(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Seluna was written by Rachel Lemons.)
Seluna stepped into the elven garden with her cat, Silvana, at her heels. The garden was among the trees, like the rest of the city of Serin, and it consisted of a porch that had a great many potted plants all around, including some small trees and flowering bushes. In the center rested a fountain that depicted an elf maiden pouring a jug of water endlessly into the base. Several delicately carved benches were placed all around the fountain and along the railing of the porch. The young mage took a seat on one of these benches, and Silvana leapt up into her lap and stretched, curling up to sleep. Seluna stroked the little animal’s silky white fur as she waited for Kelly to arrive.
Kelly wandered through the garden—it was such a lovely place. She could take much inspiration from here, but instead she focused on the path leaving to the fountain and saw a young woman sitting there, stroking the cat on her lap. Kelly smiled at the scene. “Hello, Seluna. I’m Kelly. No need to stand. That cat looks quite comfortable.” She took a seat beside Seluna and resisted the urge to pet the cat. She loved cats. They always made her feel calm. “It’s a lovely cat. What is her name?” She glanced up at Seluna for the answer.
“Her name is Silvana,” replied Seluna. “You may pet her, if you wish. She’s very friendly.”
Kelly grinned and gently stroked the purring cat. “Lovely.” Then she met Seluna’s gaze. “So, I understand you are a mage, a healer, and a farmer—how do those all work together?”
“Well, it’s a bit complicated, as you might imagine,” Seluna began. “My father, Palethor, was a farmer, so as his only child, I helped him tend the farm. That became especially important after my mother disappeared. As for my healing, I have learned much from my father’s lover, Anya. She, like me, is a mage, and has taught me to heal both with herbs and with magic.”
Kelly nodded as she heard this. It made sense. She wanted to ask more about her father but Selua had mentioned her mother’s disappearance, so Kelly decided to latch onto that. “What happened to your mother? Did she just simply disappear one day? Or was there more to it?”
Sighing heavily, the young mage answered, “That’s the question, isn’t it? I don’t know. I was five years old at the time. My mother and father were very happy together. My mother was with child again, and was due in only a few months. One day she was there, with us, and the next, she was gone. We never found out if she left us, or if… if something else happened. We were heartbroken.”
Kelly nodded when she heard this, and she said softly, “I’m sorry. That must have been very difficult.” But then she went on, “And I know you were quite young, but…do you remember anything about your mother? What she was like? Have any memories of her?”
“I remember her,” Seluna replied as she rubbed the cat’s ears. “She had the most beautiful dark brown hair, and gentle brown eyes. She was not from Aradeth, like my father, but from the Lineorian Empire. I inherited my talent for magic from her. She taught me the basics of elemental magic and… ah.”
“And…?” Kelly raised her brows.
Seluna hesitated for a moment, biting her lip. “I… I am an elemental mage, but… can I trust you, Kelly? How do you feel about magic? Many others I’ve met seem wary of it, though the elves seem comfortable enough.”
Kelly opened her palm immediately, conjuring an orb of fire. “In these realms I have magic too. In my own realm, not so much, which is unfortunate, but…” She smiled at Seluna as she closed her fist, extinguishing the orb of fire. “I think it’s safe to say you can trust me. You are certainly not the first nor will you be the last mage I’ve met or worked with.”
Seluna’s eyes widened in surprise, and she smiled. “Well, then… there are very few in this world, mage or otherwise, who know that I am not only an elemental mage. How do you feel about other sorts of magic? The sorts that people are born with, not the sorts that anyone can learn?”
“How do I feel about the magic that people are born with?” Kelly wanted to make sure she understood the question correctly. “That’s usually the kind I’m used to dealing with although it takes some learning to master those skills. What exactly are you talking about? I’m not sure I fully understand. Things are likely different here than I am used to.”
