3.16 The Next Azora

Location: Arbola Forest
Timeline: Sixth Age, 46th year, Summer to Autumn

It was another hot day in Arbola Forest as Nathily walked along a woodland path – accompanied by her pine owl Master Hoobab. In the past year and a half, the elfess had gone from avid history student – eager to drink up every last bit of information about what it meant to be an Azora – to forgoing that path and returning back to life with her friends, to now once again finding a willingness to face her destiny.

In the beginning, she’d found solace with her step-mother Fara and her grandfather Dallegheri. But with Fara so dead-set on Nathily becoming an Azora and with Dallegheri (and Rian) seeming to be so against it, the young elfess was caught in the middle. Unable to talk to any of her girlfriends about her unique situation, Nathily found herself more and more seeking the peace of the Forest.

It all seemed like a dream – The Council’s meetings continued with no end in sight and Nathily found herself alone. She was more than willing to let the elders “decide,” although Fara had repeatedly assured her that there was no real “decision” for them to make – for as her stepmother reminded her, “When a goddess commands, let no one deny her authority! “

As she hiked through the forest, Nathily listened to the sounds of nature. Like all members of her race, Nathily had a special bond with the animals that shared her haven home. By far her favorite was the owl Hoobab, and hardly a day passed when she didn’t confide in her wise listener. Such was the case today too.

“Master Hoobab, I need your advice…”

“Hoooot,” came the reply from the bird. “Hoooot, Naaathiiillleee.”

“I don’t know what to do. Will my destiny ever arrive?” And the elfess went on her describe her feelings of angst over her uncertain future.

When her conversation with friend was over, it seemed that his wisdom was just the medicine of the mind that Nathily needed. Thinking clearly again for the first time in months, Nathily found that she was again willing to accept Alyssa’s wishes for her destiny. And furthermore, she decided to make a change – in fact a very big change, for the elfess opted to take her counselor’s advice by altering her appearance.

For as Master Hoobab said, “if you want to beeee an Azora, then you must feeeeel like one, and you can only doooo that when you looooook the part tooooo.” 

When Nathily returned home, she decided to trade in her lovely flowing robes for a set of simple leathers – a jerkin and breeks that she sewed for herself while alone in her room during the next few nights.

Once her new attired was ready, she made an even bigger change of appearance – intending to cut her hair short too – yet this task proved more difficult. The first night she spent peering into the looking glass. The next evening was the same. While her mind was willing to make the cut, her body was not. For Nathily’s golden locks were beautiful beyond compare and even the elfess was in love with the sight of them.

It was not until the third night, with knife in hand again, that Nathily finally found it within herself to touch the blade to her hair. And then, for the first time in her life, Nathily did cut her golden locks! 

The young elfesses cried as her flowing yellow waves fell to the floor around her. When the ordeal was finally over, where her hair had once hung down to the small of her back, instead Nathily’s locks now barely touched the top of her neck, and while her hair shimmered still, the elfess knew her outer beauty would never be the same.

As she beheld herself in the mirror, Nathily felt the loss of a precious gift – one that she knew she COULD get back, but that she promised to herself that she never WOULD – for such was the sacrifice required of her if she wanted to be an Azora.

Nathily cried herself to sleep that night, struggling once again to accept her unique, yet un-asked-for destiny. 

When she awoke the next morning and realized from the sight of her hair all over the floor that last night was not a dream, Nathily had no choice but to accept her situation. After donning her leathers, she picked up a leaf-green cord from her vanity and she used it to tie her hair – in truth the cord wasn’t necessary, but the elfess allowed herself that small vanity.

There is no more time for me to avoid the wishes of my Goddess, she thought. If that means that I need to show The Council that I am serious about my training, then I will do it. I am willing to forgo the pleasures of the mirror, for I know it’s what’s inside that counts.

Yet, in spite of her changes, Nathily was still beautiful, and no matter what she did to alter her appearance, she remained one of the most attractive Amorae in Arbola. In fact, when she walked among her friends in Center Vale on the day of her revelation, she found that now that she no longer wore the standard robes of her peers, she stood out even more – much to the delight of the Amorosi males gathered around and the dismay of her Amorae friends who shot jealous glances her way. Worse yet, she never made it to The Great Green Hall to confront The Council – for her embarrassment took hold.

Frustrated that her change did not go as planned, Nathily felt even more out of place and quickly returned home. When Rian, Fara, and Dallegheri came by after hearing the talk of the town, all were shocked to see that the elfess had taken such steps without first consulting them. When they tried to talk to her about it, Nathily got so angry that she screamed and ran off to the forests to be alone once more. 

“What can I do but wait?” Nathily cried to her friendly owl. “Wait. Wait. Wait.”

“Hooooot.” Hoobab replied. “Hoooot.”

