In the brief moments where Rowan was alone she realised that she still wasn’t dressed. This left her with the highly awkward conundrum of whether or not she should rush to get dressed. In the end she decided against it as she was convinced that her brother and Seres would walk in while she was half naked or even completely naked if she was unlucky. Instead she stayed wrapped in the blanket that had kept her modest in front of the queen.
As if to spite her decision, her brother and Seres took their sweet time. Every agonising second that she waited felt like a never ending minute that begged Rowan to expose herself. She persevered for five whole minutes when the door finally opened. Just in time as well as she was on the verge of breaking and neither of them knocked. They did, however, make up for it by presenting her with breakfast.
“Some eggs and honey roast gammon with a couple of broiled fried tomatoes for my dear sister,” Tyris announced as he sauntered in with a tray, closely followed by Seres.
“Along with some pastries, jam, and clotted cream,” Seres added with a tray of her own.
“This isn’t really necessary,” Rowan stammered.
“It really is,” Seres replied. “I’m not about to have you collapsing on me again.”
“Now hurry and eat,” Tyris chided.
“Fine!” Rowan harrumphed with a roll of her eyes as she started to dig in. “Am I really supposed to finish this?”
“Doctor’s orders,” Tyris replied.
“And mine,” Seres added. “The crown demands it.”
“I didn;t realise that the crown was so demanding,” said Rowan with a slight smile.
“It’s your fault for scaring me,” Seres sniffled in response.
“But only if you finish enough of your meal.”
“You know,” Tyris interrupted before Rowan could respond, “I never believed that I would see a member of the royal family in such casual conversation.”
“Well consider yourself privileged,” said Rowan a little too quickly as she started coughing on a piece of gammon.
“Here,” said Seres whilst handing Rowan a glass of water, “drink this.”
“Thanks,” Rowan replied as her coughing fit started to ease up.
“I swear you are trying to give us a heart attack,” Tyris laughed.
“It’s not funny,” Rowan objected.
“Oh, but it is, dear sister.”
Seres gave him a look in response. “I’m not laughing,” she said.
“It seems like I have at least one ally in these trying times,” sighed Rowan dramatically.
“And I appear to be outnumbered. Moving swiftly on.”
“The conversation was nearing a dead end so I thought we could just move on.”
“You can’t just run away from the conversation,” Rowan objected.
“There was nothing to run away from and we didn’t just come here to give you breakfast and see how you were doing.”
“That’s right!” Seres exclaimed. “We wanted to talk about your performance. I have so many questions.”
“As do I,” Tyris added,
“I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to answer; I was in some sort of trance.”
“It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”
“And probably unlike anything you will ever see again,” replied Rowan.
“I’m not surprised,” Seres interjected, “the Resonance from that performance was out of this world.”
“Your mother said something to that effect. What was it like?”
“Incredible,” Tyris answered while Seres said, “Breathtaking.”
“You managed to move and dance with untold martial grace for the better part of an hour…”
“… whilst harmonising every single emotion that you could draw upon.”
“When you say it like that.”
Hearing what they both had to say, Rowan knew it was true. Even if she couldn’t remember exactly what had happened, it was the only thing that could explain what she felt at the time. Which is to say, everything. It was also a solid answer for why she had collapsed and why her body ached so much. The more she thought about it, the more it both terrified her and filled her with wonder.
“I don’t think I want to try that again,” she said.
“Don’t worry, I wasn’t planning on asking you to,” Tyris replied.
“Nor I,” said Seres.
“We know that you probably don’t remember the details, but what did it feel like?”
“I’m not sure,” Rowan answered and she really wasn’t. Even from what she could recall it had felt like every single experience and emotion had flashed into her very being to fuel the dance. Part of her was scared that she had consumed everything. however the deeper she looked, the more apparent their lingering presence became. That was a small token of relief, but it was not enough to fully quash her nerves. She didn’t want to forget and even with the memories being fresh in her mind, she feared they would vanish in an instant.
Upon seeing that she was struggling, Seres gave Rowan a smile. “Take your time, Rowan. There’s no need to rush. Maybe eat some more while you think.”
“Thanks,” Rowan replied, taking a bite out of pastry. After a few moments of eating and collecting her thoughts in the comforting presence of Seres and her brother, she started speaking again. “A lot happened. It was all so overwhelming. But at the time, I wasn’t really processing it. Not consciously that is. At the same time it feels like all my feelings at the time were emblazoned on to my soul or something.The only other thing I can say is that I let instinct and Elan Fiir guide me. Whatever it was that I did, the way I moved, it was how I was meant to move. I don’t know why, but it felt right.”
“Did you feel another presence there with you?” asked Seres out of the blue.
“A what now?” Rowan replied.