“You are from a different, realm, as you said, so I can see how that may have been confusing,” Seluna admitted. “Here, anyone can learn how to use elemental magic, whether they were born with a natural talent for spellcraft or not. If they so desired, anyone could learn to use elemental magic. There are two other sorts of magic, however. One is blood magic, which I do not practice. Only those who wish to consort with demons practice it. The other type of magic is much less known. It is called celestial magic, and there are three different sorts of celestial mages,” she explained.
Kelly nodded as she came to understand this. “And you practice this celestial magic?”
Seluna nodded. “I do. As I said, there are three sorts of celestial mages. The most common are Seers, who have the gift of foresight. The next are the Dreamers, who can walk in the Spirit Realm, Talain, as they sleep, and affect the physical world by doing so. And lastly, there are the Listeners.”
“And I’m assuming you’re a Listener.” Kelly leaned in, very curious now. “What exactly does a Listener do?”
“I… I am a Listener,” Seluna relented. “Please, forgive my hesitation. Countless others have been slain for having the powers of a Listener, and I have no desire to be counted among them.”
“Understandable.” Kelly nodded. “And if you’d like, I could take you to an altogether different realm where no one would have the opportunity to eavesdrop on this conversation.” She shrugged.
Seluna took a deep breath as she answered, “No, there is no need. We are safe among the elves. They, unlike my own people, would not kill me for my abilities. Besides, I had heard that a Realm traveler would be coming to speak with me, and I asked them to leave us while you are here.”
“Thank you.” Kelly bowed her head but then lifted her gaze again. “However though, what does a Listener actually do?”
“We are telepaths,” the young mage told her softly. “It is why we are so feared. We can focus our thoughts upon animals and other Listeners, and hear what is in their minds. We can speak with them in this way. Many believe that we can Listen to anyone as we please, but we cannot. We can only hear the thoughts of beasts and of our fellow Listeners… Would you like to see me Listen? It may be a bit… unnerving.”
Kelly shook her head. “As much as I would love to see you demonstrate your ability, we do have a time limit unfortunately.” She tsked her tongue then sighed. “However, you said your mother helped you refine your skill with this before she disappeared?”
“She did, though she herself was not a Listener,” Seluna answered. “As far as Lord Baelatean and I are aware, I am the only mortal Listener in the world. My mother had heard of such abilities before I was born, thankfully, and was able to teach me the basics of how to use my power once I was old enough to understand. You see, I have been able to do this since the moment I was born. My eyes change to yellow when I Listen, and as I did this when a baby, my parents hid me until I was old enough to know when not to use this gift.”
“Very interesting.” Kelly nodded slowly as she took this in. “It’s curious that your mother would know enough to help you with it even though there were no other mortal Listeners.” She mused over this for a moment but then shook her head to continue with the conversation. “How did your mother’s disappearance though affect your father? Did it change your relationship with him at all?”
Seluna bit her lip. “It is curious that she knew, although since she was from Lineor, perhaps the mages there know more of magical history than those from my father’s homeland. In any case, you asked about my father. He became… agitated, after she vanished. He would not let me out of his sight for weeks. I remember him muttering about magic being dangerous and leading to bad ends. He forbade me to Listen in his presence. If I disobeyed… I… soon learned not to disobey.”
Kelly frowned when she heard this but nodded. “And I understand he’s found a new lover, Anya, I believe her name is. What is she like?”
“Yes, my father found a new lover. I was around ten when Anya came to live with us. She was a mage and the village’s healer. She taught me a great deal of elemental magic, and did not mind my Listening. She treated me as though I was her own daughter,” Seluna sighed. “I miss her.”
“Who? Anya? Or your own mother?” Kelly furrowed her brows, confused.
“Anya,” Seluna clarified. “I lived in the village of Eloru before coming to stay with the elves. Eloru was destroyed by an earthquake and a dragon. Only my friend Orlena and I survived. We were in the forest when the earthquake struck, and got back to the village by the time the dragons had set everything ablaze.” Tears welled in her eyes, and she swallowed hard. “Anya, my father, Orlena’s parents… everyone we knew in our childhood is dead.”
