6. Aelfe culture
It was almost evening when I joined Shine outside of Kelu’s home and Sonny was nowhere to be seen. I assumed he would rather not see me after our argument earlier. “I see you’ve become actively involved in your duties as the Seilie Aelfen, first improving your Nese and now voicing your opinion. I just wanted to say I am very proud of how well you have adapted to the Aelfe culture.”
I hadn’t expected this even though Shine seemed like the more reasonable of the two Elders. There was something troubling about her perceptive eyes and sophisticated demeanor that made me feel a bit uncomfortable whenever she showed a deliberate effort of warming up to me.
“Thank you,” I said feeling a bit unsure of what else to say.
“And as you are aware Aelfe kind are in danger and it’s our duty and yours to protect those of our kind even if we have to make hard decisions” she continued suggestively.
“Right. Ignis” I should have known this wouldn’t be the end of it.
“Yes and that’s why I am glad you would like to understand the decisions being made before executing them. In this case with Ignis...” she paused thoughtfully as if weighing carefully how she should put into words the rest “she has been known to be very untrustworthy when it comes to matters of the realm.”
I waited expecting there to be a story behind all this.
“I’m sure she’s mentioned her mother who left the realm with her head held high. That wasn’t the case. Ignis abandoned her mother, well you could say they abandoned each other when her mother decided to stay rather than leave, in such a callous manner at that, with a fellow Aelfen who had been banished some years ago.”
“Her mother a respected Aelfen harmed some of our kind in her attempt to escape the realm and Ignis was the one who brought it to our attention in exchange for healing for her father but by then it was too late for him and to stop their escape. They were long gone and Ignis soon followed in her mother’s footsteps in a similar attempt and failed and so she was banished.”
“So she tried to leave, is it forbidden to leave the realm?” I asked still against the decision of destroying Ignis’s fata.
“It is not, but the rule is all Aelfe must notify the proper authority when deciding to travel to other realms, this is to prevent incidents such as what happened to your mother. Being aware of who leaves and when would greatly narrow down the list of Aelfe who would mean to cause you harm.”
“Ok, but why destroy their fata?” I asked missing her point.
She looked at me with a bit of disappointment. “I thought that would have been clear to you Olivia. Aelfe who decide to leave the realm do not do this on good terms and usually have an agenda in mind which would clearly be directed towards other Aelfe outside the realm. Leaving the realm is a loss for Aelfe kind and as such great decisions come with equally great costs.”
Shine’s words had hit home. “Take your time to think things over carefully though as the final decision is yours, whatever you choose we will respect that. It’s almost time for curfew, why don’t you go get some rest I heard you had a long day” she commented dryly.
I nodded trying to keep it together as I forced a smile saying my farewell. “Oh and Olivia, discussions between Elders and Seilie should remain just that, you understand?”
“I understand” I uttered.
I paced staring up at the ceiling of Kelu’s home in frustration feeling like a caged animal. “Ugh, I’m so bored” I groaned finding the longest bench to lie on to reflect on my boredom. It seemed as if the days where I worried about trivial things such as group projects and mid-terms were a fantasy compared to how much my life had changed over the past few days.
Sitting up suddenly, my mind ran on Leah knowing how worried she must have become when she realized I had disappeared without so much as a note. I had to get back to Compass soon to set things straight before me leaving became a big deal.
“Arrghhh” Alen let out a moan as he entered with the others looking exhausted from executing the standard procedures necessary for the curfew. “Folk beer would be a good way to relax right now right Olivia?” he proposed as he flung himself on the floor only two feet away from the entrance looking exhausted.
“I’m sorry I don’t drink. Can’t relate” I said shrugging apologetically.
“Wow, you are truly one of a kind” he marveled a tired smile resting on his face.
The others gingerly stepped around his large figure and made their way to where I sat. “When can I make my first appointment to leave, I have...unfinished business,” I said a hint of sarcasm in my voice.
“What did Elder Shine say something to upset you?” Del asked concerned.
“No, not at all. I had a life before all this remember. If people start noticing that I’m missing it will be really hard to explain once I go back.” Del’s face fell at the mention of that and I reassured him quickly with a smile “I’m not running away, honestly, I just need to sort some stuff out.”
