherited that talent as well as her love for music. If I could show progress toward mastering a fifth instrument, especially one as rare and difficult as the Tien’jin, and devoted myself to my other lessons, then I would probably be ready to take the Journeyman tests with Vesha when we arrived in Derevik. It would take us roughly two months, or a little longer, to get there and I wanted to use that time to learn everything that I could.

The one thing that concerned me was that our detour to the Bardic Guild headquarters would more than double the time that it would take us to travel to Tarin’dol directly. That would be more time for the Demons and their Church to grow in power and spread their influence further. As much as Sharai wanted me to be able to pursue my dreams, I could tell that this was weighing on her mind as well.

We need not have worried. My grandparents had taken my dire warnings about the Church and Demons very seriously, it would seem. The night before we had left the new location of Thaeria village, Glimma had sent owls bearing message tubes. One was from Master Nirlyn and bound for the Bardic Guild in Derevik, and it contained all of the information that my Master had thought was important to relay on the current situation.

The other owl was sent to an old friend of my grandparents who was a warrior priestess in Zhahimel. There were two copies of a letter in that tube, one meant for the High Priestess of the Daughters of Zhahime and the other was to be sent to Tarin’dol by the fastest means possible. The village elders of Thaeria had also planned on sending a Pixie messenger with an oral message directly to the Fae Council in Tarin’dol after we left the village.

Hopefully, by the time that we arrived in Tarin’dol, one of those messages will have arrived and the Fae Council would be gathering its resources and planning a course of action. Maybe they would be able to contact the bearers of the other Vos’oraik by then as well. There was not much else that I could personally do at this point, and the message would probably reach Tarin’dol faster than I could while traveling on my own.

I had to trust in my grandparents and my Master and hope for the best. In the meantime, I would devote myself to working hard so I would be ready to fight when the time came, and so I could learn as much as I could from my teachers until then. So, when I woke up this morning I was prepared for another long day of hard work and practice.

Sharai announced yesterday that I had become fluid and natural enough at the first dance, Säel’Eräde, to move on to learning the second dance, Säel’Uíre. Where the first dance was the very basics of Fae swordsmanship, the second dance was meant to build upon those basics with new footwork, various counters, assaults, and dodging and parrying techniques to buy time and get the measure of one’s opponent while awaiting an opening. As Sharai guided my body through the motions of the second dance, and then had me work on the various individual motions on my own under her instruction, Shava was doggedly working on trying to master the motions of the first dance.

I could tell that my cousin was frustrated that she was progressing slower than I was, especially as I helped her to make corrections to her form while she attempted to make her way through the entire first dance. It was not helping her focus as I guided her through archery practice afterward, which only served to make her even more despondent. She seemed so disappointed by the time we finally stopped to eat breakfast that I decided to have a word with her as we ate.

“Shava, you are progressing well, even Sharai is impressed by how hard you are working at mastering the first dance,” I told her as I placed an arm around her shoulders.

She shrugged my arm off as she looked vacantly down at her meal. “Then how come I’m not ready for the second dance?”

“You are not being fair to yourself, Shava,” I told her gently. “You are only ten summers old, I have been learning longer than you have, and I have Sharai helping to guide my body through the movements until I get used to them.”

-May I have a word with her?- Sharai asked. Without a word, I agreed by stepping back mentally and allowing her control. “Child, Kaelyn is correct. My connection to her gives her distinct advantages to learning what I am teaching. You are learning the way that I did, the way that most people learn, though you are starting your lessons far earlier in your life than I did. You are gifted, determined to learn, and you are learning much faster than I did when I began my lessons. Do not compare your progress to hers; focus on learning and improving as you have been until now.”

Having said her piece, Sharai returned control of my body to me. “And when you focus properly, you have been doing as well with archery as you have with the sword, especially since Hagen and Mara made you a bow and arrows more suited to your size. Do not allow anyone to doubt your ability or resolve, especially not you.”

“I… I guess so, I just want to get better,” my cousin offered uncertainly as she picked at her food.

“And you are,” I told her honestly. “Every day the motions become more natural to you and Sharai has to get me to correct your form less. Your aim with your bow gets better each day as well. I know that you want to learn faster and to be honest so do I, but all that either of us can do to make that happen is to continue doing our best. Now eat up, we need to start breaking up camp soon so we can get back on the road.”