Just then, the magical Mark on Seluna’s right hand began to glow with pale blue light. Seluna cringed, biting her lip, as it flared with pain. “I received this on that day, as well,” she told Kelly through gritted teeth.
Kelly’s heart sank. She hadn’t realized this. “I’m so sorry.” But then she looked at the Mark. “That is the Mark of the Dragon, is it not? Does it hurt?” Kelly motioned to it because by Seluna’s expression it looked like the Mark burned.
“Yes, it hurts like blazes,” Seluna admitted. She hastily pulled a vial with a strange green liquid from the satchel at her hip, and drank the entire contents of the bottle. She let out a sigh of relief. “I’m glad I thought to bring one of these in case the damn thing flared. Yes, it is the Mark of the Dragon. Do you know anything about it?”
“Just a bit but not much.” Kelly shook her head. “Tell me about it.”
Seluna sat up a bit straighter, stroking Silvana’s fur as she prepared to explain. “The Mark of the Dragon was given to me by the Goddess of Nature, Kayliss, at the command of Narael, Creator of All. It allows me to free dragons from mind control spells, to command them to obey my will as they obey the will of Kayliss, and I supposed to use it to defeat the Evil One.”
“To be honest,” she added, “I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of this. I have no idea why Narael Himself picked me for this.”
Kelly furrowed her brows. “Who’s Narael? You said Kayliss marked you.”
“Ah, forgive me. You’re from a different Realm. I suppose you have your own deities there. Narael is the Creator. He is the King of the Gods. Kayliss is the Goddess of Nature, one of his highest servants. The elves consider her a High Nonur, and do not worship her,” Seluna clarified.
“Ah, okay.” Kelly nodded, understanding better. “So you’ve been marked, and I understand Lord Baelatean has been mentoring you? What is he like?” She tilted her head to a side, curious.
“He has been mentoring me,” Seluna verified. “He is the lord of this city, and a very good man. He is a Listener. The only one I have ever met. He is a natural leader, and his people are very loyal to him. He is kind and compassionate, but his temper can sometimes get the best of him. So his son tells me, anyway. I’ve never seen him give in to anger.”
“He has a great desire to share his knowledge,” she added. “He is an excellent teacher. He is teaching me not only about Listening and other magic, but also literacy.”
A small smile tugged at Kelly’s lips, and she spoke softly, “And I understand you may or may not have feelings for Ilroiner….” she trailed off to see what Seluna would tell her.
Seluna blushed. “Damn, you know quite a bit for someone who hasn’t spent much time here,” she observed.
Kelly laughed out loud at this. “What can I say? I hear things too.” She winked. “But tell me about him. What’s he like?”
“Well,” Seluna said hesitantly, blushing again, “Ilroiner is as kind and compassionate as his father, but he looks more like his mother. He is a warrior. We met when he and two of his companions saved Orlena and me from a pack of possessed dire wolves.”
Kelly made note to ask about Orlena if they had time, but she wanted to focus on this first. “Well, that sounds like an impressive first meeting. What did you think when you first saw him? Love at first sight, or were you irked because you could handle yourself?”
“Well, Orlena and I could have handled it ourselves, had we not been traveling through the woods without food for two days prior,” she explained. “Orlena is a warrior, and as you know, I can defend myself with my magic. But we were greatly weakened when the wolves attacked. If the elves had not arrived when they did… we would have died. As for my first impression of him…” she blushed even harder, smiling and shaking her head.
Kelly chuckled when she saw this, and she nudged her. “Oh, c’mon. You can tell me. Not like I’m going to tell anyone else around here anyway.”
Seluna laughed. “Fair enough,” she relented. “I am not a maiden to fall for a man at first sight, but Narael above… I can make an exception for Ilroiner. He burst out from behind the trees, yelled in elvish to draw the wolves away from me, and charged them with such primal fury… and his face. He is the most handsome man I have ever seen. And when the fight was over, he rushed to me, for I was gravely injured. I passed out then, and woke up here in this city. He and I have spent much time together since then.”
