Author’s Note: This is the third and final precursor chapter for Gold Heart, Silver Chain. If you haven’t read the first one, start here.
Genres (so far within the totality of the universe): Romance, Slice-of-Life, Drama, Fantasy.
Tags (so far within the totality of the universe): F/F, M/F, Mature Sensual Content, Mild Fantasy Violence.
Totality Rating: This serialized content is “Mature” due to romantic overtures between adult women and use of hard language (cursing/swearing). No severe warnings currently apply to this fiction. Warnings will be added on an as needed basis.
The Advar were a noble and proud race, clinging heavily to their elemental alignments and traditions held within them. Every year, their most well-respected leaders gathered in select locations to discuss matters of import. That of course, Blagden could do… and he did it very well. As the leader of shadow aligned Advar, he took his role very seriously. Then again all of the elemental leaders were long lived, sensible people… they wouldn’t continue to hold their positions if they weren’t.
He sired many offspring in his time, but none quite as willful as Blair. She was a force to reckon with on occasion. A true and honest child of shadow’s element, raised so keenly within its influence. He often worried about decisions she made. As an adult perhaps she showcased those influences just a bit too openly. Whenever she wanted something, she insisted on attaining it.
“Blair, I wish you’d reconsider. I still don’t think this is the best idea you’ve ever had,” he noted with an air of dry annoyance. “In fact, I’m concerned it could be one of the worst.”
Blowing a small puff of air through her nose, Blair rubbed her hands together nervously. A big decision was in front of her. She needed to make the right choice. “I don’t know about that. I’ve certainly had worse ones over the years.”
“That would be entirely debatable.”
“Then debate elsewhere later and be of use to me now…”
Kneeling down in the tall grass, she gazed at the litter of pups scampering around. Inspecting each of them, she needed to pick the right one. Most of them seemed rambunctious, and she disregarded them immediately. Two of them caught her eye, though.
“I don’t know how you expect me to be of help… I don’t even agree with this nonsense.”
“Well, which one do you think Valda would have the preference for?” Blair asked. One of the young males seemed friendly enough, and a timid female hid in the tall grass. “That little one seems gentle, but that bigger male over there would be a better protector when he gets older. He might be too hard for Valda to handle, though.”
Blair’s father pinched the bridge of his nose. His daughter had very likely lost her mind. He knelt down too, eyeing them. “Honestly, I’d think she wouldn’t be particularly fond of any of them, given what they are. I’d think they’d all be too difficult for her to handle. These are no run-of-the-mill dire wolves, Blair.”
The wolf pups were no longer mortal, after all. They were beasts tainted by the shadow, same as the mother that had whelped them. This particular pack of wolves were hardly the sort of animals he’d even consider for a Cadfan woman. In a way, they were unnatural, entirely rabid when left to their own devices away from a shadow Advar’s influence.
“I decided that it should be an animal to require my influence as well. It will ensure Valda’s proximity to me that way,” Blair said trailing off. As she looked up to her father with an almost imperceptible scowl on her face, she took a moment to second guess her plan. Then she tossed the concern aside. “I’ve got to get her some sort of betrothal animal, that’s the Cadfan way…”
“Yet, it is not our way,” he said, turning to look at her.
Blair tensed, swallowing hard. “You’re damn right it isn’t,” she hissed out from under her breath. “If I was doing things our way, I wouldn’t have any need to jump through these hoops to begin with. Valda would be at my side already. I’d have no need to appease Cadfan whims.”
“No need, hmm?” He grumbled, knowing that was far from the truth. His own beloved wife had been a mere Cadfan mortal at one time. The near menagerie that woman kept on hand spanned from birds to bears as a result. She rescued and collected animals of shadow, and these pups were now part of that ever growing collection. “If you insist so highly, why not capture some sort of normal creature from the forest? A meek little rabbit or squirrel, perhaps. Something small and cute.”
“That would not protect her…” Blair replied as the runt of the litter, the tiny female she had her eyes upon, crept closer to her. The small wolf pup sniffed the air as it continued to crouch along in the grass.
“If protection is truly of a concern for you, why not something gentle yet robust? An elephant, perhaps.”
“I’m going to give Valda an animal of the shadow as a betrothal gift, and that’s the way it is… we don’t have an elephant to offer, and I’m not about to go out just to find one.”
“If it must be of our ilk, something easier to contain might be a better idea.” Blagden said to her, but really he felt it was beneath his daughter to stoop to such a tradition. It was nothing like their own.
“I refuse to offer something too weak,” Blair said stubbornly. “I’d give her one of the lion cubs from the pride I’ve been breeding. They’re older though. I doubt they would bond well with her. Hmm, but if a wolf is unfavorable, perhaps a serpent of some nature would please her? A few of the snake eggs have yet to hatch. They’re fairly exotic and intimidating too. It would make a statement.”