“Good,” Kelu said satisfied as she settled herself beside me. “So what did you and Elder Shine talk about?”
I remembered Shine’s words of warning at the end of our conversation and decided to go with a condensed version of the truth. “She wanted me to be sure about my decision with Ignis and thought I should take some time to really see both sides of the situation.”
Kelu nodded seeming to agree that this was a good idea.
“Well I’m going to take a bath before these ladies decide to hog the bath space and I’ll have to fall asleep in my own filth” Del announced as he nudged Alen in the side who seemed to have already fallen asleep while Voy was way ahead of them appearing to share the same sentiment.
“Speaking of Ignis, what was she talking about when she said you of all people...I don’t know something to do with Erdos?” I said confronting her.
She looked back as if to ensure that Del was out of earshot then said “Oh that, that was just about some old family drama, back when Erdos and our father were friends” she explained as if searching for words, which was unlike her.
“What kind of family drama?” I asked hoping it wasn’t a sensitive subject for her. “Del told me about your parents...” her eyes widened for a moment not expecting this “I’m so sorry that happened by the way that must have been hard for you, losing them like that.”
She seemed to relax a little when I said this and squeezed my hands accepting my empathy. “Yes,” she breathed “you know I really don’t like talking about it, you understand.”
I did and wouldn’t want to cause her further discomfort. “Ok, that’s fine.”
“It would be good if you don’t mention him around Del either, he doesn’t like getting emotional.”
“I get it trust me, my lips are sealed,” I added reassuringly.
*** *** ***
The evening passed slowly at first but then got more interesting as we started getting to know one another”I have to ask, don’t you guys get bored sometimes, like now maybe?”
Kelu scoffed mockingly at my question “Of course when we’re not on lockdown and in fear of our lives we explore other realms, realms like those of the Wonted folk and also those of other Aelfe kinds.
“Yes please tell me about the other realms. It’s crazy to think that there’s so much left to discover about being Aelfen.” I was looking forward to Erdos’s reign of terror to be over and hoped to discover with my aunt where I’d come from, more about my parents and what life was like outside of what I had thought to be the real world.
Del was happy to oblige and wasted no time in catching me up on my Aelfen history. “There are two other Aelfe realms like this one, called Termész the other Elme.” The names rolled right off his tongue making me giddy with anticipation. “All Aelfe are basically the same, meaning we normally try to maintain a peaceful way of life and like in Elvaraz some Aelfe are Nematons and some aren’t.”
“Aelfe kind tend to identify with those whose customs are similar to others. So for Aelfe who were more aggressive and dominant in nature, they resided in the realm of Termész, as you may already be thinking all the best fighters are bred in that realm so keep in mind don’t mess with any of them. That’s where I honed my superior combat skills, definitely worth it now” Del bragged proudly.
“Trust me on this Olivia, Voy’s the real bad ass here” Alen assured me patting Voy hard on the back who remained quiet as always. “My guy here is like lead, he’s hard on the outside and in.”
“Ahh please, Voy’s ok.” Del countered jokingly.
“Sure you’ll get away with this, only because Voy doesn’t care enough to show you up for being a liar” Alen continued to tease.
“Ok, Ok guys your not impressing anyone so just stop embarrassing yourselves,” Kelu said rolling her eyes and bringing their jeering to a halt. “Now back to enlightening Olivia on all things Aelfe, the realm of Elme, the smartest and kindest set of people you’ll ever meet.”
“And colorless” Alen added.
“No, they’re not, they’re cultured, unlike some people I know.” she retorted.
“That’s really low” Alen complained pretending to be hurt. “The Aelfe of Elme tend to keep to themselves, I still can’t understand how their realm got destroyed by Venators.”
“Venators?” I voiced surprised. I wondered if what I knew of the word was correct.
“Yes, hunters of our kind and maybe others” Kelu clarified.
Alen nodded sadly, “why do you think the Elders are so strict when it comes to rules of visiting other realms, there’s a whole lot out there even we don’t know.”
“So are they, all gone?” I wondered pitying the Aelfe of Elme.
“No, no they’re here and there still reading and being boring, most of them are scattered amongst the wonted folk” he assured.