It was not long after that when Master Nirlyn, Vesha, and the few others of the troupe who were not completely Fae, and thus needed more sleep, joined us. Much of the talk over breakfast was about our travel plans. Grandma was hoping that we would reach the town of Loden before sunset that evening. Unlike the small village that we had passed by a couple of days ago, this was a town and with the amount of people there, it would be a good place to stop for a day or two to make some coin and stock up on supplies. I could probably buy some proper sandals there and look through the shops for other things that I might need as well.

After Loden, it would take us roughly a week to get to Hindra, the capital of Kalidar. Hindra was a large trading city on Soren Bay and would mark the halfway point of our trip through Kalidar. Once out of Kalidar, it would take us at least another two weeks to travel through Nalean and then we would have to make our way through Haydin to the capital of Derevik on the east coast. We could either travel there by the roads, which would take upward of two weeks or hope to catch a boat willing to carry our caravan down the Afshan River in the town of Rivermeet. The latter would shave more than a week off our trip, but my grandparents were uncertain whether we could find a trustworthy captain willing to transport our troupe and our wagons downriver.

It was as we were discussing our options once we eventually reached Rivermeet, that Wilden let out a shrill whistle, drawing everyone’s attention to where he sat with his wife Tanna, and their daughter Jaya. Our troupe Healer wore a look of concern as he sat there, his eyes focused on those of his wife. I could not blame him since her eyes had my attention as well, now that I was looking in her direction. They were glowing with an eerie green light, visible even across the fire in the morning light.

Tanna spoke in a voice that did not sound like her own, the pitch and cadence unfamiliar and strange. “Where the path diverges today, so too must the path of the blade bearer and the child of fire. Their Vel’Nassar awaits them near the darkness to the north. If they can solve the riddle, they shall find their proof in the shadows of the past. Blade bearer; seek out the sister of spirit and steel. She is the prize you seek, but not the prize you need. The dark defender bears the key to your safe passage. Child of fire; seek your truth. Deep within the catacombs, the eternal flame holds your answers, and your salvation. Fear not the darkness when embraced by the light.”

The moment that the last word left her lips, that eerie light left Tanna’s eyes and she collapsed. For a moment, silence fell over the troupe, as the words seemed to have frozen everybody. The words had burned themselves into my mind but there was one thing that stumped me. I had no idea what a Vel’Nassar was. -A Divine task?- Sharai asked in a mix of wonder and confusion.

Master Nirlyn was the first to speak, a grim expression on her face. “There can only be one place, tha’ she could ‘ave meant. I am no’ sendin’ m’ apprentices off alone t’ a Gods-damned dark zone!”

A dark zone. One of the places that all Fae avoided, places so corrupted by the dark rituals of the Demons and their God during the war with them, that even thousands of years later the flow of mana was still contaminated. There would be Tainted there, and the risk of becoming Tainted ourselves.

I was beginning to panic about that until my grandmother gave my Master a withering glare. “Nirlyn, I know that you feel responsible for these girls, and care for them, but this is their decision to make. Tanna did not say that they would need to enter the dark zone; she said that their Vel’Nassar would take place near it. For Vesha, it even makes sense; this is near where you found her as a babe after all. I can sense the Goddess’s hand in this.”

“W-what is this all about?” I asked uncertainly.

“The Vel’Nassar is a tradition that we Voyagers began not long after the Great War when there were few of us left, and we first began to wander the world pretending to be Humans,” my grandfather explained. “Instead of forcing our children to wait to be considered adults until they reached fifty years of age, we began a rite of passage. If the troupe believes a youngling who has reached eighteen years of age to be mature enough, they will ask Hespira for guidance and assign that child a task to fulfill in Her name, to prove that they are truly ready to wear the rings of an adult. When they return with the proof that the task has been done, they are considered an adult.”

Uncle Bryden was frowning as he added, “It’s usually a task chosen by the troupe, something to challenge them without truly risking their lives. Only rarely has the Goddess actually intervened with direct guidance like this. It is no coincidence that Tanna has received this vision now. Not when we are so close to the place where we first found Vesha, and on the day of Kaelyn’s birth no less. One of Tanna’s visions guided us to Kaelyn as well, at a very specific place and time, and our path since then has brought us here.”

I did not even realize that it was my birthday today. I knew the date of my birth of course; it was mentioned in my mother’s letters, and I had vague memories of celebrating it before my parents had been murdered. I also knew that it was now nearing the summer solstice and that I would be turning eighteen soon, but I had long ago stopped keeping track of the days to focus on my survival. I found myself considering the words of Tanna’s vision though, they seemed important, and I felt like I needed to do this, no matter how dangerous it might be. It was not about proving myself though, something about this called to me.

