Chapter 48: Seven Stars
Back inside the room were Nisha had received the robe, the high priest was currently staring at her with wonder in his eyes.
Annabelle and Lydia were much less reserved, and hugged their younger sister as tears streamed from their eyes, “You’re alright now, Nisha? Tell me that everything’s okay now again!”
Placing her hand on the silver and golden seven pointed star where Nisha’s wound had been, Lydia was only rewarded with the soothing feeling of smooth skin beneath the fibers, not even a scar remaining.
“I was so worried all this time … but I didn’t want show it to you. You were the one injured. I’m so glad.”
Moved by the honest concern of the two older girls, Nisha couldn’t help but shed tears as well.
While the three had their moment, Hale approached High Priest Roland, saluting again — this time completely serious. “I thank you for the wonderful healing, Ser High Priest. If I can do anything, anything at all, to repay you for this favor, don’t hesitate …”
Without giving the lance corporal a chance to finish, the old man waved his hand, indicating for her to stop, “You don’t have to thank me, it wasn’t me who healed your friend. Lord [Soleil] himself showed her his grace. The star on her robe is his sign, and his blessing.”
Blessing? What’s that?
“There isn’t anything to repay either. The God gives His gifts freely, without expecting anything in return. However you are more than welcome to donate to the temple, as the money is used to keep our orphanage running. It’s in one of the wings behind the main hall, and is run by charity and a small grant from the kingdom.”
Without much fuss, Hale opened her pouch and directly took out three shiny gold coins, attempting to hand them to the priest directly.
“Before you say anything, let me tell you that I insist. Even if it’s too much.” Her position as an officer in the military worked out here, as she didn’t yield under the gaze that seemed to pierce her.
In the end the white robed old man had no choice but to accept the coins, “Our Lord thanks you for showing this much generosity.”
The talk about the being that Nisha had seen in the main hall drew the elvish girl from the hands of her sister, as she thought back to the moment when it had opened its eyes and stared at her for a second. Like a giant mountain pressing down on me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt any instinctual fear as much as I did in that moment.
Even now, she was ready to bolt if the entity noticed her again. However, it wasn’t only fear that controlled her. As much as she was smaller than [Soleil] right now, she also felt the challenge as the beastly part of her cautioned against another, stronger beast, which she might need to overcome one day. The thought of piercing the flesh of such a creature, when his feathers alone held so much power, almost made her drool.
“Golden eyes … so full of light.”
Involuntarily a sentence escaped her, which shouldn’t have been of any importance. Despite that, the head of High Priest Roland snapped around so fast that anyone in the room could almost hear his old bones snapping.
“What did you say just now, Nisha? Golden eyes made of light? Could it be … you’re able to see Lord [Soleil]? Did you seen him during the healing? Or maybe a vision?” Hesitating for a moment, the dragon threw a meaningful look to her sisters, who also looked slightly uncomfortable, yet in the end they couldn’t keep this from the one that healed their sister.
“Yes, Mister Roland. I can see him floating above the altar. He just opened his eyes for a moment when I was healed, which scared me for a second, so I didn’t say anything. Why…?”
Her question trailed off as the man inspected her closely once against, first starry eyed like he’d received a huge shock, then with a broad smile on his face.
“Nisha, call him High Priest. You have to show him the proper respect when talking to him.” Annabelle took the short pause in their conversation to chastise her pupil for forgetting her manners again, but the man in question calmed her down with a hand gesture.
“No, I don’t mind it. But maybe, I should start calling her Lady Nisha instead.”
Shocked gazes all around incited him to explain this more clearly, the blessed expression on his face never wavering.