“You know what I think,” Del spoke up, “It’s their curiosity that led the trouble right to them. I’m not saying it’s their fault but at least now we know how much more careful we have to be when visiting outside of Aelfe realms.”
“Yea whatever, another story for another time” Alen interrupted wanting to move on. “The realm of Elvaraz, the largest and the most vibrant of all realms are where people who neither care about conflict or books fit in. We’re just a carefree and die young type of Aelfe” he finished passionately.
They were right about the die young part I thought crudely. “I don’t know what to say, it’s all so, surreal” I commented not knowing what to ask about first.
“Did you know that all Nese can’t be manipulated the same way?” I blinked confused wondering if I had imagined Voy’s lips moving. We all fell silent for a moment, then burst out laughing.
“Now you’ve done it, Olivia,” Kelu said feigning a heavy somber tone “once Voy has acknowledged you there’s no turning back. His voice was smooth and rich which complimented his calm and collected appearance pleasantly.
“No, I didn’t” I stuttered in response and pleased that he had felt inclined to enlighten me on Aelfe kind as Kelu put it.
“For each Nese ability --”
“Oh damn this is going to be boring” Alen teased bowing his head as if he had fallen asleep.
“Shut up” Kelu quieted him, slapping him on the arm playfully.
Voy unfazed started again. “For each Nese ability, different strengths are required. There’s push, pull and stand abilities. Trykk, Dra, and Stå in Aelfe terms” he clarified counting them off as he spoke. I nodded showing that I followed his explanation.
“Trykk Nese like Del’s and Kelu’s abilities can be used while moving around but they’ll get tired easily so they’ll always have to ensure to keep their energy up. Dra Nese Nematons can manipulate plants, animals, vital force anything living. Drawing on their targets aura or their own as a last resort, but they have to be really strong and focused to move around using their Nese so you can count on them relying on focus rather than strength.”
I felt as though him telling me this was to help me prepare for what’s to come and I wondered if handling Erdos would be far more difficult than I anticipated.
“Stå Nese Nematons attacks can only be used when they are immobile which means they’ll have to put all their focus into what their manipulating which makes them a bit difficult to go after, but still not impossible.”
“And Stå Nese abilities are?” I wondered.
“Like Alen’s, temperature manipulation. And light and darkness” He added.
“So what about me?” I asked unable to process each ability as quickly as Voy had.
“You’re the Seilie Aelfen, you don’t have to worry about the rules when it comes to using your Nese.”
“Good, because I honestly couldn’t imagine being stuck with one of the three.”
“It’s not that bad” he assured.
A sudden thought occurred to me “If I can use all three, why do I black out every time I use my Nese?”
“That’s because you’re taxing your own aura, like exhaling without inhaling.” He stretched standing up.
“Just remember everything manipulated has to come from somewhere, so take in the aura around you and you’ll be fine everytime” he saluted me sauntering off towards his room.
The others had already fallen asleep without me noticing. I gently shifted Kelu’s arm then made my way to the room she had offered me earlier so I could also fall asleep in a bed.
Hot steady hands clamped down hard over my mouth, smothering me as I whimpered clawing at the hands that tried to subdue me.
“Calm down, it’s just me” I stopped my struggling momentarily as I forced my eyes to focus recognizing Ignis’s now desperate face.
My heart continued to hammer away viciously in my chest as I tried to control my uneven breathing. “Why don’t you breathe a little louder I don’t think the whole house can hear you” Ignis snapped softly, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
I took a long deep breath as I sat up, exhaling slowly. “You don’t stifle someone at a questionable hour of the morning and expect them to wake up kindly!” I snapped back.
She stood leering at me but said nothing. After we had both calmed a bit listening to see if we had awoken anyone with our little squabble. I finally asked, “what are you doing here?”
“I needed to talk to you before Sonny and his minions had me dragged off to another realm, for punishment” She whispered.
“What?” I uttered confused. I didn’t remember Sonny or Shine mentioning such a thing when we had spoken, but remembering our argument yesterday made me wonder just how far he would go to enforce his idea of justice.
“Look we can’t do this here, just come back with me to the stump I’m holed up in for now and we can talk about this further” she suggested impatiently.