“A presence,” answered Seres simply.
“I don’t think so,” said Rowan with a slight frown on her face.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m not sure what the relevance of the question is, Your Highness?” said Tyris, interrupting Seres.
“Stop talking and let me think,” Rowan complained. “Just before I passed out, I think I heard my Ma ’s voice.”
Tyris gave her a questioning look while Seres took it in her stride.After a moment, she started speaking. “I want you to listen to me, Rowan. And you, Tyris. This might be very important.”
“I think that your mother may be Soulforged with Elan Fiir.”
The two Naliir siblings looked at Seres and replied in unison. “Excuse me?”
“When you first touched the sword, Rowan, I saw the myriad ways it Resonated with you. The smaller Resonances were easy to explain considering what you have told me about the sword; they were the remnants of your ancestors whose ‘tears’ were forged into the blade. However I also saw two much larger Resonances amongst the sea of smaller ones. Alone neither one of them would make for a Soulforged weapon, but together they harmonise to form a gestalt that is capable of the feat. I don’t know how but that is the only explanation that I can think of.”
“I’m not sure I follow,” Rowan interjected.
“Well I’m doing my best to explain. Let’s see. So Soulforging binds a person’s soul to an object and imbues it with their essence and in some cases, their legend. That is to say that a person’s essence is shaped both by the individual and the perceptions of those around them. This lets the object and the user draw on that person’s essence. You told Tyris that Elan Fiir felt heavier or more massive when you were swinging it, right?”
Rowan nodded in response.
“Well I’m guessing that was because you were subconsciously channelling your mother’s weight or something and adding it to either yourself or the sword. You were probably doing the same with her strength and speed to some extent.”
“And the dancing?” Rowan asked.
Rowan gave Seres a sad look. “So it wasn’t really me then, was it?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You may as well have.”
“Stop, Rowan, and just listen to what I still have to say. The dead cannot override the living. If that dance had none of you in it, it would have been a mess. The skills of another can only add to our own and guide us. Plus, I’ve seen you fight and I could see it all in the way you moved. I firmly believe that that dance was the combination of your own experience and those that you were able to draw on and that is no small feat.”
“The princess is right, Rowan. Back when she was alive, I never once saw Mother move anything like that.”
“That’s a small comfort I guess. But there is still one last matter that pains me.”
“Go on,” Seres prompted.
“If it really is Ma, then that means she won’t ever be able to truly pass on, right?”
“I don’t think so,” Seres answered. “Remember what I said about neither of the Resonances being enough? That means that somehow, neither one was a complete essence so it’s possible that the remaining essence is enough to let what’s left of her soul materialise on the other side.”
Rowan looked at her doubtfully. “You don’t seem so sure…”
“Well this isn’t exactly a case with much in the way of precedence and I’ve not really had the chance to study Resonance these past few years apart from what they wanted me to know,” said Seres with some bite.
“Sorry,” said Rowan with a downcast look.
“No, sorry I shouldn’t have responded like that. I know this is a lot to take in and it all pretty much conjecture.”
“It will take more research,” Tyris mused.
“That’s a rather matter of fact way of looking at it,” said Rowan, trying to hide the notes of bitterness in her voice.
“It’s the only way to get answers.”
“He’s right unfortunately and you are the only one that can really do it. I’ll do what I can to help but I’ll need to learn more.”
“On that note, however, I’m still not sure how you heard your mother’s voice. The only people able to communicate with the other side outside of an eclipse are those with the Gift of the Spirit.”
“But you said that she isn’t on the other side,” Rowan countered.
Tyris shook his head. “It’s effectively the same thing,” he rebutted.
“There must be another bridge. Maybe the essence had the Gift?” pondered Seres.
“Hang on a second!” Rowan exclaimed suddenly, a light shining in her eyes.
“What is it, Rowan?” Tyris asked
“I think I know who the other person is!”
“That’s impossible,” replied Tyris with furrowed brows.
“Who’s Rina?” Seres asked.
“I thought your sister was called Tehri?”
“Well yeah, obviously. But I’m talking about my other sister.”
Rowan had said it as if it was a known fact which only made Seres more confused. “Other sister?” she asked.
“Rowan had a twin sister,” Tyris explained. “Unfortunately, due to some peculiarities with our family, Rina passed away at only a few months old.”
“Okay, that answers one of my questions. As for the other; why do you think she is the other essence?”
“Because I’ve spoken to her.”
“Excuse me?” said Tyris and Seres in unerring unison.
“Well it wasn’t speaking exactly, but after I Awakened she would occasionally speak to me when my emotions were really heightened but not so heightened that everything she said was practically landing on deaf ears. She said that she wasn’t complete and that’s why it was difficult for her to talk to me. And apparently I’m really bad at listening to within my soul so she kinda had to shout to get through to me at times.”