Kelly smiled when she heard this. “Sounds quite dashing. I’m assuming he has magic too? Do all elves have magic?” She lifted her brows.
“Not all elves use magic, though like all humans, they have the potential to use elemental spells if they so desire,” she told Kelly. “Ilroiner does not use magic at all, though he has no fear of it. One of his closest friends is an elemental mage, and of course, his father is Lord Baelatean, a Listener.”
“His sister, Auduna, however, practices magic. As does his mother, though I have heard that she does not use it much,” Seluna added.
“Why doesn’t he use magic? You say he doesn’t fear magic, but it appears that he doesn’t fear others using magic, but why doesn’t he himself not use it if he can?”
“I haven’t thought to ask him,” Seluna admitted. “I assume he simply has no interest in practicing it himself. He is almost always in the company of at least one mage, anyway, so there isn’t much need for him to learn spellcraft.”
“It only takes one instance where his skills of a warrior won’t be suitable and the one mage he is with is unable to help him. Then what?” Kelly shook her head. “Sounds like I need to talk with him sometime too…” She trailed off, but then decided to shift the topic. “Okay, shifting the subject a bit, but Orlena and you—best friends from childhood? You’ve mentioned her a few times.”
Seluna nodded. “Yes, Orlena and I have been best friends since we were both very young. We bonded quite a bit once we learned that we had something vital in common.”
“Which is?” Kelly raised her brows.
“The people of Aradeth are often suspicious of those from other lands,” Seluna told Kelly. “My father and Orlena’s father were both men of Aradeth. Our mothers were from other lands. My mother was Lineorian, while Orlena’s mother was a Naeth tribeswoman. Some of the villagers… disapproved of this. We were teased by the other children for being ‘half-breeds’.”
Kelly nodded when she heard this. “Ah, that is most unfortunate though I’m glad you two were able to bond.” She then leaned forward on the bench and clasped her hands together before turning her head to look at Seluna. “What was like it growing up with that?”
“It was… difficult at times,” Seluna admitted, “especially since I have also had to hide the fact that I can Listen. Orlena is like a sister to me. We accepted one another for who and what we are, and she has become very protective of me. She is a bit like a guard dog in that respect,” Seluna laughed.
“And she has no magic, right?”
“That’s right, Orlena does not use magic. She fights with a sword and shield. Yet another reason for her to be teased as a child. Women aren’t supposed to fight, you see. At least not in Aradeth. Orlena and I never cared for this tradition, and thankfully, neither did Orlena’s mother,” Seluna replied. “Orlena’s mother taught her all she could of combat.”
“Speaking of Orlena in combat, she is probably sparring with Ilroiner now,” Seluna told her. “He’s taken to training her ever since our arrival in Serin.”
Kelly grinned. “I think I’d get along quite well with Orlena. We can talk swording fighting. It’d be fun.” Then hearing that Orlena would be training with Ilroiner sounded interesting. “She sounds quite skilled! And I think the two of you balance each other off, so I’m glad you have each other. However though, I know you have the Mark of the Dragon, and you’re supposed to banish the Evil One, but…other than your great destiny, do you have any dreams of your own?”
Seluna thought for a moment before answering. “Aside from dealing with the Evil One, I wish to be married.” She fingered the ruby pendant that hung about her neck, then showed it to Kelly. “This is an amulet of Sarona, Goddess of Love. My people wear one of these when we wish to wed, but have not yet been married.”
“Also… I want to know what happened to my mother,” she added softly.
“And how might you be able to do that?” Kelly watched her.
Seluna shrugged, frowning a bit. “I have no idea,” she admitted. “I suppose I could start in her homeland, Lineor. She never spoke of her life there, aside from mentioning that she had been born in the capital city, Aethia. I have to deal with the dragon threat, first, though.”