“No are you crazy there’s a curfew remember?” I wasn’t looking forward to getting on Shines bad side. “Can’t we do this when the suns actually out?”
“If the curfew was as strict as it should have been, I wouldn’t be standing here so are you coming or not?” She asked.
I hesitated not sure if this was really worth sneaking out into the night with someone who was labeled untrustworthy as an Aelfen of Elvaraz. She sighed taking a seat beside me on the bed. “When I saw the way you stood up to Sonny I knew there was no way in hell you could have been raised here, and...you don’t look bruised up enough to be from Termész so I just made a wild guess at who you are and I’m going to say your parents were Gloria and Nyx.”
I grabbed on to Ignis’s arms suddenly shaken by her revelation. “You knew my parents?” A feeling of anxiety and relief washed over me.
“You’ll have to come with me to find out.”
Ignis was obviously good at sneaking around. So far we hadn’t gotten the attention of any Aelfe on watch and I had to admit I was very impressed by the smooth way she slinked in and out of the shadows like a cat. At times I lost sight of her and then moments later she would be by my side hauling me away like some stray child in a supermarket.
Finally, the home she had referred to being holed up in was now in sight as she held up a hand motioning for me to wait, while she ensured that it was clear for us to make a break for the entrance. “As soon as I start moving just keep up” she whispered without looking back.
I began feeling uneasy when it seemed as if we wouldn’t be moving anytime soon. The curfew patrol got closer to where we hid and I began to consider stepping out into their line of sight before getting caught.
“On second thought you go on ahead while I draw them away to the other side” Ignis ordered and before I could protest she took off loudly doing just that. I wondered how long I should wait before making my way to the entrance or if I had waited long enough.
Finally coming to a decision I took off, opening the door and slamming it loudly in my haste to get it closed. Unlike other homes, this one was bare and only offered a few stumps and a meager cot, to lie on.
I took a seat tapping my foot nervously as I waited for Ignis to show up. “Gosh, I forgot how fun it used to be living here,” she said coming up from behind.
I jumped a little since I was expecting her to use the front entrance. “What you thought I would come in through the front after you basically created a diversion by slamming the door” she teased gently.
“Tell me what you know about my parents?” I demanded.
“Slow down, I was the one who wanted to talk to you remember. I’ll ask a question then you get to ask one.” I pursed my lips trying to hide my growing irritation.
She sat across from me now a finger tapping her lip. “Are you sure Gloria and Nyx are your parents?” she asked.
“Yes, Gloria Sullivan. She was my mother, she died a year ago and I only found out who my father was a couple days ago” her eyes saddened hearing this.
“Gloria died! How?”
“My turn,” I reminded her. “How did you know my mother?”
“She was my aunt.” I looked at her dubiously and wondered if I had another aunt I didn’t know of.
“My mother had two sisters?” I wondered more to myself than aloud.
“No just the one, my mother. Maekenzie.”
“Maekenzie Paige is your mother!” I exclaimed, “that’s impossible Maekenzie can’t have children.”
" Paige,” Ignis said as if hearing the name was strange to her “that’s new, but I know my mother as well as you know yours so yea we’re cousins” she stated firmly.
I sat silent for a moment mulling things over while Ignis continued to mumble over her mothers’ additional name “Paige seriously. And I can’t believe she lied about having kids, I guess she never intended to introduce me to the family.”
“You know you may be right...” I agreed, unable to fully wrap my head around Ignis and I being related “...I guess it would have been hard trying to explain to me why she had a child but couldn’t prove it, you were trapped here after all.”
She looked over at me confused. “Trapped? by who?” she asked obviously hearing this for the first time. With the new turn of events, I saw no harm in breaking my promise to Shine the evening before.
“Shine told me that you tried to escape after your mother had left...” realization hit me suddenly “...wait...” I breathed standing up “...this doesn’t make any sense.” A sickening feeling of nausea made me giddy for a moment as I tried to put the pieces together.
“What?...Olivia!” Ignis called trying to get my attention as she stood to face me.
“Why did my mother leave Elvaraz?” I asked fearing I already knew the answer.