“That does explain why it sometimes looked like you were related to yourself,” Seres remarked.
“And I still don’t understand a thing,” added Tyris with a shake of his head.
“Well you don’t need to understand,” said Rowan with a pointed look before turning to Seres. “What do you mean I looked like I was related to myself?”
“Relational Resonance is aways super obvious, especially when it’s a blood relation or achieved through a blood tie ritual.”
“A what now?”
“It’s what people do when they get married or adopt.”
“It doesn’t do much beyond facilitating familial bonds but it is visible if you know what to look for.”
“And have the requisite eyes for seeing Resonance. The Mark of the Goddess isn’t exactly common, Seres.”
“I didn’t mean it like that, silly.”
“Well that’s new,” Tyris remarked.
“Shut up, Tyris!”
“I’m just saying that this is a surprisingly familial relationship.”
“Don’t mind her, Tyris. You’re not entirely wrong either; Rowan has been like a sister to me over the past five years.”
“It was the least I could do.”
“What she means is that she needed it too.”
Seres was right about that; Rowan wouldn’t have survived long without familial bonds. The more she thought about it the more it seemed like she and Seres were one step away from a blood tie.
“Well that’s good,” Tyris smiled. “However, I think we’ve meandered quite a bit with this conversation so it might be an idea to return to the topic at hand.”
“Aye, that we should” said Rowan in response. “What were we talking about again?”
“Elan Fiir,” Seres answered.
“Oh yeah. What about it?”
“Well I think we covered some of the stranger aspects of what you went through but it might be an idea to start from the beginning.”
“Like with the sword cut against that dummy?”
“Exactly. What amazed me with that was the speed, precision and power, but not the end result.”
“Why is that?”
“Well in the hands of a Naliir, Elan Fiir is an extremely sharp sword.”
“Sharp enough to cut metal?”
“Depends on the metal.”
“Steel?” suggested Rowan with an optimistic smile.
Tyrie laughed in response. “If it’s bad quality it might and that’s a very big if. I was being mostly facetious by saying it can cut through metal.”
Rowan looked down with disappointment at Tyris’ admissions.
“Let me explain,” Tyris added with the hope of covering his ass. “While Elan Fiir has several properties that steel does not, the only advantage that it has when it comes to biting into something is how sharp it is. It does however, have a rather unique property that makes it easier to cut the things that it can cut.”
“The blade has a variable friction coefficient so when you cut into something it glides right through it.”
“As if there was nothing there.”
“Wow!” remarked Seres. “When you add everything together, it sounds like it’s right out of a story.”
“You can say that again,” Rowan laughed.
“The story of it being forged is a legend in our family,” Tyris explained.
“I’d love to hear it sometime,” said Seres with a slight smile.
“I’ll tell it to you some other time,” Rowan promised. “Was there anything else that I should know about Elan Fiir or my performance?”
“Well you don’t need to worry about people stealing it and using it against you,” Tyris answered. “It may as well be a rather light blunt object when used by someone outside of the family. It also won’t cut you accidentally.”
“There was one other thing,” Seres added. “During the performance, the sword may have ignited.”
“I think it might serve as a conduit for your powers. A medium that you can channel them through. Though I’m guessing that not every emotion will have an effect that translates well. Oh gods, the idea of getting the impression that your sword is blushing at me is mortifying. Please keep it out of sight when Lady Alena is in the room.”
“Seres!” Rowan exclaimed, “My brother is right there.”
“Should I list the other people that you have the hots for then? Or maybe only the ones that might reciprocate?”
No words came from Rowan’s crimson face. Instead she dove into her covers and refused to move.
“I think that’s our cue to leave,” Tyris remarked, trying to stifle his laughter.
“And here I was thinking that some embarrassment would do her good.”
“I’m sure it will. In which case, maybe I should tell you some stories from her childhood.”
“I think I’d like that.”
The only response from Rowan came in the form of highly muffled thumping that had little impact against the soft mattress.
“Well let’s start with the legendary quest that Rowan went on with her two friends in search of a great prize…”
This time Rowan threw off the covers and screamed, “Get out!” in crimson embarrassment. Seres and her brother were all too happy to oblige, confident that their work had been done. The purpose of the work was a mystery to Rowan, but their smug expressions drove her crazy.
The next couple of days were spent following a doctor regimented plan to help get her ready for the ball. It was essential that she gained a little more weight and had enough stamina to last her through the night. Neither were going to be easy tasks to accomplish, especially in such a small time frame, but Seres had been adamant. However, in a show of solidarity, Seres was going through the same treatment.