“To know that our god is truly watching over us, after all these years in His service – I can’t even begin to tell you how much that means to me. Every priest prays several times a day to him … but when you see the things that happen here while the scriptures promised us protection from the evil … you begin to develop doubts. I’m the High Priest; I’ve served the longest time out of all our brothers and sisters here, and I can only show my faith by letting it overcome the doubt since I’m unable to see him. However the ‘golden eyes’ description matches the one in our scriptures, causing me to think that He had shown himself to Nisha for a moment, or sent her a vision — but to think that He is in these very walls…. I can never thank you enough for this gift, for the faith and for the trust you showed me by telling me. Thank you.” His bowed head was not the one of a man with high social status brought down by defeat — it was a sincere sign of gratitude from a simple priest, a distinction that appeared to be very important to Nisha.
Clamoring sounds were faintly discernible, not only for the sensitive dragon with her keen senses, but also the others in the room, as voices called out for a ‘blessed one’. The High Priest sighed and raised his head, not too shocked by the development.
“You must understand that miracles like this don’t happen very often. The last time the god personally intervened happened even before I took on this position. My predecessor told me about it while I learned from him. A flock of believers was to be expected after news of the wonder spread. To avoid having you go through that, we can bring you out from the back, where there’s a separate gate for the priests and residents.”
“What if we came in a carriage?”
With Lydia’s quick question, the old man pondered for a moment with a serious expression. “I can arrange for a priest to keep an eye out for the carriage, and he’ll direct it to the back entrance where he’ll then fetch you, if that works for you. Nevertheless I would like to ask for one more moment of your time. Do you happen to know if you possess the light attribute?” Directing the question at the dragon who was elated to have avoided dredging through a mass of people that were out to catch sight of her, the question caught her off guard.
Grandfather always told me to reveal as little as possible of my abilities. Use my skills, yes, but never give away the secrets behind them. Can I trust Roland? I already told him about my [Spirit Sight] after all.
“No, she hasn’t obtained a guild card yet, Ser. We lived in the countryside, and haven’t been to the guild yet.” Proving her quick wit and talent at handling difficult situations, Lydia rushed to Nisha’s rescue again.
“I see. If you don’t mind, Nisha, would you visit a certain place with me and your friends? Before the guild discovered a method to assess the magical and physical attributes of an aspiring mage or warrior more conveniently, the church was the place to go for identifying the talents inside of anyone that wished to be tested. Our method doesn’t measure as accurately, but it shows the favor of the gods instead. Is it okay if you visit the shrine with me?” His tone made it clear that this was a request, not something she had to do. If she refused there would likely be no repercussions. The reasonable thing would be to refuse and wait for the carriage… There’s no way around this now. I’m curious as to what’s hidden in this temple.
“If my friend and my sisters can come too, then I think it’s alright.”
Both Annabelle and Lydia sighed heavily, they already knew there was no way their little sister would miss out on this, while Hale only raised an eyebrow as they trotted behind the high priest, who’d rummaged an old key out of the same closet the dragon’s robe had come from.
When Nisha asked if she should return the garment now that the silver and golden star was on it, Roland simply said that she could keep it, as it was also a gift from his god.
Quickly the small group arrived in an underground hallway, the stairway rusted from age, and the dust of many years tickling everyone’s noses. The elven girl detected another scent mixed in with the dust, although she was unable to match it with anything she knew.
During their way towards their goal, they saw a large iron door at the end of the hallway while the priest continued his explanation.
“The [Ceremony of Choosing] has been carried out in the past. Five years after being born, each child would come to the temple and walk down this path with a priest after paying respect to the gods in the different halls. These are the catacombs of the temple, where we put our priests to rest once they departed from the world of living.
It’s usually forbidden for anyone to be down here, the only exception was the ceremony.”
That explains the smell. Dead bodies.
Opening the door with the rusty key, the priest had to give it a few heavy pushes, and lastly required Hale’s assistance, to pry open the resisting hinges.
A room filled with mystical runes as well as seven large crystal balls floating in a pillar of mana which corresponded to the symbols carved into the crystals was revealed, all situated around a pedestal with a colorful basin atop a pedestal in the middle of the room.
Staring in awe, the next words of the priest reverberated all the louder in the empty halls, “The rite itself is fairly easy. By offering a small drop of blood, and dropping it into the bowl, the gods look into the very essence of your being and reveal your elemental alignment, even if no one can say whether it’s a talent for training your aura, or for cultivating your mana. Go ahead, you’ve already received [Soleil]’s blessing, therefore I’m sure you have great talent.”
