Rowan’s heart was beating a thousand times a minute. She could hardly believe that Tyris was right there on the other side of the door. Part of her was scared. A large part. It was all so sudden. What happened to being given a chance to prepare? How had Tyris had the chance to prepare? Her thoughts were racing; a feeling she still wasn’t used to.
Something hit her on the forehead. It was sudden and instantly brought her back to the present. When she looked around to see what had happened, the culprit became immediately apparent. Seres was leaning over towards her with her arm stretched out in a prime flicking position.
“Breath, Rowan,” she said. “Come on. Deep breaths. You can do this.”
“I can do this!” Rowan replied before hyperventilating again.
“Are there any bags nearby, Avra? Something impermeable would be ideal.”
“I shall look around immediately, Your Highness.”
“And apologise to Rear Admiral Naliir for the wait.”
When Avra left to fulfil Seres’ order, she turned back to Rowan and took a seat beside her. “Come on Rowan. You’ve been through trials far beyond the ken of most mortals. It isn’t like you to fall at the first emotional hurdle. Embrace those feelings and greet your brother with everything you’ve got. You aren’t going to scare him away and I’ve seen worse.”
The entire time, Seres was rubbing Rowan’s back gently while she calmed down. It took her a good five minutes to fully recover from the panic, just in time for Avra to return. Her palms were still sweaty, but she was ready.
“Thank you, Avra,” she said, “I should be okay now. Could you send my brother in please?”
“Right away, Mistress Rowan,” replied Avra with a bow.
After what seemed like an eternity, she returned with Tyris. He was really there; Rowan was seeing her brother for the first time in almost six years. Time had clearly left its mark on him. His ruddy hair was less vibrant and his face was serious and clearly scarred from battle. He also, somewhat paradoxically, felt taller. But deep down, Rowan could still see the same Tyris she had always known and he was crying.
Meanwhile, Seres saw him for the naval veteran that he was in his extremely well maintained officer’s uniform and chiselled features. She also saw the undeniable familial Resonance between the two and it only made the strange Resonance of the Naliir family all the more apparent. It did not however, why Rowan occasionally expressed the same familial Resonance with herself. The last thing that stood out to Seres was the long, flat case in his right hand with two large locks that was made all the more notable by the Resonance that was tangible even though the container.
Across the room, Tyris looked at his sister for the first time in an eternity. She had grown to be beautiful like their mother. More so in fact, with hair that shone like truest crimson and eyes like gentle violets hiding a thirst for blood. He saw a strength in her that he couldn’t explain despite how small and frail she appeared. Beside her sat the second princess, the very reason that he had been called to war, just like Rowan was his reason for answering. Like Rowan, Princess Seres was also extremely small and frail, little more than skin and bones, but she was notably more filled out than Rowan. Looking at them side by side, even Tyris couldn’t deny that they had a strange resemblance that wasn’t quite familial, but something close. It reminded him of Tehri, the one member of his family that was still unaccounted for. Despite his best efforts to keep a strong face, he started crying. Readying himself for what came next, he placed the case he was holding down.
“It’s good to see you, littlest Rowan,” he said, greeting her through his tears.
“Hi, Tyris,” she replied, also crying, “I’m home.”
Then, after a slight push from Seres, she got up, took two flighty steps forward before leaping into Tyris’ arms.
He clung to her tightly, not wanting to let her go but also scared that she would break. Meanwhile, Seres just let the reunion play its course. After a while, when the two Naliir siblings had had their fill of tears and heartfelt comfort, Rowan released herself from her brother’s arms and took a step back.
“We should probably take a seat,” she said, motioning towards the soft chairs.
“Yes, let’s,” Tyris replied, before turning to Seres and bowing. “Forgive for not introducing myself, Your Highness. I hope you understand that I have not seen my sister in a very long time and feared I never would. My name is Tyris Naliir, Rear Admiral of the second Royal Strike Force Flotilla.”
“There is no need to apologise, Rear Admiral, or to be so formal,” replied Seres with a smile. “You are the brother of my hero so I can hardly ask you to address me as if I am leagues above you. Please, take a seat and have some tea.
“Thank you, Princess.”
“I cannae believe you’re actually here,” said Rowan to Tyris after he took his seat.
“Nor I you, dear sister. We thought you were lost to us.”
“What about Tehri? Is she safe?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing,” Tyris replied with some confusion.
Rowan immediately gave him a concerned look that bordered on fear. “Why?” she asked.
“Because I haven’t seen her since I visited for the Winter Solstice before the eclipse.”
The answer filled Rowan with terror. “B-b-but I saved her,” she stammered through heavy eyes. “The raiders had taken us captive and they were going to kill Tehri. I killed them first. With Ardent ferocity I slaughtered them like nothing else mattered. All to give Tehri the chance to escape. I saw her run away. I told her to find you or Da. She has to be alive. She has to be.”
“I’m sorry, Rowan. I haven’t seen her and as far as I’m aware, neither has father.”
“I’m sure she’s out there, Rowan,” Seres interjected. “There could be any number of reasons she didn’t find her way home. I’ll ask mother if she can send people out to help find her.”