“Are you sure you want to hear this?” Ignis asked seeming as if she came to some realization of her own. The rule of one question each turn was forgotten.
“Yes, tell me. Please” I begged her anxiety knotting in my stomach.
“Ok. Ok” she began, pacing back and forth for a few moments and then taking a deep breath. “Your mother was banished by the Elders Sonny and Shine because of the relationship she had with your father...their son.” I felt as though I had been hit over the head with a brick and had to make my way back to where I had been seated before.
“You see, Aelfe can move across realms as they like but some Aelfe like the Elders aren’t accepting of cross-realm relationships between other Aelfe kinds, especially if that Aelfe was to become the future Elder of the realm. Our mothers were Aelfe from the realm of Elme so coming here, no big deal, as long as we decided to live by the laws of the realm. Everything was perfect until your mother and Nyx met and they tried to hide their relationship.”
“They knew it was unacceptable. My mother even tried to convince Gloria to break it off. But she couldn’t they loved each other so much and so my mom helped them sneak around at first and one day I guess Shine saw the way their son looked at your mother and gosh they were furious.” Her tone of dread only aimed to fuel my distress even more.
“They accepted it for a time hoping that it was nothing serious, but then your mom got pregnant and they were just not happy about that. And on the day you were born, your father crossed realms, he went to Elme, which was the day they were attacked and he died fighting in a war he didn’t even know was coming. ”
“The Elders hated your mother even more and blamed her ever since for his death, they decided either she left or they would. She decided to leave with you and the Seilie Aelf at the time took away her fata and at the last minute, my mom left with her. All I got was a note and that was the last anyone had seen or spoken about what happened between Nyx and your mother. It’s kind of a forbidden tale around here.”
I felt sick to my stomach the trauma making me numb. “If they destroyed my mothers fata why do I still have mine?” I asked feeling as if I were talking to her from a distance.
“Because you were a child, destroying an Aelfe fata is one of the most painful experience any Aelfe can endure.I hear It’s literally like death itself” she answered.
I didn’t want to imagine my mother bearing the pain of losing her fata only because she loved the wrong person, but I couldn’t help myself.
“So I know this may not be a good time but whatever Shine told you about me I promise you were lies.”
“I believe you, ” I assured her. How could I not, Shine, as I had failed to see was way more calculating than I had imagined. I filled her in on everything I had learned from Shine since I got to Elvaraz and even before then.
“I shouldn’t expect any less from that senile old wretch and his hag” Ignis commented harshly.
Ignis’s side of the story was as equally dark as the one she had described with my mother. Her mothers only fault was marrying a ′lesser Aelfe’ as Sonny would put it. And aunt Mae’s decision of leaving her sick husband behind had taken its toll on Ignis who held some degree of resentment towards her mother even though it was to try and save her father.
“Mom agreed that once they had gone through the portal, I should alert the Elders and hopefully they could look upon us favorably after what happened and heal my father in the process. Instead, they exiled us to the abandoned forest. I couldn’t risk fighting and losing my father so I left and I’ve been there ever since.”
“Now that psychopath is out there slaughtering Aelfe and created a dark paradise. I’m actually grateful my father isn’t around to witness this.” I wondered what Del would think of all this or if he had known. I couldn’t imagine him or Kelu keeping such a big secret like this to themselves.
“What were you and Kelu arguing about earlier in the meeting room?” I blurted out suddenly.
Ignis stared at me quietly as if not sure what I was referring to “something about their father being friends with Erdos...” I continued trying to jog the memory.
“Friends? No, they were brothers” Ignis clarified. My face must have revealed exactly how I was feeling because she immediately stood up with a look of remorse on her face as if wanting to erase the last few moments.
Something inside me broke at that moment as my body trembled with anger “I wasn’t supposed to say anything. Olivia listen to me it’s not what you think” she began.
“Shut up Ignis! Please” I snapped “don’t you dare defend them.” The daze I had felt earlier must have shattered then because reality sunk in. This whole place was a dark paradise. A beautiful fairytale thriving on deception and half-truths.
I turned to Ignis barely seeing her as the jade green aura filled my vision. “Whatever happens to them it’s their fate, we’re leaving. Today.”