“Have you ever been to Lineor though?” Kelly tilted her head to a side. “I mean, what’s so different about Lineor from…Aradeth?”
“I have never been to the Lineorian Empire, and it would be very dangerous now,” Seluna told Kelly with a heavy sigh. “The Empire is suffering from civil war. Emperor Alivar decreed that magic would be banned within his empire on pain of death. Civil war ensued, and many mages have fled from Lineor to Aradeth. I treated those mages who came to my village. The king of Aradeth, Arnack, declared publicly that refugees from the war in Lineor would be welcome in our kingdom. Not all in Aradeth are pleased by this, of course, but I for one feel compelled to help my fellow mages. Especially now that the paladins are brazen enough to actually follow them out of their own lands.”
“And on top of all this, you have to deal with the Evil One. Is he behind any of this, by any chance, or is it totally unrelated?” Kelly snuck Seluna a curious glance.
“I have a strong feeling that the Evil One is connected to the Emperor’s decision to ban magic within his empire. When the Evil One awoke, he caused a cataclysmic earthquake that destroyed much of the land near his citadel. The Lineorian Empire is on his doorstep, so to speak. If the Empire is weak, the Evil One and his forces will have a much easier time taking over,” Seluna informed her gravely.
“So…you have a plan of how to banish the Evil One? It doesn’t sound easy at all.” Kelly shook her head.
“It will not be easy at all,” Seluna agreed. “My Mark works only on dragons. The Evil One, Lord Balis, was once one of the High Nonur. One of the gods, if you will. He betrayed Narael, King of the Gods. One of the powers of the High Nonur, however, is the ability to shapeshift into a dragon form. If the Evil One takes on his dragon form, I will have a chance to banish him to Balain, where he cannot cause such direct harm or take on a physical form.”
“So he can only shift into the form of a dragon, and you can control all dragons…but how will you know when he’s shifted, and does he know that you have the Mark?” Kelly motioned to the Mark to make her point.
“He knows I have the Mark,” Seluna told her, swallowing a lump in her throat. “That is why he sent one of his servants to destroy my village using a dragon under a mind control spell. You recall how my village was destroyed by an earthquake and dragon fire? His awakening caused that earthquake. His servant controlled the dragon that burned Eloru.”
“And that was when your father and Anya died, wasn’t it?” Kelly softened her voice. “Do you feel responsible?”
“It was when they died,” Seluna said, sighing heavily. “I feel somewhat responsible, but I want revenge on Hathetur. He is the servant who commanded that dragon. He is the one who killed them all.”
Kelly sensed their time was almost up, but Kelly wanted to ask more. “But then what? Revenge won’t bring your parents back—won’t bring anyone back.”
“No, it will bring no one back,” Seluna agreed. “It will prevent more from dying at his hands, however. Hathetur is undead. He was once a Listener, or so he told me when he almost killed me and I used my Mark for the first time. If I manage to defeat him, it will be a grievous blow to his master, Lord Balis.”
Kelly sighed and shook her head. “All of this sounds complicated, and you have a very difficult battle ahead of you.” She met Seluna’s eyes. “I hope you the very best, and may you slay Hathetur and defeat Lord Balis, but don’t lose yourself in the process. You must be careful not to lose others either–not to death of course but rather from you pushing them away, for their own sakes.” Kelly then sighed and rose to her feet. “Unfortunately, I must get going. My time here has come to an end, but it was delightful meeting with you. Thank you for your time.” She smiled at her.
“Thank you, Kelly,” Seluna said. “I will be careful not to lose myself or anyone else. Goodbye, and good luck with your travels!”
“Good day!” And with that, Kelly vanished from in front of Seluna, returning to her own realm.
Rachel Lemon’s novel ‘The Whispers of Fate’ is not yet published. However, you can follow her on social media to stay up-to-date on her writing progress and publishing!