“Thank you, Seres,” Rowan replied, shaking slightly from fear.
“Yes, thank you,” Tyris added.
“Is Da okay?” Rowan asked her brother.
“He’s managing,” Tyris answered. “The years haven’t been kind to him and the loss of mother was harsher still. He was barely coherent when he told me what happened, but I’m sure he’ll be happy to see you. I wish I could say more that, but I haven’t seen much of him since the attack.”
“I’ll do my best to see him soon.”
“Sorry that this reunion has been such a downer,” Tyris apologised, “but, I do have some good news.”
“I got married last year.”
Rowan immediately brightened up at that. “Congratulations!” she exclaimed loudly. “Who’s the lucky person?”
“Me,” Tyris answered with a straight face, making Seres laugh.
“Stop that,” Rowan complained to both her brother and her friend.
“Sorry, but it’s true. I really am lucky beyond belief to have met her. She actually saved my life back during the crusade of the raiders. She’s a doctor you see and I got poisoned in one of the battles. It was through her healing touch that I was able to go on fighting and in time we soon grew close. I won’t bore you with the details, but she gave me back my heart when I thought it was gone for good and now she is with child. You’re going to be an aunt, Rowan.”
“Congratulations.” This time it was Seres offering the congratulatory phrase as Rowan’s jaw had hit the proverbial floor in shock.
“Her name is Talia and I’m sure you’d love her,” Tyris continued. “I hope you can meet her soon.”
“We’d be honoured,” Seres replied.
“You too, Your Highness?” Tyris asked in surprise.
“Of course. Rowan has been my friend, guardian, and sister for the past five so I’d like to be there for her in this joyous moment. If you would permit it, that is.”
“I see no reason to refuse you. Any friend of Rowan’s is welcome if she so wishes. Though, Rowan, if you do want to bring people in addition to the princess, I’d appreciate it if you let me know in advance so I can have food prepared.”
It took Seres nudging Rowan in the side to get her to answer. “Um, right. Yes. I’ll do that,” she said with an awkward smile.
“Was she like this when she was younger as well?” Seres asked.
“All the time,” Tyris answered. “Even back then, she was like a mini Ardent, both in terms of her size and her mercurial nature. And now she actually is a mini Ardent, though not quite as small as she was back then. What’s it like, Rowan? I’m not asking you to relive your Awakening, but I’m curious to what it’s like now.”
“I don’t really know how to describe it other than everything is more intense. Kind of chaotic, like a storm. But even in all the chaos, there is a weird sense of clarity if you know where to look. Though, that is admittedly rather difficult at times. I’m stronger too. Even like this, I could probably beat you in an arm wrestle if my emotions were strong enough.”
“I’m not so sure,” Tyris said, somewhat sceptically.
“My money would be on Rowan,” Seres opined.
“It would depend on the intensity of my emotions at the time. Its like the stronger they are, the stronger I am. But they also let me do weird things like create heat or even fire when I’m angry. When I’m scared, my senses go through the roof and there are times when my reaction speed becomes obscenely high. I’m still not sure what everything does and I’m far from being able to control it, but it is definitely something. I hope that is a good enough answer because I cannae really do any better right now.”
“That’s more than enough. I was mostly just curious.”
“Well what about you?” Rowan asked. “What’s it like being a Rear Admiral?”
“At the moment it’s rather quiet. Ever since we dealt with the raiders, there hasn’t been much Strike Fleet to do other than assist the Scout and Aegis Fleets. Which is fine by me as it gives me a lot more time to spend with my wife. Even so, it is a massive responsibility, having so many ships and people under your command.”
“And I’m sure you are worthy of that responsibility, Master Tyris,” responded Seres confidently.
“Thank you, Princess. I wish I could ask more about what life has been like for the both of you, but I know it’s been nothing good and I don’t want to make you relive anything painful.”
“It wasn’t all bad,” Rowan responded. “I made some friends and super recently I met a really attractive Ferran lady called Alena and I suspect that she might have certain inclinations.”
“I don’t,” Seres interjected.
“Don’t what?” Rowan asked with some slight confusion.
“Share your suspicions,” answered Seres smugly before muttering something that Rowan didn’t quite catch.
“What was that?”
“Well okay then,” Rowan harrumphed. “Anyway, as I was saying, I met this really attractive lady. Though, if I’m being honest, all five of them were attractive in their own right.”
“That reminds me,” Tyris interrupted, “Do you know what happened to Kyr or Kiriin?”
Rowan’s face turned dark at the mention of her childhood friends. “Kyr was sold off to slavers right from the get go; his potential was too low. As for Kiriin, they managed to break her. They used me to get to her and now she’s theirs.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“When we arrived in the caves where the held us prisoner, they carved brands into our backs so that they could control and manipulate us if we ever broke.” To punctuate her explanation, Rowan turned around, unbelted her tunic and pulled over her shoulders to reveal the elaborate markings on her back.
“I’m so sorry,” Tyris apologised.
