Part 25: City

8 to Wakening Sun, Voelis

I’m finally able to write. And, Heath, I have so much to write about! It’s been an arduous day, what with the situation with King Acastus and everything about this city. We’re back at Shadow’s home, the Starfall Estate, and everyone is sleeping right now. Except for me. But I’ll get to that in a second.

We left the palace and found ourselves in a kind of procession. Everyone here is very excited that we, the heroes of prophecy, helped save the city by imploring the gods to fight against Amalj’aa. I have to admit I rather enjoyed the attention. These people had been shut up in their homes for such a long time. Now they’re out in the streets singing our praises!

Not that I want their praise! I think that’s rather unbecoming of me, or any of us. We need them on our side to aid us against the titans. This is good. This is unifying. The people deserve to be happy. I’ll do everything I can to help them. The power of the Five Immortals saved the city! Whereas the titan Amalj’aa caused a relentless hurricane. It should be so clear who is the real power in Ellandyr. Who cares about the people? The Five Immortals!

I made little flares of sparks and cast bubbles at the happy children. Rendu happily waved as we passed through. Briar later told me she filled the air with flower petals trailing behind us. Actaeon seemed strangely disturbed. I think he still doesn’t want anyone knowing he was an original Dragonlord, but I don’t think his secret can be kept for much longer. We’re becoming very famous.

Shadow led us through the different districts until we eventually came to the noble district and his home. I feel lied to. He said it was a house. It’s more like a mansion, Heath! The place is quite large and there are rooms for each of us to stay in. The kitchen area alone is larger than our room back in the temple. Out back, there is a courtyard garden that would be lovely once it is properly cared for again.

The Starfall Estate, as it is called, was looking pretty rough. There are signs of a struggle in here and everything was layered in dust. We spent a lot of time (and magic) cleaning the place up. I told Shadow we were doing this for River and Rare when they return home. It would be so nice for them to come back to a clean and tidy home, and it seems to relieve a lot of Shadow’s stress.

Plans were made. Tomorrow, we have to start figuring out what to do in Ellandyr. Briar and I have some purchases we need to make. We all need a bath. And we wanted to inquire about the Great Games. Apparently we have to qualify for them before we can participate. At this, everyone decided to start drinking and enjoy our first night off in a long while.

Except me. I had to find out something. Briar mentioned earlier today that she thought there may be a chance that Mother is still alive. It had been on my mind all day, distracting me. I asked Clio to help me with a spell to talk to Mother. If she was alive, she would answer, right?

It worked! Oh, Heath, it worked! She’s alive! Mother is alive! I don’t know how it happened, but she’s alive! Somewhere. I don’t know where. She said she was being held captive, but the spell wore off too fast. I cried and Clio hugged me. I’m so happy!

I don’t think Clio knows how much it means to me that she did this for me. I need to thank her somehow, but I don’t know what to do. I want to just hug her and tell her that- Oh, I don’t know what I would tell her. But I want to do something for her. She gave me the greatest gift in Xerender. My mother is alive.

I excused myself from the group to start a Watching. I laid out the incense and built a small altar out of the pillows on the bed in this guest room. I spent the better part of the night praying for her. Oh Morninglord, god of light and life, please bless my mother, Riesz. Guide this one to where the traveler never tires, the lover never leaves, and the hungry never starve.

After this, I went back out to friends but the hour was too late. They had all gone to sleep. Well, except Clio. She doesn’t sleep quite like the rest of us. She was in the garden with Briar, watching the stars in a beautiful clear night sky. I thought to go out and talk to her, but I wouldn’t know what to say. She seemed peaceful out there, her eyes glowing in starlight. I wish I had the courage to speak to her, to sit by her, and talk.

I know, Heath. I know I wrote that I like her. I still do! But I’m certain she doesn’t feel the same about me. To be honest, I sometimes don’t know what she thinks about me at all. I’ve seen her disdain with the others when they do foolish things. What must she think of me?

So I won’t go down that path with her. At least, not while I’m still not certain of her friendship. I think she’s my friend. I want her to be my friend! She’s so hard to read, though. She winked at me when I made her cake, and she gave me a song for my birthday. Yet between those events, she’s completely inscrutable. Even so, I can’t help it that I want her to hug me again. Oh, but that’s so very awkward. Like, Briar-awkward when it comes to hugging. Her life has been very hopeless for so long. I wonder what her life was like when things were happier? I haven’t the courage to ask her. It’s not my business. I honestly think she’s forgotten how to hug. It was warm and polite, but not terribly intimate. Not that I need an intimate hug! Just- Oh, never mind.

How foolish of me! Of course she’s my friend! She said as much when she was sending the message to Mother. She said, “I’m Clio, a friend of Leef’s.” Like I wrote earlier, her friendliness comes and goes, but I think she’s sincere. She wouldn’t say she’s my friend if she wasn’t being honest. Clio has always been very honest with me.

She sang that beautiful song for me on my birthday. I want so desperately to ask her to sing it again, but our group is having a rare moment of tranquility tonight. I cannot rob her of this quietness with such a selfish request. No, I’ll leave her be and try to work up the courage to talk to her tomorrow maybe. I just want to see her smile.

