The forest was eerily quiet, which wasn’t something Nadana had expected in Ardenweald. She couldn’t help but wonder if it was related to Theo’s attack. Ahead of her was a large seedpod, which lit up the area in a faint, steadily pulsing blue glow. Before it knelt the winged figure of Nemalu, the High Fervent entrusted to represent the Repentant in this realm. He did not take notice of Nadana’s arrival at first, the concentration on his task remained unbroken.
“Nemalu.” Nadana spoke and paused in her advance. “Up and about already?”
Her fellow eredar paused his work and stood. With a noncommittal hum he turned to regard her with an unreadable expression. “Of course. There is more to be done than ever before.”
“I must say I am surprised, but grateful. Theo is normally much more thorough with…” Nadana sighed and shook her head letting her sentence end unfinished.
Scowling, Nemalu glanced down then turned to start his work again. He waved the staff over the seedpod, nurturing the seed and the creature inside. “She was thorough enough.” There was a pause, and his words were stale, perhaps bitter at the memory. “A great many of the souls that you plucked from the stream… I have allowed them to come to harm. They can no longer aid in our purpose.”
Nadana knelt beside him watching him work the earthly magic over the sleeping beings. “One of the Queen’s children?” She asked, even after having heard his comment.
Nemalu nodded, but wasn’t deterred from his line of thought. “The huntress had no interest in them, or the creatures. Only our people.”
Nadana exhaled through her nose. “Just our Censors.” It was a heavy thought. How many had been shepherded from their sins into a new life of caring for souls only to be extinguished in an instant.
“She struck when the opportunity suited her best. She perhaps followed those… Templars to this place.”
“It is possible,” Nadana shook her head, “but she wouldn’t have had any trouble finding you if she set her mind to it.” She stood and turned to look across his camp. “I have already sent word to Eos and Druum, in the case that she is planning similar or more deadly means of making a point.”
Nemalu gritted his teeth and clenched the staff tight enough for his knuckles to lighten in color. “The coward… struck from such a distance…”
“And she would have been stupid to do anything else.” Nadana turned back to face the busy Night Fae.
An intense scowl replaced the tight grip he had on his staff, “Does Dawnkeep remain unmolested?”
Nadana nodded. “It does, for now. Did you see the letter? It made me think.” She pulled the black velvet cloak she wore tighter over her shoulder and watched the grove warden turn to look at her. “She mentioned her sinstone,” Nadana paused thinking of how best to phrase her thoughts or the advice she wanted to ask for.
“That is something still in your possession, is it not?”
“It is.” Nadana confirmed. “She never wanted it back after being remade. Though it stings that she accuses me of stealing it.”
“You intend to use it against her?” His work wasn’t slowed by the conversation nor was his expert touch hampered.
She exhaled heavily and lifted her hands to either side. “I – I do not know. I was hoping to get some advice from you. I wonder if doing so would be for the best. At least until she can see reason.” Nadana shook her head, it wasn’t something she’d ever thought she would want or need to do, not with Theo.
Nemalu slowly rose up to full height again. “Her well being was never any concern of mine, and recent events have not earned her any favor. The lives of our brethren aside, she has interfered with our purpose. If it is to be done, then let it be done.”
“It just doesn’t seem-” She exhaled and a tired look crossed her face. “No. No, You’re right. You’re probably right.”
“Vengeance and spite are impulses we have fought hard to suppress.” He impressed.
“I have to stop her somehow. Tss. If it was anyone else, Nemalu. Anyone outside of you and the other Fervents…” She sighed again, it wouldn’t have been a question.
Nemalu considered his words for a moment. “I am not able to leave this place to enact such things myself, regardless. The responsibilities keeping me in this place have only multiplied in the wake of this… massacre.” Nemalu gave a slight pause. “Your fondness for her is striking. The camaraderie shared among the Venthyr must really be quite something.”
“She was one of my souls. I think she was still in the process of repenting when you went off to be reborn. She was a soul the Master had specific designs on…and he picked a loyal one.” She shook her head and cleared her throat. “I have currently asked the Templars to deal with the untapped stores of anima kept in the Halls of Atonement and in the Sanguine Depths. If they are able to secure the locations and keep those anima stores from the Master, Revendreth should be able to return some of this stolen anima to proper circulation. If they are successful, I will do my best to make sure some makes its way to your grove.”
“Your support is invaluable. There is little I can offer in return, but my work will continue for the good of the weald, and our purpose.”
“Nemalu, it is Revendreth’s responsibility to collect and share anima, something our Sire has not been doing, and must be remedied. That is the other half of our purpose.”
After a thoughtful pause he added, “It is a treacherous risk to send any more Templars back this way, but I do have something in the works which could assist them, if they are able to assist me in return.”
“I can let them know. Hopefully I will be able to start work on her sinstone and return visits should not be a danger to them or your grove, at least from Theo.”
“Do you intend to rehabilitate her, in the traditional fashion? Your attachment seems to indicate the possibility of her being reached.”