“Go with the pup,” the man deadpanned quickly. “At least these ones have been tamed down.”
“That was my thought,” Blair said, plucking a small female she had been considering at length. It was a cute little ball of fluff, dark essence flowing from an equally black coat. Gunmetal eyes looked up to her, and a passive blink sealed the deal. Blair was sure of it. “This is the one, I’d say she would probably be fairly obedient.”
He nodded at that. When raised well, even the wolves of the shadow were little more than overgrown lap dogs, unlike the lions Blair favored. Even the females were hard-headed, demanding a firm hand, let alone the males and their vicious temperaments. It was a small miracle that they favored Blair at all. Animals tainted by the shadows themselves could be foul tempered by nature.
“If you must pick a creature tainted by shadow, the wolves at least tend to be loyal, they’re still canninies, after all…” he said, although he still felt unsure. “I do have that colt we picked up a few months back, you know. You might consider him.”
“No, a horse is too typical, and he’s not a species bred for war. This pup would be a majestic choice, Cadfan do tend to favor creatures known for their loyalty and servitude. I think Valda would do well with her… she seems to like cananines, her sister keeps plenty of them herself.”
“Do you know offhand if Azar gave Varani an animal?”
“Azar was given an animal. Varani was the one to issue the proposal, so she was the one to gift the animal,” Blar said, and truly she envied her cousin’s gift. “Did you know that crazy woman traveled all the way to the Volcanic Circle just to ask Grace of Flame for a fox litter tainted by fire?”
“She did what?!”
“You heard me…” Blair grumbled, her cousin was a lucky woman. She had no doubt in her mind about that. “Varani knew someone who uses foxes and found out Azar found them adorable. She commissioned an entire litter for Azar as a result. She took them to the Grace of Flame personally and asked her to taint them. Then she presented the entire litter to Azar as the betrothal gift. She didn’t end up with one fox, she was given five…”
“And I suspect that is what provoked this whim of yours?” He asked softly.
Frankly, it was always a whim when it came to Blair. He recalled a time when she was still so young, with much to learn about the ways of the world. Even back then, she had been the stubborn sort. How old had she been back then? He couldn’t quite remember.
Blair had been full of piss and vinegar back then.
“Settle down, girls… settle down… it’s time to go to sleep.”
“But I’m not sleepy, Dad!”
“Me either, Uncle Blagden!”
“We’ve been over this, Blair. Get in the bed at the very least,” he demanded, plucking up his wayward offspring. With three long strides he plopped her atop her sleeping cot. “If you’re looking for a way to pass the time, there’s better ways to do so at the midnight hour. Now, get under the blankets and I’ll spin a tale or two… Azar, you too… get into that cot before I put you there personally.”
“My dad lets me stay up late,” she retorted.
Blagden gave his niece a stern gaze in return. “Any later and you’d be watching the sun start to rise. Your father entrusted you to my care for now, you’ll follow my directions. Now, into bed.”
The young fire bound Advar rolled her eyes petulantly. “Okay… okay…”
“Oh, now stop pouting,” he said grumbling under his breath. “I have just the story for this.”
“What one, Dad?” Blair asked.
“If you sit still and remain quiet, I’ll tell you,” he said to his daughter pointedly.
Blair’s brilliant sugar-gray eyes were colored just like his own. Her dark, pitch black hair came from her mother. She had his tenacity, and her mother’s serpentine wit. He supposed it would suit her well in life, but for now his little girl was just that… a little girl.
The man sat down on the side of the bed, one hand lifting to his shortly trimmed beard. “Hmm, let’s see now. It occurs to me that I haven’t told you how we came to be. You know, it is said by those of our kind that five lesser elemental beings were exiled, cast away from their effervescent realm…”
“Really?” Blair asked, as she pulled a pillow into her lap and held onto it.
“Why, yes, of course,” he said mindly. “You see, Grace of Light was a beautiful soul… but back then she was too pious, too forgiving, and too merciful. She was unable to govern mortals with a firm judiciousness when they strayed from her guidance… frankly even these days she lacks a firm hand, you might consider that to be a quirk of hers.”
“That sounds dumb…” Azar said to him.
“Well, maybe it is,” he said. “Now, hush and let me finish, agreed?”
When they nodded, he did too. Clearing his throat as he began once more. “Grace of Shadow, Grace of Light’s older and capricious brother, was too sly and too cunning. He refused to govern fairly at all… now, as for Flame, she was hot tempered, tossed out for her willful destruction at every turn. She was the eldest of the triplicate forces, she was also the most unrestrained.”
“And that’s why we’re not allowed to just burn stuff without a good reason,” Azar added excitedly. “I know that part… Grace of Flame always says she worked hard to make Basa, and she’ll be super mad at us if we mess it up.”