There was a lot of arguing while I was lost in my thoughts. Master Nirlyn did not want either of us going anywhere near a dark zone, especially on our own. The troupe had finally found me after all of these years and she did not want them to risk losing me again, maybe for good this time. Aunt Seville pointed out that we would not have to go alone. Our tasks were not mutually exclusive, nor did the vision state that we needed to do so on our own. In fact, it seemed to imply that we should do so together.

Mara also pointed out that we both had the means to defend ourselves or just fly away and join the troupe in Loden if we had second thoughts or things became too dangerous. As much as they all had opinions though, they all knew that the decision was not theirs to make. It was ours, and we both had reasons to want to go. I could feel something; I was needed there, and the vision had heavily hinted that Vesha would find the answers that she sought about herself there.

We had made our decision and as soon as we had done so, my grandparents ordered everyone to break up camp so we could get back on the road. Vesha drove our wagon for the morning so that Master Nirlyn would be fresh to take the reins after the midday meal until the troupe arrived at Loden. I could not be sure whether she was just worried about us, or angry with us for our decision, as she guided me through my lessons, but it hurt to know that we had upset her so. Still, I did not renege on my decision or attempt to excuse it, I just asked her to trust in us.

It was slightly before noon when we reached the crossroads. From there, continuing eastward would have the troupe arriving in Loden in a few hours. The road to the northeast was less traveled, barely more than a rough track that would take travelers to the tiny village of Novare. The third branch was another major road that turned southwest and traveled through western Kalidar and then into Scorcia.

As we all broke for lunch, Master Nirlyn told us that this was the crossroads where she had first found Vesha and the shattered remains of her egg. There was a sad and distant look on her face as she said, “Ya were weak an’ hungry then, lass, an’ I needed t’ nurse ya t’ health an’ keep ya safe. Yer strong now, but yer like a daughter ta me, so I’m always goin’ ta worry ‘bout ya. Kaelyn, yer ma sister’s daughter, an’ ya remind me so much o’ yer mother at times. She was an ‘ardheaded pain in the arse sometimes too. Ya both better come back ta meet us in Loden.”

“I need to do this… Mama, I need to find out who I am,” Vesha said tearfully as she hugged the Ravieri Bard.

“Ya haven’ called me tha’ since I took ya as m’ apprentice,” Master Nirlyn replied, her voice wavering.

“I wanted to be a proper apprentice to you, Mama, but you will always be my mother. I’m sorry if you ever thought that I stopped thinking of you that way. You raised me, and I love you. That will never change, no matter what I discover about myself,” the Dragonkin replied, burying her head in her mother’s neck and wrapping her large wings around them both.

I cursed my sharp hearing as I attempted to let them have their moment. We had already said our farewells to the rest of the troupe and promised to try to be safe. They were all a little worried about us, but they also knew what we were capable of, and we had Tanna’s vision to help us. My grandparents were very particular about that. They made sure that I remembered the exact wording of the prophecy and warned me to use those words as my guide. They told me that Tanna’s visions were almost never wrong, and always contained the clues needed for success.

Once my Master and fellow apprentice had collected themselves somewhat and separated, I tried to appear confident. “We will be fine, Master Nirlyn. We will do our best to keep each other safe and my magic sense should help us to stay clear of the dark zone itself. We will meet you all in Loden soon. Please, take care of Zaiya for me while we are gone.”

“I will, lass, but if yer no’ back wi’ the troupe by sunset t’morrow, I’m comin’ after ya.” she stated after an awkward silence. That was the deal that we had made, to reassure her and the others in the troupe, and we were all bound to that promise. It gave us nearly a day and a half to find what we were searching for before the others considered our Vel’Nassar a failure and sent out search parties to find us, or what was left of us. With that grim thought in my mind, Vesha and I took to the sky and flew northward.

© 2022 - 2023 Amethyst Gibbs
All Rights Reserved

Further chapters are available to the public on my Patreon page.

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Comments

quests can be perilous

Amethyst's picture

And it looks like they might just be going to a dangerous area. Worse things than death can happen in or near a dark zone, as we shall soon see.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Demons Never Prosper

joannebarbarella's picture

For if they prosper the world ends.

If they do prosper

Amethyst's picture

nobody would still be around to see it, other than themselves and the God they serve.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Getting answers

Wendy Jean's picture

Is not going to be easy and downright life threatening.

True

Amethyst's picture

They are treading a dangerous path.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3