Overall, the process left a lot to be desired, especially when it came to meals as they were the linchpin that held everything together. They were dense in nutritional value and enriched with ingredients that manipulated the metabolism in bizarre ways. Unfortunately, a lot of it tasted extremely unpleasant, which put a significant dampener on the more appealing dishes. Rowan likened the worst of it to an over-ripe sourgrape mixed with highly pungent blood cheese and fermented drakiir liver.
“No wonder this isn’t marketed as a quick weight fix,” Rowan groaned after one such meal.
“I’m pretty sure I can feel my body digesting the food and distributing me.”
“You’re telling me! My boobs feel like they’ve doubled in size!”
“That isn’t exactly an impressive feat,” replied Seres in a mock tone.
Rowan immediately gave her a look. “Wow, rude!”
After a second or two of them staring at each other, then burst into laughter.
When they calmed down, Rowan took on a more serious tone. “We must have gained a stone between us.”
“Probably. I’m just glad we don’t need to do this tomorrow.”
“Well we still have the Muscular Resonance Therapy Later.”
“And dance lessons after that. I know your mother taught you some ballroom dances but neither of us have really had the chance to practice any of that.”
“Don’t remind me,” sighed Rowan.
“And after our baths we need to get measured and fitted for our dresses.”
“Do we really need to stand around for hours in our underwear for that?”
“Stop complaining. The dressmakers are already working overtime to make sure we are ready so we can at least give them the courtesy of putting up with the discomfort while they work their magic.”
“Fine,” Rowan huffed with a roll of her eyes. “At least we’ll get some nice clothes from it.”
“That we will,” Seres smiled. “Though I think it will take more than a few hours to get a reasonably sized wardrobe.”
“At least we actually have some variety now.”
The rest of their day continued much as they had discussed and they were finally free from their trials and tribulations. Rowan fell into a deep sleep that night; one filled with extremely vivid dreams. She dreamt of being reunited with Tehri. It was a happy dream filled with far too many flowers. Part of her felt that it was almost depressingly idyllic. And that was all ignoring mind’s interpretation of a grown-up version of Tehri. With absolutely no reference for how how she might have changed, her mind created an uncanny fusion of herself and Tehri scaled up to the right height without sense for proper relative proportions. What made it worse is that Rowan could still recognise it as Tehri. She also knew how much it would offend Tehri’s artistic sensibilities; it was already offending Rowan’s and she was the wrong kind of artist.
She also went through several dream sequences where she alternated between captivity and enacting her vengeance on faceless men and women in regal clothing. For every lord she disemboweled she was back in the torture room. For every lady she cut down she relived Anri’s final moments. Then it all came to a head as the events started to coalesce and happen simultaneously while still being paradoxically distinct.
Once again her dreams shifted; this time to a brighter future and notably more imminent future. She stood in the middle of an impossibly large ballroom wearing an incredibly beautiful and impractical dress that may have weighed as much as she did. She danced what felt like overly stuffy and formal court dances that were strangely nothing like any of the ones that she had ever learned. Instead they felt considerably like the dances from some of the stories she had read when she was younger where the author didn’t really know how to describe a dance properly and instead just explained the steps. Feeling overly restricted by the formality, Rowan ripped off her dress to reveal something much more sensible and embraced the freedom to move as she so desired. With each passing moment she pulled someone new in her rhythm. By the end of it she was doing much, much more than just dancing. That is to say that she was dancing in the sheets. Her partner kept changing and on occasion she found herself experimenting with multiple partners at the same time. She explored their bodies and they explored hers. Intimately.
As the dream edged towards the peak, Rowan woke up.
Author’s Notes: Hello everyone. Before I go into more jovial matters and my own thoughts on this chapter I feel I need to be serious for a moment. Simply put, I’ve just been told that I need to have surgery to resolve an issue that won’t fix itself. I’ve been told that it likely isn’t major but it will be under general anaesthetic. This is conjunction with returning to work is why this chapter was delayed which sucks because it happened immediately after my mental health break when I said things will be returning to normal for which I’m really sorry. I’m going to do my best but I want you to all understand the possibility that I may miss an update or two because of surgery. Hopefully it will only impact my non-writing work, but I can’t promise anything.
On to the more jovial aspects and chapter discussions. I had a fair bit of fun with this chapter with it being a follow-up to the big Elan Fiir showcase. For those that don’t know, which is most of you, Elan Fiir is one of the first things I created in regards to the story besides the basis for Rowan and the magic system. It is also the story’s namesake in the language that I’ve been working on and off for the past few years now as Elan Fiir translates as Ardent Tears. I’m also looking forward to writing what comes next.
P.s. 5 foot tall girls should not work in warehouses yet here I am. The company has been great but the work is awful.