“Indeed, anyway as the story goes, Flame was not the only one of her family to be cast out.Grace of Liquid, the youngest of the triplicate forces, had been deemed a hypocrite of the highest order. He could be as uncontrolled and destructive as his sister, Flame. Yet he was also as steadfast as his brother, Land. He could not choose between solidified restraint or unmitigated havoc. It was his worst trait.”
“Why couldn’t he just pick one?” Blair asked, clutching at the bed sheets.
“Because he was stupid.” Azar said to her.
“If he was stupid, Flame was too…” Blair said to her.
“Flame was not stupid, she was super cool!” Azar shot back.
“Enough of that, now.” Blagden demanded, looking at the two of them. Darker natures touched upon their personalities, and he couldn’t allow those natures to take hold. He sighed at length then, the reason for this tale pinching his brow. “They were all very short-sighted, and that is a fact. There was only one outcast that wasn’t foolish at all. Grace of Land, the steadfast middling child of the triplicate forces was very well-liked. However, he defended his siblings until the bitter end, and in doing so, he also paid the price…”
At that, Blagden laid back on the small cot between the girls, and looked up to the top of the thick leather tent. He placed one arm around each of them, pulling them close. “With no home to welcome them, they wandered the endless cosmos and mortal lands alike. One day, they were lucky. A mortal man befriended them, teaching them all about the struggles of a mortal’s life. Inspired by this, they aligned with the man who was not godlike at all. These elements promised him that he too could be made into an entity like themselves, if only he wanted for it…”
Blair nodded, biting her lower lip. “And he said yes, right Dad?”
“Yes, he agreed to go with them wholeheartedly. Together, the six of them left for the deepest corner of the cosmos they could find. Then they made these lands and named them, Basa… but they weren’t done yet. The five outcasts had become six now, and that just wouldn’t do… a mere mortal could not stand to govern these lands without something more.”
“So they each gave him some of their powers…” Azar said with a smile.
“That’s right, Azar… they gave him a fraction elemental essence, so that he could stand among them as greater a man than the societies they intended to build. Then, they made the mortal peoples and creatures to live among these lands. The gentle exiles wanted a people of their image, and so the Aasa were born. The capricious exiles gave rise to the Cadfan. They governed this way for a short time, and a few setbacks aside, they considered their creation a great success.”
“But, they weren’t perfect,” Azar said. “My dad says that because they were lesser beings, they made a lot of mistakes. A lot of the problems we have now are because of those mistakes.”
Blair bit her lip at that. “They’re rulers… they have to be perfect.”
“They’re far from it, but that is a lesson for another day,” Blagden replied with a soft smile as he looked to his daughter and his niece fondly. “Sadly, as all mortal men do, their dearest friend died.”
“He died?!” Blair cried out.
“Yes, he did…” Blagden murmured gently. “Bereaved as they were, they decided there was only one thing to do… they each set out to make a person they believed to be in his likeness. However, none of them could completely rekindle his image.”
“Shadow was mad about that, wasn’t he?” Azar asked. “I know Flame was really mad.”
“They were all a little angry, yes… but what they soon realized was that none of them could hope to replicate their dearest friend. He had learned their ways, just as they had learned his… so, they did what he would have done. They set those creations free to walk the lands, named after their dear mortal friend Advar… we are as varied as our creators intended, failed attempts of attaining his image. That is why when we pass on, we return to our element, fated to be reborn…”
Where had the time gone? How did Blair go from a child so small, to a woman ready to be married off? It seemed so incredibly impossible. It always did. The flow of time was not something so easy to measure by the sun and moon. Blagden didn’t care to do that. Rather, he measured the passing time in the changing seasons.
He flicked his gaze over to the woman carrying the small pup back to their section of the camp. The tiny shadow covered creature was cute enough for now. Yet, one day, it would grow into a majestic wolf of the element it harbored. A fierce and deadly beast. The pup was entirely unaware of her newfound fate as a glow covered both the small creature and the woman holding her.
As their souls joined, the act ensured the pup’s placidity and loyalty.
Still, only an Arvad could bind to such a creature changed by the elements this way. Blagden still wondered if it was the right decision. He doubted that Blair was aware of her own fate, or what rested ahead upon the path she wished to take.
“Be mindful, Blair,” he said to her gently as they walked along the campsite. “Valda has a lot to learn about our ways. If you do intend to marry her, it will be your job to impart the lessons required. A creature tainted by shadow will always be prone to the shadow, you had best make that known to her. You wouldn’t want her to get hurt.”
“I’m aware of that… and I will make sure that she won’t come to harm.” Blair replied, holding the pup just a little closer to her chest as she sat down at their own fire. “I’ll teach Valda everything there is to know, and I’ll be sure that she doesn’t have a want for anything… she’ll be pleased at my side, Father. It would be beneath me if she wasn’t.”
At that, he merely sighed. “Do not allow your pride to consume you… nor your capriciousness…”
End of Precursor…
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