Patience was the name of the game for Nathily as the council met all through the summer of the 46th year. For whatever reason, Arbola Council could not seem to put the matter to rest and yet no end seemed in sight.

Until finally, on the last day of summer, a small bird flew in through a window in the great hall. As the Amorosi were a nature loving people, animals in their homes and halls were nothing new.  In fact, on this day there were no less than fifteen other birds flittering among the rafters, two raccoons nosing over something in a corner, and even a young brown bear lounging in one of the divans after he had just obviously been fed by one of the cooks. None of these creatures seemed to care a wit for what the elves were discussing in the center of the room, the newly arrived bird – a little blue jay – immediately seemed to take an interest in the proceedings. 

The jay had taken up a station close to the action, and was in fact perched upon the high back of the Regent’s chair – where it remained there without so much as a chirp.  As the talks continued, various council members began to get the feeling that the inquisitive bird, with its beautiful blue plumage and shiny white underbelly, was paying close attention to what was being said, and just who was saying what! Even Rian felt as if a presence were looking over his shoulder – much to his discomfort.

The jay’s interest in the affair was highly peculiar. Usually when the elves communicated with birds, the latter spoke to the Amorosi about bird-related issues — like nest-building, the joys of flying, which insects and worms were the tastiest morsels, and if the elf being conversed with have recently seen any of these creatures so the bird could go “talk” with them. Birds, for the most part, were not interested in the worldly affairs of the Amorosi; and the matter of Nathily’s training was just such a thing. 

Why then did this crested little bird seem so interested? Rian couldn’t help but wonder.

The more the jay remained on his chair, the more the regent lost his train of thought. It didn’t help matters that Fara, his soul mate, had decided to show up again and as he looked at her, Rian noted that his partner seemed not only as relaxed as ever, but that she was somehow enjoying this turn of events.

From the way she fidgets, she looks about to burst with laughter. Rian frowned.

“Are you all right, Regent?” Adarius asked when Rian didn’t reply to a direct question.

Embarrassed that he was caught not paying attention, Rian stammered to reply.

Yet it was the jay which took the spotlight off the flustered elf-lord.

“My people, hear me well,” A voice was heard from the bird as it bobbed it’s head up and down and its wings spread open.

Shockingly, the creature spoke not in the normal chirps and tweets of its own language – one which the Amorosi did in fact understand and could respond in serviceably enough – but in the elves’ own tongue – for the bird was in fact the goddess Alyssa in disguise.

“You have already belabored long enough.” The goddess’ voice commanded from the jay’s mouth. “I have allowed you to delay my child Nathily’s quest because she needed the time to discover herself, and because I too had a task to attend to. Yet now all is in place. Now you shall heed my words – for Nathily will be an Azora, and she…”

When the jay’s monologue had ended, the council’s dilemma was solved. Moreover, the wheels were set in motion to not only appoint El-Janus as Nathily’s mysstro, but to have the great warrior become the teacher of a human child from the town of Monthaven — another previously unthinkable idea! 

Even though the man child Alyssa had named was supposedly of the line of Al-Corragio – a long-time forest friend and a war-time hero himself – still everyone on the board was in shock.

How could a human even begin to walk along the Way of the Azora? They wondered. (1)

The Council’s unspoken fears were well known to the goddess yet she ignored them. Instead, Alyssa advised that the training for both the elfess and the boy was to begin as soon as El-Janus could return from that northern village with the man-child — a venture that was to be set in motion on the morrow when an Amorosi messenger was to be sent to advise the boy’s parents to get him prepared to travel.

“My people, you will know more about why I chose Emcorae Azop when he gets here. What he carries with him is courage beyond compare…and something else. You must instruct him in its proper use. You must NOT take it from him. It is HIS destiny to complete…if he can. Good Teresius will tell you more when the time is at hand…”

The scene-stealing jay’s speech finished, it then abruptly took to wing and exited out one of the upper windows — not before a Rian swore he saw it give Fara a knowing wink! 

Silence reigned supreme in the room until at last Rian closed the council session with a few solemn words and a prayer to Alyssa for luck.  Suddenly, after more than a year of meetings on the matter, there was no more need for further debate. Before dismissing the council, Rian did managed a glance at his life partner — only to see Fara snickering to herself. 

That’s something I’ll question you about later, love. Rian hoped to resort to playing lover’s games to get a few answers. Somehow I hope you’ll be a difficult nut to crack!

Meanwhile the next chapter in Amorosi history was about to begin: one that included the training of a female Azora…and a human boy!

It was the summer of 46 and a new age was upon the world.

Nektar’s Notes

  1. From a practical standpoint, the elves knew that a man did not have the necessary lifespan to spend learning the craft – even should this human reach an elderly age for his species and perhaps reach the century mark, by that time his body would have degenerated into a decrepit husk but waiting to pass on (to me!)
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