“I intend to try. But I will not put anyone else at risk if it comes down to it. Loyalty is one of the virtues the Master wanted refined in her. I do not know how long it would take to reach her, or convince her of his treachery. I was surprised that our Templar allies likewise suggested she could be redeemed once more. Only time will tell.”
Nemalu turned on his heels. “Come, let me show you something.” He crossed the camp towards the side of a larger structure and knelt. Along the edge of the foundations he brushed away a collection of leaves and vines, then with a subtle gesture deep cyan hues of fae magic coaxed the vines and earth into opening. Nemalu lifted a small storage chest from the secure hiding space and with another gesture unlocked the small chest. He flipped open the lid to reveal another bright glow that illuminated both of their faces. “Allow me to share with you, the fruits of my research.” He reached into the hazy glow, and produced an elaborate looking wand, of typical Ardenweald design.
“Something you’ve been working on for a while?” She asked looking from the glowing wand to the night fae.
“Indeed.” Nemalu answered, “it’s something I’ve been refining in the years since our last parting, with an accelerated effort once the drought intensified.”
“And what is its intention?”
Namalu turned the wand over in his hand as he spoke. “Though its effectiveness is not finalized, these wands are designed to let anyone who uses them draw anima into a vessel. In the same manner as my abilities permit me to do… though admittedly in a much more limited capacity.”
“Similar to the Maldraxxi Maldracite Crystals? But it seems a much more portable scale. It would also be less obvious to the outside observer what it’s use was just seeing it. That is quite unique.”
“If you arm your Templars with these,” the glow from the box suggested he had more still tucked away, “they have the potential to harvest anima from anything that they fell. It will not be anything in the face of the deficit that exists, but it will help. A little bit more field testing would be preferable though. Perhaps that is a task I will entrust to any of those souls foolhardy enough to return here.”
Nadana nodded to him, her eyes still on the wand. “Shall I send them your way then? Or at least a few of them?”
Nemalu hummed in affirmation, “At their own risk.”
“Based on Theo’s letter and the way things are going in the Shadowlands right now I can’t say there are many places I would call safer than any other. But I will still pass along the warning nonetheless.”
“Your huntress left me alive, and I do not fear for my own wellbeing. But I cannot say the same for anyone else who darkens this outpost. Yourself included, as much as your company is enjoyed.”
“Do you mean from Theo? Or are there larger troubles stirring in your forests?”
“My woods are not lacking in sinister threats and cancers, but in your case I refer only to your huntress. You seem to be the focus of her ire, and I do not know if she would show enough restraint to toy with you as she has with me.”
“She won’t come for me until she feels she has taken enough from me to hurt me. I know that much of her. Which is why I sent warnings to the others, but it only solidifies your advice. I need to use her sinstone against her. As much as I dislike the idea of doing so, it is necessary. I also needed to come check on you. I’m sorry about what has happened here.
Nemalu put the wand away and reversed the processes to return the storage chest to the soil beneath the building. “It is a tragedy on a scale I have not endured since my time on this plane began. But I will not allow it to deter me from our purpose. Your concern is… registered, though. And appreciated.” He turned to face Nadana and dusted his hands off against his thighs as he stood. “I was not aware that you took issue with the rehabilitation process, but knowing your capacity for compassion I do not find it surprising either.”
Nadana likewise stood when he began returning the wand to the earth. “It’s less an issue with the rehabilitation process and more a concern with how manipulation of a venthyr’s sinstone works. It is basically a form of coercion that is impossible to deny.”
Nemalu hummed noncommittally at the familiar description.
“If you intend to use these Templars for the purpose of ensnaring her, do not hesitate. I would rather not see any more of our number’s blood spilled”
“A pair of their mages have managed to create a dowsing rod from one of her arrows. I should have no trouble finding her, or having them bring me to her. Perhaps you’re right, maybe they will be able to distract her long enough for me to compel her into submission.”
“And when the time comes, I do not doubt that you possess the fortitude to see it through without hesitation. Do not allow your compassion to risk depriving the Repentant of their Prime Censor.” Nemalu offered the ghost of a smirk at that.
“No. If I start it I will finish it. I just needed to talk to someone about it. To make sure I wasn’t being..” Nadana struggled to find an acceptable word.
“Impulsive?” He suggested.
“A monster, Nemalu.” She said back quickly and without humor.
Nemalu released a sigh through flared nostrils and glanced aside. It was always a difficult matter to regard directly.
“Anyway, you’re right. for better or worse it is the smartest way to handle this.” Nadana approached the Fey and laid a hand on his right breast. “Thank you for your counsel, Nemalu. I am glad you are well. I won’t keep you from your duties any longer.”
Nemalu nodded slowly, glancing down at her after feeling the touch. There was the faintest glimmer of warmth in his expression. He allowed his attention to settle on her eyes veiled beneath the hood, in the most direct manner since her arrival. “When the dust settles on this conflict, I look forward to welcoming you back to my corner of the grove under better circumstances. Until next time, Nadana.”
“Thank you, friend.” Nadana offered him a warm smile and departed.