“It’s okay,” replied Rowan as she put her tunic back on and belted it back up. “I’m going to destroy the people that did this to us and then find a way to free Kiriin and everyone else.”
“Well you have my support,” said Tyris warmly.
“And mine,” Seres added.
“With that said, I have something for you, Rowan. But first, I need your approval, Princess Seres, to present my sister with a weapon.”
“Why?” Seres asked.
“Because Rowan does not have authorisation to wear or possess a weapon in the palace without a grant from a member of the royal family of the captain of the royal guard. Only the Queen can give Rowan permanent unfettered authorisation, but you can grant temporary approval as long as an Awakened Pair from the royal guard. They are waiting outside and possess the keys to this case. Do you consent to this?”
“I do,” Seres answered while Rowan squirmed about in anticipation.
“In which case. Mistress Avra? Would you please be so kind as to summon the two gentlemen that are waiting patiently outside?”
“Right away,” Avra replied. A moment later she returned with two men wearing the black and silver uniforms of the royal guard, one accented in red and the other in blue. It was practically impossible to guess how old they were beyond significantly older than they looked.
“Okay then,” Tyris spoke up, “would you please confirm that you consent to me presenting Rowan with the weapon in this case, Your Highness?”
“Excellent. Gentlemen! If you’d be so kind.”
In response to Seres’ consent and Tyris’ request, the two men each pulled out a key from inside of their coats and unlocked the case. With it open, Tyris reached inside and took hold of the sword that lay there. Then, in a resonant tone, he started speaking. “As promised on the eleventh anniversary of your birth, I come bearing the tears of our ancestors, so that you may use it with their blessing. Do you, Rowan’efrii Alyris Naliir, accept your birthright? Will you accept Elan Fiir?”
“Aye! A thousand times over.”
“Then take it,” Tyris said humbly while proffering the sheathed sword.
It was exactly like Rowan remembered it, untouched by time. She took hold of Elan Fiir by the deep red leather scabbard which had been made from an extinct magma dwelling cousin of a drakiir and decoratively plated with blackened star metal. Rowan’s other hand drifted down to the hilt which bore an elegant, almost swept guard made from a metal that looked almost like bronze, only more vibrant and glistening like crystal. Her hand sat nicely between the guard and the pommel with enough room to give her versatility of grip, but not so much to be impractical.
Now feeling comfortable with the sword, she strengthened her hold of it and drew it slightly to examine the blade. The silvery crystal like blade was made from a metal quite unlike any other she had ever seen in that it was slightly transparent. Stranger still was that the blade appeared to cause absolutely no refraction; any light that wasn’t absorbed just treated it like it wasn’t there. Then, not wanting to push her luck with the guards, she sheathed the sword.
She would need to try the sword out in the field to get a proper feel for it, but it felt right. Unbelievably so. It was as if the burden she carried on her shoulders was gone. Or rather, it was now shared by countless people who were each giving her a small token of their strength. However, amongst all of the tiny stars, two together shone as brightly as the sun.
Next to her, Seres saw it all. In Rowan’s hands was a true magnum opus of smithing. Even so, that could only do so much to impress her. What truly amazed Seres was how the sword Resonated. She saw over a hundred tiny voices in harmony that rose to a crescendo when Rowan took hold of the sword, each one improving on the last. And at the core of it all, two brilliant voices sang.
Elan Fiir was Soulforged. Undoubtedly so. The two voices proved it, yet they also called everything Seres knew about Soulforging into question. To forge a Soul was to put a person’s very essence into an object, leaving nothing left to pass on to the other side. Such people sacrificed everything. But that wasn’t what Seres saw now. Instead she saw two separate but incomplete essences that seemed to come together to form a gestalt, presumably allowing the rest to pass on. It should have been impossible.
Or not yet observed. I’ll need to look into it. Maybe then I’ll…
“I was thinking we could meet up again to see what you’re made of,” Tyris said, speaking to Rowan while Seres remained deep in thought. “It will give you a chance to test out Elan Fiir as well.”
“If you think you can keep up,” Rowan laughed.
“I’m not a fool. You could outpace me anyway of the week even if you are just skin and bones.”
“I’m working on that, but I can only gain so much weight in so little time.”
“I know. I’m just worrying about you. Needlessly most likely, but I’m not going to let this feeling go. It’s a reminder that you’re really back.”
“That’s probably not healthy.”
“Probably not. Anyway, I need to get going. I’d love to stay and talk more but Talia is waiting and I promised I’d bring her something exotic to eat.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Rowan smiled.
“That you will,” Tyris replied before turning to Seres. “And it has been an honour speaking to you, princess. I hope to have the chance again in the future.”
Still deep in thought, Seres barely noticed, only just managing to nod in acknowledgement. Then Tyris bowed and took his leave. Once again, the two girls were alone. That is if you ignored the maid or the guards. It took some time for Rowan to regain Seres’ attention, but when she did, they spent the rest of the afternoon talking right up until their evening meal.
Author’s Notes: And here we have the reunion and a little Elan Fiir tease. Look forward to next chapter where we will really see what Rowan can do with her new toy.