Allowing her to go into the room, the others waited at the entrance area — a small spot not covered by the indecipherable runes.
Learning more about how the gods worshipped in this place seemed like a good idea to Nisha, as she quickly inspected the bowl that was quite conveniently placed in a small elevation to match her height, she found the backside of the basin sharpened to a dangerous edge with various old traces of brown dried blood on it.
Sliding her left index finger over the razor sharp metal, a new crimson trickle dissolved the old blood, and coalesced in the deepest part — shimmering like a black mirror shone upon with moonlight.
For a moment nothing happened.
Then, a second picture seemingly shifted over Nisha’s view. Without her doing, the scenery of her [Soul Space] overlapped with reality, as she was simultaneously in the dark catacombs, as well as in the meadow where she stored her treasures.
The dancing lights that had appeared the last time when Nisha and Eldrin were attacked by the [Bloody World Hellhound] and the noble brothers reappeared out of thin air, quickly consolidating into three great black, red, and grey orbs, along with four smaller blue, yellow, green, and white ones.
Their slow dance accelerated faster and faster, until it was one solid mass of glistening energy, mixing the colors and creating new patterns.
The dark chamber, on the other hand started to light up, as branches of light growing from the pedestal the basin was situated on filled the runes with shining mana and aura, aiming for the seven glowing pillars at the walls.
Right now, neither the dancing stars inside her space, nor the branches of energy growing around her were strangers to the dragon. Both of them were old friends that had always been by her side.
The orbs of elemental energy inside her space had never truly left her after she’d started living in the hunting grounds, they’d simply thinned out and filled the [Soul Space].
Now that she needed them, they returned to supply the basin with a true ocean of both aura and mana, creating the growing branches of rainbow light, and spinning a complicated web to bind every single rune in this room into a complicated spell, unseen to the naked eye, but a wonder to behold for the elvish girl with her special sight.
Even to her untrained eyes the spell surpassed everything she had seen so far, reshaping the definition of the word ‘spell’ that she knew.
Weaving together mana and aura to form a magical construct with a physical body, the elvish girl was lost in the spell, not noticing the passage of time and simply staring at the mystery in front of her, in a wonderful way connected to her and yet not at the same time.
Through this event she also understood the true purpose of the seven pillars in the room; not only did they serve as a power source for the orbs to reveal the gifts of those that offered their blood in the basin, the pillars of energy also caught the copious amounts of elemental mana and energy the beings in each hall shed.
Where the energy went, and what it was needed for, Nisha had no idea.
As sudden as the happening started, it also ended.
Right when the unique spell in the chamber seemed as if it couldn’t grow anymore, or get any brighter, the runes absorbed the spell, painting the chamber in a new set of symbols, albeit the dragon couldn’t read these either.
The light receded, following which the branches of light started to fade, and it gathered inside the orbs, starting to light them up.
With the spell finished, the seven stars inside Nisha’s [Soul Space] slowly dissipated, however she also had a stronger connection to them now, and was able to feel their condition.
Having spent much of the energy they’d accumulated over a year, the elvish girl wouldn’t be able to call upon them anytime soon again.
The meadow slowly cleared from her sight, the task of the orbs accomplished and not needed anymore.
Drawn into the beauty of the spell, the dragon didn’t notice that her friend, the high priest, and her sisters had neither moved nor shown any reaction when the spell started, and that only now did they show their surprise at the glowing orbs.
“That’s our sis!”
“What does that mean?”
“Never would I have thought …”
Through the mix of reactions, the dragon stood proudly on the pedestal, her dark smoke already closing the wound on her index finger.
While she didn’t know that besides her no one saw the spell unfold, getting praised by her loved ones still felt great.
She snuggled herself between Annabelle and Lydia back in the spectator area, looking proudly at the seven orbs, and waiting for High Priest Roland to announce the results.