I put on the robes Azorius gave to me. It’s called the Sunfire Mantle. I feel its magic course through me, but I cannot help but feel they were never really meant for me. These would have gone to you, Etriel1. How can I stand where you should have been? You were always so much better, stronger, and braver than I ever was. Everything about me is fake. I’m Flee because that’s all I ever do.

But here I am in the company of heroes far greater than I could ever hope to be. And I’m done running. I am in my true form now once again. I’m still afraid, but I think I can do this. Please remember Flee fondly, my love.

Wow, that entry got a little heavy, didn’t it? I might go back and blot out some of this. Actually, never mind. I don’t mind leaving this to remember this moment. Everything is dark to me, but I feel a light right now. It is centered around my friends. I’m feeling good tonight.

The Watching is almost over, and the sun is about to rise. I’m so tired, but I feel this was necessary. The Morninglord will watch over Mother. As soon as I can, I’ll start contacting her regularly. I hope she’s okay.

She’s alive, Heath! Mother is alive!

7 to Wakening Sun, Voelis

Short entry this morning. Things went about as expected when I showed everyone Leef. Briar and Clio came inside and were both shocked to see me in my true form, as well as wearing the Sunfire Mantle. They both said they liked me in this form, and Briar was happy to call me a brother instead of a sister now. The three of us are pretty close now. I hope looking like this doesn’t change that.

Rendu surprised us with his disguise hat. He pretended to be King Acastus and started asking us questions about our plans for the day. As it turns out, Rendu was mostly interested in seeing how well his magical disguise would hold up. I guess he spent much of the night contemplating how to use it to our advantage.

Torag, Actaeon, and Shadow saw me in my true form. Shadow got angry and went outside. Torag and Actaeon didn’t seem to care one way or the other, and disappeared outside, eager to start our day. I didn’t want to speak to Shadow, seeing him angry with me again, but Rendu convinced me it would be good for both of us to talk about this.

Shadow wasn’t actually angry with me. He was frustrated that Flee was gone, even though Leef is the same person. I said I was sorry to have deceived him about the robes and assured him that the Morninglord said this would be for my benefit. He agreed, but made me promise to never disappear. I promised him I wouldn’t. He’ll be the first one I announce any big plans to from now on.

Looks like we’re off. Going to the bathhouses! Oh, I hope no one sees all these scars.

7 to Wakening Sun, Voelis

The bathhouse was nice. It’s more communal than I thought it would be. There was a large hot bath and a cold bath, depending on your personal preference. Shadow seemed more interested in the cold bath. The rest of soaked in the hot bath instead. I was a little embarrassed to be in front of everyone unclothed like this. But strangely, it felt a little less embarrassing to be in a male form. I covered myself in as many towels as I could and sank into the water.

Damon is right; no one cares that I’m a changeling. I can finally be me here! Thankfully, no one seemed to mind the scars on my body, unlike everyone in Ylisse. If they saw the scars – and I’m sure they did – they didn’t say anything. Clio and I tried helping Briar with her hair, but it’s still such a tangled mess. She briefly thought about cutting it but was afraid of people seeing her tattoo.

Rendu and Actaeon seem completely unbothered to walk around unclothed. I find that both exhilarating and hilarious. I’m not looking at them with any infatuation, mind you. They’re not the one I had to avoid looking at. But what a freeing thought! The notion that people don’t mind what you look like is one thing, but it is something else entirely to feel such confidence in yourself that walking around in that state of undress wouldn’t cause personal discomfort. I tried to take a cue from them by disrobing more to enjoy the hot water, but I just am not brave enough for that yet.

The other patrons of the bathhouse were talking about rumors of warrior monks from Novarra, ships lost at sea, and the Great Games when we dressed and left. I should very much like to go there again, I think. We went to the Great Bazaar next. There are plenty of different stores and vendors here, so we split up to cover what we needed to find.

I went with Briar and Clio to an armory run by a half-orc named Grimmick. Briar wanted to make some exchanges. It was so funny! Clio and I coached her on what to say and she ended up buying herself some new armor all on her own! We went to Zoran’s magic shop next and I purchased some spell components and potions.

We met the others outside of a small shop. Last night during the procession, a Mousefolk man named Dygo asked us to visit his magic shop. The others had just come from there with a proposition. Dygo used to make and craft magic items, but he had been reduced to making mere trinkets since shipwrecking on the Emerald Isles years ago. We ended up hiring him at the Mithral Forge in the Sierras in exchange for him getting some notoriety from us. In other words, he creates magical items for us and we tell everyone where they came from.

Before Dygo set off to the Forge, I purchased a few things from him. One such item was a staff of flowers. I foolishly thought to try to impress Clio with it. It creates flowers, not unlike how Briar can with her magic. Clio was entirely unimpressed. She didn’t even smirk! Not even a little bit! I’m so dumb! I’ll have to think of something else. Oh, well! I still think the staff of flowers is a fun little thing. I’m going to start planting flowers all over the city!

We’re off to Mount Azorius now. The Great Games qualifiers are happening up there today. We should probably all enter, right? Do I even have a chance as a magician? I’m not physically imposing or strong at all. Maybe there’s something in the games for someone like me. Pew pew pew!

1 Elvish: literally “Priest”. In this context, it translates more accurately to Dawnbringer, a title used by the clerics of the Morninglord in Ylisse.